You are here

Behind the Steel Curtain

Subscribe to Behind the Steel Curtain feed
A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community 2021-07-29T05:30:00-04:00
Updated: 45 min 31 sec ago

Examining the evaluation process of assistant coaches in the Mike Tomlin era

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 8:30am
Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at the Steelers’ coaching staff under head coach Mike Tomlin.

Much attention has been given this off-season to the player turnover in Pittsburgh. With new starters at every position along the offensive line, at running back, outside linebacker, cornerback, slot corner and perhaps even punter, the Steelers will certainly look different when they line up in Buffalo on September 12 than they did when we saw them in the Divisional playoff last January.

While the turnover is noteworthy, it may not be the biggest challenge in terms of new personnel the team will have to navigate. There have been significant changes to the coaching staff as well, particularly on the offensive side of the football.

Matt Canada’s elevation to coordinator has been well-documented. Canada’s hiring spurred the addition of Matt Tomsho, a Canada sidekick, as well. Tomsho was on staff at several of Canada’s stops as a college coordinator — North Carolina State, Pitt, LSU, Maryland — and will assist him as a quality control coach in Pittsburgh.

Additionally, Alfredo Roberts has been hired as the new tight ends coach while Adrian Klemm has been tapped to rebuild the line. Canada, Tomsho, Roberts and Klemm join an offensive staff that includes Mike Sullivan (quarterbacks), Eddie Faulkner (running backs) and Ike Hilliard (wide receivers). Only Faulkner has more than one year of experience in his current role in Pittsburgh. How quickly the Steelers can get their offensive coaches on the same page will be just as important as getting their personnel to gel.

The turnover of the offensive staff raises some interesting questions about the hiring and firing practices under Mike Tomlin. On the defensive side of the football, the staff has been relatively stable. Since taking the reins in 2007, Tomlin has had just two coordinators (Dick LeBeau, Keith Butler) while John Mitchell (defensive line/assistant head coach) has been with the team since 1994. Jerry Olsavsky has been the head linebackers coach for six years and was promoted from within to succeed Butler when Butler became DC. Only in the secondary has the turnover been fairly frequent (Grady Brown, Tom Bradley, Carnell Lake, Ray Horton).

Conversely, on offense, coaches have come and gone far more quickly. Tomlin has had four OC’s, five wide receiver coaches, five quarterback coaches and six offensive line coaches. Tight end (2) and running back (3) are the only position groups where there has been relative stability.

Why has the turnover of the offensive staff been greater than on defense under Tomlin? What does this say about how Tomlin evaluates coaches? What considerations exist when he hires and fires people?

These are interesting questions I hadn’t thought much about until loyal BTSC reader NCSteeler brought them up in the comments’ section of a recent article I wrote on how the Steelers might rebuild their line. His comments were in regard to the hiring of Klemm to replace Shaun Sarrett. Here is some of what NCSteeler wrote:

One question I’ve had for years but have never asked: No head coach or OC or DC is a master coach at all the position groups. They may have good general management skills, but those aren’t the technical things that each position coach should master. So, how do the HCs assess to what extent their position coaches are technically competent, or even generally competent? Are there outside experts they pay to give them feedback on how good their position coaches appear to be doing? For example, in an industry I was in, Advisory Boards were formed (outsiders paid a consulting fee), who periodically gave feedback in well-managed and structured processes. That was enormously helpful.

These are great questions. To answer them, I will draw upon my experience as a high school head coach and on my observations of how the Steelers have done things under Mike Tomlin. I can’t say with certainty how the Steelers operate, and I don’t claim any inside information that leads to my conclusions. But, as a fan and close observer of the franchise for over 40 years, I’ve become pretty familiar with “the Steeler Way.” And as a head coach, even at the high school level, I have some experience with hiring and firing assistants and the considerations that go into those decisions. Here, then, are some thoughts.

There are obvious pre-requisites when hiring assistant coaches, most of which are similar to hiring employees in any field. Competence, professionalism, reliability, loyalty, self-motivation and an ability to work well with others are expected. Beyond that, there are specific considerations that may factor in. Do you desire a coach who specializes in a particular system or scheme? Do you want guys to help build team culture? Are you looking for youth or experience?

To the latter question, many of the coaches in my own program are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. We have over 150 years of coaching experience collectively and know how to teach the game. We are, however, old. Our days of chest-bumping players, jumping into drills to demonstrate technique and serving as cheerleaders are getting fewer and farther between. So, while meeting this off-season to self-evaluate, we decided to recruit some younger coaches who could fill those roles. I eventually added two former players to serve as volunteer assistants. They are both in their early 20s, just finished college football careers and are, to put it mildly, excitable. Like “dog-chasing-car” excitable. They will serve as interns-of-sorts, learning the finer points of the profession while cranking up the juice at practice and bringing an energy and ability to relate to our players that is different from what our older coaches offer.

In Pittsburgh, many of Mike Tomlin’s recent hires have targeted these types of specific needs. They have been, for lack of a better term, problem-solving hires. Todd Haley, for example, was rumored to be too control-oriented, which led to his up-and-down relationship with Ben Roethlisberger. With Roethlisberger increasingly the focal point of the Steelers’ offense, Tomlin desired a coordinator who was less a commander who dictated the offense to Roethlisberger and more a collaborator with whom Roethlisberger could join forces.

Long-time assistant Randy Fichtner, of whom Roethlisberger was fond, was determined to be that man. Fichtner’s offense turned out to be too bland, however, so Tomlin replaced him with a coach known for his creativity and outside-the-box thinking in Canada. Finding the sweet spot in terms of both design and the ability to work with the offense’s most important player has driven Tomlin’s most recent OC hires.

Up front, the changes have fit specific needs as well. Jack Bicknell Jr. was hired in 2013 to implement a zone blocking scheme. The results were terrible. While Bicknell knew the scheme, he could not teach or communicate it well (cardinal rule in coaching: it’s not what you know, it’s what you can get your players to execute). To remedy the problem, Tomlin recruited one of the best teachers in the business in Mike Munchack. A similar situation occurred this off-season. When Sarrett’s position-blocking approach flopped, Tomlin promoted Klemm with the mandate the line be more physical.

While Tomlin has regularly addressed problems that have arisen with his assistants, this hasn’t always meant firing them, even when their units have not performed well. Rather, he has often calculated whether he believes the problems the Steelers are experiencing can be remedied with the coach in question remaining on staff. Given how the Steelers prefer continuity, it’s my contention Tomlin would rather retain and repair than cut a coach loose and hire someone else.

We saw this two years ago with Keith Butler. Following the dismantling of Butler’s defense by opposing offenses in 2017 and 2018, calls for a new DC were rampant. Tomlin was not blind to the problem but he refused to be reactionary. Instead, he brought on Teryl Austin, a former DC, as a consultant to assist Butler. In short, Tomlin believed getting Butler the help he needed was a more prudent move than firing him altogether. That turned out to be a wise decision, as the Steelers have produced Top 5 defenses in back-to-back seasons since bringing Austin on board.

Firing someone is never easy. Coaches spend inordinate amounts of time together. They get to know one another personally and often become friends. In my own experience, I had to make the difficult decision to fire someone with whom I’d been close for a long time. We’d grown up together. He’d built a stellar resume: star quarterback at a successful FCS college, assistant coach on a championship high school program and mentor to a future NFL quarterback. I needed an offensive coordinator when I took the head coaching job. I thought he’d be a perfect hire.

Unfortunately, we were a rebuilding program at the time and he was used to competing for championships. He didn’t have the patience required for our situation and his frustrations poisoned his coaching. I hated to let him go — I knew it would mean the end of our friendship — but he wasn’t the right fit for our program. I made the difficult decision to move on.

When I informed my athletic director, he told me it was a good move. In fact, he said he was planning to recommend I do it. He wasn’t going to force the decision on me, but from what he’d observed, he did not feel continuing on with this coach would be productive. Looking back, it was easy to read between the lines. If I allowed our program to continue down that path, I would be the one to pay the price in the end.

In Pittsburgh, the Rooney family is firmly in Mike Tomlin’s corner. That doesn’t mean, however, they allow him carte blanche with the franchise. To NCSteeler’s question, while the Steelers have never, to my knowledge, used any outside sources to evaluate their coaches, they have made recommendations, some publicly, about their desired course. Art Rooney II’s comments about how the Steelers must run the football better in 2021 was more mandate than suggestion. Tomlin has gone to great lengths this off-season to pay heed. Similar input from the front office was likely conferred in determining what to do about Butler in 2018.

As for the position coaches, Tomlin almost certainly has broad decision-making latitude. While he may consult with advisors like Austin or Ray Sherman, who was in Pittsburgh briefly as an interim coach, the evaluation of his assistants falls largely on Tomlin’s shoulders. Delegation is one of the most important aspects of being a head coach. If the assistants to which the head coach delegates cannot deliver results, it is on the head coach to remedy the situation.

Finally, there is the question as to why Tomlin has had more turnover with his offensive staff than his defensive staff. I’ll offer two thoughts on that matter. First, because Tomlin is trained as a defensive coach (he was a DC before being hired by the Steelers), he is probably more certain of what he wants on that side of the ball. That certainty may provide him a better understanding of what to look for, how to problem-solve and how to evaluate his defensive assistants.

Second, while the defense has undergone evolution in Tomlin’s tenure, it has been an evolution that has occurred to address changes in team personnel (the retirement of Troy Polamalu) or broader changes in the game itself (sub-package defenses to combat increased use of 11 personnel on offense). On offense, however, the evolution has coincided with Roethlisberger. Fitting the offense to Roethlisberger’s development has largely driven its direction. This has required a delicate calculation of Tomlin’s offensive hires. Finding the right coaches to work with Big Ben as he has moved from stage to stage in his career has not always been easy, thus complicating the process of solidifying an offensive staff.

One thing about Tomlin’s hiring practices is certain: by and large, they have been successful. A head coach is only as good as the men around him. Tomlin’s career winning percentage of .650 is 8th in NFL history among coaches who have won at least 100 games. This suggests the men he’s hired, no matter the process, have been pretty darn good.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will improve their rushing TDs to one per game in 2021

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Don Juan Moore/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: The Steelers will improve their rushing TDs to one per game in 2021

Steelers rushing touchdowns per season (NFL rank):

2020: 12 (t-27th)
2019: 9 (t-29th)
2018: 16 (t-7th)
2017: 12 (t-15th)

Why it will happen: After a rough 2019, the Steelers were back on track with rushing touchdowns early in 2020 and even got rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool in on the action. With a new first-round running back and a new offensive coordinator, The Steelers having another five touchdowns on the ground isn’t an outlandish jump while having an extra game.

Why it won’t happen: While the Steelers had nine rushing touchdowns through their first seven games in 2020, they finished the season with only three over the final nine games. Add in the fact the Steelers haven’t averaged more than a touchdown a game since they had 21 touchdowns in 2005 and it may be a little ambitious to expect 17 touchdowns this year.

Prediction: The 2020 season saw huge numbers in the rushing touchdown department. Nine teams rushed for at least 20 touchdowns in the regular season after only two seasons prior the Steelers were in the top 10 with only 16. If this is going to be a league-wide trend, the Steelers would benefit from getting in on the action. But asking so much from the rookie running back, especially with an offensive line who is unproven more than anything else, it’s simply too much to ask even though it is a reasonable goal.

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.

2 Steelers throw out first pitches, who did it better?

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers had two members in different MLB ballparks throwing out the first pitch. The question is, who did it better?

The NFL offseason is by far the longest offseason of all professional sports, and this allows football players the time to do things like autograph signings, appearances, and, of course, throw out first pitches at Major League Baseball games.

Monday, two members of the Pittsburgh Steelers were in attendance at two separate MLB ballparks to throw out the honorary first pitch. Those players were offensive lineman Zach Banner, who threw out the first pitch at the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves game, and Najee Harris, who threw out the first pitch for his hometown San Francisco Giants as they battled the St. Louis Cardinals.

At this stage in the offseason, the fact they threw out the first pitch is one thing, but I want Steelers fans to say who did it better.

Let’s take a look at both pitches, and break it down. As they say, “The eye is the sky doesn’t lie.”

First, let’s take a look at Zach Banner’s pitch at PNC Park. This video courtesy of Alex Stumpf of DKPittsburghSports:

Zach Banner throws out the first pitch. He’s jusssssst a bit outside

— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) July 5, 2021

Next, Najee Harris at Oracle Park. But before we get to Harris’ pitch, it is worth noting he has had some experience doing this before. After all, just about a month ago he was throwing out the first pitch at a Pirates game. Forget? Check the link below...

The video below is courtesy of NBCS:

NFL running back and Bay Area native Najee Harris threw out the first pitch

— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 5, 2021

When breaking it down, Banner clearly doesn’t have the experience and practice throwing a baseball, but Harris doesn’t exactly look comfortable throwing a baseball either. Based on position, Harris should have the upper hand in this scenario.

Clearly, this is all just for fun, but who do you think did it better? Let us know by voting in the poll below, and feel free to critique the pitches in the comment section below! 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: It’s OK to be positive about the Steelers

Tue, 07/06/2021 - 4:30am

In the latest podcast on the BTSC family of podcasts, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

There’s been so much change on the Pittsburgh Steelers going into the 2021 season and with that comes some pessimism. But it’s definitely okay to be positive about the Men of Steel this season.

Join BTSC Deputy Editor Michael Beck on the latest edition of The Live Mike as he helps Steeler Nation navigate through the 2021 offseason and beyond.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • It’s OK to be positive about the Steelers
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael Beck of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Men of Steel.

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

With training camp on the horizon, has your view of the 2021 Steelers changed?

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 2:00pm
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has happened since the 2021 NFL Draft, has your outlook on the Steelers changed since then?

Throughout the lengthy NFL offseason a lot can change. You have the major events like NFL Free Agency, the NFL Draft and workouts throughout the offseason. Throw in retirements, trades and released players and there is plenty of news to carry fans over until the regular season starts in the fall.

With that said, the landscape of any of the 32 NFL franchises can change dramatically in just a few short months. When you look at what the Pittsburgh Steelers have seen this offseason, change is an understatement.

They watched Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva leave via free agency. Steven Nelson was released due to salary cap restraints, and David DeCastro was released due to injury. Players like Vince Williams and Tyson Alualu were thought to be lost, only to return to the Steelers for specific reasons. Maurkice Pouncey and Vance McDonald decided to call it a career and retire.

So, needless to say the Steelers have had their share of roster shake up this offseason. Throughout the offseason, with acquisitions like Trai Turner, Miles Killebrew and Joe Haeg, does it move the needle at all for you?

Before we get to the question of if your view of the Steelers has changed throughout the offseason, let’s take a look at the latest OVER/UNDER win totals for the AFC North. This is per the Pro Football Network:

Baltimore Ravens: 11

Cleveland Browns: 9.5

Pittsburgh Steelers: 8.5

Cincinnati Bengals: 6.5

The Cleveland Browns come into the 2021 NFL season with one of the easiest schedule in the league, and should top their projected win total of 9.5. Yet, this is the Browns we are talking about, so exercise some caution. The Baltimore Ravens are valued pretty much spot on. They should be strong again this year, but a schedule that ranks in the top half for the toughest in the league could limit them.

There does seem to be potential value when we look at the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. Both have extremely difficult schedules in 2021, putting the under in sharp focus. However, the Steelers are the team that is the most enticing. Their schedule never really has any weak points, and the finish is grueling.

With that out of the way, now we come to the point of the article where you have to consider all that has happened this offseason, including draft additions, and whether your outlook has improved, or declined?

Let us know your thoughts in the poll below, and feel free to explain yourself in the comment section below! Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

The Steelers Trifecta: Highsmith, Johnson, and Johnson

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Day 15 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Alex Highsmith, Anthony Johnson, and Buddy Johnson

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:

Alex Highsmith Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Position: Outside Linebacker
Age: 23
Year: 2
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 242
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 102, 2020
College: Charlotte
Roster Outlook: Lock

The 2021 season will be a massive one for young Alex Highsmith. He is being handed the keys to one of the most forgiving starting edge rusher spots in the league. Highsmith has the talent to not only put up impressive numbers but create an identity for himself. Playing beside Cam Heyward, Stephen Tuitt, and across from T.J. Watt should see the sophomore pro never have to take on a double team. With no real backup either Highsmith will receive every opportunity to be the guy for the foreseeable future.

Anthony Johnson Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Wide Receiver
Age: 26
Year: 3
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 220
Drafted: UDFA, 2019 (Buccaneers)
College: Buffalo
Roster Outlook: Very unlikely

I feel for any receiver trying to make the Steelers team. Not one of them has a real shot at making the 53-man roster (barring injury), but thankfully there are opportunities to make the practice squad. Anthony Johnson was that guy on the practice squad last year and should have the inside track at the spot once again. His size works in his favor and he could get another crack at making the roster in 2022.

Buddy Johnson Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Inside Linebacker
Age: 22
Year: 1
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 240
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 140, 2021
College: Texas A&M
Roster Outlook: Lock

Buddy Johnson will be a special teams contributor immediately upon making the team. I also wouldn't be surprised if he made a start or two beside Devin Bush before the end of the season. Johnson has the talent and skill set which should make him a full time starter for the Steelers as earlier as the 2022 season. His impact on the Steelers might not be a noticeable one in his rookie year I anticipate Buddy Johnson as a staple of this team for years to come.

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.

ESPN predicts the Steelers have just one offseason move left, to sign T.J. Watt

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 11:30am
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Could the Pittsburgh Steelers lock up T.J. Watt before the start of the 2021 regular season?

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is the unit they will be hanging their hat on in 2021 as they hope to get back to the postseason and make some noise. On the defensive side of the ball, no player is more dominant than T.J. Watt. With Watt being in the midst of his 5th year option, many fans are wondering if the Steelers might extend Watt now, rather than waiting to after the season and possibly having to pay even more for his services.

When you look at the overall situation for the Steelers entering the 2021 regular season, Watt is a priority in every way, but mainly as a cornerstone of the team’s defense. Watt is a transcendent player, and the Steelers will do whatever they can to lock him up for the long haul.

In fact, when ESPN suggested one last move all 32 teams should do before the end of the offseason, extending Watt was their pick for the Steelers. See what they said about the decision:

Extend edge rusher T.J. Watt

The Steelers are set to enter 2022 with a boatload of cap space, quite the difference from the tightrope they had to walk this offseason. One way or another, Watt will be a Steeler next year, but extending him now is in line with how the organization has gone about its ways.

Watt is one of the five or so best defensive players in football and worth whatever contract he is paid. He’s that good. Pittsburgh has other notable free agents next year, including wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and it’s never too early to get to work on key business.

At mandatory minicamp Watt refused to answer questions surrounding his contract, rather suggesting he would leave that up to the Steelers and his representation. Instead, he wants to focus on his own game entering the 2021 regular season.

“I just want to be the best possible player I can be, not just for myself but for the Pittsburgh Steelers,” said Watt. “I want to make splash plays. The big thing for me is noticing the plays I didn’t make last year, wishing I could have converted on some forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, sacks, tackles for a loss. There is a lot of good from last year, but there is a lot of stuff I can continue to improve on. That is why I love this game so much. You are never at your ceiling.”

If you are like me, you know deep down a deal will get done between Watt and the Steelers. The question isn’t if, but when. The Steelers would most likely love to get a deal done before the 2021 regular season, but if not you can expect a maximum deal for Watt making him one of the highest paid defenders in the NFL. It just feels like a matter of time...

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: And now a word from our black-and-gold sponsor

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 11:00am

With the Steelers now in their off-season, it’s time to bring back an old favorite as we look back at Steeler tales from yesterday and today surrounding the black-and-gold.

There has been a lot of talk about branding when it comes to the Steelers players recently. But this is really nothing new. We take a look at the week that was and the Steelers outside of the football field in commercials and the such. Join BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis with the lighter side of the Men of Steel. This leads to the topic of the latest episode of the most unique member of BTSC’s family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers in brighter lights throughout the years
  • Steelers that bleed 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
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

A Letter from the Editor: An athlete’s personal social dilemma

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers’ talented inside linebacker, Devin Bush, is causing waves on social media, and many are wondering why?

When it comes to social media, some love it, and some hate it.

Sure, it might not be that cut and dry, but it typically boils down to some individuals love the ability to connect with others, get into the minds of people they follow and give their opinion on topics/trends, while others can’t stand how it traps people in a proverbial time suck.

As an individual who needs social media to keep tabs on the Pittsburgh Steelers, I can honestly say I can take or leave it. I have seen the best, and worst, of social media on all platforms and surrounding a wide array of topics.

And this brings me to the main topic of this article — Devin Bush.

The incredibly talented Steelers linebacker has gone from quiet and reserved, to outspoken and controversial almost overnight. Whether it was his tweet about grown men having Tik Tok, or a quote tweeted video of a cat falling to its demise. To say it’s been a change of pace is a gigantic understatement.

Before you ask, “What in the world is a quote tweet?!” understand it isn’t important to the crux of this article. This article isn’t about what Bush has said, or not said, but an athlete’s ability to truly be themselves and use social media.

In 2020 the Steelers were ripped to shreds by the media for their Tik Tok videos both before and after games. When they were winning and off to an 11-0 start, it didn’t matter that much. But when things went south, suddenly the videos were a distraction and over the line. Bulletin board material for the opposition.

Now, Bush’s comments are making some fans long for those silly “Corvette Corvette” pre-game videos by JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Social media is a polarizing topic. It isn’t just about fun anymore. 250 character tweets are considering polarizing and politicized. Instagram posts are analyzed like the Zapruder film. And what athletes “like” on any platform has become front page news for some online media outlets.

It makes you wonder what athletes might be thinking when the decide to embark on their social media journey.

Sure, some use it as a way to make some money on the side. Advertisements are a way for athletes to make additional income outside of their NFL salaries. But for those who venture into the land of personal tweets, that is some murky water.

In my opinion, this goes all the way back to Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall was the first player I actually recall, because he was a former Steelers first round pick, who said something on social media which completely went against the collective narrative. His comments on the death of Osama Bin Laden infuriated most, and left many wondering what was wrong with this “spoiled and rich” professional athlete.

Now, what athletes tweet/post carries more to it than just face value. When Bush tweeted the following, did people care?

I ain’t gon never stop dreaming and working

— Devin Bush ll (@_Dbush11) July 4, 2021

Absolutely not. He was praised for the tweet and given heaps of love and support for a tremendous 2021 season.

But when Bush tweeted this, there wasn’t as much support.

Is Marriage is for destruction? If marriage is forever why are there divorces? Why is money and assets tied into a relationship? I thought it was built through love..

Real marriage is through flesh. Half and half. Can’t divorce Gods creation

— Devin Bush ll (@_Dbush11) July 4, 2021

Bush was criticized for his grammar, and accused of being either hacked or high when he sent out the previous tweet.

Here lies the dilemma.

Can a professional athlete have a social media account for their own personal thoughts and opinions anymore? It doesn’t look like it, unless your own thoughts and opinions mesh with the fan base’s thoughts and opinions. That you do nothing but show yourself studying game tape, working out and recovering from said workouts 24/7. I understand companies have the right to fire individuals for their social media posts/activity. The National Football League is no different, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Bush is getting a phone call from one Burt Lauten, Direct of Public Relations for the Steelers, in the not so distant future about his social media use.

At this point we come full circle. Can professional athletes have personal social media accounts where they can actually give their own thoughts and opinions on topics? Can they give their honest opinion anymore?

It doesn’t seem like it.

This isn’t about Bush’s specific tweets, he is just the latest example of many who have gone down this road. I am not defending, nor opposing, Bush and his thoughts and opinions. Merely making the case for the state of social media in 2021.

It is easy to suggest a professional athlete just delete his account and focus on his job, but what if social media was part of the job? For a player like Bush, who is coming off a torn ACL in 2020, multiple streams of income is never a bad thing.

Let’s put it this way, should an athlete have the ability to voice their own thoughts and opinions however and whenever they want? My goal of this article was not to take sides, but to have a dialogue about any professional athlete’s ability to utilize social media for personal use. Nothing less, nothing more.

With that said, let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 regular season.

How much salary cap space do the Steelers really have at this time?

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 8:30am
photo: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

With more items to count against the cap come September, there is more to the Steelers’ salary cap than one number.

There are several different ways Steelers fans can look at the current amount of money available under the 2021 NFL salary cap. While the Steelers could spend every dollar of their salary cap money at this time and not be in violation of the NFL rules, there are more expenses coming down the road. So how much do the Steelers really have to spend of their available salary cap space?

The first thing to look at is the exact number the Steelers have under the salary cap. Because there are several different resources to look at the number, I’ve been using an estimated total. In the most recent salary cap article I published after the signing of Trai Turner, I had the Steelers estimated cap space at $13.1 million.

One thing which should be coming in the next several weeks is the Steelers signing their final player remaining from the 2021 NFL draft in third-round draft pick Kendrick Green. But after roster displacement, Green should only add an additional $52,000 to the salary cap.

So could the Steelers go out and sign another player for $13 million in 2021 salary cap hit? Yes, they technically could. Should they do such a thing? Not if they don’t want to have to make other moves to save cap space prior to the start of the 2021 regular season.

The Steelers have other expenses they will need to use their salary cap space for come in the very beginning of September. What are those expenses and how much do they need? Here’s a breakdown of the most significant categories:

Practice Squad

It appears the NFL is going to stick with a 16-man practice squad much like they had in the 2020 season. If so, it’s expected teams will be allowed to have up to six veteran players on the squad along with 10 players who are the typical “practice squad eligible” type. Based on these numbers, here is how the expenses will go for the 2021 season. Note the Steelers would not have to have six veterans on the practice squad, but this would be the maximum amount they would need. Players are paid on a weekly basis, including the bye week.

Non-veteran players: $9,200 x 18 weeks x 10 players = $1,656,000
Veteran players: $14,000 x 18 weeks x 6 players = $1,512,000
TOTAL: $3,168,000

If the Steelers didn’t keep any veteran players on the practice squad, it would cost around $2.65 million for the season. But not knowing how they want this make up to be for 2021, it’s easier to just calculate for the maximum.

52nd & 53rd Players

During the NFL offseason, only the top 51 players count towards the salary cap. On August 31, NFL teams have to reduce the roster to 53 players by 4 PM. Once they do so, there will be two additional players that will count towards the salary cap.

Exactly how much these players count depends on their contracts. There are three different possibilities listed below including two minimum salary players, the two players who would currently be the 52nd and 53rd players, and the two lowest salaries who are likely to make the 53 man roster in the Steelers two seventh-round draft picks from 2021.

Minimum: $660,000 + $660,000 = $1,320,000
Current 52 & 53: $803,376 + $784,836 = $1,588,212
2021 7th-round picks: $680,183 + $683,610 = $1,363,793
Estimated amount needed: $1,400,000

I estimated about $1.4 million to make sure that these two spots are covered. This could be less as there are a number of players not in the top 51 who are very likely to make the roster. Every draft pick from the Steelers second fourth-round selection in 2021 and beyond are not in the top 51 salaries. Additionally, players such as Carlos Davis, James Pierre, Kevin Rader, Antoine Brooks, Henry Mondeaux, and J.C. Hassenauer are all outside the top 51. If these players make the roster, the difference in salary of those who are in the top 51 and are released will be a savings for the Steelers. With four quarterbacks and six running backs currently in the top 51 salaries, there will be some players who don’t make the final cut.

Even if the difference in salary is only $100,000, five different players landing on the roster and replacing those ahead of them would save half a million dollars. But this would become a luxury and not necessarily something the bank on.


Although it’s classified as carryover into the next season, this money would go into the 2022 salary cap if it is not used in 2021. Personally, I think a better name for this category is “in-season expenses” as it’s basically money set aside to conduct business throughout the regular season and postseason.

In other words, when players get injured and go on the IR, their salary still counts towards the salary cap and the Steelers would need to replace that salary with another player. Money is needed to do that so this is a safe amount the Steelers would like to carry at the beginning of the 2021 season. Typically the amount is about $5 million.

There are some other amounts that could affect the grand total of what the Steelers actually currently spend, but they just aren’t known enough at this time. Already listing how changes in which exact players make the 53-man roster could save a little money, but it’s better to bank on the most expensive course of action. Additionally, the Steelers may not have spent the entire amount on offseason workouts as not every player attended each day. But this amount will not be overly significant towards the salary cap, much like the difference in salary once Kendrick Green is signed.

So here is the estimated grand total of the salary cap space the Steelers have available after taking into account their upcoming expenses:

Estimated Salary Cap Space: $13.1 million
Estimated Practice Squad: -$3.1 million
Estimated 52 & 53 salary: -$1.4 million
Estimated Carryover: -$5 million
Estimated Amount Available: $3.6 million

So with this amount of money, should Steelers be in the market to make a move? Should they be looking to sign another player or to have a little bit of wiggle room to offer extensions to some of their own?

How would you spend this money? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: Ben Roethlisberger will have fewer than 600 attempts in 2021

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 7:15am
Tim Heitman-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: Ben Roethlisberger will have fewer than 600 attempts in 2021

Ben Roethlisberger’s career attempts when playing at least 15 games:
2006: 469
2007: 404
2008: 469
2009: 506
2011: 513
2013: 584
2014: 608
2017: 561
2018: 675
2020: 608

Why it will happen: When it comes to Ben Roethlisberger’s attempts, you have to factor in a lot of things when trying to decipher that number. You have to consider how pass happy the Steelers have been in the past, but you also have to see the writing on the wall as it pertains to the direction of the offense under Matt Canada. Not only did they draft Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but the projected offensive line is anything but a dominant pass blocking group. This isn’t to suggest they can’t pass block, but it is blatantly obvious they are more suited for run blocking. When you consider the team potentially having a run-first approach, it would severely cut back on Roethlisberger’s attempts. History tells us the less Roethlisberger has to throw, the more successful the Steelers are as a team. This scenario coming to fruition could be just what the doctor ordered for Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense.

Why it won’t happen: We can discuss the offensive line and new coordinator until we are blue in the face, but there are two factors which come into play that cannot be ignored.

The 17th game and Roethlisberger’s desire to win it through the air.

Matt Canada might not want to throw the ball to win, but don’t think Roethlisberger won’t be calling for Randyland 2.0 if the team is struggling on the ground. When you consider Roethlisberger also will have another game, if he stays healthy, to put up another 35+ attempts, this scenario might be a tough sell.

Prediction: Roethlisberger is a quarterback in the waning years of his career, and if he was smart he would take a page from this childhood idol’s book, John Elway, and ride a running game en route to the playoffs. If Fichtner was still the coordinator this would be a isn’t going to happen. But with Canada in place, you have to hold out hope Roethlisberger will see value in using the ground game to alleviate the pressure off him to always win the game with his arm. It isn’t as if he can’t still win the game by throwing the ball, but it isn’t always necessary. With that said, if Roethlisberger stays healthy, I find it tough to consider Roethlisberger staying under 600 attempts with a 17th game. I would actually predict him to be right around 600, and if he plays in all 17 games that should be considered a win for the Steelers offense.

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.

What can we expect from Steelers rookie linebacker Buddy Johnson?

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 6:00am
Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers fourth round pick hasn't been talked about much this offseason but he could make himself heard come fall

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Draft Class is coming into the season with more hype than any other draft class I can remember. From Najee Harris stepping in as one of the top backs in the league, Pat Freiermuth as one of the most talented tight ends Ben Roethlisberger has ever played with, Kendrick Green as a hyper aggressive starting center, and Pressley Harvin III who has All-Pro punting potential. Even Quincy Roche is known as the biggest steal of the Steelers draft and Tre Norwood was called a Swiss army knife from Mike Tomlin himself.

Really the only two draft picks that aren't getting much love this offseason are the two guys from Texas A&M. But even then, Dan Moore Jr. has been called a developmental tackle piece meaning we won't see much of him in 2021.

That leaves us with the 140th overall draft pick in Buddy Johnson. Johnson was instantly talked about as the guy with the potential to take over for Vince Williams when the time comes. As we sit here right now Devin Bush is entrenched as one of the starting inside linebackers with Robert Spillane battling it out with Williams to start opposite of him. The depth pieces below those three include: Ulysees Gilbert III, Miles Killebrew, and Marcus Allen. I envision Johnson beating all of those guys out fairly quickly, and considering Williams is slowing down and the warts of Spillane’s game, he has a shot to start before the end of the season.

LB Buddy Johnson of @AggieFootball is an excellent run defending LB

Good take-on ability vs OL/TE, can pop & get off blocks. Agile to scrape/run-and-chase on 2nd level well too. And can knock you off your feet in a phone booth!

Just don’t know what to do with him on 3rd down

— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 8, 2021

Johnson is actually more athletic than both Spillane and Williams, running his 40 yard dash (4.58) in two tenths of a second faster than either player. Johnson’s 20 yard shuttle is also miles ahead of the other players, meaning he can change directions and accelerate faster than anything we are used to from the position. Not only does Johnson possess speed, but he was a thumper in college smacking around running backs and lineman alike. He was also a renowned leader in the locker room through actions and words, something the Steelers will need as the veterans of this core age.

Trying to find some Day-3 LB options for #Steelers. Buddy Johnson (TAMU) starting to jump off the page. Explosive pro-day with an #RAS of 9.22.

• 4.59 - 40
• 10'8" - BJ
• 38.2" - VJ
• 4.07 - SS

Have to love maniacs that can run & hit on special teams like this.

— Tyler Wise (@TriggeredWise) April 8, 2021

So we know Johnson is athletic, a hard-hitter, and a natural leader, but what could we see from him during his rookie campaign? Well, for starters I think he will end up as a primary special teams player who earns more and more playing time as the year goes by. If the Steelers run into any injury issues at linebacker he could be thrust into the lineup earlier than expected, but I think he will get a handful of starts as we get to the end of the year. Statistically I don't anticipate Johnson will be all that impressive; however, I think the 2021 season will set him up to start beside Devin Bush in 2022.

But what do you think? How will Buddy Johnson perform as a rookie? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: Comparing the 2021 Steelers offensive line to past champions

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 4:30am

BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman presents his AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the Monday episode of “Let’s Ride“.

The change over on the Steelers’ offensive line is a huge narrative going into the 2021 season. Some pundits doubt that the Men of Steel can win a Super Bowl with this current stable of protectors. How does the 2021 Steelers offensive line compare to past black-and-gold champions?

This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the flagship morning show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Comparing the 2021 Steelers offensive line to past champions
  • 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


Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Have a BAD Week: A look back at the Steelers week that was from a black-and-gold mind

Sun, 07/04/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

BTSC’s random thought renegade is back with his bizarre look at the Steelers week that was.

BTSC continues their recap of the past week’s events for our readers. But where they went wrong was asking the one narcissistic writer that would put a bizarre spin on it to do it. So let’s all take a look at a BAD week in the Burgh together.

Monday 6/28
  • A Pittsburgh insider played the “inside source” card and claimed that the Steelers were originally looking at Trai Turner as a replacement for Kevin Dotson. The claim was that some inside the organization were put off by No. 69 arriving out of shape. Pictures and posts by Dotson seem to debunk the story, but it now is on Steelers’ fans minds. In a related story, my son played “the inside source” card on me when he told me that a certain female authority figure inside my house was put off by the fact that I didn’t get the family takeout from Wing Stop. That story was debunked as well.
Tuesday 6/29
  • The hopes and dreams of fans that wished Paxton Lynch would be resigned by the team when the quarterback signed a deal with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League. I don’t necessarily know what a Saskatchewan Rough Rider is, but I don’t know if I want to meet one in a dark alley.
Wednesday 6/30
  • It came out that the Steelers have the 6th most dead money accrued for 2021 in the league. Maurkice Pouncey and Steven Nelson account for $6.45M and $6.17M respectively. David Decastro at $5.54M and Vance McDonald at $2.72M round out the list. This makes me shudder as I realize that my wife is responsible for the most dead money in my house with credit cards and her subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Paramount, Peacock and
Thursday 7/1
  • “If you a grown man & you got TikTok on yo phone stay TF from around me.” was a tweet by Devin Bush this week. Although the Steelers ILB did not name anybody specifically, it is presumed that Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster were the guys that he was talking about. I had the same thing happen to me when my wife tweeted, “If yo a fat man & eat a ton of oysters, drink a gallon of red bull & have a refillable prescription for Viagra, stay TF from around me”.
Friday 7/2

After signing kicker Sam Sloman as competition for Chris Boswell and another camp leg on Thursday, the team made room on the 90-man roster by listing DT Demarcus Christmas as waived injured. Christmas will revert to the Reserve/Injured list if he clears waivers. That move inspired a new song by the author, “D Christmas, the Steelers gave you a spot, but a kicker came their way and they took it away. This year, if waivers you clear, maybe they’ll treat you better.” If you channel your inner-George Michael, it kind of works.

This was the significant week that was for the Steelers, mixed-in with my black-and-gold loving life. I’m sure next week will be full of Steelers happenings as well, so we’ll have to do this again. Have a great week, but better yet have a BAD one.

The Steelers Trifecta: Haskins, Hassenauer, and Heyward

Sun, 07/04/2021 - 12:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Day 14 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Dwayne Haskins, J.C. Hassenauer, and Cameron Heyward

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:

Dwayne Haskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Quarterback
Age: 24
Year: 3
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 214
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 15, 2019 (Washington)
College: Ohio State
Roster Outlook: Bubble

Although Dwayne Haskins was a big-name acquisition this offseason he was brought to Pittsburgh on basically a “prove it” deal with an opportunity to show he can still be an NFL quarterback. This is so much the case that Haskins will have to prove he deserves to be on the active 53-man roster. His 2021 preseason will be the most important of his young NFL career.

J.C. Hassenauer Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Center
Age: 26
Year: 2
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 295
Drafted: UDFA, 2018 (Falcons)
College: Alabama
Roster Outlook: Most Likely

Despite starting four games for the Steelers in 2020 and the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, J.C. Hassenauer does not have a guaranteed position on the Steelers 53-man roster. With the return of B.J. Finney and the drafting of Kendrick Green, Hassenauer needs to show marked improvement throughout training camp in order to land on the Steelers’ 53 come September.

Cameron Heyward Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Defensive Tackle
Age: 32
Year: 11
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 295
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 31, 2011
College: Ohio State
Roster Outlook: Lock

After four straight years of making the Pro Bowl as well as two first-team All-Pro selections over the same time period, Cam Heyward has established himself as one of the premier interior defensive linemen in the NFL. The Steelers defensive captain shouldn’t give anything less in 2021 than his stellar performances we have seen recently.

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.

Podcast: What can 2019 tell us about the season ahead?

Sun, 07/04/2021 - 11:00am

Check out our latest weekly venture with an international flavor. Put another shrimp on the barbie and check out Steelers Touchdown Under with two blokes from Australia, Matty Peverell and Mark Davison.

The Steelers’ offseason rolls on and the disappointment of 2020 gets further away in the rear-view mirror, so what can we learn about the Steelers’ past that will shape the team’s future?

Join the Matty Peverell from the future, as he brings a global perspective to the Steelers’ 2021 offseason and what needs to be done for the team to have a successful 2021 chase for their 7th Lombardi.

This is what will be discussed on the latest episode of Touchdown Under, the Australian sensation from the BTSC family of podcasts that’s now moved over to its live YouTube home.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • ‘Slingin’ the Slang’
  • A deep-dive into the 2019 draft class and what to expect from them in 2021:
  1. Devin Bush
  2. Dionte Johnson
  3. Justin Layne
  4. Benny Snell Jr.
  5. Zack Gentry
  6. Sutton Smith
  7. Isaiah Buggs
  8. Ulysses Gilbert
  9. Derwin Gray
  • Q&A

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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

Apple Users: 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:

Fact or Fiction: Ain’t got time for rumors in my life edition

Sun, 07/04/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

BTSC takes five burning questions regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers and labels them as fact or fiction.

There’s always so much to talk about when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the inquiries surrounding the black-and-gold are definitely ever-evolving, especially this week with the Kevin Dotson rumors, Devin Bush’s comments and the signing of a kicker. It seems like the musical selection that best fits this week’s Fact or Fiction could be the Timex Social Club’s Rumors.

Here’s a sample...

Look at all these rumors surroundin’ me every day

I just need some time, some time to get away from

From all these rumors, I can’t take it no more

My best friend said there’s one out now about me and the girl next door

What’s mine is mine ain’t got time for rumors in my life

I’m a man who thinks, not a man who drinks, so please let me live my life

You can ponder the significance or wonder whether these lyrics are really related here. Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to listen to some totally 80s. But anyhow, there is surely a lot to wonder about. BTSC tries to answer some of the poignant wonderings ahead of time. Take a listen to some bold statements on this and more as we label them as fact or fiction.

Are we on point? Only time will tell.

Kevin Dotson is out of shape Fiction

Maybe the Steelers second-year guard didn’t conduct his offseason conditioning program in the manner that Pittsburgh was hoping. Maybe this is just trolling for clicks. Maybe a Steelers insider got the wrong information. Or maybe where there’s smoke there is fire and we don’t want to believe it. But Dotson looks to be in great shape in photos. The worst thing about the most-recent photo was that Kevin was wearing a Pirates t-shirt while working out. Hopefully, this is not a story. But can it completely be discounted? No.

The signing of Samuel Sloman is a great thing for Chris Boswell Fact

The Steelers made a signing this week that surprised some people. Kicker Sam Sloman, who spent time between the Rams and the Titans in 2020 and connected on eight of 11 field-goal tries and 18 of 21 extra-point attempts. If Sloman is amazing and incumbent Chris Boswell falters, this could be an issue. But really, this transaction allows Boswell to put less strain on his leg and gives Sloman an opportunity to audition for another team or stick with the organization on an expanded practice squad.

Devin Bush’s Tweet about TikTok could mean divisiveness is afoot in the Steelers locker room Fiction

Devin Bush is not afraid to speak his mind and his tweet about grown men and TikTok was quite humorous. Not everybody shares the love for the social media app that JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool seem to do. Bush apparently doesn’t. These comments may suggest to some that Bush has disdain for the two receivers by saying. “Stay TF away from me”. But it doesn’t mean that necessarily. First of all, No. 55 never did implicate the two by name. This whole thing doesn’t mean that there are problems in the locker room. Actually, things were kind of cleared up on Twitter between Bush and Claypool who was seemingly speaking for JuJu. It seems more to me like Bush is not denigrating the TikTokers, but merely saying “don’t lump me in with those guys”.

Kendrick Green does not have to start at center for the Steelers to be successful in 2021 Fact

Are we putting too much pressure on a player that is expected to be the future of the center position in the Steel City? I think so. Green played guard for the majority of his career at Illinois and may need time. B.J. Finney could be a reliable placeholder as Green seasons. However, some have suggested that should Green not immediately be the answer, the sky will fall. I agree that the center position is crucial, but if an offensive line plays as one...things will be fine.

T.J. Watt will sign a new contract before the start of camp Fiction

The Steelers are expected to sign T.J. Watt to a lucrative and blockbuster deal before the All-Pro edge rusher’s rookie contract runs out. They have time, but waiting could come with complications. The team very rarely sign players right before the start of training camp. According to BTSC editor Dave Schofield, the only time since 2012 that the Steelers signed a player in July before gathering for camp was Cam Heyward’s extension in 2015. The Steelers may go against their recent norm with Watt and sign him now, but if history tells us anything... don’t expect it to happen now.

Check out the Fact or Fiction podcast to learn even more about these topics every single week and listen for more on the player below.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will set a franchise record for average yards per punt

Sun, 07/04/2021 - 8:30am
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 Steelers will set a franchise record for average yards per punt

Steelers average yards per punt:

2020: 45.06
2019: 45.51
2018: 43.44
2017: 43.17

Franchise record:
1961: 47.16

Why it will happen: Much to the chagrin of BTSC senior editor Jeff Hartman, the Steelers punting average over the last two years have been some of the best the franchise has ever seen. In fact, the Steelers have only averaged over 45 yards per punt six times since 1939, and two of them were the last two seasons. The next most recent year was in 1999. If Jordan Berry was kicking with that distance, Pressley Harvin should have to do better in order to win the job. For this reason, the average could go up to where it surpasses the 47.16 yards per punt average.

Why it won’t happen: While yards per punt is something you want in most situations, when operating with less room it is much more important to sacrifice distance in an attempt to pin the opponent inside the 10 yard line. If the Steelers offense can move the ball to midfield on most drives, distance won’t be the most important factor in the success for the Steelers punter in 2021.

Prediction: First of all, I don’t know if it matters which player ultimately wins the job when it comes to this record. Last year for Georgia Tech, Pressley Harvin averaged 48.0 yards per punt. If the Steelers can finish off drives with points rather than settling for short punts once they begin moving the ball, whoever is punting for the Steelers will have a chance for more yardage. If that player happens to be Jordan Berry, I think he will need to punt better than he ever has in order to win the job which could put him up close to the 48-yard range. Therefore, I think there is a good possibility this is a record which could be broken by the 2021 Steelers.

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.

ESPN Roster Rankings have the Steelers as a middle of the road team

Sun, 07/04/2021 - 7:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Some, like the people at ESPN, see the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers as a team in transition...

At this point on the NFL calendar it becomes painfully clear news is scarce. If news hits the wire at any point you can chalk it up to one of the following events:

  • Contract signed
  • Off field issues
  • Injuries

Outside of those events, media outlets have to create their own news. They have to find a way to keep fans engaged, and the NFL is king at doing just that throughout the longest offseason of any major sport.

Rankings are a great way to get fans’ engaged in football, even with training camps still a month away. Most fans know these rankings are meaningless, but they create discussion and debate among fans of all 32 teams.

Recently, ESPN and Pro Football Focus (PFF) delivered one of their rankings, and it ranked all 32 teams’ rosters heading into the 2021 season. Before we get to the rankings, let’s take a look at the criteria/purpose of these rankings.

With the 2021 draft and free agency behind us, we’re breaking down each team’s roster using the PFF database, with an eye toward the projected starters. We looked at both the PFF grades from the 2020 season — a number included for every projected starter — and a more comprehensive look at each player’s career using both PFF grades and statistics.

Now onto the rankings. I decided to show the full 32 team rankings, instead of the Top 10 and wherever the Steelers are ranked. I wanted you, the reader, to see exactly who these outlets feel are better, and worse, than the Steelers when it comes to roster strength.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Buffalo Bills
5. Baltimore Ravens
6. Green Bay Packers
7. Los Angeles Rams
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Minnesota Vikings
10. Denver Broncos
11. San Francisco 49ers
12. Washington Football Team
13. Tennessee Titans
14. Indianapolis Colts
15. Seattle Seahawks

16. Pittsburgh Steelers

Biggest strength: There is little doubting that Pittsburgh will once again be able to generate pressure at one of the highest rates in the NFL in 2021. The Steelers led the NFL in team pressure rate last season (45.1%), and they were the only defense in the league that had multiple players generate at least 60 pressures. Each of T.J. Watt (73), Stephon Tuitt (71) and Cameron Heyward (62) reached that threshold. Opposing offenses don’t have enough resources to take all of them out of the game with extra attention.

Biggest weakness: The nicest thing that you can say about the Steelers’ offensive line is that it has potential. Pittsburgh will be relying heavily on inexperience up front. Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green and Zach Banner have played a combined 248 NFL snaps at the positions they’re projected to start the season at. David DeCastro’s recent release following a career-low PFF grade in 2020 and the signing of Trai Turner just add more moving parts for first-year offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. Multiple players will have to develop quickly for this unit not to stand out as a weakness this season.

X factor for 2021: The offseason losses of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton at cornerback place more pressure on Cameron Sutton to be an integral part of this secondary this season. Sutton has ranked in the 94th percentile among all cornerbacks since 2019 in coverage grade on a per-snap basis, though much of that grade stems from his work in the slot as the fourth cornerback in dime packages. Suddenly, he’s the No. 2 behind Joe Haden and the favorite to start the season on the boundary.

17. New Orleans Saints
18. New England Patriots
19. New York Giants
20. Los Angeles Chargers
21. Arizona Cardinals
22. Miami Dolphins
23. Chicago Bears
24. Cincinnati Bengals
25. Atlanta Falcons
26. Las Vegas Raiders
27. Carolina Panthers
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
29. Philadelphia Eagles
30. New York Jets
31. Detroit Lions
32. Houston Texans

With all of that said, what do you think of the Steelers’ position on the rankings? Are they ranked too high? Not high enough? Do you agree with what was said about the black and gold? Let us know in the comment section below, and 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.

Greg Cosell doesn’t foresee doomsday happening for the Steelers in 2021

Sun, 07/04/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Some are spelling doom for the 2021 Steelers, but NFL analyst Greg Cosell doesn’t see it that way.

If you are someone who has been paying attention to the national media since the 2020 NFL season came to its conclusion, you have heard what has been said about the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers.

They are done.

When you had the retirements of players like Maurkice Pouncey, free agents like Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton and Matt Feiler leave, and the release of Steven Nelson and David’s only gotten worse.

But not all national media are believing the Steelers are done. Some, like ESPN NFL analyst Greg Cosell, think there is a shift happening in Pittsburgh. And that isn’t always a bad thing. Recently, Cosell joined Ross Tucker to talk about the AFC North, and of course he was asked about the Steelers’ offensive line.

“That’s going to be interesting. The OLine, right now, everybody is going to say it is no good, but we don’t know if it is no good. It is a work in progress, and we don’t know where it will end up. That’s the point.”

Everyone wants to project the offensive line as a glaring weakness on the Steelers’ roster, but the fact is the offense under Matt Canada could be changing drastically. Cosell points to the 2021 NFL Draft class as a sign this could be happening right before our very eyes.

“I would think that with the addition of Najee Harris, as the first round pick, the addition of Pat Freiermuth as the second round pick, when you already have Eric Ebron, that you could see a change in their overall offensive approach.

“You just can’t ask Ben Roethlisberger at this point of his career, behind a totally unproven offensive line, to drop back 40-45 times by choice.”

The crux of his narrative is based around Harris. Harris isn’t a change of pace back who can thrive off a handful of carries a game. He is a grinder who needs to get into the rhythm of a game.

“You don’t draft Najee Harris to give him the ball 9 times a game. He is not that kind of back. He is a foundation/feature back. He is a grinder and wears people out.

“You draft him to give him the football, and I would think the foundation of the offense will change.” Cosell said.

As for the Steelers’ strength, it is found with the team’s defense, and Cosell sees another great year for the Pittsburgh defense, even without names like Dupree, Hilton and Nelson on the roster.

“I think they are still really good. Obviously they lost Bud Dupree, but I think they feel really good about Alex Highsmith, who played meaningful snaps a year ago. He will help replace Dupree barring anything unforeseen. They are really good in the secondary. The corner position opposite [Joe] Haden is probably a camp battle.

“They’ll be good on defense, they have a lot of good players on defense. They’ve got [Minkah] Fitzpatrick, they’ve got [T.J.] Watt, [Cam] Heyward, [Stephon] Tuitt and [Devin] Bush will be back. They have a lot of quality players on the defensive side of the ball.”

When you listen to someone who doesn’t just cover the Steelers, but the NFL as a whole talk about the Steelers and how they could look different, but be really good, it is refreshing. Are the Steelers a perfect/finished product? Even the most die hard, black and gold blooded fan would know that isn’t the case.

But not all hope is lost, and Cosell points at some of the major points as to why doomsday isn’t on the horizon for the Steelers in 2021. Check out the podcast below and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

(Editor’s Note: The Steelers portion of the podcast starts at the 19:00 mark.)