PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Clark bid an emotional farewell to Pittsburgh and the Steelers on Tuesday night, telling KDKA-TV he is "grateful to God that he let me be there. It's just one of the best organizations in sports."
Clark started for eight seasons in Pittsburgh, teaming with good friend Troy Polamalu to give the Steelers one of the best safety tandems in the NFL.
Hard-hitting on the field and away from it with opinions he never hesitated to voice, Clark will go down as one of the better free-agent signings in Steelers history.
The Steelers signed Mike Mitchell in March to get younger and faster at free safety. Clark re-signed with the Redskins, the team he had been with before signing with the Steelers in 2006.
Clark got choked up when he talked about the friendships he forged in Pittsburgh -- and the support he received after suffering a life-threatening illness due to complications from sickle-cell trait that were triggered during a 2007 game in Denver.
"Ike [Taylor], Troy and Will Gay, they're my brothers man, and I think that's the hard part about this game because I don't want people [in Washington] to think that I'm not excited about it because I really am," Clark said. "But when I was sick they came to the hospital and Troy cried with me and prayed with me. That's the things that I'll miss, that's the things that I'll remember."
Clark also said he won't soon forget the fan support the Steelers enjoy in Pittsburgh and far beyond Western Pennsylvania.
"To be able to go places and take over stadiums, the Steelers are spoiled by the fans they have," he said. "To be around just such good people [in the Steelers organization], for people to embrace me and treat me the way that they did. It's important. It was beautiful so I just thank them all."
Clark said the hit he will remember the most came in the Steelers' 33-10 win at New England in 2008. He drilled Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker after a pass sailed over the latter's head. The play epitomized the Steelers' handling of their longtime nemesis in a win that helped propel them on their run to the Super Bowl title.
"The Patriots had this mystique about them, they still do, and Wes Welker had a mystique about him of just being such a scrappy, tough [wide receiver] and we just don't like those guys," Clark said. "We didn't. So it just felt so good to hit him and it set a tone for us."