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Le’Veon Bell feels his approach to the offseason will help, not hurt, his health and longevity

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 10:08am

Barring a new deal, Bell is going to sit out the preseason again, and he feels this brings with it more positives than negatives.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to put the Exclusive Rights Franchise Tag on Le’Veon Bell for the second straight season, they knew there was no way Bell would show up to anything in the offseason, or preseason, without a long-term contract.

This is exactly what he did last season while on the franchise tag, and many wondered if his absence impacted his overall ability to help the offense early in the season. Statistics aside, Bell feels his absence during Organized Team Activities (OTAs), mandatory minicamp, training camp and the preseason has a huge benefit to him, and his health.

From his viewpoint, it allows him to preserve his body, putting less stress on those joints which help him make money and ultimately a new contract. In a recent interview Bell gave to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, he talked about his offseason workouts, and how they don’t revolve around the typical football training.

Bell has been participating in a variety of workouts, including boxing to “stay off my joints in the offseason as much as possible.”

Much has been made about his durability, especially with the amount of times he touches the football both in the running and passing games, but Bell doesn’t compare those touches to the usual running back’s touches.

Why? Because he rarely gets hit hard by defenders.

“I don’t really compare myself to a lot of other running backs — that’s no offense to any other running back, but just the fact that I can see and avoid hits,” Bell said. “It’s not like when I get the ball 30 times or 35 times and I’m really taking 30 car crashes. Either I’m delivering the blow or I’m getting to the ground. I’m sore after games, but it’s not like I’m aching. I don’t have to miss practices. I can go full speed and be good.”

This is all well and good, but the flip side to this narrative is the fact he won’t be with his teammates during those crucial workouts preparing for the regular season. Last year, despite what Bell and Mike Tomlin said, the rust was evident for the first quarter of the season likely due to his absence throughout the preseason.

Check out his statistics in those first four games of 2017:

Week 1 vs. Cleveland — 10 rushes, 32 yards / 3 receptions, 15 yards
Week 2 vs. Minnesota — 27 rushes, 87 yards / 4 receptions, 4 yards
Week 3 vs. Chicago — 15 rushes, 61 yards, 1 TD / 6 receptions, 37 yards
Week 4 vs. Baltimore — 35 rushes, 144 yards, 2 TD / 4 receptions, 42 yards

As you can see, it took Bell almost a quarter of the season until he really started hitting his stride. Sure, he was fresh, but the offensive line had been practicing, and playing with, runners like James Conner and Fitzgerald Toussaint all preseason, none of which have the running style of Bell.

This isn’t just about Bell’s preparation and health, it is about the team being prepared for the regular season. Maybe last year taught the team something for them to be better prepared for this season, but if the two sides can’t come to terms on a new deal, and Bell sits, you may want to take a look at the first four games of the season and wonder just how much the team will be able to get out of Bell in those games.

2018 Schedule, 1st four games:
Week 1: @ Browns
Week 2: vs. Chiefs
Week 3: @ Buccaneers
Week 4: vs. Ravens

It is a delicate situation, to say the least, but Bell is looking out for his long-term health, and it is difficult to disagree with his thinking while in his current contractual situation.

Top 5 Pittsburgh Steelers story lines heading into training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 8:29am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for training camp, and there are some story lines to keep an eye on leading up to camp.

It may seem like a long ways away, but July 25th will be here before you know it, and that is the exact date the Pittsburgh Steelers report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA for their annual training camp leading up to the 2018 regular season.

The 90-man roster has been set for several weeks now, and besides a few tweaks here and there, what you see is what you get for the black-and-gold. With the players set, what will people be talking about as the team heads to training camp? Here are the Top 5 story lines to keep an eye on.

What do you think will be the outcome of these story lines? Let us know by leaving a comment in the comment section below, and become a part of the BTSC community!

Le’Veon Bell Contract

Of course this has to be the top story line. Why? Because Le’Veon Bell is one of the best players on the Steelers’ offense, and the deadline for him signing a long-term deal, or playing under the franchise tag, will fall just before players report to camp (July 16). If the team is somehow able to ink Bell to a long-term deal, it will be a huge story line for both the roster, and the salary cap. However, if the two parties fail to find middle ground for a second-straight year, the story line will be Bell’s swan song in the Steel City.

Backup QB

Coming into the season it was assumed rookie Mason Rudolph would be QB3 and Landry Jones QB2, leaving Joshua Dobbs looking for new employment elsewhere. While it is only football in shorts, Rudolph has impressed making many wonder if he could backup Ben Roethlisberger, making Jones and/or Dobbs expendable. Having a story line surrounding the backup quarterback position is a good problem to have, meaning you have an entrenched starter, but this will be fun to watch, and make the preseason more watchable than previous years.

Safety battle

What to do at the safety position? The Steelers picked up Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe in free agency, Sean Davis is the lone safety returning from last year and Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen were both selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. Throw in Jordan Dangerfield and you have a full house of safeties entering training camp. The story line here isn’t so much who will make the team, but how will the team use these players? Will they deploy Edmunds and/or Allen as sub package specialists? Will the safeties be expected to ease some of the burden off the lack of inside linebacker athleticism lost by Ryan Shazier? Who will play free safety? All of these answers will come soon enough when camp begins.

