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A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/47293/steel_curtain_fave.png 2022-09-30T18:45:00-04:00
Updated: 45 min 25 sec ago

Steelers named 1 of the 5 most improved teams in the NFL

Sat, 07/09/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

According to one analyst, the Steelers are one of the most improved teams in the league.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most unpredictable teams heading into 2022. Who will be the starting quarterback? Will the Steelers get consistent production from a young receiving corps? Can the Steelers’ offensive tackles keep the quarterback alive this year? How will the Steelers play Myles Jack and Devin Bush at the same time? Can the Steelers survive without a number one corner on the roster?

There are many reasons you could give yourself to get your blood pressure high and sit in the corner of your bedroom, biting your fingernails all day. However, the Steelers have found intriguing new players at many positions this offseason, and one can only assume the team will contend for a playoff spot once again in 2022.

Despite many national pundits downplaying the Steelers’ chances in 2022, one analyst thinks this team is one of the most improved teams in the league. In a recent article ranking the five most improved teams in the NFL, Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports ranked the Steelers fourth. Here is what he had to say about the team’s flurry of moves this offseason.

Kevin Colbert was masterful in his final months as the Steelers’ GM. He was able to lock up one of the top quarterback free agents (Trubisky) during the initial moments of the legal tampering period. The Steelers would further add to their QB room by drafting Pickett, who is projected to be the team’s longterm starter while Trubisky is slated to be Ben Roethlisberger’s initial successor. The Steelers also drafted Chris Oladokun, an interesting QB prospect (he played at three different colleges) who gives them flexibility as it relates to Mason Rudolph’s future with the club.

Offensive line was a major issue for Pittsburgh in 2021. Colbert addressed it by signing two young, affordable interior linemen — Mason Cole and James Daniels — who between them have more than 110 regular season games and nearly 90 starts under their belt. Cole and Daniels should help Najee Harris far exceed his 3.9 yards-per-carry average as a rookie.

DeArdo went on to discuss the many changes which occurred inside the Steelers receiving corps, noting the intriguing additions of All-Pro kick returner Gunner Olszewski, rookies George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, and free agent Myles Boykin. He also added that recent draftee Conner Heyward could add “another wrinkle to Matt Canada’s offense.”

DeArdo finished his argument by noting several underrated bargains the Steelers found in free agency.

Pittsburgh’s reconstruction of the defensive line started with Colbert and has continued with his replacement, Omar Khan. One of Colbert’s last draft selections was versatile defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal in the third round. One of Khan’s first big signings as GM was Ogunjobi, who if healthy will be an absolute bargain at one year and up to $8 million with incentives. Speaking of bargains, the Steelers were able to acquire two veteran defensive starters in Jack and Wallace for a total of $24 million over two years.

The signing of Myles Jack is still somewhat of a head-scratcher, considering his similarities in play-strengths to Devin Bush. However, I trust Brian Flores to get the most out of this group, even though the pieces of the puzzle do not seem to fit when looking at the roster on paper. Levi Wallace’s athletic limitations are apparent at times, but for only $8 million over two years, it was without a doubt one of the best value signings during the early free agency period.

Things looked murky on the defensive line following Stephon Tuitt’s 2021 absence, but Kevin Colbert and Omar Khan made sure to fill a potential void, drafting DeMarvin Leal just weeks before Tuitt’s public retirement announcement. Plus, the latest addition to the Steelers, Larry Ogunjobi, makes too much sense not only for 2022, but also for the future. The Steelers are a young team going through a rebuild reload, but Ogunjobi is only 28 and has plenty of good years ahead if the Steelers choose to keep him long-term.

What do you think of the Steelers’ offseason? Do you think they will prove to be one of the most improved teams in the NFL? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC as we get you ready for the upcoming events surrounding the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers!

Roger Goodell states NFL Sunday Ticket will head to streaming in 2023

Sat, 07/09/2022 - 7:30am
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL is looking to maximize profits, again, this time by moving the NFL Sunday Ticket away from DirecTV and to streaming.

The National Football League knows how to maximize their profits. It’s the reason owners love Roger Goodell. Simply put, he has helped each owner the leader of a billion dollar operation.

When it comes to getting the most for the league, nothing ranks higher than television deals. After negotiating new deals with companies like Amazon, FOX, CBS, NBC and Disney (ESPN), Goodell is now looking to make a move which has been expected for several year.

That would be moving the NFL Sunday Ticket package away from DirecTV/AT&T to a streaming service. While visiting with the folks at CNBC, Goodell said Sunday Ticket is moving to a streaming service as of 2023.

Via Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com, Goodell said that Sunday Ticket will end up with a streaming service, and that a decision will be made this fall.

Another report from CNBC, via ProFootballTalk, states that Apple, Disney, and Amazon have made bids for the out-of-market viewing package, with the three corporate behemoths waiting for the NFL’s next move.

What does this mean for NFL/Pittsburgh Steelers fans? This is what Mike Florio believes will happen with Sunday Ticket:

The contracts between the NFL and CBS/Fox prevent the DirecTV successor from significantly slashing the $300 per year price for the package. This protects the companies that have paid big money for the ability to put games on the local affiliates available in a given area.

It also does no favors for fans/consumers who want to watch the games they choose to watch. At this point, however, most fans/consumers would gladly pay the price to get an effective and reliable Internet-based option for watching the games that aren’t being televised in the areas where they live.

For all the advances the league has made in recent years, Sunday Ticket continues to lag. As of next year, that apparently will end.

If you are like me, and have DirecTV solely for the NFL Sunday Ticket package, it will soon be time to make a decision as to what you will do with the Sunday Ticket package leaving for a new streaming service as of 2023. In the meantime, the 2022 season NFL Sunday Ticket package will remain with DirecTV.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason leading up to training camp.

Football wouldn’t be the same without NFL Films and its haunting music

Sat, 07/09/2022 - 6:30am

I grew up learning about the game of football thanks to many hours spent watching NFL Films programming. In addition to the great narrators and storytelling, there was just something about those haunting musical scores that brought the game of football to life.

Growing up in the '80s, my love for football and the NFL was nurtured by watching countless hours of NFL Films programming.

I didn’t necessarily grow up on X’s and O’s. No, I grew up on Ed Sabol, Steve Sabol, John Facenda and the very-underrated Harry Kalas. NFL Films programming didn’t really teach me about the 4-3 defense or the West Coast offense (although, I know it tried thanks to the film company’s great variety of programming). What NFL Films did teach me, however, was the history of the NFL and the history of football. I learned about the great warriors of the game, the gladiators, the underdogs, and the dynasties. I was schooled on the bombastic personalities and the quirky characters. I studied the menacing middle linebackers and the charismatic cornerbacks.

Of course, it was the passion that the Sabols had for the game of professional football, as well as for filmmaking and storytelling, that fostered such a great product for my young eyes, ears and soul to consume. Speaking of filmmaking and storytelling, a typical NFL Films program—whether it was a production about a team’s highlights from the previous season, an epic postseason battle or one of those menacing middle linebackers—gave the NFL and the sport of football a sense of gravitas and drama. These productions often seemed theatrical and even mythical.

I know that the heroes of the past I grew up learning about--including those Super Steelers from the 1970s—seemed larger than life to me, like they were fictional gladiators from a long-lost era.

Part of it had to do with NFL Films using, well, film instead of video; the grainy quality of those 1960s, ‘70s and even early-’80s features also created a mythical and mystical feel and aura.

