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Old 01-15-2011, 11:49 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Cook: It was the other safety who made the big play

Cook: It was the other safety who made the big play
Sunday, January 16, 2011
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11016/1118439-66.stm
Steelers saftey Ryan Clark intercepts a ball in the third quarter of Saturday's game at Heinz Field.

One play, Steelers safety Ryan Clark said.

All the Steelers defense needed to do was make one play. Force a fumble. Pick off a pass. Get a sack and make the other team punt. Do something -- anything -- to get the ball in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's hands with a short field and that 21-7 third-quarter lead by the Baltimore Ravens wouldn't look nearly so insurmountable in the AFC divisional playoff game Saturday night at Heinz Field.

So, of course, a Steelers safety made the big play.

Troy Polamalu closed as only he can and belted ...

Wait a minute.

You're right, it wasn't Polamalu this time.

"We've got two safeties on this team," Clark said, grinning.

Or, as coach Mike Tomlin put it after Clark turned the game the Steelers' way by forcing a fumble by Ravens running back Ray Rice and then put them in position to win by intercepting a pass from quarterback Joe Flacco, "We just love Ryan Clark."

All of Pittsburgh does this morning after Clark played the lead role in the Steelers' 31-24 win. They move on to the AFC championship game next Sunday, against the Patriots in New England or the New York Jets at home. And the Ravens? Well, Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward covered that angle pretty well when he said, "Putting out Baltimore and having them think about us all offseason, it couldn't get any greater than that."

It wouldn't have happened without Clark. The Steelers were a Dead Team Walking after their offense did nothing on its first possession of the second half and they had to punt. Linebacker James Harrison produced a little buzz in the stadium by sacking Flacco on first down. Then, on third-and-14 from the Ravens 18, Clark hit Rice after a short pass over the middle and forced a fumble that linebacker LaMarr Woodley recovered at the Ravens 23. One play later, Roethlisberger threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Heath Miller, cutting the Ravens' lead to 21-14.

Now, Heinz Field was rocking.

"All we were looking for was one play," Clark said. "We ended up making a ton of plays after that. Once we got that momentum, we weren't going to be stopped."

Harrison had another sack on the Ravens' next possession, helping to force a punt. The Steelers then punted, as well, but it didn't matter. On the Ravens' next play, Flacco tried for tight end Todd Heap down the right sideline, but the ball was long and hung in the air. "I didn't anticipate Clark getting all the way over there," Flacco said. But Clark did, returning the interception 17 yards to the Ravens 25. Three plays later, Roethlisberger hit Ward with an 8-yard touchdown pass that tied the score, 21-21.

Clark noticed an immediate change in Flacco.

"I saw him get a little rattled. I saw it when he fumbled that snap [on the Ravens' next possession]. He pulled out a little early. We were starting to put a lot of pressure on him. He knew we were coming and he had to pay attention to everybody. When you're up, 21-7, it's easy to be Joe Cool. It's not so easy when we're coming after you."

The Steelers turned the Flacco fumble into a field goal to take their first lead, 24-21. The defense had one more big stop to make after a long punt return gave the Ravens the ball at the Steelers 29 with 5:55 left. The Ravens made it to the 6 but had to settle for the tying field goal.

Clark figured the Steelers were in good shape at that point, mostly because they had Roethlisberger on their side. He has watched Roethlisberger lead too many winning drives. He believed even when the Steelers faced a third-and-19 at their 38 with 2:07 left.

"It's funny, I was talking to [injured defensive end] Aaron Smith on the sideline," Clark said. "We agreed that no down and distance is too great when you've got No. 7."

Of course, Roethlisberger threw a 58-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Ravens 4. Of course, running back Rashard Mendenhall scored the winning touchdown. Of course, the Steelers eliminated the hated Ravens in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

And, to think, it all started with one play.

One forced fumble.

One hit by Clark.

Make no mistake, the Steelers' other safety noticed.

"Ryan Clark," Polamalu said, "came up big for this team."

Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11016...#ixzz1BAsrRXEJ
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Old 01-16-2011, 12:04 AM   #2
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Default Re: Cook: It was the other safety who made the big play

Other'safety stars for Steelers
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sp...-steelers.html
By: Andrew Chiappazzi
Beaver County Times

Sunday January 16, 2011 12:21 AM

PITTSBURGH — Ryan Clark’s bought into the lunch-pail, blue collar mentality that surrounds the city of Pittsburgh. The Steelers safety even purchased a real lunch pail that he filled with ice and drinks to keep him going under the hot August sun during training camp in Latrobe.

It’s a mentality that Clark’s taken straight from the locker room onto the field, making the plays that allow stars like Troy Polamalu and James Harrison to shine. It may have even cost him in his two previous stops, as he lasted just two seasons with the Giants and with Washington before arriving in Pittsburgh in 2006.

“I think, to know my value, you have to be a guy inside the organization,” Clark said. “I’m not going to make the flashy plays and do the things that you really see.”

“Ryan doesn’t get a lot of notoriety outside of our locker room because he plays with some great players, like Troy Polamalu and others,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “If you ask anybody in our locker room and you watch us work at practice at our facility, this guy is a leader. He is respected by his teammates. And that’s why it was so important that we got him back here when he was a free agent last off-season.”

Baltimore may object to Clark and Tomlin’s description of his play, but they won’t deny his impact. It was Clark, not Polamalu, who forced Ray Rice to fumble early in the third quarter. And it was Clark picking off Joe Flacco later in the quarter, helping the Steelers erase a 14-point deficit and tie the game at 21.

The forced fumbled kicked everything into gear. After the Steelers’ offense had struggled to move the ball to start the second half, Clark caught up to Rice and poked the ball loose.

“It was really one of those things where you just try to tackle the ball. I didn’t want to just go for the strip and not get him,” Clark said. “It’s one of those where, if you hit it, it’s a good play, but if you miss it, you get him on the ground.”

Rice never saw him coming.

“I didn’t see (his hand),” Rice said. “This one is going to sting a little bit.”

The interception came toward the end of the quarter, as Clark took advantage of an overthrown pass by Flacco.

“I didn’t anticipate Clark to get all the way over there,” Flacco said. “I thought Todd (Heap) was going to be 1-on-1 and I could hit him over the shoulder. Clark did a good job at covering ground, but the ball was in the air for too long.”

Steelers fans chewed on their fingernails for weeks when it came to Troy Polamalu’s health leading up to the playoffs, but Polamalu’s injuries might have been a blessing in disguise.

“Once Troy got hurt, I got to do some different things,” Clark said. “It used to be that I’d sit in the back and make sure Troy could move around and do things and make plays. I think that’s really helped us with our disguises and things like that.”

The disguises appear to have worked against Baltimore. It’s the only way to explain how a lunch-pail-toting, blue-collar worker stepped into the spotlight dressed as a ball-hawking safety.
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