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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 2018-06-23T13:25:02-04:00
Updated: 1 hour 59 min ago

If you could pick one Steelers great to help the current roster, who would it be?

6 hours 59 sec ago

If you had the ability to welcome back any all-time Steelers’ player back for the 2018 campaign, who would it be?

The NFL offseason is a fun time to drift off into Steelers Fantasyland. Some people feel that the black-and-gold are championship contenders, some feel they’re still one player away, and other fans feel they’re headed in the wrong direction.

A few days ago, BTSC had an article asking what one change in Steelers’ history would you, the reader, make. Also, Rod Woodson made comments regarding the Steelers lack of defensive playmakers. This made me wonder what the 2018 Steelers would look like with the Hall of Fame cornerback helping to neutralize opposing offenses.

So in that spirit, if you could take any Steelers player in history, and add him to the current Pittsburgh roster to aid their quest for a seventh Lombardi, who would it be?

Would you rather have Jack Lambert roaming the middle at linebacker, or Heath Miller or Eric Green back at the Tight End spot? How about the 6’2” John Stallworth teaming up with AB and JuJu Smith-Schuster at Wide Receiver?

There are so many options.

Granted the average height and weight of a player from “back then” was less than what it is today, so let’s not get into the weeds with that and exclude a player for being too small for today’s standards and just judge the caliber of player they were.

Use the comments section to suggest a player that would fulfill your fantasy for the new season. Then I’ll talk to our BTSC scientists to begin the rejuvenation process. Perhaps then Omar Khan and Kevin Colbert could squeeze him in at the veteran minimum.

If it was up to me, Mel Blount should be waiting by his phone.

Keith Butler, like the rest of us, is unsure of who will start at safety in 2018

8 hours 38 min ago

The Pittsburgh Steelers suddenly have a plethora of safeties on their roster, but no one knows who will play or where they will play.

Last year the Pittsburgh Steelers’ depth chart at the safety position wasn’t very impressive: Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, J.J. Wilcox and Robert Golden.

With Mitchell constantly hurt, Wilcox’s playing time decreasing every week and Golden being more of a special-teams ace than quality depth, things were dire at the position. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the team decided to completely rebuild the position this offseason.

On the first day of free agency, both Mitchell and Golden were released. Then, after the 2018 NFL Draft, Wilcox was given his release as well.

This left Sean Davis as the lone safety from the previous regime, but it’s not as if the organization didn’t restock the shelves.

Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe were signed via free agency, and Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen were added via the draft process.

The question now remains, who will play and where will they play? As it turns out, even defensive coordinator Keith Butler isn’t sure of the answer to these questions.

“Who’s going to be the post safety, who’s going to be down in the box, we haven’t made that decision yet. We’ll wait until training camp.” Butler told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Okay, so you don’t know for sure who will be opening the regular season as the starting safety tandem. That’s okay, but not even to have a clue? Butler might be yanking our chain, or is he?

The players he has available now are quite athletic and versatile, but they’re also at completely different stages of their careers. The veteran in Burnett, Davis being the veteran in the Steelers’ system, plus rookies Edmunds and Allen. Nonetheless, Butler is impressed by what he’s seen from Edmunds so far during offseason workouts.

“I like Terrell, he’s very vocal, that’s the great thing about him, but he hasn’t played at the NFL level. We know Morgan can play. We know [Sean Davis] can play, we know S.D. has a lot of range.” Butler said.

So, to sum things up:

There’s a ton of talent and versatility at the safety position this year for the Black-and-gold, but if you’re trying to predict which players get the starting nod in Week 1 — good luck.

Speaking of which, who do you think will be the starting safety tandem for the Steelers when they travel to Cleveland in Week 1? Let us know in the comments section below!

Steelers 2018 theme needs to be ‘United We Stand’, not ‘Divided We Fall’

11 hours 3 min ago

If this group is more than just a collection of individuals, it would be nice for the leaders to show the way.

The quest for winning a franchise-record seventh Super Bowl comes with added luggage and twists. It’s simple — what makes this group tick? Money, or winning championships?

Ten years have officially passed since the Steelers won their last Super Bowl, and eight since their last trip to the big dance. If there is one thing that of those teams can pass on, it’s the lesson how it’s not just about unity, but also holding each other accountable. It kind of relates to many daily jobs, and responsibilities which we endure in life — I did what I had to do, but I’m not going to come do double work just to make your job easier.

On one hand, you’ve got Le’Veon Bell who expects to be paid in the ballpark of $14.5-17 million dollars for a new contract. For all intents and purposes, he seems prepared to sit out the entire preseason, but be there when it counts for the start of the regular season.

What does this all mean, extra work for the rest of his linemen and teammates until Week 1.

Then you have Antonio Brown giving advice to Bell, “The first rule of getting better is showing up.” and “You can’t make anything better without showing up.” What seems ironic is Antonio Brown defending himself on how the media’s portrayal of him about not being present to several Organized Team Activities (OTAs) himself.

Lastly, you’ve got Ben Roethlisberger, who’s a year removed from saying he needs to take time to evaluate his health and future before he firmly decides his football career. Now it’s changed to, “I care about record-breaking Super Bowls and things like that -- that’s more important to me,” which the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Quarterback told ESPN from his football pro camp on Father’s Day in Pittsburgh. Interesting, this sounds a lot like when he made a comment five years ago when he “wanted to have more Super Bowls than Terry Bradshaw.”

Well guess what? Tom Brady’s been there and done that. Can we really trust Ben’s mindset at this point?

Take all three of these personalities and you’ve got an, “every man for himself,” mentality. Many have accused this current group of not doing things the, ‘Steeler Way.” Yes, we realize these are different times in the life of social media, but they can’t allow ego to get in the way of team goals!

If you put something out there, be prepared for the criticism that comes with the territory. Aside from Mike Tomlin, I believe this looks worse for Ben. If your guy under center has any doubt and no clear answers, guess what’s going to happen? Miscommunication, bickering, chaos, etc. Everybody needs to be united as one, versus divided they fall because, if not, this season can run off the tracks real quick.

If another championship is going to be added, they must stand up for each other and avoid individual sagas which can put the individual above the team.

Complete list of when every NFL team reports to their respective training camps

11 hours 59 min ago

Want to know when the Steelers and their rivals report to training camp? Here’s the complete list!

If you’re a diehard fan of the NFL, this is the worst time of year. Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp are things of the past now, and you have to wait until your favorite team reports to training camp.

These days can feel like an eternity, but are you sure you know when the team you root for actually reports to training camp? How about the rookies? If you don’t, or you want to check out when your team’s rivals report to camp, you can get all that information below!

Here’s hoping the dog days of summer go by quickly. Football will be here before you know it!

(If you’re wondering why the Bears and Ravens report to camp so early, it’s because they play in the annual Hall of Fame preseason game.)

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

Rookies: July 25 | Veterans: July 25

Location: St. John Fisher College, Rochester, N.Y.

Miami Dolphins

Rookies: July 18 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Baptist Health Training Facility, Davie, Fla.

New England Patriots

Rookies: July 22 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

New York Jets

Rookies: July 24 | Veterans: July 26

Location: Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Florham Park, N.J.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Rookies: July 11 | Veterans: July 18

Location: Under Armour Performance Center, Owings Mills, Md.

Cincinnati Bengals

Rookies: July 23 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

Cleveland Browns

Rookies: July 25 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Cleveland Browns Training Complex, Berea, Ohio

Pittsburgh Steelers

Rookies: July 24 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

Rookies: July 25 | Veterans: July 25

Location: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.V.

Indianapolis Colts

Rookies: July 22 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Grand Park, Westfield, Ind.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Rookies: July 18 | Veterans: July 25

Location: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville

Tennessee Titans

Rookies: July 22 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Saint Thomas Sports Park, Nashville

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Rookies: July 24 | Veterans: July 27

Location: UCHealth Training Center, Englewood, Colo.

Kansas City Chiefs

Rookies: July 22 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, Mo.

Los Angeles Chargers

Rookies: July 27 | Veterans: July 27

Location:Jack Hammett Sports Complex, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Oakland Raiders

Rookies: July 23 | Veterans: July 26

Location: Napa Valley Marriott, Napa, Calif.

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

Rookies: July 25 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Marriott Residence Inn, Oxnard, Calif.

New York Giants

Rookies: July 22 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Quest Diagnostics Training Center, East Rutherford, N.J.

Philadelphia Eagles

Rookies: July 25 | Veterans: July 25

Location: NovaCare Complex, Philadelphia

Washington Redskins

Rookies: July 25 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center, Richmond, Va.

