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BTSC Steelers Mailbag: Post-Super Bowl Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/10/2019 - 6:36am

It is officially draft season after the Super Bowl

Well, the Patriots defeated the Rams in a less than thrilling Super Bowl, and all 32 teams are now in the business of building for the 2019-2020 season. With NFL Draft season now in full effect, I took a pool of questions from my FanPost and will answer them here.

There will be one posted every Wednesday in the FanPost section, so if you would like to ask me some questions, check that out every Wednesday.

Lets get to the questions.....

Pre-combine, obviously, but do you have any one that you’d consider is off the radar that could be a viable option for Pittsburgh? (regardless of round)

Watch out, especially in Round 2, for Lonnie Johnson from Kentucky. He is a CB that really had a strong senior bowl and showed great press coverage that you love to see. He has picked up some real buzz around the league, and he has the ideal length and playing style for the Steelers to nab him in Round 2, and it is not a bad thing either.

Who would you say is ILB #2 at this point behind Devin White? Testing is obviously important, but based on tape.

What if I told you Devin White was LB2? Yeah, it’s crazy, but I have serious concerns about his processing and tackling concerns. I like Mack Wilson a heck of a lot more. He is not as athletic as White, but he is still above league average athleticism wise. The dude is an elite coverage LB and while he does have some issues, I think that he is more pro ready as well. White has the highest ceiling of any ILB in the draft, but Wilson has a pretty high floor and ceiling.

The Steelers have already talked to 2 TEs, is that a target? Who would look good, to you, in Black & Gold? (excluding Fant/Hockensen!)

Texas State TE Keenan Brown is my guy. He is a complete TE that will be able to block and run routes out of the in-line spot at the next level. He moves surprisingly well, but he is a former WR, so it is to be expected. Dude has high upside, so I think he is a great candidate to get.

Have you watched Trayveon Williams? Do you see RB as a need in the draft?

I think we need a late RB to not have a repeat of Stevan Ridley, yes. Trayveon Williams is a pretty good scat back who give it his all in pass protection, that is for sure. He is the type of RB I would want. A quicker, dynamic type of RB that can break a game open. Darwin Thompson is another notable name that fits that mold. Thompson reminds me a ton of Tarik Cohen, so that should interest us.

The Steelers are really good at finding WR value late in the draft. Any guys that catch your eye? My favorite so far is Anthony Ratliff-Williams, have you had a chance to look at him yet?

Ratliff-Williams is a good one. Fantastic at the catch point and a great YAC guy. Raw in his routes but his tree is diverse, so the transition should be easier than it was for a guy like James Washington. My guy for the Steelers would be Keesean Johnson or DaMarkus Lodge. Both are 3rd-4th round guys who will far outplay their capital. They are deep threats but can also work on the intermediate plane and make something out of nothing. They would be great picks.

Is DL a need? If Gary or Wilkins is there at 1.20 are they an option? Do you have any late round guys you like?

It is a need, but it is not a Round 1 need unless a guy like Ed Oliver is there. Wait for later in the draft and get a guy like Daylon Mack or Khalen Saunders. Those would be terrific value picks.

How do Devin Bush and Mack Wilson stack up against each other?

Both are great players and should be on the Steelers’ radar for a round one pick. Bush would be a slight reach, but for the need, and for what the player will be in the future, it is a fine pick. Both of these are high IQ LBs that process especially well. They can shoot gaps and disrupt plays rather easily. The big difference is that Bush is much rawer at coverage than Wilson is. Wilson might be the best coverage ILB in the draft, so he is incredibly alluring. Bush and Wilson both have some block shedding issues and need to fill out their frames, but they sift through the trash well. Both are good prospects, but the coverage aspect is a big separation.

How far did Terrill Hanks climb up boards after the Senior Bowl?

Hanks won himself a lot of fans that week. His processing looked raw on tape, but at the Senior Bowl, he looked instinctive and sharp. He was a flying missile the entire time while he was out there. He climbed up 2 rounds likely just from that and showed off legitimate 4.4 speed. He is a former Safety, so it is to be expected, but he was amazing in coverage. I think he is this year’s Fred Warner. I want him on the Steelers badly.

Who do the Steelers go for at CB if they pass one up in Round 1?

The Steelers should be looking right at Rock Ya-Sin. He is a bit raw, but he is more than ready enough to play right now. He is that long press-man CB that the Steelers will want and need. Dude is crazy feisty too, I love it. Hamp Cheevers is another really underrated option. He reminds me a ton of Falcons CB Robert Alford. He will be a good #2 because he is just so smart at mirroring receivers. The guy never gets burnt. He is a great 3rd round option.

What’s your take on Wes Hills?

He is wiry that is for sure, but I like the kid. He put that Slippery Rock team on his back this year, and while he was at Delaware he flat out was a beast. He has better hands than people are telling you right now, too. I think he is a pretty complete back aside from his pass protection, but he has a great frame to learn how to do that with. Great contact balance and big play ability makes me extremely interested in him.

Black and Gold Links: The Steelers attempting to regain control of their locker room

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/10/2019 - 5:05am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Steelers are not just faced with drama on nearly a day-to-day basis, but also the fact they have to try and recover from the damage and get their locker room back.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers’ leaders make sense of ‘circus’ surrounding team

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The sanctity of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room has been under attack after a two-year avalanche of storylines that prompted two players to deem their domain a Kardashian-inspired reality show.

Keeping Up With The Steelers has broadcast just about everything: national anthem disputes, Gatorade cooler attacks, yearlong holdouts, bold predictions, Week 17 walkouts and a love-hate relationship between the game’s best pass-catching duo.

When team president Art Rooney II met with local reporters last month, one of his first questions, and rightfully so, was about the perception that his team is a “circus.” Rooney didn’t agree, calling the notion “nonsense” as far as he’s concerned.

The Steelers’ locker room is filled with mostly exemplary, hard-working players. But the team could have avoided some of these issues, too.

From ownership to team captains, Steelers leaders have tried to reconcile those two realities.

Defensive end and captain Cameron Heyward admitted that the Steelers dealt with a lot internally, and some outside factors that were uncontrollable, such as Le’Veon Bell’s holdout. Some situations were handled better than others, he said.

”I think we took a lot of good steps. It’s about younger guys becoming better professionals and being comfortable in what they are asked to do,” Heyward said. “The light didn’t click for me right away. ... Just gotta grow, put the petty stuff behind us. It’s not always going to be dandelions and daisies.

”But getting over our problems, being communicative and understanding we have to work through our problems -- that’s what growth takes. You can’t continue to do the same thing and expect the same results. That goes for the whole organization. I’m not saying one person.”

Finishing games was the biggest issue in the eyes of Heyward. The Steelers’ final four losses were by a combined 16 points. Despite the league’s sixth-ranked total defense, a unit that tied for the league lead with 52 sacks, the slow bleed at the end of games was concerning.

