Ryan Clark's comments not out of line but still distracting

Justin K. Aller

Steelers safety Ryan Clark has a way of drawing attention to himself. His recent comments, while fairly stated, draw more attention to his cap number.

It's a scary concept, for sure. Perhaps Ryan Clark is right.

The level of elation after the Steelers flat-out mauled the Patriots in Week 8 of 2011 was nearly the level of a playoff win. Excitement was through the roof. While it should have been a blueprint for all teams to slow down the powerful Patriots offense, other teams haven't played them in as much man as what would seem logical.

But the decision to play in basically a dime defense (with safety Troy Polamalu basically playing inside linebacker) and man up the Patriots receivers led to a large amount of pressure, and didn't allow Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to sit back and find open targets with ease - like he did in a dominating Patriots win the previous season.

That, more than anything else, made the win so thrilling. Brady, while not terrible on the day, found himself on the ground and confused more often in one half than he had been in the previous six games they played against him - four of those have been losses.

So Ryan Clark, appearing this week on ESPN in what seems like a tryout for a future analyst job, pointed out the Steelers had success against the Patriots by utilizing bigger and athletic cornerback Cortez Allen on tight end Rob Gronkowski, and otherwise relying on getting pressure not just from blitzing, but coming straight after him.

So, the Steelers put six defensive backs on the field to cover four and five receivers, and relied on edge pass rushing (LaMarr Woodley had two sacks that game, and pulled his hamstring chasing Brady for what likely would have been a third) to stifle the Patriots offense.

Is there something wrong with Clark pointing that out? So he used a metaphor from Haley Joel Osmet's playbook, and said Brady "sees ghosts" when under pressure, big deal. How many quarterbacks throw well when (healthy) LaMarr Woodley is hanging off of him?

But one has to wonder what drove Clark to even mention it in the first place.

Why bother?

The allure of a post-career studio gig has to be big for players. Clearly, being opinionated counts in today's sports media landscape. While the words themselves aren't really all that big of a deal (calm down, Patriots fans), sometimes, it's best to just let sleeping multiple Super Bowl winning QBs lie.

Clark also mentioned his fellow battery mate, Troy Polamalu, is the third-best safety in the league now, behind Seattle's Earl Thomas and Tampa Bay's Dashon Goldson. That seems a tad less attention-grabbing, but perhaps only a little less annoying, when heard through the collective ears of the front office.

Clark is in the last year of his contract and has a fat payout coming this year. For a team that's at the top of the salary cap, and having just drafted a young safety along with being in the process of developing one, he could see himself as likely the top candidate for release, should the Steelers want to clear up some cap room.

Comments like this may not necessarily be out of line in terms of accuracy, but they're certainly distracting as well. Clark has always shown himself to be a straight-forward kind of guy, and perhaps he is just trying to put some film together for when he's in the market for a new job (he'll turn 34 this October).

He's still vulnerable from a financial standpoint, and comments like this could only lead to the team exploring their options in the scenario they had a few extra million shaved off the top of the cap.


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