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The Chuck Noll Foundation For Brain Injury Research announces inaugural research grants

Steelers.com News - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 8:00am
Pittsburgh region scores high in traumatic brain injury research.

3 Keys to the Steelers returning to greatness in the 2018 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 7:17am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are still a ridiculously talented team, and if they can do these three things they will be a top team in the NFL, again.

As the wheels are in motion, little by little, in the 2018 off-season, now is the time to emphasize what the Steelers need to focus on for a great season. Following a 13-3 season and a league-high 56 sacks, coupled with a first-round bye—only to be one-and-done in the playoffs—players and fans are still left scratching their heads. 2017 was supposed to be year of the “Men of Steel” upending the Patriots. Instead, their hearts are still left with deep wounds from a dominating — and unexpected — Jaguars offensive explosion.

Now, it’s back to the drawing board.

The brain trust of Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert begins to become more scrutinized. Two out of the last four playoff appearances the Steelers have found themselves one-and-done.

You must wonder: With this collection of talent, how much longer is this championship window going to be open?

“We have to be better,” Colbert told Triblive. “I do not think we were better in 2017 than we were in 2016 because we got eliminated a round earlier, and I think that’s a reflection of the job that all of us did or didn’t do. How do we get better? We all have to figure out a way to not get eliminated in the first round. That is the process that we are in.”

With that, here are 3 key areas of focus that needs to be emphasized going into this season.

Red zone efficiency

Under Todd Haley’s tenure as offensive coordinator, their average rank was 20th in all five seasons, with 12th being the highest they achieved which was in Haley’s first year. Look at this year, for example. Until the Colts game, they were second-to-last in red-zone touchdown percentage.

It got to a point where Ben Roethlisberger and Haley’s relationship hit such a boiling point Roethlisberger requested quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner come down from the booth to the sidelines. Haley has gotten the best out of Roethlisberger as a more patient pocket passer but, more importantly, taking fewer hits. However, it seems to have reached a point where there was constant frustration, and unfortunately someone had to depart.

Now it is up to Fichtner to fix the red-zone woes — Job No. 1 for the new play caller.

Locker-room leadership

It would be beneficial if Roethlisberger stopped calling out his own teammates through the media. He placed his foot in his mouth many times when referring to current teammates. Ben expressed his disappointment with Martavis Bryant getting cleared from his banned substance suspension,and for Antonio Brown’s outburst on the sideline during a frustrating game on the road in Baltimore against the Ravens.

We’re not asking them to be New England, but there comes a certain point where things need to be handled without dirty laundry being aired. It comes to a point in time where team unity needs to get stronger.

Legendary Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis even stated back in his playing days that his Steelers teams were trying to find their identity by winning a Super Bowl. “The one thing that we noticed about the older guys was how much of a family it was,” Bettis told Steelers.com reporter Missi Matthews at the Hall of Honor last November.

“They still came together and they were always a family and we understood that if we wanted to get to the heights and win a championship, we had to become a family the same way and I think we did that and, as a result of it, we were able to win a championship.”

Don’t get me wrong, but Tomlin has proven time and time again that he isn’t about ready to deal with nonsense. Roethlisberger has no doubt matured over his career, but he needs to be the table-setter and set the tone on the “Steeler way.” Fortunately, Art Rooney II hasn’t let anything deter him from keeping stars like Brown and Bell around.

I mentioned in an earlier article why fans should continue to trust the process on the defense. At some point and time, they must become a scoring defense. Six of the last 10 Super Bowl champions ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense. The Steelers’ last defensive touchdown was by William Gay back in 2015 against the Bengals in Cincinnati. The no-takeaway-for-score streak is now at two seasons. That, to me, is unacceptable if they’re going to open people’s eyes as a great team considered to be a Super Bowl contender!

Staying healthy

Yes, everyone is well-coached and ready to go under Coach Tomlin, but I’ve also mentioned how we’ve witnessed the significant increase in missed tackles and worsening pass coverage without Joe Haden and Ryan Shazier. They managed to go 7-1 in the second half down the stretch. The Steelers were ranked No. 1 in pass defense at one point, but dropped to No. 4 at season’s end. Star players are still star players no matter how you cut it!

Here’s what this all boils down to: they must once again lock down their division (of course), beat New England, but more importantly, not take any days off.

Don’t get me wrong, Mike Tomlin chose to rest his guys on the last game of the season, but it wouldn’t have been a bad idea for Roethlisberger, Bell, or Brown to at least tune up for a quarter or a half in the finale against the Browns. They got more rest with that bye, but it was clear they were too relaxed and not focused going against Jacksonville in the AFC Divisional Round playoffs. The theme needs to be, “win, or die trying!”

One thing we can all agree on is that time is too valuable a thing to waste.

Steelers Throwback Thursday: Thwarting San Fran’s Perfection

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:08am

Flashing back to the day when dynasties clashed in San Francisco as the Steelers faced undefeated San Francisco

The Pittsburgh Steelers least-successful decade of the past 48 years was definitely the 1980s. There was a definite fallout from the four championships in six seasons that came to a stop after the super 70s run. But it still happens to be a favorite decade of mine that sparks plenty of pleasant memories.

I was eight when the 80s began, and I just unwittingly expected the run to continue. Guys like Jack Lambert, Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris were still larger than life to me, but Chuck Noll’s dynasty was showing their age and the Steelers only reached the playoffs four times in the decade as guys like Rocky Bleier, Jack Ham and Joe Greene were hanging up their cleats.

From 1982-1984, Pittsburgh made the postseason three straight years. This was due to still having a handful of 70s legends mixing with new blood, and playing in a sub-par division. But the run of picking late in the first round through all of the trophy years, helped aid the decline.

Before the season that was 1984, the Steelers saw Terry Bradshaw retire and Franco Harris hold out and end up in Seattle. Times were changing and the dynasty days were seeming further and further away.

But there were still some memorable days. So let’s set the time circuits of the Delorean to October 14, 1984. Stevie Wonder was topping the charts with I Just Called To Say I Love You, Bill Cosby was (allegedly) roofy-ing women on the set of his hit freshman sitcom, Miami Vice was making white linen suits and owning an alligator for a pet popular, the Detroit Tigers defeated the San Diego Padres in the 81st edition of the World Series and Ronald Reagan was in the final stages of campaigning for his landslide victory over Walter Mondale a few weeks later.

The 6-0 49ers were the hottest team in football and they were already being talked about as a historic team that could go 19-0. That week, 15 49ers, a year before the Bears released The Super Bowl Shuffle, recorded a song on vinyl called We’re the 49ers. Coach Bill Walsh was beginning to worry that his team was getting distracted. The Steelers, on the other hand, were just destroyed 31-7 against Dan Marino's Dolphins.

After the Osmond siblings of Donny and Marie performed the National Anthem, the Steelers adventure that day at famed Candlestick Park began with the eight-point underdogs coming out to an shocking ten-point lead courtesy of Frank Pollard’s grinding runs. That led to a Rich Erenberg score from two yards out on the very first drive and a Gary Anderson field goal from 48 in the second quarter, but before halftime Joe Montana finally solved the Steeler defense and ran the ball himself from the seven, right before the half. But still, the .500 visitors were up by three on Bill Walsh’s undefeated club.

In the second half, Montana and the 49ers came alive. A field goal by Ray Wersching and another seven-yard jaunt, this time by Wendell Tyler, made the score 17-10 Niners in the fourth. It looked like the typical story with the favorite getting down early and putting the game away late, but the young Steelers wouldn’t go down easy.

John Stallworth, who was injured all of 1983, had a career resurgence in 1984 and it continued in San Francisco. After a controversial pass interference call on a pass to him gave the Steelers new life, No. 82 hauled in a six-yard pass from QB Mark Malone to tie the score late in the fourth. The play completed a 15-play, 83-yard drive against a devestating defense.

There was a rub though. The man they called “Joe Cool” was famous for late-game wins. He had 3:21 remaining on the clock and we’ve all seen that movie before. Defeat seemed inevitable for Pittsburgh. But with SF driving, LB Brian Hinkle made a leaping interception and returned the ball 43 yards to halt the drive and set up shop deep in Niner territory. The drive stalled and the Steelers settled for a 21-yard field goal by their Pro Bowler Anderson.

