By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — With Ryan Clark sitting out this week due to health concerns about playing in Denver, Ryan Mundy will get the start at free safety for the Steelers and veteran Will Allen moves into the third safety role behind Mundy and starting strong safety Troy Polamalu.
The Steelers (12-4) face the Denver Broncos (8-8) in an AFC wild-card matchup Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium.
Mundy, a graduate from Woodland Hills High School, is a three-year veteran playing for his hometown team. He has spelled both Clark and Polamalu during his career, been an extra defensive back in passing situations and even started two games in his young career.
“We have some quality and capable men to play the safety position for us (like) Ryan Mundy and Will Allen,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “In a nutshell, (Mundy) is starter capable.
“He’s proven that, and we’re comfortable with what he’s capable of doing. The same with Will Allen, who … started for me at Tampa (when Tomlin was the secondary coach with the Buccaneers).”
Mundy has 22 total tackles, including 17 solo stops, this season with the bulk of his work coming on special teams. Tomlin noted that benching Clark (for the third straight time before trips to Denver) was an easy decision, because he’s in more danger if he plays.
“So, he’ll be there in support for us,” Tomlin added. “He’s a very good communicator who might have a little coaching in his future, and we’ll put that to the test this week to see if he can put his hand in the pile to help us out in this week’s challenges.”
Brett Keisel probably said it best after the Steelers learned they would travel to Denver for their playoff opener. Keisel basically noted that while Clark certainly would like to play this week, it’s not worth his life. So, Mundy will get the call as a starter at free safety.
If cornerback Cortez Allen also is out with a right shoulder sprain, veteran Bryant McFadden could be back in the mix after being demoted from starting cornerback to special teams coverage units as he struggled with a right hamstring and quad injury from training camp throughout the early weeks in this season.
“We have confidence in all our backup players,” Tomlin said. “(McFadden) has been on big stages and big games with us, and the lights won’t be too bright for him.”
The Steelers also re-signed cornerback Anthony Madison to the active roster. He will take Rashard Mendenhall’s spot, as the running back was placed on injured reserve pending surgery to repair ACL damage to his right knee. Madison will be a gunner on the kickoff and punt coverage units, a spot he held with high regard for several seasons.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis said he suffered a hamstring injury after the Cleveland game, but Tomlin said that an MRI revealed little to no damage. So, Lewis should continue as the No. 3 cornerback.