Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Free Agents Analysis: S Ryan Clark – Unrestricted

By Matthew Marczi

Player: Ryan Clark

Position: Free Safety

Experience: 12 Years

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

2013 Salary Cap Hit: $4,750,000

2013 Season Breakdown: I doubt many would dispute the fact that free safety Ryan Clark had his worst season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013. But it’s important to remind that that perception is colored by the fact that he has been playing at a Pro Bowl-caliber level for the majority of his tenure here.

Like his running mate Troy Polamalu, Clark had some high-profile and noticeable mistakes during the year that helped negatively skew a review of his year. Some of that is fair—blown coverages and missed assignments leading to touchdowns, glaring missed tackles—some of it isn’t.

Clark found himself in some unusual territory during the year as well. Because the Steelers lost Larry Foote in the first game of the season, they used a lot more sub-packages during the year and used Polamalu as a quasi-linebacker when they played their quarters package, which they used very frequently.

That often left Clark as a single high safety, which is not something that he has always been asked to do. This was especially the case later in the season after the acquisition of Will Allen, which left Clark out of a lot of the action.

Still, the NFL generously credits Clark with 104 tackles, which would be the most of his career if it were actually accurate. It is also the third straight season in which he is credited with 100 or more tackles after never topping 90 before.

Of those 104 tackles, only 61 of them were deemed primary or solo tackles. Contrast that to the 74 and 71 of his 102 and 100 tackles from 2012 and 2011, respectively. How many of his 43 assisted tackles would hold up? For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus credits Clark with 91 tackles, though only 16 of them are assists.

Clark ended the year with two interceptions, but he managed just four pass deflections, and he also allowed three touchdowns as the primary coverage, irrespective of other touchdowns that he contributed to by being out of position.

Free Agency Outlook: I think the Steelers would like to be able to move on from Clark after signs of decline in 2013, but it’s hard to say that they have any legitimate alternatives. Assuming they re-sign Allen again, they would have three safeties on the roster—including Robert Golden and Shamarko Thomas—with at least some playing experience, but it’s hard to project that any of them would be an improvement over Clark.

By that same token, Clark has stated that he expects to be paid for his services, which suggests that he might price himself out of what the Steelers are willing to pay for him. Of course, there might not be much of a market for the 34-year-old.

Yet he was the same player just a few years ago that nearly signed with the Miami Dolphins before checking back in with Pittsburgh and getting a deal done because he knew he wanted to play here. If he wants another year in Pittsburgh, he may have to swallow some pride and take less money—maybe even a rotational role—to continue playing for Dick LeBeau.

Other Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Emmanuel Sanders – Unrestricted Free Agent

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • CW

    Much rather see the Steelers make a run on T.J. Ward or Major Wright if they can bring their cap down enough or draft Clinton-Dix or Pryor as a replacement than spend money on Clark.

    Clark might have a good year or two left in him, but he also might be about to completely fall apart and I’d rather see him walk away than collapse part of the secondary next year if he’s done.

  • Jollyrob68

    He’s done and is now slow. Time to remake the back end and let him goto ESPN

  • Jollyrob68

    Thank you for your service, You were a Favorite an I look forward to following your TV Career.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Ryan Clark Has been amazing for the Steelers. Ryan, I thank you for contributing to Super bowls, for selflessly covering up while Troy was free lancing to try to make splash plays, and I thank you for delivering many memorable bone jarring hits.

    Those hits were my favorites as you hit like some crazy LB, and sometimes almost knocked yourself out along with your opponent. This often lead to WR’s being scared to come over the middle, and definitely gave the Steelers Defense great character. Along with greats like Harrison scaring people, you have done the Steelers proud.

    Unfortunately, you seem to have lost a step now and your opponents seem to have figured out that you often put your head and shoulder down looking for the big hit, thus they are now stopping or side stepping you, so you sometimes miss tackles that you always made in the past. Although there is an outside chance you could still contribute, the Steelers need to look forward.

    The Steelers need to find players that can contribute to the next 5-10 year run of challenging for championships.

    Again, on behalf of the fans that have loved watching you play, I thank you for your great contributions. I wish you well in your future endeavors.

    PS: I do enjoy your candid interviews and believe you would be an asset on TV in the future.

  • Aric Brown

    When I watch Ryan Clark play now I don’t see those big hits… I personally believe the multiple concussions in that 2 or 3 week span last year scared him off a bit from lowering the boom… While its frustrating watching him try and arm tackle, you can’t blame a man for finally deciding to protect himself

  • Jason

    You do realize Ryan isn’t going to read this right? LOL

  • Jason

    The “complete fall apart” has already happened. We all witnessed it.

  • cencalsteeler

    Very nice points.

  • Robert Alaniz

    You do realize this is meant for other Steeler fans and what he would say to Ryan right?

  • David Edward

    I think it’s basically a forgone conclusion that Clark won’t be back next year. He’ll be 35, has lost a step (and he wasn’t fast to begin with), and the Steelers clearly need to get younger in the secondary. They can’t have a 34 yo. CB, a 33 yo. SS, and a 35 yo. FS. Regardless if Clark was trying to do too much or not, he has become a liability in the secondary more than an asset.

    The difficult thing is they don’t have a clear successor at FS. At one point Golden was thought to be that guy, but he hasn’t shown much or logged much time bsck there to say he’s the answer. Maybe Shamarko will be the guy, but he too didn’t get much PT (especially after the injury) in the secondary, and he might be the SS successor. I’m not so sure Will Allen will be resigned either. He’ll be 32 and really is just mediocre. Even if they have to take some lumps at FS with a young guy, it’s better for the franchise than to hold on to an old vet and hope for something from him that’s probably unrealistic. I like them going for a FS in the draft. Pryor from Louisville would be nice but @15 may be too high and @47 too low for him. Same goes for Ha Ha. Kenny Ladler from Vandy is a guy I like who maybe they can get if they are awarded a 3rd round comp pick.

  • Jason

    It was a joke,hence the LOL, so relax Robert.