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The NFL announces the rescheduled details for the Steelers vs. Ravens in Week 12

Behind the Steel Curtain - 6 hours 59 sec ago
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The game will be played at 1:15 p.m. Sunday in Week 12.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are still set to take on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12 of the 2020 season. The Steelers can still eliminate the Ravens from AFC North contention with a victory. The Steelers also have a possible scenario of clinching a playoff berth. The stakes are still the same, but what is different is when the game will actually take place.

Announcing early on Wednesday that the Steelers and Ravens will not be playing on Thanksgiving night, the NFL has officially given the game a kickoff time as the game will be aired on NBC at 1:15 p.m. ET Sunday.

Nationally on NBC. Pls note the time pic.twitter.com/F4TbZfta50

— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) November 25, 2020

While some may have liked to have seen this game pushed to Sunday night or even into Monday, the Ravens are scheduled to face the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, December 3. Therefore, any further postponement of the game with the Steelers would also put the Ravens’ Week 13 game in jeopardy.

Another issue dealing with the game being moved from Thursday night is having fans in the stadium. While there were going to be a limited number of fans on Thursday night, a new mandate in Pennsylvania limiting numbers at sporting events even more is taking affect on Friday. Therefore, whether or not fans can attend the game on Sunday will still need to be announced at some point by the Steelers.

UPDATE: The Steelers will not be permitted to host fans on Sunday when they play the Ravens.

Statement from #Steelers Spokesman Burt Lauten: pic.twitter.com/6javm4NG1G

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 25, 2020

Stay tuned to BTSC for continued coverage as the Steelers must wait even longer before facing the Ravens in Week 12 at Heinz Field.

Injury Report: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Joe Haden trending in the right direction Wednesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - 6 hours 3 min ago
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers were forced to to wait an additional three days for their Week 12 game, but the extra time may help with some players’ availability.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will now have to continue their preparation for their matchup with the Baltimore Ravens since the game has been moved to Sunday. Exactly how the injury reports will be adjusted remains to be seen. But on Wednesday, the Steelers released their third injury report for Week 12 courtesy of the Steelers PR Department.

Steelers PR Department

Running backs Trey Edmunds and Jaylen Samuels were were the only two players who did not practice for the Steelers on Wednesday. Had the game not been moved from Thursday, chances are both players would have once again been ruled out for Week 12. Now with a couple extra days to recover, we will have to wait and see if either one will be available on Sunday.

Two players who have been watched intently as to the injury status this week are cornerback Joe Haden and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Haden was unable to practice on Tuesday but did return to practice Wednesday in a limited capacity. With a couple extra days, there is a greater chance Haden will be able to play Sunday against the Ravens.

As for JuJu Smith-Schuster, after being limited on Tuesday he was a full participant at practice on Wednesday. Based on his trend, Smith-Schuster would have probably even been available Thursday night had the game not been rescheduled. Now it looks as if Smith-Schuster should be good to go on Sunday barring a setback from Wednesday’s practice.

Two other players who were limited on Tuesday were quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with a quad and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward with an ankle. Whether or not the players were limited entirely due to injury or if it was more of a coaches decision is anyone’s guess. But with both players returning fully on Wednesday, there should be little concerned over their status for Week 12.

As for the Ravens official injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of Steelers.com.

Baltimore Ravens Participation/Injury Report, Week 12

NOTE: The Ravens did not hold practice on Monday 11/23, Tuesday 11/24 or Wednesday 11/25. The below reports are estimations.

Wednesday, November 25

CB Jimmy Smith (Ankle) - DNP

DE Derek Wolfe (Illness) - DNP

TE Mark Andrews (Thigh) - Limited

OLB Matthew Judon (Ankle) - Limited

G Tyre Phillips (Ankle) - Limited

Additionally, the following players for the Ravens are currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 List per Jeff Zrebiec of The Atlantic:

Ravens place OL Matt Skura and Patrick Mekari and DE Calais Campbell on Reserve/COVID-19 list. That list now includes QB Trace McSorley, RBs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, Skura, Mekari, Campbell, OLB Pernell McPhee, DT Brandon Williams (close contact) and CB Iman Marshall (IR).

— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) November 25, 2020

For a recap of the injury report, check out the BTSC Steelers Injury Update podcast below:

Ravens’ offensive line latest position group to get hit hard by COVID-19

Behind the Steel Curtain - 6 hours 22 min ago
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The names of the Baltimore Ravens who tested positive recently continues to grow.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens were slated for a prime time matchup in Week 12 on Thanksgiving night, but due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Baltimore Ravens’ organization those plans have changed.

The National Football League made the decision on Wednesday to postpone the game to Sunday, time and network still to be determined, and the reason behind this was due to more players testing positive on the Raven’s latest round of testing.

The players who had tested positive prior to Wednesday were:

Pernell McPhee
Trace McSorley
J.K. Dobbins
Mark Ingram

You can now add key members along the offensive line, Matt Skura and Pat Mekari, as the latest position group to get his with positive COVID-19 tests which landed them on the COVID/Reserve List. While not along the offensive line, defensive lineman Calais Campbell is another player who tested positive in the latest round of testing.

This per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:

The #Ravens had 7 players positive in 3 days, including most recently: Matt Skura, Pat Makari and Calais Campbell, plus several coaches and their top 2 RBs. Commissioner Roger Goodell made the decision with health and safety in mind.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 25, 2020

For those counting at home, those are seven total players to have tested positive. For those individuals, there is no chance they will play this week even with the game being pushed to Sunday. The only players who could potentially play in the game would be anyone who was placed on the COVID/Reserve List due to being a high risk contact. As of now, that would only include defensive lineman Brandon Williams.

As of now, the NFL is confident the game will be played on Sunday. This per Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical advisor:

Dr. Allen Sills says NFL feels Ravens are close to end of transmission period based on what it knows about how the virus has spread through the team. Tomorrow was simply too soon to be sure. pic.twitter.com/bTVVxe1tlu

— Judy Battista (@judybattista) November 25, 2020

Confidence in the game being played on Sunday is great, but it will come down to the next round of tests coming out of Baltimore which will ultimately dictate the game on Sunday in Week 12.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Ravens Sunday.

Steelers players take to social media to voice their displeasure in the NFL’s decision to move the Ravens game

Behind the Steel Curtain - 8 hours 35 min ago
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers players are mad, and rightfully so.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are going to play in Week 12 at Heinz Field, but not when they were scheduled to play.

After a rash of COVID-19 positive cases within the Baltimore Ravens organization, the NFL made the call Wednesday to move the game to Sunday.

This is the second time the Steelers’ have been impacted by another team’s inabilIty to follow protocols. The first was when the Tennessee Titans resulted in the Steelers’ bye week being moved to Week 4.

Needless to say, the Steelers were not happy with the league’s decision. So much so they took to social media to voice their displeasure with the NFL.

Take a look at what is being said on social media as news broke regarding the upcoming game.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC as news continues to break on this story.

NOTE: Some tweets my contain explicit language (not that we can blame them).

i’m not gone lie @NFL THIS IS BULLSHIT...

— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) November 25, 2020

Maaaaaannnnnnnnnn that’s some BS

— Devlin Hodges (@DevlinHodges10) November 25, 2020

Smh

— Alex Highsmith (@highsmith34) November 25, 2020

SMH!!!

— Mike Hilton (@MikeHilton_28) November 25, 2020

What a joke....

— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) November 25, 2020

See you Sunday! Back to the lab pic.twitter.com/uNG0cWJDiV

— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) November 25, 2020

First the NFL takes away our bye week because another team can’t get their Covid situation together, now they take away our Thanksgiving primetime game for the same reason. Smh.

