Ryan Clark Sure Provided Some Bulletin Board Material for the Patriots


Hey Ryan, do you remember a guy named Anthony Smith?

Unless the numerous helmet-to-helmet hits have fogged up your memory, I’m sure that you are familiar with the player who was your backup from 2006-2008.  Back in 2007, Anthony thought that it would be a great idea to run his mouth during an interview before a crucial late-season game with the New England Patriots.  In fact, Smith even guaranteed that the Steelers would defeat the then-undefeated Patriots on New England’s home-field.

Of course, you probably remember when Tom Brady shredded and embarrassed Smith and the rest Pittsburgh’s secondary throughout the entire game while you were sidelined due to your sickle-cell issue.  Tom was his usual surgical-self that afternoon when he completed 32 of 46 passes for 399 yards and four touchdowns as the Patriots rolled to a 34-13 win.

Then again, maybe you choose not to remember that particular beat-down at Foxborough.  Or maybe you simply relish being the biggest attention seeker on a team littered with entirely too many of them.  I do however know that you recently had quite a bit to say about Tom Brady and the New England Patriots when you were on ESPN’s “NFL Live” earlier this week:

"When Tom Brady gets pressure and when you’re man-to-man and bumping those guys and making it hard for him to throw he sees ghosts…Even when guys aren’t around him, even when he’s not about to be sacked, when his clock goes off in his head that the ball should be out, we’ll see him duck, we”ll see him flinch.  When you get Tom Brady doing that, the whole New England Patriots mystique goes away. I know they think Danny Amendola can come in and have the same type of numbers he had with the Rams, but we also have to remember, he’s fragile.  He’s not a guy who has competed a whole season, especially playing inside in what can be a physical AFC East.  You also think about Gronkowski and the injury; that is going to be bigger than anything for the New England Patriots coming in this year.  Also with Aaron Hernandez being questionable and whether or not he will be at full speed when the season starts…"

While Brady has had his fair share of issues with pocket collapse (along with basically every other professional quarterback), I’m not sure how much talking a guy like you should be doing after your team finished .500 and failed to qualify for the postseason last year.

Not only did your defense fold like origami against cellar-dwellers like Oakland and Tennessee in crunch-time last year, they also failed to rush the passer and force turnovers with any consistency.  Heck, if you want to trash-talk, one could say that your defense last year embodied the very essence of Lee Flowers’ now famous “Paper Champions” phrase.

Ryan Clark did not have kind words for the New England Patriots. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

While you mentioned how Cortez Allen did so well against Rob Gronkowski in the slot during Pittsburgh’s 2011 win, did you take into account how your secondary had Keenan Lewis on the field that day?

Now that Lewis is in New Orleans, Allen will be forced to take his spot in the starting lineup.  Thus the chore of handling “The Gronk” throughout the game could fall to you, the injury-prone Troy Polamalu or an inexperienced cornerback on your roster if Allen has to play outside the numbers and cover other pass-catchers.  And do you really believe that William Gay, Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian, or even rookie Terry Hawthorne can cover Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez in space with any sort of consistency?

In addition to the talented tight ends, what will you do to stop Amendola if he comes your way, Ryan?  Torpedo yourself and your helmet illegally into his face-mask?  I hate to break it to you, but the referees throw flags for that type of play nowadays.  Then again, if you knew that you probably would have stopped doing it due to the excessive fines and costly penalties which you have racked up over the years.

Also, it’s not like Amendola is coming from a “non-physical” and “flag-football background” either.  He spent his entire career in the extremely physical NFC West and he played against the likes of Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona up to six times per season.  The 49ers and Seahawks ranked 3rd & 4th in total defense last year, and the Cardinals managed to rank 12th to boot.  All three of those teams have had rough and tough defenses over the last three years, and I would go so far as to say that the NFC West is the most physical division in football right now.

Furthermore, do not dismiss talented rookies like Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson from making contributions in the passing game and spreading the field against your defense as well.  Dick LeBeau’s defensive scheme is exposed in zone-coverage against accurate quarterbacks who employ four and five wide receiver sets, so good luck stopping Brady if you want to go zone-heavy against him in Week 9.

Most importantly though, how is your team’s inconsistent pass-rush going to rattle Mr. Brady if you do decide to send guys after him?  LaMarr Woodley has had one foot on the field and the other at a Dunkin’ Donuts since he signed his massive deal during the summer of 2011.  On the opposite side of “Mr. Stay Puft” is the injury-prone Jason Worilds, and the former Hokie has yet to receive anything but spot-starts over his career.  Pittsburgh’s outside linebackers combined to record a total of 15.0 sacks last season, and the unit could struggle even more this year without James Harrison.

Look, I understand that you didn’t guarantee a victory like Smith did Mr. Clark, but you sure sent some unnecessary verbal barbs New England’s way.  Then again, jawing like yours has become the norm more than anything else over the last few years in Pittsburgh.  Essentially, you gave bulletin board material to a future Hall of Famer who has shredded your franchise over the course of his storied career (6-2 record including playoffs).  The sad part is that Brady has carved far more talented Steeler defenses than the one that Pittsburgh will send out on the field in 2013.

But don’t worry Ryan, it’s not like Brady, Amendola and the rest of the Patriots players and coaching staff will sink to your level and respond off of the field by hamming for the camera or jawing through the papers like you do.  They’re more likely channel their energy into performing well on the field like the professionals they are. Ultimately, they’re much more equipped to have the last laugh against you and the rest of the defense by the time November 3rd rolls around.

You know, just like Anthony Smith was all those years ago by a man named Brady.

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