FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- You could see it coming. You knew that Wes Welker was just seconds away from losing his senses, his head or both.
|Yes, Ryan Clark's hit on Wes Welker is vicious, but it's just part of the game. (AP)|
Clark put a hit on Welker that caused anyone who saw it to violently gasp. Welker looked like one of those boardwalk whack-a-mole games. His body crumbled to the ground, and how he was able to walk away from the hit is a testament to the toughness and malleability of the human body. The hit was brutal, nasty and frightening.
But it wasn't dirty.
It was football.
Clark was penalized for the hit by game officials -- he shouldn't have been -- and he'll likely be fined by the league. But the hit wasn't dirty. It was intimidating and facemask-bending, but it wasn't dirty.
"It wasn't like I was trying to be cheap," Clark said. "Anybody that comes across (the middle) it's my job to tackle them. The ball got tipped, but (the official) said I shouldn't have left my feet. I didn't know how to control that. I talked to (Patriots running back) Kevin Faulk and apologized. I couldn't find Welker after the game to tell him I wasn't trying to be dirty."
There was no need to apologize to anybody. Don't be a wuss.
The Steelers won, 33-10, in an ugly game played mostly in a steady rain. That's the good news for Pittsburgh. The Steelers are clearly one of the premier teams of the league. They established that fact with a convincing victory over a solid Patriots team.
But the Steelers also are likely to inspire another round of questions about their style of play after the Welker hit and another hit witnessed by me that many people didn't notice.
Thus all of this leads to a question. Does Pittsburgh play dirty?
My answer? Hell, no. But dirty appears to be in the eye of the observer.
Many people will say the Steelers play cheap after the hit on Welker is dissected and discussed.