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Updated: 2 hours 6 min ago

7 Steelers statistical milestones to watch in 2021

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Among franchise records and individual accomplishments, mark your calendars and keep your eyes peeled for these numbers this upcoming season.

As individuals, we love round numbers. There’s just something so aesthetically pleasing about looking at several digits and instantly recognizing that the figure is easy to interpret. While we don’t see this often in prices—thanks, marketing tactics—it does happen in sports every once in a while, and we should stop to appreciate it.

Speaking of which, it’s also crucial to recognize when players set any sort of records, whether moving up career leaderboards or establishing a new franchise benchmark. It can be challenging to acknowledge a numerical highlight as your favorite team is coming off of an embittering losing streak, but scrutinizing the stat sheet truly opens your eyes to how cool yet crazy the NFL is.

With the Steelers set to open their 2021 campaign in just over two months, here are seven numbers-driven breakthroughs to follow as the season progresses, listed in order of most to least likely.

Ben Roethlisberger – Career Passing Yards

Entering 2021, Roethlisberger has tallied 60,348 passing yards, which slots him at 7th all time. In order for Big Ben to eschew Dolphins Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino, who currently sits in 6th, the Steelers quarterback would need just 1,014 passing yards. Further, if Pittsburgh’s all-time leading passer throws for 3,093 yards, he’ll pass recent retiree Philip Rivers and move into the top five.

Both of these numbers seem likely for Roethlisberger, even if he doesn’t start or play the entire season—more on that in just a bit.

In his career, #7 has averaged 259 yards per game. Using that metric, Roethlisberger should be able to eclipse Marino in Week 4, when the Steelers are in Green Bay; likewise, Big Ben could edge Rivers in Week 12 at Cincinnati, assuming he avoids yet another collapse in Paul Brown Stadium.

Ben Roethlisberger – Career Games Played

As the Steelers’ offense revolves around Roethlisberger, so too do the first two points outlined in this article.

In his 17-year career, Roethlisberger has suited up for 233 regular season games, starting 231 of them. Looking further, the Miami of Ohio alum is just 17 appearances shy of notching 250 contests played.

How special is that contextually? you may ask. Well, if Roethlisberger does reach such a mark, he’d be only the 52nd player in NFL history to accrue 250 games played, putting him in the top .2%—yes, you read that correctly—of all NFL players in history.

Seeing playing time in 250 matchups is no easy feat—it requires both longevity and talent. An accomplishment like this would likely only boost Roethlisberger’s Hall-of-Fame ledger.

The good news for Roethlisberger is that if he remains the Steelers’ starter the entire season, he will reach the mark in the new 17-game slate. What makes this even more plausible is that Big Ben doesn’t even need to start every contest—for example, if he’s benched in Week 16, he would simply need to appear for one snap in Weeks 17 and 18 to play 250 times on an NFL field.

Najee Harris – Rushing Yards

It should come as little surprise that Harris is being mentioned in contention for rookie rushing yard records.

From the moment the Steelers wrote his name down on April 29, much fanfare has been directed towards Pittsburgh’s rookie rushing record, which is held by yet another Harris—Hall-of-Famer Franco. The Steelers’ current Harris would need only 1,056 rushing yards to shatter the mark held by his name predecessor, something which seems fairly pedestrian considering the Alabama product gained a whopping 1,466 yards on the ground a season ago.

The only trepidation I have regarding Harris is the Steelers’ offensive line, which projects to be subpar once again. Even then, Harris notching over 1,055 yards seems like a very safe bet.

More broadly, the #24 overall pick would need to muster a gaudy 1,809 rushing yards in order to break the rookie rushing mark set by Eric Dickerson in 1983. The Steelers are already ogling over Harris’ world-class talents, but the Immaculate Reception might have a higher chance of occurring than Harris setting a new bar that high.

Najee Harris – Total Touches

I’m touching (pun intended) upon Harris once again, as his rookie season is likely to be chock full of preposterous stat lines.

All Harris needs to do is amass 290 touches to break the Steelers rookie touches record, which was set by Le’Veon Bell. That appears to almost be a guarantee, as James Conner posted 270 touches in just 12 starts in 2018.

Yet what appears more challenging is breaking the Steelers touches record among all players in a single season, as Harris would have to possess the ball 427 times. For context, no NFL player has accomplished that since DeMarco Murray in 2014.

Even more arduous would be generating a new NFL rookie touches record, which the aforementioned Dickerson dictated with 441 totes.

Harris is certain to be at the center of Pittsburgh’s offense in 2021, and if the team really runs him into the ground, breaking the latter two records isn’t necessarily as impossible as it seems.

T.J. Watt – Sacks

After Watt became a Steeler in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Wisconsin alum has absolutely blossomed in the NFL to the tune of 49.5 sacks in his first four seasons.

Over the last three campaigns, Watt has totaled 42.5 sacks. In fact, he needs 17 sacks to have the second-most sacks in a four-year span in NFL lore. Ironically enough, his brother, J.J., wreaked havoc by stockpiling 69 sacks from 2012-2015.

Watt could also set a new mark for most sacks in four consecutive seasons if he can aggregate 18 sacks this season. Surpassing Reggie White’s 70 sacks in that span may finally be enough for Watt to earn his first Defensive Player of the Year Award (who are we kidding, it still wouldn’t be enough).

Chase Claypool – Total Touchdowns

Claypool’s rookie campaign was sensational—his 11 touchdowns tied Louis Lipps (1984) and Franco Harris (1972) for the most in a Steeler’s inaugural season.

If Claypool truly wants to etch his name in the history books, he’ll have to reach the end zone a ludicrous 16 times this season to reset Lipps’ mark for touchdowns by a Steeler in their first two years with the organization.

And if Claypool is going to go big, he might as well go home: if he adds four additional touchdowns to the 16 detailed earlier, he’d set a new NFL record for touchdowns in receiver’s first two seasons at 31.

Hey, if Claypool keeps playing the Philadelphia Eagles and Alex Singleton in coverage, maybe this isn’t too far out of reach.

Minkah Fitzpatrick – Interceptions

Since arriving in Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick has been the paragon of a ball hawk. He’s notched nine interceptions, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and two touchdowns—it almost seems as if the ball gravitates towards him.

If Fitzpatrick can become even more of a football black hole this year, he could collect 12 interceptions, good enough to break Mel Blount’s franchise record of 11 picks in one year.

In that case, the fourth-year star safety would become the first Steeler to lead the NFL in interceptions since Blount in 1975. If we really want to get wacky, the two-time All-Pro would need a mere 15 interceptions to set a new single-season record.

With one more game under his belt this season, it’s not outrageous to think that Fitzpatrick could enact a new individual career high with six interceptions.

But unless Mike Tomlin runs a Cover-Minkah with only Fitzpatrick on the field—for the record, I’d love to see that—this just doesn’t seem overly practical.

Steelers Vertex: Loss vs. gain at offensive guard, Part 2

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

In one day in late June, everything changed for the Steelers at right guard.

