You are here

Links

Predicting how many Compensatory Draft Picks the Steelers will receive in the 2020 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 9:22am

Are the Steelers still in position to receive a third round pick for Le’Veon Bell?

With the initial frenzy from the start of free agency coming to a close, the Pittsburgh Steelers are currently in a position to where they could gain a compensatory draft pick in 2020. Ever since last summer when it appeared Le’Veon Bell would not be returning to the Steelers in a long-term deal, Steeler fans have been patiently awaiting a third round compensatory pick as compensation. But do the numbers show the Steelers are still in line to get such a pick?

There is an actual formula used in calculating compensatory value using factors such as yearly salary, playing time, and postseason accomplishments. Unfortunately, the NFL does not release the exact formula, so the only way to precisely calculate players compensatory value is based on estimates from previous years.

As stated in a 2017 article from overthecap.com, “The formula used to award compensatory draft picks, developed by the NFL Management Council, has never been publicly revealed. However, in the years since 1994 outside observers have been able to determine much of how the formula works, and have created projections in an effort to demystify how compensatory picks work, a process that has confused many an NFL fan.”

How it Works

While the formula to calculate compensatory value is unknown, the process of awarding picks is clearly defined. Once the players compensatory value is calculated, they are given a “round designation” which determines their value. This is done for every free-agent player and affects both the team who gained the player and the team who lost the player. Free agents who sign for (or close to) the league minimum do not qualify in the compensatory process and are designated “non-qualifying unrestricted free agents.” Players who were released by a team also do not qualify as a compensatory player, such as newly signed Steeler Mark Barron Who was released by the Los Angeles Rams. Since the Rams cannot benefit from Barron’s loss, the Steelers are not penalized by signing him.

At the conclusion of the season, a team’s qualifying players both gained and lost since the beginning of the league year through the second Tuesday after the NFL draft are sorted according to what round they were designated. Players signed after the eligible time period do not factor into compensatory selections. To determine the round, the average yearly salary for the entire contract which the player signed is the starting point. This number will then be multiplied by an unknown factor based on playing time. If applicable, the number will be multiplied again by another factor based on postseason awards such as Defensive Player of the Year, All Pro, etc. Once these factors have been applied, the final number will determine the round designation.

First and foremost, a team is only eligible for a compensatory draft pick if they have lost a greater number of qualifying players then they have gained, regardless of the round designation. If a team loses a third round free-agent and signs a seventh round free agent, they still are not eligible for a compensatory draft pick. There must be more players lost than players gained who qualify.

When a greater number of players have been lost in free agency than what a team gained, the next step is to determine which round the team can receive any compensatory picks. If a team gains and loses a player with the same round designation, they are canceled out. For example, in 2017 the Steelers lost Steve McClendon with a sixth round designation, but gained Ladarius Green as a six round designation. Those two players cancel each other out where they no longer factor into any compensatory picks.

If a player gained does not have a player lost with an equal round designation, the next player in the next lowest round will be who is canceled out. For example, if Steve McClendon would have been valued as a fifth round compensatory value, Ladarius Green would not have canceled him out. Instead, Green would have canceled out a seventh round loss in the same year such as Will Johnson.

Any player departures who were not canceled out by a player gain would then award the team a compensatory pick for the round they were designated. Only 32 picks are awarded, so all seventh round selections may not make the cut. This situation occurred for the Steelers in 2017 when both Will Johnson and Valentino (Antwon) Blake were eligible for a seventh round selection but we’re not high enough on the list before the number of total picks had run out.

Looking at 2020

So far for the 2019 league year, the Steelers have had three players who will qualify under departures (Bell, James, and Fort) and two players who they have signed as qualifying free agents (Nelson and Moncrief). As stated earlier, Mark Barron does not count due to him being released by his previous team. If there are no additional qualifying gains or losses, the Steelers would be in line for one compensatory draft pick.

To estimate the round of the Steelers would receive the pick, multiple sources (such as overthecap.com) have been used in order to attempt designating a round for each player. Please remember these round designations could change based on the multiplication factors which will be determined after the 2019 season. But as of right now, the following round designations have been approximated for the Steelers free agents:

Departures:

Le’Veon Bell (3)

Jesse James (5)

L.J. Fort (7)

Arrivals:

Steven Nelson (4)

Donte Moncrief (?)

With the financials of Moncrief’s salary still undisclosed, his round designation cannot be determined. Personally, I believe it will be most likely a sixth rounder (EDIT: as predicted, Moncrief’s 2-year contract for $9 million should equate to a sixth round designation). Regardless, unless it goes all the way up to the third round, it will not cancel out Le’Veon Bell. So the following cancellations would be as follows:

Nelson (4) cancels James (5)

Moncrief (6?) cancels Fort (7)

Under this scenario, the Steelers would receive a third round compensatory pick for Le’Veon Bell.

Other Factors

The most obvious change to the situation would be if the Steelers signed another qualifying free agent without losing any. Even if the new player had a seventh round designation, they would still cancel out Le’Veon Bell due to the total number of players lost versus the total number of players gained.

Another important factor would be Le’Veon Bell continuing to qualify as a third round player. If Bell suffers an injury early in the season and ends up not playing many snaps for the Jets, the multiplication factor could knock him down to a fourth round selection. If so, the Steelers would not even receive a fourth round pick because Steven Nelson’s fourth round designation would cancel Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers will then be left with the fifth round pick from Jesse James instead.

Subsequently, if Steven Nelson‘s snaps played along with him receiving any awards for the season would cause him to have a larger multiplying factor, he could move up to a third round designation which would then cancel Bell. Oh, what a problem it would be for the Steelers to have their newly signed cornerback become an All Pro player which made them lose the value of a compensatory picks. How could the Steelers ever handle such a situation? Obviously, if Nelson is having such a successful season, compensatory draft position should be the last thing Steelers Nation should worry about.

Conclusion

It is estimated that the Steelers are currently set up to receive one compensatory draft pick in the third round of the 2020 draft. If the Steelers sign another qualifying free agent without also losing one as well, they will lose any compensatory draft picks. If the multiplying factors of playing time and postseason awards cause any players to change their round designation, it could significantly change which players cancel out in, affecting the pick the Steelers would receive.

How do the Steelers stack up against other organizations when drafting secondary players?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 7:53am

Taking a look at how the Steelers stack up against other NFL teams when it comes to drafting in the secondary.

With the addition of free agent cornerback Steven Nelson and two young starting safeties, the Pittsburgh Steelers may not have a pressing need to draft a secondary player early. Joe Haden, the other starting corner, is entering the final year of his contract and may or may not be extended. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert get berated for poor drafting and development of secondary defenders. Steelers fans all know the Steelers have had issues with drafting secondary players who have not panned out. But where is the comparison to others around the league? Are the Steelers the only team in the league bad at drafting and developing cornerbacks and safeties?

Sample size matters in this context, as a head coach that has been with his team for three or four years just does not have enough numbers under his belt to be relevant. People often talk about how the NFL really stands for “Not for long” and that is true with head coaches. Of the 32 current NFL head coaches, 24 of them have been hired since 2014.

The span used here will be from 2010 to 2018, so a couple more head coaches have been tossed out and one is without a head coaching job added in because of his long tenure. Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, John Harbaugh, Jason Garrett, Pete Carroll, and the recently departed Marvin Lewis are yardsticks when comparing to the Steelers organization.

Pro Football Reference is being used with their draft finder. The parameters that are being used is the span in years, individual teams, every draft round, and CB, S, and DB as the draft positions. All-Pro and Pro Bowl are by the number of years total.

Mike Tomlin

16 secondary defenders drafted

Round

1: 2

2: 2

3: 2

4: 3

5: 5

6: 0

7: 2

Years as the primary starter and the number of players.

