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It looks like Ben Roethlisberger is coming back, and that’s a tough break for Steelers fans

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/27/2021 - 11:30am
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It looks like the Steelers will employee quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for at least another season. What a tough break.

“They want Ben back and will contact me soon to address his cap situation. As we’ve shared since the season ended, we are happy to creatively adjust his contract to help them build the best team possible.”

That quote, courtesy of Steelers insider and NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala, was from Ryan Tollner, Ben Roethlisberger’s agent, who seemed to provide the final evidence earlier in the week that the veteran quarterback will indeed return for 2021.

Tough break.

Like you, I know I was ready to move on from Roethlisberger and his 33 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in 2020. I wanted the clock to begin on the Steelers’ future immediately. We’re talking cap room, a possible trade for someone like Marcus Mariota and the re-signing of Bud Dupree, a player now in therapy over the love/hate feelings from the fans since he was drafted in 2015. “First they loved me, then they hated me, now they love me again? I want to sign with Jacksonville where the fans don’t notice professional football players, like at all.”

I was hoping 2021 would be a bridge year, one in which we got to find out about Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins and I mentioned Martiota, right? Best case scenario: The winner of that quarterback competition would surely have flamed out so badly, Pittsburgh may have finished with a draft choice high enough that we all could have started our 2022 mock drafts by Halloween.

And most of those mock drafts undoubtedly would have had the Steelers selecting whoever is going to be next spring’s Trevor Lawrence.

Heck, forget about next year’s crop of quarterbacks, if we found out that Roethlisberger wasn’t going to be back for 2021, legit draft crushes may have been allowed to grow for passing prospects in this year’s class. “In my latest mock draft, the Steelers trade up to get their new Ben: The Trevor Lawrence edition.”

Oh well. I guess we’ll have to settle for a team with a quarterback who may actually allow it to compete in 2021, a future Hall of Famer who will now have a normal offseason to prepare without worrying about whether or not his surgically repaired elbow will fail him at any second.

The Steelers will now have to focus their free-agent resources on players to put around Roethlisberger, like offensive linemen, for example. They’ll have to use their first first-round pick in two years on a position other than quarterback, maybe even cornerback—nooooooooo!!!!!!

But, fear not, because there is still hope. Just like with Art Rooney’s statement and Kevin Colbert’s statement, Tollner didn’t offer anything official, anything concrete. He just reiterated what two of Roethlisberger’s bosses had already said. They want Big Ben back but not at the same big bucks. Maybe they still won’t be able to work things out in the end.

Besides, as far as we know, Rooney or Colbert could be the person within the Steelers organization who doesn't want Roethlisberger back. Maybe it’s Mike Tomlin, who has a lot of clout. Even better, it could be T.J. Watt, a Watt brother, who doesn’t want Roethlisberger to come back.

Bottom line, if someone of influence within the Steelers organization offers up enough resistance, the Roethlisberger era in Pittsburgh may soon be over, after all.

Don’t throw away those newly-printed “Got Six Wins?” t-shirts, just yet.

Relax and continue to BENLEAVE!!!!

Steelers Podcast: Ben Roethlisberger coming back is a good thing...or is it?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/27/2021 - 11:00am

There is plenty to discuss on the latest episode of the popular podcast Steelers Six Pack w/ Tony.

Ben Roethlisberger is supposedly coming back. Good idea? Plus, draft stuff, network stuff, all kinds of good Steelers talk on this episode of Steelers Friday Night Six Pack!!! Join Tony under the lights of Friday night as he discusses more than just the Steelers with plenty of answers to questions from the fan base. Welcome to Steelers Friday Six Pack with Tony as the veteran BTSC contributor discusses the Steelers so far and beyond.

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

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • What I really think about Ben Roethlisberger returning in 2021
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

The criticism of Ben Roethlisberger needs to be put into perspective

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/27/2021 - 9:30am
Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

The Steelers’ signal caller is far from perfect, but some want to make him out to where he couldn’t start on a JV high school team.

There have been plenty of opinions about the ability of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger following the 2020 NFL season. Now that it appears both the Steelers and Roethlisberger are moving towards making his contract work for the 2021 season, even more opinions in regards to the Steelers’ quarterbacks on-field play have been fast and furious.

Some of these opinions have been valid points. Some of them have just been awful takes. For example, here is one which calls Steelers’ team president Art Rooney II a “liar” about Roethlisberger. You can judge for yourself:

It appears the #Steelers are now openly lying about what's left of Ben Roethlisberger's ability as a QB.

Team president Art Rooney II: "His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever."

Ben had a career low 6.3 yards per attempt in

— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 26, 2021

I pointed it out on the BTSC Twitter page the flaw in the above analysis. Trying to say Roethlisberger doesn’t have any arm strength based on this throw is both ridiculous and unfair. For anyone paying attention, it was obviously a miscommunication between Roethlisberger and wide receiver Diontae Johnson as to exactly when he should break out to the sidelines in his route. The fact that the ball was thrown short wasn’t because Roethlisberger couldn’t make the throw as he had other throws much farther downfield than this throughout this particular game.

Ah yes. Let’s find a play where the QB and WR are obviously not on the same page as he thought the WR should break out much sooner based on the defender. Let’s now try to make a completely different point out of the play and make a blanket statement in regards to the future ‍♂️

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) February 26, 2021

As for the statistic of Roethlisberger having a career-low 6.3 yards per attempt this past season, there are many factors which could have been the explanation for the number. While it very well could have been arm strength, it could have also been offensive scheme/philosophy, the look the defense was giving, or struggles on the offensive line. Although it could have been one or a combination of any of these factors, laying it all on one issue in which we have limited inside knowledge is exactly the problem when it comes to this type of analysis.

In my closing thoughts of the Steelers Preview podcast on Thursday night, I reminded our listeners that, although many are well-informed and have valid opinions, we generally don’t have more than 60% of the information in order to come to a full conclusion on many issues dealing with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Imagine you were eating at a restaurant and have a food allergy. You ask what the ingredients are in one particular, complicated dish. Who are you going to trust more to answer, the waiter or the chef? It’s not that the waiter can’t give a correct answer, but the chef has much more of the detailed information.

What do I mean by this? Let’s take the example of the Steelers throwing the ball down the field towards the end of 2020. Exactly why was it the short passing game the Steelers were going to all the time? It could have been because of earlier success, lack of confidence in the deep ball, lack of time to throw the ball, inept playcalling/scheme, or any other of a number of factors.

The “why” of the matter is ultimately what we don’t have all the information about when it comes to this decision. Do you know who does have all the information? The Pittsburgh Steelers. They know why they chose to do these things, and if these things were not the right way to go they have the best answer in order to fix them. The fact the Steelers are wanting to bring back Ben Roethlisberger but chose to move on from their offensive coordinator could be an indication. Additionally, how much the Steelers invest in the offensive line during free agency and the 2021 NFL draft will also be another telling sign.

The bottom line is, we may think Ben Roethlisberger can or can’t do certain things anymore. But is it all on Roethlisberger? Are there other factors? While we can speculate, that is merely the best we can do.

Many of us think that we have all the answers in order to fix the Pittsburgh Steelers for 2021. Frankly, we can’t have all those answers because we don’t even know all of the information to be able to implement the proper fixes. Of course there are things that are obvious such as the Steelers completely inept rushing attack. When looking at other intricacies such as personal usage in certain passing packages or even the Steelers use of a full back, we don’t have all the knowns and must fill in the rest with what we have as our best estimate.

Ben Roethlisberger is not a perfect quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger is not the quarterback he was 10 years ago. Ben Roethlisberger is also not a quarterback who can’t throw the ball more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Beware of those who find Roethlisberger's infallible. Also beware of those who find Roethlisberger disastrous. Those who have assessments on the extreme ends of the spectrum are likely filling in the unknowns unfairly.

Trust the assessment of the franchise who has all the information that they are making the best decision. If all the problems down the stretch for the Steelers last year were the fault of Ben Roethlisberger, those who have all the information would not have decided they want him back for another season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers drop rates were alarming in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/27/2021 - 8:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ receivers struggled to hold onto the football in 2020, and the numbers are even worse than you might think.

There were moments of brilliance from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receivers in 2020, and moments of utter disappointment.

During the Steelers’ worst stretch of the season, a trend developed among the pass catchers on the team. They simply couldn’t hold onto the ball, especially when it mattered the most. Brutal drops killed drives, eliminated moment and had a heavy hand in the team losing 5 of their last 6 games.

You don’t need to remind Steelers fans of the dropped passes, trust me, they remember. But when you look at the numbers you can see just how bad the drops were in 2020. Check out the drop rates among Steelers pass catchers in 2020, courtesy of the Steelers Pro Football Focus (PFF) Twitter page:

Drop Rates among #Steelers

➤ Diontae Johnson - 13.7%
➤ James Washington - 11.8%
➤ Eric Ebron - 11.1%
➤ James Conner - 10.3%
➤ Chase Claypool - 6.1%
➤ JuJu Smith-Schuster - 3%

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) February 15, 2021

The worst of the above players is no doubt Dionate Johnson. Sure, he is atop the list, but it goes beyond leading the team in this category. Johnson also had more targets than Chase Claypool, Eric Ebron and James Washington. It gives him more opportunities to drop the football, which he did plenty of last season, but it also gives him a tremendous amount of opportunities to turn that percentage around.

When you look at dropped passes throughout Ben Roethlisberger’s career, the numbers are even more glaring when you look at the 2018-2019 season compared to 2020. This, again, from PFF:

Ben Roethlisberger # of dropped passes:
2018 - 2019: 26
2020: 41

— PFF (@PFF) February 19, 2021

To be fair, Roethlisberger didn’t even play two full games in 2019, but the complete 2018 season combined with the season opener in New England in 2019 totaled just 26 dropped passes. 41 total drops in 2020 is simply inexcusable, and something which should be considered when you consider Ben Roethlisberger’s season as a whole.

Fans love to point to the Steelers’ losing steam down the stretch, and most point to Roethlisberger as the main culprit, but it wasn’t as if he was getting bailed out from his pass catchers. In fact, it was the total opposite.

If the Steelers hope to right the ship in 2021, as an offense, it will have to start with those responsible for catching the football to do their jobs better. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

If there is a Steelers bias in the Hall of Fame, does it also exist for other franchises?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/27/2021 - 6:30am
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a reported bias in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but does it exist for other teams.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and their fans, are going to have a nice party in Canton, OH this summer when the following members of the Steelers’ organization will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as two classes get inducted due to COVID-19 canceling the festivities last summer.

Class of 2020
Bill Cowher
Troy Polamalu
Donnie Shell

Class of 2021
Alan Faneca
Bill Nunn

If you listen closely, you can still hear NFL fans and writers complaining about a Steelers bias in the Hall of Fame. They’ve been crying about the amount of Steelers, and contributors from Pittsburgh, getting into the Hall of Fame for years.

But should they be?

Recently, the NFL Stats Twitter account (see below) put out the number of Hall of Fame members per NFL team. The Steelers are tied with the Green Bay Packers with 26 members. They trail only the Chicago Bears with 30 members forever enshrined in the hallowed halls in Canton.

# of HOFers for each NFL Team (2/2)

Titans - 9
Broncos - 8
Jets - 7
Buccaneers - 5
Patriots - 5
Saints - 4
Seahawks - 4
Falcons - 4
Ravens - 3
Bengals - 1
Jaguars - 0
Panthers - 0
Texans - 0

— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) February 23, 2021

When I saw these numbers, I wondered if the Packers and Bears hear the same “bias” narrative every year they have a member of their organization up for enshrinement?

If they don’t, why not? They have as many, if not more, members in the Hall of Fame compared to the Steelers.

Some might suggest there are too many Steelers form those 70s teams in the Hall of Fame, but is that the Steelers’ fault? Is it their fault one of their best defensive players, L.C. Greenwood still isn’t in the Hall of Fame? That it took Donnie Shell decades to finally get the consideration for enshrinement?

Is it the Steelers’ fault they won 4 Super Bowls in a decade? Is it their fault Bill Nunn, who will be enshrined this summer, completely revolutionized how teams scout players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)?

The answer to all those is a resounding NO.

The Steelers have had tremendous success since Chuck Noll took over the team in 1969, and that shouldn’t need explaining. Likewise, the success the team has had in the past two decades shouldn’t hinder anyone from getting into the Hall of Fame due to the successes of past teams.

The more I write about the Hall of Fame, the more it becomes a dog and pony show. A popularity contest. Players like Alan Faneca having to wait over five years to get in, while watching far less accomplished, and skilled, players get in before him.

Is there a Bears bias?

Is there a Packers bias?

Even if there was, there shouldn’t be. The best players should get the recognition of the Hall of Fame. It’s really as simple as that.

Reported deal between the NFL and Disney could create snowball of TV deals

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/27/2021 - 5:30am
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL and Disney have reportedly reached a deal for a new contract, and this could mean big things for the league moving forward.

The National Football League is waiting till the very last possible minute to announce the 2021 salary cap, and for good reason. The league’s contract with Disney, who also owns ESPN and ABC, is about to expire, and the league is asking a king’s ransom for the next contract.

Disney paid the NFL $1.9 billion dollars a year under the terms of their last contract, and the league reportedly was asking them to double that amount for their next deal. Obviously, Disney scoffed at the idea, and Friday reports circulated of a deal being reached between Disney and the NFL.

A report circulated of a deal being done.

The NFL said it wasn’t a done deal.

A new report said they were close.

Now the latest report said the two sides have reached a “broad agreement” on a new deal. This per ProFootballTalk:

John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports that the two sides have reached a “broad agreement” of terms for a 10-year extension of their current deal. Monday Night Football will remain on ESPN and ABC will be part of the Super Bowl rotation for the first time since 2006.

The deal has not been signed yet, but it is expected to come with a price tag between $2.4 and $2.6 billion per year.

CBS, FOX and NBC are also expected to extend their deals with Amazon seen as a likely winner of rights for Thursday night games. The league has been aiming to finalize all of the pacts ahead of setting the salary cap and Friday’s news is a step in that direction.

A deal between the NFL and Disney could not only help lift a potentially sagging salary cap in 2021, but it could also start a chain of other deals with other affiliates. It is worth noting the contracts with the other NFL affiliates doesn’t expire until 2022.

How could this impact the league and the 2021 season? We will all find out at the same time once a finalized deal is announced.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the upcoming league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Vol. 7

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 5:45pm
Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

There is always something to talk about when it comes to the black-and-gold!

It’s Friday again, so it’s time for the six pack of questions. It seems as if Jeff and Dave come to a consensus in cutting to the chase...

This week, I, Dave, will be tasked with the questions up for discussion.

The rules are still the same...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

Procedural Note: Since the title feature has gone away, please feel free to leave your usual title as the first line of your response and even bold it if you can for the ease of others.

So here we go! With the formalities out of the way, it’s time to jump on in. Hopefully this party is exactly what you’re looking for on a Friday night. Here goes:

1. Both Art Rooney II and Ben Roethlisberger’s camp said they both want him back for next year. Does this make it a done deal, or do you think the contract negotiations could throw a wrench into things?

2. The Steelers have yet to cut any players under contract for 2021. Do you think they will be making cuts to help with the salary cap situation?

3. Which offseason move do you think will be the next one announced by the Steelers: A restructure, an extension, signing one of their free agents, releasing a player, or another player retirement?

4. A whole lot of nothing has been happening this week with J.J. Watt. Between everyone reading into his social media posts, fake reports of buying a house in Cleveland, and supposed offers he’s received, are you over the the whole thing and wish he would just say where he’s playing, or are you in the camp that he could still land in Pittsburgh?

5. The Steelers starting slot cornerback in Week 1 of 2021 is ___________ ?

6. My family and I are almost 5 weeks in after getting our first dog. She’s a 15-week old Auggie (half Australian shepherd, half corgi) named Skywalker. Do you have any pets, and, if so, what do you have?

Stay safe out there!

And it wouldn’t be a Friday night unless we said...



We added some new shows and a new platform to our podcasts...if you haven’t checked out Jeff’s new morning show Let’s Ride, Bryan and Tony’s Steelers Retro Show or Dave’s Steelers Stat Geek, or even the new evening shows, give them a try by listening below!

Art Rooney II sees promise with the return of Ben Roethlisberger to the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 2:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are saying all the right things, as it pertains to Ben Roethlisberger’s potential return.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a tough spot, for multiple reasons. Their salary cap position is certainly not anything to write home about, their ability to add talent to a depleted roster seems limited, to say the least, and their franchise quarterback and the front office have seemingly been at odds about his return.

