Reed or Polamalu?

If you can get past the biases of each team, you'll find that Troy Polamalu is really the best safety in the NFL.

PITTSBURGH – It was the usual trail of questions for Troy Polamalu yesterday:

* Troy, are the wheels in motion for a contract extension?

At first he chuckled. "You tried," Polamalu said. And then he chuckled again.

* Troy, did you test your foot full-go and to full satisfaction?

"Absolutely. I felt awesome," he said. "I couldn't imagine feeling any better than I do now."

* And, Troy, who's better, you or Ed Reed?

"I've always considered Ed Reed to be the best safety in the NFL, perhaps ever," Polamalu said. "So we can clear that up."

While Polamalu answered the third question with conviction, the answer left few convinced.

Not that anyone's willing to take a firm stance the week of the game, especially a newcomer to the Steelers-Ravens rivalry such as Jerricho Cotchery, who's run routes against both safeties.

"I don't want to do that. I don't want to do that. I don't want to do that," said Cotchery.

The leaders of each team respectfully sided with their teammate.

"I don't know if either one is better," said Ben Roethlisberger. "I'd say Troy's better because he's my teammate."

"I'm always going to be biased," said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. "I've watched Ed, raised him. But let me be totally respectful for the game: Both of those guys play the game the way the game it's supposed to be played."

So, let's turn to the stat sheet:

* In eight games against the Joe Flacco-led Ravens, Polamalu has one sack, two other tackles-for-loss, one interception, three other passes defensed, and one forced fumble. Two of those plays wrecked games that were pivotal in the Steelers' 2008 and 2010 Super Bowl runs.

* In 10 games against the Roethlisberger-led Steelers, Reed has one interception, two other passes defensed, and a fumble recovery. None of those plays turned a game around, or came close.

So, in fewer games, Polamalu has made more plays, with some of them deciding championships.

"Ed hasn't had a lot of success against us because I think Ben does a great job of moving Ed with his eyes or whatnot," explained Hines Ward.

Reed, of course, is the top center fielder in the game. But if he's having trouble reading the quarterback's eyes, he's not going to make many plays.

Polamalu, the blitzer, the run stuffer, the interceptor, is more versatile, as explained by Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau way back in April.

"I don't think there's a safety in the game that can match him," LeBeau said of Polamalu. "I think Reed's a wonderful safety. He's a great interceptor. He's got great speed. Troy is so much more impactful in the running game. He just shows up all over the field. There's arguably no safety that can do everything, ever, the way Troy can do it.

"If you're playing quarterback against them, you kind of want to know where they are. But the nod goes to Troy in my mind because of his overall versatility. I mean you don't see Reed blitz that much. You can blitz Troy. You can blitz him 10 times a game because he's 200 pounds. He'll hold up. If he's got to get an offensive lineman, he'll hold up on him. I just don't think there's anybody playing that can match his versatility in any way shape or form.

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