PITTSBURGH — In a head-to-head matchup, the toughest question to answer this weekend is just who is the better safety — the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu or the Ravens’ Ed Reed?
It is virtually impossible to choose between the two.
Both are special players, spectacular players, who at any given time are capable of making a game-changing play. On Saturday, one of them probably will and it is a virtual given that the player who has the better game, makes the bigger contribution, will find himself on the winning side of the ledger.
Reed, 32, has been so good for so long — seven Pro Bowl selections in nine seasons — that he is almost taken for granted.
Reed missed Baltimore’s opening six games of this season with a hip injury and, in his absence, the feeling was that the legendary Ravens defence was slipping, that it was living more on reputation than ability.
Then, Reed returned and, despite playing in just 10 games, he ended the season with eight interceptions, tops in the league.
Polamalu, thanks to his long, curly locks and a shampoo commercial on TV, may have the higher profile. In his eight seasons, he has been to six Pro Bowls and described as a “heat-seeking missile” in the Steelers secondary.
Both players have the knack of being able to come with the big play at the big moment of the game, be it an interception, a sack, or a jolting, fumble-causing tackle.
“They’re both phenomenal players,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said this week when asked to compare the two.
“The one thing that you notice is that they have great hands. They both can make spectacular plays on the football that, for a defensive back, is huge. A lot of times defensive backs are defensive backs because they don’t have great hands. They have great body control and, obviously, the instincts, awareness and understanding of the game. They always seem to show up in the right place.”
That’s due to the fact that both players have tremendous instincts and both are allowed to go off the reservation. The later is a rarity in today’s game.
“People say they are both gamblers and both can be out of position,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said earlier this week in Baltimore. “But when they’re doing that, it’s based on film study and the tendencies they see. That’s why they’re able to take gambles.”
Gambles they usually win.
In a game that is almost too close to call, look for one of them to do something spectacular and lead the way.