You are here

Links

It almost seems fans are hoping JuJu Smith-Schuster becomes a diva like Antonio Brown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/23/2020 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Do people want Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to turn into a classic diva a la Antonio Brown? It sure seems like it.

Hey, Chase Claypool, I’d get ready if I were you. Ready for what? Ready for the folks that will be trying to tear you down in a few years.

Just ask JuJu Smith-Schuster.

That’s right, it wasn’t long ago, just three seasons ago, in fact, that Smith-Schuster was the toast of Pittsburgh. He was Pittsburgh. People loved him. People wanted more of him. Of course, it helped that, in addition to his social media presence that included a bunch of fun and funny activities with teammates and Pittsburghers, Smith-Schuster caught 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns during his rookie year.

He was the breath of fresh air nobody knew they needed before Pittsburgh selected him out of USC in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. “I wish everyone had a little JuJu in their life,” said left tackle, and Smith-Schuster driving teacher, Alejandro Villanueva. That’s right, Smith-Schuster didn’t know how to drive when he first turned pro. Villanueva showed him. Before that, Smith-Schuster rode a bicycle around the streets of Pittsburgh. It was stolen. The fans desperately wanted his bike to be returned. It was.

Steelers fans also desperately wanted someone to do something about that no-good Vontaze Burfict. Smith-Schuster did just that when he blocked Burfict into the following week during a game against the Bengals on Monday Night Football.

It was all fun and games with Smith-Schuster until it wasn’t anymore. Soon, love for Smith-Schuster’s infectious personality turned into resentment by not only teammate Antonio Brown, who seemed to be jealous of the youngster’s 111-catch and team MVP sophomore campaign in 2018, but the fans and even some in the media, who just didn’t like his social media shenanigans any longer. That resentment was heightened after a couple of critical fumbles—one at the end of 2018 and one at the beginning of 2019—that proved to be costly in two Steelers’ losses.

That’s enough backstory, right? You know the rest. Brown departed, Smith-Schuster became the number one receiver, and everyone has spent the past year or so waiting for him to turn into the next Antonio Brown.

In a bad way.

Even though Smith-Schuster leads the Steelers in both targets (28) and catches (23) through the first five games of the 2020 campaign, Claypool has been THE MAN. He is far and away the leader in receiving yards with 335. He’s also scored six touchdowns—including four through the air and two on the ground.

Claypool is suddenly the apple of everyone’s eye—quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the fans, the media, everyone.

Is Smith-Schuster jealous of the rookie’s success? After all, he’s only caught a combined six passes for 34 yards over the past two games—including just two for six during Pittsburgh’s 38-7 rout of the Browns at Heinz Field on Sunday.

Did you see how Smith-Schuster picked up fellow receiver James Washington and threw him over his shoulders after Washington scored a touchdown in the first half? Admit it, you were half-expecting Smith-Schuster to snap and go all WWE and slam Washington on his back out of pure jealousy.

I’ll bet you’re expecting Smith-Schuster to soon start pouting in the locker room because he’s not getting the targets he wants.

Because he is expected to act like a diva, it must be pointed out repeatedly how Smith-Schuster is always the first one to greet a teammate after he scores a touchdown. In fact, a reporter even asked head coach Mike Tomlin to speak on Smith-Schuster’s remarkable selflessness during his virtual press conference on Tuesday. Tomlin found that sentiment “funny.” In other words, the coach was amused that people think it’s remarkable that Smith-Schuster hasn’t thrown a Gatorade bucket out of frustration by now.

It’s almost like people are waiting for Smith-Schuster to become visibly or verbally frustrated over his lack of production just so they can call him selfish for not being a team player amid the Steelers 5-0 start.

I’ll bet Smith-Schuster is a bit frustrated, and I wouldn’t blame him one bit. I mean, he is a receiver, and receivers catch passes—it’s kind of their thing.

It’s great to be a team player and all, but it’s also nice to be noticed for what you do the best. Take me, for example. I want this here article to be one of the leaders in traffic on the day that it’s published. If it isn’t, if it ranks near the bottom of the list, I’ll be pretty darn disappointed.

I almost always am. “But, Tony, look at how much traffic we generated as a team,” someone might say to me if I expressed my frustration. “Who cares?” would likely be my retort.

All receivers want to catch the football. Even notorious nice guy John Stallworth expressed his frustration during the Steelers 1979 season that ultimately ended with them hoisting the Lombardi trophy for the fourth time in six years. Don’t believe me? Go watch the America’s Game episode that chronicles that season.

Stallworth recalls legendary head coach Chuck Noll greeting him with a question in the locker room the day after a win:

“How’d you like the game yesterday, John?”

“To tell you the truth, Chuck, I’m pretty pissed off.”

“Why?”

“I only caught one pass.”

“What would you rather have? A bunch of catches or a win?”

“I’d like to think we could do both.”

It’s easy to sit back and say, “Be a team player!” when a player must sacrifice what he loves to do the most.

Having said that, Smith-Schuster has yet to appear even a little frustrated. He’s been nothing but a great professional since he joined the Steelers. He’s also been nothing but a great citizen since he moved to the city of Pittsburgh three years ago.

I realize the fans and media have had some lukewarm relationships with Steelers receivers over the years, but Smith-Schuster hasn’t shown even an inkling of proof that his behavior will devolve to the depths of Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Martavis Bryant or even Emmanuel Sanders.

Let’s not go looking for any.

One last piece of advice for you, young Claypool: You’re big, fast and strong. You might need all those physical attributes to fight off the haters in another year or two.

Podcast: The Steelers were built to beat the Titans

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/23/2020 - 5:30am

Jeff Hartman brings an AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

The Steelers face a daunting task going against their fellow 5-0 AFC team on Sunday in the form of the Tennessee Titans. The Steelers are underdogs in this game, but the matchups may favor the Steelers It could even be suggested that the Steelers were built to beat Tennessee. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers were built to beat the Titans
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

How to watch Steelers vs. Titanss: Time, TV Schedule, and game information

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/23/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

All the information needed to watch, listen, or follow the Steelers game on Sunday against Tennessee in Nashville.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are rolling into Nashville for a Sunday afternoon matchup against the undefeated Tennessee Titans. It seems like the odds makers can’t make up their mind in this one as the line has flipped from the Steelers being favored by two points to the Titans being favored by one. Who knows how many times it will change by kickoff, but hopefully we’re in for quality football by our beloved black and gold.

Can the Steelers shut down another one of the NFL’s top rushing offenses? Will the Steelers be able to overcome the loss of Devin Bush? Will Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense continue to roll after putting up 38 points two straight weeks?

This Sunday will answer all these questions as the Steelers look to start their 2020 season 6-0 for only the second time in franchise history. Make sure you get all the information you need below so you can enjoy the Week 7 showdown:

Week 7:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans

Date: Sunday, October 25th

Kickoff: 1:00 P.M. ET

Venue: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN

Weather: Live weather update

TV Channel: Broadcast locally on KDKA-CBS with Ian Eagle and Charles Davis as commentators and Evan Washburn as the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

Online: NFL.com Game Pass offers live games for international viewers and replays of every game upon conclusion with a paid subscription. A subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket gives access to stream games as well. fuboTV also allows you to stream NFL games online with a subscription. NFL Game Center will update the action on a play-by-play basis. The game is also available on the Yahoo! Sports App in some areas.