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

Rookies: July 16 | Veterans: July 19

Location: Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.

Detroit Lions

Rookies: July 19 | Veterans: July 26

Location: Detroit Lions Training Facility, Allen Park, Mich.

Green Bay Packers

Rookies: July 25 | Veterans: July 25

Location: St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wis.

Minnesota Vikings

Rookies: July 24 | Veterans: July 27

Location: TCO Performance Center, Eagan, Minn.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

Rookies: July 23 | Veterans: July 26

Location: Atlanta Falcons Training Facility Flowery Branch, Fla.

Carolina Panthers

Rookies: July 25 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C.

New Orleans Saints

Rookies: July 18 | Veterans: July 25

Location: New Orleans Saints Training Facility, Metairie, La.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rookies: July 23 | Veterans: July 25

Location: One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, Fla.

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

Rookies: July 22 | Veterans: July 27

Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

Los Angeles Rams

Rookies: July 23 | Veterans: July 25

Location: University of California, Irvine, Irvine, Calif.

San Francisco 49ers

Rookies: July 25 | Veterans: July 25

Location: SAP Performance Facility, Santa Clara, Calif.

Seattle Seahawks

Rookies: July 25 | Veterans: July 25

Location: Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Renton, Wash.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 22

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 5:36pm

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

Several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night Open Thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring it back to Friday night — with a slight twist.

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

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

1. Which Steelers Super Bowl loss hurt worse? Super Bowl 30 vs. the Cowboys, or Super Bowl 45 vs. the Packers? Explain why...

2. Finish the sentence...the perfect season for Cameron Sutton looks like ______.

3. If you had to name ONE undrafted free agent who makes the 53-man roster, who is it? The list of UDFAs is below:

Parker Cothren - DT -Penn State

Jarvion Franklin - RB - Western Michigan

Greg Gilmore - DE - LSU

Quadree Henderson - WR - Pittsburgh

Trey Johnson - CB - Villanova

Pharoah McKever - TE - North Carolina State

Patrick Morris - C - TCU

Ikenna Nwokeji - OL - Elon

Olasunkanmi Adeniyi - LB - Toledo

Chris Schleuger - G- UAB

Jamar Summers - CB - UCONN

Matthew Thomas - LB - Florida State

Kendal Vickers - DE - Tennessee

4. Rank the following Steelers’ Super Bowl wins from best to worst. The best games, not the best teams or season:

Super Bowl 9
Super Bowl 10
Super Bowl 13
Super Bowl 14
Super Bowl 40
Super Bowl 43

5. If you could choose between a vacation in the woods for privacy, or the beach to enjoy the ocean, what would you choose?

6. In terms of content, would you rather read something, or watch/listen?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Cleveland LB Christian Kirksey predicts a Browns playoff berth in 2018, is it possible?

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 12:20pm

Is it possible for an 0-16 team to turn it around and make the playoffs the next season?!

There must have been something about June 19th. Something about the day which gave Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey a renewed sense of vigor upon awaking. Such an uplifting mood that he took to his verified Twitter account and predicted some big things for the Browns in 2018.

Not just one victory, something they failed to accomplish last season.

Not just a few wins.

Not a winning season.

How about a playoff berth.

Woke up this morning letting yal know Browns will be in the playoffs this year! Remember this tweet #Cleveland

— Christian Kirksey (@Kirko58) June 19, 2018

Most will laugh off Kirksey’s prediction, but I decided to think about whether this was possible. No, not if an 0-16 team can turn their entire organization around into a playoff team the following year, but have the Browns done enough to increase their odds of not just competing in the AFC North, but in the AFC Playoff Picture?

The Browns were huge players in free agency, bringing in players like Mychal Kendricks, Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry, but their 2018 NFL Draft haul was equally impressive. Baker Mayfield was the top overall pick, and it seemed as if the Browns had multiple picks in every round following.

New general manager John Dorsey has thrown away all of the garbage theories produced by those before him, and started to put together something which actually resembles a competitive NFL roster.

But can they win now, and not just years down the road?

While I think a playoff berth is a little lofty for the 2018 season, I see the Browns as being anything but a pushover this year, and in the future. Dorsey, seemingly in one offseason, has turned the Browns’ outlook from a negative into a positive one.

Is it possible for Kirksey’s prediction to come true? Can they beat the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals to compete in the AFC North? Will they be able to snag a playoff spot? Let us know in the comment section below!

Is more tackling at training camp really the answer for the Steelers’ defense?

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 10:33am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a run-stopping problem, but is doing more tackling drills the answer to their problem?

Throughout offseason workouts like Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp, coaches talk to the media and fans cling to every word uttered to get a glimpse of what the team might be doing in sessions, or what they may resemble in the upcoming season.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, many fans loved it when they heard Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler talk about the need to tackle better, and how they would be doing more of this in the upcoming training camp at Saint Vincent College on July 25th when players report.

“You look at the whole last year, we missed a ton of tackles. No. 1, we got to tackle. We’re going to work on tackling in training camp, try to improve it as much as we can. And if we are able to tackle better, all that stuff is going to be cut down.” Butler told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This isn’t false. The Steelers’ tackling last year was horrendous, but is just doing extra tackling drills really going to make a difference?

The reason I ask what seems like such a preposterous question is how almost every single national media contributor who rolls through Latrobe, PA every summer says that same thing:

No one tackles in training camp as much as the Steelers do.

Well then.

Considering the Steelers tackle more than almost every other NFL team, and their tackling still leaves a lot to be desired, are just drills going to actually get the job done? Let’s just say I am skeptical. To me, tackling from the youth level to the professional level has always, and will always, be a ‘want to’ thing.

You either want to tackle, or you shy away from contact like Deion Sanders in the open field.

For the Steelers, their problems are compounded in many different ways. There are players who look like they’d rather have a root canal than tackle, hello Artie Burns, and then there are those who look like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner with some of the angles they take, hello Sean Davis.

Whatever ails the Steelers’ tackling, Butler realizes the improvement in this area is crucial to the success of the defense, and the team.

“We got to stop the freaking run, and that’s as simple as you can get,” Butler said.

Does he remember the Jaguars’ loss in the AFC Playoffs last year? Chalk that up to a stupid question.

“You remember that crap like it’s yesterday,” Butler said. “It bothers me. I know it bothers my players. We know what happened in the game — we didn’t stop the run, we let them score too much. You look at the dadgum Super Bowl, shoot there’s 1,100 yards, and how many points are scored in the Super Bowl? A ton. I don’t like the way that’s going.”

Nonetheless, I suppose a coach can only do so much, and since Butler and company can’t go on the field and tackle for the players, more tackling drills is likely all they can do to try and improve this area of the defense. Butler does have a theory as to why the tackling is so atrocious.

“Nobody does it in college. You look at what’s going on in college, they have 20 hours. They’re not practicing fundamentals, they’re practicing schemes.

“So when we get them, we can’t think that they know the fundamentals of playing football. We got to teach them the fundamentals of playing football. That’s our job to do that.”

With that said, coach ‘em up coach! Let’s hope the extra drills and repetitions work, because I don’t think the tackling can get any worse than it was in 2017.

The Steelers ABCs: When karma rears its ugly head

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 8:08am

This week, I want your help in determining how to feel about the infamous Vontaze Burfict hit.

Karma

On the corner of 18th Street and Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, there is makeshift t-shirt vendor who sells the kinds of apparel you might expect to find at a flea market or county fair: shirts festooned with Pittsburghese (yinz, jagoff, n’at—things that almost nobody here actually says anymore), Stairway to Seven shirts, shirts containing overused, half-baked (lol Cheatriots, so clever), and outright derogatory puns, unlicensed Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins shirseys, etc. I saw a shirt several months ago that depicted a cartoon man in a Steelers jersey taking a dump in a Ravens helmet. A roll of frightened Bengals toilet paper loomed in the background. The man, cognizant of the potential medical complications caused by a strained colon, used a Browns helmet as a Squatty Potty. All you need to operate a successful business in the Strip District is a functional screen press and a big imagination.

Every morning, I pass this vendor on my way to work—and every morning, I see this shirt:

For the three of you who stumbled upon this article and aren’t intimately familiar with what’s being depicted, this shirt shows Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster—our city’s brightest, most amiable inhabitant—standing over the corpse of Vontaze Burfict after delivering some frontier justice in the form of a blind-side block. The play in question—which occurred during a nationally-televised Week 13 bloodbath in Cincinnati—was a microcosm of the wanton brutality that’s characterized the Steelers-Bengals “rivalry” (pretty one-sided, but alas) over the past five or six years: a Steelers/Bengals player does something bad, which causes the opposing Steelers/Bengals players to speak about the bad thing and whatever unseen atrocities that managed to escape the omnipresent television cameras, which causes the opposing fanbase to accuse the Steelers/Bengals of being a bunch of lowlifes. Many fans, in fact, will take this discourse a step further and suggest that every inhabitant of the belligerent city is a lowlife, and some will even go as far as disparaging the very infrastructure of the opposing city! Pittsburgh is a disgusting s***hole—they oughta call it S***sburgh (parts of Pittsburgh do smell a lot like pee, but I think every city is like that). Well, Cincinnati is a dirty, disgusting place full of terrible people (in my experience, this is not accurate, as Cincinnati is actually a very nice, navigable city and everyone there is pleasantly Midwestern). What I’m saying is that your football allegiances shouldn’t necessarily dictate your regional identity, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, forgive the tangential thoughts—back to the shirt. Shortly after Chris Boswell booted a walk-off field goal to beat the Bengals, JuJu was asked about the hit, which rendered Burfict temporarily motionless and caused him to leave the field on a cart. JuJu’s response was wholly insignificant because (a) he was absolutely gonna be fined or suspended, anyway, so an apology would’ve done nothing, (b) anyone who’d seen the hit had already formed an opinion regarding its legality, and (c), Antonio Brown is heard screaming the word “karma” in the background, which was, in my opinion, more newsworthy than whatever Smith-Schuster may or may not have said.

Of course, what Brown meant to convey is that Burfict, maybe objectively the “dirtiest” player in the NFL, had it coming. And, you know, if you’re a believer in fate or actions have consequences or do unto thine neighbor or whatever else, you may agree with Brown. Burfict boasts a voluminous portfolio of sketchy, illegal plays, and he’s recognized throughout the league as being a particularly surly character, so I suppose if you apply karma to his situation maybe it was only a matter of time before someone tried to take his head off.

If you’re a football purist, you probably don’t take particular exception to the hit itself, but rather the fact that it was penalized. Maybe you’re fine with the hit but aghast at JuJu’s decision to stand, menacingly, over a probably-concussed Burfict. Maybe you’re like me and how you felt about the hit initially runs counter to how you feel about it today. When the hit first occurred, I was horrified because two hours earlier I’d watched my second-favorite player lose feeling in his legs, so the thought of another player getting severely injured was an upsetting prospect. In the weeks that followed, the sense of horror faded, and today I’ll actually watch replays of JuJu detonating an atomic bomb in Burfict’s face and wonder why everyone kicked up such a fuss in the first place. In fact, in an earlier iteration of this series, I wrote about the Burfict hit as being one of the “most exciting” moments from the 2017 season—almost as if it was some fond memory.

But these perfunctory justifications—Burfict had it coming; The hit woulda been legal 10 years ago; JuJu’s lack of post-play decorum accentuated the badness of the play; Burfict wasn’t severely injured, so maybe the hit wasn’t that bad in retrospect—kinda befog the fact that, hey, the hit was borderline illegal (and more probably outright illegal). Standing over Burfict certainly constituted taunting, which is definitely illegal. Twenty-five years from now, this play could very well remain the standout moment of Smith-Schuster’s career.

Hines Ward, for instance, is a two-time Super Bowl winner, a potential Hall of Famer, and one of only 14 players in NFL history with 1,000 or more receptions. Despite his accolades and “his Steelers” significantly enhancing my interest in professional football as a youngin’, if you asked me to pick a single memorable play from his career, I wouldn’t select some amazing catch or tricky gadget play, but the play in which he delivered a blind-side block to former Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers, shattering Rivers’s jaw in the process.

This is all a very loquacious way of asking: should we have immortalized the “Karma” hit like we’ve done? I’m seriously asking. On one hand, yeah, it’s football and sometimes getting blasted in the mouth is in the job description. But I’d simply ask that you put yourself in the shoes of a Bengals fan (or even a general Steelers-hater or neural Football Watcher) and re-examine how you feel about that particular hit. What if, instead of the Steelers beating the Bengals in the 2016 Wild Card game, the Bengals won that game. And what if, in celebration of winning their first playoff game since Abraham Lincoln was the president by BEATING THEIR MOST HATED COUNTERPART, folks in Cincinnati starting wearing shirts depicting Burfict delivering a cheap-shot against a defenseless Brown? Very curious to hear some thoughts on this.

Steelers rookies get acclimated to life in the NFL, and in Pittsburgh, before training camp

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 6:52am

The Pittsburgh Steelers' rookies spent some quality time in and around the city preparing themselves for their first football season as professionals.

The National Football League used to have a Rookie Symposium which was meant to help rookies get acclimated to all facets of life in the league -- everything from living in a new city by yourself, earning more money than many have ever seen in their entire lives, and how to handle the success and fame which accompanies being an NFL star.

Then video came out of Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter telling players they need to have a “fall guy” in case something goes down. Well, in case you forgot, check out the video...

Since then, the league has disbanded its symposium and left the education of rookies up to individual teams. This year, the Pittsburgh Steelers actually documented what their rookies have gone through as they prepare for their first training camp and regular season.

In the video below you can watch them take tours of the city, visit young children at the Mel Blount Youth Home, and learn some valuable life lessons which have nothing to do with football.

The Steelers have been focusing on drafting high-character players throughout the draft the past few seasons, and when you hear the players talk in the video you get the feeling these meetings and events certainly made an impact on them before they leave one final time prior to reporting to training camp at Saint Vincent College on July 25th.

Check out the video:

Our rookies have had a busy few months learning the ins and outs of being a professional football player. pic.twitter.com/vpgqLqQ3K4

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 21, 2018

Podcast: Why does everyone hate on Mike Tomlin?

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 5:41am

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

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

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

  • Why all the hate thrown at Mike Tomlin?
  • In Pittsburgh, it should still be about the run.
  • Breaking down the stats with the running game.
  • Another break for the Black-and-gold
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, goes over everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on our BlogTalkRadio page. If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below. Be sure to follow us on iTunes by searching The Standard is the Standard.

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also check out 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.

Mike Munchak on rookie tackle Chukwuma Okorafor “we drafted that guy for a reason”

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 2:39pm

The Steelers took a shot on the Western Michigan tackle they hope will pay huge dividends in 2018.

When it comes to life in the NFL, sometimes things change.

And for the Pittsburgh Steelers they experienced this first-hand this offseason when they watched Jerald Hawkins go down during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) with what turned out to be a torn quadriceps muscle, ending his season.

The plan was for Hawkins to take over Chris Hubbard’s role as the backup swing tackle, as well as the extra tackle in their “jumbo” packages.

Sometimes things change, and in this instance it meant a huge change of plans for rookie tackle Chukwuma “Chuks” Okorafor. The third round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft from Western Michigan was considered a project by most experts during the draft. After all, it was the first pick fans likely said, “Who?” when the name was announced on Day 2 of the draft.

However, don’t tell Mike Munchak the entire offensive line, and their overall plan, is going to fall apart due to the injury to Hawkins, combined with the departure of Hubbard.

“Chuks, we drafted that guy for that reason,” Munchak told Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last week. “Now the young guy gets a chance kind of like Al (Villanueva) a few years ago. And last year, Chris Hubbard got the opportunity with Marcus (Gilbert) out. We’ve got a lot of time to work with him. Right now, that’s our guy going forward.”

The team has faith in Okorafor, as they should, but it also should be pointed out Okorafor has been turning heads in his brief stint at the professional level. Leading up to the draft, the book on Okorafor was not his size, length, strength or ability, but his overall desire.

This from his NFL Draft Profile:

Okorafor’s size and potential will likely get him drafted earlier than where the tape says he should go. While he has plus physical traits, inconsistencies with balance and instincts could be a challenge to correct. He has the feet to handle speed rushers, but multi-move rushers could eat his lunch early on. Okorafor will need to play with much better consistency and toughness on the next level to become an average NFL starter.

Not a glowing endorsement for the rookie, but Okorafor isn’t worried about what others are saying. He can only control what he does every day when he shows up to work, and he realizes the team’s plan for him moving forward as the primary backup tackle.

“It kinda seems like it is going that way,” Okorafor said during last week’s minicamp. “My job is just to learn everything I can and then see what happens in the fall.”

For those who think the swing tackle spot on the team is nothing more than a backup role, think again. Munchak views the position as extremely valuable to the team, and the offense.

