Safety Ryan Clark will not play this Sunday when the Steelers travel to Denver to take on the Broncos in an AFC Wild Card game.
Clark has a sickle cell trait and playing football in the high altitude in Denver can lead to further complications. Clark discovered he had the trait after playing in Denver in 2007 when he had problems with his spleen, forcing him to have surgery to have the spleen and his gall bladder removed.
"I met with Ryan Clark and I informed him I am not going to allow him to play in this game for obvious reasons," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "It's a big game for us, but it is a game. We will keep it in that perspective. We have some quality capable men that can play the safety position for us and have done it in the past and we anticipate them doing it."
Ryan Mundy will start for Clark, with Will Allen also available.
"We expect them to play Ryan Clark-like football," said Tomlin. "It was an easy decision for us. If he is in any more increased danger than any of the other 21 men on the field during the course of a football game, we were going to err on the side of caution. When looking at all of our data and all of the variables in this equation we came to the determination he is at more risk so we are not going to play him. It's just that simple.
"We'll get the other men prepared. He will be there in support for us. Ryan is a very good communicator. He might have a little coaching in his future. We'll put that to the test this week and see if he can put his hand in the pile and help the team with this week's challenges."
Tomlin said that the conversation with Clark was pretty simple and straight forward.
"Not much of a conversation," said Tomlin, who did say Clark can make the trip to Denver. "I talked to the medical experts, I called Ryan in and I told him he wasn't playing. He said okay."
In other news running back Rashard Mendenhall has been placed on injured reserve with an ACL injury.
"We look forward to getting him healthy and well and fixed and back in business for us in the 2012 season," said Tomlin. "We appreciate his contributions. We acknowledge that injuries are a part of the game. We are disappointed for him, but from a playing standpoint we fully expect to move forward with the men we have working. We know they are capable."
The Steelers added cornerback Anthony Madison for help on special teams because of injuries. Madison originally signed with the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2006, spending at least some time on the active roster and practice squad through the 2010 season.
Madison gives the Steelers needed help on special teams after Curtis Brown was placed on injured reserve a few weeks ago and the team is now dealing with an injury to Cortez Allen.
"He has a very established resume as a special team's performer," said Tomlin of Madison. "We are running a little thin at gunner-like bodies. This is a guy that taught quite a few of our players around here how to play the position. We are very comfortable having him back in the fold and looking forward to him putting his hand in the pile and helping with this week's challenges."
The Steelers have their bumps and bruises with tight end David Johnson suffering a hyper-extended elbow against the Browns, but he should be able to play. Ben Roethlisberger might be limited in practice during the early portion of the week, but it's not expected to prohibit him from playing against the Broncos.
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley and guard Doug Legursky are both expected to return to action this week, but Allen and running back Mewelde Moore are both questionable.
With Mendenhall out and Moore questionable, the team might consider bringing another back in for depth behind Isaac Redman and John Clay.
"Not something that we intend to do as I sit here today," said Tomlin. "We are going to look at the men we have working and prepare those guys and maybe add to those guys as the week proceeds."