You are here

Links

Ben Roethlisberger contract extension not imminent, but no reason for Steelers fans to worry

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 2:36pm

The hope was the Steelers would get a new contract done with their franchise QB sooner than later...turns out it might be later.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were a team with just a small amount of salary cap space available to them when free agency kicked off on March 13th. It didn’t stop the organization from making moves, but fans everywhere knew there were ways to create more cap space.

Trading Marcus Gilbert gave them some room, but the biggest move to be made would be giving Ben Roethlisberger a contract extension which would decrease his $23,300,000 salary cap hit for the 2019 regular season. With Roethlisberger entering the final year of his contract, and him wanting to continue to play for a few more seasons, it just seems right a deal would be imminent.

Last Friday Roethlisberger was due a $5 million dollar roster bonus, which could have served as a deadline to get a deal done, but since that day has come and gone, the two sides have more time to has out the details.

Will Roethlisberger give the team a ‘hometown discount’?

Don’t hold your breath.

This per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler:

The quarterback market has mushroomed in such a way that neither side could have expected. When these sides last negotiated, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the league in average payout per year (APY) at $22 million, followed by Atlanta Falconsquarterback Matt Ryan ($20.75 million), Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco ($20.1 million) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees ($20 million).

Roethlisberger came in right behind Rodgers at $21.9 million.

Since then, seven quarterbacks have signed deals worth $25 million or more per year. The top four are above $27 million, led by Rodgers’ $33.5 million and Ryan’s $30 million. That’s a massive swing reflective of a rising salary cap and a position that continues to grow in importance.

But this is hardly the only factor in the contract negotiations between Roethlisberger and the Steelers.

APY is hardly the only factor in negotiations -- guaranteed money trumps all in most cases -- but asking Roethlisberger to take less than, say, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford ($27 million) is a tough sell, especially when Roethlisberger is on record saying many quarterbacks without Super Bowl-level credentials are getting elite-level contracts.

According to Fowler, this deal could go well into the summer, but a reprieve from Roethlisberger’s huge salary cap hit might not be in the cards. At least not in the near future.

Fans shouldn’t worry about Roethlisberger playing under the final year of his deal though...most believe this will get done.

There’s no palpable tension here. This will get done.

But there also is reason to believe that if Roethlisberger’s side was taking some massive discount, it already would be completed.

Salary cap implications for Steelers from $3.75M deal with WR Eli Rogers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 12:55pm

We take a look at the impact the receiver’s new two-year deal will have on the Steelers’ salary cap.

Of all the moves the Pittsburgh Steelers have made this offseason, their decision to extend the contract of Eli Rogers might have been their most unexpected. And based on the numbers revealed by Steelers salary cap expert Ian Whetstone on Wednesday, it would appear that the Steelers have not only added another year to his deal, but have also effectively opted to more than double his salary this season.

As per Whetstone, the receiver has been signed to a contract that will pay him base salaries of $1.25 million in 2018 and $2 million in 2019, one that also includes a signing bonus worth $500,000 as part of a deal worth a total of $3.75 million.

It looks like the two-year contract signed by Steelers WR Eli Rogers includes a signing bonus of $500,000 and base salaries of $1.25 million in 2019 and $2 million in 2020.

— Ian Whetstone (@IanWhetstone) March 20, 2019

Originally set to cost the Steelers just $720,000 this season after seeing his contract toll from last year, Rogers will instead now earn $1.75 million in cash and account for more than twice the amount of salary cap space at $1.5 million.

2019

  • Base salary - $1.25 million
  • Prorated signing bonus - $250,000
  • Salary cap charge - $1.75 million

2020

  • Base salary - $2 million
  • Prorated signing bonus - $250,000
  • Salary cap hit - $2.25 million

Similar to many of the contracts Pittsburgh have signed players to this offseason, this deal offers Rogers very limited protection from being released, even in year-one. But while it would be surprising to see him released prior to the start of the regular season, there is no guarantee he will see the second year of the contract given the relatively low dead money charge of $250,000 that would be associated with his release.

Best player available vs. position of need: Which takes precedent with the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 11:45am

The Pittsburgh Steelers acknowledge they adhere to the best player available principle trying not to reach for a position of need during the NFL Draft. Lately their draft results beg to differ.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are presently deep in the free agency process, busy signing their own free agents and negotiating with other available talents. Sometimes lost among the free agency frenzy is the daily college pro days happening simultaneously to the initial wave of free agency. The Steelers team officials and coaching staff must be thinking "What offseason?"

These pro days are often attended by the royal hierarchy of Steelers brass. It is not uncommon to see GM Kevin Colbert, HC Mike Tomlin, various position coaches, and a contingent of scouts. Even with free agency ramped up, these pro days often take precedent. There are drills to be witnessed, interviews conducted, and evaluations made.

Honestly, the Steelers still don't appear entirely comfortable with free agency. They are the epitome of an old school franchise. They seemingly resist change and have appeared slow to adjust to certain aspects of free agency protocol, draft day maneuverability, and contract structure. They always make the necessary adjustments, eventually. Thank heaven for the draft process, where the Steelers excel in roster building and have their greatest comfort level.

The Steelers have long strived to adhere to their tried and true draft day strategy. After countless hours spent building their draft board, the Steelers draft room strives to remain true to their board and select the best player available (BPA). This concerted effort in theory should prevent the team from reaching for a player in error at a position of need (PON). This strategy has merit, in theory. But what happens when the position of need is too great to ignore?

Take last year's draft for example. The Steelers biggest areas of need were universally considered to be inside linebacker and the secondary, especially the safety position. The Steelers were faced with a dilemma, as last season's draft was considered light at both positions. The Steelers had the 28th pick of the first round, with multiple teams selecting ahead of them who had similar areas of need.

Another issue facing the Steelers was the fact that only three inside backers and three safeties carried first round grades, with the top prospects at each position expected to be top ten selections. I felt certain that the Steelers considered a replacement for Ryan Shazier at ILB their biggest need, and I assumed they would make every effort to move up in the first round to make that happen. Some reports suggest they did just that, while others question if they tried hard enough. Regardless who you believe, the truth is they were unable to move up, missed the opportunity to select one of the top rated ILB prospects, and ended up reaching at a position of need with the selection of Virginia Tech S Terrell Edmunds.

Let me first say, I feel Terrell had a promising rookie season and he has a bright future ahead with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I feel he was a solid, not spectacular, selection. I expect him to take a huge step forward in his sophomore season when he attacks more and thinks less.

My problem with his selection, whether it was BPA or PON or a little of both, was how it seemingly impacted the rest of the Steelers board. Each round thereafter the Steelers apparently tried to not reach again and stubbornly stayed true to their board. That is the only explanation that makes any sense for a team that believed they were a player or two away from being a Super Bowl contender.

I don't necessarily have a problem with any of their selections last year and I don't doubt they will become contributors moving forward, a few already have honestly. However, they failed to address their biggest need at any point in the draft, after failing to adequately address it during free agency. This was an unacceptable development, especially when they selected a QB in the third round, a player that barring devastating injury shouldn't see the field for quite some time. That is a luxury selection, not a necessity.

So here we are, another draft, same need. Also, a very similar situation with only two ILB prospects getting first round grades and the Steelers sitting with the 20th selection of the first round. Barring an unexpected miracle, the Steelers will probably need to trade up in the first round to select one of their probable targets; Devin White from LSU or Devin Bush from Michigan. Both players would fit a huge area of need and would undoubtedly rank high on their BPA board. The Steelers have managed to shoot par in free agency with the acquisition of ILB Mark Barron coming on the heels of the disappointing departure of LJ Fort to Philadelphia. Barron may be a slight upgrade, but like Fort, it is highly doubtful he is a long term solution. At this point of his career, he has to be considered a placeholder. The Steelers need their next young stud ILB. The question remains whether the Steelers will be aggressive enough to make the trading up possibility a reality.

None of the cornerbacks receiving first round grades can be considered a slam dunk, with each prospect seemingly tagged with a red flag. The Steelers will look to add another explosive wide receiver, but thankfully this draft is chopped full of excellent prospects, so a first round selection probably isn't necessary.

Based on their actions this off season, the Pittsburgh Steelers still consider themselves to be Super Bowl contenders, and why wouldn't they. They still possess a HOF QB, Pro Bowl talents at RB, WR, and along the offensive line. They also have a nice mix of veteran experience and youthful potential throughout the defense.