0: 13

1: 2

2: 1

All-Pro-0

Pro Bowl-0

The Steelers have little to show for their draft picks but one thing to note is that no player was drafted in the first two rounds until Senquez Goulston in 2015 and six of those draft picks have come in the past three drafts and their stories are far from finished. As of now, the Steelers top the list of futility but there is hope with Sean Davis (Second rounder) and Terrell Edmunds (First rounder).

Bill Belichick

14 secondary defenders drafted

Round

1: 1

2: 5

3: 2

4: 0

5: 0

6: 2

7: 4

Years as the primary starter and the number of players.

0: 10

1: 2

2: 1

4: 1

9: 1

All-Pro-0

Pro Bowl-2

Belichick has had a mixed bag of success with his lone home run with Devin McCourty (First rounder) and his long productive career. Logan Ryan (Third rounder) had two quality years with New England before leaving to the Tennessee Titans where he has been the main starter for two more seasons. Tavon Wilson (Second rounder) is the other player to have limited success but that was with the Detroit Lions in his two seasons as a starter. One or two starters out of 14 is hardly an impressive success rate.

Sean Payton

13 secondary defenders drafted

Round

1: 3

2: 3

3: 2

4: 0

5: 4

6: 1

7: 0

Years as the primary starter and the number of players.

0: 9

2: 3

6: 1

All-Pro-0

Pro Bowl-1

Kenny Vaccaro (First rounder) was the longest tenured secondary defender with the Saints. That tenure ended with free agency in 2019. Marshon Lattimore (First rounder) is the lone Pro Bowl selection and appears to be headed for a productive career but the success Peyton has shown is limited.

John Harbaugh

14 secondary defenders drafted

Round

1: 3

2: 0

3: 1

4: 4

5: 2

6: 3

7: 1

Years as the primary starter and the number of players.

0: 10

1: 2

2: 1

5: 1

All-Pro-0

Pro Bowl-0

Harbaugh has been known for stout defenses but those accolades are not due to the success of secondary players he drafted since 2010. Jimmy Smith (First rounder) has seen the greatest amount of success but has never made a Pro Bowl mainly due to health issues. Besides the success with Smith, Harbaugh runs neck and neck with Tomlin in futility.

Jason Garrett

16 secondary defenders drafted

Round

1: 2

2: 1

3: 2

4: 3

5: 1

6: 5

7: 2

Years as the primary starter and the number of players.

0: 9

1: 3

2: 2

3: 1

4: 1

All-Pro: 0

Pro Bowl: 1

Seemingly on the hot seat the past few seasons, Garrett has little success finding players to man the secondary. Morris Claiborne (First rounder) never lived up to his first-round selection partially because of never playing a full 16 games. Byron Jones (First rounder) finally lived up to his draft status in 2018 with a Pro Bowl selection. Like many of the coaches on this list, his success has been limited.

Pete Carroll

17 secondary defenders drafted

Round

1: 1

2: 0

3: 2

4: 2

5: 6

6: 5

7: 1

Years as the primary starter and the number of players.

0: 9

1: 3

2: 1

3: 1

7: 1

8: 2

All-Pro: 6

Pro Bowl: 14

Pete Carroll blows the rest of the coaching out of the water with Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman. His drafts are even more impressive when taken into account that Sherman and Chancellor were both fifth-round selections. During the span, Carroll has only utilized one draft choice on a defensive back in the first two rounds. (Thomas)

Marvin Lewis

16 secondary defenders drafted

Round

1: 3

2: 1

3: 2

4: 1

5: 5

6: 1

7: 3

Years as the primary starter and the number of players.

0: 10

1: 3

3: 1

4: 1

5: 1

All-Pro-0

Pro Bowl-0

Marvin Lewis’ tenure with the Cincinnati Bengals has ended for a myriad of reasons. Not only did he flounder in the playoffs but he could not extract the level of talent that was expected out of his secondary players.

...

For the Steelers to get their seventh Super Bowl ring, Colbert and Tomlin have to succeed with their draft picks. The team can’t draft the next Artie Burns or Doran Grant but landing the next Rod Woodson or Ike Taylor. While the success rates for drafting secondary players in the NFL is low, Tomlin and Colbert come in at the bottom of the list. Steelers fans will keep their collective fingers crossed that history doesn’t repeat itself in six weeks.

Bruce Gradkowski refutes suggestion Ben Roethlisberger intentionally fumbled in 2014 game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 6:45am

The Steelers former backup quarterback attempted to add some clarity to one of the more ridiculous stories of the offseason on Monday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have waved goodbye to two of the more dramatic players on their roster in the past few weeks, but that has not kept them out of the media after a tweet from a former player claiming Ben Roethlisberger once intentionally fumbled in a game in 2014.

Given the absurd nature of the accusation from Joshua Harris, one the former running back admits he is not even sure of himself, we have largely ignored the story at BTSC. Judging by the media storm that erupted on Monday, we were in the minority.

But despite the debates on the national sports talks shows and the continual condemnation of Roethlisberger in the press, no one was able to provide a single shred of evidence to support the claim, no matter how the video of the play is interpretation. For those with an axe to grind with the Steelers star quarterback, this latest tale only added fuel to their fire, and Big Ben is a punching bag once again for the hot take crowd.

However, there was one person with more intimate knowledge of what happened in that Week 17 matchup who was able to provide some insight, painting a rather different picture than the one Harris suggested. Presumably tired of the accusations surrounding his former teammate, Bruce Gradkowski shared a social media post of his own in an effort to end the conversation about the supposed fumble.

FACTS #intentionalfumblegate@ShannonSharpe @TheHerd @ColinCowherd @undisputed @FTFonFS1 @getnickwright@profootballtalk @MMQB @ConorOrr @GolicAndWingo pic.twitter.com/f7MvoON6cr

— Bruce Gradkowski (@bgradkowski5) March 18, 2019

The purpose of writing this post is not to add more commentary to a topic that has already received far more attention than it ever deserved, but to provide balance by sharing a video that the national media will likely not mention at all in the coming days.

We will leave it up to the readers to decide if a future Hall of Fame quarterback intentionally fumbled in a dying moments of a critical game Pittsburgh had needed to win to clinch the division title over their closest rival for that crown, or if a running back who spent five games on an NFL active roster has his a flawed perspective of what happened on that play.

https://t.co/wcnmzLdP0I

— The Bishop (@JoshHarris25) March 18, 2019

I swear I was done man. Smh pic.twitter.com/o0MOC8RWyO

— The Bishop (@JoshHarris25) March 19, 2019

Update:

It would appear that Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert have also added their name to the list of current and former players who dispute the claims of Harris.

Judging by the comments on the Instagram post of the video by former #Steelers QB Bruce Gradkowski, players like Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert believe Josh Harris is making the fumble story up ➡https://t.co/YKmXyWJOB1pic.twitter.com/yNKJuTk60w

— Simon Chester (@SimonAChester) March 19, 2019

Podcast: Steelers addressing needs in free agency, but did they do enough in the suddenly star-studded AFC North?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 5:34am

Discuss all things Steelers and beyond as BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo comment on the latest news of the Steeler Nation,

The Steelers have added CB Steven Nelson, WR Donte Moncrief and ILB Mark Barron in the last week. However, the Ravens and Browns have made bigger moves. Are the transactions that Colbert and company have made big enough to keep up in the suddenly potent division? Join Bryan Davis and Anthony Defeo from BTSC for the extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”. They will discuss this burning question and much more. As always, Tony and Bryan have plenty to discuss with help from Steeler Nation.

Check out a rundown of the show:

  • Fact or Fiction
  • Steelers addressing needs in free agency, but is this more of a reload or a rebuild?
  • Latest Steeler Drama
  • Looking ahead
  • and MUCH MORE!

