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The former Washington Redskins will temporarily be called “The Washington Football Team”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/23/2020 - 1:02pm
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Rather than keep the Redskins name temporarily, Washington is ready to move on while deciding on their new logo.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the team formally known as the Washington Redskins will temporarily go by the name of “The Washington Football Team.”

Effective immediately, Washington will call itself the “Washington Football Team”, pending adoption of a new name, sources tell ESPN.

This is not a final renaming and rebranding for team; this is the name it wants to use until pending adoption of a new name in the future. pic.twitter.com/sBs0Uo0ICm

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 23, 2020

Shefter reports there will be no change to the burgundy and gold color scheme and players will have numbers replacing the former logo on the sides of their helmet.

Washington will not have any change to its color scheme. It will still use burgundy and gold. The Redskins logo on the helmet will be replaced by the player’s number in gold. The Washington Football Team will debut its home uniforms in week 1 against the Eagles. pic.twitter.com/8DpC6b0Tyj

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 23, 2020

The Washington Football Team hopes to have all names and logos taken off their platforms in time for their Week 1 matchup. With the possibility of not having and fans in attendance, there is a chance the logo could be completely eradicated.

The Washington Football Team will continue the process of retiring the Redskins name and hopes to be entirely rid of it on physical and digital spaces in the next 50 days, by the Sept. 13 regular-season opener against the Eagles.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 23, 2020

It appears Washington will stick with this uniform format for the entire 2020 season in hopes of finding a new logo and mascot in the future. The team will seek out those in whom the new mascot will have the most effect to help determine what will be used in the future.

While the Washington Football Team uses these uniforms and helmets for the 2020 season, it will be seeking the feedback of players, alumni, fans, sponsors and the community for the new team name it will use at some point in the future, per sources.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 23, 2020

It has been rumored what is holding up a new team logo in Washington has to do with trademark law. Apparently a realtor in Virginia trademarked many names in hopes to strike the one Washington hope to use and therefore have to sell the rights to the NFL franchise.

A Virginia realtor filed trademarks for a bunch of new Washington football names. MORE: https://t.co/TfFeyUrXKB pic.twitter.com/ue4lWWvrok

— BarDown (@BarDown) July 13, 2020

With many decisions involved in the NFL coming down to financials, it appears merchandise will be available for The Washington Football Team in time for the 2020 season.

Washington said fans will be able to purchase “Washington Football Team” merchandise from Fanatics and NFL Shop in the coming days. pic.twitter.com/g6d7cevmn4

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 23, 2020

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Alexander Myres

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/23/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

Moving forward with part 60 of our (hopefully) 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 reserve defensive back:

Alexander Myres

Position: CB
Height: 5’ 11”
Weight: 192 lbs
College: Houston
Draft: UDFA in 2019

2019 stats

N/A - Member of the practice squad

Contract remaining

Expires in 2021
$610,000 salary cap number (0.30% of total cap)
$0 Dead money
$610,000 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Almost none. Alexander Myres can only make this team by winning the sixth (and final) cornerback position. With high profile UDFA Trajan Bandy and NFL journeyman Breon Borders the likely combatants for the final spot there is a real chance the Myres may actually be cut outright before training camp even begins.

2020 projection

Unfortunately for Myres I do believe he will be cut, it’s just a matter of when. Being cut before camp even starts would be a crummy situation for the Houston alum. A best-case scenario for Myres would be to make it to training camp and show enough to be added to some teams practice squad.

Projected stats:

N/A — Cut/Practice squad

Summary

The 10 assumed pre-camp cuts throws a wrench into things, especially for players that are near the bottom of this roster. Many players, like Myres, will probably have to nervously wait for a phone call as they are packing for a training camp that they don’t even know if they will attend. Plus, if lighting were to strike and he were to actually make the team, he would need to be prepared to be quarantined away from his family for roughly 5 months.

This is a really tough time for fringe roster players. Lets’ just hope the Steelers select the right 10 players to release.

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

Of course Antonio Brown is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/23/2020 - 11:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Say what you want about Antonio Brown’s character, he’s the greatest receiver in Steelers history. He’s also a slam-dunk for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Will Antonio Brown ever play again? He’s got a lot of things to overcome in-order to do so. He needs to make people forget about his off-the-field transgressions (good luck with that). Since he’s not going to make people—especially the people that own and coach NFL teams—forget about his off-the-field antics, he needs to hope they will at least overlook them long enough to sign him to another deal, one that, if I know AB like you know AB, won’t be for the league minimum. And even if a team wanted to sign him to a deal that, again, ain’t going to be as cheap as it probably should be considering he’s a hot mess, he has to find an organization willing to take him on even though he’s likely going to face a lengthy suspension for all those off-the-field things.

So will he play again? I don’t know. But I don’t really think it matters in terms of his on-the-field legacy. His resume speaks for itself.

If only Brown’s resume was his one and only spokesperson.

Because of all of those aforementioned self-inflicted wounds that are preventing him from doing the one thing he loves the most, Brown took to social media on Monday to announce his retirement without actually making it official. In doing so, he made himself relevant again. And when I say relevant, I mean in terms of whether or not people—the fans and the media—think he was a better Steelers receiver than Hines Ward. While we’re at it, you might as well throw in Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and, heck, even Louis Lipps.

If you wanted to, you might be able to get away with Roy Jefferson and Buddy Dial.

That’s how far Brown has fallen in the eyes of fans since that day many in attendance at Heinz Field chanted “MVP!” as he was being carried off the field with a calf injury in a late-season game against the Patriots in December of 2017.

In terms of the eye-test, there is no way Brown wasn’t a better Steelers receiver than any of his black and gold predecessors, even if that list includes players who are in the Hall of Fame, perhaps will be in the Hall of Fame one day, and who maybe could have made it had their quarterbacks not been named Dick Shiner or Mark Malone.

To reiterate, Brown was the superior talent to those who came before him, at least in terms of his credentials. Unlike his predecessors, Brown was the premier receiver of his day, the standard that was the standard.

From 2013-2018, Brown tallied 686 receptions for 9,145 yards and 67 touchdowns. He had arguably the greatest stretch for a receiver in the history of the league. Actually, you could say he had the greatest six-year run for any skill-position player in NFL history.

It was amazing. Every fan knew what they were witnessing as they watched it unfold in real time.

Again, he passed the eye-test. Even through 2018, the question wasn’t if Brown would be immortalized in Canton, the question was when.

Obviously, “never” is now the answer many people would like to give, considering Brown has been a premier jackhole since the time he left Pittsburgh following the 2018 campaign.

But that’s looking at things with a damaged heart and soul—I’m not saying you don’t have the right to look at things that way, but that’s what’s going on.

Of his closest competitors as all-time great Steelers receivers, Swann and Stallworth—the two that made into the Hall of Fame—cemented their legacies with Super Bowl championships. As for Ward, his stats have hurt his cause and will likely continue to do so even if he’s a two-time Super Bowl-champion and SBXL MVP. Do I think Ward deserves to be in the Hall of Fame? Of course I do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think Brown doesn’t deserve the same honor.

He’s the only one of the bunch who didn’t need a Super Bowl to prop up his cause. He’s the only receiver whose stats—841 receptions for 11,263 yards and 75 touchdowns—simply didn’t matter. If you watched Brown play, you just knew.

It’s not a matter of who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame or not. If that were the case, there’d be a lot of guys still waiting to make it in. It’s a matter of what’s right.

And keeping Antonio Brown out of the Hall of Fame because of his character would be very wrong—and two wrongs don’t make a right.

In this case, two wrongs would make the Hall of Fame less legit.

Does the signing of Derek Watt signal the return of the fullback in Pittsburgh?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/23/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Teams that used their fullbacks more often in 2019 typically won more games

When the Pittsburgh Steelers originally decided to bring in the middle Watt brother, Derek Watt, I thought it was a clever way to add a special teams ace, starting fullback, and appease All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt all in one move. But when Derek’s cap hit rolled in at just over $2 million, the third highest paid fullback in the league, my expectations changed.

When football analyst Warren Sharp broke down the hidden value of the modern fullback, I combined my lofty goals for Derek with the successfulness of teams that used fullbacks at the highest rate, and I've come up with some interesting predictions.

Still skeptical?

Let's look at the teams that used the highest rate of FB snaps in 2019.

Wonder how that turned out?

1. 49ers: Super Bowl
2. Vikings: Playoffs
3. Ravens: Playoffs*
4. Broncos
5. Patriots: Playoffs
6. Saints: Playoffs

*best regular season record in the NFL

— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) July 23, 2020

First, I want to single out each of the top three most used fullbacks in the league last year and what kind of production they brought to their respected clubs.

Kyle Juszczyk, 49ers

Unarguably, Juszczyk is the best fullback in football today and Kyle Shanahan is the absolute best coach for him. ‘Juice’ is used as an extra tight end, running back, and traditional fullback which creates a ton of misdirection and mismatches. This is the blueprint on how the Steelers should use Watt.

Juszczyk Stats:
12 Games
20 Receptions
239 Receiving yards
3 Carries
7 Rushing yarsds
1 Touchdown

49ers Rushing total: 2,305

C.J. Ham, Vikings

A converted running back, Ham inked the second-richest fullback deal this past summer. He’s proven to be a weapon catching the football, and is a solid lead blocker for Dalvin Cook.

16 Games
17 Receptions
149 Receiving yards
7 Carries
17 Rushing yarsds
1 Touchdown

Vikings Rushing total: 2,133

Patrick Ricard, Ravens

Ricard is the bruising fullback on the list; a throwback-type player that mauls the opposition. He’s not a good comparable to Derek and the more modern style he plays, but he’s one of the NFL’s best.

16 Games
8 Receptions
47 Receiving yards
1 Touchdown

Ravens Rushing total: 3,296

Derek Watt, 2019 Chargers

The Chargers never got the best out of Watt as he averaged less then a touch per game throughout his Charger career. He was mainly relied upon as a special teamer which is great, but he needs to be used more in Pittsburgh to truly get the value of the player.

16 Games
3 Receptions
32 Receiving yards
7 Carries
10 Rushing yarsds
1 Touchdown

Chargers Rushing total: 1,453

So what does all this mean for the Steelers usage of Derek Watt? Well, I'll tell you how I would use him. First, he needs to receive a ton of reps and should beat least in the top ten of snaps played by a fullback. Second, he needs to average at least a touch per game, and at least attempt to give him the ball twice per game. Lastly, let him lead block the way they let Rosie Nix block, but with more frequency. In my perfect world, a 2020 Derek Watt stat line would look something like this:

16 Games
24 Receptions
265 Receiving yards
8 Carries
18 Rushing yarsds
1-2 Touchdowns

I would utilize Watt on some back side wheel routes, much like how the 49ers use Juszczyk. Watt would also see some targets in the screen game. All in all, the fullback position needs more targets and Derek Watt can spearhead that motion here in Pittsburgh.

What do you think? Should the Steelers involve Derek Watt more in the passing game? Is the fullback position seeing a revival in the NFL? Let us know down in the comments below.

Film Room: Matt Canada’s potential value to the Steelers offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/23/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers aren’t looking to re-invent their offense, but to do things they already do better

Matt Canada’s potential impact on the Steelers offense is something a lot of people have been talking about (especially me). One of the main comments which comes back is that Matt Canada isn’t the offensive coordinator, Randy Fichtner is, and the Steelers offense is run through Ben Roethlisberger who isn’t likely to want to see wildcat plays and college offense in his playbook.

This is all valid. So I thought I would put together a film room based on a play from the Jets game, where the Jets used a Matt Canada-esque play to gain 7 yards.

Week 16, 1st quarter, 1:18.

The ball carrier is lined up as a wingback, off the line of scrimmage, just outside the tight end. Not a complicated play on the surface. But lets take it back a few seconds and look at the play pre-snap.

The play starts with Ty Montgomery, a hybrid WR/RB lined up as the running back. To the top of the screen there is only WR Robbie Anderson, on the line, covering up the tackle. to the bottom of the screen there is TE/WR hybrid Daniel Brown, WR Jamison Crowder, and finally RB Le’Veon Bell. Three receivers to the bottom, one to the top, and a running back. The Jets send both Montgomery and Bell in motion, and you have Montgomery as an H-Back to the top of the screen, a tight end and wide receiver to the bottom and Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. Then right before the snap Crowder comes in motion like he’s running a jet sweep.

This is a full swap of the numbers situation, from 1 to the top and 3 to the bottom to, at the snap, 2 at the top, 1 to the bottom and a wide receiver coming across the formation.

Now that you understand what is going on personnel-wise, let’s dive into the meat of the play and how if affects the defense.

At the snap Le’Veon Bell starts going to the left of the screen. All the motion to the right has Le’Veon with a pseudo-tight end and not a lot of defenders on his side, so T.J. Watt, Vince Williams and Mike Hilton are all concerned about Le’Veon Bell getting outside the defense with only Joe Haden in his path. Meanwhile Cameron Heyward takes one step to his right, ready to defend the jet sweep. Bud Dupree follows Ty Montgomery but even the smallest impediment from the tackle has him too far behind the play to stop it.

Once Cameron Heyward takes that step to the right, and Vince Williams sees the pulling blocker and thinks the play is to Bell, the Jets have won the down. Watch the play, the Jets blockers don’t win blocks. Heyward takes one step, reads the play, and goes right to the ball. Bud Dupree gets slowed down a bit. The left guard has to go find T.J. Watt, but his block is irrelevant. The right guard barely gets a hand on Mark Barron and the right tackle gets to push Vince Williams in the direction Williams is already running. The play gains 7 yards because the Steelers were looking at 3 different threats.

This is a Matt Canada style play, and I wanted to show how it was used to convert a key third down against a really strong defense.

Wingback runs and Jet Sweeps

You may be surprised to know the Steelers use every single element you see in that play from the Jets. Sure, you won’t find a wingback runs in the Steelers playbook, but you will find something very similar.

2017, Week 2, 2nd quarter, 13:35. JuJu Smith-Schuster goes in motion before the snap.

Le’Veon Bell draws the attention of the linebacker (#54) and the defensive end (#99), creating a wide open lane for JuJu Smith-Schuster to run through for the touchdown. This was the rookie receiver’s first NFL reception. It’s similar in concept to what the Jets ran with Ty Montgomery, the major difference is the Steelers are in shotgun here, so instead of handing it off, it’s a pass.

The Steelers used a lot of concepts in the above play in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Week 4, 1st quarter, 3:11. Jaylen Samuels is the player closest to the right tackle in the bunch at the bottom of the screen.

The Steelers use James Conner and Diontae Johnson to draw defenders outside while Jaylen Samuels runs into the gap behind them. That’s a pretty easy 5 yard gain, and would have had a chance for more if #91 hadn’t driven Pouncey back and forced Samuels farther to the top of the screen.

Week 4, 1st quarter, 2:36. Jaylen Samuels comes in motion from the top of the screen.

None of the Bengals are fooled here, Samuels just beats most of the defense to the outside on what is essentially a jet sweep (again turned into a pass by the shotgun start) and it’s another 5 yard gain.

Week 4, 3rd quarter, 11:16. Jaylen Samuels is the wildcat QB, James Conner comes in motion.

The wildcat forces #95 to hesitate, and Conner blows past him. Again the jet sweep creates immense stress on the defense’s lateral speed. Too much of a gap is created between defenders and Conner cuts up field for a big gain. A tiny bit of hesitation combined with attacking the defense’s lateral speed creates opportunity for the offense.

These are the same type of runs we saw the Jets use, only they count as passes because the Steelers are in shotgun formation. That is important, because Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t like taking his eyes off the defense. He doesn’t like play action and the Steelers aren’t very good at it with Ben, so running plays like this out of shotgun will be a much better fit for Ben Roethlisberger.

Putting it together

The biggest factor with these plays is how the offense sets them up. The reason the Jets run worked was the Steelers respected the various threats the Jets presented. The Steelers didn’t use as many moving pieces as the Jets did, or as many as Matt Canada has in his play designs, but they did a decent job of creating multiple threats on a lot of plays.

Week 3, 3rd quarter, 15:00. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the far left side of the screen.

The Steelers create misdirection here with a play they set up well. Xavier Grimble starts the play running counter to the line blocking,. This was a pretty common move the Steelers used on run plays at this point of the season. The line blocks hard to the play side, the tight end comes across the play to pick up the backside defender. You can see how little reaction Grimble gets, while most of the defenders are focused on James Conner. You can also see Nick Bosa cut inside Grimble to avoid what he expects is a block to seal him out of a James Conner run, only to take himself out of the play.

Week 4, 2nd quarter, 11:18. Jaylen Samuels is the Steelers player farthest to the top of the screen.

One of the most important parts of these plays is the use of either an H-Back or wingback.

The problem with those positions is they need to be viable threats to run a route from that alignment or they become really easy to defend. This play started with James Conner in the backfield, James Washington to the bottom of the screen, and to the top, Nick Vannett tight to the line, with Zach Gentry and Jaylen Samuels lined up outside him. This is a jumbo set: Two tight ends, two running backs and a single wide receiver. The Steelers used their third tight end and backup running back in a two-man pattern against a defense with only three defensive backs on the field. If Jaylen Samuels can be reliable on these plays, it adds the threat of him lining up as a wingback. The same is true of any player the Steelers use in an H-back or wingback role. If they aren’t a threat to run a route, throw a block, or run with the ball they will be easier to defend. The more they can do, the more threat they create and the harder it will be for the defense to predict where the ball is going to go.

The Steelers have a solid number of players capable of filling these roles. Jaylen Samuels has done it the most, but James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson have done it too. It’s likely James Washington, Derek Watt and Anthony McFarland Jr. could also be used this way.

Week 4, 2nd quarter, 10:39. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the H-back in the bunch set, James Conner is the RB next to Mason Rudolph. (Ignore the ineligible receivers downfield.)

This is the best example of the Steelers doing something Canada-like. The threat of the shovel pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster is there, pulling defenders up to defend the pseudo-run, while Diontae Johnson’s motion and route pulls a defender out of the space James Conner gets into to catch the pass. Nick Vannett is lined up outside, and the Steelers get a 4-level attack on the defense in a 15-yard span.

The Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Bengals in Week 4 needing a spark on offense, and they found it using a lot of elements you see in Matt Canada’s offense. Those elements would show up in other weeks, but more sparingly because while they allowed the Steelers to attack their opponent’s laterally. This ceases to be a real threat if there aren’t any vertical threats to accompany them, and the offense wasn’t able to build on what they started.

The Steelers brought Matt Canada into the organization because he is one of the best minds in football for running these concepts, and not just as trick plays or gimmicks that work for one game but fail when teams expect them. Canada has shown the ability to incorporate these elements into a season-long game plan, one that adapts game to game, and can change drastically based on the talent. How much the Steelers utilize Canada will be largely based on how successful his designs are, but we’ve already seen the Steelers use a lot of what Canada brings to the table. With and without Ben Roethlisberger at quarter back, we are now waiting to see how much better those elements can be used.

Two days after unofficially retiring from the NFL, Antonio Brown unofficially un-retires

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/23/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The circus that has become the Antonio Brown saga continues to grow even after supposedly reaching a conclusion.

On Monday, former Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown announced he was on officially ending his NFL career. Although he had done it once before only to turn around and attempt to catch on with another team last season, this time some took him seriously that he was done with the NFL.

Apparently his unofficial retirement lasted approximately two days.

Update: Two days after announcing his retirement on Twitter (again), free-agent WR Antonio Brown indicates he wants to play in the NFL again, and calls on the league to conclude its personal conduct investigation. pic.twitter.com/DMltK9YYN3

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 23, 2020

This is not exactly shocking news for those who have spent any time looking at the behavior of Antonio Brown over the last several years. After burning one too many bridges in the Steel City (which is difficult because Pittsburgh is known for its bridges), more and more information began to come to light about Brown‘s behavior with the Steelers. After forcing his way out of town only maneuver a release from the Raiders after hand picking them as his destination, it appeared Brown would never really be happy in any situation in regards to the NFL. Sometimes a person can lose a reasonable grasp of reality to a point where the only thing which is acceptable is the unattainable.

It will be interesting to see if the league has any reason to conclude their investigation into Brown’s conduct and if they would feel the need to offer any sort of suspension without him even being on a team. But with the talent level being undeniable (more on this later today at BTSC), I’m sure some NFL team would consider Brown’s services even knowing a ‘self destruct’ button is part of the package.

As for an explanation into Brown’s recent extremely brief departure from the NFL, it could have something to do with the circumstances surrounding the allegations of sexual misconduct which ultimately led to his release from the New England Patriots after Week 2 of the 2019 season.

A source said Antonio Brown recently got close to settling his case with Britney Taylor and scheduled a mediation but then backed out of it. That's the second time he's gotten close to settling, then publicly hinted at retirement shortly thereafter.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) July 20, 2020

When it comes to Antonio Brown, it’s really difficult to figure out what’s going to happen next. Chances are, if it involves being in the limelight it is something Brown will make sure comes about. But whether or not we will ever see Brown on an NFL football field again is anybody’s guess.

Podcast: How much does the media still respect the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/23/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold from the week that was.

For forty-some years, the football world viewed the Steelers as a third-rate franchise. Of course, that all change with the dynasty who ruled in the 1970s and extended for years. There was a certain mystique associated with the Men of Steel. But without a championship in twelve seasons and a few player defections, has the reputation of the franchise taken a step back recently? This inquiry and more will be pondered on the latest episode in the BTSC family of podcasts. As always, it is a good time to talk everything Steelers.

