You are here

Links

Getting to know the Steelers 2022 UDFAs: Donovan Jeter

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/18/2022 - 2:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The former Michigan Wolverine has the right size the plug up the middle on defense.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected seven players in the 2022 NFL draft, they continued adding to the roster with ten undrafted free agents. With many draft profiles focusing on those players towards the top and middle of the NFL draft, it is time to get to take a look at these other members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who will have just as much opportunity to make the roster in 2022 as those who were selected in the draft, despite the more difficult path.

Remember, some draft profiles for these players are quite harsh as they are looking at them as a draftable prospect. Taking a flyer on an UDFA is a completely different story as many times the potential the player shows is what lands them on an NFL offseason roster.

Next on the list is Michigan defensive lineman Donovan Jeter.

Donovan Jeter Defensive lineman
Senior
Michigan
6’3” 325 lbs

After not appearing in any games his freshman season of 2017, Donovan Jeter finished his Michigan career over the next four seasons with 37 games played. Interesting enough, even with 10 games played in 2019 Jeter did not register any statistics. In his career, Jeter finished with 38 tackles, two of which were for loss, three passes defensed, and one fumble recovery for a touchdown. The majority of Jeter‘s tackles came in his final year in Michigan in 2021 where he had 24.

Current Steelers at the position:

Defensive Line

  1. Cameron Heyward
  2. Chris Wormley
  3. Tyson Alualu
  4. Stephon Tuitt
  5. Montravius Adams
  6. Isaiahh Loudermilk
  7. DeMarvin Lael
  8. Henry Mondeaux
  9. Carlos Davis
  10. Khalil Davis
  11. Daniel Archibong
  12. Donovan Jeter
  13. Trevon Mason
Draft Profiles:

There was limited information in the terms of breakdowns for Jeter heading into the 2022 NFL draft. Here is a breakdown from nfldraftbuzz.com:

Strengths

Can make the impressive chest-to-chest bear hug tackle in the hole due to his ability to wreak havoc in the backfield.

Strong tackler. Has good power in hands and can anchor, shed, and chase.

Provides some secondary interior pass rush, getting most penetration when playing three technique.

Combines strength and footwork to fill holes inside, as well. Recovers from cut blocks or falling on his way to make a tackle.

Big-bodied rusher with very good upper-body strength. Strong and stout at the point of attack with the measurables to occupy multiple blockers.

Weaknesses

Must improve hand use and read-and-react skills. Lacks the violent hands to shed and can be eliminated by double-team blocks.

Might be limited to one-gap systems. Agility isn’t a question but misses tackles when he doesn’t square and break down.

Inconsistent in his ability to separate from blocks, however, making him more of a nuisance than a snap-to-snap terror.

Good strength, though his marginal arm length limits his ability to grab hold of ballcarriers as they run by.

Isn’t able to consistently shed blocks and makes plays in the hole.

Here is another draft profile from profootballnetwork.com:

Positives: Nice-sized defensive tackle who had an underwhelming college career. Fires off the snap with a quick first step, keeps his feet moving, and works his hands throughout the action. Flashes power in his lower body and bull rushes opponents off the line.

Negatives: Cannot get off blocks once engaged at the point and gets held up by lesser opponents. Gets very narrow-based in his setup.

Analysis: Jeter possesses next-level size as well as growth potential, yet he never presented himself as anything other than an average college backup.

Film:

To finish off the breakdown of Donovan Jeter no evaluation is complete without film:

(WARNING: Videos could contain explicit lyrics)

Steelers to open Hall of Honor museum at Heinz Field in 2022

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/18/2022 - 12:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers experience at Heinz Field will be getting an addition for the 2022 regular season.

If you’ve ever been to a Pittsburgh Steelers game at Heinz Field, you know all about the fan experience. There is no rush greater than seeing 60,000+ Terrible Towels being waived in unison as “Renegade” blares through the night.

But that isn’t the entire game day experience. Since opening in 2001, Heinz Field has had several renovations and additions to make the experience better for fans both young and old. They added the great hall, new video replay boards and even expanded their seats in the open end of the stadium.

In 2022, you can expect a new attraction at Heinz Field in the way of a Hall of Honor museum.

We have announced a new addition to @heinzfield that will further honor former players, coaches, and other contributors.

The #Steelers Hall of Honor Museum is scheduled to open during the 2022 regular season.https://t.co/3ChTUKecsU

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 18, 2022

Here is what team president Art Rooney II had to say about the announcement of the museum opening in the fall of 2022.

“We are extremely excited about the opening of the Steelers Hall of Honor Museum this Fall,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II to the team’s official website. “This will provide our fans the opportunity to not only learn more about the Hall of Honor inductees, but also about the history of the team with many great videos, pictures and displays that highlight great moments and players in Steelers history. We have the best fans in the world, and we know they will enjoy this interactive museum upon its opening later this Fall.”

For those who will be heading to Pittsburgh this fall for a game and want to know more about where the museum will be located, below is more information on the location and a history of the Hall of Honor:

The Steelers Hall of Honor Museum will be located near Gate B above the team’s Pro Shop. Fans will be able to visit the Steelers Hall of Honor Museum year-round after it is officially open. More details on the opening of the museum as well as tour information will be provided later this Summer.

The Steelers Hall of Honor was established in 2017 to honor those former players, coaches and front office personnel who were integral in creating and sustaining the franchise’s success dating back to when the team was founded by Art Rooney Sr. in 1933. Through the conclusion of the 2021 season, a total of 45 individuals have been inducted into the team’s Hall of Honor.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

Don’t confuse Calvin Austin’s size with an inability to be a weapon for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/18/2022 - 11:30am
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers 4th Round receiver is ready and willing to do what it takes to make in the NFL.

There are some people who hate to be called small. You can call them a million other different terms, but don’t call them small.

Throughout his career, Pittsburgh Steelers 4th Round draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft Calvin Austin III certainly has been called that a time or two. Standing at 5’8” tall, Austin has almost always been the smallest player on his team, but don’t confuse size with ability.

On top of overall ability, Austin claims there is something else which separates him from his teammates and other receivers. Something you can’t see on film or with NFL Scouting Combine results — heart.

“I would just say my heart,” Austin said during one of the three rookie minicamp sessions. “When I get out there, it has never been a thing where I’m just like, ‘Man, these guys are big,’ or ‘I’m small.’ I’ve never felt that way. When I get out there, I’m a ‘dawg.’

“When I’m on the field, I have no fear.”

If Austin is going to carve out a role for himself in the NFL, it might be in the slot. A position where not having fear of going over the middle and making tough, contested catches is the norm. He didn’t play in the slot much in college, but he wants his coaches to know he is tough enough to handle the physicality which accompanies playing such a position.

“I took plenty of big hits,” Austin said. “The best thing about that is poppin’ up right after and flexin’ on ‘em.

“I think I’ve always been the smallest guy on my team. But, for instance, in the weight room, I’d always be one of the strongest-per-pound people.

“That size factor, it’s never been anything to me.”

While Austin might not be the tallest receiver, his sub-4.4 40-yard dash time makes him a valuable asset to any offense, but there has been a time when Austin has heard teams say his speed doesn’t match his size. Something which still motivates him to this day.

“I would go to camps and have great showings, I’d run a fast 40,” Austin remembered. “But they’d always be like ‘your size, you gotta get bigger, your weight.’ I kinda wrote down in my phone, in my notes, all the things that coaches have said to me in the past about that.

“That’s kinda my motivation.”

The more you listen to Austin talk, the more you realize his size has done nothing but fuel him to be better. To motivate him to not just get to Memphis, but now to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a drafted player.

Austin has undeniable talent, but can the Steelers find a way to utilize that talent? That is now the responsibility of Matt Canada to find a way to make Austin fit into his offensive scheme.

As for the fans, they have every right to be somewhat skeptical, considering the failed experiments of Chris Rainey and Dri Archer. Austin seems to be different, but many are taking a wait-and-see approach. For Austin, he seems more than willing to show fans what he is capable of doing, and earning his spot on the 53-man roster.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they continue through Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

6 Steelers from the 2021 roster still unsigned for next season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/18/2022 - 10:00am
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

These players did not land in Pittsburgh for 2022, but still do not have a team to call home.

