You are here

Behind the Steel Curtain

Subscribe to Behind the Steel Curtain feed
A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/47293/steel_curtain_fave.png 2022-08-08T11:00:00-04:00
Updated: 2 hours 30 min ago

What happened to the Steelers’ 2019 to 2021 draft classes?

Thu, 04/21/2022 - 2:00pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

With the 2022 NFL draft only one week away, let’s look at how some of the Steelers’ drafts played out.

The 2022 NFL Draft is a mere week away. Last offseason, we dove into a Steelers NFL draft class starting with the 2004 NFL Draft and outlined a successive draft each week. In doing so, each player selected by the Steelers was highlighted as to how their NFL career, or lack thereof, took shape. Each year was outlined with the last three draft classes all combined into one since a large number of the players were still with the team.

Since it worked last season, and since a lot of the research has already been done, let’s look back at they players from these drafts yet again, this time looking at two different years, on separate days, each week leading up to the last week of April. For players no longer in the league, a lot of the information will be the same while others will be updated where needed.

Part 16 of 16 will highlight the Steelers 2019 to 2021 NFL draft, talking about each class as a whole and discuss the players no longer with the organization individually.

So let’s take a look at the last three years of players drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers:

2019 Still on the Steelers roster:

Devin Bush Jr, Linebacker, Michigan, Round 1, Pick 10
Diontae Johnson, Wide receiver, Toledo, Round 3, Pick 66
Justin Layne, Cornerback, Michigan St, Round 3, Pick 76
Benny Snell Jr, Running back, Kentucky, Round 4, Pick 122
Zach Gentry, Tight end, Michigan, Round 5, Pick 141
Ulysees Gilbert III, Linebacker, Akron, Round 6, Pick 207

With nine picks in the 2019 NFL draft, the Steelers have had eight players appear in games for the black and gold. Additionally, the six members still remaining with the Steelers have been on the 53-man roster their entire careers with the exception of time spent on the Reserve/Injured List. Unfortunately three members of the seven players remaining in Devin Bush, Zach Gentry, and Ulysees Gilbert, have all spent time on IR with Gilbert missing time during both seasons. All players are entering their final year of their rookie contract except possibly Devin Bush as the Steelers have a few weeks to decide on his fifth-year option.

No longer on the Steelers roster:

Sutton Smith, Linebacker, Northern Illinois, Round 6, Pick 175

One of three sixth-round picks in 2019, Sutton Smith dealt with injury throughout training camp and never really got going as part of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Released as part of roster cut downs, Smith was not signed to the Steelers practice squad. Spending one week on the Jaguars practice squad in October, Smith was signed by the Steelers on their practice squad for one day in November. The following week, he was signed back to the practice squad but released six days later. Smith finished the 2019 season on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad and was signed to a Reserve/Future contract. Unfortunately, Smith was waived in late July as teams had to cut their offseason rosters from 90 players down to 80 players for the 2020 season. Smith signed with the New Orleans Saints following the 2021 draft but was released in late August. Smith caught on with the Las Vegas Raiders practice squad in mid November and was signed to the 53-man roster after being elevated several times and is under contract for 2022.

Isaiah Buggs, Defensive tackle, Alabama, Round 6, Pick 192

Buggs made the Steelers 53-man roster all three seasons in the NFL. After the injury to Tyson Alualu in Week 2 of 2021, Buggs was the starting nose tackle for the Steelers through the next eight games despite being credited with six starts due to the Steelers opening in a different defensive package. But after Week 11, Buggs fell out favor and was not active for the remainder of the season. Released prior to Week 18, Buggs landed on the practice squad of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Derwin Gray, Tackle, Maryland, Round 7, Pick 219

After spending the 2019 season on the Steelers practice squad, Gray landed back in the familiar spot in 2020. After the injuries to Zach Banner and Stefen Wisniewski, Gray was promoted to the active roster for Week 2. Going into Week 16, the Steelers were extremely thin at inside linebacker and signed Tegray Scales from the practice squad. The corresponding move was the release of Gray, who many believe the Steelers were hoping to get back to the practice squad. Unfortunately, the Jacksonville Jaguars claimed Gray off waivers. Gray signed his exclusive rights free agent tender with the Jaguars for 2021 but was waived in late August. Gray was claimed of waivers by the Tennesse Titans but failed to make the 53-main roster. On and off the Titans practice squad in 2021, Gray signed a Reserve/Future contract with Tennessee for 2022.

2020 Still on the Steelers roster:

Chase Claypool, Wide receiver, Notre Dame, Round 2, Pick 49
Alex Highsmith, Linebacker, Charlotte, Round 3, Pick 102
Anthony McFarland Jr, Running back, Maryland, Round 4, Pick 124
Kevin Dotson, Guard, Louisiana, Round 4, Pick 145
Carlos Davis, Defensive tackle, Nebraska, Round 7, Pick 232

I’ve noted many times before, the Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL draft has already made franchise history. Even though it was the first year since 1968 the Steelers did not have a first round draft pick, the Steelers had every player drafted appear in a game their rookie season for the black and gold. Not only had this never happened before, the Steelers have never had a draft where every player appeared for the Steelers at any point in their career, let alone their rookie season. After losing one player for 2021, three other players in McFarland, Dotson, and Davis spent part of the season on the Reserve/Injured List.

No longer on the Steelers roster:

Antoine Brooks Jr, Safety, Maryland, Round 6, Pick 198

Antoine Brooks landed on the Steelers practice squad to start his rookie season. After being elevated four times throughout the season, twice as a regular replacement and twice as a COVID-19 replacement, Books was signed to the 53-man roster prior to the Steelers Week 13 game. Getting the first crack at the nickelcornerback position for the Steelers in training camp in 2021, Brooks was injured and was waived/injured at the end of August. Ultimately released at the beginning of September, Brooks Landed on the Los Angeles Rams practice squad. Promoted to the active roster ahead of Week 10, Brooks was waived at the end of January but resigned to the practice squad for the Super Bowl. Brooks signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Rams for 2022.

2021 Still on the Steelers roster:

Najee Harris, Running back, Alabama, Round 1, Pick 24
Pat Freiermuth, Tight end, Penn St, Round 2, Pick 55
Kendrick Green, Center, Illinois, Round 3, Pick 87
Dan Moore Jr, Offensive tackle, Texas A&M, Round 4, Pick 128
Buddy Johnson, Linebacker, Texas A&M, Round 4, Pick 128
Isaiahh Loudermilk, Defensive tackle, Wisconsin, Round 5, Pick 156
Tre Norwood, Defensive back, Oklahoma, Round 7, Pick 245
Pressley Harvin III, Punter, Georgia Tech, Round 7, Pick 254

With nine picks made in the 2021 NFL draft, the Steelers had eight players make the roster and appear in games for Pittsburgh their rookie season. With six players starting games for the Steelers their first season, not including punter Presley Harvin, the 2021 rookie class was utilized more than any other in franchise history. Additionally, running back Najee Harris was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2021.

No longer on the Steelers roster:

Quincy Roche, Outside linebacker, Miami, Round 6, Pick 216

Failing to make the 53-man roster his rookie season, Quincy Roche did not even get a chance to land on the Steelers practice squad as he was claimed off waivers by the New York Giants. In his rookie season in New York, Roche appeared in 14 games with three starts with 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.

Should the Steelers select an ILB in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Thu, 04/21/2022 - 12:00pm
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

How much did the Myles Jack signing affect the Steelers’ draft plans?

With each Big Board article this spring, the BTSC Big Board crew will be publishing a second article complementary to that respective portion of the big board. This week, we are going over this year’s class of inside linebackers and whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers will want to draft that position in April.

If you have thoughts as to whether or not the Steelers should draft an inside linebacker. let us know in the comment section below. Let’s see what our resident draft analysts have to say.

Ryland B.: With the Steelers’ signing of Myles Jack, it seems rather apparent that the Steelers plan on the duo of Jack and Devin Bush to be their starting inside linebackers this season. However, I think the real key piece here is second-year ILB Buddy Johnson. Johnson seems to be the closest thing the Steelers have to a BUCK linebacker in their scheme while both Bush and Jack are more of the hyper-athletic MACK type. If Johnson can play at a quality level this year after a quiet rookie season, the Steelers could have a solid and versatile rotation with the three young linebackers. Behind these three are two solid special-teamers in Ulysees Gilbert III and Robert Spillane, the latter of whom has proven to be able to join the starting lineup in a pinch. So if Johnson pans out, the Steelers have a quality ILB room, one that even has some leeway for Bush’s inconsistent play after his knee injury.

But this is a very deep class when it comes to inside ‘backers, with around 8-9 defenders with varying skillsets who I believe could step in and contribute right away their rookie year. And with some question marks in the Steelers’ ILB room, especially regarding Devin Bush and Buddy Johnson, it definitely seems tempting for the team to solidify the position by picking someone like Darrian Beavers or Channing Tindall on Day 2. But in the end, I think they need to focus on other more pressing needs in the upcoming draft. ILB is a position the Steelers have invested a lot in over the past few offseasons, and despite the risk I think they need to trust those decisions and focus on shoring up other aspects of the team.

Andrew Wilbar: I am not sure the Steelers see this position as a major area of need, as some fans have suggested. I have concerns as to how well Myles Jack will fit in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme, and I am not a firm believer in Buddy Johnson, but I think the Steelers are much more optimistic about the outlooks of both players.

Quay Walker will likely be gone before pick 52, but Troy Andersen from Montana State is a guy I could absolutely get on board with on day two. Darian Beavers would be a solid value pick in round three, but I think the best option would be to wait until day three and take a chance on LSU linebacker Damone Clark. Clark recently underwent spinal fusion surgery, and he is unlikely to see any playing time in year one, but he would be the perfect BUCK linebacker next to a fully healthy Devin Bush.

Do you think the Steelers should acquire an inside linebacker this offseason? If so, when and how should they do it? Let us know your thoughts by voting in the poll and commenting down below.

Behind The Steel Curtain selects DT Devonte Wyatt at No. 20

Thu, 04/21/2022 - 11:00am
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In SB Nation’s community mock draft, the Steelers use their top pick to infuse some youth into the defensive line.

The 2022 NFL draft is now only one week away. With the Pittsburgh Steelers currently holding the 20th overall selection, exactly who will be their choice on the opening night of the draft is up for debate. A lot of different scenarios could play out before the Steelers are on the clock, so it’s difficult to know with any certainty based on the other team selecting before them.

In the annual mock draft held by the SB Nation community, those who manage the various NFL sites made the selections for the teams they cover. By the time the Steelers were on the clock, the following players had already been selected:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars/Big Cat Country: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan
2. Detroit Lions/Pride of Detroit: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
3. Houston Texans/Battle Red Blog: Kyle Hamilton, Safety, Notre Dame
4. New York Jets/Gang Green Nation: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
5. New York Giants/Big Blue View: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
6. Carolina Panthers/Cat Scratch Reader: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
7. New York Giants (via CHI)/Big Blue View: Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
8. Atlanta Falcons/The Falcoholic: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
9. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN)/Field Gulls: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
10. New York Jets (via SEA)/Gang Green Nation: Drake London, WR USC
11. Washington Commanders/Hogs Haven: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
12. Minnesota Vikings/Daily Norseman - Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
13. Houston Texans (via CLE)/Battle Red Blog: Travon Walker, DE, Georgia
14. Baltimore Ravens/Baltimore Beatdown: Charles Cross, OT, Miss. State
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA)/Bleeding Green Nation: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
16. New Orleans Saints (via IND/PHI)/Canal Street Chronicles: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
17. Los Angeles Chargers/Bolts From the Blue: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
18. Philadelphia Eagles (via Saints)/Bleeding Green Nation: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
19. New Orleans Saints (via Eagles)/Canal Street Chronicles: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

With the 20th pick in the 2022 SB Nation mock draft, Behind The Steel Curtain selected: Devonte Wyatt, defensive tackle, Georgia.

The rationale behind this pick had mostly to do with all those selected before the Steelers. With the top two quarterbacks off the board, it’s debatable whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers think enough of Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder to pull the trigger at number 20. Additionally, with a run of three straight wide receivers ahead of this selection, it didn’t appear to be the best option for the Steelers to go that route. After conferring with senior editor Jeff Hartman, we concluded that the wisest option was to go strictly “best player available” and selected Wyatt.

At 6‘3“ and 307 pounds, Wyatt would help to infuse some youth into the Steelers defensive line room. With defensive captain Cameron Heyward turning 33 next month and Tyson Alualu turning 35 and coming off a season where he only appeared in two games due to an ankle injury, the Steelers could use a high-end talent at the position. Add in the uncertainty with Stephon Tuitt after not appearing in 2021, this position group has the potential to be a huge strength or a glaring weakness going into 2022. The addition of Devonte Wyatt would help solidify the group moving forward.

In recent days, there has been some reports from some lesser-known outlets about character issues with Wyatt and that some teams may be removing him from their draft board. Since these incidents were over two years ago, teams had to be well aware of them before the draft process began. Uncertain about how the Steelers feel about things, Wyatt appeared to be the best option available for the Steelers when it was time for us to make the selection. But when it comes to character issues, the Steelers will have certainly done their due diligence in making sure they are making the best selection possible for the draft.

For a more thorough breakdown of Devonte Wyatt as a prospect, check out the following film room from earlier this month by K.T. Smith:

Best players remaining:
  • George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
  • Bernhard Raimann, T, Central Michigan
  • Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
  • Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
  • Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

FILM ROOM: Miles Boykin has a lot to learn, but could become a valuable WR

Thu, 04/21/2022 - 8:45am
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers claimed Miles Boykin off waivers, and he could be a valuable asset to the offense.

The Baltimore Ravens released wide receiver Miles Boykin on Monday. On Tuesday, Boykin found a new home in the AFC North, when he was claimed off of waivers by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It’s a smart signing for Pittsburgh, which has made a lot of smart signings this offseason. While Boykin’s numbers have been pedestrian thus far — he caught 33 passes for 470 yards and seven touchdowns in 40 games over three seasons with the Ravens — they don’t reflect Boykin’s overall value, or his potential.

Boykin played 417 snaps on special teams in Baltimore, where he was a solid contributor. Surely, this made him attractive to the Steelers. Also, at 6’4” 220lbs., his size makes him a good fit for a Pittsburgh offense that will run the football and use plenty of play action. Boykin was billed as a physical player when he came out of Notre Dame in 2019, where he was a teammate of Chase Claypool. He was also raw, and most analysts surmised he would need time to develop. Baltimore has not been great at developing receivers in recent seasons, so it’s possible that deficiency, their run-heavy offense, plus a hamstring injury which cost Boykin his first eight games in 2021 all played a factor in his limited production.

In Pittsburgh, Boykin will provide depth on the outside behind Claypool and Diontae Johnson. Boykin’s presence will not deter the Steelers from addressing the receiver position in the 2022 NFL Draft — they are still expected to take one in the first few rounds— but it does allow them to focus on the slot position, where Anthony Miller is the only receiver on the roster with considerable experience playing inside.

Here’s a look at what Boykin brings to the table at receiver, and at how the Steelers may use him.

The biggest area where Boykin could benefit the offense is in the play-action game. Pittsburgh is expected to significantly increase its play-action frequency in 2022. Having a 6’4” target who can run — Boykin clocked 4.42 at the Combine in the 40-yard dash — will help.

Boykin’s combination of size and speed is especially valuable on post routes, like the one we see below. If the run-action can get the safety to bite, a receiver can gain inside position on the corner. Boykin, at the bottom of the formation, does just that with a subtle, but effective, stab to the boundary with his left foot as he approaches the 30-yard line. This turns the corner, and Boykin subsequently breaks across his face to the post:

On this play, Boykin is lined up to the inside of a 3x1 formation. The play-action draws Dallas’ linebackers up, and Boykin releases behind them. Lamar Jackson is a little high with his throw, but Boykin’s size and length compensate easily. Boykin didn’t play much inside in Baltimore, but when Pittsburgh wants to give Mitchell Trubisky a big target at which to throw in the middle of the field, Boykin provides a nice option:

In this next clip, Jackson escapes the pocket, then throws a ball up that Boykin tracks and corrals. If you look at Boykin at the snap, aligned to the bottom of the screen, you can see the corner (25) release him inside before Boykin disappears from view. When he comes back into the frame, he’s being trailed by the safety (33). This was likely a coverage-check by the Seahawks to the motion from Baltimore’s H-back. It pulled the corner away from Boykin and put the safety on him over the top. That was a good matchup for Baltimore, which Jackson recognized:

While lobbing up 50/50 jump balls may remind Steelers’ fans of last season’s offense, the play design is much different. Baltimore maneuvered to get Boykin on the safety, where he could use his size and athleticism to capitalize. That’s cleverer than asking Claypool to win straight vertical routes against press coverage, which Pittsburgh did last year. The Steelers now have two receivers in Claypool and Boykin they can use in these situations, which should allow them to create good matchups like Baltimore did.

Here’s one more. On this one, Boykin, split wide to the left of the formation at the top of the screen, does a nice job of coming across the field to get into Jackson’s line of sight as he boots out of the pocket. Boykin is not Jackson’s primary read — he’s looking first to the high-low combo from the receivers to the side of the boot — but with neither one open he comes back to Boykin, whose size makes him an easy target for Jackson to locate:

All of the highlights above were off of play-action. While that was a huge part of Baltimore’s passing game, and should be an area where Boykin can help the Steelers, it also speaks to some of the limitations in Boykin’s game. He can struggle to separate from press coverage, and he needs to develop as a route runner on timing and three-step drop concepts.

On this play, Boykin, highlighted to the top right of the formation, catches a slant against two-high zone coverage. It’s a nice catch, and you can see Boykin’s value as a big target on routes like these where there’s a lot of clutter to navigate. Boykin, though, makes this tougher than it needs to be by failing to “fatten” his route. That’s coach-talk for how a receiver, when running slant against a two-high look, should change the angle of his slant to bring it more towards the middle of the field, thus keeping the safety out of the play. Slants versus 1-high looks stay “skinny,” or outside the hash; slants versus 2-high looks stay “fat,” or towards the middle. Had Boykin fattened his route here, he wouldn’t have gotten whacked and he may have had some room to run after the catch:

Boykin is also limited in his ability to make sight adjustments, meaning the ways in which a receiver is expected to alter his route based on coverage structures or rotations by the defense.

Below, we see one such example. Boykin, to the top left of the screen, has a vertical route against a soft cover-4 shell by Tennessee. With the corner aligned ten yards off, and the ball on the +22-yard line, there’s not enough room to fit the vertical over his head. Boykin should expect a shorter, back-shoulder throw as a result. Jackson makes the back-shoulder throw, but Boykin runs blindly into the coverage. The ball whizzes out of bounds around the 5-yard line as a result:

Two plays later, Boykin runs the same route against the same coverage. This time, Jackson initially looks to his right. When no one is open, he comes back to Boykin. The entire left third of the field is vacated by the defense, but rather than get himself open by working away from the corner, Boykin stands passively, attached to the corner’s hip. Jackson scrambles frantically in the pocket and is eventually sacked. You can see his frustration as he slams the ball to the ground at the end of the clip. Some of that frustration was probably directed at Boykin.

