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Steelers.com News - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 10:15am
A fun look at how players spent the bye weekend.

Pittsburgh Steelers enjoy bye week, along with 6-2 start

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 8:50am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of the bye, and there’s plenty to be excited about for Black-and-gold fans.

There’s nothing like a vacation week to ease the pain of a hard day’s work. The “grind” if you will. Ask any 9-to-5, ham and egger, and they’ll tell you that getting a week off from work is something everybody looks forward to.

I don’t think I’d classify any member of the Pittsburgh Steelers roster as a “Joe six-pack” type, but I’m sure—to a man—they’re all enjoying time off this week as the team’s bye-week has fallen at the exact halfway point of the 2017 season.

I can’t exactly say it was expected that this team would reach this point the way they did. The road loss to Chicago was a stunner but, given the team’s history of under-achieving in road games outside their division when favored, it certainly wasn’t a total shock.

That stinker of a game at home with Jacksonville, though. Yeah, that one really sneaked up on everyone.

So has the lack of punch from an offense expected to be explosive, punishing and running up the score each week. During eight games, they haven’t even cracked 30 points once. The most TD’s they’ve scored in a game has been three. And that happened only once in a road win at Baltimore.

Le’Veon Bell started slow, but he’s picked up his game. Ben Roethlisberger has been average, but better since that 5-pick nightmare with the Jaguars.

We won’t even go into Martavis Bryant. No need for that.

So that covers the bad and perhaps more than a 6-2 team currently sitting atop their conference should have to discuss.

Now let’s cover the good, starting with a young boy and his bike.

And I’m not referring to Pee-Wee Herman.

I’m talking about JuJu Smith-Schuster of course. The kid started out slow, but during the past four weeks, he’s been driving the offense with his play, hauling in 16 of his 24 catches and 332 of his 424 yards receiving. His four TD catches leads the receiving corps and it’s just one behind Bell for the team lead at five.

But what about the bike?!

That’s a story for another day.

T.J. Watt has been productive. His play has been noticed since the first game by many as a positive sign the team’s investment in young defensive studs during the past four seasons is paying off.

Ryan Shazier has been a beast all season. Despite not having registered a sack, he leads the team in solo, assisted and total tackles. Oh yeah, also in interceptions and passes defended. Then there was that tipped pass against Baltimore that led to a pick—plus he’s a member of his local Rotary . . .

You get the idea. He’s good at this football thing.

Then there’s that secondary. The one that was expected to be the team’s weak link. The one that a supposedly washed-up Joe Haden was joining after being hurt and disgruntled in Cleveland. Haden has manned up alongside Mike Mitchell, Sean Davis, Artie Burns and Mike Hilton to form what has been a pass defense that has given up only 6.2 yards per pass attempt—good for second best (among three teams) in the NFL.

Chris Boswell has been solid. Special teams overall is doing what it’s supposed to do.

And we’ve really not spoken much about Todd Haley. How cool is that?!

I said 14-2 before the season started and I’m sticking to that number.

I said this team would win home field advantage with a win over the New England Patriots. I’m not budging on that either.

I said this team would be the AFC representative at the Super Bowl. My guns are locked and loaded on that as well.

And I said the Steelers would win a seventh Lombardi in Minneapolis the first weekend in February.

I’m all in on it baby, so let’s enjoy the second-half ride.

Covering sports for over 20 years in Pittsburgh, John Phillips has been writing about the Steelers for BTSC since 2014. Don’t look for him on Twitter, as JP thinks it’s a waste of time.

Haley: 'We have a resilient group'

Steelers.com News - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 8:30am
A look at assistant coaches' bye-week observations.

Moats a nominee for Salute to Service Award

Steelers.com News - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 8:10am
Arthur Moats has is committed to giving back to the military.

I've learned to embrace the negative Steelers fan like never before

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 7:45am

In times like these, it's best to embrace all Steelers fans, even the negative ones.

Thanks to the ongoing NFL controversy over that thing I'm afraid to mention (it sort of rhymes with handsome armrest), it's hard to go on any Steelers social media-related page without seeing at least a few people screaming for an (well, it kind of rhymes with ROFL toy bot).

It's basically the main football-centric topic I argue with people about nowadays, and I'm so used to that battle that—when a true heel Steelers fan posts a comment such as, "Mike DUMLIN needs to be fired!"—I don't really know how to react.

I used to get visibly angry at such statements and retort with statistics of Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin's overall record.

But, now, I just appreciate the passion and loyalty to the team.

It's sort of like how I felt while watching the Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Jericho WCW match during the heyday of the NWO "invasion" back in the mid-90's. Sure, one was a babyface and the other was a heel, but at least I knew they were both representing the brand.

OK, maybe Jericho stole the WCW Cruiserweight belt from Guerrero after he loosened the turnbuckle padding when the referee had his back turned arguing with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan at ringside, but I took comfort in the thought that all four participants in the match were loyal to their company.

Besides, you just knew—at any moment—some NWO guys were going to rush down to the ring and attack people with baseball bats and chairs, and everyone involved with WCW was going to have to stand together and fight these "Outsiders."

Much like WCW's fight against the NWO some 20 years ago, the Steelers need every fan—the rational and the irrational—to come together right now.

Even a jobber heel Steelers fan who doesn't know the difference between an epic playoff battle and the first preseason game ("WHERE'S THE DAMN GAME-PLAN, HALEY!!!!!!!"), I'm going to be cheering you on next August.

And this newfound appreciation for Steelers fans who love the team but are very irrational about it isn't just limited to social media, either.

Those two guys wearing Steelers jerseys who I saw punching the daylights out of one another outside of Three Rivers Stadium back in 1994, I hope you're both well and ready to cheer on your team next Sunday in Indianapolis.

To that kid who, just five minutes into the very first regular season game following the Steelers 27-23 win over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, stood up in Section 520 of Heinz Field and screamed, "This is why I BLEEPING HATE ARIANS!"—you, sir, are my brother.

Yes, whether in real life or on social media, I welcome all the Steelers "support" my hazel eyes can take in these days.

The good news is, the Steelers are 6-2 and co-leaders in the AFC. On the other hand, they've gotten there while losing to the Bears and Jaguars. Therefore, I'm spotting more and more comments like, "Yeah, but they should be 8-0!!!!!!!!!!!" and, "Big Ben is done!!!!!” or “TIME TO SEE WHAT LANDRY JONES CAN DO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Even the "Who cares?" person, a staple of social media—Facebook, in-particular—if you follow that up with, "I won't care about this team until it stands for the handsome!" I want to introduce you to Mr. or Mrs. "I WILL NOT CARE ABOUT THIS TEAM UNTIL IT FIRES TOMLIN AND RE-HIRES BILL COWHER, WHOSE PLAYERS TOMLIN HAS BEEN WINNING WITH SINCE 2007!!!!!"

And if you think that's bad, just wait until the playoff races start heating up, and that Ric Flair-level heel Steelers fan comes online and really takes over with his epic rants:

"This team sucks! Woooooooo! THEY ARE 14-2, BUT THEY SHOULD BE 16-0! WOOOOO! THEY NEED A NEW QUARTERBACK! WOOOOOOO! I'VE BEEN A SEASON TICKET HOLDER SINCE 1972 AND I'VE NEVER SEEN A TEAM LESS PREPARED! WOOOOOO!!!!!! FIRE TOMLIN! WOOOOOOO! FIRE HALEY! WOOOOOOOOO! BRING BACK COWHER!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOO! SMASHMOUTH FOOTBALLL!!!! WOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Prepare yourselves, ROFL toy botters, you ain't seen no loyalty like Steelers loyalty.

AFC Standings: On a day the Steelers didn’t play, they still won

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 6:20am

The Pittsburgh Steelers enjoyed their bye-week relaxing and rising higher in the NFL rankings.

The bye-week is tough for fans, but not for players. While fans suffer through a week of football without their favorite team, most players just sit back and enjoy a week when their bodies don’t get beat to a pulp.

Without playing a game, it might seem to some that a team like the Steelers has nothing to lose, but also nothing to gain, from the week off. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Week 9 came and went, and it saw distance grow in both the AFC North standings, as well as the overall AFC standings.

First, let’s talk about the AFC North. With both Pittsburgh and Cleveland enjoying a bye-week, both the Ravens and Bengals were losers in their respective games, increasing the lead for the idle Steelers.

Here are the updated standings:

Pittsburgh Steelers - 6-2
Baltimore Ravens - 4-5
Cincinnati Bengals - 3-5
Cleveland Browns - 0-8

The Bengals were annihilated by the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday, and the Ravens were ousted by the Titans in Tennessee. With the Steelers now three games ahead of both the Ravens and Bengals—not counting the fact they’ve already defeated both teams this season—the lead seems almost insurmountable for either team to catch Pittsburgh.

Not to count the chickens before they hatch, but the fact is, the Steelers could wrap up the AFC North abnormally early this season. But don’t let anyone tell you there won’t be anything left to play for down the stretch. After all, there’s that first-round bye and home-field advantage thing which is pretty enticing.

If you think the news is good for the Steelers within their division, the news also is good in the conference. The previously 5-2 Bills lost on Thursday night to move their record to 5-3, and the Chiefs lost to the Cowboys to drop their record to 6-3 heading into their Week-10 bye.

What once was a 3-way tie at the top of the conference is now a 2-way tie between the Steelers and Patriots, both having a bye in Week 9, with matching 6-2 records. The Steelers have the superior division and conference record, which gives them the top spot heading into the second half of the regular season.

There’s a lot of football left to be played, but who said a team can’t win without playing?

The Steelers just did.

Pittsburgh Steelers odds and ends coming off the bye-week

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 5:30am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are who we thought they were...or are they?

There are times when you’re sifting through the seemingly million Twitter handles who cover the NFL, and you stumble upon some tweets which actually make sense and are very revealing.

Often these snippets can stimulate a full-on article, but other times you want to share the information in an odds-and-ends format.

So take a look at these nuggets of information as the Steelers come off of their bye-week and prepare for the Colts in Week 10.

  • Maybe Roethlisberger isn’t as bad as everyone thought

While most fans are busy talking about the end of the Ben Roethlisberger era and how poorly he’s played throughout the first eight games, maybe he isn’t as bad as most thought.

In 2016, Roethlisberger was near the top of the league in most “pickable passes”. What is a pickable pass? A pass which should have been intercepted but, for whatever reason, fell incomplete.

In 2017, Roethlisberger doesn’t even find himself on the list. Some may suggest he’s playing it safe most of the time, but this is certainly a step in the right direction after the 2016 season.

Most QB pickable passes (through Week 8)

Stafford 13
Palmer 12
Winston 10
McCown 9
Newton 8
Kizer 8
Carr 8
Wentz 7
Brady 7

— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) November 3, 2017
  • AB is good

As if you didn’t already know how good Antonio Brown is by now, maybe the following statistic will solidify just how great he is every single game.

Most clutch receptions (through Week 8)

A. Brown 36
Hopkins 33
Allen 31
M. Evans 31
Thielen 29
kelce 29
Ertz 29
M. Thomas 28
Landry 28

— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) November 3, 2017

When it comes to clutch receptions, there’s no one better than Brown. Think about the clutch receptions he’s made so far this season. The game-winning touchdown catch against the Chiefs in Week 6. The game-clinching catch vs. the Browns in Week 1, and even the big play to set up the team’s first touchdown vs. the Lions in Week 8.

Yeah, AB isn’t just good, he’s great.

  • Big Ben still loves the long ball, but the long ball doesn’t love him

Ben Roethlisberger has always been one to love the long ball, and the long ball usually loves him back. But in 2017 the feelings between the two haven’t been mutual. Roethlisberger is still chucking it deep, but more and more of those passes are falling to the turf.

Apologies, last chart was jacked up. Here's the % of 15+ air yard throws and the completion percentage on those throws this year. pic.twitter.com/jzPjPA9hoj

— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) November 3, 2017

What’s notable about this chart is that Roethlisberger has thrown the most deep passes of the quarterbacks listed and has the highest percentage of deep throws, but his 34.2-percent completion rate is middle-of-the-pack at best.

It isn’t as though the Steelers don’t have enough deep threats—the team just hasn’t connected on as many passes of 15-yards or more in the air. If the team is capable of connecting on a few of these--looking at you Martavis Bryant—it could put this offense over the top for the first time this season.

Offensive coaches evaluate the first half

Steelers.com Videos - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 5:00am
Hear the offensive position coaches' thoughts on the first eight games of the season.

Steelers News: David DeCastro living up to the hype, and then some

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 4:20am

The Pittsburgh Steelers were fortunate to have David DeCastro fall to them back in the 2012 NFL Draft, and he has lived up to the hype.

Some Pittsburgh Steelers fans might forget about the 2012 NFL Draft when a guard from Stanford named David DeCastro, whom EVERYONE thought would be off the board prior to Pittsburgh’s selection, fell into the lap of the Steelers.

The team wasted little time pulling the trigger, and what a player DeCastro has become. He’s a road-grader in the running game, and he’s improved tremendously in pass protection. He wears No. 66, and rightfully so after Alan Faneca donned the same digits every game day for the Black-and-gold.

While DeCastro certainly gets credit for his play, he also continues to improve. Hard to believe, right? That’s exactly what Mike Munchak believes about DeCastro as he continues to put in the work during this 2017 regular season.

Read more about DeCastro below, as we check in on the Black-and-gold news outside the walls of BTSC.

The most grounded member of the Steelers offensive line loves to travel.

David DeCastro, whose family roots are centered in South Africa, has made several trips to his parents' homeland, and he took his wife on a safari there three years ago.

Earlier this year, it was a trip to New Zealand and Australia for David and Bonnie DeCastro, one final excursion before the birth of their daughter, Brooke, in October.

As much as DeCastro likes to spend his off-seasons traveling the world, he can be found in the same spot every Sunday during the fall and winter: anchoring the right guard position for the Steelers.

When the 6-foot-5, 315-pound veteran suited up last Sunday against the Detroit Lions, DeCastro made his 64th consecutive NFL start, the equivalent of four seasons. Among active players at the position, DeCastro owns the second-longest streak of consecutive games played.

It's not just the number of games that’s noteworthy. It's the snaps. Since his streak started in Week 10 of the 2013 season, DeCastro has missed just two. Heading into the Steelers' game next Sunday in Indianapolis, DeCastro has played 4,345 of a possible 4,347 offensive snaps.

DeCastro also brings quality along with his quantity. Pro Football Focus recently ranked DeCastro as the best run-blocking guard in the NFL, and he's likely on his way to a third consecutive appearance on the Pro Bowl and All-Pro lists.

“He's getting better every year,” offensive line coach Mike Munchak said. “He enjoys what he does. He enjoys the game, and he's very consistent in everything he does. There's nothing he can't do. He's good at everything.”

Especially staying healthy. Among a team full of Steelers, DeCastro is an ironman.

Only left tackle Alejandro Villanueva has anything resembling a modest run of consecutive starts among the other Steelers linemen. He has started 34 games in a row since moving into the lineup two years ago.

Center Maurkice Pouncey has missed all of one season and virtually every snap of another. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert missed seven games over the previous three seasons and has sat out five more in 2017. Ramon Foster has started a full 16-game slate just twice in nine NFL seasons.

“I love playing with Dave,” Foster said. “I know he's going to be consistent. I know I don't have to worry about him mentally or physically. I know he's going to do his job. I know he's not going to be late. He's going to be where you want him to be. You know he's going to block who you want him to block, and you know he's going to go a little bit extra.

“That's what you expect from David DeCastro. That's one of the biggest compliments a guy can ever get: You don't have to worry about him.”

An Associated Press panel consisting of Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton and 10 AP football writers ranked the Steelers' offensive line as the NFL's second best in results released Friday.

“The underappreciated group allows the Steelers' Killer Bs to work their magic,” AP writer and voter Simmi Buttar said.

The Steelers came in second with one first-place vote and 68 points out of a possible 110.

No team has invested more draft capital in the offensive line the past few years than the Dallas Cowboys, and the investment in the trenches paid off in a major way.

Their offensive line led by former first-round picks and 2016 All-Pros Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick was voted the top line. Dallas received the most first-place votes with four from the 11-person panel, and 94 points.

“They do a fantastic job every week, not only as run blockers but as pass protectors,” coach Jason Garrett said. “They're the engine behind our offense. They play the game the right way. They prepare to play the game the right way. And we feed off of them. Regardless of who's playing quarterback for us, who's playing running back, tight end or receiver, those guys make their jobs better. We have a lot of confidence in them.”

“They've settled in nicely after a slow start that was mainly due to inserting two new starters,” said Rob Maaddi, who is based on Philadelphia. “They have three studs and now we'll possibly have to see if they can open holes for non-elite backs.”

The Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans finished tied for third with 57 points.

The Los Angeles Rams came in fifth with 55 points following the key offseason additions of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan, who have played a big role in the strong seasons by quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley.

The rest of the top 10 featured New Orleans, Oakland, Kansas City, Jacksonville and New England.

During the past four seasons, the Steelers have posted a 25-7 record in the second half of the season.

That’s one of the big reasons the team feels so good about its 6-2 start to this season. For a team that has shown itself capable of getting better as the season goes on in recent years, a quick start – including winning its past three – makes this season feel as if the Steelers are playing with house money the rest of the year.

We know that we can get on a roll,” said defensive end Stephon Tuitt.

“We’re 6-2 going into the bye week,” added nose tackle Javon Hargrave. “We’re sitting pretty good as a team. But we’ve got a lot to get better moving on.”

Where can that improvement come from?

Week-9 NFL Late Games Open Thread and Discussion

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/05/2017 - 3:05pm

The Steelers don’t play this week, so might as well enjoy the late games together.

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t play this week, and waiting for the Black-and-gold to play is a trend fans should get used to, as they’re in prime time more often than not for the rest of the season.

We’ll all be watching the early games, so we might as well come together and watch as other AFC teams duke it out.

Remember, keep it respectful, stay focused and have some fun!

Let the countdown to kickoff begin!

HERE WE GO!

Check out some links below to get you through the bye-week blues:

Steelers Week 9 Rooting Guide

Steelers Week 9 Viewer’s Guide

Week 9 NFL Early Day Games Open Thread and Discussion

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/05/2017 - 11:44am

The Steelers don’t play this week, so might as well enjoy the early games together.

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t play this week, and fans of the black-and-gold having to wait is a trend fans should get used to as they are in prime time more than they aren’t the rest of the season.

With that said, we all will be watching the early games, so might as well come together and watch as other AFC teams duke it out.

Remember, keep it respectful, stay focused and have some fun!

Let the countdown to Steelers kickoff begin!

HERE WE GO!

Check out some links below to get you through the bye week blues:

Steelers Week 9 Rooting Guide

Steelers Week 9 Viewer’s Guide

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