The Pittsburgh Steelers will face the Denver Broncos next Sunday in Denver in one of the two AFC wild card games next weekend and the big question on everyone\’s mind is whether or not starting free safety Ryan Clark will play in the high altitude of Denver.
Clark nearly died after a 2007 game in Denver after the high altitude had an adverse affect on his sickle-cell trait and it triggered a blood reaction. Clark ended up having his spleen and gall bladder removed in separate operations as a result of the reaction. Head coach Mike Tomlin did not allow Clark to play in Denver in the 2009 meeting against the Broncos and said his reason for that decision was because he didn\’t want to risk Clark\’s health or burden his teammates and family members with worry.
Tomlin was asked by the media in his post game press conference if Clark would play against the Broncos next week and Tomlin said, “We’re going to meet with the doctors at some point tomorrow or Tuesday. It’s a discussion. Last time we went we exercised some precaution. We choose not to play him, but we worked him out extensively to see how he responded to that. We gathered information and data in that regard. Now we get an opportunity to utilize that. Now we will put some heads together. When I am talking about heads I am talking about medical experts, not myself. We’ll see what the medical experts have to say and then we’ll go from there.”
Clark was asked by the media about his status after the game and Clark said he expects Tomlin to take the decision to play or not in Denver out of his hands, and that he is fine with that. He added that if he doesn\’t play, he will emulate Broncos safety Brian Dawkins in practice this week leading up to the game.
It figures that Tomlin will likely make his decision in regards to the playing status of Clark early in the week, but he will likely not announce his decision until just before game-time so the Broncos have to prepare for Clark as if he is playing. Clark led the Steelers defense this year in total tackles with 100. Should Clark not play, Ryan Mundy would likely start in his place along side strong safety Troy Polamalu.