Polamalu, Harrison named All-Pro
The No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL was rewarded Friday when two Steelers players were named to The Associated Press All-Pro team.
Safety Troy Polamalu was named for the second time to the All-Pro team, and outside linebacker James Harrison was picked for the first time. Balloting was conducted by a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL.
Polamalu led the Steelers with six interceptions; he also had 73 tackles and a fumble recovery. The other safety was Baltimore’s Ed Reed, the only player unanimously picked for the All-Pro team. Polamalu received 46 votes.
Harrison and Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware were chosen at the outside linebacker spot. Harrison had 38 votes to Ware’s 45.
Harrison set a franchise record with 16 sacks. He also was second on the team with 93 tackles.
Baltimore’s Ray Lewis (39 votes) and Carolina’s Jon Beason (18) were first-team selections at inside linebacker. Making the second-team All-Pro list was Steelers linebacker James Farrior, with 12 votes.
Among other Steelers players, Aaron Smith received two votes at defensive end, Casey Hampton received two votes at defensive tackle, and LaMarr Woodley had one vote at outside linebacker. Harrison also received one vote at inside linebacker.
Harrison was among 15 first-timers to make the team.
While standbys such as three-time NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning and Lewis, a six-time All-Pro selection, made the squad, 10 of the 14 offensive players and five of the 13 on defense had never been All-Pros. One of those was Baltimore fullback Le’Ron McClain, who joined Lewis and Reed on the squad.
Reed, who led the league with nine interceptions, was the easiest choice.
“He has a tremendous feel for the game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Reed, who made his third All-Pro squad. “Very, very intelligent player, studies it as well or better than anybody. And he’s a highly disciplined player. He plays his position as well as anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Reed certainly did that this year with nine interceptions, and he had two, including one returned for a touchdown, in a wild-card playoff win over Miami last weekend.
Reed was joined in the secondary by Polamalu and two of the newcomers: cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan of Tennessee and Nnamdi Asomugha of Oakland.
“Wow. I don’t know if you can put that into words,” said Finnegan, a seventh-round draft pick in 2006. “That’s a goal guys want to obtain in their years of playing football. That’s the best of the best. That’s humbling to ever think you could be voted on for that. I didn’t look at that as a goal this year.”
Asomugha becomes a free agent after the season and will be able to write All-Pro on his resume.
“The timing is good,” he said. “I think it’s always good to have certain things in your back pocket as far as leverage and negotiating.”
Other first-timers on defense were Harrison, the AP Defensive Player of the Year; end Justin Tuck of the New York Giants; and inside linebacker Jon Beason of Carolina.
“To get the whole swath in one year, that’s great,” Harrison said.
The slew of new All-Pros on offense included running backs Michael Turner of Atlanta and Adrian Peterson of Minnesota; wideouts Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona and Andre Johnson of Houston; tackles Michael Roos of Tennessee and Jordan Gross of Carolina; guard Chris Snee of the Giants; placekicker Stephen Gostkowski of New England; and kick returner Leon Washington of the New York Jets.
“When you think about the Pro Bowl, it’s the coaches, players and fans voting and recognizing you to represent your conference,” said Washington, who averaged 25.6 yards per kickoff runback, with one touchdown, and 10.4 on punt returns. “But with the AP All-Pro team, you’re representing the whole league, that’s a pretty sweet deal.”
Also getting a sweet deal were six repeaters from last year’s team: Reed, Ware; defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth of Tennessee and Kevin Williams of Minnesota; defensive end Jared Allen of Minnesota, who was with the Chiefs in 2007; and Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson.
Manning made it for the fourth time, one behind John Unitas, who was the first-team All-Pro quarterback for the Baltimore Colts in 1958, ’59, ’64, ’65 and ’67. Manning also made it in 2003-05.
Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez made his fifth All-Pro team. Gonzalez ended his 12th season owning the triple crown of NFL career tight end records: receptions (916), yards receiving (10,940) and TDs (76).
“I wanted to show everybody that I could still play at a high level, that I could still be a leader,” said Gonzalez, who certainly did that with 96 catches for 1,058 yards and 10 TDs for a 2-14 team.
Titans center Kevin Mawae was chosen for the third time. Punter Shane Lechler of Oakland made his fourth team.
“It’s a very big honor because it combines both AFC and NFC,” said Snee, one of the anchors on the NFL’s most impressive offensive lines. “There is so much talent at every position, but speaking of guards there is a lot of talent out there. I’m honored.”
In all, 16 AFC players and 11 from the NFC were honored this season. The Titans and Vikings led with four players each and Baltimore had three.