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NFL Picks: Predicting the winner of Steelers vs. Jaguars, Week 11

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 11:14am

Time to pick the winner of Steelers vs. Jaguars!

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars will go head-to-head in Week 11 in a rematch of their two 2017 contests which were tilted in Jacksonville’s favor at Heinz Field.

Different venue. Different team. Different year. Steelers fans are hoping for a different outcome of the Week 11 showdown.

After this game was flexed out of prime time, largely because of the Jaguars’ poor record heading into the game, the Steelers will be looking to put a huge dent into the Jaguars’ playoff hopes with a road win over their rivals from the AFC South.

While their records might seem as if this is an easy pick, there is something deep inside of me which knows this game will be far more difficult than most believe.

The Jaguars’ defense is still stout, and the red-hot Steelers’ offense will have to perform well to win the football game. Oh, and there is that pesky Leonard Fournette the Pittsburgh defense will have to stop to force the game into Blake Bortles’ hands.

This is the classic game where you literally throw out records, and prepare yourself or a brawl. Could this game be a blow out, similar to the shellacking the Steelers gave the Carolina Panthers in Week 10? Absolutely, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

I think the game will be close in the first half, with the Steelers pulling away in the second half. Some garbage time points for Jacksonville will make the final score closer than it was in reality.

My prediction:

Steelers - 31
Jaguars - 20

What is your prediction for the game? Let us know in the comment section below!

Steelers Film Room: Jon Bostic showing critics he is not a liability in coverage

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 10:45am

Jon Bostic was supposed to be vulnerable in coverage, but he has been anything but so far this season.

The criticism of Jon Bostic’s coverage skill set churned out from Pittsburgh Steelers fans before the ink was even dry on his two-year contract. A chunk of the criticism was founded, another chunk of it was due to him being poorly schemed into positions he was bound to struggle with. The criticism hit a crescendo when three-time Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce dismantled the Steelers with seven receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns during the Kansas City Chiefs Week 2 win. Undoubtedly other SB Nation boards have been filled with disgruntled fans this year with Kelce amassing 57 receptions for 787 yards and six touchdowns so far on the season. In fans’ minds they may remember what Kelce did weeks ago, but what has Bostic done for the Steelers lately?

In the Carolina Panthers Week 10 game, Pro Football Reference credited Bostic with eight of his 10 tackles during passing plays. What makes the number of tackles even more impressive is the yardage and the number of tackles against slippery running back Christian McCaffrey and speedy (4.42-yard dash at the Combine.) wideout DJ Moore. McCaffrey had a solid game receiving against the Steelers totaling five receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns. Out of the five receptions, Bostic was involved in three, helping limit McCaffrey to 16 yards. Bostic was in on three tackles of Moore limiting the 2018 first round selection to 19 yards on the grabs.

Bustic’s cover skills will be needed during the Jacksonville Jaguars game as T.J. Yeldon leads the team in reception with 42 to go along with four touchdowns. Leonard Fournette is again healthy and has nine receptions over three games and one touchdown.

Steelers fans need to understand the limitations that Bostic has. Fans also cannot expect Bostic to blanket elite tight ends in the league when premiere cover linebackers Bobby Wagner and Telvin Smith struggle against the same tight ends. Hopefully Sunday the Steelers coaching staff will ask Bostic to cover areas on the field he is best suited for as they did in the Carolina game. Steelers fans do not want to see Yeldon rumbling for another 40 yard gain after a quick dump off again while Bostic is 20 yards down the field covering seldom targeted tight end James O’Shaughnessy.

He might have his limitations in coverage, but give credit to the Steelers for noticing his shortcomings and being able to scheme and adjust around him.

Steelers release list of inactive players for Week 11 vs. Jaguars

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 10:34am

Stephon Tuitt and Marcus Gilbert will join a familiar list of names on the sidelines this Sunday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers list of inactive players for Week 11 should come as no real surprise after Marcus Gilbert and Stephon Tuitt were ruled out of the game due to injury on Friday. They will once again be joined by a group of familiar faces who have become the core names regularly sitting on game day.

Missing his fourth game in a row and fifth of the season, Gilbert will be replaced by Matt Feiler in the starting lineup. With Tuitt sidelined, Tyson Alualu will be the next man up in his place and L.T. Walton will get a rare opportunity to suit up as his backup.

Mason Rudolph, Zach Banner, Brian Allen and Marcus Allen have become fixtures on the inactive list this season, with Justin Hunter apparently the newest permanent member having seemingly lost his battle with James Washington for the job as the fourth choice receiver on game day.

The full list of inactive players for the Jaguars. Sadly, Landry Jones will not be in uniform today.

The following players are inactive in today's game against the Steelers. pic.twitter.com/sWbrNDPY8q

— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) November 18, 2018

Predicting the Steelers’ Week 11 inactive list vs. the Jaguars

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 9:52am

One change on the injury front should be the only difference from Week 10.

The only two injured players on the game status report play the same positions as the ones from last week. Therefore the inactive list for Week 11 should be pretty straight forward.

Game Status

Out:

OT Marcus Gilbert (knee)

DT Stephon Tuitt (elbow)

Here are the possibilities to end up inactive for Week 11:

Definitely:

OT Marcus Gilbert- since teams do not have to disclose if players have a surgical procedure, it wouldn’t be shocking to find out Gilbert already had something done to fix his knee. Regardless, Matt Feiler gets a chance yet again to show his competency as a spot-starter.

DT Stephon Tuitt- it seemed as if Tuitt was really starting to get going this season. Hopefully he’s only out one week much like Mike Hilton was when he suffered a very similar injury earlier this year.

Most Likely:

QB Mason Rudolph- depending on who gets the start in Baltimore this week, Rudolph could be the highest drafted QB from 2018 who has yet to start a regular-season game.

OT Zach Banner- no silly play-on-words this week. Banner is inactive again while occupying one of two roster spots who could be at risk if the Steeler’s need to add depth at another position.

S Marcus Allen- speaking of players who could lose their spot on the 53-man roster, Marcus Allen could end up on the practice squad if the Steeler’s were in a pinch.

CB Brian Allen- it appears as if this Allen would be the next man up if someone went down in the secondary. This week everyone is healthy so both Allens sit this one out.

Possibly:

WR Justin Hunter- it just doesn’t make sense to play Hunter over Washington at this point. But Hunter surprisingly got the helmet against Cleveland so nothing is guaranteed.

Unlikely:

WR James Washington- although he was never targeted against Carolina, Washington did play 46 of the 58 offensive snaps. Look for at least a couple passes to be thrown his way in Jacksonville.

Projected Inactive List:
  1. Mason Rudolph
  2. Zach Banner
  3. Marcus Allen
  4. Brian Allen
  5. Marcus Gilbert
  6. Stephon Tuitt
  7. Justin Hunter

If ever there was a week to bet big on the inactive list for the Steelers, this would be it. Barring a crazy injury or illness, I don’t see how the Steelers would go in any other direction.

Feel free to list your projected inactives in the comments below.

Three Steelers who need to step up in order to beat the Jaguars in Week 11

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 9:00am

The Steelers want to win 6 straight games? They need some big contributions from these three players.

Short and sweet — the Jaguars were victorious in the two match ups last year, with one of those coming in the playoffs. They weren’t just wins, they were beat downs with Jacksonville being the more physical of the two teams. Even with the lopsided records, I fully expect another hard nosed game on Sunday. I feel if these three Pittsburgh Steelers players have great games they will have their sixth win in row.

Ben Roethlisberger

The simple truth is Ben has had struggles going against past Jacksonville teams. Dating back to 2004, Ben has had a 4-5 record vs. Jacksonville. The two thrashings in 2017 include a home playoff loss. Speaking for myself, those two games were physically dominating by the Jaguars and they have brought the wood in other meetings.

In those 9 games Ben, has a decent 62% completion percentage going 209 of 336, throwing 17 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. The alarming number is the amount of sacks taken, a total of 30, along with 6 fumbles and three of those recovered by the defense.

The five losses alone account for all 12 of those interceptions. It’s up to Ben to protect the ball and it’s up to our O-line to keep Ben upright. Both the line and Ben have been playing lights out but proving it against a defense that has dominated in recent past will be yet another test for the 2018 season. Don’t let that record fool ya.

Matt Feiler

Piggy backing off of the stat above, thirty sacks is way to many to be giving up. Jacksonville can get after the QB.

Matt Feiler has been playing solid as a back up, but I believe he will get plenty attention on Sunday. The unit as a whole have kept Ben upright and it will need another solid outing from the former fourth year undrafted player. Mike Munchak continues to churn out solid lineman.

Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Cambell can bring it, and it’s up to Feiler and Company to stop that from happening.

Javon Hargrave

Javon had 6 tackles against a Carolina team that posed many challenges and questions, and those questions were answered. He will need to have another solid game going against a thumping runner in Leonard Fournette.

Take into account that Stephon Tuitt will likely not play and you have yourself a need for not only Hagrave but Alualu to play big. The rotation of that line also changes and that will be something to watch. Hopefully the guy mentioned in the opening can turn this into a one dimensional game where the Steelers can just pin their ears back and go.

...

I gave you my trio, time to tell me what your thinking in the comment section below.

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking the full Week 11 slate of games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 8:22am

We make our picks against the spread and versus the totals for every game on the NFL schedule in Week 11.

With the Cincinnati Bengals set take on the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers could potentially take a two game lead in the race for the division title if they can take care of business against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Ravens can do them a favor at home.

At just 5.5-points, it is unusual to note that the Steelers are the third biggest favorites of the week behind the New Orleans Saints (-8) and Los Angeles Chargers (-7). With the bookmakers seemingly expecting a number of close contests on Sunday, there could be value to found in a number of games this weekend.

The Indianapolis Colts giving up just 1.5-points at home to the Tennessee Titans is sure to attract some interest, as are the Houston Texans giving up only a field goal on the road against the Washington Redskins. Picking the outright winner in these games is likely to give you the winner against the spread in Week 11, but that might be easier said than done for us given our recent track record.

Selections have been made using the consensus Las Vegas odds from VegasInsider.com as of Saturday night and we encourage you to play along with us by adding your picks below.

James Washington has not been productive, so it is time for the Steelers to use their TEs more

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 7:20am

The Steelers are looking for a No. 3 wide receiver, but that might just be their tight ends, not James Washington.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been seeing rookie wide receiver James Washington on the field a lot this season but the receiver has been lacking one important thing. Production. Washington has been in on 331 plays (51.88% of all offensive plays) and has seven receptions on 19 targets. Have his paltry totals been due to play calling or a lack of trust by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or the lack of getting open? An offensive weapon not being used against the Jacksonville Jaguars may hinder the Steelers from keeping their winning streak alive. Steelers fans do not want to be reminded again that 42 offensive points might not be enough to win a game against Jacksonville. Cutting back Washington’s snap counts while increasing the Steelers use of two tight ends may be the firepower the Steelers need if the game ends up being a shootout. No time like the present to carry out more two tight ends and sending an unproductive Washington to the bench.

The Steelers passing game is humming along with the sixth most passing yards, sixth most pass attempts and seventh most passing TDs in the NFL. On Sunday Pittsburgh will need every weapon on the field when they face the Jaguars and their top-ranked pass defense. Steelers fans can still remember the bitter taste in their mouths at the hands of the Jaguars during last season’s playoffs. The Steelers put up an impressive 42 points but still fell short.

Tight end Jesse James has seen the field on 58% (370)of offensive snaps and turned those snaps into 22 receptions on 28 targets and a pair of touchdowns. The athletically gifted Vance McDonald has made the most of his 47% (299) of snaps with 30 receptions on 38 targets and a pair of touchdowns.

Week 6 against the Cincinnati Bengals game exemplifies what the Steelers can carry out with two tight ends while limiting Washington’s time on the field. Steelers tight ends accounted for 14 receptions for 129 yards and six drive-extending first downs. While the offense put up 481 total yards, Washington did not secure his lone target on 16 snaps.

Looking at the number of receptions the Jaguars, fans may think this is a poor time to implement a high rate of two tight end. Jacksonville has given up 33 receptions which is fourth best in the league. But those catches have been for 431 yards and six touchdowns. The number of touchdowns is tied for third most in the NFL. In years past, Telvin Smith has been one of the league leaders in defending against the pass. That is not the case this year as he has struggled.

While the Jacksonville defense held Rob Gronkowski to two receptions for 15 yards, Travis Kelce roughed them up (5-100) as did Zach Ertz (4-26-1 TD which was the game-deciding score.). The Indianapolis Colts game is the one that hits home on running with two tight ends. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron combined for six catches on six targets for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

Pittsburgh sits second in the AFC and would earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. A win would not only keep them there but also keeps their confidence sky high. A loss could throw them back behind the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots not to mention within striking distance of the Cincinnati Bengals. With seven games to go there are plenty of stumbling blocks left on the Steelers schedule.

Limiting the snaps of an unproductive Washington while using two tight ends against a vulnerable Jaguars defense just makes sense when connecting the dots. Using James and McDonald as the Steelers did against the Bengals will go a long way to wrapping up a much-needed road victory. A win against the Jaguars will also dull the pain stemming from that fateful 45-42 loss last January and inch closer to evening the series between the two teams which Jacksonville leads 14-11.

2018 NFL Distribution Map: Will you see Steelers vs. Jaguars in Week 11

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 6:14am

Check and see if you will be lucky enough to get to watch the Steelers in Week 11 in the comfort of your own home.

If you were like me, before I decided to sign up for the DirecTV Sunday Ticket package every week I was wondering whether I’d be able to watch my beloved Steelers in the comfort of my own home, or if I’d have to go elsewhere to watch the game.

Before there were websites devoted to this, it meant a lengthy trip on the television guide screen to see which game was scheduled to air, but now it’s just a click away.

So, will you get to see the Steelers and Jaguas go head-to-head in Week 11? Check out which games you’ll see in your local viewing area.

For those who want to know which game they’ll see, check the map below, courtesy of 506 Sports:

[Steelers fans: Sign up for FanPulse, our weekly Steelers survey]

Week 11

RED - Steelers at Jaguars
GREEN - Texans at Redskins
YELLOW - Bengals at Ravens
LIGHT BLUE - Titans at Colts
BLUE - Broncos at Chargers (LATE)
ORANGE - Raiders at Cardinals (LATE)

So, are you lucky enough to be able to watch the game live in your own home, or are you one of many who will have to find other means to view the game? Either way, today is the day to get pumped!!

HERE WE GO!!

Burning Questions Surrounding the Steelers vs. Jaguars Week 11 game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 5:23am

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars will go head-to-head in Week 11, and there is a lot to talk about.

The two teams scheduled to meet at 1:00 P.M. on Sunday in Jacksonville are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Steelers are riding a five game win streak while the Jaguars have lost the last five games.

Looking back to being swept last year, and ultimately having the season ending at home in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs, one would think that would play heavily in the minds of the players and maybe even the coaching staff.

The Jaguars have seemingly always played Pittsburgh tough and the games have resembled that of the Pittsburgh/Baltimore rivalry. I don’t think we should take those guys for what the standings suggest. The question is, if we lose this game will it get labeled as a “typical Tomlin loss, playing down to the competition” ?

Jalen Ramsey

I’m sure some remember the article in GQ where Ramsey spouts off about the quarterbacks currently playing in the league and his comments regarding Ben.

On Ben Roethlisberger: ”Decent.” “It’s not Big Ben, it’s [Antonio Brown]. Big Ben slings the ball a lot of the time. He just slings it, and his receivers go get it... I played him twice last year, and he really disappointed me.”

Ben’s response: “That’s the awesome thing about this country we live in,” Roethlisberger said a few hours before practice at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I think he’s a fantastic football player.

“We play them at some point. They got the best of us last year, so I guess he has the rght to say whatever he wants.”

This stat may say it all, 0 touchdowns to 3 interceptions and a QBR of 56 going against Jalen Ramsey.

Looking at the game and more so at our quarterback, Ben has a stubborn side, bordering on “I’ll show you” mentality.

Does Ben still remember the comments that Ramsey made?

Will Ben go into full bore gun slinging mode and attempt to prove Ramsey wrong. Or will he be the “New” Ben and take what’s being given by the defense and run within the framework of the offense?

Is it annoying to hear a Jags fan say Duuuuuuuuuuval?

Let’s get fired up for the game in the comment section below!! HERE WE GO!!

How consistency is the one lacking factor for the Jaguars as they prepare for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/18/2018 - 4:23am

I get to get the low down on the Jacksonville Jaguars by going behind enemy lines to get the answers we all want to know.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars are preparing to go head-to-head in Week 11, and although disappointing, the Jaguars pose a serious threat to the 6-2-1 Steelers.

To get a better handle on the game from the other side of the fence, I reached out to Ryan O’Bleness of Big Cat Country. I was able to ask him some questions about the upcoming game. Check out the Q&A session below, and be sure to check out Big Cat Country for the best news on this matchup, from the Jaguars’ perspective.

Blake Bortles has been a mess this season. What are the theories on his lack of consistency? After all, this team beat New England in Week 2.

You used the word “consistency,” and that is the exact issue that has plagued Bortles throughout his entire career. He can have a four-game stretch where he plays incredibly well, with accurate passes, good decision-making and limited turnovers, but then go on a two or three game stretch where he almost single-handily losses the game for the Jaguars because of things like bad reads, forced throws and/or far too many giveaways. And because of this, I don’t think fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars will ever be truly comfortable with him under center. It’s hard to say why he is this way, but at this point it is evident that he is who he is -- a subpar quarterback, who can occasionally light it up, but not often enough. Bortles has flawed mechanics, which have improved over the years, but still aren’t great. He has a tendency to make poor decisions. He won’t win in most situations where opposing defenses put the game on his shoulders. It’s really a combination of things. The Jaguars’ struggles shouldn’t be blamed completely on Blake -- the offensive line has been awful/injured, his receivers drop a ton of passes and the defense has had its struggles -- but he is the main culprit on most weeks (he certainly was not this past week in Indianapolis, though).

Leonard Fournette has finally returned to the lineup, but the Jaguars also lost their center Brandon Linder. Talk about how this impacts the Jaguars’ offense, and the depth situation filling in.

While it was nice to have Leonard Fournette back in the lineup on Sunday, -- he totaled 109 yards and two touchdowns through the air and on the ground -- the running game itself was still poor. The offensive line struggled to generate a push, and Fournette averaged just 2.2 yards per carry (53 yards on 24 attempts). Still, it was good to see Fournette healthy and getting so many touches without re-injuring his hamstring. At the very least, he made the Colts’ defense account for the run, and helped open up the passing game for Bortles, who had one of his best performances of the season. Fournette tore up the Steelers last year, so I am hopeful that another week healed from the lingering quad issue will allow for another strong performance, but Jacksonville’s running game woes have been far from solved. The Jaguars lack playmakers at the wide receiver and tight end position, so the running game has to get going if the team wants to have a shot at beating the extremely hot Steelers on Sunday, albeit with a depleted offensive line against a stout rush defense.

The Jaguars have been bitten hard by the injury bug in 2018, which is the complete opposite of the successful 2017 season. The Brandon Linder injury hurts. He is the No. 7 ranked center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, and one of the few Jaguars playing with any kind of consistency along the offensive line. Tyler Shatley is a capable backup, but he’s not Brandon Linder. Left tackle Cam Robinson tore his ACL early in the season, and his backup Josh Wells also went to IR, so Jacksonville is already playing its third-and-fourth string tackles on Bortles’ blind side, and several of the other offensive linemen have been playing dinged up all year. It’s not a good situation.

How do the Jaguars view the Steelers, from a rivalry standpoint? The two teams have a pretty rich history, and the Jags have done damage in Pittsburgh throughout the years. The Steelers’ fan base has grown irritated of the boys from Duval, but what about the other way around?

Personally, I would argue that Pittsburgh is Jacksonville’s biggest non-divisional rival, and it’s hard to speak for the fan base as a whole, but I would think the majority agrees with me. Of course, there is a long history between the two franchises, as both competed in the AFC Central from Jacksonville’s first year of competition in 1995 through the 2001 season. I wouldn’t say the hatred from Jags fans is quite as strong as it is for a team like the Tennessee Titans, but it’s clear that there is disdain between the two franchises and fanbases. The Jags have been a constant thorn in the Steelers’ side, with an all-time record of 14-11, including 2-0 in the playoffs, so as you have pointed out, it’s not surprising that the Pittsburgh faithful isn’t too keen on the Jaguars. I am sure calling Pittsburgh “Duval North” didn’t exactly get many laughs from Steeler Nation, either.

The most surprising aspect of the Jaguars’ slow start has been the defense. What is going on which is causing this team to not be as dominant as everyone expected?

I wish I had a definitive answer to this question. The unit looked lost and had several communication errors, especially in the first half, this past week at Lucas Oil Stadium. The defense has struggled to create turnovers and get sacks, which it was known for in 2017. Additionally, blown assignments and a seemingly inability to play zone coverage concepts has allowed opposing offenses to shred the secondary from time to time. The odd thing, though, is that statistically speaking, the unit is still doing very well. Despite being carved up by Andrew luck, the Jags still rank No. 1 against the pass in the NFL, and No. 3 in the league in total defense. The unit has had its struggles stopping the run, too, though the last matchup against the Colts was opposite -- couldn’t stop the pass, but held Indy to just 81 rushing yards (and 53 of those came on one run). Part of that could be because A.J. Bouye was out for a second consecutive game with a calf injury. To me, though, the fact that the Jaguars are not getting to the quarterback in time (pressures have been there, but not sacks), and not generating giveaways is the biggest reason for the demise. I think head coach Doug Marrone and defensive coordinator Todd Wash need to take a hard look at the scheme this week and make necessary adjustments because whatever they’re doing isn’t working.

How do you see this game shaking out, and what is your prediction?

I don’t think records matter in a game like this where there will be a lot of passion due to the rivalry, and perhaps anger at the fact that the game was flexed out of a prime time slot, so I expect a close, hard-fought game as it usually is between these two franchises. But at the end of the day, it would be irresponsible for me to pick the Jaguars given how both teams are playing. I expect it to be close entering the fourth quarter, with the Steelers getting a late touchdown in the final few minutes to seal it, as I’m sure the Jacksonville offense will turn the ball over on the ensuing potential game-tying drive. Plus, the Steelers are looking for revenge from last season.

Score prediction: Steelers, 28, Jaguars 20

The Steelers mic’d up during their Week 10 win over the Panthers is fantastic

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 4:45pm

Sit back, and enjoy the show!

There are some things which I can watch over, and over, and over again.

The video below would be one of those things.

Call it envy of the superstars I grew up putting on a giant pedestal in my mind, or just a general curiosity as to what is said and done on an NFL football field, these mic’d up videos are must-watch TV for me.

When NFL Film was able to capture the sound from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 52-point output vs. the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football in Week 10, the end result was pure magic.

So, without further ado, sit back and enjoy the near 5 minute video with some tremendous sound coming from Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin both wearing the microphones for this prime time matchup.

Man, this is amazing stuff.

"Time to shine."

Big Ben and Mike Tomlin were #NFLMicdUp in the @Steelers' Week 10 WIN! (via @NFLFilms) pic.twitter.com/dbIxRgy86v

— NFL (@NFL) November 17, 2018

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11.

Random Thoughts from a Black-and-Gold Mind: Voldemort, Klinger and Blazing Hip-Hop Stars edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 2:02pm

BTSC’s Version of the 1979 Michael Jackson album, Off The Wall, shares his unhinged Steelers meanderings with you.

With another crazy Pittsburgh Steeler “Week That Was” in the books, my black-and-gold mind is humming like a dirty diaper in a Cuban safety deposit box. As always, I feel compelled to pass the ravings on to you. But first, I must offer up apologies for any offense that was taken after my last submission. So a clog-closet full of clean slates to be willfully wiped goes out to and for the following...

  • Teasing the fans with the possibility of a Styx biopic called “Renegade”.
  • Bringing up Erika Alexander’s Cousin Pam from “The Cosby Show”...yet again.
  • Labeling the fallen star of said show above as a roofie distributor.
  • Fredo
  • Fibbing about writing a screenplay about Artie Burns.
  • 1912 boat passengers
  • Harvey Clayton

Now That I apologized, I urge KFC to do so for that “Dirty Dancing” parody with Colonel Sanders and Mrs. Buttersworth while trying to peddle chicken and waffles. I’m just glad they didn’t recreate the love scene from that movie. That would have been as nauseating as maple syrup and chicken. But then again...hmmmmmmm?

And now for the latest edition of Random Thoughts from a Black-and-Gold Mind.

  • I hear a lot of fans, even Ben Roethlisberger, talking about the need to talk about Le’Veon Bell again being never. However, that is far from the case. An upset loss, the New England game, the playoffs, a missed Super Bowl or a James Conner injury and everyone will be like Snoop Dogg. But instead of having “Gin and Juice” on the tongue, It will be comparisons of Jim and Juice.
  • The transition tag still lingers, as well. If that is placed by the Steelers on No. 26, this whole fiasco could be resurrected in February of 2019. So just when you and Ben thought you were done with Le’Veon, he could still remain in drama with the Steelers.
  • The above scenario reminds me of Roseanne Barr. Just when you thought you’ve seen the end of her tv family last year when “Roseanne” got cancelled, the franchise was ultimately revived in the form of “The Conners”. How ironic is that?
  • Speaking of James, his durability concerns me. If the powerful back gets injured, Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley don’t exactly instill fear in defenses. It’s kind of like Coy and Vance Duke driving the General Lee after their cousins (Bo and Luke) disappeared in 1982 on “The Dukes of Hazard”. If I were Kevin Colbert, I’d kick the tires on C.J. Anderson and even call on the football shape of Demarco Murray. The last one is definitely a long shot though.
  • No that the Bell saga is over for the season, maybe tv can get back to important stuff like State Farm officially disclosing who really burnt down Cheryl’s she-shed. My guess is her husband Victor did it...or maybe even the ghost of “Left-Eye” Lopes. Andre Rison never saw that mansion arson coming.
  • One last thing about Bell. I have heard some disapproval of the raiding of the AWOL RB’s locker. People are so righteous behind a keyboard. This stuff was hardly anything Bell left behind. Shoe and equipment companies send free merchandise to the players. He cleaned that locker out in January. Dimebags, watches and Iphones were long gone. But the display was put on mostly for fun/one last message. The organization has boxed up the belongings and will ship them to Bell.
  • It’s taken awhile, but like Jamie Farr’s portrayal of Klinger on M*A*S*H...Jesse James is finally getting noticed for elevating a supporting role into one of respect. No. 81 is very much a valuable part of the cast.
  • Speaking of respect, Mike Tomlin is enjoying one of his finest seasons at the helm of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both inside the locker room and on the football field, he has held this team together in a way most couldn’t.
  • Ryan Switzer loves being a Steeler and it shows. Colbert really found a great puzzle piece here. This deal makes previous trades for J.J. Wilcox, Josh Scobee and Justin Gilbert look like...well ahhhh...trades for J.J. Wilcox, Josh Scobee and Justin Gilbert.
Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images
  • To appease the fan base that unrealistically thinks there should be no mention of Bell at all, from this point forward I pledge to attempt to go the way of J.K. Rowling characters and label Bell as they do Voldemort....“He Who Shall Not Be Named”. Not that I’m bowing to the masses, but more for the fact that the storyline is complete for the year and mostly for the reference to Harry Potter.

