If you held a straw poll of Pittsburgh Steelers’ MVP candidates through nine games this season, there’s a good chance you’d see votes for Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller and Ryan Clark. In the absence of Troy Polamalu, Clark has taken over as the leader of the secondary and has played with his usual reckless abandon in collecting tackle after tackle.
While much of the focus is on the health of Roethlisberger this morning, Clark has apparently suffered a concussion from a hit on Chiefs’ receiver Dwayne Bowe late in the game last night in the Steelers’ 16-13 OT win. If this indeed is a concussion, it would be Clark’s second in roughly a month.
Along with James Harrison, Clark is the other guy most often fined and/or suspended by NFL Czar Roger Goodell for his illegal hits to the head and for ‘launching’ himself at defenseless receivers. I have, and will, defend the Steelers to no end in Goodell’s assault on the game, but Clark is clearly not getting the message to adjust his style of play.
The hit on Bowe was perfectly clean and was exactly what you want to see in terms of going right through the mid-section of the receiver. The issue for Clark on this play, as it has for so many others, is his head which he continues to use as a battering-ram.
Clark clearly lowers his head in a manner that has seen so many players in this game leave the field on stretchers and for some, the reality they’ll never walk again. As much as I hate agreeing with or supporting the league office, they are right on this. Players have to stop using the crown of the helmet and Clark is one of the worst offenders of it.
I say this not because I dislike Clark but because I want to see this man have a life after football. I cringe every time he drops his head as he did last night in making a tackle. Fact of the matter is that you can still make big hits and big tackles by ‘seeing’ what you are hitting. Even James Harrison has adjusted as witnessed by several of his hits this season as compared to years past.
My guess is that Polamalu stays out again this week against Baltimore and without Clark, this secondary is in major trouble from numerous standpoints of calls, formation recognition and overall coverage. Clark may and probably will play this week and I hope that he can play for many more weeks to come but he must change the way he is tackling or his last game will not be on his own terms, it’ll be on a stretcher.