Inside Linebacker

Speaking of inside linebacker, how the Steelers plan on using these players is anything but certain. Jon Bostic was signed in free agency, yet Tyler Matakevich spent the entire offseason alongside Vince Williams as the starting linebacker. Will Bostic be nothing more than depth? Will Matakevich be able to hold down the starting linebacker spot without jeopardizing the entire defense? Who will be staying on the field during sub packages? Plenty of questions, and unlike the backup quarterback role, the decisions made at this position will have a huge impact on the team.

Running Back

Le’Veon Bell will be in black-and-gold this year no matter what, and the story line with this position resides in the depth at the position. James Conner has reportedly looked great this offseason, but behind him is up for grabs. Jaylen Samuels’ versatility is attractive, and the question then becomes how many backs will the Steelers keep? Assuming Bell, Conner, Samuels and Roosevelt Nix make the team, what will they do? Will Fitzgerald Toussaint continue to defy the odds and make the team, or will someone like Stevan Ridley impress enough to make the roster?

...

All of these questions will ultimately be answered when the players report to training camp in just over a month, but for more in-depth analysis you can check out the latest BTSC Podcast in the player below:

Which NFL head coach will be the first one fired in the 2018 season?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 6:48am

Las Vegas makes the odds on which NFL head coach will be first to lose his job next season.

It happens every year, and sometimes it isn’t truly justified. As famously said by Jerry Glanville, NFL stands for Not For Long, and while Glanville was speaking about the referees making poor calls, this also could be true in reference to head coaches.

You can bet on at least one coach not making it through the regular season. I mean, you can literally place a bet on which NFL coach will be the first one fired this season. Check out the most recent odds, per OddsShark:

Opening odds to be the first NFL head coach fired (@betway):

Hue Jackson +350
Adam Gase +750
Marvin Lewis +1000
Vance Joseph +1000
Dirk Koetter +1200
Jay Gruden +1200
Todd Bowles +1600
Bill O'Brien +2000
Jason Garrett +2500
John Harbaugh +2800
Jon Gruden +2800
Pete Carroll +2800

— OddsShark (@OddsShark) June 19, 2018

It should come as no surprise Browns head coach Hue Jackson sits atop the list, and to be honest Adam Gase and Marvin Lewis being right behind him isn’t a shock either. Gase has worked hard to put his own stamp on the Miami Dolphins, often times getting rid of talent to create the environment he prefers — but when you don’t win, that could mean your job.

As for Lewis, the man always seems to find a way to keep his job. If there was one coach I wouldn’t bet on being fired, it would be Marvin Lewis. Lewis hasn’t won a playoff game since taking over the Bengals, yet he always stays in the saddle. Last year, when it was reported Lewis was a dead man walking — he kept his job. Don’t bet your house on the Bengals making a change at head coach.

Take a look at the odds above and ask yourself who you’d put money on being the first coach to get the ax in 2018. Let us know who you think it will be in the comment section below.

Steelers fans get a glimpse of the early Madden NFL 19 Overall Ratings

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/20/2018 - 5:37am

Get a glimpse of the early Overall Rankings for the Steelers in the new Madden NFL 19 game.

While I’m not a gamer, there are a ton of people who await the release of video games like kids waiting for Christmas morning. For the sports fanatic, there aren’t many game releases more anticipated than the Madden NFL series.

What started as the John Madden NFL game for Super Nintendo has now morphed into a whole new world. A world so far removed from its origins that it almost seems completely foreign. Nonetheless, the institution which has become the Madden franchise knows all too well how to promote its upcoming release.

The latest news was the release of the Top Overall Rankings per team, and if you’re a fan of Madden you might want to see how the Pittsburgh Steelers look in the upcoming game.

Check out the screen shot below:

Some solid grades for the boys in black-and-gold, but if you’re a person who wants to know about ALL grades, not just the Steelers, check out the video below which goes through the entire league.

All of you Madden gamers out there...enjoy!

Will the Steelers have space on the 53-man roster for a return specialist?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 3:01pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a very good return specialist on their 90-man offseason roster in Quadree Henderson, but will they keep a roster spot for a specialist?

I am about to start a series where I break down every position on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster and predict who I think will make the 53-man game day roster. This will certainly help fill the space of the dead months on the NFL calendar, but when I was looking through the specialists, I asked myself if the Steelers would be willing to keep a return specialist on their roster in 2018?

If they decide to, they have one in Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA) Quadree Henderson out of the University of Pittsburgh who could certainly fill this role on the team.

The question here is simple:

Do you hold a roster spot for a player who would realistically just be returning punts, since the kickoff return is slowly being phased out of the game?

Immediately, I have to think there isn’t much of a chance this happens. Spots on the game day 53-man roster are precious, and using one for someone who plays so little would certainly be tough to justify. However, Mike Tomlin has shown he is willing to do just that since he was hired in 2007. Players like Chris Rainey, Allen Rossum, Dri Archer and Stefan Logan have all essentially been glorified return specialists during the Tomlin era, but the team hasn’t had one of these style of players on their roster the past few years.

While difficult to do, Henderson does have a shot to be the next player on the aforementioned list of return specialists donning the black-and-gold.

Why?

He has shown capable skills as both a slot receiver, as well as a gadget-type player, think a Tavon Austin style player, as well as lethal return skills to qualify him for a roster spot. On top of all that, he could do something no one has been able to do efficiently since 2010 — take Antonio Brown off punt return duties.

