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Podcast: Is stopping the run the key to the Steelers’ 2020 defense?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 1 hour 18 min ago

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a rebirth of dominance last season. But with the expected return of Ben Roethlisberger to the offense, the defense will need to remain top tier. With Javon Hargrave gone to Philadelphia and an abundance of of talented running backs in the AFC North and on the schedule, the key to defensive success for the Steelers in 2020 may just be in their run sopping ability. As always. it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold.

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The draft selection of Carlos Davis
  • Is stopping the run the key to the Steelers’ 2020 defense?
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • Close look at the Steelers’ goals for 2020
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

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 Link: James Conner refuses to play scared due to the pandemic

Behind the Steel Curtain - 2 hours 18 min ago
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the Steelers are unable to hold their typical OTA’s doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at James Conner playing in the NFL as a cancer survivor during the current COVID-19 crisis.

Let’s get to the news:

  • James Conner says his immune system is not a conern

Cancer-free, Steelers’ James Conner isn’t worried about playing amid pandemic

By: Brooke Pryor, ESPN

People with compromised immune systems are at greater risk for inflection and complications from COVID-19, but Pittsburgh Steelers running back and cancer survivor James Conner isn’t worried about the coronavirus when he eventually returns to the field.

“I’m 100 percent,” Conner said. “I had a weak immune system four years ago. It’s not weak anymore, thank God. I’m OK. I’m young and healthy. I went through what I went through.

“I’m not concerned, me personally. We’re going to play it safe, of course. I’m not going to ignore it or anything like that. But as far as me being scared or anything like that or trying to take extra, extra precautions because of my health history, that was four years ago. My body’s healed. I think when we follow our health protocol and guidelines, I’ll be just fine.”

Conner was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkins lymphoma in 2015 and was declared cancer free in May 2016 following a six-month chemotherapy regimen.

But NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer said he thinks there could be extra recommendations for players with pre-existing conditions, such as wearing different helmets and masks, maintaining social distancing off the field and utilizing single-use hydration.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • No teams has ever won the AFC North for three consecutive years

History shows AFC North will be up for grabs

By: Jeff Hartman, DK Pittsburgh Sports

Prior to 2002, the AFC Central division was a monster in and of itself. The teams who called the Central home made the regular season a murderer’s row for all involved. Just look at the teams who made the AFC Central one of the best divisions in football:

1970 - 1980s

Steelers
Browns
Bengals
Oilers

1990s

Steelers
Browns/Ravens
Bengals
Oilers/Titans
Jaguars

1999 - 2001

Steelers
Ravens
Browns
Bengals
Titans
Jaguars

For those not old enough to remember just how tough — and nasty — the AFC Central was, go check out some old, grainy YouTube videos showing Earl Campbell and Donnie Shell meeting in the hole, Fred Taylor and Mark Brunell in Jacksonville and, of course, Ray Lewis and the upstart Ravens.

Then came 2002, and the NFL decided to realign their divisions, making eight conferences with four teams per conference. It was then we all said hello to the AFC North. The AFC North, consisting of the Steelers, Ravens, Bengals and Browns, has had anything but a singular, dominant team since its creation.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Diontae Johnson is a top fantasy football sleeper for 2020

Fantasy Football Rankings 2020: Top sleepers from unbiased simulation that nailed Derrick Henry’s huge season

By: CBS Sports Staff

With the drama surrounding Antonio Brown, very few were dialed in on rookie running back Josh Jacobs. The former Alabama standout exploded for the Raiders to the tune of 1,150 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in just 13 games, giving owners who rolled the dice on him plenty of points and wins in the process. Figuring out the next rookie sensation means coming armed to your draft with the latest 2020 Fantasy football rankings. They’ll help you identify the top 2020 Fantasy football sleepers to target.

Don’t try to figure out this season’s latest 2020 Fantasy football breakouts on your own. Before going on the clock this season, be sure to see the latest Fantasy football rankings 2020 and cheat sheets from the team at SportsLine, given the success they’ve had in calling sleepers like Titans running back Derrick Henry.

The team at SportsLine was all over Henry from the start in 2019. He was going off the board around the fifth round, but SportsLine had him ranked as a top-20 back and graded him higher than multiple running backs who were picked in the third round on average. The result: Henry finished as the 2019 rushing champion and as the No. 2 Fantasy running back. Fantasy players who followed SportsLine’s advice got a season-defining steal.

The same model has a proven track record providing Fantasy football tips, calling past sleepers like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara in 2018, as well as Davante Adams in 2017. Anybody who banked on players such as those likely made a run at their league title. This same model is power by the same people who generated projections for all three major Fantasy companies, and it beat human experts last season when there was a big difference in ranking. The projections update multiple times daily, so you’re always getting the best Fantasy football advice.

Now, SportsLine has simulated the entire NFL season 10,000 times and released its latest 2020 Fantasy football rankings, along with plenty of sleepers, breakouts and busts. Head to SportsLine now to see them.

Top 2020 Fantasy football sleepers

SportsLine’s Fantasy football rankings 2020 and cheat sheets are all over Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson. The Toledo product made his rookie season count in 2019, hauling in 59 receptions for 680 yards and five touchdowns. That production was even more impressive considering starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was out for most of the season and catching passes from the likes of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges for the majority of 2019.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Steelers training camp will be in Pittsburgh, not Latrobe for 2020

The Steelers defense keeps opposing quarterback guessing

Top draft picks for the Steelers at each position in picks one through ten

Can Saeed Blacknall squeeze onto the Steelers 53-man roster?

The Steelers are in the top ten power rankings

  • Social Media Madness

James Conner putting in that work! #Steelers pic.twitter.com/uYKGBqX16t

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) June 2, 2020

Eric Ebron with @footwork_king1. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/KQkQCjkdCN

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) June 1, 2020

Report: Steeler training camp will not be at St Vincent college, by order of the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/02/2020 - 6:06pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has told all NFL teams to use their practice facilities for camp

For fifty-four years the Steelers have held their annual training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

That streak will end this season.

And so the NFL has told all its teams that they must stay at their team facilities for this summer's training camps.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 2, 2020

Steelers fans will no doubt be disappointed to see a long standing tradition end in this manner. The last time a Steelers team held training camp away from Latrobe PA the Head Coach was Mike Nixon, and the Steelers were the worst team in the NFL. After less than a decade at St. Vincent College, the Steelers were Super Bowl Champions. Mike Tomlin will do something this season that Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher never had to do.

The NFL made the change to limit travel and the risk inherent in maintaining two facilities. While the Steelers stay on campus during training camp, isolation would be difficult and keeping Steelers fans away from St. Vincent would be nearly impossible.

Here’s why all teams will be home for training camp: the NFL and NFLPA wanted to limit the need for travel and also limit the risk of maintaining two facilities. They wanted the focus all on one. Last year 10 teams had camp away from facility; this year, none. https://t.co/JtYuvbieHd

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 2, 2020

This will have a major impact on the fan experience of the off-season. One of my favorite off-season traditions was looking at fan-shot film and takes from camp or, even better, taking a day and watching training camp in person.

There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of Steelers training camp at St. Vincent.

I expect the Rooney’s will return camp to Latrobe in 2021, because while the streak may be over, the experience of training camp can’t be matched in the team facility.

If you have attended training camp before, leave a comment with your favorite camp memory or traditions.

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

The Steelers still have a lot to figure out when it comes to tickets for 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/02/2020 - 2:30pm

Even after holding back tickets, the Steelers would have a long way to go should Heinz Field only be filled to 50% capacity

It’s a date which may not mean much to the majority of Steelers’ Nation, but yesterday (June 1) was a key deadline for those who are able to call themselves Pittsburgh Steelers season ticket holders. With the initial deadline of May 1 for season ticket holders to make their payments for the 2020 season, the Steelers extended the deadline by a month in order to give any who needed the extra time to make the decision or acquire the funds for the upcoming season. With stories of fans concerned about having to pay for the tickets in order to keep their seat license but unsure about actually attending the games, the Steelers made the statement they would be willing to work with season ticket holders to help accommodate them as much as possible. In fact, any season ticket holder with a concern for the 2020 season was encouraged to contact the Steelers ticket office.

While some may think season ticket holders should just skip the 2020 season, there is a lot more at stake. With the majority of season tickets coming to those who must hold the seat license (the tickets in the upper deck of the endzone are not licensed seats), there is a large investment which would be gone if tickets are not renewed. When the Steelers expanded Heinz Field in 2015, the seat license sold by the team were in the neighborhood of $4,000-$5,000 per seat. It is a one time fee, but if a season ticket holder takes even one year off from buying the tickets, the investment in the seat license is gone as well as their rights to the tickets. The only other options available are to transfer or sell their license in order to not lose it altogether.

