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Updated: 4 min 33 sec ago

Predicting the Steelers 2022 Defensive Position Battles

Thu, 07/28/2022 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot to sort out on the Steelers 2022 defensive depth chart.

While some big names have left the Steelers defense this offseason, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, the Steelers are returning the vast majority of the 2021 defense. In fact of the 25 players that played 50 or more snaps in 2021, only 5 of them are not returning, and only two of those players, Joe Haden and Joe Schobert were playing significant snaps at the end of the season.

But even with only a few personnel losses, the Steelers defensive depth chart has a number of interesting battles that will need to be resolved in training camp.

Who gets the most snaps behind Cameron Heyward on the defensive line?

Tyson Alualu returns to the Steelers while Stephon Tuitt is now officially done with football. That would seem to point to Alualu as the man right behind Cameron Heyward. But Tyson Alualu hasn’t played 50% of snaps in a season for the Steelers. He’s 35 and coming off an injury, it’s probably not the best time to increase his playtime. The Steelers are already showing this philosophy by putting him on the PUP list to start camp.

The Steelers also added veteran Larry Ogunjobi who is coming off the most productive season of his career, but is also coming back from a serious foot injury that he suffered in the postseason. It’s an injury which caused him to fail a physical early in free agency.

Chris Wormley was second on the defensive line in snaps played in 2021, but while Wormley showed good pass rush, he was hit or miss against the run, often being driven out of position to open big holes for opposing backs.

Lastly, Isaiahh Loudermilk showed a lot of promise in his rookie season but didn’t even play 25% of the snaps over the course of the season. He showed up to OTAs with a lot of muscle gain and look poised to push for more time in his second season.

The Prediction:

Tyson Alualu will return to his job as the primary nose tackle for the Steelers, while Larry Ogunjobi will most likely be the starter opposite Cameron Heyward. But while I expect Ogunjobi to be the starter come Week 1, don’t be surprised if Isaiahh Loudermilk ends up with more snaps over the course of the season. He was the Steelers second-best run defending lineman last year, and he’s bigger and stronger now.

My major prediction is that the Steelers will look to rotate lineman even more this season, to keep their starters fresh and limit injury risk. The Steelers depth is better than it has been the last few years and their starters are older and two are returning from injury.

Who will be the Steelers buck linebacker?

The Steelers added Myles Jack to their roster to replace Joe Schobert, who was signed to replace Vince Williams. Vince Williams is a classic buck linebacker, much better equipped to take on blockers than drop into coverage or race a back to the sideline. The Steelers have gone away from that traditional look with Schobert being more of a hybrid and now with Myles Jack, who is more of a mack linebacker. Devin Bush has been that mack-style linebacker for the Steelers since he was drafted, so is Jack replacing Bush, or will one of them have to learn to be the buck linebacker?

The Prediction:

While fans are used to having a mack and buck linebacker, that has been because Vince Williams won a starting job more than the design of the defense. The Steelers wanted to get away from those designations back when James Farrior was playing, and they aren’t trying to fit them now. The Steelers will play Bush and Jack together and the play will determine which role each linebacker is tasked with.

This does put more emphasis on the defensive line to lead the way in run defense, but the Steelers have a defensive line group capable of doing the job.

How will the Steelers sort out the cornerback roles?

The Steelers don’t have a clear #1 cornerback, and they don’t have a clear nickel corner either. They have three cornerbacks who have been starters in free agent Levi Wallace, who started every game for the Bills and was second on their defense in snaps played, Cameron Sutton who started 16 games for the Steelers and was second in defensive snaps played, and Ahkello Witherspoon, who only started three games, ranked 8th in snaps played among defensive backs, yet led the team in interceptions and passes defended.

The Steelers also return their depth from 2021, with James Pierre, Arthur Maulet and Tre Norwood. All three played over 30% of defensive snaps in 2021.

The Prediction:

The Steelers don’t have a true #1 cornerback, but they will plug Levi Wallace into Joe Haden’s role on the defense, which is where he was at his best in Buffalo. Expect Cameron Sutton to start opposite him where he was in 2021, and where he played well against all but the best receivers. Ahkello Witherspoon will likely be the third cornerback, coming in but playing outside in nickel while Cameron Sutton slides into the slot. Witherspoon should also be a matchup-based player who will help take on top receivers. Also look for different nickel and dime looks to match opposing personnel. The Steelers have a lot of options but no obviously right ones.

Who will start alongside Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety?

Terrell Edmunds led the Steelers defense in snaps played in 2021, but wasn’t a priority re-signing for the Steelers at all. He ended up signing a “Four-Year Player Qualifying Contract” which is a special designation that teams can use on a player who was on the roster for four seasons. This means Edmunds contract has a reduced cap hit. His cap ranks 8th among Steeler defensive backs, below even Arthur Maulet, Miles Killebrew, Marcus Allen and Justin Layne despite earning more in pay than most of them. However, his competition, Damontae Kazee, ranks just below Edmunds at the 9th highest cap hit among Steeler defensive backs.

It’s kind of strange that it looks like the major competition to start at safety will be from two guys with a lower cap hit than Marcus Allen and Miles Killebrew, who are primarily special teams players. Especially with all four having signed contracts this offseason.

The Prediction:

No matter the financial situation, I can’t imagine Miles Killebrew ranking higher than either Edmunds or Kazee on the depth chart. I expect to see Terrell Edmunds continue to be the starting strong safety and the Steelers use Demontae Kazee in deep zone roles a good amount as well. Despite the incredibly low investment in two of the three safeties, I think the safety room is the best it has been since Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark were playing.

Are there too many positions up for grab?

Mike Tomlin, like most football coaches, loves competition. But while competition is good, the best players on the team will never be mentioned in articles like this. Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, players like that aren’t in competitions. Even non-stars can be in the “lock” category. Ike Taylor, Stephon Tuitt, Mike Hilton, Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel. Those guys weren’t competing for a job for most of their careers.

The Steelers defense doesn’t have many locked in positions behind their star players. Part of that is because the Steelers have added players to compete, but part of that is they don’t have many players that have locked down their positions. The Steelers defense has a lot more depth at key positions, but the question is will any of them lock down their positions and become the reliable quality starters this defense needs.

Steelers Vertex: What does Jeremy McNichols bring to the running back room?

Thu, 07/28/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Steelers added another running back this week, but what does he add to the Steelers offense?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally reached 2022 training camp. On the day players reported, the Steelers added running back Jeremy McNichols. But what does McNichols bring to the Steelers running back room? 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:

There is a lot of context when it comes to looking at the statistics over the five years Jeremy McNichols has spent in the NFL. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McNichols did not make the team and landed in San Francisco on the practice squad where he appeared in two games and only played special teams. Over the next two seasons, McNichols appeared in one game each year for the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars respectively, and only had five total offensive steps. In all, McNichols had two rushes for four yards through his first three NFL seasons, both of which were with the Colts.

It was in 2020 with the Tennessee Titans where things began to change for McNichols. Appearing and all 16 games, McNichols had no starts but had 47 carries for 204 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown along with 12 receptions for 55 receiving yards. McNichols played 271 offensive snaps along with 65 snaps on special teams.

in 2021, McNichols appeared in 14 games for the Titans with no starts where he had 41 carries for 156 yards and 28 receptions for 240 yards and a receiving touchdown. McNichols had 269 offensive snaps and only 15 on special teams in 2021. Unfortunately, McNichols was released prior to Week 18 and was signed to the Titans practice squad.

During the 2022 offseason, McNichols signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Unfortunately, he was released just following a minicamp. The Falcons already had running back Damien Williams and drafted Tyler Allgeier. The team also decided to convert defensive back in return specialist Avery Williams to a running back. Add in Cordarrelle Patterson, and there just wasn’t enough room for McNichols.

While the stats tell a very interesting story, what McNichols brings to the Steelers ultimately comes down to his play on the field. Let’s check the film.

The Film Line:

To look at Jeremy McNichols and what he brings to the Steelers, I wanted to look at a game where he played significant snaps, but wasn’t the #1 running back in the game. I also wanted it to be a close game so it wasn’t just him taking garbage snaps from the starter. As such, we are going to look at the 2020 game between the Titans and Texans.

2020 Titans vs. Texans, 3rd quarter, 2:29.

Jeremy McNichols is the tailback.

You can see McNichols isn’t a slippery, elusive runner. he runs straight and hard more than trying to change direction quickly and make people miss. But you can also see he has some vision and adjusts his run, just adjusts it slightly instead of making big cuts. Something you can see better from this angle.

You can see several small adjustments made before he crosses the line of scrimmage, but he isn’t someone running away from the traffic, he’s comfortable running close to his blockers.

2020 Titans vs. Texans, overtime, 8:43.

Jeremy McNichols is the tailback.

I wanted to show this play because this is a split zone run, a run the Steelers used a lot in 2021. A play I covered a couple weeks ago.

It’s important that the Steelers brought in a back who has NFL experience running offensive plays the Steelers run. To take it a step farther, the first play is an outside zone run, a key part of the Matt Canada offense that didn’t get used last season because of offensive line execution. A new OL coach and two free agent lineman that were part of outside zone-heavy teams says we’re going to see those runs in the Steelers offense in 2022.

I don’t want to put much on the success of these runs, this was a game the Titans ran all over the Texans, what I want you to take away is the type of runner they got in Jeremy McNichols.

In 2021 McNichols was used as a third down back by the Titans, and I think that’s his best usage on the Steelers. He got a lot of work for the Titans when they went into pass-heavy situations. We’re going to look at a sequence of three plays from the drive that sent this game into overtime that show why McNichols is a natural fit for the third down back role.

2020 Titans vs. Texans, 4th quarter, 0:42.

Jeremy McNichols is the running back, beside the QB.

McNichols reads the extra rusher coming quickly and meets that rush at the front of the pocket. As he makes contact he realizes the inside rushers twisted and is still able to get enough of the other rusher to keep his quarterback from getting hit with more than one hand.

You can see the process better in this clip.

McNichols messes up initially and is still able to protect his quarterback and the Titans get a completion for seven yards.

2020 Titans vs. Texans, 4th quarter, 0:36.

Jeremy McNichols is the running back, beside the QB.

This time it’s the right guard who doesn’t react to the twist, McNichols comes up to his gap and gets the player coming into it. The Titans liked to have their backs pick up blitzers at the front of the pocket, and that makes the job of determining which blitzer to pick up a tougher job. McNichols was good at it, and when he did mess up, almost always was able to correct it in time to prevent bad plays.

2020 Titans vs. Texans, 4th quarter, 0:23.

Jeremy McNichols is the running back, beside the quarterback.

This time nobody is blitzing up the middle, and McNichols is free to release into the field as a receiver. He gives the Titans a 2nd and 1 in return.

This is the work you want a 3rd down back to be able to do. Najee Harris is dangerous as a receiver, but he’s not a great pass blocker, and a true third down back would give the Steelers a lot of chances to give Harris some plays off.

The Point:

McNichols isn’t a great runner, he’s not close to being a 1b running back that would earn carries over Najee Harris. But he’s a good receiver and has shown he’s a solid pass blocker who can be trusted to read the blitz and pick up his man. He is used to an aggressive pass blocking philosophy as a blocking back, and that will likely fit well with Pat Meyer’s more aggressive philosophies in pass protection.

While Jeremy McNichols doesn’t give the Steelers a back worth of splitting carries with Najee Harris, he gives the Steelers a back who can run the ball in their system and who can be a third down back and cut into Najee Harris’s snaps that way.

6 Steelers who could break records in 2022

Thu, 07/28/2022 - 9:00am
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh’s young talent could manifest itself often in team history this year.

In 2021, several Steelers were poised to establish new career, franchise and historical marks; players like Ben Roethlisberger, Najee Harris, T.J. Watt accomplished such feats by rewriting record books this past season.

Entering 2022, there is no shortage of Pittsburgh players who could follow suit. From encores from emerging stars to steady veterans, here are six Steelers who may be on their way to etching fame in the near future.

T.J. Watt: Franchise Sacks

This is the locomotive that’s been building up steam in recent memory.

Since entering the NFL in 2017, Watt has amassed 72 sacks, two more than any other player in that five-year span. Just six years into his professional career, the OLB has the chance to sit atop a Steelers record.

With only nine sacks, Watt will surpass James Harrison’s franchise-best 80.5 sacks. Even more amazingly, Harrison accrued such a number across 177 games, while Watt has 72 in just 77 contests.

Given Watt’s career pace of .935 sacks per game, the star edge-rusher should collect nine sacks between Weeks 8-10 of this year. Although Week 9 is a bye, tackles Jordan Mailata/Lane Johnson of the Eagles and Ryan Ramczyk/Trevor Penning of the Saints should be on high alert.

Pat Freiermuth: Second-Year Tight End Metrics

In his first year out of Penn State, Freiermuth quickly found favor with Ben Roethlisberger, hauling in 60 receptions for 497 yards. The tight end needs only 16 catches to break the Steelers’ record for catches by a tight end in their first two years, which would best Eric Green’s mark of 75 (1990-91). The NFL record in a TE’s inaugural two seasons is much steeper at 144, set by Keith Jackson.

Likewise, Freiermuth will set a new Pittsburgh record for receiving yards by a tight end in the first two campaigns if he totals 473 yards, unseating Green yet again. The astonishing league mark of 1,980 yards in that span, set by Mike Ditka, is presumably out of reach.

Najee Harris: Second-Year Yardage

Harris scorched the Steelers’ rookie rushing record en route to a Pro Bowl season in 2021; the Alabama product looks to maintain such record-setting production this year.

Le’Veon Bell boasts the most rushing yards by a Steeler in their first two seasons at 2,221 yards. Consequently, Harris must post 1,022 rushing yards or better to create a blank slate at the top of that perch.

In NFL history, Eric Dickerson paces all runners with a gaudy 3,913 yards in his first two pro seasons. Even if Harris leads the league in touches for a second straight year, he’ll likely fall short of that mark.

