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Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 18

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 5:36pm

Ugh...the offseason continues. Here We Go.

There has been several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night open thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring back the Friday night open thread...with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six Pack of Steelers Questions, and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. The NFL has now gone into the realm of politics. Sometimes we at BTSC have to cover these stories, but do you think anything but the news should grace the website? Vote in the poll below:

2. If you were to get the chance to hang out with ONE living Steeler for a day, who would it be and why?

3. NHL Stanley Cup Finals are on, and so are the NBA Conference Finals. Watching nothing isn’t an option...you have to watch one...what are you tuning in to see?

4. Does where T.J. Watt and/or Bud Dupree make a huge difference to you? Explain.

5. What is the most money you have ever spent on anything Steelers related?

6. It is Memorial Day weekend. What are you grilling? If you aren’t grilling...what is wrong with you?! Have a great holiday weekend folks, we will still have content rolling so be sure to pop in from time to time!

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

T.J. Watt dismisses moving from one side of the defensive line to the other as no big deal

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 1:45pm

The 2017 first round draft pick seems to be fine with moving around the defensive front.

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense put up some great numbers last season. What would probably top the list is their overall sack totals, setting a new franchise record for most total sacks in a regular season.

However, with their success came some issues. Under Keith Butler, the outside linebackers were used differently than under Dick LeBeau. LeBeau’s pass rush featured the bookend linebackers, while Butler prefers his defensive line to be the pass rushers, asking his outside linebackers to drop into coverage more and more.

Along the way, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt, the starting tandem at the position, were having difficulty beating their opposition and getting to the quarterback clean. So, what do you do?

Try flipping them.

After one week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the Steelers have been moving Dupree and Watt around, giving them experience at the other position. This doesn’t equate to a permanent change for either player, but gives them the ability to be moved if they feel a matchup can be exploited.

So, is switching from one side to the other easy, or difficult? According to T.J. Watt, it isn’t really that big of a deal.

“Whenever I work, I always work on both sides because you never bank on playing just one side,” Watt told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I practiced left and right so if the time came, I would be ready.”

Watt didn’t make a big deal out of the coaching staff moving them during the voluntary workouts.

“It’s just a comfortability thing just to see if we can play both sides,” Watt said. “We did it a few times last year. To go up against the same guy throughout a game, if you’re not getting in a groove, why not flip us on the other side and get a little different feel for it?”

Regardless of how Butler uses the linebackers compared to LeBeau, in the 3-4 defense the outside linebackers are expected to get pressure on the quarterback. In 2017, Dupree and Watt combined for 13 sacks: Watt had 7 to Dupree’s 6. Although not horrible, Watt expects more.

“An outside linebacker in a 3-4 system, you’re meant to be a splash player,” he said. “I want to make more splash plays.”

There is a chance he will be attempting these splash plays against right tackles, at times, this season, but don’t tell Watt it will be any easier.

“Every single tackle starting in the NFL is a damn good player,” he said. “I don’t think you can look past who is better — left tackle or right tackle. … At this level, the right tackle is damn good, too.”

Like many aspects of the Steelers’ defense, how, and where, they deploy their outside linebackers will be something to watch.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they move through the offseason preparing for the 2018 regular season.

Is Steelers tight end Vance McDonald primed for a breakout season?

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:48pm

The powerful Steelers offense put its quarterback, wide receiver, halfback, fullback and three offensive linemen in the Pro Bowl last season.

Sean Davis and Morgan Burnett begin the feeling out process at Steelers OTAs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 12:00pm

The Steelers’ safeties will look markedly different in 2018, and Sean Davis is getting to know some new names in the back end of the secondary.

If there is one position on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster which was completely turned on its head, it would be at safety.

Last year the depth chart looked like this:

Mike Mitchell
Sean Davis
Robert Golden
J.J. Wilcox

Those were the primary safeties on the roster. Now let’s fast forward to today, and the team’s current depth chart:

Sean Davis
Morgan Burnett
Terrell Edmunds
Marcus Allen

Talk about a change, and this is going to be a position to watch as the team moves through their offseason workouts and starts to prepare for training camp in late July. Questions abound regarding this position, but the truth of the matter is these four players need to get on the field together and get acclimated to each other as much as physically possible. For Davis and Burnett, this feeling out process already began in Organized Team Activities (OTAs).

“Working with a new guy, you’ve got to feel him out,” Davis told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’ve had walk-throughs in the past few weeks communicating in the classroom setting, but out here it’s a different beast. I feel like we have worked good together. I’m looking forward to moving on.”

Getting acclimated is one thing, but the burning question almost everyone wants to know is who will be playing free safety this season?

Good luck finding that answer...

“It’s still early,” Burnett said. “We’re all in one boat right now. There’s no certain group, nothing like that. We’re all trying to work, get better, help each other get prepared, get conditioned and get ready for the season.”

“We can do both,” he said. “I’m not too worried about that.”

Well then, I guess fans shouldn’t worry about specific positions if the players aren’t, but Burnett’s comment is so much more than just suggesting the players can work it out. In fact, it speaks more to the style of defense Pittsburgh plans on deploying in 2018, and beyond. A defense filled with safeties who can play both free and strong safety, cover and also load the box to be an extra run defender.

When you look at the team’s current depth chart, it is filled with players who can do just that. As I said earlier, this position is going to be one to keep an eye on as the offseason drags on.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they progress through OTAs, minicamp and eventually training camp.

Steelers OTAs Day 3 Recap: Mason Rudolph declares himself a “work in progress”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 9:51am

The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their first week of OTAs, and we break down all the news which came out of the workouts.

Despite what some may tell you, there was actually football played at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in Pittsburgh, PA Thursday. And while most focused on the new National Anthem policy passed by the NFL owners, the focus for this article is simply football.

While Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and other veterans all gave the media some of their time earlier in the week, it was Mason Rudolph who faced some questions on how his first week went.

After being praised by wide receiver Marcus Tucker and even Roethlisberger himself, Rudolph stayed humble and declared himself “a work in progress”.

Rudolph’s been praised by Ben (no apparent issues in the huddle) and WR Marcus Tucker (leadership, command). “When I get in the huddle I want to be clear,” Rudolph said. “I’ve always felt like when I know it, that’s when I’m at my best. It’s still a work in progress.”

— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) May 24, 2018

To be completely honest, there has been nothing more refreshing about Rudolph than his demeanor when speaking with the media. He always seems to say the right things, never ruffles feathers and just has the knack for being able to work his way around the potential questions which can lead to headaches.

The way he handles himself in this sense reminds me a lot of Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While I know not everyone is a fan of Crosby, he certainly knows how to stay out of the limelight and keep his nose to the grindstone.

Rudolph is a work in progress, and he should be saying nothing but how he has to keep working his butt off to prepare himself for his day in the sun. When will that come? No one knows, but Rudolph certainly seems as if he is headed in the right direction, both on and off the field.

Top rookie pick draws Big Ben’s attention

Terrell Edmunds was recently asked about the difference of rookie minicamp to that of OTAs. His response says it all:

Edmunds on difference between rookie camp and OTAs: “The speed of everything.” Also, Ben was there Tue: “I thought he smirked at me when he saw me in there. A.B. was by himself with the corner and I was in half-field on that side. I think he smirked at me, tried to look me off.”

— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) May 24, 2018

When Edmunds speaks of the speed of the game from rookie camp to OTAs, he better settle in and buckle up — because it only gets faster from here.

Once players arrive at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, and the pads start popping, that is when you get a real taste of NFL football. The first preseason game likely seems like a blur, and if a rookie is lucky enough to get into a regular season game — forget about it.

It takes time to get acclimated, and Edmunds going against Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Vance McDonald and company will only prepare him more for the trials and tribulations which occur weekly at the NFL level.

Time to check out some videos and pictures from the latest day of work in the Steel City:

Videos

Ramon Foster is pleased with the work the team is putting in on this first week of OTAs. pic.twitter.com/esUgQg4ssp

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 24, 2018

Steelers first-round pick Terrell Edmunds working on his footwork. pic.twitter.com/Vo7RxShX5s

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 24, 2018 Photos

TE Vance McDonald will be featured in the Steelers offense this year, particularly in the team’s quick passing game to utilize his short-area speed. pic.twitter.com/9ZMypl6P6i

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 24, 2018

Rookie James Washington made this nifty catch in individual drills Thursday. He went high while contorting his body. This angle is him on the way down. pic.twitter.com/y5DIzQE8GE

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 25, 2018

Some Steelers are embracing the NFL's new helmet rule

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 9:19am

Ramon Foster has had four concussions playing guard for the Steelers, and he remembers how he got each of them.

Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown discuss Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant’s trade and more

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 7:50am

The dynamic quarterback and wide receiver tandem discuss the week that was of OTAs.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have wrapped up their first week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and it was business as usual for the black-and-gold. Everyone was there, well, except Le’Veon Bell. But Bell wasn’t the only newsworthy topics to discuss from the week that was.

Both Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown had their own media sessions, and it was there where the dynamic quarterback/wide receiver tandem discussed things like Mason Rudolph, Bell missing OTAs, the Martavis Bryant trade to the Raiders and much more.

The one thing which was noticeable, other than their simple attendance at the workouts, was the enjoyment in their voices when talking about getting back onto the football field. Even thought it is just “football in shorts”, as Mike Tomlin calls it, these players were excited to put the playoff loss of 2017 behind them, and start preparing for the year ahead.

Check out the interviews with both players below:

Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown talks about bringing the best out of his teammates, having James Washington in the WR room, leading by example and more. pic.twitter.com/4uk702g0Mx

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 23, 2018 Ben Roethlisberger

Ben: "It was fun today. It’s fun to get back out here. To be around the guys, to laugh, smile and throw the football around is always fun." pic.twitter.com/wxb68BhbZV

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 22, 2018

NFL stumbles onto a political minefield with new National Anthem policy

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 6:36am

The league’s decision to exclude or penalize players for peaceful protests is ill-conceived and divisive.

“Here in America, we are descended in blood and spirit from revolutionists and rebels. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

In announcing its decision to mandate players’ on-field observances of the national anthem, the NFL has stumbled into a dangerous territory where existing racial and political divisions likely will be heightened in our increasingly polarized nation. First and foremost, those fans who favor the league’s decision and castigate the protesting players should realize that the right to engage in peaceful protest is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This constitutional right is not negated in any way by the fact that players are protesting within the context of doing their jobs as professional athletes.

Certainly of at least equal importance are the significant, racial overtones inherent to the NFL’s decision. Unless we understand and appreciate the basis for these protests, it’s easy enough to depict the participants as mere malcontents bent on disrupting the unsuspecting pro football fan’s weekly entertainment. Escapism plays a central role in the lifestyles of avid football fans. If you have any doubt about this, just peruse the outlandish costumes donned by fans attending games at Heinz Field or witness the massive consumption of food and alcohol before, during and after a Steelers game. In the midst of such revelry, anyone having the bad manners to direct our attention back to reality — even if only for a few moments — is viewed as an unwelcome spoilsport. While it’s difficult to understand logically, many fans seem to expect the gladiatorial (and often brutal) spectacle of a pro football game to unfold within a context of purity from which the larger world and its myriad problems ought to be excluded.

But unfortunately, that particular ship sailed at least as long ago as 1968, when Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in protest during the medal ceremony at the Summer Games in Mexico City. As celebrities and role models admired by millions of ordinary citizens, many black athletes today feel obligations to use their status to shine a spotlight on the serious problem of racial profiling and the widely-documented violence against black citizens by police. One simply cannot grasp the true dimensions of this problem unless we’re prepared to acknowledge the growing level of righteous rage among black Americans whose fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and friends have been killed or terrorized in what should have been ordinary interactions with law enforcement. That’s the elephant in the room which we cannot ignore.

So now the same NFL owners whose pockets have been lined for decades via the talents of these players have decreed that their peaceful protests will no longer be allowed to be seen in the light of day, nor to appear in the unblinking frame of a TV camera. Those refusing to stand on the field for the national anthem must now remain hidden from view until its conclusion to avoid fines or other disciplinary actions. As for the major sports networks, it’s likely they’ve already begun preparations to scan the sidelines during the anthem to identify any flagging patriots on each team. So in addition to being denied their constitutional right to protest, those choosing to remain off of the field during the anthem will also be subject to potential blacklisting by both the league and commercial sponsors. In so doing, the league has virtually guaranteed that the weekly sports-news cycle will be dominated by events which have nothing to do with the game itself.

Is it patriotic for the NFL to squelch dissent among players or to invite the disparagement of those who no longer believe our national anthem reflects their experiences as American citizens? Is this the kind of blind patriotism that our forefathers fought and died to preserve, or might this be something more akin to the forced patriotism demanded under despotic regimes such as those in North Korea or Russia?

Another reality we can’t tiptoe around is the increasing polarization of our national politics. Can we, for example, ignore the obvious fact that — having made a federal project out of the NFL players’ protests — a certain Twitter-happy government official is the person largely responsible for fanning these flames of division? Eisenhower was considered the epitome of a conservative Republican, yet he also understood the crucial difference between honest dissent and disloyal subversion. But these days it appears the NFL is willfully goose-stepping to an authoritarian rhythm.

