Clark knows his sports history

Ryan Clark knows a little bit about sports history. That's why after sitting out the Steelers' regular season finale against Cleveland with a dislocated shoulder, Clark is getting ready to print up a T-shirt for himself to wear.

"I'm getting my Wally Pipp T-shirt made because Tyrone Carter got two interceptions and a touchdown (against the Browns)," Clark said. "I haven't gotten two interceptions and a touchdown all year."

Carter was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the Steelers' 31-0 win over the Browns. But Clark isn't about to lose his starting free safety job as Pipp did so famously to Lou Gehrig with the Yankees when he took a day off.

He's been far too valuable to the Steelers (12-4) this season, finishing second on the team behind James Farrior with 113 tackles to go along with one interception.

The game against the Browns was the second Clark missed this season with shoulder dislocations. He also sat out a Nov. 3 win at Washington after injuring the shoulder in a loss to the Giants a week earlier.

"It's just one of those things that you play with," said Clark, who has worn a protective brace on the shoulder. "I could have opted to have surgery and been out for the rest of the year. But I didn't want to miss this. I missed too much last season."

Unlike thelast time, Clark wasn't lobbying head coach Mike Tomlin last week to play against the Browns.

"The second time with the injury is a little worse," Clark admitted. "It's the same injury. It's damaging the cartilage and ligaments in the same arm twice. It's going to be a little tougher. The last time, I thought I could play the first week. I knew there was no way I could have played this week.

"If you bump your head against the wall, the first time it's going to hurt, the second time it's going to swell up a little more."

So count Clark among the Steelers who feel this week's bye in the first round of the AFC playoffs came at just the right time. Clark and linebacker James Harrison sat out the Browns' game with injuries, while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a mild concussion in that game.

All should be ready to play when the Steelers open the playoffs Jan. 11 at Heinz Field against Indianapolis, Miami or San Diego.

"This bye is a blessing in a lot of ways and guys like Ben and Ryan Clark and James Harrison are benefiting from that," said Tomlin.

When he returns for the Steelers playoff opener, Clark said he won't favor his sore shoulder.

But he'll have his Wally Pipp T-shirt tucked away just in case.

"It hurts. That's football. It's going to hurt," Clark said. "I'm going to play the same way. I'm going to hit the same way. If it comes out again, I'll just sit down and watch.

"If I just sat back and let people crease our defense and didn't tackle people, I wouldn't have this problem. But that's not how any of us are built here. We're going to do what we have to do."

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.

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