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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 2019-02-17T14:47:00-05:00
Updated: 1 hour 38 min ago

A Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame wide receiver, with class

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 1:47pm

There has been a lot of talk about one particular Steelers WR recently, but we shouldn’t forget about one Hall of Fame WR who did it right.

It was September 25, 1976 when we pulled up outside the Steeler offices at Three Rivers Stadium. I had an appointment, and waited in the lobby for Joe Gordon, then the head of public relations for the team. I was there as a 11 year old boy. I had my name drawn from a promotion at Kaufman’s to be the Steeler’s “mascot of the week.” I was Charlie, with a golden ticket to Mr. Wonka’s place. I will, at some future time, write about the whole glorious experience, but for now I want to focus on those first few minutes.

My eyes, of course, were like saucers as I took in that lobby. This was the headquarters of Mecca, the inner sanctum of my people, the heartbeat of my heart’s true love. And, of course, a lobby in an office. As we waited I heard footsteps coming our way. Was it Mr. Gordon? Would the tour be about to start?

No, it wasn’t Mr. Gordon. Carrying a pair of cleats, sweatpants drawstring tied around his neck, smile on his face- Lynn Swann. Keep in mind this is roughly eight months since his MVP performance in Super Bowl X. This was my absolute hero. He smiled at me and said “hello.” That, of course, would have been enough. My hero greeted me. But then he did the most surprising thing- he sat down beside me, and engaged me in a conversation. Twenty minutes he sat there, asking me about my hobbies, my midget football career, how I felt about their chances the next day.

He didn’t toss me his jersey after I gave him my Coke. He didn’t drop jaw-dropping wisdom on me. He didn’t promise to catch a td for me the next day. He just talked to me, patiently, kindly, gently, and it certainly seemed, sincerely. He didn’t have to do any of that. There were no cameras around. There were no reporters near by. He wasn’t canvassing for a vote. He was just doing something nice, and making a memory that I carry with me now over forty years later.

Lynn Swann, I’m confident, has no memory of the event whatsoever. Some might see that as reason to doubt, to think his heart wasn’t in it. I see it differently. He doesn’t remember that conversation because, I suspect, he had hundreds just like them through the years. What was extraordinary to me was ordinary to him. And that is a good thing.

It can be done. You can be a superstar, and still be a kind man. Swanneee- how we love ‘ya.

2019 NFL Draft Interview: Presenting Tre Watson, the slept on Shrine Game standout

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 12:39pm

Meet the man who proved himself to be one of the most productive players in the NCAA.

As one of the sleeper ILBs in the draft, Maryland’s Tre Watson is one of the beacons of hope for a team trying to find a starting ILB on Day 3.

With an opportunity at the Shrine Game, Watson displayed eye-popping traits that allowed scouts to see he had starting potential.

Watson spoke exclusively with Behind the Steel Curtain to give us an in-depth view of his game and the player a team would be getting if they draft him.

Nick: Why did you pick Maryland when you were transferring prior to the 2018 season?

Tre: When I started the process over again looking for a new school I had connections at Maryland. I knew some coaches there and my former assistant coach Al Stevenson put in a word for me and Maryland contacted me immediately. They were up front about the role I would play for their team and that they had a need. Once things started going I felt like it was something I could be comfortable with. I saw that the staff had my best interests at heart and that I could further my football career further than I could before at Maryland.

Nick: You recently competed in and shined at the Shrine Game, what did you think of the experience?

Tre: I really enjoyed it. There is a lot of history at the Shrine Game and more than just a game and practices, and from that standpoint alone it was an honor to be invited. It is right underneath the Senior Bowl in terms of talent so it is kind of a slight to be invited to the Senior Bowl, but you got to move forward, and I thought I showed teams as much as I could during the regular season.

Nick: What did you want lasting impression you left on NFL staff to be?

Tre: Between when they talked to me and what I showed them on the field, I showed them what they need from a LB in the NFL. Between my tape, the practices, and my interviews I feel like I have an opportunity to be successful both on and off the field. Mentally knowing the game at a level where you can be a conductor on the defense, you know, like getting them lined up, making sure assignments are taken care of, I showed them what I think my role on defense will be and I conveyed that in my interviews. Being able to communicate is huge. I showed what I could be throughout the season, but the Shrine Game was an opportunity where I got to show teams what I could do in an NFL scheme.

Nick: One of the things on film that impressed me was that you never bit on false keys. How do you process so well?

Tre: That comes with confidence in the scheme and knowing your role and what you need to do on every play. You need to know your lineman, your read, what you need to be looking at. For example, there are motions and a ton of other things pre and post-snap. But if you are focused on what you need to look at then all that is white noise. Every time I am on the field I want to know my assignment better than anyone else. I don’t even want to have to think so I can play as fast as I can on the field.

Nick: On tape, I noticed you love to lay the boom if you have the chance to. Is that a trait that you think sets a tone for your overall game?

Tre: Absolutely, when people talk about the game today, and how the game is changing from that brute physicality, and I am not going to call myself a brute, but I am someone who seeks out and enjoys contact. Whether that is finishing on a ball carrier or a blocker, you name it, I am not going to turn down any contact at any turn. I feel that is essential to the game of football and what differentiates it from every other sport on the Earth. This year I thought I could do it much more, I played much more freely. And even when I am physical with blockers, I still prioritize shedding those blocks, but physicality with always be part of my game.

Nick: I love that you pride yourself on popping the pads. Outside of both of those things, one aspect your coaches and teammates raved about you was how great of a leader you were. What will an NFL team get in Tre Watson the leader?

Tre: The biggest thing is that I have gone from one place to another so I have met so many different people and coaches. Earning others’ respect, that is how I can be a leader. You know, in the NFL these are grown men pushing upper 30s-40s at times and they will not just listen to you and suddenly ride and die for you. That is the biggest thing. I am going to come in and my teammates’ and coaches’ respect until they respect me or want to emulate what Tre does or what Tre is no matter how big or how small. I have always been open and transparent with others so that they know I am relatable and that I am not higher or lower than anyone else on the team. It is about getting along with everyone and that is what is going to come off positively.

Nick: That is an awesome response. You were snubbed from both the Senior Bowl and the Combine. How are you working to prove those snubs wrong?

Tre: At the end of the day, there is nothing that I could have done differently between my senior year and now to become anything more to earn those opportunities. If for any reason I was not deemed worthy for those opportunities, then going back doesn’t do much. I did everything I could this season and at the Shrine Game and I am not any different of a person. It is what it is, I am not going to work any harder because of that. I have been working hard regardless of what happens, whether it is not having offers out of high school, going from Illinois to Maryland and not being respected, and even here, playing at an All-American level and not being told you are one of the 35+ best LBs in the nation? I take it for what it is and people make decisions that are outside of my ability to change, but regardless I have 32 teams to impress and the Pro Day is a great opportunity. I am going to keep working hard for that opportunity and hopefully have more opportunities after that.

Nick: As you keep working hard, what do you think is the area of your game you can improve upon the most?

Tre: I am someone who is always perceptive of things around me and also myself so I can improve myself. I know I’m not gonna be the uber-athletic guy who will jump a 40 inch vert or a 4.4 40, and I know that’s what people want to see in this stage of the process. They won’t be worried about how I tackle or how I shed blocks, because that was in the season. In OTAs, minicamp, and heading into the season, I am just working to get as athletic as I can. Whether that is shaving a few tenths of the 40 or working on my explosiveness, I am going to do anything I can do to minimize that weakness.

Nick: You alluded to the fact that you might not be the fastest LB out there, but you are exceptional in coverage having logged 5 INTs last season. How do you overcome some natural athletic limitations to become such a good coverage LB?

Tre: You can run a 4.4, but if you are out there on the football field and you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know where you’re supposed to be, or you don’t know where the football is, you’re basically useless. You can run a 5.0 40, but if you can read your keys quickly, know where the ball is, and close on the ball carrier, that is what allows you to be successful. You have to understand route concepts, where your role is in zone, and where your help. You could force a high throw or whether you might be re-routing. At the end of the season we were running a lot of match coverages and I felt like I was able to exploit weaknesses in coverage where QBs thought they could make a play. LBs can tend to drift and be standing ducks, and I work to be disruptive underneath and forth an overthrow or being there to eliminate lanes. That is the difference between a backup and a 3-down starter.

Nick: What player do you model your game after?