During this period when the league faces a more serious range of issues than at anytime in its history, perhaps the NFL ought not to be branding itself as a “good-old-boys” network, but rather, as a bastion of tolerance and sensitivity to the aspirations of minority groups which represent a substantial segment of its overall talent pool. In these respects, the recent decision represents a major step backwards and promises to distract even more attention from the NFL’s core product.

Steelers President Art Rooney II releases statement on NFL National Anthem policy

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 5:25am

Art Rooney II released a statement to the fans regarding the decision made on the National Anthem issue in the NFL.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers, and many other NFL franchises were wrapping up their first week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the talk Wednesday and Thursday wasn’t about football. It was about the NFL’s new policy on the National Anthem.

Most reading this likely know already what the policy states. Essentially it leaves the power to the team whether the players come out onto the field, or stay in the locker room, for the anthem. However, if teams go on the field and there is a form of protest, penalties can occur within the organization.

Naturally, this entire topic brings with it a great amount of fervor from everyone across this great nation. While the Steelers’ fan base wrestled with this league owner decision, team president Art Rooney II released the following statement on the owners’ decision on the policy.

You can read the statement below:

Statement from Steelers President Art Rooney II: pic.twitter.com/ddSu1xdlTF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 24, 2018

With this being a very touchy subject with many people, we ask you try to keep the comments and opinions as respectful as possible. If you can’t participate in an unbiased and respectful conversation, we here at BTSC ask you simply keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself.

Art Rooney II: NFL's national anthem policy can't satisfy everyone

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 3:33pm

While the NFL’s new policy on the national anthem gives players a choice whether to stand at attention or stay in the locker room while it’s played, Steelers president Art Rooney II has a preference.

Jon Bostic the rare ‘every down linebacker’ the Steelers have been searching for

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 1:31pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers needed to find someone who could at least attempt to replace Ryan Shazier, and Jon Bostic might just be the man for the job.

Everyone knows the narrative by now.

The Pittsburgh Steelers needed to find a player who could at least attempt to be the answer at inside linebacker in place of Pro Bowler Ryan Shazier — and they failed to do so.

They tried to move up in the 2018 NFL Draft to pick Rashaan Evans, but failed, and they didn’t address the position in the other rounds.

But maybe they didn’t have to, after all, they did go out and pick up free agent linebacker Jon Bostic, who played last year for the Indianapolis Colts. Bostic is one of the few linebackers who can call themselves a pure three down linebacker.

“I’m a three-down backer; it’s tough to find those nowadays,” Bostic told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after his first time on the practice field with his new teammates. “I’m a backer that can play either or spot, I can play middle, I can play Will, it really doesn’t matter to me. I’ve done that throughout my career. I’m a bigger guy who can run. And I can cover as well. A lot of people don’t know that.”

To be honest, not many knew much of anything regarding Bostic when he was acquired by the Steelers. He was viewed as a journeyman player who could never live up the hype placed on him coming into the NFL out of the University of Florida.

So, what makes this any different? What happened which made him bounce around to three different teams in his short time in the league?

“To be honest, I got caught up in a trade and I got hurt once,” Bostic said. “Last year I got back on my feet and had a good year. Now it’s another year to build on.

“But I was put through the trades and whatnot for a reason. I learned a lot. It enabled me to meet a lot of different people, be exposed to a lot of different schemes. I bring that to the table, being able to play so many different fronts, so many different schemes.”

So Bostic now finds himself trying to not just get on the field, but to ease the loss of Shazier better than Sean Spence and L.J. Fort did last season. He realizes you can’t replace a player like Shazier, but he can go out and be the best linebacker he can be every day.

“I’m excited to get on field, definitely getting some rust off, learning a new playbook,” Bostic said. “But learning has never been a problem for me. It’s just a matter of getting reps and learning the guys around me. The scheme is almost exactly like we used in Indy. All these different things I definitely can being to the team and help the team. Whenever my number is called I’ll be ready.”

Bostic started Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in a backup role behind Tyler Matakevich, but fans should realize Bostic can, and probably should, move his way into a starting role alongside Vince Williams by the time the Steelers report to training camp in Latrobe this summer.

In the meantime, Bostic will have his nose to the grindstone preparing for his role, whatever it may be, with the Steelers in 2018.

'We'll handle it like pros': Steelers don't expect anthem policy to divide locker room

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 1:24pm

The Steelers were at the center of the NFL’s national anthem controversy last fall after left tackle and ex-Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva stood on the field by himself for the anthem before a game in Chicago while his teammates remained off the field just outside the locker rooms.

