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Is it time for the Steelers to bench Vince Williams?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 1:02pm

With L.J. Fort shining in Vince Williams’ absence, it’s time to think about giving Fort starting time

Vince Williams was just awarded a new contract before the start of this season, and he was the obvious starting ILB heading into the preseason. Jon Bostic was the one who was thought to be on the hot seat at ILB, but with Bostic playing at a high level, there’s no way you can sit him without the defense taking a huge hit in the middle.

Unfortunately for Williams, he’s been average at best — but on passing downs, he’s been particularly suspect. The Steelers love to run single-high Cover 3 and Cover 2 Man. Unfortunately for Williams, he’s the person offenses attack constantly. It’s a huge reason why slot receivers and tight ends have been having huge games against the Steelers. Williams has been at the center of lackluster play too. He’s looked lost and even more so, he’s missed tackles.

#Steelers vs #Ravens Thread:

The Steelers welcome you to the game with some of the worst tackling you'll ever see. Very well could be the worst tackling unit in the NFL, this should never be a first down, pic.twitter.com/lmGTldQqPv

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 1, 2018

Missed tackles such as this really worry me. It seems to be a fitting summation of his season so far, but merely reaching out an arm and not wrapping up isn’t going to cut it at all. Vince Williams hasn’t been good vs. the run and this fact causes some worry about the state of the ILBs with him on the field.

Williams also has seemed lost at times, sometimes doing little to nothing on a play at all. I’m not sure what he’s doing sometimes but, as the main communicator on defense, he has to be on top of his assignments and follow through.

Haden gets beat to the inside here. Really the reality is he just plays the out far too much. He is expecting that and doesn't play the in as aggressively as he should. He knows Brown is quick and plays it too soft, easy pitch and catch once he goes on the in-breaking route. pic.twitter.com/hcI4hkTwLd

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 2, 2018

For example, what in the world is he doing here? It is as if he is deciding between blitzing and dropping back into a zone, but he’s a complete non-factor here. If he was supposed to be in a zone, then this easy slant completion can be put partially on his shoulders. It’s plays like this that make you question what in the world he’s doing this season.

He missed the game against the Falcons and L.J. Fort filled in for him, making a world of difference in the defense. Finally, running backs were not gashing the Steelers and you could see athleticism in the middle of the field. While tight ends were somewhat of an issue, the Steelers shut down every other aspect of the Falcons’ offensive attack. To the point about tight ends, Fort had one extremely rough play that stood out to me, and it was his worst play of the day.

Nothing super bad about this L.J Fort coverage. You can argue he should have been over a bit more to clear up the hitch, but he has to respect the checkdown as well. What is okay to criticize is that tackle., Whew. He just gets turnt out of his shoes and misses it. pic.twitter.com/r7lO81wbWx

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 7, 2018

The coverage isn’t terrible here. It’s a zone and Fort is seemingly right there, so credit to the Falcons for attacking that weakness in the zone. But this is a pretty bad miss by Fort who gets spun right around and then lets Hooper head upfield for another 10 yards after the catch. Luckily, this was only a one-time occurrence with Fort and he provided some other flashes of great plays to compensate.

Back to back quality snaps against the run from L.J. Fort. One vs power, one vs zone. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/k9XMImdTbs

— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) October 4, 2018

First up, from the Baltimore game, these are two great reps from Fort. The nice rip inside to get the tackle and then the athletic sideline-to-sideline speed to finish the second play are why he’s such a difference maker in the middle. He’s a play-maker that they simply didn’t have in previous games.

Vince Williams is a great blitzer in stunts schemed for him, but Fort arguably did it better against the Falcons.

Okay Keith Butler, I see you. Nice stunt blitz as Heyward takes the guard into the A game and the LBs come straight through the B gap. Good blitz scheming and Fort's athletic ability allow him to come in there like a cannon. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/kRkET3JpYb

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 7, 2018

I love how Fort is absolutely flying in there like a bullet. Great scheming by Keith Butler too. This is the type of play that can quite literally change a game, and it was no doubt important to stopping Atlanta’s drive. No matter how fast you get the ball out, Fort at least is getting a hit on Ryan, and his burst is so valuable to any team in the middle of the field.

Simply put, this team needs quickness and play-making ability in the middle of the field. L.J. Fort gives the Steelers that, and so does Matthew Thomas. Williams has a contract, and is being paid now, but if I’m aspiring to a Super Bowl win, then I’m playing Fort over Williams. He and Jon Bostic are the best duo inside for the Steelers right now.

Unfortunately, I think it’s time to bench Vince Williams.

Snap Counts show the Steelers utilizing the two TE set to dominate the Falcons

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 11:50am

The Pittsburgh Steelers did whatever they wanted offensively in Week 5, and largely due to their two TE packages.

In Week 5 the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense was looking for consistency across the board. With the desire to get back to the running game, and a more balanced approach to their offense, running the football and not falling behind early were paramount.

When the Steelers wanted to run the football, they did so with one of their favorite formations, the two tight end set. Since Vance McDonald has returned to normal action, he and Jesse James have been used with great frequency. Without getting into the logistics of the formation, it gives the offense a tremendous amount of options. The run, and the pass are readily available every time the ball is snapped.

Taking a look at total snap counts, the Steelers’ used both McDonald (37 snaps for 61%) and James (36 for 59%) a great deal to help add more blockers for James Conner as he tallied another 100 yard game with two rushing touchdowns.

In fact, the Steelers were even able to get their third tight end, Xavier Grimble, into the mix by playing 10 total snaps in the game.

The Steelers have always valued the tight end position, especially players who both run and block well, and there is a clear difference between Conner’s performance on the ground when the team deploys these offensive sets, compared to the alternative.

I am very confident the Steelers will utilize this same offensive approach vs. the Bengals in Week 6 to help neutralize their pass rush, yet also give them options to exploit the middle of the field and let their playmakers find space along the perimeter.

Here are some more nuggets from the past week’s Snap Totals:

  • Some talked about Roosevelt Nix’s play in the offense, but it might have just been a mirage. Nix played just 8 snaps on offense vs. the Falcons.
  • After Ryan Switzer was used frequently vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Week 3 win, his playing time on offense has decreased over the next three weeks. Against the Falcons he registered just 4 snaps.
  • James Washington has continued to see a great deal of snaps as the team’s No. 3 receiver (35 in total on Sunday), yet hasn’t made an impact. The Steelers will need him to start making plays to really open up the offense.
  • Could we be seeing the making of the Steelers’ future safety tandem for years to come? For the second straight game, both Terrell Edmunds and Sean Davis have played in 100% of defensive snaps. This week it was a total of 72.
  • Mike Hilton’s presence was felt on the field in a big way, likely because he played a lot. The Steelers used a large number of sub packages against the Atlanta offense, and Hilton made his 55 snaps (76%) count.
  • The ILB rotation between L.J. Fort and Tyler Matakevich was not as evenly split as most thought after the game. Matakevich registered 41 snaps, with Fort just 27.
  • The Artie Burns and Coty Sensabaugh rotation continues, not sure why the coaching staff feels rotating is better than sticking with one player, but Burns notched 41 snaps to Sensabaugh’s 31.

Check out the complete snap totals in the chart below, and if you can’t see the chart due to being on a mobile device, CLICK HERE to find those numbers.

There’s no way the Bengals will beat the Steelers this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 10:47am

Do the 4-1 Bengals have a prayer of beating the 2-2-1 Steelers this Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium? Nope.

If you root for the Bengals, you probably think I’m a smug, arrogant and entitled Steelers fan, based on the title of this article—and you’d be right...when it comes to the Bengals.

No offense.

When the Steelers righted their ship last Sunday with a thorough and thoroughly enjoyable 41-17 beating of the Falcons at Heinz Field, I thought it was fitting that their next opponent would be AFC North “rival” Cincinnati.

What perfect timing.

The Steelers can go into Paul Brown Stadium, their home away from home, and continue to get well by knocking off the AFC North’s “top” team. That’s right, I put the word top in quotation marks, and it’s because I think the Bengals’ current 4-1 record is about as menacing at Dr. Evil’s laser in Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Let’s be honest, baby, the Bengals don’t have the mojo, the libido, the life-force, the essence, the right stuff. What the Browns call a certain...they don’t know what.

I mean, who are we kidding, why would I, or any other Steelers’ fan, be scared of Cincinnati? I think its pretty clear that Pittsburgh has been living rent-free in the Bengals’ heads for many years.

The Bengals haven’t defeated Pittsburgh since Week 8 of the 2015 season. Since then, they’ve dropped 6-straight to the Steelers, this despite supposedly having a talented roster.

There was that game at Cincinnati in December of 2015, where linebacker Vontaze Burfict tried to hurt so many Steelers, head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t even want to shake his hand after Pittsburgh got done beating the Bengals by 13 points—and Tomlin is a freakin’ player’s coach!

A few weeks later, there was that wildcard game at Paul Brown Stadium where the...okay, I won’t do that to you. You know what happened at the end of that game.

The following December, the Steelers found themselves back at Paul Brown Stadium and also found themselves in a 17-3 hole. The free-loading tenant would finally get kicked out of the Bengals’ minds. Ha ha, just kidding. What really happened was that Pittsburgh came all the way back to win on the strength of six Chris Boswell field goals.

And last December, again at PBS, Cincinnati built a 17-0 lead, before two Bengals’ defenders stood around near the sidelines and watched as Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell strolled past them for a touchdown that helped pave the way to a 23-20 victory.

Now, on to this week’s game between the two combatants at Paul Brown Stadium. You’re probably waiting for me to break things down in an analytical way, with the help of statistics, matchups and trends.

Hahaha, why would I do that, when it doesn’t seem to matter how these two teams are trending and performing in the weeks prior to facing off?

My first prediction for Sunday’s game: Burfict, in his crazy zest to get revenge on Steelers’ receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for Smith-Schuster’s vicious (and awesome) block of Burfict, last December 4, followed by some disrepsectful (and glorious) taunting, will pull out all the stops by doing something so egregious — I’m predicting Burfict will bring a sack of doorknobs out onto the field at some point—he’ll probably get penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct twice...on the same play.

This will play a major role in a narrow-victory by the Steelers on Sunday afternoon, followed by many trips to therapists by Bengals’ fans on Monday morning.

My second and final prediction for Sunday’s game: Steelers 26, Bengals 21.

How will the two teams arrive at that score? Simply by the Steelers being the Steelers, and the Bengals being the Bengals.

The end.

Antonio Brown contends recent lawsuits are ‘false claims’ while NFL monitors the situation

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 9:23am

The Steelers could have another distraction in the making even if the man at the center of it suggests he can remain focused on football

After news of two impending lawsuits against Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown emerged earlier in the week, both the team and player had been noticeably quiet about the matter.

That silence was broken on Thursday when Brown spoke to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Antonio Brown on recent legal issues: “It has now been made public that two lawsuits containing false claims have been filed against me. The facts will soon come out that prove my innocence. My focus will remain on football and I will not let the cases serve as a distraction.”

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 11, 2018

One of the lawsuits brought against Brown alleges he caused damage to a property he was renting at the Mansions at Acqualina in Sunny Isle Beach, Florida, while the other claims he threw furniture out of the apartment window that fell a significant distance before hitting the ground near a young child.

Mike Tomlin had nothing to say on the matter when pressed by reporters on Tuesday, suggesting he had no knowledge of the issue. However, it would seem that is not the case for the league who are already monitoring the case, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

“We are aware of and will continue to monitor the civil suits,”

Under the terms of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, Brown could certainly be eligible for discipline by the league in terms of a fine or even a suspension. Regardless if he is found guilty in these matters by the court, and it is worth noting that these are both civil matters seeking only financial damages rather than punitive actions, the NFL could still choose to suspend him.

Given the league’s history with uneven and often heavy handed discipline at times, even in cases when it was not warranted, Steeler fans should prepare for a possible scenario where Brown is forced to sit out a few games. Whether such a possible suspension could be held up on appeal or not imposed until the 2019 season would be something to worry about later if the worst should happen.

Steelers Film Room: T.J. Watt responds to cold spell with the best NFL game of his young career

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 8:37am

After three cold weeks for TJ Watt, he showed out on Sunday against the Falcons

We all know what Bud Dupree is, and that is a guy who can’t pass rush in a one-on-one situation. Thus, we all hoped his comrade on the other side, T.J. Watt, would show out and be a key pass rusher for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year.

After a great week one performance, Watt went cold in weeks 2 through 4, much like most of this team. Watt seemingly had no pass rushing moves, and had to be schemed to get pressures on the QB. His run defense, which is usually good, slipped down to levels which were horrendous. However, with the Steelers having their backs up against the wall, Watt responded with not just a good game, but the best game he has had in the NFL thus far. This team needs Watt to be good in order for them to go where they want to go — the Super Bowl. I can only hope he continues this style of play.

However, I loved Keith Butler’s game plan for this game. Even if Watt did win one-on-one this game, Butler still schemed him wide open.

TJ Watt had his most impressive game as a pro. Breaking it down, a thread: #Steelers pic.twitter.com/Xfi0tzSAlM

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 8, 2018

Matt Ryan audibles for a slide protection here and Watt is schemed against it perfectly with that inside stunt. With the offensive line not expecting it at all, Watt’s athleticism is shown off as he easily gets around the corner and gets to Matt Ryan quickly. Not a great play by Watt, but a great job of scheming by Keith Butler from watching film on the Falcons.

Something I also noticed with Watt this game was how he seemed more adept into the game as a whole. Keith Butler schemed him into ILB at times and he played that role pretty well. He should not be there all the time, but in sub-packages, it works rather well.

Whew that is a high IQ play. Plays the zone perfectly on Julio and then comes back to force Ryan to throw it. Gets the hands up in the face and it is only completed because Julio Jones is Julio Jones. pic.twitter.com/vkT0MoSvSq

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 8, 2018

Overall this is just an insanely smart play on the part of T.J. Watt and it is why I hope we see this more often. He carries Julio Jones to perfect depth and does not allow the easy first down conversion, but having awareness to go back to Ryan and then break down so it forces him to throw is a play veterans make. Of course, just to make it better, he gets his hands in Ryan’s face too and makes this throw as hard as possible, and it is only completed because Julio Jones is cheat code on jump balls.

As for pass rushing, Watt showed he has moves in his arsenal. He seems to have an interesting stutter step that he uses to get tackles to turn their hips outside and then he heads outside and it gives him leverage. I have not seen it that much on film before this week so it sure is nice to see him develop it.

Nice stutter step before contact which allows Watt to move Schraeder to the inside and gives him outside leverage. And the bend around the edge! pic.twitter.com/FNMJzlExlq

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 8, 2018

Not everyone has this type of bend around the edge either and it probably the most impressive part of this play as a whole. I love how low Watt is as he bends too, that is playing with leverage, and Bud Dupree sure could learn and thing or two from this play alone. At the very least, Watt is evolving his pass rushing game and with that bend he can terrorize.

Even more so evident in that, however, is easily the play of the game from T.J. Watt. This is pass rushing mastery.

HELLO TJ WATT! Look at that bend around the edge and the hand usage to get leverage. Whew that is a great pass rush against a good RT in Ryan Schraeder. pic.twitter.com/R99Qj7OWCr

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 8, 2018

Other than the false step again and using his hands to get leverage, this is dipping around the edge perfectly. We know how athletic Watt is and my goodness this is a beautiful rep to put pass rushing and athleticism together. The speed and bend combination shows up here and it allows Watt to get right around the edge for the forced fumble. He keeps his shoulders square and dips his hips. which causes Schraeder to let go of his jersey and allows him time to bend. This essentially ended the game and Watt’s best sack of his career.

Watt has now shown the fact he has pass rushing moves and can be the pass rusher the Steelers need. He should start developing some hand usage of a chop or rip and it will also help him win inside. He clearly has the bend to get around the edge.

If he can put some consistency on it, Watt will be the rusher the Steelers so badly need him to be.

Mike Tomlin fined $25,000 for telling the truth about officiating in the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 7:38am

After telling reporters he didn’t expect to by punished for his post-game comments on Sunday, Mike Tomlin must have been surprised — come Wednesday — to discover he had been fined $25,000 by the league.

While freedom of speech might be protected by the Constitution, the NFL once again proved they were above the laws of the land on Wednesday when they fined the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach for his post-game remarks about officiating in Week 5.

Just a day after Mike Tomlin told a room full of reporters he didn’t expect to be punished for his comments, news emerged that the league had actually fined him $25,000, according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY.

NFL VP of Football Operations Troy Vincent had already been in contract with Tomlin earlier in the week, presumably to give him a dressing down for daring to speak the truth, but clearly that was not enough for league officials. However, anyone who missed his remarks after the game might be surprised to learn how tame they were given the size of the fine.

“... some of the other stuff, man, is a joke. We’ve gotta get better as a National Football League. Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We’ve gotta get them correct. So I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you, but that’s all I’m gonna say on it.”

Considering his statement only included 51 words, that is almost $500 a word for talking about something the NFL’s own television network and official website have been questioning on a daily basis since the season began. Oddly, while it’s fine for the league’s own reporters to question the decisions of NFL officials, a coach is barred from saying a few sentences that are really quite mild by comparison.

With the Steelers’ coach a member of the league’s competition committee, the next meeting of the group should be an interesting affair if Tomlin’s opinions about the state of officiating haven’t improved by then. Oh to be a fly on the wall when that meeting happens.

Steelers Injury Report: L.J. Fort, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Morgan Burnett miss practice on Wednesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 6:28am

L.J. Fort is the latest name to miss practice time with an injury, while Morgan Burnett and Darrius Heyward-Bey remain sidelined.

While the Pittsburgh Steelers saw a whole host of players miss practice on Wednesday, it should be comforting to hear that only half of the names sitting out were on the sidelines due to injury. Of the six players held out of training, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Haden and Maurkice Pouncey all appear to have been the beneficiaries of a rest day, as has become customary for each of the veterans this year.

Steelers injury report: Roethlisberger, Haden & Pouncey got vet day off; Edmunds (calf) was full participant as was V. Williams (hamstring). Burnett (groin), Fort (ankle), Heyward-Bey (ankle) did not participate.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) October 10, 2018

As disappointing as it is to note that Darrius Heyward-Bey and Morgan Burnett are still struggling with injuries, it’s encouraging to see both Terrell Edmunds and Vince Williams as full participants in practice. The status of Edmunds was always in doubt after he was listed as an injury concern by Mike Tomlin on Tuesday with an ankle issue, and a hamstring problem for Williams seemed to suggest it might be some time before he was back training.

Pittsburgh will be desperate to have either Edmunds or Burnett available in Week 6, given that the remaining options behind them are Jordan Dangerfield and Marcus Allen.

The absence of L.J. Fort was somewhat expected — the only other player named by Tomlin as having picked up a new injury in Week 5 — and his status will be one to watch as the week progresses. If Fort cannot play against the Cincinnati Bengals, it seems reasonable to believe Matthew Thomas will see more than the four snaps on defense he saw against Atlanta.

The Bengals’ injury report for Wednesday:

Sitting out practice for the Bengals were RB Gio Bernard (knee), G Clint Boling (hip), TE Tyler Kroft (foot) and C Billy Price (foot). Limited were WR John Ross (groin), DE Carl Lawson (ankle), DE Michael Johnson (knee), CB William Jackson (knee), LB Preston Brown (ankle)

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) October 10, 2018

Black and Gold Links: Is Ben Roethlisberger’s banged up elbow the cause of some inconsistencies?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 5:11am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in winner’s row after a solid performance vs. the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field in Week 5. With the Cincinnati Bengals looming ahead in Week 6, the Steelers will hope to “stack wins” for the first time this year and improve on their 2-2-1 record.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about how it was brought up, by Ben Roethlisberger, that his elbow injury from Week 1 has continued to plague his throwing mechanics. This makes people wonder if maybe this is the cause of his inaccuracies as of late. Not buying it? Me neither, but Roethlisberger downplayed the injury in his media session on Wednesday.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger says elbow issue not a concern

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A day after unsolicitedly mentioning that an elbow injury had been adversely affecting his throwing motion, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger downplayed the elbow would be an issue going forward.

“Ah, it’s fine,” Roethlisberger said from the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Wednesday morning. “I don’t even need to talk about it. It’s good.”

During his weekly radio show on 93.7 FM on Tuesday, Roethlisberger said he was “dealing with a little bit of an elbow issue,” referring to when he was strip-sacked by the BrownsGenard Avery late in overtime during the season opener Sept. 9 at Cleveland.

Roethlisberger missed two days of practice the ensuing week but has not missed any of the four games since.

Just before halftime of this past Sunday’s game against Atlanta, Roethlisberger threw an interception in the end zone to drop his passer rating to 64.6 to that point. He had a perfect rating of 158.3 in the second half (10 for 12, 155 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) as the Steelers scored touchdowns on their first three drives.

Roethlisberger said Tuesday that he made an adjustment at halftime to keep his elbow up, resisting the temptation to drop it to avoid pain.

“It’s something I need to mentally get over in terms of my throwing motion,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday. “I’ve got to keep the arm high to keep the ball driving instead of sailing, that’s all.”

Will chippy nature of Steelers-Bengals rivalry be hurt by new rules?

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The NFL might be gradually outlawing big hits and rough play. But when it comes to the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, Ben Roethlisberger said the new rules might not apply.

“Some of the stuff that happens in that game, the rules were made for before that,” Roethlisberger said.

“It’s not about just the physicality of the football game to me,” the Steelers quarterback said about playing the Bengals. “It’s when it gets the extracurricular stuff that you wish would be cut out of it – and hope is cut out this time.”

The Steelers and Bengals have been division opponents for almost a half-century, but perhaps never before has the rivalry simmered as much as it has in recent years.

The most recent meeting between the teams featured 20 accepted penalties for 239 yards. Nine unsportsmanlike conduct/unnecessary roughness penalties were called, three players were fined and one was suspended. Also, three players left the 23-20 Steelers victory on Dec. 4 because of concussions, two were carted off the field and four others left the game injured and did not return.

“It’s one of those games that can get chippy times – you hope it doesn’t,” Roethlisberger said. “You hope it’s just a good, hard-fought football game. But sometimes (it isn’t). So we will do our best to all that in the past behind us and go play it like it’s a normal football game.”

Ron Cook: Steelers linemen deliver perfect gift by keeping Ben Roethlisberger off the turf

By: Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When he wasn’t ripping NFL officials or dodging annoying questions about constant newsmaker Antonio Brown, coach Mike Tomlin got right to the point when asked to summarize the Steelers’ 41-17 win Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

“That’s an easy assessment. We ran the ball, they didn’t. We protected our quarterback, they didn’t.”

That meant a couple of things.

For the Steelers, it meant a season-saving — at least to this point — win. They will take a 2-2-1 record into AFC North Division road action Sunday in Cincinnati.

For Ben Roethlisberger, it meant the loss of significant money. Get this: He is thrilled to lose it.

No, Roethlisberger wasn’t robbed of $80,000 — or a gun — as Brown was, according to TMZ, which earlier Tuesday also reported Brown was the subject of two lawsuits involving his alleged trashing of his pricey Florida luxury condo and throwing objects off his 14th floor balcony, nearly hitting a young child. It’s no wonder Tomlin had a terse “No comment” when asked about the latest headlines involving Brown. Tomlin stepped out of character Sunday when he called the officiating “a joke” and said he was “[ticked] off” about it but didn’t want any part of a Brown discussion. He must be sick and tired of Brown’s antics.

Roethlisberger, on the other hand, was eager to talk about his financial loss. For years, he has had a policy of buying gifts for his offensive linemen when he isn’t sacked in a game. That happened Sunday when the linemen also helped James Conner run for 110 of the team’s 131 rushing yards.

Podcast: Why the Bengals have become the Steelers’ biggest rivals

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 4:24am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into Week-6 action and they’ve just passed the quarter mark of their 2018 regular season. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Recapping the win over the Falcons
  • Week 6, True or False!
  • Breaking down the Steelers vs. Bengals Week-6 game
  • Week-6 game predictions
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

If you haven’t heard, we have a YouTube channel, and the main reason for this is to increase the sound quality on our shows. But if you’re a visual learner you can watch the show below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: 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.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is dominating from the slot in 2018

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 2:30pm

The second year wide receiver has found his home as a professional — in the slot role on offense.

The Pittsburgh Steelers sure do know how to pick wide receivers. And when they selected JuJu Smith-Schuster out of USC in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft it may have caused some eyebrows to raise, but the pick sure has panned out.

After accumulating nearly 1,000 yards as a rookie, Smith-Schuster has come into his own in his sophomore season. Most fans assumed after the departure of Martavis Bryant, it would be Smith-Schuster who would take over the duties on the outside opposite Antonio Brown.

Try again.

Smith-Schuster has remained in the slot, where he prefers the physicality of play, and he has continued to thrive in this spot.

Check out the numbers for slot receiving production, from ESPN’s NFL Matchup Twitter account:

These players are the most productive this season from the SLOT!#HereWeGo #LARams #Skol #OnePride #DUUUVAL #FlyEaglesFly #ChiefsKingdom #GiantsPride #SeizeTheDEY pic.twitter.com/MRoSl8GBeG

— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) October 10, 2018

For Smith-Schuster, his style of play is a perfect blend of old school physicality, combined with modern day creativity. However, what has become the best part of his game is the rapport he has developed with Ben Roethlisberger.

When Roethlisberger escapes the pocket, his eyes usually fixate on No. 84, Antonio Brown, but this year there has been another threat who has been able to seemingly read Roethlisberger’s mind — JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Fans have already seen this on multiple occasions this season. The key first down completion on second down vs. the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football saw Roethlisberger step up in the pocket, and move to his right. It was Smith-Schuster who peeled off his route and sat in a zone for Roethlisberger to throw across his body and make the play.

This is just one example of what Smith-Schuster brings to the table, and most of the time it comes from the slot position in the offense. If Smith-Schuster can keep up this production, Pittsburgh’s offense will remain one of the more difficult to defend in the NFL.

Ben Roethlisberger ready to put the chippy past with Bengals behind him

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 12:31pm

The Steelers quarterback is hoping the bad blood between the Steelers and Bengals stays as as thing of the past.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals don’t like one another. Some might even say they hate each other.

The players can’t stand one another, and neither can the fan bases.

It might be the ugliest, not the best, rivalry in all of sports at the moment, and it seems every time these two AFC North rivals face each other the injuries seem to mount.

Everyone remembers the last time these two teams squared off against one another. In a very important game, in Cincinnati, on December 4th was when Ryan Shazier was carted off the field with little-to-no feeling in his lower extremities, JuJu Smith-Schuster de-cleated Vontaze Burfict, knocking him from the game and eventually being dealt a one-game suspension, and George Iloka took a high shot at Antonio Brown which saw him get a one-game suspension, only to have it reduced to just a fine in the following days.

That was the last time these two teams met...until this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH in Week 6.

While there may be some fans out there who actually enjoy the spectacle of the Steelers vs. Bengals, most players just want another hard fought game. A game which is tough, physical and hard-hitting, but not dirty. Think what the Steelers vs. Ravens rivalry has become as an example.

This is all Ben Roethlisberger wants too as he spoke to media Wednesday he talked about how he hopes the chippy play has been left in the past.

“You know, it’s AFC North football. It’s one of those game that can get chippy at times. You hope it doesn’t. You hope it’s just a hard-fought football game but sometimes it gets a little chippy. So, we’ll do our best to put all that in the past behind us and play like it’s a normal football game.”

Doing so might be easier said than done. With Vontaze Burfict back in the lineup for the Bengals after serving a 4-game suspension to start the season, Roethlisberger knows you have to be aware of where Burfict is on the field.

“He’s a good football player. Honestly, I have said this to him on the football field, he is a phenomenal football player. [He’s] very smart, physical, can make all the plays and so you need to know where he is in that sense, yes, because of how good he is.”

Roethlisberger was asked about his thoughts, and memories, of last year’s game, and what it might mean for the team heading back to Cincinnati since Ryan Shazier’s injury.

“Well, I think on our side, we’ll put it behind us. We are going to go in and play like it’s a normal football game. AFC North physical football game. We can only control half the players out there though, so we know how important this game is for us to try and get a ‘W’.”

How will this game unfold is anyone’s guess, but fans of both sides should hope for anything but another spectacle. A hard-hitting, but clean, contest would be a delight after the past few debacles between these two football teams.

Check out his complete media session below:

Ben: "It’s AFC North football." pic.twitter.com/aIa3dRq9qZ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 10, 2018

Steelers’ response in pivotal Week 5 victory over the Falcons was impressive

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 11:24am

Unlike previous games, the Steelers came out strong on both defense and offense early in the third quarter. The quick response both stymied the Falcons’ momentum and re-established Pittsburgh’s firm control of what would turn out to be a 41-17 laugher.

When Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw his ill-advised pass that was intercepted in the end zone late in the first half of a three-point game against the Falcons at Heinz Field on Sunday, you may have had a defeated feeling.

After building a quick 13-0 lead in the first quarter, Pittsburgh’s offense sputtered in the second. Meanwhile, the Falcons, a team with one of the more high-powered offensive machines in the NFL, scored 10 unanswered points and looked poised for many more after intermission.

Furthermore, Atlanta was set to receive the second-half kickoff, and it seemed inevitable that the Steelers’ much-maligned defense would soon collapse. Couldn’t you just imagine a Falcons’ touchdown and a four-point deficit for the home team before the home folks could even get settled into their seats after their concession run at halftime?

And with the way the Steelers’ offense had gone into hibernation down-the-stretch in each of the previous two match-ups—Pittsburgh didn’t score a single point in the second half in games against the Buccaneers and Ravens, respectively—weren’t you just preparing for the deficit to continue to grow all throughout the final two periods?

But a funny thing happened on the way to gloom and doom: the Steelers responded—on both sides of the ball.

Instead of marching down the field with the greatest of ease on the opening drive of the third quarter, Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan and Co. could only muster 18 yards on six plays before punting the football back to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh’s offense responded not with another second half sputter, but with a spurt all the way to pay-dirt on a 12-play, 85-yard drive that consumed 7:06 of clock and culminated in a nine-yard touchdown catch by receiver Antonio Brown, the man who was supposed to be on the receiving end of Roethlisberger’s aforementioned ill-advised pass late in the first half when the Steelers had the ball deep in Atlanta territory and seemed likely to walk away with at least a Chris Boswell field goal attempt. Unlike that ugly second-quarter pass to Brown, who must have been covered by every member of the Falcons’ defense, Roethlisberger’s third-quarter touchdown strike to No. 84 was a precise nine-yard out and gave the Steelers a 20-10 lead.

Three plays after that, fullback Roosevelt Nix blocked a punt, and the punter was ultimately tackled at the Atlanta 19. Three plays after that, running back James Conner followed another Nix block (this one of the fullback variety) into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown to make it 27-10 and give the Steelers firm control of the game.

But things may have turned out differently if not for how both the Steelers’ defense and offense responded right out of the gate in the third quarter.

The Steelers re-wrote the second half script they had been following during the first month of the season, and it proved to be pivotal in improving their record to 2-2-1.

Analyzing the Steelers’ Week 5 win over the Falcons, by the numbers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 10:10am

There were so many encouraging numbers from Sunday, it’s difficult to decide which ones to highlight.

50%

The Steelers had a perfectly balanced run vs. pass attack against the Falcons on Sunday. There were 29 rushing attempts and 29 passing attempts. The next best run/pass ratio this season was Week 1 against the Browns with 43.8%. In Weeks 2, 3, and 4, the rushing attempts were 17.6%, 34.9%, and 18.6% of the total offense respectively.

34.4%

While the percentage of rushing attempts tells the story if it was a balanced attack, percentage of rushing yards of the total yards gained by an offense tells if it was an “effectively balanced” running game. A balanced attack would be 50%, but being effectively balanced running the ball would be 33.3% of the offensive yards. For example, if a team rushes for 150 yards and passes for 300 yards, there’s a perfect ratio of balance yardage-wise between the two.

The Steelers had 130 yards rushing and 250 yards passing for a total of 381 yards against the Falcons. Breaking it down, the Steelers averaged 4.51 yards per carry and 8.62 yards per pass attempt. Coupled with a 65.5% completion percentage, the offense was effective across the board. Also remember the last of the 29 rushes lost 3 yards with a kneel-down to end the game.

9/12

The Steelers third-down conversions on Sunday might have been the highlight of the game from a statistical standpoint. With nine conversions, it was actually one more third down conversion than in the previous three games, total. An astounding 40% of the Steelers’ third-down conversions thus far on the season have come against the Falcons.

To break down the Steelers’ third-down conversions even more, they were a perfect 5/5 in the first quarter. During the second quarter when the Steelers failed to score, it could be attributed to going 0/2 on third down on their two drives. The third quarter brought another perfect 2/2, while the Steelers finished up the final quarter going 2/3 on third down. The only time in the second half when the Steelers didn’t convert on third down was with just over four minutes left in the game when they held a 17-point lead.

+6

Not only did the Steelers manage six sacks against the Falcons, their OL didn’t surrender any. Both the offensive and defensive lines received game balls from Coach Tomlin on Sunday. With a 6-sack advantage, those game balls were well deserved.

46:16

This was the time elapsed in the game before Julio Jones recorded his first catch. Joe Haden followed Jones wherever he lined up and shut him down. It wasn’t until the score was 27-10 when Jones finally ended up with a reception.

47.7 yards

Jordan Berry needs a quick shout-out for a great day of punting. An average of 47.7 yards with two punts inside the 20, one of which was downed at the two yard line, made for a nice performance.

Are there any other numbers from Sunday’s win that stand out to you? Feel free to share any in the comments below.

T.J. Watt wins AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for Week 5

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 8:55am

The Steelers outside linebacker won his second Defensive Player of the Week award in 2018 for his 3 sack effort against the Atlanta Falcons

The Pittsburgh Steelers may not be having their greatest start to the year in terms of wins and losses, but they led the AFC in individual player honors through the first five weeks of the season after T.J. Watt picked up his second AFC Defensive Player of the Week award of 2018 on Wednesday.

T.J. Watt has been named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

MORE: https://t.co/OH2juwpBpu pic.twitter.com/1EwRg3apYU

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 10, 2018

Watt recorded 3 sacks, a forced fumble and 8 tackles against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5, with his strip sack of Matt Ryan resulting in a touchdown when L.J. Fort fell on the ball in the endzone. Even when he wasn't sacking the quarterback, he was continually harassing him, registering an additional 3 hits and 3 hurries on Ryan in the contest.

T.J. Watt had one of the best games of his career on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/BYyuY5i2tO

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 9, 2018

After a few quiet weeks following an impressive season opener, Watt silenced his critics on Sunday with another dominating performance and remains very much on pace to break LaMarr Woodley’s record for sacks in the first two years of his career.

#Steelers LB T.J. Watt (@_TJWatt) is tied for the #NFL lead with 6.0 sacks in 2018

Along with 7.0 sacks in his 2017 rookie year, he is tied for third in team history for most sacks in a player's first two years in the NFL

Woodley 15.5
Willis 15.0
Watt 13.0
Bell 13.0
Porter 12.5 pic.twitter.com/gteMIwF7mS

— Dom Rinelli (@drinelli) October 8, 2018

Currently tied for the league lead in sacks with his brother J.J. and Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals, the young outside linebacker continues to improve almost week-by-week having still only played 20 regular season games in his short career so far.

If you're looking at the NFL leaders in sacks, you probably recognize this guy. #TurnDownForWatt pic.twitter.com/HOdKq7lCaj

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 9, 2018

As good as he has been at times rushing the passer, Watt is increasingly looking more comfortable in coverage and his value as a run stopper continues to grow.

T.J. Watt (@_TJWatt) was EVERYWHERE in week 5 against the Falcons: pic.twitter.com/UI4SmmMHYI

— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) October 9, 2018

While J.J. might be the more famous brother in the NFL for now, his youngest brother is nipping at his heels this season, with both players putting up strangely similar numbers so far in 2018.

stop copying me bro @_TJWatt https://t.co/f72aR0brvH

— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) October 8, 2018

10 Things I Think I Thought about the Steelers big win over the Falcons

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 8:28am

Time to think about what I think I thought after the Steelers’ 41-17 win over Atlanta in Week 5.

While it is always a good thing to know how to lose well, we shouldn’t lose sight of this simple truth- winning is better than losing. Here are ten thoughts I think I thought while watching the Steelers destroy the Atlanta (Edie) Falcos.

1. I knew it was going to go well when I waited at the light to turn left into Ruffalo Child Sings, and as the light turned green, the car opposite me waved me through. My face lit up and I said to my beautiful wife, “HA! A Pittsburgh left, right here in Indiana.” Unclear on a Pittsburgh left? First, you wouldn’t understand- it’s a yinzer thing. Second, the brainiacs at wiki have you covered.

2. I explained to my beloved wife that it was likely to be a shootout, both teams having high powered offenses, and woeful defenses. I was half right. Not only did our defense have a good game (with rules change “inflation,” giving up 17 points today is like giving up 7 back in the day) but they had a good game against a incredibly potent offense. I’m not saying we’re ready to compete for the Super Bowl right now, but the defense really does continue to improve.

3. When I was a little kid I couldn’t understand why they called it Franco’s Italian army. It was obvious to me he wasn’t Italian. He was Irish, Frank O’Harris. Yes, during the current games my mind can wander back to older times.

4. It was great to see Bud and TJ play “Meet at the Quarterback.” They both need to do well for the defense to succeed. In fact, it was great to see consistent pressure. I know Matty Ice moves at the speed of a glacier, but he had largely been kept off his back this season, until he came to Pittsburgh.

5. I wondered if Ben’s pick was not so much the fruit of a failure to realize how much coverage he was throwing into, or too much confidence in combat catches, and was instead the fruit of a weakened arm and bad form, that he has trying to throw it out of the end zone. On the other hand, maybe he was trying for the touchdown, thinking the combat catch odds were better than the odds on a chip shot kick from Boswell.

6. Hoping the choreographed celebrations go away soon. The constant need to one-up the previous celebration has led to dumb ideas and distractions from the game. I loved JuJu’s TD catch. That, not his pantomime of giving birth, is what I want to remember from that play.

7. James Conner. James Conner. James Conner. I’ll never misspell your name again, because I kept seeing the back of your jersey at the end of big plays. Strong indeed.

8. It was quite encouraging to see the great plays spread around so much, on both sides of the ball. It is just possible that more important than transcendent players like Bell and Shazier, what we really need is a good team playing together, and on the same page.

9. Last week Joe Haden looked like that former cornerback from the glory days that we used to call Ron Rubber-Ball Johnson. He earned the name by constantly bouncing off receivers, trying to deliver the big hurt, instead of delivering the tackle. Haden, against Baltimore lowered his shoulder, and pinged off several ball carriers. When he managed to be in on a tackle against Atlanta, he tackled like the professional he is. He had few opportunities this week because he was busy being a tour guide introducing Julio Jones to Revis Island, now under new management. Seriously. Julio Jones is quite good at playing football. And Joe Haden owned him.

10. I won’t be taking the family to the Bengals game in Cincinnati this year as we did last year. Instead I’m taking my dear wife to a log cabin to celebrate our second anniversary. Of course, on the way there we’ll swing by Ruffalo Child Sings for some burgers and the game.

Coach Tomlin recalls the Steelers’ last trip to Cincinnati and playing after Ryan Shazier’s injury

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 7:20am

The Steelers will continue to #Shalieve as they return to the unfortunate place where it all began.

The Steelers are returning to Paul Brown Stadium this week for the first time since Week 13 of last season when Ryan Shazier suffered his devastating injury. Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the emotions of returning to Cincinnati during his weekly press conference.

“We’ll kind of know that when we get there. I’m sure there will be in some form or fashion.”

Tomlin was also asked about the challenges of continuing last year’s game after the injury occurred.

“That wasn’t about football. That was somebody we care deeply about that got injured very severely. It wasn’t about utilizing it as some motivational tactic or anything of that nature.”

Tomlin also addressed what it was like to move forward in order to secure a victory.

“It was a very difficult thing to get through. We had a job to do in terms of winning the game, but obviously our hearts and minds were with (Ryan).”

When asked how the team was able to get through the game after Shazier was injured, Tomlin had a very simple answer.

“I don’t know.”

It remains to be seen if the emotions of their last visit will affect the Steelers’ play on Sunday. But watching Ryan Shazier walk to the sidelines with his teammates this week will mean a lot to players and fans, regardless of team affiliation. Last year’s game aside, the Steelers and Bengals don’t need any extra motivation, or bad blood, to get them fired up for the upcoming game.

Vontaze Burfict will be back on the field after serving his four-game suspension, JuJu Smith-Schuster will be in the lineup, and there is so much history between these two teams emotions will always run high. Oh yeah, there’s also this thing called the divisional race where the 4-1 Bengals are looking down at the 2-2-1 Steelers.

A lot can change on Sunday, in a lot of ways.

Lawsuit against Antonio Brown just the latest ‘black eye’ for Steelers WR

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 6:08am

For Antonio Brown, the hits keep coming...and not the good ones.

Pittsburgh Steelers star wideout Antonio Brown has made the Pro Bowl six times as a wide receiver — was furniture tossing part of his offseason routine to stay in shape? According to a recent lawsuit filed against Brown, in April Brown was alleged to have thrown two large vases, an ottoman and other various furniture items off his 14th-floor balcony in south Florida during an outburst. These actions are alleged to have been caught on surveillance cameras.

Documents for the lawsuit were obtained by TMZ Sports, and in those documents Brown is being accused of almost hitting a 22-month-old child as one of the vases shattered near the toddler. Ophir Sternberg is suing Brown for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. According to Stemberg, “Mr. Brown was extremely agitated, acting aggressively, and yelling at security personnel when [police] arrived to the scene.” Also added was how Brown behaved “without regard for human life.”

According to the lawsuit, Brown’s residence was extensively damaged in a “fit of rage”.

To say Brown has had a turbulent 2018 might be an understatement. Let’s check the timeline...

The lawsuit should not draw the ire of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, as such lawsuits do not lead to suspensions or even fines. However, how concerned should the Steelers front office be with the erratic behavior Brown has shown in the past six months? Brown has no prior legal issues, so is this behavior a trend or just a blip on the radar?

What does Steelers Nation think of his actions? Let us know in the comment section below, and remember to keep it clean and respectful!

Colts sign former Steelers’ safety Mike Mitchell

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 5:11am

Mike Mitchell finally has a new home after agreeing to a contract with the Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday.

For the legion of fans who have been waiting months for the Pittsburgh Steelers to fix the secondary by re-signing Mike Mitchell, that dream was dashed on Tuesday [sarcasm font]. Released ahead of the new league-year back in March, Mitchell went unsigned during free agency and failed to latch on with a team during training camp, but he’s finally found a new home with the Indianapolis Colts after a number of unsuccessful tryouts over the past few weeks.

We have signed free agent S Mike Mitchell and waived CB Lenzy Pipkins: https://t.co/eoti9DJVEp pic.twitter.com/WYK28smGc9

— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 9, 2018

While it would be fair to say that Mitchell was not always the most popular player on the squad with the fans in Pittsburgh, he was a fiercely loyal teammate and well-liked in the locker room. Sadly the fire that he often showed off the field was not always directed positively on game day and he will be remembered by many more for his late hits and blown coverages than anything else.

Considering the Colts saw two of their safeties leave the game early against the New England Patriots in Clayton Geathers and Matthias Farley, there’s a possibility Mitchell could be pressed into action in Week 6 if they cannot play this weekend. But for a team that had Shamarko Thomas on their roster earlier in the year, this former Steeler might seem like an upgrade.

Drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 2009 draft, Mitchell joins his fourth team in a 10-year career that has also seen him spend time with the Carolina Panthers. Although terms of the deal have yet to be released, it’s expected he’s signed a one-year contract.

Black and Gold Links: Steelers preparing for carryover from last Bengals game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/10/2018 - 4:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in winner’s row after a solid performance vs. the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field in Week 5. With the Cincinnati Bengals looming ahead in Week 6, the Steelers will hope to “stack wins” for the first time this year and improve on their 2-2-1 record.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-Gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet, and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about how players are certainly expecting some carryover from last year’s debacle in Cincinnati. Fans must remember the last time these two teams met were when Ryan Shazier left the game without feeling in his lower body, Vontaze Burfict left on a stretcher after a debilitating hit from JuJu Smith-Schuster and George Iloka intentionally went high on Antonio Brown.

Yeah, this game could get really interesting...

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers’ Coty Sensabaugh expects last game vs. Bengals to carry over

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Coty Sensabaugh is curious to see what the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals can muster for an encore.

In his first true involvement in the Steelers-Bengals series, Sensabaugh last December played in a game that featured jaw-rattling hits, blindside blocks, concussions, personal fouls of every variety, a notorious taunting penalty and an overall level of brutality that led to two suspensions (one overturned) and had national broadcasters reeling in disgust.

Oh, and there was that spinal cord injury to Ryan Shazier on a seemingly innocent tackle that left the star linebacker temporarily paralyzed and unable to play this season.

“It was different, for sure,” Sensabaugh, a veteran cornerback who is in his second year with the Steelers, said Monday. “I don’t think words can describe it. You have to be a part of it.”

The Steelers return to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday for the first time since that December showdown that featured 20 combined penalties for 239 yards. Will the physicality carry over to a new season or do the Steelers expect to enter the game with a clean slate?

“What do you think?” Sensabaugh said. “I think it will definitely carry over. We don’t like them. They don’t like us. It’s not some big unknown.”

Other veterans on the roster who have more experience in the rivalry are hoping sanity prevails when the 2-2-1 Steelers visit the 4-1 Bengals with a chance to crawl closer to the AFC North leaders.

“I don’t think there should be bad blood or vendettas other than trying to win the game,” said guard Ramon Foster, a 10-year veteran. “We’ll feel it out and dip our toe in the water first before we make anything out of it. I don’t think those guys hold anything over us or us them. It’s just a wait-and-see game more than anything.”

That sentiment was echoed by defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who is entering his fifth season of the Steelers-Bengals matchups.

“We’ll definitely be ready for whatever they throw at us,” Tuitt said. “Make sure we keep our calm and play the game that we are supposed to play. Nobody try to do extra stuff. At the end of the day, we go in and try to win a football game.”

Steelers’ Mike Tomlin doesn’t expect fine for critical comments about officiating

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday he does not expect to be fined by the NFL for his criticism of the officiating in games this season.

Tomlin, a member of the NFL’s competition committee, which proposes rules changes to ownership, said some of the flags thrown Sunday in the Steelers’ 41-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons were a “joke.”

“I said what I said after the game,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.” I meant it, but I have no further comment. I’m choosing to move on and focus on this week’s challenge.”

The subject arose when Tomlin was asked about two hands-to-the-face penalties called against outside linebacker Bud Dupree.

Tomlin said he took no issue with those penalties, then added, “Some of the other stuff is a joke. We got to get better as a National Football League. Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We got to get them correct, and so I’m (ticked) about it, to be quite honest with you, but that’s all I’m going to say on it.”

Paul Zeise: ‘Big people’ on the Steelers defense must continue to lead the way

By: Paul Zeise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers defense played its most complete game of the season in the 41-17 destruction of the Falcons on Sunday. The Steelers got pressure on the quarterback, they stopped the run, they covered well and they almost completely eliminated big plays by the Falcons offense.

It was a refreshing change for a unit that had been much maligned through the first four games. The Steelers had six sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hits. They didn’t give Matt Ryan much time to throw the ball, and as a result the Falcons’ vaunted passing game was grounded for most of the afternoon. And when it came to giving up big plays, the Steelers really only gave up one — a 43-yard touchdown reception from Ryan to Mohamed Sanu.

There are a lot of reasons the Steelers defense was so effective. The biggest difference, however, was that the defensive line dominated the game physically and overwhelmed the Falcons’ offensive line. This was the first game that was the case this season.

As Mike Tomlin said after the game, the Steelers “big people” on defense came to play and won a lot of their individual battles. That has to continue to happen every week if the Steelers defense is legitimately going to turn things around. Tomlin said that provided a spark for the rest of the defense.

Three-game stretch against AFC North Division could make or break the Steelers

By: Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers have 11 games remaining, but the next three are likely to decide whether they make the playoffs. The Steelers play three consecutive games against AFC North Division opponents, starting with a date against the first-place Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati.

So how can three games to finish out the first half of the season determine a team’s playoff fate? Well, for a team that already has gone 0-1-1 in the division, it comes down to simple math.

Winning the division is the easiest way to get into the playoffs, and teams that have losing records within their own division rarely gain entrance to the postseason.

One reason Mike Tomlin has made the playoffs eight times in his 11 seasons as coach is his record within the division. Tomlin is 47-20-1 against the AFC North since taking over as head coach in 2007. He’s had a losing record within the division once in those 11 years, and they missed the playoffs that year.

“Our division right now is tight,” offensive lineman Ramon Foster said. “We’re all vying for a spot, trying to make it into the postseason. These games are crucial right now. It’s crazy we’re playing so many early. We have to be on point this week.”

L.J. Fort is the Pittsburgh Steelers version of Rocky Balboa

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/09/2018 - 1:53pm

A key contributor from Sundays vital victory over the Atlanta Falcons is the definition of a over achieving, Cinderella story. LJ Fort has had to display outstanding perseverance, determination, and versatility just to see the field.

A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins. Growing up most individuals are taught this valuable life lesson.

My dad wasn’t a fan of sports, playing or watching. He viewed sports as a waste of valuable time that could be spent working. Hard work was an honest, productive endeavor and a means to an end. It was a way to make a living and provide for your family. I have never met or witnessed a harder worker than my father when he was living and he was perfectly happy out in nature working the farm. He was content and at peace with his life, envious of no man. How many people can make that statement about their life? My father lived it everyday, and all that mattered to him was his faith and his family. That is a priceless testimony and legacy to leave behind for your children. My father was always my hero, still is. The example I strive daily to be, but sadly fall short of.

Thanks to each of you for indulging me for a moment. I recalled so many cherished memories of his guidance while outlining this article. One that immediately came to mind was “You don’t ever start a fight, but you better make sure you finish it.” This was consistent with the mentality he was determined to instill in me, “You finish what you started.” He may not have liked sports, but he didn’t try to stop me from participating, as long as my chores were done first. He seemed disinterested when it came to my success on the field or court, because he was more concerned with my faithfulness and commitment to my team, and the integrity I displayed in the process. I would want to talk about my stats, but my dad was more interested in the hustle plays. In his wisdom he understood what parts of a child’s game actually had value and merit in a man’s life.

If my dad was still with us, he would have loved to hear the incredible story of perseverance and determination of Pittsburgh Steelers player L.J. Fort. He represents the very best of what the NFL has to offer and exemplifies the never-say-die attitude my dad would have loved. A modern day Rocky story, my favorite movie series all time.

Anybody who has been reading my articles, or have noticed my posts on BTSC comment boards, knows I have been campaigning for Fort to receive more playing time. I was admittedly shocked when the Steelers signed Sean Spence off the couch after Ryan Shazier went down last season, but I trusted the Steelers brass knew the caliber of their players far better than I. Fort had proven to be a strong special teams performer by that point, but that was about it. I assumed Spence must have recovered the step he lost after his devastating knee injury, but the Steelers were mistaken. Fort would actually receive only a few opportunities to see the field last season, and they were uneventful to say the least.

After an off season that witnessed the Steelers seemingly fail to address their issues at inside linebacker; the team only added free agent Jon Bostic and UDFA Matthew Thomas at the position, things were finally looking up for Fort to not only make the roster but actually receive meaningful playing time. Fort has most definitely made the most of that opportunity.

There were whispers coming out of OTA’s and the early portion of camp that Fort looked like a new player. Then the preseason started and in my opinion Fort immediately resembled the most complete inside backer the Steelers have on the roster. I would watch the film and Fort would always stand out, in a good way. He flowed to the ball, shedding blockers on his way, and arrived at the ball carrier with an impact. His quickness really stood out on a defense that desperately needed it. But it was in coverage where he definitely stands out from the rest of the linebackers on the roster. Thomas also has that same type of athleticism, but he is still a raw prospect that is being brought along slowly.

Fort has endured the roller coaster ride that the NFL experience has to offer. He has been signed and released multiple times. He knows what it feels like to be labeled a camp body. He tried his hand first as a outside linebacker, then as a fullback, before finally settling in as a inside linebacker. There has been an impressive list of franchises that have kicked the tires so to speak on Fort since he came into the league as a undrafted free agent with the Browns back in 2012, further evidence of his talents and athletic ability. Many times his path to an NFL roster was blocked by the proven talents already on the rosters ahead of him at the time. This year it seems the light may have finally came on for L.J. Fort. Sometimes a man just needs an chance, other times he just needs the maturity level required to actually seize the opportunity. A former player better known as Deebo followed a similar path to success.

Fort didn’t get the start on Sunday against the Falcons, but he made his presence known not long after seeing the field. He was all over the field once inserted, flying to the ball with violent intentions. He picked up a sack on a well timed delayed blitz up the middle, displayed his excellent coverage skills whenever the ball was in the air; once making a picture perfect tackle on one of Atlanta’s speedy running backs that resulted in a fourth down punting situation, and fittingly recovered a fumble in the endzone for a touchdown to close out his evening.

Hopefully his outstanding performance has opened the eyes of the defensive coaching staff, especially Keith Butler, to the point he will continue to receive meaningful minutes even after Vince Williams returns. I hate to say it, but I believe the combination of Jon Bostic and L.J. Fort gives the Steelers defense the best chance for sustained success this season. Williams could still receive valuable minutes backing up Bostic and Thomas could continue his learning process behind Fort. I believe Thomas has NFL starter potential if properly focused and motivated. This rotation would allow Dirty Red to focus his efforts toward his valuable position of special teams standout.

The size of Vince Williams contract extension shouldn’t matter when doling out playing time, nor should the fact that Fort up to this point has been an NFL journeyman. All that matters is who gives the team the best chance to stop the opposition and win the game.

One thing we have learned about Mr. Fort is that when the going gets tough, it isn’t in his nature to quit. My dad would have liked that.

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