Late For Work 9/9: Ex-Steeler Says Pittsburgh Will Miss Playoffs; NFL Power Rankings

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Ex-Steeler Says Team Pittsburgh Will Miss Playoffs

Am I in Bizarro World?

Aren't the Pittsburgh Steelers supposed to be saying stuff like, "Joe Flacco will never win a Super Bowl in this lifetime?"

I guess not in 2015. And not when the Steelers are going through a painful defensive transition.

ESPN analyst and retired Steelers safety Ryan Clark predicted that his former team will not make the playoffs this season, while the Ravens will advance as the AFC North winners.

He even used the word "scared."

"This hurts. I'm really, really trying to get away from my heart," Clark said on First Take in the video below. "I want to say the Steelers will get in, but they're not. Not this year. … I fought with it. I went and I looked and I tried to finagle them in."* *

As always, the Steelers have Head Coach Mike Tomlin leading the way, and a vaunted offensive trio with Ben Roethlisberger, receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell.

But Clark says so much happened this offseason in Pittsburgh that it almost feels like it's not meant to be.

One of the best centers in the league and team leader Maurkice Pouncey will miss at least the first eight weeks  after being place on injured reserve – designated to return (lower leg). Not one, but two kickers were lost for the season due to injury. Bell and receiver Martavis Bryant will miss multiple games while serving suspensions for off-the-field transgressions.

"They do have people around, but it just seems like they're falling apart," Clark said. "So I'm just really scared."

Then there's the defensive side of the ball. The unit lost defensive backs Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor to retirement, and the Steelers released long-time defensive end Brett Keisel. On top of the players, former Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau left for Tennessee after 11 years in Pittsburgh.

"[Y]ou've lost all that leadership on defense and then you lose the head man in Dick LeBeau," said Clark. "So now you're retooling, rebuilding a defense, not only without certain pieces on the field, but you're trying to rebuild that defense without pieces in the meeting rooms in the buildings."

Add it all up, and take into consideration that other teams have gotten better this offseason, and Clark just doesn't see his former team advancing to the postseason. Not only does he name the Ravens as an improved team, but he also thinks other AFC teams such as the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers have all gotten better.

But the Ravens have some challenges of their own, including a brutal road schedule and multiple injuries.

"Our enemies are looking very favorably upon our challenges and they're hoping our challenges will bring us down," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday. "We have to make sure that doesn't happen."

Still …

"I feel like the other teams are going to be too good to allow this Pittsburgh Steelers team to get into the playoffs," Clark said. "Baltimore Ravens is my pick right now to win the AFC North."

It's a ringing endorsement, but make no mistake, the Ravens aren't sleeping on the Steelers. You never can.  And based on the power rankings below, it doesn't look like the rest of football is either.

Week 1 Power Rankings

Despite all the hardships and transition the Steelers are enduring, most national media still see them as a top-10 team. The lowest spot in the rankings below is No. 12.

For the Ravens, they are mostly ranked in the 5-10 range, other than one No. 14 ranking from NFL Network's Elliot Harrison.

Power Rankings Browns Steelers Bengals Ravens Comment
ESPN 27 7 11 8 "HC John Harbaugh knows the Ravens as presently configured are at their best leaning on the ground game. Maintaining that mindset with Trestman calling plays will be important for Baltimore."
-- Mike Sando
CBS Sports 30 4 10 7 "The roster is still deep and talented and they have a good passer and a good pass rush. That's huge."
-- Pete Prisco
NFL Network 31 5 11 14 "Harbaugh has said there's a chance Breshad Perriman could be ready to go Week 1. ...What we do know: Steve Smith Sr. was born ready to go, and Marlon Brown showed flashes in the preseason."
-- Elliot Harrison
"The Baltimore Sun
(top 10 only)"
n/a n/a 10 5 "The Ravens return a strong core on the offensive line and the defensive front seven, but there are a lot more questions than answers in the secondary and among the offensive skill positions. If they click, the Ravens are one of the best teams in the NFL. I expect them to be slightly lower than that level, though."
-- Jon Meoli
Sporting News 28 8 14 7 "The defense remains sturdy at almost every position, but they're all banged up for that offensvie transition."
-- Vinnie Iyer
Fox Sports 32 12 14 6 "The Ravens are strong along the offensive and defensive line with a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. If they can find enough production from the skill positions, they will have an opportunity to make a deep postseason run."
-- Dan Schneier
Bleacher Report 30 5 13 9 "Baltimore's ability to apply pressure on quarterback Peyton Manning, who is playing behind a revamped offensive line, will determine how competitive the Ravens will be this weekend."
-- Brent Sobleski
Yahoo! Sports 26 8 11 6 "Perriman's inability to get on the field in preseason because of a knee injury is a big blow to the offense. You realize Joe Flacco's top three targets right now are 36-year-old Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken and tight end Crockett Gillmore?"
-- Frank Schwab

Balancing Buzz, Expectations For Maxx Williams

Soon after tight end Maxx Williams was drafted in the second round in April, analysts began calling him a Rookie of the Year candidate.

He started strong in the preseason too, with a highlight-reel fourth-down conversion. But he's been hurt, and finally just ditched the red non-contact jersey in practice yesterday.

Plus, ESPN's Jamison Hensley says expectations should not be too high for any tight end transitioning from college.

"History, though, says expectations should be tempered. This isn't just for Williams, but for all of the rookie tight ends, including Clive Walford (Raiders), Tyler Kroft (Bengals), Blake Bell (49ers) and MyCole Pruitt (Vikings)," Hensley wrote.* *

Hensley still believes Williams will develop into one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets, given the quarterback's penchant for tight ends and Williams' ability as a pass catcher. But for now, the expectations should be tempered.

"So, what should be the realistic goals for Williams? Based on the track record of rookie tight ends, 40 catches and 400 yards would be a very solid season," Hensley wrote.

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