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Antonio Brown bids farewell to Steelers fans: “time to move on and forward”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 11:44am

The All-Pro wide receiver makes a strong statement via social media on Tuesday.

Throughout the tumultuous offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers, there has been a strong silence from All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown. While former and current teammates, Mike Tomlin, Art Rooney II and anyone else with a microphone chime in on the situation between Brown and the organization, Brown has remained silent.

That is, until now...

On Tuesday, Brown posted this video on multiple social media platforms with a simple message to Steelers Fans:

Thank you SteelerNation for a big 9 years...time to move on and forward..........✌ #NewDemands

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) February 12, 2019

If you can’t see the tweet above, you can click HERE, but here is the caption to the video:

“Thank you SteelerNation for a big 9 years...time to move on and forward.... #NewDemands”

This is the first time Brown has made a social media post, or answered a question, which doesn’t seem cryptic, but rather straight forward. If it didn’t seem obvious the two parties were doomed for divorce, it seems like just a matter of time until the two part ways for good.

The question at this point isn’t whether Brown will be back in a black-and-gold uniform next year, but what will the Steelers get in return for the talented wide receiver?

This story is just getting started, so stay tuned to BTSC as the offers, and eventual trade, take place between the team who took a flyer on Brown in the 6th round, and Brown’s new home.

Alliance of American Football: bringing football back to the masses after six long days without it

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 10:25am

Just six days after the 2018 NFL season came to a close, the Alliance of American Football league debuted on CBS. How can we miss football if there’s always football?

When I first began mourning the end of the 2018 NFL season that was put to bed by the Patriots 13-3 victory over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII on February 3, there was no way in heck I thought Steelers fans would soon find a football fix that didn’t involve mock drafts, the upcoming free agency period, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell or a continued preoccupation with “FireTomlin!”

However, Friday morning, my mom (or mum in both Pittsburgh and England-speak) called to inform me that BTSC writer and Great Britain native Simon Chester was on the KDKA Morning Show to talk about the Alliance of American Football Fan Guide he had recently published.

When I first heard about that, the first thing I thought was, “Wow, why didn’t Larry Richert ever have me on to discuss one of my annual Super Bowl Roasts?

After I got over that disappointment, the next thing I thought was, “Really?” I couldn’t believe there was an actual buzz for the newly-created AAF, a sort of developmental league founded by filmmaker Charlie Ebersol and headed by former NFL general manager Bill Polian.

Later that day, my cousin texted me about the league, and that’s when I realized the buzz was real. But was it real enough to sustain the excitement all the way through until the start of the 2019 NFL season (or, at least the start of the NFL Draft)?

As for me, personally, was this something I wanted to care about? I was intrigued by some of the rules Simon listed in his fan guide, such as no kickoffs and no extra points, which tells me the disdain for the foot part of football is growing—we may be about five years away from having to come up with another name for the sport (seriously, without kickers and punters, calling it football would be like calling the Bee Gees the Bee Gees once Barry Gibb retires). I actually laughed at the very strict overtime rules which include just one possession from the 10-yard line for each team (if there’s one thing sports fans want more of, it’s ties). I did take an initial liking to the idea of forcing a team to convert a fourth and 12 in lieu of an onside kick. Then I thought about how that would translate to the NFL, and unless it was a fourth and 40, in most cases, it would be like Tony Romo putting a golf ball into the giant hole in that one commercial.

Now equipped with at least some understanding of the AAF, I decided I was going to try and watch the league’s debut on CBS on Saturday night. Unfortunately, I got about halfway through the pre-game show before I decided I didn’t want to watch the actual game. There was nothing in particular that forced me to change the channel. It’s just that, well, I kind of want to miss football for a few months. I believe half the fun of enjoying something is not having it around for a while. It’s like what Barry Manilow told his good friend Suzanne Somers regarding the dwindling audience for her ongoing Las Vegas show, “How can you give them a chance to miss you if you never go away?”

I mean, aren’t you always going on and on about the over-saturation of the sport of football? Don’t you continuously complain about the length of games, the numerous commercials and about how the NFL practically force-feeds you match-ups on Thursday nights? Aren’t you someone who is ready to throw fists at the mere suggestion of expanding an NFL regular season to 18 games?

How can you be so frustrated by all things football, yet excited about more football—just six days after football ended?

I do like the fact that the AAF will give many fringe players—particularly quarterbacks—a chance to develop their skills and perhaps get noticed by the NFL. I also like that so many areas without NFL teams—including Arizona (Cardinals humor, Ar Ar)—will get a chance to see a level of football that’s at least slightly greater than college (well, except for Alabama where the quality of college football is better than 75 percent of the AFC East).

I may try and find some AAF highlights online. I may take in some action if a game is on at some bar I happen to be at. I may even get excited about the prospect of Zach Mettenberger of the Memphis Express finally developing into the next Ben Roethlisberger. But I don’t see myself going out of my way to watch this new football league.

When I was 12 years old, I was watching a baseball game, when a player tried to dive into the stands to catch a foul ball. The announcer joked that he didn’t get both feet in bounds, thus the catch didn’t count. When I heard that, I got that warm and fuzzy feeling because I knew football was right around the corner. That was 35 years ago, and just about every summer since then, something happens or is said that makes that warm and fuzzy feeling return.

I want to continue to have that feeling every year, and I may not if I forget how to miss football.

Sorry, AAF.

The Steelers defense had their issues, but PFF shows how their tackling improved in 2018

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 9:05am

Tackling was a point of emphasis for the Steelers in 2018, and the stats show it paid off.

Thinking about the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, there weren’t too many positives which came to mind.

What came to mind were the numerous leads squandered, the inability to get off the field when it mattered the most and the overall mediocre play outside of sacking the quarterback.

Heading into the 2018 regular season, Mike Tomlin made it a point to let everyone with ears know improving tackling was a point of emphasis in 2018. In training camp the team focused on tackling almost more than any other defensive skill.

Did it pay off?

According to the folks at Pro Football Focus (PFF), their tackling improved tremendously. Check out the results from 2017 to 2018:

2017 - 32nd
2018 - 5th

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) February 6, 2019

In case you can’t see the above tweets, just look at these stats:

Missed Tackles

2017 — 147 / Rank — 32nd
2018 — 86 / Rank — 5th

Talk about night and day when it comes to tackling. Sure, when I first read the statistics visions of Terrell Edmunds tackling absolutely awful angles ran through my mind, but it is natural for fans to immediately think of the bad plays, even over the good plays.

I didn’t think about Mike Hilton harassing ball carriers in the backfield on a corner blitz, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt crashing down the line of scrimmage to bring down a ball carrier from behind or Stephon Tuitt trailing the play looking like a great white shark about to feed on his prey.

In this instance, I have to give credit where credit is due. The Steelers were rightfully ridiculed for their poor tackling after the 2017 season, and while they weren’t the league’s best in 2018, going from 32nd to 8th is a tremendous jump in the right direction. Kudos to Mike Tomlin and his defensive staff for the improvement, and the hope is the improvement continues in the tackling department next season.

2019 NFL Draft: The Top 10 ILBs before the NFL Scouting Combine

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 7:58am

The ILB position is much more appealing in the mid-rounds than early in the draft process.

The ILB class this year, is as I will say it, bad. The top guys are riddled with uncertainty and are no sure things. Even at 20, any of the top 3 guys on my list feel like reaches in various ways. There is no “go get-em!” ILB prospect at the top this year. So, yes, I would advise to not trade up for a guy like Devin White. I would much rather go CB or EDGE in R1 and then address ILB later in R2 or R3 for reasons I will get into here, but I love the depth of the class.

Thus, here are my top 10 ILBs prior to the combine.

1. Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan

I am calling a mea culpa. I have been preaching the fact that Mack Wilson is my de factor LB1, but man, after diving back into Devin Bush’s tape after the senior bowl and putting him through my grading scale, he graded out better than both Wilson and White.


Bush has great athleticism and is a better processor than both White and Wilson. This dude reads a play, and aside from complex false keys, is a very instinctive ILB. His gap shooting ability in run defense in particular is incredibly impressive. He has sideline-to-sideline range and lays the wood often. He is a bit rawer in coverage, but he does a good job of reading the QBs eyes to the point where he can make plays on the ball. I am a big fan of Bush. If there is a LB I want at 20, he is the guy. However, he is still working out the kinks in coverage and has a lot of trouble shedding blocks. So, what gives?

The more I watch Devin Bush the more I think that once he goes into my scale, he’s gonna be LB1. The dude just reads plays like this incredibly well. His downhill ability and range is fantastic. He’s also more polished of a processor than both White and Mack. He’s damn good.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) February 9, 2019 2. Mack Wilson, ILB, Alabama

Wilson is just an incredible coverage ILB. That alone makes him valuable and will make him a starter in this league. He stacks blocks well and sheds when he needs to do it. He is a solid second level defender in that area. He also has the native athleticism to fly sideline-to-sideline and downhill. And honestly, I have not seen a LB with better ball skills than Mack Wilson since Deion Jones.

But, he is a raw processor. He is too slow to realize plays and that absolutely makes his tackle for losses falter and overall his impact falter. He does not make the “wow” play due to that. His angles are also as suspect as they come, and I don’t think he is inherently a bad tackler, but his angles make them far more difficult than they need to be.

So, he can be good, but I think 20 is reach for him.

If you are a fan of a team needing a LB and don't want Mack Wilson what are you doing. This man is a flat out beast!

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 27, 2019 3. Devin White, ILB, LSU

The most athletic ILB in the draft, but man, White has some serious concerns about his game. While he flies sideline-to-sideline and can be a great gap shooter on top of being a great coverage LB, all of it is mitigated by lack of ability to get off of blocks and terrible processing. He is Jarred Davis level of raw above the head. I am seriously worried about that. You do not want your ILB to not be able to process keys at all, but he often does that, and that is a serious issue.

So, while I love all the traits and potential, that floor is going to scare me away from picking him at 20. To me, he is a reach there. His horse on the other hand.......

I don't have questions on Devin White and his ability to go sideline-to-sideline. The range is certainly there. He just has to show improvements within his mental processing and ability to shed blocks. Here's an example of him getting on his horse (yes, I know what I did there)

— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 6, 2019 4. Terrill Hanks, ILB, New Mexico State

This is my draft crush right here. Hanks is a converted safety who flies! I would not be shocked to see this guy run in the 4.4s. His processing is raw, as he is a converted safety, but it showed consistent improvement over the season. He is an instant contributor with how great he is in coverage and for the splash plays he makes in the run game.

If you want to see what I am talking about, specifically in regards to coverage, this is all you need to see. The kid is a baller.

Terrill Hanks is a fantastic coverage ILB and has some crazy ball skills for one. He is a converted safety and might just have 4.4 speed. Dude can read a play and blow it up so easily. He is a monster.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 27, 2019 5. Germaine Pratt, ILB, NC State

Another one of my mid-round favorites, Pratt has all that Hanks and White upside but is a little less athletic, although I believe he is a better processor than both are. He is not a great processor yet, as he goes with false motions a bit too much, but the guy has insane coverage ability and ball skills. He could bulk up, as he has trouble shedding blocks, but like a lot of athletic LBs, it sometimes doesn’t matter if your gap shooting ability is top notch, and Pratt certainly fits into that category. This dude can flat out play.

NC State ILB Germaine Pratt is amazing. This here is a clinic on how to sift through traffic and he does so well. Dude is agile, has range, and is a natural Coverage LB. This dude is legit as all hell. Love the way he plays. If your team needs a LB, root for Pratt. #DraftTwitter

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 6, 2019 6. Joe Giles-Harris, ILB, Duke

If I had to pencil in the best Steelers fit right now, GIles-Harris would be that guy. This is the most polished ILB in the draft and would be a great second round pick who could plug and play right away. I think he has more limited upside than the five above him, and he is also less athletic, but he still has the sideline-to-sideline range to be a great MACK ILB in the league. This guy can simply flat out play. He can process better than anyone else in this class, and while he is a bit tight-hipped, he is a pretty good coverage ILB. He might be the one contenders are striving for.

Joe Giles-Harris is the best pure processor at LB in the draft to me. Very polished player. This guy is going to be a starter in the

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) February 10, 2019 7. E.J. Ejiya, ILB, North Texas

You guys have likely never heard of Ejiya, but whew, the dude can fly. He is rawer, and is a day 3 guy, but when you are talking about Day 3 value that you want in a LB, he has it all. Not only is he a sideline-to-sideline type of guy who can drop back into coverage and still shoot gaps, but it is clear on his film that he is a natural-born leader. His processing needs work, and he overpursues a bit too much, but when you can fly like he can and make plays from that athleticism in coverage and in the run game, you have yourself a very nice prospect.

North Texas ILB EJ Ejiya is one of the most productive and fun ILB prospects this year. This dude has some range. Agile, fast, and processes well. Dude fits well into a lot of schemes and should be picked on Day 3, and he very well could outplay his draft slot. #DraftTwitter

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 15, 2019 8. Jeffrey Allison, ILB, Fresno State

I didn’t even know about this guy until a week ago when a guy on Twitter put me onto him, but I am so glad he did. And I found out he was going to the combine, which is even better! Allison is this low simply because while he is very good in coverage, he needs to learn how to work off his blocks and scrape over the top of things. However, his athleticism is amazing and he flies downhill. His gap shooting ability is second only to Devin Bush, and he is a fantastic coverage ILB. If there was ever a guy made from a MACK ILB, Allison is the guy. Get to know him, he is very, very good.

Jeffrey Allison is your sleeper ILB that you need to know. Perfect for 3-4 teams. Dude is a prototypical MACK ILB and has amazing athleticism. Gap shooting ability is off the charts. This is a heck of a play on the goaline right here.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) February 10, 2019 9. Ben Burr-Kirven, ILB, Washington

This dude is explosive and quick. The instincts from Burr-Kirven are apparent, even if he is very raw processing wise. He has the quick-trigger aspects you like to see from a guy who maybe doesn’t have great straight line speed, but has that lateral mobility to move and track guys down. With that, the guy is a great coverage LB. He blankets guys and runs with slot receivers. He might somewhat of a dimebacker role type guy, but regardless, his instincts are the biggest plus for him. Now, let him bulk up and get his gap shooting ability up.

Just before this Wazzu-Washington game, I finally watched tape on Ben Burr-Kirven, and man this guy knows how to diagnose a play. Really solid player at inside linebacker. Dude is an impressive player who will easily be in my top 60. #DraftTwitter

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) November 24, 2018 10. Deshaun Davis, ILB, Auburn

Davis is not athletic, but his football IQ is off the charts. He calls out plays before they even begin and thwarts them. That athleticism still gets him into trouble in coverage and at times going sideline-to-sideline in a pure speed battle, but Davis’ incredible processing does mitigate it. If he tests decently well at the combine, he just might fly up this board, because he has a legitimate shot to become a pretty good NFL starter.

Whew Deshaun Davis...

— Christian Lysek (@4DownScouting) January 3, 2019

Kyler Murray has chosen the NFL over MLB, did he make the right choice?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 6:41am

The Oklahoma product has made it known he is pursuing football over baseball, but is it the right choice?

While the NFL offseason rolls on, sporadic news will pop up until the new league year officially begins in March. While some teams will sign their own to-be free agents before free agency, the 2019 NFL Draft news seems to dominate the news circuit leading up to the April event.

One of the more intriguing stories entering this year’s draft was of Oklahoma’s star quarterback Kyler Murray. His draft stock in the NFL was already high after playing in the NCAA Playoffs, but people forgot about his stock as a MLB prospect. In fact, Murray was drafted in the first round of the MLB draft by the Oakland Athletics.

It seem as though Murray has decided to go with football over baseball. This from his verified Twitter account:

— Kyler Murray (@TheKylerMurray) February 11, 2019

With Murray already being a first round pick in MLB, he could be the first athlete ever to be drafted in the first round of both the NFL and MLB. His decision to stick with baseball does have financial ramifications for the young athlete.

This per Ian Rappoport of the NFL Network:

Kyler Murray received a nearly $5M signing bonus from the @Athletics, which he’ll have to repay (rather than report to Spring Training this week). If he’s the last pick of the first round, he’ll get a roughly $5M signing bonus and about $10M guaranteed.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 11, 2019

While the short-term money might be in the NFL, the long-term money might be in baseball. The NFL is far more popular, and endorsement deals will follow first round draft picks, but if an injury occurs football teams can cut ties with hardly any guaranteed money locked up in their investment. On the other hand, baseball contracts are fully guaranteed, regardless of injury, and would allow Murray to play the game much longer if he stays healthy.

He is talented in both sports, and has a better chance of playing at the highest level sooner in the NFL compared to MLB, but when you weigh out all the factors, did he make the right choice? It is hard to agree with playing now and making the money now, but at the same time when it comes to the long-term he could have passed up a lot of money in baseball.

While this likely has nothing to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers, it is a very interesting discussion for offseason football fans. What do you think of Murray’s decision? Which sport would you have picked? Let us know in the polls below, and as always feel free to support your decision in the comment section below!

Podcast: Will this off-season raise or slam the window on the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 5:38am

Discuss all things Steelers and beyond after the Pro Bowl. BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo discuss that and more.

The “closing window” speculation of the years to contend for the Pittsburgh Steelers has gone on for a number of years now. With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell seemingly with everything but a big toe out that proverbial window, will their departure completely shut it? Join Bryan Davis and Anthony Defeo from BTSC for the extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”. The Steelers arent gearing up for a game, but Tony and Bryan have plenty to discuss with help from Steeler Nation.

Check out a rundown of the show:

  • Fact or Fiction
  • Is the Super Bowl Window all but shut in Pittsburgh?
  • Latest Steeler Drama
  • Looking ahead
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

Black and Gold Links: Trying to decipher where L.J. Fort lands in the Steelers’ offseason plans

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/12/2019 - 4:34am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at a pending free agent which isn’t get much publicity, but doesn’t lessen his importance to the Steelers’ defense. That would be L.J. Fort. The journeyman inside linebacker proved his worth in 2019, but did he price himself out of Pittsburgh? Or is he part of the answer at the ILB position moving forward?

