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Clark mirrors Polamalu when situation arises

| Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011

Two days after doing a pretty fair imitation of his best friend on the Steelers, Ryan Clark said he is under no illusion that he is Troy Polamalu.

But it is no coincidence or fluke that Clark, not Polamalu, intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and made two tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the Steelers' 31-24 win over the Ravens last Saturday.

Since the first half of December, Clark and Polamalu have been playing both safety positions, with the latter sometimes serving as the last line of the Steelers' defense -- and Clark morphing into Polamalu.

Not that Clark put it that way Monday afternoon after the Steelers met at their team headquarters and eased into preparation for Sunday's AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field.

"I'm never going to be that guy," Clark said of Polamalu, "but the (safety) position is interchangeable. You talk about two guys who have played together for a number of years now, have played this defense for a long time. He does things different ways than I do, but as far as the play-call goes we just play wherever we want as long as one safety is doing whatever is drawn up and the other is doing the other thing."

Necessity proved to be the mother of this invention. And it will give New York quarterback Mark Sanchez something more to think about when he tries to beat the Steelers for the second time this season and lead the Jets to their second Super Bowl.

Sanchez, as he will be reminded of countless times this week, beat the Steelers on Dec. 19 without Polamalu, who missed the game because of an Achilles injury.

Polamalu and Clark hatched the plan to move between the two safety positions roughly two weeks earlier to help protect the six-time Pro Bowler's right foot.

"It's actually whatever Troy wants -- let me not sit here and fool you and say we do what I want to do," Clark said with a laugh. "We come out of the huddle and we figure out what we want to do. Does he want to be back• Do I want to be back?

"You can't tell what we're doing now as much as you used to. You'd see Troy at certain positions and you knew what was going on, whereas now we kind of play all over."

By moving around less, Polamalu has somehow become even harder for opposing offenses to track. And the eight-year veteran has thrived in his new role while playing more within the confines of the Steelers' defense.

"The plays he's made (this season), he's always been in the spot he's supposed to be in by defensive design," Clark said of Polamalu, who tied a career high in interceptions (seven) this season. "But on the plays he's not making, that's not leaving voids -- there's no areas we have to cover up because he's doing certain things. And when he gets his opportunity to make plays, he's going to do that."


Three questions with Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley:

What was your take on Michigan, your alma mater, firing coach Rich Rodriguez?

"I read an article talking about former players didn't feel welcome coming back. I didn't feel that was the case at all because one of the first things he said when I met him was, 'I want alumni to come back. I want them to feel welcome, work out, feel free any time to come up here.' When I read that article I was like, 'Man, that's not right.' "

Do you have a routine that you follow the day of a game?

"I don't like to get overhyped. I just like to relax and do what I do on a normal day. If we've got an 8 o'clock game and I feel like I want to go to the mall (during the day), I might go to the mall. Whatever I need to do to relax -- sit around and watch TV, take a nap. Treat the day normal and then when it's time to play, it's time to play."

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

"I am a comedian when I want to be. I'm always laughing, always having fun. If the day was bad, I'm the person that can really lighten up the day for you."


7 -- Interceptions quarterback Mark Sanchez has thrown in the Jets' five losses this season -- the same number he had in New York's 13 victories

10 -- Former first-round draft picks that start for the Jets

13 -- Times rookie wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was targeted by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the Steelers' 22-17 loss to the Jets on Dec. 19

22.3 -- Net average (yards) of punter Steve Weatherford in the Jets' 28-21 win over the Patriots

190 -- Consecutive passes Roethlisberger has thrown without an interception

252 -- Roethlisberger's average passing yards in three AFC Championship Games


Outside linebacker James Harrison, on one of the keys to the Steelers' sustained success

"They know how to get the right combination of guys here. We're a team where there's no one guy out there for himself. Everybody's out there for each other, and that speaks loads for the organization."

Jets coach Rex Ryan on quarterback Mark Sanchez, who threw three touchdowns in a 28-21 upset of the Patriots

"Well he only had a 127 (passer) rating, excuse me -- 127.3 -- but I'll take it. The thing with this young man is he is just getting better. He's only been in the league for two years but, as I said last year, he's not going to be looked at as the weakness of the team but the strength."

Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas, on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

"I don't want to throw comparisons out, but his ability to keep the play alive is hard for a defense. You've got a guy my size running around, and he's looking to throw the ball and he knows how to move."

Free safety Ryan Clark, on the Jets rushing for 106 yards in their 22-17 win over the Steelers during the regular season

"I know Coach Mitch (defensive line coach John Mitchell), his hair is going to be on fire all week, because the (defensive) line, that's all he ever talks about is not giving up running yards. I think if we got bombed on all day, he'll be OK, but if they rush for 100 it's going to be trouble."

3 players to watch

Antonio Cromartie, CB. Much more complimentary of Ben Roethlisberger than he had been Tom Brady. Not that it will make the Steelers' quarterback target him any less, especially since Darrelle Revis starts opposite Cromartie.

Braylon Edwards, WR. Has resurrected his career in New York and will command his share of attention Sunday after catching eight passes for 100 yards against the Steelers during the regular season.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB. Gashed Jets for 100 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 17 carries in Dec. 19 game; Jets were third in the NFL in rushing defense (90.9 yards per game) during the regular season.

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