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Marcus Gilbert releases statement to Steelers fans, and his teammates, following suspension

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 4:19pm

The right tackle apologizes to fans after “inadvertently” taking a banned substance.

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a big piece of their offensive line Monday when Marcus Gilbert was suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s PED policy, and after the news broke Gilbert took to social media to release a statement.

pic.twitter.com/2ztBrGy1ir

— Marcus Gilbert (@MarcusGilbert88) November 20, 2017

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Steelers family. Regretfully I inadvertently took a banned substance. I promise to come back in great shape, and will be ready to play when my suspension is over.”

Gilbert claiming to “inadvertently” taken a banned substance is surprising, to say the least, considering the amount of people and literature available to players as to what can, and can’t, be taken by league standards.

Nonetheless, Gilbert will have to sit out the next four games, including the huge game vs. the Patriots in Week 15, before returning to the lineup before the Christmas day game vs. the Houston Texans.

Gilbert’s statement came after Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert released a statement of his own regarding the suspension, per the team’s official website:

“We are disappointed that Marcus Gilbert has been suspended four games for using performance-enhancing substances. He will not appeal the NFL’s decision. The suspension is effective immediately, and he will not be permitted in the building until after the suspension has concluded following our game on Dec. 17.”

Bonus day

Steelers.com Videos - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 3:41pm
With a bonus practice day this week, We take a look around the AFC on Steelers Live.

Bonus day

Steelers.com Videos - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 3:41pm
With a bonus practice day this week, We take a look around the AFC on Steelers Live.

Chalk Talk - Steelers vs. Titans

Steelers.com Videos - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 3:41pm
Tunch breaks down a few key plays from the Steelers' 40-17 victory over the Titans.

Chalk Talk - Steelers vs. Titans

Steelers.com Videos - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 3:41pm
Tunch breaks down a few key plays from the Steelers' 40-17 victory over the Titans.

Suspension of Marcus Gilbert will likely lead to activation of Cameron Sutton

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 3:31pm

The 4-game suspension for Marcus Gilbert will likely equate in the activation of CB Cameron Sutton to the 53-man roster.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were dealt another hand filled with drama on Monday afternoon when the league announced right tackle Marcus Gilbert will be suspended four games for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy.

After news broke, some more details started to filter through the mayhem, and one of those came from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat writer Ed Bouchette on his official Twitter page:

Gilbert will lose $1 million during his 4-game suspension. Steelers can add player to 53 to replace him during that time.

— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) November 20, 2017

Gilbert will lose a huge chunk of change the next four weeks, and will him miss the following games: vs. Green Bay, at Cincinnati, vs. Baltimore and vs. New England, but his suspension will also have ramifications on the team’s 53-man roster.

Since Gilbert can be replaced during his suspension, it just so happens the team has to make a move on cornerback Cameron Sutton sometime Tuesday. Sutton will likely be activated to the team’s 53-man roster, in Gilbert’s place, and stay there for the next four weeks before the team will have to make a decision on who will stay and go upon Gilbert’s return.

The Steelers activated Sutton off injured reserve three weeks ago, and started the 21-day clock to make a decision on his return to the team. As unfortunate as this situation is with Gilbert being out of the lineup, it makes for an easy decision with Sutton, especially with Joe Haden currently injured.

Pittsburgh will again lean on Chris Hubbard to be the right tackle for the foreseeable future, with Matt Feiler or Jerald Hawkins, who has yet to be active for any regular season game this year, to take over the primary backup tackle position.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on this story, and others, surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 12.

Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert suspended four games after violating league’s performance-enhancing substance policy

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 3:19pm

The Steelers will be without Marcus Gilbert for four games due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 8-2, and were just dealt a huge blow with news of offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert being suspended for four games due to violating the NFL’s strict substance abuse policy, but more specifically the performance-enhancing substance policy.

Steelers OT Marcus Gilbert suspended four games for violating performance-enhancing substance policy.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 20, 2017

Gilbert has fought hamstring injuries the entire season, and after looking as if he would be back and ready to go the past two weeks, this news will hinder the team’s depth at the right tackle position.

In Gilbert’s absence will be Chris Hubbard. Due to Gilbert’s health issues this season, Hubbard has seen the field a lot, but now the question will become which player will step up to be the depth at the tackle position for the next four weeks.

Matt Feiler and Jerald Hawkins are both currently on the active roster, but Hawkins has been inactive every week, and Feiler has seen very little playing time since being promoted to the 53-man roster.

