AFC North Top 25: Ninth-ranked player

The AFC North blog is continuing its series on the top 25 players in the division with No. 9:


Steelers safety

Why Polamalu is ranked 9th: In most seasons, Polamalu would be a top-five player. The reason he isn't up that high is the fact he didn't play at an elite level in 2011 and he's a 31-year-old player with mounting head injuries. Some could make the case that Polamalu wasn't the best safety on his team last season, although he still made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams.

Polamalu is an impact player who is a fearless tackler, which is why he in the top 10. Always lurking around the line of scrimmage, he finished third on the team with 91 tackles last season to go along with two interceptions and one sack. It's like you're waiting every game to see him break through the line of scrimmage after perfectly timing the snap. One reservation I have for ranking him this low is his increased presence as a leader. With veterans like Hines Ward and James Farrior gone, Polamalu decided to attend offseason workouts this year. That really is invaluable.