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Updated: 49 min 12 sec ago

NFL Power Rankings Week 2: Experts continue to buy the Steelers as top contenders

1 hour 42 min ago

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0 and experts continue to be buyers on the Black-and-gold so far in the 2017 regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of just a handful of NFL teams who have started the year off 2-0 and, by accomplishing this feat, the team has been bumped up in most NFL Power Rankings as Week 3 is set to kickoff this Thursday night.

So let’s take a look at the weekly rankings by several media outlets to see just where the Black-and-gold rank after beating the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 and the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2.

I realize Power Rankings are completely meaningless—just someone’s overall opinion of how good or bad teams are in any given week, but if they’re good for anything, it’s debate about the “expert” selections.

Without further ado, it’s time to wrap your heads around this week’s Power Rankings:

ESPN

1. Atlanta Falcons
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
“Le'Veon Bell might be off to a slow start, but the other Steeler B's aren't. Ben Roethlisberger has completed 21 passes for 16 yards per catch to Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant this season. Pittsburgh is off to a 2-0 start for the second straight year.”
4. New England Patriots
5. Oakland Raiders
6. Green Bay Packers
7. Denver Broncos
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Seattle Seahawks
10. Baltimore Ravens

CBS Sports

1. Atlanta Falcons
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
“Here's another team that hasn't been as good as expected on offense. Maybe Le'Veon Bell missing the preseason matters now.”
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. New England Patriots
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Oakland Raiders
7. Denver Broncos
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
9. Seattle Seahawks
10. Detroit Lions

NFL.com

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Oakland Raiders
3. New England Patriots
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
“Ben Roethlisberger at home is a different guy. Perhaps when he spoke of the "Heinz Field" mystique, he was having some kind of Freudian slip -- because the Steelers' franchise quarterback often slips on the road. But on Sunday, Roethlisberger was efficient, capitalizing on a couple of early opportunities in the red zone and not turning the football over on a day when his defense was not exactly challenged by Vikings backup Case Keenum. Meanwhile, Lumbergh caught Le'Veon Bell before he got out of the facility this week. The Steelers need the shifty back, who logged just 91 yards on 31 touches, to start coming in on Sundays.”
6. Denver Broncos
7. Green Bay Packers
8. Detroit Lions
9. Seattle Seahawks
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

SB Nation

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Denver Broncos
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Baltimore Ravens
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. Detroit Lions
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
9. New England Patriots
10. Miami Dolphins
(These are SB Nation’s “hope” rankings)

Mike Tomlin’s explanation for James Harrison not playing in Week 2 provides more questions than answers

2 hours 50 min ago

The Pittsburgh Steelers all-time sack leader didn’t play a snap vs. Minnesota, and Mike Tomlin’s explanation didn’t provide much clarity to the situation.

Let me start by saying I love Mike Tomlin. If you are on the “Fire Tomlin” bandwagon, then I am on the “Keep Tomlin” bandwagon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t aspects of the head coach I wish were better. Tuesday, during his weekly press conference, would be one of those occasions.

Tomlin is a wordsmith, and is one of the reasons I enjoy listening to him talk to media about his team and upcoming matchups. However, there are occasions when his long and winding answers leave us all scratching our heads. For a man who can be very succinct and to the point regarding some aspects of his job, others he talks about everything except the question at hand.

I get it. This is what coaches do. “Coach speak” has become as common in the NFL as the forward pass, but when the Pittsburgh Steelers all-time sack leader doesn’t play a snap when the starter, T.J. Watt, leaves the game with injury, there should be a clear answer.

Here is what Tomlin said Tuesday:

“Is he dropping or are other guys ascending,” said Tomlin when asked if Harrison fell down the depth chart. “Bud (Dupree) missed some time in Week 1 and Chickillo was able to start. Chickillo produced two sacks. We respect those contributions. T.J. got hurt Week 2 and we wanted to leave the hot hand in there with Chickillo being the hot hand.”

Wait, what?

Ascending and descending?

If Anthony Chickillo has become the new swing linebacker, and James Harrison isn’t even worthy of a few snaps on a day the man ahead of him on the depth chart leaves the game with a groin injury, why give him a helmet on game day?

Oh, but there was more...

“We appreciate James and we know what James is capable of,” Tomlin said. “James will ready himself. There will be a time in the season where we will call on his services and he will deliver and he will deliver in a big way. Much like he did in the latter part of 2016.”

“In the meanwhile, we are going to continue to roll people and play guys who we see fit and not do a real good job of describing our mindset or outlining our attentions because part of it is gamesmanship and part of it is because it will define itself as we move forward,” Tomlin said.

I didn’t think I could be more confused after an answer to a question, but I truly feel I have zero grasp on how the team is deploying their outside linebackers. To be honest, I wonder if they even have any clue how they are deploying this position group.

This isn’t a knock on Chickillo. Chickillo has earned his stripes, and has proven to be a player they like both on defense and special teams, but to say his two sacks against the Browns in Week 1 is the reason you are playing him in Week 2 doesn’t add up to me. I wonder how many sacks Harrison would have registered in Week 1 had he played more than one series?

To make matters even more foggy, Ben Roethlisberger was asked about this situation on his weekly radio show on 93.7 the Fan in Pittsburgh, and he essentially said he spoke with Harrison, but no one really knows what is going on with the situation.

Harrison is 39 years old, and fans have been wanting to find the heir apparent to the outside linebacker throne, and it looks as though Watt will be able to fill that role when healthy. Nonetheless, if Harrison is going to be on the active roster, why not use him? Why not let Harrison get used to the game speed of the regular season again, you know, in case the team needs him down the stretch?

What exactly is the plan here?

Sadly, I don’t think anyone really knows.

In the meantime, let’s hope Watt is healthy enough to play in Week 3, and if he isn’t, maybe Harrison will at least get a chance to show what he can still do, and not simply be a spectator from the sideline for the third straight week.

4 unheralded players in Steelers 26-9 win over Vikings in Week 2

4 hours 37 min ago

After a win, there are certain players who deserve credit for their performances but don’t get the publicity of other bigger name players.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were big winners over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2, and after their 26-9 win over their NFC North opponents, some players deserve credit who might not receive it otherwise.

These are what I call the unheralded players after a win. You won’t see Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant or even Bud Dupree in this article, but instead focusing on the players who flew under the radar, but made a big impact in the game.

Time for the unheralded players of Week 2...

Tyson Alualu

Some fans just overlooked the signing of Alualu in free-agency this off-season, but if you looked close enough, you saw a tremendous player who was stuck on an awful team his entire career. You can’t blame Alualu for being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he’s thriving as a backup in Pittsburgh.

Against the Vikings, Alualu got the start and contributed with three tackles and a quarterback hit. Not mind-blowing stats, but Alualu has filled in well for Stephon Tuitt in his absence. Quality depth is hard to come by and the defensive line should rest a bit easier knowing Alualu is there if needed.

Eli Rogers

Rogers is slowly becoming a nice third-down safety blanket for Ben Roethlisberger, and the offense sure could use a quality third-down possession receiver. Rogers runs extremely clean and crisp routes, and is usually very trustworthy when the ball is headed his direction.

Rogers finished Week 2 with 4 catches for 43 yards, but he was targeted 7 times. Although technically his third year, Rogers is essentially in his second year with significant playing time. You can see he and Roethlisberger still aren’t on the same page all the time, but like the rest of the offense, this will improve. With the offensive weapons around him naturally drawing a lot of attention, Rogers could thrive on his one-on-one matchups down the stretch.

The Kickers

Chris Boswell and Jordan Berry have both been tremendous this season, and Week 2 was no different. Berry averaged 38.6 yards per punt, with two downed inside the 20-yard line. Distance isn’t the full story with punting, with direction and hang time almost equally important. The downed punt inside the 1-yard line was a thing of beauty.

From the placekicking side of things, Boswell has been perfect. Sure, he missed the 51-yard field goal he attempted which was nullified by a penalty, but we will just call that an early season mulligan. One aspect of Boswell’s game which has certainly improved are his kickoffs. In 2016, his first year, there were times fans wondered if he had the leg to consistently kick touchbacks and not surrender a return. He has proven he is more than capable of doing that in 2017 with regularity.

Tyler Matakevich

The man they call “Dirty Red” is a special breed. The kind who thrives on special teams and just goes about his business. Matakevich has made tremendous special teams plays in the first two games of the season. First, his blocked punt in Week 1 led to the first touchdown of the 2017 regular season, and his heads up play on the fake punt against the Vikings stopped what could have been a momentum-swinging play by the visiting team. Matakevich has the look, and play, of a special teams captain in the future.

The Steelers defense, not the offense, the key to victory thru 2 weeks of NFL action

5 hours 51 min ago

The Black-and-gold defense ignored distractions and kept its focus on the job at hand on Sunday at Heinz Field.

When you’ve prepared all week long to face a particular quarterback, only to see that quarterback declared out of the lineup just a short time before kickoff, it’s not always an easy adjustment to make. But that’s precisely the situation the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing on Sunday when it was announced that the injury-plagued Sam Bradford was unable to participate for the Minnesota Vikings. Understandably, the initial reaction of many sports pundits was, “Oh great, there goes all of my pre-game forecasts!” But as things turned out, some of the keys to this matchup held up pretty well despite the shell game that Minnesota had been playing during the past week with their first-string quarterback, when they probably knew he was a long shot to see the field in Pittsburgh.

For the second consecutive week, Pittsburgh’s gritty defense upstaged Big Ben and company, making it impossible for the Vikings to seriously threaten to leave town with a win. Stopping Minnesota’s running game and pressuring the quarterback were going to be priorities whether or not Bradford played. And on both counts, the Steelers’ defense rose to the occasion, rarely allowing either Viking ball carriers or backup quarterback Case Keenum enough breathing room to move the Vikings within striking distance.

Dalvin Cook, the Vikings’ impressive rookie RB, was practically shut out for the entire first half, finishing the game with 12 carries for only 64 yards including one 25-yard burst in the second half to set up Minnesota’s lone TD. Besides stuffing the run, the Steelers’ defense applied unmerciful pressure on Keenum for four quarters, holding Minnesota to only 167 yards passing. As a good indication of the Vikings’ aerial woes, their leading receiver for the game was tight end Kyle Rudolph who had four catches totaling only 45 yards.

While Pittsburgh’s offense turned in a better overall performance than the previous week in Cleveland, it still hasn’t reached the point where it’s balancing the contributions of the defense. For its part, the Minnesota defense did a much better job limiting Antonio Brown than Cleveland was able to do the previous week. Perhaps the most intriguing statistic from this game is that, despite being targeted 11 times compared to only four times for Martavis Bryant, Brown finished the game with 62 receiving yards versus 91 yards for Bryant. In terms of the Steelers’ upcoming games, however, Bryant’s breakout performance probably will help Brown because opposing defenses are on notice that they’ll no longer be able to focus strictly on limiting the heroics of No. 84, as some were able to do last season. It’s always disheartening for a defense when you stop the guy that you’re supposed to stop, only to watch his sidekick beat you. And lest we forget, the contributions of Eli Rogers (43 yards) and Jesse James (27 yards) also were important in this moderately improved outing for Pittsburgh’s offense.

But we’re still seeing a bit of a hangover from 2016, in terms of Ben Roethlisberger’s level of comfort and coordination with his receivers. On a few occasions, it seemed obvious that Ben was peeved because his receivers didn’t run their routes exactly as the plays were drawn up. On a couple of other occasions, Ben threw catchable passes that apparently were too hot for receivers to handle. But we can chalk up these misfires to an offense still refining its choreography following a preseason in which its starting roster scarcely played together.

Thanks to personnel woes of various descriptions, the first three Steelers’ opponents of the 2017 regular season are currently led by inexperienced, or struggling, NFL quarterbacks, including their upcoming Week 3 opponent, the Chicago Bears. In fact, after the Bears dropped their second game of the season on Sunday to the Tampa Bay Bucs by the lopsided score of 29-7, more fans were seen poised upon the building ledge at SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron than you’d encounter here at BTSC following a dreaded trap-game loss by the black-and-gold.

So perhaps Steelers Nation ought simply to revel in this early-season run of good fortune which affords the so-far-inconsistent Steelers’ offense the luxury of honing its craft versus teams stuck playing the awkward game of musical quarterbacks. As long as the Steelers’ defense continues to improve week by week in its capacity to stifle opposing offenses, Ben Roethlisberger and company apparently can well afford to continue their ongoing development while anticipating the crucial games later this season which will determine how far they can go in 2017 and beyond.

Steelers Stock Report: Whose stock is rising or falling after the team’s win over the Vikings

7 hours 17 min ago

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0 and it’s time to check the market to see whose stock is rising or falling after Week 2.

Following a strange, almost frustrating 26-9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0. That means the Steelers are right where they were expected to be, at least according to the vast majority of the football-cognizant populace. Let’s take a gander at some of the particulars:

The Front Seven - Stock Up

The Steelers, following a seven-sack performance against the Browns in Week 1, swore fealty to the blitz yet again in Week 2. The Vikings surrendered only a pair of sacks, though this was attributable mainly to Case Keenum’s innate ability to launch directionless passes in the general vicinity of his receivers. The Steelers hit Keenum at least seven times and routinely forced him to hurry his throws, which prevented the journeyman from establishing any tangible continuity with his receiving corps. Cam Heyward, who didn’t register a sack, had arguably one of his best performances as a professional, amassing six tackles, two quarterback hits and a team-high two tackles for losses. It was a performance imbued with dominance and one that underscored Heyward’s Pro Bowl pedigree. Bud Dupree was similarly disruptive, collecting his first sack of the season (and his sixth in his last five regular season games, dating back to Week 14 of last season), thus ensuring that Mike Remmers will receive his fair share of negative feedback in film study.

This strong showing by the front-seven was made all the more impressive by the fact that Stephon Tuitt, perhaps the most physically-imposing member of this unit, was inactive for Sunday’s game. Furthermore, James Harrison, elder statesman and resident cyborg of Pittsburgh’s front-seven, is presumably being housed in storage until later this season, at which point he will be unleashed on unsuspecting quarterbacks like a shape-shifting clown monster. In other words, we still haven’t seen what this unit is capable of at full strength.

The Offense at Large - Stock slightly trending Up

The Steelers scored 26 points against what is objectively an extremely talented defense (the Vikings ranked third in total defense in 2016 and sent five players to the Pro Bowl), which is a praiseworthy achievement. On Sunday, it was clear that Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin had two primary objectives in mind: throw the ball deep and force-feed Le’Veon Bell. Roethlisberger attempted, in my estimation, seven deep passes, completing one to Martavis Bryant for 51 yards and drawing a pair of 40-ish-yard pass interference penalties, which are just as effective as completions. The deep ball is very much a hallmark of Pittsburgh’s offense, so the implementation of this strategy comes as no surprise. But it was interesting that the Steelers were so hellbent on testing Xavier Rhodes, who is one of the three best cornerbacks (if not the best) that they will face this season. Then again, Tomlin is famously opposed to living in his fears, so we can likely expect more of the same in the weeks ahead.

Bell, meanwhile, finished Sunday’s game with a respectable 87 rushing yards, but he needed 27 carries to reach that milestone. Through two games, the two-time All-Pro is currently averaging 3.2 yards per carry (YPC)—well below his career average of 4.4 YPC. He has yet to orchestrate any characteristically gorgeous forays through the line of scrimmage and, most troublingly, has been a non-factor as a receiver, essentially stripping Pittsburgh’s offense of a dimension that previously had distinguished it as one of the league’s most effective.

