Was The Ryan Clark Penalty On Sunday Indeed Reputation Based?

In the third quarter of the Sunday loss to the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark was assessed a personal foul penalty for hitting running back Daniel Thomas after a catch. Referee John Parry claimed that Clark hit Thomas while he was defenseless.

Immediately following the play, CBS announcers Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts commented on the play.

“That’s a real iffy call,” said Fouts, while watching the replay. Eagle then asked his broadcast partner, “Is that reputation based?”, to which Fouts responded, “Absolutely.”

So, what kind of reputation does Clark have, exactly? During his 11 years in the league, he’s been penalized nine times for unnecessary roughness and twice for personal fouls. Unless I missed one, he’s been fined twice for hits to the tune of $55,000 and both of those came in back to back weeks during the 2011 season.

I have posted some still shots and an animated gif of the play in question so you can judge for yourself.

As for the way that Clark hits and tackles, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday during his press conference that he doesn’t have any issues with it when Clark’s technique was questioned.

“Fundamental tackling is a central part of good defense and I’d probably beg to differ with that characterization of Ryan Clark’s tackling techniques,” said Tomlin. “I think that he’s a very good technical tackler and has a very sound approach to his tackling.”

We will find out in a few days what the league thinks of the hit as Clark will know very soon whether or not he was fined. You can bet he won’t be quiet about it if he is. That’s part of his reputation as well.



  • DrakePirate

    It was a clean hit by my viewpoint … i think it had to do more with the way the league is getting nitpicky rather than against clark in particular, it might actually have more to do with bias against the steelers per se rather than clark individually … either way it’s sad that this is what the league is coming to … hopefully these types of calls are more an aberration rather than becoming the norm !

  • walter mason

    How much lower do they expect him to get with his head?????

  • BurgherinMD

    No wonder Cam Heyward was suplexing guys into the ground. That was a weak call. It is really hard to watch old highlight videos or old games now because based on today’s rules you keep expecting yellow to come flying.

  • treeher

    I agree, Complete horsecrap. What happened to the rule about ball carriers lowering their heads?

  • Elijah Stevenson

    I feel although the NFL is just finding reasons to fine our players. If there going to do this, they might as well fine players who hit below the knees because that is almost a guaranteed injury that should be illegal but the hit Clark made was totally legal.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    I think one of the dumbest penalties is the horse collar in today’s game.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Not only that, but his head is pointed away from the point of impact. He’s leading with his shoulder.

  • cencalsteeler

    Tomlins quote in regards to Clarks technique is ridiculous. Please go back and look at the above gifs again and judge for yourself. His head is down instead of up. A big reason as to why he is missing tackles. He doesn’t wrap up. Look at Timmons. Timmons wraps up his opponents and runs through them with his head up. Clark puts his head down, and goes in with his shoulder. This technique is terrible. Thomas wanted to take him head on. A scat back would’ve stutter stepped and sprung right and Clark would’ve been tackling air again. Sorry if this is off subject, but these gifs above are excellent examples of the tackling problems Clark possess this season.

  • SG

    It wasn’t reputation based, it was garbage based. Meaning this league and it’s rules and it’s officiating are pretty much garbage.


    Dude. Have you ever played?

  • Lamarr56

    Man, have you ever been horse collared, it is not pleasant. There is definitely areas on that one is in place!

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    If there is a helmet to helmet hit on a receiver as he is catching the ball, there is going to be a flag. The refs are instructed to err on the side of throwing the flag and like it or not, I think it is called pretty consistently. It’s just one of those things where you have to hope over time the calls that go for you balance out those that go against you.

    I don’t think he should be fined. There is not much Clark can do on this play. He led with his shoulder and started below the receiver’s head. The receiver lowered in to him,

  • Elijah Stevenson

    Yeah with my friends at school and they grab around my neck but I’m 6″4 so it doesn’t bother me

  • Elijah Stevenson

    I guess what I’m trying to say is there’s so many rules to the point where football is not what it used to be.

  • GunsDontKillWoodleyKills

    I completely disagree with the call….but is it possible for Clark to use those arms to tackle?

  • SixburghFan

    First: The first gif shows Clark’s head clearly aimed at the runner’s torso, BELOW the runner’s head. The second gif shows the runner’s head has clearly DROPPED to meet Clark’s level. If anything, Clark is lower in the second gif. Clark did not aim for the head; the runner dropped his head into the helmet to helmet.
    Second: The runner caused the helmet to helmet. The league probably doesn’t give a crap, so he’ll probably get fined. Fine.
    Third: What can Clark do about that? Go lower. I’ve got two things to say to that: possible concussion for the tackler (hitting thigh with head) or Gronkowski result. Take your pick.
    Fourth: Yes, Clark should be wrapping when he hits. But that wouldn’ have changed anything about the initial impact points in this collision.
    My $0.02

  • lefnor

    Yeah, ask Gronkowski about this flag and what part of the receiver’s body should be targeted by the defensive player.

  • SumnerYoung

    Last decade, Clark’s tackling was great for a safety in the NFL: big hits over the middle, jar the ball loose, knock receivers out, etc. But this is a new era now where most all rules are geared toward the passing game. All of Clark’s career highlights should be compiled and shown to our young DB’s, but not for fundamental teaching purposes, they should be shown as the way to NOT tackle in today’s NFL.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Couldn’t disagree with you anymore. Unfortunately you sound like a guy who has never played the game. Guys are big, small, mid-size, etc. and you are kidding yourself if you think smaller guys like Clark can tackle bigger guys by head up and wrap up. Look at the rules, and you will see he clearly led with his shoulder (legal) not initiating contact with the crown of helmet…and that’s coming from a guy who is not a big Clark fan.

  • steeltown

    Cleanest hit of the game, dumb penalty

  • James Kling

    TBH, I can’t tell any more what constitutes a clean hit from one play to the next any more. It’s just “make the sh*tuff up as you go along.” Between the rule changes and subjectivity of how they’re called, I might as well be watching some backyard ball with rules on the fly.

  • 2443scott

    the reputation of steelers hard nosed football always has been a bias against them …i guess last week when bell got his helmet knocked off was ok by the league if that would of been one of the steelers you know the ink on check book be on the check…i see a new rule coming next year or year after that to stop all the going low on wr`s only hits allowed will be waist up and shoulders down ….what a league

  • walter mason

    Sad but true

  • Gloria Burke

    I laughed out loud a couple of times watching Cam fling guys around. He was a beast Sunday. I expected him to get flagged on his sack, but I guess because he pulled Tannehill down on top of him, it “softened” the landing enough not to get the flag. Good to see Cam playing so aggressively.

  • cencalsteeler

    Sorry, but I never mentioned this being an illegal hit. I said his technique is terrible. Pointing your head down like the gif shows is not proper tackling technique. First, you lose sight of your opponent, and you risk serious head and neck injury.
    Please elaborate to us as to how you think smaller guys like Clark can’t tackle guys with there heads up and wrapping up, as you stated?

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Go watch or better yet play some rugby, you’ll see how tackles are supposed to be made. What I see are blocks being thrown on both sides of the ball.