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) November 25, 2020

Lol

— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) November 25, 2020

RS‼️ https://t.co/AcRdhXEpRV

— Diontae Johnson (@Juiceup__3) November 25, 2020

‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️ https://t.co/T18O3DvMvF

— Big Bud (@Bud_Dupree) November 25, 2020

No wayyy

— Anthony Mcfarland Jr (@AnttMacc_) November 25, 2020

to talk about what exactly? how they keep F**in us. we had a week 4 bye cause of this, now the only time we look forward to some rest was after one of the biggest PRIMETIME games we no longer have. we keep getting screwed this year. https://t.co/926ImapBOO

— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) November 25, 2020

https://t.co/agKZ2txzvL

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) November 25, 2020

SMH.

— Mr SNELL YA LATER (@benny_snell) November 25, 2020

COVID strikes again ‍♂️ BullS**t

— Avery Williamson (@AWilliamson54) November 25, 2020

BTSC co-editor Dave Schofield breaks down what we know now with a special report. Check it out in the audio player below.

Steelers vs. Ravens Week 12 game moved to Sunday afternoon

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 18 min ago
Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

Due to the Raven’s ongoing COVID-19 issues, the NFL has rescheduled the Week 12 matchup

The holiday season is officially upon us, and most who live in the continental United State feel Thanksgiving is the kickoff for the holidays. With Thanksgiving comes certain guarantees: family, friends, food and football.

There are some teams, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, who always play on Thanksgiving, but when the NFL decided to have a Thanksgiving night game it meant other teams could be thrust into the spotlight on Thursday night.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have played in this game two previous times in the Mike Tomlin era, and the Steelers and Ravens have met on Thanksgiving night before. With the Ravens and Steelers rivalry as fierce as it is, it should shock no one the NFL wanted this game in the Week 12 prime time.

Unfortunately, this will no longer be the case as the NFL has officially announced that the game will be moved to Sunday afternoon. The exact time and network will be announced later on Wednesday. This per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network:

Your new Week 12 NFL schedule pic.twitter.com/FPpYfLaEv9

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 25, 2020

Of course, this is just another blow to the Steelers schedule during the 2020 season and the struggles they are faced based upon their opponents actions. After losing their regularly scheduled bye and had it placed during Week 4 after the team had already practiced for the week due to a outbreak with the Tennessee Titans, now the Steelers will not even have their “mini bye” as they would have had a few extra days of rest between Week 12 and Week 13.

unfortunately, this is the NFL in 2020.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for their match up with the Baltimore Ravens at sometime on Sunday afternoon.

BTSC co-editor Dave Schofield breaks down what we know now with a special report. Check it out in the audio player below.

Ben Roethlisberger throws balance out the window for the offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 50 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t about attempts, it’s about wins. Period.

I have to be honest, when it comes to philosophy in the game of football, on offense at least, I am someone who believes every team should strive for balance. When referencing balance, I am referring to the amount of passes vs. the amount of attempts in any given game.

Sure, there are situations when you lean more on one than the other, like if you have to come from behind late in the game, but the approach, in my mind, should always be balance.

In the early portions of this 2020 regular season, the Steelers were astoundingly close to that balance. While the NFL has become a pass-happy league, the Pittsburgh offense was about as close to balance you could find in the league. But in the last few games the team has been leaning on the pass more than the run.

Should this be viewed as a concern? The fan base certainly thinks so, but when Ben Roethlisberger was asked if he is concerned about throwing the ball so much, he scoffed at the thought of worrying more about attempts than the ultimate statistic. Wins.

“No, I don’t think it really matters how many times we throw or run the ball as long as we win the football game. We can beat the dead horse on the RPOs and the short passes the same as runs. We quote-unquote need to run the ball X amount of times.” Roethlisberger said. “No, we don’t. We need to win a football game. That’s what we’ve been doing. Maybe we’ll throw it 70 times this week. Who knows?

“As for a short week, Coach [Tomlin] has a plan that we will be ready for in terms of kind of a walk-through today and tomorrow. I probably won’t throw many footballs this week. I think it’s kind of one of those weeks where you don’t need to throw a lot because you just played, you’re coming off of a game and you have another physical game this week.”

The Steelers’ offense has been throwing the ball more to win, and in their last four games two of them they had to come from behind to win, but Roethlsiberger gives a lot of credit to his wide receivers for the team’s success. Why? Because they have shown the ability to adjust on the fly, even for a group as young as the Steelers’ wide receiving corps.

“I trust them that they are going to do the right thing when you ask them to do it.” Roethlisberger said. “It’s not like—I know we made a big deal about drawing stuff in the dirt like kind of just joking, but obviously, people made a big deal about it. Really, we are using parts of the no huddle in terms of routes, but they’re not the big overall concept. I’ll tell each guy a route, but it doesn’t make sense in the grand scheme of a specific play. Each individual guy has to know what each route is, what each concept is no matter what position they’re playing.

“To me, when I made that comment, it was more—and I will continue to make it. It’s more of a compliment to them. It’s tight ends, too. It’s running backs. It’s everybody. They are able to line up wherever I’m able to ask them to line up. Wide receivers have to run tight end routes. Tight ends have to run running back routes. They all have to do it. They don’t blink, and they do it with ease and have done it great the last few weeks. To me, that’s what it’s about. It’s complimenting them that they are able to do that on the fly.”

If you are like me, and want the Steelers’ offense to be as balanced as possible, you might have to put that thought process aside for the foreseeable future. But who are we to complain when the team hasn’t lose a game yet?

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12 on Thursday Night Football.

Steelers Podcast: Giving thanks for a great Steelers/Ravens rivalry

Behind the Steel Curtain - 10 hours 20 min ago

BTSC’s Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis talk news of the day and everything surrounding Week 12 vs. B-More. All of this while mixing in fun and frivolity like only they do.

The Steelers are 10-0 and are hosting the 6-4 Ravens on Thanksgiving in the 25th season of the great rivalry. When these two teams get together, it makes the jitters before the first sit down between the settlers and the natives seem easy. This is a great showdown that happens at least twice a season and we give thanks for it among our other many blessings. This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold and there you have the topic for the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview with Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis. Join the triumphant trio as they combine the down all things Steelers and with shenanigans galore.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Injury Report
  • Updated Odds
  • Over/Under
  • Players to Watch
  • X-Factor
  • Predictions
  • Trivia

If you haven’t heard, we have a YouTube channel, and the main reason for this is to increase the sound quality on our shows. But if you’re a visual learner you can watch the show below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel.

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Film Room: Be thankful you weren’t Jake Luton facing the Steelers pass rush Sunday

Behind the Steel Curtain - 10 hours 50 min ago
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The young quarterback was under siege all game in week 11.

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches our family reads a Dr. Seuss book titled “Did I ever tell you how lucky you are?” As I was re-watching the Steelers defense in week 11, I felt Jake Luton earned his own story in that book.

Most of us, at some time in our lives, dreamed about being an NFL quarterback, but I doubt anyone dreamed of a day like the young Mr. Luton faced this past Sunday.

Luton’s day, like most nightmares, started out fine. His first drive resulted in a field goal, and with a completed pass and a first down to start his second drive of the game, he was looking good. Luton had completed 3 of his 5 passes for 41 yards and picked up 4 first downs in his first 8 minutes against the Steelers.

But that was the calm before the storm. After gaining that first down to start his second drive, the next three plays would change the plot, and the Jaguars offense would not recover.

1st quarter, 6:47. Robert Spillane (#41) is the linebacker on the Jaguars logo.

The Steelers have T.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt split up to start the rush, and send Mike Hilton into that gap. The guard picks up Hilton, giving Watt and Tuitt 1v1 blocks, but the story on this play is Robert Spillane, who is manned up on the running back, and as soon as James Robinson (#30) shows he is blocking, Spillane accelerates to the quarterback, getting in Luton’s face, forcing an off-target throw. The Jaguars do a great job blocking Watt and Tuitt, pick up Hilton’s blitz and Robinson gets a piece of Spillane to keep his QB clean, but the pass is still disrupted. This was just the start, it is going to get worse for the rookie passer.

1st quarter, 6:41. Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the left side of the screen, Cameron Heyward to the right.