It should be noted, though, that Minnesota is quite adept at stopping the run, boasting one of the league’s best defensive lines along with a trio of monolithic linebackers and a pair of hard-hitting safeties who thrive near the line of scrimmage. There’s little doubt that the running game will sort itself out eventually. Bell and his offensive linemen are simply too talented to remain this ineffective for the duration of the season.

The Secondary - Stock Up

Say what you will about the aptitude of the quarterbacks it has faced thus far, but Pittsburgh’s secondary looks like a formidable group. Artie Burns, whose rambunctious nature in coverage customarily draws a greater-than-normal number of penalties, has played well, indicating that his up-and-down, but mostly successful rookie campaign was no fluke. The same is true for Joe Haden, who’s enjoying somewhat of a career revival following back-to-back-to-back injury-plagued and mostly unsuccessful seasons in Cleveland. Intriguingly, Keith Butler has exhibited some admirable creativity with respect to Haden’s deployment. Haden, who for many years was widely regarded as a lock-down defender, is now being used to rush the passer and he’s doing so with great success. From 2010 through 2016, Haden was credited with only two sacks. But against Minnesota, Haden came within half-step of collecting his second sack in as many games with the Steelers.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also call attention to former camp darling Mike Hilton, who’s become an actual Tasmanian devil. Hilton led the team in tackles and, much like Haden, just missed out on a sack. The Burns-Haden-Hilton lineup certainly isn’t what we envisioned at the onset of training camp, but this group is going to significantly influence the outcomes of games this season.

Alejandro Villanueva - Stock Down

Villanueva, tasked with preventing 275 pounds of screaming chaos from liquefying Ben Roethlisberger’s internal organs, had a rough day at the office. Everson Griffen, the aforementioned chaos, dusted Villanueva on an absolutely goofy inside spin move that was lifted directly from the Dwight Freeney Textbook of Quarterback-Murder Techniques. Villanueva would later leave the game with “heat-related issues.” Fortunately, he won’t face many pass rushers who are better than Griffen, and as for the hot playing conditions, Pittsburgh does tend to get chilly later in the year.

Chris Boswell - Stock Up

Over the course of his career so far, Boswell has converted 88.5 percent of his field goal attempts. If Boswell qualified for the all-time list, which he does not because kickers need at least 100 career attempts to qualify, he would be the third most accurate kicker in NFL history—a remarkable achievement considering the barren moonscape on which he plays half of his games. He converted all four of his field goal attempts on Sunday, demonstrating that a kicker with laser precision can alleviate the frustrations presented by stalled drives.

The Receiving Corps - Stock Up

Pittsburgh’s receiving corps is essentially the Elder Wand that makes one the master of accumulating yards and scoring touchdowns. They have a supremely talented, do-everything receiver who runs one or two routes that are literally impossible to defend. They’ve got a pair of sure-handed security outlets, one large and one small. They have a hyper-athletic outside receiver who’s part red-zone threat and part deep threat. The multidimensionality of Pittsburgh’s passing attack was on display at Heinz Field on Sunday, and this was only a small sampling of things to come.

(Another) New weekly feature - The game ball

James Conner. Conner only had one carry for nine yards, but it caused the home crowd to completely lose their minds. He didn’t play the remainder of the game, but it was a pretty awesome moment.

The Ben Roethlisberger Retirement Index

Despite the Steelers currently sitting at 2-0, I’m actually slightly inclined to bump the BRR Index up this week, and let me explain why. First, Roethlisberger was frequently interrupted by unwelcome backfield pressure, which is almost a foreign concept to him given how solid his offensive line has been over the past two seasons. He’s not likely to be sacked on a boat or on the golf course.

The second thing that might be directly influencing Roethlisberger’s retirement decision is the fact that his receivers keep dropping passes (though this definitely needs an asterisk, because a distinction must be made between run-of-the-mill drops and drops that occur when a screaming fastball caroms off of a receiver’s fingertips; Ben clearly is a disciple of the “if it touches your hands, you catch it” faith). Eli Rogers dropped a pass in Sunday’s game, and Ben flashed a trademark Roethlisberger grimace. You know the one:

Beautiful.

Anyway, we’ll set the BRR Index at a 7 for this week. Ben is still all-in for a Super Bowl run, but much like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, he’s getting too old for this [poo emoji].

Steelers vs. Vikings Week 2: Grading the Steelers after their Week 2 win over Minnesota

8 hours 27 min ago

BTSC doles out grades for the Steelers 26-9 win over Minnesota

The Steelers improved to 2-0 with a nice 26-9 victory over the Vikings of Minnesota Sunday. As always, the faculty and staff at BTSC take a red pen to the effort. So stick here to see our grades because there definitely are more smiley-face stickers than the dreaded red X.

Offense: A-

The game plan seemed much more inspired than last week. Mike Zimmer defenses play the Steelers tough, but Todd Haley and the Steelers responded. Stats are jaded here due to the 70-plus pass interference yards that likely would have been catches and thus included in the stats for AB, Big Ben and Martavis. I thought AB played a decent game against Pro Bowler Xavier Rhodes, and I found Le’Veon Bell to be very close to finding his true self. Wrinkles still need ironed out but Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers played a nice game with six scoring drives. Scoring only two touchdowns, though, keeps this from being a higher A.

Valedictorian: Martavis Bryant

Honor Roll: JuJu Smith Schuster, Todd Haley, Ben Roethlisberger

Detention: None

Defense: A-

The defense gave up a touchdown and a field goal. True there was no Sam Bradford on the field for Mike Zimmer's crew and this wasn't an A+ performance...but the pressure was there, the coverage was there and the hits were there. Cam Heyward is the true field general of this unit and Ryan Shazier is his colonel. Bud Dupree's presence was a glaring plus, T.J. Watt (though he didn't play even a full half) isn’t a 1-game wonder and Tyson Alualu understudied for Stephon Tuitt quite well. The team played with much more discipline than a week ago. This wasn't a shutout and it was a backup quarterback, but the defense played inspired. I'll take holding a team to nine points most weeks of the season.

Valedictorian: Cameron Heyward

Honor Roll: Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier, Mike Mitchell, Mike Hilton, Vince Williams

Detention: Nobody

Special Teams: B-

Coverage was good once again and Boswell capped drives with points four times. However, the return game was just okay and Jordan Berry has punted better. But this unit was still more of a plus than a minus.

Honor Roll: Chris Boswell, Danny Smith Jr. and Tyler Matakevich

Detention: Jordan Berry

Overall: A-

This wasn't a perfect game, but the result was pretty one-sided and was never really in doubt. The level of discipline was much improved. Overall, there’s room to improve, but it definitely was a pretty solid effort. I like the direction this team is headed and I feel this letter grade reflects that.

Podcast: More questions arise as the Steelers continue to win

10 hours 2 min ago

As the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to win football games, more questions arise for the Black-and-gold. We discuss on the latest episode of “Fact or Fiction.”

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0 and you literally cannot do better than that at this juncture of the season. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of questions to be discussed and answered, as the team heads into their Week 3 matchup against the Chicago Bears.

Check out the latest episode of the BTSC podcast Fact or Fiction with hosts Zach Parnes and Brian Hamlin as they run down all things Black-and-gold related.

Here is the quick rundown:

  • Taking a look at Sunday's win against the Minnesota Vikings.
  • Was Sean Davis the defensive MVP?
  • Is Le’Veon Bell still a little slow out of the gate?
  • Our opinions and MUCH more!

If you missed the live show, you can hear it in a multitude of ways. Use the player above, head on over to our BlogTalkRadio page, on iTunes by searching “The Standard is the Standard” or via various podcast platforms for Android users.

