Ryan Clark Thinks Steelers Held Off One-Upmanship Attitudes As Long As Possible

On Monday, the legendary Joe Greene retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette talked to him by phone after the announcement had been made. During his talk with Greene, the Hall of Famer told Bouchette how he thought money, and more specifically, the one-upmanship attitude that players have today, in his opinion, is ruining the Steelers.

“The scary thing is that players have a one-upsmanship about money; they sign a contract and they like it until someone signs a bigger one and now they don’t like it,” Greene told Bouchette. “I don’t like that. I don’t begrudge anyone money but it disrupts the football team. The Steelers over the years have been able to keep everyone happy under the structure.”

Greene also added to that, per the Bouchette report.

“There’s a different attitude with the players, maybe players we brought in, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s good.”

On Wednesday, Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who has been all over ESPN this week in an attempt to hone is broadcast shills in preparation for life after football, was a guest on First Take. During the show, the one-upmanship comments made by Greene to Bouchette were discussed and Clark was asked to weigh in with his thoughts on them.

“If you look at the structure of the NFL today, its about one upmanship,” said Clark. You look at the quarterbacks getting their deals. Joe Flacco got his deal and we based it off of he felt like he was the best quarterback now because of what he did. So he based it off of what Drew Brees got and then you look at Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo to follow. So that\’s what the contracts these days are about.

“Also, these kids coming in, even we you see them sign on signing day, what do they say? \’I\’m going to go to LSU, I\’m going to go to Alabama for three years and then I\’m going to leave and go to the NFL.\’ So the culture we have now is about money. They want to make money, and I will be honest, the Steelers were a team that kept that away from the organization as long as possible.

“If you look at some of the deals that Joey Porter took when he was playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Alan Faneca. Even the deals that Troy Polamalu has taken, never hitting the market, extending his contracts with years left, and we don\’t have those type of people in the organization anymore, because I don\’t think those type of people come into the draft. They don\’t see it as that. Guys are seeing it as, hey, I want to play and make as much money as I possibly can and I would tend to think that Mr. Greene is talking more about the Mike Wallace situation.”

Clark continued.

“You know, you\’ve had Hines Ward, who was probably never paid according to his play on the field. He was paid well, but now we have guys who say, \’You know what? I\’m just not comfortable living in this guy\’s neighborhood, I want his house, or I want my house to be bigger,\’ and that\’s what this league has turned in to.”

During his interview with Bouchette, Greene said that in all of his years of being in Pittsburgh, he never encountered a player having his play affected by a contract dispute that wasn\’t resolved by the start of the season. Greene noted to Bouchette that that is a bad thing to happen. Bouchette asked Greene if he was referring to Mike Wallace, but the Steeler legend refused to name a specific player.

Clark, on the other hand, obviously thinks that Greene was referring to Wallace, and why wouldn\’t he? As far as the other comments made by Clark, I think he is right when he said that the Steelers were able to hold off the one-upmanship attitude as long as possible, as over the years we have witnessed more and more players chasing the green of cash more than the opportunity to play on the green of Heinz Field.

Much like Wallace last season, Plaxico Burress, who just so happens to back in Pittsburgh now, failed to show up for the mandatory and volunteer mini camps prior to his contract year in 2004. Burress did, however, show up on time for training camp, but a new deal was never reached and the Steelers former No. 1 draft pick ended up having a horrible 2004 season that included him missing five games in total and only catching 35 passes for 698 yards. The poor season did not hurt the wallet of Burress, however, as he ended up signing a six-year, $25 million contract with the New York Giants in March of 2005.

Look, I certainly see where Greene is coming from, but everything was headed in this direction ever since the owners granted the players free agency in exchange for a salary cap in 1993. Also, the hometown discount is pretty much non existent now as well.

As much as I usually hate what Stephen A. Smith has to say, he was right on the money when he said that teams no longer have loyalty to players. As he sort of put it, they can cut players on a moments notice if they want to. Players will always want more than another player that they think they have out-produced. It\’s the nature of the game and it\’s the nature of our society.

Skip Bayless said during his comments on the topic that the first time that he read the comments made by Greene that he considered it to be “grumpy old man” talk. Is he right? Where do you weigh in on this topic?

In case you want to watch the whole segent, I have included the video of it below.

  • Jollyrob68

    It seems all fans want players to take a home town discount but they need to remember those contracts aren’t guaranteed. Players need to get what is fair to stay with the home team however, the truth of the matter is teams aren’t as loyal to it’s players so why should the players be so loyal to them.
    As a fan I love the players but I always root for the name on the front of the jersey The Pittsburgh Steelers not just the name on the back.

  • steeltown

    I agree Byran.. while I hate the greed in Football and in America in general, its business and I have to agree with you and Steven A Smith in that Teams don’t really have much loyalty to the players anymore..the players can be cut at any time and the players know that so they will always want to make as much as they can, as fast as they can and in most cases will compare themselves to other players…. hell the media always makes comparisons, why wouldn’t the players do the same

  • JohnnyV1

    Willie Colon still had time on his contract, he works for the Jets now. James Harrison had time on his contract, he’s a Bengal. Mike Wallace didn’t want $7-8 million /yr, he wanted $11 million /yr. It goes both ways. Contracts aren’t guaranteed, so players want to maximize their pay. Salary cap requires that teams fit within a certain dollar value, so NFL teams must renegotiate contracts, or cut players, to sign the next up & coming group of players or get players they don’t have, to compete. It seems “fans” want wins, playoffs and Superbowls, more than they want to see the entire career of their favorite player in the same uniform.

    I do think something could be done about free agency and crappy teams that mis-manage, hoard cap space, then splurge on free agents and have high draft picks also. Perhaps limiting the number of big free agent contract (relative to the players position) signings by any one team to maybe two players. Anything over two, and they forfeit a high draft pick. Shouldn’t get to hoard cap space, buy any and all the players you covet and get to keep all your high draft choices too. That won’t happen though.

  • The NFLPA and League may want to consider a separate QB salary cap because the more cap dollars these QBs get, the less it leaves for the other 21 starting positions as well as the depth players that round out a 53 man roster. I don’t blame the players for wanting to make as much as they can while they can. That is what all of us are doing…

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Dear Skip Bayless,
    You are the biggest ASS in sports!
    – All the Fans.

  • Michael Mazanowski

    Teams no longer have loyalty to players and vice-versa! Mr.Greene is a class act though–he didn’t even mention Wallace by name when asked! Its men like Mr. Greene who made the game great! Players like Wallace are making many despise professional sports! Pay me or I’m not going play to my full potential! Damn spoiled brats!

  • Michael Mazanowski

    I thought Serena Williams had the biggest ass in sports! Oh I misunderstood your post!

  • Pete

    Players are greedy. Owners are greedy. It’s not like it was years ago when players had more love for the game. Clark is right though. There are certain guys who feel they have enough money while for others it’s never enough. Polamalu could’ve had the keys handed to him but was satisfied being with the Steelers. Aaron Smith was another. Team first. There are others but I wouldn’t say they are the majority. Mark McGuire. Greene remembers a day when most players were like that. They thought about team first. Money they figured would take care of itself. Today they talk about “taking care of my family” as though their family would be destitute with 5 mil versus 8 mil. Really?

  • Michael Mazanowski

    Yeah but when people are working half assed because of a contract dispute….ok its what I’m doing at my job too! Lol!

  • Kevin Gobleck

    That’s an enjoyable ass not an unwanted one lol

  • Michael Mazanowski

    Boooo! I just wanted to boo you for once steeltown (because I’ve never had too before…never….its weird I’m going to be on your every word from now on)!

  • westcoasteeler

    Just want to say that I think Ryan Clark has done a wonderful job on espn. He has made Steelers nation look really good. He is insightful, funny and fits nice w all of the other ex-nfl broadcasters.
    Thanks Ryan. Now go have a banner season!

  • Michael Mazanowski

    Heyoh! That’s too much ass for me!

  • Michael Mazanowski

    I agree w you steeltown!

  • I think today players prefer a big contract instead of a ring, even Ben who always tals about winning, maybe if he just took Off 10% of his salary, they could retain more players. almost every player is now a mercenary, few players accept pay cuts; like Bettis

  • Harrison didn’t Sant a pay cut. Players preffer money over rings

  • Pete

    I would agree with you if we were talking say $500,000 contract versus $10 mil. Wallace left for what $60 million with $30 mil guaranteed? We don’t know what the Steelers offered but even if we take what Brown was offered as the base, $42.5 million with $9 mil guaranteed. He’s set for life at $9 mil and he has the real potential to get most of the $42 mil. For some guys, that’s enough or more than enough while for others it’s far too little. So they leave for more money and greener pastures or hold out and disrupt the team. I have far more respect for the guys who see life a little simpler and are not all about the money.

  • Michael Mazanowski

    Sad isn’t it?! I would rather have a big ole fat SB ring on my hand! Ok…the money wld be nice too!

  • son_zhu

    I totally get where Greene is coming from. When free agency started in the 90’s, the Steelers was probably hurt the most by it. In fact, I recalled in the late 90’s or early in 2000/2001, the Steelers was the team that lost the most number of Pro-Bowlers to free agency than any other team. The top brass believed in building through the draft and not paying too much to one guy and sacrificing the cohesiveness of the team.

    That philosophy worked somewhat with the Steelers making it to 6 AFC championships between 1994 and 2004 (making it through to the SuperBowl once but lost to Dallas…. friggin O’Donnel!!!). However, with the exception of the 2001 team, I’ve always felt that we were a player or two short of what was needed to get over the hump.

    I think that the money is attributed to the issue of so-so drafting (solid in the earlier rounds, but less so in the later rounds) by Management. When you miss on the lower drafted guys you’re stuck having to pay the higher drafted ones that panned out (or you have no choice to pay because you haven’t developed a solid bench).

    As an athlete, my coach always taught us that you’re only as strong as your weakest link (hence the motivation to develop and build a strong bench). I think the Steelers may be sacrificing long term success for a win now attitude by paying guys too much and not focusing on rounding out a solid roster of developing talent.

