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It’s nice to see Steelers players with microphones in their faces again

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 05/21/2022 - 6:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I believe personal interactions between reporters and players/coaches is important for Steelers fans. It was nice to see the rookies answering questions from reporters in a more traditional, up-close and personal way at rookie camp.

How much news did you glean from the Steelers' just-concluded rookie camp, a camp that saw their entire draft class and a bunch of undrafted free agents convene at the team’s South Side facilities for workouts and drills in shorts?

If you answered, “Not Much!” you are probably correct.

But at least we got to see these Steelers’ rookies in action—kind of—so that was sort of cool, right?

I guess it all depends on your definition of “cool.”

One thing about rookie camp that I personally thought was cool was seeing the players being interviewed by scrums (not scums) of reporters standing mere feet away from them. Not only that, but they all had their arms outstretched and their microphones sticking directly in the players’ faces as they answered question after question.

Did these players say anything interesting? I guess it all depends on your definition of “interesting,” but it sure was nice to see these guys have to answer questions this way again.

I actually didn’t even notice at first, as I watched rookie first-round pick, Kenny Pickett, answer countless questions while standing outside in the fresh air. He was followed by Calvin Austin III, the third-round receiver out of Memphis, who had to answer—and this isn’t totally accurate—450,000 questions about his height and weight, as well as a few hundred more about the number of times he was hit incredibly hard in college by those big, bad defensive players.

To be honest, I never thought I’d see players/coaches and reporters this up close and personal ever again. In fact, two years ago, right after the pandemic hit, and journalists immediately stopped getting direct access to players and coaches at all, I feared this would be the norm moving forward, even after the “new normal” had subsided.

Radio hosts and reporters even predicted that zoom interviews would be a permanent thing, and many wondered if they’d ever be allowed in a locker room again.

Last season, we had more of a press-conference type feel to interviews, with coaches and players set up at tables and answering questions that were asked by reporters in an orderly and respectful way.

No, we didn’t have the annoying zoom errors of the year before, but it still didn’t feel the same as a good old-fashioned one-on-one post-game interview, where a reporter could interact with a player when his emotions were still on high.

I don’t know why, but I think this sort of access to a player is important, and it’s a much better way for fans to connect with the team. It’s so much better than trying to get a feel for these guys while they sit behind a video screen or conference table.

Maybe I was imagining things, but it almost seemed like Pickett was a little annoyed by one or two of the questions that were asked by reporters during his media scrum. As for Austin, talk about a handsome guy. My advice for Austin: Be an ankle-breaker on the field, and not a heartbreaker off the field.

Reporters can get better scoops from coaches and players if they interact with them in an up-close and personal way, as well as more original quotes and stories.

I’m not sure if we’ll ever truly get back to the days when reporters could huddle around players in the locker room after a game, but we had stadiums full of fans last year. Training camp will be back at Latrobe this summer.

The more access fans have to their teams, the more enjoyable the product is for them to consume.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 05/21/2022 - 5:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the BTSC website, but we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest two podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

Nonetheless, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show.

Here We Go, The Steelers Show: Depth or Debt, Do the Steelers have enough “dudes” at linebacker?

There has been so much talk about the state of the Steelers linebackers going into the 2022 season. What characteristics make a successful LB and do the Steelers have enough “dudes” at the position? Join Bryan Anthony Davis and Kevin Smith for Here We Go. The BTSC duo break down the Steelers like no one else does.

Check out the rundown

  • News and Notes
  • Should the Steelers have done more at linebacker?
  • and MUCH MORE!

Steelers Friday Night Six Pack with Tony: When Steelers Rookie Camp goes off without a hitch

Steelers 2022 rookie camp was conducted at the team’s South Side Facilities this past week, and it went off without a hitch. Nope, there wasn’t much noteworthy news, but that’s always a good thing. Also, Antonio Brown is still in the news. That and your questions and comments on this episode of Steelers Friday Night Six Pack with veteran BTSC podcaster and writer Tony Defeo.

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Steelers Rookie Camp goes off without a hitch
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Steelers Podcast: All the latest from BTSC’s family of Pittsburgh #Steelers shows, Saturday edition

@btscbad, K.T. Smith on if the Steelers have enough “dudes” at linebacker?

@defeoman on what it means when Steelers Rookie Camp goes off without a hitch

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Vol. 13

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 5:45pm
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There is always something to talk about when it comes to the Black & Gold!

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

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

The rules are still the same...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

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

1. Which position do you think needs the most help in terms of depth? Running back or Tight end?

2. With the NFL schedule out now for over a week, and a chance to digest everything. Do you take the OVER/UNDER on the Steelers winning 7.5 games in 2022?

3. What are your thoughts on jersey numbers? Both Connor Heyward (No. 83) and Calvin Austin III (No. 19) said both numbers were “given to them” and weren’t chosen. They can certainly change their number once cuts are made, but do you care if a number of a former Steelers great is re-issued?

4. The Steelers wrapped up their second round of interviews Thursday. If you were a bettor, who would you put your money on being the team’s next General Manager?

John Spytek (Tampa Bay)
Andy Weidl (Philadelphia)
Doug Whaley
Ryan Cowden (Tennessee)
Omar Khan (Internal Candidate)
Brandon Hunt (Internal Candidate)

5. To piggyback question No. 4, how important do you think the GM of the team will be? Or do you think Mike Tomlin will have more say over the roster selections within the new regime?

6. In the Kevin Colbert era, who do you think was the best draft pick of his tenure, and the worst?

I’ll take a stab at No. 6 first...

Best: Troy Polamalu (2003)

The reason I went with Troy was based on the fact the the Steelers were aggressive in moving up to get him. The team was very fortunate when they drafted Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, but I thought the Polamalu pick was Colbert’s best.

Worst: Senquez Golson (2015)

The Steelers had no clue Golson would never even see a preseason field for the team due to injury, but the guy was a second round pick. You can say Jarvis Jones, Limas Sweed, Artie Burns or Mike Adams, but at least all those players registered games played for the Steelers. Again, Golson never even saw a preseason game...

Stay safe out there!

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

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

We added some new shows and a new platform to our podcasts...if you haven’t checked out our full lineup of morning, noon, and evening shows, give them a try by listening below!

Steelers sign third round draft pick DeMarvin Leal

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 3:23pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Leal becomes the fifth draft pick the Steelers have signed at this time.

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced the signing of the fifth of their seven 2022 NFL draft picks on Friday. The latest draftee to sign for the Steelers is third-round draft pick DeMarvin Leal out of Texas A&M.

We have signed DE DeMarvin Leal. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 20, 2022

The 84th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, Leal played three seasons for Texas A&M and appeared in 33 games. Over that time he had 133 tackles, 25 of which were for loss, 13 sacks, one interception, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

A projected first-round draft pick early in the 2022 draft process, Leal fell to the Steelers in Day 2 of the draft. At 6‘4“ and 290 pounds, Leal has been prepared to bulk up to play on the Steelers defensive line but was not instructed to do so by head coach Mike Tomlin.

“He’s speculating if he thinks we want him to put on weight,” Coach Tomlin stated about Leal following the Saturday session of rookie minicamp last weekend. “We’re just here getting to know him and his body and how it works. Oftentimes in draft preparation, guys hear things from NFL people, and they try to do what they think we want. The reality is that we’re trying to get to know the athlete, the pedigree of the athlete and how his body works, what’s the optimal condition for him to be in, etc. And so, it would be much too premature to talk about desired weights and so forth with any of these guys, because we’re just getting to know them.”

Leal joins second-round pick George Pickens as well as sixth-round draft pick Connor Heyward and both seventh-round draft picks Mark Robinson and Chris Oladokun as members of the 2022 NFL draft class the Steelers have under contract. The only two players remaining at this time are first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett and fourth-round selection Calvin Austin III.

According to overthecap.com, Leal’s salary cap hit for 2022 is estimated at $985,267 based on the rookie wage scale.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as the Steelers begin Phase 2 of OTAs next week.

Getting to know the Steelers 2022 UDFAs: Jordan Tucker

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The UNC tackle is currently the largest player on the Steelers roster.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected seven players in the 2022 NFL draft, they continued adding to the roster with ten undrafted free agents. With many draft profiles focusing on those players towards the top and middle of the NFL draft, it is time to get to take a look at these other members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who will have just as much opportunity to make the roster in 2022 as those who were selected in the draft, despite the more difficult path.

Remember, some draft profiles for these players are quite harsh as they are looking at them as a draftable prospect. Taking a flyer on an UDFA is a completely different story as many times the potential the player shows is what lands them on an NFL offseason roster.

Next on the list is North Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Tucker.

