Some even want to go as far as saying that either one is the best of all time. Even though neither one have been crowned that title yet, there is no doubt that they are the best at their position today.
Now you must have noticed that they play different safety positions so let me break them down really quick. Strong Safeties play a bigger emphasis on stopping the run than the pass and are closer to the line of scrimmage than the Free Safety. Free Safeties play a bigger emphasis on stopping the pass than the run and play 10-15 yards back from the line of scrimmage giving them more room to play the pass.
I'm going to give a brief description of each player along with some stats to help you pick.
Troy Polamalu is the heart and soul of the Steelers' defense. He is the leader everyone looks for on the defense. But it's not his leadership that makes him so great. It's his playmaking skills. He has 4.3 speed that can sprint into the backfield and tackle a QB or RB for a loss or can fake a blitz and run 20 yards back to his coverage and pick off a pass.
That's not all. The best part is is that you never know what he is going to do. He might blitz, delay blitz, fake blitz, or drop back into coverage. He seems everywhere at once. He's either making a tackle or is next in line to do so.
He's a part of every play and he likes to chase the ball instead of letting the ball come to him. Total stats are 452 tackles, 7 sacks, 60 pass deflections, 20 INT's, and 7 FF. He has been playing since 2003.
His counterpart Ed Reed is known as an excellent ballhawk. He plays so far back from the line of scrimmage that he has perfect time to read QB's and decide where the ball will be thrown. He also holds the league record in longest INT return with 108 yards breaking his own record of 106 yards.
Though not a big run stopper and tackling machine like Polamalu, he his exceptionally well at intercepting the ball. He's always looks for the endzone when taking them back. He's taken 6 back so far.
There is no doubt that Reed is the best safety at pass defense. No one but Polamalu and possibly Darren Sharper come close. Total stats are 458 tackles, 5 sacks, 70 pass deflections, 46 INT's, and 9 FF, He has been playing since 2002.
So there you have it folks. If you like someone who is a tackling machine and always seems to be everywhere making plays, Polamalu's your pick. If you like ballhawks who always seem to be in the right place at the right time and is a threat to take an INT back for a pick 6, Ed Reed is your guy. I'm going with Polamalu because I prefer his style of play more than a ballhawk's. Let me know what you think in the comments.
UPDATE Honorable Mentions- Darren Sharper, Brian Dawkins, Bob Sanders, Adrian Wilson. If you think I'm missing someone let me know in the comments.