“It gets you in the game. You aren’t just standing on the sideline the whole game,” Munchak said. “Hubbard used to get 10 plays a game. It really helped their confidence when they had to play for real.”

But how did Okorafor do this offseason?

“He’s doing well. It’s a lot,” Munchak said. “It’s very competitive out here. We ask our tackles to do a lot of things. He’s done a nice job. He’s got a good demeanor for the game. He doesn’t get too emotional when things don’t go well.

“But so far, so good. The assignments are coming well to him. He’s getting used to communicating with the other guys.”

Sometimes plans change, and they certainly did for the Steelers, but as Munchak said — there is a reason they drafted Okorafor. Time for him to prove his worth.

Keion Adams is “healthy, confident and excited” for next opportunity with Steelers

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 12:31pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t draft an outside linebacker this offseason, and this speaks volumes of what the team thinks of second year linebacker Keion Adams.

Most fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers were left with questions at the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Draft, and one of those questions was ‘What is going on at the Outside Linebacker position?’

With the Steelers not signing a free agent outside linebacker, not drafting one or even re-signing a player like Arthur Moats, it left the team extremely thin at the position. What the lack of movement also did was speak volumes about second year player Keion Adams.

And don’t think Adams didn’t notice the team didn’t go out of their way to add talent to the position.

“I noticed that,” Adams told Mike London of the Salisbury Post. “But I wasn’t really worried about who we might draft.

“All I’ve been worried about is taking care of my body and being in the best shape I can possibly be in.”

For the second year, seventh round draft pick out of Western Michigan, Adams finally feels healthy and able to make an impact with the team who took a flier on him in the 2017 NFL Draft.

“My shoulder has felt fine since early May, a couple of weeks before we started OTAs (Organized Team Activities),” Adams said. “I’m 100 percent as far as the shoulder. And I’ve been able to tell a difference on the field this year as far as my experience. Things have slowed down some. I’ve been able to react more quickly than last year, without thinking, and that’s critical in this league.”

When Adams was placed on Injured Reserve last year, he didn’t view it as a year wasted, but an opportunity to get better both on, and off, the field.

“I got hurt in training camp with the Steelers last year, but it wasn’t a year that I wasted,” Adams said. “I had opportunities to finish up the classes I needed to get my degree. I knew I needed to get it done right now, that the longer I waited, the harder it was going to be to go back to school, and so I did it. I’m proud of the degree. I grew at Western Michigan in a lot of ways.”

“Being injured, being on the sidelines, was a new experience,” Adams said. “In high school and college, I only missed like two games in an eight-year span, so this was all new. I got good advice from Sean Davis (a Steelers safety who had come back from a shoulder injury). He said to treat it like a redshirt year, and that’s what I did. I tried to do everything with the team. I was at practices and I attended position meetings. I studied tendencies and I studied formations. I learned a lot of details, a lot of small things. My coaches and my teammates kept my spirits up. There was never a dull moment and I laughed a lot with our linebackers. There was never a day when I didn’t feel like I was part of the team.”

If you recall, last year Adams was turning heads throughout the offseason workouts, but it was the Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe High School where Adams suffered what turned out to be a season-ending injury to his shoulder.

He details just what happened on the play in which he was injured:

“We just got tangled up, and I went forward but my shoulder sort of stayed behind,” Adams described going against a tight end in a one-on-one drill. “I knew it didn’t feel right, but I’d never really been seriously injured before, so I didn’t expect it to be as bad it was. I finished the drill, but I was in pain.”

Adams is ready to get back to work, and is awaiting training camp to show the Steelers made the right decision to keep him in the fold last season.

“I’m healthy, I’m confident, I’m excited.,” Adams said. “When training camp comes, I’ll hit the ground running.”

It would be a huge boost to the Steelers, the defense and the outside linebacker position if Adams can be quality depth behind T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo. Adams is a dynamic player, and is ready to be unleashed when the team reports to training camp on July 25th at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

For coaches, Minicamp is much more than “Football in Shorts”

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 10:12am

While many fans dismiss offseason workouts, coaches certainly don’t.

It’s June, which means NFL teams are finishing up their Mandatory Minicamps. To fans, this means very little. Newspapers and sites like BTSC provide images of guys running sprints, lobbing passes and working their technique on bags and blocking sleds. We get a few sound bites about contract negotiations and the progress of draft picks. And occasionally (dreadfully), a report surfaces about a player who has blown out his knee. It’s ‘Football in Shorts’ in the infancy of summer.

All in all, things seem pretty uneventful, eh?

But to borrow from my four underachieving semesters of college French, au contraire.

For players, Minicamp might seem like little more than an opportunity to look good weaving in and out of cones or wearing a baseball cap backwards. But for coaches, it’s an essential period. Team building and player evaluation rank near the top of their priority lists during this time. The real value of Minicamp, though, is that it gives coaches an opportunity to do “Install.”

What is “Install,” exactly? And how do Mike Tomlin and Company do it in the Steelers’ pre-training-camp sessions?

Let’s take a look.

INSTALL. OR, “HOW DO I CONSTRUCT A MASSIVE PLAY CHART?”

Look at the photo of Mike McCarthy below. Who composed that play chart? Leo Tolstoy?That thing has binder rings, for God’s sake. Binder rings! Back in the days before wireless communication, Bill Parcells used to have a guy who followed him around on game day making sure no one tripped over the cord to his headset. McCarthy needs a guy to make sure no one gets knocked over by his play chart.

Why is McCarthy’s play chart so big? He can’t possibly call all of those plays in a single game. Does he need them all? Considering he has about eight seconds to find the call he wants and communicate it to the quarterback between plays, how does he know where everything is on the chart? How did his chart get this way? To answer these questions, let’s focus on what happens in June.

The images the public sees of guys weaving through cones is one phase of Minicamp. But the real work often takes place in a classroom, where coaches begin their Install. Install is exactly what it sounds like: the introduction of the core schemes and packages a team intends to employ throughout the season.

There are many ways to do an install, but most coaches prefer some version of the “whole-part-whole” philosophy. First, a concept is introduced to the entire team in the film room (whole). Second, the team breaks up into individual groups, QBs, offensive line, receivers, etc, to deconstruct that concept into its particulars (part). Finally, the concept is executed on the field in an 11-on-11 session (whole).

Remembering that Minicamp is still “Football in Shorts,” the emphasis in these team sessions is on execution, not physicality.

Let’s take a look at a specific concept and work through how it might be installed. One of my favorite all-time Steelers plays is the one-back counter. Under Ken Whisenhunt, this was called “34 Pike” and it’s remembered by most fans as the play Willie Parker took 75-yards to the house to open the second half against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Todd Haley used a lot of one-back counter during his time as offensive coordinator, and his successor, Randy Fichtner, ran it when he was the offensive coordinator (OC) at Memphis. I would expect the concept to remain an integral part of Pittsburgh’s offense.

If the Steelers want to install “34 Pike,” or whatever they’re calling the play now (more on that in a bit), they will likely start with the entire offense together in a classroom. They will diagram it on a big board, like this:

Fichtner, as the OC, will likely talk the entire room through the play. He will go through the offensive line “rules” (who blocks who), the running back’s aiming point, the stalk block responsibilities of the receivers and the quarterback’s need to fake in order to set up play-action (he may give a veteran QB like Ben Roethlisberger some options on when to check out of this play as well, or on what checks to consider).

Then, in order to accommodate various learning styles, he will show video of the Steelers running the play and talk it through some more. Later that day, the Steelers might drill the play in small groups on the practice field. The offensive line, for example, will go through the various ways to block counter-gap based on defensive fronts and alignments.

Here’s how we block a 3-4. Here’s what changes against a 4-3. Here’s how we handle a backer trying to run through the A-gap. Here’s how we block a low safety creating an 8-man box.

Getting even more particular, the guards, who are responsible for kicking out the edge defender, might rep how to block an edge who closes hard (spills) vs. one who holds the edge or gets upfield (cages). The H-backs might work on the footwork necessary to wrap into the hole to block the play-side linebacker. The running backs might work on cuts based on the techniques employed by the edge defenders and linebackers, when they should run inside, when it’s okay to bounce it to the edge. Meanwhile, the wide receivers coach might put his guys through a series of stalk-block drills while emphasizing the importance of covering up safeties to create explosive runs.

