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A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/47293/steel_curtain_fave.png 2022-01-25T15:45:00-05:00
Updated: 1 hour 21 min ago

10 most likely candidates to be the Steelers next QB

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 2:45pm
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

These guys could be lining up behind Center in Pittsburgh next fall

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for a brand new starting quarterback for the first time in close to 20 years. This position is by far the most important one in all of sports, so the Steelers need to be certain the next guy will be a star. If they don’t believe that option is available, or they don’t think they can get it, they might be better off going with a cheap option until the time comes where they can find a franchise quarterback.

Below are the 10 names that I believe are the most likely to be the Steelers starter at the start of next season.

10. Matt Ryan Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

‘Matty Ice’ isn’t the former NFL MVP that he used to be, and in a very weak class of free agents he may just be the best available option. There have been reports the Steelers would favor a veteran as a starter and considering Matt Ryan is the best of what’s left, his name should be included on a list like this. However, I view Matt Ryan to the Steelers as extremely unlikely.

9. Russell Wilson Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

I just cannot see the Steelers flipping multiple first round picks for any player. Maybe if Wilson was still in his mid-20s this is something we could consider, but I just can’t see the Steelers being able to match Seattle’s steep price tag if Wilson is truly on the trade block. Regardless, I just can’t see this move happening.

8. Aaron Rodgers Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

There definitely seems like there is interest between either side in the situation. The problem is the Steelers, once again, probably cannot afford what the Green Bay Packers would want in a trade for their most likely back-to-back league MVP. Someone else like Denver or Cleveland has the assets to make a move like this, the Steeler simply don’t.

7. Kirk Cousins Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

I think Cousins is the most likely of the trade targets because he shouldn’t have nearly as high of a asking price. That being said, he is by far the least talented of the names above and for a league that is so reliant on the quarterback, settling for the third or fourth best option simply shouldn’t be an option. I feel like it’s more likely but I sure hope this move isn’t made.

6. Derek Carr Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With a new management group in Las Vegas on the way it is possible the Raiders look to move on from Derek Carr. However, he had such a strong end to the season I fully anticipate the Raiders bringing back Carr for the foreseeable future. He might not even be able to be acquired.

5. Marcus Mariota Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

The Raiders will certainly be moving on from one quarterback, however. Marcus Mariota is definitely the more likely option to be on the way out of town, and considering he is an unrestricted free agent that is a mobile quarterback, I think many Steeler fans can draw the connection between the two sides. Perhaps this will be the way the Steelers go to compete with the other guys on the roster as a short term fix.

4. Kenny Pickett Photo by Logan Whitton/Getty Images

As far as draft prospects go I think Kenny Pickett might be regarded as the best quarterback in this very weak quarterback class. However since he did play for Pitt, I think the Steelers will be as dialed in as any team on Pickett and if he’s available they very well could take him. The problem is I think Pickett will be long gone by pick 20.

3. Dwayne Haskins Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images

Haskins holds the slot simply because he will be on the roster. I really don’t think he has much of a shot at winning the starting job, especially early on in the year. While he will have a shot to win the job I just can’t see it landing this way. But he will have a better chance than most because he is already a member of the black and gold.

2. Sam Howell Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

University of North Carolina’s Sam Howell really looks to be one of the Steelers front office’s draft darlings this year. They have been to Chapel Hill a number of times for practice, games, and everything in between. If the Steelers are set on taking a quarterback with the 20th pick, I feel like Howell could have a very good chance at being the name called.

1. Mason Rudolph Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

I’m sure a lot of you are rolling your eyes at the number one entry on this list. But if we’re being honest with ourselves Mason Rudolph has the greatest chance of being the Week 1 starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2022. That doesn’t mean he is the long-term option, but he does have the inside track. If the Steelers don’t sign anyone, or make a big time trade, I would expect Rudolph to get his second crack at being the starting quarterback in black and gold. Regardless of whether you like this or not, this is likely the move that will take place.

But what do yo think? Who will be the Steelers Week 1 starting quarterback in 2022? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

T.J. Watt brings home the 2021 AFC Defensive Player of the Year honor

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 2:05pm
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 101 Awards select the top players on both offense and defense by conference each season.

While individual accolades in the NFL are not nearly as regarded as team championships, when players get acknowledged for their outstanding performances it is always noteworthy. While many Steelers fans believe outside linebacker T.J. Watt should be awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, the likelihood of being named the top defensive player in the entire league is much more difficult if the player is not deemed the best defender in their conference. On Tuesday, it was announced T.J. Watt has been awarded the 101 Awards AFC Defensive Player of the Year for the 2021 season, his second-straight year of winning the award.

Congratulations to @_TJWatt for being selected as the 101 Awards AFC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year!

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 25, 2022

The award is named due to the “Committee of 101” which is 101 national sports writers who cover the NFL and vote on the awards. Established in 1969, the committee awards an offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year, and coach of the year for each conference. By earning the AFC Defensive Player of the Year for a second time, Watt has put himself in excellent company in regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com :

Other Steelers who have won the NFL 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year Award in the past include Troy Polamalu (2010), James Harrison (2008), Carnell Lake (1997), Greg Lloyd (1994), Rod Woodson (1993), Jack Lambert (1976), Mel Blount (1975), and Joe Greene (1972, 74).

With an NFL leading 22.5 sacks in 2021, Watt also led the NFL with 21 tackles for loss. Adding five forced fumbles, seven passes defensed, and three fumble recoveries in 15 games, T.J. Watt has solidified his candidacy for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by winning the honor for the AFC yet again.

T.J. Watt also joins his brother in receiving this honor as J.J. Watt was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year on four occasions in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2018.

Although Troy Polamalu won the AFC Defensive Player of the Year In 2010, the most recent player to win one of the awards as a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers other than Watt was Antonio Brown in 2017 as the AFC Offensive Player of the Year. It was Brown‘s second award as he was a co-winner in 2014 with running back Le’Veon Bell. The only other member of the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the AFC Offensive Player of the Year award was Kordell Stewart in 2001.

When it comes to the AFC Coach of the Year, the only time a Steelers head coach was selected was in 1994 when Bill Cowher won the award.

The other winners for 2021 were Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts as AFC Offensive Player of the Year, Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams as NFC Offensive Player of the Year, Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys as NFC Defensive Player of the Year, Mike Vrabel of the Tennessee Titans as AFC Coach of the Year, and Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers as NFC Coach of the Year.

Congratulations to T.J. Watt on being the AFC Defensive Player of the Year, and all of Steelers’ Nation continues to cheer you on for NFL Defensive Player of the Year which will be announced on Thursday, February 10.

Podcast: Staffing the Steelers Sidelines

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 2:00pm

In the latest episode of “Steelers Hangover” show, Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White look at the week that was and the Steelers going forward.

