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Diagnosing what a Steelers ‘blockbuster’ offseason trade would look like

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 1:38pm

If the Steelers were to pull of a huge blockbuster trade, who would be involved and what would the compensation be?

For those who may not have heard yet, the Kansas City Chiefs sent shockwaves across the NFL landscape by trading their All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams for several draft picks. At the time this article was written, it was unknown exactly what draft picks were given, or even if any players were involved.

Nonetheless, it made me wonder what a big-time trade like this would resemble if it involved the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Who would be the player leaving? And what would the compensation be for said player?

I, like most Steelers fans, thought of one player immediately when participating in this exercise — Le’Veon Bell. Bell has been requesting a boat load of money, and it would severely cramp the team’s already small salary cap space. On top of that, Bell is coming off a solid season and his stock may never be higher.

The next question would be compensation. If you cannot get a starter at one of the many key positions the Steelers are looking to fill this offseason, (safety, inside linebacker, running back in this case, and others) then there should be a lot of draft picks involved. For an All-Pro player like Bell, it isn’t out of the question to think a 1st round pick, and maybe a 2nd round pick would be involved. If not a 2nd, a 3rd round pick.

It all would depend on the team involved in the trade, where they pick in a particular round and what the team feels is a fair deal for one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NFL.

But what other members of the Steelers could be involved in a huge trade like the Peters to L.A. trade?

Cameron Heyward would certainly shock the fan base. The defensive captain is a seasoned veteran coming off a double-digit sack season. He certainly would garner some quality compensation.

Martavis Bryant has already been the subject of rumors and the Steelers fielding phone calls regarding a potential trade. The issue here is the compensation for a player in his final year of his rookie contract, and one bad urine sample away from the NFL giving him the Josh Gordon treatment, might not have the team receiving the compensation they deem to be worth it.

If the team wanted to bring in a ridiculous haul, even more than Bell, Antonio Brown would be the player to put on the trade block. The best receiver in the NFL would certainly give the organization enough compensation to completely alter their roster, and possibly for years to come.

Now, I don’t see any of these players leaving the organization via trade, even Bryant, but it is interesting to consider what, and who, would all be involved in one of these big-time trades the Steelers are seemingly never a part of.

If you were to put a player on the trade block, who would it be? And what would you expect in return? Let us know in the comment section below!

Ed Bouchette: Should the Steelers sign Lawrence Timmons or trade Martavis Bryant?

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 11:47am

Two questions emerged after a few reports popped up over the past day:

Reports of the Steelers listening to potential trades for Martavis Bryant hit the national media

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 11:25am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly listening to phone calls when it comes to potential trades for Martavis Bryant.

Earlier this week a Twitter report suggested several teams, including the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts, had shown interest in Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant. Rumors were the Dolphins even were interested in a one-for-one trade with DeVante Parker.

(If you missed that report, you can check it out HERE.)

The one hold up regarding this report was the source. It wasn’t from an Adam Schefter or Jason La Confora. It wasn’t even Ian Rapoport. However, the reports of teams showing interest, and the Steelers listening, has hit the mainstream media.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the reports are true, or valid, but they are starting to cause some smoke. And usually where there is smoke, there is fire.

Recently, ProFootballTalk wrote about NFL Network’s reporting of the Steelers listening to offers for the talented, yet troubled, receiver.

The Steelers are now listening to potential deals for Bryant, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Bryant has undeniable talent and burst onto the scene as one of the best big-play threats in the NFL in his first two seasons, in 2014 and 2015. But he was suspended for the entire 2016 season for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy, and in 2017 he wasn’t as effective a player and got benched for a week when he griped about his role.

Bryant is under contract for 2018 at a base salary of just $705,000, so he’s a potential bargain if his head and his heart are in it. But if he’s an unhappy camper it’s also easy to see why the Steelers would be eager to get rid of him.

Last year at this time similar ideas were discussed, but the Steelers put a stop to those rumors stating they won’t be fielding any potential trade requests for Bryant. According to these reports, they are singing a different tune this offseason.

Bryant is still entering the final year of his rookie contract, the extra year due to his being suspended for the 2016 season, and the return would have to be right for Pittsburgh to part ways with a player whose potential has yet to be reached. However, lacking draft picks and having glaring needs on the defensive side of the ball could change a lot, when it comes to their attitude on Bryant.

