Once again, incendiary comments from a Steelers safety are written on a whiteboard somewhere in the recesses of Gillette Stadium.
Just what the Steelers needed.
Thank you, Ryan Clark.
Clark said this week on ESPN’s “NFL Live” that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will “duck” and “flinch” even when pressure isn’t there and that he “sees ghosts.” He said that wide receiver Danny Amendola, who the Patriots signed from the St. Louis Rams to replace Wes Welker, is “fragile.”
A guest analyst this week on ESPN, the 33-year-old Clark is preparing for life after football. He’s worked on Pittsburgh TV and radio and seems ready to trade in his helmet for a microphone when his playing days are over. According to SI.com, Clark saw ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman at the Super Bowl and asked if he could intern.
It would have been better for the Steelers if Clark were fetching coffee and doing other intern-like tasks rather than running his mouth on the air.
In the SI.com article, both Markman and “NFL Live” host Trey Wingo called Clark “smart.”
He does know the Steelers visit the Patriots Nov. 3, right?
Clark is proving no smarter than Anthony Smith, the former Steelers safety who guaranteed a win over the 12-0 Patriots days before the Steelers played them at Gillette Stadium in 2007.
The Patriots won that game 34-13 on the way to a 16-0 regular season. They targeted Smith on two touchdown passes, making it look like he didn’t belong on an NFL field.
Smith had a history of showboating and lasted only one more year with the Steelers. Shamarko Thomas, who the Steelers drafted in the fourth round out of Syracuse, plays the same position and comes from the same school as Smith. Hopefully he shows a little more maturity.
It wasn’t entirely surprising that Smith put his foot in his mouth. But Clark?
Clark has been a leader on the Steelers’ defense. It’s out of character for him to poke the bear.
Even if the most pigskin-brained football analyst concurs that Brady is a little skittish in the pocket, wouldn’t it be wiser for Clark to keep that between himself and the Steelers coaching staff so it can be used to game plan against the Patriots?
Instead, Brady and Bill Belichick have six months to stir Clark’s words in a motivational cauldron like the witches in “Macbeth.”
The Patriots can take a comment about the way Brady knots his tie and turn it into bulletin-board material. Imagine what they’ll do with this.
The Steelers have failed miserably in their two previous attempts to beat a Brady-led Patriots team at Gillette Stadium.
Fresh off their Super Bowl XXXVI title, the Patriots christened Gillette Stadium by beating the Steelers 30-14 in the 2002 season opener. The Steelers defeated the Patriots 33-10 at Gillette in 2008, but that was against Matt Cassel because a knee injury ended Brady’s season in Week 1.
Since coming back from that injury, Brady hasn’t missed a game. That came up Wednesday when former Patriot and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi was asked about Clark’s comments.
Bruschi is theoretically one of the people Clark is modeling himself after during his broadcast apprenticeship, and he said that if it seems like Brady is seeing ghosts, it’s only because he’s “protecting the franchise.”
And so the backlash against Clark and the Steelers already has begun.
Bruschi pointed out that Ben Roethlisberger has played a full 16 games just once in his career because his style of play leaves him prone to injuries.
Quarterbacks playing 16 games in a season isn’t a luxury in the NFL.
The one year Roethlisberger did it was 2008, and the Steelers won the Super Bowl that year. Since then, injuries have kept Roethlisberger out of five games and the Steelers have won just one of them.
Had Roethlisberger played every game over the past two seasons, the Steelers might have won one more game in 2011, earned a first-round bye and avoided Tim Tebow in the playoffs. They might have won at least one more game last season and not missed the playoffs.
Yes, the Steelers beat Brady and the Patriots the last time they met. But that game was in Pittsburgh, and LaMarr Woodley hasn’t been the same since injuring his hamstring that day.
Talk about fragile. Woodley’s shuffling in and out of the lineup is another factor in the Steelers’ failure to win a playoff game in the last two seasons while the Patriots have reached the Super Bowl and the AFC championship game.
Perhaps Woodley started the spring tradition of a Steelers defensive player fueling the motivational fire of a rival AFC quarterback. In June of 2011, Woodley told ESPN that Joe Flacco wouldn’t win a Super Bowl “in this lifetime.”
How did that turn out?
Obviously, Clark didn’t learn the lesson.