The Steelers have a lot of holes to fill on the field, but they need to take care of the coaching staff first. Join BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White in discussing this as the hangover from the regular season shifts into the build to 2022.

Check out the rundown of the show

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers Coaching Staff for 2022
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Najee Harris and Pressley Harvin III named to All-Rookie team

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 12:50pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Selected by the Pro Football Writers of America, Harris and Harvin are two of the 27 players chosen.

As the 2021 NFL postseason awards continue to trickle in, two of the Steelers 2021 draft picks were selected to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team. On offense, Najee Harris was selected at running back while punter Pressley Harvin III was chosen for special teams.

The PFWA selected Dallas Cowboys LB Micah Parsons as the 2021 Rookie and Defensive Rookie of the Year; Cincinnati WR Ja'Marr Chase selected as the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Full All-Rookie honors: pic.twitter.com/B2Qx44F91L

— Pro Football Writers (@PFWAwriters) January 25, 2022

Najee Harris finished his 2021 rookie season with 10 total touchdowns which ranks him second among rookies only behind Ja’Marr Chase with 13. Harris had seven rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns on the season. Harrison also led all rookies in rushing with 1,200 yards, a Steelers rookie record, and was the only rookie to surpass 1,000 rushing yards on the season. Harris’ seven rushing touchdowns was the most among rookies with the next closest being four other players tied with five. In all, Harris finished fourth in the NFL in rushing his rookie season behind Jonathan Taylor (1,811), Nick Chubb (1,259), and Joe Mixon (1,205). Harris also led all running backs in receptions in 2021 with 74 and was third in receiving yards with 467 only behind Austin Ekeler (647) and RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson (548).

Pressley Harvin, the second of the Steelers seventh-round draft picks in 2021, was the Steelers punter for all but two games in his rookie season. Missing Week 16 after the death of his father as well as Week 17 due to a personal/illness designation, Harvin returned to the Steelers for Week 18 and the postseason in. In the playoffs, Harvin had seven punts and averaged almost 50 yards with a 49.71 average in Kansas City. Despite struggling at times throughout the season, Harvin had the most punting yards of any player who entered the NFL in 2021 with 2,982 yards on 70 punts with a 42.6 yards per punt average. It should be noted that other than kicker Matt Ammendola who had to fill in at punter in Week 1 for the New York Jets when Branden Mann was injured, all other punters in the NFL had entered the league on rosters in previous seasons even if they did not punt until 2021 (such as Corliss Waitman).

One Steelers player who could have been considered but ultimately did not make PFWA’s All-Rookie team was tight end Pat Freiermuth who finished the season with 60 receptions for 497 yards and seven touchdowns. Beating out Freiermuth for the only tight end position on the team was fourth-overall draft pick Kyle Pitts of the Atlanta Falcons who finished with 1,026 receiving yards on 68 receptions but with only one touchdown. Pitts was also named to the Pro Bowl in 2021.

On behalf of Behind The Steel Curtain, congratulations to both Najee Harris and Pressley Harvin III on their All-Rookie awards.

BTSC Exclusive Interview: 2022 Draft Prospect Daylen Baldwin

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Going one-on-one with Michigan wide receiver Daylen Baldwin as he prepares for the 2022 NFL Draft.

The 2022 NFL Draft is stacked with talent at many positions, but no position is deeper than wide receiver. One sleeper that Steelers fans should take note of is Michigan wide receiver Daylen Baldwin.

Baldwin is an immensely talented receiver who transferred to Michigan from Jackson State following the belated 2020 SWAC Conference season, which was actually played this past spring. After dominating lesser competition, Baldwin decided to return to his home state of Michigan and play for the Wolverines. During his one year with Michigan, he averaged over 15 yards per catch, displaying his lethal explosiveness as a deep threat down the field.

I had the opportunity to interview Daylen this week, and he is excited about his NFL future. In this interview, I had the chance to talk to him about his memories from Michigan’s 2021 season, the challenges of transferring after playing in a delayed season that spring, and what his best traits are as a player. He also talked about who he models his game after, which people in his life got him to this point, and what he enjoys doing when he is not playing football.

You can listen to my interview with Daylen in the player below.

Daylen is a true red-zone weapon who uses his 6’3”, 219 pound frame to box defenders out on the perimeter. For a big-bodied receiver, Baldwin has surprisingly good speed as well, displaying his ability to take the top off the defense with 69-yard and 56-yard touchdowns against Western Michigan and Wisconsin, respectively. He also displays great awareness and instincts as a route-runner.

Not many people are talking about Daylen Baldwin, but he has more than enough talent to make a difference for an NFL franchise. With JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington about to become free agents, the Steelers will likely be taking a close look at the wide receivers in this draft, and Baldwin has many traits the Steelers should find intriguing. He is a name worth watching throughout the pre-draft process, and if he tests well athletically, do not be surprised if he rises on draft boards between now and April.

What are your thoughts on Baldwin? Do you think he could be a valuable receiver for the Steelers? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC for all the news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout the 2022 offseason!

Podcast: Profiling the men in headsets, offense edition

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 11:00am

Join BTSC’s newest podcast, From the Steelers Cutting Room Floor for weekly study of team and individual play.

Welcome to From the Steelers Cutting Room Floor. Join BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict for weekly player analysis as it pertains to the Men of Steel. This week a look at the Steelers coaches on the offensive side of the ball.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Steelers Offensive Coaches
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

2021 Exit Interviews: Montravious Adams and Isaiahh Loudermilk

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 10:00am
MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL / USA TODAY NETWORK

Due to injury, both Adams and Loudermilk had to step up on the Steelers defensive line.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 NFL season has come to a close. Because the Steelers are among the 31 teams who did not finish fulfilling their ultimate goal, they are in the process of wrapping up their season and moving forward into 2022.

Since the Steelers conduct exit interviews with all their players, we here at BTSC thought we would do the same. By outlining two players each day, we will be able to look at their season in retrospect as well as looking toward the future. Since Coach Tomlin stated he starts his interviews with rookies, first year players, and those heading into free agency, we will do the same. To start, we will pair a potential free agent with a first-year player as we work through this process to eventually cover the entire Steelers roster.

Next up is defensive linemen Montravius Adams and Isaiahh Loudermilk.

Montravius Adams Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Position: Defensive tackle
Years with the Steelers: 1
Years in the NFL: 5
Contract Status: Free agent
Contract Details: No dead money.
Games played in 2021: 5 regular season, 1 postseason
Games started in 2021: 4 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 171 (defense), 18 (special teams)
PFF score: 60.5 (58th of 121)
Notable stats (regular season): Adams had eight tackles, one of which was for loss, three quarterback hits, and a pass defensed. Adams’ statistics in 2021 with the Saints are not included, and his sack was during the Steelers postseason game.

Notes: Despite not coming to the Steelers until Week 13, Adams did a nice job filling in for the Steelers at nose tackle when other options were no longer available. With Tyson Alualu going out for the season and Isaiah Buggs ending up in the doghouse, Adams came on and did what the Steelers needed him to do. If the two sides can come to reasonable agreement, re-signing Adams before the free agent period arrives would be in the Steelers best interest.

Isaiahh Loudermilk Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Defensive tackle
Years with the Steelers: 1
Years in the NFL: 1
Contract Status: Signed through 2024
Contract Details: $905,072 salary cap hit for 2022. Would cost the Steelers $240,216 in dead money if released.
Games played in 2021: 15 regular season, 1 postseason
Games started in 2021: 2regular season
Snaps (regular season): 288 (defense), 43 (special teams)
PFF score: 45.4 (107th of 121)
Notable stats (regular season): Loudermilk had 23 tackles, three passes defensed, and 1.0 sack.

Notes: The Steelers used a fourth-round 2022 draft pick to trade into the fifth round for Loudermilk last spring. While many thought the trade was foolish, Loudermilk performed adequately in a rookie season in which many hoped he would never be called upon. In what could almost be copied and pasted from every rookie evaluation, Loudermilk‘s 2022 offseason will be very telling if he can grow into another great defensive lineman on the Steelers or if he will be another forgotten mid-round draft pick.

So what do you think? How would you conduct Adam’s and Loudermilk’s exit interview? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Make sure you check back each day for another set of exit interviews. If you have missed any of the previous articles, they are listed here:

Ben Roethlisberger & Najee Harris
Eric Ebron & Pat Freiermuth
Trai Turner & Kendrick Green
Chuks Okorafor & Dan Moore Jr.
Robert Spillane & Buddy Johnson

Derek Watt tops the Steelers offensive PFF 2021 season grades

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 9:00am
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In the grades provided by PFF, it was the Steelers rarely used fullback who earned the top score.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 season has come to a close. While the Steelers come up short of the ultimate goal of winning the championship, they have lots of company as 30 other teams will come up short as well. Whether you are in the category of believing the Steelers over-performed or under-performed, there were definitely things the Steelers did well this season and other places where they need a lot of improvement.

But how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for the entire 2021 season, including the postseason. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. First up is the offense. Included will be all the players who played at least 50 snaps this season, and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 1,240 snaps on offense this season according to PFF.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

FB Derek Watt: 76.3 (88 snaps)
QB Mason Rudolph: 73.9 (96 snaps)
WR Diontae Johnson: 73.2 (1,046 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 72.9 (715 snaps)
G B.J. Finney: 71.4 (87 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

C Kendrick Green: 53.4 (975 snaps)
QB Ben Roethlisberger: 53.0 (1,143 snaps)
WR James Washington: 52.9 (502 snaps)
RB Kalen Ballage: 48.6 (85 snaps)
TE Eric Ebron: 48.4 (245 snaps)

Quarterback

QB Mason Rudolph: 73.9 (96 snaps)
QB Ben Roethlisberger: 53.0 (1,143 snaps)

It is interesting that the two quarterbacks for the Steelers ended up with one in the top five and one in the bottom five. While those not wanting the Steelers to turn to Mason Rudolph in 2022 will dismiss any positive grade, remember it was not the largest sample size available and if the cutoff would have been 100 snaps Rudolph would not even be included. While his 68.8 passing score was significantly better than Roethlisberger’s 52.8, what really set the two players apart for the season was Rudolph’s 82.2 rushing grade as he had the Steelers third longest run of the season of 26 yards only behind two carries by Najee Harris in Week 17.

Running Backs

FB Derek Watt: 76.3 (88 snaps)
RB Najee Harris: 69.4 (1,008 snaps)
RB Benny Snell Jr.: 54.9 (128 snaps)
RB Kalen Ballage: 48.6 (85 snaps)

It might be disappointing to many that Derrick Watt was the top overall offensive PFF score for the Steelers in 2021, but at least Watt performed well in his limited action. What helped to score was having the second-highest run blocking grade of 71.9 only behind wide receiver Cody White. Najee Harris finished just outside the top five in the sixth position in his rookie season. As interesting as the grades are, it’s ultimately the snap counts which show exactly the Steelers division of labor at the running back position in 2021.

Receivers

WR Diontae Johnson: 73.2 (1,046 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 72.9 (715 snaps)
WR Chase Claypool: 67.1 (866 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 66.5 (513 snaps)
WR Cody White: 60.1 (77 snaps)
WR Ray-Ray McCloud: 58.0 (550 snaps)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: 58.0 (274 snaps)
WR James Washington: 52.9 (502 snaps)
TE Eric Ebron: 48.4 (245 snaps)

Although Diontae Johnson finished third on the Steelers offense, he was first for a good part of the season until scores late in the year dropped him down. In fact, Johnson was ahead of Mason Rudolph prior to the Steelers playoff game. So while his score was solid for the season overall, it did not end on the correct trajectory. Instead, rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth remained fairly consistent throughout the year and provided a great baseline for his future years. What is also interesting from this position group was how JuJu Smith-Schuster and Ray-Ray McCloud, the two players mainly playing the same alignment, finished with the exact same score.

Offensive Line

G B.J. Finney: 71.4 (87 snaps)
C J.C. Hassenauer: 68.4 (345 snaps)
G Trai Turner: 68.1 (1,150 snaps)
OT Joe Haeg: 67.2 (320 snaps)
G Kevin Dotson: 64.5 (565 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 62.6 (1,133 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 57.4 (1,147 snaps)
G John Leglue: 54.4 (474 snaps)
C Kendrick Green: 53.4 (975 snaps)

In all honesty, I don’t know what to make of the overall scores for the Steelers linemen. None were all that outstanding while not completely awful. The biggest problem when it came to each player was more about consistency and scores that fluctuated up-and-down from game to game. It should be noted that the top pass blocking grade among offensive linemen for the season belongs to Kevin Dotson with 78.3 while the top run blocking score went to B.J. Finney with a 66.8 grade.

So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test for the entire season? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ offensive grades in the comments below.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Team Needs 1.0

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 8:00am
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It is the offseason, which means it is time to identify the Steelers’ team needs heading into the new league year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is officially over, and that means the offseason has begun. When the offseason begins, fans start to look ahead, and rightfully so. They look at NFL Free Agency, both players who could be coming and going, as well as the NFL Draft.

Regardless of free agency or the draft, the discussion always stems from team needs for the black and gold. Everyone has their own thoughts on what is best for the team moving forward, and everyone is entitled to their opinion.