But remember that comment about seeing this movie before? With 1:42 left on the Candlestick clock, No. 16 drove his scarlet-clad warriors down the field. Dwight Clark and mostly TE Earl Cooper dominated the drive that saw Montana go six of seven with one drop. The reliable Ray Wersching came on for the game winning kick from 37 out. My twelve-year-old self, watching on an old tv in the back of my parent’s place of business, hung my head. I, myself, had just experienced defeat as my Pee Wee Football Team (The American Outfitter Eagles) were vanquished earlier in the day. Standing there still wearing my football pants, I remember telling my dad, Wersching never misses. I was wrong. The kick failed and the Steelers were victorious, as I jumped and screamed in delight.

At 3-3, the Steelers had renewed life, as the 49ers actually blamed Donny and Marie (not the singers on their own team) for squashing their mojo. The win helped propel the Steelers to the AFCCG, where they lost to Marino and Miami. Had they won, they would have had a rematch with San Fran, once again in NoCal. That may have not ended as well as this one did, as the 49ers beat Miami 38-16 for the title. But those Steelers, and their fans, took great pride in spoiling a perfect season. They’ll always be remembered for that distinction.

Asked and Answered: Feb. 22

Steelers.com News - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 5:00am
Another installment of Bob Labriola answering your questions about the Steelers and the NFL.

Ed Bouchette: If Steelers keep Le'Veon Bell, they should use him differently

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 5:00am

Provided they keep Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers enter next season with two Pro Bowl backs, him and fullback Roosevelt Nix.

Home Ben vs. Road Ben was very real in the Steelers’ 2017 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 4:58am

The Pittsburgh Steelers signal caller was Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde in 2017 when it came to his home and road splits.

The Pittsburgh Steelers franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, has had his ups-and-downs throughout his long NFL career. Whether it be on the field, or off the field, Roethlisberger has always had some pitfalls, but continued to be a dynamic player. With every dazzling play there are some befuddling plays which make fans wonder where this particular play came from.

In the 2017 season, Roethlisberger certainly did his best Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde impersonation with his play at home, versus his play away from Heinz Field.

This from Pro Football Focus, regarding Roethlisberger’s overall accuracy, especially with deep passes:

Ben Roethlisberger's home vs. away deep passing splits from 2017 pic.twitter.com/IdLKZn96yn

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 21, 2018

Considering this graph is only targeting deep passes, passes which the intended target are 20 or more yards past the line of scrimmage, the attempts and completions are skewed heavily towards Roethlisberger’s play at home. But as you continue to look at the data, you see just how poor Roethlisberger was on the road.

Road Ben strikes again.

What fans are left with now is wondering why Roethlisberger’s statistics are so poor away from home? Some say it has to do with communication, while others point to the fact the Steelers played 6 of their first 9 games of the season on the road — those games where the offense struggled to get going.

Either way you slice it, there is no overlooking Roethlisberger’s numbers on the road, and if the Steelers want to be a dominant team, it could very well start with his improved play when traveling in 2018-2019.

Steeler-sponsored Chuck Noll Foundation funds first concussion research grants

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 4:30am

One study will try to trace pathways in the brain after a concussion by tracing a protein in sweat. Another will analyze the brains of retired athletes who have had a concussion to see how they respond to therapy.

Steeler-sponsored Chuck Noll Foundation makes initial concussion research grants

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 4:30am

One study will try to trace pathways in the brain after a concussion by tracing a protein in sweat. Another will analyze the brains of retired athletes who have had a concussion to see how they respond to therapy.

Ryan Shazier stands to acknowledge crowd at Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 9:05pm

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, the winner of the 2017 Dapper Dan Dr. Freddie Fu Sports Leadership Award, recognized injured Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier when accepting his award Wednesday at the 82nd Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction

Colbert, Stallworth honored by Dapper Dan

Steelers.com News - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 7:05pm
Kevin Colbert and John Stallworth were among the top honorees at the Dapper Dan Awards Dinner.