Of course, you can’t talk about NFL Films productions from yesteryear without mentioning John Facenda, the voice of God, and Harry Kalas, the voice of the Phillies but also a damn-fine NFL Films narrator in his own right—including on the always popular NFL Game of the week.

Even lesser-known (or at least lesser-appreciated) narrators such as the very-talented Jeff Kaye helped to paint a wonderful picture for a young man who was simply enthralled by the game of football and the National Football League.

But of all the components NFL Films used to bring the game of professional football to life for this young lad, none was more effective than the famous musical scores that accompanied every story and every narration. The stories were great, and the voices were enchanting, but so much of this music was breathtaking. It gave me goosebumps, and it could paint a picture like nothing else.

Just listen to this Sam Spence score titled: Round Up. Don’t you just automatically think of football and those gladiators and teams from the past when you hear that piece? How about this one titled: A New Game? Is that for the playoffs? If so, it’s fitting.

How about Rampage? I don’t know when this was composed, but it could be used as a musical backdrop for any NFL game from the 1960s through the 1980s, and it wouldn’t seem out of place.

One of my favorites is another Sam Spence composition called Blockbuster. This really gives me chills. No offense, but when I hear this score, I immediately think of Super Bowl XII and the Cowboys' Doomsday Defense. Maybe that’s because NFL Films did such a fine job using it to illustrate just how dominant Dallas was while dismantling the underdog Broncos down in the Superdome.

I can go on and on describing so many other NFL Films scores, from the devilish Autumn Wind to the surreal Element of Risk to even the quirky disco theme used in the late-’70s and early-’80s, but I’d be here all day.

Heck, I could write another whole article on Wild Bunch and how it reminds me of all-things Vince Lombardi and the 1960s Green Bay Packers.

There’s just so much to unpack when talking about the countless NFL Films musical compositions.

Instead, I think I’m going to go on YouTube and listen to some more NFL Films music while I dream about the NFL I grew up watching and get pumped up for the football I’m about to watch this fall.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Sat, 07/09/2022 - 5:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the BTSC website, but we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest two podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

Nonetheless, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show.

Here We Go, The Steelers Show: The prospect of improvement in Pittsburgh

Are this year’s Steelers better than they were last season? We can analyze from several perspectives like roster, coaching staff and culture. Join Bryan Anthony Davis and Kevin Smith for Here We Go. The BTSC duo break down the Steelers like no one else does.

Check out the rundown

  • News and Notes
  • Are the Steelers better than in 2021?
  • and MUCH MORE!
Steelers Six Pack with Tony: The Steelers were lucky to find Dan Moore Jr.

The Steelers selected Dan Moore, Jr. in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. After winning the starting left tackle job in training camp, Moore started 16 games at left tackle in his rookie season. Also, Baker Mayfield traded to the Panthers, and your questions and comments on this episode of the Steelers Six Pack with veteran BTSC podcaster and writer Tony Defeo.

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • The luck of finding Dan Moore Jr.
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Vol. 20

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 5:45pm
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

There is always something to talk about when it comes to the Black & Gold!

It’s Friday again, so it’s time for the six pack of questions. It seems as if Jeff and Dave come to a consensus in cutting to the chase...

This week, I, Dave, will be tasked with the questions up for discussion.

The rules are still the same...

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.

Procedural Note: Since the title feature has gone away, please feel free to leave your usual title as the first line of your response and even bold it if you can for the ease of others.

So here we go! With the formalities out of the way, it’s time to jump on in. Hopefully this party is exactly what you’re looking for on a Friday night. Here goes:

1. Now that Baker Mayfield was traded from the Browns to the Panthers, do you find yourself pulling for him more, less, or are you totally indifferent?

2. The starting quarterbacks on Thursday Night Football in Week 3 (PIT at CLE) will be ___________________ vs. _____________________.

3. Other than T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward, who has the next most sacks for the Steelers in 2022? Will they be ahead of either Watt or Heyward?

4. The Steelers have 9 regular-season road games for the first time in team history. What do you think the Steelers road record needs to be in order to have a successful season?

5. I love wearing Steelets gear, but during the summer months it’s so tough to wear black because of the heat. If you were to wear something Steelers that wasn’t black, do you prefer white, gold (or yellow), or grey?

6. What’s the longest drive in a car you have every been a part of (either as driver, passenger, or a mix of both)? What was the reason for the trip?

Stay safe out there!

And it wouldn’t be a Friday night unless we said...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

We added some new shows and a new platform to our podcasts...if you haven’t checked out our full lineup of morning, noon, and evening shows, give them a try by listening below!

Going For Two: Larry Ogunjobi & Chuks Okorafor

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 2:30pm
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Day 27 of Going For Two, featuring Larry Ogunjobi and Chuks Okorafor

Welcome to Going For Two! Over the 45 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 training camp, we will be highlighting two players every day in order to cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s two players:

Larry Ogunjobi Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Position: Defensive Tackle
Age: 28
Year: 6
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 305
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 65, 2017 (Cleveland Browns)
College: Charlotte
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

After the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Larry Ogunjobi for a one-year, $8 million contract following minicamp, his roster spot is not in question. The only issue is if the ankle injury which put him on the Reserve/Injured List during the 2021 postseason is fully healed enough to be 100% by Week 1. If so, Ogunjobi looks to fill the void left by Stephon Tuitt’s retirement. While there are questions about fit, number of snaps, and exact usage to be answered, these are minor things that will work themselves out as Ogunjobi looks to cash in big in the free agent market next offseason.

Chukwuma Okorafor Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Position: Offensive line
Age: 24
Year: 5
Height: 6’6”
Weight: 320
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 92, 2018
College: Western Michigan
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

One of the biggest thing that stands out about Chuks Okorafor, other than the new contract he signed this past offseason, is the fact that he is currently the same age as both quarterbacks drafted by the Steelers in 2022. Forgetting his age at times, Chuks is going into his fifth year and will turn 25 during training camp. Being such a young player, hopefully this means his skills will continue to develop and only help build the Steelers young offensive line into an adequate unit for the season.

Be sure to check back everyday for another two players for the Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

Steelers have two semifinalists in the Seniors, Coach/Contributor category for the Hall of Fame

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 12:45pm
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have two new semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

With the 2022 regular season quickly approaching, it is time for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to start their process to find their next class of inductees. Thursday the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced 54 individuals who are semifinalists in the Seniors, Coach/Contributor category for the Class of 2023, and they include two from the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.

Art Rooney Jr., who is a member of the Steelers Hall of Honor, and former coach Buddy Parker are both semifinalists in the Coach/Contributor category.

For more information, this is from the Steelers official website:

Rooney was the team’s Personnel Director from 1965-86. He worked with Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll, Rooney Jr. and the Steelers scouting department drafted, or signed as rookie free agents, 10 future Hall of Famers from 1969-74, and the team would go on to win four Super Bowl championships during the 1970s. He is currently a vice-president with the team.

Parker coached the Steelers for eight seasons, 1957-64, after stints with the Chicago Cardinals (1949) and Detroit Lions (1951-56). His record with the Steelers was 51-47-6, while he had a career coaching record of 104-75-9.

So, when will these individuals know if they were able to get into the Hall of Fame as a Senior or Coach/Contributor?

This from the Pro Football Hall of Fame helps explain:

Selection bylaws stipulate that both the Seniors Committee and Coach/Contributor Committee vote for 25 Semifinalists but also allows for additional candidates to proceed in the process in the case of a tie vote for the 25th position.

The respective selection committees now will consider the candidates and vote to send 12 Seniors and 12 Coach/Contributors through to the Finalists stage. The results of those reduction votes will be announced July 27.

The Seniors Committee will meet Aug. 16 to select up to three Seniors for final consideration as members of the Class of 2023. Expansion of the Seniors pool for election to the Hall was approved earlier this year for the Classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Coach/Contributor Committee members will meet Aug. 23 to select one Coach or Contributor for final consideration for the Class of 2023.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the team to report to training camp on July 26th at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

Steelers Post-Draft Roster Review, Part 10: Safeties

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is over and the Steelers have added many new faces to the roster. In this series, we’ll take a look at each position and what you need to know as the offseason rolls on. In Part Ten, we’ll break down the Safeties.

I am a lot higher on the Steelers safety unit than most, viewing the top 4 options as viable starters for a lot of teams. Obviously, the unit is led by an All-Pro that was recently paid as the league’s top Free Safety (FS), and he is joined by solid, if unspectacular contributors to the group. Let’s dive a little deeper into this group, specifically looking at who’s up and coming for this young group.

The Players

Note: position labels are pulled directly from the team’s official roster on Steelers.com

S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Demontae Kazee, Karl Joseph, Miles Killebrew, Donovan Stiner

DB: Tre Norwood

Group Breakdown

Let’s start at the top with the 2-time All-Pro, Minkah Fitzpatrick, who just got the bag and a chance to bounce back to the Super Splash Play machine we saw in 2019 and 2020. That’s not to say he wasn’t spectacular in 2021, but the team’s horrific rush defense forced no. 39 to help in run support way more than the team would prefer. A great season for Minkah would include about 20-30 less total tackles, and a few more turnovers forced. At his best, he’s one of the few Safeties that can dictate how an opposing offense calls plays.

Terrell Edmunds is criminally underrated across Steeler Nation and the league. The 28th overall pick of the Steelers in 2018 has developed into a solid starting Strong Safety (SS) providing mistake-free play in the box and excelling vs. opposing Tight Ends. He and Fitzpatrick form a dynamic duo that knows each other well. At a position where communication is priority number one, Edmunds familiarity with the system and with his partner in crime on the back end is a huge plus.

Nobody is really talking about the addition of Demontae Kazee to the Safety room in Pittsburgh, but this is one of my favorite signings by the team all offseason. Kazee is a master-sleuth on the back end, routinely making plays on footballs, and, despite his smaller size, bringing a physicality that coaches will love. Kazee gives the Steelers options in the secondary, potentially allowing Fitzpatrick to play more of the robber role that led to the team’s astronomical takeaway numbers of a couple seasons ago.

Second year defensive back (DB) Tre Norwood projects to play a highly versatile role for the Steelers in 2022. He has a very similar skillset to the last player we discussed, and Mike Tomlin and Teryl Austin will take advantage of his ability to play in the slot and as the deep defender in package Defenses. I have my eye on this young man, and I really think with continued development he can be a difference-maker on this defense in 2022 and beyond.

Now we get to the depth pieces behind Edmunds at SS. Starting with Karl Joseph, who profiles as a better fit in the box safety role than either Kazee or Norwood. Karl Joseph is a wiley veteran with plenty of experience and could be one of the glue pieces of this secondary. His roster spot is far from certain, however, with another veteran and special teams ace, Miles Killebrew, vying for a similar role. Killebrew’s elite ability on Special Teams does give him the edge if this turns into a “two dogs, one bone” kind of situation, as Coach Tomlin likes to say.

Rounding out the position group is Donovan Stiner, a 2021 UDFA who spent the 2021 season on the Steelers Practice Squad. Unfortunately for the former Florida Gator, the Steelers are very deep at Safety, and Stiner would need a significant step up in performance to push any of the players listed above for a roster spot. What Stiner brings is physicality and size to the position (6’2”, 210lbs), but a general lack of versatility and elite athleticism may be his downfall. He could stick on the practice unit again if the Steelers wish, but Stiner has an uphill climb to viability on this roster.

Depth Chart Prediction

This group is surprisingly deep and I think one of the strengths of this defense. Whether it is capable of hiding some potential early-season shakiness from the Cornerback room is TBD, but the experience and skill of Minkah and company should allow the guys on the outside to play free and aggressive, which will hopefully lead to big takeaway numbers to assist a young offense in transition.

The Edmunds haters need to give it a rest and appreciate the fact that he is a solid contributor on this defense. Kazee and Norwood give the team incredible versatility, while Miles Killebrew looks to provide valiant fill-in duties when necessary while maintaining his status as a Special Teams Ace. The Steelers should be very happy and excited about this room in 2022.

I look forward to your comments and answers to the poll question below. Go Steelers!

FS: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Demontae Kazee, Tre Norwood

SS: Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will have 3 players with double-digit sacks in 2022

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2022 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp back at St. Vincent College in order 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 have 3 players with double-digit sacks in 2022

Why it will happen: The Steelers have been on the cusp of this accomplishment for the last three seasons. Starting in 2019, the Steelers had two players with double-digit sacks in each season. It started with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree in 2019 followed by Watt and Stephon Tuitt in 2020. This past season, it was T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward that both reached double digit sacks. Additionally, players like Chris Wormley and Alex Highsmith were not far off with 7.0 and 6.0 sacks respectively. Adding another player such as Larry Ogunjobi to the line, or another year of improvement with Alex Highsmith, the potential for another player to reach double digits in sacks is right there.

Why it won’t happen: There are a lot of things that have to line up for the Steelers to get three players with double-digit sacks. First, Cam Heyward just made the cut with 10.0 last season, so he couldn’t even lose out on a half a sack and still fit into that category. Additionally, players such as Alex Highsmith would need to get more sacks which could ultimately come at the expense of T.J. Watt. There were plenty of times last season Alex Highsmith may have gotten a sack but T.J. Watt was simply there first. While this could happen, it’s hard to say it will for sure. Also, the Steelers had 11 players register a sack in 2021. With 55 total sacks, that’s an average of five per player who got in on the action. Unless the Steelers go crazy and get over 60 sacks next season, it’s going to be tough to have that many for three different players and not simply be spread out across the team.

Prediction: This time, as much as I’d like to see it happen, I’m going to have to disagree with the scenario. The reason for this is simply because of history. The Pittsburgh Steelers have never had three individuals with double-digit sacks in a season. Even with the extra game, it’s still a difficult category to reach. The last time any NFL team had three players in double digits for sacks was in 2014 where the Buffalo Bills did it for the second time in back-to-back seasons. Before that, it was the 2000 season and the New Orleans Saints. While this stat seems to be something that is attainable, it is actually quite rare. If the Steelers do manage to pull it off, it would be a huge accomplishment.

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 2022 regular season.

The Steelers didn't sign Damontae Kazee with Terrell Edmunds in mind

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 8:30am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers weren't thinking about Terrell Edmunds when they shrewdly signed Damontae Kazee in free agency.

Apparently I am missing something. Maybe I didn't get the memo, most likely because I admittedly don't find the time to listen to nearly enough podcasts as I probably should.

Problem is, I prefer the written word in most cases. I enjoy reading all the wonderful articles on BTSC, and then participating in the informative discussion threads that follow.

Obviously I have missed a very inaccurate and actually worrisome discussion topic that must be trending on various podcasts, because it keeps popping up on podcasts and discussion boards where I find myself participating.

