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Updated: 1 hour 27 sec ago

Training Camp Battles: Which TE will round out the depth chart?

Wed, 06/16/2021 - 10:00am
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2021 NFL Draft a thing of the past, we look ahead to some training camp battles facing the Steelers this season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the early stages of the 2021 offseason, but with the 2021 NFL Draft over the attention now turns to the regular season. There are steps along the way, mandatory minicamp, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and training camp, but the position battles which will take shape throughout the offseason are worth discussion.

Sure, things could change between now and the start of training camp. Injuries, acquisitions and players emerging can alter the outcome of these battles, but there will be several key battles taking place. In this series, myself and Dave Schofield will be giving our analysis and prediction for each training camp battle which will unfold at some point this offseason.

Today we take a look at a position/battle for the Steelers’ offense. This battle involves the tight ends, and hasn’t been discussed yet. This debate is which player will lock down the TE3 on the depth chart? For this exercise, we are making a pretty safe assumption, and that being Eric Ebron being TE1 and Pat Freiermuth being TE2.

With that being said, this debate will be structured just around the depth chart. Which tight end will round out the tight end depth chart? Kevin Rader? Zach Gentry? Dax Raymond?

Who wins the battle? Dave and I give our predictions below, but be sure to let us know what you think in the poll below, and be sure to explain your vote in the comment section!

Jeff Hartman

Analysis: The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team who isn’t infatuated with the tight end position. Not that they don’t value it, but they certainly don’t consider it the focal point of the offense. There is no denying Ebron is the top tight end, and rookie Freiermuth is someone who is expected to contribute right away in some capacity. This makes you wonder if the Steelers will carry three tight ends on the roster, and if they do, will they even be active on game day?

Prediction: First, I do believe the Steelers will carry three tight ends, and the selection of that third tight end will come down to one facet of the game — special teams. Kevin Rader is a player who jumped off the screen when he was given an opportunity on special teams in 2020. That matters. Gentry and Raymond don’t provide anything which is so glaring it makes this a slam dunk decision. The only thing Gentry has which the others don’t is the fact he was a drafted player. That won’t be enough, and I think Rader is the TE3 when the dust settles and the team prepares for the 2021 regular season.

Dave Schofield

Analysis: As mentioned before, TE3 is not a guaranteed roster spot. Although the Steelers have carried three players at the position in general, there have been times where they have only had two active for game day. Whether this will be the case with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada remains to be seen. The only way the Steelers are going to use a third tight end on game day is if they actually use them. Otherwise, the active player spots are too coveted.

Prediction: It seems like I may have convinced Jeff to change his tune as he had Gentry as the other tight end on the roster when we did our 53-man prediction. I like the fact that Rader impressed so much on special teams in Week 17 last year that he was active for the Wild Card game. I don’t know if he brings much as a receiver, but if the Steelers are looking for someone to bring more to the team than just his offensive position then Rader is the guy. Also, I would not be shocked if the third tight end on the Steelers 53-man roster is not currently on the Steelers 90-man roster.

Other Training Camp Battle Breakdowns:

Minicamp Recap, Day 1: Matt Canada and the offense take center stage

Wed, 06/16/2021 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the gridiron for mandatory minicamp, and plenty of news came from their last on-field work before training camp.

The Pittsburgh Steelers started their first of three mandatory minicamp workouts Tuesday, and the offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, took center stage. No, he did nothing dramatic on the field, and wasn’t overly boisterous.

He just spoke.

Some might think this isn’t a huge ordeal, but this was the first time Canada spoke with the media since he was hired this past winter. It was the media’s first chance to ask him questions about his offense, where he sees it going and how Ben Roethlisberger fits into the scheme.

Before getting into some of the things Canada said, it should be noted he is a coach, and one under Mike Tomlin, who will toe the company line when asked questions.

When asked about the transition for Roethlisberger, Canada downplayed Roethlisberger having to learn an entirely new system. In fact, Canada suggested they will do what Roethlisberger can, and wants to do.

Matt Canada on transition to the system for QB Ben Roethlisberger:

"We'll do what Ben wants to do what and how he wants to do it."

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) June 15, 2021

On top of that, Canada even suggested his new offense doesn’t involve any sweeping or drastic changes to the offense. Some are suggesting Canada’s offense is going to be night and day from what the Steelers ran under Randy Fichtner, but Canada insists there are no major changes to the offense.

Just blowing smoke? Take it for what it’s worth.

Steelers OC Matt Canada said his offense doesn't involve "drastic changes." He likes what the players have picked up so far. "Guys have been great. I feel like we've had a great work environment from all sides -- coaches and players."

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) June 15, 2021

This isn’t to suggest there aren’t questions on the defensive side of the ball heading into the 2021 regular season, but how the offense will be the primary focus for the majority of the fan base and media. Can Canada sculpt an offense which allows Roethlisberger to not throw the ball 40+ times a game? Can Canada be the offensive genius everyone talks about at the college level? The foundation is just starting to be built...

Now more nuggets of information from Tuesday’s minicamp workout:

Watt’s Workload

During T.J. Watt’s media session, he was asked about whether he feels he will be able to stay on the field as long as necessary. Clearly, the depth at OLB is in question, but Watt wasn’t about to suggest he stay on the field longer than he normally would. However, Watt did say if he had some gas left in the proverbial tank, he would be staying on the field.

T.J. Watt on if he can push his workload even more: "If we trust the depth behind us I have no problem with taking a break and letting the guy behind me get some reps. But if it is third down and I have a little bit of gas in the tank, I am going to try to get that rep."

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 15, 2021 Injuries?

Two players, namely Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster, didn’t finish practice. But before fans start to stress about injuries to two key offensive players, Mike Tomlin threw water on those flames immediately after practice. It also should be noted the NFL doesn’t mandate teams release injury information during minicamp.

Mike Tomlin says he is not required to discuss injuries and so he won't. Asked specifically abt JuJu Smith-Schuster leaving early and Ben Roethlisberger needing attention from a trainer, Tomlin says, "Rest assured, if I thought something was significant I would address it."

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) June 15, 2021 Near Perfect Attendance

The Steelers nearly had perfect attendance for minicamp, but the one outlier had a legitimate excuse. Tomlin stated Stephon Tuitt, who recently lost his brother in a hit and run accident in Georgia, was tending to family matters. He was the lone player to miss practice.

89 of the 90 were in attendance at Steelers minicamp. Stephon Tuitt was excused.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 15, 2021

Don't see Stephon Tuitt here at Steelers minicamp. Tuitt's brother was killed in a hit-and-run recently. Completely understandable. David DeCastro is here but not participating. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) June 15, 2021 Steelers Vaccination Efforts

The Steelers organization is quickly getting their players and coaches vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus, and this is something Mike Tomlin was extremely proud of when he was asked about it during his post-practice press conference.

Mike Tomlin says #Steelers are 'tops of the league' in vaccinations. Said 'a couple more' Steelers got vaccinated today as well. Wouldn't give specifics but seemed comfortable with the situation.

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) June 15, 2021 Extra Work

You can say a lot about the Steelers and the decisions which have taken place this offseason, but you can’t say the players aren’t hard workers and dedicated. Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network noticed how Watt, and the secondary, stayed on the field well after practice ended to continue working on their respective crafts.

The #Steelers entire secondary is still out here too. Teryl Austin is NOT done teaching. https://t.co/O9PRnDo86T

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) June 15, 2021 Press Conferences

Mike Tomlin (If video is blocked, click HERE)

T.J. Watt and Terrell Edmunds (If video is blocked, click HERE)

Day 1 Live Look-In

#LIVE: Steelers Live: Minicamp Edition@missi_matthews & @DVEMike are live from @heinzfield as the @steelers take the field for minicamp. https://t.co/pEKAf41WCl

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) June 15, 2021 VIDEO

Just a gorgeous day here. My goodness. Nice cool breeze, too. Forty seconds of footage from Steelers minicamp right now: pic.twitter.com/SGJoekmZmT

— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) June 15, 2021

Najee with the catch and the tumble pic.twitter.com/BOW9SP9Kq9

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 15, 2021

.@_Dbush11 in slow-mo pic.twitter.com/tyVTO6ZTUa

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021

.@_TJWatt on working with @highsmith34:

Full : https://t.co/TC35QE5cUy pic.twitter.com/uSD9A1VWcu

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021

.@joehaden23, help the guy out!@_TJWatt | Full : https://t.co/TC35QE5cUy pic.twitter.com/6ByesST5gi

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021 PHOTOS

@_TJWatt pic.twitter.com/PbsKR4UNWq

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021

Just the beginning pic.twitter.com/FuwE7uoKBH

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021

Steelers complete the first day of minicamp Tuesday at Heinz Field. pic.twitter.com/QRyvGj4TEE

— Matt Freed (@mattfreedpghpg) June 15, 2021

The guy lifts pic.twitter.com/c1lRqfojub

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021

7 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following Day 1 of minicamp

Wed, 06/16/2021 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the first press conference since the 2021 NFL draft, the Steelers head coach was asked about Day 1 of Steelers minicamp.

As the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at Heinz Field on Tuesday for the very first time, we were also graced with a media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Since he was asked about a number of players following the team’s activities, a “players mentioned” article is able to make a brief appearance before the lull in football activities kicks in for several weeks. To qualify as one of the “players” I kept the names highlighted limited to members of the Steelers’ current roster. Remember these are players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.

Ben Roethlisberger & JuJu Smith-Schuster

Two players who were hindered slightly with minor ailments the first day of minicamp were quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Despite saying he would only talk about significant injures, Coach Tomlin was asked if he would walk through what happened with Roethlisberger’s potential injury.

“I won’t.”

Tomlin was also asked if we are safe assume the injury to JuJu Smith-Schuster is not significant.

“Yes, you are.”

Even after his previous responses, Coach Tomlin was asked if we should expect to see Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster at Day 2 of minicamp.

“You can expect whatever you wish. We’ll see what tomorrow holds.”

David DeCastro

Getting into the category of “beating a dead horse” when it comes to injured players, Coach Tomlin was asked about David DeCastro being at minicamp but not participating.

“Again, if I thought injury circumstances or reasons why people were not participating were significant, I would share them with you, but I’m not going to address day to day like things in this environment. It’s not required.”

Terrell Edmunds

Steelers 2018 first-round draft pick Terrell Edmunds did not have his fifth-year option picked up last month. Coach Tomlin was asked if there was anything different dealing with the situation with Edmunds based on his contract or if it could be used as motivation.

“This is grown men business. This is football at its highest level. Tough decisions and tough conversations happen daily and it’s just part of the environment that we’re in. I think we all understand that and we all try to approach it in as professional and sensitive a manner as we can.”

Alex Highsmith & T.J. Watt

For the first time in his NFL career, T.J. Watt is going into the season with a different outside linebacker set to lineup opposite of him to start the 2021 season. Coach Tomlin was asked about Alex Highsmith and if he can develop the chemistry with Watt the Steelers have seen at the position the last four seasons.

“It starts first with two really good players. The best thing that Alex can do is continue to sharpen his skills and get better and grow and develop as a player. You know we’ve got great expectations for a second-year guy in terms of proceeding in his career and taking a step not only in understanding the preparedness, but production and consistency. He’s been a highly professional, mature young man, and so I think it’s reasonable to expect those things to happen. But make no mistake, before you start talking about dynamic duos and tandems and so forth, it requires two big-time, varsity players. And so he’s working to grow and improve his game.”

James Pierre

The Steelers have some vacated position for 2020 in the defensive secondary which will play out during the preseason. Coach Thompson was asked about one specific cornerback, James Pierre, and both what he saw from him last season and what improvements he would like to see for 2021.

“I saw consistent varsity gunner play. Often times, when you have that level of consistency and performance in a special teams area, it’s often an indication of advancement or maturity and growth opportunity in the other phases as well. I think over the course of my time here, the young guys that are consistent and perform in that area usually ascend within the offensive or defensive unit and so it’s reasonable to expect him to do that. He got a lot of in-game experience last year, although it was in a special teams area. I think that field time and that game speed exposure will help in the growth and development. I think it is reasonable to expect him to utilize that experience as a catalyst for his growth on defense.”

Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here:

A 12 team college football playoff could one day give the NFL playoffs a run for their money

Wed, 06/16/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Look out, NFL, a 12-team college football tournament could be coming for your popularity.

There are few new sports proposals that excite me these days.

Even when something does come along, like the proposed 4th and 15 “onside kick” that was championed by the Eagles in 2020—and, again, in 2021—it gets shot down fast. Speaking of the NFL, I am genuinely happy about a 17th regular-season game in 2021, but I try not to share my happiness with other NFL fans, lest they think I’m trolling them. The same can be said for my support of expanding the postseason field from 12 to 14 teams a season ago.

I’m too afraid that I’ll anger the folks who don’t want more NFL football...for some reason.

But there is a new proposal out there that has me jumping for joy, and that’s the idea of expanding the college football playoff field from four to 12 teams. The proposal made news last week and is currently being explored by a four-person committee.

I’m not a betting man, but I’d wager that a 12-team field will most likely become a reality at some point. From what I’ve read, it’s a rather logical idea that will award an automatic bid to each champion of the Power Five conferences, plus a bid for a champion from one of the Group of Five conferences (I just learned that term but think MAC or Mountain West Conference). The other six seeds will be at-large bids and will most likely be dominated by the SEC and Notre Dame.

I can’t wait. I think sports fans need an expanded college playoff field. Why? Excitement, that’s why. Also, I believe the team that eventually gets to hoist that weird-looking CFP trophy will seem like a more legit champion. One of the weirder realities in modern sports has been the crowning of a CFB college football national champion after the smallest of tournaments, and even that only became a thing fairly recently—there was a time when the media just voted for the winner. Will there be a 13th team that is angry just about every year because it didn’t get in? Will at least one Group of Five winner feel like it got screwed more often than not? Yes and yes, but there will always be THAT in college athletics.

Mostly, I like the fact that an expanded field will keep more college football fans and teams invested in the idea of claiming that weird-looking trophy. As a fan of the Pitt Panthers, I can dream the impossible dream. Heck, if you’re a fan of the Temple Owls, you may be able to dream of an Elite Eight appearance that doesn’t involve legendary basketball coach, the late, great John Chaney.

It’s going to be fantastic! Look out, NFL, an expanded college football field could one day give your postseason tournament a run for its money. Why? Fun. Excitement. Passion.

You ever watch a college football game? Those folks in attendance—often 100,000 packed in like sardines dressed in primary colors— don’t seem all that worried about traffic, the price of a beer or even the level of competition. They’re there to cheer on their teams. It’s a three-hour celebration consisting of fight songs, dances and chants. The fans are into it. The players are into it. Not much is considered a distraction because, well, that’s just silly.

It’s a stark contrast to today’s NFL climate where everyone from the owners to the coaches to the players and fans is wound about as tight as LaMarr Woodley’s hamstrings.

Do you think college football fans care about touchdown celebrations? No. They probably want to join in—they often do when they storm the field after a huge win.

Anyway, just wait until the ratings for the 12-team field come out. They may not rival the NFL’s right away, but I can see it happening eventually. I can certainly envision a 12-team football field quickly surpassing the 68-team basketball tournament in an “I gotta call off work” kind of way.

What about those brackets? Would you give top seed Alabama the edge over 8th seed Michigan State? Sure, but what if it’s Auburn, the Tide’s top rival? An actual playoff matchup between those two schools could cause the entire state of Alabama to implode...days before kickoff.

I also like the idea of the four highest-ranked conference winners getting automatic byes. If that part of the proposal remains intact, Notre Dame, a football program that never wants to be part of a conference, will always have to play three games to be crowned champion. Speaking of which, what if Alabama doesn’t win the SEC one year and has to take the long route to the title, while Baylor, the Big 12 champion, only has to play two games?

Talk about evening the playing field between the traditional haves and the have nots.

One thing I will say about the NFL is it has always been great about creating a system that gives every team an equal chance. Even if you don’t really believe a seventh seed can run the table en route to a Super Bowl title, at least that seventh seed has a chance to line up and give it a shot.

A 12-team playoff field could combine college football’s passion with the NFL’s belief in parity and make for the most glorious postseason tournament we’ve ever seen.

Finally, who knows what a 12-team college football postseason field will ultimately look like when it does officially become a reality, but it might be the greatest thing to hit the sports world since the advent of the Super Bowl.

Podcast: Has Le’Veon Bell’s Pittsburgh bridge imploded?

Wed, 06/16/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman brings an AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

Le’Veon Bell does not have a job and has spouted off against every team he has played for in the NFL. It actually seems like his verbal assault against the Steelers has been the most mild. But has he burned his Pittsburgh bridges beyond repair? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • The Live Mail Bag
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

The self destruction of Le’Veon Bell

Tue, 06/15/2021 - 2:30pm
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Bell might’ve become the poster boy for ruining your career.

Le’veon Bell has put the exclamation point on one of the hardest falls from grace in recent NFL memory. Once thought to push Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris as the Steelers all-time greatest running back, Bell has flushed away his amazing potential and many are wondering will he ever play another snap in the NFL. From drug charges, to hold outs, and now talking ill of a respected head coach here’s a recap of Le’Veon Bell’s spiraling career.

