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A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/47293/steel_curtain_fave.png 2018-10-14T19:39:40-04:00
Updated: 2 hours 34 min ago

Does your Steelers allegiance reside with the team or a player?

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 9:31am

A number of Steelers players are switching allegiances to the Los Angeles Lakers in the wake of the signing of LeBron James, but is that something you would do?

After learning of the news that LeBron James had agreed to join the Los Angeles Lakers I was immediately struck by two thoughts. First, it is clear the city of Cleveland is not allowed to have nice things like championships and great players and second, the Cavaliers are about to lose A LOT of fans.

Without an NBA team to call their own, many basketball fans in Pittsburgh support that team across state lines. While I have personally never been able to cheer for anything that starts with the word Cleveland, there are plenty of Pittsburgh Steelers players who are fans of the Cavaliers too.

However, now “The King” no longer resides in Cleveland, it seems some of those names are ready to switch their support to his new team and defect with him. Le’Veon Bell was among the first to jump off the bandwagon.

y’all can call me a bandwagon all y’all want...lol where LeBron goes, I GO!

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 2, 2018

With Ryan Shazier not fan behind him.

Sign me up . I got two teams now. Let’s go Lakers. Let’s go spurs. . No Lie. Don’t @ me. pic.twitter.com/UIZFl6NVRc

— Ryan Shazier (@RyanShazier) July 2, 2018

While it appears Joe Haden has showed no signs yet of deserting his beloved Cavaliers, Bell and Shazier are not the only Steelers seemingly prepared to ditch Cleveland in favor of Los Angeles. L.T Walton and Cameron Heyward also look set to become Lakers fans this season.

Without a new contract extension in the next two weeks, Bell will be the Steelers’ version of LeBron next offseason. There will be no third franchise tag and Bell will be a free agent prize more attractive than any other name on the market.

When, not if, Bell signs with a new team, it will be interesting to note how this impacts the fan base. In an era when fantasy football is more popular than ever, how many fans have become members of Steeler Nation based on the performance of one player alone?

Although I am a huge fan of Antonio Brown and would be heartbroken if he left, I could never see myself rooting for the team he joined, even though I would wish him well. As devastated as I was when Rod Woodson left in 1997, I could never bring myself to cheer for him in a different uniform. While some fans claim to have second and even a third team that they like. I am perhaps more old fashioned in believing you have just one team and one team alone in a sport. Players come and go, but the team you follow is for life.

That being said, when Bell lines against the Steelers in his New York Jets uniform next season, will you be supporting him or Pittsburgh?

ESPN swings and misses, again, when ranking the Steelers’ roster

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 7:34am

The Steelers 2018 roster hasn’t changed much, yet the world wide leader in sports sees a drop off from their 2017 selves.

There is a common misconception regarding the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers, and how they are a tough nut to crack when it comes to breaking down their roster. Major media outlets love to point out the absence of Ryan Shazier, the aging quarterback and turnover at the safety position as glaring weaknesses, but are they really?

Ben Roethlisberger has proven he can still play at an extremely high level, the safety turnover might just be a blessing in disguise and although Shazier’s absence leaves a gigantic hole in the defense, the team having a full offseason to adjust and prepare should make a big difference.

I’m not suggesting the Steelers’ roster is the best in the league, or that it should be considered in the Top 3, but when ESPN ranked all 32 NFL rosters and had the Steelers ranked 7th, it seemed like a slap in the face.

Before getting to the Top 10, let’s first explain how ESPN went about their rankings:

With the kickoff to the 2018 season just a couple of months away, it’s time to dive into the Pro Football Focus database and rank every roster as it stands now, at the end of June, focusing on the expected starters and how they look in our metrics. PFF grades every player on every play of every game of the NFL season, allowing us a comprehensive look at what each player has to offer.

Here is what they had to say about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster heading into 2018:

Biggest strength: The Steelers have a bunch of talent on both sides of the ball, but Antonio Brown is the one who stands out the most. His 2.87 yards-per-route-run average was second to only Julio Jones in 2017, with Brown ranking in the top 10 in that category every season since 2013.

Biggest weakness: Drafted with the expectation that he would become the next great Steelers outside linebacker, Bud Dupree has failed to live up to his draft billing so far. From 354 pass-rushing snaps in the 2017 regular season, he produced just 40 total pressures, and he has just 83 total pressures since he entered the league in 2015.

By the numbers: With Le’Veon Bell playing under the franchise tag once again, his workload deserves a mention. Bell led the NFL in carries with 321 in the regular season and was second behind Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey with 103 targets in the passing game. Can that workload be sustained in 2018?

Pro Football Focus (PFF), who participated in this article with ESPN Insiders, then went through their projected roster and listed players as one of the following categories:

Elite
Good/High Quality
Average
Below Average
Poor

These are based solely on PFF’s grading system, which is always a hot-button topic among football fans. Below is where each player on the Steelers’ roster fell into the above categories:

Elite:
Antonio Brown
David DeCastro

Good/High Quality:
Ben Roethlisberger
Le’Veon Bell|
Marcus Gilbert
Artie Burns
Mike Hilton
Stephon Tuitt
Cameron Heyward

Average:
Vance McDonald
JuJu Smith-Schuster
Alejandro Villanueva
Javon Hargrave
Vince Williams
Jon Bostic
Joe Haden
Morgan Burnett

Below Average:
None

Poor:
Jesse James
Ramon Foster
Maurkice Pouncey
Bud Dupree

+ Rookies were not given a grade.

To be honest, I don’t have any real problem with where any of the above players fell on the grading scale. Sure, you can argue a player like Maurkice Pouncey shouldn’t be listed as poor, but he hasn’t been as elite since numerous injuries to his legs. Nonetheless, the underlying theme of this is where the Steelers are ranked among the other 32 NFL teams.

Check out ESPN’s Top 10:

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. New Orleans Saints
4. New England Patriots
5. Minnesota Vikings
6. Los Angeles Chargers
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Los Angeles Rams
10. Jacksonville Jaguars

With an offense which essentially brings back all of their pieces, a defense which is anchored by a tremendous defensive line and budding secondary, it is difficult for me to see a team like the Chargers and Vikings ranked above the black-and-gold.

Again, I’m not suggesting the Steelers should be in the Top 3, or atop the list, but 7th seems like a disservice to a team who finished 2017 with a 13-3 record, earned a first round bye in the AFC Playoffs and had very little turnover on their roster.

What do you think about their ranking? Are they right where they should be? Do you disagree with where players are ranked? Let us know in the comment section below and be a part of the conversation!

Karl Dunbar brings unique “attention to detail” as Steelers new defensive line coach

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 5:54am

Replacing John Mitchell isn’t an easy task, but Dunbar is trying to put his own unique spin on the Steelers’ defensive line.

Replacing a legend is never easy, and for Karl Dunbar, taking over the defensive line from John Mitchell was not something which he took lightly.

In fact, it was something he asked Mike Tomlin after he was offered the position with the Pittsburgh Steelers. “He’s my guy,” Dunbar told Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s the first person I asked Mike about when Mike offered me the job. …

”Our relationship, I thought, was pivotal for me to come back to Pittsburgh and make a smooth transition. ‘Mitch’ has been here 25 years. I’m trying not to do anything to tarnish his legacy at all.”

Needless to say, Dunbar’s return to the Steelers, who drafted him in the 1990 NFL Draft, has him excited to work with players like Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Cameron Heyward and even one of his players following him from Alabama, Joshua Frazier.

“I can sleep good at night,” Dunbar said. “You have some guys who have been in some wars.”

With Mitchell turning strictly into an Assistant Coach, Dunbar brings in a new outlook to coaching defensive line technique, and some have called him a ‘millennial’ coach after his work at the collegiate level. But Dunbar doesn’t see it this way.

“I don’t think I’m a millennial coach,” Dunbar said. “I think I’m hard-nosed and believe in paying attention to detail and teaching guys how to do things. That’s the thing, as far as when you talk about relationships these days, that’s the benefit.”

As Frazier puts it, it is all about the “tiny details” when it comes to Dunbar’s approach to coaching. What exactly does he mean by this? Dunbar says his philosophy stems from “hips, hands and feet”.

“When you bring your hips, that’s how you generate power,” Frazier said. “When you strike your hands from the ground to the man and wherever the O-line goes, you go. When it’s play-action, you’ve got to flip your hips, turn and pass rush.”

While Mitchell isn’t completely out of the loop now, Dunbar is excited to put his stamp on the Steelers’ defensive line group.

“It’s been fun getting to meet these guys and seeing what kind of athleticism they have and how they relate and the rapport in that group,” Dunbar said. “Sometimes, coaching defensive linemen is like herding cats because everybody has their own thing they want to do. When you can get them on the same page, it’s a beautiful thing.”

It will be intriguing how Dunbar puts his stamp on the defensive line in 2018. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for training camp.

Former Georgia Tech QB trying to make the Steelers’ roster as a WR

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 12:56pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers took a lock risk chance on Justin Thomas, former Georgia Tech QB, to make the team in some capacity as a WR.

If you were to talk to any Pittsburgh Steelers fan who was alive for the 1990s team, and asked them what they think of when they think of a quarterback converted to a wide receiver.

The answer is likely one name — Kordell Stewart.

Stewart, who was called “Slash” for all the positions he could play early in this NFL career, captivated the fan base as a rookie, but not as a quarterback, but as a wide receiver. Steward eventually took over at quarterback when Neil O’Donnell left, but many wonder if his career would have been better off had he stayed as a receiver.

Fast forward to 2018, and the Steelers are working on another college quarterback converting to wide receiver. The only difference is the team has no interest in Justin Thomas being anything other than a receiver for the black-and-gold.

This transition wasn’t an easy one for Thomas.

“I know when Coach (Mike Tomlin) talked to me, he said, ‘You can go into it having a (negative) mindset, or you can just flip your whole mind and be that much better,’“ Thomas told Chris Adamski o the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review from minicamp earlier this month. “So I am trying to go into that mindset: 100 percent receiver. That’s where I am at right now, that’s what my situation is, and I am trying to embrace it as much as possible.”

The Steelers have a new wide receivers coach in Darryl Drake, taking over for retired Richard Mann, and Drake has been impressed with the strides Thomas has taken in such a short amount of time.

“He’s still learning – but he does have some talent,” Drake said. “When they brought in him here, they saw he had some quickness and some speed. He’s still in the process of learning, and he understands and knows that learning happens and that he has to continue to grow – but it has to grow fast if he’s going to have a chance to play.”

The odds of Thomas making the team’s 53-man roster are slim-to-none, but it doesn’t mean he couldn’t fill one of ten potential practice squad spots this season. Either way, Drake is hoping Thomas continues to work and progress all the way into training camp.

“It takes a guy a little bit of time to learn the intricacies of wide receiver because we ask the guys to learn so much,” Drake said. “Guys have to understand and know the whole offense and learn every position because we will put them in every spot. He is growing, and we will push him to grow. Hopefully as we get going into training camp he will develop his ability to help us in some form or fashion.”

As for Thomas’ mindset heading into training camp starting July 25th?

“I’m just going out there trying to take advantage of each day and progress.”

With Martavis Bryant gone and Eli Rogers coming off a torn ACL, there is a slimmer of a chance to make waves at the receiver position. Only time will tell if Thomas’ versatility turns heads when it matters most.

Ex-Steelers coach Richard Mann calls Mike Tomlin “the best overall coach I’ve been around”

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 11:29am

The former Pittsburgh Steelers WR coach talks about Tomlin, Antonio Brown and whether he still has the itch to coach.

The relationship between former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann and current head coach Mike Tomlin goes far beyond the black-and-gold. The two coached together with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it was Tomlin who lured Mann out of his first retirement to come coach the Steelers’ wideouts.

2017 was it for Mann, and he recently spoke with Mike Bires of The Times in Aliquippa to talk to the local native about his time in Pittsburgh, and much more.

When asked if, at the age of 71, he was itching to get back on the field with the Steelers in less than a month when they return to training camp, he admitted he is feeling the itch.

“I have to admit that I do have the itch. We just watched (the Steelers’) highlight film from last year, and that got me all geared up. I probably shouldn’t have watched it. But I always said that I probably wouldn’t coach past 70. And I’m 71 now.”

Mann has been around the block a few times in the National Football League, and he has coached many receivers during that time. What every Steelers fan wants to know though is Antonio Brown the best he’s ever seen?

“People ask me all the time ‘How do you rate him compared to all the other receivers you coached over the years?’ I would never come out and say it. My first three years (with the Steelers), I held off saying it. But after being around him the past two years ... watching him master all the things I tried teaching him, with all the fundamentals and techniques he already has, yes, he is the best I’ve ever coached. He’s a good one, trust me.”

While those are big words for a spectacular player, what Mann had to say about Tomlin as a coach might have been the most poignant.

“I really appreciate the Steelers organization and Coach (Mike) Tomlin for getting me out of retirement the first time so I could to finish up here. I finished my career right where I started, in Aliquippa, and I was able to finish here with the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

“Mike Tomlin is the best overall coach I’ve been around when it comes to all three phases of football ... offense, defense and special teams. He’s got his hands in all of it, and to be able to do what he does, you have to put a lot of time into it. He’s smart. He’s doing an excellent job. So hats off to him.”

