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mesaSteeler
02-06-2011, 01:14 AM
Pittsburgh Steelers began success with loyalty
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/05/2052795/steelers-began-success-with-loyalty.html
In Pittsburgh, the loyalty shown to players is among the reasons why Ryan Clark stayed with the Steelers and now he has the opportunity to win a second Super Bowl ring.

By Jeff Darlington
jdarlington@MiamiHerald.com

Arlington -- When Steelers safety Ryan Clark stepped off a plane in Fort Lauderdale last March to visit with the Dolphins after free agency began, he initially thought his career could be headed to a new city and a new team.

“This seems like a good spot,” Clark said at the time. “I’m praying this goes well.”

It didn’t. The vibe wasn’t right. The chemistry wasn’t there. And after a day of an awkward experience that left both sides scratching their heads, Clark called his agent with a very clear message: He wanted to go home.

For months, the situation resonated as a slight against the Dolphins. But what Pittsburgh’s safety has since realized after going through the experience, it might not have been so much about Miami’s organization.

Instead, it might just have been about the Steelers.

“I think just the family aspect of the whole thing, it makes you not want to leave,” Clark said. “It is not a situation where they go out and make the big offseason move and you see the big No. 1 free agent coming to Pittsburgh. What you do see is guys staying.

“You do see them taking care of home first and I think that is a big reason that guys want to be around this organization.”

There are many reasons that can be credited for the Steelers’ success over the last decade, which already includes two Super Bowl titles and possibly a third if Pittsburgh wins Sunday.

Loyal to players

But there’s one element that still gets mentioned more than any other. The loyalty shown toward their players is unmatched, they say. And Clark is a prime example of just that, something he didn’t realize until he went searching elsewhere.

“The biggest thing is we talk about being brothers, we talk about being family and I think we play that way,” Clark said. “If you look at the defensive backs in between every series, we pray together. That’s not about showing people that we have faith. That’s something we do as teammates and as brothers because we know where that strength comes from.”

Three years ago, before Clark had emerged as a solid NFL starter, before he won his first Super Bowl in Pittsburgh, anemia took over his body due to a complication with his sickle cell trait.

He was forced to have his spleen and his gall bladder removed as a result after a trip to Denver’s high altitude for a game against the Broncos triggered the condition. The experience didn’t just cause Clark to be thankful for his health – it also caused him to be thankful for his teammates.

Safety Troy Polamalu became one of Clark’s closest friends, and the chemistry has now translated to the football field.

“Our strength has never been in our talent,” Polamalu said. “It’s always been in our virtues, of our hard work and most importantly our camaraderie, our humility and how we respect the game and respect our opponents.

“That’s something youth can never have. It takes a lot of experience. It takes a lot of chemistry, a lot of life experience to have that.”

The Steelers most certainly do. And Clark’s story is a good example how a roster gains that experience over time.

When it came down to a point when he had to make a decision between staying in Pittsburgh, where his career had taken its shape, or head to another team for more money, he realized what he already had at home.

Right at home

The Dolphins will probably always look back at the snub as a negative against Clark or against the organization. Instead, after months of reflection, it should now be clear what really happened.

Clark’s heart, like so many others that have played for the organization, was still in Pittsburgh. So, too, is his talent. And partly as a result of his contributions, Clark is now preparing to play in his second Super Bowl in three years.

“I got a text after the game last week and it just said, ‘You have a second chance to do something that is a once in a lifetime opportunity,’” Clark said. “It is big for our organization, and I think it just shows that the Rooneys run this organization like it is supposed to be run.”

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/05/2052795/steelers-began-success-with-loyalty.html#ixzz1D9m8MS3d