Ben Roethlisberger always had two keys when he was playing the Baltimore Ravens: See where linebacker Adalius Thomas is lined up and know where safety Ed Reed is on the field.
He does not have to worry about Thomas anymore -- at least, not until Dec. 9 -- because Thomas signed in free agency with the New England Patriots.
But Roethlisberger still has to be concerned with Reed, just like every other quarterback in the National Football League. Reed is so good, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said he is better than his own safety, Troy Polamalu, who is a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
"He can do things a normal safety can't do," tight end Heath Miller said.
"He makes plays on the ball," Polamalu said. "He has a great cast of characters around him that frees him up to play."
Roethlisberger and the offensive line had problems deciphering the Ravens' stunting defensive scheme last season, failing to account for all their pre-snap motion and leading to 14 sacks and five turnovers by Roethlisberger, including four interceptions.
One of those interceptions was by Reed, who returned it 37 yards to set up a touchdown. That, though, is nothing new.
Reed, 29, has 31 career interceptions -- tied for first with Darren Sharper among active players -- and his 806 return yards and 26-yard return average lead all active players with 16 or more interceptions. He has returned three interceptions for touchdowns.
"What don't they do?" Roethlisberger said of the Ravens' defense. "You never really see them line up and play football. They're always moving around, they're trying to confuse you. That's going to be the big thing for us, to have communication to know who we're blocking, who we're picking up."
Unlike Thomas, the biggest defensive signing in free agency, the Ravens made sure they did not lose Reed when they signed him in June 2006 to a six-year, $40 million extension that included a $15 million signing bonus -- the largest deal given to an NFL safety.
Reed, though, does more than just intercept passes. He has blocked four punts in his career, returning three for touchdowns, and also has a 22-yard fumble return for touchdown. In the opening game this season, he returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"He's a very instinctive player," said Miller, who has 24 catches and four touchdowns this season. "Some of the things he does are a little bit out of the ordinary, but he has the athletic ability to cover a lot of ground. He can be playing half safety for the run or see a route and jump it."
"He brings a threat to the deep ball," said Holmes, who leads the team with 26 catches and 426 yards. "He's deep enough to prevent a lot of deep passes thrown. But, with my speed and the route-running ability of Hines [Ward] to get open, we can distract him a little bit and get deep on him."