In dealing with the situations of Steelers season ticket holders on a case by case basis, it’s difficult to gauge the teams playing should Heinz Field not be permitted to host the full 68,400-seat capacity for games come September. Yes, the Steelers held back 50% of the tickets available for individual sale, but this is merely a fraction of the total tickets available for each game.

With precise data unavailable as to how many seats belong to season ticket holder’s at Heinz Field for Steelers games (if anyone has access to this information, please let me know as I spent a long time searching to no avail), an extremely conservative estimate would be 70% of the stadiums capacity. With all of these tickets needing to be purchased by June 1, there is currently not a plan in place with the Steelers in limiting the amount of seats available to season-ticket holders.

At least there is no plan in which the season-ticket holder’s have been informed of at this time.

In case you’re wondering, I generally get the inside information released to the season ticket holders as I have had my tickets in section 122 since 2015. I was curious if there would be an email explaining procedures for the fall, but since I paid my invoice the early part of May I have yet to receive any communication in regards to season ticket holders from the Steelers. I don’t know if I ended up on a different list of correspondence due to not having an outstanding invoice or if there simply has not been any information given.

With this said, it is curious as to how the Steelers will plan to deal with a situation of reduced attendance. Obviously, if there will be no fans at games then it is simply a refund for all who have tickets. As for dealing with a reduced capacity at even 50%, the Steelers are going to have to deal with a situation where some ticket holders to games will not be permitted to attend.

If the aforementioned low estimate of 70% of Heinz Field’s seats held by season-ticket holders, only selling 50% of the available individual game tickets still has Heinz Field with 85% of the tickets being sold. So how will it determined whose tickets are valid and whose are not?

Another tricky issue which will arise should the Steelers have to back off from tickets they’ve already issued is season ticket holders were instantly given the ability to transfer or sell their tickets once they paid their invoice. What happens to those tickets where the season ticket holder no longer holds the rights? What about those who purchased resale tickets? Will they simply be revoked? And how will it be determined who attends and who does not?

As you can see, there are many questions which still remain. Even though the Steelers held back half of their individual tickets for each game, they are still very far away from being able to reasonably manage holding a game at Heinz Field with a 50% capacity. While many are still hopeful there will not be attendance restrictions come in the fall, it is an ultimate reality which many teams will have to prepare for in the not-so-distant future.

If the Steelers have a plan, it’s not one they are currently sharing even with the season ticket holders who will be mostly affected.

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Saeed Blacknall

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/02/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

Part 9 of the Pittsburgh Steelers A-to-Z continues on — assuming the roster does not change before we are complete— which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Part 9 of the series will the a look at our first former XFL player:

Saeed Blacknall

Position: WR
Height: 6’ 3”
Weight: 212 lbs
College: Penn State
Draft: UDFA in 2018

2019 stats (XFL)

3 Games played
4 Receptions
120 Yards
2 Touchdowns

Contract remaining

Expires in 2020

$610,000 salary cap number (0.3% of total cap)
$0 dead money
$610,000 cap savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Not likely. The Steelers receiving core is brimming with talent, which will make it tough for the Penn State alum to crack the final roster. Check out the list of guys ahead of him:

JuJu Smith-Schuster
Diontae Johnson
James Washington
Chase Claypool
Deon Cain
Ryan Switzer

While Switzer might be the first name that jumps out at you who Blacknall could surpass, I would suggest the player he's really competing against is fellow speedster Deon Cain. Ryan Switzer is just a different type of player (and he’s Ben Roethlisberger’s buddy). The team will only carry so many deep threats so this one feels like Cain vs Blacknall with “two dogs, one bone” possibly being the narative. Cain has the experience, so I’d put my money on Blacknall falling just short.

2020 projection

If Blacknall is able to make the team I wouldn't expect a lot from him. He might snag a ball here and there, but I don't think the Steelers would use him in the Johnny Holton role of simply throwing him a deep ball once a game. It would be more like once every 3 games should he be active on game day after squeezing on the roster. Theirs just too many mouths to feed, and too much depth ahead of him to realistically expect anything more than a catch or two.

Projected stats:

N/A - I don't see an easy path where he makes the team

Summary

Blacknall is one of those interesting XFL players. I have a sneaky suspicion that one of those guys might actually make some sort of impact with the team. Unfortunately for Blacknall, it probably won't be him. There are just too many obsticales working against him. Maybe he can surprise us.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry

Peter King puts Steelers in the top 10 in latest power rankings, still can’t get over backup QBs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/02/2020 - 11:00am
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Despite distrust of Ben Roethlisberger’s health and no confidence in his backups, King believes the Steelers are contenders

Peter King released his power rankings yesterday, with the Steelers ranked 10th in the NFL coming off an 8-8 season. They aren’t the only non-playoff team to make it this high, as King ranked 3 teams with 8 or fewer wins in 2019 higher than the Steelers.

But while King’s rankings are questionable, his final analysis of the team is spot on.

[Ben Roethlisberger] had two significant weapons added to his arsenal: 238-pound rookie receiver Chase Claypool and free-agent tight end Eric Ebron. The defense, with ace safety Minkah Fitzpatrick likely better after being thrown into the starting lineup with the September trade from Miami, should be a top-five NFL D again. Pittsburgh led the NFL with 54 sacks and 38 takeaways in 2019 . . . and lost only defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (in free agency, to the Eagles) from its core. Healthy, this is a Super Bowl-contending team. Without Roethlisberger for any lengthy period, Pittsburgh will struggle to be the sixth or seventh seed in the AFC.

Can’t really disagree with that.

King also points out Ben Roethlisberger has missed games in three of the four seasons before 2019, with the most being 5 in 2015. While Peter King is baffled that Kevin Colbert didn’t bring in a better backup for the Steelers, I think Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges could handle a five game stretch and win 2 or 3 of those games.

Peter King ranked only the Ravens ahead of the Steelers in the AFC North, with the Browns and Bengals both in the bottom ten of the league.

You can find Peter King’s full article HERE.

A way-too-early look at the 2021 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/02/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Which wideouts could be donning the black and gold next year? Let’s look at the top wide receivers Steeler fans should be watching this college football season.

From the second the 2020 draft came to a close, Speculation had already started up for the 2021 class.

So, in that spirit, here we are with an article series highlighting prospects who look to be this upcoming draft’s biggest stars.

And the season hasn’t even started yet.

Admittedly, “way too early” draft predictions are exactly what they’re titled: Way too early— and as a result are very rarely, or perhaps never, accurate at all.

In this draft primer series, we won’t be mocking players to any teams, but rather looking at the top players at each position who could get drafted by the Steelers with their first few picks in 2021. Prospects such as Trevor Lawrence, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Fields, and Penei Sewell, who are all expected to be gone long before the Steelers pick in the first round, will not be included.

The goal? Not to make any “hot take” predictions, but rather to look at some players Steelers fans might want to watch a little closer than usual this college season.

Third in this series we’ll be looking at a positional class which was one of the strongest ever last year and looks to continue the same tradition in 2021: wide receivers. They are ranked in no particular order.

Player of note: Justyn Ross, WR #8, Clemson

2019 stats: 66 receptions, 865 receiving yards, 8 receiving touchdowns.

Height/Weight: 6’4”, 205 lbs.

Only 24 hours ago, Ross was in this very spot on the list with a full breakdown. Unfortunately, it was just announced Ross will not play in 2020 and may never play football again as he is scheduled to have surgery in Pittsburgh for a congenital fusion in his spine.

Clemson will be without star WR Justyn Ross in the upcoming season pic.twitter.com/sq9N4XolaT

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) June 1, 2020 Jaylen Waddle, WR #17, Alabama

2019 stats: 33 receptions, 560 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns.

Height/Weight: 5’10”, 182 lbs.

We haven’t seen much from Waddle during his time at Alabama, but we’ve seen enough to project him as a top 5 receiver in 2021.

Waddle is lightning fast, and has the route-running ability and separation skills to make him a dangerous wideout. With former teammates and first round picks Jerry Judy and Henry Ruggs in the NFL, Waddle will be presented with an expanded role in 2021.

Jaylen Waddle is dynamic in the open field. His agility makes him hard to tackle when the ball is in his hands. He has Henry Ruggs-esque upside, and if his production gets the expected boost this season, he’ll be a high draft pick.

Some notable articles about Jaylen Waddle:

Jaylen Waddle could challenge for WR1 in 2021 NFL Draft - NFL Mocks

Speedy Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle wants to be even faster in sophomore season - Montgomery Advertiser

Jaylen Waddle is the best in the country in YAC - 247 Sports

DeVonta Smith, WR #6, Alabama

2019 stats: 68 receptions, 1,256 receiving yards, 14 receiving touchdowns.

Height/Weight: 6’1”, 175 lbs.

Smith isn’t the physical specimen that his Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle is, however, he outperformed his speedy counterpart by a wide margin in 2019.

