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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 2018-10-14T19:39:40-04:00
Updated: 1 hour 44 min ago

Is the timing of Le’Veon Bell’s supposed return because of the bye, or the Bengals?

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 2:28pm

If Bell plans to play for the Steelers at all, the Week 17 matchup against Cincy is unavoidable, but Week 6 is a different story.

Earlier this month, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that Le’Veon Bell plans to return to the Steelers this season, most likely during the Week 7 bye. While it makes sense for Bell to report at that time in order to cash a weekly check without having to participate in a game, it also coincides with the Steelers coming off of one of their match ups with the Cincinnati Bengals. And Le’Veon has quite a history with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Since coming into the league in 2013, Le’Veon Bell has missed four complete games against Cincinnati, as well as leaving two other games with season-ending injuries. To put it into perspective, Bell has only completed 45% of the possible games against the Bengals. It all began in Week 2 of 2013 when LeVeon had yet to begin his regular-season career due to an injury. This particular game is the last time the Steelers have been defeated in Cincinnati, falling 20–10.

In week 15 of Bell’s rookie season, the Steelers defeated the Bengals at Heinz Field 30–20. In the game, Le’Veon rushed for 57 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown. He also added 50 yards receiving on five catches.

In 2014, Leavy on Bell appeared to be quite the Bengals slayer when in their week 14 matchup he rushed for 185 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. He added another 50 yards on six catches and a receiving touchdown as the Steelers won 42–21. But three weeks later in Pittsburgh, Bell faced his first season-ending injury at the hands of the Bengals. With 8:22 left in the third quarter and the Steelers leading 10–20, Bell was tackled after a 19 yard reception by Reggie Nelson. On the play, Le’Veon’s knee was injured, causing him to miss the following week’s play off defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.

The very next time the Steelers faced the Bengals was in Week 8 of 2015. This game was the infamous Vontaze Burfict tackle which ended Bell’s season. Subsequently, this was also the last time the Bengals have defeated the Steelers.

Of the next six matchup‘s against Cincinnati, Bell missed the first three. Two of those came in 2015 with one being the 18-16 playoff victory at Paul Brown Stadium. In the three games that Bell has played, he has only recorded one touchdown.

There are other factors with the Bengals that could factor in Bell’s decision. Since his last injury, both Antonio Brown and Ryan Shazier have suffered season (and possibly career) ending injuries against Cincinnati. Additionally, in Week 7 of last season, Bell carried the football 35 times for 134 yards. If he is concerned about being “overworked,” this would be a prime example.

Does the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be coming off a game against the Cincinnati Bengals before for Le’Veon Bell supposedly reports back to the team mean anything? Maybe. It could also mean that he is reporting because of the bye week. There’s really no way to know.

The last thing that I want to imply that Le’Veon Bell is scared of Cincinnati. I don’t think that’s the case at all. But the history of injury and workload– his two major concerns as to why he has not reported since he didn’t get a new deal- is something that Bell most likely considered. Unless Le’Veon goes out of his way to speak about the subject, I doubt we ever get an answer. But if the Steelers would be playing the Bengals in Week 8 instead of Week 6, it might have made for a very interesting decision from Le’Veon Bell’s camp.

Setting the stage, and picking the winner of Steelers vs. Bengals

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 12:45pm

The Bengals, winless against the Steelers since 2013, are in a prime position to vanquish their demons.

This weekend, the Steelers travel to Cincinnati, where they will wage battle against the vile Bengals, their definitional rival by dint of their concurrent existence in the AFC North—which—don’t laugh—might be the best division in the NFL; it is the only division, in fact, in which each participant boasts a .500 or better record. The Steelers have not lost in Cincinnati since 2013, and they haven’t lost to the Bengals at all since 2015, a head-to-head winning streak that currently stands at seven games. Imagine if your favorite team dropped seven games in a row to its most hated rival. Imagine if the Steelers did this. Vast hordes of rightfully apoplectic fans would swarm Heinz Field, pitchforks and Terrible Towels in hand, demanding the organization be scrubbed clean of those responsible for enabling the team to reach such a startling nadir.

But not the Bengals. I suppose, if you were particularly inclined to be overly benevolent, one could argue that the Bengals are, I don’t know, an exemplary model of organizational consistency, or something. More pragmatically, though, they are the same county fair you’ve been patronizing since you were a kid. Football czar Mike Brown, who isn’t so much frugal as he is dirt cheap, has done nothing to sully the core pieces of this enterprise. Stooge Marvin Lewis, who is unfailingly the Jeopardy! answer to “The one NFL coach you’d never want to see patrolling your team’s sideline,” has coached the team since 2003, which is insane given his horrifying record of stunning ineptitude in the postseason. This would be one thing if, in 2007, Lewis signed a 15-year contract extension that contained an ironclad no-buyout provision, but Lewis has signed myriad short-term contract extensions, the most recent of which came on the heels of back-to-back nine-loss seasons. If there’s a Mike Brown pee-tape floating around, Lewis has it, and he’s made copies.

The personnel is more or less the same it’s been since, like, 2007, too. Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard, Dre Kirkpatrick, Vincent Rey, Carlos Dunlap, and Geno Atkins were all part of the same 1996 draft class, and Vontaze Burfict, the league’s foremost hitman, has been lowerin’ helmets and twistin’ ankles since before Ben Roethlisberger was born. Now, none of this is to say that this is a subpar core of star players; quite the contrary, in fact—this is a group that, from 2011 though 2015, willed the Bengals to five consecutive postseason berths, four double-digit win seasons, and two AFC North titles. Dalton, Green, et al.—and, to be fair, Lewis—dragged the Bengals kicking and screaming into the realm of respectability, a domain they had not visited since...Boomer Esiason was the quarterback? I honestly don’t even know. This is a commendable feat, truly. But the Bengals should’ve viewed their 6-9-1 season in 2016 as a warning sign of their impending finality, and their 7-9 record the season thereafter should’ve confirmed it. Dalton, toiling behind a paper-thin offensive line, looked irreversibly broken, Cincinnati’s young, promising skill players suddenly didn’t look so promising, and the defense fell apart. No one would’ve blamed Brown for blowing the whole operation sky-high and starting anew.

This brings us to 2018, where the Bengals are featuring many of the same players they featured in 2015, a season in which they won 12 games before losing spectacularly and hilariously to the Steelers in the AFC Playoffs. It’s a strategy that’s bore fruit. Cincinnati is 4-1 and very legitimately looks like one of the teams to beat in the AFC. Dalton is playing at an MVP caliber, and Green is on pace to catch approximately a zillion touchdowns. Tight end Tyler Eifert may have vaporized his patella tendon whilst painting with watercolors, but former Pitt standout Tyler Boyd, who looked like a lost cause after a bleh sophomore campaign, is making the third-year leap, having already established himself as an effective and reliable secondary receiver. Second-year receiver John Ross, ostensibly a game-breaker, is Dri Archer with more fanfare, but he’s still theoretically a dangerous vertical threat who could potentially open space for other pass-catchers, I guess? I probably shouldn’t throw too much shade at John Ross; a man who boasts 4.2 speed facing off against a porous secondary that’s allowed what feels like a hundred big plays this year is a matchup that favors the former. Indeed, the Bengals are certainly not bereft of offensive firepower, and they’ll have perhaps their most versatile weapon available for this weekend’s proceedings. Despite missing two games after undergoing a minor knee procedure, Joe Mixon touched the football 25 times in a 27-17 win over the Dolphins last week, accruing nearly 120 all-purpose yards and scoring a touchdown. He’ll be featured heavily against the Steelers (Mixon has at least 22 touches in each of his three starts this season)

Prediction: Bengals 31, Steelers 21

That the Bengals have lost seven games in a row to the Steelers is bad enough, but that three of those losses (the 2015 Wild Card game and late-season games in 2016 and 2017) resulted from impossible collapses at home is the kind of thing that can shatter the disposition of even the most optimistic supporter. As a Steelers fan, I can relate to this.

The Steelers are, in many ways, a primary rival of the New England Patriots even though the Steelers have not beat the Patriots since 2011 and even though they have never defeated Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium or in the playoffs. In the six games that have occurred since that 2011 victory, my state of mind pre-game has become increasingly fatalistic, going from from “We can beat these guys!” in 2013 to “Well, the law of averages says we’ll win one of these eventually, right?” in 2016 to “Okay, so we can probably just chalk this one up as a loss” after reviewing the 2018 schedule back in the spring. The resulting disappointment stings a little less if you expect it, you know?

I think this is maybe what it feels like currently to be a Bengals fan. The Bengals are very obviously an excellent football team (just as the Steelers were in the run-ups to their matchups with New England), but, for whatever reason, they’ve been utterly incapable of vanquishing the despicable Pittsburgh Steelers, even though they’ve routinely outplayed the Steelers for significant portions of numerous games. This is probably a dumb take, but it still feels too early to determine what the 2018 versions of the Steelers and Bengals currently are, let alone what they might be. There’s still plenty of time for things to fall in accordance with projections—namely, the Steelers could still transform into an unbeatable Super Bowl contender, just like the Bengals could regress and finish, like, 8-8—but it’s possible, too, that these Cincinnati Bengals are just as talented as the 2015 division winners.

Either way, it isn’t a stretch to say that, right now, the Bengals are a better football team than the Steelers, ghosts of misfortunes past be damned. I think they’ll end up resetting the ticker on Pittsburgh’s win streak.