Everyone knows the risk involved with Brown returning punts, but there hasn’t been a capable player to give the Steelers a reason to not put Brown back to at least fair catch a punt. It isn’t that they haven’t tried, we all remember the Jacoby Jones experiment, but Henderson can certainly take this role off Brown’s plate.

In case you haven’t seen Henderson at work, take a look at his college highlight reel below (Editor’s Note: Music during video is not safe for work):

He is a dynamic player, but will he be able to do enough to make the team? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!

The Steelers ABCs: How JuJu Smith-Schuster captivated a fan base

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 11:55am

This week, I make a plea to the city of Pittsburgh and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and we discuss why the soon-to-be sophomore is among the most exciting names on the roster.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

I’d like to begin with a personal vignette. Sometime last Thursday evening, I “lost” my bicycle. I say it this way because I placed my bike in the bicycle rack in my apartment’s parking garage—which is only accessible via keycard or remote—on Thursday evening after work; when I returned Friday morning for my commute, my bike was nowhere to be found. I proceeded to walk around the grounds of my complex, searching the nooks and crannies of the garage itself before moving on to the bike rack directly outside the main entryway and then the ancillary garage across the street. No luck. Thinking that maybe I’d been experiencing temporary blindness, I re-entered the main garage and double-checked the rack where I’d parked the evening prior. What remained, still, was empty space. My morning goose chase concluded shortly thereafter, with me sheepishly admitting to my security guard hi, my bike is missing; please help me. I was assured that the security footage from the night before would be reviewed thoroughly, but I’ve yet to hear any promising leads.

I’m at peace with the fact that my bike is probably gone forever. Its sudden disappearance is explainable only by absentmindedness or theft—and since losing a bike isn’t the same as losing, say, your keys or wallet or some other handheld ware, I’m tentatively leaning toward the latter. And, you know, this is fine. I can’t imagine that a fellow resident stole it, because there is literally no upside to stealing an unwieldy, difficult-to-hide item from a location where you pay to live. What I’m assuming happened is that some ne’er-do-well capitalized on the benevolence of one of my fellow residents and ducked into the garage when someone held a door for them, or they sneaked in under the garage door after a car entered. If this is the case, whatever, enjoy the bike, you jerk. I hope the chain snaps while you’re riding it.

But I’m still holding on to hope that I can be reunited with my bike. It was my primary mode of transportation to and from work, and I quite enjoyed riding it around on weekends. It wasn’t an astonishingly expensive bike, but it’d be nice to not have to pay for another one. So, on the off chance that JuJu Smith-Schuster is reading this article, plz help. I don’t think we’ve been victimized by the same bike thief (I can’t pretend to understand the logistics and nuances of petty theft, but operating in the South Side and the Strip District concurrently seems impractical), but—as victims of bike theft—we ought to stick together! To sweeten the pot, I’m about to write a bunch of nice things about you:

My favorite moment of the 2017 season—and there were many—was when JuJu Smith-Schuster leveraged his infamous and fabled hit on Vontaze Burfict to develop a touchdown celebration.

It isn’t for me to decide if making light of a tackle that yielded a one-game suspension, concussed the recipient of the hit, caused Jon Gruden to almost start crying during a national telecast, and earned a stern talking-to from Mike Tomlin was...let’s say in poor taste. Probably at the very least it was ill-timed, especially since he did it not even halfway into his first game following the initial suspension. However, it was an on-brand move for a player who spent the entire season taking full advantage of the NFL’s refreshingly lax celebration rules. I don’t wanna imply that anyone who took umbrage with this celebration is a grouchy curmudgeon, but I will say that the Venn diagram of folks who hated this particular celebration and folks who believe Phil Mickelson “disgraced the sport of golf” by touching a moving ball is just a singular, perfect circle.

This is an indirect manner of saying that celebrations are great. Even if you are staunchly against a player doing anything but handing the ball off to the official and moping back to the sideline, a celebration indicates that something very good and oftentimes very fortuitous has just happened. The Steelers, Eagles, and Vikings—who all made the playoffs last season—celebrated quite often in 2017, whereas the Jets, Bears, and Browns—who all did very unconvincing impressions of professional football teams last year—did not celebrate nearly as often. Clearly, there is an inextricable link between team success and celebration frequency. Please do not poke holes in this theory with such trivial things as “empirical evidence” and “logic.”

In all seriousness, JuJu, whose unrelenting juvenescence (juju-venescence?) often provided a much-needed break from the perpetual and bleak drama imbuing the Steelers locker room, routinely jugulated opposing secondaries in 2017. His noteworthy 58/917/7 rookie campaign is made all the more impressive by the fact that JuJu only played in 14 games and was not featured prominently in the passing attack for the first quarter of the 2017 season. (In fact, if you take JuJu’s per-snap statistics and extrapolate them to ~800 snaps, he would’ve gained over 1,000 yards). With Martavis Bryant gone and Smith-Schuster the clear No. 2 receiver on the roster, he should play easily 800 snaps this season, which—given the frequency with which the Steelers pass the ball, Ben Roethlisberger’s reliance on Smith-Schuster, and Smith-Schuster’s own multifarious skillset—gives him a shot at cracking the 1,000-yard/10-touchdown threshold for real. I’ve written almost the same exact thing about Bryant for, I don’t know, the past three seasons, but I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that JuJu is a better wide receiver than Bryant is or was.

Scouts and analysts seemed to agree almost unanimously that Smith-Schuster was going to be a fine secondary receiver in the NFL. His size, craftiness, and ability to make difficult, contested catches in high-traffic areas earned him favorable comparisons to former All-Pro receiver Anquan Boldin during the run-up to the 2017 draft, but his sub-par 40 time left questions about his ability to Gain Separation or Get To The Second Level or whatever other kinds of questions habitual Film Watchers like to toss about, which relegated him to the second-round. The Steelers didn’t protest. Instead, they scooped him up in the second round and—much like they often do with relatively unheralded receivers—turned him into a game-wrecker. So, while Smith-Schuster maybe lacks some of the explosive dynamism that made Martavis Bryant such an enticing outside receiver, he is certainly more well-rounded and demonstrably more capable.

I don’t want to make any firm predictions about what Smith-Schuster might do this season—it isn’t difficult to imagine a scenario in which Smith-Schuster amasses the 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns I mentioned earlier, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he experiences some kind of regression. But I do think he’ll be an integral component of the Steelers’ offense and someone who, if nothing else, should take a considerable amount of pressure off of Antonio Brown (which, to be fair, is something that Bryant was able to do).

Is Le’Veon Bell finally getting, or listening to, some good advice?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:20am

We haven’t heard much from Le’Veon Bell recently, and maybe it shows Bell is learning something during these negotiations.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell have a unique relationship. They love each other on the field but, off of it, things can be a bit dicey.

Bell is revolutionizing the running back position with his ability to run, catch and block, but also with his running style. The patience Bell exudes on a weekly basis isn't something familiar to many football fans around the globe. Nonetheless, others are now attempting to emulate his unique ways of going about his business.

With this success, and Bell certainly realizes it, comes an expectation of being compensated for what he feels he's worth as a player. Everyone remembers last season how Bell stated he feels he should be paid as a top running back and a No. 2 wide receiver.

But that was last year, and while the progress (or lack thereof) of Bell’s contract negotiations with the Steelers are unknown to those outside of the organization, it's worth noting Bell might finally be catching on as to how to handle himself during these tough times.

Maybe, just maybe, he's finally getting, and listening to, some good advice.

No, not in the actual negotiations, but the ways he handles himself and is viewed by the media and fan base.

When Bell put out a picture of himself earlier this offseason and claimed he was a “villain,” it ruffled feathers. The same could be said when he rapped about being a target and not understanding why the bulls eye is on his back.

Well, he took to his verified Instagram page recently and posted a picture of himself running the football, but with a very simple caption:

“silence is key...”

silence is key...

A post shared by LeVeon Bell (@leveonbell) on Jun 18, 2018 at 10:43am PDT

I love a good Le’Veon Bell story as much as anyone, but this might be my favorite one to write. It may have taken him two years, and plenty of headlines, to realize sometimes saying nothing is your best option. Rather than taking what you feel and putting it out for the world to see, just realize your image could take a brutal hit in doing so.

To be honest, I can’t remember a player who was so beloved on the football field, yet hated off of it.

Last season, when fans were angry about Bell missing Organized Team Activities (OTAs), mandatory minicamp, training camp and the entire preseason, they certainly weren’t that upset when he racked up 1,291 yards rushing, 655 yards receiving and tallied 11 total touchdowns.

Then another franchise tag comes and the fan base turns their back on him faster than you can say ‘holdout.’

It's a unique situation. Bell wants what he feels he deserves and the Steelers want to keep him, but not while bankrupting the organization. The fan base wants Bell to be more of a “team player” throughout these negotiations.

Either way you cut it, it seems as though Bell might have finally learned the valuable lesson that sometimes less is more in terms of how you handle the negotiations and how you're viewed by the fan base.

Steelers 7th-round pick Joshua Frazier was a backup at Alabama. He says that’s a good thing.

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 9:12am

Joshua Frazier made 15 tackles in his senior season at Alabama, ranking 20th on the team. In his first three years, the defensive tackle recorded a total of just 13 stops for the Crimson Tide.

Antonio Brown has the power to be as free as he wants

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 8:09am

Steelers receiver Antonio Brown has the career resume to express his opinions about anything he desires.

Steelers receiver Antonio Brown made headlines last week for his rather emotional talk with the media on Day 1 of minicamp, an annual 3-day event for which attendance is mandatory.

One of Brown’s issues had to do with the scrutiny he faced for previously skipping out on several OTAs — annual sessions that are anything but mandatory.

It’s true that Brown’s decision to take time away from OTAs to, as he put it, get his mind right, made him look like a hypocrite on the heels of his remarks about the OTA absence of Le’Veon Bell, who’s in Year 2 of an ongoing contract dispute with the Steelers: “The first rule of getting better is showing up.

Brown accused the media of making up a story, which wasn’t necessarily true. What the media was guilty of, however, was taking a single quote from a lengthy interview and framing it into a story.

Until it was pointed out to me, and until I read the interview in its entirety, I thought Brown was calling out his teammate for not showing up to an activity he wasn’t required to show up for.

After reading the interview from beginning to end, I now can see where a player like Brown would be pretty darn frustrated when his quote about Bell actually was taken out of context.

But what really intrigued me about Brown’s emotional interview last week was how he continuously mentioned his frustration with not being free to express himself in this game, this business, this league, whatever.

What was he referring to? Thankfully, a reporter or two did try to follow up with Brown and asked him what he meant by that but, perhaps because he felt he wasn’t free to do so, the decorated receiver didn’t really elaborate.

Was Brown referring to his social media activity?

As you know, business has always been booming for Brown, with regards to how he expresses himself online, at least in terms of his involvement in the community and, of course, his insane workout regimen.

Was Brown talking about his almost always elaborate touchdown celebrations?

If he was, hey, I understand. After all, who really cares how much fun a player has after scoring a touchdown? But if 2017 was any indication, that horse left the barn a long time ago, and Brown should be able to celebrate touchdowns any way he sees fit between now and the time the league cracks down on it again, a la 1984.

Was Brown referring to some of those very touchy social issues that other NFL players have spoken out about and have paid a very heavy price for doing so?

If so, Brown should get in front of reporters tomorrow and say his piece about whatever issues are bothering him. And if he feels it necessary to say his piece in a different way on Sunday afternoons this fall, he should do that, too.

What is the league going to do, blackball Antonio Brown?

Good luck with that.

It would be refreshing to see a player of Brown’s stature step up for a controversial cause. For one thing, he’s one of the faces of the league. For another thing, he may actually be the best football player on the planet right now, thus totally untouchable.

It’s like what head coach Mike Tomlin once said regarding those elaborate touchdown celebrations that used to cost his team 15 yards on a regular basis: “What am I going to do, bench Antonio Brown?”

Does Brown want to get some things off of his chest regarding his sixth-round pedigree and a rookie season that often saw him fighting with another receiver pup just to get a little measly bone? If so, have at it. For gosh sake, Tom Brady has made a career out of being driven by lasting until the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Why is it sexy for Brady to have a chip on his shoulder, but not for Brown to be equally driven by his past?

Brown is the single-greatest receiver in the world right now, and if NFL MVP voting actually made sense, he may have won it a time or two already.

Maybe people don’t think of him this way, but Brown is a team leader. His voice matters. His feelings matter. His desires are and should be important to the Steelers.

They should also be important to the fans.

Brown gives it everything he has both from a preparation standpoint and on game day.

Brown has been entertaining us as a football player for years. He’s earned the right to let everyone know how he feels about many different things.

Ben Roethlisberger ranked No. 18 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players list

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 6:41am

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ main man moved up four spots in the annual rankings.

While most detest rankings, like the yearly rankings the NFL Network throws out where they rank the Top 100 players from the previous year, people sure do pay attention to them. For fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, they love to see their favorite players represent the black-and-gold on the national stage for all to see.

To date, the Steelers have had three players on the Top 100, and they are:

No.48 Cameron Heyward
No. 47 Ryan Shazier
No. 44 David DeCastro

On Tuesday night, another member of the Steelers cracked the Top 20, and it was none other than quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger, coming off a great season which resulted in a Pro Bowl selection, was No. 18 on the list. He moved up 4 spots from his 2017 ranking of No. 22. While not a Top 10 player in the league, again, he is still listed among the best quarterbacks in the game. Of the players who have been listed already, only Russell Wilson is ranked ahead of him (No. 11), but players like Tom Brady and Drew Brees have yet to be announced.

During Roethlisberger’s segment, you hear from JuJu Smith-Schuster as he diagrams his 98-yard catch and run vs. the Detroit Lions last season on Sunday Night Football, Calais Campbell and of course Antonio Brown.

You can watch the segment by clicking HERE, and it will be added to this article when it hits social media.

Podcast: The Steelers offseason has begun...what now?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 5:42am

In the latest episode of the “Steelers News” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-gold from the week that was.

The 2018 NFL Draft is over and, believe it or not, there’s lots to talk about heading into a big week of offseason news for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the new show Steelers News:

  • Wrapping up Minicamp news and notes
  • Top-5 story lines heading into training camp
  • Ben Roethlisberger’s contract status
  • Deadline looming for Le’Veon Bell’s contract status
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, goes over 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 our BlogTalkRadio page. If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below. Be sure to follow us on iTunes by searching The Standard is the Standard.

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also check out his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

5 members of the Steelers are represented on the CBS Top 100 list

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 3:11pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers were well represented on Pete Prisco’s NFL Top 100 list.

The NFL offseason is long. Longer than any other professional sports league, and when most teams have January till September between regular season games, things can get mighty slow on the news wire. The end of June and most of July absolutely are the worst. With Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp concluded, players leave their teams until they return for training camp.

This is what we call the dog days of summer in the NFL. The only news circulating during these weeks are usually the negative variety, so people have to think of creative ways to find content. For CBS Sports writer Pete Prisco, as well as numerous other sites and stations, he developed his own Top 100 player list heading into 2018.

There are five members of the Pittsburgh Steelers represented on the list, and you can find them, and their ranking, below. These are strictly objective, and his rankings leave plenty to be debated. How Ben Roethlisberger is ranked No. 63 is beyond me, but this is what causes debate.

So, check out the rankings, and let us know what you think of them in the comment section below! If you want to check out Prisco’s full list, you can check it out HERE.

No. 5 - Antonio Brown

He continues to put up amazing numbers for the Steelers. There is no sign at all of him slowing either as he led the NFL in receiving yards last season.

No. 19 - Le’Veon Bell

He can do it all, run it, catch it and he’s a good blocker. His contract situation shouldn’t overshadow how great he is as a player.

No. 38 - David DeCastro

He plays the game with power and has improved greatly as a pass protector. He has lived up to the first-round hype.

No. 63 - Ben Roethlisberger

He remains a player who can beat a team with his arm, but is really dangerous when the play breaks down. Since his impressive 2014 season, his numbers haven’t been as good.

No. 84 - Cameron Heyward

He had his best season in 2017 with a career-best 12 sacks. He’s also outstanding against the run in their scheme.

Ramon Foster gives his list of Steelers players who have impressed this offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:45pm

The Steelers’ starting guard gives talks players who have been turning heads this offseason.

Last season Ramon Foster could have been labeled a fortune teller after mandatory minicamp wrapped up. After the final workout, the Steelers official website asked him who impressed on the field the past few weeks.

His answer was, “No. 40”, and that player was none other than Mike Hilton.

As we all know, Hilton went on to be a large part of the Steelers’ defense in 2017 and did more than just make Foster look like a tremendous prognosticator, he proved to be a critical part of the team.

So, with his 2017 prediction proved accurate, who stood out through 2018 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp?

“No 38, the kid from North Carolina Sate,” Foster told Mike Prisuta of Steelers.com this week.

“He looks well conditioned,” Foster assessed. “He’s a guy that’s finding the hole and going, he’s fast. He has to work on a few things as far as protections, but he’s looking really good.”

“He’s doing more than just run the ball,” Foster said. “Le’Veon (Bell) created the blueprint for this thing. If you’re a young running back that’s coming up, learn how to run the ball and catch the ball.

“He’s made two or three combat catches in the end zone, back-shoulder fades and jump-balls where you’re like, ‘this kid’s got something,’ receiver stuff, which is huge. That gives him an opportunity. He’s just so stoic, too. He’ll catch the ball and just go back like it’s work as usual. That’s what you have to appreciate about a young guy like that.”

“Another one is (running back James) Conner,” Foster continued. “Conner is looking really damn good. No. 38 and Conner have both had really good off-seasons.

“Another one is (wide receiver) Justin Hunter. He’s making plays I didn’t see him make all of last year, for sure. Justin’s looking like a guy, I wouldn’t be surprised if Justin has a really good year this year. Deep balls, high jump-balls, he’s just catching combat catches. Justin is looking really good.”

“Justin, No. 38 and Conner have had really good springs. Those three are guys I’m really looking forward to seeing (in training camp), but mostly Justin.”

Foster has called his shot before, but will he be able to do it again? If he does, it would only mean good things for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense in 2018.

Ben Roethlisberger not concerned about next contract, but should he be?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 11:25am

How the Pittsburgh Steelers handle Ben Roethlisberger’s current contract will be something to watch.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers look into their crystal ball, they have a looming decision to make at the quarterback position. Not anytime in the near future, hopefully, but certainly upcoming.

Ben Roethlisberger is under contract until through the 2019 season before he is set to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent, or hang up the cleats and retire. Either way, the decision looming surrounds how the Steelers handle the final years of their franchise quarterback’s legendary career.

They have options.

One option is to give Roethlisberger an extension on his current contract. With two years left on his current deal, this is when the organization usually approaches contract negotiations with their quarterback.

Doing this would help alleviate some salary cap space which has built up over time and restructured deals. However, it would also keep Roethlisberger on the books longer than most would want.

Another option is to take a wait-and-see approach. Roethlisberger is 36 years-old and there is no guarantee he will keep up his current pace for the foreseeable future.

Doing this would not only give the team the chance to see how Roethlisberger is playing, as well as his health. If he, and the offensive line, do their jobs it could make the decision easier for the organization.

Lastly, the team could hedge their bets on young rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph to develop into a starter in the league, making the aging Roethlisberger expendable. It may seem hard to believe right now, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility when entering the 2020 season and Roethlisberger pushing 40 years of age.

The downfall of this decision is if Roethlisberger is still playing at a decent level, and the team feels it is time to move on and see what they have in Rudolph, Roethlisberger very well could end his career with another franchise. This would be difficult for the fan base, and would be similar to other players who have ended their black-and-gold careers in different jerseys, primarily Franco Harris and James Harrison.

With all that said, Roethlisberger isn’t currently worried about his contract status, or at least isn’t stating so publicly.

He spoke with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN at his Ben Roethlisberger football camp recently and had this to say:

“I have two years on my contract. I’m not going to be one to sit here and worry about my contract,” said Roethlisberger. “That’s not my job. My job is to play football. I’ll let my representation, the Steelers worry about all that stuff. To me, it’s all about going out and playing now. I think there are a lot more, maybe a lot more important people who need to get their deals done now. For me to do it two years out, if it doesn’t make sense for the team, I’m not going to sit here and worry about it.”

Roethlisberger, who seems to be following the Tom Brady line of thinking when it comes to contracts and helping the team sign others, also realizes his job is to go out and win games with the best team around him.

“It’s important, too, to understand as quarterback of this team, sometimes you almost have to leave a little bit of money behind for other guys,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s not my job, that’s not my thing to worry about. That’s why I have agents.”

While Roethlisberger speaks of not worry about his contract, you have to assume it is weighing on his mind. He has spoken about wanting to retire a member of the Steelers, but will he have to follow the path of Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward by being forced into that decision?

Again, this is years away, but worth talking about as both Mason Rudolph progresses, and Ben Roethlisberger ages.

Mason Rudolph talks about how Ben Roethlisberger has helped him through OTAs and minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 9:20am

While drama fueled the relationship before Organized Team Activities, Ben Roethlisberger is doing his part to help Mason Rudolph become the best quarterback he can be.