  • Loyalty? LOL, that’s for fans, not millionaires.

  • Stephen Dale

    Both Joe Greene and stephen Smith are correct : no loyalty from the players or from ownership. It really is all about MONEY. Because a players NFL life is approximately four (4) yrs., I really can’t blame the players wanting as much as they can get while they can get it. Working a M-F / 9-5 job is not much fun.

  • steeltown


  • steeltown

    Agreed. Not sure it would ever happen.. but it is getting ridiculous.

    Yes, the cap will soon gradually increase, but not as fast as QB salary has over the past 5-6yrs.. Look at Ben’s contract, 5yrs ago he got the huge deal avg approx. $12.5MIL a season.. since then, franchise QB’s are now making over $20+MIL a season.. it increased that much IN 5 YEARS TIME!!!

    Crazy to think whats in store 5-10yrs from now

  • NW86

    Exactly – don’t expect loyalty from the players unless the teams are going to start showing them some loyalty in the form of guaranteed contracts.

  • NW86

    I agree with most of this, but there are still a few Steelers players that I think have showed loyalty in recent years. For example, Clark himself, as well as Brett Keisel, were probably worth more than the ~$3M they were earning over the past couple years (both are older now and wouldn’t get any more on the open market at this point). Brown didn’t wait for free agency and signed a fairly modest deal even after his 1,000 + 1,000 season. Even Woodley – I know, he’s on a big deal now and hasn’t been up to his standards the past couple years, but let’s remember, before that, he was one of the biggest impact players on the team, piling up huge sack numbers, yet he played out his 4-year rookie, near-league-minimum contract without a peep, then continued to smile and say the right things when slapped with the franchise tag. This was probably one of the reasons he was rewarded with his current contract – he went about things the “Steeler Way” and never said a word about what he could have been making on the open market.

  • Ahmad

    I can’t disagree with anything Greene or Clark said because it’s all true.

  • JDR

    Harrison ended up taking a much larger pay cut… what i dont get is the guy that turns down say 3.5mil to play for a winner to take 4.7 from some scrub ass loser team… when did winning become unimportant? even as grade schoolers nobody wanted to get picked by the crappy team or captain during recess. if winning doesnt matter to a player, how can you ever believe that he is playing up to his abilities or giving 100% out on the field.

  • JDR

    separate qb cap(like rookie cap) or a rule like the NBA’s Larry Bird rule… give a team 4 or 5 exemptions so they dont lose a face of the franchise type player simply because of the cap… in the ultimate TEAM sport you’d think they’d already have that

  • JDR

    saw her once at a grocery store down here(bradenton)… from behind she looked like Greg Lloyd…over 6′ ripped with muscle, huge lats…then she turned around and her tits were as big as my head…and i got a big blockhead

  • JDR

    as one of the best qb’s to play the game, two rings, been to another SB…comparatively he is grossly underpaid…but this is based only on what other QB’s are getting paid

  • JDR

    as long as Ben is the QB they should be in a win now situation, players like him only come around a couple times a generation… we went 21 years between Bradshaw and Ben

  • Bradenton Florida? Cool, I live up in the Tampa area.

  • JDR

    there’s more of us than any tampon gay fuckinqueers “fans”.. i used to kinda follow the bucs as my nfc team(figured somebody needs to, and i always liked Hugh Green and lee roy selmon) until i moved here…. anybody’s Mom, girlfriend or sister from back home knows 10x as much about football than any “man” from here…total annoying morons who couldnt even tell you who their coach was before Dungy, hell…by now none of them even remember Dungy.
    i used to live in brandon, a few Steeler bars there too..o’briens was a good one… you cant go anywhere in the Bay area without seeing a bunch of Steeler plates, bumper stickers, and fans… after taking my son to see the Steeler-buc game couple years ago, he was sure this was Pittsburgh… he went to a football game and it was like a home game for the Steelers, same with the Pens, and the Pirates play in his town

  • Anon

    That “scrub ass loser team” had a 10-6 record & went to the playoffs, while the “winner” team had an 8-8 record & missed the playoffs. Don’t get mad at Harrison for his decision. After ititially refusing the pay cut, he wanted to come back to the Steelers at a reduced price, but the Steelers told him that they moved on. He still wants to work & Cincy gave him the best offer at that time. Who wouldn’t be motivated when their former team doesn’t want them & they think they still have gas in the tank?

  • Anon

    I really don’t understand the hate for Wallace by Steeler fans. He played last year under the tender w/o any complaints to the press. He never “held out,” even though he missed OTAs & training camps last year; he was not under contract, since he was a restricted free agent. This year, the Steelers did not franchise him or offer him a long term contract that was better than what he got in Miami.

    What would you do in that position? Don’t say you would take less money, because you love the Steelers. Remember, players play for the team that drafted them, not the teams they are fans of. He was born in New Orleans & went to school in Mississippi; do you really think that his dream was to play for the Steelers? Yeah, that may be our dreams because we are Steeler fans, but not the players dream. Imagine if you were an elite WR & got drafted by NE, would you show loyalty to them & give them a “hometown discount” just because they drafted you?