...

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

Steelers News: Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell exemplify the team’s overall offense

11 hours 7 min ago

Brimming with potential, the Steelers are slowly rounding into form after two weeks of regular-season play.

Must be nice to have the luxury that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has. You know, the opportunity for players who still haven’t reached their potential—likely due to lack of preseason repetitions—to gradually round into shape while the team is still winning.

Fans may bemoan the offense’s lack of consistency, but the team has back-to-back victories under their belts to start the regular season. The offense is starting to take shape, and the same can be said for two Steelers’ stars, Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, who will figure prominently in the team’s performance this season .

These two stars, though improving, still haven’t reached the level of play that fans have come to expect from them on a regular basis. Realizing that better days are ahead for Bell and Bryant, you can just imagine the offensive boost when Bell starts hitting holes like he did in 2016 and when Bryant is taking the top off of opposing defenses and, in the process, opening up huge opportunities for Antonio Brown and company.

Gets me excited just thinking about it.

Time to check out the news surrounding the Black-and-gold beyond the walls of BTSC:

Le'Veon Bell averaged 157 yards from scrimmage per game last season. Through two games this season, Bell hasn't reached that figure yet.

That's OK, though, Bell said after the Steelers' 26-9 win against Minnesota in their home opener on Sunday. In Week 2, Bell was enjoying himself.

"You have more fun when you get the ball a lot," Bell said after 31 touches against the Vikings. "If I'm getting the ball, if it's coming to me three times in a row, it's fun, instead of going three possessions (not getting it)."

Bell's voice tailed off. Though he never went three consecutive possessions without a touch in a season-opening win at Cleveland, Bell didn’t get a carry or a target on three separate drives. Bell went the entire first quarter without a touch.

It was quickly apparent that this wasn’t going to happen again versus the Vikings. The Steelers opened in their "big" package with a fullback, a tight end and a tackle lined up as a second tight end. They also gave Bell the ball on the first two plays.

"We let them know, with our big guys, that we were gonna run it," Bell said. "That's the mentality we had."

Bell also was the ball carrier on each of the first two plays of the Steelers' second drive. He had six carries on a drive that lasted almost six minutes, resulting in the game's first touchdown.

In all, Bell carried the ball on the first play of nine of the Steelers' 11 possessions.

"It was nice to get him all those touches like that, to get him in the groove, to get him back used to running the football every play like that," center Maurkice Pouncey said.

For Martavis Bryant, it's all about read, react and roll the dice.

Bryant got the play call, saw the safety playing high, got inside on Minnesota Vikings cornerback Terence Newman and turned Ben Roethlisberger's slant pass into a 27-yard touchdown.

It was Bryant's first trip to pay dirt in 20 months, since the win over the Bengals in the 2016 playoffs.

No wonder he celebrated by mimicking a craps game.

“When you score a touchdown, it's always an accomplishment,” Bryant said. “It felt great, but I want more. I'm not just going to settle for one. I've got a long season, so I'm looking for more.”

After a season-long suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, Bryant had a breakout game in the Steelers' 26-9 victory over the Vikings on Sunday at Heinz Field. He had team bests in receiving yards (91) and scrimmage yards (98) while also drawing a 49-yard pass-interference penalty.

The scary part?

“He's going to continue to get better,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “What you saw wasn't a finished product.”

That's great news for a Steelers offense that seemed out of sync in the season opener at Cleveland but found its footing thanks to the impact Bryant made by forcing opposing defensive backs to pick their poison.

They can try to cover him deep, but covering the 6-foot-4, 218-pounder often leads either to a big pass play or a costly penalty, something Roethlisberger sees as an opportunity for the Steelers to make major gains.

“When he's behind people, DBs panic a little bit, which they did,” Roethlisberger said. “You either grab him, or he catches it. I told him, ‘Hey, we love the penalty and moving down, but we'll also take the catch.' He wants those yards, and we'll all take the stats on offense, but it's a big play. …

“Those are risk-reward things we'll take our chances with.”

The reward also has been beneficial for All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, who is drawing less double- and triple-teams because of Bryant. Where Bryant had only two catches for 14 yards at Cleveland, Brown had 11 catches for 182 yards. Against the Vikings, Bryant had three catches for 91 yards, Brown had five for 62 yards and Le'Veon Bell rushed for 87 yards on 27 carries.

“It opens up more of the offense,” Bell said. “I think you can't really just take a guy like (Brown) out of the game. You can't just take our run game out. So you have to have a guy on the other side making plays. I think Martavis is putting it back on film. He's a guy that can be consistent, go out there and make plays.”

The Steelers believed their offense could average 30 points per game, but they’ve fallen far short of that mark through the first two weeks of the season. They only scored 21 points against the Browns last week and 26 against the Vikings on Sunday for an average of only 23.5 points per game.

That’s quite a difference from the offensive output that most envisioned for the Steelers given all the weapons they have. The Steelers have the best trio of quarterback, running back and wide receiver in the NFL. They have one of the best No. 2 receivers in the NFL in Martavis Bryant plus an offensive line that’s among the best in the league.

This should be a dominant offense but it isn’t. But this is no time to panic or even to be concerned about it. There’s nothing wrong with the Steelers’ offense that getting a couple more games under their belts won’t solve. The Steelers’ problem right now — and problem is a relative term considering they are 2-0 — is that they’re just not quite in sync yet. Their timing is still a little bit off and that’s held them back from making big plays both in their passing and running games.

Le’Veon Bell was awful last week against the Browns. He looked like a player who hadn’t played the game in a long time. He looked like he wasn’t on the same page as his offensive line. That’s not a surprise to anyone, though, because he missed the entire preseason. It takes a little bit of time for a running back to get back into their rhythm, and he’s way too good of a player not to figure it out.

Sunday against the Vikings, Bell was much improved and much closer to the Bell we’ve all come to expect. He was just a little bit off on a couple of plays that, later in the season, he’ll be hitting for long runs. It was easy to see that he was running with more confidence at Heinz Field and he seemed to have better chemistry with the offensive line.

When asked about the development of the Steelers’ offense, Bell said, “Slowly but surely. Obviously, we’re not there yet. I think we’ll get better at converting more third downs and obviously not hurting ourselves with penalties. We did a good job of protecting the ball, so that’s a plus from last week. Other than that, us putting up points, we still have a ways to go.”

Bell ran the ball 27 times for 87 yards which is an average only 3.2 yards per carry. Again, though, he was close to breaking a few runs for long gains, so it’s only a matter of time before he’s back to form. Some of his troubles can be easily corrected and some were due to the fact that Vikings have a strong front-seven and aren’t easy to run against.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, but he left some big plays on the field. He had a couple of missed opportunities to connect with Bryant and Antonio Brown.

All this is a sign that it’ still early in the season and teams are still working off their rust. As Bryant showed on Sunday, once he and Roethlisberger truly get on the same page, he’ll pose major problems for opposing secondaries. The Vikings have two strong cornerbacks who were able to cover both Brown and Bryant without a lot of help. Yet Brown still had 62 yards receiving for the game plus Bryant’s 91 yards and a touchdown.

Joe Greene, the Steelers’ Hall of Fame defensive tackle, was on hand at Heinz Field to help celebrate the memory of the late Dan Rooney, serving as honorary captain before the game.

For most of the game, the Vikings must have felt as if Greene still was playing for the Steelers. At least, it certainly looked that way every time they tried to block defensive end Cam Heyward.

“Cam makes it happen,” said inside linebacker Ryan Shazier.

“He’s pretty much unstoppable,” added inside linebacker Vince Williams.

“It doesn’t matter who we play,” said defensive end Tyson Alualu. “They’re going to have a hard time blocking Cam.”