The trending statement is this, "Damontae Kazee was brought in to challenge, and possibly even replace, Terrell Edmunds."

I hate to bust anybody's bubble, but that statement is nonsensical.

We find ourselves living in a much kinder and gentler NFL universe, where the lines of physicality are often blurred. We hear phrases like "The defender came down with his full weight on the quarterback", followed by a 15-yard penalty flag. Or if the referee doesn't feel the defender "pulled up" enough, prior to hitting the quarterback immediately after said quarterback released the ball.

The enforcement and interpretation of these recent rules changes are confusing and inconsistent at best. The threat of the rules changes themselves have had the desired effects however. The NFL is more offensive, and less defensive, than ever before.

This has resulted in a marked increase in hybrid personnel around the league. Players who can fill multiple positions on a team's depth chart. FB/TE, LB/S, and CB/S are a few that immediately come to mind. Positional groups like interior linebacker and safety are evolving also.

Take the inside linebacker position for instance. The Steelers, and any other franchise that runs a base 3-4, are always on the lookout for any prospect that has the physicality of a Buck, but also the mobility of a Mack. Obviously those guys are hard to find, and in high demand.

The same holds true for the safety position, although the actual results have been one-sided. Let me try to explain.

There have been numerous strong safeties throughout NFL history who possessed both the physicality and tackling prowess of a strong, plus the coverage ability and ball skills of a free. Steelers legends Troy Polamalu, Donnie Shell, and Rod Woodson immediately come to mind.

However, there have been precious few free safeties who have enjoyed the well rounded physicality necessary to adequately fulfill the responsibilities of a strong safety.

Make no mistake about it, Terrell Edmunds and Damontae Kazee are not interchangeable. Edmunds is a classic box safety, far more linebacker than corner. Kazee is a classic deep cover safety, excelling at taking away a deep half of the field.

Edmunds played multiple positions while in college at Virginia Tech, including taking snaps at inside linebacker when required. He is incredibly well built and durable, which allows him to excel in run defense and in coverage at or near the line of scrimmage, particularly tight ends coverage.

Kazee has the physical build of a undersized cornerback, at 5'10" and 185 lbs. His size limits his physicality and effectiveness around the line of scrimmage. Although he lacks optimal speed for a corner or a free safety, he more than compensates for that shortcoming with elite level anticipation and instincts.

He is incredibly smooth in his movements, seemingly gliding around the field. His ball skills and tracking abilities make him an ideal free safety, but he is in no way a strong safety candidate.

Think of Kazee as a more talented and experienced version of Tre Norwood. Both players have similar versatility, plus strengths and weaknesses. Kazee even has slot corner experience in the NFL.

Actually, the ability to see action in the slot is the one trait that Edmunds and Kazee both share. Edmunds lines up there on occasion, when necessary. I expect that to continue with both gentlemen, depending on matchups obviously.

In conclusion, Edmunds and Kazee are talented, but not interchangeable. Edmunds has the physicality and athleticism of a strong safety, but lacks the instincts and ball skills of a free safety. Kazee has the instincts and smooth coverage skills of a free safety, but his size limitations hinders his physicality. Asking Kazee to play strong safety would be like asking Casey Hampton to be the world's largest cornerback. You can try it, but be prepared for the inevitable failure.

I expect Teryl Austin and company to devise multiple schemes to get Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, and Damontae Kazee all on the field at the same time.

It's always a good idea to get your best players as much playing time as possible.

However, don't buy into the narrative suggesting that Kazee's prescence and usage will come at the expense of Edmunds.

The Steelers will have the NFL’s most expensive defense, but should it be the best?

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The argument that spending more means better results needs some re-evaluating.

Entering 2021, the Steelers and their fans expected the team to field another stellar defense. Fresh off of a record-setting extension for T.J. Watt and the addition of Joe Schobert, expectations were lofty for a stifling Steel Curtain. However, Pittsburgh’s defense largely wavered in 2021, especially after the loss of Tyson Alualu after Week 2: the Steelers surrendered 361.1 yards per game, which ranked 24th, and yielded the most rushing yards in all of football.

Following a defensive disappointment, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert swiftly reloaded. Colbert retained Ahkello Witherspoon and Terrell Edmunds while inking Levi Wallace, Myles Jack, Larry Ogunjobi and Damontae Kazee, not to mention adding Brian Flores as a senior defensive assistant.

From a quantitative perspective, the Steelers were not shy to dole out cash to defenders, especially factoring in making Minkah Fitzpatrick the highest-paid safety in the league. As you may have seen circulate on social media graphics, Pittsburgh boasts the most expensive defense in the NFL at $125,655,298, per Over the Cap (OTC) — a figure that is also the most exorbitant for any D in NFL history.

Any portrayal of the most- or least-expensive units will garner attention, but it seems the Steelers shelling out the most cash for their defense has been particularly scrutinized, possibly due to the team’s offense being the least monetarily allocated. The logical progression is that since Pittsburgh is investing more money in its defense than any other team in the NFL, it must be the best.

On the surface, that would appear to be correct thinking. However, there are several factors that indicate that that conclusion is an oversimplification.

Let’s start with analyzing the individual breakdown of the Steelers’ defense for 2022.

Watt’s cap hit of $31,118,694 this year ranks fifth in football and first among defensive players; the edge rusher alone accounts for 14.46% of Pittsburgh’s entire cap. Further, Cam Heyward has a cap hit of $17,406,250.

Some may think that in light of the amount of cash the Steelers have given to their defense, a multitude of players are costing $10+ million on the books. Yet Watt and Heyward are the only defenders to exceed that threshold.

The player with the third-highest cap hit in 2022 is Fitzpatrick at $8,124,235, a minimized figure by new general manager Omar Khan. Focusing on just the Steelers’ top three defensive expenses reveals that the triad will cost $56,649,179; in other words, the team is devoting 45.1% of its spending on defense to just three players.

Moreover, Pittsburgh has no shortage of defenders that are rather cheap: only six players on D are slated to cost at least $5 million, including Ogunjobi, Devin Bush and Cam Sutton.

Peeling back the layers even more underscores how well Khan & Co. have done to minimize spending. Wallace and Witherspoon have a combined cap hit of just over $5 million, while Edmunds and Kazee have a joint expenditure less than $2.3 million. Additionally, players such as Alex Highsmith, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Tre Norwood and DeMarvin Leal are on rookie contracts.

It can be easy to view the Steelers as bringing the Brinks truck to the UPMC with regularity, but that’s largely not true. Of course, possessing two of the highest-grossing earners at their positions will drive up costs, but Tomlin is not ushering 11 players making north of $10 million onto the field each week.

Another major flaw with the argument of correlating pure spending with success of a unit is not considering outside factors, such as draft picks and year-to-year changes.

In the Steelers’ case, only one of the franchise’s first five picks (Leal) was on the defensive side of the ball. Granted, this could be due to pre-existing costs, but the Steelers didn’t invest much 2022 draft capital in their defense.

Likewise, per Spotrac, only $37,807,500 of the $108,612,500 Pittsburgh spent in free agency was on D. Offensive players such as James Daniels, Chuks Okorafor and Mason Cole garnered bigger contracts, even though the black and gold added the aforementioned defensive pieces.

More generally, there is an inherent danger with looking at spending in a vacuum.