The Steelers gave up a late scoring drive in all four of those November and December losses. Only more turnovers will “shut the door” on teams, Heyward said.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

NFL Teams Entering Make-or-Break Offseasons in 2019

By: Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report

  1. The Pittsburgh Steelers may be closing in on the end of an era. Ben Roethlisberger turns 37 in March and is entering the final year of his contract. Running back Le’Veon Bell is set to become a free agent (again), and wideout Antonio Brown wants out of Pittsburgh.
  2. Brown is also being investigated for allegedly assaulting a woman in a domestic dispute. And now one longtime Steelers columnist believes it’s time for the Steelers to oblige the receiver.
  3. ”It no longer should be how much the Steelers can get for him in a trade, but how soon they can dump this man,” Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote on Tuesday.
  4. On top of everything else, it’s hard to imagine that Steelers ownership is thrilled with head coach Mike Tomlin after he mismanaged much of the 2018 season and ultimately missed the playoffs.
  5. If the Steelers cannot set the stage for a postseason return in 2019, big changes could be on the way.
Report: Josh Gordon, Martavis Bryant Could Apply for NFL Reinstatement in May

By: Rob Goldberg, Bleacher Report

New England Patriots receiver Josh Gordon and Oakland Raiders receiver Martavis Bryant are both currently facing indefinite suspensions from the NFL, but they could apply for reinstatement and return by next season’s training camp, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

The NFLPA could lay the ground work for reinstatement in May, assuming the duo follows their treatment plan.

Gordon has been receiving treatment in Gainesville, Florida, at an inpatient center following his latest suspension for substance abuse. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, he had multiple violations of the drug policy, which included failed tests for “more than marijuana.”

The 27-year-old had already missed more than two seasons due to multiple suspensions in the past, but he was finally reinstated in 2017 for the final five games of the year.

He appeared in one game for the Cleveland Browns in 2018 before being traded to New England, where he totaled 720 receiving yards in 11 appearances. Unfortunately, his season ended early after his violated terms of reinstatement.

Bryant was suspended indefinitely in December after a knee injury already ended his year after just eight games. He had also missed significant time in the past due to substance abuse violations, including his missed 2016 season due to suspension.

The challenge for both receivers will be to find a way to stay clean. If they can do that, they have a chance to lift their suspensions and play next season.

J.J. Watt has heard stories about the Steelers drama from younger brother T.J. - ‘It’s pretty wild’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/09/2019 - 1:00pm

Despite comparing them to the Kardashians, if J.J. Watt has inside information about the Steelers, it seems he is not as willing as others to share it.

Comparing the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Kardashians appears to be becoming a thing this offseason after J.J. Watt was the latest to invoke the dysfunctional family name when talking about the Steelers during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Thursday night.

With Meyers a passionate Pittsburgh fan, it should come as no surprise to learn that he would ask the Houston Texans’ star player for his thoughts about what happening with his younger brother’s team. But if he was hoping for some inside information, J.J. was giving very little away.

“It does seem very dramatic. It’s like somebody that’s watching the Kardashians and I can call one of the Kardashians. I’ll call my brother, see everything on TV, and I’m like ‘Ok, give me the real story.’ And um ... it’s pretty wild.”

While it would seem that T.J. has shared some intimate details of what has been going on within the Steelers organization, it is interesting to note that J.J. showed more discretion than some of their own players. Given the inside information former team members have been divulging as of late, it is hard to imagine they would have sat on the stories J.J. must have heard from his brother. All things considered, acknowledging that things are “pretty wild” is rather tame.

Pittsburgh fans can only wonder how differently the locker room might operate with a player like J.J. Watt on the roster. With no disrespect intended to T.J. who is still far too early in his career to command such a role, his older brother appears to provide a level of leadership for the Texans that the Steelers seem to lack.

Should the Steelers go ‘All In’ for 2019? A Lesson from the Tortoise and the Hare

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/09/2019 - 11:44am

Fans might be tempted to go ‘All In’ for the 2019 season, but that might not be the smartest decision for the long haul.

If you are a yinzer, and not merely a Steeler fan, you well know which professional franchise holds the record for most consecutive losing seasons. That would be the Pittsburgh Pirates. You will remember as well Crazy Bob Nutting’s Annual Fire Sale, where the prices on expensive stars were INSANE! If you’re with me so far you’ll also remember that before that streak ended, before the chant Johnnnny!!! Cuetttto!!! echoed down the Mon valley, Crazy Bob actually went shopping at the trade deadline. And every year since then the Pirates have been at least competitive enough that it remained, until the deadline, an open question whether we’d be buying or selling.

There are always teams out there that are willing to mortgage their futures for that one shot at a title. See the Vikings landing Herschel Walker, or the Saints getting Ricky Williams. Even with Ben’s retirement approaching, I’m grateful the Steelers’ front office doesn’t work that way. The urgency that is Ben Roethlisberger’s biological clock is a great motivator to drive the team to excel now, to focus, to fend off potential distractions. But it should not motivate them to trade five bad years down the line to get one good year now.

I understand the other side of the equation. There are teams, players and coaches out there that seem to ever be the bridesmaid, and never the bride. I’m looking at you Philip Rivers, and you Kansas City Chiefs and you Marty Schottenheimer. It’s maddening to always be a few bricks shy of a load. That, however, has never been our experience. The Steelers have been rarely bad and often very good. For the Steelers missing the playoffs is a dumpster fire season. Yes, we’ve lost too many AFC Championship games. Yes, we’ve missed playing in them too often as well. And yes, New England has the same number of Lombardis we have. But we still have never, in my lifetime, gone into a season grateful because we, like Cleveland this year, “have a chance to make some noise.” My goal is not to enjoy a great year but to spend all my life enjoying a great franchise.

Which means tweaks are in order. Learning from our mistakes is in order. Upgrades here and there are in order. Tossing a bad apple or two is in order. Upsetting the apple cart, however, is not a good plan. Let’s not spend our draft capital like Congress opening other people’s money. Let’s not cram tons of dead money into next decade’s backpack.

Flashy, furry, speedy hares may have all the sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit, but steady, stable turtles triumph in the long haul. Slow and steady wins the race.

This Week in Pittsburgh Steelers Stats: Various numbers and rankings from the 2018 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/09/2019 - 10:02am

A compilation of Steelers statistics from various Tweets over the past week.

Compiling statistics can take hours upon hours in order to find the proper numbers. To save you the trouble, here are some of the best statistics about the Steelers published during this past week.

I will begin with a few statistics of my own before going on to other various Steeler sources. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @STLRSuperFanDad in order to get some of BTSC’s geekiest stats.

There have been 49 TD passes of 95+ yards in NFL history. @_BigBen7 has 3 of them (2 to @TeamJuJu and 1 to Mike Wallace). The only other player with more than 1 is Joe Montana (2).

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) February 8, 2019

The Steelers all-time leader in 75+ yard touchdown receptions is Louis Lipps with 5, 3 of which came in the ‘88 season.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) February 8, 2019

New @steelers offensive line assistant coach Adrian Klemm was an offensive line coach at SMU from 2008-11 which has him coaching former Steelers LT Kelvin Beachum.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) February 5, 2019

Tom Brady is looking to finally get over his 1st quarter Super Bowl blues. Last season was the first time in 8 appearances where the Patriots scored any points in the first quarter and it was a FG. That’s 3 total points in 8 quarters.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) February 3, 2019

JuJu led the league with his yards after the catch this season and combined for 67 first-down and/or touchdown receptions

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 7, 2019

One area that the #Steelers improved significantly in the 2018 regular season was tackling.

Missed tackles by the defense:
2017 - 147
2018 - 86

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) February 6, 2019

Cameron Heyward joins JuJu at number 57 in the #PFFTop101!


— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) February 5, 2019

At number 65 on the #PFFTop101 from the 2018 season ... #Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster!


— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) February 5, 2019

Most pressures by an interior defender over the last two regular seasons:

Aaron Donald - 197
Fletcher Cox - 146
Geno Atkins - 134@CamHeyward - 121
Chris Jones - 112#HereWeGo

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) February 5, 2019

The Steelers finished the regular season +68 in scoring differential, which was 7th best in the NFL. Missing the playoffs was a fluke (happens in the high-variance NFL), especially when you look over their weekly results. They'll be back.

— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) February 4, 2019

#Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger's average time to throw of 2.38 seconds in 2018 was the fastest of any NFL QB in the regular season.

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) February 4, 2019

If you like defense, you should have loved Super Bowl LIII

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/09/2019 - 8:38am

Defense is nice, but the NFL is mostly about offense. The NFL will always do what it can to keep 13-3 games—like the one that occurred between the Rams and Patriots in Super Bowl LIII—to a minimum.

You know those people who are always saying they miss defense in football, particularly the National Football League? I’ve often encouraged them to go back and watch old games from the 1970s on YouTube.

You can do it, it’s actually quite easy—I know, because I’m now a streaming TV junkie, and I watch old football games all the gosh darn time. Now, if you are going to go back and watch some of these old football games, I strongly suggest you put your sleeping pills away; if you do have trouble sleeping, these games will cure that ailment easier than a documentary about other old stuff.

In all seriousness, you and I both know you don’t like defense as much as you say you do. It’s kind of like saying society should adopt some of its old ways of technology, technology that, for example, involves a phone receiver with a cord attached to it.

It might seem sexy and ironically progressive to suggest that the old ways are better, but they really, really aren’t.

Same with the style of professional football your grandfather used to watch on that giant tube looking thing that he had to walk across the living room and touch if he wanted to change the channel from the CBS Game of the Week to the NBC match-up featuring play-by-play man Curt Gowdy.

Speaking of the late Curt Gowdy, he’s the man who called the famous Immaculate Reception divisional round playoff game between the Steelers and Raiders at old Three Rivers Stadium way back in 1972. Sure, we all know how that game ended. Franco Harris road in on a white stallion and rescued Steeler Nation from yet another year without a playoff victory. But that moment occurred in the final seconds of that game. As for the other 59 minutes and change? They were rather boring, blah, forgettable. You might not think so, but that’s because you only remember the exciting Franco play and not the other 120 or so that accomplished nothing.

If not for Franco’s heroics, the Immaculate Reception game would have been just your average 7-6 affair that nobody would have ever uploaded on YouTube.

Defense is boring, at least the kind fans must be referring to when they say 7-6 games can be exciting.

7-6 is rarely exciting. It’s certainly not exciting when it happens during your average August preseason game quarterbacked by Josh Dobbs. And it’s really not exciting when it happens during the Super Bowl, which it did when the Patriots took on the Rams in a 60-minute snore-fest just last week.

To be fair, New England and Los Angeles did combine to score more than 13 points—16, to be exact—but that didn’t happen until the bitter end, when the Patriots tacked on 10 points and saved us all from offseason rule changes that likely would have involved giving offensive players the option of scoring a touchdown in the end zone closest to them.

As it stood, Super Bowl LIII was still so lacking in actual offense—in addition to the 16 points that were scored, the two teams combined to go six for 25 on third downs and only one play was snapped inside the red zone the entire night—social media had an actual meltdown.

“This game is boring!!!!!!!” said your average fan on Twitter.

SHUT UP!!!!!!” screamed Trey Wingo the next morning.

Actually, I’m going to side with your average fan on Twitter in this argument. And make no mistake, the NFL will, too. The NFL decided long, long ago that offense sells. We might rip the league for its plethora of rules that benefit offense, but it can’t be a coincidence that the beginning of the league’s popularity can be traced back to the 1970s when those footballs began to soar just a little more than they had before.

In my opinion, what makes football so special is you can have a 13-3 game break out at any moment, even in the Super Bowl. And regardless of how dominant an offense can be, there’s always that one defense that can render it totally inept—at least for 60 minutes.

I think 13-3 games can be beautiful. I also love 33-30 match-ups. But if I had to pick which one I’d like to see on a regular basis, well.....let those footballs continue to fly, baby!

Cam Heyward and JuJu Smith-Schuster the only Steelers featured in PFF’s Top 101 list for 2018

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/09/2019 - 7:16am

Something of a down year for the Steelers in the standing was reflected by a down year for their players in Pro Football Focus’ end of season ranking.

The 2018 season is not even a week old and the player ranking lists are already starting to emerge, with Pro Football Focus the first to unveil their top 101 players list on Friday. Having finished the season with a disappointing 9-6-1 record, it should come as no surprise to learn that the Pittsburgh Steelers are not quite as well represented as they have been in past years, but few could have expected to see only two Pittsburgh players graded high enough to warrant inclusion this time around.

A year removed from seeing names like Antonio Brown ranked at No.7 and David DeCastro at No.17, the highest Steeler on the list is Cam Heyward coming in at No. 57. Three places lower than he was in 2017.

As per PFF:

57. Cameron Heyward

Top 101 appearances: 2

“Heyward recorded an overall grade of 84.9 this year, the 16th-best mark among interior defenders and his second consecutive grade of 80.0 or higher. As usual, he was a force as a pass rusher and generated 59 total pressures on the year, the fifth-most among players at the position.”

While there is no room for Ben Roethlisberger (No. 68 in 2017) and the absentee Le’Veon Bell (No. 71 in 2017), there is a place for JuJu Smith-Schuster, making his first appearance on the list in only his second season.

65. JuJu Smith-Schuster

Top 101 appearances: New entry

“Smith-Schuster has become one of the premier personalities and brands in the league just two years into his career. He finished the 2018 season with an overall grade of 81.8 which ranked 14th among all qualifying wide receivers, and his 2.02 yards per route run was good for 15th.”

Former University of Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald once again earns the No.1 spot on the list after he finished the season with an overall grade of 95.0. Houston Texans wide receiver Deandre Hopkins comes in at No.2 with Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox rounding out the top five.

Finishing the year with an overall grade of 79.3 was understandably not enough to get Brown on the list, but Javon Hargrave can only wonder where he might have ended up in the rankings with more playing time after he finished the season with a higher grade than Ndamukong Suh at No.95 and an overall rating of 82.7.

2019 NFL Draft: The Detroit Lions are now on the clock...who will they take?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/09/2019 - 6:06am

Time to pick up where we left on with the BTSC 2010 NFL Draft pick-by-pick first round.

...the pick is in

With the 7th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft the Jacksonville Jaguars select Drew Lock QB Missouri


The Detroit Lions are now on the clock

Team Needs: Edge DB WR Safety TE O-line

2018 Draft Selections

1 (20) Frank Ragnow, c, Arkansas.

2 (43) Kerryon Johnson, rb, Auburn.

3 (82) Tracy Walker, s, Louisiana-Lafayette.

4 (114) Da’Shawn Hand, de, Alabama.

5 (153) Tyrell Crosby, g, Oregon.

7 (237) Nick Bawden, rb, San Diego State.