At this point everyone likely knows, barring something sudden, Ben Roethlisberger will be back under center, or should I say in shotgun, for the black and gold in 2021. But, for whatever reason, the Steelers simply can’t stop talking about Roethlisberger.

During an interview with team president Art Rooney II on a partnership with Giant-Eagle to use Heinz Field as a mass vaccination clinic in the month of March, Rooney was again asked about Roethlisberger.

He toed the company line on how he wants the Steelers’ franchise quarterback back in 2021, but also reiterated how the deal needs to be right for the team.

None of this is breaking news, Rooney has said this before, but Rooney also went on to talk about how he felt Roethlisberger was playing at an extremely high level in 2020, and how his arm might be stronger than ever.

Take a look for yourself:

“We think Ben played at a high level last year,” said Rooney. “We won our division and set a franchise record for most consecutive wins to open a season, so there was a lot of good stuff. Ben was as disappointed as anybody the way it ended. That last game is just hard to swallow, and I think in part Ben wants to come back and leave on a high note. We’re still confident he has the ability to do that.

“His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever, so I think he’s certainly capable of getting the job done. Part of the concern is putting a (competitive) team around him, and we had a good discussion about that. We know there are still a lot of pieces to the puzzle that still have to fall into place this season, and we’re hard at work trying to make that happen.”

What a tangled web the Steelers are weaving in this regard. Rooney’s comment on putting a competitive team around Roethlisberger points to Roethlisberger signing a new contract to help get the team temporarily out of salary cap hell this offseason. He later went on to say they want to get a new deal done before March 17th, when the new league year begins.

I, for one, would expect a deal to be done well before that. The difference in Roethlisberger signing an extension and playing under his current contract is well over a $10 million dollar difference. That can make a huge difference in how the Steelers’ approach free agency, and putting some talent around, or in front of, Roethlisberger.

This is just the latest Public Relations move on the Steelers’ behalf, as it pertains to Roethlisberger. The next play should, but probably won’t, be him agreeing to terms on an extension.

We’ll see if that happens anytime soon.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

4 Steelers QBs are on the ESPN Top 60 QBs of the 2000s list

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 12:30pm
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The latest rankings have Steelers fans reminiscing about some quarterbacks’ college days.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ history at quarterback during the Ben Roethlisberger era has been simple. Roethlisberger has been the man, but plenty of other talented quarterbacks have been brought in to assist during his time in Pittsburgh.

So much of the Steelers’ history since 2004 has been wrapped about Roethlisberger’s on field success, but it doesn’t negate what these quarterbacks did when they were collegiate athletes.

In fact, a recent article by ESPN ranked the Top 60 college quarterbacks of the 2000s, and you know I was looking to see which Steelers quarterbacks found their way onto this list. To be fair, I only included quarterbacks who at least started a game for the black and gold.

With that said, take a look at the Steelers quarterbacks who made the list, as well as their ranking, below:

53. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Years: 2014-17

Stats: 13,618 passing yards, 63% completion rate, 92 TD, 26 INT, 17 rushing TDs

Few quarterbacks have ever thrown a prettier deep ball. The Cowboys won 10 games and finished in the AP top 20 in all three of Rudolph’s seasons as a starter. They’ve averaged eight wins since he left.

41. Byron Leftwich, Marshall

Years: 1998-2002

Stats: 11,903 passing yards, 65% completion rate, 89 TD, 28 INT, 6 rushing TD

An old-school gunslinger, Leftwich led the Thundering Herd to two conference titles and produced two enduring memories: leading a 30-point comeback over East Carolina in the 2001 GMAC Bowl and, the next year, nearly leading one against Akron with a broken leg.

36. Landry Jones, Oklahoma

Years: 2009-12

Stats: 16,646 passing yards, 64% completion rate, 123 TD, 52 INT, 3 rushing TD

Here’s a complete list of power-conference QBs who have thrown for more yards than Jones:


It was hard to appreciate Jones’ steady excellence in real time, but by the time he had graduated he had put together a four-year statistical résumé that, even in the near-decade that has followed, no one has surpassed.

26. Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (Ohio)

Years: 2001-03

Stats: 10,829 passing yards, 66% completion rate, 84 TD, 34 INT, 7 rushing TD

After two sturdy seasons, Big Ben put together an all-timer in 2003. His Redhawks beat Northwestern by 30, averaged 47 points per game in MAC play, then walloped Louisville in the GMAC Bowl to finish 10th in the AP poll.

I am sure many of you are wondering who made the Top 10 of this ESPN list, so here it is. Keep in mind this is focused solely on college production, not NFL success:

10. Robert Griffin III — Baylor
9. Marcus Mariota — Oregon
8. Lamar Jackson — Louisville
7. Kyler Murray — Oklahoma
6. Deshaun Watson — Clemson
5. Joe Burrow — Ohio State/LSU
4. Tim Tebow — Florida
3. Vince Young — Texas
2. Cam Newton — Auburn
1. Baker Mayfield — Oklahoma

Let us know your thoughts on the above list in the comments below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Steelers Replay: Week 7 showed the potential, and struggles, of Diontae Johnson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Steelers young receiver was both great and frustrating in his second season

Diontae Johnson wasn’t the most popular draft pick in the Steelers 2019 class. After the Steelers moved up in the draft to select an elite athlete from a top 5 conference school at a position the fans wanted a draft pick, Steeler Nation was largely excited. When the Steelers used their next pick on a small, un-hyped receiver from Toledo, the reaction was different.

But fans got on board during the 2019 season, with Ben Roethlisberger out for the season, free-agent Donte Moncrief unable to catch a football and JuJu Smith-Schuster missing time and playing hurt, Johnson ended up leading the team in targets, receptions and receiving touchdowns, and was the most consistently productive player on the Steelers offense.

In a turn that is quintessential to Steelers fans, Diontae Johnson entered the 2020 season being hyped as better than Antonio Brown, a ridiculous level of expectations that nobody is living up to. Diontae Johnson led the Steelers in targets and receiving yards in 2020, but that volume covers a big drop in efficiency. In week 7, facing the Tennessee Titans, Diontae Johnson showed the entire range of his play, his very solid floor, his incredible potential, and the struggles that hurt his production and the team.

Let’s look at the film.

Star potential

Diontae Johnson has some elite skills in his toolbox. First, he has incredible change of direction and very good acceleration, making him a sharp route runner and a yards after catch threat.

1st quarter, 14:10. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the bottom of the trips formation.

Diontae Johnson makes this look easy, but he’s moving fast when he makes the out cut. He then outruns his defender and turns upfield to get extra yards because he can change direction while moving fast.

That was a third and 3 play, Johnson not only picks up the first down, he gains another 10 yards after the catch.

1st quarter, 10:44. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

And this is why you don’t give Diontae Johnson that big of a cushion, he’s too elusive with the ball in his hands. The reason the Titans corner is back that far is this is a 3rd and 11, Diontae Johnson gains 14 yards for another first down.

1st quarter, 5:45. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Those two third down conversions lead directly to this play, the culmination of an over 9 minute opening drive that set the early tone against a great offense.

This play is slowed down, look at Johnson’s release off the line. The Titans were getting burned playing off Johnson, so they put the corner in tight coverage and Johnson’s releases are some of the best in the NFL.

Look where he lines up, just outside the numbers. After two fakes outside he runs inside of the corner, exactly where he lined up. Those two fakes let him run exactly where he was supposed to run, he just had to move the defender out of the way, and he did. As valuable as Johnson’s change of direction is, his releases are the real strength of his game, because you can’t put him in tight man coverage, all it does is play to his strengths and make him more dangerous.

Also note how smoothly he adjusts to the throw to make a tough catch that, if he kept running, would have hit the back of his shin. Not a bad throw either, Ben Roethlisberger sees that safety help coming and throws it low, where only Johnson can get it, trusting his receiver to make the play.

This play has superstar potential written all over it. The release, the winning of the initial route line, and the Wi-Fi between Johnson and Roethlisberger on the catch. You can see why Johnson quickly became Roethlisberger’s favorite target.

Diontae Johnson would go to work again right before the end of the half.

2nd quarter, 1:03. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the top of the screen.

There’s no right answer to the question of how to cover Diontae Johnson. Play off, get beat with yards after the catch, play up tight and he’s gonna beat your cornerback off the line.