There are some who can’t stand Tomlin, and feel he is nothing more than a “cheerleader” on the sidelines, but when you hear one of his fellow coaches say he is the best overall coach in the NFL — that speaks volumes.

With Mann now out of the game again, Darryl Drake takes over with the wide receivers as he tries to shape Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and several others into the best all-around wide receiving corps in the NFL.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for training camp on July 25th at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

Antonio Brown continues to prove why ‘Business is Still Boomin’” in Pittsburgh

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 9:56am

The dynamic Steelers WR is prepared to take the final step in his game.

This past Monday, the NFL Network wrapped up their Top-100 Players list with the conclusion of the final 10. Despite Tom Brady being ranked the top player for back-to-back years, Antonio Brown finished No. 2 as voted on by his peers. Even though there’s still some lingering doubt regarding Brown’s mindset going into training camp, he still continues to prove how much he’s worth to the Steelers’ hopeful Super Bowl push.

Last season, he was on pace to possibly pass, “Megatron” Calvin Johnson’s all-time receiving-yards record in a single season, but was derailed after getting injured in Week 15 in a pivotal game against the Patriots. During that game, he tore his calf and missed the rest of the regular season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant, along with Le’Veon Bell, picked up the slack in Brown’s absence, but the offense was never truly the same without No. 84 running wild.

Antonio Brown has been a dynamic WR, the likes of which hardly any Steeler in franchise history would match. He provides such a dominant presence. If not for Brady hanging around the block, Brown arguably is the best player in the league today. Let’s also take it a step further — the Steelers could have been the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Huge difference in being No. 2 — where they eventually had to match up with the Jaguars once again to their dismay.

Yes, Le’Veon Bell is a dynamic threat in more ways than one, but Brown could have potentially been the first player in NFL History to win the league MVP as a WR. Set aside all his theatrics with his social media hiccup in 2017, he still comes out as the best at his position. According to Senior Writer of ESPN the Magazine, Mina Kimes, “He also racks up prolific yards after the catch, finishing third among all receivers last season, despite his injury.”

Crazy to think but there is no doubt Brown is just as valuable as Bell. Interesting that he was ranked three spots above Bell who came in at No. 5 on the Top 100 list. Not only that, but he gets two contract extensions before Bell’s first one — showing how great his services are valued.

Pin me to a wall and, if I had to choose between the two, it would have to be Brown over Bell simply because of durability and availability. Let’s face it, Antonio has never been suspended and Bell has been suspended two times due to off-field issues. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a slight against Bell, but Brown has been able to avoid missing games due to off-field issues.

One thing Brown and Bell know is they need each other if they’re going to make another Super Bowl Run. Despite the concerns being mouthed about Bell and Brown’s own mini-saga with the media, they need to squash the noise and just dominate. After all, isn’t that what it generally comes down to in life, put two strong personalities together and just do your job.

Back to where it all began with BTSC

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 7:01am

The chance to return to Behind the Steel Curtain as deputy editor was too good of an opportunity to ignore.

I cannot exactly remember when I first found Behind the Steel Curtain, but like many when they first come to the site, I was more of a reader than a poster in my early days. Eventually creating an account under the name Steeler Nation UK, I quickly went from unburdening myself in the comments section to posting lengthy fan posts, regardless of the responses.

Even though the opening comment on the first fan post I ever wrote said “English people should stick to soccer”, I didn’t take the hint. The posts got longer, tables full of numbers were added and the next thing you know, I’m arguing with then editor Neal Coolong that he has got his math wrong about the team’s salary cap situation. Perhaps to shut me up, Neal offered me a chance to contribute to the site and several draft articles and cap pieces would follow.

When the opportunity to call myself a paid writer came calling from SteelersWire, it was impossible to resist. Someone was prepared to pay me to write about the team I had supported for over 30 years and I jumped at the opportunity.

Now three years on from my last post on Behind The Steel Curtain, I am pleased to be returning to where it all began. Taking on the role of deputy editor, I will join Jeff Hartman in covering breaking news and producing daily content, adding another voice to the wealth of talent that is already here.

Although born in England, there has always been a little bit of Pittsburgh in my soul and I have been following the Steelers since 1983. While I would not see my first Steelers game in person until I traveled to Pittsburgh in 1992, I have racked up enough air miles since then that I could have flown around the world at least five times by now, but we do strange things for the team we love.

I look forward to getting to know many of the new members of the BTSC community who have joined since I was last here and also reacquainting myself with familiar names from the past. Expecting to be challenged by a knowledgeable audience, I look forward to some impassioned debate.

Heading into a 2018 season that carries high hopes of a seventh Super Bowl title, there could be no better time to return to the greatest Steelers site on the web and I cannot wait to get started.

As the calendar turns to July, BTSC adds to their roster

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 6:21am

The Pittsburgh Steelers 90-man roster is basically set, and here at BTSC we have added some players to our roster.

Here at BTSC, my staff of writers is changing, very much like the Pittsburgh Steelers 90-man offseason. As some writers move on for whatever reasons, others fill their shoes and put their stamp on this website.

While we have had some turnover, Vox Media, the owner of SB Nation, has rolled out some new opportunities for me, the site editor, to expand the website in a variety of ways. So, without any further fanfare, let me introduce some new contributors, some people with new roles and more.

First, I am proud to say I have brought on a new contributor who used to contribute to the website in the Neal Coolong days, and briefly when I took over in 2015. He will be the newly minted Deputy Editor, basically he will be the second main contributor behind yours truly. For those those who have been with the site for a long time, you might remember Simon Chester. I could go on about Simon, but he will further explain himself in his own “welcome back” article this morning.

Another new title for the website will be “Community Manager”. The use PittsBlitz56 will be the new man in charge when it comes to moderation, as well as the general community. It will be his responsibility to get new moderators up to speed, monitor the comment sections and keep tabs on the FanPost section to see if anything is worthy of being promoted to the main page.

On an outside the walls of BTSC move, we welcome two bright young men to take over both our Twitter and Facebook pages. While I am not sure if they are willing to divulge their personal identities, understand if you follow BTSC on those platforms you should see some new and exciting stuff.

With those additions also comes a subtraction. Mike Frazer, long-time writer for me here, has decided to step down as a regular contributor due to work and family conflicts. While he will still be an active member of the website, and contribute when he has the time, you won’t be seeing as much writing from him, at least not till the season begins.

So, give them a warm welcome, and a fond farewell (kinda)!!!

Nothing but straight-shooting, hard-hitting Steelers coverage for 2018

Sat, 06/30/2018 - 12:29pm

Blue collar, hard-hitting Steelers coverage that's right in your face!

It seems I’ve lost my way as a Steelers writer as of late. That edge I used to have feels a little smoother these days.

What’s the deal?