This is just my opinion.

So, below are my Top 5 team positional needs for the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, free agency and the NFL Draft. This is just the first of many updated team needs, as things can certainly change between now and the new league year. For instance, if the team ends up bringing back a player like JuJu Smith-Schuster, it would certainly knock the wide receiver position down, or out of, the Top 5 team needs.

Okay, let’s get down to business...

1. Center

I’m not suggesting the Kendrick Green experiment is over, but one thing which was evident in 2021 was the Steelers need for better play in the middle of the offensive line. Green, who didn’t come into the NFL with a great deal of experience at center, might develop into the Steelers’ starting center, but if there is even a hint of doubt in that fact the team should be finding help. Ideally, the Steelers target a free agent who has the experience necessary to step in on Day 1 and be an improvement over both Green and J.C. Hassenauer. Both of those players would provide quality depth at both guard and center, but finding a plug-and-play center is a top priority this offseason.

2. Offensive Tackle

With the assumption the Steelers allow Chuks Okorafor hit free agency, and they release Zach Banner for salary cap purposes, it would equate to the team going into the 2022 regular season with Dan Moore Jr. and Joe Haeg. Whether Moore will turn into a mainstay at tackle is up for debate, but it only solidifies the thought the team needs to address the position this offseason. This is a position I would love to see the Steelers address in both free agency and the upcoming draft. It is time to stock the cupboard at tackle, and not just with players who bounce around the league.

3. Defensive Tackle

Again, this position being in the Top 5 is based on a specific player’s future. Of course, I’m talking about Stephon Tuitt. If Tuitt tells the Steelers he is healthy, both physically and mentally, the team can move forward knowing their defensive line will be just fine. When you consider the line of Tuitt, Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley and Isaiahh Loudermilk as primary reserves, it wouldn’t require much attention. However, take Tuitt out of that equation and the run defense takes a huge hit. I’m not about to have a repeat of 2021, and bringing in a tackle will be a must. This could be a free agent acquisition, but I’d love to see them take a young, strong tackle who is ready to make an impact right away.

4. Offensive Guard

See a trend yet? The Steelers need to revamp their lines, especially the offensive line, and that is across the board. Kevin Dotson looks like the real deal, but there is no doubt there is a disconnect between what fans see, and what the coaching staff sees. Regardless of Dotson’s status moving forward, the team would be wise to look for another bruising, and athletic guard to put opposite Dotson. Trai Turner is a free agent, and the Steelers should look to get younger at the position. This is another area where you can see both free agency and the draft being viable avenues of bringing in new talent at guard.

5. Cornerback

Finally, a position which isn’t in the trenches! Many fans would put quarterback in the Top 5, but in this first look at the team needs I decided to go with cornerback instead. First, I don’t see the Steelers making any huge moves at the quarterback position, but I see the needs as glaring at cornerback. With Akhello Witherspoon and Joe Haden both slated to be UFAs, there is no way this team can be comfortable with the likes of Cam Sutton, James Pierre and Justin Layne heading into 2022. This position, like many others, should be addressed in free agency, or in both free agency and the NFL Draft.

Other Team Needs:
Quarterback
Wide Receiver
Safety
Inside Linebacker
EDGE Rusher

So, what are your Top 5 team needs? Let us know what you think in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2022 offseason.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Postseason Awards, Part 2

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 7:00am
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

With the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers season over, it is time to take a look at who was able to win some postseason awards.

This is Part 2 of a series looking at Pittsburgh Steelers awards after the 2021 season, revisiting preseason and midseason awards predictions. Part 1, featuring more traditional awards, can be found HERE. In Part 2, I wanted to speculate about some less traditional “awards” for the upcoming season. I’ll include the entries from the first version, plus a few new ones.

My goal, as always, is to start a few arguments in the comments section, so have at it. On with the show. Go Steelers.

Here’s the shorthand version (with my picks). Explanations and polls to follow.

People’s Choice Award: Cam Heyward
People’s Goat Award: Chase Claypool
Biggest Disappointment: Run Defense
Pleasant Surprise: Resilience
Weakest Link: Depth
Unsung Hero: Big Ben
Biggest Loss: Stephon Tuitt

People’s Choice Award

This is a good place to start. I think there are guys that, every time they do something (anything), we all get stoked. Think of fans belting “Heeeeeth” after every catch. Or how Brett Keisel’s beard became a sensation while he was playing Pro Bowl level. Who do you expect to say, “man, I love this guy!” at least once or twice per game?

Preseason Winner: Pat Freiermuth (36%), Najee Harris (34%)
My Preseason Choice: Pressly Harvin

Midseason Winner: Pat Freiermuth (45%)
My Midseason Pick: Pat Freiermuth

My Postseason Pick: Cam Heyward

It was harder to come up with candidates for this than I expected. But coming up with a winner was easy. Cam is a three-time All Pro who is also chronically underrated. Chris Collinsworth called him a future Hall of Famer this year, and I sure hope so too. His strength, hustle, technique, and leadership are unparalleled. And he seems like a really good guy. He’s one of the easiest players to root for in sports.

People’s Goat Award

These aren’t necessarily stars, and they’re not bums – they’re perfectly good players who are just detested for some reason. Think Kordell Stewart, or Rashard Mendenhall, or pre-2019 Bud Dupree.

Preseason Winner: JuJu Smith-Schuster (29%), Terrell Edmunds (22%)
My Preseason Choice: JuJu Smith-Schuster

Midseason Winner: Devin Bush (28%)
My Midseason Pick: Chuks Okorafor

My Postseason Pick: Chase Claypool

All of these guys are legit contenders for this award. And Claypool certainly underperformed (and annoyed) this season. But he’s young, and I’ve got a feeling he’s going to show very differently next year — with a new quarterback, a better offensive line (allowing him to run those deep routes), and another year of maturity.

Biggest Disappointment

I’m thinking of this as an element of the team that appears to be a strength (or at least solid), but which winds up disappointing us all.

Preseason Winner: Pass Coverage (39%)
My Preseason Choice: Pre-Snap Motions

Midseason Winner: Takeaways (39%)
My Midseason Pick: Takeaways

My Postseason Pick: Depth

My first impulse was to pencil in rush defense, but given the manpower losses (Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree, Vince Williams), no one could have expected much from this unit. They were worse than expected (by a good margin) but they were gonna struggle.

Meanwhile, I was baffled by the Steelers’ backups. The guys who seemed to be most impressive were guys who came straight off the couch (Montravius Adams, John Leglue); meanwhile the backups that seemed most solid (or even exciting), failed to impress. Melvin Ingram, James Washington, James Pierre, B.J. Finney, Mason Rudolph, Karl Joseph, Dwayne Haskins, and all the running backs except Najee Harris. What happened when those guys saw the field? Not much. I even like several of these players (I was stoked when Finney came back, for example), but there just wasn’t enough there once the front lines when down.