2nd quarter, 0:57. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

He’ll do it from both sides of the field too. The great thing about this film is in his rookie year Diontae Johnson was torching tight coverage, but not consistently beating off coverage. The best way to defend him was to play off man and meet him in his route to disrupt it.

That wasn’t working in 2020.

You can also see why teams started keeping a hook defender in their defensive schemes the second half of the season. If you add a defender to the bottom hash mark right at the five yard line, this route is taken away, and the corner doesn’t have to crash this play, and can focus on staying outside of Johnson, taking away a lot of his yards after catch threat. Diontae Johnson has the ability to force defenses to account extra personnel to defending him. That’s one area where the comparisons to Antonio Brown have some merit, although with Brown it was often three defenders being used to keep him contained.

With this kind of skill set, why wasn’t Diontae Johnson a star receiver? I bet you can guess the #1 reason.

Consistent struggles

Diontae Johnson led the NFL in dropped passes, and it wasn’t a 2020 development. In my film rooms on Diontae Johnson right after he was drafted I brought up that he had trouble with head height passes, especially if they were a bit behind him. I covered it again when I broke down his rookie season, and I’m pretty sure you are aware it was still a problem in 2020.

2nd quarter, 15:00. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Starting the second quarter, the Titans are playing off of Johnson so the Steelers go back to him for an easy 5 yard gain with a shot at yards after the catch, but the ball bounces off Johnson’s hands. A 21 yard catch by JuJu Smith-Schuster would bail him out on 3rd and 12, but the difference between 2nd and 5 or less and 2nd and 10 are significant, these drops hurt.

Take a better look at the actual drop.

This triggered a thought in my head. I never played football, but I played soccer, specifically I played goalie, and I coach goalies (albeit in little league), and while that doesn’t apply to football often, this is one area it applies a lot.

Anyone that has been taught properly to catch a football or as a goalie to catch a soccer ball can recognize the thumbs and fingers forming a triangle. That’s how you catch a high ball. but this one is thrown to Johnson’s right, he can’t perfectly square up his hands, and that gets us into goalie land.

On catches like that your ball-side hand is your stop hand, that hand physically stops the ball from going past you, and the other hand is the control hand, assisting the stop hand to keep the ball on that hand.

There’s a trend throughout the 2020 season, and while I haven’t dug back into the full 2019 season, it shows up in the film clips where I’ve talked about Johnson’s drops in the past.

His stop hand is his right hand on this pass. If you look closely the ball hits the inside of his right hand, and bounces off, it doesn’t hit squarely in the middle of the triangle, his left hand has almost no impact on the catch attempt.

Let’s look at an very similar catch from the same game.

3rd quarter, 12:24. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Similar route, opposite side of the field, so this time the throw is to his left, and he secures the ball. There’s no great replay from the broadcast on this one, but I was able to get this from the TV feed.

The triangle works here because his hands are perfectly placed.

Remember the touchdown from right before halftime? It was with Diontae Johnson on the right side of the field, heading to the middle, prime candidate for a drop.

It’s hard to see with his white gloves and the white seats, but Johnson is able to square up to this pass and catch it with a true two-hand catch. This clip also shows off how low he gets to change direction, great manipulation of his center of gravity to let him stop on a dime and reverse direction.

His problems also showed up on down the field passes.

2nd quarter, 3:08. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

This is a free play, the offsides call negates this play and it doesn’t even count as a drop for Johnson, but look at the ball hit his hand.

Right hand is his stop hand, left hand should help guide the ball into the right hand and then secure it. Instead the ball hits Johnson’s left hand and bounces off. Instead of a touchdown, the Steelers would settle for a field goal on this drive.

Late in the game, with a 3 point lead, the Steelers are looking to kill the clock and they face a 3rd and 3.

4th quarter, 5:42. Diontae Johnson (#18) is the receiver to the left side of the screen.

It’s 3rd down and 3 to go, Johnson is going to settle into the middle of the field, but sees the opening outside and takes it. He secures the catch on a high and difficult catch that Johnson brings in easily. Note that his left hand is the stop hand on this pass.

Also notice his eyes as he lands, he’s looking for the first down marker to make sure he gets past it.

4th quarter, 4:07. Diontae Johnson is the receiver farthest to the top of the screen.

Same drive, 3rd and 6. The Titans have really tight coverage on Johnson, and he burns it, catching the ball and turning up field to get past the first down marker. Another catch where the left hand is the stop hand.

This kind of imbalance is more common than people might think, hand-eye coordination is not either good or bad, it can be elite for some things and less good in others. It stands out to me that Johnson can struggle with his hand placement when his right hand is the stop hand, while he makes tough catches look easy when his left hand is the stop hand.

When you see videos of receivers using a jug machine to catch one-handed, this is what they are working on. I’m not saying Diontae Johnson doesn’t work on it, and I’m not even confident saying that hand-eye coordination is the problem. I included taht last play for another reason, at the end of the play Johnson is hurt.

He would miss the next few plays, and return on third down. Diontae Johnson is a small guy, and he gets banged up a lot playing football. It happened in college, where often he would be out for up to an entire quarter before returning, and it shows up in the NFL. He doesn’t miss a lot of games, he plays hurt. In football that is a credit to a player, but it also means he’s not always healthy when he’s on the field.

Over half of Diontae Johnson’s drops came in three games, this week 7 game against Tennessee, and his awful stretch in weeks 13 and 14 when he dropped 5 balls on 19 targets. The rest of the season Johnson dropped 6 of his 110 targets, still not great but it would put him well off the NFL leaderboard.

Maybe he let his training slip, maybe injury exacerbated a problem that was otherwise minor, I can’t say for sure. What I can confidently say is that when Diontae Johnson isn’t struggling to catch the ball, he’s a dynamic receiver that, while not at all on the level of Antonio Brown, is a potential star in his own right.

It’s important to remember this was only his second year in the NFL. Growth from Diontae Johnson could be the big story of the 2021 Steelers season. If he can leave his drops in the past, he’ll put up great numbers.

Podcast: Is bringing back Ben Roethlisberger a sentimental move?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 11:00am

BTSC’s Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis talk news of the day and everything surrounding the Steelers. All of this while mixing in fun and frivolity like only they do.

The Steelers released a statement this week regarding the desire to bring back Ben Roethlisberger at a reworked deal. It seems that after meeting, both sides are possibly on the same page. But is the decision not to move on into the future based on sentiment for the long-time quarterback? This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show 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 and there you have the topic for the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview with Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis. Join the triumphant trio as they combine the down all things Steelers and with shenanigans galore.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Are the Steelers getting too sentimental regarding holding on to Big Ben?
  • Trivia

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

If the Steelers can clear the cap space, what’s the best way to spend it?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

After the reported price tag for teams to add J.J. Watt, how would they Steelers best use that kind of money if it were to become available?

On Thursday, it was reported by ESPN’s Diana Russini that J.J. Watt received a number of offers to join various NFL franchises. With many Steelers’ fans hoping to see all three brothers playing in the Steel City, seeing a price tag of $15 million per season pretty much solidified the fact the Steelers are out of the running.

JJ Watt has received several offers from teams. The best offer he has received right now is between 15-16 million per year, per sources.

— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) February 25, 2021

On seeing this number, my first thought would be if the Steelers were going to spend this amount of money per season on a player, would J.J. Watt be the best choice?

First of all, before we get going too far, just because these numbers are the average salary per year it does not mean that would be the salary cap it for 2021. With most multi-year contracts, the first year of the deal counts significantly less as the Steelers pay out a large portion of the first year salary as a signing bonus. So even though the figure of $15 million per year is what we will go by, it doesn’t mean the Steelers would need to clear that much in cap space.

For example, if the Steelers were to sign a player such as J.J. Watt to a three-year deal where the first year is the league minimum salary along with a signing bonus to get up to $15 million and then a base salary of $15 million each season after, the cap hit for 2021 would be under $6 million. I’m not saying this is the type of contract that would be signed and it would be structured in this way, I was merely using it as an example. If it’s a contract for more years, it would be even less this season. If it were only a two-year deal, it would be over $8 million on this year salary cap.

Now that we have an understanding of how the financials could possibly be, the biggest question would be if the Steelers could clear up enough salary cap space to sign a player, would J.J. Watt be the best option?

Instantly, two other players who played in Pittsburgh in 2020 come to mind. Would the Steelers be better off spending the money it would take to sign the eldest Watt brother and using it to keep Bud Dupree in town? Chances are, it would be somewhat equivalent of a financial obligation. Granted J.J. Watt is a former two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and five time All-Pro while Dupree has yet to make a Pro Bowl in the NFL, Watt is set to turn 32 next month and may have his best playing days behind him. Additionally, how well does J.J. Watt fit into the Steelers defense along with players such as Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt who are already commanding significant salaries? Would the Steelers be better off shoring up another position?

To go to the other side of the ball, would it be better to hold onto wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster with the money it would take to sign a player like J.J. Watt? Do the Steelers need to spend the additional funds on defense or would they be better off shoring up the offense by retaining the leader of the Steelers wide receiver room last season?

There’s also the option of spending the money on a different outside free agent to come in and help the Steelers. Is there anyone in particular for that price tag that Steelers fans would rather see them bring in other than going with J.J. Watt?

Or is the other option of signing multiple players at lesser salaries the best route to go? Should Steelers be replacing quantity rather than making a big “quality” splash?

Of course, this is all speculation as any deal with J.J. Watt would likely be at a discounted rate in order to play with his brothers. But since there was a number floated out there of what it might take, I just wanted to get the pulse of Steelers’ Nation as to whether or not they should explore this option versus others they have.

So what do you think? Who would be the best player for the Steelers to sign if they were able to free up this much money? Make sure you vote on the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

NFL 3 Round Live Mock Draft: The Steelers fill several needs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Christmas comes early in Pittsburgh as we complete a Walk the Mock Mock Draft.

Recently I set up a three round live draft over at Tim Sarvey’s site, Walk The Mock. As a long time member of the Behind The Steel Curtain, and really good guy, I try and publicize his site as much as possible. His new drafting tool “Real Time” is the first of it’s kind where you can draft with other fan bases as opposed to drafting against “the bot”. An example of this would be “the bot” passes on Trevor Lawrence when there isn’t a Jacksonville GM. We know that isn’t happening!

I want to give a little breakdown of the draft. There were 17 of 32 General Managers that signed into the draft, leaving fifteen bot picks. Not bad considering the site and new app is still relatively unknown, I’m sure that will change though. There was also a one minute timer for each pick. Not a lot of time, but I wasn’t sure how long the draft would take. The bot picks used the entire minute. I was following some of the trades and some were unrealistic because the last four rounds could be traded away with out any consequences. Patiently waiting my pick, I saw that a Top 15 tackle was continuing to fall. So, I decided to offer up a trade to Chicago who was picking at 20. I sent our pick at 24 and a fourth rounder in 2022, the trade was accepted.

With the 20th pick, the Steelers select: Christian Darrisaw OT, Virginia Tech

I was excited to get the second best Tackle in the draft, it met both need as well as value. The argument can be made that Rashawn Slater and Elijah Vera-Tucker are rated higher, but I feel both are destined to move inside. The question some will ask is “who was still available?”. Of note, Jaylen Waddle and Zaven Collins were still on the board. Caleb Farley also fell going at 19 to Dallas. Yes, he was also a trade possibility.

Moving to the second round, BTSC fan favorite Najee Harris was still there, but he didn’t last long. On a bot pick, the Atlanta Falcons selected Harris 35th overall. Before I could consider making a trade up to try and get him he was off to the ATL. So, remaining patient, while watching the best prospects getting picked, I scrolled through the board and saw one of my favorite prospects in the draft was still available. I did try and move up to get him, but the team I targeted made a trade with someone else. I was shocked to say the least when he fell to our second round pick at 55.

With the 55th, the Steelers select: Javonte Williams RB, North Carolina

Another need and and a pick I didn’t believe would fall, considering some of the teams in front of me, as well as a large amount of trades. Teams like Arizona, Chicago and Seattle who picked just before the Steelers could all be in the market for a running back. Prospects still on the board, Landon Dickerson, Pat Freiermuth (more on him in a moment) and Dillon Radunz were available. The Steelers drafted Darrisaw, so Radunz was out of the question.

With the “no consequences” trade aspect I tried to move back into the draft before Pat Freiermuth was taken. I offered our 87th and a second in 2022. I can’t believe that wasn’t accepted and some on here will say WTF, not WFT. Pat Freiermuth went to Jacksonville at pick 65 overall. I think some would ask why I didn’t try and trade up for Landon Dickerson, but I wanted to see what the other fan bases thought of him. Dickerson went to Dallas at pick No. 7 in the third round. My next player in line was Greg Newsome ll from Northwestern, but he immediately went to Dallas at pick No. 11 in Round 3. I knew I hated those prospects, but man the hatred burns even more now.

We finally get to pick No. 88 and I’m scanning the boards and narrow it down to 4 players. Two of those picks were actually from the University of Central Florida. There is a possible need for a nickel corner, and both of Aaron Robinson and Richie Grant could fill that need. The other was a transfer linebacker from LSU, Jabril Cox. Not necessarily a need unless you consider the length of contract with Vince Williams. I decided to made it an all offensive sweep with the first 3 picks.

With the 88th pick, the Steelers select, Hunter Long TE Boston College

I didn’t get Freiermuth, but I got a tight end anyway. Let’s face it, the smart choice was probably on the defensive side of the ball, but I’m sick of not having tight ends that can’t block, or in recent times, can’t catch. The position has been neglected, and the Steelers need help in the run game. Believe it or not, that doesn’t just fall on the offensive line.

So there is my draft, let’s recap:

With the 20th pick, the Steelers select: Christian Darrisaw OT, Va. Tech
With the 55th, the Steelers select: Javonte Williams RB, North Carolina
With the 88th pick, the Steelers select, Hunter Long TE Boston College

At this time, feel free to rake me over the coals in the comment section. Seriously though, sign up to Walk the Mock. The ability to draft with other fanbases is fun. We have been holding the live drafts at SB Nation for years, now there’s a site for it with less headache involved in the set up.

Go Steelers!!

2021 Free Agent Market Watch: Interior Defensive Linemen that the Steelers can’t afford

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

BTSC takes a look at the top free agents at each position, whether or not they are in the Steelers price range. Here are the Defensive Tackles.

Disclaimer: The author realizes that the 2021 Steelers are probably going to be burning in Salary Cap Hell and can’t pony up much money for free agents. However, you never know what they have planned and it’s the author’s responsibility to highlight the free agent options.

The Steelers have had solid play on the defensive line recently. Tyson Alualu was a major reason why. No. 94 is a free agent though and could leave the Steel City. Should that happen and the Steelers decide that they need to look for an interior defensive linemen, this is who is looking for a deal.


Most Notable Free Agent Defensive Tackles Leonard Williams - New York Giants Age 26, 6’5”/302 lbs.

PFF Position Ranking (Edge) - #15

Stats: Games Played - 16, Speed - 4.97

Combined Tackles: 57, Solo Tackles: 29, Tackles For Loss: 14, QB Hits: 30, Hurries: 12, Sacks 11.5, Forced Fumbles: 0, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 1, Touchdowns: 0

Overall: 79.8 (High Quality), Run Defense: 82.6 (High Quality), Pass Rush: 69.9 (Above Average), Coverage: 55.8 (Average)

It took a long time for Williams to find his groove after being selected in the first round with the Jets, but 2020 was a standout year for the New York Football Giant. Exceptional against the run, the sixth-overall pick out of USC in 2015 had 13 sacks last season. Williams could get a $20 million per year deal according to PFF.

Shelby Harris - Denver Broncos Age 29, 6’2”/290 lbs.

PFF Position Ranking (Edge) - #8

Stats: Games Played - 11, Speed - 4.9

Combined Tackles: 32, Solo Tackles: 20, Tackles For Loss: 4, QB Hits: 11, Hurries: 6, Sacks 2.5, Forced Fumbles: 1, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 7, Touchdowns: 0

Overall: 88.3 (Elite), Run Defense: 76.1 (High Quality), Pass Rush: 83.1 (High Quality), Coverage: 57.6 (Average)

Shelby Harris is an underrated that is equally staunch against the run as he is adept at getting to the quarterback. In fact, he’s one of the game’s top run stopper. The seventh-round pick is approaching 30, so that could hinder his getting a longer deal. But still, PFF projects a three-year pact worth around $11 million per year.

Dalvin Tomlinson - New York Giants Age 27, 6’3”/318 lbs.

PFF Position Ranking (Edge) - #25

Stats: Games Played - 16, Speed - 5.19

Combined Tackles: 49, Solo Tackles: 25, Tackles For Loss: 8, QB Hits: 10, Hurries: 5, Sacks 3.5, Forced Fumbles: 0, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 4, Touchdowns: 0

Overall: 75.1 (High Quality), Run Defense: 70.3 (Above Average), Pass Rush: 74.6 (Above Average), Coverage: 57.6 (Average)

Tomlinson is a tremendous run-stuffing nose tackle that has a nose for the quarterback as well. PFF projects Dalvin getting circa $13 million per year.

Sheldon Rankins - New Orleans Saints Age 27, 6’2”/305 lbs.

PFF Position Ranking (Edge) - #66

Stats: Games Played - 12, Speed - 5.03

Combined Tackles: 20, Solo Tackles: 13, Tackles For Loss: 3, QB Hits: 9, Hurries: 3, Sacks 1.5, Forced Fumbles: 0, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 1, Touchdowns: 0

Overall: 57.8 (Average), Run Defense: 56.7 (Average), Pass Rush: 62.3 (Average), Coverage: 54.8 (Below Average)

Rankins was slow to rebound last year after an Achilles injury shelved him in 2019. But he has put some stellar seasons under his belt. Yet another run stopper that doesn’t get to the quarterback as much. Nonetheless, Rankins is projected by PFF to take home a pact for around 7.25 million per year.

DaQuan Jones - Tennessee Titans Age 29, 6’4”/322 lbs.

PFF Position Ranking (Edge) - #54

Stats: Games Played - 16, Speed - 5.35

Combined Tackles: 49, Solo Tackles: 29, Tackles For Loss: 4, QB Hits: 6, Hurries: 5, Sacks 2.0, Forced Fumbles: 1, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 0, Touchdowns: 0

Overall: 67.1 (Above Average), Run Defense: 64.1 (Average), Pass Rush: 65.1 (Above Average), Coverage: 58.0 (Average)

DaQuan Jones has been a solid and versatile defender on the Tennessee defensive line. He could be a bargain signing like Tyson Alualu was four years ago.

Steelers Free Agent Defensive Tackles Tyson Alualu Age 34, 6’3”/304 lbs.

PFF Position Ranking (Edge) - #9

Stats: Games Played - 15, Speed - 4.87

Combined Tackles: 38, Solo Tackles: 17, Tackles For Loss: 4, QB Hits: 5, Hurries: 2, Sacks 2.0, Forced Fumbles: 1, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 5, Touchdowns: 0

Overall: 89.6 (Elite), Run Defense: 82.0 (High Quality), Pass Rush: 80.5 (Above Average), Coverage: 73.2 (Above Average)

Alualu was pretty solid up front for the Steelers in his career in black-and-gold. But his first seson as a full-time starter in Pittsburgh was tremendous. PFF projects a $6 million per year price tag for Alualu. Kevin Colbert and Co. may make Alualu a priority if they can.

Chris Wormley Age 27, 6’5”/305 lbs.

PFF Position Ranking (Edge) - Not Ranked

Stats: Games Played - 13, Speed - 4.82

Combined Tackles: 8, Solo Tackles: 3, Tackles For Loss: 1, QB Hits: 3, Hurries: 1, Sacks 1.0, Forced Fumbles: 0, Fumble Recoveries: 0, Interceptions: 0, Pass Defenses: 0, Touchdowns: 0

Overall: 83.0 (High Quality), Run Defense: 71.8 (Above Average), Pass Rush: 79.2 (High Quality)

Wormley came over in a rare trade with Baltimore. He didn’t see a lot of action, but graded out solid. But with young depth talent on the d-line, Wormley might end up as just a one-year rental.

Other Free Agent Defensive Tackles

Angelo Blackson - Arizona Cardinals

Corey Peters - Arizona Cardinals

Domata Peko - Arizona Cardinals

Josh Mauro - Arizona Cardinals

Derek Wolfe - Baltimore Ravens

Jihad Ward - Baltimore Ravens

Justin Ellis - Baltimore Ravens

Kawann Short - Carolina Panthers

Brent Urban - Chicago Bears

Roy Robertson-Harris - Chicago Bears

John Jenkins - Chicago Bears

Christian Covington - Cincinnati Bengals

Mike Daniels - Cincinnati Bengals

Xavier Williams - Cincinnati Bengals

Larry Ogunjobi - Cleveland Browns

Vincent Taylor - Cleveland Browns

Eli Ankou - Dallas Cowboys

Joel Heath - Denver Broncos

DeMarcus Walker - Denver Broncos

Sylvester Williams - Denver Broncos

Montravius Adams - Green Bay Packers

Damon Harrison - Green Bay Packers

Billy Winn - Green Bay Packers

P.J. Hall (RFA) - Houston Texans

Carlos Watkins - Houston Texans

Abry Jones - Jacksonville Jaguars

Adam Gotsis - Jacksonville Jaguars

Tanoh Kpassagnon - Kansas City Chiefs

Mike Pennel - Kansas City Chiefs

Johnathan Hankins - Las Vegas Raiders

Isaac Rochell (RFA) - Los Angeles Chargers

Damion Square - Los Angeles Chargers

Davon Godchaux - Miami Dolphins

Jaleel Johnson - Minnesota Vikings

Carl Davis - New England Patriots

Lawrence Guy - New England Patriots

Adam Butle - New England Patriots

Austin Johnson - New York Giants

Trevon Coley - New York Jets

T.Y. McGill - Philadelphia Eagles

Hassan Ridgeway - Philadelphia Eagles

Poona Ford (RFA) - Seattle Seahawks

Ndamukong Suh - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Steve McLendon - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rakeem Nunez-Roches - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Devin Bush “on schedule” with rehab, eyeing Steelers 2021 training camp for return

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 6:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ inside linebacker is still recovering from his torn ACL in 2020.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base doesn’t really know what to think of inside linebacker Devin Bush. They remember a rookie season which had plenty of splash plays, and plenty of rookie mistakes, but Bush’s sophomore season ended almost as quickly as it started.

It was the Week 5 game at Heinz Field when Bush fell awkwardly to the ground on the far side of the field. He gingerly got up and never returned to the field. After the game, head coach Mike Tomin did something he never does, and labeled Bush’s injury as “significant”.

At that time, the Steelers, and their fans, knew Bush was likely done for the season. But to what extent was he injured? Bush tore his ACL in his knee, and had surgery within a week to begin the lengthy rehabilitation process.

No one has heard much of Bush throughout the 2020 season, and after, but on a call with fans via Steelers Nation Unit, Bush was asked about his rehab, and how he is progressing.

This from Teresa Varley of

LB Devin Bush is on a call with @SteelersUnite members and said his rehab is going well and he is right on schedule with everything.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) February 25, 2021

On schedule is good news for the Steelers, and their fans, but Bush went on to talk about how he is feeling stronger every week, and is aiming for Steelers Training Camp in 2021 for a potential return.

This via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Steelers ILB Devin Bush on a chat with fans, talked about his rehab: "I'm feeling stronger week by week. I’m just trying to get ready physically for next year, especially for camp."

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) February 25, 2021

While most might not have noticed Bush in his brief 2020 season, his athleticism was greatly missed on the team’s defense. Players like Robert Spillane, Avery Williamson and Vince Williams did their best to replace Bush’s absence, but none of the aforementioned players have the skill, speed and athleticism of Bush.

Having a Devin Bush on the field helps neutralize so many aspects of the opposition, and allows players like Williams, to do what they do best...make plays in the backfield and in the run game.

Without Bush in the lineup, you saw the inside linebackers get picked on similarly to what offenses did in 2017 when Ryan Shazier was lost in December due to a spinal injury. Luckily for the Steelers, and the defense, Bush is on track to re-joining the team next season, and that will immediately improve an already stout defense.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Ranking the safest Steelers jerseys you could buy

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 5:00am
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So you want to add to your jersey collection but don’t want to get burned

If you’re a sports jersey collector, like myself, you’ve likely been burned on buying a jersey only for the player to end up on another team just a few years later. You don’t want your hard earned dollars to go to waste, but you want to rep your team accordingly. I’ve sorted some of the most popular Pittsburgh Steelers players into categories of safeness, so you don’t have to worry (as much) about getting yourself some new threads.

*Disclaimer - The NFL is a business and a player could be dealt or dropped at a moments notice for any particular reason. Purchase merchandise at your own peril.

