Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is inarguably the best safety in football right now, but on the other side of that coin New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis is definitely the best cornerback.
And with the Steelers facing the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game this Sunday for the right to go to the Super Bowl, it begs the question, which is the best of the best? Revis or Polamalu?
Both players are game breaking monsters that keep quarterbacks and offensive coordinators awake at night with their awesome skill sets. The Steelers fully expect Polamalu this Sunday to create at least one turnover while the Jets expect Revis to completely eliminate an entire side of the field.
Polamalu is so feared quarterbacks point him out at the line of scrimmage before every single play, just to make sure everyone knows where he is. Revis is so feared quarterbacks will often not even bother looking at the side of the field Revis is on.
So this begs the question? While both of these guys are the best at what they do, who is the best of the best? If you had to choose between the two, whom would you pick?
The following slide show is a mere attempt at answering that question, it will be broken down into the following categories; athleticism, run defense, pass defense impact along with a conclusion in which I will make my own personal choice.
But really, when forced to choose between these two guys, there is no wrong choice.
Polamalu: Polamalu is a lot of freak packed into a small package. Standing only at 5’10 and 205 pounds plus he still manages to be one of the most athletic players in the NFL. He can run faster than most corner backs, he is as strong as most linebackers and has hips that were touched by a higher power.
Polamalu is such a freak of athletic nature that the Steelers have actually lined him up as a defensive end in a three-point stance against offensive tackles. Somehow, he is amazing at it.
Polamalu may be short, but he has proven in the past to out jump players like Kenny Britt, a 6’5 wide receiver with the Titans. Basically his endless athleticism gives him endless versatility, and the Steelers know how to use that.
He really is the Tasmanian Devil.
Revis: Physically Revis is the prototype corner back that general managers go to bed at night and dream of. Standing at 5’11 and about 200 pounds Revis is long, strong, quick, fast and explosive.
But perhaps the freakiest thing about Revis is his balance, which is what allows him to shadow receivers so easily. He can stop and readjust his body so quickly to keep up with cutting receivers because his extreme balance prevents his body from being caught out of position. This gives him a fluidity and ease to his movements that are just freaky.
Even when covering receivers that are freaks like Andre Johnson, Revis never looks like he is going full speed, that's the balance.
Polamalu: For a safety that has as much responsibility in the passing game as Polamalu does he still manages to be a demon in run defense. Polamalu is often confused as a gambler because he makes so many plays behind the line of scrimmage, he is not.
It’s his instincts and awareness; Polamalu simply does not get enough credit for how intelligent he is. And that combined with his athletic ability makes him perhaps the best run stuffing safety in the NFL.
Revis: Revis does not get enough credit for the fact that he is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL when it comes to run defense.
While Revis has put up the best pass defense metrics since Deion Sanders according to sports stats whiz K.C. Joyner Revis, Revis, unlike Sanders, plays the run with relish.
Revis is not just a willing tackler; he is a violent nasty tackler capable of separating even running backs from the football. I have even seen teams avoid running sweeps and stretches in the direction of Revis, because he will always make the tackle.
Polamalu: Polamalu is one of the best players in the NFL at disguising his intentions. Even though quarterbacks will almost always locate him before the snap, it’s almost meaningless. Because what Polamalu is doing pre-snap is often designed to disguise his true intentions.
Polamalu can separate a receiver from a catch, legally and without a penalty, while also being an interception machine. Polamalu will often bait a quarterback into throwing an interception right to him.
And to top it off Polamalu might be the best blitzing safety in the NFL, and although his sack numbers are not that high this season when he blitzes a quarterback knows it, and it often causes an incomplete or hurried pass.
Again some people think he is a gambler, not true, he is just always in the right place because of how intelligent and athletic he is.
Revis: Revis started off this season slowly because of a protracted holdout due to his contract status, and many pundits began to think that perhaps his legendary 2009 season was perhaps an aberration.
As the season wore on it became clear that no, 2009 was not an aberration.
Revis is perhaps the only true shutdown corner back in the NFL. Put him on a guy, that guy disappears. And Revis is not limited to playing on one side of the field as many corner backs in the NFL are, he moves all over the place to shadow a teams most dangerous threat.
Revis is so deadly right now, quarterbacks are afraid to even look at his side of the field, fearful that he might leave his man to go create an interception.
Revis is such a scary pass defender Peyton Manning would not even look at him.
Polamalu: Polamalu appears to be in on every single play the Steelers make. Whether it is an interception, big stop, fumble, sack or tackle for a loss. Even when he isn’t the one getting the turnover he still deserves an assist. For instance James Harrison gets a sack because Polamalu’s presence in the deep field made the quarterback hold onto the ball too long.
Opposing offense’s do everything they can to avoid him, yet somehow Polamalu still manages to be in on what seems like every single play. This is because Polamalu is a master of disguising his intentions; a quarterback never knows exactly what he is going to do.
He is impossible to avoid for an offense to avoid, and is in on everything.
Revis: Revis’s impact is different kind than Polamalu’s. Polamalu it seems is in on every play in part because his position of safety allows him to be. For a corner back to be involved in a ton of plays means that he is getting picked on.
So when you look at Revis’s stat line from the Jets victory over the Colts in the first round and see that he only had one tackle, it speaks to the level determination the Colts and Peyton Manning had in avoiding Revis; not that Revis had a bad game.
Revis single handily shuts down whoever he is on, quarterbacks wont go near him, and it makes his teammates and coaches lives easier beyond words. Revis can even make receivers cranky, look at Reggie Wayne’s comments after the Colts lost.
Head Coach Rex Ryan has no problem calling sell out blitzes because he trusts Revis to eliminate half the field. At the same time Ryan has no problem rushing only three or four down lineman because Revis can cover much longer than the standard five seconds.
How many times last week did you see Tom Brady standing around looking for someone to throw the ball too? That’s the Revis effect.
So while Revis does not have the statistical impact that Polamalu does, he might be the most dominant defensive player in the NFL.
If I were forced to pick between these two players, I would pick Darrelle Revis. This is not a knock on Polamalu, in fact you can’t lose either way.
And the line between the two is so thin I have no problem with anyone making an argument for Polamalu, there is nothing wrong with that.
However, for me at least, it is impossible to ignore the impact Revis has on an offense’s passing game. Quarterbacks are beyond scarred of him; it is turning into a Deion Sanders type thing.
This gives flexibility to the Jet’s defense that goes beyond any other defense in the NFL.
In other words even though Troy Polamalu can do anything within the Steeler’s defense, the Jets defense can do anything because of Darrelle Revis.
That is why I go with Revis.
But ask me again after Sunday.