Tre: I don’t model myself after anyone, but I see a lot of myself in Patrick Willis. You know, the instinctive play, and the willingness to initiate contact. He was just ferocious with the way he used to hit RBs. I don’t even know if he would have survived with the way he used to hit them. Guys like him, and Ray Lewis, and he was the same way, violent and willing to hit someone. It didn’t matter the size of the guy. And not even a LB, but I want to be a guy that makes plays like Tyrann Mathieu, especially when he was in college, he just found a way. Whether it was punching the ball out, getting a pick, making a big hit, or a game changing play, that is where great players are made. Making a crucial stop of third down or forcing a huge turnover, those are just reasons for a team to keep you on the field.

Nick: I love that you’re a mold of a modern LB and a throwback LB. Why should a team want Tre Watson on their team?

Tre: Above all else, wherever I end up going, a team is going to get a guy who goes nonstop. My passion for the game is unrivaled and my competitiveness is as well. It doesn’t end with football, I carry that into every facet of my life. Like I said, whether it is school, football, rec sports at the gym, that is just how I am. The feelings I have for this game are strong and it allows me to provide for my family potentially for the rest of my life. They are going to get someone who will do anything to be successful and help the team win whether it is in a minimal role and being relied to make a big play, I am willing to do anything.

The Steelers willingness to still do business with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell shows their organizational strength

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 10:35am

It might be easy to give up without a fight when it comes to recent disputes with both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. But by remaining open for business with both, the Steelers are showing they’re an organization of strength.

Word leaked on Friday that Art Rooney II, the Steelers team president and owner, will meet with disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown some time soon in Florida, a state where both have residences.

It’s a rather stunning turn of events, considering Brown, who officially requested a trade from the Steelers last Tuesday while still remaining silent yet cryptic on his reasons why, is apparently ‘#OpenForBusiness’ from every NFL team but the one scheduled to pay him roughly $17 million in 2019.

Mr. Rooney has wanted to speak with Brown since right after the disappointing end to the Steelers 2018 campaign, one that was made even more depressing by Brown’s 11th-hour ditching of his coaches and teammates just days before a must-win regular season finale against the Bengals at Heinz Field. These actions—skipping out on meetings and practices—were so egregious, head coach Mike Tomlin, a man who has shown a willingness to put up with a ton from his star and high-maintenance receiver, deactivated Brown in-spite of the aforementioned importance of the finale.

Brown immediately separated himself from his team—his employer—in the days following the end of the 2018 season, and even went so far as to ignore phone calls from Rooney.

Yet, to his credit, despite the insubordinate actions of his employee—including leaving the Bengals game at halftime—Art II kept pushing for a meeting with his receiver, and the fact that he’s been able to have it in person, rather than on the phone, is pretty remarkable at this stage considering the chasm that exists between employer and employee.

Brown wants a divorce, but Rooney isn’t going to let him get his way, not without a meeting, not without an explanation. What will come of this meeting? Will an agreement be reached to keep the star receiver in Pittsburgh for 2019 and beyond? That seems highly unlikely at this point, what with everything that has transpired—including some unstable and rather disturbing recent behavior from the star receiver. At the very least, maybe we’ll get some clarity. Maybe the owner will make the star receiver know who’s the boss and who holds the leverage in this scenario. Better yet, maybe the owner, who’s father and grandfather before him always treated their players like family, will make it clear to Brown that he cares about him, that the Steelers have always cared about their players—it’s hard to find many former players who have had bad things to say about the Steelers and/or the Rooney family.

But most of all, maybe the two parties can come to an understanding on how to move forward. Whether that’s Brown remaining a Steeler or getting his current wish—traded—remains to be seen, but if some understanding and some clarity can come from this meeting in Florida, everyone will be the better for it.

Perhaps even more remarkable than the pending meeting between Rooney and Brown is the just as recent news that the organization has apparently informed running back Le’Veon Bell, he of the season-long no-show in 2018 after being franchise tagged for a second-straight year, that it plans on utilizing the transition tag on him.

Unlike the franchise tag, a transition tag allows a player to go out and reach an agreement on a new contract with another team, a contract the Steelers will have the right to match.

Why do this? Why not just wash your hands of the whole mess and move on? After all, James Conner proved to be a viable replacement in 2018, and there’s no reason he can’t be the team’s running back of the future—provided he stays healthy. And even if Conner doesn’t have the chops or the health to be the team’s running back of the future, as journeyman C.J. Anderson proved last season, when he was signed off the scrapheap and essentially outshined Todd Gurley, he of the mega offseason deal loaded with guaranteed money—the kind Bell has been in-search of for the past two years—during the Rams run to Super Bowl LIII, maybe the running back position is one where you churn and burn players, instead of signing them to huge contracts.

Why? Because, why not? What does Pittsburgh have to lose, other than a compensatory third-round pick in 2020? If the Steelers can get more than that in a trade for Bell, they need to do everything in their power to try and make that happen.

If they can’t, they can’t, but at least they let Bell and other current and future players know they will not be dictated to when it comes to these kinds of contract disputes.

It would be easy to simply give both Brown and Bell what they want and walk away. But by doing that, they could potentially weaken their organization by setting dangerous precedents.

The Steelers may not be able to afford to keep Brown and Bell around for reasons that have to do with finances and locker room stability, but they also can’t afford to weaken their organization.

I believe what the Steelers are doing right now by remaining open for business with both Brown and Bell is letting the world know they’re still the Pittsburgh Steelers, an organization of strength.

The 10 questions Antonio Brown should have answered from his Q&A session on Twitter

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 9:43am

The Steelers star receiver still owes fans four more answers after coming up short on his initial promise of 10 on Saturday.

Despite promising to answer 10 questions during an impromptu Q&A session via Twitter on Saturday, Antonio Brown once again failed to live up to another commitment after he only managed to offer responses to six of them. While it is unclear if the Pittsburgh Steelers star receiver lost count, lost interest or was perhaps finally told to shut up by his agent, there can be little question that Brown still owes his fans four more answers.

With almost 5000 responses to his post inviting questions so far, it would be understandable if AB was too overwhelmed to pick out the best ones to answer. In an effort to help him out, we have picked out 10 of the best questions the receiver should have tried to answer, hopefully highlighting a few more he may yet choose to respond to.

Glossing over the more obvious inquiries and the numerous abusive lines of questioning, these are some of our favorite responses on Brown Q&A thread from Saturday. A series of questions that could have provided some real insight into the receivers state of mind.

Ranging from hard hitting football questions.

Is Joe Flacco an elite QB #AskAB

— lindsey ok (@lindseyyok) February 16, 2019

#AskAB did Mike Tomlin trip Jacoby Jones on purpose on the sideline?

— MICHAELLLL! (Loomis voice) (@thesuperbeasto) February 16, 2019

To questions about his state of mind.

What’s it like to burn 446 bridges? #AskAB

— Steve Byrne (@stevebyrnelive) February 16, 2019

Brown overlooked a number of questions from fans who just wanted to get to know him better.

pic.twitter.com/s248Jt2Urt

— Big Ben (@tweet17ayrton) February 16, 2019

And how his brain worked.

Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses? #AskAB

— Drew (@kingling43) February 16, 2019

#AskAB how many times did you buy gas station chicken before you came to this conclusion? pic.twitter.com/D1xIHAygEF

— Old Player Tweets (@OldPlayerTweets) February 16, 2019

Despite his talents on the field, some still had justifiable questions about his speed.

Does it really take you 50 minutes to answer each question? #AskAB pic.twitter.com/YNpkA5Zrnv

— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) February 16, 2019

While others needed answers to some of the bigger mysteries in life.

Who do you think will be on the Iron Throne at the end of Game of Thrones? #AskAB

— Rich Keefe (@Keefe21) February 16, 2019

Is a hot dog a sandwich? #AskAB

— Zachary Timko (@ZTimko793) February 16, 2019

Those have have trashed Brown’s jersey in recent weeks quite likely want an answer to this one too.

#AskAB will you reimburse me for burning your jersey so I can get a JuJu one?

— Mike (@MDSox5) February 16, 2019

Hopefully we will have the answers to all these questions and more from Brown in the coming days.

A Letter From the Editor: When social media and sports becomes a double-edged sword

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 7:43am

Getting an inside look into our favorite athletes’ lives and minds is great...until it isn’t.

Let me start by saying I am a huge fan of social media.

Not joking. Totally serious.

I love all platforms of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat. Every platform has their quirks, and every platform has their village idiots, but to someone who runs a large website — they are all invaluable in their own way.

If I were to focus on one specific platform for this article, it would have to be Twitter. Twitter brought your favorite athletes directly to your fingertips. You got a glimpse of their thoughts, their workouts and just their lives.

