Steelers safety returns to scene of OT wild-card loss to Denver
The moment Ryan Mundy cheated up on the line of scrimmage, then bit on Tim Tebow's inartistic play fake, the Steelers' Super Bowl aspirations faded amid a trail of orange confetti on a stunning night in Denver.
Mundy insists he has put that AFC wild-card loss behind him. Yet, it's difficult to erase the frames on the film with Demaryius Thomas pulling away from Mundy and cornerback Ike Taylor on the first snap of overtime for an 80-yard touchdown in the 29-23 loss.
Admittedly, it still stings Mundy to rewind a play that has become a part of Broncos' lore. So, the Steelers' regular-season opener in Denver on Sept. 9 is more than a rematch.
For Mundy, it's about redemption. It's about moving on, too.
Again, Mundy will likely replace starting safety Ryan Clark, as he did in the playoff game in January. Clark, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season, will probably sit because the high altitude adversely affects his sickle-cell trait.
Clark said the coaching staff has yet to address the issue of a lineup change.
“There's nothing to talk about because it's coach Tomlin's decision,” Clark said. “Nothing has changed about my condition. Nothing has changed as far as the doctors are concerned, whether I can play or not.
“It's up to coach Tomlin. I honestly don't see his opinion changing for the first regular-season game as opposed to a playoff game.
“When you think about it, (Mundy) plays all the time,” Clark added. “He's like the third starter in our group. We don't miss a beat. We do the same things and call the same plays.”
Mundy has been preparing as if he will start. And the Woodland Hills product played considerable minutes during the Steelers' 17-16 win over Carolina on Thursday in the final tune-up for the Broncos.
The fifth-year safety had a team-high five tackles, with his only blemish being a holding penalty that wiped out a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown by Chris Rainey. Mundy held his own against the Panthers – albeit with Cam Newton sitting out. Mundy knows he will need to be sharper when the Steelers face Peyton Manning.
“We'll cross that bridge when we approach it,” Mundy said. “I'm comfortable having to play, because I know the defense inside and out. Now, it's just a matter of performing when I get out there.”
There were times during their playoff defeat that Mundy and Troy Polamalu appeared out of sync. That could be a concern for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, but Polamalu expects a better result this time around.
“I haven't gotten any reps with anybody other than Ryan,” Polamalu said. “It'll be interesting, because we've been together for a long time.”
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923