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BTSC Survivor Pool Update: Week 1 results

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 2:46pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The most common choice across all six leagues was a one-point game which came down to the wire

Entry into the Behind The Steel Curtain survivor pool closed at 1 PM on Sunday when the early NFL games kicked off. With five leagues completely filled with 100 entries, the sixth league finished with 92 participants. While technically there are 592 total entries, I have one entry in each league as the commissioner so there were 587 different contestants. Hundreds have entered, but only one can go home with the autographed David DeCastro football.

The most common selection for Week 1 was the Seattle Seahawks at home against the Cincinnati Bengals which led the way in all six leagues. Surprisingly, the Bengals led by three at halftime and did not lose the lead until the fourth quarter. If Cincinnati could have moved into field goal range in either of their final two drives, 155 additional people would have been eliminated. Instead the Seahawks held on to win 21-20.

The next most commonly picked game was the Philadelphia Eagles at home over the Washington Redskins. There were 101 people very nervous as the Redskins held a 17–0 lead in the first half. But the Eagles fought back and took the lead in the second half to secure the 32-27 victory.

For the 91 people who chose Baltimore over Miami, they had nothing to worry about as the Ravens took a large lead early in the game and never looked back.

Unfortunately, the biggest reason for teams to be eliminated was owners not making their choice in time. A total of 26 people across all six leagues were eliminated due to not making a selection. The most common incorrect pick was from people buying too much into the Cleveland hype with 24 selections of the Browns. Another 21 contestants were knocked out because the Lions did not win their game. So for those of you who were curious, if you select a team who finished their game in a tie, you will be eliminated

So after one week, 82% of the entries still remain. If you are still alive, make sure you enter your selection early so you don’t get knocked out due to a lack of selection. If you want, you can make your picks weeks in advance and still change your choices up until the weekly deadline.

Weekly Update: Upcoming Week 2 Games of Note:
  • Most heavily favored: New England (-18.5) on the road over Miami
  • Closest match up: Denver (EVEN) at home vs. Chicago
  • The Steelers match up: Pittsburgh (-3.5) at home over Seattle

(all lines are courtesy of oddshark.com as on 9/9)

So there you have it! Make sure you check back at Behind The Steel Curtain to stay updated on the contest. Even if you did not enter or have already been eliminated, feel free to check in and see how you would have fared each week.

NFL Power Rankings: Steelers nowhere near the Top 10 after Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 1:40pm
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of work to do before being considered a Top 10 team in 2019.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, among half of the NFL, are 0-1 after Week 1 of the 2019 regular season, but how they got to this record is the most concerning part. After a 33-3 drubbing by the defending champion New England Patriots, the Steelers are now not only facing an uphill climb to get back to .500, but will have to do so against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 at Heinz Field.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, it is that time of week where we check in on what other outlets are saying about the black-and-gold in those weekly Power Ranking articles. We all realize these rankings are completely meaningless, but they are great for discussion. Not just where the Steelers are ranked, but who made the Top 5 who should have, or shouldn’t have?

Check out the Power Rankings below, and be sure to let us know your thoughts on the rankings in the comment section below!

ESPN

1. New England Patriots
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Los Angeles Rams
5. Philadelphia Eagles
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Minnesota Vikings
10. Green Bay Packers
...
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rookie who flashed: Devin Bush, LB

How the newcomer starred: Bush played the most significant role among Steelers rookies, leading the team with 11 tackles. He stood out in that he was bringing Patriots players to the ground, but that’s not so good when most of the tackles were on chunk-yardage plays for the offense. Bush gave up a big gain on a pick play but otherwise looked ready. Rookie receiver Diontae Johnson is an intriguing option after three catches for 29 yards. The lights didn’t look too bright for him. -- Jeremy Fowler”

USA Today

1. New England Patriots
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Minnesota Vikings
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Baltimore Ravens
6. Los Angeles Chargers
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Tennessee Titans
9. Los Angeles Rams
10. Philadelphia Eagles
...
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
“Big Ben wasn’t very good between lines Sunday. But he was nails on postgame podium, uttering “Whatever” when asked about AB joining Pats.”

NFL.com

1 New England Patriots
2 Los Angeles Rams
3 Kansas City Chiefs
4 New Orleans Saints
5 Philadelphia Eagles
6 Dallas Cowboys
7 Minnesota Vikings
8 Seattle Seahawks
9 Baltimore Ravens
10 Green Bay Packers
...
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
“That was a disheartening start to the season. The Steelers were manhandled by the “rival” Patriots, who were playing the game at another level on Sunday night. I expected the Steelers to ball out on offense even without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, but it sure felt like they were short a playmaker or two as the Patriots began to pull away in Foxborough. Pittsburgh had four first downs and 87 total yards at the half and was held to three points in a season opener for the first time since 2001. James Conner couldn’t move the chains on the ground and JuJu Smith-Schuster struggled to get open before leaving the game late with a toe injury. It’s clear the Steelers have a lot of work to do in what could be a very important season for Mike Tomlin. They’ll get another stiff challenge when the Seahawks come to town in Week 2.”

Mike Tomlin discusses options at fullback with Nix possibly missing multiple games

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 12:33pm
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Being a position the Steelers rarely use, the strategy to put a fullback on the field if needed may require some creativity

One surprise injury which was brought to light and Mike Tomlin‘s press conference on Tuesday was an injury to the knee of fullback and special teams captain Roosevelt Nix.

“Rosie Nix is one that’s probably a little bit different worth mentioning,” Tomlin stated. “He’s got a knee injury that’s being evaluated. He may miss this game and another or two. I’ll have more information and as we gather it regarding him, but he is one I don’t think I specifically mentioned after the game.”

With the Steelers faltering on three drives in the second quarter in where they only needed one yard to gain a first down, Tomlin was asked if Nix’s injury contributed to not effectively running the ball on short situations.

“ No excuses in that regard.”

Tomlin’s answer is appropriate since the only play in which Nix saw the field on offense was coming out of the two minute warning of the first half on the fourth down and one play. Ben Roethlisberger instead chose to call a time out and go with all five of his eligible receiver spread out wide with Nix going back to the sideline.

Whether it be by choice or due to injury, the Steelers did not run one single play with a fullback Sunday night against the New England Patriots. If a fallback is in the plans for the Steelers in Week 2, they will be looking to fill the position in other ways. With only one spot on the roster and it being a position the Steelers use so infrequently, it does not make sense to add a player at this time. Therefore, the Steelers are left looking for other options already on their roster if they hope to employ the fullback in any of their offensive schemes this week.

Tomlin was asked if there’s a player on the roster to fill in at fullback for this coming game.

“We have some candidates,” He answered. “We spent some time, as we always do, looking at other options in areas where we don’t have a lot of depth. The fullback position is a area that we don’t have a lot of depth so we’re not opposed to looking at other people. We spent some time looking at defenders in the spring and summer, but we’re also capable of looking out and utilizing tight ends which we have done in the past quite regularly.”

While there are some possible players to fill the position which may come to mind, Tomlin was asked specifically if Tyler Matakevich is one of the candidates in-house to play fullback.

“We’re just at the beginning stages of discussing that. If we need a fullback, there will be somebody representing that position on Sunday I assure you of that.”

It will be interesting to see what the Steelers do at fullback this Sunday in their home opener at Heinz Field against the Seattle Seahawks. While any of the current tight ends on the roster could fill the position, Vance McDonald should be thought of more as an asset in the receiving game in the coming weeks. Additionally, Zach Gentry was not active on Sunday and has struggled with blocking from the tight end position. Xavier Grimble may be the best candidate who could move to fullback should the Steelers decide they need one.

Another option is using an additional offensive lineman in the backfield much like the Steelers do when they choose to have an extra tight end. An athletic player such as Chukwuma Okorafor could be made active just to be a fallback, but this scenario is somewhat unlikely.

While the Steelers used OLB Sutton Smith at fullback early in training camp, his lack of availability throughout the preseason made him expendable to where he did not even earn a spot on the Steelers practice squad. There could another linebacker asked to fill the position such as Ulysees Gilbert III or Tyler Matakevich who was mentioned before. Beyond that, any defender used as a fallback would be pure speculation.

So what do you think the Steelers should do at the fullback position if Roosevelt Nix is unable to play Sunday? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Mike Tomlin not ready to rule out any injured players other than Roosevelt Nix for Week 2

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 11:20am
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a laundry list of injured players, but Mike Tomlin is hoping to have several

The Pittsburgh Steelers were beaten soundly by the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football in Week 1, but to make the loss worse the team also suffered several injuries at key positions.

A few of the walking wounded from Week 1 would include:

T.J. Watt (hip)
Maurkice Pouncey (ankle)
Joe Haden (shoulder)
JuJu Smith-Schuster (toe)

Add Sean Davis (ankle) to this list and you have several starters whose availability for the Week 2 game vs. the Seattle Seahawks is up in the air.

During Mike Tomlin’s weekly Tuesday press conference he outlined the expectations for players potential availability in Week 2. Without giving specific details on the aforementioned players, Tomlin added there are several players, Pouncey and Smith-Schuster were specifically listed, who may be limited in early portions of the week.

Injuries: Pouncey, JuJu may be limited early during the week. Roosevelt Nix is being evaluated for knee injury. He may miss this game "or two."

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) September 10, 2019

However, Tomlin did say he was “optimistic about availability” for all those players who are dealing with those bumps and bruises associated with getting back into playing 4 quarters of football. As Tomlin said, “the week will tell the story” on who is in, and who is out, for the Week 2 contest at Heinz Field.

Watt and Haden are among guys that may be limited early in the week.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) September 10, 2019

The biggest surprise on the injury front was a player who wasn’t even listed as injured after the loss in Gillette Stadium Sunday night. Tomlin said fullback and special teams captain Roosevelt Nix has a knee injury which is being evaluated. Tomlin added Nix will be out this week, and possible miss extended period of time.

For Tomlin to be this specific regarding an injury isn’t good news for Nix, and the hope is the diagnosis doesn’t end his season, but just have him miss a few games before his return.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Seahawks in their season-opening game this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Heinz Field.

AFC North Recap: Baltimore Ravens the lone winner after Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 10:30am
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC North has just one undefeated team after Week 1, and it was none other than the Baltimore Ravens.

The first week of NFL football is behind us, and it was quite the week in the AFC North division. With that said, it is time to see how the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns all did in the week that was. Time to take a look.

Baltimore Ravens - 59
Miami Dolphins - 10

The first play from scrimmage for the Ravens was a 50-yard run by Mark Ingram, and the game was over after that. If Lamar Jackson can deliver the football consistently the way the did against the lowly Dolphins, this Ravens team will be tough to beat.

Seattle Seahawks - 21
Cincinnati Bengals - 20

This game was one of the more entertaining games that most probably didn’t see. Andy Dalton absolutely shredded the Seahawks’ once vaunted defense, but the Bengals failed to score TDs instead of settling for field goals. It is Week 1, but if we are using that as a litmus test, the Bengals won’t be a push over, and the Seahawks are very beatable.

Tennessee Titans - 43
Cleveland Browns - 13

You thought the Steelers getting blown out was bad? At least it wasn’t at home, against a team many are predicting to not make the playoffs. That is exactly what happened to the Browns, and their fans were stunned after the team they thought would carry them to the playoffs laid a gigantic egg on their home turf.

Pittsburgh Steelers - 3
New England Patriots - 33

Losing to the defending Super Bowl Champions on the road in Week 1 isn’t a shock. Losing by 30 and not scoring a touchdown was a shock. The Steelers better get their heads right for Week 2 before this thing gets even uglier than it is right now.

AFC North Standings

Baltimore Ravens — 1-0
Cincinnati Bengals — 0-1
Cleveland Browns — 0-1
Pittsburgh Steelers — 0-1

Week 2 AFC North Schedule:

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks — 1:00 p.m. ET
San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m. ET
Arizona Cardinals at Baltimore Ravens — 1:00 p.m. ET
Cleveland Browns at New York Jets — Monday Night Football

Steelers add Jayrone Elliott to the 53-man roster, sign Devlin Hodges to the practice squad

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 9:27am
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The Steelers brought back two familiar face on Tuesday to fill their roster openings

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced a roster move on Monday, bringing back linebacker Jayrone Elliott to the 53-man roster and quarterback Devlin Hodges to the practice squad.

We have agreed to terms with LB Jayrone Elliott and signed QB Devlin Hodges to the practice squad.@BordasLaw TRANSACTION: https://t.co/oqZIaF5IIR pic.twitter.com/EktLNdKQFA

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 10, 2019

On Monday, the Steelers announced they had traded third-string quarterback Joshua Dobbs to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a 2020 fifth-round draft pick. The roster opening gave the Steelers to bring back Elliott who was signed late in the preseason. As many recall, Elliott forced a fumble in the first quarter of the Steelers final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers and subsequently returned it for an 88-yard touchdown. In two preseason games with the Steelers, Elliott had five tackles and the sack which led to his touchdown.

Out of the University of Toledo, Elliott signed as an undrafted free agent with Green Bay in 2014. Over three seasons with the Packers, Elliott appeared in 38 games and tallied 47 tackles, one fumble, one interception, and four sacks. Traded to the Dallas Cowboys at the end of the preseason in 2017 for a seventh-round draft pick, Elliott only lasted two games on the roster before being released by the Cowboys.

Elliott signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2018, but failed to make the 53 man roster. With three accrued NFL seasons, Elliott was no longer eligible for the practice squad. Earlier in 2019, Elliot signed in the off-season with the Miami Dolphins but was released prior to training camp.

In his four years at Toledo, Elliott amassed 70 tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Elliott also tallied 16 sacks in his career, nine of which came during his senior season in 2013.

With the Steelers historically carrying three quarterbacks, Devlin Hodges was brought in to the practice squad in the position vacated from promoting Johnny Holton to the active roster just before the Steelers Week 1 game. In a break from recent tradition, the Steelers are keeping their third quarterback on the practice squad for the time being.

Nicknamed “Duck” due to his award-winning duck calling, Hodges was 20 for 38 passing for 190 yards in the preseason while throwing two touchdowns and one interception in three games in which he appeared. Many believed Hodges had performed well enough to beat out Dobbs for a spot on the 53-man roster, but the Steelers originally chose the third-year player over the rookie.

Breaking the FCS record for passing while at Samford University in Alabama, Hodges thew for 14,566 yards and 111 touchdowns. Appearing in 44 games in his four seasons with the Bulldogs, Hodges completed 69% of his passes (1,310 completions on 1,896 attempts).

One interesting item of note is Hodges was not originally signed by the Steelers immediately following the 2019 NFL draft. Much like the recently released Tuzar Skipper now of the New York Giants, Hodges earned a spot on the preseason roster via tryout at rookie minicamp.

Make sure you stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for all of your breaking news, injury reports, and everything related to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers’ 3rd Down woes underscore a miserable night in New England

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 8:36am
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers had plenty of issues vs. the Patriots in Week 1, but their 3rd down failures were a large part of those issues.

I’m not going to lie. This wasn’t an article I particularly enjoyed writing. Rehashing the gory details of the Pittsburgh Steelers 33-3 opening-night loss to the Patriots was a bit like repeatedly punching myself in the groin. Some people might be into that sort of thing, but not me.

I could roll out a bunch of cliches here about how the Patriots have our number in Foxboro, how it’s just one game or how there is never growth without discomfort. All of these things, to a degree, are true. The bigger truth is the Steelers didn’t look like a very good football team on Sunday night. With a solid Seattle Seahawks team coming to town in a few days, they need to get better in a hurry.

The list of culprits for the embarrassment in New England is long. On defense, the Steelers failed to generate a pass rush, got beat repeatedly in man coverage and didn’t tackle particularly well. On offense, they couldn’t block New England’s linebackers, couldn’t separate from their corners and couldn’t convert on third (or fourth) downs.

