Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh Steelers
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Ryan Clark Retires as a Pittsburgh Steeler

After 13 NFL seasons, veteran defensive back Ryan Clark has decided to finally hang up the cleats.

Clark bounced around the NFL four times during his tenure, including two stints with the Washington Redskins, but it will be his time as a Pittsburgh Steeler that most fans will remember him by. Apparently, Clark shares those sentiments, having recently announced his intentions to sign a one-day contract and retire in the black and gold.

From 2006 to 2013, Clark endeared himself to Steeler Nation with his softly spoken, hard-hitting brand of AFC North football. For most fans, he was simply the clean-up man in Pittsburgh’s backfield, mopping up any messes left by Troy Polamalu and his wild, free-roaming antics.

And yet, what might sound like a pigeonholing of his entire career is actually an incredible compliment. Without Clark’s stability and assurance whenever a play broke down, Polamalu may have been forced to play a more restricted, conservative style over his career.

Clark was the integral final gear that allowed those Steeler defenses of the mid-2000s to ascend to “elite” territory, punctuated by wonderful seasons that culminated in two Super Bowl appearances in three years; both paths carved by dominant defense.

His hit on Baltimore’s Willis McGahee that sealed his team’s berth in Super Bowl XLIII remains both a replayed moment in the ‘Burgh, and a shining example of the reason that style of tackling has been barred from the modern game.

Clark became a free agent in the 2014 offseason and returned to the nation’s capital under bittersweet circumstances. He had not only left his true home, but was returning to a former home missing a close friend. The last time Clark had worn the burgundy and gold, it was alongside NFL legend Sean Taylor. Throughout his career, Clark would proudly wear Taylor’s #21 during practices and the Pro Bowl in honor of his fallen teammate.

More recently, Clark has garnered praise for his fresh insightfulness as a sports analyst. The twilight of his career was most memorable for a handful of interviews in which he displayed charisma and seriousness in equal measure, infamously drawing the ire of the league when he exposed the extent to which his teammates used marijuana.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Clark intends to swap the jersey and pads for a suit and tie in pursuit of an on-camera career.

Ultimately, Clark represented Pittsburgh and its fans with pride, earned a Super Bowl ring for his troubles and is now retiring with seemingly no physical or mental ailments and onto what should be a great new chapter of his life.

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