Clark Won't Play

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin won't risk his free safety's health in Sunday's playoff game in Denver. But Tomlin did have some good news on the health front.

The checklist, known to most Pittsburgh Steelers fans, was updated Tuesday at noon by coach Mike Tomlin:

* Ryan Clark – won't play.

* Ben Roethlisberger – OK and no worse.

* Rashard Mendenhall – injured reserve.

* Cortez Allen, Mewelde Moore – questionable, at best.

* Anthony Madison – back in the fold.

* Doug Legursky – will start if maintains health.

* Keenan Lewis – no damage.

* Tim Tebow – just wins.

The news of the day started with Clark, who needed his spleen and gall bladder removed after playing in the thin air of Denver in 2007 because of a blood disorder due to sickle cell trait.

After consulting with doctors, Tomlin wouldn't let Clark play in the team's 2009 return to Denver. And Tomlin won't let Clark play in Sunday's wildcard-round playoff game in Denver, either.

"It's a big game for us," Tomlin said. "But it is a game. We'll keep it in that perspective."

Tomlin said that third-year pro Ryan Mundy will make his first start of the season at Clark's free safety spot, with veteran Will Allen – who started for Tomlin at Tampa Bay – the top backup.

While the Steelers have capable depth at safety, Clark is a force in both the passing and running games. The free safety led the Steelers in tackles this season with 100. But Tomlin doesn't want Clark to tempt serious injury, or possibly death, by playing.

"While looking at all our data and all our variables in this occasion, we came to the determination that he is at more risk (than other players)," Tomlin said. "We're not going to play him. It's just that simple."

Tomlin said that Clark will travel with the team to offer support on the sideline because he's "a very good communicator. He might have a little coaching in his future. We'll put that to the test here this week."

Tomlin said Roethlisberger's sprained ankle "appears to be doing OK" and said "it shouldn't affect his availability." Tomlin said Roethlisberger's ankle "is no worse" after throwing 40 passes and taking 2 sacks Sunday in Cleveland.

Mendenhall, as expected, was put on injured reserve with the torn right anterior cruciate ligament suffered in Cleveland. He'll be replaced in the lineup by Isaac Redman, and possibly Moore, who sprained an MCL on Dec. 19.

Mendenhall was replaced on the roster by Anthony Madison, a special-teams coverage ace who's been on and off the team every year since 2006. Madison will replace Cortez Allen at the punt-gunner spot opposite Lewis on Sunday.

"This is a guy who quite frankly taught quite a few players around here how to play the position," Tomlin said of the 30-year-old Madison.

Tomlin said he may add another running back to the roster later in the week if he senses that Moore can't return.

A boost to the offensive line will be the return of left guard Doug Legursky, who missed Sunday's game because of a shoulder injury. Tomlin said Legursky will start "if he's 100 percent." It would give the Steelers their preferred starting offensive line for only the fifth time this season.

The Steelers are 4-0 in games with their starting offensive line intact, and have scored an average of 25 points in those games, compared to 18.8 in the other 12.

As for the 8-8 Broncos, Tomlin raved about rookie pass-rusher Von Miller but reporters were more interested in Tebow, the second-year quarterback who became the starter after the Broncos bottomed out at 1-4.

"When I look at Tim Tebow, I see a guy that just wins," Tomlin said. "He's at his best in the significant moments. He makes those around him better. They buy into what he's selling. He's got natural charismatic leadership abilities. We've got to fight that battle."

Tebow is more runner than passer, although he averaged slightly more yardage per pass (6.4) than per run (5.4) this season.


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