Will Steelers’ trade of Martavis Bryant be a case of addition by subtraction?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 12:04pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers believe they’ve improved their roster with the draft-day trade of Martavis Bryant and second-round selection of James Washington. At first glance, the evidence seems to support this theory.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a reputation for making shrewd business decisions as an organization. Their status as a successful NFL franchise has been built mainly via an ultra-conservative approach, both with their personnel and finances.

This modus operandi doesn’t lend itself to many flashy transactions in the form of trades or free-agent signings, but it still has led to some solid, if not spectacular, roster additions.

The Steelers are always looking for a good deal. They may often appear to be frugal — some might even say “cheap” for lack of a better word — but they’re simply searching for what they feel is fair compensation in any transaction.

This mindset was proven yet again on the first night of the 2018 NFL Draft, when the Oakland Raiders made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

I believed Kevin Colbert when he repeatedly said that the Steelers were not interested in trading the uber-talented-but-troubled Martavis Bryant, and I still do. Why would he want to trade a player whose only real value to the team was in whatever production he could offer the team next season to help them pursue another Super Bowl championship? Bryant struggled to find his groove for most of last season after being reinstated from a yearlong suspension. But even more troubling than his on-field difficulties were his continuing struggles with immaturity and decision-making off of the field.

Nobody was going to offer the Steelers fair compensation for Bryant the player because of all the baggage of Bryant the person — at least not until they did.

Thank you to Jon Gruden and all of Raiders Nation. Al Davis would be proud.

You just got yourselves the perfect Raiders player.

Mr. Davis was infatuated with speed. He loved fast players, especially at the skill positions. He wanted his quarterbacks to take seven step drops and fire the ball deep to his stable of burners.

He also had an affinity, a soft spot if you will, for players that had been labeled with bad-boy reputations. He wanted every malcontent or castoff with baggage that he could find. He loved to rescue abandoned players off of the scrap heap and resurrect their careers. This wasn’t done out of the goodness of his heart per se, but it sure did stroke his ego and gave him multiple opportunities to display his own perceived superiority to the other owners and stick it in the face of the NFL, with whom he always seemed to be at war with over one thing or another.

Al Davis would have loved him some Martavis Bryant. He would have crowed from the rooftops how he had acquired the Freak. He wouldn’t care that Martavis is basically a one-trick pony because that one trick was Al’s obsession. He wouldn’t be asking him to do anything else. Just be well conditioned enough to run the deep post pattern for the entire game and strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses.

The Raiders offered the Steelers a third-round pick, which they really needed considering they didn’t have a fourth round pick this year, for a former fourth-rounder in Bryant who had never really lived up to his nickname or his potential and had plenty of off-field issues to boot. We also shouldn’t forget the Steelers were going to lose him at the end of the upcoming season with little to no compensation. Counting on a compensatory pick would have been a real gamble.

The Steelers might have not been actively shopping Bryant, but they pulled the trigger on that deal.

Then, on the second day of the draft, the Steelers used their second-round pick to select wide receiver James Washington from Oklahoma State.

As a college player, Washington was far superior to Bryant, both statistically and in accolades. Washington won the 2017 Biletnikoff Award for the most outstanding college wide receiver last season. Bryant wasn’t even the best receiver on his college team.

Washington has displayed a knack for catching the deep ball and appears to already run a more diverse route tree than Bryant — all while possessing superior hands and the ability to high-point the ball on contested throws, which unexpectedly turned out to be a weakness for Bryant considering his height and athleticism.

I remain convinced that Washington would have been a first-round pick if he would have run a faster 40 time, but I’m glad he didn’t because it allowed the Steelers to get a great value pick in the second round.

Washington’s superior work ethic and character are well known and he should fit in nicely with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

I admit I’m a Martavis Bryant fan at heart. I’ll continue to root for him as a player, except when he plays the Steelers. Hopefully he will develop chemistry with Raiders QB Derek Carr and be embraced by Raiders Nation.

And maybe now Jon Gruden will finally learn to pronounce his name correctly.

The NFL's new National Anthem policy won't change much

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 10:25am

The NFL might think its new National Anthem policy will fix its problem with a certain segment of its fan base, but it could actually make things worse all the way around.

Just when you thought it was a dying topic — heck, I didn’t even want to write much about it anymore — the NFL brought its National Anthem controversy back into the spotlight on Wednesday when it amended its policy, requiring all on-field personnel--including players, coaches, trainers, etc.--to stand.

If any on-field personnel decide to kneel or sit during the anthem, their team could be subject to a fine, and the team will also have the option of fining the offending employees.

