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Podcast: The Steelers roll through Hollywood by way of the Orange Bowl

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/25/2021 - 5:30am

Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo take a look back into Steelers lore in the BTSC family of podcasts. Check out a re-airing of a classic “Steelers Retro Show“.

Lets go back to a time when The Deer Hunter, two months away from winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards, was number one at the movies, Le Freak and Y.M.C.A. was burning up the radio air waves and gold was at an epic high. But just as big, the Steelers and Cowboys were vying for the Lombardi Trophy and to become the first team to earn three of them. Relive that awesome classic on the Steelers Retro Show.

Welcome to January 21, 1979. Join BTSC’s Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis as they go back in time and relive this memorable Miami matchup.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • What was happenin’ in 1979
  • The Blonde Bomber vs. Hollywood Henderson
  • and MUCH MORE!

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Saturday Night Open Thread: “Thank you for calling the offices of Williams, Ingram, and Haskins”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 6:00pm
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Come and join this merry band of Steelers’ faithful for some lively debate about our Steelers, good food and the merits of the odd cold beverage.

It’s going to rain here all day. Why can’t the places that need the rain get it. I mean, it’s the weekend right? It kind of sucks cutting the lawn, sitting by the pool or even grilling up some burgers IN THE RAIN!

AAARRGGGHHHH!!!

Oh well, at least I am not a Packers fan bracing for AR’s supposed retirement or, better yet, a Browns fan crying tears of joy that we won the offseason, again.

  1. This past week, Vince Williams called it a career. Give us your best VinnyVidiVici moment or tell us what you thought he meant to the team or how much we will miss his efforts on Sundays.
  2. This past week we also learned that Melvin Ingram signed with the team. What does his stat line realistically look like if the TEAM is to call it a successful move? Why?
  3. Now that the boys are in training camp and the fun is about the begin, who would you say are the 3 most polarizing players to the fan base? Give us your reasons why as well.
  4. What do you say to that fan of that team that hasn’t won ANYTHING of substance but wins the offseason?
  5. Late yesterday rumors came out of Aaron Rogers threatening to retire. What do you make of the rumor? Is he really thinking of retirement? Is this a negotiating ploy? Something else entirely?

The Steelers first depth chart of training camp has been released

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 3:36pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers released their first depth chart of training camp, and it should be taken with a gigantic grain of salt.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have released their first depth chart of the 2021 season. For anyone who has been listening to head coach Mike Tomlin over the last couple days, as well as what he said about the initial depth chart in years past, Steelers fan shouldn’t put too much stock into this list at this time. But, it is a starting point and does give an indication as to what the team was expecting for the 2021 season.

While names on this list are bound to change over the course of the Steelers four preseason games, here are the players listed as the starters on offense, defense, and special teams with some additional notes given below.

To see the official Steelers depth chart, click HERE.

Offensive Starters

WR — Diontae Johnson

LT — Chuks Okorafor

LG — Kevin Dotson

C — J.C. Hassenauer

RG — Trai Turner

RT — Zach Banner

TE — Eric Ebron

WR — Chase Claypool

WR — JuJu Smith-Schuster

RB — Najee Harris

FB — Derek Watt

QB — Ben Roethlisberger

Offensive Notables:

  • Kendrick Green, not B.J. Finney, is the second center on the depth chart. Finney is listed as the second player at right guard.
  • Dwayne Haskins is currently the QB3 on the depth chart, above Joshua Dobbs.
  • Trey Edmunds is listed as a fullback, a position he played last season when Watt was out with injury.
  • Benny Snell Jr. remains RB2 on the depth chart, followed by Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels and Kalen Ballage...in that order.
Defensive Starters

LOLB — T.J. Watt

DT — Cameron Heyward

NT — Tyson Alualu

DT — Stephon Tuitt

ROLB — Alex Highsmith

LCB — Joe Haden

RCB — Cam Sutton

FS — Minkah Fitzpatrick

SS — Terrell Edmunds

LILB — Devin Bush

RILB — Robert Spillane

NICKEL — Antoine Brooks Jr.

Defensive Notables:

  • Melvin Ingram is listed as the ROLB2 on the depth chart.
  • Miles Killebrew is listed as the backup to Terrell Edmunds at SS.
  • Tre Norwood, rookie 7th round pick, is listed as the backup at FS behind Minkah Fitzpatrick.
  • Isaiahh Loudermilk is in the back of the line behind Isaiah Buggs at DT.
  • Bugss was ahead of Carlos Davis on the NT depth chart
  • Marcus Allen is the linebacker behind Robert Spillane at RILB.
  • Free agent acquisition Arthur Maulet is behind Brooks for the NICKEL defensive back position. They were the only two players listed.
Special Teams Starters

LS — Kameron Kanaday

K — Chris Boswell

P — Jordan Berry

KR/PR — Ray-Ray McCloud

Special Teams Notables:

  • Berry, the incumbent punter, is holding off rookie 7th round pick Pressley Harvin III in the early stages of camp.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they press on through training camp and prepare for the 2021 regular season. To listen to a special podcast, check out BTSC editor Dave Schofield in the audio player below.

Will 2021 be the year of T.J. Watt?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 2:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Everything appears to be coming together for the Steelers All-Pro pass rusher.

No doubt about it, T.J. Watt has become the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise. Through four seasons, the edge rusher has racked up 49.5 sacks and has provided pressure unlike any outside linebacker the Steelers may have ever seen—and that is saying a lot. Aside from back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year snubs, T.J. Watt has accomplished a lot in his very young career. But could 2021 finally be the season he puts it all together to a whole new level?

I love my job. pic.twitter.com/bZOpOIxsxX

— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) July 22, 2021

Starting things off on the field, T.J. Watt’s average sacks per game shot up to 1.0 in 2020. He has become a one-sack-per-game player, and has had a knack for causing turnovers. In a 17 game season, if Watt can continue his sack-per-game growth, he will not only shatter James Harrison’s sacks in a season record (16 in 2008), but he could once again lead the entire NFL in this category. Considering Watt’s continued success on the field and how he has slowly gained more and more voters for the leagues prestigious Defensive Player of the Year award, a 17+ sack campaign could finally be enough to put T.J. over the top.

TJ Watt gets a birthday sack

(via @NFL)pic.twitter.com/9uUmYjaO52

— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) October 11, 2020

On the training field, T.J. Watt has been getting work in with his brothers J.J. and Derek Watt. Not only in the gym but on the golf course. The sibling rivalries are both alive and well, but it has led to T.J. pushing himself harder than ever before walking into training camp both bigger and leaner than ever before. Going back to looking at pictures of T.J. at his combine in 2017 and compare them to know, he looks to be 20-30 pounds heavier and clearly in better shape.

Great offseason with the crew! Back to Pittsburgh. Thank you @NXLevelBrad !! pic.twitter.com/kpQyxVbiFQ

— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) July 19, 2021

Next, T.J. Watt is also entering a contract year, but a deal could even be struck before the start of the 2021 season. Many have speculated that Watt could become the NFL’s highest paid defender and the fist defensive player to eclipse the 30 million dollars per year mark. Depending on the length of said deal, T.J. could be looking to add 150-240 million dollars to his net worth... Not bad.

TJ Watt is not exactly comfortable talking about ongoing negotiations on a mega contract extension with the Steelers pic.twitter.com/gtR9XWl50m

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 22, 2021

Continuing with the off-field headlines for the youngest Watt brother, T.J. Watt proposed to his long time girlfriend, Dani Rhodes, earlier this month. Watt’s older brothers obviously congratulated the couple but teased their little brother for taking so long. And, oh yeah, that rock is estimated to be worth more than $100,000.