Again, the Steelers appear to be a player or two away. We have seen this act play out before, with the Steelers coming up on the short end of the stick. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Steelers can't afford to draft a two year project. They need a plug-and-play today ILB. That is the mission, whether they choose to accept it or not.

Antonio Brown seemingly would rather be concussed by Vontaze Burfict than called out by Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 10:20am

In an ironic twist of fate, the recently released Vontaze Burfict signed a one-year contract with the Raiders, Antonio Brown’s new team. Brown, who suffered a severe concussion from a dirty hit by Burfict in a playoff game involving the Bengals and Steelers three years ago, doesn’t seem disrespected at all by what his new team just did.

After going on and on about respect as a motivating factor for wanting to leave the Steelers, Antonio Brown must have felt pretty darn disrespected on Tuesday when his new team, the Raiders, signed the recently released Vontaze Burfict to a one-year deal.

If you’re Brown, aren’t you calling your new bosses at that very moment and screaming “WHAT????????”

After all, this was the guy who took his shoulder and bashed a defenseless Brown in the head in the waning moments of a wildcard playoff game between the Steelers and Bengals in January of 2016. That blow, one that drew a penalty (two, ultimately) and led to an improbable Pittsburgh victory, severely hindered the chances for a win the following week, thanks to Brown missing the divisional round playoff game due to a concussion.

Brown rightfully spent the next few years railing against Burfict and his never-ending string of egregious acts on the football field. He, like a lot of players, knew there was no place in modern pro football for a player like Burfict, someone who seemingly couldn’t help himself when it came to trying to maim opposing football players (even his own teammates in practice).

As someone who is now the cornerstone, the centerpiece, of his new football team, shouldn’t Brown have felt totally put out by the Raiders acting like the Raiders? Shouldn’t the receiver have been wondering about his true value to his new bosses?

Instead, you get welcoming Tweets from Brown such as “Just talked @King55Tez black and silver baby #RaiderNation #BullySeason.”

For his part, Burfict is also really open to the idea of being best buds with his new superstar teammate. But, then again, what does he care? He’s not the one who suffered a concussion at the hands of Vontaze Burfict, it was Antonio Brown.

I ask again, why isn’t Brown outraged by this lack of respect from his new team? Why isn’t he making the interview rounds and talking about a blow that could have ended his career?

It was amazing, the things that seemed to upset Brown during his final days in Pittsburgh—getting called out on Ben Roethlisberger’s weekly radio show for not running a flat enough route; being disciplined by his head coach for not showing up to practice before the final game of the regular season; and what he felt was an unfair contract he just signed two years earlier.

Yet, he readily accepts as a teammate a man who showed him the ultimate disrespect by injuring him with a dirty hit, a hit that could have affected his career and legacy—two things that are clearly very important to him? He now wants to be friends with a player who almost literally cost him millions of dollars in compensation he wouldn’t have earned had he been forced to retire?

In an ironic twist, maybe Brown’s public show of support for Burfict as his newest teammate is the very definition of being a team player. He can’t help who his bosses bring into the locker room, and all he can do is hope that it’s what’s best for winning.

Either that, or Antonio Brown was just full of it regarding the “disrespect” he was subjected to with the Steelers.

Or perhaps he’s taken one too many blows to the head from Vontaze Burfict.

Breaking Down Mark Barron: The most savvy move of a pleasantly surprising Steelers Free Agency period

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 8:45am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been shockingly active in free agency, and Mark Barron might be the most savvy move they made.

Like many of you, I entered the free agency period with modest expectations. I anticipated we’d sign a journeyman receiver to compete for reps following the Antonio Brown trade. And I figured we’d bring in a veteran competitor at corner to push the flailing Artie Burns. But with limited cap dollars to spend and teams like the Jets and Bills making lucrative contracts rain like it was Saturday night at the club, I didn’t expect much of a splash. The Steeler Way and all.

Consider me pleasantly surprised, then, with what we’ve managed to accomplish. Our first signing, Steven Nelson, is an actual #2 corner and represents a serious upgrade from Burns. Our second signing, wide receiver Donte Moncrief, is indeed a bit of a journeyman. But he has legitimate deep-ball ability and fills a serious void in our passing game. Two additions that address immediate needs. Not bad.

It’s our third and most recent signing, however, that really has me excited.

Many of you know the basics on Mark Barron by now. The 6’2-230 pound veteran signed a 2 year, $12 million deal last weekend on the heels of L.J. Fort’s departure. While those are by no means earth-shattering dollars, an average of $6 million per season isn’t chump change, either. The contract likely means the Steelers will give him the chance to earn plenty of playing time, either as a starter or in a variety of situational roles.

Since transitioning to linebacker from strong safety in 2017, Barron has recorded 145 tackles and 3 interceptions in 26 regular season games. He is coming off of a 2018 season in which Pro Football Focus gave him the lowest grade of his career. If you put a lot of stock into the PFF grades this will give you cause for concern. On the other hand, Barron played really well for the Rams in their post-season run, notching 22 tackles in three playoff games, including eight in the Super Bowl against New England.

Here’s a breakdown on Barron with some thoughts on why I’m so excited about adding him to our defense.

LATERAL QUICKNESS AT THE SECOND LEVEL

It’s no secret the Steelers have been lacking an inside linebacker who can run sideline-to-sideline since Ryan Shazier went down. Sean Spence, Jon Bostic and L.J. Fort have all been asked to fill that role to varying degrees. None have been able to do so adequately. Barron, a converted safety, is the most equipped to handle the job.

One of the reasons for Barron’s career-low PFF grade last season was an Achilles injury that forced him to miss four games and hindered his movement upon his return. At 230 pounds, quickness is the key to Barron’s success at inside linebacker. Thus, his play fell off as he worked his way back. Once healthy, however, Barron was one of the Rams’ best defenders in their Super Bowl run. RamsWire writer Cameron DaSilva had this to say about him in a piece that ran just prior to the contest:

“The Patriots’ relentless rushing attack will face its toughest test in Super Bowl LIII with the Rams up next. That would’ve sounded crazy to say three weeks ago, but Los Angeles’ run defense has been phenomenal since the postseason began. A big reason for that is the play of Mark Barron, who is peaking at the perfect time for the Rams. He stepped up in a big way the last two games, especially in the NFC championship against Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. He may be undersized, but his athleticism is a huge asset for the Rams. He has the speed and quickness of a safety, allowing him to change direction easily and get to the sideline faster than most linebackers.”

Barron’s range and ability to elude blocks to get to the football are evident in the following clip from that Championship game (Barron’s stat line: 9 tackles, 7 solo). Watch how quickly Barron (#26, left inside linebacker) recognizes the reach block from the guard and flies over top of it. He gets a great assist from Aaron Donald (#99), whose savvy tug of the guard’s jersey prevents him from getting to Barron. But Barron’s lateral movement is excellent, and he is athletic enough to redirect quickly when he recognizes a clear gap he can fill. With the edge sealed, running back Alvin Kamara has no choice but to cut up into that gap, where Barron meets him and makes a great solo tackle for a two yard gain.

I can’t overstate how difficult a play this is. It is hard enough beating the reach block of an uncovered lineman. Granted, Donald’s hold helps. But most backers would not have the speed to get lateral like Barron does. They would have to lose ground to gain ground, meaning they would have to arc their path to the football in order to get over top of the guard. Getting lateral is the fastest path to the ball. But by getting lateral, Barron has no angle to the ball-carrier, leaving himself vulnerable to a backside cut. Fortunately, Barron stops on a dime, redirects and fills the hole. Most inside backers are simply not athletic enough to make this play.

Here’s another one. The Rams are aligned in a 4-3 look with Barron as the Will backer to the bottom of the screen. LA is ahead 24-6 so the backers are loose and anticipating pass. Cleveland runs a draw play. Watch Barron close to the ball:

Barron is twelve yards from the running back and outside the left hash when the ball is handed off. He sprints across the field, splitting the blocks of the offensive tackle and the center, to make the tackle outside the right hash. This could have been a splash play for the Browns. Instead, it’s a mere seven yard gain. Barron makes the play with all-out effort and athleticism. He brings a gear to the linebacking corps that has been sorely lacking since Shazier’s departure.

