View Full Version : Reed, Polamalu pave way for defenses

12-14-2008, 04:37 AM
Reed, Polamalu pave way for defenses
Sunday, December 14, 2008

One defense is No. 1 in the NFL in the four major categories. The other is similarly Scrooge-like and has scored six touchdowns - or seven fewer than the Cincinnati Bengals, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders have produced offensively this season.

The question of whether the Steelers' defense trumps the Baltimore Ravens' defense, or vice versa, makes for good talk-radio chatter and bar-stool banter. And it may ultimately come down to the flip of a coin.

Safeties Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed personify how close the defenses that will be front and center in today's AFC North showdown are. Ask Derrick Mason which player is better and the Ravens wide receiver refuses to touch it, as if the question is a live wire.

"There's no way, no how to compare the two," Mason said. "I'm not going to sit here and try to diminish one player over another or try to make one player seem better than the other. I'm not going to do that."

Maybe that is because their credentials are so impeccable. Each has been to four Pro Bowls and both are almost certain to earn a fifth trip to Hawaii this season.

Polamalu and Reed may, in fact, be the biggest playmakers on defenses that are loaded with them.

Polamalu leads the NFL with seven interceptions and makes tackles all over the field - in part because the Steelers move him around and also because few players close on opposing running backs or wide receivers the way Polamalu does.

Reed is tied for second in the NFL with five interceptions, and he has returned two of them for touchdowns. Last month, he returned an interception 107 yards for a touchdown, breaking his previous NFL record (106 yards) for longest interception return.

"When you turn on your TV and see him running with the football, you say, 'OK.' You get used to seeing him do that," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Reed, who also has returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown this season. "He's instinctual, and he's very well-prepared because you don't see him be where he's not supposed to be, really ever. He is simply one of the best in the world at what he does."

The same also can be said of Polamalu.

"There are few players that have great ability and great feel for the game," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said, "and those two guys have a great knack for football."

If there is one thing that separates the two, it is their style of play.

It is not uncommon for Polamalu, a strong safety, to play close to the line of scrimmage as well as in pass coverage. Reed, meanwhile, is a classic free safety who keeps everything in front of him and makes opposing quarterbacks pay when they throw ill-advised passes in his direction.

"He stays over the top and scares quarterbacks enough for them to not want to take any shots, and they have such an awesome front seven that he feeds off that," Polamalu said. "People try to compare us a lot, and I don't think we're anything alike."

The two were more alike before an injury cast doubt on Reed's career and compelled the Ravens to limit his exposure to the kind of contact that Polamalu regularly seeks out.

Reed has neck and shoulder impingement on his left side and the condition, which affects the nerves, causes chronic pain and stiffness. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder saw a handful of specialists prior to the start of the season, and he opted to play with the condition after he got assurances that it could not lead to a more debilitating injury.

Reed has said his career would have ended had he opted for surgery to correct the problem.

The Ravens protected Reed during training camp by ruling him off-limits for contact - he wore a red jersey, as quarterbacks do, during practice - and he did not play in any preseason games.

The injury has not stopped Reed from playing at an All-Pro level this season. Polamalu, meanwhile, has overcame health issues of his own - the 5-10, 207-pounder missed eight games the previous two seasons because of a variety of injuries - to re-establish himself as one of the premier safeties in the game.

Reed and Polamalu have talked at previous Pro Bowls, and each is familiar with the other's style of play. Both study film of the top safeties in the game, and it's safe to say they have been watching each other for years.

"He's a guy that I look at just like (Philadelphia's) Brian Dawkins and those guys who are good safeties that, when you're watching tape of those different teams, they're on it," Reed said. "You have to pay attention. If you can't learn from watching somebody else, then I don't know what to say."

Ryan Clark has seen both from a unique perspective.

The Steelers free safety has played alongside Polamalu since 2006. He and Reed, meanwhile, starred at different high schools in suburban New Orleans.

"He was the No. 1 safety in the state, and I was the No. 2 safety in the state," Clark said. "I would keep up with him. There might be a game where I got two picks, and I finally was thinking I was going to be player of the week, and he got like two picks and two touchdowns. He has been doing this forever."

Unlike Mason, Clark did offer his opinion on which safety is better.

"Not taking anything away from Ed," Clark said, "but I think Troy is the best safety in the world."


12-14-2008, 11:35 AM
[B]"Not taking anything away from Ed," Clark said, "but I think Troy is the best safety in the world."

Ryan Clark is correct. And since Troy is healthy again he is showing again why he is the best safety playing right now in the NFL. Don't get me wrong because Reed is a very good safety, but I would take Troy over any safety every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

12-14-2008, 11:42 AM
You can't compare the 2 safeties. They play different positions for a reason, Ed Reed is a very technical player how excels in pass coverage and Polamalu is a very physical player that is much better in pass coverage.

I am very aware that Polamalu has more picks than Reed, but the truth is, if you have Polamalu and Reed on the field at the same time, and you throw a jump ball up there, Reed will come down with the ball most of the time. Unfortunately for Ed though, once he caught the ball, Polamalu would hit him so hard he would fumble it and Polamalu would have it anyway :D

Many of Polamalu's picks come from him being so aggressive and really going after the ball (scooping it before it hits the ground), where most players wouldn't even try because they don't think they can get it.

Polamalu is a great player, but I'd say 2 of his picks this year were gifts.

12-14-2008, 12:36 PM
Polamalu is a great player, but I'd say 2 of his picks this year were gifts.

Okay so I guess Ed Reed doesn't receive any gift interceptions right? That's just crazy if you think Troy receives gift interceptions. He also made 2 amazing interceptions this season.

12-14-2008, 02:02 PM
i think these 2 players are awesome.... be nice 2 have them both on the same team

12-14-2008, 02:29 PM
1a and 1b as far as I'm concerned. Both are outstanding. Reed's been injured all season and hasn't been able to help in run coverage, but he's the same ball-hawk that he's always been.

Troy is just...undefinable. He does so many things, it's just unbelieveable.