It was amazing the first time a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers started to follow my account, thanks Bud Dupree. It was also both odd and disturbing when the first member of the Pittsburgh Steelers blocked me for writing an article criticizing their play, thanks Mike Mitchell.

I guess you can say too much of a good thing can turn bad quickly.

As the years tick away with me at the helm of this website, and almost constantly being plugged into the machine known as the Pittsburgh Steelers, you see, read and watch as the players who many view as heroes, surprise, disappoint and shock their fan base.

At this point you should know where I am going with this.

Antonio Brown.

It all started when Brown released his “Thank You” tweet to Steelers fans. He was so thankful to the vast Steelers Nation, he didn’t include one fan in the video. No, it was just highlights of his time in Pittsburgh. In other words, “Look at me!”

Then came the cryptic tweets throughout the week, ending with Saturday’s #AskAB question and answer session.

We all had a front row seat to watch Brown, in his own way, criticize Ben Roethlisberger, Art Rooney II and head coach Mike Tomlin. I can’t speak for everyone reading those tweets, but for me it was too much. I love getting an inside look into the locker room and players’ thoughts on the game, but this just seemed to be too much.

I shouldn’t be shocked. Not with this player. Not with this team. Not with this organization, at least in the past few years. But here I was, shocked a player who had absolutely no leverage in his current situation was bad mouthing everything, and everyone, who helped make him who he is in the National Football League.

This isn’t to suggest the Steelers organization, from the owner to Browns’ teammates, have been choir boys who have always toed the company line throughout this mess, but there is something about airing your dirty laundry in public which doesn’t sit well with me.

Here we are full circle.

The love of social media.

The access to things which were so off limits just 15 years ago, are now almost public domain. But sometimes the connected nature of social media can rear its ugly head. Saturday was one of those days for me. At this point, I just hope the Antonio Brown situation ends sooner rather than later.

This Week in Steelers Stats: Various numbers and rankings from the 2018 season

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 6:32am

A compilation of Steelers statistics from various Tweets over the past week.

Compiling statistics can take hours upon hours in order to find the proper numbers. To save you the trouble, here are some of the best statistics about the Steelers published during this past week.

I will begin with a few statistics of my own before going on to other various Steeler sources. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @STLRSuperFanDad in order to get some of BTSC’s geekiest stats.

With 52 sacks in 2018, the @steelers now have 9 seasons with 50 or more sacks. This ranks them 3rd in NFL history.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) February 16, 2019

Over the last 10 NFL seasons, the @steelers have the most game-winning field goals (8) to end regulation (final 5 seconds), 3 more than any other team.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) February 16, 2019

The @Steelers defense has an active streak of 41 consecutive regular season games with at least 1 sack. The only team with a longer active streak is the Arizona Cardinals with 52.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) February 15, 2019

In 2018, @AB84 made approximately $100k every time a ball was thrown at him. Ironically, this is the value in the classic board game LIFE one receives when landing on the space “Business is booming!”

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) February 15, 2019

2018's highest-graded linebackers from the AFC North pic.twitter.com/iC1fKLwwMM

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 16, 2019

Most tackles for loss or no gain by cornerbacks in run defense over the past two seasons:

Mike Hilton - 13
Kareem Jackson - 12
Budda Baker - 9

Hilton's average depth of tackle in run defense is 1.46 yards, the lowest among all qualifying corners. #HereWeGo

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) February 15, 2019

James Conner's 56 combined first-down and touchdowns run were good enough for 6th in the NFL pic.twitter.com/HnVYfBr6np

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 14, 2019

Antonio Brown has 74 career receiving TDs, all from Ben Roethlisberger.

That is the most career receiving TDs by a player from only one QB. (via @EliasSports) #SCFacts pic.twitter.com/Aybx4OzfNE

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 12, 2019

2018's highest-graded interior defensive linemen from the AFC North pic.twitter.com/frG9gP7dBx

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 13, 2019

The #Steelers were 169-67 in regular-season games at Three Rivers Stadium

The team's .716 winning percentage in home games during the Three Rivers Stadium era - 1970-2000 - was second-best among all #NFL teams

Miami 173-61-1 (.738)
Pittsburgh 169-67 (716)
Denver 167-66-4 (.713) https://t.co/DDoNymAVit

— Dom Rinelli (@drinelli) February 11, 2019

Black and Gold Links: Jesse James one of the Top 10 2019 free agents under the age of 25

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 5:02am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how tight end Jesse James, The Outlaw, is considered a very hot commodity on the open market, if you are looking for a player under the age of 25.

James, who is entering his 5th year in the league, will be a tough decision for the Steelers this offseason when it comes to whether they let him hit the open market, or lock him up before someone can snatch him up?

Let’s get to the news:

2019 NFL Free Agency: The 10 Best 25-and-Under Players in This Year’s Class

By: Maurice Moton, Bleacher Report

TE Jesse James, Unrestricted
  1. Over the last three terms, tight end Jesse James held a prominent role within the Pittsburgh Steelers’ aerial attack. He recorded 112 receptions for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns in that period.
  2. Despite Vance McDonald’s increased involvement in the offense, James logged a career-high 423 receiving yards and averaged 14.1 yards per reception with a 76.9 percent catch rate. He’s also a solid pass-blocker who can help seal the edge against a top-notch defender.
  3. According to Behind the Steel Curtain writer Nick Farabaugh, James’ talents may be too rich for Pittsburgh’s front office. “He is the peak of solid and can catch and block extremely well,” he wrote. “The question is did he price himself out of Pittsburgh? I would bring him back at the right price, but I am not overpaying.”
  4. With McDonald on the books through 2021, James may land a bigger salary elsewhere, though a strong draft class at the position may cap his value. He’s an option for clubs that want a potential big-play target.
The 1 Free Agent Each NFL Team Must Re-Sign This Offseason

By: Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report

Pittsburgh Steelers

Guard Ramon Foster

As Joe Ritter reported for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Steelers guard David DeCastro feels that Ramon Foster is a key piece of the Steelers offensive line.

”He’s been awesome,” DeCastro said. “He’s been as steady as ever. He always brings a good laugh to the party, and he gets serious when he needs to be. He does a great job of being that leader in the locker room. He’s the guy you see and look up to since I’ve been here.”

It’s hard to argue with him. Foster was one of two Pittsburgh linemen who played every offensive snap in 2018. He’s also one of four players on Pittsburgh’s roster who was there the last time the Steelers played in the Super Bowl.

Granted, at 33, Foster’s a lot closer to the end of his career than the beginning. But the former undrafted free agent is a quality starter with 131 starts under his belt and the Steelers’ only full-time starter about to hit the open market.

The Steelers need to make a concerted effort to prevent that from happening with a short-term deal.

Before Joe Flacco leaves AFC North, a look at his 3 best, worst games vs. Steelers

By: Joe Flacco, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Joe Flacco’s 11-year run as Baltimore Ravens quarterback officially will end March 13, when he will be traded to the Denver Broncos for a fourth-round pick.

The announcement Wednesday of the impending trade signifies an end to the second-longest tenure among AFC North quarterbacks, with Flacco trailing only Ben Roethlisberger in terms of continuous service with his team.

In his career, Flacco won 10 games and lost 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular season. He threw 25 touchdown passes against 12 interceptions. In the playoffs, he beat the Steelers once in three tries, with all three games at Heinz Field.

The following is a look at the worst of times and the best of times (in chronological order) for Flacco when he suited up against the black and gold:

THREE WORST GAMES

Dec. 14, 2008: Steelers 13, Ravens 9: This game is remembered for Santonio Holmes’ touchdown catch that almost wasn’t with 43 seconds left that finished off a comeback and helped give the Steelers the AFC North title. Flacco didn’t help his cause by playing the worst game of his rookie season. He completed 11 of 28 passes for 115 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 22.2 passer rating.

Jan. 18, 2009: Steelers 23, Ravens 14: The most memorable play of the win that sent the Steelers to the Super Bowl was Troy Polamalu’s 40-yard interception return for a touchdown with 4 minutes, 24 seconds left that established the final score. It was one of three interceptions Flacco threw in the game, and Tyrone Carter sealed the win with a pick in the final minute. Flacco finished with 13 completions in 30 attempts for 141 yards. He had a 18.2 passer rating that stands as the second-worst of his 15 career playoff games.

Jan. 15, 2011: Steelers 31, Ravens 24: The Steelers advanced to the AFC title game for the fourth time in seven seasons by coming back from a 21-7 first-half deficit. Flacco and the Ravens had 28 nets yards in the second half. Flacco was sacked three times by James Harrison and five times overall. He completed 16 of 30 passes for 125 yards.