TACKLING

One of the most exciting things about Barron is his tackling ability. Our linebackers coach in college used to yell, “Run to the ball and be in a bad mood when you get there!” That’s Mark Barron. Barron is a forceful tackler who brings all of his 230 pounds with him. It’s not just the violence with which he tackles that is exciting, however. It’s the fact that he manages to be violent and disciplined at once. Barron flies to the football but he is athletic enough to get in sound tackling position once he arrives there. He also subscribes to the seemingly antiquated notion of using his arms to wrap up a ball-carrier rather than trying to knock him down by ramming him with his shoulder. These old-school fundamentals are both refreshing and necessary given the fact the Steelers have not been the most sound tackling unit the past few seasons.

Here’s Barron applying the basics of Form Tackling 101 - attack the ball, wrap your arms, run your feet - to bring down Lions tight end Eric Ebron:

Here’s Barron using his quickness to beat a pulling guard and apply a great form tackle to Bucs running back Doug Martin:

And here’s an old one from Barron when he was at Alabama that I threw in just for fun because, well, when you run speed option with your quarterback this is what should happen:

PASS COVERAGE

Having a natural safety at the linebacker level is an obvious plus in passing situations. Barron’s instincts and technique work will be superior to those of any of the recent players to fill the weak side role. This includes Fort, who was an above average pass defender.

Watch Barron in the clip below, aligned on the far hash. It’s a 1st and 10 situation and the Cardinals, with a back in the backfield, can run or pass here. I point this out to highlight how quickly Barron recognizes pass (to be fair, it’s a pure pass read from the OL) and then gets into a DB backpedal. This is not something your typical ILB is capable of doing. Most ILBs will open to the nearest receiver, run to their drop and then attempt to find the football. This will force them to take their eyes off of the quarterback and render them incapable of anticipating a throw. Or, as the backer beside Barron is doing, they will backpedal, awkwardly, and fail to gain adequate depth. Barron’s ability to both gain depth and keep his eyes on the QB allow him to work underneath the throw here and make the interception.

In man coverage, Barron’s athleticism makes him adept at matching backs out of the backfield or carrying tight ends down the seam. I have seen some criticism of him as a man defender but quite frankly I can’t find the tape to validate the concerns. And although most at BTSC will flip a desk over at the mere suggestion of a linebacker matched up in coverage against a wide receiver, the fact that Keith Butler is returning as DC means we are likely to see, in some way, shape or form, this coverage scheme again. Having Barron at ILB is by no means perfect in this regard. But when offenses scheme to get wide receivers inside, likely as the tightest receiver to the ball in a Trips set, and the Steelers are forced by design to cover that player with a backer, having Barron there is a massive upgrade over Jon Bostic. It may not be the ideal situation. But it is clearly better than the previous reality.

CONCERNS

Size, obviously. The Rams were able to mask Barron being undersized because they had one of the best defensive fronts in football. They often kept blockers off of Barron, allowing him to run free to the ball. But when teams run right at him, or if they can get blockers on him while he is moving laterally, he can get washed out of the play. It’s not surprising, then, that offenses often employ heavy personnel groupings when he’s aligned inside to try to out-muscle him.

Here we see the Saints in an unbalanced 8-man line with an extra offensive tackle and two tight ends to the right of the center. The Rams stop the play for a short gain because they align to it soundly and their defensive front does not get moved. But watch Barron at the right inside backer position. The Saints’ inside zone scheme allows tackle Ryan Ramczyk to get his 315 pound body up on Barron. The mismatch is evident. Barron is unable to separate, gets driven back three yards and then tries to spin off of Ramczyk, causing linebacker coaches all over America to cringe.

This is the obvious flaw in having an undersized backer in a 3-4 scheme, especially one like ours that lacks a Casey Hampton-type nose who can consistently demand double teams. There simply aren’t enough defensive linemen to occupy all the opposing blockers, meaning the Mack and the Buck will inevitably have to take on and shed blocks.

The other concern I have with Barron involves his aggressiveness. The first GIF above that shows him flying to the football to stop Alvin Kamara on a wide zone run could also serve as a template for teams who want to use misdirection and play-action to exploit him. Much like Ryan Shazier early in his career, Barron can be easily fooled because he is so aggressive. This isn’t the worst problem in the world to have. It’s better to make teams beat you with their counter moves than by simply running their best plays at you. Still, Barron will have to be disciplined enough to keep himself from being overly aggressive and thus out of position.

HOW DOES THE BARRON SIGNING IMPACT THE DEFENSE?

Last year, in an attempt to add more speed to the second level, the Steelers experimented with a box safety package that utilized either Morgan Burnett or Terrell Edmunds in the weak-side backer role. Barron’s signing alleviates the need to continue this experiment. Rather than use Edmunds here and risk hindering his development as a true safety, or plug in the aging and often injured Burnett, they now have a real box safety with the added benefit of him actually having played inside linebacker.

This doesn’t mean they won’t play Edmunds in the box occasionally, or Burnett if he’s still on the roster come September. Having speed at the second level is in vogue. The Chargers went so far last year as to play with no true backers in the box in their playoff win over Baltimore, using three, four and even five safety packages for most of the game. It served them well as they racked up six sacks and held the Ravens to 11 first downs. That strategy was exploited mercilessly by the Patriots in the Divisional round (shocking!) as the Pats loaded up on heavy personnel sets and rushed for 165 yards en route to 41 points. Still, with the league continuing to trend towards spread sets, speed and tempo, the Steelers may be tempted at times to play with Barron and Edmunds at backer as a counter move. Having Barron, however, means they don’t HAVE to play Edmunds there because they have a better player to fill the role.

This is what excites me. I probably liked what I saw from Edmunds last year more than most. I think he is a play-maker on the back end who hasn’t yet mastered the anticipation and communication aspects of playing cover-2. He is at present more comfortable in the alley as a cover-3 flat/force defender than as a half-field safety.

Butler loves cover-2, however, so it would be nice if Edmunds could master its intricacies. One way to do that is to alleviate the need for him to play in the box so he can get the necessary cover-2 reps and develop a feel for the scheme with teammate Sean Davis. Barron’s presence helps this process. Barron has played linebacker in both a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme. The 4-3 weak side backer plays very much like a box safety does. Even if Barron ends up starting at the Mack, it would be easy to kick him out to play the box safety role while inserting someone like Bostic or Draft Pick X inside with Vince Williams. This would provide the box safety look we desire while keeping Edmunds in a two-high role. Barron’s versatility could help Edmunds’ development, then. This is a win-win for the defense.

Barron’s athleticism will also be valuable as a blitzer. The Steelers have done a pretty good job getting pressure from their inside backers the past couple of seasons. Williams and Bostic combined for seven sacks last season while Williams and Sean Spence produced nine the season before. None of those players have Barron’s explosiveness. Barron was not used much as a blitzer in LA where the Rams relied heavily on their dominant front to create pressure. But here, with our assortment of blitzes, he could be very effective.

In my opinion, Barron is the best of the three free agent signings we’ve made. He is the most versatile; he fills the glaring need of speed at the second level in defending both the run and the pass; he is a sound tackler; he alleviates the need to use Edmunds as a box safety; and he has the potential to be a really good blitzer. Plus, with his toughness and his energy, Barron just feels like a Pittsburgh Steeler football player. A bigger, more athletic Ryan Clark.

That said, he is not the answer to all of our problems on defense. His size can be exploited and he needs to be paired with a stud who can allow Barron to run free to the football. Much like we talk about receivers and corners as #1 and #2 guys, we still need a #1 linebacker. That’s why I am firmly in the camp that says we must make ILB our top priority in the upcoming draft.

With ten draft picks, and the likelihood that several of them will have little to no shot of making the roster, I would absolutely trade up in the first round to grab one of the Devin’s if at all possible. I don’t know how high we will need to go (Cincinnati is likely to take one of them at 1/11) nor what it will cost. But if we can package a fourth round pick to do it, or even our late third if necessary, I would not hesitate to pull the trigger. Barron is a really nice side dish at linebacker. Now let’s go get the main course.

Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster speak out in defense of Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 7:35am

The Steelers star quarterback has been something of a punching bag in the press as of late and two of his veteran teammates are sick of hearing the lies told about him.

Bashing Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has become something of a sport for the national media this offseason, fueled in part by the continual “revelations” of former players like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell and a running back called Joshua Harris who allegedly once spent a whole five weeks on the active roster back in 2014.

