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Steelers notebook: Clark maintains Cruz hit was within the rules

| Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Ryan Clark, who has enjoyed a combative relationship with Roger Goodell, probably will spar again this week with the NFL commissioner after Clark was penalized for hitting Giants' receiver Victor Cruz, who suffered a rib injury but returned to the game.

“I thought I did the right thing. I hit him in his ribs,” Clark said. “I tried to get my head to the side, tried to obey the rules as they've been laid down to me. I think referees have meetings about me before the game. I think anytime they see 25 flash across, it's going to be an opportunity for me to get a flag.”

Clark appeared to get into Cruz's head. Cruz pulled up two times while running crossing routes with Clark defending and had three drops. But he danced away from Clark for a 7-yard completion to keep alive a Giants' drive capped by a 23-yard field goal to give New York a 20-10 lead with 1:32 left in the third quarter.

Ben Roethlisberger was sacked four times, and the pressure coerced him into two turnovers, including a fumble returned 70 yards for a score by Michael Boley. Yet, with the game on the line, the offensive line sealed the pocket as Roethlisberger connected on a 16-yard pass to receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a third-and-9, then opened a huge hole on 28-yard run byIsaac Redman. “We were a little shaky in the first half,” said offensive tackle Max Starks. “We knew we had to weather their initial surge of pressure, and we made sure we kept Ben as clean as possible in the second half.”

• Sanders committed the egregious sin of being tackled by punter Steve Weatherford in the open field on his 62-yard punt return. “Sanders did a great job on punt returns,” receiver Mike Wallace said. “But he got caught by the punter, which was awful. I never would have gotten caught by the punter.”

James Harrison complained vehemently to the officials that he was held while Eli Manning completed a 33-yard pass to tight end Martellus Bennett early in the third quarter. And the Steelers barked at the officials for missing what they considered a clip on tight end Heath Miller on Boley's touchdown. Curiously, it was Giants' defensive end Justin Tuck who earlier in the week accused the officials of letting the Steelers' offensive linemen “get away with murder (holding).”

Jerricho Cotchery, who spent most of his career with the Jets, had four receptions. “It was great to be back in this place,” Cotchery said, “but even greater to get a victory.”

— Ralph N. Paulk

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