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For Chris Oladokun, patience appears to be his greatest virtue

Behind the Steel Curtain - 3 hours 37 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers final draft pick of 2022 is still waiting for his opportunity during team sessions at training camp

Throughout the 2022 offseason, Steelers fans were informed about the team'sdesire to have four quarterbacks on the roster going into training camp. With the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger there was going to be some change at the position simply from a numbers perspective.

After the tragic death of Dwayne Haskins, the Steelers were left with just Mason Rudolph as the only returning quarterback on the roster. Between free agency and the draft, the Steelers were going to make three additions.

After the Steelers came away with Mitch Trubisky very early in free agency, the question of the other two roster spots came down to the draft, undrafted rookie free agents, or another free agent pickup. It was not surprising the Steelers selected a quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft, and they did so with their first-round pick when Kenny Pickett was available at number 20. There were some in Steelers’ Nation who were surprised when the Steelers double-dipped at the quarterback position and drafted Chris Oladokun with their final selection in the seventh round.

For many Steelers’ fans, using a draft pick on a second quarterback meant a lot more than having a fourth player going into training camp. For others like myself, I view seventh-round draft picks as basically undrafted free agents who the Steelers don’t want to have to fight over once the draft concludes. Some saw Chris Oladokun as a player who is here so the Steelers could shop one of their other quarterbacks, particularly Mason Rudolph. But at this stage of the preseason, Oladokun has not been given an opportunity to show what he brings at the quarterback position in a team setting.

According to the reports from Steelers training camp, Chris Oladokun has not participated in any of the team activities thus far. He has not been given a single play in “7 shots” and he hasn’t been commanding the huddle against a defensive unit at any other time. For this reason, many Steelers’ fans are wondering why the team bothered to draft Oladokun if he isn’t getting an opportunity in training camp.

For me, this goes to show why the Steeler used a draft pick on a quarterback rather than just see who they could get as an undrafted free agent or a cheap signing in free agency. Knowing the team already had three players who were fighting for the position, what incentive would a player have to sign with the Steelers knowing that they would likely be standing on the sidelines more than anything? If Chris Oladokun would not have been drafted and instead was a free agent, would there really be a reason for him to want to sign with the team that drafted the first quarterback this season and also signed a player who many believed was the biggest free agent at the position?

There’s still a lot of time left in training camp, and the Steelers are eventually going to have to give some playing time to Chris Oladokun. It’s not like he’s going to be thrown into a preseason game without even getting any teamwork trails. But at this rate, he isn’t likely to see the field for the Steelers first preseason game this coming Saturday.

With the Steelers wanting to give as many snaps as possible to Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and Kenny Pickett to show what they can bring as the Steelers starting quarterback, there just hasn’t been much left for another player so far Being the first year were Mike Tomlin didn’t have Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback going in the training camp, perhaps the Steelers underestimated how many snaps would need to go to the top three candidates. Additionally, in recent years Ben Roethlisberger practiced infrequently during training camp as he generally took the schedule of a padded practice, an unpadded practice, and a day off. With the Steelers primary quarterback giving up a lot of reps that became available in training camp, there seemed to be a lot more to go around. After a week and a half of practice in 2022, this hasn’t been the case.

While the Steelers are figuring out the best way to get snaps to their quarterbacks in training camp, it’s Chris Oladokun who appears to be the one suffering the most. He’s under contract with the Steelers, but not getting any team activities to show either the Steelers or any other interested NFL teams what he can do. Instead, all he can do is be patient and wait for his opportunity.

According to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers are not asking Oladokun to be patient. When asked about the Steelers fourth quarterback last Wednesday following practice, Tomlin did his best to offer some encouragement.

“When you’re ‘in the fourth quarterback slot,’ you had better be continually working while you wait for your opportunity,” Tomlin stated. “This is not a patient man’s business; we’re not going to ask him to be patient. We will ask him to work while he waits. We’ve had others in the past in that scenario. I talked to [Oladokun] a lot about Joshua Dobbs, who was in a similar scenario years ago, didn’t get many opportunities, stormed on at the finish and made the roster. So, [Oladokun] has that as an example if he needs encouragement.”

Although Coach Tomlin‘s example of Joshua Dobbs is interesting, there’s also a huge difference between a fourth-round draft pick and a seventh-round draft pick. In my eyes, I always looked at players drafted in the first four rounds as being mostly guaranteed to make the roster and it would be a big deal if they did not. Round five is a bit of a gray area where it would be surprising if someone doesn’t make it but it’s more known to happen. As for Rounds 6 or 7, those players get cut without making a 53-man roster all the time. Based on this, seeing how tough it was for Joshua Dobbs to get a chance as a fourth-round draft pick and making the team doesn’t seem encouraging to me.

Hopefully the opportunities for Chris Oladokun come soon, for his sake. Being drafted by team only to not be given a realistic opportunity to make the roster seems like a pretty raw deal. Even the fans who believe the Steelers would trade away one of their other quarterbacks, Oladokun still has to show that he would be a capable player for the Steelers to keep as their third option to make the move. If Oladokun doesn’t have a large body of work, that’s a difficult thing to do. And for those who think the Steelers are merely trying to stash Oladokun the practice squad, the only time the Steelers have carried a fourth quarterback for the season on the practice squad was during the unusual circumstances of 2020.

For now, the lack of playing time for Chris Oladokun is a story. Hopefully it’s one that will go away sooner than later.

Steelers hoping to get some injured players back heading into preseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - 5 hours 7 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hopeful to get some of their walking wounded back on the practice field this week.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering the third week of training camp, and throughout the first two weeks have compiled quite a list of injured players. Some injuries are more severe than others, but the team is hopeful to get some of those walking wounded back on the practice field sooner than later.

It should be noted, although the Steelers host the Seattle Seahawks this Saturday night, even if a player does return this week doesn’t necessarily signify their participation in the Week 1 preseason game. In fact, several of these veterans wouldn’t play in the game even if they were deemed healthy.

Nonetheless, here is a list of the injured players, and what we know now as the team prepares for their third week of workouts at Saint Vincent College.

Chase Claypool (shoulder)

Claypool hurt his shoulder near the end of the first week of camp, and hasn’t practiced since. He has been doing individual work, and Mike Tomlin said he could be returning to practice as early as this week. He is definitely a player to look for as returning in the near future.

Pat Freiermuth (hamstring)

Like Claypool, Freiermuth injured his hamstring in the first week of camp, but it was only days into workouts when he felt the tightness in his leg. Freiermuth has reportedly been running sprints on the sidelines at camp, which is a good sign of a return. This is obviously barring a setback, and anyone who has ever pulled a hamstring before knows how those can happen in a blink of an eye.

Marcus Allen (hamstring)

Allen too injured a hamstring, but his injury didn’t happen as early as the previous two players. It isn’t known how Allen is progressing, but for someone whose roster spot is far from certain, it would benefit Allen to get back on the practice field as soon as physically possible.

Minkah Fitzpatrick (wrist)

Fitzpatrick was taken off the Non-Football Injury (NFI) List last week, but has only participated in individual drills. At this point, why risk your starting free safety’s health during these workouts? Fitzpatrick coming off the NFI List is the news to know, he’ll be back to practicing fully soon.

Larry Ogunjobi (foot)

While Ogunjobi didn’t start on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List, he hasn’t participated in any team drills to date. Tomlin has mentioned his name several times as players who are progressing their way back, so it is unclear when Ogunjobi will be joining his new teammates on the field. At this point, I doubt the Steelers will want to push Ogujobi back, a veteran who doesn’t necessarily need all the physical repetitions as a younger player.

Tyson Alualu (knee)

Alualu remains on the PUP List, but Tomlin has said he, like Ogunjobi, is progressing nicely.

Levi Wallace (illness)

Reports said Wallace didn’t look like himself in the first week of camp, and Tomlin said he missed a couple practices with an illness. As of last week he still hadn’t fully returned to work, but unless there is another injury of note, you’d expect Wallace to be back in the secondary in this third week of practice.

Cam Sutton (knee)

Sutton left Thursday’s camp practice with a knee injury which Tomlin said would need evaluated. That evaluation has happened, and Tomlin said it was not serious. This is great news for the secondary, but, like Claypool’s shoulder injury, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Sutton miss a few days as he eases his way back on the field.

Najee Harris (foot)

Harris had his foot stepped on during the first padded practice, and he hasn’t been back on the practice field since. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been present. Harris has been there in stretching lines, catching passes from quarterbacks and even helping the younger running backs get acclimated to things. Harris’ injury wasn’t deemed serious, so a return this week wouldn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of training camp and the preseason.

Diontae Johnson’s Steelers contract extension is the best of both worlds, for both sides

Behind the Steel Curtain - 6 hours 22 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Diontae Johnson’s contract extension with the Steelers is the best of both worlds for both sides.

Receiver Diontae Johnson agreed to a two-year, $36.71 million contract extension on Thursday that will pay him over $39 million through the 2024 season.

$27 million of Johnson’s new deal is fully guaranteed.