3rd Down Conversions, 4th Quarter Execution 2 Keys to a Steelers victory vs. Cincinnati

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 11:34am

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ keys to victory could come down to two huge factors.

It’s probably a stretch to call the sixth game of the season a “must-win” for the Steelers. But at 2-2-1 with a contest at division-leading Cincinnati (4-1) on Sunday, this is about as close as you can get.

A win puts the Steelers just a half-game back of the AFC North lead. A loss drops them two and a half back with an 0-2-1 mark in the division. “Must-win?” Maybe not. “Really really really need to win to make their path to the playoffs more realistic?” Absolutely.

I would guess Mike Tomlin has hammered this message home all week. The message is clear. What may be murkier is how the message will be realized. The Bengals are 2-0 at home this year with an impressive win over Baltimore and a momentum-building comeback from seventeen points down last Sunday against then 3-1 Miami. The Steelers will need to play their best game of the season if they are to leave the not-so-friendly confines of Paul Brown Stadium with their division title hopes in tact.

In laying a blueprint for how they can do this, two factors are worth emphasizing: 3rd down conversions and 4th quarter execution. Let’s break down how the Steelers success in these areas (or lack thereof) could determine Sunday’s outcome.

3RD DOWN CONVERSIONS

Coaches and pundits often opine that turnover ratio is the most important statistic in football. We’ve heard a thousand times that the team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the football game. This is true. But nipping at the heels of turnover ratio in terms of statistical importance is success on 3rd down. The team that can get off the field on defense, or conversely, the team that can keep drives alive by converting on 3rd downs wins nearly as often as the team that best protects the football.

Consider these numbers: in 2017, the offenses with the best 3rd down conversion rates were Atlanta (44.7%), Pittsburgh (44.0) and Minnesota (43.5). Those teams combined to go 36-12. The three worst 3rd down offenses belonged to the Giants, Washington and Miami, who went 16-32. This season, a trio of first place teams - the Rams, Kansas City and Jacksonville - are among the best while three teams with losing records - Dallas, Arizona and Buffalo - have been the least successful.

If we flip to the defensive side of the ball, we find similar results. The best defenses at getting off of the field on 3rd down in 2017 were Minnesota, Philly and Jacksonville, all playoff teams. The worst - San Fran, Indy and Tampa - combined to go 15-33. This year the best have been Baltimore, KC and Minnesota (10-4-1) while the worst have been Buffalo, Cincy and Atlanta (7-8).

Obviously, 3rd down success is integral to overall team success. The outlier in all of these numbers is the Bengals, who are 4-1 despite allowing opponents to succeed on 52.7% of 3rd down attempts so far this season. On offense, Cincy has converted 40.7% of their 3rd downs, which puts them in the middle of the pack league-wide.

The Steelers rank 18th defensively, allowing opponents a 39% 3rd down conversion rate, and are 16th offensively, converting 38% of their own 3rd downs. That mediocrity is befitting of their 2-2-1 record. How, then, have the Bengals gotten to 4-1 while being bad on 3rd downs on defense and average on offense? To answer that, let’s look at another set of numbers.

4TH QUARTER SUCCESS

Cincinnati stormed back from a 17-3 deficit by outscoring Miami 24-0 in the 4th quarter last week. They began the quarter with an eight play, 71 yard touchdown drive in which they converted both of their third downs. That cut the lead to 17-10. On Miami’s ensuing possession, defensive lineman Michael Johnson returned an interception 22 yards to tie the game. The Bengals then forced a punt and drove 62 yards for a go-ahead field goal, keeping the drive alive on a 3rd and 13 conversion from Andy Dalton to AJ Green. Miami got the ball back, and on a 3rd and 17, the Bengals’ Carlos Dunlap forced a fumbled that was returned for another defensive touchdown, cementing the 27-17 win.

A week earlier, in their 37-36 last second win against Atlanta, the Bengals converted two 4th downs on the game-winning drive that culminated in a Green touchdown with 0:07 remaining. In their season-opening win at Indy, Cincy trailed 23-17 entering the 4th before outscoring the Colts 17-0 to win 34-23. The clinching touchdown was an 83 yard fumble return in the final minute with Indy driving for the potential winning score. The fumble return occurred on (wait for it)... a 3rd down. In all, the Bengals have outscored their opponents 56-18 in the 4th quarter and have converted a host of 3rd and 4th downs while getting key 3rd down stops on defense. In short, they have been at their best in the most crucial situations.

As for the Steelers, the 4th quarter has not been as kind. Pittsburgh has been outscored 51-23 in 4th quarters this season, including a late meltdown against the Browns in the season-opener, a near meltdown at Tampa Bay and a display of utter incompetence against Baltimore. In those three games, the 4th quarter numbers are gruesome: the Steelers ran 50 total plays for 120 yards and turned it over three times; their opponents ran 61 plays for 373 yards and turned it over once. Pittsburgh went 2-11 on 3rd downs on offense (18%), while allowing their opponents to convert 6 of 11 third (and fourth) down opportunities (54%). The Steelers were outscored in the 4th quarter of those contests 37-0.

The numbers are a little better against Kansas City and Atlanta but not enough to disrupt the narrative: the Steelers have played poorly late in games this season while Cincinnati has elevated its play, particularly on 3rd and 4th downs. If Sunday is a close game heading to the 4th quarter (as I expect it to be), the Bengals have a clear advantage.

HOW CAN THE STEELERS REVERSE THE TREND AND PLAY A STRONG 4TH QUARTER?

Converting 3rd downs would certainly help. That 2-11 figure against Cleveland, Tampa and Baltimore includes one successful passing conversion in nine attempts. Of those nine attempts, seven were targets to Antonio Brown. If I’m game-planning against Pittsburgh, that jumps out at me. Late in games, the Steelers are forcing the ball to AB.

One can assume, then, that defenses will help on or rotate their coverage towards Brown. This should open up one-on-one opportunities for other receivers. As Jeff wrote about recently, Juju Smith-Schuster has been the NFL’s most productive receiver from the slot this season. The Steelers should look to take advantage of this, where a favorable matchup against a nickel corner like Darqueze Dennard awaits. I like this matchup on a crucial 3rd down much better than targeting Brown against Dre Kirkpatrick or William Jackson with either zone help underneath or man help over the top. When everyone in the stadium knows where the ball is going, chances are pretty good the defense can stop it. If watching the Patriots over the years has taught us anything, it should be that the smart play doesn’t necessarily involve the best player but the best matchup.

Defensively, the Steelers must defend the sticks to win on 3rd down. When you read the play-by-play of the Cincinnati offense this season, you see a whole bunch of “Andy Dalton pass short right/left/middle to Boyd/Green/Bernard/etc.” This is especially true on 3rd downs, where the Bengals scheme to win the sticks. If it’s 3rd and 7, Cincy is pushing the safeties deep with vertical routes so they can hit the intermediate stuff just beyond the markers. If you give them soft corners, they’re running eight yard hitches or speed outs. If you bring the blitz, they throw the swings and checkdowns. To wit: on the 16 play, 75 yard drive that beat Atlanta, Dalton went 7-11 for 65 yards with, as per ESPN’s Gamecast, every throw but one described as “short” (the one long pass was an incompletion to Green).

The short passing game, then, is Dalton’s comfort zone. Playing soft zone and backpeddling against him seems like a recipe for disaster. Whatever the Steelers typically do in late-game 3rd down situations, they should change it up. Press the Bengal receivers. Or drop eight and build a (steel) curtain at the sticks. Dare Cincy to throw the deep ball. A soft defense will be death by a thousand cuts. The Steelers need to defend the underneath zones aggressively and challenge their corners (and their pass rushers) to make big plays.

One last thought: in their last matchup, a 23-20 Steelers come-from-behind win in December, the Bengals targeted AJ Green 16 times. He caught only 7 of those throws for 77 yards, but two were red zone touchdowns. Just as the Steelers like to get the ball to Brown in big spots, the Bengals favor Green. The job of shadowing Green will likely fall to Joe Haden, who did an excellent job limiting Atlanta’s Julio Jones last week. No matter how Haden does against Green, the Steelers would be wise to give Cincinnati multiple looks late in the game to keep the Bengals guessing. Dropping a safety into the alley to Green’s side of the field will disrupt the timing on the short and intermediate routes Dalton favors, allowing Haden to play over the top more to defend vertical threats. The Steelers may want to keep something like this in their pocket for those crucial late situations and make the Bengals offensive staff adjust on the fly. Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin are going to have to play the long game and not show all of their moves early in anticipation of a tightly-contested football game.

Will breaking tendencies on both sides of the ball so the Steelers can excel in crucial situations be enough to win a divisional dogfight on the road? I don’t know. In games against familiar opponents, where tendencies are often exploited, it can’t hurt. Whatever the Steelers choose to do, they need to find a way to be efficient on 3rd downs and in the 4th quarter if they hope to keep their AFC North title hopes alive. Two and a half back with ten to go isn’t a death sentence. It just might feel like one, though.

Steelers NFL Draft Prospects: College Game Day and Open Thread

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 10:50am

Time to check in on what games, and which players, to watch during this week’s slate of NCAA Football action.

Welcome to Week 7 of the college football season. Let’s take a look at this weeks top 25 match ups, and potential players the Pittsburgh Steelers might be keeping an eye on.

