Analyzing the Pittsburgh Steelers Safeties' Ability To Defend the Pass

TJ JenkinsAnalyst INovember 23, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Safety Ryan Clark #25 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with the fans after their 27-23 win against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Yesterday we took a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers cornerbacks and their pass coverage skills, today we're going to look at the Steelers safeties and their ability to defend the passing attack.

As with the corner situation, three Steelers safeties have taken at least 25 percent of the snaps at either the free safety or strong safety position: Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, and Tyrone Carter.

Only Clark has taken over 50 percent of the defensive snaps at the position due to Polamalu being injured and Carter playing in his stead.

With his latest injury keeping him out for what appears to be at least one month, let's take a look at the long haired Samoan standout from the University Of Southern California .

In 242 defensive plays, Polamalu has been targeted by opposing quarterbacks 19 times and has given up 10 completions for a total of 52.6 percent.

Though leading the safety position in tackles, he's also leading in yards allowed with 122 yards total, yards after the catch with 55 and missed tackles with two. He's also given up one touchdown.

To his credit though, he also leads in interceptions with three (in limited time) and passes defended with two.

Opposing quarterback's only average a passer rating of 50.7 against the former Trojan.

Moving onto his replacement, Tyrone Carter we see a player who has taken 287 snaps at the safety position whilst filling in as an injury replacement for both Polamalu and Clark.

He's been targeted 13 times, allowing only six receptions (46.2 percent) for 34 yards.

Carter has picked off two passes, both against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night when he was filling in for Clark, but has also allowed two touchdown passes, more than the entire Pittsburgh secondary combined.

Opposing quarterbacks average a measly 53.0 rating against the backup safety of the defending champs.

On to the stud of the Pittsburgh secondary in 2009, Ryan Clark.

The former LSU Tiger has 40 tackles this season, effectively wrapping up the ball carrier all but one time.

Add to that impressive tackling statistic the fact that he's intercepted two passes, deflected one and has not allowed a touchdown all year long and you've got the safety that everyone expects Polamalu to be.

Clark has only allowed three receptions out of 12 attempts this year for 17 total yards and a 5.7 average, the same as Carter.

In fact the longest pass he's allowed in his coverage this year was a nine yard completion.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic is the rating that quarterbacks have when throwing against the vicious hitter, a stunning 0.0.

As you can clearly see, the leader of the secondary this year is not Polamalu, perhaps due to injury or perhaps due to Clark stepping his game up to match and/or surpass that of his counterpart.

Clark is the quintessential safety for any team and it's hard to believe that the Steelers will allow him to part ways with the team any time soon.

Using the statistics given, Clark is actually the best safety in the NFL when one takes into consideration the amount of time he sees on the field.

As always, TJ Jenkins' work can also be found at the Pittsburgh Pigskin Blog and at Sports Jabber .