(Side note: this is why my hope for this draft is a series of downward trades. I’d be happy to leave the first round altogether, and then wind up with like eight day-2 picks.)

Pleasant Surprise

Preseason Winner: Deep Passing (32%), Short Yardage Offense (26%), Strong Finish (26%)
My Preseason Choice: Short Yardage Offense

Midseason Winner: Tight Ends (40%), Offensive Line Improvement (32%)
My Midseason Pick: Short Yardage Offense

My Postseason Pick: Resilience

Maybe I’m cheating with something as vague as “resilience,” but I’m thinking about the mental toughness and never-say-die of this team.

Elsewhere I’ve noted that Big Ben led the league in 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives this year, with career highs in both categories (six and seven, respectively). He’s only led the league in both categories twice — 2017 (with three and four) and 2004 (with four and five). Those were excellent Steelers teams; they went 13-3 in 2017, and 15-1 in 2004. If they had zero 4th quarter comebacks in either year, both squads would have still posted double-digit victories. This year, the team would have been 3-13-1 without those late-game heroics. And instead, they made the playoffs. That’s the story of a team that never gave up. (And that doesn’t even mention those two spectacular comebacks that they couldn’t quite close — particularly what would have been an NFL record 29 point comeback against the Vikings.)

This was not a great team, but it was a really really tough one.

Weakest Link

Preseason Winner: Offensive Line (47%)
My Preseason Choice: Offensive Line

Midseason Winner: Offensive Line (37%), Deep Passing (31%)
My Midseason Pick: Skill Depth

My Postseason Pick: Run Defense

This was oddly easy for me. These were all disappointments, but run defense was clearly the worst thing this team had on offer. Now, as we all know, the losses of Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu (to say nothing for Mike Hilton) tied these guys’ hands. But I don’t think anyone expected the Steelers run defense to be as helpless as they were. (It’s an absolute miracle they made the playoffs anyway, given how bad this element was.)

Unsung Hero

Preseason Winner: Ben Roethlisberger (37%)
My Preseason Choice: Terrell Edmunds

Midseason Winner: Chris Boswell (57%)
My Midseason Pick: Chris Boswell

My Postseason Pick: Ben Roethlisberger

It’s hard to call someone “unsung” when he has a gigantic city-wide “thank you” game, in which his goodbye overshadows career games by both Najee Harris and T.J. Watt. But Ben took so much grief this year, and he was simply better than he got credit for. No doubt he is a shadow of his former self (watch some old highlights sometime — he was an absolute monster for years). But given his situation — with the terrible OL, the disappointing receivers, the new (and clumsy) offensive coordinator, and the spotty run support — any quarterback would look rougher than normal.

More importantly, Ben is the single biggest reason this team made so many spectacular comebacks this season. His second half performances were often just outstanding. But even when he wasn’t playing superhero, he kept the team loose when (as Mike Tomlin epicly put it) everyone else [got] tight.”

He may be the most underrated player of the era, and he’s an unsung hero for me.

Biggest Loss

Preseason Winner: Mike Hilton (42%)
My Preseason Choice: Mike Hilton

Midseason Winner: Stephon Tuitt/Tyson Alualu (72%)
My Midseason Pick: Stephon Tuitt/Tyson Alualu

My Postseason Pick: Stephon Tuitt

Boy, this one is tough. Watching Mike Hilton in the playoffs has been depressing. So has remembering Vince Williams blow up running plays ...or Maurkice Pouncey pull on the edges ...or JuJu make catches in traffic ...or...

But Tuitt is the biggest loss. If he’d have lined up across from Cam Heyward, the defense would have looked entirely different. Tuitt would have solidified the rush defense visibly. He’d have rushed the passer like a grizzley (remember, he had 11.0 sacks in 2020). He’d have occupied blockers to allow Alex Highsmith more free rushes. And he’d have created more opportunities for the Steelers to create pressure without blitzing (allowing for more DBs on the field, and perhaps less Devin Bush in coverage on WRs).

Tuitt has always been injured too much, but he’s really that good.

Okay, one more set coming. Stay tuned for Part 3: A couple of new questions for the off-season...

17 things I learned about the Steelers during 2021

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 6:00am
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

17 things I learned about the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2021 regular season and postseason.

  1. If you put a number in any title of an article, people will read that article. That’s not really something I learned about the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021, but I figured I’d make it part of this list because it’s just common sense and a good reminder for my offseason writing strategy.
  2. I didn’t think it was possible, but a team actually can make the playoffs after finishing 23rd in offense, 24th in defense, and “losing the battle at the line of scrimmage” each and every week.
  3. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger just didn’t have it anymore physically in 2021, which was why it was his last season with the team.
  4. You can lead a horse to water, but if it’s not a good and talented horse, it’s probably not going to catch the football.
  5. Speaking of which, Antonio Brown doesn’t seem so toxic and cancerous when examining his time with the Steelers with perfect 20/20 hindsight. I mean, I guess he was and all that, but it sure didn’t appear to hinder Pittsburgh’s chances of winning games when he played here.
  6. While we’re on the subject of horses, not having the right ones will likely cause fans to want to fire Randy Fichtner and then Matt Canada, before going after Keith Butler.
  7. With the roster they went into the season with, it was a miracle the Steelers made the playoffs in 2021.
  8. Roethlisberger still had great ability in 2021, his last as a Steeler, but his offensive line and receiving corps repeatedly let him down.
  9. I could tell the Steelers weren’t very good in 2021 judging by the record number of times I saw the phrase “Any Given Sunday” used as a reason for why they could win games.
  10. It’s never a good idea to pick against the Steelers, at least when they’re as bad as they were in 2021. Sure, it might have made sense to the uninitiated to pick against them in matchups vs. the Chiefs, Titans and Packers, but the more logical and rational approach was to “believe” they would win every game. It was a confusing experience picking against the Steelers last year, especially with the way so many fans normally go after the team. It was like that significant other that’s always telling you what a loser you are and how the relationship just isn’t working—they could do so much better. But as soon as you say, “You know what? You’re right, let’s break up,” your significant other panics and says, “Whoa! Why so rash? Let’s talk about this, honey.”
  11. The only reason the Steelers lost to the Chiefs in the Wild Card round was because of coaching.
  12. Aaron Rodgers should be the Steelers' new quarterback in 2022, or maybe it should be Russell Wilson. Nah, neither is worth the trouble. How about Jimmy Garoppolo or Derek Carr? Garbage. Kenny Pickett? Garbage. Sam Howell? Garbage.
  13. How about Marcus Mariota or Mitch Trubisky? Now you’re talking!
  14. On a serious note, many Steelers fans showed how cold-hearted they could be at best or how downright evil they could be at worst by the way they talked about Stephon Tuitt and the personal issues that may or may not have been what caused him to miss the entire 2021 season.
  15. At the very least, the Steelers managed to find a starting running back, a starting tight end and a starting left tackle in their most-recent draft class. That’s actually not bad.
  16. Heinz Field is so much better with people in the stands than it is without them.
  17. I never get used to the end of the Steelers’ season, even when they, themselves, appear to be begging for it.