Take a look or listen to the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this week’s show, Lance Williams and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • How much does the media and analysts still respect the Steelers?
  • Steelers rookie signings
  • Carlton Haselrig
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Lance and Bryan walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold on the flagship show.

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: Can the Steelers defense return to it’s 2019 form?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/23/2020 - 4:30am
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 ability for the Steelers defense to recreate what they built last season.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Was the Steelers 2019 defense the exception or the new morm?

Biggest issues as Pittsburgh sports return: Can Steelers defense recreate 2019 dominance?

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Two of Pittsburgh’s pro sports teams are on their way back to competition after the coronavirus-induced lockdown. The Pirates open their season on Friday in St. Louis. The Penguins are supposed to face the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference hub city of Toronto on July 28.

That’s also when the Steelers are supposed to start training camp — if the NFL can pull off such a deadline as the players continue to express concerns about covid-19 testing and protocols.

It appears the NFL preseason isn’t going to happen. But what about the regular season? If it does, odds are the Steelers will need another monster performance from their defense if they are to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

In Wednesday’s edition of our series examining issues surrounding the potential return of Pittsburgh sports, we look at the Steelers defense and if it can replicate its success from 2019.

The accomplishments of the Steelers defense in 2019 were significant. The unit’s 38 takeaways and 54 sacks led the NFL.

It allowed the third-fewest pass yards per game (194.6), third-fewest rush yards per carry (3.8), and fifth-fewest total yards allowed (304.1). It was tied for fifth-fewest defensive points allowed per game (18.9).

So if we are to ask if coordinator Keith Butler’s players can put forth numbers such as those again, three things leap to mind.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Coming together to help others

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Ben and Ashley Roethlisberger and Vance and Kendi McDonald know that families are hurting right now. They know there is a need for the basic necessities, things as simplistic as bread and milk, with so many still impacted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That need, that lack of resources for so many, is why the Roethlisbergers and McDonalds once again teamed with Convoy of Hope to help those in Western Pennsylvania, in particular those in the New Castle community where Ashley Roethlisberger grew up.

“We want to help the community, this is my wife’s community, where she grew up in New Castle,” said Ben Roethlisberger. “We did one a few weeks ago at Heinz Field, so to be here in New Castle to help the community, it’s a way we can show our kids and the next generation it’s about love and helping others. It shouldn’t be about us. The more we can do, the happier we are.”

The Roethlisbergers, McDonalds and Convoy of Hope worked with Jubilee Ministries International, Nourishing Others Well-Being Project and the Christian Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania to host a drive-thru food giveaway for up to 1,500 families.

“We are passing out a lot of food,” said Ben Roethlisberger. “We are boxing everything up. I saw the crazy amounts of personal hygiene stuff, food, baby food. We are excited to see the joy on people’s faces.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Former Steelers tackle Carlton Hasselrig passes away

Former Steeler, NCAA wrestling champion Carlton Haselrig dies at 54

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Carlton Haselrig, the six-time NCAA wrestling champion who switched sports and became a Pro Bowl guard with the Pittsburgh Steelers, died Wednesday at his home in Johnstown.

Haselrig was 54.

Cambria County coroner Jeffrey Lees told the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat that Haselrig died of natural causes. An autopsy will be conducted.

Friends said Haselrig had been suffering from liver disease that deteriorated a body that measured a rock-solid 295 pounds in his NFL playing days.

“For those of us who were close to him, we saw it coming,” said Pat Pecora, Haselrig’s wrestling coach at Pitt-Johnstown. “He had been sick for a while. He was losing a tremendous amount of weight, but we were still shocked when it happened this morning.”

Haselrig won six heavyweight wrestling titles at Pitt-Johnstown, a record that never will be equaled because of a change in NCAA rules. Despite never playing football in college — an injury kept him off the field as a freshman at Lock Haven, and tiny Pitt-Johnstown didn’t field a team — Haselrig was selected by the Steelers in the 12th round of the 1989 NFL Draft. Almost 15 years after his playing career ended, Haselrig took up mixed martial arts and competed professionally.

“His athletic accomplishments were amazing — almost downright impossible to think about,” Pecora said. “Carlton didn’t think it was that big of a deal. That was the funny part. To him, he wasn’t impressed with himself. He was so humble about his accomplishments.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Chase Claypool signs his rookie contract with the Steelers

3 pros and 3 cons for the Steelers when it comes to no preseason games

Ryan Switzer is very confident going into the 2020 season

Predicting which Steelers will be cut before training camp

The Steelers typically use three wide receivers in their formations

  • Social Media Madness

.@joehaden23 called GAME‼️ pic.twitter.com/npgY4wtqXl

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 23, 2020

WHO RIDE⁉️ pic.twitter.com/ZEDLp5a1x0

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 22, 2020

Where were you when the @Steelers won one for the thumb? #SBXL https://t.co/OZYuPZZz5l

— SteelersNationUnite (@SteelersUnite) July 22, 2020

Our leader. #BensDay pic.twitter.com/YVWtUE7N9L

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 22, 2020

NFLPA informs agents of potential revenue shortfall

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 8:00pm
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The players association has proposed a longer-term for the recovery of lost revenue from the 2020 season.

Both the NFL and the Players Association are bracing for the large economic impact on the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With lost revenue due to anticipated reduced capacity at stadiums, the financial ramifications on the 2021 salary cap would greatly affect players contracts and the ability of NFL teams to do business.

According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the NFLPA has proposed to spread out the lost revenue over the life of the entire newly signed Collective Bargaining Agreement. As for the NFL, they currently are wishing to only spread out the revenue loss into one additional season.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and president J.C. Tretter just sent this memo to agents, emphasizing the union wants to spread the impact of a projected multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall over an 11-year CBA, rather than in 2020 and 2021 as the NFL has proposed. pic.twitter.com/CO3xmldWLi

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 23, 2020

The memo sent out by the NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and President J.C. Tretter was to inform agents of the possible financial ramifications for future contracts. With player agents often being the first source of advising as to how the players should handle their financial decisions when it comes to the NFL, it is important that correct and thorough information is shared with those who are advising players in order to help make the best business decision for the 2020 season.

The memo to agents also laid out several of the issues which are still being negotiated. Things which do not seem to be decided on at this time are the acclamation period for when players return, procedures for players to opt out of the 2020 season, and how contracts will be handled if the season is canceled.

Chase Claypool is the latest Steelers rookie to sign their contract

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 6:40pm
Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Right after the report of safety Antoine Brooks Jr. inking his deal, Claypool shares signing his contract.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are at it again when it comes to locking up their 2020 draft picks. Just moments after sixth-round selection Antoine Brooks Jr. reported he had signed his contract, the Steelers top pick in the 2020 draft Chase Claypool shared his moment of signing on to play in the Steel City.

OFFICIALLY A PITTSBURGH STEELER!!! Blessed beyond belief to be apart of this organization! Time to get to work #StairwayToSeven pic.twitter.com/LexAklA0Lq

— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) July 22, 2020

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted wide receiver Chase Claypool out of the University of Notre Dame in the 2nd round. Claypool, a native of Canada, joins a receiver room with three receivers that gained 500 or more yards in 2019. A shortened off-season will limit his ability to carve out a role before the start of the season, Claypool brings a combination of height and speed that the Steelers lack at wide receiver. This should be enough to earn early snaps as the #4 or #5 receiver.

The estimated contract for Chase Claypool’s draft slot is 4 years at a little over $6.5 million. There is a little wiggle room in how the contracts divide up the money. JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson are all on rookie contracts. The Steelers will have a young, cheap and deep group at wide receiver. According to spotrac.com, the Steelers look to have the NFL’s lowest cap hit for wide receivers in 2020.

With this signing, the Steelers have four rookies under contract and two draft picks still yet to be signed.

Stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain as the Steelers remaining draft picks look to be signed in a very short period.

Steelers sign sixth-round draft pick Antoine Brooks Jr.

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 6:18pm
Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

The Steelers sign the third of their six 2020 NFL draft picks

The Pittsburgh Steelers locked up the third of their draft picks, signing sixth-round draft pick Antoine Brooks Jr. With the COVID-19 restrictions, NFL teams have not had access to players to complete physical exams. Many teams, including the Steelers, held off on signing their draft picks because of it. But with rookies reporting this week, the time has come to get their draft picks under contract.

View this post on Instagram

Heroes ‍♂️⭐️Come In Many Different Forms #steelersnation

A post shared by Antoine ‍ Brooks (@twandoeee) on Jul 22, 2020 at 3:51pm PDT

Antoine Brooks Jr. joins a long list of intriguing 6th round picks made by the Pittsburgh Steelers over Mike Tomlin’s tenure as head coach. Joining players like Ulysees Gilbert III, Anthony Chickillo, Daniel McCullers, Vince Williams, Jonathan Dwyer, Ryan Mundy, and perhaps most famously, Colin Holba. Oh, yeah, don’t forget Antonio Brown either.

Antoine Brooks Jr. played a combination of linebacker, safety and cornerback in college, and was an impact player for the Maryland Terrapins. In 2019 he recorded 87 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, an interception and 5 passes defended. While he shows a lot of ability on film, Brooks Jr. may struggle to find a position in the Steelers defense early as he doesn’t have the size to play linebacker, the speed to play cornerback, and as a safety struggled in deep zone defense. Antoine Brooks Jr. will need to make his mark initially on special teams, something he was successful at in college.

Brooks now joins former Maryland Terrapin teammate Anthony McFarland Jr. along with third-round selection Alex Highsmith who have both also put pen to paper in regards to their rookie contracts.

Stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain as remainder of the Steelers draft picks look to be signed fairly soon.

3 pros and cons of a reduced preseason for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 3:25pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

With no preseason games and reduced practice time, there are both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It appears there will be no turning back when it comes to the NFL preseason for 2020. In order to keep players and personnel away from risks in what are ultimately meaningless games, safety is of the upmost importance during the global pandemic. In some ways, no preseason across the NFL could benefit the Steelers. On the other hand, there are things which could hinder both the team in the entire NFL.

Let’s take a look at three pros and three cons of the Steelers not having any preseason games and a reduced training camp for the 2020 season.

Pro: Injuries

There is nothing worse than losing a player for an extended period of time because they get knocked out in a preseason game. Whether it was kicker Shaun Suisham in the Hall of Fame game in the 2015 season, or Maurkice Pouncey losing the entire 2014 season, these injuries can greatly affect the team for the year. Of course, injuries are bound to happen. But when they occur it a game which does not affect the standings, it’s a much harder pill to swallow.

Con: Evaluation

With no preseason games and very few padded practices, the Steelers coaching staff will have an extremely difficult job to do in order to properly evaluate players for both the roster and practice squad. It’s obvious coaches prefer as many preseason games as they can get to evaluate talent, but this year they will have to really be on there a game.

Evaluation goes beyond coaches. As a fan, I love preseason games. I really enjoy seeing the regular players in their limited action, but I really enjoy seeing the other possible prospects as the team takes shape. With the fans being mostly in the dark as to how the team is taking shape heading into Week 1, it’s just not going to feel the same.

Pro: Continuity

With limited time to prepare, teams with the least amount of turnover from 2019 will instantly have the upper hand going in to the 2020 season. Although quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is returning from missing 14 games, his over 15 years of experience as an NFL quarterback will help make up for the time lost. With the Steelers losing very few starters on each side of the ball, they are in better shape to begin the 2020 season with limited preparations compared to other teams. Add in the fact they are not looking to rely heavily of their 2020 draft class, they are in much better shaped than the overwhelming majority of the NFL.

Con: Rust

Steelers fans have experienced some slow regular-season starts by the team in recent years. Often attributed to many of the starters not “shaking off the rust” enough before the season begins due to limited preseason play, this could become even more of a factor going into the season.

When it comes to rust, it’s not just the players. Some may not have considered the officials. There are many times the officiating in preseason games is even worse than the regular season as the officials get acclimated to new crews, rules, and procedures. The NFL officials will not have any game action before they take the field in Week 1 which could lead to even more questionable calls. And when it comes to questionable calls, it feels like the Steelers are too often on the wrong end of things.

Pro: Defense

Personally, I believe, at least early in the 2020 season, teams which have a stronger defense will have a bigger advantage. As offenses are attempting to get in rhythm, defenses are generally ahead of the curve but just might not be up to par with the complexity of their schemes. With the Steelers defense returning to dominating form in 2019, I think it will serve the team well especially to start the season in 2020 as offenses are still trying to figure out their plan of attack.

Con: Safety Protocols

I have to admit I was surprised the NFL didn’t push more to have at least one preseason game simply to be able to run through their safety protocols on game day a couple weeks before the start of the actual season. I thought perhaps teams would be required to have a limited roster for one preseason game which could help evaluate talent but would also help everyone get used to how things are going to work on game day when it comes to safety. With no other run-through going to happen, it will be the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs in the kick off game on Thursday night which will be the test run for the entire league. While Heinz Field is not scheduled to host a game until Week 2, it could the the safety protocols of the visiting teams which could bring about concerns.

I’m sure there are other pros and cons about the situation going on with the 2020 preseason when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. What do you think? If you have any more to add to the list, please feel free to put them in the comments below.

The NFL will require any fans in attendance to wear face coverings

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 1:17pm
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For those teams to hoping to have fans, this just makes official what most were prepared to do.

Some NFL teams have already made the decision on their own while others were still preparing for the news. But according to NFL PR spokesperson Brian McCarthy, all fans in attendance at any NFL games in 2020 will be required to wear face coverings.

For those wondering, yes, it is league-wide: fans at NFL games this season will be required to wear face coverings pic.twitter.com/D139KGKQ4r

— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) July 22, 2020

While some Steelers fans may think this did not apply to them as the Steelers had already made this known, the actual stance on masks has been misreported by many of those in the media. The actual wording from the email which was sent to season ticket holders earlier this month was the Steelers anticipated face coverings would need to be worn. Whether or not the Steelers expected this based on local mandates or if they knew something from the NFL would be coming really does not matter at this point. It is now official.

Some NFL teams have already been informed they will not have fans in the stadium in 2020, including the Steelers Week 1 opponent in the New York Giants. Although some believe requirements for attendance will be the same league-wide, the NFL has stated it will be up to local restrictions at each stadium which will determine the number of fans, if any, which will be in attendance.

Some teams have already announced their plans for the season when it comes to attendance while others are still waiting until a later date. The Baltimore Ravens have stated they plan on having 14,000 fans in M&T Bank Stadium.

As for the Steelers, an email was sent to season ticket holders today with some outlines of precautions which will be taken if fans will be in attendance. With none of these precautions being any different from the last time they were reported, the only significant news from the email was procedures for reimbursement for preseason games which season ticket holders had already been required to pay.

The 2020 season is shaping up to look fundamentally different than anything fans have seen before. Although things will not be proceeding in the normal manner of an NFL season, both the league and the NFLPA are moving forward to still have football this fall. As more information emerges as to how different procedures will be implemented both at Heinz Field and across the NFL, Behind The Steel Curtain will continue to update any information.

Improved depth at running back and tight end doesn’t really matter for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images

The Steelers will likely lean heavily on three wide receiver sets again in 2020

One report I always look forward to every year is Football Outsiders offensive personnel analysis, where they break down usage and effectiveness of different personnel groupings in the previous NFL season.

In 2019 the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t field the offense fans have grown accustomed to, with Ben Roethlisberger missing most of the season, the offense not having Antonio Brown playing a major role for the first season since 2011, as well as both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner missing significant time.

One surprising thing to me was that in spite of the Steelers seeing a clear top three wide receivers on their offense, 2019 was the first time in years that the Steelers ranked worse in effectiveness out of 11 personnel (1 TE, 1 RB, 3 WRs) than from other personnel groupings. While no part of the offense excelled, the Steelers ranked 31st in DVOA from 11 personnel, and 29th in DVOA out of other sets.

When you look at the depth chart and stats, it makes even less sense.

The Steelers had a questionable backfield in 2019. James Conner struggled with injury and production, Jaylen Samuels had a terrible rushing year, and the team ended up using rookie Benny Snell Jr., practice squad running back and special teams player Trey Edmunds, and Kerrith Whyte Jr., whom they signed off another teams practice squad. Considering they lost fullback Roosevelt Nix for almost all of the season, it doesn’t seem like multiple running backs would work better than three wide receiver sets. The tight end depth wasn’t any better, with the Steelers trading for Nick Vannett and using rookie Zach Gentry as the number three tight end when they bothered to have him active on game day, the depth chart offered less certainty than in previous seasons when Jesse James and Xavier Grimble were on the roster.

Compare 2019 to 2016, when the Steelers ranked 4th in effectiveness out of 11 personnel and 8th in effectiveness from other sets. That season the Steelers had Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams and Roosevelt Nix, while injuries decimated the wide receiver room, leaving the Steelers with Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton for most of the season. It is surprising that Cobi Hamilton replacing Roosevelt Nix or DeAngelo Williams would improve the effectiveness of the offense, but that’s what the stats show.

Similarly in 2018, with Vance McDonald and Jesse James recording impressive yards per target, and Ryan Switzer or James Washington both being far less efficient options, the Steelers ranked 6th in DVOA out of 11 personnel, but 17th in all other personnel sets. The difference in effectiveness was the 5th biggest in the NFL that year.

Lastly, with the NFL having apparently peaked in using 11 personnel at around 60% of plays, the teams who rank as most effective in 11 personnel are the teams which use it less. Most of the teams at the top in DVOA out of 11 personnel the last 4 seasons were in the bottom half of 11 personnel usage. There are a few notable exceptions each season, with the Los Angeles Rams using 11 personnel at a high rate and with a high DVOA in 2017 and 2018, Dallas in 2019, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016, 2017 and 2018, only falling off with Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline.

The conclusion? As long as Ben Roethlisberger is the Steelers quarterback, expect the Steelers to use a lot of three wide receiver sets, and be incredibly effective using them, regardless of who is playing the positions.

So while we may get excited seeing a top tight end pairing with Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald, a running back room that is diverse and deep, and Derek Watt joining the team at fullback, the Steelers are likely to continue to line up with one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers for more than two thirds of offensive plays, and expect that to be their best formation.

The Football Outsiders articles referenced in this piece:

2016 Offensive personnel analysis
2017 Offensive personnel analysis
2018 Offensive personnel analysis
2019 Offensive personnel analysis

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Christian Montano

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 11:00am
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

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

Moving along with part 59 of our 90(ish?)-part series — assuming the roster does not change even more before we are complete — which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man (or 80-man perhaps?) 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 rookie guard:

Christian Montano

Position: G
Height: 6’ 4”
Weight: 300 lbs
College: Tulane
Draft: UDFA in 2020

2019 stats (NCAA)

13 Games played
13 Games started

Contract remaining

Expires in 2023
$610,833 salary cap number (0.30% of total cap)
$833 Dead money
$610,000 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

53-man roster next to none, practice squad is a high option.

Christian Montano is in a really tough position on the Steelers roster. He’s basically in an open try out to land a job on some teams practice roster, however with no preseason games being all but confirmed, he won't get any game reps to prove himself worthy for one of the jobs. He basically has to prove to the Steelers staff that he belongs in the NFL and that the Steelers need to keep him around .

2020 projection

Montano basically needs a miracle to make the initial 53 at the guard spot. David DeCastro, Matt Feiler, Stefen Wisniewski, and Kevin Dotson are virtual locks to make this roster meaning Montano is fighting for a practice squad job in Pittsburgh.

Projected stats:

N/A — Practice squad

Summary

Montano has walked an interesting path in order to make it to the NFL, he is a Brown university graduate, and a bowl winning starter at Tulane. He will continue to walk that path as he will likely have a red shirt year within the NFL’s practice squad system, before a chance at making a team full time in 2021. Time will tell whether Montano will land on the Steelers practice squad or get snagged by another team.

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

Does extra apparel on only Ben Roethlisberger’s throwing arm affect his performance?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 9:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Does the future Hall of Fame quarterback perform any better while wearing just an arm sleeve on his right arm? We did the research.

As I was scrolling through Twitter last Wednesday, I took note of the Steelers’ weekly tradition: posting a picture of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with the affectionately placed “#BensDay.”

You know what day it is ➡️ #BensDay pic.twitter.com/AWU6t2Jco2

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 15, 2020

What caught my eye in this tweet was the white arm sleeve Roethlisberger had donned in that very game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018.

That got me ruminating:
a) how often has Big Ben worn only a full-length arm sleeve on his right (throwing) arm?
b) how do his stats in such contests compare to his games with more conventional equipment?

To find out, I utilized a complimentary trial of NFL Game Pass (which lasts through July 31st—I highly recommend it!) and re-watched every single game in which Roethlisberger played since 2009—the furthest back the archives delved.

First, a little background: Roethlisberger has sported a number of equipment styles over this 11-year span, including:

No arm sleeves and a playbook wristband, like Week 1, 2016 at Washington Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images A half-sleeve undershirt and a playbook wristband, as in Week 1 of 2019 Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images A forearm band and a playbook wristband, such as against the Seahawks in their Week 2, 2019 clash Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images And 2 full-length arm sleeves and a playbook wristband, notably in Color Rush/cold weather matchups (i.e. Week 16, 2016 vs. the Ravens (top) and the 2017 Divisional Round game (bottom)) Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In today’s NFL, numerous players—namely quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Carson Wentz—choose to wear an arm sleeve on their throwing arms as a personal style/performance preference. However, Roethlisberger may be forced to (or may opt to) wear a full-length right sleeve as the season begins in order to protect his surgically-repaired elbow; consequently, we may see Big Ben come onto the field with just a right arm sleeve and a playbook wristband in warmer games in September and October.

For Roethlisberger’s performance to be considered for this exercise, he had to have been donning a full-length right arm sleeve without a complementary-length sleeve on his left arm.

After assiduously scouring through hours of film, let’s find out if “Arm Sleeve Ben” is an actual phenomenon.

To start, the only games that met such cloth-centered criteria transpired in 2018: Week 2 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, Week 3 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Week 4 at the Baltimore Ravens, Week 5 vs. the Atlanta Falcons and Week 11 at the Jaguars.

Here are Roethlisberger’s combined and average statistics from the aforementioned 5 games.

Games With Full-Length Right Arm Sleeve (5): 64.3 Completion Percentage, 1,643 yards, 12 TDs, 6 INTs, 3-2 record (.600 Winning Percentage) Average Stats Per Game With Full-Length Right Arm Sleeve (5): 328.6 yards, 2.4 TDs, 1.2 INTs

Roethlisberger certainly enjoyed some memorable performances while wearing a sleeve, including tough road victories in Florida as well as a rout of the Falcons. At the same time, he also incurred lulls by losing to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, a mediocre performance in Baltimore as well as launching 3 interceptions in Duval County.

Roethlisberger’s prorated stats in a 16-game season with additional paraphernalia would be as follows:

5,258 yards, 38 TDs, 19 INTs, 9.6 Wins

The unequivocal question is: How does “Arm Sleeve Ben” compare to his overall career metrics? Let’s remove the auxiliary gear and find out.

Career Averages/Stats: 64.3 Completion Percentage, 259.4 yards/game, 1.7 TDs/game, 0.9 INTs/game, .667 Winning Percentage

Interestingly enough, Roethlisberger’s completion percentage was exactly the same in 5 games with the sleeve as it was for his overall 218 matchups played.

“Arm Sleeve Ben” seemed to fare better in terms of yardage (increase of 69.2 yards/game) and touchdowns tossed per contest (increase of .7 TDs/game), yet he also launched more interceptions (.3 more/game) while losing at a slightly inferior rate.

Further, here’s how Roethlisberger actually performed in 2018:

5,129 yards, 34 TDs, 16 INTs, 9 Wins

It seems that Roethlisberger—with just his right arm encased—would have accumulated more yards and touchdowns, although his trigger-happy nature would have also spiked his interception totals.

Overall, it appears that Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t flourish any more than usual while suiting up in just a full-length right arm sleeve.

At the very least, though, “Arm Sleeve Ben” has more swagger—style and confidence that very well may manifest itself in 2020 in order to reduce the chance of aggravating his now-repaired elbow, potentially via an enveloped brace.

Steelers WR Ryan Switzer is supremely fit and extremely confident at the moment

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Steelers WR Ryan Switzer revealed recently that he is in the best shape of his life and is ready to be one of the best slot receivers in the NFL.

I hate to be the one to break the news to a rather large portion of our BTSC brethren, but Ryan Switzer has no intentions of leaving town without a fight. Actually, based on a recent quote from the man himself, Switzer has never been more confident in his own ability to have a successful NFL career.

Thus far during his time in the Steel City, Switzer's performance has been underwhelming to say the least. He hasn't displayed the necessary skills set and short area burst to make an impact on the field, especially when you factor in his diminutive stature. His lack of size and explosion results in him going down on first contact as a receiver, while his apparent hesitation as a punt returner has resulted in him being crowned the King of the Fair Catch.

Switzer's unproductive initial season in 2018 with the Steelers was blamed on him playing through a undisclosed ankle injury, and big things were expected heading into last season after offseason surgery. However, that pleasant dream quickly turned into a nightmare for Switzer and the Steelers.

After Ben Roethlisberger went down for the season in Week 2, Switzer continued to be an ineffective afterthought until he was eventually placed on injured reserve with a back injury in November, basically ending his second disappointing season in a row with the Steelers.

For all intents and purposes, even the most ardent Switzer supporters would have had to admit that the odds of Switzer remaining in a Steelers uniform this season would be the longest of long shots. Many members of the BTSC community have been impatiently waiting with bated breath for Switzer to be kicked to the curb. Good riddance to bad rubbish, and not a moment too soon.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to Switzer's big release party. Switzer and his wife Gabie were spotted on live television taking in a WV Mountaineers basketball game with the Roethlisbergers. Yes, those Roethlisbergers; Big Ben and his lovely wife Ashley.

Everybody sure seemed to be having a grand old time, and the couples were yucking it up for all to see. The telecast cameras focused on the festivities happening in the stands throughout the game, with Roethlisberger posing for pictures with the Mountaineers mascot, made even funnier by the fact they had the same beard. Like an episode of Gilligan's Island, it sure looked like Ben was having a blast with his little buddy. I could feel minds melting all across Steelers Nation.

Like it or not, friendships and personal relationships have a direct impact on roster configuration. That is true for any business or profession. In any relationship for that matter. It is human nature to try and surround ourselves with like-minded individuals who we have an increased chance of enjoying an successful endeavor with. Individuals who we actually want to have around. This helps create a happier work environment.

It never hurts to have a strong friendship with the Hall of Fame caliber face of the franchise. Players of Ben Roethlisberger's status usually get their way, with the front office striving to keep their star players happy and content.

Switzer is feeling supremely confident about his chances of having a breakout season, even during the pandemic. He stated on Instagram recently that he is in the best shape of his life, and fully expects to be one of the best slot receivers in the league this year.

Regardless of your opinion of the young man, you have to admire the confidence. To accomplish any goal, you first have to believe it is possible.

Please understand that I would never accuse Ryan Switzer of befriending Ben Roethlisberger solely to solidify his status on the Steelers roster, nor would I suggest that Ben would utilize his status to influence roster decisions. But I will say this, it sure shouldn't hurt Switzer's chances.

Predicting the 10 Steelers who could be cut before training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Although it’s not definite, it appears likely that NFL teams will only be able to bring 80 players to training camp

The NFLPA is bargaining that roster size for the start of training camp should be limited to just 80 players. This means 10 unlucky members of each franchise’s roster may never get a chance to showcase their skills. With camp report dates still scheduled to be right around the corner, those roster cuts could be announced any day after the roster size has been made official.

Let’s take a look at the 10 Steelers that I think will get the snips before camp even begins along with some predictions from other BTSC writers.

Michael Beck’s List: 1. Arrion Springs, Defensive back

At least one corner won't make it through to training camp as the Steelers typically carry 6 during the season, but currently sit with 10. Either Springs, Breon Borders or, James Pierre will be chopped.

2. Christian Kuntz, Long snapper/Linebacker

Kuntz pushed Kameron Canaday a year ago for the starting long snapper job but ultimately lost out. Carrying an extra snapper would be foolish.

3. Corliss Waitman, Punter

There is no reason where the Steelers should cut an extra skill position player in order to carry two punters into camp. Waitman can easily be brought back if Jordan Berry struggles.

4. J.T. Barrett, Quarterback

The Steelers currently have five quarterbacks on the roster for a position where ultimately only one should be playing in a game. Cutting Barrett still lets Paxton Lynch battle Devlin Hodges for the final spot.

5. Ralph Webb, Running back

The Steelers will probably bring 4 running backs into the regular season, but currently sit at 7. You could justify the club releasing both Webb and Trey Edmunds as the only question left at the position is if the Steelers will carry Jaylen Samuels or Kerrith Whyte Jr.

6. John Battle, Safety

Yes, the Steelers are in need of safety depth however, they have 7 safeties to fill four or five spots. Not only that but the top back up’s will likely be corners. The two other safeties to make this roster will be asked to play big special team roles.

7. Kevin Rader, Tight End

Either newly acquired Dax Raymond or Rader will unfortunately not make this roster. I’m going with Rader because what was the point of making a roster spot for Raymond if our just going to cut him right away.

8. Quadree Henderson, Receiver/Kick Returner

The Steelers have a log jam of receivers that they'll have to figure out during training camp, guys like Henderson will struggle to land a place on this team, and the return man will be cut for the second time by the Steelers

9. Christian DiLauro, Tackle

The Steelers have six tackles for only three or four jobs. I’m picking former XFLer Anthony Coyle to win the spot at camp over the NFL journeyman.

10. Spencer Nigh, Fullback

The UDFA will find himself on the outs with big ticket fullback Derek Watt in the mix. In a position where teams may not even carry one true fullback I don’t think the Steelers can justify bringing two into training camp at the expense of another receiver or lineman.

Explanation: As you can probably noticed this list is almost exclusively made up by players that already have an NFL training camp under their belts. I think basically every rookie makes this team based on their potential being a unknown, and the coaching staff already knowing what they have in their veterans.

Flip Fisher’s List:

Explanation: Undrafted rookie free agents will take the brunt of the cutdowns to 80 players. The notable exception is Paxton Lynch. The Steelers do not need another Camp arm and I believe the league has seen enough of his talent.

Dave Schofield’s List:

Explanation: I think the Steelers will keep most of their rookies in order to get a better feel for what they can do. Known for finding some great players as UDFAs, if they cut most of them it will be tough to find a hidden gem. I think the majority of cuts will come from players who have been in a training camp before but didn’t stick. The bigger the chance to make the practice squad, the more likely a player makes the 80-man roster. This is the reason I cut the punter, long snapper, and fullback because they are low-priority positions. But don’t be shocked if the punter comes back for a few days when they actually get on the field to practice so they can see what he can do.

What do you think? Who are the ten players that won’t make it to training camp? Make sure you vote in the poll and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: Are 2020 Steelers predictions out the window with the new preseason format?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest BTSC podcast, our Steelers ‘Stat Geeks’, brothers Dave and Rich Schofield, break down the numbers surrounding the Black-and-Gold.

The NFL Players Association asked for no preseason games to protect their players during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. The NFL has complied and there will be no exhibition action this year. There have been plenty of speculation and predictions of what Steelers players all across the roster would achieve statistically. But how does the NFL’s new preseason plan affect that? Should it all be thrown out of the window? This is the question that will be pondered and attempted to be answered on the latest edition in the BTSC family of podcasts.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold and there you have the topic for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Stat Geek. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, stats and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Are 2020 Steelers predictions out the window with the new preseason format?
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich 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.

Black and Gold Links: Players may be permitted to wear decals on helmets for social justice causes

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/22/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/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 NFL considering to allow teams to honor victims of police brutality with a decal on their helmets.

Let’s get to the news:

  • It will be interesting to see the scope of what the NFL will allow on decals

NFL planning to allow social justice decals on helmets

By: Associated Press

The NFL is planning to allow players to have decals on the back of their helmets bearing names or initials of victims of systemic racism and police violence.

The league has been in talks with individual players and their union since June about somehow honoring such victims. The initiative will be done leaguewide, with each team deciding who it will honor and how to display the names or initials.

Unlike the NBA, which is allowing players to wear slogans on their jerseys, the NFL will stick to names and initials once a final agreement has been reached with the players’ association. The program will continue for the entire season.

This initiative is something of a breakthrough because the league has not allowed such messaging, except for during its October NFL Crucial Catch program in conjunction with the fight against breast cancer, and in its November salutes to the military. Players also have been allowed to represent a cause on their cleats one weekend per season.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Kinnel doesn’t have to look far for motivation

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Get to know Steelers safety Tyree Kinnel

Tyree Kinnel

Safety

University of Michigan

Most entertaining person you follow on social media? That’s a good one. Lately Desi Banks. His videos are very relatable to me.

Must have food? I have to go with pizza with pepperoni, bacon and sausage.

Morning person or night owl? Definitely a morning person, but I can be a night owl as well. I am both in a way.

Who is your football mentor or inspiration? I would say my inspiration and my mentor would be my dad, Chris, when it comes to football. If I had to pick a player who came before me it would be Charles Woodson. My dad because he is the one who taught me the game, brought football into my life. I am blessed for that. He helped me at a young age. He is why I am where I am today.

What motivates you? To be a great competitor, wanting to win. And my daughter, Zara, motivates me to want to play and succeed so much.

What is your football mindset/approach? To be the best person I can be and to win and have fun. Be the best, win and have fun.

When did you start to dream about playing in the NFL? When I was really a little kid, first or second grade I would tell people I was going to play in the NFL. I dreamt about it. I was young when I had those goals and dreams.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Previewing the Steelers tight end room

Steelers’ 90-man roster: TEs

By: Jim Wexell, Steelers Digest

ON THE ROSTER NOW: Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry, Vance McDonald, Kevin Rader. EDITOR’S NOTE: According to reports on July 21, the Steelers will add free agent tight end Dax Raymond to their 90-man roster. Raymond (6-5, 255) signed with the Bears in 2019 as an undrafted rookie from Utah State. Raymond did not make the roster, but the Bears signed him back to the practice squad in October. Raymond signed a futures contract with the Bears after the 2019 season but was waived in April. In 27 games at Utah State, Raymond caught 72 passes for 873 yards and three touchdowns.

ON THE ROSTER IN SEPTEMBER: You would have to go back to 2013 for the only season of the Mike Tomlin era in which he kept four tight ends. During every other year he kept three, and that’s going to be the number unless something freaky like “half” an injury occurs, when a player can’t play in the opener or soon thereafter and another must be kept temporarily.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT: After catching 50 passes in 2018, McDonald was expected to enjoy a breakout statistical season as Ben Roethlisberger’s “security blanket.” Roethlisberger, of course, went down during the first half in the second game. McDonald went on to catch seven passes that day, four from Mason Rudolph, but then his catches greatly diminished and he finished with only 38. Even with Ebron around, we should expect better production from McDonald.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Breaking down Zach Banner’s ability to win the starting right tackle job

Explaining how it’s still a 53-man and not a 55-man roster

Alex Highsmith reportedly signs his rookie contract

Hines Ward deserved to be in Canton before Antonio Brown

Anthony McFarland Jr. posts pictures of him signing with the Steelers

  • Social Media Madness

Spoiler alert: @TeamJuJu catches this for a touchdown #TouchdownTuesday pic.twitter.com/2NuDP6DJIv

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 22, 2020

Give him 6️⃣‼️@_Dbush11 | #TouchdownTuesday pic.twitter.com/jWeuZV5PTX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 21, 2020

4️⃣3️⃣ sends us to #SBXLIII@tpolamalu | #TouchdownTuesday pic.twitter.com/EXQQlCApdg

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 21, 2020

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