So, while Boykin will offer some big play ability and can be a viable option off of play-action when a defense is displaced, he has a lot to learn about route-running and adjustments against structured coverages. Fortunately, Pittsburgh projects as a play-action and pocket-movement passing game in 2022, not as one which will rely as much on timing routes and sight reads.

Also, the Steelers have a better track record of developing receivers than do the Ravens. New receivers coach Frisman Jackson has a reputation as a good teacher. He did a nice job bringing along D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel in Carolina. Hopefully, he can find similar success with Boykin.

In a perfect world, Boykin, with his athleticism and home-run hitting ability, could wind up being a thicker version of Martavis Bryant. Or, he could be Lance Moore, a player who is here and gone without much impact.

More likely, he’ll resemble Darrius Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey amassed just 517 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns from 2014-2018. Still, his field-stretching ability created the occasional big play and his acumen on special teams made him a valuable contributor to some pretty good Steelers’ teams. In our next article on Boykin, Geoffrey Benedict will break down his special teams play, and how that ability could make him a better signing than many suspect.

A History of the Steelers and the NFL Draft, Part 5: Receivers

Thu, 04/21/2022 - 7:15am
Oh man, that’s a cool looking photonegative Terrible Towel. I wonder where to get one of those. | Set Number: X23041 TK1 R18 F31

What wide receivers have the Steelers picked through the years?

And we’re back for part 4 of this tour through the Pittsburgh Steelers draft history. Previous parts can be found here:

Part 1: Overview
Part 2: What colleges do the Steelers prefer?
Part 3: What colleges did Noll, Cowher, and Tomlin prefer?
Part 4: Positions by coach — backfield

In this edition, let’s look at pass receivers — what they used to just simply call “ends” in the official rolls. I’ve grouped all pass catchers for this essay — “ends,” wide receivers, tight ends, and any other older position designation (like “flanker”) that lined up on the outside and caught the ball.

Pass Catchers Elbie Nickel wonders how much easier this position would be if he could wear modern gloves. Also facemasks.

The Steelers have drafted 255 ends, wide receivers and tight ends over the years. Only two first rounders were spent on pass catchers before the Chuck Noll years — forgettable 1940s men Hub Bechtol (#5 overall, 1947) and Dan Edwards (#9, 1948). Bechtol is the highest selection the Steelers ever made on the outside. Neither of these guys ever played a single snap for the Steelers.

Honestly, there’s precious little to say about the ends before Noll was hired. There were a handful of impressive WRs that played in black-and-gold from 1936-69, but a number of them can’t count. For example, Jimmy Orr was drafted by the LA Rams in 1957’s 25th round, didn’t make the team, and then signed with the Steelers the next year before embarking on one of the more underappreciated careers of his era. So he’s out (not drafted here). Orr was ultimately surpassed by Buddy Dial, who was drafted by the NY Giants in the 2nd round in 1959, but somehow didn’t catch on there either, before a Pro Bowl career in Pittsburgh. Again, not a Steeler draftee.

That leaves Elbie Nickel (17th round, 1947) as the top pre-Chuck Noll pass catcher who was actually drafted by the Rooneys. Nickel was a three-time Pro Bowler who still ranks seventh in team history in catches and yards, despite retiring 65 years ago. Challenging Nickel for that title is Roy Jefferson (2nd round, 18th overall, 1965 draft), who deserves some affection for choosing Pittsburgh over the Denver Broncos, where he was also drafted in the AFL’s second round. Jefferson was a two time Pro Bowler in Pittsburgh, leading the NFL in receiving yards in 1968 and being named All Pro in 1969. He and Noll had some fundamental disagreements and Noll traded him to the Colts in 1970 in a win/win trade — Jefferson got a ring in Super Bowl V; the Steelers got the draft choice that became Dwight White.

I’ll give an additional hat tip to flanker Gary Ballman (8th round, 1962), who also spurned Denver for the Steelers, and went to two 1960s Pro Bowls in five years, and to Ray Matthews (7th round, 1951), who went to two Pro Bowls himself in the 50s, playing four different positions — “right end,” “flanker,” “left halfback,” and “wingback.” (Why don’t we use some of these terms anymore? “Wingback” is an awesome position.)

In any case, that’s not a terrible haul. But then again, this is the bulk of the pass catchers drafted over 33 years. So it’s not terrific either. Things would change in the modern era though.

Chuck Noll and WRs Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images All Star Louis Lipps demonstrates “unnecessary jumping” for the Denver Broncos. Good teacher, that guy.

Of those 255 drafted wideouts/tight ends, 79 were chosen by Chuck Noll, including five first round picks (and a remarkable 17 from the first three rounds of the draft).

If Noll had a mixed hand at drafting throwers with high picks, he was a little better with the catchers, as his six highest choices all had respectable (or great) careers. His highest choice spent on a receiver was 8th overall in 1971, when Noll and company chose Grambling WR Frank Lewis. Other first round standouts from these years include NFL Rookie of the Year and later Comeback Player of the Year Louis Lipps (1984), Pro Bowler Eric Green (1990), the best tight end in team history not named Heath Miller, and my choice for Noll’s best WR draft choice of all 1974’s first rounder, Lynn Swann. (Though a case can be made for 1974 fourth rounder John Stallworth too. I’m not looking to take sides. They were both awesome.)

Not every pick was a home run, though. Noll’s worst WR draft choice is probably 1983 second rounder Wayne Capers (who?), though a case can be made for 1984 second round tight end Chris Kolodziejski (who?). Keep in mind that Lipps was chosen between those two picks. Scouting is strange.

Ultimately Noll spent 36 draft picks on WRs in rounds that no longer exist (8 through 17), so perhaps it’s fair to expect little from those players. However, there is one highlight that stings from the middle rounds: 1986 fifth round tight end Brent Jones, who you might remember from his 11 year career with the San Francisco 49ers, which included four Pro Bowls and three Super Bowl rings. Seems like he might have been useful to hang onto.

Bill Cowher and WRs Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images Fun Fact: Only eight WRs have ever been Super Bowl MVP. Three of them are Steelers.

If we discovered in the previous essay that Coach Chin didn’t draft running backs (his highest draft choice spent on a runner being a late 3rd rounder), he certainly didn’t have that hang-up about pass catchers. In his 15 year career, Cowher drafted 26 “ends,” including a whopping SIX first rounders (four WRs, two TEs). These add up to the most frequent first round position group of Cowher’s tenure.

His highest draft choice at wideout is #8 overall, 2000 first rounder Plaxico Burress — tied with Frank Lewis for the 2nd highest WR pick in Steelers history. Burress wasn’t Randy Moss, like some expected, but he was very good; if he’d had stayed in town, he may very well qualify as Cowher’s best WR choice, but unfortunately Plex’s Super Bowl winning catch came as a New York Giant in 2007. That said, two of his other first round picks scored Steelers touchdowns in the big game, 2005 top pick, Heath Miller, and 2006 first rounder Santonio Holmes (who took home the MVP in SB43, after catching a slightly higher degree of difficulty game winner one year after Burress).

And yet, none of them are the best WR draftee of Cowher’s career. That distinction belongs to Hines Ward (3rd round, 1998), who set every career receiving record in town, earned two rings and a Super Bowl MVP, and joined Mel Blount among Steelers with rules named after them. But more importantly, Ward did it when he certainly wasn’t expected to. Not only was Hines a third round possession receiver (hardly tagged as a future star), but after drafting him in 1998, the Steelers spent their next two first round draft choices on wide receivers. (Talk about showing no faith in the young talent...)

One of those #1 picks was Burress, who wasn’t half bad. The other was undoubtedly Cowher’s worst draft choice among pass catchers, 1999’s 13th overall selection, Troy Edwards. Edwards led the team in receiving in his rookie season, then just kind of faded, starting only seven games in three seasons, and leaving Pittsburgh by 2002.

Mike Tomlin and WRs Remember how much fun it was to root for Antonio Brown, before he became a mush-headed lunatic?

And here we are again, with a surprise: the Mike Tomlin-era Steelers have a well-earned reputation for being perhaps the best team in football for finding and developing wide receivers. Well, that’s a good thing, because they have never chosen a WR or TE in the first round since Tomlin took the job in 2007. Not one. They’ve taken 24 pass catchers over the years, but zero at the top.

The highest selection the Steelers have spent on a wideout came in 2020, when they chose Chase Claypool at #49 overall. That makes Claypool one of 12 pass catchers taken in rounds two and three over the last 14 years, with an impressive nine of those 12 going on to respectable careers (10 out of 13 if you stretch the list out to include the only 4th rounder of the era, 2014’s Martavis Bryant). That’s a crazy run.

And yet, the top pass catcher drafted in the Tomlin years was not taken in those top four rounds. The best, as we all know, was a sixth round pick from Central Michigan named Antonio Brown, who spent several years on such an unprecedented pace he was in discussion for NFL MVP more than once, and was beginning to be discussed alongside receivers like Jerry Rice (who personally called AB his favorite active player). Then, um, something changed. Whether Brown’s subsequent self-immolation was caused by Vontaze Burfict’s dirty play in the 2015 postseason or Brown’s own latent psychosis (kept under control by Tomlin and company for the better part of a decade) Tony Toe-Tap eventually hissy-fitted his way out of town in 2019 (and three other squads over the ensuing two years), and has essentially flailed his way out of the league as of this writing.

