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You can’t troll Steelers tackle Zach Banner on social media, you can only hope he doesn’t troll you

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/27/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Feel like trolling Steelers lineman Zach Banner on social media? I wouldn’t do that if I were you.

“I also remember when your glasses were fashionable...”

That was a Tweet from Steelers tackle Zach Banner on Saturday directed toward someone on social media who, believe it or not, had a problem with Banner’s Flashdance parody video. Why? Because the Steelers used to have class back in the day which, of course, was why they won.

Did you see Banner’s video? If not, I’m sure you will. I’m not saying it’s going to win an Oscar, Emmy or Grammy for Video of the Year, but it’s pretty creative for a guy who plays football for a living.

And there’s the rub as it pertains to why Banner had to school that Twitter dude and his sunglasses.

You see, Banner plays football for the Steelers, and if you play football for the Steelers, there is no way you can make a parody video without it ultimately preventing the team from winning a Super Bowl.

And isn’t that what it’s all about? It is for so many. If a player isn’t constantly giving off the vibe that he’s working 24/7/365 toward the goal of winning a championship and/or being the very best he can be, it’s open season on him and his dedication to his craft and team.

Anyway, this article isn’t about that or whether or not the Steelers of yesterday would have ever acted this way—even if they did film a commercial where they fought tires. This article is about trolling Banner on social media and whether or not it’s a good idea.

It’s probably not a good idea.

Oh, sure, you may get a few good ones in, but he’ll likely come right back at you with even better slights. Have a questionable looking beard? Banner may compare your facial hair to that of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s.......(it rhymes with cubes).

Have a profile picture of you and your girlfriend in the nosebleed section? Banner may point that out and make your lady question why she’s with a man who can’t afford club seats.

Is this the kind of social media activity you want to see from an offensive lineman who may or may not win a starting job in, this, his fourth NFL season? I say it is. Why should professional athletes—even ones who haven’t established themselves quite yet—put up with abuse on social media just because they’re professional athletes?

Why do they have to take it all the time? Since when did that become part of the job description? I say, if you have the chops to give as good (or better) than you get, do it. If the fans don’t like that sort of thing, there’s a really easy cure for it: Don’t be jerks on social media. I realize this is hard, but it can be done.

Have you seen Banner interact with Mark Madden, the local shock-jock sports talk radio host who likes to go out of his way to pick feuds with certain Steelers players?

Banner has drawn Madden’s attention recently because, like a lot of fans, Double M is of the opinion that a player with Banner’s resume should be seen and not heard. If you’ve witnessed these Twitter encounters, you know Banner has more than held his own. In fact, it kind of reminds me of the HHH/Shawn Michaels-era DX feud with Sargent Slaughter back in the late-’90s. HHH and Michaels were the new, hip breed of heel wrestlers by that point, while Slaughter’s 1980s “maggots” act just seemed old and out of touch.

Players like Banner have grown up with social media. They’re familiar with the terrain. If they must troll, some are really proficient at it.

While most players, even in the social media age, will ignore fans and media members who criticize them, some will decide they don’t have to sit quietly and take it. And if they have the skill to really dish it out, well, it’s going to leave a lot of people wondering why a player could pick on innocent little fans and reporters.

Back in the old days, players just had to deal with the nasty snail-mail letters they got from fans and could really do nothing about it.

Those days have been over for quite some time.

Just to be clear, Banner isn’t malicious with his barbs, but he is quite the effective troll.

If he can learn to school pass-rushers like he schools folks on social media, Banner will be a Pro Bowl player for many years to come.

Finally, if you decide to step into the social media octagon with Zach Banner, leave all of your sharp objects outside.

He ain’t afraid to use them on you.

Cam Heyward lands at number 84 on the NFL Network’s top 100 players of 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/27/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

This list of top 100 players is completely determined by NFL players.

The NFL Network’s top 100 players for the 2020 season as voted on by the players themselves began their reveal on Sunday night. Counting down starting at 100, each show highlights 10 players. Sunday night saw three episodes revealing all the way down to number 71 ranked player. Within these rankings, The Steelers defensive captain Cameron Heyward came in on the list at number 84.

.@CamHeyward comes in at #️⃣8️⃣4️⃣ on the #NFLTop100 list! pic.twitter.com/BVx8nfOatF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2020

Needless to say, ranking Heyward so low after his second All-Pro season in three years is baffling to many who pay attention to the Steelers. Starting all 16 games in 2019, Heyward had a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, six passes defensed, nine sacks, 23 quarterback hits, 11 tackles for loss, and 83 combined tackles. According to Pro Football Reference, Heyward led all defensive lineman in tackles as the only one who eclipsed the 80 mark.

Winning first team All-Pro from every major publication, Heyward comes in second to only the Los Angeles Ram’s Aaron Donald when it comes to the top interior defensive lineman. But when it comes to the list voted on by his peers, Heyward is terribly under represented.

Once the ranking was announced, Pro Football Focus was quick to respond on Twitter about Heyward being the second-best interior defense of lineman. Heyward responded himself and appears his slight on the list will be fuel for the upcoming season.

The hate has been at a all time high! Thank God that we have a season right around the corner. Need to exercise some demons. pic.twitter.com/BwFsAkteBq

— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) July 27, 2020

Until the complete list is revealed over the next several days, it will be unknown exactly where Heyward falls among the other interior defensive linemen.

As for his teammates, some were quick to voice their disposal of Heyward’s ranking as can be seen below. Even Cam’s mother chimed in.

Should be way lower ! https://t.co/BVwbHHUJvX

— Steve Nelson (@Nelson_Island) July 27, 2020

Too low! https://t.co/N0LpT6Xpni

— Chris Wormley (@Chris_Wormley43) July 27, 2020

Disrespectful...His stats, game grades, work ethic, and leadership, mean nothing to the idiots making these lists. Only respect from the O-coordinators who make him defend 2/3 every snap ...#allpro #leader #captain #beast #motivation #NEXT

— Charlotte Heyward (@CharHeyward) July 27, 2020

Podcast: What is the success rate for a decade of Steelers trades?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/27/2020 - 5:30am

In BTSC’s Sunday podcast, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers may not be a major player when it comes to trades, in fact they typically are one to build through the NFL Draft. However, it seems that General Manager Kevin Colbert has spent a lot of time on the phone in recent years practicing his wheelin’-and-dealin’. So how successful have the Steelers been over the past decade when it comes to trades? This question leads to the topic of the latest episode in the BTSC family of podcasts.

Take a look at the rundown for the BTSC podcast Steelers Sunday. On this show Bryan Anthony Davis, subbing for Lance Williams, and Michael Beck break down all things Steelers.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • What is the success rate for a decade of Steelers trades?
  • Week in Review
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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.

Black and Gold Links: Previewing the Steelers specialists for 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/27/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. With the scheduled start of training camp just days away, it looks like we’ll have to wait until opening weekend to see the Steelers take the field. Just because the NFL has cancelled the preseason doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at the five specialists the Steelers are scheduled to bring to training camp this week.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Chris Boswell is the only placekicker the Steelers have on the offseason roster

Steelers 2020 training camp preview: Breaking down special teams

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

SPECIALISTS

9 K Chris Boswell, 6-2, 185: If you take away his disastrous 2018, Boswell has been among the most accurate and consistent kickers in the NFL since the Steelers signed him in 2015. Whatever the issues that caused his 12 missed kicks two years ago seemed to disappear last year.

4 P Jordan Berry, 6-5, 195: Berry’s tenure with the Steelers has endured five seasons and counting. He has survived criticism for his coach after struggles, almost-annual camp competition and even in-season tryouts. His job is again, in theory, up for grabs again in camp. Can he fend off Corliss Waitman?

8 P Corliss Waitman, 6-2, 210: A strong-legged lefty, Waitman might have the most pure leg talent of any punter the Steelers have brought in to push Berry. He had to sit out last season, though, after the NCAA denied a transfer waiver.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • How many cornerbacks will make the Steelers roster?

Steelers’ 90-man roster: CBs

By: Jim Wexell, Steelers Digest

ON THE ROSTER NOW: Trajan Bandy, Breon Borders, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Justin Layne, Alex Myres, Steven Nelson, James Pierre, Arrion Springs, Cameron Sutton.

ON THE ROSTER IN SEPTEMBER: During the Mike Tomlin era, the Steelers have kept an average of 5.54 cornerbacks each opening day. So that’s six in a good year, five in a down year. Since there’s a decent sleeper among the group, let’s predict six cornerbacks this season.

STAT(S) THAT STANDS OUT: Let’s go with a couple. Haden’s five interceptions were the most on the team since 2010 when Troy Polamalu intercepted seven. It’s the most by a Steelers cornerback since 2001 when Chad Scott intercepted five. OK, passes-defensed: Cornerbacks Haden (17), Hilton (11), Nelson (eight), and Sutton (five) combined for the most passes-defensed by a Steelers cornerback group since 2012, when Keenan Lewis led the way with an eye-popping 23. (Defensive stats courtesy of ProFootballReference.com.)

KEY DEPARTURES: Artie Burns’ Steelers career came to an end with a whimper. Last year, the 2016 first-round pick was a reserve cornerback who eventually lost that job, and then a gunner on the punt team who eventually lost that job to Layne. He signed with the Chicago Bears as an unrestricted free agent on March 26.

KEY ADDITIONS: Nelson may have been the addition of the year in 2018, as he sealed up a quality unit. That unit’s back five-strong, along with undrafted rookies Bandy (5-8, 180, 4.50) and Pierre (6-0, 183, 4.59), XFL player Springs (5-10, 208), and winter signee Borders (6-0, 200), who has been with five NFL teams since coming out of Duke as an undrafted rookie in 2017. Bandy is a slot corner from Miami and Pierre is an outside, boundary corner out of Florida Atlantic. Springs came out of Oregon undrafted in 2018 and had been with five different teams before signing with the Steelers.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The former Steelers running back is disgruntled again

You have to laugh at Le’Veon Bell’s rant against former teammate

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

I’m not sure how good of an arm former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has, but I bet he could spin a decent halfback-option pass or two for the New York Jets if needed.

After Saturday, though, I am sure he can throw stones from a glass house.

Over the weekend, the Jets traded star safety Jamal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks (along with a 2022 fourth-round draft pick) for a 2021 first-round draft pick, a 2022 first-rounder, a 2021 third-rounder and safety Bradley McDougald.

Adams essentially forced his way out of town after months of complaining about his contract, coach Adam Gase and Jets management.

In a radio interview just two weeks ago, Bell told “Hot 97” that Adams told him he was optimistic the situation could be repaired. As recently as Friday, it was reported by the New York Post that Adams was expected at training camp.

But by Saturday, Adams apparently had pushed the envelope far enough in his complaints that the Jets decided to trade him.

That’s when Bell roasted Adams on Twitter saying, “Ppl do all the hootin & hollering to get you Brough in, just to leave… lol like people weird yooo, the internet got these dudes doin whatever for attention, even when they tell you (expletive) they don’t believe themselves.”

Adams simply replied, “Noted. See u Week 14!”

That’s when the Jets visit the Seahawks on Dec. 13.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Does the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade look even better now after Jamal Adams has been moved?

Navigating the slashed salary cap for 2021

In what ways will COVID-19 affect the upcoming season?

Will Chuks Okorafor be a starter this season?

  • Social Media Madness

See of the uniforms we've worn since 1️⃣9️⃣3️⃣3️⃣!

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 26, 2020

Guess where I’m at pic.twitter.com/hJr2LyakoI

— 6IG 9ASTY (@kdd7696) July 26, 2020

SOON!! pic.twitter.com/D6arMtRZ7l

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) July 26, 2020

NFL Network’s top 100: 71-100

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/27/2020 - 12:26am
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The annual list chosen by the players began its release on Sunday night.

The NFL Network kicked off its yearly list of the top 100 NFL players for 2020 on Sunday night. Each hour-long show highlights ten players in descending order. With three shows to kick things off, here are the first 30 players who were revealed on Sunday night courtesy of NFL.com:

100.) Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers OLB
99.) Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders TE
98.) Brandon Brooks, Philadelphia Eagles OG
97.) Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals S
96.) Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks RB
95,) Frank Clark, Kansas City Chiefs DE
94.) Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles C
93.) Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears WR
92.) Darius Slay, Philadelphia Eagles CB
91.) Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons DT

A breakdown of each player from 91-100 can be seen HERE.

90.) Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals QB
89.) Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams WR
88.) Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys MLB
87.) Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills QB
86.) Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens CB
85.) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles TE
84.) Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers DT
83.) Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings MLB
82.) Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints OT
81.) DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks WR

A breakdown of each player from 81-90 can be seen HERE.

80.) Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns DE
79.) Calais Campbell, Baltimore Ravens DE
78.) Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys OT
77.) Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers WR
76.) Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints CB
75.) Earl Thomas, Baltimore Ravens FS
74.) Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore Ravens OT
73.) Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles DT
72.) Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders RB
71.) Jurrell Casey, Denver Broncos DE

A breakdown of each player from 71-80 can be seen HERE.

