Steelers' secondary grabs the top spot

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Preventing the big play is crucial, especially in the postseason, so solid play from the secondary becomes even more important. Three AFC teams round out the top five in Scouts Inc.'s ranking of the secondaries of the playoff teams. The Panthers hold down the No. 2 spot thanks to limited penalties and Chris Gamble, who has really come into his own this season.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Many think this is the weakness of Pittsburgh's fantastic defense, but that's not true. Other than superstar, do-it-all SS Troy Polamalu, CB Ike Taylor often draws the assignment of shutting down the opponent's best wideout, and the results have been very favorable. Opposite Taylor, Deshea Townsend continues to play steadily, while Bryant McFadden has improved dramatically over the course of the season. The Steelers allow very few big plays.

2. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have three good corners in Ken Lucas, Gamble and Richard Marshall, but it is Gamble who has excelled this season and really taken his game to a new level. He can compete with any wideout in the league from a size and athletic-ability standpoint. The safeties also have played quite well, including rookie Charles Godfrey, who shows great range and has exceeded expectations, and Chris Harris is also a playmaker.

3. Tennessee Titans

This group also doesn't get a lot of publicity, but it is excellent. Led by Pro Bowl CB Cortland Finnegan, this is an aggressive group on the back end that also does a very good job in run support. Nick Harper is a fine No. 2 corner, and the safeties Chris Hope and Michael Griffin bring a lot of versatility to the defensive play calling without compromising their ability to take away big plays. Griffin has developed into a ball hawk, and Hope provides great leadership.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.