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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 2018-12-10T15:15:03-05:00
Updated: 44 min 14 sec ago

Predicting the Steelers’ Week 14 inactive list vs. the Raiders

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 1:23pm

Some players who were inactive in Week 13 aren’t even on the radar a week later.

For the first time all season a running back will be inactive and a receiver will not. As some players get back on the field, others will resume their normal roles as Sunday spectators.

Game Status

Out:

OT Marcus Gilbert (knee)

RB James Conner

Questionable:

LB Anthony Chickillo (Ankle)

S Morgan Burnett (back)

Here are the possibilities to end up inactive for Week 14:

Definitely:

OT Marcus Gilbert- if they had to do over again, I’m sure the Steelers would have placed Marcus Gilbert on IR where he could return later in the season. Instead he takes up a roster spot which could be used for depth elsewhere.

RB James Conner- Steelers Nation is eager for Conner to return, hopefully next week. With him being ruled out this past Monday, it does not bode well for Connor to be ready for Week 15.

Most Likely:

QB Mason Rudolph- with every game being important at this point, Rudolph should only be dressing in case of a terrible emergency.

OT Zach Banner- having Banner as an extra lineman on the 53-man roster may be why the Steelers didn’t place Marcus Gilbert on the IR. He’s the insurance policy who has cemented himself as a inactive list regular.

DT L.T. Walton- his role for 2018 has been clearly defined: be ready to step in if anyone is injured. Everyone is healthy this week, so Walton gets the day off.

S Marcus Allen- finally dressing for a game last week, Marcus Allen logged 17 defensive snaps with an additional nine on special teams. But since both Morgan Burnett and Cam Sutton appear to be back for this week, Marcus goes back to watching from the sidelines.

Possibly:

LB Anthony Chickillo- after being held out the first two days of practice, Chickillo was a full participant on Friday. With a questionable designation, he looks to be a game-time decision although he has already stated he will be ready to play.

CB Brian Allen- only seeing the field on special teams, Brian Allen most likely sits out when the entire secondary is healthy. Unless Chickillo or Burnet can’t go, Brian probably will be the odd man out.

Unlikely:

S Morgan Burnett- he was a full participant every day this week, but somehow Burnet still ended up with a questionable designation. I was surprised he was on the game status list at all as I see him being able to go.

Projected Inactive List:
  1. Mason Rudolph
  2. Marcus Gilbert
  3. James Conner
  4. Zach Banner
  5. L.T. Walton
  6. Marcus Allen
  7. Brian Allen

As much as last week had a lot of possibilities, Week 14 is shaping up to be pretty straight forward. With only five wide receivers on the roster, they are not even mentioned this week. The only question comes down to Burnett’s and Chickillo’s injuries. If they both can go, which I think they will, then the Allens fill the final two spots.

...

Feel free to list your projected inactives in the comments below.

No NFL team is as unsuccessful throwing the challenge flag as the Steelers over the past few years

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 12:20pm

Mike Tomlin is 0-9 when he opts to throw the challenge flag as of late, with his last successful challenge coming in Week 9 of 2015 against the Ravens.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have not had the greatest of luck when it comes to refereeing decisions in 2018, but while there has been nothing they could have done about most of the missed calls, the ability to throw a challenge flag has done little to help them either.

Mike Tomlin has challenged four plays so far this season and has yet to see one go his way, a repeat of the 2017 season when he also failed to win one. Looking back over the length of his career, it would appear the last time Pittsburgh won a challenge was back in Week 9 of 2015.

Since winning their last challenge, Tomlin is 0-9 throwing the red flag. Statistically the NFL’s least successful coach at challenges between 2015-2017, nothing has changed this season to improve his ranking. However, as poor as his recent form has been, it has not always been that way. In six of his 12 seasons in charge, Tomlin won 50 percent of his challenges or better and once ranked as one of the more successful in the league.

While it would be fair to note that a head coach rarely makes the decision to throw the flag on his own, he carries the blame when it was the wrong thing to do. The Steelers last failed challenge came just last Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, an arguably debatable decision to challenge the spot of the ball on a 3-and-10 catch by JuJu Smith-Schuster that netted 9-yards.

Tomlin may also have had a better record as of late if he had opted to challenge some calls that looked to be flag worthy. A diving 25-yard touchdown run that was incorrectly ruled down at the 1-yard line in Week 6 against the Cincinnati Bengals is just one that comes to mind recently. A missed opportunity that came later in the game after Pittsburgh had already lost a challenge.

The Steelers 0-9 streak is not the worst in NFL history, but it is not far off. Marvin Lewis once lost 11 consecutive challenges and 14 out of 15 over the course of the 2006-07 seasons. As did John Fox with the Carolina Panthers in 2004-05. When compared to names like Andy Reid (46.9), John Harbaugh (45.91), Sean Payton (42.57) or Bill Belichick (40.35), Tomlin’s lifetime win rate of 45.71 percent is fairly respectable. That being said, Steeler fans would probably appreciate him winning a challenge in the not too distant future.

Week 14 Early Games: Updates, news and open thread

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 11:45am

The Steelers don’t play until later in Week 14, but we all will be watching on Sunday to see how things shake out.

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t play until 4:25 p.m. ET in Week 14, and with the Steelers not slated to play until they play the Raiders in Oakland. We all know the Steelers Nation fan base will be watching all the earlier games today to see how things shake out.

Some take this time to just relax and get caught up on things outside of football, but if you are like me, you are still watching the full slate of action on Sunday.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on Sunday. Which game are you watching? Are you someone with NFL Sunday Ticket who has access to all games, or are you stuck watching just one or two games? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all those AFC North games in the process.

As always, remember we are all here for the same reason...

GO STEELERS!

Bold and bizarre predictions for Steelers vs. Raiders, Week 14

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 11:14am

BTSC’s Nostradumbass predicts the Steelers’ upcoming game vs. Oakland.

The 7-4-1 Steelers had a six-game win streak. Now it is a two-game skid. This week they return to the Black Hole in Oakland to take on an awful team that has proven awfully dangerous to them, especially in this venue. Will the RBs offer any semblance of a rushing attack with James Conner out? Will Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin finally win in this city? Will Derek Carr’s assessment that Big Ben is not a Top 10 QB be proven correct? Will Darth Raider and his minions see one of their own arrested for attempted murder?

With these questions, storylines, and more, I’ve compiled a list of predictions (some basic, and some utterly idiotic) to look for in this Week 14 contest:

  • Ben Roethlisberger starts out flat in the first quarter of play with a pick-six and two three-and-outs, but rebounds with four TD passes and 400+ yards.
  • Stevan Ridley, and not Jaylen Samuels, gets the bulk of the carries. However, the rookie Samuels scores as a receiver twice.
  • At halftime, Darth Raider rips off his headgear and reveals himself as “He Who Shall Not Be Named”. The former Steeler performs his latest rap single, “Mike, I am not your running back” to elated Oakland Alamedates.
  • Antonio Brown scorches the Raiders for 200+ yards receiving. After a huge score in the fourth, AB makes a costly mistake and hyper-jumps into the stands of the Black Hole. There the real Darth Raider orders No. 84 frozen in carbonite and sent to Tatooine.
  • Because commemorating the 49th birthday of Pittsburgh native and Olympic hero Kurt Angle would require a difficult body slam of Ramon Foster, JuJu Smith-Schuster instead rejoices a touchdown by wrapping a blue blanket around Foster’s legs and decorating him with lights and bulbs in tribute to the 53rd anniversary of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.
  • Terrell Edmunds gets a Pick Six.
  • Trey Edmunds scores a rushing TD.
  • Yinzers from Waynesburg to Waynesboro speculate that Tremaine Edmunds will demand a trade from the Bills to join his siblings.
  • Ola Adenyi gets his first sack of the season.
  • Jalen Richard takes a Derek Carr screen pass 70+ for a score.
  • The Steelers secondary struggle to reel in Jordy Nelson, as Derek Carr throws to the former Packer early and often.
  • But the Steelers take advantage of a suspect Raider line and sack Carr six times.
  • On the radio broadcast, Wolf calls Carr by his brother’s name, David, at least thrice,
  • In the end, the Steelers win 42-30 to escape the Black Hole for their first win there since 1995.
  • The ghost of Al Davis attempts to fire Jon Gruden after the game, but Gruden finds it in the rule book that posthumous personnel moves by paranormals are prohibited.
  • Those who took the over in Oakland fan arrests prove to be the biggest winners of the day.

...

Will any of this actually happen? I’ll bet at least one or two. Heck, maybe every one of them. Be sure to post your predictions — basic or bizarre — below.

The Pittsburgh Steelers face a no-win situation in Week 14

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 10:04am

The Pittsburgh Steelers vs the Oakland Raiders game this Sunday afternoon in Oakland is a confrontation that, no matter the final score, the Steelers really can't win. They can only not lose.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it suddenly dawns on you that no matter what you do you just can't win? I found myself in just such a situation quite a few years back.

I had just went through a KFC drive thru window to pick up supper for the family on my way home from work. I was about to pull out of the parking lot when a car ignored all the right aways and almost drove into the side of my vehicle. Startled to say the least, I threw up my hands as if to say "What's your problem?" as the car flew by the front of my own.

Suddenly the other car slammed on their brakes and the driver jumps out to confront me. Much to my surprise, it was a little person and he must have been having a bad day. He was mad at the world, but he seemed especially angry towards me. He was using foul language like I had never heard, I believe he was actually making up words as he went along. All the while, everyone who was lined up in the drive thru lane was getting a free show to go with their impending dinner. Some of their faces seemed horrified by what they were witnessing, while some seemed to find the proceedings to be hilarious.

I admit I initially exited my vehicle in anger to confront the other driver, but once I realized the situation I was mainly shocked and confused. Then suddenly it all became incredibly funny and I couldn't stop laughing. My laughter seemed to infuriate him even further and his rather harsh language intensified. I noticed he was backing up as I walked closer to him and then he seemed to recognize the magnitude of the situation. He stopped his incessant cussing and his facial expression revealed his concern about my intentions.

I told him, "Listen up, little fella. You need to be more careful next time cause we just about had an accident, and I wouldn't jump out of the car cursing like that either. The next guy might not be as nice as me." He never said a word, but when I got about half way back to my vehicle he cussed me one more time and quickly drove away.

That was my definition of a no win situation. Anything I would have done would have reflected poorly on me. As I stated earlier, there was a drive thru full of witnesses and I feel certain someone was catching the festivities on their phone. Imagine trying to explain getting arrested to your family or boss when they see you assaulting a little person on the nightly news. That is a lose lose situation .

The Pittsburgh Steelers face a similar situation this week. They face what amounts to a must win game against an inferior, wounded opponent in the Raiders. The Raiders have a severely weakened roster and a disjointed locker room. They are playing out the string and most games they are just looking for an excuse to quit. Get an early lead in the game and you will probably break their fragile will to compete. Let them hang around, like the Chiefs managed to do last week, and you may have a fight on your hands.

Turnovers, penalties, and self inflicted wounds can level any playing field. Add in the Steelers struggles on the West Coast, especially in Oakland, and the Steelers should have no problem being properly motivated and focused.

If the Steelers blow the Raiders out, it will accomplish nothing in some people's eyes. They only did their job, what they should do against any weakened opponent. Some will point out how they still haven't beaten a team this season that presently has a winning record.

If the Steelers struggle to put the Raiders away in a close, hard fought victory, the naysayers will point out that if they can barely beat the lowly Raiders how are they going to be able to compete against the Patriots and Saints, just to earn a chance to make the playoffs. Even if they sneak in the playoffs they will have no chance to advance.

If the Steelers manage to lose this game.....I don't even want to think about that.

Crunching the Numbers: Tomlin vs. inferior opponents, Ben out west, and second-down play calling

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 8:54am

The Steelers have been accused of losing too many games under Coach Tomlin when playing a team with a losing record.

74-28

Entering 2018, the Steelers are 74-28 under Mike Tomlin against teams who finished the season at .500 or below. Their home record is 39-8 while only managing a record of 35–20 on the road. This season, the Steelers are currently 6–1–1 against teams who do not have a winning record as of week 13. The one loss may very well disappear soon as Denver is likely to eclipse the .500 mark.

20-7

Of the games outlined previously against teams who did not have a winning record at seasons end, the Steelers are 20–7 in the final four games of the season. Although this record does not seem overly impressive, they have won seven straight of those games, and four straight on the road. In short, the Steelers have not lost in the final quarter of the season to a team who did not end up with a winning record since 2015 in Baltimore.

21-4

In games in which the Steelers have been favored by 10 points or more, they are 21–4 under Mike Tomlin. They have won six straight games and 15 of their last 16. The lone defeat in this stretch was, once again, in Baltimore in 2015. The Steelers are currently 10.5-point favorites on Sunday in Oakland.

6-4

The Steelers are currently on their eleventh 2-game losing streak under Mike Tomlin. Of the previous 10, six of them the Steelers won the next game to end the streak. Of the games they lost, two were in Baltimore (one without Ben) while the other 2 were at home. They are 2-1 against teams who have a losing record with the one loss being 2 years ago versus the 3-4 Ravens.

1-6

Ben Roethlisberger has a record of 1–6 when playing in the Pacific time zone. After winning his first trip to the West Coast in San Diego in 2005, Ben has lost six straight games with three of the six losses being against the Raiders. In games on the West Coast, Ben has thrown eight TDs, rushed for one, thrown 13 INTs, and fumbled three times. The Steelers did win in San Diego in 2015 with Michael Vick filling in at quarterback.

188 vs 76

On second down, the Steelers have the second fewest number of rushes in the NFL with 76, one behind Cincinnati. The Steelers have thrown more second-down passes than anybody with 188, which is 14 more than second place Tampa. Their breakdown for 2nd down is 71.8% passing to 28.2% rushing, while the league average is 59.2% passing and 40.8% rushing. So the Steelers passed 12.6% more on second down than the typical NFL team. With an average distance of 7.81 yards to go on second down which ranks 12th lowest in the league, it’s not like the Steelers are forced to throw the ball more than normal. Second down is generally when a team has the most freedom to run plays of their choosing if they are not behind the sticks, and the Steelers are constantly choosing to pass.

0-3

It has been highly publicized this week that Ben Roethlisberger is 0-3 when visiting the Raiders, regardless of which home city they were playing in at the time. Additionally, Mike Tomlin’s record is 0-2 in Oakland with games taking place in September and October. The one record that has not been discussed much is how Raiders coach John Gruden is 0-3 against Pittsburgh in his head coaching career for both Oakland and Tampa Bay. Of those three losses, two of them came in seasons where his teams had 10 or more wins at the time of the game. Another item of note, all three of these games where Gruden has lost to the Steelers have occurred the month of December. So between Gruden and Tomlin, one of them will break the trend while the other continues the losing streak.