Gilbert is now slated to miss the following games: vs. Green Bay, at Cincinnati, vs. Baltimore and vs. New England.

A tough pill to swallow for the players, organization and the fan base, but Gilbert is not planning on appealing the suspension, per the Steelers.

Steelers GM Colbert: "We are disappointed . . . He will not appeal

— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) November 20, 2017

Stay tuned to BTSC for more on this story as it unfolds...

Colbert's statement on Gilbert

Steelers.com News - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 3:05pm
The Steelers released the following statement by General Manager Kevin Colbert on Marcus Gilbert.

Marcus Gilbert suspended four games for violating performance enhancing substances policy

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 3:00pm

Another season, another suspension for a Steelers player.

The Steelers have been stingy against the run since allowing 231 rushing yards in October

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 2:49pm

There was a time in the not-too-distant past that a 300-yard rushing game seemed like a possibility against the Steelers. The Bears and Jaguars each ran for more than 200 against them in the first five weeks of the season, and the Jaguars put up 231 on the Steelers at Heinz Field.

Pick Six: Highlights from the week that was in the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 2:46pm

Take a look at some of the highlights from the week that was in the National Football League.

Week 11 is essentially in the books, and it is time to check back on some key highlights from the week that was in the NFL.

Check out the latest SB Nation video which gives six key notes on the state of the NFL after the weekend action.

On this video check out some of the following information:

Check the video below!

The Steelers offense hopes its 40-point output is a springboard to better production ahead

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 2:03pm

The Steelers not only blew past 30 points for the first time this season in their most recent game, they did not stop there.

Mel Blount to talk live with fans on Wednesday

Steelers.com News - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 2:00pm
Steelers Nation Unite members will have access to a live fan forum event with the Hall of Famer.

Snap counts show there is no longer a debate as to who is the Steelers No. 2 wide receiver

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 1:05pm

There was once a debate who the team’s No. 2 wide receiver is, but if you look at the snap counts this debate has been over for weeks.

In 2016, the Pittsburgh Steelers experienced life without Martavis Bryant. Suspended for the year, the team struggled to move the ball without a viable threat opposite Antonio Brown. The likes of Cobi Hamilton, Eli Rogers and Darrius Heyward-Bey were just not enough to force teams to not double, sometimes triple, team Brown on his side of the football field.

Entering this season, with Bryant back in the fold, it looked as if the one-two punch of Brown and Bryant would be back, and hopefully better than ever, but Bryant’s rust certainly threw a wrench into those aforementioned plans, and rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has taken advantage of that and shot up the depth chart.

Fans know how Bryant handled having a rookie see the field more than him just a few weeks ago, but after Bryant’s one game punishment, and the bye week, Smith-Schuster has clearly become the team’s No. 2 receiver behind Brown.

Snap counts the past two games:

Week 10 vs. the Colts
Smith-Schuster: 53
Bryant: 37

Week 11 vs. the Titans
Smith-Schuster: 67
Bryant: 45

There have been occasions earlier in the season when Smith-Schuster’s increased playing time could be connected to the team’s efforts in the running game. Smith-Schuster is by far the superior blocker when compared to Bryant, and it would make sense they use him often when they need the edge sealed by a receiver.

However, in the team’s Week 11 win on Thursday Night Football, where they aired the ball out more than they have in the past few games, it was still Smith-Schuster who saw the field more than any receiver not named Brown. In fact, on the team’s opening drive of the Thursday night game, when they came out with a no-huddle look, Bryant never saw the field the entire drive.

I don’t believe Bryant is still being punished for his previous actions; the Steelers just see a better, and more reliable, all-around receiver in Smith-Schuster at this point. It doesn’t mean Bryant no longer adds value to this team, he most certainly does, but when someone asks who the team’s No. 2 wide receiver is, the answer should be JuJu Smith-Schuster, not Martavis Bryant.

AFC North Standings: With 6 games remaining, Steelers have stranglehold on the division

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:25am

It was a rare successful week across the AFC North, but the Pittsburgh Steelers remain the team to beat.

After Week 11, the AFC North had a rare 3-1 record on the day. The Steelers beat the Titans on Thursday night, the Ravens shut out the Packers in Green Bay and the Bengals bested the Broncos at home. The Browns weren’t able to beat the Jaguars, but it did keep their losing season in tact.

Despite the success of the division this past week, the Steelers continue to have a stranglehold on the division. With an 8-2 record, the team has a three-game lead over the Ravens, and a four game lead over the Bengals, but you can tack on another half-game with their head-to-head over both teams in the first half of the season. With all three teams still an opponent on the rest of Pittsburgh’s schedule, this head-to-head victory could evaporate, but the distance they have built should be able to withstand any late push by the rest of the division.

Time to take a look at the AFC North Standings heading into Week 12, along with all four teams remaining schedules.

Will the Steelers be able to sweep the AFC North? Will the Ravens make the playoffs as a Wild Card team? Will the Bengals fire Marvin Lewis before the end of the season? Will the Browns ever win a game?

All these questions will get answers...in due time.

AFC North Standings

1. Pittsburgh Steelers - 8-2 (Remaining Games: vs. Packers (5-5), at Bengals (4-6), vs. Ravens (5-5), vs. Patriots (8-2), at Texans (4-6), vs. Browns (0-10))
2. Baltimore Ravens - 5-5 (Remaining Games: vs. Texans (4-6), vs. Lions (6-4), at Steelers (8-2), at Browns (0-10), vs. Colts (3-7), vs. Bengals (4-6))
3. Cincinnati Bengals - 4-6 (Remaining Games: vs. Browns (0-10), vs. Steelers (8-2), vs. Bears (3-7), at Vikings (8-2), vs. Lions (6-4), at Ravens (5-5))
4. Cleveland Browns - 0-10 (Remaining Games: at Bengals (4-6), at Chargers (4-6), vs. Packers (5-5), vs. Ravens (5-5), at Bears (3-7), at Steelers (8-2))

Five things to know about the Steelers' Week 12 opponent, the Green Bay Packers

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:20am

The Steelers will welcome the Green Bay Packers to Heinz Field for an for a Sunday Night Football matchup this week. Here are five things to know about the NFC North team still fighting to keep its playoff hopes alive

Paul Zeise: The AFC is a two-team race between the Steelers and Patriots

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:17am

The Kansas City Chiefs blew the New England Patriots out of their own building on opening night of the season. The Chiefs scored 42 points that night and “made a statement” that they arrived as a legitimate threat to win the AFC. Alex Smith worked all offseason to develop a better deep ball, and it clearly paid off as he was able to throw for 368 yards and beat the Patriots defense with throws down the field.

AFC Playoff Picture: Chiefs’ loss puts distance between front runners and the pack

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 9:45am

The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots are sitting atop the AFC, with the rest of the conference in catch-up mode.

Week 11 is officially in the books for the AFC, and after the week that was, the conference is certainly up for grabs — for a few teams.

Those teams would be the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, both sitting at 8-2 heading into Week 12, but don’t sleep on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars hold the head-to-head win over Pittsburgh, which is certainly incentive for the Steelers to keep their distance ahead of Jacksonville.

After these three teams, however, the conference is pretty much up for grabs.

The Kansas City Chiefs, and the rest of the AFC West for that matter, are pretty much a jumbled mess. The Chiefs, once the lone undefeated team in the NFL, have lost four of their last five games, while the Broncos don’t have a quarterback and the Raiders are making their 2016 season look more and more like a flash in the pan.

It’s hard to believe there’s a 5-5 team—the Ravens for that matter—holding the sixth spot in the playoff picture, but this is the reality of the AFC in 2017—a few really good teams plus a lot of mediocre teams. Nonetheless, while there’s still a lot of football left to be played, take a look at the current AFC Playoff Picture below, the remaining schedules for the top-6 teams, and make your predictions as to where the teams will finish when the dust settles.

AFC Playoff Picture

1. Pittsburgh Steelers - 8-2 (Remaining Games: vs. Packers (5-5), at Bengals (4-6), vs. Ravens (5-5), vs. Patriots (8-2), at Texans (4-6), vs. Browns (0-10))

2. New England Patriots - 8-2 (Remaining Games: vs. Dolphins (4-6), at Bills (5-5), at Dolphins (4-6), at Steelers (8-2), vs. Bills (5-5), vs. Jets (4-6))

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - 7-3 (Remaining Games: at Cardinals (4-6), vs. Colts (3-7), vs. Seahawks (6-3), vs. Texans (4-6), at 49ers (1-9), at Titans (6-4))

4. Kansas City Chiefs - 6-4 (Remaining Games: vs. Bills (5-5), at Jets (4-6), vs. Raiders (4-6), vs. Chargers (4-6), vs. Dolphins (4-6), at Broncos (3-7))

5. Tennessee Titans - 6-4 (Remaining Games: at Colts (3-7), vs. Texans (4-6), at Cardinals (4-6), at 49ers (1-9), vs. Rams (7-3), vs. Jaguars (7-3))

6. Baltimore Ravens - 5-5 (Remaining Games: vs. Texans (4-6), vs. Lions (6-4), at Steelers (8-2), at Browns (0-10), vs. Colts (3-7), vs. Bengals (4-6))
_____
7. Buffalo Bills - 5-5
8. Miami Dolphins - 4-6
9. New York Jets - 4-6
10. Cincinnati Bengals - 4-6
11. Houston Texans - 4-6
12. Los Angeles Chargers - 4-6
13. Oakland Raiders - 4-6

The “Home Ben” vs. “Road Ben” debate is very real, and was evident in the Steelers’ latest victory

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 8:25am

The Pittsburgh Steelers saw an offensive explosion in Week 11, and don’t think it didn’t have something to do with “Home Ben” arriving on the scene.

If you're a long-time writer who covers the Pittsburgh Steelers on a weekly basis, one of the things you're likely thinking about as you watch them take on an opponent is a particular post-game angle to examine and share your opinion on.

Such was the case for yours truly, as I watched Pittsburgh battle the Titans Thursday night at Heinz Field.

A topic that I seemed likely to cover between Thursday night and the Steelers’ next contest against the Packers on November 26, was the ongoing struggles of an offense that came into 2017 with a goal of scoring 30 points per week, but had yet to do so through what I figured would be 10 games.

I doubled down on this thought after I witnessed a Chris Boswell 28-yard field goal in the second quarter, which came on the heels of a Coty Sensabaugh interception that had set the offense up at the Titans’ 20-yard line.

This sequence of events was essentially a replay of what occurred in the first quarter, when Mike Hilton returned an interception to the Tennessee 24-yard line and Boswell paid off the takeaway by connecting on a 41-yard field goal.

And after Boswell ended the first half with his third field goal of the night to give Pittsburgh a 16-7 lead, I turned to my uncle and said, "Remember 2008, when the Steelers’ offense struggled week after week? Only instead of having a horrid offensive line, this offense has maybe the best one in football, and it still can't produce."

As it turned out, however, that Boswell field goal at the end of the first half was just the start of a scoring-spree in what would ultimately turn into a 40-17 beatdown before over 60,000 points-starved faithful.

After Tennessee stunned the home crowd by scoring on the opening play of the second half—a 75-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota to Rishard Matthews—the Steelers proceeded to reel off three-straight touchdown drives of 75, 75 and 51 yards, respectively.

All three of these touchdowns came courtesy of Ben Roethlisberger's right arm, and they were a nice complement to the one he threw to open the game.

That's right, Roethlisberger threw at least four touchdown passes in a game for the first time since he posted five against the Chiefs in Week 4 of the 2016 campaign--which just so happened to be the last time Pittsburgh played a prime-time game at Heinz Field.

This bodes well for the Steelers in the second half, since two of their remaining four home games will be in prime-time.

But the simple fact that Pittsburgh has four home games down the stretch should be great news, considering that between 2014-2016, Roethlisberger averaged close to 20 touchdowns a year at home vs. just under eight on the road.

As for his passer rating, Roethlisberger averaged a number of 111.3 at home the previous three years, as opposed to 85.1 away from Heinz Field. In-fact, Roethlisberger's performance away from home had gotten worse in recent years, falling from 91.0 in 2014, to 78.4 a year ago, with the 78.4 acting as a stark contrast to the 116.7 rating he posted at Heinz Field.

Through the first three home games of 2017, Roethlisberger hadn't exactly been lighting it up. But three home games isn't really a large enough sample size, compared to the league-leading six games he started on the road.

So why the very real "Home Ben" vs. "Road Ben" dynamic in recent years?

It's hard to say. Perhaps Roethlisberger simply performs better in the no-huddle, a formation that was utilized at a much higher frequency Thursday night than at any other time this season, and one that's perhaps a little too difficult for all involved in the process—including the quarterback, his offensive coordinator and the other 10 players—to make work in a hostile environment.

I do know we're all more comfortable in our own environments than we are in a foreign land. The food usually tastes better at home. Your bed is generally more comfortable.

Home, well, that really is where the heart is.

And the heart of the Steelers’ offensive struggles through the first nine games may have been the result of Ben Roethlisberger being a little homesick.

If I were you, I'd go ahead and hold my breath for the Steelers’ next 30-point performance, as it just might come at home against the Packers on November 26.

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