Veteran safety Clark says Steelers will make it to NFL's postseason
Ryan Clark not only dares to dream the impossible, he is expecting it.
Clark, one of the Steelers' captains, boldly predicted Tuesday that they will make the playoffs even as they exit the worst September in the franchise's 81-year history.
The winless Steelers (0-4) have only a 1.2 percent chance of making the postseason, based on past results, but Clark said it will happen. One reason, he said, is that every other AFC North team is showing weaknesses.
“I just believe we can win. That's just the bottom line,” Clark said Tuesday. “I think we have the people in this room, the coaches (to win). Also, looking at our schedule, we're not playing world beaters, we're not playing gods. We're playing men.”
For the first time since NFL divisional play began in 1970, the Steelers have yet to win more than a month into the season and trail every other team in the division by 21⁄2 games. The Ravens, Bengals and Browns are tied at 3-2.
Of the Steelers' remaining 12 games, only three are against teams that currently have a losing record.
Still, Clark doesn't seem impressed by any of them and suggested the Steelers could win out in their remaining five division games. He also said this might be the season where only nine or 10 wins takes the division.
“We're playing football teams that have vulnerabilities and teams I think we can beat,” Clark said. “That's five division opponents left, so it's in our own hands. I think we can win those games, and I think we will.”
Told of Clark's unbridled optimism despite the Steelers' seemingly dire straits, cornerback Ike Taylor said, “That's how you've got to think. Are we going to walk around with our heads down and feel (bad)? I don't feel like that. If he says that, I'm a co-signer.”
The 1976 Steelers were in a similar situation after starting 1-4, but they won out and made the playoffs with a 10-4 record. Clark isn't predicting anything like that, but he thinks the Steelers can get on a roll if they simply win one game.
“It takes one to even talk about the playoffs,” Clark said. “So we need to win (Sunday at the Jets) to get this record to 1-4. Then we come back and regroup and forget you won that game and win the next one.
Clark added, “We have to make it respectable now. If you win three or four games out of these next games, we've had runs of eight games going 6-2, eight games going 7-1, I feel like we can put a (second) half like that together, but we need to finish this (first) half strong and that starts by beating the Jets.”
Clark said the Steelers' bye week following their 34-27 loss to the Vikings in London was “miserable.” He said the coaches were “very tight” and the “critique was hard.”
“We need to find the lead, whether it be a special teams score, the defense making a play, the offense making a play,” he said. “We need to make a team play us from behind. We need to make a team be desperate, throw the ball across the middle, run plays that put their receivers and quarterback in harm's way.”
Clark also doesn't care if others view his remarks as being out of place given the Steelers' worst start in 45 years.
“I said when they voted me captain that I wasn't going to change,” Clark said. “I said I was going to be the same dude and I am. But what we need our leaders to do isn't (talking), but making plays.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.