This is the Steelers over front, they run their 3-4 personnel, but line up in a 3-4 with one of their edge rushers as the third linebacker. On this play Robert Spillane is off screen in coverage.

The Jaguars are trying to get their back outside for a dump off. Cam Heyward starts outside for a contain rush, reads the play and keeps outside contain, and the back stops and turns, hoping to gain yards inside. There’s nothing there though, as the center has failed to reach Vince Williams and Stephon Tuitt has shed his blocker and they are right on him.

On the other side of the formation Cam Robinson (#74) chooses to block T.J. Watt and let Alex Highsmith go free. It’s a good choice, because as good as the rookie Highsmith has played, T.J. Watt is more explosive and not someone you ever want to leave unblocked.

With Highsmith closing and the running back surrounded, Luton does the smart thing and throws the ball at his back’s feet. But now it is third and 10 and the Jaguars are reeling.

1st quarter, 6:38. Bud Dupree is the edge rusher to the left side of the screen.

The Steelers have been aggressive, especially from Bud Dupree’s side of the field. The Jaguars try to exploit that with a slip pass behind Dupree, but Dupree is too fast, and he’s close enough to get up and get enough of a finger on the ball to make the throw fall short.

The Jaguars offense went from controlling the momentum to just trying to survive in a matter of a few plays, and it wouldn’t get much better for them from there on.

1st quarter, 0:18. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the right side of the screen.

Mike Hilton gets a hit on Luton, and Bud Dupree jumps the route for a near interception, but the star of this play was T.J. Watt. Watt crashes inside and is stopped cold, or at least that is what it looks like on first glance. Watt isn’t trying to split the lineman here, he’s getting to the guard. Watt gets a hit and a grab on the guard, preventing Jacksonville from getting anyone out wide to block Hilton. Here’s a still from when Watt makes contact with the guard:

The Jaguars right guard isn’t trying to block Watt, he’s trying to get to Hilton, and Watt stops him. It isn’t an easy job Watt takes on here, and there’s no chance of him getting a stat for it, and he isn’t going to gain defensive payer of the year award votes for Mike Hilton pressures, this is team football, the kind of buy in to Keith Butler’s schemes that has made the Steelers the best pass rushing team in the NFL.

Also notice the stunt from Vince Williams and Cameron Heyward that at the moment T.J. hits the guard has a nice 4 man spread containing the quarterback in the pocket while they drop Bud Dupree into coverage where he would get a shot at a turnover. I say it a lot, but Keith Butler is the best pass rush coordinator in the NFL, and one of the best ever.

2nd quarter, 7:00. Cameron Heyward is manning the edge to the bottom of the screen

The Steelers counter the Jaguars 2 TE set by loading up defenders to the strong side and Cameron Heyward to the weak side, where he will have to defend any counter runs.

The Jaguars run a WR screen designed to take advantage of the aggressiveness of the Steelers rush. The left tackle leaves Heyward to go block Bud Durpee, the slot blocks Steven Nelson and the guard gets upfield to block Minkah Fitzpatrick. If Cameron Heyward rushes Luton this is likely a big play for the Jaguars. Cameron Heyward isn’t the guy you want to go after though, he sniffs it out from the start. I can’t get enough of the moment the receiver catches the ball and looks to run, sees Heyward waiting for him and decides he’d rather not run that way. Cameron Heyward ended his day with 1 solo tackle, 4 assists and a QB hit, but he was all over the field, dominating with power and athleticism, but mostly with his intelligence.

2nd quarter, 3:09. Terrell Edmunds (#34) is to the defender to the left side of the screen, Tyson Alualu (#94) is lined up on the left hashmarks.

Alex Highsmith (#56, between Edmunds and Alualu) distracts the tackle for half a second before dropping into a shallow zone, likely looking for the running back to leak out. Alualu sells the slant right with Highsmith, then cuts back to get into a prime passing lane where he ends up knocking the pass up for Minkah Fitzpatrick to intercept. The slant right sell from Alualu and Highsmith does the job, and Terrell Edmunds is in the pocket untouched, and his presence and the impending hit Jake Luton is about to take alters his throwing mechanics. It is easier to see in slow motion.

Luton pulls his arm in, his head down and inside and turns his shoulder into the hit. It isn’t a big change, but that reaction will pull your throw downward. We can’t say if it made the difference between Alualu getting a hand on the pass or not, but it didn’t hurt. This is really why the Steelers pass rush is so good, this pressure from Edmunds was a team effort, and Butler puts the guys setting up the pressure into position to deflect the hot route that Edmunds’ blitz tells the quarterback to throw (the slant inside). Although as perfect as the left side of the screen looks, we’ll ignore the right side on this play, even Heyward and Dupree can have a miscommunication periodically.

3rd quarter, 10:13. Cameron Heyward is the defensive tackle to the right side.

One of my favorite things to show is the pass rush on plays that don’t end in a sack, and while this play does end in a sack, that’s not why we are looking at it. I want to start with what the initial rush looks like.

T.J. Watt is wide, Stephon Tuitt is driving straight up the field. Watt is about to come flying inside and crash into the guard Tuitt is driving back (they aren’t nice to that man) to spring Tuitt outside on a stunt. on the other side Heyward is driving straight at the guard, and Bud Dupree is preparing to also crash inside. This play looks, and will continue to look like a double stunt from the Steelers front four. It’s in dime, (#27 Marcus Allen is the only linebacker) where they run double stunts the most, and if you look at Bud Dupree’s crash inside, he gets his arm outside the tackle’s arm, he’s crashing inside and he’s taking his blocker with him, as you can see below, when Dupree and Watt both spring their haves of the stunt, and Tuitt is heading outside of Watt.

Cameron Heyward doesn’t run the stunt. If you go back to the film of the play, Heyward is heading right at the guard, but the guard is looking at Dupree, he is preparing to deal with Dupree so the tackle can switch to Heyward when Heyward rushes outside Dupree. Cam Heyward sees the guard not looking his way and the center not looking his way and splits them easily. Jake Luton smartly bails on the pocket and runs away from Heyward, right into the arms of Stephon Tuitt.

These stunts are nasty to defend, no ones likes taking a shot to the ear, and no guard likes their tackle being run into them while they fail to block anyone. The guard tries to cheat a bit and gain an advantage defending the stunt, and Heyward absolutely destroys him for it.

Giving thanks

I’m thankful that the Steelers have the best pass-rush coordinators I’ve ever seen, and an incredibly talented, motivated and selfless group of players playing for him. But I’m also thankful, and you should be too Ducky, that you aren’t unlucky enough to have to play quarterback against this defense.

Maybe you can teach an older Ben Roethlisberger new tricks

Behind the Steel Curtain - 11 hours 50 min ago
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Don't look now, and apparently plenty of people aren't, but the Steelers are still busy adding new wrinkles to their offensive arsenal.

I almost couldn't believe my eyes when it happened in live action. I didn't even allow my self the opportunity to celebrate the result of a play that ended in a Steelers touchdown pass. I immediately rewound the play so I could re-watch it in slow motion, because I simply couldn't believe what I think I thought l just saw. Even after watching the play three or four more times, I sat in stunned silence. Was it even possible, or should the officials have thrown a flag for the Steelers breaking one of Ben Roethlisberger's unwritten rules?

For those of you who may have missed it; which at this point appears to be practically every member of both the local and national sports media, Ben Roethlisberger actually ran a play action play that resulted in a touchdown. It was Roethlisberger’s first play action touchdown pass on the season. Midway through the fourth quarter, Ben executed the play as you can see in the clip below:

4th quarter, 6:46. Eric Ebron is the tight end to the top of the screen.

I had no intention of writing this article immediately after the Steelers decisive victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, but that all changed after not hearing a single mention of the newest wrinkle added to the Steelers offensive attack after the game. Every living member of Steelers Nation is already aware of the fact that Roethlisberger isn't the biggest fan of running play action.

