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Updated: 1 hour 41 min ago

Steelers start date for 2021 training camp finally set

Sat, 07/17/2021 - 6:00am
Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

While padded practices at Heinz Field begin on July 28, players will be reporting nearly a week earlier.

Just over a week ago tickets became available for Steelers fans to attended training camp practices at Heinz Field beginning on July 28. With the Steelers not likely to have practice in full pads their first day of training camp, it was understood players would be reporting for camp prior to this practice even though the date had not been published. According to Dejan Kovacevic of DK Pittsburgh Sports, this date has now been set.

The Steelers' training camp will open July 22 at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side.

— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) July 16, 2021

The NFL had previously announced the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys could report to training camp as early as July 21 since they would be squaring off in the Hall of Fame Game on August 5. The Cowboys had previously announced they would be starting training camp on July 22, but the Pittsburgh Steelers had not made an official announcement.

While the Steelers themselves have not announced this date, this is the first report of when the Steelers players will be reporting to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. During the 2020 season, the NFL implemented a “ramp-up period” where players did various conditioning and drills before actually participating in padded practices. With the Steelers players reporting six days before the first padded practice, is likely that Steelers will have a bit of a ramp-up period again in 2021.

Exactly how much media coverage will be available during training camp before practices are open to the public remains to be seen. Regardless, the Pittsburgh Steelers are less than a week away from when they will reconvene and begin the thorough process of preparing for the 2021 NFL season.

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

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Vol. 26

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 5:45pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

There is always something to talk about when it comes to the black-and-gold!

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

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

The rules are still the same...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

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

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

1. With Training Camp starting next week, I felt it would be appropriate to talk about some potential camp battles upcoming.

Who wins the center camp battle and starts Week 1? B.J. Finney, Kendrick Green or J.C. Hassenauer?

2. Who will be the starter opposite Joe Haden at CB?

James Pierre, Cam Sutton or Justin Layne?

3. Who will fill Mike Hilton’s old position in the slot?

James Pierre, Shakur Brown, Antoine Brooks Jr., Marcus Allen, or someone else?

4. I talked about this on my Let’s Ride podcast Friday. T.J. Watt is a monster, but the one stat he has seen decrease are forced fumbles. After 8 in 2019, he had only 2 in 2020. What would you rather have, a sack or a forced fumble? And for this argument, a strip sack is not in the equation. Either a sack, or getting the ball on the turf.

5. Ben Roethlisberger is 39 years old and preparing for his 18th season in the NFL. Every season his weight is a constant narrative...should it be? Does Roethlisberger’s overall conditioning matter to you? Let us know why...

6. Since we are in the midst of summer, how do you prefer to spend your summer? Go to the beach? A lake? Head to the mountains for a cooler climates? Just stay around the house? Let us know how you like to spend your summer...

Stay safe out there!

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

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

We added some new shows and a new platform to our podcasts...if you haven’t checked out Jeff’s morning show Let’s Ride, Bryan and Tony’s Steelers Retro Show or Dave’s Steelers Stat Geek, or even the new evening shows, give them a try by listening below!

Ben Roethlisberger just out of the top 10 in odds to lead the NFL in passing in 2021

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 2:00pm
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Entering his 18th NFL season, Roethlisberger is still on the oddsmaker’s’ radar to potentially lead the NFL in passing yards.

The countdown to the Steelers 2021 training camp is now more accurately described in days rather than weeks or months. On the cusp of the 2021 season, it is also the ramp-up period for NFL odds in sports betting, specifically in season long categories, before everything gets kicked off in Week 1 in September.

Taking a look at some of the Pittsburgh Steelers odds over the next few days, we’ll start with odds to become the NFL passing leader in 2021 and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

As most people realize, NFL odds are an ever changing entity. Teams could have great odds to win a game only to have those odds change as kickoff approaches. Sometimes there are major issues which lead to changes and sometimes it is merely just an adjustment based on where bets are being placed. In fact, the odds for Roethlisberger leading the NFL in passing yards have changed slightly at some outlets in just the last few days.

According to SportsBetting.ag, Ben Roethlisberger is currently at 22/1 odds to lead the NFL in passing yards this season. Roethlisberger is tied for the 11th spot with Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.

Only a few days ago, both Roethlisberger and Wilson were 20/1 odds and tied for the 10th spot with Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals. At that time, Kirk Cousins was it 18/1 odds before he fell to 22/1. The big mover to create these shuffling of numbers was Jameis Winston of the New Orleans Saints from 33/1 odds to 12/1 odds.

The quarterback with the best odds of winning the passing title for 2021 is Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at 6/1. Coming in a close second as he returns after his gruesome injury from 2020 is Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott at 8/1. Next on the list is Buffalo Bills quarterback and Steelers Week 1 opponent Josh Allen at 9/1 followed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady at 10/1 coming off their Super Bowl victory.

Looking around the AFC North, Roethlisberger was tied for the top odds with Joe Burrow before lines were adjusted recently. Therefore Joe Burrow has the best odds to lead the NFL in passing from the AFC North at 20/1 with Roethlisberger close behind a 22/1. Both the Browns’ Baker Mayfield and Ravens’ Lamar Jackson come in at 25/1 odds to lead the NFL in passing yards.

When looking at quarterbacks the Steelers will face in 2021, 10 of them fall in the top half of the NFL with 25/1 odds or better. The only four teams with projected starting quarterbacks the Steelers will face this season with lower odds are Detroit’s Jared Goff and Tennessee‘s Ryan Tannehill at 33/1, Denver’s Drew lock at 50/1, and Chicago with either Andy Dalton at 66/1 or Justin Fields at 100/1.

Of course, these are just betting odds for how many passing yards a player would get. If a team is truly dominating a game and has a highly efficient run game, racking up passing yards is not a priority. But when looking towards the 2021 regular season, it is interesting to see both were the Steelers stack up around their division and the league, as well as checking out how quarterbacks the Steelers will face are projected to perform in 2021.

The Steelers Trifecta: Snell Jr., Spillane, and Stiner

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Day 26 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Benny Snell Jr., Robert Spillane, and Donovan Stiner

Welcome to the Steelers Trifecta! Over the 30 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 training camp, we will be highlighting three players every day in order cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s three players:

Benny Snell Jr. Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Running Back
Age: 23
Year: 4
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 224
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 122, 2019
College: Kentucky
Roster Outlook: More likely than not
Analysis:

This is a massive training camp for Benny Snell Jr. Not only is he competing to be the Steelers primary backup running back, but he is fighting for his NFL career. There is a chance Snell gets completely cut off of this Steelers roster especially with Kalen Ballage reportedly breathing down his neck. At this point no one will ever surpass Najee Harris on the depth chart so the RB2 slot is the what all these back up players will need to covet.

Robert Spillane Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Linebacker
Age: 25
Year: 3
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 229
Drafted: UDFA 2018 (Titans)
College: Western Michigan
Roster Outlook: Most Likely
Analysis:

Robert Spillane exploded onto the scene in 2020 after Devin Bush went down with injury. He became a big hitter and a splash play player. Injuries slowed down Spillane’s breakout campaign, but he has positioned himself to start alongside Devin Bush here in 2021. Spillane has improved by leaps and bounds each and every year he has been in the league. If he can continue to grow at this rapid pace the Steelers may have another stud that they found for free.

Donovan Stiner Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Position: Safety
Age: 22
Year: 1
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 210
Drafted: UDFA 2021
College: Florida
Roster Outlook: Doubtful
Analysis:

If there’s one spot where you would want to be a UDFA on the Pittsburgh Steelers it would be at safety. Both the backup free and strong safety spot are open for the taking, so just about anyone can sneak their way onto the roster especially if they can be a contributor on special teams. With that said it will still be an uphill battle for Stiner to make the team. But this is essentially an open competition with the best man winning the job.

Be sure to check back everyday for anther ‘trifecta’ of Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

In the course of one offseason, the Steelers offensive line plunges to near bottom of the league

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line is in flux, and their ranking reflects just that.

There are few position groups on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster which have undergone such turnover as the offensive line. Just take a look at the offensive line of 2020, compared to the projected offensive line of 2021:

2020
LT: Alejandro Villanueva
LG: Matt Feiler
C: Maurkice Pouncey
RG: David DeCastro
RT: Chuks Okorafor

2021 (Projected)
LT: Chuks Okorafor
LG: Kevin Dotson
C: Kendrick Green/B.J. Finney
RG: Trai Turner
RT: Zach Banner

To think the Steelers could have five players on the line who are either first time starters, starting with a new team or starting in a new position is incredible. And I don’t mean incredible in a good way.

The success of the offense will hinge on this offensive line’s ability to do their job to the best of their ability. After 2020, a season where the offensive line only allowed 14 sacks, best in the league, the strength of the 2021 line, if there is one, is in run blocking. With that said, it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that when ESPN ranked all 32 NFL teams in terms of pass blocking, the Steelers weren’t good.

In fact, they were second-to-last in the league. See what they had to say about the Steelers’ pass blockers in 2021:

31. Pittsburgh Steelers

Projected PBWR: 53%

Projected offensive line: Chukwuma Okorafor (46th), Kevin Dotson (DNQ), Kendrick Green (rookie), Trai Turner (70th), Zach Banner (DNQ)

With four new starters and Okorafor projected to move to left tackle, it’s hard to imagine how this line is going to protect Ben Roethlisberger. Of the bottom five teams on this list, this is the only one without a first-rounder selected in either this year’s or last year’s draft.

Turner actually finished third in PBWR among guards in 2018, but he has put together two poor seasons since.

Not a glowing endorsement for the new offensive line under Adrian Klemm and Matt Canada. Nonetheless, the Steelers’ offensive line is an unknown. Everyone wants to bash them and say how bad they are, but we haven’t seen them play a snap of football yet. How can anyone suggest they would be this pad outside of projections?

They can’t, and that’s why fans should take these rankings with a gigantic grain of salt. You might be wondering who made the Top 10 for the ESPN rankings. Take a look:

ESPN’s Top 10 Offensive Lines (Pass Blocking)

1. Cleveland Browns
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. Seattle Seahawks
5. Buffalo Bills
6. Kansas City Chiefs
7. Philadelphia Eagles
8. Los Angeles Rams
9. Indianapolis Colts
10. Houston Texans

So, what do you think about these rankings? Are they justified? Do you feel the Steelers should be higher? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Podcast: Steelers best and worst case scenarios for training camp

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 11:00am

BTSC’s Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis talk news of the day and everything surrounding the Steelers. All of this while mixing in fun and frivolity like only they do.

The anticipation for the Steelers reporting to training camp next week is at a fevered pitch. Things could go better than expected and disaster could strike as well. What are the best and worst case scenarios for Coach T’s team as they prepare for the 2021 season in pads? This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show 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 and there you have the topic for the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview with Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis. Join the triumphant trio as they combine the down all things Steelers and with shenanigans galore.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the week
  • Best and worst case training camp scenarios for the Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Trivia

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:

Could Kaiir Elam replace Joe Haden at CB for the Steelers?

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 10:00am
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We continue to take a look at potential cornerback prospects the Steelers could target in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Losing Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton this offseason has already made cornerback a top need headed into 2022, but unless Joe Haden is given a contract extension in the coming days, there is a good chance that the Steelers will have lost all three of their 2020 starters at the cornerback position by next year. This is exactly why we are going to to break down Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam, a potential first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Kaiir Elam is a former four-star recruit who was a multi-sport athlete in high school, participating in football, track, and basketball. He also played on both offense and defense for Benjamin High School. In his four seasons, Elam recorded 71 tackles, 3 sacks, and 9 interceptions as a defensive back and 97 catches for 1,490 yards and 15 touchdowns as a receiver. Despite being recruited by nearly every major school in the country, Elam chose Florida, the same school his uncle, Matt Elam, played at during his collegiate career. Matt, of course, had much success at Florida and became a first round pick. Kaiir’s father, Abe Elam, also made it to the NFL, playing for seven seasons amongst five teams.

Kaiir started five games his freshman season and recorded three interceptions, one of which was in the fourth quarter of the Orange Bowl to help secure a victory against Virginia. He became the full-time starter last season and quickly became one of the most feared cornerbacks in the SEC, recording 39 tackles, 11 passes defended, and 2 interceptions. Elam’s best statistical game came against South Carolina, as he registered six solo tackles, one tackle for loss, and two passes defended. He now heads into his junior season having already checked a lot of boxes for NFL scouts. With a solid 2021 campaign, he could easily become a first round pick next April.

Elam is a lengthy cornerback who possesses solid athleticism and tremendous instincts. Primarily a zone corner, Elam displays solid situational awareness and fantastic start-and-stop quickness. This ability to change direction on a dime allows him to break on the ball quickly in zone and to match up well against twitchy, undersized receivers in man. Although he seems to be most comfortable in zone, he has proven that he has the necessary athleticism to play man coverage as well. I expect him to test well at the scouting combine next year, which will likely secure his status as a first round prospect.

Elam’s fluidity and lateral agility pop off the tape when you watch him, and his speed, while it may not be elite, is much better than your typical zone corner. Florida’s defense does is not an aggressive unit, but when Elam was given the opportunity to get physical at the line of scrimmage, he held up very well and used his length properly. He also displays solid ball skills, as evidenced by this clip below against Virginia in the Orange Bowl in 2019.

Doesn’t that interception remind you of Joe Haden’s interception against New England in 2018? I am not comparing Elam to Haden, who was a Gator himself, but Elam plays a similar style to a young Haden. Elam is a bit longer, but they both have tremendous instincts and solid ball skills.

When it comes to areas Elam could improve in, I would like to see him give receivers less room to work with in zone. He drops too deep into his zone too often, giving the receiver a lot of room to work with underneath and create yardage after the catch. This is something that will drive a man-coverage fanatic like myself crazy. Another issue is being consistent as a tackler. If you are going to allow defenses to catch passes underneath, you had better be able to tackle him before he gets upfield. While Elam has shown the ability to make strong tackles, he takes bad angles too often and misreads the quickness and shiftiness of receivers and running backs in the open field, resulting in occasional whiffs. His footwork is also sloppy at times, which could limit his ceiling in any defensive scheme if it is not fixed.

A couple of the clips were not playing the right play this week, but we will roll with what we have. I want to thank Jacob Bost for getting these ready once again. The games these are taken from are Florida vs. Alabama via CBS, Florida vs. Virginia via the ESPN family of networks, and Florida vs. Texas A&M via the ESPN family of networks.

Here is the first play, but I just want you to watch the beginning of it. Elam is the cornerback farthest to the bottom of the screen.

I added this clip simply because Elam’s beautiful backpedal is one of the most NFL-ready traits he has. It is neither tight nor sloppy. He has tremendously quick feet and bends his knees to the perfect height to get the best depth on his backpedal. This trait will allow Elam to come in immediately and contribute to his defense in both man and zone concepts.

The next couple plays we look at will be focused on Elam as a tackler. Here is the first one.

Elam does a nice job avoiding the pick and going around John Metchie. DeVonta Smith is extremely difficult to bring down in the open field, but Elam stays pace with him as he crosses the field, displays excellent closing speed, and takes a nice angle to wrap Smith up near the line of scrimmage. When Elam puts himself in good position to make a tackle, he usually finishes the tackle without any trouble.

However, Elam still needs some work as a tackler, as you will see below. We had some issues with this first clip, but the first play in the clip is the one I want you to focus on.

In the first clip, it was incredibly poor anticipation by Elam. I realize that Najee Harris can hurdle as good as any running back in the country, but the hurdle was hardly needed here. Elam takes an absolutely awful angle, almost effort-lacking, and hopes to bring Najee down around the ankles.