Jordan Tucker Offensive tackle
Senior
North Carolina
6’6” 340 lbs

Playing right tackle in North Carolina, Jordan Tucker appeared in 45 games in four seasons with the Tar Heels.

Current Steelers at the position:

Offensive Tackle

  1. Chukwuma Okorafor
  2. Dan Moore Jr.
  3. Joe Haeg
  4. Chaz Green
  5. Trenton Scott
  6. Jordan Tucker
  7. Jake Dixon
Draft Profiles:

There was more adequate information in the terms of breakdowns for Tucker heading into the 2022 NFL draft. Here is a breakdown from si.com:

Pros:

Leinweber: Right tackle with very good size at the position. Tucker powerfully strikes unsuspecting defenders when down blocking. He has solid eyes to locate second-level defenders.

Cons:

Leinweber: Slow feet prevent him from protecting either shoulder on an island as he fails to mirror and recover. Tucker leaves his chest exposed, allowing defenders to gain inside hand position. He is unable to match their movement and gets bull rushed. His punch is wide and often early, causing him to whiff. Slow hands frequently get beat before he can land them. Tucker does not latch. Stiffness and tardy movement in short spaces prevent him from getting to spots and mean he can not pull. Tucker allows leakage on zone runs and fails to work around to gain leverage and seal, often resorting to holding. Moving faster with his upper body than his feet compromises his functional strength as he is off balance. He gets tunnel vision and does not react to stunts quickly enough.

Summary:

Leinweber: Big right tackle who finds occasional success as a down blocker. Tucker lacks agility in short spaces and has slow feet compromising his balance and functional strength. He can not pass protect on an island as he gets beat around both shoulders and through his chest. Tucker may get a camp invite due to his size but is unlikely to stick on a practice squad.

One-Liners

Leinweber: Big right tackle who can not pass protect on an island and severely lacks short area quickness.

Here is another draft profile from nfldraftbuzz.com:

Strengths

Has a strong upper body with physical, powerful hands and works hard to gain body positioning in the run game.

Strong upper body, arms and hands. Coordinated feet with the flexibility for offensive tackle. Hard worker.

Anchors against larger defenders in the middle; resets hands to maintain distance. Athletic enough to help on nose tackle then pick up twist or late blitzer. Mirrors quick interior rushers. Looks to help the center when uncovered.

He has the quickness and growth potential, long arms and powerful base to be one of the most popular players in predraft film sessions. If he impresses in private workouts, he could climb draft boards.

Best asset is his strength and disposition as a run blocker. Gives a strong initial punch. Plays with good leverage bends at the knees and sees what he’s hitting, showing the ability to roll his hips into the defender and drive him off the line of scrimmage.

Weaknesses

Anticipates speed rushers attacking the edge and will over-set to the outside, leaving inside rushing lanes wide open for defenders to jab-step outside and re-direct through the gap.

Adequate initial burst should be far better and isn’t good enough to consistently hold out elite pass rushers.

Attacks when necessary, though he won’t consistently dominate and can lose balance overextending.

Needs to prove his worth in a straight-ahead running game.

Heavy-footed with limited lateral quickness. Stiff and looks like he’s moving in wet cement in the open field.

Film:

To finish off the breakdown of Jordan Tucker no evaluation is complete without film. There wasn’t a good “highlight” video, but here is every offensive play from UNC’s game against Wake Forest this past season. Tucker is number 74 and is the lineman closest on the screen to start (in the first quarter):

Steelers fans expecting Trubisky, not Pickett, to be the Week 1 starter

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 12:45pm
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback competition is getting ready to heat up, but fans believe the Week 1 starter will be Mitchell Trubisky.

The Pittsburgh Steelers pending quarterback battle is going to be something to watch as Organized Team Activities (OTAs), mandatory minicamp and training camp approach. Prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, the quarterback battle was staged as Mason Rudolph vs. Mitchell Trubisky.

However, after the draft, and the Steelers picking Kenny Pickett 20th overall, the waters have become a bit more muddy. Now, instead of it being Trubisky vs. Rudolph, the discussion is more about Trubisky vs. Pickett as offseason workouts approach.

The debate of who will start for the Steelers in Week 1 has been a hot-button discussion among Steelers fans for the past few weeks, and while no one knows for sure who will claim the title of the first quarterback in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, it doesn’t stop fans for having a rooting interest.

This week I posed several questions to the BTSC community, and the response was strong for all the burning questions surrounding the Steelers. One of those questions was who fans believe will be the team’s Week 1 starter when the Steelers hit the road to play the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

When the polls were closed, the fan base made their opinions clear...they believe Trubisky will be the guy under center to start the season. Check out the DraftKings Reacts results below:

Most would agree, the best thing for a young quarterback is to be given the opportunity to ease their way into the starting role. For Steelers fans, they immediately think of Ben Roethlisberger’s 2004 season where he entered in Week 2, but didn’t lose a start until the AFC Championship game that season.

There have been plenty of examples of quarterbacks thrust into the position as starter, and not live up to their first round pick designation. The list is long, and the Steelers are hoping the team doesn’t repeat the same history for their newest quarterback.

With that said, the difference between Pickett and other quarterbacks is how much he has played in college. With 49 career starts at the University of Pittsburgh over a five year span has him more than prepared to be the guy, if he wins the job. The key word being “if” if he wins the job.

Since 2004 the Steelers have known who their quarterback will be heading into a season. Now starts a new era, and the fan base feels the next quarterback to be named starter will be Trubisky, not Pickett.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason program leading up to training camp.

Hiring in-house for the Steelers’ next GM should be encouraged, not dismayed

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 11:30am

Brandon Hunt and Omar Khan are more than fine options. In fact, Steelers fans should be ecstatic if either is the choice to be GM.

If there’s one guarantee regarding the Steelers, it’s a proclivity to not only retain personnel, but also to elevate them to higher positions when vacancies appear.

Take the last two offseasons as a measuring stick. After cutting ties with Randy Fichtner, Pittsburgh promoted quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator. Then, when Keith Butler retired, Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney moved Teryl Austin from secondary coach to the team’s defensive coordinator.

This trend of moving pre-existing coaches is deeply rooted within the organization. Before being named OC, Fichtner had been with the Steelers since 2007, coaching receivers and quarterbacks. Butler had been the team’s linebackers coach since 2003. In fact, the last time the Steelers had an offensive/defensive coordinator named to that position without having prior experience within the franchise is Todd Haley in 2012, who went from head coach of the Chiefs to Pittsburgh’s OC.

As Rooney, Colbert and Tomlin have continued to level up their own guys, fans have grown distraught, citing few peripheral ideas and an overall sentiment of boredom. I get it: there generally is a lack of pizazz when an organization simply promotes a member rather than getting a glitzy new face.

However, the Steelers’ tendency to do so is often linked with longstanding success and familiarity with procedures. The same applies to the team’s ongoing search for a successor to Colbert at general manager, whose worn out, diamond-encrusted shoes will have to be filled for quite some time.

This week, Pittsburgh successfully narrowed its list of candidates to receive a second interview, which includes Andy Weidl, Doug Whaley, John Spytek and Ryan Cowden. All are from different organizations, holding varying levels of personnel and scouting experience.

One of the main draws of such candidates is bringing in one of the braintrusts behind franchise turnarounds. For example, Spytek, the Buccaneers’ vice president of player personnel, helped to acquire Tom Brady, Tristan Wirfs, Antoine Winfield Jr., Rob Gronkowski and other assets needed for the team’s dominance since 2020. Weidl, who holds the same title with the Eagles, spearheaded the franchise’s Super Bowl LII run as well as proved pivotal in Philadelphia landing De’Vonta Smith and A.J. Brown.

Sure, it would be fun to have the Steelers’ next GM be one of the architects of a grassroots rebuild or someone with vast experience in different organizations. Yet, there were two names conscientiously left off of the list above: Brandon Hunt and Omar Khan.

Both Hunt and Khan currently work hand-in-hand with Colbert: Hunt as pro scouting coordinator, and Khan as vice president of football and business administration. Both have spent at least 12 years in Pittsburgh, spearheading a team that has enjoyed eight playoff appearances in that span.

Moreover, Hunt and Khan each play an integral role in the Steelers’ day-to-day, as well as long-term, operations. Hunt frequently accompanies Tomlin and Colbert to colleges’ pro days; he was seen at Pitt’s Pro Day this year to scrutinize Kenny Pickett. Likewise, Khan has been the team’s de facto cap specialist, assisting in orchestrating T.J. Watt’s record-setting extension as well as signing Myles Jack, James Daniels and other solid acquisitions to team-friendly deals.