I have never heard him say so himself in an interview or otherwise, but it's believed that he doesn't like to turn his back to the defense because he loses sight of the coverage. Makes sense for a 17 year veteran QB who has complete trust in his ability to diagnosis and attack coverages. Ben prefers to control the tempo of his offense from the shotgun, from a vantage point where he can more easily scan the playing field pre-snap for mismatches.

After watching the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football, I knew I had to write this article. The Rams utilize play action more than any team in the NFL, and they do so quite effectively. They continued to run it throughout the game against the Buccaneers, even though they were having little success running the football effectively against the Buccaneers stout run defense. It stands to reason that the more successful a team is at running the football will only enhance the efficiency of their play action, but that didn't deter the Rams in the slightest. They continued to freeze the Buccaneers defense and exploit the open holes the play action created.

At this point in his Hall of Fame caliber career, Roethlisberger isn't going to suddenly morph into a quarterback who loves to run play action. However, if he continues to take the occasional snap from behind center it gives opposing defenses one more thing to be concerned about and have to game plan against. It only adds to the Steelers ability to be creative and unpredictable on offense, assisting the running attack and keeping the threat of play action alive in the process.

Sometimes the fear of an action is just as effective as the execution, and to think, the Steelers have yet to run a single gadget play on offense as I can recall this season. Not a single halfback or wide receiver pass as of yet. I hear that Chase Claypool has a pretty good throwing arm. That should create excitement for things to come in the Steel City.

What it takes for the Steelers to clinch a playoff spot, the division, and more

Behind the Steel Curtain - 12 hours 50 min ago
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are several milestones the Steelers will be looking to clinch over the remainder of the season.

Who would have thought this offseason that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be in such a great position that the discussion of how things play out for them to clinch a playoff berth would happen before Thanksgiving? But it’s true! There is a scenario where the Steelers could clinch a playoff berth in Week 12 thanks to their 10-0 start to the season.

The thing that really comes in to play with many matchups in the NFL and clenching certain positions has to do with tiebreakers. With six games remaining for each team, tiebreakers get very tricky. For example, the Steelers already have a tiebreaker over the Tennessee Titans but they have yet to play the Indianapolis Colts so a tiebreaker there is undetermined. Another example is the Steelers currently have tiebreakers over the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns as they have already defeated these two teams, but with a game remaining against each of them this tiebreaker could change. And with teams the Steelers don;t play in 2020, t’s an ever-changing thing based on each week.

Because of these complex things, our first look at some of the magic numbers for the Pittsburgh Steelers when it comes to clinching things with the 2020 postseason will somewhat ignore tiebreakers but speak to each of them as they come up. If the Steelers were to finish a game ahead of any of these teams, the tiebreakers would not matter. Therefore, these numbers will reflect what is needed to clinch the spot without the need of a tiebreaker in most cases.

So where do the Steelers sit right now when it comes to locking up certain things with the 2020 postseason? Here are the numbers of what it would take for certain milestones. Remember, a “magic number” is reduced with a Steelers win or an opponents loss. Owning the tiebreaker would account for another reduction of one assuming there is not a multi-team tie.

Clinching the AFC North

Since the Cincinnati Bengals have officially been eliminated from the AFC North race, the Steelers have to contend with both the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns. Here is the magic number for clenching the North over each of these teams:

Baltimore Ravens: 3

The chance of the Baltimore Ravens becoming the first team in the history of the AFC North to win the division title three straight seasons is holding on by a thread. With a combination of three Steelers’ wins or three Ravens’ losses officially eliminating them, the Steelers can reduce this number to zero on Thursday. By getting both of the win, the loss, and the tiebreaker, the Ravens would be out of contention for the North title.

Cleveland Browns: 4

With the Cleveland Browns three games behind the Steelers, it would take a combination of four Steelers wins and Browns losses to knock them out. With the two teams still set to face off in Week 17, hopefully the Browns are out of contention by that time.

Clinching a Playoff Berth

There are 10 teams who are mathematically capable of catching the Pittsburgh Steelers to at least tie them in record. The Steelers need to stay ahead of six of those teams. So a combination of knocking out any four of the teams listed below would clinch a playoff birth.

New England Patriots, Denver Broncos: 1

The very best either one of these teams can do is to win every game while having the Steelers lose their six remaining games. Even then, their records would only be tied. With the Steelers already defeating the Broncos, it would take a very strange multi-team tie to even have a chance at a tiebreaker. But just one Steelers win or a loss by either team and they can’t catch Pittsburgh in the standings.

Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders: 3

As the Ravens have already been explained, the Dolphins and Raiders have a very thin margin to be able to match the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since they don’t play either of these teams this season, it would be other tiebreakers such as conference record which would determine who would be ahead. But these two teams face off in Week 16 so one of them is guaranteed to lose or they both have a tie which still would give the advantage to the Steelers. Because of this, if the Steelers defeat the Ravens in Week 12 and both the Dolphins and Raiders lose (or a combination of one loss and one tie), the Steelers would clinch a playoff berth. If both teams tie, technically it’s not clinched as they would also have to tie in Week 16 along with winning all of their games while the Steelers lost all of theirs.

Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans: 4

Since all four of these teams are only one game up on the three mentioned above, it’s quite a realistic situation where they could drop further down the list and be overtaken first. It also helps that the Colts and Titans play each other in Week 12. Ironically, the Pittsburgh Steelers have either faced or will face all of these teams in this group.

Clinching the number one seed

In order for the Steelers to lock up the top seed in the AFC, they will need to have eliminated all previously mentioned teams as well as the one listed below.

Kansas City Chiefs: 6

If the Steelers do not want to have to rely on tiebreakers which would completely depend on which teams either themselves the Chiefs would lose to over the remainder of the season, they would need to finish a game ahead. Right now the Chiefs are only one game behind the Steelers at 9-1. So if the Steelers want the top seed in the AFC, there is little room for error at the moment as the only games the Steelers have control over are the six they have remaining. To not need help, they will have to keep winning.

So there’s a brief rundown of what it would take for the Pittsburgh Steelers to lock up certain positions in regards to the 2020 postseason. As the end of the season draws near, the exact tiebreakers will become much more clear and can also factor in to the equation. But for now, these magic numbers would allow the Steelers to seal these positions by simply having a better record.

Scouting Report: Steelers/Ravens Part 2 will require adjustments from both defenses

Behind the Steel Curtain - 14 hours 5 min ago
Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens Week 12 will come down to defensive adjustments on both sides.

This week we are previewing the Thanksgiving night clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0) and the Baltimore Ravens (6-4) at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The Steelers dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars last week 27-3 while the Ravens fell 30-24 in overtime to the Tennessee Titans.

A month can make quite a difference in the NFL. When these two teams initially met on November 1 in Baltimore, the Steelers held a one-game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North standings. Talking heads and pundits widely believed, however, their lead would not hold. Baltimore’s sole loss had been to defending champion Kansas City, they had won three of the past four meetings with Pittsburgh and, excluding a narrow road win at Tennessee, the Steelers had yet to defeat anyone of consequence. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson was the reigning league MVP and the poster child for the next generation of great quarterbacks pushing old-timers like Ben Roethlisberger out the door. Baltimore was the class of the division, not Pittsburgh.

Then Roethlisberger outplayed Jackson, rallied the visitors to a 28-24 victory and the Steelers expanded their lead. Pittsburgh won in subsequent weeks against Dallas, Cincinnati and Jacksonville while the Ravens stumbled against New England and Tennessee. As the month of November closes, the Steelers’ lead is four full games over Baltimore with the Ravens now looking up at both Pittsburgh and the Cleveland Browns in the standings. A victory on Thursday would practically lock down the division title for the Steelers.

