Steelers Ryan Clark takes exception to criticism regarding level of effort

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers FS Ryan Clark feels the team's struggles in 2013 are due to a lack of execution, not effort.

PITTSBURGH -- So, safety Ryan Clark was disappointed that the Pittsburgh Steelers coaches basically criticized the team's lack of effort after watching film of the club's fourth straight loss to open this season.

After the team was stopped by the Minnesota Vikings in London, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said: "I like the fight of the guys, and I like their belief in what it is we're doing. (We) just have to do it better. ... We're going to focus on getting better. That's what's going to change the outcome of these football games. Those (players) that don't, aren't going to be a part of us.

"I have great patience. We'll continue to work and get better, as long as I see belief and effort and continued improvement in detail, because that's what's going to change the outcome of these games. Those that don't, they won't be a part of it, whoever it may be. It's just that simple."

Apparently, Tomlin and his staff believed that some players didn't fit the bill. Clark, in a long dissertation to the media Tuesday afternoon, addressed that.

"Different things have been talked about (Tuesday) in meetings that really haven't sat well with me," Clark said. "The film shows one thing, but I know when a guy gets blocked he's not trying to get blocked.

"Or when a guy misses a tackle, he's attempting to make that tackle. The effort is there. We just aren't executing. When you're winning, a mistake or two is glossed over. When you're losing, everything is pointed out."

Really, Ryan? The players aren't trying to make mistakes? Of course, they're not trying to play poorly. Then, why are they playing so poorly? It's more than a lack of execution. In some instances, the talent level clearly isn't where it needs to be. In others, plays had a chance to be made, but they weren't.

That speaks to talent level as well, but it just proves that there is a dearth of playmakers on both sides of the ball for the Steelers. The Steelers have forced no turnovers. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been picked off five times, and the Steelers have lost six fumbles. That's a minus-11 through four games.

"I had a coach who once told me not to confuse effort with results,'' wideout Jerricho Cotchery said. "This is a level where you expect effort. Our business is to produce wins, and those are results we need to keep our jobs. Right now, we've got to get on the board. It has to happen right away."

While no player should be absolved for his performance through the four losses, the coaches should not be above the criticism, either. Their best efforts have drafted players, some with high picks, that just have not panned out. On the offensive line alone, second-round picks were used for tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert, while a No. 1 was used for David DeCastro.

The coaches also replaced John Malecki with Cody Wallace and then proceeded to not dress him at all through four games. Despite numerous O-line injuries in recent years, the Steelers continued to dress just seven players at that position each week.

Kelvin Beachum and Guy Whimper were the only backups for each game, and when Beachum went in for Ramon Foster last week he wasn't available to replace either Gilbert or the beleaguered Adams at tackle. Why wasn't Whimper used? After watching him throughout training camp this year, I know the answer to that question. Tomlin had this response.

"Anybody else we would have put in there would have been below the line of preparation, so there's no answers in that regard," Tomlin said.

And that certainly has to do with talent level.

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