Ravens Vs. Steelers: Who's The Better Safety, Ed Reed Or Troy Polamalu?

Charles HoweCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2011

Ravens Vs. Steelers: Who's The Better Safety, Ed Reed Or Troy Polamalu?

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    PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 18:  A detail of the hair of Troy Polamalu #43 of of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Image
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed are widely regarded as the best safeties in the NFL. They are both perennial All-Pros. These two play at a higher level than the rest of the league. This naturally draws people to compare the two.

    There are some obvious differences between the two men. Firstly, Ed Reed currently plays free safety and Troy Polamalu plays strong safety. Reed did start his career as a strong safety, but has played the vast majority of it as a free safety.

    Being that the men play different positions, they bring different styles of play to the table. Polamalu will often line-up anywhere on the field whereas Reed plays almost exclusively in a deep zone coverage. Ed Reed is one of the premier ball-hawks in the league. He is the active leader in career interceptions. Polamalu, on the other hand, does a little bit of it all.

    Most Steelers' fans will swear that Polamalu is the superior player while most Ravens' fans will surely pick Reed.

    The following slides will compare and contrast Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu and examine which player is the better safety.

    All stats courtesy of www.nfl.com*

    *when calculating stats on a per season basis, only seasons each player started are included, therefore, Ed Reed's stats were calculated at nine seasons and Troy Polamalu's were calculated at seven seasons.

Starts/Durability

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    GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 7: Defensive back Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens stands on the field in warm ups after being deactivated from the game due to injury prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 7, 2009 in Gree
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    Ed Reed entered the league in 2002, a full year before Polamalu. However, Polamalu did not start for the Pittsburgh Steelers during his rookie season as the coaching staff opted to let him play in situational defenses while he learned the Steelers' system.

    Both men have struggled with injuries at times during their respective careers. Polamalu has missed a total of 21 games over the last seven seasons, with 11 of those games coming during the 2009 season. Ed Reed has only missed 16 games in his nine year career, six of those games during this season.

    Ed Reed has been slightly more durable than Polamalu and has a two-season advantage in games started.

    Advantage: Ed Reed

Tackles

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 28:  Troy Polamalu #43 and Lamarr Woodley #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Fred Jackson #22 of the Buffalo Bills during their game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Karl Wal
    Karl Walter/Getty Images

    Troy Polamalu has 515 tackles to Ed Reed's 495. This is an area that Polamalu has an edge despite starting 37 less games than Reed.

    This breaks down to an average of 73.6 tackles per season and 5.7 tackles per game for Troy.

    Reed averages 55 tackles per season and 3.9 tackles per game.

    The difference is due, in part, to Polamalu's more aggressive style of play. He is much more likely to be used in run support. Troy will often line up on the line of scrimmage as a linebacker leading to plays like this.

    Advantage: Troy Polamalu

Interceptions

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 4:  Safety Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens intercepts a pass against the Miami Dolphins in an NFL Wildcard Playoff Game at Dolphins Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Miami, Floirda.  Reed ran for a touchdown with the interception. (Pho
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Ed Reed is the best ball-hawk in the NFL. His 54 career interceptions lead all active NFL players and double Polamalu's 27. While this is due in part to Ed Reed playing center field on almost every defensive snap, no one reads a quarterback's eyes better than Reed.

    Reed averages six interceptions per season while Polamalu averages 3.9.

    Ed Reed has a decided advantage in interceptions, however Troy Polamalu makes his share of incredible interceptions as evidenced by this video.

    Advantage: Ed Reed

Sacks

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    PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 03: Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts during the game against the Baltimore Ravens on October 3, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Polamalu has eight career sacks to Ed Reed's five sacks. This is another advantage Polamalu can attribute to his roving playing style. Ed Reed isn't going to get many sacks while playing the deep zone.

    This equates to 1.1 sacks per season for Polamalu to a little greater than a half of a sack per season for Ed Reed.

    Polamalu has a knack for coming up with a big play just when the Steelers need it, like in this strip sack against Joe Flacco.

    Advantage: Troy Polamalu

Defensive Touchdowns

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11:  Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Special teams touchdowns excluded, Ed Reed has scored eight defensive touchdowns, six off of interceptions and two off of fumbles. Troy Polamalu has scored three defensive touchdowns, two off of interceptions and one off of a fumble. Both men have a defensive touchdown in the playoffs that are not included in these stats.

    While it would not make a huge dent in Reed's advantage, Polamalu was robbed of a fumble return for a touchdown on this play.

    When both of these men get their hands on the ball, they are a threat to score. However, Ed Reed is more dangerous. He has the longest interception return touchdown in NFL history.

    Advantage: Ed Reed

Other Notable Stats

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers rolls out of bounds after intercepting a pass against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. Pittsburgh
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Ed Reed leads Troy Polamalu in career passes defensed 86 to 71. He also leads in forced fumbles by a margin of ten to eight. However, when broken down into averages per season these stats are a near wash. Reed averages 9.6 passes defensed and 1.1 forced fumbles per season; and Polamalu averages 10.1 passes defensed and 1.1 forced fumbles per season.

    Ed Reed also has registered a safety whereas Troy Polamalu has not.

    Advantage: Draw

Intangibles/Awards

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    Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed  against the  Tampa Bay Buccaneers   September 10, 2006 in Tampa.  The Ravens defeated the Bucs 27 - 0. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Ed Reed has been voted to seven Pro Bowls to Polamalu's six. Ed Reed has been voted to the NFL All-Pro team seven times to Polamalu's four.

    Both men were voted to the 2000s All-Decade team.

    Reed holds several NFL records relating to return touchdowns.

    However, Ed Reed can sometimes disappear from a game, which is not always bad as a defensive back. But, Troy Polamalu almost makes at least one play each game that defies logic: like this...or this.

    Advantage: Draw

Conclusion

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    PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 11:  Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers defends against the San Diego Chargers during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 11, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Steelers won 35-24. (Photo by Chris Gray
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Ed Reed is almost certainly a Hall of Famer. Troy Polamalu may not have done quite enough to be voted into the Hall of Fame if his career ended today, however, he is on pace to be enshrined in Canton.

    Reed holds the advantage in most career statistical categories. But, the advantage seems much smaller when their difference in starts is taken into account.

    Who is the better safety? You should be the judge of that.