When you’ve got a nickname like “The Bonecrusher”, chances are you’re going to fit in well on the Ravens’ defense.
Bernard Pollard sure hasn’t disappointed.
Since signing a two-year contract with the Ravens this offseason, Pollard (who earned his football moniker during his college days at Purdue by de-cleating more than a few wide receivers) has delivered big hits, become a threat around the line of scrimmage and mixed things up with the guy Baltimore loves to hate - Hines Ward.
All of it has allowed the six-year veteran to slowly work his way into the starting lineup at strong safety. Pollard has started the Ravens’ last four games and has proven to be an intimidating, physical compliment to roving free safety Ed Reed.
“He’s a physical presence,” head coach John Harbaugh said of Pollard. “He’s a sideline-to-sideline kind of a guy. Obviously, he’s an excellent tackler. That’s valuable for any defense, and he’s a leader, too.”
Because Reed tends to freelance much more than the average free safety, the Ravens need a strong safety opposite him who is a sure tackler and commands the middle of the field.
Pollard certainly fits both of those areas.
The former Kansas City Chief and Houston Texan is not afraid to throw his weight around - as evidenced by his huge hit on Jaguars running back Deji Karim a couple weeks ago - and that reputation is well-known around the league. Opposing wide receivers know, even in this time where heavy fines are handed down from the league office every single week, that Pollard won’t shy away from contact.
“I think the big thing that everybody’s looking at is the league is coming down on players hitting guys coming across the middle, but one thing we’re going to do is we’re going to hit you regardless,” said Pollard, speaking in broad terms, but very much referring to his personal style of play. “We’re going to take the fine, we’re going to appeal it and if we get our money back, we get our money back. If we don’t, we don’t. But we’ve got to continue to keep playing football.”
That mentality will most definitely be on display tonight when the Ravens take on the Steelers in arguably the most physical rivalry in the NFL. It’s a match-up which perfectly fits Pollard’s style of play - fierce, physical and bordering on nasty.
“He’s a great addition to this rivalry,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We had a great safety in Dawan Landry, who is not with us anymore, but we have Bernard. It’s kind of like he filled the void, and he brought a little bit more to it. Dawan Landry, he was smart, but Bernard Pollard, he is smart as well, is physical, and he complements our defense a lot.”
The last time these two teams met, Pollard was making his first ever appearance as a Raven. That didn’t stop him from getting into a shoving match with Ward, the Steelers wide receiver who loves getting under the skin of his Ravens opponents.
The two men had to be separated after a couple plays, and they continued chatting throughout the course of Baltimore’s 35-7 win.
“Like I told him, I’m not 190 (lbs.), I’m not 205,” Pollard said after that Week 1 battle. “I’m every bit of 225 and more, so you know it’s just the way I play the game. That’s my style of play. That should fire them up for the next time we play.”
The next time is tonight. And with reports that Ward will play despite an ankle injury, you can bet Pollard will be waiting for the veteran wide receiver and his teammates if they plan on coming over the middle of the field.