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2020 NFL Scouting Combine, Day 1 Open Thread: Quarterbacks, Tight Ends and Wide Receivers

Behind the Steel Curtain - 4 hours 53 min ago
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Scouting Combine is now in PRIME TIME! Time to keep tabs on what is going on in Indianapolis.

There are some new wrinkles to the 2020 NFL Combine and one of them is a Prime Time viewing slot. This is great for those of us that may want to watch and chat about it live as it is happening.

There are also drill changes coming in 2020 and some that have been removed.

New to the Combine

Smoke Route - The smoke route drill helps measure how a quickly a quarterback can adjust in a run-pass option situation when the run isn’t the best option. This is being timed from the release to the catch.

Mirror - This drill once had a prospect run the “rabbit” and the other would mirror his movements. This has been changed to a coach doing the change of direction, whatever that means

Screen Drill - This is to evaluate movement skills, footwork and speed on setting up screens.

Duce Staley Drill - A drill set up for a running back to maneuver around the trash or obstacles one may encounter on a running play. Change of direction and vision are key.

Figure 8 or Hoop Drill - is a pass-rush drill where prospects run around hoops and snatch flags off the ground. This is meant to get a gauge on the prospects ankle flexion and bend when coming around the edge.

Gauntlet - Defensive backs will now run the same drill as the receivers.

Some that were removed

Toe tap on the sideline for Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Stack and Shed for Defensive Lineman

Hip Turn and Go for Defensive backs

As always, remain respectful and Go Steelers!

Steelers start interviewing defenders at the NFL Scouting Combine

Behind the Steel Curtain - 6 hours 40 min ago
Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have started to meet, and speak with, defenders at the NFL Combine.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have met with a lot of prospects, both formally and informally, and the vast majority of these meetings won’t be made public. The only way the general public knows of said meetings are if the players tell reporters who they have met with, and who they are planning on meeting with.

So far, the only known meetings the Steelers have had at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine would be with offensive players (see the full list HERE). But that changed on Thursday, and beyond, as the team started to talk with defenders.

Per Brian Batko, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Michigan linebacker Josh Uche spoke with the Steelers, but mainly about Devin Bush. He had some great words regarding what it would mean to play with Bush again, and for a legendary organization like the Steelers.

And speaking of edge guys, Boise State’s Curtis Weaver said he has a formal interview planned with the Steelers. Kevin Colbert spoke Tuesday about how much they like this class of pass rushers.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) February 27, 2020

On the flip side, Batko also reports Boise State’s Curtis Weaver has a formal meeting with Pittsburgh set up for the coming days.

A local product, Khaleke Hudson, spoke with media and said while he hasn’t had a formal interview with the Steelers, he has talked with them both at the Scouting Combine and at the Senior Bowl.

McKeesport native and inside linebacker Khaleke Hudson watched a lot of Michigan teammate Devin Bush last year with his hometown team (even though he didn’t grow up a Steelers fan)

Hudson said he has talked with the Steelers both here at the combine and at the senior bowl.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) February 27, 2020

Michigan’s Khaleke Hudson of McKeesport has met informally with Steelers here at the combine and also at the Senior Bowl.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) February 27, 2020

To give you a better idea of what all these players bring to the table, here is a quick synposis of each, per their Draft Profiles:

Josh Uche - LB - Michigan

Uche (pronounced OOH-chay) did not start any games for the Wolverines in his first three years with the team — not even when he earned honorable mention All-Big Ten notice as a junior after racking up seven sacks (among 15 total tackles). He finally started nine of 13 games played as a senior, garnering a second-team all-conference nod with a team-leading 8.5 sacks among his 35 tackles, 11.5 for loss (also posted two pass breakups and two forced fumbles). He played in four games as a reserve his true freshman year (four tackles) and in 10 contests the following season (three tackles, one sack).


Balancing Uche’s skill set and athletic potential against his inexperience and lack of instincts makes him a challenging evaluation. He’s unlikely to find sustained success as a situational rusher, but it should be in play for a team to turn loose his rush instincts and agility inside the pocket as a blitzer. He plays with closing burst, can tackle and is smoother in coverage than expected, but the difference in becoming a pro linebacker instead of a short-term, hybrid athlete will depend largely upon improving his second-level instincts and finding an eclectic defensive mind to unlock his potential.

Curtis Weaver - EDGE - Boise State

The Broncos pulled Weaver out of the Long Beach area and have been happy with his play since he arrived on campus. After redshirting his first season, Weaver was named a 2017 Freshman All-American after ranking sixth in the FBS with 11 sacks (33 total tackles, 13 for loss, one interception). He earned his second straight first-team All-Mountain West honor in 2018 after leading Boise State with 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks among his 43 total tackles in 13 starts. Word spread about his talent during 2019, and the accolades piled up: second-team Associated Press All-American, first-team All-Mountain West, MWC Defensive Player of the Year, Ted Hendricks Award finalist. Weaver led Boise State and finished among the national leaders with 18.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks (52 total tackles, one interception, three pass breakups).


Stand-up end whose production as a pass rusher must be balanced out by his below-average ability and athleticism in stopping the run. Weaver is a naturally instinctive counter-rusher who uses synchronized hands/feet to attack both inside and outside edges as a rusher, but his lack of explosiveness and athletic traits could dull his rush production against NFL offensive tackles. He plays with football intelligence, but his level of NFL success could be determined by whether his skill can overcome below-average explosiveness.

Khaleke Hudson - LB - Michigan

Khaleke (pronounced kuh-LEAK) Hudson’s skill set filled the Wolverines’ Viper position, one of those hybrid safety/linebacker positions now prevalent in college football, to a tee. He led Michigan with 102 tackles (3.5 for loss, two sacks along with three pass breakups and a blocked kick) in 2019, garnering second-team All-Big Ten notice. He was an honorable mention all-conference pick in 2018 after starting 11 of 13 games played (44 tackles, 3.5 for loss, two sacks). The former three-star recruit and Pittsburgh Press-Gazette High School Player of the Year in 2015 out of McKeesport had a bigger year, statistically speaking, as a sophomore when he received a third-team all-conference nod (82 tackles, 17.5 for loss, eight sacks, two interceptions, nine pass breakups). Hudson tied an NCAA record that year with eight tackles for loss against Minnesota. He played in all 13 games as a reserve and on special teams as a true freshman (eight tackles, one pass breakup).


Undersized safety turned linebacker who summons toughness and spunk to counterbalance his lack of traits. The production has been fairly impressive in two of the last three seasons, but he’s quicker than fast and his range is limited. Hudson’s lack of size shows up near the line of scrimmage and he’s not as sticky in coverage as he needs to be. His talent for blocking punts should garner attention, but may not be enough to overcome deficiencies at linebacker or safety.

What are your thoughts on the players the Steelers have met with thus far? How about these trio of defenders, even though not all have been formal interviews? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Why the proposed CBA appears to be a good deal for the majority of NFL players

Behind the Steel Curtain - 8 hours 3 min ago
Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Some NFL players have been outspoken about the proposed collective bargaining agreement on which the players will vote, but do these high salary players accurately reflect the majority of the league?

It largely depends on who you ask when it comes to the opinion of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement proposed by the NFL owners as a result of more than 10 months of negotiation with the NFLPA. Some high-profile players have come out in opposition of the deal and several members of the media have drawn their conclusion based on these players thoughts. But do these players speak for the majority of the NFL? Are people drawing their own conclusions or only basing it off of others opinions who they follow regardless? And have these players opinions changed since the owners decided to remove the $250k cap on salaries for a 17th game for players whose contract was signed before the new CBA took affect?