That last item -- third (and fourth) down conversions -- stands out in particular. Bill Parcells once famously said, “You are what your record says you are.” I will adapt his quote here to say the game on Sunday night was every bit the mismatch the scoreboard indicated. 33-3 was 33-3, no doubt about it. I’m not suggesting a play here or there could have altered the outcome. Still, had the Steelers been able to convert some of their early third downs on offense and sustain drives that either led to points or kept Tom Brady off the field, they could have nullified some of New England’s momentum and given themselves a puncher’s chance. Instead, they went 4-15 on third and fourth downs, including a putrid 0-4 on third/fourth and 1.

Let’s take a look at some of those situations and examine why they failed.

1st Quarter, 8:07 remaining, 0-0; 3rd and 6 at Pitt 39

The Steelers first third down opportunity came on their opening drive. After the defense started the game by forcing a New England punt, the Steelers took over at their own 12 yard line. They gained a couple of first downs by mixing underneath throws to Juju Smith-Schuster and James Conner with a couple of Conner runs. On a 2nd and 8 from the New England 37, running back Jaylen Samuels entered the game. The Steelers immediately ran the counter concept they had been so successful with in Pittsburgh last December when Samuels rushed for 146 yards as the starter in place of an injured Conner. Not surprisingly, New England was ready for it. Samuels gained two yards, setting up a 3rd and 6.

The Steelers aligned in an 11 personnel set with tight end Vance McDonald and Smith-Schuster lined up to the left of the formation and receivers Donte Moncrief and Johnny Holton stacked wide to the right:

The Patriots put ten defenders within three yards of the ball. They played cover-1 with a single safety fifteen yards deep in the middle of the field. Both sets of receivers were compressed and bunched, suggesting some sort of pick or crossing action. This is a good strategy versus man coverage and one the Patriots used effectively much of the night.

Smith-Schuster did in fact cross the field but there was no one to pick for him or run interference. Instead, McDonald ran a deep dig (an in cut at about 15 yards), Moncrief ran an out cut and Holton a straight go. This route, commonly referred to as Drive, is typically used as a zone-beater whereby the quarterback reads the drop of a linebacker and throws the cross or the dig based on his drop.

Curiously, the Steelers used it here against obvious man coverage. Ben Roethlisberger wound up chucking the vertical route to Johnny Holton, a player promoted from the practice squad just a day earlier. Holton got no separation against Patriots corner Jonathan Jones and Jones, to his credit, managed not to interfere:

I’m not sure why the Steelers didn’t check out of this route to a man-beater, nor am I sure why they elected to throw deep to an untested receiver on their first big offensive conversion attempt of the season. Why was Holton on the field in this spot to begin with rather than James Washington, who had a great pre-season and who practiced with the varsity offense all week while Holton ran the routes of Patriots receivers on the scout team? It was a curious initial third down call, to say the least.

The Steelers punted. The Patriots responded with their first scoring drive.

2nd quarter, 7:46 remaining, 10-0 NE; 3rd and 1 at Pitt 44

Down 10-0, the Steelers got a much-needed three-and-out by the defense and took over on their own 35. They had a chance here to seize some momentum by putting together a nice offensive drive. They ran Conner on consecutive plays for nine yards, setting up a 3rd and 1. On third down, they lined up in 11 personnel with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Vance McDonald, two physical blockers, compressed to the top of the formation. New England, in man coverage, once again put ten defenders within a few yards of the ball. The Steelers opted to run a toss play off of outside zone blocking using McDonald and Juju to seal the edge and the frontside linemen -- Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey -- to reach the players in their outside gap. Here is what the blocking was designed to look like:

New England, however, aligned linebacker Jamie Collins (58) in the B-gap between the guard and tackle, meaning Pouncey would have to snap the ball and then reach two full gaps to his left to cut Collins off. Pouncey is a great player but this was a near-impossible ask on a full-flow run play. The toss to Conner and the reach steps by the offensive linemen meant everything was flowing in the same direction. There was nothing to keep Collins from sprinting immediately to the football. With some misdirection, like a receiver in motion, or a down scheme from the playside linemen that muddied Collins’ read, Pouncey may have had a chance. Not with full flow, however. Collins shot through the open gap before Pouncey could get there and swallowed Conner up for a loss.

Once again, it’s hard to understand why the Steelers didn’t check to a different play. Perhaps they were discouraged from running between the tackles by the results on the previous series, where a 3rd and 1 inside zone play to Conner was stuffed for no gain. Still, the pre-snap alignment of the Patriots defense was conducive to an inside run. The Steelers had a hat-on-a-hat inside the box and could have easily run Conner in the A-gap to pick up the yard they needed. Whether Roethlisberger did not have the ability to check or simply didn’t diagnose the alignment of the defense is unclear. This play was doomed from the start, however. By not converting here, it began to feel as though the Steelers chances on the evening were doomed as well.

3rd quarter, 10:23 remaining, 20-0 NE; 3rd and goal at NE 1

Down 20-0 at halftime, the Steelers received the second half kickoff and embarked on their best drive of the night. This included a big 3rd down conversion on a beautifully thrown deep ball to James Washington for 45 yards to put them in the red zone.

Five plays later, the Steelers found themselves with a 3rd and goal at the New England 1. A touchdown here would have put them within two scores. They aligned in 11 personnel with a bunch set to the field and Smith-Schuster singled up to the short side. They ran a pick play-of sorts to the bunch, with McDonald coming from the outside to impede Ryan Switzer’s defender while Moncrief ran a fade. Juju, meanwhile, ran a “win” route whereby he simply tried to beat his defender inside. The routes looked like this:

The tricky Patriots, however, lined up in cover-1 but played the bunch in a match concept. This meant that safety Patrick Chung, lined up over McDonald, wouldn’t cover McDonald specifically but instead would take the first receiver out or to the flat. Devon McCourty, lined up over Moncrief, would take the first player vertical. And Jonathan Jones, lined up over Switzer, would take the first inside route.

The Patriots executed the coverage perfectly. Switzer went out and was matched by Chung. Moncrief went vertical and was matched by McCourty. And McDonald ran a whip route, where he went in and then pivoted back out, and had his route disrupted by linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Roethlisberger threw the vertical to Moncrief but the two miscommunicated. Moncrief was expecting a fade towards the back of the end zone (you can tell by how he looks over his inside shoulder for the ball) while Roethlisberger threw the ball towards the boundary as though he expected Moncrief to turn out.

It was another strange decision on a pivotal play that could have gotten the Steelers back in the game. Rather than design a play to get the ball to Smith-Schuster or use McDonald creatively to get a mismatch, or even get into a heavy formation with fullback Roosevelt Nix and run play-action to catch the Patriots off-balance, the Steelers ran a play which, a) was designed for Ryan Switzer, and b) ended up throwing to Moncrief, the player with the least amount of reps with Ben Roethlisberger of the four receivers on the field. It’s not surprising, then, that Moncrief and Roethlisberger miscommunicated. What is surprising is that Moncrief was targeted more than any Steelers receiver on the night, or that Holton (who, again, spent the week running the routes of Patriots receivers on the scout team offense) was on the field instead of Washington on the earlier third down attempt.

Regardless, a 14 play drive that consumed 74 yards and ate up the first five minutes of the third quarter yielded just three points. The failure to convert that third and goal and finish the long drive ended any hope of a comeback.

Looking Ahead

As disastrous as Sunday was, it is only one game. A win against Seattle will leave the Steelers 1-1, which, all things considered, is probably where most people expected them to be after two games. Seattle didn’t exactly light the world on fire in their opener, yielding 22 first downs to just 12 of their own and getting out-gained 429-233 in a 21-20 win at home against Cincinnati. Andy Dalton shredded the once-stout Seahawks secondary for 418 passing yards and the Bengals converted 40% of their third downs. The Seahawks are a good football team, but this game is certainly winnable.

