S Clark, Steelers still have work to do

Updated: March 1, 2010, 5:52 PM ET
By James Walker | ESPN.com

The clock is ticking on the contract negotiations between the Pittsburgh Steelers and starting safety Ryan Clark.

But despite both sides trying to reach a middle ground, talks have been challenging as the free-agent deadline approaches Friday.

"I thought it would be a piece of cake," Clark's agent Joel Turner said. "All things now considered, it's hard to feel that way."

Last month the Steelers highlighted Clark, nose tackle Casey Hampton and kicker Jeff Reed as their target unrestricted free agents. So far the team has extended Hampton for three years and gave Reed the franchise tag, with the intention of working out a long-term deal before the start of the 2010 season.

But as of Monday evening, Clark has nothing in place that will prevent him from hitting the open market by the end of the week. He would become one of the biggest veteran names available in what is an already thin crop of unrestricted free agents.

Clark has been an integral part of Pittsburgh's defense for four seasons and set new career highs for tackles (89) and starts (15) in 2009. He also tied a career high with three interceptions.

"It's not a situation with us where we've ever made any demands of any type that would be outrageous," Turner said. "We wouldn't ask for anything that would be considered greedy. We've not done anything that would be pretentious. We just want to be paid a fair wage for services not only rendered, but still to be."

In an interview with ESPN radio 1250 in Pittsburgh Monday, Clark reiterated Turner's statements.

"I wouldn't do that," Clark said of making high demands. "I know how much [Steelers safety] Troy [Polamalu] makes, and I know how much respect I have for Troy as a player and how much I love him as a friend. I don't see myself as Troy. I don't see myself having to get that same type of pay ... I would be a fool to do that."

The good news is both sides continue to have an open dialogue. But it appears these negotiation might go down to the wire this week.

"With 48 hours pretty much to go, there's plenty of time to sit down, which we have and we will continue to do again," Turner said.

James Walker covers the AFC North for ESPN.com.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter