Matchup To Watch

November 26, 2006

Ravens running back Jamal Lewis vs. Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu

George Kokinis, the Ravens' pro personnel director, sizes up a critical matchup against the Steelers :

The players

Lewis has become the Ravens' all-time leading rusher since being the fifth overall pick of the 2000 draft. He has gained 7,338 yards in his Ravens career. In 2003, he was named the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year after producing the second-most rushing yards (2,066) in NFL history. This season, Lewis ranks 21st in the league in rushing (66.9 yards a game). Polamalu has quickly developed into one of the NFL's top safeties after being the 16th overall selection in the 2003 draft. He was named to his second straight Pro Bowl last season, finishing with a career-best 100 tackles, three sacks and three fumble recoveries. This season, Polamalu is fourth on the Steelers in tackles (56) and leads them with three interceptions. He totaled 20 tackles in two games against the Ravens last season.

What to watch

What separates Polamalu in the league is that you never know where he is going to line up. The Steelers do a great job of disguising where is going to end up. Whether it's film study or instinct, he always seems to be around the ball. He has incredible range, both against the run and the pass. Polamalu's a striker in terms of tackling. He comes up and throws the shoulder. It's a combination of explosion and awareness. Because Polamalu shows up at every spot, Lewis is going to see him when he gets the ball. Lewis is coming off a game in which he ran with more confidence and authority. He showed good leg drive and balance, which allowed him to make yards after contact. When that collision happens in the hole between him and Polamalu, we'll see who comes out on top.

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