2019 Draft Order and Selections

Pick 1 - Arizona Cardinal Nick Bosa Edge Ohio State

Pick 2 - San Francisco 49er’s Josh Allen Edge Kentucky

Pick 3 - New York Jets Jonah Williams OT Alabama

Pick 4 - Oakland Raiders Quinnen Williams IDL Alabama

Pick 5 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers Greedy Williams CB LSU

Pick 6 - New York Giants Dwayne Haskins QB Ohio State

Pick 7 - Jacksonville Jaguars Drew Lock QB Missouri


For those that may vote “other” please leave the name of the prospect in the comment section.

Black and Gold Links: A knock down, drag out fight between the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell might be looming

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/09/2019 - 5:02am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how another fight might just be on the horizon for the Steelers and All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. This story is just getting started...

Let’s get to the news:

Inside the next potential fight between Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The NFL’s most compelling contract saga is in a slumber. Le’Veon Bell is in a dimly lit recording studio somewhere in Miami. The Pittsburgh Steelers are debating whether to trade the most productive wide receiver of the past decade. The wounds from Bell’s yearlong holdout over the franchise tag are no longer raw, allowing both sides to weigh their business options.

This brings us to a collectively bargained tool that could intensify the Bell-Steelers divorce to Hollywood levels: the transition tag.

Here’s where things stand. In mid-January, Steelers team president Art Rooney II said, “We don’t have to close any doors” on Bell’s future. On Sunday, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that the team is still considering the transition tag for Bell.

This would add a fascinating layer for the reasons it makes sense, for the reasons it doesn’t and for the contention it would inevitably create.

Placing a cheaper value on Bell after two years of franchise tags that bred little positivity would only widen the gulf between player and team. But nothing is simple with Bell’s contract fight, so perhaps this is a fitting conclusion to a wild 24 months.

Talks with several NFL sources paint the transition tag as the Steelers’ risk-reward plight that could involve the NFLPA, the NFL management council and an independent arbitrator.

Let’s begin with the basics and then crack open the deeper issues involved.

What is the transition tag?

The transition tag is a one-year designation that typically pays less salary than the franchise tag and gives the team the chance to match any offer from another team.

If the Steelers had put the transition tag on Bell two years ago, for example, Bell would have received the average salary among the top 10 players at his position, instead of the top five salaries for franchised players.

A new team can offer a transitioned player a long-term contract after the start of the league year, and the original team -- in this case, the Steelers -- has five days to match or let the player walk.

When must the Steelers apply the transition tag?

The designating window for franchise or transition players begins Feb. 19. The deadline is 4 p.m. ET March 5.

How much is this year’s transition tag worth for Bell?

Bell has played under one tag, worth $12.1 million in 2017. A previously tagged player of one season is due 120 percent of his previous salary on a new tag, according to the collective bargaining agreement. That would put Bell at $14.5 million.

But the Steelers can argue that Bell’s transition tag is closer to $9.5 million. The logic seems to be that since Bell sat out, the original transition formula resets.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Ed Bouchette: It’s time for Steelers to cut ties with Antonio Brown

By: Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If Antonio Brown wanted to leave the Steelers, his latest “domestic dispute” should seal that deal.

It no longer should be how much the Steelers can get for him in a trade, but how soon they can dump this man, whose danger to opponents on a football field is surpassed only by the danger he poses to fellow humans off it.

According to a report filed by police in Hollywood, Fla., Brown pushed a woman down in front of his home on Jan. 17. She said her wrist hurt and she showed police some scratches with scabbing. While she did report the incident and the police took photos, she later declined to complete a victim affidavit and no arrest was made nor have charges been filed.

An NFL spokesman told the Post-Gazette on Wednesday that the league will investigate the incident, and the Steelers said they are looking into it.

Brown’s lawyer issued a statement to ESPN on Tuesday that read: “The allegations are baseless and false. It’s unfortunate that the media is trying to use distractions like this and prior stories in an effort to tarnish my client’s name and reputation.”

Brown does not need the media’s help to do that. When Brown did his little Facebook Live routine in the locker room in Kansas City two years ago, that was a “distraction.” He has since upped the ante to more aggressive acts, all in 2018, such as:

— Alleged in a lawsuit to have thrown furniture off his condo’s 14th-floor balcony that nearly hit a toddler. This came after Brown himself called police to say he was robbed of $80,000 in cash and a gun that was in a satchel in his closet. Never mind why that was laying around in the first place.

— Driving over 100 miles per hour on McKnight Road, which is not exactly Interstate 79. Brown and innocents near him are lucky he escaped with only a ticket. It was just Tuesday night that police say speeding on the West End Bridge caused a five-car pileup and one death.

— Threatening to break the jaw of an ESPN writer.

And these are just the ones we know about. They do not include all his peccadilloes on the field, on the sideline and in locker rooms (or absence from them) that ruffle the feathers of his coaches and teammates.

Brown showed up somewhere at the Super Bowl to do a few short interviews. He would have been better off had he stayed home (although maybe not if you are in the shoes of the woman who called the cops on him).

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Chiefs tell Patrick Mahomes to quit playing hoops after video emerges

By: Kansas City Star

Like many Chiefs fans, general manager Brett Veach saw the viral video of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ pickup basketball moves and was concerned.

The fear of an injury to the NFL’s MVP led Veach to place a call to Mahomes’ agent, Leigh Steinberg.

“As soon as I saw it, it probably took me about 2 seconds to call his agent and tell him that was a big no-no,” Veach told Soren Petro of 810 AM on Thursday.

“The Kingdom can rest assure that we have that under control: no more basketball for Pat.”

Mahomes is competitive in all he does, Veach said, so that makes it hard for Mahomes to kick back and just shoot hoops.

“He doesn’t have that filter in his mind to kind of just have fun and not take everything so competitively,” Veach said.

That’s why the Chiefs hope Mahomes’ basketball days are over.

“We were able to nip that in the bud, and we feel good with the plan of no basketball with Pat moving forward,” Veach told Petro.

But San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, a vice president of the NFL Players’ Association executive committee, wondered if Veach had the right to deny Mahomes the right to play basketball. Sherman tweeted: “Haha yea that’s gonna work. If they don’t want him hooping then put it in the contract. It’s not there so he can do as he pleases. Most players do”

Mahomes’ contract does not explicitly prohibit him from playing basketball. Part 3 of an NFL’s player contract addresses “other activities.”

Here is what it says: “Without prior written consent of the Club, Player will not play football or engage in activities related to football otherwise than for Club or engage in any activity other than football, which may involve a significant risk of personal injury. Player represents that he has special, exceptional and unique knowledge, skill, ability, and experience as a football player, the loss of which cannot be estimated with any certainty and cannot be fairly or adequately compensated by damages. Player therefore agrees that Club will have the right, in addition to any other right which Club may possess, to enjoin Player by appropriate proceedings from playing football or engaging in football-related activities other than for Club or from engaging in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.”

Veach, speaking later Thursday on a conference call with reporters, said his conversation with Mahomes was lighthearted.

“You’re breaking a lot of ankles out there,” Veach said, “just make sure you’re not breaking your own.”

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 6

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 5:44pm

There is plenty to talk about regarding all things black-and-gold!

Several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night Open Thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring it back to Friday night — with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six-Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six-Pack of Steelers Questions and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

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.

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. This is the first weekend without football, or is it? Will you be watching any of the AAF, just to see what it looks like?