Finally, in the 11-on-11 team period, the Steelers will put it all together and run the concept as a unit against a “live” defense (I put “live” in quotes because, again, nothing is truly live in Minicamp). Installation in this fashion allows for the team to learn the concept as a whole, to practice the individual components of the play that will lead to its success, and then to execute it together. This is the first step towards the end goal of Willie Parker taking 34 Pike to the house in the Super Bowl.

BUILDING A “SYSTEM”

Think back to Mike McCarthy’s Chinese-restaurant-menu of a play sheet. If Minicamp is the beginning of building that monster, how do teams prioritize what to install? As a general rule, installation is based on the system a team wants to run.

A system, in football terms, is a package of plays that work together and complement one another. The Wing-T, for example, is a classic offensive system. It begins with a series of three plays, often called the “Buck” series. These plays - guard trap, sweep and waggle (play-action pass) - are run from the same formation and involve the same backfield action. High school defenses sometimes prepare for the Wing-T by having the scout team offense run it without a football, the reason being that Wing-T plays look so similar and involve so much deception that — if defenders look into the backfield to diagnose the play — they will be lost. Instead, they must read their keys (usually, the movement of the offensive linemen) to find the football.

The Buck series is effective because it has a main play (the trap) and two “constraint” plays (the sweep and play-action pass). Guard trap is an inside run to the fullback that forces linebackers to fill aggressively. Once they do so, sweep is a nice companion since the backfield action looks just like guard trap but the ball is actually given to the halfback, who attacks the edge. Sweep “constrains” the backers by reducing their ability to be overly-aggressive against the trap. Waggle works similarly as a bootleg pass off of the sweep. If the backside end starts chasing the sweep, the QB fakes to the halfback and attacks the edge the DE has vacated, where he has a run/pass option. The backside end is thus constrained by being unable to chase the sweep. Each play in the Buck series, then, looks like the one installed before it and serves the specific purpose of combating defensive aggressiveness. The rest of the Wing-T is constructed similarly. This is an offensive system.

No one runs the Wing-T at the pro level, of course. It’s built for smaller, quicker linemen and it doesn’t take advantage of speed in space (Guard Trap, however, was a favorite of Chuck Noll, who had been an undersized Wing-T guard himself. Noll included trap as a staple of the Steelers two-back run game with Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier in the 70s). Still, NFL coordinators (good ones, anyway) install their offenses as systems rather than as a collection of plays. The latter philosophy is what I like to call the “Madden Approach,” whereby coordinators put in plays simply because they like them regardless of how those plays fit into the broader scheme of a team’s offense. It’s a video game mentality that disregards personnel, scouting tendencies, the “expense” of a play (how much practice time do we need to get good at this vs how often will we actually use it?), etc. Most coaches might have a play or two they install that doesn’t necessarily fit with their system which they intend to use for a specific purpose, like the Eagles did with their “Philly Special” two-point conversion in the Super Bowl. Generally speaking, though, if you get into a particular formation or use a certain personnel group just to run one or two plays, pro defenses will sniff it out like bad fish.

How, then, are pro systems installed? Most NFL run games are predicated on the Inside Zone play (for the sake of brevity, I’ll simply say that flexibility and exploiting the nature of NFL defenses make Inside Zone extremely useful). Therefore, Inside Zone will likely go in first. From there, teams often install Outside Zone, a play that looks like Inside Zone but attacks the edge of a defense, and Counter, which also looks like Inside Zone but works back to the opposite side of the formation. The Steelers run all three. These run plays are complimentary because the first step of the offensive linemen and the running back look predominantly the same on each, and the latter two - Outside Zone and Counter - constrain defenses that overplay Inside Zone. Thus, when packaged together, they constitute a systematic approach to running the football.

What goes in next? Since Mini-Camp is not “live,” it is a great time to work the passing game. Undoubtedly, play-action passes off of the Inside Zone, Outside Zone and Counter runs will be added. The most important routes to rep this time of year, though, are timing routes. Timing routes are ones that require the quarterback to throw the football once he reaches a certain point in his drop. The Hitch. The Speed Out. The Slant. On routes like these, the QB will take a three or five step drop, anchor his back foot and release the ball. Often, the receiver is not yet out of his break when the ball is released. That’s what makes these throws tricky. They are not necessarily throws to a man but throws to an area (Fade routes should be included here as well). The reason the ball comes out before a receiver has made his break is because they are generally thrown against zone coverage. It is essential, then, that the QB release the speed out, for example, on his third step before the flat defender has a chance to undercut the route. Timing throws, as you might imagine, require an awful lot of repetition. In order for the football and the receiver to arrive at precisely the same spot at the exact same time, both receiver and QB must have their timing down to a science. This doesn’t happen overnight (especially with a new receiver like James Washington in the mix), so Mini-Camp is a great time to work things out.

The Steelers have likely installed their core run game and worked on their timing routes (and accompanying pass protections) by now. Next, Randy Fichtner may want to put in any new passing concepts he intends to incorporate into the offense. Having worked with Roethlisberger as the QB coach for several years, Fichtner knows his veteran QB’s strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, he also knows his preferences. Here is where the new OC can both put his stamp on the offense and accommodate his franchise QB. What did Roethlisberger want to do that Todd Haley would not allow him to? What new concepts? In a similar vein, what did Randy Fichtner want to do that Haley may have balked at? Will he scrap the myriad perimeter screens, a Haley staple, which can be expensive in terms of practice time because of their reliance on scheme recognition and perimeter blocking? With Martavis Bryant gone and James Washington likely to line up in his spot on the outside, will Fichtner spend Mini-Camp time on routes designed to build chemistry between Washington and Big Ben? Does Ben have a route concept he loves that Haley failed to prioritize? Now is the time for Fichtner to make these types of philosophical changes.

What about terminology? Is Fichtner changing the names of the play calls, or for the sake of cohesion will he keep Haley’s terminology in place? “34 Pike” is likely long gone as the play call for Counter. What is Fichtner calling it? Fichtner has expressed a fondness for “Code” plays, which are one-word calls no-huddle teams use to play at a fast tempo. A Code play might include an inside run, a quick passing concept to one side of the field and a one-on-one route to the opposite side. The QB will alert the team of the call by simply yelling out its name. “Georgia! Georgia!” Or “Bulldogs! Bulldogs!” The team will line up quickly, knowing that “Georgia” puts them in a specific formation with a specific play-package on a specific snap-count. The QB will then choose the run, the quick concept or the one-on-one route based on how the defense lines up. If Fichtner is going to use Code plays, or if he is going to change the terminology of the offense, he will drill the offense on those things now.

I’m focusing on offense here, but defenses do the same thing. Base defenses go in first, meaning the fronts and coverages that the Steelers anticipate lining up in on 1st and 10. Then, alternative fronts are added. Then blitz packages. Sub packages. Packages for special situations. The manner in which these are installed varies from staff to staff, but the idea is the same: begin with what you use and value most, and add the wrinkles from there.

OTHER ELEMENTS OF “INSTALL”

Plays aren’t the only element of an Install. An offense must install formations and personnel groups as well. Fichtner must prioritize his personnel packages based on probable usage and install them accordingly. The Steelers are a base 11 personnel team, which means they feature 1 RB, 1 TE and 3 WRs. A likely starting point of Mini-Camp install, then, will be 11 personnel formations. These include 2 x 2 sets, 3 x 1 sets and any motions that allow them to move the strength from one side of the field to another. Where Fichtner will turn from here is anyone’s guess. He has so many tools at his disposal that his options are tremendous. 10 personnel groups with four WRs? 12 personnel with two tight ends? What about a 21 package with the intriguing Jaylen Samuels as a hybrid RB/H-back/WR? How Fichtner prioritizes his groupings in Install will say a lot about his vision for the Steeler offense.

Then there is the question of tempo. Roethlisberger has made no bones about his preference for the no-huddle, and Fichtner was an up-tempo pioneer in his Memphis days. No-huddle isn’t just something you go to in the middle of a game to change things up, though. If you want to play a lot of no-huddle, you have to practice for it. The QB has to drill linemen into getting set quickly. The wide receivers have to hustle back from their routes and downfield blocks and get lined up on the ball. Since the QB is not calling the play in the huddle, signals must be communicated from the sideline to each position group. When a play is over, the player with the ball needs to be trained to hand it to an official so it can be set quickly rather than just flipping it onto the ground like players so often do. Coaches, too, must train themselves to trim their play calls. To play fast, substitutions must be minimized, shifts and motions must be eliminated and the cadence must be shortened. Dummy cadences must be added, too, so that the defense doesn’t figure out the snap count and start teeing off. An offense becomes simpler in the no-huddle, but it forces simplicity from the defense, too. The OC has to know exactly how to take advantage of that. Then there’s the conditioning factor. No-huddle requires an offense to be in great shape (I found it interesting that Mike Tomlin recently called for the Steelers to report to training camp in the best shape of their careers. Coincidence?). Mini-Camp should be used to train the offense properly if in fact we are going more up-tempo.

BACK TO THAT CALL SHEET...

So, to conclude, let’s go back to Mike McCarthy. How do we get from Minicamp, with its foundational plays, groupings and formations, to the call sheet version of War and Peace? The NFL season is a long one and NFL coaches are maniacal in their detail and preparation. They install the core in June and build deliberately from there. They add wrinkles to the core. They add wrinkles to their wrinkles. They put in red herrings to show one week in order to deceive an opponent three weeks down the road. They add or subtract based on player performance, or the effectiveness of certain groupings. Randy Fichtner might see the Steelers as a big 10 personnel team in June, but by November our performance might indicate we are better in 12p. All of these considerations go into a game plan, and then the play sheet gets constructed. Plays are listed on the sheet by grouping and formation. By down and distance. “Home Run” plays. Plays to get the ball to certain players (ex - Lev Bell isolated against a LB in coverage). Red zone plays. Plays to run when backed up in your own end. Plays to run from the hash. Plays for the 2:00 drill. Plays to run out the clock. Gadget plays. Plays against certain fronts. Cover-1 beaters. Cover-2 beaters. Cover 3, 4, 6. What to run vs Nickel or Dime. Two-point plays. And let’s not forget the “script,” the opening 10 to 15 (Bill Walsh said he scripted the first 30) plays of a game that an OC predetermines in order to see how the defense will align to certain formations or adjust to particular shifts and motions. All of these things go on the play chart in an effort to keep coordinators organized and efficient. The building blocks for all of it begin in Minicamp.

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The Steelers 2018 season will be, for good or for bad, a journey for us all. The first steps are being taken as we speak, in film and meeting rooms, in small group sessions, in the periods we jokingly call “Football in Shorts.” Those first few steps can set the tone for the rest of the journey, however. Here’s hoping the Steelers are off on the right foot.

Steelers’ good fortune of missing top tier QBs could continue with possible Jameis Winston suspension

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 8:11am

In 2017, the Steelers’ defense was extremely fortunate in avoiding big-name quarterbacks, and it looks like this trend might continue in 2018.

Last year the Pittsburgh Steelers were a ridiculously lucky defense. When you look back on the schedule, you see just how fortunate they were in many ways:

Week 2 - vs. Vikings

No Sam Bradford, instead faced Case Keenum well before he found his footing with Minnesota.

Week 10 - @ Colts

No Andrew Luck, instead played Jacoby Brissett at Lucas Oil Field.

Week 12 - vs. Packers

No Aaron Rodgers, instead the defense was barely able to make enough plays to beat Brett Hundley.

Week 16 - @ Texans

Deshaun Watson was injured, and the Steelers beat up on whatever warm body Houston was throwing onto the field that week.

On top of all those, the Steelers were fortunate enough to play the Cleveland Browns twice during their winless season.

So, yeah, the team had some pretty good fortune when it came to avoiding big-name quarterbacks — and this trend might just continue in 2018.

The first three games of 2018 are as follows:

Week 1 - @ Cleveland
Week 2 - vs. Kansas City
Week 3 - @ Tampa Bay

It’s in the third game against the Buccaneers and Jameis Winston where the Steelers may have gotten another stroke of luck. According to Trevor Sikkema of the Pewter Report, Winston’s camp is preparing itself for a 3-game suspension to start the 2018 season, meaning he wouldn’t be permitted to be with the team for that Week-3 matchup.

This per Sikkema’s article:

But, amidst the positive vibes there has always been a dark cloud in the background, and that is the ongoing investigation by the NFL of Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston’s alleged involvement in a female Uber driver’s allegation that Winston groped her during a stop at the drive-through of a Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, March 13, 2016.

Since November when the news broke, things have been pretty silent and ambiguous.

Until now.

On Wednesday, on ESPN Radio 97.9 in Tallahassee, long-time host Jeff Cameron said that Winston’s camp is, in fact, preparing for a suspension.

“This is what I do know: the Winston camp is prepared for the NFL to levy a suspension of some kind,” Cameron said. “The thought from the Winston camp is that would be a maximum of three games. I do not know at this time whether or not they plan to appeal, and I do not know that three games is an accurate number. I’ve been told that would seem to be the maximum number of games that the suspension could be. It’s also likely that it’s less than that and it’s one game.”

There’s a strong chance Winston doesn’t get three games, or perhaps is given a 3-game suspension and then has it reduced after his probable appeal. In either case, it would mean the Steelers would have to deal with Winston in Week 3, compared to the alternative.

Maybe the Steelers will get lucky again, thanks to Winston’s misfortune, but I have a feeling the Steelers’ defense isn’t looking for any handouts. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers heading into the 2018 regular season.

Throwback Thursday: The Super Bowl rivalry continues on MNF in Big D

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 7:06am

BTSC remembers the 1982 season opener as old/new Steelers battle an old rival in prime time.

It’s time once again to hop into the only time machine they ever would entertain to budget at BTSC...my brain’s Delorean. Today, our trip into Steelers yesteryear takes us back to the day when a crash of a Spantax charter-flight from Madrid to New York claimed 50 people and injured 110 more, Chicago had the country’s top single with “Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry”, movie-goers were falling for Richard Gere and Debra Winger (currently excellent as Maggie in The Ranch) in An Officer and a Gentleman, and the football world was bracing for a long work stoppage that was two weeks away.

But while football was still happening for the time being, there was hope once again in the Steel City that the glory years of the 1970s could return after two playoff-free seasons. The Steelers only had 27 players returning from their Super Bowl 14 champion team, but younger players like David Little, Frank Pollard, Walter Abercrombie, Rick Woods, Calvin Sweeney and Mike Merriweather — combined with legendary holdovers Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, John Stallworth, Mike Webster, Jack Lambert, Donnie Shell, Mel Blount and Jack Ham — excited fans in Pittsburgh. Chuck Noll still held the reins, but big changes were made as the defense switched for the first time to a 3-4 alignment and the offense was adapting to Bradshaw’s age with more of a West Coast approach.

Their opponent was a familiar Super Bowl rival and a team that went to the previous two NFC Title Games. Tom Landry was looking to his so-called “America’s Team” to get back to the big game. Going in, the Cowboys had won 18 straight games at Texas Stadium. However, the Steelers had won the last six matchups between the two. One streak among the two legendary clubs was about to end that night on Monday Night Football.

Both of Bradshaw’s backups (Cliff Stoudt and Mark Malone) were hurt and unavailable. The Steelers had the inexperienced Jeff Quinn from Nebraska on the roster, but they seemed intent on not playing him and were pretty much working without a net. Things have really changed in that regard over the years.

Rafeal Septién boomed the opening kickoff, but rookie Fred Bohannon deemed it returnable and he was right when he found a seam and crossed midfield. At that point, the rookie who spurned the CFL because of homesickness and joined the Steelers, inexplicably coughed-up the ball to Marty Hunter of the Cowboys. The rookie from West Virginia’s Salem College put the home team in good position to start the game at their own 40.

Cowboys’ quarterback Danny White engineered an efficient drive via passes to Drew Pearson and the running combo of Tony Dorsett/Ron Springs. But fortune turned back Pittsburgh’s way when Center Tom Rafferty stepped on White’s foot causing him to bobble the handoff which never safely got into Dorsett’s hands. David Little, subbing for the injured Jack Lambert, recovered to thwart the Cowboys’ threat.

A lot had been said about the Steelers going more towards the San Francisco/West Coast offense using the short passing game, and Bradshaw did just that. But TB12 also found John Stallworth deep for a long gain. A mere two plays later, Terry and No. 82 connected again on a 6-yard scoring pass, as the visitors put up the first points in the game. Alas, it would remain only 6-0, as rookie Rick Woods mishandled Mike Webster’s snap for the point-after. With that, Gary Anderson never got a chance to convert his very first extra-point attempt.

Danny White took over at his own 34 and got tripped again by another one of his linemen. But this time, he got up and threw a first down to Doug Cosbie. After runs by Dorsett and a catch-and-run by Springs, the Cowboys were in a goal-to-go situation. The Steelers looked to have held when Billie Joe Dupree (reminiscent of Jackie Harris in SB XIII) dropped the ball as he was standing all alone in the end zone, but a Jon Goodman (no, he wasn’t the guy from Roseanne) penalty for roughing gave the drive new life. This time, White completed a third down pass for the TD to Drew Pearson for a 7-6 lead, near the end of the first quarter.

The lack of defense continued in the second quarter. Bradshaw hooked up with No. 86, their third WR Jim Smith, for a seven-yard score. But then Cosbie continued his productive night with a scoring catch from the Steelers 12.

After Bennie Cunningham dropped a pass while surrounded by the ghost of nobody on the next series, the Steelers brought in a bare-footed punter by the name of John Goodson. With 6:57 left in the half, it was the game’s first punt. The ensuing Cowboy drive ended with a Septién miss.

Pittsburgh dodged a major bullet on the next series when a botched flea-flicker between Franco and TB12 should have been recovered by Ed “Too Tall” Jones inside the Steeler 25. But Jones opted to try to pick up the ball with an eye towards scoring. He mishandled it, though, and Steve Courson recovered for the Steelers, averting sure disaster.

The Steelers would punt again and the Cowboys were marching towards field goal range, when Donnie Shell (like he was shot out of a cannon) pummeled White on the safety blitz and Thom Beasley fell on the ball. The Steelers were in business and looking to score now, but Gary Anderson made fans wonder why the Steelers cut David Trout when his 35-yarder was blocked. The score at the half was Dallas 14 and Pittsburgh 13.

In the third quarter, the Steelers forced Dallas’ first punt of the game. Danny White, who doubled as Landry’s punter, had his punt blocked by a diving Keith Willis. It got a little weird here, as Dallas recovered for a first down. But since the ball was recovered past the line-of-scrimmage instead of behind, the Steelers were awarded possession and set up inside the 20. A few plays later, Frank Pollard rumbled in for a one-yard score. With the Anderson conversion, the Steelers took a 20-14 lead. But there were some uneasy moments, as John Stallworth was injured on a hit late by Dennis Thurman on the play before the Pollard touchdown.

The Cowboys looked to answer, but White was intercepted by Rick Woods, the rookie from Boise State. With the ball at the Dallas 35, the Steelers pounded with Pollard and Franco. But then on third down, Bradshaw took to the air and located Jim Smith again for a 15-yard score. All of a sudden, the Steelers led 27-13.

White, who was spectacular in the first half, continued to implode in the second. The record-company owner inadvertently collaborated with Jack Ham at the Dallas 32 for Ham’s 32nd career pick. Bradshaw then targeted Stallworth — back in the game after the injury — but the drive stalled. Anderson then came on and drilled the first FG of his career with a 26-yarder. At 30-14, the scoring for the third quarter was complete.

There was plenty of scoreboard movement in the fourth quarter. After a Loren Toews sack, Anderson beautifully converted again from 43, but Dallas wouldn’t go away. White perfectly threw deep to a tightly-covered Tony Hill by Shell for a 45-yard score to cut the margin to 12 points at 33-21. After Bradshaw and the Men of Steel failed to convert, Goodson punted again. Another Cosbie catch and a trick-play involving Pearson passing to Hill got the ball deep inside Steeler territory. Then Dupree held on to the pigskin this time, snagging a White pass in the back of the end zone. All of a sudden, the Steelers’ lead was merely five at 33-28.

With less than six minutes remaining, Bradshaw masterfully drained the clock with crisp passes and called on his RBs for second-draining runs. A highlight was a 20-yard pass to Greg Hawthorne, the converted RB. Hawthorne was in because Lynn Swann’s hamstring had rendered him out in pre-game.

With less than a minute left, the drive stalled at the 23. Needing one and a half yards, the MNF crew wondered aloud whether or not Noll would trust a rookie kicker in the situation. The offense stayed on the field during the time out and it looked like they were going for it — but doing that and failing would have given Dallas a chance to win — just like missing the kick would have. At the very end of the timeout, Noll sent out the rookie from Syracuse. Anderson sent the kick 40 yards, high and straight up the middle to seal the victory. The Steelers, as they would do so many times from that game until 1995, jubilantly celebrated a late-game clutch boot by No. 1 from South Africa.

Beating the Cowboys back then was like beating a division rival. This game was pretty much the final chapter between most of the main characters from that amazing 1970’s rivalry. Listening to the broadcast with Frank Gifford, Don Meredith and the incomparable Howard Cosell made the game even more fun to watch.

The season was interrupted because of the strike that followed Week 2 and both teams made the 16-team tournament. The Cowboys would fall in the NFC Championship Game, while the Steelers would fall to San Diego in the first round. It’s hard not to wonder what might have been, had the labor strife not reduced the season to a mere nine games. Some teams might have suffered season-damning injuries, and the whole season could have shifted had there been seven more contests. These two franchises could possibly have met in Pasadena for a third Super Bowl, but history gave us what we got and we’ll never know. But on this night, Bradshaw, Stallworth, Harris and Ham gave Steelers Nation another Super Bowl-caliber performance.

As for the 10-year-old me, I was all jacked-up with cake and pop from my sister’s 14th birthday celebration. My parents let me stay up for the first half of the game and made me go to bed at halftime. My dad, already down on the new kicker, went to his room to watch the rest of the game. That night marked the first time I sneaked out of bed against orders. The next morning, I was talking to my dad before the bus came and marveled about how great the Steelers new kicker was with three field goals in the second half. My dad smiled and asked, “And just how do you know?”. In a complete panic, I started to babble some nonsense that was getting me nowhere. My dad just interrupted and said, “I wasn’t born yesterday. Just don’t tell your mom”.

Twelve years later, I was working radio at Power 92 in Johnstown, PA. I walked in and my radio partner that went by “Just Jim” couldn’t wait to tell me that a Steeler would be on our morning show. When I learned it was Gary Anderson, I went nuts. I relayed this exact story to Gary, who was an awesome guest and an even nicer person. But the greatest kicker in Pittsburgh Steeler history told me I was making him feel old and sighed when I concluded my anecdote with, “Then I got on the bus to go to sixth grade.”

Podcast: The upcoming QB conundrum in Pittsburgh

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 5:55am

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

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

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

  • Detailing what’s happening with Le’Veon Bell
  • The upcoming QB conundrum in Pittsburgh
  • Ben Roethlisberger’s contract status
  • How Rod Woodson was on the mark with his criticism of the team
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, goes over everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on our BlogTalkRadio page. If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below. Be sure to follow us on iTunes by searching The Standard is the Standard.

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also check out 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.

Rod Woodson spot on with his comments regarding the lack of playmakers on the Steelers’ defense

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 2:49pm

One of the best cornerbacks to ever wear the black-and-gold had some spot-on takes regarding the Steelers’ current crop of defenders.

Rod Woodson is a legend. Sure, he might be a legend for several teams, but when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, very few did it better than Woodson. This simple fact gives him more than enough reason to criticize the team, and he did just that during a segment on the NFL Network.

When asked about the drama surrounding Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, the Pro Football Hall of Famer didn’t want to talk about the offense. After all, the Steelers’ offense is riddled with playmakers. Instead, he spoke about the defense, and its lack of playmakers.

Check out the short video by clicking HERE.

“I can’t remember the last time that they had a playmaker on the defensive side,” Woodson said on the NFL Network. “(Ryan) Shazier was going to be that guy, and unfortunately, he got hurt, but I’m just trying to figure out who’s it going to be. The last time I’ve seen a playmaker on that side, Troy Polamalu was suited up for the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Steelers fans don’t like to hear their team criticized publicly, especially by former players, but Woodson’s analysis of the defense is spot-on.

Shazier was supposed to be that playmaker, but the great Steelers defenses of old had more than only one playmaker. If you go back to Woodson’s days in Pittsburgh, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown and even Carnell Lake all helped make the defense complete, and dangerous.

The teams in the early 2000s also were riddled with playmakers. Joey Porter, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and even Brett Keisel were all considered players who could make a difference on any given play.

Now?

Considering Shazier is out for the 2018 season, who would be considered the current defense’s playmakers?

Cameron Heyward would be my first guess, but after that nothing is certain. T.J. Watt could develop into a playmaker, Bud Dupree might live up to his first round billing, Stephon Tuitt — when healthy — could fall into this category, but fans mostly are left with question marks.

If you’re looking to point the finger of blame at someone, you can point it directly at the scouting department, coaches and general manager. For as great as they are at drafting offensive talent, they certainly have struggled recently on the defensive side of the ball. But this might all change if the aforementioned players do pan out as playmakers, and not just the kind of players you’ll scarcely remember several years from now.

Will it happen? Will the Steelers be able to show Rod Woodson they’ve got more playmakers than only the injured Shazier? Only time will tell, but answering this question could be the difference between a Super Bowl run, and another disappointing end to a promising season.

Joshua Frazier prepared to be more than just quality depth along the defensive line

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 12:11pm

The seventh round pick is used to being a backup, but is ready to play a role with the Steelers in the NFL.

Fifteen.

That is the number of tackles Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Joshua Frazier tallied while being a reserve defensive tackle at Alabama.

Frazier realizes how minimal his role was at Alabama, but actually believes his patience with getting on the field is actually something which can help him as he begins his NFL career with the black-and-gold.

“I’ve been through that situation before, where you don’t get as many reps,” Frazier told James Crabtree-Hannigan of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I played behind [former Alabama defensive lineman Daron Payne], but when I was out there I just took advantage of my opportunity and made the best of the plays that I got.”

It is good Frazier is used to playing in a reserve role, especially considering who he will be playing behind in Pittsburgh in Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. But at the same time it doesn’t mean Frazier will be a player who should be considered an afterthought entering training camp.

Frazier is not just a big-bodied player who can play along the defensive line, but someone Karl Dunbar, the newly hired defensive line coach, knows well considering he coached Frazier in college.

Dunbar knows what Frazier brings to the team.

“Taking him late in the draft was something that we needed,” Dunbar said. “[Coach Mike Tomlin] wanted a big-bodied guy, and he’s working out.”

While the competition at Alabama is fierce, Frazier admits the NFL is a different level, but his objective on a daily basis remains the same. Just keep grinding. “All I have to do is just go out there and do my job every day and go out and grind,” Frazier said. “He’s already told me that I just gotta keep doing my thing.”

Frazier’s competition to make the team’s 53-man roster will be an interesting camp battle to watch. He will be going against players like Tyson Alualu, Daniel McCullers and L.T. Walton for a spot along the defensive front. Can he beat out someone like McCullers to fill out the depth chart along the line? Some might consider this an easy task, but Frazier will have to prove his lack of production in college was more about where he chose to attend school, and less about his potential.

Le’Veon Bell feels his approach to the offseason will help, not hurt, his health and longevity

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 10:08am

Barring a new deal, Bell is going to sit out the preseason again, and he feels this brings with it more positives than negatives.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to put the Exclusive Rights Franchise Tag on Le’Veon Bell for the second straight season, they knew there was no way Bell would show up to anything in the offseason, or preseason, without a long-term contract.

This is exactly what he did last season while on the franchise tag, and many wondered if his absence impacted his overall ability to help the offense early in the season. Statistics aside, Bell feels his absence during Organized Team Activities (OTAs), mandatory minicamp, training camp and the preseason has a huge benefit to him, and his health.

From his viewpoint, it allows him to preserve his body, putting less stress on those joints which help him make money and ultimately a new contract. In a recent interview Bell gave to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, he talked about his offseason workouts, and how they don’t revolve around the typical football training.

Bell has been participating in a variety of workouts, including boxing to “stay off my joints in the offseason as much as possible.”

Much has been made about his durability, especially with the amount of times he touches the football both in the running and passing games, but Bell doesn’t compare those touches to the usual running back’s touches.

Why? Because he rarely gets hit hard by defenders.

“I don’t really compare myself to a lot of other running backs — that’s no offense to any other running back, but just the fact that I can see and avoid hits,” Bell said. “It’s not like when I get the ball 30 times or 35 times and I’m really taking 30 car crashes. Either I’m delivering the blow or I’m getting to the ground. I’m sore after games, but it’s not like I’m aching. I don’t have to miss practices. I can go full speed and be good.”

This is all well and good, but the flip side to this narrative is the fact he won’t be with his teammates during those crucial workouts preparing for the regular season. Last year, despite what Bell and Mike Tomlin said, the rust was evident for the first quarter of the season likely due to his absence throughout the preseason.

Check out his statistics in those first four games of 2017:

Week 1 vs. Cleveland — 10 rushes, 32 yards / 3 receptions, 15 yards
Week 2 vs. Minnesota — 27 rushes, 87 yards / 4 receptions, 4 yards
Week 3 vs. Chicago — 15 rushes, 61 yards, 1 TD / 6 receptions, 37 yards
Week 4 vs. Baltimore — 35 rushes, 144 yards, 2 TD / 4 receptions, 42 yards

As you can see, it took Bell almost a quarter of the season until he really started hitting his stride. Sure, he was fresh, but the offensive line had been practicing, and playing with, runners like James Conner and Fitzgerald Toussaint all preseason, none of which have the running style of Bell.

This isn’t just about Bell’s preparation and health, it is about the team being prepared for the regular season. Maybe last year taught the team something for them to be better prepared for this season, but if the two sides can’t come to terms on a new deal, and Bell sits, you may want to take a look at the first four games of the season and wonder just how much the team will be able to get out of Bell in those games.

2018 Schedule, 1st four games:
Week 1: @ Browns
Week 2: vs. Chiefs
Week 3: @ Buccaneers
Week 4: vs. Ravens

It is a delicate situation, to say the least, but Bell is looking out for his long-term health, and it is difficult to disagree with his thinking while in his current contractual situation.

Top 5 Pittsburgh Steelers story lines heading into training camp

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 8:29am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for training camp, and there are some story lines to keep an eye on leading up to camp.

It may seem like a long ways away, but July 25th will be here before you know it, and that is the exact date the Pittsburgh Steelers report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA for their annual training camp leading up to the 2018 regular season.

The 90-man roster has been set for several weeks now, and besides a few tweaks here and there, what you see is what you get for the black-and-gold. With the players set, what will people be talking about as the team heads to training camp? Here are the Top 5 story lines to keep an eye on.

What do you think will be the outcome of these story lines? Let us know by leaving a comment in the comment section below, and become a part of the BTSC community!

Le’Veon Bell Contract

Of course this has to be the top story line. Why? Because Le’Veon Bell is one of the best players on the Steelers’ offense, and the deadline for him signing a long-term deal, or playing under the franchise tag, will fall just before players report to camp (July 16). If the team is somehow able to ink Bell to a long-term deal, it will be a huge story line for both the roster, and the salary cap. However, if the two parties fail to find middle ground for a second-straight year, the story line will be Bell’s swan song in the Steel City.

Backup QB

Coming into the season it was assumed rookie Mason Rudolph would be QB3 and Landry Jones QB2, leaving Joshua Dobbs looking for new employment elsewhere. While it is only football in shorts, Rudolph has impressed making many wonder if he could backup Ben Roethlisberger, making Jones and/or Dobbs expendable. Having a story line surrounding the backup quarterback position is a good problem to have, meaning you have an entrenched starter, but this will be fun to watch, and make the preseason more watchable than previous years.

Safety battle

What to do at the safety position? The Steelers picked up Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe in free agency, Sean Davis is the lone safety returning from last year and Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen were both selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. Throw in Jordan Dangerfield and you have a full house of safeties entering training camp. The story line here isn’t so much who will make the team, but how will the team use these players? Will they deploy Edmunds and/or Allen as sub package specialists? Will the safeties be expected to ease some of the burden off the lack of inside linebacker athleticism lost by Ryan Shazier? Who will play free safety? All of these answers will come soon enough when camp begins.

Inside Linebacker

Speaking of inside linebacker, how the Steelers plan on using these players is anything but certain. Jon Bostic was signed in free agency, yet Tyler Matakevich spent the entire offseason alongside Vince Williams as the starting linebacker. Will Bostic be nothing more than depth? Will Matakevich be able to hold down the starting linebacker spot without jeopardizing the entire defense? Who will be staying on the field during sub packages? Plenty of questions, and unlike the backup quarterback role, the decisions made at this position will have a huge impact on the team.

Running Back

Le’Veon Bell will be in black-and-gold this year no matter what, and the story line with this position resides in the depth at the position. James Conner has reportedly looked great this offseason, but behind him is up for grabs. Jaylen Samuels’ versatility is attractive, and the question then becomes how many backs will the Steelers keep? Assuming Bell, Conner, Samuels and Roosevelt Nix make the team, what will they do? Will Fitzgerald Toussaint continue to defy the odds and make the team, or will someone like Stevan Ridley impress enough to make the roster?

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All of these questions will ultimately be answered when the players report to training camp in just over a month, but for more in-depth analysis you can check out the latest BTSC Podcast in the player below:

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