This policy shift as a means to appease the vocal minority who tuned out the past two seasons out of protest might seem like a good idea on the surface — that is, of course, until you realize on-field employees now have the option of staying in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem, an action that will be totally immune to any sort of fine by the league or its teams.

So, the question is, what good is this new policy?

First of all, the NFL did this without the input of the NFLPA and, as a result, the union is none too pleased.

The union issued a statement shortly after this policy shift and said it will “challenge any inconsistencies in the application of the new rule as it pertains to the CBA.”

There you go. Not even a day after this new league policy, and the first salvo has already been launched by a union that demonstrated great defiance last September 24th, one day after President Donald Trump put NFL players on blast for these ongoing anthem protests.

What would it look like if, instead of a couple hundred, all 1,700 players stay in their respective locker rooms or kneel on the sidelines one Sunday afternoon as a show of union solidarity against their employers?

According to the new policy regarding the National Anthem, the league won’t be able to do a darn thing about the locker room part.

However, that won’t prevent Joe or Joanne Patriot from getting just as upset as they were last fall.

Before their Week-3 game against the Bears, the Steelers agreed to stay in the locker room during the anthem as a means to stay out of the political fray that Trump created the day before. What happened, instead, was a reaction so powerful, they’ll forever be known as the “Pittsburgh Kneelers” by those who obviously aren’t nearly as clever as they think they are.

Therefore, if I’m an NFL player and I still want to get a message across about a subject I feel deeply about (police brutality against minorities), I know I have a powerful tool at my disposal, which is just to stay in the locker room.

Obviously, this will brand a player unpatriotic but, again, as per the new league policy, he won’t be subject to any sort of discipline.

Unfortunately, this won’t stop the offended from being offended, which could ultimately cost this player his career, a la Colin Kaepernick and his former teammate, Eric Reid.

And if a player is indeed blackballed for simply following the NFL’s new National Anthem guidelines, well, he’s going to have a great case for a lawsuit--and he’ll likely cash in.

Again, I don’t see where this new policy changes much.

In addition to the over-zealous patriots who will likely continue to be offended, whether a player kneels and gets fined or stays in the locker room and gets nothing, you will now have additional boycotts from fans upset about this forced patriotism.

Believe it or not, the eyes and dollars of fans who are perfectly fine with peaceful, pre-game protests count just as much as those of Joe and Joanne Patriot.

As I alluded to in the very first paragraph of this article, it seemed like this issue was dying down quite a bit.

Sure, the league lost some viewers because of the protests, but the better route may have been for the owners to take some temporary lumps while this whole thing ran its course — practically a certainty over time.

Instead, the NFL has just made things worse.

Want an example of what I mean?

If you’re my friend and also very patriotic, please don’t invite me to any Steelers games next year, because you can guess what I won’t be doing during the National Anthem.

I will also refuse to remove the hat I’ll be wearing (and it won’t just be to shield people from the sight of my male-pattern baldness).

Congratulations, NFL, your new policy has done nothing but make things even worse.

Steelers OTAs Day 2 Recap: Will Antonio Brown’s advice for Le’Veon Bell fall on deaf ears?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 8:49am

Breaking down the latest news from the Steelers’ latest OTA workout.

Le’Veon Bell’s current situation is unique. He didn’t choose to have the franchise tag placed on him, but is doing the best he can to negotiate and leverage himself for negotiations with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Since the Steelers haven’t used the frachise tag on someone not named Bell since they placed it on Jeff Reed, not many can really give advice on Bell’s current situation. However, if someone were close, it would be Antonio Brown.

Brown spoke to the media Wednesday after the team’s second Organized Team Activities (OTAs) workout, and he had some advice for his friend, and teammate, Bell:

Show up.

See what he had to say, per Aditi Kinkabwala of the NFL Network:

Antonio Brown knows EXACTLY how the #Steelers operate: “The first rule of getting better is showing up. You can’t make anything better without showing up.”

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 23, 2018

Antonio Brown doesn’t once question Le’Veon Bell’s decision to hold out and not sign his tender. But the best WR in the game says this: “Make everyone understand... he want to be here not just for this year but for years to come. Show up and get better. Show guys you’re serious.”

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 23, 2018

While Brown was always under contract, he knows what it is like to not feel appreciated, and or paid what he is worth. When Brown was grossly underpaid, he kept showing up. Eventually the Steelers rewarded Brown with a very lucrative contract.

The same can be said about Alejandro Villanueva. As a starting left tackle in the NFL, Villanueva was making less than one million dollars a year. With every right to not show and make a statement to the team, Villanueva kept showing up and was paid handsomely on the first day of training camp last season.