Maybe I’ve become just another cog in the Steelers’ machine, someone too afraid to tell it like it is.

That might have been the old me, but the new me is here to tell you those days are over. No more Mr. Nice Guy. From now on, it's all hard-hitting truth and analysis all the time.

How many games will the Steelers win in 2018? You might not like the answer.

Welcome to the no spin zone!

How many games will Head Coach Mike Tomlin have his team unprepared to play? Put some extra padding on because you might not like how hard I really hit.

No prisoners!

Mike Tomlin’s 116-60 career win/loss record, what’s it really mean? Think of something nice because this might hurt a little.

Steelers sheep need not apply!

Who’s the best receiver in the NFL? It may not be Antonio Brown — “Oh no, Defeo didn’t!” Oh yes Defeo did!

Homers need to stay home!

What’s Todd Haley really think of Mike Tomlin, of Ben Roethlisberger? Buckle up, because my opinion of what he might think of them may throw you for a loop.

Straight talk!

Which team was legitimately the best of the 1970s? Was it the Cowboys? How about the Raiders? Was it really the Steelers....really? Really?

Time to put the kids to bed!

Were the Steelers four Super Bowls in six years a fluke?

Time to throw in the Terrible Towel!

Who was really responsible for the Steelers’ 27-17 loss to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX? Was it Myron?

You just did a Double Yoi!

Was Jerome Bettis really a great running back or did he just benefit from a lot of girth?

It’s the fourth quarter and I’m not afraid to tackle the real issues!

The 1976 Steelers really would have won their third-straight Super Bowl if Franco and Rocky hadn’t gotten hurt? Really......really?

You’ve just been penalized 15 yards for excessive Pollyanna!

How's Jack Lambert really feel about you using a variation of his name and number for your online persona?

Be prepared to pick up your teeth!

Was Mel Blount really better than Deion Sanders? You might not like my opinion.

I hope you have a short memory!

Did Franco really catch that pass before it hit the ground? My answer might surprise you.

I hope you’re sitting down for this!

Has Tomlin ever coached a good game or has he just benefited from having Cowher’s players all these years?

Time to take out the trash!

What’s Bryan Anthony Davis really talk about during the commercial breaks of The Final Score podcast?

I hope you have the bleep-button handy!

Is it unfair for Ben Roethlisberger to be ranked just outside of the top-10 of NFL quarterbacks, or should he be even lower than that?

There’s no escaping the pocket this time, Big Ben!

Who’s been the real mastermind sitting in the shadows and making the decisions for the Steelers organization all these years while the Rooneys have taken the credit?

The unvarnished truth!

Was Chuck Noll really a better head coach than Tom Landry or Bill Walsh? Really.....really?

Time to take off the black-and-gold-colored glasses!

When will the Steelers win a seventh Super Bowl? I hope you have plenty of time to wait because the doctor may not be in for awhile.

Better not throw Bill Cowher’s number away!

Hard-hitting. Unapologetic. Uncompromising. Real talk! Straight in your face!

Stay tuned, Steelers Nation. The 2018 season is just around the corner, and I hope you’re wearing a mouthpiece because I’ve come to play!!

Antonio Brown enters the elite ‘Madden 99’ club

Sat, 06/30/2018 - 8:08am

The Pittsburgh Steelers star wide receiver received a unique honor this offseason.

The ‘Madden’ video game has become an enterprise where the release of the latest game is unbelievably anticipated by gamers across the globe.

Whether you played ‘John Madden Football’ in its infancy, or are someone who plays online on one of the many gaming systems in today’s day and age, the ratings and excitement the game brings has never changed since Day 1.

As the annual release of the latest game nears, rankings, preview clips and new features come out to the general public to raise the anticipation level. There is an elite club in the Madden community called the ‘99 Club’. This group is for players who receive the highest rating possible, a 99.

The ‘Madden 99’ Club had a new member enter their ranks this year — Antonio Brown.

9️⃣9️⃣@EAMaddenNFL | #Madden19 pic.twitter.com/6vaXZtlmdT

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 27, 2018

Brown isn’t the only player in this elite club. The full list of Madden 99 Club athletes include:

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Denver Broncos LB Von Miller

Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown

Los Angeles Rams DE Aaron Donald

While being given a rating of 99 on a video game is hardly earth-shattering news, for those who enjoy the game, and love the Steelers, it will be awesome watching Brown dominate both on the real playing field, and the virtual playing field.

Checking in on what several Steelers are doing this offseason

Sat, 06/30/2018 - 6:05am

The Steelers only have a few weeks left before they report to training camp, and it is time to check in on what some players are doing this offseason.

The NFL calendar looks like it has a lot of down time on it upon first glance. However, after the regular season ends, free agency quickly approaches, the NFL Draft comes and goes and players report for offseason workouts.

Then they get a few weeks to themselves before reporting to training camp.

So, what are members of the Pittsburgh Steelers doing this offseason? Many are going for a little rest and relaxation, while others had other endeavors they wanted to accomplish. Now it is time take a look at what certain members of the Steelers are up to this offseason.

Keion Adams earns his degree

Adams returned to Western Michigan and became a proud member of the Class of 2018.

D E G R E E ✅ pic.twitter.com/h5pEpnxYhH

— #QuiickBandz #BOSrackz (@civilSAVAGE1) June 24, 2018 Ramon Foster doing work while on vacation

Getting some rest and relaxation doesn’t mean you can’t also do some work and get better. Foster posted his workout while in Hawaii on vacation. Not a horrible time for an offensive lineman.

Morning 5K done with @_fosterluv @joshbey in Hawaii. Work even on vacation so we can continue to have vacation. ✔️ . Big men run too. #GiveMore

A post shared by Ramon Foster (@theramonfoster) on Jun 24, 2018 at 9:42am PDT

Javon Hargrave gives back

Hargrave returned to his hometown to put on a free clinic for the youth there. Fun Fact: Hargrave and Keion Adams grew up near each other and competed against one another in both football and basketball in High School.

Thanks to @paquichips @DrinkBODYARMOR @KraveJerky @Bonk_Breaker for making my camp a great 1 thanks for everything you provided for the camp pic.twitter.com/JHMGTq4hGr

— Javon hargrave (@Jay_MostWanted) June 25, 2018 Mike Hilton does his part

Hilton, like Hargrave, is giving back to the youth in his community.

Former @OleMissFB standouts @Chadkelly_6 & @MikeHilton_28 on why they give back to young athletes at the You Gotta Believe football camp in Jackson. pic.twitter.com/ajMjdJ3lzu

— Samaria Terry (@samariaterry) June 28, 2018 Joshua Dobbs takes in the sites

Dobbs traveled to Rome recently and posted several pictures of the sights before he will be taking in the sights at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

Tutte le strade portano a Roma.
Day 5️⃣ #SymphonyOfTheSeas. #WorldTourContinues pic.twitter.com/m2uu3Lu8CB

— Josh Dobbs (@josh_dobbs1) June 28, 2018

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they wrap up the offseason and prepare for training camp.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 23

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 5:42pm

Ugh...the offseason continues. Here We Go.