Podcast: How the Steelers should conduct their coaching search

Tue, 01/25/2022 - 4:30am

In the latest podcast on the BTSC family of podcasts, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers need to have to complete their coaching staff before getting on with crafting a team. Just how should they do it? Join BTSC Deputy Editor Michael Beck on the latest edition of The Live Mike as he helps Steeler Nation navigate through the 2022 offseason and beyond.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Where the Steelers should find their coaches
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael Beck of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Men of Steel.

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below:

Steelers requesting to interview Saints assistant for their defensive coordinator position

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 8:52pm
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The former Seahawks’ defensive coordinator spent six seasons in the NFL as a player.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have put in another request to interview a current NFL coach for their vacant defensive coordinator position. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Steelers requested to interview current New Orleans Saints defensive backs coach Kris Richard.

The #Steelers have requested to interview #Saints DBs coach Kris Richard for their vacant defensive coordinator opening, source said. The former #Seahawks DC gets another chance after impressing in New Orleans.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 25, 2022

Kris Richard was a third-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2002 as a defensive back. Playing three seasons in Seattle, Richard appeared in 38 games with one start. After time with the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, and Oakland Raiders, Richard’s NFL career finished up in the 2007 season. Brought on as a graduate assistant at his alma mater USC under Pete Carroll for the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Richard followed Carroll to the NFL in 2010 as the assistant defensive back coach of the Seahawks.

Richard coached with the Seahawks for five seasons before moving up to be defensive coordinator when Dan Quinn left to be the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. In three seasons as defensive coordinator in Seattle, the Seahawks saw there defensive rankings decrease each year and Richard was let go following the 2017 season.

Richard landed with the Dallas Cowboys as their defensive backs coach and passing defense coordinator for 2018 and 2019. Richard was not retained when head coach Jason Garrett was let go and spent 2020 out of football. Richard was the defensive backs coach for the New Orleans Saints for 2021 as part of a defense that ranked 14th in passing yards surrendered for the season.

It was previously reported that the Steelers put in a request to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham as well. It is also believed Teryl Austin is the front runner to be promoted within the organization for the position.

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

Steelers sign WR Anthony Miller to a Reserve/Future contract

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 4:03pm
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers bring back a player who could be an asset to the offense in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason roster has already begun to take shape just a week after the season ended in a playoff dud in Kansas City in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs. Once the offseason officially starts for an NFL franchise they can start to sign players to Reserve/Future contracts. These contracts are typically given to players on their practice squad, or free agents who weren’t on a roster at season’s end.

It isn’t often these players end up being significant contributors to the franchise, but the latest addition to the Steelers’ offseason roster could have a role on the team in 2022. That would be none other than wide receiver Anthony Miller.

This per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network:

A couple notable reserve/futures signings on today's wire: The #Steelers re-signed WR Anthony Miller, while the #Saints re-signed RB Josh Adams.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 24, 2022

Miller appeared in just one game for the Steelers, a 41-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, in 2021, caught one pass, on one target for two yards.

When you see those statistics it might be difficult to consider Johnson as a viable receiving option for the Steelers, but he does have the pedigree and experience the Steelers could benefit from next season.

Throw in the fact the Steelers could be without receivers like JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud, all Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) at the start of the new league year, Johnson could carve a role out for himself if given the chance. Joining the Steelers midway through the season made it difficult for him to find the field when competing against those who spent the entire offseason, training camp and preseason together.

Will Johnson make a splash in 2022? He very well might, but he’ll have to beat out other hungry receivers like Rico Bussey to do so.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on throughout the offseason.

Steelers sign WR Anthony Johnson to a Reserve/Future contract

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 4:03pm
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers bring back a player who could be an asset to the offense in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason roster has already begun to take shape just a week after the season ended in a playoff dud in Kansas City in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs. Once the offseason officially starts for an NFL franchise they can start to sign players to Reserve/Future contracts. These contracts are typically given to players on their practice squad, or free agents who weren’t on a roster at season’s end.

It isn’t often these players end up being significant contributors to the franchise, but the latest addition to the Steelers’ offseason roster could have a role on the team in 2022. That would be none other than wide receiver Anthony Miller.

This per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network:

A couple notable reserve/futures signings on today's wire: The #Steelers re-signed WR Anthony Miller, while the #Saints re-signed RB Josh Adams.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 24, 2022

Miller appeared in just one game for the Steelers, a 41-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, in 2021, caught one pass, on one target for two yards.

When you see those statistics it might be difficult to consider Johnson as a viable receiving option for the Steelers, but he does have the pedigree and experience the Steelers could benefit from next season.

Throw in the fact the Steelers could be without receivers like JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud, all Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) at the start of the new league year, Johnson could carve a role out for himself if given the chance. Joining the Steelers midway through the season made it difficult for him to find the field when competing against those who spent the entire offseason, training camp and preseason together.

Will Johnson make a splash in 2022? He very well might, but he’ll have to beat out other hungry receivers like Rico Bussey to do so.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on throughout the offseason.

T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward continue to pile up accolades for 2021

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 2:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers dynamic defensive duo continue to collect post-season awards.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 roster wasn’t outstanding at doing much, but if you were to pinpoint an area where they had standout players, it would be along their defensive front. More specifically, T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward.

Both Watt and Heyward were able to register double-digit sacks in 2021. As most know, Watt tied Michael Strahan’s single season record with 22.5 sacks, while Heyward registered 10, marking only the second time in his career he hit double-digits in a season.

On the heels of both Watt and Heyward being the only Pittsburgh Steelers representatives in the annual Pro Bowl, the duo also received the honor of being labeled All-Pro this offseason. But there is a new accolade for the duo. This would be being named to the All-AFC team, voted on by the Pro Football Writers of America.

The PFWA announces its' 2021 All-NFL, All-AFC and All-NFC teams ... pic.twitter.com/LzSUtblSmz

— Pro Football Writers (@PFWAwriters) January 24, 2022

On top of being named to the All-AFC team, both Watt and Heyward were voted as All-NFL representatives as well, which makes them one of the best at their positions is the entire league, not just by conference.

