Why Ryan Clark is the right fit in Pittsburgh
The additions of WRs Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle may grab the most attention after the Steelers made some moves Monday night, but it was the addition of safety Will Allen, and more importantly the re-signing of FA Ryan Clark — first reported by the NFP’s Aaron Wilson — that will have the most effect on Pittsburgh in 2010.
Clark was in Miami yesterday, and it isn’t often that a player leaves his first free-agent visit without a deal. Teams will do whatever it takes to keep a player from boarding a plane without a deal in hand.
However, this is big news for Pittsburgh — along with the addition Allen, who will most likely replace FA safety Tyrone Carter -- because defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s scheme requires safeties who can run, make plays on the football and play within the game plan.
We all can agree that Troy Polamalu is the playmaker of the Pittsburgh secondary, but it takes players like Clark to complete this secondary because of what he brings from a professional standpoint and a scheme perspective.
LeBeau’s defense in Pittsburgh isn’t easy to teach. It’s adopted around the league by teams that use the zone blitz, but with LeBeau it’s taken to another level creatively. The Steelers have so many different ways they blitz, and it works when you have a player who can take care of the middle of the field, close downhill on receivers and know where the scheme’s weaknesses are.
Plus, don’t forget the impact of having a reliable safety in the middle of the field with a strong safety as dynamic as Polamalu. The former Pro Bowl safety can freelance more and take extra chances with Clark in the lineup, just as Clark did earlier in his career when teamed up with Sean Taylor in the Washington secondary.
I talked about Clark as one of the top free-agent safeties available, and although he isn’t going to reach the contract numbers of a player like Antrel Rolle — who broke the bank with the Giants — he still has value. It doesn’t always show in the box score, but we’re talking about a player who is rarely out of position, and in this league, that’s often more important that stats.
Clark would have been a starter in Miami, but returning to Pittsburgh now maximizes his value. He fits this scheme. And Pittsburgh fans should be excited that he got out of South Beach without a deal in hand.
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