Let’s get to the news:

Linebacker L.J. Fort hits free agency after breakout season for Steelers

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

At age 29, seven seasons after a memorable NFL debut in 2012, L.J. Fort finally has achieved a level of workplace-choice freedom.

“It’s wild,” the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker said soon after this season ended. “Seven years in the league, and this is the first time I have been a free agent.

“I’ve never been through this situation before, so this is new to me. Hopefully, things work out.”

Fort hits unrestricted free agency at an ideal time for him in as he has established himself as a regular on defense. Fort played a significant role over the second half of the season, starting two games and finishing with 48 tackles (38 solo), a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Fort is a longtime special-teams player who has been the property of six organizations and cut eight times since making his NFL debut in the 2012 opener for the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent. After a spinal injury to Ryan Shazier in December 2017, he began to play more on defense for the Steelers. He has spent all but five days with the team since it signed him Aug. 19, 2015.

By the midway point of the 2018 season, Fort had scaled the depth chart past Tyler Matakevich and Jon Bostic — and even, to a degree, Vince Williams — at inside linebacker for the Steelers.

“There was a stretch there where I feel like we made some adjustments that enabled not only myself but the other linebackers to be more successful,” Fort said. “But experience always helps a ton, so playing those few games definitely made me a lot better player.”

Steelers defensive coaches viewed Fort as their inside linebacker best equipped to play in passing situations. In the modern NFL, that’s a lot, especially against some teams (and Fort’s usage was appropriately higher in certain games).

Fort played 305 snaps on defense over 12 games, according to Pro Football Focus. Between having a sack and an interception in his debut Sept. 9, 2012, in a loss to Philadelphia and Week 4 of this season, he had only 12 games in which he played more than one snap on defense.

Fort was especially aware that, in an apparent sign of how valuable he was becoming, he was taken off the kickoff team in Week 17 . It was the first time he played linebacker but not on the kickoff team in his NFL career.

“Personally, yeah, this is the most I have ever played, especially linebacker,” Fort said. “We didn’t win enough as a team for it to be considered a success, but for me personally, it was definitely an awesome year.”

(To read more, click the link in the headline above...)

With Browns signing Kareem Hunt, how do AFC North running back groups fare?

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

By signing controversial running back Kareem Hunt on Monday, the Cleveland Browns reinforced what already was a formidable position group heading into free agency and the NFL Draft.

When Hunt is activated from the commissioner’s exempt list after the NFL completes its investigation into his alleged assault incident – a video showed him shoving and kicking a woman – the Browns will have the top running back group in the AFC North.

Hunt joins a backfield that includes Nick Chubb, who nearly rushed for 1,000 yards in his rookie season, and dependable change-of-pace back Duke Johnson Jr.

Once cleared to play after he likely serves a multi-game suspension, Hunt could be a good fit for the Browns given that he grew up in the Cleveland suburbs and attended Toledo before the Kansas City Chiefs drafted him in 2017. Hunt led the NFL in rushing as a rookie, but the Chiefs cut him loose in December after the video surfaced.

Before being released, Hunt had 14 touchdowns – seven rushing, seven receiving. He rushed for 824 yards (a 4.6 average) and caught 26 passes for 378 yards. He totaled 1,202 yards from scrimmage.

The Browns also have Chubb, who started nine games as a rookie and totaled 996 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground when he averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Johnson chipped in 201 yards rushing and had 47 catches for 429 yards and three scores.

That group has the Browns squarely ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens as the new league season opens March 13.

The Steelers return third-year back James Conner and second-year player Jaylen Samuels. Conner missed three games due to injury, yet he finished with 973 yards rushing (a 4.5 average) and 12 touchdowns. He totaled 1,470 scrimmage yards, which ranked No. 10 in the NFL, as a result of his 55 catches for 497 yards and a touchdown. Samuels contributed 256 rushing yards (4.6 average) and caught 26 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns, mostly while filling in for Conner.

(To read more, click the link in the headline above...)

NFL Coaches Who Will Be on the Hot Seat Entering the 2019 Season

By: Brent Sobleski, Bleacher Report

  1. The Pittsburgh Steelers had been the league’s standard for stability. Now, they’re something else: an organization beset with internal strife.
  2. ”It does seem very dramatic,” Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, whose brother, T.J., plays for the Steelers, said on Late Night with Seth Meyers. “It’s like somebody that’s watching the Kardashians...and I can call one of the Kardashians. I’ll call my brother—I’ll see everything on TV—and I’m like, ‘OK, give me the real story.’ And it’s pretty wild. It’s pretty wild.”
  3. Pittsburgh slipped to 9-6-1 last season and didn’t make the playoffs after four straight appearances. One down season isn’t enough to shake the organization’s faith in longtime head coach Mike Tomlin, but continued dysfunction could be a catalyst for change.
  4. ”I think that only changes when you start from the top. You got to start from the top, and that starts with your head coach,” former Steelers great James Harrison said on Super Bowl Live (via’s Nick Shook). “... And I think right now it’s a combination of [favoritism] going on and maybe a little bit of a lack of actual leadership.”
  5. Ten years without a Super Bowl championship is a lifetime to the Steelers. Another nonproductive campaign could signal Tomlin’s end.

Cleveland Browns shock NFL landscape by signing RB Kareem Hunt

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 1:26pm

The Browns continue to add talent to their roster, and this move very well might just shake up the AFC North landscape.

Just when you thought the Cleveland Browns were a team who had turned the corner ... they do something like this:

We've signed RB Kareem Hunt

Details »

— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 11, 2019

Then say this:

Statement from GM John Dorsey:

— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 11, 2019

Yes, that’s right. The Cleveland Browns have now signed free agent, and potential suspension candidate, Kareem Hunt to a one-year contract.

Hunt’s talents have already been on full display in his short NFL career, but a domestic incident which came to light during the 2018 regular season saw the team who drafted him, the Kansas City Chiefs, cut him immediately after he reportedly lied to the franchise about the incident and his involvement in it.

The General Manager who drafted Hunt to the Chiefs, John Dorsey, is the same one who is calling the shots in Cleveland now, and would be a large reason why he feels so strongly about adding Hunt to their team.

This is Hunt’s statement to the press regarding his second chance:

Statement from RB Kareem Hunt:

— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 11, 2019

Hunt is saying all the right things, but the league has yet to complete their investigation and hand out any type of punishment on Hunt for his role in the incident which was caught on tape.

This then turns into the sad, but age-old, question in professional sports where you ask if talent trumps morality. No one is saying Hunt isn’t talented — he is. But at the same time, do you overlook what took place last February just because he is a talented player? Some would suggest talent trumps all, while other suggest players like Ray Rice, and now Hunt, have no place in professional sports.

The Browns have taken a chance on Hunt, but not one which will handcuff them financially.

The #Browns signed RB Kareem Hunt to a 1-year deal that could be worth more than $1M not factoring in the suspension, source said. More than the minimum. After this year, he’ll be an RFA.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 11, 2019

Hunt’s contract is expected to be just north of $1 million dollars, and the Browns have a ridiculous amount of salary cap space heading into the 2019 season. Even if Hunt is suspended for part of the season, the Browns still have Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb to carry the load until he returns. With all three backs, talk about a daunting backfield.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news with the Steelers, across the NFL and especially the AFC North as it unravels during the offseason.

AAF Week 1 Review: Several former Steelers shine in debut weekend

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 1:00pm

There was a lot to like about the opening weekend of action served up by the Alliance of American Football

If the viewing figures are anything to go by, the debut weekend of the Alliance of American Football was a rousing success with the live broadcast of their opening game pulling in more viewers than an NBA game aired in the same time slot. While the quality of the action on the field was a far cry from the NFL, it was hard to find fault with the standard of play given the time the teams have been together and the talent of the names on the rosters.

Many of the promises the AAF made about their new league were delivered on opening weekend, with most of the new rule changes well received by the viewing public. Turnovers were perhaps more prevalent than the league would have liked and some of the offensive line play less than perfect, but plenty of players showed enough to suggest they would be a worthy addition to NFL training camp rosters later in the year.

Several former Pittsburgh Steelers players were among the standout performers in Week 1, with linebacker Terence Garvin arguably the defensive MVP of the weekend after he recorded 10 tackles and two interceptions, returning one of them for a touchdown.

Terence Garvin pick six

— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 10, 2019

Terence Garvin picks off Matt Simms on this excellently designed defensive play

— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 10, 2019

Defensive Player of the Game LB Terence Garvin has 2 interceptions and a TD

#TakeAim | #ORLvsATL

— Orlando Apollos (@aafAPOLLOS) February 10, 2019

Jamar Summers was in training camp with the Steelers in 2018 and showed some of the ballhawking skills Pittsburgh lacked last season with his interception for the Birmingham Iron against the Memphis Express. He also recorded three passes defended and a forced fumble on the day.

.@aafiron defense with the pick! #MEMvsBHM

— The Alliance (@TheAAF) February 10, 2019

Former Steelers Casey Sayles and Jacob Hagen were also visible presences for Birmingham on defense in a game they held their opponent scoreless.

Linebacker Steven Johnson was another former member of the Black and Gold making an interception in his AAF debut and he would have been credited with a sack if not for an illegal formation penalty on the play. He also led the Arizona Hotshots with seven tackles.