I am the luckiest man in the world!!! @danirhodes04 pic.twitter.com/WjtuJWs9D1

— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) July 9, 2021

A brand new fiancé, a mega-contract on the way, and has become the face of one of the biggest sports teams in the world, I would certainly think the stars are aligning for T.J. Watt to transfer his success in life onto the football field. And the year 2021 rightfully belongs to him.

But what do you think? Are you expecting a career year from T.J. Watt? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Steelers 2021 Training Camp: Tracking Day 3 Practice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 12:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are hitting the field at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex again on Saturday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in full swing in regards to 2021 training camp as they are back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for 2021 training camp on Saturday.

It has been reported that the Steelers will be holding practice each day through the weekend with a day off on Monday. We also know the first padded practice at Heinz Field where fans can be in attendance is scheduled for next Wednesday, July 28. When the Steelers are on the field, we will be compiling as much information as to what is going on with the Steelers at practice as we possibly can.

Check out the information below as the players continue their preparation for the 2021 season. If any additional information or reports become available, they will be updated below.

Good morning y’all…. Damn it feels great to be a Pittsburgh Steeler! Have a good day!

— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) July 24, 2021

WATTch out @_TJWatt pic.twitter.com/r89lnG3VtN

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 24, 2021

Our leader. pic.twitter.com/pDU0kmUlXN

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 24, 2021

Year 4 ✅ pic.twitter.com/bkSwNrEENq

— Terrell Edmunds (@rell_island6) July 24, 2021

.@ohthatsNajee22

That’s it. That’s the video. pic.twitter.com/MmSRbZyYeG

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 24, 2021

Ben Roethlisberger talks about the challenge of losing veterans along the Steelers line

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are projected to start five players on the offensive line at new positions, and Ben Roethlisberger talks about the difficulty of such a feat.

There comes a point in everyone’s life when they were once the youngest in a group, then one day they look around and they are the oldest. The lone wolf from a pack which is long gone.

You have to think his is what Ben Roethlisberger is feeling after almost his entire offensive line is gone from just last season.

David DeCastro — Released

Matt Feiler — Los Angeles Chargers

Alejandro Villanueva — Baltimore Ravens

Maurkice Pouncey — Retirement

Only Chuks Okorafor, Zach Banner and Kevin Dotson return from last season’s unit, and Roethlisberger knows what kind of challenge this will be for a 39 year old quarterback entering his 18th year in the league.

“Tough,” Roethlisberger told media about losing those veteran players. “All those guys, (offensive tackle) Al (Villanueva), Dave, ‘Pounce,’ (guard) Matt (Feiler), it’s not easy but you know what? We have guys that are willing, capable, excited to fill the roles and do everything they can to be the best that they can be. We’re all excited for what they can do.

“We added, obviously, some veteran guys, in (guard) Trai (Turner) and some other guys in the offseason but it’s going to be different. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of kind of older guys and guys who have been here for a numerous amount of years. To not have that is going to be different.”

Maybe the one player who Roethlisberger will miss the most, and he was closest with, is Maurkice Pouncey. The quarterback-center battery had been together since Pouncey was drafted in 2010, and now Roethlisberger is looking to build a new rapport with another No. 53, and that is Kendrick Green. But it won’t be easy for Green to fill that spot.

“You’ll never fill the shoes of Maurkice Pouncey and I don’t think Kendrick’s trying to do that, which is good,” Roethlisberger said. “Pouncey’s in a class of his own and that’s what made ‘Pounce’ so special. The relationship we had will never be duplicated.

“But what happened today was Kendrick made calls, we didn’t fumble any snaps, so I’d say that’s a good first day.”

The Steelers’ 2021 season very well could end up being defined by the offensive line. As of now, the projected line is:

LT: Chuks Okorafor
LG: Kevin Dotson
C: Kendrick Green/B.J. Finney
RG: Trai Turner
RT: Zach Banner

Quite different from the 2020 offensive line, but the Steelers will hope they can not just rejuvenate the running game, yet also continue to protect Roethlisberger when they want to throw the ball. Some may say Roethlisberger is the straw which stirs the offensive drink, but when you think about this new offensive line it might just be the hogs up front which dictate the success, or failure, of Matt Canada’s offense.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Podcast: Big Ben Seems Slim Enough To Me

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 11:18am

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

The Steelers are finally at training camp. What was the big news on the day that the players arrived? Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s physique—again. Plus, Vince Williams’ surprise retirement and how uncertain depth at any position usually is. All that and more on this episode of Steelers Friday Night Six Pack! Join Tony Defeo on those those subjects, engaging in Pittsburgh pro football talk and much, much more.

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

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • 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

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Steelers Offense in Focus: What to look for in an H-Back

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Samuels was the prototype for an H-Back in Matt Canada’s offense.

Jaylen Samuels exploded onto the scene in 2015, the sophomore increased his touches from 21 as a freshman to 121 in his second year in Matt Canada’s offense. He turned those 121 touches into 965 yards and 16 touchdowns. Samuels produced those numbers on a pretty balanced work load with 65 receptions and 56 rushes, scoring seven times on receptions and 9 times on runs.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Jaylen Samuel’s production was his position. Jaylen Samuels played H-Back, a hybrid position that is half fullback, half tight end. From that position, Samuels was the Wolfpack’s leading scorer and receiver, while ranking as the #2 running back and second in yards from scrimmage.

With all of his production, it might surprise you to know that he spent a lot of plays as a blocker.

Jaylen Samuels is the H-Back (right behind the tight end) to the bottom of the screen.

While not expected to block as well as a tight end, Samuels was asked to lead block, pass block and come across the formation to seal edge defenders. He wasn’t a great blocker, but he was good enough, and his blocking led to opportunities in the passing game.

Jaylen Samuels is the H-Back to the top of the screen.

In typical Matt Canada fashion, a lot of the motion (and most of the defense) goes one way, and the ball ends up going the other way. Jaylen Samuels was at his best in these situations, he wasn’t asked to run a great route or read blocking, he releases into space, finds the ball and makes a play in the open field. Samuels was more dangerous as a receiver than anything else, and that made him a perfect fit for the spread-offense inspired version of Matt Canada’s offense he developed at NC State.

Jaylen Samuels is in gray, the player in motion to the bottom of the screen.

With his ability to block, catch and run with the ball, Samuels was a tough matchup for teams without an elite athlete at linebacker. Syracuse has a safety on Samuels, and that safety isn’t used to navigating pick routes like this one, and Samuels is open for another of his touchdowns.

As an H-back, one of the places Samuels would line up is in the backfield as a fullback, where he would lead block, but was also a threat on play-action passes.

Jaylen Samuels is the fullback.

By the time the defense realizes it isn’t a run play, Samuels is all alone and it’s an easy toss and catch for the touchdown.

I wanted to show these touchdowns because these aren’t fantastic routes or great runs after the catch, the majority of Jaylen Samuels’ production was set up by his versatility, and how Matt Canada schemed to weaponize that versatility.

The last part of Jaylen Samuels game I want to cover here is as a runner. While a good chunk of Samuels’ rushing yards were gained filling in as the tailback, he was a dangerous runner from his H-back spot as well.

Jaylen Samuels (#28) is the H-Back to the bottom of the screen.

Jet Sweeps were another good fit for Jaylen Samuels’ open field playmaking ability.

While most football players get put in a position where they can focus on doing one or two things at a very high level, an H-Back is more valuable the more versatile they are. One of the main problems a player like that faces in the NFL is the increased average athleticism and the number of defenses with linebackers that can easily handle a “jack of all trades, master of none” type of player like Jaylen Samuels.

One of the toughest challenges that face Matt Canada and his offense is finding players that can create the versatile threat at the H-back position that helps his offense thrive. In the next part of this series, I’m going to start looking at the Steelers 2020 season to see how Matt Canada’s influence worked in his first year working with the offense, and draw some clues for what to expect in 2021, including players that might be well suited to the H-back role.

Training Camp Recap, Day 2: The focus turns to the Hall of Fame game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back at Training Camp, and it is time to check out what went down during the latest practice!

It isn’t Saint Vincent College, but it hasn’t been Latrobe, PA since 2019. The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking in their 2021 Training Camp between Heinz Field and their UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the Southside of Pittsburgh.

What went down during the latest training camp practice? That is where this article comes in. Check out all that was said, as well as photos and videos from the day’s workouts.

Here we go...

It is extremely enticing for fans to want to draw conclusions to the Pittsburgh Steelers getting back on the field. Everyone wants to take something as simple as extra camp reps and make a mountain out of a molehill.

Don’t think Mike Tomlin doesn’t realize this, and wanted to make it very clear why he was doing what he has been doing.

Just like on Thursday, when Tomlin reminded fans why Kendrick Green was getting first team snaps in practice, the Steelers’ head coach reminded fans the players who are getting the most snaps at this juncture of training camp are the players who will be seeing the field more during the Hall of Fame game vs. the Dallas Cowboys.

During Friday’s practice, Ben Roethlisberger was given team repetitions off, and it was Dwayne Haskins who was getting the majority of the reps in his place. Again, expect to see more Haskins in the Hall of Fame game.

Tomlin explained more in detail after practice.

Mike Tomlin said after practice today Dwayne Haskins gets more reps on the days that Ben Roethlisberger doesn't participate as much, "and today was the first day that we dialed him back some."

Yes, it is Day 2.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 23, 2021

But in all seriousness, Tomlin said of Dwayne Haskins he "likes his approach to business; it's been really positive." And that with guys like him who are expected to play in the Hall of Fame Game, they have less time to get ready for it and need more practice reps.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 23, 2021

Haskins is an extremely polarizing player. It is difficult to find fans who just are taking a wait-and-see approach to the former Ohio State quarterback. Most want to see him succeed, and possibly be the successor to Ben Roethlisberger, or want to see him fail.

Nonetheless, the fact remains he is battling Joshua Dobbs, not Mason Rudolph, on the Steelers’ quarterback hierarchy. His first test comes in just a couple weeks.

Now let’s get to the other news which took place during Friday’s practice...

Why did Vince retire?

No one knows exactly why Vince Williams decided to retire. Yesterday it was suggested Williams didn’t tell the Steelers until Wednesday his decision to retire. When defensive coordinator Keith Butler spoke with media, he was asked why Williams retired, and his answer was telling. Not just in the reason, but also based on the fact is seems even the coaching staff is grasping for reasons why Williams retired.

This per Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Steelers DC Keith Butler says he thinks Vince Williams just felt like he wasn’t ready to play, his body wasn’t ready to play and that’s why he retired.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 23, 2021

It’s all about the Hall of Fame...game

Just to reiterate, here is some video of Tomlin explaining why Dan Moore Jr., Kendrick Green and Dwayne Haskins are seeing increased practice reps in the early stages of training camp.

https://t.co/VFIOe3uo5B pic.twitter.com/igmuhCbtRg

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 23, 2021

Devin Bush Twitter update

One player who has made a lot of news, and waves, on social media is Devin Bush. While Bush didn’t answer questions in front of media Friday, Cam Heyward did, and he was asked about Bush’s Twitter craziness. His response was what most would expect. Bush acts like a kid sometimes, and if the Steelers/Heyward need to tell him to calm it down, they will.

Cam Heyward and Devin Bush had a couple Twitter exchanges this offseason, so I asked him about his *very* online teammate.

“He can be a kid at times, but we’ll rein him back in when we have to.” pic.twitter.com/JMSpwK2cjC

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 23, 2021

Not the TB12 Diet

Tom Brady makes a lot of news for his TB12 diet. The highly restrictive diet is designed to decrease inflammation in the body to maximize performance. Let’s just say JuJu Smith-Schuster is not on the TB12 diet. In fact, he is following the Giannis Chick-Fil-A diet. It is safe to say this was said in jest.

JuJu Smith-Schuster:

"I’ve been eating Chick-Fil-A a lot lately. Chick-FIl-A, I got so much for love for that....and Giannis. So hopefully after the Super Bowl win, I’ll go and have the 50-pice."

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 23, 2021 BTSC Training Camp Recap Podcast VIDEO

Coach Tomlin: "I like the attitude, I like the communication."

Full : https://t.co/r4HKun8C0e pic.twitter.com/KmLj2LpcW2

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 23, 2021

Here are a few seconds of Najee Harris getting ready for his next MMA fight. pic.twitter.com/6TxEO7VvOV

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 23, 2021

Mike Tomlin joined today’s media scrum to ask Cam Heyward a hard-hitting question. pic.twitter.com/6GcfoXWGs3

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 23, 2021

Najee Harris with a unique warmup before practice drills today. pic.twitter.com/ZUVLeLKgou

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 23, 2021

gonna be tough @highsmith34 pic.twitter.com/OFjnjuCjbK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 23, 2021 PHOTOS

Media day vibes pic.twitter.com/TfWb0uuIzt

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 24, 2021

Some #SteelersCamp for the timeline @FedEx

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 23, 2021

Meeting of the minds before practice pic.twitter.com/YGC2RrA0TQ

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 23, 2021

8 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following Day 2 of training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking to the media again at training camp, the Steelers head coach answered many questions about specific players.

As the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for their second day of training camp on Friday, we were also given the typical media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Thefore, it’s time to look at the players mentioned by Coach Tomlin during his media time. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period, although there were not any players mentioned in the opening statement.

Chuks Okorafor

The Pittsburgh Steelers are only returning one of their starting offensive linemen from the 2020 season in Chuks Okorafor. Coach Tomlin was asked about Okorafor being limited in practice and if there was any injury of significance.

“No injuries to speak of, Some guys we’re just exercising some precaution. He’s one of them. But nothing of any significance that would dictate any significant time missed.”

Ben Roethlisberger

In just the second practice of training camp, Ben Roethlisberger reportedly did not do much during team activities. Coach Tomlin was asked about holding Roethlisberger out of practice at this point in training camp.

“Just want to see more of the other guys. Some of these guys we know a lot about, and some of those guys that we know a lot about might not play in the Hall of Fame Game. And so we got to get to know some others. We got to prepare some others. Just the nature of how this preseason is constructed now with today’s guidelines. We don’t have a lot of time before we’ll be in the stadium. And so those that we are preparing to play in Canton, we want to see more of than maybe some of those that we don’t intend to.”

Dwayne Haskins

One player who will be watched intensely by many Steelers fans throughout the preseason is former first-round draft pick quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he has seen out of Haskins in the limited time they’ve practiced.

“Small sample size. He’s one of the guys that gets additional reps when you dial Ben (Roethlisberger) back. And so today was the first day that we dialed him back. So he got more exposure. We’ll take a look at the tape and he’ll learn from it and continue to move forward. But I like his approach to business. It has been really positive”

Arthur Maulet & Antoine Brooks Jr.