Moreover, Bell’s 3,474 scrimmage yards in Years One and Two are the best in franchise history; Harris requires 1,808 total yards to eclipse that.

Diontae Johnson: Fourth-Year Receiving Yards

After racking up 2,764 receiving yards in his primary three seasons, Johnson ranks third in Steelers history for receiving yardage in that span. The Toledo product must muster 1,279 receiving yards to stake his claim for most receiving yards by a Steeler in their first four years; such a figure would be a career-high, but only by 118 yards.

Michael Thomas’ record of 5,512 receiving yards in his first four seasons will, in all likelihood, be maintained through 2022 – that is, until Justin Jefferson shatters it handily in 2023.

Chris Boswell: Franchise Scoring

Boswell has quietly become one of the most consistent and high-leverage kickers in the NFL. His late-game heroics are undoubtedly materializing in the record books, too.

Entering 2022, Boswell sits in third place in team lore with 777 points. The Wizard of Boz needs 143 points to best second-place finisher Jeff Reed. For context, Boswell had 135 points last year, and his career high was 142 in 2017.

Assuming the Steelers can keep Boswell in the black and gold for years to come, look for the kicker to surpass Gary Anderson’s team-best 1,343 career points in around four seasons.

Kenny Pickett: Rookie Passing Statistics

Pickett’s playing time this year remains a substantial wild card, but it’s still worth noting certain rookie quarterback records in Pittsburgh’s archives.

Unsurprisingly, Pickett predecessor Ben Roethlisberger holds records for rookie passing yards (2,261) and passing touchdowns (17). Both numbers are contingent upon Pickett playing a minimum of around eight games, which very well may not occur.

With Pickett presumably not opening the year as Mike Tomlin’s primary gunslinger, the Pitt product is highly unlikely to reset NFL rookie marks of 4,374 passing yards (Andrew Luck, 2012) and 31 passing touchdowns (Justin Herbert, 2020). Then again, few envisioned Herbert starting as early as Week 2.

Team: Number of Players with 800+ Receiving Yards

How about a team-oriented stat for the final tidbit?

In team history, the Steelers have only fielded one squad which featured three players to aggregate 800+ receiving yards (2020: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Johnson, Chase Claypool).

With Johnson and Claypool returning, the anticipated breakout of Freiermuth, the selections of George Pickens and Calvin Austin III and a more distributed Matt Canada passing attack, 2022 has the capability to mark a new franchise high of skill players to post 800 or more receiving yards in one season.

Training Camp Recap, Day 1: Rookie WRs show out

Thu, 07/28/2022 - 8:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back at Training Camp, and it is time to check out what went down during the latest practice!

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back at Saint Vincent College for the first time since 2019, and fans have descended on Latrobe, PA in hopes of catching a glimpse of the 2022 team.

What went down during the latest training camp practice? That is where this article comes in. Check out all that was said, as well as photos and videos from the day’s workouts.

Here we go...

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of questions marks across the roster, and it will take every practice and preseason game for the coaching staff to find a way to get answers to those questions. There were a lot of storylines to come out of Wednesday’s practice, and we highlight some of those below:

OLine Battle

Most assume the offensive line will have very few battles, but one which might be one to keep an eye on is at left guard. Kendrick Green becoming a flex player at both guard and center now puts pressure on Kevin Dotson to show up in a big way in his third year. At least on Day 1, the two players being 50-50 was both figurative and literal.

As you can see, in the #Steelers OL warmups, there’s 6 guys in the front group, with Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green side by side. Both said they were 50-50 for the left guard spot in minicamp. Looks like they’re going side by side for a bit to start camp. pic.twitter.com/LTzy6J9YNC

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) July 27, 2022

1st Team Offense

It’s Day 1, but of course people want to know who were taking first team snaps at practice.

Steelers first team offense on air:

Mitch Trubisky, Najee Harris
George Pickens, Chase Claypool (slot), Diontae Johnson
Dan Moore, Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, James Daniels, Chuks Okorafor

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

1st Team Defense

Just like the offense, here is who was starting on the defensive side of the football.

Steelers first team D:

Cam Heyward, Chris Wormley
TJ Watt, Devin Bush, Myles Jack, Alex Highsmith
Ahkello Witherspoon, Damontae Kazee, Terrell Edmunds, Cam Sutton (slot), Levi Wallace

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

Minkah still working

It was announced Tuesday how Minkah Fitzpatrick will start camp on the NFI (Non-Football Injury) List with a wrist injury. This doesn’t mean Fitzpatrick is sitting in the Saint Vincent dorms and eating snacks. Here he is working on his one-handed catches.

Minkah Fitzpatrick has been workin one-on-one catching balls with only his left hand. Tomlin didn’t disclose which side Fitzpatrick injured falling off his bike. pic.twitter.com/0H99j0GeVf

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Pickens shows out

George Pickens isn’t the most outward player on the team, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t showing up in a big way in his rookie training camp. During the first workout it was Pickens who was getting plenty of attention for his body control and big play ability.

Just take a look at what reporters were saying about the Steelers’ second round draft pick...

They’re currently doing contested catch drills on the sideline here. George Pickens jumped into the air and made a really nice twirling grab along the sidelines.

His body control is fantastic. You can see it better live.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) July 27, 2022

George Pickens nearly came down with a contorted catch that elicited oohs and ahs from the crowd. Caught the ball, but lost it when he hit the ground.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 27, 2022

This time George Pickens’ catch survives the ground on a deep throw from Mitch Trubisky. @jhathhorn estimates it’s a 40-45 yard throw to the sideline.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Pickens had a nice catch on a skinny post. Didn't see a lot of skinny posts last season.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 27, 2022

George Pickens at Camp! #Steelers #NFL pic.twitter.com/cLGdCLZszC

— BlitzVideos✨ (@BlitzVideos) July 27, 2022

It’s just one day, but it is okay to start getting excited about Pickens and how he could impact the offense, even as a rookie.

Diontae Hold-In?

Diontae Johnson was at camp, even though he wants a new contract, but he didn’t participate in team drills. Is this another hold-in, like T.J. Watt last year and Minkah Fitzpatrick during OTAs and minicamp this offseason? Mike Tomlin acknowledged the situation after practice, but it will be something to keep an eye on as camp progresses.

Diontae Johnson taking a page from the TJ Watt training camp hold-in playbook. Reminder: earlier today Johnson said he would fully participate if it were up to him, but Mike Tomlin might decide otherwise. pic.twitter.com/4r1nhsATU4

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Sign of things to come for Mitch?

When the Steelers drafted Kenny Pickett, a Pitt product, in the first round, Mitch Trubisky had to know he had an uphill battle ahead of him. No, not in his ability to play in 2022, but especially from the fan base if he struggles. Well, he didn’t get off to the best start, and you could already start to hear fans calling for Pickett.

As Brooke Pryor of ESPN said, “and so it begins...”

Mitch Trubisky takes the first two first-team reps and has two incompletions. A fan yells: “get Pickett in there!”

And so it begins.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

QB Update

Speaking of quarterbacks, here is a break down of how they did during third down plays, and the fact Chris Oladokun was more of a spectator during team drills than an NFL quarterback.

First set of third down plays: Trubisky went 1/4, Rudolph 4/4, Pickett 2/4.

But we’re not going to read into every single throw of training camp, right guys?

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

First two team drills — Chris Oladokun zero reps.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 27, 2022

CA3

While George Pickens got everyone’s attention plenty during camp, so did Calvin Austin III. It was Austin who took a wide receiver screen pass 61-yards for the touchdown. Yeah, he’s fast.

Quick screen play to Calvin Austin and he takes it to the house. 61 yard TD for Austin. Dude got it, took off, and he was gone.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) July 27, 2022

Mike Tomlin Press Conference

Coach Tomlin recaps the first #SteelersCamp practice. @FedEx pic.twitter.com/0czMvJ8pk8

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 27, 2022

VIDEO

.@CoachTomlin’s ready for Day 1 of #SteelersCamp! pic.twitter.com/7r9Hc5sGGv

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

High fives from @_TJWatt #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/SN0KpJ2cAs

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

MUTH! MUTH! MUTH! @pat_fry5 | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/adrw3O9X7t

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

Najee Harris making this trek for the first time, with a couple detours for autographs pic.twitter.com/l7vdrtpUtz

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph go through individual workouts at day one of Steelers training camp. pic.twitter.com/aPBDRVpUjg

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 27, 2022

Larry Ogunjobi and DeMarvin Leal working with Steelers pass-rushers pic.twitter.com/33GtjwNhDD

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

@_jlayne x @Chico_Hndrxx pic.twitter.com/Iv9X48qBQm

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

1️⃣1️⃣@ChaseClaypool | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/gxlBd9XFkC

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

George Pickens with almost another special grab from Trubisky! #Steelers #NFL pic.twitter.com/kOA3hpI36E

— BlitzVideos✨ (@BlitzVideos) July 27, 2022

Mitch Trubisky on Kenny Pickett. #Steelers #NFL pic.twitter.com/7eSqNF1YxH

— BlitzVideos✨ (@BlitzVideos) July 27, 2022

Mike Tomlin catches up with @scottpioli51, sharing his favorite memory from training camp and why he loves this game so much.

: Don't miss Back Together Saturday - July 30, 9AM ET pic.twitter.com/9yuodRPErx

— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) July 27, 2022

PHOTOS

First on the field. pic.twitter.com/oNvHZmmJrH

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) July 27, 2022

Back at it #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/67PKSGG3bA

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

13 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following Wednesday’s training camp practice

Thu, 07/28/2022 - 7:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking to the media following the first practice of training camp, the Steelers head coach answered many questions about specific players.

As the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers had their first day of practice for training camp at St. Vincent College on Wednesday, we were also graced with a media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. For that reason, it is the glorious return of the “players mentioned” article after a nearly 6-week absence since minicamp in June. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period, although there were two key players mentioned in the opening statement. For that reason, those players will be included.

Diontae Johnson

One of the big questions coming into training camp this season was if Diontae Johnson would participate in practice as he is hoping to get a new contract. Coach Tomlin was asked if Johnson not doing any of the team stuff on Wednesday is of concern on the first day of camp.

“Absolutely not. You guys know me. I acknowledge that he was less than 100% participant, and we’ll continue to manage the circumstance. But right now, my energy and focus is on those that are participating. And I think that’s the appropriate mindset to have. From time to time, you get in a setting like this. You manage situations, circumstances, and people, but largely my energy is devoted to those that are working in the larger body, and that’s where I’m at with it.”

Coach Tomlin was as a follow-up question if it was something that was his decision for Johnson not to participate.

“It was not, no.”

Damontae Kazee

With the Steelers announcing Minkah Fitzpatrick is dealing with a non-football injury, his absence will create an opportunity for others to get playing time. Coach Tomlin was asked what he saw from Damontae Kazee who is on the field in place of Fitzpatrick.

“Just as you’ve said, this is the first practice wearing helmets. He is a veteran, he’s a ‘been there, done that’ guy and I’m appreciative of that. That’s why we went out and acquired him, but not a lot happened today on that front.”

Myles Jack, Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, James Pierre, & Mark Robinson

I think this is a record. Although three players were mentioned in the question, Coach Tomlin referenced another six players for a total of nine in one answer. Coach Tomlin was asked about the rotation at inside linebacker with Myles Jack, Devin Bush, and Robert Spillane and if it’s something that would stretch into the season. In his response, Coach Tomlin brought up additional linebackers Buddy Johnson and Mark Robinson as well as cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, Cam Sutton, and James Pierre.

“I am into those things, and oftentimes we do this to largely give everybody the opportunity to be ready and to show what they’re capable of and to divide the labor up. And so, when we have a lot of guys at a position, sometimes we’ll work a pair and a spare in the first group in an effort to see more guys, like Buddy Johnson, for instance. We do it at corner, with [Ahkello] Witherspoon, Levi [Wallace] and [Cam] Sutton. We work those guys exclusively in group one so that you get more of an opportunity to see JP [James Pierre] in group two. It’s not necessarily about the three guys that are working in group one, sometimes you’re just thinning the herd to make sure that the guys in the second and third group aren’t sharing reps. Because they got a lot to learn and a lot to show us and the more opportunities that they get are significant. And so I think it probably represents that...him working with that first group, we have exposure to him. We know what he’s capable of, and those others that you mentioned more than anything, it thins the herd so Buddy Johnson, Mark Robinson and guys like that can learn and show what they’re capable of.”

Kevin Dotson

In a follow up to the previous question about rotating players in training camp, and the interior offensive line came up as well. Coach Tomlin was asked if he is taking the same approach at left guard with Kevin Dotson and other players.

“Exactly, you can apply that analogy to many positions.”

Zach Gentry

One player who has turned a lot of heads this offseason with his body development is tight end Zach Gentry. Coach Tomlin was asked if Gentry is coming along developmentally and physically in a way to tinker with him a little bit more at tight end this year.

“We’ve been in that mode.”

Mike Tomlin’s media session is not available for viewing at this time. If it becomes available it will be added here.

Cam Heyward disagrees with Ben Roethlisberger’s assessment of the current Steelers

Thu, 07/28/2022 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The current Steelers captain disagrees with comments from Ben Roethlisberger.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are an organization that likes to keep things close to the vest. They don’t just let anyone inside, and that includes what the organization wants as it pertains to their players speaking to the media.

Throughout his career, Ben Roethlisberger has walked that thin line, and sometimes crossed over to the wrong side. However, it wasn’t until he was viewed as a leader did he begin to speak up.

In 2004, Roethlisberger’s rookie season, the team was riddled with veterans. Players like: Jerome Bettis, Hines Ward, James Farrior, Joey Porter, Casey Hampton and others. During that time Roethlisberger wasn’t called upon to be a leader. Instead, he let others do the leading.

Towards the end of his career, Roethlisberger was the offense’s lone leader. A veteran on a very young offense. During this time Roethlisberger noticed a transition on the team, something he spoke openly about when he did a one-on-one interview with Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Here were his comments:

I feel like the game has changed. I feel like the people have changed in a sense. Maybe it’s because I got spoiled when I came in. The team was so important. It was all about the team. Now, it’s about me and this, that and the other. ... when I came in, I didn’t have to be special. There were times we did special things, but we had such a great defense. We had Jerome [Bettis]. We had a veteran line. It’s hard for these young guys, too. Social media. They’re treated so well in college. Now, this new NIL stuff, which is unbelievable. They’re treated so special. They’re coddled at a young age because college coaches need them to win, too.

After the comments were made public last Friday, there have been several fans who thought Roethlisberger’s comments were just a bit “off”. As it turns out, it wasn’t just the fans who felt this way. You can include Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward amongst those who were turned off by Roethlisberger’s recent interview.

In Heyward’s Not Just Football podcast, he addressed the quotes, and disagreed with them hole-heartedly. Instead of just putting the quotes, it is important to hear Heyward speak, and not take words out of context.

Below is the segment where Heyward speaks about Roethlisberger’s comments, courtesy of Brooke Pryor of ESPN:

Full episode of Cam Heyward’s @NotJustFootball pod is out. Here’s the clip where he address Ben Roethlisberger’s comments in a conversation with Brett Keisel. https://t.co/PlTGuDUm0w

pic.twitter.com/mNYh8h4vgx

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Heyward speaking out and defending the current Steelers locker room shouldn’t shock anyone. Unlike Roethlisberger, Heyward is still a large part of the team and has to address these situations.

The rebuttal from Heyward doesn’t mean he dislikes Roethlisberger, just that he doesn’t believe what he said was genuinely true. Yes, the game changes. Yes, players change. But it doesn’t necessarily mean the players who wear the black and gold every game day don’t have a team-first mentality.

Leadership isn’t for everyone, but Heyward’s recent comments should speak volumes to those who are still inside the walls of the organization. But what do you think? Do you believe Roethlisberger’s comments were purely innocent? Or do you side with Heyward? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on through training camp.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Thu, 07/28/2022 - 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 show.

The War Room: In the safeties can the Steelers trust?

The safety position for the Steelers seem promising, but promises aren’t always kept. Can the Steelers trust that this stable will thrive in 2022? That will be one of the topics discussed as BTSC invites you to heck out our Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matt Peverell in The Steelers War Room. Join Matty P. for his solo show as he examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers in an attempt to put you in the mind of Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin, Omar Khan, Andy Weidl, Sheldon White and Dan Colbert when it comes to personnel.

Rundown of the show:

  • The Steelers at the safety position
  • Much More

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

The Steelers Curtain Call: Reactions and demands from the start of training camp

It’s 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. This time around, Geoff and Shannon talk about the Steelers arrival at Saint Vincent college in Latrobe PA.

  • News and Notes
  • A look at camp arrivals

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

The Steelers Stat Geek: Do preseason stats tell us anything about the upcoming season?

Stats tell us a lot of things about our teams. With the Steelers, can we make out anything from preseason statistical performances. Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed by Dave Schofield on the Thursday episode of the AM podcast lineup, “The Steelers Stat Geek”. Join BTSC’s Editor as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The validity of preseason statistics
  • 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

Steelers 2022 Training Camp Tracker: Tracking Wednesday’s first practice

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 3:15pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are hitting the field at St. Vincent College in Latrobe to begin their preparation for the 2022 season.

After reporting to Latrobe yesterday for 2022 training camp, The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to take the field at St. Vincent College for their first practice.

After being forced to hold training camp at Heinz Field the last two seasons, the Steelers are back in Latrobe for four weeks before breaking camp the day before their second preseason game.

When it comes to the training camp schedule, it is much more known than it was the last two years. The Steelers will have their first practice today, but will not be in full pads until Monday, August 1. The team is not scheduled to practice on any Sundays, but all other days of the week will see practice of some kind. For those hoping to attend practice at St. Vincent, make sure you reserve your free tickets through Ticketmaster.

Check out the information below as the players hit the field to begin their preparation for the 2022 season, starting with some player interviews before practice. If any additional information or reports become available, they will be updated below. Post will come mostly in chronological order with news updates at the bottom.

On his pod, Cam Heyward rebutted Ben Roethlisberger’s comments on an influx of “me-first” players

“when it all comes together, we care about one thing, this logo right here. ... I've always tried to extend that to my younger teammates. I think Ben was a little out on that one." pic.twitter.com/2QtMr6C6f7

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Diontae Johnson on drops and targets etc pic.twitter.com/jouSI9XobL

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

Steelers WR Diontae Johnson said “we’ll see” when asked if he’ll be a full participant in camp entering the last year of his deal. Said he watched how TJ Watt handled this situation last season and he hopes to get a similar result: a contract extension.

“I wanna be here.” pic.twitter.com/OkoTXeCMpd

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

Mason Rudolph on being part of a QB competition and not putting too much pressure on himself on each throw/rep pic.twitter.com/T6vCZHUA4H

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

'It's going to be cool having the fans out here watching us practice. I think it will give us a lot more energy and make practice more fun.' - @Mtrubisky10 on having Steelers fans at Saint Vincent College for practice.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) July 27, 2022

Fans are already in their seats at Chuck Noll Field an hour before the first practice of training camp. pic.twitter.com/YD6UaFqXtb

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) July 27, 2022

First on the field. pic.twitter.com/oNvHZmmJrH

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) July 27, 2022

Najee Harris making this trek for the first time, with a couple detours for autographs pic.twitter.com/l7vdrtpUtz

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

Lot of love for Najee Harris from the fans flanking the walkway down the hill for the Steelers first practice in Latrobe. pic.twitter.com/wVrlxSenz4

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Almost as soon as players start taking the field for the first practice of the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp… it starts to rain

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

Chants of Heyward! Heyward! for Cam Heyward’s running entrance pic.twitter.com/2eiYXCfvze

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Doesn’t look like Diontae Johnson will practice today. Just went through a 20-minute warmup session catching the ball like he always has. Just one drop.

He’s out here in a cutoff Steelers hoodie, No helmet. #Steelers

— Josh Carney (@ByJoshCarney) July 27, 2022

Kenny Pickett warming up before his first #Steelers training camp practice. pic.twitter.com/QyhxGQPbM2

— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) July 27, 2022

Punt return rotation: Anthony Miller, Gunner Olszewski, Cam Sutton, Steven Sims, Tyler Snead, George Pickens, Calvin Austin

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) July 27, 2022

.@CoachTomlin’s ready for Day 1 of #SteelersCamp! pic.twitter.com/7r9Hc5sGGv

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

Steelers first team offense on air:

Mitch Trubisky, Najee Harris
George Pickens, Chase Claypool (slot), Diontae Johnson
Dan Moore, Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, James Daniels, Chuks Okorafor

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph go through individual workouts at day one of Steelers training camp. pic.twitter.com/aPBDRVpUjg

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 27, 2022

As you can see, in the #Steelers OL warmups, there’s 6 guys in the front group, with Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green side by side. Both said they were 50-50 for the left guard spot in minicamp. Looks like they’re going side by side for a bit to start camp. pic.twitter.com/LTzy6J9YNC

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) July 27, 2022

No worries, Mike Tomlin isn’t falling. He’s laughing with players during the team stretch. pic.twitter.com/aLDsgQan0o

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 27, 2022

Minkah Fitzpatrick has been workin one-on-one catching balls with only his left hand. Tomlin didn’t disclose which side Fitzpatrick injured falling off his bike. pic.twitter.com/0H99j0GeVf

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Diontae Johnson is practicing, at least in individual portions, as Steelers open training camp. pic.twitter.com/ZfHw7uZfJA

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 27, 2022

They’re currently doing contested catch drills on the sideline here. George Pickens jumped into the air and made a really nice twirling grab along the sidelines.

His body control is fantastic. You can see it better live.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) July 27, 2022

During warmups, #Steelers WR coach Frisman Jackson has his receivers catching rugby balls during drills and then transitioning to catching footballs. No drops yet.

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) July 27, 2022

Diontae Johnson went through individual work with receivers catching coach-thrown balls, but he’s not catching passes from quarterbacks in a group drill. pic.twitter.com/IEZvBT7wN9

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

High fives from @_TJWatt #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/SN0KpJ2cAs

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

Diontae Johnson taking a page from the TJ Watt training camp hold-in playbook. Reminder: earlier today Johnson said he would fully participate if it were up to him, but Mike Tomlin might decide otherwise. pic.twitter.com/4r1nhsATU4

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Maybe don’t yet read TOO much into this… but… Drills are going on… the Steelers WR group is doing its thing… and the longest-tenured member of the WR group is doing his thing… and they are separated… pic.twitter.com/vn6qro8Mmc

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

MUTH! MUTH! MUTH! @pat_fry5 | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/adrw3O9X7t

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

Mitch Trubisky, to no surprise, gets the first snaps with the first-team offense. His first pass is a swing pass that is behind Najee Harris.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 27, 2022

Mitch Trubisky takes the first two first-team reps and has two incompletions. A fan yells: “get Pickett in there!”

And so it begins.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Steelers first team D:

Cam Heyward, Chris Wormley
TJ Watt, Devin Bush, Myles Jack, Alex Highsmith
Ahkello Witherspoon, Damontae Kazee, Terrell Edmunds, Cam Sutton (slot), Levi Wallace

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

After three straight incompletions, Mitch Trubisky hits Chase Claypool for a first down on an intermediate throw.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Levi Wallace and Witherspoon open as outside CBs with Cam Sutton in the slot.

Chris Wormley the second starting DL (Alualu on PUP)

Kazee in at free safety first team (Minkah on NFI)

George Pickens the WR2

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

First set of third down plays: Trubisky went 1/4, Rudolph 4/4, Pickett 2/4.

But we’re not going to read into every single throw of training camp, right guys?

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Diontae Johnson helmet-less and holding a play sheet on the sideline pic.twitter.com/t51BtqFucr

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

George Pickens nearly came down with a contorted catch that elicited oohs and ahs from the crowd. Caught the ball, but lost it when he hit the ground.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 27, 2022

Seeing a lot of motion and rollouts from the Steelers offense thus far. Double jet-sweep motion.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 27, 2022

First two team drills — Chris Oladokun zero reps.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 27, 2022

The head coach hanging out with the punt returners line pic.twitter.com/zAQxI3wGE9

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

Larry Ogunjobi and DeMarvin Leal working with Steelers pass-rushers pic.twitter.com/33GtjwNhDD

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

Robert Spillane is sitting first team reps at ILB evenly with Myles Jack and Devin Bush

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

Arthur Maulet seems to be repping in the first team reps in the secondary as much as the top 3 CBs have

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

@_jlayne x @Chico_Hndrxx pic.twitter.com/Iv9X48qBQm

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

This time George Pickens’ catch survives the ground on a deep throw from Mitch Trubisky. @jhathhorn estimates it’s a 40-45 yard throw to the sideline.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Larry Ogunjobi is not taking part in drills

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

Kenny Pickett with a laser pass to Anthony Miller over the middle, 20+ yards. That drew some ooohs from the crowd

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Pickens had a nice catch on a skinny post. Didn't see a lot of skinny posts last season.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 27, 2022

1️⃣1️⃣@ChaseClaypool | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/gxlBd9XFkC

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

Rookie WR Calvin Austin to the house on a screen pass from Mason Rudolph

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Quick screen play to Calvin Austin and he takes it to the house. 61 yard TD for Austin. Dude got it, took off, and he was gone.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) July 27, 2022

Back at it #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/67PKSGG3bA

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

Kenny Pickett with a bad INT, slow developing throw to the sideline picked off by rookie Carlins Platel

ON THE LAST SNAP OF PRACTICE

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

The defense celebrated the INT by mimicking a clay pigeon shoot throwing the ball up in the air and using hand air rifles, while whooping it up

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

George Pickens at Camp! #Steelers #NFL pic.twitter.com/cLGdCLZszC

— BlitzVideos✨ (@BlitzVideos) July 27, 2022

So apparently it’s not weather related but an NFL rule on length of the opening practice. https://t.co/gqttptUNlP

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 27, 2022

George Pickens with almost another special grab from Trubisky! #Steelers #NFL pic.twitter.com/kOA3hpI36E

— BlitzVideos✨ (@BlitzVideos) July 27, 2022

Latrobe autographs are back. pic.twitter.com/FlTNyEh9OE

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Mike Tomlin’s opening remarks after the first session of 2022 training camp pic.twitter.com/rd3SMS3ZC3

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 27, 2022

Mike Tomlin: not ready to name a starting quarterback after the first practice pic.twitter.com/NmQapF6PSX

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

Tomlin on Day 1 of QB battle. pic.twitter.com/OeYHb4rmM9

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 27, 2022

Long-snapper Christian Kuntz, a Pittsburgh native, joked with Steelers fans that they don’t know who he is without his jersey on. Someone calls out his number and he goes “you still don’t know who I am.” But says that’s a good thing given his role. pic.twitter.com/Z0LD2k5yqg

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

Calvin Austin III on fellow Steelers rookie wideout George Pickens, who had a couple near-highlights today: “He’s gonna make some crazy plays this year. I mean some *crazy* plays.” pic.twitter.com/mLzqfAzpK4

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 27, 2022

Lot of loud calls for Kenny Pickett from the autograph line pic.twitter.com/KXk7OmIwuz

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2022

@CamHeyward | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/y55h9XriTf

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2022

Steelers ‘Digit Dynasty’: Who wore his number best? No. 26-50

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers have a rich history, but looking back at their jersey numbers it makes you wonder which player wore the Nos. 26-50 best.

In Part One of Steelers Digit Dynasty, BTSC examined the best of the best to wear the numbers from 0-25 in franchise history. This time around, our journey takes us through No. 50. We will answer such burning digital questions like:

  • Is the No. 33 the numerals that has the most worthy competition?
  • Is Robert Spillane the best No. 41 in team lore?
  • Can Minkah Fitzpatrick’s amazing accomplishments in a short amount of time give him the crown as the top No. 39?

We will see. Let’s take a look.

Part Two: Numbers 26-49

Note: Years provided came from The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Media Guide

No. 26 CB/KR/PR Rod Woodson (1987-1996) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Woodson spent ten years of his Hall of Fame resume’ in black-and-gold, but most Steelers fans still view him as the one that got away. The world-class hurdler thrived for seven more seasons in the NFL after departing Pittsburgh. It’s hard not to wonder if his leadership on defense would have brought another title to the City of Champions, especially in 1997. During his Steel Town tenure, Woodson was named All-Pro six times, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1993, three-time Steelers MVP and was included on the 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Rod holds the NFL record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns at 12. To illustrate how huge these numerals have been in Steelers’ history, Le’Veon Bell isn’t the best to wear the number for the franchise despite the gaudy offensive numbers he’s produced.

Other Notables: Brady Keys 1961-1967, Deshea Townsend 1998-2009, Le’Veon Bell 2013-2017

Current Wearer: RB Anthony McFarland Jr., CB Chris Steele

No. 27 S Glen Edwards (1971-1977)

Edwards is another one of those 70s Steelers who gets overshadowed by the Hall of Famers of that era. In eight seasons as a member of the Steel Curtain defense, Edwards picked-off 25 passes. The four-time All-Pro played in Super Bowl IX and X, before leaving for San Diego.

Other Notables: Thomas Everett 1988-1991, Brent Alexander 2000-2003, Willie Williams 1993-1996 and 2004-2005

Current Wearer: S Marcus Allen

No. 28 S Chris Hope (2002-2005) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Hope started 32 games with the Steelers in four seasons. The talented safety started in Super Bowl XL and then departed for Tennessee, where he enjoyed a Pro Bowl season in 2008.

Other Notables: Lupe Sanchez 1986-1988

Current Wearer: LB/ST Miles Killebrew

No. 29 Barry Foster-RB (1990-1994) Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The ball-carrier served five enigmatic seasons for the Steelers. Foster enjoyed the finest single-season ever in club history in 1992, rushing for a team mark of 1,690 yards and earning the team’s MVP honor. Foster ran and received for nearly 5,000 yards and scored 28 times in Pittsburgh. The emergence of Bam Morris plus some nagging injuries hastened his departure in 1995. Foster joined Carolina and Cincinnati in 1995, but he never played a game for either club.

Other Notables: Chidi Iwuoma 2002-2006, Ryan Mundy 2009-2012

Current Wearer: CB Levi Wallace

No. 30 RB Frank Pollard (1980-1988)

The high school track star won a state track team championship in Texas as the only member of the team. Pollard was a very productive runner in Pittsburgh during the eighties. In nine seasons, Pollard ran for 3,989 yards and 20 touchdowns. He spent his entire career wearing black-and-gold, but part of it wearing No. 44 as well.

Other Notables: Larry Anderson 1978-1981, Chad Scott 1997-2004, James Conner 2017-2020

Current Wearer: CB Carlins Platel, RB Jaylen Warren

No. 31 S Donnie Shell (1974-1987) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Not only did the Steelers draft four Hall of Famers in 1974, Donnie Shell, the undrafted safety from South Carolina State will now join them in Canton. In 14 seasons with the Steelers, Shell amassed 51 interceptions. Two of those picks came in the 1984 season-finale win over the Los Angeles Raiders that propelled the team into the playoffs. He ranks third in franchise history, six behind the leader, Mel Blount.

Other Notables: Mike Logan 2001-2006

Current Wearer: CB Justin Layne

No. 32 RB Franco Harris (1972-1984) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Super Bowl IX MVP and owner of four rings is the all-time team rushing leader with 11,950 yards. His Immaculate Reception remains the greatest play in NFL history and some people believe it marked the turning point for a perennial loser. His is another non-retired number that is no longer issued. Harris thrilled his Italian Army as a nine-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 1970s All-Decade team and even earned a visit to practice from the legendary Frank Sinatra.

Current Wearer: None

No. 33 RB John “Frenchy” Fuqua (1970-1976) Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

Fuqua had 2,492 yards for the Steelers and held the single-game rushing mark of 220 yards in a 1970 contest. That record lasted 36 years before Willie Parker broke it in 2006 (Le’Veon Bell owns it today by virtue of his December 2016 performance in Buffalo). “The French Count” is the only man who knows the truth behind the Immaculate Reception. Fuqua, who remains mum on the subject and has turned down large sums to reveal, was the player for whom the fateful pass was originally intended. Fuqua narrowly edges out Merril Hoge and Fran Rogel for No. 33 supremacy and also reigns as the most fashionable personality in team lore. And yes..he wore shoes with live goldfish in the heels.

Other Notables: Fran Rogel 1954-1957, Merril Hoge 1987-1993, Byron “Bam” Morris 1994-1995, Isaac Redman 2011-2013

Current Wearer: RB Jeremy McNichols

No. 34 LB Andy Russell (1967-1976) Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Andy Russell was a part of the greatest trio of linebackers in NFL history. Not as recognizable as Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, Russell still thrived for 12 years and won two Super Bowl titles. His 93-yard fumble return in the 1975 playoffs versus Baltimore was voted by fans as the seventh best play in Three Rivers history. Russell was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and was a four-time All-Pro.

Other Notables: Walter Abercrombie 1982-1987, Verron Haynes 2002-2007, Rashard Mendenhall 2008-2012, DeAngelo Williams 2015-2016

Current Wearer: S Terrell Edmunds

No. 35 RB John Henry Johnson (1960-1965) Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images

Hall of Famers galore wore No. 35 in Pittsburgh, including Bullet Bill Dudley, Walt Keisling and John McNally. However, John Henry Johnson wore it for six seasons during his Hall of Fame career in Pittsburgh. Johnson ranks fourth all-time on the team’s career rushing list.

Other Notables: Delton Hall 1987-1991, Dan Kreider 2000-2007

Current Wearer: S Arthur Maulet

No. 36 RB Jerome Bettis (1996-2006)

The Rams’ presumed “trash” became the Steelers’ treasure when they acquired the big rusher in exchange for a second- and fourth-rounder in the 1996 draft. The Bus trails only Franco Harris for the team lead in most rushing categories. Despite spending his first three years in LA and St. Louis, Jerome rushed for 10,571 yards and scored 80 touchdowns for the Steelers. As the Steelers celebrated their Super Bowl XL win, Bettis retired on the podium in his home city of Detroit. Bettis, who was enshrined in Canton finally in August 2015, is sixth all-time on the NFL rushing list.

Current Wearer: None

No. 37 S/CB Carnell Lake (1989-1998) Photo by Craig Hacker/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

A linebacker at UCLA, Lake switched to safety in the pros and his play earned him inclusion on the 1990’s All-Decade team. Lake, who stepped down in February 2018 as the Steelers defensive backfield coach, was a 5-time Pro Bowl selection and a 4-time All-Pro during his time with Pittsburgh. Lake tallied 677 tackles, 25 sacks, 16 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries during his 10-year career by the three rivers. Lake’s defining moment was switching to cornerback in 1995 after Rod Woodson’s season-ending injury in the opener. Lake’s performance that season proved to be a major factor in the team’s SB XXX entry.

Current Wearer: Donovan Stiner

No. 38 RB Sidney Thornton (1977-1982) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Thornton was picked in the second round of the 1977 draft. Mostly a backup to Franco Harris, Sidney played in 76 games, hit pay-dirt 18 times and combined rushing and receiving for more than 2,000 yards. Thornton played in both Super Bowls XIII and XIV.

Other Notables: Earl Gros 1967-1969, Tim Worley 1989-1993, Jon Witman 1996-2001, Carey Davis 2007-2009

Current Wearer: S Karl Joseph

No. 39 RB Willie Parker (2004-2010) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Fast Willie Parker wasn’t supposed to start in Pittsburgh, but in 2005 when both Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley were deemed unable to play in the opener, Parker ran the rock for 161 yards and finished the season with 1,202. In Super Bowl XL, Parker’s 75-yard dash is still the longest running-play in Super Bowl history. Injuries cut short the career of the 2-time Pro Bowler, who finished his career as the third best rusher in team history with 5,378 yards and 29 touchdowns. Parker held the record for most rushing yards in a single game, notching 223 on a frigid December night in 2006, until Le’Veon Bell broke it in 2016. Pretty soon, Minkah Fitzpatrick might just take over the list.

Other Notables: Bobby Walden 1968-1977, Rick Moser 1979-1982, Darren Perry 1992-1998

Current Wearer: S Minkah Fitzpatrick

No. 40 S Myron Bell (1994-1997 and 2000-2001)

The man known as “Boo” played six non-consecutive seasons for the Steelers. The safety from Michigan State collected three interceptions during his time and started in Super Bowl XXX against Dallas.

Current Wearer: RB Mataeo Durant, CB Linden Stephens

No. 41 S Lethon Flowers (1995-2002)

Flowers was a big-league hitter and an all-league talker. Lee never met a microphone he didn’t like. In eight years, Flowers had four picks, 432 tackles and 12 sacks. Lee appeared in 3 AFC title bouts and Super Bowl XXX.

Other Notables: CB Sam Washington 1982-1985, CB Antwon Blake 2013-2015

Current Wearer: LB Robert Spillane

No. 42 RB Dick Hoak (1961-1970)

Dick Hoak is one of the longest-tenured Steelers with ten years as a running back and 36 years as a running-backs coach. Hoak’s 3,965 yards ranks him sixth all-time on the list of Steelers’ rushers.

Current Wearer: CB James Pierre

No. 43 S Troy Polamalu (2003-2014) SetNumber: X74563 TK1

The 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year retired as one of the most popular players in the history of the team. The eight-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro was known for his kamikaze-style of play and his trademark hair. Troy is a member of the NFL’s 90’s All-Decade team, the franchise’s All-Time team and the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and team MVP. Polamalu concluded his career after the 2014 season with 581 tackles and ranks seventh all-time with 32 interceptions. Troy became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2020.

Other Notables: RB Ernest Jackson 1986-1988, WR Frank Lewis 1971-1977

Current Wearer: None

No. 44 D.J. Johnson-CB (1989-1993) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The bandana-sporting Johnson stood out opposite Rod Woodson at corner in the early 90s. During his Steelers career, he thieved 19 passes.

Other Notables: Mike Collier 1975-1976

Current Wearer: FB Derek Watt, LB Tyree Johnson

No. 45 Chris Fuamatu Ma’afala-RB (1998-2002)

The massive Hawaiian spent five years carrying the pigskin for the Steelers. Referred to as “One Bad Ma’Afala”, Chris chipped in with eight touchdowns during his era and scored his biggest in the epic Wild Card Game against the Browns following the 2002 season.

Current Wearer: LB Buddy Johnson

No. 46 Reggie Harrison-RB (1974-1977)

Harrison lasted four years with the Steelers and made his mark on special teams. His pivotal punt-block in Super Bowl X resulted in a safety. Twice a Super Bowl Champ, Harrison started in place of the injured Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier in the 1976 AFC Championship. He’s now known as Kamal Ali Salaam-El.

Other Notables: Will Johnson 2012-2015

Current Wearer: LB/LS Christian Kuntz

No. 47 CB Mel Blount (1970-1983) Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The Hall of Famer was so dominant that the league instituted a rule — the 5-yard chuck — primarily because of him. In fact, teammate John Stallworth credits that rule as a part of his own success. Blount revolutionized the corner position and ranks as the team-best with 57 interceptions during his career, including 11 in 1975 when he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The 5-time Pro Bowler made All-Pro six times and is a member of the 1970s All-Decade team and the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.

Other Notables: Marv Woodson 1964-1969

Current Wearer: None

No. 48 OLB Alvin “Bud” Dupree (2015-2020) Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Dupree, the 2015 top selection out of Kentucky, had a promising rookie season for the Steelers. Dupree accumulated 11.5 sacks in 2019 which earned him the franchise tag for 2020. After eight sacks in a mere 11 games, Alvin “Bud” suffered a season-ending knee injury against Baltimore on 12/2. Upon departing for a lucrative free agent deal with the Titans in the offseason, Dupree wrote a love letter to the team and city to celebrate his six years in Pittsburgh.

Current Wearer: LB Derek Tuszka

No. 49 C Dwayne Woodruff (1979-1990)

As good as Woodruff was for 12 seasons for the Steelers, the work that the 1982 team-MVP does now impacts more people. A member of the SB XIV winning squad, Woodruff was elected to serve as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in 2005. He also ran for openings on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but fell short. His 37 interceptions in 12 seasons ranks him fourth all-time in Pittsburgh.

Current Wearer: LB Genard Avery

No. 50 LB Ryan Shazier (2014-2019)

In 12 years with the Steelers, David Little had 10 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries and was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1990 season. Even though Little had a long and successful career, Ryan Shazier accomplished a pretty amazing body of work in a small amount of time. The Steelers’ top pick in 2014 out of Ohio State had 299 tackles, seven sacks and seven interceptions. What he might have accomplished during a full career, we most likely will never know due to his career-threatening injury in 2017. Shazier was a field general on defense and his dominating performance against Cincinnati in the 2015 Wild Card Game made the victory possible by forcing two fumbles late in the game.

Other Notables: LB John Reger 1955-1963, OL Jim Clack 1969-1977, LB David Little 1981-1992, Earl Holmes 1996-2001, LB Larry Foote 2002-2008 and 2010-2013

Current Wearer: LB Delontae Scott

Feel free to state your own claims in the comments section and check back for Part Three very soon.

If you missed Part 1 of Digit Dynasty, check it out here.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation heading into training camp

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Where do the Steelers sit with the cap as they take to the field at St. Vincent college?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have filled up their 90-man offseason roster as they begin into the 2022 NFL season. While there bound to be some swapping of players throughout training camp, there is always the chance something else changes things whether large or small. As 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.

Since the last salary cap update after the signing of Larry Ogunjobi, the Steelers have made some minor moves that have not changed their salary cap much, if at all. The signing of defensive lineman Doug Coston with a reported salary of $825k does not put him in the top 51 for salaries. Additionally, the retirement of Daniel Archibong and the release of Trey Edmunds do not come with any dead money, therefore not affecting the salary cap.

The biggest question at this time comes from the Steelers signing running back Jeremy McNichols on the day players reported to training camp. There is one report by Spotrac which has McNichols’ salary with the Steelers at $965k. If this is the case, it would decrease the Steelers salary cap space by $70k. But when looking at McNichols’ contracts in the past, something appears to be a little off.

Jeremy McNichols reportedly signed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons in May. According to Over The Cap (OTC), McNichols was set to earn $1.035 million. This number is reflective of the minimum salary of a player with four to six years of NFL experience, assuming the Falcons were signing McNichols for the minimum. If so, it would qualify as a veteran benefit salary and would only count $895k against the salary cap. The salary according to Spotrac that McNichols will make with the Steelers is based on a player with three years of NFL experience. While McNichols has appeared in games in five different NFL seasons, he’s also been on an NFL practice squad for nearly every week of a season when not on the active roster. According to Steelers.com, McNichols is in his third NFL season. In order to have a veteran salary benefit, a player must have four accrued NFL seasons.

Even with some discrepancy, I’m going to proceed with the report on McNichols’ salary at this time. If McNichols only has three years of service and isn’t eligible for a veteran salary benefit, then he would cost an additional $70k against the Steelers salary cap.

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 $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525 million
Karl Joseph: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Miles Boykin: Reported $2.54 million; After displacement++: -$0
Terrell Edmunds: Reported $1.1875 million; After displacement+: -$0.2925 million
Damontae Kazee: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525 million
George Pickens: Reported $1.22767 million; After displacement+: -$0.33267 million
Trenton Scott: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
DeMarvin Leal: Reported $0.943072 million; After displacement+: -$0.048072 million
Bryce Watts: Released with $10k in dead money: -$0.01
Tuzar Skipper: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Stephon Tuitt: Saved $9.05 million salary; After displacement+: +$8.155 million
Minkah Fitzpatrick: Reported $8.124235 million; Replaced $10.612 million: +$2.487765 million
Kenny Pickett: Reported $2.557801 million; After displacement+: -$1.662801 million
Larry Ogunjobi: Reported $8 million; After displacement+: -$7.105 million
Doug Costin: Reported $825k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jeremy McNichols: Reported $965k; After displacement+: -$0.07 million

Estimated salary cap space: Approximately $14.26 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 $14,338,932 under the salary cap. OTC has everything on their books at this time, except the McNichols’ contract. Other than that difference, we have the exact same dollar amount.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $13,776,076 under the cap. Spotrac has the above contracts, including for McNichols. Spotrac also has Miles Boykin’s prorated bonus incorrectly counting for the Steelers instead of it sticking with the Ravens. 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.

I updated how much I believe the Steelers will need to still have when the regular season rolls around, which is much as an additional $13 million. Come September, the Steelers 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. But there is one more expense that will likely add to the $5 million the Steelers hoped to take into the season (in years past). If the Steelers elevate players from the practice squad, they must receive a full game check. Taking this into account, along with significant increases in league-minimum salaries of players who could be added to the roster if another player is injured, the Steelers will likely want to carry an additional $2 million to $3 million, increasing what I had estimated before to be about $10.8 million up to approximately $13 million. Also remember, this needed amount could go down depending on the salaries of the players who do not make the roster, assuming there is not too much dead money.

Based on this number, the Steelers only have about $1.26 million above what they need for the 2022. If the Steelers feel they need more money against the 2022 salary cap, a restructure of T.J. Watt’s contract could give more than $17 million if the Steelers chose to do so. Also, the Steelers could do a restructure for a lower amount if they choose.

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.

Predicting the Steelers 2022 Offensive Position Battles

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As Training Camp kicks off, several significant roles on the Offense are up for grabs.

It has been 18 years since Steelers Training Camp began with anything more than a feeling of formality at the game’s most important position. Ben Roethlisberger’s success as the starting quarterback (QB) in Pittsburgh is now the stuff of legend, and the team enters the 2022 season with more uncertainty than they have experienced in those almost two decades.

Despite earning much of the press on the matter, Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and Kenny Pickett are not the only players on this roster looking to make their mark and cement their status as the Steelers’ best option at their position.n this roster looking to make their mark and cement their status as the Steelers’ best option at their position.e

This exercise will attempt to predict the outcomes of the significant position battles that are being fought at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. The Steelers have a lot of talent, and each player will have to earn every rep. Let’s take a look at how things could play out.

QUARTERBACK

Contenders: Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett

Analysis: We all know how they got here, and we all have an opinion on who the guy should be. But who will actually step up and take the reigns to begin the season is anybody’s guess at this point. Trubisky brings the most experience, the highest pedigree, and likely represents the team’s best chance to be competitive at the outset. However, the Steelers didn’t spend a 1st Round Draft Pick on the talented, athletic Kenny Pickett for him to be a long-term backup. The Wildcard is Rudolph, who has spent the last 4 years with the team, earning spot-starts for Roethlisberger when he was unavailable, and, most importantly, possessing an advantageous head-start in the Matt Canada offensive system.

Prediction: Mitch Trubisky shows why he was the 2nd overall pick in 2017 and rides his resurgent confidence and athleticism to cement his status as QB1 for Week 1 vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. Pickett earns the QB2 role as Rudolph’s future with the team is cloudy.

LEFT GUARD

Contenders: Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green

Analysis: The Steelers have made if fairly clear that Free Agent acquisition Mason Cole is the team’s top option at center, likely shifting Green, the 2021 Rookie starter at center, to Left Guard where he will compete with a polarizing player in Kevin Dotson. Dotson has all the tools to be, and has shown significant flashes as an elite option along the interior offensive line (OL). However, questions about Dotson’s conditioning and mental fortitude hover ominously, potentially opening the door for the athletic but undersized Green to make a run at the starting gig. Green will need to shake off the ghosts of a 2021 season that saw him thrown into the fire too quickly and make a significant rebound to earn the job.

Prediction: Kevin Dotson shows out in camp, returning to the form that gave Steelers fans high hopes that he would be the next great Steelers lineman. Green operates as the “Swing” guard/center, who can fill in at all three positions along the interior.

WIDE RECEIVER 2

Contenders: Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III

Analysis: Claypool is coming off a disappointing season from the perspective that he didn’t really take the next step as a potentially dominant player on the perimeter. He has all the tools to be great, but didn’t quite put it together in year 2. Meanwhile, the Steelers wasted little time in drafting the most physically gifted WR in the 2022 class in George Pickens, who brings elite body control and all-round ability to the room. Then there’s 2022 4th Round Pick Calvin Austin III, whose elite speed and versatility are bound to excite the creative Matt Canada.

Prediction: Claypool shows he’s ready to make the leap as a dominant force and edges out the Rookies for the WR2 role. Pickens athleticism in practices and preseason games excites Steelers Nation, but ultimately he can’t overtake Claypool out of camp. Austin proves to be a valuable role player as the team’s WR4.

RUNNING BACK 2

Contenders: Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Jeremy McNichols

Analysis: Both Snell and McFarland are likely on their last chances to prove they can be valuable assets behind Najee Harris. This is especially true with the Steelers bringing in Jeremy McNichols the day the team reported to camp. McNichols is a proven RB2 who excels in the 3rd-Down role. He might be the front runner already to be Najee’s primary backup. For Snell, it will all come down to whether or not he can improve his lackluster vision and elusiveness. His production so far has been definitively unsatisfactory. For McFarland, injuries have stunted his obvious explosiveness. He has a chance to be a difference maker in this backfield if he can put it all together.

Prediction: Jeremy McNichols earns the title of RB2 and handles the majority of relief work, while McFarland brings value as the change of pace back. Benny Snell likely takes a backseat to these two players, and may also find himself looking for work in a couple weeks.

The 2022 Steelers will rely heavily on the players above to elevate their games and be consistent, valuable contributors to this offense. It will be interesting to watch as these young men give their everything to earn their stripes as members of the Pittsburgh Steelers. No matter the outcome of each position battle, the key is that the best players are put in place to set the team up for success. Go Steelers!

Kenny Pickett is one of the first players to use his NIL money to help others

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Logan Whitton/Getty Images

Talk about entrepreneurship. The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback turned his own name, image and likeness into a way to give back.

The college football landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade. It started with the transfer portal making a pseudo free agency in college football. Now, it’s the money college athletes can receive for using their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL).

Some college athletes are bringing in more money while attending their respective universities than rookies on the rookie pay scale in the NFL. But while some fans believe these athletes are nothing more than self-serving ego-maniacs, not all athletes are taking their money and spending it on themselves.

In fact, many athletes are using this money to help others, and Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett was one of the first to do so during his time at the University of Pittsburgh.

In July 2021, Pickett became the first Pitt Panthers player to sign an NIL deal, and he started an association with the Oaklander Hotel and Restaurant, Spirits & Tales. But he didn’t just use the deal for himself. He used it for his “hog dinners.”

For my first NIL deal, I want to make sure I can take care of the big guys who take care of me. I’m excited to announce my association with the Oaklander Hotel & their restaurant, Spirits & Tales, where I will be treating my linemen to our weekly Hog Dinners! #OaklanderPartner pic.twitter.com/hek0x0ujB3

— Kenny Pickett (@kennypickett10) July 15, 2021

Pickett helping out his teammates is something he’s always done, but after his NIL deal, he was able to do it far more often.

“We would go out before the first game of the season,” Pickett told ESPN, when recalling his early days at Pitt. “I would cover that bill, but obviously the scholarship checks don’t run deep like that. So I could only do it once before the season started.

“I wish I had this my whole career. I think there are other things we could build and get a lot more people involved on the team,” Pickett said. “I wanted to get the offensive line involved as much as possible ... having the opportunity to take care of them and getting to spend more time with them on Monday nights, it means a lot.”

The partnership with the Oaklander Hotel and Restaurant wasn’t the only NIL deal Pickett signed. As Allison Torres Burtka of Global Sport Matters wrote, Pickett collaborated with several other companies. However, just like his “hog dinners,” Pickett wanted to use these deals to help others.

Two of the deals were with a trucking company and an apparel company, both of which Pickett collaborated with to produce “Pickett’s Partners” t-shirts. All the proceeds went to another of his partners: the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.

As Burtka reported, the Boys & Girls Club is very near to Pickett’s heart:

Pickett spent a lot of time at a Boys & Girls Club in New Jersey growing up, and he wanted to give back, explains Scott Koskoski, vice president of advancement for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania. “His Boys & Girls Club experience really stuck with him,” Koskoski says. “In the advent of the NIL era, Kenny very quickly reached out to us … and expressed a desire to be a part of the Boys & Girls Clubs here in Pittsburgh.”

Pickett visited summer day campers and gave them T-shirts while also drawing attention to the T-shirts for sale. Months later, Koskoski says, “our youth have not forgotten that. They still tell the story of the day Kenny Pickett came to the clubhouse.”

When NIL deals opened up for him, Pickett went back to his roots. “Kenny is far from the first student-athlete to walk into a Boys & Girls Club somewhere in the country and volunteer,” Koskoski says. “But NIL offers student-athletes the opportunity to formalize that, and organize that, and to put a brand around it. And from that brand can come real resources that can move missions forward.”

Jessi Marsh, a spokeswoman for the clubs that benefited from Pickett’s Partners t-shirts, said the money will be used to help fund programs that introduce kids to sports and educational programming for robotics and artificial intelligence.

“I think that college athletes have a really interesting opportunity in front of them,” Marsh said. “It’s wonderful to see them be able to do some things that only pro athletes have been able to do. Just like pro athletes, you’re going to see some of them take advantage of the opportunity to shine a light on important work that’s being done in the community.”

Pickett didn’t just donate the money, he attended events and wanted to show the kids he was willing to take the time to be present with them.

“He didn’t just hand them a t-shirt and go onto the next kid,” Marsh said. “He got down on their level and he asked them their name and I saw him shaking hands and giving pats on their shoulders. It was really heartwarming.”

What Pickett was able to do with his NIL is something that has become a blueprint for other athletes who have yet to join the professional ranks. It also shines a light on the type of person Pickett is, and his overall focus on helping others.

Steelers Stock Report: Pre-Training camp edition

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 8:00am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who has benefitted the most in the leadup to Latrobe?

The NFL Draft was forever ago. Free Agency is now relegated to the annals of history. As the Steelers begin their 2022 training camp, it is time to take stock of what has changed on the team since the last waves of free agency to today.

Stock Down: Running the wheels off Najee Harris

At the last second to make it pre-training camp news the Steelers added veteran running back Jeremy McNichols. McNichols isn’t a big name and he doesn’t have great stats, but he’s a good pass blocker and receiver and not a shabby runner either. The Steelers acquired a third down/receiving back to compliment Najee Harris, and that is a great thing.

But it isn’t just the addition of McNichols. Pat Meyer, the new offensive line coach, has gone to multiple teams that ran one back a ton and every time he goes to a team that team has success reducing the carries from their main back and spreading those carries around. Najee Harris has even stated the team wants to rely on him less. Now this is still before training camp, and I’m certainly not holding my breath to see Tomlin actually follow through with a season’s worth of game plans that rely on multiple backs, but the Steelers are investing in reducing Harris’s wear and tear and saying the right things. That’s at least a step in the right direction.

Stock Up: Camp competitions

Outside of running back and outside linebacker, the team has a ton of competition for play time on this team. The defensive line has a ton of players that will be vying not just for starts, but for serious play time. You can make a very solid depth chart at defensive line and then suddenly remember you left out their third-round pick DeMarvin Leal. I know, because I’ve done it several times.

Wide Receiver has a ton of competition as well. The Steelers only return their top two wide outs from last season, but with two free agent additions and two draft picks, let alone players like Anthony Miller who has a great history with Mitchell Trubisky, there’s plenty of competition for the pecking order at that position.

Cornerback might have the most competition as really no spots look secure coming in, and the depth positions will have some really serious competition this year.

Add in the quarterback situation and this is going to be a camp with so much on the line at so many positions. Should be a great camp.

Stock Down: Everything we know about the Steelers offense

Let’s be honest, for the past 15 years the Steelers offense has run through Ben Roethlisberger more than anything or anyone else. So while we can look at stats and long-term trends in the Steelers offense, we can’t assume any of those are still valid. Ben Roethlisberger was the dominant force on the Steelers offense, and he’s gone. The offense will look different in design, focus, what the strengths and weaknesses are, even what plays are staple plays will change.

The Steelers aren’t even trying to run the offense the same as they did for Ben Roethlisberger, but are going in a very different direction, one we saw hints of in 2021. Is this a team that will struggle to put away bad teams? Is this a team that will lose on the West Coast? Is a deep threat receiver going to be really important to the offense? Will the offense still try to get the ball out quickly? We don’t have answers to any of those questions now, we used to because Ben Roethlisberger had a long record of strengths and weaknesses we have learned over his career. For the first time in what feels like forever, we will see a Steeler team without his mark on it.

Stock Up: Kenny Pickett’s future

The Steelers are staying the course so far this offseason, and seem committed to starting Mitchell Trubisky and letting Kenny Pickett ease into his NFL career. Pickett and Trubisky seem to be getting along fine, and there isn’t pressure for Pickett to be ready to start week one. That’s a good thing. Letting a rookie quarterback gain experience from the sideline isn’t a bad strategy at all. The learning curve is steep and every practice, every game from the sideline, every game review in the film room is going to help him prepare for the day he takes over the offense.

Ideally Trubisky is good enough to play the entire season, and Kenny Pickett doesn’t have to come in before he’s ready at all. But even if he has to start as a rookie, the later that date is the better the team will be for it. But the best thing is Pickett is under very little pressure in camp, he doesn’t have to be perfect, he can learn and grow and make mistakes without it being a huge deal. That’s the best situation to learn in, and the Steelers have created that environment for their first-round draft pick. Kenny Pickett could very well win the starting job, but it won’t be because the Steelers pushed him into it, it will be because he is ready to take that spot, whenever it happens.

Stock Down: Hot takes and manufactured drama

How great it is to get to training camp, where we can see the team, get comments from players and coaches and have real football-related things to talk about. I’m not naive enough to think the “Kenny Pickett must start or the team is doomed” or “player X is the best/worst thing ever because they took a selfie” nonsense will end because they show up for training camp, but at least there will be other things to talk about.

So enjoy the players arriving, player and coach interviews, and watching football in shorts. It may not be real football, but it sure beats stadium names, potential third uniforms and Ben Roethlisberger saying things we already knew but still somehow get upset about being the only things to talk about.

Stock Up: Life, the Universe and Everything

Okay, maybe the Steelers returning to Saint Vincent College isn’t a big deal in the scope of the world and human history, but it feels enormous. It feels like Steeler football is coming back. The last training camp at Latrobe saw Ben Roethlisberger still throwing the football well, it wasn’t until Week 2 of that season that he left a game and was never the same player again. Think about that, the last time the Steelers were at Latrobe, Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t left the field for his arm injury yet and Minkah Fitzpatrick wasn’t a Steeler. The last time the Steelers were in Latrobe Devlin Hodges was a training camp darling.

I can’t wait to get out to Latrobe, it’s much more than just watching football practice, it’s a return to a big part of the life of Steeler Nation. I hope to see you out there.

12 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following Day 1 of training camp

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 7:00am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Speaking to the media for the first time as players report to training camp, the Steelers head coach answered many questions about specific players.

As the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers reported for the first day of traing camp at St. Vincent College on Tuesday, we were also graced with a media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. For that reason, it is the glorious return of the “players mentioned” article after a nearly 6-week absence since minicamp in June. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period, although there were two key players mentioned in the opening statement. For that reason, those players will be included.

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Coach Tomlin made the following statement about Minkah Fitzpatrick:

“Minkah will be placed on NFI. He sustained a wrist injury on vacation. I think he fell off a bike. It will create some short-term discomfort, but I don’t expect it to be an issue in the overall trajectory of his development and his place within this group and stadium availability and things of that nature. It’s just going to create some discomfort for him at the early stages of this.”

Tyson Alualu

Coach Tomlin made the following statement about Tyson Alualu:

“Tyson Alualu has been placed on PUP. He has a knee that’s been swelling on him a little bit, probably from overtraining. Similar discussion as Minkah. We don’t expect it to be significant from a long-term perspective but it will create some discomfort here at the early stages. We’ll monitor those guys.”

Larry Ogunjobi

One player who did not participate in the Steelers run test on Tuesday was new defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi who was signed since the Steelers minicamp in June. Coach Tomlin was asked if Ogunjobi has a clean bill of health.

“As you guys know, he’s coming off surgery. We exercise precaution because he’s new here and new to us. So as we get to know him, we’re going to proceed with caution so we get a better understanding of how his body works, so we take no steps backward as we proceed, so I wouldn’t read too much into his lack of participation. It’s really just more just to get to know.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he sees Ogunjobi as a nose tackle who can help out at defensive end.

“I like him in both spots. But what we’re talking about probably is 18 percent of our snaps. In today’s NFL you spend so much time in sub package ball that we haven’t wasted a lot of time talking about the oki or the base component of it because so little time is spent there. But there aren’t any reservations in terms of his skill set that would limit him in terms of playing either position.”

In another follow-up question, Tomlin was asked if Ogunjobi is basically a sub package inside rusher.

“Absolutely. Absolutely.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if any sort of consideration was given to the history the Steelers have with Ogunjobi before they signed him.

“Very little. None.”

Jeremy McNichols

On Tuesday the Steelers signed a new running back to the 90-man roster in former Tennessee Titan Jeremy McNichols. Coach Tomlin was asked how McNichols fits into the running back mix.

“We’ll see. He’s a guy that has an NFL resume. We’ve been in some stadiums with him in the past. Weknow that he’s capable. He and others will be given an opportunity to kind of define their roles and divide the labor up as we get into it, but we’re happy that he’s with us.”

Kenny Pickett

One of the most highly anticipated players coming into training camp for 2022 is first-round draft pick quarterback Kenny Pickett. Coach Tomlin was asked what he wants to see out of Pickett at training camp, both on the field and off the field with the intangibles.

“I’m not overly concerned about that narrative. I think when you’re 22, 23, 24 years old and you’ve been playing quarterback your whole life, you understand those informal responsibilities that come with the position. I’m more concerned about tangible things, accuracy, taking care of the ball and things of that nature. I don’t have any level of concern about those things being in his wheelhouse. I watched him do it next door in terms of leading his guys and being what we need quarterbacks to be. I don’t think that’s going to be a significant discussion.”

Najee Harris

With the Steelers young offense for 2022, one player who is likely to be called on as a leader is second-year running back Najee Harris. Coach Tomlin was asked how Harris can increases leadership at the beginning of training camp.

“He doesn’t have to do anything but be himself. I think that’s an important component of leadership. I don’t ask people to be something that they’re not. It is naturally in his wheelhouse. It is something that just oozes off of him. It’s just about he and us cultivating that and using that for our collective good.”

Coach Tomlin was asked a later question about what he sees in Najee Harris at such a young age that he feels he can be a leader.

“It’s just him. It’s in his personality. I imagine he’s been that on every team he’s ever been on in his lifetime. So it is a natural act for him. So it’s just something that you recognize and you cultivate. It’s not something that’s mandatory in all individuals, it’s a team. It’s appropriate that you have enough of them, but it’s not something that’s mandatory per individuals.”

In a follow-up question, Tomlin was told Najee Harris said earlier in the day that being a vocal leader was not his style. Coach Tomlin was asked what kind of leader he believed Harris to be.

“He’s vocal. He’s just selectively vocal.”

Benny Snell Jr. & Anthony McFarland Jr.

With the signing of another running back on Tuesday, the other players on the depth chart with NFL experience in Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland may now be fighting for a roster spot. Coach Tomlin was asked about any objectives or expectations he has for both Snell and McFarland.

“No, much like we were talking about Jeremy, they’ll be given an opportunity to carve out their roles. We acknowledge some of the things they’ve done in the past, positively, negatively. Build on the positive, minimize the negative. We’ll see what this journey and this process of development holds for those men.

Diontae Johnson

One issue still looming throughout Steelers training camp is if Diontae Johnson will get a new contract prior to the 2022 season. Coach Tomlin was asked if Johnson reported on Tuesday.

“Oh, yeah.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if Johnson will rep like normal.

“I’m not proceeding with any anticipation of any of those type of things, man. He was here on time and did a heck of a job at the conditioning test like everyone else so we keep moving forward.”

Coach Tomlin was asked another follow-up question if he sees a leadership role in Diontae Johnson.

“I do. I do, and not for the first time. I thought he exhibited growth in that area significantly a year ago.”

Chase Claypool

When speaking to the media earlier on Tuesday, Chase Claypool said he was naïve in the past with how he prepared for an NFL season. Coach Tomlin was asked if he is seeing a more mature player in Chase Claypool coming into camp.

“I think he’ll write that story. I think we just got here a couple hours ago. I can’t give you an answer to that. We just had a conditioning test at 4:00. I think that will continually be revealed.”

James Daniels

During minicamp, new offensive lineman James Daniels was reportedly taking quite a leadership role on the line. Coach Tomlin was asked what he has seen from Daniels so far with the Steelers.

“I don’t know that we’ve been in enough challenging circumstance for that to reveal itself. I would imagine they were just trying to answer questions at that point of team development.”

Cam Heyward

Coach Tomlin was asked if he could give a fond memory of former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from past training camps. In his response, Coach Tomlin discussed how Cam Heyward is now in Ben Roethlisberger‘s old room and how it has a much different feel.

“I enjoyed going by Ben’s room. Ben is one of those guys, man, that brought the comforts of home to Latrobe. He spared no expense or amenity. I walked in that room today and I laughed because Cam Heyward is in that room now but it’s less comfortable, I’ll say that. Cam is somewhat of a caveman.”

Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen below.

(Skip to 31:45 for the start of the interview)

LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media prior to our first #SteelersCamp practice. https://t.co/ghuXt7jCIK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 26, 2022

The whispers of the 2022 training camp for the Steelers will proceed the roar

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Hopefully the whispers of positivity emulating from the 2022 training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers will prove to be plentiful.

What starts as the slightest whisper can slowly and steadily gain momentum until it reaches a crescendo.

That's one of my favorite things about Pittsburgh Steelers training camp each year: The phenomenon of the slightest whisper.

Like everyone else without a press pass or the means to spend everyday viewing practices at Latrobe, I rely on the daily tweets and reports from the local sports media entrusted with the task. I ingest every tantalizing tidbit and morsel of information made available by individuals in the know that I deem knowledgeable and trustworthy.

I tend to lean towards those that resist hyperbole, choosing instead to merely share their own observations. Honest and positive reporting tinged with hope from individuals with a vested interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I have learned over the years that three individuals can witness the same practice session, and then describe said session quite differently. Therefore, I have learned to accumulate as much information from these trusted individuals as possible before trying to decipher the data prior to forming a consensus.

Social media has definitely changed the phenomenon of the training camp whisper over the years. In the old days before social media, news of extraordinary camp performances traveled by word of mouth.

Believe it or not young people, we old timers used to converse verbally about sports and stuff. That's how we learned and shared information. Sometimes we would even rush to a phone booth to share the exciting news. If you’re not sure what a phone booth is, Google it.

I can vividly recall getting calls from friends and acquaintances in Pittsburgh about unfamiliar players who were having unexpectedly strong camp performances. Sometimes those early whispers were a precursor of things to come, but more often they were enthusiastic overreaction.

Although the means and methods of sharing information have changed immensely over the decades, the unquenchable thirst for the daily updates remains the same. Thankfully, we now hold the solution in the palm of our hand. But beware, not all information is created equally. In other words, some situations are not as clear, or cut and dried, as they initially seem.

Take former Steelers wide receiver James Washington for example.

Washington was a second-round selection from Oklahoma State for the Steelers in 2018. There were plenty of whispers about his camp exploits at Latrobe right from the start. Washington was a big play machine in college with the Cowboys, showing an impressive knack for getting behind the defense and hauling in long touchdown catches, and bringing down contested catches, although he wasn't particularly tall or fast, according to predraft testing.

Sure enough, in the early portion of training camp, there were plenty of whispers about highlight catches by Washington. I, like many in the BTSC community, was intrigued.

However, there was the slightest of whisper that was audible amongst the deafening chaos.

A trusted BTSC community member shared whispers of his own that he had heard that went contrary to the consensus. He was hearing that Washington was forced to make many of those highlight reel contested catches because he lacked the short area quickness to gain consistent separation necessary for sustainable NFL success.

Admittedly, this was not the information I was wanting to hear, so I chose to focus on the positive. That was my mistake. Four years into Washington's career, that single earnest voice that went against the norm has proven to be accurate. Washington will once again try to prove otherwise in 2022, only now as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

Hopefully, I have learned from past transgressions. At least to consider and contemplate whispers that may go against the grain. If not, shame on me.

I love to focus on the positive success stories about training camp surprises that become sensations. Two guys that immediately come to mind are former Steelers standouts Ramon Foster and Nate Washington.

I had a work acquaintance who was a delivery truck driver that I had the privilege to talk football with on a weekly basis. He was extremely knowledgeable about the Tennessee Volunteers football program. He advised me early on to keep an eye on undrafted free agent rookie offensive lineman Ramon Foster. He admitted that Foster wasn't particularly athletic, but that he was incredibly smart and strong as a bull. Therefore it came as no surprise when whispers confirming the same started to emanate about the "Big Ragu" from camp.