Hunt and Khan have caught the eye of other swooning franchises. Hunt recently interviewed to be the Bills’ assistant general manager, while Khan was in the running for the Texans’ and Bears’ GM positions. It’s clear that each provides savvy insights and is venerated around the league.

All along in the team’s quest for its successor to Colbert, it seems that Hunt and Khan have been co-favorites. For some, that principle is irritating, with the Steelers potentially set to shift yet another pre-existing staffer to a higher position.

Admittedly, the Steelers have had mixed results when they do promote in-house. But if Hunt or Khan is named the team’s next pioneer in the near future, it shouldn’t be dismissed as following a recurring pattern, particularly one viewed as lazy.

Even if the hire isn’t as clinquant as expected, Pittsburgh fans should be elated if their next general manager would have vast experience working under Colbert. After all, it’s not every day that you have two legitimate hot commodities working as understudies in the same organization.

Whether Khan or Hunt, the concept of having a general manager groomed under a future Hall-of-Famer staying in the building and executing their nascent ideas should be celebrated.

4 way-too-early potential training camp sensations for the 2022 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a list of this writer's early favorites for the next training camp sensation for the 2022 Steelers.

As everyone familiar with my offseason articles already knows, I fill each Pittsburgh Steelers offseason with pre-draft prediction articles about possible targets, then plenty of post-draft submissions about each actual selection. That helps fill a small portion of the offseason where relevant content is highly coveted.

As we cycle through organized team activities (OTAs), both the volunteer and mandatory varieties, more content becomes available as some unknown prospects get the opportunity to show enough potential to hit Steelers Nation's radar. Some of these prospects turn enough potential into production during training camp and the preseason to become roster relevant, while others were little more than necessary camp bodies.

I love the players who turn out to be pleasant surprises. Players who warrant consideration for the coveted Isaac Redman Award. Last year I wrote offseason articles about a number of potential sleepers from the later rounds and undrafted acquisitions. Quincy Roche, Jamir Jones, and Rico Bussey Jr. to name a few. None of the three still remain with the Steelers, but they had differing degrees of success in the NFL.

The Steelers were intrigued enough with Quincy Roche, after a strong training camp and preseason, they tried to sneak the sixth round selection onto their practice squad. However, the New York Giants had other ideas, and snatched him up, just as I had predicted.

Jamir Jones was my surprise sleeper pick for the defensive side of the ball in the early stages of camp, while Rico Bussey Jr. was my nominee for the offense. Bussey showed enough potential to earn a spot on the practice squad, while Jones actually made the opening roster; in addition to winning the coveted BTSC Isaac Redman Award.

That brings us to the focal point of this article. Who are some way-too-early candidates for the 2022 Steelers training camp darlings? Based on an extremely limited amount of available data, here are some early nominees:

Mark Robinson

Robinson is eligible for this list, and the Redman Award, because he was a seventh round selection. Robinson is extremely raw, after only playing interior linebacker for a single season at Ole Miss as a walk on. The well-traveled Robinson was a collegiate running back prior to last year. His initial offensive experience means he is still very much in the learning phase as a defender, but it also has provided him with an unique perspective for a linebacker.

Robinson arrives complete with a proverbial chip on his shoulder, and plenty of bad intentions towards the ball carrier. He is athletic, intense, and extraordinarily strong. He is a downhill, attacking inside linebacker of the Buck variety. The Steelers have a need at the position, and it just might present Robinson with a way onto the roster. He is my early favorite for the Redman, because everybody loves an intense heavy hitter.

Tyler Snead

Snead seems almost destined to be a training camp darling. He is an extremely exciting prospect with a small frame hiding a huge heart. He was often called "pound-for-pound, the toughest player in the country" during his tenure as a reliable slot receiver for the East Carolina Pirates. He was a huge fan favorite, partly because he looks like one, at 5'7" and 174 lbs. of coiled up cobra ready to strike. He also brings kick and punt return abilities. He faces extremely long odds considering the Steelers deep depth chart of talented receivers, plus the fact newcomer Gunner Olszewski is a former All-Pro kick returner, but he is a versatile practice squad option with potential if he enjoys a productive camp and preseason.

Jordan Tucker

Tucker is a massive individual, blessed with prototypical size and 35" long arms. He tops out at tad over 6'6" and 344 lbs of gigantic girth. He has shown strong pass protection potential while starting 36 games for the North Carolina Tar Heels, mainly at right tackle. Tucker lacks lateral mobility and ideal footwork for the position. He prefers football played in a phone booth, where his lack of mobility and balance isn't so glaring. I am interested to see if Pat Meyer can help clean-up some of Tucker's footwork and technique issues, and if the youngster can learn to accentuate his strengths enough to overcome his weaknesses. If so, the kid has a shot of sticking around, at least on the practice squad. The Steelers have a long and rich history of finding hidden gems on the offensive line in the undrafted free agent market. Maybe Tucker can be another unearthed treasure.

Jaylen Warren

Warren is a bowling ball with legs. Extremely difficult to bring down on first contact, he possesses the type of contact balance needed for an NFL running back. He reminds me of former Jacksonville Jaguars standout Maurice Jones-Drew. Warren isn't quite as thick as Jones-Drew, but he has a more muscular physique. He stands 5'8" and has a listed weight of 215 lbs, although he appears heavier. Like Jones-Drew, Warren has a low center of gravity, and the vision and short area quickness to explode through rapidly closing running lanes. He then has the power to break half-hearted arm tackles, especially from less than enthusiastic secondary personnel. He has solid hands in the passing game, but needs improvement in pass protection. If he proves capable at camp, he could earn a spot.

There you have it, my four way-too-early favorites to be training camp darlings for the Steelers. We will revisit the list at some point in the preseason to see which ones I got right, and wrong. Which one is your early favorite, or do you like someone else all together? Make your voice heard by voting in the attached poll, and then explain the reasoning behind your selection in the comment section below.

Comparing the Steelers receivers to the rest of the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 8:30am
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

How valuable were the Steelers receivers?

It’s easy to look at stat totals and judge players by where they rank based on those totals, but we all know that football is a team sport, and receivers rely heavily on the rest of the offense for their production. A decade ago I came up with a simple metric designed to rate receivers by their importance to the team they play for. I call it MVR (Most Valuable Receiver) and it isn’t hard to calculate.

If you don’t care how the metric works, feel free to skip over this next part.

MVR starts with a players receiving yards divided by team passing attempts. yards per team passing attempt is essentially an adjustment on yards per target based on how often the team they are on throws the ball. Obviously teams that throw the ball more give receivers more opportunity to gain stats. This simply accounts for that.
Then you add percentage of team passing touchdowns that player accounts for. Receiving touchdowns fluctuate by player much more than other receiving stats, they aren’t a great way to judge a receiver. But they are important. This metric looks at receivers by how much of the scoring load they carried, not just points scored. Since passing touchdowns correlate to offensive scheme and quarterback much more than the receiver, this is a good compromise on the value of scoring.

For an example, here’s the math on Cooper Kupp, the No. 1 receiver in MVR in 2021.

Cooper Kupp: 1,947 yards/607 team passing attempts = 3.21 yards per team attempt. 16 TDs/41 team TDs = 39% of team passing TDs. 3.21+0.39= 3.60 MVR.

MVR and the Pittsburgh Steelers

Here’s the top 10 receivers by MVR in the 2021 NFL season, and their rank in total receiving yards

1. Cooper Kupp: 3.60 (#1)
2. Ja’Marr Chase: 2.98 (#4)
3. Justin Jefferson: 2.97 (#2)
4. Deebo Samuel: 2.96 (#5)
5. Davante Adams: 2.90 (#3)
6. Mark Andrews: 2.66 (#6)
7. Tyler Lockett: 2.64 (#9)
8. D.K. Metcalf: 2.35 (#28)
9. Michael Pittman Jr.: 2.30 (#18)
10. D.J. Moore: 2.22 (#11)

Cooper Kupp stood out above all the other receivers in the NFL in 2021, while the next four stood out from everyone below them on the list. After that there are a few surprises. Both Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf jump up the charts. That’s because the Seattle Seahawks threw the ball the second fewest times of any NFL team, so they were competing for fewer passes. The two Seattle receivers accounted for 49.8% of team targets. Defenses knew the ball was going to one of those two, and yet they still produced.

Three receivers finished in the top ten in yards and yet missed the top ten in MVR.

Tyreek Hill: Seventh in yards, 18th in MVR (2.08)

Stephon Diggs: Eighth in yards, 14th in MVR (2.15)

Diontae Johnson: Tenth in yards, 17th in MVR (2.10)

Those three receivers were part of extremely high volume offenses, with KC 2nd, Pittsburgh 4th and Buffalo 5th in team pass attempts, and didn’t produce enough to offset that volume.