Safe Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger
Cam Heyward

These guys are staples of the organization. Even in retirement you will see many of their jersey around Heinz Field on a game day. Picking up a Ben Roethlisberger or Cam Heyward jersey you will know you’re repping a career Steeler, and guys that will never go out of style in the Steel City.

Pretty safe Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

T.J. Watt
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Devin Bush

The only thing stopping these guys from being in the ‘Safe’ category is their upcoming free agency. T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Devin Bush should be staples of the Steelers for years to come. Once they are locked into their next contracts I would imagine all threee being life long Steelers. That being said negotiations occasionally fall off the rails and lead to surprising divorces from star players and their teams. Nothing is for certain yet.

Fools gold Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Chase Claypool
Diontae Johnson

If the Steelers have taught us anything the last number of years it’s to not invest in the uniform of wide receiver or running back. Rarely any of these guys see a second contract, and even if one of the members of the skill group does something special they are still just as likely to be moved on from when their rookie deal expires.

Wait until these guys get a second contract.

Do not purchase Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Rookie immediately after the draft
Current Free Agents

I cannot stress this enough, do not ever purchase a rookies jersey before they have taken a single snap. You are playing with some extreme fire. For every T.J. Watt, and Devin Bush their is a Jarvis Jones, Artie Burns, or Ziggy Hood.

Another group I would highly suggest to stay away from is any of the current free agents. This should be obvious, however I know some people have already put themselves in this dangerous situation. It’s just not worth it. Plus those jersey’s will be on extreme discount in just a couple weeks anyway...

But what do you think? Have you ever been burned by purchasing a jersey too soon? Let us know your stories, and about your collections down in the comments below.

Podcast: 5 bold predictions for the Steelers heading into the new league year

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/26/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman brings an AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

When the new league year starts in a few weeks, things will start to take shape more for the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers. But in what way? It’s prediction time and they are going to be bold. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Predicting the 2021 Steelers with the new league year approaching
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

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

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Void years? Ben Roethlisberger could get a legit contract extension

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 3:15pm
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger could be the Steelers starting quarterback past 2021

Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers have come to a conclusion that they will once again join forces in 2021. With the hardest part out of the way, the Steelers can just slap some void years onto Ben’s deal and be done with it, right? Not so fast. The Pittsburgh Steelers have never placed voidable years on a contract, ever. So if Ben Roethlisberger wants to come back in 2021 I see it much more likely that legitimate playable years will be added on to the end of his deal.

What a maximum restructure of Ben Roethlisberger’s current contract w/ the #Steelers would look like, freeing up $14.34M of cap space in 2021, but adding $14.34M of dead cap for 2022 when the deal voids.

— Spotrac (@spotrac) February 24, 2021

It’s pretty easy to explain why. With voidable years the Steelers would essentially be pushing money onto future cap hits while not having the player on roster. With a true extension however, Ben Roethlisberger can choose to retire whenever he so pleases but both sides could agree to work with one another for at least another season.

.@JohnClaytonNFL says on @937theFan that he think Big Ben wants to play beyond 2021.

— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) February 24, 2021

It is also very clear that Steelers president, Art Rooney II, has a very special bond with the Steelers quarterback. Rooney personally gave Roethlisberger his stamp of approval to come back in 2021 and beyond. Regardless of who wanted to change things up within the front office Rooney himself has the most power within the organization. Whatever he says goes and from the outside it looks like Rooney isn’t willing to separate the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger until Roethlisberger is ready to hang up his cleats himself.

A true extension can also save the Steelers $14,340,000 on the salary cap in 2021. Whatever salary the two sides agree on for future years will have that money factored in. But working out a deal like this could still get the Steelers to an estimated $7,000,000 above the salary cap. This doesn't necessarily mean Roethlisberger will play another season past 2021, however if his level of play is sufficient and Ben wants to keep going adding on a legitimate year or two would keep the door open if both sides so choose. Adding a salary component to each year keeps Roethlisberger tied to the Steelers if both sides agree and doesn’t change anything should Roethlisberger chose to retire before the end of the contract.

While some people will cringe at the thought of multiple years of Ben Roethlisberger at the helm of the Steelers offense, I should remind you what he was up against once the Steelers hit their late season collapse. Namely his offensive coordinator lacked any creativity and was extremely predictable, the Steelers running attack ranked at the bottom of the league, Ben was reportedly battling injuries to both knees, he spent the 2020 offseason in rehab, and his offensive line regressed. The Steelers have already begun the process of fixing some of these issues and with a strong draft can give Roethlisberger the scheme and talent to improve upon this past year.

But what do you think? Would the Steelers break tradition of never using voidable years in Roethlisberger’s next contract? Will he play past 2021? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

What happened to the Steelers’ 2009 draft class?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft in April, let’s look at how some of the Steelers’ drafts played out.

The 2021 NFL draft is just over two months away. Each week leading up to the draft, we are going to dive into an NFL draft class starting with the Steelers 2004 NFL draft. In doing so, each player selected by the Steelers will be highlighted as to how their NFL career, or lack thereof, took shape. As we get to more recent years, some will be combined as many of those draft choices are still with the Steelers.

Part 6 of 15 will highlight the Steelers 2009 NFL draft where one player just earned a Super Bowl ring.

So let’s take a look at the nine players drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2009 NFL draft:

Evander “Ziggy” Hood Defensive end, Missouri

Round 1
Pick 32

Some of the best words a franchise can hear is, “with the 32nd pick in the NFL draft…” After winning the Super Bowl in 2008, the Steelers had the final pick in the first round in the 2009 NFL draft and selected Ziggy Hood. Although Hood had 11.5 of his 14 career sacks in his five years in Pittsburgh, it never really seemed as if Ziggy fit well in the Steelers defense. Perhaps better suited for a 4-3 scheme, Hood moved on from the Steelers with a year in Jacksonville and then Chicago before settling in with Washington. During the 2016 and 17 seasons, Hood saw bit of a resurgence where he started 27 games over the two seasons. Unfortunately, it did not last long as he was released partway through the 2018 season but was picked up by the Miami Dolphins for the remainder of the year. Hood spent training camp of the 2019 season with the New Orleans Saints and did not make the team and has been out of the NFL ever since.

Kraig Urbik Guard, Wisconsin

Round 3
Pick 79

The Pittsburgh Steelers traded back 15 spots out of the second round in the 2009 NFL draft. In return, the Steelers traded their fourth round pick with the Denver Broncos for an additional third round pick which gained them 48 spots. With the first of their three third-round picks, the Steelers drafted guard Kraig Urbik. Although making the team in 2009, Urbik was inactive most of the season and did not appear in any games. Instead, undrafted guard Ramon Foster claimed the back-up spot. Failing to make the 53-man roster in 2010, Urbik was claimed by the Buffalo Bills where he spent the next six seasons. In all, Urbik started 57 games while appearing in 84 in Buffalo. Spending the 2016 season with the Dolphins, Urbik was released the following year after sustaining a knee injury. The following offseason Urbik retired from the NFL after nine seasons.

Mike Wallace Wide receiver, Mississippi

Round 3
Pick 84

Once referred to by coach Mike Tomlin as a “one trick pony,” Mike Wallace made the Pro Bowl in 2011 as part of his four years with the Steelers. Compiling over 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns, Wallace was mainly known as a deep threat. When declining an offer from the Steelers which was then given to Antonio Brown, Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins where he played two somewhat disappointing seasons before bouncing around to the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, and Philadelphia Eagles. His final year in the NFL with Philadelphia in 2018, Wallace suffered a fractured fibula in Week 2 although he did return at the very end of the season.

Keenan Lewis Defensive back, Oregon St.

Round 3
Pick 96

The final of the Steelers three third-round draft picks in 2009, Keenan Lewis eased his way into a role with the Steelers only appearing in 13 games in his first two seasons. In his third year, Lewis appeared in all 16 regular season games and started one and had an interception. It was his fourth and final year in Pittsburgh where Lewis started all 16 games at cornerback and had 23 passes defensed and 71 tackles. Lewis cashed in with a big pay day with the New Orleans Saints where he started every game for two straight seasons and had six interceptions. In 2015 Lewis only appeared in six games and started none and was placed on injured reserve with a leg injury. During the offseason, Lewis had hip surgery and started off training camp with the Saints on the physically unable to perform list. Being activated too soon, Lewis practice one day before being out again with the injury and was released mid training camp. The Steelers looked twice into the possibility of bringing Lewis back, but it appeared the injury was too much and ultimately ended his career.

