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Steelers’ Ryan Clark, and others, are likely on NFL watchlists

If there’s one thing you set your clock to every NFL season, it’s the Steelers being at the forefront of some type of controversy with the league. Usually it’s the defense and one of the more common names that comes to mind is safety Ryan Clark.

It’s not that Clark goes looking for trouble (at least not all the time) but it seems to find him. This past weekend he stirred the pot of the league offices after calling out Referee Bill Leavy and his officiating team for possibly singling him out before the Giants game at MetLife Stadium this past Sunday.

“I thought I did the right thing,” Clark told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought I hit him in the ribs. I tried to get my head to the side, tried to obey the rules as they’ve been laid out to me. I think referees have meetings about me before the game. I think anytime they see ’25’ flash and a hit be made, there’s going to be an opportunity for me to get a flag.”

It’s nothing new for officials to single out certain players before a game each week. Perhaps it’s an offensive lineman that is known for holding, or a defensive back that has a reputation for pass interference. Any number of things can trigger an extra mental note for the guys in stripes on game day, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing if it’s used in the right way.

The problem is that those decisions should be made behind closed doors, before the game starts. There’s no reason to talk about players while they are within ear shot of the conversation. If nothing else you open yourself up to all types of unneeded criticism and in my opinion it’s just unethical. As an employer, you don’t talk about personnel issues in the break room right? The same premise applies here even if the circumstances are different.

Anyway, we would be foolish if we didn’t think that someone like James Harrison is also on the short list of Steelers players for the league. In fact I’d venture an educated guess that anyone who’s been fined by the league for some type of hit or anyone who’s called out the league on any issue is part of some master watch list. Maybe I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist but you’d be hard pressed to convince me otherwise that such things don’t go on.

So for what it’s worth, I agree with Ryan Clark that he’s more likely to get flagged when he makes anything close to a questionable hit. Based on his type of play over the years, and the NFL’s never ending quest to change the league into a more politically correct, soccer mom friendly sport, it’s more obvious than ever that throw back players like Clark are targeted by the league.

So what is the “right way” for officials to use their short lists on gameday? Use it an evaluation tool, to watch for potential rule violations but take each situation at face value and evaluate it for what it is at that time. Fouls should not be thrown simply based on reputation, which is exactly what happened on the Victor Cruz hit in the 2nd quarter this past Sunday.

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  1. Tom

    Anyone watching the game would have to admit that the league wanted the Giants to win. It was the feel good story of the week. The great bunch of guys wanting to win one for the storm ravaged community. Just like New Orleans after Katrina. That’s great if it works out, but only if it’s legitimate. To make any attempt to “help” the team make it happen is complete BS. The refs made several embarassingly bad calls (pass interference, non-call on block in the back, Ben’s fumble, Giants TD while laying on his back, illegal hit to the head that hurt his ribs, among others).

    I think the league needs to fine or suspend the refs when they make such poor calls. They seem to enjoy cutting into the players salaries, why not the refs too? How much should Godell be fined (or sued for) if he can’t prove his case on Bountygate?

  2. Wes

    How about a fine on the ref crew for calling a penalty for a head shot that bruised a player’s ribs? Clark sure would have been fined for a head shot.


    James Harrison? If he had a game where he wasn’t held every single play, he wouldn’t know how to react. Will the refs EVER call holding? Yes, right after pigs fly

  4. GreenBeretAl

    Leavy & his crew should be fined for their ridiculous game calling. Clark never hit Cruz in the head-moran official helping the Giants win. Lewis never hit the receiver & should not have been flagged! Look at the replays. The quarterbacks arm was going forward & what about Heath Miller getting pushed in the back. It’s called clipping idiot officials. A plaitant ‘ lets give the game to the Giants!” Why aren’t these officials fined or fired for their throwing of a game?

  5. SteelerRod58

    I think the penalties are unavoidable. I actually think they benifit the Steelers with “US against the GOD’ell NFL and makes the Steelers play with more intensity and urgency. It seems like after most of the BS calls the Steelers suddenly start to play with more fire….remember the Monday night Ravens game when Ngata decided to rearrange Ben’s nose and Suggs tried for the excorcist twist while grabbing Ben’s helmet.

    The penalties hurt us on the individual play but if they are not at the very end of the game (thats a big if) they seem to enhance our energy and focus.

    I am just saying.


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