In my preview of the first game between these teams, I emphasized the importance of the blitz on both sides of the football (you can read that preview here). While I believe the blitz remains a major factor in Thursday’s match-up, other factors will play an influence as well. The key to rematches, and in particular rematches that involve rivals, are adjustments. How might Pittsburgh adjust from that November 1 meeting to stay one step ahead of the Ravens? What new wrinkles or designs might the coaching staff add to break tendencies or find a new angle? Here are thoughts on a couple of situational match-ups that could determine the outcome.

Defending Baltimore’s 11 Personnel

The Ravens gashed the Steelers for 265 yards rushing in that first meeting. Many of those yards were accumulated from an 11 personnel grouping against Pittsburgh’s base 3-4 defense. In particular, Baltimore exploited backup nose tackle Isaiah Buggs, who entered the game in the first quarter when starter Tyson Alualu left with an injury. Buggs struggled with both technique and the physicality of Baltimore’s offensive line. To Buggs’ credit, he made a great play to stop Jackson on a crucial 4th and 3 run late in the fourth quarter. But Buggs was generally over-matched and the Ravens picked on him accordingly.

Alualu is back from his injury, which will certainly help if the Steelers again decide to counter 11 personnel with the base 3-4. Dallas, however, may have created a template for attacking the 3-4 in the week after that Baltimore meeting. Pittsburgh played a good deal of base against the Cowboys, figuring that Dallas, with journeyman Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, would lean heavily on Ezekiel Elliott and the run game. Instead, the Cowboys implemented a variety of shifts, motions and unbalanced sets that forced the Steelers to walk either T.J. Watt or Bud Dupree out of the box to defend the pass.

3x1 sets were especially troublesome for the Steelers. On the play shown in the photo below, Dallas aligned speedy receiver CeeDee Lamb on the inside of a bunch set. Knowing Watt (circled) would defend the flat against this look, they ran off corner Joe Haden and safety Cam Sutton with vertical routes from the two outside receivers, then sent Lamb on a bench route against Watt. The play broke down and Gilbert escaped the pocket, prompting Lamb to turn his route upfield where he beat Watt easily for a touchdown.

(If you look closely at the photo, you can see Sutton and Haden communicating just prior to the snap. Sutton’s upraised palms suggest some sort of confusion, which may have hindered the coverage on this play as well).

Later in the game, Dallas used a similar look to convert a 3rd and 2 by aligning Lamb so that he was matched against linebacker Robert Spillane. Lamb executed a simple option route whereby he ran just past the sticks, read Spillane’s drop and turned away from his leverage:

This was not a big play for Dallas, but in the guts of a close game where the Steelers need a stop on defense, it poses a problem should a team like Baltimore formation them into a similar mismatch.

Pittsburgh didn’t need the 3-4 to defend the run against Cincinnati. They played a great deal of nickel and dime to keep Joe Burrow in check and were able to control the run from those looks. Jacksonville, meanwhile, possessed the ball for just 23 minutes last week and turned it over four times. They had little time to establish any sort of offense whatsoever. The Steelers did, however, play mostly base 3-4 against the Jags and allowed their linebackers, in particular Spillane and Vince Williams, to drop into coverage. Not surprisingly, Jake Luton could not make them pay for that decision. Better quarterbacks most likely will. Perhaps as early as Thursday.

It will be interesting, then, to see whether the Steelers revert to the 3-4 on Thursday to defend 11 personnel and, if they do, how much Baltimore steals from the Cowboys’ game-plan. A healthy Alualu will help immensely against the run. Hopefully, the Steelers have a better scheme to defend the pass from their base than they showed in Dallas.

Defending Pittsburgh’s “playground-style” offense

Offensively for the Steelers, the most important revelation in the month of November has been the no-huddle package. This look was unveiled in the first Baltimore meeting when, trailing 17-7 at the half, the Steelers scrapped their conventional offense and allowed Roethlisberger to essentially call plays at the line of scrimmage.

Following the game, Roethlisberger had this to say about the no-huddle:

“It wasn’t like we were changing plays, we were making up plays,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s the old go down to the tire and make the out, go around the tree, it was pure playground-style football... I was so proud of the guys because we literally were just making things up as we went in terms of individual routes. There were no full-play concepts, it was individual routes.”

Coach Mike Tomlin has countered Roethlisberger’s characterization by saying that, admittedly, Roethlisberger was given freedom to make some adjustments, but that the Steelers were still running a structured offense. Whatever the truth, the no-huddle has been tremendous. Prior to the Jacksonville game, Roethlisberger had gone 30-39 for 358 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions from the no-huddle in the month of November. He ran it well again against the Jags, including this 31 yard touchdown strike to Chase Claypool from the 01 personnel grouping that flourished in Baltimore:

There are a few reasons that explain the success of the no-huddle. First, the fact the offense does not huddle forces a defense to play fairly vanilla. It’s hard for them to dial up intricate coverages or blitzes with the offense lined up on the ball and capable of snapping it at any moment. As Roethlisberger said after the Baltimore game, the Steelers empty set, combined with their no-huddle tempo, forced the Ravens to simplify their coverage and pass rush, allowing Pittsburgh to protect the quarterback and create favorable match-ups. Roethlisberger said he did not call for conventional formations but simply moved players to the spots on the field he wanted them in order to create the best match-ups available. Seeing the defense and setting up routes at the line has allowed Roethlisberger to be decisive, which benefits any quarterback.

Next, the Steelers pass protection has been phenomenal. The Jacksonville game made three consecutive weeks in which Roethlisberger has not been taken down. That’s 148 total drop-backs. The combination of being decisive with his reads, getting the ball out quickly and receiving great protection from the line has rendered sacking Roethlisberger difficult.

Then there is the receiving corps. This is likely the best group, top to bottom, that Roethlisberger has enjoyed during his tenure in Pittsburgh. There is rarely a situation where the offense cannot scheme someone open. The deep threat Chase Claypool presents on the outside often forces two-high structures that open up the middle of the field for Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and Eric Ebron. When teams drop a safety down, they risk yielding a big play or having to cover the powerful Smith-Schuster or the lightning-quick Johnson one-on-one. Ebron is a matchup nightmare for safeties and linebackers, as we saw Sunday when, from a compressed formation, he bullied the over-matched Andrew Wingard for this 21-yard score:

Ray-Ray McCloud, meanwhile, has proven to be a more explosive version of Ryan Switzer while James Washington is pretty remarkable as a fifth or even sixth receiving option. James Conner remains a productive receiver out of the backfield when Roethlisberger wants to check the football down.

Which brings us to the real reason the Steelers can do all of this: Roethlisberger. The receivers, pass protection and scheme all help. But without #7 back there in mad-scientist mode — diagnosing, scheming, executing — it would be worthless. There is practically nothing the 38 year-old has not seen from an NFL defense at this point in his Hall of Fame career. There have been a few lapses, like the bad interception in the end zone near halftime of the Jacksonville game, but Roethlisberger has largely avoided making the poor decisions and forced throws that have plagued him at times. He seems as confident in himself mentally as he’s been his entire career.

The X and O battle in this rematch will be fascinating as Baltimore defensive coordinator Don Martindale studies the tape from the first meeting and looks for ways to confuse Roethlisberger or make him uncomfortable. The Ravens, however, may have bigger issues than scheme right now. They looked utterly exhausted in the aftermath of their overtime loss to Tennessee, a game in which Derek Henry and the Titans just wore down Martindale’s defense. Defensive end Derek Wolfe hinted to reporters after the game that Baltimore got out-toughed by Tennessee. That was evident on Tennessee’s go-ahead touchdown near the end of regulation, where receiver A.J. Brown plowed through defenders into the end zone, and again, after Baltimore forced overtime with a last-second field goal, on Henry’s game-winning touchdown run.

Pittsburgh presents an entirely different challenge. They will stress Baltimore horizontally as much as they will vertically, spreading the field, using tempo, allowing Roethlisberger to improvise. The Ravens will likely try to disguise coverage with late rotations, something they did not do much in the first game, and will have to make a decision on when and how often to blitz.

