AFC North: 2011 Defender Power Rankings

Earlier this month, we put an end to the "Troy Reed" debate between Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed. But another set of Power Rankings this week brought the topic back to the surface -- albeit with similar results.

On Tuesday, Polamalu also was voted the NFL's top defensive player by ESPN.com's expert panel. As with the safeties rankings, Polamalu was the unanimous No. 1 choice, which is impressive for a safety because it's not often considered a glamour position. Reed finished No. 10 in the voting.

Polamalu, the reigning defensive player of the year, has a unique set of abilities that I've never seen from the safety position. He has the aggressiveness and instincts of a middle linebacker but the coverage skills, hands and acceleration of a cornerback. This also was Pittsburgh's fourth consecutive week at the top of the Power Rankings. The Steelers were No. 1 for safeties, owners, helmets and now top defensive player.

The AFC North, as expected, was well-represented in this voting. Four players in the division made the top 10, including Steelers linebacker James Harrison (No. 6), Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata (No. 9) and teammate Reed (No. 10).

In particular, it was good to see Ngata get some recognition. Covering him the past three seasons, I've seen Ngata mature before my eyes and develop into arguably the league's most dominant interior defensive lineman. It's at the point now where Ngata is nearly unblockable in one-on-one situations.

Harrison remains one of the top pass-rushers and impact defenders in the NFL. He's recorded double-digit sacks for three consecutive seasons for the Steelers. Reed, who led the NFL in interceptions, is still the best ball-hawking safety in the league.

Here was the final tally:

ESPN.com's defensive Power Rankings

1. Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers

2. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Cowboys

3. Darrelle Revis, CB, Jets

4. Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers

5. Clay Matthews Jr., LB, Packers

6. James Harrison, LB, Steelers

7. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Raiders

8. Julius Peppers, DE, Bears

9. Haloti Ngata, DL, Ravens

10. Ed Reed, S, Ravens

Walker's defensive Power Rankings

1. Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers

2. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Cowboys

3. Darrelle Revis, CB, Jets

4. Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers

5. James Harrison, LB, Steelers

6. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Raiders

7. Clay Matthews Jr., LB, Packers

8. Ed Reed, S, Ravens

9. Haloti Ngata, DL, Ravens

10. Charles Woodson, CB, Packers

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