Report Card: Grading the Steelers offense in the third quarter of 2018

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 7:40am

BTSC grades the Steelers’ offense in games nine through twelve of 2018.

The first quarter of the Steelers’ 2018 season was rough, the second saw them go 4-0 to lift their record to 5-2-1. The third quarter started off perfect, but then two straight losses turned the tables 180 degrees. With that, I am tasked to break out the red pen and evaluate the season’s third quarter, I no longer do it from the penthouse, but somewhere back near the edge.

As I’ve stated all along, I’m not a football coach or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. Each week of the 2018 exhibition and regular season, I’ve graded the efforts of the Black-and-gold via “the eye test”. Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what count the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well. So you, the reader, get to vote as well. You even get to grade the grader in the comments section.

So let’s take a look at BTSC’s perceptions of the 2018 season’s third quarter:

Offense

The Steelers’ offense is still ranked fourth in the league with 410.75 ypg and 28.8 points per game (ppg) average through twelve contests. In 2017, they scored at a rate of 26.4 ppg. Ben Roethlisberger remains the league’s passing yards leader (3,945 yards), but he is also second in the NFL with 13 interceptions thrown. In Quarter 3, Ben has thrown six of those picks and the late one against Denver sealed the loss. He’s getting good receiver play and has looked brilliant at junctures, but his bad balls at the wrong time are disconcerting.

Ben’s offensive line has not been the issue. They are back to resembling the high-caliber unit of past years and are playing like an elite squad. Injuries have hampered Marcus Gilbert, but Matt Feiler and Chuks Okorafor have filled in tremendously at RT. The remaining four of Ramon Foster, Dave DeCastro, Alejandro Villanueva and Maurkice Pouncey have been dominating oncoming defenders, protecting Ben (fourth with a mere 1.4 sacks allowed in 2018). and opening gaping holes for James Conner. Mike Munchak’s guys are close to being the class of the league.

James Conner’s third quarter of the season has seen his status as an elite back in the league slip. Though his average carries have dramatically decreased, going from 22.0 in Q2 to 12.5 in Q3. With eleven rushing TDs and another on a reception. No. 30’s 909 rushing yards on the ground ranks him fifth, but he has had crucial fumbles and his ankle sprain has him out for maybe a couple of games. Conner has done well, but he’s no longer outplaying his predecessor.

Antonio Brown is not having the receptions (81-9th) and yardage (1,028-11th) season that he’s accustomed to, but his twelve receiving TDs lead the NFL and is only one behind his career high in 2014. Double-teaming AB has forced balls to go in other directions, mostly to JuJu Smith-Schuster. JuJu (7th in the league) leads the team with 83 catches for 1,104 yards (8th). This gives the Steelers two elite WR1’s. The disconnect between Ben and AB has lessened with No. 84 seemingly accepting that Ben can’t continue to force the ball into him. But in Q3, Ben has seemed to have started that practice up again. The deep threat that Martavis Bryant provided hasn’t yet been replicated, as Justin Hunter and James Washington haven’t seized the WR3 role. Ryan Switzer has emerged in that role.

The TE duo of Jesse James (386 yards on 27 catches) and Vance McDonald (472 yards on 40 catches) has been very solid. As a unit, they’ve got a combined 67 grabs for 858 yards. But they haven’t been as potent in Q3, Vanimal is only 14 catches for 126 yards, while Jesse registered only 8 for 103.

Overall Offense Grade: C

The offense has failed to close out games. They get a lead and sit on it. They had a great game to start Q3 by thoroughly dominating Carolina, but that was their only complete game. The offense needs to play four quarters of complete football to not squander their division lead and the playoffs altogether.

Offensive Valedictorian: Antonio Brown

Defense

In the first quarter of the 2018 season, the Steelers’ defense best ranking was 22nd. It was one of the worst starts on defense ever in the Steel City. Now at the season’s three-quarter point, vast improvement has been observed. After Q2, The Steelers’ defense was ranked 12th in the league in total yards allowed (347.9 ypg). After Q3, Keith Butler’s crew is 6th by allowing thirty yards less per game. The Q2 pass defense ranked 21st against the pass (257.6 pypg) and 8th against the run (110.4 rypg).

The bright spots on defense continue to be T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, Mike Hilton, Vince Williams and Joe Haden. Javon Hargrave has joined those five as a standout. Bud Dupree, L.J. Fort and Terrell Edmunds are improving. Injuries to Morgan Burnett and Stephon Tuitt have greatly hampered this team. The Steeler D is much better with them in the lineup. However, they are much better with Artie Burns out of it.

Overall Defense Grade: C-

Even tough the rankings have mostly improved, the Steelers rush defense struggled against Leonard Fournette, Philip Lindsay and Justin Jackson in the past three games. The pass defense is regressing as well. Even though the defense had dominated the Panthersvand played well for two quarters a game in the past three, The defense has failed to protect leads in the past two contests. This has to improve or the Steelers could find themselves in peril.

Defensive Valedictorian: T.J. Watt

Check out if you will get to see the Steelers vs. Raiders game in Week 14

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 6:36am

Check the map to see if you will get to see Steelers vs. Raiders in the comfort of your own home.

If you were like me, before I decided to sign up for the DirecTV Sunday Ticket package every week I was wondering whether I’d be able to watch my beloved Steelers in the comfort of my own home, or if I’d have to go elsewhere to watch the game.

Before there were websites devoted to this, it meant a lengthy trip on the television guide screen to see which game was scheduled to air, but now it’s just a click away.

So, will you get to see the Steelers and Broncos go head-to-head in Week 12? Check out which games you’ll see in your local viewing area.

For those who want to know which game they’ll see, check the map below, courtesy of 506 Sports:

[Steelers fans: Sign up for FanPulse, our weekly Steelers survey]

Week 14

RED - Eagles at Cowboys
BLUE - Steelers at Raiders
GREEN - Lions at Cardinals

If you live in the BLUE section of this map, consider yourselves the lucky ones who will get to see the Steelers play this Sunday.

So, are you lucky enough to be able to watch the game live in your own home, or are you one of many who will have to find other means to view the game? Either way, today is the day to get pumped!!

HERE WE GO!!

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking the full Week 14 slate of games against the spread

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 5:38am

We make our picks against the spread and versus the totals for every game on the NFL schedule in Week 14.

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have failed to bounce back in Week 13, but there was at least some improvement in the BTSC staff picks. However, while Jeff Hartman was an impressive 11-4 versus the totals and a respectable 9-6 against the spread, I barely managed to avoid a losing week at 8-7 for both.

Only three games are separated by a spread of more than a touchdown this weekend and eight games feature a spread of 3.5-points or less. It is also another big week for road favorites as eight home teams find themselves listed as undergods in front of their own fans, two by more than a touchdown.

With the Steelers holding a slim lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the race for the AFC North crown, Pittsburgh fans will be hoping a Kansas City Chiefs team short-handed at running back proves the bookmakers in making them 6.5-point favorites for the game. If teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins have any real hopes of a wildcard birth this season, they will need to overcome tough divisional matchups against the Houston Texans (-4.5) and New England Patriots (-7.5) respectively this Sunday.

Selections have been made using the consensus Las Vegas odds from VegasInsider.com as of Friday night and we encourage you to play along with us by adding your picks below.