And finally...

  • I wonder what J.J. Wilcox, Josh Scobee and Justin Gilbert are doing these days.

Untill next time, I urge you to ponder the significance of the poignant lyrics of Lionel Richie and the Commodores’ 1979 smash “Sail On”.

Sail on, down the line

About half a mile or so

And I don’t really wanna know ah

Where you’re going

Maybe once or twice you see

Time after time I tried

Hold on to what we got

But now you’re going

And I don’t mind about the things you’re gonna say Lord

I gave all my money and my time

I know it’s a shame

But I’m giving you back your name

Take that for what it’s worth, Don’t Stop Shalievin’ and Go Steelers.

Bold and bizarre predictions for Steelers vs. Jaguars, Week 11

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 12:48pm

BTSC’s Nostradumbass predicts the Steelers’ upcoming game vs. the Jaguars.

The 6-2-1 Steelers, on a five-game streak, venture to the dangerous confines of Everbank Field to take on a dangerous and underachieving team from the AFC South. Will they conquer the demons that first appeared last October and extended to January? Will Steeler fans outnumber Jags fans? Will Ben surface into a pick-6 machine against the NFL’s top-ranked defense? Will a missed Boswell XP kill the Steelers?

With these storylines, and more, I’ve compiled a list of predictions (some basic, and some utterly idiotic) to look for in this Week 11 contest:

  • In a departure from what has sadly become the norm, Ben Roethlisberger does not throw a pick-six against the Jags.
  • Ben does not go sack or interception-free though.
  • Leonard Fournette scores twice, but the Steelers 4th-ranked rush defense keeps No. 27 under 60 yards.
  • Playing for Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu registers a sack and a forced fumble of Blake Bortles.
  • At halftime at a Zaxby’s off of I-95, “He Who Shall Not Be Named” performs his latest rap single, “Raid my locker, but you can’t steal Juice” to confused tourists and employees.
  • To commemorate the 55th anniversary of the debut of the first push button phone, JuJu Smith-Schuster rejoices a touchdown by pulling out a 15-lb, beige jobby from 1963 and attempting to live stream. Upon realizing you can’t tweet on the artifact, No. 19 tries to go to his backup plan but trips over the aforementioned phone’s cord instead.
  • Although friends, tensions rise between Jalen Ramsey and Antonio Brown.
  • Vance McDonald goes off in this game. Ben finds him over eight times.
  • Artie Burns, dreading the loneliness of the bench, makes his way to the upper-level pool and chills with the hot people.
  • In the end, the Steelers edge out the home team 27-23 to extend their winning streak to six.

...

Will any of this actually happen? I’ll bet at least one or two. Heck, maybe every one of them. Be sure to post your predictions — basic or bizarre — below.

Steelers set to rollover more salary cap space than ever before in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 11:45am

Le’Veon Bell’s decision to sit out the 2018 season has created a significant amount of salary cap space for the Steelers they will be able to rollover into next year.

Le’Veon Bell did not just leave the contents of his locker behind when he opted to sit out the remainder of Pittsburgh Steelers’ season, he also gave up the outstanding balance of the $14.544 million he had been due to earn in 2018.

With an update to the NFLPA public salary cap report on Friday, it would appear this money has officially been credited to their account. The Steelers now have $18,451,587 showing in available salary cap space, more than all but five teams in the league and while this money is of little use to Pittsburgh this season, it will be of great significance in 2019.

As per the rules of the CBA, the Steelers will be able to rollover every cent of their surplus cap room at the end of the year, a number that should include most of the funds currently available. Barring any unexpected signings to cover for season-ending injuries in the final weeks of the season, Pittsburgh will rollover far more money than ever before in their history.

Based on our projections from earlier in the season, this updated rollover figure suggests the Steelers will have over $26 million in salary cap space at the start of the new year, a number that will be practically closer to $20 million once the obligatory futures signings have been made to bring the roster up to 51 players under contract.

Considering how Pittsburgh’s cap situation could have looked in 2019 without the ability to rollover all this money, fans might ultimately be thanking Bell for his decision after all.

Steelers NFL Draft Prospects: College Game Day and Open Thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 11:13am

Time to check in on some prospects for the black-and-gold.

Welcome to week 12 of the college football season. This weeks top 25 match ups.

No. 12 Syracuse vs. No. 3 Notre Dame 2:30 NBC, played in Yankee Stadium No. 19 Cincinnati at No. 11 UCF 8:00pm ABC No. 18 Iowa State at No. 13 Texas 8:00pm Longhorn Network

This weeks highlight game:

No. 12 Syracuse vs. No. 3 Notre Dame 2:30 NBC, played in Yankee Stadium

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Jerry Tillery #99 6’7” 305lbs

Te’Von Coney #4 LB 6’1” 240lbs

Julian Love #27 BC 5’11” 193lbs

Sam Mustipher #53 OL 6’3” 306lbs

Alex Bars #71 OL 6’6” 315lbs

Alize Mack #86 6’5” 247lbs

Syracuse Orange

Koda Martin #78 OT 6’6” 304

Chris Slayton #95 DT 6’4” 306

Eric Dungey #2 QB 6’4” 226

Cody Conway #60 OL 6’6” 296

Ravien Pierce #6 TE 6’3” 244

Fighting Irish Breakdown

CB Julian Love

Love is a fantastic man coverage, who, while he lacks the jams that you would like in a great press-man CB, makes up for it with fluid hips and great mirroring skills. Love’s change of direction is fantastic and he knows how to ball spectacularly well. I think he does need to up his aggressiveness, but his eyes and processing are golden. He is fluid and can make up ground easier than many will give him credit for. Love also comes up and is extremely active in run support.

Round Grade: Mid 2nd

NFL Comparison: Ahkello Witherspoon

IDL Jerry Tillery

Tillery is extremely explosive to the point where he could be considered an elite level of DL in this draft. His first step is fantastic and he uses his strength to just maul guys that he is up against. His athletic ability allows him to use his strength to get penetration and make tackles for loss. His run defense is great, too, as he has fantastic gap discipline.

I really want him to get lower. His pad level is far too high and it really stops him from being a great prospect. He is good but he is simply not great because he can get blown off the ball, and due to that, opens up lanes.

Round Grade: Mid 2nd

NFL Comparison: Daequan Jones

ILB Te’Von Coney

Coney is a guy who is always around the ball despite not being a great athlete for ILB position. That is all because this guy is an elite processor who can read the play straight from the snap. He fights through the blocks and fights downhill as much as he needs to. He knows his role and sticks to it. His tackling is great and he barely misses any.

However, he is a nuisance in coverage. He just is not athletic enough to go and cover guys that are way faster than him at RB. His zone coverage is slightly better but he is a player that can be exploited. He is the classic thumper at LB.

Round Grade: Mid 3rd

NFL Comparison: Vince Williams

Orange Breakdown

TE Ravian Pierce

Pierce is a decent Tight End but will do nothing to wow you. Yes, he moves incredibly well in space and makes the catches he should. Yes, he has good ball skills and can make some jump catches, but that is not him or his calling. His athletic ability is a huge plus and he can be a great second tight end, as he is a decent blocker.

He just doesn’t go up and grab things at the point of attack and will never be a great blocker. His strength just doesn’t lend itself to that and neither does his frame. I question if his frame is fully bulked out, though, so there is room to grow.

Round Grade: Late 4th

NFL Comparison: Xavier Grimble

QB Eric Dungey

Dungey at best will be a backup. But he could be good enough to be a game managing backup that hits quick throws. His arm strength is not and his accuracy is spotty outside of timing routes, but in the quick passing game he can really thrive. He knows how to process well enough so that he is careful with the football and not a turnover machine. I like the way that anticipates throws, but there will never be much diversity in a system with Dungey in it. However, I would let him come in and start a game further down the line.

Round Grade: Mid 5th

NFL Comparison: Nick Mullens

Sleeper

#4 WR Connor Niles Morningside

Niles is the ultimate sleeper but has ideal slot receiver traits. He is quick in and out of his breaks and is just an uber flash for corners to stop. He is really hard to stop as a whole and is the record holder for most receiving yards ever in the NAIA. His route running is crisp and he is a red zone extraordinaire. He is also a YAC monster.

Yes, he cannot go outside or really catch much of a jump ball, but he really doesn’t need to. He will be playing slot and only slot and kick returner at the next level.

Round Grade: Early 4th

NFL Comparison: Ryan Switzer

Let us know who you are watching and what games your watching.

The Steelers need to focus on winning, not revenge, when taking on the Jaguars Sunday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 9:21am

Winning is the best revenge in sports, and the Steelers just need to keep playing their game when they take on the Jaguars this Sunday.

The Steelers Week 11 match-up against the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field this Sunday has been called many things.

Actually, that’s not true. It’s primarily been called one thing: a “revenge game,” meaning the Steelers need to exact revenge after two losses to Jacksonville at Heinz Field in 2017—including a 45-42 defeat in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Does Pittsburgh really need to get its revenge on a 3-6 Jaguars team that’s been struggling and floundering this season after making it all the way to the AFC title game last year? Better yet, are the Steelers seriously thinking about revenge right now?

If they are, they really shouldn’t be.

Riding a five-game winning-streak that now has them at 6-2-1 and in the second seed in the AFC, the Steelers look poised, focused and disciplined. The players seem to have bought into whatever it is head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff are selling them. After a rough start to 2018, Pittsburgh is rolling better than it has in quite some time.

The Steelers aren’t just on a five-game roll; they’ve effectively rolled over their past five opponents by an average score of 35.4-18.6; that’s approaching 2007 Patriots-level dominance.

And why are they rolling along so well right now? It’s because, again, they’re focused. Remember a year ago at this time when Pittsburgh was in the middle of winning eight games in a row? How did most of those victories come about? They came about by the proverbial skin of the teeth, thanks to a level of play that didn’t always seem focused and disciplined.

While the streak was fun, it was hard to really drown out the fans who were warning anyone who would listen that that kind of football wasn’t necessarily of the championship-level variety.

Sure enough, in that aforementioned playoff game, a slow start and a disjointed finish led to an earlier-than-expected postseason exit to a Jacksonville squad many figured was a paper champion of the AFC South, a team without an elite quarterback that was winning on borrowed time.

But if we’re truly being honest with ourselves, in addition to being a plain old bad match-up for Pittsburgh, the 2017 Jaguars were a team playing with an edge, a focus, what Apollo Creed called the eye of the tiger.

They were a group that had bought in to what its coach was selling. People continue to criticize the Steelers for overlooking Jacksonville a year ago, and point to ridiculous examples like Tomlin’s interview with Tony Dungy months earlier or some Tweet from Le’Veon Bell days before the playoffs.

But if the Jaguars were such an inferior opponent, how were they able to go to New England one week later and build a 10-point lead over the mighty Patriots in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game?

Obviously, whatever mojo the Jaguars had has been lost this year, and the Steelers don’t need to give them any reason to think they still have a chance to make some noise in 2018.

Pittsburgh doesn’t need to do anything but play its game this Sunday. If the Steelers defeat Jacksonville but then go on to lose again in the first round of the playoffs in January, is anyone going to say, “Well, at least the Steelers got their revenge over the Jaguars back on November 18.”?

I highly doubt it.

In life, they say living well is the best revenge. In sports, winning is the ultimate revenge. Players can talk trash on the field and brag about winning individual match-ups, but the only winning that matters is posted on the scoreboard for all to see.

The Steelers don’t need to worry about the Jaguars—at least not what the 2017 version did to them.

The Steelers have something special going on right now, and they can’t allow the need for revenge to get in the way of it.

The Steelers are working hard not to waste the waning moments of the ‘Roethlisberger Years’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 8:17am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are working hard to earn another playoff berth. A difficult schedule ahead demands taking it one game at a time. Next up: the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Time has a way of sneaking up on us all. One minute you are driving your first child home from the hospital, incredibly frustrated with how inconsiderate all the other drivers are for going so fast, don't they realize you have precious cargo on board. The next moment you blink and there walks your son across the stage at his high school graduation. Startled, you look over at your wife and say, "What just happened?" Life just happened and hopefully you didn't miss it. Each success and failure, every laugh and every tear, because when they are gone they ain't never coming back.

I read a post by a young lady on social media recently where she stated "I hate I wasted all my skinny years thinking I was fat." The statement was meant to be humorous, but it proved profound nonetheless. Appreciate what you have while you have it.

The Steelers are faced with a similar dilemma this season. It doesn't seem possible that Ben Roethlisberger, their long awaited franchise quarterback, is competing in his 15th NFL season? The same QB who won two Super Bowls in his first five years hasn't won another in going on a decade. I understand the majority of QBs never even play in a Super Bowl, much less win one, but Ben isn't just any old QB. He is a two time champion who is still playing at the top of his game. Ben wants another title, and he is working hard to make that happen.

Ben is the only remaining player from the last Steelers championship team of 2008. That means every other player on the team has something to prove and a desire to cement their Steelers legacy. However, I don't feel the players are the only ones with something to prove.

Head coach Mike Tomlin, OC Randy Fichtner, and DC Keith Butler also fall into that category. All three men possess a championship pedigree. Tomlin won one Super Bowl as an assistant with Tampa Bay and another as head coach of the Steelers, and Butler is also a two time winner. Fichtner was a position coach on the Steelers last championship team. But winning another title would mean something a little different for each man.

This season to date may just be Tomlin's best coaching job of his career. The off season of drama carried over into the first quarter of the season, and the team appeared to lack focus and disciple. Many individuals, myself included, lay the blame squarely at Tomlin's feet. I speculated that ownership needed to step in and specify just how they expected their franchise to operate. Whether that happened or not, we will never know, because that isn't how the Rooneys handle their business. They address concerns quietly behind closed doors, showing respect to everyone involved.

So what did Tomlin do with all this turmoil swirling around him? He stayed the coarse. He was as cool as the other side of the pillow. He displayed confidence and composure as the leader of the most stable franchise in the NFL. He weathered the storm until the winds settled down, and as of late has enjoyed smooth sailing. The team is a direct reflection of it's head coach. Some teams around the league should really start paying attention.

Tomlin needs to win another title to get the Bill Cowher monkey off his back. He gets lumped in a group with George Seifert at San Francisco and Barry Switzer at Dallas; coaches who supposedly won titles with the previous coaches players. There maybe some truth to those claims, especially with the other two gentlemen, but how is that their fault. You win or lose with the hand your dealt. Tomlin winning another Super Bowl would definitely put those whispers to rest.

This is Randy Fichtner's first year as Steelers offensive coordinator, so he has only just begun to put his stamp on the offense. His innovative play design and creativity have already paid dividends for the offense and they are one of the top units in the league, with room to grow. Ben and Randy have a great chemistry and it shows on game day. Winning the title would justify the faith that Tomlin and the front office displayed in promoting Fichtner.

That brings us to Keith Butler. Butler survived a disastrous start to the season by his defense. His game plans appeared woefully lacking in creativity and design. However, to his credit, he has made the necessary adjustments to turn the defense around. They went back to basics, focusing on their fundamentals, and simplifying the game plan to avoid pre-snap confusion. If Bulter can turn this diverse group into a top ten unit capable of competing for a championship, he should be in the running for Comeback Coordinator of the Year award. I don't know if that is a thing, but if it isn't, it should be. It would also get Butler out of the huge shadow cast by living Steelers legend Dick Lebeau. It must be cold there in his shadow. This season may finally shine a little light on his own abilities.

The Steelers as an organization are fighting hard to not waste these 'Roethlisberger Years'. First things first, they must focus their attention on a frustrated, wounded, and dangerous Jaguars squad. I feel certain Tomlin learned that lesson last year.

This season's Steelers team has plenty left to prove, including a tough remaining schedule just to make the playoffs, but their arrow sure appears to be trending upward.

Fan Rooting Guide, Week 11: Who Steelers fans should root for in other games this weekend

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 7:05am

BTSC's guide to the other weekend games that might impact the Steelers the most.

We were all aware of the significance of winning vs. losing when the Steelers take the field against Jacksonville at Everbank Stadium on Sunday. Of course, the Steelers need to win to continue to ascend towards the top of the AFC. With less games remaining and bye weeks concluding, the playoff contenders and pretenders are becoming much more defined. Most of the time, Steelers fans know who to root for. But here’s a guide to significant matchups, and whose losses the Steelers would benefit more from this weekend.

If the season ended today, the Steelers would be the second seed in the AFC, but there are plenty of teams to root for in other action. Here are the current AFC playoff standings.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs 9-1 (Would win AFC West and would earn them a First Round Bye)
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-2-1 (Would win AFC North and would earn them a First Round Bye)
  3. New England Patriots 7-3 Would win AFC East and host Wild Card Cincinnati)
  4. Houston Texans 6-3 (Would win AFC South and host Wild Card Los Angeles Chargers)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers 7-2 (Would earn Wild Card and travel to Houston)
  6. Cincinnati Bengals 5-4 (Would earn Wild Card and travel to New England)
  7. Tennessee Titans 5-4
  8. Miami Dolphins 5-5
  9. Baltimore Ravens 4-5
  10. Indianapolis Colts 4-5
  11. Cleveland Browns 3-6-1
  12. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-6
  13. Denver Broncos 3-6
  14. Buffalo Bills 3-7
  15. New York Jets 3-7
  16. Oakland Raiders 1-8

...

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens - Sunday 1:00 PM

While I feel dirty rooting for the Ravens, I want to see the Bungles slip,out of a playoff seed and eventually make Week 17 a Josh Dobbs, Stevan Ridley and James Washington showcase.

Who to root for: Baltimore

Houston Texans at Washington Redskins - Sunday 1:00 PM

Houston has momentum like Jacksonville did last year. That needs to subside a bit.

Who to root for: Washington

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts- Sunday 1:00 PM

Not many teams can overtake Cincy for the sixth spot. Tennessee can.

Who to root for: Tennessee

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers - Sunday 4:05 PM

Like the Texans, the Chargers keep gaining momentum. Slowing that down would be good, I just don’t see the Broncos doing it.

Who to root for: Denver

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Rams - Monday 8:15 PM

If Pittsburgh even has a remote chance of surpassing the Chiefs, Andy Reid’s club has to lose to both teams from the City of Angels. It needs to start now.

Who to root for: Los Angeles

AFC Teams on a Bye Week:

Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Other games featuring AFC teams:

Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals - Sunday 4:05 PM

Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh hopes to have sportsbook open in time for Steelers home game against Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 6:07am

The Rivers Casino across the road from Heinz Field hopes to have their sportsbook open by the start of December.

Ever since the U.S Supreme Court ruled to strike down the laws that barred state-authorized sports gambling outside of Nevada in May, Pennsylvania has been moving forward with plans to legalize sports betting and deciding which outlets would be granted licenses to open the state’s first sportsbooks.

For those looking to place a bet on a Pittsburgh Steelers game when they visit Heinz Field, life is set to become much easier after the Rivers Casino just across the road was granted one of only five licenses given out by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board a few weeks ago.

While this initial approval is dependant upon the Rivers Casino’s ability to establish an operation that meets with the the board’s approval, this last stage is considered to be something of a formality. A provisional opening date for the sportsbook in a temporary home at the casino has been earmarked for December 1, according to a report from KDKA-TV.

Speaking to WTAE Action News, Rivers Casino spokesman Jack Horner explained the casino’s plans for the development of the sportsbook and where its permanent home would ultimately be located.

“Development of our temporary sportsbook, located adjacent to High Limits, is already underway and expected to launch by year-end. Our proposed permanent sportsbook will replace Levels lounge and is expected to launch in spring 2019,”

Assuming they can meet all the requirements, the sportsbook will open just a day before the Steelers home date with the Los Angeles Chargers. An encounter that has just been flexed to a night game and the new sportsbook should see plenty of interest from fans attending the game in Week 13 if they are up and running by then.

Black and Gold Links: Will the Steelers be able to stop/slow down Leonard Fournette for once?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/17/2018 - 4:59am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have now won five straight games and continue to “stack wins.” After their 52-21 thrashing of the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, the team now has a chance to rest and relax and prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we talk about the biggest key for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense heading into Week 11. That is a simple goal, but something the Steelers haven’t done — stop/slow down Leonard Fournette.

Fournette gashed the Steelers in both meetings at Heinz Field last year, and the defense will have their hands full again, but with a depleted offensive line you have to wonder if this is the time Pittsburgh finally gets the upper hand.

Let’s get to the news:

Will third time be the charm for Steelers against Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette?

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Keith Butler has watched Leonard Fournette break free on a 90-yard run to cement a 181-yard rushing day in the regular season. He has observed Fournette cross the goal line three times to help oust the Pittsburgh Steelers from the playoffs.

What the Steelers defensive coordinator hasn’t seen is his defense slow down – let alone shut down – the bruising Jacksonville Jaguars running back.

While two games isn’t enough of a sample size to constitute a trend, Butler is keenly aware that Fournette can’t make it a hat trick if the Steelers hope to finally solve the Jaguars running game and extend their winning streak this season to six games.

“I don’t want to say he’s got our number, but he’s played well against us,” Butler said, “and we have to play well against him.”

That didn’t happen in either matchup in Fournette’s rookie season as the 6-foot, 228-pound runner combined for 290 yards and five touchdowns in Jacksonville’s two victories at Heinz Field, including that stunning upset in the AFC divisional round.

Butler’s defense will get another chance to answer the challenge Sunday when the Steelers visit TIAA Bank Stadium.

“We know what we’ve got to do,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “We know we have to stop the run.”

The Steelers believe they are better equipped for this matchup, and the numbers belie their confidence. They are ranked No. 4 in run defense, holding teams to an average of 90.8 yards per game during a 6-2-1 start. They have gone seven consecutive games without allowing a team to reach 100 yards on the ground.

Then again, the Steelers showed similar improvement after Fournette and the Jaguars thrashed their defense for 231 rushing yards in Week 5 last season. They went six games in a row without allowing an opponent to reach 100 yards.

But that changed when Ryan Shazier sustained his spinal cord injury against Cincinnati. Minus their star linebacker, the Steelers yielded 127.4 rushing yards over their final five regular-season games. And, of course, the Jaguars rushed for 164 yards in their 45-42 playoff win.

“We played bad, simple as that,” defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said. “We didn’t execute, we didn’t get off our blocks, we didn’t control the line of scrimmage. We didn’t (create) turnovers.”

Plugging the leaky run defense was an obvious goal in the offseason, and the addition of inside linebacker Jon Bostic and safety Morgan Burnett, playing in subpackage situations, has improved the tackling and limited big plays.

The Steelers have permitted only six runs longer than 20 yards and none over 40. And they’ve shown an ability to make in-game adjustments. After allowing the Carolina to rush for 48 yards on the opening drive of the game, the Steelers held the Panthers to 47 the rest of the way.

“We are trusting a little more, trusting the defense and guys are tackling better,” Heyward said. “That’s what we’ve done in the past, and now we have to see if we can do it against (the Jaguars).”

Steelers excelling at scoring in red-zone opportunities this season

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

During each of the past two season postmortem meetings with reporters , Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II has lamented his team’s lack of success in scoring touchdowns once its offense drives inside an opponents’ 20 yard-line.

Rooney II is getting his wish in 2018.

The Steelers lead the NFL in red-zone touchdown rate (78.57 percent) through 10 weeks of the NFL season, according to teamrankings.com. For perspective, the Steelers got into the end zone 53.03 percent of the time they got into the red zone last season and 54.24 percent in 2016, finishing among the bottom half of the league both times.

The improvement has come at least in part, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said Thursday, because of a heavier reliance on the run game.

“Trying to utilize our people the best we can, and to take the ball out of the linemen’s hands and not give it to (running back James Conner) some, not give it to other runners, is not fair,” Fichtner said. “It’s been good for them, and it’s complemented (quarterback Ben Roethlisberger). So, I think when you can be multiple and/or balanced, it’s probably always going to be best.”

Fichtner said the input of veteran offensive line coach Mike Munchak has been instrumental in tilting more toward Conner than throwing once they get inside the 10 yard-line.

Le’Veon Bell’s locker formally emptied by team staff at Steelers facility

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Two days after the deadline passed for Le’Veon Bell to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers this season and a day after several players playfully went through the running back’s locker, his stall at the team’s UPMC Rooney Sports Complex was emptied completely by team staff.

Inside Bell’s corner locker just inside the entrance to the locker room had hung dozens of shirts and other apparel, with shoes and other equipment on the ground, a helmet hanging on a hook and cardboard boxes with dozens of pairs of cleats above it.

After practice Wednesday, teammates removed the wooden “26 BELL” nameplate that hung above the locker, and they distributed the pairs of Nike shoes. The mood, on whole, was tongue-in-cheek, and multiple players said no valuables or personal belongings were taken.

By Thursday afternoon, the entire locker had been cleaned out. Only metal hangers remained on the horizontal pole across the top of the locker.

Reserve tight end Xavier Grimble, whose locker is next to Bell’s, took advantage of the extra space and sat on a folding chair in front of Bell’s (former) locker Thursday. Grimble’s locker abuts a cramped corner, but it appeared he was uncomfortable sitting in front of Bell’s locker before it had been abandoned.

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