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. Speaking purely for on-field performances. Who would you take if you could only pick one? Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell?

2. Finish the sentence...the perfect season for James Conner looks like ______.

3. If you were to put a percentage on the chances Le’Veon Bell DOES sign a new deal before July 16th, what would it be?

4. Rank the following Steelers’ Cornerback from best-to-worst:

Ike Tyalor
Mel Blount
Chad Scott
Rod Woodson
Carnell Lake

5. If you choose to grill over the 4th of July, or anytime during the warm months, are you a simple hamburgers and hot dogs person? Or do you like the more challenging items to grill which require much more focus on internal temperature?

6. If you are a grill master, what is your grill of preference, and what type? (Ex. — You might love Weber grills and always use Charcoal)

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Watch Bud Dupree get pass rushing tips from Von Miller this offseason

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 10:54am

Pittsburgh Steelers OLB Bud Dupree needs all the help he can get, and he was getting some tips from one of the best pass rushers in today’s game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and their fans, have been waiting patiently for their top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft to finally start playing up to his draft status. Bud Dupree has always been brimming with potential, but has yet to turn his freakish athleticism into anything which resembles dominance on the football field.

The past two offseasons Dupree has been attending Chuck Smith’s pass rushing clinics with other pass rushers around the NFL, and despite Smith suggesting Dupree could have a Defensive Player of the Year season in 2017 (he didn’t), Dupree is back at it hoping to truly get a grip on his craft before the 2018 season.

While there, it wasn’t just Smith who was doing the instructing, but Dupree was getting a one-on-one tutorial from one of the best pass rushers in today’s NFL — Denver Broncos Von Miller.

Watch as Miller walks Dupree through how he utilizes his shoulder, and his angles, to make his lethal spin move work on opposing offensive linemen.

Check out the video below:

The Steelers picked up Dupree’s 5th year option this offseason, and are patiently waiting for Dupree to finally develop into the pass rusher the team needs on the outside. They obviously still have confidence in Dupree, or else they would have picked up another pass rusher in the NFL Draft, or in free agency.

They did neither.

Hopefully these sessions, and this help from a player like Miller, can help Dupree learn some of the tricks of the trade which will help him go from a first round bust, to a big-time player for the Steelers.

Deciphering the most annoying fan bases in the NFL to Steelers Nation

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 8:14am

If you’re a Steelers fan, what other team’s fans hassle your hypocycloids the most?

I was at Sam’s Club the other Sunday and I ran in to four separate families I know. At one point, I ran into a good friend of mine who’s a New Englander and a Pats/Sox/Bruins die hard. While we were talking, another good friend of mine (and BTSC editor) approached to say hello. I introduced my two friends to one another and prefaced it with the disclaimer that my friend from the Northeast is quite possibly the only cool Pats fan I know. The jestful response I got from my black-and-gold-veined buddy was...”Wow. I didn’t know that existed.”

We had a laugh and eventually all went our separate ways in a race to get all the good samples.

I thought about that introduction and brief summit between Steelers Nation and my Pats Fan buddy (ironically named Pat). It left me to wonder which team’s fan base Steelers fans consider the most obnoxious.

So, for your consideration, here’s a list of certain NFL team supporters that are most irritating. These fan stables are so chafing, the burn from the Aqua Velva is as unpleasant as finding baby pictures of your spouse wearing a Browns onesie.

But before I begin, let me preface this with the fact that I approach opposing fans like I approach anybody. Just don’t be an a-hole to me and we will have the potential to be lifelong friends.

Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

A large majority of Steelers Nation fans don’t find their state-mate’s backers as annoying as they do despicable. If this was a poll on worst behavior, the Cheesesteak-heads would be favorites. They may get even more annoying now that the Lombardi resides in Eastern PA, but they were included mostly for the sole reason of highlighting below the depravity of those who sing, “Fly Eagles, Fly”.

  • YouTube videos of vicious fights at Lincoln Financial Field are pretty much a Monday morning occurrence in the fall.
  • The website Woot! once targeted Philly fans in a battery advertisement due to their penchant for chucking them at opposing teams.
  • In both playoff games this year, fans were arrested for punching police horses in the face. Freaking horses!
  • Booing and throwing snowballs at Santa Claus started in 1968. You know they’re gonna celebrate that golden moment this December.
  • Family members of mine from Chicago went to an Eagles-Bears game in the 90s at the Vet. Their eight-year-old had the audacity to wear a Bears jacket. He was harassed the entire game.
  • A fan set off a flare gun in Veterans Stadium in 1997.
  • There was a jail and court was held in the bowels of both stadiums by the presiding judge Seamus P. McCaffrey. The jail was done away with a couple of years ago. But things were so bad, fans had to be incarcerated.
  • Last year when a 99-year old Vikings fan named Millie was given tickets by the NFL to attend a Minnesota playoff game, fans in Philly held up an unedited sign that said, “F@#$ Millie”. Classy. Millie was offered tickets to go to the NFC Championship Game in the City of Brotherly Love. She declined.
Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas fans are insufferable, especially the ones that emerged from that great run in the mid-90s. Fans of the Steelers and Cowboys will always clash because of the great battles for supremacy in the decade of the 70s. They’ve taken the moniker of “America’s Team” and the inquiry of “How ‘bout dem Cowboys” to a level of entitlement that exceeds most annoyance levels. If you want to rile up a Dallas fan, remind them that the Rooneys legitimately declined the title of “America’s Team” that they so loudly boast, thus they landed it by default.

Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Again, these guys made the list for sheer entertainment reasons. The “Bills Mafia” make English soccer fans look like the upper crust of society. These are long-suffering fans that turn tailgates into drunken WWE events by bodyslamming each other, their wives and girlfriends onto tables. The city of Jacksonville banned the sale of folding tables to anybody with out-of-state IDs when they hosted Buffalo in the playoffs in January. They aren’t annoying as much as they are simply trashy. If a guy wants to get obliterated and jump off the top of an RV onto a burning table, fine with me. I’m not paying the deductible. But if a guy in LeSean McCoy merch comes to the door to date my daughter, he’d better run.

Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

I live in Maryland and my annoyance for “Ratbird” backers runs pretty deep. I even considered banning purple from my house. The truth is this...Baltimore fans hate Steelers Nation with much more intensity than we hate them. It comes from a deep jealousy of Pittsburgh’s great tradition of winning and regret about merely being the bastard sons of Art Modell.