To say it’s a big game for Baltimore on Thursday is an under-statement. With six AFC teams at 7-3 or better, the Ravens will have to scrap simply to qualify for the post-season. They will assuredly play like a desperate team. They will need an answer for the Roethlisberger-led no-huddle package, however, while the Steelers will have to find a way to counter Baltimore’s 11 personnel grouping.

It’s Pittsburgh versus Baltimore on Thanksgiving night. What a way to end the holiday!

Top 5 Steelers players who have exceeded expectations in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - 15 hours 20 min ago
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of the success of the 2020 season can be attributed to these five Steelers who are outplaying nearly everybody's expectation

The Pittsburgh Steelers have extended their NFL leading record to 10-0. The fact that this team was able to rebound from an 8-8 2019 and turn out a performance like this, is a testament to how this team drafted, developed, and brought in players. However, having a number of players which either bounced back from injury or improved greatly upon some poor performances pushes a great team to being an elite team. The following five players ability to play better than anyone thought they would is a massive reason why the Pittsburgh Steelers are 10-0.

Honorable mentions: Ray Ray McCloud, the Steelers return ace has been electrifying after being a late camp addition. Vince Williams, The veteran inside linebacker looks like he’s 2018 Vinny again. The entire 2020 draft class, the Steelers rookies are all out paying their draft placement. Every member of the 2020 class has received playing time and are graded amongst the top their individual positions amongst rookies.

5. Cameron Sutton Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The fourth year corner has come into his own in 2020. Sutton is an extremely talented cover-man and is developing a nasty streak to his game. Sutton is leading the Steelers in forced fumbles with three and also picked up an interception. Sutton has also knocked down four more passes and has been close to snagging a couple of other interceptions. Sutton has raised his level of play, and can play any spot for this secondary making him one of the most valuable depth pieces the Steelers have.

*Also shoutout to Justin Layne who has looked pretty good in a bigger role in his second season. The future of the Steelers corner position is bright.

4. Tyson Alualu Photo by Rob Leiter via Getty Images

Remember when losing Javon Hargrave was supposed to completely change how the Steelers play defense? Or what about how up in arms Steelers fans were that the organization never brought in a nose tackle? Well Tyson Alualu has made those conversations disappear completely after the first game. The eleventh year pro might just be playing the best season of his career. In an expanded role Alualu has been one of the best run stuffing defensive lineman in the NFL.

3. Alejandro Villanueva Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

There was a point in the 2020 offseason where I was calling for the Steelers to make a move to improve its left tackle depth behind Alejandro Villanueva. Villanueva was coming off the worst season of his career having to play against virtually all of the top pass rushers the game, with quarterbacks that didn't know what they were doing. A bounce back was inevitable for the man they call Big Al. However, ten games through the year and Villanueva is yet to allow a sack, and has returned to the Pro Bowl level he was playing at in 2018. Big Al was tasked with Keeping Ben Roethlisberger upright and he's past with flying colors thus far.

2. Terrell Edmunds Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Well how many people were blindsided by the emergence of Terrell Edmunds? The third year safety was being written off as bust just a few short months ago and now, he's the man the Steelers call on to go man up against the oppositions top target and he's winning. Edmunds picked up a couple interceptions against the Jaguars for his troubles. The Steelers finally have a pair of elite safeties since the days of Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. Terrell Edmunds is balling out and I think all of Steelers nation owes this man an apology.

1. Ben Roethlisberger Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Who else could it be? Most of Steelers nation would probably admit they were at least a little bit concerned about the health of Ben Roethlisberger. And what has he done? Only put up the most efficient stats of his career, and guide this team to a perfect 10-0 start. Roethlisberger deserves more praise for this season then what he has received. I fully believe he should at least be recognized in the NFL MVP discussion, especially for how he flipped the script on the Steelers record, and proved how valuable he is. As long as Ben Roethlisberger is the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers they will be Super Bowl contenders.

That's the list! Did I miss anybody? Tell me who and why down in the comments below!

Podcast: Time for the Steelers to deliver the knockout blow

Behind the Steel Curtain - 15 hours 50 min ago

Jeff Hartman brings an AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

The Steelers, at 10-0, welcome the Baltimore Ravens to Heinz Field on Thanksgiving Night. With a 4 1⁄2 game lead over their AFC North rivals, a win from the home team would firmly place the Ravens in their rear view mirror for the remainder of the 2020 season. So the time to deliver the knockout punch is now. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers opportunity to deliver the knockout blow to Baltimore
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

The Steelers must keep chasing perfection out of sheer necessity

Behind the Steel Curtain - 16 hours 50 min ago
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s incumbent upon the 10-0 Steelers to keep chasing perfection, not in the interest of making history, but out of sheer necessity.

“We can’t let up!” “No time for a let down!”

Those directional commands are just some of the things I read on Twitter on a daily basis, and they always come from Steelers fans, no matter the year, no matter the circumstances, no matter the record, no matter the personnel.

Turns out, there are times when a team does let up (or down), and not because it wants to, either. It’s just that those other teams are pretty good, too, at least most of them. Even the ones who aren’t that good still have exceptional athletes. After all, this isn’t the Big Ten vs. the MAC. (Who said that?)

However, if you’re a Steelers fan in 2020, you have gotten your wish through 10 weeks. As you’re well-aware, they’re 10-0 for the first team in franchise history, following a 27-3 thrashing of the Jaguars on Sunday. So far, they have listened to your directional commands and have yet to let up or down.

Because of that, the Steelers are so close to history, they can probably taste it!

Or maybe they’re not worried about such things. Maybe quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is sincere when he says he, his teammates and coaches are more interested in a seventh Lombardi trophy than they are in finally forcing those 1972 Miami Dolphins to put their champagne away and shut the hell up about being the only NFL team to go undefeated along the way to a Super Bowl title.

But while going undefeated may not be what causes the 2020 Steelers to get out of bed every morning, it may be a goal they have to achieve simply for practical purposes. Why? In case you haven’t noticed, those defending Super Bowl-champion Chiefs are pretty darn good and they don’t appear to be on the same downward slide as the Ravens (no offense to John Harbaugh).

Thanks to a dramatic, last-second win over the Raiders on Sunday Night Football, Kansas City sits at 9-1 through 10 games. A handful of teams are two games behind at 7-3; in previous years, both the Steelers and Chiefs would be in good shape for earning at least a bye. But times have changed. There’s now only one bye, and Pittsburgh would be wise to snag it.

I say that because, for one thing, the Steelers would only have to play two games to reach the Super Bowl. Secondly, that Patrick Mahomes, like the Chiefs, is pretty darn good, and it would be in Pittsburgh’s best interests to avoid him in the postseason. Yes, I know, Kansas City has struggled against a lot of teams—including the Chargers, Panthers and Raiders (twice)—and how dare I say the Steelers couldn’t win a possible postseason matchup against the champs? Bring them on!!!!!!

This is no time to act all macho.

This isn’t to say the Chiefs can’t be had. They can, and that’s because their defense is awful. The way I figure it, the more games the Chiefs’ defense gets exposed to opposing offenses in January, the greater the chances of the Super Bowl champs being eliminated before the AFC title game.

Pittsburgh would guarantee itself a bye if it just keeps on winning. As for the Chiefs, unless they suddenly go into a bit of a slump, they’d finish with the second seed. At this juncture, there are a bunch of decent teams who could wind up with the seventh seed—including the Colts, Titans, Browns, Raiders, Dolphins and Ravens. If I’m the Steelers, sitting at home on Wildcard Weekend probably seems preferable to dealing with one of those squads. After that, the Chiefs would have to outlast another tough opponent just to reach the conference title game.

I’m not saying the Chiefs couldn’t do that—to repeat, they’re really good—but the odds of them getting tripped up do increase under that scenario.

Maybe the Steelers could go toe-to-toe with the Chiefs in a battle for a trip to the Super Bowl. It would be Roethlisberger vs. Mahomes. The old guard vs. the new guard. It sure would be a great chance for the grizzled old vet to show the kid a thing or two about dramatic moments.