Much like the aforementioned cap on salaries given for an extra game of the NFL season, a lot of the mentality behind this current deal comes from looking at a player who is in the minority in the NFL. Which player is this? A player not operating on a rookie or league-minimum salary.

Over half of the NFL has players who are under contract on a rookie or a minimum-structured salary. It is reported that this new CBA would increase both of these minimums by about 20% effective next season. In other words, this is not contingent on the 17th game being played. When the league does go to a 17th game, those players would be paid the same proportion for their extra week.

Is there a lot more about the CBA than just the raise in the league minimum and rookie salaries? Absolutely. But giving more than half the league and an enormous raise has got to be a positive for at least those players.

It is understandable that the proposed CBA looks to be highly in favor of the players as the NFLPA has not released any detailed statements about the contents of the proposal. So far, based on the information coming from the NFL, it appears that this is what each side is getting per reports:

  • An extra regular-season game
  • An extra two teams in the playoffs
Players: (according to


— 47% of annual revenue in 2020, plus around $100M in new Player Costs above current CBA for 2020

— Guaranteed 48% share of revenue in 2021, with ability to increase the percentage to 48.5% share through a media kicker which applies in any season the league plays 17 games

— Projected increase of around $5 billion to players during course of a new 10-year deal

Minimum salaries

— $100K increase in 2020 for Rookie Minimums, another $50K increase in 2021 and then $45K increase each year after

— At least $90K increase in 2020 for other minimum salaried players; $80K to $105K increase in 2021 and then $45K increase each year after

— Right to use Rookie Distribution pool to provide additional payments to players at minimum salaries to keep minimum salaries in-line with cap growth

— Increase in minimum salary benefit

— Creation of new four-year player benefit: up to an additional $1.25M in salary excluded from the cap for up to two players

— Bonus payment of 1/17 of his paragraph 5 salary up to $250K to any player whose contract runs through a season when 17 games is played

— Additional cap room per club in 2021 if 17 games is implemented and media kicker does not reach 48.5%

— Performance-based Pay increased to $8.5M in 2020 and $10M in 2021, with annual increases thereafter

— Increase average Minimum Team Cash Spending to 90% over tranches of 3-3-4 year periods

— $100K increase for ROFR Original Round Tender; $250K increase for first- and second-round Tenders for Restricted Free Agents

— Raises for Practice Squad Players to $10.5K per week; total number of 12 players increasing to 14 players, with two unlimited Accrued Seasons players

— Guaranteed Funding Rule increase to $15M per club in 2020 and to $17M in 2029

— Fifth-year Options fully guaranteed for fourth and fifth years at the time option is exercised; Amount of Option dependent on player achievement and no longer based on which slot selected in first round

— Increase in pay for all offseason activities

— Proven Performance Escalators for second-round picks; Super Escalator for rounds 2-7 in fourth year

— Gambling definitions that ensures money is included in players’ definition of All Revenue, including portions of non-football activities

Training Camp Hours

— Introduction of five-day acclimation period

— 2.5-hour limit on padded and full speed practices

— Limit time at facility during a given work day

— Limit of 16 days in pads

- No more than three consecutive days for three out of the five weeks

- No more than two consecutive days for two out of five weeks

— Three-day weekend at end of camp if 17 games is implemented

— Two days off in the first week, one day every seven thereafter

— Limit of four Joint Practices if three preseason games

Improvements to Working Conditions

— Mandated improvements to visiting team locker rooms

— Establish standards for rehabilitation facilities, training rooms and equipment for each club

— Active squad increased by one offensive lineman

— Development of improved safety metrics for fields

Benefit Increases

Active Players:

— Pension increase of 10%

— 401K matching contribution increased to $30K, annual increases thereafter

— Annuity increased to $110K per year; increasing by $15K every other year

— Tuition reimbursement: increases for active and former players

— Life Insurance

— HRA increased to $35K with increases thereafter of to $50K per season, with overall limit increasing from $350K to $450K

— Adding vision coverage to healthcare plan

— Injury Protection of 100% of salary up to $2.0M and Extended Injury Protection of 100% of salary up to $1.0M

— Termination Pay: Increase in mid-season signing benefit to 35% of remaining salary or two weeks salary at the applicable minimum salary amount; right to collect a second time in some instances

— Practice Squad players eligible for $5K of tuition benefits/year and 401K with $1500 match

Former Players:

— Retroactive increase to $550 per month for all pre-2012 vested players

— Expand pension eligibility to all former players with three credited seasons

— Establish a $50,000 HRA for vested veterans with no HRA

— Creation of new network of hospitals in each team city for former players to receive no cost physicals, preventative care, mental health counseling, and out-patient orthopedic services. Coverage of common surgeries to be phased in during course of deal.


— Clear parameters for ownership and usage of player data from sensors

— Overall reduction in on-field fines

— Reduction in club fines

— Implementation of a neutral decision-maker for most Commissioner Discipline cases

Changes to Drug Policy

— Narrows the testing window of THC from four months to two weeks at the start of training camp

— Reduces the penalties to players who test positive for THC, eliminating any game suspensions strictly for positive tests

—Reduces the number of players subjected to testing for THC

— Increases the nanogram limit from 35 to 150

— Right to be paid over a 34-week pay period vs. 17 weeks

— New workers comp process to enable easier filing for players, making injury care more accessible.

It must be noted that this information is coming from the NFL. If they were other problems to this deal which makes it unacceptable for the players, they have yet to reveal where these things come into play. As for the notion of the increase in revenue sharing only being a small amount, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the following about the subject:

If ratified by majority of players, new deal would give them the highest percentage of revenues of any American professional sport, going to 48% and eventually could climb higher than 48.5% depending on media rights. That would mean more than $5 billion in new money to players.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 26, 2020

While I am hesitant to just side with the owners, based on the information given it seems like this deal would be very good for most of the players in the NFL. For those players operating on a rookie contract or a league minimum deal, they get an immediate pay raise. It’s players who have higher contracts who would not see as much benefit when it comes to salary. But there are plenty other concessions in which the league is giving towards the players. Removing the initial cap on salaries for 17th game is another win for the players.

I’m not sure what the players are still hoping to gain out of this deal. The question that I have to ask is if team representatives are representing all of their teams or just the highest profile players? Because most of the guys in NFL locker room have a nice deal presented for them.

I believe this deal is going to be the best the NFL players are going to see either this year or next year. With league business needing to get underway, there will be no more negotiating this off-season so things will pick up for the next league year. The players are getting a pretty good chance to take advantage of the owners wanting to renew their TV rights immediately. Not to go into politics, but it has been reported the owners feel that with a booming economy now is the time to negotiate their TV rights ahead of elections this fall. If both sides have to pick up negotiations next year, I wouldn’t look for even half of the benefits for players to come into play to start.

The owners really want three things from this deal and are willing to give up a lot for it: An extra regular season game for each team , two extra playoff games, and for it to be done now. If they don’t get all three things, they’re not gonna give up nearly as much.

So what are your thoughts on what we know of this deal so far? Do you think that there’s more points were the owners are gaining things that have not been reported? Or do you think the players are so adamant against an extra game all these other things don’t matter? Make sure you vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

If Vance McDonald stays, tight end wouldn’t be as big a need for the Steelers this offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 13 min ago
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Vance McDonald is a talented tight end. Yeah, he had a bad year in 2019, but few skill-position players really lit it up on offense with Ben Roethlisberger out for the majority of the year. If the Steelers decide to keep McDonald around for 2020, the tight end position will be a strength.

