As I wrote this morning, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was given the decision as to whether safety Ryan Clark will play this Sunday in Denver. Well, he’s made his choice and Clark will be inactive when the Steelers take the field against the Broncos. I’m not really surprised by this choice since it’s the same one he made the last time we visited the Mile High City.
A fully healthy Clark accompanied the team to Denver in 2009 and did some running drills to test how his body would react. While the sickle cell trait which flared up after a game against Denver in 2007 didn’t seem affected, it’s best to err on the side of caution. The first time, Clark lost his spleen, gallbladder and thirty pounds while the Steelers lost him for the season. A second flare-up could potentially cost Clark his life.
Now we know why the Steelers were compelled to re-sign Anthony Madison. Madison is primarily a corner but has played some safety during his time in the Black and Gold. Ryan Mundy, who has played very well when called upon this season, will start in place of Clark with veteran Will Allen also there for insurance. Keenan Lewis, who has been the team’s primary nickelback this season, wasn’t mentioned as among the injured despite missing time against Cleveland. Tomlin did say rookie Cortez Allen is questionable after suffering a separated shoulder. Allen comes in when Dick LeBeau goes to his six DBs formation so Bryant McFadden might see increased playing time on Sunday.
The bad news is our top ranked secondary just took a pretty big hit with the loss of Clark, who is by all accounts having a Pro Bowl caliber season. The good news is we’re facing the Denver Broncos, who are almost exclusively a running team. Last week in a game the Broncos thought they had to win to make the playoffs, Tim Tebow completed a grand total of SIX passes. Even against a depleted Steelers defense, I’d be hard-pressed to envision him throwing more effectively against us.