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A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/47293/steel_curtain_fave.png 2019-02-17T14:47:00-05:00
Updated: 1 hour 29 min ago

KDKA employee fired for captioning image of Tom Brady with title ‘Known Cheater’ during broadcast

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 9:25am

While most viewers would have found it funny, management at KDKA appear to have found it less amusing.

For those that saw the nauseating images of the New England Patriots fan rally ahead of their departure for Atlanta earlier in the week, coverage of that broadcast was made slightly more palatable for those in the Pittsburgh area watching the 4 p.m news on KDKA-TV thanks to the efforts of Michael Telek.

Tasked with creating the graphics that would appear during the broadcast, Telek would produce an inspired graphic that would put a smile on the faces of the viewers, but ultimately cost him his job as well.

@KDKA throwing the shade at Brady pic.twitter.com/ZPs7gLU8Lf

— Noah M. Vereb (@nvereb) January 28, 2019

While the image would go viral, the laughs would not last long for Telek after it was announced by KDKA that he had been fired on Wednesday. As confirmed by the station to Dan Gartland of Sports Illustrated.

“While fans are entitled to have personal opinions, we have a journalistic responsibility to provide unbiased reporting. The graphic that appeared Monday violated our news standards. The individual who created the graphic no longer works for KDKA-TV.”

Acknowledging the mistake Telek made from a professional perspective, it is hard not to find the caption funny, with the response of KDKA to fire him appearing rather extreme. This is a Pittsburgh area station after all.

Thankfully, the news producer might not be out of work for too long, with offers of help to find him a new job already coming in.

Don't sweat it @mktelek - not all heroes wear capes. We'd love to help you get back on your feet. DM us for details on what we had in mind. https://t.co/Ff9QlOkdTG

— PRSA Pittsburgh (@PRSAPgh) January 30, 2019

Grateful of his efforts, a well-wisher has already set up a gofundme account, with $1,466 raised at the time of writing. But in the spirit of reconciliation, Telek has pledged to donate this money to a charity in Brady’s name once he has found a new job.

Hi there, I got fired for this joke. I just bought a house so that is putting a pinch on things. Once I land a job there will be a GOAT Giveaway where I will donate the money to charity in Tom Brady's name.https://t.co/KzXhpbuOpF

— Michael Telek (@mktelek) January 30, 2019

Given that Brady was suspended for four games for his involvement in Deflategate based on “substantial and credible evidence” that he knew that footballs were being deflated and because he failed to cooperate with the investigation, it is hard to find fault with the description of “Known Cheater”.

Although it is unlikely the Patriots or their fans found much humor in the joke, it would appear the rest of the football world did given how quickly the image went viral. We wish Mr. Telek good luck in his job hunt.

2019 NFL Draft Prospects: LSU CB Greedy Williams is a double-edged sword

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 8:07am

Once thought of as the top CB prospect, Williams has big flaws in his game.

With Byron Murphy starting to gain traction among most pundits as CB1, Greedy Williams is left in a position where his draft stock is falling. After a fantastic Freshman season, Williams struggled in his red shirt sophomore year and was burnt far too often for a CB who is touted as being the next big thing. In fact, his fellow CB on the other side, Kristian Fulton, was arguably better than him. That doesn’t bode well for him, but it is not all bad, those traits that he showed were still there this past season. Thus, if we are talking value, he is still worth a long, long stare.

Measurements

Ht: 6’2”

Wt: 182 lbs

Expected 40: 4.42

Data courtesy of SportsReference.com

Film Room

The real plus area for Greedy is his fluidity and length that allow him to really man guys up and thus win the leverage and use his plus ball skills to perhaps create turnovers. For example, he may not use his length to press, but instead he just lets his hips take him wherever he needs to go, and that is smart coverage tactics right there, and speaks volumes of his football IQ.

It's nothing flashy, but Greedy plays this so technically well. Watch as he keeps his hips square and only mirrors Riley Ridley. Not fooled by any release and still has an opportunity at any ball thrown his way. This is nice stuff. pic.twitter.com/wC7r6OJsDT

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 29, 2019

Greedy is going up against a really good WR in Riley Ridley here, and uses his hips to stay with him. While Ridley tries to get outside and then stack Greedy towards the sideline to open up an obvious back shoulder attempt, Williams keeps his hips square, uses his foot speed to click and close with Ridley’s movements, and keep the leverage. By doing that, Williams has essentially given himself a play on the ball every single time on this play. He could not have set himself up better. He does this often, too, but likes to get a little physical and instinctive at times.

pic.twitter.com/EsDA8zbGVu

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 29, 2019

This is an absolute gorgeous rep. It starts right at the stance. He is ready to explode back and mirror and his hips are perfectly square the whole way. Greedy barely even moves as he is only mirroring with his feet, and his hips are perfect. Thus, it becomes slightly more zone towards the end when he bumps the receiver off his route and throws his aside to get a play on the ball. And an easy snag for the INT. Beautiful job.

I'm a fan because of instincts and ball skills. Greedy reads the QBs eyes well and makes the play on the ball once he sees it. Fluid change of direction, and fantastic ball skills to come down with it. pic.twitter.com/X05iUAHZMi

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 29, 2019

Similarly, his change of direction is fantastic and he uses his instincts to read the QB and make a big play on this errant pass. Even if it is a terrible pass, the ability to come up that quickly and make that catch for the INT is wildly impressive. Greedy has super impressive ball skills.

And while he does have all of that, Greedy does not always keep his hips square and tries to bite on his instincts a bit too much, and ends up giving up leverage, as he did far too often in the Alabama game.

Greedy doesn't keep his hips square, bites on the the outside release instead of mirroring it, and gives up inside leverage. All day, that is a completion. pic.twitter.com/6dlXHi6Ih1

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 29, 2019

Greedy is just off-balance here. He hips turn along with his feet here and he thus gives up the entire inside and this will be an easy completion every time in the NFL. He cannot bite into that release, no matter how good the receiver truly is. Oh, and Greedy is really, really bad in run support.

Greedy is terrible in run support. Misses tackles, often can't get off blocks, or otherwise looks like he is making business decisions. He has to improve on this. pic.twitter.com/mtkciGKmD9

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 29, 2019

This is honestly one of the better examples of his run support. Here, he actually gets off the block, and at least has a chance at a tackle. Usually, he doesn’t even come close to shedding the block. He is either not strong enough or is making business decisions. However, here, he leaves his feet and goes for the ankle, and I hate to say it, but that is going to miss every single time.

Weaknesses

There is a serious effort concern with Williams. It seems he takes plays off at times and gets burnt because of it. He will lollygag for little to no reason, and it takes a lot for me to criticize desire, but there is a hiccup there in his game. Greedy sometimes loses track of the ball and panics, often drawing penalties as he is fearful of getting burnt. His inconsistent mirroring leaves him open to double moves and getting beat across the middle. Williams is also weak in run support, and seems to make business decisions when it comes to it.

Fit with the Steelers

Greedy fits in just fine. He is rather scheme diverse and theoretically would be an extremely solid complement to Joe Haden. His length and ability to to still match and mirror in off-man are key reasons as to why he seems to be a good fit, but even more so, the ball skills he brings would create much needed turnovers.

Final Thoughts

Optimistic Take: Greedy fixes his effort issues and goes hard on all plays and begins to show a ferocious attitude in run support, which makes him more valuable than he could have ever been. His rawness and inconsistencies technique wise are fixed and he becomes a pro bowl level CB.

Pessimistic Take: Greedy flames out of the league due to his effort issues being more of an indictment of his overall character and he becomes one of those highly picked CBs that is a huge bust. Nothing ever improves and his weaknesses, which remind some of Justin Gilbert, are exactly true.

My Take: While he does have effort issues, his freshman year was the opposite. He was aggressive and in your face all year in his first year. I think he made a business decision, and maybe Pittsburgh does not want that with their current issues with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Regardless, I do not think he will flame out, but I really do not think he will be a top level guy either. I see a very good 2 here, and I see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a ton here. That is who he is.

When it comes to contracts, Le’Veon Bell was the Steelers’ canary in the coal mine

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 6:45am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have their way of doing contracts, and Le’Veon Bell might have put the rest of the leauge on notice.

Canaries were brought into coal mines by miners as an early warning for impending danger due to toxic gasses. When the birds would get sick or die, miners knew they were in danger.

Running back Le’Veon Bell was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ canary. The three-time Pro Bowler was first franchise tagged in 2017, and again in 2018. Shockingly, instead of playing in his sixth season, he opted to sit out 2018 rather than take a 20% pay increase.

Was he right, was he wrong? The answer to that doesn’t matter. What matters: Who is next, when does it happen again, and what will the outcome be? Whether you want to hear it or not, a dust up over a Pittsburgh contract structure will happen again. The NFL is headed toward giving out more guaranteed years and more guaranteed money. This flies in the face of how the Steelers do business.

The dispute, by many accounts, was over guaranteed money and guaranteed years in the contract. Pittsburgh and the Green Bay Packers are the only NFL organizations that do not guarantee more than one season for players who are not rookies or quarterbacks. Fear is the driving force. These two organizations fear they will be on the hook for paying a player’s contract when that player cannot fulfill the contract because of injury, or because of degradation of skill, or because the player is such a disruptive force that the organization decided to move on.

The issue is the other 30 NFL franchises give players contracts that have future years guaranteed for skill or injury or both. In 2018, Minnesota Vikings handed quarterback Kirk Cousins a fully guaranteed three-year contract worth $84 million that sent shock waves through the NFL. While that is an eye-popping sum, guaranteeing large portions of contracts is the norm for superstar players (or quarterback-desperate teams), regardless of the position they play.

Another prime example is Khalil Mack. Before the 2018 season, the Oakland Raiders traded Mack to the Chicago Bears. Chicago gave Mack a six-year extension worth $141 million with $60 million guaranteed at signing and $90 million in total guarantees. The massive contract included the first two years fully guaranteed and the third year guaranteed for injury. The contract set the bar for the outside linebacker position — and for future NFL stars at other positions.

Mack’s contract structure is not an aberration. Cornerback and wide receiver are two other highly sought positions, not only in the NFL but for Steelers fans. These three positions had the highest exclusive rights franchise tag value in 2018 outside of quarterbacks. Out of the top five highest-paid players at each of the three positions in 2019, only Steelers wideout Antonio Brown did not have more than one guaranteed year in the initial contracts.

While the Steelers do not have an up-and-coming superstar at cornerback, the team has one at each of the other two positions. Wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster led the Steelers in both receptions (111) and yards (1,426) in 2018 while T.J. Watt led the team in sacks (13) and forced fumbles (6). Both players were drafted in 2017 and remain under team control for at least another two seasons. Watt was a first-round selection, and therefore the Steelers may opt for a fifth-year option that would keep him under team control through the 2021 season. The Steelers could choose not to open any kind of negotiations with Watt until after the 2020 season.

Smith-Schuster, on the other hand, is headed for free agency after the 2020 season. Barring a disastrous 2019 season, Smith-Schuster and the Steelers are likely to open contract negotiations after the upcoming season. How will those negotiations go if Smith-Schuster puts up numbers in 2019 that are similar to or better than his 2018 totals? When the 2020 offseason rolls around, Smith-Schuster will be 23 years old and looking to get a substantial raise from his scheduled $1.3 million salary.

With Bell’s impending flight from Pittsburgh, will the Steelers leadership learn from that canary and change their practices, or will they fail to take heed of the dangers of not offering stars guaranteed money and years? Will the youngsters look to break the bank and demand the guaranteed money and years that Mack, Von Miller, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins received? Will Kevin Colbert continue down the path of how the Steelers have always structured contracts during his tenure? If Watt or Smith-Schuster have to travel down the same path as Bell, will they react the same way? If the contracts hit a snag and reports of their asking prices leak out (no doubt that will happen), will they be vilified like Bell was by Steelers fans? What happens when the Steelers want a prized free agent cornerback on the open market?

Podcast: Who is more to blame for the Steelers’ defensive woes? Mike Tomlin or Keith Butler?

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 5:35am

The weak link for the Pittsburgh Steelers was by far the defense, but who is more to blame for their issues? Mike Tomlin or Keith Butler?

There is no guessing when it comes to what area of the Pittsburgh Steelers was the weakest link in 2018.

It was the defense.

But outside of the players on the field, where plenty of blame resides, you have to wonder who is more to blame for the issues on the defensive side of the football? Would it be head coach Mike Tomlin? Or defensive coordinator Keith Butler?

The easy way out in this debate would be to say they both have their hand in the defensive issues, but you have to dig deeper into the roles of each to know who is really to blame. While many still blame Tomlin for everything bad going on in Pittsburgh, Keith Butler was the man everyone wanted gone at season’s end.

Inquiring minds want to know the answer to this burning question, and this was the crux of the new podcast ‘Steelers Burning Question’ which aired last night on our YouTube channel.

In the podcast I go into greater detail on who who is to blame.

Plenty has to be deciphered here, and I lay it all out there for the listeners in the latest show...

Check out the show below, and be sure to comment who you think is to blame in the comment section below!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here:

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.

Black and Gold Links: Building a Super Bowl roster is not a cookie cutter operation

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 4:38am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how while fans think turning the Steelers’ roster from a non-playoff team into a Super Bowl contender is easy, it isn’t. In fact, putting together a Super Bowl roster is anything but easy.

Let’s get to the news:

Analysis: No set way to build a Super Bowl roster

By: Dale Lolley

The Patriots are in the Super Bowl for the third consecutive season and fourth time in five years. The Rams are the new kids on the block who have quickly gone from a team that was 4-12 three years ago to one that is on the cusp of winning a championship.

How did they get there and, perhaps more importantly for Pittsburgh fans, how do the Steelers get over the hump to get back to their ninth Super Bowl?

Looking at the rosters of all three teams, there are some definitive similarities to how they have been constructed and some obvious differences. There are even some differences between the Patriots and Rams, showing there’s no set rule how to build a roster.

FREE AGENCY

The Patriots have been a team that has not been afraid to sign players through free agency. In fact, 12 of their current players were acquired in that fashion.

But none of their free agents would be considered big-name or big-money players. For example, their biggest signing last offseason, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, signed a two-year, $10-million deal. And he’s a player with 32.5 career sacks in eight seasons.

The Rams, on the other hand, were extremely active on the free agent market last offseason. They signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a one-year, $14-million contract in their biggest move. They also signed linebacker Ramik Wilson, defensive lineman Dominque Easley, center John Sullivan and corners Nickell Robey-Coleman and Sam Shields to deals worth a combined $29 million. Only Sullivan, who got a two-year deal, and Robey-Nickell, who was signed for three years, were signed for more than one season.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Roger Goodell admits blown call in Rams-Saints; NFL will consider replay for pass interference

By: The Washington Post, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the league’s competition committee will consider the prospect of making pass interference calls subject to review by instant replay, but he stopped short of declaring that he favors such a change to the sport’s replay system.

Goodell, speaking at his annual state-of-the-league address during Super Bowl week, also said that he never considered overturning the result of the Los Angeles Rams’ triumph at New Orleans in the NFC championship game and ordering the game replayed from the point of the missed interference call late in regulation that may have cost the Saints a victory.

“That was not a consideration,” Goodell said.

The tumult over the interference non-call in the final two minutes of regulation has continued into Super Bowl week. Goodell made the NFL’s first public acknowledgment that the call was erroneous.

“It’s a play that should be called,” Goodell said.

Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, admitted to Saints coach Sean Payton after the game that interference should have been called against the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman for an early hit on the Saints’ Tommylee Lewis. Robey-Coleman also was fined for an illegal hit on Lewis on the play that went uncalled.

Goodell said he subsequently spoke to Payton, a member of the competition committee. He said he understands the frustration of the Saints and their fans. He also defended the league’s decision not to make a public acknowledgment of the officiating mistake earlier.

“That’s our process,” Goodell said.

Goodell noted that the competition committee in the past has been against making judgment calls such as pass interference subject to replay. But he said the league still must consider potential changes.

“Technology is not going to solve all those issues … but we have to continue to go down that path… . We will look again at instant replay,” Goodell said.

Goodell said he will “make sure the competition committee understands this is critical to us” for there to be a better solution than there currently is for addressing such an officiating mistake.

“We try to get better,” Goodell said. “We try to learn… . I think the committee will definitely consider this.”

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Here are some Pittsburgh-themed Super Bowl prop bet ideas

By: Adam Bittner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

We have to break up the monotony of another Super Bowl involving the New England Patriots somehow, so here are some Pittsburgh-themed prop bet suggestions. Challenge friends and family to match wits. The person who gets the most answers correct wins ... uh ... tortilla chips, or some other mutually agreed upon prize.

1. Yes or no: Will CBS analyst Bill Cowher, former Steelers coach, cause another social media stir by wearing a turtleneck during the network’s pre-game coverage?

