As most of us guys sit down to watch a weekend of NFL playoff football, we are glad to have everything we need nearby - food, drink, remote control.....the basics. I would like to note that one football team, playing this weekend, will be without one of the players it really needs to advance to the next round in these playoffs. That team is the Pittsburgh Steelers and that player is safety Ryan Clark. His Steelers are in Denver Sunday to play the Broncos. The last time Clark played a football game in Denver, he lost 30 pounds and needed his spleen and gall bladder removed. He was actually afraid he was going to die. That was 2007. The Steelers were there again in 2009 and head Coach Mike Tomlin held him out of that game (the last time, by the way, Clark was out of the lineup for a game). You see, Clark has a sickle cell trait where extreme physical exertion at a high altitude can attack a body's organs and, as most of us know, Denver is a mile above sea level.
The difference between the past two times the Steelers were in Denver is that Clark is now the team's leading tackler (100 tackles in the season......that averages to about 6 per game and that's alot!) AND this game is a PLAYOFF game. Well, Coach Tomlin (a native of Denbeigh and graduate of Denbeigh High School, by the way) is making the same decision he made in 2009. This time, though, he is holding out his best defender from his team's biggest game of the year...a game where a loss could cost an individual player in the thousands of dollars and a team alot more. Why would a coach with so much on the line keep his best defender out of the game? Why not take the chance? Without Ryan Clark, the Steelers may be at a decided defensive disadvantage.
Coach Tomlin said that this is way above "any football game" as he put it. He said he wouldn't play his own son under these conditions and, if he wouldn't do that, then he would do the same for any player, especially Ryan Clark.
Imagine that!! A football coach makes a "life" decision instead of a "game" decision. Mike Tomlin let everyone know his priorities, his team's and his player's. I was a Mike Tomlin admirer prior to this. Today, I became a Mike Tomlin fan. Coach, thanks for showing us what's really important.