Throw in Bryant’s off field issues, combined with the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster, and the team may feel replacing Bryant won’t be difficult. Things could certainly start heating up as the NFL Scouting Combine and NFL Draft quickly approach.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on these rumors, as well as other news surrounding the black-and-gold.

Steelers-By-Position: WRs

Steelers.com News - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 10:59am
Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and JuJu Smith-Schuster make up a formidable trio.

The evolution of the Run-Pass Option, and its impact in the Steelers new offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 9:32am

One of those football terms which has been burned into everyone’s mind is ‘RPO’. Here we explain what an RPO is, where it originated, and how it could impact the Steelers’ offense under Randy Fichtner.

Anyone who watched Philadelphia’s recent run to the Super Bowl title heard a host of TV commentators talk about the Eagles’ extensive use of the RPO, or “run-pass option.” Many of these analysts discussed them as though they were revolutionary. However, football junkies who have been watching the game at the high school and college level have been studying the RPO for years. Let’s dive into the concept by looking at its history, how it works and what to expect of its use in Pittsburgh.

RPOs developed at the lower levels last decade as part of the ever-evolving chess match between offensive and defensive coordinators. Offenses gained the upper hand in the early 2000s with the introduction of spread offenses designed to exploit less athletic defenders by making them play in space. Defenses countered by implementing the 4-2-5 scheme, which removed a traditional linebacker and replaced him with a more athletic safety-type who could line up in the slot and run down all of the bubble screens and perimeter concepts the spread employed. These 4-2-5 looks were initially effective, until tricky OC’s figured out their next move: the RPO.

The RPO borrowed from a spread offense staple, the zone-read, by leaving a defender unblocked and subsequently “read” by the quarterback. The zone-read left first level defenders unblocked and provided the quarterback two run options. He could give to the back running between the tackles or pull and keep it himself into the alley. RPOs changed that equation by leaving second-level defenders unblocked. Now, the quarterback would read one of those fast bodies the 4-2-5 had put onto the field. By reading a linebacker or safety, the quarterback had a run-pass option.

The run option was usually a sweep or power play that developed slowly enough for the quarterback to read the second-level defender. The pass option involved a quick throw into the area the read-key had voided. This quick throw was essential to the RPO’s success. It allowed offensive linemen to run-block because the ball was out of the quarterback’s hands before they were illegally downfield on a forward pass. And it got the ball into the hands of playmakers with space to run after the catch, which created opportunities for bigger chunk plays than did the “run-run” option of the zone read. Plus, unlike the zone-read, the quarterback wasn’t employed as a ball-carrier. This meant he got hit less, which OC’s favored for obvious reasons. Teams soon began to build RPOs into their base run plays and to get creative with the formations and personnel groups from which they used them.

Here is an early RPO concept I first learned of at a clinic back in 2009. I was a high school offensive coordinator at the time and I was looking for ways to get the ball to the perimeter in the shotgun spread offense we’d just installed. The presenter was Chris Ault, the head coach at the University of Nevada, and he was talking about Nevada’s signature sweep play, which they called “Horn.” What I thought made Horn unique was that Nevada pulled the center, which wasn’t something many teams did. But when Coach Ault started talking about their built-in pass concept on the backside of the play, it blew my mind. No one was using the term RPO yet so I didn’t know what to call it. But I scribbled it into my notes and told myself we would have to find a way to incorporate it into our offense.

(image courtesy of X and O Labs)

A few years later, we had our own version of “Horn X Pop.” The formation was different but the idea was the same: a pin-and-pull sweep with the QB reading the backside LB for a simple throw into the alley. Here is a breakdown of our version:

In the images above, you can see the read key flow with the run action. This prompts the QB to pull the football and flip it to the TE running up the seam. The TE receives the ball with plenty of space to run after the catch, and the result is a big play. When executed properly, the concept is almost unfair to the defense.

Why, then, did it take so long for the RPO to infiltrate professional playbooks?

Professional football has long been effected by a group-think mentality. There are only so many ways to skin a cat, and for NFL coaches that means sticking to the tried and true schemes that have worked for decades. The zone and gap run game. The 3-4 or 4-3 defense. Cover 1, 2 or 3. Every team in the NFL builds their system around these basic schemes. Why? Because they’ve worked. So-called novelty schemes like the Run n’ Shoot offense (which Buddy Ryan once famously called the “Chuck n’ Duck”) and the 4-6 defense have come and gone for a variety of reasons. Some coaches have not understood them well enough to properly implement them. Others have not been able to find the right players to make them work at the NFL level. And some have struggled to find success with them only to be replaced with a more traditional coach. The latter reason seems the most likely explanation for the slow matriculation of the RPO to the NFL. Coaches stick to traditional paradigms because they don’t want to get fired, and employing perceived novelty schemes is a sure way for that to happen if success isn’t found quickly.

(Side note: it’s interesting that the 3-4 defense was once considered a “novelty,” and that for a time in the 1980s the Steelers were the only team in the league who played it. Chuck Noll suffered some down years while using it, and a different franchise may have fired him or forced him to revert to a more traditional defense. The Steelers are unique, however, in that they believe in stability. Thus, the 3-4 took hold because the Steelers were a patient organization and took the long-view on its inception).

One other reason is took so long for the RPO to reach the NFL is because football at the college level has been far more fertile ground for experimentation. College coaches have had to get creative to narrow the talent gap that exists in many conferences. Necessity is said to be the mother of invention, and the Kentucky’s of the world have had to innovate to compete with the giants of the SEC. That’s how Hal Mumme’s Air Raid found its way into the game. Kentucky was never going to win playing power football against the likes of Georgia and Alabama. So Mumme modified the BYU playbook from the 1980s, put a bunch of wide receivers on the field and started chucking the football 50 times a game. The results were amazing. Innovations like the Air Raid have allowed teams like Appalachian State to upset Michigan and, more recently, 45-point underdog Howard to best UNLV.

Talent disparities like these don’t exist in the NFL, however. Some teams are clearly better than others but not because one has a roster of 5-Star recruits and the other has a bunch of glorified walk-ons. Things like coaching, culture and even the nature of the schedule have a much greater impact on NFL success. Thus, the urgency of creating new and exotic schemes designed to bridge the talent gap isn’t as pressing.

Now that the RPO has finally arrived, what does it mean here in Pittsburgh? Some of you may recognize the “Horn X Pop” play discussed above. Todd Haley ran a version of it the past few seasons, with Maurkice Pouncey pulling and Antonio Brown in the role of X receiver. At times, Haley ran RPOs both extensively and effectively. According to Ted Nguyen of FanRagSports, the Steelers ran 7 RPOs for 77 yards, an average of 11 yards per play, in their October win at Kansas City. Despite that success, Haley’s enthusiasm for the concept seemed to wane as the season progressed.

New offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner’s preference for gap run concepts at Memphis, which blend nicely with pin-and-pull RPOs, and Ben Roethlisberger’s stated desire to add flexibility to the offense seem to indicate they will play a larger role next season. Fichtner may expand on existing concepts like Horn X-Pop or he may introduce an entirely new series of his own. I’d look for him to get big bodies like Vance McDonald, Jesse James or even Juju Smith-Schuster up the seams on RPO concepts that exploit safeties filling aggressively to stop outside runs to Le’Veon Bell. Bell will be a huge key to the success of any RPOs Fichtner might employ. Without a successful run game, defenses have no need to be overly aggressive at the second-level, thus nullifying the effectiveness of the RPO.

Regardless, with the entire stable of offensive weapons expected to return, and with enthusiasm for the RPO growing rapidly throughout the league, their proliferation seems inevitable. Get ready for a barrage of commentators gushing about them in Pittsburgh and elsewhere in 2018.

Labriola on patience, Colbert, more Ben

Steelers.com News - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 7:50am
Back in early 2004, the Steelers showcased their historical patience with their coach at the time.

Ryan Shazier wanting to play football again is a good thing

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 7:36am

We should all want what Ryan Shazier wants, and that's to play football for the Steelers again.

Since his horrific spinal injury suffered in a Monday night game against the Bengals last December 4, the constant refrain from just about everyone wishing Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier well has been something along the lines of, "Just walk again, bro."

But Shazier, confined until recently to a wheelchair, has a different wish, and that's, "I've gotta get back, bro."

That is precisely what Shazier told teammate Roosevelt Nix, when he addressed his current health status and football aspirations while appearing on the Pro Bowl fullback's podcast which aired Tuesday.

And, Shazier, a two-time Pro Bowler in his own right, has bigger aspirations than just that annual tropical postseason destination. He also stated he wants to be an All-Pro and eventually reach the ultimate football destination, that of not-so-tropical Canton, Ohio.

I'm talking about the Pro Football Hall of Fame in case you didn't catch my allusion.

Is it crazy for a man who probably still wonders if he'll ever walk again to proclaim he will one day walk up on stage and put on that gold jacket, an action that would symbolize his football immortality?

I can't say because I'm not a doctor and I don't know which, if any, limitations apply to a person who’s suffered the kind of injury Shazier did, and then underwent the spinal stabilization surgery he did days later.

I do know Shazier was pictured on social media standing arm and arm with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger right before his release from the hospital a few weeks ago.

I also know Shazier was seen standing (admittedly, with a little assistance) at a Penguins home game just days after that.

As he told Nix during his podcast appearance, Shazier's rehabbing hard every day—two hours, five days a week, to be exact—and wowing people with his progress.

It's no secret the drive it takes for a professional football player not only to make it to that level, but to excel at that level as Shazier had done before his injury.

It shouldn't shock you, therefore, that Shazier has so much drive, so much determination, to not only walk again, but to get back to, and even surpass, the level of play he reached during the first three-plus years of his career.

The fact that I opened this article by describing Shazier as a Steelers inside linebacker is significant because it signifies my belief he’ll be back.

But would it be dangerous for Shazier to try and come back?

As his injury—one that happened on an innocent-looking tackle—clearly illustrated, football is a dangerous sport regardless of your injury history.

Obviously, Shazier's personal physician, as well as every other doctor familiar with his current condition, might say it's impossible, ludicrous or insane for him to even think about playing again (for all we know, these very words may have been spoken to Shazier by one or several medical experts).

But maybe the exact opposite sentiment has been expressed to Shazier by those aforementioned medical experts, and maybe this is what's driving the ultra-talented and freakishly athletic linebacker to be so determined to make it all the way back.

Regardless of his future, Shazier's present is a lot better than I could have imagined even a month ago.

That's because he has hope.

And if Ryan Shazier has hope, we should all have hope, hope that he gets to do exactly what he wants to do — play professional football again.

HIGHLIGHTS: Steelers WR touchdowns in 2017

Steelers.com Videos - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 6:55am
All of the touchdowns scored by the Steelers' wide receivers from the 2017 NFL season.

Steelers 2018 Free Agent Market Watch: The Wide Receivers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 5:58am

BTSC highlights free agent receivers and whether or not they may be an option for the Steelers.

The Steelers corps of receivers are head and shoulders above where they were last year at this time. Antonio Brown was All-World again in 2017, JuJu Smith-Schuster was a rookie sensation that came close to 1,000 yards and Martavis Bryant made great strides towards season's end in coming off of a drug suspension. The unit, as a whole, doesn't need much of an upgrade at all. But Justin Hunter is a free agent, Eli Rogers was suspect - and suffered a season-ending injury in what turned out to be the last game for the Steelers anyway - and Darius Heyward-Bey is getting long in the tooth. Even though the Steelers have funds that need to go elsewhere, here are the top free agent receivers available in 2018 and where they may or may not fit in the burgh of Pitt, should they decide to go theWR route.

Jarvis Landry - Miami Dolphins

Landry has become one of the finest slot receivers in the league. Averaging 1,009 yards each of his first four years in the league, Jarvis had 112 catches and nine TDs last season. He’s in for a big payday, but the Steelers won't be a suitor.

Allen Robinson - Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags lost Robinson in the season's first game last year and still made the AFCCG. The Penn State Nittany Lion had 1400 yards and 14 scores in 2015, but fell back to Earth with 883 and six in 2016. With great size at 6'3", Robinson would be a nice addition to Pittsburgh, but his health is in question and resources need to go elsewhere. If the numbers were right (doubtful), it would spell the end for Bryant.

Josh Gordon - Cleveland Browns

Again off-the-field issues make Gordon taboo for the Steelers and many other teams. When he's clean and mentally engaged, Josh Gordon is spectacular. His 2013 tally of 87 catches, 1,646 yards and nine scores was phenomenal. Last year, after two-years away, Gordon caught 18 balls for 335 yards and a score in five games. However, his well-documented issues and suspensions make him a high risk. With no assurance that Gordon's problems are behind him, the Steelers probably wouldn't take a risk on Gordon, while still not completely certain that Martavis Bryant's troubles are behind him.

Terrelle Pryor - Washington Redskins

The hometown kid looked to be getting a huge payday in 2017, but was a major disappointment in Washington. A year after putting up 1077 yards, Pryor had only 240 in nine games. The 6'4" Jeanette product had mentioned not wanting to play in Pittsburgh due to hometown distractions, but he'll come at a low price. Maybe it's time to come home.

Sammy Watkins - Los Angeles Rams

Watkins has shown signs of brilliance, signs of doubt and signs of fragility in his four seasons in the NFL. After being traded from the Bills, Watkins disappointed with a mere 39 catches for 593 yards in 2017. He's still young and a huge talent, if the market is low...Watkins is worth a flyer.

Other Notable Free Agent Wide Receivers

Cameron Meredith (RFA) - Chicago Bears

Marquise Lee - Jacksonville Jaguars

Eric Decker - Tennessee Titans

Mike Wallace - Baltimore Ravens

Donte Moncrief - Indianapolis Colts

Paul Richardson - Seattle Seahawks

Bruce Ellington - Houston Texans

John Brown - Arizona Cardinals

Tyrell Williams (RFA) - Los Angeles Chargers

Jordan Matthews - Buffalo Bills

Danny Amendola - New England Patriots

Taylor Gabriel- Atlanta Falcons

Lawrence Timmons expected to be released by the Dolphins, but do the Steelers want him?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 4:55am

The anticipated release of Lawrence Timmons by the Miami Dolphins raises the question of whether the Steelers want him back.

I’ve never personally met anyone who didn’t like Lawrence Timmons. Mike Tomlin’s first draft pick as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007 was a fan favorite for his low-key personality and hard-nosed playing style.

After the 2016 season, as a free agent, Timmons signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Dolphins last March, and the deal included $11 million in guaranteed money. After collecting 84 tackles in 14 games (all starts), it was Timmons’ off-field behavior which was more notable than anything he did on the field.

If you recall, Timmons left the team when Hurricane Irma forced the Dolphins and Buccaneers to have a Week 1 bye. Before their season opener against the Chargers, he left and never returned. He eventually turned up, but reportedly was in Pittsburgh. No one knows what truly happened, but the Dolphins suspended him one game for his actions.

Either way, the Dolphins are rumored to cut ties with the veteran linebacker, who’s now 32, and many want to know — should the Steelers sign him to a team-friendly deal as a stop-gap for the injured Ryan Shazier?

It’s certainly tempting, considering Timmons knows the defense like the back of his hand. But I do know having Vince Williams playing alongside a linebacker who resembles himself more than Shazier is not a good equation.

In my opinion, if the Steelers do bring Timmons back—and that’s not out of the realm of possibility if Miami does release him—he shouldn’t be considered as the Day 1 starter. In other words, the Steelers would still be wise to not only look for an inside linebacker in the 2018 NFL Draft, but also exhaust all of their other free-agent options before pulling the trigger on bringing back Timmons.

A lot of players have left the Steelers only to return. James Harrison after his stint in Cincinnati, Larry Foote and William Gay after their time in Arizona and most recently Sean Spence after spending time in Tennessee.

Not all homecomings work out the way fans hope, and if the Steelers are forced to rely on Timmons in 2018, my gut tells me you can expect a lot of the same type of defense you saw at the end of the 2017 season.

Rogers: 'I didn't think anything was wrong'

Steelers.com News - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 5:05pm
Eli Rogers went from thinking he was fine to an offseason of rehabbing his knee.

Bell & free agency

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 3:21pm
Missi and Bob discuss the latest on Le'Veon Bell, free agency and the franchise tag on Steelers Live.

Key dates: Pre-free agency

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 3:20pm
Missi and Bob get you caught up on all the important dates and deadlines including free agency, the combine and the Draft.

3 second year Steelers players who need to make a huge jump in 2018

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:31am

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be relying on some second year players to really step up their game in 2018.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had great success in recent years drafting players who are NFL ready from Day 1. Examples include the duo of Artie Burns and Sean Davis, and their fellow classmate Javon Hargrave, all who played significant roles in the first professional season.

Looking at the team’s 2017 NFL Draft class, there are a few players who need to make a big jump in 2018, and when I say ‘jump’ I am talking specifically about improving their game, and ultimately increasing their productivity.

You might be surprised, but only one defender made this short list.

Check it out:

T.J. Watt

Of course Watt is the first on the list. As an outside linebacker in the Steelers’ new scheme, he is the Swiss Army Knife for Keith Butler’s unit. He has shown he can cover, but there is a lot Watt can improve upon when it comes to setting the edge and adding some counter moves to his pass rush in order to increase his odds to get to the opposing quarterback.