Maybe I’m being a little too optimistic, but the sight of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing a football in a gym in California on Saturday has me thinking great things about the future.

Actually, when you’re dealing with a soon-to-be 38-year old quarterback, especially one that’s recovering from major elbow surgery, you can’t think too far into the future. Thankfully, the only future I’m really concerned with is 2020. As a huge fan of the Steelers, why would I think much beyond that, anyway?

Salary caps aren’t my problem. My only concern is seeing Pittsburgh put its best team together next season in order to get maximum value out of one of the last years out of Roethlisberger’s career.

And that’s why I say keep Vance McDonald through at least the 2020 campaign.

I realize McDonald, a 2013 second-round pick Pittsburgh acquired in a trade with the 49ers right before the start of the 2017 season, wasn’t at his best a year ago. No, his statline that included 38 catches for 273 yards and three touchdowns didn’t make one forget about the recently-retired Rob Gronkowski, but other than Diontae Johnson and James Washington, who really impressed for the Steelers on offense in 2019?

I also realize the Steelers, as always, are up against the salary cap, and McDonald, whose cap hit would be just over $7.1 million, would save the team roughly $6 million in space if he were shown the door.

But say they cut McDonald, who do they sign to replace him as the top tight end? A couple of talents on par with Nick Vannett? Do you really think that would make the Steelers offense better? I sure don’t.

This is just a guess, but Roethlisberger probably wouldn’t like that very much, especially considering how fond he is of the big and athletic tight end from Rice University who put himself on the map in 2018 with a stiff-arm of epic proportions in a victory over the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football.

That kind of freakish athleticism from the tight end position was something the Steelers had been missing from their offense for years. But two years ago, they finally seemed to find it with McDonald, who admittedly had an injury-riddled and quiet 2017 season.

Yes, staying healthy has been a concern for McDonald, especially after he missed six games in 2017. But after playing in 29 games over the past two seasons, injuries are a bug that McDonald has apparently been cured of.

I think it’s a little unfair to judge McDonald based on his 2019 performance. You, like me, watched that offense try to function under both Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. So you must assume it was hard for any skill-position player to truly maximize his potential.

But McDonald seemed to be on the verge of doing just that when he caught 50 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns with Big Ben as his quarterback the season before.

My hunch is that McDonald, who will turn 30 in June, can have an even better season in 2020, provided Roethlisberger is close to full strength.

But, again, there are tough decisions for the Steelers to make. What’s more important to them? Creating enough room under the cap to address other areas of the team or keeping a talented, albeit kind of expensive tight end around to enhance their passing game?

For teams that have a lot of room under the cap, a tight end with McDonald’s abilities would be a bargain at $7 million. Unfortunately, the Steelers aren’t one of those teams.

Maybe the Steelers will have to part ways with McDonald, simply for financial reasons if nothing else. If so, that would certainly make the position of tight end one of great need.

But until then, I say Vance McDonald makes it a position of strength.

Steelers meet with Florida State running back at 2020 NFL Scouting Combine

Behind the Steel Curtain - 10 hours 13 min ago
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are doing their diligence at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, and their latest meeting was with a running back from the sunshine state.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking hard at offensive play makers during the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine in hopes of landing some of those players in the upcoming NFL Draft. The team has already met with two offensive players (see the full list of meetings HERE), and you can now add a third to the list.

On Wednesday it was reported by Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the team has met with Florida State running back Cam Akers.

Asked a bunch of the top-rated RBs here at the NFL Combine whether they had meetings with the Steelers, only one that said he had a formal interview set up was Florida STATE's Cam Akers.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) February 26, 2020

For those who don’t know, the Steelers will meet with a lot of players of all different positions and skill sets at the combine, but you can get a glimpse of what positions they are doing their diligence on throughout the process.

Akers is a bigger running back who is known for his power more than his speed and agility. At the same time you have to wonder how the poor offensive line play at Florida State potentially hindered his overall ability to make plays.

For a more in-depth review on Akers, here is part of his bio from the Draft Network:

BEST TRAIT - Size, Power, Athleticism



NFL COMP - Mark Ingram

When it comes to physical ability, Akers has everything an NFL team could want in a running back. Unfortunately, those traits weren’t able to be fully deployed behind an erratic offensive line at Florida State and a poorly designed scheme from Willie Taggart. While Akers has an extremely high ceiling, some patience may be required as he evolves in a better situation to showcase his talent. In addition, Akers has to develop his passing down skill set. Akers has no physical limitations and he profiles as a productive starter in time.

Steelers fans want the team to look into drafting a running back who can play now, it doesn’t seem Akers fits this mold. However, if they are looking to draft a player for the future, and possibly after James Conner’s time in Pittsburgh might have ended, Akers might be a pick for them.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team at the Combine, as well as the entire offseason as the team prepares for the start of NFL Free Agency and the NFL Draft.

Kevin Colbert and the Steelers remain coy when it pertains to the franchise tag and Bud Dupree

Behind the Steel Curtain - 11 hours 52 min ago
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t saying whether or not they plan on using the franchise tag on Bud Dupree.

The decision the Pittsburgh Steelers have to make when it comes to Bud Dupree has been well documented this offseason. They can keep Dupree in a variety of ways, one being with the franchise tag, or let him walk via free agency.

There is no easy way around this decision, and Tuesday, when Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert met with media at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, was the first day teams could place the franchise tag on players.

The Steelers didn’t place the tag on Dupree, and they might not use the tag at all. See Colbert’s response via Jim Wexell of

Colbert on tagging Dupree: no tag today.
In the future? “Time will tell.”

— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) February 25, 2020

Just when you think you have an idea what the organization is thinking, Colbert then speaks out of the other side of his mouth regarding Dupree and his desire to have the former first round draft pick remain in Pittsburgh for the duration of his career.

This from Brooke Pryor of ESPN:

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert didn’t give much away about Bud Dupree’s franchise tag situation, but said “we want Bud to be a Steeler for life”

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) February 25, 2020

The Steelers were faced with a similar situation prior to the 2019 season when they had to choose whether to pick up Dupree’s 5th year option on his rookie contract. Up until that season Dupree had been a huge disappointment. He responded with 11.5 sacks last season, by far the most of his young career.

Many are wondering if Dupree played well just because the money was on the line. The traditional “contract year” performance with a let down bound to happen once he secures a lucrative in some fashion.

The Steelers have time to make a decision on Dupree, but it doesn’t make the decision any easier. Colbert says the team might not use the tag. Does that mean they will try to sign him to a long term contract? Or does that mean they are preparing themselves for life without the former Kentucky pass rusher?

Colbert, and the Steelers, aren’t tipping their hands in hopes of remaining in good standing with Dupree, but the time will come when they won’t have that luxury. When a decision will have to be made. In the meantime, expect more vague answers surrounding Dupree’s future in Pittsburgh.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they scout the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, prepare for NFL Free Agency and dive into 2020 NFL Draft prep.

The NFL/NFLPA CBA has life after some surprising changes

Behind the Steel Curtain - 13 hours 11 min ago
Photo by Jerome Davis/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL/NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement seems to be gaining some momentum after some changes were made.

I have been one of the most boisterous doom and gloomers regarding a new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) being ratified by the owners imposed March 18th deadline. Now I am on the verge of eating a double portion of crow.

The CBA has been in negotiations for the past 10 months, and was finally being voted on by both sides. The NFL ownership required a two-thirds majority to ratify the agreement. No final tally was released, but it was reported that only a few owners voted against it. (I have seen no reports who voted against, or how the Pittsburgh Steelers ownership voted.)

Last Friday, the NFLPA executive committee voted 6-5 against approval of the CBA in its current form. This is the same 11 person committee who has spent all those months negotiating the 10 year extension. My assumption is that the owners played hardball with the committee and said, “Take it or leave it.”.

Tuesday, the owners and players met in a four-hour marathon meeting. Both sides exited the meeting tight lipped. But one aspect which was changed during the meeting and was leaked was the owners gave in to the players demand that the pay for the 17th game would not be capped at $250,000.

After the meeting concluded, the NFLPA team player reps conducted their own meeting and voted on the CBA in its current form. The vote ended with 17 in favor, 14 against, and one abstaining. The vote was thought to have needed a two-thirds majority to pass — turns out this is not the case according to the Washington Post.

It previously had been thought that the deal had to be approved by at least two-thirds of the player reps before being put to a vote of all players. But the NFLPA’s constitution says: “Any Collective Bargaining Agreement tentatively agreed to by the Board of Representatives with the owner representatives shall not be binding on the NFLPA until it has been ratified by a majority of the members of the NFLPA voting for ratification or rejection.”

Now the vote lies in the hands of the full NFLPA membership, which needs a simple majority to accept or decline the agreement that would keep peace between the two parties through the 2030 season. Undoubtedly the owners would like the vote to occur before the March 12 deadline for teams to place the franchise tag on players.

In a previous article, I discussed some aspects that have leaked out of the negotiations, but I ran across a few more and clarifications.

  1. With an additional week of games being added to the schedule, not all would be international games. According to the Washington Post, the teams would alternate between nine home games a year and eight the next. (I really dislike this format and they should play the extra games on neutral sites.)
  2. The suspension for marijuana would drastically change. They would not suspend players unless the sample was fraudulent, tampered with or the player is a habitual offender. How the wording and implementation be? How transparent will the process be?
  3. A neutral party appointed by the NFLPA and the owners would hand player initial discipline while commissioner Roger Goodell would handle the appeals process. Another big win for the players taking Goodell, and his heavy handedness, out of the initial process.

Steeler Nation will have to patiently await the outcome of the vote. If they ratify a new CBA, the Steelers can continue business as usual and restructure contracts to free up cap space. If they defeat the new deal, the 30% rule will remain in place and the Steelers personnel decisions could be more drastic.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the 2020 Scouting Combine, Free Agency and the NFL Draft.

Podcast: Are Steelers fans still excited about the 2020 NFL Draft?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 14 hours 8 min ago

In the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold from the week that was.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is over, and although there are no more games, the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Are Steelers fans still excited about the NFL Draft?
  • Do you watch the Underwear Olympics?
  • Diagnosing the issues with the Steelers using statistics
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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
Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

2020 NFL Scouting Combine: Schedule, how to watch, streaming information and more

Behind the Steel Curtain - 14 hours 33 min ago
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2020 NFL combine is moving to prime time for fans to watch all the testing.

For the first time, the NFL Combine will have their various testing events in prime time for the enjoyment of a larger viewing audience. With the new schedule, some may be tuning in to the Combine for the first time and may not be sure what to expect. If you fall into that category or have not been able to find a schedule for the event, BTSC is here to help!

All participants will perform six on-field drills regardless of position. With the exception of special team players, position groups will also have additional drills specific to their designated position. In all, 337 players were invited to the combine to showcase their talents. Some players may chose to skip some or all the drills either due to injury or their desire to perform them at their individual pro day.

Listed below is the schedule for this year’s NFL combine, which position groups are scheduled for each day, and the specific drills for each position.

2020 NFL Combine Schedule TV: NFL Network
Online: Click HERE to create a Fubo Account and stream the entire combine

Drills for all participants:

40-yard Dash
Bench Press
Vertical Jump
Broad Jump
Three-cone Drill
Shuttle Run

Thursday February 27, 2020

4 PM to 11 PM: On-field workouts for Tight Ends, Quarterbacks, and Wide Receivers

Position specific drills:
— TE: End zone fade route
— QB: Timed smoke/now route, End zone fade route
— WR: End zone fade route

Friday February 28, 2020

4 PM to 11 PM: On-field workouts for Place Kickers, Special Team Players, Offensive Linemen, and Running Backs

Position specific drills:
— OL: New mirror drill, New screen drill
— RB: Duce Staley drill, Inside routes with change of direction

Saturday February 29, 2020

4 PM to 11 PM: On-field workouts for Defensive Linemen and Linebackers

Position specific drills:
— DL: Run and club drill, Run the hoop drill
— LB: Shuffle, sprint, change of direction drill, Short zone breaks drill

Sunday March 1, 2020

2 PM to 7 PM: On-field workouts for Cornerbacks and Safeties

Position specific drills:
— DB: Line drill, Teryl Austin drill, Box drill, Gauntlet drill

Black and Gold Links: Anchoring down the Steelers’ top draft need heading into the offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - 15 hours 2 min ago
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at what might be the biggest team need for the Steelers this offseason.

Let’s get to the news:

  • What would be the Steelers’ biggest team need heading into the offseason? ESPN tries to narrow it down...

2020 NFL combine: Draft needs, prospects to target for all 32 NFL teams

By: NFL Nation, ESPN

What is the Steelers’ biggest draft need? Here is what ESPN suggest:

Tight end. The Steelers’ tight ends were woefully underutilized and ineffective last season. Much of that is injury-related, with Vance McDonald missing two games and the quarterback carousel failing to find a consistent rhythm with either McDonald or Nick Vannett. With McDonald as a potential cap casualty and Vannett as an unrestricted free agent, the Steelers best option to fortify the group is through the draft, and if the team opts to choose one with their first selection in the second round, they should have their pick of the tight ends in the 2020 class. More positions to watch: RB, G, DT, WR — Brooke Pryor

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Tim Benz: NFL is insane for reinstating Vontaze Burfict

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The National Football League is welcoming back longtime Steelers nemesis Vontaze Burfict.

The NFL deserves whatever comes next as a result of this decision.

Unfortunately, whatever player Burfict attacks next does not.

According to, the former Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals linebacker quietly got reinstated by the NFL last month.

This comes after Burfict was suspended the final 12 games of last season for an illegal hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle.

SB Nation researched that Burfict racked up over $4.5 million in career fines and forfeited pay in his seven years with the Bengals, even before that hit and eventual suspension.

Yet, for some reason, the league seems to feel he deserves another chance.

Let’s hope each individual team disagrees and refuses to sign him.

I mean, I’m not in favor of collusion. But in this case… I’m in favor of collusion.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Antonio Brown isn’t coming back, but Kevin Colbert said Brown will always be a part of the organization.

Antonio Brown will ‘always be one of us,’ Steelers GM Kevin Colbert says

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

General manager Kevin Colbert is ready to roll out the welcome mat for former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown — but not necessarily as a player.

Colbert reiterated Tuesday at the NFL Combine what coach Mike Tomlin told ESPN earlier this month: that Brown always will be part of the Steelers family despite the turmoil surrounding his NFL career that is in limbo.

Brown remains unsigned while the NFL investigates sexual assault claims made against him last season.

