|Pittsburgh will be short-handed in the secondary when they face Denver Sunday. (US PRESSWIRE)|
By Ryan Wilson
The Steelers will face the Broncos in the wild-card round Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET and they'll do it without two of their best players. Running back Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL against the Browns in Week 17 and his season is over. Safety Ryan Clark is healthy, at least as sea level, but a sickle-cell trait that is triggered at high altitudes will keep him on the bench in Denver (elevation 5,280 feet).
According to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Chuck Finder, head coach Mike Tomlin said during his Tuesday press conference that playing Clark wasn’t worth the risk, especially since Clark lost a spleen and gall bladder after playing in Denver in 2007.
Pittsburgh's coach called it an "easy decision," adding “I met with Ryan Clark yesterday and informed him I’m not going to let him play for obvious reasons. It is a big game for us, but it is a game. We’ll keep it in perspective.”
Clark tweeted Tuesday: "Well I guess we all know now. I will not be playing. Glad that it's out now. So no more questions to ask. Thanks for your concern!"
Ryan Mundy, the team's 2008 sixth-round pick out of West Virginia, is expected to fill in for Clark. Mundy has two career starts, both coming in 2010 filling in for an injured Troy Polamalu. He has one career interception, which came in Week 12 against the Chiefs, as well as a 33-yard reception on a fake punt earlier this season against the Titans.
The Steelers traveled to Denver for a 2010 preseason game and Clark didn't play then, either. He worked out on the field before kickoff without incident but the fear of damage to his brain and/or heart clearly wasn't worth the potential consequences.
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