Skip to content


The final defensive award that we’ll give out for the 2008 NFL season is named for former Cardinals safety Pat Tillman.

The irony of naming an award for Tillman is that he really wouldn’t care.  He didn’t play football for fame, and he didn’t quit the game for notoriety.  He did what he did with no deeper meaning or agenda, and he was not motivated by the things that motivate most of the rest of us.

He played football because he loved the game.  He stopped because he felt that he had a duty to make a sacrifice in honor of those whose sacrifices allowed him to play football.

He ultimately made the biggest sacrifice.  And though we support any and all efforts to get to the truth regarding why his life ended and whether the military covered up the truth, we don’t want such questions to obscure the fact that Tillman did something for the collective benefit of the rest of us that only the smallest handful of pro athletes ever would willingly do.

This year’s award goes to a guy who, like Tillman, marches to the beat of a drummer that the rest of us can’t hear.  It’s Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

Polamalu edged out Baltimore’s Ed Reed in PFT Planet Polling, and we’re glad that Polamalu prevailed, because we likely would have overruled the will of the many on this one.

Polamalu is a guy who has as much of an impact on an opposing offense as a field-stretching receiver has on a defense.  The quarterback must always know where Polamalu is — before the snap, at the snap, and during the play.

He always seems to be in the right place at the right time.  He contorts his body to get to the quarterback or to scoop the ball before hits the grass.  He moves with reckless abandon.  He generates the most excitement after making an interception or recovering a fumble, moving frenetically through the broken field and, more often than not, finding a way through the maze.

Though Reed is close behind, Polamalu is the best safety in the game.  Together, they are two of the best ever, and hopefully they will be spots in Canton for both of them.

Permalink 35 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Baltimore Ravens, Features, Home, Pittsburgh Steelers, Top Stories
35 Responses to “PFT HEROES 2008: THE PAT TILLMAN AWARD”
  1. timmy2thej says: Feb 12, 2009 11:19 AM

    ya. Ed reed is good. and Polamalu is good. But you picked Polamalu cause they one the Superbowl. IMO Reed>Polamalu.

  2. timmy2thej says: Feb 12, 2009 11:20 AM

    also, it’s about time you posted this…

  3. darrenf619 says: Feb 12, 2009 11:20 AM


  4. MattWalsh says: Feb 12, 2009 11:24 AM

    Steeler homers!

  5. wampag says: Feb 12, 2009 11:37 AM

    okay there is something wrong with the Tillman award going to a Steeler as a CARDS fan I am crying “foul” if you know anything about Pat there is no way he would let this happen
    I was lucky enough to have season tickets for his whole career GO CARDS

  6. Osiris33 says: Feb 12, 2009 11:58 AM

    I still vivedly remember screaming “Ed Reed! Ed Reed!” at my TV when my Seahawks were on the clock at #20 in the 2002 draft. Instead, Mike Holmgren traded down and took Jerramy Stevens and Anton Polepoi. Ugh.
    Both Reed and Polo are great players. This will be a tough call for years to come.

  7. TheDPR says: Feb 12, 2009 12:12 PM

    Reed > Polumalu
    Take away Polumalu’s hair, his smile, and his personality, and you have a safety with a great nose for the ball who is almost as good as Ed Reed.
    And Dawk will be in Canton before both of them, though not based on the 2008 season primarily, of course.

  8. Burritto says: Feb 12, 2009 12:57 PM

    Reed had one of his great seasons, and may have been better than Polamalu this year, but Polamalu is clearly the better safety. If you look at the breakdowns of Reed’s season-to-season metrics, his numbers are completely bipolar. He has great seasons bi-annually. Polamalu is an elite safety every day.

  9. vegas42 says: Feb 12, 2009 1:09 PM

    Florio, glad you are alright after the storm. Thanks for your perspective on Pat Tillman. I couldn’t agree more, and I wish there had been some kind of tribute to him during the Super Bowl, with the Cards being there and all…

  10. Mike D says: Feb 12, 2009 1:38 PM

    As a Steeler fan, im glad to see Polamalu got the nod over Reed. IMO, hes the best safety in the game today. A top notch guy off the field, too.
    Im not so jaded, however, that I cant recognize Reed as being one hell of a safety. When he gets a pick, you pretty much can expect that he’ll take it to the house. The biggest compliment I can pay him is saying I wish Balt would trade him out of the division.

