One of the toughest things to do when you decide to ‘cover’ your favorite team on a daily basis is to be objective. Even though you have your favorite players you must be willing to criticize when the time comes and it always does.
The bottom line is that if you want to be respected as a writer then you should be able to be objective.
I don’t know that I’ve had a harder time being objective than when it’s come to Ryan Clark. The Steelers’ safety is a free agent at the end of this season and the likelihood that he returns is extremely thin.
Clark has been nothing short of a lightning rod in recent years with his words and actions. He has made us cheer and made us puke all at the same time.
Clark’s bone-crunching hit on Baltimore’s Willis McGahee in the AFC Title Game a few years ago became an instant classic in Steeler History as the ball came free and into the hands of a fellow Steeler.
His on field effort could rarely be questioned but even that door has opened a bit more this year. Off the field he caught the ire of Steeler fans by ‘hanging’ out with the Ravens in their locker after a Steelers’ loss at Heinz Field. His ‘frequent’ visits to Bristol, Connecticut, home of ESPN, also made fans wonder if he wasn’t more interested in his post-career than his current one.
Because Clark has never been afraid of a microphone, he is almost always one of the first Steelers sought out after games. At such times he’s been less than complimentary about his own quarterback Ben Roethlisberger while defending others who probably didn’t deserve it.
Part of the reason Clark has become so divisive is that he often says what many of us do when it comes to the Commissioner and we like that. Most of us have no love for Roger Goodell and Clark certainly doesn’t either. He was one of the Steelers who spear-headed the effort to vote ‘no’ on the collective bargaining agreement. Pittsburgh was the only such vote as the new agreement was ratified.
Clark’s career of late was summed up perfectly last night in the win over Cincinnati. On a key third and long, the Bengals went with a screen to tight end Jermaine Gresham. Clark went in for the big hit and bounced off Gresham as if he were covered in rubber.
Fortunately for Clark, Troy Polamalu stripped Gresham of the ball and gave the Steelers the ball back. Clark has always been a big hitter but he used to be able to tackle quite well too. We haven’t seen that this year and his coverage skills have fallen off as well.
Clark has been a solid and durable player for the Steelers and in some ways he will be missed. My guess however is that most knowledgeable fans are ready to see him go and they won’t exactly be broken up over it either.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 630pm ET talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.