As the 2022 NFL offseason moves towards the summer, free agency becomes more and more of an afterthought. With teams shaping the roster for this fall via the NFL draft and undrafted free agents, teams have had their rookie minicamps and are moving into the heart of OTAs. For this reason, news of free agent signings is much more sparse.

When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are a number of players from their 2021 roster who have yet to find a home for 2022. Could it still be in the cards that these players return to Pittsburgh this season? Will they find the proper landing place in the coming months? Will any of them decide to call it a career and move on from their time in the NFL?

The answers to these questions may not be known for some time. But to make sure we have all the information, here are the six main remaining free agents who were on the Steelers 2021 roster that are still unsigned at this time.

Kalen Ballage

Joining the Steelers in free agency for 2021, Kalen Ballage has played for four different franchises in his four NFL seasons. With the Steelers last season, Ballage appeared in every game but had no starts and only 12 rushes for 36 yards in the regular season with four rushing attempts for 13 yards in the playoffs. Ballage also added two receptions on seven targets for 8 yards. Only playing 65 offensive snaps, Ballage did see some playing time on special teams with 98 snaps during the regular season.

Whether or not Ballage showed enough with the Steelers to catch on with another team remains to be seen. While it would likely take an injury somewhere in training camp for him to get a call, the likelihood of him being the call in Pittsburgh is becoming less and less.

B.J. Finney

Coming back to the Steelers in 2021 after a season away in Seattle and Cincinnati, B.J. Finney did not see a return to success like he had in his previous years in Pittsburgh. With 13 starts over four years from 2016 to 2019, Finney did not see an offensive snap in 2020 despite a lucrative contract in Seattle, and was traded to Cincinnati mid year to simply move him off the books.

Coming back to Pittsburgh in 2021, Finney did have two starts at guard but only played three snaps in a second game before suffering a neck injury. Whether or not the injury will allow him to continue his NFL career remains to be seen, but as of now he is still a man in search of a team.

Zach Banner

Sometimes guys just can’t catch a break. There is so much to love about Zach Banner and his personality. After being adored by fans as a jumbo tight end and “reporting as eligible” in 2019, Banner won the starting right tackle job for 2020 but didn’t even last a game before being lost for the season with any injury. Having a setback to start 2021, Banner landed on IR again and never really recovered to a point to be used in a starting role.

With too much of a base salary to hold on to for 2022, Banner was released early in the new league year and has yet to catch on with another team. Even playing outside of Pittsburgh, I’m sure there will be a good portion of the Steelers fan base pulling for him to succeed.

Eric Ebron

Moving into the second half of the list where each player is a former Pro Bowler, Eric Ebron spent two seasons in Pittsburgh in 2020 in 2021 after four years in Detroit and two years in Indianapolis. Making the Pro Bowl in 2018, a season where he had 13 touchdown receptions, Ebron only had six receiving touchdowns in two seasons with the Steelers. In all, Ebron appeared in 23 games in Pittsburgh with 68 receptions on 109 targets for 642 yards. Ebron also had a one-yard rushing touchdown in 2021.

Unfortunately, Ebron’s last play with the Steelers, perhaps ever, came when he was injured on his single touchdown reception of the season against the Chargers. Whether or not the 29 year old will find another spot in the NFL is anybody’s guess at this point.

Joe Schobert

Joining the Steelers during the 2021 preseason via trade, Joe Schobert had his fifth-straight NFL season with more than 100 tackles. A Pro Bowler in 2017 with the Cleveland Browns, Schobert spent one season in Jacksonville in 2020 before the Steelers traded for him in exchange for a sixth round draft pick.

With a huge salary due to him in 2022, Schobert simply became expendable when the Steelers signed another former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker in Myles Jack. Since his release in March, rumors of Schobert landing with another team have been silent as he looks to catch on somewhere for 2022.

Joe Haden

Out of all the players on this list, Joe Haden is the one many Steelers fans wouldn’t mind seeing in the black and gold to finish out his career if the right circumstances present themselves. After seven years in Cleveland, Haden spent the last five years in Pittsburgh where he was selected to his third Pro Bowl in 2019. Appearing in 68 games with 67 starts over five years, Haden has 10 interceptions in a Steelers uniform with one being returned for a touchdown. Haden also has 54 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and over 200 tackles in his time in Pittsburgh.

Yet to find the right situation, Joe Haden is either waiting for the proper opportunity or the acceptable salary in order to land on a 2022 NFL roster. While he has posted things on his social media about moving on, until Haden signs with another NFL franchise the possibility of returning to Pittsburgh this season will be a point of discussion among Steelers’ fans.

The Steelers need to find the next QB/WR tandem to be a contender

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/18/2022 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers need to develop a special QB/WR connection that is commonplace for contending teams.

Sometimes inspiration for articles come from the most unexpected places.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown sent out an unexpected tweet on Monday expressing his previously unbeknownst desire to retire as a Pittsburgh Steeler.

Just wanna Retire A Steeler

— AB (@AB84) May 16, 2022

This brought back a flood of memories for yours truly, both good and bad. Without forcing anyone to endure a deep dive into my subconscious, let me just say the memories of recently retired franchise quarterback (QB) Ben Roethlisberger firing the old pigskin to the unstoppable Brown seemingly at will were like highlights replaying in my mind.

Those memories; coupled with a recent BTSC article written by our own Jeff Hartman about the need for a two man QB competition this upcoming training camp and preseason because of the limited number of reps to go around, inspired this article.

While every NFL organization desires a deep stable of skill position players available for their franchise QB to distribute the ball to, the truth remains that an elite QB/WR connection is more important for teams striving for contender status. Having a deep group of pass catchers isn't as impactful without a true number one guy.

The world champion Los Angeles Rams have Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp. AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals have Joe Burrow to Ja'Marr Chase. The Buffalo Bills have Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs. The list goes on and on, but I feel certain you catch my drift.

In today's pass-happy NFL, equipped with a plethora of new rules designed to directly limit physicality, the rules indirectly facilitate the modern day passing craze. It’s left every team searching for a franchise QB throwing to an elite number one receiver combination. It's the quickest way to offensive success in the modern NFL. If you don't have one, you get one.

This makes Hartman's suggestion the Steelers limit the quarterback competition to Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett in their rapidly approaching training camp that much more accurate and insightful. The Steelers already know what they have in Mason Rudolph, for all intents and purposes. The Steelers need to find out what they have in the two newcomers brought in to compete for the starting job. Training camp reps and preseason opportunities are more important than ever.

However, not just for the quarterbacks. The wide receivers need those opportunities to establish a pecking order of their own, if you will. To establish much needed chemistry with the newcomers at QB, especially with the next man entrusted to lead the Steelers new-look offense into an ever changing future.

It will take plenty of hard work and unscripted passing sessions to develop the type of chemistry achieved by Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown, and the other aforementioned elite combos. Receivers can utilize the jugs machines outside of practice to improve their hands, but a live arm is needed to truly work on footwork and precision timing.

The type of connection developed by Ben and Brown doesn't happen by accident. It takes faith and trust. Faith the receiver will get open in time and on schedule, plus complete the catch. Trust the QB will put the ball on target, and on time. It all comes down to split second precision and execution, amidst all the chaos.

For the 2022 Steelers, there are four wide receiver candidates vying for the top spot:

  • Diontae Johnson
  • Chase Claypool
  • George Pickens
  • Calvin Austin lll

Some are more realistic candidates than others, but it remains an open competition, because the Steelers lack a clear-cut number one receiver.

Some aspects of an elite QB/WR tandem have to develop naturally, as a true instinctual connection cannot be forced. It would benefit the receivers greatly if Trubisky or Pickett were able to quickly and clearly separate themselves in the competition. More time and opportunities to develop that special chemistry with the established No. 1 quarterback. Regrettably, that scenario is highly unlikely.

Diontae Johnson is the most accomplished of the Steelers quartet of receiver candidates, coming off his first 1,000-yard receiving season and Pro Bowl selection. However, he has yet to show the clutch ability to rise to the occasion when the stakes are the highest, a trait present with all elite number one receiving options, whether they be wide receivers or tight ends. Johnson will go a long way towards locking down his rumored contract demands, at least somewhere, if he is able to take his game to that, as of yet unattainable, level.

Chase Claypool is immensely talented, blessed with elite level athleticism and length. However, he has yet to show the maturity and intensity to match those other elite level abilities. If the offensive line shows the improvement hoped for, the Steelers new-look offense may prove to be a far better fit for the talented young pass catcher. It will be up to Claypool to earn the trust of his new quarterbacks.

George Pickens has every attribute and ability needed for a No. 1 receiver. He is tall, fast, and athletic. Intensity personified, with an alpha dog mentality. He is also very much an inexperienced 21 years old rookie, having missed the majority of his junior year at Georgia rehabbing a knee injury. In my opinion, he is the most likely candidate to eventually ascend to the top receiving spot for the Steelers, but doing so as a rookie is a lot to ask. In a perfect world, Pickens would develop that special chemistry with Kenny Pickett to form an elite connection in the Steel City for years to come.

Lastly, fellow rookie Calvin Austin lll is the longest of long shots in the competition. Austin will most likely be limited to the slot, at least in the early portion of his career. Slot receivers can be dominant No. 1 options, see Wes Welker and Julian Edelman for recent examples. Austin is diminutive, but he has one special attribute none of the other aforementioned options have; elite level speed and quickness. If his game-changing abilities transition well to the NFL, the Steelers may have the steal of the 2022 NFL Draft, and a potential number one guy in the slot. Rare, but not unheard of.

There is too much evidence to ignore the truth. True modern day contenders need a franchise QB, and a elite receiving option to pair with him. The Steelers need to find theirs.

Is defensive line really the biggest hole on the Steelers’ roster?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/18/2022 - 7:15am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have holes on their roster, but is the biggest one along their defensive front?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have holes on their roster, there is no denying this simple fact. When you are trying to rank them, it depends on who you talk to as to what position tops the list.

Just some of the glaring needs on the roster which still remain after the first wave of free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft would be:

  • A genuine CB1
  • Running back depth
  • Defensive line depth
  • Slot wide receiver
  • Inside linebacker
  • Depth at outside linebacker

I’m sure those reading this could add more positions to this list, but recently ESPN decided to take a stab at the biggest hole on all 32 teams’ rosters. What might surprise some, they had the defensive line as the biggest hole on the 2022 Steelers roster.

See their explanation below:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Biggest hole: Defensive line

The Steelers’ defensive front is shallow and getting long in the tooth, even if Cameron Heyward, 33, remains an unblockable menace (10 sacks, 53 pressures in 2021).

At the other two spots, Pittsburgh is relying on a pair of players, Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu, who combined for 57 snaps in 2021. Tuitt missed all of last season due to a combination of knee injury and mourning the death of his brother. He has yet to commit to anything for the coming season — the team remains hopeful but vague whenever asked about Tuitt’s status. Nose tackle Alualu was lost in Week 2 to a broken ankle and is entering his age-35 season.

Behind them are journeyman Chris Wormley and third-round pick DeMarvin Leal of Texas A&M, a middling athlete who disappointed on tape, though playing end in a 3-4 front might be suited to his skill set. Obviously, the Steelers can still generate a pass rush, but they were 27th against the run by DVOA last year. Unless Tuitt and Alualu return to form, that may not improve much.

As I stated before, it isn’t as if the defensive line isn’t a concern, or a hole as ESPN put it, entering the 2022 season. But is it the biggest hole?

To me, that’s a difficult answer.

The Steelers defensive line depth was improved this offseason, mainly in the drafting of DeMarvin Leal in the 3rd Round of the 2022 NFL Draft. While many viewed the Leal pick as Tuitt’s replacement, I saw it as an insurance policy. If Tuitt can return, Leal will play sparingly and be able to get his feet wet at the NFL level. If Tuitt, for whatever reason, doesn’t play in 2022, Leal provides quality depth, and options along the line.

When you consider the depth the team has assembled currently, even if you leave Tuitt off the list, you have to wonder who will, and won’t, make the 53-man roster.

Cam Heyward
Tyson Alualu
Chris Wormley
DeMarvin Leal
Isaiahh Loudermilk
Carlos Davis
Khalil Davis
Montravius Adams
Henry Mondeaux

These aren’t even all the players listed on the team’s roster. There are the undrafted rookie free agents (UDFAs) and those on reserve/future contracts I didn’t list above.

But back to the question at hand, is the defensive line really the biggest hole on the roster? Yes, a lot hinges on the return of Tuitt, but I don’t necessarily feel as if the defensive line is so depleted there would be a giant drop off even if Tuitt doesn’t return.

On the flip side of this argument is what fans witnessed in 2021 when both Tuitt and Alualu were lost along the line. Loudermilk, who many thought would get a year to learn the position at the NFL level, was thrust into the lineup, and Adams played just days after being taken off the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad.

Maybe the defensive line is the biggest hole on the roster, but for me the depth along the line isn’t far-and-away the biggest need like it was a year ago. But I’m curious what you think? Do you agree with ESPN’s analysis, or are there other needs which need addressed first? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Brandon Hunt interviews for the Bills assistant GM opening

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/18/2022 - 6:00am
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are still conducting their second round of interviews for their GM opening, and Brandon Hunt is on the job hunt.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to narrow their search for their next General Manager (GM) and they have conducted second interviews with many candidates over the past two weeks. Most recently was an internal candidate in Omar Khan.

While Khan joins the likes of John Spytek and Doug Whaley as people who have gotten a second interview, Steelers pro scouting coordinator, Brandon Hunt, has not been on the list yet.

Whether Hunt knows he isn’t in the running or not is anyone’s guess, but the man who followed Kevin Colbert around closely during the run up to the 2022 NFL Draft hasn’t been waiting around for the Steelers to make up their minds.

Last week Hunt interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles with a lateral job, and most recently Hunt interviewed with the Buffalo Bills for their assistant GM opening.

This per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network:

#Bills GM Brandon Beane interviewed #Steelers Pro Scouting Coordinator Brandon Hunt for the vacant assistant GM job formerly held by Joe Schoen, source said. Hunt, who is well-regarded, is also in the mix for the Steelers GM job.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 17, 2022

As stated earlier, Hunt could be doing his best to prove to the Steelers he is a valuable commodity. He also could know he isn’t getting a second interview and is looking to find a new home where he can advance. Or, Hunt could be doing the best he can to secure a position next year if/when another GM is hired and they want to bring on their own pro scouting coordinator.

It is all speculation at this point, but the Steelers making a decision on their next GM doesn’t seem to be happening anytime in the near future.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/18/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each broadcasted episode.

The Steelers Draft Fix: 2023 NFL Draft Preview & Steelers future needs

The Steelers have completed the 2022 selection process and are looking to sure up the roster for the upcoming season, but they still have needs that will need to be addressed. Join Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar as they get started previewing the Steelers’ 2023 Draft and the future needs of the Men of Steel. All of this and more on BTSC’s Steelers Draft Fix.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • 2023 NFL Draft Preview & Steelers future needs
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Scho Bro Show: Looking for the best fan experience with the Steelers 2022 schedule

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 schedule has been released for overall perusal and some games offer a better viewing experience than others. From the standpoint of the best games to attend in person, which will be the best to buy tickets for? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment of the BTSC family of podcasts.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the black-and-gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The best Steelers games on the 2022 schedule to get to

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Let’s Ride Wednesday: The Steelers QB competition should be a 2-man race

The Steelers have four quarterbacks vying for the job of QB1 in the persons of Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett and Chris Oladukon, but it really should be a two-man race. Who might those specific contestants be? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts, “Let’s Ride” with BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman. Join Jeff for this and more on the Wednesday episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers QB competition should be a 2-man race
  • The Mail Bag
  • and MUCH MORE!

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Steelers complete second interview with Omar Khan for GM opening

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/17/2022 - 4:39pm
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Kahn is currently the Steelers President of Football & Business Administration.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are continuing on with their second round of interviews for their open general manager position. With Kevin Colbert‘s retirement following the 2022 NFL draft, despite staying on until a successor is hired, the Steelers are continuing on their process of finding their next GM.

