Pittsburgh Steelers Safety Ryan Clark “I’m Good”

Question: The secondary had a good game, and people had been down on them in the past, did they do anything differently against Baltimore?

Ryan Clark: I think if you look at what Ike (Taylor)’s been doing, Ike’s pressed every receiver he’s played this year, and guys aren’t catching balls on him. That’s nothing new or out of the ordinary for the way Ike has been playing. I think we just matched up well against those guys. I know teams say it all the time, if they give up big plays that we gave it to them, but the long pass to (Anquan) Boldin at their place was a miscommunication. We didn’t rotate the defense like we should and he got open. Then the other pass to (Donte’) Stallworth was the same thing. So it was just things we had to shore up and do. People are always going to be down on you in the secondary here because nobody can run it. So they throw more passes, they throw more five-yard passes, and so they complete a lot of balls. But we think we tried to shore some things up and not give up the big play as much, and we were able to do that this week.

Question: Did they use Troy (Polamalu) any different last game?

Ryan Clark: No. I think you all go to that every game he doesn’t get an interception or if he doesn’t get a sack, or we must be using him different. We play the defense. I think that’s the one thing that he’s done well for us this year. The plays he’s made, he’s always been in the spot he’s supposed to be in, by defense’s design. But what that does on the plays he’s not making, it’s not leaving voids for us. There are no areas we have to cover up because he’s doing certain things. He’s just playing defense, being in positions that Coach (Dick) LeBeau puts him in. When he gets his opportunity to make plays, he’s going to do that. He’s going to be Troy. But the thing he did this week, he was always where he was supposed to be, and that was big for us.

Question: On if he (Ryan Clark) played closer to the line of scrimmage last week.

Ryan Clark: I talked to Mr. Ron Cook after the Cincinnati game—I had some tackles for losses in that game—since Troy’s kind of been injured, I’ve been playing closer to the line and doing some more things. It’s kind of given us more versatility. It used to be where Troy would only do those things. And it hasn’t been by design of the coaches. They didn’t tell me, Troy tells me. We come out of the huddle and we figure out what we want to do. Does he want to be back? Am I going to be back? And it’s been working well. You can’t tell what we’re doing now as much as you used to. (If) You saw Troy at certain positions, you knew what was going on, to where now we both kind of play all over.

Question: Are he and Troy Polamalu interchangeable now?

Ryan Clark: I’m never going to be that guy, no. But the position is interchangeable. You talk about two guys who have played together for a number of years now, played this defense for a long time. We can interchange and do things, but he does things a different way than I do. But as far as the play call goes, we just play whatever we want as long as one safety is doing what is drawn up and the other is doing the other thing. We just go around and kind of make a decision on our own.

Question: On how much does it mean to play in Pittsburgh?

Ryan Clark: It’s better to play at home. It’s huge. It’s funny, it worked out the same way when we won it in ’08, we got to play both games at home. I’ve never seen our crowd the way it was in the third quarter of last game. I think that was big. We kept them down on the end deep in their own territory, and the crowd really helped us, so we’re looking for the same thing this week. It’s good because you get to do the same routine, going on the road and having to pack up, fly. That’s the part of homefield advantage that people don’t understand. You have the big locker room, not the small one they put you in when you’re on the road. So it’s just little things like that, that I think mean a lot as far as a home game goes. We’re excited man. The fans deserve it. We have the best fans in the world. It would have felt like a home game anyway because we travel so well, but we rather have it here with the black and gold seats.

Question: On his reaction to the coaches letting him and Troy determine their roles on a particular play, and were they okay with it?

Ryan Clark: Yes. I guess if we change it up and you lose something somewhere, like if I do something that he normally does and I get beat doing it, I’m sure the coaches would have had something to say, but it’s been working well. Troy’s been making just as many plays as he always does. It’s just allowed us to give them more looks. There’s only so much we could do because we were always in the same spots as far as the defense went. But now this year, with kind of moving around doing some different things, we can show people so many different looks. Now Troy can show that he’s coming and he may not be, or he may. So it’s a lot of things we’re giving the offense to have to think about, being able to move around a little bit.

Question: On the okay from Dick LeBeau to do that during a game.

Ryan Clark: We don’t ask. It wasn’t a situation of, ‘Hey Coach LeBeau, we’re going to do this.’ It’s always been that way. That’s the way we play. Sometimes in camp, he’ll just play left safety all day, I’ll just play on the right. So just whatever that side has to do, you do it, so you kind of get used to doing it. Or there would be times in camp where I would play strong safety out at practice and he’ll play free, because in this defense you need to be interchangeable, because you just never know what the rotation of the offense is going to be and what position you can get caught playing. I think this year we just implemented it more of doing it on our own and saying, ‘Okay, you go down, I’m going to go back.’ And we don’t really figure it out until the play. And it’s actually whatever Troy wants to do. Don’t let me sit here and fool you and say we get to do what I want to do. That’s not how it goes.

Question: On him and Troy Polamalu being able to work in the defense that way reflecting Coach LeBeau’s trust in them.

Ryan Clark: Definitely. Coach LeBeau, I think it’s also how humble he is, though. He doesn’t look at it like, ‘This is the way I draw it up, you have to run it the way I say it goes.’ Coach LeBeau gives us the book, gives us the game plan, but he knows that we have to go out there and feel comfortable executing it. And that’s the thing, he has full confidence in us. We treat him like our father. You don’t want to let him down. At halftime when he was like, ‘The difference in the game is that their defense is making plays, and they have two turnovers and we don’t.’ It hurt, and it resonated with the team.

Question: On his take of the Jets wide receivers and the matchups and Santonio Holmes’ catch last week.

Ryan Clark: That’s Tone (Santonio). It would be crazy for me to sit here and say I don’t think he’s a great player when I said it the whole time he was here. He makes big catches. He’s a tough guy to cover because he can do it all. He can go deep, he catches the ball in the middle of the field, he has good run after the catch (ability), so he’s a tough matchup. But I think when they played here the first time, we did a pretty good job on it. We had Ike on him, pressed him, played tough on him all game, so we’re not really going to concern ourselves with just one player because then you have Braylon (Edwards), Dustin Keller—who I think is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL—and LaDainian (Tomlinson) catching it out of the backfield. So they have good guys. I say all the time, there’s a bunch of first-round guys right now playing the skill position for the New York Jets, so we just need to do our work, do our due diligence and getting prepared for them and knowing their tendencies, knowing what they need to do, because if they play the way they played yesterday, it’s going to be a tough day for us.

Question: On the Jets running for 106 yards on them in December, and if he expects them to try to do that again.

Ryan Clark: I would try to run it again. They were successful with it. I think if you look at them, too, they’re running the ball to keep other offenses off the field. When you have a blitzing and attacking type of defense, if you can keep your play count down, if you can keep the number of plays you have to play down, you have your guys fresh and they’re able to continue playing hard, continue to run to the ball, continue to pursue. And so I think that’s the way they’re looking at it, trying to get back to that ‘ground and pound’ mantra. I know Coach (John) Mitch(ell), his hair is going to be on fire all week because the D-Line, that’s all he ever talks about is not giving up running yards. I think if we got bombed on all day he’ll be okay, but if they rush for 100, it’s going to be trouble.

Question: The final four teams all being top defensive teams.

Ryan Clark: Defense is important, clearly, unless you have a team that is going to outscore everybody you play, and I think that’s what New England was kind of doing for a while. Their defense wasn’t the best, but they were able to hold enough because they always put up so many points. But in the end, you need to be solid on defense, need to give your offense the ball in good field position, and I think that’s what these defenses have been doing. Just watching the games throughout the weekend, you look at the plays that made a difference, it was defensively. You think about Tramon Williams’ interception in the end zone, then he returns one for a touchdown. The Chicago Bears game wasn’t much of a game, so you can’t really speak of it in that sense, but the way the Jets played defense against New England, (Darrelle) Revis getting a lot of balls out and tackling well and getting pressure on Tom Brady, that’s what you need. Some games you are going to be able to outscore the other team, but when it comes down to it you have to stop people from putting the ball in the end zone. So these defenses playing so well have really helped these teams get to this point.

Question: On if he expects a lot of chatter from the Jets’ end this week?

Ryan Clark: I don’t know. I don’t care. They had storylines in the other places. There’s not many good storylines with us. The only storyline we have is six trophies, and we’re trying to get another one, and that’s what we’re working towards.

Question: On if he wants to start the chatter?

Ryan Clark: No, I’m good.