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Devlin Hodges Analysis, Part 2: Looking at the positives on film

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/13/2020 - 9:25am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Analyzing Devlin Hodges strengths from his rookie season.

In part one of this series I focused on a few statistics that really stood out on Devlin Hodges, his fantastic rate of converting short yardage third downs, and also covered his struggles with longer conversions, with TD and INT rates. In the rest of this series we’ll look to find out what his strengths and limitations are on film, how that explains the stats and also what it tells us for the future.

This part is going to cover Hodges best attributes, the things that led to his early season success, and I’m going to show film of those same attributes from late in the season.

It is important to note that until the Buffalo game, every single game Hodges played, the Steelers outscored the opposition while he was the QB.

In those games, Hodges threw 80 passes, with 4 TDs and 2 INTs. He fumbled twice, losing none. He had a QB rating of 103.2, and threw for 8.53 yards per attempt. He didn’t just not kill the Steelers, he played very well, validating Tomlin’s decision to not coach him too much but just let him play.

Progression and Rhythm

Devlin Hodges best attributes showed up the first time he stepped on the field for the Steelers.

Here’s the second pass he threw in the NFL, it was incomplete, but look at how he progresses through the reads and how quickly he gets rid of the ball once he finds his target.

Week 5, 3rd quarter, 5:56, 2nd and 8.

Hodges works through 4 reads in right around 3 seconds, and once he sees Washington, gets the ball there very quickly. That is one of Hodges’ two main assets that led to his early success, the other showed up right away as well, on the very next play, his third pass of the season.

Week 5, 3rd quarter, 5:51, 3rd and 8. Diontae Johnson is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

It stood out at the time because Mason Rudolph was not moving through progressions very quickly at all, and was staring down receivers and getting the ball to them too late, he would wait until he saw them run open, then throw the ball, while Hodges would anticipate the WR being open and get the ball to them in that window. The passing game is highly dependent on timing, and the faster you can find the right receiver and the less time they lose getting the football the better the results. Tom Brady is on the short list of greatest QBs of all time because he reads the defense, finds the right receiver and gets the ball to them more quickly than other QBs. Every fraction of a second counts, and Devlin Hodges, even as a rookie, was frequently ahead of the game.

Let’s look at a few more from later in the season.

Week 13, 3rd quarter, 14:49, 1st and 15. Jaylen Samuels starts in the backfield before leaking out to the bottom, but watch Devlin Hodges.

Cleveland does a great job covering all the receivers, and Hodges moves through his progression and against the well-blocked 4 man rush finds Samuels for a 15 yard gain off a check down. This is again around 3 seconds, and while that’s a good amount of time, consider that the average time to throw or pocket collapse for the Steelers was 2.5 seconds, this wasn’t that far past the average. This is how much time the Steeler QBs were getting and taking to throw this season, Hodges works through the entire field in that 3 seconds.

Week 12, 3rd quarter, 2:24, 1st and 10. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Slant routes were a real weapon with Hodges, look at how fast he gets rid of the ball once he looks to Diontae Johnson’s side of the field, and look at where Johnson catches the pass, that’s great execution. Hodges isn’t incredibly accurate, this isn’t Joe Montana, but he gets the ball out quickly and gives his receivers chances to make plays, and that’s impressive for a rookie, especially one from Samford who didn’t make the initial 53 man roster.

Exploiting gaps

Hodges does a really good job of finding the gaps in zones, this again stands in contrast to early season Mason Rudolph who was frequently leading receivers into defenders instead of hitting the gaps in the zones.

Week 5, 4th quarter, 11:34, 1st and 10. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the WR to the top of the screen.

Hodges makes the throw as soon as the dropping LB fails to turn with JuJu, and he places it perfectly. Smith-Schuster should have slowed down in the gap, something he was fantastic at his first two seasons with Ben Roethlisberger. But Hodges pass is right where it should be, and JuJu Smith-Schuster makes the catch.

Week 12, 3rd quarter, 11:22, 2nd and 17. James Washington is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

Here Hodges puts the ball in the gap in front of the deep defenders with enough zip to take away any chance they might have at making a play on the ball.

Like the slant I covered above, Hodges does a great job attacking gaps in zone defense in the middle of the field, and he can deliver a straight line throw downfield with zip on it.

Hodges was getting more comfortable as the season went on, and things were looking good for the Steelers. Against the Bengals, Browns and Cardinals Hodges completed 68.63% of his passes and averaged 9.45 yards per attempt. While it was expected that he would have a harder time against Buffalo, the drop off was incredibly steep, and instead of bouncing back against the Jets, things got worse, and then got worse again against Baltimore.

In the third part of this film series we’ll look at what the Bills, Jets and Ravens did defensively that Hodges couldn’t overcome, and talk about what that might mean for his future.

Mock Draft Monday: The Steelers look to add a tight end with their top pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/13/2020 - 7:43am

With a club option on one of the Steelers 2019 tight ends and another a free agaent, they could only be returning one total reception at the position for 2020

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season has now been over for a couple weeks, so it’s time to get into the off-season mindset. Although free agency comes first on the calendar before the 2020 NFL Draft, the NFL Combine will occur before either of them. With that said, it might be nice to have an idea as to some of the names associated with the Steelers in the second round. The Steelers’ first round pick has already been named an All-Pro player as Minkah Fitzpatrick can be thought of as the Steelers’ choice. So let’s look at prospects who may be available at the 49th selection and see what they could bring the the Steelers in 2020.

When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. Hare are some of the projected positions of need for the Steelers in no particular order:

Wide Receiver
Running Back
Offensive Line
EDGE Rusher
Tight End

There could be other positions added to the list, but when it comes to what position the team will target with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.

In the latest second-round mock draft by Draftsite.com, they had the Steelers addressing their need at tight end with their first pick in the second round. With the future of both Vance McDonald and Nick Vannett up in the air, the Steelers only have one other tight end who saw the field in 2019 in rookie Zach Gentry. With Gentry only having one catch on the season, tight end could become the Steelers’ greatest position of need.

Check out the pick:

49. Pittsburgh Steelers | Albert Okwuegbunam | TE | Missouri | JR |

As many players are declaring their eligibility and preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine, there are plenty of players most fans have not seen play in 2019. Since this is the case, here is a breakdown of Okwuegbunam according to thedraftnetwork.com:

Route Tree - He’s most effective sliding up the seam or leaking out across defensive flow in the middle of the field. His route stems aren’t especially dynamic and he’s not going to stress off coverage with threat to get vertical. Can improve ability to avoid contact and get free into space.

Hands - Soft hands and shows very good concentration and ball skills. He’s tracked some over his shoulder that would eat a lot of guys up but shows body control at point of reception and and ensure he’s safety tucking away the football.

Versatility - Wouldn’t endorse an in-line role for him any time in the near future, won a lot of his reps as a flex target working from the slot or on the perimeter in the red zone. That’s where he’s best afforded the chance to win and anything else will need to come with much development.

Contested Catch Ability - Size is one of his best qualities. He’ll snatch balls off the top of defenders’ fingertips if you ask him to play above the rim and shows good toughness to absorb body shots. Length, reach, soft hands and catch radius combine to mitigate his separation issues.

RAC Ability - Strength is a plus and he’s a tough chore to chop down one on one in the open field. His agility and speed aren’t anything of note and he’s not going to defeat would be tacklers with finesse. May rumble through some tackles but don’t expect a lot of RAC.