Six players land on the NFL’s new Reserve/COVID-19 List

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/26/2020 - 7:32pm
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Of the six players, four play in the AFC North.

The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero is reporting the NFL has their first six cases of players being designated on the Reserve/COVID-19 List. These names all appeared in the NFL transaction wire, making them official designations. Of the six players, two are from the Cleveland Browns with both the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals each having one player.

These are the first six players to land on the new reserve/COVID-19 list, either after testing positive or being quarantined close contact with an infected person.

With most veterans reporting Tuesday, there figure to be many more. Another part of the NFL’s new reality for 2020. https://t.co/aLAaUkSRib

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 26, 2020

Of all the players on the list, Cleveland Browns running back Dontrell Hilliard is the only player has appeared in an NFL game. Hilliard has spent two seasons with the Browns where he has appeared in 25 games and has 21 career receptions and 13 career carries with two touchdowns. Hilliard finished the 2019 season on injured reserve with a knee injury.

In order to end up on the NFL’s new Reserve/COVID-19 List, players have either had a recent positive test or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Earlier in July, the NFL provided clubs on the procedure for players to return once they have been placed on what is now the Reserve/COVID-19 List.

The NFL last night sent to clubs COVID-19 protocols for 2020 training camp and preseason, including this detailed breakdown for handling individuals exposed to someone who tested positive: pic.twitter.com/bX7aQzMZTZ

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 4, 2020

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Chukwuma Okorafor

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/26/2020 - 1:45pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

Continuing along with part 63 of our 90-part series — assuming the roster does not change before we are complete — which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s take a look at competing right tackle:

Chukwuma Okorafor

Position: T
Height: 6’ 6”
Weight: 330 lbs
College: Western Michigan
Draft: 3rd Round, 92 Overall in 2018

2019 stats

1 Games played
1 Games started

Contract remaining

Expires in 202
$953,091 salary cap number (0.5% of total cap)
$203,091 Dead money
$750,000 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Lock. Chuks Okorafor is in the middle of the biggest position battle on the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers roster. Whether or not he wins the starting right tackle job, Okorafor will still be on the roster and potentially the teams swing tackle/jumbo tight end. He will be on this team in 2020,

2020 projection

While I am leaning toward Zach Banner winning the starting tackle spot, I do think Chuks has a very good chance of winning the job for himself. In my opinion I think Okorafor makes an impact as a swing tackle and picks up a start or two due to injury or performance of either Alejandro Villanueva or Zach Banner. He will appear in all 16 games,

Projected stats:

16 Games played
4 Games Started

Summary

Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner will be one of the most interesting matchups to follow during training camp. Either player can truly win the job yet the loser will still see considerable playing tie as the teams swing tackle and primary backup. The Steelers offensive line is in really good shape and has some quality depth because of guys like Chuks. Okorafor will be a starter in this league one day, it may not be in Pittsburgh but he is defiantly talented enough to win job.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh
Carlos Davis
David DeCastro
Christian DiLauro
Kevin Dotson
Bud Dupree
Eric Ebron
Terrell Edmunds
Trey Edmunds
Matt Feiler
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Zach Gentry
Ulysees Gilbert III
Derwin Gray
Joe Haden
J.C. Hassenauer
Quadree Henderson
Dewayne Hendrix
Cam Heyward
Alex Highsmith
Mike Hilton
Devlin Hodges
John Houston
Anthony Johnson
Diontae Johnson
Jarron Jones
John Keenoy
Tyree Kinnel
Christian Kuntz
Justin Layne
Leo Lewis
James Lockhart
Paxton Lynch
Dan McCullers
Vance McDonald
Anthony McFarland Jr.
Henry Mondeaux
Christian Montano
Alexander Myres
Steven Nelson
Spencer Nigh

Will coronavirus affect the quality of NFL football this fall?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/26/2020 - 12:00pm
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Embroiled in coronavirus drama and stuck with limited practice time, can the NFL manage to field an entertaining product come September?

With the NFL and NFLPA agreeing on a plan for the upcoming NFL season, the chances of Week 1 starting on time remains a high possibility. With training camp set to start on time and the preseason cancelled for safety reasons, teams should have enough time to form and acclimate a game-ready roster by their inaugural game.

While the NFL will probably do everything in it’s power to start the season on time, a rushed approach, along with cancelled exhibition games and socially distant practices, could hurt the quality of play for the first few weeks of the season. If the season begins in early September like it is currently scheduled to, will there be more miscues than usual in the opening games?

The most obvious factor in this year’s strange offseason is the lack of a preseason. The NFLPA pushed for the league to to cancel the entire slate of exhibition games which was granted to them in the following negotiations. No preseason lessens the contact between teams, and ultimately it was decided that games which didn’t count on the record weren’t worth the heightened risk of coronavirus exposure.

The biggest story line following the cancellation of the preseason was that fringe roster players would have less of a chance making the final roster than before. There are always a few Cinderella stories that pop up around that time of year, but without a preseason, players with a long-shot chance at the final 53 might not have the opportunity to make it. Even the lucky few that defy the odds and make the roster don’t usually end up starting, though, especially at the beginning of the season. That’s not to downplay the career-ruining change this could be for some players, but rather to point out that it’s not relevant to the NFL’s Week 1 product.

The preseason isn’t for bottom-of-the-roster types only, as it’s often used as a warmup for starters. A lot of teams don’t risk playing their starters a lot in the preseason, however, with most settling for only a couple of drives with them due to injury concerns. Most veterans won’t be affected much by no preseason, and a few may actually be helped, as not having to prepare for preseason games in practice might allow for them to get more attention and reps and not worry as much about newcomers breathing down their necks.

Early season rust will still be a problem, but maybe not as big of an issue as it’s been made out to be.

Rookies will be hurt by this, though. Preseason games give them an early look at the NFL, and give them some practice runs in game-day scenarios before they are put on the field in meaningful situations. Without a preseason, every rookie in a starting role will have their first taste of NFL action in Week 1, rather than easing into it. It will be a rude awakening for teams with rookie-heavy lineups. For franchises like the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins, having rookie starting quarterbacks could lead to a tough start to their seasons.

For Pittsburgh, this doesn’t mean as much. The team doesn’t have many rookies who are expected to see much playing time right away. However, no preseason could hurt free agent additions as they attempt to gel with their new teams. Players like Eric Ebron and Derek Watt have NFL experience, but still won’t be as adjusted to the Steelers way as their teammates.

As BTSC editor Dave Schofield pointed out in his “3 pros and cons of a reduced preseason for the Steelers” article a few days ago, the preseason isn’t just a test run for the players. NFL officiating crews also iron out the kinks in the preseason, and without one, the calls in the NFL’s first few weeks of action could be more painful than usual. Much like everyone else, new officiating crews will be thrown into the fire Week 1, which could have some disastrous results.

The preseason is the main talking point when it comes to the NFL’s tumultuous offseason, but thankfully not having one isn’t exactly the end of the world. No preseason could prevent a coronavirus scare or two, which could otherwise derail an NFL team and have a domino effect into the regular season. From a Steelers angle, Pittsburgh fields a squad quite similar to last year’s, and continuity will be a big advantage in 2020.

Training camps, on the other hand, weren’t affected as much as the preseason, but still will be different than usual due to the virus. Safety precautions will have an impact on practices, even though it’s hard to tell how much this early on.

Besides, months of lockdown have left players with a lot of time to themselves before camp starts, and while we’ve seen a lot of workout videos from stars across the league, not every player will be in as good of shape as they would have been had in-person OTA’s happened, or even if their favorite gym was still open. The Steelers’ own Zach Banner took to Twitter earlier this month to call out some veterans for not working out who “don’t want to be exposed”. Even if every player does show up to camp in the best shape of their life, there will be an acclimation period as teams start up practices, which will be necessary but will also take up a few valuable weeks of practice time.

Even if the two problems listed above end up running smoothly, the threat of a coronavirus outbreak among a team remains a massive possibility. It’s inevitable there will be multiple positive tests throughout the year. This would then result in the quarantine of the positive player, as well as those he was in direct contact with depending on the strictness of the NFL’s virus policies. This will lead to players missing multi-week chunks of practice time, and could possibly sideline entire teams.

Obstacles in already-shortened practice time could lead to teams fielding under-prepared rosters (by NFL standards, that is) throughout the season. Obviously, it will be at it’s worst when the season starts, but it’s not like coronavirus will retire after Week 1.

Long story short, there’s an insanely large list of things that can go wrong throughout this NFL season, and the league’s ‘on-time but still safety-conscious’ approach could lead to underwhelming football this season. This isn’t to say player safety or starting on time are bad ideas, but in the case of coronavirus the two don’t work together especially well.

The league itself has certainly had conversations regarding the quality of the product they will be putting on the field come the regular season, especially in regards to coronavirus. The NFL’s TV ratings should be sky-high no matter what though, with fans stuck at home with little live content to watch. Still, it’s a conversation worth having, as no one wants to watch bad football this fall.

Actually, I take that back.

Just having Steelers football this fall should be enough for me.

Navigating the Steelers 2021 salary cap situation to keep the Super Bowl window open

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/26/2020 - 10:15am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

COVID-19 continues to wreck havoc for all. With the NFL now agreeing on a path forward for 2020, the cap floor for 2021 has been set and it isn’t friendly.

Thank the sporting gods! On Friday, the NFL and the NFLPA came to an agreement on what form the 2020 NFL season will take, player remuneration, and training camp protocols. All things being equal, fans will likely be able to at least watch games on TV this season.

However, the agreement also answered a key questions about how things will shape up in 2021 and beyond, including the impact of reduced revenue from limitations or bans on fan attendance at games. As reported by Adam Schefter, while this year’s cap limit will not be impacted, in 2021 there will be a minimum cap number of $175 million with the cap able to increase pending the impact to NFL teams’ revenue. Any loss in NFL revenue is to be managed and spread through to the 2024 season.

What does this mean for the Steelers? With just 41 players under-contract for 2021 and Cameron Heyward, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton, Matt Feiler, and Alejandro Villanueva leading the off-contract player group for 2021, Omar Khan and Kevin Colbert have even harder decisions to make this coming season and offseason. Further, with Ben Roethlisberger’s much discussed $41.25m cap hit, the onus (or team need) on Ben to bounce-back and potentially sign another restructured contract is even larger.

According to Over The Cap, the Steelers are currently projected to be $15,829,828 over the salary cap if they were to carry their current roster of players into 2021. What is worse is this number ‘does not include cap charges for unsigned rookies’ and ‘don’t adjust the carryover numbers for the change from the top 51 to the regular season accounting numbers’. Additionally, next offseason the projected average cap space would be approximately $15m per team, which is much reduced from teams’ $30m-$40m cap space average around free agency that has been typical of the last few years.

The other piece of bad news? The Franchise Tag and Transition Tag are now a whole lot more expensive, given the tags offer a salary that is either 120% of the players prior year salary or an average of the leading players at the position’s salary/an average percentage of these leading salaries over the past five years. Allocating these tags is a hard enough decision in most seasons, but in 2021 these numbers will be inflated by contracts signed at a cap that could be as much as $25m or 12% larger than next the 2021 salary cap.

So what does this mean for who is resigned, who gets franchise tagged and who is left to enter free agency in 2021? How can the Steelers keep their Super Bowl window open, by keeping their best players on the roster? Here’s a few on my ideas for this season and upcoming offseason:

  • Re-sign Cameron Heyward for 3 years, with ONLY Cam considered for a tag if unsigned.
  • Try anything and everything to restructure Ben Roethlisberger’s mammoth cap hit, if he’s playing well.
  • T.J. Watt’s 5th year option may need to be taken, leaving his next contract till Ben leaves.
  • Restructure Stephon Tuitt’s contract as he’s the only non-Rookie deal player on-contract in 2022.
  • If Steven Nelson continues his performance growth in 2020, sign him to a 3-4 year deal.
  • Joe Haden will need a contract restructure, cutting, or—if Ben doesn’t come back healthy—a trade to a Super Bowl-ready team.
  • Pending the above, Mike Hilton is a massive question mark. I can’t seem him staying after 2020.
  • A hard decision is coming on Alejandro Villanueva vs. Matt Feiler. Let’s pray Al is open to a team friendly deal?
  • Assign the 2022 Franchise Tag to David DeCastro unless he can be re-signed in 2020 for 3+ years.
  • Don’t complicate any of the above with trying to keep Bud Dupree, focus on the rest!
  • Trade or cut Vance McDonald, ideally trade him this season to get another 2021 draft pick.
  • Trade Vince Williams Week 4-6 if Ulysees Gilbert III performs & a run-stopper vet is available.
  • Use the cap space from Vance and Vince, with Dupree going too, to keep JuJu for 3-4 years.
  • If Chris Boswell is kicking well, it may be worth signing him on a longer-term deal as he’s 29.
  • As for James Conner, the Steeler’s cheap running back room is an asset, an incentive laden deal is best.

Now I’ve had the chance to play General Manager (Kevin Colbert) and President of Football & Business Administration (Omar Khan), I’d like to see how you’d manage the Steelers’ likely 5%-10% salary cap reduction in 2021 to keep their Super Bowl window open?

Did the Steelers or Seahawks make a better deal in acquiring a superstar safety?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/26/2020 - 8:30am
Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Two of the best safeties in football have been on the move with the last year

Within the calendar year both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jamal Adams, the two safeties who earned first-team AP All-Pro in 2019, have been traded away from their original clubs. While Minkah Fitzpatrick has already gotten nearly a full season under his belt, Adams was only just dealt. So, today I want to compare which team won each respected trade at the time it took place.

Let’s kick things off with Minkah Fitzpatrick.

At the point of the trade back in September, Minkah Fitzpatrick was already seen as a high-quality safety at the start of his sophomore season. In 18 career games, Fitzpatrick put up 91 tackles and 2 interceptions. He had three years remaining on his contract and was unhappy at the direction of the tanking Dolphins and his deployment, which brought him too requesting a trade.

On September 16, the Miami Dolphins dealt Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 seventh-round pick, in exchange for a first and fifth-round pick in 2020 and 2021 sixth-round pick.

Jamal Adams had already played two more seasons than Fitzpatrick when he was traded Saturday. In his first three seasons in New York Adams was named to 2 Pro Bowl teams, 2 times named All-Pro (2nd team in 2018, 1st team in 2019), racked up 273 tackles, and added 6 interceptions. Adams has two years left on his deal and requested a trade after the Jets were unwilling to offer him a big enough contract extension.

Adams would be traded to Seattle along with a fourth round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for safety Bradley McDougald, first and third-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft and a first-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Lets take a closer look at the total compensation:

Fitzpatrick Trade

Steelers receive:
Minkah Fitzpatrick
2020 4th Round Pick
2021 7th Round Pick

Dolphins receive:
2020 1st Round Pick
2020 5th Round Pick
2021 6th Round Pick

Adams Trade

Seahawks receive:
Jamal Adams
2022 4th Round Pick

Jets receive:
Bradley McDougald
2021 1st Round Pick
2021 3rd Round Pick
2022 1st Round Pick

The facts at the time of each trade are that Jamal Adams is probably the best safety in football, the Dolphins version of Minkah Fitzpatrick was around the top 10. Adams has less years remaining on his deal, and that both players have dominated going all the way back through high school.

All that being said, the Steelers got a steal of a deal when compared to the Seahawks. Only one first-round pick and they traded up in the mid rounds of the 2020 draft. Minkah Fitzpatrick developing into a top-three safety once in Pittsburgh also really helps his case.

The Seahawks had to give up a starting safety, 2 first-round picks, and a 3rd rounder, for potentially only two seasons of Jamal Adams. The ‘hawks will be affected by this deal for years to come, they are immediately a bigger threat in the NFC, but if they can't retain Adams services they could be in for a sharp decline in 2022.

I believe the Steelers undoubtedly got the better deal, and potentially will have Fitzpatrick on the roster a lot longer than Adams in Seattle.

But what do you think? Who made the better deal? Make sure you vote in the poll and let us know down in the comments below.

Podcast: There will officially be a Steelers season, but for how long?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/26/2020 - 6:00am

There is plenty to discuss on the latest episode of the popular new podcast Steelers Brunch w/ Tony.

NFL owners and players have agreed on a deal that will allow teams to forge ahead with training camps and a full regular season. That means that there will officially be a Steelers season and there’s plenty to be excited about. But will that excitement last? This is going to be the talking point in the latest podcast featuring Tony Defeo. Welcome to Steelers Brunch with Tony! Join the veteran BTSC contributor as he discusses the upcoming Steelers season.

Check out the rundown of the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section below!

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • It’s official: There will be a Steelers season
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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.

Black and Gold Links: Will the Steelers keep 5 outside linebackers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/26/2020 - 5:00am
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

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

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. With the scheduled start of training camp just days away, it looks like we’ll have to wait until opening weekend to see the Steelers take the field. Just because the NFL has cancelled the preseason doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at the reserves at the outside linebacker position.

Let’s get to the news:

Room for five outside linebackers on Steelers?

By: Dale Lolley, DK Pittsburgh Sports

The Steelers will open training camp July 28 at Heinz Field. As is usually the case, camp will include a number of battles, not just for roster spots, but for starting jobs.

This series will take a look at those battles as we head into camp.

Today: Backup outside linebackers

Who: Alex Highsmith, Ola Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper, James Lockhart

The Skinny: T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree are locked in as the starters and came within a half a half sack of the team record for combined sacks by the starting outside linebacking duo.

They’ll both play 85 to 90 percent of the snaps. But with Anthony Chickillo gone, somebody needs to pick up the slack to handle those 10 to 15 plays per game when Watt or Dupree aren’t out there. Chickillo played 143 snaps in 11 games in 2019.

Adeniyi was the fourth outside linebacker last season and that added up to playing 62 snaps, mostly when Chickillo was out, so in reality, we’re talking about somebody to handle around 200 snaps, assuming Watt and Dupree stay healthy.

Highsmith, a third-round draft pick, is making the roster. But the question is whether he’ll be ready to make the jump from Charlotte, where he was very productive as a senior, to the NFL?

If not, the Steelers might feel the need to keep five outside linebackers instead of four, opening up another spot on the roster.

Adeniyi, as the most experienced player among the group, would seem to have one of those spots all but locked up. He played 222 special teams snaps last season in addition to his play on defense.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Previewing the Steelers defensive line

Steelers’ 90-man roster: DL

By: Jim Wexell, Steelers Digest

ON THE ROSTER NOW: Tyson Alualu, Isaiah Buggs, Josiah Coatney, Carlos Davis, Dewayne Hendrix, Cam Heyward, Dan McCullers, Henry Mondeaux, Calvin Taylor, Stephon Tuitt, Cavon Walker, Chris Wormley.

ON THE ROSTER IN SEPTEMBER: Over Mike Tomlin’s 13 seasons, the Steelers on the average have kept 6.46 defensive linemen per season, so it has either been six or seven seemingly every other season.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT: Even being without starting defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt for 10 games last season, the Steelers allowed only 3.8 yards rushing per carry, their best per-carry run defensive average since 2012.

KEY DEPARTURES: A big part of that run defense is gone with the departure of starting nose tackle/nickel tackle Javon Hargrave in free agency. Not an insignificant loss, but it became clear the Steelers couldn’t pay all three of their starting linemen top dollar. Losing a still-ascending 27-year-old homegrown product is difficult, particularly being that Hargrave was an interior defensive lineman who can pressure quarterbacks (four sacks last season).

KEY ADDITIONS: Wormley couldn’t stop talking about his childhood love for the Steelers at his coming-out NFL Combine in 2017. The Steelers were interested in the Michigan prospect with the classic Steelers 5-technique frame (6-5, 298), but the Ravens drafted him in the third round. He played three seasons with the Ravens, made.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Steelers training camp questions: Can they bounce back under Ben Roethlisberger?

By: Brooke Pryor, ESPN

The Pittsburgh Steelers open 2020 NFL training camp on July 28 at Heinz Field. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:

Will Ben Roethlisberger’s return be the catalyst for JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner to have bounce-back seasons?

Without Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ offense was stilted and toothless last season. Defenses weren’t convinced in the ability of backups Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges to throw the ball downfield. The pair ranked last in the NFL for average completed air yards at 4.5, allowing defenses to load up the box to stuff the run.

Although the Steelers averaged 90 rushing yards per game in 2018 and 2019, yards per carry dropped to just 3.7 last season, down from 4.2 the year before. Roethlisberger’s return will force defenses to defend the pass and free up room for running back James Conner to work. And while JuJu Smith-Schuster will definitely benefit from Roethlisberger’s return, the bigger catalyst to a bounce-back season will be the emergence of a solid No. 2 receiving threat. That guy could be Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron or rookie Chase Claypool. Though Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing yards in 2018, his completed air yards per attempt was only slightly better than Rudolph and Hodges’ at 4.8.

But as the No. 2 receiver to No. 1 Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster had a Pro Bowl season with 111 receptions, 1,426 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Without Brown, Smith-Schuster was targeted far less last season — just 70 times — but that was due to a combination of factors: his health, lack of consistent receiver support and quarterback instability. Roethlisberger has a proven chemistry with Smith-Schuster, but his return alone can’t spark a comeback for the fourth-year receiver.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Ben Roethlisberger was the key difference between Antonio Brown and Hines Ward

Zach Banner’s latest video is a social media gem

There will be financial ramifications if players break in-season safety protocols

Which Steelers will be in the NFL top 100 players?

The complete training camp schedule for 2020

  • Social Media Madness

.@minkfitz_21 appreciation post pic.twitter.com/FT82kp23HH

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 25, 2020

Statement from #Steelers President Art Rooney II: pic.twitter.com/5j5bUe2a4G

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 25, 2020

Statements from the #Steelers & ILB coach Jerry Olsavsky on the passing of former Steelers G Carlton Haselrig: pic.twitter.com/Xx1maXYnuL

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 25, 2020

Seattle Seahawks acquire safety Jamal Adams from New York Jets

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/25/2020 - 3:50pm
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Jets receive safety Brandon McDougald as well as two first round picks.

The New York Jets have traded disgruntled All-Pro safety Jamal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a player and multiple first round draft picks. The deal is pending physicals.

Trade:
Jets deal Jamal Adams and 4th-round pick in 2022

To

Seattle, in exchange for Bradley McDougald (safety), 1st-round pick in 2021, 3rd-round pick in 2021, and 1st-round pick in 2022, source tells ESPN.

Deal is pending physicals.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 25, 2020

Adams was drafted with the sixth overall pick of the 2017 draft out of LSU. After starting all 16 games his first two seasons, Adams earned All-Pro honors in 2019 although he missed two games. Adams also has a Pro Bowl selection from 2018 on his resume.

In hopes of receiving a new long-term contract before the end of his rookie deal, Adams requested a trade from the New York Jets this offseason.

The other player involved in the trade was Seattle safety Bradley McDougald. Undrafted out of Kansas in 2013, McDougald originally signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. After being promoted from the practice squad his rookie year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed McDougald off waivers. McDonald joined the Seahawks in 2017 and has one year remaining on his contract.

The New York Jets will acquire Seattle’s first and third-round draft picks in the 2021 draft. The Jets will also receive Seattle’s 2022 first-round draft pick while sending back their fourth round pick in return.

Washington’s Alex Smith has been cleared to play football again

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/25/2020 - 3:02pm
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Veteran QB has been cleared to return to football activities after a horrific injury in 2018.

Washington Football Club quarterback Alex Smith has been cleared to return to football activities for the first time since fracturing his tibia and fibula back in 2018.

I had a conversation with Alex Smith today and, well, I hope you’ll read this:

Washington QB Alex Smith cleared for full football activity after broken leg https://t.co/Lpn9zH27Cg

— Stephania Bell (@Stephania_ESPN) July 24, 2020

After the initial injury Smith would be in a battle for his life when the injury turned necrosis. Another 17 surgeries would save both the gunslinger’s leg and his life.

The injury and resulting rehabilitation would be depicted in the E:60 documentary ‘Project 11’. Throughout the film we learned just how close Smith was to losing his leg, and the relationship Smith built with military veterans who have lost limbs at a San Antonio based rehab clinic.

The 15-year vet is expected to report to training camp this week. Once their the ‘Football Team’ will determine the next plans in Smith’s return to play plan. Smith noted this is ‘just the first step’ and has a long way to go before he can lace up his cleats on Sundays.

Smith’s contract runs through 2022.

The Steelers IDER plan has been accepted by the NFLPA

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/25/2020 - 2:38pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers are one of 12 NFL teams whose plan has been given approval by the Players Association.

In order for NFL teams to be completely ready to conduct training camp in 2020, the NFLPA must approve their Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan (IDER). According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the 12 teams who have been approved.

The NFLPA has approved the infectious Disease Emergency Responses (IDER) of 12 teams as of today, per source: Chiefs, Texans, Dolphins, Ravens, Panthers, Bills, Lions, Bengals, Giants, Jaguars, Steelers, Broncos

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) July 25, 2020

On Wednesday it has been revealed that eight NFL teams had their plans excepted by the NFLPA. Those teams were the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, and Miami Dolphins. The Steelers are one of four teams who have been added to the list along with the Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Giants.

IDER plans are set in place so teams have a response should there be an outbreak of COVID-19 within their facility. The plans also appears to include procedures for the safety of all personnel and procedures involved at the facility in order to reduce the spread should someone be unaware they have the disease.

With the NFLPA agreeing to the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement to cover the 2020 season, the final step for every team to begin training camp is to have an approved IDER. With the Steelers now on the approved list, players will be able to report on Tuesday for training camp in order to receive their first COVID-19 test.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Spencer Nigh

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/25/2020 - 1:45pm
Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

Moving on with part 62 of our 90-part series — assuming the roster does not change before we are complete — which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s take a look at 2020 UDFA fullback:

Spencer Nigh

Position: FB
Height: 6’ 0”
Weight: 267 lbs
College: Auburn
Draft: UDFA in 2020

2019 stats (NCAA)

1 Rushing Atempt
2 Yards
13 games played
0 Touchdowns

Contract remaining

Expires in 2023
$610,883 salary cap number (0.3% of total cap)
$833 Dead money
$610,000 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Next to none. The Steelers would be making a mistake if they chose to carry two fullbacks throughout training camp in favor of cutting someone from another position group. Derek Watt is being paid the third highest salary among fullbacks so to think Nigh has any real chance of making this team would be a mistake.

2020 projection

I would predict that Spencer Nigh would be one of the 10 early training camp cuts if and when the roster will be trimmed to 80 men due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even if he were able to make it through training camp, Nigh would have to somehow prove he’s better then Derek Watt and take his job away from him. Considering how good Watt has been during his career, I just can’t imagine world where Nigh could beat out Derek Watt.

Projected stats:

N/A cut

Summary

While I believe that the fullback position is making a come back. I just don’t see a world where any team is keeping multiple fullbacks on the roster. If it comes down to keeping another receiver, lineman, or fullback I would put a substantial bet that the extra fullback isn't going to make it. I hope theirs a spot somewhere for Nigh to make it in this league, but he’s come into the NFL when the chances of him making this team are at an all-time low. It will be interesting to see if he even makes it through camp and might be something paying attention too when camp gets a little closer.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh
Carlos Davis
David DeCastro
Christian DiLauro
Kevin Dotson
Bud Dupree
Eric Ebron
Terrell Edmunds
Trey Edmunds
Matt Feiler
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Zach Gentry
Ulysees Gilbert III
Derwin Gray
Joe Haden
J.C. Hassenauer
Quadree Henderson
Dewayne Hendrix
Cam Heyward
Alex Highsmith
Mike Hilton
Devlin Hodges
John Houston
Anthony Johnson
Diontae Johnson
Jarron Jones
John Keenoy
Tyree Kinnel
Christian Kuntz
Justin Layne
Leo Lewis
James Lockhart
Paxton Lynch
Dan McCullers
Vance McDonald
Anthony McFarland Jr.
Henry Mondeaux
Christian Montano
Alexander Myres
Steven Nelson

NFLPA sends players a schedule for 2020 training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/25/2020 - 12:43pm
Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The training camp schedule will look the same for 30 NFL teams.

The schedule for the 2020 NFL training camps across the NFL was sent to players earlier on Saturday. This schedule will be followed by 30 of the 32 NFL teams as the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs begin their training camp a few days earlier.

NFL players just received this email breaking down how this unique training camp will work: pic.twitter.com/UoCwXxialO

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 25, 2020

According to the schedule sent by the NFLPA, the first padded practice will be on Monday, August 17, 2020. The first few days of training camp this coming week will consist of COVID-19 testing and virtual meetings. Players will then begin their ramp-up period of conditioning and small group activities.

The NFL iis still set to kick off their season on Thursday, September 10, 2020 with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans. The NFL will continue with its slate of 13 games on Saturday, September 13, 2020 followed by two Monday night games on September 14. The Steelers are set to face the New York Giants at the Meadowlands in the earlier of the two Monday night games.

Predicting which Steelers will land in the NFL Top 100

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/25/2020 - 12:00pm
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Earlier this week it was revealed that three Steelers will make the list, so who will they be and where will they fall?

This weekend NFL Network will be revealing their Top 100 Players of 2020 as voted on by fellow NFL players. While we will have to wait until Sunday to see how the list shapes out, the NFL did give fans an early sneak peak when they released a list of how many players from each team made the list. The Steelers only have three players who will make the cut, a disappointing number when you consider the division rival Ravens and Browns have 7 and 4 respectively. The complete breakdown by team can be seen below:

Top 100 Players of 2020 by team - can you guess every player who makes the list? from nfl

So the question then becomes which Steelers players made the list, and where did they land. I decided I'd take a shot at predicting how the list will turn out, but first, let's name a few honorable mentions.

The first name that comes to mind is Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers longtime starting quarterback missed almost all of the 2019 NFL season, but still could have found a spot on the list considering he has been on the list every year since it began back in 2012. Unfortunately, it appears as though his injury was enough to not only drop him below his 44th ranked position last season but off the list completely.

JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner are two more players who made the top 100 last year but likely won't this season. After injuries and quarterback woes plagued each of their 2019 campaigns, the two young offensive playmakers will have to work to earn back a spot in the top 100 next summer.

The last player who deserves a mention even though his name probably won't be mentioned this weekend is David DeCastro. DeCastro was snubbed off of last year's list and with the news that only three Steelers are in the top 100 it seems more than likely he will be snubbed again. There is a case to be made for all four of these players and even a few other Steelers to make the list, but unfortunately they all seem destined to fall short.

So, now that we have covered the honorable mentions, let's get into the players who I believe will make an appearance on the list.

Cameron Heyward (#47)

Cam has made the list each of the past two years, finishing 48th in 2018 and 88th in 2019. While I personally believe he deserves to be much higher than 47th, it's hard to imagine a jump of more than 30 or 40 spots in just one season. Last year he solidified himself as one of the top interior linemen in the league by recording 9 sacks and 81 total tackles (the highest mark of his career). He also earned a first-team All-Pro nod for the second time since 2017. The last time he received that honor he finished 48th on the list, so it would make sense for him to find himself right around that spot again. Additionally, it would be fitting for him to take the 47 spot as it was held by another Steeler (Juju Smith-Schuster) last year. Entering a contract year in which he will try to earn a sizable extension, it wouldn't be surprising to see Cam continue to dominate and bring his ranking up even more come next summer.

Minkah Fitzpatrick (#39)

It might be wishful thinking to believe that someone left completely off of Pete Prisco's Top 100 list will finish in the top 40, but I certainly think it's possible. Minkah is coming off of a true breakout season that saw him not only nab 5 interceptions but also earn first-team All-Pro honors. He emerged as one of the top young talents at the safety position and is well on his way to becoming a superstar in the NFL. Last year, three safeties finished in the top 40, with Jamal Adams, Derwin James, and Eddie Jackson taking spots #37, #31, and #30 respectively. What's interesting to note is that each of these players was coming off of their first All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection. Minkah is in that exact same position so he should fall somewhere near where they did. The #39 position would seem appropriate for a guy who started wearing #39 when he arrived in Pittsburgh and began to dominate.

T.J. Watt (#10)

The only Steelers players ever to finish in the top ten are Antonio Brown and Le'veon Bell. I think that'll change this year with T.J. Watt coming in at #10 on the list. The young outside linebacker established himself as one of the top defensive threats in the league by recording 14.5 sacks and 8 forced fumbles last season. He finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting and made the All-Pro team not once, but twice (as an edge rusher and as a linebacker). In my opinion the only defenders who deserve to be above him at this point in his career are Aaron Donald and Stephon Gilmore, although an argument could be made for a handful of other players. I am slightly fearful that because of his low finish on the list last year (#93), he will not receive the respect he deserves, but I am remaining optimistic that players around the league will recognize just how great of a player T.J. has become. Oh, and if they somehow still put his brother J.J. above him after he played only 8 games and had just 4 sacks last season, please put me in contact with the people who voted.

So what Steelers do you think will make the NFL Top 100? And where on the list do you think they will fall? Let us know in comments.

NFL players could face fines for breaking off-field restrictions negotiated by NFLPA

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/25/2020 - 11:30am
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

In order to maintain a safer locker room environment, players have agreed to limit their outside contact during the season.

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk has reported NFL players will be restricted in their outside contact during the NFL season. According to Florio, players could face fines for violating contact protocols beyond the scope of football.

Per source, players cannot be present at indoor night clubs, indoor bars (except to pickup food), indoor house parties (with 15 or more people), indoor concerts, professional sporting events, or indoor church services that allow attendance above 25 percent of capacity.

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 25, 2020

With many of the same restrictions being in place in NFL cities across the country, players have agreed to limit their contact during the season in order to help limit exposing themselves and their teammates as much as possible.

Not only could players face fines, if it is determined they violated the agreement and test positive for COVID-19, their game checks and future salary considerations could be voided.

Policing these restrictions will be an interesting procedure for the NFL. Many players in the NFL have already been encouraged to limit or delete their social media. But rather than worry about being caught for not following the restrictions they agreed on in order to play in the NFL, perhaps players greater concern should be following said restrictions.

It will be interesting to see if players site these restrictions as a reason for any of them to opt out of the 2020 season. Hopefully it will not be a cause for concern. If players are overly concerned for the safety of themselves and their families, these extra activities should be something they avoid regardless.

The biggest difference between Hines Ward and Antonio Brown’s stats was Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/25/2020 - 10:15am
Photo by Rob Leiter via Getty Images

Digging into the stats for the Steelers top two career receiving leaders.

With Antonio Brown briefly claiming to have finished his NFL career, the debate on whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame has erupted. One of the big discussions has been whether Hines Ward should get into the Hall of Fame before Antonio Brown.

This debate often centers on Brown’s production versus Ward’s Super Bowl wins and intangibles. While most people understand that the Steelers passed less during Ward’s career, but I don’t think people realize just how different the offense was during Ward’s prime.

Antonio Brown came into the league in 2010, and his last season with the Steelers was 2018, a run of 9 seasons. If we take the same time frame in Hines Ward’s career, we would be looking at 1998-2006. For this study, I want to look at these time frames.

One thing both Brown and Ward have in common is they didn’t play much in their rookie season, and they both broke out in their second year. Ward’s rookie season was better than Brown’s, but it still wasn’t anything impressive. So to get more accurate numbers for who they were when they were significant parts of the offense, we are going to ignore their rookie seasons leaving us to compare 8 years of their careers.

First off, the receiving totals:

Hines Ward, 1999-2006: 7759 yards, 58 TDs.

Antonio Brown, 2011-2018: 11040 yards, 74 TDs.

For a lot of people, that’s all you need to see. Antonio Brown had 42% more yards and 25% more touchdowns, so he’s that much better. But to really get the value of a receiver, you need to also consider the offense he was in, so let’s add in the Steelers passing totals from those seasons.

1999-2006
Steelers: 25,029 yards, 156 TDs.
Hines Ward: 7759 yards, 58 TDs.
Hines Ward accounted for 31.00% of team passing yards, 37.18% of team receiving touchdowns.

2011-2018
Steelers: 34,876 yards, 230 TDs.
Antonio Brown: 11040 yards, 74 TDs.
Antonio Brown accounted for 31.66% of team passing yards, 32.17% of team receiving touchdowns.

It’s pretty easy to see their percentages of the team passing game are very close, even though their totals are very different. That is because the Steelers from 1999-2006 ranked 24th in passing yards, while they ranked 4th from 2011-2018. The leading passers for the 1999-2006 time period were Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox, with Ben Roethlisberger third, all three with over 1000 pass attempts. Mike Tomczak and Kent Graham both threw at least a hundred passes as well. From 2011-2018, Ben Roethlisberger threw the vast majority of the passes, with Landry Jones the only other quarterback with at least 100 attempts.

The years for Ward which include Ben Roethlisberger involve his first two seasons when he threw less than 300 passes in each season. It also included the 2006 season which was by far Ben Roethlisberger’s worst season when a motorcycle accident led to the worst passer rating of his career. It the only season Roethlisberger has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, and the only season Roethlisberger started at least three games and ended the season with a losing record. Meanwhile, from 2011-2018, Ben Roethlisberger ranked 6th in passing yards and touchdowns and went to 5 Pro Bowls. Only Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees went to more. Kordell Stewart went to the Pro Bowl in 2001, but with fewer passing yards than Ben Roethlisberger had in any season from 2011-2018.

The point here is that looking deeper at the statistics and the situations for Hines Ward and Antonio Brown, it isn’t hard to make the argument that the quarterback play was a bigger factor in their production than the difference in talent level.

There are a few more levels of analysis that show similarities, Hines Ward’s yards per target was 118% of team yards per attempt, while Antonio Brown’s yards per target was 120% of team yards per attempt. If you take Hines Ward’s targets and readjust them to be at 120% of team yards per attempt instead of 118%, you end up with 105 more yards gained over 8 seasons, 13 yards per year.

Similarly, if you take Hines Ward’s percentage of team yards and touchdowns and apply it to the Steelers numbers from 2011-2018, you end up with 228 yards less than Antonio Brown and 7 more touchdowns. This equates to roughly 30 yards less a season, and 1 TD more.

Those are nominal differences. Antonio Brown and Hines Ward accounted for roughly the same percentage of team passing offense from their second to eighth season in the NFL.

Even if we look at big plays, Hines Ward had 9 receptions of 50 or more yards between 1998 and 2006, and the Steelers had 27 total. Antonio Brown had 14 receptions of 50 or more yards from 2011-2018, the Steelers had 42 total. Both accounted for exactly one third of team passing plays of 50+ yards.

Lastly, Hines Ward led the Steelers in receiving in 6 of the 8 years we looked at, while Antonio Brown led the team in 5 of 8 years

Across the board, Hines Ward and Antonio Brown were very close in their percentage of team passing offense, and while I will not argue that Antonio Brown did play a part in the Steelers passing more, I will argue that the difference in quarterback talent is a much, much bigger factor.

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