Notebook: Maddox's role 'invaluable'

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Tommy Maddox has been the forgotten soldier in the Steelers' run to the top of the AFC heap. At least he's been forgotten by the fans.

Rookie Ben Roethlisberger, though, has benefited greatly from Maddox's guidance, according to offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

"Tommy's always been a knowledgeable student of the game," Whisenhunt said. "The way he's worked with Ben and given him advice and given him what he's experienced has been a big help to Ben.

"We hoped that he would get some benefit out of that, Ben would, and you can see right now when he comes off the field he asks Tommy what he sees or asks Tommy for advice that that's a credit to Tommy and how he feels about Tommy as a player."

Maddox, of course, was the Steelers' starting quarterback the first two weeks of the season. He injured his elbow against the Baltimore Ravens and, even though he's been healthy the last seven games, hasn't been on the field since. Maddox hasn't complained in the least.

"He's the ultimate professional," Whisenhunt said. "And I think he's always been a team player and wants to do whatever he can to help. I know the role's not easy for him because he's a competitor and he wants to play, but he's done what he's been asked to do and he's done a good job.

"What Tommy sees is invaluable because he's looking at it through the eyes of a quarterback, an NFL quarterback who's played a lot of games. That's invaluable."

While the Steelers have endured several injuries this season, and roles have been reversed, Maddox is the only player who's been injured and come back in a role behind a younger player. "Accepting roles comes with being on a winning team," Maddox said.

And how long did it take for him to accept his role?

"I don't think you ever accept it," he said. "If you accept it, you might as well retire. I still want to play every Sunday. It's very rewarding and very hard at the same time. You still want to go out there; you still want to be the guy out there playing and making plays. But the thing you do is you realize the situation that you're in and you want the guys in this locker room and the guys around you to be successful so you do whatever you can to help them be successful."

TROY V. ED REED

After Troy Polamalu's interception return set up a field goal to help beat the New York Jets two weeks ago, Steelers coach Bill Cowher called him "the best safety in the game today."

Naturally, with Player of the Year candidate and fellow strong safety Ed Reed coming to town with the Baltimore Ravens, a story comparing and contrasting the two safeties might make for some good reading, wouldn't it, Troy?

"No," he said. "It's a joke if anything. It belongs in the comics section."

Well, with the comics section all booked up for the holidays, a blurb in a pre-game notebook will suffice. But in spite of what his coach says, Polamalu doesn't even think he's in the top 10 of NFL safeties.

"Ed Reed, Brian Dawkins, Roy Williams, John Lynch, Rodney Harrison, Donovin Darius," were the names Polamalu ticked off. "There are some great safeties out there."

Polamalu studied them in the off-season. He even called Reed's secondary coach, Dennis Thurman, who was Polamalu's position coach at USC.

"I asked him about Ed Reed and what he does that he likes, and what he doesn't do right, and that helped me out quite a bit," Polamalu said. "He's a ballhawk. He's a different type of player than any other safety in the NFL. They call him to do more things, rather than kind of sit and play the deep middle."

Reed leads the NFL with 8 interceptions. He also has 81 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and recovered 2 fumbles. He returned an interception 106 yards for his only defensive touchdown.

Polamalu has 5 interceptions and 91 tackles, but no sacks, forced fumbles or recovered fumbles. He returned an interception 26 yards for his only touchdown.

If Reed is the better ballhawk, perhaps it can be said Polamalu is better against the run.

"You have safeties who like to stick their nose in and make a lot of hits and tackles," said Steelers free safety Chris Hope. "And then you have safeties who just make interceptions. But you definitely can't say Ed Reed can't play the run because he's had a lot of big tackles, sacks, caused fumbles. He's pretty much made plays everywhere."

THE OTHER REED

Steelers placekicker Jeff Reed made all four of his field-goal attempts last week to extend his streak to 10 in a row since missing at Cleveland on Nov. 14. Overall, Reed's converted 21 of 26 attempts.

"I always take pride in my consistency," he said. "The guys are moving the ball, blocking for me and Mike (Schneck) and Chris (Gardocki) are doing a great job. I just know every ball's going to be there, so it's in my court. It's just a matter of being consistent like I know I can be."

Does he have any superstitions to credit?

"I think I had more superstitions last year or in the past," he said. "Maybe that's part of it. I'm a superstitious guy but not overly superstitious. We all do stuff. I think everybody on this team has something they do before every game, before every kick, before every play so I wouldn't credit any of it to that.

"Schneck told me that last year. He said eventually I'd stop being as superstitious as I was, and he's right. I mean, I'm still superstitious but it's not nearly as bad."


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