Converting 3rd downs will be a huge factor. The failures the Steelers had in that area Sunday night were the product of several factors: relying on new and/or unproven players (Holton and Moncrief) to make plays in big moments; failing to check out of plays that were DOA based on the alignment of the Patriots defense; failures in execution, such as missed blocks, dropped balls and poor throws; and curious play-calling that failed to utilize the Steelers best offensive weapons. A great game-plan and great execution by the Patriots defense certainly contributed as well.

As a remedy to the problem, the Steelers may want to consider scheming plays to get guys like McDonald and Smith-Schuster the football. While Roethlisberger may enjoy the freedom of spreading the ball around in this post-Antonio Brown offense, getting it to proven players, especially early in the season as the young and new players develop, is integral. Should the Seahawks attempt to play a lot of press-man like New England did, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner can motion Juju to create space pre-snap or put him inside on those bunch sets he likes where other players can run interference for him. Likewise, routes to the running backs that get them matched up on linebackers in space are an easy way to create opportunities. Low percentage one-on-one balls may have been great with AB. Without him, Fichtner will have to get more creative if the Steelers are to sustain drives by converting on third down.

Same old story as Steelers suffer blowout loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 7:36am
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

It was deja vu all over again, Sunday night, as the Steelers were blown out by the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. It doesn’t matter who plays or coaches, the story always ends the same way.

Quarterback Tom Brady completed 29 of 43 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns, as the Patriots shellacked the Steelers, 30-14, at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night.

I must apologize. Apparently, I Googled the wrong box score, which was from Week 1 of the 2002 season, when Pittsburgh helped the Patriots open up their new stadium just months after winning their first Super Bowl (also with the help of the Steelers).

Brady’s box score from Sunday night, a game that helped usher in the 2019 season (and New England’s latest title defense), was actually 24-36 for 341 yards and three touchdowns, as Pittsburgh fell, 33-3.

Pretty similar, though, right? I’m sure if I researched Brady’s box scores from every single game in-which he and the Patriots faced the Steelers at Gillette Stadium, they would all look eerily similar.

I do know Brady has never lost a game to Pittsburgh at Gillette. I also know the Steelers defense has never intercepted him there, not one single time. That’s kind of amazing, same for the almost two decades-long trance the Patriots have had as an organization over Pittsburgh when the venue for the match-up has been the one sponsored by the shaving company and not the one sponsored by the ketchup company.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Bill Cowher or Mike Tomlin standing on the sidelines. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kordell Stewart or Ben Roethlisberger under center. It doesn’t matter who’s designing the defense. It doesn’t matter who’s calling the plays on offense.

Hines Ward or Antonio Brown. Alan Faneca or David DeCastro. Joey Porter or T.J. Watt. Aaron Smith or Cam Heyward. Ike Taylor or Joe Haden. Zone blitz or man-to-man. Wes Welker or Julian Edelman. Chris Hogan or Phillip Dorsett. Mike Vrabel or Chase Winovich.

It just doesn’t matter. The story never changes.

Same old Steelers when they set foot in Gillette Stadium.

Seriously, did you think that defense was going to stop Brady once he got going? Did you think Roethlisberger was going to rally the team back from a 20-0 halftime deficit, especially when Tomlin elected to kick a field goal on fourth and goal from the one with just over 25 minutes left in the game?

Were you surprised at all when New England answered that gutless call (and that’s what it was) with a touchdown just four plays and 2:12 later?

Were you shocked at all with how easily the Patriots receivers were running open underneath, intermediately and deep? Were you surprised by how lifeless the offense looked? Were you shocked when James Conner was stopped short on third and one, not once, but twice? Were you surprised that Donte Moncrief dropped two passes that may have altered the direction of the game? Were you caught off guard by Roethlisberger’s inaccuracy on deep throws?

Were you blindsided by the defense’s inability to tackle? Were you frustrated with the inability of the pass rush, one that was going up against a battered and depleted offensive line, to barely even breathe on Brady?

Were you shook up by how out of sorts Pittsburgh looked from beginning to end?

You shouldn’t have been. Again, it was the same old story.

You want to blame rust—especially for Roethlisberger’s inaccuracy and the defense’s tackling issues?

Yeah, maybe, but that doesn’t explain January of 2017, when Pittsburgh couldn’t have been hotter, as it rode a nine-game winning-streak into Gillette Stadium for the AFC Championship Game. It didn't matter. Brady didn’t throw a pick. Roethlisberger didn’t look all that elite. New England receivers were running wild. Bill Belichick totally out-coached his counterpart across the field.

36-17.

It was the same old story.

It doesn’t matter if it’s 2002 or 2007. 2013 or 2015. 2017 or 2019.

The story always ends the same way.

As for your 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers and their prospects moving forward? You better hope Sunday night was just the latest example of their ineptitude at Foxborough and not an indication of how most of the next 15 games will look.

If it is just the former, and this team really does have what it takes to make it back to the playoffs, you better hope another trip to Gillette Stadium isn’t part of the deal.

I think you know how that story will end.

NFL Betting Preview: Steelers open as 3.5-point favorite vs. Seahawks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 6:30am
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Taking a look at the latest odds as the Steelers play their first game of the 2019 season at Heinz Field

Steelers’ fans are grateful their match up against the New England Patriots Sunday night was the first game of the season and not the last as a bitter taste in their mouth’s can be washed away with another game this coming Sunday at Heinz Field against the Seattle Seahawks. Only facing the AFC West every four years, the matchup against the Seahawks is a rarity. The Steelers and Seahawks have only faced each other three times since Super Bowl XL in Detroit at the conclusion of the 2005 season

When it comes to the betting lines for Sunday’s game, the following information is the current consensus spread and over/under for the Steelers this week as reported by oddsshark.com.

Game Info: Week 2 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks Sunday, September 15, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Betting line: -3.5

Over/under: 46.5

Last Regular Season Meeting: Steelers (L) 30-39 in Seattle

Win streak: 1 game SEA

Last 3 Meetings: PIT 2 - 1 SEA

Last 10 Meetings: PIT 5 - 5 SEA

The opening line on the game was -3 when the schedule was released in April and remained steady throughout the preseason. The line moved slightly in the Steelers favor to -4.5 when the Seahawks did not cover at home against the Cincinatti Bengals on Sunday afternoon. The line then came back to -3.5 after the Steeler’s loss to the Patriots on Sunday night.

Being favored on Sunday, the Stelers have a current moneyline of -190 to win the game straight up, which is the equivalent of 10/19 odds. So a $20 bet placed on the Steelers over the Seahawks would have a payout of $30.53 ($10.53 plus the original $20 bet). The Seahawks have a current moneyline of +165, or 33/20 odds. Therefore the same $20 bet placed on Seattle to win straight up would have a payout of $53 ($33 pus the original $20 bet) .

According to Oddsshark.com, the Steelers are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games and the total has gone UNDER in four of their last five games. The Steelers also are 5-1 straight up in their last six games played at home and the total has gone UNDER in four of Pittsburgh’s last five games against Seattle. When it comes to games played at Heinz Field, Seattle is 0-2 and have not scored a point in either match up.

If looking at the futures bets, the Steelers are currently now at 28/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, 27/2 odds to win the AFC Championship, and 7/4 odds to win the AFC North. While all of the odds became longer for the Steelers (meaning their chances decreased), they are still slightly favored to win the AFC North. Both Baltimore and Cleveland are currently 2/1 odds to win the division.

Podcast: Let us just pause on the Steelers state of emergency

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 5:31am

Join Bryan and Tony for the fallout after the Steelers embarrassing loss to New England on the latest episode of the ‘Steelers Hangover’.

Join Bryan Davis, and Anthony Defeo from BTSC as they share their thoughts on the overall landscape of the Steelers after a ridiculous showing in New England. It’s the extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”.

In case you are new to the show, you can check out a complete rundown of the show below:

  • The week that was for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Are we really giving up on 2019 after one game?
  • Live chat.
  • and MUCH MORE!