August 2014 - DUI and marijuana possession - Suspended Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The first negative instance in the career of Le’Veon Bell was when he and fellow teammate LeGarrette Blount were arrested for driving under the influence and position of marijuana. Bell was originally suspended for the first four games of the 2014/15 season but an appeal reduced the suspension to two games.

August 2016 - Violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy - Suspended Photo by: 2016 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The following year while being in the NFL’s substance of abuse program he broke the rules earning himself another suspension. NFL Players who find themselves in the substance of abuse program have stricter rules following them including ramped up monthly testing. Bell would state the failed test was due to missing a scheduled appointment which the NFL would originally suspend the running back four games for. This suspension was also reduced but to three games.

2017 - First contract holdout Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After receiving his first franchise tag designation Bell sat out all of the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason activities including OTA’s, mini camp, off field programs, and the entirety of training camp. Bell would sign his deal just prior to Week 1 and was given the starting duties right away.

2018 - Second contract holdout - Declined Steelers final offer Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire

When the Steelers slapped Bell with his second franchise tag the runner opted to not only miss out on offseason activities but the entire regular season as well. By missing the year Bell didn't make a penny on the 17 million dollar valuation of the tag. He also tuned down the Steelers final contract offer which was upwards of 5 years and 70 million dollars. Sure, the guaranteed money wasn't nearly that high but that's not how the Steelers structure any deal. If Bell performed well the Steelers most likely would have restructured his deal on a yearly basis making most of that money guaranteed anyway.

March 2019 - Signed to play behind the worst offensive line in the NFL Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The contract offer Bell was waiting for never came. Instead, he took what was likely the best offer on the table without actually thinking about the fit. Bell’s patient running style was lethal behind the Steelers solid offensive line. The Jets however had a terrible line and his patient running got him killed behind the line of scrimmage.

March 2019 - Critical of Ben Roethlisberger Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

After Bell signed with the Steelers he jumped in on the slagging Ben Roethlisberger tour which was guided by Antonio Brown staying: “Ben wants to win — but Ben wants to win his way, and that’s tough to play with. Ben won a Super Bowl, but he won when he was younger. Now he’s at this stage where he tries to control everything, and [the team] let him get there” .

Instead of being humble on his way out Bell ran his mouthed burned bridges. A theme of what was to come with his next few teams.

October 2020 - Demanded a trade - Released Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Bell/Jets marriage was doomed from the moment the former All-Pro signed the contract. Fed up of playing for a terrible team Bell demanded a trade. The problem was a year an a half of terrible production and an inflated contract made him un-acquirable. The Jets would have to bite the bullet and release Bell to get him off the team. Much like with Ben Roethlisberger, Bell made sure he was never welcome back to New York after his release.

June 2021 - Critical statement about Andy Reid Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Before I get to Bell’s statement about Andy Reid it’s also notable that Le’Veon once again put himself in a bad situation. The Chiefs loaded offense was a pass heavy scheme and had a number of skilled running backs ahead of him on the depth chart. The combination of the two meant Bell played exactly 0 snaps in this year’s Super Bowl game. More bad production, but for a successful team, further tanked Bell’s contract worth.

After his time in Kansas City was up Bell wanted his feelings known about the situation taking to social media to slam Andy Reid “I’ll never play for Andy Reid again... I’d retire first”. That phrase motivated many long time Chiefs who defended their coach. But once again Bell made the situation about himself and this time no team wanted to offer him a contract before hand and certainly don't want to after.

A wise man once told me, that if you met a rude person in the morning but went the rest of your day without meeting another rude person, you had a bad experience. But if you meet rude people all day long, then you’re the rude person. Given the fact Bell has complained about every team he’s ever played for, it should be time we start pointing the finger at Le’Veon Bell for ruining his own career. He has no one to blame but himself and should be the poster boy of what not to do when you get into the NFL.

Keep sleeping on the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers

Tue, 06/15/2021 - 1:00pm
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

PFF, meme pages, you name it: The Steelers only need more fuel to add to the fire

All offseason, the Steelers have served as the NFL community’s punching bag. From jabs about its unceremonious first-round exit to uppercuts about Ben Roethlisberger’s horrid play to end the 2020 season, Pittsburgh has seen a barrage of criticism, much of it warranted. No matter the fanbase—from Bears fans who haven’t seen a Super Bowl victory in over 35 years to even pitiful Lions fans—the Steelers’ schadenfreude has created essentially universal solace.

In fact, many of the attacks upon the six-time Super Bowl champions have extended into this upcoming NFL campaign. Gone are the days of revering Art Rooney and Mike Tomlin for creating one of the classiest and most revered franchises; instead, individuals in both casual and professional media settings are truly hopping aboard the anti-Pittsburgh bandwagon.

Whether it’s Pro Football Focus poking fun at Ben Roethlisberger’s apparent lack of arm strength or former Jets general manager and ESPN insider Mike Tannenbaum repeatedly shellacking the Steelers, it seems that a good portion of NFL pundits and followers feel the Steelers’ title window hasn’t just closed, but that it’s hermetically sealed.

At first, I pondered writing this as a no-holds-barred rant about why the Steelers deserve more respect. Ben Roethlisbergrer entering what could be his final year, a trio of amazing wideouts, the acquisition of Najee Harris, a top 10 defense—this team has me excited entering 2021.

But rather than implore readers to ceaselessly defend the team, I took a different slant: If people want to doubt the Steelers, sit back and watch (and maybe keep the receipts).

Unequivocally, the Steelers’ success in 2021 is tied to Roethlisberger. Prior to Pittsburgh’s Week 9 clash in Dallas, Big Ben had tallied 31 bad throws, per Pro Football Reference. However, that number climbed to 60 over the Steelers’ final eight games, a stark contrast that indicates that the six-time Pro Bowl QB did perform much worse.

Yes, Roethlisberger’s play declined as the season endured. He even admitted it in an OTA press conference, citing his elbow surgery during the 2019 season.

Roethlisberger on the deep ball: "You know I had total reconstruction on my elbow. That might have something to do with it. But no excuses."

Says right now his arm feels really good.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 1, 2021

However, as the latter portions of the Steelers’ miserable Wild Card game indicated, Roethlisberger still has plenty left in the tank. After Roethlisberger had tossed his third interception and with the black and gold in a 28-0 hole in the first quarter, the two-time Super Bowl champ totaled 435 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception to make the contest even somewhat competitive.

Other factors that should alleviate some of the pressure off of Roethlisberger’s shoulders? The emergence of a robust run game via Harris as well as revamped and revitalized play-calling with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada at the helm.

In spite of what you may see when scrolling through your Twitter timeline, Roethlisberger had a relatively solid 2020, and more positive plays should emerge at quarterback in 2021 considering he’ll have to carry less of the freight. After all, he acted as Pittsburgh’s quarterback and de facto OC a year ago.

Moreover, some feel that the Steelers’ defense is in the midst of a precipitous decline.

Pittsburgh did face challenging departures via OLB Bud Dupree (Titans), CB Mike Hilton (Bengals) and CB Steven Nelson (currently unsigned). At the same time, Mike Tomlin’s squad has players that are ready and able to step up and show out to fill such voids.

On the left side of the defensive line opposite star T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith looks to build off of an under-the-radar rookie year. And while corner depth does remain somewhat of an issue, Cameron Sutton seems poised to play on the outside as a full-fledged starter, and the Steelers have solid options in Sutton, James Pierre, Shakur Brown, Tre Norwood and more to play slot.

This year’s iteration of the Steelers returns 16 of 22 starters relative to a season ago, and many of those positions, like James Conner at RB and Matt Feiler at LG, will presumably perform even better in 2021.

Is a team that went 12-4 and is retaining much of its nucleus really destined to win a measly 5 games and contend for a top 5 pick?

One of the pivotal reasons why the Steelers notoriously collapsed last year seemed to be their hubris, a characteristic made especially prominent against the Bengals on Monday Night Football. The Steelers had become a household name as a contender, yet teams were itching to expose Tomlin & Co.

With the narratives permeating social media and maybe even NFL front offices prior to the Steelers’ trip to Buffalo on September 12th, the opposite may now be true. In fact, doubting the Steelers is likely to offer players like Roethlisberger a dose of reality and even generate additional drive for success on the heels of an already remorseful past few months.

If fans, analysts, and even opponents wish to throw haymakers and view the Steelers as a fluke team about to fall from grace, let them. Roethlisberger and Tomlin have no choice but to respond with a swift, potent, vindictive punch on the gridiron.