Smith is a master route runner and might be the most technically sound receiver in his class. His hands are reliable, even though there is some concern with body catches. He also possesses a great ability to separate and get open.

Smith’s calling card is his crisp route running, not just relying on pure speed or athleticism like so many others his class. However, this isn't to say he’s a poor athlete. More worrisome is his weight, at 175 pounds, which is slightly undersized for the position.

DeVonta Smith wisely returned to Alabama for his senior year where he can continue to bulk up and prepare for the NFL. Along with Jaylen Waddle, Smith should help continue Alabama’s tradition of having ridiculously talented receiver cores.

Smith is currently in the first-round conversation for 2021, and it’s unnerving to think that Alabama had four first-round talents playing for them last year in Jerry Juedy, Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith.

It’s a shame Tua Tagovailoa got hurt when he did— it could have been a historic year for Alabama’s talented offense.

Some notable articles about DeVonta Smith:

DeVonta Smith Draft Profile - The Draft Network

DeVonta Smith explodes into NFL Draft conversation with huge game - NFL Mocks

Alabama WR DeVonta Smith bypassing 2020 NFL Draft, returning to Crimson Tide for senior season - CBS Sports

Rondale Moore, WR #4, Purdue

2019 stats: 29 receptions, 387 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns.

Height/Weight: 5’9”, 180 lbs.

Moore’s draft hype is mainly based off of his incredible freshman season in 2018 where he put up an incredible 114 receptions, 1,258 receiving yards, and 12 receiving touchdowns. After such a productive season, Moore understandably put himself on the map. But, it all came crashing down after a scary, season-ending injury against Minnesota in week 4 of his sophomore campaign.

Moore is incredibly fast, and has drawn some comparisons to Tyreek Hill due to his blazing speed. He’s also incredibly elusive and agile, and productive when healthy.

Moore is also an incredibly tough player for a receiver of his size. He’s apparently an overachiever at just about everything, as he’s posted videos of benching 400+ lbs and squatting over 600 lbs, which is incredible for a player his size. He had a 3.7 GPA as a freshman, and was named to the All-Academic Big 10 as a sophomore as well.

The only remaining questions on Moore are his durability as his small size and injury history could make some teams shy away. If he can prove the his freshman season wasn’t a fluke, the Purdue speedster will surely go in the first 32 picks this upcoming draft.

Some notable articles about Rondale Moore:

Rondale Moore Devy Profile - Rotoheat

Rondale Moore: So Much (Moore) Than Just Speed - Downtown Sorts Network

Back for Moore: Purdue’s Rondale Moore is Feeling Good, Back to 100% - Boilermakers Country

Rashod Bateman, WR #13, Minnesota

2019 stats: 60 receptions, 1,219 receiving yards, 11 receiving touchdowns.

Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210 lbs.

After playing behind Tyler Johnson’s shadow last year at Minnesota, Bateman has a chance to shine as one of the best receivers in college football.

Bateman isn't a speedy deep threat, but he’ll hold his own on vertical routes which he really improved in 2019. His route running is solid, but the real strength to his game is when he finds himself in contested catch situations.

With excellent body control, great size, and strong hands, Bateman is a nightmare matchup one-on-one when the ball is up in the air. His concentration and physicality really stand out, and he can't be counted out until the ball hits the ground.

Bateman is the full package at wide receiver. If he continues to improve with his route running and agility, he has a good shot and making a name for himself in another loaded wide receiver draft class. Paired with a first-round sleeper in quarterback Tanner Morgan, we could be hearing a lot more about Bateman as the season progresses.

Some notable articles about Rashod Bateman:

2021 NFL Draft: Keep an eye on Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman - NFL Mocks

2021 NFL Draft: Rashod Bateman a true No. 1 wide receiver in Minnesota - Pro Football Network

Evaluating Gopher Football’s Future: Wide Receiver - 247 Sports

Sage Surratt, WR #14, Wake Forest

2019 stats: 66 receptions, 1,001 receiving yards, 11 receiving touchdowns.

Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 lbs.

Surratt had a strong connection with quarterback Jamie Newman prior to the latter’s departure to Georgia. Without Newman, Surratt still has a chance to up his draft stock in 2021 after a dominant season last year.

Surratt is a similar prospect to Steelers’ 2020 draft pick Chase Claypool, as he’s a big target who performs well in the vertical passing game but still needs work on his lateral agility. Surratt isn’t as polished a blocker as Clapool is, but still uses his size and strength to his advantage to bully defensive backs before and after the catch. Surratt has had some drop issues, but they have more to do with concentration than anything else.

Returning to school for his senior year, Suratt will have another chance to try to prove himself as the ACC’s top receiver. He’s an intriguing, physical player who can really improve if he can clean up some of the rawer aspects of his game. Currently in the late first/early third round conversation, Surratt’s stock should stabilize based off of how he finishes this season.

Some notable articles about Sage Surratt:

Sage Surratt Draft Profile - The Draft Network

Wake Forest announces WR Sage Surratt to return as well - College Football Talk

Some other names to look out for this season include Florida State’s Tamorrion Terry, Auburn’s Seth Williams, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown, Ohio State’s Chris Olave, and Memphis’ Damonte Coxie.

LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is considered by most to be the top prospect in this year’s class, and he’s been a consistent top 5/10 pick in most mock drafts this year. Pending a major disappointment of a season by Chase, or a complete meltdown by the Steelers, there is hardly a chance that he will find his way to Pittsburgh in 2021. As with most blue-chip prospects, Chase is worth watching and studying, but he was omitted from this exercise to include more probable Steelers prospects.

Will the Steelers have any interest in adding a wideout to their team in 2021?

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has always shown interest in drafting receivers, and in a class that has a chance at being even stronger than last year’s, he will definitely be tempted to draft another athletic weapon for Ben Roethlisberger.

Unless, JuJu Smith-Schuster moves on from Pittsburgh next year, or Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and/or Chase Claypool put up duds of a season, there won't be much room for a high-pedigree newcomer.

The Steelers have put together a talented core of young wideouts over the past few years, and there’s little reason to expect them to change it while they have bigger priorities.

That being said, Kevin Colbert has always shown an affinity for quality second-round wide receivers, so who knows?

Masters of Disguise: How the Steelers keep offenses guessing by masking their coverages

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/02/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The more difficult a defense can make a quarterback’s ability to read the field, their better their chance for success

Most Steelers fans, especially those who have hung around BTSC a while, can remember the criticism directed at Keith Butler and the defensive staff a few seasons ago for their lack of creativity, particularly when it came to coverage matchups and disguises.

The poster-child, so to speak, for that line of thinking came on a crucial play in the 33-30 loss to the Chargers in 2018. It was a game in which the Steelers were torched by Phillip Rivers and his favorite target that night, receiver Keenan Allen. On a 3rd and 4 from the Pittsburgh 34 with 1:12 remaining, Los Angeles got Allen matched up one-on-one against inside linebacker Jon Bostic, leading to a crucial conversion and the eventual game-winning field goal:

In fairness to Butler, sub-package players Morgan Burnett and Cam Sutton were unavailable for that Chargers game, leaving few options in passing situations. Still, Butler was raked over the coals. A few weeks later, when the Steelers failed to qualify for the playoffs, a cacophony of voices called for Butler to be fired. The Allen-Bostic play was referenced ad nauseum.

Fast forward eighteen months. As I write this article, the Steelers possess one of the best all-around defenses in the NFL. There are no calls for Butler’s job (those voices are bellowing about Randy Fichtner on the other side of the ball) and comparisons are being made between the current defense and its legendary 2008 counterpart. It’s been quite the transition.

What changed? For starters, Bostic, safety Sean Davis and corner Artie Burns have all departed. In their places are Devin Bush, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Steven Nelson, each of whom represents a significant upgrade. T.J. Watt has blossomed into a star, Bud Dupree had a breakout 2019 season and Terrell Edmunds improved in his second year. The talent is better, no question.

Keith Butler is better, too. It’s funny how improved talent creates the perception of better coaching. In this case, both Butler and the talent have evolved. The Steelers gave Butler better players to work with and, with the addition of Teryl Austin and Tom Bradley as defensive assistants, better coaches as well. The moves have paid dividends. Together, Butler, the staff and their upgraded personnel have made tremendous progress.

One area where that progress is especially evident involves coverage disguise. The Steelers have transformed from a defense whose coverages, as Allen insinuated after that 2018 Chargers game, were easy to predict to one that creates deception like a grifter. This article examines those disguises and how the Steelers put them to use.

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To begin, it should be noted that the Steelers play a variety of coverages, from cover-1 through cover-6, as well as some things that, as I study them on film, I’m not sure what to call them. For the sake of brevity, I won’t go through all of these coverages but I’ve provided links to some explanations if you want clarification on how each works:

Cover-1

Cover-2

Cover-3

Cover-4 and Cover-6

The Steelers line up in a lot of two-high shells but they are not what I would call a base cover-2 defense. Increasingly, they have come to favor cover-6, which features a cover-2 look to the weak side or boundary and cover-4 to the passing strength or field.