No. 2 Georgia (-7) at No. 13 LSU 3:30 p.m., CBS

No. 7 Washington (-3.5) at No. 17 Oregon 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

No. 15 Wisconsin at No. 12 Michigan (-6.5) 7:30 p.m., ABC

This weeks highlight game has a repeat from week one. Now having Nick Farabaugh giving his breakdown of some of the prospects I wanted to revisit the Wolverines, who have some very intriguing prospects.

No. 15 Wisconsin at No. 12 Michigan (-6.5) 7:30 p.m., ABC

Michigan Wolverines

Rashan Gary #3 DL 6’5” 283lbs

Chase Winovich #15 Edge 6’3” 255lbs

Devin Bush #10 LB 5’11” 233lbs

Lavert Hill #24 CB 5’11” 181lbs

Tyree Kinnell #23 S 5’11” 215lbs

Karan Higdon #22 RB 5’10” 202lbs

Shea Patterson #2 QB 6’2” 205lbs

Wisconsin Badgers

Tyler Biadasz #65 C 6’3” 316

Beau Benzschawel #66 G 6’5” 317

David Edwards #79 T 6’7” 315

Michael Deiter #63 T 6’6” 310

Alec Ingold FB #45 6’2” 243

Olive Sagapolu #99 NT 6’2” 345

TJ Edwards #53 LB 6’1” 244

D’Cota Dixon #14 S 5’10” 204

Quentez Cephus #87 WR 6’1” 207

Michigan Wolverines

IDL Rashan Gary

This guy keeps inching up my big board and is a special type of Defensive Linemen. I mean he is a freak athlete in there and can even play off the EDGE. He has T.J. Watt-like athleticism off that edge but has probably the build to play inside. He is so quick laterally and with his rip he often beats people straight off of the line and it is a beauty to watch. His athleticism is easily seen in space and you will see him keep up with LBs and RBs with ease, the guy flies. Something I love how Rashan Gary is just how he has improved over his career at Michigan. He has improved in pass rush, getting a fast rip and now incorporating a spin move into his arsenal. He has laser quick hands and gets off the line easily. He has an absolutely endless motor and makes plays all over the field.

What issue do I have with him? I think he is still raw as heck, and it is with his leverage especially. Some plays he plays too high and gets driven out of the play. I call that Stephon Tuitt syndrome, and he has some scary resemblances to Tuitt on tape. He is more athletic than Tuitt, but he needs to probably bulk up a bit and slim down as well. I think he is personally better suited as an EDGE at the next level, but it can work either way. His leverage battle is one that is hard to correct, no doubt.

Round Grade: Early 2nd

NFL Comparison: Jonathan Allen

QB Shea Patterson

I have a lot of internal battles with Shea Patterson. He could be so good, but he is just so meh. I love that he has a big arm and is a gunslinger on top of it. He makes something out of nothing so many times and his ability to extend the play is as good as anyone you will see out there. That is one thing he has, great pocket awareness and that is hard to teach, so it is a good thing to see that he has it. Patterson is a master of the RPO and quick pass in general. He loves to throw across the middle of the field on slants, for example, but that does not mean he cannot absolutely fire the ball into tight spaces, which he does well too.

Unfortunately, I have a lot of questions in his pre-snap processing. He is easily confused by blitzes, and when things do go off script and he tries to make a play, he simply over does it. He makes a lot of dumb decisions that result in INTs or just questionable decisions in general. And in addition to that, his accuracy has been spotty at best over the start of this season, and it has caused Michigan to miss out on big plays. I also am concerned about his durability, he has been hurt far too often.

Round Grade: Late 3rd

NFL Comparison: Josh Dobbs

CB Lavert Hill

You can call me a big Lavert Hill fan. He plays with tons of swagger and while he is only 5’11” he is as aggressive as any who is taller than him. He certainly is not long at all, and that means he has to be careful of being burnt, but he does not often let that occur. The biggest gripe with him would be that he seemingly does not help out in run support, but the guy makes up for it coverage.

Hill knows his length deficiencies and so he gets into the face of receivers. His hands are great and allow him to use his incredible mirroring techniques and fluid hips to stay with just about anyone he has to face. Still, even with the length shortcoming, he is great at the trail technique and consistently gets pass breakups due to it. He is also a strong player, and at the catch point he aggressively goes up to get it. He compensates for size shortcomings with great aggressiveness and quickness. He is one of the most underrated CBs in the draft for me.

Round Grade: Early 2nd

NFL Comparison: Casey Hayward

ILB Devin Bush

The athletic linebackers keep coming and coming for this class. Atop of Mack Wilson and Devin White, we have Devin Bush, who is athletic but extremely raw. He has incredible range and goes from sideline-to-sideline with ease, and even better are his fantastic angles to the football. He has been good in coverage, and that is a huge plus for him. He hits like a truck and flies through on stunts, so he nets a lot more sacks than the average ILB. He is just so much fun to watch on film.

However, much like my gripe with Devin White, Bush needs to trust his keys more. He is not a slow, in fact he is too quick of a reactor, but he absolutely bites on play actions far too often. Even worse, he is slow to process on run plays and struggles to get off of blocks once the linemen gets to him. He can not crash down hard on the LOS as he simply does not have the block shedding technique down for it yet.

Watch out though, this could be a Steelers target in the second round.

Round Grade: Late 2nd

NFL Comparison: Blake Martinez

Wisconsin Badgers

C Tyler Biadasz

He likely projects as a center at the next level, but he has the ability to play Guard as well. You want a nasty hog up front from this draft? This is your guy. He is absolutely tenacious up front and plays with an intensity that is very old-school. He is built for run blocking and drives guys back and is completely overpowering to a lot of DL. He does a great job at reaching the second level of the defense and opens up lanes so easily. It really is effortless how well he reaches his blocks.

He is short length wise, but still has good strikes in pass protection.That is only a huge issue against elite IDL, and he can learn to adjust to that once he reaches the NFL. The only thing I can say for him is that as much as I love pancakes, he seems a bit too focused on them and drives his opponents and himself into the ground, which means he does not get to reach the second level.

Round Grade: Mid 1st

NFL Comparison: Travis Frederick

OT David Edwards

The Wisconsin boys know how to run block, that is for sure. His strength is pretty out of this world, and much like Biadasz he runs guys straight into the ground. The running lanes behind him are massive and with his strong base and smooth hips, he simply drives through his legs and opens up the lanes. His length is massive and it is often hard for pass rushers to even beat Edwards because he so easily stonewalls them with strong punches. He too has great athleticism and reaches the second level with ease. He is one of the most impressive lineman in the country.

However…….I have a huge issue with him, and that is the dreaded false step. It opens up his hips to defenders and allows them to speed rush around the edge. He gives up far too many pressures due to this deficiency and against upper tier talent he has issues because of it. They can exploit it and it leaves Edwards with an issue that is tough to fix. He could be a top OT prospect, but he has to fix this or top level competition will eat on him all day. I hope to see him improve, but sometimes the tape is underwhelming, but not often.

Round Grade: Mid 2nd

NFL Comparison: Jermey Parnell

WR Quentez Cephus

Man, I like some Quintez Cephus, but he has some issues with him. First off, I really do not trust his catch point radius and even more so, he does not seem that great at tracking. He is a limited deep threat and it often leads to him simply catches balls over the middle or in the flats. He needs to improve at the catch point and be more aggressive against press coverage.

However, he is very aware on the field. He has clear awareness of zones and finds the open spaces pretty easily. His hands are strong, but they simply are not great at high pointing the ball, which is going to be an issue since he does not always create a ton of separation. However, the guy is fast and can run by guys that easily and get deep because of it. I love how great he is after the catch too, and it often allows him to create big gains out of nothing. His routes are often clean and his sideline body control is some of the best you will in the class.

However, there are character concerns as he was ordered on trial for sexual assault. False or not, you have to take that into consideration.

Round Grade: Early 7th (Character Issues)

NFL Comparison: Taywan Taylor

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Use the comment section to tell us what game and what players you have your eyes on, and who you would love to see as a member of the Steelers next year!

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking the full Week-6 slate of games against the spread

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 9:45am

We make our picks against the spread and versus the totals for every game on the NFL schedule in Week 6.

While the Pittsburgh Steelers had arguably their best week of the season so far last Sunday, sadly the same cannot be said for the BTSC staff picks. Jeff Hartman was a pedestrian 7-7 against both the spread and the totals, while I led you astray with a 5-9 record ATS and only a marginally better 8-6 record versus the totals. Hoping to prove our picking skills are not going the same way as Eli Manning’s football career, we aim to do better in Week 6.

With more road favorites than we’ve seen all season and a number of games featuring spreads of more than a touchdown, there’s a very different feel to this weekend's action compared to the lines we’ve been seeing lately. As the dominant teams attempt to separate themselves from the pack, several key games on the schedule this Sunday should highlight the contenders and expose the pretenders.

If the Cleveland Browns really have turned a corner this season, a home game against the Los Angeles Chargers is one they should win, while the Kansas City Chiefs could make a real statement about their potential in 2018 with a win over the New England Patriots in Foxboro.

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

Crunching the Numbers: AFC North dominance by the Bengals?

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 8:27am

The numbers are surprising when it comes to divisional records during Steelers-Bengals matchups.