You can get all episodes on the following platforms:

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

Black and Gold Links: What will Mike Tomlin do as he gets his team back?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 4:37am

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 what the future might hold for Mike Tomlin and company as he now faces a team without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in house to provide distractions?

Let’s get to the news:

  • Does Mike Tomlin wake up and wonder what he will talk about now that Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are officially members of another NFL franchise? Does he sit back and grin, or does he hate that things came to this? Either way, he has his team back...the next move is up to him.

Ron Cook: Mike Tomlin gets chance to take back his team

By: Ron cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Coaching can be so challenging.

I asked one former coach, whom I greatly respect, how he dealt with his superstars. I loved his response:

“I told them they get their perks in their checks. They get paid more than the other players. That’s fine, they earned it. But don’t disrespect me or your teammates by showing up late. You don’t treat every player the same way, but there has to be certain rules for everybody.”

I think back to something Mike Sullivan said in 2016 when his Penguins were on their way to the first of two consecutive Stanley Cups:

“For me, the biggest challenge of coaching in this league is your ability to build relationships with those guys, your ability to sell them on your message. Today’s athletes are very prepared. They’re very smart. You can’t just come in and bang it over their head and try to force it down their throat. It’s a cooperative effort. The balancing act is trying to inspire them and, at the same time, holding them accountable to a certain standard.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Does Ben Roethlisberger really need to be a better leader? Or can the Steelers manage with him the way he is?

Kevin Gorman: Steelers need Ben Roethlisberger to be better leader

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

When it comes to taking ownership and leadership of that locker room, there’s no question Roethlisberger needs to be better. That’s not to blame Big Ben for all of the Steelers’ troubles but rather to suggest he becomes a bigger part of the solution this season.

It’s going to take more than a “follow me.”

If winning the Super Bowl is still the standard, the Steelers have fallen short for more than a decade. Their hopes of claiming a seventh Lombardi Trophy start squarely with the 37-year-old franchise quarterback who is their only active player with a championship ring.

That’s not to put all of this on Big Ben. A Steelers veteran told me center Maurkice Pouncey is the player whose words command the most respect in the locker room, but that he doesn’t speak up often enough. Defensive end Cam Heyward is a stand-up spokesman, win or lose, but he needs to hold the defense more accountable.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • The Vontaze Burfict era is officially over in Cincinnati, but where will he go from here? He certainly has talent, but will a team like the Patriots or Raiders take a flier on him?

Bengals releasing Vontaze Burfict after seven seasons

By: Kevin Patra, NFL.com

Burfict’s suspension-filled run in Cincy ends after seven seasons. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport added the team shopped the linebacker before ultimately cutting the veteran.

A staple of the Marvin Lewis era, Burfict brought bone-crushing talent to the middle of the Bengals defense. Ultimately, the team couldn’t trust the linebacker to toe the line and remain healthy. Burfict hasn’t appeared in more than 11 games in any season since 2013 due to suspensions and injury.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Posts

Joshua Harris explains his tweet about Ben Roethlisberger Fumbling

https://t.co/wcnmzLdP0I

— The Bishop (@JoshHarris25) March 18, 2019

Always good to hear from Ramon Foster

Ramon Foster talks about his new contract, the importance of staying in Pittsburgh, welcoming the new additions to the team and the continued goal of bringing another championship to the city. pic.twitter.com/TevepAvtjd

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 18, 2019

Report: Steelers host TE James O’Shaughnessy in free agent visit

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 7:10pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to add to their tight end depth chart as they hosted former Jaguars TE James O’Shaughnessy.

The Pittsburgh Steelers only have two tight ends on their roster with real NFL experience. After losing Jesse James in free agency to the Detroit Lions, the Steelers were hoping to add a tight end to go along with Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble.

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the team started the process by hosting former Jaguars tight end James O’Shaughnessy Monday.

Source: former Jaguars TE James O'Shaughnessy visited the Steelers today. Pittsburgh lost Jesse James in free agency, could be eyeing depth behind Vance McDonald.

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 18, 2019

O’Shaughnessy started his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, spending his first two years there. Afterwards, he spent two seasons with the Jaguars. In both locations he never caught over 250 yards in a season, but he is coming off arguably his best season of his career.

Last year, with Blake Bortles as his quarterback, O’Shaughnessy caught 24 passes on 38 targets for 214 yards. While he only has one career touchdown, his role has never been as a premier pass catcher.

The kicker for this scenario for Pittsburgh is about salary cap space. The team is making deals and has all but exhausted their remaining salary cap space. There are moves which can be made to create more cap space, like giving Ben Roethlisberger a new contract, and the team will have some time to get that number right this summer.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they continue to press on through the offseason.

AAF Week 6 Review: Former Steelers WR L’Damien Washington among standout performers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 2:47pm

We take a look back at the sixth week of action from the Alliance of American Football and check in with some former members of the Black and Gold.

The inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football crossed the halfway mark over the weekend, but while the action on the field should have been the headline in Week 6, it was the inexplicable signing of Johnny Manziel by the Memphis Express on Saturday that grabbed all the attention.

Barred from signing with anyone in the CFL after he was released by the Montreal Alouettes only a few weeks ago, the quarterback who could lay claim to being arguably the worst first-round pick at his position since JaMarcus Russell in 2007, might actual become the starter in Week 7 after former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Zach Mettenberger was injured on the first snap of game against the Salt Lake Stallions.

Week 6 results:

Arizona Hotshots 22 @ Orlando Apollos 17

Memphis Express 9 @ Salt Lake Stallions 22

Birmingham Iron 32 @ San Diego Fleet 29

San Antonio Commanders 37 @ Atlanta Legends 6

The Orlando Apollos were the final team to lose their undefeated tag this season, losing as 9.5-point favorites to the Arizona Hotshots at home, while the Birmingham Iron stopped a two game skid with a last second field goal to beat the San Diego Fleet on the road. The San Antonio Commanders continue to improve as division leaders, recording a convincing away win over the Atlanta Legends.

Former Pittsburgh linebacker Steven Johnson was once again leading the way for the Hotshots in their surprising win over the Apollos, recording eight tackles and an impressive interception in a four-point victory.

What a pick! @SMJ2852 | #AZvsORL pic.twitter.com/fozkGS4ubX

— The Alliance (@TheAAF) March 17, 2019

L’Damian Washington was only ever on the Steelers’ roster for five months in 2015 and never made it to training camp after injuring himself in May of that year, but he showed fans the sort of potential that drew Pittsburgh to him in the first place on Sunday night with a dominant performance for the Iron against the Fleet. Washington would finish the game with 158 yards from 10 receptions and score two touchdowns, a stat line that included an 83-yard score midway through the second quarter.

.@MizzouMonstar2 darts through the D on his way to a 83 yard TD!@aafiron | #BIRvsSD pic.twitter.com/3yUkVuU41Y

— The Alliance (@TheAAF) March 18, 2019

This is fun, y'all. @PerezLuisQB@MizzouMonstar2 #BIRvsSD #ForgeOnpic.twitter.com/zqI8UrfWxD

— Birmingham Iron (@aafiron) March 18, 2019

Teammate Jamar Summers, another AAF player with links to the Steelers, once again demonstrated why he deserves another shot in the NFL with another strong showing that included his third interception of the season.

Jamar Summers coming up with the clutch @aafiron INT!

34.2 passer rating allowed in coverage coming into Week 6 (3rd among CBs)#BIRvsSD

pic.twitter.com/mWseVepJWU

— PFF_AAF (@PFF_AAF) March 18, 2019

Running back Terrell Watson had a better day against the Iron that he did against the Stallions in Week 5, but his modest total of 38 yards from eight carries and a touchdown was still not enough for San Diego against Birmingham. Watson would also have a receiving touchdown in the game.