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.

Black and Gold Links: Devin Bush’s first NFL game was quite the “experience” for the rookie

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/10/2019 - 4:34am
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving into Week 2 of the NFL regular season, and as the team prepares for the Seattle Seahawks, we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the season starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how rookie Devin Bush’s debut went against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Week 1.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Getting your first career NFL start can be intimidating. Getting that start against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots can be downright frightening. Devin Bush saw it as a quality experience.

Devin Bush has ‘quite the experience’ in first NFL start for Steelers

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

It wasn’t the type of NFL debut that Devin Bush envisioned when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the No. 10 overall pick of the draft.

No rookie thrust into the starting lineup for his first game expects to be on the wrong side of a 33-3 decision.

Still, Bush tried to make the best of a bad situation.

“It was fun to be out there for the first NFL game against the defending champs in their home stadium,” Bush said after the Steelers’ lopsided loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. “It was quite the experience.”

Playing extensively at inside linebacker, Bush had a team-high 11 tackles for the Steelers. That was small consolation considering the overall defensive play. With Brady exploiting the middle of the defense and then finding success with deep passes, the Patriots jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead and pulled away in the second half.

“He was getting the ball out fast,” Bush said. “He was finding those matchups, completing the ball on third down, getting the ball behind the defense. He was checking in and out of run plays, play-action plays and screens.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Is it time to sound the alarms?

Kevin Gorman: Sound the alarms. Steelers looked lost without Antonio Brown

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

What we wanted to see more than anything from the Pittsburgh Steelers in their season opener was how their passing game would be affected by the absence of All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown.

This debut was a disaster, to put it mildly.

That Brown orchestrated an offseason trade to Oakland and his release from the Raiders only to sign with the New England Patriots on the eve of the opener at Gillette Stadium was of no consequence to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

At least, not that he was willing to admit.

“I’m not specifically worried about anything relative to Antonio Brown,” Tomlin said. “I’m worried about the guys in the locker room. The quality of execution of what we did or didn’t do. Antonio’s been off our team for a number of months. We moved on from that stuff in March.”

The guys in the locker room should have the Steelers worried, as there was little quality to their execution. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was blunt about taking blame, saying he wasn’t good enough. Wide receiver Donte Moncrief considered it a wake-up call, one that he and the Steelers needed.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Who is the blame for the Steelers’ loss in Week? Ben Roethlisberer says blame him

Big Ben takes blame for Steelers’ woes at Pats

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

So much for that new-look offense without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

Those players were missed on a miserable night of football for the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose 33-3 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday left their quarterback placing blame squarely on himself.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Ben Roethlisberger, who went 27-of-47 for 276 yards and one interception. “I wasn’t giving guys balls where they needed to catch them. Put them in front, behind, things like that. So, just -- I wasn’t good enough.”

The Steelers finished the game with 308 yards, but many of those came in garbage time. At halftime, Pittsburgh had limped to four first downs, one third-down conversion and 87 yards. James Conner and the rushing attack managed 32 yards and and failed to convert several short-yardage situations.

From five-wide sets to zone running plays, nothing the Steelers tried worked, with Roethlisberger missing on three of his four deep-ball attempts.

The Steelers most recently scored three points in a season opener in 2001, losing 21-3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The message was sent.

To read the full article click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

Missi, Bob, Tunch and Arthur recap our game against New England. #SteelersLive pic.twitter.com/DbDl66oOJa

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 9, 2019

Go around the Steelers' locker room following our game against the Patriots.

: @HeinzKetchup_US pic.twitter.com/emhD0ox2Mu

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 9, 2019

#LIVE: Ben Roethlisberger addresses the media following our game against the Patriots. https://t.co/vtNmDpzQLi

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 9, 2019

Report: New York Giants claim former Steelers OLB Tuzar Skipper off waivers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 4:38pm
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers might have had plans to bring Skipper back, but those plans have now been spoiled.

The transaction the New York Giants just made will likely cap off what has been a very forgettable weekend for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base.

After watching their former star wide receiver, Antonio Brown, go from the Oakland Raiders to the hated New England Patriots, and the Patriots throttling the Steelers 33-3 on Sunday Night Football, it was expected the team would move recently released Tuzar Skipper to their practice squad.

After promoting Johnny Holton to the 53-man roster, and releasing Skipper to make room, moving Skipper to the practice squad on Monday made sense. But those plans were crushed when the New York Giants claimed Skipper off waivers, per ESPN’s Field Yates.

The Giants claimed former Steelers LB Tuzar Skipper off of waivers, per source.

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 9, 2019

This is the risk you take when you release a player you like in hopes he will clear waivers and be able to be brought back to the team.

Skipper had a tremendous preseason, getting at least one sack in every preseason game he participated in, and although his performance was good enough to make the initial 53-man roster, the team played roster roulette and got burned.

After the team traded Joshua Dobbs to the Jacksonville Jaguars today for a 5th round 2020 draft pick, they have an open spot on the 53-man roster. Could Devlin Hodges make his return to the Steelers? Some had hoped that player to return would be Skipper, but the only plays he will be making in the near future will be with the G-men.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for Week 2 when they open the season at Heinz Field vs. the Seattle Seahawks.

Post-Game Sound: Hear from Steelers coaches and players after the horrible loss to the Patriots

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 3:46pm
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were losers in Week 1 of the NFL regular season. Take a look and listen to what was said after the game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were losers in their first regular season action after a 33-3 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday night.

After the game, there was plenty of video/audio to take in from inside the locker room and down at field level. Here at BTSC we try to gather as much information as possible for those fans who might not be on social media and see this on a weekly basis.

Therefore, in the post-game sound article you will hear from head coach Mike Tomlin, and a myriad of other players as the Steelers official Twitter account goes around the room to hear from all who participated on Friday night.

Enjoy the content and be sure to stay with BTSC for all things black-and-gold as they now turn their attention away from the awful performance on prime time, and to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2...but first, the post-game sound:

Around the Locker Room

Go around the Steelers' locker room following our game against the Patriots.

: @HeinzKetchup_US pic.twitter.com/emhD0ox2Mu

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 9, 2019

Ben Roethlisberger’s Post-Game Press Conference

#LIVE: Ben Roethlisberger addresses the media following our game against the Patriots. https://t.co/vtNmDpzQLi

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 9, 2019

Mike Tomlin’s Post-Game Press Conference

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following our game against New England. https://t.co/ASsIDxns44

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 9, 2019

Report: Joe Haden has sprained AC Joint in shoulder, availability in Week 2 unknown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 2:20pm
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten some positive news on the injury front the day after their prime time loss.

The Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t just beat up by the New England Patriots on the scoreboard to the tune of 33-3, they were also left pretty beat up in regards to injuries.

Pittsburgh suffered several injuries from at key positions heading into Week 2. Some of those injured were T.J. Watt (hip), Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) and Joe Haden (shoulder). As for Haden, Ian Rapoport reported he suffered a sprained AC joint.

#Steelers CB Joe Haden, who went down with a shoulder injury in the loss to the #Patriots, has a sprained AC joint, source said.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 9, 2019

During the game Haden left for a period, but was able to return to the game and finished with no ill effects in his play. Dr. David Chao, who used to be the former head team doctor of the San Diego Chargers, shines some light on what the injury might mean for Haden this week, and his availability in the home opener against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2:

Expect #JoeHaden to miss some (or be limited) in practice this week but be ready to play next week vs @Seahawks.

(Who says I don't give free content anymore? Just using the new https://t.co/mVHhAhQEkP to give better next level info where 280 characters are not enough.) https://t.co/CwM8Xhyv2V

— David J. Chao (@ProFootballDoc) September 9, 2019

Hopefully Chao’s rough diagnosis will come to fruition and the Steelers don’t have to lean on Artie Burns to anchor one half of the field opposite Steven Nelson.

As for Pouncey, Ed Bouchette of The Athletic reported his teammates said it was a minor injury, and he should be fine.