  11. TimTheEnchanter says: Feb 12, 2009 2:02 PM

    As a safety, Reed >> the speedy, undersized linebacker with long hair.
    Although that finger-tip catch early in the year was awesome, reed’s 108 yard INT return was not too shabby in terms of highlight plays. Troy just gets more tackles because as a SS, he’s playing up closer to the line more often (since he can’t hold a candle to reed in pass coverage).
    If you were to overrule this one in favor of anyone, it should be Reed, to make up for the ballot-stuffing Steeler fans who can’t remember that there were 260+ games that took place before Feb 1. (and if you think I’m kidding, how in the hell does Santonio Holmes get almost as many votes as Andre Johnson for best WR? That’s a friggin’ joke. Holmes shouldn’t have even been on the list.)

  12. Grulks says: Feb 12, 2009 2:03 PM

    Burrito said:
    “If you look at the breakdowns of Reed’s season-to-season metrics, his numbers are completely bipolar. He has great seasons bi-annually. Polamalu is an elite safety every day. ”
    Actually, if you look at their numbers, they don’t lie:
    Reed has more Safeties, Passes defended, INT’s, TD’s, yards, and longest yard.
    Polamalu has more Tackles (solo and ast) and 2 more sacks.
    So the numbers are indicating that either Polamalu is used closer to the line of scrimmage (he is), or that Pitts defense sucks (it doesnt) and that players are constantly getting to the 2nd level.
    They’re also indicating that Reed is either less around the line of scrimmage (he isnt), or that he is deployed against routes away from LoS (he is) and when people do throw against him, he hurts you.
    The number of tackles/assisted tackles and yds confirm this: more Assts happen when you are close to other defenders (close to LoS).
    Fewer yards are accrued when the ball is picked off shallow (close to other defenders).
    So Reed having fewer assists indicates he is out on an island, doing more one on one work. Reed having longer yards means that the INT is returned further because there are fewer players around him (further from Los) when the INT occurs.
    They’re both great players, but its easier to be great when you are played close to other defensive players.
    I’d take Ed on my team any day over Troy.

  13. The Q-man says: Feb 12, 2009 2:05 PM

    Reed is better….look at the run backs. Troy is great, but Reed is greater.

  14. axlwarrior19 says: Feb 12, 2009 2:19 PM

    Ed Reed played all season with a bum shoulder. This prevented him from a)being near the line of scrimmage b)blitzing and c)tackling.
    While Polamalu may have arguably had the better season, Reed equalled or surpassed him without having a single collison all season long.
    Troy is a remarkable player, Ed is a once-in-a-lifetime player.

  15. radneck says: Feb 12, 2009 2:29 PM

    Nice tribute to Pat Tillman, Mike. I hope he is named to the Hall of Fame. Congrats Taz!!

  16. Nick Blevins says: Feb 12, 2009 2:54 PM

    I’m bias, as any BAL or PIT fan is, but I think Ed Reed is MUCH better. If he can play another 5 years he’ll easily be known as the best saftey ever.
    Let’s compare stats. But, before that, we have to note the fact that they play different positions, where FS should have more PDef, INT, and SS should have more tackles, sacks & FF.
    In a 16 game season: (because these are averaged out over a season, a small difference can be much better than it seems)
    Tackles: Troy 59 – Ed 51 – Troy
    Sacks: Troy 1.27 – Ed .75 – Troy by a lot
    Safety: Troy 0 – Ed .15 – Ed
    Pdef: Troy 9.64 – Ed 9.87 – Ed
    Int: Troy 3.09 – Ed 6.49 – Ed by a lot
    TD: Troy .18 – Ed 1.06 – Ed by a lot
    Yards: Troy 38 – Ed 173 – Ed by a lot
    FF: Troy 1.09 – Ed .91 – Troy
    Reed beats Troy 5-3 in those stats, and this doesn’t even factor in the fact that nobody typically throws near him, and it doesn’t include what Ed does on special teams (4 Tds, blocked punts, etc).
    I’m really surprised Florio got this wrong.

  17. steel_twin says: Feb 12, 2009 2:57 PM

    Where was Reed in any of the games the Steelers vs. the ravens this season. All he did in the 3 games was sack big ben, and recover a fumble. When its time to step up to the plate, and play big, Polamalu has a far greater advantage because he is a better safety. Who returned an int back for a TD when it really mattered? Polamalu did, NOT Reed.

  18. south-fl-steel says: Feb 12, 2009 3:21 PM


  19. Stillers says: Feb 12, 2009 4:03 PM

    I really hope you are referring to Ed Reed. Troy throws his body into every hit, makes wayyyyy more tackles than Reed. Actually, Reed cant tackle for shit, he cant even cover. Its easy to make interceptions when you are playing center field the whole game. But to play linebacker, free safety and strong safety all from the strong safety position is incredible. Plus, who made the pick 6 in the AFC Championship game? Sure as hell wasnt Ed Reed, his name wasnt mentioned all game. Meanwhile Troy way hoping over centers to stop a QB sneak on 4th and inches. You have got to be kidding me if you belive Ed Reed is better than Troy Polamalu. I think the AFC Chamionship game solidifed that. All you Steelers haters will do anything you can to discredit a Steeler player.