San Diego punches it in for 6, and converts the 2 pt. conversion, narrowing the deficit, 21-17. @AAFFleet | #BIRvsSD pic.twitter.com/1V62WOGrRt

— The Alliance (@TheAAF) March 18, 2019

Terrell Watson TD x2 in the third quarter and the @AAFFleet lead!#BIRvsSD

pic.twitter.com/8w0SRW3P9g

— PFF_AAF (@PFF_AAF) March 18, 2019

Fellow former Steelers running back Trey Williams would finish the day with 32 yards on six attempts for San Antonio, a far better game than his efforts the weekend before. And another familiar name for Pittsburgh fans in tight end Cameron Clear led the Commanders in receiving yards and receptions against Atlanta for the first time this year, recording five catches for 45 yards in the team's 37-6 win.

Darnell Leslie, signed by the Steelers to a futures contract in 2018, also led San Antonio in tackles against the Legends with six and recorded his first forced fumble of the season.

Darnell Leslie forces a Brandon Radcliffe fumble, Duke Thomas recovers pic.twitter.com/6YaX3CZwkH

— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) March 17, 2019

Highlights from all the weekend’s action can be found below.

Week 6 Highlights:

Arizona Hotshots 22 @ Orlando Apollos 17

Memphis Express 9 @ Salt Lake Stallions 22

Birmingham Iron 32 @ San Diego Fleet 29

San Antonio Commanders 37 @ Atlanta Legends 6

Steelers March Madness: The Best of the Rest featuring No. 2 seed 2001 vs. No. 15 seed 2015

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 1:30pm

Bracketing the best teams in the past 50 years of Pittsburgh Steelers history never to win a title. Who do you consider the “Best of the Rest” between the 2015 Steelers and the 2001 version?

BTSC continues to search for the best and most-memorable Steeler team to not win a title. Last time around, you voted the 2004 featuring the rookie phenom Ben Roethlisberger over the magical 1989 Cinderella Steelers.

No. 1 - 2004: The 15-1 Ben-ginning of a new era - 87% No. 16 - 1989: Chuck Noll’s Cinderellas dance in the postseason - 13%

This time around we pit the top vote-getter from the play-in round (2015 Steelers) against the team that earned an AFC Title Game in the debut season record of Heinz Field (2001). Be sure to vote for the team that remains the most memorable to you or the one you feel is simply the “best of the rest”. Your choice. Be sure to wax poetically in the comment section below.

No. 2 Seed: 2001 (13-3)

After three-straight years out of the playoffs, the Steelers christened the newly-opened, Heinz Field with their best record in 13 seasons. The season started out rocky with a 21-3 loss in Jacksonville. After two weeks off due to 9/11 and a scheduled bye, Kordell Stewart and Jerome Bettis led the way to wins in 13 of the next 15 regular-season games. Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress each went over 1,000 receiving yards. The signature win came in Week 14 at Baltimore. After beating the Ravens in the Divisional Playoffs at home, the Steelers fell to the Patriots at home in the AFCCG 21-17

Pro Bowlers: Kendrell Bell, Jerome Bettis, Alan Faneca, Jason Gildon, Kordell Stewart, Hines Ward

First-Team All Pros: Alan Faneca, Jason Gildon

Second-Team All Pros: Kendrell Bell, Jeff Hartings

Team MVP: Kordell Stewart

First Round Selection: Casey Hampton

Rookie of the Year: Kendrell Bell

No. 2 Seed: 2015 (13-3)

Due to his retirement, this season was the first for the Steelers sans Troy Polamalu since his being drafted by the Steelers in 2003. It would also be the final season of Heath Millers career in “the burgh”. After starting the year without the services of Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell due to suspensions, the Steelers lost another key player. Ben Roethlisberger suffered an injury in Week 3 in St.Louis that kept him on the shelf for four games, but No. 7 still threw for nearly 4,000 yards. Michael Vick and Landry Jones led the team to a 2-2 record doing Big Ben’s absence. Another player that missed a significant amount of time was Bell, who suffered a season ending knee injury in Week 8 against Cincinnati. DeAngelo Williams filled in enormously with 970 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns. But the greatest performance from 2015 came from Antonio Brown. AB caught a team record of 136 balls and amassed 1,834 yards. In weeks 13 and 14, the Steelers are in pivotal and signature wins over Cincinnati in Denver respectively. In the wildcard game, the Steelers (without Deangelo) survived with great performances by Martavis Bryant and Ryan Shazier in an improbable last second win in Cincinnati. However, Ben Roethlisberger was banged up and Brown was brutally attacked by Vontaze Burfict and was lost for the next week. Despite playing without key players, the Steelers were in position to win in Denver and advance to the AFC Championship. However, a Fitzgerald Toussaint fumble late and a errant call of not marking Peyton Manning down on a third-down stop, ended the impossible dream.

Pro Bowlers: Antonio Brown, David DeCastro, Ben Roethlisberger

First-Team All Pros: Antonio Brown, David DeCastro

Team MVP: Antonio Brown

First Round Selection: Alvin “Bud” Dupree

Rookie of the Year: Alvin “Bud” Dupree

Bengals release infamous linebacker Vontaze Burfict

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 11:49am

It is the end of an era in Cincinnati, as well as in Pittsburgh, with the release of linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Monday.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers having officially parted ways with both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown this offseason, it would appear that the Cincinnati Bengals no longer feel the need to employ the man whose job it was to injure them after news of the release of Vontaze Burfict emerged on Monday.

BREAKING: @Bengals release LB Vontaze Burfict. (via @TomPelissero) pic.twitter.com/i2smy7cpGc

— NFL (@NFL) March 18, 2019

Signed by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2012, Burfict would quickly go on to establish himself as one of the league most undisciplined repeat violent offenders. From spitting in players faces to twisting knees and ankles, while the Cincinnati linebacker would become synonymous with the words “dirty player,” he would also become something of a folk hero to Bengals fans for his borderline criminal behavior in games against Pittsburgh.

Fined more than $4.2 million for his illegal play and drug taking, Burfict was also suspended three times over the course of his career. Twice serving three games bans for hits on Antonio Brown and Anthony Sherman of the Kansas City Chiefs, and also a four game suspension for PED use.

However, as much as he will be remembered by fans around the league for his disgraceful style of play that should have resulted in a life ban years ago, many Steelers fans will likely best remember him as the player who was laid out by JuJu Smith-Schuster during his rookie season.

After Marvin Lewis was fired at the end last year, the writing always seemed to be on the wall for the uncontrollable linebacker, with the former head coach his most ardent supporter. But given the Cleveland Browns interest in wayward players as of late, it would not be a complete surprise to see them sign him in the coming days.

Mock Draft Monday: 7 Round Mock Draft has the Steelers addressing many needs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 9:35am

Taking a look at a full 7-round mock draft where the Steelers go ILB first, and follow it up by filling out a very solid draft.

The 2019 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and as the NFL world turns their focus to individual workouts at team Pro Days, fans’ attention typically begins the process of trying to predict who their favorite team will select.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have now gained 10 total draft picks throughout the three day, 7 round process. Most websites simply consist of showing who they think the team will take in the first round, and maybe a two-round mock draft, but there are a few rare media personalities who will take a stab at a full 7-round prediction.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo is one of those rogue journalists, and put out his second full mock draft of the year recently. At this point these predictions are just stabs in the dark. Great for conversation and debate, but that is about it. Once the teams start hosting pre-draft visits, then you will start to see the focus narrow on these type of prediction articles.

For the record, Fittipaldo goes into great detail on all of his selections, you can read them all HERE, but out of respect to the work he did I will show his explanation of just his first round pick.