Power at POA - Much more of a receiving target than a blocker. He’s come along over the three years he played but still wouldn’t classify it as a strength of his game. Legs are stale when he’s engaged with defenders and doesn’t create a lot of push. Stalemate blocker.

Competitive Toughness - A lot of his power and strength is robbed by his high frame, he’s not easily able to work under the pads of defenders due to to some tightness in the hips and as a result his push and pop is really tempered and ineffective.

Flexibility - Tight through the core, but surprisingly mobile through the limps and shows a really good level of body control to stay balanced as he’s adjusting to the ball as a receiver. Lateral mobility and dynamic base are low end qualities and he’s not going to win with spring or agility.

Balance - When he’s playing as a blocker he can be too prone to getting out over the top of his toes and allowing his weight to creep forward. Leverage issues are the main culprit and it is going to be difficult for him to find effective remedies as a blocker.

Football IQ - Shown some improvement but there’s still quite a ways to go before he’s ready for the NFL as an every down player. He’s got to get more aware of defeating collisions as both a blocker and as a receiver on the route stems to help keep his routes on time with offense.

---

Best Trait - Hands

Worst Trait - Explosiveness

Best Film - Memphis (2018)

Worst Film - Georgia (2018)

Red Flags - None

Summary - Albert Okwuegbunam projects as a secondary tight end at the NFL level or as a developmental starter, depending on how much time investment is given to further developing his skills as a blocker. Okwuegbunam is best running the seam or leak routes over the middle, but his lack of dynamic athleticism makes it difficult for him to separate against man coverage unless he illustrates more savvy to bump defenders off his hip. Valuable red zone reps on account of size and hands.

For all you draft junkies out there, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Okwuegbunam with their first pick, albeit in the second round? Or should the team target another position/player at that spot? Let us know in the comment section below, and remember these mock drafts are merely speculation and caused to create discussion among the fan base.

Steelers Salary Cap, Part 2: Cap Space remaining, and what counts towards the final number

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/13/2020 - 6:38am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in offseason mode, which means it is time to evaluate their salary cap situation heading into 2020.

In the first part of this series, I explored the two quirks of the CBA that will hinder how the Pittsburgh Steelers do business in 2020. The crutch of kicking serious cap space down the road is not available to the team in 2020 through restructures. Do the Steelers even need this crutch in 2020, and not keep putting the bills on that zero percent interest credit card? In this segment of the series I will delve into where the team stands cap wise and the aspects that must be included into the 2020 cap.

Where does the team sit salary cap wise for 2020?

To answer that question we need to dredge into some NFL salary cap 101. Strolling over to Over the Cap we see a set of numbers that may or may not mean much depending on if you have read my articles in the past.

Total Cap Liabilities: $198,490,414

Top 51: $195,921,452

Team Cap Space: $4,895,081

The first number is the total liabilities for 2020. This includes dead cap space from players who were cut in 2019 along with all salaries and bonuses that could count against the 2020 cap. Why is the total cap liabilities and the Top 51 different?

The Top 51 is including credits from 2019 in the form of unspent 2019 cap space referred to as carryover money. The Rule of 51 is for only the 51 largest cap hits in 2020 and a figure we will ignore. We care about ALL liabilities that the Steelers will need to account for when the 2020 season starts. Not some meaningless figure that matters from mid-March until the beginning of September that ignores important expenditures.

Right now there is only one number we care about and that is team cap space. For this exercise, OTC and I are going off of the 2020 NFL cap figure of $200 million. What does that number truly mean? It means the team is broke. Steeler Nation knows that $5 does not go far in the offseason. But what needs to be paid out besides free agents from other teams?

Something you might have missed when you first glanced at OTC is the Steelers have 46 players under contract. (The team has more but OTC has not added them yet. These were players signed to future contracts who were on the practice squad.) I will not include these players because of their low salaries. Most, if not all would fall outside of the 53 highest salaries.

Here is what is missing from 2020 and need to be accounted for.

Free agents in the form of restricted free agents (RFA), exclusive right free agents (ERFA) and, unrestricted free agents (UFA). There are nine UFA, five RFA, and three ERFA who are not signed. While the team, will resign not all some will and they will carry hefty price tags, especially the ones with the RFA tags.

The 2020 NFL draft class is unaccounted for. The draft class will count $5.1 million (approximately.). But do not count the full amount when they are drafted. We will not know the full cost of their contracts until they sign their contracts. (Not much wiggle room for making more. That is for another time.)

The practice squad of 10 or 11 players has not been counted against the cap either. While the exact salaries for practice squad members is not out (Or I could not find it.), I went off of $8,400 per week per player for 17 weeks which is $1.426 million.

Hold on, not done yet. The Steelers still need carryover money in case of emergencies during the regular season. Once injuries hit during the regular season, Pittsburgh needs a slush fund to dip into. $3.5 million is the amount I use for these calculations.

See, I was not kidding on saying the team is broke. Hold off on trying to sign AJ Green, Teddy Bridgewater, Anthony Castonzo, Melvin Gordon, or Devin McCourty until the finances are dug into further.

The team does not have enough spare change to cover the expense of the draft class. How severe is it really? That is where the next two segments in this series will shed more light. Who gets the different tags and who gets jettisoned? The team can get all wild and crazy and sign their RFAs and even franchise tag Bud Dupree but the organization has to comply with the NFL salary cap by 4 PM EST on March 18.

Podcast: Divisional Round weekend couldn’t have gone better for Steelers fans

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/13/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Q&A” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over, and the Steelers lost their final game by losing to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, ending their record at 8-8.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Q&A Show. On this show Jeff Hartman and Dave Schofield break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Recapping Divisional Round Weekend
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Dave Schofield walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

If you haven’t heard, we have a YouTube channel, and the main reason for this is to increase the sound quality on our shows. But if you’re a visual learner you can watch the show below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Black and Gold Links: Kerrith Whyte Jr. looking to cement his spot on the Steelers in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 01/13/2020 - 4:26am
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done 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 at young running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. and him trying to cement his spot on the Steelers heading into 2020.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Rewind to the midway point of the 2019 regular season and Kerrith Whyte Jr. got a phone call. The Steelers were claiming him off the Chicago Bears’ practice squad. He finally got his chance, and he took advantage of it and has hopes of making an impact in 2020.

RB Kerrith Whyte shows worth to Steelers sought him, but will he be back in 2020?

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The first time Kerrith Whyte carried the ball in an NFL regular-season game, he showed burst and ran 21 yards.

It was the longest run of his rookie season, but it provided a glimpse of what Whyte can provide if deployed under the right circumstances. It also provided enough justification for the Pittsburgh Steelers to not forget about Whyte when formulating their offense for next season.

Whyte didn’t join the Steelers until Week 12, and he only played 41 offensive snaps (27 more on special teams), but he made an impact in his limited time.

“Just being thrown into something is always more difficult,” Whyte said of his signing by the Steelers on Nov. 16. “So if I am here during the offseason, I feel like it would be very beneficial for me to really learn the offense in and out and all the scheme, stuff like that. But I am just happy to be here.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Will the Steelers not have an injury-filled 2020?

Pittsburgh sports teams hope 2020 won’t be another injury-filled year

By: Paul Guggenheimer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

As the calendar flipped to 2020, the happiest people in Pittsburgh were likely the players, coaches and fans of the Steel City’s professional sports teams.

A spate of injuries to high-profile athletes across all sports in 2019, including some of the most recognizable names in pro football, baseball and hockey, derailed the Pirates’ and Steelers’ seasons and created huge challenges for the Penguins.