Oh the drama.

This was certainly the sentiment of the vast majority of Pittsburgh Steelers fans when Ben Roethlisberger made waves on his weekly radio show talking about Mason Rudolph. Why the team drafted him in the third round and how Rudolph supposedly didn’t want Roethlisberger’s help.

The media latched onto the story and ran with it like there was no tomorrow, but it also created a very interesting story line as the team headed into Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

Will Ben actually tutor Mason?

Inquiring minds wanted to know!

Well, as expected, Roethlisberger did help Rudolph on more than one occasion, and Rudolph talked about what the advice was coming from the team’s longtime franchise quarterback.

“He will talk about ball placement a lot,” Rudolph told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “throwing to guys open especially in the red zone. There’s tight windows down there, and he does a great job of teaching guys – even if it’s incomplete, he will teach the guys what to throw. ‘This is where I want to put the ball moving forward. So they learn, so the next rep, they are more quick to learn and quick to adjust based on his ball placement.”

While many players will downplay the improvement they have made throughout the offseason, Rudolph acknowledged just how the game has slowed down for him through rookie minicamp, OTAs and minicamp.

“That first day of OTAs was fast,” Rudolph said after minicamp wrapped up. “Just because you are coming from rookie minicamp, and you’re starting to feel super comfortable there and you’re dialing it up and moving it down the field and throwing into those windows. And then (at OTAs), those windows and those throwing lanes, they all decreased pretty significantly.

”But after that first day, you adjust and you raise your level of play and you take your coaching and make some mistakes here and there, but it’s a process and we understand that. Made a lot of plays here at the end of the camp.”

By all accounts, not just from Rudolph himself, the third round pick from Oklahoma State has been nothing short of impressive as a professional. His command of the huddle, accuracy with the football and overall play has been outstanding.

Granted, this is nothing more than football in shorts, but there is even talk by some suggesting Rudolph could be the second quarterback on the depth chart, above Landry Jones, if he performs well in training camp and the preseason. It certainly will make for an interesting discussion and debate as the regular season draws near.

While this particular quarterback battle will have to wait until the boys head to Latrobe, PA, readers can rest easy knowing Roethlisberger has indeed been helping Rudolph progress throughout offseason workouts.

The Steelers really did use a second round pick to replace Martavis Bryant — twice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 7:24am

Many believe Martavis Bryant's enormous potential could never be replaced in the Steelers’ lineup. But the team used two second-round picks, not only to replace him in the lineup, but also to replace him on the roster.

“lol that’s Sammie Coates’ replacement, not mine, take it how you want to, I am back.”

That was the infamous Tweet from former Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant on the night Pittsburgh selected USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Bryant made news for throwing his new teammate under the bus on social media, but do you think this Tweet was made out of arrogance or defensiveness?

As far as I was concerned, there were many layers to the drafting of a receiver with such a premium pick, and anyone — including the teammate-dissing receiver himself — who didn’t consider the possibility that the intent was to replace a player who missed 20 out of 48 career games due to drug-related suspensions really wasn’t thinking things through.

The notion that Bryant’s enormous talent, which included great size and speed, could be thwarted by anything other than his own demons seemed ridiculous to many, but that’s because his skill-set had been hyped to an almost mythical level during his time away from football.

True, Bryant did account for 1,314 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on 76 receptions in his first 21 career games — numbers that screamed Randy Moss-like potential. But it wasn’t like he reinvented the wheel.

Great athletes and football players come in all shapes and sizes.

Take Smith-Schuster, for instance

At 6’1” and 215 pounds, he was certainly big enough coming out of college. And while his 4.5 speed wasn’t as impressive as Bryant’s, he wouldn’t have been the first receiver in NFL history to succeed at that gear.

Case-in-point: Smith-Schuster’s rookie season, one in which he quickly began to outpace the struggling Bryant, whose ultra-fast legs somehow failed to take him where they had during the first 21 games of his career.

With 58 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns, the rookie JuJu assumed the No. 2 receiver role about midway through the 2017 campaign. As for Bryant, he quickly became disgruntled and, again, threw a receiver teammate under the bus on social media — this time, JuJu himself.

”JuJu is no where near better than me fool all they need to do is give me what I want and y’all can have juju and who ever else.”

That little slice of Instagram disgruntle, which actually came on the heels of rumors he wanted to be traded, earned Bryant a spot on the deactivated list for a Sunday night game against the Lions in Detroit.

Smith-Schuster made the most of the spotlight, even using his 4.5 speed to score the decisive touchdown on a 97-yard catch and run from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on a play three yards longer than Bryant’s 94-yard touchdown against the Bengals in 2014.

In fairness, Bryant was a good soldier following the trade rumors and his second social media faux pas, and he played decently enough down the stretch.

But that didn’t stop the Steelers from trading him away on draft day, a deal that saw Pittsburgh (perhaps, remarkably) pry a third-round pick from the Raiders’ menacing hands.

As for “who ever else” Bryant said fans could have, it turned out to be Oklahoma State’s James Washington, a receiver the Steelers selected in the second round.

At 5’11” and 213 pounds, Washington doesn’t come into the league screaming Randy Moss potential, but his big-play prowess in college certainly seemed to indicate he plays faster than his official 4.54 time.

