Ryan Clark backtracks after remarks about Ben Roethlisberger

Ryan Clark said the Steelers aren't good enough for Big Ben to try to extend plays. (USATSI)
Steelers safety Ryan Clarkspent part of his bye week as an NFL analyst for ESPN. As often happens when there's more time to kill than words to fill them, you end up saying something you regret. Clark is now familiar with this phenomenon.

“You to have to protect Ben against Ben," Clark said about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during a weekend stint on ESPN. "Right now, we have to tone Ben down in a sense and say, ‘Hey, right now, we're not a good enough football team for you to try to extend plays, for us to take sacks, for us to have turnovers.' ”

Predictably, Clark is now clarifying those remarks.

“We need to protect Ben," he said Wednesday, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Defensively, we need to make plays so Ben doesn't feel like he has to do everything. Offensively, we need to protect him so he can get the ball out. The receivers need to get open. The running backs need to run the ball.

“But in that as well, he needs to understand that, as constructed right now, we aren't playing well enough as a team to where we can take sacks and have turnovers. That's a team solution, but the quarterback has to spearhead it.”

Funny story: According to ProFootballFocus.com, Clark ranks 65th out of 82 NFL safeties.

Meanwhile, former Colts executive Bill Polian described Roethlisberger's game against the Vikings as one of the best he's ever seen. (Big Ben was 36 of 51 for 383 yards and almost overcame a 17-point deficit.) 

“Ben Roethlisberger put on the greatest single individual display, south of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Drew Brees, that I have seen in a long time -- maybe in my entire career,” Polian said during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

“He was just phenomenal,” Polian continued. “He avoided or shrugged off at least four sacks. He made plays down the field that were unbelievable, and he was under duress all night from snap 1.

“Their offensive line is in shambles, and their left tackle [Mike Adams] couldn't block anybody -- he was beaten from word 1 virtually all night -- and they didn't give him any help, which made it even more difficult.”

Polian offered no thoughts on Ryan Clark's performance, presumably because it was, to use a Mike Tomlinism bolstered by PFF data, "below the line" against the Vikings.

Meanwhile, Big Ben says he ain't changing.

“It is what it is. I'm just going to play the game the way that I play it and try not to turn it over,” the quarterback said.

As for Clark's remarks, Roethlisberger offered this: “That's the great thing about the country we live in. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and allowed to say what they want. If Ryan feels that way, then that's fine.”

The 0-4 Steelers face the 3-2 Jets on Sunday.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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