Take the Jaguars’ offseason transactions. Per Spotrac, Jacksonville leveraged $271.15 million in free agency this cycle, inking players such as Christian Kirk, Brandon Scherff, Darious Williams, Foye Oluokun and Foley Fatukasi. While the Jags did undoubtedly improve, did the team have the best offseason, let alone free agency period, of any squad? Probably not.

The NFL is a complex infrastructure, and costs alone do not reflect team investment or interest in a player, position group or side of the ball. Do the Chargers feel ill will toward Justin Herbert because he’ll make a hair over $3 million in cash this season? Absolutely not.

I touched upon the Steelers having the least-expensive offense for 2022 earlier. Some could view an absence of costs as Pittsburgh entering a transitory year and not prioritizing scoring points.

Conversely, Mike Tomlin & Co. have very much prioritized offense. The reality is that numerous key pieces (Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, etc.) and current rookies (Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III) are on rookie deals, driving down cap hits.

Historically, too, it’s unrealistic to expect a team that cashes the most checks on defense to rank as the best overall unit in the league. Take a look below at the last nine most-expensive defenses (according to OTC) and how they finished in Football Outsiders’ regular-season Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA).

Notably, only the 2016 Broncos slotted as the best overall defense, and that was subsequent to a historic 2015 season. All in all, the average DVOA for those units was 9.44 — a far cry from first. Consequently, we should recognize that purchasing power does not typically lend itself to the best outcomes.

It would be ignorant to claim that prodigal teams don’t want to put out the best product they can; anything short of a top defensive season for the Steelers will be yet another disappointment, especially due to the historic cost. One can very much glean front offices’ intentions based on cumulative cap hits for an incumbent season.

At the same time, total cost is just one of several ways to slice the performance pie as it compares to expected production, and spending shouldn’t always be reflective of estimated success. For example, not even a fan bleeding Honolulu Blue would predict the Lions’ offense, costing a league-high $123,302,224, to be the best in the NFL. Similarly, the Browns are viewed as having a stout defense despite it being the cheapest in football.

Ultimately, while distributing money should be associated with results, the actual outcome is usually far more complex, in part due to skewed costs, other types of transactions and historical trends. In accordance, we should change our thinking regarding the Steelers and other top and bottom spenders, focusing more on roster talent and construction and less on simple cash totals.

It is now ‘OK’ for Steelers fans to cheer for Baker Mayfield

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Baker Mayfield is no longer a Brown, and I no longer have to hide my love and admiration for him.

The Browns finally ended the Baker Mayfield drama on Wednesday by agreeing to trade their embattled quarterback to the Panthers in exchange for a conditional 2024 mid-round draft pick—either a fourth or a fifth depending on playing time.

Cleveland will also pick up the bulk of Mayfield’s 2022 salary, while the former number one overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft has agreed to a bit of a pay cut in order to help grease the wheels for this deal to go through.

As a Steelers fan, you probably want to laugh at the Browns and Mayfield for how quickly everything went sideways less than 18 months after they and he marched into Heinz Field and embarrassed the Steelers in a primetime AFC Wildcard Game.

While I will always laugh at the Browns, I have never laughed at Mayfield. Why? I’ve always been a fan. I’ve been a fan ever since Mayfield went into Ohio Stadium in 2017, led his Oklahoma Sooners to an upset win over those annoying The Ohio State Buckeyes, and then grabbed the OU flag, marched onto the 50-yard line and planted that sucker right in the middle of their huge “O.”

It was glorious, and while I was always a bit skeptical of Mayfield’s pedigree as a true number one overall draft choice, I thought he gave the Browns' floundering franchise the kind of charisma, leadership and fire it had been sorely lacking for the two decades since re-entering the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1999.

Furthermore, Mayfield gave the Browns competence and actual results at the quarterback spot. Following a 2020 regular season in which he threw 26 touchdowns to only eight interceptions, not only did Mayfield lead the Browns to a playoff win in Pittsburgh, but he and they gave the Chiefs everything they could handle in the divisional round at Arrowhead Stadium the following week.

The arrow was clearly pointing up for Mayfield and the Browns, that is until the former suffered a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder in 2021 and was never quite the same. Mayfield did play through the injury and did so with his usual fire and intensity. It was easy to assume that the Browns would be huge contenders again in 2022, as long as Mayfield was back to 100 percent.

But there seemed to be even bigger problems with Mayfield and the Browns than just his injury and lackluster performance in 2021. He apparently wasn’t the most popular with his teammates, including Odell Beckham, a known diva receiver who actually won a battle of public opinion against Mayfield and was made to look like the good guy after being traded to the Rams and helping lead them to a Super Bowl victory.

However, to quote former Steelers receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Browns is the Browns, and until proven otherwise, I’m going to assume they’re incapable of getting out of their own way. Maybe this was why they jerked their young quarterback around after drafting him in 2018. They hired and fired multiple head coaches during Mayfield’s four years in Cleveland. They refused to negotiate a new deal even after his fantastic third season in 2020.

Everything came to a head when the Browns traded multiple first-round picks to the Texans this past spring in exchange for Deshaun Watson, a quarterback who, at the time, had 22 sexual assault allegations hanging over his head (that figure has increased since then). Not only did the Browns do that, but they agreed to pay Watson $230 million fully guaranteed. Not only did they do that, but someone within the organization apparently said they wanted an adult as their quarterback.

Wow. It’s like the football version of the Brett Hart/Stone Cold Steve Austin “I Quit” match from the 1997 Wrestlemania when the two combatants switched good guy/bad guy roles right in the middle of the ring, with the latter assuming the role of fan favorite.

How can you not root for Mayfield after he was treated so unfairly by the Browns? (Also, I believe you now owe JuJu an apology for criticizing him over his “The Browns is the Browns” comment prior to that wildcard game.)

To reiterate, I was always a fan, and now that Mayfield is in Carolina and plays in the NFC, I no longer have to hide it. In fact, I can now openly say that if the Browns/Mayfield saga fully came to a head back in March and Mayfield was released outright, I would have been demanding that the Steelers sign him.

As it stands, I think Mayfield is going to be huge in Carolina. He’s going to be for the Panthers what Drew Brees wound up being for the Saints after the Chargers decided that Philip Rivers was the better option.

Only difference? While the Chargers got a lot of great years out of Rivers, I don’t see the Browns getting anything other than a $230 million bill for going after Watson.

Btw, for all of you conspiracy theorists out there, the Browns and Panthers will play one another in Week 1. Assuming the NFL is not rigged or fixed, this is why sports presents the greatest and most authentic reality television.

Lastly, bring on those new Progressive commercials. They should be epic.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest four podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show.

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout: Don’t Do the Tweet If You Don’t Want the Heat

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout is the conversation about the Steelers social media conversation. Hosts Kyle Chrise (@KyleChrise) & Greg Benevent (@GregBenevent) expose the hottest and most toxic takes of the week. Today, Kenny gets his own football field, and Mitch gets in a winner’s mindset. Fans don’t want DJ to get the bag. Haters predict Tomlin’s worst season. Cam gets No Respect. And Ben makes another fourth quarter comeback.

Rundown of the show:

  • Toxic Takes
  • Much, Much More

Take a deep dive into the world of Steelers social media from a yinzer perspective as BTSC proudly presents a very unique show that highlights “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout”.