With changes in the Steelers roster from 2020 to 2021, we’re going to highlight players lost at a position and the production of the assumed replacement. Even though we had already looked at the guard position previously, this week we are looking at the recent loss of David DeCastro and gain of Trai Turner.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

As I’ve said numerous times now, statistics for offensive lineman are difficult to come by. When looking at these positions for things such as the Hall of Fame, the most common statistics are Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. David DeCastro had stacked up quite the honors before his release and possible retirement this offseason. Jumping onto the scene in 2015 when he was selected to both of the Pro Bowl and as a first team All-Pro, DeCastro has been a Pro Bowl guard ever since. With six-straight selections, he also added another All-Pro appearance in 2017.

As for Trai Turner, he took less time in his career to get to a Pro Bowl level. While DeCastro did not reach his first Pro Bowl until his fourth season in the league, Turner was selected in his second season in 2015. Earning Pro Bowl selections five-straight seasons with the Carolina Panthers, 2020 ended the streak when Turner was traded to the Chargers and only appeared in nine games.

In order to give more data, rankings by Pro Football Focus at least give some numbers based on their scoring system. Although he took a step back to a 66.2 overall score which had him tied for 28th overall at the guard position with Kevin Dotson, David DeCastro was the top ranked guard in 2017 with a score of 89.0. Since that time, DeCastro saw a steady decline in his scores.

As for Turner, his top year came in 2015 with a score of 80.4 and was the eighth best guard in the NFL. Unfortunately, Turner’s performance fell off a cliff in 2020 with a 34.8 score putting him 79th out of 80 qualifying guards in the NFL. The ultimate downfall came in the run blocking department were Turner had a league-worst 29.8 score in 2020. But keep in mind, Turner was injured for the majority of the season as he only played one game prior to Week 10.

Two last numbers which should be noted is, although Turner will be called on to replace the great David DeCastro, he is being tasked to do it at a portion of the price. DeCastro was set to earn $8.75 million in salary in 2021 where Turner will only cost $3 million this season. Additionally, Turner just turned 28 in June while DeCastro was going into 2021 at the age of 31.

All this sounds great, but we all know what we’re here for. Let’s get to the film…

The Film Line:

David DeCastro has been a fantastic guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers for almost a decade since he was drafted in 2012. In 2020 he missed the first two games, then returned and, while he wasn’t 100%, was still David DeCastro.

Week 3, first quarter, 13:18. David DeCastro is the guard to screen left of the Center

This is good execution of Shaun Sarrett’s positional blocking by DeCastro. With a chip from Chukwuma Okorafor, DeCastro reaches the tackle and keeps him pinned inside while Conner runs past him. We won’t discuss Sarrett’s coaching, just know DeCastro was a positive on the line for Week 3 and early in Week 5 before he left injured.

When he returned in Week 7 he was not the same player, and while he would put good snaps on film a good amount, he wasn’t an anchor on the line and was frequently a problem.

Week 13, first quarter, 11:51. David DeCastro is the right guard, just below the center.

DeCastro gives a chip to help J.C. Hassenauer, but when he peels off to block the linebacker he gets stood up and stuffed into the run lane. That’s David DeCastro losing to a 231 lb. journeyman linebacker. Notice how he loses his power when he gets knocked high in his stance, that was a common theme in 2020, if DeCastro got high (in his stance) he lost power and couldn’t recover.

Wild Card Game, first quarter, 14:04. David DeCastro is the right guard, just below the center.

This is two plays after the awful snap that started the game. Myles Garrett rushes inside at DeCastro, drives him back and at the end of the play, throws David DeCastro into Ben Roethlisberger’s legs. I’ve never played offensive line, but I assume getting thrown into your quarterback is not an approved result.

A few plays later, the Browns would run the same rush, and as Garrett drove DeCastro back, Roethlisberger ran to his right and threw an interception.

David DeCastro went from a Hall of Fame caliber guard to a liability with his injuries. It is not surprising to me that the Steelers released him when they found out he was still hurt.

To replace him the Steelers quickly signed Trai Turner. Turner has a similar level of acclaim as DeCastro had for his time in the league. He’s also joins Ben Roethlisberger as the only projected starters to also have started in a Super Bowl, Roethlisberger, of course, in 2004, 2008 and 2010, and Turner was there in 2015, when he did this.

Super Bowl 50, Trai Turner is the guard to screen left of the center, he’s motioning at the start of the clip.

It makes sense the Steelers would be attracted to Trai Turner in a season where they are trying to inject more nastiness and power into their blocking. He brings power and nastiness in spades, or at least he did back then.

2020 Week 2, Trai Turner is the guard to screen left of the center.

Now that’s ugly. His head is down, he gives up vision of his target and misses the block. It’s worse considering this was the healthiest Trai Turner was in 2020. But it’s also his worst play of that game.

2020 week 2, Trai Turner is the guard to screen left of the center.

In pass blocking Turner has a good anchor, and does a solid, but not great job. That’s consistent across his career. The real question is what the Steelers are going to get in the run game from Trai Turner because in the past he has been dominant, one of the top run blocking guards in the league. But last season he was one of the worst, showing bad form, and looking like he didn’t care.

Trai Turner has stated he’s 100% healthy now, and K.T. Smith argued that Turner has spent the last few years in schemes that didn’t fit his talent. We have to hope that getting healthy and a change in coaching and scheme can help Trai Turner get back closer to the blocker he used to be.

The Point:

The Steelers are looking to rejuvenate their run game that struggled under a finesse scheme and a lot of injuries. Trai Turner is looking to rejuvenate his career that has been dragged down by finesse schemes and injuries. It seems like a good match. Hopefully Adrian Klemm is the right coach and Matt Canada’s schemes fit Turner’s strengths. Because, like the rest of the offense, there is great potential here, but also a lot of questions.

Additionally, losing a two-time All-Pro guard is a tough pill to swallow. It’s not very easy to make a move June in order replace a player like David DeCastro. It was wise for the Steelers to take a shot and hope that Turner returns to the form he was before he was traded. Much like they would have been looking for in DeCastro in 2021, Trai Turner is hoping to get healthy and get back to producing on the field much like he did when he made five straight Pro Bowls.

Podcast: The Steelers path to glory usually starts in July

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 8:25am

Matt Peverell breaks down the Steelers salary cap and player personnel situation every week in The War Room.

The Steelers typically start training camp in July and their path to glory always starts there, It’s true about the seventh month, but it’s usually about 25 years or so earlier. Wait, what? It seems to be that there have been a lot of Steelers’ Super Bowl greats to be born in the month of July. Join BTSC’s Matt Peverell for his solo show as he looks at possible future Steelers and examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers dollars and “sense” situation when it comes to personnel.

Check out the newest addition to the BTSC family of podcasts and stay a while with Matty in The War Room.

Rundown of the show:

  • Why BTSC is the best for fans
  • 5x players born in July/June, what they’ve done so far for the Steelers, what to look out for/things to consider, and what they might do in 2021:
  • Trai Turner
  • Mason Rudolph
  • Devin Bush
  • Dionte Johnson
  • Chase Claypool (His birthday is today).

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: Quarterbacks will continue to avoid Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2021

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

In the new “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2021 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

It is simple how it works. We provide you the scenario, reasons why it will or won’t happen, and then our prediction for what we think will take place.

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: Quarterbacks will continue to avoid Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2021

Number of Minkah Fitzpatrick targets with the Steelers:

2020: 25 (14 games); 52% completion percentage
2019: 26 (16 games); 50% completion percentage

Why it will happen: Just looking at what Minkah Fitzpatrick has done ever since joining the Pittsburgh Steelers is enough reason to believe quarterbacks are simply going to avoid throwing the ball in his direction. With five interceptions in his first seven games, Fitzpatrick didn’t see any more interceptions in the second half of the 2019 season simply because the ball wasn’t coming in his direction. In 2020, Fitzpatrick only saw one more target according to Pro Football Reference than what he saw when his 14 games in 2019. With teams struggling to complete half their passes against Fitzpatrick, and with him getting another four interceptions in 2020, it would be wise to steer clear of wherever number 39 lines up for the Steelers.

Why it won’t happen: The NFL is an ever-changing monster, and teams are putting the ball in the air more and more. Minkah Fitzpatrick only seeing 26 targets last season was an unusually small number which will ultimately need to rebound as teams look to go after the Steelers defense. Whether or not they will find success will be the biggest question. But if they do, avoiding Fitzpatrick may no longer be the game plan for teams moving forward.

Prediction: This may have been one of the harder scenarios to break down so far during this series. It’s not because of the prediction being difficult, but actually coming up with a reason why this wouldn’t happen. If teams don’t avoid Minkah Fitzpatrick in the Steelers’ secondary, it’s a recipe for disaster. Adding some uncertainty at the cornerback position, which may or may not end up being the case, and there’s no reason to go after Fitzpatrick with the résumé he has built in Pittsburgh.

Check out yesterday’s ‘30 Scenarios in 30 Days’ prediction:

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

You be you when it comes to being a Steelers fan or expert

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by David Dermer-Pool/Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, there’s no one true way to cover/be a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers that makes you the expert of all experts. You be you.

Time to break out the credentials: I’ve been a Steelers’ fan since 1980. When I finally eclipsed the 40-year mark, last season, I decided to apply to be the Steelers’ next general manager. I haven’t heard back yet, but then, they’re probably just waiting for Kevin Colbert to get on with his life’s work before they begin the interview process.

Actually, I always thought I was a knowledgeable fan of all things Steelers, that is until I discovered this here site about 11 years ago. It wasn’t long after that when I realized I had a lot to learn about the team, the history and the X’s and O’s.

Seriously, though, it was the X’s and O’s that really made me feel inferior. “You don’t know how to break down film,” they’d say to me way back when...and today. I still don’t know how to break down film. How does this happen? Do I need to rent a truck and go pick up the film? What happens after I break down the film? What do I do with it? Is there a test? An essay? Do I have to return the film once I’m done? Is there a late fee?

That was just my way of saying I don’t really care all that much about breaking down film. Schemes? Whatever. As I said many times before, that’s not what does it for me it comes to the Steelers and football.

I do like to think I have a vast knowledge of the history of the sport, thanks to the many years I spent watching NFL Films productions while growing up. That’s how I cut my teeth on the game of football, actually. I’m proud of that knowledge. Does that make me an expert on football? I’d like to think it does a little. After all, there are a lot of “scheme” folks out there who are like, “And then the Steelers hired a guy named Chuck Knoll in 1949....”

There’s something to be said for knowing a good bit of the history of the NFL.

I think I know most of the rules, too. For example, I knew before Barry Foster did that he was allowing the 49ers to scoop up a live football during a kickoff in a Steelers game at Candlestick Park way back in 1990.

I’m pretty good with logistics, too.

I know that whenever an NFC team comes to Heinz Field for a 1 p.m. or 4:15 p.m. game on a Sunday afternoon, it will be televised on Fox. Also, I’m aware that whenever Pittsburgh travels to play an NFC team at 1 p.m. or 4:15 p.m. on a Sunday, it will be broadcast on CBS (there have been some tweaks in recent years, but the formula has remained the same since I was a lad).

I’ve always understood playoff seeds. For example, if two plays seven in the wildcard round, that means three will play six, while four will play five (the combination of nine never changes on Wildcard Weekend). You don’t know how many times I’ve had to explain this to my knowledgeable, film-type friends over the years. “So, is one going to play two this weekend?” “No! One is playing golf. How many times do I have to tell you that? Are you sure you know what Cover 3 is?”

The point I’m trying to make with this article is, don’t let anyone question your knowledge of the Steelers/football because your specialty might be different than there's.

Do you think Chris Berman knows how to break down defenses? No, but he’s made a career out of saying things like, “Andre “Bad Moon” Rison,” while doing his best Howard Cosell impression.

Andy Russell used to make fun of Myron Cope for his inability to read offenses and defenses. According to Cope, he once said to Steelers legend, Ernie Stautner, his old drinking buddy, “I might not know X’s and O’s, but I can tell when a guy can run, throw, catch or tackle.” Stautner replied, “Cope, that’s all the bleep you gotta know!” (Stautner was an old tough guy, so you probably respect that opinion.)

You be you when watching the Steelers or writing/podcasting about them in 2021. If you want to paint your face like David Puddy, that’s fine. If you want to tabulate every single time quarterback Ben Roethlisberger takes a five-step drop vs. a seven-step drop before inputting the numbers into some sort of database for future reference, well, that would be kind of weird, but you do your thing.

Nobody’s truly the football expert of all football experts. Not even the guy with the greatest football knowledge of them all, the man who lives in the big, shiny castle way up on Green Mountain (located right off the parkway, across from Vincent’s—great pizza), is perfect. True, he might have the best football experts in the land on his show each year, including the Disco Inferno, but I’m sure there are areas of the game of football that he needs to brush up on every now and then.

Just because I live in a shack a couple of miles away in Craftvalley, that doesn’t necessarily mean his knowledge is vastly superior to mine.

To reiterate, we all have parts of the game of football that we truly excel at. I love the history and theater of the sport. Others are all about schemes and data. Heck, some just love to play beer pong and fall asleep before halftime.

Again, there’s no one true way to be a fan or expert of the Steelers or the game of football. Besides, if you put the history person, the scheme person and the passed out person in the same room, there’s at least a 33 percent chance the scheme person will scream, “Give him the touchdown!” on a Hail Mary pass where the receiver catches the ball and is tackled six yards short of the end zone.

You be you, Steeler fan.

Podcast:  Was Ryan Shazier on the path to Canton before his devastating injury?

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 4:30am

The Oracle Dave Schofield shares his thoughts in the AM platform with the classic stats show with the Editor of BTSC.

All of Steeler Nation remember December 4, 2017 and the fear of watching Ryan Shazier lie on the turf with his life and career in the balance. Had that devastating day not gone that way, do the numbers suggest that Shazier would have been on his way to enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Was Ryan Shazier on the path to Canton before his devastating injury?
  • and MUCH MORE!

Be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

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You can listen to the show in the player below.

Kevin Colbert ranked 6th best GM of all-time, Tom Donahoe ranked 1st

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 2:00pm
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager ranks well in all-time rankings.

Throughout NFL history, there has been no franchise steadier than the Pittsburgh Steelers, and much of that is due to the front office. There was a gap between the four Super Bowl victories in the 1970s and the two others in the 2000s, but no other team has consistently fielded competitive rosters like the Steelers.

While ranking current general managers is a normal exercise, ranking the best general managers in NFL history is a totally different animal. However, Sam Robinson of Yardbarker decided to rank the top 20 general managers of all-time. However, this list was not purely made of GMs. Robinson described this list as the ranking of “pure front office execs who assembled quality rosters.”

The first name on the list was none other than Tom Donahoe. Here is what Robinson had to say.

Though the Steelers made multiple playoff brackets in the 1980s, they were in decline by the decade’s end. Promoted to Steelers front office boss in 1991, Donahoe hired Bill Cowher to succeed Chuck Noll weeks into his tenure. The Steelers made the next six playoff brackets and went to three AFC title games and Super Bowl XXX during Donahoe’s nine-year stay. Donahoe’s Kevin Greene signing ignited the “Blitzburgh” defense, and acquisitions of Jerome Bettis and Alan Faneca set up Steeler run games well into the aughts. Donahoe did not duplicate his success with the Bills, but the Steelers have not looked back.

This may be a surprise to some, although the hiring of Bill Cowher and signing of Kevin Greene were two of the best moves in the history of the organization. Robinson's entire list seemed to be favorable toward guys that put their respective franchises in good position for future success, and Donahoe is a perfect example of that.

Coming in sixth on the list was current Steelers GM Kevin Colbert. Here is Robinson's explanation.

In power with multiple titles since 2000, Colbert has been a steady hand for the modern Steelers. Usually swiping left on free agency, the Steeler boss has extended essential players and done well to replace the others. Landing Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger in consecutive drafts, Colbert also continued an unrivaled wide receiver assembly line. The Steelers tabbing a 34-year-old Mike Tomlin to replace Bill Cowher became a defining modern-era hire, and the Colbert-Tomlin partnership has two Super Bowl berths and zero losing seasons. The Colbert-era Steelers endured letdowns and an Antonio Brown meltdown, but they remain a top-tier franchise.

Any time current NFL general managers are ranked, Kevin Colbert is almost always ranked inside the top ten and quite frequently the top five. If you have been around the site for any period of time, however, you probably know that I am not the biggest fan of Kevin Colbert. I acknowledge that building a team that has had sustained success is not easy to do in the NFL, but there are very few elite general managers in the NFL, and I have just never been of the mindset that Colbert was one of them.

The drafting of Troy Polomalu and Ben Roethlisberger made the Steelers a Super Bowl caliber team, and Kevin Colbert deserves credit for both moves. Colbert built a championship roster and is a big reason why the Steelers were able to win two Super Bowls in the 2000s. However, one could argue that although Colbert built talented rosters in the 2010s, he missed on several opportunities that could have led the Steelers to a couple more Super Bowls.

In 2016, the Steelers had four main holes: cornerback, safety, nose tackle, and tight end. Other than those positions, this roster was ready to win a super bowl. After Heath Miller retired, Colbert knew that the tight end position needed to be addressed. With only a few legitimate options in the draft class, Colbert went the route of free agency and signed Ladarius Green to a 4 year, $20 million contract. This did not work out at all, but a strong receiving corps led by Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant made the Steelers less reliant on the tight end position.

Everyone knew the Steelers had their eyes set on William Jackson III in the 2016 NFL Draft, but even though the Bengals took Jackson one pick ahead of the Steelers, Colbert knew that this position still had to be addressed. The secondary was one of the worst in the NFL at the time, and a young corner was exactly what the Steelers needed. When Jackson was taken, most Steelers fans expected the pick to be either Mackenzie Alexander or Xavien Howard if the team chose to take a cornerback. Nevertheless, Colbert selected Artie Burns, an athletic corner from Miami who brought a lot of upside but clearly lacked polish. While Burns showed flashes during his rookie season, he was never able to sustain success for any period of time.

Almost everyone in the NFL Draft community loved Javon Hargrave’s fit with the Steelers, and grabbing him the the third round was an absolute steal. Despite being undersized, his explosiveness and physicality made him a weapon on all three downs as an interior defensive lineman. Sean Davis was never an excellent option at safety, but he was serviceable for a couple seasons next to Mike Mitchell, another player that Colbert probably regrets paying. At the end of the day, the Steelers were able to fill a major hole that offseason with Javon Hargrave, but Kevin Colbert had a golden opportunity to turn a talented roster into a Super Bowl caliber roster, and he was unable to do it.

The Steelers do not generally make splash signings in free agency, but the biggest moves the organization has made in recent memory have not panned out. Ladarius Green, Mike Mitchell, and Donte Moncrief are the first names that come to mind, but Steven Nelson could also be put into that category. Nelson had a fantastic season in 2019 but struggled mightily in 2020. Part of it may have been due to injuries and a season filled with COVID pauses, but either way, Nelson did not live up to the 3 year, $25 million deal that he and the Steelers agreed to in 2019. After seemingly wanting even more money than what he was getting with the Steelers, he was released by the team and is still on the open market. The rest of the NFL does not seem to be too high on Nelson either, as there has been very little interest in the former Steelers cornerback since his release.

While I have scratched my head at some of the moves that Kevin Colbert has made in the past five years, I respect the longevity and success he has brought to the Steelers. Building two Super Bowl teams in the same decade is deserving of high praise. Grabbing T.J. Watt at the end of the first round was an excellent decision, and acquiring quality receivers such as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool on day two prove Colbert’s eye for talent at that position. However, the sixth-greatest general manager of all time is too high for me.

Coming in at eighteen on the list was another Steeler, Dick Haley. The Director of Player Personnel for the Steelers for nearly twenty years was partially responsible for the talented Steelers teams in the 1970s. Here is what Robinson had to say about him.

A brilliant talent evaluator who ran the Steelers’ drafts for 20 years, Haley was essential in forming one of the NFL’s defining nuclei. The Steelers’ 1974 draft changed the game, with Haley’s haul including four Hall of Famers — Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Mike Webster — that helped the Joe Greene- and Terry Bradshaw-led team to four Super Bowl titles. Haley drafted numerous other Steel Curtain-era starters, including Hall of Famers Jack Ham and Franco Harris, and landed Rod Woodson in 1987. With no free agency in this era, draft czars were vital. Haley has a strong case as a Hall of Fame contributor.

Since this list is simply based on those who assembled talented rosters, I am honestly surprised that Haley is not higher. The Steelers’ 1974 draft class is truly the greatest of all-time, and with no free agency, drafting was even more important than it is today. While his son’s stint as offensive coordinator for the Steelers was underwhelming, Dick Haley is one of the most underrated front office minds in NFL history. I felt as if he should have been ranked higher than eighteenth.

No matter where you may rank these three men, you will likely agree that that the Steelers have had more front office stability than most teams throughout NFL history, and that is an amazing accomplishment.

But what do you think of these rankings? Were Donahoe, Colbert, and Haley ranked too high, too low, or just right? Who do you think deserves to be considered the greatest general manager of all-time? Be sure to light up the comment section with your thoughts on this topic and all things Pittsburgh Steelers, and stay tuned to BTSC for all the news you need as we approach the 2021 NFL season!

The Steelers Trifecta: Miles Killebrew, Christian Kuntz, and Justin Layne

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Day 17 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Miles Killebrew, Christian Kuntz, and Justin Layne

Welcome to the Steelers Trifecta! Over the 30 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 training camp, we will be highlighting three players every day in order cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s three players:

Miles Killebrew Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Position: Linebacker
Age: 28
Year: 6
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 222
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 111, 2016 (Lions)
College: Southern Utah State
Roster Outlook: Likely
Analysis:

Miles Killebrew was brought in to reprise his role as a special teams ace. One of the best special teamer in the game for the Detroit Lions, Killebrew should feel right at home in the Steel City. Once thought the Steelers would transition him back to safety due to his relationship with Teryl Austin, but the Steelers listed him as a linebacker suggesting he will compete with Marcus Allen for the hybrid linebacker/safety spot.

Christian Kuntz Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Position: Linebacker/Long Snapper
Age: 27
Year: 1
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 227
Drafted: UDFA, 2017 (Patriots)
College: Duequsne
Roster Outlook: Very unlikely
Analysis:

Kuntz has been given a number of opportunities to supplant Kam Canaday as the Steelers long snapper. Given his history I don’t have much faith the third time will be the charm, Kuntz is more of a camp body so Canaday doesn't have to take all the snaps, and push him to be his best. The one interesting thing to watch will be whether the Steelers use Kuntz as a linebacker in some preseason games.

Justin Layne Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Corner
Age: 23
Year: 3
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 192
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 83 2019
College: Michigan State
Roster Outlook: Probable
Analysis:

Justin Layne has not come close to living up to his third round selection back in 2019. He has struggled mightily in limited playing time and has been passed up by undrafted free agents. Only two years into his career, and Layne is on the verge of falling out of the league entirely. Layne sits firmly behind Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, and James Pierre on the depth chart and he cannot afford to have another player pass him by.

Be sure to check back everyday for anther ‘trifecta’ of Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

In what part of the season do the Steelers historically find the most success?

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Have the Steelers late season collapses been an ongoing problem?

As part of my Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I’m constantly looking for various questions in regards to a variety of Steelers statistics. During an electronic conversation with one of the podcast listeners, Mike Smith, he raised the question of how long the Steelers have been struggling to close out the regular season. In looking at the question, he generated a graphic for the Steelers game-by-game results over the last 10 years.

With the difficult work already done for me, Mike gave me permission to share this graphic with the BTSC community. It should be noted that the results are done by game and not weeks so the location of the bye has been taken out of the equation. Additionally, winning percentages are calculated on a game-by-game basis as well as looking at a quarter of the season. Wins are highlighted green while losses are highlighted in what I would classify a peach color. The single tie over the last 10 years is in blue.

So here is the data to help draw conclusions about where the Steelers are the most successful and struggle the most throughout the last 10 years. Of course issues such as game location, opponent, and a variety of other factors come into play, this is simply the raw data over time.

Mike Smith

There are several things which may or may not jump out at you right away as you look at the data. One thing that stands out to me is Game 1 is the only game in which the Steelers do not have at least a .500 record.

While looking for the ultimate question which drove this breakdown, the Steelers late season collapses have really only occurred since 2018. Prior to that time, the Steelers are winning more of their games over the final quarter of the season with the lone exception of 2012. While an exact cause could be a number of things, it can be noted that 2018 was when the Steelers hired there now former offensive coordinator. I’ll just leave it at that for you to determine if that was one of the factors or not.

One of the biggest things that stands out to me is the four-game stretch between Game 6 and Game 9 where the Steelers have not lost in the last four seasons. Of course, it helps make it stand out that in 2016 they lost all four of those games. But since that time, the Steelers have managed a nice winning streak during games which would generally occur in the month of October and early November.

While I could dive into this data and number of different ways, I simply want to ask this question: What stands out the most to you? Is there anything you find intriguing in looking at the Steelers wins and losses by game over the last 10 seasons? There’s plenty for discussion, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: Are the Steelers a part of the toughest division in the NFL?

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 11:00am

In the spirit of brotherly love, siblings Dave and Rich Schofield break down all things surrounding the black-and-gold.

The AFC North and the NFC West currently boast many of the Top Ten teams in the National Football League. Which one is the best division and are any of the two on the decline. Also, what other divisions are in the conversation? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold. On this show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Mark Davison sub for Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Ranking the divisions in the NFL

Dave and Rich 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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will improve their AFC North record in 2021

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the new “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2021 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

It is simple how it works. We provide you the scenario, reasons why it will or won’t happen, and then our prediction for what we think will take place.

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: The Pittsburgh Steelers will improve their AFC North record in 2021

Steelers 2020 AFC North Record: 4-2
vs. Ravens - 2-0
vs. Browns - 1-1
vs. Bengals - 1-1

Why it will happen: Many, myself included, view the AFC North as one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, but when I think about how the Steelers compete within the division I see room for improvement. I don’t necessary believe the Steelers will sweep the Ravens for a second straight season, but I also don’t see them being swept by anyone either. Can they improve from 4-2 to 5-1, I absolutely could see it happening. While Cincinnati will be improved, I have a feeling the Browns are being set up for a let down. The Steelers could sweep both teams from Ohio in the regular season and split with the Ravens. That’s a 5-1 record within the division.

Why it won’t happen: As stated earlier, the AFC North is expected to be the most difficult division in all of football, and it won’t be easy for the Steelers to improve upon their 4-2 record. Could they sweep Cincinnati? Absolutely, but you could realistically suggest the Steelers could split with all three teams, equating to a dull 3-3 division record. The Bengals, Browns and Ravens will all be improved in 2021, and it isn’t a secret the Steelers will have some question marks across their roster. It will be tough sledding in the AFC North for another year, but what else is new?

Prediction: I’m sure a vast majority of readers looked at the above scenario and laughed at the team improving upon their 4-2 record. As stated above, it could happen. No one thought the Steelers would sweep the Ravens in 2020, and no one saw the team dropping a game to the Bengals. Stranger things have happened, but I don’t see them taking a step forward in 2021 with their division record. In fact, I see them staying exactly the same. My predictions have the Steelers splitting with the Ravens and Browns, while sweeping the Bengals. You guessed it, another 4-2 record against their division opponents.

Check out yesterday’s ‘30 Scenarios in 30 Days’ prediction:

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Offense in Focus: Matt Canada does play-action right

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 8:30am
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Turning a run play into a pass play is a recipe for success.

After his stint in Wisconsin with their three future NFL starting running backs and strong offensive line, Matt Canada moved on to North Carolina State, where he again took over an offense that lost a quarterback to the NFL draft. This time Mike Glennon had just left the Wolfpack for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Matt Canada took over.

The Wolfpack gained a transfer quarterback from Florida State in Jacoby Brissett, but Brissett was required to sit out one season and was unavailable in 2013. Quarterbacks Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas would split time and pass for 240 yards per game, while the Wolfpack ran for 160 yards a game, behind an offensive line that was not at all a match for the Wisconsin line Canada had in 2012. At NC State Canada used more spread offense and zone-read concepts to get yards.

As always we start with the pre-snap movement. The broadcast didn’t do a good job of catching the motion on this play, but it was worth using, so here it is.

The Wolfpack swap players from each side, ending up with two receivers to the left of the quarterback, and the tight end, fullback and running back to the right.

Matt Canada runs this read option off a jet sweep motion, and the quarterback keeps the ball for 3 yards. Pete Thomas is not a runner, but he rambles for 3 yards on first down. Obviously Matt Canada won’t be asking Ben Roethlisberger to run the ball, but we already covered how Matt Canada would later use shovel passes to mimic QB runs, there are ways to run this play without asking Ben Roethlisberger to run the ball, and Canada has done it.

But whether or not he can run this play with Ben Roethlisberger isn’t the point of this article. What we need to do is go back and look at the play, and what each player does in the play.

  1. The left guard pulls inside to the right side, like a lead blocker for the quarterback.
  2. The fullback and running back both head outside to their right, blocking for the jet sweep.
  3. The sweep man runs his sweep motion, ending up outside the play to the offense’s right.

Now watch the very next play.

There are two big changes to this look that we need to cover. First, the wide receiver to the top of the screen replaces the second back in the back field. The second change in #80, who was the Wolfpack’s fastest player and most dangerous jet-sweep runner. He comes in to run the jet-sweep, and starts in the backfield, to the quarterback’s left. Look at the players moving after the snap, they are doing almost exactly the same thing as the run play above, even the left guard coming over to block the right defensive end looks like the pull from the previous play.

That’s important, because again Matt Canada is layering expectations for the defense. He’s showing them the play they just defended, but with a key difference. In the first play the cornerback picks up the running back coming out of the backfield like a blocker, but in this play there is a wide receiver for the corner to cover, and the running back, Shadrack Thorton (#10), who led the team in total yards in 2013 ends up wide open. Check it out from the overhead view.

The corner takes the wide receiver, the linebacker to the play side is defending the sweep and covers that player. The middle linebacker is reading the pulling guard and then drops when he sees it is a pass play. He only realizes he’s blown the coverage as the back catches the ball.

Play-action passing is a weapon in the NFL, has been for a very long time. Its effectiveness proves that making defenses question what you are doing, and react a bit slower because of it, is a great benefit to an offense. Matt Canada takes play action farther than most offensive coordinators, turning complex run plays into clever passing plays that exploit your run fits.

We all know that Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t used play-action well in recent years. We all have heard how he doesn’t like to turn his back to the play. We all saw Ben Roethlisberger’s struggles in week 15 of last season when the Steelers tried to offset the injuries on their offensive line by running a lot of play action.

But last season had a drastically abbreviated offseason where Ben Roethlisberger was limited and Matt Canada was working almost entirely with the run game. And if you look at that play-action pass above, Pete Thomas has his eyes forward the entire play.

Matt Canada’s offense uses play-action a lot, and the design and execution are drastically better than what the Steelers ran under Randy Fichtner. That doesn’t mean it will succeed with the Steelers. We’ve been saying since the Steelers promoted Canada that one of the most important things would be Ben Roethlisberger’s buy-in this offseason. For his part, Ben Roethlisberger has been present and from what we are hearing, is working to learn Matt Canada’s offense.

If he can learn enough to run plays like this, out of shotgun, with his eyes forward, it will be an incredible boost to the Steelers offense in 2021.

Trai Turner betting on himself, “excited” for opportunity with Steelers

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 7:15am
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers newest offensive lineman believes he is still a game-changing guard in the run game.

The last week for Pittsburgh Steelers fans has been challenging, to say the least. The release of David DeCastro was not just unexpected, but a gut punch to those who thought the team would utilize DeCastro as the anchor of the team’s young offensive line. What might have made the situation even more of a whirlwind was when the team signed veteran, and former Pro Bowl, guard Trai Turner almost immediately after DeCastro’s release.

The narrative surrounding Turner is eerily similar to that of DeCastro. Both players are extremely established, but are dealing with injuries in the latter portions of their careers. Just like DeCastro would have had to prove himself after a sub par 2020, Turner is having to do the same exact thing after his lone season with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Nonetheless, Steelers fans are excited to see what Turner can bring to the table, and Turner is equally excited to get another chance with the Steelers.

“It’s just one of those teams, one of those organizations that they always compete, always in the game, and play my style of football,” Turner told Omar Ruiz of NFL Media on Tuesday. “They have a great quarterback at the head of the center, but they like to run the ball. That’s something I’m excited about.”

In his time with the Carolina Panthers, Turner was a mauler in the run game, and he is excited to help the Steelers get back to their “smash-mouth” roots. But the biggest question surrounding Turner is his health. Can he still play at a high level?

He believes in himself.

“I believe in my game. I think I’m a dominant run-blocker,” Turner said. “I think I’ve shown that throughout the years. I’m just excited to come in and just be with the group of guys and learn, but also give out information, if that makes sense. Just go out there and compete. I think competing is the biggest thing. When you go out there and you compete, good things happen. So, I’m excited about it.”

Turner will have every opportunity to prove he is not just going to compete, but his NFL career isn’t over. After signing a one-year deal with the Steelers, Turner is potentially playing not just for the Steelers in 2021, but to extend his work in the league for a few more seasons. In the meantime, the Steelers would be ecstatic to see him return to form and help be a guiding force for a young offensive line trying to re-build themselves as a run blocking front.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Joe Haden mic’d up vs. the Broncos in 2020 is the gift that keeps on giving

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A look back at the Steelers’ cornerback showing his true colors during the game vs. the Denver Broncos in 2020.

There are some players who just love the game of football. Some view it as a profession, while others treat it as a privilege.

Joe Haden is the latter, and enjoys every aspect of the game.

Since he became a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he has been nothing but genuine both on and off the field. However, it wasn’t until Haden donned the black and gold that fans of the Steelers got a glimpse of what Haden brings to the team.

In my opinion, nothing is more fun than watching videos where players/coaches are wearing a microphone. While I wish they would show every interaction, or confrontation, these individuals have, it is still a great glimpse into the players as they interact on the field.

As you watch the below video of Haden, you can see just how much he loves the game of football. He genuinely loves to be around his teammates and part of the game. Nothing is more contagious than watching Haden celebrate the deep pass to Chase Claypool down the sideline.

Just watch for yourself:

Joe Haden mic’d up against the Broncos is exactly what I needed pic.twitter.com/NwYrqmzaHM

— Footballism™ (@FootbaIIism) July 5, 2021

If Haden can remain healthy and vibrant, he very well could find himself getting a new contract with the Steelers to extend his career. It is rare to see someone come into a team who was once a rival, after being drafted by the Cleveland Browns, and be universally liked by teammates and fans alike.

But that’s exactly what Haden has done.

I may be alone, but I’ll take watching Joe Haden mic’d up videos all day every day!

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Podcast: Credit given shouldn’t matter when it comes to the Steelers’ defense

Wed, 07/07/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman leads the way with his AM studio show on the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

The Steelers defense has been one of the league’s best in recent years. Is it due to the influence of Mike Tomlin, Teryl Austin or Keith Butler. Does it matter who? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • The Live Mail Bag
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

The Top 10 storylines surrounding the 2021 Steelers

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Steelers are drowning in question marks, but answers are coming soon

The Pittsburgh Steelers need to answer a lot of questions if they are to be successful in 2021. The fact of the matter is it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint what kind of team they will be this year until we know more about some key spots. With a team so shrouded in mystery, I present you the Top 10 biggest storylines the Steelers face.

