When the Steelers 2011 season ended in Denver, safety Ryan Clark wasn’t on the field.
It doesn’t look like he’ll be on the field when they kick off the 2012 campaign either. Stephania Bell of ESPN.com reports that Clark will not play on Sunday night against the Broncos because of the health risks involved with playing at high altitude. Clark will reportedly travel with the team, as he did in January, but will not dress for the game.
Clark carries the sickle cell trait, which affects his red blood cells. When he played against the Broncos in Denver in 2007, Clark wound up hospitalized as a result of the altitude’s impact on his body. He ultimately needed to have his spleen and gall bladder removed and wound up missing the rest of the season. It’s not surprising that the Steelers would want to avoid a similar outcome this time around.
Ryan Mundy will likely start again in Clark’s place, which worked out fairly well for the Steelers in January. Mundy forced a pair of fumbles in that loss, although he was no more able to stop the Broncos on their game-winning pass to Demaryius Thomas than any of his teammates.
UPDATE 1:24 p.m. ET : Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed Tuesday that Clark won’t play.