It likely wasn’t the long-term deal Johnson was looking for, same with the average annual salary of just over $18 million starting in 2023.

But it’s not bad for a second-tier number one receiver, which is what Johnson has performed like over the course of his three seasons with the Steelers, catching a combined 254 passes for 2,764 yards and 20 touchdowns since being selected out of Toledo in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

As for the Steelers, they aren’t used to paying second-tier number one receivers anywhere near the money they’ve decided to give Johnson over the next few seasons. Unless your name has been Hines Ward or Antonio Brown—a team and/or all-time great—you haven’t enjoyed a lengthy career in Pittsburgh during the salary cap era.

Times are changing, however.

In fact, the last time the Steelers decided to give a receiver a boat-load of money was just over five years ago—February of 2017—when they signed Brown to a contract extension through the 2021 season. The deal made Brown the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, with an average annual salary of over $17 million. Brown was also the best receiver in football during that period. Heck, he may have been the best player in the entire league.

Again, though, times are changing, and the salaries of receivers have skyrocketed since then. Who is currently the highest-paid receiver in the NFL? Tyreek Hill, who was traded to the Dolphins this past offseason, is set to make $30 million in 2022.

You might say, “Well, Johnson is no Hill.” True, as I said, he’s performed like a second-tier number one receiver so far during his short career. Maybe that’s why it’s fitting that Johnson’s new deal makes him the 17th-highest paid receiver in the NFL as of this writing.

That’s right, Johnson will earn more money than Brown did five years ago when he was at the height of his powers and was in the discussion for NFL MVP.

This is what has happened to the receiver market in the last half-decade, and Johnson was just trying to get paid accordingly.

What will happen to the receiver market in the coming years? Some predict that the bubble will burst thanks to the never-ending influx of new talent coming into the league each and every spring (George Pickens looks like the latest example). Maybe that will happen by the time Johnson’s new deal expires in three seasons. If so, he’ll have at least $27 million in his bank account, an amount that JuJu Smith-Schuster may never see, thanks to a league-wide salary-cap reduction in the 2021 offseason, followed by an injury that cut short his final season in Pittsburgh.

You might say Johnson bet on himself with a short-term deal and by agreeing to an annual salary of less than the $20 million he was reportedly seeking, but, to reiterate, he is hedging his bet with a $27 million guarantee.

Is there another level for Johnson, who just turned 26 on July 5, to achieve as a player? He has developed a reputation for drops over the course of his short career, but he’s also been a consistent performer in a compromised offense. If Johnson takes his game to another level, he could be in line for an even bigger and lengthier contract by the time he becomes a free agent again at the age of 28.

Will he get that kind of contract from the Steelers?

This might be an experiment by the Steelers, a gamble they’re willing to take in order to perhaps show current and future receivers that they’re willing to pay a fair wage for a productive player at that position.

Maybe it works out with Johnson. Maybe it doesn’t. If things do progress with Johnson, maybe he’ll remember the time the Steelers could have just stuck to their guns and allowed him to play out the final year of his rookie contract. Of course, he likely won’t give them a hometown discount, but maybe they could meet in the middle, and, man, what a middle that could be for Johnson if the receiver market continues to go nuts in terms of lucrative deals.

Also, if Pickens does become this huge star, he’ll be in line to earn a massive payday around the time Johnson’s new contract expires. Would the Steelers keep both players? Not bloody likely, but maybe they’d feel more comfortable giving Pickens $30-plus million a year if young receivers continue to come into the league in coming seasons and perform at such a level that it allows a team to get away with only paying one receiver huge money while relying on youngsters on rookie deals to round out the depth chart.

If the influx of receiver talent does continue to flow into the league unabated and the supply far outweighs the demand, well, the Steelers will be out from under Johnson’s contract by 2025 and can decide what to do with him or any other star receiver.

Maybe the Steelers will ultimately decide that they just can’t go there when it comes to paying a wide-receiver—even an all-time great—Tyreek Hill-type money, but the Johnson contract extension does perhaps signal a shift in philosophy when it comes to paying pretty good receivers market value and keeping them around past their rookie contracts.

Again, times are changing, and in more ways than one. Why do I say that? Diontae Johnson is simply a pretty good Steelers receiver who they decided to make a very wealthy man.

That’s really never happened before.

Pat Freiermuth was even better in 2021 than you think he was

Behind the Steel Curtain - 7 hours 37 min ago
Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

Looking at Pat Freiermuth’s growth over the course of his rookie season.

Pat Freiermuth was the Steelers second round pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. A talented receiver joining a team that would experience one of its worst passing offenses of the last 20 years. In spite of the offense Freiermuth was in, he ended up a top 20 tight end in receiving yards and 6th in receiving touchdowns. He earned a spot in the offense from the beginning, playing 50% of offensive snaps to start the season.

Steelers vs. Bills, 3rd quarter, 4:15

Pat Freiermuth is the tight end to the left side of the screen.

Freiermuth bounces off the jam from the defensive end and finds the gap in the zone. This was Freiermuth’s only catch of Week 1, and it was his longest reception of the season. He started drawing the attention of defenses pretty quickly.

Steelers vs. Raiders, 1st quarter, 8:09

Pat Freiermuth (#88) is just behind Zach Gentry to the left side of the screen.

Early in the season Pat Freiermuth established a reputation as a good run blocker, especially for a rookie. This is a great example. Freirmuth navigates a messy backfield and lands the key block to spring Najee Harris for a nice gain.

Steelers vs. Raiders, 3rd quarter, 11:30

Pat Freiermuth is the tight end to the right side of the screen.

Freiermuth could do more than block and catch passes when wide open. He showed right off the bat that he was a hard target for a linebacker to cover. He has the athleticism to win routes with speed and change of direction while being able to handle the physicality that linebackers bring to coverage.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 2nd quarter, 1:09

Pat Freiermuth is the tight end to the right side of the screen.

Pat Freiermuth’s first touchdown was also his only touchdown scored before the bye week. This play was much more about the design of the play that drew defenders toward Najee Harris (far left on screen) and Freiermuth’s big contribution in powering through the linebacker Dan Moore Jr. failed to block.

Like most Steelers rookies, Freiermuth had a more limited role before the bye week, and stepped up his involvement in the offense after the week off. With Freiermuth this showed up with him lining up in different alignments more and being more of a focus in the red zone.

Freiermuth showed up and made plenty of plays early in the season, but the Steelers increased role for Freiermuth paid off immediately after the bye, as the Steelers faced the Cleveland Browns.

Steelers at Browns, 4th quarter 11:09

Pat Freiermuth (#88) is lined up in the slot 2nd from the bottom of the screen.

Pat Freiermuth started lining up in the slot more after the bye and became an early and even primary read for Ben Roethlisberger. It pays off here as Freiermuth beats the man coverage of safety Ronnie Harrison to give the Steelers the lead with what ended up being the game-winning score. The best part of this play is the catch, check it out from the end zone camera.

That’s a great catch.

Steelers vs. Bears, 3rd quarter 2:14

Pat Freiermuth (#88) is the receiver farthest to the top of the screen.

This is one of my favorite plays of 2021, and it shows such potential for the Steelers offense heading into 2022. Freiermuth is lined up outside with a cornerback. He wins the route with his strength and size. It’s a simple throw and a nice catch, but his ability to dominate a cornerback one-on-one creates so many problems for defenses, and lets the Steelers force nasty mismatches like Chase Claypool (third from bottom) going against a linebacker while still threatening the defense with Freiermuth.

Check out the all-22 film, and you can see how Freiermuth ran this route bullying the corner for position.

As soon as they make contact Freiermuth drives the route vertically, and does so again as they approach the end zone and that gives him plenty of room for Ben Roethlisberger to place the ball in.

These two plays show Freiermuth physically dominating defensive backs, but Freiermuth wasn’t limited to winning with physicality and size.

Steelers vs. Vikings, 4th quarter 4:14

Pat Freiermuth is again lined up on the outside and is facing Vikings starter Bashaud Breeland. Freiermuth runs right at Breeland’s inside shoulder and Breeland anticipates a vertical stem. Freiermuth doesn’t even touch Breeland. Freiermuth’s change of direction is fantastic for a player of his size and physicality, and it makes him a genuine threat against starting cornerbacks.

One of the best ways to judge a tight end is to look at what players they can block, and what players can cover them. The baseline for a tight end is they need to be able to block players that can cover them, because if they can’t block someone, and they can’t beat them on a route, then that defender has removed the tight end from relevance. For Pat Freiermuth, he can block linebackers and even defensive ends, and at the same time very few players can cover Freiermuth and shut him down.

The kind of threat Freiermuth brings to the field makes it very hard for a defense to match up personnel with the Steelers offense. In Matt Canada’s offense which thrives by creating mismatches, a natural mismatch like Freiermuth isn’t just a weapon, he can be a centerpiece of the scheme because as he lines up or moves in motion the defense has to account for his threat as both a blocker and receiver.