My contempt for Ravens Rooters has calmed recently, especially after the honorable way they, as a franchise and fan base, empathized with us during the Ryan Shazier injury. However, I’m still reluctant to take my family to a game at M&T Bank Stadium where some people habitually go out of their way to harass Steeler fans. My biggest problem with Ravens fans is the manner in which they retreat during a down year. They have no problem bragging about their dominance when they’re winning, but as soon as a losing season occurs...they’re gone. Also, they will never come to grips with the fact that they were once the Cleveland Browns.

New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Patriot fans are absolutely arrogant, that’s why it was so sweet to watch them lose in the Super Bowl. The biggest reason Pittsburgh fans take exception with Pats fans is they never let us forget their head-to-head dominance during the Brady/Belichick era. Here are other reasons to find disfavor with the group of fans affectionately known as “Massholes”...

  • The franchise has been around since 1960, but most fans believe that the history books start in 2001. A majority of fans couldn’t tell you who Raymond Berry, Steve Grogan or Stanley Morgan were. If they name-drop Scott Zolak, you know that you’re in the presence of a true Pats fan.
  • The over use of the phase “You hate us, cause you ain’t us” and “Do your job” is grating, especially in that accent.
  • The constant over-justification of cheating. It’s okay with them. When they do get caught red-handed, they cry persecution and break out the aforementioned phrase. Seriously though, the best possible person to marry is a Patriots fan...they don’t care if you cheat.
  • The G.O.A.T., I swear some of these people have a crucifix fashioned to their wall with a Tom Brady McFarlane on it instead of Jesus.
  • The fire alarm incident before the AFC Championship game. Enough said.

Maybe I am jealous. No....Well, maybe.

Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I’m showing my hand here. This is my choice for most vomit-inducing of fan bases. I can’t stand most Cincinnati fans I come across. They abhor Steelers fans and act as if their team of thugs are persecuted choir boys and accuse Pittsburgh of the very thuggery their players commit. For the most part, they lack football knowledge and more so lack tact. They were unsympathetic after the Shazier injury and largely blamed it on his “dirty” style of play. I’m sure there are good Bengals fans, but I’ve yet to meet one. I loved the images of them filing out in droves early in the fourth during a Steelers visit in 2014. Oh and “Who Dey?”....What does that even mean?

Oakland Raiders Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Obi-Wan Kenobi described the Mos Eisley Spaceport by saying, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy”. Obviously, Old Ben never attended a Raiders game. “Black Hole” dwellers are a terrifying bunch. They put a Steelers fan in a coma in 1990. “What was his transgression?”, you ask. He was wearing Steelers garb. You can get stabbed in the parking lot at a Raiders game by a guy dressed like a reject from a Mad Max movie. Opposing players do not let their families go to games there. My cousin married a Raiders fan and I actually got along with him real well. But I was mortified when he showed me two scars on his head, “This one is from the Broncos Game in ‘87, this is the Seahawks fight in ‘89”. It was bad in Oakland, bad in Los Angeles and the culture probably will move with them to Vegas — quite the wholesome locale.

Seattle Seahawks Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Nationally, “the 12th Man” is getting negative notoriety for being an unruly fanbase. Steelers Nation has little problem with them, but the annoyance lies in their inability to accept the loss in SB XL. I realize that there were some questionable calls, but the Steelers still won that game by a sizable enough margin. I remember when a diner in Seattle got in trouble for spitting on a Steelers fan’s cheeseburger before serving it to them. Wow! All I can say is wow.

Cleveland Browns Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Neither I, nor Steelers Nation really have a huge problem with “the Dawg Pound.” Any trash they talk merely stems from years of frustration which comes from being another city’s bitch year after year. Actually Pittsburgh fans mourned for them when Art Modell moved the team in 1995. But know this, when they finally reemerge..the hate will be great.

Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

To quote Michael Jackson, “I’m talking to the man in the mirror”. Truthfully we aren’t the worst, but in no way are we not above this list. I was at a Ravens game tailgating in full Steelers garb and was sure to be very respectful of my hosts. Then this drunken boob in a Steelers jersey stumbled by and started yelling at all the fans. My friend, a Ravens fan, looked at me and tried to bet me five bucks that the next thing that “drunky” would say would be something about six rings. I’m glad I didn’t get a chance to take that bet. It happened almost immediately.

As a writer for BTSC, I’ve encountered some terrible behavior in the comments section. I know every team has rude and misguided fans, but we could be above that. We are also a bit spoiled as well, but that is bound to happen when you follow one of the greatest franchises in the history of sports.

Back in January 2005, I sat alone in complete devastation as the seconds drained from the clock in the AFC Championship Game. My friend left the stadium and staggered back to the hotel, but I chose to stay. I was not wanting to encounter possible anger from drunken fans after that bad loss. As I sat alone in the stands after the game, I felt like I just might be the last Steelers fan in the stadium. Joe Namath was on hand to present the Lamar Hunt trophy to New England. I walked up closer to the railing in Section 125 to get a better look. Standing among a small throng of Pats fans, I decided that I just couldn’t handle it and turned to leave. I was sporting a Joey Porter jersey, and was surprised when a guy in a Ty Law jersey didn’t see me and ran smack into me. Something told me a confrontation was imminent. But he turned and apologized profusely. Without cracking a smile, I extended my hand to him and wished him luck in the Super Bowl. “You’re kidding me? You’re the nicest Steelers fan I’ve met this trip. Will you take a picture with me?”, he asked with a shocked expression. I agreed, but told him that I refused to smile. We posed, shook hands and I left the stadium with my head held a little higher. The reason I’m recounting this incident is simple. All fans root for their teams for the same reason that I root for the Steelers. We’ve got the same sporting hopes, dreams and pride. But we’re all just people wearing different laundry. I know I negatively portrayed certain fan bases in this piece, but there are good people repping these teams too. Unfortunately, though, the bad ones give fan love a bad name. Let’s start making it better by extending a hand too.

Antonio Brown puts his own unique spin on ranking the Top 10 NFL quarterbacks

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 6:32am

In the wake of David Carr leaving Ben Roethlisberger off his Top-10 QB list, Antonio Brown produced his own list.

If NFL.com’s goal of having David Carr rank the Top 10 quarterbacks in the league was to cause waves — they succeeded.

Carr, who left Ben Roethlisberger off the list, only to rank his brother Derek Carr 4th, caught the attention, and ire, of Pittsburgh Steelers fans as they wanted to know how in the world he could leave a 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback off his list? Not just ranked lower than they thought, but completely off the list?!

This news was so far-reaching, Roethlisberger’s No. 1 target, Antonio Brown, took to his verified Twitter account to release his own Top 10 quarterback rankings...with a unique spin on them.

Check it out:

Top NFL QBs Ranked

10. You can’t
9. possibly rank
8. the best QBs
7. in the
6. NFL
5. because they
4. are all
3. so
2. talented
1. Big Ben#thatsmyquarterback

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) June 28, 2018

Not only is the statement made in the tweet true, but it also comes at a time when Brown has been catching passes from Cam Newton, since the two have been training together in Florida. Brown has seen first hand just how gifted other throwers are in the league, and he certainly makes ranking them seem rather silly.

After all, for the accuracy Tom Brady brings to the Patriots, Newton brings a completely different, and rather unconventional skill set to the Panthers. Talent is talent, even if it isn’t what fans are used to.

However, I think all Black-and-gold fans agree with who Brown has listed as No. 1.

Podcast: What is the missing piece of the Pittsburgh puzzle?

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 5:39am

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

The 2018 NFL Draft is over and, believe it or not, there’s lots to talk about heading into a big week of offseason news for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the new show Steelers News:

  • Le’Veon Bell contract talk mean anything?
  • Playmakers on defense?
  • Antonio Brown “free” comments
  • Expectations for the Steelers’ offense
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams goes over everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold on the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard”.

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 our BlogTalkRadio page. If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below. Be sure to follow us on iTunes by searching The Standard is the Standard.

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also check out his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

Bring on Ryan Fitzpatrick; Steelers will face backup in Week 3 after Jameis Winston suspension

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 2:55pm

The Steelers will face backup Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 3 when the team travels to Tampa Bay.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to slightly alter their preparation for their Week 3 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the league officially announced Winston will be suspended three games due to violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.

See the official release below:

Official word of Jameis Winston’s three-game suspension: pic.twitter.com/GCQYZ9I3ex

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 28, 2018

We reported this story when it was just a “source”, but it turns out the source was spot on with their evaluation of the situation. While the suspension itself might not come as a surprise to many, not after the initial report, what should surprise some is how Winston is not going to appeal this suspension.

This isn’t a situation like Marcus Gilbert had last year where he felt he could have fought a 4-game suspension, but didn’t want to miss a playoff game. This is a situation where Winston could have claimed what was reported was false. In the past, the league has been lenient on players and decreased suspensions if the player avoided getting in further trouble.

Ben Roethlisberger saw this treatment in 2010 when his 6-game suspension was reduced to 4-games, pending his good behavior. But Winston seems to be willing to take the suspension and prepare to move on starting in Week 4.

As for Fitzpatrick, if you are wondering how he has done in his career vs. the Steelers, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the numbers — and they aren’t pretty.

With Jameis Winston sitting out vs. Steelers, they likely will get Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is 0-5 in his career against the Steelers. He has 79.9 passer rating and has been sacked 14 times against them. https://t.co/R2JoykMEFE

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) June 28, 2018

Call it good fortune for the Steelers, but it is safe to say the Week 3 game in Tampa Bay just took on an entirely different look with Fitzpatrick slated to be under center.

Mason Rudolph is a football junkie, and that is great news for the Steelers

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 12:39pm

Not every football player is cut from the same cloth, and Mason Rudolph certainly is one who is bred from a football family.

When NFL teams interview prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine, one of the more common questions players hear is, “Do you love the game?”

Sure, every player is going to say ‘yes’ as an answer, but it doesn’t mean everyone actually believes that. There are numerous accounts of players who have been drafted in the early rounds, only to flame out and find themselves unemployed before cashing in on the really big money.

Some players are in it only for the money, and the game is just an avenue to a rich and famous lifestyle.

On the other hand, there are some players who are football junkies. They would play the game for free, and just want to go out on the field and compete with their teammates. Those players are usually the ones who succeed, even if they aren’t as talented as others.

You can lump Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph into the football junkie category. After all, he comes from a football family. When Teresa Varley, of the Steelers official website, asked Rudolph what his biggest inspiration was, his answer was his father.

“It would be my dad (Brett Rudolph). He played football at North Carolina, was a middle linebacker there back in the 1980s. He was my hero, idol, mentor, not just in football, but he spent a lot of time with my brother and I in the backyard, taking us to the field all of the time, getting in extra instruction. He worked with us helping us with instruction, weight training or nutrition knowledge. He was the guy and he still is to this day. He has a lot of good advice he has given us.”

Rudolph was just another example of a pedigree pick in for the Steelers in the NFL Draft process. In 2017 T.J. Watt was the team’s first pick, and we all know what the Watt name means in NFL circles. In 2018, Terrell Edmunds became the team’s top pick, and not only did his brother also get drafted in the first round, but their father played football in the NFL.

But family background doesn’t define Rudolph’s love for the game.

“I love it. I wasn’t able to play quarterback when I was younger. I was one of those kids growing up that I played football, but never played quarterback. I was on the team with the coach’s son, and he was the quarterback. I have a lot of years of playing quarterback ahead of me and I want to keep maxing that out. I love the position. I love the game. I love the stress of learning a new offense. The reward of going out there, understanding it and making a great play. It’s a feeling, it’s an adrenaline rush like there is nothing you can compare it too. I want to continue to do that. I play for my family. There are goals you want to achieve.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Rudolph loves the stress which comes from learning a new offense. In that case, he should absolutely love the transition from Oklahoma State to the Steelers. Not only is it a completely different offensive scheme, he will have to learn how to take snaps under center, as well as all the terminology which comes with an NFL playbook.

The underlying theme of Rudolph’s journey to the Steel City is his love for the game. You don’t find that every day. However, his desire to succeed, even when others might have said he wouldn’t pan out, could be just what motivates him to not only be the next quarterback of the Steelers, but the next great quarterback for the black-and-gold.

Predicting the Steelers 53-man roster, by position: Inside Linebacker

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 10:58am

While other outlets are giving you just one bland prediction article, we are taking it position-by-position as we make our way to the team’s 53-man roster.

For those of you who read the headline to this article and rolled your eyes thinking “Here we go again with another 53-man roster prediction article” — think again.

Every outlet around the country is doing their own version of predicting who will, and won’t, make the Pittsburgh Steelers’ final roster after training camp, and the preseason, has officially ended, but I decided to go a bit more in-depth on the prediction side of things. Therefore, I decided to lead up to my first complete 53-man roster prediction by going position-by-position and deciding who will make the team, and who won’t.

Today’s position: Inside Linebacker

Depth Chart/Roster:

Vince Williams
Tyler Matakevich
Jon Bostic
L.J. Fort
Matt Galambos
Matthew Thomas

Similar to the first position covered in this series, the safety position, the inside linebacker position is one of uncertainty. No one really knows who is going to play alongside Vince Williams when the regular season starts.

This may be something which won’t get decided until training camp/the preseason rolls around, but I have a feeling I know what the depth chart will look like, and how each player will fit into the team’s scheme when all is said and done, barring injury.

Starters:

Vince Williams — Williams has been somewhat of a scapegoat for Steelers fans this offseason, many believing he isn’t fast enough to play along side someone not named Ryan Shazier. I disagree. Sure, Williams has his limitations, but I feel he is more than capable on the inside of the defense for 2018.

Jon Bostic — Right now Jon Bostic has been behind Matakevich in offseason workouts, but I don’t expect that to last. Bostic is no Shazier, but his experience, and superior athleticism over Matakevich will make him the man on the inside when the games start counting.

Depth Player(s):

Tyler Matakevich — Matakevich might not be the fastest, or athletic, linebacker in the game, but he is an extremely intelligent player. He will be the backup at both inside linebacker positions in case someone were to go down with an injury.

Matthew Thomas — I am taking a flyer here on Thomas to make the team, strictly on potential and special teams play. The team could use Thomas’ 4.5 speed on special teams, and if he can keep his head on straight he will certainly be able to provide depth at the position. To make the team, and not just be a practice squad candidate, Thomas will have to beat out Fort who has experience on the former Florida State product.

Players to be Cut:

L.J. Fort
Matt Galambos

Roster Spots taken: 9/53 Next position: Wide Receivers Past Articles:

Predicting the Starting Safeties

Finding a rookie RB to potentially replace Le’Veon Bell isn’t as easy as you think

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 8:36am

With Le’Veon Bell’s future in Pittsburgh in flux, many fans believe finding another running back in the draft is easy. Think again.

Kansas City Chiefs running back, Kareem Hunt, took the NFL by storm last season and snared the NFL’s rushing title (1,327 yards) in his inaugural season. Fellow rookie running back, Alvin Kamara, showcased his receiving ability while finishing second in receptions (81 receptions) among all running backs.

The duo was drafted during the 2017 NFL Draft in the third round.

With the inevitable departure of 3-time Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell on the horizon, social media discussions have been rampant with respect to the ease of replacing No. 26 via the NFL Draft, or perhaps by reverting to a Running Back By Committee (RBBC) scheme.

The focus here is on running backs drafted since 2011 and how they’ve fared in the NFL up to the 2018 season. A running back needs modest production during his entire career. As a Steelers fan, do you want a one-year wonder? Do you want to use any draft pick on a player who’s one and done? Do you want the next Ickey Woods?

Of course not. Fans want value in the team’s draft picks.

I’ve set standards for each draft class, aligning those numbers with Bell’s typical production both rushing, and receiving.

The bar isn’t set overly high and should be obtainable if one is talking about replacing a potential Hall of Fame back in Le’Veon Bell in one fell swoop or setting up half of an RBBC. Running backs need to average 550 yards rushing or 50 receptions — low standards for what Steeler fans expect out of the running back position.

Due to potential one-year wonders, the 2017 class will not be noted. The choice of 550 yards is based on Bell’s rushing yards following his suspension and injury-plagued 2015 season. Using 50 receptions is just an arbitrary benchmark that denotes the need for a running back to snag receptions in the Steelers’ pass-happy offense. According to Pro Football Focus,the offense used Bell on 500 passing routes last year.

2016: Must have either 1,100 yards rushing or 100 receptions.

The three running backs who meet either of these criteria are Zeke Elliot (2,614), Jordan Howard (2,435), and Derek Henry (1,234). No running back met the reception mark for the 2-year span. Elliot (4th overall) and Henry (45th overall) were drafted high, while Howard was the diamond-in-the-rough drafted in the fifth round. There were 20 running backs drafted in total, with nine drafted before Howard.

2015: Must have either 1,650 yards rushing or 150 receptions.

Melvin Gordon (2,743) and Todd Gurley (3,296) meet the yardage parameter, while Duke Johnson (188) meets the reception criteria. The other fifteen backs who were drafted miss the criteria. Gurley and Gordon were top-10 draft picks, while Johnson was drafted 77th overall.

2014: Must have either 2,200 yards rushing or 200 receptions.

Fourth rounder, Devonta Freeman, is the cream of the crop with 3,248 yards, while second-rounders Jeremy Hill (2,873) and Carlos Hyde (2,729) cracked the yardage barrier. No back broke 200 receptions, as Freeman comes closest with 193. The draft saw 19 backs selected and a dozen before Freeman. Bishop Sankey was the lone selection before Hill.

2013: Must have either 2,750 yards rushing or 250 receptions.

Not surprising Bell meets both criteria (5,336 and 312) — while three of the other 25 running backs drafted reach the threshold. Sixty-first overall pick Eddie Lacy (3,614), who is currently unsigned and potentially falling out of the league, is a distant second. Former sixth-round steal, Latavius Murray (3,120), may only have a lone thousand yard season under his belt, but he was valued in the Vikings RBBC last year which led the NFL in rushing. The gifted Cincinnati Bengals back, Gio Bernard (2,900) — the first back chosen with the 37th overall pick — ends up 20 receptions shy of the reception mark.

2012 Must have either 3,300 yards rushing or 300 receptions

Alfred Morris (5,503), Lamar Miller (4,891) and Doug Martin (4,633) meet the standards for rushing yards. Miller tops the list of receptions at 184, well short of the yardstick. Miller was snared in the fourth round while Morris, with his fantastic 3-year run to start his career, was taken in the sixth round. There were seven backs taken before Miller while 13 were chosen before Morris with 21 backs selected. Martin — the second back chosen and the 31st overall — is currently locked in a contested battle for carries with the Oakland Raiders.

2011 Must have either 3,850 yards rushing or 350 receptions

DeMarco Murray (7,174) surpasses the touchstone along with late-bloomer and current New Orleans Saint, Mark Ingram (5,362). Murray tops the reception charts with 307 catches — which falls shy of the goal. Murray was drafted 71st overall and the sixth back taken in the class that saw 29 backs drafted. Ingram, on the other hand, was drafted 28th overall and was the first back selected.

...

There were 103 running backs selected during the span from 2012 to 2016, with 18 of them meeting the criteria. Four of the running backs were drafted before Pittsburgh drafted in the first round, and another five were drafted before the Steelers second round selection. In order to select one of these backs, the Steelers would have had to move up in the first or 2nd rounds — something they rarely do.

The reality is, it’s highly unlikely Bell will be wearing black-and-gold next season, as most believe contract talks are dead. So the next logical step would be to start laying the foundation for a RBBC, or find the elusive, bell-cow back. Is part of that foundation on the team now? That’s debatable. Will the 2019 starting back be the next Bell? Will the Steelers use another high draft choice like they did with Rashard Mendenhall? Or will they go for a mid-range pick in hopes of landing someone better than what Pittsburgh saw out of Bam Morris? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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