  20. organizedchaos says: Feb 12, 2009 4:34 PM

    Polamalu is not better than Reed. I don’t give a crap what you say.

  21. kendel says: Feb 12, 2009 5:52 PM

    If Polamalu wins, it must be an award for late hits. I get tired of guys jumping on the pile, only to have Maden say “wow, this guy is in on every play”… Ya 2 seconds after it’s over. TP is one of the wurst.

  22. 86n96 says: Feb 12, 2009 5:59 PM

    you idiots know it was a reader poll, right? florio didn’t pick the winner.

  23. 4G63 says: Feb 12, 2009 6:09 PM

    Hey Stillers, put down your ICB and look at the numbers overall posted by ‘Nick Blevins’. You can’t argue the OVERALL numbers and just use ONE game as your reference.
    BTW, it has nothing to do with the fact that Polamalu is on the Steelers either….

  24. Nick Blevins says: Feb 12, 2009 6:14 PM

    Pittsburgh was actually one of the few teams smart enough to not throw anywhere near Ed. I’d be surprised if 2 passes even went near him based on my memory of those games.
    Plus, Polamalu got to play rookie Joe, not the same caliber Reed went against in Ben. I do believe Joe will be far better than Ben long term, but definitely not this year.
    I didn’t even think about how often you see Troy ankle tackling until I saw that post. Usually Ed his a huge hitter, but this year he rarely hit at all, sometimes watching teammates tackle instead. I hope his not limited that way from now on.
    I like Troy a lot, but Reed is legendary.

  25. Combo89 says: Feb 12, 2009 6:16 PM

    Troy has a bigger impact on and off the field. He might not have Ed’s athletic ability, but he has the best “6th sense” of any safety in the game right now, and brings so many intangibles to the Steeler’s. Also the leadership he provides to the entire team is invaluable.

  26. Combo89 says: Feb 12, 2009 6:19 PM

    Oh, and to the people that are comparing stats… offense here, but this is the Pat Tillman award. This award goes beyond stats.

  27. CrabCake says: Feb 12, 2009 7:56 PM

    Shame on you Florio!

  28. CopesCabana says: Feb 13, 2009 9:46 AM

    Nick Blevins – you really think that Unibrow is going to win two superbowls. Wow that is amazing. too bad by the end of their careers he is going to have to win 5 to be at Ben’s level.

  29. Billyball44 says: Feb 13, 2009 10:36 AM

    Polamalu does one thing that Reed does not…..tackle people.

  30. whit09 says: Feb 16, 2009 3:03 AM

    Polamalu doesn’t even play the same position as Reed, who is a FS. Polamalu is easily the better tackler but Reed is faster. They’re different kinds of players, despite being a Steelers fan I’m not picking sides.

  31. bigstorm says: Feb 16, 2009 12:23 PM

    This is ridciulous to degrade one guy over the other based on personal preferences. Reed is a bit more versatile due to his special team play but he hardly has to do the heavy duty run support that Polamalu does. This allows Reed to wander and pick his spots hence the interception totals. Both are game breakers and have shown that they are winners.
    For arguement sake, I want the tough guy who can run and play up in the box.
    Polamulu with a slight nudge over Reed but I think run support is as necessary as pass defense.

  32. siggtacular says: Feb 16, 2009 10:30 PM

    Oh, give me a break. Pittsburgh both of your Super Bowls were horribly officiated, I am so tired of you Steelers fans running your mouths about every goddamn thing. Troy Polamalu doesn’t even come close to the athletic abilities of Ed Reed. Ed Reed is almost inhuman the way he reads the opposing offense. Ed Reed can’t tackle? Ugh, the ignorance of Pittsburgh disgusts me.
    How can you even compare the two? Ed Reed is a free safety while Troy Polamalu is a strong safety.
    If you really want to compare, look at the numbers, then get back to me.

  33. Treez says: Mar 16, 2009 5:28 PM

    ..because as we’ve seen internet polls are so accurate.

  34. Galardi says: Mar 16, 2009 5:30 PM

    Uh, sorry. Polamalu is very good, but he’s no Ed Reed. Reed will very likely go down as the greatest safety in NFL history if he stays healthy and that’s a fact.
    The entire NFL

  35. The Jimmy says: Mar 16, 2009 5:53 PM

    They play different positions.
    To say one is better than the other is kind of foolish.
    They’re both the best at their respective positions.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!