With all these stars, it might be tempting to assume that there’s never been a dud in these years. But that would be a mistake. Almost as big a mistake as many of us made when we believed that 2008 second round choice Limas Sweed would be an all-time great back in the day. Can’t win ‘em all, I suppose.

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images Confession: I’ll take literally any opportunity to re-post this photo. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

Will this be the year that the Steelers go wide receiver in round 1, for the first time since Cowher was in charge? With the departures of JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud, it seems like it might. (Is there anyone in the draft who’s name just repeats itself twice? The Steelers suddenly appear to have a shortage of those guys...) I like some of the high end guys in this year’s draft class, but if Mike Tomlin’s history is any guide, we should be looking pass catchers in the second and third rounds. And we should probably be expecting big things from them.

Let’s talk about the big uglies in the trenches. See you in the next installment...

Dwayne Haskins tragedy explained further due to 911 calls

Thu, 04/21/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The details of Dwayne Haskins’ tragic death are becoming more clear.

It has been almost two weeks since the tragic death of quarterback Dwayne Haskins, and throughout this time fans of Ohio State, Washington and the Pittsburgh Steelers are all asking the same questions.

What exactly happened which resulted in Haskins being struck by a dump truck before sunrise in south Florida?

Wednesday some of those desired details became clear when 911 calls were released. The calls from Haskins wife, in Pittsburgh, told a 911 dispatcher her husband was walking to get gas on the morning he was struck and killed, audio released by the Broward County Sheriff’s office revealed Wednesday.

Haskins’ wife, Kalabrya, told the dispatcher her husband called her early April 9 and told her he was getting out of his vehicle to get gas and he would call her back when he returned to the car. When she didn’t hear back, she called 911 and requested that dispatch check on him.

After several minutes, and this being when the accident occurred, another phone call was made and it was here the dispatcher notified Haskins’ wife of an accident which occurred, but couldn’t confirm if it was her husband or not.

In the 911 call, the dispatcher told Kalabrya Haskins there was a report of an accident near where she said her husband got out of his car, but again couldn’t confirm if he was involved. The audio released Wednesday also included calls from witnesses who said they saw the dump truck hit a man.

What brings even more details to light is the final crash report, which was released by the Florida Highway Patrol said the following, per ESPN:

Haskins was walking on the westbound side of I-595 when he entered into the travel lanes and into the path of the dump truck, which was traveling in the center lane. The front left of the dump truck struck Haskins.

The report concluded that Haskins was improperly in the roadway, and the driver of the dump truck wasn’t found to have taken any actions that contributed to the accident, based on the judgment of the investigation officer. Haskins was also struck by a second car traveling beside the dump truck that took evasive maneuvers to avoid him, but partially hit him on its right side undercarriage, according to the report.

A third vehicle may have also been involved, the report said, based on one witness’ account. Haskins was pronounced dead at the scene by Captain Rod Watkins of the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department at 6:48 a.m. He was 24.

In no way do these details make the loss of Haskins any easier for fans and family, but it does provide some clarity for what actually happened on that Saturday morning in April.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Thu, 04/21/2022 - 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 three 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.

The War Room: The countdown is on, 8 days, 7 rounds

The Steelers will be ready to welcome new players in the fold and the countdown is on. Check out the BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matt Peverell in The Steelers War Room. Join Matty P. for his solo show as he looks at possible future Steelers and examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers dollars and “sense” situation when it comes to personnel.

Rundown of the show:

  • The countdown the the Steelers pick at No. 20 in the 2022 NFL Draft
  • Much More

Check out the BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matty in The Steelers War Room.

The Steelers Curtain Call: Will the Steelers go back to the Buckeye well in the 2022 Draft?

The Steelers have a history of selecting players from The Ohio State University, but they haven’t done so in seven years since selecting CB Doran Grant in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Is this the year that the Steelers go back to that Columbus well? This will be discussed on The Curtain Call, the show where Geoffrey Benedict and Shannon White break down a black and gold off-season full of change in the manner in which they examine the enemy in the regular season. Scenarios, questions and more will be pondered on the latest episode of the BTSC family of podcasts. This time around, Geoff and Shannon welcome Chris Pugh, the host of BTSC’s The Steelers Power Half Hour to talk about the the possibility of certain Ohio State Buckeyes wearing black and gold in 2022.

  • News and Notes
  • Will the Steelers go back to the Buckeye well in 2022?
  • Special Guest: Chris Pugh, the host of BTSC’s The Steelers Power Half Hour

Geoffrey and Shannon walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

The Steelers Stat Geek: Looking for Kevin Colbert’s best draft

Since 2000, Kevin Colbert‘s draft record has been fairly remarkable. What is the outgoing GM’s best draft and does he have one more gem left in him? Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Kevin Colbert’s best draft in the Burgh
  • and more geeky numbers!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

When social media plays a ludicrous role in NFL contract negotiations

Wed, 04/20/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

NFL players around the league are using their platforms to send a message, but is it even worth discussing?

There are a lot of reasons to have a natural hatred for social media. The platform doesn’t matter. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok or any other medium which I don’t even know exists. They all can be useful and fun, but also infuriating and a time suck.

What has bothered me for a long time, especially recently, is how social media plays a role in sports. I love sports. Always have and always will. While social media gets you closer to the players than ever before, recent trends are mind-numbingly awful.

I’m talking about the trend of people noticing players removing teams/cities from their bios, who they follow/unfollow and even posts they might “like”. Here is an example:

A.J. Brown removed “TENNESSEE” from his bio pic.twitter.com/Kz22mEsrzn

— PFF (@PFF) April 19, 2022

Oh my goodness! AJ Brown took Tennessee out of his Twitter bio! Alert the presses!

Sadly, this does make headlines, and sadly players are using their platforms in ways to somehow help their negotiations with their current employer. With NFL players getting paid in new ways, guaranteed money, and more than ever, players want their piece of the pie. And they don’t care how they have to do it.

Skip workouts? Sure.

Unfollow their current team? Why not.

Go after fans on social media? Seems to be par for the course.

Before someone fires off a comment on how this is just the way things are in 2022 contract negotiations, I have to ask you what T.J. Watt did last season as he was positioning himself for a new contract before playing out the 5th year option on his rookie contract? Sure, he decided to not participate in team drills/preseason games, but did he unfollow the Steelers on Twitter?!

Watt didn’t do any of that. His stance was made, he stuck with it, he showed up every day and he eventually got paid handsomely. To date, the same is happening with Minkah Fitzpatrick. While it isn’t known if Fitzpatrick is attending Phase 1 of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), have you noticed anything different with Fitzpatrick, especially on social media?

Absolutely not. The Steelers have made it known they want to, an plan on, extending Fitzpatrick’s contract, but they have other business to tend to first. Once the 2022 NFL Draft is concluded, and any remaining free agents are obtained, the Steelers will hit the negotiating table with Fitzpatrick and his representatives.

What’s sad is it truly does seem like the way Watt and Fitzpatrick handle their business is anything but the norm in today’s NFL. More players are using whatever leverage they can, including their own personal platforms, to get their next contract.

I don’t blame the players. They deserve to get paid, but what you quickly realize with some of these tactics/antics is they would be meaningless unless someone noticed. Maybe this is where this tale turns south, and it has nothing to do with the players. Maybe it’s the fact fans, and media, are so glued to these accounts they notice these small details.

Diontae Johnson caused a stir on social media Monday when it was reported he didn’t attend the first voluntary practice for the Steelers. I was then told he also took the Steelers out of his Twitter bio and unfollowed the team. This was news to me. I honestly couldn’t tell the first thing of Johnson’s profile. Do I follow him? Yes, it’s part of the job. Do I go through who he follows to see if he is still following the Pittsburgh Steelers? No, that’s not part of the job.

This is the world we live in, and I understand this fully. But this new trend is something which certainly is odd, to say the least. Will it continue? As long as teams notice and give these players what they want, it will. In the meantime, the hope is the Steelers continue to do their business the way they always have. Behind closed doors and off social media.

Last minute moves the Steelers could still make in free agency

Wed, 04/20/2022 - 12:00pm

With the NFL Draft on the horizon, the Pittsburgh Steelers still have holes on their roster to fill, and they could look to Free Agency for the solution.

The 2022 NFL Draft is almost upon us, and while the Steelers have already addressed several needs in Free Agency leading up to selection weekend, there are a few moves the team could, and probably should, still make.

We have seen a willingness by the team to start rookie draft picks earlier in recent years. We also saw in 2021 what an over-reliance on unproven players can do to a solid team which is just a few pieces away from true contention.

According to Spotrac, the Steelers still have over $13 Million in available cap space. So, before team brass sits down in the war room to select the team’s future, here’s a few moves they can make right now to improve a roster which faces an uphill climb to contention in a loaded AFC.

Sign a starting Strong Safety

This is the big one. Kevin Colbert is on record saying he believes the team has most of their starters in place, with the lone glaring exception being Minkah Fitzpatrick’s running mate in the secondary. A superstar in Tyrann Mathieu (KC) highlights the group of available targets, and his price point keeps dropping by the day. Landon Collins (WAS) could still provide valuable starter snaps; however, I believe he would be a downgrade from the Steelers incumbent starter, Terrell Edmunds, who is still available and probably the mostly likely solution to the problem.

Outside of the three players listed above, there aren’t really any other starting caliber strong safeties available for Pittsburgh to pursue. I believe one of these three will be on the roster before they make their first pick on Thursday, April 28.