Black and Gold Links: Pittsburgh vs. Oakland rivalry has very deep roots

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 4:37am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen better days than they are currently experiencing. The black-and-gold have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since 2016, after losing to the Broncos and Chargers in consecutive weeks. Now they turn their attention to another AFC West opponent, the Oakland Raiders, in Week 14.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how the Oakland vs. Pittsburgh history has a very rich history, and while the history between the Steelers and Raiders will travel to Las Vegas, there will be a piece of that history left behind in California. The move might have been inevitable to some, but the fact the roots of this history are based on Oakland.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers-Raiders rivalry rich with NFL history

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers played their first game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Oct. 25, 1970, and from that point over the next six years, two months and two days, the Steelers would visit the multi-purpose park six times.

The franchises never have shared the same division. But during their common heydays, it seemed like they did.

“It felt like we went out there every year,” four-time Steelers Super Bowl champion running back Rocky Bleier said. “And it felt like we played them twice a year: once in the regular season and again in the playoffs or (conference) championship game.”

The Steelers and Raiders did, in fact, meet nine times over five seasons between 1972-76. The Steelers played just as often at the Oakland Coliseum in that span (five times) as they did the home stadiums of AFC North rivals Cleveland, Cincinnati and Houston.

“You knew going there,” Bleier said of Oakland, “that their fans were absolutely rabid.”

The Black-and-Gold. The Silver-and-Black. Two iconic American sports franchises. Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. Steelers-Raiders matchup might not necessarily be the most anticipated NFL game of the day, but that is only because the 2018 Raiders are 2-10.

Ask any football fan over 50, though: Steelers-Raiders instantly conjures up memories of what was once must-see NFL TV.

“It brings me back to my childhood,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said this week, “and really when I fell in love with football was watching these two teams play.”

Adding extra nostalgia is Sunday’s meeting almost certainly will be the final one in Oakland. The Raiders announced their intention to move to Las Vegas, ending a history of Steelers-Raiders games in Northern California that dates to a 31-14 Raiders win on that October day 38 years ago.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin this week gave his players what veteran guard Ramon Foster called “a history lesson” for playing in what is one of the NFL’s oldest stadiums.

“He was just letting guys know where we are going,” veteran receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “Into the Black Hole.”

Arguably the NFL’s most renowned fan seating section, the Black Hole is known for its colorful personalities and less-than-hospitable treatment of opposing players.

“Obviously, being a visitor in that stadium, for people who have never been before, you got the guys with costumes,” Heyward-Bey said. “And then there’s the bad locker room. I mean, it’s horrible.”

No questioning that, but that 52-year-old visiting football locker room is also the spot of one of the Steelers’ greatest moments. It’s where the franchise celebrated earning its first Super Bowl berth via a 24-13 victory Dec. 29, 1974.

That was just one of two AFC title games the Steelers played in Oakland and also part of a stretch of five consecutive seasons the Steelers and Raiders met in the postseason.

The most famed moment among those meetings, of course, came at Three Rivers Stadium: Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception in 1972. The Hall of Fame running back will be in Oakland for Sunday’s game.

“There’s a rumor going around that Phil Villapiano is going to be escorting Franco Harris to the stadium,” Gruden said. “If that happens, that will be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.”

The linebacker who was covering Harris when he made the famous deflected catch, Vallapiano is one of several Raiders who, to this day, believes the Immaculate Reception was illegal.

For almost four decades until his death, eccentric Raiders owner Al Davis was among that group of Immaculate Reception truthers. And to hear Bleier tell it, it was the frosty relationship between Davis and Steelers coach Chuck Noll that led to the rivalry. The two were on the staff of the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers together from 1960-62.

“One of the reasons that we didn’t have numbers on our practice jerseys was because of the fact that Chuck Noll just never trusted Al,” Bleier said. “And it would be harder for them to be able to spy on us and understand who’s playing what position.

“Or at least that’s how part of that story goes.”

Steelers notebook: Gruden: ‘Tomlin brought out the best in me’

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

One year into his NFL coaching career, Mike Tomlin was at a crossroads when Jon Gruden replaced Tony Dungy as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Gruden could have cleaned house and gotten rid of Dungy’s assistants. Instead, he kept most of the defensive coaches intact, including Tomlin, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Gruden, who has returned from a 10-year hiatus to coach the Oakland Raiders, explained his reasoning this week on a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters.

“I met Mike previously through Monte Kiffin,” Gruden said. “When I got the Tampa job, I was well aware of the kind of personnel we had, the kind of defense we had, and I wanted to keep that band together — not just the players. I wanted to keep Marinelli, Tomlin, Monte Kiffin and the whole defensive coaching staff together.

“I’m really fortunate to say I was able to coach with those guys, and those are some of the best memories I have in football.”

Tomlin worked under Gruden for five seasons before leaving to become the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator. One year later, he was hired by the Steelers.

Gruden, whose specialty was offense, recalled his competitons with Tomlin on the practice field.

“We used to call each other out. We used to go after each other on the practice field,” Gruden said. “He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s got a great enthusiasm for football. He’s a tremendous leader and great competitor, man.

“He wants to win every drill. He wants to win every single thing he goes up at you against. He brought out the best in me, and I think I brought out the best in him and I think he would tell you we had some fun battles.”

Tomlin referred to his old boss as a “top-notch strategist.”

“I am sure he spent a lot of time analyzing us, not only this week in preparation for the game, but just largely,” Tomlin said. “Our defensive schemes are kind of prevalent throughout ball. He’s the kind of guy that studies and digests football.”

Kevin Gorman: Steelers need to win the fourth quarter

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers break the regular season into four quarters, and they enter the final four-game stretch clinging to a half-game lead in the AFC North Division and the fourth seed in the conference.

With games at Oakland on Sunday, at home against the New England Patriots, at the New Orleans Saints and at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Pittsburgh Steelers might need to do more than to play “Renegade” to get Terrible Towels waving for a playoff run.

“It’s the fourth quarter of the season. We know how important that is,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “You need to be playing your best football in December going into January. This is a big stretch for us, and we’re playing some really good football teams … good ones at home and good ones on the road.”

What the Steelers need to do is play their best football in the fourth quarter of the fourth quarter. That’s been a problem so far, as the quarters of their season have mirrored the quarters of their games.

They scored only six points in the first quarter of the first four games, when the Steelers started 1-2-1. They dominated the second quarter of the next four games, outscoring opponents 66-3 in four consecutive victories. The third quarter saw a split, with wins over the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars followed by losses to the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers.

The Steelers haven’t been a great fourth-quarter team, despite dramatic, last-minute comeback wins at Cincinnati and Jacksonville. Opponents have outscored the Steelers in the fourth quarter of five games this season, by a combined total of 99-75.

“You want to win every fourth quarter, regardless. That’s always the most important quarter of the game,” Roethlisberger said. “For us, we have to go out and play great in this fourth quarter because it carries over into the postseason, if you have a chance. We always say, ‘Peak at the right time.’ ”

Roethlisberger knows as well as anyone that the key to peaking at the right time involves not throwing picks at the wrong time. He’s thrown more interceptions (13) than the Steelers have takeaways (12), and their minus-8 turnover ratio ranks tied for 26th in the NFL.

“For me personally, it’s just taking care of the ball,” Roethlisberger said. “You can’t turn it over. You have to take care of the ball just like you would in the postseason. Every mistake is magnified. I approach these last four games like they’re the first four games of the postseason.

“Turnovers are the key to football games, both ways. You’ve got to get them, and you have to keep from giving them up.”