With the criticism of the Steelers quarterback ranging from the comical to the absurd, every aspect of Roethlisberger's character has been brought into question as of late. But whether is was Bell’s complaints that Big Ben did not try to become his best friend, Brown’s remarks about his leadership or Harris questioning his integrity, it would appear that both Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster have finally had enough of the negative talk surrounding their quarterback.

Posting a message in support of Roethlisberger via his Instagram account on Wednesday, Pouncey left no doubt how he felt about Big Ben, a sentiment Foster quickly endorsed with a response to the center’s post. The social media posts captured in an image shared by ESPN.

ESPN

For those in the press who have been crowing about the lack of teammates rushing to defend Roethlisberger in the wake of criticism he has received, these words from two of the most established veterans on the team are sure to fall on deaf ears.

Dismissing the accusations of Harris as being simply ridiculous, it has been plain to see for sometime that the motivation behind Bell and Brown’s desire to leave was based around money and nothing more. Any suggestions that issues with Roethlisberger were at the heart of their decisions, merely a smokescreen to save face, especially in the case of AB.

It would be nice to believe that Pouncey and Foster speaking out will have ended this tiring national discussion about Big Ben, but I cannot say I would be prepared to bet on that happening anytime soon.

Mike Hilton to take the Alejandro Villanueva approach to getting a new deal with the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 6:25am

The Pittsburgh Steelers talented slot cornerback wants a new deal, but also knows the way to go about it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been busy so far this offseason making additions to their team via free agency, but they have also been taking care of their own in a multitude of ways. Whether it was Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey getting a new contract, or the team putting tenders on Restricted Free Agents, they are doing their diligence to make their roster the best it can be.

But that doesn’t mean their work is done yet either.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, slot cornerback Mike Hilton, who is an Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFA), is looking for a new contract.

Contract situation to watch in Pittsburgh: After two productive years, slot corner Mike Hilton plans to wait to sign his ERFA tender while exploring a new deal, per source. One of team's best tacklers won't miss offseason work, though. Similar approach to Al Villanueva in '17

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 20, 2019

Steelers placed exclusive rights tenders on two players with starter's experience, CB Mike Hilton and RT Matt Feiler. The $645,000 tender presents challenges for established players. Al Villanueva didn't sign his ERFA in 17 before an extension came on report day of training camp.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 20, 2019

Hilton finds himself in the same position offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva found himself in 2017. As a starting left tackle in the NFL, Villanueva was making chump change compared to his counterparts across the league. It was Villanueva’s approach which got the attention of the Steelers.

Did he sit out workouts? Did he slander the team/coaching staff/ownership on social media?

No, in fact he never missed workout during Organized Team Activities or Minicamp.

Villanueva was rewarded with a brand new contract on the first day of training camp, and Hilton is ready to follow the Villanueva path to getting his own pay day. By all accounts, Hilton is a team-first player who is known for his work ethic and tenacious approach to the game. He realizes his best chance to getting a new deal, and not having to sign his tender to play the 2019 season for less than $1 million dollars, is to do exactly what Villanueva did a few years ago.

Show up and work your butt off, and the team will reciprocate this with a new contract.

Hilton is coming off a season where he set a new career mark with tackles, 57, but his interceptions and sacks, 1 and 1 respectively, came down from his 2017 marks. Hilton is considered to be one of the most talented slot cornerbacks in the NFL, despite is 5’9” frame, and it would be wise for the Steelers to keep Hilton in Pittsburgh to help secure that position on am improving secondary.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold this offseason!

Podcast: Which Steelers newcomer will have the biggest impact in 2019?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 5:35am

The Steelers have made some moves early in free agency, but who will make the biggest impact in 2019?

In a very unorthodox chain of events, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been extremely active throughout the first week of NFL Free Agency. There were glaring needs on the team’s roster, especially after the departure of players like Antonio Brown, and the team didn’t sit on their hands and do nothing.

Instead, they made the following moves:

While these signings were not of the earth-shattering variety, the question on the table is which newcomer will have the biggest impact on the team in 2019? A tough question which each of these players playing a position of extreme need on the Steelers’ roster.

In the latest ‘Steelers Burning Question’ podcast I go into greater detail who will have the biggest impact, and why.

Plenty has to be deciphered here, and I lay it all out there for the listeners in the latest show...

Check out the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section below!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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.

Black and Gold Links: Playing for Mike Tomlin is still appealing for some, including Mark Barron

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 4:31am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the thought of Mike Tomlin’s name being tarnished throughout the league due to the Steelers’ drama is purely false. In fact, newly signed Mark Barron said playing for Mike Tomlin was a plus when choosing where to play in 2019.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Mark Barron likely had plenty of suitors to choose from after the Los Angeles Rams cut him from their roster this offseason. Barron eventually chose the Steelers, and one of the main reasons why? Mike Tomlin.

Chance to play for Tomlin lured Mark Barron to Steelers

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Barron said he signed with the Steelers because of a chance to play for coach Mike Tomlin.

“With the things I heard about him, I thought it might be a good fit,” he said.

Such as?

“The way he goes about things and how straight up and down he is about his work and how he handles and communicates with players,” Barron said. “I feel like I’m a similar type of person. I’m straight up and down. I like things to be on the table clear cut.”

Barron spent the first two and a half years in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted him No. 7 overall in 2012 out of Alabama. He was traded to the Rams during the 2014 season and was toiling in the secondary early in 2015 when Ogletree was injured.

To read the full article, click HERE

Vontaze Burfict brushes aside past with Antonio Brown

By: Kevin Patra, NFL.com

Burfict signed a one-year contract with the Raiders on Tuesday night and was immediately asked about sharing a field with Brown.

”It’s all positive, man,” Burfict said, via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He’s a great player. He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame one day. Honestly, I’m just going to approach him like I do all my other teammates, introduce myself, all that good stuff. There’s nothing negative over here. We’re all on the same team. We’re trying to win a championship over here. ... Honestly, we might be the closest friends on the team, you know what I mean? So, just got to go along with it, and I can’t wait to meet him.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • While fans like to look at the whole sum of a contract, sometimes the details show the true worth of the contract. For all the Steelers’ recent activity? They made some smart moves and signed players to some team-friendly deals.

Steelers’ signings basically one-year deals

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

Realistically, the deals are all for one year, with the Steelers capable of getting out of them after this season at minimal cost to their 2020 cap, showing the team is, indeed, ‘going for it,” in 2019.

For example, Nelson’s three-year contract is worth $25.5 million as a total package. That looks good on paper. But the cornerback counts just $4 million against the cap in 2019. In 2020 and 2021, his cap hit jumps to $10.75 million. That is because his base salary goes from $1.5 million in 2019 to $5.25 million in 2020 and then $8.25 million in 2021. He also has a $3 million roster bonus in 2020.

So if the Steelers decide after the 2019 season Nelson isn’t the long-term answer at cornerback, they can release him with a cap hit of $5 million pre-June 1 and save $5.75 million against their cap. The cap hit would account for the remainder of his $7.5-million signing bonus.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Stuff

Bringing that with him to the Black & Gold. pic.twitter.com/DGjpeagKwS

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 20, 2019

#LIVE: Mark Barron's introductory press conference in Pittsburgh. https://t.co/sxBAXMCkFI

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 19, 2019

Steven Nelson discusses the free agency process that brought him to Black & Gold, looks back on his pre-draft visit in Pittsburgh, talks about what he brings to the team and his first impression of his new home. #FaceTime | @Nelson_Island pic.twitter.com/FnPGxdrESO

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 15, 2019

JUJU MODE #TDTuesday | @TeamJuJu pic.twitter.com/nVM9lawVGb

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 19, 2019

Steelers March Madness: The Best of the Rest featuring No. 3 Seed 2017 vs. No. 14 Seed 2002

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 9:10pm

Bracketing the best teams in the past 50 years of Pittsburgh Steelers history never to win a title. Who do you consider “Best of the Rest”?

BTSC looks back at the teams that Steeler Nation counts as the best and most memorable in franchise lore that failed to hoist the Lombardi. As we enter into March Madness, BTSC presents a “Not Sweet Enough 16” over the next month to crown the “Best of the Rest”. The last time around the No. 2-seeded team from 2001 battled the 2015 Burfict-battered club. Here are the final tallies.

2015 (10-6) Barely Walking Wounded - 39% 2001 (13-3) Inaugural Heinz Field Heroes - 61%

This time around, the third-seeded team from 2017 battles it out with that beloved team from 2002. Be sure to vote for the best or most memorable team (your choice) below in the poll and share your thoughts in the comments section. Check back to BTSC Friday for the results.

No. 3 Seed: 2017 (13-3)

The 2017 version of the Steelers epitomized the nickname of “Team Turmoil”. It started as the first season that the club would have without Dan Rooney after his death in April of that year. The team added talent by selecting TJ Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner and adding Joe Haden and Vance McDonald. The regular season began with Le’Veon Bell showing up at the last minute and taking some time to scrape the rust off. In Week 3, everybody but Alejandro Villanueva stayed in the tunnel during the National Anthem and unrest in Steeler Nation and the NFL (as a whole) ensued. In Week 5, Ben threw five picks and Antonio Brown threw a Gatorade cooler in a 30-9 loss. But the Steelers reeled off eight-straight to extend their record to 11-2. In that stretch...the Steelers stunned unbeaten Kansas City at Arrowhead, Rosie Nix manhandled Cincy’s Vontaze Burfict in a win at home, Martavis Bryant blasted Smith-Schuster and was suspended for failing to show up to the facility after a win, JuJu reeled off a 97-yarder in a win against Detroit the game following that, Joe Haden went out with an injury and Ben feuded with Todd Haley in Indy, the team destroyed the Titans on TNF in their Color Rush jerseys, Ryan Shazier suffered his devestating injury in Cincy, JJSS was suspended for a blindsided hit on Burfict in that same game and the Steelers came back in an emotional 39-38 game against Baltimore. Then came the infamous Jesse James call that helped aid a loss against New England to snap the win streak and lose the top seed. A week later, James Harrison got himself released and fled to the Patriots. In the playoffs, the Steelers were caught looking ahead to a rematch against New England and faltered mightily against Jacksonville 45-42. It was a disappointing and underachieving end to a very promising season. Possibly the worst return from a talented group that included ten Pro Bowlers. It would be Le’Veon Bell’s last season on the field for Pittsburgh.

Pro Bowlers: Le’Veon Bell, Chris Boswell, Antonio Brown, David DeCastro, Cam Heyward, Maurice Pouncey, Roosevelt Nix, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Shazier and Alejandro Villanueva

First-Team All Pros: Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, David DeCastro and Cam Heyward

Team MVP: Antonio Brown

No. 1 Draft Pick: T.J. Watt

Rookie of the Year: JuJu Smith-Schuster

No. 14 Seed: 2002 (10-5-1)

Expectations were very high in 2002, following a season in which Kordell Stewart led the team all the way to the Conference Finals. However, Stewart and the team struggled mightily in an 0-2 start that featured losses in New England and at home against the Raiders. For most of Week 3 vs. Cleveland, the struggle continued untill Tommy Maddox entered the game with 4:14 remaining and down 13-6. Maddox led the Steelers down the field immediately. The drive ended with a TD to Plaxico Burress for the tie. In OT, Todd Petersen had a FG blocked on second down, but banged it through on third down for the win in what would be called “The Do-Over”. The Steelers lost the next week, but went 9-2-1 over the next three quarters of the season, mostly behind the resurgent “Tommy Gun”. Other leaders for “the Black-and-Gold” that season were the RB combo of Amos Zeroue (4 TDs) and Jerome Bettis (9 TDs), who combined for over 1,400 yards rushing. Hines Ward (112 catches/1,329 yards and 13 TDs) and Burress (78 catches/1,325 yards and 7 TDs) were the reception leaders. Rookie Antwaan Randle-El electrified as a receiver and a return man and Joey Porter dominated on defense with nine sacks and four interceptions. The season included many talking-points such as a 34-34 tie with Atlanta featuring 253 yards-receiving by Plaxico Burress and a frantic Hail Mary that saw Plex miss by inches as time expired, a Maddox spinal concussion, Jeff Reed’s six-FG debut (replacing Petersen) in Jacksonville, a loss to expansion Houston in which the Texans scored three TDs on defense, a scuffle with the Ravens in B-more and a late-season win in Tampa on MNF. The biggest moment of 2002 was most definitely the crazy comeback vs Cleveland in the AFC Wild Card as Maddox and Chris Fuamata-Ma’alfala led the way to glory in the snow and mud. The next week, the dream died in Nashville on a questionable roughing the kicker call. But nonetheless, it was one of those seasons that Steeler Nation holds dear.

Pro Bowlers: Alan Faneca, Jason Gidon, Joey Porter and Hines Ward

First-Team All Pros: Alan Faneca and Joey Porter

Second-Team All Pros: Hines Ward

Team MVP: Joey Porter and Hines Ward

No. 1 Draft Pick: Kendall Simmons

Rookie of the Year: Kendall Simmons

Midweek Mock Draft Roundup 9.0: A look at the Steelers latest mock draft projections

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 12:44pm

We take a look at 10 of the latest mock draft offerings from some of the more notable names in the game.

With the initial wave of free agency behind them, the mock draft experts have been forced to re-evaluate their projections in the wake of some notable free agent signings. And for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the additions of cornerback Steven Nelson, wide receiver Donte Moncrief and linebacker Mark Barron are sure to impact the prospects connected to them as we get closer to draft day.

Each and every Wednesday for the next five weeks, we will bring you a selection of the latest mock draft projections from around the NFL draft community in an effort to help identify some of the players Pittsburgh could be interested in come April. So far, we have looked at 80 contrasting offerings from some of the more well-known names in the business, with five different defensive players standing out from the pack as the most popular names to project to the Steelers over the past eight weeks.

This week we have 10 more mock drafts worthy of review:

Bucky Brooks, NFL Network - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

“The Steelers could use a high IQ cover corner with superb instincts and a diverse skill set. Murphy is a perfect candidate to excel as a CB1 in a defense that mixes man and zone concepts.”

(Previous pick - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington)

Charles Davis, NFL Network - WR, Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

“Amidst all the hand wringing after the loss of All-Pro WR Antonio Brown, the man they call “Hollywood” -- who happens to be Antonio’s cousin -- steps into the breach, and provides instant big-play ability. He wasn’t able to work out at the combine or Oklahoma’s pro day due to a Lisfranc (foot) injury, but he’s expected to be ready for training camp.”

(Previous pick - first mock)

Conor Orr, Sports Illustrated - CB, Greedy Williams, LSU

“I’ll go back to Andy Benoit’s stellar offseason needs post, in which he wrote Pittsburgh is in desperate need of a “true perimeter cover artist opposite star Joe Haden,” who would “let them play less pure zone and more of the matchup coverages.” Williams has 35 pass breakups over the last two seasons, and has allowed an average QB rating on balls thrown in his direction of 26.”

(Previous pick - first mock)

Nate Davis, USA Today - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan

“All of their recent drama on the offensive side — yes, Kevin Colbert, drama — has overshadowed the ongoing need for a defensive playmaker in the middle of the field post-Ryan Shazier.”

(Previous pick - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington)

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan

“Bush is a twitchy, super-charged linebacker, exactly the type of player the Steelers need at that position.”

(Previous pick - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan)

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports - WR, Hakeem Butler, Iowa State

“Butler flew under the national radar last season but he had 60 catches for 1,318 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2018. At 6-5, he’s not only a huge target, but his 4.48 40 at the combine confirms that he can run by just about anybody too. And while the Steelers have other needs -- mostly on defense -- Butler would make life easier for Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster in a post-Antonio Brown world.”

(Previous pick - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan)

Brent Sobleski, Bleacher Report - CB, Greedy Williams, LSU

“Cornerback Bradley Roby spurned the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers to sign a one-year deal with the Houston Texans, per 9News’ Mike Klis. However, Pittsburgh did sign Steven Nelson to bolster its porous secondary.”

“But Nelson has been better covering the slot, and the Steelers could use quality depth, especially if they finally decide to move on from Artie Burns. Furthermore, Joe Haden just entered the final year of his contract.”

“A cornerback selection becomes even more interesting if the Steelers have their choice of top prospects.”

“LSU’s Greedy Williams can replace Burns or Haden as a long-term starter at outside corner. The 6’2”, 185-pound defensive back is extremely fluid in his hips and shows strong footwork. His short-area burst and willingness to tackle are suspect, but the Steelers need someone to cover receivers such as A.J. Green and Odell Beckham Jr. in the AFC North.”

(Previous pick - CB, Deandre Baker, Georgia)

Doug Farrar, Touchdown Wire - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan

“Antonio Brown is gone. Le’Veon Bell is gone. And still, the most sobering personnel issue for the Steelers is that they don’t have anyone to replace Ryan Shazier’s speed and flexibility at the linebacker position. It’s easy to do an macro with the 20th overall pick, but replacing Brown isn’t done overnight, and the ways in which Bush could shore up a linebacker corps in desperate need makes him (or someone like him) the more important positional selection.”

(Previous pick - LB, Devin White, LSU)

Benjamin Solak, Draft Network - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan

“The Steelers just added Mark Barron in free agency. Now imagine if they could add Mark Barron, but actually good at football, in the draft. What a win that would be.”

Even with the addition of Barron and my light-hearted take on it, the Steelers need a long-term, three-down answer at linebacker; nobody thinks Barron is that player any longer. Bush tested himself into Round 1 consideration, but the film does illustrate a linebacker with an ideal profile for the modern NFL.”

(Previous pick - LB, Devin White, LSU)

Luke Easterling, DraftWire - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

“It’s no secret corner is the Steelers’ biggest need, so it won’t be a surprise to see them grab the best one available at this pick. They luck out in this scenario, landing my top cover man in this year’s class. Murphy may not have elite physical traits, but his instincts, intelligence and ball skills set him apart.”

(Previous pick - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan)

Michigan linebacker Devin Bush is once again our consensus winner for the third week in a row, projected to the Steelers by four out of our 10 experts. Wide receiver Hakeem Butler from Iowa State is our only new name this time around, but a wide receiver in the first-round seems unlikely in light of the signing of Moncrief.

We will add more mock drafts to our weekly roundup as they appear and we encourage you to let us know which experts you think we should be highlighting over the coming weeks.

Le’Veon Bell highlights his fragile ego in softball interview with SI

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 10:45am

The former Steelers running back aired his grievances with Pittsburgh in s 25 minute interview with Sports Illustrated, complaining that he was not treated like a human in the Steel City

If fans had hoped to get some answers about what had really happened between Le’Veon Bell and Pittsburgh Steelers from his interview with Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated, those who watched the full 25-minute conversation that was released on Wednesday were likely to have been bitterly disappointed.

Much like the much anticipated interview with Antonio Brown with Jeff Darlington of the ESPN a few weeks ago, the piece was simply a chance for the player to make a series of unsubstantiated and frankly ridiculous claims in the face of a reporter with no interest in talking about the truth.

Softball question after softball question encouraged Bell to spin his own tale of sadness, with the running back making the most of the opportunity to let the world know just how mean the Steelers had been to him during his time in Pittsburgh.

Despite repeated suggestions over the years that he would never play for the New York Jets, not even for $100 million, Bell did his best to convince Vrentas that they were actually the team he had wanted to play for all along. Citing the love the fans in New York had shown him ahead of his signing, as well as the level of respect he felt from head coach Adam Gase and GM Mike Maccagan, Bell left no doubt that he believed he had not been held in the same regard in Pittsburgh.

Ignore the tweet below, Bell must have been talking about a different Mike Tomlin.

"juice is in the building" love coach T to death, wouldn't wanna play for no other coach or play in any other city.. pic.twitter.com/VU3eO7qXFY

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) February 17, 2016

Blaming Ben Roethlisberger in part for his desire to leave, as well as the fans, Bell would go on to say - “They don’t treat you like a human” in Pittsburgh.

Initially claiming he had intended to play last season all along, Bell told Vrentas that it was the public comments of his teammates ahead of Week 1 that ultimately caused him to change his mind. Admitting that neither him nor his agent had any understanding of the actual rules that would dictate his status in 2019, Bell would acknowledge that “new information” around the bye week changed his mind about returning at all in 2018.

“That’s when I got to the point, if I don’t got to come back, then I’m not going to come back, unless I was literally feeling welcomed.”

Despite pointing out how much he did not like being in Pittsburgh, Bell would go on to claim that he would have reluctantly signed the Steelers deal last year if the team had guaranteed his salary in year-two. But while an article that accompanies the video written by Vrentas acknowledges that Pittsburgh never cut players in their second season who have signed contracts like the one offered to Bell, she strangely chose not to broach the subject with him during the interview.

Appearing visibly sad for the poor running back as he told his take of woe, Vrentas came across as more of a sympathetic parent listening to a child than a reporter interested in what really happened.

Optimistic that he has now found the right home with the Jets, Bell appears to believe that he will be more involved in game planning than he ever was with the Steelers, something he clearly wished he could have done in Pittsburgh.

For those that can stomach it, the full interview can be seen below. Hopefully, this is the last piece I will ever have to write about him.

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers have absolutely nothing to do with the Josh Harris drama

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 9:50am

Nothing a running back says who played just five games for the Steelers—Josh Harris—and did so in 2014 means anything in 2019.

As someone who has watched him for the past 15 years, I’d be disingenuous if I told you that I didn’t think Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a little, well, disingenuous when it comes to forging relationships with teammates, coaches, fans, etc.

Let’s face it, he’s just not very good at it. He’s never going to be Mr. Steeler. His time in Pittsburgh will always be remembered fondly—much more than that, actually—but can’t you just see him moving away when his career is complete? Can’t you see him kind of distancing himself from all things Steelers? It wouldn’t be unprecedented. It wouldn’t even be an egregious act—lots of ex-Steelers (beloved and not so much) have done the same.

When it comes to Roethlisberger, it’s no secret he’s never exactly been a universally popular teammate. As far as we know, he’s not hosting picnics on a regular basis—and even if he is, he’s certainly not including all 52 teammates on his Facebook invite list.

With that in mind, I can certainly see why Josh Harris, a running back who spent one season in the NFL—2014—and shared the same locker room with Roethlisberger, doesn’t exactly have warm and fuzzy feelings when thinking about the only franchise quarterback he ever played with.

But it’s one thing to spend the very definition of a cup of coffee in the NFL—five games, nine carries and 16 yards—and not have fond memories of the one player on the team that obviously didn’t have much time for you given his importance and status—not to mention your status as someone who was about five degrees below Le’Veon Bell in 2014. It’s quite another to assassinate the man’s character.

But assassinate Roethlisberger’s character, Harris did, last week, by flat out saying in a Tweet that the veteran quarterback intentionally fumbled at the tail-end of a Week 17 game against the Bengals at Heinz Field that season.

“Todd Haley called a run play with very little time left in the game. Ben wanted to kneel. He rolled his eyes in the huddle. He then purposely fumbles the ball. I had to recover it. At that moment I knew what kinda person he was.”

As far as accusations go, it was a very safe one for Harris to make, given that the Bengals were down by two scores with little time remaining, Harris recovered the fumble, and the the Steelers won the game.

It was also a half-decade ago, and Harris is nothing but a distant memory—if even that—who doesn’t have to personally answer to his former teammate about said accusation.

You know what else it was? A very unfair thing to say, given that there is no way anyone can prove the fumble was intentional.

The only thing Harris’s accusation did do was pile on more drama to an organization that’s certainly had its fair share.

But you know what? The Steelers have nothing to do with this latest bit of drama. This was a former player that certainly lacks the credibility to judge the character of anyone he played with, considering the limited amount of time he spent with most of the people on that squad—especially Roethlisberger. Secondly, it’s a baseless accusation that would be irresponsible for some nobody writer like me to make, let alone an athlete who played even a minute of professional sports.

Again, Ben Roethlisberger was probably never Harris’s buddy during his short stay in Pittsburgh. To reiterate, he’s probably never had very many in that locker room over the years—in that regard, he’s like another blond, multi-time Super Bowl winning quarterback with a Double B nickname who used to play for the Steelers. But to assassinate his character by making such an outlandish accusation? That says more about the running back than it does the quarterback.

Josh Harris left a long time ago, and much like his career with the team, his accusation has little relevance and nothing to do with the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Le'Veon Bell's gamble certainly didn’t pay off, but you can’t label him a loser

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 7:58am

Former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell walked away from a lot of guaranteed money just to make guaranteed money he likely would have gotten anyway. Does this make him a loser? Yes, but we should all be such losers.

If you’re anything like me, you jumped for joy last week when it was revealed that Le’Veon Bell, the former Steelers’ all-everything running back, inked a deal with the Jets that wasn’t worth more money than he would have gotten had he just went ahead and signed a multi-year contract with Pittsburgh—in either 2017 or 2018.

Actually, if you’re anything like me, you cursed the gene gods for not blessing you with the ability to do something—anything—valuable enough to convince a corporation to guarantee you $25 million.

That’s what the New York Jets decided to fully guarantee Bell, last week, when they signed him to a four-year contract that could be worth as much as $62 million with incentives.

As for the Steelers deal—at least the one offered last year (2017 was too long ago to worry about)—the guaranteed money wasn’t worth as much, but if you consider the fact that Pittsburgh wasn’t going to just up and cut Bell even after a gruesome injury, he was all-but assured to make more than the Jets are guaranteeing him.

Maybe the deal he just signed with New York—one that could average $15.5 million per year (or $1.5 million more annually than Pittsburgh offered)—will ultimately pay Bell more than he would have earned had he remained with the Steelers.

We will never know for sure. But what we do know is that Bell came out a loser in the end—again, as much as a person who was just guaranteed $25 million could be categorized as a “loser.”

Why do I say this? Because Bell walked away from $14.5 million in 2018 just so he could get the $25 million he was likely going to get anyway. You might say, “Yeah, but what if he got hurt last year?” Yes, what if he got hurt? No doubt, a torn ACL in the fall of 2018 would have severely limited Bell’s earning potential in the spring of 2019. But unless you or he has a crystal ball that can see into the future (and I don’t even think $25 million can buy one of those gadgets just yet), we will never know if he would have gotten hurt in 2018.

All we know is he didn’t get hurt. And even though I don’t have a crystal ball, I can confidently assume that Bell, coming off of a season in-which he didn’t tear a ligament vital to a star running back, would have been able to procure a contract that included at least $25 million in guaranteed money.

Therefore, knowing what we do know—Bell entered the 2019 free agency period sans serious injury—he sacrificed $14.5 million in-order to make $25 million.

In other words, he walked away from at least—at least—$10.5 million.

That’s a lot of money to walk away from.

Does this mean you, the fan, are justified in mocking Bell on social media? If it makes you feel better, I guess.

As for me, I’m going to continue to curse those gene gods for not making me talented enough in something—anything—to give some nobody writer an idea to craft an article about walking away from $14.5 million just to make a point.

Steelers continue to meet draft prospects at pro days, beginning to arrange pre-draft visits

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 6:45am

The college pro day schedule is not even at the halfway point and news of pre-draft meetings the Steelers will hold later in the offseason are already starting to emerge.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are allowed to host as many as 30 out-of-town players for pre-draft visits in 2019, and it appears we may already know the name of at least one of those prospects if a report from Jared Tokarz is to be believed.

Notre Dame WR Miles Boykin destroyed the combine:

6’4 220lbs 4.42 forty 43.5 vert (no typo)

Breaking:
He has a top 30 visit with:#Steelers
And private workouts set with:#Texans#Cardinals pic.twitter.com/RVj3ZtgVxx

— Jared Tokarz (@NFLDraftInsider) March 19, 2019

And with Notre Dame set to hold their pro day on Wednesday, it will be interesting to see which members of the Steelers organization are on hand to watch wide receiver Miles Boykin workout.

Pittsburgh also look set to meet with Kentucky defensive back Mike Edwards for what could be either a private workout or a pre-draft visit, according to a report from Justin Melo os SB Nation.

Kentucky DB Mike Edwards has private visits or workouts set up with the following: #Patriots, #Steelers, #Dolphins, #Titans, #Raiders & #Giants.

— Justin M (@JustinM_NFL) March 19, 2019

Tuesday saw Alabama open their doors to the NFL for their pro day event, with Steelers GM Kevin Colbert among a host of notable names in attendance.

Alabama Pro Day is the place to be today:

Patriots HC Bill Belichick
Bengals HC Zac Taylor
Raiders GM Mike Mayock
49ers GM John Lynch
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert
Lions GM Bob Quinn
Titans GM Jon Robinson
Bills GM Brandon Beane
Saints GM Mickey Loomis
Panthers GM Marty Hurney

— Andrew Groover (@APGroover) March 19, 2019

As was defensive line coach Karl Dunbar.

Former Alabama DL coach and current Pittsburgh Steelers DL coach Karl Dunbar is here. pic.twitter.com/ShVzcuF8Kk

— James Ogletree (@jameslogletree) March 18, 2019

Pittsburgh were one of 28 NFL teams with a representative at Temple’s pro day on Monday.

Temple pro day: 28 NFL teams in attendance: confirmed ARZ; ATL; BAL; BUF; CHI; CIN; CLE; DET; GB; IND; JAX; LAC; MIA; NE; NO; NYG; NYJ; OAK; PHI; PIT; SEA. Make sure you follow our contributor @drewschweitz for updates. #TempeTuff

— NFL Draft Bible (@NFLDraftBible) March 18, 2019

As per Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst, the Steelers wide receiver coach was on hand for the Toledo pro day on Tuesday.

“The Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Bucs, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers were four of the teams who had wide receiver coaches on hand for the workout. The receiver workout was run by Nick Caserio of the New England Patriots.”

And also reported that a Pittsburgh representative met with Louisiana Tech defensive lineman Immanuel Turner on Monday. As reported by Pauline.

“The team’s other defensive lineman, Immanuel Turner, also performed well, timing the 40 between 4.97 to 5.01 after weighing in at 309 pounds. Turner, who has 14 official pre-draft visits, met with the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders today.”

According to veteran beat writer Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider, new defensive coach Teryl Austin workout out defensive backs Justin Layne, Khari Willis and Trayvon Mullen at the Michigan State Pro Day on Monday. Also reporting that Layne had met with Mike Tomlin at the NFL Scouting Combine a few weeks earlier. Willis apparently met Tomlin at the Senior Bowl and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley at the combine as well.

Wednesday should be a busy day for the Steelers with pro days events set to be held at Ohio State, Notre Dame, Georgia, USC and Pittsburgh among others.

Podcast: Ben Roethlisberger isn’t a leader, but he is a winner

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 5:35am

In a brand new show titled ‘Yeah, I said it’, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, as a whole, have been through some of the most turbulent months in recent memory the past few years. Whether it was Le’Veon Bell’s first holdout prior to Week 1 in 2017. Or him sitting out the entire 2018 regular season before hitting free agency. Then came the Antonio Brown saga, I’ll just leave it at that.

Everywhere you turned, negative comments were being made about the black-and-gold, and this trend continues. Who is the target now?

Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger has been called out for being a lousy teammate, someone who fumbles on purpose and a horrible leader.

Multiple times, by multiple people.

Regardless of how you might view Roethlisberger as a leader/teammate, you can’t deny he is a winner. And for some, being a winner trumps being a good leader.

This is where the newest BTSC podcast “Yeah, I Said It” comes in. My co-host on ‘The Standard is the Standard’, Lance Williams, talks about why Ben Roethlisberger being a winner is far more important than him being a good leader.

Lance is the perfect man for the job, and delivers the goods in the latest show.

Check out the audio below:

Feel free to give us your thoughts on the topic in the comment section below, and don’t forget to follow us on all our audio platforms by following the links below:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

Black and Gold Links: Steven Nelson brings a toughness, and tenacity, to the Steelers secondary

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 4:35am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how Steven Nelson brings a toughness, or a tenacity, to the Steelers’ secondary which could really use such characteristics.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary gets bashed repeatedly at every turn. People point to failed draft picks, a lack of depth and an overall inability to piece together a respectable unit. Newly acquired cornerback Steven Nelson might not be the answer to all those questions, but he is certainly as tough as they come, and that could rub off on others.

New Steelers cornerback Steven Nelson brings ‘toughness’ to secondary

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Nelson thinks he has the skill set required to provide more interceptions for the Steelers this season. He also had 15 passes defensed last season.

“My toughness,” Nelson said when asked to describe the skills the Steelers found attractive in him. “I feel like my toughness, my relentlessness, my work ethic.”

Nelson was one of the most targeted cornerbacks last year while playing for a Chiefs pass defense that was among the worst in the NFL.

“Just being on the outside, you’re going to get more targets,” he said. “That ball is going to come your way more. You just have more opportunities. If you’re a playmaker and you have a knack for the ball, you’re just able to make more plays on the ball that way.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • There has been a ton of shake up up in the AFC North division. What will the Steelers, Browns, Bengals and Ravens look like?

Tim Benz: How the new AFC North might look

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

I bet the Brownies are two to three wins better. And two to three wins — especially if a few of them are against AFC North foes — gets them up to nine or 10.

Last year, 10 was good enough to win the division. Which, shockingly, I think the Dawg Pound might do. Force me to make a pick right now in the AFC North? Yes, I’d choose Cleveland.

Again, prisoner-of-the-moment stuff? Maybe. Check back with me in September. But the acquisitions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt (depending on a potential suspension), coupled with a full year of Baker Mayfield as the quarterback lead me to believe the Browns will live up to the frothing expectations in Northeast Ohio.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Who are some players who might still be out there in free agency the Steelers could target?

A look at remaining free-agent field for Steelers

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

As we head into the second week of free agency in the NFL, teams take a step back and reassess things. There’s been a lot of money spent thus far, with contracts handed out in excess of $750 million.

But that hardly means the cupboard is bare of good players. In fact, now is the time teams can add a player at a bargain price -- at least that’s the idea.

There are still some teams that have big money available. The Colts, for example, have been relatively quiet, despite still having $95 million in cap space according to NFLPA.com.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Tweets and stuff

#OTD in 1952, Hall of Fame C Mike Webster was born. pic.twitter.com/3SijL7EwYB

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 19, 2019

Pennsylvania's new tallest roller coaster gets its crowning piece.#SteelCurtain | @Kenny_Kangaroo pic.twitter.com/N7W0Sqgpwm

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 19, 2019

Joe Haden is headed to Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics World Games with his brother, Jacob. pic.twitter.com/8gbIQegpf9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 12, 2019

The Carolina Panthers are on the clock, but who will they take?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 2:26pm

It’s time to make a pick for the Carolina Panthers in our 2019 Community Mock

...the pick is in...

With the 15th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select D.K. Metcalf WR Mississippi

The Carolina Panthers are now on the clock...

Team Needs: OT/ Edge/ Safety/ IOL/ WR/ LB/ IDL

2018 NFL Draft Selections

1 (24) DJ Moore, wr, Maryland

2 (55) Donte Jackson, cb, LSU.

3 (85) Rashaan Gaulden, db, Tennessee.

4 (101) Ian Thomas, te, Indiana.

4 (136) Marquis Haynes, de, Mississippi.

5 (161) Jermaine Carter, lb, Maryland.

7 (234) Andre Smith, lb, North Carolina.

7 (242) Kendrick Norton, dt, Miami.

2019 NFL Draft Selections and Order

Pick 1 - Arizona Cardinal Nick Bosa Edge Ohio State

Pick 2 - San Francisco 49er’s Josh Allen Edge Kentucky

Pick 3 - New York Jets Jonah Williams OT Alabama

Pick 4 - Oakland Raiders Quinnen Williams IDL Alabama

Pick 5 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers Greedy Williams CB LSU

Pick 6 - New York Giants Dwayne Haskins QB Ohio State

Pick 7 - Jacksonville Jaguars Drew Lock QB Missouri

Pick 8 - Detroit Lions Clelin Ferrell Edge Clemson

Pick 9 - Buffalo Bills Ed Oliver IDL Houston

Pick 10 - Denver Broncos Devin White ILB LSU

Pick 11 - Cincinnati Bengals Cody Ford OT Oklahoma

Pick 12 - Green Bay Packers Jachai Polite Edge Florida

Pick 13 - Miami Dolphins Kyler Murray QB Oklahoma

Pick 14 - Atlanta Falcons Montez Sweat Edge Mississippi St.

Pick 15 - Washington Redskins D.K. Metcalf WR Mississippi

Note: For those that may vote “other”, let us know who you would have picked. If its a trade scenario fill us in on what you are thinking.

New contract details for Donte Moncrief show a salary cap charge of $3.25M in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 12:00pm

The contract details for the 2-year deal Donte Moncrief signed last week indicate another backloaded by the Steelers.

The new contract details for one of the Pittsburgh Steelers more notable free agents signing this offseason finally emerged on Tuesday, with the numbers indicating another backloaded deal this is relatively cap friendly in year-one.

As per the figures released by Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle and Steelers salary cap expert Ian Whetstone, the $9 million contract Donte Moncrief has signed with Pittsburgh will only cost $3.25 million against the salary cap space in 2019.

Donte Moncrief (Steelers) $9M, $3.5M signing bonus, $3.5M gtd, salaries $1.5, $3.5M; $500K rosterbonus

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 19, 2019

To flesh this out a little, the contract for new Steelers WR Donte Moncrief consists of a signing bonus of $3.5M, plus base salaries of $1.5M this year and $3.5M next year. There’s also a $500,000 roster bonus next year. It’s a total of $9M over two years. https://t.co/YWMM0UGjcG

— Ian Whetstone (@IanWhetstone) March 19, 2019

After displacement, this deal will only have used up $2.755 million of the cap space currently available, while a signing bonus of just $3.5 million offers Moncrief only limited guarantees he will still be with the team in 2020. The former third-round pick is also due a roster bonus of $500,000 next season.

2019

  • Base salary - $1.5 million
  • Prorated signing bonus - $1.75 million
  • Salary cap charge - $3.25 million

2020

  • Base salary - $3.5 million
  • Roster bonus - $500,000
  • Prorated signing bonus - $1.75 million
  • Salary cap hit - $5.75 million

If the Steelers do not like what they saw in Moncrief after year-one of his contract, the receiver could be released by absorbing a dead money charge of $1.75 million next year, a move that would also create $4 million in salary cap savings. In terms of actual cash flow, Moncrief will earn $5 million in 2019 and $4 million in 2020.

Having played on a one-year deal worth $9.6 million with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, it would be fair to say that Moncrief has accepted considerably less to join Pittsburgh this season. Still, more than enough to feed Moncrief for at least a year ...

Steelers create over $2.8M of salary cap space by restructuring contract of Vince Williams

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 10:55am

The Steelers have made a move to create some additional salary cap space in 2019 by restructuring the contract of linebacker Vince Williams

With less salary cap space than most NFL teams this offseason, it would appear that the Pittsburgh Steelers have opted to restructure the contract of linebacker Vince Williams to give them some extra cap room to work with in 2019.

Once again, Steelers salary cap expert Ian Whetstone was the first to note the change on the NFLPA contract database, revealing a salary cap saving of $2,863,334 this year.

Looks like the Steelers have restructured the contract of LB Vince Williams to clear a bit a salary cap space. Looks like they've turn Williams' $2.9M roster bonus and $1.395M of his $2.2M base salary into signing bonus, freeing $2,863,334 in the process.

— Ian Whetstone (@IanWhetstone) March 19, 2019

Originally set to cost Pittsburgh $6.7 million against the cap in 2019, Williams was due a base salary of $2.2 million and a roster bonus of $2.9 million. The Steelers have effectively turned that roster bonus into a signing bonus, along with $1.395 million of his base salary, and spread that out of the remaining length of his contract as part of his prorated bonus. A move that will have added $1,431,666 to his cap charge in 2020 and $1,431,668 in 2021.

This is how his contract will look going forward

2019

  • Base salary - $805,000
  • Prorated signing bonus - $3,031,666
  • Salary cap charge - $3,836,666

2020

  • Base salary - $4 million
  • Prorated signing bonus - $3,031,666
  • Salary cap hit - $7,031,666

2021

  • Base salary - $4 million
  • Prorated signing bonus - $3,031,668
  • Salary cap hit - $7,031,668

And how it looked before the restructure.

As with any restructure, the move does not pay Williams any more money over, but simply changes the way the contract is accounted for. And as most Pittsburgh fans are more than aware, restructuring is a tool the Steelers have frequently used over the years as a way of creating additional cap space.

While Williams may be the first to have this done to his deal in 2019, he is unlikely to be the last, with the contract of Stephon Tuitt offering the highest potential savings. Due a base salary of $6 million and a roster bonus of $3 million, a restructure of Tuitt’s deal could create around $6 million in cap savings this season and would add $2 million to his cap charge in each of his remaining years under contract.

Pages

Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator