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A sense of urgency

Steelers.com News - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 10:00am
William Gay understands the importance of getting off to a fast start, and staying strong throughout.

A sense of urgency

Steelers.com News - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 10:00am
William Gay understands the importance of getting off to a fast start, and staying strong throughout.

One year in, Steelers CB Artie Burns looks like a brilliant, shrewd draft pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 9:30am

Steelers cornerback Artie Burns faced more than his fair share of criticism, long before he ever stepped on even a practice field in Black & Gold. One year later, he’s turning heads in camp the way he did in the final stretch of his rookie season.

About 15 months ago, the Steelers drafted cornerback Artie Burns in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, much to the chagrin of many fans. The pick was met here, at Behind the Steel Curtain, with a nearly even, three-way mix of joy, disdain, and cries of, “...who?”

It wasn’t until just about 24 hours before the draft that Burns was even meaningfully connected as a possible pick for the Steelers. The other cornerbacks connected with Pittsburgh — Eli Apple and William Jackson III, mostly — were gone, with Jackson being taken one pick prior by the rival Cincinnati Bengals. Some in Steeler Nation saw it as an intentional slight by the Bengals, as ridiculous as that notion may seem.

I, myself, felt Burns was a solid pick, but questioned if it would be the right pick. The answer, as it turned out, was a resounding “heck, yeah!”

As Burns settles into his second training camp at St. Vincent College, three main story lines have emerged. The first is that he is seeing a lot more man coverage looks in year two. The second is that the plan appears to be to have him shadow teams’ top receivers this year, a role that was last filled by former cornerback Ike Taylor, with great success.

The third is a continuation — perhaps even a mild reversal — of a storyline from his first camp. A year ago, Burns spent most of camp being beaten by Antonio Brown in ways that would make a rented mule think, “wow, that’s harsh.”

Fast-forward to 2017, and the story is a little different. Burns is still giving up catches to Brown but, then again, so does everyone else who tries to cover him. Every. Single. One. The difference is that Brown is making most of those catches despite excellent coverage. Getting outplayed by Brown is slightly more certain than death or taxes. And, according to the reports out of camp, Burns is actually getting his share of wins when covering the guy who is almost universally viewed as the best receiver in football right now. That, in and of itself, is a pretty great story.

Burns had a rocky start in 2016, but he finished well, and that’s about the best you can hope for from any rookie who eventually becomes a starter before their inaugural season draws to a close. In fact, despite starting just three games last season, the young corner ended up with the 20th-most passes defended, at 13. No one ahead of him on the list had fewer than nine starts. His three interceptions were good for a tie for 31st place. Again, he had the fewest starts in the group, by far. And his 51 tackles ranked 18th among all cornerbacks.

In 2017, Burns is going to be counted on as the number-one corner for the Steelers, a role he both relishes, and has earned. For the record, no rookie cornerback had more interceptions than Burns’ three. Only two other rookie corners — Hargreaves and Jalen Ramsey — had more tackles, and only Ramsey had more pass breakups.

Simply put, Burns came in with a general acknowledgement that he was raw and would take time to develop, and ended the season with one of the best all-around performances for a cornerback, at least in key statistics. He had his bad moments — missed tackles, blown assignments — but he learned from them and improved. Now, just a half a year since his first season ended, he’s back in Pittsburgh, ramping up for his second year.

This time, though, he’s being counted on as a leader. As long as he keeps winning an occasional matchup with Brown during training camp, the expectations will only grow.

He looks more than capable of living up to them.

2017 Steelers Training Camp Nuggets: What you need to know from the 8/2 practice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 8:21am

Getting you caught up on the Steelers training camp practice following their mandated day off.

The Steelers were back on the field after having their mandatory day off. One thing for certain, even with the day off, today’s practice was perhaps their most eventful yet.

Here is a summary of what took place.

Notable Absences and Returns

One of the biggest stories at camp were the players that were absent. Both Cameron Heyward and Antonio Brown were not present at camp, as both of the we busy welcoming their new children into the world. Late Tuesday, Brown welcomed his fifth child; while Heyward welcomed his second child.

Steelers rookie James Conner was present at camp but did not participate in any of the drills, yet his presence was a good sign that he was on the right track. Vince Williams made his first appearance in pads, which was a welcomed sight for the Steelers fans in attendance. Speaking of first appearances, JuJu Schuster-Smith made his first appearance in pads after suffering an ankle injury on Sunday. As seen in this clip, courtesy of Pittsburgh AP Sports Writer Will Graves, JuJu appears to be 100-percent.

JuJu back at work #steelers pic.twitter.com/dpVKQ3rtNO

— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) August 2, 2017 Injured Steelers

While some players were given the day off as a day of rest, there were several who were hampered by injury. Here is a quick run-down of the injury report:

Senquez Golson (hamstring), Cameron Sutton (lower body/leg), Landry Jones (abdomen), Mike Mitchell (ankle/foot).

Golson’s injury, while possibly sidelining him for the short-term, is not thought to be the type of injury which would end his preseason. Good news for fans who finally want to see what he can do when healthy and given a chance to prove himself on the actual gridiron.

7-Shots Goaline Drill

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the offense going 0 - 4 with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback with the first team offense. The defense stood tall and prevented the Roethlisberger-led offense from scoring. This speaks volumes about the defense that has been trending in the right direction.

Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell were obviously absent, but the Steelers should have enough depth to actually put at least one touchdown on the board. This should not be a cause for concern for fans, as all reports from camp stated how Roethlisberger mis-fired on a couple throws, and Darrius Heyward-Bey was unable to keep his feet in bounds on another play.

Either way, it proves the defense is forcing the offense to fit passes into extremely tight windows, and that is a good thing. Iron sharpens iron.

T.J. Watt is becoming a phenom

To say the least, T.J. Watt was Wednesday’s top performer. For starters, in the LB vs TE drill, he swatted the ball away for Jesse James (who is struggling as of late), and beat David Johnson soundly. His only noted weakness was in coverage, as he has a tendency of holding; however he is very capable of covering both tight ends and receivers. In the defense vs offense drill, he was everywhere making tackles in the backfield and downfield as the one seen in the clip below. This young man is becoming a real find and there is no evidence of him slowing down anytime soon.

Tomlin screamed for "tackle football" and that's exactly what he got #steelers pic.twitter.com/Mf2JNNt6Pq

— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) August 2, 2017 Mike Hilton’s performances could mean trouble for Senquez Golson

The fact that Mike Hilton is playing at the level he is playing should come at no surprise to anyone. At the time when he was signed, many spoke about the fact that despite his 5-foot 9-inch stature, he plays much bigger than his size suggests; in addition, he has very high level ball skills. Wednesday he accounted for an interception off Joshua Dobbs, and he forced Bart Houston out of the pocket on a corner blitz; what made this more impressive was how he turned away running back Trey Williams in process.

Hilton is essentially what Senquez Golson should be, if he were healthy. If Hilton continues producing strong performances, and Golson remains sidelined, this could mean trouble for Golson.

The LBs were on fire

This day was all about the linebackers. Tyler Matakevich displayed some coverage skills by breaking up a pass intended for Xavier Grimble, but his specialty is playing the run. L.J. Fort had a strong showing with several hits, including a tackle for loss on running back Terrell Watson, in which he ran over offensive guard B.J. Finney in the process. Vince Williams made the biggest impact, literally speaking he did. His hit on David Johnson was by far the biggest hit of the day. In addition, he made a big hit on Brandon Brown-Dukes and made tackles on Fitzgerald Toussaint and Knile Davis to show his range. The Linebackers were pretty much on point the entire day.

Tale of two Dobbs

Of all the players at camp, Joshua Dobbs is perhaps the biggest enigma. At points in Wednesday’s practice he would have great sequences, then he would follow it with a costly error. In one sequence, he made two straight completions downfield to JuJu Schuster-Smith and Trey Williams; a few plays later, he throws a pick-six to Arthur Moats. He threw another interception to Mike Hilton, then redeemed himself with a back foot throw to tight end Xavier Grimble downfield. The one good thing that can be said about Dobbs is the fact that he does not wither under pressure, and he bounces back after mistakes.

Other Nuggets
  • Receiver Juju Schuster-Smith had a strong showing on his first day. Made several impressive catches and demonstrated incredible body control. From all accounts, he was the best blocking receiver in the WR/DB full contact drill.
  • As was the case last year, Anthony Chickillo is having a strong camp. In the offense vs defense scrimmage, he had two sacks. The main question with Chickillo is whether or not his training camp success will translate in the regular season.
  • Outside linebacker Keion Adams is a name to keep in mind. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, he’s good enough to push for a roster spot.
  • Marcus Gilbert is in my opinion, the best offensive lineman on the team. He has yet to be beaten in any of the one-on-one drills. Seems that he’s primed for his battle against Cleveland Browns’ first overall pick, defensive end Myles Garrett.
  • Although he has not been spectacular, cornerback Coty Sensabaugh is quietly having a good camp.
  • Cobi Hamilton is still dropping passes which does not bode well for him making the roster.
Free Martavis Counter: 7 Days

The 'standard' for Steelers shopping

Steelers.com News - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 8:00am
A new Steelers Pro Shop provides fans everything they want, and then some.

The 'standard' for Steelers shopping

Steelers.com News - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 8:00am
A new Steelers Pro Shop provides fans everything they want, and then some.

Steelers Sideline Store opens in Tanger Outlets

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 7:57am
Check out the new Steelers Sideline Store located in the Tanger Outlets in Washington, PA.

Steelers Sideline Store opens in Tanger Outlets

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 7:57am
Check out the new Steelers Sideline Store located in the Tanger Outlets in Washington, PA.

Smith-Schuster talks about his competition

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 7:05am
JuJu Smith-Schuster is well aware of the talent around him in the wide receivers group.

Smith-Schuster talks about his competition

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 7:05am
JuJu Smith-Schuster is well aware of the talent around him in the wide receivers group.

Rookie Cameron Sutton could be the punt return answer the Steelers have been looking for

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 7:00am

The Steelers are still looking for Antonio Brown’s permanent replacement at punt returner. Cameron Sutton might be the answer they have been waiting for.

One of the biggest challenges that the Steelers have faced in recent years, is finding a suitable replacement at Punt Returner for Antonio Brown. The Steelers have gone many routes to solve this problem. When Dri Archer was drafted in 2014, he was sought to be the one to take over the reigns at this position. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Dri Archer failed to live up to expectations as Running back and punt returner; inevitably he was waived in November 2015.

Around that same time, Jacoby Jones was claimed off waivers to be the answer to this problem; two fumbles later against the Indiapolis Colts, Jones was demoted then eventually released in 2016. Early last season, both Demarcus Ayers and Eli Rogers shared duties at punt returner; both Rogers and Ayers performed adequately in this role.

Now the Steelers have one more option that can potentially be what they have been looking for; enter Cameron Sutton. Many remember that Sutton was drafted in the 3rd round of this year's NFL draft, to play the role of slot Cornerback. What many may not have been aware of, is that Sutton played the duo role of kickoff and punt returner with the Tennessee Volunteers. In his Junior, Sutton accounted for 467 punt return yards and two touchdowns on 26 return attempts; that is an average of 18 yards per attempt.

For Sutton as the case with every rookie in training camp looking for every angle to make the 53-man roster, if he can prove that he is an upgrade at punt returner, this might be the most ideal path to attaining this goal.

Analyzing the details of Alejandro Villanueva’s latest contract, and what it means for Stephon Tuitt

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 6:00am

The Pittsburgh Steelers paid Alejandro Villanueva handsomely, and it is time to break down the numbers and what it means for the Steelers salary cap situation.

Alejandro Villanueva is one of those great stories we all like to read about. Villanueva played three different positions during his college career while playing for Army at West Point. He was already the tallest player in college football as a senior, but he was by far the heaviest WR, at 290 pounds, in 2009. The odd journey to the NFL did not end there for him. While serving three tours in Afghanistan with the Army Rangers, AV was decorated with the Bronze Star for valor.

Now the Pittsburgh Steelers have decorated him with a four year $24 million contract.

After almost a week, the financial details of Alejandro Villanueva’s new contract is out. There were no surprises in the Pittsburgh Steelers deal that locks him down through the 2020 season, according to Jeremy Fowler.

The deal includes a $6.5 million signing bonus to go along with base salaries of $1.5 million in 2017, $3 million in 2018, $5 million in 2019 and $5 million in 2020. Also, a $3 million roster bonus for 2018. Pittsburgh generally makes these roster bonuses guaranteed on the fifth day of the new league year, so early March 2018.

Uncertainty swirled in regards to what the Steelers would do with Big Al’s contract situation. Villanueva was due $615,000 for 2017 as an ERFA. He had no leverage over the team to get a pay raise. He either played for the league minimum, or he did not play football in 2017. This was a classy move on the Steelers part, rewarding their 26 game starter who did not allow a sack or quarterback hit from Week 14 through the conference championship.

Where does this put the Steelers regarding the 2017 salary cap? The NFLPA has the updated figure after AV’s contract at $13,815,763. While that number might have some of you grumbling about why the Steelers did not grab a high priced free agent. That number is misleading.

As the figure only accounts for the top 51 players on the roster, two more players need to be accounted for on the final roster of 53. (There is no rhyme or reason as to why only the rule of 51 applies and the other two players do not have to be accounted for in the offseason.) The two additional players will account for between $930,000 and $1.1 million. Cap space could grow if players currently in the top 51 are cut prior to the start of the season. The NFL minimum for two players is $930,000, while Eli Rogers and Tyler Matakevich are the 52nd and 53rd-highest-paid players on the 90-man roster.

The 10-man practice squad (PS) will be set prior to the start of the season and will account for more than $1.15 million. The actual figure will be higher, though, as some players will be paid more to ensure they remain with the Black and Gold. The minimum salary for a player on the PS is $7,200 per week for a total of $115,200 over the course of the 17-week season. PS players are also paid weekly for the playoffs, too, which could add another five weeks to their salaries. It would not be too surprising to see the Steelers have to pay out close to $2 million for the PS.

The Steelers also still have to account for $619,200 in offseason workouts. In reality, this figure will not be quite that high. Each player on the 90-man roster gets $215 a day for each of the 32 formal workout sessions. Pittsburgh will not carry 90 players every day, nor will every player take part during every session. The unused cash will be credited toward the salary cap before the start of the season and used as carryover money.

Pittsburgh has a history of carrying over $3 million to $4 million each season for use in the next season. The amount is also used as a buffer for injuries and even sometimes to retain PS players who may be poached.

This is a win-win situation for the Steelers and for AV. The move solidifies Ben Roethlisberger's blind side and gives Villanueva, the former Philadelphia Eagles castoff some job security and a nice payday. The deal locks up the only offensive lineman who was not signed through 2018.

With AV’s contract out of the way, will Stephon Tuitt be next? Or will someone else be next up?

Asked and Answered: Aug. 3

Steelers.com News - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 5:00am
Another installment of Bob Labriola answering your questions about the Steelers and the NFL.

Exclusive 1-on-1 with Burns

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 5:00am
Missi Matthews sits down with second-year cornerback, Artie Burns.

Exclusive 1-on-1 with Burns

Steelers.com Videos - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 5:00am
Missi Matthews sits down with second-year cornerback, Artie Burns.

Asked and Answered: Aug. 3

Steelers.com News - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 5:00am
Another installment of Bob Labriola answering your questions about the Steelers and the NFL.

Joe Starkey: Mike Tomlin’s pending extension well-deserved

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 5:00am

There are legitimate criticisms of Mike Tomlin, for sure, ranging from the loose atmosphere he fosters (which could also be considered a strength) to his team’s annual letdown against inferior competition to his clock management.

Special traffic instructions for Friday Night Lights

Steelers.com News - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 4:45am
Coming to Friday Night Lights this week? Please take note of some special traffic instructions.

Podcast: Getting caught up with Steelers camp injuries and why Martavis Bryant’s reinstatement is a joke

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 4:40am

The BTSC podcast “The Standard is the Standard” returns to break down all things Steelers heading into training camp!

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back to training camp, and what better way to get prepared for the season then to spend just over 30 minutes with Jeff and Lance, co-hosts of the BTSC flagship podcast “The Standard is the Standard”.

There was plenty to discuss in the latest episode of the 2017 season, but here were the main talking points for your listening pleasure:

  • Alejandro Villanueva’s contract
  • Is Stephon Tuitt next to get paid?
  • Training Camp News/Notes
  • WTF Segment
  • Recent CTE report, and what it means for the NFL

If you missed the live show, you can access it via podcast in a number of ways — Our BlogTalkRadio page, on iTunes by searching “The Standard is the Standard”, on various podcast apps for android users, and in the player at the top of the page.

...

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation's top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also checkout his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

Steelers Podcast: “The Standard is the Standard” returns tonight 9:30 pm ET

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 7:45pm

Join Jeff Hartman and Lance Williams of BTSC for the latest episode of the flagship podcast “The Standard is the Standard”.

Join Jeff Hartman and Lance Williams of BTSC for the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard”, the BTSC flagship podcast.

On tonight’s episode, you will hear plenty of talk about injuries plaguing the team, 2017 Steelers training camp and enough black and gold talk to make your ears bleed!

The show starts at 9:30 p.m. ET, and if you want to listen live, simply go to our BlogTalkRadio page. If you missed the live show, you can access it via podcast in a number of ways — Our BlogTalkRadio page, on iTunes by searching “The Standard is the Standard”, on various podcast apps for android users, and on BTSC the following day.

...

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation's top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also checkout his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

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