The Steelers have done the opposite the past two games. Against the Broncos, Roethlisberger threw an interception in the end zone to end a last-minute rally. Against the Chargers, a collision in the end zone between cornerback Joe Haden and safety Sean Davis prevented a pick that instead popped into the hands of Keenan Allen for a touchdown.

The Steelers know if those two plays turn out differently, they could be 9-2-1 and in position for the AFC’s second seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs. Haden believes the Steelers are “super close” to forcing turnovers and is impressed how they are accustomed to playing for and in the postseason.

“The one thing that you realize here is they’re so used to playoff football,” Haden said. “The season’s never over. The playoffs are always coming. The regular season is a season in itself, then the postseason is another season. We have that mindset that we’re still building for something, that we’re always at the end of the season going to have more football to play.”

Time waits for no man, even Ben Roethlisberger

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 3:21pm

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger needs to decide how he wants to be remembered. His story is far from complete, and the ending is up to him.

Time remains an undefeated opponent. It catches up to us all at some point, and we are left with memories of what used to be. That is why it's important to live life to it's fullest and leave few regrets.

Ben Roethlisberger has had a remarkable Hall of Fame career. Everything from the long winning streak to start his Rookie of the Year season, to his two Super Bowl titles in the first five years of his career, seems to have been taken directly from a feel good Hollywood script.

Even after Ben fell victim to the perks of being an NFL superstar and displayed an entitled attitude and a concerning lack of character soon after his prestigious success, he has rebounded in typical Big Ben fashion. Ben is now a husband and father of a beautiful family, a man of faith, willing to accept the responsibility of being the recognized face of the franchise. Young Ben often struggled with the leadership role, but like his immaturity and character concerns, that lies somewhere buried in the past.

Ben is the greatest QB in Steelers history. His statistics are scattered throughout the NFL record books and his multitude of incredible performances and big games are the stuff of legends. He has reached a level obtained by only the greats, when everyone knows you by just a nickname. You mention Big Ben and even the casual football fan knows who you are referring to.

Legacy cemented, Ben Roethlisberger plays the game for a singular purpose, to win another Super Bowl. Ben came to training camp in the best shape, and lowest weight, we had seen him in years. He said it was mainly the result of an improved diet. That commitment displayed the resolve of a man focused on performing at the top of his abilities. Sure enough, his movement in the pocket and ability to run when necessary seem much improved this season.

He has retained his elite arm strength, even at this advanced age, which has been made evident by a series of tremendous throws in recent weeks that few of his peers throughout history could have made.

Ben's season now resides in a very precarious position. He has struggled this season with highly questionable decisions at inopportune moments. Turnovers happen, especially when you are constantly competing to keep the play alive. This playing style often results in incredible game winning plays that Ben has become famous for, but can also lead to forced fumbles and costly interceptions.

Ben knows these possibilities, but he also knows who he is. Ben's penchant for the extended the play, resulting in too many miraculous plays to mention, has made him unique amongst his peers. Ben is often compared to John Elway, and to a lesser degree Brett Favre, and I think he is fine with those comparisons. Hall of Fame QBs who also won Super Bowls.

This season thus far has seemed anything but settled for Ben. He has achieved excellence at moments, but has been unable to sustain it for extended periods. Some of this may have been caused by new faces in new places, as there is always an adjustment period from one season to the next, but as the Steelers enter the fourth quarter of the season these adjustments should have already been made.

While it is Mike Tomlin's responsibility to set the tone for the team from the sidelines, it is Ben's responsibility on the field. As the field general of the offense, the other offensive players look to him for leadership and count on him to make the correct decisions necessary to win the game. Ben has admitted that he hasn't done that consistently enough this season, and needs to improve. He is more than capable of doing just that.

With great abilities comes great expectations. We all knew this season wasn't going to be easy, and it has proven to be anything but. Incredibly tough schedule for a Steelers squad filled with more questions than answers.

Stranger things have happened, but it would almost take a miracle for the Steelers to win it all this season. Wouldn't surprise me if Ben turned out to be the perfect man for the job.

Ben's story is far from finished, and he is in the process of writing the final chapters. I sure hope it ends with a Happily Ever After.

Despite demotion, Matthew Thomas remains a confident player on the Steelers practice squad

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 1:43pm

The high hopes for Matthew Thomas took a hit when he was put on the team’s practice squad, but his future remains bright.

Every year the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base tends to gravitate to one player as their training camp darling in hopes they could be the proverbial diamond in the rough for their favorite team.

This year it might have been a toss up among several players, but one who was definitely in the mix was undrafted free agent linebacker out of Florida State, Matthew Thomas.

Thomas possessed the rare speed, athleticism and size most thought could help be a band-aid for the giant hole on the defense left by injured Ryan Shazier. Throughout the preseason Thomas worked both at inside linebacker and outside linebacker, and showed some serious versatility on special teams.

It looked at if he was being primed to be a very nice weapon in Keith Butler’s defensive scheme. Then Thomas was inactive on game day midway through the season, and that followed with his release to make room for Ola Adeniyi on the 53-man active roster.

What happened with this promising young talent to go from special teams player, to finding his way on the team’s practice squad after clearing waivers?

We may never know, but one thing is for sure — Thomas remains a confident player moving forward.

“I still feel good, I’m still confident as a player and as an athlete,” Thomas told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after practice Friday. “I am not going to let it get to me. I have been in worse situations, so this is just a little setback.”

Ultimately, Thomas understands it was a numbers situation which saw him as the odd man out with the Steelers.

“It’s just part of the business, you know?” he said.

“Just waiting for my opportunity. And I have to show them more on my end, just show them more urgency and just give them what they want to see. So I have to work on that and come back to the table and go back to the drawing board and get myself right.”

So, what did Thomas think led to his release? The main contributor was consistency.

“Basically like just seeing more urgency here and just being consistent, being a professional,” Thomas said. “All those things play a factor in it.”

Thomas conceded that he did consider other teams during the 48-hour period in which he was, by definition, a free agent.

“I thought about it, but in the end I decided I would just stay here because of the foundation and stuff like that I have with the system,” Thomas said. “I feel comfortable here. So I just need my opportunity to prove myself.”

That opportunity might not come until next season, but the hope is Thomas will be better prepared to make his mark with a full season as a professional under his belt.

The Steelers game against the Raiders might not be do or die, but it’s a must-win

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 12:33pm

Are the Steelers a dominant team? No. Are they good enough to defeat the Raiders, make the playoffs and do some damage once they get there? Yes. And that means a loss on Sunday simply cannot and will not happen.

Fans are funny, in that they always tend to think the worst about their favorite football team.

Take Steelers fans, for example. After two-straight losses that have left the Steelers at 7-4-1, many are now predicting a total collapse that will leave them on the outside looking in when the playoffs kickoff in about a month.

According to many, Pittsburgh hasn’t defeated a good team yet this year—including the Ravens. However, Baltimore has won a few games in a row, and despite a really tough schedule over the last month, one that includes trips to Kansas City and Los Angeles to take on the Chiefs and Chargers, there’s now a strong belief (or is it an irrational fear?) John Harbaugh will find a way to overtake the Steelers in the AFC North.

The Steelers, meanwhile, will not only take it on the chin against their two toughest opponents over the final month of the regular season—the Patriots and Saints—they will lose to the 2-10 Raiders Sunday afternoon at Oakland Alameda Coliseum.

You see, the Steelers never play well in Oakland or against the Raiders—at least not when things are going poorly for Pittsburgh.