Radio: Steeler Nation Radio with Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin, and Craig Wolfley. The broadcast will be live on WDVE 102.5 FM and WBGG 970 AM in the Pittsburgh area or check the list of Steelers Radio Affiliates. Viewers can listen anywhere in the world online via Steelers.com, but the Steelers Official Mobile App does have geographical restrictions. The Steelers broadcast is also available on XM Radio channel 387 and Sirius Radio channel 119.

You can also follow Behind the Steel Curtain on Twitter or in the game thread article to catch all of the highlights. Be sure to check back with BTSC after the game for our post-match roundup, and subscribe to BTSC Steelers Radio on YouTube to catch The Steelers Post Game Show with Jeff Hartman and Bryan Anthony Davis.

Sorry Steelers fans, there was no chance their Week 7 game was getting moved to Sunday night

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 4:08pm
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL was forced to swap games for Sunday Night Football, but the Steelers are still set to take on the Titans at 1 PM on Sunday.

The NFL announced a schedule change on Thursday moving the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Las Vegas Raiders out of the primetime spot on Sunday evening. So did the Steelers and Titans slide into the spot? Nope. Instead, it was the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals who will play under the lights in Arizona in front of a national TV audience.

Buccaneers at Las Vegas Raiders game now shifted to this Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET.

Seahawks at Cardinals game now moved to this Sunday night at 8:20 p.m. ET.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 22, 2020

First of all, fans need to realize why the change was made. It was not about putting a better game in the primetime slot. When games get “flexed,” there is usually a 12-day notice given to teams. The reason there was a late change this time was to make sure a game happened on NBC for Sunday Night Football.

With the Las Vegas Raiders dealing with personnel issues in regards to COVID-19, it is not guaranteed they will be available to play on Sunday. If the NFL needs to move this game to either Monday or Tuesday since the entire offensive line is still awaiting negative test results, putting a different game on Sunday night needed to be an option on the table.

But how does this all relate to the Steelers, and why wasn’t it them?

When the NFL goes to move games, networks get a say in whether or not they gain or lose a particular matchup. Even during the period of flex scheduling when teams are supposed to be notified at least 12 days prior to their game being flexed, both CBS and FOX are permitted to protect a game from being taken from their network.

When it comes to the Steelers and Titans playing at 1 PM on Sunday, there was no chance CBS was letting that one go. I’m sure if a call was even made about it, CBS clutched to that game like Jack holding onto the headboard in the north Atlantic at the end of Titanic (and yes, there was room for him on the board, but not enough buoyancy to hold them both for those who want to argue).

“I’ll never let go!” screamed the CBS executive.

How big of a game is this going to be for CBS on Sunday? All you have to do is look at the distribution map published at BTSC on Sunday morning. Almost the entire nation is one color as they are getting the game between the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and undefeated Tennessee Titans.

Had CBS givien up this game on Sunday, I’m sure it would have cost multiple people their jobs. This game is huge for their network and huge for the NFL. Therefore, it needs to be played when God intended NFL football to be played…at 1 PM on Sunday afternoons.

Stay tuned to BTSC for all the continued build up for the Steelers biggest matchup of the 2020 season thus far against the Tennessee Titans which is STILL at 1 PM this Sunday.

Steelers Injury Report: 3 players still miss practice on Thursday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 3:35pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers had 4 players return on Thursday, but 3 were still “officially” missing.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are continuing their weekly preparation to face the Tennessee Titans in Nashville this Sunday. After a long list of players did not practice on Wednesday, many returned to action on Thursday. In the second injury report of the week, courtesy of the Steelers PR department, 4 players returned on Thursday while 3 players missed practice due to injury.

Steelers PR Department

Maurkice Pouncey was listed as missing practice with a foot injury on Wednesday although he usually has Wednesday off as a coach’s decision. As many expected, Pouncey returned to practice Thursday and looks to play on Sunday. In what has become an almost weekly routine, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster returned to practice Thursday from his knee injury.

Two players Steelers’ fans have been watching closely are fullback Derek Watt with a hamstring injury and cornerback Mike Hilton with a shoulder injury. Unfortunately, the hopes of either player being available for Sunday took a hit as both players missed practice again Thursday.

David DeCastro and Diontae Johnson both missed the Steelers 38-7 win over the Browns. The availability of both players is encouraging as Johnson was a full participant for the second straight day as DeCastro practiced fully after being limited on Wednesday.

As expected, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Stephon Tuitt both returned to practice on Thursday after being given their typical Wednesday off. Roethlisberger missed the first portion of practice for personal reasons but “finished strong” according to offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.

Much like yesterday, Devin Bush is officially on the injury report as he has not yet been placed on the Reserve/Injured List. Until the Steelers make the move, he will continue to show up on the report in compliance with NFL rules. Bush was the reason there were three players who did not practice on the report.

As for the Titans’ official injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of Steelers.com.

Tennessee Titans Participation/Injury Report, Week 7

Thursday, October 22

OLB Jadeveon Clowney (Knee) - Full

TE MyCole Pruitt (Illness) - Full

T Isaiah Wilson (Ilness) - DNP

DL DaQuan Jones (Foot) - Full

T Dennis Kelly (Knee) - Full

TE Jonnu Smith (Ankle) - Full

WR A.J. Brown (Knee) - DNP

For a recap of the injury report, check out the BTSC Steelers Injury Update podcast below:

Marquette King should be atop the Steelers search for a new punter

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 1:30pm
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The veteran Punter has been out of the NFL since 2018 despite statistical success

The Pittsburgh Steelers plan on bringing in former Steelers Punter, Jordan Berry for a workout. This comes on the heels of current Steelers punter, Dustin Colquitt having his worst statistical season since his rookie year, 17 years ago.

Jordan Berry, Ray Wilborn visiting Steelers

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) October 19, 2020

The problem is Jordan Berry has been widely inconsistent for a number of years, and Colquitt is in the twilight of his career. The Steelers should look elsewhere if they're serious about upgrading their punting position. They don't have to look any further than the XFL’s punt yardage leader, and former second team All-Pro punter, Marquette King.

King averaged 46.7 yards per punt over his NFL tenure. The best of those seasons being the 2013 campaign where he averaged 48.9 yards per punt. A number he very nearly touched again in 2016.

In King’s last season in the NFL he averaged 44.1 yards per punt, in just four games, before the Broncos cut him due to a quad injury. King would only ever receive job offers from the XFL following his Denver release. King would stand head and shoulders above the rest of the XFL punters, averaging 45.7 yards per kick. If King were to be able to translate that number over in the NFL he would currently be tied as the 16th punter by average. The Steelers currently sit 27th in the NFL averaging 43 yards per punt.

If you're wondering whether or not King would be interested in a deal with the Steelers, you will quickly find out Marquette has taken to twitter to express his interest in the Steel city.

S/O to all y’all Steeler fans showing me all this love I’m super thankful for the support and I trust God and kno something is going to shake somewhere very soon.

— Marquette King (@MarquetteKing) October 20, 2020

What do you think? Should the Steelers look to bring in Marquette King for a shot at the punting job? Let us know why or why not down in the comments below!

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Week 7 games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Several of the BTSC staff pick all the NFL games both against the spread and over/under point totals

The 2020 NFL season is well underway. Their are only three unbeaten teams remaining with two residing in the AFC and facing off this weekend. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans are finally set to face off three weeks late...I know, I’ll stop. I really need to just let it go.

For the 2020 NFL season, six of the BTSC staff (a group I have affectionately named the “BTSC Super Six”) have signed up to pick every game against the spread and the over/under point totals. We are doing things a little different this year and including the Thursday games. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers. We are just a group of Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

We are using a new program called Tallysight this season. It will allow us to show picks in a much more “friendly to the eye” manner. To understand how it works, the default tab is for our picks against the spread. To see the over/under picks, click the “O/U” tab in the upper right.

Last week, when picking games against the spread we did slightly better than the previous week. Michael led the way with a 9-5 record while Jeff and I both ended up going 8-6. Although he finished a measly 5-9 and was the only person below .500, Bryan continues in the top spot overall at 52-39 with Geoffrey coming in next at 50-41.

When it comes to picking the over/under, Michael and I were tied for the top spot going 8-6 with Bryan having a season low at 3-11. Geoffrey still leads overall at 50-41 where I’m next in line at 47-44.

So here are the picks for the games for Week 7 of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along!

If the Steelers want a first round bye, the Titans game is a must win

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 11:30am
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Steelers don't need a perfect record for home field advantage throughout the playoffs but they’ll need to separate themselves from the Titans

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans will put their perfect records on the line Sunday. The winner of this AFC clash will claim sole possession of first place in the AFC. More than that they will earn two games of separation in the NFL playoff tie breaking formula.

What separates this game from the rest of the Steelers schedule, is that they wouldn’t be able to get their win back. The only way for the loser of this game to surpass the winner is if they flat out finish with a better record than the other. In comparison, if the Steelers were to lose to the Baltimore Ravens, they can retake the lead in the AFC North again by simply beating the Ravens in the second matchup.

The winner of Steelers-Titans is a LOCK to make the Super Bowl

This is the 6th game in the Super Bowl Era featuring two undefeated teams this late in the season (Week 7 or later).

In the previous 5 instances, the team that won the game made the Super Bowl that season. pic.twitter.com/2QRCvOJTQh

— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) October 21, 2020

Hoping the Titans string together a run of losses is wishful thinking. The AFC South is abysmal. The Colts are winning games but haven't been impressive whatsoever. The Texans are in a tailspin having already fired their GM/Coach. Plus, the Jaguars are one of the leading candidates to land the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Compare that to the AFC North and the gauntlet of teams on the Steelers horizon and you can quickly see why holding a tiebreaker over the Titans is imperative.

If you think a first round bye isn't important, I will leave you with this. The last time a team has won the Super Bowl without a first round bye was the 2012 Baltimore Ravens. With the playoff field expanding to seven teams, coupled with the second place team slot losing its bye week. You can begin to see why finishing the year as the number one seed is so important.

Podcast: Are the Tennessee Titans even more dangerous than three weeks ago?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 11:00am

Michael Beck, Geoffrey Benedict and break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold’s next opponent, the Tennessee Titans

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 5-0. So are the Tennessee Titans. The game meant to feature two 3-0 teams three weeks ago has become even more of a five-star matchup now. It’s time once again to become a scout for the Steelers before their latest game on Know Your Enemy. It’s the show where Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict break down the upcoming opponent for the Black-and-Gold. This week Mike and Geoff welcome back Hawk and Lock Down from Tennessee Titans Weekly. Who should the Steelers worry about from the home team on Sunday? Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill and A.J. Brown are definitely headliners on that list. But who else? These questions and more will be pondered on the latest episode from the BTSC family of podcasts. As always, it is a good time to talk everything Steelers.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • A look at the Titans
  • Return guests Hawk and Lock Down from Tennessee Titans Weekly.
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael and Geoffrey walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

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

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Ben Roethlisberger knows what separates Chase Claypool from other taller WRs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 10:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger has had tall receivers in the past, but there is a big difference between those receivers and Chase Claypool.

Ben Roethlisberger has long had an infatuation with taller receivers. Maybe it was having Plaxico Burress on the roster early in his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, or the fact all of his other receivers were smaller in stature, but Roethlisberger has always wanted tall receivers.

When Burress left the Steelers via free agency, Roethlisberger pined for that large target, but it wasn’t as if the organization didn’t try to appease their future Hall of Fame quarterback. The Steelers were always trying to replace Burress, and give Roethlisberger what he wanted.

Just look at some of the names of receivers who would be considered “tall wide receivers” by NFL standards (6’ 2” and up) the Steelers have employed:

Plaxico Burress (6’ 5”)
Derek Moye (6’ 5”)
Limas Sweed (6’ 4”)
Justin Hunter (6’ 4”)
Martavis Bryant (6’ 4”)
Johnny Holton (6’ 3)
Deon Cain (6’ 2”)
Sammie Coates (6’ 2”)
Cobi Hamilton (6’ 2”)
Darrius Heyward-Bey (6’2”)

Some of those players were drafted by Pittsburgh, and others have simply been players picked up off the scrap heap in hopes of turning them into the latest cast off turned star for the Steelers.

Either way, Roethlisberger knows not all tall receivers are built the same, and Chase Claypool (6’ 4”) is not built like those aforementioned players. Roethlisberger was asked about just that during his Wednesday media availability.

“Well, he’s big. He’s thick. He’s strong.” Roethlisberger said.

“He’s not like a 6’5” 180-pound guy. He’s got good thickness to him. He can run. Sometimes you get big receivers that don’t high point a ball, reach up and grab it. He does that. He knows how to use his hands. I assume that is some of the old basketball skills that he has.”

While those skills are certainly noteworthy, fans shouldn’t assume Claypool is a finished product. There are still areas of his game where he needs to improve, and so far he has made tremendous strides in areas like route running.

Roethlisberger is seeing it every day in practice.

“I think he is gaining a knowledge and understanding of route running and how to get open at the top of routes.” Roethlisberger continued. “I know he kind of had that crazy offensive pass interference call a couple weeks ago, but it’s those kinds of moments that he knows when to use his hands and when not to and how to get open. I just think he is going to continue to grow and continue to get better, and I think we are all excited to see that.”

When it comes down to it, Claypool is unlike any receiver the Steelers have ever had during the Roethlisberger era. Not only is he tall, but he is strong. There was a reason why some teams were talking about making him a tight end coming out of Notre Dame. In fact, according to Pro Football Reference Claypool has the highest listed weight of any wide receiver in Steelers history. He’s listed at weighing 238 pounds. The next closest receiver would be Plaxico Burress at 232, who was an inch taller.

Claypool is an athletic specimen in every sense of the word. Height, size, speed, strength and overall athletic ability. Roethlisberger sees it, and has been targeting him more and more as the season progresses. Will defenses get wise and start doubling the rookie? The Steelers are likely waiting for that to happen, and when they do they will look for Diontae Johnson, James Washington, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Eric Ebron to win their matchups in that instance.

Chase Claypool has burst onto the scene, and it exactly what the Steelers’ offense needed: A big target who can be a deep threat to draw attention away from players like Smith-Schuster. Claypool is doing what Martavis Bryant did for the offense when he was in Pittsburgh, and those were some of the Steelers’ most dynamic offenses.

The good news? It should only get better from here...

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Tennessee Titans in Week 7.

The 2020 Steelers defense is in no danger of being overrated

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive performance thus far this season has flown under the national media's radar apparently.

For as long as I can remember, Black and Gold fans have loved to point out that the Steelers relish being the underdog. They actually prefer that status, that's when they play their best football according to these same fans. Now I can neither confirm nor deny the validity of that statement, but it is considered to be gospel to many members of Steelers Nation.

The underdog preference fits perfectly with the long held belief that the Steelers are regularly disrespected by the national media. Sometimes the perceived lack of respect actually has some merit, leading some to believe in a anti-Steelers narrative. An example of this narrative was on display in a recent PFF rankings article.

PFF rankings have a purpose, but like statistics, they can be deceiving. In the aforementioned article, there were five teams listed as possibly being the best defense in the NFL at the moment, and surprisingly none of those five teams where the Pittsburgh Steelers. The five teams listed were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, and the Chicago Bears.

Not surprisingly, after their stunning beat down of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, PFF annointed the Buccaneers as the best defense in the NFL. Tampa Bay does have an impressive defense without a doubt, and they made Rodgers look more like a insurance spokesperson than a future HOF QB. Their front seven bullied the Packers offensive line, therefore dominating the line of scrimmage. However, one dominant performance doesn't automatically make you the best in the league, unless you happen to be the media darlings of the off season.

Trust me when I say that I realize the Steelers defense has been far from perfect this season, especially in pass coverage. The Steelers pass defense allowed an alarming number of successful third and long conversions through the first quarter of the season, and made some relatively unknown players look like proven performers. That was a byproduct of the ultra aggressive approach utilized by the defense through those first four games.

The secondary was tasked with playing plenty of soft zone coverage in support of the leagues best front seven, and that isn't the best fit for their individual skill sets. The game plans put forth by Keith Butler and the defensive coaching staff during that stretch made total sense, considering the limited offensive capabilities of each opponent. Three of the first five Steelers opponents this year rank in the bottom five of the NFL in offensive efficiency. I want to believe that the Steelers defense played a large role in those rankings, but to what degree remains to be seen.

Against the Cleveland Browns; a team coming in on a four game winning streak possessing one of the hottest offenses in the NFL, the Steelers made the necessary defensive adjustments, and the results were staggering. The Steelers defense mixed up their coverages, playing more man concepts than in previous weeks. The pass rush varied and was anything but predictable. The outcome of the game was really never in doubt.

The Steelers defense currently ranks in the top three in basically all defensive metrics, and they are still improving apparently, based on their performance against the red hot Browns offense. This week's game against the undefeated Tennessee Titans will undoubtedly be their toughest test to date.

The Titans offense used to be one dimensional, Derrick Henry and a cloud of dust. Not anymore, not by a long shot. Ryan Tannehill has had a career revival in Tennessee, and has been arguably the best QB in the league this season. The most efficient QB in the NFL over the past two seasons. Tannehill has been the toughest QB to pressure this season, and is ranked as the most efficient QB by PFF when he actually is pressured. This game puts the Steelers consecutive games with a sack record pursuit in some real jeopardy, at least on paper.

The Titans have plenty of talented skill position players and the best offensive line the Steelers will have faced this year.

I believe the Steelers still have the talent necessary to be the best defense in the NFL, even with the season ending loss of Devin Bush. How the Steelers approach his loss and go about replacing his production will ultimately decide what level of success this defense, and the Steelers franchise, achieve during the 2020 NFL season.

3 games to watch in Week 7 which give perspective to the 2020 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There are several NFL games this week which will help get a better understanding of teams the Steelers will or have faced in 2020

The Pittsburgh Steelers are rolling with only the second 5-0 start in franchise history. Going up against another undefeated team in Week 7 makes for the premier matchup across the league this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. Of course, this game is the only one that matters. There are some other games which could tell Steelers fans more about this 2020 team.

I admit, the pickings this week were very slim. The Baltimore Ravens are on bye so the Steelers next opponent was not an option. You’ll see what I’m talking about when it comes to the games for week seven. It’s bad.

At the suggestion of one of our faithful BTSC community members, I’m going to include a brief rundown of the previous week’s three games in question to see how they helped shape the narrative of the Steelers 2020 season.

Houston Texans (36) at Tennessee Titans (42)

All three of these games were fantastic, but the Tennessee Titans needing overtime to take care of the Houston Texans in a shootout made for some highlight reel material. Had the coaching staff for the two teams been switched, the Titans probably lose this game by 20 points. Instead, the Texans lose…or I guess the Titans win.

Baltimore Ravens ( 30) at Philadelphia Eagles (28 )

The Baltimore Ravens came out dominating the Eagles in this game. Unfortunately, they didn’t keep it up for 60 minutes. Instead, the Eagles were a failed two-point conversion at the end of the game away from sending this one to overtime. Instead, that disgusting purple team gets another victory in a sloppy performance.

Cincinnati Bengals (27 ) at Indianapolis Colts ( 31)

The Cincinnati Bengals came out dominating the Colts in this game. Does this sound familiar? Unlike the Ravens, the Bengals could not keep the lead despite going up by 21 points. I don’t know if these teams are both decent, or if they’re just both that poor. The Colts are one of those tough teams to try to figure out so far in 2020.

Now that we have closed the page on Week 6 of the NFL season, it’s time to get focused on the next set of games as there is little time in the NFL to dwell on the previous week. For Week 7, here are the three games which could give the most perspective on what the Steelers can expect with some of their future opponents as well as the quality of some of their wins:

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles Thursday at 8:20 PM on FOX/NFLN

Yes. I know. It’s embarrassing. But there are only three matchups in the entire league in Week 7 where two teams who have the Steelers on their schedule in 2020 face each other. Yes, the Steelers have already beaten both of these teams. But if Philadelphia can continue with more strong showings, it makes their performance against the Steelers all the more noteworthy.

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Sunday 1:00 PM on CBS

One week after the Steelers finally played their first game in the AFC North, the Browns will be playing their fourth and will conclude their season series with the Bengals. The first time these two teams met in Week 2 didn’t tell us that much. Since the Steelers just faced the Browns and will be taking on the Bengals in the next several weeks, it’s a score to pay attention to on Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team Sunday at 1:00 PM on FOX

This one doesn’t get the heart racing much either, but these are two teams the Steelers will face in 2020 in the future. In just two weeks the Steelers will take on the NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys and their whole whopping two victories on the season. Additionally, Washington will be coming to Heinz Field in December. The NFC East appears to be a dumpster fire in 2020, but with their teams facing off against each other this week, at least half of them should get a win.

So there are the three main, albeit terrible, matchups which may give Steelers fans an indication as to the quality of upcoming and past opponents in 2020. As games begin to pile up in 2020, what to expect from each team is getting much easier to judge.

So which of these games will be the most telling as it pertains to the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

Scouting Report: Derrick Henry isn’t the only challenge for the defense in Nashville

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 7:15am
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several challenges ahead of them in Week 4, more than just Derrick Henry.

This week, we are scouting the match-up between a pair of 5-0 teams when the Pittsburgh Steelers head to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans.

If this feels like deja-vu, it is. I initially wrote this report for the week four matchup between these teams that was scuttled due to Tennessee’s COVID outbreak. Three weeks later, not much has changed. Both teams remain undefeated. The Steelers are still an elite defense and a diverse offense that can beat opponents in a variety of ways. The Titans are still a physical football team with a running back, Derrick Henry, who treats defenders like a drunken Dad rampaging through a backyard football contest at a six year-old’s birthday party.

You want the big piece of cake, kid? Eat this!

While the Steelers and Titans are two of just three remaining undefeated teams in the league (Seattle is the other), questions surround each franchise. Each team has one impressive win on its resume. The Steelers routed an improved Cleveland team last week while Tennessee rocked a solid Buffalo squad in week five. The combined record of Pittsburgh’s other four opponents, however, is 5-17-1. The Titans, meanwhile, have been living dangerously all season. They won their opener 16-14 at Denver on a last-second field goal by kicker Stephen Gostkowski. They edged Jacksonville 33-30 by intercepting a Gardner Minshew throw as the Jags were driving for a game-tying field goal. They knocked off Minnesota 31-30 when Gostkowski nailed a 55 yarder with under two minutes to play. And last week, they needed overtime to defeat a struggling Houston team. Both the Steelers and Titans have been impressive. And both, at times, have looked ordinary.

The key to the Titans offense is their run game, which centers on the aforementioned Henry. The 6’3-240 pounder is on target for some ludicrous numbers this season. Henry has touted the rock 123 times already for 588 yards. Over sixteen games, his current pace would produce 394 carries for 1,881 yards. Whether Henry can stay healthy or sustain that pace remains to be seen. The NFL record for most rushes in a season is 416 by Kansas City’s Larry Johnson in 2006. Johnson never rushed for 1,000 yards again after that ‘06 campaign and was out of the league three years later. Whether Tennessee will burn Henry out is a question for another day. For now, he’s the engine that makes their offense go.

Defensively, it’s a different story for the Titans. They were solid against Buffalo, yielding just 16 points while generating three turnovers. In their other four contests, Tennessee surrendered 27.5 points and 420 yards per game while producing just five turnovers and six sacks. They have been abysmal on 3rd downs, allowing opponents to convert 37 of 64 opportunities for a 57.8 success rate. If Tennessee can’t rush the passer well, can’t generate turnovers and can’t get off the field on third down, they may be in for a long afternoon against the Steelers.

Finally, each team is dealing with a significant injury heading into the contest. Pittsburgh linebacker Devin Bush and Tennessee Pro Bowl offensive tackle Taylor Lewan were both lost for the season to ACL injuries last week. Each player filled a huge role for their team. Bush was Pittsburgh’s signal caller on defense and their most versatile linebacker. Lewan was the best lineman on one of the best rushing units in the league. How each team compensates for their respective absences will be an important factor in the matchup.

What else will it take for the Steelers to win? Here are some other keys to victory in the game against the Titans.

Defend Tennessee’s tight ends in pass coverage

Stopping Henry is the most obvious key for the Steelers’ defense. It’s likely, though, that Henry will get his 25-30 touches and pile up some yards. He’s too good, and too important to Tennessee’s offense, for the Steelers to stifle completely. The defense can’t let Henry run wild, of course. But if they hold him in the neighborhood of 100 yards they will have done their job.

The bigger key is limiting how Tennessee supplements Henry’s running. One way they do so is by throwing to their tight ends. Tennessee’s tight ends have a combined 41 receptions for 443 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Fourth-year pro Jonnu Smith is the best of them, with a stat line of 19-234-5 TDs thus far. The fact the Steelers will likely play a lot of base 3-4 to defend Henry, and that Bush’s absence leaves a potential coverage void against the tight end passing game, is cause for concern.

Below, we see an example of how the Titans scheme to get the ball to Smith. This is Tennessee’s opening play from scrimmage against the Jaguars. They are in 21 personnel and present a clear run look to the defense. Jacksonville, in response, stacks nine players in the box. The Titans do not run the ball, however. They execute a nicely designed play-action pass instead, with the line blocking left, quarterback Ryan Tannehill booting out to his right and then throwing the ball back to Smith (circled in the photo):

Smith sells the run nicely by staying on his block long enough to get lost in the mess of bodies at the line of scrimmage before leaking out up the left sideline, where he is wide open. It’s a great drive-starter for the Titans and it takes advantage of the fact that defenses will often over-compensate in their efforts to stop Henry.

Tennessee came back to Smith to finish the drive, aligning him to the inside of a bunch set to ensure he’d draw a safety or linebacker in man coverage. He got 6’0 Andrew Wingard, for whom the 6’3-250 pound Smith was a tough match-up. Smith ran a bender route, starting outside to open Wingard’s hips before working back across his face:

Smith (circled) draws a smaller safety (indicated by the arrow) and takes advantage

Wingard covered the play fairly well but gave up the post on Smith’s break. This let Smith box him out like a basketball player positioning for a rebound. Tannehill placed the ball in a great spot where Smith could go up and get it and the big tight end made a nice catch for the touchdown:

In all likelihood, Pittsburgh will look to defend the tight ends out of their base 3-4 with heavy doses of Terrell Edmunds. Edmunds has done a nice job in man coverage so far this season. When the Steelers play zone, however, a linebacker like Robert Spillane or, perhaps, Ulysses Gilbert III, who has not yet played a snap this season, will be asked fill the void left by Bush’s absence.

Spillane afforded himself well when he stepped in for Bush last week against Cleveland. Here’s what BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict had to say about his performance:

“His strength is against short zone passing, where he is actually quite good, and in an attacking ‘Buck’ role in run defense. I think he is better against the pass than against the run, and he seems to be REALLY good against slip passes that are big against an aggressive blitzing defense like ours.”

Geoffrey’s comments about Spillane are encouraging, especially since some of the routes he mentioned are typically manned by tight ends. The Steelers will have to pressure Tannehill when they play zone to help Spillane, or whomever is tasked with occupying Bush’s role, on deeper routes up the seam. Pittsburgh’s 24 sacks are the most in the league while Tennessee has yielded just six (tied for second-fewest). Something will have to give.

All of this sets up an interesting chess match between defensive coordinator Keith Butler and Tennessee’s offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. I know little about Smith, who is in his second year calling plays for the Titans. But I do know Tennessee is second in the league in points per game (32.8), which suggests Smith is doing a fine job. And I know he was their tight ends coach prior to becoming OC, which suggests he will search for ways to get them the football. The winner of this particular chess match may determine the winner of the contest in general.

Continue to mix things up with the offensive play-calling

When this article posted in its original form three weeks ago, I lauded the Steelers for the balance in their offensive play-calling. That balance has continued. After throwing the football nearly 70% of the time with Roethlisberger in 2017 and 2018, Pittsburgh’s pass/run ratio is at 51/49 through five games this season.

While running the ball for the sake of running is not necessarily productive, Pittsburgh has been better on the ground than in recent years. The Steelers are averaging 136.8 rushing yards per contest this season, up from 90.4 last year, 90.3 in 2018 and 104.2 in 2017. Their rushing attempts have increased, which is a factor in the increased yardage totals. But, excluding kneel-downs, their yards-per-attempt are up as well (4.5 this year, as opposed to 3.7, 4.2 and 3.8 the three preceding years).

Whether offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has sought this balance by design or if he’s simply taking what defenses are giving him is hard to know. The Steelers have been throwing the ball early and, with consistent leads in the second half, running it late to close out games. Whatever the design, it’s been effective. The Steelers are averaging 36 yards-per-drive this season, which is twelve yards-per-drive more than last year and comparable to the dynamic offenses from 2017 (37 ypd) and 2018 (35 ypd) that finished in the top 10 in most categories.

Pittsburgh’s points-per-drive total is up, too. The Steelers are averaging 2.70 points-per-drive at present, which is up significantly from last season (1.47) and better than their 2017 (2.27) and 2018 (2.32) campaigns. They are also fourth in the league in scoring (31.2 points per game). If the Steelers can maintain these metrics, they will win a lot of football games.

There are reasons beyond balance the offense has found early success, of course. Limited sacks and turnovers and an offensive line that has held up surprisingly well despite injuries and adjustments has helped. But so has running the football well and not having to rely on Ben Roethlisberger to carry the team each week. Roethlisberger has been good, perhaps surprisingly-so given his age and return from surgery. But the Steelers have helped him by being more diverse than in recent years.

They should continue this trend against a Tennessee defense that has not stopped the run or the pass particularly well. The Titans are yielding 410 yards per game, which ranks 26th in the NFL. That breaks down to 273 yards passing (28th in the league) and 137 rushing (26th), making them susceptible in both areas. Their DVOA ranking is slightly better (22nd) but still puts them in the bottom third among league defenses. A diversified attack that makes the Titans defend the entire field and takes what they are giving seems a wise approach for Pittsburgh’s offense.

If the Steelers can maintain their balance on offense and defend Tennessee’s tight ends on defense (while not letting Derrick Henry run completely wild), it should be a good day for the black-and-gold in Nashville.

Despite the Steelers’ success, the Ravens are still the odds on favorites to win the division

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 6:00am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Steelers are 5-0, a game better than the Ravens, but odds makers aren’t buying the Steelers as favorites to win the division just yet.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have started the season red hot with a 5-0 start. They lead the AFC North and are tied for the top spot in the NFC. They are one of only three teams in the entire league who have an unblemished record. With all that said you would think they would be favorites to not just win the AFC North, but to be the AFC representative in Super Bowl 55, right?

Wrong.

Updated odds, courtesy of BetOnline, show the Baltimore Ravens, not the Steelers, are the odds on favorites to win the AFC North this year.

Check out the updated odds:

Odds to Win AFC North

10/13/20 Current (10/20/2020)

Baltimore Ravens 4/7 5/8

Pittsburgh Steelers 9/4 7/5

Cleveland Browns 5/1 12/1

Cincinnati Bengals 150/1 250/1

The odds didn’t stop there. Here are the odds for teams to win the AFC in 2020. Again, the Ravens are above the Steelers:

Odds to Win the AFC Championship

10/13/20 Current (10/20/2020)

Kansas City Chiefs 9/4 9/4

Baltimore Ravens 3/1 3/1

Pittsburgh Steelers 15/2 6/1

Tennessee Titans 18/1 8/1

Buffalo Bills 7/1 12/1

Indianapolis Colts 14/1 16/1

New England Patriots 16/1 20/1

Las Vegas Raiders 25/1 22/1

Cleveland Browns 16/1 25/1

In case you wanted to see some odds pertaining to who will win the Super Bowl this year:

Odds to Win Super Bowl LV

10/13/20 Current (10/20/2020)

Kansas City Chiefs 4/1 15/4

Baltimore Ravens 5/1 6/1

Seattle Seahawks 15/2 7/1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16/1 10/1

Green Bay Packers 10/1 12/1

Pittsburgh Steelers 16/1 12/1

New Orleans Saints 10/1 14/1

Tennessee Titans 40/1 18/1

Buffalo Bills 14/1 20/1

Los Angeles Rams 16/1 22/1

Chicago Bears 50/1 28/1

Arizona Cardinals 50/1 33/1

Indianapolis Colts 33/1 33/1

San Francisco 49ers 40/1 33/1

Las Vegas Raiders 50/1 40/1

New England Patriots 33/1 40/1

When it comes to individual awards, the Steelers have some names in the hat with Ben Roethlisberger and Chase Claypool. See what the odds are for Roethlisberger to bring home the Regular Season MVP:

2020 Regular Season MVP

10/13/20 Current (10/20/2020)

Russell Wilson 5/4 5/4

Patrick Mahomes 11/2 7/2

Aaron Rodgers 15/4 6/1

Lamar Jackson 12/1 10/1

Kyler Murray 25/1 18/1

Tom Brady 40/1 18/1

Josh Allen (QB) 9/1 22/1

Ryan Tannehill 66/1 25/1

Ben Roethlisberger 33/1 28/1

Derrick Henry 100/1 33/1

Deshaun Watson 66/1 50/1

And the odds of Claypool to win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award, an award Roethlisberger won himself back in 2004.

Offensive Rookie Of The Year

10/13/20 Current (10/20/2020)

Justin Herbert 11/10 4/5

Joe Burrow 5/2 7/2

Justin Jefferson 25/1 7/1

Chase Claypool 7/1 10/1

Clyde Edwards-Helaire 9/1 10/1

Tua Tagovailoa 50/1 12/1

CeeDee Lamb 7/1 16/1

D’Andre Swift 50/1 20/1

Jonathan Taylor 18/1 25/1

Odds like this change all the time, and will certainly change for the Steelers in the next two weeks. A trip to the 5-0 Tennessee Titans will be followed by another road trip to the 5-1 Ravens, who are coming off their bye week. To cap off their three straight road games, the Steelers will head down to Dallas to play the Cowboys in Week 9.

If the Steelers win all of those games, and sit at 8-0 at the midway point of the season, expect them not just to leap frog the Ravens in the odds to win the division, but expect them to be at, or near, the top of the NFL by being the odds on favorites to bring back a seventh Lombardi trophy to Pittsburgh.

Podcast: Steelers at Titans, Let’s try this again

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 5:30am

The Oracle Dave Schofield shares his thoughts in the AM platform with the classic stats show with the Co-Editor of BTSC.

The Steelers and Titans were supposed to play three weeks ago and you know the rest. Even though the Steelers will roll into Music City wearing white jerseys to face the navy blue-clad Titans, both teams have changed and don’t look exactly the same. What’s different this time around? This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he breaks out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • How the Steelers and Titans transformed over three weeks time
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

PFF shows how the Steelers’ rookies were bright spots in Week 6

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/22/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie class has been doing a tremendous job this season, and PFF has noticed.

Don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 NFL Draft class has been tremendous. How good? Some are wondering if it might be the best, albeit small, draft class across the entire league in 2020.

Ever week it seems the Steelers’ rookie class stands out for yet another reason. Maybe it is Chase Claypool’s dominant play, Kevin Dotson filling in wonderfully for David DeCastro or Alex Highsmith not just being a special teams demon, but a valuable backup at outside linebacker.

Yes, the Steelers’ rookies have stood out on several occasions, and it isn’t just Steelers fans who have noticed. In fact, see what the experts Pro Football Focus (PFF) had to say about the Steelers’ rookies as they dominated the Cleveland Browns 38-7 in Week 6.

ROOKIE WATCH

The most productive receiver on a per-route basis in this game was none other than Steelers second-rounder Chase Claypool. He may not have been able to match his four-touchdown performance from Week 5, but he did rack up 3.36 yards per route run — bringing his season total to 3.49, which is over half a yard more than any other qualifying wide receiver. Claypool also picked up a touchdown on the ground and is now one of two wide receivers with two rushing touchdowns on the season.

Kevin Dotson got the start at right guard for the Steelers and lost just one of his 25 pass-blocking reps. That loss resulted in a sack, but it could have been worse for the Day 3 rookie. Dotson has now seen 92 pass-blocking snaps in his NFL career and has lost just two reps. His run blocking, however, was far from great as he will likely end up with more than double the number of negatively graded run blocks as positively graded ones.

Cleveland’s first-round pick, Jedrick Wills Jr., had a similar day as Dotson. He was stout in pass protection, with only two losses on 36 reps, but was a non-factor in the run game. That has really been the story of his rookie season so far, as he entered the day with a 77.9 pass-block grade and a 52.0 run-block grade of 52.0.

A look back at the game, outside of the rookies, is something PFF loves to do, and often times their unique statistics show how, or why, things turned out the way they did. In the latest recap, PFF dives into the data behind the Steelers’ pass rush, and a rather sluggish passing offense from Ben Roethlisberger and company.

Check out more from PFF:

Whether he was in a clean pocket or under pressure, the third-year signal-caller failed to get anything going. The daunting Steelers pass rush pressured him on over 47% of his dropbacks (11 in total). Mayfield took four sacks and completed just three of seven passes for 45 yards and an interception on pressured dropbacks.

When free from pressure, Mayfield was equally as bad. He completed seven of 11 passes for 74 yards with a pick-six — courtesy of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. He also had another interception that was negated by a penalty. In all, Mayfield led the Browns’ passing attack to -0.59 expected points added per pass play when on the field, the second-worst mark of his professional career.

Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger made few mistakes in the game but led a relatively lethargic passing offense that barely generated positive expected points added per pass play and completed just three passes over 10 yards downfield. The Steelers’ rushing attack was actually more efficient on a per-play basis.

But it didn’t matter at the end of the day due to how well the defense played and how bad the Cleveland offense was. Pittsburgh held the Browns to -0.5 expected points added per play, the best mark of the week so far and tied for the best by a Steelers defense since Week 17 of 2008 — also against the Browns.

The Steelers now have to turn their attention away from the Cleveland Browns, and onto the 5-0 Tennessee Titans. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding that epic matchup of undefeated teams.

Injury Report: 5 players miss practice on Wednesday due to injury

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/21/2020 - 3:57pm
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Although there were 7 players who missed practice on Wednesday, there weren’t any surprises.

Coming off their fifth win of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the NFL’s three undefeated teams and are looking to keep their win streaking rolling. With two players missing the Steelers Week 6 matchup and a couple more unable to finish the game, the list of players not participating in practice on Wednesday was expected to be lengthy. In the first injury report of the week, courtesy of the Steelers PR department, five players missed practice due to injury, one player was limited, while two more were held out due to a coach’s decision.

Steelers PR Department

First of all, even though Maurkice Pouncey was listed as missing practice with a foot injury, he usually has Wednesday off as a coach’s decision. In fact, the same thing happened last week in regards to Pouncey’s Wednesday status. Thursday’s injury report will give a much better indication of Pouncey’s availability for the Titans game this Sunday.

After returning to action in Week 6 after missing the first NFL game of his career the previous week, Derek Watt was unable to participate in practice on Wednesday. As Mike Tomlin mentioned in his Tuesday press conference, Watt’s participation as the week goes on will determine his availability.

Another player who left Sunday’s game was cornerback Mike Hilton with a shoulder injury. Hilton’s status for Sunday was described by Coach Tomlin as questionable, so the fact Hilton did not practice Wednesday, although expected, is concerning in regards to his availability against the Titans.

Just like previous weeks, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster did not practice Wednesday with a knee injury. Although there is an injury designation, it looks as if Smith-Schuster is being given the first day of practice off each week.

David DeCastro and Diontae Johnson both missed the Steelers 38-7 win over the Browns. Coach Tomlin stated on Tuesday both players were expected to get back to work this week. As promised, both players participated on Wednesday with Johnson as a full participant while DeCastro was limited.

Once again, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was given a veteran’s days off on Wednesday. Stephon Tuitt also did not practice again on Wednesday but it was not injury related.

One item of note is Devin Bush is officially on the injury report as he has not yet been placed on the Reserve/Injured List. Until the Steelers have a player to put in his place, there is no reason to rush the designation. It is unclear if the Steelers are waiting to sign a player from outside of the organization, promote a player from the practice squad, or have offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski return from IR.

As for the Titans’ official injury report, you can see the names below:

Wednesday, October 21
OLB Jadeveon Clowney (Knee) - DNP
TE MyCole Pruitt (Illness) - DNP
T Isaiah Wilson (Illness) - DNP
DL DaQuan Jones (Foot) - Limited
T Dennis Kelly (Knee) - Limited
TE Jonnu Smith (Ankle) - Limited

For a recap of the injury report, check out the BTSC Steelers Injury Update podcast below:

Injury Report: 5 players miss practice on Wednesday due to injury

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/21/2020 - 3:57pm
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Although there were 7 players who missed practice on Wednesday, there weren’t any surprises.

Coming off their fifth win of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the NFL’s three undefeated teams and are looking to keep their win streaking rolling. With two players missing the Steelers Week 6 matchup and a couple more unable to finish the game, the list of players not participating in practice on Wednesday was expected to be lengthy. In the first injury report of the week, courtesy of the Steelers PR department, five players missed practice due to injury, one player was limited, while two more were held out due to a coach’s decision.

Steelers PR Department

First of all, even though Maurkice Pouncey was listed as missing practice with a foot injury, he usually has Wednesday off as a coach’s decision. In fact, the same thing happened last week in regards to Pouncey’s Wednesday status. Thursday’s injury report will give a much better indication of Pouncey’s availability for the Titans game this Sunday.

After returning to action in Week 6 after missing the first NFL game of his career the previous week, Derek Watt was unable to participate in practice on Wednesday. As Mike Tomlin mentioned in his Tuesday press conference, Watt’s participation as the week goes on will determine his availability.

Another player who left Sunday’s game was cornerback Mike Hilton with a shoulder injury. Hilton’s status for Sunday was described by Coach Tomlin as questionable, so the fact Hilton did not practice Wednesday, although expected, is concerning in regards to his availability against the Titans.

Just like previous weeks, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster did not practice Wednesday with a knee injury. Although there is an injury designation, it looks as if Smith-Schuster is being given the first day of practice off each week.

David DeCastro and Diontae Johnson both missed the Steelers 38-7 win over the Browns. Coach Tomlin stated on Tuesday both players were expected to get back to work this week. As promised, both players participated on Wednesday with Johnson as a full participant while DeCastro was limited.

Once again, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was given a veteran’s days off on Wednesday. Stephon Tuitt also did not practice again on Wednesday but it was not injury related.

One item of note is Devin Bush is officially on the injury report as he has not yet been placed on the Reserve/Injured List. Until the Steelers have a player to put in his place, there is no reason to rush the designation. It is unclear if the Steelers are waiting to sign a player from outside of the organization, promote a player from the practice squad, or have offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski return from IR.

As for the Titans’ official injury report, you can see the names below:

Wednesday, October 21
OLB Jadeveon Clowney (Knee) - DNP
TE MyCole Pruitt (Illness) - DNP
T Isaiah Wilson (Illness) - DNP
DL DaQuan Jones (Foot) - Limited
T Dennis Kelly (Knee) - Limited
TE Jonnu Smith (Ankle) - Limited

For a recap of the injury report, check out the BTSC Steelers Injury Update podcast below:

Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow still feels “great” after Week 6

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/21/2020 - 1:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow has been so far so good through six weeks of the 2020 regular season.

It is easy, and completely normal, for people to take certain things for granted. Whether it be the essentials of life, or, in this case, a franchise quarterback.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger for the 2019 season after his season-ending elbow injury in Week 2 last season, many didn’t realize how good they had it. But let’s be honest, with the Steelers jumping out to a red hot 5-0 start, has anyone wondered about Roethlisberger’s elbow recently?

I know I haven’t.

I have found myself watching the game and seeing Roethlisberger execute like he always has. Almost as if he was never injured. In fact, the one area of his game which was lacking early on were those deep/intermediate passes, and those have improved tremendously over the past few weeks.

In other words, many have all but forgotten about Roethlisberger’s surgically repaired elbow. So, you might be wondering how that elbow is doing? The Steelers’ future Hall of Fame quarterback was asked about that during his weekly press conference Wednesday.

“It feels great.” Roethlisberger said. “No setbacks, no issues. Every once and a while I will bump it on the ground or get hit and I’ll feel at it. But those are more just bump, nothing on the surgical side. Everything is going great, thanks.”

A follow up question was asked which was very poignant. Does Roethlisberger feel as if he has something to prove after missing almost the entire 2019 regular season?

“I just wanted to be out there with my teammates.” Roethlisberger added. “I didn’t want to let them down. I wanted them to know that I can still give them everything that I have. I’m not trying to prove anything to the outside world. I just wanted to keep playing the game that I love with the teammates that I love for the fans that I love. That’s what’s most important in my mind.”

Injury or not, it is easy to see Roethlisberger’s game has changed. Everything from him managing the game, taking what the defense gives him, and also his ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly.

In terms of managing the game, Roethlisberger understands, and admits, he has been doing just that throughout the team’s 5 game winning streak.

“I feel like that’s kind of what I’ve been doing the last five weeks, trying to get us in the best play that I can and trying not to turn the ball over and just do things to help the team with the game. If we keep winning football games, I’ll keep trying to do that.”

As for getting the ball out of his hands quickly, Roethlisberger isn’t about to take all the credit for that. A lot of it is based on the structure and style of the new offense.

“Sometimes, it may have to deal with the play call. Sometimes, it might be an RPO (Run-Pass Option), so you really don’t have time to hold onto the ball because obviously the line is blocking a run. You have to get the ball out quick. Sometimes we do what coach Randy [Fichtner] says is get the ball in the hands of our playmakers quick—throw short, run long.”

When it comes to Roethlisberger’s elbow, it is so far so good through Week 6, but fans should always keep 2019 in the back of their mind, remembering the struggles the team had without their franchise quarterback under center.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Tennessee Titans in Week 7.

The Steelers 2020 rookie class might be the best in the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/21/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers might have walked away with the most talent in the 2020 NFL Draft despite not having a first Round pick

We are just five weeks into the Steelers season and one thing is for certain, the 2020 rookie class has made a big time impact. When you take into consideration they are doing it without a first round pick, it’s absolutely mind boggling.

Chase Claypool has not only been one of he best receivers of his draft class, but is already playing on a level of the top receivers in the entire NFL. A weekly human highlight reel, with no baggage. Claypool already projects to be the Steelers number one target of years to come.

.@steelers WR @ChaseClaypool has 6 touchdowns in 2020, tied for the most by a rookie wide receiver through his first 5 career games since 1970. pic.twitter.com/cEnlqW91Eu

— NFL345 (@NFL345) October 18, 2020

Kevin Dotson has been one of the highest graded offensive lineman in the entire NFL and has held his own against the likes of Jurrel Casey, and Sheldon Richardson. Dotson has been so good, he's given the Steelers options when it comes to David DeCastro this offseason. DeCastro is on a big ticket contract and has struggled to stay healthy this year, and Dotson has proved to be a quality starter already. If the Steelers are in a cap crunch, Dotson might be the Steelers safety blanket should the need arise to make a tough move.

Kevin Dotson graded out as the best guard -- veteran or rookie -- on Sunday per Pro Football Focus.https://t.co/RF69o8zsqT

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) September 21, 2020

Alex Highsmith has rapidly improved every passing week, and is earning more playing time with each game. Highsmith has put his stamp on special teams, and has translated that success into more opportunities on defense. He's already supplanted, Ola Adeniyi as the Steelers top outside linebacker backup.

Alex Highsmith is out here snatching souls on kick coverage.

— Chris Mack (@THEChrisMack) October 18, 2020

Anthony McFarland, is the explosive change of pace running back that has nearly broken a long carry each week he’s played. McFarland is due for a big play, and in turn a bigger role on offense.

And both Antoine Brooks Jr and Carlos Davis have caught on with the practice roster.

As far as undrafted free agents go, James Pierre has been a solid contributor on special teams, and has taken over the punt coverage gunner role.

It’s hard not to mention the Steelers first round pick either. As Minkah Fitzpatrick ties a bow on the list of the newest Steelers.

When you look across the rest of the NFL, you don’t see very many teams boasting a bigger haul of talent like the Steelers managed to pull off back in April. Of course there are teams like the Dolphins and Packers that haven't seen their top pick play a whole lot as of yet, but as of this very moment, I believe the Steelers out drafted every other team in the NFL and Kevin Colbert deserves a ton of credit.

Teams like the Bengals, Vikings, Colts, and Chargers have hit on a couple picks, however no one has had the top to bottom draft success the Steelers have. Being able to pluck so much talent after the first round, puts the Steelers in a great position to go on a long playoff run. Only time will tell if this is truly the best draft class of the 2020 season, but a third of the way into the year, the Steelers young guns are stinging the brightest.

What do you think? Did the Steelers have the best draft class of the 2020 draft? Let us know down in the comments below!

Pages

Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator