Like him or not, Ray Lewis was not only the greatest inside linebacker of his era, but also one of the great players at his position in NFL history. He was a no-brainer first-ballot member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as was Johnathan Ogden, the first two draft picks in Baltimore Ravens history. Not a bad way to kick off a franchise.
Lewis wasn’t just a great player, but also a great student of the game. While it can be said that his post-career commentary would could use some improvement, he certainly knew what he was talking about when he was scouting teams in a weekly basis during his playing career.
And he sees two players among the 15 finalists for the 2020 class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame that he believes deserve to get in this year, whom he saw twice – sometimes three times – each year as members of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In particular is Troy Polamalu, who along with Lewis’ teammate Ed Reed came to define the safety position for an entire generation of football fans. Reed was a first-ballot Hall of Famer last year. The general expectation is that Polamalu will be this year. Lewis would be surprised if he’s not.
“When you are watching the play you are asking yourself, ‘are you not looking at probably the best player on that team. Right now. You have to locate Troy Polamalu’”, he said, via DKPittsburghSports.com. “Just his ability to change games. I used to always say, the greatest ones find a way to change the game in the course of the game. Like we have many times in our rivalries to watch Troy — knowing I hated it — but had to respect it”.
He said that Polamalu and Reed were alike in many ways, and that their blitzing was an underrated aspect of their games, which gets overlooked because of their many other qualities. “They would figure out angles and you could have really slow offensive linemen trying to get to them and it was too late”.
I was watching a clip of Troy the other day and I turned it off so quickly because it did not end well for us”.
The other player in question is Alan Faneca, the Steelers’ former left guard, against whom Lewis obviously would have played directly. “In that box is what made Alan so dominant”, he said, adding that “he understood levels, he understood how much he has to give a rub, how much not, how fast he has to climb. A lot of linemen you can just beat because they come up and just look at you and try to figure you out. He doesn’t have to figure you out because he has everyone on one chain”.
In addition to the two modern-era candidates, the Steelers also have potential Hall of Famers in 2020 in coach Bill Cowher, contributor Bill Nunn, and senior candidate Donnie Shell. While these have been voted on and will be revealed next week, the modern candidates will be selected on the day before the Super Bowl.