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A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community 2018-04-20T13:59:01-04:00
Updated: 1 hour 53 min ago

Despite perception, Steelers 2018 strength of schedule is in the bottom third of the league

3 hours 49 sec ago

Many perceive the Steelers’ 2018 slate of games to be one of the toughest in the league, but not according to 2017 record.

For those who are geeking out over the 2018 NFL schedule release, hopefully you understand the only thing the league did was place dates and times next to opponents and locations, which were already known.

Since the 2017 regular season ended, every NFL team has known exactly who, and where, they would be playing in the 2018 regular season. With that said, many fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are playing a first place schedule after winning the AFC North last year, saw their favorite team going against the likes of the Patriots, Saints, Falcons, Panthers and Chiefs seeing a proverbial murderer’s row for their favorite team.

However, according to CBSSports, the actual strength of schedule, based on 2017 W-L record and winning percentages, doesn’t match up with how the fans perceive the difficulty of the upcoming schedule.

In fact, the Steelers’ are tied for 25th in the NFL regarding strength of schedule. Their 2018 opponents sported a 122-134 Win/Loss record and a .477 winning percentage in 2017. It doesn’t help the Steelers are in the same division as the 0-16 Cleveland Browns, but it does give a very general view as to the difficulty, or lack thereof, of their upcoming schedule.

It should be noted how this is solely based on 2017 results. For instance, no one in their right minds would ever predict the Browns will go winless back-to-back years, and as was witnessed last year, there are always injuries which derail a team’s hope and plans for the year.

Last year the thought of playing Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson looked to be a dreadful stretch, but it turned into Jacoby Brissett, Brett Hundley and whichever warm body the Texans threw out there when Watson was lost for the year with a knee injury.

Things change every year, but if we are basing the strength of the Steelers’ upcoming schedule solely on last year’s results — it just isn’t that difficult. Things change, teams improve and injuries occur to every team, so, as usual, let’s see how things play out before declaring just how good, or bad, the Steelers 2018 slate of games will be.

NFL Draft Scenarios 2.0: With LBs gone, Steelers have options at safety

4 hours 20 min ago

The Pittsburgh Steelers have options at safety in Round 1, which makes for some tough decisions.

The future is now for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and with the 2018 NFL Draft just weeks away it is time we go through specific scenarios and discuss just what could go right, and wrong, with the Steelers in the first round of the draft.

We will be doing almost one scenario a week, and more leading up to the draft, which will always provide a different result, as well as the explanation behind the selection.

Time for the Steelers 2018 NFL Draft scenario 2.0.

Scenario: The usual suspects are off the board when most would expect. However, there was an expected run on linebackers with Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch both off the board before the Steelers made their pick at No. 28.

At this point, the Steelers go into Best Player Available (BPA) mode. Some talented offensive players are off the board, like Mason Rudolph, Derrius Guice and several wide receivers, but the Steelers have options at cornerback and safety with Jaire Alexander still on the board and Justin Reid on the board.

There are some trench players along the offensive and defensive line who are available, and the Steelers have a tough decision to make.

Steelers Pick: The decision came down to Alexander and Reid for the black-and-gold. Alexander has the look of an NFL defensive back, but the versatility of Reid is what ultimately tipped the scales.

With that said, the Steelers take Stanford safety Justin Reid with their first round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Analysis: While our first scenario had the Steelers taking Leighton Vander Esch, the concern is whether or not he will be available when the Steelers pick at No. 28. At this point, there is a chance Reid won’t be there at No. 28, but the odds are much greater for Reid to be available compared to Vander Esch — at this point. Regardless, if this scenario comes to fruition, and linebackers are gone, the Steelers will certainly have options in front of them. Unlike in previous years, this year’s draft will be one to watch to see just what the Steelers do with their top pick in the selection process.

Let’s just hope the team leaves long snapper off their draft board...


In case you missed some of our other Draft Scenarios:
Draft Scenario 1.0 — Run on safeties leads Leighton Vander Esch to Pittsburgh

An in-depth look into the Cover-2 scheme and how it works with the Steelers

6 hours 21 min ago

The Pittsburgh Steelers love their Cover-2 defensive scheme, but just how does it work? Let us explain.

(NOTE: Many thanks to Drop the Hammer for his editing skills and for providing insight on a number of issues, especially on draft personnel. This is a cleaner, more insightful piece for his contributions.)

In an excellent feature that ran last week, Drop the Hammer examined the differences between a Buck ILB, a Mack ILB and the various “hybrid” positions utilized by the Steeler defense (Nickle and Dime backer, Box Safety). This article will expand on that feature by looking at how these positions function in one of our defensive staples: cover-2. We will study the scheme, its’ strengths and weaknesses, what is required of defenders to properly execute it and how the Steelers disguise and vary their cover-2 looks. We will also go inside the heads of our defenders and explain what they need to be thinking and looking for in cover-2 situations, as well as the pros and cons of playing this coverage given our current personnel.


Cover-2 is a zone scheme that generally puts seven defenders in coverage. It is Mike Tomlin’s coverage-of-choice and the Steelers have played a good amount of it the past few seasons since Dick LeBeau was replaced as coordinator.

In cover-2, the corners and linebackers are responsible for five underneath zones while the safeties split responsibility for two deep zones. Underneath zones are generally those within 10-12 yards of the line of scrimmage, while deep zones comprise the area beyond 18 yards (the area between 12-18 yards is an intermediate area where receivers may run free but also risk being de-cleated by a closing safety). The five underneath zones are defined as follows:

  • Two “Flat” areas – the area on both sides of the field from the sideline to just inside the numbers.
  • Two “Hook-Curl” areas -- the area on both sides of the field from just inside the numbers to the hash marks.
  • One “Hole” -- the area between the hash marks.

Here is a diagram (note: pro hash marks are closer together than the ones shown here):

Cover-2 zone responsibilities

In a traditional cover-2 where four players rush the QB, the flat is defended by the corners. They are looking for short out-breaking routes from tight ends and running backs but will sink and help on deep routes up the sideline if no routes attack the flat. The basic coaching point is, “carry anything up the sideline until a flat route shows, at which time you should peel off and attack the shallower pattern. This means that Cover-2 corners must be able to run with outside receivers but also have the quickness to change direction, close on a shallow route, and tackle opponents in the flat (often slot WR’s, TE’s and RB’s).

The hook-curl areas are generally assigned to the Mack ILB and one of the OLB’s (Bostic and Watt, for example). The “Hole,” which is often used to throw check down routes to RBs and TEs, is defended by the Buck (Vince Williams). Crossing routes that pass through these zones are traded from one defender to another. It is important a defender does not lock on a crosser and run with him because that will void his zone. Cover-2 backers, then, must have lateral agility, communication skills and zone discipline (knowing what to do, why, and how your action matters in connection with the larger defensive scheme).

The two deep zones are split among the safeties. They may receive help on sideline routes from the corners, but cover-2 safeties have to get enough depth to see the development of all routes on their half of the field and must be able to react and run fast enough to cover them. Cover-2 safeties need vision, straight line speed, the ability to tackle, an outfielder’s ability to judge and defend a deep ball, and great study habits so they can predict particular routes based on what the opposing offense tends to do most often. The better ones also learn to “read” a QB so they can react a little faster, but that is risky because NFL QB’s are taught how to sell the Safeties a lie.

The need for specific Cover-2 skills often forces a coach to employ some kind of situational defense that will cover for his players’ weaker spots. Consider a 3rd-and-6 passing situation where the opponent is likely to favor some 5 yard pattern that would get the first down by simply falling forward. In that example the Steelers might replace the Buck ILB (Williams) with a fast coverage ILB (not on the team) or a Nickel Safety; i.e., a player with a Safety’s quickness but still physical enough to tackle like a linebacker. Morgan Burnett may be listed as a Safety but he has the tackling chops to do that job if the team has an extra Safety to play behind him. Do Wilcox or Dangerfield have the pure speed needed for a Cover-2 Safety? Corners Cam Sutton and Brian Allen have been mentioned as candidates as well. They have the speed, but can they think, judge balls, and tackle like a Safety?

For an even purer passing situation like 3rd-and-10, they might take out both the Buck ILB and a defensive lineman to create a 2-3-6 Dime package of two rush-capable DL’s and two Edge Rushing OLBs, with an extra DB (Mike Hilton?) joining Burnett at the second level. Now, rather than having two DBs and three LBs working those short and intermediate routes, there are four DBs and one LB. When playing cover-2, speed matters.


The biggest strength cover-2 provides is protection against the deep pass. With two safeties taking away the middle of the field, and two corners providing help up the sidelines, QBs have to hit very small windows for any deep throw. Cover-2 also allows cornerbacks, whose eyes are already inside looking for flat routes, to become aggressive against the run. These “squatting” corners also make it tough to throw bubble and quick screens due to their tight alignment. Finally, with three defenders covering the middle of the field in the underneath zones, crossing routes can be hazardous to smaller receivers. It takes a man’s man to catch a shallow cross knowing a collision with Vince Williams or TJ Watt might await. That’s why receivers with the size and strength of Juju are valuable here. Juju is a better bet to survive crossing the middle than a guy like Eli Rogers.


The primary weaknesses of cover-2 are along the sidelines and the gap in the middle between the safeties. These can be exposed by certain route combinations. Here are a couple:


A fade-flat combo seeks to exploit either a slow read by the corner or the amount of ground safety has to cover. Recall that the corner is supposed to carry the outside WR deep on the fade route until he sees someone coming to the flat, at which point he drops the deep pattern and charges back on the short one. That leaves a small window along the sideline where the QB can hit the fade before the safety can arrive in support. If the corner fails to read the short throw quickly enough – i.e., stays too long on the fade – the QB can simply drop the ball in the flat. It takes a quick read and a strong arm to hit the deeper pattern in that window, and even then the receiver is likely to get whacked. But when it’s executed properly the fade-flat combo is tough for a cover-2 team to consistently defend.

Fade-Flat vs. Cover-2


Divide is a route that should cause some trauma among Steelers fans since we’ve seen the Patriots run it effectively for years. Divide seeks to split the safeties with two corner concepts while sending a third receiver up the middle of the field. The QB looks off one of the safeties then throws the seam route over top of the linebackers. A target like Rob Gronkowski is perfect to run the divide since he’s fast enough to get behind the backers and big enough for the QB to throw the ball high. Tampa-2, where the Buck sinks deep into the middle of the field, is an ideal solution to Divide (and FWIW was pioneered by the 1970’s Steelers to take advantage of Jack Lambert’s speed). But against straight Cover-2, the only answers are to jam the receiver running the divide (not easy if this is Gronk) or to get a good pass rush that forces the QB to throw early.

NOTE: The ILB over the TE is the Buck; the ILB to the slot side of the formation is the Mack.


Since every defense has its weaknesses, why don’t offensive coordinators simply run a steady diet of Fade-Flat and Divide whenever the Steelers line up in Cover-2? They would if they knew it was coming. There are go-to “beaters” for every defense. That’s why the Steelers, like most teams, mask their defensive looks by disguising the coverage.

Take the following look, for example:

The rotation of the $, corner and FS turn cover-3 into cover-2

Here, the defense appears to be lined up in a run-heavy cover-3 look. The strong safety (likely Morgan Burnett) is rolled down into a “box safety” position, where he essentially becomes a fifth linebacker. This leaves a single-high free safety, who is vulnerable to a double seam route like the one in the diagram above. If this stayed as cover-3, the free safety would have to cover both deep seams, and even a competent high school quarterback knows how to use his eyes to move that safety in one direction before throwing back to the other. However, with a bit of pre-snap movement and a well-timed post-snap rotation, cover-3 converts to cover-2, which takes away the double seam. In the diagram above, you see that rotation highlighted in orange. The strong corner rotates to a deep half to take away one seam while the free safety rotates and takes away the other. Put another way, the free safety shifts sideways to his Cover-2 position, the corner drops back to be the other Cover-2 Safety, and the box safety moves over to play as a Cover-2 corner.

This disguise can trick a quarterback into throwing into coverage by making him think he has one look when in reality he has another. This is just one of the ways defenses disguise cover-2 to win the X and O chess match against the offense.


All of this is fine in theory, but at the end of the day football is about execution. What goes on inside the mind of a player as he attempts to execute his cover-2 assignments? Let’s do a case study on the strong safety to find out.

I was a strong safety in college. That was [mumble mumble] years ago and football has evolved a great deal since then. I played a lot of “box safety,” which meant I rolled up like a linebacker in the alley to provide run support against the I-heavy offenses of the day. It involved a lot of taking on fullbacks and pulling guards and getting my nose bloody, with coverage in the shallow zones. Thank heaven I didn’t see much of today’s spread offenses because, frankly, I didn’t have the wheels to play in space. I survived in cover-2 because I was well-coached and I knew what to anticipate. Think of me as a poor man’s John Lynch. A very poor man’s….

The first thing a strong safety ($) has to consider is the situation. For this exercise, let’s say it’s 3rd and 7. We’re in a straight cover-2 call and the offense lines up in a 2x2 set out of 11 personnel (1 TE and 1 RB). Something like this:

The $ is aligned at 12 yards and is going to read the release of the tight end. However, pre-snap, he’s shouting at the Buck, “Stick! Stick!” This is because he’s watched a ton of film and he knows that in these situations this particular offense likes to throw a Stick Route – i.e., a short in or out-breaking route to the tight end. He wants the Buck to jump the TE right away and get on his hip. If it’s not Stick, and the TE is running something deeper down the field, this will help him as well because the Buck is jamming the TE to slow his release.

The $ is also identifying the formation pre-snap to check for motion. From a 2x2 set, he needs to know the adjustment if the offense motions the Y or Z receiver to his side, or the RB over to join the X and Y (triple receivers a/k/a Trips). The game plan will include “automatic” adjustments if he sees something like that. It might be a check to a different coverage, like Stress or Cover-6; it might be a coverage that leaves the corner on the Z receiver in single coverage; or it could be any number of other responses. The specifics don’t matter. He has to watch for offensive motion and yell something like “Auto to Trips!” to remind everyone of what to do when it happens.

By the time the $ has communicated with the Buck and the corner, the offense may be ready to snap the ball. Quickly, though, he wants to think tendencies. What routes will they threaten him with on 3rd and 7 from this formation? He’s not too concerned with the tight end running deep here because he knows the Buck will ride him and, unless this really is Gronk or Antonio Gates circa 2012, he’s probably not beating the $ up the seam or to the corner. They may try to clear him out with the tight end, however, and slip the Z receiver underneath on a short “Dig” or intermediate “in” route. And sure enough, when the $ checks the Z receiver’s alignment, he sees him out wide, near the numbers, where an “in” cut makes sense. The Z can’t run any sort of out-breaking cut from there because there simply isn’t enough field to make that work.

So the $ has his pre-snap read. The Buck will help with the TE if that’s the offensive target but in all likelihood it’s the Z receiver who poses the biggest threat to his coverage area.

Based on that read, the $ decides to cheat. How does he do that? Once the ball is snapped, he pushes off his inside foot and backpeddles hard. He’s trying to get as much depth as possible so he can see both the development of the routes and the drop of the quarterback. He wants to stay in his backpeddle as long as possible because this is the only way he can see all three (QB, TE and Z receiver). Once he turns his shoulders and runs to cover either the TE or the Z, he can’t see the QB. The QB, then, is his cheat-sheet.

If the QB takes a three-step drop, that means the ball is coming out quickly and the $ hopes his underneath coverage does their job. He will charge forward to lend his help on the tackle.

If it’s a seven-step drop the $ is turning and running because that means a deep ball is coming. He’s reading the release of the tight end but if it’s a seven-step drop he probably needs to find that Z receiver and get on his horse or his Corner will be on an island. Hopefully, he’s gotten enough depth in his backpeddle to have a good angle on the Z. If not, he will turn his back and run like hell.

But what he’s really looking for – because it is 3rd and 7, he’s done his film study and his position coach has drilled this into his head – is a five-step drop. He’s expecting that QB to hitch up on his fifth step, and when he does he’s getting his eyes right on that Z receiver. If the Z has made that “in” cut the $ is anticipating, he’s planting his back foot in the ground and driving hard on him with the intention of intercepting the ball or prying it loose from [that little so-and-so] with every inch of his being.

Sound complicated? This is classic football. Everyone relies on each other to do their jobs, and that communication Mike Tomlin harps about all year makes it possible to work together. And “Football IQ” – knowing the defense, knowing the shifts, seeing the offensive plan, and reacting the right way – is indispensible for the defensive field generals who make the calls. But wait, there’s more! The ball is snapped. The $ pushes off and peddles. The tight end releases up the seam and gets jammed by the Buck . The QB drops. And drops. And drops some more. That’s way too many steps. Screen! Screen! Now what? Screens are like Chinese fire drills. There are linemen out in space, wide receivers blocking downfield, defenders recovering from their drops and sprinting to the football. It’s freaking chaos. What does the $ do here? What are his rules? Guess what? There are no rules! It’s backyard football – go make a damn play. Avoid the big guys lumbering around in space, find a way to drop the ballcarrier before he gains seven yards. Run to the ball! Run to the ball!

4th down. The punter is coming out. Hold your fist in the air. What the hell is better than that?

The mental aspect of the pro game isn’t all that different from the one I played. The difference of course, are the bodies playing it. The speed. The size. The physicality. I wouldn’t have survived a series at the NFL level no matter if I did the right thing every time. Too big. Too strong. Too fast. For the guys who do make it to that level, however, the mental aspect is just as important as the physical. A player cannot survive without both.


As currently constructed, this Steelers defense is in decent shape to play cover-2. The primary underneath defenders – Williams, Bostic and Watt/Dupree – are serviceable enough. Williams is the weak link but the Steelers employ so many sub packages that he isn’t likely to be on the field in obvious passing situations. Any ILB the Steelers select in the draft is likely to offer an almost immediate upgrade in coverage over Williams and perhaps over Bostic as well. And if the rookie(s) are slow out of the gate when pressed into service, LJ Fort has shown some decent coverage skills. Looking ahead, any Steeler Nickel and Dime packages using an underneath group with some combination of Bostic, Fort, Draft Pick X, Hilton and Burnett seems pretty solid. Draft Pick Y to upgrade on Fort or Draft Pick Z to bolster the Safety depth would only help.

The corners are built for cover-2. Artie Burns is big and physical. He is actually good at jamming receivers off the ball, running with vertical routes and tackling receivers in the flat. His biggest problem seems to be communication, which may be a product of not having a reliable safety to work with (more on that momentarily). Upgrades at the safety position and another year under his belt should help him improve in 2018. I say “should” rather than “will” because he still has to do it. Young players should mature and most do, but that does not make it automatic.

As for the other corners, Joe Haden isn’t exactly a cover-2 prototype but he is a savvy veteran who uses his instincts to compensate for his smaller stature. He understands how to play the position; which is to say he recognizes alignments, routes and situations well. He also had some issues with communication in 2017, but that was expected as he adjusted to his new teammates. He should also be better in 2018. Mike Hilton has shown toughness and playmaking ability and excelled in just about every role he was asked to fill last season. Cam Sutton is long and rangy, if slighter of build than Burns, and seems well-suited to play cover-2 if he can also keep maturing. And then there’s the mystery man Brian Allen, who could be anything at all because we really have no data beyond hints, flashes, rumors and some truly remarkable measurements that haven’t shown up on the field. The corners look like they’ll be at least solid and could be more, unless several of those “ifs” go wrong together.

The bigger concern is at safety. For me, our ability to play effective cover-2 next season falls heavily upon the shoulders of one player: Sean Davis. Davis, who was often the strong or box safety last season, is expected to take on more of the free safety role as Morgan Burnett assumes Davis’ old duties. Burnett is not a speed demon, especially at this point in his career. The 4.44 draft prospect from 2010 is probably more like a 4.64 today. But like Joe Haden, his veteran savvy (ability to predict) and discipline should compensate for his lack of raw speed when playing the deep half. Burnett also wore the on-field headset while at Green Bay, which suggests he will be a huge asset in communication with both the safeties and the corners. This should help Burns and Haden, in particular, who sometimes failed to be on the same page as Davis and Mike Mitchell last season.

Davis has the physical tools to be a very effective half-field defender, but only if the team can rely on him to do it consistently. Will he make the right calls, checks and reads? Will he be disciplined enough to keep his aggressive tendencies from getting the better of him? Will QBs be able to bait him out of position with their eyes or pump fake him into mistakes? There’s an awful lot of ground to police as a cover-2 safety and little room for miscalculation. Is Davis there yet, mentally? We shall see.

The depth behind Burnett and Davis is another concern, which is why many of us expect a high draft pick at this position too. JJ Wilcox had his own issues last year, and Dangerfield (like Robert Golden) has proven to be more of a special teams ace than a genuine help at his named position.


This isn’t a great class for safeties but there is a nice vein of talent right in the fringe-1st to late-3rd range that the Steelers will probably mine. The following names, grades and descriptions are drawn from BTSC’s Steeler Big Board. We are including only the players with Day 1 or Day 2 grades that the Steelers have met with. There are not many others who’d fit what the team is looking for. Personally, if I’m picking a pure cover-2 safety, I’m taking Justin Reid or Jessie Bates III. We lack a safety with either of their range and cover skills. If we could land either one, we would solidify the FS position for years, allowing Sean Davis to move back to $ when Morgan Burnett is done. That would make us a cover-2 team worth getting excited about.

1:25 SS/FS Justin Reid, Stanford [COMBINE & VISIT]. 6’1”, 204 lbs. Stanford smart, 4.40 fast, and ready to rumble. A favorite of the BTSC draft community, he fits the recent Steeler profile of looking for smart, fast athletes who can play both Free and Strong Safety.

2:01 SS/FS Ronnie Harrison, Alabama [COMBINE & VISIT]. 6’3”, 214 lbs. Another all-world physical talent but the unfortunate beneficiary of this year’s “Sold Too Hard And Too Early Award.” The doubts arise from rumors that he’s more a team player than an alpha dog, and the fact that playing across from Minkah Fitzpatrick and behind college football’s best front 7 could hide a lot of defects.

2:12 FS Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest [COMBINE & PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 195. A classic free safety who’d be an ideal fit next to Davis when Morgan Burnett is in the box, but would not be the replacement if Burnett got hurt.

2:24 SS/DIME ILB Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech [TOMLIN & COLBERT BOTH AT PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 220 lbs. An athletic wonder-child with the size of a small linebacker wedded to the speed of a true free safety. Terrell Edmunds would be right up there with his brother Tremaine in Round 1 if he hadn’t shown trouble absorbing the same level of football skills seen in the other Day 2 safeties. Open field tackling and poor angles (related issues) seem to be the primary issues.

3:01 SS/DIME ILB Kyzir White, W. Va. [VISIT]. 6’2”, 216 lbs. 100% football player and a fine leader on the field, but only an average athlete if your standard is “athletes capable of starting in the NFL.” He would be the box safety who’d either let Burnett stay deep, or would step in if Burnett went down. His lack of speed would be a problem if he was asked to play Cover-2.

3:12 SS Marcus Allen, Penn State [VISIT]. 6’2”, 202 lbs. A player always mentioned in the same breath as Kyzir White. He would also be the box safety who’d either let Burnett stay deep, or would step in if Burnett went down. His lack of speed would be a problem if he was asked to play Cover-2.

3:12 SS/FS Tarvarius Moore, SMU [VISIT]. 6’1”, 199 lbs. He was well down everyone’s list of Safeties until a pro day performance showed monstrous athletic talent that his film had managed to disguise. The scouting reports sound a lot like those for Sean Davis’ a few years ago.

Predicting the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers regular season

7 hours 55 min ago

Some way too early predictions for the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Of course there will be a prediction article the day after the 2018 NFL schedule was released. What else would we do? Talk about the 2018 NFL Draft?


To save everyone the anger and resentment towards me for my actions here, I’ll make this quick and painless. The prediction, and a quick blurb explaining why the Steelers will win or lose that particular game. Feel free to lambaste me in the comment section below.

Here goes nothing...

Week 1 — 1:00pm at Cleveland Browns

Result: Win

The Steelers will have to work for it, but I like them starting off 1-0.

Week 2 — 1:00pm vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Result: Win
Welcome to the big show Patrick Mahomes. The Steelers own the Chiefs at Heinz Field and baptize the young quarterback with fire.

Week 3 — 8:15pm at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (MNF)

Result: Win
Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense might be impressive, but the Steelers put on a show on Monday night.

Week 4 — 8:20pm vs. Baltimore Ravens (SNF)

Result: Win
The Steelers have beaten the Ravens a lot recently, and they keep this trend going with a big prime time win at Heinz Field.

Week 5 — 1:00pm vs. Atlanta Falcons

Result: Loss
Julio Jones is just too much for the Steelers’ secondary, and the Falcons escape Pittsburgh with a hard fought win.

Week 6 — 1:00pm at Cincinnati Bengals

Result: Win
Not much gets your blood pumping than a showdown with the Bengals in Cincinnati. The Steelers own Paul Brown Stadium.

Week 7 — BYE

Week 8 — 1:00pm vs. Cleveland Browns

Result: Win
Coming off a bye the Steelers are tough, especially at home.

Week 9 — 1:00pm at Baltimore Ravens

Result: Loss
The M&T Bank Stadium curse was lifted for just one year. Welcome back to the hell hole.

Week 10 — 8:20pm vs. Carolina Panthers (TNF)

Result: Win
The last time the Steelers played Cam Newton they left him battered and beaten. I expect something similar.

Week 11 — 8:20pm at Jacksonville Jaguars (SNF)

Result: Win
Revenge is served, and the Steelers pour it on.

Week 12 — 4:25pm at Denver Broncos

Result: Win
I honestly don’t see the Broncos being that great this season. Case Keenum is going to try and prove the doubters wrong. I’m still a doubter.

Week 13 — 1:00pm vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Result: Win
This is one of those games which could go either way. The Chargers were a field goal kicker away from a playoff berth last year, but the Steelers playing a west coast team at home...I’ll take the home team.

Week 14 — 8:20pm at Oakland Raiders (SNF)

Result: Loss
The Steelers never win in Oakland. Never.

Week 15 — 4:25pm vs. New England Patriots

Result: Loss
The Patriots to Patriots things and find a way to win...again.

Week 16 — 4:25pm at New Orleans Saints

Result: Win
In a track meet in the dome, the Steelers’ offense gets the best of Drew Brees and the boys.

Week 17 — 1:00pm vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Result: Win
Another season sweep of the Bengals, and life is good as the Steelers roll into the playoffs.

Overall Record Prediction: 12-4

2018 Pittsburgh Steelers regular season schedule news and notes

9 hours 29 min ago

The Pittsburgh Steelers received their first look at the 2018 NFL regular season schedule, and there were some aspects which may have been overlooked.

The NFL knows how to promote a product, don’t they? Only the NFL can turn the release of a schedule, where only the dates and times are actual news, into a two hour premiere to give fans their football fix.

Hey, if you keep tabs on it like I do, we are all guilty.

Nonetheless, sometimes there are aspects of the schedule which are often overlooked. For instance, everyone looks to see the bye week almost immediately (Week 7 this year for the Pittsburgh Steelers), but what about all the other noteworthy aspects of the schedule?

Welcome to the schedule news and notes.

Let’s do this...

Divisional Games

Out of the Steelers’ 6 AFC North games, 5 of those 6 games will be played before Week 10. Only the Week 17 game vs. the Bengals, which could be completely meaningless, falls after Week 10. Also, the Steelers will play three straight division games in Week 6, 8 and 9...with Week 7 being the bye week.

As for location, it is always nice to see the Steelers play the Browns early to avoid the crazy weather which can take place there towards the end of the season, and for once the NFL didn’t schedule their yearly trip to Cincinnati on prime time.

Prime Time Games

Speaking of prime time games, the Steelers have 5 night games (1 Thursday Night, 1 Monday Night and 3 Sunday Night), but if you consider those late, and often protected, games prime time contests, there would be 8 total games on prime time. Half of the schedule about being in high demand.


The past two seasons have seen the Steelers play on almost every major holiday during the Fall and Winter seasons. Two years ago the team played on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day. Last year, the Steelers played again on Christmas Day. I speak on behalf of my entire family when I say I won’t be having to work on any major holidays this year.

Thursday Night

The Steelers play the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football this year in Week 10. The game is at Heinz Field, but I always look at the game before and after to see how the NFL handles the travel and quick turn around of a Thursday game. The Steelers play at Baltimore in Week 9 (1:00 p.m. kickoff), and don’t play the following week until Sunday night in Jacksonville. Not too shabby compared to some of the issues there have been in past years.


In 2017 the Steelers traveled the least amount of miles of any other team in the NFL. While I don’t have the official numbers in front of me currently, the team’s furthest trip will be to play the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night in Week 14. After the cross country trek, the next longest trip for the black-and-gold will be a Week 12 visit to Mile High to play the Broncos. Other than those two games, the Steelers will only be leaving the Eastern Standard Time Zone once, and that is their Week 16 game to New Orleans. Looks like the Steelers have lucked out again regarding their travel, or lack thereof.


As stated earlier, playing in Cleveland early in the season is always a treat, considering how the weather can turn off the lake in the cold months. But that isn’t the only weather game to keep an eye on. The Week 3 trip to Tampa Bay might concern some, but the contest being played at night should decrease the heat factor for the boys usually forced to wear black in Florida. Playing in Jacksonville late in the season will feel more like a treat, weather-wise, than playing in Pittsburgh, and the trip to Denver will have the players experiencing the impact of altitude on their games. Playing in a dome in Week 16 will also be a welcome break from the elements for the Steelers.

Just Burfict

I was really hoping the NFL learned their lesson with Vontaze Burfict. Not with his suspension, but how they can play their cards right regarding Burfict playing the Steelers. With the talented, yet troubled, linebacker missing the first four games of the regular season, it would make sense if the NFL decided to put the Steelers and Bengals against one another in the first quarter of the season to decrease the chances of the chaos which almost always ensues when he is present. Nonetheless, the NFL didn’t do this and scheduled the two rivals to play against one another in Week 6 and Week 17.

Steelers “Sour 16” Bracket Round 2: Jarvis Jones vs Troy Edwards

10 hours 24 min ago

Another Steeler “Sour 16” matchup pits together college studs that couldn’t support the weight of Steeler Nation in the pros.

The second round of the Steelers “Sour 16” continues with a Cowher/Tomlin Region matchup. Last time around, 1985’s 20th Darryl Sims had 69% of the vote over John Rienstra and advances to the third round.

As we turn to the players who rank in the lower echelon of picks from the Cowher/Tomlin years, we have some bracket maintenance to do. The “Sour 16” committee had decided to not precede with the Chad Scott/Rashard Mendenhall matchup and disqualify them both from consideration, giving Jamain Stephens a bye into the semifinals. Your comments in the inaugural article revolving these players were listened to and the committee caved. Basically, it was me deciding to pull a Wrestlemania IV and have Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan battle to a draw giving Ted Dibiase a free pass to the finals. Really it was done so I don’t have to read comments from a scant few of you complaining about the site just because I’ve included certain guys. I usually include a disclaimer, but some of you merely scan or don’t have any reading comprehension beyond what irks you. The bottom line is that it proves just how good Steeler first rounds have been in the last 50 years.

This time around, we will choose between a recent whipping post of Steeler Nation and a small receiver from a small school. It’s 2013’s Jarvis Jones vs.1999’s Troy Edwards.

Jones was the top pick for Steeltown in the 2013 draft, but never panned out. I was the “one guy” that bought his jersey. So maybe I shouldn’t be throwing stones here. Anyhow, the two-time consensus All-American at Georgia had a combined 28 sacks in 2011 and 2012. As a pro, Jones had six.

Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Edwards had big numbers at Louisiana Tech with 4,352 receiving yards over three seasons and 50 TDs. Against Nebraska in 1998, Edwards caught 21 passes for 405 yards. He started out well enough in Pittsburgh with 61 catches and five TDs as a rookie, but he only caught 37 passes for no scores after that and was left unprotected in the 2002 expansion draft. His biggest mistake was going out of bounds and coming back in on punt coverage during the 2001 AFCCG against the Patriots. With the second chance, Troy Brown took the next punt to the house in the 24-17 loss,

Who is moving on? You decide. And as always, keep checking in to BTSC for the “Sour 16” and everything Steelers.

The Top 5 games on the Steelers 2018 schedule

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 7:35pm

Which games are the Top 5 on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2018 schedule? We give you our list...

Well, the guess work is done now. The 2018 NFL Regular Season schedule has officially been released, and it is time to take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ scheduled slate and pick the best of the best.

Okay, so which games will be the best games to watch this season? I give you the Top 5 games fans should be excited for in the upcoming season, in no particular order:

1. Steelers at Jaguars — Week 11 (Sunday Night Football)

The Jaguars beat the Steelers twice last year, and Pittsburgh heads to Duval in 2018. With all the trash talking which took place before, and especially after, I doubt the Steelers will be overlooking the Jags this time around. This will be a must-watch prime time contest.

2. Steelers vs. Patriots — Week 15 (CBS Late Game)

Talk about revenge against the Jaguars, try revenge against the Patriots after the Jesse James catch turned non-catch. Everyone knew this game was going to be a nationally televised game, and with a carbon copy of 2017 (location and week), the Steelers are hoping for a much different ending to this grudge match.

3. Steelers vs. Falcons — Week 5 (FOX Early Game)

Atlanta will be a top team in the NFC again, and Matt Ryan and Julio Jones coming to town could be a high-flying affair between these two contenders. Call me crazy, and I know you will, but it is always fun to watch the Steelers play the NFC teams they don’t see outside of the every 4 year rotation. Should be fun to watch.

4. Steelers at Saints — Week 16 (CBS Late Game)

These two teams don’t play often, and when they do they are usually a game to remember. Alvin Kamara and Drew Brees will look to hold their own against the Steelers’ highly touted offense, but this game might be more about which defense is able to contain the opposition as this could turn into a track meet in the dome.

5. Steelers vs. AFC North

Say what you want about the other games on the schedule, but the divisional games, especially against the Ravens and Bengals, are always competitive and cut throat. Throw in how active Cleveland has been this offseason and those two games are no longer ‘gimmes’ on the schedule.

Full AFC North Schedule in 2018:

Week 1 at Cleveland
Week 4 vs. Baltimore (Sunday Night Football)
Week 6 at Cincinnati
Week 8 vs. Cleveland
Week 9 at Baltimore
Week 17 vs. Cincinnati


What are your Top 5 games on the Steelers’ schedule? Let us know in the comment section below!

Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 regular season schedule released

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 7:14pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers know the path to Super Bowl 53 with the 2018 regular season schedule release!

The last time Pittsburgh Steelers fans saw their favorite team on Heinz Field they were losing in stunning fashion to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Round. After watching Super Bowl 52 conclude, the offseason has been brutal.

Images of the Jaguars running all over the defense. Missed opportunities at every turn. However, there is hope on the horizon. The 2018 NFL Draft is just over a week away, but the NFL will deliver a nice package to tide you over until then.

The 2018 regular season schedule.

Check out the Steelers official 2018 schedule below:

Preseason Schedule:

Aug. 9-12 (Week 1) at Philadelphia Eagles

Aug. 16-19 (Week 2) at Green Bay Packers

Saturday, Aug. 25 (Week 3) vs. Tennessee Titans

Thursday, Aug. 30 (Week 4) vs. Carolina Panthers

Regular Season Schedule:

Week 1 — 1:00pm at Cleveland Browns
Week 2 — 1:00pm vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 3 — 8:15pm at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (MNF)
Week 4 — 8:20pm vs. Baltimore Ravens (SNF)
Week 5 — 1:00pm vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 6 — 1:00pm at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 7 — BYE
Week 8 — 1:00pm vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 9 — 1:00pm at Baltimore Ravens
Week 10 — 8:20pm vs. Carolina Panthers (TNF)
Week 11 — 8:20pm at Jacksonville Jaguars (SNF)
Week 12 — 4:25pm at Denver Broncos
Week 13 — 1:00pm vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Week 14 — 8:20pm at Oakland Raiders (SNF)
Week 15 — 4:25pm vs. New England Patriots
Week 16 — 4:25pm at New Orleans Saints
Week 17 — 1:00pm vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Get Steelers tickets on StubHub!

2018 NFL Schedule release updates and open thread

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 6:56pm

Enjoy the schedule release with all your black-and-gold friends!

At this point the only dates which are reportedly set with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ schedule are as follows:

Week 3 vs, the Buccaneers
Week 15 vs. the Patriots


Use this comment section to talk about NFL news, and feel free to comment here, or on the schedule article, to talk about the Steelers’ new slate of games and your thoughts/opinions.

Always remember...


Joe Haden addresses Sean Davis moving to Free Safety, man coverage and the Jaguars playoff loss

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 2:44pm

The Steelers cornerback took the time to talk with media during the first phase of offseason workouts.

Throughout the NFL’s offseason, voluntary, workouts, there isn’t much news. Players come into the team facility, can workout and meet with position coaches, and that is about it. Every now and then, the team will throw the media a proverbial bone and allow them to speak with a player during these workouts.

Who was the lucky recipient of such an honor? Cornerback Joe Haden.

Haden spoke with the media bout a number of things, one of them being how he feels under new defensive backs coach Tom Bradley, the team may be more inclined to play utilize man-to-man coverage in the back half of the secondary.

Joe Haden thinks the Steelers could play more man-to-man in secondary under new assistant Tom Bradley: "With the players we have in the room, man to man is a thing we can do. We might do a little more of that."

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) April 19, 2018

Might this be a comment which says a lot about Carnell Lake, the team’s former secondary coach? Only Haden knows for sure.

Speaking of the defensive secondary, a lot has been made about Sean Davis possibly moving to the free safety position next year. While Haden doesn’t know for sure if this will happen or not, he certainly thinks Davis is more than capable of such a switch.

Some highlights from Joe Haden availability: He thinks Sean Davis can play free safety, but he hasn't been told that's what will happen yet. Also said with Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton already on roster he believes they have plenty of good DBs for nickel and dime.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) April 19, 2018

The defensive back room is loaded with talent, and this isn’t counting any rookies the team will add in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.

When the Steelers signed Haden after his release from the Cleveland Browns, the biggest question mark on him was if he could stay healthy. While Haden did suffer a broken leg midway through the season, he was able to take a week off before having a full offseason to workout and prepare for the upcoming season.

Steelers CB @joehaden23 just met with the media and said he took only one week off before beginning training for the 2018 season. Said injuries prevented him from doing that the previous two years.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) April 19, 2018

So, what have the Steelers been doing in Phase 1 of the offseason workout program? One of the items on the team’s To-Do list was watch the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Round.

Joe Haden said team has been watching tape of the Jacksonville playoff loss during Phase 1 of offseason program: "It's figuring out how we can communicate a little better and figure out what things went wrong."

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) April 19, 2018

While it had to be difficult to watch, it is worth noting there are some pieces on that defense which aren’t on the team anymore. Mike Mitchell is currently unemployed, and William Gay is now a member of the New York Giants. While it is worthwhile to re-live the dreadful defensive performance vs. Blake Bortles and company, it should be taken at face value.

Every team has a new identity, a new core, every year, and it seems the Steelers could be on the verge of greatness starting where they left off in 2017 — from the ground up.

James Harrison has “no problem with the Steelers”, and would return for reunions, if invited

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 1:05pm

The all-time Steelers sack leader opens up about his departure from Pittsburgh, and his feelings about the organization.

When James Harrison called it a career, many who cover the Pittsburgh Steelers, and their global fan base, wondered what Harrison’s legacy would be with the Steelers? Fans forgave him for leaving in free agency and going to the Cincinnati Bengals, but when he was released and went to the New England Patriots at the end of 2017, it seemed as if it were more than just choosing a new home.

It felt personal, and not just with the fan base. Harrison’s teammates ripped him publicly to the media when he was released.

So, what now? What does the future hold with Harrison and the Pittsburgh Steelers? Harrison recently spoke with Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and talked about everything from why he decided to hang up the cleats, even with the Patriots wanting his services for one more year, to if he would return for reunions.

Does Deebo have beef with the Steelers organization/fan base?

“I have no problem with the Steelers family,’’ said Harrison. “I have no problem with the Rooneys. They made a business decision that was best for their organization. I made a business decision that was best for me and family at the time. We went our separate ways.

“Fans get mad because they’re stuck with a team, one team, that’s their team. At the end of the day, it’s a business. Yes, you have loyalties to teams, but when it comes down to it, it’s a job, and when your job fires you, you need to find another job.”

But what about what his teammates, like Bud Dupree and Maurkice Pouncey said?

“There were a lot of things said, and I think a lot of guys said things because, hey, they were hurt, and when you’re hurt, you say things you may not normally say.

“If you go now, you see players say how James Harrison ‘helped me so much, I wouldn’t be the same player,’ etc. You have to look at the situation what happened, then you have to understand who is saying what, and the fact no one else is coming out and agreeing with it.”

Harrison spoke of the message sent by Steelers President Art Rooney II upon his retirement, and, according to Bouchette, is open to returning to the black-and-gold for gatherings and reunions.

Harrison said he saw the message and that there are no hard feelings on his part and, if invited, he will turn out for reunions and other gatherings.

Just like many football divorces, it seems as if time may heal all wounds. For as angry as fans were when Harrison was released and chose the Patriots, you can’t ignore the massive plays he made for the Steelers while donning the black-and-gold. His Super Bowl 43 interception returned for a touchdown, the numerous Joe Flacco sacks, his interception and leap over LaDainian Tomlinson...among many others.

It may sting now, but Harrison seems to be heading into his retirement with a pretty level head about his situation, both personally and with the Steelers.

Misconceptions Surrounding Le’Veon Bell, Part 3: The immature and oft-injured

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 11:47am

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell have a unique relationship. With that said, the Steelers’ All-Pro running back is also extremely misunderstood.

In the first parts of this series, we dove into some of the rumors and misconceptions surrounding Le’Veon Bell’s greed and his unreasonable (or not-at-all-unreasonable) desire to be paid like a No. 1 RB and a No. 2 WR. We also discussed the (incorrect assumptions about) the implications his tag and future contract have regarding the cap. In this part, we’re going to dig even deeper and talk immaturity and injuries. In case you missed the previous articles, the links can be found at the bottom of this article.

Bell’s suspensions have cost him two games in 2015 and another three in 2016. This is one more game than shoo-in HOFer Ben Roethlisberger has been suspended for during his entire career. Does this make Bell a team liability? Keep in mind that young men make poor and immature decisions in the NFL (and outside the NFL) all the time. It’s how one learns from those transgressions and avoids sliding back into those behaviors that is important.

It’s also important to keep in mind that injuries are part of the NFL. Linebackers who are 250 pounds and run a sub-4.6 are commonplace. If Pittsburgh was concerned with Bell’s injury history, or thought his problems were chronic, the team would not even be trying to sign Bell to an extension. Roethlisberger has missed numerous games in his career, but that’s never stopped Pittsburgh from signing him to two giant extensions. Nor is the team concerned with Bell’s past injuries.

No. 1: Bell is a repeat offender in the NFL’s drug policy and, as such, is a liability for future discipline.

Time to set some things straight here. Being busted for marijuana possession and DUI August 20, 2014, pushed Bell into the NFL’s substance abuse program. However, Bell did not fail a drug test before he was handed a three-game suspension in 2016. He did miss multiple drug tests due to miscommunication with the tester.

”I’ve never purposely missed any tests. I’ve never failed any tests,” Bell said, according to the Observer-Reporter’s Dale Lolley. “I had surgery in November of last year. They tried to test me in November and December and I missed those tests. I couldn’t make it to the facility to get tested and they couldn’t come to me, and I missed those tests. I put all the blame on myself. In April, they tried to test me on a Saturday at 7 a.m. and I was sleeping. I can’t put the blame on anyone but me.”

It’s up to you to decide whether to blame this on immaturity or a real miscommunication issue or a fear he would not be able to pass a test. However, unlike its fans, the NFL does not hold a grudge, and regardless of what you chose to blame his actions on, Bell will transition from Stage 2 of the substance abuse program to Stage 1 come August. Correction, Bell will no longer be in the program come August. No matter how you slice it, he hasn’t failed a drug test or ran afoul of the law in 43 months.

Personally, I’m going to pin the blame on Bell’s immaturity. I am not going to hold his reckless past and poor decisions over his head forever. If you want to jettison one of the best running backs in the NFL because of something he did three and a half years ago, that is up to you. I, on the other hand, will give him the benefit of doubt and not continue to crucify him for something he did at 22. Do you still hold eight-year-old, much more serious allegations against Ben?

All NFL contracts come preloaded with clauses that carry with them forfeiture of bonus money and an easy out for a team to release a truly problematic player, but Pittsburgh has made no move to do so. And while it would be an issue for Pitt to lose Bell for multiple games due to a suspension, it is not detrimental money-wise, so Bell’s unwise actions didn’t actually cost the team money.

No. 2: Bell’s significant injuries will lead to a shorter career.

While this holds true with Terrell Davis with his chronic knees, nothing leads to think Bell will travel the same path.

List of Bell’s injuries

  • 2013: A Lisfranc sprain suffered during the preseason hindered Bell’s availability for the first three games.
  • 2013: A Week 13 Grade 1 concussion did not result in any missed games.
  • 2014: Bell takes a heavy shot to his knee and suffers a hyperextension that cost him the playoffs.
  • 2015: A Grade 3 torn MCL cost Bell the remaining eight games of the season. The injury resulted in surgery as the MCL was completely torn on a controversial tackle.
  • 2016: Bell suffers a sports hernia that ended up requiring surgery. The injury was never reported on the NFL’s injury report, so it is unclear when it occurred.

None of the injuries Bell has sustained should be seen as career shortening or chronic -- not even the knee ligament tear. When fans think of knee injuries, they always cringe. However, an MCL tear is not a major knee injury. It is quite common. MCLs are like getting a wisdom tooth pulled compared to the more severe ACL tear.

If you do want to argue that the MCL tear will be career shortening, I’ll hold up Frank Gore as the poster child for disputing this idea. Gore tore two ACLs in college -- far more serious injuries than Bell’s MCL tear. Is Gore a superstar at 34? No -- nor should he be expected to be, especially since he was on a horrific team in 2017. And Gore hasn’t missed a game in seven years. He is a surefire HOF RB sitting behind fourth-place Martin by less than 100 yards. Now, Pitt is not looking to sign Bell through age 34, only through 30 or 31. Yet at 34, Gore is still highly effective, rushing for over 1,100 yards each year, and he’s done so with two much more severe knee injuries than what Bell suffered.

No. 3: Running backs have shorter NFL careers.

Well, that’s technically true, but this is a very misleading statement. Let’s delve into this statement further.

  • The NFL career lifespan for all NFL players is 3.3 years.
  • The average NFL career for an RB is 2.57 years.
  • Wide receivers do not fare much better at 2.81 years.
  • Quarterbacks, the huge money makers in the NFL, average 4.44 years.
  • The average career of an NFL player who makes the opening-day roster jumps to six years.
  • The average career of a player who is in the league at least three years jumps to 7.1 years.
  • A player with at least one Pro Bowl appearance/selection jumps to 11.7 years.

I am not saying that Bell is going to get to age 35 as Gore has, but he has already surpassed the average career of an NFL back and does not have chronic knees like Terrell Davis. It is very rare to see Bell lit up by a vicious hit in Sanders fashion. Most are glancing blows or simply regular tackles.


Will Bell learn from his past mistakes? Will he continue to remain on the straight and narrow? Only time will tell. Why be pessimistic and believe he will fall back into the lifestyle he was leading nearly four years ago?

Past injuries are not an indicator of future success. Chronic injuries do derail careers, but these types of injuries Bell has not suffered. Terrell Davis was forced to retire after seven seasons, but his last three were not productive because of his injuries. Is there an indication that Bell will not last until he is 34 like Gore? Realistically speaking, he probably will not. But, then, Pitt is not looking to sign him to an 8-year contract.

In the next part of this series, I will delve into fallacies regarding Bell and his statistics along with the idea that this might be a sign that his ability is actually in decline.

Part One: Greed and Loyalty

Part Two: The Steelers Salary Cap Killer

Trying to navigate through the complicated legacy of James Harrison

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 10:39am

An illustrious, potentially Hall of Fame career was one full of highs and lows.

On November 7, 2007, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the living daylights out of the Baltimore Ravens on national television. Festooned in their glorious throwback uniforms—white pants, mustard helmets, and black-but-I-can-be-talked-into-thinking-they’re-actually-brown jerseys—and playing in front of the prestigious honorees from the franchise’s 75th anniversary all-time team (one can assume that, in light of recent developments—e.g. the ascension of Antonio Brown to demigod status—this contingent is subject to change, but that’s neither here nor there), the Steelers led 35-7 at halftime and ultimately won 38-7, the second-most lopsided margin of victory in the Steelers-Ravens series since the semi-annual affair first kicked off in 1996.

That night, in plain view of some of the most monolithic figures in league history, James Harrison played the best game he’s ever played. Peruse this box score at your leisure, but please understand that these figures do little to fully encapsulate the magnitude of Harrison’s performance: 10 total tackles, 3.5 sacks (which cost Baltimore more than 25 yards of field position), one interception (which he returned for 20 yards), and two forced fumbles. (For context, I was, like, 15 or 16 when this game happened, and I still remember its nuances vividly.) If you’re a visual learner, clear five minutes from your schedule and check out this utterly ludicrous compilation of Harrison’s best plays from that game:

If your current situation isn’t conducive to video-watchin’, permit me to break down my two favorite moments from that clip.

The first occurs 25 seconds into the above video; or five minutes and 57 seconds into the game, if that’s how you prefer to go about it. Almost instantly, it becomes evident that the late Steve McNair is in a world of trouble—from the snap, Harrison fired off the line like a dragster and is very much involved in McNair’s life before McNair even had the opportunity to complete his drop-back. Baltimore’s tight end, whose number I can’t see and whose name, given the result of the play, is probably not worth remembering (perhaps it was Todd Heap, but I feel like Todd Heap was way better than to miss a gimme chip block), did nothing to abate Harrison’s path to McNair, while left tackle Jonathan Ogden, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, had no cognizance of the chaos unfolding behind his left shoulder. Harrison, who was now in hot pursuit of McNair after initially impeding the Pro Bowl quarterback’s throwing motion on the initial rush, dived toward McNair, dragging him to the turf while simultaneously knocking the ball loose. Apparently unsatisfied by this in-game feat of Herculean tenacity, Harrison jumped in the ensuing scrum and, somewhat miraculously, emerged with the ball in hand. A few plays later, Ben Roethlisberger tossed his first of five touchdowns, and Pittsburgh never looked back.

My second favorite play occurs one minute and four seconds into the above-mentioned video, nine minutes and 14 seconds into the game. The Steelers, still in possession of the seven-point lead that resulted from Harrison’s first sack, punted the ball back to the Ravens. Ed Reed, a Hall of Fame defensive back AND world-class punt returner, scooped the ball up near his own 30-yard line and headed upfield. After evading what seemed like 17 different members of Pittsburgh’s special teams unit, Reed needed probably a single block to find the crease that would’ve allowed him to score a game-tying touchdown. Uninterested in that particular outcome, Harrison—then pulling double-duty on the punt team—raced toward Baltimore’s sideline, where Reed was picking up steam. Have you ever heard about the irresistible force paradox, in which the meeting between an unstoppable force and an immovable object is described? This was not that. Harrison met Reed head on, pivoting the all-world safety parallel to the ground before suplexing him like a ragdoll. Not surprisingly (and understandably), Reed fumbled the ball, which was ultimately recovered by the Steelers’ punt team.

Maybe the Monday night lights sparked something in Harrison, or maybe he was enacting revenge against the same team that released him shortly after shipping him off for a brief stint in NFL Europe. Whatever it was that did it, something caused this man to play out of his mind that night against Baltimore, and things were never, ever the same again. It’s always fun when you can look at this kind of game in retrospect and subsequently pinpoint it as the starting point in X player’s rise to prominence. Harrison entered the 2007 season as a 29-year-old career special teamer, an undrafted former running back who assumed a starting role almost by default after the Steelers cut franchise great Joey Porter—this is to say, his meteoric ascension from borderline NFL washout to Defensive Player of the Year candidate at an age in which many position players see their physical prowess and, by extension, their on-field production decline significantly did not seem to be a predetermined outcome.

But Harrison, as he had done frequently to that point, shifted the paradigm. The lumbering, five-time Pro Bowler, who retired from the NFL last week, amassed 80 of his franchise-leading 85 sacks after his 28th birthday. In 2008, at age 30, Harrison collected a franchise-record 16 sacks, earned his first first-team All-Pro nod, and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. That same year, he also won his second Super Bowl ring—his first as a regular contributor—and delivered maybe the most monumental play in Super Bowl history:

This play had everything. Watch Harrison expertly disguise his coverage assignment and jump the route. See him carom off several Cardinals defenders like a bulky, reckless pinball before tip-toeing Arizona’s sideline with the delicacy and grace of a Tchaikovsky score. Observe him use Pitt legend Larry Fitzgerald as a literal springboard to thrust himself into the end-zone. Notice Harrison’s soul visibly exit his body to wonder aimlessly for all eternity in an unknown ethereal plane. I’d never seen someone so desperate for oxygen. The Santonio Holmes catch won the game, but this is my generation’s Immaculate Reception.

But when I think back to that play—or to Harrison’s 2007 performance against Baltimore; or a 36-year-old Harrison posting 5.5 sacks in 2014 despite deciding, almost on a whim, to un-retire several weeks into the regular season; or that time he tackled some rowdy Browns fan—I’m reminded that Harrison is a singular, awe-inspiring, and. . . divisive figure in Pittsburgh’s mythos.

We’ll start with his 2017 departure from the Steelers, which was ostensibly the result of Mike Tomlin et al. depriving Harrison of the promissory defensive snaps alluded to the previous offseason. That (presumed) animosity eventually led to Harrison’s divorce from Pittsburgh. This bad blood, coupled with Harrison signing with New England—debatably the Steelers’ most hated rival and closest proxy in a top-heavy AFC—led teammates and fans to call Harrison’s legacy into question, with longtime teammate Maurkice Pouncey going as far as saying that it had been “erased.” To suggest that leaving a team that wasn’t utilizing his talents in favor of a Super Bowl frontrunner that pledged to carve out a more pronounced role would somehow “erase” more than a dozen successful years—not to mention a pair of Super Bowls and the conferral of the highest honor afforded to defensive players—is obviously ridiculous, but Pouncey’s sentiment is one to which I’m sure a sizable pocket of the fanbase (and, frankly, the locker room) currently adheres.

Another contributing factor is Harrison’s public persona, which, so far as I can tell, was deliberately and unapologetically brash. In an interview with Men’s Journalan interview that remains one of the most insane things I’ve ever read—Harrison lobbed thermonuclear verbal bombs at several of his contemporaries, calling Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews “all hype” and indicating that then Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing is “juiced out of his mind” (in fairness to Harrison, the Cushing thing is pretty spot-on). Harrison also aspersed his own teammates, including Rashard Mendenhall (who he called a “fumble machine”) and Ben Roethlisberger (who he blamed for throwing two critical interceptions against the Packers in Super Bowl 45). Most troublingly, though, is that Harrison, instead of calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a crook, a corrupt wrongdoer, a brazen clod, or one of many apt qualifiers, settled on a horribly offensive and derogatory term used by scumbags to describe homosexuals.

Going a bit further back in time, following Pittsburgh’s 27-23 victory against Arizona in Super Bowl 43, Harrison opted to skip the requisite White House visit. While Harrison is obviously not the first (and definitely will not be the last) professional athlete to decline this honor, he just might be responsible for providing the single most certifiably looney explanation as to why: “If you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don’t win the Super Bowl. So as far as I’m concerned he would have invited Arizona if they had won.” Uhh........yeah, James. Standard operating procedure, my guy. Could you even imagine the logistics (and cost!) of organizing a random face-to-face meeting between a professional sports organization and the President of the United States?

And if we’re discussing Harrison’s various off-field “transgressions,” it would be unfair to exclude an incident that occurred between Harrison and Beth Tibbott in 2008. Following an altercation at their home—one that led to Harrison breaking down a locked door and snapping Tibbott’s cell phone in half—Harrison slapped Tibbott across the face, an incident he later corroborated to the police. Though Harrison was released from custody and the simple assault charge levied against him was eventually dropped, he is, by definition, a former contributor to the NFL’s league-wide domestic violence issue.

Forgive me for the inflammatory remarks. My intention is not to indicate that, because James Harrison made some poor decisions 10 years ago, he is now an unwelcome entity in Pittsburgh’s history books, but rather to highlight some of the highs and lows of one of this city’s most colossal public figures. Harrison, despite five Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro nods, two Super Bowl rings (four appearances overall), and a handful of franchise records, is considered a fringe Hall of Famer, at best. Indeed, I suspect Harrison’s Hall of Fame candidacy will be the subject of heated debate in the years ahead and, honestly, I don’t think he’s gonna make it. It took Terrell Owens three tries to earn his jacket, for goodness sakes.

Regardless of where James Harrison ends up, I’ll always remember him as an imposing, but complicated personage who provided me with the most exhilarating sports moment of my lifetime. How will you remember James Harrison?

Despite the Steelers’ pre-draft visits ending, news of meetings continues to leak

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 7:58am

Official Pre-Draft visits have concluded, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t still news coming out on that front.

All NFL teams have concluded their official pre-draft visits with the 2018 NFL Draft just over a week away. As most know, each team is allowed 30 official visits, with the exceptions of players who grew up or attended school within a proximity of the NFL franchise.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, it has become clear the player the team reported visited, and the players who actually visited are two completely different things.

Leighton Vander Esch came in unannounced on a Saturday, when no media would be present, and on Tuesday Justin Reid of Stanford visited but wasn’t listed on the official report from the team.

Some call it gamesmanship, some call it paranoia, but either way you slice it the truth is the team simply doesn’t announce all of their 30 visits.

This was clearly evident recently when Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison has a private meeting/workout with the Steelers:

Alabama S Ronnie Harrison (No. 38 prospect on @MoveTheSticks' Top 50) had private meetings/workouts with PIT, NYG, DET, TEN, JAX, MIN, CIN, CAR, SEA, HOU, NE, and PHI. Versatile player who should go Round 2.

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 17, 2018

The ending total for pre-draft visits, if you include Reid, ended with 22 visits, according to our BTSC Pre-Draft Visit Tracker. Teams don’t have to use all of their pre-draft visits, but it is rare a team like the Steelers doesn’t utilize as many visits as possible.

Why would a team not report their visits? First, they don’t have to. Also, they might not want to tip their hand regarding prospects they are interested in where rivals might want to take a player off the board before the Steelers pick.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on these reports as the team continues to put the final touches on their pre-draft prep work done before the big event on the 26th.

Throwback Thursday: A second half Steelers surge in Cincinnati

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 6:47am

BTSC flashes back to a signiture comeback in the Queen City.

As we turn the dials on the Delorean for Throwback Thursday this time around, the time circuits are set to November 19, 1995. It was a time when Bill Clinton was nearing the end of his first campaign as POTUS, OJ was looking for the real killer on golf courses across the United States, Toy Story was the first Pixar movie ever released and captivating audiences at theaters and radio listeners were tuning in to Name by a trio from Buffalo, the Goo Goo Dolls. Meanwhile, it was a very captivating season of football for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After falling just short in the AFC championship as an upset victim against San Diego in January, William Laird Cowher’s crew had excitement surrounding them. Gone was RB Barry Foster, while the ultimate utility weapon that was Kordell Stewart joined the franchise. However, Rod Woodson suffered a debilitating knee injury that sidelined him for the entire regular season and the team fell to 3-4 after an embarrassing home loss to the Bengals. After a three game winning streak, the 6-4 Steelers charged into the city known for their own style of chili. The team was competing for a playoff berth and every game was as crucial as consuming a bottle of Tums before enjoying the local delicacy.

Cincinnati started the game off hot from the opening kickoff. The Bengals David Dunn fielded the Norm Johnson’offering around the 8 yard line, sold the return and then proceeded to throw the ball all the way across the field to David Hill, who ran the ball 62 yards all the way to the Steeler 35. After Jeff Blake converted a 3rd and 8 for 25 yards to Carl Pickens at the 10, the East Carolina QB found Darnay Scott, who beat Willie Williams, for a four-yard score. 7-0 Cincy early on.

Neil O’Donnell and the Steelers started to move the ball impressively on their opening drive, but Ernie Mills fumbled the ball after a short gain due to being hit by the recivering Bracie Walker at the Bengal 47.

After Kevin Greene sacked Blake to halt that drive, the Steelers moved the ball again courtesy of positive runs by Erric Pegram and Stewart, the drive stalled with a sack as well at the Cincy 33 and Johnson put three points on the board from 50 yards out, 7:56 into the first.

After a short kick return by a Kimo Von Olhoeffen (who would haunt his former team ten years later as a Steeler), Blake staged a long drive and countered the Steeler FG with a rollout TD run from the one with 2:40 left in the quarter. Levon Kirkland hit Blake deep in the end zone and was penalized 15 yards on the kickoff. The score after one was 14-3 and the Steelers were playing clumsily and bleeding profusely.

The Steelers started to move again, but on a 4th and 1 on the Bengal 40, Leon Searcy’s false start led to a Rohn Stark punt. With 3:40 gone in the second quarter, the Bengals started to absolutely pour it on when Blake orchestrated a 93-yard drive that concluded with a one-yard pass to Pickens, who dominated Carnell Lake on the drive. It was now 21-3 Bengals.

Starting from their own 13, O’Donnell started the ascent from the deep hole that his team had dug. After Bam Morris knocked off some big runs, No. 14 found Mills from 42 out it was Mills’ fourth TD of the year courtesy of an O’Donnell pump fake that froze Corey Sawyer. The Cincy lead was cut to 11.

On the very next drive, the Bengals picked on Lake again. The safety, filling in for Rod Woodson (injured in Week 1), was called for pass interference when he grabbed onto a flying Darnay Scott. The penalty was for 41 yards and set up Cincy at the 15. Doug Pelfrey kicked a field goal and, after a 32-yard catch from Charles Johnson, Norm Johnson countered with a three. Bengal coach Mike Shula made an odd choice when he had Blake kneel on his own 25 with 53 seconds remaining in the half. It was 24-13 at intermission.

After halftime, Pittsburgh received the second half kickoff, but after an impressive run, Pegram fumbled the extra effort and Walker collected his second fumble recovery at the Steeler 34. The rout was indeed on when Cincinnati TE Tony McGee capped off another drive with Blake’s third TD pass with 4:29 gone, a 20-yarder. At 31-13, the Steelers seemed doomed to inevitable embarrassment.

But teams with championship dreams refuse to die. Bill Cowher’s band of warriors wiped the Riverfront turf dust off of their gold pants and regrouped. After a Cincinnati PI infraction by Rod Jones on Ernie Mills, O’Donnell went to work. After first down passes to Mills and Yancey Thigpen, the Steelers went to the ground with Pegram and Byron “Bam” Morris. When the burly Bam went airborne into the end zone from the one, the seeds of hope were being planted. It was 31-20.

The league’s number two defense behind Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd, Darren Perry, Ray Seals, Jason Gildon and Carnell Lake started to clamp down. After a three and out, Pittsburgh embarked on an 83-yard scoring drive that ended when Andre Hastings caught a 15-yard pass for a TD. When Pegram took the option from Stewart and ran in the 2PC, the league’s worst defense saw a lead of 18 dwindle down to three with 39 seconds left in the third quarter.

Then 35 seconds into the fourth, the Steelers electric rookie known as Slash caught a ball over the middle from O’Donnell and blazed 71 yards to glory and the first Steeler lead of the game. At 35-31, Pittsburgh would never look back. The Bengals offense and defense would completely unravel in epic fashion. Morris added his second and third rushing scores in the fourth quarter and Greg Lloyd would force his fifth fumble of the year with a sack on Blake which Bill Johnson would recover. The Steelers would triumph by a score of 49-31. Down 18, the Pittsburgh offense would reel off 36 unanswered points.

One of the greatest comebacks in franchise history would place Pittsburgh three games up in the AFC Central with five games to play. This resilient team from the Steel City would eventually reach the Super Bowl, only to lose to Dallas. But this game was definitive of the sheer grit and innovation of a special Steeler squad.

I will never forget this game. I was 23 and had just recently moved from Johnstown to the town of Elkins in West Virginia for a radio job. Because I had to work and would not be able to be with my family on Thanksgiving for the first time in my life, my parents insisted that we celebrate together four days early. When the Steelers went down 31-13, I grabbed my keys and said my goodbyes for the three-plus hour drive home. I started up my Chevy Celebrity Eurosport and started out of the driveway. But something told me to stop and retreat back to the house. I then witnessed one of the most satisfying comebacks of my fanboy life with my dad. After the game, he looked at me and smiled and I will never forget what he said next. “I’m glad you came back. Remember... never give up until there’s zeroes on the clock.”

Steelers “Sour 16” Bracket Round 2: Daryl Sims vs John Rienstra

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 5:31am

BTSC continues the “Sour 16” bracket of first round picks that didn’t pan out.

The second round of the Steelers “Sour 16” continues with another Noll Region matchup. Last time around, Huey Richardson had 341 tallies, which was 72% of the vote over Tom Ricketts and advances to the third round.

Reluctantly competing to join him in the finals of the Noll bracket will be Daryl Sims and John Rienstra. Two picks from 1985 and 1986 respectively. It was a two-year stretch of less than stellar picks. Thankfully, they were sandwiched by Louis Lipps and Rod Woodson

Sims lasted two seasons in Pittsburgh and never replicated his success as a Defensive Tackle at the University of Wisconsin. The Badger was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 1981, 1982 and 1984. Sims had 24 tackles for a loss in 1982, one of the best in school history. He is in the top 10 with 11 collegiate sacks. With the Steelers, the current Chancellor and Athletic Director at Wisconsin Oshkosh had three sacks and zero career starts.

Rienstra, like Sims, spent two years after his Steeler career with Cleveland. The 6’5” and 273 lb Guard from Temple started 48 games in five years with the Steelers, but never had the career expected from the ninth pick of the 1986 draft. Rienstra was described by Tunch Ilkin in a Steeler Sports Report from 1998 as being one of the most committed players to staying in shape that he ever played with, however stress, vomiting and ulcers hampered “Rhino”, as well as a 24-day rookie holdout, a broken foot on the first day of rookie camp and the ire of Chuck Noll.

Who is moving on? You decide. And as always, keep checking in to BTSC for the “Sour 16” and everything Steelers.

2018 NFL Schedule to be released Thursday

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 1:15pm

One of the best days of the year is almost upon us!

The last time Pittsburgh Steelers fans saw their favorite team on Heinz Field they were losing in stunning fashion to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Round. After watching Super Bowl 52 conclude, the offseason has been brutal.

Images of the Jaguars running all over the defense. Missed opportunities at every turn. However, there is hope on the horizon. The 2018 NFL Draft is just over a week away, but the NFL will deliver a nice package to tide you over until then.

The 2018 regular season schedule.

Schedule news! The 2018 NFL Regular Season Schedule will be announced this Thursday, April 19 at 8:00pm ET live on NFL Network with the 2-hour 2018 NFL Schedule Release.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 18, 2018

For me, this is one of the best days of the year. The opponents and locations are known, but this is when you can really sink your teeth into what is awaiting for your favorite team.

How many prime time games will they have?

Are they playing on any major holidays (again)?

Any back-to-back divisional games?

So many scenarios and so many talking points when the schedule is announced, and you can count on BTSC to have this information for you the moment it goes public!

In case you forgot, here are the opponents and locations for the Steelers this season:


Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland Browns

Cincinnati Bengals

New England Patriots

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers


Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars

Oakland Raiders

Denver Broncos

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

James Harrison's legacy with the Steelers is ultimately up to you

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 11:43am

How will James Harrison's ugly departure from the Steelers organization last season ultimately define his legacy? I guess that's up to you.

He erased himself. He erased his own legacy here.

That quote came from Steelers Pro Bowl center and team leader, Maurkice Pouncey, late last season, following the ugly departure of legendary outside linebacker, James Harrison, who, upon his release from the team, quickly signed with the hated Patriots right before the start of the playoffs.

It’s hard to say what left a nastier taste in Pouncey’s mouth: Harrison’s decision to sign with New England or his season-long antics that led to the freedom which gave him the option to wear those red, white and blue colors, a decision that, as far as Pittsburgh football is concerned, is about as treacherous an act as one can think of.

As the result of seeing just 40 snaps behind rookie sensation, T.J. Watt, Harrison became disgruntled over the course of the 2017 season, so disgruntled, in fact, he not only asked to be released multiple times, he slept during meetings, failed to mentor the younger outside linebackers and didn’t stick around for games in-which he was deactivated.

Harrison’s main bone of contention was that he was supposedly promised 20-25 percent of the snaps during the season, which heavily weighed into his decision to return to Pittsburgh for one more year.

There’s no doubt that may have been the original plan, but nobody could have foreseen the kind of impact Watt would have right out of the gate.

Whether he liked it or not (and he obviously did not), there was a clear changing of the guard at right outside linebacker last season, a position Harrison manned to a legendary degree in Pittsburgh for the better part of a decade.

Harrison’s accomplishments during his time in Pittsburgh included five Pro Bowls, one Defensive Player of the Year award (2008), 80.5 quarterback sacks (a franchise record) and two Super Bowl victories (XL and XLIII).

Speaking of championships, Harrison may have arguably been the most responsible for the Steelers last victory parade--a parade in-which No. 92 was given the honor of holding the organization’s record-setting sixth Lombardi as he soaked in the adulation of the fans--thanks to his interception and 100-yard jaunt to pay-dirt on the last play of the first half of a Super Bowl that was ultimately decided with mere seconds left to play.

Mean. Tough. Defiant. Harrison embodied everything Steelers fans love in their defenders. To say he was one of the most beloved players during his time in Pittsburgh would be an accurate assessment.

Harrison took to social media on Monday to announce his retirement.

It’s not the first time Harrison has announced his retirement.

In fact, 18 months after his release in the spring of 2013--followed by a mostly forgettable season with the Bengals--Harrison signed a one-day contract with the Steelers late in the summer of 2014 just so he could officially end his career with the team that gave him his chance.

But then he was quickly coaxed out of retirement due to injury and played the better part of four more years in Pittsburgh.

Some have said Harrison should sign yet another one-day contract with the Steelers in-order to erase the ugliness of last season.

But will that really matter?

At the end of the day, a player’s legacy has very little to do with how ugly the departure from the organization may have been.

It’s shaped by how people remember him.

Last summer, receiver Santonio Holmes signed a one-day contract to officially retire as a Steeler, but thanks to his off-the-field antics that limited his on-the-field potential (as well as his time as a Steeler), it’s doubtful Holmes--the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII and the guy who caught the game-winning touchdown in those aforementioned final seconds--will ever have much of a legacy in Pittsburgh.

Speaking of Super Bowl heroes, was there an uglier parting of the ways than the one between the Steelers and Franco Harris 34 years ago?

When anyone thinks of Harris’ training camp holdout in the summer of 1984, followed by his unfortunate release, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

”Franco who?”

That quote came from the mouth of head coach Chuck Noll that summer, when asked about the contract situation of a running back that helped him win four Super Bowls.

Harris tried to continue his career with the Seahawks that season before quietly galloping off into the sunset.

Did Harris resent Noll’s words?

No doubt about it.

Did the departure permanently stain No. 32’s legacy in Pittsburgh?

Absolutely not, and why?

Because we don’t remember Franco’s final summer with the Steelers. We remember the 12 autumns that preceded it. We remember those four Super Bowls. We remember the Immaculate Reception.

Word is, the relationship between the Steelers and Troy Polamalu is a pretty cold one right now, following a 12-year career that may have ended a season or two sooner than the latter would have liked.

But let’s say Polamalu never returns to Heinz Field for any reunions, will that hurt his legacy?


Jack Lambert hasn’t been seen around these parts since maybe the mid-00’s, and you can’t find a more popular Steeler from those legendary 70’s Super Bowl teams.

So, is the relationship between Harrison and the Steelers organization a bit strained right now?


Will Harrison’s less than savory final departure define his Steelers legacy in a negative way?

I guess that’s up to you.

2018 Pittsburgh Steelers Big Board (By Ranking, 3.0)

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 10:20am

Mark III of 2018 Big Board, with the grades settling as we lead up to the NFL Draft!

Organized by Highest Value (“HV#”) to the Steelers. Great players for other teams get downgraded here, as do positions where Pittsburgh has limited “want.” An HV of 1:25 means the player is a reach for the Steelers at any point before Pick # 25 overall but good value at any point from the end of the 1st on. Getting that player in the early 2nd would be fine, while getting him at 2:14 would almost be a steal. Yes, this system results in a certain amount of grade inflation for positions of need because we are talking about the “highest” grade, not the one where a player is expected to go; grades are never pushed up just because of need, however. Players with the same HV# are more-or-less equivalent so don’t sweat the order inside each grouping. I tried to group them by position: Defense, then Offense, inside to out.

Rounds are subdivided as follows:

  • 1st Round grades: 1:01, 1:05, 1:10, 1:15, 1:20, or 1:25.
  • 2nd & 3rd Round grades: Early (#:01), Mid (#:12), or Late (#:24).
  • 4th to 7th Round grades: Early (#:01) or Late (#:16).

1:01 FS/CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’1”, 201 lbs. The closest thing in the draft to Ed Reed, except he can probably play Corner too. The very prototype of a Free Safety. Don’t dream, it Ain’t Gonna Happen.

1:01 SS/FS Derwin James, Florida St. 6’3”, 215 lbs. The closest thing in the draft to Troy Polamalu coming out of USC. The very prototype of a Strong Safety. Don’t dream, it Ain’t Gonna Happen.

1:01 QB Sam Darnold, USC. 6’3”, 220 lbs. Ain’t Gonna Happen.

1:01 QB Josh Rosen, UCLA. 6’4”, 226 lbs. Ain’t Gonna Happen.

1:01 RB Saquon Barkley, Penn St. 6’0”, 233 lbs. Spare us. It Ain’t Gonna Happen. I remember Bo Jackson. That comp would be perfect if you gave Barkley 4.2 speed and then cursed him with a career-destroying hip injury.

1:05 MACK/BUCK ILB/EDGE Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech. 6’5”, 253 lbs. An athletic miracle who can play football at the most-needed position. He might even be too big! Mike Mayock and other Combine pundits speculated about whether he might grow into a superb Edge player rather than staying as an oversized Mack.

1:10 MACK/NICKEL ILB Roquan Smith, Georgia. 6’1”, 236 lbs. The dream ILB pick for much of Steeler Nation, Smith lacks the ultra-freakish athleticism to be the next Ryan Shazier but he’s probably as close as you’ll get to being the next C.J. Mosely. He’d be right up there toward the Top 10 if he was a little better at taking on blocks. Yes, he could learn to be better at that, but the fact that he needs to is a slight knock. Here is a good, thorough scouting profile from PFF.

1:15 EDGE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State. 6’4”, 269 lbs. Ain’t Gonna Happen.

1:15 MACK/BUCK ILB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise St. [COMBINE, DINNER, PRO DAY, VISIT]. 6’4”, 256 lbs. See Tremaine Edmunds and then make him moderately human and a 1-year starter. Nobody this big should be able to move like he does. This video scouting report found by bamasteeler1 makes good points that LVE has a distinct lack of linebacker polish. “He’s 3-4 lessons away from being a good NFL linebacker”. Not a no-risk pick by any means. LVE and Rashaan Evans are neck-and-neck as the Steelers’ most likely 1st round pick, and the exchange is basically higher potential versus a better player right now. This excellent, gif-heavy scouting report from our sister site for the Titans is the first place to go for an introduction. He’s been linked to the Steelers by Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper, Dan Kadar, and many others. Heck, his family even owns a football bus. Here are some Steelers-oriented scouting profiles: Report #1, Report #2, Report #3, and Report #4. You can find many others with a more general focus.

1:15 MACK/NICKEL ILB Rashaan Evans, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 234 lbs. The scouting profile compares him to a young Lawrence Timmons who played through a nasty groin injury for all of 2018. That will do nicely, TYVM. This video scouting report found by bamasteeler1 argues that Evans is way ahead of his peers from the pure “skills” POV, and suggests that he profiles as a perfect 4-3 Sam. That would translate to a superior tackler at Mack but with a few question marks on coverage. He and LVE are neck-and-neck as the Steelers’ most likely 1st round pick, and it’s a fair debate on the eternal problem: existing player versus potential player. Here is a gif-supported scouting profile from a Cowboys POV. This goes to a gif-supported scouting report worth the read. This gif-supported scouting report from Jon Ledyard has a line about his range that might apply to his whole conclusion: “The next best thing to elite.”

1:15 CB Denzel Ward, Ohio St. 5’10”, 191 lbs. Ain’t Gonna Happen. The best pure Corner in the draft, with 4.32 speed combined with ridiculous balance and COD. If he was 2” taller he’d be a lock for the Top 10; 4” taller and he’d be Top 5. But if he’s there the Steelers will face some hard choices.

1:15 OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame. 6’5”, 329 lbs. Do the Steelers need a Guard? No, of course not. Would they pick a bigger and more physical David DeCastro if he fell to #28? Heck yeah. Here is a gif-supported scouting report from former NFL player Stephen White.

1:15 QB Josh Allen, Wyoming. 6’5”, 233 lbs. Historic-level arm talent means it Ain’t Gonna Happen despite collegiate accuracy problems.

1:15 QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma. 6’1”, 215 lbs. [Ducking]. As with Lamar Jackson, I want absolutely no part of this fight. If you see more value in a QB than I do, your grade should be higher. It Ain’t Gonna Happen anyway since Mayfield is now being projected in a lot of Top 5 mocks. See the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study.

1:20 RB Derrius Guice, LSU [COMBINE, DINNER]. 5’10”, 212 lbs. It’s fair to assume that Lev Bell will either either depart or be seriously diminished in 2019. James Conner is a fine prospect, but can you rely on such a small sample set with such a large history of season ending medical issues? Now look at the two “needs” we all know: Mack ILB, where the team desperately needs depth and a future starter but Bostic can hold the fort, and Safety, where Burnett can hold the fort and the Wilcox/Dangerfield combination can offer at least a little depth. What makes those two defensive “wants” that much bigger than the all but guaranteed specter of a Bell-less 2019? Despite an injury plagued 2017, Derrius Guice is solid late-1st value. The scouting profile is just one of many sources that compare him to a young Marshawn Lynch.

1:20 EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College. 6’3”, 252 lbs. Not so much a testing freak as a movement freak. He’s the sort of gumby pass rusher that gives OT’s fits, especially when combined with a relentless attitude. This would be the Steelers’ ideal target if they really are unhappy with Bud Dupree, but the odds of him falling into their hands are slim to none. Here is the scouting profile.

1:25 CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville [Tomlin & Colbert at Pro Day]. 5’10”, 196 lbs. Combine superstar and common target for Steeler fans who’d spend the 1:28 pick on a Corner (a category that could include our own Nick Martin), Alexander is extremely fast, wonderfully athletic, and especially loved for his willingness to tackle. Read between the lines in the scouting profile and you’ll see a solid Round 1 grade hedged by concerns over a 2017 season consumed by small[ish] injuries he played through. Here are links to an interview with Sports Illustrated and another interview with Draft Wire. This goes to a Steelers-oriented scouting profile. He and QB Lamar Jackson were apparently major draws for Tomlin & Colbert at the Louisville pro day (Tomlin is the one who put him through the drills and coached him up). Here is a nice gif-supported scouting report from a Raiders POV.

1:25 QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville [COMBINE]. 6’2”, 216 lbs. [Ducking]. I want no part of the QB fight! Just like Baker Mayfield, a discount has been applied and anyone who sees more value in a QB than I do should push the grade higher. My personal summary: “The same player as Joshua Dobbs but 3 rounds better, and could be special if you build the offense to suit his skills rather than asking him to fit your offense.” Will not be available after Round 1 and shouldn’t be. N.B. Michael Vick beat the Steelers single handed in one memorable game, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Lamar Jackson do the same. But is that enough over the course of a season and career? It wasn’t for Vick, but Jackson may end up being even better. See the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study showing that Jackson’s accuracy is fine. He and CB Jaire Alexander were apparently major draws for Tomlin and Colbert at the Louisville pro day.

1:25 DL/NT Vita Vea, Washington. 6’4”, 347 lbs. Don’t compare him to Casey Hampton. That isn’t fair because Big Snack has become a figure of myth and legend in the minds of Steeler Nation. Dontari Poe or a pre-Browns Danny Shelton? Those are quite fair, and maybe even Haloti Ngata (known to Pittsburghers as “The Eater of Children” back in the day). If the Steelers needed a NT the way they need an ILB or a Safety, Vea would be good value in the low teens. But for this team… Here is a gif-supported scouting report from former NFL player Stephen White.

1:25 EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA. 6’6”, 264 lbs. Played as a 3-4 OLB in college but might be better suited for a hand-in-the-dirt role. Will require a solid year of coaching before making any mark in the NFL, but has the physical potential to make a very big mark thereafter. Here is the scouting profile.

1:25 SS/FS Justin Reid, Stanford [COMBINE & VISIT]. 6’1”, 204 lbs. Stanford smart, 4.40 fast, and ready to rumble. Here is the scouting profile. A favorite of the BTSC draft community, he fits the recent Steeler profile of looking for smart, fast athletes who can play both Free and Strong Safety. For more depth see this scouting profile (“interchangeable safety prospects who can play anywhere from the box to the centerfielder spot” but could be a better tackler); this top prospects board (he’s #19) from Steeler fan Jon Ledyard (“all the athletic traits you could want, experience at multiple positions, developing ball skills, exceptional football IQ and outstanding communication skills”); this scouting profile comparing Reid to Minkah Fitzpatrick (“an interchangeable safety that literally checks EVERY box”); and this gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Panthers. PFF has a great one to end on: he compares to a young Morgan Burnett.

1:25 CB Josh Jackson, Iowa. 6’1”, 192 lbs. Ain’t Gonna Happen. Looks the part and plays the part. A solid, blue chip Corner prospect with good but not great athleticism that’s enhanced by extraordinary ball skills and an amazing ability to get his head around compared to most college CB’s. The scouting profile gives him an “instant starter” grade. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Raiders loves his coverage skills to death but joins the crowd arguing that “he really needs to improve his tackling and physicality.” The CBS scouting profile says his tape makes him the #1 CB in the class (most have him as #2 behind Denzel Ward).

Steelers Pick at 1:28 ROUND 2

2:01 SS/FS Ronnie Harrison, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 214 lbs. Harrison is this year’s unfortunate beneficiary of my “Sold Too Hard And Too Early Award”, as typified by this Cowboys-oriented scouting profile and this Chiefs-oriented scouting profile. The scouting profile also lauds his physical talents, but notes the common rumors that he’s more a team player than an alpha dog. But the draft community has backlashed a bit, pointing out that he played across from the best Free Safety in the nation and behind the best front seven.

2:01 CB Carlton Davis, Auburn. 6’1”, 203 lbs. Ain’t Gonna Happen. Davis is a big, tall, strong press Corner who’s had exceptional success in the SEC. He’s never had to play much zone and would have to learn that skill, but all in all he has a very high floor for a college Corner despite some stony hands. You’ve got to love this line from the scouting profile: “A nuisance that WR’s could do without.” Here is a scouting profile from Baltimore Beatdown that compares him to Marlon Humphrey (the Ravens’ 1:16 pick in 2017). This gif-supported scouting report considers him a top grade press Corner who plays like Vontae Davis, but needs to learn zone coverage techniques. This Packers-oriented scouting profile basically agrees, as does this scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. This gif-heavy scouting report from a Bears POV follows suit.

2:01 CB Mike Hughes, Central Fla. 5’10”, 189 lbs. The scouting profile describes a fantastic return man with great athletic talent limited by a lack of polished skills that might let him play with NFL physicality despite his size. (Zierlein clearly wishes he’d gone back to college for another year). This gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Panthers calls him a Day 1 starter with great ability in zone, very good but very improvable skill in man coverage, and distinct flaws in run support. This gif-supported scouting report gives him an easy Round 1 grade and suggests he could go as soon as #15 overall. This thorough, gif-supported scouting report echoes a lot of the bottom line in others: struggles with physical receivers and deserves an easy Round 2 grade, but will go in Round 1 because CB’s are in such demand and he has a high ceiling. Same for this scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. Here is the full length Walter Football scouting profile.

2:01 RB Sony Michel, Georgia. 5’11”, 220 lbs. He does everything well, including blocking, and has become a BTSC fan favorite for very good reason. With the Morgan Burnett signing removing some of the urgency at Safety, and the ongoing drama with Lev Bell, Michel could be a serious target for Pittsburgh if he’s there in Round 2. Here is the scouting profile. This goes to part one of a promised two in a very thorough, gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Titans.

2:12 DL Da’ron Payne, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’2”, 311 lbs. Imagine a player you really, truly believe will be the next Cam Heyward. Do the Steelers have a hole at that spot? No, and that is why his grade is insultingly low. But would you want the F.O. to ignore the next Cam Heyward if he fell in their lap?

2:12 DL Harrison Phillips, Stanford [COMBINE]. 6’4”, 307 lbs. Another top prospect who could grow into a legit challenger to Cam Heyward and Stepon Tuitt. Serious brains, serious grit, good length, and a champion wrestler’s knack for balance, leverage, angles, and phone-box lateral movement. But with Heyward, Tuitt, and Alualu on the team, and Walton as the #4…? There’s just no room. Here is the scouting profile.

2:12 EDGE Josh Sweat, Florida St. 6’4”, 251 lbs. A middle-class man’s Bud Dupree with exceptional length, the ability to play in space, and very good burst off the ball when he isn’t totally late. What he lacks is the same thing that hinders Dupree: the ability to rubber-man himself around and under NFL tackles. Of course, Dupree is going to get darned expensive pretty soon… His stock would be a little higher if there was no history of a serious knee issue (dislocation + ACL + complications). Start your research here, with our own Nick Martin’s gif-supported scouting report, which suggests that Sweat’s newly-healed knee injury might handle more bend than people think. Here is the scouting profile, and here are scouting profiles from our sister site for the Panthers, our sister site for the Giants, and a Patriots-oriented website. This goes to a gif-supported, very enthusiastic scouting report from our sister site for the Titans.

2:12 FS Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest [COMBINE & PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 195. A classic centerfield Free Safety with enough physical gifts to be a long time starter after a few years learning the NFL game and building up his body. Here is the scouting profile.

2:12 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado. 6’0”, 201 lbs. with long 33-1/2” arms. Would get a higher grade from a team with more need at the position. The scouting profile compares him to Artie Burns and it’s an easy analogy to make. He has lots of technical work to do but he is a high-floor prospect with the assets and attitude to develop into a true #1 Corner in the NFL. Here is a gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Panthers, and another scouting report our sister site for the Raiders. This scouting profile is equally enthusiastic.

2:12 QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma St. [COMBINE]. 6’5”, 235 lbs. He fits the physical profile to a “T” and has been a good, steadily improving pocket passer throughout his college career. Here is the scouting profile. Interviews I’ve seen confirm a solid football IQ as well. The question is really just a matter of priorities. Mason Rudolph could conceivably be available for the Steelers pick in Round 2, but will be long gone by Round 3. He’s a better prospect than Joshua Dobbs was last year, but is he better than Joshua Dobbs after a year in the system? We simply don’t know. This grade assumes that Dobbs has issues and the #3 spot is open.

2:12 TE Mike Gesicki, Penn St. [COMBINE] 6’5”, 247 lbs. Check out this spider-graph at! Mike Gesicki is a SPARQ-score monster who makes Vance McDonald look slow and clumsy, and he will be high on the Board of any team focused on a receiving TE. But, as emphasized by the scouting profile, he isn’t a good blocker and he isn’t built in a way that makes it look like he’s going to get there. But if you let him hang out with JJSS and pick up some attitude… well, he might be one of the best blocking receivers you’d ever hope to see.

2:12 RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn [COMBINE]. 6’0”, 212 lbs. Johnson has every asset you want in a running back except breakaway speed and bone-crushing power. He’s shifty, sudden, hard to tackle, plenty fast enough, a good blocker, a hard worker, etc. The big knock seems to be health concerns, though he’s carried a heavy workload so far without real harm. Here is the scouting profile. This scouting profile from Baltimore Beatdown finds “very few flaws” to limit his “physical presence.” This scouting profile suggests Matt Forte as the comp. This scouting profile comes from a fantasy-oriented site but seems pretty solid nevertheless.

2:12 RB Ronald Jones, USC. 5’11”, 200 lbs. A slashing back with good shiftiness, good hands, decent speed, and a knack for making that sudden cut into a hole that was barely there. The scouting profile compares him to Jamaal Charles, who Jones has consciously imitated from the stylistic POV.

2:12 WR James Washington, Okla. St. [COMBINE & PRO DAY]. 5’11”, 213 lbs. Any finalist for the Biletnikoff Award (best college WR) who gets two separate looks from the Steelers’ F.O. has to be on the Board, but he’s actually a tough player to place because his tremendous play speed and ability to get open do not match up to any of his Combine tests. In an odd way that’s good, because it might drop him out of the Round 2 grade assigned by the scouting profile. He also has a lot of room to improve his route running, which means the “something” he’s been winning with so much in college can definitely be improved. Bottom line: the guy is a football player who wins, and who can keep getting better. This goes to a gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Jaguars, and this to a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. Here is a gif-supported scouting report from former NFL player Stephen White.