After all, Pittsburgh can’t fight back any worse than Internet sensation Bryce Hall.

Steelers Minicamp Tracker: Compiling various reports from Day 1

Tue, 06/15/2021 - 12:01pm
handout photo

The Steelers are at Heinz Field for the final phase of the 2021 offseason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are at Heinz Field for their 2021 minicamp. It will be the first time the Steelers entire offseason roster will be together, as well as the last time until training camp begins at the end of July.

When it comes to reports from mandatory minicamp, there may not be much information for Steelers fans. One thing we know for sure is Steelers Live will be presenting a show at 1 PM while minicamp is going on at Heinz Field. The link to that show will be in the tracker below as soon as it is available.

As for any other details coming from minicamp, we will do our best to post them in here once available. Reports should run from earliest to most recent as you scroll down the page.

LIVE LOOK IN AT MINICAMP

#LIVE: Steelers Live: Minicamp Edition@missi_matthews & @DVEMike are live from @heinzfield as the @steelers take the field for minicamp. https://t.co/pEKAf41WCl

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) June 15, 2021

Other News:

Minicamp morning #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/f8PhnBLN3G

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021

.@_TJWatt on working with @highsmith34:

Full : https://t.co/TC35QE5cUy pic.twitter.com/uSD9A1VWcu

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021

.@joehaden23, help the guy out!@_TJWatt | Full : https://t.co/TC35QE5cUy pic.twitter.com/6ByesST5gi

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021

Coach Canada on Ben: We're going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it...the QB is the focal point and it's the greatest position in all sports...terminology has been an adjustment for Ben and he's doing great...he's adapted easily, like we all knew he would.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) June 15, 2021

'I am very excited about his potential.' - @coachfaulk on @ohthatsNajee22

He said physically he can do things, it's just getting up to speed on everything.

Faulkner also confirmed he had to tell Najee to go home one day and take a break.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 15, 2021

Steelers take the field for minicamp, and are happy to hear music. David DeCastro in street clothes. Zach Banner not in full uniform. pic.twitter.com/2zW0pqmLrh

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 15, 2021

Don't see Stephon Tuitt here at Steelers minicamp. Tuitt's brother was killed in a hit-and-run recently. Completely understandable. David DeCastro is here but not participating. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) June 15, 2021

Eric Ebron: big fan of music during tram stretch. pic.twitter.com/b6DvA8MNWX

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 15, 2021

Steelers skill players going through the RB/WR/TE equivalent of layup lines. “My partner gotta be vaccinated for me to practice with him!” JuJu shouts. pic.twitter.com/AkP2oNQT0X

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 15, 2021

Minicamp mood @TeamJuJu pic.twitter.com/g0tcJybZKf

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021

Just a gorgeous day here. My goodness. Nice cool breeze, too. Forty seconds of footage from Steelers minicamp right now: pic.twitter.com/SGJoekmZmT

— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) June 15, 2021

Podcast: Steelers trading places through the decades

Tue, 06/15/2021 - 11:00am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Hangover” show, Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White look at the week that was and the Steelers going forward.

The Steelers have been a great franchise through the decades, but what if Troy Polamalu played in the 70s and Rocky Bleier ran in 2020? This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed on the latest episode of the BTSC podcast, The Steelers Hangover. On this show, Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White break down all things Steelers! Join the veteran trio as they analyze all things black-and-gold.

Check out the rundown of the show

  • News and Notes
  • Black and Gold players that would fit most on different Steelers teams throughout the decades

and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1

Part 2

6 roster moves the Steelers should consider between now and the trade deadline

Tue, 06/15/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers could still make moves, and here are six which they should consider.

Now that free agency and the draft have past, it is time to take a look at how the Steelers can improve their outlook for 2021 and beyond. Extending T.J. Watt is going to happen at some point, whether it be this year or next year (Dave Schofield’s Stat Geek Podcast this past week is about Watt and when the Steelers should pay him. Be sure to check it out in the podcast section below), but because it is a somewhat obvious move, it is not going to be listed below.

The Steelers also do not have a ton of money, which is why this list is primarily made of moves that the Steelers can afford and could reasonably make. Waiting until roster cuts is likely the best thing to do when it comes to signing any major free agents, but based on who is currently available, we will look at several players that the Steelers could sign today at little to no risk. The other roster moves we will look at are potential trades. Kevin Colbert does not normally make splashy moves, but these are all moves that are not outside the realm of comprehension.

Let’s begin with a couple trades. The first one would bolster the defense, while the second would help the Steelers gain future draft capital. Here is the first one.

Trade for Chase Winovich

The Steelers’ lack of depth at edge rusher is concerning, and the Steelers cannot afford anyone too expensive. What would be better than adding depth at the position by bringing in a local product who everyone loved during the 2019 pre-draft process? Winovich has been solid for New England, especially his rookie season, but for some reason, Bill Belichick did not give him as many opportunities in 2020 despite their lack of depth at the position. Winovich’s snap count decreased last season, and after drafting Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings in the 2020 draft, signing Henry Anderson and Matt Judon in free agency, and drafting Ronnie Perkins in the 2021 draft, there is a good chance that there will be no room for him on the roster. Based on how his snaps decreased last year, it does not seem as if Belichick sees Winovich as a major part of his defense.

I despise giving up draft capital, but trading away a day three pick to grab Winovich would be worth it. The Steelers could also consider trading New England a player or two that would be a better fit in the schemes they run. The first two that come to mind are Jaylen Samuels and Justin Layne. The Steelers may have to add a little more than just them to the deal, but it does not seem as if Winovich would be terribly pricey. He is not the exact type of pass rusher that Keith Butler likes to use, but the energy, grit, and toughness that he brings would make him a perfect complement to what Alex Highsmith already brings opposite T.J. Watt.

Trade Mason Rudolph

Before you go straight to the comment section to blast me on this take, let me explain. I am not by any means a Mason Rudolph hater. I believe he should be considered the favorite to win the backup quarterback job. However, if D’Wayne Haskins can prove to be a reliable backup to Ben Roethlisberger, we know that Josh Dobbs brings a ton of value as a third-string quarterback simply because of his high IQ, maturity, and athleticism. If Haskins and Dobbs prove to be reliable depth this preseason, why not see what other teams would offer for Mason Rudolph?

When discussing the Steelers backup quarterback competition on the Pat McAfee Show, NFL insider Peter Schrager claimed that there are a lot of people in the NFL who are high on Mason Rudolph.

....I know a lot of people in the NFL think Mason Rudolph can be a starting quarterback someday. He looked good week 17 against the Brownies. He played well in that game. He was slinging it.

If the NFC East is up for grabs, and if either Ryan Fitzpatrick or Daniel Jones is struggling or injured, maybe we see Washington or New York send a tempting offer for Mason’s services. Rudolph was a player Dave Gettleman showed interest in during the 2018 pre-draft process. The Saints are another team that showed a lot of interest in Rudolph, and many people thought Sean Peyton’s offense would have been a perfect landing spot for Rudolph late in the first round. Ultimately, the Saints chose to trade up for Marcus Davenport instead, but if the Saints feel their roster is good enough to make a run in the postseason and their quarterback play is subpar, perhaps the Saints come back to a player they supposedly had interest in a few years back. The demand for quarterbacks is always at a premium, which is why it would not shock me at all if one of the teams that are supposedly high on Rudolph are willing to part with a day two pick. If the Steelers could regain the draft capital they used to draft Rudolph, this move needs to be considered, especially if the Steelers are confident in Haskins and Dobbs.

Sign Chris Orr

I have mentioned Orr’s name on multiple occasions over the past few years, as he is one of the highly productive college gems that fell through the cracks in the 2020 NFL Draft. Orr remains unphased no matter the circumstance. He flashes the athleticism to match up against running backs and tight ends in coverage while displaying tremendous awareness and good gap discipline as a run defender. With Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Buddy Johnson, and Robert Spillane, the Steelers are not necessarily in need of inside linebacker help. However, the Steelers have kept five inside linebackers before, and Ulysses Gilbert cannot seem to avoid the injury bug.

Orr’s versatility and ability to blitz would also allow the Steelers to potentially transform him into an undersized outside linebacker, a spot where the Steelers are lacking in terms of depth. It obviously takes more to be an edge rusher than being a good blitzer, but he was used as an edge rusher on occasion at Wisconsin and is capable of doing so at the NFL level as well. Despite his size, he has proven that he can hold his own as a run defender, and that is something Quincy Roche cannot do at this point. This signing would cost hardly anything, and the potential rewards on both defense and special teams would make it a worthwhile signing. You can check out my breakdown on Orr here.

