NFL Wild Card Predictions 2012: Ryan Clark's Absence Won't Hurt Steelers

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IJanuary 3, 2012

The Pittsburgh Steelers already lost Rashard Mendenhall for the entire playoffs, and now things just got a little bit worse. 

The team's starting safety, Ryan Clark, won't play against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, according to Gerry Dulac via Twitter

"Steelers not expected to let Ryan Clark play in Denver," Dulac Tweeted. "Risks to his health are too great."

According to ESPN, those health risks come from Clark's sickle cell trait. 

"Clark has sickle cell trait, a condition that can be problematic in the high altitude of Denver. In a 2007 game there, Clark became violently ill and lost his spleen and gall bladder because of deprivation of oxygen to his major organs."

Yikes.

I'll be honest that I don't know much about this condition, but if something like that could happen again, then this is absolutely the correct decision for head coach Mike Tomlin to make.

At some point, you have to realize this is just football and a man's life is much more important...

No matter how much Clark means to the Steelers.

Furthermore, while the loss of Clark this weekend hurts, it won't hurt to the extent that the Steelers will lose. They'll still be able to grab the win and get out of Denver so Clark can re-enter the lineup. 

The 32-year-old from LSU played a team-high 1,009 snaps for the Steelers this season, including every snap in 11 games. Clark also led the team with 100 total tackles while chipping in four tackles for loss and an interception.

There's no question he is important to this team. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the Broncos are about as bad as Clark is important.

So far, teams have figured out how to stop the Tim Tebow-led offense and that has forced them to lose three in a row. If the Kansas City Chiefs can hold Denver to three points, I think the Pittsburgh Steelers minus Ryan Clark can do the same thing. 

As long as Ben Roethlisberger continues to improve his health, the Steelers will easily score enough points to make up for the loss of Clark. 

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