Commentary

Tale of the Tape: Strong safeties

Originally Published: January 28, 2009
By Jeremy Green and Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.
Troy Polamalu/Adrian WilsonGetty Images
Scouts Inc.'s Jeremy Green and Gary Horton have reviewed all the film and broken down the strong safeties in Super Bowl XLIII. We have compared these two versatile playmakers in seven categories and given an edge for each attribute. Some of the results might surprise you.

Pittsburgh

Coverage

Despite Troy Polamalu's range, he is not an elite cover guy, even though he plays well in the Steelers' Cover 2 zone. He patrols the deep half of the field well, but he is much more comfortable playing closer to the line of scrimmage. This is a player who needs, and wants, to be in the center of the action. He has excellent speed, burst and his angles are exceptional, especially in zone coverage. The only way to beat him is to take advantage of his patented aggressiveness.

Since coming into the NFL, Adrian Wilson 's biggest deficiency has been his pass coverage, but Arizona defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast does an outstanding job of protecting him in certain coverage schemes. Wilson has very good range to play from the middle of the field as a deep third safety, but he does not have great instincts and can be slow to react over the top. Despite his solid speed and range, he is better playing in halves or quarters coverage because his subpar reaction time to diagnose and get there is not as apparent. In terms of zone and man coverage he is much better in man and most effective in a somewhat linebacker-type role playing close to the line of scrimmage over the tight end. The more the Cardinals can keep Wilson out of coverage, the better.
Edge: Polamalu

Pittsburgh Arizona

Run support

Polamalu loves to blow up run plays, and no safety in the league is better at attacking the outside run. His angles to the ball are exceptional and he can take on, and get off, blocks as well as anybody. He can change direction or adjust to the ball carrier's moves. Polamalu will attack the run, inside or outside, at full speed. Because of his aggressiveness he can overrun a play, but he usually has enough athleticism to get back into the play.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.