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Late for Work 6/19: Colin Cowherd Predicts Steelers Will Make the Playoffs, Ravens Will Not

TE Mark Andrews
TE Mark Andrews

Colin Cowherd: Steelers Will Make the Playoffs, Ravens Will Not

Colin Cowherd has never been afraid to go out on a limb.

Prior to the start of the 2020 season, he boldly predicted the Ravens to go 16-0. Cowherd is not nearly as high on the 2023 Ravens.

Cowherd initially agreed with most pundits that the Ravens will finish second to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North and make the playoffs, but he now has the Pittsburgh Steelers in that spot and the Ravens sitting at home for the postseason.

Cowherd's main reason for the switch? The respective health of the Ravens and Steelers.

"[The Steelers'] top seven or eight players don't get hurt much," Cowherd said. "Cameron Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt's only had one year with injuries. Pat Freiermuth, Najee Harris, Kenny Pickett, they don't get hurt. The Ravens' top six players outside of tight end Mark Andrews all get hurt — tackles, running backs, Lamar Jackson, wide receivers."

Cowherd said he expects second-year quarterback Pickett, who showed gradual improvement last season, to continue to get better in 2023. Cowherd also noted the Steelers have a dangerous defense that held its final seven opponents last season to under less than 20 points and faces a minimum of six rookie or first-year starting quarterbacks this year.

Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness also believes the Steelers are being overlooked as a playoff contender.

"If the Steelers can get consistently good play from quarterback Kenny Pickett, who was second among quarterbacks with a 90.1 PFF grade from Week 12 through the end of the season, they could really surprise some people," McGuinness wrote.

Ravens Are 'Step Away' From Being One of AFC's 'Big Dogs'

The "Good Morning Football" crew placed the 16 AFC teams into four tiers: big dogs, hovering, to be determined, and shock the world. The Ravens landed in Tier 2.

"Lamar Jackson has his contract, he's back, he'll be healthy. I think they're a step away from rocking with the big dogs," Jason McCourty said.

Not surprisingly, the two big dogs in the conference were the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals. Joining the Ravens in the hovering category were the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Things We Learned at Mandatory Minicamp

The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker looked at seven things we learned from the Ravens' mandatory minicamp, which concluded last week. Here are three of them:

Is running back depth an issue?

"With [J.K.] Dobbins not participating and Gus Edwards limited to drills, Justice Hill got the bulk of the work during minicamp and performed well, with [Head Coach] Harbaugh noting that he made the most of his opportunity. Likewise, Ben Mason saw all the action at fullback with Patrick Ricard headed for the physically-unable-to-perform list as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery.

"But even if all the backs are healthy and happy, it seems likely the Ravens would want to add another one, particularly given the injury history of Dobbins and the 28-year-old Edwards, who tore his ACL in September 2021 and didn't return until October of last year. They'll have options if that's the case. … Though [undrafted free agent] Keaton Mitchell flashed his speed during camp, he is something of a long shot. There are also plenty of inexpensive veterans on the free-agent market, including Kenyan Drake, who was on the team last year."

There could be a surprise at left guard

"One of the more interesting developments was that sixth-round draft pick Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu took the bulk of first-team snaps at left guard. It said as much about the competition at the position as it did about the ability of Aumavae-Laulu, who played right tackle almost exclusively at Oregon. At 6-foot-5 and 317 pounds, he's not as big as Ben Cleveland or even John Simpson, but that might be the point with [Offensive Coordinator Todd] Monken's offense needing linemen who are fleet a foot more than straight power blockers.

"Cleveland, meanwhile, shifted to right tackle and struggled there, too. The starting job won't be determined until training camp, but Aumavae-Laulu might have emerged as a possible favorite."

Ravens could be thin in the secondary

"The Ravens addressed one of their biggest needs this offseason with the addition of [Rock] Ya-Sin, who worked mostly at the outside cornerback spot opposite [Marlon] Humphrey during minicamp. The top two safety spots are also clear: Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton. But there are myriad questions beyond that. Simply put, the Ravens don't have a lot of depth at defensive back.

"Cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis will be in the mix for the third spot, but he was limited in minicamp as he continues to work his way back from a hip injury from last year. Damarion 'Pepe' Williams didn't participate and is also dealing with an injury. And Kyu Blue Kelly is a rookie who didn't face a lot of starters. Brandon Stephens, meanwhile, was moved to safety but could be all over the field again given his versatility. He's the most likely to start at nickelback, and Geno Stone will be a contributor again. But it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Ravens bring in a veteran to bolster the secondary, particularly at cornerback."

Ravens Who Stood Out at Minicamp

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec and The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer identified Ravens who distinguished themselves at minicamp. Here's a look at several names from their respective lists:

WR Nelson Agholor

"With Rashod Bateman sidelined and [Odell] Beckham ramping up slowly, Agholor took advantage of the reps with Lamar Jackson. He caught several deep passes, and he and Jackson were on the same page on a number of back-shoulder throws. The Ravens don't need Agholor to be a top option like he was at OTAs and minicamp, but if he's a weekly contributor, that would go a long way toward strengthening the receiving corps. He's off to a good start." — Zrebiec

TE Isaiah Likely

"Likely just gets open. More of an underneath option than a downfield threat in minicamp, the second-year tight end saw a lot of targets, especially with Mark Andrews' workload limited. Likely's open-field wiggle should endear him to Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, who found creative ways to get Georgia's shifty playmakers in space over the past three years." — Shaffer

TEs Charlie Kolar and Travis Vokolek

"Kolar, a fourth-round pick last year, and Vokolek, an undrafted rookie, stood out with their size throughout minicamp. Kolar is 6 feet, 6 inches tall and 250 pounds, with some much-needed bulk added since last season, and was a reliable option over the middle. Vokolek, at 6 feet, 6 inches tall and 260 pounds, is a more plodding target, but he made the most of his opportunities. If they can prove themselves as run blockers, they'll open doors in training camp — more snaps for Kolar, and a possible roster spot for Vokolek." — Shaffer


"He's been vocal, energetic and assertive. He also hasn't been shy to hold offensive players accountable. The Ravens' offense will remain a work in progress, but it's been clear that Monken has prioritized playing at a faster pace, getting the backs involved in the passing game and executing in the red zone. The players appear to be buying into his ideas and coaching style, too, and that's the most important thing." — Zrebiec

OLBs David Ojabo and Odafe Oweh

"For different reasons, the pass rushers fell short of expectations last year. Ojabo, who appeared in just two games as a rookie, has seemingly recaptured the burst and bend that made him a first-round talent before he tore his Achilles tendon last year. Oweh, who struggled to build on a promising rookie year in 2022, entered offseason workouts looking healthier, stronger and more refined technically. Not only did the close friends flash as edge rushers in OTAs and minicamp, but they were also solid in their run fits." — Shaffer

DB Ar'Darius Washington

"With several of the young defensive backs dealing with injuries, Washington is getting a long look — and the coaching staff has to be reasonably pleased with what they've seen. Washington, who had a solid career as a safety at TCU but went undrafted because of concerns about his size (5-foot-8, 176 pounds), seemingly has a knack for being around the football. He profiles as a nickel cornerback, and that's an area where the Ravens have a need. He'll have to remain healthy this summer, which has been a struggle, but his roster chances shouldn't be dismissed." — Zrebiec

Kyle Hamilton Named a Top Candidate to Make First All-Pro Team

Kyle Hamilton has been tabbed for a breakout season in Year 2 by a number of pundits, but Heavy Sports’ Matt Lombardo took it a step further. He named Hamilton as the safety most likely to become a first-team All-Pro in 2023 for the first time in their career.

"Hamilton is as versatile as they come at safety, and aims to build on a prolific rookie season, that was capped by him leading the Ravens' defense with nine tackles in a wild-card loss to the Cincinnati Bengals," Lombardo wrote. "Not only does Hamilton thrive in coverage, where he played both deep safety and in the slot while holding opposing receivers to only 9.9 yards per reception, but he's a real weapon up near the line of scrimmage. Hamilton's two sacks and 20 run-stops underscore his value at all levels of the Ravens' defense."

Lombardo could have just as easily named Hamilton's teammate, Marcus Williams, as the safety most likely to make his first first-team All-Pro team this season. Surprisingly, the talented Williams, who has 19 interceptions in six seasons, has never even made it to the Pro Bowl.

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