Colin Dunlap: Ryan Clark Is A Paradox, But His Play Isn’t
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Ryan Clark can brash.
He can be a loudmouth, a boor and a bit too braggadocios for the tastes of many.
But, hell — so can I at times. Takes one to know one, I guess.
Know what else Ryan Clark is? A darn fine football player.
To take it further, Ryan Clark is one of the finest safeties in Steelers history.
Clark, a 12-year veteran who came to the Steelers in 2006, has likely played his last game for the franchise, as he’s an unrestricted free agent now that the season has turned into the offseason. The Steelers have an unyielding need to get younger in their secondary and Clark has an unyielding need to earn what he feels he’s worth — which he’s made public is more than the veteran minimum.
So the safe bet is that he will either go to a club that will pay him a healthier sum or settle into the comforts of retirement, most likely in his home state of Louisiana.
This is where his career as a Steeler likely ends and your memories of him wearing black-and-gold likely begin.
But what do you think of when you think of Ryan Clark?
In full disclosure, it needs to be pointed out that Clark had a radio show on 93.7 The Fan.
That said, do you think of the things he said on that show, sometimes driven by ego and self-absorption that might have turned you off?
Do you think of Clark sparring with members of the media, coming off (at times) as a know-it-all who spoke in condescending form to them?
Do you think of a man who never met an ESPN camera he didn’t want to jump in front of?
Do you think of Clark as brazenly coming across as — for some reason — the smartest guy in the room when there was, really, no need to act in such a manner?
Certainly, that’s you right; your prerogative. And if those are your memories of the guy, you aren’t alone in your line of thinking.
All of the above illustrations, however, are what Clark was, to some, off the field.
As for me, I understand that game, I get that he was trying to draw as much attention to himself off the field as possible (sometimes even in a negative light) to make sure that his name stayed on our tongues. I get that.
From where I sit, much of that is background noise and always will be. If, indeed, Ryan Clark has played his last game for the Steelers, I will remember what he did on the field for this franchise.
Again, much of the off-the-field stuff that bothered so many was all background noise to me — because the guy showed up and brought the heavy wood just about every Sunday. Don’t ever forget that. Don’t let his mouth get in the way of the fact that receivers feared Ryan Clark blasting them.
In his eight years in Pittsburgh, the memories for me will be of a bone-crushing safety playing fewer than 13 games in a season just once in that time. For a guy who hammered the opposition the way Clark did, to navigate clear of injuries — and most certainly play through them — is commendable and worthy of our huge praise.
I will also remember Clark reminding (former) Redskins coach Mike Shanahan what a knucklehead he was and welcoming prized quarterback Robert Griffin III to the NFL all in one fell swoop. In late-October of 2012, Shanahan inexplicably called for a trick play wherein RGIII turned into a receiver, bolting down the sideline. Clark made the young superstar pay, clobbering him with a missile-like hit and sending him bounding across the Heinz Field grass.
That’s the kind image that comes to mind, for me, when I think of Ryan Clark.
As his time in Pittsburgh has most likely ended, Clark is a person who definitely always had something to say; never shied away from speaking his mind to the fullest degree.
Yeah, he talked the talk.
But Ryan Clark never failed to walk that walk, either. And the latter is the part I will remember most.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.