Regardless of how the Steelers initially align, chances are fairly good they will rotate to a different look during, or just prior to, the snap. One thing Butler has learned is NFL quarterbacks are simply too good to be presented a steady diet of vanilla coverages. Here are some examples of how he and the staff move from one look to another in an effort to confuse them:

Disguising “Robber”

Below we see a pre-snap image from the game versus the Rams last season. The Steelers align in what looks like a fairly standard cover-6. They appear to be playing cover-4 to the field, with Steven Nelson and Minkah Fitzpatrick looking to match the vertical routes and dime players Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton providing help underneath. To the boundary, it’s a cover-2 look with corner Joe Haden squatting in the flat and safety Terrell Edmunds playing half the field:

The Rams are expecting cover-6. How do we know? They run a flat-fade concept, a common cover-2 beater, to the boundary and a Drive route to the field. Quarterback Jared Goff is anticipating Nelson will run with the #1 receiver (the vertical route) and Sutton will stay on #2, leaving an easy throw to #3 in the soft zone. Watch what the Steelers do, however:

They rotate to a cover-1 “robber” look, with the underneath defenders locked on and Fitzpatrick moving back to the free safety role. Edmunds, meanwhile, drops down to “rob” the middle of the field. He is reading Goff’s eyes and looking to jump the first thing that shows. This, and the man coverage provided by Hilton, turns an easy throw to #3 into a dangerous throw against double coverage. Goff has to pull back and reload before the rush closes in. He throws hurriedly to the crosser behind Edmunds and the pass is broken up by Cam Sutton.

This is a great example of the Steelers being one move ahead of LA on the chess board. They present the Rams with a look they are expecting only to jump into something different at the snap, forcing a dangerous throw that is almost intercepted.

Disguising Cover-3

Here is another clip from that game against the Rams. Anyone who has watched the Steelers play defense the past few seasons knows they like to bring slot corner Mike Hilton off the edge in their nickel package. Hilton is a good blitzer and a great tackler, and the Steelers do a nice job sending him from different looks.

Often, when Hilton comes, they play cover-1 behind the stunt. This is the look they present LA below, with Hilton (circled) creeping down out of the slot, Edmunds (the field safety) poised to take over Hilton’s receiver and Mark Barron (the near backer) on #3. The remaining secondary players are topping their men in what looks like a man-free configuration:

It’s not. Hilton yo-yos at the snap and bounces back into the flat while Fitzpatrick (the boundary safety) rotates to the deep middle. The corners run with their respective vertical routes. Edmunds creeps down to become the hook player opposite Barron while Cam Sutton falls off the left edge to cover the flat. This is a classic four-under, three-deep cover-3 zone:

Common routes for defeating this coverage include slant-flat, which puts a horizontal stretch on the flat player, and four verts, which sends four receivers down the field against the three deep defenders. The Rams run three verts and a ten-yard hook, a route concept that plays right into the hands of the cover-3 defense. Jared Goff, again confused, cannot find anyone open and dumps an errant pass to his late-releasing back for an incompletion.

It’s another winning chess move for Coach Butler and company.

Disguising “Stress”

Here’s a coverage disguise from last season's game against the Ravens in Pittsburgh that precipitated a long discussion among some of the coaches I know. I sent the clip in a text to about a dozen guys and asked for their thoughts on what the Steelers were doing. There were a host of opinions, but no consensus. No matter what the Steelers call it, one local coach captured the spirit of the thing:

Often, they don’t. That’s the case here with Lamar Jackson. There’s so much going on, from the twist up front to the pre-snap movement in the secondary, Jackson simply unloads the ball the moment he sees what he believes is an open receiver in tight end Mark Andrews. Thanks to a little black (and gold) magic, Andrews is not actually open. It’s an illusion conjured up by Butler. The pass is broken up by Fitzpatrick and intercepted by Kameron Kelly:

Let’s look closer at what’s happening here. Pre-snap, Kelly and Terrell Edmunds are swapping assignments, with Kelly rotating out of the slot to join Fitzpatrick in a two-high shell and Edmunds dropping down to the linebacker level (as he often does). Once the ball is snapped, my best guess is the Steelers are playing a version of what some teams call “Stress,” a coverage specific to 3x1 structures from an offense:

In Stress, the field safety (Fitzpatrick) carries the #3 receiver (Andrews) on anything vertical while the field corner (Nelson) and slot corner (Sutton) combo the #1 and #2 receivers. Nelson will carry anything vertical from #1 (which he does) and Sutton will take #2 on anything out and up. Here, #2 goes inside so Sutton passes him off. Fitzpatrick is reading Andrews’ release, which allows him to drive quickly on the throw. Fitzpatrick, Sutton and Nelson are all playing this coverage as though it’s Stress.

On the back side in Stress, Haden and Kelly would bracket the single receiver. Stress is designed to take away a team’s best receiver when they try to single him up on the weak side of trips (thus the bracket). It’s a good coverage to use against an elite receiver or a team which likes to throw weak against a defense that rotates their coverage to trips. If it is true Stress though, Haden should be playing with better outside leverage to funnel the receiver towards Kelly, and Kelly should at least be peeking in his direction. Still, of all the coverages I am familiar with, this seems most consistent with Stress.

Whatever it is, my dear friend Paul Callahan put it best in his text: “How do the QBs ever figure that ________ out.”

Disguising zone at the goal line

NFL teams have long favored man-to-man schemes near the goal line because they create tight windows in which to throw and, with the reduced amount of field, defenders don’t have as much ground to cover. Offenses counter those man schemes with horizontal routes that allow receivers to run away from defenders or by using picks and rubs to free them from coverage.

To compensate, defenses are now starting to mask their goal-line looks. One way the Steelers do this is to show man but play zone. Here is an example of this from the game at Arizona last season. In the image below, we see the Steelers in a pre-snap “man” look, with the arrows indicating receivers to whom defenders appear to be assigned and the circled players free to provide help:

As you see in the GIF, Arizona runs a rub for the #1 receiver at the bottom of the screen. They are trying to free him up for an easy throw from quarterback Kyler Murray by bringing him under the #2 receiver and forcing corner Joe Haden, who they anticipate will be in man coverage, to go over top of the rub. It’s not man, however, but a match-zone instead.

Haden has the first receiver breaking out, so when he sees #1 release inside, he lets him go and picks up #2 on the quick out. The slot corner (Hilton) has the opposite responsibility. Hilton releases #2, sits on #1 and passes him to Cam Sutton as he continues inside. The safety (Fitzpatrick) sinks to #3 then releases him when Murray, unable to throw the rub route on time, scrambles out of the pocket.

On the other side, the Steelers bracket Larry Fitzgerald with the corner and safety and Mark Barron picks up the running back on the late release:

This coverage has many of the elements of the Stress look shown in the segment above, with the bracket to the single receiver, the safety reading #3 to the trips, and combo coverage on #1 and #2. The Steelers were the fourth best team in the NFL last season in opponent red zone scoring percentage, up from 16th in 2018. As we see here, better coverage disguise from the staff and effective communication from the players are likely responsible for the improvement.

Disguising “Sticks”

Finally, we get to another interesting disguise which was first pointed out to me by Geoffrey Benedict a couple of months ago (thank you, Geoffrey!). This is a look the Steelers used several times in Week 13 against the Browns, particularly in long-yardage situations, and again in Week 16 against the Jets. It is either a modified cover-3 or an interesting twist on Tampa-2 (this is a great read on the Tampa-2, by the way, featuring some vintage footage of Jack Lambert and the Steel Curtain defense).

Generally speaking, the coverage embodies a philosophy known as “Sticks,” whereby defenders sink to the first-down marker in a long-yardage situation, forcing the offense to throw over them while allowing them to rally to the ball against anything underneath.

“Sticks” works well when a defense can get to the quarterback quickly, freeing coverage players to sit aggressively at the line-to-gain without getting stretched vertically by slower-developing deep routes. It can stem from any pre-snap configuration, provided defenders build a wall in the five basic zones at the markers. They must cover both sideline areas (numbers to sideline), both hook areas (hash to numbers) and the middle of the field, with the sixth and seventh defenders either locking on specific receivers or adding extra protection at the sticks.