He was that player in 2021, and he was more important to the offense than most people realize. In 2022? expect even more from Freiermuth, not just in the stats he collects, but the value he brings to the offense no matter what he’s doing.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 7 min ago

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and written, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

We Run the North: A Hall of Fame look at the division

Join Kevin Tate and his AFC North crew Brandon, Pay and Mike as they talk about the latest AFC North news, camp battles and injuries, HOF Game and the 2022 inductees, first preseason game outlooks and much more.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Camp happenings
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
The BTSC Steelers Sunday Night Q&A: A Steeler game is on the horizon

The Steelers first preseason affair is six days away and BTSC is continuing a question-and-answer free-for-all from you the loyal fans. This time, join BTSC’s Big Bro Scho and Bryan Anthony Davis as they team up to take questions from the live chat for some good Steelers discussion.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
Let’s Ride: Steelers RB situation headed for a repeat of 2021

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a tremendous starter in Najee Harris, but No. 22 was pretty much alone on an island in 2021. Is a repeat in store? Jeff Hartman examines this and more on the latest edition of Let’s Ride. Join BTSC’s senior editor the morning flagship show in the Behind the Steel Curtain family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers Running Back Stable
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Have a BAD Week: A look back at the Steelers week from a black-and-gold mind

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/07/2022 - 2:15pm
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

BTSC’s random-thought renegade is back with his bizarre look at the Steelers week that was.

The Steelers’ season ended over seven months ago and a new one is about to begin with the Steelers at training camp. Of course, there’s plenty of news coming out of Latrobe. BTSC continues their recap of the past week’s events for our readers. So, let’s all take a look at the week in the ‘burgh together.

Sunday 7/31

49ers are giving Deebo Samuel a three-year,$71.55 million extension, including $58.1 million guaranteed, per sources.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 31, 2022

Do you think Diontae Johnson is sporting “The People’s Eyebrow” right about now? I’m sure his agent’s ears are burning.

Monday 8/1

Former federal judge Sue L. Robinson has found that Deshaun Watson violated the personal conduct policy and has suspended him six games, per source.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 1, 2022

The NFL is expected to appeal. I don’t want to get too editorial here, so I’m just going to let Eddie from Stranger Things do it for me...

As quick as the first Steelers “skirmish” started today, it was over. Mason Cole v. the defense started after an INT by the defense and was over almost as fast as it started. Mason got up and walked away to the huddle for the next play. Situation over. @PghSteelersNow #NFL pic.twitter.com/wkY2IeR4fG

— Ed Thompson (@ThompsonFoto12) July 29, 2022

Mason Cole is scrappy and a fighter. Isn’t that a perfect characteristic of what teams should want in a starting center?

Steelers signed WR Javon McKinley and released undrafted rookie OLB Tyree Johnson.
To me, it’s another sign Chase Claypool is more week-to-week than day-to-day w his right shoulder.

— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) August 1, 2022

That’s not a good sign about needing a wide receiver if Claypool is hurt. Plus not a good look for me, I picked Tyree Johnson as my Isaac Redmen Award winner.

Najee Harris came off the field hopping with trainer John Norwig. He has his left shoe off and is checking something out. Hard to tell if it’s an equipment issue or something else.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 1, 2022

Calgon, Take Me Away!!!! Najee is the key to this whole thing working this season. Well, at least the Steelers signed Jeremy McNichols.

Steelers are giving kicker Chris Boswell a new four-year, $20 million extension that includes $12.5 million guaranteed, his agent Jeff Nalley confirmed Monday. The four-year extension ties Boswell with Justin Tucker as the highest-paid kickers in NFL history.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 1, 2022

Boz deserves it. He’s money from 50+ and he belongs up there with Tucker. Throw in McPherson and the AFC North probably has the best collection of kickers in the league.

Tuesday 8/2

The NFL is docking the #Dolphins two draft picks and suspending owner Stephen Ross as a result of the league’s tampering allegation. pic.twitter.com/A9gaz9pzAf

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 2, 2022

Stephen Ross got off scot-free on the Brian Flores accusations, which should have been damning, but he gets nailed for courting Tom Brady? At least they got this wang for something.

Steelers have started discussions w WR Diontae Johnson, but that doesn’t mean they will sign him before season, per team source.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) August 2, 2022

Really? I think they should. I just don’t think they are going to get close. Gotta try though.

Wednesday 8/3

We have hired David Morehouse as Senior Advisor to the President.https://t.co/wffoSIPQt9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 3, 2022

I need to research more about Morehouse. I trust the Rooneys, thus I will blindly believe this is good. Now, if his surname was Tollhouse, I’d be crazy with delight. Now, where can I find cookies at this hour?

Appears Jeremy McNichols shoulder injury was pretty significant. Steelers place him on IR and sign rookie UDFA RB Master Teague.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 3, 2022

Well, there goes my McNichols Mania. I’ve heard of Master Teague, plus Andrew Wilbar believes in him despite being from Ohio State. Here’s my new Redmen winner.

Thursday 8/4

The #Steelers and WR Diontae Johnson have agreed on a two-year, $36.71 million extension, source says. The sides worked last night and this morning to end his hold-in with a shorter deal than we’ve seen from others that allows him to be a free agent again after the 2024 season.

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 4, 2022

Diontae Johnson surprised a lot of people on this day and made tons of new fans. So did Omar Khan. Despite what anybody thinks, this is HUGE! I just never thought it was going to shake out this way.

In things you cant make up...

Cleveland is hosting the National Massage Therapists Convention this month... https://t.co/AuqUXKxSsE

— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) August 5, 2022

Featuring Keynote Speaker: Shaun DeWatson.

Friday 8/6

Our initial 2022 depth chart has been released.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2022

Interesting, but kind of anti-climactic. I’m more surprised when I examine what I just flossed out of my teeth.

Some notable Friday workouts include:
49ers: WR Dede Westbrook, WR Willie Snead
Steelers: RB Jalen Richard, RB Wayne Gallman
Saints: DB T.J. Carrie

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 5, 2022

I’d take a flyer on any of these running backs. It’s never too late. I just hope this is more preventative than reactionary.

Tonight’s Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium has been cancelled due to inclement weather.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2022

That sucks. Such a bummer for the fans not to be able to get up close and personal. This is why I want the Steelers to be on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Not just once, but always.

Saturday 8/7

Because of the weather, the Steelers will practice today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. It will not be open to the public.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 6, 2022

Damn you Mother Nature!!!!! At least they are practicing.

This was the significant week that was for the Steelers, mixed-in with my black-and-gold loving life. I’m sure next week will be full of Steelers happenings as well, so we’ll have to do this again. Have a great week, but better yet have a BAD one.

The More You Know: Random facts about your Steelers, International edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/07/2022 - 12:00pm
Photo by Simon Cooper/PA Images via Getty Images

Time to learn more about your favorite NFL team, and some trivia as well!

It’s the offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers and there are so many topics to talk and write about. Free agents, the coordinator conundrum, the next quarterback, the NFL Draft, signings, retirements and breaking news will all be covered here at BTSC. But who’s going to give you little-known-facts out of the 500 Level?

Luckily, your one-stop, and non-stop, shop for everything Steelers employs a Steelers fan that was allegedly dropped on his head as a one-year-old during the Immaculate Reception. Useless and somewhat fascinating facts are his forte. So, here we are with off-the-wall thoughts from the dark side of a black-and-gold brain that nobody asked for. But the joke’s on you as you’ll be telling your peeps something you read here later.

412 Forever

Hank Williams Jr. has been a die hard fan of the Steelers for eons. The country legend reps the black and gold everywhere. Hank explained his Steelers fandom to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com going back to the hospital that he was born in. “I became a fan a long, long time ago. I go way back. Terry Bradshaw and I were born in the same hospital in Louisiana, just a little over a year apart. He was an underdog and so was I. The Rooney’s are great,” said Williams. “They have done so many special things for me. They know that my love for the team comes from inside my heart. I’ve worn so many Steelers things in so many auditoriums in my life. It doesn’t matter what city I am in.”

BTSC Steelers Jeopardy

(Answer at bottom of article)

Steel Stats and Facts

The Pittsburgh Steelers have played numerous games outside of the United States in their history. The line regular season game was in London in ‘13. However, the Steelers have a losing record of 4-5 on foreign soil. Let’s take a look…

August 3, 1960: Pittsburgh Steelers 43, Toronto Argonauts 10 - Toronto, Canada

September 11, 1969: Pittsburgh Steelers 17, New York Giants 13 - Montreal, Canada

August 9, 1990: Pittsburgh Steelers 30, New England Patriots 14 - Montreal, Canada

August 1, 1993: San Francisco 49ers 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 14 - Barcelona, Spain

July 28, 1996: San Diego Chargers 20, Pittsburgh Steelers 10 - Tokyo, Japan

July 27, 1997: Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Chicago Bears 17 - Dublin Ireland

August 19, 2000: Indianapolis Colts 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 23 - Mexico City, Mexico

August 14, 2008: Buffalo Bills 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 21 - Toronto, Canada

September 29, 2013: Minnesota Vikings 34, Pittsburgh Steelers 27 - London, United Kingdom

Middle Name Madness

We love citing the second name of members of the Men of Steel here at Behind the Steel Curtain. We always cite Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger, Christopher Lynn Boswell and Trent Jordan Watt, but who else? Hence, the “More You Know Middle Name of the Week”. This week we honor the Steelers first pick in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports Mark Isaiah Robinson This Week’s Birthdays of Steel

8/7 Marcus Allen (1996), Keith Cash (1969), Alex Highsmith (1997)

8/8 Chukwuma Okorafor (1997), Jim Sweeney (1962)

8/9 Dri Archer (1991), Antwon Blake (1990), Deon Cain (1996), Ulysses Gilbert III (1997), Louis Lipps (1962), Tyler Palko (1983)

8/10 Anthony Corley (1960), George Demko (1935), Ed George (1946), Doug Worthington (1987)

8/11 Tom Beasley (1954), Jonathan Hayes (1962), Chuck Hinton (1939), Daniel McCullers (1992)

8/12 Plaxico Burress (1977), Derek Moye (1988), Jack Scarbath (1930)

8/13 Billy Locklin (1937)

Disturbing Sights

Not every NFL player retires with their original team, having played with no other franchise. We may try to forget the image of our Steel Heroes wearing another uniform, but it’s a part of fandom and legends sometimes change team colors. Mike Merriweather was one of the greatest Steelers defenders of the 1980s. But the sack master held out all of 1988 and the Steelers were forced to deal the linebacker on Draft Day for a No. 1 pick that landed Tom Ricketts. Merriweather’s play outside of the Steel City was never the same. However, the sight of No. 57 wearing the purple & gold as a Viking was disconcerting.

Varsity Blues Black & Golds

Chuks Okorafor didn’t play football as early as most, but he excelled enough to become a Day 2 pick of the Steelers out of Western Michigan in 2018.

Hypocycloids Gone Madison Avenue

Way before Madden or Tecmo Bowl, football fans version of video football was a red blip on a screen and a wild imagination with Mattel’s electronic handheld game. The sound would drive my parents bonkers, but back then.... it was the greatest thing ever. Throw in a Steeler endorsement, the game is even more legendary.

Cliff Clavin Corner

It’s a little known fact that from 1958 to 1963, the Steelers split home games between Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium.

Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images Steelers Jeopardy Answer in the Form of a Question: Who is Norm Johnson? Photo by Craig Hacker/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

So, there you have it. Anybody can spout out stat after stat, but not everybody can embrace the colorful and personal side of the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, the more you know, the more you can stupefy your friends, family and neighbors with your big, black-and-gold brain.

We’ll see you right here next week. Until then keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the hypocycloids.

A Letter From the Editor: Hope springs eternal for the 2022 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/07/2022 - 10:30am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers season is just starting to get going, and everyone should have faith...for now.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers wrapping up their second week of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, it marks the last week where there will only be practice. That’s right, next Saturday is the Steelers’ first preseason game when they host the Seattle Seahawks at Acrisure Stadium for a 7pm ET kickoff.

Considering this simple fact, it became evident to me how this is the hopeful time of the season. This is the time when most fan bases are the most hopeful, second possibly only to the NFL Draft. Even though there have been some negative reports coming out of camp, fans should be looking at the 2022 season and getting excited.

Why now? Why would this week be more hopeful than next?

Simple...this team hasn’t played against anyone other than their teammates yet.

I’m not about to predict an awful performance during the team’s first preseason game, but that is when the true criticism comes. Those games, despite being meaningless, are when doubt starts to creep in fans’ brains. It’s those games where the once promising rookie looks like, well, a rookie.

You get the picture.

It is now where hope truly springs eternal, and fans should embrace this fact before the team’s first preseason game next Saturday.

Sure, there are some injuries which have sidelined players like Pat Freiermuth (hamstring), Chase Claypool (shoulder) and Najee Harris (foot), but the hopeful approach is how those injuries haven’t been deemed major and shouldn’t keep them out of the games which don’t count.

Sure, reports out of camp suggest the defense looks stout while the offense still sorts things out, but hopefully this is more of a statement of the Steelers’ defense and not an indictment of the team’s offense.

Sure, the quarterback reports have been as sporadic as some of the passes thrown in Latrobe, but the hope is a player distinguishes himself from the pack and is the unproven leader heading into Week 1.

With all these storylines and narratives, and there are plenty more where they came from, floating around, how could one be hopeful? Easy, because while all those things can go south in a hurry, they can also pan out. They can also develop and be a strength of the team. A strength which equates in victories for the Steelers in 2022.

Criticism will come, it always does, but not today. Today, let’s be hopeful in the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers.

(Note: The Letter From the Editor article runs every Sunday morning during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)

Training Camp Recap, Day 10: Kenny Pickett starting to get comfortable

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/07/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back at Training Camp, and it is time to check out what went down during the latest practice!

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back at Saint Vincent College for the first time since 2019, and fans have descended on Latrobe, PA in hopes of catching a glimpse of the 2022 team.

What went down during the latest training camp practice? That is where this article comes in. Check out all that was said, as well as photos and videos from the day’s workouts.

Here we go...

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of questions marks across the roster, and it will take every practice and preseason game for the coaching staff to find a way to get answers to those questions. There were a lot of storylines to come out of Saturday’s practice, and we highlight some of those below:

NOTE: Before getting into any of the recap, understand after Friday’s “Friday night” practice was canceled due to weather, Mother Nature pushed the Saturday practice back to Pittsburgh. This meant it was a closed practice, so reporting on the workout was relegated to media being close-lipped about what they saw, unless a player verified it afterwards.

Let’s get to the recap...

Pickett settling in

Steelers first round pick Kenny Pickett continues to impress during practice, and even went as far as to say he is getting more comfortable with the offense and NFL speed. This is all great news for the team’s top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but can he continue this growth and development? After Week 1, where he was hit-or-miss, Pickett has been heating up in a good way in Week 2.

Kenny Pickett said the difference for him from Week 1 to Week 2 has been ‘big’.

He says he thought Week 2 was much better for him as he got comfortable, more used to the speed of the game, and developed a chemistry more of the receivers.

It showed on the field, too.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) August 6, 2022

Here is Pickett talking about his practice Saturday, one which he called “really productive”:

Kenny Pickett on a 'really productive day': pic.twitter.com/nezVPRM1LX

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) August 6, 2022

CA3 showing out

Pickett wasn’t the only rookie who has been turning heads, and for once it wasn’t George Pickens. The speedy receiver had himself a day Saturday and continues to show he isn’t a “one trick pony”.

It was a big day for Steelers rookie WR Calvin Austin III.

In one team session, he caught a gorgeous 30-yard corner route from Mitch Trubisky. That was a dime.

In another session, Trubisky hit Austin on a curl route, and Austin shed the tackle and took it 75 yards for a TD.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) August 6, 2022

Here is Austin talking about how he feels he has improved throughout the first two weeks of training camp.

Calvin Austin on his improvement over the course of training camp @SteeIerNation #steelers #steelernation pic.twitter.com/VUhDNjErKe

— Jordan S (@JSKO_PHOTO) August 6, 2022

Pickett to Heyward

When you think about the 2022 draft class, you can envision Pickett throwing passes to several weapons in his draft class for years to come. Fans have already been salivating over the Pickett to Pickens connection for potentially the next decade, but what about other connections? One which isn’t talked about much, but might be sooner than later, is the Pickett to Connor Heyward connection. The two hooked up for a big gain on Saturday.

One of the big highlights of today's practice was a 50-yard touchdown connection off a play-action pass between Kenny Pickett and Conner Heyward. Heyward said the play was 'just good fundamental football' with Miles Boykin being Heyward's lead blocker on the play.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) August 6, 2022

Mitch heating up?

With all the recent talk centering around Pickett, it is natural for everyone to focus on the youngster’s development. However, Mitch Trubisky has been showing signs of improvement in the late practices of the week. Trubisky has gone 2-for-2 in the two minute drill the past two practices, and had a successful performance in 7 Shots Saturday, there was no report with it being a closed practice.

Mitch Trubisky now 2 for 2 in two minute drill this camp. On Saturday, he found Gunner Olszewski in the end zone. Trubisky also had a good performance in 7 shots.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 6, 2022

Mitch Trubisky enjoyed a strong finish to the week, but don’t expect many details from the closed practice. He did confirm a successful series of 7 Shots in a hailstorm and that he finished his 2-minute drill with a TD pass to Gunner, and that it was a great catch.

— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) August 6, 2022

Injury Update

After practice Mike Tomlin talked about the team’s injured players, and mentioned Cam Sutton, who left practice Thursday with a leg injury, was not deemed serious. He also mentioned several players, like Chase Claypool and Pat Freiremuth, are close to returning to practice.

