Steelers veteran safety Ryan Clark was seen on the sideline, mingling with Redskins fans toward the end of the Steelers preseason loss at Washington.
He was signing autographs of fans of his former team - a fanbase well-versed in its team, and to this day still supporting of Clark, their safety from 2004-05.
Clark saw the Monday Night Football camera crew descending upon him, and quickly finished up one last autograph and headed back toward his team (lest he be tagged again with not taking the game seriously enough for Steelers fans).
One fan yelled out "Thanks Ryan!"
Clark was quickly shuffling back to the team, but turned his head, and acknowledged the gesture with a quick-but-clear "you're welcome!"
As quick as he was to leave his impromptu autograph session, his actions spoke to what the preseason really is; a game that doesn't count, but a game that should be taken seriously anyway. Maybe there's some time to interact with the fans, especially when Clark's night was long since over, and considering his personal ties to the fans of the Redskins.
Not to make that an issue, it's just an interesting parallel to comments Clark made to Tribune Review reporter Alan Robinson in Wednesday's edition.
It may be the preseason, but that does not absolve the Steelers of the need to get their act together in all three phases of the game.
"This next game is important," Clark told Robinson. "I know people always talk about the all-important third preseason game. But I think for us and the way we played, not capitalizing on the other team's mistakes, continuing to make mistakes ourselves, it's important that we clean it up."
If players are putting pads on and score is being kept, their performance should be somewhat close to reality. It's not all of it, but it's silly to think penalties called in preseason will not be penalties in the regular season. Sloppy play is sloppy play, and like Clark is saying, it's incumbent upon the Steelers to, at the very least, play sound, fundamental football.
If for no other reason, to play the practice game like they'll play against Tennessee Sept. 8. There isn't much time between now and then.
It seems like Clark recognizes where the line is drawn between practice and signing an autograph or two, and when it should be taken seriously.
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