2. I spoke about this on my Steelers Burning Question podcast (you can listen to it below), so I thought I would ask here: Will the Steelers be without both Le’Ven Bell and Antonio Brown in 2019?

3. Looking at the list of rules for the new AAF (you can see them HERE), what is the ONE rule you’d most like to adapt to the NFL?

4. If you won’t be watching any other football this offseason, what do you do to pass the time until Training Camp starts up?

5. We talked about Tight Ends in our Steelers Preview podcast (you can listen below). Who is your favorite tight end NOT named Heath Miller in Steelers history?

6. At the end of the Preview podcast, we got into a sports movie discussion. So, which Rocky movie is the best?? Let’s keep this limited to Rocky 1-5...leaving the Balboa and Creed movies as an aside.

No matter what, always remember...



Steelers Preview: Breaking down the TE Depth chart for 2019 and MORE!

Yeah, I said it: Why Lance Williams was rooting for the Patriots in SB 53

Steelers Burning Question: Will the Steelers be without both Le’Ven Bell and Antonio Brown in 2019?

Steelers sign LB Robert Spillane and RB Malik Williams to reserve/futures contracts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 1:00pm

Two more names were added to the 2019 roster on Friday at linebacker and running back.

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced two new additions on Friday with the signing of linebacker Robert Spillane and running back Malik Williams to reserve/futures contracts.

We have signed LB Robert Spillane and RB Malik Williams.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 8, 2019

Spillane was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in May and was released at the end of training camp, only to be re-signed to the practice squad a few days later. Promoted to the 53-man roster in October, he would play his first NFL game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6, but was again let go a few weeks later. The highlight of his career to date might be the interception he recorded against the Steelers in Week 3 of the preseason.

Arguably the career highlight of #Steelers new signing Robert Spillane @14rspillane. An undrafted linebacker out of Western Michigan who recorded this interception in Pittsburgh against Landry Jones in Week 3 of the preseason in 2018 @14rspillane

— Simon Chester (@SimonAChester) February 8, 2019

After a encouraging debut training camp with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent, Williams was considered by some observers to be an outside candidate for a roster spot before a shoulder injury ended his season. His highlight in preseason coming against the Miami Dolphins.


— NFL (@NFL) August 30, 2018

Both should be considered long shots to make the Steelers roster in 2019, but could compete for a place on the practice squad.


History shows Le’Veon Bell sitting out 2018 will not hurt his value, but where will he land?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 11:45am

Taking a look at where Le’Veon Bell might end up in 2019, and how history shows him sitting out won’t matter.

Le’Veon Bell will hit the free agent market when the new league year starts March 13. Only as long as the Pittsburgh Steelers do not use the exclusive franchise tag or the transition tag. Teams will be interested in Le’Veon Bell as history has shown with other players around the league. Steelers fans may be resentful towards Bell because of how he handled the 2018 season, but that does not mean General Managers around the league will feel the same way. GMs are always looking for Pro Bowl players who are leaving their former team. Teams will have internal discussions about Bell, but what teams are in the hunt to land the three-time Pro Bowler?

Where he will play will depend on his market value. Will teams shy away from Bell because of him sitting out a season? Fans can look at two players who took similar paths on their way to landing with a different team. Sean Gilbert sat out the 1997 season, and his inactivity did not stop the Carolina Panthers from making him the highest paid defensive player in league history after the Washington Redskins traded him to Carolina. Gilbert’s new deal was for seven years $45.6 million. Former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Joey Galloway skipped the first eight games during the 1999 season because of a contract dispute. After the season the disgruntled star was traded to the Dallas Cowboys. Galloway signed a seven-year extension worth $42 million which made him the second highest paid wideout in the league. With Gilbert and Galloway, NFL teams showed there was no concern over a player missing half, or all of, an NFL season. Teams cared about the talent they would bring.

Which NFL teams could line up for arguably the best dual-threat back in the league?

New York Jets: The Jets not only have a need for a bellcow back but the team has the cap space to lure Bell to the Big Apple. The New York Daily News speculates the team will not break the bank to sign him. As the Jets are $95.8 million under the cap, what exactly would “breaking the bank be”?

Indianapolis Colts: Media is connecting the dots here because of the Colts league-high $109 million under the cap. The Colts are not a team that makes splash free agent signings. Along with that aspect, the team has 22-year-old Marlon Mack under contract for two more seasons. Mack was productive last season rushing for 908 yards and nine touchdowns in 10 starts.

Buffalo Bills: Buffalo could move on from 30-year-old LeSean McCoy and his $6 million base salary which would increase the team’s available cap to $85 million. The Bills had the third most inept scoring offense in the NFL last season and is champing at the bit for an infusion in offensive talent to pair with the young quarterback, Josh Allen.

Oakland Raiders: Another team flush with cash with $71 million. The team has a huge need with Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, and Jalen Richard all potentially headed for free agency. (Richard is likely kept because of being a restricted free agent.) Head coach Jon Gruden is as unpredictable as coaches come. Heading into the second year of his 10 year contract, nothing is off the table.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: There is growing speculation Bell could head to Tampa Bay to be part of head coach Bruce Arians rebuild. (My pick for where Bell lands) Tampa Bay had the 29 ranked rushing offense in the NFL. Peyton Barber rushed for 871 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 20 catches. The glaring issue with Barber was his 3.7 yards per carry. Rookie running back, Ronald Jones had 23 carries for 44 yards. The amount is pitiful for a second round back who was in the old regime doghouse because of ball security issues and pass protection issues. The team is up against the cap with $8 million. Arians could put his own stamp on the defense and purge overpriced underperforming vets to make cap space.

Other contenders:

Baltimore Ravens: Unlikely because of their prolific running game last season and trying to keep current players.

Miami Dolphins: Quarterback will be the biggest need for the cash-strapped team. With $12 million in cap space, the team will need every dime while foraging around in the free agent quarterback market.

Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Foles bought his way off the team and onto the free agent market. The move freed up a truckload of cap space but the move barely gets the Eagles into the black. Jay Ajayi heads to free agency, so the need is there.

Dark Horses:

Houston Texans: Lamar Miller is expendable and D’onta Foreman was very slow coming back from his 2017 injury.

Kansas City Chiefs: With Kareem Hunt gone, and Damian Williams contract being relatively cheap, could they get in on the bidding?

Washington Redskins: Very unlikely with Adrian Peterson coming off a 1,000-yard season but he is a free agent.

New England Patriots: Anything is possible with Bill Belichick.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Stripped Leonard Fournette of his guaranteed money.


Pittsburgh fans have been bombarded with drama for the past year, and they look forward to more peaceful times. Bell is looking towards a lucrative contract that fits his desires as well and put the whole mess behind him. For the first time in his career, he will be able to choose where he plays and how much he is paid for his services. (Unless the Steelers derail his plans.) Will he land with an AFC playoff contender and see the Steelers on the road to the Super Bowl or even a divisional rival? Or will he end up with a team working to rebuild while cashing his checks knowing he will not play in a Super Bowl soon or ever?

2019 NFL Draft Prospects: Alabama ILB Mack Wilson definitely has the sauce

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 10:36am

Mack Wilson struggled down the stretch, but his entire film is impressive

It is a weak ILB class, and Mack Wilson was the ultimate shocking declaration after he seemed to make every indication, even to his own mother, that he was heading back to Alabama for his senior season. So, when he announced that he indeed was coming out for the 2019 NFL Draft, people did question it because he struggled mightily down the stretch, and yet, Wilson still proved that he indeed had potential at the next level. The guy is divisive, but, he is very good.


