Before becoming a star at ESPN as an NFL analyst, Ryan Clark played 13 years with the New York Giants, Washington Football Team, and Pittsburgh Steelers. The LSU product racked up 16 interceptions during his NFL career and won one Super Bowl with the Steelers.
Clark will always be biased toward the Steelers during his ESPN segments since he played eight years for the franchise. However, the one-time Pro Bowler recently put away his Steelers pride during a passionate defense of Baltimore Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Steelers and Ravens are fierce rivals
The Steelers and Ravens have had an intense rivalry for decades. The two AFC North teams hate each other and always seem to play classic games two times a year in the regular season. It’s a treat for NFL fans when Baltimore and Pittsburgh meet in the playoffs, as the hits are even louder than they are in the regular season.
1996 was the first time the Steelers and Ravens faced each other. The Steelers lead the overall series, 30-24. Both teams have won multiple Super Bowls since the rivalry began in 1996 thanks to their dominant defenses.
Former Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs never shied away from bashing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger through the media. It was always must-see TV when Suggs and Big Ben faced each other due to their war of words.
The most memorable game between the Steelers and Ravens took place during the 2013 season when Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin inadvertently stepped onto the field and interfered with Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return. Tomlin was fined $100,000 for his actions.
Ryan Clark played in a bevy of Steelers-Ravens games and never had any love for Baltimore during his playing career. While that hatred for the Ravens probably still burns inside of him to this day, the former defensive back has always been a fan of Lamar Jackson and felt the need to stick up for him recently.
Ryan Clark has a problem with the way people talk about Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson was the 32nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft and the fifth quarterback selected. Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen were taken ahead of the dual-threat signal-caller, the only QB from his draft class to win an MVP and make the playoffs multiple times entering the 2020 season.
However, Jackson is the lone quarterback from that draft class who gets criticized for his lack of success in the postseason, and Ryan Clark doesn’t like it. Darnold and Rosen have turned out to be busts in the NFL, Mayfield has been below-average as the No. 1 overall pick, and Allen has turned himself into a superstar like Jackson but doesn’t have any postseason wins under his belt either.
Clark defending Jackson isn’t surprising since the ESPN analyst has always gone against narrative-based takes and supported Black quarterbacks. However, it is interesting that Clark–one of the most popular players in Steelers franchise history–is sticking up for a player who plays for the Ravens.
What this shows is that Ryan Clark has put away his Steelers bias to an extent with ESPN and wants pundits to cover players in the NFL equally. Lamar Jackson will always have naysayers, but the Ravens’ franchise player has a chance to quiet some of them in the 2021 Wild Card against the Tennessee Titans if he’s able to get his first postseason win.
Lamar Jackson struggled against the Titans the last time he faced them
The Ravens and Titans played each other in Week 11 of the 2020 season. Lamar Jackson went 17-of-29 for 186 yards through the air. He threw one touchdown and one interception in the Ravens’ 30-24 loss at home.
In two career playoff games, Jackson is completing only 51.1% of his passes. He’s thrown for 559 yards, three touchdowns, and been picked off three times. The former MVP has struggled in his two postseason games, but at least he’s led his team to the playoffs.
Ryan Clark understands that Lamar Jackson has to play better. However, he wants the pundits to cover Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen the same since they were picked ahead of Jackson and don’t have an MVP award.
Stats courtesy of Football Reference.