The theme of “You can come home again” which has been prominent in Steelers free agent moves since 2010 got a new twist today when outgoing starting free safety Ryan Clark signed with the Washington Redskins.
Ryan Clark broke into the league in 2002 as an undrafted rookie free agent but didn’t establish himself as starter until he arrived at the Washington Redskins in 2004.
Clark played well in 2004 and even better in 2005, but Redskins owner Daniel Snyder had his eye on more expensive toys in the form of Adam Archuleta and allow Clark to walk in free agency.
- Archuleta only started 7 games for the Redskins
- Ryan Clark started 109 for Pittsburgh, including Super Bowl XLIII and Super Bowl XLV
During those 109 starts Clark established himself as one of the top, if often underrated, safeties in the league, making the splash plays vs. Baltimore in the 2010 AFC Divisional Playoffs and earning himself a Pro Bowl berth in 2011.
Snyder it would seem has an acute sense of buyer’s remorse, as he has brought Clark back to Washington. Terms of the deal were not discussed, although Clark has said that he will not play for the league minimum and at one point denigrated the numbers initially put forward by the Redskins when he first spoke with them.
Hail and Farewell Ryan Clark
As mentioned in Ryan Clark’s free agent focus profile, his return to Pittsburgh was not expected. Clark’s production in terms of tackles this year remained solid, but he was noticeably slower and no longer “in on every play” has he had visibly been in 2011 and 2012.
- But if the loss is expected, it is nonetheless a sad passing.
When the history of great (post-Chuck Noll era) Steelers safeties is written, Troy Polamalu, Donnie Shell, Mike Wagner and Carnell Lake will lead the list. But Ryan Clark has shown that he belongs in that conversation too.
For 8 years, Clark led the Steelers in both the locker room and on the field. His hard hitting set the tone for the secondary and the rest of the defense. Clark was one player who literally tucked his head, squared his shoulder and went to work.
During the second half of Mike Tomlin’s rookie season, Steelers Nation agonized as the Steelers defense gave up late leads a number of times.
- Thoughts of, “This never happened under Bill Cowher” were voiced often times with passion.
Most of the fans looked to Polamalu’s absence or as an explanation. And while Polamalu’s injuries did limit his availability and effectiveness, the Steelers defense was also without the services Ryan Clark for 10 games.
- With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it is now clear that Clark’s absence hurt the Steelers as much Polamalu’s.
And the fact that the Steelers lost their last playoff games at the hands of Tim Tebow in Denver with Clark on the sidelines is no coincidence either.
- On behalf of Steelers Nation, Steel Curtain Rising thanks you Ryan Clark.
Thank you for those 111 games, 2 sacks, 11 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, 573 tackles,3 AFC North Titles, 2 AFC Championships, and 1 Super Bowl Championship.