The list includes a who’s who of current Pittsburgh sports stars: Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Josh Bell, to name a few.

“I don’t recall anything at all like this,” said veteran sportscaster Stan Savran, whose career in Pittsburgh spans more than four decades. “Of course, Sidney Crosby’s extended absences because of concussions certainly comes to mind. But that didn’t happen in conjunction with major injuries of the other major league sports franchises as well.”

It’s not just the number of injuries — it’s injuries to athletes who play an integral role for their teams.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers were well-represented on this list of famous playoff plays...

Ranking the NFL’s best playoff moments: The Catch, Hail Mary and more

By: ESPN Staff Writers

They elicit delight and dismay, depending upon where your fandom resides, of course. But they never disappoint. Not when you take into account the sheer lunacy and, well, luck involved. They are the best postseason plays in NFL history, as voted on by a panel of ESPN reporters who cover the league.

The usual suspects are here, from the Immaculate Reception to The Catch to David Tyree’s helmet histrionics. A more recent vintage, like The Minneapolis Miracle, is represented, too.

Our panel of NFL experts ranked the best postseason plays of the Super Bowl era. In and of themselves, it’s hard to argue with the “wow” factor of each play. But when you dig deeper, you see just how with one foot, let alone a yard, this way or the other, NFL history is changed and with so many far-reaching ramifications. Big time. Indeed, these plays have helped launch dynasties as well as hastened declines. So let’s dive in, the water’s fine ... unless it’s your team on the business end of one of ESPN’s 10 best postseason plays in NFL history.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

The newest member of the @ProFootballHOF.

Congratulations, @CowherCBS! pic.twitter.com/pYEHxWzXmq

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 12, 2020

.@CowherCBS received a special message on #TOPS after becoming a member of the @ProFootballHOF! #PFHOF20 pic.twitter.com/YKEd3gzxgI

— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) January 12, 2020

2019 NFL Divisional Round Games: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/12/2020 - 1:49pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Steelers are done, and it is time to watch some NFL Playoff football.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t play until the 2020 regular season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t games to be watched. The Steelers Nation fan base will be watching games throughout the day to see how things shake out on the Divisional Round weekend of the NFL Playoffs.

Some take this day to just relax and get caught up on things outside of football, but if you are like me, you are still watching the full slate of action on Sunday.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on this weekend. Which game are you most looking forward to watching? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all those games in the process.

As always, remember we are all here for the same reason...

GO STEELERS!

The NFL may never get it right, at least for teams that lose playoff games in overtime

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/12/2020 - 12:47pm
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Should the NFL change its overtime rule yet again? Maybe. But even if it does, it probably won’t satisfy everyone.

Do you ever get the feeling overtime in the NFL is basically like the playoff system in college football? You know, like how when it was a two-team field, a third team was always angry, or now that it’s a four-team field, a fifth team is always angry, or if they expand it to an eight-team field, there will surely be a ninth team that’s angry?

Anyway, as I sit here writing this article mere hours before the start of the first of four divisional round NFL playoff games to be played this weekend, I have no idea if any of them will go into overtime. But if one does, I can almost guarantee you the losing team will be miffed that it didn’t get more time to win the game. And if one doesn’t, for the purposes of this article, we can always revert back to Wildcard Weekend, when the Saints (or, at least their spokespeople) were miffed that they didn’t get enough of a chance to win in what turned out to be a 26-20 loss to the Vikings at the Superdome.

You see, Minnesota (or, to keep this article current, some team in this weekend’s divisional round) took the opening kickoff of overtime and drove right down the field to score the winning touchdown. Game over. Vikings advance to the next round, while the Saints go marching home.

I used to think it was unfair that the team that won the overtime coin-toss had a chance to drive right down the field and win the game with three measly points without the other team ever having a chance to possess the football (at least in the playoffs). But, then, the NFL changed its overtime rule so that both teams had a chance to possess the football, provided the one that possessed it first didn’t score a touchdown.

I thought that was one of the best decisions the NFL ever made. I also thought it was quite fair.

But, much like that fifth team when the four-team college football playoff field is announced every year (or that 17th team, when they eventually expand the playoff field to 16), people continue to have a problem with how the NFL handles overtime (again, at least in the playoffs—I don’t think people care all that much about regular season overtime, you know, wanting the games to be over quickly and all).

Should the Saints have had a chance to possess the football, even after Minnesota scored a touchdown on its opening drive of overtime? I don’t know, what if New Orleans’ defense had intercepted Kirk Cousins’ first pass and took it straight to the house? Should the Vikings have been granted one more possession? After all, they only possessed the football a little bit the first time they had it.

This is what people always forget when it comes to overtime. They act as if the defense is a powerless entity, when, in reality, that unit can actually win the game with a safety on the opening play of overtime.

But if another solution is needed—at least for playoff overtime—why not just play a full 15-minute period? At the end of 15 minutes, the team with the most points win. That means, even if you fall behind by seven, you still have a chance to come back and win. Even if you fall behind by two scores, you still have a chance to come back and win.

If the game is still tied after five quarters, you revert back to old-school sudden death rules, where the first team that scores—even on a field goal—wins.

I presented the “extra 15 minutes” thing as a possible solution the other night, and a friend said to me, “How is that any different than playing a fourth quarter and then sudden death overtime?” And I said, “Because people keep whining about it.”

Not much of a rebuttal, but people do keep whining about NFL overtime (again, at least in the postseason), so why not try that?

Would people still whine? Eventually, but not right away.

Hall of Fame question: Why does Art Modell belong in Canton?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/12/2020 - 11:19am
Art Modell and Dan Rooney at Three Rivers Stadium, 1978 | Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

As HOF season nears, this writer is baffled by the Art Modell controversy, but not for the reasons you might think.

Disclaimer: this article deals with the Pro Football Hall of Fame but isn’t Steeler specific at all. If that’s not interesting to you, please be advised of that ahead of time and save yourself the trouble.

Apparently the “blue ribbon panel” assembled by the Pro Football Hall of Fame met this week to vote on the 15-person Centenary Class. There has been a significant amount of controversy about the process, which bypasses the usual route wherein journalists from across the country (mostly from NFL cities) meet, argue, and vote on inductees individually. Instead, for the Centenary Class, this new panel will affirm or negate the entire class as a whole — inducting either all 15 of them or none of them.

I know this is a Steelers site, so I should probably be writing about Troy Polamalu or Donnie Shell (both of whom deserve entry this year), but I find myself more interested in one of the flash-point figures in the election story – a guy who has been repeatedly denied in the past, but might get through under the current model: Former Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell.

You probably know the narrative around Modell. In 1996, he moved the Browns out of Cleveland (where they were so beloved that the city sued to retain the name and team colors), and therefore the Cleveland contingent of voters would never allow him through the Hall’s pearly gates. Some say it’s fair game (he mortally wounded a great football city to enrich himself, and shouldn’t get rewarded for it). Others say it’s overkill (he’s been kept out for long enough and deserves to be recognized).

That’s all fine, I guess. But I have a much more basic question: Why does Art Modell belong in the Hall of Fame in the first place? What did he ever do to deserve it?

This is really a question about what the Hall of Fame means and what enshrinement there ought to celebrate. The Pro Football HOF exists primarily to recognize historic greatness on the field or on the sidelines. In that sense, inducting team owners is a strange move to begin with. No one, as far as I’m aware, goes to a game to see what the owner has in store, and writing checks is hardly a measure of excellence. (See also: Dan Snyder.) There are currently 13 Hall of Famers whose primary role was “team owner”; that’s less than 4% of the total enshrinees. The message seems to be this: if an owner never coached or played (where we can see and appreciate brilliance within the lines) they should have done something significant — something that goes beyond hiring a good GM for their team or negotiating TV deals to enrich their fellow owners — to merit such an honor.

What, then, are the reasons to immortalize an owner? I’d say there are five. To be Hall of Fame worthy, I’d argue that an owner should be:

  • a founding/cornerstone member of the league. Tim Mara comes to mind, where he built a stable and successful operation in New York that still exists today, and the stability of which probably helped the fledgling NFL keep going through the early years.
  • a well-known and beloved figure, who functions as a face for the sport. Art Rooney might be a good model for this. The Chief was visible and well-liked nationally, and built an admired “family” culture in Pittsburgh even before the Steelers were winners, creating a model for what an organization can/should look like.
  • a successful front-office football man. I’m thinking of Jerry Jones or Al Davis, for example, both of whom spent decades as de facto GMs for consistently competitive teams.
  • a visionary that develops the game in a positive way. Lamar Hunt might be a good example — a driving force behind merging the NFL and AFL, and the man who conceived of, and ultimately named, the Super Bowl.
  • a force that makes the NFL community better. Dan Rooney is the model for this, where he didn’t merely build a winner and a model of sustainability in Pittsburgh, he was also a giant in the cause for civil rights in the sport – recruiting at HBCUs in the 70s, supporting Chuck Noll as he started a black QB in 1974 (Joe Gilliam) and hired one of the league’s first black coordinators in the 80s (Tony Dungy), and then proposing the head-coaching equity rule that bears his name, the Rooney Rule – thus making the NFL healthier on the field, at the assistant coach level, and the head coach level.

Not one of these things describes Art Modell.

Perhaps I’m being a little biased. Though I was never a Browns fan, I did grow up in Canton, Ohio (a few miles from the Hall of Fame itself, and deep in Browns country for sure), and I suspect there are positive marks on Modell’s CV that I’m not aware of or fully crediting. But I do love the history of the game, and everything I know about Art Modell says he was a nightmare.

Consider this resume:

  • Modell bought the Browns in 1961, and two years later fired Paul Brown, one of the most successful and visionary coaches in pro football history, who had taken the team to league championship games in 10 consecutive seasons, including winning the NFL title in the Browns’ first season in the league.

Brown went on to found and coach the AFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, where he was twice named Coach of the Year (once in the AFL and once in the NFL), and where he taught offense to a young protege you might have heard of, named Bill Walsh. That is, he wasn’t exactly washed up when Modell dumped him.

(And not to put too fine a point on it, but how do you fire the “Brown” that the “Browns” are named after?)

  • Three years later, he got into a training camp standoff with Jim Brown, arguably the best player in NFL history, which resulted in Brown retiring from football at 29. Modell threatened to suspend Brown without pay if he missed the offseason workouts to finish filming the Dirty Dozen. Brown had intended to play at least one more season (perhaps two), but when Modell tried to strong-arm him with fines, Brown had enough, and simply quit.

Lest anyone believe Brown was starting to decline as he approached 30, here is an idea of how dominant he still was in his final season: he led the league in rushing that year with 1,544 yards, a total which nearly doubled the second place finisher, Gayle Sayers, who had 867. Brown’s 1,544 would have also led the league this year (the past three years, in fact, and four of the last five) despite the fact that he amassed that number in a 14 game season. It was the second highest total ever recorded at the time – second only to his own 1,863 from two years prior (that is, discounting his own 1963 season, Brown’s final year in the league was the highest rushing total in NFL history, and would have remained as the record for another eight years). It’s safe to say Jim Brown had plenty of gas left in the tank when Modell forced his hand and he walked away.

  • After Modell’s teams muddled through the 70s and early 80s (with a staggering zero playoff wins from 1970-85), he promoted Marty Schottenheimer, who completely changed the Browns’ culture, taking over a 1-7 loser midway through the 1984 season and bringing them to the playoffs in 1985, and then a heartbeat from the Super Bowl the next two years (thwarted only by The Drive in ’86 and The Fumble in ‘87). Schottenheimer won 10 games in 1988 and led the team to the playoffs for a fourth straight year… and then Modell fired him.

Marty’s replacement (former Steelers defensive coordinator, Bud Carson) stuck around less than two seasons before Modell fired him as well. These are Jimmy Haslam levels of patience and judgement.

  • A couple of coaches later, lest anyone forget, he hired, and then fired, Bill Belichick, one of the most successful coaches of all time, and the winningest coach of the Super Bowl era. Belichick was not great in Cleveland, but his team was on the rise, making the playoffs in Belichick’s second-last season (Sports Illustrated’s Dr. Z even picked them to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XXX that year). When Modell dropped his bombshell the following year (see below) the team collapsed, and Belichick was fired — though many believe it wasn’t his record but his lack of charisma (which wouldn’t sell tickets and merchendise in Baltimore) that cost Belichick his job.
  • Finally, of course, the bombshell, when he moved the team out of Cleveland purely for financial gain. After new venues cut into his monopoly on all profits from Cleveland Municipal Stadium events, he demanded a new nine-figure state-of-the-art renovation, paid for by taxes. Believing the city of Baltimore would fund this dream, he took the team to Maryland. (In a final slap in the face, he announced the move one day before election day 1996 – on which Clevelanders voted to approve the very stadium appropriations Modell hadn’t waited around for.)

More important than stadium money, though, Browns games were still wildly popular, and the fans were still rabidly loyal. They didn’t just approve the stadium measure, they (as noted above) sued to retain the naming rights, insignias, and colors of the Browns – the only time that’s ever happened in sports history (as far as I can tell). That’s loyalty. We may roll our eyes at the Browns’ ineptitude today, but Cleveland is a football city. If sports have any communal value, that value comes from the way teams bring communities together. The Cleveland community was still aggressively supportive of the Browns; it’s just that Art Modell wasn’t making enough money.

In sum:

He fired three of the most successful coaches in league history, all before their time.

He froze out perhaps the best player in the history of the sport, and drove him into retirement at his peak.

His teams won two titles in 50 years, despite having appeared in 11 championship games in the 14 years before he bought the franchise.

And he gave the finger to a city that loved its team solely for personal enrichment.

What on earth is the argument for this guy?

I understand irritation from those who believe one city’s fan base is holding a worthy candidate hostage. But what I can’t understand is why anyone thinks Art Modell was ever a worthy candidate to begin with.

Okay, back to writing about the Steelers. Sorry for the interruption; this has just been bugging me.

The Baltimore Ravens got bit in the tail feathers by karma

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/12/2020 - 9:40am
Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens were bounced from the playoffs by the Tennessee Titans, a team even more physical than themselves. The devastating loss had to sting, karma always does.

The Tennessee Titans walked into M&T Bank Stadium Saturday night and smacked the bully-on-the-block Baltimore Ravens right in the mouth, knocking the number one seed Ravens from the 2019 NFL playoffs. The Ravens had ran roughshod over practically every defense they had faced this season, but the Titans limited the damage inflicted by the Ravens rushing attack, managed to gain a early lead, and forced the Ravens to resort to a ineffective passing game in a last ditch effort to mount a comeback.

Alas, it was all for not. MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson suddenly looked very mortal, actually displaying visible signs of frustration for the first time this season. He looked confused by many of the zone defenses that the Titans were throwing at him, similar to how he appeared in last year's playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Although he struggled often throughout the game tonight, he was far from the only one. The Ravens dropped multiple passes, were pushing around on defense, and committed multiple undisciplined penalties.

The Ravens were also completely out coached on every level, which shouldn't come as a huge surprise actually, considering the impressive run by Titan's Head Coach Mike Vrabel and his merry band of coaching colleagues over the last half of the season and thus far in the playoffs. However, currently mourning Ravens fans shouldn't place all their angst toward Vrabel and company, seeing how their very own Head Coach deserves his own share of the blame.

Seems some head coaches never learn. Like how a former rival coach unbelievably wears a controversial tee shirt in public a couple of days prior to a huge rematch against a hated rival, supplying bulletin board material for a over matched opponent absolutely ravaged by injuries, creating momentum for the opponent when less was more. Please note I said "former" HC. Losers often display such tendencies, and are perpetually unemployed.

Baltimore Ravens HC John Harbaugh hopefully learned a lesson about karma tonight, and he did it the old fashioned way, he earned it. Call it what you will. What goes up most come down, you are never as good as you think you are or as bad as some say you are, or you reap what you sow. One of my personal favorites, that my grandmother used to say, "Don't get too big for your britches!"

Harbaugh brought this tough life lesson on himself, truth be told. His Ravens destroyed our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago in a quagmire of a game, utilizing his back up players to easily overwhelm an overmatched Steelers squad. The Steelers were humbled, taken to school if you will. Harbaugh may have taken the Steelers to school, but in the process, he displayed absolutely no class.

I won't waste anybody's time rehashing every incident that lead me to that statement, instead I will simply mention the most glaring example of disrespect. Teams that are totally dominating an opponent, by three scores or more late in the fourth quarter, respectfully take their foot off the proverbial gas pedal to avoid further humiliating the opponent. This is an unwritten rule, not just in football, that goes back much farther than my time on the Earth. Harbaugh decided rules were made to be broken, and went in a totally different direction.

Harbaugh's offense dropped back and threw the ball deep down the field in an attempt to continue to run up the score, and further humiliate the already defeated Steelers. All the while, he stood smiling and laughing on the sidelines, apparently quite pleased with his decisions.

So I guess congratulations are in order for Coach Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens. You swept the season series from the Pittsburgh Steelers, regardless of the character shown, or lack thereof, in the process. You have a gaggle of players who have warranted Pro Bowl and All Pro status, maybe even the MVP of the league on your roster.

What a unbelievable success story this season turned out to be for the Baltimore Ravens and their fans, but what did they actually accomplish in the end? They get to watch the Super Bowl at home from the comfort of their living room, exactly the same as the humbled Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation. They could always go to the big game, but just like the Steelers, they would have to buy a ticket.

I guess karma really is a fickle mistress. Just ask John Harbaugh.

For the third straight season, the AFC North fails to register a playoff victory

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/12/2020 - 8:00am
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Every other division in the NFL has won at least one playoff game over the last two postseasons

With the Baltimore Ravens falling to the Tennessee Titans 28-12 Saturday night in the Divisional round of the playoffs, it is the third straight year the AFC North has failed to win a playoff game. Don’t get me wrong, I was pulling for Tennessee and hoping Baltimore would lose. But as a division, the AFC North appears to be way behind the rest of the NFL in the postseason.

With the exception of the AFC North, every NFL division has at least one playoff victory in either the 2019 or 2018 season. The last playoff win for an AFC North team was when the Steelers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 18–16 in the Divisional round of the 2016 postseason. The last time and AFC North team has won a playoff game who was not the Pittsburgh Steelers was when the Ravens won in Pittsburgh in the Wildcard round of the 2014 season.

Since the NFL realigned their divisions for the 2002 season, neither the Cincinnati Bengals or the Cleveland Browns have won a playoff game. The Browns last playoff win was in the 1994 season and it goes all the way back to 1990 for the Bengals. So in the 18 years of postseason games in which the AFC North has been in existence, only the Steelers and Ravens have managed to be victorious.

The 2019 season was also only the second time since divisions were realigned in which the AFC North held the number one seed in the playoffs. The Steelers were the top seed in the AFC in 2004 but fell in the AFC championship game. This season, the Baltimore Ravens failed to get even one playoff victory.

With the Ravens loss, it is now the longest streak in which the AFC North has not had a playoff victory. In 2006 and 2007 only one team represented the North in the playoffs and were bounced in the first round. In 2006 the Ravens fell at home to the Indianapolis Colts 15-6 while in 2007 it was the Steelers who suffered a two-point loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at Heinz Field. The following season, the Ravens won two playoff games before falling to the Steelers in the AFC championship game as the Steelers rattled off three playoff victories to win Super Bowl XLIII.

I don’t know if I’m in the majority, but I really don’t care about the success of the rest of the teams in the AFC North. I only care about the Steelers’ success. Yes, it does give the Steelers a little bit of validation when a team who finished ahead of them in the division does well, but the rivalries are too intense for me to wish continued success for any of the Steelers’ divisional foes. So even though the division is not looking good with not being able to finish the deal in a postseason game, all I really care about is the Steelers next playoff victory.

Current and former members of the Steelers organization take to Twitter to congratulate Bill Cowher

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/12/2020 - 6:46am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Members of the Steelers organization take to social media to celebrate Bill Cowher being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a new member enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH this summer, and it will be none other than former coach Bill Cowher.

Cowher was selected as a part of the NFL’s Centennial class, in honor of the NFL’s 100th season, and was the first member announced in the 2020 class to forever be enshrined in those hallowed halls.

Of course, when the announcement came on live television, everyone was watching and wanted to take to social media to congratulate Cowher. Maybe they were a former player, a current coach, or Art Rooney II himself. All took to Twitter to share some congratulatory words.

Check out everything people have been saying, and be sure to check back as more players/coaches can take to social media to wish Cowher the best as he takes the final leap of his career.

Congrats Coach Cowher...

— . (@Ike_SwagginU) January 12, 2020

My Coach!! Welcome to Canton!! https://t.co/h6g79BpiJG

— Jerome Bettis (@JeromeBettis36) January 12, 2020

Congratulations Coach Cowher on being inducted into the @ProFootballHOF!! My coach in Pittsburgh and now my forever coach in Canton!!

— Jerome Bettis (@JeromeBettis36) January 12, 2020

.@CowherCBS congratulations on getting inducted into the @ProFootballHOF. #PFHOF20 #HereWeGo #Steelers #SteelersNation

— Bryant McFadden (@BMac_SportsTalk) January 12, 2020

Coach!!!!!!!!!!!!!! @CowherCBS Love it, so deserved and earned! Can’t believe I caught that live on the plane.

— Alan Faneca (@afan66) January 12, 2020

Congrats!!! https://t.co/Jqmx1eQyaf

— James Harrison (@jharrison9292) January 12, 2020

Statement from #Steelers President Art Rooney II on Bill Cowher’s selection to the @ProFootballHOF Centennial Class of 2020: pic.twitter.com/wnrgdyjyUE

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 12, 2020

Cowher Power! Congratulations @CowherCBS HOF!!!

— Brett Keisel (@bkeisel99) January 12, 2020

I am so happy for Bill Cowher. Bill had an incredible career and left his mark on the @steelers organization, Pittsburgh and the NFL. The @ProFootballHOF got themselves a great addition with @CowherCBS. Congrats Bill. You deserve this great honor.

— Mike Tomlin (@CoachTomlin) January 12, 2020

My COACH!!! The greatest honor of my football life was to hear on the phone that I was worthy of a 3rd round draft pick by @CowherCBS! Congrats Coach! You and your family deserve this and so much more! Thank you for letting me be apart of your legacy! https://t.co/ijKMS5pX0M

— Trai Essex (@TraiDay79) January 12, 2020

Congratulations Coach @CowherCBS !!!!!
Awesome man on&off the field

— Larry Foote (@LarryFoote313) January 12, 2020

Podcast: What are the Steelers biggest team needs this offseason?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/12/2020 - 5:30am

The Steelers season is over, and it has many asking the question: What is the team’s biggest team need in 2020?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in full offseason mode, and with free agency approaching in just over a month, and the NFL Draft on the horizon, it is time to talk team needs.

This is a tough question, and one where they can be multiple responses/answers to. This is going to be the talking point in the latest podcast.

Plenty has to be deciphered here, and Jeff Hartman puts it all out there for the listeners in the latest show...

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Black and Gold Links: Do the Steelers have their next backup center and guard already on the roster?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/12/2020 - 5:00am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done 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 at whether the Steelers have their next B.J. Finney already on the roster?

Let’s get to the news:

  • J.C. Hassenauer has had quite the football career, and it has led him to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Will he make enough plays to prove he is the next Finney on the team’s roster?

From big-time Alabama recruit to the AAF to the Steelers, J.C. Hassenauer carving out role

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Did a season that went from Iron to Steel provide J.C. Hassenauer with enough mettle to make it over the long term in the NFL?

An interior offensive lineman who was part of a national championship team at Alabama, Hassenauer began last year as property of the Alliance of American Football’s Birmingham Iron. He ended it on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ active roster.

In between, he experienced two full training camps, a league folding in the middle of a season, getting cut by the Steelers and being brought back three months later for scout-team work before his Week 17 promotion to the 53-man roster.

“That’s just the business,” Hassenauer said. “It’s just how it is. You just have to kind of adjust to it and be ready when your time is called.”

Hassenauer made sure he was ready for action Dec. 29 in Baltimore, but he never was summoned by the Steelers during their season-ending defeat. He was signed to the active roster because Pro Bowl stating center Maurkice Pouncey was out with a knee injury.

Even after taking part in two NFL training camps and spending the 2018 season on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad, getting a spot on the 53-man roster and being activated for a regular-season game meant something to Hassenauer.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • 3 things the Steelers need to do this offseason.

Three things the Steelers must do in the offseason

By: Brooke Pryor, ESPN

After missing the postseason for the second consecutive year, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert will begin to make personnel decisions that will shape the team’s future.

The Steelers flourished on defense in 2019 but had major struggles on offense. To bounce back, the organization has some glaring holes to fill.

Pittsburgh, though, is primed to enter the 2020 season without much salary-cap space, thanks to the $33.5 million hit that comes with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s contract. It also bears mentioning that Colbert’s contract is set to expire after the 2020 NFL draft, and determining his future with the organization is paramount this offseason. In his 20th season as general manager, Colbert pulled off a risky trade to acquire Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick for a first-round pick. With all that in mind, here are the top three items on the Steelers’ offseason to-do list:

Keep linebacker Bud Dupree

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Who exactly are Alan Faneca and company going up against for the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Who are ex-Steelers Troy Polamalu, Alan Faneca up against to make it to the Hall of Fame?

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

It’s been all of three years since a player or figure most associated with the Pittsburgh Steelers gained induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And while that might not seem like too much, consider that since the first of the Super 70s Steelers began a black-and-gold march up the Turnpike to Canton in the late 80’s, only twice has Pittsburgh waited longer than three years for a gold-jacket ceremony.

In other words, Steelers Nation feels as if it’s due. Good thing the Steelers seem to have a reasonably strong shot at getting someone into the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.

While part of that optimism is based in the fact that there is a special “Centennial Class” to be enshrined in recognition of the NFL’s 100th anniversary – Bill Cowher and Donnie Shell are among 38 names from which 15 will be picked – the more traditional five-man class also could have Steelers representation.

Safety Troy Polamalu and guard Alan Faneca were among 15 finalists for that honor that were announced Jan. 2. Those two former teammates survived cuts that had also previously whittled down from an initial 122 nominees to 25 semifinalists.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

.@StanLoveTheShow sits down with Donnie Shell to discuss what advice landed him in Pittsburgh, being a part of the #Steelers and more.

FULL : https://t.co/tm7NCWwZwj pic.twitter.com/bXubWKl89H

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 10, 2020

.@missi_matthews sits down with @MaurkicePouncey to discuss his #WPMOY nomination, giving back to the community both in his hometown and in Pittsburgh and more.#WPMOYChallenge + Pouncey#WPMOYChallenge + Pouncey#WPMOYChallenge + Pouncey#WPMOYChallenge + Pouncey@Nationwide pic.twitter.com/ADgznBjV92

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 11, 2020

#OTD in 1983, Lynn Swann retired. pic.twitter.com/OHAEKtlL4i

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 11, 2020

Bill Cowher selected to Pro Football Hall of Fame as member of centennial class

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/11/2020 - 7:23pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers former coach has been selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame, in accordance with the NFL’s 100th year, has decided to have a special Centennial class of 2020 inducted this year. A special committee was arranged, and coaches and players were given the chance to earn enshrinement through this special class.

On Saturday night, live on CBS, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher was selected as a member of the Centennial class to be inducted in 2020.

Breaking: Former @steelers head coach @CowherCBS has been elected to the Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2020. #PFHOF20

Read More: https://t.co/3uoQ2ojeDl pic.twitter.com/Rqk5Rl56tu

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) January 12, 2020

The fact Cowher got the news live on television, and didn’t know his Hall of Fame fate, made the moment even more special for Cowher.

Check out the video:

Former @Steelers head coach Bill Cowher has been selected to the @ProFootballHOF Centennial Class of 2020!

His reaction is everything. #PFHOF20 (via @NFLonCBS) @CowherCBS pic.twitter.com/SBDvIFr0xR

— NFL (@NFL) January 12, 2020

Cowher is the first of hopefully many Steelers who will forever be enshrined in Canton, OH. The others who are vying for induction into the Hall of Fame would be Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca, finalists for the class of 2020, and Donnie Shell, hoping to find his way on the Centennial ballot as well.

If Faneca, Polamalu and Shell were to get in to the Hall of Fame along with Cowher, it is safe to say Canton would become a Steelers maniacs haven. It would also likely mean the Steelers would have a fifth preseason game as they would likely be a part of the 2020 Hall of Fame preseason game which kicks off the new season.

Congratulations to Cowher from all of us here at BTSC, and Steelers fans around the world!

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they embark on another lengthy offseason leading up to 2020.

2019 NFL Divisional Round Games: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/11/2020 - 3:05pm
Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The Steelers are done, and it is time to watch some NFL Playoff football.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t play until the 2020 regular season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t games to be watched. The Steelers Nation fan base will be watching games throughout the day to see how things shake out on the Divisional Round weekend of the NFL Playoffs.

Some take this day to just relax and get caught up on things outside of football, but if you are like me, you are still watching the full slate of action on Saturday.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on this weekend. Which game are you most looking forward to watching? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all those games in the process.

As always, remember we are all here for the same reason...

GO STEELERS!

A Letter From the Editor: When it comes to rooting interest in the playoffs, it gets complicated

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/11/2020 - 1:43pm
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not in the NFL Playoffs, and since I’ll be watching the postseason, might as well explain who I will, and won’t, be pulling for in these Divisional Round games.

During the regular season we here at BTSC put out a “Who Steelers fans should be rooting for” article every week. The theory behind this article is to give fans an idea as to why they should be rooting for a specific team that given week.

Sometimes it is based on the division standings, the playoff race or maybe even the pure vitriol the fan base might have towards at team like the New England Patriots.

Either way, fans always have a reason for who they root for outside of the Pittsburgh Steelers game any given week. But when the playoffs roll around and the Steelers aren’t participating, things get dicey.

Just this morning, while celebrating my oldest daughter’s birthday, I was asked by a family member who I was pulling for in the NFL Playoffs since the Steelers weren’t in it. My answer was quick and precise...

“Anyone but the Baltimore Ravens.”

Everyone laughed, I didn’t, and someone said, “But don’t you want to root for a team from your division?”

Nope.

But the more I thought about it, when it comes to who I am rooting for in the games this weekend, my absolute favorite weekend of football, it gets complicated as to why I may want a team to win, while I want another team to lose.

So, let’s go through the games and I’ll explain who I am rooting for, and against, in the action Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET

Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers

I am rooting for the Vikings in this game. I have always felt Kirk Cousins never got a fair shake at quarterback, and always liked him when I saw him covered a ton while he played for Washington. As a Maryland resident the “You like that?!” slogan was always funny to me. On the other side of the docket, the 49ers have 5 Super Bowl wins. No need to threaten the Steelers’ six rings...so I’ll be rooting against Jimmy G and company.

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens

Talk about a slam dunk. The Titans eliminated the Patriots last week (YEAH!), and now have the chance to knock off the Ravens. Nothing would make me happier than the Ravens to be one-and-done in the postseason. Go Titans!

Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET

Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs

Talk about a game I really don’t care about one way or another. The Texans have J.J. Watt on their team, who I like, and Deshaun Watson seems like a stand-up guy. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes is a lot of fun to watch, and they possess the best chance to beat the Ravens if the Titans can’t get the job done on Saturday. However, I have always had a disdain for Andy Reid after he decided to bench his entire team in 2013, and Ryan Succop missed the field goal against the Chargers keeping the Steelers out of the postseason. I really don’t care who wins this game...

Sunday, 6:45 p.m. ET

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

I always laugh at Seahawks fans when they still complain about Super Bowl 40. Talk about crying over spilled milk, and before you say the Steelers still complain about Super Bowl 30, don’t bring logic into this discussion! As for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers and company were the ones who denied the Steelers of victory in Super Bowl 45. Since then I’ve despised Rodgers and his stupid “championship belt” celebration. I hope they lose. Go Seahawks.

As you can see, my sick and twisted mind sure does have a funny way of picking who to root for in playoff games, but that is how my mind works. Who are you rooting for in the games this weekend? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for yet another lengthy offseason.

If the Steelers would have drafted Lamar Jackson in 2018, would he have earned All-Pro honors?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/11/2020 - 10:35am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers passed on Jackson in favor of Terrell Edmunds, but would he have seen the same success had he landed in Pittsburgh?

With Terrell Edmunds being the statistical weakest link in the Steeler secondary in 2019, I’m often reminded by various commenters that the Steelers could have had Lamar Jackson in his place. Yes, the Steelers chose to address the needed safety rather than draft a back-up quarterback in the first round 2018. I’ve gone on record as saying I wanted the Steelers to draft Mason Rudolph in the first round even though they were able to get him in the third. But this is not a debate as to who the Steelers should have drafted with their first pick almost 2 years ago. The question I wonder is if Lamar Jackson would have had near the success he had in Baltimore in 2019 had he been playing in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers fans are not the only team who could ask this question. Pretty much every team can ask the same thing as Jackson was taken with the very last pick in the first round of the draft. Of course there were a few teams who did not have a first-round pick in 2018, but otherwise every team had the opportunity to select Jackson. In fact, four teams selected quarterbacks instead of the former Heisman Trophy winner. But this site is dedicated to the Pittsburgh Steelers, so I’m asking the question as to how Jackson would fit into the Steelers plans.

This question isn’t even as much about the “what if” of the situation as being a topic to think about how much a player’s fit in a certain situation can help determine their NFL success or lack thereof. For the purpose of this exercise, we are simply going to swap out Lamar Jackson with Mason Rudolph. I know Rudolph was taken in the third round, but we’re trying to make this as simple as possible. In essence, place Lamar Jackson in the shoes of Mason Rudolph and see how things would’ve played out of Pittsburgh.

Here are my thoughts…

Although he may very well had the opportunity to move ahead of Joshua Dobbs as the back up to Ben Roethlisberger in 2018, I’m going to assume Jackson would not have taken a single snap his rookie season. Instead, let’s say Lamar Jackson was the player that took over for Ben Roethlisberger at halftime of Week 2 of the 2019 season. Would Jackson have seen the same success he did in Baltimore, or would he have struggled much like Rudolph and Devlin Hodges did for the Steelers for the remainder of the season?

First of all, Jackson would not be coming into 2019 with seven starts under his belt like he did in Baltimore. To say this wouldn’t factor into the equation would be silly. So there would be one thing working against Jackson coming into play in 2019 in Pittsburgh.

Personally, I do not feel that Jackson would be anywhere close to the All-Pro player he’s been in Baltimore if he were playing in Pittsburgh. First off, Ravens’ offense of coordinator Greg Roman has designed his offense around Jackson’s strength. It is not the typical coaches choice of an offense to run, so Roman has showed he is willing to adapt to his player strengths in order to succeed.

For the 14 ana a half games the Steelers played without Ben Roethlisberger in 2019, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner seemed to do little to adapt to the different players the Steelers were forced to utilize. Yes, they used the wildcat in a few places, but don’t mistake gimmicks for creativity. It all, the offense the Steelers were attempting to run in Week 17 appeared very similar to that in Week 2.

Perhaps coach Fichtner believed the players he had were close enough in style to Ben Roethlisberger in order to keep everything the same. But the offensive output seemed to be a red flag of the situation, and yet week in and week out Fichtner appeared to be running the same offense and hoping this time it would work. Nothing he did would give me reason to believe that if he were coaching Lamar Jackson at quarterback he would do anything different than run the scheme he is comfortable with.

Lamar Jackson is a fantastic talent. But just because a player is talented doesn’t mean they fit into every mold. What is helping to make Lamar Jackson thrive is the system he is being asked to run. And he is running extremely well.

Therefore, I do not believe Lamar Jackson would have been anywhere close in the realm of success had he been playing in Pittsburgh in 2019 rather than Baltimore. I feel the Steelers look for talented players who fit into their system rather than look for the most talented players and adapt their system to their player strengths. I could be completely off-base, but this is the gut feeling I got after the 2019 season.

Before turning it over for you all to give your opinions, I do want to clarify that I do think Lamar Jackson would have helped the Steelers to a better record in 2019. I just don’t think he would have put up the All-Pro numbers the way the Steelers would have utilized him.

So what are your thoughts? Do you believe Lamar Jackson would have been just as successful with the Steelers as he was in Baltimore in 2019? Do you think he may have struggled much like the other young quarterbacks? Make sure you answer the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Division games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/11/2020 - 9:15am
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

BTSC’s Jeff Hartman and Dave Schofield pick this weekend’s NFL playoff games both against the spread and over/under point totals

There were some entertaining football games in the first weekend of the NFL playoffs! With two games going to overtime and three visiting teams coming up victorious, it made for some compelling story lines. But can the excitement carryover for another weekend? With every home team favored by more than a field goal, will we see any upsets in the divisional round?

For the 2019 NFL regular season and postseason, both Jeff Hartman and myself will be picking every game against the spread and the over/under point totals. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers. We are just a couple of Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

Two weeks ago, Jeff and I finished up the regular season dead even in picking games against the spread. But after I went 3-1 with Jeff going 1-3, I opened up a two-game lead. Jeff held a large four-game advantage in the over/under after last weekend and extended his lead by going 4-0 in the Wildcard round while I went 3-1. On the season, I am up slightly against the spread while Jeff is up five games in the over/under category.

So here are the picks for the Saturday and Sunday games for Division Weekend of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along!

All selections are based off of the consensus data from oddsshark.com as of Friday night.

Which playoff games this weekend are Steelers fans more likely to watch?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/11/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Of the Division games on Saturday and Sunday, is there one game over the others in which Steelers’ fans will be more likely to tune in?

There are eight teams remaining in the NFL playoffs from the 2019 season, and the field will be cut in half after Sunday. I know it’s just not the same without our beloved Steelers taking the field, but there are some interesting NFL matchups to watch this weekend. So which of the four games do you find the most intriguing? Is there one game you’re looking forward to seeing more than any other? Before making a decision, let’s take a look at the four matchups which will be featured on national television in Week 19.

Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers Saturday at 4:35 PM on NBC

After upsetting the Saints in New Orleans in overtime last week, the Vikings have to feel like they are capable of taking down any team in the NFL. Can they do it two weeks in a row? The 49ers have not played a postseason game since the 2013 season. So will their inexperience come into play?

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens Saturday 8:15 PM on CBS

If you are a fan of the run game, this might be just the game for you! With the Baltimore Ravens rushing for more yards and attempts than any other team in the NFL in 2019, they will be looking to get their game going on the ground. But with Tennessee rushing for over 200 yards while not even reaching the century mark in the passing game last week when they took down the New England Patriots, the NFL’s leading rusher Derrick Henry wants to show that he can carry the rock better than anyone.

Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at 3:05 PM on CBS

It is the only game of the weekend which is a rematch of a regular season game from the 2019 season. Houston traveled to Kansas City in Week 6 of the season and defeated the Chiefs 31-24. After jumping out to a 17-3 first-quarter lead, the Chiefs gave up 20 points in the second quarter. The Texans completely owned the ground game the first time around with 192 yards to only 53 by the Chiefs. But will they be able to replicate it again on Sunday?

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers Sunday at 6:40 PM on FOX

I don’t really know what to think about this game. It feels as if the Packers have been scraping along all season and not making a bunch of noise. The Seahawks took down the Eagles in Philadelphia but didn’t have to face Carson Wentz for the majority of the game. Will the plethora of injuries finally catch up to the Seahawks, or will they be able to knock off the Packers on the snow-covered Lambeau Field?

So there are the four NFL playoff matchups on Division Weekend. Is there any one of these games which looks to be the most interesting to watch over the course of the next two days? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

I admit it, I was wrong about Lamar Jackson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/11/2020 - 6:44am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Who has two thumbs, a lot of opinions and was wrong about Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson? This Steelers writer.

It was some time ago, in the fall I believe, when I got an email with a subject line that read: “Why are you so hard on Lamar?”

It was in reference to a couple of “anti-Lamar” articles I wrote last year—one about how I didn’t think second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, even with the help, vision and direction of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, would revolutionize NFL offenses; the other about how I thought Jackson would eventually get lit up thanks to his sideline fake that seemed unfair to defenders (I still think I’m right about that).

As he prepared for his second season, I honestly didn’t think Jackson had what it took to be a really good quarterback; that was mainly due to his reputation for being a “if my first read isn’t open, I’m going to run it” kind of quarterback. I was also skeptical due to his throwing arm that left a lot to be desired in the accuracy department.

Both of those perceived liabilities seemed to be on display last January, when the Chargers totally neutralized Jackson while defeating Baltimore in the wildcard round of the 2018/2019 playoffs.

I also thought it was laughable that Harbaugh, Mr. Special Teams, had any offensive vision whatsoever.

But here I am, a fan of a team that didn’t make the playoffs, while the one I despise the most, the Ravens, is the top seed in the AFC, a squad that took on just about every viable contender in football in 2019 and came out mostly unscathed.

Baltimore is set to host the Titans this Saturday night in the divisional round, and it wouldn’t shock me at all if the Ravens beat Tennessee and kept on winning all the way through Miami and Super Bowl LIV.

At this point, it would be foolish of me to say the reason for the Ravens success is because of anything other than Jackson’s abilities. Not only is Jackson a great player, he’s currently the favorite to be to be voted NFL MVP.

How could he not? He answered just about every question imaginable in 2019.

Yes, he ran for 1,206 yards on 176 attempts (breaking his own single-season record for quarterbacks) and seven touchdowns. Those numbers, while mind-boggling, weren’t all too surprising. After all, running was considered his greatest strength—at least in his rookie season.

As for the passing stuff, something I was quite skeptical of in my summer-time article? How about 3,127 yards, 36 touchdowns and six interceptions? How about a completion rate of 66 percent and a yards per attempt average of 7.8 (or over a yard greater than Tom Brady)?

If Jackson doesn’t win the MVP, they should stop having the award.

Back to my email. It was from a man named Peter. He was a good guy and didn’t seem hostile at all. In fact, he emailed me on more than one occasion and was quite friendly and, instead of wanting to see me “eat crow,” he appeared to want me to enjoy Jackson’s abilities as much as he did (believe it or not, I’m pretty sure Peter was a Giants fan).

I basically told Peter that I couldn’t really appreciate Jackson’s abilities—my Steelers DNA makes that damn-near impossible—but I could admit that what he was doing was amazing.

The fact that Jackson was picked so low in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft was one of the things Peter objected to the most.

In the end, a lofty draft status may have killed Jackson. I mean, can you imagine if he wound up with one of those traditional bottom-feeders that like to take good things and mess them up? What if he would have been drafted in the top five by the Redskins, Jets or Bengals? Yeah, he may have received a much better rookie contract, but that’s likely about it. Even if Jackson wound up with a pretty good organization, it may have been one that tried to ignore his strengths and turn him into a more “traditional” quarterback.

Instead, Jackson landed with an organization that had (and this is going to hurt me to say) a good owner, a great front office and a really good head coach. Harbaugh understood that drafting a player like Jackson made no sense unless he was intent on building the offense around his talents—just like any good coach would do with any talented quarterback.

Obviously, the results speak for themselves.

In addition to being an ultra-talented quarterback, Jackson has done nothing but win in Baltimore, winning 19 of 22 career starts since taking over for Joe Flacco midway through the 2018 campaign.

Is the jury still out on Jackson as it pertains to his ability to win in the postseason? Sure. Might he have to eventually tone down the running thing in order to have a career that goes the distance? Probably.

But regardless of what happens in the future—including the current playoffs—the Ravens found themselves a gem of a quarterback in Lamar Jackson.

So, Peter, my friend, with that in mind (and the only reason I’m admitting this is because you didn’t call me “ugly”—something that happens far too often when people email me), I was wrong about Lamar Jackson.

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