Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was interviewed by Kevin Clark of The Ringer. He was asked to name the best defender he has faced in his 13 seasons in the NFL. He did a good job to narrow it down to just two names... even if he did narrow it down to one position.
"That's tough," said Ryan as he searched his mental database for all of the great defenders he's faced in order to narrow down names. "It's like Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed from a safety standpoint, tied between those two guys."
It's easy to see why Ryan had trouble differentiating between the two safeties. Their careers look eerily similar. Both players dominated the AFC North for more than a decade.
Polamalu was a Pittsburgh Steeler for the entirety of his career. He played 12 seasons in Pittsburgh from 2003-2014 and was a Pro Bowler in eight of them.
Polamalu was at the height of his powers when Ryan came into the NFL in 2008. Polamalu was first team All-Pro four times in his 12 seasons, including three of Matt Ryan's first four years.
Ryan is 0-3 in his career against Pittsburgh.
Reed was also a Pro Bowler eight times and an All-Pro selection five times, including two of Ryan's first three seasons. Ryan is 1-2 against Baltimore in his career.
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Reed and Polamalu both are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame - meaning the rest of the NFL struggled with stopping them, just as Matt Ryan has.