One of the biggest position battles Steelers fans will be watching during the preseason is that of nickel cornerback. Coach Tomlin was asked about the rotation of players they are looking at the position and he specifically mentioned Arthur Maulet and Antoine Brooks Jr.

“I think right now, we’re working Art (Maulet) and and Brooks there, but they’ll be times when you’ll see some other guys. Just right now we’ve been focused on those two.”

Coach Tomilin was later asked a specific question about Arthur Maulet and what he’s done to earn the first shot at the nickle cornerback position.

“He’s a proven NFL dude. He plays hard on teams. He showed an aptitude in terms of playing in the slot, the blitzing, the physicality. Even though we haven’t had an opportunity to do it in this setting, he’s not a rookie. So he’s got a reputation and resume and so we’re utilizing that to make some early decisions in terms of getting exposure to him.”

Tre Norwood

After only naming two players at the nickle cornerback position, Coach Tomlin was asked a follow up question about any other players who could fill in that role. The only other player Coach Tomlin mentioned by name was seventh-round draft pick Tre Norwood.

“We’ll determine it. Like right now we’re working Tre Norwood at safety. He could be a guy that could roll down and play in there some. He has in college. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, we don’t want to give too many people too many things to focus on. We’re keeping them locked down and letting them work there for a couple of days. We’ll have a meeting of the minds and determine who’s going to move where for the next block of days.”

T.J. Watt

During the 2020 season, T.J. Watt was the youngest of the Steelers five captains. Coach Tomlin was asked about Watt’s voice both on the field and in the locker room.

“You guys know T.J. He doesn’t talk a lot. But his words carry weight because of what he’s willing and capable of doing.”

Coach Tomlin was asked a follow-up question about the possible leadership void on the Steelers with the loss of players such as Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Vince Willaims and if T.J. Watt is a player to help fill that void.

“I think T.J. is going to be T.J. And we appreciate that. He’s not a vocal guy, that’s not his style. We’ve got plenty of leadership. We don’t have a void in that area, and obviously he’s one of them. He’s just not a ‘rah-rah’ type.”

Najee Harris

Another position where the reps have been split up among the players has been at running back. Coach Tomlin was asked about the workload he was giving first-round draft pick Najee Harris and if they are intentionally not trying to give him too much in the early part of training camp.

“We’re not micromanaging it at this juncture. We’re rolling those guys through. Obviously he’s getting a lot of work and a lot of significant work in the first group because that’s where we took him.”

A portion of Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen below as well as a link to the full interview on the Steelers’ YouTube channel.

Coach Tomlin: "I like the attitude, I like the communication."

Full : https://t.co/r4HKun8C0e pic.twitter.com/KmLj2LpcW2

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 23, 2021

Ben Roethlisberger should block everyone on social media for the reaction to his camp picture

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/24/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should just go ahead and block everyone on all of his social media platforms for the overall reaction to his training camp-arrival picture.

Remember that ongoing joke a while back about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the fact he blocked half the world on social media—or at least the person running things for him on that end did, anyway?

You get a Twitter block! You get a Twitter block! You get a Twitter block! EVERYONE GETS A TWITTER BLOCK!!!!!!!

Speaking of the person running Roethlisberger’s social media account, after the (how can I put this in a classy and mature way?) idiotic, stupid, buffoonish, foolish and moronic way people reacted to Roethlisberger’s physique when he was photographed while arriving at training camp on Wednesday, I would have blocked just about everyone who followed him on Twitter and other forms of social media if I were in charge of such things.

I take that back (partially).

I realize I’m not Roethlisberger or the one running his social media platforms, but if I were the latter, I wouldn’t necessarily block people from his Facebook page, for example. No, instead, I’d make it private and continuously change the profile picture in a way that would depict the big guy devouring some pastry or artery-clogging piece of meat. I’d add a few other pictures to the page, all consisting of various forms of ingestive gluttony. Roethlisberger's Instagram page would include nothing but pictures of food—all meat and simple carbs. That would be private, too. Both platforms would offer just enough evidence that Big Ben was a big eater, and this would lead to a ton of speculation.

None of it would be true, of course, but it would be fun to see folks freak out.

As for Twitter, mostly everyone would be blocked over their childish and totally dense reactions to the training camp picture. However, I’d still Tweet out a bunch of trollish things like, “Pumpkin or sweet potato pie: which is better?” in the hopes that the few who weren’t blocked would retweet them and cause more wild speculation.

If you haven’t caught on by now, I think the overall reaction to the picture taken of Roethlisberger as he arrived at training camp on Wednesday—a picture that made national news and everything—was just stupid.

No offense.

I realize word surfaced a week or so earlier that Roethlisberger was supposedly super, duper obsessed with fitness, but did you expect him to show up to camp with eight-pack abs? You didn’t remember the pictures that were taken of him during OTAs and minicamp? It was like a month earlier. Don’t you know how things work? Ever try to lose weight? It doesn’t happen overnight. Ever try to get totally fit and lean? It doesn’t happen ever....for most people approaching middle age.

Besides, there was evidence that Roethlisberger was serious about getting into shape months ago, considering he already looked pretty lean during the spring sessions. He also seemed quite slim last season after coming back from a year-long absence due to major elbow surgery. Is Roethlisberger Tom Brady lean? No, but not even Brady is THAT lean if you go by the occasional beach/water park picture that surfaces online.

Roethlisberger can be obsessed about getting into tip-top condition and STILL have a bit of a gut. As a wise man once said, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Roethlisberger may actually be in the best shape of his life, despite not having those abs that one must possess if he/she wants to appear in the latest Avengers movie. I mean, let’s be honest, even a Big Ben at his leanest is still going to be lean in a “Meatloaf is looking pretty lean for Meatloaf” kind of way.

Roethlisberger would do anything for a Super Bowl, but do you think he’d actually do that no carbs diet?

The real sad part about Roethlisberger’s training camp arrival was how folks reacted to one stinking image as if they were never photographed at an angle that wasn’t exactly flattering. Instead, most indulged their own biases against Roethlisberger and took that picture out of context much the same way his critics snipped out just a portion of the “We are going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it” quote from offensive coordinator Matt Canada back during minicamp and presented it to the public out of context.

Shameful. Did I also mention how stupid and idiotic I thought the reaction to the Roethlisberger picture was?

I did? Good, because I can’t say it enough. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Preseason Vol. 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 5:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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. The Steelers will take the field in the Hall of Fame Game in less than two weeks! Are you someone who gets excited about the preseason because you want to see the new players in action for the first time, or are you someone who doesn’t really care until the “real” starting lineups are on the field?

2. Speaking of starting lineups, Coach Tomlin said in his press conference on Thursday that Kendrick Green (center) and Antoine Brooks Jr. (slot cornerback) will both be starting in the Hall of Fame Game. Although it was quite comical that he said these things, do you take any stock in those players being the choices as starting off, or is it just getting the young guys reps?

3. Melvin Ingram is now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers! What was your knee-jerk reaction to the signing this week?

4. Last Thursday the highlighting of unread comments returned to “The comment system which shall not be named” used here at BTSC. Did you find this useful both for the six-pack and other articles at BTSC?

5. Vince Williams decided to call it a career on Wednesday and retired from the NFL. Although many expected Bush and Spillane to be the main two players at inside linebacker, it appears to be even more so now. Playing on the field together on defense for single-digit snaps in 2020, what do you expect the duo of Bush and Spillane to be in 2021?

