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Ryan Clark 'unquestionable leader' for the Steelers in 2012

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Pittsburgh faces a dire task in Week 16, and the leadership of safety Ryan Clark is one of the strengths the team will need to lean on in their game against Cincinnati.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Tribune-Review reporter Mark Kaboly brings up an interesting point.

It's probably one people who follow this team intently have either already thought, or agree with immediately.

"The unquestioned leader of the Steelers this year is Ryan Clark," he wrote Saturday. "And there is really little debate about that. Every sense of what a leader should be, he has been."

The attention-grabbing piece of it is the quote Kaboly uses from Clark, which really says it all.

"I had to do a little more with Troy out, and to be honest, the year after we won the Super Bowl and Troy went out, I took it on myself and I really didn't do a good job. It was important to me to kind of hold it together as a leader this year."

That really encapsulates Clark's persona - at least how it's described through the media. The year he's talking about is 2009, a season some have compared to 2012. Injuries depleted that team as well, but it was the defense falling short more than the offense, and Clark was seen as a part of that issue.

Clark battled with the media amid a five-game losing streak that would eventually put the defending champions out of the playoffs - the second time in four years the Steelers had won the Super Bowl and missed the post-season. Clearly, Clark was thinking back to that season, and did what he could to help the team win in the absence of Troy Polamalu.

Despite the team's recent slide (four losses in their last five games), Clark is playing perhaps the best football of his career and seems to be a likely participant in the Pro Bowl game Jan. 27 (Pittsburgh Steelers Tickets).

With the potentially explosive Bengals offense coming to town Sunday in a must-win game for the Steelers, Clark will have to continue that outstanding level of play. Cincinnati is playing much better than they were when the Steelers defeated them 24-17 in Week 7.

Perhaps even more important than his play on the field, his leadership this week in practice was essential. The team is reeling, but due to injuries, not a lack of ability. Bringing the team together and figuring out how to play without a few key players can be an initiative led by the players as much as the coaches.

The Bengals and Steelers kick off at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.