Talking to Steelers players just now and they believe Maurkice Pouncey should be fine, that he was upbeat about his anke today that was injured Sunday night

— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) September 9, 2019

A recent report from ProFootballTalk shows JuJu Smith-Schuster, who left the game with a toe injury, had all X-Rays come back negative, a positive sign for his short-term availability.

X-rays on JuJu Smith-Schuster’s toe came back negative https://t.co/6qF0EcGVsN

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 9, 2019

Of course these are all reports and speculation, but on the surface it is good news for the Steelers heading into Week 2, from an injury standpoint. Mike Tomlin will address these, and any other injuries, during his Tuesday press conference at noon.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the Seahawks in Week 2 at Heinz Field.

Analyzing Antonio Brown, and the biggest heel turn in Steelers history

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 1:30pm
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A theory on how we got from All-Pro Steeler to hated enemy.

Nothing comes close to this.

Antonio Brown went from the fast track towards the Hall of Honor and being one of the greatest players in franchise history to Yinzer enemy numero uno in less than a year’s time. There are several notable moments in Franchise history where players that were loved were suddenly not loved. Here are the biggest ones to the best of my memory.

Franco Harris famously finished his career in Seattle. It seemed to matter to people, but the Steelers knew he was done while he wasn’t ready to admit it yet. It’s understandable, but just a little sad he didn’t finish his NFL career only wearing the black and gold.

Rod Woodson winning a Super Bowl for the Ravens (yes “for”, not “with” as they wouldn’t have come close to winning that Super Bowl without Rod) felt crappy, but not like a middle finger to the face betrayal. Rod can be forgiven because football is a business, and he chose business over Pittsburgh . We can take it.

James Harrison orchestrated his way out of Pittsburgh with the Steelers holding on to him until after we played the Patriots because they assumed the Pats would sign him. But he wasn’t playing for us, and he didn’t cost us anything after he left. James did almost nothing for them and all he did was put a big ugly smear on his reputation in Pittsburgh. He didn’t really hurt the Steelers by leaving.

I would rate this above even “He Who Shall Not Be Named” in Super Bowl XXX, barring concrete evidence that he was paid by Jerry Jones someday coming to light. Because, while that cost us a Super Bowl, it wasn’t intentional. He didn’t grab a microphone after the game and yell “Take that Pittsburgh!” We just don’t speak about him.

I want to dig into something I thought about a good bit last season and share it with you. It may just be the part of me that loves going on ghost tours and looks forward to the Klecksburg UFO festival every year (can’t wait to see the movie- it looks awful in all the right ways), but when I look at the timeline of events I think things start to paint a pretty clear picture.

What I’m not going to do is try to figure out what happened to Antonio Brown. The only thing I want to say is that CTE is a degenerative condition that takes years to show up. If you think the hits he took from Burfict caused this, that’s not CTE. That would be a severe concussion causing personality change, which is a thing. CTE is a long term degeneration. Semantics? Yes. But using the right words is better than being wrong.

So whether you choose to think it was money and fame bringing out dormant sides of himself, personal issues coming to a head and bringing out some self-destructive tendencies, feeling like he finally had the power to kick other people around a bit, or brain scrambling compliments of the now former Yinzer enemy #1 Vontaze Burfict, I really don’t care.

Largely, the reason I don’t care is because we have reports that Brown was this guy long before 2018. Some in the media even wrote about it, but in those days we didn’t care. As long as the Steelers win and it stays behind closed doors, fans don’t really care. What I want to look at is how it bubbled over, and I think I have a plausible explanation.

Let’s start in 2012. After a really good season in 2011 for both Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, Wallace holds out, rejects the Steelers’ contract offer and the Steelers sign Antonio Brown. Mike Wallace plays out that season but neither Wallace nor Brown put up good numbers. After that season, Wallace and Bruce Arians leave while taking Scottie Montgomery, AB’s wide receiver’s coach, with him.

In comes Todd Haley and Richard Mann. Todd Haley is brought in to do what Ben’s buddy Bruce couldn’t which is to get Ben to play into a system and stop playing playground ball while taking so many hits. Ben and Haley don’t get along, but Antonio Brown thrives, accounting for just under 35% of team passing yards and 29% of passing touchdowns, making the Pro Bowl as a WR for the first time, and coming in second to young phenom Josh Gordon for receiving yards league wide in 2013.

The next 4 years would build on that, not only making the Pro Bowl but earning four straight first-team all-pro designations in the most productive five year stretch for any wide receiver ever.

Todd Haley ran his offense through Bell and Brown. Ben Roethlisberger was contained, forced to make reads, and get rid of the ball quickly. There was no more “take a look around and find something you like Ben.” Meanwhile, Richard Mann took every opportunity to talk about AB. There isn’t a single wide receiver drafted by the Steelers that didn’t lead Richard Mann to say something like, “We’ll get him in that room and he’ll work. AB works, he’ll work.”, or “AB had trouble with drops. He drills, and this new guy will drill too.” Everything was through AB. Brown was the leader of the WR’s and the focus of the offense. Meanwhile, he had two “old school” coaches. His coordinator was a guy who wore out his welcome at every job by being a jerk and pushing players too hard. Richard Mann was an old school southern coach.

Roethlisberger bristled, but Antonio Brown thrived.

Fast forward to 2017. The Steelers have a quarterback that is talking about retirement and a phenomenal offensive line coach taking interviews for head coaching jobs. This was when my eyebrows were first raised. On January 17th, 2018 the Steelers announced that Todd Haley would not have his contract renewed. Meanwhile, Richard Mann understandably took the opportunity to go back into retirement. Any new offensive coordinator would probably want to hire his own wide receivers’ coach. Mann had been retired for three years before coming to coach the Steelers, and has stayed retired ever since.

But something else happened that day which, in my mind, doesn’t appear to be just a coincidence. On January 17, 2018, hours after announcing Todd Haley would not be renewed, Mike Munchak withdrew his name from the list of candidates for the job of head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

Something which also stands out that from that day was Ben Roethlisberger has not mentioned retirement since. Instead, he talks about how much he loves playing the game and how long he hopes to keep doing it. I think the Steelers were in a position where an all-time great offensive line coach and their franchise quarterback were both unwilling to continue working with coach Haley. This is not hard to believe considering Haley’s reputation as someone people don’t want to play for or work with for very long. But when the franchise chose Roethlisberger and Munchak over Haley, Antonio Brown’s situation changed a lot as well.

When Randy Fichtner took over, he ran a very different offense which was apparent from the very begining. Fichtner wasn’t running as many plays for Antonio Brown, he was instead using the focus on Brown to take advantage of other match ups. If a team wanted to triple team Brown, go ahead. The Steelers had other targets that were open because of it. It wasn’t a bad strategy because Ben had matured into a leader and someone who watches film. Roethlisberger didn’t need to be reigned in and forced to learn to play the right way anymore. Fichtner just let Ben run the offense.

The problem was this offense didn’t feed the ball to Antonio Brown. No wide receiver beats a triple team on their own. Randy Moss couldn’t do it in Oakland, but he thrived in Minnesota and New England because those teams had other options so he couldn’t be triple-covered. Brown wasn’t going to be the best option, because defenses weren’t allowing him to be. Ben still forced him the ball, but he wasn’t getting open and he wasn’t catching passes like he used to.

Another big point of evidence is the Week 1 game against Cleveland. Roethlisberger wasn’t on target with his throws, and the offense was sputtering. At the half, Antonio Brown had been targeted 5 times with 2 receptions for 14 total yards. To make matters worse, two of the targets to Brown were intercepted.

After the half, the offense started running the ball more and put in a few plays that were more like what Brown was used to running under Haley. The Steelers were able to move the ball and took a 14 point lead.