The advice is simple, but will it fall on deaf ears? My guess is nothing will change...regardless of teammates’ requests.

Time to check in on what else went down on the Steelers’ second OTA session:

When left is right, and right is left

In yesterday’s recap we wrote about the reports of Bud Dupree taking reps on the opposite side of the field. Media spoke to T.J. Watt about the switch, and, as expected, Watt was selfless in his willingness to do whatever it takes for the team to win.

Watt on whether he’s a LOLB or a ROLB: “Right now it’s left. This is Day 2 of OTAs so a lot can happen. Whatever it takes to win. I’m on the stairway to 7 just like every other guy in that locker room. Whatever the coaches have me doing, I’m on board.”

— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) May 23, 2018

Fans shouldn’t put too much stock into this, but wait until training camp before drawing any serious conclusions. The more you can do, the better the defense will be.

Photos

T.J. Watt (No. 90) said he’s hunting ‘more splash plays’ in year two. He was working on that goal with assistant coach Joey Porter during Wednesday’s OTA session. pic.twitter.com/v0oVfpXEQ2

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 23, 2018 Videos

Joe Haden, Artie Burns and Trey Johnson work on footwork and pass-catching in OTAs. pic.twitter.com/zXA3N6ShJ3

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 23, 2018

You don’t see this too very often even if it was a poor throw. pic.twitter.com/ePHCEX8srw

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) May 23, 2018

Trump lauds NFL policy banning kneeling for national anthem

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 7:34am

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump praised an NFL policy banning kneeling during the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” saying that “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country” if you don’t stand for the anthem.

Steelers Throwback Thursday: Could “the Chin“ win in his head coaching debut?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 6:49am

BTSC harkens back to Bill Cowher’s first game in 1992.

As we fire up the BTSC Delorean for 1.21 jigawatts of fun, we set the time controls to a time when “the Flying Elvises“ came into prominence because of the weekend’s top movie Honeymoon In VegasBoyz II Men were on top of the music charts with “End of the Road” — and a nut-hugger-wearin’ jogger from Arkansas was gearing up for a presidential run. As for the Steelers, they were entering the Labor Day holiday with a new coach, William Laird Cowher, for the first time since Chuck Noll debuted 23 years earlier.

Welcome to September 6, 1992.

Not much was known about the 35-year old native of Carrick, PA, except that he was the Kansas City Chiefs’ Defensive Coordinator under Marty Schottenheimer and was eight years removed from a career in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns. Plus, he had a cool mustache and a squarely defined chin.

Steelers Nation was expecting a complete rebuild and possible low-water marks under Cowher and his new starting QB, Neil O’Donnell. To make matters worse, Pittsburgh was an 11-point underdog and visiting co-favorites for the conference crown, the Houston Oilers.

Houston started off the game with then-35-year-old Warren Moon driving his team near midfield. But the future Hall of Famer threw an interception to another future Hall of Famer, Rod Woodson, who was nursing a calf injury. No. 26 returned the ball inside Houston territory to the 37. The Steelers could not convert the opportunity, though, and brought on the punt team. Pittsburgh got a break when Houston was called for offsides. With the ball now at the 32 and a 49-yard field goal attempt a possibility, Bill Cowher eschewed an opportunity for Gary Anderson to go for three and sent out Neil O’Donnell and the offense on fourth down. O’Donnell’s pass to Jeff Graham fell incomplete and the Steelers turned the ball over on downs.

Next, the Steelers’ defense shut Moon down and forced a punt, but the blue defense got offensive and put Houston on the board when Lamar Lathon sniffed out a play-action fake, burst through the offensive line and cracked Neil O’Donnell. Johnny Meads scooped up the ball and scampered all the way to the end zone for the score.

Later, the impact of Lathon surfaced again. Neil O’Donnell completed a pass to the normally sure-handed Merrill Hoge who, upon being hit by Lathon, coughed up the football and Jerry Gray recovered to set up the Oilers at the Steelers’ 26. From the 11, with defenders in his face, Warren Moon looked to be throwing the ball away. But Ernest Givens made a leaping grab and tapped his toes in the back of the end zone for the score. Instant replay was not a part of 1992 (like it had been since 1986). If so, Givens probably would have been ruled out because his toes were on the line. But with 5:25 remaining in the first quarter, Houston led 14-0. The Oilers as 11-point favorites seemed justified.