“We’re always going to be worried about Antonio and where he is and his own well being,” Colbert said. “Not Antonio Brown, AB, No. 84, the player. We’re worried about Antonio Brown, the person. That will never change no matter if he plays for us or he plays for another team or doesn’t play at all. He’ll always be one of us as far as his life is concerned.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

.@missi_matthews caught up with GM Kevin Colbert at the #NFLCombine to discuss the progress of Ben Roethlisberger & Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree's free agency status, pushing the Combine to primetime, and more.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 26, 2020

On Tuesday, @CowherCBS visited the @ProFootballHOF to learn about what he can expect from now until his enshrinement on August 8! #PFHOF20

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 25, 2020

Steelers’ player representative Ramon Foster defends the process in negotiating the proposed CBA

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 4:29pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Not coming out either for or against the proposal, Foster appears to be more concerned about players being properly informed

There have been several NFL players who have spoken up in loud opposition to the current proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement in which the NFLPA is sending to the players for a league-wide vote. While many of these players represent the very top of the league when it comes to salary, the majority of players would greatly benefit from a large pay raise in both rookie and minimum salary payscales. Steelers’ center Maurkice Pouncey posted a profanity-laced video opposing the proposed CBA. While I took offense to his speech, what may have been more offensive was his disregard for his fellow offensive lineman Ramon Foster and his efforts to do what is best for all NFL players.

Luckily, Foster did not stay silent about those critical of the CBA. One of his early signs on Twitter begin with retweeting a statement by Chicago Bears Chase Daniel.

SO MANY rumors on what this deal entails for the @NFLPA...any player w any questions/concerns about this deal please reach out 2 me! Ive been at every meeting the past 3 months. Would love to tell u exactly the economics behind this. Player leadership has worked tirelessly for u!

— Chase Daniel (@ChaseDaniel) February 26, 2020

Before typing his own words, Foster actually liked one of my tweets in which I mentioned him where I was hoping he would speak about the subject and bring clarity to an issue where so many seem to be ill-informed.

I really want to hear from @RamonFoster about the proposed CBA. It looks like they fought for and got an awful lot for players, especially the majority of players who operate on rookie or league minimum salaries. I don’t see what else they could’ve done.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) February 26, 2020

Fosters next move on Twitter was a reply to ESPN’s Dan Graziano who Foster believed an item they had negotiated was not being properly presented.

That 250K was eliminated so that no player making over 4.2Ms would be sacrificed making less than their contract stated. Guys are made whole in their contract. EVERYBODY EATS, no one is cut short. Clear that up please. Everyone gets their chickens. Shout out to @MoneyLynch

— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) February 26, 2020

Foster’s next move was a reply to teammate Vince Williams who stated he was ready to see how other players really felt about voting for the CBA. Appearing to pretty much be asking the question in jest, Foster took the opportunity to state again how players need to be fully informed and not going off of rumors on social media.

Make sure they actually know the details first. I know I gave y’all all the info I had. Some just go off hearsay and twitter CBA experts. But what do I know ‍♂️

— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) February 26, 2020

Foster also replied to former offensive guard Geoff Schwartz and made a statement about how players don’t educate themselves about what’s going on with the NFLPA except when it’s time to vote for a new CBA.

Say this louder for the folks who don’t come to rep meetings. This discussion of the deal has been in place for years. We’ve withheld our royalty checks for years prepping for this. Oh now it’s important. Stay Woke people. Say I’m lying?

— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) February 26, 2020

Foster continued to drive home the point of players being fully informed of the situation. There are so many misrepresentations floating around social media by players and media outlets as to how the negotiating process helped come to this final proposal.

I’m in favor of being fully informed before I say something. Why hate a person when you have never met a person? I’m sure your parents told you that right? Same thing, get educated before you speak.

— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) February 26, 2020

Foster made sure he clarified his passion for representing our players as part of the NFLPA.

Hopefully this opens all of our eyes moving forward. Don’t have the mindset of “someone else will do it”. This is an “OUR” issue. Be informed and active. We All Eat! @NFLPA I’m getting off my soapbox now.

— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) February 26, 2020

As much as I would like to see Ramon Foster come out in an interview to speak about the proposal, I don’t think we’ll be so lucky. But when it comes to all the players in the NFL, and particularly the Pittsburgh Steelers, I’ll take his opinion above anyone else. He has been involved in the situation for quite some time and understands what the union had to fight for in order to get the deal they are currently being presented. The owners want a 17-game schedule and are willing to give a lot of concessions in order to make it happen. It seems like some players are only going to be happy if they still get everything they want and still don’t have to play the extra game.

The vote on the new CBA by all NFL players is expected to take place within the next couple of weeks.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 Pre-Draft visit Tracker

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 2:45pm
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Keep tabs on who the Steelers have met with at each stage of the offseason leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, along with almost every other NFL team, are preparing for the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, and all are doing their diligence interviewing prospects. There are several stages where teams interview prospects, and it can actually start at All-Star games. Teams will take a look at prospects at the Senior Bowl and the Shriner game, but the biggest event is the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.

With All-Star games in the rear view mirro, and the Scouting Combine finally here, reports of teams meeting with prospects are raging. We here at BTSC will keep you updated with the prospects who have met with Pittsburgh at every step along the way. The Combine, Pro Days and of course the ever-important Official Pre-Draft Visits.

Check out the latest list below:

Shrine Bowl

Kevin Davidson - QB Princeton

NFL Scouting Combine

Jalen Reagor - WR - TCU
Albert Okwuegbunam - TE - Missouri

Pro Days

None yet

Official Pre-Draft Visit Rumors

None yet

Official Pre-Draft Visits

None yet

*= Local visit, doesn’t count against team’s overall visit count.

Pre-Draft Visits, By Position

None yet


Steelers 2020 Free Agent Market Watch: The Defensive Tackles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 1:27pm
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

BTSC takes a look at the top free agents at each position whether or not they are in the Steelers price range. Here are the interior defensive linemen.

Disclaimer: The author realizes that the team is burning in Salary Cap Hell and can’t pony up much money for free agents. However, you never know what they have planned and it’s the author’s responsibility to highlight the free agent options. It’s like the lyric in the Aerosmith gem, What It Takes...”Tell me what it takes to let you go. Tell me how the pain’s supposed to go. Tell me how it is that you can sleep the night without thinking you lost ev’rything that was good in your life to the toss of the dice? Tell me what it takes to let you go, yeah.”

The Steelers have both the luxury and and issue of having quite alot of high-priced talent on the defensive line. Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt got paid in recent seasons, now it’s Javon Hargrave’s turn. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of room for the UFA NT. The Steelers would like to sign their Hargrave, but that could be a problem with the market for the talented J-Wobble most certain to be very high. If they sign him, they would be ignoring other pressing priorities. Letting the fifth-year man from South Carolina State go might be easier due to the presence of Tyson Alualu and Isaiah Buggs. If they do add, here is the list of available free agents should a Steel City Money Miracle occur.

Chris Jones - Kansas City Chiefs Age 25, 6’6”/310 lbs.

2019 Stats: 13 games, 36 tackles, 9 sacks, 7 hurries, 11 QB knockdowns

No. 6 PFF Position Ranking

PFF Overall Grade: 84.9 (High Quality), Run Defense 73.6 (Above Average), Pass Rush 89.5 (Elite)

Just shy of Aaron Donald territory, Jones is in the conversation of dominance among Defensive Tackles. The Super Bowl Champ is stout against the run and elite when rushing the passer. Jones is young and could break the bank.

Javon Hargrave – Pittsburgh Steelers Age 27, 6’2”/305 lbs.

2019 Stats: 16 games, 60 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 8 hurries, 2 QB knockdowns

No. 8 PFF Position Ranking

PFF Overall Grade: 83.4 (High Quality), Run Defense 77.2 (Above Average), Pass Rush 76.8 (Above Average)

The Steelers would love to keep Hargrave who has been solid from the get-go for him. But there isn’t enough green to go around and he’s best to go to greener pastures. JWobble is an amazing run stuffer that knows how to get to the passer as well. Plus, his versatility allows him to not be pigeonholed as a NT. The Gravedigger can play anywhere in the trenches. Hopefully, not in the AFC North.

Arik Armstead - San Francisco 49ers Age 26, 6’7”/290 lbs.

2019 Stats: 16 games, 54 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 17 hurries, 6 QB knockdowns

No. 6 PFF Position Ranking

PFF Overall Grade: 89.8 (Elite), Run Defense 87.5 (Elite), Pass Rush 75.6 (High Quality)

Pretty much a disappointment in his first few seasons as a professional, Armstead blossomed and was phenomenal for the NFC Champs in 2020. Was he just playing for a contract or did he finally come into his own? Nevertheless, he grades out at a high level with an all-around game and skill set.

D.J. Reader - Houston Texans Age 27, 6’3”/347 lbs.

2019 Stats: 15 games, 52 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 hurries, 7 QB knockdowns

No. 7 PFF Position Ranking

PFF Overall Grade: 86.7 (Elite), Run Defense 83.3 (High Quality), Pass Rush 75.4 (Above Average)

Not the most recognizable of names in the league, but Reader could be a NFL household name soon. The former fifth-rounder From Clemson is a brick wall against the run and pretty solid getting to the passer. One of the best Nose Tackles in the league, Reader is only 25 and has a solid career and a big payday ahead of him. The Texans’ NT should be valuable to a 3-4 employing team.

Michael Pierce - Baltimore Ravens Age 27, 6’0”/345 lbs.

2019 Stats: 14 games, 35 tackles, .5 sacks, 0 Forced Fumbles, 1 hurry, 1 QB knockdown

No. 45 PFF Position Ranking

PFF Overall Grade: 69.2 (Above Average), Run Defense 70.6 (Above Average), Pass Rush 63.3 (Average)

Pierce is a enormous plug in the front line of the Raven defense and he’s always been a presence against the Steelers. However, the big man doesn’t get to the quarterback very much at all. But teams wanting a stout run stuffer, will get a good one in Pierce. He needs to have a healthier year than he did in 2019 though. He’d make a good replacement for Hargrave, but I doubt the 345-pounder will be affordable.

Other Notable Free Agent Defensive Tackles:

Leonard Williams - New York Giants

Ndamunkong Suh - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A’Shawn Robinson - Detroit Lions

Snacks Williams - Detroit Lions

Timmy Jernigan - Philadelphia Eagles

Quinton Jefferson - Seattle Seahawks

Michael Brockers - Los Angeles Rams

Andrew Billings - Cincinnati Bengals

Christian Covington - Dallas Cowboys

Shelby Harris - Denver Broncos

Mike Daniels - Detroit Lions

Jonathan Hankins - Las Vegas Raiders

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert believes the 2020 draft is deep at edge rusher and offensive tackle

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 11:28am
Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Speaking at the NFL Combine on Tuesday, Colbert gave his thoughts as to where there is extra depth at a couple positions

After fielding multiple questions about Ben Roethlisberger, Bud Dupree, and the Mason Rudolph/Myles Garrett situation, Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert was finally asked about this year‘s NFL draft.

“This class is coming together. What we know right now is it reflects modern football,” Colbert explained about the 2020 NFL draft prospects. “It’s an unusually strong class for outside linebackers, and we’ve gone through it a few times. We still feel that way. And offensive tackle it’s a very strong draft as well. So that’s kind of where the draft heads in modern-day football because of the way they’re playing in high school and college.”

With both positions being possibly ones of need for the 2020 Steelers draft, it’s good to know that the Steelers GM believes they have some depth. It’s unsure exactly which positions are the most important for the Steelers until they make their other decisions in free agency. With one starting edge rusher an unrestricted free agent in Bud Dupree and the Steelers starting right tackle a restricted free agent in Matt Feiler, how the Steelers move forward with both those positions through the free agency period will help determine how much of a need there is come the end of April when the NFL draft is held in Las Vegas.

As for the perceived depth at both of these positions, Colbert’s assessment falls right in line with that of In their player rankings, they have both 13 edge rusher‘s and 13 offensive tackles in their top 100 prospects. The only position which has more than either of these is wide receiver (18) which is to be expected.

Just to settle anyone’s curiosity, CBS’s player rankings have the number 49 prospect (where the Steelers have their first scheduled selection) as the top interior offensive lineman in Wisconsin C/G Tyler Biadasz.

Whether or not the Steelers draft board is anywhere close to that of CBS Sports is anybody’s guess. Most likely it is not. But as the combine takes place over the next several days, things won’t change nearly as drastically as what people think. Although somethings may be tweaked a little, Colbert dismiss the entire notion of players shooting up peoples draft boards.

I like this from Kevin Colbert:
“When they say people are going up draft boards, none of that ever really happens. It’s pretty set right now. It’ll move a little bit, but not drastically.”

— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) February 25, 2020

So are the Steelers in prime position to draft an edge rusher and offensive tackle in this year‘s draft? Or do the Steelers need to decide on their current players first in order to see if it is a position of need? One things for sure is the method in which Steelers do business over the next several weeks will bring much more clarity to the situation.

Steelers meet with two prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 10:37am
Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have reportedly met with two offensive players at the Scouting Combine.

Some names starting to surface from the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine that have been attached to the Pittsburgh Steelers in regards to the combine meetings. The first two names are both on the offensive side of the ball, and are both of the skill position variety.

Jalen Reagor, the Texas Christian Wide receiver, has been mentioned in the Behind The Steel Curtain draft circle as a possible prospect. There has been a talk of needing speed in the offense, and Reagor has plenty to offer. The part of his game I like is his ability to go up and get the ball. His draft stock bounces from late Round 1 to early 3rd, depending on the site you follow.

Here is some more information on Reagor, from the Draft Network:

Best Trait - Vertical Receiving

Worst Trait - Drops

Best Film - WVU (2018)

Worst Film - Oklahoma (2019)

Red Flags - None

Summary - Jalen Reagor is one of the most dynamic receiving prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. Reagor’s skill set fits best when projecting forward into a vertical passing offense as a Z-receiver, where he can defeat press coverage, attack down the field and force defenses to respect his speed or pay the consequences. Reagor brings explosive burst and simultaneous control on his stems to carry himself for separation — he’s got upside to work inside as a slot receiver as well. NFL starter.

The other prospect was Albert Okwuegbunam, who is a big bodied Tight End from Missouri who made his living catching seam routes and crosses in the middle of the field. Has good hands and decent body control. Despite the size, he isn’t the most polished blocker, used primarily as a flex option.

Here is some more information on Okwuegbunam, from the Draft Network:

Pros: He shows good overall athleticism and versatility for the position. In the run game he is good due to his willingness to come off the ball and strike. He demonstrates good technique as an inline blocker and keeps his hands inside. In the passing game he has aligned inline, at “H”, and even flexed out as an “F”. He shows good speed when running seams and other deep routes in the passing game. He demonstrates good toughness to catch the football when contact is imminent. He demonstrates good tracking ability when the ball is in the air. He also displays good, natural hands and rarely allows the ball into his frame.

