During an early Tuesday afternoon press conference, as expected, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin officially ruled S Ryan Clark out of Sunday night's season opener at the Denver Broncos.

About an hour later, Clark held a press conference of his own. His had little to do with football.

"This week is a terrible week for me every time it comes around," Clark said, referring to the fact he cannot play any time the Steelers head to Denver.

"I'm trying to turn a terrible week into something positive."

Clark, in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the University of Pittsburgh's Vascular Medicine Institute and the Institute for Transfusion Medicine, was formally announcing Ryan Clark's Cure League.

The Cure League aims to raise awareness, donations and support that will enable Pitt research to drive better care and ultimately find a cure for sickle cell and sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder –- one that involves agonizing pain, sometimes requires transfusions and is potentially fatal.

"They pledge money, but more important than that, they pledge support," Clark said of UPMC and others involved with the initiative.

"Now my focus is on helping people, trying to put smiles on people's faces who have learned to smile through pain."

Clark, who has the sickle cell trait but does not have full-fledged sickle cell anemia, has not played in Denver since a game against the Broncos there in 2007. He lost his spleen, his gallbladder, 35 pounds -- and the rest of his 2007 season.

More poignant, he lost a sister-in-law to the same gene that afflicted his red-blood cells.

"Our group is here to find the cure," Clark said. "Money we raise will go to sickle cell research.

"If we weren't looking for a cure, we wouldn't call it Cure League ... but also in my heart ... is finding ways to help people deal with it and its daily struggles."

The Cure League launched a website, www.CureLeague.org, where it hosts videos and information, plus the ability to donate and help. There also is a devoted Twitter feed, @CureLeague, where sickle cell sufferers, Steelers fans and interested parties are invited to join the conversation, using #CureLeague and #TeamSickleCell hashtags.

Clark said that although he will be crushed by not being able to join his teammates on the field for what is one of the NFL's most highly-anticpated Sunday night season openers in years, he is looking forward to being a symbol of strength and hope on the sidelines.

Clark is embracing his role as a spokesman in raising awareness of sickle cell.

"I think God is giving me opportunity after opportunity to have this platform to finally say something and finally getting around to finally doing something about it," Clark said.

Follow Steelers reporter Chris Adamski on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLPIT and @BuzzsawPGH.