I previously posted that Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark was a guest analyst Monday on NFL Live, and during one segment dedicated to the New England Patriots, Clark was asked to comment on them losing wide receiver Wes Welker via free agency this offseason, and how vulnerable it now makes them offensively as a result. Clark, as expected, was very straight forward in his response.
“I think what’s really underestimated is Wes Welker’s importance, to not only the New England Patriots, but Tom Brady,” said Clark. “A lot of what they do is timing. A lot of what they do is option reads, when you’re working inside against that nickelback or against those linebackers. So losing him is huge.
“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 completed 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.
“In 2010, we saw it start with the Jets in the playoffs. 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 a sacks, 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.”
After that lengthy response, Clark was then asked to tell what the Steelers defensive game plan consisted of when they played the Patriots.
“I’ll be honest, the years we tried to go in there and fire zone and play Tom Brady in that way, he was able to pick us apart. Because in that, you’re not overloading the offense, you\’re getting one-on-one rushes, only rushing five, so he’s able to find places to go,” Clark answered. “Two years ago we played them and dominated them because we went man-to-man, we had a big corner in Cortez Allen on Gronkowski, and making it hard for Tom to get the ball off, in timing, we made him have to make plays and it was hard for him.”
There is nothing wrong with what Clark said, and while many will take it as a shot at the Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Danny Amendola, this is just straight forward analysis that will eventually make Clark a great asset to ESPN after his playing days are over.
The Steelers of course won that 2011 Week 8 game against the Patriots 25-17 after being destroyed by them in Week 10 of the 2010 season. The two teams will meet again this season in Week 9 at New England and it will be interesting to see if the Steelers defense is once again able to attack Brady the same way that they did in 2011. Will Cortez Allen draw tight end Rob Gronkowski again? If so, will William Gay play outside opposite Ike Taylor?
It will be nice not having to face Welker again as a member of the Patriots, but by Week 9, Amendola ought to be way up to speed by then and Brady will most certainly have taken a long hard look at the way the Steelers defensed him the last time the two teams met.