The second clip is not as costly as the first clip, but it is yet another poor angle. Elam dives for receiver Caleb Chapman but dives slightly too far behind him. Chapman is able to easily slip the tackle and gain a couple extra yards before stepping out of bounds. In the NFL, Elam must take better tackling angles on a more consistent basis and make better decisions in the open field.

The final two plays are Elam in coverage. This first play is against Virginia. The play of focus in this clip is the first one that should play. Elam is to the bottom of the screen.

Elam is in man and gets his hands on the receiver right away. The receiver takes the outside track, and Elam does a great job keeping him to the outside. There was some jersey tugging, but Elam is not afraid to get physical when he is one-on-one with a receiver. He displays fluid hips and good ball awareness, turning around at just the right time to defend the pass.

This final play is Elam against Texas A&M. Elam is the cornerback to the bottom of the screen.

Elam is in off coverage, but he gives too much cushion to John Metchie, who cuts toward the sideline. It is an easy throw for Mac Jones, and Metchie has no trouble hauling it in. Too many times in off-man and zone, Elam either drops too far into his zone or gives too much room for the receiver to work with underneath. He will have to become more disciplined in his spacing as he continues to develop as a prospect.

NFL Comparison: Patrick Surtain II

I realize that we have not even seen Surtain at the next level yet, but he is the closest comparison to Elam in recent memory. Surtain was a bit thicker than what Elam currently is, but they are about the same height and play almost identical styles. Surtain tested better than what people expected and proved that he has the athletic ability to do just about anything on a football field. Elam is going to surprise people when he tests as well. He is a tremendous athlete and will likely run a low to mid 4.4. Both Surtain and Elam are best in zone and rely on their instincts and length to make splash plays. Surtain’s footwork is better than Elam’s at this point, but Surtain improved in that area last season. Let’s see if Elam can do the same in what will likely be his final season at Florida.

How would he fit with the Steelers?

Schematically, Elam makes more sense for the Steelers than any other cornerback in next year’s class. Elam is really just a bigger version of Joe Haden. Now, Haden’s instincts were on a totally different level in his prime, and he was more athletic than what his combine testing implied, but Elam has the potential to become a shutdown corner. Keith Butler loves being aggressive with the front seven and extremely conservative with the secondary, and he loves playing his boundary corners high. Elam’s experience in softer coverages would allow him to become an immediate contributor on defense, and his athletic upside would allow him to potentially develop into a shutdown man corner down the line.

Upside in man coverage is not something that usually means much to Steelers fans, but Keith Butler is not going to be the defensive coordinator much longer. If Teryl Austin takes over the defense in the future, there is the potential that the Steelers incorporate more man coverage into their defensive scheme. I prefer players like Andrew Booth and Ahmad Gardner who can cover just about any receiver on an island, but zone defense is a different animal. It is not my cup of tea, but it has been the Steelers’ primary coverage for years. And if the scheme is not going to change in the future, why waste more draft capital on corners that are best suited for man coverage? Justin Layne and Artie Burns have shown us that being able to play what is generally considered a more aggressive coverage does not mean that the same player will be able to play a softer coverage at the same level.

But what do you think of Elam as a prospect? Do you see him as a potential replacement for Joe Haden? How well do you think he would fit with the Steelers? Be sure to share your thoughts on Elam and all things NFL Draft in the comment section below!

T.J. Watt Sack Party, Part 5: The Steelers Stunt Spectacular

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Steelers pass rush relies heavily on stunts to generate pressure.

Week 10 brought the Cincinnati Bengals to Pittsburgh for the first matchup between star rookie quarterback Joe Burrow and the Steelers pass rush, led by T.J. Watt. The Steelers sacked Burrow 4 times in a 36-10 rout, with T.J. Watt recording two sacks. Let’s get to the film.

The Bengals first drive of the second quarter the offense clicked and Burrows drove his team down the field, throwing 7 times for 76 yards, passing for a touchdown to cut the Steelers early lead to 5. Check out the blocking on the Bengals touchdown pass.

Week 10, second quarter, 10:40. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the right side of the screen.

The tackle is ready for Watt’s inside move, and the guard has eyes on Watt to help if Watt wins inside. The Bengals were sitting on Watt’s inside moves.

They did it consistently throughout the first half.

Week 10, first quarter, 11:12. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the left side of the screen.

On this play Stephon Tuitt takes the center and drives into the guard, taking up two blockers to give Watt a 1v1. The tackle is again sitting on any inside move, and even with Stephon Tuitt driving into him, the guard is still looking to help with T.J. Watt if he cuts inside.

With the Bengals looking to shut down T.J. Watt rushing inside, the Steelers stunts that they run a lot on longer yardage downs were not going to be as effective, and that would give Joe Burrow a bit more time to try and make plays.

Week 10, second quarter, 5:01. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the right side of the screen

The Steelers unleash their double stunt. The secondary is in the Steelers modified cover-3 look where the safeties play the middle of the field and Cam Sutton (top left corner of the screen) drops into the deep middle zone. Both Heyward and Tuitt rush to the tackles, leaving the middle of the pocket open. The Steelers love quarterbacks taking off on these plays because Terrell Edmunds (#34) is 11 yards behind the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 12, Minkah Fitzpatrick is only slightly deeper. If Burrow takes off quick, the second he crosses the line of scrimmage he will have Edmunds and Fitzpatrick coming for him.

Even though Burrow doesn’t run he steps forward, and Bud Dupree’s inside stunt has him coming right at Burrow. Burrow evades Dupree, but T.J. Watt is there to finish the play because he didn’t follow the stunt, he took advantage of a tackle and guard that were sitting on those stunts, like the guard is on this play, where he has only one hand on Tuitt and is cheating to be in position for Watt’s stunt. Compare the right guard to the left guard in how they block, The right side of the line is sitting on the stunt.

The Bengals, to this point in the game had evaded the Steelers stunts by focusing on Watt’s inside moves, and Watt still got a sack with an adlib.

That T.J. Watt sack on 3rd and 12 ended the Bengals drive, and it convinced the Bengals line to play Watt more straight up. It didn’t help.

Week 10, second quarter, 0:29. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the right.

With Henry Mondeaux giving Stephon Tuitt a breather, the Bengals tackle is playing Watt more evenly, getting a deeper initial drop, and is angled differently than in the clips above. T.J. Watt throws down a great inside cut and a quick sack to end the Bengals threat to score, moving the Bengals 11 yards back and well out of field goal range. There’s one thing I want to go over on the defense before we get to Watt’s rush, and that is Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Burrow is looking to his left to start the play, his first read is the slant coming from the left side of the screen, and you can see Minkah Fitzpatrick shut that route down. Take a look from the all-22 camera.

The Steelers start in a cover-2 look with both safeties deep. But at the snap Minkah Fitzpatrick charges forward, it’s cover-1 with Edmunds deep and Fitzpatrick playing a robber role. Fitzpatrick is one of the best players in that role that I have ever seen. When you see Steven Nelson stepping back into the passing lane behind his man, the switch to cover-1 from cover-2 destroyed the Bengals play design. It only needed to slow down the play though, because T.J. Watt was doing his own part to destroy the Bengals play.

The guard and tackle aren’t cheating on the inside move on this play, and without that advantage they don’t have a prayer. If previous articles in this series haven’t shown it enough, this play should convince you of the power Watt brings in every movement he makes. The right guard is able to get a lock on Watt’s left arm, but it doesn’t even alter Watt’s rush, Watt just keeps going and the guard ends up on the ground without even slowing T.J. Watt down.