Both players are extremely deserving of these accolades, and the hope is there is more to come, especially for Watt. In just a few weeks is when the NFL will announce their individual awards, like NFL MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, and the hope is Watt is able to break through and win his first Defensive Player of the Year award of his career, something which has eluded him the past two seasons.

Nonetheless, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the remainder of the offseason.

Details show it will be extremely unlikely the Steelers land a big-name QB

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 1:00pm
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers need help at the QB position, but fans shouldn’t hold out hope they acquire a big-name signal caller this offseason.

The expected retirement of Ben Roethlisberger has resulted in the Pittsburgh Steelers looking closely at the quarterback position this offseason. When I say the organization will be looking closely at the position, it should be in every possible way.

Through the 2022 NFL Draft.

Through Free Agency.

Even via trade.

This offseason, maybe more than any other in recent memory, the list of quarterbacks who could be on the move is long and filled with big names. These can be tantalizing for the fan base. When you think about an Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson wearing the black-and-gold it can make the most sane person want to sell the farm to make it happen.

But when you look at the details to acquire any number of big-name quarterbacks this offseason, it becomes extremely unlikely the Steelers land one of these big fish.

Why? First, they don’t have the draft capital. To acquire many of the quarterbacks below, it would take surrendering multiple first round picks. For a team like the Steelers, with gaping holes on both sides of the line, they can’t afford to make a move like this. Second, do the Steelers really want to utilize the vast majority of their salary cap space towards one position? For the first time under Mike Tomlin the Steelers will have a great deal of cap space this offseason. They’ll need every penny to address the many team needs on the roster.

Let’s take a look at the details of several big-name quarterbacks, and why the Steelers won’t likely be players in these sweepstakes:

Aaron Rodgers

Despite the Packers’ cap situation, Rodgers remains under contract for 2022. This means unless Rodgers is given his outright release, which is highly unlikely, a trade would be the only way to acquire the NFL MVP. Just imagine what that trade would have to look like for Rodgers to leave Green Bay. On top of that, he said he doesn’t want to be a part of a rebuild. Guess what the Steelers are going through? You guessed it...a rebuild.

Odds: Highly unlikely

Russell Wilson

Again, like Rodgers, Wilson is under contract for the 2022 season. This makes acquiring a player of his caliber almost impossible for the Steelers. Unless you are okay with shipping multiple first round picks to Seattle for him, this deal is one which would never get off the ground. On top of that, any talk of wanting out of Seattle very well could be nothing more than a ploy to to get a new deal done with the Seahawks.

Odds: Highly unlikely

Derek Carr

While Carr too is still under contract for the 2022 season, his situation is certainly different considering the changes taking place in Las Vegas. The Raiders have already fired their General Manager Mike Mayock, and haven’t agreed on their next head coach for 2022. Carr’s future could be based on who fills those positions. Carr is due an extension to his current contract, and at 30 he is still in the prime of his career. However, the Raiders will want to capitalize on Carr’s 2021 success if they choose to trade him elsewhere.

If the Steelers could pull off a trade for a quarterback, the Raiders might be willing to listen. If only Mayock was still the GM...

Odds: Doubtful, but you never know

Kirk Cousins

While many reading this wouldn’t want Cousins if it it were highly likely, the fact Cousins is due $35 million guaranteed next season will make moving the quarterback more difficult. Unless the Vikings choose to eat some of that salary, which why would they, it is unlikely Cousins leaves Minnesota. That $35 million dollar hit is just something the Steelers can’t afford if they want to actually improve the rest of their roster.

Odds: Highly Unlikely

Jimmy Garoppolo

Similar to Cousins, there will be a section of the fan base who wouldn’t want “Jimmy G” even if he were a viable option for the Steelers. Garoppolo is due $24 million in 2022, and while that isn’t a huge hit in today’s standards, you have to weigh the benefits to the team. Could Garoppolo be an upgrade over what the Steelers currently have? Probably, but how much better would Garoppolo be compared to Mason Rudolph with the team’s current offense? Rudolph will have a $4 million dollar cap hit in 2022. Think about improving the rest of the roster and weighing the benefits of bringing in a player like Garoppolo.

Odds: Doubtful, but you never know

There are other quarterbacks whose names have been tossed around as potential targets for teams looking for a quarterback. Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and even a player like Tua Tagovailoa have all had their names placed in the hopper of quarterbacks potentially on the move.

But if you haven’t figured it out yet, the Steelers are highly unlikely to be in the running for any of these big-name quarterbacks. Instead, if the Steelers are in the market for quarterback help, look for them to target players who are Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) and just want a shot to compete for a starting job.

Some names to consider, and will be a focus in an upcoming article:

Teddy Bridgewater
Marcus Mariota
Jacoby Brissett
Tyrod Taylor
Jameis Winston
Mitchell Trubisky

When you look at the Steelers from a global perspective, their roster needs a massive amount of help at other positions, not just the quarterback position. Giving up valuable cap space, and draft capital, to acquire one of these big name signal callers is not the way for the team to rebuild themselves. Instead, it would likely plunge the organization further into mediocrity.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the offseason.

4 Things the Steelers should have learned watching the Divisional Playoffs

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

The second round of the playoffs should come as a lesson to all the teams that didn't make it

The Pittsburgh Steelers obviously weren't in action this week, but that doesn't mean they weren't busy. Well, at least they should have been. The NFL’s Divisional Round of the playoffs were some of the most exciting football in recent memory, and really sports history. Truly the best teams in the league made it to the round of eight, and they were all at their best on this weekend. There were a number of lessons all the teams that didn't make it to this level should have picked up on. Below are some things the Steelers specifically need to copy if they want to get back on the championship pursuit.

Defense doesn't win championships anymore Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Yes, defense matters, but the old adage of defense wins championships just doesn't add up anymore. Take the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs game if you don't believe me. 25 points were scored in the final two minutes of game action before the Chiefs emphatically ended the contest with their first overtime possession.

With how the rules are set up in the league today, everything goes the offense’s way and the only hope you have at stopping them is by sacks, turnovers, and hoping to God your offense can get you enough rest to do it again. If you want to be a contender make sure your offense is powered to score on every possession.

You need a big time Quarterback, that can move Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

This has been a thing in the NFL since the league turned pass-first. You can't win a championship anymore without high level quarterback play, and in 2022 that quarterback better have running ability similar to your top running back. Sure, there are some outliers to this rule, think Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady, but they are so pin point accurate and have such strong arms they can make up for it.

Look at the Chiefs for example. Patrick Mahomes is athletic enough that defensive linemen have to pursue him regardless of the situation, and this in turn busts the Chiefs’ screen/quick passing game wide open. Having an athletic QB brings your offense to basically a level of 4D chess as the wrinkle this adds is enormous. The Steelers must find an athlete that can make all the throws at quarterback, along with the mobility necessary to be a dual threat.

Your depth at receiver and running back should rival your starters Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

How many times did the Steelers roll out Cody White and Ray-Ray McCloud on offense? Or how many times did Benny Snell/Kalen Ballage offer nothing at running back? It is essentially wasted cap space. The Chiefs received quality running back play from Jerrick McKinnon, and the Bills had Gabe Davis breaking NFL records. The Steelers don't have this level of depth, and it must be addressed. They need a high quietly WR4 and WR5 on the depth chart, and they will need to use them properly.

Target deep down the middle of the field Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

This is a shot at the coaching staff, and really Ben Roethlisberger who refused to throw anything over the middle all year long. The Steelers have the bodies (Pat Freiermuth/Chase Claypool) to attack the middle of the field, but they just didn’t. Every team in the playoffs consistently gobbled up yardage attacking this spot of the field. If you want to be successful, attack the safeties and throw over the linebackers’ heads!

But what do you think? What did you learn watching the divisional round? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Exit Interviews: Robert Spillane and Buddy Johnson

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers need to upgrade their output from the inside linebacker position in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 NFL season has come to a close. Because the Steelers are among the 31 teams who did not finish fulfilling their ultimate goal, they are in the process of wrapping up their season and moving forward into 2022.

Since the Steelers conduct exit interviews with all their players, we here at BTSC thought we would do the same. By outlining two players each day, we will be able to look at their season in retrospect as well as looking toward the future. Since Coach Tomlin stated he starts his interviews with rookies, first year players, and those heading into free agency, we will do the same. To start, we will pair a potential free agent with a first-year player as we work through this process to eventually cover the entire Steelers roster.

Next up is linebackers Robert Spillane and Buddy Johnson.

Robert Spillane Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Position: Linebacker
Years with the Steelers: 3
Years in the NFL: 4
Contract Status: Restricted free agent
Contract Details: Expiring exclusive rights contract from 2021.
Games played in 2021: 14 regular season, 1 postseason
Games started in 2021: 4 regular season, 1 postseason
Snaps (regular season): 346 (defense), 244 (special teams)
PFF score: 46.3 (63rd of 89)
Notable stats (regular season): Spillane had 56 tackles, two of which were for loss.

Notes: By the end of the season, Robert Spillane was finding himself in the mix much more with the Steelers defense, so much so he basically split snaps in the Steelers playoff game with Devin Bush and Joe Schobert. Known more for his ability to stop the run, Spillane was often a liability in coverage and teams would intentionally attempt to scheme to get him matched up against a certain receiver. Being a restricted free agent, it would be quite an investment for the Steelers to offer a tender, as it would cost them an estimated $2.4 million in salary even just to have the right of first refusal. For this reason, Spillane will likely become an unrestricted free agent if he does not sign with the Steelers early in the process.

Buddy Johnson Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Position: Linebacker
Years with the Steelers: 1
Years in the NFL: 1
Contract Status: Signed through 2024
Contract Details: $949,836 salary cap hit for 2022. Would cost the Steelers $374,508 in dead money if released.
Games played in 2021: 4 regular season
Games started in 2021: 4 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 6 (defense), 59 (special teams)
PFF score: 38.6 (DNQ for ranking)
Notable stats (regular season): Johnson had to tackles on the season.

Notes: Johnson had basically a red shirt season as he was only active on game day if there was an injury at the linebacker position. Ultimately dealing with injury himself, Johnson went on IR a day before the Steelers final regular season game due to a foot injury. As with most rookies, this offseason will be key in Johnson’s development to get into the mix at the linebacker position for the Steelers and not just regarded as a special teams player.

So what do you think? How would you conduct Spillane’s and Johnson’s exit interview? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Make sure you check back each day for another set of exit interviews. If you have missed any of the previous articles, they are listed here:

Ben Roethlisberger & Najee Harris
Eric Ebron & Pat Freiermuth
Trai Turner & Kendrick Green
Chuks Okorafor & Dan Moore Jr.

Mock Draft Monday: The Steelers look to add an athletic offensive tackle

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

In the latest mock draft, the Steelers look to add a quick left tackle who specializes in pass protection.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the 2022 offseason. With free agency as the next big event to shape next season’s roster, it will be followed by the NFL draft in April. The Steelers will have a number of decisions with players who were on the 2021 roster and will have the opportunity to add some free agent acquisitions before making their first draft selection. With the NFL combine and player pro days appearing to be back on the table this in the coming months, there will hopefully be much more information in regards to draft prospects this year.

When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. Before any gains or losses in free agency, there are some who would like to see the Steelers go with either offensive line or quarterback with their first-round pick. Others feel defensive line or cornerback could be on top of the list. With plenty of chances for the Steelers to shape their roster prior to April, their goal is usually to get into position to draft the best player available rather than target a specific position. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.

In the latest one-round mock draft by NFL.com, they have the Steelers addressing the offensive line before anything else. After struggling in the run game as well as not giving much time for the quarterback in the passing game, the Steelers are due for an upgrade at several positions. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first selection, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets.

Check out the Steelers 20th pick:

20. Pittsburgh Steelers | Charles Cross | OT | Mississippi St.| RS Sophomore |

Being early in the draft process, there may be some players most fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Cross according to thedraftnetwork.com:

Charles Cross is a redshirt sophomore that has started the past two seasons for Mississippi State. Cross has logged more than 20 starts at LT for the Bulldogs. Cross is an exceptional athlete with a great initial first step that makes it difficult for edge rushers to beat him around the edge. He is a fluid athlete in the open field, making it easy to redirect and match defenders’ counter moves. In the NFL, Cross’ best position will be as a left tackle who can athletically match up with some of the best edge rushers in the NFL. Cross lacks the true strength at the point of attack to be a dominant run defender, but in the right offense, he will be a great pass protector.

Ideal Role: Starting left tackle (primary role to pass protect).

Scheme Fit: Zone-blocking scheme where his primary role is to cut off the backside of plays.

For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Cross with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position or a different one who may still be available? Personally, I think if the Steelers go for an offensive lineman in the first round, a move which I would be in favor of, I believe they would look more for a player to help in the run game. If they are going strictly left tackle, Cross does seem to be the type of player they would want. If that is the case, the Steelers would need to work the entire offseason with Dan Moore Jr. on moving to the right side. As for this particular mock draft, if a certain center from Iowa would still be available like he was here (a player who will hopefully be featured here eventually even though many mocks have him going much higher), I would be highly upset if that was not the Steelers’ choice.

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