The Vikings and their rebuilt offensive line couldn’t quite figure out how to control Heyward, especially in the first half when he was putting on a performance that looked quite similar to the way Greene dismantled offensive lines during the 1970s.

Heyward had six tackles before halftime, including two for negative yards, plus another for zero yards and another stop for just 1 yard. That’s four running plays that netted the Vikings a total of minus-6 yards.

On top of that, Heyward had two hurries on Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, who was filling in for injured Sam Bradford (knee).

It was a stirring performance on an emotionally stirring day on which the Steelers celebrated the memory of their beloved former chairman.

“I’m always fired up,” said Heyward, the defensive captain. “It’s the season opener, I got to play for Mr. Rooney. He wasn’t here and we missed him out there. I thought we played with energy.”

Martavis Bryant's first game back at Heinz Field since his season-long suspension in 2016 showed what the Steelers have been missing during his absence. His mere presence on the field forces defensive coordinators to make decisions on whether to keep their safeties back to help the cornerbacks cover deep routes, or bring them up to provide run support to stop Le'Veon Bell.

The Vikings chose the latter in the Steelers' 26-9 victory on Sunday, allowing Bryant to burn the secondary throughout the game.

Bryant had three catches for 91 yards and a touchdown, but the stat line doesn’t tell the full story. His efforts force cornerbacks in that coverage scheme to win downfield, and a missed tackle on a short pass can be the difference between an 8-yard play and a touchdown.

The Vikings discovered this when the Steelers scored their first touchdown of the game on a slant to Bryant for 27 yards. The Vikings had one high safety—a look they had often presented both before and during this game—and they used zone coverage to try and limit where the Steelers could throw the ball.

Bryant’s slant-route attacks the seam between the high safety and the cornerback, the normal soft spot of a Cover 3 zone scheme. His speed makes him untouchable after the catch when he gets that much room.

AFC North Standings: Ravens and Steelers stay perfect as Bengals and Browns plummet

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 1:50pm

Time to recap what’s going on inside the wild and crazy AFC North.

Just when you thought the tides might be starting to turn in the AFC North, all is right with the world again...at least for now.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are both 2-0 and on a crash course for a head-to-head matchup in Week 4. At the same time, the Cincinnati Bengals are 0-2 in two home games and haven’t scored a touchdown yet this season. The Cleveland Browns also are 0-2, but at least they’ve scored a couple of touchdowns.

It’s time to recap what was going on outside the Steel City in the AFC North. But first, the current standings:

Current AFC North Standings

Pittsburgh Steelers — 2-0
Baltimore Ravens — 2-0
Cleveland Browns — 0-2
Cincinnati Bengals — 0-2

...

Baltimore Ravens — 24
Cleveland Browns — 10

Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens have received terrible news after their 24-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Star lineman Marshal Yanda is out for the season.

John Harbaugh said Yanda suffered an ankle fracture.

This is dreadful news for the Ravens. With an offensive line already suffering multiple injuries and absences, their best player on the line has seen his entire season ended. The huge void that is Marshal Yanda is one that no other player in the NFL can fill, but Joe D’Alessandris and the coaching staff will try their best.

...and the hits keep coming...

The Ravens received a second dose of bad injury news today after it was announced that LB Bam Bradley will be out for the season after suffering an ACL injury.

While Bam wasn’t a starting linebacker, losing young depth can be crucial in the long run. It stunts the player’s progression and keeps them from actively participating—this time for an entire year. Bradley was an undrafted free agent and many were excited about his special-teams contributions. He clearly made an impact, landing on the final, 53-man roster.

Through two games, the Ravens have forced 10 turnovers, including their brassy total of eight interceptions. This unit shut down the Bengals explosive offense in Cincinnati and then bullied the inexperienced Browns offense and rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer in Baltimore.

But the first true test for this team will come during Week 4 when Pittsburgh comes to town. Yes, these past two games have been extremely impressive, but the quality of competition needs to be taken into consideration when evaluating this unit.

Joe Flacco finished the day 25 for 34, with 217 yards and two touchdowns, as per ESPN. He also had one interception which was a terrible decision by Flacco, but Mike Wallace had stopped running on the play. Clearly, there was some miscommunication and Wallace lost sight of the ball while it was in the air.

Other than the play mentioned above, it was a great day for Flacco. He was sharp and he consistently extended plays. Flacco would scramble out of the pocket and find open receivers. Overall, the game plan was impressive. It was tailored to the strengths of Flacco and it worked to perfection.

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns first game of the season against Pittsburgh was competitive, but this week against Baltimore was just ugly. Cleveland fell by a final score of 24-10, dropping to 0-2 on the season. How did they get there?

The Browns received the ball to begin the game for the second week in a row. Although their first drive wasn’t as bad as in the opener (blocked punt for a touchdown), they still went three-and-out.

The Ravens got some traction on their opening drive, sparked by a 19-yard catch-and-run by WR Jeremy Maclin. After getting into Cleveland territory, QB Joe Flacco was sacked by OLB Christian Kirksey on third down to force a punt.

Cleveland moved the ball near midfield on their next drive, which included the 10,0000th consecutive snap of LT Joe Thomas career.

But after a false-start by WR Sammie Coates, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-12. QB DeShone Kizer then held onto the ball too long, leading to a strip-sack for OLB Terrell Suggs and a Baltimore recovery.

A migraine forced DeShone Kizer from the game, bringing in backup quarterback Kevin Hogan. All things considered, Hogan performed admirably.

On his first drive, Hogan looked comfortable in the pocket. The Stanford product found a wide-open Seth DeValve for a lengthy completion. DeValve’s 49-yard reception proved to be one of the longest of the day for the Browns.

A few plays later, Hogan rifled a beautiful pass to David Njoku for a 23-yard touchdown. This bullet beat two Ravens’ defenders in the back-right corner of the end zone and got the Browns on the board.

Entering the game following an injury and immediately leading your team down the field on a touchdown is impressive, so Hogan’s start is a reason for some optimism in Cleveland.

However, Hogan’s next two drives didn’t go well. His next drive resulted in a three-and-out, and the following drive ended in an interception. Drilled immediately after his throw, Hogan made an ill-advised decision that led to a Ravens touchdown at the end of the half.

Hogan orchestrated a drive in the third quarter which led to a field goal. Ten points on four drives aren't too bad by the Browns’ standards.

Kizer then re-entered the game to quell all thoughts of a quarterback controversy, but Hogan had proven his value as a backup signal-caller.

Houston Texans — 13
Cincinnati Bengals — 9

Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals are a bad team right now as they enter Week 3 with an 0-2 record and zero touchdowns scored. As usually is the case with bad teams, a lot of negative reports are circulating about the organization.

The Bengals already have had several of these emerge, but the latest might be the most troubling of all. According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, some Bengals players are ready to see a change at quarterback, but not necessarily a move from Andy Dalton to AJ McCarron.

Instead, some players think Colin Kaepernick is the answer.

The news here is that Dalton must really be losing the locker room if players think they’re better off having a free-agent plucked off of the street. One of the quickest ways for a team to implode is to lose all confidence in its starting quarterback, the presumed leader of the franchise (see: Jaguars and Blake Bortles).

That’s what Dalton has been for seven years now, but today he’s facing what’s easily his greatest adversity as an NFL player. How well he responds to this and his play in Week 3 against a tough Packers team will go a long way to determine whether these rumors die down and his teammates remain on his side.

There are already reports that head coach Marvin Lewis faced a “near mutiny” after losing to the Texans in embarrassing fashion. It looks like changing offensive coordinators has stemmed the tide for now, but it’s hard to say if that actually makes this offense better.

If the Bengals continue to have clunkers and fail to reach the end zone, the howling in the Queen City for a new quarterback will only grow more shrill. Given the baggage he carries, don’t expect Kaepernick to get even a sniff of acknowledgment from the Bengals. But McCarron might be closer to taking over than we realize.