At this point, check out the full mock draft below, and feel free to let us know what you think of the haul in the comment section below!

1. ILB Devin Bush of Michigan (5-11, 234) – In mock draft 1.0, I had the Steelers taking Bush with the No. 36 overall pick after they made a hypothetical trade to the 49ers for Antonio Brown. After a great performance at the combine, where he ran a 4.43 and tested extremely well in the other areas, Bush is now solidly in the first round and is not expected to fall past the Steelers at No. 20. In fact, there is some fear he could go before they pick. Bush is exactly what the Steelers need at inside linebacker – a three-down player that can play the pass as well as the run. It’s rare for a linebacker to run that fast. The only hope for the Steelers is teams that select before them won’t want an inside linebacker that comes in at under 6 feet.

2. WR Hakeem Butler of Iowa State (6-6, 228)

3.a. CB Justin Layne of Michigan State (6-2, 192)

3. DL Isaiah Buggs of Alabama (6-3, 306)

4. TE Josh Oliver of San Jose State (6-5, 253)

5. S Sheldrick Redwine of Miami (6-0, 196)

6.a. OLB Porter Gustin of USC (6-4, 255)

6.b. ILB Ty Summers of TCU (6-2, 235)

6.c. CB Hamp Cheevers of Boston College (5-9, 169)

7. RB Qadree Ollison of Pitt

Breaking Down Donte Moncrief: Strengths, weaknesses and how he fits with the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 7:55am

The Steelers’ offense has a new weapon, and we break down just how he fits in the Pittsburgh offense.

When I saw the news last Thursday that the Steelers had signed free agent wide receiver Donte Moncrief, I had a flashback.

In December of 2013, my wife and I went to Nashville to attend the wedding of my cousin, who was getting married there on New Year’s Eve. He’s a musician in the Nashville scene and we had always promised we’d visit. We went down a couple of days early so we could do the Nashville thing - barbeque, live music, the Jack Daniels distillery. Not necessarily in that order.

At some point after our arrival I found out the Music City Bowl was in town. Suddenly, the plan changed. There are 1,000 things to do in Nashville that do not involve attending a mid-level bowl game between two mediocre schools. But I love college football and I’d never been to a bowl game before. So...

My wife wasn’t having it. A “spirited” conversation ensued. The tide turned when I promised to take her to a play in New York City when we got back home. I made it to Titans stadium, bought a cheap ticket and ended up catching what turned out to be a pretty entertaining game between Ole Miss and Georgia Tech. The Rebels won, 25-17, and the guy who really flashed for them was a receiver named Donte Moncrief.

I had never heard of Moncrief but he quickly caught my attention. He finished the game with over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown but it was his speed and physicality that really stood out. Watching live, you could see how explosive he was off the ball. And boy, could he block. He mixed it up with a number of Georgia Tech defenders and looked more than willing to block linebackers. I remember thinking I wouldn’t mind seeing him in a Steelers uniform one day. Then I hit the bars in Nashville and the rest of that trip is a blur. After that I pretty much forgot Moncrief existed.

Until last Thursday. Now that Moncrief is a Steeler, I’m excited about him all over again. His professional career has been a mixed bag of success and disappointment. But as many have noted, his production has been hindered by roadblocks. After a promising rookie year in Indianapolis, injuries, both to Andrew Luck and his own, limited him the next three seasons. Moncrief signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars in 2018, where he caught passes from Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler. Moncrief’s 48 receptions on 89 targets, which equates to a lackluster 53.9% catch rate, speaks to the quality of the quarterback play in Jacksonville.

In Pittsburgh, Moncrief will play in the most sophisticated passing offense of his career. He will play opposite the best receiver of his career in Juju Smith-Schuster while catching passes from the best quarterback of his career in Ben Roethlisberger. The conditions are ripe for a big season from the talented 26 year-old. Let’s break down Moncrief’s game and look at how he might be used in the Steeler offense.

WHAT DOES MONCRIEF DO WELL?

1. Create Separation on Vertical Routes

Watching film, you see Moncrief do a nice job separating from defenders on deep routes versus both man and zone schemes. At 6’2, he is tall and long enough to escape press coverage and his 4.4 speed allows him to eat cushion as well. He is especially good running the vertical route versus cover-2, which is a staple of the Steelers offense.

Here he is on that very concept as a member of the Colts against the Steelers:

I can hear the naysayers already. “That’s Moncrief beating Cortez Allen and past-his-prime Troy Polamalu. Not impressed!” Focus on what Moncrief does well, though.

First, he aligns properly, giving himself enough room between the numbers and the sideline to allow quarterback Andrew Luck to throw him away from the coverage. This is a small thing but one where you see a lot of receivers make a key mistake. They align too wide and allow themselves to get ridden into the boundary by the corner, making the throw impossible to complete. Moncrief does neither here.

Next, he wins the battle of the hands, getting Allen’s off of him and then creating space at the last moment with a subtle push-off. Finally, he goes up for the football, secures it and takes a shot from Polamalu. It’s a nice catch for the touchdown. But it’s set up by his alignment, his speed, his spacing and his ball awareness, all of which give him the separation he needs to be successful.

In the next GIF we see Moncrief run right by Jets corner Trumaine Johnson. Johnson, like Allen above, has his hands slapped away by Moncrief, allowing the receiver to separate. A recurring theme while watching Moncrief’s tape is that he is a physical football player. He fights for separation and to get position on the football. Defenders who are not physical in return will suffer for it.

So, Moncrief can separate from slower corners with his speed, smaller corners with his size and less physical corners with his aggressiveness. This bodes well for him in one-on-one matchups, another staple of the Steelers passing game.

2. Catch the Ball in Traffic

The first GIF shows Moncrief catching the ball between two defenders. The one below shows him doing a great job high-pointing it.

Here we see Moncrief at the bottom of the screen running a Sluggo route, which is short for Slant-and-Go. It’s not a great route - Moncrief never really sells the slant, and you can tell the corner doesn’t buy the fake because he never opens his hips to the inside as he would if a slant were actually coming. The finish, however, is excellent. The corner maintains good position, attached to Moncrief’s inside hip, but Moncrief is able to use his length to go up and get the football (the corner, by the way, is Perrish Cox, who is listed at 6’0, so he’s not exactly small).

When you watch film on Moncrief, you see several examples of these types of catches where he gets good position at the point of attack before elevating.

Here’s another one, this one against New England. The alignment gives Luck room to throw Moncrief open and Moncrief does a great job opening his hips and getting his hands to the ball. His body control and ability to use his length to separate in tight spaces is excellent.

Here’s one more:

Again, Moncrief separates with his speed and then goes up and gets the football before the defender can. Given all of the isolation throws Ben Roethlisberger likes to use, this could make Moncrief a great fit for our offense. He should be a legitimate deep and red zone threat because of these attributes.

WHERE DOES MONCRIEF STRUGGLE?

The biggest flaw I can see in his game is that he’s just an average route-runner. Specifically, he’s a little stiff. The Sluggo shown above is evident of how he doesn’t really have what some call “quick twitch” movement, which is fancy football talk for guys with good burst who can change direction on a dime. At 6’2-215 pounds, Moncrief is more fast than quick and more powerful than elusive. However, with receivers like Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer on the roster, Moncrief shouldn’t be asked to play in the slot very much, where quickness matters more than speed. This should minimize some of his route-running issues.

Even on the outside, though, his ability to throttle down, cut and move horizontally is mediocre. He is best when running vertical and his 4.4 speed helps to create a pre-snap cushion from DBs who don’t want to get run by. This allows for some separation on the shorter routes where Moncrief doesn’t separate naturally. His size, length and ability to get his hands to the ball help on these routes, too.

My other concern, although I will stop short of calling it a weakness because I don’t know for sure what caused it, is his catch percentage the past two seasons. Granted, he was catching from the Brissett/Bortles/Kessler pu-pu platter. But 53 and 55% are bad, and some of that must have fallen on Moncrief. His percentages were 60 and 65% the two seasons he played in Indy where both he and Luck were healthy. That’s better, although the 60% mark is still mediocre. A low catch percentage provokes certain questions. How many balls does Moncrief drop? How much does his mediocre route running inhibit his ability to get open in the intermediate passing game? How often are he and the quarterback not on the same page? This bears watching.

HOW MIGHT THE STEELERS USE HIM?

1. On the back side of Trips formations.

This is something we used to do often with Antonio Brown. Teams like to put their best receiver on the back side of Trips because it forces defenses to pick their poison. They either must single-up on that receiver, which is a gamble, or help on him, which weakens their ability to defend the Trips side.

Moncrief is not AB but his ability to go vertical and catch those types of throws make it risky to solo him. The Steelers can put Juju on the backside of Trips as well, but Juju is a more complete receiver than Moncrief and is better working the myriad of routes that can be run to the Trips side. A threat like Moncrief away from Trips will likely induce a lot of cover-2 from opposing DC’s so they have some help over the top. This in turn should open up opportunities for Juju, Rogers/Switzer, McDonald, etc on the other side of the field.

Here is a Trips look versus cover-2 with Moncrief on the backside. Look at the matchup advantage the Steelers have to the strength on a simple Stick concept and the route possibilities for Moncrief against the cover-2 combo. Give Big Ben options like this and he will make good things happen.

2. Matched up against smaller corners.

With the 6’2 Moncrief and the 6’1 Smith-Schuster split wide, both of whom are good with body positioning, are physical players and can go up and get the football, the Steelers now have the ability to isolate and work on smaller corners in a way they couldn’t do even with AB. Roethlisberger is good throwing the fade ball, the back-shoulder fade and the deep out, all of which favor bigger receivers. I would expect to see a good amount of these concepts when the Steelers can get one of their big wideouts isolated on a smaller defender.

The Browns, for example, who are the new media darlings of the AFC North, feature a pair of 5’11 starting corners in Denzel Ward and Terrance Mitchell. Each would likely struggle with the size and physicality of Juju and Moncrief. If the Browns want to put one of those players in the slot and substitute a bigger corner, like Robert Jackson, outside, the smaller corner will now have to play the run. These are all favorable matchups for the Steelers.

This is one of the biggest reasons I am excited about the Moncrief signing. It gives us the advantages on the outside we had with Martavis Bryant. Moncrief is not quite the physical specimen Bryant was. But he doesn’t possess the personal baggage either. I’ll take that trade-off any day.

3. Paired with Juju in Twins formations.

Then there is this:

With Moncrief and Juju stacked in a Twins formation, you have a 6’1 and 6’2 receiver who are both vertical threats with the ability to get one of them matched up on a safety or linebacker underneath. This is also a great look for three and four vertical concepts, upon which the Steelers thrive.

For teams who play man and want their corner on Juju, putting Moncrief on the ball in the slot allows you to motion Juju inside and gives Moncrief plenty of open field to operate against a safety. I have no idea if this is a formation or a concept the Steelers might actually use. But it gives you an idea how the Steelers might seek matchup advantages with Smith-Schuster and Moncrief on the field together.

CONCLUSIONS:

Moncrief is not a complete receiver. He has visible flaws and there are other intangibles - his film study, how coachable he is, whether he struggles to digest a playbook - that we just don’t know about. This is his third team in six years. For that fact alone we should temper our enthusiasm a bit.

But the Moncrief who impressed me when I saw him in person back in 2013 and the Moncrief I saw on film researching this piece look very similar. He is big, he is fast, he uses his hands well and he can jump. Most importantly, he has a distinct skill set - the ability to get vertical - that this offense needs now that AB is gone.

In the pro game, the talent disparities between teams are not nearly as great as they are in college. There are no Alabama vs. The Citadel encounters in the NFL. As a result, pro football games are often won by the teams who can create and exploit favorable matchups. Moncrief gives us the potential to do this. That alone is enough to make me optimistic.

Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Free Agent acquisitions to date

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 6:44am

The Steelers have added two players at key positions. How do you grade those acquisitions?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team with several needs across their roster. With the departure of a player like Antonio Brown, and the hole left at cornerback are glaring needs on the roster.

What did the Steelers do in the first week of free agency? They went out and signed a wide receiver and cornerback. Not in that order, and not to be the undoubted answer at their position, but to be there as depth and players who can contribute for a team who is trying to find the combination which can bring them a seventh Lombardi trophy.

This is where we will take a look at the signings, and give them a grade. Granted, their overall grade won’t be known until they don the black-and-gold in an actual regular season game. With that known, we can still grade the signing, who else was available, and the likelihood of the players not just playing, but performing well for the Steelers.

Let’s get to the grades, and make sure you not only vote in the polls below, but explain your grades in the comment section below!

(Editor’s Note: This article was written before the team acquired Mark Barron on Sunday evening. His grade will be addressed in a separate article.)

CB Steven Nelson

Former Team: Kansas City Chiefs
Contract: 3 Years
Expected Position: CB2

Many are viewing Nelson as the Steelers’ second option in the free agent cornerback search, and they would be right. The Steelers went after Bradley Roby as their top priority and offered him a three year contract. When he chose to sign with the Houston Texans on a one-year contract, the Steelers then targeted Nelson.

Despite this being the truth, Steelers fans shouldn’t downplay what Nelson can, and will, bring to the team. He is experienced at playing both inside and outside in the defensive backfield, and has a nose for the ball. His 4 interceptions last year would have been a team leading mark in 2018, and the last cornerback in Steelers history to notch 4 picks in a year was Deshea Townsend.

In other words, his ball skills will be more than welcome. Does he get a big grabby while in coverage, yes, but in a league where the rules are so slanted against the defender I personally am okay with a defender who is physical and takes away the football at the point of attack.

Nelson is an improving player, and if the Steelers can continue this trend, a huge if, then they absolutely should have an improved secondary not just in 2019, but beyond.

My Grade: B WR Donte Moncrief

Former Team: Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars
Contract: 2 Years
Expected Position: WR2

While Nelson was considered the Steelers’ second option at the free agents available in the position, some reports said the same about Moncrief. The Steelers were showing interest in Tyrell Williams, formerly of the Chargers, but Williams chose to go to the Oakland Raiders to play along side Antonio Brown.

The Steelers then moved to their second option, and it was Moncrief. Many fans have pointed to Moncrief’s poor stats last season as a reason to be skeptical of the addition, but you should remember who his quarterback was last season — Blake Bortles.

In fact, if you look at his entire career, his time with Indianapolis with both Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett looks to be a better picture of his potential production for the Steelers. With the Colts he had 1,875 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns. His final two seasons with Indianapolis were cut short with injury, and he had a revolving door of quarterbacks as Luck nursed a shoulder injury. Even in 2018, with Bortles at the helm, Moncrief put up 668 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Just imagine what he will be able to do with Ben Roethlisberger in the high-powered Steelers offense.

In other words, I don’t mind the signing at all, and think Moncrief will be a great addition to the team’s offense. He brings size, 6’2” 220 lbs, speed and is the outside threat the Steelers were wanting to obtain with the departure of Brown.

Does the signing of Moncrief mean the Steelers shouldn’t target a wide receiver in the draft? No, the absolutely should still add to the position, but Moncrief’s signing doesn’t make the need an immediate one throughout the three day process.

My Grade: B

Be sure to vote in the polls above, and also let us know what you thought of the additions in the comment section below!

Podcast: Have the Steelers done enough in free agency to fill holes on the roster?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 5:26am

In the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold from the week that was.

The Pittsburgh Steelers season is over, but the news is just starting to heat up. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers, including a fun game of “True or False!”

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Talking Free Agent acquisitions and losses
  • Who was the big winner in Week 1 of free agency?
  • The other trades/transactions which took place this week
  • and MUCH MORE!

(Editor’s Note: This podcast was produced BEFORE the Steelers reportedly signed ILB Mark Barron to the team Sunday afternoon.)

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Donte Moncrief not interested in comparisons to Antonio Brown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/18/2019 - 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 newly acquired wide receiver Donte Moncrief isn’t concerned, or worried, about comparisons to Antonio Brown. Rather, he just wants to focus on his game and helping the Steelers win games.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Donte Moncrief might not want to be compared to Antonio Brown, and this exercise wouldn’t even be fair, but at the same time it certainly will happen. Moncrief isn’t worried about the comparison.

Moncrief, Nelson embrace Steelers, challenges ahead

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

Just don’t try to tell Moncrief, who signed a two-year deal worth approximately $10 million, he’s now the replacement for Brown.

“I just say Donte is going to be Donte,” Moncrief said when I asked him what he would say to those people. “AB, like anybody knows, is one of the best or is the best to ever play this game. You can’t try to be what he was. You can only be what you are. I’m going to play the role I can play, make the plays I can make and do whatever makes this team better.”

At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Moncrief brings a physical presence to the Steelers’ receiver room, one quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has craved for a number of years. The Steelers briefly had a big, speedy receiver in Martavis Bryant, who was selected 28 picks after the Colts took Moncrief in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft, but Bryant’s off-field issues have pushed him out of the league.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • With Antonio Brown now gone, it makes you wonder if the Steelers offense can be successful without such a prominent player on the roster. History shows the Steelers have done just fine in this position before.

Analysis: Stats show Steelers’ offense has been resilient after prominent exits

By: Adam Bittner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Since quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season in 2004, the team has lost three former 1,000-yard receivers to free agency in their respective primes. Each time, it has largely maintained or improved both its production in raw counting stats and its efficiency in key advanced measurements.

Let’s start with Plaxico Burress. The former first-round pick had two 1,000-yard campaigns in 2001 and 2002 before relative struggles in ‘03 and ‘04 led to his departure to the New York Giants for the 2005 season.

The loss did not cause a sophomore slump for Roethlisberger. In fact, the Steelers boosted their rank in passing yardage per game from 28th with 170 in ‘04 to 24th with 182.9 in ‘05. They also posted a slight boost in passing touchdowns from 20 to 21 and yards per attempt from 7.59 to 7.72.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • You think the drama is over with the Steelers, mainly with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown? You might want to think again...

Ed Bouchette: The Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell stories are far from finished

By: Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The question today, will those two ever be honored by the Steelers, ever be embraced by the franchise and their fans again? Or are their Steelers legacies ruined even if they do make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

It may not matter to Brown and Bell today. Still, just over one year ago, they were adored by the franchise and its far-reaching fan base. They were on pace to be the most productive at their positions in team history. Now, for the most part, they are despised by those fans, and management and coaching staff are disgusted with both of them.

That may ease over time. As an example, Santonio Holmes left on uncertain terms when he was traded to the New York Jets in 2010. So did Rod Woodson, who bitterly departed as a free agent when the Steelers would not meet his contract demands. Neither, however, forced his way out of town, and both have returned to be honored by the franchise and are considered favorite sons today by the team.

To read the full article, click HERE

Report: Steelers sign ILB Mark Barron to two-year, $12M contract

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/17/2019 - 5:13pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to be big players in the free agent period.

Just when you thought the Pittsburgh Steelers were done with bringing in free agents, think again.

On Sunday afternoon ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Steelers had come to terms on a new two-year contract worth roughly $12 million dollars in total.

Former Rams’ LB Mark Barron reached agreement on a two-year, $12 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers, per source. A rare free-agent foray for Pittsburgh.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2019

The move helps bolster the position for the Steelers, but Barron is coming off one of his worst statistical seasons, per ProFootball Focus:

Barron has played 750+ snaps each of the last four seasons for the Rams. He is coming off the worst overall grade of his career in 2018 (54.0).

Overall grades by season:
2012: 55.3
2013: 60.1
2014: 56.8
2015: 67.0
2016: 65.0
2017: 61.8
2018: 54.0 https://t.co/AebYr81XJX

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) March 17, 2019

Barron, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, played for the Rams the past four seasons. Last year Barron played, and started, in 12 games registering 60 total tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defense, and 3 tackles for losses.

It is unclear how the Steelers will plan to afford Barron’s salary, but it is safe to say Barron represents the same insurance policy L.J. Fort provided the past few years before he left to the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency.

Barron is an expensive backup, but don’t expect this signing to change the Steelers’ strategy heading into the 2019 NFL Draft. They absolutely need to add some new blood at the position, and it will be a huge target for Pittsburgh this offseason.

However, with Barron under contract the Steelers could leave themselves open to enter the draft looking to take the best player available at any number of positions.

For those of you who are keeping close tabs on the free agent/compensatory pick formula, Barron does not count against the Steelers since he was released and wasn’t a free agent.

Barron doesn't count against comp pick formula since he was released by the Rams. Addition of Moncrief/Nelson and departures of James/Fort might cancel each other out, but stage is set for Bell's NYJ deal to earn third-round pick.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 17, 2019

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding this signing as they are released...

Cleveland Browns, not the Steelers, are going favorites to win the AFC North in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/17/2019 - 1:59pm

Yes, this is real life...

The NFL landscape is fluid, constantly changing with different events like injuries, draft picks and certainly after free agency. Sports books across the country release updated odds on things like who will win the Super Bowl, and even who is most likely to win their respective division.

For the AFC North, and maybe even the entire NFL, there is no team sexier right now than the Cleveland Browns. Baker Mayfield entering his second season, Myles Garrett looking every bit the part as a dominant pass rusher, beefing up their defensive line in free agency and the monster trade with the New York Giants for Odell Beckham Jr.

All of that combined together and you have a team bettors view as moving up the ranks in the division. In fact, the WestGate Sports book is predicting the Browns will go from the cellar to the top of the division in 2019.

Check out the current odds for the AFC North:

Cleveland Browns — 7/5
Pittsburgh Steelers — 8/5
Baltimore Ravens — 5/2
Cincinnati Bengals — 30/1

It is easy to understand how the pundits will be excited about the Browns, especially after their huge haul this offseason, with more draft picks to come, but you also have to think about two very key positions where the Browns are very green.

Quarterback and head coach.

Baker Mayfield had showed signs of brilliance in 2018, but also a real learning curve to life in the NFL as a quarterback. Will he continue to progress, or will the NFL catch up to Mayfield and he experience a sophomore slump?

As for the head coach, Freddie Kitchens is a rookie head coach, and don’t think for a second being a head coach in the league is something which comes natural to everyone. If anyone would know about coaching struggles, it would be the Browns.

Needless to say, there is a lot which can change between now and the end of the 2019 regular season, but if you like the above odds you might want to get some money down before they change again.

New contract details for Dan McCullers show another low cost deal for Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/17/2019 - 12:45pm

The interior defensive lineman has agreed to a contract that will play him $2.75 million that includes a signing bonus worth just $250,00o

When the Pittsburgh Steelers announced they had re-signed defensive lineman Daniel McCullers on Thursday, there were some who questioned the logic of tying up valuable salary cap space in a reserve player so early in free agency. But in light of the contract numbers revealed on Friday, it would appear those concerns were somewhat unfounded.

As per the figures published by Steelers salary cap specialist Ian Whetstone and Houston Chronicle reporter Aaron Wilson, McCullers will earn base salaries of $1 million in 2019 and $1.5 million in 2020. He will also receive a sign bonus worth $250,000 as part of a deal worth a total of $2.75 million.

The two-year contract for Steelers' backup defensive lineman Daniel McCullers consists of a $250,000 signing bonus and salaries of $1M this year and $1.5M next year. It's pretty thin, even as two-year, $2.75M contracts go.

— Ian Whetstone (@IanWhetstone) March 15, 2019

Daniel McCullers (Steelers) $2.75M; $250K signing bonus, salaries $1M, $1.5M

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 15, 2019

After displacement, this deal will only have used up $630,000 in salary cap space this season and the relatively small signing bonus offers the defensive lineman few guarantees for the upcoming season, let alone 2020.

2019

  • Base salary - $1 million
  • Prorated signing bonus - $125,000
  • Salary cap charge - $1.125 million

2020

  • Base salary - $1.5 million
  • Prorated signing bonus - $125,000
  • Salary cap hit - $1.625 million

Since joining the Steelers as a sixth-round draft pick in 2014, McCullers has been credited with 33 tackes and 2.5 sacks. And while it would be fair to say the former Tennessee product was rather underwhelming in his early years with the team, he appeared to have made some improvements to his game in 2018.

A Letter From the Editor: The Ben Roethlisberger bashing continues, but why?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/17/2019 - 11:00am

Trying to wrap my head around why the going trend is to slam Ben Roethlisberger.

The media can twist the truth, this is true from the national media covering a presidential race, all the way down to a blogger who runs his own website.

Everyone has a take, and while some are hotter than others, those takes can become ingrained in our subconscious, and in some instances can become truths.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the hot takes have been flying off the shelves like hot cakes, and since Antonio Brown started his campaign to get himself out of town, one name has been bashed more than any other.

Not Mike Tomlin.

Not Kevin Colbert.

For the national media, not even Antonio Brown.

No, the new target is none other than Ben Roethlisberger.

Ben bashing is nothing new to Steelers fans. They endured his motorcycle accident which nearly took his life, the rape allegations in both Nevada and Georgia, and now they are hearing the bashing coming from all angles regarding his leadership and being a good teammate.

I am not here to tell you Ben Roethlisberger has been a saint since being drafted 11th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, but I also know Roethlisberger has done very little to deserve this type of criticism at all angles.

At every turn you hear former players like James Harrison, Ryan Clark and most recently Isaac Redman and Joshua Harris bash Roethlisberger for being a poor teammate and a crappy leader.

Where does this all stem from?

Is the genesis of these comments/feelings out of jealousy?

Jealous of Roethlisberger’s perceived power in the locker room? Jealous of the treatment Roethlisberger has received inside the organization regarding contracts? Or is this all from Roethlisberger’s comments he makes on his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh?

From all reports, dating back to his rookie season, Roethlisberger hasn’t changed much. He has never been the workaholic like Peyton Manning. He might not take a hometown discount like Tom Brady. He might not have the cerebral approach to the game like so many other quarterbacks before him.

But this isn’t new.

Roethlisberger might be the last one in, and the first one out, and why does this not bother the man upstairs who signs the checks? Because he wins. Do fans not want to hear these reports about Roethlisberger, and to hear him target teammates through the media/radio? Absolutely not, but look at his head coach as a man who uses the media, and his weekly press conference, to send subtle remarks to his team, and specific players.

Again, Roethlisberger hasn’t changed much throughout the years. He is no longer the ladies man running around downtown Pittsburgh. He is married with three small children. Roethlisberger is more guarded now with who he trusts and surrounds himself with, and do you blame him?

Just like all the other times Roethlisberger was the target of such criticism, it will slow down. But in the meantime, the media is teeing off on Roethlisberger claiming he is the reason for such disarray and dysfunction in the Steel City.

As for me, I’m not buying what they are selling. Why? As I said multiple times in this article, Ben hasn’t changed much...

Mike Mayock admits the Steelers called the Raiders after the deal with the Bills fell through

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/17/2019 - 8:04am

The Oakland Raiders General Manager tells the tale of how the Steelers and Raiders did a deal for Antonio Brown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers sent the NFL world spinning when they decided to trade All-Pro WR Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders.

The Steelers then set their fan base ablaze when it was announced they received a 3rd and 5th round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft for one of the best wide receivers in the league.

Throughout the entire process, Steelers fans wanted to know just what went down. What occurred with the reported trade in place between the Buffalo Bills and the Steelers? Had the Raiders been the team of choice the entire time?

While we don’t know what exactly went down between the Steelers and Bills, Mike Mayock recently joined The Dan Patrick show and spoke about what went down before the Steelers and Raiders came to terms on a new agreement.

This is an excerpt from the interview:

“I kept saying, ‘We’re not interested,’” Mayock said. “Then the Buffalo thing fell through. One of their guys reached out to Jon [Gruden]. . . . [Steelers GM] Kevin [Colbert] said to me, ‘Would you trade your two? I said, ‘No, but we might trade our three.’”

If you want to hear the full segment, check out the video below:

“The deal was on and off two or three different times.” - Oakland GM @MikeMayock takes us behind the scenes on how the Antonio Brown to the Raiders trade went down pic.twitter.com/UQV6VlohxI

— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) March 15, 2019

This certainly won’t make Steelers fans feel very good about what they received in return for Brown, but it does shine some light on the negotiations which took place between the two AFC organizations, and Drew Rosenhaus, before finalizing a deal a week ago.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for more free agency, and the upcoming NFL Draft.

Pro Football Focus shines light on what Steelers fans can expect from Steven Nelson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/17/2019 - 6:33am

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ newest addition at cornerback is an improving player, but is there cause for concern?

With the signing of former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback, Pittsburgh Steelers fans were excited. Steven Nelson. The Steelers appear to be letting Coty Sensabaugh walk via free agency and Artie Burns floundering in 2019; the team had a major hole at starting cornerback opposite Joe Haden.

Nelson was tested in a trial by fire last season as he was the most targeted cornerback in the league. Doubtful that Steelers fans watched him week in and week out. That being said, the folks over at Pro Football Focus did that very thing last season.

PFF is often viewed as a polarizing site with its in-depth grading and proprietary ratings. If nothing else, they offer their insight of players who fans may not have seen play or only in highlights.

Nuggets of information put out by PFF about Nelson:

2019 PFF grade: 72.1 is the highest of his career.

2017 PFF grade: 69.6

2016 PFF grade: 64.3

Opposing quarterbacks targeted Nelson 113 times last season, which led the league during the regular season.

Nelson allowed the second most yards, 825 in 2018, but his 53.1 (eighth best in the NFL) completion percentage and 76.8 passer rating shows why he landed as PFFs #21 ranked cornerback.

Through the first 12 weeks, quarterbacks targeted Nelson 86 times surrendering a 50 percent completion rate. Fifth best of all NFL cornerbacks. His 66.4 percent passer rating, at the time, was good enough for seventh best. His PFF grade at the time was 76.2.

Also through 12 weeks, he was targeted 52 times of passes 10 or more yards. On those plays, he surrendered 17 completions but had 11 forced incompletions. The 31.5 completion rate led all cornerbacks.

While those stats are impressive, one thing to take into account is that 30.2 percent of the 86 balls thrown his way were dropped or were not catchable.

At only 26 and improving each NFL season, Steelers fans have a reason to be excited about Nelson. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is maligned for his poor drafting of cornerbacks and head coach Mike Tomlin is chided for his inability to develop the draft picks, but the duo believes Nelson is the defender they have been searching for. On paper, Nelson is a feather in the cap for the organization as they look to land back in the playoffs next season. Can Nelson live up to those lofty numbers from PFF last season? Fans can only wait and hope.

Pages

Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator