Return of Ryan Clark Sparks Steelers Defense In Week 2 Win Over Jets

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 16 : Santonio Holmes #10 of the New York Jets can't hold onto the ball after being hit by Ryan Clark #25 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in front Ike Taylor #24 on September 16, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu may not be the biggest guy on the field, but as far as the Steelers' defense is concerned, he has a gigantic shadow.

Inside that shadow you'll find loquacious yet unheralded safety battery mate Ryan Clark.

He may not have been looking for such an opportunity, but if Clark ever wanted to show his value to the Steelers, it was in Week 2, against a big-strike offense like the Jets, with Polamalu on the bench.

The difference in the Steelers' secondary from Week 1 to Week 2 was enormous, and the turnaround can fairly be credited to Clark's return.

Steelers/Jets Coverage: Van Dyke | Roster Review | Big Ben Adapting | Welcome Back Clark | Offensive Play Totals | Game Story | Recap With Jets |

Clark, the team's leading tackler in 2011, missed the season-opener in Denver due to a medical condition. He came back in force in Week 2, leading the Steelers with eight tackles and leading a secondary that shut the Jets' passing offense down after the first two drives of the game.

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was 10-for-27 passing in the game, a mark that stood at 3-for-4 after the opening drive. That first series led to a Sanchez touchdown pass to wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

Clark was credited with a pass defensed on a deep pass into the end zone, but overall, he accentuated his performance on a hit that may not count in the stat book, but certainly remembered by Holmes.

Santoniowned_medium

via assets.sbnation.com

The camera somehow misses the frame in which cornerback Ike Taylor interfered with Holmes, but Clark's hit turned what could have been a big gainer for the Jets into an incompletion.

That kind of play was missing in the Steelers' loss to Denver in Week 1. Clark was missing in the loss to Denver. Granted, there's a bit of a difference in the skill set of quarterbacks the Steelers faced, but Clark and his secondary teammates forced many of Sanchez's incompletions.

And all this without Polamalu.

His absence was a bit more noticeable in run support, but as far as pass defense goes - something they'll definitely need to bring to Oakland in Week 3 - Clark rejuvenated a unit that looked confused and disparaged much of their season-opening loss.

Jets vs. Steelers 2012: Ben Roethlisberger Outplays Mark Sanchez, Leads Convincing 27-10 Week 2 Win (via sbnation)


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