Cincinnati Bengals fans screaming for change finally saw one of their wishes fulfilled Friday afternoon when the Bengals announced the firing of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese.

Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor, a former offensive coordinator with the Miami Dolphins, now takes over the play-calling duties for a group that became the first pro team since the 1939 Philadelphia Eagles to start the season with two home games in which they failed to score a touchdown.

How did fans react to the firing and what do you think? Should this be just the beginning of wholesale changes?

The Steelers slow start could be just what the doctor ordered

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 12:55pm

Believe it or not, but the Steelers not coming out of the gate guns blazing could actually be a blessing in disguise.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are brimming with potential, especially on the offensive side of the football, but after two weeks of NFL action there is certainly a lot left to be desired on both sides of the football.

The offense just doesn’t seem in rhythm, and the defense, although impressive, is leaving some plays on the field.

In other words, the team still has a lot of room for improvement on all fronts.

Fans are frustrated, especially with the offense, and rightfully so, but at the same time, what if the team not coming out of the gates ‘guns blazing’ is actually a good thing? What if their slow start could be a very good recipe for late season success? It may sound crazy, but could actually be just what the doctor ordered.

  • Reality Check

Despite an improved performance in Week 2, the Steelers offense certainly got a reality check the past two weeks simply based on the fact they can’t just show up and expect to hang 30 on the opponent. The team will put in the work to improve, but it is easy to read all the press clippings and videos of people saying how great you are. The past two weeks have been anything but smooth for the offense, and that should lead to cleaner, and crisper, performances in the future.

  • Plenty of tape to dissect

You won the game...hooray! But there were also plenty of gaffes along the way. Coaches always love an ugly win, for the reason they have plenty of film to show the team regarding their up-and-down performance. Those games where everything seems to go right are times when players can get a very elevated perception of themselves. For both the offense and defense, there is plenty left to work on after 2 weeks in the regular season.

  • Still not the best from all the players

Week 1 was rough for a lot of players, but was mainly shrugged off as another preseason game. Week 2 was a step in the right direction, but it is crazy to think how we still haven’t seen the best from players like Le’Veon Bell, Ryan Shazier and even Martavis Bryant. As they all round into form, it will be one ridiculously dynamic football team which takes the field every week.

  • Penalties remain an issue

What might be the biggest surprise of the 2017 season is the amount of penalties the Steelers are racking up. For the second week in a row, the team has tallied double-digit penalty totals, and this is a trend which needs to be stopped immediately. Penalties will always occur, but those back-breaking penalties after a big gain (see the Steelers’ first drive after converting on 3rd down by an Antonio Brown penalty for covering the tight end resulted in a punt) need to stop.

.....

I analyze these acquisitions in further detail in the podcast in the player above. So give this 14-minute show a listen! It should be noted the above podcast was recorded prior to the team’s Week 2 game vs. the Vikings, but the main points certainly still apply.

Want more content like this? Check out the Pittsburgh Steelers page as a part of the VSporto family of networks. You can also find the VSporto Steelers feed on iTunes by clicking HERE.

Steelers offense still a work-in-progress after 26-9 romp over the Vikings

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 10:45am

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense remains a work-in-progress, yet they are still undefeated.

Ugly wins are trending right now in the NFL.

Don’t buy that? Well Sunday’s 26-9 Steelers win over the Minnesota Vikings might be considered ugly, in terms of the end result. Hours before the game, Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford, who came off a career game the prior week at home vs. New Orleans, was placed on the inactive list due to an injury of his left knee.

That meant Case Keenum was thrown into battle, hurting the Vikes plans, and it showed as the norsemen could only muster 2 scoring drives all day. The Steelers defense put up another solid performance and looks much improved from last season.

But that story is for another day. Everyone knows this team will live and die by its ability to score, and to do so in bunches. The weapons Pittsburgh possesses, in all its forms, did show progress against a very stout Vikings defense that is only going to get better.

As I’ve stated in the past, this football team is at its best when the offensive tempo is set by it’s once-in-a-lifetime quarterback. Take a look at the only two touchdown drives the team had in the 1st half. The arm of Ben Roethlisberger gets unleashed, and with the return of Martavis Bryant, good things are going to keep happening.

There is no mistaking the need to have Roethlisberger and the passing game set the tone early in games. Today was no exception. After a 3-and-out to start the game, the Steelers put together the games first scoring drive. A 22-yard pass interference call aided the drive, as Xavier Rhodes got beat down field by Antonio Brown. Had he not held Brown, it could have been worse.

The black and gold would run the ball for a series of 1st downs until Ben hooked up with a streaking Bryant down the middle of the field for a 27-yard touchdown pass which was a thing of beauty. Bryant one-on-one with any defender is a mismatch, and he’s going to get plenty of good matchups all season with No. 84 across from him.

That’s what makes this offense so potent, and the possibilities are exciting to envision.

Speaking of matchups, the matchup problems this team will give opponents all season have to be frustrating to plan against. Consider how Le’Veon Bell is still warming up into being 100-percent game ready. Losing six weeks of prep time has shown the first two games. I did like how Bell ran in the 2nd half, not that his play in the 1st was bad, as the Vikings came to play on the other side.

What I noticed about Bell in the last 30 minutes was his cutting, and being more decisive while hitting holes the line opened up. Perhaps we will get a good look at the superstar fans have grown accustomed to seeing in the coming weeks. What I’m hoping for is some improved pass catching numbers out of the backfield. Bell caught four balls for just four yards. That number should only increase as the season progresses. So far, Bell has caught just seven passes in two games. Expect that to play a factor as the season moves along.

The trend of Antonio Brown being held in check by a Mike Zimmer defense continued. Xavier Rhodes did a very good job against his old high school teammate, holding Brown to five catches for 62-yards. Now his total grabs lead the team, so that was a positive, but in the end, the amount of attention he gets will only free up the other wideouts.

3rd down continues to be an issue. 3 for 13 vs. Minnesota won’t cut it as the games get more important. In fact, over the 1st two games, the Steelers are just 8 for 26 in that statistical category.

Normally, I’d be all over the four 2nd half field goal drives as a sign of problems with the offense, but I’m going to let it slide. If this team’s achilles in the past was settling for 3 and not 7, it sure won’t be this campaign with the players they have.

The team is just two weeks into this 2017 season and it’s still too early to hit any panic buttons. With another week of practice, and the 0-2 Chicago Bears up next, the progress will only gain momentum on what is a 2-0 start for the season.

Ugly is in, baby.

And its never looked so good.

John Phillips is the author of this article and has covered Pittsburgh sports for over 20 years, both in radio and television. JP hates Twitter, so go check him out at https://www.facebook.com/john.phillips.161009

Steelers dominant defensive performance shouldn’t be downplayed due to Case Keenum

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 8:10am

The Steelers’ defense got a huge break when quarterback Sam Bradford was ruled out of Week 2 with an injury. But that didn’t stop them from doing exactly what they planned against backup Case Keenum—Dominate.

I had the good fortune to attend the Steelers Week 2 matchup against the Vikings at Heinz Field on Sunday.

On my way to the stadium, I learned that Sam Bradford would miss the game due to a knee injury. I must admit, I never thought I'd see so many people relieved that the 8-year quarterback, and former first-overall draft pick, would be out of action.

When I discovered Case Keenum would be stepping under center for Minnesota, my first reaction was to send a few "Hahaha!" texts to my friends and family, but then I thought back to December 2015, when the Ravens signed Ryan Mallett off of the street just days before Pittsburgh’s Week 16 matchup in Baltimore, and the Steelers’ defense subsequently made Mallett look like Johnny Unitas.

But as Sunday's game commenced, I was quickly reminded that this isn't your slightly-older-brother's defense any longer; this is a unit comprised of youth, athleticism and the ability to take advantage of a compromised offense.

It's not about the breaks you get in sports, it's what you do with them. After limiting Keenum to 167 yards passing, and the Vikings’ entire offense to 237 in a 26-9 victory on Sunday, one gets the sense that the Steelers’ defense won't be allowing many sub-par quarterbacks to perform like Hall of Fame legends in the foreseeable future.

In fact, if this unit keeps progressing at the rate one would hope, and given the infusion of young talent in recent years, there might be a time when the top quarterbacks in the NFL consistently struggle to handle the black-and-gold’s ultra-talented defensive line (e.g if Stephon Tuitt gets healthy sooner rather than later, look out!). Additionally, the Steelers’ ultra-athletic and deepening linebacker corps (assuming that T.J. Watt‘s groin injury is less serious than Tuitt's biceps issue) plus that ever-improving secondary might add further to the challenges faced by opposing quarterbacks. From my vantage point in Section 228, Artie Burns looked like a budding shutdown cornerback.

Maybe I'm just looking at things through black-and-gold-colored glasses, but Pittsburgh's defense seemed so fast and aggressive on Sunday that it's hard to imagine Bradford having much better luck than Keenum did.

The proof will be in the pudding as 2017 progresses, and the quarterbacks on Pittsburgh’s schedule will change from sub-par to elite. But as I look ahead to the next opposing passer the Steelers will have to face in Chicago in Week 3—either starter Mike Glennon or number one pick Mitch Trubisky—I have confidence Pittsburgh's defense will do the job and do it well.

Is the Steelers’ defense a finished product? Not at all, but it's certainly getting closer to being one each and every week.

Steelers vs. Vikings Week 2: Knee-jerk reactions after Pittsburgh’s latest victory

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 7:00am

With little thought or analysis, one BTSC writer offers his initial reactions to Pittsburgh's Week 2 win over Minnesota

The Steelers beat the MinnyVikes at home in their season opener by the score of 26-9, but if you look at the stats, you might think the Steelers weren't as impressive as they actually were.

I'm not going to type this twice, but I should, the spirit of the knee-jerk-reaction article is to express my gut reactions without true analysis and fact checking. So, I’ll shoot first and apologize later, but here are the nuggets that immediately appeared in my head:

  • It might not be everything you wanted offensive-wise, but the game plan today was so much more inventive and the cohesion was evident. It furthers my belief that last week's win was a rust-shaker. Wasn't that the summer song of 1993?
  • I'm going to grade the offense higher than usual because I thought they were pretty efficient. Fans want more TDs, but six scoring drives resulting in 26 points will do the job in most games.
  • Offensive stats skewed the big picture in this game. Fans, and Fox announcers, made it seem like the offense was completely stalled in the first half. However, 70-plus yards of pass interference penalties don't get credited to the offense. If those passes would have been caught, the stats would have looked better.
  • I'd like to blame it on wind blowing dirt in my face indoors, but I'm not ashamed to say that Ben Roethlisberger's entrance with the flag honoring the late, great Dan Rooney brought tears to my eyes.
  • I'm not perfect, but here's something that annoys the pants off of me. No. 10’s name is not "Martavius," it’s Martavis Bryant. Mar-tay-vis. Some fans have been getting it wrong since 2014 and Ronde Barber completely butchered it today.
  • The defense was dialing up the pressure. Their play is more inspired now than in any recent year.
  • Cam Heyward is playing at Pro Bowl level. He’s proof-positive that we need to give some players enough time to come into their own. He looked every bit the leader of the defense today.
  • I wonder if Todd Haley is having second thoughts about not sitting upstairs in the coaching box. He got lit up today on the sideline, and Ben Roethlisberger chuckled.
  • I can see Le'Veon Bell morphing back to his old self with each carry. He's going to break out in Chicago.
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster needed that TD badly today. He's a talent who’s destined to be a fan favorite soon. He just needed to get the penalty monkey off of his back from last week.
  • "Dirty Red" is an upper-echelon special-teamer already.
  • The secondary is doing its job. They shut down some talented receivers today. I’d just like to see them break out with a big interception day. They deserve their share in a stat-driven day and age.
  • I feel bad for Sam Bradford. His injury really hampered his team today and he gets bit way too often by the injury bug.
  • I don't sweat a Chris Boswell appearance whatsoever.
  • T.J. Watt's injury is said not to be serious and I really hope that's the case.

...

That's all for the knee-jerk reaction report. Before you start blasting in the comment section, read my disclaimer above...twice. Now, I'm going to watch highlights, read analysis and start preparing retractions.

Thanks for reading.

Podcast: Steelers moving in the right direction after Week 2 win

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 6:15am

The BTSC podcast “Steelers Final Score” returned Sunday night to talk about the team’s latest Week 2 win over the Vikings.

Join Bryan Davis and Anthony Defeo from BTSC for the post game extravaganza known as "Steelers Final Score".

The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings in their home opener 26-9, and SFS will break down all of the highs, and lows, from the game.

Check out a rundown of the show:

- Knee Jerk Reactions

- Grades: Varsity Letters and JV

- Game Balls

- and MUCH MORE!

If you missed the live show, you can hear it in a multitude of ways. You can hear it in the player above, by heading over to our BlogTalkRadio page, on iTunes by searching “The Standard is the Standard” and on various podcast platforms for Android users.

...

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

Steelers take to Twitter to celebrate their Week 2 win over the Vikings

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 5:10am

The Pittsburgh Steelers were successful in keeping their record perfect in Week 2, and it’s time to check out what players were saying on social media following the game.

Week 2 is now in the rear-view mirror, and the Pittsburgh Steelers move ahead with a spotless record.

After beating the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2 of the 2017 NFL regular season, the Steelers had plenty to celebrate in their 26-9 win over their NFC North opponents. While staying ‘perfect’, check out what current and former players had to say about the victory on social media.

(Editor’s Note: This article may be updated as more players take to Twitter the days following the win.)

Great Team Win. Love my brothers feel good to get another one!!! 2-0 #shalieve #steelers pic.twitter.com/IODGLJphFE

— Ryan Shazier (@RyanShazier) September 18, 2017

@mvp86hinesward pic.twitter.com/WcappubLjt

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) September 18, 2017

Call God 2-0 pic.twitter.com/ZaSfVNgE1t

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) September 17, 2017

2-0 let's go!!!

— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) September 17, 2017

Let's GO Steelers!!! Appreciate the love in Heinz Field!!! ✊

— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) September 17, 2017

Love sharing these moments with the people who matter most! #2-0 #HereWeGo #DontCrossTheMoats pic.twitter.com/gHYfs6o6pB

— Arthur Moats (@dabody52) September 17, 2017

A Blessing! Dreamed of this moment! All Glory To God!!! #SteelersNation let's keep goin! pic.twitter.com/SfBNBYDBd3

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) September 17, 2017

Crazy not to have Pop Rooney come around and shake hands after a great win. Rip DMR

— Vincenzo Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) September 17, 2017

Great team win today. Thanks fans for showing out in our 1st home game.

— Vincenzo Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) September 17, 2017

"When you're a hammer everything looks like a nail."

— Vincenzo Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) September 17, 2017

Podcast: 'Steelers Final Score' returns tonight at 9:00 p.m. EST

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 7:40pm

Join BTSC for post game reaction after Steelers home opening win over the Vikings

Join Bryan Davis and Anthony Defeo from BTSC for the post game extravaganza known as "Steelers Final Score".

The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings in their home opener 26-9, and SFS will break down all of the highs, and lows, from the game.

Check out a rundown of the show:

- Knee Jerk Reactions

- Grades: Varsity Letters and JV

- Game Balls

- and MUCH MORE!

You can listen to the show live by logging onto our BlogTalkRadio page at 9 p.m. EST, but WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! What did you think about the game, the upcoming regular season or whatever you want to talk about Steelers related. Simply Dial (347) 850-8581 anytime during the show to make your voice heard!

...

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

T.J. Watt Injury: Steelers rookie doesn’t believe groin injury is serious

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 6:18pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost outside linebacker T.J. Watt to a groin injury, and fortunately the rookie doesn’t feel it isn’t serious.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2 of the 2017 NFL regular season, and as great as that news is, not all news was positive coming out of the Steelers’ camp following the game.

One of the biggest disappointments after the game was the groin injury to rookie linebacker T.J. Watt. After the game, Mike Tomlin was vague about the injury, but when Jeremy Fowler of ESPN talked to Watt following the game, the rookie said he doesn’t feel the injury is serious.

“T.J. Watt said he doesn't expect his groin injury to be serious and isn't worried about it but will find out more in the next day or so.”

It may just be a player staying positive, or it could be an injury which Watt knows won’t have him shelved for the long-term.

It should be noted the Steelers didn’t rule him out immediately, rather listed him as questionable until the game was out of reach and then listed him as officially out of the contest.

The nature of any muscle strain, or pull, is the risk of re-injury — especially a groin injury. For what Watt has to do on any given snap, he needs to trust his body and not be concerned with re-injuring a muscle like a groin.

With that said, the true test for Watt will be his practice participation this week. If Watt practices, even on a limited basis, on Wednesday, that is a great sign. If he is a full participant Thursday or Friday, it would be a great sign he is ready to play in Week 3 vs. the Chicago Bears.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on this injury, as well as other injury news, as the team prepares for Week 3.

On emotional day, Steelers give game ball to Art Rooney II in memory of his late father

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 4:50pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers did more than just play a football game Sunday, they remembered the patriarch of their franchise.

For the team and their fans, Sunday was an emotional day for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before the game the team showed a touching tribute for the late Mr. Dan Rooney on the jumbotron, and the entire fan base had a heavy heart considering it was the first regular season game at Heinz Field where Dan Rooney wasn’t a part of it in some way.

With that said, after the 26-9 win over the Minnesota Vikings, the team gave the game ball to Art Rooney II, who will give the football to his mother, the late Mr. Rooney’s wife.

Game ball given to Art Rooney II who will give it to his Mother in honor of the late Dan Rooney.. #DMR

— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) September 17, 2017

Such a classy move has become commonplace within the organization, but it just goes to show how things are done in Pittsburgh are not the norm around the NFL.

Although the team win was a great way to honor Rooney, there would be no better way for the organization to pay him tribute than winning a seventh Super Bowl this year, and the team is off to a good start. At 2-0, and looking like a contender in the AFC, the Steelers won’t forget who they are playing for every time they put on their jersey and see that ‘DMR’ patch on their upper right chest.

Several players spoke about the loss of Rooney, and their continues to be a hole in the organization which will likely never be filled simply based on just how influential Rooney was not just to the Steelers, but the city of Pittsburgh and the entire NFL.

Crazy not to have Pop Rooney come around and shake hands after a great win. Rip DMR

— Vincenzo Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) September 17, 2017

At least for a day, the Steelers gave Mr. Rooney exactly what he would have wanted. A suffocating defensive performance in a big Week 2 win.

If you missed the tribute to Mr. Dan Rooney, you can view it HERE.

Steelers vs. Vikings Week 2: 5 Winners and 3 Losers after the Steelers 26-9 win over the Vikings

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 4:27pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now 2-0 after their Week 2 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Time to take a look at who were ‘Winners’, and who were ‘Losers’.

After a game there are players who impress, and some who disappoint. This is where our weekly “Winners and Losers” column was born. Sometimes being labeled a loser is a bit harsh, but ultimately there are players every game who simply aren’t up to “the standard”.

Time to diagnose who falls into which category for the Pittsburgh Steelers after the team’s Week 2 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

WINNERS

Martavis Bryant

You can’t expect Bryant to step onto the field and be the dynamic force he was in 2015, but Sunday’s performance was as close to that player as we’ve seen since his return. Bryant was able to get vertical to make big plays, draw pass interference calls, but also make some catches in traffic. Great to see Bryant show up in a big way on a day the Steelers needed every one of them.

Mike Hilton

I can’t say how awesome it is to see Hilton not just playing, but playing well. From training camp, and preseason, phenom to a regular on the Steelers’ defense, Hilton led the team with 9 tackles, 6 solo, and one quarterback hit. Hilton, who played his college football with Senquez Golson, looks like he is doing all the things his former teammate was supposed to do.

Cameron Heyward

Heyward is back, and if you didn’t see his stellar play last week, you had to notice Sunday as Heyward essentially took residence in the Minnesota backfield. Heyward finished with six tackles, one for a loss, and a quarterback hit, but those statistics don’t show just how awesome he was vs. the Vikings.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

It isn’t always pretty with JuJu Smith-Schuster, but his first NFL catch was a touchdown on a shovel pass screen from Ben Roethlisberger. If that wasn’t enough to earn him a spot on the Winners list, the Hines Ward-esque block he had to spring Le’Veon Bell certainly was. The kid can play, just needs to figure things out.

Steelers Pass Rush

The Steelers only had two sacks on Case Keenum, but they harassed him more often than they didn’t. Keenum made some great throws, often in the face of adversity, and kudos to him for that. However, the Steelers were able to get 7 quarterback hits on Keenum and countless hurries. Haven’t noticed the team’s secondary much through two weeks have you? Not really, and that is because of the pass rush.

LOSERS

Sean Davis

I hate singling out a player like Davis, but this wasn’t his best coverage game of his young career. Sometimes you forget Davis is just a second year player, but he will be able to learn from this effort and be better for it. Davis, who did have 8 tackles on the day, was beaten in coverage, and had several blown coverages, throughout the day.

3rd Down Offense

This losing statistic can be summed up by the following:

  • The Steelers were 3-13 on third downs in Week 2
  • The Steelers are 8-26 on third downs in the first two weeks of the season.

That is more than not good enough, it is borderline pathetic.

Freaking Penalties

For the second week in a row, the Steelers penalty totals hit double-digits. The team was flagged 10 times for 72 yards. There weren’t as many 15-yard varieties compared to last week, but this is a trend the team needs to nip right away.

Steelers Injury Report: T.J. Watt groin injury dampens stellar start to NFL career

Sun, 09/17/2017 - 3:38pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers dynamic rookie linebacker left the game with a groin injury, and did not return.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings, and despite being 2-0, the team suffered some injuries throughout the contest. None larger than the groin injury to their first round pick T.J. Watt.

Watt, who started the game where he left off in Week 1, departed the game with a groin injury which was first left his return categorized as questionable; however, after failing to return to the game to start the second half the team announced he will be out for the remainder of the game.

Another early injury was Jesse James. After the first play from scrimmage James left the game with an ankle injury, but was able to return to the game and finish the contest with 4 catches for 27 yards.

On top of the pulls and sprains previously mentioned, the Steelers were also dealing with some heat-related issues. Tackle Marcus Gilbert left the game with heat-related cramps, and didn’t return to the game. His fellow offensive tackle, Alejandro Villanueva, was in and out of the game with dehydration, but this was largely due to dealing with an illness the past few days, per Mike Tomlin in his post-game press conference.

When Watt left the game, it was Anthony Chickillo who came in to compete opposite Bud Dupree. As for the tackles, Chris Hubbard was the recipient of a lot of playing time in Week 2. He was deployed as an extra tight end, spelled Villanueva and spelled Gilbert when he was out of the game.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on these injuries, and other story lines surrounding the black and gold, as the team prepares for the Chicago Bears in Week 3.

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