By Teresa Varley
Safety Ryan Clark has a reputation of being one of the hardest hitters in the NFL and he will need to keep that up on Sunday facing a Cardinals offense that can explode at any minute.
"They are big physical receivers," said head coach Mike Tomlin of the Cardinals groups. "They are not going to be intimidated. They are going to do what it is they do. Hopefully we do what it is we do.
"Ryan has been a big part of that. I think he receives a lot of attention for a few plays that happened, some big hits. When I think about Ryan, I think about the ordinary things he does extremely well. He is a great communicator. He is a hub of communication for our secondary. He gets people lined up. He keeps the ball in front of him. It's a unique job playing opposite of Troy (Polamalu) sometimes because Troy works outside the box. Ryan has got some experience in that. He is a big cog in our machine. We appreciate what he's done for us. He's just been a pleasure."
The Cardinals receiving corps of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston have been a big reason for the team's post-season success and that isn't lost on the Steelers.
"If you look back on the last few games of the regular season, they didn't hit their potential until they hit the playoffs," said safety Tyrone Carter. "After they made it there, it's been a totally different team. They're playing on all cylinders. They're playing as a team and playing great.
"Larry Fitzgerald is playing out of his mind right now, so the thing is, you have to contain that guy. Not only that, but Anquan Boldin is playing great. He wasn't in the game plan much towards the end because he was hurt, but now that he's healthy, he can come up big in this game. And, they have two other guys who can come in and play, too. Steve Breaston can make some big plays for them on crucial downs. They have some talent out there. The main thing for us is to not get caught up in how well they do things. We still have to worry about what we're doing. If we hold our own, I think we'll be all right."
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Steelers players couldn't imagine defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau going anywhere after this season, so we he squashed rumors that he wouldn't be back next year, the players couldn't have been happier.
"He said, 'I'm going to get this out of the way: I will be back next year,' " said cornerback Deshea Townsend. "He heard the speculation. He said he'll be back."
LeBeau, who is 71 and in his 50th season in the NFL, never anticipated having to talk about this topic during the Super Bowl run, but he did so just to make sure everyone knew where he stood.
"One of the reasons I did was to just let them know," said LeBeau. "I'm in a tunnel during the season; I don't pay attention to anything. But my son told me (about the rumors) and I said, 'Have you and I had one word of conversation about retiring?' No. I said, 'Do you think I would ever not talk to my son?' And I said the same thing to the team.
"I would never make any kind of decision without the guys in that room, like my son, knowing. They would know."
Kicker Jeff Reed is hard to miss with those golden locks of his, but he is happy that he has the dyed look because it meant the Steelers made it to the post-season.
"No one gave us a chance at the beginning of the season to make the playoffs," said Reed. "I said halfway through the season, based on the way we were playing that if we make the playoffs I would dye my hair blond. The guys there said that I definitely wouldn't. We made the playoffs Week 13 so I decided that after we played Cleveland at the end of the season, I would dye my hair."