A few years prior, I had formed a friendship with a inside sales representative whose son played football at Tiffin University with the aforementioned Nate Washington. He was ecstatic when the Steelers signed Washington as a undrafted free agent in 2005. He was a trusted source of insider information. He lauded Washington's incredible athleticism and leaping ability, plus surprising solid hands. His son recounted witnessing Washington competing successfully in a high school dunk contest against top level basketball recruits. While I acknowledge that level of athletic ability doesn't always equate success, it definitely piques your interest.

Both of those situations proved to be the calm before the storm, as each man developed into solid professionals. The ember that started the inferno; the slightest of whispers if you will.

Who will generate the most whispers from the early portion of 2022 training camp for the Steelers? Could it be perceived seventh-round long-shot LB Mark Robinson, my early favorite for the coveted Isaac Redman Award. Or UDFA OL Chris Owen, a versatile offensive lineman from the powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide football program.

Those are just two possibilities, one from both sides of the ball, from a plethora of conceivable options this preseason.

We at BTSC will be sure to stay forever vigilant, listening for the faintest whisper in the wind and always faithful to share our insights with our valued community through every podcast, article, and discussion threads.

After all, that's our job.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Wed, 07/27/2022 - 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 Steelers Fix: Quarterback and Wide Receiver Fantasy Sleepers

As we start thinking about our fantasy teams for the 2022 campaign, it’s good to consider all things when drafting your players. Looking for some winning strategies? This week, Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar look at sleepers at the quarterback and wide receiver positions to consider for your 2022 roster.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • QB and WR Fantasy Sleepers
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Scho Bro Show: Top 5 camp darlings for Steelers 2022 training camp

Finally, the Steelers have returned to Latrobe. With every camp, there are darlings going into it. Who are they? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment of the BTSC family of podcasts,

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
  • Top 5 camp darlings for Steelers 2022 training camp

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

Let’s Ride Wednesday: The Steelers officially turn the page

With players reporting to St. Vincent College for the start of 2022 Training Camp, the Steelers can turn the page on 2021 and embark on new beginnings where the story can officially develop. 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. Join Jeff for this and more on the Wednesday episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • A clean slate for the Steelers
  • 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 place Tyson Alualu on PUP List, Minkah Fitzpatrick on NFI List

Tue, 07/26/2022 - 5:01pm
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Two Steelers defenders will start training camp on the sidelines.

The Pittsburgh Steelers reported to training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA Tuesday, and with Mike Tomlin’s first press conference came news on two Steelers defenders.

As is customary for all 32 NFL teams when they report to camp, players will be placed on specific lists to start camp. The Steelers placed Tyson Alualu on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List, and Minkah Fitzpatrick on the Active/Non-Football Injury (NFI) List.

This from the Steelers official Twitter account.

We have placed DE Tyson Alualu on the Active/PUP List and S Minkah Fitzpatrick on the Active/NFI List.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 26, 2022

Mike Tomlin told media Fitzpatrick suffered a wrist injury while on vacation, falling off a bike. It is not expected to be a long-term injury, but will create some “short-term discomfort”, as Tomlin put it.

Mike Tomlin on Minkah Fitzpatrick going on the Non-Football Injury List pic.twitter.com/iKUY4hWhVI

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 26, 2022

As for Alualu, he will stay on the PUP List until he is deemed healthy enough to return to practice. There is not timeframe for his return from the PUP List.

Be sure to keep an eye on these players as camp progresses, but their absences could have a silver lining. It will allow players behind them to get valuable playing time. Players like Demontae Kazee will get more practice reps. Likewise, other defensive linemen, like Larry Ogunjobi and Demarvin Leal, will see more repetitions during training camp. All of this could be viewed as a positive, as long as both Alualu and Fitzpatrick return to health and the team in a timely fashion.

The Steelers’ first official practice, although not padded, will be Wednesday, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for camp and the eventual preseason.

Steelers ‘Digit Dynasty’: Who wore his number best? No. 0-25

Tue, 07/26/2022 - 2:00pm
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

The Steelers have a rich history, but looking back at their jersey numbers it makes you wonder which player wore the numbers 0-25 best.

As the Steelers have officially started training camp at Heinz Field, we will see familiar faces donning the numbers of 39, 90 and 97. These men have made those numbers recognizable and symbolized them in Pittsburgh over the years.

Once again this year, rookies and first-year players will not only be vying to make a name for themselves, but they will be attempting to immortalize their newly-issued number.

For instance, will Najee Harris be the guy to wrestle the No. 22 title from the legendary Bobby Layne?

What young players already are the best to ever play in Pittsburgh with their particular number?

This all remains to be seen, but who are the greatest Steelers synonymous with each number from 00 to 99 in the previous 88 seasons of the franchise’s existence? In this multi-part series, we will list the best for each digit. Some were very tough calls and some genuine Steelers’ stars didn’t make the cut. Judge for yourself and let us know who we missed. I’m sure you will.

Part One: Numbers 0-25

Note: Years provided came from The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Media Guide

No. 0/00 QB/RB Johnny Clement (1946)

After serving in World War II as an officer in the Army Air Corps, Clement returned to the NFL and joined the Steelers. Clement is the only player to wear the goose egg in Piittsburgh franchise history, playing three years in black-and-gold.

Current Wearer: None

No. 1 K Gary Anderson (1982-1994)

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Landslide team leader in career scoring and field goals made. The quintessential Steelers kicker should be enshrined in Canton, but a presumed kicker-bias and the miss in the 1998 NFC Championship for the Vikings may be keeping him out. But Anderson is the No. 1 player ever to wear the uno in Pittsburgh.

Current Wearer: None

No. 2 QB Mason Rudolph (2018-Present)

Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Not a lot to pick from here. Dennis Dixon only wore No. 2 for one start with the Steelers. Despite an imperfect career so far, Mason is the best to don the deuce as a Steeler.

Current Wearer: Rudolph

No. 3 K Jeff Reed (2002-2010)

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Reed was definitely not a favorite among Pittsburgh law enforcement, bouncers and Sheetz paper towel dispensers. But the thick-legged kicker is possibly the second best ever to play in Pittsburgh. Crazy off-the-field antics aside, the free agent from North Carolina beat the field in a tryout and conquered the Heinz Field conditions for parts of nine seasons.

Other Notables: Mark Royals 1992-1994, Dwayne Haskins 2021

Current Wearer: None

No. 4 P Josh Miller (1996-2003)

Photo by Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

Miller averaged 42.9 yards-per-punt for eight seasons in the Steel City. He remains one of the most popular Steelers’ punters in team history. Miller boasts both a Grey Cup and Super Bowl ring during the part of his career played in other cities. The man who once boasted in a Steeler Gameday program to having an extensive Pez collection returned to Pittsburgh to do local sports radio until 2018. He co-authored a book showcasing the best Steelers eateries and bars in every NFL city.

Other Notables: Byron Leftwich 2008-2012

Current Wearer: None

No. 5 QB Terry Hanratty (1969-1976)

The consensus All-American from Notre Dame, Hanratty is most famous in Pittsburgh for being the alternative to Terry Bradshaw during the early 70s when No. 12 struggled. The Butler product was drafted in the second round, a year before Bradshaw arrived. The two-time Super Bowl Champ started 18 games for the Steelers at various times and finished the AFC Championship and Super Bowl X when Bradshaw went down in both games.

Other Notables: Craig Colquitt-P 1978-1981 and 1983-1984, Bruce Gradkowski (2013-2015)

Current Wearer: QB Chris Oladokun

No. 6 QB Bubby Brister (1986-1992)

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The brash native of Louisiana never had Pro Bowl numbers, but the wild playoff ride which he led the Steelers on in 1989 remains part of team lore. Brister, with a Super Bowl ring as a Bronco, is fifth among the Steelers’ all-time passing leaders and certainly one of the most entertaining sound-bites ever.

Other Notables: Shaun Suisham 2010-2015

Current Wearer: P Pressley Harvin III

No. 7 QB Ben Roethlisberger (2004-2021)

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

No argument here for the guy that holds almost every passing record in team history. Don’t expect to see this number ever worn by a Steeler again. Big Ben is a three-time Pro Bowler and the youngest starting quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl. He also surpassed Mike Webster for most seasons as a Steeler.

Other Notables: Jim Finks 1951-1952 and 1954-1955

Current Wearer: None

No. 8 QB Tommy Maddox (2001-2005)

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

I actually still own a “Tommy Gun” jersey. Maddox was selling insurance in Dallas when he returned to football in the Arena League and then the XFL. In 2002, his electrifying quarterback play took the Steelers from a 1-3 record to nearly a spot in the AFC Championship. My friends and I politely called out to him at the airport that same year. He made a beeline to come over and shake our hands. He’s a pretty nice dude.

Current Wearer: QB Kenny Pickett

No. 9 K Chris Boswell (2015-Present)

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

In recent years, Norm Johnson was the choice here and happens to be the author’s favorite Steelers kicker of all-time. His perfectly executed onside-kick in Super Bowl XXX is one of team legend. But the current wearer has taken the No. 9 crown from King Norm. Boswell is tied with Roy Gerela for third all-time in Steelers’ field goals made and first in team history with his 88.0% field goal percentage. He is an author’s favorite now as well.

Other Notables: Matt Bahr 1979-1980, Norm Johnson 1995-1997

Current Wearer: Boswell

No. 10 QB/WR Kordell Stewart (1995-2002)

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Despite Santonio Holmes’ Super Bowl MVP performance in XLIII, Stewart’s body of work gives him the nod here. A very polarizing player during his time in Pittsburgh, Stewart burst onto the scene in 1995 and was a key contributor to the team’s Super Bowl XXX appearance as a jack-of-all-trades, mostly as a receiver. The best-running QB in franchise lore had 2,874 yards on the ground, but Kordell was hot-and-cold as a passer. Stewart led the team to two AFC Title Games, throwing multiple picks in both games. Kordell has been featured most recently on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and was the subject of bizarre allegations due to it.

Other Notables: Martavis Bryant 2014-20017, Santonio Holmes 2006-2009, Roy Gerela 1971-1978

Current Wearer: QB Mitch Trubisky

No. 11 WR Chase Claypool (2020-Present)

Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

In just two seasons out of Notre Dame, Chase Claypool has established himself as the finest to don the snake eyes in Steel City history. As a rookie in 2020, the Canadian eclipsed Troy Edwards’ 1999 record by one with 62 grabs. Chase finished the year with 873 yards and 11 total touchdowns. Claypool looks to rebound in 2022 after a slight step back in 2021.

Other Notables: Markus Wheaton 2013-2016, Stefan Logan (2009)

Current Wearer: Claypool

No. 12 QB Terry Bradshaw (1970-1983)

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

No-brainer selection here. Hall of Famer; Four-time Super Bowl Champion; Two-time Super Bowl MVP. No. 12 hasn’t been retired yet, but it hasn’t been reissued since Bradshaw’s retirement. The Blonde Bomber is a three-time Pro Bowler, a two-time team MVP and a member of the 1970’s All-Decade team. Ben Roethlisberger has eclipsed most of his team records, but Bradshaw remains one of the most legendary figures in team lore. I finally met Terry in 2018. It was one of my finest experiences as a fan meeting an athletic hero.

Current Wearer: None

No. 13 WR James Washington (2018-2021)

Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

With a small body of work and little competition at the number, the receiver out of Oklahoma State gets the nod. Washington was the team leader in 2019 with 735 receiving yards and had 30 receptions and five touchdown catches in 2020. After a step back in ‘21, Washington took his talents to Dallas.

Current Wearer: WR Miles Boykin

No. 14 QB Neil O’Donnell (1990-1995)

Neil is one of the most loathed (undeservedly in my opinion) Steelers of all time, mostly due to the two interceptions he tossed in Super Bowl XXX. Although I disagree, some members of Steelers Nation claim he was in on a fix. But then again, they don’t make it to the Super Bowl without O’Donnell that year. Funny story...two years before that fateful game in Phoenix, I was booed for wearing a No. 14 jersey to a game at Three Rivers Stadium. O’Donnell is statistically the third-best quarterback in team history.

Current Wearer: WR George Pickens

No. 15 John Blood McNally-HB/DB (1934 and 1937-1938)

Johnny Blood played one season in Pittsburgh in 1934 and returned in 1938 to serve as a player/coach of the Pirates. Art Rooney Sr. recalled McNally as the most memorable character he’s ever known in his career. Hall of Famer.

Other Notables: Mike Kruczek 1976-1979

Current Wearer: WR Cody White

No. 16 QB Charlie Batch (2002-2012)

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

While Len Dawson is a Hall of Famer, it happened mostly because of his performances in Kansas City. Charlie Batch was a very valuable backup for eleven seasons, going 6-3 as a starter and stepping up in high-pressure situations. The Steel Valley native is a two-time Super Bowl champ.

Other Notables: Mark Malone 1980-1987, Len Dawson 1957-1959

Current Wearer: P Cameron Nizialek, K Nick Sciba

No. 17 WR Mike Wallace (2009-2012)

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

As a deep threat, the speedy Wallace was a dream weapon for Ben Roethlisberger and a nightmare for defenses. The leader of the ill-fated “Young Money” stable had 235 receptions for 4,042 yards, caught 32 touchdowns and averaged 17.2 ypc. Unhappy over money and Antonio Brown’s extension, Wallace left the team as a free agent after his rookie deal ran out in 2013. The Steelers later saw Wallace burn them in 2016 as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Other Notables: Joe Gilliam 1972-1975, Chris Gardocki

Current Wearer: WR Anthony Miller

No. 18 WR Diontae Johnson (2019-Present)

Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Fans are down on Diontae, but he has emerged recently as a WR1 in recent years. He may ask for a bigger contract and depart the Steel City, but his career so far has made him the best No. 18 so far.

Other Notables: Cliff Stoudt 1977-1983, Harry Newsome 1985-1989

Current Wearer: Johnson

No. 19 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (2017-2021)

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

JuJu captured this title in only three seasons wearing the number. The 2017 winner of the Joe Greene Award as the team’s top rookie captured the hearts of Steelers Nation both on and off of the playing field. But this off-season, No. 19 was not retained by the Steelers and ended up in Kansas City.

Other Notables: Andre Coleman 1997-1998, David Woodley 1984-1985

Current Wearer: WR/KR Calvin Austin III

No. 20 RB Rocky Bleier (1968 and 1971-1980)

Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

The four-time Super Bowl champion is also a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. After his rookie season, Bleier was drafted into the U.S. Army and was sent to Vietnam where a grenade blew off part of his foot. While recovering, Bleier received a note of encouragement from the Chief, Art Rooney Sr. A year later, the Rock returned and became an important cog in the Steelers’ offensive machine. Bleier retired after the 1980 season with 3,865 rushing yards, 136 receptions for 1,294 yards and 25 touchdowns. In my mind, this guy is Hall of Fame.

Other Notables: Paul Martha 1964-1969, Dwight Stone 1987-1994, Erric Pegram 1995-1996, DeWayne Washington 1998-2003, Bryant McFadden 2005-2008

Current Wearer: CB Cam Sutton

No. 21 RB Mewelde Moore (2008-2011)

The Tulane alum was an unsung hero of the Super Bowl XLIII season. Mewelde’s 908 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns that year were paramount in keeping the team afloat after Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall went down with injuries.

Other Notables: Tony Dungy 1977-1978, Deon Figures 1993-1996, Amos Zereoue 1999-2003, Joe Haden 2017

Current Wearers: CB Tre Norwood

No. 22 QB Bobby Layne (1958-1962)

The six-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Fame quarterback spent the last five years of his career in Pittsburgh. Twice named to the Pro Bowl as a Steeler, Layne was 27-22-2 as a starter. Legend has it that, upon being traded to Pittsburgh, Layne cursed the Lions claiming they would not win for 50 years. Sixty years later, that curse endures.

Other Notables: John L Williams 1994-1995, William Gay 2007-2011, 2014-2017

Current Wearer: RB Najee Harris

No. 23 S Mike Wagner (1971-1980)

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The two-time Pro Bowler is one of those guys that got lost in the shadows of all of the Hall of Famers from the fabled Steel Curtain defense, but Wagner tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions in 1973. When Wagner retired in 1981, he had compiled 36 interceptions and currently ranks sixth on the franchise’s all-time list.

Other Notables: Tyrone Carter 2004-2009, Joe Haden 2018-2021

Current Wearer: None

No. 24 (Tie) CB J.T Thomas (1973-1981) / CB Ike Taylor (2003-2014)

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images SetNumber: X75007 TK1 R18

Like Wagner, Thomas was another awesome player lost in the shuffle of superstars on the vaunted Steel Curtain defense. Playing alongside Mel Blount, the duo was dubbed as the 6th best cornerback tandem in NFL history by NFL.com. J.T., not to be confused with the Survivor winner of the same name, had 20 interceptions in his nine seasons with the Steelers. The 4-time Super Bowl champ was named to the 1976 Pro Bowl.

If Taylor had possessed better hands, he would have been a perennial Pro Bowler, However Mr. Miyagi probably caught more flies with chopsticks than Taylor did balls thrown his way. Nonetheless, Ike was the best corner on his two Lombardi-winning clubs and a major team force. He was also a locker room leader on a dominating defense during his eleven seasons at Heinz Field.

Other Notables: Rich Erenberg 1984-1986, Chris Oldham 1995-1999

Current Wearer: RB Benny Snell Jr., S Damontae Kazee

No. 25 WR Ray Matthews (1951-1959)

In 1954, Ray Matthews scored four touchdowns in a game against Cleveland. A member of the Steelers’ 75th Anniversary team, Matthews ranks seventh among team leaders for career touchdowns with 43. Ryan Clark is a very close 1A here.

Other Notables: Ryan Clark 2006-2013, Ron Shanklin 1970-17

Current Wearer: CB Ahkello Witherspoon

Feel free to state your own claims in the comments section and check back for Part Two very soon.

Steelers 2022 Training Camp Tracker: See the players reporting for Day 1

Tue, 07/26/2022 - 12:52pm
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers are reporting to St. Vincent College in Latrobe to begin the preparation for the 2022 season.

Today is the day many Steelers fans have been waiting for. It signifies the end of the 2022 offseason and the beginning of the 2022 preseason as the Pittsburgh Steelers report back to St. Vincent college for Day 1 of 2022 training camp.

After being forced to hold training camp at Heinz Field the last two seasons, the Steelers are back in Latrobe for four weeks before breaking camp the day before their second preseason game.

When it comes to the training camp schedule, it is much more known than it was the last two years. The Steelers report today and will have their run test. Tomorrow will bring the first practice, but the Steelers will not be in full pads until Monday, August 1. The team is not scheduled to practice on any Sundays, but all other days of the week will see practice of some kind. For those hoping to attend practice at St. Vincent, make sure you reserve your free tickets through Ticketmaster.

Check out the information below as the players make their arrival to begin their preparation for the 2022 season. If any additional information or reports become available, they will be updated below.

Pat Freiermuth on being at Latrobe St Vincent College for the first time as a Pro. #SteelersTrainingCamp pic.twitter.com/B9ShpbGhA2

— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) July 26, 2022

Old man? @CamHeyward | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/8s4bPB53Ue

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 26, 2022

to college. #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/acI0At0rb8

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 26, 2022

Kenny Pickett got a tour of Saint Vincent today, and moved into his dorm room with fellow rookie QB Chris Oladokun pic.twitter.com/xgQELjjmh2

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 26, 2022

This is what it looks like in Kenny Pickett’s outer circle. I’ll keep working to move up in the world. pic.twitter.com/SUSho3Z2Co

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 26, 2022

Only TJ Watt would decide to do some Navy Seal stuff on the morning of his wedding.

It’s why, he told me, he and his groomsmen laid down in the breaking waves in Mexico before he got married earlier this summer. pic.twitter.com/hoEVV2g182

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 26, 2022

TJ Watt talks camp pic.twitter.com/sW5H46KxQU

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 26, 2022

@ohthatsNajee22 | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/wCKZBrqIiP

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 26, 2022

The DPOY has arrived pic.twitter.com/y1hl2sqUkz

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 26, 2022

Pat Freiermuth said his suite is fellow TE Zach Gentry and the two veteran QBs Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky in the Rooney Hall dorm

“Reminds me of the Penn State days,” he said pic.twitter.com/2tL8ejHajt

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 26, 2022

Larry Ogunjobi shows up for training camp with Steelers. pic.twitter.com/dUXdKWLkK4

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 26, 2022

Minkah Fitzpatrick is ALL smiles for good reason = New MEGA Contract and some dynamic players in defense #SteelersCamp@KDKApic.twitter.com/YsGjdBszmB

— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) July 26, 2022

Larry Ogunjobi on his injury and how he ended up in Pittsburgh: “God doesn’t make mistakes.”
Added Mason Rudolph reached out to him after signing to make sure everything starts off on the right foot. “There’s no need to hold grudges” pic.twitter.com/05G5bmwDyf

— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) July 26, 2022

Guess pic.twitter.com/uACAylrrgx

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 26, 2022

Chase Claypool is hoping for a big season at WR pic.twitter.com/ow0ofxI7WO

— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) July 26, 2022

Najee Harris has arrived (& he’s got jokes) pic.twitter.com/Rnt7lhDMYc

— Jenna Harner (@JennaHarner11) July 26, 2022

Another #Steelers newcomer CB Levi Wallace arrives in Latrobe pic.twitter.com/WJMdggdB5s

— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) July 26, 2022

Myles Jack arrived at his first @Steelers Camp pic.twitter.com/NryOVJ1nlB

— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) July 26, 2022

Report Day‼️ @highsmith34 | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/oZUdkgu2cg

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 26, 2022

Mitch Trubisky, maybe the next Steelers starting QB… pic.twitter.com/YIBF1R5fHj

— Judy Battista (@judybattista) July 26, 2022

Kendrick Green arrives #Steelers pic.twitter.com/CTfzl6BPTY

— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) July 26, 2022

Ben Roethlisberger’s comments highlight one of the Steelers big mistakes of his career

Tue, 07/26/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

In spite of the Steelers star QB, the team had a leadership vacuum.

Ben Roethlisberger has made news recently with comments he made in an interview with Ron Cook. It’s been covered quite a bit with many people debating whether Ben Roethlisberger was throwing shade at the team, his coaches, teammates, etc.

That’s been covered plenty of other places, and I’m not going to rehash it here. I read the interview and found one part of it very interesting. One of the questions Roethlisberger answered was about his biggest regrets. His answer went first to the Super Bowl loss to Green Bay, but then to the lack of playoff success after that loss. A quote from the article stood out to me:

I feel like the game has changed. I feel like the people have changed in a sense. Maybe it’s because I got spoiled when I came in. The team was so important. It was all about the team. Now, it’s about me and this, that and the other.

He continued, talking about social media, Name, Image, Likeness licensing for college athletes, and coaches pampering young players. Roethlisberger isn’t the first person to complain that the younger people had it easier than he did and that they don’t have the same work ethic. It’s quite common when people talk about co-workers who are significantly younger than they are. He isn’t wrong either, the NFL has worked to make the league safer, and the league is far more profitable, and the players share of that profit has grown with it. Players that were retiring as Ben Roethlisberger was new in the league could have said the same thing about his generation of players. But while those factors certainly have impacted the game, it would be hard to say that those factors only affected the Steelers, and not other teams, especially as teams with younger coaches who are “player’s coaches” are having playoff success and winning Super Bowls.

But while Ben Roethlisberger’s “soap box” about the kids being spoiled and not putting the team first doesn’t explain the Steelers struggles, his previous statement that is quoted above says a lot about the Steelers struggles. Especially when you put it in the context of the time he is talking about, and another quote from the article:

... when I came in, I didn’t have to be special. There were times we did special things, but we had such a great defense. We had Jerome [Bettis]. We had a veteran line.

Ben Roethlisberger in the first quote admits he was spoiled. He came to a team that didn’t ask him to do too much. A team with a defense that could cover for the offense when the offense didn’t produce. He had a great offensive line and Jerome Bettis. That he would bring up Jerome Bettis is especially telling here. Bettis made the Pro-Bowl in 2004 but no one would mistake the player Bettis was then for the guy he was in his prime. In 2005, when the Steelers won the Super Bowl, he had an even smaller role. Jerome Bettis only started 8 games during Ben Roethlisberger’s career. So why was Ben Roethlisberger so spoiled to have Bettis on his team.

The answer is leadership. Jerome Bettis was the leader of that team, and that team won a Super Bowl in large part because they wanted to win it for Jerome Bettis. He was loved and respected. Ben Roethlisberger was the starting quarterback, he started 31 games in the same time that Bettis started 8, but Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have to be a leader on that team. He just had to go play football.

After the 2011 season the Steelers lost two veteran leaders that had been on the team Ben Roethlsiberger’s entire career, Hines Ward and James Farrior. Any Steeler fan who remembers the 2012 season knows that things went downhill pretty quick. I’ve covered that failed transition in leadership and the drama that came out of it, centered around Antonio Brown.

The failure then sounds a lot like what Ben Roethlisberger was calling out in his interview with Ron Cook. That it was more about the individuals than the team. Specifically, the “Young Money Crew” of Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. A group that had held it together when Hines Ward was on the team suddenly became a focal point of team disunity.

The Antonio Brown saga doesn’t need to be rehashed here, but from that 2012 season on, you can see what Ben Roethlisberger is lamenting. That team-first atmosphere he found when he joined the team wasn’t there anymore, and instead you had players consistently looking out for themselves. Whether that caused the Steelers to lose or not isn’t the point of this article, instead I want to ask you a question: How many players from 2012 to 2021 can you think of that you would say embodied the individual over team dynamic? Think about it. Now answer a second question: How many of those players were on offense?

You may come up with a few defenders that you can argue fit, but nothing like what the Steelers offense had. To me, the big difference is leadership. And not just any leadership, a specific kind of leadership. A leadership role I’ll refer to as a “team-first enforcer.” The Steelers had Ryan Clark after James Farrior retired. Ryan Clark was a team-first enforcer. They would struggle for a while after Clark retired until Cameron Heyward really took over the defense, but it’s hard to think of players from the last 5 or 6 years that put their own wishes above the team success. The offensive line didn’t have many either, as that unit had a fantastic leader in Maurkice Pouncey. Ramon Foster recently gave an interview on the Raw Room podcast where he talked about that offensive line and how they fought for each other. It’s a great listen, and when compared to what we saw from the rest of the offense in those days, really drives home the problem Ben Roethlisberger is talking about.

The real issue was the Steelers never replaced the leadership of Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward on the Steelers offense. I’m not slighting Ben Roethlisberger here either, he was clearly a leader, and became a very good one later in his career, but he wasn’t the type of leader that kept guys in check and kept them focused on team goals. It’s not an insult, Troy Polamalu is one of my favorite football players of all-time and he wasn’t that guy either. Troy led by example, and Ben Roethlisberger did that too. The difference is the Steelers were able to replace the “team-first enforcer” leadership on the defense, but never did on offense. When you look at the last few seasons, the Steelers have had Cameron Heyward leading the defense, but they also have had T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden leading that unit. On offense? Ben Roethlisberger and “kids” to appropriate Kevin Colbert’s statement prior to the 2019 season.

The Steelers have now moved on from Ben Roethlisberger, and the keys to the franchise are fully in the hands of young players. Players that won’t have it easy, according to Roethlisberger:

It’s hard for these young guys, too. Social media. They’re treated so well in college. Now, this new NIL stuff, which is unbelievable. They’re treated so special. They’re coddled at a young age because college coaches need them to win, too.

When we look at players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and Najee Harris, remember that they didn’t have the advantage Roethlisberger did. There wasn’t a Jerome Bettis or Hines Ward on the Steelers teams that they joined. This young team is going to have to find the solution that has eluded the Steelers since 2012. They are going to have to be the leaders that turn the culture of the Steelers offense around.

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