Not having Troy Polamalu on the field with his hair flopping around from sideline to sideline is very noticeable. Ryan Clark though is filling Polamalu’s shoes pretty well and making a huge difference on the Steelers’ defense. At one point Clark was ready to leave the Steel City, but the Steelers realized what they had in him and made sure they kept him around.
Usually it’s Troy’s job to prowl all over the field and mess with the quarterback’s head, but since he’s only played in two games this year you see Ryan Clark taking that role more and more. He seems to be at the lines of scrimmage a lot more this year than at years past. Maybe it’s his studying of film that he recognizes formations from the other team that they run out of the majority of the time, or maybe it’s because Coach Lebeau has given him more freedom to roam around the field like Polamalu would do if he was healthy.
Clark has become one of the best tackling safeties in the league, and surprisingly those tackles aren’t far from the line of scrimmage. When you think of safeties making a tackle you think of it either being on a big pass play or after a 10 yard run by a running back. When he see’s run; he takes a direct route to that running back and makes textbook tackles. Even after being slowed by two concussions in three weeks; he still has no problem with sticking his nose in the run game.
There have been two games this year where Clark has eclipsed double digits in tackles; against the Titans he had 11 and against the Chiefs he had 10. He also has forced 3 turnovers; one of those being a huge game changer when he forced Michael Vick to fumble as he was going in for a score. As Steeler fans we are used to seeing big plays made from our safeties, but usually that player has number 43 on his jersey.
Taking the game of football for granted is something that Ryan Clark just does not do. He cherishes the fact that he has gotten to play along-side some of the best safeties to ever grace a football field. If Clark was going to leave the Steelers a couple years ago in free agency and sign somewhere else; he was going to where number 43 in honor of Troy Polamalu because of his greatness and how much being Troy’s teammate meant to Ryan. This season you notice Clark isn’t wearing glove, and he just tapes his fingers. That is to honor the late Sean Taylor who was sadly shot to death in his home 5 years ago, and who Clark played with during his time in Washington. Ryan Clark is filling Troy Polamalu’s shoes just fine while he on the sidelines with a calf injury. It’s going to be great to see that defensive backfield with two great safeties running around back there, and hopefully that opportunity will come this Sunday against the Ravens.