Sign Jesse James

I know that many of you are thinking, “We just drafted a tight end, and we still have Eric Ebron. Why do we need Jesse James?” While I can understand that logic, I somewhat disagree. With Matt Canada as offensive coordinator, the Steelers are expected to run a lot more 12 personnel, which means that two tight ends are going to be on the field more often. Although Kevin Rader is a solid blocker, he brings almost nothing in terms of athleticism. I would like to see Dax Raymond make the roster, but he is still unproven. The only other tight end with a legitimate chance of making the roster is Zach Gentry, and, well, let’s just say that he was probably not meant to be a football player. When you are slow, you cannot block, and you cannot catch, it is difficult to survive at the tight end position.

James was one of many players who the Lions overpaid for during the Bob Quinn era, but bringing James back on a veteran minimum contract would make sense for both parties. The Steelers cannot afford to pay anyone much more than veteran minimum at the moment, but after his rough stint in Detorit, that is probably what James would be offered by any other team anyway. Not many teams have the money to pay him anything more. We know that James is not the greatest athlete in the world, but he was a consistent presence both as a blocker and as a pass catcher. He was a solid number two tight end the first time he was here, so why couldn’t he be a reliable number three now? Adding him to the tight end room would not only give Ben Roethlisberger another red zone weapon, but it would also provide insurance in case either Eric Ebron or Pat Freiermuth get injured.

Sign Nickell Robey-Coleman

Remembered by most as the corner who should have been called for pass interference against the Saints in the playoffs a couple years ago, Robey-Coleman has been a consistent nickel corner throughout his career. During the 2019 regular season, Robey-Coleman was pegged by Pro Football Focus as a top 20 cover corner in the NFL, only allowing an 80.1 completion percentage and .63 yards per slot coverage snap. He has 6 career interceptions, 41 passes defended, 6 forced fumbles, and 5 career sacks.

Robey-Coleman is not the blitzer that Mike Hilton is, but he is better than Hilton in coverage. James Pierre, Shakur Brown, and Lamont Wade will all have a shot to win the job at nickel corner, but adding an experienced veteran like Robey-Coleman would allow Pierre to be the primary backup on the outside and would allow Brown and Wade to not be forced into the lineup as rookies. Robey-Coleman signed a one-year, $1,350,000 deal with the Eagles last season, and that is about what I would expect him to cost now. Unless you are a truly elite nickel corner, you are not going to get paid big money, especially after the salary cap just decreased. That said, I believe that Robey-Coleman is worth a signing of greater magnitude than that based on his recent perfermance. Getting him for potentially less than $1.5 million is an excellent deal.

Trade Justin Layne

I was a huge fan of Justin Layne in the 2019 NFL Draft, and I still believe that he has starter potential, but it is clear that he is never going to be a fit in Pittsburgh’s zone-heavy defense. We knew that he was primarily a press man corner coming out of college and that he would struggle in zone. That is still the case with Layne, who has shown a couple flashes but looks like a deer in headlights whenever he is in zone coverage. After his recent off-field issues, it seems as if his time in Pittsburgh is nearing an end.

There are, however, teams that would value Layne more than the Steelers. New England, a team that plays a lot of man coverage, is the first team that comes to mind. Stefon Gillmore is on the last year of his deal, and there is still a chance that he will be traded himself. There is no way the Steelers would trade Layne inside the division to Baltimore, but teams like the Bears or Saints, who play a decent amount of zone but have had as much success as anyone when they line up in man, make a lot of sense. Both teams could use an extra body at the cornerback position, and the Steelers could use an extra day three pick after trading away their 5th rounder for Avery Williamson and their 4th rounder to move up for Isaiahh Loudermilk.

Other roster moves the Steelers should consider:

Sign WR Stephen Guidry
Sign EDGE Shilique Calhoun
Trade Chris Wormley
Trade Benny Snell

Which roster moves do you think the Steelers should make? Do you like any of the roster moves recommended above? Be sure to share your thoughts on this in the comment section below!

Grading the Steelers current depth at each position group on offense

Tue, 06/15/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

As the Steelers participate in mandatory minicamp as the last phase of the 2021 offseason, where do they stand with their depth on offense?

The 2021 NFL offseason is beginning to wind down. Once the Steelers complete mandatory minicamp this week, they will have just over a month off before training camp begins, hopefully at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. While the Steelers could continue to make roster moves during the next several weeks of downtime, there is just as much chance they will enter training camp with the same 90 men as they finished minicamp.

With the players the Steelers currently have on the roster, how is the depth at each position perceived? This is the question which will be answered by BTSC co-editors Dave Schofield and Jeff Hartman as they give their grades for the depth at each offensive position.

Quarterback

Dave’s Grade: A

Analysis: What’s not to like here? The player who was the Steelers backup quarterback in 2018 is fighting just to have a spot on the roster. As long as Ben Roethlisberger is the top name on the list, everything else looks fine. While there are questions about the position for 2022, looking at this year and the depth of the position doesn’t seem to be a concern.

Jeff’s Grade: B

Analysis: Outside of Ben Roethlisberger, I am not thrilled in the depth at the position. Sure, some teams would long for a backup like Mason Rudolph, but I long for the days of Charlie Batch. When if Roethlisberger went down you had no doubt he could win you 3 out of 4 games and keep the ship afloat. Rudolph might be there, but Steelers fans need to see more before they feel confident. Outside of Rudolph, whether it is Joshua Dobbs or Dwayne Haskins, if those players see the field the team is in trouble. Nonetheless, it is pretty solid depth with starting experience at every spot.

Running back

Dave’s Grade: C-

Analysis: After the Steelers first-round pick from 2021 of Najee Harris, there are some question marks. The only thing keeping this grade as average is because of the sheer number of players the Steelers have in the mix who are all fairly close in their ability as none have yet to show they are a bigger front runner than any other player. Between Snell, McFarland, Samuels, Ballage, and even Trey Edmunds, it’s not that any of these names would presently invoke fear in the opponents defense if they need to step in and carry the load.

Jeff’s Grade: C

Analysis: Najee Harris is an unproven commodity right now, but that doesn’t mean this grade would be the same in Week 8. Outside of Harris, you have a bunch of players who resemble other “guys” rather than quality depth. If Harris were to miss a couple games, would the Steelers’ running game suffer with Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Kalen Ballage or Jaylen Samuels running the ball? The answer is yes. Again, this grade could improve dramatically if Harris comes out of the gates strong, but right now they are average at best.

Wide Receiver

Dave’s Grade: A+

Analysis: I I think it would be hard to find another NFL team with the caliber of the top four wide receivers on the Pittsburgh Steelers. All of them had at least five touchdown receptions in 2020, and the fifth option of Ray-Ray McCloud does help the Steelers return game.

Jeff’s Grade: A

Analysis: I laughed out loud when Pro Football Focus (PFF) said this was an area of concern for the Steelers. How much more depth do you want other than JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud? PFF can take a hike, I love the receiver depth the Steelers have built.

Tight End

Dave’s Grade: B-

Analysis: This position group was going to be in trouble before the 2021 NFL draft. The fact the Steelers invested a second-round draft pick at tight end does help bolster the position’s depth. The Steelers hopefully have two capable players at the position, but beyond that it gets very sketchy. Having at least one player to handle the position shouldn’t be a problem between Ebron and Freiermuth, but beyond them it’s a concern.

Jeff’s Grade: C

Analysis: Just like the RB depth, outside of Eric Ebron who do they have? An unproven commodity in Pat Freiermuth? Zach Gentry? Kevin Rader? I rest my case. I think this is a position group which could surprise people, but I don’t foresee the tight end being a huge part of Matt Canada’s offense. If Freiermuth can contribute right away, it will be a very pleasant surprise.

Offensive Line

Dave’s Grade: D+

Analysis: The entire offensive line was thrown into one group for this exercise because of players who can act as a reserve for multiple positions. Whoever does not get to start at center will also be a reserve with a guard position. Speaking of guard, it’s probably in the best shape of any offensive line position at this time. While the starters at places on the offensive line seem a little shaky, one benefit of having players needing to fight for their starting job is a drop off to the next guy should not be enormous. The bigger issue is if the starters are not getting the job done, what does it say about the guys who aren’t deemed better to earn the spot in the first place?

Jeff’s Grade: D

Analysis: With so much turnover, it is difficult to give this unit any other grade than a D. Now, if you were like me in college, D = diploma. Unfortunately, when grading an offensive line, and its depth, a D = dead. There are so many unknowns on this Steelers 2021 offense, and none loom larger than the offensive line. If Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor can lock down the tackles, Zach Banner picks up where he left off, David DeCastro returns to form and someone wins the center position outright, they could be okay. Yeah, that is a gigantic if.

So there are our grades for the Steelers current depth at the various offensive positions. Keep your eye out for the next installment of depth on the defensive side of the ball. Additionally, we will revisit this exercise once the Steelers have establish their 53-man roster for the 2021 season.

5 Steelers storylines to follow during mandatory minicamp

Tue, 06/15/2021 - 7:15am
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers kick off mandatory minicamp this week, and here are some storylines to follow as the team prepares for the 2021 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up for the first day of mandatory minicamp Tuesday, and there are plenty of talking points for the black and gold as they head to Heinz Field for their three days of practices.

If you are wondering what teams can, and cannot, do during these minicamp workouts, check out the article below:

Speaking of talking points, or narratives, here are five key storylines to keep an eye on throughout the week:

1. The Canada Effect

All eyes will be on the Steelers’ new offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The team has already started to build the new offense from the line up, especially with the help of offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, throughout Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and they will look to further build the new look offense during minicamp. Will players like Ben Roethlisberger be able to get acclimated to a new system so late in his career? Only time will tell...

2. Rookie Acclimation

There are extremely high hopes for the 2021 NFL Draft class. Najee Harris is expected to contribute right away, Pat Freiermuth is also expected to be a Day 1 contributor and Kendrick Green could be the team’s starting center when the dust settles. This is all well and good, but the players have to go out and not just look the part. They have to make the plays necessary to win the job and help the team win football games. A huge step in the maturation process, and one the 2020 rookies didn’t have, will take place during minicamp.

3. Attendance

The Steelers had tremendous attendance during OTAs, but several big names weren’t in attendance. There was no Joe Haden, David DeCastro and even T.J. Watt. This week should be different, after all, it is called mandatory minicamp. If one of the veterans doesn’t attend, and it wasn’t approved by the team, the Steelers could have a situation on their hands.

4. Offensive Line

So much has been written and discussed about the Steelers’ offensive line. Gone are Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey and Matt Feiler. In are Zach Banner at right tackle, Chuks Okorafor sliding to left tackle, Kevin Dotson filling in at left guard and B.J. Finney and/or Kendrick Green at center. This unit will have to work as one to see success in 2021, but under the guidance of Adrian Klemm you can expect to see a more physical, and punishing offensive line. I don’t think many will complain if that is the product the Steelers’ fan base sees this season.

5. Defensive Secondary Issues

Speaking of the offensive line losing a lot of talent this year, so has the secondary. Mike Hilton has left via free agency, and Steven Nelson was a cap casualty. Who will fill in those roles? Everyone points to Cam Sutton, but Sutton is only one man. Who will fill Sutton’s old role if Sutton fills Nelson’s vacated spot on the outside? Justin Layne? James Pierre? An undrafted rookie like Shakur Brown? The Steelers will start ironing out those details this week during minicamp.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 regular season.

What to expect from the Steelers’ 2021 Mandatory Minicamp

Tue, 06/15/2021 - 6:00am
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers will hit the field for mandatory minicamp Tuesday, here is what to expect during the three day camp.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, along with many other NFL clubs, are kicking off their mandatory minicamp Tuesday, and if you are like me you might be wondering what the team can, and cannot, do during these three day workouts.

Throughout the Steelers’ Organized Team Activities (OTAs) there are certain rules teams must follow. For instance, in Phase 1 of OTAs players are essentially just working out with the strength and conditioning staff and getting treatment. Phase 2 allows players to work on individual drills with coaches while Phase 3 has coaches working with the entire position group and going through plays, etc.

What about mandatory minicamp? What are the restrictions for these workouts? I dove into the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to get those answers. Here is what you need to know:

Each League Year each Club may hold a maximum of one mandatory minicamp for veteran players. If a Club hires a new head coach after the end of the prior regular season, that Club may hold one additional voluntary minicamp for veteran players.

As it pertains to the length of the workouts:

No mandatory veteran minicamp may exceed three days in length, plus one day for physical examinations. The minicamp must be conducted during the week (Monday through Friday), with physicals taking place on Monday but no practice or workouts on that day, practices on Tuesday through Thursday and a day off on Friday.

Can teams do two-a-days? They can, but there are limitations:

Two-a-day practices shall be permitted on two of the three practice days of the Club’s one mandatory minicamp, subject to the following rules: (i) minicamp may be held for a maximum of twenty-four hours over three days; (ii) players may be on the field for a total of no more than three and one-half hours per day; (iii) players may participate in one practice for no more than two and one-half hours of on-field activities under Phase Three rules; (iv) the second practice may only be for the remaining portion of the players’ daily three and one-half hour on-field activities and shall be limited to drills and plays conducted with offensive players lining up across from offensive players and defensive players lining up across from defensive players with each group permitted to align eleven or fewer players across from eleven or fewer players.

Can teams run live 11-on-11 drills? Is there contact? Yes and no:

Players on one side of the ball may execute a play, but players on the opposite side of the ball may not initiate contact with, or attempt to impede the progress of, players who are running the play (such drills and plays shall be conducted at an acceptable walkthrough pace.

These workouts will be the last time the Steelers convene as a team until they report to training camp. It hasn’t been announced yet whether camp will return to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA yet, but the Steelers are estimated to return to camp around July 21st.

So, with that said, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of the offseason and the 2021 season.

Podcast: The challenges the Steelers’ offensive line faces in 2021 

Tue, 06/15/2021 - 4:30am

In the latest podcast on the BTSC family of podcasts, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

At the end of the 2020 NFL season, The sentiment was the Steelers offense of line was a major weakness. Now their center has retired, their left tackle is in Baltimore, their right tackle is coming off of a major injury and that’s all for starters. So what challenges does the Steelers’ offensive line face in 2021.

Join BTSC Deputy Editor Michael Beck on the latest edition of The Live Mike as he helps Steeler Nation navigate through the 2021 offseason and beyond.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The challenges that the offensive line of the Steelers face in 2021
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael Beck of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Men of Steel.

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Ranking every Steelers matchup for the 2021 regular season

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Ranking all 17 of the Steelers 2021 matchups.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the hardest schedule in football in 2021. They’ve won the Super Bowl while facing these circumstances before, so I know Mike Tomlin and company ‘do not care’. But as we sit here today we can put those opponents in order of difficulty. Sure, injuries and regression will change these standings, but for the sake of argument here are the Steelers’ opponents ranked based by talent on paper.

17. Week 10 vs. Lions — Sun 11/14 Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Genuinely I think the Lions are setting themselves up nicely to turn things around. However, those things won't come anywhere near to developing here this season and this will be the Steelers ‘easiest’ game of the year.

16. Week 2 vs. Raiders — Sun 09/19 Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

For whatever reason the Steelers struggle against the Raiders as of late. However, the fact this will be the home opener combined with John Gruden’s bizarre philosophies I think the Steelers should be the victor in this game.

15. Week 5 vs. Broncos — Sun 10/10 Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Broncos have put together a nice little roster for themselves, however their quarterback play keeps them far down the list of any NFL team. This is another game the Steelers should win.

14. Week 9 vs. Bears — Mon 11/08 Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Bears have a lot of stock in their rookie quarterback this year. If he's ready for the work load they might just be a sleeping giant. If not, they still have a really good defense. Also, the Steelers always struggle against the Bears so this will be a tight one.

13. Week 3 vs. Bengals — Sun 09/26 Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Bengals are steadily improving a lot comes down to Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offensive line. The Steelers can't afford to struggle to the Bengals like they did late last season.

12. Week 14 at Vikings — Thu 12/09 Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Vikings appear to be a team trending downward. However a short week on Thursday Night Football and anything can happen.

11. Week 12 at Bengals — Sun 11/28 Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Steelers return to the scene of their worst game of the 2020 season. The Steelers embarrassed themselves the last time they played at Paul Brown stadium, and they need to be looking for revenge in this one.

10. Week 4 at Packers — Sun 10/03 Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well... Let’s call this one a place holder until we learn the status of Aaron Rodgers. If he stays this will be a top-3 toughest game of the year. If not it could be one of the easiest, stay tuned.

9. Week 6 vs. Seahawks — Sun 10/17 Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Quietly the Seahawks might have the worst talent in the NFC West. However, they're still a pretty good team. Thankfully the Steelers get this game at home as they struggle mightily in Seattle.

8. Week 13 vs. Ravens — Sun 12/5 Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers will look to extend their winning steak against the Ravens in this game. Given this one will be played in Week 13 I suspect the stakes will be particularly high with direct playoff implications on the line.

7. Week 17 vs. Browns — Mon 1/3 Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Steelers have to wait until Week 17 to get a home rematch against the Browns following the embarrassing Wild Card performance. This game might be huge for the standings, but it could also mean nothing for either team.

6. Week 15 vs. Titans — Sun 12/19 Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Titans big three is perhaps the most dominate trio in recent memory. The Steelers will need to play a perfect defensive game to win this one.

5. Week 11 at Chargers — Sun 11/21 Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

The Chargers are a sleeper team to win the AFC, not only that but the Steelers always struggle on the west coast. Thankfully the Steelers seem to get the job done in San Diego/Los Angeles as of late.

4. Week 18 at Ravens — Sun 1/9 Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

This could very well be an AFC North championship game, it could also be a game where both teams are resting players. The former would make for a slugfest, while the latter would likely turn into a snooze fest.

3. Week 8 at Browns — Sun 10/31 Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Steelers will be motivated for this game. All offseason the Steelers will be stewing on the playoff loss to the Browns. This group knows they have to get their win back.

2. Week 1 at Bills — Sun 9/12 Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers open up the year against one of the best teams in football. The timing of this is extremely fortunate for the Steelers as it will be warm and they’ll be able to catch the Bills off guard with their brand new offense. But still the Bills are loaded and matchup nicely against the Steelers.

1. Week 16 at Chiefs — Sun 12/26 Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Could it have been anyone else? The Chiefs were a great team before this offseason and they're even better now. This will be a huge battle for the Steelers who never got to test themselves against the Chiefs a year ago. This one could be the measuring stick to see how close the Steelers really are to competing for a Super Bowl.

But what do you think? How would you rank the Steelers matchups? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Can Ben Roethlisberger truly grasp Matt Canada’s system?

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 12:36pm
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up for mandatory minicamp, and a big question mark for the week will be Ben Roethlisberger’s progression through Matt Canada’s system.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up for mandatory minicamp Tuesday, and there are a lot of storylines to follow throughout the three day process. One of the biggest storylines will be Ben Roethlisberger.

Trust me, there are many facets of Ben Roethlisberger’s game which can be something to watch this week, and beyond. But the one most are talking about would be the fact Roethlisberger is about to learn an offense which is truly different than any other offense he has run since he was drafted in 2004.

When given the opportunity to list the top storyline for the Steelers heading into minicamp, ESPN’s Brooke Pryor listed Roethlisberger’s learning curve as paramount for the Steelers this week.

How is Ben Roethlisberger adapting to Matt Canada’s offense? The Steelers have been slowly installing Canada’s scheme during OTAs, and minicamp with the full Steelers offense will be another measuring stick for the quarterback and his comfort in the new concepts. He admitted to the challenge of learning a new offense after 17 seasons in a similar system, and JuJu Smith-Schuster said he has noticed the quarterback’s buy-in through the volume of questions he’s asking.

Speaking of Smith-Schuster’s comments, here is what he had to say about Roethlisberger learning Canada’s system, and how it can point to the future Hall of Fame quarterback completely buying in.

“(Ben) is always asking questions 24/7,” Smith-Schuster told the media. “He is always asking questions, a guy who has been in the league for 18 years. Me, I have been at it for four years. But for him, to have to learn a whole new offense. I know I have a lot of questions, but he is asking a lot of questions too, even as an adult.”

As for Roethlisberger himself, he was asked about the adjustments which will be needed for him to fully learn and adapt to Matt Canada’s offense. Here is what he said:

“It’s new. There is a lot of new,” said Roethlisberger. “It’s taking some extra studying, but it’s a fun new challenge. Guys are getting it and hopefully it translates into winning football.

“When you have had the same offense, or a similar offense for 17 years and all of a sudden something looks the same, but it’s called something different, it’s very different and a big challenge. That is the game of football, learning new things, new challenges. Coach Canada’s offense is one that hopefully will be a good one. We need to execute the plays that he calls. Hopefully we will be better on offense than last year.

“We’ll throw a lot of different looks and schemes at people and see what works.”

Roethlisberger does have some experience with Canada’s offense. It was in the early portions of the 2020 season when the Steelers were doing a lot of pre-snap motion and shifts, but then it just stopped. No one knows why it ceased to exist in the Steelers’ offensive playbook anymore, but 2021 shouldn’t be a complete shock to Roethlisberger.

In the meantime, the Steelers will continue to build the foundation, and the cornerstone of the offense will remain Roethlisberger until he decides to call it a career.

Keep an eye on all things Pittsburgh Steelers this week, and throughout the offseason, as the team prepares for the 2021 regular season.

2021 Fantasy Football Outlook: Ben Roethlisberger placed in fifth tier of QBs

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Despite 33 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in 2020, Roethlisberger isn’t expected to even be a fantasy reserve option for 2021 according to Pro Football Focus.

While fantasy football is not everybody’s cup of tea, those who do dabble in it generally understand the difference between winning on the field and winning with fantasy points. In looking at the fantasy rankings going into the 2021 NFL season, it does give an indication of what players are projected to do well statistically over the course of the season.

Although I only do fantasy football recreationally at a very minimal level, I find myself looking at which members of the Pittsburgh Steelers I can land on my team for the upcoming year. Whether it be the illustrious Steelers defense, one of the many young wide receivers on the team, the Steelers rookie running back, or the veteran future Hall of Fame quarterback, I’m always looking to add members of the Steelers on my fantasy squad.

Recently Pro Football Focus released their fantasy football tiers for quarterbacks for the 2021 season.

@PFF_NateJahnke's Tier 1 QBs
1. Patrick Mahomes
2. Josh Allen
3. Kyler Murray
4. Dak Prescott
5. Lamar Jackson

His full list of 2021 Fantasy QB Rankings & Tiers ⬇️

— PFF (@PFF) June 10, 2021

So how do these tiers work? They include at least four players per tier based on where they felt they should be drafted and appropriate cutoff points. The first tier only had five players and consisted of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, and Lamar Jackson. The second tier rounded out the top 10 quarterbacks according to PFF. While consisting of some regulars such as Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady, it also included some second-year players such as Justin Herbert and, surprisingly, Jalen Hurts.

Moving down the tiers, it wasn’t until tier 5 in the 26th overall position where I was able to find Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger shared this tier with six other players including Derek Carr and rookie Zach Wilson who are both ranked ahead of Roethlisberger. Moving down the list, Jared Goff, Sam Darnold, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton rounded out the tier.

In essence, Pro Football Focus felt Ben Roethlisberger should not be drafted in most fantasy football leagues in 2021.

To me, seeing Roethlisberger ranked this low would set off major alarms as a fantasy football owner. The value which could be achieved by drafting Roethlisberger late in standard drafts, or for a low price auction drafts, would be through the roof. If I could get Ben Roethlisberger as my quarterback and can focus my higher assets of other positions, it would be a tremendous steal.

In 2020, Roethlisberger was one of only 10 quarterbacks who threw for 30 or more touchdowns on the season. Additionally, he only had 10 interceptions holding him back. If looking at the standard fantasy scoring done by Pro Football Reference, Roethlisberger was the 12th best quarterback in 2020 of anyone who started at least six games.

Exactly why Pro Football Focus has Ben Roethlisberger expected to fall off a major cliff is a bit of a mystery. Even if Roethlisberger does not put up the same statistics he did in 2020, he would still be a viable reserve option from a fantasy football standpoint. If I were to place a wager, I would say Roethlisberger will over achieve his fantasy rankings for the 2021 season. More important than fantasy points would be Roethlisberger’s actual statistics and play on the field producing wins for the Pittsburgh Steelers being higher than expected.

You can listen to the most recent podcast of Let’s Ride about a Ben Roethlisberger renaissance in 2021 in the player below.

Podcast: What does it mean to bleed black and gold?

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 11:00am

With the Steelers now in their off-season, it’s time to bring back an old favorite as we look back at Steeler tales from yesterday and today surrounding the black-and-gold.

Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers are proud of being long-time or true fans. Being “dyed in the wool” or bleeding black and gold” Is how they describe themselves. How do fans get that way? Some players become like that as well. Who from yesterday and today bleed black and gold the most? Join BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis with the other side of the Men of Steel. This leads to the topic of the latest episode of the most unique member of BTSC’s family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • What it means to bleed black and gold
  • Steelers that bleed black and gold

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

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

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

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

Part 1

Part 2

Training Camp Battles: Which QB will round out the depth chart?

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 10:00am
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2021 NFL Draft a thing of the past, we look ahead to some training camp battles facing the Steelers this season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the early stages of the 2021 offseason, but with the 2021 NFL Draft over the attention now turns to the regular season. There are steps along the way, mandatory minicamp, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and training camp, but the position battles which will take shape throughout the offseason are worth discussion.

