You are here

Behind the Steel Curtain

Subscribe to Behind the Steel Curtain feed
A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/47293/steel_curtain_fave.png 2021-09-24T18:45:00-04:00
Updated: 47 min 19 sec ago

Saturday Night Open Thread: 20 years...

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 6:00pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Come and join this merry band of Steelers’ faithful for some lively debate about our Steelers, good food and the merits of the odd cold beverage.

Sadly, most of us can remember many things about exactly 20 years ago today.

I remember a beautiful fall day. I remember taking my oldest to the park. We had a blast on the swings and the slides. As we walked home, we laughed and teased as we still do to this day. However, when we turned the corner to our street we noticed my wife in the driveway. She was holding our youngest in her arms and while that was normal the excited gestures she was making were decidedly not. I picked up the pace and as we got close enough to her, I heard her say in a tone that I have never heard since. It was disbelief, shock, fear and complete sadness. She kept repeating “The towers are gone, the towers are gone”.

I have struggled all day trying to fit my thoughts onto my little part of BTSC, to pay my respects to any of you that lost someone that day. Or because of that day. Please know that many of us remember. We stood by you as best we could then. And we continue to stand by you now.

  1. With the thought that Steelers football is less than 24 hours away, what are you most excited about? Ben with the injury 1 year behind him and hopefully fully motivated to kick some... or TJ out to show the world that he is worth every one of those 112 million bejillion dollars he signed for? Or is it something else?
  2. The weakness of this team appears to be either the O line or the secondary. which do you fear the most?
  3. Speaking of 20... how many points above 20 do you think we need to average over the season to ensure we make the playoffs. Remember this still should be a really good to great defense.
  4. Still speaking of 20. Barry Sanders is my all time favourite 20. Which current NFL player is destined to repeat Barry's sad story of personal excellence but team suckitude?
  5. Last night you were asked to predict the final score. Tonight I will ask what HAS to happen for us to win?

Najee Harris is set up to shine for the Steelers in Week 1

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 2:05pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers rookie running back has a great matchup to start his NFL career.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 first round pick Najee Harris is set to make his professional debut this weekend and he honestly couldn’t have gotten a better matchup to make his best start. The 2020 Buffalo Bills struggled defending the run, tied for 26th in the league allowing 4.6 yards per carry. Sure, the Pittsburgh Steelers struggled to run the ball against Buffalo last year, but they struggled to run the ball against everyone (especially late in the year). But this year will be different. With a brand-new aggressive blocking tyle and linemen better suited to the run game, don’t be surprised if Najee Harris is running to daylight all day long.

The success of the Steelers run game will already be multiplied because the Bills will be missing run stuffing defensive lineman Star Lotulelei. Lotulelei was a covid opt-out in 2020 and hasn’t played since 2019. The Bills were banking on getting their gap stuffer this season but won’t have his services this Sunday. The biggest weakness for this Bills team is straight up the middle, and that’s where the Pittsburgh Steelers must take advantage. A heavy dose of Najee Harris on inside zone, traps, and power runs between the B-gaps should be the priority for this Steelers offense.

Dialing up a heavy dose of Harris in this game will also keep Josh Allen and the Bills high powered offense off the field. Each run will chew up the play clock and give the Steelers defense some rest of its own. A good old-fashioned dose of ‘Steelers football’ will win this team the game. A heavy dose of running the football, and hardnosed defense is what this organization was built on, and exactly what they’ll need to do if they want to start the year 1-0.

For a running back making his debut in hostile territory, Harris couldn’t ask for a better matchup. He will be able to face one of the weaker fronts across the league missing one of their best pieces. A game like this should help build the confidence of the youngster and a great way to ease him into the NFL. When the dust settles on Sunday afternoon, don’t be surprised if Harris is the Steelers player of the game, and amongst the NFL leaders in rushing yards.

But what do you think? Will Najee Harris shine in his NFL debut against the Buffalo Bills? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Steelers Podcast: There are always two sides to every contract negotiation

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 2:00pm

There is plenty to discuss on the latest episode of the popular podcast Steelers Friday Night Six Pack w/ Tony.

The Steelers finally went and did it, they signed superstar linebacker T.J. Watt to a four-year $112 million deal that makes him the NFL’s highest-paid defender. The contract talks went on until about the eleventh hour and made many believe it wouldn’t get done. Who was the bad guy? There wasn’t one. That, plus, hey, the Steelers open up the season this Sunday against the Bills. Hear all of that and more on this edition of Steelers Friday Night Six Pack! Join Tony Defeo on those those subjects, engaging in Pittsburgh pro football talk and much, much more.

Check out the rundown of the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section.

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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:

Predicting the Steelers’ inactive list for Week 1 vs. the Bills

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 1:00pm
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No players have been ruled out due to injury, so the choices of who does not get a helmet Sunday are more difficult.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their first game of the 2021 NFL season. As the season rolls on, the true nature of the depth chart will come a little more into focus. But for Week 1, trying to predict who the Steelers will have on their inactive list at 11:30 AM Sunday is much more difficult than it will be in the coming weeks. Regardless, I’m still going to give it a shot.

The rules in the 2021 season when it comes to the players active on game day have been carried over from last season. As long as a team has eight offensive lineman who will be dressing for the game, they could have 48 players on their active roster rather than the 46 in previous seasons. If the Steelers elevate any players from their practice squad, their inactive list would increase by the same number of players. Until the Steelers announce an elevation, we will assume it is only five players but will adjust the projection if necessary.

Game Status

Questionable:
OLB Alex Highsmith (groin) (Removed on Saturday)

Here are the possibilities to end up inactive for the Steelers against the Bills on Sunday:

Definitely:

None (No players have been ruled out)

Most Likely:

QB Dwayne Haskins- The Steelers typically don’t dress three quarterbacks, and Haskins is listed as third on the depth chart.

Possibly:

G B.J. Finney- One of the offensive linemen likely won’t get a helmet, so chances are it’s one of the two guards. Finney has a 50-50 shot.

G Rashaad Coward- With B.J. Finney having past experience at center, his versatility might give him the edge over Coward to earn a helmet.

DT Isaiah Buggs- The Steelers have the option of only going with five defensive linemen for the game. If so, Buggs was the odd man out at the end of 2020.

DT Carlos Davis- Even though the Steelers are now down to six defense of lineman, any of those that aren’t the starter are a possibility. So it could be Davis.

DT Isaiahh Loudermilk- Rounding out the D-line, it could be the rookie who is simply holding a roster spot but doesn’t get a helmet for Sunday.

LB- Ulysees Gilbert III- The Steelers have six inside linebackers on the roster. They are not all going to dress. Gilbert is a likely candidate to be the odd man out.

LB Buddy Johnson- There was a little doubt Buddy Johnson was going to make the 53-man roster. Whether or not he gets a helmet on game day is a whole other question.

CB Arthur Maulet- With the Steelers having six cornerbacks currently on the roster, there’s a chance one will not get a helmet. Maulet was so far down the depth chart he wasn’t even originally listed anywhere.

CB Ahkello Witherspoon- A big question will be if Witherspoon is up to speed enough to get a helmet for Week 1. It’s really anybody’s guess at this point.

Unlikely:

OLB Alex Highsmith- Since his injury status was dropped on Saturday, Highsmith will be dressed and ready against the Bills.

OT Joe Haeg- There’s going to be one lineman not dressing, but going into this game with only two tackles would be foolish.

C J.C. Hassenauer- Everything that was said about tackle, it is also true at center as the Steelers need to have a reserve available behind Kendrick Green.

CB Justin Layne- Although he may not see much action on defense, Layne will continue to be a special teams player and is likely still ahead of the other two cornerbacks listed above.

OLB Jamir Jones- Even though Highsmith is now good to go, I don’t think the Steelers are going to go with only three outside linebackers unless they were forced to do so, therefore Jones should be in uniform Sunday.

Projected Inactive List:
  1. Dwayne Haskins
  2. Rashaad Coward
  3. Isaiah Buggs
  4. Buddy Johnson
  5. Arthur Maulet

Most of this list is really a shot in the dark. Haskins is a slam dunk and I’m fairly confident in Coward mainly because of position flexibility. I wouldn’t be shocked if all the defensive linemen dress and the Steelers sit two inside linebackers and UG3 takes the place of Buggs. Also, I have no idea if Witherspoon is ready or if he’s in the Steelers plans yet. For all we know, Maulet may be the starting slot corner and be on the field for the first snap. But I had to go with something, so this is it.

It should be noted this list doesn’t include the possibility of any player being promoted from the practice squad. If the Steelers promote a player like Karl Joseph, or even make a roster move on Saturday, everything changes.

As always, feel free to list your projected inactives in the comments below.

Alex Highsmith’s questionable status removed, will play Sunday vs. Bills

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 12:11pm
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Steelers have announced Alex Highsmith will play in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers got another dose of good news on Saturday is the only player listed with an injury status, outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, had his questionable status removed and will play Sunday in Buffalo against the Bills. This per Steelers PR spokesman Burt Lauten.

#Steelers LB Alex Highsmith has been removed from the status report (designated as Questionable on Friday) and will play on Sunday vs. the Buffalo Bills.

— Burt Lauten (@SteelersPRBurt) September 11, 2021

During the week, Highsmith was slowed with a groin injury which had him limited in practice on Wednesday and landed him on the Steelers injury report. On Thursday, Highsmith did not participate in practice at all and was trending in the wrong direction. Luckily on Friday, Highsmith was a full participant in the Steelers final practice of the week. Ultimately it would be how Highsmith’s groin responded to the full day of practice as to whether or not he would be able to play on Sunday. With Highsmith’s status downgraded on Saturday, it appears the response was positive and he set to go for Sunday against the Bills.

With Highsmith no longer carrying an injury status, all members of the Steelers current 53-man roster are available for Sunday with no injury designations.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to take on the Buffalo Bills at 1 PM this Sunday in Buffalo.

College Game Day: Steelers 2022 Potential Draft Prospects and Open Thread

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 11:05am
Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

College football is back and so we start the look into the 2022 prospect watch list.

Welcome to Week 2 of the college football season!

What did we learn from the opening weekend? Alabama is still Alabama and the Atlantic Toast Conference( and that isn’t a typo) is still trying to play with the big boys of college football. I expect Clemson to rebound and still find themselves in the Playoff conversation.

Sam Howell removed himself from the early Heisman talk and as always my Heels continue to disappoint. “Mack is Back” is right, question remains when is he leaving again.....not soon enough, I digress.

Week 2 brings us the battle for “ El Assico” or more commonly known as the Cy-Hawk Trophy. The in state rivalry between the 9th ranked Iowa Sate Cyclones and the 10th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes is being shown on ABC at 4:30pm. Iowa has won the last 5 meetings and holds a 45-22 advantage overall.

Iowa State Cyclones

Breece Hall RB #28 6’1” 215lbs is a front runner to win the Heisman Trophy. I know we have Najee Harris and I should be highlighting a possible need. This guy is worth the watch and Iowa will have their hands full with this electric back.

Charlie Kolar TE #88 6’6” 260lbs

Brock Purdy QB #15 6’1” 220lbs

Mike Rose ILB #23 6’4” 250lbs

Greg Eisworth SAF #12 6’ 200lbs

Iowa Hawkeyes

Tyler Linderbaum Center #65 6”3’ 290lbs, yes another undersized center. Linderbaum is very mobile and despite his size is strong at the point of attack. He also has a wrestling back ground. Don’t let the size deter an open mind and keep in mind Iowa has put out some decent NFL prospects along the line.

Sam Laporta TE #84 6’4” 249lbs

Riley Moss CB #33 6’1” 194lbs

Tyler Goodson RB #15 5’10” 199lbs

Matt Hankins CB #8 6’ 185lbs

Zack Vanvalkenburg DE #97 6’4” 267lbs

Oregon #12 at Ohio State #3 - 12pm on FOX

I would have highlighted a possible matchup between Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE Oregon and Nicholas Petit- Frere LT Ohio State. At the time of writing this it is unsure if the unblockable Thibodeaux would play due to injury. It would have been a great match up for Petit-Frere and the rest of the Buckeye O line. We won’t be able to touch Thibs unless we really stink up the joint, he is special player. Hope he plays today.

Instead I will highlight another Duck prospect

Mykael Wright CB #2 5’11” 182lbs - Let’s just say he has ultra swag, he is as fierce and competitive as they come. I’m just not sure where he will fit at the next level. That’s why we are here. He has short area burst and decent deep speed. His footwork is a bit sketchy. He however makes plays on the football and he will need this today going against a pair of possible first round WRs in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. He also has special teams ability returning two kickoffs for scores as a freshman.

The third game that I feel may be a fun watch is #21 Utah at BYU - 10:15 pm on ESPN

Let us know what games you will be watching and who you have your eye on for the Black and Gold. Feel free to join in on the conversation, as always Stay Safe and GO Steelers

Podcast: If not for football, the Steelers wouldn’t shuffle off to Buffalo

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 11:00am

Join BTSC’s newest podcast, the Steelers Power Half Hour for weekly Steelers Power Rankings in many a black-and-gold category

The Steelers travel to Buffalo for Sunday’s opener at Orchard Park, but is that where anybody ever wants to be? Welcome to the Steelers Power 1/2 Hour for a lighthearted ranking of why our trio of hosts dislike “The City of No Illusions”. As always, BTSC’s Chris Pugh, Joe Frost and Paul Yanchek break out their weekly power rankings as it pertains to all things Pittsburgh Steelers. Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Ranking reasons not to love the Steelers’ Week One travel destination, Buffalo
  • and MUCH MORE!

Chris, Paul and Joe of BTSC walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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.

Steelers Fan Rooting Guide: Who Steelers fans may want to root for in other games in Week 1

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 10:00am
Set Number: X162345 TK1

Steelers fans know who to root against week in and week out. They usually know to root against Baltimore, Cleveland and New England. But sometimes, you have to look at the bigger picture—the long-term playoff picture. Here are potential teams to put on your foam finger for.

The Steelers are scheduled to play the Buffalo Bills to open their 89th season of play. Even though the season is just getting started, there are other games in and out of the division that Steelers Nation will pay attention to. Most of the time, Steelers fans know who to root for. But here’s a guide to significant matchups, and whose losses Pittsburgh would benefit more from this weekend. Once again, the black-and-gold need to win for this wish list to be viable. But any edge on the competition in the AFC is welcome.

Here are the current AFC Power Rankings (ESPN)

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Buffalo Bills
  3. Baltimore Ravens
  4. Cleveland Browns
  5. Tennessee Titans
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers
  7. Indianapolis Colts
  8. Los Angeles Chargers
  9. Miami Dolphins
  10. New England Patriots
  11. Las Vegas Raiders
  12. Denver Broncos
  13. Cincinnati Bengals
  14. Jacksonville Jaguars
  15. New York Jets
  16. Houston Texans
WEEK 1 New York Jets at Carolina Panthers - Sunday 1 PM (CBS)

Who to root for: New York Jets

This game doesn’t matter that much to the Steelers and typically I would pick the NFC team to defeat an AFC team. In fact, I’m kind of siding with Sam Darnold over the Jets in their divorce. So personally, I’d rather Carolina get the victory here. But I’m thinking about the Steelers best interest here and, as crazy as it sounds, the Jets getting the strength to be up to task to battle the likes of Buffalo, Miami and New England is better for business.

Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals - Sunday 1 PM (FOX)

Who to root for: Minnesota Vikings

Of course, I’m going to pick Minnesota here. Being an AFC North team, you want to see Cincinnati lose. But the bigger picture here is the confidence level of the young Bengals. They have a lot of fire power potentially and you don’t want to see them forming a relationship with momentum. That could lead to danger.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans - Sunday 1 PM (CBS)

Who to root for: Jacksonville Jaguars

In the long run, this is going to have little-to-no consequence on the Steelers. I just don’t want to see Jacksonville get another top pick in the Draft in 2022. I actually like Houston, but they allowed themselves to fall into shambles. The only way they are going to find their way out of the rubble is to rebuild and winning will not help them in 2021.

Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts - Sunday 1 PM (FOX)

Who to root for: Seattle Seahawks

I’m not sure what to think about the Indianapolis Colts. Philip Rivers has retired and that offense, although with a good running game, pales in comparison to it’s suffocating defense. This team has a potential to get dangerous and plug up the path to the postseason. They need to take the loss now for hypocycloid sake.

Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans - Sunday 1 PM (CBS)

Who to root for: Arizona Cardinals

The Titans are going to be playoff contenders, so getting an edge on them early would be helpful. Lots of former Steelers in this game and as much as I love Bud Dupree, I’ve got to root for No. 6 James Conner.

Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Football Team - Sunday 1 PM (CBS)

Who to root for: Washington Football Team

Like mentioned before in this column, there are certain teams that, although in the same conference, can benefit the Steelers by standing up to a bully in the division. The Chargers very well could be a threat to the Pittsburgh cause come playoff time, but they need to also be formidable enough to stand up to KC. This is where you get the conundrum. Los Angeles is more of a threat in the future than the Jets, so go with the Football Team here.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday 4:25 PM (CBS)

Who to root for: Kansas City Chiefs

Wow! I really hate rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs. I had to do it last year in the playoffs against Cleveland and I have no choice again but to do it here against the Browns. Cleveland is cocky and they think that they are ready for prime time. I want to see the Steelers put the Browns back in their place, but let KC get it started.

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots - Sunday 4:25 PM (CBS)

Who to root for: Miami Dolphins

This is kind of a toss up. The Miami Dolphins could be more of a threat in the playoff picture down the road and the Patriots are, face it, hard to root for. Plus, they could always catch lightning in a bottle and reemerge. For old times sake, I got to go against the evil empire...even though conventional rooting guide wisdom says we should root against Miami.

Denver Broncos at New York Giants- Sunday 4:25 PM (FOX)

Who to root for: New York Giants

The Giants are a team that I only root for in the Super Bowl against the teams I abhor. Otherwise, I refrain from cheering for them. Are the Broncos really a threat in the AFC? I don’t I think that their offense is anything close as good as their defense, so I would say no. Support who you want in this contest. But when an AFC team is playing out of conference, my routing arrow goes towards the other way.

Monday, Sept. 13

Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders - Monday 8:15 PM (ESPN/ABC)

Who to root for: Las Vegas Raiders

Do I feel bad for my bitter rival Baltimore Ravens for losing so many players to season ending injuries? Of course. I hate when injuries affect a foe. I’d rather eliminate the excuses and get the satisfaction over beating an opponent without an advantage. But as empathetic as I feel, I still can’t root for them and it’s best for business if they lose.