On Top of the Division

On Sunday, the Steelers head into Paul Brown Stadium to face off against the Bengals in an AFC North divisional matchup. Surprising to many, Cincinnati is in first place in the division at this point of the season. Although the Bengals are exceeding expectations so far in 2018, this is not an unfamiliar place when facing the Steelers. In fact, Cincinnati has been the division leader during their matchups with Pittsburgh fairly often over the past several seasons.

This Sunday will be the 11th straight time either the Steelers or the Bengals are in first place in the AFC North at the time the two teams face off. One would have to go all the way back to Week 16 of the 2012 season for there not to be a division leader involved in a Steelers-Bengals game (the Ravens were sitting atop the North at 9–5). Of those 11 matchups, it was the Bengals in first place eight different times when they met the Steelers.

Before going on, there is something which needs clarification: there are two instances which may be misleading when it comes to divisional lead during Steelers-Bengals games. The first instance was when the Steelers were matched up against Cincinnati in Week 2 of 2016. The Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens all entered the second week with a record of 1–0. Technically, the Bengals and Ravens were tied for the lead in the division because they had a better conference record. Cincinnati and Baltimore both defeated AFC opponents the previous week while the Steelers beat Washington on Monday night football to start the season.

The other instance of leading the division being in question was when the Steelers and Bengals once again met in Week 2, but of the 2013 season. To start the season, all four members of the AFC North were 0-1 after Week 1. The Bengals were technically in first place of the division because they had lost to an NFC opponent, therefore having a better conference record of 0-0 then the other three teams.

Even removing those two scenarios where teams were tied in record after only a single game, the Bengals have been leading the division six times when they faced the Steelers in the last five seasons. One of those times will be this coming Sunday. Of the other five, it’s the Steelers who hold the advantage with a record of 4-1.

A First for Everything

Although it is not uncommon for Cincinnati to be leading the AFC North heading into a game against the Steelers, it will be the first time which they do so with the Steelers sitting in last place in the division. Since the AFC North was established in 2002 when the conference was divided into four divisions instead of three, the Steelers have never been in last place entering a Bengals game.

The closest that the Steelers have ever been to the bottom of the North during the matchup was in 2003 in Week 13. Both the Steelers and the Browns were 4–7 at that point in the season, but the Steelers held a 3–1 record in the division while the Browns’ record was 1-3 against the North. Even at 4-7, The Steelers were only two games out of the division lead because Cincinnati and Baltimore were both 6-5. The Bengals held the top spot with a 2–1 divisional record while the Ravens were 1-2. The Steelers fell to the Bengals 24–20 at Heinz Field and ultimately finished the season 6-10.

Hitting the “Esca-loser”

For those Steeler fans not familiar with the term, the “Esca-loser” is a large escalator in the southeast corner of Paul Brown Stadium. It services the upper deck by traveling up during the first half and switching to down for the second half. It has become notorious for funneling Bengals fans out of the stadium in the fourth quarter when suffering a loss.

Since 2010, no team has kicked the Esca-loser into gear more than the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only are the Steelers 14–3 against Cincinnati including the playoffs, they are 8–1 in the Paul Brown Stadium. The only loss in that time came in Week 2 of 2013 when the Steelers begin the season 0-4.

In the last nine match-ups at Paul Brown Stadium, the Steelers have outscored the Bengals 225–172 which averages to an advantage of almost 6 points per game. With continued success in Cincinnati, the Steelers have managed to sweep the Bengals during the regular season five of the last eight seasons and currently have a six-game winning streak.

Keep an eye on the Esca-loser Sunday. Hopefully by 4 PM, it turns into the Steelers’ “Stairway to Seven” in a row.

Bold and bizarre predictions for Steelers vs. Bengals in the Queen City

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 7:12am

BTSC’s Nostradumbass predicts the Steelers’ contest on Sunday between two AFC North foes with no love lost for one another.

The 2-2-1 Steelers visit the 4-1 Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium in a key AFC North showdown. Both teams’ fan bases perceive the opposing team as irresponsible bullies and fines/casualties will be extremely high in this one.

With this storyline and more, I’ve compiled a list of predictions (some basic, and some utterly idiotic) to look for in this Week-6 contest:

  • Antonio Brown realizes his lowest output of the season matched-up opposite William Jackson III.
  • Big Ben Roethlisberger puts together a solid four quarters, but still has a pick recorded.
  • Not sure whether to gear his TD celebration towards the death anniversary of high-ranking Nazi Erwin Rommell or the 15th anniversary of the Bartman incident at Wrigley, JuJu celebrates his first quarter TD by commemorating fabled NFL coach Jerry Glanville’s 77th birthday by donning an Elvis wig and pantomiming receiving free tickets at will call.
  • Apparently having watched a lot of WWE archival programming on his suspension, Vontaze Burfict hits JuJu Smith-Schuster with an RKO, a Tomb Stone Pile Driver and puts a living snake on him in the process. Having done nothing but exist, Smith-Schuster is somehow ejected along with No. 55.
  • Despite nearly killing JuJu, Bengal fans cry persecution on behalf of Burfict,
  • Sean Davis picks Andy Dalton for six.
  • The Steelers running game continues to set up the pass as James Conner has his third hundred-yard game of the season and out-gains Joe Mixon in the process.
  • After reporting on Friday, Le’Veon Bell does not suit up but debuts his latest rap single at the half, 2 Late 2 Play Me, But Still Pay Me.
  • The Steelers eclipse six sacks as a team again, with T.J. Watt getting two of them.
  • Steelers fans call for all 2-point conversion tries after the game, as Chris Boswell misses another extra-point attempt.
  • Despite some lapses on defense, Pittsburgh prevails. Steelers 27 Bengals 26.

...

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.

It seems in the NFL, rules were made to be broken

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 6:07am

In today’s NFL, if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.

It’s only breaking the law if you get caught. This statement is most often made by someone who just got away with something. I strive everyday to be an upstanding, law abiding citizen. I believe the majority of individuals try to live within the parameters of the law, because a society without laws would be utter chaos. With a survival-of-the-fittest credo, society most definitely would suffer the consequences. We might not always agree with the rules, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have merit. Civilization depends on the law.

That being said, if we’re being honest, how many of us law-abiding citizens actually break the law every day? Or perhaps we skate along the boundaries of the rules, oftentimes dipping a toe into the forbidden water before quickly pulling it back to safety. I for one readily admit that I’ve been guilty of such behavior.

Let me explain. I routinely set my cruise control five miles an hour over the posted speed limit because I know the cops usually won’t pull a vehicle over for that level of infraction. I’m knowingly breaking the law and, truthfully, without a shred of remorse. I think most of us can admit to pushing the boundaries of the law at some point in our lives.

True story — one day I was traveling home from work on a local interstate highway when I noticed a vehicle closing in behind me rather rapidly. My mind immediately presumed cop car, seeing how I was driving over the speed limit, as I’ve already admitted. Thankfully, the vehicle wasn’t a cop car, but I had to chuckle when I recognized the driver of the vehicle as it went flying by. It was the pastor of a local church who was also a friend of mine. It just so happened that he was a guest speaker at our church a couple of weeks later. I approached him after the service and, with a big smile on my face, asked him if he felt it was a sin to break the law. He smiled back slightly confused and said, “What?” I explained I was just jerking his chain and mentioned how he had blown my doors off a couple weeks back. He just laughed and said, “Oh, I remember that day. I was late for Wednesday night service.”

We justify our behavior when the end justifies the means. The world of sports is no different. Individuals have been trying to get a leg up on the competition since sports began. Whether it’s an aging pitcher taking the mound with a file in his pocket or Vaseline under the bill of his cap, a basketball player mastering his flop technique or overacting on a play trying to draw a foul, or a soccer player....just don’t get me started about that insanity, participants in all sports have looked for ways to level the playing field. Some perfectly legal, others not so much.

The NFL is no different. Actually the league’s most successful franchise over the past two decades, the New England Patriots, are notorious for pushing the boundaries of the system, whether it be Spygate, drones, deflated footballs, or childishly vague injury reports. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t argue with the results. It’s not the only reason for their success, but it’s most definitely one of the reasons.

The league is besieged at the moment with a plethora of new rules and the confusion associated with the enforcement of these rules. Some teams have been slow to adjust and have wasted their energy screaming in protest or banging their head against the proverbial wall, while the more successful franchises have looked for ways to exploit said rules. Two plays immediately come to mind, one on offense and one on defense.

First is the ‘rub play’ on offense. This basically illegal maneuver occurs when a legal receiver ‘accidentally’ collides with a defender before the ball is in the air, purposely trying to create a successful passing play down the field for another suddenly open receiver. If executed properly, it’s nearly impossible to imply intent and a flag is seldom thrown. This play is basically impossible to defend and all of the most successful offensive units in the game today are utilizing some form of this play. I’ve been playing close attention to the aforementioned Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Los Angeles Rams this season, and they excel with this pick-play. Each team possesses a offensive mastermind capable of creating opportunities to utilize it and smart enough to teach their players how to execute it without getting flagged. I was going to suggest the Steelers try to utilize this play, but I changed my mind after writing the sentence. We can’t even fair-catch a punt without getting a holding penalty. Trust me, I wish I was joking.

The second area I feel the Steelers are failing to capitalize on lies in the techniques executed by their defensive backs. Offensive creativity is at an all-time high around the NFL. Add in the new rule changes implemented over the last few years and modern defenses are faced with a daunting task to say the least.

Modern offenses have evolved to the point it’s almost a game of pitch-and-catch between the QB and his receivers. Somewhere on the field there’s an open receiver or a glaring mismatch. It’s the QB’s job to identify these opportunities and deliver the ball accurately and on time. As it’s getting harder to disguise pre-snap schemes from a base defense, most successful defenses are focusing on disrupting the timing between the QB and the receivers. There really are no dominant defenses in the league anymore. Defenses are now measured by turnovers, splash plays, and limiting points scored against. Even a defense stacked with talented players like the Rams will regularly surrender more than 400 yards a game in this day and age. So how do some defenses achieve success in today’s NFL. Quite simply, they cheat.

Actually they bend the rules, utilizing excellent technique and hand placement. They immediately jam the receivers at the line, when possible, to disrupt the timing of the play. Now the big difference between the Steelers and a successful secondary like the Jaguars is what happens next. If the Jaguars’ DB misses the jam and the receiver gets a clean release, the DB will immediately grab the receiver before he gains separation. This might be a wrist grab, a jersey pull, or a hand on the hip. This is done ever-so-subtly to avoid drawing a flag, but better to draw a 5-yard penalty than give up a long touchdown pass. If the technique was successful and coverage has been re-established, the DB will then attempt to maintain contact with the receiver throughout the route, utilizing a grab here or a pull there. Remember, it's not a penalty if you don't get caught. Many times this technique will allow the defender to peek into the backfield to see how the play is developing behind him. The Steelers’ defensive backs are woefully behind the times when it comes to utilizing this technique. Joe Haden is the only DB that I can recall executing it properly.

I want the Steelers to win the right way, not by any means possible. But sometimes you have to roll with the changes.

Black and Gold Links: Terrell Edmunds has been thrust into the fire, and that isn’t all bad

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 4:56am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in winner’s row after a solid performance vs. the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field in Week 5. With the Cincinnati Bengals looming ahead in Week 6, the Steelers will hope to “stack wins” for the first time this year and improve on their 2-2-1 record.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about how rookie safety Terrell Edmunds has been playing more than anyone ever expected, largely due to the injuries to Morgan Burnett, and how the experience he’s gaining could be huge for his overall development and growth.

Let’s get to the news:

Rookie Terrell Edmunds’ on-job training continues with Steelers

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Sean Davis had the type of start to his Pittsburgh Steelers career in 2016 the team envisioned for rookie Terrell Edmunds this season.

The Steelers took their time before putting Davis on the field at strong safety. He began the season playing nickel cornerback in subpackages, and it wasn’t until after a few games he took snaps at his natural position behind starter Robert Golden.

By Week 10, Davis had progressed enough to the point where the Steelers felt comfortable starting him.

Edmunds, though, has enjoyed no such apprenticeship in his inaugural NFL season. He is expected to make his fourth consecutive start and fifth in six games in place of veteran strong safety Morgan Burnett on Sunday when the Steelers visit the Cincinnati Bengals.

“We’ve thrown a lot on him. His plate is really full,” said Davis, now the team’s free safety. “He’s playing top-notch guys. We are asking him to do a lot. He’s adjusting well and playing well.”

Edmunds is coming off arguably the best game of his young career. In the Steelers’ 41-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons, he had seven tackles, which ranked second on the team, and he wasn’t beaten on any long passing plays. He allowed four completions on six targets, but those passes gained all of 15 yards.

Edmunds also played every snap for the third consecutive game and has logged more playing time than any defensive back on the roster this season except for Davis.

“The journey sometimes is a learning process, and sometimes it’s on-the-job training,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “So when you think about a guy like Edmunds, he’s getting on-the-job training and having to deliver a winning performance at the same time.

“I believe he’s up to the task. He’s a talented young guy. He’s hard-working, but at the same time, he respects his lack of experience. And you see that in terms of his preparation and the way he leans on veteran players.”

Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger will skip bye-week practices

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ben Roethlisberger’s tender elbow isn’t hindering his ability to play, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said, but he is on something of a “pitch count” on a weekly basis.

And that count will be zero for the upcoming bye week.

“I don’t know that it’s completely healthy,” Fichtner said of that Roethlisberger’s right elbow that was injured late in the Week 1 tie at Cleveland, “but I don’t know that in any given season anyone — or any arm — is going to be completely healthy all the time.

“We try to do the right things to manage numbers of throws in the week, and I know that after this weekend he will get an extended rest and it will be good for him. But as far as being able to make throws, he can make the throws, and as far as practice, he can practice.”

Roethlisberger has been held out of Wednesday practices the past three weeks, although that is not atypical. He also did not practice Wednesday or Thursday in the week that followed the Cleveland game, during which he was injured on a sack by the Browns’ Gernard Avery on the second-to-last Steelers snap in overtime.

Roethlisberger said Tuesday on his 93.7 FM radio show that his elbow altered his throwing mechanics and was forcing his throws to sail on him – although on Wednesday he told reporters his elbow was “fine” and “good.”

Roethlisberger sitting out bye-week practices – of which there are three – isn’t unusual, either.

“In the past (the bye week) has been great work for our young (quarterbacks),” said Fichtner, who previously was the team’s quarterbacks coach. “It’s always been Landry Jones’ time or young Josh Dobbs’ time or Dennis Dixon’ time.”

Despite drama, Steelers could still be best AFC North bet

By: Ian O’Conner, ESPN

Le’Veon Bell is approaching the 2018 season like he approaches a developing hole at the line of scrimmage -- with extreme patience. The running back defined by hesitation has made big news by hesitating to join his team, and his absence has inspired a season-on-the-brink vibe in Pittsburgh that cannot be expunged by one sunshiny day on the banks of the Allegheny.

The 2-2-1 Steelers did not solve all their internal problems by thrashing the 1-4 Falcons, a shell of the doomed Super Bowl team that held a 25-point lead on the Patriots two seasons ago. Bell remains a nowhere man for now, and Antonio Brown has added lawsuits alleging destructive frat-house behavior in a South Florida condo (the receiver denied the allegations) to his apparent bid to become the high-maintenance heavyweight champion of the NFL. Beyond that, as they prepare for a road game against 4-1 Cincinnati that could shape their season, the Steelers have yet to prove that they can consistently play high-level defense in a division that no longer offers a two-game sabbatical in the form of the Browns.

The AFC North looks like it belongs in an octagon, and traditional Steelers-Bengals physicality could set a record for penalties in a sport trending toward safety after a wave of serious injuries -- such as the one suffered by Ryan Shazier the last time these teams clashed in December -- badly damaged it. This improved division has suddenly become a free-for-all, with the Bengals and Ravens holding the early advantage. But as longstanding partnerships in Marvin Lewis/Andy Dalton and John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco race against their closing windows of opportunity, and as the fledgling tandem of Hue Jackson/Baker Mayfield tries to fast-forward its way through a rebuild, the best bet to emerge in the North might yet be Mike Tomlin/Ben Roethlisberger.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Week 6 Bengals Edition

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 5:44pm

The games finally count, and there is plenty to talk about!

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. Fun prediction game to play: Who score the Steelers’ first TD, and who makes the first tackle of the game?

2. Are you someone who isn’t a believer in the Steelers? If so, will a win Sunday get you back on track? Or will it take more than that? Explain what would need to take place before you believe again.

3. OVER/UNDER Bengals sacks of Ben Roethlisberger: 3

4. Finish the sentence...for the Steelers to win on Sunday ________ needs to have a big game.

5. If there was ONE player on the current Bengals’ roster you would want on the Steelers’ roster, who would it be, and why?

6. Who are you rolling with? Artie Burns or Coty Sensabaugh?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Steelers Week 6 injury report: Morgan Burnett and Darrius Heyward-Bey out, L.J. Fort doubtful vs. Bengals

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 2:31pm

The Steelers look likely to be without three players on Sunday, even if only two of them have been officially ruled out for the game

The Pittsburgh Steelers are certain to be without two players on Sunday and are likely to be missing a third after Morgan Burnett and Darrius Heyward-Bey were ruled out due to injury and L.J. Fort was listed as doubtful on the team’s final injury report of the week.

Morgan Burnett and Darrius Heyward-Bey have been ruled out for the Bengals game. Linebacker L.J. Fort is doubtful. All three did not practice all week.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) October 12, 2018

Burnett will miss his fourth consecutive game in his short Steelers’ career, while Heyward-Bey will sit for the second time in as many weeks. Although Fort has been listed as doubtful, no player given that designation on Friday has played the following game and it would be a surprise if the linebacker dressed on Sunday. All three players missed every day of practice this week. With Heyward-Bey sidelined, Justin Hunter should get another chance to suit up in Week 6.

Thankfully, despite a calf problem, Terrell Edmunds was still able to train all week and his absence from the injury report suggests he should be good to go against the Cincinnati Bengals. Likewise for Vince Williams who was also a full participant in practice each day and is set to return just in time to replace Fort.

The Bengals injury report from our sister site Cincy Jungle.

#Bengals injury report for #Steelers game:
OUT: Bernard, Kroft, Price.
QUESTIONABLE: Jackson, Ross, Ogbuehi

— Richard Skinner (@Local12Skinny) October 12, 2018

Film Room: Showing just how the Steelers created pressure against the Falcons

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 12:13pm

The Steelers created the most pressure they have all season, and it was due to a mix of methods employed by Keith Butler.

Over the past few weeks, the Steelers have been very vanilla in their defensive assignments. Their typical ILB blitzes were shut down, aside from a few plays, and they largely ran cover 3 and cover 6 based concepts. It seemed to work against the Buccaneers, but against the Ravens, they knew it was coming and they picked it apart with simple routes to beat cover 3, like smash concepts and posts. They also used a variety of wheel routes and TE seams which were open all night. The Falcons are great at all those concepts, and their particular favorite, the levels concept, which destroys cover 3 all day.

So, how does Keith Butler respond? He starts using cover 2 and cover 1 based concepts with largely man coverage across the board. The results speak for themselves. Butler’s change in game plan largely allowed the Steelers to get pressure and as such, allowed the defensive backs to play aggressive. These Steelers DBs play at their best when they play aggressive, and Artie Burns only gave up 3 receptions for 41 yards on 7 targets, showing even he benefited from this game plan.

How did Keith Butler plan to allow his Defensive Backs to be aggressive and press the likes of Julio Jones? He used a variety of stunts. A stunt or a twist can simply be defined as two defensive players switching assignments or gaps. It is used to create pressure and confuse the Offensive Linemen. Typically a LB, NB, or S with come down and blitz in the gap that was vacated and opened up, with the thought of getting pressure from the blitzing party.

Keith Butler employed that a few times, as we can see here on L.J. Fort’s sack.

How the #Steelers got pressure on the Falcons. A thread:

First up, is a stunt from Cam Heyward. Comes from the B gap to the A gap and Fort comes straight through B gap to make the sack. They used stunts a ton this game and left their DBs with only Davis for help over the top. pic.twitter.com/UEASwt2Hvi

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018

Before the snap, you can see the C gap is completely vacated of any bodies. Usually, that is a prime indication there is a stunt coming. That big gap is an indication there will be a stunt, and in addition to that, if Heyward were over in the C next to Dupree, you could expect to see Dupree skip inside on an inside stunt. Normally, Heyward is right in between the B and C gaps as a 3 technique, but instead he is lined up as a 2i. He then switches assignments over as he crosses into the A gap, and Fort is able to come crashing down into the vacated B gap and get an easy sack. Notice how the close and down the DBs are too, a clear indication of a blitz. Classic schematic things, but a great adjustment from last week’s struggles by Keith Butler.

They did this more than once too.

Keith Butler loved stunts this week. Tuitt and Chickillo leave a clear gap over the C gap which indicates a stunt. Matakevich comes through there and they get pressure on Ryan. You see the downside as Sensabaugh cannot get over there through the traffic in man. pic.twitter.com/ZWyBcu5RN4

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018

The same thing applies with this play, as it is the same stunt, but simply on the other side. As for why we have Tyler Matakevich running the stunt, I have no clue. Butler had some nice adjustments, but this is something I cannot defend. This has to be Fort or Matthew Thomas running this stunt. Or even Bud Dupree, but using Matakevich as a blitzer is never a great idea, but it works to get pressure.

You can see the risk of this. Ryan realized that this was gonna be a stunt, and thus man coverage, and changed Ridley’s route to a drag, which is a man coverage killer. Sensabaugh gets caught up in all that traffic and has nowhere to go. He should get over there faster, but there is not much you can do about this. Just good pre-snap processing by Matt Ryan. As for the inside stunts, Keith Butler had those in his arsenal too, and it netted T.J. Watt a sack.

This is different. The linemen sell the stretch PA and OL go with it except TJ Watt. Has a beautiful inside twist and they just were not expecting it. Good film review, he was expecting it. pic.twitter.com/mFW7uDjaXR

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018

The DL runs with the stretch Play Action so it is somewhat tough to identify this as a stunt, but Heyward runs with the guard and Watt takes an inside jab step to give it away. The tackle never even expected it, and that is why he was so caught off guard. Watt knew how to adjust to the play, which makes this a classic case of great film study. Another good schematic planning by Keith Butler, who really had a nicely coached game this week.

Now, while it was key that stunts on the Defensive Line work, I also like Linebacker and Nickel Corner stunts. Keith Butler did this with L.J. Fort and Mike Hilton, which allowed Hilton to fly inside, and if he does not slip, who knows what happens.

Straight up 6 man blitz. Fort comes down and frees up Hilton, Watt gets a nice pressure by beating Schreader inside. If Hilton doesn't slip who knows what happens, but a great tackle by Edmunds who had to be in man with 6 blitzing. pic.twitter.com/MMy3QBjAP8

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018

T.J. Watt was everywhere Sunday and he showed up yet again. I don’t know about you, but it seems every time the tape rolls, T.J. Watt was the source of some pressure. It forces Ryan to get rid of the ball and even if Tevin Coleman is open on that drag against Terrell Edmunds, the rookie makes a fantastic tackle. He had a great game against the Falcons.

However, the biggest difference this week was that the Steelers created pressure on four-man rushes. The Steelers pressure numbers before this week were not bad, but they were putrid on 4-man rushes. They were 29th in the league in pressure on strict 4-man rushes. Not that ideal for the pass rush if I would say so. However, they certainly will be skyrocketing after this game.

The classic 4-man rush where @CamHeyward absolutely destroys Alex Mack. Whew that is one heck of bull rush. pic.twitter.com/4cZ2VakES3

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018

Goodness Cam Heyward. We know Cam can do this a lot, but he has been far too quiet for the first few weeks of this season. He needs to pick it up, but he just bull rushes Alex Mack straight into the dirt. He wins leverage and uses his legs to drive straight through Mack and it results in a great sack. In addition, T.J. Watt bends around the edge as he sets his hips to the outside which causes the Right Tackle to have to re-position his hands. This is a great combination of pressure fans want to see more often.

As for other examples, we have another Cam Heyward pressure, but with some help from an unlikely source.....Bud Dupree!

It's a Bud Dupree pressure! Good spin to move inside and get Ryan moving out of that pocket, and good penetration by the DL. Heck of a play by Julio. pic.twitter.com/XWf6KEBt3U

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018

Heyward gets the inside penetration and Bud Dupree gets the nice spin move to force Matt Ryan out of the pocket and cause him to run. T.J. Watt then comes down to force Ryan to throw the ball and honestly it is completed simply because Julio Jones boxes out everyone there. It is a great play by him, but this play was well executed by the Steelers, but it is just difficult to stop Julio Jones, which Joe Haden did for just about the whole game.

This last one might just be my favorite, because Butler tries to stunt and get an open blitz, but it does not work. But it does not matter, because T.J. Watt simply baptizes Ryan Schreader by bending around that edge so beautifully.

6 man blitz quite literally does not work, but TJ Watt baptizes Ryan Schraeder, so its all good and well here. Watt had an insane game, deserves the AFCDPOW honor. pic.twitter.com/LUk8w7ChZN

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 11, 2018

Watt continued his insane game and although this did not work, it is another testament to creating pressure outside of schemed stunts. What a fantastic play, and I hope this continues.

We all know Keith Butler needs more than just one good game to be saved from the Fire Butler campaign, but this is a great step. Butler called a great game and schemed around the weaknesses from the Baltimore game well.

Let’s see how he tries to complicate offenses even more as they begin to pick up on this, he will have to mix in cover 3 and cover 6 calls and not just run strictly man based assignments for the game. He could even get exotic and go cover 0, but he will have to trust Artie Burns for that to happen.

Steelers LB T.J. Watt reportedly fined for ‘forcibly hitting the knee area’ of Matt Ryan

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 10:39am

No, this is not a joke.

In today’s NFL, there are plenty of questionable calls on the football field. You see awful defensive pass interference calls in almost every game, odd holding penalties and of course the often discussed roughing the passer penalties.

Usually in the NFL, when a player is given a personal foul of some kind, they are also met with a fine of some sort. If not fine follows, it is usually the NFL’s way of saying they missed the call on the field.

So, when this happened on Sunday in the Steelers vs. Falcons game, and a flag was thrown for roughing the passer, most assumed T.J. Watt would be getting an “our bad” vibe from the league office by not getting fined.

WARNING: Gruesome roughing the passer tackle by T.J Watt pic.twitter.com/qGnN2cIEGs

— 360°FantasyFootball (@360FFB) October 7, 2018

Think again. Yes, Watt was reportedly fined for the above hit, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

NFL fined its co-sack leader, TJ Watt, $20,054 for “forcibly hitting in the knee area or below” Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan, per source. The league office instructed the Steelers to deduct the money from Watt’s paycheck if he does not appeal.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 12, 2018

In a game where fans, players and coaches are talking about the horrible penalties occurring on a weekly basis, the league doing something like this is only going to compound the frustration with the game, the officials and those enforcing said rules.

Either way, Watt would be smart to appeal the fine, considering he tried to move out of Ryan’s way, but was unable to avoid “forcibly hitting the knee area” of the quarterback.

What a joke.

NFL Expert Picks: Checking who the experts like in Steelers vs. Bengals, Week 6

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 9:55am

The AFC North showdown will be physical, and it is time to check to see who the experts like in Steelers vs. Bengals.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals will go head-to-head in an AFC North showdown on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. On paper, this game seems easy to pick. The Bengals enter the game with a nifty 4-1 record, while the Steelers are sporting an underachieving 2-2-1 record.

The 4-1 team naturally will win, right?

Maybe in most instances, but not when it comes to Bengals vs. Steelers.

The Steelers have won the last six meetings between these two teams, and this game will be a lot closer than what their respective records might indicate. The Steelers are coming off a huge win against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5, and the Bengals are coming off their own impressive win by clawing their way back from being down 17-0 to the Dolphins, and still finding a way to win.

Needless to say, when you look at the sordid history between these two organizations, this game will have plenty of fireworks, and I’m not even talking about the potent offenses of both teams.

With all that said, who are the experts picking to win this divisional game? It is time to check in on those ‘experts’ and see who is picking the Bengals to take a commanding lead in the division, as well as those who think the Steelers will win back-to-back games for the first time this year and make the divisional race something to watch in the second half of the season.

There is a large contingent of experts who don’t believe the hype surrounding the Bengals, and the majority of those experts reside at CBS Sports. Of their 8 experts who submit picks, only ONE thinks the Bengals will win at home and advance their record to 5-1.

For a more middle of the road mindset regarding this game, look no further than ESPN. The experts at the mother ship are split down the middle with this game. 5 for the Steelers, 5 for the Bengals.

Looking for a pro-Bengals site, the haters here at SB Nation were more than happy to oblige. 7 experts pick games weekly, and only 2 of them think the Steelers have any chance of winning and advancing their record to 3-2-1 heading into their bye week.

But these are only three websites. What about the hundreds of experts who submit picks who aren’t a part of the aforementioned panels? This is where our friends at NFL Pick Watch come in handy. NFL Pick Watch is a website who tallies all NFL expert picks and puts them into one easy to read chart.

For this Week 6 game, they are showing 59% of the experts favoring the Bengals at home in this matchup. This would be close to the 2-point spread currently in favor of Cincinnati. This is the first time this season the Steelers haven’t held the majority of expert picks before a game, and the first time Las Vegas has them as underdogs in the point spread category.

Will Pittsburgh build off their 41-17 dismantling of the Falcons last week, exposing the Bengals in the process? Or will the Bengals show they are here to stay at the top of the division? Only time will tell...

Random Thoughts From a Black-and-Gold Mind: Dynamic duos, bad behavior and Cincy week edition

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 9:00am

BTSC’s resident madman rants and raves and shares his thoughts with you, the cherished reader.

It’s Bengals week. Typically a time when tempers flare with the white-hot intensity of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing or the Applebee’s customer base upon hearing that the riblet supply has run out. With all of the noise and bulletin board material rising to a fevered pitch, my black-and-gold brain is swirling with the nervous energy surrounding a pregnancy stick test in a college dorm. As always, I will pass the ravings on to you. But first I should really offer up a pumpkin patch of apologies for what and to who found offense with my thoughts last time out.

  • Walter White
  • Ripping on Disney straight-to-video sequels
  • Adam West’s closet
  • Making anybody picture Ving Rhames on a jet ski
  • Pink
  • Peaches and Herb
  • The Burger King Drive Thru

And now the latest edition of Random Thoughts from a Black-and-Gold Mind.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • Mike Tomlin, the coach, gets a ton of criticism. I’m not saying it’s 100% undeserved. But Mike Tomlin, the human being, is top notch. His involvement in the crusade to combat sex trafficking and his wearing Duquesne garb (to show support to the college after the death of football player Marquis Brown) is a grand indicator of the quality of his character.
  • Memo to Keith Butler: Blitzing the opposing QB does not need to be a limited engagement. It works. And in other news...water is wet, puppies are cute and over exposure to Flo from the Progressive commercials causes seizures.
  • ‘Cowboy Ben’ is back and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That guy racks up wins like Charlie Sheen racks up tabs with escort services. However, a few months of ‘Consistent Ben’ would be nice.
  • The Brothers Watt currently lead the NFL with six sacks a piece. That news made me want to call up my brother and chastise him for being the reason our parents are disappointed in us for not leading in any aspect of life. Then I came to a stark realization...I don’t have a brother and I need to see a therapist.
  • At this point of the season, Joe Haden could possibly be the most integral part of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
  • Mike Mitchell is back in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts. There goes the Steelers stranglehold as the most-penalized team in the NFL.
  • Speaking of Steeler penalties, I’ve seen more discipline at an early-80s high school kegger in Maryland.
  • My crystal ball shows me getting major s#@t for that one.
  • I blame the Bengals for a lot of things like excessive thuggery, global warming and the JFK assassination. However, Bud Dupree’s implying that Cincinnati was even remotely responsible for Ryan Shazier’s injury last December 4th is ridiculous.
  • Speaking of Bud’s comments, the war of words for Bengals Week is officially underway and I find myself a little more than mildly entertained.
  • Speaking of Bengals thuggery, does anybody else wonder if Le’Veon Bell’s alleged choice to wait until the bye week and after the Steelers play Cincinnati is more than just a co-inkydink?
  • Could it be possible that the media is overthinking the allegations that Antonio Brown threw a vase and furniture out a 14-story window? Maybe he was trying to throw that stuff to himself and, at that moment, inspired his recent “I can’t throw the ball to myself” comments as gospel.

And finally,

Until next time, I implore you all to offer up $1.29 to the iTune gods and download the ditty that offers hope to the Steelers for the remainder of 2018...Frank Stallone’s Far From Over.

Back in the race I’m movin’ in ‘cause I am getting closer.

I’m diggin’ in

I want it more than anything I’ve wanted.

Save me darlin’

I am down but I am far from over.

Save me darlin’

I am down but I am far from over.

Give me somethin’

I need it all ‘cause I am runnin’ over

Take that for what its’ worth, Go Steelers and Don’t Stop Shalievin’.

Steelers Injury Report: L.J. Fort, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Morgan Burnett miss practice again on Thursday

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 7:47am

Sitting out consecutive days of practice suggests the Steelers will be missing three notable players on Sunday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers official injury report for Thursday looked rather similar to the one from Wednesday, with the only obvious change the difference in the names given a veteran rest day. While Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey and Joe Haden returned from their day off, Ramon Foster rested, but all the players sitting out because of injury remained sidelined for the second day in a row.

L.J. Fort (ankle) did not practice for a second consecutive day for the Steelers, joining Darrius Heyward-Bey (ankle) and Morgan Burnett (groin). Ramon Foster received a vet day off. Returning were Roethlisberger, Haden and Pouncey, who had vet days Wednesday.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) October 11, 2018

Vince Williams and Terrell Edmunds were once again full participants in training and their availability for Sunday looks encouraging at this stage. When speaking to Teresa Varley after practice, Williams sounded like a man eager to get back on the field.

“It feels fantastic [to be back at practice]. To see how well the defense was playing, and not being able to contribute, it was heart-breaking. I was proud of them. There is only one thing better than actually being out there kicking (butt) with your friends, and that’s watching your friends kick (butt).”

The continued absence of L.J. Fort, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Morgan Burnett does not bode well for their inclusion against the Cincinnati Bengals. Burnett’s struggles with a groin problem is perhaps Pittsburgh’s most significant injury concern at the moment and he would miss his fourth consecutive game of the year on Sunday if he cannot play in Week 6. For Heyward-Bey, it would be his second missed game.

The Bengals injury report for Thursday:

For the Bengals, upgraded to full participants at practice Thursday were G Clint Boling (hip), LB Preston Brown (ankle), DE Michael Johnson (knee) and DE Carl Lawson (ankle). CB William Jackson and WR John Ross remain limited

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) October 11, 2018

Week 6 betting preview: Steelers 2-point underdogs versus Bengals

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 6:36am

We take a look at the latest odds for the Steelers’ clash with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

For a team that has only lost twice to the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium since 2001, it is perhaps something of a surprise to note the Pittsburgh Steelers are underdogs in Week 6. The last time the Black and Gold lost a game in Cincinnati was 2012 and the Steelers have won their last six in a row against the Bengals regardless of venue.

An opening line of 3-points has been slowly falling throughout the week and while 2-points is the consensus spread at the time of writing, a growing number of sportsbooks have shifted the line to 1.5-points in the last 24 hours or so and it would not be a surprise if the final spread ended up closer to a point come kick off.

The early totals position of 54.5-points has been on the decline over the last few days as well, with 52.5-points now the standard offering with most providers. Depending on your bookmaker, there are a number of prices available for those looking to back either team straight up without the spread. From an initial price of +106 to -125, Pittsburgh can currently be backed at a range of prices from as low as +100 to as high as +115.

According to Oddsshark.com, Pittsburgh is 3-9 against the spread in their last 12 games and 2-3 on the season. The total has gone over in six of the Steelers last seven games and the under is 1-4 on the year so far. Pittsburgh is 11-3-1 ATS in its last 15 games in Cincinnati.

After successfully highlighting James Conner as our pick for first touchdown scorer in Week 5, we will be sticking with the young running back once again to open the scoring against the Bengals and he should be available at a price of around 6/1 for first game touchdown and around 7/2 for first team touchdown once again this Sunday.

Podcast: A huge Week 6 Steelers game with huge implications vs. the Bengals

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 5:34am

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

As the Pittsburgh Steelers resume their October schedule on Sunday, facing the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, there’s a surge of Steelers news — so it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading up to this week’s game!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Injuries
  • Key Matchups
  • Fantasy Players
  • Week 5predictions
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Bryan Anthony Davis walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Black and Gold Links: A strange, but fitting, story regarding Ryan Shazier’s injury last year

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 4:35am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in winner’s row after a solid performance vs. the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field in Week 5. With the Cincinnati Bengals looming ahead in Week 6, the Steelers will hope to “stack wins” for the first time this year and improve on their 2-2-1 record.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about a strange story which came to light this week when Bud Dupree told of he and Vince Williams thinking Ryan Shazier’s injury stemmed from an illegal hit vs. the Bengals — not how he actually got hurt. See what the duo did, or tried to do, until halftime when they actually saw the highlight of the injury.

Let’s get to the news:

Bud Dupree says Steelers mistakenly sought revenge for Shazier’s injury

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Revenge is dish best served ... well, accurately

How dirty and hate-filled is the rivalry between the Bengals and Steelers? Check out this revelation.

According to the Associated Press, Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree claims he and Vince Williams spent most of the first half of last year’s game in Cincinnati looking for revenge for what happened to Ryan Shazier.

After Shazier was carted off the field, Dupree says he and Williams assumed he was blindsided and they were going to out of their way to even the score. It wasn’t until halftime that they realized no Bengals player had done anything to injure Shazier in the first place.

So, a few things about this story:

• Who exactly did Dupree and Williams target? Who did they assume hurt Shazier and why?

• From a moral perspective, how would they have felt if they did hurt someone in an erroneous act of revenge?

• From a football perspective, how many plays did they screw up by taking themselves out of position just to administer street justice over something that required no penalty?

Steelers’ Joe Haden hopes to shadow another No. 1 receiver this week

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Joe Haden doesn’t know whether he will shadow another No. 1 wide receiver this week, whether he will follow A.J. Green around the field or simply stay on the left side of the formation.

What the veteran cornerback does know is he doesn’t need bring up the subject to Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

“He knows where my head is at,” Haden said Wednesday. “He knows whenever he comes at me with it that I’m ready to accept any challenge.”

And his preference is?

“My choice, I’d do it every time,” Haden said.

After the way Haden blanketed Julio Jones, the NFL’s receiving yardage leader, in the Steelers’ 41-17 win against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, attaching him to the Cincinnati Bengals’ top receiving option would seem to be a no-brainer for the Steelers.

Haden, after all, thrives on matchups with tall, physical wide receivers. In his encounter with the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones, Haden held him without a catch through three quarters before Jones finished with five receptions for 62 yards.

Green is 1 inch taller and 10 pounds lighter than Jones.

“Whatever coach wants to do,” Haden said. “Both are very talented, both are really, really tall guys. I would say Julio is a little more physical, but A.J has the speed, his route-running is very crisp, he is able to go up and get the ball. He’s not afraid to go across the middle. He’s an all-around great receiver.”

Green leads the Bengals with 409 receiving yards, five touchdown catches and 15.7 yards per catch. His 26 receptions are second on the team, with former Clairton and Pitt star Tyler Boyd catching 30 passes through five games.

“You know what A.J brings,” Haden said. “Boyd is a great receiver and is doing a whole lot for their offense, third downs and on intermediate routes. But A.J is the bomb that can go off over the top at really any time and go the distance.”

This year, Tomlin said the Bengals have lined up Green all over the field more than in recent seasons. Proof of that success comes in the form of a 4-1 record for the first-place Bengals, who are averaging more than 30 points a game.

“They just make it tough to minimize his impact on the game in terms of knowing where he’s going to be,” Tomlin said. “He’s not going to be on the strong side, he’s not going to be on the weak side, he’s not going to be on the one-receiver side, directionally right or left. They are going to thoughtfully move him around, as they should.”

Kevin Gorman: Steelers can’t explain Ryan Shazier’s loss, win over Cincy

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Mike Tomlin started with two words: Fifty’s down. The Pittsburgh Steelers saw Ryan Shazier reach for his lower back and signal for help, saw him lying motionless on the field and leave on a stretcher.

We know he’s down, Tomlin told his team, but we’ve got to keep playing.

That the Steelers didn’t just keep playing but rallied from a 17-point deficit to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, last December before a “Monday Night Football” audience amazes me to this day.

So I asked Tomlin how he and his team kept their emotions in check to finish that game. Tomlin gave perhaps the most honest answer ever at one of his weekly news conferences.

“I don’t know,” Tomlin said.

Somehow, the Steelers focused on football, despite the possibility their star inside linebacker could have been paralyzed while attempting a routine tackle on Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone.

“That wasn’t about football,” Tomlin said. “That was somebody we care deeply about that got injured very severely. It wasn’t about utilizing it as some motivational tactic or anything of that nature. It was a very difficult thing to get through. We had a job to do, in terms of winning the game, but obviously our hearts and minds were with him.”

Shazier’s career could be over, and the silence in that stadium made everyone uncomfortable to watch a game that was vicious with violence.

“The fact that Ryan got injured was a low point for everybody in the National Football League,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “He’s one of the finest young players and just a tremendous person. I think we all lost a little bit when Ryan got hurt.”

The Steelers have been reluctant to talk about how they dealt with Shazier’s injury — knowing it could have been any one of them — and got through the game.

“I hate even going back and thinking about it,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, “but I think the biggest thing for that game, the end of it at least, it was just the unknown. We didn’t know what was going on. We knew that a guy went to the hospital, but you really didn’t know the severity of it at the time.”

T.J. Watt’s ‘blackout’ sack celebration a sign defense is working

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

T.J. Watt works nearly as hard celebrating a sack as he does actually getting one. Fixed somewhere between rage and serenity, Watt leaps out of the backfield, breaks into a 20-yard sprint, flexes his arms toward the sky and pauses to savor the takedown.

Apparently he can’t help himself, calling the aftermath a “blackout” moment in which emotions overtake him at the expense of a potential hamstring pull.

“I always have that moment to myself where I’m like, ‘Damn, this feels so dang good,’” Watt said after Wednesday’s practice in preparation for Sunday’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. “The body does whatever the heck it wants. That’s why I can’t stick to one celebration.”

A spazzed-out Watt signals a defense that’s working. With eight tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble Sunday against Atlanta, Watt earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors and tied brother J.J. Watt for the league-sack lead with six. Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins is part of the three-way tie at the top.

But a disjointed Steelers defense finally looked organized during the 41-17 win. Defensive ends Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt were handling the interior and pass coverage had buttoned up the coverage breakdowns that plagued them for a month, allowing outside linebackers Watt and Bud Dupree to work one on one against the tackles.

If sustained, this recipe for success should only strengthen Watt’s position as a building block for the Steelers’ defense.

But Watt knows it’s not that simple, which is why he spent most of his explanation for his breakout day deflecting attention and praising teammates.

”Everything we do is a team stat,” Watt said. “We realize that as a team, if we want to be great, we all have to do our job and accept whoever gets the play and be happy for everybody. ... I think it will be a great boost for us.”

Steelers vs. Bengals Week 6: Time, TV Schedule and game information

Fri, 10/12/2018 - 4:01am

We’ve got all the information you need to know to keep up with the action from the Steelers’ clash with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers face a pivotal matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6, the team currently holding top spot in the AFC North with a 4-1 record. Falling three games behind a division leader would be a huge hole to climb out of with a tough schedule over the second half of the season, but the Steelers should be encouraged by a dominating away record in Paul Brown Stadium as of late.

Pittsburgh have won their last five in a row in Cincinnati and are 10-2 there since Mike Tomlin took control of the team. Indeed, they actually own a slightly better record away from home than at Heinz Field, where the Steelers are 8-3 against them dating back to 2007.

However, after a number of changes to the coaching staff and along the offensive line during the offseason, the Bengals seem to have a different feel to them in 2018. Years of solid drafting have undeniably improved the backbone of what was always a soft Cincinnati roster and it would be fair to say the Bengals might not be quite the pushover they normally are this year.

The presence of Vontaze Burfict will remain a wildcard in this contest, capable of turning a football game into a brawl at any moment. Set to face JuJu Smith-Schuster for the first time since his crunching block last season that turned the linebacker into a meme, it should not take too long for Burfict to pick up his first penalty of the game.

Week 6:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (4-1)

Date: Sunday, October 14

Kickoff: 1.00 p.m. ET

Venue: Paul Brown Stadium

Weather: Live weather update

Watch:

TV Channel: CBS, broadcast locally on KDKA-TV-2, with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts as commentators and Evan Washburn the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

Online: NFL.com Game Pass on delay in the U.S and live for international viewers or live in the U.S via a subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket. The NFL Game Center will update the action on a play-by-play basis.

Radio: Steeler Nation Radio with Bill Hillgrove and Tunch Ilkin as commentators and Craig Wolfley as the sideline reporter. Broadcast live on WDVE 102.5 FM and WBGG 970 AM in the Pittsburgh area and via their local affiliates. Listen online via Steelers.com and with the Steelers Official Mobile App. Alternatively, you can listen to a radio broadcast on SiriusXM.

You can also follow Behind the Steel Curtain on Twitter to catch all of the highlights as they happen, and be sure to check back with us after the game for our post-match roundup.

Injuries:

The Steelers more notable injury concerns in Week 6 center around Morgan Burnett, L.J. Fort and Darrius Heyward-Bey, all of whom missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. If they cannot participate fully on Friday, they will not play against the Bengals.

Upcoming schedule:

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