Height: 6’2”

Weight: 239 lbs

Expected 40: 4.55

Data courtesy of

Film Room

Mack Wilson is an athletic LB. Maybe not on the level of Devin White, but he sure does have better coverage skills and just a slight bit less of that athleticism. This is a LB that can fly sideline-to-sideline and make a legitimate impact on the game.

If you are a fan of a team needing a LB and don't want Mack Wilson what are you doing. This man is a flat out beast!

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 27, 2019

Wilson has an uncanny skill that most LBs do not have — ball skills. I mean how many LBs can actually make this play? There aren’t many of them folks. This is an elite level play by Mack Wilson, and man, this dude can just flat out cover guys. His ability to change direction, stay with guys, and process the play is something that should make teams want to get this guy really early in the draft.

Just a reminder that if Mack Wilson is not your #1 ILB, you're doing it so, so wrong. #DraftTwitter

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) November 4, 2018

Wilson proved that he could lay the boom and be an alpha male in the middle of the defense super often this season. He made plays like this and just wowed everyone that watched Alabama play. Wilson can read a play and make the splash a defense like the Steelers would need, especially in coverage, where he is an elite coverage LB.

Mack Wilson Thread: I am so impressed with how athletic and strong this kid is. Georgia OL uses the stack and gets to the second level on Wilson put he fights straight through this traffic. Stays disciplined as he breaks down and then rips right through the block. Smart play.

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 3, 2018

Wilson knows how to use his strength and shed blocks well. He can ride with an OL, keep his integrity of positioning and yet still shed blocks. He can come downhill to make plays, or he can be that second layer of defense. That is a huge thing to for an ILB to have, and he can sift through the trash as a result of that trait.

Teach Tape...

— Mack Wilson (@iam__mw3o) December 4, 2018

This is another example of that. He flies downhill and moves the guard with him to the open lane and floods this lane. Classic run defense as he takes the garbage with him to clog up the lane. Strong leverage, and strong rip to disengage makes this a super easy play for Wilson, he is legit great at this.


Wilson takes inconsistent angles like no other. His angles need serious refinement and they cause him to either miss tackles or just whiff completely. His true tackling form is also sometimes flawed. He can miss tackles that he should make and both of these problems go together in a pretty clear capacity. He just has to curb the aggressiveness he has back slightly.

Fit with the Steelers

Wilson works perfectly in a 3-4 as a great MACK ILB to really complement L.J. Fort. Not only are both good coverage LBs, but both will be aggressive downhill players who can make sideline-to-sideline plays. That type of schematic option is huge, so Wilson can open up this defense in a way that they have not had since Ryan Shazier was injured.

Final Thoughts

Optimistic View: Wilson is able to curtail his aggressiveness, fix up his form, and truly finish his form out with more muscle, and with it, Wilson becomes one of the premier ILB of the league. His ability to change a game through either splash tackles for loss or interceptions as an elite coverage LB are why teams fear him.

Pessimistic View: Mack Wilson becomes an athletic LB that, while an elite coverage LB, fails to truly take advantage of his full elite range due to bad tackling and poor angles, thus leaving him somewhat of a liability at times. His inconsistent play leaves him at only a good LB2, and someone should really be the alpha ILB over him.

My Take: Wilson is a dang good ILB, and while the struggles down the stretch at the end of the year are somewhat concerning, they are not the end all be all. Wilson had elite 2017 tape, and most of his 2018 tape was really, really good. He will test well and changes the dynamic of this defense. He is a fine option for the 20th pick.

Are you ready for some more football?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 9:16am

Fans don’t have the NFL right now. But if anything is better than nothing for you, help is on the way.

The Super Bowl is over and the NFL season came to an expected, but unsatisfying end for me. Patriots, Schmatriots. I can turn my attention to hockey, which I will. But I’m a football guy and I can’t quite go without. It’s a lot like my buddy from college that could never be without a significant other. If a relationship ended, he was open for business and hiring immediately. Sure he got catfished, beat up, embezzled from and was prescribed a boat-load of antibiotics...but deep down he was content. That’s how I feel about football. And my fallback has arrived.

I’ve done it before, you know. In 1983, I got my USFL on. I even have my original Pittsburgh Mauler t-shirt from the league’s second season. In 1987, the Pittsburgh Gladiators and (much later on) the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena League caught my eye. I’ve been confused by the Canadian Football league, broke French Bread with the World League of American Football and was intrigued and mildly entertained by the bizarre brainchild of Vince McMahon...the XFL. There’s been others too.

Now thanks to Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian, I can get my fix this weekend in the form of the Alliance of American Football. Eight-teams from warmer locales will battle for the love of football-starved fans and the players could compete for a shot at NFL redemption. (See Tommy Maddox, 2001). There’s players you might recognize and coaches you surely will. Pittsburgh fans will rejoice the fact that two all-time heroes, Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward, are league executives.

Atlanta and Phoenix are the two NFL cities with teams. But for cities deprived of teams behind the shield, they get their taste of professional pigskin. San Diego, two years removed from the Chargers, gets a team again. Birmingham, Salt Lake City, Memphis, San Antonio and Orlando will hope their league sticks this time around.

The rules won’t be too different than the NFL. However, there won’t be kickoffs or extra-point tries (only two-point conversions), but there exists a sky judge to call missed or egregious penalties. Games will attempt to be shorter, as well. CBS will broadcast the opener and the CBS Sports Network will broadcast a weekly game during their ten-week run and the championship will be decided on the weekend of the NFL Draft.

Here’s a guide to the teams:

Arizona Hotshots (Golden Yellow, Forest Green and Orange)

Notable Names: GM Phil Savage, Coach Rick Neuheisel and QB Trevor Knight

Atlanta Legends (Purple, White and Gold)

Notable Names: Coach Kevin Coyle, QB Aaron Murray, QB/RB Denard Robinson and WR Stephen Hill

Birmingham Iron (Black and Grey)

Notable Names: GM Joe Pendry, Coach Tim Lewis, QB Blake Sims, QB Scott Tolzien, RB Trent Richardson, CB JaCorey Shepherd and K Nick Novak

Memphis Express (Red, White and Blue)

Notable Names: Coach Mike Singletary, QB Christian Hackenberg, QB Zach Mettenberger, P Brad Wing and RB Zac Stacy

Orlando Apollos (Navy Blue and Dark Orange and Bright Orange)

Notable Names: Coach Steve Spurrier, QB Stephen Morris, LB Terrance Garvin and DB Will Hill

Salt Lake Stallions (Sky Blue, Royal Blue and Silver)

Notable Names: GM Randy Mueller, Coach Dennis Erickson and RB Matt Asiata

San Antonio Commanders (Maroon, Silver and Red)

Notable Names: GM Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Coach Mike Riley and RB David Cobb

San Diego Fleet (Anthracite Grey, Battleship Grey and Sun Yellow)

Notable Names: Coach Mike Martz, DE Damontre Moore, TE Gavin Escobar and RB Bishop Sankey


The power rankings are already out and the Arizona Hotshots are favored to win it all on paper. But in the AAF, the games are played in anything can happen. I’m going to take my time finding a team, but I’m already leaning towards San Diego. Great city, Mike Martz is a madman, the uniforms are cool and who doesn’t love Travis Freeney?

Steelers 2019 Free-agent Market Watch: Safeties

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 7:53am

The Steelers May be in the market for safety help. Should they go the free-agent route? Here are the best available at the position.

Towards the end of the 2018 season, the glaring weakness for the Pittsburgh Steelers was in the defensive backfield, but not particularly at safety. With Morgan Burnett asking for his release a mere year after the Steelers signed him, the Steelers are left with mainly Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Dangerfield, and Marcus Allen. The free agent position is rich at the position. Below are some of the top options at the safety spot, should Kevin Colbert decide to go in that direction.

Landon Collins - New York Giants

The Alabama Crimson Tide standout was high on the Steelers wish list in 2015. There was even talk about trading up in the second round to nab him. The Giants did and it was a solid move. Collins is a guy that truly makes plays. The three-time Pro Bowl selection and one-time All Pro thieved eight passes and amassed 428 tackles in four seasons. The 25-year old had surgery on his shoulder last season, but it shouldn’t jeaopardize his start to 2019.

Earl Thomas - Seattle Seahawks

The most accomplished of this group, Thomas has 28 interceptions and 11 forced-fumbles in nine seasons as a Seahawk. About to turn 30 in May and despite a leg injury that limited him to a mere four games in 2018, the man they call “Deuce” should still garner a lot of attention in free agency as the leader and stalwart of a secondary. Thomas, a veteran of six Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls (champ in 2013), was named All Pro thrice in his career.

Tyrann Mathieu - Houston Texans

When the Cardinals unexpectedly released the standout safety last year, Steeler Nation salivated for his services. Even Cam Heyward invited him via social media to Pittsburgh. However, the Honey Badger gambled on himself and signed a one-year deal worth $7 Million with the Houston Texans. As a safety and corner, Mathieu proved durability with a 16-game season that featured two picks and three sacks. A Pro Bowler and All Pro in 2015, the 26-year old’s 2018 may see that gamble pay off this free agency period.

Adrian Amos - Chicago Bears

Amos could be franchised by the Bears due to his emergence as a talented, young player. The Nittany Lion could be considered elite at the position soon. Amos had two interceptions in the 2018 campaign.

Ha Ha Clinton Dix -Washington Redskins

Another Alabama Safety, Clinton-Dix was traded by the Packers at the deadline last season. Ha-Ha had average tackling ability, but is a tremendous playmaker and excellent in coverage. At 26, the FS could get a huge deal.

Other Notable Free Agent Safeties

Tre Boston - Arizona Cardinals

Clayton Geathers - Indianapolis Colts

Mike Mitchell - Indianapolis Colts

George Iloka - Minnesota Vikings

Kenny Vaccaro- Tennessee Titans

Lamarcus Joyner - Los Angeles Rams

Anthony Harris - Minnesota Vikings


One could make a case for all of the top five to fit the bill in different ways in the Burgh. It will depend mostly on the market, who stays/who goes and where the Steelers want to spend their cash. With other needs and some potentially arising, the draft could be another route.

NFL confirms official list of participants for the 2019 Scouting Combine

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 6:49am

A total of 338 players from college across the country have been invited to take part in the NFL Scouting Combine this year.

With the Super Bowl behind them, the NFL is already looking forward to the next big event on their schedule with the release of the official list of players who will participate in the 2019 Scouting Combine on Thursday. A total of 338 names have been invited to Indianapolis for this intensive job interview, with most of the top prospects in the country expected to perform.

The participants should include Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray after he was extended an invitation to attend. However, despite announcing his intention to enter the NFL draft earlier in the year, he has not yet confirmed if he intends pursuing a career in baseball or football. Murray was drafted by the Oakland Athletics with the ninth pick of the 2018 MLB Draft.

Held at Lucas Oil Field from February 26 through March 4, the on-field portions of the event will run from March 1 to March 4 and will be televised live on the NFL Network.

Fittingly, no college team had more players invited to take part this year than the two teams that competed for the National Championship in 2018, with Clemson and Alabama both sending 11 players each.

A look at the schools with the most players attending the @NFL Combine

— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) February 7, 2019

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a wide array of scouts and coaches on hand to watch the all the draft prospects go through their paces and to conduct interviews, a group that will include Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert.

The full list of the invited names arranged by position can be found here, or via the NFL’s combine database.

Podcast: Previewing the Steelers 2019 Depth chart — Tight Ends

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 5:38am

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

As the Pittsburgh Steelers season is over, and while the team isn’t playing anymore, it doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to discuss — so it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading into the offseason.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Black-and-Gold News
  • Position Breakdown: Tight Ends
  • Super Bowl reaction
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, Bryan Anthony Davis and Dave Schofield walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
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: When it comes to the defense, Keith Butler must trust Javon Hargrave

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/08/2019 - 4:37am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler should start to utilize one of their most versatile tools in their tool box — nose tackle Javon Hargrave. Hargrave spent entirely too much time on the sideline in 2018, and this should change in 2019.

Let’s get to the news:

Carter’s Classroom: Tomlin, Butler must follow their nose

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

Javon Hargrave had his best NFL season with 6.5 sacks in just his third year. But his contributions in run defense were just as vital to the chemistry of the defense and provide a challenge the Steelers’ coaches must embrace for their 2019 defense.

We take a look at what that means, why Hargrave is so important, and the grades of the Steelers’ defensive line for 2018:

The Steelers have been known as a 3-4 defense for decades now, but in recent years, that hasn’t been the team’s bread and butter. Their personnel packages consist of more four-man fronts and sub-package use than the 3-4 these days. In fact, they only used a 3-4 defense 302 times in 2018, just 28.93 percent of the total 1,044 defensive snaps.

The idea the 3-4 is the base defense of the Steelers is much more loose of a construct than it has ever been. But part of that is because the Steelers need to adapt to how the NFL plays. The 3-4 is great for run defense and rushing the passer if you have the right personnel, but the formation only allows for four defensive backs, and without a prime cover linebacker such as Ryan Shazier, it exposes the team’s linebackers to difficult coverage matchups.

The Steelers have relied on the 3-4 since 1982 because they had the personnel to fit the scheme. But with only one prime edge rushing linebacker in T.J. Watt and no premier cover linebacker, Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin have tinkered with the defense to find any advantages possible.

That’s led to more sub-package defenses, but it also puts a strain on the team’s two best linemen: Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. Both are very good 3-4 defensive ends, while also being very good defensive tackles in four-man fronts. They also can play as edge rushers in those same four-man line formations.

The Steelers needed relief from having to rely on the two so much, and the surge of Hargrave’s improved play opened the door for that.

Hargrave proved to be a feisty player in his first two years, recording two sacks in each season. But he exploded in 2018 with 6.5 sacks.

(To read more, click the link in the headline above...)

Plaxico Burress says he knows Brown’s future plans

By: Hunter Homistek, DKPittsburghSports

Plaxico Burress is keeping a secret about Antonio Brown.

On a recent episode of “Fair Game” with Kristine Leahy, Burress sat down for a chat, and the topic soon turned to Brown. Having played alongside Brown as a member of the Steelers during the 2012 NFL season, Burress offered some unique insight.