2. Over or under: Two sacks for Los Angeles defensive lineman Aaron Donald, the former Penn Hills and Pitt star?

3. Over or under: One touchdown for New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, a former Woodland Hills standout?

4. Yes or no? Will the game broadcast mention 2019 as the 10-year anniversary of the Steelers’ last Super Bowl victory? (References to James Harrison’s long interception return and Santonio Holmes’ iconic game-winning touchdown catch count.)

5. When will the mystery ad featuring Donald and Steelers’ legend Joe Greene air? Choices: Before the game, first half, halftime, second half, after the game.

6. When will the NFL ad featuring Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and former Pitt star Larry Fitzgerald air? (Same choices as above.)

7. Yes or no? Will former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw appear in an ad?

8. Yes or no? Will Antonio Brown’s strained relationship with the Steelers be mentioned on the game broadcast?

9. Yes or no? Will Brown awkwardly appear in an ad while wearing a Steelers uniform or team colors?

10. Over or under: One reference to New England QB Tom Brady as a “known cheater” on the game broadcast?

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Jerome Bettis believes everyone associated with Steelers is responsible for drama surrounding Antonio Brown - ‘This goes all the way to the top’

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 12:45pm

The Hall of Fame running back shared his opinion about the Steelers situation with Antonio Brown during multiple radio interviews on Tuesday.

With one of his former teams in the Super Bowl this Sunday, Jerome Bettis has found himself a popular guest along radio row in Atlanta this week. However, while his experiences with the Los Angeles Rams are among the questions he is being asked, it should come as no surprise to learn that it was his insights about the Pittsburgh Steelers that dominated the conversation.

Appearing on a number of shows on Tuesday the included interviews with 93.7 The Fan on the Cook and Joe Show, a sit down with Dave Dameshek of the NFL Network, a segment for First Call on Fox Sports and a conversation with Boomer and Gio on CBS, Bettis was in high demand.

But regardless of who he spoke to, the message coming from the Hall of Fame running back was clear and consistent - From ownership through to players, everyone in Pittsburgh was responsible for the situation they found themselves in with Antonio Brown.

Some of the highlights from his interview with 93.7 The Fan:

“This goes all the way to the top. This is ownership, head coach, coaches, players, everybody is a part of the problem and the only way it works is everybody is a part of the solution.”

Believing the situation was salvageable, Bettis suggested a firm set of rules needs to be put in place that will apply to EVERYONE on the roster. How Brown responds to those rules would then determine his future with the Steelers.

“You let him know, ‘hey You’re welcome, we expect to see in training camp, here’s what happens if you don’t show up to training camp, here’s what happens if you don’t show up to the first game . . . here’s what we expect out of you’ and you put the parameters out there. Now, if he comes and he’s willing to conform to the expectation that is put in place and if he doesn’t then clearly that’s his decision and you go forward from there.”

“There needs to be clarity on what the expectations are and this has to go for every single person. It can’t be only rules for certain people now because it’s been proven it doesn’t work when you do certain things for certain guys. Now you have to do it one way for everyone. Now it’s crystal clear this is what we have to do, where what is happens if you don’t do that and you move on.”

Sentiments he would echo when talking to Dameshek:

Even here in ATL, we have time for the Black & Gold Blame Game...especially when @JeromeBettis36 is the one pointing the finger. pic.twitter.com/9e2KrZd6LT

— Dave Dameshek (@Dameshek) January 29, 2019

And again with Boomer and Gio:

Noting a lack of leadership in locker room since his time in Pittsburgh, Bettis seems to feel that many of the issues on the team started because of the leniency Tomlin showed towards certain players early on in his career.

Despite all the issues as he sees them, the former Steelers running back left no doubt that he would like to see Brown remain in Pittsburgh for the rest of his career.

"The 2018 Steelers had a championship-caliber team that imploded."

Former Steelers RB Jerome Bettis talks about his disappointment in the Steelers' organization this season. pic.twitter.com/k096qxdioD

— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 29, 2019

Perhaps the most glaring omission from these multiple interviews is the relative lack of mention of Antonio Brown, especially when compared to the number of times Tomlin is individually singled out. Effectively characterize the actions of AB as that of a misbehaving given too much freedom, rather than the behavior of a 30-year old man, some fans might question how little Bettis appears to hold Brown culpable for own actions.

That being said, he is not wrong in holding the entire franchise responsible for this allowing things to become so dysfunctional, nor is he wrong when he suggests the team needs to set new standards going forward. Whether these are standards Brown is willing to conform to remains to be seen.

Fixing the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers — The Defense

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 10:41am

The Pittsburgh Steelers missed the playoffs, and the team needs fixing. Today we focus on what needs to change on the defense.

As we all now have to wait two weeks until the Super Bowl, it seems to be an appropriate time to not just sit back and complain about what could have been in 2018, but what needs to change to make 2019 special.

First, I do believe the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers can be a special team, but not if they continue with the status quo. In today’s article I focus on the defensive side of the ball, and what needs to change to make sure the outcome next season doesn’t duplicate this season and missing the playoffs altogether.

Before digging deep into the specific changes, I decided to handle this series with a worst-case scenario type attitude. In other words, I am assuming Morgan Burnett gets his wish and is released, and the Steelers try to re-negotiate a new deal with Bud Dupree in lieu of his 5th year option.

With that said, let’s roll up our sleeves...we have some fixin’ to do.

Coaching

Well, where do we begin? Do you have the rest of the week? There are some glaring issues with the coaching staff, and the fan base is wondering if the minor changes which have taken place will ultimately help, or continue to hurt, the Steelers’ defense.

At a time when everyone, and their brother, thought Keith Butler would be getting fired at season’s end, here he is back for 2019. Oh, but wait — there’s more! After firing Joey Porter the team has reportedly decided to put Butler himself in charge of the outside linebackers in lieu of bringing in a new coach to help.

The Steelers’ made some defensive coaching changes this offseason, and also made some additions which make fans wonder what the defensive coaching will look like in 2019. The addition of Teryl Austin to help assist with the defense, and primarily coach the secondary, combine with Butler focusing on the linebackers again makes you wonder if they will have almost a dual coordinator look in 2019.

Either way you slice it, one fact remains as the team heads into next season. If this defense is going to resemble anything close to a championship level unit, the coaching needs to be better.

Personnel

The personnel, from a player standpoint, is something which might seem to be a never ending uphill battle, but I disagree. Looking at the defense from top to bottom, when talking about starters I feel this defense is just a few players away from being a more complete group.

Clearly the decline of Artie Burns has the Steelers thinking cornerback in some way, shape or form this offseason. The gaping hole left by Ryan Shazier continues to be a Grand Canyon type gap in the middle of the defense. Morgan Burnett, who was signed to be the nickel and dime backer, now says he wants a chance to play safety and wants to be traded. Some might say Vince Williams is a liability, but if he is paired with the right linebacker partner he truly can thrive.

In other words, while there are clearly needs on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think they are as dire as many might suggest. Add a cornerback, safety, inside linebacker and maybe some help on the edge and this defense could be legit. The only other needs would be depth along the defensive line.

No, the sky isn’t falling from a personnel standpoint, in my opinion.

Game Play

While the personnel department might not be as bad as many think, the on field portion of this equation certainly has some issues. The Steelers’ inability to take the football away is the most glaring issue, but tackling continues to plague this Keith Butler unit.

After spending the vast majority of training camp focusing on tackling, did it really improve? I would say no. The angles defenders take, mainly Terrell Edmunds, are enough to make fans cringe. This defense just needs to improve the basics to really see some improvement across the board.

Tackle better. Play better angles. Catch the football when you have the opportunity to take the ball away. Sometimes it is that simple.

Overview

The Steelers’ fan base loves to hate on the coaching staff, and they certainly deserve their share of the blame. However, they aren’t the ones on the field missing tackles and dropping would-be interceptions. This defense does have potential, but it will be up to everyone from the General Manager down to the players to reach the totality of that potential.

Will it happen? I could, but if recent history is any indication of the offseason plan, both in free agency and the NFL Draft, fans have every right to remain skeptical.

With that said, this Steelers defense did have some highlights this season, mainly in the sack department. T.J. Watt posted a 13 sack season, the team tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 52, and have produced 108 sacks the past two seasons. But the hard truth is this defense just didn’t make enough plays to get this team to the postseason. Can it be fixed? Absolutely, and fans better hope it gets rectified soon!

Time for Steelers fans to focus on the positives, and leave the negatives behind

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 9:15am

Yes, last season was drama-filled for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the future might not be as bleak as many believe.