Here, the Steelers show a soft cover-2 look on a 3rd and 14 play from the week 13 game against the Browns:

The area to attack against this look is the space between the corner and the safety along the sideline or deep down the middle between the safeties. The Steelers take those routes away with their late rotation and defend the sticks with a wall of players:

The safeties sit at the sticks between the numbers and the hashes while Cam Sutton rotates from the second level to man the deep middle. The Steelers wind up with seven defenders stretched across the field within five yards of the markers. Earlier in the game, they forced a strip-sack of quarterback Baker Mayfield using this same disguise. Here, however, Mayfield escapes the pocket and completes a difficult throw to receiver Jarvis Landry along the sideline. Had the Steelers contained Mayfield, his only options were to check the ball down, throw it away, or eat it for another sack.

As we can see, “Sticks,” whether it be cover-3 or Tampa-2, is an effective way for the Steelers to disguise their coverage in long yardage situations.

The key to making any of this work is proper communication in the secondary. The Steelers were plagued by communication issues prior to Minkah Fitzpatrick’s arrival. Fitzpatrick’s value is seen in what he does physically, but also, as evidenced here, by what he brings to the defense from a mental standpoint. How the defense communicates in order to disguise blitzes, coverages, and execute schemes in general is a topic for a forthcoming article. For now, enjoy the sleight of hand featured here and how it has helped turn the Steelers’ defense into one of the elite units in the league.

The best draft picks by selection in Steelers history: 1-10

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/02/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Ross Lewis/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the greatest drafting teams in NFL history, but who are the best picks by number selected.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won 6 Super Bowl championship on the backs of superior drafting and developing their talent. In fact, you very rarely see many big-time contributors to those championship teams from players not drafted by the organization.

Over the course of 88 seasons, the organization has made 78 first round picks at almost every possible drafting position in the first round. So let's break down every overall selection of the first round, in three parts. Todays article will highlight selections 1 through 10

1st Overall:
Terry Bradshaw 1970, Quarterback, Louisiana State Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

The Steelers haven't drafted 1st overall since taking Bradshaw in 1970, and haven't been near the top overall pick thanks in-part to the culture change implemented once the blonde bomber became a member of the Steelers.

Bradshaw’s achievements are endless, highlighted by 4 Super Bowl championships, 2 Super Bowl MVPs, and being the only player in franchise history to be named league MVP. The choice for number 1 was easy, and it’s quite possible Bradshaw will hold this spot for the rest of our lifetimes.

2nd Overall:
Paul Duhart 1945, Running back, Florida Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maybe I failed to mention in some cases the Steelers have only ever drafted one player in a particular slot and are the best — and the worst — by default. This is one of those cases.

But before you scroll to the next player, there is actually an interesting story behind Paul Duhart’s selection.

In 1944, Duhart was discharged by the US Army, and was given special permission to sign with the NFL club of his choosing. This happened because in 1943 the Florida Gators, his college program, had disbanded. Duhart decided to sign on with the Green Bay Packers, which would go on to win the NFL championship that season, a game where Duhart intercepted a pass in the last minute of the game to clinch the championship.

In 1945 the NFL ruled Duhart would have to enter the NFL Draft, and he would go on to be the Steelers second overall selection. Unfortunately, he would only play 2 games in Pittsburgh before being purchased off the Steelers roster by the Boston Yanks. By the end of the season, an injury would end Duhart’s NFL career.

3rd Overall
William Shakespeare 1936, Running back, Notre Dame Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

No, not that William Shakespeare. He was nicknamed ‘The Bard of South Bend’ after his role at Notre Dame and sharing a name with ‘The bard of Avon.’

The Steelers drafted a number of players 3rd overall but none of which never made an impact on the organization. So let’s highlight the first ever draft pick of the then named, Pittsburgh Pirates. Shakespeare never actually played in an NFL game, but will go down as an all-time answer to the trivia question ‘who was the Steelers first draft pick?’

4th Overall
‘Mean’ Joe Greene 1969, Defensive Tackle, North Texas Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

The greatest defensive tackle in NFL history and the greatest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers of all-time unsurprisingly holds down the 4th slot of the list. Just check out the man’s achievements:

4× Super Bowl champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV)
10× Pro Bowl (1969–1976, 1978, 1979)
5× First-team All-Pro (1972–1974, 1977, 1979)
3× Second-team All-Pro (1971, 1975, 1976)
NFL Man of the Year (1979)
2× NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1972, 1974)
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (1969)

Greene was the anchor of one of the greatest and long lasting defenses in NFL history. If you're going to have a conversation on the greatest players in league history, Mean Joe has to be one of the first names mentioned.

5th Overall
Len Dawson 1957, Quarterback, Purdue Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Yes, NFL Hall-of-famer Len Dawson was a first-round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the team has picked in this slot a few times in history, including fellow quarterback, Ted Marchibroda, none of the made much of an impact on the field.

Dawson played 3 seasons in Pittsburgh, but when the organization brought in Bobby Layne they decided to trade Dawson away. After a short stint with the Browns, Dawson would go on to become the first ‘franchise QB’ in Chiefs history by leading the club to its first Super bowl while picking up MVP honors.

6th Overall
Frank Varrichione 1955, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame Photo by Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images

Frank Varrichione may have been the greatest player in franchise history when he left the organization in 1961. The Tackle from Notre Dame made 4 Pro Bowls in 5 seasons with the Steelers. Varrichione was the games premier offensive lineman during his era.

7th Overall
Tim Worley 1989, Running back, Georgia Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers whiffed on a number of seventh overall selections, however Worley showed promise in his rookie season. But it was all down hill from there. After putting up 770 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns as a rookie, Worley would never come close to those numbers again. He would be traded to the Chicago Bears after 4 seasons and only putting up 1,305 career yards with the Steelers.

8th Overall
Plaxico Burress 2000, Wide Receiver, Michigan State Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

‘Plax’ was a gigantic target for his quarterbacks, and he was also a gigantic pain in the arse. Burress put up some big numbers and made some incredible plays in his first stint in Pittsburgh. He would go on to catch the Super Bowl-winning touchdown as a member of the New York Giants. He would also go on to spend time in jail for shooting himself in the leg. Burress would make a return to the NFL, and the Steelers. He would only go on to put up 3 receptions in 2 seasons in his second go-round.

Honorable mentions
Frank Lewis, WR, 1971
Lynn Chandnois, RB, 1950

9th Overall
John Rienstra 1986, Guard, Temple Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers have made a pair of 9th overall selections. Only Reinstra would play at all for the organization. He would last four seasons in Pittsburgh playing in 65 career games, starting in 48 of them. Rienstra never lived up to being the number 9 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

10th Overall
Rod Woodson 1987, Corner, Purdue Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Now things are about to ramp up.

Woodson is one of, if not the best cornerback in team history and that's including the name of Mel Blount. The Hall of Famer was an integral piece of the ‘Blitzburgh’ defense of the 90’s. His achievements are another worth noting:

11× Pro Bowl (1989–1994, 1996, 1999–2002)
6× First-team All-Pro (1989, 1990, 1992–1994, 2002)
2× Second-team All-Pro (1991, 1996)
NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1993)
AFC Player of the Year (1993)

Woodson would play the majority of his 17 year NFL career in Pittsburgh, where he would fail to hoist the Lombardi (which was mostly Neil O’Donnell’s fault) however he would go on to win a championship with the rival Baltimore Ravens.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through part one! As we move through this exercise we will move into winning eras. Stay tuned for that tomorrow!

Trivia time! Only twice have the Pittsburgh Steelers ever made multiple first round picks in the same draft. Can you name the years, which players were selected, and how they acquired the extra picks? Let us know in the comments below!

Podcast: Ryan Switzer can make the Steelers on his own merit

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/02/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Q&A” show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo analyze Ryan Switzer’s chances of making the Steelers.

Some naysayers believe that Ryan Switzer will only make the Steelers because if his friendship with his quarterback, but Switzer could make it own his own merit. The Steelers are returning a lot of talent at the wide receiver position along with their top draft pick in 2020— Chase Claypool. Will Switzer be there at the end? That is the question we will hope to answer on our latest podcast, along with many more.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Q&A Show. On this show Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Ryan Switzer can make the Steelers on his own merit.
  • Who will be the Steelers’ receiving stable to start 2020.
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Bryan Davis and Tony Defeo, of BTSC, walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
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: If Minkah Fitzpatrick moves around, some else must move wit him

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/02/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the Steelers are unable to hold their typical OTA’s doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether the option to move Minkah Fitzpatrick around in the secondary is more about him or how it affects other members of the secondary, as well as an article from former BTSC editor Jeff Hartman.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers may be better off leaving ‘well enough’ alone in the secondary

Minkah Fitzpatrick’s game isn’t broken, so Steelers need not fix it

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

When safety Minkah Fitzpatrick wanted out of Miami, he said the Dolphins moved him around the field too much.

Now that he’s made first-team All-Pro with the Steelers, Fitzpatrick would like to spend time at “corner or linebacker, whatever it may be, that’s what I’m going to do.” Fitzpatrick isn’t fanatic about that quest, but he’d clearly like to do it.

Fitzpatrick was involved with seven takeaways during his first seven games with the Steelers last season. But that number dipped to one takeaway in the season’s last seven games as Fitzpatrick’s part of the field became a no-fly zone. Fitzpatrick was targeted just seven times in the Steelers’ last eight games.

Fitzpatrick’s intent is noble: He wants to make plays. Few safeties could effectively handle the hybrid-type role that Troy Polamalu mastered. Fitzpatrick might be able to.

But there’s no need for Fitzpatrick to do that.

The Steelers have 10 of 11 starters back on defense, and also top nickel Mike Hilton. They finished fifth-best among NFL defensive units in yards allowed and fifth-best in points allowed. They led the league with 38 takeaways.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • A full breakdown of the Steelers Week 1 opponent by former BTSC editor Jeff Hartman

Steelers 2020 Breakdown: Week 1, Giants

By: Jeff Hartman, DK Pittsburgh Sports

Even during these uncertain times, it is the NFL which seems determined to keep their 16-game regular season intact. The dates might change, but the league doesn’t want to lose any games in the 2020 regular season.

Will fans be in the seats for these games?

MATCHUP

Opponent: Giants

2019 record: 4-12

Overall history: 44-30-3 for Giants

Last 4 games: 3-1 for Steelers

Opening line: Steelers (-3)

Date: Monday, Sept. 14

Time: 7:15 p.m.

Place: East Rutherford, N.J.

FREE-AGENT LOSSES

Antoine Bethea, S (team option declined)

Alec Ogletree, LB

Kareem Martin, LB

RETIREMENTS

Eli Manning, QB

Rhett Ellison, TE

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Steelers defensive lineman Tyson Alualu discusses life at home with his five children

Alualu is learning along with his kids

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

When Tyson Alualu has to take part in the Steelers virtual zoom meetings, he goes to the bedroom and locks the door.

No, he isn’t trying to protect secrets from anyone. That isn’t it at all.

He is just trying to find a place where he knows nobody will run into the room in the middle of a meeting, screaming, yelling or just looking for a hug.

“I kind of stay in the room upstairs and make sure I lock they the door because they are always running in, making noise not knowing what I am doing,” laughed Alualu.

The ‘they’ he is referring to are his kids.

All five of them.

Alualu and his wife, Desire, have five kids, Tyree, Dereon, Tydes, Tyten and Tyson. And you know what that means these days. Five kids to homeschool. Tyree is in the eighth grade, Dereon in the sixth grade, Tydes in the third grade, and Tyten and Tyson are preschoolers.

“It’s been a challenge, but more so for my wife,” said Alualu. “Thankfully we live in an area where the school is great. They each got an iPad. They log in every morning at 8 a.m. and do their work throughout the week. You gain better respect and an understanding for teachers during all of this.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Is Lawrence Timmons still an option for the Steelers?

The rejected alternative onside kick option wasn’t a bad idea

Justin Layne may hold the key to the future for the Steelers secondary

Is Jordan Berry a lock to make the Steelers roster in 2020?

With the 2021 draft class looking to be deep at quarterback, the Steelers could look to land their QB of the future

  • Social Media Madness

Got my hands on a few copies of FEAR IS A CHOICE early! Such a blessing I can’t wait to share with y’all.. Available for pre-order now hit the link in my bio! #MoreLove #LessHate #StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/gcOcl3kM3Q

— James Conner (@JamesConner_) June 1, 2020

Spend $75 and get a free mini speaker just in time for Father's Day.

Shop: https://t.co/wxcjEz9Vkf pic.twitter.com/v0a3ucuPcP

— Steelers Pro Shop (@SteelersShop) June 1, 2020

The 2021 quarterback class is loaded, but will the Steelers make the pick?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/01/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Current projections have as many as eight QBs who could go in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.

Although it’s early, it is believed there could be as many as eight quarterback’s selected in the first round of the 2021 draft. The names at the very top of the board are obvious in Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and FCS standout Trey Lance. We could very well see each of those guys go off the board within the first three picks. But the talent doesn’t stop there. Take into consideration the following names:

Jamie Newman, Georgia
Brock Purdy, Iowa State
Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
K.J. Costello, Mississippi State

And even some other guys who could claw themselves into the top three rounds include:
Ian Book, Notre Dame
Kyle Trask, Florida
Sam Ehlinger, Texas

But the question remains, will the Steelers chase any one of those names? Kevin Colbert has been quite vocal about the organization sticking with Mason Rudolph as the teams top back up in 2020, and Ben Roethlisberger will still be on the books for over $40 million in 2021. But it shouldn’t stop the team and trying to upgrade at the games most important position.

With so much talent available in 2021, I think the Steelers would be foolish to not at least add some competition to their quarterback room. So many teams already have quarterbacks on big ticket contracts and others have already selected quarterbacks high in the past few NFL drafts. Seemingly, a couple of those names are bound to drop to wherever the Steelers may be selecting. While I do not believe the team will be anywhere bad enough to find themselves in a position to select any of the big three quarterbacks, there is still a ton of talent to be had.

Montana mentored Young
Favre mentored Rogers ...well
Brady was told to mentor Garoppolo...

Roethlisberger can do the same for whomever the team would take. I also don’t think it would affect Mason Rudolph whatsoever. Rudolph will already have a head start having been in the offense, at that point going on four years, and I think being pushed could only make him a better player. Whoever can prove to be the next starting quarterback can take over the reins of the offense once Big Ben hangs up his cleats. The team could then choose to trade the other. It’s a win-win scenario.

There’s nothing wrong with having a plan at the quarterback position in the post Big Ben era. Add in the fact how young and talented this defense is and how high the potential of the receiving course seems to be, it would be a mistake not to provide them with a quarterback in the future. The Steelers have built themselves a roster which can win not only now, but in the future so long as they can find someone capable of running the offense.

What do you think? Should the Steelers look into one of the quarterbacks of the 2021 class? Should they wait until Ben is officially retired? Or do you think Mason Rudolph is the next quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers? Let us know in the comments below

Numero Uni: Of the 25 most prolific Steelers jersey numbers of all time, which is ranked 24th?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/01/2020 - 12:45pm
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers have had a plethora of great players representing one number over the years. Find out which one is ranked 24th.

BTSC continues to rank the best numbers in team history on a standpoint of thriving over time throughout multiple players. It seems there are a few numbers which are always represented with quality play in Steelers lore. One BTSC author has wondered aloud “what is the most accomplished number in Steelers history?” Through player and jersey value rankings found in Pro Football Reference, we have ranked the most successful numbers in Steelers history worn by various players. You won’t see numbers like 12, 58, 75, 32, 52, 59, 36, 63 and 47 as it would be basically ranking an individual player over the other and not the cumulative effort. In today’s submission, we take a look at those ranked 24th. Enjoy.

24) No. 43

Most Notable: Troy Polamalu 2003-2014, Earnest Jackson 1986-1988 (pictured below), Frank Lewis 1971-1977

Current Wearer: Not Issued

Perhaps the most recognizable No. 43 is Troy Polamalu and that isn’t for his voice-acting role as Villager No. 2 in Disney’s Moana. The 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year retired as one of the most popular players in the history of the team. The 8-time Pro Bowler and 5-time All-Pro was known for his kamikaze-style of play and his trademark hair. Troy is a member of the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade team, the franchise’s All-Time team and the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and team MVP. Polamalu concluded his career after the 2014 season with 581 tackles and ranks seventh all-time with 32 interceptions. Next he is scheduled to be enshrined in Canton as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

Earnest Jackson joined his third team in four years when he joined the Steelers after the season began in 1986. Jackson was traded by the Chargers after leading the NFL in rushing in 1984 due to the Chargers signing of USFL standouts Gary Anderson and Tim Spencer. He landed in Philadelphia six days before the 1985 opener and had another 1,000-yard season. However he didn’t fit Buddy Ryan’s idea of a complete back and was waived after the second week of the 1986 season. Despite higher offers from other teams, Jackson felt the situation in Pittsburgh fit him best as they were second-to-last in the league in rushing. In only 13 games, Jackson had 910 yards for an average of 4.2 ypc and made the Pro Bowl. Furthermore, The Steelers ended up as the seventh-ranked rushing team in the NFL. The following season, Jackson’s TD production dropped to three (from five) but he remained the Steelers’ feature back. After struggling with production and injury in 1988, Jackson saw his time in Pittsburgh and the league end.

Frank Lewis was a No. 1 selection out of Grambling in 1970 and played seven of his thirteen seasons in Pittsburgh, including two Super Bowl victories. Lewis had 2,086 yards-receiving and 17 scores as a Steeler. In the postseason, this particular No. 43 gained 312 yards and had two touchdowns. As talented as Lewis was, the emergence of Lynn Swann and John Stallworth led the Steelers to deal Lewis to the Bills in arguably the worst trade in team history. Buffalo got Lewis for six seasons, 4,638 yards and 24 touchdowns. In return, TE Phil Seymour failed the physical and was returned to Buffalo with inexplicably no compensation whatsoever.

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Check back tomorrow for the 23rd best jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the most prolific jersey number stables in Steelers history. But first, here is a recap of the countdown so far:

Honorable Mention: No. 51, No. 93, No. 27 and No. 33
25) No. 24

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Jordan Berry

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/01/2020 - 11:00am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

The Pittsburgh Steelers A-to-Z 90-part series roles on— assuming the roster does not change before we are complete— which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Part 8 will dive into our first special teamer:

Jordan Berry

Position: P
Height: 6’ 5”
Weight: 195 lbs
College: East. Kentucky
Draft: UDFA in 2014

2019 stats

74 Punts
69 yard long
45.5 yard average
24 punts inside 20

Contract remaining

Expires in 2020

$2,175,000 salary cap number (1.1% of total cap)
$375,000 dead money
$1,800,000 cap savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Lock. Punting is such a cut and dry position. There are no outside intangibles on a punter, it’s simple, whoever can punt the ball the best will be on the team. Berry does have some competition in 2020 UDFA, Corliss Waitman (Who’ll get an ‘exciting’ breakdown of his own). Waitman only averaged 42.7 yards per punt at South Alabama. So it feels fairly safe to say Jordan Berry will be the Steelers punter of 2020, unless an outside player is brought in.

2020 projection

At best Jordan Berry returns to his most consistent version of himself (2016). At worst he sputters and is inconsistent once again. The leash is much tighter for the Australian-born punter, and even the slightest rough patch could see the organization dip into the free agent market looking for a replacement. I think we will see something right in the middle which will see Berry as the Steelers punter through 2020.

Projected stats:

70 Punts
72 yard long
45.7 yard average
28 punts inside 20

Summary

Jordan Berry seemed to be on the path of redemption a year ago when he started the season just fine, however the punter trailed off as the year went by. He will have to regain that consistency over the course of the season if he wants to remain with the club past this season. While I fully expect Berry to be back on the roster, if he starts to flounder, look for the Steelers to replace him mid season like how they handled the Josh Scobee situation and the addition of Chris Boswell.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle

If Justin Layne pans out, the Steelers’ secondary should be fine for years to come

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/01/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

There’s more pressure on the young cornerback’s shoulders than you’d think entering the 2020 season

Does anyone still remember Justin Layne?

The Michigan State cornerback was generally considered to be the biggest steal of the Steelers’ 2019 draft class at the time. After a tough showing in his first NFL action, a preseason matchup versus Chris Godwin, Layne faded into the background. He didn't play any defensive snaps in the regular season and even though he contributed admirably on special teams, he remains one of the least talked about players on the Steelers roster.

But could that be a good thing?

As a third-round rookie, Layne was immediately placed at the bottom of the cornerback depth chart behind one of the league’s best corner duos in Steve Nelson and Joe Haden. Quality slot corners and depth pieces Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton were ahead of Layne, as well as 2016 first-round bust Artie Burns.

Nelson, Haden, Hilton, and Sutton all had excellent seasons in 2019, and unless Layne could have managed to show Pro-Bowl ability his rookie season, there were no reasons or expectations for him to overtake the starting four. Layne was able to take a year to learn behind some of the league’s best, not undertake the trial-by-fire many rookie corners face their first year in the NFL.

Layne was a raw prospect coming out of college as a converted wide receiver, and needed a year or two to convert his athletic profile to fit the skill set of an NFL defensive back. Being able to sit behind some savvy veterans in his first year was the best thing that could have happened to him, and could have an excellent impact in his development.

Artie Burns wasn’t as lucky.

Burns was thrown into the fire as a rookie in 2016 and seemingly regressed every year after that. Left as the only corner Layne could conceivably overtake in 2019, Burns tried to hold onto a spot as a gunner on special teams, but was replaced by Layne near mid season when Burns missed time due to injury.

Layne shouldn’t be stopping there in 2020, however, as he factors into the Steelers’ future in a much bigger role than special teams.

Joe Haden is nearing the end of his career as a starting boundary corner, and contract situations make it likely only one of Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton will be with the team next year. As a result, Layne has every chance to step into a starting role in the Steelers’ secondary sometime soon.

If Justin Layne can slide in across from Steve Nelson sometime in the future as an outside corner, the Steelers will be able to keep their secondary strong. With Cam Sutton or Mike Hilton manning the slot, and a young, talented safety tandem in Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds providing a backstop, the team’s defensive backfield should remain as strong as ever.

If Layne can prove to be a starting-caliber player, the Steelers won’t have to worry as much about Haden’s inevitable retirement in the next few seasons. However, the Steelers have notoriously struggled with developing defensive backs, as all of their current stars at the position (Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steve Nelson, and Joe Haden) are transplants from other teams.

Pittsburgh has a relatively new defensive backfield coaching staff in Teryl Austin and Tom Bradley, who helped form a fearsome secondary last year despite the team’s poor history in doing so. Austin made a big impact, helping Steelers’ draft picks like Terrell Edmunds and Cam Sutton progress into starting-caliber players. Fitzpatrick and Nelson also improved their games during their inaugural season in the black and gold, and it’s not a stretch to think that the coaching staff and defensive scheme had a hand in that transformation.

With the Steelers’ ability to draft and develop defensive backs looking to be on the rise, there is hope for Justin Layne’s future as a starter. He has all of the physical tools and size to succeed, but needs to finish polishing his coverage ability if he wants to make an impact in 2020 and beyond.

It’s not all about Layne, however. If the team can succeed in turning the Michigan State product into a viable starter, it could be indicative of their ability to build a new core of defensive backs in the future.

Great things don’t last forever, but if Layne can live up to his potential, the Steelers’ secondary can continue to be great long after some of their veteran stars retire.

Would the Steelers be wise to kick the tires on a Lawrence Timmons reunion?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/01/2020 - 7:45am

The Steelers may be inclined to bring back a veteran inside linebacker with experience in their defense, but it might not be who you think.

Sometimes a seemingly crazy idea isn't really all that crazy after further review. I have plenty of these ideas bouncing around in the old noggin on a daily basis. I like to share them from time to time with our enlightened BTSC community in an attempt for better clarity and understanding. Here is my latest submission.

There is a segment of Steelers’ Nation who are concerned with the Steelers lack of experienced depth at the inside linebacker positions. Bringing in an veteran backer with experience in the Steelers defensive schemes and personnel, like recently released Mark Barron, has been suggested. I have no issue with this suggestion, especially if the price is right and doable. But what if the returning former Steelers player isn't Barron, but instead longtime standout Lawrence Timmons? Reserve your judgment for a second, if you will, and hear me out.

In what came as a shock to me, I learned recently that Timmons hasn't yet retired from the league. It was suggested Timmons could sign a one-day contract and retire as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This got me thinking, why does it have to be a one day contract?

Timmons signed a two year contract with the Miami Dolphins prior to the 2017 season, after the Steelers left him little choice but to move on. But he left his heart in Pittsburgh. He went AWOL from the Dolphins prior to the start of the season, returning back to Pittsburgh because he missed his teammates. The decision for Timmons to leave Pittsburgh apparently wasn't mutual. Timmons was never the same player with Miami. His heart just wasn't in it, I do believe.

Now Timmons has been out of the league for a couple of seasons, and is a 34 year old free agent. He hasn't yet officially retired from the NFL, which explains the aforementioned one-day contract suggestion with the Steelers.

What would it hurt for the Steelers to kick the tires on Timmons, considering their inexperienced depth at the position and salary cap situation? He could surely be had for the veteran minimum and would definitely bring knowledge and experience to the unit.

What if his struggles with the Dolphins were caused by the aforementioned homesickness? He may very well still have the requisite athleticism to man a backup interior position for a series or two each game to spell a starter. There is no way to know without bringing him in for a look.

What the Steelers can be assure of getting is a leader and positive locker room presence. He can help mold and teach the young upstarts the intricacies of the NFL game through his professionalism and work ethic. He is a renowned teammate who also positively impacts the community.

Does he still have enough left in the tank athletically to win a position, to beat out a hungry youngster like Robert Spillane? Does he even have a desire to return to the NFL, and are the Steelers in anyway interested in the reunion?

Who knows, but it sure could be fun to find out.

The NFL’s ‘4th and 15’ onside kick idea was a good one even though it didn’t pass

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/01/2020 - 6:30am
Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Just when you thought NFL owners were going to pass a rule that actually made sense, they went ahead and shelved the proposal for a fourth and 15 offensive play in lieu of a traditional onside kick.

During a virtual meeting on Thursday, NFL owners decided to shelve a proposal that would have paved the way for an alternative to the onside kick. The proposal, one which was first presented by the Eagles, would have allowed teams to attempt to convert a fourth and 15 play from their own 25-yard line following a score. Teams would have been permitted to try this play twice in regulation, whether they were ahead, behind or tied.

In a league which has seen its share of convoluted, messy, and downright confusing rules and rules changes over the years— including the catch rule and using instant replay to determine pass interference— I thought the onside kick alternative would have been a really good change. For one thing, it wasn’t going to eliminate the traditional onside kick; teams could have attempted as many as they saw fit, something that would have kept the surprise onside kick in play.

Secondly, this alternative may have added excitement to the ends of games, especially since the success rate of onside kick recoveries dropped dramatically (11 of 109) after the NFL prohibited players from getting a running start beginning with the 2018 season.

Thirdly, unlike an onside kick which relies heavily on a lucky bounce or two, the fourth and 15 play would have been just that, an actual play. Not a gimmicky play, either— you could make an argument that the traditional onside kick is about as gimmicky as a football play can get— and when you have an actual play, that calls for real strategy for both the offense and defense.

Also, while the onside kick change may have increased a team’s chances of maintaining possession following a score, it wouldn’t have done so dramatically. As per CBSSports.com, NFL teams converted two of seven fourth and 15 plays in 2019 (28.6 percent) and seven of 29 between 2015-2019 (24.1 percent). This might be a huge jump from the 11 percent coverage teams were converting on onside kick attempts the previous two seasons, but not such a huge jump that it would have emboldened coaches to attempt it more frequently in situations in-which they weren’t totally desperate.

For starters, not only would a failed attempt lead to an opponent getting the football at no worse than just inside the 40-yard line, once a team declared it was going for it, it couldn’t then decide to kickoff after an offensive penalty. In other words, if the offense was called for holding during the play, it would have been forced to try and convert a fourth and 25 from its own 15.

There were so many possibilities for this new rule, too.

Not only would it have given teams that were down by two scores late in a game more than a puncher’s chance of winning, it may have prevented games from getting totally out of hand before halftime.

In my opinion, the only major drawback with the new proposal was that offenses could have kept possession of the ball on defensive pass interference and holding plays. Totally fair? Perhaps not, but, again, it may have added some excitement to a play that was becoming more and more impossible to convert.

Oh well, we’ll have to see how many traditional onside kicks get recovered in 2020. This may be an accurate barometer for how willing NFL owners might be to approve the proposed alternative next offseason.

Podcast: Does Juju Smith-Schuster’s future include a second contract with the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/01/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “Home and Hater” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was the toast of Pittsburgh his first two seasons. But last year, his play fell off for various reasons. Is talk that he may not receive a second contract with the Steelers premature?

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Homer and Hater Show. On this show, Bryan Anthony Davis welcomes Michael Beck as he subs for Lance Williams. Join them as break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Does Juju Smith-Schuster’s future include a second contract with the Steelers?
  • Week in Review
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

BAD and Michael Beck of BTSC walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
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: Minkah Fitzpatrick makes the NFL under 25 team

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/01/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the Steelers are unable to hold their typical OTA’s doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at the Steelers’ representative on NFL.com’s All-Under 25 list.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers Land One Member of All-Under 25 Team

By: Noah Strackbein, Sports Illustrated

The youngest roster in football? NFL.com’s Marc Sessler created the 2020 All-Under 25 Team, combing the league’s youngest stars into one extraordinary roster.

Led by Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and Saquon Barkley in the backfield, the offense of the Under-25 Team would give any ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ the run for its money.

On the defensive side, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick represents the city of Pittsburgh as the only member of the roster.

Fitzpatrick joins New York JetsJamal Adams and Los Angeles ChargersDerwin James as the three safeties to make the team. Fitzpatrick and Adams were listed as safeties while James was honored as a flex position.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Roethlisberger’s stats have him tops for the Steelers, and approaching those for the NFL

Numbers add up for Roethlisberger in 2020

By: Dale Lolley, DK Pittsburgh Sports

There’s no question the Steelers missed Ben Roethlisberger in 2019. Their passing offense went from being one of the league’s best in 2018, to 31st in 2019.

But there also was a feeling the Steelers had thrown the ball too much in 2018, when Roethlisberger topped the NFL in passing yardage with 5,129 yards as the team threw the ball two out of every three plays.

It’s unlikely the Steelers will throw the ball that much again in 2020 with Roethlisberger returning from an elbow injury that required season-ending surgery after just six quarters of play. There is, however, an expectation the team’s passing offense will be much improved, a point every veteran who has spoken over the past few weeks has been quick to reference.

“It’s Big Ben. He’s great,” second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson said last week.

“That’s my guy. We’ve got big things to do this year, trying to win the Super Bowl together.”

Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was equally as effusive in his praise.

“He’s a great player, a playmaker,” Fitzpatrick said of Roethlisberger. “But also, I saw throughout last year, just him being around the team, he’s a great leader. I like being around him. I like hearing from him. He has a lot of experience and wisdom to share. He’s going to keep being himself, even though he was injured. He’s going to go out and compete and challenge even myself, even though I’m a defensive player. He’s going to go out and make everyone else better like he’s been doing for the past however many seasons.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers are scheduled to have six games against former Heisman-winning quarterbacks

Once very rare, games vs. former Heisman QBs now the norm for Steelers

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsbugh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers once went 13 years between regular-season games against a former Heisman Trophy-winning starting quarterback. This fall, starting with Baker Mayfield’s scheduled Oct. 18 appearance at Heinz Field, the longest Heisman reprieve the rest of the season could be a mere two games.

With a Heisman winner atop the QB depth chart for each of their AFC North rivals, the Steelers are scheduled for six games against teams led by an owner of one of those iconic trophies.

Assuming no injuries or benchings, the Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow, Cleveland BrownsBaker Mayfield and Baltimore RavensLamar Jackson are projected to start at quarterback twice each against the Steelers between Weeks 6-17.

After facing a Heisman quarterback five times last season, it could mean 11 former Heisman winners in a 29-game span for the Steelers.

“It’s definitely fun playing against those guys,” free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said, “playing against guys like Lamar, Baker and soon-to-be Joe Burrow. We’ve got to step up to the plate and make sure we’re on our A-plus-plus game.”

Less than five months after LSU’s Burrow won the Heisman Trophy, the Bengals took him with the top pick in this year’s draft. Two years earlier, and after he won the Heisman at Oklahoma, Mayfield went No. 1 overall to the Browns. Jackson, who won the 2016 Heisman for Louisville, went 31 picks later to the Ravens.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Another Watt set to be welcomed to Pittsburgh this fall

FAQ’s dealing with the NFL salary cap

Previewing some running backs the Steelers could target in the 2021 draft

Can John Battle find a spot with the Steelers this season?

  • Social Media Madness

New Addition To The Family Coming December 2020! Logan Can’t Wait To Be A Big Brother! pic.twitter.com/jlZluIZaQQ

— Derek Watt (@DerekWatt34) May 31, 2020

Another Watt will be coming to Pittsburgh in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/31/2020 - 2:45pm
Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Derek Watt has announced that he and his wife will be welcoming a second child

The Watt family is rapidly expanding in Pittsburgh, both on the roster and in the community itself. Steelers Fullback, Derek Watt and his wife Gabriella have announced on twitter that the couple are expecting their second child.

New Addition To The Family Coming December 2020! Logan Can’t Wait To Be A Big Brother! pic.twitter.com/jlZluIZaQQ

— Derek Watt (@DerekWatt34) May 31, 2020

The next member of the Watt family is due in December of this year, and will join big brother, Logan as the only grandchildren courtesy of the Watt brothers. No pressure T.J. and J.J...

Speaking of T.J., he must be the clear cut favorite in being the favourite Uncle. Who will get to be around his future nephew or niece a whole lot more than eldest brother. Perhaps J.J. will unite the trio in Pittsburgh in the 2021 offseason.

They're all great football players, but who in the Watt family comes through as "favorite uncle?" pic.twitter.com/MxNtgYaPIa

— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) October 14, 2019

This has been a pretty big offseason for the brothers. Not only did Derek sign a fairly lucrative deal as far as fullbacks go, but the entire Watt trio have brought ‘Ultimate tag’ to our TV screens

Lets recap the big offseason for the Watt Brothers:

  • Feb, 15 J.J. Watt marries Kealia Ohai
  • Mar 25, Derek Watt signs with the Steelers
  • Apr 28, Steelers pick up T.J. Watt’s 5th year option (estimated value of around $10 Million)
  • May 20, Ultimate tag premiers (Hosted/commentated by the trio)
  • May 31, Derek Watt announces he and his wife are expecting

This is a pretty insane 4 months, even by the first-family in football standards.

Congratulations Derek and Gabriella! We’re excited to have another voice in Steelers Nation!

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