Stallworth, Colbert receive Dapper Dan honors

Steelers.com Videos - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 6:55pm
John Stallworth and Kevin Colbert accepted their awards at the 2018 Dapper Dan Award ceremony.

James Conner optimistic for his second season, realizes there is plenty to improve upon

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 1:55pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ third round draft pick had an up-and-down rookie season, and Conner looks to overcome adversity yet again.

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted possibly the feel-good story of the 2017 NFL Draft when they selected James Conner in the 3rd round out of Pitt. While Conner’s story of overcoming a knee injury, and more notably cancer, has permeated the NFL landscape, Conner’s rookie season carried plenty of ups-and-downs throughout.

The rookie running back’s first training camp saw him watching more than participating, after suffering a hamstring injury which hampered him almost the entire time the team was at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. However, he persevered and was able to be a part of the active 53-man roster when the regular season rolled around, but things wouldn’t be easy.

Conner struggled with pass protection, something he didn’t have to do much in college, and now realizes this is something he needs to improve upon if he wants to be successful at the NFL level.

“It’s what I was asked to do,” said Conner to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “It’s not an excuse. I have to get better at that. Every running back loves running that ball. It’s what you do when the ball is out of your hands that also counts.”

This is also what sparked Conner to realize he needs to improve a lot in the passing game, both as a blocker and a receiver.

“I am going to work on every aspect of the game, but mainly in the passing game. You see how valuable guys are. Really every aspect of the game. I plan on coming back year two showing that.”

The truly troubling aspect of Conner’s first NFL season was how it ended — with a knee injury vs. the Patriots in Week 15. Conner wasn’t given many opportunities to carry the ball, but when he did you saw the explosiveness which had him taken by the Steelers in the first place.

The timing couldn’t have been worse.

“It was frustrating when it happened,” said Conner regarding his injury. “They were trusting me more. I was getting carries in the fourth quarter. That is the life of a running back. Injuries happen. My first injury won’t be my last. Those are things you have to deal with.”

Conner is healing up and rehabbing after surgery to repair his left knee. He had injured his right knee before finding out his cancer diagnosis while in college. Nonetheless, Conner views the 2017 season as a huge advantage heading into year 2, just because of the experience he gained in so many ways.

“There were a lot of ups and downs, but I had a lot of fun. It was a good year for me,” said Conner. “I learned how to be a professional by seeing so many professionals work. Learning the basics of getting your mind and body ready for a game. The pounding it takes, the nutrition part of it. Working out, meetings, finding a routine. I have seen older guys do that and it helps them be successful.

“In my running backs room, Le’Veon (Bell) and his routine, his nutrition, what he eats, his warmup before practice, getting his mind locked in. That taught me a lot.”

Conner finished the 2017 season with 32 carries for 144 yards, a 4.5 yard average, and the future of Le’Veon Bell will likely dictate how important Conner will be to the team next season. If Bell returns, Conner will be the No. 2 back who can spell Bell when necessary. If Bell somehow leaves, the job could be Conner’s to lose. With James Conner, he is no stranger to having to overcome adversity, and if you know his story you know the odds are he won’t just overcome adversity, but crush it.

With the focus on the defense, there are still areas the Steelers’ offense can improve upon

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 12:05pm

What are some areas were the Pittsburgh Steelers, coming off of a 13-3 season, can realistically improve enough next season to achieve their goal of a seventh Super Bowl ring? First, the offense.

The Steelers almost had a magical season in 2017. They started the year with as much, if not more, overall talent than any team in the league. They started slowly, but as we know it isn’t how you start but how you finish, and they definitely seemed to be building momentum heading into the post-season.

Things appeared to be falling into place nicely as the team repeatedly squared off each week against opponents not playing at full strength. The Steelers faced a plethora of backup quarterbacks in 2017. Every team can use a little luck from time to time and the Steelers were taking advantage of theirs by squeaking out victories against weakened opponents. This trend was worrisome but, hey, they had even managed to stay relatively healthy heading into that Monday night game in Cincinnati when their luck changed—big time!