While we’ve seen the quality of Watt’s speed rush and ability to bend the corner, as well as his ability to avoid chip blocks, it isn’t his most dangerous rush. T.J. Watt’s inside rush, especially in the Steelers frequent stunts, is so dangerous offenses are wise to prioritize defending the inside rush and settle for making Watt run around the arc to get to the quarterback.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will have more than 450 rushing attempts in 2021

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the new “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2021 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

It is simple how it works. We provide you the scenario, reasons why it will or won’t happen, and then our prediction for what we think will take place.

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: The Steelers will have more than 450 rushing attempts in 2021

Steelers rushing attempts:

2020: 373
2019: 395
2018: 345
2017: 437
2016: 409
2015: 388
2014: 423
2013: 394
2012: 412
2011: 434
2010: 471

Why it will happen: First, having an extra regular-season game is not going to hurt being able to reach this number. But the biggest reason the Steelers could hit 450 rushing attempts is the fact team president Art Rooney II said early and often in the offseason that this team is focused on getting back to running the ball. Drafting a running back with the first draft pick help solidify this mentality. Now the Steelers just have to prove their commitment on the field.

Why it won’t happen: The biggest fear when it comes to running the ball for the Steelers in 2021 is uncertainty. Yes, Najee Harris looks to be the real deal, but he does not have an NFL carry yet. Add in the fact the offensive line is only returning one starter who is likely changing positions, it’s not a recipe to believe the Steelers will be in a situation where they can simply run the ball 27 times a game. Add in the fact the Steelers haven’t rushed the ball 450 times since 2010, even with the new offensive coordinator it’s tough to see that much of a commitment to the running game all of a sudden.

Prediction: The number of Steelers rushing attempts in 2021 is going to come down to two major factors. First, they must run the ball efficiently. It doesn’t do any good to run the ball with more attempts if you simply aren’t getting the yards. Second, the game situation has to come into play. If the Steelers are trailing late in the game they will have to put the ball in the air, but if they are trying to hold a lead they will likely want to grind it out on the ground. Being the eternal optimist for the Steelers before they take the field, I’m going with the notion they can run the ball efficiently enough to warrant games where they will have 30 or more rushing attempts. If they don’t get to 450 carries this season, I think they’ll at least get close.

Check out yesterday’s ‘30 Scenarios in 30 Days’ prediction:

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

Steelers fans shouldn’t throw in the Terrible Towel just yet

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 6:00am
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It may look bleak, but fans should still have hope going into the 2021 regular season.

After meandering through the last few months of the usual suspects of “expert” NFL opinion, from former NFL players to fantasy “celebrities,” from the plethora of websites on the NFL such as Rotoworld to all the three and four letter networks, it is apparent, for the most part, that the Pittsburgh Steelers may as well throw in the Terrible Towel and just start preparing for their top ten draft pick in next year’s draft. Name your choice of punditry, it seemingly doesn’t matter where you choose to get your intel, or if it’s from the “real” or fantasy genre, it is pretty much a given by many that the Steelers are in trouble.

Last place predictions abound; at best, third place. The funeral for Big Ben is being planned by some (ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum), and celebrated by some (Colin Cowherd?). The wake for the whole organization is being prepared. The end of an era is upon the city of Pittsburgh with hard times ahead declared by some know-it-alls on the NFL Network. Yep, just burn those Terrible Towels and hide the kids, a pall has descended upon our beloved Black & Gold.

Cue the character Quint in Jaws dragging his screeching fingernails across the chalkboard — stop and take a deep breath. And, like in that summertime classic movie Jaws, the chum of the Pittsburgh Steelers is in the water this summer, and an “expert” feeding frenzy has ensued.

Add to all that noise the recent offseason article wrongly (in my opinion) subjugating the 1970’s Steelers’ dynasty to second place all time behind the Patriots, and you can get a bit irritable as a Steelers’ fan.

Last season certainly was an odd one for the team, beginning 11-0 and finishing 1-4. That ending then that terrible loss to Cleveland in the playoffs is surely what the negative crowd thinks the 2021 Steelers will be.

Of course, not impossible. You don’t want to put on your rose-colored glasses and ignore issues, but you also shouldn’t put on your dead rose-colored glasses and leap from the Westinghouse Bridge, either. Especially from reacting to a media that has a need for offseason filler on their platforms.

The death of the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly draws offseason attention. Now, I’m not exactly saying it’s all click-bait, but it certainly does work to that effect.

The 11-0 start was impressive. Notably, the defense was stifling to begin the season. From day one, they shut down the likes of Saquon Barkley like you’ve never seen.

Then, the dominos on defense began to fall, starting with the early loss of Devin Bush. His absence was devastating. With a healthy Bush, the Steelers finally had that rocket sideline to sideline speed and coverage ability that Ryan Shazier once provided. Without that needed speed, there was a noticeable decline. Overcoming the loss of one stud is one thing, but soon Bud Dupree had joined him.

That’s two All Pro level talents, turning a linebacker group that could have been considered the best in the league, to a team trying to “get by” with a rookie learning the ropes in Alex Highsmith, and journeyman talent like Robert Spillane and Avery Williamson. I really like Highsmith’s upside for the coming year, but even talents like Cameron Heyward and Troy Polamalu took time to live up to their abilities. He was learning on the job, which hopefully brings fruits this season.

Then replacement Spillane misses time, further weakening the team up the gut. And, let’s not forget that Vince Williams also misses time in the second half of the season.

Suddenly, the defense is no longer crushing opposing running games. It changed the dynamic of the defense. Nobody by the end of the season was hailing the Steelers as the league’s top unit. Not even close. It became leaky, especially up the middle to both the run and pass.

With a healthy, speedy Bush back and Highsmith with some seasoning, there is hope that that unit returns to a strength, of course led by TJ Watt. As long as the defensive backfield changes – replacing Steve Nelson and Mike Hilton for Cam Sutton, Justin Layne, and James Pierre – keep that unit solid behind a ferocious pass rush, I believe the Steelers can once again be considered a top unit like early last season.

Having the defense back up to snuff will go a long way to keeping the Steelers out of the cellar. This alone would spoil the dire predictions for the Steelers’ 2021 season. If the defense lives up to their abilities and remains relatively healthy, it can allow the Steelers offense to be more efficient. It can allow them to mix in the running game more to grind out games if the defense, of course, limits opposing scoring. It would put less pressure on the offensive unit, which is more the unit of issue for the offseason Steelers’ pallbearers.

Let’s start with first things first. The offensive scheme and offensive coaching.

While Matt Canada is still an unknown, Randy Fichtner is not. Simply changing the system and calling is a plus with the Steelers.

The offense is already improved from 2020!

It couldn’t have been worse or more predictable, as well as unimaginative. And I couldn’t care less if you want to blame Ben Roethlisberger for “running” the offense. If that is true, and I personally doubt the magnitude of that, then that is still Fichtner’s (and Tomlin’s) fault.

If Ben Roethlisberger was somehow running around like a dictator controlling the offense and Fichtner just stood there with a clipboard, then I blame the OC for allowing it.

Good riddance.

With Ben taking a pay cut and his play in question from even the hierarchy, I don’t believe that he will be the “real” OC this year like has been questionably accused in the past. Canada and his commitment to the run feel like a statement from the top that he will be in charge. The Steelers seemed ready to move on from Ben this offseason so I don’t see him pulling a power trip, or even having the ability to stage a coup at this point.

Many, including Bill Cowher, think he’s motivated by all the noise. And I love that. They can make fun of him eating a great diet and coming into camp in shape all they like. I believe it to be true from this apex competitive man. He won’t go down without a fight – it’s not in his nature.

Of course, all the training, prep, great attitude, and diet means nothing if the elbow is now dust. Granted, but I’m with film grinders like Chris Simms who studied his tape and feel that Ben was a different QB early in 2020 compared to late in 2020. He feels, like me, playing through injury, possibly occurring in the Dallas game, may have contributed to his late season swoon. Add in having, as well, zero running game and an ineffective and beat up offensive line, and it is kind of silly to lay it all at his feet and to declare him washed.