Cons: He has missed some significant time due to injury. He’s not a great route runner in the short to intermediate area. Lacks suddenness in his release off the line of scrimmage, even for a TE. He could have trouble uncovering underneath in the NFL. Needs to improve dropping his weight and getting out of his breaks. He is often in ill advised positions when he is run blocking due to his footwork and ultimately his body position.

On a side note, the only other interview/meeting reported was at the Shrine Bowl and that was with Princeton quarterback Kevin Davidson.

Stay tuned to BTSC for updates on potential prospect meetings at the NFL Scouting Combine, as well as all other news surrounding the Steelers heading into the 2020 regular season.

Is Bud Dupree the next version of former Steelers ILB Chad Brown?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 8:45am
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Bud Dupree’s big season in a contract year is reminiscent of a season 23 years ago.

Bud Dupree recorded 20 sacks in his first 4 seasons, while starting 39 games. His rookie season he was active for all 16 games, but only started 5 and recorded 4 sacks. in 2016 Dupree recorded 4.5 sacks despite only playing in 7 games and on a limited snap count. In 2017 he became a full time starter, pairing with TJ Watt and recording 6 sacks. 2018 saw Dupree moved to the right side of the defense, and saw a drop to 5.5 sacks. Then in 2019 Dupree put up 11.5 sacks, just in time to negotiate for a big contact.

The Steelers have seen this before. In 1996 Chad Brown recorded 13 sacks in a contract season, departed for Seattle on a big contract but would never record double digit sacks again.

Chad Brown was drafted out of Colorado in 1993, off of a Buffalo’s team that was heavily mined by Bill Cowher. Cowher drafted 5 Colorado Buffaloes in the top 3 rounds in his first 4 drafts; Joel Steed (3rd round, 1992), Deon Figures (1st round, 1993), Chad Brown (2nd round, 1993), Charles Johnson (1st round, 1994) and Kordell Stewart (2nd round, 1995).

Chad Brown was a 4-3 outside LB in college, and he played inside LB for the Steelers next to Levon Kirkland. Brown’s athleticism and pass rushing instinct was a big part of the pass rush though, with Brown recording 17 sacks in 35 starts over his first three seasons. When Greg Lloyd was lost for the season in the first game of the 1996 season, Chad Brown moved outside to fill his position and put up 13 sacks. Brown also recorded 2 interceptions in LeBeau’s zone blitz defense that required OLBs to both rush and play in coverage.

While it is tempting to simply write off the comparison as invalid because of the position change and view Chad Brown as an elite pass rusher who had been playing out of position, there is far more to the comparison than just numbers.

Chad Brown was an incredible athlete for a LB, and he used that athleticism in coverage, tracking down ball carriers for tackles and in his pass rush. One thing Chad Brown wasn’t, was a skilled technical rusher. Chad Brown got a lot of sacks off scheme, speed, strength and hustle.

Bud Dupree is a similar style of player, he’s an elite athlete that lacked great technique in his pass rush, and a bit similar to Chad Brown in the fact that Dupree has frequently been used in coverage. Dupree has credited his production this season to the Steelers letting him play his game, rushing more and dropping into coverage less.

Chad Brown signed a big contract with the Seattle Seahawks, and would play in a 4-3 defense that still rushed him a good bit, but used him more as a versatile LB than a dedicated rusher. Brown would average only 6.6 sacks the next 5 seasons, but would also average 71.2 tackles and 5 passes defended as a really good 4-3 LB. We can wonder if he could have replicated that incredible 1996 season if he stayed in Pittsburgh as an OLB, but we can also look at how the Steelers and Seahawks valued him and what film is available of him and judge that he wasn’t really a long term solution at OLB, because he wasn’t a great pass rusher.

A similar dilemma exists today. Is Bud Dupree an athletically gifted player who benefited from a great scheme and the talent around him, or is he a player that drives the defense with his ability to pressure the QB? Because if he’s just a decent edge defender with terrific athleticism that was in the right situation, then he is replaceable, and not worth what he will likely get paid. If he isn’t a one year anomaly, but has turned a corner and become a legit pass rusher, then the Steelers should pay him and keep him.

There’s been a lot of talk about Dupree’s sacks, and while we’d love to get double digit sacks from both OLBs again, the Steelers certainly don’t want to pay a guy for production that was more a product of the team than his own ability. Just like the Steelers weren’t going to pay Chad Brown top pass rusher money when he was really an ILB that had one crazy year as a pass rushing OLB.

What do you think Steeler nation? Is Bud Dupree now a top pass rusher, or is he just another guy that the Steelers can replace for much less cost? Should they risk him being a Pro Bowl pass rusher with another team or lock him up and hope he can keep producing at this level?

The proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement moves forward to be voted on by all NFLPA members

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 7:29am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In a decision early Wednesday morning, all NFL players cast a vote on accepting the new CBA

In a decision late into the night after Tuesday’s four hour meeting between NFLPA representatives and the owners, the proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement will be presented to the full body of players for approval.

— NFLPA (@NFLPA) February 26, 2020

After a long discussion, the details of which have not been released at this time, the NFLPA met with the representatives and decided to send the vote to the full body of members which consists of more than 2,000 players. If a majority of those who cast a vote is in favor of the proposal, then a new CBA will be in place beginning in the 2020 season and running through 2030. While there is expected to be some who will vote against the proposal, going to a vote of the entire body is projected to be approved barring some unforeseen circumstance. With over half of NFL players receiving the league minimum salary, the increase of these salaries by 20% will be a very attractive offer to many players.

It was reported by ESPN’s Brooke Pryor that the vote of the player representatives were 17-14-1 in favor of the new deal.

The largest sticking point in the current negotiations has been the expansion of the regular-season schedule to 17 games. Ironing out all the details became crux of the process with the players getting a lot in return for playing the extra game which will not be implemented until at least the 2021 season. Items such as the increase in minimum salary, expanding the active roster and practice quads, cutting the number of padded practices at training camp almost in half, changes in drug testing, and discipline issues being decided on by an arbitrator or some of the things which are included in the proposal.

It was reported the $250k cap on the paycheck for the 17th game for players operating on a contract which did not offer provisions on the expanded schedule was eliminated from the new deal after Tuesday’s meeting.

The NFL owners voted to send the proposal to the NFLPA last Thursday although the vote was not unanimous. It is believed some owners felt they were giving up too much in order to secure the deal now instead of in 2021. Hoping to use a new CBA in order to renew television contracts, the owners gave what is believed to be a more generous proposal to the players this year versus waiting until next off-season.

Although the NFLPA has not announced when the vote would take place, is believed it will take several weeks. The period to designate franchise in transition tags begins on Thursday, February 27, and the NFL has not announced which rules they will be operating under for the time being. While there is no guarantee the proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement will be accepted by the players, both sides appear to be optimistic at this point.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

AFC North 2020 NFL Draft News: What does Joe Burrow win? A trip to Cincinnati

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 6:28am
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Trophy winning LSU QB Joe Burrow's dream senior season ended with a national championship, but his unmatched success might just land him in Cincinnati.

What goes up must come down, eventually. The last image I have of LSU QB Joe Burrow he was smoking a celebratory cigar in the locker room after leading the Tigers to victory against Clemson in the 2020 National Championship game. The final performance of Burrow's collegiate career was the culmination of the greatest season by a quarterback in college football history. Everything Joe has touched recently has turned to gold, but he better hold on to that rabbit's foot a little longer. His luck may just be running out.