Honorable Mention: Will they add any more players before Week 1? Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

This one is an honorable mention because it’s mostly a question I want answered. The Pittsburgh Steelers are sitting around $13 million in salary cap space, and surely a team trying to make another run at a title would spend that money to improve the roster, right? I think it’s more of a question of ‘when’ and ‘who’ rather than ‘if’ and ‘will’ but getting to that point might be a painful wait. Championship teams don’t have a surplus of unused cash laying around.

10. Will a true number one receiver emerge? Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

In 2020 the Steelers receivers all ranked very similarly when it came to stats and output. That’s fine, but doesn't exactly give defensive coordinators migraines. Having a true number one receiver shifts the strength of the defense and frees up the other receivers in more favorable matchups. Physically, Chase Claypool is most likely the one who can be that guy, but don't count out Diontae Johnson who Ben Roethlisberger clearly targets early and often.

9. Will T.J. Watt be coronated as the NFL’s best defensive player? Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

It’s long overdue, but could this finally be the year where T.J. Watt is recognized as the defensive player of the year? He may say it’s not important to him, but the fact his big brother has three of those trophies definitely weighs on the youngest Watt. He most certainly needs to break James Harrison’s Steelers single season sack record (16 sacks) to do so, but considering T.J. was a sack per game player in 2020 he should be able to do that in a 17 game season.

Bonus: Will T.J. Watt sign his mega-deal before the 2021 season? There’s no way the Steelers let this guy go anywhere. Especially because the amount of salary space they will have in 2022. Getting this deal out of the way now would be one less thing for Kevin Colbert and company to worry about.

8. How many rookies will hold prominent roles? Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

This is a tricky one, on one hand the Steelers will do anything in their power from putting rookies in situations they’re not ready for. On the other hand you could say a large number of the Steelers draft picks are already better than the veterans they would normally be backing up. Najee Harris is already penned in as the starting tail back, Pat Freiermuth will play a ton as the number two tight end, and Kendrick Green will take over center duties quite possibly before Week 1. But after those players, who else could make a splash? Pressley Harvin III should be the starting punter, Quincy Roche should push to be the Steelers third edge rusher, and Buddy Johnson could earn some playing time beside Devin Bush. Could any other rookie make a significant impact?

7. Will the Steelers be able to run the ball? Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This storyline blends in with a number of others appearing on this list. But let’s face it, the Steelers were the worst rushing team in football last year and that is unacceptable. The team went out and revamped the offensive line, changed the system, changed coaches, and spent a first round pick on a running back. You can say a lot of things about this offseason, but you can't say they didn't at least try to fix the rushing attack.

6. Will the drops problem persist? Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Drops —mainly by Diontae Johnson and Eric Ebron— killed the Steelers in plenty of games last season. Without them they likely bury the Ravens and continue their win streak against Washington and Cincinnati. But we can't change the past and can only worry about the future. Johnson has said he dedicated the offseason to fixing this issue, and if he did the Steelers will be a better team for it. If the issue persists, don’t be surprised if the Steelers are quicker to bench pass catchers in 2021.

5. Can the defense withstand some key losses? Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Losing Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton really sucks. The Steelers sure didn't get any better by losing this trio of defenders. But it is important to keep in mind the Steelers had Alex Highsmith and Cam Sutton as immediate replacements for two of those players lost. They also signed Arthur Maulet and a handful of UDFA’s to replace Hilton in the slot. Will it be enough to keep this unit one of the tops in the game?

4. Will Matt Canada’s offense translate to the NFL? Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It has been brought up a number of times the offseason, but Matt Canada has bounced around from team to team throughout his entire coaching career. Could it be the scheme, him as a person, or something else? We may never know, but what we do know is his system has worked in the college ranks in a number of places. We also know many NFL teams called on Canada to advise them on trends, but will this scheme truly hit in the NFL? The motions and shifts are a confusing concept to pick up but often puts you at numbers advantages. Can NFL defensive coordinators see right through the façade?

3. Can the Steelers win a playoff game? Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Not since 2016 have the Steelers done anything in the playoffs. This includes two embarrassing first round exits in 2017 and 2020, as well as two seasons, 2018 and 2019, they should have never missed the playoffs. The name of the game is success in the postseason and winning championships, but the Steelers have failed to even begin a quest for a title. Winning in the playoffs needs to be the singular goal for this team.

2. Will Ben Roethlisberger fully buy into the new system? Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? We saw what happened in Green Bay last year when Aaron Rodgers bought into Matt Lafleur’s system. I’m not saying Roethlisberger will be the league MVP, but having your quarterback 100% onboard makes things a lot easier. Roethlisberger is going to have to throw the ball less and call less of his own plays to be successful in 2021. He also needs to be willing to both stand in the pocket and run play action. Sure, this could lead to Roethlisberger getting hit more, however his quick release in 2020 went from a positive to a negative, and needs to end now. Plays cannot develop if you're throwing the ball in less than a second and the defense’s job gets a whole lot easier.

1. Can a revamped OLine outplay expectation? Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

This is the big one. A lot of people are already writing this group off without actually having seen them play a game together. The interior three linemen either weren't Steelers last year or were relegated to the bench for being a rookie, despite also being the best offensive lineman on the team last year. Zach Banner will return to his right tackle spot where he mauled people in the past, and Chuks Okorafor will return to his more comfortable left tackle position where he has always had a stronger post and kick leg. Could this unit be bad? I suppose. But could this unit take a lot of people by surprise? I would say it’s more likely.

But what do you think? Which is the most important question surrounding the Steelers you most want answered? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

The Steelers Trifecta: Diontae Johnson, Jamir Jones, and Jarron Jones

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Day 16 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Diontae Johnson, Jamir Jones, and Jarron Jones

Welcome to the Steelers Trifecta! Over the 30 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 training camp, we will be highlighting three players every day in order cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s three players:

Diontae Johnson Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Position: Wide Receiver
Age: 24
Year: 3
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 183
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 66, 2019
College: Toledo
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

With a roster spot not in question, the biggest factor with Diante Johnson in 2021 will be his reliability. Targeted more than any other wide receiver on the Steelers in 2020, Johnson‘s biggest problem came and his number of drops as he was credited with 13 according to Pro Football Reference. If Johnson can sure up his hands and continue to be one of Ben Roethlisberger‘s main targets, 2021 could be the season he explodes onto the scene even more.

Jamir Jones Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Linebacker
Age: 23
Year: 1
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 255
Drafted: UDFA, 2020 (Texans)
College: Notre Dame
Roster Outlook: Very unlikely
Analysis:

Signed in April to the offseason roster, Jamir Jones is the younger brother of Steelers offense of tackle Jarron Jones. Unable to land on any practice squad in 2020, the younger Jones brother would be the surprise of training camp if he gets into the talk of actually making the Steelers roster.

Jarron Jones Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Position: Offensive Lineman
Age: 27
Year: 1
Height: 6’6”
Weight: 320
Drafted: UDFA, 2017 (Giants)
College: Notre Dame
Roster Outlook: Unlikely
Analysis:

Coming to the Steelers after making the change to offensive tackle in the XFL, Jarron Jones spent the entire 2020 season on the Steelers practice squad. But after adding to the position both through free agency and the draft, Jones’ is most likely route with the Steelers for 2021 would be if he can find his way onto the practice squad yet again.

Be sure to check back everyday for anther ‘trifecta’ of Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

Mike Tomlin’s message for the Steelers leading up to training camp is simple

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 11:34am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be starting Training Camp this month, and Mike Tomlin’s advice for the team was crystal clear.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys will be the first NFL organizations to head to training camp in just a few weeks. The reason those two franchises will be back to work earlier than the rest of the league is the fact they will be the two teams participating in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, OH this summer.

As players left mandatory minicamp a few weeks ago, head coach Mike Tomlin had a very clear and concise message for the 90-man offseason roster. When we meet back in Pittsburgh at the end of July, you better be ready.

“And now, the real work begins as we step away.” Tomlin told media after the final day of minicamp. “That is the thought I left the players with. We have to come into training camp a highly conditioned group ready for work.”

Overall, Tomlin viewed minicamp as a success, and is looking forward to seeing what this team can do when the pads are donned for the first time at the end of July.

“I’m excited as we move away the prospects of this group coming back to us and beginning the training camp process here in a month or so.”

As always, the primary focus during offseason workouts and training camp continues to be the young players. Veterans like Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt and Ben Roethlisberger have little to prove, but simply knocking off the proverbial offseason rust. But the young players who are still trying to prove themselves have everything on the line.

“Hopefully we are setting guys up and putting them in position to have the type of impact that we need them to have and they desire to have.” Tomlin said. “I never really measure or evaluate this component of the calendar until I assess 2021, so stay tuned. I do take good notes. I do like some of the things we were able to get done, but largely, I will reserve any judgement until I look at the journey.”

It was announced just over a week ago the Steelers will not be going to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA for the second straight year. The team submitted a proposed plan to return back to the dormitories and Chuck Noll Field, but the NFL shot down the plan. The organization will be spending their training camp both at Heinz Field and the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in Pittsburgh.

Is there a benefit of staying in Pittsburgh? Advantages to the team compared to traveling off site?

“There are some advantages from a familiarity standpoint.” Tomlin added. “A guy can move around the building and understand how to move and not have that uneasiness associated with trying to find your way around here on gameday. But now that we have preseason games and things of that nature, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to gain that comfort. I just like the environment more than anything. I like the environment of Heinz Field and getting familiar with making plays in that space, and I think that it kind of helps in that way.”

The Steelers will report to training camp roughly around July 21st, the dates/times have not been made official yet, and the Steelers players will continue work to show up at camp in top condition. With some of the rumors circulating around the team this past offseason, there will be plenty of eyes on the team’s return at the end of the month.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Podcast: What’s the Steelers’ worth at each position in the North?

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 11:00am

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

The Steelers are in arguably the toughest division in the NFL, the AFC North. Where do they rank in each position on offense among the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns? Welcome to the Steelers Hangover. On this show, Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White break down all things Steelers! Join the veteran trio as they analyze all things black-and-gold.

Check out the rundown of the show

  • News and Notes
  • What’s the Steelers’ worth at each position in the North?

and MUCH MORE!

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.

Part 1

Part 2

Myles Garrett, not T.J. Watt, considered the best EDGE rusher in the NFL for 2021

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Despite past performances, it is Garrett, not Watt, who is considered the best EDGE rusher, per ESPN.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns rivalry goes back decades, and after 2020 there is an increased sense of vigor between the two AFC North opponents. After the Browns knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs in the AFC Wild Card round at Heinz Field, many are projecting the Browns to have a breakout season in 2021.

But this isn’t about the two teams and who will be more successful. This is about the two teams’ best defensive players. ESPN recently ranked the 10 best EDGE pass rushers in the NFL heading into 2021, and it came down between Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt.

Despite Watt being runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons, ESPN’s article, which used player and front office voting, chose Garrett as the best pass rusher in the league.

Here is how ESPN came to their final rankings:

We surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us stack the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from edge rusher to interior offensive linemen and all the way through tight ends.

For Steelers fans, this just feels wrong. Watt has been dominant in every sense of the word, and many might be wondering what the thought process was for Garrett to be ahead of Watt. Here is what ESPN had to say to justify their ranking:

1. Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 8

Age: 25 | Last year’s ranking: 5

Garrett and T.J. Watt traded first-place votes throughout the process, with Garrett winning out based on his magnificent traits.

Asking general managers which pass-rusher around which they’d build a defense, most said Garrett. Evaluators weren’t as sold before last season, when they felt Garrett underachieved and would get washed out by a good blocking scheme or seasoned left tackle (and he was also coming off a six-game suspension.) No longer.

“Absolutely made a massive jump last year,” a veteran AFC defensive coach said. “From a physical standpoint setting the edge and as a pass-rusher he’s just gifted. He put it all together. He was so difficult to deal with, snap in and snap out.”

Garrett’s pass-rush win rate of 26.3% last season ranked third among edge rushers despite facing 104 double teams. He won on 15 of those (14.4%), which ranked 12 in the league.

Garrett led all edge rushers in sacks created (16.5), a stat that takes into account plays in which his pressure resulted in a sack for a teammate. He caused 29 incompletions (fourth in the league). Garrett has recorded at least 18 quarterback hits in all four of his NFL seasons.

“Built out of a lab,” an AFC scout said. “Zero weaknesses. Power, bend, speed.”

Now, let’s take a look at what was said about Watt, and why he was ranked where he was heading into the 2021 regular season.

2. T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 8

Age: 26 | Last year’s ranking: 7

There’s not a category that Watt doesn’t dominate.

Not only did he lead the league in pass-rush win rate (29.1%), but his four pass-rush interceptions created tied for first, and his 40 caused incompletions led the NFL by a wide margin. Aaron Donald was the next closest at 30. His 15.5 sacks and 23 tackles for loss led the league.

And, oh yeah, Watt can play the run and cover tight ends if the defense needs.

“Incredibly productive player in every phase,” an NFC exec said. “Probably has the best combination of motor and smarts in the league. He wins with intelligence, effort, technique, positioning.”

All these factors made a compelling case for the top spot. Some evaluators consider Watt an overachiever.

“The truth is he might not have been the best athlete at his own position,” an NFC defensive coach said, referring to former teammate Bud Dupree, who signed with Tennessee as a free agent. “He’s not the most explosive guy. But he’s so damn relentless and smart and technically perfect that he just wins. He’ll probably have a Hall of Fame career for all those reasons.”

If you are honest about this debate, you know how good Garrett is as a pass rusher. His size and speed is unparalleled in the NFL, and he and Watt will likely be compared head-to-head for years to come. They are different in every aspect of the word. Watt wins with pure athleticism and effort, while Garrett’s strength provides him the ability to win in multiple ways.

What do you think of the rankings? Do you think Watt was slighted, or were the rankings spot on? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and be sure to follow BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

In case you are curious, here is ESPN’s Top 10 list of EDGE rushers heading into 2021:

Top 10 EDGE rushers in 2021

1. Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
2. T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers
4. Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears
5. Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals
6. Von Miller, Denver Broncos
7. Chase Young, Washington Football Team
8. Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
9. Cam Jordan, New Orleans Saints
10. Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings

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