He’s not the Ben of 2015 vintage and will never be, but he is still a savvy capable signal caller if he can stay healthy in 2021. One need only look at his last game where he threw for 500 yards and four TDs after being put in a massive early hole just minutes into the game, admittedly partly due to his mistakes.

I’ve watched many washed QBs late in their careers, like Peyton Manning, John Elway, and Dan Marino. None threw for 500 yards, or close. They just weren’t physically capable of it anymore. Especially behind a weak offensive line with zero running game to support them, and in an offense run by a shoddy offensive coordinator. On the year, he had the third most pass attempts in the NFL (only 18 less throws than leader Matt Ryan) and had a pretty sweet 33-10 TD to interception ratio.

Again, not the mathematics and play of a washed QB. It’s too simple thinking to just declare that the case and ignore all other moving parts responsible for a successful offense. Yes, he’s not 2015 Ben anymore, but he’s not 2015 Peyton Manning, either.

Speaking of the offensive line, it’s the next area to delve.

First, let’s address the accusation the Steelers didn’t address the line in the draft. A common comment. It’s a lazy comment because the third and fourth round draft picks were offensive lineman.

What’s more, this was a deep draft for offensive lineman. NFL analyst Gregg Cosell recently commented he likes Dan Moore’s tape, and it was also commented that some would consider him a 2nd round pick in a normal year’s draft. Kendrick Green was taken in the third round and has been roundly critiqued as a nice pick. I’ve heard nothing bad about him.

But, since the Steelers didn’t take them until round 3 and 4, they are somehow discounted as being meaningful!

I’d argue the Steelers were wise to take a potentially dominant RB in Najee Harris and a top TE talent like Pat Freiermuth, while still getting good value on lineman the next two rounds because of its depth. One thing is for sure, there were no cornerstone RBs available in rounds 3 or 4, and certainly no TEs of Freiermuth’s capability available later, either. Drafting offensive linemen in the first two rounds would have left little running back talent available; an area the Steelers sorely needed to upgrade.

Benny “Snail” wasn’t cutting it. Especially when you need to aid an aging QB.

It remains to be seen because the draft is a crapshoot, but the Steelers parsing of the draft seems to have been done skillfully. If you can get two quality linemen later in the draft because of its depth, and still get two potential starters at other positions in the first two rounds – well played.

Furthermore, it is agreed by all that the Steelers line was below par last season. Then why are people complaining about their potentially being four new starters this year? Shouldn’t there be change? Is this not what you should try to do? Get better players? Try something new?

And, moreover, why do “experts” count the addition of these former Steelers to other teams as good for those teams? Aren’t they bad players, according to them? Weren’t they on a bad Steelers line? I read the expert comments and, suddenly, no one seems to call them below par anymore.

Why is Alejandro Villanueva a good add for the Ravens? And Matt Feiler a good addition for the Chargers? And, wasn’t David DeCastro an injured shell of himself last season? Isn’t it a good thing to replace a shell of DeCastro with a potentially better, younger option in Trai Turner?

Now, I hear rumors that DeCastro could be good for this team or that team. But wait, didn’t he suck, according to the pundits, with the Steelers?

Nobody is here to say the Steelers offensive line isn’t a question mark. Of course it is! It is critical to the offense’s success in 2021. This area, more than any other, is where you will need to put faith in the Steeler’s brain trust. I can’t tell you they will become a cohesive unit next year.

It needs to be proven.

But losing two washed lineman – Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro – can only be a good thing. Pouncey and DeCastro were no longer All Pros. Pouncey declined through age and DeCastro, we now know, tried unsuccessfully to play through a chronic foot injury. On paper, Kendrick Green at center is an upgrade, as is the new addition of Trai Turner.

Add in Zach Banner, whom the Steelers were high on last season, and an improving Chuks Okorafor and Kevin Dotson, as well as a new offensive line coach in Adrian Klemm, and hopefully this is a fresh, new “soup” of offensive line talent and scheme to improve on last season.

CBS’s Jason LaCanfora reported recently that there is optimism from the Steelers brass in their young guys.

Whether this soup turns into a hearty meal or a mess is up for debate. I get it – change for change sake means nothing. The change must improve the line, and this, again, is where you need to put some faith in the organization. I won’t pretend to have studied their tape and come to a conclusion, though I’m sure many here will. One thing is for sure: The organization hasn’t sat idly by, and is attempting to improve this perceived weakness. A weakness that started to show cracks as soon as the highly capable Mike Munchak left.

What a huge loss he was.

With the offensive skill positions as loaded as they may have ever been, the gelling of the new offensive line is key to making it work, as is an injury-free and stable Big Ben. For Roethlisberger to work out, the line has to work out. Their fates are intertwined, as is the rushing game. The hopeful improvement in line play will improve a Najee Harris led rushing attack, which will further aid Roethlisberger by bringing a pass/run balance that did not exist in 2020.

Couple that with a return to elite form from a healthy Steelers defense, and it is not hard to see that the Steelers can perform in 2021 more like their 2020 11-0 start as opposed to their 2020 1-4 finish.

Which then brings us to the last issue that confronts the 2021 Steelers – the schedule, ranked hardest in the league in 2021. Unlike the issues above, there is no tinkering that can be done to change it. It is what it is, and the Steelers will have to overcome it.

In many ways, it might be the team’s biggest challenge, though it’s always problematic looking over a schedule and putting W’s and L’s next to games. If it were that simple, we’d all be rich by taking Vegas’s “easy” money laying bets. The NFL is far from predictable and you never know how injuries and many other factors will change what a schedule looks like in July as opposed to in September and beyond.

But as for laying bets, the Steelers odds at winning the Super Bowl are intriguing. Currently a $100 dollar bet brings you $5000 in return. A pretty good return for a team studded with talent that started 11-0 last season. And, a lowly 8.5 over/under on wins doesn’t seem so unattainable in a seventeen-game season.

Nobody is saying to throw your money away on a bet, but the Steelers may just be a good gamble this season to vastly outperform expectations, sports media be damned.

Podcast: The 2021 Steelers will be defined by their defense

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman leads the way with his AM studio show on the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

Much excitement surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021 is due to the return of Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster. That’s not even mentioning the selections of Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth in the draft. But in all reality, the strength of the team will continue to be the defense. 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
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Should Steelers fans be excited for the running game in 2021?

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 2:30pm
Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

In a Q&A style article, I answer questions from fans about the Steelers as they prepare for Training Camp.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are close to Training Camp, and they are able to start reporting as early as July 21st. It is difficult to comprehend the Steelers being back on the field, but nothing is more exciting than a new season of hope.

Well, not everyone is hopeful but that isn’t the point of the article. Since all the cool kids are doing Q&A style articles, I felt I should do the same. So, I took to Twitter and asked for some questions to answer in an article, and my followers didn’t disappoint.

I chose the best of the best, and put them in this article. Check the tweets for the question, and my answer below. One day I’ll think of a name for this weekly article, but until then...here goes nothing!

QUESTION:

Do you think Lamar Jackson can actually improve as a passer in 2021? I feel like the Ratbirds are banking on that to be a contender this year and I don’t think he can do it. The Ravens are your third place team in the AFC North, right? #RideorDieCrew #Steelers

— Jeremy Betz ‍ ‍ (@thebetz93) July 15, 2021

ANSWER:

When you look at the Ravens’ statistics from last season, and their dead last ranking in passing yards per game, you have to believe it can only get better. I do believe Jackson will improve as a passer, but that won’t happen until the offensive coordinator starts to call more pass plays. It is hard to fathom the Ravens going away from the run when it is their bread and butter, but living in Maryland the general feeling is the organization wants to prove Jackson can throw it as well as run it. The problem becomes, what if he can’t? With rumors swirling about a huge contract extension for Jackson, the putting the ball in his hands, and thus in the air, seems like a risky proposition. I do think Jackson can improve as a passer, but I feel his ceiling is most quarterback’s floor.