Joe Burnett Defensive back, Central Florida

Round 5
Pick 168

Believed to possibly be their return specialist, Burnett did not win the job and was beat out by Stephan Logan. But after a stellar preseason his rookie year which included an interception and a blocked field goal, Burnett made the 53-man roster for his defensive contributions and appeared in 15 games for the Steelers and had 17 tackles. Failing to make the team in 2010, Burnett was signed to a futures contract by the Giants in 2011 but did not make the team or practice squad. Burnett ultimately spent eight years playing on various teams in the Canadian Football League.

Frank Summers Running back, UNLV

Round 5
Pick 169

The Steelers made back-to-back picks in the fifth round of the 2009 draft as they had a compensatory draft pick. Summers played the first two games of 2009 for the Steelers as their full back and was credited for starting one of the games. Unfortunately, these were his only two games in Pittsburgh as he was placed on injured reserve with a back injury. The following season, Summers did not make the 53-man roster but landed on the practice squad. Following the season, he was signed by the San Diego Chargers but did not make the team. After a year out of football, Summers signed with the Buffalo Bills where he played for nearly 2 seasons and had two touchdowns on 18 carries. Released towards the end of the 2014 season, Summers officially announced his retirement from the NFL.

Ra’shon Harris Defensive tackle, Oregon

Round 6
Pick 205

Failing to make the Steelers 53-man roster his rookie season, Harris was claimed off of waivers by the Carolina Panthers where he appeared in two games and had two tackles. Harris only lasted the first month of the season on the 53-man roster of the Panthers as he was released and then signed to their practice squad. Shortly after, the Steelers signed Harris back from the Panthers practice squad to add depth after the injury to Aaron Smith. Harris never appeared in a game for the Steelers and failed to make the team in 2010. Signed shortly to the Bills practice squad, Harris landed back with Steelers as part of their practice squad later that season. Harris spent the next several seasons in training camp with the Houston Texans but never appeared in an NFL game outside of his rookie season.

A.Q. Shipley Center, Penn St.

Round 7
Pick 226

The Steelers picked up an extra seventh round draft pick from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by trading center Shaun Mahan. With the pick, the Steelers selected A.Q. Shipley who is the only member of the Steelers 2009 draft class who played during the 2020 season. Playing his first season in Pittsburgh on the practice squad, Shipley was signed in the offseason by the Philadelphia Eagles to a three-year contract, although he failed to make the team in 2010 and landed on their practice squad. After failing to make the Eagles team in 2011, Shipley was not signed again until the following offseason by the Indianapolis Colts. Making the 53-man roster, Shipley appeared in 14 games and started five in his first season in Indianapolis. In the offseason, the Colts traded Shipley to the Ravens for a seventh-round draft pick and he started nine games for Baltimore in 2013. After being waived by the Ravens at the end of training camp in 2014, Shipley ended up back with the Colts and started five games in 2014. Shipley‘s next stop was in Arizona for the 2015 season where he started three games before starting every game at center for the next three years. In 2020, Shipley signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he appeared in five games while starting two before landing on injured reserve in what may be a career-ending neck injury.

David Johnson Tight end, Arkansas St.

Round 7
Pick 241

The Steelers final pick in the 2009 draft was tight end David Johnson, who also played fullback. Johnson spent his first five seasons in Pittsburgh but missed the 2012 season due to a torn ACL during a preseason game. In his first stint with the Steelers, Johnson had 22 receptions for 216 yards and his only career touchdown. Johnson also spent two seasons with the San Diego Chargers in 2014 and 2015 before returning to the Steelers for one last season in 2016. Johnson failed to make the team in 2017.

The Steelers may not be able to help themselves when it comes to the 2021 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 11:30am
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Even with huge holes to fill on the offensive line, the Steelers very well could be tempted to draft another stud inside linebacker as early as the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

I have no problem admitting that I enjoyed watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl in rather dominating fashion. The Buccaneers team and schemes were classically old school, and have to be viewed as a favorable outcome for all us old timers and football purists. Outside of the plethora of the "Where are they now?" former Steelers players and coaches scattered throughout the Buccaneers franchise, I didn't have a dog in the fight. I couldn't care less about any halftime show, and the always highly anticipated commercials were impressively unimpressive to say the least.

The most impressive aspect of the Buccaneers all around outstanding performance was the way their defense stymied Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs explosive offense like nobody else has been able to do since Mahomes has been the Chiefs starting QB. The Chiefs offense failed to score a touchdown for the first time in the Mahomes tenure. It wasn't just the fact that the Buccaneers defense did the unthinkable, but in the fashion that they accomplished the feat. Lead by hands down the best inside linebacker tandem in the NFL.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hopefully were paying attention. Devin White and Lavonte David were the most dominant and disruptive defenders on the field. Their combination of speed and power threw a monkey wrench in the Chiefs best laid plans. Mahomes has made a living utilizing his security blanket; better known as All World TE Travis Kelce, whenever a clutch completion was needed in a crucial situation. Kelce was visiably frustrated throughout the game by David's aggressive and physical coverage. He was unable to simply overpower or run away from the uber talented David. That simple fact completely changed the complexion of the game. Without their constant glaring mismatch at their disposal, the Chiefs offense struggled to adjust.

Now the Steelers are preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, and they have plenty of holes on the roster that need filling, especially on the offensive line. While they desperately need an influx of talent at the running back and tight end positions, offensive line is definitely the biggest area of need, with Maurkice Pouncey's retirement and three former starters entering free agency. Based on that common knowledge the Steelers have to go offensive line early and often in the 2021 NFL Draft, especially in the first round. Maybe, maybe not. After watching Tampa Bay's defense in the Super Bowl, the Steelers maybe tempted to look for a stud inside linebacker to pair with Devin Bush.

If the Steelers are looking for an inside linebacker with truly special attributes at the position, then Zaven Collins from Tulsa should definitely be on their radar. Listed at 6'4" and 260 lbs. Collins has superior length and girth for the position, coupled with solid speed and quickness for a player his size. His already exceptional power should only improve with age and NFL caliber strength training. He sheds blockers easily and is a superior tackler. He is an accomplished pass rusher, either from his inside position or from the edge. This versatility sets him apart from the other inside linebacker prospects in this draft class and makes him worthy of first round consideration in my opinion.

Another inside linebacker the Steelers could consider late in the first, or more likely in the second round, would be Nick Bolton from Missouri. Especially if they are the least bit concerned with Devin Bush's ability to make a full recovery from ACL surgery. Actually Bolton is very similar to Bush in both stature and ability. Bolton is vertically challenged for the position; listed at 6'0" and 232 lbs., but is a high volume tackler due to his athleticism, aggressive nature, and superior instincts. His forty times and explosive testing numbers at his pro day workout will greatly impact his draft positioning.

The Steelers may decide they simply have too many pressing needs at the aforementioned positions to spend a early round selection on the inside linebacker spot. If that proves to be the case, I would suggest that the Steelers take a long and hard look at Tony Fields II from West Virginia in the sixth round. Fields only played one season for the Mountaineers, but he made the most of the opportunity and showcased NFL draftable talent while leading the team in tackles. He is similar in size to Marcus Allen; listed at 6' 1" and 222 lbs, but I feel that Fields is a far more natural linebacker than Allen. He is an example of the new age inside linebacker capable of staying on the field for all three downs.

He is a willing and able tackler, though he will struggle in some matchups to shed and engage due to his size limitations. He excels as a pursuit linebacker due to his all out effort and excellent mobility. Another prospect who's pro day will hold special importance toward his draft positioning. He will excel on special teams immediately, and will bring a junkyard dog mentality to the locker room and meeting rooms. He was the spiritual and vocal leader at WVU right out of the gate, a defense that just happened to be not only the best defense in the Big 12, but one of the best defenses in the nation.

Prior to the Super Bowl, I thought it was a no brainer that the Steelers would go offensive lineman in the first round this year. Now I am not so sure, seeing how many top center prospects are being given late first to early fourth round grades. Depending on which offensive line prospects catch the Steelers fancy, and where and when they are projected to selected, it is feasible that the Steelers could be enticed to truly go best player available in the first round and draft a stud inside linebacker to pair with Devin Bush.

As an admitted lover of all things defense, particularly old school smash-mouth football, I am intrigued by the possibilities.


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