Former Viking Edmond Robinson tips a pass from Matt Linehan that leads to a Steven Johnson INT

— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 11, 2019

Highlights of all the game for those who missed them:

Orlando Apollo vs. Atlanta Legends

San Antonio Commanders vs. San Diego Fleet

Birmingham Iron vs. Memphis Express

Arizona Hotshots vs. Salt Lake Stallions

Or the full game:

Orlando Apollo vs. Atlanta Legends

San Antonio Commanders vs. San Diego Fleet

Birmingham Iron vs. Memphis Express

Arizona Hotshots vs. Salt Lake Stallions

Steelers 2019 Free Agent Market Watch: Cornerbacks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 11:47am

BTSC examines available free agents at each position. This time it’s the Cornerbacks and whether they’d be a possibility for Pittsburgh.

The Steelers had plenty of pass-defense woes last season. In the 2018 offseason safety seemed to be the chief concern. That is no longer the scenario. With Artie Burns having a woeful 2018 and Coty Sensabaugh’s contract expiring, a corner, or multiple corners, in the draft or free agency is paramount. Mike Hilton is an ERFA (Extended Rights Free Agent) and I’d be shocked to see him depart. BTSC continues to look into the 2019 free agent class with a closer review of available corners.

Ronald Darby - Philadelphia Eagles

Some pundits don’t consider Darby an elite corner, however he’s 25 and (far-and-away) the top CB1 option in free agency. Even though a tear of his ACL shut Darby down in November, the FSU standout should still contribute in 2019. In his career, Darby has six picks and would be a welcome sight in Pittsburgh.

Bryce Callahan - Chicago Bears

Callahan had two interceptions last season and is thought of as one of the finest slot corners in the league. Like Darby, Callahan was lost to injury in late 2018...but still had a nice season. With an equally fine slot like Mike Hilton looking for a new deal, Callahan won’t be on the radar in Pittsburgh.

Steven Nelson - Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs pass defense was rough last year, but Nelson rose up as their best outside corner. I realize that best KC DB could be the equivalent of book-smartest Kardashian, but the 25-year old had four interceptions and 15 pass defenses last year and is finally becoming a truly valuable defender.

Kareem Jackson- Houston Texans

At 31, Jackson might not have too many years as a top cover corner left. However, the nine-year veteran had two of his 16 career picks and 17 of his 88 pass defenses last season. Pairing Jackson with another veteran might not be great for the long run, but it could pay off short-term.

Pierre Desir - Indianapolis Colts

The former Brown and Charger slogged through four NFL seasons with no interceptions and eight pass defenses. Desir added 2 picks and 15 pass defenses to his resumé in a brilliant 2018 for the resurgent Colts. The 28-year old might have to prove that he isn’t a one-hit wonder, but still could be a decent option for the Steelers.

Other Notable Free Agent Cornerbacks:

Jason Verrett - Los Angeles Chargers

Jason McCourty - New England Patriots

Bradley Roby - Denver Broncos

Morris Claiborne- New York Jets

Darqueze Dennard - Cincinnati Bengals

Rashaan Melvin - Raiders

Mock Draft Monday: A Steelers mock draft that will “Mess With Your Mind”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 10:35am

Are you on team Corner? Team ILB? Team Receiver? Team Edge? Free your mind Grasshopper. The Steelers can afford to go BPA.

I write this article to make two points. First, the Steelers are a very good team that can afford to take an almost pure Best Player Available (“BPA”) approach to Round 1 of the 2019 NFL draft. Excise quarterbacks, offensive linemen and defensive linemen from the equation and anything else will fly if the player is good enough. Second, adopting a mostly-pure BPA approach means I can mess with your minds and still produce a more than solid, realistic draft by following the value clusters in subsequent rounds. No fantastic draft steals required.

But First: You all know that I am a lawyer in my real life. Speaking with that background I say with confidence that most arguments don’t come down to the points people raise, nor to emotional bias; it’s really about starting from different definitions. As the swordsman said, “You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.” In this case that word is “value.” What makes a draft pick better or worse? My answer is “bang for the buck” (“BANG”), defined as the extra value produced in Years 2-4 compared to what would have happened if the team stuck with the players now on the roster.

Rookie contributions are gravy under this definition. Don’t get me wrong: I love gravy and I’m a serial abuser throughout the final week of November. But gravy makes the substance of your meal just a little better. It can’t turn Grandma Carrie’s [burned to a crisp] turkey or Aunt Gert’s pitiable [pillow] stuffing into something worth the time, and good turkey and stuffing can stand quite well on their own. As for Year 5 and beyond, those matter too but players get paid at full retail once the rookie contract expires. The special value a team can get from the draft lies in paying starters six- or seven-figure salaries in exchange for contributions that will cost seven- or eight-figure prices from the second contract on. Yes, there other advantages to building from within but those are relatively small factors compared to the cap space benefits from youngsters who outplay the money they receive.

Want proof? Look at what happens to any team that “hits” on a young, franchise QB. It’s no coincidence that last year’s Eagles were built on rookie-contract Carson Wentz, and this year’s Rams on Jared Goff. Look at what happened to the Ravens when they had to divert Flacco Money away from the rest of the roster, or to the Seahawks when they paid Russell Wilson what he deserved. They may be fair, they be earned, and they may be worthwhile compare to losing the star player, but full retail salaries also drag down the rest of the team. Look too at how the salary cap, free agency, and the bad-records-pick-first structure of the draft produces something close to parity. It all translates to the BANG factor for younger talents.

Time to start... almost. First I have to deal with the peculiar elephant in the Steelers war room. Will Antonio Brown get traded or stay? If the former what should we add to the Steelers’ draft capital? I will make this challenge even tougher by assuming the worst case scenario for a 2019 draft class:

Antonio Brown gets traded in March of 2019 for three 2020 draft picks, a 1st, a 3rd and a 4th. Yours truly gains an extra hole to fill with no extra ammo to do it because Colbert & Co. are betting they have enough draft picks already in 2019. Instead of current picks they want 2020 ammunition in case neither Dobbs nor Rudolph matures as hoped. Conversely, if one does grow into the Heir To Ben the team will have all the ammunition you could want to trade up for 2-3 more young stars for upgrade average talents and thereby build a dynasty.

So, no AB and no extra picks to play with. Disaster? Let’s mess with some minds!

NOTE: What follows is a realistic mock draft for the Steelers based on players I truly believe could be available at the spots I’ve named. That doesn’t mean it’s the the result I dream about at night. I am only arguing that Steeler Nation should be delighted even with these results because every pick will bring true BANG value and make the team better - from 2020-2023 primarily with a bit of 2019 gravy.

To start the 2019 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers shock the world by snubbing all three of the top ILB’s (White, Wilson and Bush), turning their noses at the top three Corners (Williams, Murphy and Baker), opting for Bud Dupree over an Edge Rusher steal (Burns and Polite), and ignoring the top Wide Receivers (Metcalf, Harry and Harmon) to select...

PICK #1:20 = Tight End T.J. Hockenson, Iowa.

Steeler Nation around the globe erupts with fury! And then everyone does the natural thing that any smart person would do: consults that estimable bible of all that is good, true and reliable for draft information - the BTSC Big Board:

(6’5”, 243 lbs.) What value would you assign to a prospect with an 80% chance to grow into the next Heath Miller, and a small but real chance to be even better? That is T.J. Hockenson. The similarities are uncanny, from height, weight, speed, hands and athletic profile to blocking skills, playing style, attitude, competitive edge, and more. The other top TE prospect this year is Hockenson’s teammate Noah Fant. Fant is a fully qualified WR2/3 who blocks far better than even a Hines Ward or a Juju. Hockenson may be “only” a WR3 but he blocks like a backup O-Lineman. The Draft Network scouting profiles catch the essence of what everyone seems to agree on. We can translate it this way: He just screams ‘Steelers’. If only he played some other position… These links go to a superb Draft Network article comparing Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, and to another article that compares those two to elite TE prospects in other drafts.

I’m not kidding about that comparison. Miller was a Junior when he declared, and got picked at #30 overall because he suffered from a sports hernia throughout his final year. Would he have been worth a pick at 1:20 if he’d been fully healthy? Hindsight won’t allow me to even dignify that with an answer. Thus: Hockenson.

Analyzing the BANG: Will Hockenson replace Antonio Brown by being an equivalent offensive cannon? Of course not. Will he replace Antonio Brown over Years 2-4 by being a whole squad of infantry in a single body? He’ll come as close as anyone. Trooper #1 would free Juju Smith-Schuster from pure double teams by adding a genuine receiving asset that would not weaken the running game. Opponents would have to pick their poison. Trooper #2 would improve the running game from good to great by blocking better than any TE on the roster. The things you can do with a great blocking TE make film watchers break out in helpless giggle fits. Trooper #3 would add more help to the passing game by blocking better than any RB, thus allowing longer developing patterns, and simultaneously messing with defensive coordinators who could not know which players, if any, would serve as the outlet receiver(s). Trooper #4 would be a short yardage machine because of the automatic mismatch as either a blocker or receiver depending on what the defense schemes up. Trooper #5 would be a red zone weapon by virtue of his height, size, hands and mismatch ability. Trooper #6 would be a scheme weapon giving Pittsburgh the chance to do multiple things with the same personnel. Trooper #7 would… You get the point.

No single weapon will replace the offensive firepower provided by a HOF player like Antonio Brown, especially when you add in the way he makes JJSS so much more effective. But a great TE can go a long way toward doing so by raising every other offensive boat on the team; he will do so for many years to come; this particular prospect has such a high floor that it’s a very safe bet; there is a small chance that he can grow to be more Gronk than Heath; and, as shown below, there are lots of great receivers who should be available in Rounds 2-4 of this particular draft class.

T.J. Hockenson isn’t a Corner, Mack ILB, or Wide Receiver but he could easily be the option at 1:20 who would give the Steelers more overall BANG than anyone else, and thus would be the BPA. But would that leave the team helpless when it comes to the areas that most of us consider the priorities? Read on.

PICK 2:20 = a CB from the Round 2 cluster.

Round 2 offers a very big cluster of quality prospects who project as reliable CB2’s from Years 2-4 with the potential to be CB1’s. There’s Amani Oruwariye (big & long), Trayvon Mullen (big & long), Lonnie Johnson (big & long), Julian Love (very accomplished and quick at 5’11”), Joejuan Williams (big & long), or Rock Ya Sin (accomplished, feisty and quick at 5’11¾”). At least one of them is bound to be available. Let’s go with… Amani Oruwariye, Penn St. {Meeting at Senior Bowl} (6’1¾”, 204 lbs.). Here is the current description from the BTSC Big Board:

Excellent size, length, hands, mirroring skills and ability to jam made him a dominant press man Corner against college receivers. Understands the need to tackle though he doesn’t seem to like it and isn’t any good at it. Our own Nick Farabaugh, an Oruwariye fan, did this gif-supported BTSC scouting report in early January. Oruwariye started on this Board with a late-1st grade but dipped when he was embarrassed in the Senior Bowl practice week (see this review too). This goes to the Draft Network scouting profile.

Analyzing the BANG: We all know the situation. Lord knows it’s been discussed often enough. If Artie Burns recovers his game, or Cam Sutton makes the expected leap, or Brian Allen can finally live up to the way he’s flashed, then the Steelers are already in good shape at Corner and the fans are making a mountain out of a mole hill. BUT if Artie Burns busts out completely, Joe Haden suddenly ages, Cam Sutton fizzles, and Brian Allen goes down as a could’a-been who never-was, then the Steelers have a gaping hole to be filled and the fans have (for once) failed to panic enough. The truth will no doubt be somewhere in the middle. Your (and my) view of that truth as we sit here today says more about our respective views on life than it does about that ultimate reality.

All of that averages out to the conclusion that drafting a good Corner prospect makes sense for Pittsburgh as a hedge against the worst case scenario and an investment toward the future. If no Corner gets picked in Round 1 we can confidently assume that 2:20 will offer a pretty darned nice alternative.

PICK 3:19 = oooh, I’m torn. BPA at ILB, WR or SAF.

There are three (3!) intersecting clusters of talent here. I am an ILB junkie and this is the bottom of a Round 2 & 3 group of Mack ILB’s such as Germaine Pratt (quite good all around), Ben Burr-Kirven (great ceiling but seriously undersized at 222 lbs.), Joe Giles-Harris (a younger Jon Bostic with a high floor but moderate ceiling), Kendall Joseph (another Bostic type), Dakota Allen (great ceiling with the work ethic he will need to improve a lagging football IQ), and Terrill Hanks (who could be the best of all but only if an NFL strength program can harden him up). One of those should be available to enhance the L.J. Fort/Bostic rotation.

There are also a few good Safeties in this band, who’d provide much needed depth behind Sean Davis while opening up good 3-Safety (a/k/a Big Nickel) sub package looks. I doubt Juan Thornhill will fall this far, and I’m excluding the guys whose talents belong in the box (looking at you Johnathan Abram), but there’s still the centerfield Free Safety Ugochukwu Amadi (a 5’10” version of Sean Davis), and the multipurpose Safeties like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (similar to Terrell Edmunds but even more raw), Jaquan Johnson (a classic fringe-1st if he was 2” taller and 15 pounds heavier), and Darnell Savage, Jr. (another guy who only lacks in the inches and pounds department). We could even consider the conversion prospects like Isaiah Johnson

But as the game show hosts like to say, that’s not all! The mid-3rd also features the heart of this year’s incredible cluster of WR talent. The BTSC Big Board lists nine (9!) players with grades from 2:12 to 3:01, with talents that include monstrous red zone weapons like Hakeem Butler (6’6”, 230 lbs.) and Antoine Wesley (6’5”, 200 lbs. and actually shifty as a route runner); Jujuesque tough guys with well-rounded games based on strength, such as J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Denzel Mims; field stretching speed demons like DaMarkus Lodge; and fine all around receivers such as Riley Ridley, A.J. Brown, Keesean Johnson, and Alex Wesley.

What about Edge Rusher Christian Miller? Nah. I refuse to believe he will actually fall this far regardless of the public boards. Highway draft theft on the O-Line or D-Line could slot in too but that would break the rules.

Which way do I go? Antonio Brown is gone in this scenario, but I did go offense in Round 1 and there are nine (9!) more WR’s with grades from 3:12 to 4:01 on our Board. It’s an amazingly deep class. And if I think about it I have to admit that the Fort/Bostic combination already gives an acceptable floor. It’s certainly improvable but Steelers need a playmaker at ILB, not just a solid player. Do I trust this group of ILB’s to reach that level? Probably not. So let’s mix things up and assume the Safeties test fully up to what rumor sells. That being the case I see a lot of value in…

Safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida.

Here is the current description from the BTSC Big Board:

6’0”, 207 lbs. [and genuinely fast for a Safety with an assumed-for-this-article 4.46 40-time identical to Sean Davis’]. He’s got boatloads of physical talent, range, and was a vastly improved player in 2018 who suddenly learned how to tackle and also take angles. Still inconsistent but now worth serious Day 2 consideration, especially since he has some coverage chops as well as center field range. Here is an early January scouting profile from Jon Ledyard. [FAIR DISCLOSURE: This player has had a Round 3-4 almost everywhere up to now but I just saw him mocked in the late-1st on Monday. If CGJ is not available substitute in one of the other listed names. Point being, Round 3 should be this year’s locus for a draft steal BPA at one of several positions and the Steelers can adjust schemes to incorporate whatever that talent might be.]

Analyzing the BANG: No need to repeat. A multipurpose Safety who can add depth behind Sean Davis plus the option of a high quality Big Nickel package would (to strain an analogy) shrink all holes in the Steelers’ defensive screen. It won’t do as much as a true playmaker would at ILB but that isn’t available. It will add about as much BANG to the defense as any receiver would to the offense, there are good receivers I expect to be there in Round 4, and adding more defense now will maintain some balance in my overall draft.

PICK 4:20 = WR Emanuel Hall, Missouri.

Oh lord, the midround receivers are overwhelming! It’s not fair to assume that one of the Round 3 guys will fall, but now there are ten (10!) more who are just about as good. Hall is one of my favorites. Here is the current description from the BTSC Big Board (slightly edited for context):

6’2”, 200 lbs. Sleeper alert! Emanuel Hall has the speed and COD skills you expect from a 5’9” jitterbug but he does it in a body that’s half a foot taller. The downsides are very raw route running skills, a limited route tree, and an old reputation for inconsistent hands that was much assuaged by better play in 2018. A successful deep threat against SEC defenses, with the tools to be a complete receiver once he learns his trade…? That is a high ceiling if ever there was one, and the pure speed creates a solid enough floor to work with. Here is the Draft Network scouting profile, and a Steeler-oriented, gif-supported scouting report. The scouting profile compares him to a 6’2” Mike Wallace, which could actually be fair.

Analyzing the BANG: By this point all positions are on the table and there could be a steal almost anywhere. With Antonio Brown gone (remember the assumption), Pittsburgh has a need for some kind of weapon to loosen up the double teams that will blanket JJSS. James Washington should help with that but will still need to grow even after a Sophomore Leap. My Round 1 pick of a superb TE will help in numerous ways, but I know that defenses will counter by loading the box and betting they can win with tight man coverage. A genuine deep threat sounds just about right.

The potential “boom” from Emanuel Hall would make him a late-3rd in most drafts but not in this class. Yes, he could bust out. Yes, he won’t be much more than a take-the-top-off threat as a rookie and maybe even in Year 2. But there is real chance that he will “hit,” he would be a solid Round 1 value if he does, and he’s easily worth the bet at this point in the draft. Alternative high-ceiling picks would include talents like Parris Campbell, Anthony Ratliff-Williams, Terry Mclaurin, Darius Slayton, Tyre Brady and Preston Williams. Plus the group of superb jitterbugs, some quality all-around and possession receivers, and a few more contested-catch big boys. Some of those rank higher on our Board than Hall but he’s a good one to indicate the sort of value that will be available without prompting cries of outrage that I’m assuming too much Steeler-beneficial luck. The depth at WR really does continue all the way through Round 5 and into Round 6.

PICKS 6:02 = a RB3.

There should be a quality talent at this point who will either fit the current and successful Steelers profile, like Wes Hills or Devine Ozigbo, or be a change of pace weapon, like Darwin Thompson or even Tony Pollard. FWIW I target this position in all my mocks because it’s an actual hole, but the pickings are going to be slim by this point even in a draft class where most of the talent should go in Rounds 3-6. If I thought the online draft games had any legitimacy you’d see a steal at this spot along the lines of Elijah Holyfield, Bryce Love, Miles Sanders or Darrell Henderson. But this is an exercising in blowing your mind fair and square, not stretching your credulity.

PICKS 6:19 & 7:20 = whatever BPA bargains appear.

The Steelers missed the playoffs this year due to a lot of fluke issues ranging from bad bounces and kicking problems to untimely turnovers on offense, lack of turnovers by the defense, bad officiating and individual oops moments at just the wrong times. That doesn’t change the overall bottom line: this is a very good team with very few holes. As I wrote above, there is much more need for a few playmakers than there is for players to fill out the 40-53 part of the roster. Who is left that will do either?

  • I didn’t address the need at Mack ILB but that can only be filled by a really special talent who won’t be available after Round 1. Maybe a player like Sutton Smith will fall this far because he has to learn a new position? Small school wunderkind E.J. Ejiyah? Maybe Gary Johnson, Jeffrey Allison, or Bobby Okereke?
  • I’d like to see the team get a boom-or-bust athlete at the Edge but have no names to offer just yet.
  • Or perhaps we can hypothesize a steal on the offensive or defensive lines? There are some very talented athletes who might fall through the cracks, particularly at the traditionally undervalued positions like Offensive Guard (Nate Davis looked great in the Senior Bowl) or 2-down, run stuffing Nose Tackle (Olive Sagapolu or Demarcus Christmas)?

Things become impossible to predict this late on Day 3. But I trust the point is made. You can create a dream draft that will address all needs - and not stretch reality - while going totally off the reservation in Round 1. BPA is the way to go. A few weeks ago Nick Farabaugh caused outrage on this site by suggesting that the Steelers should consider Hockenson’s teammate Noah Fant as a viable Round 1 pick. I’m doing something similar today to reemphasize his basic point: the Steelers can afford to go BPA in Round 1 however they define it. The team has only wants, not needs, and things look with the midround talent clusters will allow Pittsburgh to address those wants in Rounds 2-4.

You may now go and gather up the scattered bits of gray matter. I trust they aren’t unduly singed.

No NFL team will have fewer dedicated positions coaches than Steelers in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 9:15am

The Steelers will once again have one of the smallest coaching staffs in the league next season

While the Pittsburgh Steelers have made a number of new additions to their coaching staff this offseason, there is still no team in the NFL with fewer dedicated position coaches on their roster heading into 2019. With just 12 coaches responsible for a specific position group on offense, defense and special teams combined, they lag far behind teams like the Philadelphia Eagles who have 11 coaches signed to the offensive side of the ball alone and others like the San Francisco 49ers who have as many as 22 coaches overall.

Barring a change of heart in the coming months, Pittsburgh will be one of only four teams without a dedicated quarterbacks next season. Just like the New England Patriots, New York Jets and New York Giants, the Steelers will once again combine the role with the responsibilities of the offensive coordinator for the second year in a row.

With just six coaches listed on the team’s official website on offense, Pittsburgh continues to buck a league-wide trend that has seen a number of franchises add several specialist coaches focusing on specific aspects of the game. While the Giants and Green Bay Packers have only seven offensive coaches, the majority of teams in the NFL have eight or nine, with the Eagles and 49ers carrying 11.

Comparing Pittsburgh with Philadelphia shows two teams with distinctly different offensive philosophies when it come to their coaching staff.


  • Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks – Randy Fichtner
  • Running backs – Eddie Faulkner
  • Wide receivers – Darryl Drake
  • Tight ends – James Daniel
  • Offensive line – Shaun Sarrett
  • Assistant offensive line – Adrian Klemm


  • Offensive coordinator – Mike Groh
  • Quarterbacks – Press Taylor
  • Assistant head coach/Running backs – Duce Staley
  • Wide receivers – Carson Walch
  • Tight ends – Justin Peelle
  • Offensive line/Run game coordinator – Jeff Stoutland
  • Assistant offensive line – Roy Istvan
  • Offensive Assistant- GJ Kinne
  • Offensive quality control/Assistant quarterbacks – Spencer Phillips
  • Offensive quality control/Assistant running backs – Trent Miles
  • Offensive quality control/Assistant offensive line – T.J. Paganetti

Along with the Detroit Lions and the Miami Dolphins, the Steelers are the only other team in the league to have just five dedicated position coaches on defense, with most having an average of seven. The Cleveland Browns lead the NFL with nine. If not for the appointment of Teryl Austin to the newly created position of senior defensive assistant/secondary coach, Pittsburgh would be even further behind.

Aside from the Dallas Cowboys, who have combined the role of defensive coordinator with defensive line coach, and the Atlanta Falcons where the head coach is also listed as the defensive coordinator, the Steelers are the only other team in the league who have combined the role with another job.

Comparing the Steeles with the Browns highlights an obvious difference in the way these two team coach their respective defenses.


  • Defensive coordinator/outside linebackers – Keith Butler
  • Defensive line – Karl Dunbar
  • Inside linebackers – Jerry Olsavsky
  • Defensive backs – Tom Bradley
  • Senior defensive assistant/secondary – Teryl Austin


  • Defensive coordinator – Steve Wilks
  • Defensive line – Tosh Lupoi
  • Assistant defensive line – John Parrella
  • Linebackers/run game coordinator – Al Holcomb
  • Secondary/pass game coordinator – Joe Whitt Jr.
  • Defensive backs – DeWayne Walker
  • Senior defensive assistant – Chris Jones
  • Defensive quality control – Deuce Schwartz
  • Defensive quality control - Alonso Escalante

When it comes to special teams, it should come as no surprise to learn that Pittsburgh is one of only six teams that has elected to have just one coach responsible for this group, while most clubs have two and a handful have three.

With no salary cap for coaches, there is no limit to the size of the staff a team can have and it would appear that the Steelers simply favor having less voices involved. It should also be noted that Pittsburgh lists three relatively inexperienced coaching assistants with nonspecific responsibilities on the roster as well.

Blaine Stewart works with the offense and is the son of the man that gave Mike Tomlin his first job in coaching, a move he reciprocated with the hiring of Stewart in 2018, while Matt Symmes might be the closest thing the Steelers have to a quarterbacks coach. A graduate assistant at the University of South Carolina working with quarterbacks before arriving in Pittsburgh last year.

Former scouting intern Denzel Martin joined the Steelers in 2016 and was made a coaching assistant in 2018. As a former linebacker with the University of Missouri, Martin works on defense, but with no specific role attached to his name. And while former defensive line coach John Mitchell remains with the team as the assistant head coach, his duties no longer include coaching players.

After the Steelers, the Lions and the Dolphins have the next smallest coaching staff with just 15 dedicated coaches each, but there appears to be little correlation between successful teams and the size of their staff. The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams both had 17 in total last season, with New England traditionally carrying less staff than most around the league, while the 49ers did little with the 22 helping them. That being said, no team will be trying to do more with less coaching help than Pittsburgh in 2019 and some might question how wise that strategy is.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ nightmare has finally arrived

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 7:58am

It will no longer benefit the Pittsburgh Steelers to lock their doors at night because the New England Patriots are already in the house.

The 2018 NFL season was a disappointing season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, to say the least. Actually, the last handful of seasons have all ended well short of expectations. Even though the Steelers have been blessed for a number of years with some of the best skill position players in the league, they have zero titles to show for it. The excuses have been plentiful; ranging from injuries, suspensions, holdouts, etc. Through all the underachieving seasons there have been two constant concerns breathing down the Steelers neck, Father Time and the New England Patriots.

The Patriots are like a masked killer in any slasher flick, and the Steelers have represented the libido crazed teenagers. You know the stereotype. Good looking, care free, over confident, and always engaging in questionable behavior. The Patriots have been closing in on their status of most Super Bowl titles by a franchise, but the Steelers have proven incapable of doing anything to stop the assault.

The Steelers have resembled a panicking teen who is running aimlessly at full speed in no particular direction, repeatedly tripping over their own feet for no apparent reason, as the theme music eerily gets louder as the steady gait of the killer inexplicably allows him to overtake the victim. That perfectly describes the Patriots in their pursuit; consistent unrelenting pressure. The Patriots have finally caught the Steelers and a new question arises. What will the Steelers do now?

The Steelers really only have two options, fight or die. The Steelers can accept their fate and perish, similar to the scantily clad cheerleader or the token virgin nerd who are always earmarked as the first to die. The other option is to take a page from the mysterious, troubled loner with a backstory that inevitably fights to survive. The realization that survival may require mimicking your opponent's unfamiliar strategy. This off season for the Pittsburgh Steelers will offer visual evidence of what type of franchise they want to be.

As Anthony Defeo detailed in an article just this week, the Steelers have already displayed an apparent shift in team building principles during the past couple of drafts. After apparently getting their fill of the talented me first players already under contract, the Steelers have narrowed their search to potential draft picks of high character who possess reputations of being good teammates. I fully expect that trend to continue this off season, especially considering this past drama filled season of discontent.

While that is a good place to start, it really is only the tip of the iceberg. The Steelers need to reexamine their entire modus operandi if they intend on winning another Super Bowl in today's NFL.

The Steelers franchise is renowned for loyalty, to their players and their coaches. But loyalty goes both ways, and society standards have changed even though the Rooneys have not. At one time a man's word was his bond, and a handshake was as good as a signed contract. Not being a man of your word would bring disgrace to your family. That is no longer the case, nor how business is done.

The Steelers have displayed loyalty to a few players lately that haven't responded in kind. Instead of sacrificing their individual stats and talents for the betterment of the team, these particular individuals have been more concerned with setting salary precedents and their business portfolios. Art Rooney II gambled on a couple of high risk propositions, and lost. His father liked games of chance, but knew when he had a losing hand. Art II may be able to hedge his bets, and still get something in return? Only time will tell.

Although the off season has just officially started, the Steelers have already made some huge decisions. The expected changes to the coaching staff never materialized, and the changes were few and uneventful. Hopefully this display of loyalty will prove enlightening when it is all said and done.

The team has already verbally committed to extending Ben's contract and made known their desire to keep the offensive line intact, but decisions on some of their own UFAs remain. Those decisions, especially along that offensive line, may prove vexing.

Also, will the Steelers finally utilize free agency to obtain proven talent by offering more guaranteed money to free agents, or be more aggressive in trading up for a preferred target in the draft? Answers to these questions will undoubtedly shape the Steelers ability to contend in the near future, and beyond.

Whatever the decisions may be, the Pittsburgh Steelers have to find a balance between old school values and new age principles.

The Pittsburgh Steelers need an aggressive approach this off season because the Patriots have proven to be far from finished. Just like all the infamous killers from the movies, Brady and Belichick keep coming back when you least expect it. Just ask the Atlanta Falcons.

The end of the Steelers season, not to mention the end of the Super Bowl, is a sad, sad time

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 6:40am

This is the worst time of year: The NFL offseason.

It used to be I’d get really depressed after the Steelers’ season officially came to an end.

I’d log on to BTSC to write my article about what just went wrong for Pittsburgh, and usually the first thing I’d see was another author crafting a mock draft. You talk about reality setting in. You talk about adding numbness to that feeling of depression.

“Is it really over? Have those Super Bowl dreams been dashed, yet again?”

Now, for those of you who want to write something about “Fire Tomlin!” just know that the majority of football fans ask that same question at the end of each and every NFL season. It’s the nature of being a football fan—a sports fan, really. You go into it knowing that, much like gambling, there’s a very small chance of actually breaking the bank. Yet, we do it, anyway, we invest so much into this football team—the Steelers—hoping that investment will pay off “this year, I just know it!”

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love the Pittsburgh Steelers. I love the National Football League. I love that the Steelers are part of such a great corporation. I realize not everyone will agree with that sentiment. When you factor in the concussion people, the anthem people, the “The game is too damn long!” people, the “It’s fixed!” people, the anti-penalties people, the “It’s too violent!” people, the “It’s flag football!” people, the “They’re all domestic abusers!” people and the “Screw Godell!” people, it’s a wonder the NFL has any fans left.

But the league does have a ton of fans left. Why? Because all of those aforementioned people represent a vocal minority—sometimes a vocal and deranged minority. As for the rest of us, I think we love the NFL too darn much to be permanently put off by the problems—or the perceived problems in many cases—the NFL faces annually.

We adapt. We evolve. We learn to deal with the issues.

Will the issues ever become too great or abundant and force yours truly—and the vast-majority of NFL fans—to walk away? I doubt it.

Football is a beautiful sport. The Steelers—despite their decade-long run of non-standard seasons and current circus-like atmosphere—are a fantastic organization. When I think about the millions of sports fans that exist today and the billions who came before me, I am actually quite saddened that so many of them missed out on just how much fun it is to love this football team. As for those that do and have, you get it. You know what I mean. You know why we do certain ritualistic things—many of them involving the Terrible Towel—in the days or hours leading up to an important game (“Let’s see, I went to Happy Hour last Wednesday, and they beat the Patriots. Therefore, I must organize a new Happy Hour for this Wednesday.”).

You know why some of us may even break our flat-screen TVs and become infamous on Youtube.

Anyway, I don’t get as sad as I used to about the end of a Steelers season. But I still mourn when the entire football season comes to an end, as it did on February 3, when the Patriots defeated the Rams, 13-3, in Super Bowl LIII. The end of the Super Bowl used to mean there was one game left—the Pro Bowl. Now it marks the end of the season, at least the competitive phase.

Now, it’s the offseason, which means free agency hype (or, in the case of Steelers fans, free agency wallowing), a few months of draft hype (followed by angst-filled comments from fans who thought the Steelers should have drafted the other guy) and then a bunch of voluntary (or mandatory, if you’re a fan, coach or quoted teammate) team activities that don’t involve pads and hitting.

Don’t get me wrong. As a writer saddled with a quota, I’ve learned to embrace this time of year. But don’t get it twisted. Free agency, the draft and those non-pad-wearing activities ain’t got jack on training camp and then the start of the NFL season.

I realize, given their most-recent (not to mention, sixth) Super Bowl victory, the Patriots will open the 2019 NFL regular season at Gillette Stadium vs. a patsy which will be named when the NFL releases its official schedule in late-April, but I simply can’t wait.

God, I love the Steelers and the NFL.

Get me to September.

I miss you, already, NFL.

Podcast: State of the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers address

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 5:37am

In the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-gold from the week that was.

The Pittsburgh Steelers season is over, but the news is just starting to heat up. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers, including a fun game of “True or False!”

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Recapping Super Bowl 53
  • How the Steelers can learn from this Super Bowl
  • Where do the Steelers go from here?
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams 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
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: Is Le’Veon Bell’s stock going up after sitting out 2018?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 4:32am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether or not Le’Veon Bell’s stock is actually trending up...this after deciding to sit out the entire 2018 season rather than suit up under the franchise tag for a second straight season.

Believe it or not, but there are some out there who believe this is exactly the case with the All-Pro running back...

Let’s get to the news:

RB stock watch: Derrick Henry up, LeSean McCoy down

By: Maurice Jones-Drew,

Before the offseason really gets going, I want to look back at the 2018 season once more and identify some running backs who exceeded or fell short of expectations. Below are five running backs whose stock rose after strong seasons and four backs whose stock fell after disappointing performances.


Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: After sitting out the entire 2018 season, Bell should be quite the hot commodity if he does indeed hit the market in March. He was the best running back coming into the 2018 season, and a year off, in which he was able to rest and get 100 percent healthy, only makes him more dangerous for 2019. Plus, the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013, further supporting Bell’s worth.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans: Over the last three seasons, Henry has shown that he’ll be productive if he gets the opportunity. Like a fine wine, he is getting better with each passing year and put an exclamation point on his most recent campaign by averaging 146.2 rushing yards per game in the final quarter of the 2018 season. Henry went from averaging 10.7 carries per game through 12 games and losing his starting spot to Dion Lewis midway through the year to averaging 21.8 carries per game and establishing himself as one of the biggest threats down the stretch. As I mentioned in this space a month ago, Henry, who will enter his fourth NFL season next fall, is deserving of a new deal.

Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts: Mack saw a huge increase in production from Year 1 to Year 2. After rushing for 358 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games (zero starts) as a rookie, he put up 908 yards and nine TDs on the ground in just 12 games (10 starts) in 2018. Behind a stout offensive line, Mack proved he is capable of being the future in the Colts’ backfield.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Pittsburgh Steelers Strike Gold in Exchange for Antonio Brown

By: Brad Gagnon, Bleacher Report

  1. The Pittsburgh Steelers have left the door open for a trade involving Brown, who also hasn’t shied away from voicing his displeasure with the team. A divorce could be coming. In fact, the odds via BookMaker now favor that.
  2. At this point, a team that typically operates conservatively in February and March might simply have to hope that it’ll get a home run offer for Brown. After all, the 30-year-old makes big money, he’s probably on the verge of a decline and the Steelers are in good shape in the receiving corps with JuJu Smith-Schuster ready to move into the No. 1 role.
  3. What would a home run look like? Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported last month that the Steelers want a first-round pick for Brown, and it’s possible they’ll get something close to that from a cap-rich team in a bidding war. So let’s go with that.
  4. Potential trade: Steelers trade Brown to San Francisco 49ers in exchange for the No. 36 overall pick in the 2019 draft.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Tim Benz, Jeff Erickson discuss fantasy fallout of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown sagas

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

It’s our weekly fantasy sports podcast with Jeff Erickson of Rotowire.

We talk about the potential fantasy fallout of the crazy offseasons surrounding Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.

Then there is the late season slump by Todd Gurley. How will that impact his draft stock next year?

Are fantasy baseball owners staying away from Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as MLB drafts approach?

We also kick around how NHL and NBA owners are reacting to recent trades, including Derick Brassard.

Listen: Tim Benz, Jeff Erickson discuss fantasy fallout of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown sagas

Did the AAF debut give football fans something to cheer about?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/10/2019 - 2:17pm

The timing of the Allegiance of American Football could help bridge the gap from the Super Bowl to the NFL Draft.

Well, I gave it a try.

With football entering its seven-month dormant season from on-the-field play, I decided to give the newly formed AAF a shot. After reading several articles here at BTSC, I thought it would be interesting to see what the league could offer. Between former Steelers on the rosters and some interesting rules which could be an improvement over situations in the NFL, I thought there just might be enough to help cut the offseason wait down by several weeks. By every indication thus far, it appears as if I’m going to have to find either another sport or a different hobby.

I tuned in to the inaugural game on CBS between the San Antonio Commodores and the San Diego Fleet. With the biggest names being in the coaching ranks (Mike Martz is the head coach of San Diego), the broadcast made sure to keep them mic’d. That is, if the audio was properly working throughout the game. In an attempt to be able to hear more action on the field, the commentators kept cutting out during the broadcast which was fairly annoying. At one point during the game, I even stared a blank screen for 10 seconds waiting for the broadcast to come back in the middle of action. Apparently it’s not just the players that are not quite to the level of the NFL.

There was some promise early on when a San Antonio player got a free rush at the San Diego quarterback, planting his facemask square in his chest and knocking the QB’s helmet off in the process. Unlike the NFL, it was not a penalty. But it also seemed to be the only highlight of the game.

What. A. Hit. @aafcommanders | #SDvsSA

— The Alliance (@TheAAF) February 10, 2019

While cutting down the play clock to 35 seconds to keep the game moving sounds good in theory, it doesn’t allow the offense to really run effective motion or get any other quality reads on the defense. Therefore, the offense in this game was been completely lacking.

Perhaps it is the fact that these teams have only been practicing for a month. Maybe the NFL has all the quality offensive lineman locked up in futures contracts. Regardless of the reason, blocking has been at a minimum as there have been many sacks and the running game is either feast or famine. The handful of runs which have gone for decent gains have been the result of the rusher finding a small crease to squeeze through as the o-line was driven back. The few outside running attempts generally finished as a tackle for loss.

Maybe I had lofty expectations of quality football which could excite me to watch every week. If you are a fan of preseason football, you’re probably looking at about the same quality of play. Although I watch every Steelers preseason game, it is only in anticipation of how the squad is going to be formed for the upcoming season. When it comes to watching quality football between any teams, I’ll wait for the real games to start in September. These are just my personal thoughts.

At the time of writing this article, there is less than a minute left in the third quarter with the score tied 6–6. As close as the score might be, I think it’s time to maybe find some Big Bang Theory reruns, or even watch a chick flick with my wife for a Saturday night. Yes, I could watch football. But I would rather wait for the real deal. Why couldn’t this football be a better alternative?

Ironically, in exactly 7 months from tonight, it will be the first game of Monday Night Football for 2019. Are you ready?

Suggestion that Ravens should sign Le’Veon Bell draws reaction from both sides

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/10/2019 - 10:26am

Off all the teams the running back could sign with this offseason, few are as repulsive to think about as the Baltimore Ravens

The national sports media will make several ludicrous suggestions about moves each NFL team should make this offseason over the coming weeks, with the Good Morning Football show on the NFL Network likely to be responsible for a significant number of them. As the place that serious football discussion goes to die, the range of topics highlighted by GMFB are perhaps less founded in fact that most football shows.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise to note that the hosts of the show were promoting the idea of Le’Veon Bell signing with the Baltimore Ravens during free agency, a suggestion that appears to have piqued the running back’s interest.

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) February 8, 2019

Much like the Steelers, Baltimore are not known for making high priced free agent signings, but it would seem that there are some Ravens players who might welcome the move.

Let's gooooooooooo

— Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard) February 8, 2019

Even if one or two were surprised by his interested in their team.

— Tony Jefferson (@_tonyjefferson) February 8, 2019

Having picked up Lamar Jackson as a new follower on Instagram, Bell then gave him a quick shout out in return.

Lamar Jackson started following Le'Veon Bell on Instagram, and Le'Veon definitely noticed

— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 8, 2019

And was clearly enjoying all the calls from Ravens fans on social media to join their team.

it’s just a great feeling when you’re appreciated...isn’t it?

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) February 8, 2019

A response that drew even more encouragement for Baltimore.


— Fruit PUNCH (@marlon_humphrey) February 8, 2019

However, given the responses of several Steelers fans in amongst the comments from the Ravens supporters, it would be fair to say that the idea did not sit well with everyone.

— Itz Yinzburgh (@ItzYinzburgh) February 8, 2019

— Anthoney Workman (@PIIHM27) February 9, 2019

Expected to have a similar amount of salary cap space to work with in 2019 as Pittsburgh, the Ravens could afford to give Bell the sort of contract he is looking for in theory. Whether they are willing to break the habit of a lifetime and spend that amount on the running back remains to be seen.

Chuks Okorafor’s journey to the NFL is the perfect description of “the American dream”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/10/2019 - 8:55am

When it comes to taking advantage of an opportunity, Chuks Okorafor is the perfect example of this.

During the 2018 NFL Draft, in the third round the Pittsburgh Steelers took an offensive tackle named Chukwuma Okorafor out of Western Michigan.

If you are like me, you heard/saw the name you had the same response:


The more you read/watched of Okorafor as a player you saw immense talent, just very raw in nature. The best description I read of the man they call ‘Chuks’ stated how if he would have attended Alabama, and not Western Michigan, he would have been a first rounder.

Okorafor played sparingly in 2018, starting one game against the Denver Broncos and being the extra tight end on heavy run packages. This participation was more than many expected of him on draft day. However, what I didn’t know was Okorafor’s complete story to get to the NFL.

He posted the following on his verified Twitter account a few weeks ago:

2010: Moved to America

2011: Tried football out for the first time ever

2014: Started playing D1 football

2018: Got drafted by the best organization in the NFL

Anything is possible with God on your side. Write your own story and beat the odds !!

— Chukwuma Okorafor (@Chuks__76) January 25, 2019

When you look at the dates in his tweet, you can’t help but be amazed by his journey. He had played football just 7 years before being drafted in the NFL. Not many can say they had just this amount of exposure to such a technical game/position before reaching the professional ranks.

If Okorafor is somehow able to continue on this trajectory he very well could become the next great offensive tackle for the Steelers for years to come. As he enters his second NFL season he will be a large part of the team, either as depth or a potential starter if veteran Marcus Gilbert isn’t brought back due to his inability to stay healthy over the past two season.

Could Okorafor be the latest diamond the Steelers found in the rough? It may be too early to suggest this, but the more you learn about Okorafor the realization sets in you might not want to bet against him.

A Letter from the Editor: Free Agency is a crap shoot the Steelers must win

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/10/2019 - 7:34am

The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had the greatest success in free agency in recent years, but can they change their luck?

Every year about this time, fans of every NFL franchise start to look ahead to the offseason, and the first event on everyone’s calendar is the start of NFL Free Agency. Websites like this one put out lists of the top players who will be available when the new league year begins and players hit the open market.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, free agency has been very hit-or-miss over the past few years. While they have hit on a few free agent pick ups, they have missed on more.

But not all strikeouts have been the Steelers’ fault.

You can never predict a player’s health, and this certainly was the case with Ladarius Green, and even Morgan Burnett. Sure, these players had issues with injuries prior to them signing with Pittsburgh, but so did Vance McDonald. After McDonald’s injury plagued 2017, he played in 15 games in 2018, proving players can shake off the injury prone designation.

Looking back throughout the Mike Tomlin/Kevin Colbert era, you can find some players who turned out to be tremendous additions to the team via free agency, and plenty others who were more of a bust than a bang.

With that said, it is imperative, more so this year than others, the Steelers at least get a couple doubles this year in free agency, sticking with the baseball analogy. Why not aim for a home run, or a triple? Because those type of players typically don’t even hit the free agent market, or they request a king’s ransom to sign.

Entering the 2019 offseason, the Steelers not only have some gaping holes on their roster, but some money with which to maneuver. Holes always exist, but the money doesn’t.

Thanks to Le’Veon Bell’s absence last year, the Steelers will have roughly $18 million dollars to play with in free agency, and that doesn’t take into account a likely new deal for Ben Roethlisberger, which should lower his cap hit this upcoming season, and the natural increase in the salary cap.

Regardless of money available, the Steelers will need to target some first wave free agents if they feel they are able to get them back to the promised land. Typically, the Steelers sit back, let other teams make waves on the first day of free agency, and then pounce on players as their asking price naturally drops. However, since their courting of Dont’a Hightower, the Steelers have stuck to the status quo with how they handle things in free agency.

I am not suggesting the Steelers turn into a team like the Washington Redskins who go out and pay top dollar for the biggest name on the free agent list, but to be more aggressive. If you can land just one player who can come in and play a position like cornerback or inside linebacker, and no, Jon Bostic is not a good example of the player I am talking about, it will make the 2019 NFL Draft process much more precise as the team needs will be narrowed down.

Plain and simple, this offseason will go a long way from proving whether the Steelers are actual contenders, or just pretenders in 2019. Sure, you could say that about every season, but with the likely dismissal of Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and the gaping holes at CB and ILB, the Steelers will need to make something happen. It isn’t impossible, but the Steelers need to win the gamble that is free agency — for once.


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