It would be a bit premature to say Washington will step right in and be the Steelers’ newest deep threat and make everyone forget about Bryant.

But Bryant began making people forget about him long before Smith-Schuster and Washington came onto the scene. And if recent reports of another possible suspension are true, those menacing Raiders fans won’t soon let new coach Jon Gruden forget he gave up a third-round pick for a troubled receiver who might never spend another day in the NFL--let alone in Silver and Black.

Bryant still has many supporters among the Steelers’ fan base, people who have been waiting for that Randy Moss-like potential to come to fruition.

But Smith-Schuster also has many supporters, and by the time Washington’s rookie season is halfway over, he might become the Steelers’ newest breath of fresh air.

Turns out, Martavis Bryant really was replaced by a second-round pick twice. One pick sent him to the bench. The other pick — more or less — sent him to the Raiders

For Antonio Brown, fighting for his place in the sun has been a lifelong pursuit

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 5:48am

Not only is No. 84 the NFL’s greatest and most competitive wide receiver, but he’s equally feisty off of the field.

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” (Mark Twain)

Americans traditionally have honored the self-made individual who leverages God-given abilities to power a meteoric rise to greatness. It’s the classic Horatio Alger tale of the poor boy who overcomes mean circumstances to set the world on its ear. By this standard alone, Antonio Brown commands and richly deserves considerable respect. Like his teammates Artie Burns and Eli Rogers, Antonio grew up in the impoverished Liberty City section of Miami — a notorious zip code that south Florida visitors generally are warned to avoid.

As a youth, Brown faced the additional burden of a broken home — his parents separating during the mid-1990s. Largely because of this family tumult, Brown was fending for himself by the tender age of 16. For a time, he found himself roaming from pillar to post, without any home to call his own. The difficulties of getting his education under these circumstances denied Brown an opportunity to attend Florida State University after he graduated as a star athlete from Miami’s Norland High School in 2005. Instead, he needed to take prep classes at North Carolina Tech the following year to bolster his college eligibility. Even given the athletic prowess he shared with his father, former Arena Football League star ”Touchdown” Eddie Brown, the obstacles confronting young Antonio often must have seemed monumental.

But that’s precisely when Brown reached down deep within himself and found the fortitude to grasp his football dream. In a May 2014 interview with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Patricia Sheraden, he discussed this period in his life. “When everyone turned around on me, all I had to do was rely on myself,” Brown said. “I’ve got a strong spirit that I rely on and go into.”

As Pittsburgh sports fans have learned since he was drafted in 2010, Brown’s incorrigible spirit not only is strong, but also occasionally is unleashed. So whether he’s doing a press interview, trashing a Gatorade cooler, posting clandestine smartphone feeds from the Steelers‘ locker room, or dropping one of his cryptic, social-media quips, No. 84 cannot truly be accused of doing anything more harmful than simply being Antonio. This is part and parcel of what makes Brown the unparalleled player — and person — he is.

In reality, Brown has been striving for success under very challenging circumstances for his entire life. Despite his outstanding achievements and princely salary — he’s not resting on his laurels, but still fighting to excel. This is the kid who enrolled at Central Michigan University as a walk-on receiver in 2007, and ultimately was selected by the Steelers as the 22nd overall WR in the 2010 NFL Draft. He’s the guy who chose No. 84 for his jersey — not in tribute to any football idol — but because the product of eight and four is 32 — the number of NFL teams that bypassed him throughout the early rounds of the Draft (Brown was selected in the sixth round as the 195th overall pick). If anything, this demonstrates that AB is unafraid to raise some hackles anytime he feels he‘s not being properly respected. Should we be at all surprised, then, that Brown is annoyed by the constant hounding of reporters, or that one of his sons is named “Autonomy?“

That fiercely independent, self-reliant spirit which Steelers Nation sees on display every week during the season comes from all the years Brown spent fighting his way from the ghetto to the top of the mountain against the very longest of odds. Perhaps more than any other current member of the Black-and-gold besides his compadre and trigger-man, Ben Roethlisberger, Brown personifies the very essence of Steelers Football in its contemporary form. His unique combination of athletic talent and inner drive place Brown truly in a class by himself, both as a player and a person.

So the next time AB does something to “jar your preserves” (as my grandpa often said), it might help to keep a couple of very important things in mind. First, of course, Antonio is a truly rare talent who undoubtedly will go down in NFL history as one of the greatest ever to play his position. Secondly, Brown didn’t attain his current, superstar status by taking the easy or safe road in life. His personal credo was perhaps best stated during the Sheraden interview, when he candidly observed, “Everything that’s really difficult is a blessing in disguise, and that’s the approach I take.”

It‘s more than mere athletic talent, but Brown’s conception of life‘s many challenges as blessings-in-disguise which sets him apart from so many of his NFL counterparts. It’s his combative spirit and unwavering character which affirms No. 84‘s value as a unique treasure — one that we may only hope will continue to amaze and amuse us until the day he retires — of course — as a Pittsburgh Steeler.

See you in September: How the Steelers plan to approach another late arrival by Le'Veon Bell

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 9:51pm

Unless Le’Veon Bell unexpectedly signs a long-term contract by July 16, the Steelers likely are headed down a familiar road this summer. The All-Pro running back won’t be at training camp and won’t play in any of the four preseason games this summer. If Bell follows the same plan as a year ago, he will report to the team one week before the season begins, sign his franchise tag and play in Week 1.

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