The Steelers Preview: These are a few of our favorite Steelers

There’s no raindrops on roses, but everybody knows a few of their favorite black-and-gold things. Well more like players. With Dave Schofield on assignment, join Jeff Hartman and Bryan Anthony Davis for The Steelers Preview as they take a look at their favorite Steelers.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the Week
  • Favorite Men of Steel
  • Trivia
Let’s Ride Friday: Offseason rankings are in full tilt

It’s the offseason, which means websites are trying to get reactions from fans with those ever frustrating rankings. They are everywhere, but should you be paying attention? Jeff Hartman, Senior Editor of BTSC, breaks this down and much more on the latest episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Rankings Galore
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Going For Two: Cameron Nizialek & Tre Norwood

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It’s Day 26 of Going For Two, featuring Cameron Nizialek and Tre Norwood

Welcome to Going For Two! Over the 45 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 training camp, we will be highlighting two players every day in order to cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s two players:

Cameron Nizialek Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Punter
Age: 27
Year: 2
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 200
Drafted: Undrafted in 2018
College: Georgia
Roster Outlook: Unlikely
Analysis:

While many Steelers fans wanted to see a punting competition where Pressley Harvin III was pushed to his limits, it’s unlikely to happen in 2022 to the same level it was in 2021. Although Cameron Nizialek is on the Steelers 90-man roster, it would be a bit of a longshot for him to unseat the Steelers former seventh-round draft pick. When Nizialek finished his college career, he was not signed by any NFL teams and landed in the AAF. After his time there, Nizialek spent the 2019 training camp with the Baltimore Ravens but did not get another chance in the NFL until the end of 2020 when he landed on the Jaguars practice squad. After winning the job in Atlanta in 2021, Nizialek landed on injured reserve after four games and was subsequently released a little more than a month later. When Pressley Harvin was unavailable due to the passing of his father, Nizialek was one of two punters the Steelers sign with him landing on the practice squad and Corliss Waitman on the 53-man roster. Despite being elevated from the practice squad in an attempt to win the job on game day, Nizialek was inactive in Week 16 and was released from the practice squad a week later. Not even winning the job over Waitman, despite having a 45.4 yards per punt average with the Falcons, it would be even more difficult for Nizialek to win the job over Harvin.

Tre Norwood Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Position: Safety
Age: 23
Year: 2
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 194
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 245, 2021
College: Oklahoma
Roster Outlook: Highly likely
Analysis:

Unsure prior to 2021 training camp if he would make the Steelers roster as a rookie, Tre Norwood impressed enough that he saw action and all 17 games and even had three starts in 2021. Playing 388 defensive snaps and 202 on special teams, Norwood most famously had the interception at the end of the Steelers final home contest to allow Ben Roethlisberger one last snap at Heinz Field. Even with an addition to the safety room of Damontae Kazee, Norwood should likely still have a spot on the Steelers roster as he continues to develop as the “Swiss Army knife” he was described as by Mike Tomlin when he announced the draft selection. The bigger question is how the Steelers will utilize Norwood in 2022.

Be sure to check back everyday for another two players for the Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

Cam Heyward not happy with ESPN’s latest ranking of defensive linemen

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 12:45pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman was not very happy with the world wide leader in sports.

The Pittsburgh Steelers has always been known for defense. The overall unit might not always provide the spark fans expect, but the players who wear the black and gold are consistently a prideful group.

Pittsburgh’s current defense has several players who can fit the bill, and their leader is Cameron Heyward. The All-Pro defensive lineman is someone who expects the best out of himself, as well as his teammates. You can also add in how he expects the best out of the national sports media after ESPN released their defensive linemen rankings.

Before we get to the Top 10, and Heyward’s ranking, here is a breakdown on how Jeremy Fowler put together the rankings:

Here’s how our process worked: Voters gave us their best 10 players at a position, then we compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, hundreds of interviews, research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. In total, more than 50 voters submitted a ballot on at least one position, and in many cases all positions. We had several ties, so we broke them with the help of additional voting and follow-up calls with our rankers. Each section is packed with quotes and nuggets from the voters on every guy — even the honorable mentions.

The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2022. This is not a five-year projection or an achievement award. Who are the best players today? Pretty simple.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get to the rankings:

The Top 10

1. Aaron Donald — Los Angeles Rams
2. Jeffery Simmons — Tennessee Titans
3. Chris Jones — Kansas City Chiefs
4. DeForest Buckner — Indianapolis Colts

5. Cameron Heyward — Pittsburgh Steelers

Highest ranking: 3 | Lowest ranking: Out of top 10

Age: 33 | Last year’s ranking: 4

Heyward’s early-30s trajectory has been impressive.

“Look at his numbers and watch him — there’s no decline at all,” an NFL scouting director said.

Heyward, who turned 33 in May, put together one of his best performances in Year 11 with 10 sacks, 89 tackles and 15 tackles for loss on his way to first-team All-Pro status and a fifth consecutive Pro Bowl.

“I still really like Cam Heyward as a top guy,” a separate NFC exec said. “He’s just got a power to his game where, when he gets his hands on you, he can drive you back. And he plays his ass off.”

Heyward might have a post-playing career in volleyball after recording 16 passes defended (passes either batted or deflected), the highest total among this group. And he did it without recently retired lineman Stephon Tuitt, who missed all of last season, by his side.

6. Kenny Clark — Green Bay Packers
7. Vita Vea — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. Arik Armstead — San Francisco 49ers
9. Grady Jarrett — Atlanta Falcons
10. Jonathan Allen — Washington Commanders

Of course, Steelers fans were upset with Heyward being ranked 5th in the league at his position, but so was Heyward himself. Following the release of the rankings, Heyward took to Twitter with a simple message.

pic.twitter.com/TZPu6rf5v0

— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) July 6, 2022

On top of that, Heyward even tweeted at the author of the list, Jeremy Fowler, to let him know he wasn’t thrilled with the results.

I respect my peers but this list ain’t right

— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) July 6, 2022

There will be some fans who think Heyward should just be quiet and go about his work. Nonetheless, I think it’s safe to say someone like Heyward will use this list, and his frustration with the list, as motivation for the 2022 season. In that respect, ESPN ranking Heyward 5th overall could be a blessing in disguise.

But what do you think about the list? Also, what do you think about Heyward’s public reaction to the rankings? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the team to report to training camp at Saint Vincent College on July 26th.

Steelers Vertex: Does James Pierre’s value on special teams secure his roster spot for 2022?

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Pierre’s contributions as a gunner on the Steelers punt team cannot be overlooked.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are chugging on through the 2022 offseason. Looking at a number of players and positions as the roster has fluctuated, sometimes it’s players the Steelers have on their roster taking a step that can really add to the coming season. Sometimes, it’s players who have been on the team for a while excelling in specific roles, such special teams, that bring the most value. One such player is James Pierre and his contributions as a gunner on the Steelers punt team. But is that enough to land him on the Steelers 53-man roster again in 2022? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

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

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

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

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

When looking at special teams, there are not a lot of statistics that paint much of a picture. In 2021, James Pierre played 243 special team snaps according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) with 62 of them coming on punt coverage. Pierre also forced one fumble and had one tackle on Steelers punts last season and he also downed three punts.

When it comes to the Steelers punt team in 2021, they kicked the ball 77 times and only 32 of the punts were returned. Of the others, 15 went out of bounds, 4 were touchbacks, 19 resulted in a fair catch, and 7 were downed as a dead ball.

With so little numbers to go by for special teams, all I can do is set the stage with the numbers as Geoffrey needs to paint a much better picture with the film.

The Film Line:

James Pierre’s stats on punt coverage do not stand out in any positive way, but this is the part of his game I’m going to focus on. As Dave has pointed out many times, stats only tell part of the story, and on punt coverage, stats can tell a lot less.

Steelers vs. Bills, 1st quarter, 4:02.

James Pierre is the Steeler to the very top of the screen.

James Pierre doesn’t make the tackle on this punt. You could even credit him with a missed tackle if you wanted to, but if you look at the flow of the play. Pierre angles his approach to take away any return to the bottom of the screen, and doesn’t just do that, he forces the returner to give ground and head toward Pierre’s teammates in the middle of the field. They make the tackle and the punt return only gains back 1 yard.

Steelers vs. Bills, 2nd quarter, 6:12.

James Pierre is the player to the very bottom of the screen.

This is a far more common result for James Pierre in punt coverage. You can look at a lot of the Steelers punts that ended with a fair catch and see James Pierre standing in the returner’s face well ahead of the rest of the team. Pierre doesn’t have elite speed, but you can see how he wins his inside release a lot like a wide receiver would, with a jab step to the outside that sets up his win inside. Also while his 40 time isn’t good, you don’t see opponents getting back in front of him.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 1st quarter, 8:44.

James Pierre is the Steeler to the very top of the screen.

Here’s another play where Pierre isn’t making the tackle, and here he isn’t even very impactful. But watch the job he does getting down the field against a double team. I love how after he gets pushed out-of-bounds he cuts hard back onto the field and is able to run even while being blocked and win his path to the ball. If the returner had tried to break his return across the field, Pierre is there to help make the play.

Steelers vs. Vikings, 2nd quarter, 1:42.

James Pierre is the Steelers player to the very top of the screen.

Pierre frequently got extra attention with the amount of times the Steelers were punting to his side to get fair catches. The Steelers punt to the opposite side, Pierre eludes his blockers and is still the second player to the ball. You can see the variety of ways he beats his blockers in these clips. James Pierre consistently finds his way to the ball.

But while we’ve shown a lot of good plays, and passed over so many others that look the same, we also need to show how his plays can go wrong. One of the worst results on a Steelers punt cover play happened in Week 15.

Steelers vs. Titans, 1st quarter, 10:29.

James Pierre is the Steelers player to the very bottom of the screen.

The Titans strategy in Week 15 was largely to block everyone else and hope they could slow down Pierre with one blocker. It worked on this play and Pierre responds with a dumb push to the back for a penalty added onto a big return. The Titans offense took the ball the rest of the 25 yards they needed to score a touchdown. Pierre on defense, and on special teams can get in trouble for being too physical, and sometimes making the play more about him and the guy across from him than about the result for the team. It doesn’t show up very much, but it isn’t good when it does.

Steelers vs. Titans, 3rd quarter, 10:21.

James Pierre is the Steelers player to the very bottom of the screen.

When he got a chance, he did his best to get it back. A jab step to the inside wins him an outside release and he outruns his blocker to stack him and get a clear run at the returner.

The returner sees the rest of the Steelers team is losing their battles and doesn’t notice Pierre. The result is a forced fumble, but unfortunately, with no other Steelers around, the fumble is easily recovered. But look at the moment Pierre hits the returner:

The returner is hit, the ball is out, and the next closest Steelers player is still ten yards away from the play. This was Pierre’s only tackle on a punt return. The vast majority of his work ended in fair catches, with the occasional downed ball.

Steelers @ Ravenss, 2nd quarter, 4:39.

James Pierre is the Steelers player to the very top of the screen.

So much good stuff here. Pierre against a double team knows his biggest asset is the boundary line. By being in contact with his blocker when he crosses that line he leaves the field legally. While he is out of bounds, he cannot be blocked. He uses that rule to run past his first blocker. He has to get back in bounds and establish his presence before he can impact the play, so he doesn’t just re-enter the field, he initiates contact on his blocker, winning the contact and eliminating the only player in position to block him. He approaches the returner, who gets out of the way and Pierre downs the punt.

The Point:

James Pierre didn’t record a lot of stats on his punt coverage, but he was a fantastic gunner who consistently found his way to the ball quickly no matter what he was up against. He forced a lot of fair catches and showed the ability to make a returner pay if they misread his approach. James Pierre has value on defense in the right role, he has value on punt return and kickoff teams, but even if he didn’t have much value in those roles he would have a decent shot of making the Steelers roster based solely on his impact as a gunner on punting units.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: Pat Freiermuth will set a new single-season record for TE TDs

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

In the “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2022 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp back at St. Vincent College in order 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: Pat Freiermuth will set a new Steelers single-season record for tight end touchdowns in 2022.

Why it will happen: The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is starting to evolve, and to the point where they are doing things they never did much, like target the tight end in the passing game. It isn’t as if the team hasn’t had capable tight ends over the years, they just haven’t utilized them.

Before putting this scenario together, I looked up who holds the team’s record for touchdowns by a tight end, and it was Heath Miller with 8 touchdowns. I was stunned that was the record, and suddenly Freiermuth’s 7 touchdowns in 2021 makes this scenario extremely possible.

Combine the fact Freiermuth should become more of a focal point on offense, and new quarterbacks to help deliver the ball, Freiermuth should be considered one of the better tight ends in the league, and it will start with a record-setting performance in 2022.

Why it won’t happen: There aren’t many reasons I feel this won’t happen, but health is paramount. Freiermuth had some scary concussions as a rookie, and we all remember how that can impact a player when you look back at someone like Ladarius Green. Nonetheless, the only other reason outside of injury which could keep Freiermuth from attaining this scenario would be the Steelers offense having a plethora of weapons and not having to rely on the second year tight end as much in the red-zone.

Prediction: Of all the scenarios I’ve done thus far, I feel pretty confident this one could be attained. Freiermuth’s production in 2021 was just the beginning for the former Nittany Lion tight end. He had 7 touchdowns last year, and I see at least 9 in 2022. This would give Freiermuth the record over Miller, and put him in some lofty company when it comes to Steelers tight ends.

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 2022 regular season.

Mock Draft: Latest mock gives the Steelers more physicality on both sides of the ball

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers grab a physical offensive lineman and linebacker in the latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

We are still over nine months away from the 2023 NFL Draft, but it is never too early to begin looking at early projections for the annual event.

For many years now, I have been clamoring for the Steelers to invest in a big-time left tackle who could rise to the level of stardom. Although the team currently seems content with who they have at the position, there is definitely room for improvement. We will have to wait and see if Dan Moore, Jr. can improve upon an up-and-down rookie season, but the lack of improvement in Chukwuma Okorafor’s game from year to year has made manifest his true value, which is that of a swing tackle.

Behind the starters, it is quite dry. Joe Haeg, who has done little good for the Steelers, and Chaz Green are the primary depth options. There are a couple intriguing names on the free agent market, but nobody inside the Steelers organization has seemed to show much interest in the current available options. This leaves the 2023 draft as the prime opportunity to upgrade the position.

That, in fact, was the exact suggestion in a recent mock draft by Cam Mellor of Pro Football Network, who gave the Steelers Oklahoma offensive tackle Anton Harrison with the 11th overall pick. Here is what Mellor had to say about the selection.

With Ben Roethlisberger out and Kenny Pickett in, the Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be headed for a middling 2022 season. At least that’s what the odds currently state. The Steelers need to build around their first-round quarterback, and securing youth and size on the offensive line is a must. Anton Harrison presents a challenge for defenders to get around, and they’re certainly not getting through him. With a strong base, great anchor, and terrific footwork, get ready to hear this name a lot.

Oklahoma has had one of the steadiest offensive lines in the country in recent memory, and this year, the expectation is no different. If Wanya Morris can live up to his billing coming out of high school, the Sooners could have a scary duo of bookend tackles.

Mellor’s mock was not finished yet, however, as he went two rounds long, giving the Steelers Cincinnati linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr. with the 43rd selection. Here are Mellor’s thoughts on the physical linebacker.

One of the top MAC linebackers from the past few seasons has a new home in Cincinnati as Ivan Pace Jr. can cement himself among this class with a solid year in the Queen City. He’s a hard-nosed, downhill thumper with an ability to play QB spy among the best we’ve seen. Pace is big and fast, a fun combination to add an influx of both to Pittsburgh’s defense.

Pace began his collegiate career with Miami of Ohio, but at the beginning of the calendar year, he announced his intention to transfer to Cincinnati, where his brother Deshawn currently plays. He is heading to a Bearcat team that is still suffering the loss of Darrian Beavers to the NFL, but fortunately for Cincinnati, Pace fits the mold of a prototypical BUCK linebacker. He may lack a little in the speed department, and he may not have the length Beavers provided, but what he lacks in athleticism he makes up for in physicality.

What do you think of this mock draft? Do you think the Steelers really need another inside linebacker? Are you of the belief that Pittsburgh must get stronger at offensive tackle? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things NFL draft in the comment section below!

The Steelers way of doing business hasn’t changed all that much under Art Rooney II

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 7:15am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Art Rooney II, the team’s president and majority owner, may be more corporate than his grandfather and father ever were, but he’s apparently just as approachable when conducting business.

The Mike Tomlin interview that he did recently on the Pivot Podcast hosted by former NFL players Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor sure was a treasure trove of information and personality by the normally evasive Steelers head coach, right?

Maybe it was because Tomlin is now good friends with Clark, his former player. Maybe it was because Tomlin hosted the podcast team in his very own home. Maybe it was because Tomlin and the guys were drinking Happy Dad, a hard seltzer that is apparently good enough for alpha head coaches and former football players, but Tomlin sure did let his hair down during this interview.

There were a ton of interesting nuggets and insights unearthed in this 90-minute treat, some of which I may touch on in future articles (training camp is still three weeks away), but I want to use this space to focus on one particular nugget from the Tomlin chat: The way the Steelers apparently still do business.

Fans have always had this vision of the Steelers as being an organization that is very accessible from an ownership standpoint. Growing up, I’d hear stories of how one could walk right into the team’s headquarters at old Three Rivers Stadium and find the Chief, Art Rooney, holding the door open for them. He’d ask you about your family. He’d treat you like you were one of his best friends. As for the business side of things, it has been reported that, during Joe Greene’s rookie holdout in 1969, the Chief, after growing tired of the stalemate, said to those doing the negotiating, “Just give it to him.” The same kind of approach, both from a personal and business standpoint, was adopted by Dan Rooney, Art’s son and successor as both team president and then majority owner. Sure, Dan was a little more corporate than his father, but he still loved to roll up his sleeves and go to work. He still had that folksy personality. He still had the same human touch as his legendary and loveable dad.

You don’t often hear the same things being said about Art Rooney II, Dan’s son, the Chief’s grandson, and the man who took over as team president starting in 2003. From what one could glean by reading articles and listening to Steelers insiders over the past two decades, Art II seems more corporate and less folksy. He is more “suit” and less “roll up his sleeves and go to work.” He is less “Come on in” and more “Let me check my schedule.”

We got to know Art II a little better as he became more visible and vocal over the years. He conducted press conferences with the media. He did interviews. He was on the stage with his dad accepting the Steelers' fifth and sixth Lombardi trophies.

But how would things be once Rooney really took the reins as the team’s majority owner, which he did following his father’s passing in 2017?

It’s hard to say how Art II is when it comes to interpersonal relationships, but he’s apparently very accessible to the people that work for him, including Tomlin. Just like his grandfather and father, all one has to do is go right down the hall to ask him a question.

During his Pivot Podcast interview, this is how Tomlin said he approached Rooney about hiring Brian Flores, a man who was in search of a head coaching job and had just filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the entire NFL.

“He was like, ‘Great,’ said Tomlin of Rooney’s reaction after popping in his office and explaining to him that he suddenly had an opportunity to add this talented coach to his staff. “That’s the extent of the conversation. I told Flo, give me 24 hours. But I think I called them back, like, 45 minutes later. I didn’t want to miss. I didn’t have a coordinator job available. I thought somebody else might have something more attractive, so I wanted to move with a certain swiftness. Forget his title, what’s on the business card. Football coach – with us.”

It seems so informal. You just walk down the hall and ask your billionaire boss if you can hire someone, and he says, “Great,” and nothing more needs to happen. There’s no real concern about Flores’ title or the fact that he’s set to engage in an ugly court battle with the NFL—including with the man who will now be signing his paychecks.

Channing Crowder, in particular, seemed amazed that this was how Tomlin was able to approach his boss about hiring someone. Evidently, this ownership/coach dynamic isn’t the norm for most NFL franchises.

I don’t know if we’ll ever hear stories about Art II joking and paling around with players decades younger than him. I don’t know if he’ll ever grow into the same loveable figure that his grandfather and father were (he is about to turn 70, however, so he is approaching the age where those things start to happen), but it’s nice to know that one can still pop into his office and do business the old Steeler Way.

Panthers come to terms on trade for Baker Mayfield, leaving the Browns in a tough spot

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 6:43am
Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

A big trade has sent the former first overall draft pick to the Carolina Panthers. This puts the Browns in a very interesting situation.

The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base has been waiting for the Cleveland Browns to make a move with Baker Mayfield since the 2021 regular season came to a close. There were a ton of rumors swirling during the 2022 NFL Draft, free agency and even leading up to minicamps.

Yet no move was made.

The reason no move was made wasn’t that no team felt Mayfield could play anymore, but the amount of money he was owed on his 5th year option was too steep for a team to want to take on that contract for just one season.

For a move to be made, the Browns were going to have to eat a large portion of Mayfield’s contract. After months of reports and deliberation, it is being reported the Carolina Panthers are that trade partner.

This per Ian Rapoport:

A new QB in Carolina: The #Panthers are acquiring former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield from the #Browns for a 2024 conditional 5th-round draft pick, sources tell me and @TomPelissero. Deal is pending a physical. All parties split the financials to make it happen. pic.twitter.com/xuTLqosmZm

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 6, 2022

According to multiple reports, the Panthers are taking on just $5 million of Baker’s current contract, with the Browns picking up the rest of the deal for the 2022 season. Unless the Panthers are able to sign Mayfield to a long-term deal, he will be a free agent after this upcoming season.

What did the Browns get for trading the former first overall draft pick to Carolina? A conditional 2024 5th round pick.

There were rumors the Browns might try to make amends with Mayfield considering the off-field issues they are having with Deshaun Watson. With Watson likely facing a suspension, the duration is still unknown, this trade would mean the team would be looking at Jacoby Brissett and/or Joshua Dobbs to anchor the quarterback room until Watson is cleared to return.

To say this puts Cleveland in a bind is an understatement, but it also could mean the organization is confident they’ll have Watson available at some point in the 2022 regular season. A lot still to unpack to this trade, and the Browns’ quarterback situation, so stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on this story, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for training camp in a few weeks.

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