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Wednesday April 21 2021
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First & 10 - Ryan Clark

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Defensive back Ryan Clark enters his fifth season as the starting free safety for the Steelers. Clark has started 29 games the past two seasons after recovering from a career-threatening spleen injury in 2008. He spoke with PSR’s Ken Torgent.

PSR: In defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s recent Hall of Fame induction speech, he referred to you as one of the smartest players he’s ever coached. How does it feel receiving that endorsement?

Clark: It’s an honor to be included in any way. If he had just mentioned my name in passing, it would have been incredible for me. For him to actually go out and say the things that he said about me, it says a lot about the man – about coach LeBeau. It’s an honor that he’s long deserved and he took time to mention some of his football players that he’s coaching now. It was just a blessing. It was an honor to be there and get to watch him and to hear him say those things.

PSR: You played much of last season without Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith. What do their returns mean to this defense?

Clark: If you take two pro-bowlers off of any football team, it’s definitely going to affect them. Aaron is a bigger part of our defense than people know. A 3-4 defensive end is not a glamorous position, but he plays it as well anybody in this league. Nothing needs to be said about what Troy brings to a football team - excitement, versatility, big play-making. We’re just excited to have these guys back and are ready to try and make a run with them.

PSR: Who do you think will be the most surprising player on this year’s defense? Who is poised to have a breakout season?

Clark: You know, we have so many veterans, I think everybody knows all 11 guys who will be starting. We’ve got some young guys coming in with Crezdon Butler, Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis. Those guys have looked really good. If they get an opportunity to play, they are going to produce. Last year, depth at the cornerback position was a place where we were kind of hurting. This year, if those guys do really well, we’ll really beef up that part of our football team.

PSR: What’s the mentality of the defense knowing that the offense could struggle without Ben Roethlisberger for at least the first four games?

Clark: It’s the same mentality as always. We want to dominate. We want to be the most dominant defense in football. We were a little disappointed [by last season] even before we found out that the offense might be short-handed. We just want to play, man. We want to play well. We want to finish games. That’s the mentality: finish the football games we start.

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