Lights-out hitters? Check.
Exceptional in coverage? Check.
Game-changing ball athletes? Check.
The safeties who made my Team for the Ages were far from one-dimensional standouts. All three were capable of impacting the game in a variety of ways, and that’s what set them apart from other great players at the S position.
There may not have been a tougher player in the NFL than Lott, who in addition to being a ferocious hitter, picked off 63 passes, the eighth most of all time. And Lott knew what to do with the ball when he got his hands on it. He returned five of his picks for touchdowns, including three as a rookie in 1981, when he intercepted seven passes. In his 14 seasons, Lott was voted to 10 Pro Bowls and made first-team All-Pro six times.
One of the most disturbing aspects of Polamalu’s game, from an opponent’s standpoint, was that it was impossible to know where he was coming from. Polamalu could come racing off the edge to pressure the quarterback. He could roam around the deep middle and pick off passes, and he could be an in-the-box force, stopping running backs in their tracks. Polamalu picked off 32 passes and returned three for touchdowns. He forced 14 fumbles and had 12 sacks in a 12-year career played exclusively with the Steelers. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a four-time first-team All-Pro.
The general in the secondary of some stifling Ravens defenses, Reed picked off 64 passes, seventh on the all-time list, and he returned them for a stunning 1,590 yards, the most in NFL history, and a 24.8-yard average. He returned seven of his interceptions for touchdowns, 11th in NFL history, including scores of 107 and 106 yards. In 2004, Reed had nine interceptions and returned them for 358 yards, both of which led the league, and he averaged 39.7 yards on those picks.