The past month BTSC boards have been filled with the negatives of the 2018 season since the Pittsburgh Steelers were eliminated from playoff contention. What could have been, what should have been, who is to blame and who should get the axe, has filled the boards and articles. It is time to quit moping and mourning and focus on the positive aspects of the 2018 season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was the most electrifying offensive weapon the Steelers had in 2018. Who can forget his 97-yard touchdown reception and scamper against the Denver Broncos? The score put the Steelers up by seven and brought Steeler Nation to its collective feet waving those Terrible Towels. Smith-Schuster ended up leading the team in both receptions (111) and receiving yards. Both impressive feats considering he plays opposite of the great Antonio Brown. His reception totals are almost double his reception total from his rookie season and over 500 yards more. The budding star is only 22 and maybe the receiving focal point in 2019. The sky’s the limit for this young man from USC.

On the opposite side of the ball, there is the younger brother of J.J. Watt, T.J. Watt. While the older Watt garners the national headlines, it is the younger Watt who has Steelers fans buzzing. Watt had Steelers fans high fiving each other with his three-sack and 10 tackle performance during Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. He had three quarterback hits and four tackles for losses. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan felt Watt’s presence all game long. Three sacks to go along with six quarterback hits had the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback off his game all day long. For the season, Watt tallied 13 sacks, 21 quarterback hits, six forced fumbles and 68 tackles. Not too shabby for only his second year in the league. Will the national media in 2019 compare J.J. to T.J. instead of the other way around?

Alejandro Villanueva has been manning the left tackle position for the Steelers since 2015 and in 2018 he was recognized for his solid play with his second straight Pro Bowl selection. What fan in Steeler Nation was not on their feet when kicker Chris Boswell passed the ball to AV on the fake field goal in Denver for the touchdown? Villanueva manning an ageing Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside gives comfort to Steeler Nation that their franchise quarterback is in the good hands with the former Army Ranger.

For two seasons the BTSC boards have pummeled Steelers safety, Sean Davis. The Maryland product just could not acclimate to the speed and complexity of the NFL. That ended with him switching safety positions in 2018. The game slowed down for the third year player. His missed tackles were down and he seemed to be in the right place at the right time more often. While some may say his interception and five-tackle performance against the New Orleans Saints was the highlight game of the year, fans should look back at his nine-tackle performance against the Baltimore Ravens during Week 9. Davis seemed to be all over the field making one tackle after another. His presence helped limit the Ravens and their second-ranked run offense to 61 yards.

Nose tackle Javon Hargrave took a major leap forward in his third season with the Steelers. He may get overshadowed by Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward on the defensive line but Steelers fans took notice of his prowess getting after quarterbacks in 2018. The 25-year-old out of South Carolina State came into the season with four career sacks — he sauntered out of the season with an additional six besides eight quarterback hits. Unfortunately, an aspect of Gravedigger’s game that does not get enough attention is his ability to stop the run. Looking back at the 2018 tape focus on his run stopping ability and no doubt you will come away impressed.

While the “fire everyone” crew stews in their own juices along with the “get rid of that bum” mob, the rest of BTSC has moved on. They are focusing on what will be, not what could or should have been. There are so many positives to take out of the season and so many of those positives were because of budding superstars grabbing the limelight or others slugging it out in the trenches. Move aside Debbie Downers and the hoard who wants to lament about the 2018 season — the future is now and the future is ablaze with hope.

If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

Winston Churchill

Midweek Mock Draft Roundup 2.0: A look at the latest mock draft Steelers projections

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 7:45am

We take a look at eight more of the latest mock drafts offerings from some of the more notable names in the game.

With the completion of the postseason college all-star games, the next wave of mock drafts are starting to hit the sports pages as the experts alter their projections based on the events of the past few weeks. While most experts are still on version one of their mock for 2019, there are already several names who have released multiple updates as well as a few 7-round offerings.

Each and every Wednesday for the next 12 weeks, we will bring you a selection of the latest mock draft projections from around the NFL draft community. Last week, we looked at 12 offerings from some of the more well-known names in the business, with LSU linebacker Devin White the most popular name projected to be taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers according to the experts.

This week we have found eight more mocks worthy of review, a group that includes our first 7-round mock draft of the year.

Lance Zierlein, NFL Network - LB, Mack Wilson, Alabama

“Every-down inside ‘backer who is one of the cleanest need/talent fits in this mock draft. Wilson plays like a Steeler, with physicality and the ability to attack the pocket as a blitzer.”

(Previous pick - first mock)

Bucky Brooks, NFL Network - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

“GM Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin must continue to throw resources at the secondary to shore up a unit that fails to create turnovers. Murphy is a five-star cover corner with outstanding ball skills and tackling ability.”

(Previous pick - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington)

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

“Before it’s all said and done, Murphy could be the first cornerback drafted. He was that good last season for the Huskies. And with 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns getting benched for much of last season, finding his replacement will be a priority.”

(Previous pick - CB, Deandre Baker, Georgia)

Will Brinson, CBS Sports - CB, Greedy Williams, LSU

“Pittsburgh might need to even consider a wide receiver here if they ultimately trade Antonio Brown, but they take advantage of the hyper-talented Williams being available.”

(Previous pick - first mock)

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports - CB, Deandre Baker, Georgia

“The Steelers make a shrewd pick here with Baker, who may not be the fastest or twitchiest corner in the class but he might be the best at reading receivers’ routes and making plays on the football.”

(Previous pick - WR, A.J. Brown, Ole Miss)

Dan Kadar SB Nation - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

“Artie Burns, a first-round pick in 2016, hasn’t lived up to the hype for the Steelers and they go into the offseason needing a cornerback. Murphy is a cornerback who knows how to play on the outside and in the slot. He’s best when he can read the quarterback and make a play on the ball.”

(Previous pick - LB, Devin White, LSU)

Kyle Crabbs, The Draft Network - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan

“Pittsburgh’s hunt for an heir to Ryan Shazier continues for another off-season. Devin Bush has the goods to deliver. I’m a big fan of Bush’s burst, explosiveness and range. And the last time the Steelers took an undersized Big-10 linebacker in the first round, it was *squints* Ryan Shazier.”

“Bush has sideline to sideline speed and would thrive in a system with the kind of horses up front that Pittsburgh features along the defensive line.”

(Previous pick - CB, Amani Oruwaryie, Penn State)

Luke Easterling, DraftWire - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

Joe Haden has been a solid veteran presence, but there’s simply not another impact player on this roster at corner. This ends up being a fantastic scenario for the Steelers, who get an absolute steal in Murphy, one of this year’s most polished and instinctive cover men.”

Round 2 - Tre Lamar | LB | Clemson

Round 3 - Christian Miller | EDGE | Alabama

Round 4 - Benny Snell, Jr. | RB | Kentucky

Round 6 - Jace Sternberger | TE | Texas A&M

Round 6 - Marquise Copeland | DL | Cincinnati

Round 7 - Hjalte Froholdt | OL | Arkansas

(Previous pick - CB, Deandre Baker, Georgia)

Just a week removed from inside linebacker being the most popular position to mock to the Steelers, cornerback dominates the selections of our experts this time around. Half of these latest projections have Pittsburgh taking Byron Murphy in Round 1, currently a consensus top five cornerback with most draft sites, but it would not be a surprise to see him move higher up the rankings as we get further into the process.

We will add more mock drafts to our weekly roundup as they appear and we encourage you to let us know who you think are the experts we should be highlighting over the next 12 weeks.

Report: Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler will coach the OLBs in 2019

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 6:34am

On top of duties as the Defensive Coordinator, Keith Butler will also be in charge of the Outside Linebackers too.

For those who are keeping tabs on the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff at home, you may have noticed there has been a glaring empty space on the staff where Joey Porter once resided as the Outside Linebackers coach. After the team decided to not bring Porter back for 2019, most expected the team would bring in an outsider to help coach the young outside linebackers.

Names like Kevin Greene were tossed around as possible additions to Mike Tomlin’s coaching staff, but a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac suggest the team won’t be adding to the coaching staff. Rather, Butler himself will be coaching the outside linebackers.

The Steelers are not going to hire a replacement for former outside linebackers coach Joey Porter and will instead have defensive coordinator Keith Butler assume the role in addition to his current duties, according to sources.

The duties of coaching linebackers is nothing new to Butler. After all, he coached the inside and outside linebackers as linebacker coach for years under then coordinator Dick LeBeau.

However, you have to wonder how this will work in 2019. This offseason the Steelers brought in Teryl Austin to help be an assistant on the defensive coaching staff, mainly working with the secondary, and now Butler will be working with the linebackers on top of overall coordinator duties. Could this be a situation where the Steelers almost have dual defensive coordinators?

It is a possibility, but it should also be noted having coordinators work multiple jobs isn’t abnormal for the Steelers. Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner is also the quarterback coach on top of his duties as play caller.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers as they now prepare for the offseason consisting of free agency and the 2019 NFL Draft.

Podcast: Why ‘AB’ stands for Absolutely Bonkers, not Antonio Brown

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 5:36am

In a brand new show titled ‘Yeah, I said it’, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Throughout the entire Antonio Brown/Pittsburgh Steelers/Mike Tomlin/Ben Roethlisberger saga, a lot has come to light. Some of it seems to have legs, while other reports seem more fallacy than factual.

Throughout it all there has been plenty of blame throughout it all. People blaming Mike Tomlin. Some blaming Ben Roethlisberger. But when it comes down to it, the ultimate blame should fall on none other than Antonio Brown’s shoulders.

To add to that, let us just now say Antonio Brown’s moniker ‘AB’ should stand for Absolutely Bonkers, rather than his initials.

This isn’t to say there isn’t blame which should go to others, but it always should come back to Brown. Brown cares about one person — himself, and to think he will win this battle with the Steelers faithful, and the organization, makes him look even worse.

This is where the newest BTSC podcast “Yeah, I Said It” comes in. ‘AB’ has done a lot, but he isn’t perfect. Far from it. And he should primarily be blamed for the current issues with the team.. My co-host on ‘The Standard is the Standard’, Lance Williams, is the perfect man for the job, and delivers the goods in the latest show.

Check out the audio below:

Feel free to give us your thoughts on the topic in the comment section below, and don’t forget to follow us on all our audio platforms by following the links below:

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

Black and Gold Links: Despite success, James Conner still out to prove his worth

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 4:28am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how James Conner, despite all his success in 2018, is keeping his head down and working as if he still has to prove himself as a starting running back in the NFL.

Let’s get to the news:

Don’t tell James Conner he’s Steelers’ RB of the future

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The juxtaposition is hard to ignore.

While one Pittsburgh Steelers tailback signed hundreds of autographs and posed with Jim Kelly at the Pro Bowl, the other continued to wait for 2019 free agency amid a bitter divorce from the team.

But James Conner doesn’t exactly feel settled. His 13 touchdowns in 13 games in his first full season as a starter won’t make him ease up. Nor will Le’Veon Bell’s yearlong holdout, which makes Bell likely too caustic for a locker room return.

In efforts to keep the edge that got him this far, Conner will enter his third season with the hunger of a rookie looking for a job.

”You’ve got to earn it every day,” he said in late December when asked if he’s the tailback of the Steelers’ future. “It’s never enough when you think you’ve done enough. That’s when you start to get on the decline. ... You’ve got to earn it every day, practice hard and show you belong. I definitely don’t feel like I’ve done enough yet.”

That’s exactly what the Steelers like to hear, but Conner is selling himself a bit short. From teammates up to ownership, the Steelers have praised Conner’s development in a sophomore season that included 973 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs and an AFC Offensive Player of the Month award. Conner added 55 catches for 497 yards in a Steelers offense that relied heavily on the back for easy yardage off dump-offs.

A player who struggled with conditioning and blitz pickups as a rookie was more than ready when he showed up for his second training camp.

Center Maurkice Pouncey didn’t hesitate when asked if Conner has done enough to earn the starting job full-time.

”One thousand percent,” Pouncey said. “He’s missed a few games, but his numbers are outstanding. Overall, he’s done everything we’ve asked as far as blocking lanes, picking up blitzes, chipping, running the ball and hitting the right hole. He did a lot of great things. Not that he doesn’t have room to grow, but he’s earned the respect, and he’ll definitely be the No. 1 back.”

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Is this finally the year Alan Faneca gets that Hall of Fame call?

By: Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

What does the Pro Football Hall of Fame have against guards?

Coaches have long proclaimed that everything starts in the trenches, but when it comes to the Hall of Fame it certainly does not end there.

Guard is the most underappreciated position in the game when it comes to making the Hall of Fame, and the other offensive line positions are not that far behind.

Alan Faneca is Exhibit A. He’s one of the most decorated and productive guards in the history of the NFL, but the doors in Canton have remained closed to him for the past three years. This will be his fourth time as a finalist when the vote takes place Feb. 2 in Atlanta for this year’s class.

“When you look at the linemen of his era, he did things that Dermonti Dawson was able to do,” said the man who coached both, Bill Cowher. “He could pull, he was great in space, he could anchor.

“When we were a running football team and ran ourselves to a championship, we pretty much ran behind him on the left side and we pulled and ran behind him on the right side.”

Jerome Bettis attests to that.

“I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame without Alan Faneca,” Bettis said. “He was the best guard that I ever played with, and him pulling made him so much more special than I think all the other guards because his ability to pull and play in space was incredible.

“In pass protection, he did it all. It wasn’t just in the run game.”

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Tim Benz: Robey-Coleman’s Patriots yap brings back bad Steelers memories

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

If you think you’ve heard the name Nickell Robey-Coleman before, you have. He’s the Los Angeles Rams defensive back who was deemed to have had perfectly legal coverage on this play in the NFC Championship Game.

After getting away with murder last week, Robey-Coleman is trying to get away with something else this week leading up to the Super Bowl.

Blasphemy. The 27-year-old slot corner says New England quarterback Tom Brady is slipping.

Among other highlights in an extended interview with Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report, Robey-Coleman suggests that “age has taken a toll” on Brady.

On Brady: ”For him to still be doing it, that’s a great compliment for him. But I think that he’s definitely not the same quarterback he was. Movement. Speed. Velocity. Arm strength. He still can sling it, but he’s not slinging it as much. Whatever he was doing — because of his age and all that — he’s not doing as much of that anymore. He’s still doing the same things; he’s just not doing as much of it. And sometimes, it’s not the sharpest. But it still gets done.”

On his “hate” toward the Patriots: Robey-Coleman says it goes back to his previous playing days in Buffalo when he saw the Pats rub an opponent’s nose in defeat with “arrogance.” As he describes it in the link, it’s “a-hole stuff” like going for it up 17 points on 4th and 3.

On how the Super Bowl will go: Dunne writes that Robey-Coleman described the bar fight scene in “A Bronx Tale” when the Italian mobsters beat up a biker gang.

”We kick ‘em out of the bar, beat ‘em up — and the one thing he said, he looked down at a guy and said, ‘I did this to you.’ That’s how I want to feel: I did this to you. I did this to you.”

Oh. So, I guess the Rams are the mobsters in this analogy and Robey-Coleman is Chazz Palminteri?

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Life is barely fair, and the Patriots remind Steelers fans of it almost yearly

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 12:38pm

The Patriots somehow managed to reach the Super Bowl again for the 11th time. This reminds the author how unfair life can be.

Let’s skip the gristle and get straight to the steak. I hate the New England Patriots. I don’t hate them with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns and don’t wish death, IBS or irreversible erectile dysfunction on them. Okay...maybe the ED, but I hate them like I hate Bradley Cooper for being cool and chicks digging him. So basically...I’m jealous of the team that has been so dominant in the AFC for nearly twenty years now.

Now I realize proud yinzers won’t recognize the jealousy I write of, but I’ve got to be honest. We call them cheaters every chance we get for good reason, they did. But the Steelers of the glorious 70s were reportedly fast and loose with rules regarding the alleged introduction of steroids and illegal padded practices. The bottom line is that both teams knew or know the knack for winning and that rubs everyone else the wrong way.

Fast forward to 2019 and the Steelers don’t seem to have that winning knack anymore, but the Pats do and we hate them for it. What is it that drives us and fan bases of 30 other teams nuts?

Let’s take a look.

They seem to get big and suspicious calls go there way at the right time.

This bit the Steelers twice in 2017 when reversals on sure TDs were awarded to New England twice and cost the Steelers home-field advantage and the AFC’s top seed. Twice you ask? Yes. The same thing happened when Austin Sefarian-Jenkins of the Jets seemingly had a score in Week 6 of that year. The Jets had a win ripped from their grasps much like the Steelers did. Also, the phantom calls last week in the AFC Championship Game was egregious as well.

Just when you think that they’ve run their course, they rise from the ashes

How does this team keep finding ways to win? They constantly pick late in the draft, other GMs let Belichick fleece them for talent and they make more magic than Doug Henning, David Blaine and David Copperfield combined. Also their division mates are disasters and that’s usually five or six easy wins there. Most teams don’t get the breaks these guys do and take so much longer to revive.

Their Fans

Sure Steeler Nation has been known to brag and ruffle feathers, but nobody does it quite like New Englanders. They refuse to hold their franchise accountable. The excuses for Spygate and Deflategate were masterpieces of passing the buck and refusing to acknowledge wrong doing. Plus the nauseating use of “28 to 3”, “you hate us, cause you ain’t us” and GOAT are so fatiguing. I do know a very cool Patriot fan that doesn’t do this, but those examples are rare.

They constantly make superstars out of suspects

Wes Walker. Danny Amendola. LeGarrette Blount. Julian Edelman. Chris Hogan. Malcom Butler. The list can go on and on. Belichick’s system makes mountains out of moles. It’s kind of incredible. However, these guys (namely Edelman) get egos the size of Andre the Giant and it isn’t endearing. It’s a true testament to how good the culture is there when these guys move on and are a shell of their Patriot selves.

The “Us Against The World” mentality

When the Pats came back to beat the Falcons in Super Bowl XLI, Bob Kraft took the podium and threw it in the face of Commissioner Roger Goodell that the Patriots overcame all kinds of adversity and intimated the Pats were persecuted by the league and the world. They maintain this stance til this very day, even though it seems like the league goes out of their way to offer up advantages.

Tom Brady is not the primary bread winner in his family

Really... kudos to that guy for landing a wife like that. But it allows him to sign for less and not worry about a thing. It‘s just another thing that just doesn’t seem fair though.

They own the Steelers

The Steelers did actually beat them this year, but 11-4 against Pittsburgh in the BB era is pure domination.

...

Is all of this sour grapes by me? Of course. But the Patriots continue to remind me of the rich kid in a John Highes film that doesn’t receive his or her comeuppance in the end...ever. You know that frenemy in the office that gets promoted over you because they are scrogging the boss or their uncle golfs with the CEO? That’s the Patriots. My only solace remains that there is a prime reservation in Hell that reads Belichick. Because he obviously made some kind of deal with the devil and he’s going to want to collect soon.

It might take something crazy to fix the NFL’s officiating problem, so here’s a crazy idea

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 11:30am

Bad calls an no-calls are determining game outcomes, so the league must finally face the fact that something needs to be done.

With questionable calls (or lack of a call all together) in both the AFC and NFC championship games, the issue of officiating in the NFL has been brought out on a national level. Steelers fans understand the problem has been going on, both in 2018 and prior. But with such high-profile decisions in marquee games, there have been many questions about the possibility of challenging and reviewing penalties. Implementing such a drastic change has many people concerned about opening a can of worms the league doesn’t want to have to take years to iron out. But does the NFL want poor officiating to be there story line in the biggest games of the season?

I think it is a nearly universal opinion there needs to be improvements in officiating in the NFL. Eliminating terrible calls and making sure obviously missed calls don’t change the outcome of a game should be the highest priority. The problem is figuring out a system in which this can be done while still maintaining the integrity of the game and not disrupting the flow more than necessary. Some review plays seem to drag on an unreasonable amount of time when the first look at the play shows if there will really be enough to overturn the call or not. Is more replay the answer? Would more officials on the field help?

Since it would take an extreme, somewhat ludicrous idea to help correct horrendous calls in the NFL, it doesn’t mean an attempt can’t be made to fix the problem. I’ve come up with my own crazy idea. I’m not saying it’s perfect, and I’m sure the wonderful users here at BTSC will help me find the flaws. But it is an idea as a starting point. So here it goes…

Beginning in 2014, senior officials in New York began communicating with the head official during the review process. On scoring plays, turnovers, and any play inside of two minutes of the half or in overtime, the decision to review these plays comes from “above.” Is there really a reason why such an official cannot decide the play was called incorrectly due to a penalty, whether it wasn’t called or was called and should not have been? The argument for this in the past has always been about the officials and their “judgment calls.” But every call by an official is a judgment call. The official has to judge if a runner was down or not. The official has the judge if the ball crosses the goal line. Every call in the game comes from the judgment of the official.

Perhaps a better way to sum it up is that these penalties are subjective, and not necessarily concrete. What one official sees on the field versus what another official sees on the TV screen can be a completely different subjective viewpoint. Should an official on the field who allows some contact on a pass play be overruled by an official in the booth who thinks any contact should always be pass interference?

I’ve set it up long enough. What I believe the NFL should implement is three independent officials in the booth, none of which have contact with the other. Whether or not these officials are in stadium or in New York makes no difference. While watching the game, if any one of these officials feel a penalty was missed from being called, or a penalty which was called should not have been, they press the alert button. The only way the official is buzzed to review a play is if all three officials buzz an alert on the same play. The subjective opinion of each official will not influence a change on the field, but all three officials agreeing independently that a call should be changed would trigger a review.

At this point, the head official goes to the replay area as normally done. Once they get on the headset, all three booth officials along with the official on the field will be in communication with each other to share their feelings about the play. The head official views the replays, and with the input of the other three officials and what they saw, a penalty can be called or overturned based on “clear and obvious video evidence.”

In this system, there would be no coaches challenges for penalties. The only way a penalty would be reviewed is from a unanimous alert from the three video officials at any point in the game. Another wrinkle which could be added is to also involve the official closest to the play where the penalty was or was not called. If that official was added to the mix, they could explain the reasoning for the penalty or lack thereof to the replay officials, who could then show them on the replay why they felt a call needed to be changed. If all officials are in agreement, the call on the field would then be overturned.

One question which could be asked is why three officials? Why not just have one official? In my opinion, the three officials would give a situation where only the obvious calls would be reviewed. With just one official, it’s basically one opinion versus the other. Going with three officials, it would take three varying sources all agreeing together, reducing situations where reviews happen which would not be overturned.

With such a system in place, I believe the pass interference at the end of the NFC championship game would have eventually been called. Additionally, the roughing the passer against Tom Brady in the AFC championship game would’ve been overturned. There would be multiple calls changed throughout the Steelers season, including two separate touchdowns against San Diego and the first DPI penalty on Joe Haden against New Orleans (the second one would not have been egregious enough to set off the alert).

Just to clarify, an official should not be setting off an alert for, “well maybe that wasn’t right.” Close calls should not even be reviewed. It’s the terrible, obvious calls that the league really needs to fix. And implementing this system could slow down the game minimally as long as officials improve their on field performance, while the video officials are not stopping the game for borderline calls. The NFL office would also have a report of plays where replay officials buzzed in but we’re not unanimous and can use these reports as a grading tool for their reply officials.

I feel this would be a win–win situation for everyone. An official would get the chance to fix a bad call which could determine the outcome of the game. For example, does anyone really believe the official who didn’t call the pass interference penalty in the NFC championship game still feels it was the correct call? If this system were implemented, fans would hopefully not be as outraged about terrible calls. And, most importantly, the players on the field would be more of the determining factor as to who wins the game.

Would this system have an increased cost to implement? Of course it would. But for the multi-billion dollar business of the NFL, isn’t having a better product more important than saving the money? A better product would increase revenue which would possibly be lost for paying to implement penalty reviews.

So there you have it.

Now it’s your turn. Does this system seem as if it is something which could work? Are there things to be tweaked? What should be added or what should be taken away? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Steelers release cornerback Trey Johnson

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 10:20am

After spending his rookie season on injured reserve, the former Villanova product will be looking for a new team in 2019 after he was waived by the Steelers on Monday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers may not have made any new additions to their 2019 roster for almost two weeks now, but it would appear they have trimmed their depth cornerback with the release of Trey Johnson on Monday. Done without any fanfare or even a mention on the team’s official website, the news that Johnson has been waived comes courtesy of a line entry on the NFL’s official transaction report.

Signed as one 13 undrafted free agents back in April, Johnson was an intriguing prospect blessed with great speed. Highlighted by his 4.33 40-time at his Pro Day that clearly caught the Steelers eye.

Villanova DB Trey Johnson (5-11, 187) had strong pro day today

40- 4.33
VJ -36.
BJ 10’8
4.20 SS

Met afterward with Giants, Jags, Eagles, Packers, Steelers, raiders, Bears. Under radar but should end up on a90-man roster

— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) March 24, 2018

Unfortunately for the former Villanova product, he would injure his shoulder during training camp and was waived from the roster near the end of July to make room for the signing of wide receiver Eli Rogers. Reverting back to the Steelers’ injured reserve list when he went unclaimed, Johnson would remain with the team all season rather than being released outright with an injury settlement.

Now recovered from his injury, he will be looking for a new team to pursue his NFL dream with in 2019, while Pittsburgh will be left with $5,000 in dead money to account for as a consequence of the $7,500 signing bonus given to Johnson as part of his rookie contract.

After not watching one second of the Pro Bowl, I learned I didn’t miss a thing

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 9:10am

I didn’t watch the NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday, but I know I didn’t miss any tackling.

I never thought I’d see the day when I’d care less about the Pro Bowl than I did about, say, the NFL Combine.

Yet, here I am.

Long before the Pro Bowl took place this past Sunday, I knew I wasn’t going to watch it. In fact, I knew it about a year ago when I sat down and took in parts of the 2018 edition with my uncle and cousin. I guess you could say it was the tackling—or lack thereof—that kind of killed whatever interest remained for me in tuning in to see the NFL’s annual gala of all stars (or the guys that make it in because the top all stars don’t want to play) “battle” for conference supremacy. Yes, the very first time I saw running back Le’Veon Bell get “tackled” without actually being taken to the turf in an ill-tempered manner, I just knew I was never going to watch this “event” ever again.

Although, thanks to the tackling stuff, I was able to whip up a nice little satirical/spoof piece starring new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner that made more people hate me—I was very proud.

So what can be done to make the NFL’s Pro Bowl more appetizing to the viewing and, yes, ticket buying public?

How about nothing?

What’s left to do? You’ve already changed the format so many times that even Deion Sanders was a coach for one of the teams a few years ago. And if I’m not mistaken, Jerry Rice coached the other team. Also, there wasn’t a team named “AFC” or one called “NFC,” just squads named “Team Primtime and Team Rice” or whatever (hey, if they’re too lazy to tackle in the game, I’m going to be too lazy to do actual research on the game).

Now we’re back to the more traditional format, only without tackling and stuff that makes a game footballish. And I don’t even blame the players for not wanting to tackle or the players for not wanting to play non-tackling football out of fear that they’ll still hurt themselves.

Heck, every other all star format in professional sports—including the NBA, NHL and MLB—has lost its luster, its appeal. If the players in those leagues, in those all star games, don’t care, why should guys who actually have to hit one another for a living go to such physical lengths in a game that doesn’t count?

Face it, we’ve pretty much evolved as a society (well, the people not on social media, anyway). Gone are the days when you’d get an actual thrill from seeing Willie Stargell and Reggie Jackson talk shop on the very same baseball diamond. Gone are the days when you’d be genuinely surprised to see Jack Lambert pat Jack Tatum on the butt after a nice tackle (“Aren’t those guys mortal enemies? What’s next? Is Marlena going to appear on the same NBC Thanksgiving Day Parade float as Stefano?”).

We’re also all a little too aware of things these days—including the professional athletes. Winning is everything in society now, and nobody wants to invest emotionally or physically if there isn’t some sort of legacy attached to the outcome. New flash: there is no legacy attached to winning an all star game (although, there was that dark period when Major League Baseball decided to award home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that won the MLB All Star Game).

Try as every league might, there is very little chance you’ll get people to care about all star games as much as they used to—if they even did back in the old days.

Having said all that, all star games—including the Pro Bowl—will continue to exist. And, believe it or not, people will still attend and tune in—the Pro Bowl generates higher ratings than the Stanley Cup Final (man, am I going to use that factoid to troll some hockey fans in the near future).

So, see you in 2020, when I write another article about how I didn’t watch the Pro Bowl.

No season in team history was plagued by as much drama as the Steelers 1977 campaign

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 7:47am

If social media had existed in 1977, the Steelers would have been the most talked about team in professional sports that year for all the wrong reasons.

While it would be fair to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers have dominated the world of sports media with negative headlines over the past few seasons, nothing that has happened recently comes even close to being the most drama filled season the team has had to deal with.

As highlighted by Bob Labriola of Steelers.com in an asked and answered column. No team in franchise history has ever faced the level of distraction the Steelers attempted to cope with in 1977. A year full of so many problems that it almost derailed the postseason chances of one of the most talented rosters Pittsburgh has ever had.

Coming off back-to-back Super Bowl victories in 1974 and 1975 and arguably their greatest regular season ever in 1976 given the play of their defense and the names lost to injury, the 1977 season was a disaster. Beset by problems from the outset, some of which had carried over from the year before, the list of issues that plagued Pittsburgh that year would be unimaginable in a single season today.

Off-field legal troubles would dog the team almost as soon as the 1976 season had ended. Defensive tackle Ernie Holmes was charged with cocaine possession after he was arrested for purchasing the drug in a hotel restroom while attending a wedding in Amarillo, Texas. A charge he would defeat in court, but not without the expense of $28,000 in legal fees, money loaned to him by the Steelers. Holmes would also stage a brief walk out later in the year, telling Dan Rooney “I can’t hack it.” With Rooney reportedly unconcerned by his absence.

“He said he had too much to think about, that his problems were overbearing on him.” Believing the player would return to practice, Rooney added, “This was not a major thing.”

Sadly for Pittsburgh, Holmes was not the only one forced to go before a judge that season, with Chuck Noll the center of a well-publicized defamation lawsuit brought against him by Oakland Raiders safety George Atkinson. Faced with a civil suit seeking damages of $2 million for libel after Noll had label Atkinson part of the NFL’s “criminal element” in a postgame press conference the year before, Noll would miss significant time during training camp because of the trial.

The Steelers coach would ultimately be found not guilty, but not before he had been forced to identify Mel Blount as another player in the league who could be considered part of the NFL’s criminal element.

In response this characterization by his head coach, Blount would file a defamation lawsuit of his own against Noll, seeking damages of $6 million and begin a holdout that would last 56 days. When asked by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette if he would be a training camp on time, Blount replied.

“I still don’t have any intention of playing in Pittsburgh.”

Eventually he would return after the last game of the preseason, having agreed to drop the lawsuit, and was fined $25,000 for his absence. However, the cornerback was just one of a number of holdouts that season.

Jack Lambert and Glen Edwards would both miss time in Latrobe as they held out for better contracts with Lambert staying away until the day before the final game of the preseason. Fined $500 a day by the team for his absence, Lambert’s agent, Bucky Woy, would tell the local media that his client was “very disturbed” by the fines and wanted out of Pittsburgh.

“It’s his position and our position in view of the facts – trade him.”

He would go on to sign a five-year deal, but not before the front office has dangled the carrot of being named team captain if he arrived at training camp on time. A move that only served to anger the linebacker and lead to a war of words in the press between Lambert’s representatives and the Steelers management.

“Jack is taking this very personally now ... Unfortunately, Jack really wanted the captain’s job. He considered it a tremendous honour. It was very important to him, but he was insulted when they tried to use it as a wedge. He took it as a cheap shot.”

“There’s nothing to negotiate. They can pay him or trade him.”

While Edwards would get a new deal as well, he would later regret agreeing to it, walking out on the team a few days before a Week 8 matchup with the Denver Broncos. He would return in time to play in the game, but if he had missed out, his replacement was set to be Jimmy Allen, a player who had announced his retirement the week before only to return to practice the very next day after a change of heart.

Despite a record breaking season in 1976, the defense would struggle to keep points off the board in 1977, giving up a total of 243 points. A year removed from allowing the lowest amount in team history of just 138 points. The kicking game would struggle at times as well in the early parts of the season, as Roy Gerela would acknowledge to the press.

“I know where the faults lie and I’m going to go after them. I believe in myself. I believe in my own ability. I’ve got confidence in myself. Everything’s going to be fine. It has to be.”

A loss to the Raiders in Week 2 would result in the headline “End of a dynasty” from the Post-Gazette, while the frustration of some questionable calls by officials would begin to get to Joe Greene. He would be fined for remarks he made to the press about the state of refereeing in the league.

“I may not be long for this game, but I’ve had a full career. If I get half a chance, I’ll punch one of them out and it’d give me a whole lot of satisfaction.”

“They’re supposed to call it to the best of their ability, but their ability ain’t worth a bleep. I can’t knock ‘em out, but I’d dearly love to. I wish a bolt of lightning would come down and strike one of their hearts out.”

“If they get in the way, I’ll just cleat ‘em in the spine. I won’t go around them.”

Comments he would later apologize for.

“I explained to Mr. Rozelle that I said what I did for effect. I wanted to call attention to the problem that I think exists regarding the officials. I was upset and frustrated. In the future, I will express myself in a different manner. The Commissioner suggested I pick up the telephone and call him if I have any problems. I might take him up on the offer.”

In the eyes of their opponents, the Steelers were a team in disarray in 1977, with far too much off-field drama to be able to effectively compete in the AFC North. As per Cleveland running back Greg Pruitt before the Browns Week 9 loss in Pittsburgh.

“I’d be surprised if it didn’t affect them. They’ve had people not in camp, people they haven’t been able to sign. All those things are distractions away from playing football.”

Heading into the final two weeks of the season, the Steelers would guarantee themselves the division crown with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals who were a game back on them in the standings. Winners of their last six in a row against the Bengals, Pittsburgh was confident of victory. As per Greene ahead of the matchup.

“The Bengals simply don’t think they can beat the Steelers in a big game, or some of them don’t. You can hear it in their conversation.”

The Bengals would win by seven points and Noll would leave Cincinnati with a broken arm having slipped on the ice the day before the game. Needing the Houston Oilers to beat the Bengals in the last game of the year to have any chance of winning the division, Pittsburgh were saved by a 21-16 Oilers victory. Appreciative of Houston’s efforts, the Steelers would send all the players and coaches on the Oilers roster leather briefcases as a thank you.

Finishing with a 9-5 record, Pittsburgh would take on the 12-2 Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium and were handled easily in a 34-21 defeat due to some early turnovers. A disappointing end to a tumultuous season that Noll would later blame on the distractions the team had to deal with over the course of the season.

Thankfully for everyone concerned, all of this happened long before the arrival of the internet and social media and it is hard to imagine quite how extreme the response would have been if a team went through this much drama today. For all of the headlines the Steelers have generated because of their troubles of the last few years, nothing this current roster has done comes close to the drama created by the 1977 team.

Fans and media members alike would have questioned if Noll was losing the locker room and whether he could still lead the team, while some would be calling out Greene for threatening officials. Lambert, Blount and Edwards would be considered disloyal, with many fans likely wanting them to be traded and Holmes would probably have been released by the Steelers and suspended by the league.

Instead, the front office made relatively few changes during the offseason that followed and Pittsburgh would go on to win two more Super Bowl titles in 1978 and 1979 with the virtually the same team. A plan the Steelers might be well served to repeat this year all things considered.

Credit must go to both Bob Labriola of Steelers.com and especially Gordon Dedman of SteelersUK.com for many of the historic quotes and specific details referenced in this piece.

Report: JuJu Smith-Schuster “fine” after leaving Pro Bowl with knee injury

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 6:36am

Finally, some good news for the black-and-gold...

What is worse than watching a meaningless, and useless, football game? Have one of the most important members of your favorite team get injured in the aforementioned useless game.

This is exactly what happened to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster during the annual Pro Bowl Sunday. After being tackled after his lone reception of the game, Smith-Schuster hobbled to the sideline where he was checked out by medical staff, and never returned to the game.

There was little information on Smith-Schuster’s status after the All-Star game, but ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler is reporting the talented wide receiver is doing fine after Sunday’s game.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is feeling “fine” coming off a knee injury suffered in the Pro Bowl that’s not believed to be serious, according to a source.

Smith-Schuster, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ receiving leader in 2018, went down with a bruised knee during the second quarter of Sunday’s Pro Bowl after getting tackled from behind. He declined to comment after the game.

Smith-Schuster, who dealt with a knee issue last offseason but recovered in time for training camp, ranked seventh in the NFL in receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,426) on his way to a Steelers Most Valuable Player award as voted on by teammates.

This news certainly couldn’t come at a better time for Pittsburgh. At a time when the team potentially losing Antonio Brown via trade is very real, the Steelers could not afford to have Smith-Schuster suffer a knee injury which would not only hamper his offseason training, but in the worst-case — require surgery.

Stay tuned to BTSC as the offseason continues to roll on and the attention turns towards free agency and the 2019 NFL Draft.

Podcast: With JuJu’s limp-off, is the Pro Bowl even worth it anymore to Steeler Nation?

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 5:30am

Discuss all things Steelers and beyond after the Pro Bowl. BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo discuss that and more.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could have seen their 2019 season collapse when JuJu Smith-Schuster limped off in Atlanta on Sunday. Have we gotten to a point where this game should be discontinued? Join Bryan Davis and Anthony Defeo from BTSC for the extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”. The Steelers arent gearing up for the Super Bowl, but Tony and Bryan have plenty to discuss with help from Steeler Nation.

Check out a rundown of the show:

-- Fact or Fiction

- Besides not being watchable, is the Pro Bowl even worth it anymore?

- Latest Steeler Drama

- Looking ahead

- and MUCH MORE!

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

You can listen to it in the player below:

Black and Gold Links: Is Super Bowl 53 only about the Patriots potentially tying the Steelers’ 6 rings?

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 4:36am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Steelers fan base approaches the upcoming Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots. Clearly, all of Steelers Nation will be rooting for the Rams, but is it all just about the number of overall rings, or is it something more?

Let’s get to the news:

Tim Benz: Can Steelers still be considered ‘best ever’ if Patriots win Super Bowl?

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The present state of the Steelers is a mess. They’re a non-playoff team with a dysfunctional locker room, a defense that can’t get the job done consistently, a neutered coach and an owner in a state of denial over how bad things have gotten.

The future doesn’t look so good either. They’re probably going lose Le’Veon Bell and trade Antonio Brown. Ben Roethlisberger is 36 years old. They may need to replace a starter or two on the offensive line.

What Steelers fans usually fall back on is the past — the easy claim that their Black and Gold are the undisputed best franchise of the Super Bowl era.

Six Super Bowl championships, more than any other organization. What a warm, fuzzy blanket to wrap yourself in when times are bad.

That may be a little harder to do come Sunday night if the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams. Because then New England will have six Vince Lombardi trophies, too. And they will have done it in 11 Super Bowl trips, three more than the Steelers.

It’s hard to make a case against New England.

But let’s try. Because like I just said, Steelers fans can’t cling to anything else at this point.

(To read more, click the link in the article above...)

Pittsburgh ranked as top city for football fans

By: Chris Pastrick, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Of course, we know it.

But now everyone else can recognize the Pittsburgh is the best city for football fans.

WalletHub has released its 2019 ranking of Best Football Cities for Fans, and wouldn’t you know it: the city of Black and Gold is No. 1.

And it wasn’t really close. Pittsburgh topped all major cities (those with 300,000 people or more) with a 63.49 score, based on 21 metrics — like team’s performance, championships, franchise value, ticket price, fan engagement, and popularity index.

Boston landed second, with a 55.24 score. The other top 5 cities were Green Bay (55), Dallas (53.71), and New York (49.2).

Cleveland (30.41) landed dead last among the 30 major cities, with Cincinnati (40.02) at 17, and Baltimore (37.44) at 21.

The study looked at more than 240 U.S. cities with at least one college or professional team.

WalletHub divided the results into 3 categories: major, midsize (100,000 to 300,000 people), and small (less than 100,000).

Green Bay topped the midsize list, while Tuscaloosa, Ala., was best among small cities.

Pro Bowl: Tomlin’s reputation riding on defense

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

Art Rooney II took some heat when he said last week he had seen improvement in the Steelers’ defense in 2018 and the team was through replacing assistant coaches on Mike Tomlin’s staff.

That was not what the very vocal crowd that wanted defensive coordinator Keith Butler replaced wanted to hear.

The reality is that Butler was in no more trouble than Tomlin at this point. Why?

Because as much as anything, the way the Steelers play defense is the way Tomlin wants them to play.

“Well, Keith Butler is obviously our defensive coordinator and Coach Tomlin as the head coach, like any head coach, has the right to be involved on both sides of the ball, which he is,” Rooney said in an interview with KDKA-FM last week. “And you know, Coach Tomlin came up as a defensive coach and I think he and Coach Butler work closely together on that. And the truth of the matter is, even though it wasn’t everything we would have hoped for, statistically, we were one of the better defenses in the league this year.”

This isn’t something new. Tomlin has taken more control of the team’s defense since Butler replaced Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator after the 2014 season. Tomlin isn’t making the defensive calls from play to play. That still falls on Butler. But given the two men’s past working relationship, they are firmly on the same wave length on how the defense will work.

“You could see it happening,” one former Steelers defensive player told me. “(Tomlin) had a very hands-off approach with Coach LeBeau. With Coach Butler, (Tomlin) has been more and more vocal about what he wants and how he wants it done. It’s (Tomlin’s) defense. He’s got his stamp all over it.”

So if Tomlin had been inclined to replace Butler, he might as well have been replacing himself, as well.

(To read more, click the link in the article above...)

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