I just don’t know if the reality would make for a great final chapter for what has so far been a fantastic story for these 2020 Steelers.

Trying to stop Mahomes with everything on the line? Yikes. I don’t care if it’s at Heinz Field or Arrowhead Stadium—both scenarios scare me.

The Steelers must keep chasing perfection, not for the sake of history, but out of sheer necessity.

BTSC Survivor Pool Update: Week 11 results

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/24/2020 - 6:00pm
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Exactly 40% of remaining contestants were eliminated on Sunday.

The Behind The Steel Curtain survivor pool continued on in Week 11 as the choices get even tougher as over a third of the teams have been used up. With less than 40 contestants remaining, one upset could take out a large percentage of people remaining and that’s exactly what happened this week. While technically there were 355 total entries, I had one entry in each league as the commissioner so there were 352 different contestants. Hundreds have entered, but only one can go home with the autographed Maurkice Pouncey football.

The most common selection for Week 11 was the Los Angeles Chargers over the New York Jets. Although the Chargers were up by 18 points at halftime, the Jets fought their way back to make it a one score game. But close doesn’t matter in the NFL so the 16 contestants who chose the Chargers move on to Week 12.

The next most popular pick was the Minnesota Vikings over the Dallas Cowboys. In a back-and-forth game, the Cowboys regained the lead inside of the final two minutes. Minnesota failed to respond as they couldn’t even manage a first down and 10 contestants were knocked out of the competition.

There were only seven different games chosen this week with four of those seven being incorrect. The other incorrect choices were New England, Miami, and Baltimore where the correct selections of Pittsburgh and Cleveland rounded out the seven games.

So after eleven weeks, only 5.9% of entries still remain. Congratulations to the 21 contestants still remaining, but 20 of you will still have to be eliminated. If you are still alive, make sure you enter your pick early so you don’t get knocked out due to a lack of selection. This is your reminder, so go make your pick now!

Weekly Update: Upcoming Week 12 Games of Note:
  • Most heavily favored: Green Bay (-8.5) over Chicago
  • Closest match up: Arizona (-2.5) at New England
  • The Steelers match up: Pittsburgh (-4) over Baltimore
  • Byes: None!

(all lines are courtesy of oddshark.com as on 11/24)

So there you have it! Make sure you check back at Behind The Steel Curtain to stay updated on the contest. Even if you did not enter or have already been eliminated, feel free to check in and see how you would have fared each week.

Injury Report: Joe Haden unable to practice Tuesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/24/2020 - 4:37pm
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Seeing the players who were available to practice Tuesday gives a little more clarity on who will be able to go Thursday night.

In what would normally be a players’ day off before starting practices for the week, the Pittsburgh Steelers are more than half way through their preparation for their Thanksgiving night matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. With it being a Thursday game and three injury reports necessary by Wednesday, the Steelers are already having to release their second injury report for Week 12 courtesy of the Steelers PR Department.

Steelers PR Department

Running backs Trey Edmunds and Jaylen Samuels were still listed with their leg injuries while Jayrone Elliott was still not practicing due to an illness in Monday’s estimated injury report. On Tuesday, the two running backs were unable to practice while Elliott returned as a full participant.

Both cornerback Joe Haden with a knee injury and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster with a foot injury did not finish the Steelers game on Sunday. Although both players were reported to be cleared to return to the game if needed, the Steelers held them out as the game was well in hand. Projected to have missed practice on Monday, Haden was unable to return to practice on Tuesday while Smith-Schuster was able to go in a limited capacity. Wednesday’s final practice will be the ultimate test for both players.

Missing from the injury report was tight end Zach Gentry who was placed on the Reserve/Injured List earlier on Tuesday.

Also included on Monday’s estimated report were 9 veteran players who were listed as if they would not have practiced due to a coaches decision. Those players include Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Alejandra Villanueva, Eric Ebron, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Cameron Heyward, and Vince Williams. As expected, most of those players were able to practice on Tuesday. Both Pouncey and DeCastro were given the day off while Ben Roethlisberger only practiced in a limited capacity with an added designation of a quad injury. While it isn’t great to see anything injury related with Roethlisberger, he normally does not practice early in the week so chances are it is nothing to worry about.

The change to the list was Cam Heyward was limited on Tuesday but with an added designation of an ankle injury to go along with being a coaches’ decision.

As for the Ravens official injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of Steelers.com.

Baltimore Ravens Participation/Injury Report, Week 12

NOTE: The Ravens did not hold practice on Monday 11/23 or Tuesday 11/24. The below reports are estimations.

Tuesday, November 24

DE Calais Campbell (Calf) - DNP

C/G Patrick Mekari (NIR) - DNP

CB Jimmy Smith (Ankle) - DNP

DE Derek Wolfe (Illness) - DNP

TE Mark Andrews (Thigh) - Limited

OLB Matthew Judon (Ankle) - Limited

G Tyre Phillips (Ankle) - Limited

For a recap of the injury report, check out the BTSC Steelers Injury Update podcast below:

Power Rankings: Steelers keep winning, and keep dropping down the rankings

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/24/2020 - 1:30pm
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

After the Steelers’ red hot 10-0 start, they are at, or near, the top of the Power Rankings heading into Week 12.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, along with the rest of the NFL, are coming off the ninth week of a journey which has never been done in the history of the game. Playing games amidst a global pandemic.

The league has done tremendous work with protocols and adjustments to make sure this season goes off without a hitch, but even the best laid plans can have their bumps in the road. The Steelers experienced that first hand with an unexpected bye week after the Titans’ outbreak forced their Week 4 game to be moved.

Who do the experts think will be the team to beat this season? Power Rankings are one way to decipher who they like, or don’t like, at any particular juncture of the season. Heading into Week 11, there is a lot which can be expected. The Chiefs find themselves near the top of most rankings, while the Los Angeles Rams or the New Orleans Saints are everyone’s favorite now in the NFC.

Where do the Steelers fall? Well that depends. After a perfect 9-0 start, almost everyone sees the black-and-gold as a Top 3 team. Take a look at some of the Power Rankings below, and be sure to let us know what you think of the rankings in the comment section below!

ESPN

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

What they’re thankful for: QB Ben Roethlisberger

At 10-0, the Steelers’ cup really runneth over with gratitude. The Steelers should be thankful for an undefeated record, including wins in trap games and against previously undefeated opponents. And, of course, there’s the three-game lead over the rest of the division. But the thing — or rather, person — the Steelers should be most thankful for this season is easy: Roethlisberger. Without the quarterback, the Steelers wouldn’t be in this position. He’s a calming, veteran presence capable of taking over a game, which he has done a couple of times this season. And his health is the difference-maker for a team that was 8-8 last year without him.”

2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. New Orleans
4. Green Bay Packers
5. Buffalo Bills
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. Seattle Seahawks
8. Indianapolis Colts
9. Los Angeles Rams
10. Tennessee Titans

NFL.com

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The Steelers might need to win every game on their schedule to hold off the Chiefs for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Don’t rule it out. Pittsburgh is 10-for-10 on the season after a 27-3 win over the outclassed Jaguars in Jacksonville. Pittsburgh’s defense was a living nightmare for Jake Luton, who took a beating and threw four interceptions (two apiece by Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds). Ben Roethlisberger led the offense with his usual efficiency, and Chase Claypool scored the 10th touchdown of his outstanding rookie season. Claypool and Diontae Johnson have added a level to this passing game that makes Pittsburgh hard to beat. Well ... impossible to beat so far.”

3. New Orleans Saints
4. Los Angeles Rams
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. Buffalo Bills
8. Las Vegas Raiders
9. Seattle Seahawks
10. Indianapolis Colts

CBS Sports

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

“They have a real chance to go undefeated for the season. If they beat the Ravens this week, they can basically lock up the division.”