Who do you like in these games for yinzer’s sake? Let us know in the comment section in this article or on BTSC social media. If you want more explanation to these picks check out the new Rooting Guide podcast below:

Trying to pinpoint the weakness in the Bills’ offense heading into Week 1

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 9:00am
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers and Bills go head-to-head Sunday, and there are weaknesses to exploit within the Buffalo offense.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a tough road ahead of them in Week 1 of the 2021 regular season when they travel to Orchard Park, NY to play the Buffalo Bills. The Bills, by many accounts, are considered a Super Bowl contender, meanwhile the Steelers are on the opposite end of the spectrum. After starting the 2020 season 11-0, Pittsburgh stumbled their way to a 12-4 record and a deflating loss to the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs.

Fast forward to the preparation for Week 1, and the Steelers face a team with a very dynamic offense. But let’s not pretend as if the Bills’ offense isn’t perfect. Every unit has their weaknesses. This week I was able to ask Corey Giocovelli of Buffalo Rumblings several questions leading up to the Week 1 matchup. One of those questions was where he thought the weakness on the Buffalo offense resided.

Here was his answer:

“I would have to say the running game as a whole. Last season, the rushing attack for the Bills was awful, ranking 24th in the league with just over a hundred yards per game. Most of that yardage can be attributed to the scrambling abilities of Josh Allen. The lack of a running game has made the offense one dimensional last season and allowed defenses to game plan easier because there was no need to fear the rush. Now, Devin Singletary is entering his third year in the league and has been putting in a lot of effort in the offseason. After a productive preseason on limited carries, look for him to try and make an impact on Sunday to take some of the pressure off the passing game.”

Sounds a lot like the Steelers’ offense heading into this new season. After struggling to run the ball, they often became one-dimensional to move the ball. The biggest difference between Buffalo and Pittsburgh is Josh Allen is more than capable of running the ball, while Ben Roethlisberger’s days of scrambling around are a thing of the past.

A follow up question I had for Giocovelli was how the Bills will plan on attacking the stout Steelers defense in 2021. According to Giocovelli, the approach will resemble what Buffalo did when they beat the Steelers at home last season.

“Feed the ball to Stefon Diggs as much as possible. Diggs was the difference last season catching 10 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Whenever Josh Allen needed him most, Diggs was on the opposite end of a catch and giving momentum to the offense. It was only a two-point game at halftime last season. When the Bills came out for the first drive of the second half, Diggs had four catches on eight plays, including the touchdown that swung the momentum. Up front, a lot of what the offensive line tries to do will depend on the status/readiness of T.J. Watt.”

No one who watched the Bills last season would suggest the Steelers’ defense will have their way with the Buffalo offense. However, the Steelers were banged up last season when they traveled to Buffalo, and look to have a clean bill of health to start the season. On top of that, T.J. Watt’s new contract should have him more than motivated to prove the organization did the right thing and gave him that new 5-year deal.

Either way, this matchup, the Bills’ offense vs. the Steelers’ defense, is the one to watch on Sunday. Whoever wins this battle will likely win the game.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming AFC matchup with the Bills.

A Bills player no one is talking about who could impact the outcome vs. the Steelers

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 8:00am
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills square off in Week 1 and this player could play a big role in the outcome.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills renew their rivalry in the season opener in Week 1, and the battle of the AFC power houses certainly has a lot of headlines swirling around it.

T.J. Watt’s new mega deal after not participating in any team drills or preseason games.

The Bills being AFC contenders, possibly even Super Bowl contenders.

Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to prove the game, and his career, haven’t passed him by.

Among those story lines are players who aren’t talked about often, but can certainly play a role in the outcome of the game. This week I was fortunate enough to ask Buffalo Rumbling’s contributor Corey Giacovelli several questions leading up to the big game Sunday.

One of those questions was if he could give me a player who isn’t being talked about, but could play a big role in who wins and loses the game. He didn’t disappoint and gave a player Steelers fans should become acquainted with heading into Week 1.

“The game last season was a defensive battle for the majority of the contest with both teams digging in trying to not break. Therefore I am going with the new Bills punter, Matt Haack. It will be important for Haack to be able to pin the Steelers deep and change the field position battle when needed. The last thing you will want to do is give the Steelers offense a short field to work with. During the preseason, Haack did not have the best punts under his belt so hopefully that will change on Sunday.”

With Haack being a new addition to the Bills, it could be a battle of the new punters with the Steelers deploying rookie Pressley Harvin III for his first professional game action. There is no doubt the field position game will be critical in the outcome of this contest Sunday.

The fact Giacovelli struggled a bit in the preseason could be a positive for the Steelers. Could return man Ray-Ray McCloud create a spark by taking a short punt to the house? Or at least setting up the Steelers in scoring position? It would go a long way in helping the Steelers pull off the upset Sunday.

It is rare you have a punter being highlighted as a player to watch, but I think it’s safe to say both fan bases will be keeping an eye on their specialists in Orchard Park this Sunday.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the upcoming game between the Steelers and Bills this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET.

2022 NFL Draft Stock Report: Rising and falling prospects after Week 1

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 7:00am
Albert Cesare / The Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

NCAA football is back, and 2022 NFL Draft Prospects are already making a difference. Which players are improving their draft stock? Which players do Steelers fans need to take note of? You are about to find out.

The first major weekend of college football is in the books, and we have already witnessed many impressive individual performances. On the flip side, we also saw a few players who struggled to find any sort of success. How does this affect the Steelers and the entire 2022 NFL Draft landscape? You are about to find out.

During the college football season, I will have weekly “stock reports,” breaking down everything that transpired in the previous week of college action. We will look at players at any position that either helped or hurt their stock based upon that week’s performance, but we will give a more extensive look at players that play a position the Steelers will be in need of next offseason. Those positions may fluctuate as the Steelers' 2021 season unfolds and we learn more about what this team truly needs to address in the offseason.

As it stands right now, cornerback, guard, wide receiver, and quarterback seem to be the most likely needs. Thus, a noteworthy performance by a player at one of those positions is more likely to be recognized in these articles than an impressive showing by a player at a position the Steelers are already loaded at.

Here are the highest of highs and lowest of lows in the first full week of college action.

Stock Up Jermaine Waller / CB / Virginia Tech

Waller was on the draft radar before last week, but the hype is going to get real very soon, as he finished the first game of his 2021 campaign with 7 tackles, 3 solo tackles, and 1 pass defended. He nearly came away with an interception as well. Waller not only displayed good ball awareness, but he also showed the ability to get good position against receivers on the perimeter. He plays an aggressive style of football and is not afraid to put his hands on opposing receivers, and he does a pretty good job avoiding penalties. If he can continue his ascendance, he could be in the first round conversation by the time we get to April.

Desmond Ridder / QB / Cincinnati

It was only Miami of Ohio, but Ridder looked incredibly sharp, throwing darts up and down the field. On the day, Ridder went 20 of 25 for 295 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Not only did he display the huge arm that we knew he possessed, but he also showed more pocket awareness and poise as a passer than what we saw out of him for the majority of last season. It was not a game one should put too much stock into considering the team he was playing, but with Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell making several key mistakes in their respective games, Ridder slightly closed the gap between him and the consensus top two quarterbacks.

Devin Lloyd / LB / Utah

Lloyd was a wrecking ball against Weber State, recording 12 total tackles, 7 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. The linebacker class in next year’s draft has a lot of question marks, but Lloyd has a chance to rise up boards over the next couple months. He is outstanding against the run, as he is always in attack mode. He may not be the fastest linebacker, but he can hold his own when dropping into zone coverage. His only issue is when he is forced to cover athletic tight ends or running backs in man coverage. He also has some pass-rushing upside, but he is still raw in that department. That aspect of his game should improve in time. Lloyd reminds me a lot of Darius Leonard when he came out of college, and it would not surprise me if Lloyd went just as high, if not higher, than Leonard did.

Zach Charbonnet / RB / UCLA

Charbonnet transferred to UCLA after getting buried on Michigan’s depth chart, and it looks as if the move has paid off. Charbonnet made his presence felt in Week 0 against Hawaii, rushing for 106 yards and three touchdowns on only six carries, but he did not stop there. In UCLA’s upset over LSU on Saturday, Charbonnet ran the ball 11 times for 117 yards and a touchdown. Talent was never an issue at Michigan, as he was expected to be the best running back Michigan had recruited in several years. However, the coaching staff did not do a good job finding ways to get him involved. Charbonnet’s lack of usage resulted in him ultimately transferring, and so far, it is working out for him. He was not a hot commodity two weeks ago, but his early-season emergence has put him on the map. If his success continues, he could be a sneaky mid-round pick.

Trey McBride / TE / Colorado State

The Rams did not get off to the start I imagine they had hoped for, losing to South Dakota State 42-23. However, star tight end Trey McBride continued to add to his NFL Draft resume, hauling in 13 catches for 116 yards. McBride uses his physicality to create separation on smaller defenders, and he rarely drops a pass. He will be going up against poor competition most weeks, but keep an eye on this name. He is projected by most as a third or fourth round pick at best, but if he tests well at the combine, I could see him going as high as round two.

Others who improved their stock

Bailey Zappe / QB / Western Kentucky
Quentin Lake / S / UCLA
Riley Moss / CB / Iowa
Kenneth Walker / RB / Michigan State
Jermaine Johnson / EDGE / Florida State

Stock Down Sam Howell / QB / North Carolina

Friday night was not a night you want to remember if you were Sam Howell, completing only 17 of 32 passes for 208 yards along with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Much of the issue was inconsistent play along the offensive line, but Howell looked completely lost at times. His lack of chemistry with his receivers was evident, and the continual pressure applied by the defense prevented him from being able to easily read coverages. One game will not destroy Howell's stock, but you have to wonder if he will be the same player without Dyami Brown, Dazz Newsome, Javonte Williams, and Michael Carter at his disposal.

Justin Ross / WR / Clemson

After struggling with spinal injuries, Ross finally returned to the field Saturday. However, he struggled to run routes the correct depth, and his connection with quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei was lackluster. Ross finished the game catching only four of eight targets for a measly 26 yards. It will take time for Ross to shake all the rust off and get back into football shape, but he definitely did not look like the same player we saw two years ago. The talent is there, but until he can get back to where he was in 2019, his stock is going to continue to go the wrong direction.

Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa / DL / Notre Dame

Tagovailoa-Amosa is a veteran on Notre Dame’s defensive line who, in 2021, is being used more often as an edge rusher than in previous years. The Irish thought they could move him around and have success with it, but his week one performance should have Notre Dame fans wondering if the team made a mistake deciding to move him up and down the line. Tagovailoa-Amosa only recorded one tackle, and their entire defensive line was weak against the run for the majority of the game, allowing Florida state to rush for 264 yards. Some people saw Tagovailoa-Amosa as a potential day two pick, but his first game of the 2021 season did not help his cause.

Who to watch in Week 2

Keep an eye on Oregon vs. Ohio State. Consensus number one overall prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux suffered an ankle injury in week one, and he may not be healthy enough to play. Whether he plays or not, I am curious to see if Oregon can make this a game, as Zach Harrison and Haskell Garrett could give Oregon fits up front. Harrison could be a top 10-15 pick with a productive season.

Washington vs. Michigan is another one to watch. Washington edge rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui will look to boost his draft stock against a Michigan team that has some question marks along the offensive line. As for Michigan, Daxton Hill is one of the most explosive safeties in college football. Let’s see if he can force a turnover or two against a Washington offense that struggled mightily in their Week 1 loss to Montana.

For a breakdown of the biggest college games each week, check out Pittsblitz56’s College Game Day article on Saturdays, as he breaks down which players to watch for in the coming day of college action.

Which players caught your eye this weekend? Did you see a standout player that could make sense for the Steelers? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and updates surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as we approach the kickoff of the 2021 NFL Season!

I will not fight anyone over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Fighting is overrated. It’s especially overrated when it occurs in the stands at sporting events, including football games involving the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I love watching college football, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it last year.

Why? A lack of full stadiums. I mean, unlike the NFL, a league that is still pretty darn entertaining to watch without a single person in the stands—at least that’s how I felt last year as I witnessed Pittsburgh accrue a 12-4 mark—college football just isn’t the same without those packed stadiums.

The pageantry. The bands. The mascots. The 20-somethings standing in disbelief with their hands on their heads trying to process the fact that their favorite team just lost in a heartbreaking fashion.

I never realized just how much I missed all of it until this past Labor Day Weekend when I did nothing but watch countless football games that were played in stadiums full of spectators.

However, the one thing I never miss is seeing fans fighting in the stands, something I didn’t have to witness all that much last year. Unfortunately, full stadiums increase the chances for fights to break out among fans of opposing teams and even fans of the same team.

And if my Twitter feed was any indication, there were plenty of fights in college football stadiums all across the country last weekend—including some North Carolina fan who thought it was wise to charge the entire Virginia Tech student body.

Of course, fighting in the stands at any sporting event isn’t uncommon. It’s certainly a huge part of the NFL fan experience. That’s right, if you’re not involved in a fight while attending a professional football game, it’s not unusual for you to be in close proximity to one. In fact, a huge brawl broke out in the stands during the Steelers dress rehearsal preseason game against the Lions at Heinz Field a couple of weeks ago.

This may come as a shock to you, but that certainly wasn’t out of the ordinary for a Steelers game at Heinz Field.

Speaking of shocking, you may be floored to find out that I’ve never been in a fight at a football game. I don’t think I’ve ever been with anyone who has, either. I guess I just don’t want to engage in such activities over a football team that doesn’t even know I exist (well, unless one of the players, coaches, executives or owners is reading this article—if so, hi).

I’ve never felt the urge to punch someone over their opinion about the offensive coordinator. I’ve never felt the need to show those Browns fans that my team is far superior to theirs. I’ve never wanted to defend the Terrible Towel with my fists (or, who am I kidding, my face).

Don’t even try to start trouble with me if you see me at Heinz Field this year. If you do, well, I’m going to tell on you. If I see you messing with someone else—even a Patriots fan—I’m going to turn into the biggest snitch in the world.

Would I try to defend someone physically? I guess it all depends, but probably not. Remember that one scene from the Seinfeld episode, the Chinese Restaurant, when George asks Jerry if he’ll back him up if things get to that point with the guy hogging the payphone, and Jerry says (in his classic and sarcastic Seinfeld way), “Yeah, I want to get into a rumble”? That’s my philosophy on fighting. Always has been. Always will be.

And while we’re at it, you can save your offers to meet me in some ring to fight over one of my articles you don’t agree with (this happens quite a bit—usually over fake mock drafts). I’m also not going to come and debate you anywhere.

I have no desire to do such things over a football team.

While we’re at it, if you pay me $1 million, I will gladly walk around in a Tom Brady jersey while using a Terrible Towel as a dishrag.

I love the Pittsburgh Steelers, but not enough to turn down my retirement fund.

I certainly don’t love them enough to get my face rearranged.

Go Steelers in 2021...but there are limits to how far I’m willing to go for them both physically and financially.

Podcast: Will the Steelers have the right “stuffalo” Week 1 at Buffalo?

Sat, 09/11/2021 - 5:30am

Get ready for the Steelers’ road opener against Buffalo with pregame analysis from BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and K.T. Smith

The Buffalo Bills have made it on the short list of AFC darlings after an AFC Championship Game appearance last January. The Steelers have seemingly disappeared from the conversation. But the Men of Steel of the city of Pittsburgh believe. Do they really have the right stuff to beat the Bills of Buff? Join Bryan Anthony Davis and Kevin Smith for Here We Go, the Steelers Pregame Show. The BTSC duo break down the contest like no one else does to get you ready for the game.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers vs. Buffalo league rankings
  • Bills players to watch
  • Keys to a Steelers victory
  • Predictions

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.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Week 1

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 5:45pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

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, Dave, 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. Now that T.J. Watt has signed his deal, does it change your perception of him as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers?

2. It’s game week! The Steelers have a tough matchup opening the season in Buffalo. Which player on the Bills do the Steelers need to neutralize the most in order to have success on Sunday?

3. Name one player on the Steelers who you think is going to out-perform their expectations on Sunday and will be the “talk of the town” next week?

4. Of the various players/positions Steelers fans are concerned about going into the regular season, which one do you think is the weakest spot on the team going into Buffalo?

5. What is your prediction for the final score between the Steelers and Bills this Sunday?

6. T.J.Watt just brought home a $35 million signing bonus. What’s the first thing you would do/buy if that money was deposited into your account?

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!

Steelers Injury Report: Alex Highsmith listed as questionable for Sunday’s game

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 2:53pm
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Although listed as questionable for the game, Highsmith was a full participant in Friday’s practice.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have concluded their preparation for Week 1 of the regular season and are set to take on the Buffalo Bills this Sunday. In the final injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR department, Alex Highmith is the only player with an injury status and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Steelers PR Department

Alex Highsmith was limited on Wednesday with a groin injury and, unfortunately, moved in the wrong direction as he missed Thursday’s practice. Although Highsmith is listed as questionable for Sunday, it was encouraging to see that he was a full participant in practice on Friday. The key to Highsmith’s injury will be how his body responds to the full workload on Friday and will enter into the decision of whether or not he can go against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. If Highsmith is unable to play, look for veteran Melvin Ingram III to get the start at right outside linebacker and a more-than-anticipated workload for reserve outside linebacker Jamir Jones.

The other two players who have appeared on the injury report all week, Kendrick Green and Tyson Alualu, we’re both full participants for the second-straight day. With both players seemingly ready to go, neither carry an injury designation for Sunday.

A new name which popped up on the injury report for Friday was wide receiver James Washington, who was limited in practice with a finger injury. Although Washington was listed on the report due to him not being able to participate in 100% of the activities, it was not warranted enough for the Steelers to even give him an injury designation for the game.

As for the Bills’ injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of Steelers.com. The most significant status is that defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been ruled out with a calf injury.

Buffalo Bills Participation/Injury Report, Week 1

Game Status

DT Star Lotulelei (Calf) - Out

WR Emmanuel Sanders (Foot) - Questionable

Friday, September 10

DE Mario Addison (Non-injury related) - DNP

DT Star Lotulelei (Calf) - DNP

CB Taron Johnson (Hand) - Full

WR Emmanuel Sanders (Foot) - Limited

WR Isaiah McKenzie (Shoulder) - Full

DT Harrison Phillips (Knee) - Full

Check out BTSC’s Injury Report podcast for Friday here:

Podcast: Steelers players who need to step up vs. the Bills

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 2:00pm

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

When the Steelers take on the Bills in Buffalo on Sunday, they will face a team that can score often and a defense that can keep points off of the scoreboard. Who for the visitors need to step up? 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, Bryan Anthony Davis, and Dave Schofield. 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
  • Players to step up Week 1 vs. Buffalo
  • 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:

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Week 1 games against the spread

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 1:00pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Several of the BTSC staff pick all the NFL games both against the spread and over/under point totals

It’s the start of a new NFL season! Fans may think they have an idea of how their favorite teams should perform, but until the players get on the field and play regular season games it’s difficult to tell exactly how the season will progress. Every team is 0-0 and hope springs eternal throughout almost every fan base.

Week 1 of the NFL season can also be make or break those placing wagers on the games. Lines will be difficult due to no preseason games, so the most attractive bet may not be the safest one.

For the 2021 NFL season, the same “Super 6” of BTSC staff who participated last year, as well as the addition of a couple blokes, will be picking every game against the spread and the over/under point totals. We are keeping up with the changes we made last year and including the Thursday games. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers. We are just a group of Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

We are using the same program as last year called Tallysight It allows us to show picks in a much more “friendly to the eye” manner. To understand how it works, the default tab is for our picks against the spread. To see the over/under picks, click the “O/U” tab in the upper left. Also, make sure you scroll on the graphic to see all the picks.

So here are the picks for the games for Week 1 of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along!

Since the Steelers have freed up even more money, what will they do with it?

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

With T.J. Watt’s new deal freeing up more cash, the Steelers could continue to spend for the 2021 season

The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally gotten a deal with T.J. Watt completed! One of the exciting notes with the deal is that the way the numbers fall Watt’s deal actually gives the Steelers an additional $2 million dollars in salary cap space here in 2021. The salary shift brings the Steelers cap space to $12,398,864 (according to Spotrac). The team usually sits with $5-7 Million in cap space for in season spending, so with so much extra money in the bank what could we expect the Steelers do with it? Below are some of the options they can pursue.

Roll it over to 2022 Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The easiest thing the Pittsburgh Steelers can do is to do nothing at all. In the NFL, any remaining salary dollars you have at the end of the season can be pushed into the following season and added onto that years salary cap. The salary caps already exploding in 2022, but with a gigantic list of free agents coming off contracts next year the team may opt to have as much money as possible to keep them all around.

Sign an Offensive Lineman Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Steelers offensive line is still far from perfect, and now they have been bit by the injury bug. Right tackle, Zach Banner will be missing at least three weeks and the Steelers may opt to improve the unit and not risk waiting for his healthy return. Names like Mitchell Schwartz keep popping up amongst Steelers fans as a tackle they would want the team to pursue. Having blocked for Patrick Mahomes, Schwartz knows what it’s like having to keep a star quarterback upright. But if the Steelers want to spend more money, the offensive line should be one of the first places they start.

Sign a Nickel Corner Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Lets face it, the Steelers didn't put a nickel corner on the depth chart because they aren't confident in anyone on the roster to do the job. They’ll rotate guys until they can find someone to do the job, but I wouldn't be shocked if the Steelers brought someone else in sooner rather than later. I’m sure the organization is really missing Mike Hilton these days, and they will be back on the search to find someone with his skill set.

Make another trade Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been making moves all year long to become a Super Bowl contender. They’ve signed void year deals, extended receivers, given out guaranteed money contracts, and they signed defenders older than 30. They are breaking all of their own rules in an attempt to get back to glory before the end of the Ben Roethlisberger era. While making a trade is easier said than done, the best players in the NFL are on rosters, and improving the Steelers at this point (aside from a couple spots) would have to come from other teams. While this is definitely the least likely option nothing about this year has gone by the book.

Wait and see Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest need for the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers is not as obvious now is it would be later in the season. If the Steelers end up executing a successful plan at slot cornerback and if the young offensive line really starts to come into their own, perhaps the Steelers need to use additional funds somewhere else. For example, the dire situation at inside linebacker in 2020 caused the Steelers to make a trade for Avery Williamson. Additionally, the Steelers did not acquire Minkah Fitzpatrick via trade until Week 3 of the 2019 season. Perhaps the exact need for the Steelers will come more into focus when the right situation presents itself, or after they have played a regular season game or two.

But what do you think? How should the Steelers spend their extra salary cap space? Make sure you vote in the poll and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: Pregame Panic Button Mashing

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 11:00am

Join BTSC’s newest podcast, What Yinz Talkin ‘Bout for a fun look at the Steelers in the sea of social media.

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout is the Steelers conversation about the Steelers online conversation. This week Steelers Nation wore out their panic buttons over TJ Watt, and passed the blame along to anyone and everyone. Plus, the bad, worse and even worster Steelers season predictions from the (Real) national media. Our hosts Kyle Chrise (@kylechrise) & Greg Benevent (@gregbenevent) will call out the most childish takes. Take a deep dive into the world of Steelers social media from a yinzer perspective as BTSC proudly presents a very unique show that highlights “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout”. Join Kyle and Greg for their black-and-gold breakdown of everything “Stillers” on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and so much more.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • This week with the Steelers and social media
  • and MUCH MORE!

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Ranking AFC North rosters before the 2021 season: The Offenses

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 10:20am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

How do your favorite Steelers compare to the rest of the division?

The NFL regular season is finally here!

In this upcoming 2021 season, one of the biggest factors in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ success will be how they perform in the AFC North. So, as teams put the finishing touches on their final 53-man rosters and practice squads, I’ve attempted to objectively rank and compare each AFC North teams’ positional groups to the others.

Let’s take a look at the offenses:

Quarterbacks
  1. Baltimore Ravens (Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley)
  2. Cleveland Browns (Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum)
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen)

Pending injury, the starting quarterbacks will take all of the important snaps at their position, so depth hardly matters in these rankings. It’s difficult to give Lamar Jackson and the Ravens the top spot here — and sure, if this was a ranking of the best pure passers in the AFC North he’d be lower — but Jackson is among the most dynamic weapons in the NFL due to his running ability. The league MVP in 2019, Jackson keeps the top spot on this list for now.

In second is Baker Mayfield. He’s seemingly improved each year, taking advantage of his strong arm and athleticism. He’s ranked barely higher than Roethlisberger on this list due how the two quarterbacks ended their seasons last year. Remember, this ranking is based off of where the quarterbacks are right now in their careers, because if based on legacy, Roethlisberger would be easily the highest on this list. However, Roethlisberger had a rough end to his season last year, with Mayfield’s Browns out-dueling him in the playoffs.

In last place is Joe Burrow. The former #1 overall pick has plenty of talent, but is coming off of an injury and stuck on a below-average roster.

Will this ranking change anytime soon?

These four quarterback rooms could likely be ranked in any order with a believable supporting argument. This list is almost guaranteed to change as the season progresses. A strong start will likely move Roethlisberger into the top two, and possibly even the top spot if the NFL finally can “figure out” Lamar Jackson. Joe Burrow is a sleeper here as well, as the young passer has more than enough talent to climb out of the #4 spot.

On a side note, it’s interesting that the Steelers are the only AFC North team to keep three quarterbacks.

Running Backs
  1. Browns (Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton)
  2. Bengals (Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans)
  3. Steelers (Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Kalen Ballage)
  4. Ravens (Gus Edwards, Ty’Son Williams)

The Browns easily take the top spot here with perhaps the league’s best running back duo in Chubb and Hunt. Demetric Felton is a rookie with some interesting potential as well. Joe Mixon and the Bengals take second place due to Mixon’s experience as a feature back.

Rooke Najee Harris is set to take on the bell cow role for Pittsburgh, but despite his talent he’s largely unproven. However, he has some decent veteran depth behind him, which should improve with the addition of Anthony McFarland Jr. from Injured Reserve (IR). Solidly in last place are the Ravens, who lost their three top backs this offseason (Mark Ingram in free agency, J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill to injury), a massive blow to their depth. Gus Edwards is a capable power back, but reports came out on Thursday that he suffered a season-ending injury as well. The potential addition of Le’Veon Bell to the main roster may improve the Ravens’ devastated depth, but even then they’d certainly land in last place.

Will this ranking change anytime soon?

Barring injury the Browns should hold the top spot all year, and when Dobbins, Hill, and Edwards recover the Ravens should certainly jump in the rankings. When it comes to the Steelers it becomes very interesting, as Najee Harris has the talent to be one of the NFL’s best runners. It will be an interesting year for AFC North running backs.

Wide Receivers
  1. Steelers (JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud)
  2. Bengals (Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, Auden Tate, Stanley Morgan, Mike Thomas)
  3. Browns (Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz)
  4. Ravens (Sammy Watkins, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Tylan Wallace, Devin Duvenray, James Proche)

The Steelers take the top spot at wide receiver this year due to their depth. JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington are reliable presences while Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson are playmaking threats. The Bengals take second place, as Tyler Boyd is one of league’s most underrated receivers, and Higgins, Chase, and co. provide some solid depth with excellent upside. The Browns would usually rank higher, but with Beckham Jr. recovering from a torn ACL and Jarvis Landry coming off of a slight down year, they sink to third. The Ravens come in dead last with a receiver depth chart full of average to unproven talent, and their top pick Rashod Bateman on IR to start the season.

Will this ranking change anytime soon?

All four receiver depth charts have loads of talent, the Steelers have simply made the most out of theirs. If the Bengals and Ravens can develop their talent, or the Browns’ veteran duo can return to old form, these rankings will be wide open. If not, it’s safe to say that the Steelers have the top spot locked up.

Tight Ends
  1. Ravens (Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Eric Tomlinson, Josh Oliver)
  2. Steelers (Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry)
  3. Browns (Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant)
  4. Bengals (C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox)

The Ravens’ Mark Andrews remains one of the league’s best receiving tight ends, and Nick Boyle is one of best when it comes to blocking. Baltimore continues to retain the top spot. For the Steelers, the duo of Ebron on Freiermuth looks like a dangerous one, as Ebron is a athletic-although-inconsistent receiving threat while Freiermuth looks like a well-rounded rookie who’s already in contention for the starting position. In Cleveland, both Austin Hooper and Njoku are talented pass-catchers, while the Bengals come in last with the solid C.J. Uzomah.

Will this ranking change anytime soon?

There’s a good chance the potential of Pat Freiermuth could help the Steelers take the top spot this season. However, Andrews and Boyle remain a talented duo, as do Hooper and Njoku. The top three spots on this list could certainly be shaken up throughout the season.

Offensive Tackles
  1. Browns (Jack Conklin, Jedrick Wills Jr., Chris Hubbard, James Hudson)
  2. Ravens (Alejandro Villanueva, Ronnie Stanley, Patrick Mekari)
  3. Bengals (Jonah Williams, Riley Reiff, Isaiah Prince, Fred Johnson)
  4. Steelers (Dan Moore Jr., Chukwuma Okorafor, Joe Haeg)

Jack Conklin is among the best at his position, and paired with developing first-rounder Jedrick Wills, the Browns easily take the top spot. In second place are the Ravens with the talented Ronnie Stanley, but Alejandro Villanueva’s struggles last year pose a major concern for the Baltimore offense. Riley Reiff provides a good veteran presence for the Bengals as Jonah Williams continues to develop. And in last place come the Steelers, with a talented but unproven rookie starting on the left side in Dan Moore, and Chuks Okorafor, coming off of a disappointing 2020, protecting the right. There’s potential there, but it doesn’t look great for the Steelers at the tackle position.

Will this ranking change anytime soon?

The Browns will likely maintain their top spot, but the Ravens could definitely fall. Villanueva isn’t a great scheme fit in Baltimore, and Ronnie Stanley is recovering from an injury. The potential of the Bengals’ Jonah Williams and the Steelers’ Dan Moore could help both respective teams rise in the rankings, as could the addition of Zach Banner from IR for Pittsburgh at some point in the season. But as of right now, it doesn’t look like much will change in 2021.

Interior Offensive Line
  1. Browns (J.C. Tretter, Joe Bitonio, Wyatt Teller, Nick Harris, Michael Dunn, Blake Hance)
  2. Ravens (Bradley Bozeman, Kevin Zeitler, Trystan Colon, Ben Powers, Ben Cleveland)
  3. Steelers (Kendrick Green, Trai Turner, Kevin Dotson, B.J. Finney, Rashaad Coward)
  4. Bengals (Trey Hill, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Quinton Spain, D’Ante Smith, Trey Hopkins, Jackson Carman)

The Browns’ offensive line remains a team strength thanks to a talented interior, while the Ravens have some solid veterans manning theirs. The Steelers take the third spot over the Bengals largely due to the talent of Kevin Dotson, although Trai Turner and Kendrick Green look to be quality starters for the team as well. The Bengals’ lineup doesn’t look very strong, but once again there is potential for this to be a solid group in the future.

Will this ranking change anytime soon?

These rankings look like they will stay fairly static throughout the season. The Browns are by far the best at this position, and the Ravens’ group doesn’t look like it will regress much. However, the Steelers do have some potential, meaning that they could surprise in 2021.

The Steelers come out of the rankings with the top wide receivers in the division, but are noticeably in need of improvement elsewhere.

Does this article seem familiar? An edition was published before the 2020 season, which you can view here to see how AFC North rosters have changed since last year.

Stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for more Steelers coverage, including the second part of this series.

Pages