Sure, things could change between now and the start of training camp. Injuries, acquisitions and players emerging can alter the outcome of these battles, but there will be several key battles taking place. In this series, myself and Dave Schofield will be giving our analysis and prediction for each training camp battle which will unfold at some point this offseason.

Today we take a look at a position/battle for the Steelers’ offense. This battle, which involves two quarterbacks, hasn’t been discussed yet, and I am ashamed it took this long. This debate is which quarterback will lock down the QB3 on the depth chart? For this exercise, we are making a pretty safe assumption, and that being Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph solidify QB1 and QB2.

With that being said, this debate will be structured just around the depth chart. Which quarterback will be behind Roethlisberger and Rudolph? Dwayne Haskins or Joshua Dobbs?

Who wins the battle? Dave and I give our predictions below, but be sure to let us know what you think in the poll below, and be sure to explain your vote in the comment section!

Jeff Hartman

Analysis: There are some who might think this is a slam dunk prediction, but there are plenty who disagree. No matter what Haskins does, there are always those who suggest he can’t get the job done. Maybe it was his failed tenure with Washington, or how he came from Ohio State. Either way, it would take Haskins not just making the team, but winning games on a regular basis for some to change their tune with the former first round pick. On the other side are those who have always thought Dobbs was a wasted pick. His athleticism is evident, but his accuracy throwing the ball doesn’t always match his intelligence and athleticism. This battle still has a lot to decipher.

Prediction: I like Joshua Dobbs, but I think it would take an injury for him to make the roster. This is the same quarterback who the Steelers felt was expendable when he was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers took a flier on Dwayne Haskins, and you have to think they are tantalized by his overall potential. Say what you want about Haskins, but he was a first-round pick and is someone who could be considered a future starter. Most of Haskins’ issues came as much off the field as much as on the field. When the dust settles, I see Haskins sticking around, as the Steelers hope they found a genuine diamond in the rough when they signed him this offseason. It would be the end of the road for Dobbs, but he would be just an injury away from making an NFL roster.

Dave Schofield

Analysis: There are too many Steelers fans who think Dwayne Haskins could never amount to anything. There are also too many Steelers fans who think Dwayne Haskins is a slam dunk. In all honesty, the truth most likely lies somewhere in the middle. When it comes to earning the final spot (we assume) on the Steelers quarterback depth chart, I don’t know if Joshua Dobbs can do anything more than he’s already shown the Steelers. His job this preseason is to show that he is at least still the same player they know that he was in 2018 when he was the back up quarterback. As for Haskins, it’s going to be all about him showing that he is more than what the Steelers would get with Joshua Dobbs.

Prediction: This pick comes down to the known of Dobbs and the unknown of Haskins. While I would love to be optimistic and see Dwayne Haskins have a revival of his career in Pittsburgh, it was only a year ago we were doing the exact same thing with former first-round pick Paxton Lynch. I’ve learned my lesson. Until I see Haskins show on the field against competition that he is a better option than Dobbs, and I feel the rocket scientist will better serve the Steelers on the sidelines.

Other Training Camp Battle Breakdowns:

T.J. Watt sack party, Part 1: What makes T.J. Watt great

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Looking at every sack from T.J. Watt during the 2020 Steelers regular season.

T.J. Watt led the Steelers, and the NFL with 15 sacks in 2020. To honor his accomplishment, and to look at how the Steelers generate sacks as a team, I wanted to look at every sack Watt recorded this past season.

I’m going to cover 2 sacks in each of these articles (8 in total) and break down what the Steelers were doing on defense, and how T.J. Watt ended up getting sacks.

T.J. Watt didn’t record a sack in week 1, so the first two sacks come in week 2, against the Denver Broncos, and an overmatched right tackle named Elijah Wilkinson.

Week 2, second quarter, 7:39. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the top of the screen.

Before we get to T.J. Watt, let’s look at the rest of the defense. The Steelers are in Dime on 3rd and 4. Devin Bush is the only linebacker and the Steelers switch Cameron Sutton into a deep half zone (deep safety top of screen) and put Terrell Edmunds (third DB from bottom) in coverage on KJ Hamler. It’s cover-2 man, with a 4-man rush.

It is interesting to note the outside leverage from Mike Hilton (second DB from bottom of screen) and inside leverage from Terrell Edmunds, Hilton jams from that leverage, expecting a quick out-breaking route, while Edmunds is expecting his receiver to cut into the middle of the field. The receivers do the opposite, and both defenders recover well to limit the passing window to their receiver. This certainly isn’t a coverage sack though . . .

Quarterback Jeff Driskel is in for Drew Lock, and following his eyes you can see him read the safeties first, making sure they stayed in the pre-snap 2-deep (middle open) look they started in, then he looks to his right, then to his left before being sacked. If you look at the first clip, I think this is a mistake in his progression, as the 12 yard hook they are running to his right is bracketed by Cameron Sutton’s deep zone and Joe Haden’s trail technique. But honestly, that doesn’t even matter. There isn’t a receiver open yet when T.J. Watt pressures Driskel and sends him running into Cameron Heyward.

T.J. Watt shows off why he’s a great edge rusher perfectly on his first sack of the season. He gets his usual great burst off the snap, gets upfield even faster than Bud Dupree does, and converts that speed to power as he looks like he’s going into a bull rush with his head forward and both arms going into the tackle’s chest. He then transitions that into a dip-and-rip move, flattening his rush and getting past his blocker to create pressure that will get both him and Cameron Heyward a half-sack.

There are 4 parts of this play that show why T.J. Watt is so difficult to stop.

First, his elite burst off the snap. T.J. Watt times up snaps really well, and the acceleration in his first few steps is incredible.

Second, he turns that speed into power efficiently and effectively. A real weapon against offensive lineman forced to drop quickly to keep up with him, therefore moving laterally and often higher in their stance.

Third, he has a natural feel for pass rushing, transitioning to the right move for the situation. On this play Watt’s blocker sees his arms come out to drive him back, and comes down on those arms to cut off Watt’s length and redirect that speed-to-power force downward. As he does, T.J. Watt goes into a rip move, getting his right arm under the tackle’s armpit, driving up and through to the quarterback.

The fourth part that makes T.J. Watt so hard to stop is his team mates. Stephon Tuitt shows his usual great bull rush, but look at Cameron Heyward and Bud Dupree. Cameron Heyward takes one step to the guard, then attacks the left side of the center. He gets his hand outside the center’s left arm and attacks that side of his body. Meanwhile Bud Dupree takes a wide angle to start and then spins inside. Heyward and Dupree are running a double attack on that guard. The center can’t hold Heyward on his own, and if Bud Dupree lands his spin move he’s coming inside the tackle and into the pocket. The guard has to choose who to help, his center or his tackle. Here the guard chooses to help block Bud Dupree and Cam Heyward muscles his way into the pocket where he will earn a half-sack.

Notice how Dupree reacts when he sees the guard is there. He stops, then spins back outside. He sees Watt pressuring, he sees Heyward and Tuitt collapsing the pocket and he knows the only possible escape route is to his side, and he moves to cut that off. This is a straight up 4-man rush, being executed by 4 really good rushers who are smart, disciplined and work together well.

T.J. Watt would record his first full sack later in that same quarter.

Week 2, second quarter, 0:27. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the top of the screen.

This is cover-1 man. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the only deep safety, and the Steelers are rushing 5. It looks like the Steelers are pattern matching to the bottom of the screen. Devin Bush is dropping to start the play, Terrell Edmunds waits for the slot receiver to come to him before committing to covering him, and Steven Nelson starts deep and drops further at the snap. This points to pattern matching, a staple of the Steelers 2019 and 2020 defenses, and something the Broncos would attack later in the game. Another staple of the Steelers defense is shown really well on this play by Vince Williams. (#98, white socks and arm sleeve)

Vince Williams is “hug blitzing” here. He approaches the line like he’s blitzing, but is watching the running back the whole time. When that back slips out of the pocket instead of committing to a block, Williams calls off his blitz and covers the back. The Steelers front seven are so effective in large part because they are smart, disciplined, and well coached.

Another reason they are so effective? T.J. Watt.

T.J. Watt learned from that first sack that he was beating his tackle upfield, and after a good number of effective inside rushes to slow the tackle’s drop, Watt unleashes this insane burst off the line that beat his blocker so badly he barely had to dip to get past him.

This is one of the most clearly a one-man effort of a sack you will find, and it utilized his #1 strength. T.J. Watt’s pass rush moves are really good, but not the best, he’s not an elite technician. He isn’t a James Harrison with elite strength either. What T.J. Watt brings to the field is elite athleticism, especially his burst off the line, which is the number one reason he’s one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL.

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