With the score 21-7, the Steelers had the ball and it was third and four. The Browns blitzed as Brown ran a drag route, Roethlisberger hit him quickly and he ran for 19 yards and a first down. After doing a first down pose and the whistle blowing to signal the end of the third quarter, Antonio Brown sees Todd Haley on the Browns sideline and walks toward him. Brown gives Haley a hug and he responds with two pats on the back.

Neither of the two would find much happiness in their jobs that year. Todd Haley would be fired along with Hue Jackson after the Week 8 loss to Pittsburgh and is currently out of the NFL. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger started talking up JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Antonio Brown drama kept ratcheting higher and higher. Some key moments in the 2018 soap opera included Roethlisberger telling Brown he didn’t have to throw him the ball, Ben saying the team should have just thrown to JuJu three times on the goal line in Denver, and Brown coming in second to Smith-Schuster in receiving yards which was not a small issue in my mind.

Cliff harris is still a punk! did a great piece on Randy Fichtner’s offense from preseason game 4. One thing he shows in his article is how players are going to move around, making the offense one which doesn’t focus on any one player. One can imagine how well Antonio Brown would enjoy an offense where every receiving option is equally represented and Big Ben gets to find the best option. In Todd Haley’s offense, this would not be the case. Plays were designed for Brown, and Roethlisberger would have had to scuttle the whole team if he refused to throw to AB. It was a big change.

It is my opinion, the Steelers were faced with a choice following the 2017 season. They were forced to choose either Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Munchak, or Todd Haley. I believe they made the right choice. It is also my opinion that when they chose Ben Roethlisberger over Todd Haley which put Randy Fichtner in charge of the offense, they also chose Ben Roethlisberger over Antonio Brown. At least this was the choice in AB’s mind.

To be clear, I’m not blaming the Steelers. I believe they made the right choices. I just think Todd Haley’s personality, offensive design, and relationship with Roethlisberger fed Antonio Brown enough to keep the “crazy” down to a level the Steelers could live with. But keeping Brown happy was not worth losing Roethlisberger and valuable offensive coaches.

Now Steelers’ fans are left sitting and watching to see if Bill Belichick can recapture what Todd Haley and Richard Mann pulled off: keeping Antonio Brown’s ego fed enough while giving him the right leadership so they can focus his energies toward the football field.

I will be surprised if the Patriots will pull it off. If Belichick can make it work, will they have success as a team in that setting?

Bill Belichick didn’t win a Super Bowl with Randy Moss, and the Steelers didn’t win one with Antonio Brown. Sometimes the player’s talent and statistics are not what say they are worth.

Pro Football Focus sheds light on some good, and plenty of bad, for the Steelers in Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 12:15pm
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The folks at Pro Football Focus didn’t see all bad when the Steelers were blown out by the Patriots in Week 1.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were blown out in Week 1 by the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. After the 33-3 shellacking, the Steelers were left to pick up the pieces and head back to Pittsburgh to prepare for the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2.

While the fan base sees absolutely no positives to come from this game, the writers at Pro Football Focus (PFF) see otherwise. In their re-focus article, which recaps the good and bad from every game, PFF gave T.J. Watt plenty of credit for the work he did in Foxoboro, primarily against double teams, but said plenty of bad regarding Ben Roethlisberger’s downfield passing, Alejandro Villanueva surprisingly poor play and even how Devin Bush was being pushed around in the run game.

Check out their recap:

Pittsburgh Steelers

T.J. Watt was the best player for the Steelers’ defense. While he didn’t have a great game in run defense, he was a constant in the backfield on passing downs, giving Brady fits early and often.

After playing just 20 snaps in the preseason, Ben Roethlisberger seemed rusty in Pittsburgh’s season opener. He completed a ton of short passes, but he struggled with accuracy down the field, completing just two of 12 passes targeted over 10 yards downfield prior to their final two drives. He forced the ball on multiple occasions, made a horrible misread that should have resulted in an easy interception but was dropped, and fumbled once, too.

Typically one of the better left tackles in the league, Alejandro Villanueva had far more issues than normal against New England. While he never gave up a sack, he did allow a handful of pressures on the night. He also was called for two holding penalties, half as many as he had all of 2018.

Rookie Takeaways

Starter Devin Bush made a few plays in coverage running sideline to sideline as Pittsburgh’s top off-ball linebacker, but he really struggled against the run.

It was good to see someone give Watt credit for the job he did on Sunday night. Sure, he didn’t register a sack, but was a presence in the backfield and even got his hands on Tom Brady’s throwing hand, but as Brady’s arm followed through it actually completed a pass to Julian Edelman.

As for Roethlisberger, Villanueva and Bush, they encapsulated the entire team. They just didn’t play well, and against the Patriots you will get abused if you don’t show up and are mentally sharp. As difficult as it may be right now, it is just one game of fifteen, and the Steelers need to bounce back in a big way in Week 2 vs. the Seattle Seahawks.

What do you think of PFF’s thoughts on the game? Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to follow BTSC leading up to the home opener at Heinz Field in Week 2.

Steelers trade QB Joshua Dobbs to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a 5th round pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 11:04am
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers get rid of their third string quarterback for a 2020 draft pick.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a problem many teams would love to have. They had too many quarterbacks.

After an intense training camp battle to backup Ben Roethlisberger between Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs, the team selected Rudolph to hold the clipboard in 2019. This left Dobbs inactive for the team’s Week 1 game vs. the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

There was a sense there might be an NFL team who would be calling the Steelers for Dobbs’ services, especially if an injury occurred, and this happend when the Jacksonville Jaguars lost quarterback Nick Foles for a long period of time with a broken clavicle.

Therefore, the Jaguars are sending a 5th round pick to the Steelers for Dobbs to possibly compete for starting snaps until Foles is able to return.

Jaguars trading a 2020 5th-round pick to Pittsburgh for QB Josh Dobbs, per sources.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 9, 2019

Stay tuned for more on this story as more information is released...

Mike Tomlin was right in his assessment of the Steelers’ Week 1 performance: “It sucks”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 9:45am
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

What went wrong, and where do the Steelers go from here?

“We weren’t ready for prime time tonight.”

No kidding, coach.

After the embarrassing 33-3 loss at the hand of the New England Patriots Sunday night, Coach Mike Tomlin appeared frustrated, much like the Steelers’ fans who endured the pain and watched the entire game. It was not enjoyable. It was embarrassing.

“It’s humbling,” Tomlin added. “It sucks.”

Yes it does.

I admit I had put this game in the loss column when the NFL schedule first came out for 2019 back in April. I believed it was a difficult task for the Steelers. They were on the road, facing the Super Bowl champions on the night they dropped their championship banner, and they were the largest projected underdog of any of their 2019 games. If there was any game Steelers were supposed to lose this season, it was this one.

But not like this.

I admit the Steelers were in the game in the first quarter, or at least for the first part of it. Technically once the Patriots scored the first touchdown with just under five minutes remaining in the opening quarter they had already secured enough points to win the game. But the game wasn’t over by any means.

What is frustrating when looking back at the game is how close the Steelers were staying in it. Down 10-0 going into the second quarter, the Steelers came up inches short on a third and one and had to punt. In fact, every drive in the quarter ended because the Steelers could not execute on a play in which they only needed one yard. That’s three separate drives which could have led to points which, instead, led to two punts and a turnover on downs. And against the Patriots you can’t fail to convert on a play like that, let alone three of them in the same quarter.

In addition to the failed short conversions which killed several drives, it was a combination of many little things which led to the Steelers losing by 30 points. Dropped passes. Missed blocks. One blown assignment for a play or two on defense. Taking an extra half second to shed a block. One missed tackle here and there. It was death by 1000 cuts.

Overall, the Steelers took care of the ball fairly well. Their lone turnover on the night was a 41 yard pass into the end zone which was intercepted. It came with less than five minutes to go when already trailing by 30 points, so it’s impact was pretty insignificant. In other words, it wasn’t giveaways which lead to the blowout.

The bottom line is the Steelers needed to play perfect football if they were going to go into Foxborough and get a win. Since they played far from perfect, they were far from winning. I had a lot of hope the Steelers would control the line of scrimmage. They didn’t. I thought they would put a lot of pressure on Tom Brady. They didn’t do that either. I thought I was going to be given a chance to cheer. I didn’t even get a chance to do that.

“It sucks.”

Say it again, Mike.

The biggest problem I have with the Steelers’ performance in Week 1 is my complete lack of confidence going forward for 2019. There just aren’t a lot of positives to take from this game. The Steelers didn’t execute. It’s exactly what Mike Tomlin said when asked about why the team wasn’t ready for prime time.

“We didn’t do the things we desired to do tonight,” Tomlin answered.

So now the 2019 season continues. I’m sure the people who want to see Coach Tomlin let go will come out in full force after this game. I’m sure everyone that had a negative thought about the Steelers in the off-season felt justified with this performance. I’m sure those of us who had a lot of hope for 2019 had that confidence crushed.

“It sucks.”

All the Steelers can do now is take the shot on the chin, get back up, and get ready to take another shot next week at Heinz Field against the Seattle Seahawks. This is the lone option they have in front of them. Hopefully in a week’s time the Steelers can right the ship and do the things they desire to do in their next game. If not, “it sucks” may become the calling card of the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Winners and Losers after the Steelers blowout loss to the Patriots

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 8:40am
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After every game there are players who play well, and those who don’t. This is where the ‘Winners and Losers’ column comes from.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday night when they traveled to play the New England Patriots in Week 1 of the regular season. The Steelers were losers in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had a poor performance.

It might be early, and improvement is hopefully going to come, but the judgement process must go on. Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left a lot to be desired can be called ‘Losers’. It may sound harsh, but it is the crux of this exercise.

Let’s check in to see who fell on which side of the ledger after Week 1...

(Editor’s Note: We realize the losers list could possible encompass the entire team and coaching staff, but to keep it brief we selected just 7 here in this article.)

Winners

JuJu Smith-Schuster
Stat Line: 6 receptions, 78 yards

The offense was putrid. Period. But JuJu was at least a player who stepped up when the ball was thrown his way. He will have some growing pains moving into his No. 1 wide receiver role, but I feel his performance in Week 1 was a step in the right direction.

Chris Boswell
Stat Line: 1/1 FG

He had the only points of the game, and he made his only kick. After 2018, and desperately searching for winners, Boswell didn’t do anything negative.

Losers

Kam Kelly
Stat Line: 7 tackles, 5 solo

Welcome to the NFL Kam Kelly. While Kelly’s story to the Steelers is great, it also was tragic to watch the young man blow coverages often throughout the night in Foxboro. Tom Brady was able to manipulate Kelly easily, as expected, and made the Steelers pay. Sean Davis can’t get healthy fast enough.

Donte Moncrief
Stat Line: 3 receptions, 7 yards, 10 targets

No one was targeted more in Week 1 than Donte Moncrief, and he did everything in his power to instill the least amount of trust the fan base might have had in him. Signed as a free agent this offseason, Moncrief’s preseason debut was 1 catch for 1 yard and a fumble. This stat line might have been worse, considering the targets and the amount of drops he recorded. An awful start to a career in Pittsburgh, and if he doesn’t get right soon it could be a short one.

Randy Fichtner
Stat Line: 32 yards rushing, 276 yards passing, 0 TDs

Just to keep this brief, I am not going to touch on the play calls on 3rd and short. That is almost an article by itself. But what I will talk on is the offense which seemed to be searching for an answer the entire game. The game plan was questionable from the start, and they looked as if they were throwing objects at a wall trying to see what would stick. They tried the plays that worked in 2018. When that didn’t work they tried different personnel. That didn’t work either. I could go on, but Fichtner’s job is to find this offense’s identity, and quick.

Bud Dupree
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 4 solo, 1 sack, 2 TFL

I can see the comments now, “But Dupree had the only sack!” Yes, this is true, but the one thing I can’t wrap my head around is how a night when T.J. Watt was double teamed on EVERY PLAY, Dupree was given a one-on-one matchup. He was stone walled nearly every time. I shouldn’t be shocked, but I was expecting Dupree to thrive more when this situation presented itself. In the meantime, expect every offense to do the same thing until Dupree can prove he is worthy of more attention.

Ben Roethlisberger
Stat Line: 24/47, 276 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

If he didn’t throw an interception I might have kept him off the list. After all, it isn’t his fault Donte Moncrief can’t catch a football that hits him between the numbers. Nonetheless, Roethlisberger looked off, especially on deep passes, and the rust was evident from playing on a few series in the preseason. If this team is going to go anywhere in 2019, they need No. 7 to be a lot better than we saw on Sunday night.

Mike Tomlin
Stat Line: Last Steelers win in New England was 2008

We’ve all seen this song and dance before, but the reality of the situation is Tomlin was out-coached by Bill Belichick, again. A lot of people get out-coached by Belichick, but when you have this long to prepare, and you come up with just 3 points and looking dazed and confused, it is a bad look. This Seahawks game coming up is huge in a lot of ways, especially for Tomlin.

Steelers Nation
Stat Line: We had to watch that mess

We are all on the losers list, in a way, especially if we believed the hype of the Steelers potentially going into Foxborough and winning. We should have known better. But this one game doesn’t define the season. Have to hope the team can respond. In 2015, the Steelers went to Gillette Stadium and got beat by Tom Brady and company. Everyone was down, and the following week they hosted the San Francisco 49ers and completely blew their doors off to the tune of a 43-18 win. The Steelers will need a performance like that against Seattle to calm the nerves of this frantic fan base.

Report Card: Grading the Steelers’ awful 33-3 loss to the Patriots

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 7:29am
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

BTSC breaks out the red pen and assigns grades to the Steelers in Week 1 of the 2019 season.

The Steelers took to Foxboro to battle the team that has mostly owned them since January of 2002. Two times before (2002, 2015), the Steelers have watched as their conference rivals raised the banner on Week 1 after a Super Bowl title and both times it ended poorly. This time, with former star Antonio Brown not even playing as a member of the opposition, it was worse than ever.

For some reason, I’ve been given the responsibility to rate the performance of the squad. It’s not easy, but I’ll give it a whirl. Despite my less than prestigious BTSC teaching certificate, I have to issue the necessary disclaimer. You know the story; of course, I’m not a football coach, or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. All week, I found myself noticing just how equal in talent the two teams actually are and that will show. Then the game happened and judgments abound.

Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what counts the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well. All letter grades are simply based on the eye test of somebody watching at home. In this case, it’s my doofus opinion.

So let’s take a look at BTSC’s early perceptions:

Offense: F

It was an unimaginative and generic game plan. Mixing in Jaylen Samuels early didn’t work, Conner never got going, he had only 21 yards on 10 carries. Dumb penalties hurt progress, Ben was below average going 27/47 for 277 yards and a pick. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Ryan Switzer led with six grabs each. Donte Moncrief was horrendous. This isn’t hard to grade. They were awful.

Defense: F

While they weren’t as bad as the offense, the defense wasn’t good at all. They gave up 440 yards and three Brady TD passes. He absolutely shredded Keith Butler’s defense. Devin Bush led the way with 11 tackles, but didn’t really shine. T.J. Watt was neutralized most of the night. Bud Dupree had a sack, but was virtually nonexistent the rest of the night.

Special Teams: D

They gave up some hefty returns early. Switzer was below average at best in return duties. He wasn’t a spark at all. Should have kept Diontae Spencer. Boswell had a field goal and Jordan Berry averaged 45.6 yards-per-punt on five of them. Yay.

Overall: F

This was so pathetic. I can’t remember a worse opening game loss. I know 1989 and the 51-0 loss to the Browns, but that was a team with low expectations. They need to rebound against Seattle or this could going to be a disaster of a season.

Valedictorian: You’ve got to be kidding me.

Honor Roll: See above.

Detention: Donte Moncrief and the team as a whole.

Now it is your turn to play teacher. Use the polls and the comments section below. We can compare notes in the teachers lounge.

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