Status quo with all Steelers injuries. Tomlin said Cam Sutton’s injury is not serious. Chase Claypool is close to returning

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 6, 2022

Najee doing what he can

One of those injured players is none other than Najee Harris. Harris continues to nurse a foot injury, and while this is frustrating for the second year player, it is also an opportunity for him to help some of the younger backs on the roster.

Najee Harris said it’s frustrating to have an injury now, but he’s trying to help the younger backs while he’s out.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 6, 2022

Mike Tomlin Post-Practice Press Conference

Coach Tomlin spoke to the media following Saturday's practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex: pic.twitter.com/VRh3JxKqMQ

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) August 6, 2022

Video

Connor Heyward on developing as an offense: pic.twitter.com/BpZOewd0HE

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) August 6, 2022

Kevin Dotson and Calvin Austin III on developing their skills: pic.twitter.com/qKBCjtt4oE

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) August 6, 2022

@Juiceup__3 pic.twitter.com/iup6bYLVob

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 6, 2022

Mitch Trubisky on Diontae Johnson @SteeIerNation #steelers#steelernation pic.twitter.com/HtbDTSEDMi

— Jordan S (@JSKO_PHOTO) August 6, 2022

Guys being dudes pic.twitter.com/iVeAG38Nkj

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 6, 2022

Photos

Stay hydrated, folks pic.twitter.com/C4aZP1v2G3

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 6, 2022

Moved practice to the South Side today. pic.twitter.com/4Y8fWpKKWH

— Eddie Provident (@eddie_p_412) August 6, 2022

4 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following Saturday’s training camp practice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/07/2022 - 7:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking to the media following practice each day of training camp, the Steelers head coach answered a few questions about specific players.

As the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers continue to practice for training camp at St. Vincent College, They were forced to return to Pittsburgh due to weather conditions. Even though the practice was closed to the public, we were also graced with a media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. For that reason, it’s time for another installment of the “players mentioned” article. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.

Cam Sutton

With practice being canceled Friday night, the last chance the media had to speak with Coach Tomlin was following Thursday’s practice where Cam Sutton left early with a knee injury. Coach Tomlin was asked If there was nothing serious with Sutton’s injury.

“No, not at all.”

Chase Claypool

Another player who is missed time due to injury has been wide receiver Chase Claypool. Coach Tomlin was asked about Claypool having pads on at practice on Saturday and if he’s closer to making return

“He’s a guy that I’m describing as working their way back. Hopefully, we’ll get a lot of those guys back to us next week as we start to lean in on some game action.”

Alex Highsmith

With many of the young players on the Steelers, continued growth from year to year is the key to both the Steelers success and the players longevity in the NFL. Coach Tomlin was asked what growth he has seen from Alex Highsmith and what he expects from him in year three.

“I expect grown man, varsity ball and he’s given us that thus far. He’s highly motivated and highly conditioned. He’s excited about taking the step.”

George Pickens

On Friday afternoon the Steelers released their first depth chart of the 2022 NFL season. One significant thing on the depth chart was George Pickens being listed as one of three starters at wide receiver. Coach Tomlin was asked if Pickens being so high on the depth chart was a testament to what he has done so far in camp.

“No, it’s just the fact that I have to give you guys a depth chart.”

Mike Tomlin’s media session can be seen below:

Coach Tomlin spoke to the media following Saturday's practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex: pic.twitter.com/VRh3JxKqMQ

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) August 6, 2022

Steelers Throwback: Two of the greatest to ever do it

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/07/2022 - 6:30am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Elite cornerbacks are a must have in today’s NFL. Rule changes over the past few decades protecting quarterbacks and limiting defenses have changed the way the game is played. Gone are the days of three-yards and a cloud of dust offenses. With quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers passing to wide receivers like Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams, the need for quality cornerbacks on an NFL defense is a necessity.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had two of the most decorated and illustrious cornerbacks in NFL history play the majority of their careers in the black and gold. Melvin Cornell Blount and Roderick Kevin Woodson are arguably two of the top five cornerbacks of all-time.

Let’s take a look at their combined statistics and accolades and then break them down individually.

Collectively these two legends of the Steelers franchise have combined for 128 interceptions, 19 touchdowns, 2 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards, 15 All-Pro Teams and 16 Pro Bowl selections. No other franchise can stake claim to a pair of cornerbacks who can rival these statistical accomplishments.

“Mean” Joe Greene will get a lot of the credit, deservedly so, for the menacing identity of the 70’s Steelers Steel Curtain defenses. After drafting Terry Bradshaw with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1970 NFL draft, the Steelers with the 53rd pick in the 3rd Round would draft a little known cornerback from Southern University, a small HBCU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana named Mel Blount.

Throughout his career, Blount had a reputation for the physicality he displayed as a defender. This was in the era when defensive backs could maul wide receivers more or less without restrictions, there were times he would rag doll wide receivers off the line scrimmage and continue to do so throughout the duration of the entire play. In his fifth season this physical brand of ball earned him the 1975 NFL Defensive Players of the Year.

In 1978 the NFL created the “Mel Blount Rule” in order to prevent him from man-handling opposing receivers. The rule is still part of the limitations put on defensive backs in today’s NFL, it is that defensive backs are not allowed to draw contact with receivers past five yards. At the time, the rule impeded Blount’s physical style of play, still, in-spite of the rule change, Blount would make three more Pro Bowls post-rule change. He finished his Steelers career with 57 interceptions (tied for 13th all-time). He was an integral part of those 70’s Steel Curtain defenses that won four Super Bowls and is regarded as one of the best defenses in the history of the game. Blount was inducted into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

It takes two to make a pair, therefore we need to elaborate on the second cornerback, and if not actually, statistically probably the greatest cornerback in franchise history. That would be Rod Woodson.

The two-time First-Team All-American was drafted by the Steelers with the 10th pick in the 1st Round of the 1987 NFL Draft from Purdue University.

During his rookie season, Woodson was primarily used as a kick returner, playing in only eight games and recording only twenty tackles on defense under legendary coach Chuck Noll.

The rest of his Steelers career would put him among the pantheon of Pittsburgh Steelers greats. He was arguably the greatest Steeler during the era of the late 80’s until the beginning of the Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu era in the early 2000’s.

Woodson had 71 career interceptions, third all-time (38 with the Steelers), 17 touchdowns (11 as a Steelers), and his 12 interceptions returned for touchdowns is an NFL record. He also set the NFL record for most Pro Bowl nominations at his position (11) and winning the 1993 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

In September 1995, in the season opener against the Detroit Lions. Woodson was juked by Barry Sanders, he tried to plant on the turf of Three Rivers Stadium and tore his ACL. He missed the rest of the regular season after having reconstructive surgery. His speedy recovery from early September to late January would be commonplace in today’s game, not so much in 1996, he surprisingly returned to play in the Steelers’ 27-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX.

The next season (1996) would be his last In Pittsburgh. Woodson is considered one of the greatest Pittsburgh Steelers of all-time.

He would later go on to play with the rival Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders where he transitioned to primarily playing free safety. He would record 31 more interceptions during this time and win Super Bowl XXXV with the Ravens on a defense that is considered one of the greatest all-time, along with the 70’s Pittsburgh Steelers and ‘85 Chicago Bears defenses.

Woodson would reach one more Super Bowl with the Raiders, a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003, after which he would retire and conclude his NFL playing career.

In August of 2009 Woodson went into the NFL Hall of Fame as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mel Blount and Rod Woodson are two of the greatest to ever do it for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and in NFL history.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/07/2022 - 5:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest podcast for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and written, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

Steelers Touchdown Under: What will training camp and preseason tells us about the Steelers defense?

Training camp is here, fan excitement is building for the 2022 NFL season, and so too, are the expectations for what this roster could achieve this year. What are we learning about the defense from training camp? Which positions need more development and depth? Who is proving their worth as a defensive contributor at training camp? These are just some of the many questions that Matty Peverell and Mark Davison will address on Steelers Touchdown Under. Matty P. and Marky D. will bring a global perspective to how the Steelers can achieve success in 2022 and beyond, as they chase a seventh Lombardi.

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • What training camp and preseason tells us about the Steelers defense

Listen to the show below

Tune into the latest episode of Touchdown Under, the Australian sensation from the BTSC family of podcasts.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Saturday Night Open Thread: Health is beginning to return, I hope

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/06/2022 - 6:00pm
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Time for another Saturday night meeting of the black and gold minds!

Henry update. Still getting by on his looks. We were at the big box hardware store the other day and three young ladies working there were fawning over him, when one asked “What tricks can he do?”. My answer was “Pretty much just sit.”. The correct answer was, attract you three. He’s exceptional at that.

1. I’ve heard talk about DJ’s contact’s value on two very different scales. Some calling it an $18M/year deal, but I see it as more of a $13.2M/year deal. How do you see the value of his contract?

2. T.J. and Cam had a day off this week. Every time Ben did, people lost their mind. Should great players get veteran days off?

3. After soccer practice Wednesday evening, some of our crew decided we’d have some grilled dogs and brats after practice this morning. Mrs. SNW invited herself along, but had a quick turn around on a dish to bring. What’s your, just found out about a pot luck, go to?

4. We recently dropped DirectTV, so I’m exploring some streaming channels. What’s your favorite streaming channel?

5. So you’re at your mom’s/dad’s house, and he/she offers to make you your favorite childhood lunch. What do you ask for? (My personal experience is mom and she, but you may have been raised by your dad, or heck dads, or dad was the cook at home. My dad is a very good cook as it turns out, but mom didn’t let him in the kitchen while they were together. Somehow, Dad, my brother, and I ended up the primary cook in our households.)

Here we go Steelers!

Steelers 2022 Training Camp Tracker: Tracking Saturday’s practice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/06/2022 - 4:13pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are hitting the field at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in Pittsburgh to prepare for the 2022 season.

As they continue their second week of 2022 training camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers are headed back to Pittsburgh for practice due to weather concerns in Latrobe which washed out last night’s practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium.

When it comes to the training camp schedule, it is much more known than it was the last two years as long as the weather cooperates. The Steelers will continue with practice today at their home practice facility. The team is not scheduled to practice on any Sundays, but all other days of the week will see practice of some kind. For those hoping to attend practice at St. Vincent, make sure you reserve your free tickets through Ticketmaster remembering things could change.

Check out the information below as the players hit the field in preparation for the 2022 season. If any additional information or reports become available, they will be updated below. Posts will come mostly in chronological order with new updates at the bottom. With it being a closed practice, any reports were limited and came AFTER practice concluded.

Mike Tomlin said the news was good on Cam Sutton. No major injury.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 6, 2022

Mitch Trubisky now 2 for 2 in two minute drill this camp. On Saturday, he found Gunner Olszewski in the end zone. Trubisky also had a good performance in 7 shots.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 6, 2022

Status quo with all Steelers injuries. Tomlin said Cam Sutton’s injury is not serious. Chase Claypool is close to returning

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 6, 2022

Najee Harris said it’s frustrating to have an injury now, but he’s trying to help the younger backs while he’s out.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 6, 2022

One of the big highlights of today's practice was a 50-yard touchdown connection off a play-action pass between Kenny Pickett and Conner Heyward. Heyward said the play was 'just good fundamental football' with Miles Boykin being Heyward's lead blocker on the play.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) August 6, 2022

yes, it was a closed practice though. We can only report what we confirmed with players or Coach Tomlin.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) August 6, 2022

.@_TJWatt Door pic.twitter.com/3VscLXmgHo

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 6, 2022

Mason Rudolph: The Most Hated Man in Pittsburgh

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/06/2022 - 12:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback is possibly the most despised man within the fan base.

Week one of training camp is in the books and Mason Rudolph has surfaced as the quarterback having the best camp thus far. His performance alongside the reported struggling of Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett has begun to change some of the fan base and media opinions of Rudolph and his positioning in the roster. Prior to training camp many predicted, including myself, Rudolph would be traded or released. If Rudolph can continue to play solid in camp, I don't see him losing the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, and if Trubisky can’t distance himself, I can see a real QB battle in preseason.

But there should be no shock that the only incumbent quarterback on the roster wouldn't look the best. Rudolph has the most time spent in the area, with the roster, in the playbook and with coaches. Rudolph having a solid camp and still being hated; raises the question why does he get so much hate?

He wasn't a 1st round pick with wildly high expectations, he has a winning record as a starter for the Steelers, and has zero off the field issues.

Rudolph didn't have the warmest of welcomes into the league. Just after being selected 76th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by Pittsburgh, future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger, while on 93.7 the Fan, stated:

“I was surprised they took a QB because I thought maybe in the 3rd round you can get some really good players that can help this team win now. I just don’t know how backing up or being the third, who knows where he’s going to fall in the depth chart, but helps us win” and “If he asks me a question, I might just have to point to the playbook.”

Ben’s interview on The Fan sparked debate and questions amongst the Steelers fan base, causing a split.

The Steelers fan base, including myself, are extremely superstitious. That’s why some fans will watch a game topless, not to mention any names...Bryan Davis, or like myself will change out my jersey until the Steelers begin to play favorably. In 2019 “signs” where everywhere when Mason Rudolph replaced an injured Ben Roethlisberger. The similarities between Rudolph's NFL debut and Roethlisberger’s entrance in 2004 for an injured Tommy Maddox are uncanny. Rudolph’s similar debut as of Roethlisberger and the team announcing they had a 1st round grade (3rd round pick) catapulted expectations for Rudolph’s performance and when he did not meet the expectations or had a similar success as Roethlisberger, the fan base turned on Rudolph.

Then along came a Duck. Devlin “Duck” Hodges, an undrafted rookie quarterback out of Stamford, replaced an unconscious Rudolph, who was knocked out by Safety Earl Thomas of the Baltimore Ravens, at the time. On that play, in a pivotal time of the game, backed inside the 15, on a 3rd and long, Rudolph created time with his legs, extended the play and threw the ball down the field for a 1st down. Hodges and the Steelers were unable to win that game, and the following week Hodges would start for the concussed Rudolph and would lead the Steelers to victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in prime time. Hodges’ performance would reignite the split on Rudolph, this time between a “duck” and a “reindeer”.

Hodges’ story was better than both the performances of Hodges and Rudolph that season as Rudolph outperformed Hodges. Both quarterbacks started 8 games, Rudolph had 62.2% passes completed, 13 TDs to 9 INTs throwing for 1,765 yards to Hodges’ who had 62.5% passes completed, 5 TDs to 8 INTs throwing for 1,063 yards.

After being benched for a few games, Rudolph made his return to the field and replaced a struggling Hodges against the New York Jets. Rudolph would impress in the game throwing 14-20, 70% passes completed with a long touchdown to Diontae Johnson. Rudolph, unfortunately, would not finish the game as he left due to a sternoclavicular joint dislocation, which ended his season. Rudolph was 5-3 as a first-year starter.

Covid would stop preseason games in 2020, so the next time anyone saw Rudolph get meaningful playing time was in the season finale against a desperate Cleveland Browns team trying to make the playoffs. At this point in the 2020 season the Steelers had solidified their positioning in the playoffs and Rudolph would be handicapped as many of the starters on both sides of the ball did not play, and yet Rudolph still came close to upsetting the fully stacked Browns.

Rudolph wouldn't take another meaningful snap until Week 10 of the 2021 season against the Detroit Lions. Roethlisberger, the day before the game, tested positive for covid and with less than 24 hours notice Rudolph lead the Steelers a tie against the then winless Detroit Lions. Rudolph took more blame for the tie than he deserved. Yes, he shouldn't have one hopped a ball to Ray-Ray McCloud and his interception was horrible.

He also didn't fumble twice in overtime.

It's a team game and in the elements the team tied as a whole. Also, the 2021 Lions were the complete opposite of the 2020 Steelers, where the Steelers were considered the worst 11-0 team, the Lions were the best winless team to that point. The Lions had a lot of close games with really good teams in 2021.

I don't get it, especially when fans or the media say they know what Rudolph is when he hasn't even had a full season of starts under his belt yet. It’s comparable to a person claiming they know one's ceiling when that player hasn't taken a professional snap. And, like the 2022 season for the Steelers, I like an underdog story, and I hope Rudolph continues to do well in camp as I do for all the quarterbacks participating in this battle. I will be cheering hard for whoever lines up behind Mason Cole this year at the quarterback position.

What is your opinion on Mason Rudolph? Do you think the criticism is warranted, too much or not enough? Let us know in the comment section, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold.

Top 5 Free Agent Fits for the Steelers: Preseason Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/06/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

These 5 free agents make the most sense for the Steelers.

NFL Football is officially back, and Steelers football is just days away! With that in mind, let’s time to take a look at the current free agent market and determine which available players would make the most sense for the Steelers.

According to Over The Cap, the Steelers have an estimated $9,795,599 in salary cap space after the Diontae Johnson signing, which is less than they will need to be reserved for signing the practice squad and adding any in-season pieces, amongst other things. But there are still other ways to free up space for those things as the season approaches. Nonetheless, the Steelers have enough room to make a splash signing at a position in need of an upgrade. The question then lies, what areas would the Steelers want to address?

If we are discussing depth, offensive tackle would have to be at the top of the list of priorities. With only three notable tackles on the current roster, adding another vet to the mix would certainly be ideal. If we are discussing a prime starting-caliber talent, cornerback makes the most sense, as the Steelers do not currently have a CB1 on the roster. There are several other positions that could be improved with a free agent acquisition as well, but the five players below are the most logical fits for the Steelers based on the current free agent market and the team’s primary needs or fits.

Kevin King — CB Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Probably the juiciest name on this list, King is a long, athletic corner who has proven he can play at a high level when healthy. He always seems to be dealing with nagging injuries, but then again, there has to be some reason a player of this caliber is still on the open market in August. At this stage of the summer, King is likely looking for a one-year prove-it deal with the hopes of getting a lucrative deal in 2023.

His best statistical season was in 2019, when he recorded 5 interceptions and 15 passes defended. He has missed at least five games each of the last two years, but toward the tail end of last season, he finally began to play like the Kevin King we were accustomed to earlier in his career. In fact, one could make the argument that he would be the best corner on the Steelers roster when healthy, and I would not be able to disagree with such an assessment. It would make my day if Omar Khan pulled the trigger on this one.

Joe Haden — CB Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Haden was once excited to hit the open market and test free agency for the first legitimate time in his NFL career, but after two seasons of slow regression, Haden was unable to garner much interest around the league. He most presumptuously has come down on his price, and he would likely accept an offer to come back to Pittsburgh, even if that means playing in a reserve or nickel role that he was outspokenly opposed to playing in the past. If I were calling the shots, I would bring him in as a “ploach” (a player in a reserve role who is more a coach than anything else; and yes, I am coining that term as the first-ever Andrew Wilbar “special word”) on a minimal one or two-year deal. That makes the most sense for both parties.

Eric Fisher — OT Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images Mackensie Alexander — CB Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Alexander is one of many names the Steelers passed up in favor of Artie Burns back in 2016, but they could do themselves a favor by adding him as a free agent six years after that occurrence. Joe Haden would be a more ideal fit based on familiarity, but in the event he is unwilling to come back on a cheap deal and play a different role, Alexander would be a nice backup option. Alexander provides inside/outside versatility, and although he is not going to create many splash plays, he has proven an ability to blitz effectively from the slot. On a cheap deal, he could give the Steelers another option at nickel.

Skai Moore — ILB Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Many Steelers fans, including myself, were hoping Skyy Moore would be taken by the Steelers on Day 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft, but never fear, my fine Steeler fan followers! We have found a consolation prize! Skai Moore may not be the explosive playmaker Skyy Moore is likely to be for years to come, but his track record in college proves he has an ability to create some splash plays of his own.

Moore did not test as well as expected during his pre-draft process in 2018, but he is a talented coverage linebacker who fits the mold of a Brian Flores hybrid defender. Myles Jack and Damontae Kazee could see different roles as hybrid-type defenders as well, but adding a low-risk option like Moore would bolster the Steelers’ depth at a position whose starters have injury concerns from their past. Moore racked up 14 interceptions his four-year career at South Carolina, 7 of which were in his final two seasons. In those final two seasons, Moore also recorded 3 forced fumbles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks.

Here is what his former coach, Will Muschamp, said about Moore ahead of the 2018 draft.

“The guy is extremely instinctive, extremely bright, intelligent, he’s going to play a long time because he’s athletic,” Muschamp said back in December. “He can play every down, he can play on special teams because he’s a really good space player. In my year in the NFL, one of the many things I learned is the guys that have longevity in that league are intelligent.”

Which free agent would you like to see the Steelers sign? Of the players mentioned above, which one would be your favorite for the Steelers? Be sure to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC as we get you ready for another great season of Steelers football!

Saturday’s practice at St. Vincent College cancelled, moved to Pittsburgh

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/06/2022 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Due to possible inclement weather and field conditions, the Steelers will practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

For Steelers fans planning to make a weekend out of taking in the sites in Latrobe and seeing their beloved team and players, the first weekend of August was not kind to them. After severe thunderstorms canceled the Steelers’ “Friday Night Lights” practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium, the Steelers announced they have canceled practice at St. Vincent College on Saturday.

Saturday’s practice at @MySaintVincent has been cancelled due to inclement weather in the area. The campus will be closed to all fans.https://t.co/X4jIRZKFra

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 6, 2022

Although the Steelers are not practicing in Latrobe, they are doing everything they can to not lose back-to-back days of on-field preparation for the 2022 season. Instead, the team will be traveling back to Pittsburgh to practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. This per the Steelers PR Department:

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers will practice at 1:55 p.m. ET today (August 6) at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. The practice will not be open to the public.

With no practice on Sunday, those who made the trek for the weekend to Latrobe to catch a night practice and then afternoon practice the next day will be left without an opportunity to see the players on the field. Unfortunately, this is a risk fans take when it comes to attending training camp as the Steelers go out of their way to include the following warning when it comes to the training camp schedule: “Dates and times subject to change. Practice may be canceled or moved due to inclement weather.”

While the current weather forecast according to weather.com has a slight chance of thunderstorms before the Steelers were set to practice and a much higher chance right around the end of when they were scheduled to be on the field, it is just as likely the field conditions were a factor in moving to Pittsburgh. This per Dale Lolley of DK Pittsburgh Sports:

The rain crushed the fields at Saint Vincent College Friday night. The Steelers have moved their practice today to the UPMC-Rooney Sports Complex. It is closed to the public.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 6, 2022

For those tuning in to BTSC to get their updates for Steelers practice, it is uncertain at this time how many reports will be coming from the media who are able to attend. If adequate reports are available, look for the BTSC Training Camp Tracker this afternoon and a Training Camp Recap on Sunday morning. Head coach Mike Tomlin is scheduled to speak with the media following today’s practice, so a “Players Mentioned” article should be forthcoming Sunday morning.

For those who may not have realized the severity of the weather which passed through Latrobe on Friday night, here are a few images from Mark Kaboly of The Athletic and Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Yeah. No practice today. This rain is crazy. pic.twitter.com/31cw5BrVe5

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 6, 2022

breaking: saint vincent has installed moats between its practice fields pic.twitter.com/eQdA8FTLk7

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 5, 2022

Fantasy Football Profile: Diontae Johnson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/06/2022 - 9:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Everything you need to know about the Steelers WR as a Fantasy Football prospect.

Questions abound for the Steelers top weapon on the outside in 2022. How will the Steelers uncertain Quarterback (QB) situation affect Johnson’s production? Was his incredible volume over the last two seasons a product of Ben Roethlisberger’s play style, or is he just that good? Can he continue to outshine the two more physically gifted Wide Receivers (WR) on the team in Chase Claypool and George Pickens?

Diontae Johnson is a difficult eval this offseason, but hopefully we’ll be able to get some gauge on how he is bonding with his new QBs in the Steelers’ new-look offense fresh off signing a new 2-year extension with the club. We do know that Johnson is a talented player and one the best pure route runners in football. This all sets us up for a wide range of results in 2022 for the Steelers top receiver.

Player Profile

Age: 26
Experience: 4 yrs
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 185

2021 Fantasy Stats:

Receiving: 107 REC/1,161 YDS/8 TD

Rushing: 5 CAR/53 YDS/0 TD

Points/Rank: 274.4 PPR/WR8

2021 Review

Johnson picked up where he left off in 2020, leading the Steelers in targets, receptions, yards, and receiving TDs in 2021, and establishing himself as a top 10 WR in PPR fantasy leagues. Although his efficiency was well below average, he boasted elite volume and consistency over the course of the season, finishing with 10+ targets in 12 of 16 games played, and scoring 15+ PPR points in 11 of 16 games played.

The Steelers offense was hampered by poor offensive line play and regression from Ben Roethlisberger, the combination of which limited the passing game to quick, underneath routes and all but eliminating the threat of intermediate and downfield throws. Despite this, Johnson excelled as a YAC artist and PPR monster.

2021 provided both a fantasy breakout year and a “what if” season for Johnson, who hopes to gain from what should be a much more complete passing game with younger options behind center and an OL that should be much improved on last year’s moribund group.

2022 Outlook

Johnson’s measly 6.9 yds/target in 2021 were easily the worst of any WR who reached 1,000+ yards receiving. Johnson was truly a volume-based WR1 in fantasy football in 2021. That will likely change significantly in 2022 when considering the change at QB and the development of other receiving options on the roster.

No matter who ultimately ends up behind center, whether that’s Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, or Mason Rudolph, the offense should look starkly different than the dink-and-dunk attack of the last two seasons, where Johnson really excelled.

The other issue going against Diontae from a fantasy perspective, is the improved depth of the receiving talent on the roster. Chase Claypool is looking to make the leap this season and capitalize on the tantalizing talent he has flashed at times the last two years. He’s joined by two rookie playmakers in George Pickens and Calvin Austin who are quickly making their mark in Training Camp as potentially valuable pieces of the offense. We haven't even mentioned the expected improvement of Tight End Pat Freiermuth and the receiving ability of Najee Harris that will also defer targets away from Johnson.

It is highly probable that Johnson comes nowhere close to his 169 targets from 2021, and despite his obvious talent and current status as the team’s WR1, Diontae must improve his efficiency to have any chance of maintaining the production that made him a top 10 PPR fantasy WR in 2021. Johnson is currently being drafted as the WR15 according to FantasyPros.com consensus rankings. I like him in that range, but there is risk if he cannot maintain his high target share or improve his efficiency.

Projected Fantasy Stats

Receiving: 90 REC/1,00 YDS/ 5 TD

Points/Rank: 220 PPR Pts/WR19

The Steelers work out 3 more running backs on Friday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/06/2022 - 7:30am
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Steelers still continue to look into other options at running back

The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted three running backs on Friday for workouts as they continue to look at other options for their 90-man preseason roster. This per Aaron Wilson of the Pro Football Network.