After a touchback, the Steelers took over at their own 20. After some modest movement and a long O’Donnell pass to a speedy Dwight Stone, the Steelers ended up with a fourth down on the Houston 45-yard line. Cowher sent Mark Royals in to punt, but it was a ruse. Instead, on a fake, the mustachioed punter threw the ball to running back Warren Williams, who rumbled all the way down to the Oilers’ one-yard line. Barry Foster converted on the next play and with 1:08 remaining, the Houston lead was cut in half at 14-7.

On the very next drive, Moon would throw his second interception of the day near midfield to Darren Perry. The Penn State rookie returned the ball down to the Houston 20. The Steelers had a chance to tie the game early in the second quarter, but a holding penalty to Duvall Love set the Steelers back. Despite two catches on the drive from Jeff Graham, Pittsburgh had to settle for a Gary Anderson field goal with 13:08 remaining in the half. It was now 14-10 Houston.

Following that, a 43-yard Lorenzo White run got the Oilers into field-goal territory. Al Del Greco converted to extend the lead to seven again.

After a Steelers’ punt, Pittsburgh got the ball back in good field position when Warren Moon threw his third interception of the game. The ball was tipped by Donald Evans on the line and Larry Griffin snagged the ball, setting the Steelers up at the Houston 34. No. 14 took advantage by tossing a 26-yard strike to Jeff Graham. The point-after was blocked by the dominant Ray Childress, so with less than two minutes left in the half, the Houston lead was a mere point at 17-16.

That wouldn’t last long though. Despite Moon almost getting picked-off by Richard Shelton, No. 1 drove Houston quickly to a score from eight yards out. At halftime, the home team was up 24-16.

In the third quarter, the Steelers ate up 6:18 and got to the Houston eight before settling for a 25-yard Gary Anderson field goal which cut the Houston lead to five. After a turnover on downs, the Steelers got another three from Anderson. At the end of three quarters, Jack Pardee’s team led only 24-22.

In the final quarter, Moon engineered a 12-play, clock-devouring drive down to the Steelers’ 4-yard line. Bill Cowher’s debut seemed about to be spoiled. But on the 13th play, Moon was flushed out of the pocket by Jerrol Williams and threw up a dying quail that Rod Woodson plucked from the air and returned 57 yards to the Houston 44. Then on 1st-and-goal from the nine, O’Donnell threaded the needle to rookie Adrian Cooper (from Oklahoma) for a TD. Cooper was replacing standout TE Eric Green, who ended up in a sling early in the first quarter. With 8:06 remaining, Pittsburgh had its first lead of the game at 29-24.

Moon tried to rally his team, but his fifth and final interception sealed the game. Larry Griffin’s second pick allowed the Steelers to steal a win in the Astrodome and gave Steelers Nation hope for life after Chuck Noll. The jubilant Steelers celebrated by administering a Gatorade shower to their new coach.

I remember this game like it was yesterday. I was entering my senior year at Pitt-Johnstown, and had just finished moving my stuff into our on-campus fraternity lodging (“you’re talking about Delta House, sir.”)

Sports Illustrated had predicted a 4-12 year for Pittsburgh, and there was little excitement about the game. It was only me, my friend Eric Roberts and a dude named Bert dedicated enough to be watching the game. By the fourth quarter, the lobby was jammed with about 20-some guys watching the Steelers. After that day, you had to find your seat early and stay there. The season was special as Pittsburgh would win the division and usher in a new era. Diehards like me, Roberts and Bert were glad to have been originals on the Cowher/Steeler bandwagon.

Podcast: Antonio Brown’s wise words for Le’Veon Bell, as well as other OTA news

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 5:21am

In the latest episode of the “Steelers News” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-gold from the week that was.

The 2018 NFL Draft is over and, believe it or not, there’s lots to talk about heading into a big week of offseason news for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the new show “Steelers News”:

  • OTAs in full swing
  • Ben Roethlisebrger praises Mason Rudolph
  • Don’t forget James Conner
  • New Steelers getting comfortable in new system
  • Is the Steelers defense actually better than most believe?
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, goes over 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 our BlogTalkRadio page. If you’re old school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below. Be sure to follow us on iTunes by searching “The Standard is the Standard”.

...

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also checkout his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

Joe Starkey: NFL’s anthem policy ill-conceived, deceitful and all about the bottom line

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 05/23/2018 - 6:33pm

In the end, I’m with Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long on the NFL’s new anthem policy: It’s a joke.

Antonio Brown tells Le'Veon Bell to 'show up'

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 05/23/2018 - 4:09pm

Antonio Brown wasn’t shy about calling out Le’Veon Bell for absences last offseason, and it looks like that won’t change this year amid the running back’s second round of fraught contract talks with the Steelers. 

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