In 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2013, the Steelers lost to Raiders teams that won a total of 17 games, which means they lost a total of 47. Perhaps not coincidentally, Pittsburgh failed to make the playoffs after each of those seasons.

Three of those losses came in Oakland and were rather ugly, which is probably why fans are concerned about Sunday afternoon’s kickoff at 4:25.

But I wouldn’t be too concerned if I were you. This is a really bad Raiders team that doesn’t do a whole lot well in just about any category. They don’t pass well. They don’t run well. They don’t stop the pass. They don’t stop the run. They don’t get after the quarterback at all. They don’t protect the quarterback at all.

This is a game the Steelers should win and do so going away.

I don’t want to hear about any of those previous losses to the Raiders. Even 2013 was a long time ago. As for 2006, Facebook was still behind Myspace in the social media war, and JuJu Smith-Schuster was nine-years old at the time Pittsburgh’s loss to the Raiders took place. And I’d be worried about all of those interceptions Ben Roethlisberger threw that day if Hines Ward and Cedrick Wilson were still on the team, and he was being protected by the likes of Alan Faneca and Marvel Smith.

In other words, that’s all ancient history and has about as much to do with Sunday’s match-up as Franco Harris, Frenchy Fuqua and Jack Tatum.

I realize the Steelers have issues. I realize they’ll be missing James Conner at running back. But there is no reason Pittsburgh should lose this football game to this football team.

People want to forget recent history and act like the Steelers have been scuffling all season. But the fact is, they looked rusty over the first month, unstoppable over the next month or so and really sloppy over the past three weeks.

The Steelers are what their record says they are, which is about a 10-win team. Totally dominant? No. Good enough to beat the Raiders and maybe even the Patriots and/or Saints? Yes. Good enough to make it to the playoffs and perhaps do some damage once they get there? Absolutely.

Keeping the focus on Oakland. There is no way the leadership on this Steelers’ team—including the coaches and veteran players—can allow a loss to happen on Sunday. With everything on the line and with everything that’s at stake, collectively, this group must stand up and say, “No, we cannot allow this to happen again, not this season!”

If the Steelers have the heart of a champion (or at least a contender), they must go to Oakland and take care of business.

I believe they do and they will.

Steelers 38, Raiders 17.

5 Steelers who need to step up in a big way vs. the Raiders in Week 14

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 11:22am

Turning the page to the Raiders game, there are certain players who need to step up in a big way,

The Pittsburgh Steelers now turn away from their Week 13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, and start to look to the Week 14 showdown vs. the Oakland Raiders at the Coliseum.

Looking at the Steelers’ roster, there are several players who need to step up their play for the team to attain their 8th win of the season, and make yet another step towards winning the AFC North for the third year in a row.

Here are 5 players who need to step up in a big way for the black-and-gold:

1. Ben Roethlisberger

The Pittsburgh Steelers go as Big Ben goes, and lately he has been as inconsistent as they come. Roethlisberger needs to play a clean game, not throw 54 times. If the Steelers want to not just win the game vs. Oakland, but rattle off several wins in the final stretch of the season, Roethlisberger needs to be on his A-game.

2. Offensive Line

The Raiders have 10 sacks on the season. Yes, for the entire season. T.J. Watt has 10 sacks by himself this year, and if there is ever a game where No. 7 doesn’t even get breathed on it would be this one. The past two weeks Roethlisberger has been under duress on occasion, and this is a game where the offensive line should be dominant in every sense of the word.

3. T.J. Watt/Bud Dupree

The Oakland Raiders offensive tackles are ripe for the picking. The Steelers are currently on pace to fall just under their 56 sack record set in 2017, but a big game against the Raiders’ porous offensive line could not only dominate the game but also put them on pace to set a new franchise record for sacks in a season.

4. L.J. Fort/Morgan Burnett

The Raiders have shipped out almost all of their weapons under Jon Gruden, but Jared Cook remains. The monster of a tight end has been abusing defenses the past few weeks, and it will be up to a combination of Fort, and Morgan Burnett (if he plays) to slow down Cook and take away the Raiders’ No. 1 threat.

5. Chris Boswell

Right when you thought Boswell’s issues were resolved, he missed his 5th extra point of the season. While no one knows for sure, but Boswell’s miss allowed the Chargers to be behind just by two scores. This fact equated to two touchdowns followed by two-point conversions to tie the game. Boswell isn’t going anywhere, but the Steelers need their kicker to be the automatic kicker of 2017, not the kicker with the yips we’ve seen in 2018.

...

These are my 5 players who need to step up...what about you? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!

Javon Hargrave is turning into one of the most versatile nose tackles in the NFL

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 9:45am

Javon Hargrave's nickname is the Gravedigger. He might not actually be named after the famous monster truck, but he sure has been playing like one lately.

Javon Hargrave is quietly having a breakout season, and quickly becoming one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game. He has registered 6.5 sacks so far this season, which places him among the top ten leaders for sacks by interior defensive linemen in the NFL, and the only one listed as a nose tackle. What makes this achievement even more impressive is the fact Hargrave has put up that number in about half as many overall snaps as the players currently ahead of him on the list.

Hargrave is arguably the Steelers most improved defensive player, not taking anything away from free safety Sean Davis' improvement this season. That is even more remarkable when you realize Hargrave is not your typical nose tackle.

Javon Hargrave is not the type of player that immediately comes to mind when you imagine an NFL nose tackle. That player would be former Steelers great Casey Hampton, probably the greatest nose tackle to ever play the game.

Casey was short and stout. He resembled the Pillsbury Dough Boy on steroids, and by his own description was grown man strong. He would engage at the snap, tie up a couple of blockers, and clog up the running lanes till the cavalry arrived to clean up the mess. He knew his role and he excelled at it. He seldom went off script, but if you made him angry, he would demonstrate what he was capable of doing. One play in particular comes to mind.

I believe it was against the Tennessee Titans on the road. The Titans guard came down the line and chop blocked Hampton, who was engaged with the center on a power sweep. Much to Hampton's dismay, no penalty flag. Usually a very affable individual, Casey was visibly enraged. On the next play, he drove the center all the way back into the QB, knocking both men to the ground to register one of the few sacks of his career. Later, when asked why he didn't display that ability to collapse the pocket more often Casey replied, "That's not what they ask me to do."

Nose tackles are going the way of the fullback position in the NFL. They are a dying breed. Most players who still display nose tackle tendencies for their team prefer to be listed as a defensive tackle. They want to be known as a more well rounded player, and Hargrave fits that description just fine.

Hargrave's game is predicated on explosive short area quickness and penetration. I think the player he most resembles is a young Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals. He might not have achieved that level quite yet, but he is getting close.

Hargrave has graded out as one of the best interior linemen against the run this season, top five actually. He utilizes his superior quickness to penetrate the backfield and take down the ball carrier. His tackling has also improved since last season. Couple that with his pass rushing prowess and you can see where the Atkins comparison may have merit.

Hargrave's outstanding play recently has made it increasingly difficult for the Steelers to take him off the field, and that may actually become a concern. Will Javon's production remain consistent with increased usage, or will fatigue become an issue?

The Steelers would love to generate consistent pressure with only four pass rushers, only occasionally blitzing a fifth rusher. That would allow them to better manage and disguise their well documented coverage deficiencies. A pass rush of Heyward, Hargrave, Tuitt, and one of the linebackers may allow them to achieve just that. But questions remain concerning Hargrave's usage.

Is Hargrave's effectiveness directly related to his infrequent usage which allows him to stay fresh throughout the game, thus enabling him with an inherent advantage over the opposition?

That is a question that only increased playing time will answer.

AFC Playoff Scenario: What needs to happen for the Steelers to clinch the AFC North

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 8:35am

After yet another loss, the Steelers’ magic number is stuck at four.

Twelve games into the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves with a 0.5 game lead in the AFC North. With a win by the Ravens coupled with losses by the Steelers, Bengals, and Browns the top of the division is as tight as it can be with one team having a tie. Looking forward at the match-up’s, how many more victories do the Steelers need in order to secure the AFC North?

Here are the current AFC North standings after Week 13 of the NFL season:

  1. Pittsburgh 7-4-1
  2. Baltimore 7-5 (0.5 GB)
  3. Cincinnati 5-7 (2.5 GB)
  4. Cleveland 4-7-1 (3 GB)

Starting again with the Cleveland Browns, they are not officially eliminated from winning the AFC North. Yes, they are three games back to a team which holds the tiebreaker against them, but there is an outlandish scenario where either the Bengals or Ravens could tie one of their remaining games to where the three-way tiebreaker could come in to play. Even then, Cleveland is not guaranteed to have the advantage. First and foremost, they would have to win at home this week against Carolina where they are currently and even draw.

The Bengals are now 5-7 and the downward spiral is in full effect. Losers of four straight games, A.J. Green and Andy Dalton are out for the remainder of the season. Needing to win out for even have a chance at winning the north, it does not help that the Bengals are 15.5-point underdogs in Los Angeles on Sunday.

As for Baltimore, they managed to pick up yet another game on the Steelers with an impressive win in Atlanta. The Falcons are only 4-8 this year, but they are still a tough team to beat in their house. If the Ravens could go on the road and take down the Chiefs this weekend, that would be an impressive victory. For now, they remain only a half game back of Pittsburgh.

Two weeks ago, the Steelers could have clinched the division with two wins and two Ravens’ losses. Instead, the exact opposite happened so the magic number for the Steelers to clinch the division is still four with just four games remaining. But the Steelers still control their own destiny. It is also noteworthy to mention the Ravens have a magic number of five to claim the AFC North.

This coming week may be the most telling about how the division is going to play out in 2018. With the Steelers currently an 11-point favorite while Baltimore is a 7-point underdog, the trajectory of each team will be completely re-evaluated if the Ravens pull off the upset and the Steelers give Oakland their third win. Some breathing room would be nice with some tough opponents in the coming weeks, but for now the Steelers need to stay focused on winning one game at a time.

Trey Edmunds isn’t just Terrell’s brother, he has got potential himself

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 7:25am

The newest RB offers a dynamic the Steelers don’t have.

Trey Edmunds was a Running Back at Maryland and came into the league before either of his brothers, Tremaine and Terrell, came into the NFL. Edmunds went undrafted and earned his spot on the Saints after the preseason, but was relegated to the practice squad. After he was released in the offseason, he had no home until the Steelers came calling and added him to their practice squad.

I never really watched Edmunds myself at Maryland, but I checked out his Saints tape, and I gotta tell you, I think he has a shot to be a better addition than most think. He may not shatter the earth, but he is faster than Stevan Ridley and Jaylen Samuels as he ran as low as a 4.40 40 time, which gives the Steelers a speed element to their game they simply did not have before the addition of him to the 53-man roster.

What I found was maybe Edmunds wasn’t as fast as his 40 time suggested, but that he certainly was a one-cut back who had solid vision and honestly, runs pretty similarly to James Conner in some ways. Edmunds functions best on “duo” and “stretch” plays. For example, duo looks like this:

This is essentially a play the Steelers could run. As we know, they love to use the bunch set, and so here it is. Imagine the “H” as Vance McDonald the, the Y as Xavier Grimble, and the Z as JuJu Smith-Schuster with the Antonio Brown lined up at the X. Duo refers to the read the RB makes on the LB. Duo is a weird concept, because it is sometimes called “power without a puller” or a type of inside zone, but it is really something in between that, and Edmunds thrives on it.

Essentially, there are two double teams, on in the B gap, and another on the A gap. In this case, Edmunds would press that first double to where Pouncey and Foster are heading and read the “Mike” LB (the very middle one) and read what he does. Should he play over top of the and outside, Edmunds would cut it back towards Foster and Feiler. And then if the LB comes hard down on the LOS, Edmunds would cut it out towards the bunch set and theoretically, either run it up behind JuJu and McDonald, or bounce it completely outside of them.

Duo is flexible play and the Steelers have had success running it with James Conner this year. If they want to get yards this week, duo is likely coming in some form, especially with Ridley and Edmunds. So, that is one look where Trey Edmunds can get a run out of, because not only is he quick and fast, but he has good vision.

However, I like the screen game a lot for Edmunds, too. Reason being is that the guy just cannot go down, take a look at this.

#Steelers new RB Trey Edmunds, who might see snaps on Sunday, has one trait that sticks out — contact balance. The guy literally does not go down. Look at this, run into two guys and bounces off of them. Impressive stuff. Won’t light the world on fire but a few reps ain’t bad. pic.twitter.com/2vEozvG5x0

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 4, 2018

Good blocking, sure, but he just runs right over two guys and nearly breaks it loose if he could just stay up a bit more. Out of everything Edmunds has, contact balance would be the best thing he possesses. I am not sure if Edmunds will stick, but he sure does have the potential to do so. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get some snaps, and he might just deserve them.

But don’t just label him as just Terrell’s brother, Trey has his own thing, and it could be huge down the stretch.

Some lessons to be learned in the large Steelers Family

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 6:13am

There are always those ‘Crazy Uncles’ in every family...even the Pittsburgh Steelers family.

It’s holiday season, which more often than not, is also the prelude to playoff season for Steeler fans. Just as baseball season typically draws to a painful close in Pittsburgh around the middle of July, so football extends into January most seasons. We’ve already survived Thanksgiving. Now comes Christmas, the season, and the day, followed quickly by New Year’s, the eve and the day. That means more parties, more family, more intense games, and for many, more alcohol. Which can all too easily lead to more problems.

My co-laborer at BTSC, Dan Sager, highlighted two shameful episodes from Heinz Field where shots of frustration were dropped into pints of beer, creating blowing boilermakers. It is ugly, embarrassing, shameful. It is true enough that those kinds of events happen on any given Sunday across the league. Over the past 25 years I’ve been to roughly a dozen Steeler games in half a dozen venues, none of them in Pittsburgh. While the drama I’ve witnessed never rose to the level captured by the videos in Dan’s piece, it has come close a few times. He did well in calling fans to behave themselves while at the games. I want to encourage the same when we are watching from afar.

I’m passionate about the Steelers. I’ve been following them closely since 1972. Most of my conversations later in life with my father eventually got around to something other than the Steelers. And eventually they always came back. But if I am having a terrible time and casting shadows on my loved ones, even when we are losing, even when we are losing stupid, even when we are being double teamed by our opponent and the zebras, even when we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, whatever is going wrong with the game, I’m doing it wrong myself.

I understand the perspective that would say it’s kind of cheating to draw deep joy out of victory, and to draw only minor irritation from a loss. The pendulum should swing equal distances both ways, right? Wrong. It is just a game, after all. Don’t let its vicissitudes rob your home of peace. There have been already more than fifty Super Bowls, and many championships before then. But we have only one family. Families stick together. And families encourage each other to act responsibly. If the Steelers matter to you more than your family, you are deeply disturbed, and your family is not well cared for. Get every ounce of joy you can squeeze from victory. And let losses be water off a duck’s back.

Don’t be that guy. Nothing wrong with everyone knowing you are passionate about the Steelers. Something deeply wrong if the Steelers are that which you are most passionate about in your life. When the cousins stop by from Cleveland, congratulate them on getting better. When your nephew announces over the Christmas goose that he is now on his fourth bandwagon of the year and is certain the Chiefs, no Rams, no Saints, no, Texans are going all the way, be glad we have six Lombardis and that you have your nephew. And if, perchance, we lose the big game right there in front of that family of non-Steeler fans, and one of them is being that guy, be the better guy and wish him well.

Black and Gold Links: The Steelers will go as far as Ben Roethlisberger’s arm will take them

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 4:54am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen better days than they are currently experiencing. The black-and-gold have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since 2016, after losing to the Broncos and Chargers in consecutive weeks. Now they turn their attention to another AFC West opponent, the Oakland Raiders, in Week 14.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how the reality of the 2018 Steelers is how Ben Roethlisberger is the straw which stirs the proverbial drink. The team will go as Big Ben goes, and this theory has held up to be true throughout the regular season — and will be intensified with the absence of James Conner in the short term.

Let’s get to the news:

Ben Roethlisberger’s arm more important than ever for Steelers

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

James Conner is out, and so is any semblance of a running game for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That sentence isn’t cemented in fact, but it is the perception of an offense preparing to play its first game this season without its starting running back.

Behind 15th-year veteran Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers already were throwing the ball at a historic rate this season. Why would that strategy change without their top runner against the 2-10 Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum?

Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on Thursday insisted the Steelers, minus the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher, won’t abandon the ground game against the Raiders, whose run defense is tied for the worst in the NFL this season.

“We’re going to still address it as trying to be as balanced as we can, run when we can run,” Fichtner said. “It all comes down to efficiency.”

Despite Conner’s 909 yards rushing, the Steelers rank No. 27 in attempted runs and No. 29 in rushing yards. They have averaged 28.8 points per game — No. 4 in the league — based largely on Roethlisberger’s right arm.

Roethlisberger leads the NFL in passing attempts and yardage. But with the Steelers losing back-to-back games when Roethlisberger combined for 101 passes and barely winning one in Jacksonville when he put the ball in the air 47 times, the question is whether the Steelers are passing too much and running too little.

Conner had 15 carries, his highest total in four games, before he sprained his ankle late in the Steelers’ 33-30 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Roethlisberger had 45 passing attempts.

“I thought we were moving in that direction (of balance) the other night, but we got a couple of costly penalties that set us back,” Fichtner said. “We’re still going to force it and keep working on it. We’ve got capable runners.”

Rookie fifth-rounder Jaylen Samuels and veteran Stevan Ridley are expected to share the running back duties against the Raiders — and potentially beyond if Conner’s injury keeps him out multiple weeks.

“Nothing changes with Jaylen or Ridley in there, absolutely nothing at all for us,” guard Ramon Foster said. “We’re going to be a group of guys (on the offensive line that says), ‘Hey, this falls on our backs. We’re gonna get this done, and that’s that’ whether we’re running it 12 times or we are running it 22 times.

“The volume we get, maybe we get more yards, too. … If Ben wants to throw it, or if we are in a better situation where we have 500 yards passing, that’s fine, too. It’s all about getting a win.”

Ryan Switzer at home in the slot with the Steelers

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ben Roethlisberger isn’t concerned about the physical stature of his slot receivers, which is a good thing for Ryan Switzer.

At 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, Switzer is one of the smallest players on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster. But he possesses the quality that matters most to his quarterback.

“When you play in the slot, it’s really about the size of your heart, truthfully,” Roethlisberger said, “because it’s a different animal in there.”

Switzer has shown he is not afraid to go into the lion’s den when he runs routes across the middle. And he doesn’t shy away from contact with much bigger linebackers and safeties. Witness the play with 5:14 remaining in the Steelers’ 33-30 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers when Switzer was sent to the ground by jarring hit to his chin from linebacker Jatavis Brown.

The hit, which drew an unnecessary roughness penalty, knocked Switzer from the game and put him in concussion protocol. But Switzer returned to practice Wednesday and is preparing to be back in the slot Sunday when the Steelers visit the Oakland Raiders.

When the Steelers exchanged low-round draft picks with the Raiders in August to acquire Switzer, they filled a gap on their kick and punt return units. But Switzer has emerged as a do-everything player for the Steelers on offense. He had a career-high 67 receiving yards two week ago in Denver when he played a season-high 52 snaps. For the season, he’s caught 29 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown.

In addition to catching passes from the slot, Switzer also has taken handoffs in the backfield and apparently even gotten some work at quarterback.

Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner revealed Thursday that Switzer is the emergency quarterback in the event of a game-day injury to Roethlisberger and backup Joshua Dobbs.

“He understands his role in that regard, too,” Fichtner said. “That goes back to his mindset. It’s hard because he would tell you, and he likes to continually tell you, he was one time maybe the all-time leading rusher in the state of West Virginia high school football.

“So he thinks he can do everything and I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re little. Those guys are big. I don’t want you up in there too often.’ But he’s more than willing and because he’s capable, we’ll have some fun with him in certain things.”

A two-time West Virginia player of the year at George Washington High School in Charleston, Switzer also was a prolific receiver at North Carolina, which he was quick to remind reporters this week when asked about his emergence in the slot with the Steelers.

Switzer never believed that the Steelers traded for him just for his return skills.

“They didn’t have to tell me. I expected that,” he said. “I don’t just return kicks and punts for a living. I was an all-ACC guy in college as a receiver.”

What will it take for Steelers to break Oakland losing streak?

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

On the Friday “Breakfast With Benz” podcast, I’m joined by Chris Townsend of the Raiders Radio Network. We preview Sunday’s game for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Oakland.

The “Black Hole” has been a house of horrors for the Steelers. But Chris doesn’t seem to think that is going to matter much this time around.

•••

LISTEN: Tim Benz, Chris Townsend break down Steelers-Raiders matchup

•••

From a tactical standpoint, we talk about trying to stop Raiders tight end Jared Cook. There’s one guy Ben Roethlisberger should avoid on the Oakland defense. And we perhaps find one ray of optimism for the 2-10 Silver and Black.

Chris also gets into the pending move to Las Vegas. The Martavis Bryant trade debacle comes up. And why has year one under Jon Gruden gone so wrong?

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Raiders Edition

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 5:38pm

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 Steelers’ remaining games are as follows:

at OAK
vs. NE
at NO
vs. CIN

How do they finish, and which games to they win or lose?

2. If you had to predict ONE Steelers running back who will do well on Sunday, will it be Jaylen Samuels or Stevan Ridley? Why?

3. OVER/UNDER number of sacks on Derek Carr in Week 14: 4

4. The Steelers haven’t won in Oakland since 1995 when Neil O’Donnell was the quarterback. Do you believe in curses, and/or places where teams just never seem to win? Explain your answer...

5. Not sure why I like this question so much, but here goes:

Who scores first, and who makes the first tackle for the Steelers this Sunday?

6. What is your prediction for the game on Sunday? And how do you see the game shaking out?

Extra Credit: I love Christmas movies...which would you prefer in the battle?

It’s A Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

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