2:24 EDGE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State. 6’5”, 265 lbs. A nonstop, technically sound piece for a 4-3 team looking to draft an overachiever who wins with guile, technique and motor rather than astonishing burst or bend. He plays surprisingly well in space because he used to play as a defensive back before adding on bulk. Here are the scouting profile and a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. This nice, gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Titans compares Hubbard to Mike Vrabel, which rings true to my ear. Don’t be at all surprised if he gets targeted by either Vrabel himself (Tennessee) or by the Patriots.

2:24 MACK/NICKEL ILB Darius Leonard, S.C. State. 6’2”, 234 lbs. He’s got the speed and the range, but the Combine profile emphasizes that he put 50 pounds on his frame during college. Can he get big and strong enough to withstand the NFL game? He also comes from a smaller school (Javon Hargrave’s alma mater). Here is a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. This interesting Bleacher Report review of the whole LB class also questions his nastiness and intensity.

2:24 MACK/NICKEL ILB Fred Warner, BYU [SENIOR BOWL]. 6’3”, 236 lbs. Fast, fluid, and a willing hitter despite his moderate build, Warner was actually used in college as an Edge Rusher for many of his snaps. That won’t happen against NFL Tackles, but it suggests very good things about his ability to get off blocks if a lineman reached him in space. These links go to the scouting profile and a typically good Draft Wire interview, which shows a pretty solid football IQ. That will help him clean up the mechanical issued identified in this Bleacher Report review of the whole LB class, which describes a superb Nickel ILB who’d need to learn the other skills required for a starting Mack.

2:24 BUCK ILB Uchenna Nwosu, USC. 6’3”, 251 lbs. A heck of an athlete with surprising athleticism, many pundits view Nwosu as an Edge player more than an off-ball linebacker. Interesting fact: his stock has gone up on my personal board every time I’ve heard coaches or other players talk about playing either with him or against him. The last player who struck that chord so strongly was Markus Golden, and I can see a very similar career arc here. On the numbers, he compares to T.J. Watt with piss poor numbers in the explosiveness tests like the vertical and broad jumps. He didn’t do the 3-cone drill or shuttles that measure change of direction, but is expected to do better on those. The Steelers would see him as an ILB with pass rushing assets. But could he play Mack, or only Buck? Here are the scouting profile, a gif-supported scouting profile from a Bears perspective, and an interview posted at Draft Wire.

2:24 SS/DIME ILB Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech [TOMLIN & COLBERT BOTH AT PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 220 lbs. Portrait of a SPARQ-score superstar: the size of a huge, almost-linebackerish Strong Safety wedded with the exceptional speed and athleticism of a true Free Safety. Terrell Edmunds would be right up there with his brother Tremaine if he didn’t lack the same level of football skills seen in the other Safeties in the Round 2-3 discussion. Open field tackling and poor angles (related issues) seem to be the primary issues, but they aren’t the only ones. OTOH he only turned 21 in late January, he’s been widely praised for his leadership skills despite the lack of years, and his bloodline includes a pro bowl TE for a father, an NFL RB brother (Trey), and a surefire Round 1 pick at ILB (Tremaine). Bottom line: this is a player with a genuine chance to be an NFL star but it won’t happen unless he can get coached up on various parts of his game. He gets a full retail grade because he also has the physical tools to be an immediate help in run support as a Big Nickel Safety while he fills in the rest of his game. Tomlin and Colbert were both on hand for his pro day. Here are the Combine scouting profile and the regular scouting profile. This goes to a Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report.

2:24 TE Dallas Goedert, S.D. State. 6’5”, 255 lbs. Wonderful hands with good speed, good size, and a history of dominating against small school competition. But that level of competition really matters when you’re being asked to oppose NFL pass linemen and edge players in the running game, and to outfight NFL safeties in the passing game. Think Jesse James with a lower floor and a higher ceiling. Here is the scouting profile.

2:24 RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego St. 5’11”, 220 lbs. A solid all around back with good size, speed and shiftiness but lacking anything extraordinary that makes you sit up and go “Wow.” Here is the scouting profile, along with a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants and a decent-looking, asset-by-asset breakdown. This extensive Pro Football Focus scouting profile concludes that Penny is an underrated Round 1 talent.

2:24 WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M [VISIT]. 5’10”, 200 lbs. Considered a Round 1 pick by many pundits, Kirk is one of those players that beats the world as long as he’s in motion but does far less well in a phone booth. Universally praised for his competitive spirit, he runs great routes and has good speed but has been beaten by good press coverage that holds him up at the line, and he’s gotten some critique for limits on combat catches. He’ll start as a primary slot receiver with potential to grow into an undersized outside WR in the AB mold. A great punt & kick returner too. Here are the scouting profile and the full length scouting report from Walter Football. This goes to a gif-supported scouting report from our sister site for the Panthers; this to a scouting profile from our sister site for the Broncos; and this to one from our sister site for the Giants.

2:24 WR Anthony Miller, Memphis. 5’11”, 190 lbs. A favorite of our own Steel34D, Miller is an all-around receiver who has everything but all around consistency. As discussed in this nice article/scouting profile, Miller is another ultra competitive type who’s been under the radar during the draft process due to a fractured foot. The scouting profile notes inconsistent hands, which this gif-supported scouting report from well respected former NFL player Stephen White called “focus drops” and counterbalanced against some extraordinary combat catches. This less enthusiastic, Packers-oriented scouting profile describes a #3 receiver who might grow to be a #2. This Patriots-oriented scouting profile gives him a Round 1-2 grade. Here is a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants.

Steelers Pick at 2:60 ROUND 3

3:01 EDGE Kemoko Turay, Rutgers. 6’5”, 252 lbs. A fine pass rusher and a terrible run defender. I suspect that first quality alone would make him a Round 1 pick in many people’s eyes if not for a nasty history of injuries, with yet another (hamstring) that cut off his Combine performance. The scouting profile praises his explosiveness but more recent reviews like this gif-supported scouting report and this gif-supported review from our sister site for the Rams credit Turay with more remarkable bend then get-off. This Cowboys-oriented scouting profile is similarly enthusiastic. See also this Giants-oriented scouting profile, and this parallel scouting profile from Big Blue View. This goes to a draft process blog he is writing, which may provide some insight into the young man through his own words.

3:01 EDGE Dorance Armstrong, Kansas. 6’4”, 257 lbs. with exceptionally long 34½” arms. The Combine testing showed excellent numbers in the C.O.D. drills, very good ones for strength, and lousy ones for speed and explosiveness. All those numbers support the idea that he could move to OLB for a 3-4 team like Pittsburgh, but only with the understanding that he’s always been in a 4-3 and will need at least a year to catch up. Studies like the scouting profile tend to support all of those conclusions. Our own KansasCitySteelers says: “On tape, he looks a lot speedier than his combine times, with the ability to easily track down RB’s behind the line of scrimmage in backside pursuit. He shows that hustle on every play, with a non-stop motor, and consistently jolts blockers backwards with his strength, doing a good job setting the edge.” This Bears-oriented, gif-supported scouting report compares him to Trent Murphy and believes he’d be a good 3-4 OLB after a redshirt learning year. This Chiefs-oriented scouting profile considers him a fringe-1st guy. Round 1-3 at this Colts-oriented page as well, with consistent observations.

3:01 EDGE Lorenzo Carter, Georgia. 6’6”, 250 lbs. Another prospect who could be described as a poor man’s Bud Dupree because his assets (explosiveness and length) are tied to a lack of bend. Here is the scouting profile.

3:01 EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma. 6’1”, 242 lbs. [Adapted from an entry provided by poster Thoroughbred of Sin] This video scouting profile describes OO as a well-developed pass rusher who overcomes lack of size and length with a variety of moves and an understanding of how to use them to set up his opponents. This excellent statistical analysis from Blogging the Boys shows how well his college production and athletic testing stack up against the class’s top edge prospects. Concerns about his size, positional/scheme fit, and lack of quality competition at the college level drive lukewarm reviews like the scouting profile, with the biggest problem being concerns about struggles to set the edge against the run and whether his lack of size despite already built-up frame will make that impossible to solve. Of course there was a certain James Harrison who was both shorter and smaller but did okay in that regard… More flattering reviews like this Titans-oriented scouting profile focus on his vast array of pass rushing tools and intelligence, leading to a Melvin Ingram comparison. His coverage skills garner mixed reviews but his nice combine performance suggests that he has the requisite athleticism to develop into a capable zone defender. Grades range from top-15 talent at CBS to fifth-round value at Walter Football so yes: you could use the word “divisive.” The fascinating Moneyball-esque stat-driven analysis in this article emphasizes that OO got even more pressures than sacks despite constant double teams and no free lanes, which the author credits to his well developed skill set.

3:01 MACK/NICKEL ILB Jerome Baker, Ohio State. 6’2”, 229 lbs. When does “fast and rangy Mack ILB” tip over into “oversized hybrid Safety”? Jerome Baker is right at that tipping point. He has the speed, athleticism, and other factors you look for but the Combine profile isn’t alone when it questions his ability to handle NFL physicality, let alone to get free from NFL linemen. This interesting Bleacher Report review of the whole LB class agrees completely and describes a perfect Nickel ILB who’d struggle if asked to be a big part of the run defense.

3:01 SS/DIME ILB Kyzir White, W. Va. [VISIT]. 6’2”, 216 lbs. 100% football player but only an average athlete if your standard is “athletes capable of starting in the NFL.” He played the hybrid ILB/SS “Moneybacker” position at West Virginia, where he also earned plaudits for his leadership too. His Combine performance wasn’t bad but did confirm real limitations when it comes to speed. Very similar to Marcus Allen but a little bigger. Here is the scouting profile. This goes to a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. Here is a brief article on his visit to Pittsburgh.

3:01 CB Duke Dawson, Florida [VISIT]. 5’10-1/2”, 197 lbs. When it comes right down to it, Dawson is a football player who happens to play Corner. He’s an example of someone who’s very good but not great in virtually aspects of his game. The 4.45 speed is about equivalent to his physicality, nimbleness, ability to mirror, technical skills, etc. Short 31” arms are the only real knock. Here are the scouting profile, which basically says “a good football player who’s only lacking some length.” This good looking scouting profile from a Packers site calls him a “solid Day 2 pick,” while the brief Draft Wire scouting profile pegs him as a fine looking Nickel Corner with a Round 3-4 grade.

3:01 CB Donte Jackson, LSU. 5’10”, 178 lbs. Add 2” and 20 lbs. and you’d have an easy Round 1 pick, especially coming from Cornerback U. He has speed and athleticism to spare. All that’s missing is size and oomph. The scouting profile compares him to Leodis McKelvin, but I see a lot of analogies to Senquez Golson before the cascade of injuries lowered his stock from draft uber-steal down to a great “if only…”

3:01 CB Marvin (“M.J.”) Stewart, N. Carolina [VISIT]. 5’11”, 200 lbs. Another young man you can describe as a football player who happens to play Corner. Fans would start to speculate about his ability to play Free Safety within 12 seconds of hearing the draft pick announce. The reality? He could, but might have more value honing those coverage skills. The main knock is that he’s got nothing special to sell him beyond a high floor and football “bones” to spare. Here is the scouting profile. Here is a Rams-oriented scouting profile, and another from a Steelers POV that calls him “an ideal slot corner.

3:01 RB Royce Freeman, Oregon. 5’11, 234 lbs. Sleeper alert. Have a look at the scouting profile, and then compare the critiques about average power and shiftiness to the test results (very nice size and best in show for all the C.O.D. drills). Freeman was admittedly handicapped in 2017 by nagging injuries and a questionable fit with the running scheme. If he followed the Lev Bell route, lost 10 pounds, and focused on quickness… Well, he could be a genuine steal. The question, “What would he be with an NFL training regime” looms big here, especially with the constant warnings about his heavy workload in college. This scouting profile from Pro Football Focus seems pretty on-point.

3:12 MACK/NICKEL ILB Shaun Dion-Hamilton, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’0”, 230 lbs. High school valedictorian. Alabama team captain. Starting linebacker ahead of likely Round 1 pick Rashaan Evans until this year’s freak injury. Your humble author has admitted to a draft crush in this case and admits to believing SDH might have had higher stock in this class than Roquan Smith if he hadn’t been hurt. “Steal” doesn’t begin to cover it. If the team doctors clear his knee, this is an almost certain Round 1 talent who will most likely be available in Round 3. But will the doctors clear him? We don’t know, but my guess would be “yes.” The big 2016 injury was an ACL. He came back way ahead of schedule and was looking great until a freak hit fractured his kneecap in 2017. The second injury had nothing to do with the first, and just like a broken bone should heal completely.

So why am I so enthusiastic? Scouting reports like this one (“the best hips of all the inside linebackers in this class” and “one of the best coverage inside linebackers that I saw on tape”) will do that. So will scouting profiles that read, “quarterback of the Crimson Tide defensive, making pre-snap reads and rarely coming off the field... solid forum tackler who can make plays in the open field.” The scouting profile includes the key information with some probably healthy pessimism. (1) Hamilton has suffered season-ending injuries in each of the past two years, which raises medical red flags and limits the available film. Explain it away all you like, it’s an issue. (2) Hamilton has an outstanding, C.J. Mosley-or-better football IQ, and the charisma to really lead a defense. I place extreme value on that, but you don’t have to. (3) The pre-injury SDH had all the exceptional athletic talent you’d expect of an Alabama top-level prospect. Bottom line: It’s up to the doctors. He could get picked in Round 2 or he could have to wait until Round 6 depending on their verdict. FYI, note this February Draft Wire interview where the young man tells us, “My kneecap is fully healed at this point. I’ve started running and things of that nature. I’m ahead of schedule. I’m just taking it day by day. Every day seems to get better.” Here is a Rams-oriented scouting profile that basically echoes my opinion except for the player comp.

3:12 MACK/NICKEL ILB Malik Jefferson, Texas [VISIT]. 6’3”, 236 lbs. A young man with 1st Round athletic gifts but question marks about his ability to learn an NFL defense, his leadership, his on-field demeanor, and his play strength. He’s either an early Round 2 pick or a boom-or-bust flier for Round 5. Determining which is beyond the ability of anyone who lacks the chance to really meet with and interview him. The scouting profile sounds the warning notes, as do this fairly detailed scouting profile and this scouting profile from our sister site for the Redskins. This shallow, Chargers-oriented scouting profile emphasizes the outstanding physical tools. This interesting Bleacher Report review of the whole LB class compares him to Ryan Shazier athletically but only if he’s in a scheme that doesn’t want him to read what’s going on – a major flaw imho.

3:12 SS Marcus Allen, Penn State [VISIT]. 6’2”, 202 lbs. Listen to the pundits and you hear a constant refrain: “He looks like a Steeler…” A heady, hard-hitting box safety who’d get much higher grades if he had the speed and fluidity to occasionally cover NFL-caliber athletes in Nickel. Well known for leadership qualities too. Very similar prospect to Kyzir White but a little smaller.

3:12 SS/FS Tarvarius Moore, SMU [VISIT]. 6’1”, 199 lbs. He was well down everyone’s list of Safeties until a pro day performance that made him a SPARQ-score superstar, with numbers like a 4.32 dash, 38-1/2” vertical, and equivalents in other areas. There is no scouting profile but after the pro day Zierlein looked at the film and gave him a Day 2 grade. This quick profile from a Browns POV would agree, as would this Draft Wire article calling him the most underrated Safety in the class. Sounds a lot like Sean Davis’ draft profile if you think about it.

3:12 FS/SS Armani Watts, Texas A&M. 5’11”, 205 lbs. A solid but unspectacular prospect who is good in almost all departments but special in basically none. The scouting profile makes him sound like a wonderful depth player and a questionable starter. The summary in this Bleacher Report list of Safeties (he’s #7) describes a classic Free Safety with some injury concerns.

3:12 CB Avery Averett, Alabama. 5’11”, 183 lbs. In a less loaded class there would be people pumping his stock toward the late 1st but in this class he will go on Day 2, especially when you apply the Alabama discount and how rarely he faced a QB with no fear of getting sacked. Here is the scouting profile.

3:12 TE Hayden Hurst, S. Car. 6’4”, 250 lbs. A fine receiving TE who’d get a much higher grade if he wasn’t 24 years old. The Steelers like them young and Hurst just doesn’t fit the mold. Here is the scouting profile.

3:12 TE Ian Thomas, Indiana [COMBINE]. 6’5”, 248 lbs. Raw but talented. He is already a decent blocker, and flashed enough at the Combine to earn the second highest SPARQ score in this year’s class after Gesicki, which ranks him in the top 20% of all NFL TE’s (Gesicki being in the top 1% with room to spare). Very much in the mold of Jesse James if you squint a little. Here is the scouting profile, along with a scouting profile from Baltimore Beatdown, a less than complimentary, gif-supported scouting report, and a nice newspaper article full of background.

3:12 RB John Kelly, Tennessee. 5’9”, 205 lbs. Your classic NFL bowling ball and a surefire fan favorite for all who love angry runners that earn tough yards. Look at the gifs in this scouting report if you want to see what I mean. The scouting profile pegs him as a guaranteed role player with decent wiggle, but questions whether he has the burst and top speed to be a three down force. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants is more positive, calling him an “electric, fast and agile” back with serious upside. Here is a gif-supported scouting report from the SB Nation Tennessee Volunteers site, which is both biased and knowledgeable. This fairly careful scouting profile is worth a look for the final comparisons if nothing else: “Ceiling: MJD. Floor: Doug Martin.”

3:12 RB Mark Walton, San Diego St. 5’10”, 188 lbs. Think Gio Bernard and you’ll have a decent comp for Mark Walton. He will excel as a 3rd-down back with superior quickness, speed, hands, burst, and a willingness to mix it up in pass protection, but will face real durability questions if he’s asked to regularly run between the tackles. Combine him with a healthy James Conner and you’d have something very similar to Lev Bell. Here is the scouting profile, which drops his grade for health concerns (ankle injury). This brief scouting profile strikes a solid, general opinion. Here is a decent, if Patriot-oriented scouting profile.

3:24 EDGE Arden Key, LSU. 6’6”, 238 lbs. This year’s Randy Gregory. Key is the most divisive prospect in the draft because he has extraordinary pass rushing ability paired with very serious off-field problems and questions about whether he has the discipline to survive any professional success he manages to achieve. Great mystery surrounds the “personal problems” that derailed his Top-5 hopes, but if the Steelers believe they are truly behind him there is no better pass rushing prospect in the draft. Here is the scouting profile.

3:24 MACK/NICKEL ILB Oren Burks, Vanderbilt. 6’3”, 233 lbs. Top notch marks for football character and leadership, and he has the physical tools, but the shifting defensive schemes he’s played in leave a lot of question marks. He could be a steal if the NFL coaching “takes” or he could be one of those players who never quite masters the techniques of his position. His entry in this Bleacher Report review of the whole LB class makes for an interesting read. The scouting profile describes a classic hybrid LB/SS tweener who’s a step too slow to be a true safety and some oomph too slow to be a true linebacker. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants echoes that view in suspiciously similar language. OTOH, interviews show a smart young man who has a good grasp of fitting into a true team defense. It’s a case of projection. Personally, I see a lot of pre-injury Sean Spence if he can build up some ‘nasty’. His biggest concrete problem has lain in getting off blocks, but that is a learnable skill and one shared by most men faced with an athletic NFL lineman who outweighs you by 100 lbs.

3:24 FS/SS Dane Cruikshank, Arizona. 6’1”, 209 lbs. Here’s an easy comp for you: Sean Davis. Cruikshank has great size and very good speed, played good college ball as a Safety and failed as an occasional Corner. He’s got all the physical tools you look for held back by question marks about his football IQ. Sound familiar? Here is the scouting profile, which ends with a Round 6-7 grade. This gif-supported scouting report is much more optimistic, comparing him to Minkah Fitzpatrick with a Round 2 grade. Controversy! This reasoned scouting profile ends up in the middle, with a Round 3-4 grade. This Cincy Jungle article says that he looked great at his pro day, where he attracted a lot of NFL interest.

3:24 SS/FS Deshon Elliot, Texas. 6’2”, 210 lbs. A prospect safety with unusual size and some questions about his play speed: sounds like a Steelers-type prospect if they think he can develop a tackling attitude. Here are a damned-with-faint-praise scouting profile and a Draft Wire interview that shows a film buff who really believes in building his body to have the best tool, but winning with his head. His entry on this Bleacher Report list of Safeties (he’s #11) echoes the concern in other summaries: “The mental processing and competitive toughness skills are obvious, but those won’t mask athletic deficiencies against superior talent.”

3:24 SS Godwin Igwebuike (ig-weh-BYU-kay), Northwestern. 6’0”, 205 lbs. A young man who tests exceptionally well but has played only well. Pundits applaud the leadership, grit and football IQ but can’t seem to figure out why he’s struggled so much in coverage duties. Here is the scouting profile. His entry on this Bleacher Report list of Safeties (he’s #9) is a bit repetitive: plays slower than he tests, does better in the box.

3:24 OT Brian O’Neil, Pitt [VISIT/LOCAL]. 6’7”, 305 lbs. He’s got a Round 2-3 grade at the scouting profile, and Zierlein knows his OL’s better than any other position group. Ain’t Gonna Happen. It’s a freebie courtesy to a local star.

3:24 QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond. 6’3”, 215 lbs. Take your snapshot of an ideal QB from the leadership and impressions point of view – say a young Manning or Luck – and then give him nothing but small school experience and an only-adequate arm. That is Kyle Lauletta, the clear star of this year’s Senior Bowl. This grade is a bit elevated because your author has great faith in those non-physical assets (bias acknowledged). Here is the scouting profile, which gives him a solid Round 5 grade despite the flat statement that he “Can’t make all the NFL throws.” OTOH, See the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study which shows that Lauletta’s arm is better than Falk’s, at least by a little. The Saints, like the Steelers, have their QB but are hoping to luck into an heir with bargain picks. This mock draft/scouting profile and its companion on Mike White address that idea. Lauletta’s personal background and manner, combined with Jimmy G’s departure, have led to constant speculation about his fit with New England, as evidenced by this Patriots-oriented scouting profile and this similar, gif-supported review from our sister SB Nation site, which sees a weaker-armed Alex Smith. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants sees a likely prospect for a west coast system, which is also fair. Finally, here is a “Mr. Stats” scouting profile that compares Lauletta to Kirk Cousins more than Alex Smith.

3:24 TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma. 6’5”, 256 lbs. A big, former WR target with good hands, who runs good routes, has a genuine knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverage, and possesses the size to be an effective blocker. Would be ranked higher if he had either a hint more speed or had shown the nastiness to be an asset in the run game. Here is the scouting profile. This goes to a brief scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants. The full-length Walter Football scouting profile thinks he could go as early as Round 2 (to Pittsburgh no less!) This decent looking scouting profile agrees on the Round 2 grade. Finally, this goes to a good article from (hard as it is to believe) Cincy Jungle (even a blind squirrel…)

3:24 RB Nick Chubb, Georgia. 5’11”, 228 lbs. This grade depends on an assumption that all the red flags about his knee and leg injuries have been fully cleared, and has been depressed a solid notch or two by the fact that Chubb, when healthy, looks a lot like James Conner when he is healthy. Both have moments that made them look really special as a big, bell cow, two-down, one-cut runners. But staying healthy hasn’t been easy or consistent for either one. Here is the scouting profile, along with a scouting profile from our sister site for the Broncos and one of those asset-by-asset scouting profiles.

3:24 RB Nyheim Hines, N.C. State. 5’8”, 197 lbs. Your classic ‘short but not small’ guy who isn’t afraid to stick his nose into either a pile or a blitzer, Hines is also a home run waiting to happen – or will be until he gets crushed enough by a few NFL linebackers to take the edge of that 4.3 speed. Shades of Fast Willie Parker! His lack of size limits his ability to be a bell cow back, but he could be electric if paired with a healthy James Conner. The scouting profile worries about his lack of make-‘em-miss vision and quickness if you read between the lines but, like this scouting profile, emphasizes that he provides extra value as a kick and punt returner. Here is a gif-supported, Cowboys-oriented scouting profile, and a similar gif-supported scouting profile from a Steelers site.

Steelers Pick at 3:28 ROUND 4

4:01 EDGE Kylie Fitts, UCLA. 6’4”, 263 lbs. Long, bendy, nimble, explosive and strong: those are primary assets you look for in an Edge Rusher. Fitts has the first three down, but struggles with explosiveness and hasn’t shown the ability to convert his gym strength into setting the edge against the run. He’s also been handicapped by an ongoing series of medical problems. The potential is there, but getting him to unlock it could be frustrating for all involved. OTOH, he played for the Steelers new DB coach, Tom Bradley, so the team presumably has an inside track. Here is the scouting profile.

4:01 SS/DIME ILB Quin Blanding, Virginia. 6’2”, 215 lbs. A size XL box safety with decent speed but nothing particularly special beyond that. Blanding is the sort of player who’s sure to be a fine special teams guy and has a chance to be much, much more than that if he can develop the football IQ and recognition to take a step up. Can he? No one coming out of UVA is dumb, but he’s got a long way to go.

4:01 FS/SS Damon Webb, Ohio State. 5’11”, 209 lbs. At Ohio State he was a step-too-slow Corner who successfully transitioned to Free Safety. That’s impressive. But he’s still built like a Corner. Can the transition hold up at the NFL level? Here is the Combine profile. This scouting profile lauds his football IQ but ends with a Day 3 grade due to an array of smallish issues across his fundamentals. Here is a Raiders-oriented scouting profile.

4:01 CB Holton Hill, Texas. 6’3”, 200 lbs. It’s the same old story: maturity concerns drop a fringe-1st specimen down to boom-or-bust range. If he can grow up, become a working man, and learn to be a citizen you’ll have a major draft steal that fans will love for his length, physicality and the skillset he should be able to absorb. If not… well, not. Here is the scouting profile. How high is the potential? CBS has him ranked as the #42 player overall.

4:01 QB Luke Falk, Wash. St. 6’4”, 225 lbs. Looked like a real winner in 2015 and 2016 but a substandard 2017 O-Line got him beat up pretty badly (10 games with a broken throwing wrist!) and made his stats look artificially bad. Accurate Passer with a quick tight release who reads defenses well and makes lots of adjustments at the line (though the scouting profile notes “Slow to see blitzers and misses hot routes” as a weakness). The major knock is barely adequate arm strength. See the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study (“Simply cannot make all the throws”). Here is a wildly, over the top enthusiastic scouting profile from September of 2016. It does, however, confirm his ability to “engineer nail-biting, come-from-behind victories.” This year-old scouting profile notes link is from a year ago and says this: “One area of concern is that Falk tends to hold the ball too long. Washington State’s offensive line [for 2016 was] pretty solid [but he] needs to get rid of the ball quicker.” Sure enough, he got crushed in 2017. This scouting profile probably sums it all up as well as possible: “Thrives in the Air Raid offense, but has shown [] poise, versatility, and decision making … for a precision and timing based NFL offense. Doesn’t possess a rocket arm or bonus mobility, but has shown he can make all of the throws and he goes through his progressions well… Played most of 2017 with a broken right [throwing] wrist, while setting Pac-12 records.”

4:01 QB Mike White, W. Kentucky. 6’4”, 225 lbs. Your classic QB developmental project: the kid with sterling size, fabulous arm talent, and good attitude buried in a small school program behind a nonexistent offensive line. He’s sort of a mirror image to Josh Dobbs, who’d proven all you could want but pure size, NFL accuracy, and experience in a pro system. White has every measurable tool to be an NFL quarterback except mobile feet, but he also has so little comparable experience that one can only guess about the all-important immeasurables. Here is the scouting profile. This scouting profile and its companion on Kyle Lauletta come from a Saints POV where, like the Steelers, the fans have their QB but are hoping to luck into a bargain priced heir. Here are a Dolphins-oriented scouting profile and a long local newspaper article on White’s draft prospects. This goes to a decent, if page-by page scouting profile. And finally, a scouting profile worth more from the humor standpoint than the substance, though it’s consistent with the more serious efforts by and large.

4:16 EDGE & BUCK ILB Genard Avery, Memphis. 6’1”, 255 lbs. The scouting profile describes a very strong, explosive and versatile player who is big enough to play Buck ILB, but reports say he prefers to play Edge. Sounds like Jack Of All Trades type similar to Arthur Moats, who has quietly solved a number of potentially vexing depth problems while excelling on special teams. Moats is already on the team but he did just turn 30, which is getting up there in LB-years. A younger and more athletic version might be helpful for long term planning. This goes to a fine and very complimentary gif-supported scouting report courtesy of 58Steel. A fine Combine performance sparked other reports too, including this scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants, and this briefer scouting profile.

4:16 EDGE Trevon Young, Louisville. 6’4”, 254 lbs. It’s all about the medicals. He suffered a nasty hip injury in 2016 (fractured and dislocated), and simply wasn’t the same player in 2017. The young man in early 2016 would be a few rounds higher. The one last year would be several rounds lower. Here is the scouting profile.

4:16 MACK/NICKEL ILB Joel “Iggy” Iyiegbuniwe, W. Kentucky [VISIT]. 6’1”, 229 lbs. A solid, not flashy, mid-round Mack ILB who would add quality depth and special teams assistance. Here are the scouting profile and a Raiders-oriented scouting profile, both of which promote his sideline-to-sideline speed, adequate coverage ability, and surprising physicality for his size.

4:16 NICKEL/DIME ILB/SS Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson [VISIT]. 6’1”, 215 lbs. Whoever invented the terms “Nickelbacker” and “Special Teams Demon” may have had this young man in mind. The scouting profile is typical of the breed: O’Daniel is a true missile in the open field with too little size to really succeed as a linebacker and too few “quicks” to be an oversized Safety. One notable thing: the testing showed great C.O.D. ability, which is one of the things he failed to show on film.

4:16 ILB Tegray Scales, Indiana. 6’0”, 230 lbs. The scouting profile describes a very smart ILB who lacks the foot speed to really excel at the Mack position, and the size to be an upgrade on Williams or Matakevich, but would almost certainly figure out a way to make the team. The pundits, like this brief Draft Wire scouting profile, emphasize how often his football IQ and disciplined skill set compensate for his relative lack of outstanding athleticism. He’s the sort of player you love to have on your team, but probably not the one Pittsburgh is looking for. This scouting profile from an avowed fan pegs him as a Round 3 player whose ideal feat would be as a 4-3 Sam. This Steelers oriented, gif-supported scouting profile makes similar observations and suggests Round 4. He gets a slight discount here for being a fine football player who doesn’t quite fit the specs that Pittsburgh is looking for this year.

4:16 SS/FS Trey Flowers, Okla. St. [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 202 lbs. An exceptionally long, lean and somewhat gawky talent with excellent speed and an NFL pedigree (his Uncle Erik was a Round 1 Edge guy who had a moderate journeyman’s career). The scouting profile lauds his length, speed, and productivity but warns that he’s neither big and tough enough to intimidate as a box safety, nor flexible enough to excel as a coverage player. This nice interview/article adds that Flowers is a heady player, and quotes him as someone who looks to keep building strength so he can play in the box in a Kam Chancellor type of role. The Steelers could use that if he manages to succeed, but we can’t designate him as a pure Strong Safety because that kind of speed and length would make for a pretty good center fielder too.

4:16 CB Parry Nickerson, Tulane. 5’10”, 182 lbs. Born and bred as a Nickel Corner with the potential, like Willie Gay, to grow into more than that if he masters his craft. Extremely fast (4.32) and very quick, but he lacks the frame to bulk up beyond where he already is. The scouting profile uses words like “gritty,” “tough,” “competes hard,” and “ballhawk,” but also admits that the limitations are real. And the team has Mike Hilton already, plus Cam Sutton forcing his way onto the stage. Is there room for a third example? Nickerson made this list of “most underrated players”. This goes to a gif-supported scouting report from a Raiders POV.

4:16 CB Greg Stroman, Va. Tech. 5’11”, 182 lbs. Many sources like CBS have him in this “easy Day 2” range because he’s shown the ability to be very sticky in coverage, but other respected sources like the scouting profile and the Walter Football scouting blurb end with Day 3 grade over fears that he will get “big-boyed” in the NFL. Plus skills as a punt return add some luster. This article suggests an average Round 4-5 expectation while this Jets-oriented scouting profile seems to be in the fringe-3rd range (‘exceptional nickel CB who also returns punts).

4:16 TE Will Dissly, Washington [COMBINE]. 6’5”, 257 lbs. The Steelers met with him at the Combine and it’s easy to see the appeal if you view him as a Day 3 value pick. The scouting profile explains the contradictions even though it ends with a pessimistic grade. Dissly was an almost good enough Edge Rusher until 2 years ago, when the coaches moved him to TE. So he has almost no real experience, and it shows in his lack of technique. His SPARQ-score was lousy, but mostly due to really bad marks on the bench and in the leaps. Play strength is not a reported issue, Mike Mayock called him “the best blocking TE in the class”, he has a Steelerish tough-guy attitude, and he excelled in the C.O.D. drills where no one thought he would.

4:16 TE Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin [COMBINE]. 6’6”, 248 lbs. A big, receiving-oriented Tight End with fabulous hands, good route running skills, and a knack for getting open despite average athleticism. His stock is all over the place in the draft community, as noted in this scouting profile from Baltimore Beatdown. The scouting profile may be counted among the doubters, while this scouting profile is more positive. Two notable things: Fumagalli is the kid with only nine fingers, and he has a reputation for toughness and grit despite his very limited blocking skills. By all accounts he’d be a good spiritual fit in black & gold.

4:16 RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa. 5’10”, 191 lbs. The scouting profile describes a runner who can make anyone miss with brilliant lateral cuts and jukes, but who’ll drive you crazy because the moves go sideways instead of up the field. Another candidate for ‘running mate with Conner,’ his grade would be higher if he had the size and stuff to be a better pass protector when shuffled in as a 3rd-down back. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants says much the same thing. Walter Football’s scouting profile compares him to Duke Johnson, which might be a good observation if Wadley gets the knack of really trying to block even when he knows he’s overmatched. This Seahawks-oriented scouting profile (with accompanying video study) compares him to a smaller Shady McCoy, which is also fair considering what McCoy might look like if you stripped off that extra bit of solidity.

Steelers Have No 4th Round Pick ROUND 5

5:01 DL/NT Kendrick Norton, Miami [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 314 lbs. Looking for a true, run stuffing, 0-tech Nose Tackle other than Vita Vea? Good luck in this draft. They are few and far between to say the least. Kendrick Norton may be the only real value pick before you get toward the rookie free agent pool. He has plenty of warts, as you can see from the scouting profile. He wouldn’t, e.g., provide a fraction of the pass rush that Pittsburgh gets from Javon Hargrave and thus would be limited to the 3-5 plays per game when pure ‘immovable force’ matters more. He may even be a bit miscast as a 3-4 NT according to this gif-supported scouting report (“He’s a “1-tech through and through”).

5:01 DL/NT B.J. Hill, N. Car. St. [VISIT]. 6’4”, 315 lbs. If you buy into the scouting profile and this Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report, you’ll judge that B.J. Hill is a less promising version of Javon Hargrave from two years ago. A lot of BTSC remembers the old days and wants nothing more than a true, run stuffing, 0-tech Nose Tackle. They are few and far between in this draft, and the Steelers defense has changed. BJ Hill fits the new prototype better and would push Gravedigger. Whoever wins (i.e., learns to deal with double teams), the team would be better and depth assured. OTHO, this brief scouting profile, and also this similarly brief scouting profile, see the opposite type of player: a low burst athlete who’s hard to move. Go figure.

5:01 MACK/NICKEL ILB Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida. 6’1”, 227 lbs. This is the young man who challenged the Combine’s all-time linebacker record for speed, and put up decent strength numbers too despite having no left hand due to a congenital birth defect. The best draft story of the year: period. There’s no getting around the fact that his handicap is, well, a handicap, but that only limits his value. The scouting profile seems pretty solid in this case, describing an excellent small-school prospect whose real limits may be more size- and linearity-related than having to do with his hand. This Bleacher Report review of the whole LB class emphasizes that he also needs to add some play strength but that is certain to be solved in an NFL program.

5:01 NICKEL/DIME ILB Skai Moore, South Carolina. 6’2”, 226 lbs. A two-year team captain and one of the best cover-LB’s in the class, Moore’s grade is limited by his lack of size and some residual worry about a serious 2016 fusion surgery on his neck. It’s a pretty tight grade because the floor and ceiling are close together: If he stays healthy he will be some variation on hybrid SS/Mack and special teams demon.” If the medicals are an issue he will be out of the league. The scouting profile adds those up into a late Day 3 grade, as does this scouting profile. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants, who also need a cover-capable linebacker or two, seems to place him in the early to mid Day 3 range. This gif-heavy, Panthers-oriented scouting report seems to agree: “immediate depth with enough upside to hope that they might be able to contribute in a more significant way down the road.” The CBS scouting profile more or less agrees. “… changes direction in a hurry. Almost built like rocked up safety. Great depth sinking in coverage and possesses keen route-recognition skills and quickly reacts to quarterbacks’ eyes. Doesn’t fly sideline-to-sideline but has range and is a decent blocker-shedder. A candidate to outperform his draft position.” [Infinite thanks to poster 58Steel for the find & research]

5:01 CB J.C. Jackson, Maryland. 5’10”, 201 lbs. Yet another tough guy Corner who could probably transition to Free Safety, Jackson’s main problem is grabbiness. He’s the sort of prospect that fans will love in many ways, but would not object to seeing with his hands in boxing gloves for half of every practice. There is also a serious off-field red flag: he was charged for – and then acquitted of – being involved with 2014/2015 armed robbery of someone’s home. His grade would be a solid round higher without that incident. Here is the scouting profile. This goes to a brief scouting profile that projects good upside, while this brief scouting profile questions his ceiling.

5:01 TE Dalton Schultz, Stanford. 6’6”, 242 lbs. A fine blocker with a Stanford-level football IQ and a good ability to find open zones, but not a special athlete. It’s hard to see him growing into a lot more than that. Here is the scouting profile.

5:01 TE Durham Smythe, Notre Dame. 6’5”, 257 lbs. A Tight End who makes a serious difference in the run game, and will manage to produce in the passing game if teams fail to respect it. Wow, who’da thunk it? The scouting profile really does remind you of Matt Spaeth.

5:01 RB Jordan Wilkins, Mississippi. 6’1”, 217 lbs. The scouting profile describes a runner with every asset you want except attitude. A find Day 3 pick nevertheless because of the old NFL chestnut that’s lasted so long because it is true: young men with talent hits the NFL, gets punched in the nose by tough guys who are just as good, and then falls in with just the right coach, who shows him how to wear those big boy shoes. Jordan Wilkins with big boy shoes would be a Day 2 shoe-in (sorry for that).

5:01 WR Justin Watson, Penn. [VISIT] 6’3”, 215 lbs. The scouting profile describes a receiver with great hands, character and size who utterly dominated the Ivy League for several years, but who probably lacks the sheer speed and explosiveness to compete against the big boys. ‘Ivy league? Come on…’ Enter his pro day, with 4.39 speed, a 40” vertical and assorted other SPARQ-score achievements. My how the evaluations change. Here is the BTSC article from when the Steelers brought him in for a visit.

Steelers Pick at 5:148 (11, from 49ers)

5:16 DL/NT Derrick Nnadi, Florida St. [COMBINE]. 6’1”, 317 lbs. The scouting profile is easy to sum up from a Steelers’ perspective: “A poor man’s Javon Hargrave.” He’d have a higher grade if Pittsburgh played a 4-3 and wasn’t looking for someone to handle double teams. Here is a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants.

5:16 DL Deadrin Senat, USF [COMBINE]. 6’0” 314 lbs. The scouting profile gives a Round 3-4 grade on Senat and describes him as a solid but limited 1-gap penetrator (a 1-tech who might play 3-tech as well). For Pittsburgh that translates to a poor man’s Javon Hargrave and a grade saying, “The bargain gets to good to resist at this point…”

5:16 MACK/NICKEL ILB Jack Cichy (“SITCH-ee”), Wisconsin. 6’2”, 234 lbs. Major injury issues concerning a 2016 torn pec and a 2017 torn ACL. Get past those and you have a fine prospect with all the speed, fluidity, tackling and instincts one looks for in a Mack ILB. Not as much experience as you’d like but even the abbreviated 2016 season was enough to earn him a semi-finalist position for the Butkus Award. All in all, a great prospect for a Day 3 flier. Here are the scouting profile and a Steelers-oriented, gif-supported scouting report. This scouting profile makes the point that he played with T.J. Watt, so the Steelers theoretically have an inside track. As this Cincy Jungle scouting profile summarizes, “When healthy Wisconsin’s ILB has been sensational.”

5:16 BUCK ILB Josey Jewell, Iowa. 6’1”, 235 lbs. The scouting profile calls him a poor man’s Sean Lee, but he honestly reminds me more of a slightly more athletic Tyler Matakevich, a player I love who is already on the team.

5:16 MACK/NICKEL ILB Matthew Thomas, Florida St. [VISIT]. 6’3”, 227 lbs. He’s got all the measurables, including some truly astonishing numbers in the explosiveness tests, but he’s also managed to be an afterthought who never developed the “instincts” required for an ILB. Lots of sparks (SPARQ?) and flashes, but no flames. Here is the scouting profile, which suggests a number of off-field tragedies that might account for this. This is a decent scouting profile from back in November, and a very brief scouting profile from February.

5:16 BUCK/MACK ILB Chris Worley, Ohio State [VISIT]. 6’2”, 230 lbs. Things you never thought you’d say about an Ohio State player: lacks size, speed and fluid movement skills, but makes up for it with gritty determination and toughness. Worley is a player you’d love if he only had enough pure athletic talent to play Mack or enough size to play Buck. Alas, but he’s caught dead in between. Here is the scouting profile. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants is a bit more positive: “Worley isn’t the star linebacker that [] fans crave. He is, instead, more of a ‘glue guy’… that does most everything well and holds a unit together.”

5:16 C/G Tony Adams, N.C. State [PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 322 lbs. The scouting profile ends with a Round 5 grade for a prospect with a very good build, good quickness, but desperate need for an NFL strength training program. The Steelers have limited need at Guard so we’ve applied a small discount. Here is a scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants, which points out that Adams was once a Top 20 tennis player in New England. Quick indeed!

5:16 RB Kalen Ballage, Arizona St. 6’1”, 227 lbs. A brilliant SPARQ kid who’s shown shortcomings when it comes to putting that native athletic talent into practice on a football field. The scouting profile is a study in how a scout tries to put words on someone who just doesn’t “get it.” Worth a Day 3 pick nevertheless on the chance that a good NFL coach and locker room might harness the scattered potential.

5:16 RB Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma. 6’2”, 245 lbs. If the Steelers didn’t have Rosie Nix… Flowers is one of the best full-/H-back prospects we’ve seen in recent years. He blocks and catches like an undersized TE with great ability to latch onto both slippery defenders and footballs in the air. You’ve got to love football players, and he is a great example of the species. Alas, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have this role filled.

5:16 WR Richie James, Middle Tenn. St. [COMBINE & VISIT] 5’9”, 178 lbs. Our own Nick Martin thought enough of this prospect to promote him up to Round 3 in a March mock draft, but most pundits think he will be available later. James is almost an archetype: the undersized, super agile, sneaky fast, punt returning Jack Russell Terrier of the football world. If drafted he’d be competition for Eli Rogers and a young man with dreams of growing into Antonio Brown or Steve Smith Sr. Here is the scouting profile. This goes to a nice Draft Wire interview, this to a newspaper article on his pro day, and this to a pair of interviews with both the WR coach at MTSU and one with the young man himself.

Steelers Pick at 5:165 ROUND 6

6:01 DL Bilal Nichols, Delaware [VISIT]. 6’4”, 308 lbs. The scouting profile describes an excellent athlete who has underperformed in college. Good effort level and nice anchor against the run, but handicapped by bad leverage and poor technique. This brief scouting profile describes him as a player who flashes top level play and then fades back. Here is the CBS scouting profile. “Solid depth pick” would be the verdict from this Rams-oriented scouting profile and this brief profile from Tony Pauline.

6:01 BUCK ILB Micah Kizer, Va. State. 6’2”, 240 lbs. A prototype Buck ILB who’d deserve a much deeper look if the Steelers had more need in that department. Here is the scouting profile.

6:01 BUCK ILB Christian Sam, Arizona State. 6’2”, 236 lbs. A prototype Buck ILB who’d deserve a much deeper look if the Steelers had more need in that department. Here is the scouting profile.

6:01 CB Nick Nelson, Wisconsin. 5’11”, 200 lbs. [Torn meniscus (3-4 month recovery) drops his grade 2 full rounds. Heal well young man.] A nice, solid, steady prospect to be an NFL Corner who’d get a round higher grade if he didn’t suffer from Hands of Stone Syndrome. Here is the scouting profile (note the author and the player comparison btw).

6:01 QB Kurt Benkert, Virginia. 6’3”, 218 lbs. Another boom-or-bust practice squad prospect with a huge arm that’s saddled down by major accuracy and decision making question marks. See the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study.

6:01 QB Chase Litton, Marshall. 6’6”, 232 lbs. Looking for a practice squad boom-or-bust prospect at the end of your mock? You could do much worse than Chase Litton, who looks the part, has the arm, and possess the required nerve and guts. The problem lies in the mental processing time and the difficulty reading defenses, which led to waaaaaay more interceptions than a team can survive. But those are above-the-neck issues that can be learned, and a certain someone from New England has shown that it sometimes works out in just that way. Here is the scouting profile. This long and excellent article focuses on the red[dish] flags raised by several events as a teenager. Definitely worth the read. This 6-minute video scouting report from Matt Waldman is also worth some attention for a technical, on-field POV, as is the discussion in this extremely detailed QB study.

6:01 QB Brogan Roback, Eastern Michigan. [VISIT]. 6’3”, 220 lbs. As explained in this scouting profile, Roback is a small school star with decent size and a lot of talent. A similar story is told in this scouting profile. Sounds like a fine Day 3 flier.

6:01 WR Dylan Cantrell, Texas Tech. 6’3”, 212 lbs. Martavis Bryant is nearing the end of his rookie deal and the Steelers like to pick a receiver every year regardless. Cantrell isn’t a burner, but he is a SPARQ score superstar in every other way with excellent height and remarkable hands. The scouting profile contains more doubts than compliments, as does this gif-supported scouting profile, which calls him more of a smart receiver than an athlete. But then came those test scores that put him at the very top of this year’s class, so…

6:16 MACK/NICKEL ILB Jermaine Carter, Maryland [VISIT]. 6’0”, 228 lbs. A two-year captain who projects to be a special teams and sub package specialist. Here is the scouting profile. This brief scouting profile describes him as a “short, stocky, high motor… heart and soul of the defense” type.

6:16 BUCK ILB Andre Smith, North Carolina. 6’0”, 240 lbs. 100% thumper coming off a knee injury. He’d have no chance to be more than a 3rd string Buck ILB behind Williams and Matakevich, and would do better finding a team with more use for his skill set. Here is the scouting profile.

6:16 RB/WR Reggie Bonnafon, Louisville [VISIT]. 6’2”, 210 lbs. His pro day numbers confirmed his reputation as a SPARQ-score athlete. As summarized in the notes in this Redskins-oriented mock, Bonnafon is basically an unknown because he converted from QB to WR in 2016 because he wasn’t going to displace Lamar Jackson, and then to RB in 2017 because it seemed like a good idea to show versatility. Sounds like a really good gamble for a Day 3 flier.

6:16 WR Devin Gray, Cincinnati [PRO DAY]. 5’11”, 183 lbs. Very good 4.4 speed. This goes to a BTSC article on his pro day meeting. Supposed to have good hands but suffered from poor QB play.

6:16 WR Quadree Henderson, Pitt. [LOCAL VISIT]. 5’8”, 190 lbs. A punt/kick returner who doubles with less success as a Wide Receiver. Here is the scouting profile. This goes to a nice interview that gives surprising insight into what the young man is like. Here is a Lions-oriented scouting profile.

Steelers Have No Round 6th Round Pick ROUND 7 Steelers Pick at 7:220 (2, from NYG)

7:01 QB (?) J.T. Barrett, Ohio State. 6’1”, 220 lbs. Let’s summarize. J.T. Barrett is that young man you want your daughter to bring home; the one who will obviously end up running some business, doing actual good in Congress, or excelling some other way. He’s a three-year captain for Ohio State. Three! It’s never happened before and may never happen again. But he played QB in college and he’s just not suited for the role at the next level. It’s sort of like scouting a smaller and less accomplished Tim Tebow, with all the leadership skill and without the divisive religious nuts dogging his shadow. My projection is this: offensive role player who ends up as your #2 RB, #4 WR and emergency QB all at the same time, while contributing on special teams and gluing your locker room together. That’s worth a Day 3 draft pick. Here is the scouting profile. There have been some three gazillion others about him over the years if you care to look.

7:01 WR Russell Gage, LSU [VISIT]. 6’0”, 184 lbs. As summarized by the scouting profile, Gage is a tough, competitive, junk yard dog of a special teams player who doubles as a Wide Receiver. This goes to an article on his visit to Pittsburgh.

7:16 CB Trey Johnson, Villanova [PRO DAY]. 5’11”, 187 lbs. Team attends pro day with whatever initial impression. Prospect runs a very surprising 4.33 dash and a 4.20 short shuttle. Teams says, “We need to make sure we really understand who this kid is and how much of that potential he might be able to tap.” Entry is made on the BTSC Big Board. Simple, right? This goes to a solid interview in lieu of a scouting profile.

7:16 OT Jordan Mailata, Rugby Player [VISIT]. 6’8”, 346 lbs. A miracle size-strength-speed athlete who’s never played a snap of football in his life. Pure, untapped potential for Mike Munchak to play with. Here is a BTSC article on his visit.

Steelers Pick at 7:246

7:99 DL Curtis Cothran, Penn State [PRO DAY & VISIT]. 6’5”, 301 lbs. The scouting profile describes a 1-gapping DT who will need to spend a year in an NFL strength training program before trying to compete for a job.

7:99 DL Joshua Frazier, Alabama [PRO DAY]. 6’4”, 324 lbs. An immovable object to compete with Dan McCullers. Here is the scouting profile.

7:99 DL Gregory Gilmore, LSU [VISIT]. 6’4”, 308 lbs. The scouting profile describes an athlete with good length, strength and size but without the key assets for success as a defensive lineman: he is neither an immovable object nor a quick penetrator. But he is a hard worker who makes tackles and has physical assets he might develop.

7:99 EDGE Macklin Weaver, Eastern Illinois [PRO DAY]. 6’5”, 260 lbs. Here is a BTSC article on his pro day meeting.

7:99 OG R.J. Prince, North Carolina [PRO DAY]. 6’6”, 311 lbs. Here is a brief interview worth a read. A decent athlete on the fringe of Day 3. Probably more a FA for the Steelers.

7:99 FB/TE John David (“J.D.”) Moore, LSU [VISIT]. 6’4”, 236 lbs. Every year LSU awards #18 to high character tough guys the locker room admires. J.D. Moore was the most recent. The intangibles that implies are what gives him a chance to make a Steelers’ team that already includes Rosie Nix. Check out his goodbye letter “To the LSU Family.” You’ll get the point.

Steelers officially host a trio of defenders, but the mystery visitor also makes news

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 7:58am

The Pittsburgh Steelers might be playing some games with their pre-draft visits.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted more prospects on Tuesday at their team headquarters, and the official list included a linebacker and two safeties.

Draft visitors for 4/17: LB Matthew Thomas from Florida State; S Marcus Allen from Penn State; and S Tarvarius Moore from Southern Miss

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) April 17, 2018

The official pre-draft visit list:

Florida State LB Matthew Thomas
Penn State S Marcus Allen
Southern Miss S Tarvarius Moore

Pretty standard list, right? Well, it looked as if it would be a standard day, regarding pre-draft visits, until news started swirling about Stanford safety Justin Reid. On Reid’s official Instagram page he posted several story videos of himself at the team’s headquarters for a pre-draft visit.

All fine and dandy, except the Steelers didn’t list him on the official visitor list.

Looks like Stanford safety Justin Reid is visiting the Steelers today. He’s posting IG videos from inside UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Potential first-rounder would fill need.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) April 17, 2018

Per his Instagram account, Stanford safety Justin Reid is at the Steelers facility today. He wasn’t mentioned in rarlier grouping of players scheduled to be on campus.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) April 17, 2018

As far as our understanding, the Steelers don’t technically have to report Reid as a visitor, or it could have been a simple error throughout the reporting process. Nonetheless, with Reid in the mix, the Steelers trio of safeties are certainly ones which could find their way to the Steelers in way shape or form.

Reid could be considered a first round talent, while Allen and Moore are both considered to be Day 2 prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.

With all the talk of safeties, linebacker Matthew Thomas kind of goes under the radar. This is what his NFL Scouting Report says of the projected late round pick:

Thomas is lacking in many of the areas teams covet in linebacker play. His instincts are poor, he doesn’t always play with a competitive demeanor, he’s not a downhill player and he lacks play strength and productivity for the position. However, Thomas does possess a long frame with outstanding play speed and the potential to make plays. It’s his athletic traits and “potential” that will give him a shot as a WILL linebacker who will need to excel on special teams to stick with a team long-term.

Stay tuned to all the news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers pre-draft visits with the BTSC Pre-Draft Visit Tracker.