Joe Burrow is an All American success story. He is a testament to hard work and perseverance. Burrow endured a red-shirt season while at Ohio State, all while patiently waiting for his opportunities to compete for playing time with the other talented QBs on the Buckeyes roster. He performed admirably when called upon, but there always seemed to be a better option standing in his way. After reading the handwriting on the wall, Burrow decided to transfer to LSU in search of greener pastures. Turned out to be a great decision.

After a solid junior season as the Tiger's starting QB, Burrow enjoyed a magical senior season. He was the best player on the most talented team in the country, resulting in a national championship season for the LSU Tigers. Joe's unbelievable production garnered him the Heisman Trophy and all the fanfare that comes with it. Burrow went from a projected third or fourth round draft prospect to begin the season, to the consensus first overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Like most situations in life, this reality comes with it's share of pros and cons.

On the bright side, Joe Burrow is about to get paid. All of the hard work is about to pay off. The self discipline required to spend countless hours honing his craft on his own time has resulted in his rapid ascension as a prospect. His respected reputation has been the well earned result of a lifetime of good decisions and behavior.

Burrow checks most of the boxes for a NFL QB prospect. The requisite height and frame combination preferred in a NFL QB. His arm strength is merely average, but anticipation and accuracy are where Burrow stands head and shoulders above his competition. He is a tactician with his preparation, both pregame and presnap. Burrow also possesses excellent mobility, and uses it intelligently.

Depending on how you look at it, one con on Burrow's resume is the fact he is already 23 years old, slightly older than your typical rookie franchise QB. It would only make sense if his game was more mature and advanced than his younger opponents, and the good news is it was.

Sounds like a near perfect QB prospect. So why should any potential NFL suitor give pause before selecting Joe Burrow? It's possible that Joe Burrow's magical senior season may have been a little too good, the confluence of the perfect storm.

Burrow was surrounded by NFL caliber talent at LSU. Joe was able to utilize a stable of supremely talented skill position players destined to play on Sundays in the near future to decimate opposing SEC defenses, all while enjoying the security of a superior offensive line. How many teams selecting at or near the top of the first round can provide Burrow with a comparable supporting cast? The Cincinnati Bengals, who currently own the first overall selection, definitely can't.

Without the huge talent advantage surrounding him, will he possess the intestinal fortitude necessary to continue developing his game? Many seemingly can't miss QB prospects fail to prosper at the NFL level. They never recover from the beating endured while operating behind a subpar offensive line. Repeatedly trying unsuccessfully to perfectly place the football in impossibly small throwing windows to skill position players not talented enough to gain separation. They lose their internal clock; the innate instinct that tells them when it's time to get rid of the football, and they develop happy feet as a result. Players like Peyton Manning endure and learn from the experience, while players like David Carr never recover.

Unless somebody makes them an offer they can't refuse, the Cincinnati Bengals will be making the first selection of the 2020 NFL Draft. It has been reported that the Bengals are enamoured with Joe Burrow.

How will Burrow handle the overwhelming responsibility of resurrecting a franchise that has not yet tasted the sweetness of a Super Bowl championship? He will have to lead a rebuilding offense into the hostile environments of the rugged AFC North, facing the imposing defenses of the Steelers, Ravens, and improving Browns. Not an easy task for any young QB, especially one accustomed to enjoying a talent advantage basically everytime he stepped on the field.

Only time will tell, but based on the evidence I have witnessed thus far, somehow I have to believe he will be up to the task. He may prove to be a pain in the Steelers side for years.

The next step in Burrow's improbable journey starts this week at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.

Podcast: How do the Steelers plan on replacing Javon Hargrave?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest BTSC podcast, our Steelers ‘Stat Geek’ breaks down the numbers surrounding the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over, and the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Stat Geek. On this show deputy editor Dave Schofield and his brother Rich break down all things Steelers stats, and also answers questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • Close look at the Steelers’ defensive line
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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


Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

The audio of the Stat Geek Q&A will be published at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Here is the audio:

Black and Gold Links: Is Bud Dupree’s successor preparing for the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/26/2020 - 4:32am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether or not a pass rusher might be preparing for the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.

Let’s get to the news:

  • There is a real chance the Steelers don’t keep Bud Dupree in 2020. If they don’t, his successor might be preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine this week.

Could Steelers be scouting Bud Dupree’s successor at NFL Combine?

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Keeping Bud Dupree on the payroll — at least for the 2020 season — is a priority for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That’s what coach Mike Tomlin emphatically said the day after the 2019 season ended. His statement was affirmed by team president Art Rooney II and general manager Kevin Colbert in recent weeks.

The path to keeping Dupree on the roster for his sixth NFL season likely rests in the franchise tag the Steelers can exercise anytime between Tuesday and March 10. If the Steelers use the tag on Dupree, his salary will be locked in at approximately $16.2 million, and the two sides would have until July 15 to sign a long-term contract that could potentially reduce that salary cap figure for 2020.

In the event the Steelers have a change of heart and decide to let Dupree test free agency, they could find his replacement early in the NFL Draft — with the No. 49 overall pick or with their anticipated compensatory pick at the end of the third round. The scouting process continues this week at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • When it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback, not many do it better than the Steelers.

Steelers brought the heat in 2019

By: Mike Prisuta,

The Steelers sacked quarterbacks an NFL-leading 54 times in 2019.

The final defensive series on Dec. 8 at Arizona, which included sacks No. 47 and No. 48 on the season, was as representative as any in illustrating the impact of the pass rush.

The Cardinals got the ball back at their 25-yard line with 1:42 remaining in regulation and the Steelers leading by six.

On first-and-10, defensive tackle Cam Heyward got to quarterback Kyler Murray for a loss of 5.

On second-and-15, Murray fought off contact from defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and outside linebacker Bud Dupree but stumbled and fumbled and eventually fell on the ball for a loss of 6.

On-third-and-22, Murray threw incomplete under intense pressure.

And on fourth-and-22, Murray was flushed backwards by Heyward, rolled left and managed a downfield heave just before being buried by outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Cornerback Joe Haden came up with the interception that put the exclamation point on a 23-17 triumph.

”When we got that four-man rush, we really lit our hair on fire,” Heyward said.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers home field advantage is real.

Home is where the wins are

By: Mike Prisuta,

It wasn’t all Celebrity Terrible Towel Twirls, Super Bowl championship anniversaries and the anticipated response at just the right moment to another rousing rendition of “Renegade.”

The Steelers also endured some painful moments at Heinz Field in 2019.

It’s where they lost a game to the Ravens in overtime following a fumble by wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

It’s where they lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season when he couldn’t answer the bell for the second half of the home opener against the Seahawks.

But they still managed to win more than they lost at home.

It’s what they do.

It’s what they’ve almost always done at Heinz Field since they opened the facility in 2001.

This season’s 5-3 showing at home marked the 19th time in 19 tries the Steelers have avoided a losing record at Heinz.

The closest they came was a 4-4 effort on the way to a 6-10 finish in 2003.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

Naturally, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert’s first questions of the day here at the combine are about Ben Roethlisberger’s health

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) February 25, 2020

Class of 2020 members, @CowherCBS and @IsaacBruce80, visited the Hall of Fame today to learn about what they can expect from now until August. #PFHOF20

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 25, 2020

The only bust @CowherCBS asked to see was Dan Rooney’s bust. ❤️

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) February 25, 2020

Before you saw these tight ends in Black & Gold, you saw them at the #NFLCombine @VMcDonald89 | @N_Vannett81

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 24, 2020


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