Ryan Clark: Big Ben again key to season

As an analyst for NFL Live, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark declared the Cincinnati Bengals as the most improved team in the AFC North because they were able to keep their own free agents and add former Steelers linebacker James Harrison to the defense.

Does that mean the Bengals will have a better record than the Steelers again this season? Clark isn't ready to concede that. He believes the Steelers weren't far off from beating the top teams in the division last season. By Clark's estimation, it all comes down to one player.

"It depends on No. 7, Ben Roethlisberger, coming out and playing the type of ball he's capable of," Clark said.

Clark pointed to Roethlisberger's rib injury as the turning point to last season. The Steelers were 6-3 before Roethlisberger got hurt. They were 2-5 after the injury (including 1-3 when he returned).

"Everything's going good. We play Kansas City, Ben gets hurt and we hit a downward slide," Clark said. "Even when he gets back, he wasn't playing at the MVP level that he was playing before he went out."