NFL workouts @PFN365 pic.twitter.com/sGmERlf9cj

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) August 5, 2022

The Pittsburgh Steelers currently have six running backs on their 90-man roster. But with Najee Harris missing practice recently after getting his foot stepped on this week, along with Master Teague just joining the squad recently, the Steelers feel the need to continue to build their reserve possibilities. Here is a brief description of each player the Steelers worked out:

Jalen Richard

Undrafted in 2016 out of Southern Miss, Jalen Richard signed as an undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders. Making the 53-man roster every season of his career, Richard played six seasons with the Raiders and appeared in 87 games with two starts. Rushing for 1,333 yards on 264 attempts and four rushing touchdowns in his career, Richard had another 1,590 receiving yards on 191 receptions and three receiving touchdowns. in 2021, Richard started the season on the Reserve/Injured List and missed four games. Appearing in 10 games in all last season, Richard only had 40 rushing yards on nine attempts and 72 receiving yards 12 receptions.

Wayne Gallman

Selected out of Clemson in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft by the New York Giants, Wayne Gallman played four years in New York. Appearing in 53 games with 14 starts, Gallman had 1,444 rushing yards on 338 attempts with nine rushing touchdowns. Gallman also added 80 receptions for 498 yards and two receiving touchdowns with the Giants. His most productive year was in 2020 where he started 10 games and rushed for 682 yards on 147 attempts with six touchdowns. Gallman signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2021 but failed to make the team. Days later, Gallman signed with the Atlanta Falcons where he appeared in six games with 28 rushing attempts for 104 yards and one reception for 21 yards. Released by the Falcons following Week 13, Gallman was claimed off waivers by the Minnesota Vikings. Appearing in two games, Gallman returned one kick for 7 yards and had no other stats.

JaQuan Hardy

Undrafted out of Tiffin University, the Dallas Cowboys signed JaQuan Hardy following the 2021 NFL draft. Not making the initial 53-man roster, Hardy was signed to the Cowboys practice squad and was elevated in Week 14 and Week 15. Hardy was also elevated in Week 18 as the Cowboys were resting many of their starters for the playoffs. In Week 18, Hardy had three carries for 26 yards and a touchdown after only having one carry for 3 yards in the previous two games. Signed to a futures contract following the 2021 season, Hardy was released in the middle of July ahead of Cowboys training camp.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued training camp coverage as the Steelers continue their preparation for the 2022 NFL season.

Why the NFL’s trade deadline falters in excitement, and why fixing it is daunting

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/06/2022 - 6:30am
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

General managers sure love making trades at any point except late October and early November.

Late July and early August are conventionally part of the dog days of summer; the weather warms as the season progresses into its final stages. Students’ anticipated return to school is just about the only awakening from a continuum of summer.

In terms of sports, though, such a time frame is a contrast from the accustomed harmony. While NFL teams enter their first days and weeks of training camp, what ultimately steals the show is MLB’s trade deadline.

For some, baseball’s trade deadline can supersede the optimism of Opening Day or the grandeur of the postseason. For a period of two or three days, the world constantly refreshes social media to try to keep pace with a flurry of moves. This year’s August 2 deadline hardly disappointed, with stars such as Juan Soto, Josh Hader and Luis Castillo being dealt to contenders until the mere seconds of the buzzer.

Fast forward nearly three months, and the NFL will enjoy its own version of the trade deadline, except with far less pomp and circumstance.

Last season’s November 2 cutoff for teams to make trades did little to drum up excitement. Only six deals were consummated right around the deadline, the most notable of which was the Broncos sending Von Miller to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Rams. Other names swapped include Melvin Ingram (one Steelers fans may rather forget), Charles Omenihu, Kary Vincent Jr., Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and Daniel Brown.

If many of those players don’t ring a bell, you’re not alone.

The 2021 NFL trade deadline is emblematic of the flaws within the league’s desires to have a firm end date for mid-season trades, one that typically results in less significant and/or under-performing players being shopped.

Before delving into football-specific reasons behind a lull in exchanges, it’s important to distinguish between several crucial structures between the NFL and MLB.

For one, most baseball trades are buoyed by prospects, who play in the minor leagues. The NFL has no such equivalent; the closest element is the practice squad, but such players aren’t exactly viewed as future stars (and can be poached by other teams, anyway).

It’s also key to understand the framework disparity in how players fit within their organizations in the two sports. In baseball, a team like the Padres can trade for Soto without asking him to radically alter his approach of walking and hitting at an elite rate. Conversely, football players are contingent upon the schemes that their coordinators/coaches run and have to become acclimated to playbooks. In other words, it’s not as simple to pull off deals in a binary sense in the NFL.

In regard to foundational barriers to a trade deadline in the NFL, possibly none stands out more than the date of the cutoff itself.

The deadline is almost always the Tuesday before Week 9, which serves as a relative midpoint in the season — something standard of most professional sport trade deadlines. The issue is that the NFL’s sample size of games prevents teams from having a clear picture of playoff projections.

By last year’s November 2 deadline, 21 of 32 squads were within three games of a .500 record. With teams having played just seven or eight contests, there is little perspective for understanding how a unit will perform the rest of the season, let alone in paramount months like December and January.

Take the 2021 Cardinals. Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury and the Birds started 7-0 and looked like a bonafide contender entering the deadline. The team would finish 4-6 down the stretch and lose in horrific fashion in the Wild Card Game.

Another great example is last year’s Ravens. Baltimore sat 5-2 but lost Lamar Jackson for much of the rest of the season, ending 8-9 on the outside of the playoff picture — despite leading the AFC North by November 2.

In other words, injuries and stretches can affect an NFL team’s season like few other sports.

Aside from the inherent difficulty of assessing a team’s quality by Week 9, NFL executives generally do not seem inclined to look at the future around the midseason point. Rather than concentrate on expiring contracts or draft picks, general managers and other personnel appear more concentrated in the present season and how they can maximize a roster without racing to March.

Speaking of the spring, that’s when we tend to see deals, especially those of a greater magnitude, become finalized. This offseason, the Broncos (unofficially) traded for Russell Wilson on March 8; the Browns tentatively acquired Deshaun Watson on March 18.

Those dates fit the conventional cycle of the start of the new league year, free agency and the draft, a period in which GMs are heavily focused on their roster construction and leveraging their assets. From a football perspective, it’s most logical to determine how to improve a team once the full glut of free agents, trade offers, draft prospects and positioning of picks are laid out.

By the end of the preseason and cut date in late August, front office members typically have a solid understanding of how their roster appears and the nature of the season in store; as such, the weeks just before kickoff can be a hotbed of deals. Last August provided a whopping 24 trades, including the Steelers adding Joe Schobert from the Jaguars on August 14 and the Rams nabbing Sony Michel on August 25.

Moreover, NFL studs tend to hold more gravity than MLB stars, meaning trades are more so driven by football players than executives.

In the cases of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jalen Ramsey, Baker Mayfield and more, the player’s desire to seek a new landing spot created ripple effects in front offices that led to them being dealt. Even with “softer” hold-ins, Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf and Diontae Johnson have put pressure on GMs to propose larger contracts in short order. While MLB players can veto trades via no-trade clause, as the Padres’ Eric Hosmer did by eschewing the Washington Nationals, baseball owners and executives may be less inclined to follow the requests at the behest of players.

For as much as baseball execs value their prospects highly, NFL leaders hold their draft picks even closer to their chests. Consequently, football GMs are likelier to retain picks by forgoing money, a strategy which manifests itself in free agents.

A byproduct of rosters being finalized is a pool of recently released available players, many of which are seasoned veterans. Teams frequently take advantage of such stragglers, adding them during the season. The 2020 Buccaneers did so with Antonio Brown, while the 2021 Rams signed Odell Beckham Jr. Most importantly, mid-year acquisitions do not have to come at the expense of draft stock.

It’s clear that the NFL’s trade deadline has an assortment of undermining factors, but how can it be improved? That question has few immediate answers.

One solution could be moving the deadline to late August or early September as squads are finalizing their roster makeup. This shift follows the more logical pattern of pre-existing trades and would create MLB-style havoc by forcing GMs to make a quick-thinking decision, either going all in or risking a futile season. At the same time, such a departure ruins the nature of a midseason trade deadline.

A far less practical suggestion is to urge NFL executives to take a page out of MLB personnel’s playbooks and utilize the halfway point as an opportunity for substantial change. Even if a team is four games under .500, why not roll the dice on a star on an expiring contract? The problem is that pro football guides have inculcated the need to wait until the end of the season with free agency and the draft around the corner.

The NFL’s trade deadline has generated the movement of high-stakes players in the last three years, like Ramsey, Marcus Peters, Zach Ertz, Emmanuel Sanders, Leonard Williams, Yannick Ngakoue and Carlos Dunlap. Yet until the league reconciles the institutional and mental hurdles of its late October/early November cutoff, MLB’s trade deadline will continue to sprint to victory.

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