First, the career-threatening injury to Ryan Shazier, then Marcus Gilbert’s ill-timed suspension, Antonio Brown’s calf injury and, finally, Jesse James not being able to “survive the ground” inexplicably altering the team’s path to the Super Bowl. The pendulum had swung, and we learned how luck can be a fickle mistress.

You are never as good as you think you are, nor as bad as some would have you think. So what are some areas were the offense’s performance can be expected to improve heading into next season as it’s presently constructed? Since we know there will undoubtedly be personnel changes and additions, let’s only focus on the known commodities.

Seems reasonable to me that Ben Roethlisberger can continue to improve on what has already been a HOF-caliber career. There should be improved communications between the positional coaches and players after the removal of an abrasive personality within the coaching staff. Ben will be more involved in developing the weekly game plans and he’ll have more freedom to call plays he’s comfortable with, not only when he’s running the highly successful no-huddle. This might be enough to help him achieve the consistency needed to obtain the one accolade which has eluded him, the MVP award. Remove the career-worst 5-interception Jacksonville game from last season and he might have been playing in the season finale against Cleveland still in the running.

It’s unclear how the running-back depth chart will stack up heading into next season, but it seems reasonable to hope for far less drama off of the field moving forward, regardless of what happens with Le’Veon Bell. Perhaps the team could improve the yards-per-carry average and maybe break off a run longer than 20 yards every now and then. Hopefully, James Conner can return healthy next season and take advantage of the off-season to improve his pass-blocking. You have to love his heart and work ethic. The potential is evident.

The wide receivers are highly skilled and talented, but they also have room for improvement. That statement doesn’t apply to Antonio Brown, of course, as he’s not only the best receiver in the league but, arguably, the best player in the league last year. I feel he has already peaked as an all-time great player and now hopefully he can maintain his level of play for seasons to come. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant have yet to meet their great potential in this offense.

I feel it’s reasonable to expect JuJu to be able to improve his hand-fighting when pressed at the line, and placement at the top of his routes which will help him achieve better separation against coverage. This separation can also improve with cleaner footwork. He is such an accomplished young player considering how many tricks of the trade are only learned through experience. The sky is the limit with this kid. How hard is he willing to work for it?

Bryant is an absolute freak! If his head and heart are in the right place so to speak, and if he’s used correctly within the offense, he could be unstoppable. The closest thing to Randy Moss the league has seen. Sadly, the offense hasn’t utilized his immense skill set when he’s been available, which hasn’t been often enough mainly because of maturity issues. For a player blessed with height, speed, and leaping ability, he’s absolutely terrible at high-pointing the ball! He also is easily knocked off balance, and therefore can be covered and tackled by much smaller defenders. These issues can all be improved with technique and attitude. So just like JuJu, how bad does he want it, and what is he willing to sacrifice to improve? That’s a reasonable question, isn’t it?

I think it’s reasonable to expect the tight ends to continue to work hard to improve their blocking, route running and, most importantly, catching the danged ball! All the way to the ground! Then stand up without bobbling it and walk the ball over to the referee and hand it to him and get off the field. I feel that’s more than reasonable.

The offensive line has developed into a real strength on the team. They are extremely well coached and work together as a coordinated unit. They should only continue to gel with another year together, provided they remain relatively healthy.

Lastly, I guess Chris Boswell could work on improving his field-goal range, because his accuracy has proven to be more than reliable.

Next article, we’ll focus on reasonable expectations for the defense.

Asked and Answered LIVE: Feb. 21

Steelers.com News - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 11:45am
A live Q&A with Bob Labriola.

Fans represent Steelers Nation on the road

Steelers.com News - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 11:00am
Steelers Nation Unite Road Warrior parties bring fans together in enemy territory.

Burning Questions: How much is Joe Haden worth to the Steelers secondary?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 9:35am

Joe Haden didn’t grade out particularly well in his 2017 performance with the Steelers, and he’s due $10 million per year for each of the next two years. That’s simply too much for his output, but he’s still a solid cornerback. But what is he actually worth at this point?

It’s hard to find a quantifiable measure by which we can determine the value of a defensive back. There are too many variables. Ike Taylor was a valuable cornerback for the Steelers for years, despite a well-documented inability to consistently hold on to even easy interceptions. Cortez Allen, meanwhile, had an early knack for finding interceptions, but gave up big play after big play as his career advanced.

Statistics lie.

Even the best attempts to grade defensive backs objectively can be questionable. And this is where we pick up the intriguing case of the Steelers’ Joe Haden, who is projected to cost the Steelers $10 million in salary and roster bonuses in 2018. Along with his prorated signing bonus, his salary-cap hit this season will be a whopping $11.9 million.

According to Pro Football Focus, a group that grades every player, Haden was the 68th-most productive cornerback in the NFL in 2017, which proves that cornerbacks are tough to grade. The PFF numbers say he was pretty doggone awful, considering that, in a base alignment, there are 64 “starting” corners in the league. That means Haden, who’s viewed as a co-No. 1 with fellow corner Artie Burns, was worse than every other starter in the NFL, plus a handful of backups.

The eye test says he was probably better than that — maybe somewhere in the mid-40s. That’s still not great and, either way, his value is nowhere near in line with his cost.

Rumor has it the Steelers want to keep Haden, but not at his current cap number. That makes sense, as he certainly isn’t living up to his paycheck. In 2017, Haden signed a three-year, $27 million contract, which gives him an average annual value of $9 million. Among cornerbacks, that’s 16th in the NFL right now. Using his actual 2018 cap-hit knocks him all the way up to 10th.

The question is: how much is he actually worth at this point?

Based on PFF’s grade and current average contract values for cornerbacks, his average contract value would fall just behind Quentin Rollins’ $935,642. That would be right in line with the 2018 veteran minimum with seven to nine accrued seasons (Haden has eight) of $930,000.

There’s absolutely no way that happens.

Haden wasn’t spectacular, nor was he absolutely terrible. As in most situations where value is subjective, the reality likely doesn’t live at the extremes. He’s not a shutdown corner, but he wasn’t the 68th-best in the league either.

A safe number to consider would likely be around the bottom of “starter-range” contracts. Based on average value, we could say a safe number would be equivalent to about the 28th-highest contract. That would be an average value of between $4 million and $5 million. For a longtime veteran being asked to take a pay cut, let’s assume he’s not likely to be terribly willing to take the low end of that range, leaving us at a $5 million target. But how do you convince a guy to take a pay cut of around $6 million per year? It likely starts with a modest contract extension.

With eight seasons under his belt, Haden likely doesn’t have a long contract left in him. It’s also pretty likely the Steelers wouldn’t want to sign him for the long term anyway, with a stable full of young corners like Burns, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen. So, let’s shoot for what ultimately amounts to a one-year extension as an olive branch. In reality, the entire contract has to be scrapped because it is changing the financial value that had been agreed upon, so while it looks like an extension, it’s literally a brand-new contract. Still, that’s still a pretty small bone for a hungry dog.

The Steelers have a few options to make the deal more enticing to Haden. The big problem is the best option would be one they simply don’t use: guarantees beyond the first season. However, as more teams use this measure, the pressure is increasing for Pittsburgh to follow suit. This might be a great time to use it. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the team chooses to guarantee the entire contract.

Rough numbers for a contract averaging about $5 million per year over the next three years might look like the following:

Signing Bonus: $4,000,000

Base Salaries: $1,000,000 (2018), $2,750,000 (2019), $1,667,000 (2020)

Roster Bonuses: $1,000,000 (2019), $1,000,000 (2020)

Carryover Bonus*: $3,833,332

Note: The carryover bonus is the remaining signing bonus from his contract signed in 2017 that must still be accounted for. Because this is technically a new contract due to the actual dollar value changing rather than just restructuring, I believe that entire remaining amount comes due immediately and must be accounted for in 2018.

This ends up with cap-hits of roughly $6 million, $5 million and and $4 million. It builds in the possibility of more than $1 million in cap relief through a 2019 restructure, if necessary, by converting as much as about $2.75 million of the combined base salary and roster bonus into signing bonus, spreading that amount over the final two years.

The bottom line for Haden is this contract is worth $11.4 million in new money over the next three years. That’s a significant decrease over the $20 million he is currently due over the next two seasons on his current contract, even with an added year. The question he has to ask is this: is it worth giving up $10 million for each of the next two years based on the mere possibility that he could score better than $3.8 million in each of the next three years?

After Haden’s 2017 performance, it’s probably not all that likely, especially as several recent, strong cornerback draft classes continue to mature. It might be the best offer he will see.

It could even be the only offer, at least from a contender.

Report of the Steelers receiving a 6th round pick for Ross Cockrell false, remains a 7th round pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 7:48am

The Giants received Ross Cockrell, and the Steelers received a draft pick, but there is some dispute over what round the draft pick is in.

Well, that didn’t last long.

Recently, the Pittsburgh Steelers faithful heard of the draft pick they received from the New York Giants for Ross Cockrell being moved to a 6th round pick, rather than a 7th, due to Cockrell playing more than expected in 2017.

This would give the Steelers a draft pick in the 6th round, where they currently are without any picks, but a recent report from our friends at Big Blue View, SB Nation’s Giants website, stating the Giants organization told them the pick is still a 7th, not a 6th.

The New York Giants will surrender a seventh-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for last season’s acquisition of cornerback Ross Cockrell. That information, which comes directly from the Giants, runs counter to a claim on the Steelers’ website that the conditional pick had become a sixth-rounder.

Shortly after hearing the Giant’s rebuttal, Bob Labriola, of Steelers.com, took to Twitter to announce his statement regarding the change of compensation being a 6th round pick was indeed false.

In the Feb. 15 installment of Asked and Answered, I wrote that the #Steelers will receive a sixth-round draft pick for trading Ross Cockrell to the #NewYorkGiants. That was incorrect. The compensation is a seventh-round pick.

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) February 21, 2018

The Steelers’ 2018 NFL Draft picks:

  • Round 1: 28th pick
  • Round 2: 28th pick
  • Round 3: 28th pick
  • Round 4: None
  • Round 5: 11th pick from San Francisco, 28th pick
  • Round 6: None
  • Round 7: 2nd pick from the New York Giants, 28th pick

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes regarding the black-and-gold.

Report: Redskins, Dolphins, Jets and Colts have called Steelers regarding Martavis Bryant

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 7:31am

The rumor mill is swirling about teams interested in the Steelers’ WR Martavis Bryant.

Midway through the 2017 season, Martavis Bryant told anyone who would listen he wanted out of Pittsburgh. He stated he was fed up with the Steelers, and his lack of involvement with the team.

His actions eventually led to his one-game suspension by the team and, after the bye week, Bryant seemed to toe the company line and started to produce again. In other words, he started to show flashes of “the Alien” everyone expected to see this past season after he missed the 2016 season due to an NFL suspension.

Lately, his play certainly has the rumor mill swirling regarding teams interested in Bryant’s skill-set next season via trade.

Interesting NFL Rumor: Steelers and Dolphins have discussed Martavis Bryant trade.. Some interest in DeVante Parker from Steelers side
Just talks nothing close to done.

Jets/Redskins/Colts also have varying degrees of interest in Bryant

— IB (@incarceratedbob) February 21, 2018

These are just rumors, but the team most involved, per the report, is the Miami Dolphins. Miami is supposedly interested in a one-to-one trade for DeVante Parker. However, the New York Jets, Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts have also supposedly put feelers out regarding Bryant’s services next season.

This might not amount to nothing, but there are likely some receiver-depleted teams that would love to have Bryant play for them and become the featured receiver on their roster.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news on this story, and others, surrounding the Black-and-gold.

Shazier: 'I've gotta get back'

Steelers.com News - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 7:15am
Ryan Shazier opened up about his future on a podcast with Roosevelt Nix.

Steelers-By-Position: OLBs

Steelers.com News - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 7:00am
The job description for a Steelers OLB has changed drastically since Mike Tomlin was hired in 2007.

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