Watt has a ton of potential, and after a year with the team, he should have gained the necessary experience to realize what he needs to improve upon before his sophomore year. Knowing the Watt family the way the public does, there is a good chance Watt is on the verge of having a very good second season in 2018.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Smith-Schuster took the Steelers’ fan base by storm last year, and his fun-loving personality made him almost larger than life to the general public. However, Smith-Schuster certainly can improve on several aspects of his game.

Catching the ball isn’t an issue with Smith-Schuster, but his route running can continue to improve. Although he was markedly better than most, including myself, anticipated, if Smith-Schuster can continue to improve on his routes, and continue to be the physical presence he already has shown as a rookie, the sky is the limit for the kid from Southern California.

James Conner

This was a toss up between Conner and Cam Sutton. I went with Conner because I feel he will have more of a chance to show himself than Sutton. Sutton is a great prospect, but I don’t see him as anything more than taking over William Gay’s dime package cornerback role. Sutton will certainly play a role on the team’s defense, but his classmate will be the one who needs to show improvement.

Conner had flashes in his limited role last year, but his deficiencies were also glaring. Conner needs to really put in the work as a pass blocker, as well as a pass catcher, if he wants to be given more time to spell Le’Veon Bell, assuming Bell is in Pittsburgh next year.

I believe James Conner can be an excellent change-of-pace back for the very patient Bell. Conner’s one-cut, downhill style can certainly be the fastball to Bell’s change up. When used correctly, he can really help stabilize the Steelers’ running back corps.

...

If these three players can step up their game next season, it will have a very big impact on the overall team moving forward. The experience a rookie gets from his first NFL season is invaluable, in getting through that rookie wall, realizing what it is like going up against seasoned vets and ultimately understanding what it takes to succeed.

For the great ones, there is no offseason...just more preparation.

Paul Zeise: The Steelers need to act quickly on Le'Veon Bell, then focus elsewhere

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:25am

The Steelers and Le’Veon Bell are said to be working on a long-term deal. They now have about 12 days to get it done within the window the Steelers have to tag him. If a long-term deal can’t be worked out in that time they could tag him and then continue to negotiate a long-term deal.

Zereoue: 'That was special to me'

Steelers.com News - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:03am
Amos Zereoue shared what his time with the Steelers was like.

Legends Series: Zereoue

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:00am
Former Steelers running back Amos Zereoue looks back on his career in Pittsburgh.

Mel Kiper Jr. jumps on the Leighton Vander Esch to the Steelers bandwagon in latest mock draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 9:39am

Another NFL Draft analyst likes the Boise State linebacker going to the Steelers at pick No. 28.

The NFL Scouting Combine is just days away, and despite there being very little evidence of teams actually showing interest in any specific players, NFL Draft analysts are feverishly typing away at those mock drafts.

Of course, websites like this one love the speculation, as it can create some quality discussion and debate about positional need, and individual prospects who could possibly be considered for an NFL franchise.

As I’ve stated before, some analysts’ mock drafts are regarded in higher distinction than others, and Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN would certainly be in the upper echelon.

In Kiper’s latest 2.0 mock draft, he joined a growing number of people who are predicting Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to the Steelers with pick No. 28 in the first round.

See what Kiper had to say about the selection:

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

*Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Vander Esch is a name I continue to hear for the end of the first round. I expect him to put up strong numbers at the combine. At 6-4, 240, he has the versatility to play outside linebacker, but I think his best fit is as an inside ‘backer in a 3-4. He’s a physical run-stopper who can defend tight ends and running backs -- he had three interceptions in 2017. Inside linebacker is an obvious need for the Steelers, who will have to replace Ryan Shazier. This is also a spot where I could see a team trading up to grab Louisville quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who I think will be the fifth QB off the board.

The analysis of Kiper seems rather lazy to me, when it comes to Vander Esch. Nothing he said shows anything more than “The Steelers have a need, and this kid fits the bill.”

But what is more interesting is how Kiper suggests this may be where a team moves up in the draft to try and select a player like Lamar Jackson. With pick No. 28, the Steelers should be receiving any, and all, phone calls from teams who may want to jump back into the first round, in order to garner more draft picks.

Pittsburgh currently has at least one pick in every round, except in the 4th and 6th rounds. Adding picks, especially in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, if some of the dynamic playmakers the team sought after aren’t on the board anymore would be a best-case scenario for the Steelers.

Nonetheless, Vander Esch, depending on how he tests at the Combine, could be there, and might just be a player the Steelers like enough to take at No. 28.

Chuck Noll Foundation announces grants

Steelers.com News - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 8:00am
Pittsburgh region scores high in traumatic brain injury research.

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