THREE BEST GAMES

Sept. 11, 2011: Ravens 35, Steelers 7: Fresh off their appearance in Super Bowl XL, the Steelers were thumped by Flacco and the Ravens in the season opener at M&T Bank Stadium. A 27-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin just 1:32 into the game got the rout started. Flacco also threw touchdown passes to Ray Rice and Ed Dickson while completing 17 of 29 passes for 224 yards with no interceptions. His 117.6 passer rating was the highest among his 21 regular-season games against the Steelers.

Jan. 3, 2015: Ravens 30, Steelers 17: After two playoff losses to the Steelers, Flacco got his only win over them. It also was his fifth consecutive playoff victory overall. Flacco played an efficient game, completing 18 of 29 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. An 11-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith in the third quarter provided a 20-9 lead, and a 21-yarder to Crockett Gilmore midway through the fourth quarter put the Ravens ahead by 15 points.

Sept. 30, 2018: Ravens 26, Steelers 14: When Flacco threw for 363 yards in a late-September win at Heinz Field, little did he know it would be his penultimate victory with the Ravens. The win improved the Ravens to 3-1 and dropped the Steelers to 1-2-1. Flacco completed 28 of 42 attempts and threw two first-half touchdown passes. Two weeks later, Flacco directed a 21-0 victory against the Tennessee Titans, his last win in Baltimore before rookie Lamar Jackson took over. Thanks to the Steelers’ late-season collapse and an infusion of confidence provided by Jackson, the Ravens overtook their divisional rival down the stretch to win the AFC North.

Antonio Brown reveals issues with Ben Roethlisberger during a Q&A session on Twitter

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 1:21pm

The Steelers star receiver held a Q&A session on social media on Saturday with his first answer calling out Ben Roethlisberger for his “owner mentality”.

With Antonio Brown now willing to have a face-to-face meeting with Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, it would appear that he is also open to questions from fans in the form of a Q&A session he started on Twitter on Saturday as well.

#AskAB answering 10 questions real truth and real facts now

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 16, 2019

Unsurprisingly, many of the responses involved questions about his relationship with Ben Roethlisberger and this was the first subject Brown chose to address from all of the inquiries he received.

While he would dispute any conflict between himself and the team’s star quarterback, his characterization of Roethlisberger as having an owners mentality is far from a compliment and it would appear that his frustration with Big Ben is at the heart of his problems with the Steelers.

No conflict just a matter of respect! Mutual respect! He has a owner mentality like he can call out anybody including coaches. Players know but they can’t say anything about it otherwise they meal ticket gone. It’s a dirty game within a game. #truth https://t.co/MsSyBVd3Ny

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 16, 2019

Given that Brown has promised to answer nine more questions, it seems unlikely this is the last we have heard from the wide receiver about what has happened in Pittsburg to make him want to leave and fans should prepare themselves for another drama field weekend.

Edit: His second answer of the should be good news for the team he is trading for with Brown effectively denying he will want a new deal from his next team. This one I will believe when I see it (or don’t as they case may be).

Not for the money its for the love of the sport ! The commitment to win relentlessly consistently passionately ! Plus I made 70 million it’s public record not to be cocky just truth! Time to play for my own Team AB84 the family ! https://t.co/v4vFO2QCSf

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 16, 2019

As more answers are revealed, we will be sure to update this post.

Jaylen Samuels set to slim down before Year 2, following the Steelers’ plan

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 11:28am

Jaylen Samuels is about to enter his second year in the NFL, and the team is going through the usual motions with their newest running back.

There is a good chance many fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers would vote for Jaylen Samuels as the biggest offensive surprise of the 2018 season. It isn’t as if he wasn’t hyped up enough after being drafted as the team’s Swiss Army knife coming out of N.C. State, but not one saw him getting a starting opportunity as a rookie.

However, when James Conner went down with a high ankle sprain vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, it was Samuels who stood out. No performance was bigger than his 142 yard outing against the New England Patriots in Week 15, and he finished the season with 56 attempts, and 256 yards for a 4.6 yards per carry.

Not shabby for a running back who didn’t have a role entering the season, other than being the backup to both Conner and Stevan Ridley. By the season’s end, Samuels had proven he isn’t just going to be a quality backup in the future, but a reliable commodity if he is forced into action. Throw in the fact he is a tremendous receiving threat, collecting 26 receptions on 29 targets for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he is going to be a great one-two punch with Conner for the foreseeable future.

When sitting down with Missi Matthews of Steelers.com, Samuels talked a lot about his rookie season. How he didn’t know what to expect, how Ben Roethlisberger and Conner really helped him get acclimated, but what stood out the most to me was something he subtly said midway through the interview — how he is going to slim down this offseason.

NFL players have a tendency to believe they need to get bigger before entering the NFL. After all, with going against players who are already older, bigger and stronger, they feel the extra muscle/size will benefit them. What they don’t realize is speed, agility and endurance are equally important.

Look at the past three starting Steelers running backs, and you will see the same trend. Le’Veon Bell was told to drop weight after his rookie season, and had a huge sophomore season when he focused on conditioning over anything else. James Conner too was heavy coming out of Pitt, but a slimmer version dominated in 2018 before his injury in the last quarter of the season.

It now seems as if Samuels will be on the same path as his predecessors, and you have to wonder if Year 2 will be significantly different for Samuels, as it was for Conner and Bell.

You can check out the full interview with Matthews in the player below:

Jaylen Samuels takes a look back at his rookie campaign, who he looked to for guidance, improving for 2019, the feeling of his first touchdown and more. pic.twitter.com/S2GNRe76O8

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 14, 2019

Jerald Hawkins hopes injury issues are behind him heading into final year under contract

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 10:00am

With just five regular season appearances in three years with the Steelers, the young tackle will need to avoid ending another season on injured reserve if he hopes to remain with Pittsburgh in 2020.

Heading into 2019, there is perhaps no other position on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster with more depth and experience than offensive tackle. With both starters due to return and a number of promising young prospects with experience in reserve, the Steelers might well be set at tackle for some years to come.

However, if that future is to include 2016 fourth-round draft pick Jerald Hawkins, the upcoming season will need to end rather differently from him in 2019 than it did in two of his first three years in the NFL. Having missed both his rookie season and all of 2018 to injuries that saw him added to injured reserve each time, Hawkins faces something of a make or break year in his final season under contract.

Thankfully, the young tackle already appears to be fully healed from the torn quadriceps injury that ended his last season early, confirming with Chris Adamski of TribLive that he was completely recovered back in January.

“Oh yeah, most definitely, I was ready now, man. I would go out there right now, and I could. I am definitely, 100 percent, going to be going all over it (at OTAs).”

And while Hawkins has appeared in just five regular season games in three years in the NFL, he remains cautiously optimistic his injury issues are behind him.

“Honestly, man, this probably had to be my third injury I have had to actually sit out from playing football, so I believe it’s probably done with. It’s all out of the way. Three times and you’re done now, man. Had a little bad injury in college, and I had my two in the league so I pray I am done with that and I can just finally get on the field and honestly show them what I am all about.”

With names like Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner competing for a place on the game day roster behind starters Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert, the quality of depth the Steelers have at the tackle position is not lost on Hawkins either.

“You want to see that competition, and you want to see that depth on your team. If you’re here, there’s a reason for it.”

By all accounts, Hawkins stayed as involved with the team as much as could throughout this injury, with Adamski reporting he was a regular fixture at every practice earlier in the season. But, if Hawkins hopes to still be with Pittsburgh in 2020, he will need to be able to do more than just watch practice this season.

Mason Rudolph “chomping at the bit” to get his chance, but knows patience is key

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 8:50am

The Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback is itching to get a shot, but knows he is going to have to wait his turn.

During the 2018 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers were wheeling and dealing. The team sent troubled wide receiver Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders for a third round draft pick. What happened with that pick? The Steelers swapped it with the Seattle Seahawks to move up in the third round to take Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Many Steelers fans were extremely happy, and excited, with the pick. For once, it seemed as if the organization was planning for life without Ben Roethlisberger, who had flirted with retirement before Todd Haley was told he no longer was employed by the organization.

Rudolph’s road to the NFL wasn’t a breeze considering Roethlisberger’s comments on the selection, and how he won’t be worried about helping a young quarterback get acclimated to life in the NFL.

Nonetheless, Rudolph found himself in a very unusual position.

Watching.

Since his sophomore year in High School, Rudolph has been a starting quarterback, not someone holding a clipboard and having to watch someone else in practice. Yet, there he was, running the scout team offense and getting minimal reps on the Wednesdays Ben Roethlisberger was given the day off.