2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Indianapolis Colts
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Los Angeles Rams
7. Seattle Seahawks
8. Buffalo Bills
9. Tennessee Titans
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sports Illustrated

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The downfield passing game is starting to click a little more, but you wonder if it might be a return to smash-mouth, gap-scheme running on Thursday night when they face a Ravens defense that (1) might be missing key players, and (2) is coming off an overtime loss to Tennessee in which they were steamrolled over the final 30 minutes.”

4. Los Angeles Rams
5. Buffalo Bills
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. Baltimore Ravens
8. Indianapolis Colts
9. Green Bay Packers
10. Seattle Seahawks

The Sporting News

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The Steelers’ push for a perfect season continues with another walkover victory for their offense and defense in Jacksonville. They will need to keep putting pressure on the Chiefs, but first they need to finish cooking the Ravens on Thanksgiving.”

3. New Orleans Saints
4. Los Angeles Rams
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Buffalo Bills
7. Seattle Seahawks
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
9. Indianapolis Colts
10. Tennessee Titans

UPDATE: Ravens organization not out of the woods yet after positive COVID-19 cases

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/24/2020 - 12:46pm
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are slated to play on Thursday night, but the Ravens organization is still undergoing issues after positive COVID-19 cases popped up on Monday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens rivalry is one of the best in all of sports, and they are set to face off for the second time this regular season at Heinz Field on Thanksgiving night.

What that game will look like is certainly up for debate after J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram both tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. Luckily for the Ravens, only Brandon Williams was deemed a high risk contact with Dobbins and Ingram, and will be forced to quarantine this week.

But they aren’t out of the woods just yet. It is being reported the organization continues to have positive tests show up.

The Ravens learned this morning of more positive COVID-19 tests, per sources.

— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) November 24, 2020

So, what does this mean? It means the Ravens will continue to work virtually, and that includes practice, on Tuesday.

Ravens will not practice today. All activities are virtual today.

Baltimore is scheduled to travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

An already short week became much more challenging heading into Thanksgiving night's game against the undefeated Steelers.

— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) November 24, 2020

The #Ravens continue to work virtually today in light of COVID-19 concerns. pic.twitter.com/702p0fGLuk

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 24, 2020

Less than ideal circumstances for any team, but when you throw in the fact it is the Steelers and Ravens, on a short week mind you, it amplifies these issues for the visiting Ravens.

As of now, the NFL has no plans of moving the football game due to these issues. All NFL teams were placed in the intensive COVID-19 protocol last week, and both the Ravens and Steelers have been in this protocol since the last time they played and Marlon Humphrey tested positive the day after that game at M&T Bank Stadium.

The purpose of this protocol is to limit the close contacts with teammates and ensure games can be played, even if positive test results do occur. Needless to say, the next 24 hours will be critical for the upcoming game, and the Ravens as they are set to travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding this game as the Steelers continue to plow through the 2020 regular season.

UPDATE:

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, three more Ravens players have tested positive. This brings the total to 5 who will miss Thursday’s game.

If any more players test positive, the game could be postponed.

Ravens now have had five players and four staffers test positive for COVID this week, sources tell ESPN.

Thursday night’s game vs. the Steelers still is on, as scheduled, but one source warned that further positives could mean postponing it.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 24, 2020

Hines Ward and Alan Faneca both semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/24/2020 - 12:37pm

Both Ward and Faneca are back in a familiar place when it comes to the Hall of Fame process

In an announcement on Tuesday by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 25 semifinalists were selected for the 2021 induction class. Among those chosen are former Steelers Alan Faneca and Hines Ward.

G Alan Faneca & WR Hines Ward have been named @ProFootballHOF Class of 2021 Semifinalists. #PFHOF21https://t.co/nWe6Hapzbu

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 24, 2020

Faneca has been a Hall of Fame finalist each of the last five years. Playing 13 years in the NFL, Faneca played his first 10 in Pittsburgh as the Steelers first round draft pick in the 1998 draft. In his time in Pittsburgh, Faneca was named to the Pro Bowl seven times and a first team All-Pro on six occasions. The only season between 2001 and 2007 or Faneca was not named All-Pro was where he made the move to left tackle from the left guard position in order to do what was best for the Steelers.

Unfortunately, Faneca has seen players with less NFL accolades enter the Hall before him the last couple of years. Hopefully 2021 will show the Hall of Fame finally getting it right and putting Faneca in his rightful place.

As for Hines Ward, he is now a semifinalist for the fifth time. Beloved by Steelers’ Nation, Ward spent all 14 years of his career in Pittsburgh. Drafted in the third round of the 1998 draft, Ward was named to four Pro Bowls from 2001 to 2004. Not only did Ward earn two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers, he was the Super Bowl MVP during the 2005 season.

The 25 semifinalists will be trimmed down to 15 finalists going into Super Bowl weekend before a final class of five players will be announced the night before the Super Bowl.

With the 2020 enshrinement in the Hall of Fame being postponed due to COVID-19, the Steelers are already set to have Bill Cowher, Troy Polamalu, and Donnie Shell enshrined in 2021. Additionally, Bill Nunn is a finalist for the Hall of Fame in 2021 as a contributor. Simply passing a yes or no vote, Nunn should be a lock to be a part of the 2021 class.

So will any more Steelers be added for enshrinement in Canton next August? As much as Steelers’ Nation knows these players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, nothing is certain until the new members are announced this February.

Steelers activate Vance McDonald from the Reserve/COVID-19 List, promote Kevin Rader

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/24/2020 - 11:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

After missing two games, McDonald has been cleared to return after going on the covid list with a positive test on November 9th.

Ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 12 game with the Baltimore Ravens, the team announced tight end Vance McDonald has been activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 List. In other corresponding moves, the Steelers have signed tight end Kevin Rader to the active roster from their practice squad, placed tight and Zach Gentry on the Reserve/Injured List, and signed Christian Kuntz to the practice squad.

We’ve made roster moves:
• Signed TE Kevin Rader to the active roster
• Signed LB/LS Christian Kuntz to the practice squad
• Placed TE Zach Gentry on the Reserve/Injured List
• Activated TE Vance McDonald from the Reserve/COVID-19 List@BordasLawhttps://t.co/OCmBYQHPRF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 24, 2020

McDonald was placed on the NFL’s Reserve/COVID-19 List on Monday, November 9 with a positive test. The previous Friday, McDonald missed practice due to illness but still traveled with the team to their Week 9 game in Dallas and played a total of 33 snaps between offense and special teams.

Due to McDonald’s positive test, four Steelers ended up on the COVID-19 list as close contacts including Ben Roethlisberger, Vince Williams, Jaylen Samuels, and Jerald Hawkins. All four players returned to the team without missing a game.

In order for McDonald to be eligible to come off the list, he must have been at least 10 days since his symptoms first occurred and he had to go 72 hours without any symptoms. Of course, this also includes continuing to test negative. McDonald will practice on Tuesday and Wednesday while continuing to be monitored to make sure he is not suffering from other Covid-related health concerns.

McDonald has seen his production in the passing game diminished in 2020 as he only has nine receptions for 61 yards on the season. But when it comes to the run game, McDonald has been used often for blocking purposes.

The Steelers have also signed tight end Kevin Rader from the practice squad to the active roster. Rader has spent the entire 2020 season on the Steelers practice squad while being on and off the squad in 2019.

As expected, tight end Zach Gentry is going on the Reserve/Injured List after leaving Sunday’s game against the Jaguars with a knee injury. While it was originally believed Gentry had a serious injury, there is the possibility he could return later in the season as there was not as much damage to his knee as believed. Whether or not Gentry makes it back for any of 2020 remains to be seen.

The Steelers have also signed linebacker/long snapper Christian Kuntz to their practice squad. The Steelers worked out Kuntz last week, therefore he had cleared Covid protocol and is ready to join the team. Kuntz spent time with the Steelers in training camp both in 2019 and 2020.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as a Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to take on the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night at Heinz Field.

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