On Tuesday, the Steelers announced they concluded a second interview with Omar Khan, their current President of Football & Business Administration.

We have completed a second round interview for our General Manager position with #Steelers Vice President of Football & Business Administration Omar Khan.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 17, 2022

Khan began his NFL front office career in 1997 with the New Orleans Saints in their football operations department after previously serving as a scouting intern. Hired by the Steelers in 2001 as their football administration coordinator, Khan was promoted to Director of Football Administration in 2011. In 2016, Khan was promoted to his current title with the Steelers.

While Khan has an impressive title with the Steelers, what most fans know him as the person in the front office who “works the magic” with the NFL salary cap.

The Steelers have yet to announce how many candidates they will include in the second round of interviews. Khan has not been the first interview with the Steelers, and it would be no surprise if he would not be the last.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, continued coverage of the GM search, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

Getting to know the Steelers 2022 UDFAs: Chris Steele

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/17/2022 - 2:30pm
Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

After not drafting a cornerback in 2022, the Steelers added to the position with undrafted free agents.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected seven players in the 2022 NFL draft, they continued adding to the roster with ten undrafted free agents. With many draft profiles focusing on those players towards the top and middle of the NFL draft, it is time to get to take a look at these other members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who will have just as much opportunity to make the roster in 2022 as those who were selected in the draft, despite the more difficult path.

Remember, some draft profiles for these players are quite harsh as they are looking at them as a draftable prospect. Taking a flyer on an UDFA is a completely different story as many times the potential the player shows is what lands them on an NFL offseason roster.

Next on the list is USC cornerback Chris Steele.

Chris Steele Cornerback
Junior
USC
6’1” 190 lbs

Playing three years at USC, Chris Steele played in a total of 29 games where he had 94 tackles, three of which were for loss, 1.0 sack, three interceptions, 12 passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. In his senior season, Steele played 11 games with 33 tackles, two of which were for loss, his only career sack, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and three passes defensed.

Current Steelers at the position:

Cornerback

  1. Cam Sutton
  2. Levi Wallace
  3. Ahkello Witherspoon
  4. Arthur Maulet
  5. Justin Layne
  6. James Pierre
  7. Linden Stephens
  8. Chris Steele
  9. Carlins Platel
Draft Profiles:

There was more adequate information in the terms of breakdowns for Steele heading into the 2022 NFL draft. Here is a breakdown from si.com:

Pros:

Ezring: Each year, NFL teams seek out high-level athletes at the college level. Chris Steele’s game centers entirely around his traits. He has very loose hips and can change direction cleanly. As a result, he regularly displays impressive transitions and hip turns. What’s more, Steele has above-average movement skills in all directions and the long speed to carry receivers on deep routes. The talented corner also boasts sufficient play strength to attack blockers in run defense outside the hashes. While Steele’s athletic ability gives him the potential to succeed in any defensive scheme, he is at his best in press coverage. If he successfully engages early after the snap, Steele keeps his hands in the receiver’s hip pocket to feel out routes as they develop. When beginning the play at the line of scrimmage, the experienced defensive back typically practices sound eye discipline. While Steele thrives off his physicality, he has the movement skills to mirror in soft press. He regularly exhibits the patience to avoid turning his hips early. Similarly, Steele has the athleticism to operate in off and zone coverage. The highly-touted recruit clicks and closes efficiently and quickly. At the catch point, Steele is physical and aims to break passes up with physicality. NFL teams will also appreciate the USC corner’s versatility. The Trojan standout has experience at boundary corner, nickel and strong safety. Steele has shown off solid gap integrity when operating out of the box.

Vandeventer: Primarily an off-man corner with good ball skills. Steele tracks the ball well and has good timing when playing the ball in the air. He does a good job staying in the hip pocket of receivers, maintaining constant contact throughout the route. The USC corner is quick to diagnose and break on the ball with limited wasted movement. Has the speed to recover after falling behind receivers. Steele is fluid in transition between backpedaling and turning and running. Reads and reacts quickly at the line of scrimmage as he mirrors the release. Comfortable playing Cover 3 and is experienced playing in the slot, the outside, and rolling back to safety. Steele also has experience blitzing and times it with the snap.

Cons:

Ezring: While athleticism and traits are borderline-imperative to succeed in the NFL, technique and awareness are equally necessary. As a result, Steele’s projection to the league is currently limited. First and foremost, the USC starter tends to lose his assignment in man and zone coverage. He is too often out of position because of his inconsistent route and play recognition. In press coverage, Steele struggles because of his improper technique. His hands and feet are too often out of sync. Consequently, he lunges aggressively at receivers in an all-or-nothing attempt to jam them at the line. He, similarly, struggles to engage at the top of the route stem in soft press or off coverage. Moreover, Steele fails to properly leverage receivers at the line and consistently gives up inside separation. In fact, the four-star recruit has no answer for breaking routes if he fails to initiate contact. Additionally, Steele tends to bite on jab steps and other route salesmanship. He also can turn his hips late in off coverage. What’s more, the talented defender’s eyes sometimes drift into the backfield in man coverage. In zone coverage, Steele regularly exhibits inconsistent spatial awareness and zone discipline. The Trojan corner is not a reliable zone option. Against the run, Steele does not consistently beat blocks and regularly gives up on plays early. He takes poor angles to the tackle point and plays the ballcarrier’s inside leg. Steele also lacks power as a tackler.

Vandeventer: Against the run, he has poor hand usage when getting off blocks. Steele lacks overall confidence and doesn’t break down at the tackle point. Patient tackler to the degree that he appears to be avoiding contact. The corner rarely gets his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage, lunges too much, and hand placement can be questionable. Hips can ride high and get flat-footed while he waits for the receiver’s release in off coverage. Slow to open hips when facing quick and aggressive route stems. Receivers gain ground on him quickly, and that forces him to play from behind.

Summary:

Ezring: Although his athleticism offers solid starter potential, Chris Steele currently lacks the refinement to contribute in the league. What’s more, his inconsistent effort and tackling will likely limit his value on special teams. Steele is currently a developmental option.

Vandeventer: Off-ball corner who tracks the ball well yet has issues matching physical and aggressive receivers. When the ball is in the air, Steele does a good job tracking and using his hands to dislodge and disrupt the catch point. Steele has a number of ways he could see the field but is best fit to do so in a system that plays more off coverage and allows him to utilize his motor technique. Will have to improve as a tackler if he were to make an impact on special teams early on.

Here is another draft profile from nfldraftbuzz.com:

Strengths

Very aggressive attacking receiver blocks and tackles like a safety.

Has good foot quickness and short-area burst to work well in tight areas.

Extremely aggressive to come up and put his body in traffic to make tackles.

Aware zone cornerback who is also adept in man coverage, flashing physical hand punch at the line and straight-line speed to stay with receivers downfield.

Alert defender for zone coverage, showing good understanding of route progressions occurring behind him and a quick burst downhill to break on underneath passes in front of him.

Weaknesses

Inconsistent getting off of blocks. Can be a step slow to react when a quarterback comes back to his side of the field late in progression.

Vulnerable to big plays trying to bait the quarterback.

Will slip off tackles and needs to finish more consistently.

Has a high backpedal and loses a step in transition. Plays with adequate speed but there are concerns about his ability to handle the truly explosive speedsters of the NFL.

Questionable technique and he gets lazy with fundamentals, sometimes getting high in his backpedal and will breach the coverage call seeking flashy plays

Film:

To finish off the breakdown of Chris Steele, no evaluation is complete without film:

(WARNING: Videos could contain explicit lyrics)

Even after 15 years, Mike Tomlin still gets excited for offseason workouts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/17/2022 - 12:45pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tomlin still loves everything about being the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ever done something for 15 years? I’m talking about 15 years continuously, not a cumulative number?

Mike Tomlin has as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he doesn’t seem to be growing tired of the “same old, same old”.

If you are someone who has had a job/occupation for that duration of time, there are certainly aspects of your job which you have grown not to like. Things which maybe once brought you joy, but now bring you nothing but agony. I feel that comes with the territory after 15 years of doing anything.

While Tomlin might feel this way about some aspects of being an NFL head coach, putting his team through offseason workouts isn’t one of them.

Sure, we’re talking about football in shorts, but when the Steelers wrapped up their rookie minicamp this past Sunday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Tomlin talked about how he still gets up for these workouts after all this time.

“Man, it’s the beginning.” Tomlin said of the rookies’ journeys. “It’s the beginning for them. It’s the beginning for us. It’s the first exposure for them. It’s a dry run for us. From a coach’s perspective, we got a finite amount of material and given a finite amount of time to present it, just the vocational component of lesson planning and so forth. We’re all here to get better and it’s at the very beginning stages of team development. So, there is some excitement, some anxiety, an edge with the beginning process.”

Many of you reading this might be thinking, “But Jeff, it’s football in shorts. This isn’t real football. What can possibly be gleaned from these glorified walk-throughs?” Well, Tomlin spoke about many aspects where talent can be evaluated and assessed, but mainly at one position — wide receiver.

“Particularly at the wide receiver position, you glean a lot of that stuff on video, in some other positions, it’s more difficult, but at the wide receiver position, you have a pretty good understanding I think of those type of capabilities.” Tomlin said. “But make no mistake about it. Laying a first-hand eye on them in a venue like this confirms some of those things, but so does pro day travel. And that’s why getting out for pro days and seeing them in person and working at their universities prior to the draft is an important component for us.”

For the Steelers’ top draft pick, Kenny Pickett, the team got more than just a pro day glimpse of their new quarterback. Sharing a facility gave the Steelers an invaluable amount of access to the Pitt quarterback, but that doesn’t mean the coaching staff hasn’t gotten a new sense of what Pickett brings to the team over the course of the three-day minicamp.

“Not particularly with him, but obviously I got a heck of a lot more exposure to him.” Tomlin said about his first practices with Pickett in a Steelers practice uniform. “Particularly from a personal standpoint, the man, relative to some of his teammates.”

This is a new era of Steelers football in many ways. The post-Ben Roethlisberger era, and even the post-Kevin Colbert era, once the team announces their new General Manager (GM). But one thing is for certain, if you think for a second Mike Tomlin is sick and tired of his job after all these years, you’re dead wrong.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

Levi Wallace could be the Steelers secret secondary weapon

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/17/2022 - 11:30am
Levi Wallace the Steelers Secret Weapon | usa today

The former Buffalo Bill has the skills and the attitude to become a real quality starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers this coming season.

One of the Pittsburgh Steelers free agent acquisitions I am excited to see play this season is cornerback Levi Wallace. I honestly believe he could be the Steelers secret weapon in the secondary. Wallace has been put down and under estimated his whole career. Yet every challenge he has faced he has overcome; every barrier erected in his way he has climbed and beaten.

Levi Wallace is Mr Perseverance. Every time he has been put in a situation that needed him to battle and fight he has done it. He has character and determination, something that stands him in great stead to be a very good NFL cornerback. There also aren’t any glaring character questions surrounding Wallace. He went from playing flag football to the college football playoffs in just 3 years. And not with just any college, but with the college football juggernaut that is the Alabama Crimson Tide.

In his senior year, Wallace started 14 games for Alabama. He was a starter during the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship game, where Alabama won in overtime over familiar foes, Georgia Bulldogs, 26-23. Wallace totaled 48 tackles and had 3 interceptions in his senior year, he also played alongside Steelers elite star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. To go from where he was to a national champion shows the real character of this man.

After Wallace went undrafted in 2018, again he was faced with a challenge. Would he get an opportunity in the NFL, and, if he did, would he have the skills to succeed and get a roster spot? He was signed by the Buffalo Bills in 2018, he was cut in final cuts by the Bills but signed to their practice squad the very next day. After Phillip Gaines was released by the Bills, Wallace was promoted to the Bills roster. He went on to start in Week 10 versus the New York Jets, and Wallace finished his rookie season with 37 total tackles, 3 passes Defensed, and 7 starts. Wallace had once again battled back from been cut to become an NFL starter.

In the seasons that followed, Wallace went on to become a very reliable and important part of the Bills secondary playing opposite TreDavious White. In his four years in Buffalo, he started 52 games, had six career interceptions, 30 passes defensed, two quarterback hits and 219 total tackles. In his last season when White went down injured, Wallace took on the CB1 mantle and played with great authority and skill. No matter who the Bills drafted or signed in free agenecy, Wallace always overcame the challenge he was given to retain his starting spot. His determination is amazing and his skill level is very good, so much so Bills fans were gutted when it was revealed he was leaving to go to Pittsburgh.

Levi Wallace, has all the skills to be an excellent cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. He’s 6 ft, has a great jab, and good full arm extension. Wallace has fluid and excellent feet for a cornerback, in addition he has a good closing burst when chasing wide receivers. He also has excellent vision to read routes and cover. His football intelligence is excellent as well. With this skill set, along with his character, I have no doubt Wallace can become an excellent addition for the Steelers.

Wallace will probably play as an outside cornerback alongside either Cam Sutton or Akhello Witherspoon. With these three cornerbacks. I think the Steelers could likely prove some of the doubters and naysayers wrong who may see the lack of a real genuine CB1 as a weakness.

I personally have exceptionally high hopes for Levi Wallace and I’m looking forward to seeing him play in the black and gold.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after signing 4 draftees

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/17/2022 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With more than half of their draft class under contract, and with four roster spots swapped out on Monday, the effect on the Steelers’ 2022 salary cap was minimal.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have filled up their 90-man offseason roster heading into the 2022 NFL season. While there still could be some significant swapping of players, the biggest news will likely be contracts in the coming weeks with the signing of draft picks. As reports come in of these deals well before they are official, even after pen is put to paper it can sometimes take some time to know the exact financials within the contract. Relying heavily on reliable salary cap websites such as overthecap.com or spotrac.com, when they are able to report a player’s contract numbers over the specific years I then update the salary cap situation with a more precise number.

To clear some other contract issues out of the way, the Steelers waved guard Malcolm Pridgeon and signed lineman Trenton Scott over the weekend. Pridgeon was not in the top 51 contracts, and there is no report at this time on the deal with Scott.

On Monday, the Steelers exchanged four players on the roster by adding some players who had tryouts at rookie minicamp and releasing others. Out of all the contracts, the most significant was that of veteran outside linebacker John Simon, but his $895k is simply the amount that are currently being displaced and ultimately has no bearing on the salary cap.

Additionally, the Steelers have now signed more than half of their 2022 draft class. With sixth-round pick Connor Heyward, and seventh-round selections Mark Robinson and Chris Oladokun signing over the weekend, they are all locked in with a base salary of $705k and each have a varying signing bonus based on where they were selected. Connor Heyward’s signing bonus comes in just over $155k while Mark Robinson has just over $112k and Chris Oladokun is just shy of $90k. Based on these numbers, none of these players have a salary cap hit for 2020 to above $750k and fall well outside of the top 51 salaries on the Steelers at this time.

The only player remaining which actually does have an effect on the Steelers salary cap was the first draftee to sign. As a second-round draft pick, George Pickens has the same base salary as all the other first-year players, but has a much larger signing bonus based on where he was selected. As reported by OTC, Pickens’ signing bonus is $2,090,680. Based on his salary and splitting up his signing bonus over the four years of his contract, Pickens has a $1,227,670 cap number for 2022.

It should be noted that Pickens actual cap number comes in lower than what was estimated by OTC based on his draft position and the rookie salary pool. Pickens actually comes in almost $100k less than the estimate, which is good news for the Steelers even if the difference is minor.

If you are looking for the added salary cap due to the rest of the 2022 draftees, they will not be included at this time as they have not signed their contracts. But based on the structure of rookie salaries in the latest CBA, the estimated dollar amounts are known for 2022. Therefore, an explanation as to how much the remaining rookies will cost is given at the bottom of the article.

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2022. Players who were released, were given a tender, or had their exact salary reported are indicated below and the precise numbers are known.

(NOTE: Unless indicated, reported salaries displaced a $825k salary.)

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $28.8 million

Dwayne Haskins: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$1.715 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $1.5175 million; After displacement: -$0.6925 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $1.535 million; After displacement: -$0.71 million
Mitch Trubisky: Reported $3.66 million; After displacement+: -$2.765 million
Mason Cole: Reported $2.556666 million; After displacement+: -$1.661666 million
Chuks Okorafor: Reported $4.333333 million; After displacement: -$3.508333 million
Robert Spillane: Tendered $2.433 million salary; After displacement: -$1.608 million
Marcus Allen: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement: -$1.715 million
James Daniels: Reported $4.166666 million; After displacement: -$3.341666 million
Levi Wallace: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement*: -$1.672317 million
Montravius Adams: Reported $1.7675 million; After displacement+: -$0.8725 million
Zach Banner: Saved $5 million salary; After displacement: +$4.175 million
Myles Jack: Reported $4.75 million; After displacement*: -$3.90139 million
Joe Schobert: Saved $7.834 million salary; After displacement+: +$6.939 million
Ahkello Witherspoon: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement+: -$1.6225 million
Gunner Olszewski: Reported $1.5825 million; After displacement+: -$0.6875 million
Genard Avery: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
Karl Joseph: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Miles Boykin: Reported $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$0
Terrell Edmunds: Reported $1.1875 million; After displacement+: -$0.2925
Damontae Kazee: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
George Pickens: Reported $1.22767 million; After displacement+: -$0.33267
Trenton Scott: Not reported

Estimated salary cap space: Approximately $12.5 million

*The salaries displaced by these two contracts were $845,183 (Tre Norwood) and $848,610 (Pressley Harvin)

+A $895k contract was displaced

++Displaced by each other, giving no change to the cap

So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites (at the original time of publishing, before any potential updates)?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $12,522,040 under the salary cap. In case you didn’t notice, our numbers are exactly the same down to the dollar.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $10,709,436 under the cap. Spotrac has the above contracts except for Kazee, but also has Miles Boykin’s prorated bonus incorrectly counting for the Steelers instead of it sticking with the Ravens. Spotrac does not have the offseason workouts counting against the salary cap at this time either. Additionally, Spotrac counts the potential dead money hits of players outside the top 51 salaries in their totals. The biggest difference is they have all of Isaiah John’s and Bryce Watts’ full salaries counting in the injured reserve category as they were waived/injured recently. The Steelers are likely to reach an injury settlement with both players, and even if they do spend 2022 on IR it will not likely be for the full amount of their salary. While these numbers are significant, they generally are things that are covered in the $5 million the Steelers like to have to do business during the season.

What about the 2022 rookies?

Now that the 2022 NFL draft is over, it is known that the Steelers stayed with their designated selections. Based on their draft choices, the rookie contracts signed this offseason will only have three salaries out of the seven drafted players and 10 undrafted free agents that will land in the top 51. Only Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, and DeMarvin Leal should have a 2022 cap hit that will put them in the top 51. Now that Pickens salary have been taken into account, the only remaining ones affecting the salary cap are for Pickett and Leal. After factoring in displacement, their contracts together will count approximately $2.1 million towards the salary cap based on the rookie pool estimate chart provided by OTC. Since these other two contracts are not signed yet, they will not be included at this time until the precise dollar amounts are known. Even if taking these amounts into account, the Steelers would still have approximately $10.44 million left in salary cap space.

The Steelers will need as much as an additional $10.8 million come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year as outlined in the following article:

Based on this number, the Steelers are within a reasonable range of what they need for the 2022 season at this time without freeing up any other money. Even though there could be some dead money in contracts with players not making the 53-man roster, it should be offset even more by larger contracts of players who are waived. Also, a Minkah Fitzpatrick extension would likely lower his 2022 cap hit if he and the Steelers can reach an agreement.

Does something not make sense? Curious about any of the specifics? Leave your questions in the comments below and I will check in and do my best to answer them.

Mitch Trubisky as the Week 1 starter is the ideal result to the Steelers’ quarterback competition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/17/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

Why Mitchell Trubisky, not Kenny Pickett, is the ideal result of the Steelers’ QB competition.

Pittsburgh held its minicamp this past weekend for rookie draft picks, undrafted free agents and a handful of try-out candidates. Not much can be gleaned from what was essentially a football tutorial is shorts. Still, it was the first opportunity to see top selection Kenny Pickett as a member of the Steelers. By all accounts, the young quarterback afforded himself well.

Fellow rookie Connor Heyward lauded Pickett’s demeanor, saying “He had everybody on the same page, and his presence in the huddle was really good.” Pickett talked about feeling comfortable with an offense that retained some similarities to the one coordinator Matt Canada ran at Pitt when he recruited Pickett there in 2016. Granted, it’s May, and the vast majority of the weekend’s participants will be long gone by the time rosters are set in September. Still, it was a positive debut for Pickett, who, according to head coach Mike Tomlin, will be given a chance to compete for the starting job with veterans Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph. It will be the first legitimate quarterback competition in Pittsburgh since Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart and Mike Tomczak fought it out in 1996.

While the notion of a competition is exciting, it also presents challenges. Finding enough practice reps in meaningful situations to make a fair evaluation of three quarterbacks will be tricky. With practice time limited by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the players and owners, the evaluation process must be precise. Canada, in particular, must script his training camp sessions meticulously to garner the information he needs about each candidate. Can he get enough reps for each in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills to make a fair judgement? And, by splitting things three ways, will he deprive the eventual winner of meaningful reps that could be useful come September? Ben Roethlisberger often skipped practices as a veteran who needed rest more than reps. The opposite is true of the three players competing to be his heir. The reps are crucial to each of them, both for their own sake and the continuity of the offense. The faster the coaching staff decides on a winner, the better for everyone.

What of that competition, then? Who might win it? The player who gets off to the fastest start and who shows the best command of the playbook will undoubtedly have an advantage. That would seem to favor Rudolph, who has played for Canada for two seasons, including one with Canada as coordinator, and is more familiar with his system than Trubisky or Pickett. Yet Rudolph is probably the player the Steelers are least inclined to favor. If they were optimistic about Rudolph, they wouldn’t have committed $14 million to Trubisky and spent their 1st Round pick on Pickett. The fact no one in the organization endorsed Rudolph or gave him a vote of confidence in the two months between Roethlisberger’s retirement and Trubisky signing as a free agent speaks volumes. It may indeed be an open competition, but it’s hard to believe the Steelers want Rudolph to win it.

That suggestion is likely to rankle some around BTSC who feel Rudolph is being unfairly written off. Personally, I don’t care who wins the quarterback competition so long as it’s the player the team feels is best positioned to lead them out of the gate in September. The Steelers do not do sabotage, so if Rudolph is that guy, I believe they will start him.

Their actions, however, suggest they’d prefer to roll with Pickett or Trubisky. Given their investment in those players, Rudolph will probably have to win decisively to get the nod. He will have to play far above who he has shown himself to be — namely, someone whose 5-4-1 record as a starter, 61.5 career completion percentage and 16:11 touchdown-to-interception ratio suggests mediocrity — for the Steelers to relegate Trubisky and Pickett to backup duties. It seems unlikely Rudolph can elevate his performance to that degree, especially since he’s better suited as a traditional pocket passer in the Roethlisberger mold than as a movement-based quarterback who fits Canada’s system. For him to win the competition, it would probably also take both Trubisky and Pickett falling short of expectations. This would be a terrible result for the Steelers, as it would suggest a misdiagnosis, at least initially, of two players in whom they have invested significant capital. For these reasons, Rudolph feels like the “break glass in case of emergency” option.

As for Pickett, I don’t believe anyone in the organization would be disappointed if he played so well they felt compelled to give him the job. Pickett was drafted as the future starter, so if he convinced them to accelerate that process why would they object? After all, the thing that made Pickett appealing was his pro readiness. He is not a player with a huge learning curve to navigate. This made him preferable to Malik Willis, whom many believe needs time to acclimate to the NFL game. If pro readiness was a factor in Pittsburgh’s decision, it stands to reason they’d be comfortable playing Pickett right away.

That’s a cautionary tale, however. Recent quarterbacks to start in Week 1 of their rookie season include Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones. Of that group, only Burrow had what could be described as a stellar rookie season, even though it ended in Week 11 with a knee injury. Wentz played well at times in Philadelphia, and Jones was decent in New England. The others scuffled on bad teams. Winston, Mariota, Wentz and Darnold all failed to establish themselves as franchise quarterbacks and have since bounced around the league. Murray has been good, but not great, in Arizona and is said to be feuding with the organization. It’s too early to tell with Lawrence, Wilson and Jones. At the moment, only Burrow seems to be living up to the expectations of the team who drafted him.

The Steelers are poised to have five new starters on offense, including three on the line. They also open the season with three games in 11 days, each of which presents a daunting challenge for a rookie quarterback. Week 1 is a road contest at Cincinnati, where the Bengals will play for the first time since winning the AFC Championship last January. The environment will be hostile, to say the least. In Week 2, the Steelers play the New England Patriots. While the game is at home, Bill Belichick is 24-6 against rookie quarterbacks since taking over as head coach in New England. Then, in Week 3, Pittsburgh has just three days to prepare for a Thursday night contest at Cleveland. The last thing the Steelers want is an 0-3 start with Pickett at the helm and immediate questions about whether he should be the starter.

Which brings us to Trubisky. Like Rudolph, the word that best defines his career so far is “mediocre.” However, Trubisky was dealt a bad hand in Chicago, where Matt Nagy did a poor job of developing him. He is said to have matured last season in Buffalo and to have learned a great deal from coordinator Brian Daboll and quarterback Josh Allen. Most importantly, Trubisky was hand-selected by the Steelers to run Canada’s offense. They signed him just hours after the legal free agent tampering period began, indicating he was the prime target in their quarterback search. Trubisky will have to prove he is the best choice to start in Week 1. But, considering Pittsburgh’s pursuit of him and the contract to which he was signed, it stands to reason he has the inside track for the job.

With Trubisky as the starter, the quarterback competition would end logically. He is the proverbial “bridge” quarterback, brought here to hold down the fort until Pickett is ready to take over. If Trubisky proves himself capable, the Steelers can bring Pickett along slowly. They can ease him into the starting lineup at a time that is most conducive to his growth and development rather than asking him to command an offense in transition against an unfavorable schedule. Plus, their signing of Trubisky will not be for naught. He will have validated their investment and served his purpose.

Mitchell Trubisky may not be the ideal quarterback for the Steelers over the long term. But for now, Trubisky emerging victorious would be the ideal result to their quarterback competition.

The Steelers new “Face of the Franchise” candidates

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/17/2022 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot of new talent in the Steel City. With all the recent turnover, who are players that have a shot to be THE GUY in Pittsburgh?

“Mean” Joe Greene. Terry Bradshaw. Troy Polamalu. Ben Roethlisberger. That’s just a short list of the players in Pittsburgh Steelers lore who have all been labeled as the “Face of the Franchise”. In 2022, it’s a new era in Pittsburgh, after the retirement of a franchise legend at the game’s most important position, and the arrival of a young core of talented athletes.

So who are the top candidates in the building to be the next “Face of the Franchise”? Is that title already claimed? Let’s take a look.

Most Recent Title Holder: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

New Candidates:

T.J. Watt

The top candidate in this list may already have a vice-like hold on the title after tying the single-season sack record (22.5) in 2021 despite only playing in 15 games. Watt is on pace to shatter every Steelers pass-rushing record there is, starting with sacks where his 72 career quarterback (QB) takedowns is only 8.5 short of James Harrison’s career total (80.5). And T.J. has only been at it for 5 years!

Cam Heyward

The defense’s vocal leader for the majority of the last decade, Cam is still one of the most dominant players at his position in the entire NFL. As the longest tenured Steeler on the Roster, his claim to the title of Face of the Franchise is strong. When you think “Steelers Defense” you can’t help but picture Cam.

Najee Harris

The Steelers 2021 First Round Pick is already one of the league’s best backs and brightest offensive stars. He definitely is the leading candidate to be the face of the Offense in 2022 with so much uncertainty at QB and a roster bereft of a powerhouse veteran presence on that side of the football. The Steelers attack will go as far as Najee Harris will carry it in 2022. Literally.

Kenny Pickett

The 20th overall pick has some massive shoes to fill, but he seems to have the mental wherewithal to take that pressure and run with it. Although not officially crowned as the heir at QB, all indications point to him getting every opportunity to secure that title. If he does, and does it well, you might be able to add the title Face of the Franchise to his status as well.

Dark Horse Candidate:

Mitch Trubisky

Just a few months ago, Steelers Nation was enamored with the career resurrection of the former 2nd overall pick. Enter Pickett, and the conversation naturally shifted away from the embattled vet to the exciting Rookie. But while fans of the Black and Gold go to sleep on him, Trubisky could be busy prepping a rebound for the ages. What a story that would be for the Chicago castoff to become the unlikely face of the Steelers franchise.

Take to the comments Steelers Nation for your thoughts on the future Face of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and don’t forget to answer the poll question below.

The Steelers will play many 1 p.m. games next season, just like it’s supposed to be

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/17/2022 - 6:00am
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Steelers will play eleven games that start at 1 p.m. EST in 2022. This is the best time for football to be played.

When the NFL and the Steelers announced their full slate of regular-season games last Thursday, I wasn’t expecting to be surprised or happy.

Why would I be? I often write articles that mock the annual schedule reveal and how it takes away from so many other things that, in my opinion, are far more noteworthy.

Like blinking, for example.

Yet, I was very pleasantly surprised, to the point that I’ve now written my third article on the subject.

Why? The Steelers will play 11 games that kick off at 1 p.m. EST, which, as the title suggests, is the time of day God originally envisioned football to be played when He created the NFL in a showroom in Canton, Ohio, way back in 1920.

Call me a sap, but there’s just something about watching a football game at 1 ‘o clock on a Sunday afternoon. This is especially the case early in the season when fall is on the doorstep, the leaves are turning brown, the smell of freshly-cut grass is hanging in the air, and there’s a cool, crisp breeze coming through your open living room window.

These games often include broadcast crews that aren’t the network’s A units, but when I was a kid, those crews included talented folks like NBC’s Don Crique as the play-by-play man and Bob Trumpy as the color analyst. Just listen to this opening of a game between the Browns and Bengals back in 1986 and tell me that doesn’t scream 1 p.m. EST. Can you just picture it? You’re sitting in your recliner, you’re drinking a beer (or Capri Sun in those days), the sun is shining through your window, and you’re as content as can be.

I think I’m even happier about the fact that Pittsburgh will not have any 4:15 or 4:25 p.m. games this year (as of this writing, anyway). That’s the most annoying time to start a game, other than Thursday night, of course. Why? It’s right in the middle of the day. And when do you normally have to do stuff? Right in the middle of the day. If I miss all or a portion of any Steelers game, it’s usually one that starts after 4 p.m. EST.

I even like 1 p.m. games more than Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football (although, MNF is way cooler than SNF).

You can’t tell me you don’t love 1 p.m. EST games, too, especially if you’re in another country. What about BSTC’s own Owen David? He hails from England, which is five hours ahead of the eastern time zone. A 1 p.m. EST game in America is a 6 p.m. game in England. Not bad. But an 8 p.m. EST game in America is a 1 a.m. game in England.

I love the Steelers and am a Pittsburgh native—I could drive to Heinz Field in 10 minutes—but if they ever had a game that started at 1 a.m. EST, I would catch the box score in the morning.

Primetime starts are overhyped, anyway. What if you want to go to the game and tailgate for hours and hours before the kickoff? Not only is the game over by the time you come to in the back of your friend’s car, but it’s the middle of the night, and some woman is mooning you through the window for some reason.

Stuff like that happens less at 1 p.m. kickoffs.

Finally, I’m already looking forward to the first game of the season—a 1 p.m. EST affair against the Bengals—and sitting in my recliner with my feet up.

Just like God intended.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/17/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website, but now we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said or typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

BAD Language: Be careful with the “B” word

Everybody’s got an opinion. Some subscribe to conventional wisdom. others are ill-informed, while some are unorthodox and way out there. So, BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis decided to make no apologies and share his black-and-gold brand of enlightenment. Join BAD preaching his own gospel of the hypocycloids on the new show, BAD Language. This week, it’s all about the insistence of the sports world and Steeler Nation to bust out the “B” word early.

  • News and Notes
  • Be careful with the premature bust label
  • A visit from Britsburgh Owen, Voice from Across the Pond
  • and MUCH MORE!
Steelers Hangover: The effect of big personalities on a rebooted Steelers locker room

What will the Steelers locker room look like without Ben Roethlisberger and with big personalities entering in? Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White discuss this and more on the latest edition of the Monday show from the Behind the Steel Curtain Family of podcasts, The Steelers Hangover.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Big personalities in the Steelers locker room
  • and MUCH MORE!
From the Steelers’ Cutting Room Floor: Strengths and Weaknesses of the Steelers running back room

Najee Harris is an extraordinary running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. No. 22 is an absolute strength, but are there any other aspects of the position room to brag about? Geoffery Benedict examines this and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Strengths and Weaknesses of the Steelers running back room
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Steelers make roster moves following rookie minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/16/2022 - 2:16pm
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers made some roster moves after they wrapped up their rookie minicamp Sunday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off their three-day rookie minicamp which ended Sunday. This was the first chance to get a glimpse of the seven drafted players in the 2022 NFL Draft, and the 10 Undrafted Rookie Free Agents (UDFAs) who were signed shortly after the draft.

But those aren’t the only player who were participating in rookie minicamp over the weekend. The Steelers, like all NFL teams, extend try-out invitations to players who are just trying to find a football home.

Almost every season the team will feel the potential they have in a try-out player is better than someone on a Reserve/Future contract. Therefore, they sign the try-out player and have to release another player to make room on the ever-changing 90-man offseason roster.

2022 was no different and the Steelers have made some roster moves as the team prepares for the rest of Phase 2 of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

We have made the following roster moves:
• Signed DT Trevon Mason, CB Carlins Platel, K Nick Sciba, WR Tyler Snead
• Waived WR Rico Bussey, K Sam Sloman
• Terminated vested veteran LB John Simon
• Waived/injured DB Bryce Watts@BordasLaw https://t.co/gJ27j14D4Z

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 16, 2022

The players released were:

WR Rico Bussey

K Sam Sloman

LB John Simon

DB Bryce Watts (Inured)

The players signed were:

DT Trevon Mason

CB Carlins Platel

K Nick Sciba

WR Tyler Snead

What’s next for the Steelers? They continue to move through the three phases of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). The Steelers are currently in Phase 2, and will be moving into Phase 3 in the coming weeks. During this time is when the Steelers will hold their mandatory minicamp. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold!

Kenny Pickett’s situation with the Steelers not deemed the best in the NFL for rookie QBs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/16/2022 - 12:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Think Kenny Pickett has the best situation of all the rookie quarterbacks? Not according to PFF...

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a strong statement in the 2022 NFL Draft when they selected Kenny Pickett out of the University of Pittsburgh. The statement wasn’t just how they took the player who practiced right next door for five years, but also the fact the Steelers had all available quarterbacks open to them and they chose Pickett.

Pickett finds himself in a pretty good spot with the Steelers. With Ben Roethlisberger officially retired after 18 seasons, Pickett will be the next quarterback, and face of the franchise, in either 2022 or 2023.

A pretty good landing spot, most would assume, but not the folks at Pro Football Focus (PFF). No, in ranking the best landing spots/situations for the Top 5 quarterbacks in the 2022 draft, Pickett landing in Pittsburgh wasn’t considered the best.

Why? Well, see what PFF had to say about Pickett landing with the Steelers:

2. KENNY PICKETT, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Even if the offensive line he’s getting thrown behind placed 26th in PFF’s final rankings last year, there are a number of reasons why this was still an ideal scenario for Pickett. The first is obviously comfortability. Pickett took 1,054 drop backs at Heinz Field for the Pittsburgh Panthers and earned an 85.5 passing grade (compared to a 73.6 on the road in college). The second reason is the Steelers’ revamped receiving corps, featuring Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens and Calvin Austin III. That has the potential to be the most dynamic group on this list. The final reason is stability. Now, that may not apply to offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who is on the hot seat after the way that offense performed last season, but it does apply to Mike Tomlin, who isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The one worry is that Pickett’s 8.5-inch hands couldn’t have gone to a worse landing spot to alleviate the fumbling issues he showed in college. Every single team in the AFC North plays its games in cold-weather outdoor stadiums. And before you say, “he played there in college what’s the big deal?” understand that the latest game he ever played in Pittsburgh came in November and he’ll play six games later than that next season.

That’s right folks. The reason for Pickett not finding himself in the best landing spot is due to his hand size. Wondering how the Top 5 shook out, according to PFF? take a look below:

Top 5 QB landing spots

1. Sam Howell, Washington Commanders
2. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Malik Willis, Tennessee Titans
4. Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots
5. Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons

When you look at the above quarterbacks, each player finds themselves in a unique situation. For Howell, he will be playing behind Carson Wentz, someone the Commanders traded with the Colts to get. Willis is behind entrenched starter Ryan Tannehill, and Zappe behind Mac Jones who is going into this second season as the starter. Ridder was the second quarterback taken in the draft, and might have as good a chance as Pickett to play. In Atlanta Ridder is behind Marcus Mariota, and would likely be in a similar situation as Pickett in Pittsburgh.

Most people love to bash the 2022 quarterback class, but only time will tell if any of these players will pan out and be regular starters in the NFL. In the meantime, Pickett, and all of his fellow quarterback classmates, will try to carve out their own niche in the NFL with their respective teams.

Do you think Pickett’s landing spot was the best? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on throughout the offseason.

Antonio Brown’s latest cryptic tweet involves the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/16/2022 - 11:48am
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have long parted ways with disgruntled wide receiver Antonio Brown, but Brown has put the Steelers back on his timeline recently.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team who hasn’t thought about Antonio Brown in a long time. As for the fan base, I’m sure Brown’s continued antics have made them think about his exit out of Pittsburgh a time or two.

Whether you love him, hate him or just feel bad for him, Brown is a lightning rod of controversy at every turn. Whether it was his departure from Pittsburgh, then forcing his way out of Oakland to being suspended with the Patriots. Upon reinstatement, Brown looked to have righted the ship and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

That was until he literally walked off the field last season during a game vs. the New York Jets.

Since that incident, Brown has appeared on a number of podcasts, and his social media behavior has proven to be as erratic as one would expect. On Monday, Brown put out a tweet which did something he hasn’t done in a long time — mentioned the Steelers.

Here is what he said around noon Monday:

Just wanna Retire A Steeler

— AB (@AB84) May 16, 2022

You can read this tweet a million different ways.

  • Some read it as Brown looking to retire from football, and wanting a one-day contract to end his career where he had the best years of his professional career.
  • Some see it as Brown trying to work his way back to the Steelers’ roster.
  • Others chalk it up to more nonsense being spewed by Brown via social media.
  • All while others feel it is Brown just trying to remain relevant and get people to talk about him.

If it was the latter, mission accomplished, Mr. Brown.

Either way, it is highly doubtful the Steelers would want Brown, and his proverbial baggage, associated with the organization anytime soon. And that would also be if Brown was hanging up his cleats and wanted to retire as a member of the Steelers. Sure, he was one of the most prolific wide receivers in team history, but with the bridges burned on his way out you have to wonder if the Steelers would even feel obliged to honor such a simple request.

In the meantime, let the speculation of this tweet begin until Brown says something else on social media to cause a stir.

Would you welcome Brown back to retire as a Steeler? How about have him back on the current roster? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

UPDATE

Lucky for us, Brown responded to some tweets and notified fans he has no interest in wanting to play for the Steelers, only to retire as a Steeler.

Translation: I only want to retire as a Pittsburgh Steeler, not play for them….just so we’re all clear.

— AB Translator (@MessengerMan2) May 16, 2022

Pages

Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator