This is the time of the year that Pittsburgh Steeler's general manager sits down and completes one or two contract extensions. Last season, wide receiver Antonio Brown inked a multi-year deal. This season, the Steelers do have some extra money under the cap and will likely look to extend at least one contract.
The big question is who will it be? At times, it can be a challenge to figure it out. Last season, Browns’ contract came as a bit of a surprise, as many were focused on Mike Wallace being the recipient of an extension. Looking at the roster, there are a handful of players that could be targets moving forward including starters Ryan Clark, Emmanuel Sanders, and Ziggy Hood.
Of all of those, the Clark comes with the most questions. Yes, he has posted back-to-back career seasons in the Steelers' secondary and appears to be the perfect anchor opposite Troy Polamalu. More importantly, he is the physical presence in the middle of the field that can change a game with one hit. Last season, he appeared to even take on a more vocal leadership role for the team, who did seem to lack some leadership at times after saying goodbye to James Farrior, Aaron Smith, and Hines Ward.
Unfortunately, there could be a downside to his long-term options with the Steelers, and those do not even concern an amount of money. The 33-year old (34 in October) safety is at an age where the Steelers usually limit the money they will invest, usually directing money toward younger starters instead of aging veterans. They have changed that policy over recent years (James Harrison and James Farrior), but neither finished that contract on the roster.
Clarks’ physical play could also hamper an early extension. When one couples his age with the physicality he demonstrates on a weekly basis, the could be some lingering injury concerns that could prevent the Steelers from signing him to a multi-year extension.
Like they did with Larry Foote, the team could allow him to play out the season and target him at the end of the year, but that is a risky proposition. With a lack of unproven depth, Clark would appear to be a prime target for an extension (similar to Foote early in the offseason), but his age could be a concern. One thing is certain, the Steelers will have an interesting decision to make on Clark and this situation should be monitored throughout camp.
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