I am going to get this out of the way first and foremost, the most obvious choice for this award this week is Aaron Rodgers for going into Atlanta and lighting up a Falcons team to such an extreme that people are anointing him the second coming of (insert Hall of Fame QB name here). Frankly, I find the Rodgers talk to be a little stale so I am turning my attention to a lesser known hero from this past weekends Divisional games, Ryan Clark of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Clark plays safety for the Steelers, more notably as ‘that guy opposite Troy Polamalu’. He does not receive the glitz and fanfare his teammate with the flowing locks gets, perhaps due to a lack of a mane as grand as number 43’s, but he is still a vital member of the best defense in the NFL. How vital he can be was in full view in the second half Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens when was instrumental in two of the game changing turnovers that led to the Steelers storming back from 14 down to trounce the Ravens.
Early in the third quarter, Clark forced the Ray Rice Fumble, Rice’s first of the season, that would lead to a Steelers touchdown. Then shortly later after the Ravens received the ball, he intercepted an overthrown ball by Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco that set up the game tying score. He also made two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and was part of a defense that held the Ravens to -4 yards in the third quarter and 28 total yards in the second half.
Maybe not of Troy Polamalu stature, but not to shabby if you ask me.
"I’m never going to be that guy," Clark said of Polamalu, "but the (safety) position is interchangeable. You talk about two guys who have played together for a number of years now, have played this defense for a long time. He does things different ways than I do, but as far as the play-call goes we just play wherever we want as long as one safety is doing whatever is drawn up and the other is doing the other thing."
Clark may never be as famously known as Troy but the skill and athleticism he displays on a weekly basis is nothing to be ashamed about. He is a vital cog in Dick LeBeau’s defense, especially as of two weeks ago when he and Troy decided to move between the two safety positions to help protect the six-time Pro Bowler’s right foot, and he allows Polamalu to be able to do the things he does due to that athleticism.
"It’s actually whatever Troy wants — let me not sit here and fool you and say we do what I want to do," Clark said with a laugh. "We come out of the huddle and we figure out what we want to do. Does he want to be back? Do I want to be back? You can’t tell what we’re doing now as much as you used to. You’d see Troy at certain positions and you knew what was going on, whereas now we kind of play all over."
However they do it and wherever Clark lines up, the opposing defense better take note because it’s not just the better known safety they have to worry about anymore.
They have to worry about #25 as well.