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Clark remains undecided; Mendenhall working on ball security

Monday Practice Report
By Mike Bires
If Ryan Clark has already decided not to play in Denver, he and coach Mike Tomlin aren’t saying.
On Monday when the Steelers returned to practice after their bye week, Clark refused to address his personal health issue to the media. The highly regarded free safety said, “I’ve got nothing else to say. Ask Coach Tomlin.”
As a sickle cell trait carrier, Clark experienced severe health problems the last time the Steelers played at Invesco Field at Mile High. In a loss to the Broncos on Oct. 21, 2007, the combination of over-exerting himself in the game and low oxygen levels in the Rocky Mountain air caused Clark’s blood to negatively affect his spleen.

Clark eventually had to have his spleen and gall bladder removed because he played that night in Denver. Not only was there doubt that he might never play football again, there were also moments when he feared he might die.
Now, he must decide if he’ll play Monday night when the Steelers (5-2) face the Broncos (6-1).
Clark has received clearance to play from physicians. Now, it’s up to Clark and Tomlin to reach a decision.
“Now the decision lies with he and myself,” Tomlin said after Monday’s practice. “We’re going to weigh all of our options and evaluate this thing as we proceed throughout the week. It’s not a decision that needs to be made now as opposed to later. We understand the elements of what he is dealing with. I’m sure at some point this he and I are going to sit down and see what actions we’re going to take.”
Ryan did practice Monday and will practice the rest of the week. But if he doesn’t play in Denver, his spot in the starting lineup will be manned by either 10th-year pro Tyrone Carter or second-year pro Ryan Mundy.
“To be determined,” Tomlin said. “I still haven’t determined whether or not Ryan is going to play.”
Clark did say he is definitely flying with the team to Denver. He just hasnt decided if he’ll play.
It’s been a strange year so far for Eason.
He was designated a game-day inactive for the first three games and wasn’t even in uniform.
He was cut in Week 4 when the Steelers activated running back Isaac Redman for a game due to Willie Parker’s turf toe injury.
A week later, Eason was re-signed but once again was a game-day inactive.
Two weeks after Smith was placed on IR, Eason has in uniform against Cleveland and played 18 snaps as Kirschke’s backup. Eason played again last week against Minnesota and was on the field for 26 snaps.
But now that Kirschke is questionable this week because of a calf injury suffered against the Vikings, Eason may start in Denver.
“It’s a possibility,” Eason said. “It would mean a lot just because of the way this season has gone. It’s been crazy for me.”
A seventh-year pro who’s played with the Broncos and Browns in the past, Eason has just four career starts. His lone start with the Steelers came two years ago with Smith was hurt.
When running back Willie Parker reported to team quarters Monday, he complained of flu-like symptoms. So he was immediately excused from meetings and practice.
“He had an illness today and was actually running a fever, so we sent him to the doc’s,” Tomlin said. “We didn’t want him to deliver anything to anybody else. I anticipate him being fine.”
The Steelers are off on Tuesday. They return to practice Wednesday.
Despite losing a fumble in each of the past two games, Rashard Mendenhall will not lose his starting job.
When the Steelers play the Broncos, Mendenhall will make his fifth start of the season at running back.
Tomlin isn’t happy about Mendenhall’s fumbling problems. But he isn’t even thinking about demoting Mendenhall.
“Not at this point, no,” Tomlin said. “Not at all.”
With the Steelers leading the Vikings 13-10 last week, Mendenhall lost a fumble at the Minnesota 3-yard line on the second play of the fourth quarter. Fortunately for Mendenhall, he wasn’t the goat as the Steelers later scored two defensive touchdowns in a 27-17 win.
Two weeks ago in a win over Cleveland, Mendenhall lost a third-quarter fumble at the Browns’ 15-yard line.
“The young fellow fumbled and every time he puts a helmet on, it’s a learning experience for him,” Tomlin said of Mendenhall, the Steelers’ first-round pick in last year’s draft. “Just a little careless in that instance.”
“Obviously, it shouldn’t happen,” Mendenhall said of his fumbles. It’s just something I have to work on. You work on it and move forward.”

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Mike Bires

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