Diontae Johnson dropped from 10th in yards to 17th in MVR, how did other Steelers fare?

Chase Claypool: 35th in yards, 51st in MVR (1.38)
Pat Freiermuth: 88th in yards, 79th in MVR (1.05)
Najee Harris: 96th in yards, 102nd in MVR (0.83)
Ray-Ray McCloud: 135th in yards, 139th in MVR (0.42)

142 players qualified for this list with a requirement of 34 receptions (2 per week average)

Pat Freiermuth was the only Steeler to rank higher in MVR than in yards, and that is because at his level of production he had a ridiculously high touchdown share. If you compare target percentage to touchdown percentage, Pat Freiermuth ranked 4th in the entire NFL in increased importance on touchdown passes.

Accounting for the quarterback

MVR does a good job for what it is designed to do, showcase highly efficient receivers that simply played on an offense that didn’t throw the ball as much. But MVR leans highly on efficiency, and receivers aren’t the sole drivers of a passing offense’s efficiency.

To account for team offense, I look at the team’s yards per pass attempt and normalize it to the NFL average for that year, which in 2021 was 7.1 yards per attempt. MVR2 adjusts a player’s yards per team attempt to show what we could expect those numbers to be if every NFL team averaged 7.1 yards per pass attempt. This variant gives a boost to players who played in poorly designed offenses or offenses that suffered from poor quarterback play.

Here’s the top ten receivers in MVR2 along with their ranking from MVR to compare.

1. Cooper Kupp, 3.37 (#1)
2. Justin Jefferson, 3.00 (#3)
3. Mark Andrews, 2.87 (#4)
4. Davante Adams, 2.84 (#5)
5. D.J. Moore, 2.82 (#10)
6. Ja’Marr Chase, 2.71 (#2)
7. Tyler Lockett, 2.70 (#7)
8. Deebo Samuel, 2.59 (#4)
9. Darnell Mooney, 2.59 (#11)
10. Diontae Johnson, 2.53 (#18)

Cooper Kupp’s lead shrinks, but he’s still easily the #1 receiver from 2021. Mark Andrews moves up to #3 in MVR2 after MVR gave him a boost. Mark Andrews was the #1 target on a team that didn’t throw the ball a ton, and didn’t throw it particularly well either, yet he was dominant. That’s how you end up the #3 player on this list. It’s even more impressive that he did it as a tight end.

Ja’Marr Chase drops substantially, because the entire Bengals passing game was crazy good, he was just the best part of the receiver side of it, Joe Burrow has a lot to do with his success and that shows up in how much Burrow boosted the production of the players around Chase.

The biggest gains are from D.J. Moore and Diontae Johnson. Moore was the #1 receiver on a Carolina team that threw the ball poorly, and yet showed up 11th in yards and 10th in MVR. Impressive season for him in a contract year, and he got a very nice extension out of it.

Diontae Johnson moves back up to tenth after MVR dropped him to 18th. The Steelers offense was a high volume, low efficiency offense, and these contrasting rankings showcase the dilemma of whether that volume padded stats for a good, not great player or if the limitations of the offense hurt his ability to produce. Both play a part, but how much of a factor each was will shape his value in the future.

How bad was the Steelers passing offense? Diontae Johnson was second only to D.J. Moore in the difference between MVR and MVR2, he was behind only D.J. Moore. Chase Claypool ranks 7th in the difference between MVR and MVR2 and Pat Freiermuth ranks 21st.

The difference between MVR and MVR2 is a number I watch for ever since 2016, when DeAndre Hopkins had his worst season on a bad offense with a revolving door of quarterbacks. The gap between his MVR and MVR2 was the highest in the NFL, and the next season the Texans drafted Deshaun Watson and Hopkins made three straight All-Pro First Teams, while leading the NFL in MVR.

What does that mean for Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool? Diontae Johnson is #2 in that gap for the 2021 season, and the Steelers are bringing in a new quarterback and have invested in making the Matt Canada offense work better.

While Johnson’s gap isn’t nearly as big as Hopkins’ was, there are clear signs that we could see much more efficient production from the Steelers top offensive targets. Also if you think highly of Matt Corral, you might want to consider D.J. Moore for your fantasy team.

Is the bigger key to the Steelers success the players or the coaches?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 7:15am
Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Obviously both groups working in tandem is what it takes to win a championship, but which one is the bigger contributor?

It seems like this question comes up fairly often among Steelers fans. Who is more responsible for the team success: the players or the coaches?

This debate came up again recently here at Behind The Steel Curtain when earlier this week I published an article about the Steelers biggest X-Factor going into the 2022 season.

First, the whole notion of what an X-Factor is was up for debate. While some look at an X-Factor as something you didn’t expect while others think of it as being the most important thing, I’ve always viewed X-Factors as the largest variable in a situation. Being a mathematical person, I’m obviously thinking of the variable X in an equation, so thinking about how a certain player, if they do poorly, really affects the team negatively and if they do fantastic it affects them positively was my mindset.

In the article, I gave five X-Factors for the season where three were on offense and two were on defense. As the discussion took off in the comments, several people were critical that I did not include any aspects dealing with the coaches as an option. While I believe the coaches are an important part of the equation, I felt the most important things that will determine if the Steelers are successful or not is going to be the players. Options like the quarterback position and the offensive line, or the Steelers ability to stop the run were the top choices from users who voted in the poll. How could the implementation of a coach be a more important factor than these things?

One of the aspects of coaching that was brought up was Matt Canada’s offensive scheme. It was an idea that if it worked great the Steelers would succeed, but if it didn’t work well they would struggle throughout the season. While I agree with this, I don’t believe it’s more important than the Steelers having quality play a quarterback, or have an ability to protect the quarterback and run the football because of the offensive line. As the discussion went on, I was wondering if I was in the minority.

I have to admit, I had a bit of a ‘mic drop’ moment in the comments when I asked the question of why Matt Canada‘s offense is so unknown when he’s already been the offensive coordinator for a year. The response that I received was that Canada didn’t get to really implement his system last year because of an aging quarterback, an ineffective offensive line, and some other personnel factors. I, of course, responded pointing out that if Matt Canada gets a pass for his system last year because the ability of the players was more important, then obviously the ability of the players is a bigger factor.

As the discussion progressed about the importance of players versus coaches, I came up with an example of comparing two teams which completed a huge trade with each other last offseason and finished on opposite ends of the spectrum in 2021. Looking at the Los Angeles Rams and the Detroit Lions, I raised the question of if the coaching staff were switched, would their success be switched as well? If the players on the Detroit Lions had the entire Los Angeles Rams coaching staff, are they instantly Super Bowl contenders? If the Los Angeles Rams had the Detroit Lions coaching staff, would they be towards the bottom of the standings in the NFL? While I feel both teams would not necessarily finish with the exact same results, I don’t believe their success following the coaching staff to be true because I feel the Los Angeles Rams simply have a stronger roster of players. I think the two teams would finish closer to where they finished with their current coaches rather than seeing a switch in the standings.

As I began compiling these ideas to present to the BTSC community, which was the suggestion of one of the users in the discussion, a new idea struck me. Is the order of importance a factor?

To explain this further, does having quality players versus quality coaches have an order of operations to it? In other words, is it important to build a quality roster first to have the opportunity for a good coaching staff to take the team to the promised land? Or does the coaching staff need to be in place first to build a successful roster?

The reason I ask this may be because I am coming from the perspective of someone who has coached football in the past. As a coach, the last thing I wanted to do was not put my players in the best situation to be successful. On the flip-side, there were times there were things we couldn’t do to be successful based on the ability of the players that we had. A coach could be the greatest coach in the world, but if the players can’t get the job done on the field, the most brilliant scheme isn’t going to make up for their inabilities.

I also admit that the inverse can be true, but I believe it is to a lesser degree. Yes, a fantastic roster could be held back by a coach who does not put players in a situation to be successful, makes unwise personnel decisions, and does crazy things in key spots throughout a game. Yes, those things can hold a team back for sure. But the more talented the roster, the less effect those coaching issues are likely to make.

I do believe that some Steelers fans can think higher of their own players than what they really are and therefore think it’s the coach’s fault that they’re not performing better. I don’t see it the other way around as much. Sure there are fans who think the coaches are doing a great job but the players just aren’t good enough to win more games, I just don’t know that they scream it as loudly. I will add that in my discussions with those who covered other NFL teams last season and are not Steelers fans, the overwhelming majority believed this was the case with the 2021 Steelers and the only reason they made the playoffs is because of their excellent coaches. Maybe the outside perspective has a better view of things and our Black & Gold goggles need cleaning.

I’ve presented my case on the issue for the most part, but I will still reserve to right to say more in the comments. Ultimately, I would like to have an extended discussion about the topic. I look forward to reading the responses to this article to see where fans really fall when it comes to the responsibility of the players versus the coaches in a team’s success.

Do fans truly believe that the coaches are a bigger factor in a team success than the players? Let the debate begin.

News is still boomin’ with Antonio Brown three years after leaving the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sport

The Steelers and Antonio Brown will always be connected, and when he does or says something provocative, it’s going to dominate the news cycle. And it should be talked about.

The 24/7 news cycle moves so fast today. It moves so fast, in fact, that the 24 part of “24/7” has never seemed more appropriate.

Remember that time when the guy hit the other guy at the awards thingy?

Many other things have happened since then—like every 24 hours—that we’ve debated, dissected and been banned by people/banned people over.

I can’t really remember what any of those things were, but the rage and the bannings were cool.

Because I can’t remember what those other things were that happened since the slap at the awards thingy, I figure I should probably write some stuff about former Steelers receiver, Antonio Brown, and his tweets from Monday that dominated the 24/7 news cycle for about a day—at least the Steelers 24/7 news cycle, anyway—while it’s still fresh in my cranium.

What did Brown tweet? Only that he wanted to retire as a Steeler.

Just wanna Retire A Steeler

— AB (@AB84) May 16, 2022

This immediately generated many retweets, likes and replies—believe it or not, those replies were diverse with regard to the people and their feelings about AB.

This tweet by Brown immediately led to the publication of thousands of articles about what Brown said, as well as millions of polls, a bunch of “What do y’all think?” quote tweets and perhaps even a seismic shift in the universe. Not long after that, Brown did a rather refreshing thing by actually clarifying what he meant via another tweet:

Not Play Jus Retire so we Clear

— AB (@AB84) May 16, 2022

This clarification led to more of those responses I just mentioned. Nevertheless, the “Antonio Brown wants to retire as a Steeler but only after he’s all done with football” development was all anyone could talk about on Monday.

As it should have been, even if there were a bunch of “Why are we still talking about ANTONIO BROWN!?!?!” comments followed by the steaming mad emoji on every Steelers-related Twitter feed, Facebook thread and comments section.

Are you kidding me? Why are we still talking about Brown? For one thing, he’s a former Steeler and arguably the greatest receiver in franchise history. For another thing, his divorce from the team couldn’t have been more chaotic and drama-filled if it was scripted by a writer for The Real Housewives of Atlanta/Beverly Hills/Real Husbands of Hollywood.

Third, did you see how much activity Brown’s initial tweet got all by itself? We’re talking over 5,500 replies, 11,700 retweets and 59,000 likes. It was like a Twitter version of his career in Pittsburgh, a time that included the most prolific six-year run for any receiver in the history of the NFL.

For writers, podcasters, reporters and radio hosts to not talk about what Antonio Brown said after it generated such a response would be like your ex-lover, someone who you had a steamy and rollercoaster relationship with, tweeting @ you, “I still love you,” followed by another tweet, “Well, I don’t love you, but I wouldn’t mind grabbing a cup of coffee sometime,” and you refusing to even bring it up the next time you saw your friends, who are all just waiting for you to, you know, bring it up.

It would be disingenuous to publish an article about the strengths of a 5-technique defensive lineman when everyone else is talking about Brown’s latest antics.

Brown and the Steelers will always be connected, and the next time he does or says something that may or may not have anything to do with his original NFL team, we will talk about it.

Same with Terry Bradshaw the next time he disses Ben Roethlisberger and/or the Steelers organization (I believe he’s overdue). If Le’Veon Bell goes on Twitter and says his walk-off touchdown against the Chargers on Monday Night Football back in 2015 was more impressive than Franco Harris’s Immaculate Reception, we’re going to spend the day talking about it.

The Steelers have a long and rich history filled with great players and coaches. Many are beloved. Many are not.

Like it or not, the business will always be booming when a former member of the organization, but especially an unpopular one, has something to say.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest four podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show.

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout: Reculate Retirement with AB

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout is the conversation about the Steelers social media conversation. Hosts Kyle Chrise (@KyleChrise) & Greg Benevent (@GregBenevent) break down the hottest and most toxic takes of the week on Steelers twitter and beyond. This week, we speculate and reculate over whether or not AB can “retire a Steeler,” whatever that really means.... Plus, our first QB ‘22 Power Rankings. And the reasons to root for the newest signings from rookie tryouts. Join Kyle and Greg for their black-and-gold breakdown of everything “Stillers” on Twitter and so much more.

Rundown of the show:

  • Toxic Takes
  • More Reculation
  • Much, Much More

Take a deep dive into the world of Steelers social media from a yinzer perspective as BTSC proudly presents a very unique show that highlights “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout”.

The Steelers Preview: Are the Steelers playing with fire with RB/TE one man shows?

Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth are both burgeoning superstars at their positions, but one-man shows can be a dangerous proposition. This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Steelers Preview with Jeff Hartman, Bryan Anthony Davis, and Dave Schofield. Join the triumphant trio as they combine all things Steelers with shenanigans galore.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the Week
  • The danger of no depth behind superstars
  • Trivia
Let’s Ride Friday: Are the Steelers done adding to their roster?

Big names remain on the market in the NFL and it seems like the Steelers may be finished making moves, but are the Men of Steel finished adding to their 2022 roster? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts with Senior Editor Jeff Hartman. Join Jeff for this and more on the Friday episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • WIll there be more additions to Steel City Football?
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Steelers announce an official second GM interview with internal candidate Brandon Hunt

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 5:02pm
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue their second interviews, this time with internal candidate Brandon Hunt.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for their next General Manager (GM) following the 2022 NFL Draft and retirement of Kevin Colbert. Who that next GM will be is anyone’s guess. After having an extensive first round of interviews, the Steelers are now onto their second round of callbacks.

Some of the names of individuals who have gotten a second interview were John Spytek, Andy Weidl, Doug Whaley and internal candidate Omar Khan. Thursday afternoon the team announced another internal candidate received an interview by way of Brandon Hunt.

We have completed a second round interview for our General Manager position with #Steelers Pro Scouting Coordinator Brandon Hunt.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 19, 2022

Hunt is the Steelers’ pro scouting director, and is in his second stint with the team. He began interning for the team in 2005 and returned in 2010. Earlier this offseason Hunt met with the Raiders about their GM vacancy, also met with the Philadelphia Eagles recently in what would be viewed as a lateral move and interviewed with the Buffalo Bills for their Assistant GM opening.

There is no timetable for the Steelers to make their decision on their next GM, but here is a list of those who have received second interviews with the team:

John Spytek (Buccaneers)
Doug Whaley
Andy Weidl (Eagles)
Ryan Cowden (Titans)
Omar Khan (Internal)
Brandon Hunt (Internal)

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

Getting to know the Steelers 2022 UDFAs: Jake Dixon

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The former Duquesne Duke is getting his shot in the NFL.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected seven players in the 2022 NFL draft, they continued adding to the roster with ten undrafted free agents. With many draft profiles focusing on those players towards the top and middle of the NFL draft, it is time to get to take a look at these other members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who will have just as much opportunity to make the roster in 2022 as those who were selected in the draft, despite the more difficult path.

Remember, some draft profiles for these players are quite harsh as they are looking at them as a draftable prospect. Taking a flyer on an UDFA is a completely different story as many times the potential the player shows is what lands them on an NFL offseason roster.

Next on the list is Duquesne offensive tackle Jake Dixon.

Jake Dixon Offensive tackle
Senior
Duquesne
6’6” 290 lbs

Appearing in every game in five seasons, Dixon spent his first three years at Duquesne as a tight end. In 35 games in 2017 through 2019, Dixon had three receptions for 14 yards and one touchdown. Making the transition to tackle for the five games played in what was considered the 2020 season even though they were played in the spring of 2021, Dixon started each game at left tackle in the shortened season as well as all 10 games in the fall of 2021.

Current Steelers at the position:

Offensive Tackle

  1. Chukwuma Okorafor
  2. Dan Moore Jr.
  3. Joe Haeg
  4. Chaz Green
  5. Jordan Tucker
  6. Jake Dixon
Draft Profiles:

Coming from an FCS school, there was limited information in the terms of breakdowns for Dixon heading into the 2022 NFL draft. Here is a breakdown from cbssports.com where Dixon was chosen in their small-college starting 11 going into the draft:

OT Jake Dixon (Duquesne)

Height: 6-6

Weight: 290

After converting from tight end to offensive tackle in 2019, Jake Dixon went on to become a two-time first-team All-Northeast Conference and FCS All-American. While still fairly new to the position, he displays underrated form and technique, brings a lot of tools with him in his toolbox, and possesses the upside you look for from a prospect coming from a smaller school. He was a difficult test for every rusher down at the FCS Bowl back in mid-December.

Here is a description of Dixon from Bob Labriola from steelers.com where he listed Dixon as one of his three undrafted free agents to watch in his May 5 edition of Asked and Answered:

Dixon attended Bethel Park High School, south of Pittsburgh, where he played football, basketball, and volleyball. Dixon (6-foot-6, 290 pounds) first went to Lewis College to play volleyball, but he missed football so much that he transferred to Duquesne, where he first played tight end before being switched to tackle.

Film:

As has been the case with most of the information involving Jake Dixon, the film is quite difficult to find. Here is a video from Duquesne where Dixon is a finalist for Male Student-Athlete of the Year. The video is mainly his coach discussing Dixon as a player while there are some highlights shown.

Which Steelers game in the 2022 regular season would you like to attend?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 12:57pm
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

It’s always great to watch our beloved Steelers, but which game on the 2022 schedule would you like to see in person?

The 2022 NFL schedule has now been officially released for a week. On Tuesday’s episode of the Scho Bro Show podcast, Big Bro Scho and I looked at the schedule from the perspective of attending the games. While some Steelers fans have the luxury of attending multiple games each season, there are other parts of the fan base spread across the world who would love to be able to catch the Steelers one time in person in their lifetime. If the 2022 NFL season is your time, we are here to help.

It should be noted this exercise is mainly for those people looking to attend one game this season. If you are someone that attends more than half the games, then they all have their various appeal factors. But if you are only attending one game this year, getting the best experience should be your greatest goal.

Before diving into the regular season, I will say preseason games are a great opportunity for some fans looking for a very specific experience. For me, I find the preseason is a great time to take children to a game if your budget does not allow you to do so during the regular season. Tickets directly from the Steelers are very inexpensive compared to the regular season, and resale tickets are sometimes as low as single-digit dollar amounts. The stadium is not nearly as crowded, especially towards the end of the game. And because the result is not the most important aspect of a preseason game, it is a much more relaxed environment. So, if that is what you were looking for, especially if you’re looking to take a young one to their first game, don’t rule out a preseason game as they are generally before the school year begins.

Getting to the heart of the issue, the regular season, I’ve split the games into two categories. First, the away games and what they could possibly bring as a fan experience. As a reminder, here are the games on the Steelers schedule in which they will be on the road:

Week 1: at Cincinnati Bengals 1 PM
Week 3: at Cleveland Browns Thursday 8:15 PM
Week 5: at Buffalo Bills 1 PM
Week 7: at Miami Dolphins 8:20 PM
Week 8: at Philadelphia Eagles 1 PM
Week 12: at Indianapolis Colts Monday 8:15 PM
Week 13: at Atlanta Falcons 1 PM
Week 15: at Carolina Panthers 1 PM
Week 17: at Baltimore Ravens 1 PM

When it comes to the away schedule, I want to acknowledge many fans who choose to hit the road for the Steelers game are ones who are looking for the experience closer to where they live. Obviously, unless you’re willing to travel to Pittsburgh, fans that live in the south will have a much easier trip to Miami or Atlanta to catch the black and gold.

As for the Week 1 game in Cincinnati, unless you are really set on seeing the Steelers first game of the season, and the first game in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, I’d rather have the experience at Heinz Field. If you’re someone who has to travel east just to get to Cincinnati, the Indianapolis game is probably a little bit more appealing other than the fact it is on a Monday night. Both Buffalo and Cleveland are also games that are very close to Pittsburgh, so many fans that attend these games aren’t having it be “their only one” for the season and are just trying to catch as many games as possible.

When it comes to the game in Baltimore, I’m fairly biased about this one. Being a person who lives much closer to M&T Bank stadium than Heinz Field, I would much rather make the 3.5 hour drive to the Steel City than to go into that place again. It would take some pretty unique circumstances for me to choose to attend a game there over one in Pittsburgh.

If you are a person looking for the best road experience to see the Steelers in 2022, my top suggestions are in Atlanta or in Charlotte. These are cities the Steelers travel to rarely, and there are various activities in which Steelers fans could enjoy in the cities the team doesn’t visit often. Additionally, being NFC opponents, the fans from these franchises usually don’t have issues with visiting fans like others may. For example, even though Philadelphia is an NFC opponent, I’m not sure I would ever want to catch a game where those fans have the home field advantage.

I’ve spent enough time on the away games, let’s get to the Steelers home schedule:

Week 2: vs New England Patriots 1 PM
Week 4: vs New York Jets 1 PM
Week 6: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 PM
Week 10: vs New Orleans Saints 1 PM
Week 11: vs Cincinnati Bengals 8:20 PM
Week 14: vs Baltimore Ravens 1 PM
Week 16: vs Las Vegas Raiders Saturday 8:15 PM
Week 18: vs Cleveland Browns TBD

Each game scheduled for Heinz Field this year brings something different. If you want to see the home opener, a 1 PM start against the Patriots in September would make for a pleasant experience. If you’re a fan looking for the possibility of Kenny Pickett making his Heinz Field debut in black and gold, Week 2 against the Patriots is possible, but Week 4 against the Jets is another one as the Steelers are coming off their “mini bye”. Another place where this is possible is the Steelers playing at home against the New Orleans Saints in November coming off their bye week. While it’s difficult to tell at this time if or when the Steelers would debut their 1st Round draft pick from 2022, these are ones fans may want to keep their eye on.

The hottest ticket in Pittsburgh for the 2022 season is their matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Barring a change in how the NFL handles the schedule, or another change in team, this is likely to be Tom Brady’s final trip to Heinz Field. Whether or not that excites Steelers fans, these tickets appear to be the most expensive at this time.

If you are looking for a prime time experience at Heinz Field, the Sunday night matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals is a good one to catch. Yes, the Steelers also play in prime time against the Raiders on Christmas Eve, but that game will likely have a very specific in-person audience. While for some this fits perfect into their schedule, there are many in which it won’t due to the holiday.

To finish off, the Baltimore Ravens in a 1 PM matchup is great for Steelers fans looking for the rivalry atmosphere in the stadium. As for the Browns game to finish up the season, it’s a very similar situation other than the day and time of the game not being set at this time. Also, the previous 16 games will ultimately determine the importance of the Steelers final home matchup which could make it extra exciting, or meaningless.

So, there is the breakdown of the Steelers 2022 schedule and what might bring the best experience for fans depending on what they are looking to do. So which game would you attend if you could only pick one? Make sure you leave your answer in the comments below.

For the complete breakdown of which games could bring the best fan experience, check out the Scho Bro Show podcast below:

Power Rankings: Post-Draft rankings has the Steelers in the bottom tier of the league

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 11:30am
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The latest ESPN Power Rankings don’t favor the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The first wave of free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft are now in the books, and as all 32 NFL teams prepare for their respective training camps in July, media outlets are putting out their post-draft content during the dog days of the NFL calendar.

One of the favorites for these outlets are the highly debated Power Rankings. Trying to put teams in any type of order is difficult this time of year. Not only can players still be added in free agency, but most of these rankings are based on what the team did in 2021. It makes you wonder which team might be the 2022 version of Cincinnati who everyone thought would struggle, and turned out to represent the AFC in the Super Bow.

ESPN recently put out their post-draft rankings, check out who made the Top 10, and where the Pittsburgh Steelers landed on the list (yes, the Steelers were not in the Top 10):

ESPN

1. Buffalo Bills
2. Los Angeles Rams
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Kansas City Chiefs
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Cincinnati Bengals
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Baltimore Ravens
...
21. Pittsburgh Steelers

Post-free agency ranking: 20

Player who benefited most from draft: OT Chukwuma Okorafor

Okorafor gets his name in bold, but Dan Moore Jr. also qualifies as a player who benefitted from the Steelers’ draft. The team didn’t address the tackle spot through an external signing in free agency or via the draft, all but solidifying its confidence in Okorafor and Moore. As a rookie, Moore started every single game and showed signs of being the left tackle of the future, while Okorafor had an average season. Either position could’ve benefitted from an upgrade this offseason, but that didn’t happen, so Okorafor and Moore won’t have their spots threatened.

If you are like me, you always want to take a look at where the teams in the AFC North rank, compared to the Steelers. Here are the division rankings, per ESPN:

AFC North Rankings

6. Cincinnati Bengals
10. Baltimore Ravens
17. Cleveland Browns
21. Pittsburgh Steelers

What do you think of the rankings? Obviously, these rankings are totally subjective and mean nothing, but do you think the Steelers should be ranked higher? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

Steelers Vertex: Can Zach Gentry continue to surprise in 2022?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Many weren’t expecting much out of the Steelers third tight end in 2021, but his play helped solidify the position for the coming season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are chugging on through the 2022 offseason. Looking at a number of players and positions as the roster has fluctuated, sometimes it’s players the Steelers have on their roster taking a step that can really add to the coming season. One player who took a nice leap in 2021 is tight end Zach Gentry. But can he make another jump in 2022? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

Through his first two seasons in the NFL, Zach Gentry had a total of one reception on one target for 4 yards. This catch came in his rookie season where he appeared in four games. In his second year in 2020, Gentry was inactive for the first eight games of the season. Finally getting a helmet in Week 10, Gentry actually got his first start in Week 11 before landing on injured reserve.

With many Steelers fans having low expectations that Gentry would contribute in any way in 2021, he came through as a very pleasant surprise. Appearing in all 17 games, Gentry was credited with 12 starts by being on the field for the first offensive play. Interesting enough, Gentry started three more games than rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth. On the season, Gentry had 19 receptions on 25 targets for 167 yards.

For the 2021 season, Gentry saw his most output in the Steelers’ games at Cleveland in Week 8 and in Baltimore in Week 18 where he had 39 yards receiving in each game. Against Cleveland, Gentry had three receptions on five targets while in Baltimore he had four receptions on five targets.

Through the first 10 games of 2021, Gentry only saw the majority of offensive snaps twice. Occurring in Week 8 and Week 9, Gentry saw an increase in snaps due to Eric Ebron being inactive. Once Ebron was lost for the season following Week 11, Gentry saw his number of snaps increase significantly the remainder of the season.

When it comes to grades by Pro Football Focus, Gentry was the 28th ranked tight end in the NFL with an overall 66.0 score. Where Gentry had the highest score on the season was as a pass blocker where his 78.2 grade had him fourth in the NFL just behind a teammate Pat Freiermuth.

So in what ways did Gentry contribute to the Steelers offense in 2021 to give the numbers some context? Let’s check the film.

The Film Line:

Zach Gentry entered the 2021 season as the Steelers #3 tight end, a cheap blocking tight end that not many Steeler fans thought much of. A not small number of fans saw him as a negative on the roster, a blocking-only tight end that offered less than putting an extra offensive lineman on the field.

By the end of the season, he had proven he could be more than that.

Steelers vs. Broncos, 1st quarter, 1:43.

Zach Gentry (#81) is the tight end to the bottom of the screen.

This is one of my favorite plays the Steelers ran for Zach Gentry. Gentry is pass blocking until he is “beaten” by the edge rusher. Then he simply turns and catches the ball for a unique and effective screen pass. The Steelers ran this play several times in 2021, and it worked well.

The key to this play is the fact that Gentry is a fantastic blocker.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 1st quarter, 4:42.

Zach Gentry (#81) is the tight end to the left side of the screen.

Tyus Bowser is no slouch as an edge defender. Gentry not only holds the line with Bowser but drives him further outside, creating space that Najee Harris is able to take advantage of to get yards late in the play. Bowser gets in on the end of the tackle, but watch Bowser’s feet and the yard markers, Gentry removes Bowser from any meaningful role on this run play.

Steelers @ Browns, 2nd quarter, 14:54.

Zach Gentry (#81) is the tight end to the bottom of the screen.

Gentry is in charge of blocking the edge rusher, and he shuts him down to the point that Derek Watt coming over to offer help has nothing to do. Gentry shows a great anchor on the initial impact, then clears the defenders hands off of him with a push and has complete control of the defender afterward.

Steelers @ Browns, 3rd quarter, 1:42.

Zach Gentry (#81) is the tight end on the line of scrimmage to the top of the screen.

You can see why these plays work. Gentry starts out blocking, then when the rusher makes a move to get off his block, he simply lets them and he’s open. Watch inside linebacker #51 for Cleveland, he is invested in the play fake to Najee Harris and has to try and catch up to Gentry after he sees it is not a run. The play design takes two defenders out of the play because Zach Gentry is not a priority target to defend.

Speaking of not being a priority target to cover. . .

Steelers @ Browns, 4th quarter, 12:56.

Zach Gentry (#81) is the tight end to the right side of the screen.

That’s a 24-yard gain simply because no one on the defense bothered to cover Zach Gentry. They all had more important things to do.

There’s a lot of clips from this Week 8 matchup with Cleveland, and for good reason. Eric Ebron was injured and missed this game, so this is Zach Gentry’s first game as the Steelers #2 tight end. He would keep that job.

But he didn’t just keep his spot, he earned the trust of his coaches and especially his quarterback, and as the season went on, it showed.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 4th quarter, 5:23.

Zach Gentry (#81) is the tight end to the near side of the formation.

Look at the situation on this play. The Steelers need 2 yards, and they call on this play that is designed for Zach Gentry. They know defenses don’t prioritize him, but he’s also proven reliable enough to trust with making a play when the game is on the line.

As the Steelers neared the end of the season the play-calling and Ben Roethlisberger’s willingness to throw to Gentry when plays broke down both showed up on film. Gentry wasn’t just a really good blocking tight end, he was also someone the Steelers could trust to make plays when needed.

Notice that none of these receptions are based on Gentry’s ability to beat man coverage, run great routes, or win contested catches. He hasn’t shown that in his three years with the Steelers, but when the play design has the defense looking elsewhere first, Gentry becomes a viable option.

Steelers @ Ravens, 4th quarter, 5:23.

Zach Gentry (#81) is the tight end to the top of the screen.

Like this beauty in Week 18. The Ravens see Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry head out in front of Chase Claypool and bite hard on the threat of a screen pass. The deep coverage wisely prioritizes Freiermuth and that leaves Zach Gentry wide open for the longest gain of the game, and his longest gain of the season.

The Point:

Zach Gentry epitomizes a key role player in Matt Canada’s offense. His main value is his blocking that creates opportunity for other players, but as teams focus on avoiding him to stop Najee Harris, Chase Claypool or get to the quarterback, Gentry has the talent to make use of the space he is given. Matt Canada’s strength as a play-designer and caller is getting a lot of value out of players like Zach Gentry.

Gentry started the season playing snaps strictly as a blocking tight end, receiving a few targets on Matt Canada’s gadget plays. But when Eric Ebron was hurt Zach Gentry took over the #2 tight end role and didn’t give it back. The last 4 weeks of the 2021 season Gentry was 5th on the Steelers in receiving yards, and first in yards per target. While Gentry is still not a valuable receiver in a traditional sense, the more the Steelers buy in to Canada’s offense, the more opportunity there will be for players like Zach Gentry to produce.

Steelers Post-Draft Roster Review, Part 3: Running Back & Fullback

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 8:30am
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is over and the Steelers have added many new faces to the roster. In this series, we’ll take a look at each position and what you need to know as the offseason rolls on. In Part Three, we’ll break down the offensive backfield.

This group might be the easiest to decipher at the top with the 2021 rookie sensation, Najee Harris, the guaranteed workhorse contributor out of the backfield. Behind Harris, though, it gets a little tougher. Veteran backups Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland are anything but locks to remain on the roster, despite the Steelers not addressing the position in the NFL Draft last month.

Rounding out the current 90-man roster are Trey Edmunds and Undrafted Free Agents (UDFAs) Mataeo Durant, out of Duke University, and Jaylen Warren, from Oklahoma State. For Edmunds, his hope of making the roster hinges on his ability to contribute in a multitude of areas, from Special Teams to Fullback to H-Back. He’s looking over his shoulder big time (See: Steelers 2022 6th Round selection Connor Heyward) and probably will be looking for a new home after training camp.

In the cases of Durant and Warren, their ability to flash playmaking ability and versatility is key. It won't be enough to replicate any other of the other players’ skillsets that we’ve already mentioned. These guys will need to stand out on the field and in the meeting room to steal a roster spot from the “entrenched” backups.

Lastly, fullback (FB) Derek Watt has turned in a couple less-than-stellar seasons in the black and gold, but he does have a very defined role on special teams and is a locker-room gel guy. Similar to Trey Edmunds, he’s got a versatile rookie on his tail in Connor Heyward and may be replaceable in 2022. We’ll talk about Cam’s little brother more in depth when we review the Tight End group in a later article.

Player Breakdown

I love talking about Najee Harris. I love watching him play. His 37-yard touchdown scamper with 51 seconds left in Ben Roethlisberger’s last home game against the Browns was the highlight of the season.

Harris has a chance to be a true game-changer for this offense as a Derrick Henry-like weapon on the field. I am on record as a believer that a more efficient Najee Harris in 2022 gives this team a chance to be special on offense and a real contender as a team. Mark it down now, Najee Harris will be one of the league’s best backs in his second season.

Najee is going to need some of his massive 2021 load taken off his shoulders this year, which brings us to Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland. Starting with Snell, his general lack of explosiveness makes his status as RB2 both head-scratching and perilous. McFarland is going to come after this title in training camp, and as the far more explosive athlete with real speed, he fits the mold of change-of-pace RB2 much better than Snell. This will be an intriguing competition in camp, with McFarland hoping to shake off an injury-riddled 2021 campaign and Benny Snell taking on his final chance to prove he belongs on an NFL roster.

I am a firm believer Trey Edmunds’ days as a Steeler are numbered. Connor Heyward is the wild card here and, along with Derek Watt, could spell the end of Trey’s usefulness in the offense. Speaking of Watt, can the Steelers really justify his $4.7M cap hit in 2022 for him to just be a special teams player? We will see just how insistent the Steelers are on keeping one or both of these sets of brothers together this season.

For Mataeo Durant, his quickness and speed will need to be displayed early and often in camp to push the players ahead of him. He has change-of-pace and home-run ability if he can develop quickly in Pittsburgh. Jaylen Warren may have a small frame, but his impact stability and tackle breaking ability were impressive in college for a player his size. That will need to carry over in training camp for him to show he belongs. If not for the shaky talent ahead of them, their shots of gaining a roster spot would be next to none.

Depth Chart Prediction

Like I said at the top, this is as obvious as it gets. The offense will go as far as Najee goes in 2022 as the unquestioned workhorse back on the team. I see a down-to-the-wire competition between Snell and McFarland, with the latter’s overall explosiveness winning out as the team’s RB2. Behind McFarland, you’ll probably find Snell at RB3 with one of the undrafted guys landing on the practice squad.

I predict Trey Edmunds will be looking elsewhere for work after training camp while Derek Watt holds onto his roster spot for another year. Watt just makes more sense as the more natural FB and special teams ace.

RB1: Najee Harris

RB2: Anthony McFarland

RB3: Benny Snell

FB: Derek Watt

Practice Squad: Mataeo Durant

So, Steeler Nation, who has the upper hand in the race for RB2? What happens with Edmunds and Watt? Leave your thoughts in the comment section and vote in the poll below.

Updating the Minkah Fitzpatrick contract talks with the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What will Minkah Fitzpatrick be asking for prior to the 2022 regular season?

Prior to the 2021 regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers knew they had to get a deal done with T.J. Watt. Watt was entering his 5th year option with the team, and he was making it clear he wanted a new deal which extended beyond 2021. Watt never missed a practice during Training Camp and the preseason, but he never participated in any team drills...not until a deal was done.

As most fans remember, a deal was done prior to the team’s Week 1 game vs. the Buffalo Bills, but negotiations for the game’s premiere pass rusher were anything but smooth. In fact, reports stated Watt eventually told his agents to leave negotiations as he signed a deal which he felt was fair for both sides.

In 2022 the Steelers will have a similar situation with Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Steelers picked up Fitzpatrick’s 5th year option, meaning he is under contract for the 2022 season, but beyond that nothing is guaranteed. That is the problem most athletes have with this situation for 1st round draft picks.

Fitzpatrick hasn’t made any public declaration of his wanting a new contract, but no professional athlete wants to ever play on a one-year deal unless absolutely necessary. While Fitzpatrick hasn’t said he wants a new deal done, the Steelers have said they want to give him a new contract.

“Yes, we would like to extend Minkah’s contract this offseason, and so that’ll be an important order of business that hopefully we can get done before the season starts.” Rooney told Missi Matthews of Steelers.com in an interview.

Rooney would know what it takes to keep a premiere play-maker like Fitzpatrick on the roster for the long haul, but how much will it cost? As other defensive backs around the NFL cash in with big contracts, Fitzpatrick has been patient, and private, with his contract negotiations.

One thing which is certain, contract negotiations, or a lack thereof, haven’t kept Fitzpatrick from staying away from the team. Pictures put out by the Steelers official social media team have shown Fitzpatrick at both Phase 1 and 2 of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). Fitzpatrick likely learned something from T.J. Watt’s contract negotiations a year ago, and is showing the Steelers he will show up even when talks might be at a standstill.

But how are things progressing with Fitzpatrick’s contract talks? Jeremy Fowler of ESPN recently updated key players’ contract talks, and Fitzpatrick made the list.

See what Fowler said about the Steelers’ top safety:

Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have shown that first-round picks who become stars while on their roster will usually get rewarded a year out from free agency. T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and David DeCastro are among those who got extended before Week 1 of their fifth-year option season.

Fitzpatrick, one of the game’s top safeties, now falls into that category. But he also knows the Steelers operate on their own time, which means we should look ahead to sometime between July and the September kickoff. “They won’t be rushed into a deal,” a source said. Under recently retired GM Kevin Colbert, the Steelers also did not negotiate in-season.

Fitzpatrick will likely be aiming for Jamal Adams’ market-setting $17.5 million per year. He’s in the top five among safeties in interceptions since 2019 (11) and has 36 career pass deflections and two first-team All-Pro selections.

What further helps Fitzpatrick: The Steelers relented on their guarantee structures with Watt’s deal last year. Old Pittsburgh deals featured no guarantees beyond the signing bonus, but Watt has $80 million in guaranteed money on his four-year, $112 million deal.

Fitzpatrick is coming off a season where many fans were disappointed in his lack of splash plays. Here are his stats from 2021:

2021
  • Games: 16
  • Total Tackles: 124
  • Solo Tackles: 84
  • Interceptions: 2
  • Fumble Recoveries: 1
  • Forced Fumbles: 1
  • Pass Defense: 7
  • Tackles For Loss (TFL): 1

Fitzpatrick might not have had the interceptions he had in 2019 or 2020, but he was also tasked with doing something he didn’t do in either of those seasons being a primary tackler for the team’s porous rush defense.

When it comes to being deserving of a new contract, Fitzpatrick would certainly fall high on that proverbial list. But when will a deal get done? As Fowler states, the team moves at their own pace with these negotiations, but the wrinkle of a new General Manager (GM) eventually coming into the fold will certainly make things interesting.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on throughout OTAs and mandatory minicamp.

ESPN’s Louis Riddick supposedly “out” of the running for Steelers GM

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The ESPN analyst is reportedly not going to be getting a second interview for the Steelers GM opening.

There is a contingent of the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base who genuinely wanted to see former Pitt product, and ESPN analyst, Louis Riddick get the team’s opening at General Manager (GM).

After Riddick received a meeting with the organization in their first round of interviews, many wondered if he’d be next on the list for the second round of interviews. In the past two weeks the Steelers have interviewed the likes of John Spytek, Dough Whaley, Omar Khan and most recently Andy Weidl.

Wednesday ESPN announced Riddick was among a crew made up of Steve Levy and Dan Orlovsky to make up the station’s Monday Night Football “B-Team”.

ESPN makes Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Dan Orlovsky its Monday night B-team. https://t.co/9t66WiMuEt

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 18, 2022

If you read between the lines, the announcement of Riddick being on the Monday night crew, even the “B-Team”, made it seem as if he wasn’t on the team’s radar to replace Kevin Colbert.

Wednesday afternoon Andrew Stockey of WTAE in Pittsburgh took to Twitter saying Riddick told him he was “out” of the running for the GM vacancy.

Amid a New York Post report that Louis Riddick has signed a contract extension with ESPN, Riddick tells me this afternoon he is “out” of the running to be the #Steelers next general manager #WTAE

— Andrew Stockey (@astockeyWTAE) May 18, 2022

Riddick was a 1990 9th Round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers out of the University of Pittsburgh after playing at Pennridge High School. He played six NFL seasons between the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, and Oakland Raiders. In those games, Riddick appeared in 94 games, starting eight. Riddick finished his NFL career with 155 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and one fumble recovery.

In 2001, Riddick began his executive career in the NFL as a pro scout for Washington before being promoted to director of pro personnel from 2005 to 2007. Riddick then went to the Philadelphia Eagles as a pro scout in 2008 and was promoted the next season to the assistant director of pro personnel for one year before losing the ‘assistant’ title for the following four seasons.

That was the last year Riddick spent in an NFL organization’s scouting department. Since then he has been a staple on ESPN for both their NFL Draft and prime time coverage.

Will Riddick ever get another shot at being in an NFL front office? Only time will tell, but it seems as if the Steelers won’t be providing that opportunity.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

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