Otherwise, the offensive reps were few and far between. Could a year like this be viewed as a wash? Not according to Rudolph.

“I was telling my college coach that I talk to a lot, beginning of the season I was like, ‘Wow, NFL football, it’s crazy,’ ” Rudolph told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And then the middle of the season, I was like, ‘I’m really starting to understand this, just the way the week flows, to game day.’

“And then the last couple weeks (of the season), it was, ‘I can play now if I had to.’ ”

While Rudolph clearly admits him not being thrust into a starting role could be viewed as beneficial, it doesn’t make sitting the bench any easier.

Of not playing (outside of the preseason), Rudolph said, “ No doubt, it’s tough .”

“It’s weird. It’s different,” he said. “But I’m making the best of it. I’ve tried to get that competitive adrenaline rush in practice as much as I can.”

How in the world can a quarterback do that? Rudolph has developed not just a clear understanding of the offense, but a more specific knowledge base about situational football, and what the team wants to do in almost every situation.

“Just a general understanding of the offense has improved so much,” Rudolph said, “Learning (for example) what we call or run in OTAs and what we actually run when it gets nut-cutting time. What are Ben’s favorite calls? What are our base concepts that we’re going to use every week? What’s most efficient for us? So that’s cool to see how the gameplan gets cut down through the week as it gets later in the week.

“Obviously, physically I have been staying in shape, doing whatever I can do to maximize my reps. But mentally there’s a lot to allow for to stay sharp.”

As stated earlier, Rudolph is just patiently waiting for his shot. As the 2019 season approaches, the next step in him seeing the field in a regular season game will come by beating out Joshua Dobbs for the backup quarterback spot in training camp. This will be one of the many training camp battles to watch, and Rudolph is ready.

“I am definitely chomping at the bit, but you’ve just got to stay patient. And I know that God has got a plan.”

No need to change the name of the Vince Lombardi Trophy just yet

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 7:32am

If they didn’t change the name of the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 1980, when Chuck Noll won a record fourth as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, there’s no need to do it now, just because Bill Belichick just won his sixth Super Bowl trophy.

There’s been a quiet movement the past few years to change the name of the trophy given to the Super Bowl winner each year to the Belichick trophy.

I’m, of course, referring to Bill Belichick, the coach of your six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

To be fair, there hasn’t been a major groundswell of support for this change in name, but it’s been said enough times in recent years (even more than “Julian Edelman should be in the Hall of Fame”) to warrant a mid-February article crafted in its honor.

Obviously, the reason for this smattering of support for the change in name of the Super Bowl trophy is because Belichick has had the most since February of 2017 when New England won its fifth on his watch with a victory over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. And now that he has six, the sentiment may only continue to grow.

Question: was the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the official title of the Super Bowl trophy named after the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, named in Lombardi’s honor because he won the first two Super Bowls following the 1966 and 1967 seasons and then lost his life to cancer in 1970? Or was it named after Lombardi because he was the coach with the most Super Bowl victories?

Because if it was named after the head coach with the most, and it always has to be named after the head coach with the most, shouldn’t the trophy have been changed to the Chuck Noll Trophy in January of 1979, when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII, giving Noll a then record three Lombardi trophies (the five of the day)? Or, better yet, should it have been named after Noll a year later, when Pittsburgh defeated the Rams in Super Bowl XIV, giving the coach four—two more than any other head coach (the six of the 1980s)?

Speaking of January of 1979, from that point until February of 2017—just over 38 years—Noll either had or was tied for the most Lombardi trophies in the history of the National Football League. Yet, there was never even a mention of naming the Super Bowl trophy after him.

Poor Chuck. Poor Emperor. Other than a street on the North Side and a field at St. Vincent College, it’s hard to find many things named after him (which may be a good thing, since they might actually have spelled it “Knoll,” as in the Chuck Knoll Award).

Actually, upon doing research for this article, I was pleased to discover that the Pro Football Hall of Fame (if the NFL never thought to name anything after him, I’m glad someone else did) created an award for Noll two summers ago called the Chuck Noll Hall of Fame“Game for Life” Award, an honor given annually to youth football programs that “exemplify the values of football: commitment, integrity, courage, respect, and excellence.”

Knowing how much the late Noll, who passed away in 2014, cherished and valued teaching, he’d probably appreciate such an honor being named after him.

You can’t change the name of a trophy every time some coach or player gets the most of something. You find other ways to honor the player or coach. In Belichick’s case, maybe you could name an award after him that highlighted the team that had everything together and was on the details—film study, perfect meeting and practice attendance, no social media nonsense, etc, etc: “The Bill Belichick Most Buttoned Up Award.”

Anyway, in all seriousness, let’s forget about the idea of changing names of trophies. For one thing, it’s unnecessary. For another thing, it kind of erases or hides the legacies of the great people who helped make the National Football League the global sensation it is today.

No trophy should ever do that.

2019 NFL Draft: The Denver Broncos are on the clock...who will they take?

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 6:06am

It’s time to make a pick for the Denver Broncos in our 2019 Community Mock Draft

...the pick is in

With the 9th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select Ed Oliver IDL from Houston.

The Denver Broncos are now on the clock...

Team Needs: CB/ OT/ WR/ TE/ ILB

2018 Draft Selections

1 (5) Bradley Chubb, Edge, NC State.

2 (40) Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU.

3 (71) Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon.

3 (99) Isaac Yiadom, CB, Boston College.

4 (106) Josey Jewell, ILB, Iowa.

4 (113) DeaSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State.

5 (156) Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin.

6 (183) Sam Jones, OL, Arizona State.

6 (217) Keishawn Bierria, LB, Washington.

7 (226) David Williams, RB, Arkansas.

2019 Draft Order and Selections

Pick 1 - Arizona Cardinal Nick Bosa Edge Ohio State

Pick 2 - San Francisco 49er’s Josh Allen Edge Kentucky

Pick 3 - New York Jets Jonah Williams OT Alabama

Pick 4 - Oakland Raiders Quinnen Williams IDL Alabama

Pick 5 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers Greedy Williams CB LSU

Pick 6 - New York Giants Dwayne Haskins QB Ohio State

Pick 7 - Jacksonville Jaguars Drew Lock QB Missouri

Pick 8 - Detroit Lions Clelin Ferrell Edge Clemson

Pick 9 - Buffalo Bills Ed Oliver IDL Houston

For those that may vote “other”, add the name of the prospect in the comment section for possible discussion.

Also, for those that may have shown up from Mile High Report, I see that the trade talk (trade back) is floating around your boards. It may be an option for some in this mock, sorry for the small technicality, but tell us what’s on your mind? Trade Partner? Possible interest in a trade for Antonio Brown?

I think you will appreciate the coaching and improvement in your O-line, possible notice in quality of your players.

Arguable, but he may have been the proverbial Fountain of Youth for Ben Roethlisberger. Coach Mike Munchak is well worth the money spent...and for taking him away.

NO SOUP FOR YOU!

Stay away from B.J. Finney!!!!!! We do have Marcus Gilbert at Right Tackle, could be a solid pick up, has history with Munchak. Thinking 4th round?

Black and Gold Links: How JuJu Smith-Schuster is more than ready to shoulder the load at WR

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 5:00am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how despite all the talk being about Antonio Brown’s exploits, JuJu Smith-Schuster is doing nothing but showing he is more than ready to be a No. 1 next year, and for years to come.

Let’s get to the news:

Carter’s Classroom: Why JuJu’s more than ready

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

The never-ending news on Antonio Brown won’t stop even when the Steelers have eventually dealt him to another team. But the looming question that comes with his pending departure is whether 22-year-old JuJu Smith-Schuster is ready to take his place as the Steelers’ No. 1 receiver.

Brown does so many things right with his game that it seems nobody, let alone a player coming off his second season, could come close to replacing him. But Smith-Schuster is a lot further along than many might believe.

Before we get into the reasons why Smith-Schuster is ready, I’m going to address the most common counter-argument to the notion that he could be the Number 1 receiver: Brown was so good at his job that he opened up opportunities for Smith-Schuster, and is also partly responsible for his success.

First, this argument is true. Brown regularly drew double-and-triple-teams from defenses that opened up the field for other playmakers. But saying this without acknowledging Smith-Schuster taking advantage of those opportunities skips a major point.

A perfect example would be the Steelers’ longest play of the season, and what tied for the longest passing play in team history. Smith-Schuster’s 99-yard touchdown reception from Ben Roethlisberger against the Broncos was the perfect mix of a defense doubling Brown and Smith-Schuster showing all the right moves.

(To read more, click on the link in the headline above...)

Hicks, Smith could fill needs for Steelers

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

It’s no secret what the Steelers’ biggest need is heading into this offseason.

Team president Art Rooney II made that obvious a few weeks ago when he met with reporters.

“The linebacker position is something I feel like we still need to address. So, it’s a challenge, no doubt about it,” Rooney said.

Rooney was talking about the position as a whole, which he should since top backup outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo is an unrestricted free agent and the team would like to work out a deal with Bud Dupree to lower his $9.2-million salary cap hit for 2019. If it can’t work out a long-term deal with Dupree or get him to accept a lesser contract, he could be released, meaning the only two remaining outside linebackers on the roster with experience would be T.J. Watt and little-used Ola Adeniyi.

More importantly, though, the Steelers need to upgrade their inside linebacker position, where Vince Williams and 2018 free agent acquisition Jon Bostic were the starters, while L.J. Fort also saw a good amount of playing time.

Bostic was brought in to help try and replace Ryan Shazier, and while he had 73 tackles and 2.5 sacks, he proved to be less than what the team needed in terms of a coverage linebacker. In fact, after the team’s 24-17 loss in Denver in Week 11, Bostic played less than 25 percent of the defensive snaps the remainder of the season.

He lost some of those to Fort, who is more athletic and better in coverage. But the 29-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020 and the Steelers would like a younger, better replacement who could be the starter and push Bostic into a backup role befitting his $2.5 million salary cap hit.

The Steelers could wait for the draft to fill their hole at inside linebacker, or they could play it safe and make sure they get an upgrade after getting shut out on the top four prospects at the position in last year’s draft. And if they do wind up having to release Dupree, they likely would then add a veteran replacement in free agency.

(To read more, click on the link in the headline above...)

Is there logic to speculation about Le’Veon Bell going to Ravens?

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Mike Garofolo of the NFL Network is the latest football analyst to opine that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell may go to the Baltimore Ravens.

This conversation was touched off when Bell publicly flirted with Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson on social media in the wake of a previous NFL Network report. It suggested that Baltimore would be a great landing spot if he finally does divorce from the Steelers.

The idea of Le’Veon Bell in Purple and Black is intriguing on many levels.

First of all, there’s the practical angle.

The Ravens were the second-best rushing team in football with the combination of Gus Edwards, Alex Collins, Javorius Allen and Kenneth Dixon.

Jackson’s 695 rushing yards from the quarterback position didn’t hurt, either.

So, on the surface, why would they need Bell on a big-ticket salary?

Well, consider that aside from Allen, none of the other backs were at all impactful in the passing game. That’s part of the reason Baltimore acquired Ty Montgomery from Green Bay last year. Yet he wound up with only 10 receptions for 65 yards.

That’s where Bell would really come into play. He could take some of Lamar Jackson’s short passes and turn them into long gains. Jackson could really use that safety net in his development. Ben Roethlisberger is five times as polished as Jackson, and look at how much Bell helped Big Ben over the years.

Also, offensive coordinator Greg Roman has worked with top-of-the-line runners such as Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy in the past.

Secondly — beyond X’s-and-O’s — the Ravens could enjoy the glorious intangible of putting the screws to the Steelers, along with never having to face Bell again.

No team has allowed more yards rushing, receptions or touchdowns to Bell than the Ravens have. Now he could be one of their own, going up against the Steelers’ weak defense twice a year in divisional play.

Imagine the Steelers stealing Jamal Lewis in the prime of his career. This would be the rough equivalent.

After the trade of Joe Flacco becomes official, the Ravens will have $32 million of cap space. Spending big in free agency wasn’t Baltimore’s style under former general manager Ozzie Newsome for many years.

They’ve gotten more aggressive in recent seasons. But now Eric DeCosta has taken over for Newsome and, in his words, spending in free agency can be a “dicey proposition.”

(To read more, click on the link in the headline above...)

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 7

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 5:45pm

There is plenty to talk about regarding all things black-and-gold!

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. The NFL Scouting Combine is coming up...how much stock do you put into how a player tests out, compared to game film?

2. I spoke about this on my Steelers Burning Question podcast (you can listen to it below), so I thought I would ask here: What truly derailed the Steelers 2018 season? Dysfunction, or Turnovers?

3. We are past the All-Star games and pre-Combine. Has your team needs changed at all? List your Top 3 positional needs this offseason.

4. Last week I asked who was your favorite TE not named Heath Miller. This week I’m going to go with who is your favorite quarterback in Steelers history without the last name Bradshaw or Roethlisberger?

5. If you had to pick one, who would you pick? Amos Zereoue or Rashard Mendenall?

6. Outside of the Steelers, what other professional sports teams do you follow?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Steelers Preview: Breaking down the OLB Depth chart for 2019 and MORE!

Yeah, I said it: Mike Tomlin is awful at drafting Defensive Backs

Steelers Burning Question: What was the main cause of the 2018 failed season? Team dysfunction, or turnovers?

Report: Antonio Brown changes tune, will meet with Rooney out of respect

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 1:13pm

If the Steelers owner hoped to resolve matters by meeting with the teams star receiver while he was in Florida, Brown’s apparent refusal to meet him quickly ended that dream

For those fans still hopeful of a resolution to the Steelers drama with Antonio Brown that would end with him staying in Pittsburgh, that dream might have taken another turn for the worse on Friday if a new report from Ian Rapoport is to be believed.

With the NFL Network analyst claiming that Brown still unwilling to speak to team owner Art Rooney II after he had made a trip to the receiver’s home state of Florida, it would appear there is little to no chance of repairing this damaged relationship.

Sources: #Steelers owner Art Rooney II is down in Florida, where has a place, and he hoped to meet with frustrated WR Antonio Brown to clear the air. Brown has no plans to meet with Rooney, as he’s stated his intentions publicly. Talks on AB’s future will ramp up in Indy.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 15, 2019

Rather than speak with the man who made him the highest paid player at his position in the league less than two years ago, it would seem Brown is more intent on waging his own war against Pittsburgh on social media, with his latest post on Friday a strong indication of his current feelings about the Steelers organization.

Organizations got the fans tricked

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 15, 2019

His post the day before also implying he saw nothing wrong with the way he has behaved as of late.

Don’t be tolerated be celebrated !

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 13, 2019

If Brown really is refusing to meet with Mr. Rooney even when he has travelled all the way to Florida to see him, there can be few fans left who can have any remaining respect for his actions.

Unfortunately, behavior like this is hardly likely to endear Brown to many of the other owners around the league, especially given the level of respect Mr. Rooney has among his peers. The longer the receiver acts out this way, the harder it will be for the Steelers to find someone willing to offer his true trade value.

UPDATE:

News now states Antonio Brown will indeed meet with the Steelers President/Owner, out of respect.

A development: #Steelers WR Antonio Brown will now meet with owner Art Rooney II, showing respect to the man in charge, sources say.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 15, 2019

Maurice Jones-Drew believes Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell is ‘worth five wins’ a season

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 11:28am

The NFL Network analyst provided an eye-opening perspective about the value Bell could bring to a team in 2019

While the national sports media will offer up an endless stream of opinion about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their troubled star players this offseason, very little of the insight shared will be based on fact or or common sense. As such, there is no real real value highlighting their remarks on these pages, but once in a while something will appear that is just so stupid it warrants the extra attention to bring ridicule to the person who said it.

This week that honor goes to Maurice Jones-Drew of the NFL Network, a former player and analyst who has already provide some some of the more absurd takes on Le’Veon Bell heard over the last six months or so. But on Thursday, Jones-Drew reached new heights of insanity.

"To me, he's worth five wins!"@MJD says to sign @LeVeonBell pic.twitter.com/mdeosJTta4

— NFL Total Access (@NFLTotalAccess) February 15, 2019

After extolling the virtues of the Los Angeles Rams having signed Todd Gurley to a huge contract and celebrating how much he did for their offense (it seems MJD did not watch the playoffs), he would go on to make an outrageous claim about the value of Bell.

“If I’m a team that, we feel like we’re close, I’m going to go spend the money to get Le’Veon Bell because, to me, he’s worth five wins. Pittsburgh was 13 and three the last time he played, they won eight games the next year. That’s five wins to me, that can make a difference.”

Glossing over the rather obvious facts that the Steelers won nine games last year and only 12 in 2017 with Bell in the lineup that should have made Jones-Drew’s math three rather than five, it would appear he has somewhat overlooked the Pro Bowl season James Conner had in place of Bell. For those wondering what happened to Pittsburgh’s 13th win last season for the calculation, the running back sat out the final game of that year.

Had Jones-Drew done just a small amount of research, he would also have found that prior to last season, the stats really did not support his statement.

Are the Steelers actually better WITHOUT Le’Veon Bell? pic.twitter.com/p98FbtyGMx

— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) September 14, 2018

It is worth noting that Jones-Drew is the same man who said Bell deserved to be paid like a quarterback last year and also employs the same agent in Adisa Bakari. But even if no one else agrees with him, it would appear Bell approves.

https://t.co/ZjlZZfJCPh

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) February 15, 2019

Ask the Stat Geek: Should you ever just let a team score?

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 10:05am

A BTSC user asks if there’s a scenario where it’s better to give up a TD in order to gain another possession.

Do you have a statistics question (either large or small) about the Steelers or NFL football? Send them in to BTSC’s stat geek at STLRSuperFanDad@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can find.

In this installment, a pretty big question (which took a long time to compile) is the lone stats question.

Geoff Harman from Williamsport, PA.

“As I was watching the KC defense get shredded inside of 2 minutes and NE stopping at the ~5 yard line with ~50 seconds left, I wondered ‘why not just let them score and get the ball back?’ Do you have any idea how many times this season in a one score game, the team needing the comeback scores last and then wins the game (versus having the ball and losing because of running out of time or turning the ball over by downs, interception, or fumble)? I guess what I’m asking is to look at whether it’s worth letting your opponent score so that you can have the ball to control your destiny.”

There are two parts to this question, one of which leads to the understanding of the other. So to start off, I searched through every NFL game from the 2018 season (including playoffs) to see if they met a very specific end-of-game scenario. I was looking for games where a team has the ball in the final two minutes where the game is tied or the team is trailing by one score (8 points) or less and is in field goal range. Since the definition of “field goal range” varies from team to team, I set the standard as the opponent’s 35 yard line. Using these standards, they were 49 of such games in the NFL this past season.

When it comes to which team is the focus of these games, I concentrated on the team who was on defense first due to the second part of the question. For example, when Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati in Week 6, they were the team who was on defense first inside of two minutes. After the Bengals scored a touchdown, they went on defense to protect the lead. Because the Steelers were the first team to defend, they are the team in which the statistics are seeing if the defense held on to win.

Of the 49 games in the NFL this past season which qualify, 19 of them were won by the team on defense, three of which were went to overtime. Out of those 19 wins by the defense, only 10 games the defense held the offense from making any kind of score. In the three games which went to overtime, the defense gave up some kind of points. In three other games, the offense scored but missed the extra point or two point conversion. In the three remaining games, the defense gave up points but their offense scored in response to win the game in regulation. Of those 10 games where the defense held, they had a lead of four points or more in nine of them, so a field goal was not beneficial to the offense.

So to answer the first question, a team scored in 39 out of 49 games. Of those 39 games, the team won 29 times and tied once.

I realize the first part of the question was not nearly as important as the second. Is there a point where it is beneficial for the defense to just allow the offense to score? The answer is yes, but in very specific situations based on the statistics. It also, by no means, gives the team a probability of winning, it’s just a greater chance statistically than getting a stop.

Before throwing out a bunch of numbers, I wanted to explain that I needed to find the proper sample size in order to calculate the statistics. At first I calculated several stats using just the 2018 season. But one single anomaly could throw off the statistics, which it did in one category (Miami scoring a touchdown to beat New England after receiving the kickoff with less than 30 seconds remaining). After also gathering statistics over the past five seasons, 10 seasons, and 20 seasons, it was determined that the best stats came from averaging the last five NFL seasons. The reason going back farther would not give the best statistical representation is because the way both passing yards and attempts have increased in recent years. The last five years is the best sample size which best represents the current NFL landscape.

There are three determining factors as to the best choice statistically in playing out the end of the game: the score differential, the line of scrimmage, and the time remaining. The score differential is key because of determining if a field goal will tie the game, win the game, or if a touchdown is needed. Additionally, all of these situations are assuming the team does not have the timeouts in order to preserve time while also attempting to make a stop.

Statistically, if a team is leading by seven or eight points they should NOT let their opponent score. Of drives which reach the red zone in the final two minutes of the game and the team needs a touchdown to tie or take the lead, teams score a touchdown 67.2% of the time. Based on that number, the defense gets the stop 32.8% of the time. Although these odds don’t seem great, the odds of the team scoring after getting the ball back are no better in the best case scenario. This is because of the statistics for a “response field goal.”

Response Field Goal or Touchdown:

In games where a team receives a kickoff and they are either tied or down by as many as three points, teams score a field goal 32.9% of the time and a touchdown 6.6% of the time. When there is under a minute remaining, the statistics plummet as a field goal is only scored 12.3% of the time with a touchdown 2.5% of the time. If a team is down by more than three points and needs a touchdown, there is a 17.5% chance if there is more than a minute remaining while there is only a 6.7% chance of scoring a touchdown if receiving the ball with less than a minute remaining.

So even though the odds of getting a score in response are about the same as giving up the score, the odds of winning in overtime are 50% which are much more favorable. If the team goes for a two-point conversion to tie or win, the two-point conversion success rate over the last five years is 49.9%. So the odds are much better in getting the stop on the conversion than stopping the touchdown.

In 2018, there were 10 NFL games in which the team was leading by seven or eight points with their opponent in field-goal range with less than two minutes remaining. Two of the games ended up going to overtime while seven games the defense still won the game either by holding their opponent or by having a response score. The only game where the defensive team lost in regulation was when the Chargers scored a two-point conversion to beat Kansas City rather than kick the extra point to send the game to OT.

If a team is leading by four to six points, they should NOT let the team score UNLESS the ball is inside the 20 yard line AND there is more than one minute left. Once a team makes it inside the 20 yard line inside of two minutes when they need a touchdown, they have a 67.2% chance of getting into the end zone. This means the defense has a 32.8% chance of making the stop. If there is more than a minute left, the team has a 39.5% (32.9% + 6.6%) chance of coming back with a response score to tie or take the lead back. So although it is not a large margin, it is more statistically probable to get the response score than it is to stop the other team. Once the ball is moved inside the 10 yard line, the odds of stopping the other team drops to 23.4%, while going even lower to 19.6% of making a stop if the ball is moved inside the five. Regardless of the line of scrimmage, if there is under a minute remaining in the game the odds of getting the response score goes down to 14.8% (12.3% + 2.5%), so allowing the team to score does not give a statistical advantage.

A similar example of this from the 2018 NFL season was in Week 16 when the New York Jets were up five points on the Green Bay Packers. With over a minute and a half remaining, Green Bay had the ball on the Jets 1 yard line. While the Jets did not purposefully allow Green Bay to score because they had timeouts remaining, they used their timeouts properly in order to preserve the clock. After the inevitable touchdown, the Jets had enough time remaining to kick a game-tying field goal and send the game to overtime. Unfortunately, the Jets fell short in the extra period without ever seeing the ball, but at least they gave themselves a chance to win.

If a team is leading by three points, they should NOT let the team score. Even though the odds of a team getting a go ahead touchdown is more than half once they reach the 10 yard line (51.2% inside the 10 and 64.7% when inside the five), the odds of getting the needed response touchdown is only 17.5% when there is more than a minute remaining and 6.7% when less than a minute left in the game. With these odds, a team is better to try to dig in and force the field goal in order to make it to overtime.

Of the eight games in the NFL in 2018 where a team was holding a three point lead when the other team moved into field goal range, the game went to overtime in two of the games. In one other game, the defense forced a turnover in order to win. For the other five games, the defensive team lost while in two of the games the team gave up a touchdown with more than a minute remaining but we’re unable to respond with a touchdown.

If a team is tied or leading by two points or less, they SHOULD let the team score once they reach the 25 yard line if there is more than one minute left, or once they reach the 15 yard line if there is less than a minute left. In the given situation, the odds of the team on defense winning the game is very low. Once a team reaches the 25 yard line, their odds of making a field goal improves as they move closer. From the 25 yard line to the 21 yard line, field goals are successful at 84.6%, while from the 20 to the 16 yard line the success rate is 88.6%. When a team gets to the 15 to the 11 yard line, the odds of making the field goal jump to 95.5% while any time they get inside of the 10 yard line the odds go up to 97.7%.

If the decision is made to allow the team to score, the team will then need a response touchdown in order to tie or take the lead. Remember the odds of a response touchdown are 17.5% when receiving the kick off with more than a minute remaining and 6.7% when there is less than a minute remaining. Once a team reaches the 25 yard line, there is only a 15.4% chance they will not have a field goal, so the statistics are fairly close from this distance. But once the team reaches the 20 yard line, there is only a 11.4% chance the field goal will not be made. With there only being a 6.7% chance of scoring a touchdown if there is less than a minute remaining, the defense should only consider allowing the team to score once they breach the 15 yard line as a missed kick is less probable then a quick response.

There are several examples from the 2018 NFL season where teams should have allowed the other team to score in order to at least have a chance rather than face a chip-shot field goal as time expired. One example was the Steelers’ Week 13 game against the Chargers. When Keenan Allen caught the pass on 3rd & 4 with just over a minute remaining in a tie game, the Steelers would have had a greater statistical chance of winning the game if they had not bothered to tackle him and let him score the touchdown in order to respond. The Steelers would’ve had over a minute to answer with a touchdown. There was also another game with a very similar situation, and two other games when the score was tied but the team would’ve had just under a minute to respond.

In Week 17, Tampa Bay was leading Atlanta by one point with 1:47 left in the game when Atlanta had the ball at the Tampa 16 yard line. If they had just allowed the Falcons to score the touchdown, they would’ve had a chance to tie or win the game (depending on the results of the two point conversion), rather than give up a field goal to lose as time expired. This was one of four NFL games in 2018 where the team was up by one or two points and lost on a field goal as time expired when they could have let the team score in order to at least have a shot. In all four games, the team could have got the ball back with over a minute remaining.

In conclusion, if the situation is where a score would tie the game, the defense should not allow the offense to score. If a score would give the offense the lead, there are specific examples when allowing the team to score would be more beneficial based on time remaining and how close the team is to the end zone. In the specific game mentioned in the original question (AFC Championship between Kansas City and New England), Kansas City was better off allowing New England to score the touchdown once they reached the 4 yard line. It was important to have as much time remaining for Kansas City to respond, which they did with a field goal in order to force overtime.

For teams showing interest in Antonio Brown: Buyer Beware

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 8:55am

There will be teams who want to add Antonio Brown to their roster, but buyers should beware.

If you think about it, the Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 regular season resembles the career arc of Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh.

  • Both got off to a relatively slow start.
  • Looked absolutely unstoppable at times.
  • Showed tremendous promise on more than one occasion.
  • In the end, practically derailed themselves into oblivion.

This isn’t to suggest Antonio Brown doesn’t still have good football left in him — trust me, he does. But if you are the General Manager/Owner/Head Coach of an NFL team, and you want to add Brown to your roster, you might want to do your homework before pulling the trigger on a deal.

For the time being, let’s just keep the off-field distractions/interactions out of the equation. I’ll get there, but I wanted to talk about the on-field aspect of acquiring Brown first.

In my opinion, Brown is a generational talent at the wide receiver position, but it also should be noted he fell right into the perfect situation while with the Steelers. Brown and Ben Roethlisberger spent countless hours, over several years, working on their connection, and to think this can just be duplicated elsewhere is a very poor decision.

When Roethlisberger missed time, even when quarterbacks who were in the Steelers’ system took over, do you know how many touchdown passes Brown caught?

Zero.

That’s right. Antonio Brown has never caught a touchdown pass from someone other than Ben Roethlisberger in his entire career.

I found this to be astonishing, considering the amount of time Roethlisberger has missed on several occasions, but it makes you wonder if Brown would be able to just pick up where he left off with Roethlisberger if/when he finds a new football home?

Roethlisberger helped make Brown, and Brown helped make Roethlisberger, on occasion to a fault, but no one really knows what Brown will do without Roethlisberger. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger has helped several wide receivers become better players overall. Some eventually hitting a big pay day after leaving Pittsburgh.

Emmanuel Sanders
Mike Wallace
Nate Washington
Antwaan Randle El
Cedrick Wilson
Jerricho Cotchery
Santonio Holmes

The list could go on, but the fact remains that if I’m a General Manager for another team, I’m wondering what Brown’s attitude is going to be if he doesn’t have the immediate success with the quarterback currently on their roster.

This then brings up the topic of behavior both on and off the field. Throughout Brown’s career, his demeanor towards things possibly not going his way has gotten worse. It isn’t always noticeable, and the cameras aren’t always catching it, but the time he threw the Gatorade jug on the sideline in Baltimore was just one example.

Brown usually is able to keep his cool, but that is often because he knows footballs will be thrown his way. This past year he didn’t have the astonishing reception numbers he had in 2014 or 2015, but what he did do in 2018 was set a new career mark for touchdown receptions in a season, with 15. When you are putting up touchdowns at that rate, you tolerate some comments, trends and attitudes which might not completely jive with what you really want.

Antonio Brown is your typical star wide receiver in the NFL. I hate to use the term ‘diva’ when talking about receivers, but he realizes his skill level. He knows how he can help his team, but he also wants what is best for him. What is best for his brand, and that would be none other than getting a ton of passes thrown his way on a weekly basis.

Period.

Could Antonio Brown go to another team and be as effective as he was in Pittsburgh? Absolutely, but the one caveat here is he isn’t a free agent. He isn’t facing the choice of picking between going to the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers, or the San Francisco 49ers with Jimmy Garoppolo. No, he goes where the Steelers tell him he is going, and this should scare the pants off of Brown.

Imagine if the Steelers pull a trade off with the Arizona Cardinals. Think Brown would be okay with the learning curve of second year quarterback Josh Rosen? The same could be said with Sam Darnold and the New York Jets or Josh Allen with the Buffalo Bills.

Brown has had it good in Pittsburgh, and if/when he realizes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence, his actions/behavior might have the team who pays handsomely for his services left with some buyer’s remorse over the deal.

Steelers 2019 Free Agent Market Watch: Outside Linebackers

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 7:55am

BTSC examines available free agents at each position. This time it’s the Outside Linebackers and whether they’d be a possibility for Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense needs to upgrade if the team is to return as a serious threat to the Patriots in the AFC. Inside Linebacker is a definite concern, but with Bud Dupree considered by some as a disappointment and a possible departure of FA Anthony Chickillo ...Pittsburgh can’t live on T.J. Watt and his 12 sacks alone. So they may address the edges as well. Here are OLBs available in free agency and whether or not they would be considered a Steeler option.

Jadeveon Clowney - Houston Texans

This guy would be awesome in the Steel City, but the 26-year old (Feb. 14) could set the market in a defense-heavy offseason of free agency. Devastating against the run and as a pass rusher, the 2014 No. 1 overall pick had nine sacks, three fumble recoveries and a career-high 21 quarterback hits. Pairing him with another Watt could help the Steelers pass rush to be phenomenal and give the secondary more time to cover receivers. Wouldn’t be cheap, but would be well worth it.

Dee Ford - Kansas City Chiefs

Ford has been inconsistent for Kansas City. He looked like a world beater in 2016 with ten sacks, but his other three years were sub par for the 2014 first rounder. Granted, last year Ford had a back injury. He did rebound with a vengeance in 2018 with 13 sacks. His run support game is said to be sub par, but Ford is a very good pass rusher.

Za’Darius Smith - Baltimore Ravens

Everybody talks T-Sizzle and C.J. Mosley, but Smith is a talent. The 2015 fourth-rounder had 8 1⁄2 of hs 18 1⁄2 career sacks in 2018. Smith would be a great sign and the Steelers wouldn’t hesitate to bring a guy like this over from a division rival. The Steelers already righted the fact that they picked the wrong Ole Miss CB (Senquez Golson) in the second round of 2015. Maybe they could finally get the right Kentucky OLB instead of the Wildcat they selected in Round One that year (Bud Dupree).

K.J. Wright - Seattle Seahawks

Soon to be 30, Wright has had an impressive career in a Seattle uniform. Limited to a mere five games due to an injured knee, Wright is still projected to be ready for 2019 and could be a bargain for the Steelers. Wright has played outside and inside throughout his career.

Shaq Barrett - Denver Broncos

Barrett is a young and solid edge-rush linebacker. Despite missing his entire rookie year, Barrett had a solid 2015 and 2016. Injuries hampered Shaq and limited him to four sacks in 2017. The Broncos added Bradley Chubb and Barrett’s opportunities were limited and he produced only three sacks in 2018, but he has tons of upside.

Other Available Free Agent Outside Linebackers:

Anthony Barr - Minnesota Vikings

Preston Smith - Washington Redskins

Terrell Suggs - Baltimore Ravens

Shane Ray - Denver Broncos

Lorenzo Alexander - Buffalo Bills

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