6. Taking football out of the equation (at any level), what is your favorite (or next favorite assuming football is #1) sport to watch either in person or on TV? Feel free to be as general or specific as you like.

Stay safe out there!

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

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

We added some new shows and a new platform to our podcasts...if you haven’t checked out Jeff’s 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!

This has been an offseason unlike any other for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 2:00pm
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Colbert has broken all his unofficial rules this year

When the Steelers 2020 season came to a close and we realized the proposed salary cap originally thought to be north of 200 million dollars dropped by 20 million, the thought was the Steelers would have to tear apart a large portion of their roster and lose all of their free agents. While Bud Dupree and Mike Hilton walked in free agency, and David DeCastro and Steven Nelson were released, the Steelers were able to make some creative moves to keep the bulk of the roster together. These moves include a list of things that Kevin Colbert either never or rarely does over his 20+ years as Steelers General Manager.

Below are all the moves that go against the Steelers core offseason philosophies:

Void year contracts Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The first item on the Steelers offseason agenda was to figure out the contract of Ben Roethlisberger who was set to account for over 40 million dollars on the salary cap. They decided to take a page out of other teams playbooks, as well as getting a little relief from the veteran play-caller himself. The Steelers added four void years to the contract of Ben Roethlisberger, lowing his cap hit exponentially and pushing money into the future. Not only did they sign this type of deal with Roethlisberger but they signed Eric Ebon to one as well as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cam Sutton.

Re-Signed a Wide Receiver Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers did something they haven't done since Antonio Brown was on the team and Hines Ward before him. They offered and signed a rookie receiver a second contract. Think of all the other great Steelers receivers over the years that didn't get a second deal; Mike Wallace, Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Emmanuel Sanders, etc! It was a big deal for JuJu to get another deal, but he will be right back on the market in less than 12 months.

Drafted a non-underclassmen in the first round Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This one is a bit of a new trend, but first-round picks under Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert are more often than not underclassmen. Najee Harris, the senior stud running back out of Alabama decided to return to school in 2020 and enter the draft after his senior year in 2021. The gamble paid off for Harris as not only did he win the National title but was the nations top running back and the first running back selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. He must have really impressed the Steelers front office because they typically chase the youngest players available on the board.

Signed a defender that was older than 30 Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers recently broke one of their cardinal rules, like this is something that almost never ever happens. They signed a defensive, street free agent, from another team, who is older than 30 to a contract. The Steelers don't do this, ever! But 32-year-old Melvin Ingram signed on the dotted line to give the Steelers some much needed experience and talent to their edge rusher room. The team needed his abilities and they went against the grain to improve their roster.

Starting a third-round pick in Week 1 Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

This one isn't official yet, but Kendrick Green started the first day of training camp as the Steelers starting center and he was announced to start at the spot for the upcoming Hall of Fame Game. The Steelers rarely start first-round picks in Week 1, let alone third rounders. If he does get the nod, Kendrick Green will do something not seen since Maurkice Pouncey for the Steelers and start a game on the offensive line as a rookie in Week 1. This is a mind-boggling development for anyone who has followed this team the past 20 years, and simply unheard of. The Steelers rookies will be counted on more than ever, I hope they're ready.

Mike Tomlin says rookie Kendrick Green is the starter at center … for the first preseason game.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 22, 2021

But what do you think? Is this the new aggressive approach Kevin Colbert will take into every offseason or was this a one off because of a reduced salary cap and trying to take one more run with Ben Roethlisberger? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below!

Steelers 2021 Training Camp: Tracking Day 2 Practice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 12:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are hitting the field at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex again on Friday.

After hitting the field for the first day of training camp yesterday, the Pittsburgh Steelers are scheduled to be back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for 2021 training camp on Friday.

It has been reported that the Steelers will be holding practice each day through the weekend with a day off on Monday. We also know the first padded practice at Heinz Field where fans can be in attendance is scheduled for next Wednesday, July 28. When the Steelers are on the field, we will be compiling as much information as to what is going on with the Steelers at practice as we possibly can.

Check out the information below as the players continue their preparation for the 2021 season. If any additional information or reports become available, they will be updated below.

Picture DAY! pic.twitter.com/2jXOYp984Z

— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) July 23, 2021

Year 2️⃣ coming @ChaseClaypool pic.twitter.com/5yApGaUllt

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 23, 2021

Others like to post pics showing their arrival to the first day of Steelers camp. I like to let it soak in a bit. Here is one from the second. pic.twitter.com/Wa4sbzf6RN

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 23, 2021

.@Juiceup__3 having fun with it pic.twitter.com/lfcyAm7F80

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 23, 2021

gonna be tough @highsmith34 pic.twitter.com/OFjnjuCjbK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 23, 2021

T.J. Watt beyond excited to have Melvin Ingram join the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 11:30am
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The newest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers OLB room is being welcomed with open arms.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back to work, and with training camp practices underway both players and coaches were not just on the field, but in front of microphones. With in-person interviews taking place for the first time since 2019, Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt and head coach Mike Tomlin spoke to the media about the day and the team in general.

During Watt’s media session he was asked about the newest member of the Steelers outside linebacker (OLB) room, Melvin Ingram. Ingram, who played his entire career with the Chargers, is ready to extend his resume with the Steelers, and Watt is excited to see him in black and gold.

“I am excited,” Watt told reporters. “I worked with him during the Pro Bowl and I used to watch Chargers games when Derek [Watt] was playing in San Diego and Los Angeles. He’s just a player that has a lot of burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s got a phenomenal spin move and just seeing him in person, he is a colorful guy and I am excited to work with him.”

For Watt, his knowledge of Ingram is just one of the many reasons why he is highly anticipating Ingram, and how he can help the Steelers from both a talent and depth standpoint.

“I watched him a lot,” said Watt. “I was able to watch a lot of their games. He’s one of the premier rushers in the league and I’ve watched a lot of his film and we connected at the Pro Bowl two or three years ago. He’s a great guy and a great player. I am excited to have him here.

“I am excited to have more depth, have a guy like Melvin in our rotation, in our room. A guy that I’ve watched a lot of over the years. A guy that I can learn a lot from too. Excited to have more depth, excited for our team.”

Mike Tomlin was also asked about Ingram, and he made it a point to say how they watched him a lot during the scouting process when Ingram was coming out of college.

“We’ve seen him a lot over the years. Respectful of his body of work. But not only that, we were familiar with him in the draft. He’s one of those guys that fit the profile. We studied him and got to know him through the draft process. And usually those are the guys that we end up doubling back to and having an interest in when they’re available in in free agency. So it makes the process and easy one.” Tomlin said. “We also had the opportunity in ‘17 when we coached the Pro Bowl, we had him down in Orlando and really got to know him some in that setting as well. So we felt really comfortable that he’s going to be an easy fit as a man and as a player.”

Fans want to know how Ingram will fit into the system, and how the division of labor will be done heading into the preseason/regular season, but Tomlin understands it is the first day. Those decisions won’t be happening anytime soon.

“It’s really much too early. Right now we’re just teaching him and seeing how quickly he can learn and that’s probably going to dictate reps. What we don’t want to do is waste game reps on anyone. So his level of preparedness, his ability to execute detail, particularly the early stages of development, is going to determine how much he participates or when he participates.”

Ingram, who will wear jersey No. 8, will be a player to watch this preseason, but mainly for his ability to stay healthy. The main knock on Ingram over the past two seasons has been his inability to stay in the lineup. If, and that is a big if, Ingram can stay healthy he will not only compliment Watt well, but make the Steelers’ defense even better.

