Ryan Clark: Steelers 'not out of it'
"What do you mean, do I think maybe it's still doable?" the free safety said. "Are we mathematically out of the playoffs? Well, it's still doable."
History shows that the Steelers face a climb to the postseason that is steeper than any of Pittsburgh's many hills. They are in last place in the AFC North and are already three wins behind the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
But Clark said none of those teams -- all 3-2 -- are beyond the Steelers' reach because Pittsburgh has five division games left on its schedule.
The Steelers will try to break into the win column Sunday when they visit the New York Jets (3-2).
"I feel like with where our division is, where we are, the games we have remaining, that we have a good chance of being a playoff team," Clark said. "It's not a guarantee or prediction. It's fact, and the fact is we're not out of it. The fact is of the three teams in our division, we play two of them twice and we have another one at home, which I feel like are five winnable games. You win those games, you put yourself in better position as opposed to those teams."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger echoed Clark's sentiments.
"We really believe that," Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan during his weekly radio show. "We believe going into every game that we're going to win it. We believe every year in the offseason we're going to go undefeated the next year. I think every team has to feel that way."
Since the playoffs expanded in 1990, only one team has overcome an 0-4 start to qualify for postseason play, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Clark said the Steelers have confidence they can join the 1992 San Diego Chargers in beating such long odds.
"You don't want guys saying we can't win enough games to get in [the playoffs], and I don't think that's the feeling at all," Clark said. "It is still early. We have worked through situations where we lost four games or three games in a row but we were still playing to get in the playoffs late in the season, so we know you can do that. In those seasons we lost in the back half, so we're hoping to get some wins to get us back in this race."
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that the team's focus has not been affected by the poor start.
"I haven't sensed that at all in terms of the focus," Tomlin said. "I like the demeanor and approach of the guys in terms of addressing [the 0-4 start] and dealing with it, and I don't believe focus has been an issue at all to this point."
Meanwhile, changes that Tomlin tersely hinted were coming following a 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 29 have resulted in the demotions of left tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Ziggy Hood. Adams will give way to Kelvin Beachum or newly acquired Levi Brown, and Hood has been replaced in the starting lineup by Cameron Heyward.
Tomlin said Hood will continue to get snaps at defensive end and that he decided to make a change to get Heyward on the field more. Heyward, a first-round pick in 2011, is second on the Steelers with nine quarterback hurries.
"He will play more," Tomlin said Tuesday, "and deservedly so."
Adams will watch for the foreseeable future as he was dropped to third on the depth chart at left tackle, behind Beachum and Brown, who arrived in Pittsburgh on Thursday following a trade with the Arizona Cardinals. Adams, a second-round draft pick in 2012, has struggled since moving over from right tackle. He was overwhelmed by Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who had 2.5 sacks in the Sept. 29 game in London, precipitating the change at left tackle.
"It's time for Mike to roll his sleeves up and go about working to find more consistency in his movement and technique so that he can be the player that he knows and we know he's capable of being," Tomlin said.