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2019 NFL Draft: Grading the Steelers 6th round pick Ulysees Gilbert III

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 3:37pm

With the 207th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Akron LB Ulysees Gilbert III

The Pittsburgh Steelers used their third and final pick of the sixth round to select Akron LB Ulysees Gilbert III. The young man immediately gains acceptance on the NFL's All Name team. I would have absolutely loved to have been the individual given the prestigious honor to announce his selection. The name is just fun to say. Don't believe me, give it a spin. It is impossible not to smile when you say it. In a draft class comprised with some questionable; dare I say disappointing, selections, Ulysees Gilbert III is a breath of fresh air. It just rolls off the tongue.

Now what about Ulysees the player? The first word that comes up in most profiles is undersized. Ulysees has prototypical size for a safety, problem is he is a linebacker. At 6' and 225lbs he may struggle with getting off blocks and matching up with size in coverage. He would have struggled to stay on the field back in the day, but his athleticism and coverage ability makes him an intriguing prospect in sub package defenses popping up in today's NFL. If Ulysees proves to be a strong special teams performer as expected, he has a real shot to make the roster. I am excited about the potential of this pick.

I feel Gilbert represents great value at this point in the draft so I am giving his selection a grade of A.

What overall grade do you give this selection? Please vote in the attached poll and explain why in the comments section below.

Welcome to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ulysees Gilbert III. From all of us at Steelers Nation!

Scouting the Steelers 2019 NFL Draft picks: TE Zach Gentry

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 2:15pm

We take a look at the scouting reports written about the Steelers fifth-round draft picks this offseason

The Pittsburgh Steelers selection of Michigan tight end Zach Gentry was something of a surprise pick in the fifth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft, a player many experts had projected to go few round later. And although the young tight end did not necessarily impress at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier in the year, his size should make him a mismatch for defenders as long as he can learn to use his physical gifts.

When reading the scouting reports written about him ahead of the draft, the experts seem to see a player who still has a lot of development ahead of him, but one who could also have some situational value while he works on some of the fundamental aspects of the position.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com:

“With his size and background at Michigan, teams might be tempted to play him as a combination tight end with run-blocking duties, but he’s much better-suited in space than in the trenches. Gentry runs pretty well and moves fluidly as a route-runner, but his hands and focus can be maddening. He showed flashes of what he could do with a more capable quarterback last year, but his disappointing workouts and testing might have pushed back and out of the draft.”

Matt Miller, Bleacher Report:

STRENGTHS

Smooth runner on film who gets into his route cleanly and has good cuts and breaks at his route stem.

Big target over the middle with a high football IQ. Makes himself available to the quarterback with his eyes and his body.

Has some seam speed and value as a 50-50 option down the field. His 34⅛-inch arms give him a massive catch radius.

Will post up defenders over the middle and isn’t afraid of traffic.

Developmental body that looks like it has room to grow; former quarterback who still has the lean body more natural to his old position.

WEAKNESSES

Among the stiffest players evaluated in the entire 2019 draft class. Lacks the light feet and loose hips to make cuts and pull away from coverage.

Tested below-average athletically with a 4.9-second 40-yard dash, 29½-inch vertical jump, 110-inch broad jump, 7.4-second three-cone drill and just 12 bench-press reps. Each was good for the bottom 25th percentile among tight ends or worse.

Lacks play strength, especially in the blocking game.

His hands are incredibly inconsistent; he double catches a lot of balls and lets way too many throws get into his body.

Doesn’t appear to be super coordinated; doesn’t have good body control or flexibility.

OVERALL

Zach Gentry is a former quarterback who still has room to develop physically and mentally as a three-down tight end. He didn’t develop much in the Michigan offense and will need time to acclimate to the NFL. He’s a draft-and-stash type of player and not an early-impact tight end.

GRADE: 5.40 (ROUND 6 — BACKUP CALIBER) PRO COMPARISON: Ryan Griffin

Kyle Crabbs, The Draft Network:

Zach Gentry is a seam-buster Tight End prospect who has attractive size and mobility to be considered a receiving asset at the next level. His height will serve as a natural barrier to playing with necessary functional strength, but when Gentry is placed into space and allowed to work vertically he does strong work against linebackers and safeties. Gentry may never be a featured full-time TE but his skills have a place at the next level as a receiving threat.”

Joe Marino, The Draft Network:

“While Gentry may be built like an in-line tight end, his lack of power at the point of attack and elongated releases into his route stems present notable restrictions. Gentry is most effective as a middle of the field receiver where his ball skills, hands and ability to extend and already massive catch radius frequently shows up. Limited athletic ability and leverage challenges do temper his next level projection, but Gentry has some appeal in sub packages as a TE 2/3.”

With pick 141 in the 2019 NFL Draft, the #Steelers select Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan.

Zach Gentry posted a V.Poor #RAS with Elite size, Poor speed, Poor explosiveness, Poor agility at the TE position. pic.twitter.com/9592udkkaN

— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 27, 2019

Zach Gentry was a versatile tight end at Michigan. pic.twitter.com/EcemBi0GIV

— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 28, 2019

With the 141st pick in the 2019 #NFLDraft – the Pittsburgh Steelers select Michigan TE Zach Gentry! pic.twitter.com/i0tb6hAbok

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 27, 2019

Watching his highlight videos shows a player who could possibly become a viable redzone target in the Steelers offense. Warning, some of the tracks that accompany these videos contains profanity and most of the music is fairly bad:

Projected salary cap costs of Steelers 2019 Day 3 draft picks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 1:07pm

We take a look at the expected four-year rookie deals the players selected on day three of the draft are projected to earn from the Steelers this offseason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected six more players during day three of the 2019 NFL Draft, adding running back Benny Snell Jr., tight end Zach Gentry, edge rusher Sutton Smith, defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs, linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III and offensive lineman Derwin Grey over the final four rounds.

Unlike the prospects taken in round one, none of the names selected on Saturday will see anywhere near the $19 million contract that Devin Bush is projected to receive as the 10th overall pick this offseason, but all will receive at least $1 million or more from the Steelers if they can make through two years in Pittsburgh.

Thanks to a sliding scale for rookie contracts agreed to under the terms of the CBA, each player should already have a good idea of how much being drafted by the Steelers will pay them, and using figures generated by OverTheCap.com, we can now also work out how much the they will cost Pittsburgh over the length of their rookie deals as well.

With $570,000 the lowest figure currently counting against the team’s cap under the Rule of 51, none of the players taken on day three will have any significant impact on the Steelers cap position this year. Once all of the prospects drafted in 2019 have signed their deals, the only part of their contract that will count against the cap this offseason will be the prorated signing bonus portion of their deal. A figure that should come in at a little over $400,000.

Scouting the Steelers 2019 NFL Draft picks: RB Benny Snell Jr.

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 12:03pm

We take a look at the scouting reports written about the Steelers fourth-round draft picks this offseason

Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. was the 10th player taken at his position when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in round four, much to the delight of some fans. And while there are others who question his speed and athleticism, there is still a lot to like about his game.

Reading the scouting reports written about him ahead of the draft, there appears to be no doubts about his toughness, durability and physical style of play, but doubts remain about how well his skills will translate to the professional level when playing against stronger and faster players.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com:

“Downhill grinder with an ability to create for himself with his vision and power, but lacking desired level of elusiveness and burst as an NFL runner. Snell is a touchdown hog whose scores were often earned and rarely given. Teams will like his toughness, size and instincts, but he must improve has blitz pickup to counter his athletic limitations. He needs to find the right fit to become an average RB2/RB3.”

Matt Miller, Bleacher Report:

POSITIVES:

Built like a truck at 5’10”, 224 pounds with excellent upper- and lower-body strength.

Productive runner who, in three seasons, became the all-time leading rusher at Kentucky.

One-cut, downhill back who gets a full head of steam early in his rush; will drop his shoulders and run with good power between the tackles.

Patient and smart with good vision; lets the play develop and trusts his blockers.

Fantastic short-yardage and goal-line back who will get his shoulders square and use his strength to pick up tough yards.

NEGATIVES:

Not as explosive as a power back should be; limited burst in his game and failed to test as an athlete with suddenness.

Timed speed (4.66 40-yard dash) is poor for a starting running back and will make scouts recheck his tape looking for chunk plays.

Looks stiff with limited hip flexibility and slow, heavy feet.

Has the build of a tough guy but doesn’t stand his ground as a pass-protector.

Won’t run away from defenders; lacks the speed to reach and turn the corner.

OVERALL:

Snell was incredibly productive at Kentucky and captured the attention of fans with his dominance in the SEC. But scouts see a tight, slow, limited runner who profiles as a rotational back who can win in short-yardage situations.

GRADE: 5.60 (ROUND 5—BACKUP CALIBER) PRO COMPARISON: Carlos Hyde

Kyle Crabbs, The Draft Network:

Benny Snell projects favorably as a lead back in the NFL, specifically for a gap/power heavy rushing offense. Snell showcases a good nose for the boundary and effective toughness between the tackles, often times grinding out tough yardage and slipping through first contact. Snell possesses admirable YAC abilities and will sneak past you despite a lack of true long speed. An effective pass protector, Snell brings every down upside with him in his transition to the NFL.”

Joe Marino, The Draft Network:

“Snell has been a productive workhorse back for Kentucky over the last three seasons. He has the size and power to operate as a downhill runner in a gap/power scheme in the NFL. While Snell enjoyed terrific production in college, his lack of burst and elusive traits limit his NFL upside. His vision, power and ability to win in pass pro are his keys to success in the NFL. By year three, Snell has the makings of a rotational back that offers value as a battering ram, pass protector and special teams contributor.”

With pick 122 in the 2019 NFL Draft, the #Steelers select Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky.

Benny Snell Jr. posted a Poor #RAS with Good size, Poor speed, Poor explosiveness, Okay agility at the RB position. pic.twitter.com/pRsgdIkJZl

— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 27, 2019

Snell was a true workhorse for Kentucky last season, finishing in the top ten at the position in missed tackles forced, yards after contact and runs of 10 or more yards! pic.twitter.com/XOGZ8knJAn

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) April 27, 2019

New Steelers RB Benny Snell really could crank out yards after contact pic.twitter.com/irtvRvXrzR

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 28, 2019

With the 122nd pick of the 2019 #NFLDraft – the Pittsburgh Steelers select Kentucky RB Benny Snell! #SnellYeah pic.twitter.com/PDJoWo418V

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 27, 2019

Watching his highlight videos shows a player who could quickly become a valuable option coming off the bench to spell James Conner and good option to use around the goalline. Warning some of the tracks that accompany these videos contains profanity and most of the music will make you want to hit the mute button:

2019 NFL Draft: Grading the Steelers’ 6th round pick Isaiah Buggs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 10:52am

With the 192nd pick of the 2019 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers select Alabama DE/DT Isaiah Buggs.

The Pittsburgh Steelers just used their second pick of the sixth round to select a talented defensive lineman, Alabama big man Isaiah Buggs. Buggs is a quandary wrapped in an enigma. As many questions as there is answers. Buggs has the ability to make a impact with the Steelers, but does he have the requisite motivation? It really is all up to him.

First of all, what is his positional fit with the Steelers? Conditioning could very well determine his level of impact with the Steelers. Fatigue can make cowards of us all, and Buggs struggled with conditioning during his time at Alabama. He was dominate in spurts, but tired easily. If he added a little weight, he could prove to be a traditional run stuffing 3-4 nose tackle with some pass rush ability. If he dropped a few pounds, he could play DE and move inside to rush the passer. It will be very intriguing to see what the Steelers plans are for the young man. Buggs selection should help light a fire under a Shade Tree to say the least. The selection could also be viewed as insurance in case the Gravedigger eventually decides he is being miscast as a 3-4 nose tackle.

Isaiah Buggs is a low risk, high reward selection and offers tremendous upside. The future really is up to him. He has the necessary talent to succeed.

Therefore I am giving the Isaiah Buggs selection a grade of A.

What overall grade do you give the selection? Please vote in the attached poll and explain why in the comments section below.

Welcome to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Isaiah Buggs! From all of us at Steelers Nation!

Mike Tomlin refers to the departure of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown as a “cleansing”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 9:45am

While doing an interview with ESPN, Mike Tomlin referred to the departure of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell as a ‘cleansing’.

The 2019 NFL Draft has officially concluded, and with all 32 teams moving onto 2019 with their fresh crop of draft picks and Undrafted Free Agents, there are still some questions lingering from 2018 for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But let’s back up a second.

After the drama surrounding Le’Veon Bell’s no-show and Antonio Brown forcing his way out of Pittsburgh, the Steelers stayed silent. Mike Tomlin didn’t call a press conference while being thrown under the bus, and Ben Roethlisberger didn’t take to the airwaves while is name and stature was being tarnished.

They stayed quiet. But the time to answer questions was coming.

In typical Mike Tomlin fashion, he dodged questions like a pro at the NFL Owner’s Meetings, and even in his pre-draft press conferences, but every now and then Tomlin will give the fan base a little bit of meat to chew on. He did so while talking to ESPN’s Trey Wingo after the draft.

When Tomlin was asked about the departure of both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, his response was candid. “There’s been a cleansing, if you will.”

Mike Tomlin tells ESPN's Trey Wingo, "There's been a cleansing, if you will" when asked about the departures of Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. #Steelers

— Ryan Recker (@RyanRecker) April 27, 2019

There is something to be said about having less drama, less antics and less turmoil surrounding your team. Even if you lose two All-Pro talents, could the team actually improve as a team without them? You know, the classic addition-by-subtraction theory?

Unfortunately, that answer won’t be known until the 2019 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers takes the field and a new core of players attempt to write their own story — one without Brown and Bell.

Will James Conner continue on his upward trajectory and prove Bell is more than replaceable? Will a combination of Donte Moncrief, James Washington, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Vance McDonald, Diontae Johnson and Ryan Switzer prove they can, as a group, pick up the slack left by Brown as he jettisoned to the Raiders?

Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure...I don’t think Mike Tomlin will miss No. 26 and No. 84, and all that surrounded those two players, in 2019 and beyond.

2019 NFL Draft: Grading the Steelers first 6th round pick Sutton Smith

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 8:55am

The Pittsburgh Steelers utilized the 175th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft to select Northern Illinois LB Sutton Smith

Pittsburgh Steelers have three picks in the sixth round and used the initial one to select Northern Illinois LB Sutton Smith. Sutton Smith may just be a man without a position at the moment. He was a two time MAC Defensive Player of the Year and Ted Hendricks Award winner. A dominating small school legend, Smith struggled mightily during Senior Bowl week when challenged to perform against a step up in talent.

Sutton Smith was a defensive end at Northern Illinois, but will undoubtedly have to transition to a edge performer to have a chance to make an NFL roster. Smith is undersized at 6' and 233lbs with marginal athleticism and strength. Smith feels like a project and a long shot to make the Steelers roster. I feel this selection is more about Smith's intangibles than his currant attributes. Smith faces a steep climb to earn a roster spot, especially with a position change thrown in. I wish the young man good luck because I feel he is going to need it. Hopefully the Steelers saw something nobody else recognized. Sutton Smith must focus on being a special teams warrior.

Sixth round selections are acknowledged long shots, so it is hard to gauge actual value. Many UDFA's actually have a better shot to make a team because they choose the destination.

With that undeniable truth in mind, I give the Sutton Smith selection a grade of D.

To be fair, I know precious little about the young man's game. Hopefully he leaves us all pleasantly surprised.

What grade do you give the Sutton Smith selection? Please vote in the attached poll and explain your reasoning in the comments section below.

Welcome to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sutton Smith! From all of us at Steelers Nation!

Justin Layne ditches his Cleveland Browns socks for some Pittsburgh Steelers swag

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 7:45am

For the kid who grew up a Browns fan, he and his family have finally come to the dark side.

Face it, no matter what you may think, every football player has a favorite team growing up. Very few players who reach the NFL level look back and say, “I didn’t really have a favorite team growing up.” No, instead they talk about how growing up in Texas they loved the Cowboys, or how in the Bay area they loved the 49ers.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

For Pittsburgh Steelers 3rd round pick Justin Layne, he grew up in Cleveland rooting for the Browns. His family were, and I use past tense intentionally, huge Browns fans until the Steelers called his name with their third round selection.

In fact, Layne was wearing some Cleveland Browns socks on his feet before the phone rang with a 412 area code. He quickly ditched the orange and brown to don the black-and-gold.

.@_jlayne put on his @steelers hat and took off his @Browns socks. Pittsburgh selected the #Benedictine product with the 83rd overall pick of the #NFLDraft.

To say Layne has a chip on his shoulder would be an understatement. @wkyc @WKYCSports #Steelers #Browns pic.twitter.com/8xQkVtYbej

— Pat Chiesa (@PatChiesa) April 27, 2019

In his conference call with the Pittsburgh media, he was asked what his father thought of all this, considering his fandom prior to the NFL Draft.

“My dad threw away all his Browns stuff. He already has all of his Steelers stuff on him right now. We are ready, we are switching it up.”

Putting family fandom aside, Layne is excited to be a part of the Steelers, a move he felt coming throughout the pre-draft process.

“Yeah, I did. I felt that from the beginning.” He told the media. “I talked to the coaching staff, Coach Tomlin a lot at the Combine. Even at my pre-draft visits, I kind of had a feeling and knew they were going to get me.”

When asked why he had that feeling, his response was simple. “I don’t know. It was just a feeling I had. It was in my dream and just what I felt. I felt like I was going to go against our rivals and they are the rivals to the Browns.”

Playing at Michigan State, the Trojans and Wolverines of Michigan don’t mix. And the Michigan State team doesn’t think too fondly of Mr. Devin Bush. If you recall, it was Bush who stomped, kicked and tried to destroy the Michigan State emblem at midfield before the Michigan/Michigan State game this year.

Does Layne hold any animosity over the incident with his now teammate?

“I trained with him at EXOS and that’s my guy. I can’t wait to compete with him and win some games with him. That’s what happens when you compete and have a dominate competitor. I can’t wait to compete with him, that’s my boy. I have all respect for him.”

I think it is safe to say the Steelers fan base is excited to see if these two defenders can improve their unit in 2019, and help them not just get back to the playoffs, but back to the Super Bowl.

2019 NFL Draft: Grading the Steelers 5th round pick Zach Gentry

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 6:35am

With the 141st pick of the 2019 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers select Michigan TE Zach Gentry

The Pittsburgh Steelers are evidently creatures of habit who resist change. I am basing this theory on the Steelers draft picks thus far. The Steelers organization has grown accustomed to seeing familiar body type walking around the hallowed hallways of Steelers headquarters. That is the only rational explanation I can fathom for a couple of these picks beyond coincidence.

First the Steelers select Diontae Johnson in the third round, who could play Antonio Brown's body double if AB ever decides to take up acting on the silver stage and screen. Now the Steelers turn around in the fifth round and select the clone of recently departed TE Jesse 'The Outlaw' James, now a Detroit Lions employee. I guess absence really does make the heart grow stronger.

I jest, but Pittsburgh Steelers fifth round selection Zach Gentry really does remind me of Jesse James. The are both quite tall, with Gentry topping out at 6'8" and 265lbs. Both men resemble a baby giraffe when they turn to run after the catch due to their extremely long torsos. Gentry tested poorly at the combine. He ran a pedestrian 4.9 40 and only achieved 12 reps in the bench press, so obviously he needs work on his playing strength. Players with extremely long arms are always at a disadvantage on the bench press, but Gentry's lack of overall strength really shows in his blocking.

The good news for Zach Gentry is the fact he is a young man who is new to the position. A former high school quarterback who didn't transition to tight end till he arrived at Michigan, he is still learning the idiosyncrasies of the position. The Steelers are attracted to underclassmen because it gives them more time to grow and develop in their system. Mission accomplished with the Zach Gentry selection, and he is going to need the Steelers to be patient.

Gentry was projected to be a late round selection to a priority free agent, so this pick feels a little like a reach. Gentry may eventually prove to be a adequate replacement for James on the field, not just in the team picture. Only time will tell and thankfully he is a underclassman. But is that the goal with a fifth round selection? Does that represent good draft value?

For that reason I must give the Zach Gentry selection a grade of C.

What overall grade do you give this selection? Please vote in the attached poll and explain why in the comments section below.

Welcome to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Zach Gentry! From all of us at Steelers Nation!

Podcast: Steelers finish strong on Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 5:26am

As the 2019 NFL Draft is finally here, we give you our reaction to the Steelers Day 3 picks.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers season is over, and while the team isn’t playing anymore, it doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to discuss — so it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest podcast on the BTSC platform. On this show Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis break down the Steelers Day 3 draft picks

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Breaking down the Steelers Day 3 picks
  • Where the Steelers go from here...
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, Bryan Anthony Davis and Dave Schofield 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.

Complete list of Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 Draft picks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/28/2019 - 4:34am

The 2019 NFL Draft is in the books, and time to take a look at the players the Steelers added throughout the 7-round process.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, along with all 32 NFL franchises, have completed the 7-round process called the 2019 NFL Draft. While teams will continue to add Undrafted Free Agents (UDFA), it is time to recap who the teams collected during the draft.

While some fans are die hard draftniks, others simply wait to see who their favorite team added. For those who just want to know who the Steelers drafted, what position and where they came from...here is your list.

2019 NFL Draft Results

Round 1 - Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan

Simon Chester

Round 2 - Traded to Denver

Round 3 - Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo

Simon Chester

Round 3 - Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State

Simon Chester

Round 4 - Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky

Simon Chester

Round 5 - Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan

Simon Chester

Round 6 - Sutton Smith, LB, Northern Illinois

Simon Chester

Round 6 - Isaiah Buggs, DT, Alabama

Simon Chester

Round 6 - Ulysees Gilbert III, LB, Akron

Simon Chester

Round 7 - Derwin Gray, G, Maryland

Simon Chester

The Draft may be over, but the analysis is just beginning. Make sure you stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news, rumors and updates surrounding the black-and-gold as they press on towards the 2019 NFL regular season.

Steelers officially announce the signing of 10 undrafted free agents

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 7:11pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers added another 10 undrafted free agents just hours after the NFL Draft ended

While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have just added nine new players to the roster via the 2019 NFL Draft, their work was far from done at the end of the seventh-round. With hundreds of prospects missing out on selection once again this year, there were still plenty of talented options for the team to sign as undrafted free agents when the draft was finally over.

As per the list of names the Steelers officially announced on Saturday night, Pittsburgh added another 10 names to their roster once the draft had ended, a group that includes a couple of players the team invited to the Steel City as pre-draft visitors a few weeks ago.

Both West Virginia safety Dravon Askew-Henry and LSU offensive lineman Garrett Brumfield were among the players hosted in Pittsburgh this offseason.

The addition of kicker Matthew Wright and punter Ian Berryman should also provide some extra competition on special teams during training camp, as should the signing of long snapper Trevor Wood.

After drafting Devin Bush in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Steelers have released Jon Bostic

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 7:01pm

Well, that didn’t take long...

The NFL can be a brutal work place. You are loved one second, and hated the next. Employed in one instance, and released the next day.

This is what happened with Pittsburgh Steelers ILB Jon Bostic. After the Steelers traded up 10 spots in the 2019 NFL Draf to select ILB Devin Bush, and after signing ILB Mark Barron in free agency, the team decided to cut ties with Bostic.

We have terminated the contract of LB Jon Bostic.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 27, 2019

The writing was on the wall for Bostic after those aforementioned moves. There just aren’t enough roster spots for a player like Bostic, who doesn’t play special teams. Bostic was signed last year in free agency when the team failed to pick up an inside linebacker in the 2018 NFL Draft, and was unable to land a significant player in free agency to try and patch the hole left by Ryan Shazier.

Now Bostic has to wonder where his next NFL home will be, and if a team will even pick up the phone? In 2018, Bostic was able to garner 73 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 pass defenses and 5 tackles for a loss. But the most memorable play for Bostic was one most fans would want to forget, when Keenan Allen caught a huge first down pass in front of him to seal a Los Angeles Chargers win at Heinz Field.

The Steelers now have a depth chart which looks like this heading into offseason workouts:

  1. Vince Williams
  2. Mark Barron
  3. Devin Bush
  4. Tyler Matakevich
  5. Robert Spillane
  6. Tegray Scales
  7. Ulysees Gilbert III
  • Ryan Shazier (Projected PUP List Player)

This move was bound to happen, and good for the Steelers for letting Bostic go as soon as they found their man in Bush. This allows Bostic with adequate time to try and find a new team and get acclimated before the regular season.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold after the chaos that is the NFL Draft.

Knee Jerk Reactions from Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 6:21pm

One BTSC writer shares his initial and real time unadulterated reactions to the final rounds of the NFL draft.

Once again, Knee-jerk Reactions are immediate responses to a situation without taking the time to analyze the situation. That’s something as sports fans that we typically do. Steeler Nation reacted as such with the Round 3 selection of Diontae Johnson from Toledo. As is the custom, I compile my knee jerk thoughts and publish them immediately after each Steelers game. It’s my version of shooting first and apologizing later. So with that being said, I’m going to employ that philosophy here for the draft and follow up yesterday’s Day Two account with my instant Day Three reactions to each Steelers selection.

Steelers picking in Round 4 Pick 122 RB Bennie Snell Jr. - Kentucky
  • Was hoping for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson or some help at the safety position. But CGJ is in New Orleans.
  • I think they might go RB. I have three guys on my mind Justice Hill, Bryce Love and Bennie Snell Jr.
  • There goes Love.
  • Hill to Ravens...yuck.
  • They could go Foster Moreau at TE.
  • Draft party looks like a blast.
  • Love the Snell pick. This guy is an absolute load.
  • Steelers love legacies.
  • 48 rushing TDs in three seasons. Wow!!!!! Sweet pick.
Steelers picking in Round 5 Pick 141 TE Zach Gentry - Michigan
  • They could go a number of places here.
  • Can still use help at safety.
  • Moreau is gone. Need to add a TE.
  • Not familiar with this guy. But he’s 6’8”. I love his size.
  • He doesn’t seem to be much of a blocker, but Jesse James didn’t seem like one at first either.
  • Could be a project or could be a big target for Ben.
  • With Moreau gone to the Raiders. This is decent.
Steelers picking in Round 6 Pick 175 EDGE Sutton Smith - Northern Illinois
  • They haven’t addressed safety, an offensive lineman, edge rusher or defensive lineman yet. I would think they will do that pretty soon.
  • Not familiar with Sutton Smith.
  • He’s undersized for a rushing LB, but so was Deebo.
  • 233 lbs. He may bulk up.
  • You can’t argue with 15 sacks and 26 1/2 tackles for a loss.
  • A sixth rounder who racks up sacks. Don’t sneeze at it. Like.
Steelers picking in Round 6 Pick 192 DL Isaiah Buggs - Alabama
  • They seem to be addressing all of their needs.
  • At this point, there aren’t many familiar names
  • I actually know who Buggs is.
  • An Alabama DL. Karl Dunbar gets one of his old guys late again.
  • Leading stacker on the Crimson Tide. More than Quinnen Williams.
  • This is great depth.
Steelers picking in Round 6 Pick 207 LB Ulysses Gilbert III - Akron
  • We just drafted the love child of Marcus Gilbert and Ulysses S. Grant.
  • I had heard good things about this guy. Like Sutton Smith, he’s going to make his hay on ST.
  • He’s going to have to have to battle.
Steelers picking in Round 7 Pick 219 OL Derwin Gray - Maryland
  • Depth at lineman.
  • Don’t know him. But they do.
  • At this point, it’s pure scouting.

There you have it. I’ll review these thoughts and may think more rationally after I’ve had a chance to iron my brain droppings out. Overall, I’m pleased and feel hopelessly optimistic regarding this draft.

2019 NFL Draft: Grading the Steelers fourth round pick of Benny Snell Jr.

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 5:24pm

With the 122nd pick of the 2019 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers select Kentucky RB Benny Snell Jr.

First and foremost, Benny Snell Jr. is a football player, plain and simple. Football is in his blood, considering his family pedigree. The son of a former NFL player, Snell is the definition of a workhorse running back. He is also a classic overachiever, after being told throughout his college career that he was too small, slow, and not athletic enough to be successful lead back in a Power 5 conference. He has made a living proving the doubters wrong, as evident by his third team AP All American and All SEC honors. Now he is a fourth round selection in the NFL Draft. I hate to tell him, but now the doubters start popping up all over again.

So what's not to love? Benny Snell just lacks elite athleticism often associated with the position. He is not a quick twitch athlete. Benny ran a 4.66 40 and his explosion scores proved in line with his forty time. He doesn't possess breakaway speed and is often caught from behind in the open field. If Snell was a tick or two faster he would have been a much earlier selection, because the elite production is there.

Benny Snell Jr compares favorably to the Steelers own James Conner as a runner. Snell has superior balance and power. He looks for contact and runs through arm tackles regularly. Also similar to a young Conner coming out of college, Snell needs work on his pass receiving and pass protection abilities. Snell has displayed the work ethic throughout his career to get the job done, and I expect this challenge to be no different.

Now how to accurately and fairly grade this selection? Snell was projected to be a fifth or sixth round selection, so no real reach here. He projects in many evaluations to have a solid backup running back ceiling, but the young man has regularly exceeded expectations. Snell reportedly is a excellent teammate with strong character traits.

Sounds like a Pittsburgh Steelers type player to me. Therefore I am pleased to give this selection a grade of B.

Only time will tell, but I am not betting against the young man.

What grade do you give to this Steelers selection? Please vote in the attached poll and explain why in the comments section below.

Welcome to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Benny Snell Jr! From all of us at Steelers Nation!

Steelers essentially swap Antonio Brown for WR Diontae Johnson and TE Zach Gentry

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 4:40pm

Given the productivity of the player the two rookies will replace, both Diontae Johnson and Zach Gentry have a lot to live up to in Pittsburgh.

With the selection of Zach Gentry in the fifth-round on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Steelers have finally used the second of the two picks they received from the Oakland Raiders as part of the trade of Antonio Brown earlier in the year. A deal that effectively turned out to be a swap of the best wide receiver in the NFL for a Diontae Johnson and giant of a tight end from Michigan.

For those who feel the Steelers gave their star receiver away on the cheap, the real value of the trade will now be determined by how productive these two young prospects prove to be. And while it is far too early to project what the future might hold for either player, it will be a tough task for either player to match the numbers AB put up in the Steelers offense.

Long before Pittsburgh linked Johnson to Brown for all eternity with the first of the pick they received for letting him go, the Toledo product had heard the comparisons to AB before, including from the Steelers during his meetings with them ahead of the draft. Given his size and hailing from a MAC school, the wideout with kick return skills was an obvious comparison to the former Pittsburgh star on paper. A fact not lost on Johnson when talking to the local media on Friday,

“You’re a 5-foot-10 180 lb. receiver from a MAC school with return skills. Does that sound like any former Steelers?”

“Yes, Antonio Brown. He’s a great receiver and one of the guys I look up to in the league. But at the end of the day I can only be me and do what I can do best.”

With Johnson also noting that the Steelers had discussed the skills that make Brown such a great receiver when they had met.

“They did reference some stuff that AB does. They try to say how he runs his routes and how he catches the ball and how his quickness helps allow him to beat defenses down the field. Those are some of the same things that they told me about that kind of remind me of him.”

Simply being the same size and coming from the same conference is far from enough to suggest the second coming of AB, but it would appear that wide receiver coach Daryl Drake is extremely happy with his new player.

“We’re very excited about Diontae Johnson, not only is he a tremendous football player, but also a tremendous young man. I fell in love with him after spending time with him, dining with him, and talking to him – seeing his passion for the game, his passion for wanting to be great, and his passion for his teammates. He did an outstanding job at Toledo, not only as a wide receiver but on special teams, as a returner, and that’s something you can talk to Danny Smith about. A tremendously gifted young man and the most natural catcher I’ve seen in a while.”

“He did have some concentration drops like they all do, but he’s very gifted at catching the football. He doesn’t have great timed speed, but he plays the game fast. He’s really good vs. press, and as you know this is a press league. Those defensive backs walk up in your face and they try to fingerprint you, and he’s very allusive at the line scrimmage. You need a guy who can get off bump. The thing that he does is get off bump, and he gets in and out of his breaks as well as anybody that I’ve seen in a long time. He was a guy that I wanted and I appreciate Kevin [Colbert] and Mike [Tomlin] seeing the same things that I saw in this young man. As you get to be around him, you’re going to love his smile and his personality and his style of play. Again, very excited about the pick, and I think he’s a guy Steelers Nation is going to be really excited about.”

If the Steelers are ultimately to be judged the winners of the Brown trade, it will not only be up to Johnson to prove his worth, but expectations for Gentry might need to be tempered in the early going considering his relative inexperience.

As a converted former quarterback with only few years of playing the position under the belt, it seems like a big ask to expect him to be a significant contributor in the initial stages of his professional career. When speaking to the media about the latest addition to his position room, while tight ends coach James Daniel was excited about the pick, his description of the player was far less encouraging that Drake’s glowing praise of Johnson.

“He’s a good football player, long frame. He went to Michigan as a quarterback, and he’s converted to tight end. He’s had a couple years of experience playing there. He’s a guy we are excited about getting in and getting to work with.”

And when asked about his skills as a receiver and his talents as a blocker, Daniel's description suggests Gentry still has a lot to learn.

“He was a quarterback. So, I would say he’s more depth at the receiving end. He has some adjusting to do. He can become a good blocker, I think. But, I think the kid is excited about it and willing.”

Time will tell, but Johnson may yet have to do most of the heavy lifting if the Steelers are to be consider the winner of the Brown trade in the long-term.

Steelers 2019 Undrafted Free Agent Tracker: All the signings and rumors

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 4:30pm

All the news surrounding the latest undrafted free agents the Steelers are hoping to sign.

With the 2019 NFL Draft now in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers will quickly switch their attention to the hundreds of eligible prospects who went undrafted this year. Long before the seventh-rounded ended, the Steelers will have reached out to players they were interested in who were expected to be available and it should not take long for the first few signings to be made.

Undrafted players are allowed to sign with whoever they chose, with the more popular names likely to be given a signing bonus to encourage them to pick one team over another. After selecting nine players in the draft over the past few days, Pittsburgh currently has 84 names on the roster. However, with Christian Scotland-Williamson set to receive an exemption this year as part of the International Pathway Program once again, the Steelers still have room to add as many as seven undrafted free agents if they want, more if they release some existing players.

It is worth noting than none of these signing are official until confirmed by the team, with players sometimes changing their mind about a destination at the last minute when another team offers a higher signing bonus. Some prospect will also have been invited for a tryout rather than receiving a contract, an essential difference some media reports will initially overlook.

As rumors begin to emerge of players Pittsburgh is targeting, we will add them in this post, as well as any confirmed signings from the players own social media accounts.

Players signed:

None yet confirmed

News and rumors:

2019 NFL Draft: Steelers select guard Derwin Gray with 7th round pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 4:09pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers have selected Maryland offensive guard Derwin Gray with their 7th round pick.

Entering the 2019 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a number of draft needs which they needed to address. After the first two days of selections, there were still positions of need to help the black-and-gold get to the next level in 2019. There have been numerous thoughts and debates regarding what the team will do on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.

When the dust settled, the Steelers have selected offensive guard Derwin Gray from Maryland, with their seventh round pick of the draft.

With the 219th pick in the 2019 #NFLDraft, we select OL Derwin Gray. pic.twitter.com/htmPGerxlS

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 27, 2019

For those who may not know much about Sutton as a player, this is his overall breakdown of his game, per his NFL Draft Profile:

Gray is another Washington, D.C. native that Maryland convinced to stick around the area for college. He spent the 2013 season at Fork Union Military Academy before joining the Terrapins for a redshirt season. Gray played in two games as a reserve in 2015 and then earned starts in three of 13 games at left tackle his sophomore season. Big Ten coaches named him honorable mention all-conference as a 12-game starter at left tackle in 2017, and he was named his own team’s top offensive lineman that season. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2018, starting 10 games at left tackle for the Terps.

What do you think of the selection? Let us know by voting in the poll below and be sure to comment in the comment section below!

2019 NFL Draft: Steelers select Ulysees Gilbert III with 6th round pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 3:45pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers have selected Akron LB Ulysees Gilbert III with their third 6th round pick.

Entering the 2019 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a number of draft needs which they needed to address. After the first two days of selections, there were still positions of need to help the black-and-gold get to the next level in 2019. There have been numerous thoughts and debates regarding what the team will do on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.

When the dust settled, the Steelers have selected LB Ulysees Gilbert II from Akron, with their third sixth round pick of the draft.

With the 207th pick in the 2019 #NFLDraft, we select LB Ulysees Gilbert III. pic.twitter.com/b92DjE6WYc

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 27, 2019

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft needs in the remaining rounds of the draft now would be considered: Outside linebacker and safety among other positions.

What do you think of the selection? Let us know by voting in the poll below and be sure to comment in the comment section below!

2019 NFL Draft: Steelers select DE Isaiah Buggs with 6th round pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 3:09pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers have selected Alabama Defensive Tackle Isaiah Buggs with their second 6th round pick.

Entering the 2019 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a number of draft needs which they needed to address. After the first two days of selections, there were still positions of need to help the black-and-gold get to the next level in 2019. There have been numerous thoughts and debates regarding what the team will do on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.

When the dust settled, the Steelers have selected DE/DT Isaiah Buggs from Alabama, with their second sixth round pick of the draft.

With the 192nd pick in the 2019 #NFLDraft, we select DE Isaiah Buggs. pic.twitter.com/YnKWJ45OgQ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 27, 2019

For those who may not know much about Buggs as a player, this is his overall breakdown of his game, per his NFL Draft Profile:

Buggs excelled on the high school football field with 102 tackles, 19 for loss in his final season. However, he was over-aged coming into high school, losing a year of eligibility. He did not earn enough high school credits for NCAA eligibility, so he attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for two seasons. Buggs made an impact as a freshman there (59 tackles, eight for loss, four sacks) and was considered the top junior college recruit in the country after the 2016 season (75 tackles, 10 for loss, 3.5 sacks). Nick Saban brought “Big Pooh” into the fold in 2017, when he started all 13 games and compiled 51 tackles, four for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He started all 15 games of his senior season, leading the Tide with 9.5 sacks among his 51 total tackles, 13.5 for loss. He also had three pass breakups and two forced fumbles on the year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft needs in the remaining rounds of the draft now would be considered: Outside linebacker and safety among other positions.

What do you think of the selection? Let us know by voting in the poll below and be sure to comment in the comment section below!

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