“Us receivers, we can be a little brash or whatever you want to call it,” Burress said. “We all kind of get this stigma or whatever it may be, stereotype, that we’re selfish. I don’t think Antonio’s selfish. I had the opportunity to play with him in 2012, 2013 back in Pittsburgh. He’s the hardest-working man I’ve ever been around in my life. Ever.

“We would get to practice and he would be running so fast and working so hard. I’m like, ‘AB, man, listen. It’s just Wednesday. You need to slow down and relax.’ And he’s like, ‘There’s nothing like dominating other grown men.’”

Brown’s performance and work ethic were never in question. The problem recently is that he missed the Steelers Week 17 showdown vs. the Bengals, following an incident in practice the week before the game, then skipping a scheduled MRI for a knee injury allegedly sustained the previous week in the loss to the Saints. He also ignored all calls and lines of communication from Steelers brass — including Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II.

Burress admits that part is troubling.

“I don’t know. For Mr. Rooney to come out and say that Antonio would not be in training camp is something,” Burress said. “Knowing the Steelers organization and knowing the gold standard that they set, that kind of bothered me a little bit because I’ve never heard Mr. Rooney come out and say something like that, especially about a caliber of player like Antonio Brown. So there has to be something behind it. I would like to see him finish his career in Pittsburgh, but you just never know. The business part of it… it gets tricky sometimes.”

(To read more, click the link in the headline above...)

Steelers could face Patriots in 2019 NFL season opening game

By: Frank Carnevale, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In recent years, the Super Bowl winning team has hosted the following season’s opening game on a Thursday night, usually in a marque matchup, before a full slate of games kicks off on Sunday.

So after the New England Patriots again hosted the Lombardi Trophy by defeating the Los Angeles Rams in version LIII of the big game, who could they play to open the season?

The Patriots will face off against AFC North opponents next season, so a opening day matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers could be in the cards.

After two years of the Steelers hosting the Patriots at Heinz Field, the Steelers are set to travel to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough next season.

The matchup comes with the added drama of the Patriots raising their sixth championship banner in front of the Steelers, the franchise that had previously held the most championship titles since they defeated the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.

Though NBC columnist Peter King likes a Cleveland Browns matchup against the Pats to kick off the season, he think the Steelers contest, which he dubs, “Drama Queens at the Model Franchise,” could be good, too.

Other marque opponents for the Patriots could be the Kansas City Chiefs or the Dallas Cowboys. The New York Giants are also slated to visit Foxborough.

But there are rumors the NFL might change up the opening day format.

(To read more, click the link in the headline above...)

Todd McShay Mock Draft 2.0: Steelers select an ILB to help complete their LB corps

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/07/2019 - 12:07pm

Could the Steelers finally get a player who could help fill the gaping hole left by Ryan Shazier?

It might seem crazy, but the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine is just around the corner, which means the NFL Draft,is really starting to heat up! With college football All-Star games over, it is now time when experts start to release their mock drafts for the upcoming draft process.

While mock drafts are nothing more than lofty projections for teams, the analysis of diagnosing team needs can be a valuable one.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have some glaring needs on their football team, and most reside on the defensive side of the football. Below is an early ranking of the Steelers’ top three needs which could, and probably should, be addressed in the upcoming draft:

1. Cornerback
2. Inside Linebacker
3. EDGE Rusher

While there certainly are other team needs, including running back, most would agree the team should have a very defensive oriented draft class while looking at their current roster. ESPN draft expert Todd McShay agrees when he selected an inside linebacker to the Steelers in his first mock draft of the year.

Check out what McShay said about the selection:

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Devin Bush, LB, Michigan*

There’s a void in the Steelers’ linebacker corps without Ryan Shazier. Bush, an athletic every-down backer, has the instincts to play Shazier’s middle linebacker spot. With Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt also in the mix, this unit could be pretty dominant.


If you are like me, and don’t follow college football closely, you aren’t familiar with many of these prospects. I utilize the mock draft process to learn more about prospects, and in this case Devin Bush.

Here is a quick synopsis of Bush as a player, thanks to The Draft Network:

BEST TRAIT – Gap Shoot Ability

WORST TRAIT – Block Shedding

BEST FILM – Notre Dame (2018)

WORST FILM – Penn State (2017)


Devin Bush is a player who is set to benefit from this new era of play in the NFL. Bush’s mobility experience in numerous types of responsibilities against the run and upside as a 3rd down defender (blitz ability and potential in coverage) set him up for an impact role. Traditional reps thumping into interior gaps vs. OL takes Bush away from strengths, however. He should be utilized primarily in a gap penetration scheme with a strong DL.


It is at this point where Steelers fans can debate the prediction, but also the team needs moving forward. Let us know what you think of the selection, as well as the areas of need, in the comment section below!

Free agent market for Le’Veon Bell might not be as lucrative as he had hoped

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/07/2019 - 10:45am

Initial projections suggest Le’Veon Bell could struggle to find a contract worth much more than the one the Steelers last offered him when he hits free agency in 2019.

When Le’Veon Bell turned down an offer from the Pittsburgh Steelers rumored to be worth around $70 million with effective guarantees of $33 million over the first two years of a five-year deal, he did so under the belief that a much bigger pay day was out there waiting for him. However, if the initial contract projections from salary cap expert Jason Fitzgerald of are accurate, the Steelers’ star running back might struggle to find the huge deal he is looking for after all.

In a feature published by Pro Football Focus, Fitzgerald shared his thoughts about the sort of contract Bell could expect to find on the open market, coming up with a number which is barely an improvement on the one Pittsburgh offered in 2018.

“After sitting out all of 2018, veteran running back Le’Veon Bell will return to the NFL after resetting the market with his contract. He earned 71.0-plus overall grades in all five seasons he’s played in the NFL, including a career-high 89.7 mark in 2015.

From Jason:

“Bell comes with all kinds of red flags. He has had past injuries. He has had off the field suspensions. Nobody knows what kind of shape he is in. He has a lot of miles on his tires from his use in Pittsburgh. But he is dynamic and the best offensive talent that will be available this year. Given the amount of cap space a few teams have this year and how desperate those teams may be expecting someone to match his price but with a back-loaded contract to give the team some added protection.”

“Projection: Four years, $60 million, $33 million GTD”

Pro Football Focus

Given that the four-year deal signed by Todd Gurley last year was worth $57.5 million and included $21.95 million fully guaranteed, there can be no dispute that such a deal would make Bell the highest paid player at his position in the league, but by barely enough to have warranted rejecting the Steelers last offer.

Sitting out an entire season just to earn an extra $1 million more a year makes little sense when you consider that Bell walked away from $14.544 million in 2018 under the terms of the franchise tag. Money he will have difficulty earning back in the long-term if $60 million over four years is the best he can do on the open market.

While many will point to the level of guarantees as the most important thing, no team in the league will be offering Bell a fully guaranteed contract over the length of the deal. The best he is likely to find being something similar to the rolling structure in Gurley’s new contract. However, with veteran players on multi-year deals historically seeing 83-percent of their total contracted value from Pittsburgh since 2002, as per Steelers salary cap specialist Ian Whetstone, the team was almost certain to honor most of the deal. As Whetstone notes, of the 397 contracts given out since 2002, 309 of those players have received 100-percent of the deal.

Thankfully, unless Pittsburgh decides to use the transition tag on him in the coming weeks, how much Bell gets paid will be a topic for another fan base to discuss soon enough.


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