Bring in a veteran Wide Receiver

Pittsburgh just addressed their lack of depth at wide receiver (WR) when they were awarded former Baltimore Raven Myles Boykin off waivers Tuesday. He has been a disappointment thus far, but who better to attempt a career resurrection at WR than the Steelers?

That being said, the team could still use a veteran presence in the room, and there are still plenty of available options in Free Agency. Speed threats such as Will Fuller (MIA), T.Y. Hilton (IND), or Marquise Goodwin (CHI) could catch the Steelers’ eye, or they could go after a reliable slot weapon like Jarvis Landry (CLE), Adam Humphries (WAS), or Albert Wilson (MIA).

Although I don’t necessarily expect a move to be made at this position, there are some guys with real value still available, and it would be wise for the team to add some veteran leadership to a very, very young room featuring Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.

Add a run-stopping piece along the Defensive Line

Arguably the Steelers’ biggest area of weakness in 2021 was its inability to even slow down opponent’s rushing attacks. Pittsburgh gave up an insane 143.8 yards per game on the ground. Stephon Tuitt’s status is still up in the air, and although the team brought back Montravius Adams, this unit still has a glaring hole to fill. Another big body along the defensive line (DL) could go a long way to improving the defensive unit as a whole.

Some available veteran talents include Eddie Goldman (CHI), Brandon Williams (BAL), and Nick Williams (DET) who would all be instant upgrades along the front seven, especially when it comes to shutting down ball carriers. The Steelers cannot afford to let this position go unaddressed much longer, and they have the financial means to make a solid move before the draft.

Add some depth at Cornerback

With the top cornerbacks (CB) on the market already signed, it’s slim pickings for a team who I believe still needs help at corner. The Steelers’ best bet is to sign another veteran with inside-outside versatility to come in and compete with Cam Sutton for slot reps. There are a host of mid-tier names available who could help this team, at the very least, with depth.

Chris Harris (LAC), Bryce Callahan (DEN), Robert Alford (ARI), and Jason Verrett (SF) are all viable options that could be secured at a reasonable price for the value they would provide. Could there even be a potential reunion with Joe Haden on the horizon? I have strong doubts. But one thing I don’t doubt is how the Steelers need help in this area, and should make a move before the draft to free themselves up to address other needs.

There are some other moves the Pittsburgh Steelers could consider prior to the Draft, but these are the most pressing needs, in my opinion. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, as well as any other moves you would like to see the team make before April 28th.

Steelers announce they are returning to St. Vincent College for training camp

Wed, 04/20/2022 - 10:37am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced them away for two seasons, the Steelers will be back in Latrobe for 2022 traing camp.

The last two NFL offseason‘s have been unusual for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After holding training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, since 1966, the Steelers were forced to have training camp at Heinz Field for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. But on Wednesday, the Steelers announced they will return to St. Vincent College for training camp for 2022.

#SteelersCamp is headed back to @MySaintVincent!

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 20, 2022

In being away for two seasons for training camp, the Steelers only have 22 players currently on the roster who have been a training camp in Latrobe. Out of 74 players currently on the roster, that leaves the Steelers with less than 30% of their players who have attended training camp at St. Vincent College. If the Steelers do not sign any other players who have been at Latrobe, such as Terrell Edmunds, this number means that more than three-quarters of the players once the Steelers fill out the complete 90-man offseason roster will have never stayed at St. Vincent for Steelers training camp.

Steelers president Art Rooney II made the following comments about returning to St. Vincent College for 2022 according to Steelers.com:

“We are very excited to return to Saint Vincent College for our Training Camp later this summer,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II. “We always appreciate the support from Saint Vincent as well as the Latrobe community. We look forward to having fans back on campus as we will be preparing for the 2022 season. We thank Father Paul Taylor and the tremendous staff on campus for their continued support for our return to our summer home.”

Although the announcement came that the Steelers are returning, the exact dates for training camp are not known at this time. The likely start date will be at the end of July and is now likely just under 100 days away.

Art Rooney II also sat down with Mike Prisuta to share about returning to St. Vincent College for 2022:

#Steelers President Art Rooney II talks about the excitement of having #SteelersCamp back at @MySaintVincent this summer. pic.twitter.com/OGJWH6YrCZ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 20, 2022

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

The time for the Steelers to get maximum value in a Diontae Johnson trade is now

Wed, 04/20/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The Steelers should be listening to any trade inquiries for Diontae Johnson, because his value will likely never be higher.

The Pittsburgh Steelers should seriously consider trading their best, and only Pro Bowl, wide receiver Diontae Johnson this offseason.

I am sure to get some push back for even suggesting such a thing, but I feel very strongly it would be the best option for both parties moving forward.

I will try to explain my reasoning behind this opinion, and let our knowledgeable community formulate their own.

Diontae Johnson is a good football player. He has shown improvement each year in the league, culminating with his first Pro Bowl season in 2021.

Like every player, Johnson has strengths and weaknesses. To his credit, he has worked tirelessly to improve upon his strong points, and his shortcomings, at least the ones within his control.

Johnson's quickness and short area burst allow him to get instant separation. It makes him extremely hard and dangerous for any defender to jam at the line of scrimmage. He is as quick as a hiccup in a short area.

After Johnson's sophomore campaign saw him lead the NFL in dropped passes, his hard work and dedication in the offseason resulted in marked improvement in his catch percentage. At least until a late season relapse marred an otherwise impressive bounce back performance.

One area of concern no amount of offseason dedication can improve is Johnson's diminutive physique. The young man is extremely fit, actually quite sinewy and slender. His frame impacts his performance on multiple levels.

Johnson's elite short area quickness and ability to gain almost instantaneous separation would seem to suggest strong slot receiver potential, but he lacks the toughness and fearlessness for the position.

Johnson struggles with contested catches. He doesn't have the size and power to be an effective run after the catch player, because he isn't built to break tackles, and he shies away from contact to avoid injuries.

Even with those limitations, Johnson has become a proven performer by focusing on his aforementioned attributes.

Now back to the question. Why do I feel it would behoove the Steelers to trade their best wide receiver, especially when they are already short-handed at the position?

First, I consider the Steelers to be smack dab in the middle of a rebuild. The Steelers, as presently constructed, are not a championship caliber roster. If everything goes perfectly this season, and they catch plenty of fortuitous bounces, they could sneak into the playoffs again. But really, how often does everything fall perfectly into place? I think we all know the answer to that.

Based on that knowledge alone, there is no rational way to defend the Steelers spending WR1 type money on a WR2 type player. The players who keep being mentioned every time Johnson's future salary comes up are all elite WR1 type performers: Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, etc.

Johnson just isn't on their level, in my opinion.

Here's the kicker in this whole discussion. Johnson's success in 2021 was the direct result of an anemic offense. He was the biggest beneficiary of the Steelers’ inability to develop and maintain any semblance of a running game. A combination of an ineffective and inexperienced offensive line, and an immobile future Hall of Fame quarterback, resulted in the Steelers having no more than two seconds to get the pass off, often in third and long yardage situations.

Any receiver who could get quick separation off the line of scrimmage would have seen plenty of targets as a result, and Johnson definitely benefitted from being the sole Steelers receiver who met that criteria. He ended up leading the league in total targets.

Ben Roethlisberger is now retired, and hopefully he took last season's atrocious offense with him. In his stead is the far younger, and more mobile, Mitch Trubisky, if he wins the starting quarterback position in training camp. Regardless of who wins the starting spot, the Steelers offense will look strikingly different in 2022.

More snaps from center, rollouts, and misdirection plays. Hopefully the increase in creativity, coupled with the influx of talent across the offensive line, should lessen the need for insanely quick throws from the quarterback, and get all of the Steelers skill position talent more involved in the offense.

The skill position player who potentially could be affected the most by these offensive changes is undoubtedly Diontae Johnson. His yards per reception average should improve substantially, but his total targets are likely to decrease drastically. This is a concerning development, seeing how his Pro Bowl season in 2021 was driven by an abnormal amount of opportunities.

Johnson is going into a contract season, and he undoubtedly wants to have another Pro Bowl caliber season. It's time to get paid after all.

Problem is for the Steelers to achieve the type of offensive improvement they are striving for, Johnson will likely have to sacrifice personal accomplishments for team success.

That can prove to be a difficult ask for any player in a contract season. Based on Johnson's past struggles with focus and concentration on multiple occasions thus far in his young career, I see the potential for problems on the 2022 horizon.

You buy low, and you sell high. I fear Johnson's value may never be higher than right now.

Steelers Vertex: Did Dan Moore Jr. show improvement in his matchups against the Browns?

Wed, 04/20/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After facing Miles Garret in the middle of the 2021 NFL season, how did he fare in their second meeting in January?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for improvement along the offensive line in 2022. After looking at Dan Moore Jr. last week, particularly his first matchup with Miles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns, now it’s time to look at their second go-round from Week 17. 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:

For yet another week, the statistics will be hard to come be as is typical with an offensive lineman. But since we are comparing one game to another, looking at the statistics of Myles Garrett in these two games could be quite telling.

The first time Dan Moore Jr. squared off against Myles Garrett in Week 8, Garrett had four combined tackles, two of which were for loss, and two quarterback hits, one of which was a sack, on 55 snaps. When the two players faced off again in Week 17, Myles Garrett only had one combined tackle and two quarterback hits with no sacks in 65 snaps.

As outlined in the last article, Dan Moore Jr. saw his lowest score of the season according to Pro Football Focus in Week 8 at 28.7 overall. Moore’s individual scores from the first matchup was a 0.0 pass blocking grade and 56.5 run blocking score. In Week 17, Moore had an improved grade of 45.7 overall, but was still his second lowest of the season. More obviously had an improved pass blocking grade of 44.3, but he saw a decreased run blocking score of 48.3. It should also be noted that in neither game saw Moore called for a penalty. Additionally, keep in mind that Dan Moore Junior suffered an ankle injury early in the game which he still played through but cost him the Steelers Week 18 matchup in Baltimore. To also be fair, Myles Garret was limited in practice in the week heading up to the second matchup with a groin injury, but did not have an official injury status going into the game.

Now seeing how the numbers played out, what will really be intriguing is to see if there was added improvement when it comes to film.

The Film Line:

Week 17 was an incredibly meaningful game for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger had acknowledged that he was going to be done at the end of the 2022 season, and week 17 was going to be his final home game, a game against the Cleveland Browns whom he had terrorized his entire career. It was also a chance for the Steelers to sweep the Browns who had beaten them in the playoffs in 2021.

I tend to avoid drawing too many conclusions from games like that, but the game is also the rematch of Dan Moore Jr. and Myles Garrett, a matchup that led PFF to give Dan Moore Jr. a 0 pass blocking grade in week 8. So let’s look and see how he did in week 17.

Steelers vs. Browns, 1st quarter, 3:38

Dan Moore Jr. is the left tackle, just inside Pat Freiermuth to the top of the screen.

The story of the Week 17 win over the Browns was the run game, and specifically running inside. As you can see here, the Steelers frequently left a tight end to deal with Myles Garrett, allowing Dan Moore Jr. to get to the second level to take out linebackers. If it weren’t for a nice run blitz from the right side, this play picks up the first down and likely more.

Steelers vs. Browns, 4th quarter, 11:30

Dan Moore Jr. is the left tackle, bottom of the screen.

By the end of the game, they were confident enough to run right by Myles Garrett multiple times, this time to convert on third down in a one-score game. A stop here keeps the Steelers out of field goal range, but following this conversion the Steelers would extend their lead to 9 points.

Look at Dan Moore Jr.’s feet, he steps out to meet Garrett, and doesn’t get pushed back at all. A nice, clean run lane for Najee Harris will always lead to good things for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Dan Moore Jr. was better in the run game than he was in Week 8, but that wasn’t the problem in Week 8 at all. So how did Dan Moore Jr. do against Myles Garrett in pass protection?

Steelers vs. Browns, 2nd quarter, 13:10

Dan Moore Jr. (#65) is the left tackle, to the bottom of the screen.

If you compare this rep to the ones in our previous vertex focusing on Week 8, you can see the footwork improvement that shows up here. The steps are quicker and shorter, and Garrett doesn’t have the same opportunity to attack Moore Jr. that he did in Week 8. You can also see the help coming from guard John Leglue. The Steelers seemed more concerned about this matchup from the beginning of the game.

Steelers vs. Browns, 2nd quarter, 8:21

Dan Moore Jr. (#65) is the left tackle, to the bottom of the screen.

Again you can see the help coming from John Leglue, but frankly, Dan Moore Jr. rarely needed help with Garrett in this game. Garrett gets a good start on this rep, but Dan Moore Jr. does a great job of using his length and strength to push Garrett out wider, making his path to the quarterback longer. He then re-acquires contact to drive him deeper as well, and Ben Roethlisberger remains upright.

Steelers vs. Browns, 2nd quarter, 5:35

Dan Moore Jr. (#65) is the left tackle, to the bottom of the screen.

I love this play. Dan Moore Jr. is able to keep contact with Garrett, and keeps pushing him wider, then deeper, and then past Roethlisberger. He doesn’t pull Garrett, he pushes him, keeping away any holding call, and it buys time and space for his quarterback to find a receiver for a Steelers first down.

Garrett did get two hits on Ben Roethlisberger though, so we better check that out.

Steelers vs. Browns, 2nd quarter, 0:17

Dan Moore Jr. (#65) is the left tackle, to the bottom of the screen.

Myles Garrett shows off his power here, driving this arc with strength more than speed or bend, he just can’t bully Dan Moore Jr. without the glaring flaws in Moore Jr.’s technique that we saw in Week 8. But congratulations to Garrett, his right hand did hit Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder, and that’s a QB hit.

Steelers vs. Browns, 2nd quarter, 7:03

Dan Moore Jr. (#65) is the left tackle, to the bottom of the screen.

With Moore Jr. ready for his speed rush and controlling his rush through the arc, Myles Garrett unleashes his spin move to try and get pressure. Although it isn’t great footwork, Dan Moore Jr. meets him and gives him a nice hug. It was probably frustrating losing to a guy that PFF gave a 0.0 pass blocking grade to in Week 8, and it’s nice to see Dan Moore Jr. offering some emotional support.

The Point:

Dan Moore Jr. still has room to grow and needs to realize that growth. It is also worth noting that Myles Garrett was on the injury report each day prior to this matchup, so he may not have been playing at the same level as he was in week 8. But no matter how good Garrett was playing, the improvement in Dan Moore Jr.’s footwork is easy to see.

That much growth in 9 weeks is impressive and should give Steeler fans hope and a little excitement for what Dan Moore Jr.’s future could be. But in the same way we didn’t want to put too much into his struggles in Week 8, try not to put too much into his successes in Week 17 either. It’s awesome to see the arrow pointed up on a player that could be a key fixture on this roster for years to come, but he still has a long ways to go. Having a really good game against one of the best defenders in the NFL and a highly paid division rival is a fantastic way to advance on that journey.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after claiming Miles Boykin off waivers

Wed, 04/20/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After their latest move, how much space do the Steelers have under the 2022 salary cap?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made numerous moves to start off the 2022 NFL league year. While reports come in of these deals well before they are official, even after pen is put to paper it can sometimes take some time to know the exact financials within the contract. Relying heavily on reliable salary cap websites such as overthecap.com or spotrac.com, when they are able to report a player’s contract numbers over the specific years I then update the salary cap situation with a more precise number.

By claiming wide receiver Miles Boykin off of waivers after he was released by the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the final year of his contract. Due $2.54 million as a base salary for 2022, Boykin signing bonus in Baltimore does not affect the Steelers at all. One positive about this pick up for the Steelers is that there would be no dead money involved if Boykin does not make the Steelers 53-man roster.

As I have been avoiding doing a salary cap update, I simply did not want to talk about the numbers involved with the unfortunate death of Dwayne Haskins. What is interesting is the exact dollar amount of Haskins’ salary he was to collect in 2022 is the same as what the Steelers will be paying Boykin for the season. For this reason, these two contracts will simply cancel each other out and will leave the Steelers in the exact same place against the salary cap they were in my last update.

Just to clarify, players who recently signed their tenders with the Steelers such as Robert Spillane, J.C. Hassenauer, and Marcus Allen, were already calculated in the salary cap when they were offered rather than wait until they officially signed.

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2022. Players who were released, were given a tender, or had their exact salary reported are indicated below and the precise numbers are known.

(NOTE: Unless indicated, reported salaries displaced a $825k salary.)

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $28.8 million

Dwayne Haskins: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$1.715 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $1.5175 million; After displacement: -$0.6925 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $1.535 million; After displacement: -$0.71 million
Mitch Trubisky: Reported $3.66 million; After displacement+: -$2.765 million
Mason Cole: Reported $2.556666 million; After displacement+: -$1.661666 million
Chuks Okorafor: Reported $4.333333 million; After displacement: -$3.508333 million
Robert Spillane: Tendered $2.433 million salary; After displacement: -$1.608 million
Marcus Allen: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement: -$1.715 million
James Daniels: Reported $4.166666 million; After displacement: -$3.341666 million
Levi Wallace: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement*: -$1.672317 million
Montravius Adams: Reported $1.7675 million; After displacement+: -$0.8725 million
Zach Banner: Saved $5 million salary; After displacement: +$4.175 million
Myles Jack: Reported $4.75 million; After displacement*: -$3.90139 million
Joe Schobert: Saved $7.834 million salary; After displacement+: +$6.939 million
Ahkello Witherspoon: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement+: -$1.6225 million
Gunner Olszewski: Reported $1.5825 million; After displacement+: -$0.6875 million
Genard Avery: Reported $1.1875 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
Karl Joseph: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Miles Boykin: Reported $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$0

Estimated salary cap space: Approximately $13.3 million

*The salaries displaced by these two contracts were $845,183 (Tre Norwood) and $848,610 (Pressley Harvin)

+A $895k contract was displaced

++Displaced by each other, giving no change to the cap

So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites (at the original time of publishing, before any potential updates)?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $11,654,710 under the salary cap. OTC has all of the above reported contracts on the books except they still have Haskins contract. Otherwise our numbers are exactly the same.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $13,052,819 under the cap. Spotrac has the above contracts, but also has Boykin’s prorated bonus counting for the Steelers at the time of this writing instead of it sticking with the Ravens. This may simply be from switching the name to a different team and may even be corrected by the time this publishes. Spotrac does not have the offseason workouts counting against the salary cap at this time either. Additionally, Spotrac counts the potential dead money hits of players outside the top 51 salaries in their totals.

While the Steelers are going to need cap space for a number of things this offseason, it doesn’t have to be at this time. Following the NFL draft, the Steelers will begin signing their draft picks and are estimated to need $2.6 million in cap space based on the exact draft positions. But remember, the Steelers won’t need this amount until at least May. Also, the Steelers will need as much as an additional $10.8 million come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year as outlined in the following article:

Does something not make sense? Curious about any of the specifics? Leave your questions in the comments below and I will check in and do my best to answer them.

One way to get Diontae Johnson to attend offseason workouts: Make them mandatory

Wed, 04/20/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Stop getting mad at professional athletes for not attending work events that are voluntary.

In the biggest controversy to hit Steeler Nation since the time Mason “The Devil” Rudolph didn’t go workout with Mitch Trubisky in Florida, Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson may or may not be attending the team’s first week of voluntary offseason workouts that started on Monday, and this may or may not be due to an ongoing contract dispute.

Below is a Tweet from Andrew “The Pot Stirrer” Fillipponi, a co-host on 93.7 The Fan’s The PM Team radio show, on Monday which got the outrage ball rolling:

“Source: Diontae Johnson did not attend the start of the Steelers voluntary offseason program today. The man wants paid. Like his perceived WR peers. McLaurin, Metcalf, Deebo Samuel.”

Johnson then took to Twitter, himself, to dispute these rumors in the cryptic way that seems to be fairly popular with professional athletes these days:

“Don’t believe everything you see lol”

Sady, for Johnson, the horse was already out of the barn, and he quickly went from Diontae “The Dropper” Johnson to Diontae “The Diva” Johnson, as fans went from going about their business to total outrage in mere seconds.

Immediately, comments such as “holding the Steelers hostage” and “volunteers not hostages” began to dominate message boards, comment sections and social media platforms related to Steelers news.

“When will Steelers receivers ever able normal?” someone rhetorically asked. “I wonder what they can get in a trade for him?” someone else also asked not so rhetorically.

“He’s just not reliable enough,” said many when it came to Johnson’s bad habit of dropping the ball—something that he spent the majority of the 2021 campaign not doing until the very end when the dropsies again reared their ugly head just long enough for people to remember.

It’s no secret that Johnson, who is in the final year of his rookie deal and is fresh off his first 100-plus catch and Pro Bowl season, wants a new contract for a lot more money. For all we know, Johnson may actually decide to not fully participate in these voluntary offseason workouts because he wants to prove a point to his bosses and/or avoid a potential injury that could affect his ability to get paid when and if he hits the free-agent market.

It's certainly happened before.

Remember last year when news broke that T.J. Watt wasn’t fully participating in mandatory training camp sessions for reasons that had to do with an ongoing contract negotiation that didn’t get resolved until days before the start of the regular season? I don’t remember anyone calling Watt a diva or saying he was selfish. In fact, fans were on Twitter constantly nagging the Steelers about paying Watt, as were his teammates, who made their desire to see their guy get paid very public.

What’s the difference? Is this like that time Prince, the late, great musician, said, “I don’t believe in time, I only believe in truth”? If a random guy said that to you on the bus, you’d think he was crazy and do everything in your power to get away from him. But Prince says it, and you’re like, “That’s awesome, Prince. I’m going to say this to girls at parties!”

I guess the difference in the case of Johnson and his contract concerns is that he’s a receiver—the crazy, random guy on the bus to Steelers fans (in their defense, Antonio Brown has done little to help that perception in recent years).

Even if it turns out to be true and Johnson doesn’t participate in offseason workouts, is this something worth caring about? I say it’s not because these offseason workouts are (say it with me) voluntary.

I feel like I have to write one of these articles every offseason because this situation seems to pop up with the Steelers or some other team each spring.

There’s one way to make these offseason workouts mandatory, and that’s to stop making them voluntary.

We shouldn’t have to have these debates every offseason. Head coaches shouldn’t be forced to say things like, “I can only worry about the people who are here.” Teammates shouldn’t be forced to act all passive-aggressive in the media: “I love D.J. He’s great in the locker room and in the community. He donated one of his kidneys to my gram last year. I wish he was here so we could build some chemistry, but he’s not. He’s gotta do what’s best for him and his family, and I respect that, even though, as I’ve already said, I really, really wish he was here.”

Fans are always saying things like, “If I did that at my job....” OK, imagine if your boss held a team-building event on your day off and hinted that you SHOULD attend even if you weren’t required to. Say you didn't go to this event and your boss harassed you for it, even in a passive-aggressive way, how soon before you contacted human resources and/or a lawyer?

If NFL owners/general managers/head coaches really think these offseason workouts are that important, they should fight to make them mandatory when the next CBA is being negotiated. Make anything less a deal-breaker.

Until then, we should all shut up about it.

Although I should thank Diontae Johnson for giving me, Anthony “Clickbait” Defeo, something to write about that’s not draft-related.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Wed, 04/20/2022 - 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 three 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 broadcasted episode.

The Steeler Draft Fix: The first-rate of the NFL Draft’s secondary

With all of the great prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft, there is an intriguing stable of defensive backs available for teams in 2022. Join BTSC’s Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar for this and how they familiarize Steeler Nation with who to know when it comes to the future rookie class of the Men of Steel and the rest of the National Football League.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Preview of the top defensive backs in the 2022 NFL Draft
  • and MUCH MORE!

The Scho Bro Show: A simulation of draft stimulation

Mocks are everywhere. Mocks are more fun when you simulate them yourself against the other 31 teams. Join Dave and Rich Schofield as they perform a mock simulation live. This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show with BTSC Editor Dave Schofield and his older brother Rich.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the black-and-gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Second Annual Scho Bro Show Mock Draft Simulation

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Let’s Ride Wednesday: Steelers rumor mill with NFL Draft Insider Tony Pauline

There’s so much getting ground out of the Steelers’ Rumor Mill when it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft. So, why not get the opinion of an NFL Draft Insider? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts, “Let’s Ride” with BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman. Special Guest Tony Pauline will make sense of the Steelers’ possibilities at No. 20. Join Jeff for this and more on the Wednesday episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • NFL Draft Insider Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network
  • The Mail Bag
  • 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

Steelers reportedly claim WR Miles Boykin off waivers

Tue, 04/19/2022 - 3:41pm
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have added to their wide receiver room via the waiver wire by signing Miles Boykin.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver room is pretty bare at the moment. When you consider the fact the team lost JuJu Smith-Schuster to the Kansas City Chiefs, James Washington to the Dallas Cowboys and Ray-Ray McCloud to the San Francisco 49ers, it left them with very little in terms of experience.

In fact, it left the organization just Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool on their depth chart.

According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the Steelers have made an addition to the wide receiver room via the waiver wire. Per Garafolo, the Steelers are adding Miles Boykin after the Baltimore Ravens released him recently.

#Steelers claimed WR Miles Boykin off waivers from the #Ravens, sources say.

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 19, 2022

In case you didn’t know what Boykin has done since being drafted out of Notre Dame, here is a rundown of his experience in the NFL thus far.

A 3rd round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Ravens, Boykin appeared in 40 games in three seasons. Getting 24 starts, all in his first two years, Boykin had 33 receptions for 470 yards and seven touchdowns. Missing the entire 2021 season due to a hamstring injury, Boykin was released by the Ravens on Monday.

The signing of Boykin doesn’t just add to the team’s depth, but also matches Boykin up with his college teammate Chase Claypool. The two could be quite the formidable duo when it comes to size and physicality at the wide receiver position. Boykin stands at 6’4” and 220lbs., and when paired with Claypool could be a dominant pairing on the outside. The big question is if the Steelers can get Boykin to produce the way many expected of him coming out of Notre Dame.

The Steelers have a decent track record with resurrecting receivers, will Boykin be the next? 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 upcoming 2022 NFL Draft and the rest of free agency.

Marcus Allen signs his restricted free agent tender with Steelers

Tue, 04/19/2022 - 3:31pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Allen is the final restricted free agent to sign their tender for the Steelers in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced another roster signing as the team is gathering at the UPMC Sports Complex for Phase 1 of offseason workouts. Linebacker Marcus Allen signed his one-year restricted free agent tender on Tuesday.

LB Marcus Allen has signed a one-year restricted free agent tender. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 19, 2022

A fifth-round draft pick in 2018, Marcus Allen recently made the change from safety to linebacker. In his career, he has 45 tackles, two of which were for loss, and two quarterback hits in four seasons. In 2020 Allen played 206 snaps on defense appearing in 14 games with one start but saw only 62 defensive snaps in 2021 in one game started. Allen did play 301 special team snaps for the Steelers last season.

Reported as an original-round tender, Allen is set to make $2.54 million for the 2022 season. If Allen was given only a right-of-first-refusal tender, his salary would be $2.43 million. Either way, Alan will still be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

Marcus Allen rejoins a crowded linebacker room which includes Devon Bush, Myles Jack, Robert Spillane, Ulysees Gilbert III, Buddy Johnson, and Tegray Scales.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

What happened to the Steelers’ 2018 draft class?

Tue, 04/19/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Leading up to the 2022 NFL draft in April, let’s look at how some of the Steelers’ drafts played out.

The 2022 NFL Draft is a mere two weeks away. Last offseason, we dove into a Steelers NFL draft class starting with the 2004 NFL Draft and outlined a successive draft each week. In doing so, each player selected by the Steelers was highlighted as to how their NFL career, or lack thereof, took shape. Each year was outlined with the last three draft classes all combined into one since a large number of the players were still with the team.

Since it worked last season, and since a lot of the research has already been done, let’s look back at they players from these drafts yet again, this time looking at two different years, on separate days, each week leading up to the last week of April. For players no longer in the league, a lot of the information will be the same while others will be updated where needed.

Part 15 of 16 will highlight the Steelers 2018 NFL draft who just finished the window for their rookie contracts.

So let’s take a look at the seven players drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2018 NFL draft:

Terrell Edmunds Safety, Virginia Tech

Round 1
Pick 28

Starting 60 games in his first four seasons, Terrell Edmunds did not get his fifth-year option picked up by the Steelers as they opted for free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was acquired via trade in 2019, instead. With 340 tackles, five interceptions, and 21 passes defensed, Terrell Edmunds has been a player who is constantly available as he has only missed one game, Week 17 in the 2020 season, in his entire career. Currently an unrestricted free agent, Edmunds has not signed with any other team at this time and still remains a possibility to return to the Steelers.

James Washington Wide receiver, Oklahoma St

Round 2
Pick 60

In four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, James Washington never truly saw a breakout season in the Black and Gold. Although he was the team’s leading receiver in 2019 when Ben Roethlisberger missed the majority of the season, Washington only had 735 yards and three touchdowns to lead the way. Even with the injury to JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2021 possibly giving him a more opportunity for targets, Washington only saw 24 receptions for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Reportedly asking for a trade prior to 2021, Washington did not re-sign with the Steelers and instead took a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys for 2022.

Mason Rudolph Quarterback, Oklahoma St

Round 3
Pick 76

After not getting a helmet the entire 2018 season, Mason Rudolph was thrust in the action in Week 2 of 2019 in his first season as a backup. With Ben Roethlisberger going down with elbow surgery, Rudolph started eight games with a 5–3 record. After getting knocked out with a concussion in Week 5 against the Baltimore Ravens, Rudolph returned after the Steelers bye to start in Week 8. Benched in Week 12, Rudolph returned to action in an attempt to lead the Steelers from behind against the New York Jets in Week 16. Unfortunately, Rudolph was injured in the game and placed on IR. For 2020, Rudolph started a meaningless game in Week 17 at the Cleveland Browns and nearly led the Steelers to victory despite resting a number of starters. Getting a last-second start in 2021 against the Detroit Lions, the Steelers and it up finishing in a tie due to costly fumbles in overtime. Even with the addition a free agent Mitch Trubisky for 2022, Rudolph is still in the mix to earn the starting quarterback job after the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.

Chukwuma Okorafor Tackle, Western Michigan

Round 3
Pick 92

The Steelers starting right tackle in 2020 in 2021, Chuks Okorafor earned himself a second contract with the Steelers this offseason. Even though the full contract is for $29.25 million for three seasons, Okorafor is not breaking the bank for the Steelers when it comes to the salary cap for 2022 and still has somewhat of a prove it deal moving forward.

Marcus Allen Safety, Penn St

Round 5
Pick 148

After holding a roster spot for all of 2018 but only appearing in two games, Marcus Allen did not make the roster in 2019 but was signed to the practice squad. Allen was promoted to the active roster by the end of the season and appeared in one game. Although drafted as a safety, Allen made a move to linebacker starting in 2020 and appeared in 30 games over the last two seasons for the Steelers. Currently a restricted free agent, the Steelers offered Allen an original-round tender which, at this time, has yet to be signed.

UPDATE: Less than an hour after this article was published, Marcus Allen signed his RFA tender.

Jaylen Samuels Running back, North Carolina St

Round 5
Pick 165

Not seeing any offensive snaps his rookie season until Week five, Samuels did not get an offensive touch for the Steelers until Week 8 of his rookie season. By Week 13, Samuels was called on as the starter due to Le’Veon Bell holding out the entire season and an injury to James Conner. In Week 15 against the New England Patriots, Samuels rushed for 142 yards or 19 carries as the Steelers defeated the Patriots 17–10. Unfortunately, it was Samuel‘s one shining moment with the Steelers as he finished with only 459 yards on 131 carries and one rushing touchdown in his three-year career with the Steelers along with 82 receptions for 550 yards and four receiving touchdowns. Failing to make the team in 2021, Samuels landed on the Steelers practice squad until he was released at the end of October. Getting picked up on the practice squad of the Houston Texans, Samuels appeared in three games where he had five rushes for 9 yards and three receptions for 14 yards. During the 2022 offseason, Samuel signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Arizona Cardinals.

Joshua Frazier Defensive tackle, Alabama

Round 7
Pick 246

Not only did Frazier not make the Steelers roster his rookie season, he did not even make the practice squad. Picked up briefly at the end of the season on the practice squad of the Detroit Lions, Frazier was released in January 2019. Fraser was a member of the Birmingham Iron of the AAF, but was placed on injured reserve after the team’s second game. In May 2019, Frazier announced he was retiring from professional football.

Kiper and McShay Mock: 3-round mock draft has Steelers with quite the haul

Tue, 04/19/2022 - 12:00pm
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The ESPN analysts are at it again, and they pick Rounds 1-3 in the 2022 NFL Draft in alternating fashion.

The 2022 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and that means the analysts and pundits at every media outlet are busy churning out mock drafts like crazy. As I’ve said all draft season, some mock drafts carry more weight than others, and the analysts at ESPN would fall into the category of gaining maximum attention.

Plenty of folks can’t stand Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, but it is almost like a scenario where fans love to hate the ESPN duo. Every year the two put together an alternating mock draft predicting Rounds 1-3. They followed suit in 2022, and here are their rules for their annual exercise.

The rules for the draft:

  • Three full rounds, 105 total picks, with prospect predictions for each slot.
  • Kiper and McShay alternated each pick, with McShay starting at No. 1 and taking the odd numbers and Kiper taking the evens.
  • No deals that even hint at “I won’t take Player X if you don’t take Player Y.” No cheating.
  • No trades allowed here. We’re just following the board as it is.

With Kiper getting all of the even picks in this 2022 mock draft, it means Pittsburgh Steelers fans get the pleasure of having Kiper select all of the Steelers’ top three picks. I’m sure there is plenty of celebrating and rejoicing going on as you read this.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at who Kiper predicts the Steelers to take in each round:

Round 1

20. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kiper’s pick: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt

Will Pickett go higher than No. 20? Probably. But without trades and with the Saints getting two instant starters and forgoing a quarterback in this scenario, Pittsburgh is the most logical landing spot for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he beat out Mitch Trubisky.

Malik Willis was the Carolina Panthers’ pick at No. 6, and no other quarterbacks were taken until the Steelers take Pickett at No. 20. There was one other quarterback taken in Round 1, and that was Desmond Ridder who was selected 32nd by the Detroit Lions.

Round 2

52. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kiper’s pick: John Metchie III, WR, Alabama

This is another pick I projected in my recent two-round mock. The Steelers need a slot playmaker after JuJu Smith-Schuster left in free agency. Metchie tore his ACL in December, but he could be healthy for training camp.

Round 2 started starts with a run on safeties and running backs, and as quarterbacks like Matt Corral and Sam Howell leave the board the Steelers are left with options at receiver. Skyy Moore was selected by Washington at pick No. 47, and the Steelers take Metchie with the 52nd pick in the draft.

Round 3

84. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kiper’s pick: Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati

Here’s another really solid Cincinnati defender, and it was Bryant, not Ahmad Gardner, who won the Jim Thorpe Award last season. Bryant doesn’t have elite straight-line speed, but he has good instincts and oily hips. He had seven picks over the past two seasons.

To round out Day 2 of the draft, the Steelers address the secondary, but it isn’t safety. Kiper has the Steelers taking the Jim Thorpe Award winner, Coby Bryant, of Cincinnati with their final pick of the second day.

When you look at the top three selections, according to Kiper, would you be happy with these picks, or would you be hoping for something better? It is unlikely Pickett falls to the Steelers at No. 20, but stranger things have happened. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers as they prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft and the rest of free agency.

Steelers name David Corley as Assistant QB Coach

Tue, 04/19/2022 - 10:32am
Photo By Jeremy Drey/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The Steelers continue to add to their coaching staff by bringing on an Assistant Quarterbacks Coach.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been known to have one of the smallest coaching staffs in the NFL since Mike Tomlin was hired in 2007, but that might be changing. As many fans thought the organization was done adding to their coaching staff, the team announced they have a new hire, and a new position, in David Corley being brought on as the Assistant Quarterbacks Coach.

This per the Steelers official Twitter account:

We have named David Corley as our assistant quarterbacks coach.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 19, 2022

As for Corley’s background, he is a William & Mary graduate, same as Mike Tomlin, and has a ton of coaching experience in the college ranks. This per the Steelers official website:

Corley spent the 2021 season with the University of Richmond as their running backs coach.

He is someone the Steelers are familiar with as he spent time with the team working with the quarterbacks in 2010 as a part of the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship. He also worked with the Carolina Panthers (2021 and 2013) and Houston Texans (2019 season) through the fellowship.

Corley brings plenty of college coaching experience with him, which includes stops at South Carolina State (2020) as the running backs coach, Penn State (2018) as the receivers coach and Army (2017) as the receivers coach.

Corley spent three seasons at the University of Connecticut (2014-16) where he worked with the running backs, receivers and was the offensive coordinator in 2016. He was also the Director of Player Engagement during his time there and spent two years as the special teams coordinator.

Corley will be coaching under Quarterbacks Coach Mike Sullivan and will likely help with the maturation of a very young quarterback room. This could also point to the team likely adding a quarterback at some point in the 2022 NFL Draft.

What might be humorous to some is how in 2019, when Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the season with an elbow injury and Mason Rudolph and/or Devlin “Duck” Hodges has no quarterbacks coach on the staff. Then offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner acted as both the offensive coordinator and the quarterbacks coach.

In 2020 it was Matt Canada’s job as the quarterbacks coach, then Sullivan took over that job in 2021 when Canada was promoted to the coordinator position. Now, Sullivan gets some help with Corley on staff.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft and the rest of free agency.

Pages