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Pro Football Hall of Fame announces Class of 2020

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced the five players who will make up their 2020 class.

Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu leads the way, the only first-time eligible player to make the Hall this year. He’s joined by fellow safety Steve Atwater, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson and running back Edgerrin James. The quintet will join the specially selected 15-man centennial selection group when they are inducted into the Hall in early August.

Any conversation of this class has to begin with Polamalu, whose unique look and attitude helped his fame transcend the playing field. It doesn’t hurt that he’s quite probably the best safety of his generation. His raw numbers are top-tier for a safety – he picked off 32 passes, had over a hundred passes defensed (107, to be exact) and forced 14 fumbles, scoring five TDs on turnovers all told. He was named to eight Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams. In 2010, he was the Defensive Player of the Year. He was a major key to bringing the city its first title since the Steel Curtain days … and then adding a second just three seasons later, all while building a reputation as one of the league’s hardest hitters and becoming a crossover cultural phenomenon. A Pittsburgh legend and beloved institution, one of the greatest players to wear the storied uniform.

On the other end of the spectrum from the first-year entrant Polamalu is Steve Atwater, a safety who has been waiting for years to gain admittance to the Hall, finally succeeding in his 16th year of eligibility. Looking at the credentials, it’s tough to see why it took so long – Atwater made eight Pro Bowls over the course of his 11 years in the league; he was named first-team All-Pro twice and was one of the safeties on the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team. He was a big hitter, recording over 1,000 tackles, and had a nose for the ball, pulling down 24 picks. Oh, and he won two rings with Denver in 1997 and 1998.

Isaac Bruce isn’t necessarily a name that springs to mind when you think of the all-time receiving greats, but he quietly put together a career that stands among the most prolific of any wideout in history. He played 16 seasons in the NFL, compiling some really impressive stats. His career numbers sit among the best in the game’s history. He’s one of just 14 with over 1,000 receptions; his 1,024 catches currently sit 13th on that list, while his 91 TD catches sit 12th. His yardage numbers are even more impressive; at 15,208, he’s fifth, behind only Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. He made four Pro Bowls in his career.

Steve Hutchinson was hands-down one of the best offensive linemen of the 21st century, spending time with Seattle, Minnesota and Tennessee over the course of his 12 seasons. His work as a run-blocking guard was second to none, clearing paths for legendary seasons from guys like Shaun Alexander and Adrian Peterson. Perhaps most impressive of all, over the course of 169 starts in his dozen seasons, he was hit with just 19 penalties. He made seven Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro five times; he was also a lineman on the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2000s.

Last but not least, we come to Edgerrin James. His 11 seasons were among the most productive for a running back of his era. He led the league in rushing his first two seasons on his way to a career total of over 12,000 rushing yards (12,246 – good for 13th all time). His 80 rushing TDs put him at 20th in league history. He’s one of just 10 players with more than 3,000 career carries. James was also an accomplished receiver – he caught 433 balls for 3,364 yards and 11 scores over the course of his career. His per-game numbers would be even more impressive had he not fallen off so precipitously in his last two seasons. Still, he made the All-Pro first team in 1999 and was named to the Pro Bowl four times; he was also part of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2000s.

The Class of 2020 will be a big one, with the addition of the Centennial Committee selections, but this modern era quintet is certainly deserving of attention on its own. With Polamalu at the forefront, it’s a heck of a strong group – one that will be partying hard in Canton come the first weekend in August.

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 February 2020 06:06

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