QUESTION(S):

Is it too soon to say "that didn't last long" in regards to Dewayne Haskins "being good" after being in the news for the issue with his wife in Las Vegas? Totally wanna give the dude a chance but it scares me to see him in the news again.

— S.W.A.T. 'Kickin Chicken' Haught (@BBD_Earp) July 15, 2021

When will Steelers cut DH after news during yesterday?

— Alexandre De Nes (@xandenes) July 15, 2021

ANSWER:

Okay, so this was discussed, and debated, at length on the site and on social media. This stems from the domestic abuse charges placed against Haskins’ wife. Don’t know what I’m talking about? See below:

Let’s get something straight. Is there more to this story? Probably. Do we know what that is at the current moment? No. So, going with what we know, how can anyone see this as a black eye on the Steelers’ organization, or Haskins’ hopes of making the 53-man roster? Domestic abuse can happen both ways, and this would be one of those moments.

If you want to question Haskins’ judgement with the Las Vegas trip, go ahead, but at the same time think about what you are suggesting. Do you want these professional athletes, who are in the mid-20s and brimming with confidence, to just sit in their homes and do nothing? All athletes go on vacations, this one just happened to go south for Haskins.

Barring new reports coming from this incident, I don’t see a thing changing for Haskins, as it pertains to his time with the Steelers.

QUESTION:

What are you most excited about concerning the upcoming season? For me it's the hope of a renewed run game. #RideorDieCrew

— PittSportBot (@BotPitt) July 15, 2021

ANSWER:

I am an optimist, so I am always excited about something with the Steelers. For me, I am most excited to see Ben Roethlisberger after a full offseason. But not just after a full offseason, but his ability to grasp Matt Canada’s offense. An ability to take a back seat approach to the offense and let this offensive line and Najee Harris carry more of the load in the running game. Lastly, I’m excited to see Roethlisberger take all the negative talk which has been swirling around him this entire offseason, and to shove it down the media’s pie hole. Those who are close to him know how motivated Roethlisberger is by mainstream narratives, and the question now is does he still have enough in the tank to get it done? That is what I’m excited about entering training camp.

QUESTION:

@JHartman_PIT why does it feel like the Steelers are always in the news in the off-season for the worse? I don’t think it’ll impact the reg season it’s just annoying to see everyday its something

— Randy Fern (@RandyFern) July 15, 2021

ANSWER:

I get how it feels like the Steelers are always in the news for all the wrong reasons, but outside of Haskins’ current situation, when was the last time that happened? Has anything egregious happened since the departures of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell? I honestly can’t think of anything of that magnitude. It also shouldn’t be understated just how much damage those aforementioned players did to the team, organization and the fan base’s psyche. They really messed up the fans in a lot of ways. The Steelers have shown they are more focused on character the past few years, and I think it is paying off.

QUESTION:

most important Heinz field moment: Troy's pick 6 or the Immaculate Extension? pic.twitter.com/5XRck2KwyF

— Kyle Chrise (@kylechrise) July 15, 2021

ANSWER:

Both moments were amazing, and had significance. Antonio Brown’s Immaculate Extension came on a holiday, and clinched the division for the Steelers. A moment I’ll never forget. But Troy Polamalu’s interception of Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship Game sent the Steelers to the Super Bowl. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. My cousin was at the AFC Championship Game in the upper deck, and he said it felt as if the entire stadium was shaking. I mean...just watch these, it gives me chills every time:

So, yeah, I’ll take Troy’s interception to send the Steelers to Super Bowl 43 every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

That does it for the first installment of the Q&A To Be Named Later. If you want to contribute questions, follow me on Twitter (@JHartman_PIT) and on Thursday’s I will do this every afternoon.

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!

The Steelers Trifecta: Simmons, Sloman, and Smith-Schuster

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Day 25 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Tyler Simmons, Sam Sloman, and JuJu Smith-Schuster

Welcome to the Steelers Trifecta! Over the 30 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 training camp, we will be highlighting three players every day in order cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s three players:

Tyler Simmons Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Wide Receiver
Age: 23
Year: 1
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 201
Drafted: UDFA 2021
College: Georgia
Roster Outlook: Unlikely
Analysis:

An ongoing theme of this process is the state of being a wide receiver who is not one of the top-5 guys already on this roster. The chance of any of these guys making this team is pretty much 0% and reliant on an injury. But there will be spots available spots on the practice roster. All these guys, including Simmons, have a decent amount of size on them, and these jobs will basically come down to who is the most skilled. Could Simmons be that guy? Sure. But we won't know until we see them in pads in July.

Sam Sloman Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Kicker
Age: 23
Year: 2
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 205
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 248, 2020 (Rams)
College: Miami (Ohio)
Roster Outlook: Very Unlikely
Analysis:

Let’s be honest with ourselves here, Sam Sloman was brought in to take the pressure off Chris Boswell from taking every field goal at training camp and the preseason. Sloman will also be interviewing to be the ‘in case of injury’ guy, should anything happen to Boswell throughout the season. I really don’t expect much from any backup kicker to Chris Boswell ever since he bounced back to become one of the most accurate kickers in the game the past few seasons.

JuJu Smith-Schuster Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Wide Receiver
Age: 24
Year: 5
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 215
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 62, 2017
College: Southern California
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

The question marks surrounding Smith-Schuster really come down to whether he’ll just have another average receiver season, or bounce back to his 2018 form where he surpassed 1,400 receiving yards. He is the most experienced receiver on the roster and the other guys really look up to JuJu. In another contract year, Smith-Schuster will have to pull out all the stops if he really wants to be paid like a top receiver in the game.

Be sure to check back everyday for anther ‘trifecta’ of Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

Pressley Harvin III out to prove his worth as a punter for the Steelers

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 7th round draft pick knows what is on the line as Training Camp approaches.

Training Camp is right around the corner for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it is the first chance for the 2021 rookie class to prove their worth to the organization who drafted them in the NFL Draft.

One of the players who is looking to not just make the team, but become the starter at his position, is Pressley Harvin III. The 7th round pick out of Georgia Tech has to unseat incumbent starter Jordan Berry, but Harvin’s big leg has fans excited for a player who could be the punter for the next decade, and more.

Harvin’s story is an intriguing one, considering the position he plays and all the other variables which come with it. But the one constant for Harvin has been the fact he has always been counted out. Nonetheless, he thrives in the underdog role.

“I have always been more of an underdog in football,” Harvin told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “Whenever I have to prove myself, I have always had that underdog mentality. The biggest underdog factor is I am a black punter, and you never see that much.

“Whenever I started kicking back in middle school, I always had that mentality that I am different and unique. I didn’t want that to make people think I didn’t earn what I have. Back in seventh grade we had open tryouts and I was playing offensive line. Coach said one day we need a punter and kicker, so we had open tryouts. Every guy had a tryout and when it was my turn, I kicked it and the ball went straight up in the air. Ever since that moment I knew it was something where I was the only one on the team that could do and do it pretty good. I started kicking in seventh and eighth grade but didn’t get any training until freshman year in high school.”

Harvin had the knack for kicking the football, but it was his mentality to prove others wrong which resulted in him kicking footballs for a Division I program like Georgia Tech.

“I had the mentality that I have to prove to people I can do this at a high level,” said Harvin. “I took it really personal. I had my ups and downs. Just getting into high school, being on the football team, coaches try to lean you in a direction. That was a direction I didn’t agree with. That was the one time I had to tell a coach no, I don’t want to do that. Usually, a coach will put you in a right position. That was the first time I told a coach no, I want to do this, not that. He told me flat out I wouldn’t be good at it. I thought this coach doesn’t believe in what I can do, let me show him I can do this.”

Will Harvin be ready to beat out Berry in camp? Many fans are hoping that is the case, but Berry has held the punting duties for an extended period of time for a reason. He is a trusted holder of Chris Boswell, and has proven to be the best option for the Steelers at the position. That all could change with Pressley Harvin’s big leg now on the offseason roster.

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

Podcast: Going around the NFL from the Steelers perspective

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 11:00am

Michael Beck and Bryan Anthony Davis give their thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers and the teams they will have to take down on their way to a Lombardi trophy. Todays show will feature breaking news, commentary, and predictions for the 2021 season

There are definitely teams that are in the top and bottom five in the NFL. Are the 2021 Steelers in the penthouse or the outhouse and who do they need to beat to get another Lombardi? This week, join Michael Beck and Bryan Anthony Davis, in for Geoffrey Benedict, as they break down the offseason.

  • News and Notes
  • Going around the NFL from the Steelers perspective

Michael and Geoffrey walk you through everything you need to know regarding the 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:

3 players the Steelers should build their team around for 2021 and beyond

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Pro Football Focus gave their “core 3” players for each NFL team going into the 2021 season. Who were their choices for the Steelers?

The agonizingly long NFL offseason is winding down. After hearing the ongoing lists of best and worst players at every position under the sun, the content has almost reached an end as training camp has almost reached its beginning.

But wait, we’ve got one more.

Pro Football Focus has listed three players for each team who they should build around for the future.

Some of my favorite cores in the NFL:
LAC
TB
CLE
BUF
IND

3 players to build around for all 32 teams:https://t.co/TubTwYiv1z

— Ben Linsey (@PFF_Linsey) July 13, 2021

While it’s interesting to see who is listed for all 32 teams, there’s really only one team I care about. So what did PFF use as their criteria for determining the “core three” players for each team?

Here’s a little taste of what went into it:

Production, age and positional value were all considered to put together a three-player core to build around for all 32 NFL teams. Contracts weren’t considered for the purpose of this exercise.

I don’t know if they mean simply how much a player was paid or how much time is remaining on each one’s contract. Regardless, who are the three players the Steelers should be building around for their future success? Without further ado, here they are with explanation:

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

EDGE T.J. Watt

S Minkah Fitzpatrick

WR Chase Claypool

Watt is in line for a massive second contract in Pittsburgh given his performance over the past two seasons. He joins Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett as the only two edge defenders with a PFF grade better than 90.0 in both 2019 and 2020. Fitzpatrick, like Watt, is also due for a big-time extension soon. His play at free safety is a big reason why the Steelers have allowed just 32 completions on passes 20 or more yards downfield (tied for fewest in NFL) since they traded for him.

The choices on offense come down to preference between Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Claypool with an aging Ben Roethlisberger and makeshift offensive line. Claypool’s ability to challenge defenses vertically, which he showcased as a rookie, gives him the slight edge. Through a combination of receptions and pass interference penalties drawn, Claypool was responsible for 21 gains of 20-plus yards last year (eighth at wide receiver).

Honestly, it’s difficult to argue with his list. One could say perhaps Najee Harris would be one of the players to build around, but he has yet to take a snap for the Steelers so I can see why he was left off. Additionally, the article stated that running backs may not be the most valuable thing they look at:

Josh Jacobs has been one of the best young running backs in the NFL, but does Las Vegas want to build around a position with such a short shelf life?

Do the Steelers have some other players that they could build around? Absolutely. It appears the offensive line might be shaped around young players such as Kevin Dotson. The running back position looks to be in the hands of the aforementioned Najee Harris. There are plenty of other players on defense to be considered for the Steelers, but some of them are getting up there in years. Perhaps a Stefon Tuitt is someone who would be considered, or if a young cornerback emerges in 2021. But going into the 2021 season, the choices of T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Chase Claypool are as good as any.

So how did Pro Football Focus do this time? Do you think they picked the right three? Is there someone else the Steelers should be building around? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Steelers Vertex: Success passing the ball to the right of the formation in 2020

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Breaking down the success of both short and long passes to the right side of the offensive formation last season.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers approach 2021 training camp, we are going to spend the next several weeks breaking down various aspects of the Steelers passing game in 2020. First up this week is looking at passes thrown to the right of the offensive formation and the Steelers’ tendencies they will hopefully overcome in 2021.

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:

Before I get started, I’m going to give a bit of a disclaimer which I will probably include in each of these articles. Although they don’t explicitly say it, I’m assuming the cut off for whether it is a short pass or a long pass is the receiver being 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. If this is not the case, I will gladly take some correction. The two sources for information in regards to the stats included are coming from NFLGSIS and Pro Football Reference. Their stats are extremely close as it is sometimes a fine line between whether or not the pass was thrown to the right or to the middle of the field. For this first exercise, we are looking at the statistics and the film of passes thrown to the right side of the formation as both short and long passes. This also is only including regular-season data.

In looking at every pass going to either the left, middle, or right, how the Steelers viewed the field varied greatly based on the depth of passes. The Steelers threw 57 passes to the deep right in 2020 which ranked them first in the NFL, but their completion percentage of 24.56% and average gain of 6.84 yards per pass had them ranked 31st in the league in each category.

The Steelers scored six touchdowns when throwing the ball to the deep right, with two of them coming against the Cleveland Browns. As for who caught these passes, there were three different receivers who caught two each in Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington. Five of the touchdown passes were thrown by Ben Roethlisberger while a 28 yard touchdown to Chase Claypool was thrown by Mason Rudolph in Week 17. The longest gain on any pass to the right was yet another pass by Mason Rudolph which wnet for 41 yards to Diontae Johnson. In all, Mason Rudolph was two for five on long passes to the right with 69 yards and one touchdown and no interceptions while Ben Roethlisberger was 12 for 52 for 321 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions.

No receiver caught more than 29% of their deep passes to the right with the exception of Eric Ebron who caught one pass on one target for 24 yards. With only 14 completions, the Steelers were just shy of scoring a touchdown on half of their completions of deep passes to the right.

When it came to short passes on the right side of the formation, the Steelers threw 167 passes which ranked 21st in the NFL. In the short passing category, the Steelers threw fewer passes to the right then they did either the middle or the left while throwing deep passes to the right was by far the most attempted option. As for the Steelers completion percentage on passes to the short right, they completed 67.66% of the passes ranking 22nd in the NFL. Unfortunately, they only gained 4.51 yards per attempt which was dead last in the league.

The Steelers scored seven touchdowns on passes to the short right side of the formation. Of the touchdowns, two apiece went to Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, while tight end Eric Ebron caught one touchdown. Ignoring the one past attempt to tackle Jerald Hawkins, every Steelers receiver caught at least 60% of the balls thrown to them short on the right side of the formation with the exception of Eric Ebron who caught nine of his 19 targets.

As for the quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger completed 109 of 157 passes to the short right for a completion percentage of 69.4% with 723 yards, seven touchdowns, and no interceptions. Mason Rudolph completed 5 of 10 passes for a 50% completion rate and 32 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

When passing to the right side of the formation, the Steelers did not fare well in gaining yardage compared to the rest of the NFL. Was there something that just simply wasn’t working? Let’s check the film.

The Film Line:

There’s a lot to cover in explaining Dave’s stats above. Let’s jump right in.

Week 2, 4th quarter, 7:43. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Diontae Johnson is the farthest receiver to the right. Notice his route is more vertical and the slot receiver heads into the middle, that’s a serious trend with football in general when you put two receivers on the same side, but it was almost constant under Randy Fichtner. Also notice an early trend from the Steelers passing game, a great pocket giving Ben Roethlisberger time to throw cleanly but the ball isn’t on target. Roethlisberger wasn’t the most accurate early on in the season. This is a 13 yard route, so it actually counts as a short pass.

Week 3, first quarter, 12:38. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the receiver to the top of the screen.

Here it’s just JuJu Smith-Schuster on the right side, but he still is going deep, and the underneath threat is provided by the receivers from the left side coming across the formation. Again a clean pocket, and an off-target throw.

Week 6, second quarter, 5:49. James Washington is the receiver to the right side of the screen.

As the Steelers hit the middle of the season Roethlisberger started showing flashes of his usual talent, the pump fake selling the double move and the ability to step up in the pocket leads to a beautiful touchdown pass for James Washington. As Roethlisberger gained comfort and started finding his rhythm, another trend emerged.

Week 13, first quarter, 15:00. James Washington is the receiver to the right side of the screen.

Ben Roethlisberger takes roughly the same time he took on all the previous clips, but he gets hit hard for it as the center of the line fails to protect him. There are examples before Week 13, but this play always stood out to me because it was the first play of the game, and it kind of set the tone for the three-game losing streak that followed. With the quarterback facing pressure up the middle and the run game missing in action Roethlisberger relied more and more on short, quick passes. If you look at those routes on the clips above, you can see how that would quickly become predictable.

Week 15, first quarter, 0:55. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the receiver to the left side of the screen.

Sorry for that, but the real culmination of the loss of confidence in the offensive line is right there. Ben’s internal clock gives him time for a quick look to the left before ditching the ball to Smith-Schuster. The deep route, drag route and mid-level route from trips is a staple move in football, but Randy Fichtner took it to new levels of consistency, and Roethlisberger was dumping it underneath a lot just to get rid of the ball at this point in the season.

I can’t end on that play.

Week 16, third quarter, 3:23. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the right side of the screen.

In Week 16 the interior of the Steelers line was Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Kevin Dotson, the only game where all three of those players started. It took the entire first half for Ben Roethlisberger to realize he had a real pocket again, and the second half comeback was fueled by his ability to step up and throw downfield cleanly.

The right side of the field is usually the short side (boundary side) of the field, most players are right handed, so it makes sense to run to your players’ dominant hand and to the defenses non-dominant hand. It’s more pronounced at lower levels, but it holds true in the NFL as well. The Steelers like putting the slot receiver on the boundary side, giving the field (wider) side receiver a lot of space to work with. With more bodies to the right, the deep routes get thrown more frequently, and in 2020, Ben Roethlisberger threw a lot of those deep shots to the right. With a lack of faith in his arm early on, and the line later, those deep shots were low percentage, low risk throws that occasionally paid off in a big way.

The Point:

The point right now might be a little bit premature as it might take looking at the Steelers passing game on all three parts of the field to really understand. But passes to the right are the ones where the Steeler struggled the most in 2020. Their completion percentage was the least by far on deep passes and was also the least on their short passes. The fact the Steelers looked to the right more in the deep game and less than the short game may raise more questions than anything else. Keep in mind “more” is 57 deep passes while “less” was 167 short passes.

Perhaps if a quarterback is looking left to right through their progression, it makes sense that the players may be farther down field by the time they get to that side of the field. Or it could simply just be the scheme where deep shots are taken more to that side of the field.

The most important points drawn from the film portion of this particular vertex is that Ben Roethlisberger had a higher chance of completing his deep passes when he was both given more time to throw, and confidence in getting enough time to throw. We’ll see if this holds up as we look at the left and the middle of the field in the coming weeks.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: Quincy Roche will register at least 5 sacks for the Steelers in 2021

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 7:15am
Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

In the new “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2021 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

It is simple how it works. We provide you the scenario, reasons why it will or won’t happen, and then our prediction for what we think will take place.

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: Quincy Roche will register at least 5 sacks in 2021

Why it will happen: The Steelers’ defense does a lot of things well, but none compare to getting after the quarterback. Pittsburgh has led the NFL in sacks the past few seasons, and despite losing Bud Dupree via free agency, they don’t look like they are close to slowing down. Getting some production from the backups will be crucial, and you have to wonder if Quincy Roche can top what Alex Highsmith did as a rookie. In 2020, Highsmith registered just 2.0 sacks on the season. Not great numbers, but he also didn’t play a great deal until Dupree tore his ACL in the latter portions of the season. Roche could be seeing the field more than Highsmith did in 2020, and that could benefit him. Throw in the fact the left side of the defense, T.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt, will draw plenty of attention will allow him the ability to win one-on-one matchups.

Why it won’t happen: When looking at Highsmith’s stat line from last season, it is difficult to see Roche besting those numbers. If Highsmith is good at one thing, it’s getting after the passer, and he only had 2.0 sacks last season. Roche is a good pass rusher, but I don’t believe he is far and away better than Highsmith was last year. Throw in the fact the competition level will increase significantly and you have to wonder if Roche will be able to get 2.0 sacks, let alone 5. Let’s also throw in the fact there is a very real chance the Steelers go out and pick up a veteran pass rusher to be No. 3 on the list, and if that happens you will see a significant cut in Roche’s snaps. All bad news for him registering 5 sacks in his rookie season.

Prediction: While I love this 2021 NFL Draft class, I don’t expect much out of Roche. He is a great story, and anyone who grew up a Baltimore Ravens fan and gets drafted by the Steelers will be something to watch. However, Roche has an uphill climb just to see the field, let alone make a huge impact. I’ve been wrong before, and will be wrong again, but I don’t see Roche getting to 5 sacks on the season. I will say he bests Highsmith’s number and gets 2.5. My apologies to all the ‘Q from the U’ fans out there.

Check out yesterday’s ‘30 Scenarios in 30 Days’ prediction:

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

Did pre-1982 sacks boost L.C. Greenwood’s Hall of Fame chances?

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

It’s about time L.C. Greenwood gets inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This has always bugged me: Why didn’t the NFL keep sacks as an official statistic prior to the 1982 season?

You’d think counting the number of times a quarterback is taken to the ground, and by whom, would be the easiest thing to keep track of during a football game. Oh well, the league didn’t, which left us wondering for years just how many sacks some Steelers legends of the past—including Mean Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood—tallied during their storied careers as prime members of the impenetrable Steel Curtain defenses of the 1970s.

Despite linebacker Jason Gildon holding the record for many years with 77, you just knew he wasn’t the real all-time team leader in the department.

That’s why it was nice to learn that Pro Football Reference, thanks to the extensive research done by John Turney and Nick Webster, would start including sack totals prior to the ‘82 campaign, beginning with the 1960 season.

Are these sack totals now official? No, but at least we have a clearer picture of the pass-rushing prowess of Greene (77.5) and Greenwood (78). I think most suspected for years that Greenwood was the unofficial team leader in that category, and now we can say that likely was the case.

So what, right? Harrison officially surpassed that mark during his second stint with the team and is the all-time leader with 80.5. True, but we now get to see just how dominant a player Greenwood was as he did his thing alongside Greene, Dwight White, Ernie Holmes and John Banaszak as a member of that famed defensive line.

Those Steelers defenses of the 1970s were some of the most dominant in the history of the NFL. If you’re the player that led the team in quarterback sacks for such a famous unit, you’re a bad dude. L.C. Greenwood was a bad dude and should be honored for his standout contributions on a standout defense.

In other words, it’s about time Greenwood, who passed away in 2013, gets inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No, Greenwood isn’t around to enjoy such an honor, but I’m sure his family would love to see his likeness immortalized in Canton, Ohio.

Above and beyond all of that, however, it’s just common sense. Are there too many Steelers players from the 1970s in the Hall of Fame? No, not if the guy who got the most sacks is left out.

Donnie Shell will finally get his day next month when he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame 34 years after his retirement. But I don’t think he’s the last member of the Steel Curtain who should be so honored.

It’s time Hollywood Bags gets his due.

Podcast: How well do the Steelers really get to the quarterback?

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 4:30am

The Oracle Dave Schofield shares his thoughts in the AM platform with the classic stats show with the Editor of BTSC.

The Steelers are a team that gets to the quarterback. We know about sack totals, but when it comes to pressures, blitzes and hurries mixed in...do they still rate? Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Balancing offensive and defensive production for the 2021 Steelers
  • and MUCH MORE!

Be sure to 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.

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