When you think of an already stout defense getting even better, it sure is tantalizing.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they roll through training camp and prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Podcast: Predicting the outcome of offseason narratives

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 11:00am

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

There were so many storylines before the offseason when it came to the keys for the 2021 Steelers. Now that Training Camp has arrived, how will those narratives play out in the regular season? 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 and Dave Schofield. Join the triumphant trio as they combine the down all things Steelers and with shenanigans galore.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the week
  • Predicting the outcome of offseason narratives
  • 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

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Early expectations for the Steelers prior to training camp, the defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some early training camp predictions and possibilities for the Steelers defense and the players who perform on that side of the ball.

Now that Steelers training camp has finally arrived, I would like to complete my two part series about my own personal expectations for the team during the early stages of camp. Last week was the offense, this week we will cover the defense. There have been some big changes in personnel on that side of the ball in just the past couple of days; some hoped for, some not so much.

First things first, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that this year's version of the Steelers defense has the talent and potential to be as good as ever. I know what some of you are already thinking, how can he even suggest such a thing knowing full well that the Steelers lost three starters from last season's group, four when you take newly retired ILB Vince Williams into account. Hopefully my breakdown of various positions will help reveal how the Steelers masterfully planned ahead for their personnel losses, with each position being manned by more than capable replacements.

For starters, the Steelers possess the deepest and most talented defensive line depth chart in the NFL. All three starters on the defensive line: Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, and Stephon Tuitt, enjoyed Pro Bowl caliber seasons in 2020.

Heyward very well may be the most powerful defensive lineman in the league, as his incredible strength allows him to be dominant for extended stretches of games. He was unblockable during the first half of the Buffalo Bills game last year, so much so the Bills were forced to completely change their blocking assignments in the second half because he was single handedly destroying their offensive game plan. It was the most dominant performance I witnessed by a defensive lineman all season not named Aaron Donald.

Stephon Tuitt enjoyed his healthiest and by far most productive NFL season for the Steelers last year. He is a strong run defender, but is a especially disruptive pass rusher, evidenced by his career high in QB sacks. He shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, if healthy. Alualu knows his role in the defense, and his own strengths and weaknesses. He sacrifices both his statistics and his body for the good of the team, so his defensive brethren can make splash plays and garner all the attention. His contributions are overlooked sometimes, but true defensive line aficionados recognize his excellence.

There is an impressive mix of young talent and potential on the defensive line depth chart. Chris Wormley, Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux, and Carlos Davis are holdovers from last season. They seemed destined to battle it out for limited roster spots during this training camp. That's partly why the Steelers decision to trade future draft capital to move into the fifth round to select Isaiahh Loudermilk was so confusing for so many. Now you can add Loudermilk to the camp battle equation, as the Steelers are apparently enamored with the young man who is big and strong in a Heyward kind of way. This should be a real donnybrook, with each battle potentially bringing out the best in each competitor. The Steelers actually have that potential payoff scattered throughout the defensive roster.

Recent acquisition Melvin Ingram brings his well rounded game and experience to the Steelers defensive equation at the edge position. He has been brought in to spell established starters in T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith when they need a breather. Watt is simply the best outside linebacker walking the planet, without question. If he can add a few late game heroics; similar to former Steelers DPOY winner James Harrison, who always seem to come up with game clinching sacks at clutch moments, then he may finally go home with the hardware that has alluded his grasp thus far.

Highsmith has Pro Bowl potential for the Steelers, based on his impressive rookie performance. He appears to have focused his off season efforts on improving his functional strength in order to set a more effective edge against the running game. He already possesses an assortment of pass rushing moves and counters usually reserved for experienced edge rushers. He proved solid in pass coverage as well.

Quincy Roche and Cassius Marsh will battle it out for the fourth spot on the depth chart, with the loser most likely earning a spot on the practice squad. I give the early edge to Roche due to his youth and pass rush specialist potential.

The inside linebacker depth chart took a unexpected hit on Wednesday when longtime stalwart Vince Williams announced his retirement as players were reporting to camp. Williams will be missed, both on and off the field. His contributions were substantial, and his leadership was both unmistakable and immeasurable. Thankfully the Steelers have men like Heyward and Haden around to fill the void.

Robert Spillane and Devin Bush are the projected starters, with Buddy Johnson and Ulysees Gilbert lll as young, unproven depth. Marcus Allen and Miles Killebrew offer versatile depth as LB/S hybrids. It should shock no one if the Steelers bring in an experienced veteran for competition.

Spillane is a classic tweener; lacking the size and strength to disengage from blockers consistently, and a half step slower than ideal in coverage. He makes up for any weaknesses with exceptional instincts and anticipation. In a perfect world Spillane would be the first inside linebacker off the bench, where his intelligence and intangibles would have even greater value. That being said, I wouldn't be shocked in the slightest if he proves me wrong and becomes a solid starter. He has forged a professional career by being a overachiever.

Devin Bush's healthy return from knee injury holds the key for the Steelers defense this season. His speed and controlled aggression takes the Steelers already superior defense to another level, potentially elite. He appears to be making an concerted effort to become more of a vocal leader, but he needs to choose his words and tweets more wisely.

The Steelers secondary lost two starters in Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson, but replaced them from within the roster with players capable of maintaining or exceeding expectations. I expect Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton to be the starters, with the versatile Sutton capable of dropping into the slot when necessary.

James Pierre seemingly came out of nowhere to earn a roster spot as a undrafted rookie. He was so impressive in an extremely small sample size that the Steelers expectations for him have increased exponentially going into this season. I expect Pierre to exceed expectations and establish himself as a reliable starter on the outside for the Steelers at some point this season.

Hopefully former third round selection Justin Layne has fully realized that the Steelers schemes demand that he be able to effectively play both man and zone concepts, and that he spent the off season working on his shortcomings in zone. If so, the cornerback position should round out nicely. There are plenty of talented young unknowns who will be competing during camp and the preseason to be noticed. Who will be this year's James Pierre? Only time will tell.

The Steelers are blessed with a outstanding safety tandem in Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, who play very well off each other. They follow in the footsteps of Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. Fitzpatrick is the All Pro play maker, while Edmunds is the reliable security blanket. Hopefully they will be roaming the Steelers secondary for years to come, but this is a big season in Edmunds development. A big prove it season awaits.

The Steelers depth chart at safety is a nice blend of experience and youthful potential. All the potential depth has impressive versatility. Veteran newcomer Arthur Maulet has proven NFL production, both as a safety or in the slot. The aforementioned Allen and Killebrew are potential strong safety candidates as hybrids. Rookie Tre Norwood is so position flexible that Coach Tomlin labeled him a swiss army knife, and Antoine Brooks Jr. was quite possibly drafted last year with Hilton's slot role in mind.

This Steelers training camp promises to be an intense all out war for playing time and roster spots. Grab your peanuts and Cracker Jacks. This should be fun.

Training Camp Recap, Day 1: Two players step to the front of the line

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back at Training Camp, and it is time to check out what went down during the latest practice!

It isn’t Saint Vincent College, but it hasn’t been Latrobe, PA since 2019. The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking in their 2021 Training Camp between Heinz Field and their UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the Southside of Pittsburgh.

What went down during the latest training camp practice? That is where this article comes in. Check out all that was said, as well as photos and videos from the day’s workouts.

Here we go...

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several question marks on their roster at several key positions. Most of them are filling vacancies which were once occupied by entrenched starters. Two of those positions would be at center and slot cornerback. It was only one day of practice, but two players have stepped to the front of the line to take a shot at being the every day starter at those positions.

Those players would be rookie Kendrick Green, and second year defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr.

Mike Tomlin says rookie Kendrick Green is the starter at center … for the first preseason game.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 22, 2021

As you see, Green is going to get the start at center in Preseason Week 1 vs. the Dallas Cowboys. This isn’t huge news, but Green will have every opportunity to take the job and run with it.

On top of that, it was Brooks Jr. who had a tremendous diving interception of Ben Roethlisberger as the heir to Hilton’s former role.

Roethlisberger appeared frustrated by a sensational diving pick by slot corner Antoine Brooks, but Ben said he was just amazed and was complimenting Mike Hilton’s heir apparent to coaches.

— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) July 22, 2021

Antoine Brooks Jr. intercepted Ben Roethlisberger from the slot today, and afterward, Roethlisberger went over to Brooks to compliment the second-year DB.

"He's filling Mike Hilton's shoes, who's been a rock on that defense ...For him to make that play, .. I was happy for him"

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 22, 2021

It is early, but these two young players will have the first crack at grabbing the bull by the horns, and not letting go.

Let’s check out some other news from the workout...

T.J. Watt’s new deal coming soon?

Could T.J. Watt be getting a new deal? Mike Tomlin certainly alluded to that happening, but when is a different story altogether. We all know one thing, if it happens at all it will have to be before the team’s Week 1 game in September vs. the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park.

#Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on signing uber pass rusher TJ Watt to a new contract: “I’m sure that process will run its course and we’ll have something to announce.”

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 22, 2021

Big Ben’s no dummy

Do you really buy that Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been hearing the non-stop talk about how he can’t get the job done anymore? Do you really think he lives under a rock? Roethlisberger has heard/read everything, and will be playing in 2021 with a boulder on his shoulder. Will it matter? Depends who you ask, but motivation can be a powerful thing.

#Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger tongue-in-cheek when asked about all the off-season punditry involving his ability and physique and etc: “Are things being said about me nationally?”
And then, w/ a smile: “What’s new?”

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 22, 2021

New ways to learn the offense

Speaking of Roethlisberger, learning a brand new offense in year 18 in the NFL isn’t always easy. How has Roethlisberger been doing it? He had his daughter make flash cards and quiz him. Let’s hope Roethlisberger can ace the test when the games start to count.

Asked #Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger about the process of learning all new formations, verbiage and play calls 18 years in and he says… his daughter helped him make flash cards! “There have been some quizzes,” he says w/ a smile.

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 22, 2021

No PUP to start

Injuries are always a talking point, especially for teams who had key players suffer season-ending injuries the year prior. For the Steelers, players like Zach Banner and Devin Bush come to mind with torn ACLs. Nonetheless, Mike Tomlin announced no one will start Training Camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List. A good start to camp for the black and gold.

Sounds like Mike Tomlin believes both Devin Bush and Zack Banner are ahead of schedule. No #Steelers player will begin camp on PUP list.

— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) July 22, 2021

Vince Williams’ Retirement Shock

One of the questions many asked when the news of Vince Williams’ retirement hit the airwaves was if the organization new it was coming. While we don’t know for certain, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic is reporting it seems as if the team knew nothing about the decision by Williams. Talk about putting the team in a bind on the day you report to camp.

Sounds like the Steelers had no idea that Vince Williams was retiring until yesterday.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 22, 2021

T.J. Watt was asked about Williams during his media session, and Watt, like almost all of Williams’ teammates, spoke glowingly of their former teammate.

TJ Watt on Vince Williams:
"Just very grateful to have shared a field with a guy like that. Vince is the epitome of a Pittsburgh Steeler– an absolute dog. Vocal. Every time he was on the field, he brought confidence & instilled confidence in every single guy that he played with."

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 22, 2021

Can only go up, right?

Can the Steelers’ running game improve? Well, if you ask Mike Tomlin, it can only go up. After all, the team ranked dead last in both rushing yards per game (84.4) and rushing yards per carry (3.6). While the bar has been set low, the hope is improvement with this new offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and entire offensive line.

Tomlin on totally new OL: "We don't have the bar set too high. We were last in the league in rushing. We have nowhere to go but up with certain aspects of that."

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 22, 2021

Back to In-Person Interviews

If you checked out some of the interviews from the first practice, it is worth noting it is the first time players and media have been face to face since 2019. A good sign, and nice to see after a dreadful 2020 season in this regard.

We’ve got an in-person Steelers interview with a player you can probably identify even from my bad angle pic.twitter.com/ModJEqyskK

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 22, 2021

New Numbers

If you are someone who loves jerseys, or just loves jersey numbers, get your notepad and pen out to get the new numbers for the new players. Players like Melvin Ingram, Trai Turner and Chaz Green have new black and gold digits for everyone to learn.

Probably been tweeted but Melvin Ingram is No. 8. Not his college number but still very cool for a pass-rusher.

— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) July 22, 2021

Trai Turner has elected to wear No. 51 in training camp. Buddy Johnson also is wearing No. 51 (he'll be dressed in gold, though). Something is gonna have to give if the rookie makes the team. Hope Buddy's not too attached to the digits.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 22, 2021

Kicker Sam Sloman is #16, and OT Chaz Green #74

— SteelerNation (@SteeIerNation) July 22, 2021 BTSC Training Camp Recap Podcast VIDEO

We out here‼️#SteelersCamp | @budlight pic.twitter.com/61GEMTVwdn

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 22, 2021

Ben Roethlisberger speaks to reporters after first training camp workout for the Steelers. pic.twitter.com/FVxnFiFJHE

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 22, 2021

TJ Watt is not exactly comfortable talking about ongoing negotiations on a mega contract extension with the Steelers pic.twitter.com/gtR9XWl50m

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 22, 2021

Steelers rookie center Kendrick Green. pic.twitter.com/mbcKbmgNXb

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 22, 2021

I’ll post a video of Ben throwing in one part to bait ⁦@PFF⁩ into a snide remark and one part to include ⁦@DMScifo⁩’s expert commentary on how Ben looks pic.twitter.com/FV3Qe2xv24

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 22, 2021 PHOTOS

Can't confirm or deny this being part of @ohthatsNajee22's pre-practice routine pic.twitter.com/g9l9T8uKer

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 22, 2021

Football is BACK!
(And yes, ⁦@ohthatsNajee22⁩, if I could do handstands, I’d be doing them too. ) pic.twitter.com/9eHzCokFA4

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 22, 2021

Feels good to get back out there pic.twitter.com/TkGj4zdLsm

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 22, 2021

The 15th First Day Of Camp for the future HOF QB/coach combination.

Is it their last First Day Of Camp together? pic.twitter.com/jIAl33i1MD

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 22, 2021

.Steelers quarterback @_BigBen7 throws as quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan and head coach Mike Tomlin look on during the first day of camp at UPMC Sports Performance Complex. pic.twitter.com/BVH4mZk8tM

— Charles Palla (@ChazPalla) July 22, 2021

10 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following Day 1 of training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking to the media for first time of training camp, the Steelers head coach answered many questions about specific players.

As the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for the first day of training camp on Thursday, we were also graced with a media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. For that reason, it is the glorious return of the “players mentioned” article after a nearly 5-week absence since minicamp in June. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period, although there were not any players mentioned in the opening statement. Coach Tomlin also answered question in regards to Vince Williams and David DeCastro.

Trai Turner

One of the newer additions to the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers is former Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner. Coach Tomlin was asked what he saw from Turner his first day in black and gold.

“He’s got a good demeanor. He’s a quick study. He’s a professional, he’s been around. But much too early to tell, just a one-day sample.”

Coach Tomlin was later asked another question about if he had a prior relationship with Turner.

“Nothing more than a mutual respect and a nod. We had a preseason relationship with those guys annually when he was in Carolina. And so you get an opportunity to get to know the guys, and particularly the significant guys. There’s a guy that’s played a lot of ball. You guys know that perennially we’re at the LSU pro day and so we probably had some exposure to him from that standpoint too.”

Melvin Ingram

Signing with the Steelers on Monday, Melvin Ingram has a lot to pick up with the Steelers in very little time. Coach Tomlin was asked what made them go get Ingram for the 2021 season.

“We’ve seen him a lot over the years. Respectful of his body of work. But not only that, we were familiar with him in the draft. He’s one of those guys that fit the profile. We studied him and got to know him through the draft process. And usually those are the guys that we end up doubling back to and having an interest in when they’re available in in free agency. So it makes the process and easy one. We also had the opportunity in ‘17 when we coached the Pro Bowl, we had him down in Orlando and really got to know him some in that setting as well. So we felt really comfortable that he’s going to be an easy fit as a man and as a player.”

Coach Tomlin was later asked another question about the number of reps and the rotation at outside linebacker he expects from Ingram.

“It’s really much too early. Right now we’re just teaching him and seeing how quickly he can learn and that’s probably going to dictate reps. What we don’t want to do is waste game reps on anyone. So his level of preparedness, his ability to execute detail, particularly the early stages of development, is going to determine how much he participates or when he participates”

Kendrick Green

One of the rookies who may be asked to step into the starting lineup very early in the 2021 season is third-round draft pick Kendrick Green. Coach Tomlin was asked about how Green looked in practice.

“Again, a one day sample. I mean, we can we can write a story if we want. But we thought it was important, those guys that we’re trying to get starts in the Hall of Fame Game to get as much work as we can. It’s no indication of where they are in terms of their career. You can label him a starter if you choose. He is. He’s a starter for the Hall of Fame Game, if that means anything.”

Coach Tomlin was later asked another question about Green being a rookie and making the calls on the offensive line.

“These guys come to work, particularly when they’ve been exposed to some of the things that he’s been exposed to. He’s played Big Ten football. He’s been in some circumstances. We’ll see what the process does to him. But not a bad issue or bad start from today’s perspective at all. This is our first day working in pads in a training camp-like setting, but we’ve been working extremely hard dating back to the spring since we acquired him. Classroom zooms and so forth. And so he just had an opportunity to show some of that today.”

Kevin Dotson

There was only one player who reportedly did not practice at all on the first day of training camp as Kevin Dodson was held out of activities. Coach Tomlin was asked about Dotson’s situation and if there is a problem of significance.

“No, we were taking care of him. He got a day or two, he should be fine. I think he tweaked a little something. But it’s not anything of any concern whatsoever to be honest with you, from a big-picture standpoint.”

Devin Bush & Zach Banner

The Steelers have two players coming off of ACL surgery from the 2020 season in linebacker Devin Bush and tackle Zach Banner Coach Tomlin was asked about their progression through these injuries and if they will be ready for the 2021 season.

“Both guys have worked their tails off. It’s great to see them back out here and working. We’ll just continue to be thoughtful of the reps that we give them. Today was a big day for them to get back out and put jerseys on and be with your teammates. But we’ll be thoughtful about it through the journey and and have good days and continually to push them forward towards September 12th.”

Antoine Brooks Jr.

One of the few on-field reports from Thursday’s practice was an interception by Antoine Brooks while playing in the slot cornerback position. Coach Tomlin was asked if it was too much to read into Brooks being one of the candidates to fill the slot cornerback position.

“Exactly what you said. He’ll probably get the start in Canton. And you can write a story about that.”

Ben Roethlisberger

Entering the season at the age of 39, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a new offensive coordinator to work with for 2021. Coach Tomlin was asked if Roethlisberger is picking up on the terminology and various things under the new system.

“It’s not all new verbiage, all new concepts. It’s not. It’s really not. Matt’s (Canada) done a really good job, a thoughtful job, of easing the transition. Sure there are some new things and sure there’s some new words, but it’s not a blank slate. Ben’s been on the job long enough where I don’t want to make that seem something significant when it’s an adjustment. But by the time we are able to play, I doubt it’s going to be anything of any significance.”

T.J. Watt

One issue still looming throughout Steelers training camp is if T.J. Watt will get a new contract prior to the 2021 season. Coach Tomlin was asked what it meant to still have Watt showing up and getting in the work even with the negotiating processes going on

“It doesn’t ell me anything that I didn’t already know about T.J. Watt. What can you say about him that hasn’t been said? I’m sure that process will run its course and we’ll have something to report.”

Stephon Tuitt

One player who missed mandatory minicamp was Stephon Tuitt as his family was dealing with the tragic loss of his brother. Coach Tomlin was asked if Tuitt was held out of some team activities on Thursday in order to ramp up his participation since he had missed time.

“Yup. Exactly.”

A portion of Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen below as well as a link to the full interview on the Steelers’ YouTube channel.

Coach Tomlin speaks about the first practice of #SteelersCamp, the additions of @trai_turner & @MelvinIngram, the offensive line and more.

Full : https://t.co/y3oL0M3U6q pic.twitter.com/r2EIL6SHot

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 23, 2021

Should I really attend training camp practices at Heinz Field?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 6:00am

Should I attend an open Steelers training camp practice Heinz Field, or should I not attend an open Steelers training camp practice at Heinz Field? That is the question.

When it was announced recently that the Steelers wouldn’t be conducting their annual training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. for a second straight summer—and would again be hosting it at Heinz Field and their South Side Complex—I immediately began to engage in an internal debate about whether or not I would actually attend a practice or two at Heinz Field.

On one hand, it would be a cool way to check out training camp with some friends and/or family. After all, Heinz Field is literally 2.5 miles from my apartment in Crafton, Pa., a distance that’s clearly more palatable than the 40 miles I normally have to drive if I want to take in a training camp session in Latrobe (or whatever the official name is of the town where St. Vincent College is actually located).

On the other hand, it’s just so freaking hot. I mean, have you been outside, lately? I don’t know what the weather’s been like where you are, but here in Pittsburgh, it’s been a smoldering, humid existence for weeks. Would I really want to bake in the hot sun for hours while I watch a bunch of dudes wreck into one another over and over again—that is when they’re not actually standing around, of course?

I thought I would be able to avoid making a decision, entirely, when I first heard that fans would be forced to reserve tickets for each of these select open practices—there will be a total of at least 12—which will run from July 28 to August 18.

“Forcing fans to buy tickets for training camp practices?” I said to myself while plotting out an article filled with faux outrage over this perceived scheme to rip off the loyal fans. It could have been a good way to be super critical of the organization and finally earn my credentials for the press box at Heinz Field, which I believe includes central air. I had some really snarky jokes in mind, too, including a classic about not watching something if it was in my own backyard.

Unfortunately, I didn’t dig deep enough. These reserved tickets are actually going to be free (Google is your friend).

Damn it!

Truth be told, I was just hoping to get out of going because, as it turns out, I’d much rather sit in my recliner and watch streaming TV in my living room than bake in those yellow seats as I watch a training camp practice at Heinz Field.

Oh well, I guess I’ll go. Maybe I’ll go with family. Maybe I’ll go with friends.

It’s free, right? If it’s free, it’s me.

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