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 https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/47293/steel_curtain_fave.png 2019-06-26T06:31:00-04:00
Updated: 1 hour 9 min ago

Black and Gold Links: Devin Bush is preparing to make the Steelers’ decision at ILB an easy one

Sat, 06/15/2019 - 5:31am

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

With all of the Steelers’ 2019 offseason workouts in the rear view mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base has to suffer through the dog days of summer until the boys of fall return to the gridon. In the meantime, don’t think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is from over. As the team retreats for the summer, we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until training camp!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how first round draft pick Devin Bush is preparing to make the coaching staffs’ decision at inside linebacker an easy one...meaning he never gives anyone else a chance to win the job.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Devin Bush is happy to be in the NFL, and happy to be a first round pick. But don’t think Bush doesn’t want to start from Day 1 as a member of the black-and-gold.

Kevin Gorman: Devin Bush wants to put Steelers ILB job on ‘lock, like his ponytail

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Bush gave a glimpse of his fashion sense at the NFL Draft, where his custom holster-inspired suit stole the show on the red carpet. What caught my eye was his signature hairstyle, a high-top fade in the front with what looks like a braided ponytail in the back.

Bush’s look is here to stay.

“I usually do my own thing and love what I do. I’m OK with the way I look and not afraid to show who I am,” Bush said. “My hair’s been through everything with me, too. I went to high school, college and I accomplished a lot of things with this hairstyle, so I don’t think it’s going to leave me.”

Now, don’t get it misconstrued. Bush doesn’t believe his hair has any superpowers, like Samson’s did. But Bush has off-the-charts athleticism for a 5-foot-11, 235-pounder and the aptitude to sign his NFL rookie contract the morning of organized team activities and call plays in his practice that afternoon.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • It is never good when the only thing you are remembered for is a mistake made. But that is exactly what people think about when they think about Xavier Grimble. He has some work to do to remove those feelings.

Carter’s Classroom: Grimble better dig deep

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

Xavier Grimble never worked past Jesse James on the depth chart despite having better physical traits as a receiving tight end when it came to speed and ball skills while in space.

The Steelers did draft Zach Gentry to add to tight end depth, but Grimble still has time to solidify a spot as the No. 2 tight end on the team. That will require a finer detail on his game to improve the smaller aspects so that his athleticism can shine.

Let’s break that down:

To read the full article, click HERE

  • What exactly will the Steelers do at safety? Who will round out the depth chart? Not an easy decision, but someone has to take the spot(s).

Who wants it? Analyzing Steelers depth at safety

By: Hunter Homistek, DKPittsburghSports

The Steelers will start Terrell Edmunds and Sean Davis at the two safety spots in the 2019 season. That much is locked.

After that, however, reach into the grab-bag and see what you find. There’s a Marcus Allen in there somewhere, floating beside the Jordan Dangerfield and the Kameron Kelly. You might even snag a Dravon Askew-Henry, P.J. Lockeor Marcelis Branch.

Point is: The Steelers have options at safety, and after that first tier, it feels like anybody’s game to go out and prove their worth to make the team’s final, 53-man roster. The Steelers didn’t draft a safety in 2019, so it’s clear the team thinks it has the in-house talent needed to make a run. Throughout this week’s minicamp at the Rooney Complex, I wanted to speak with those in the mix and gather their thoughts and feelings. What are they doing well? Why should they make the team?

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Keith Butler is back as the Steelers’ outside linebackers coach, but don’t let that think it will take him away from his duties as the defensive coordinator.

Back to coaching Steelers OLBs, Keith Butler doesn’t plan many changes

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Butler was the Steelers’ linebackers coach for 12 seasons before being promoted to coordinator in early 2015. Management filled his old position then by splitting it into two jobs: Joey Porter was named outside linebackers coach and Jerry Olsavsky the inside linebackers coach.

When Porter was let go after last season, his position-coach duties were absorbed by Butler. Butler said this week from minicamp that not much will change.

“Joey did a good job of coaching them. He played under me, so he taught the same thing I taught,” Butler said.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Madness

.@rell_island6, @Juiceup__3, and @benny_snell look forward to #SteelersCamp. pic.twitter.com/A2pJJYVawI

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 14, 2019

.@missi_matthews and @BobLabriola talk about which players have something to prove at #SteelersCamp, Devin Bush, the defense and more. pic.twitter.com/b3vnMmZ51b

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 14, 2019

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 24

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 5:45pm

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

Several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night Open Thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring it back to Friday night — with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six-Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six-Pack of Steelers Questions and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. If someone were to come to you and say they wanted to be a Steelers fan, and they want to know what to do to indoctrinate themselves into the culture, what would be the first piece of advice you give them?

2. At season’s end, who has more yards receiving? Vance McDonald or Jaylen Samuels?

3. Give me your wide receiver depth chart before Week 1 of the 2019 regular season...

4. This past week on the ‘Steelers Preview’ podcast we broke down Isaiah Buggs. Do you see Buggs being able to be quality depth along the defensive line in 2019? Or is it Joshua Frazier 2.0? Please explain your answer...

5. This isn’t Steelers related, but was a fun question I asked my co-hosts on the Steelers Preview this week: If you were an athlete and could have “walk up” music, what would your song be?

6. a) OVER/UNDER Joe Haden games played in 2019 — 14
b) OVER/UNDER Vance McDonald games played in 2019 — 13

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Pittsburgh Steelers Fact or Fiction: Mandatory Minicamp edition

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 2:29pm

BTSC takes five bold statements surrounding the current state of the team and labels them as Fact or Fiction.

With mandatory Minicamp in the books, the narrative of the ‘19 campaign continues with speculation and excitement galore. BTSC anticipates big storylines and issues bold statements regarding each one of them. Let’s take a look and deem them as fact or fiction.

Despite talent at the RB position, the Steelers are likely to run the wheels off of James Conner

Fiction

Mike Tomlin teams haven’t always been great at limiting carries and reducing the load for their RB1. We’ve seen it before with Fast Willie Parker going out with a broken leg late in 2007, LeGarrette Blount leaving due to lack of carries and Le’Veon Bell and Deangelo Williams being spelled sparingly and suffering injuries. However, the paradigm is shifting and it seems more likely that preserving James Conner has become a priority. Don’t expect a full-blow running back by committee situation, but expect more opportunities for Jaylen Samuels and Bennie Snell Jr. to get involved more.

Antonio Brown will do his best not to blast the Steelers on HBO’s Hard Knocks.

Fact...But keep reading

I have a feeling that the Raiders will mandate that AB refrain from badmouthing his former team on the cable series and I wouldn’t be surprised if No. 84 tries to do his best not too. However, HBO needs drama and Brown won’t be able to stay mum. Antonio’s best won’t be good enough as he fills his segment of the show with innuendo and stories of suffering oppression from Steelers management and his former quarterback.

Donte Moncrief becomes the clear-cut WR2 by camp’s end.

Fact

There is a ton of talent in the Steelers’ stable of wide receivers and Moncrief hasn’t quite achieved stats expected of a number-one selection. However, the former Colt and Jaguar hasn’t always been in great receiving-opportunity climates. With the exception of a not-always healthy Andrew Luck, Moncrief has had an aged Matt Hasselbeck, Jacoby Brissett, Scott Tolsien, Josh Freeman, Cody Kessler and Blake Bortles throwing to him as a WR2. Moncrief walks into a perfect situation in Pittsburgh with a future Hall of Famer throwing him the ball. I expect the rapport to develop quickly with Ben Roethlisberger and for Moncrief to make the most of his opportunity opposite JuJu.

Vance McDonald will break Heath Miller’s team single-season mark of eight receiving touchdowns for a tight end.

Fiction

Vance has never had more than four touchdowns in a single season, but he’s poised for a big season and has developed quite a rapport with Ben Roethlisberger. If healthy, he can possibly be the second-most targeted receiver next to JuJu Smith-Schuster. No. 89 has the ability to eclipse Heath and will come real close, but I don’t think he’ll adVance past Miller Time.

2019 will be Bud Dupree’s swan-song season as a Steeler.

(Tossup...But I’ll lean towards) Fiction

I think to the chagrin of many (not me), Bud Dupree will get a new contract opportunity with the Steelers. I think working more closely with Keith Butler will lead to his best season in the Burgh and the lack of depth will make it hard to cut ties, despite what might be a hefty price tag.

Am I right on? Or are my opinions just pure poppycock? The comment section is yours to have your voice heard.

Counting down the days to the 2019 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 12:24pm

The start of meaningful football activities are now just over a month away.

Let the countdown begin!

With mini camp now in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers have entered their dormant period of the 2019 off-season. While hoping there is little to no news regarding the Steelers until training camp, we have no choice but to officially count down the number of days to key dates coming up in 2019.

31 days: Franchise Tag Signing

Any player who was designated with a franchise tag must have a signed contract by 4 PM on July 15, 2019. After this date, the player can only play under the tag for the season. For the first time in two years, this is an insignificant date for the Steelers.

41 days: Reporting to Training Camp

The Steelers players are due to Latrobe on Thursday, July 25, 2019. The Steelers first practice is the following day on Friday, July 26, but the “football in shorts” period will still be in play.

44 days: First Padded Practice

The first step towards a real football begins in pads on Sunday, July 28.

49 days: Friday Night Lights

The Steelers annual trip to Latrobe high school for a practice under the lights will take place on Friday, August 2, 2019.

51 days: Family Fest

For the third straight year, the Steelers will have a practice at Heinz Field on Sunday, August 4, 2019. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or the Steelers box office for $10 each.

56 days: First Preseason Game

The Steelers first preseason game is at 7:30 PM on Friday, August 9, 2019 at Heinz Field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

63 days: Breaking Camp

The Steelers conclude training camp on the eve of their second preseason game which takes place on Saturday, August 17, 2019 at Heinz Field against the Kansas City Chiefs.

76 days: Last Preseason Game

Follows the typical NFL schedule, the final preseason games for all teams will be on Thursday, August 29, 2019. As usual, the Steelers face the Carolina Panthers, this season in Charlotte.

78 days: 53-man Rosters

By 4 PM on Saturday, August 31, teams will have to make their final cuts in order to determine the 53-man roster.

83 days: NFL Kickoff Game

Thursday, September 5, 2019 will be the first game of the NFL season. Breaking from the recent tradition of the Super Bowl champion hosting the game, the NFL is celebrating 100 years with the classic Green Bay Packers at the Chicago Bears rivalry.

86 days: Steelers Opening Game

The Pittsburgh Steelers open the 2019 season on the road in New England on Sunday Night Football.

93 days: Home Opener

The Steelers play their first home game of 2019 in Week 2 on Sunday, September 15 at 1 PM against the Seattle Seahawks.

233 days: Super Bowl LIV

Super Bowl LIV is scheduled to be played on February 2, 2020 in Miami, Florida. The Steelers currently are 25/1 odds to win.

Mike Hilton has no intention of staging a holdout during training camp

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 11:00am

After two years of holdouts by Le’Veon Bell, the only player with notable contract issues this year has declared that he will not be following the running backs example in 2019.

With the exception of slot cornerback Mike Hilton, it would appear that the Pittsburgh Steelers have relatively few pressing contract concerns to worry about this offseason. But unlike the saga that accompanied negotiations with Le’Veon Bell over the past few years, it seems that Hilton has no intention of inflicting that sort of drama on the organization in 2019.

When speaking to reporters during mandatory minicamp this week, the cornerback dismissed any notion of holding out from training camp when it opens on July 25, as reported by Joe Rutter of TribLive.

“That hasn’t even crossed my mind. I’m here for the team. I’m going to be here and try to help the team win games.”

Originally set to be an exclusive rights free agent in 2019, Hilton was due to earn $645,000 under the terms of his tender, but has yet to sign the one-year deal in hopes of a long-term offer from Pittsburgh. And while the Steelers are under no obligation to even entertain a new contract this year, Hilton remains hopeful that the front office will respond to his request the same way they did to Alejandro Villanueva in 2017 when he was an ERFA looking for a similar commitment. A player the cornerback has also spoken to for advice this offseason.

“I actually had a couple conversations with Al. Just how he went about doing it and how he approached it. Having that conversation with him, he kind of broke it down to me and kind of gave me a blueprint of how to go about it.”

“It worked out for (Villanueva) in the long run. We’ll see how it turns out in the next month or so. I’m doing all I can to be here and to show them I want to be here.”

Villanueva was rewarded with a new four-year deal worth $24 million as training camp began that year, and Hilton would clearly welcome something similar this time around. However, Pittsburgh had a bit more salary cap space to work with that year when compared to the $984,968 they currently have available.

While Kenny Moore of the Indianapolis Colts became the highest paid slot cornerback in the league on Thursday after agreeing to a four-year deal that could be worth as much as $36 million, Hilton will not command anywhere near that amount. But it should not be expected that his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will allow him to sign on the cheap either.

Ultimately, it would not be a complete surprise if the front office declined to offer him a deal this year, but with an assurance that they will take care of him in 2020 when he is due to be a restricted free agent. A move that although far from ideal from Hilton’s perspective, would be easier for the team to swallow financially.

Steelers fail to land a player on Pro Football Focus 2019 Top 50 list

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 9:30am

PFF unveiled the final installment of their 2019 Top 50 players list on Thursday and there are no Steelers to be found anywhere.

Just a year removed from being tied for the best record in the NFL, it would appear that the Pittsburgh Steelers 9-6-1 record in 2018 has wiped out all memory of any talent in the Steel City in the minds of Pro Football Focus this offseason given the final reveal of their 2019 Top 50 players list on Thursday.

A list that has in the past included players like Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and David DeCastro now has no room for the Pro Bowl guard this year, nor any of the young stars that the Steelers will be counting on to replace the departed names.

Despite ending the season with more yards and receptions and receiving a much higher grade from PFF in 2018, JuJu Smith-Schuster misses out on the list while Brown still finds himself included at No.22. A reverse of PFF’s Top 101 list for last season released earlier this year that had Smith-Schuster at No.65 and Brown missing out altogether.

In total there are just six wide receivers on the list in DeAndre Hopkins (9), Julio Jones (10), Michael Thomas (12), Odell Beckham Jr. (19), AB (22) and Keenan Allen (34).

Ben Roethlisberger may have led the league in passing in 2018 but there are still six quarterbacks ranked ahead of him going into 2019 by PFF that includes Tom Brady (2), Drew Brees (5), Patrick Mahomes (6), Aaron Rodgers (17), Andrew Luck (25) and Russell Wilson (39).

Former University of Pittsburgh defensive lineman Aaron Donald once again takes the No.1 overall slot on the list, just as he did in each of the last two years and a regular favorite of PFF in all of their offseason ranking lists. The Top 5 is rounded out by Brady at No.2, linebacker Bobby Wagner at No.3, Defensive lineman Fletcher Cox at No. 4 and Brees at No.5.

Arguably the most aggrieved Pittsburgh player should be DeCastro, a perennial Pro Bowl selection and one of the best guards in the NFL. He somehow misses out while both Zack Martin (40) and Shaq Mason (50) find a spot. And with only two running backs included at all, it is something of a surprise to note that they are Alvin Kamara (36) and Saquon Barkley (43).

The Steelers plan at running back is an intriguing part of the upcoming season

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 8:07am

James Conner is the feature back, but what does that mean within the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers offense?

Since the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Le’Veon Bell, they have been a one back football team. You have your feature back, and you have those who can spell him if he is injured or needs a break. Even in situations where players like DeAngelo Williams performed well in his stead, Bell was the man the coaches never took off the field.

With Bell now gone, the Steelers have turned their attention to James Conner as the feature back, but Conner has yet to play all 16 games of a regular season. After a high ankle sprain saw him miss extended time in 2018, the Steelers are reportedly re-thinking their plan for carries among their running backs.

A large majority of the fan base might be rolling their eyes, thinking how we’ve heard this song before, but if you look at the team’s offseason they might actually be serious. Not only did Jaylen Samuels prove his worth in multiple capacities last year, but when the team drafted Benny Snell Jr. in the 2019 NFL Draft it showed they are at least bolstering the depth behind Conner — if not altering strategies.

For what it is worth, Conner fully expects to have the carries spread out more evenly in 2019.

“I think it’ll be spread out pretty evenly,” Conner told Jonathan Bombulie of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after a minicamp practice session Wednesday.

Take that for what it’s worth, but Conner realizes how the depth behind him has changed, and for the better.

“I’ve seen his [Benny Snell’s] college tape. He’s also learned the offense really quick. I know he’ll be ready to play this year,” Conner said. “Jaylen, obviously, is going to make a lot of plays, too.”

According to Randy Fichtner, there are a lot of variables which go into deciding who gets what carries, and how often they are utilized. “I think you monitor it [Conner’s durability] no matter what,” Fichtner added. “I don’t know that you want to put any of the backs in that situation.”

Ultimately, head coach Mike Tomlin has the final say on who plays, and how much, and Tomlin knows it is about much more than just Conner and Samuels.

“We’re open to it. All people are working hard, but there are some other viable men. It’s just not a two-man discussion at the running back position. I’ve been pleased with the progress of the larger body.”

Upon further review, how the Steelers handle the running back carries will be extremely intriguing this offseason, preaseason and in the early portions of the regular season. If you ask me though, I’d expect Conner to be the feature back — because that is what the Steelers do under Mike Tomlin.

Steelers 2019 Minicamp Recap, Day 3: Workouts end with a “young guy emphasis”

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 6:52am

Time to check out what is going on at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex as the Steelers wrap up their Mandatory Minicamp.

The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their Mandatory Minicamp practices on Thursday, and just like they did during their Organized Team Activities (OTAs), veterans got the day off from the last workout.

As stated by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Steelers’ last workout was a gloomy day and lacked star power, but wrapped up a pleasantly uneventful minicamp.

The Steelers’ final minicamp day was cloudy and lacked star power. Several notable Steelers got the day off. Now players have 41 days to do whatever they want. Training camp report date is July 25. pic.twitter.com/JWA25G8Dx3

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 13, 2019

Regardless of who was given the day off, the Steelers focused primarily on their younger players to give them more experience and repetitions. Players like Mason Rudolph, Joshua Dobbs, the entire rookie class and all the others who round out the 91-man offseason roster received their coaches’ full attention Thursday.

Mike Tomlin spoke with reporters after practice and talked about why the team decided to focus on the younger players, what he expects from his players in between minicamp and training camp and much more.

Ultimately, the Steelers achieved the greatest gift from their offseason workouts. Through rookie minincamp, all three phases of OTAs and mandatory minicamp, the team remained healthy. In 2018 they had suffered two season-ending injuries, but this year left the organized practices unscathed. Having a full, and healthy, roster at their disposal entering camp had to be objective No. 1 for Tomlin and his coaching staff.

Mission Accomplished.

Check out the last time anyone will hear from Mike Tomlin until the players report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA at the end of July.

Coach Tomlin speaks about minicamp, giving young players reps, #SteelersCamp and more. pic.twitter.com/5rBmHXXAB4

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 13, 2019
  • Expectations are high for 2019

The Steelers have some lofty expectations this year, and they don’t care about their 2018 9-6-1 record. James Conner, Bud Dupree and Stephon Tuitt know how important they are to the collective reaching their goals, and that is what they talked about as minicamp wrapped up Thursday.

.@JamesConner_, @Bud_Dupree, and @DOCnation_7 speak about getting ready for the new season, their expectations for the team and more. pic.twitter.com/dkUT16zgAa

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 13, 2019
  • VIDEOS/PHOTOS

Benny Snell put the jukes on Devin Bush today. Football in shorts, people, but still. Fun stuff.

via @chasepwilliams pic.twitter.com/2LYDqpzHi9

— DK Pittsburgh Sports (@DKPghSports) June 13, 2019

In too deep, almost time to apply pressure... pic.twitter.com/xiiR2bhMTg

— James Conner (@JamesConner_) June 13, 2019

Teamwork makes the dream work. #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/7qFLYf02Pd

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 13, 2019

Minicamp Day 3️⃣ ☑️ pic.twitter.com/rOTzWwGUiP

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 13, 2019

Podcast: Will Isaiah Buggs prove to be quality depth along the defensive line in Year 1?

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 5:35am

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

The 2019 NFL Draft is over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for a fresh, new season — so it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading into the offseason.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • 2019 NFL Draft Breakdown: Isaiah Buggs
  • Steelers News
  • The ever popular Either/Or segment
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: JuJu Smith-Schuster learned what to do, and what not to do, from Antonio Brown

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 4:30am

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

With the 2019 NFL Draft in the rear view mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season is fast approaching, and the news surrounding the black-and-gold is far from over. As the team now turns its attention to mandatory minicamp, there is no shortage of news.

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how JuJu Smith-Schuster learned a lot from Antonio Brown when they were both in Pittsburgh. He learned a lot of what to do, and plenty of what to avoid.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Antonio Brown taught JuJu Smith-Schuster a lot. Work ethic, an ability to make plays against all odds. But he also indirectly taught him what not to do. How to avoid the pitfalls of super fandom.

Kevin Gorman: Steelers have to hope JuJu learned dos and don’ts from AB

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

To say JuJu Smith-Schuster learned from Antonio Brown is an understatement about the understudy of the NFL’s most prolific pass-catcher and social-media star of this decade.

That Smith-Schuster embraces the opportunity to replace Brown as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top player in both regards is only as valuable as how much he learned the dos and don’ts.

Especially the don’ts.

That brings me to one of my favorite quotes, attributed to the legendary pool hustler Minnesota Fats: I learned everything I know from idiots. You don’t do what they do. It’s automatic.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • The two-minute drill. There is nothing like it in football, when executed perfectly. Ben Roethlisberger has had his share of two-minute drill successes, and Mike Tomlin has put a focus on the situation during this year’s minicamp.

At minicamp, Steelers work on improving 2-minute situations

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The first two days of minicamp practices for the Pittsburgh Steelers each ended with the first-team offense, followed by the second-team offense, trying to drive the length of the field and score a touchdown in a simulated 2-minute drill.

It wasn’t by happenstance.

Each of the final seven games last season came down to either the Steelers or their opponent possessing the ball in the last two minutes with a chance to tie or win the game. It worked out for the Steelers in wins against Jacksonville, New England and Cincinnati – not so much in losses against Denver, Oakland, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Chargers during a 2-4 closing stretch.

In the first half, the Steelers were involved in such games against Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Cincinnati.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • The Steelers might have missed the playoffs and had an embarrassing offseason, but don’t let that shape your thinking regarding the confidence of this team moving forward.

Big Ben: Steelers still confident despite changes

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The losses of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell might temper outside expectations for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but not the expectations inside the team’s locker room.

Asked about the Steelers’ perceived underdog status, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stood on track record.

”I’m been here a long time. We’re still the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Roethlisberger said on the team’s first day of minicamp Tuesday. “We’re still going to go out and try to win every football game. It’s been a long time since we’ve been to the big one. But, if everyone puts forth the effort we all think we can, with the talent we have in this room, we feel pretty confident we can be pretty good.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Don’t look now, but Chris Boswell has been performing well throughout OTAs and minicamp.

Early returns encouraging

By: Mike Prisuta, Steelers.com

Kicker Chris Boswell maintained midway through OTAs he was “hitting the ball really well.”

Special teams coordinator Danny Smith punctuated the opening of mandatory veteran minicamp today by concurring.

“I agree with that, I really do,” Smith insisted this afternoon. “Obviously, we need an improvement there. He’s been very good in the OTAs. He’s been very good and it’s gotta carry into the team setting. We put him in team settings and he’s responded. We know what he’s capable of, that’s a positive.

“We have to get back to what he was capable of and what he showed us and that’s where we’re headed and that’s what he’s done so far.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Madness

.@_Dbush11 talks about his time in Pittsburgh, who he leans on, playing fast and more. pic.twitter.com/GPlwPluLU2

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 13, 2019

.@TunchandWolf discuss what they've seen from the wide receiver group this offseason. pic.twitter.com/LaU9KeeIYL

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 13, 2019

Coach Olsavsky & Coach Bradley like what they see from the additions of Devin Bush, Mark Barron, Ulysees Gilbert and Coach Austin. pic.twitter.com/ySpJdBsFL9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019

.@TeamJuJu speaks about his role as a leader, being vocal, team chemistry and more. pic.twitter.com/r9hCCDVKvq

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019

Steelers Burning Questions: Have your concerns about replacing AB’s production lessened?

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 2:16pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are wrapping up Mandatory Minicamp, and with offseason workouts done has the loss of Antonio Brown’s production lessened for you?

There were some here at BTSC, self included, that felt it would be difficult to replace Antonio Brown and the production he provided year in year out for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That question still remains, but it appears as though it has softened as OTAs and Mandatory Minicamp has taken place.

Reports of James Washington losing weight and being in a better place physically and mentally have helped him gain the necessary confidence to play at the NFL level. Everything that has been read or heard in regards to Diontae Johnson have all been pretty positive. Throw in the veteran presence of Donte Moncief who appears to be rejuvenated now that he again is working with a competent quarterback.

Oh yeah, there’s JuJu Smith-Schuster who has taken on a much needed leadership role not only with his position group, but with in the team itself. Who also is welcoming the challenges of being the guy that draws the attention from the opposing defenses.

There is also one guy who pops up from time to time when I surf the web that hasn’t been mentioned much on here, his name, Diontae Spencer. Now, it may be his reported 4.27 speed that is gaining attention, but we haven’t heard much about Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers throughout the early process. I’m not saying both of their jobs are in jeopardy, but it is possible they have competition, which is never a bad thing.

  • With that said, have some of your fears about losing Antonio Brown, or his awesome production, been lessened, remain the same or have they increased?
  • Is it still just football in shorts at this point? Or nothing can be answered until the pads go on in late July?
  • Will Switzer and Rogers both make the 53-man roster?

Leave your answers in the comment section and as always GO STEELERS!!!!!!

Mike Tomlin downplays the praise surrounding rookie WR Diontae Johnson

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 11:00am

Mike Tomlin had something of a warning for both the fans and Johnson in response to all encouraging words said about his rookie wide receiver this week.

While there have been plenty of positive words for a number of the Pittsburgh Steelers top draft picks this offseason, it would be fair to say that Diontae Johnson has been receiving more than his fair share of the accolades as of late. Already projected as the starter by publications like Pro Football Focus, the rookie wide receiver has even been the subject of rare praise from Ben Roethlisberger during OTAs.

However, just in case there was any danger of Johnson letting all the encouraging words go to his head, Mike Tomlin brought him crashing back down to earth with a healthy dose of reality on Wednesday when speaking to reporters after practice. Asked for his assessment of the young rookie, Tomlin offered something or a warning to the former Toledo product that Johnson would be wise to listen to.

“I see a guy that looks pretty good in shorts, you know. The physicality and the intimidation element of the game, particularly as it relates to the wideout position, you just don’t know what you’re looking at until you get those guys in uniform. So, you know, I try not to paint with a broad brush off of things that I see out here this time of year. We’ve all seen really impressive guys out here that disappeared in Latrobe, particularly at that position.”

Coach Tomlin wraps up Day 2 of minicamp, speaks about the addition of Coach Austin, running the two-minute drill and more. pic.twitter.com/OZXePoh7Sy

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019

Tomlin’s disdain for the media hype that often surrounds “football in shorts” has long been documented and it very much fits with his form to hear him downplaying the efforts of a rookie during OTAs. Many will remember the hype surrounding James Washington around this same time last year and how little that translated to his game day performances during the early portions of the regular season.

Johnson has barely started his NFL journey having sat out the early stages of OTAs with a minor hamstring injury and fans would be equally wise to temper their enthusiasm about the rookie’s potential until he has gone through the grind of training camp. Former Steelers wide receiver Justin Hunter was regularly reported as a standout performer from April to September from the day he entered the league as a second-round pick of the Tennessee Titans. But fans of all four of the teams he has played for are still waiting for him to have a good game when it actually counts.

JuJu Smith-Schuster has ‘no hard feelings’ towards Antonio Brown

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 9:30am

Noting the talent and dedication of his former teammate, Smith-Schuster had nothing but positive words to say about AB on Wednesday

With former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown employing something of a scorched earth policy towards players like Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster following his trade to the Oakland Raiders, it would be understandable if there was a degree of lingering resentment for some of names that remain. But while might be the case for certain sections of the locker, it would appear that JuJu Smith-Schuster is not one of them.

The young wide receiver was arguably the player most unfairly maligned by AB after the completion of his trade, needlessly taunting Smith-Schuster on social media for his fumble in a game against the New Orleans Saints just because he won the Steelers MVP Award instead of him.

However, when asked about his former teammate by reporters on Wednesday, Smith-Schuster had nothing but positive words to say about Brown.

“I liked him as a role model, and that situation, I didn’t want it to end like that. I have no hard feelings against him. Obviously, if we’re ever in the same room, I’m going to say ‘what’s up’ to him. I think hatred is a huge word to use against somebody. At the end of the day, he is a great player. He comes out every day. He has work ethic. He worked hard. But other than that, nah, I don’t have anything towards him or anything like that”

JuJu Smith-Schuster was disappointed with how things ended with him and Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh: “If we’re ever in the same room, I’m going to say what’s up to him.” pic.twitter.com/8ZrH6Jz87K

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 12, 2019

And it would seem that watching the flamboyant veteran receiver go about his business did at least teach Smith-Schuster some valuable life lessons. As recorded by Hunter Homistek of DK Pittsburgh Sports.

“Yeah, as a young dude, I learned a lot, honestly. It’s just like, you know, I always told myself, I told guys this before, I never want to be like the center of attention of like causing problems or any issues for the organization. I just try to stay positive as much as possible and show everyone the outcome of it. And when stuff like that, you know, goes sideways, you know, I say what I say and then I back out and I leave it how it is.”

Smith-Schuster might even tune into Hard Knocks to see how AB is doing.

“I mean, it is very interesting. Obviously, everybody’s talking about Hard Knocks and the Raiders. Everyone is curious how he’s going to do and how he’s going to perform and I honestly I think he is a great player. I think Derek Carr is a good quarterback. Obviously, we went and played there in Oakland and we saw what he was able to do. So, It will be super excited to see what he does, what the team does and Hard Knocks should be interesting to watch.”

Unlike his former teammate, it would appear that diplomacy is another skill Smith-Schuster has mastered as well,

Steelers 2019 Minicamp Recap, Day 2: Teryl Austin’s role with the Steelers becomes more clear

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 7:52am

Time to check out what went down on Day 2 of Mandatory Minicamp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Mike Tomlin has been downright awful at challenges the past three seasons. This isn’t a little known fact among the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base. Desperately in need of help, Tomlin finally brought in some help. Newly hired assistant Teryl Austin will be helping Tomlin with this role, along with helping with the defensive secondary, moving forward.

Just look at some of these stats via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Mike Tomlin has not had any of his past 10 challenges, dating to '16 AFC Championship game, overturned by replay. Since beginning of 2016 season, he's had just 2 of 14 challenges overturned. He is 8 of 17 since 2014. He's never had a 4th down challenge overturned (0 for 12).

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) June 12, 2019

New senior def asst/secondary coach Teryl Austin will assist with replay reviews in 2018. “What I want to do is give Mike a perspective on whether we should challenge or not challenge, try to streamline the process so we’re more efficient in that area,” Austin said.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) June 12, 2019

Austin will prep for his role by watching every replay challenge in '18.
“I’ll find out why they were overturned or not overturned, so I can formulate a plan of, when I see something, I think this can possibly be overturned or OK, keep the flag in your pocket it won’t be.”

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) June 12, 2019

It seems as if the Steelers are taking a closer look into the replay challenges for the 2019 season, and rightfully so considering the fact pass interference calls will be suspect to review.

That wasn’t the only news coming from minicamp Wednesday, so let’s get into some of the other aspects of the team’s second of three mandatory minicamp practices.

Smith-Schuster vowed to be a good due to the media during OTAs, and he lived up to that billing during his first media session of minicamp. He spoke about Antonio Brown, and a whole lot more...

.@TeamJuJu speaks about his role as a leader, being vocal, team chemistry and more. pic.twitter.com/r9hCCDVKvq

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019
  • Mike Tomlin Recap

Take a listen as Mike Tomlin talks about Artie Burns, Diontae Johnson and much more!

Coach Tomlin wraps up Day 2 of minicamp, speaks about the addition of Coach Austin, running the two-minute drill and more. pic.twitter.com/OZXePoh7Sy

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019
  • It’s a family affair

Devin Bush sat down with Steelers.com to talk about his transition from not just college to the NFL, but also rookie minicamp to mandatory minicamp. On top of that, he talks about how the entire team, including Ben Roethlisberger, have helped him get acclimated to his new gig.

.@_Dbush11 talks about his time in Pittsburgh, who he leans on, playing fast and more. pic.twitter.com/GPlwPluLU2

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 13, 2019
  • Position Coaches Speak

As we stated in our Day 1 recap, mandatory minicamp is the time when you hear from assistant coaches you normally don’t hear from. Coach Olsavsky and Coach Bradley talk about the upcoming group of players.

Coach Olsavsky & Coach Bradley like what they see from the additions of Devin Bush, Mark Barron, Ulysees Gilbert and Coach Austin. pic.twitter.com/ySpJdBsFL9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019
  • Locker Room Sound

Joe Haden talks about entering the final year of his contract, and the expectations for the upcoming season.

.@joehaden23 & @drm_12 see a lot of things to like on the field at minicamp. pic.twitter.com/S2K8qyl5gR

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019
  • VIDEOS/PHOTOS

.@TunchandWolf discuss what they've seen from the wide receiver group this offseason. pic.twitter.com/LaU9KeeIYL

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 13, 2019

Moncrief, Washington, Johnson, And Smith-Schuster with the routes at minicamp. #dkps #Steelers pic.twitter.com/1ADzv6nkX5

— Hunter Alek Homistek (@HunterAHomistek) June 12, 2019

See it.
Want it.
Got it.#GoodJuJu | @TeamJuJu pic.twitter.com/buTuBFMOib

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019

⚠️ DANGER ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/lhsDUQrj3e

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019

A 2019 defensive glossary for Pittsburgh Steelers fans

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 6:45am

We have covered many of the offensive schemes and terms, now it is time we focus on the defensive side of the of the football.

Last week, we examined some terms related to the offense Steelers fans should brush up on as we head towards the season. This week, we look at the other side of the ball. Here are some of the key defensive terms and concepts all self-respecting Steelers fans should familiarize themselves with before kickoff in September. Mastery of these is not guaranteed to win you friends and influence or to make your love interest swoon. But give it a try anyway. You never know what can happen...

ALIGNMENT TECHNIQUES

You hear them referenced all of the time. “Is Hargrave big enough to play the 1-tech?” Or, “Should Bud or TJ play the 9?” What does this mean?

In order to simplify the positioning of defensive linemen in regard to their offensive counterparts, former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips devised the following system: all players aligned on the outside shoulder of an offensive lineman are assigned an odd number, all head-up alignments are even and all players shaded to an OL’s inside shoulder are even with an ‘i’ after the number. This system caught on and is now widely accepted as football gospel. Thus, a nose tackle who is head-up on the center is a “0-tech” and a nose who slides to the center’s outside shoulder is a “1.” If the nose bumps over to the inside shoulder of the guard, he’s a “2i.”

The full complement of alignments are shown in the graphic below:

In the Steelers base 3-4, the nose and both DE’s commonly play head-up techs (4-0-4) to open sets (those with no tight end). To tight end sets, the Steelers predominantly play two fronts: the “Over,” where they have a 5 and a 1 tech away from the TE and a 3 and a 9 tech to him; and the “Under,” with a 5 and a 3 to the weak side and a 1, 5 and 9 to the TE. I will talk about each of these fronts in greater detail in a subsequent post.

One caveat about fronts and techniques: it’s one thing to line up in an Over or Under front but quite another to stay there. In the cat-and-mouse game that is pro football, defenses rarely sit in these traditional configurations. The amount of shifting, stemming, slanting, looping etc they do both before and after the snap is designed to keep an offense from setting their blocking schemes to a particular front. This is one of the reasons so many modern offenses use zone rather than man schemes. Blocking an area rather than a man lessens confusion and serves as a counter to defensive movement. This maneuvering in the trenches is one of the most compelling battles in the ever-evolving chess match between coaching staffs.

BUCK vs. MACK LBs

The Buck and the Mack are our two inside linebacker positions. The Buck is the bigger, thicker of the two. He is the downhill thumper who eats up lead blockers and stuffs plays at the line of scrimmage. Vince Williams plays the Buck in our base 3-4. Despite struggling at times to disengage from blocks, Williams is a physical player and is well-suited for the role.

The Mack is more of a backside flow player who looks to run to the football. He is generally lighter and more agile and a better all-around athlete. This was Ryan Shazier’s position and he was brilliant at it. Devin Bush is now destined for the Mack role and will hopefully be the next great Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker. Free agent signee Mark Barron will likely see reps at the Mack as well.

Rather than dive further into the distinctions between the two, I will simply link HERE to the most recent piece by Drop The Hammer on the Buck and the Mack. It Is a follow-up to a piece he originally wrote last off-season. Any questions you have about the two will likely be answered in his excellent piece.

COVER-1

The Steelers predominantly play three coverages: cover-1, cover-2 and cover-3. They play some cover-4 and some combo coverages as well, but 1, 2 and 3 are their favorites.

I wrote a detailed piece on cover-2 last off-season that you can read HERE. Cover-3 is a… actually, don’t get me started on cover-3. It’s a bad high school coverage and I cannot believe the Steelers still use it (if you’d like more on this, I’ll be happy to elaborate in the comments). Cover-1 is man-free coverage. Let’s look more closely at how it works.

In Cover-1, defenders man up against the receiver in front of them while a single-high safety patrols the sky, looking to help where needed. Man defenders stay with their receivers no matter what - whether they shift, motion, block, etc. “If he goes to the bench to get a drink,” coaches often tell DBs, “you fill the water bottle for him.”

Cover-1 is best used with pressure since it’s unrealistic to expect DBs to stay in coverage for an extended period of time. Often, teams will try to disguise their cover-1 looks so an offense can’t check into their man-beaters (generally, slants, wheels and fades or hitches, depending on the DB’s alignment). Teams like the Steelers will not play much man out of their base defense because that usually involves putting an outside backer like T.J. Watt in coverage against a running back or tight end. The Steelers would rather have Watt drop to a zone or get after the passer. So, man is better as a sub package coverage when players like Mike Hilton or Terrell Edmunds can assume those roles.

The Steelers have not traditionally been much of a man-coverage defense under Mike Tomlin. But 2017 may have changed that. According to Pro Football Focus, the Steelers ran less man than any team in the league except Carolina in 2017. When they ran it, though, they allowed the league’s lowest completion percentage at 44.8. That galvanized the defensive staff to change their philosophy. Last season, the Steelers ran some form of man on 52.2% of defensive snaps, more than any team besides New England and Denver (the complete chart of man coverage percentage by team is below).

I couldn’t find numbers on how the Steelers fared in man in terms of completion percentage last season. But their 3,697 total passing yards surrendered was 10th best in the league, which bodes fairly well for their man coverage success. There is no question they’ve gotten more athletic in the secondary over the past few seasons, likely encouraging the staff to play more Cover-1. The additions of Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds and Joe Haden are upgrades over Mike Mitchell, William Gay and Ross Cockrell. 3rd round draft pick Justin Layne played a fair amount of man at Michigan State and Edmunds seemed more comfortable in Cover-1 than Cover-2 as a rookie. This could mean even more Cover-1 for the Steelers in 2019.

DIME COVERAGE

Most people recognize Nickel as a package that puts five defensive backs on the field. What’s a Dime package, then? Ten defensive backs?

Actually, Dime is six. I don’t know how Dime got its name or who used it first. Presumably, it was named as such because a dime is the next monetary unit up from a nickel. Six is one more than five. You get the point. With the rapid progression of the passing game and the rules that make it harder than ever to defend the pass, I won’t be shocked if one day we actually see ten DBs on the field (San Diego used eight at times against Baltimore in their playoff win last January, so we’re not too far away). For now, though, let’s look at Dime.

Here’s a screenshot of the Steelers in a Dime package:

The obvious benefit here is the ability to play coverage with six defensive backs. Coverages can easily be switched and disguised in Dime. In the photo above, what coverage are the Steelers in? There is only one true safety but does that mean it’s cover-1? It’s hard to say. This could be a zone blitz of some sort or a masked coverage where the defense is showing one thing and rotating at the snap to another. The Steelers had great success last December disguising coverages out of the Dime against New England. Often, they showed cover-1 and rotated into cover-2 (or vice versa) in order to keep Tom Brady and the Patriot offense off-balance.

Dime, then, is not just effective because of the athletes on the field but because of what a DC can do with those athletes in coverage.

The glaring weakness of the Dime package is its susceptibility to the run. As you can see in the photo, however, it’s 3rd and 11, where a run is unlikely. If an offense does choose to run against the Dime, you hope the defenders rally down and make the tackle short of the sticks.

This season, when the Steelers go Dime, they will have a multitude of players they can employ. If it’s a three safety, three corner distribution, look for Haden, Nelson and either Artie Burns, Cam Sutton or Layne as the corners and Davis, Edmunds and Mike Hilton as the safeties (Hilton is not a true safety but he plays like one in our sub packages). The Steelers could also opt to use Barron in the Dime look, given his experience as a safety. Whatever the combination, I’d expect a fairly heavy dose of Dime from the Steelers in an attempt to get more speed on the field.

FREE” vs. “STRONG” SAFETY

The Steelers employ two safeties in their base defense: one as the “free” safety (FS) and one as the “strong” safety ($). Here are some distinctions between the two.

The FS tends to have better range and to excel in coverage. He quarterbacks the secondary, meaning he is responsible for coverage calls, adjustments to shifts and motions and getting all of the DBs on the same page. The FS must play half the field in cover-2 and must patrol both seams in cover-3. In cover-1, he is free to help any defender locked in man. He must get enough depth to read the QB’s eyes and must be savvy enough not to get “looked off,” meaning he can’t let the QB bait him into committing too soon to one receiver before throwing to someone else. The FS should be smart, coach-able and fast.

The $ is like a smaller, quicker linebacker playing at the third level. He must run and cover but he also must be a great tackler. The $ plays much more aggressively than the FS, both by nature and by design. He is expected to fill the alley on run plays or sometimes to fit into the box for a blitzing linebacker. Sometimes he is employed as a “box safety” at the backer level, meaning he is rolled up to about five yards off the ball at the snap (check Hammer’s article for more on the role of the Box Safety). The $ will play some half-field cover-2 but in cover-3 he will be a flat defender and in cover-1 he will often check the tight end. The $ should be a versatile player who can run and hit.

In recent memory, the best Steelers safety tandem was Ryan Clark at FS and Troy Polamalu at $. Clark’s range and intelligence let Dick LeBeau use Polamalu like a Swiss Army Knife, where he wreaked havoc on opposing offenses through disguise and freakish athleticism. The current Steelers defense features Sean Davis at FS and Terrell Edmunds at $. Both are talented and athletic and have the potential to be very good. But they need more reps together to get their communication down and they must continue to improve as tacklers and in coverage. My suspicion is the Steelers defense will go as they go - forward, backwards or stuck in place.

“TWIST” STUNT

When Dick LeBeau was the defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, the Steelers were renown for their array of fire-zone stunts. These involved linebackers and second-level players blitzing from various alignments while the secondary played a disguised zone coverage behind it. The most popular of these was the “Fire-X” where both the Mack and the Buck worked a well-timed gap exchange with the nose tackle that often resulted in one of the backers coming free.

Since taking over as DC, Keith Butler has used less of these fire-zones. The Steelers still blitz but often these are overload blitzes that create two-on-one or three-on-two matchup advantages in the pass rush. Increasingly, they have attempted to get pressure from their front without blitzing. One way they’ve done this is by using line twists to free a first-level defender to the quarterback.

A line twist involves defensive linemen crashing, looping and otherwise exchanging gaps in an effort to confuse offensive linemen in their pass blocking responsibilities. Line twists work best against man protections where OL are assigned a single defender than against slide protections where OL block an area. The twisting and looping can force two linemen in a man-blocking scheme to move to the same gap, thereby voiding an adjacent one.

In the GIF below, from 2017, we see the Steelers execute a line twist against Cincinnati. The Steelers are in a Dime package with two DL and two linebackers at the line of scrimmage. On the left side of the ball, DT Tyson Alualu rips hard into the B-gap, forcing the guard to block out on him. OLB Bud Dupree starts on an outside rush into the C-gap, then plants and redirects inside, “twisting” under Alualu.

On the other side of the football, Cam Heyward bull-rushes the guard. The center, who checks initially for a blitz from the inside backer, helps on Heyward when the backer doesn’t show. This leaves the left A-gap wide open for Dupree, who bursts through to sack the quarterback.

This stunt works for several reasons. Alualu and Heyward both get a good push and displace the guards enough for Dupree to get downhill. Dupree, for his part, times the twist well. If he shows too early the center will see him and pick him up. Instead, Dupree delays enough to induce the center to work back on Heyward. The offensive tackle assigned to Dupree tries to trade off with the guard once he sees Dupree go inside. But Alualu has turned the guard’s shoulders with his aggressive charge and the guard cannot redirect onto Dupree. It’s a very well-executed stunt.

There are dozens of varieties of these types of twists. Some involve players looping two and even three gaps. To run them, you must have quick guys to be the “loopers”, which the Steelers do in Dupree, TJ Watt and Anthony Chickillo, and aggressive guys like Heyward, Alualu, Javon Hargrave and Stephon Tuitt to penetrate. The beauty of these stunts is the ability to create pressure without having to sacrifice a coverage player, thus allowing seven players to defend the pass. The Steelers tied Kansas City with a league high 52 sacks last season. Line twists like the one above were a big reason why.

There you have it. Half a dozen terms and concepts to study over the summer so you can talk some real defense once the Steelers kick off in September. Drop these into conversation out on the boat or around the barbecue. You might not be a literal genius but once you dazzle the common folk with talk of Box Safeties and 5-techniques you’ll certainly sound like one.

Podcast: Will there be any Steelers rookies who start in Week 1?

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 5:35am

The Steelers are back to work with Mandatory Minicamp. Many are wondering, will any rookies start in Week 1?

The 2019 NFL Draft class was pretty good to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team was aggressive in the first round by trading up with the Denver Broncos to select Devin Bush, and although they didn’t have a second round pick the rest of their draft haul was solid.

Which brings me to this week’s Steelers Burning Question: Will any of these rookies start in Week 1?

As with most of these questions, fans often think this is a knee jerk answer. And while Devin Bush is the clear cut front runner, he isn’t the only player who could do enough to find himself as a regular on the gridiron this fall as a greenhorn rookie.

Plenty has to be deciphered here, and I lay it all out there for the listeners in the latest show...

Check out the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section below!

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:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Black and Gold Links: Shaun Sarrett begins the journey of replacing Mike Munchak

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 4:39am

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

With the 2019 NFL Draft in the rear view mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season is fast approaching, and the news surrounding the black-and-gold is far from over. As the team now turns its attention to mandatory minicamp, there is no shortage of news.

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how new offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett now begins the tough task of replacing the giant shoes left by Mike Munchak.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Mike Munchak is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player, but if they held spots in Canton for position coaches, he could have a bust for the work he does along the offensive line. Now gone to Denver, Munchak’s giant shoes are hoping to be filled by Shaun Sarrett. Sarrett isn’t new to the Steelers, but it doesn’t make the job any less daunting.

Tim Benz: Can ‘Sweet Feet’ Shaun Sarrett fill Mike Munchak’s shoes with Steelers?

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

But now Munchak is off to Denver to hold the same position on the Broncos staff. So Sarrett is in charge of the group entrusted to block for Roethlisberger.

“That guy has been here, developing for a number of years,” Tomlin said. “He worked with (Sean) Kugler prior to Munch. He has grown and developed within our program. He’s very capable and ready for the assignment.”

Pro Football Focus rated the Steelers as the best pass-blocking unit in the NFL last season. All five of the primary starters return, along with quality reserves in Finney and Chuks Okorafor.

You could say Sarrett basically has been given the keys to a perfect car and is simply being asked not to scratch it.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • In a surprise to absolutely no one, the Oakland Raiders were the NFL’s choice to host the HBO series “Hard Knocks” during 2019 training camp. It makes you wonder just how Antonio Brown will come off in front of the cameras...

Raiders, Antonio Brown chosen for HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ this season

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The NFL sideshow that is Antonio Brown will play out on subscription television this summer.

The Oakland Raiders, who acquired the mercurial wide receiver in March after he forced a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be this year’s participant on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” the NFL announced Tuesday night.

The award-winning show, which chronicles a team’s training camp highlights and lowlights each summer, airs its first of five episode about the Raiders on Aug. 6. It is Oakland’s first time appearing on “Hard Knocks.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Speaking of new coaches, let’s not forget new running backs coach Eddie Faulker who is now in charger of James Conner, Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell Jr.

Steelers new running backs coach Eddie Faulkner settles into 1st NFL coaching job

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

After almost two decades as a college assistant coach, Eddie Faulkner is embarking on his first NFL gig this summer. In his Pittsburgh Steelers position room, at least the faces Faulkner encounters are just about as green as his.

The seven running backs on the Steelers roster combine for four accrued NFL seasons, 61 regular-season games and fewer combined career regular- and postseason yards from scrimmage (1,973) than Le’Veon Bell had in his most recent season for the Steelers alone (2,102 in 2017).

In other words, the Steelers’ running backs are collectively just about as new to the NFL as Faulkner is.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers had some special guests to their first day of Mandatory Minicamp Tuesday. None other than their Penguin brethren from across town.

Penguins coaches visit Steelers minicamp

By: Taylor Hasse, DKPittsburghSports

Mike Sullivan, assistant coaches Mark Recchi and Jacques Martin, and goaltending coach Mike Buckley were in attendance for Day 1 of Steelers minicamp Tuesday at the Rooney Complex.

The four coaches were on the sideline for practice, chatting with Kevin Colbert.

Dejan Kovacevic asked Mike Tomlin about having the Penguins coaches in attendance.

”You know, we’ve got very fluid relationships with our local partners,” said Tomlin. “Man, those guys, we’ve got a lot of respect for them. We glean and learn from them, they learn from us. There’s a lot of mutual respect. And, man, why wouldn’t you listen and learn from those guys? They’ve had a lot of success in their space, particularly of late.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Madness

.@DVEMike & @WilliamsonNFL recap our first day of minicamp, talking about the team being on the same page, being perceived as underdogs and more. pic.twitter.com/93xDDo1HiB

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019

Ben Roethlisberger speaks about minicamp, who has made a mark this offseason and more. pic.twitter.com/3xpbRopr8j

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 11, 2019

Coach Tomlin talks about on field work, rule changes and more after our first day of minicamp. pic.twitter.com/GGQ8JOq1ka

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 11, 2019

A few of our assistant coaches spoke to the media about their position groups. pic.twitter.com/TFHNrXMRml

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 11, 2019

David DeCastro talks about being back on the field, Coach Sarrett, Ben Roethlisberger and more. pic.twitter.com/OlMFYEueOj

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 12, 2019

The Steelers got their man in Devin Bush, and now the pressure begins

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 2:29pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers openly admit to wanting one of the ‘Devins’. They got what they wanted, let the pressure begin.

You heard it from all across the Pittsburgh Steelers’ vast fan base. They wanted the team to be aggressive in the 2019 NFL Draft. Everyone who followed the pre-draft noise heard about the two biggest names in the draft at the inside linebacker position. I’m talking about the two athletic freaks named Devin White, who went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Devin Bush.

The Steelers did just what the fan base had been longing for, and traded with the Denver Broncos to move up in to draft and select Bush with the 10th overall draft pick. It was the first time the team took a defensive player in the Top 10 pick since they selected Rod Woodson in 1987.

If that wasn’t enough pressure, defensive coordinator Keith Butler spoke openly to the media Wednesday at Mandatory Minicamp about how the Steelers wanted one of the ‘Devins’.

“I’m glad Kevin did what he did, to be honest,” Butler told Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports and other reporters Wednesday during the second day of the minicamp. “We knew what we wanted going into the draft. I think they had a pretty good idea of when (they would go). The guys we wanted were one of the Devins. The first one went early and Kevin did a great job in terms of moving up. To me, what happened the last time we moved up? We got (Troy) Polamalu, and we went to three Super Bowls and won two of them.”

There have been a lot of comparisons regarding draft strategy and movement to get Bush, but the comparison to Troy Polamalu might be the toughest to fathom — at least at this point. Polamalu was a generational talent, and someone who took some time to get acclimated at the NFL level. Bush has yet to even don pads during a training camp practice.

Nonetheless, when Butler talks about how happy he was the Steelers obtained Bush in the draft, he doesn’t want it to come off as a slight to players like Sean Spence, Jon Bostic or even L.J. Fort.

“I’m not going to criticize the guys that were there before,” Butler said. “We needed help there. Kevin did a good job of helping us out there. I’m glad we got him. I hope we can use him and he has success. I think he will. But who knows? You never know until they start playing. They all look good in shorts. It matters when they put those pads on. That’s when we’ll find out.

“There are two things I can’t teach them. One of them is being aggressive. The other is speed. He’s got natural speed in terms of hitting and things like that. That’s something his mother and daddy gave him. I’ll be interested to see what kind of hitter he is.”

Will Bush be able to start from Day 1? The hope is he is ready for that, but having Mark Barron on the roster shouldn’t make this move mandatory. If Bush isn’t ready for the entire defense, he will certainly be used in another capacity, likely in sub package football. Either way, Butler just wants to see what Bush can do.

“I hope it helps us a lot, and I think it will. He’s still got to learn. He’s still a rookie. There will be great expectations from him. And he knows that. That’s OK. In order to be successful in this league, you’ve got to perform under pressure. He’s got that mentality, as well as his coaches.”

Minicamp can be used as a barometer for Bush’s trajectory in 2019, but the true test will be when the team reports to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA on July 25th for their annual training camp. That is when the pads start to pop, and fans and coaches alike will get a real taste for what Devin Bush brings to this team in his first year as a pro.

Joe Haden wants to retire with the Steelers, but no talks of extension have happened yet

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 12:25pm

Joe Haden has found new life with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he doesn’t want to leave. But do the Steelers want to keep him around?

You don’t want to look ahead too much, but the Pittsburgh Steelers pending free agent class after the 2019 season is long and has some big names on it. One of those names would be cornerback Joe Haden.

Haden, who is 30 years old, has one year remaining left on his current deal with the Steelers, but doesn’t want to think about free agency. He wants to retire a member of the black-and-gold.

This from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler:

Joe Haden, 30, has one more year on his deal and wants to retire a Steeler. No talks yet about an extension but Haden is ready for them.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 12, 2019

Haden is due to account for $11,916,668 towards this year’s salary cap, and the Steelers giving him a new contract would help alleviate this number.

But do the Steelers want to invest in Haden after the age of 30?

Since being drafted in 2010, Haden has only played in all 16 regular season games once his his career, and that was his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns. Four times in his career he has missed just one game and played in 15 others. Still, longevity is a serious concern when an organization is considering opening its check book to give a player a new contract.

What about the other players on the roster? Steven Nelson signed a 3-year deal in free agency, Cameron Sutton is still under contract for two more seasons and the team just drafted Justin Layne, an outside cornerback, in the 2019 NFL Draft. None of these players are the next coming of Rod Woodson, but the organization has put the potential pieces in place for life without Haden.

There is something to be said about a player who wants to stay with their respective team. I can only think of a handful of players who have come to Pittsburgh and adapted so quickly. Kevin Greene and Jerome Bettis immediately come to mind, but Haden wouldn’t be far off. As his teammate Vince Williams said, Haden should have been in the black-and-gold his entire career.

If you are reading this and thinking that since the team hasn’t started any type of discussions is bad news, you shouldn’t fret. These type of negotiations typically don’t start till closer to training camp, if not the regular season. Plus, the organization has some other issues, like Mike Hilton’s lingering status, to handle before talks with Haden come about.

Should the Steelers look to extend Haden? Or should they thank him for his time, and part ways with the veteran? Let us know in the comment section below!

Steelers officially announce complete 2019 training camp schedule

Wed, 06/12/2019 - 11:00am

The Steelers will return to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe for their 54th straight year in 2019

The Pittsburgh Steelers will return to Latrobe for the start of training camp on July 25th for their 54th consecutive year at Saint Vincent College the team officially announced on Wednesday, with players expected to report by 4 p.m. ET. But without Antonio Brown on the roster, arrivals via helicopter are expected to be limited this year.

The first practice open to the public will be held on Friday, July 26 and the first practice in pads is due to take place on Sunday, July 28, as per Steelers.com. Fans will be able to attend as many as 15 practices this offseason, with 13 set to be held at Saint Vincent College, one at Latrobe Memorial Stadium and another at Heinz Field.

Training camp with run until Friday, August 16, but the last practice open to the public will be held on Thursday, August 15. The ever popular “Friday Night Lights” session will be held on Friday, August 2 at 7 p.m. ET and the Steelers annual “Family Fest” event will take place on Sunday, August 4.

Here is the complete schedule for 2019:

With the possible exception of Mike Hilton who is still not officially under contract having yet to sign his exclusive right free agent tender, all names on the roster are expected to attend. And with no one currently carrying any notable injuries unlike last year, the Steelers should expect all players to be able to participate once training camp begins.

The Steelers first preseason game of 2019 will take place on Friday, August 9 at Heinz Field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with their final matchup coming against the Carolina Panthers on August 29.

Pages