How quickly things change. 365 days ago, Ryan Clark was still officially a Pittsburgh Steeler. He was clearly headed out of town, but his contract hadn’t expired yet.
- Clark did of course return for a final season in Washington.
But after an additional season with the Redskins, Ryan Clark has decided to call it a day, and begin his Life’s Work, which in this case includes working on ESPN.
Color commentating suits Clark well, who was never someone who minced words, never someone who found himself at a loss for words, and always someone the media sought out for a quote.
- Steelers Nation will remember Clark for his outspokenness.
As Ryan Clark retires, Steelers fans will remember him best however, for his hard hitting style of play. They don’t make them like they used to. Clark was one of the last of a breed of safeties who excelled by hanging back, allowing the receiver to make the catch, and then lowering the boom afterwards.
- Clark could lower the boom like few others in his day.
Fans of course remember his hit on the Ravens Willis McGahee, a hit which certainly would draw a fine today, but one that sealed the Steelers AFC Championship victory.
While no one calls the protecting a defenseless receiver rule the “Ryan Clark Rule” they might as well. The need to protect receivers from head trauma is legitimate, so you won’t find complaints about legislating them out of the game here. Still, as the Post-Gazette’s Blog ‘N Gold editor Dan Gigler says it was a thing of “Savage beauty.”
- And that wasn’t what Clark considered his greatest hit.
That came in November 2008, during Mike Tomlin’s only victory at Foxboro.
Judging strictly by the rule book, Clark’s hit on Wes Welker almost certainly is within the bounds of what is legal today, but would probably still draw a flag simply because it was so devastating.
Both of these hits are also some what fitting as they came against the Steelers two biggest rivals during Clark’s time — the Ravens and the Patriots.
Ryan Clark’s Under Appreciated Role
While Ryan Clark’s role as a vocal locker room leader and on the field hell raiser were well earned, he played another, more subtle role for the team. And that was as the foil to free lancing Troy Polamalu.
Much has been said about Polamalu’s decline in 2014 and much more has been said about the failings of Ryan Clark’s replacement, Mike Mitchell. Mitchell does have something to prove, but Clark also benefits from an unspoken advantage in any comparison:
- Ryan Clark knew what Troy Polamalu was thinking.
“Troy could be Troy” simply because he knew Ryan Clark had the back door covered, whether that involved covering a receiver who broke free, laying in the wood on someone who caught the ball underneath, or streaming up the field to tackle a runner.
Ryan Clark did it all. Steelers Nation wishes him the best in retirement.