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Ryan Shazier joins Roosevelt Nix on podcast and talks about his current status

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 5:50am

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker speaks publicly for the first time since being injured vs. the Bengals on Monday Night Football.

Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers have been longing to hear from injured linebacker Ryan Shazier ever since he injured his back vs. the Bengals on Monday Night Football. He finally spoke publicly on Thursday when he sat down with teammate Roosevelt Nix on Nix’s newest podcast.

You can check out the podcast below:

Boom !!!!!
https://t.co/x58H79ZzkY

— 5⃣Roosevelt nix (@Dat_Dude_Nix) February 21, 2018

Shazier talks about everything from video games, college football and, of course, the latest update on his status. His goals haven’t changed, despite his injury.

“I got to get back,” Shazier said. “Right now I’m reading a book and it’s basically saying trust the process. I’m really trusting the process. I know the end goal. So I’m taking every step of the way, I’m giving everything I got. The therapists are like, ‘Man this is crazy; I’ve never seen anyone work this hard.’ They almost see progression every day.

“They say like some progressions they see week to week, they see from me day to day. I’m really trying to come back and still be a Pro Bowler. I’m sorry, because I feel I got snubbed this year for All-Pro even though I got hurt. But I feel like my stats are as good as those who made it.”

Shazier then spoke about his progress, and why he chose to stand during a Pittsburgh Penguins game.

“I really wanted to do that because I felt everybody needed to see that,’’ Shazier told Nix.

“At the end of the day, everybody saw the picture of me and Ben. I stood up. The thing is, in the picture, people were saying Ben supported me, too. He was barely even holding me. I was like I want to stand up so people can really see Ben ain’t just holding me up. This isn’t rigged.”

During the nearly 30-minute podcast, Shazier talked about his desire to continue playing, and not just play, but make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the news which stood out the most was his physical progress through his rehabilitation.

“I gained so much more appreciation for people with disabilities and in wheelchairs. You can be going up one incline, that’s so much harder.

“The thing that’s so funny is like when I do the littlest things, people don’t understand how much people appreciate this right now. Like the process of me trying to get my feeling back to stand up and all that. Everything I did, I appreciated every moment.”

Steelers Shazier on his rehab: "I’m really trusting the process. I know the end goal. So I’m taking every step of the way, I’m giving everything I got. The therapists are like, ‘Man this is crazy; I’ve never seen anyone work this hard.’ They almost see progression every day"

— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) February 21, 2018

If you don’t have the time to listen to the podcast, Shazier sounds to be in great spirits, and more determined than ever to get back on the football field.

Podcast: The ‘Black and Gold Blitz’ show tackles Le’Veon Bell, mock drafts and more!

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 4:56am

Check out the latest podcast for Pittsburgh fans from yours truly...Jeff Hartman.


The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is officially over, but just because the season is over doesn’t mean we stop our coverage.

Welcome to the latest episode of the podcast the ‘Black and Gold Blitz’. Here, Jeff Hartman talks about the latest news on the Steelers, but also throws in some Penguins and Pirates coverage for the true diehard Pittsburgh fan!

On today’s show:

- Le’Veon Bell contract talks

- NFL Sunday Ticket prices

- Mike Mitchell

- Penguins are surging

- Pirates are depressing

- and MORE!

Check out the latest podcast!

...

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089.You should also checkout his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

Ryan Shazier speaks: 'I got to get back'

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 8:11pm

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier not only wants to play football again, he says his goal is to make the Hall of Fame.

John-Henry Krueger (understandably) sold out the Steelers and Penguins

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 4:22pm

John-Henry Krueger worked really hard for his Olympic silver medal, and he’s not giving it up easily. Not even if it meant success for the local sports teams. 

While the sting still lingers, Jesse James looks to improve next season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 1:38pm

What was a huge turning point of the Steelers’ 2017 season, tight end Jesse James looks to move beyond the would-be winning touchdown vs. the Patriots next year.

When you ask a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers to name one moment which paints the picture of the 2017-2018 season, most, including myself, would point to the would-be touchdown by Jesse James against the New England Patriots at Heinz Field in Week 15.

Such elation after JuJu Smith-Schuster pulled off a near miracle getting the team inside the red-zone, and it looked as if the Steelers finally slayed the Brady/Belichick monster which has haunted them for years.

Then we heard the words which have now been etched into football vocabulary:

“He did not survive the ground.”

Although the play didn’t result in the loss, the Ben Roethlisberger interception intended for Eli Rogers is what iced the game away for New England, people remember how the interception never should have occurred — not if the league’s ‘catch rule’ made any sense.

Nonetheless, the season is over, and James sat down with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews to talk about the season, and, of course, the aforementioned play. James’ demeanor certainly changes in the interview when talking about the play, and here is what he had to say about it.

“That’s a tough one to get over. Such controversy. Every week it seems there is another play that they are flipping a coin to see if it is a catch or not, so it is always going to be tough to get over. I’m sure it will be re-examined this offseason, and it will be played forever on Sportscenter.”

The entire interview wasn’t based solely on the biggest play of his professional career which he would like to forget, but also talked about how he might improve as he enters the 2018-2019 season. Specifically, when asked what he needs to work on this offseason, his response was very simple.

“I’m going to look through tape and try to find weaknesses and strengths in my game, and try to improve and minimize those weaknesses, and make the best out of my strengths. That’s what I’m going to do the next few weeks and take time to relax.”

What was also very interesting to hear James talk about was how being “banged up”, as he put it, in the middle of the season for a stretch of four games resulted in James not being near the same player he was at the beginning, and end, of the season. Injuries make sense, in hindsight.

Check out the brief video below, and see the entire interview at Steelers.com.

.@JJames18_ sat down to talk about his season, what he hopes to improve on, his controversial overturned touchdown and more. pic.twitter.com/0WJzG7trXl

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 20, 2018

Starkey’s Mailbag: Who’s better — Jesse James or Vance McDonald?

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:44am

Welcome to Joe Starkey’s mailbag, where the Post-Gazette columnist and 93.7 The Fan radio host answers your questions about sports, life, Pink, Buffalo and everything in between. If you want to ask Joe a question, tweet him @JoeStarkey1 or email him at jstarkey@post-gazette.com. On to the questions …

Conner working his way back

Steelers.com News - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:30am
James Conner is spending the offseason getting healthy, and improving his game.

Steelers 2018 Free Agent Market Watch: The Tight Ends

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:27am

Taking a look at some free agent tight ends the Steelers could target if they feel the need to add to their current depth chart.

I don't think that the Steelers’ situation at the tight end position is that bad, but unfortunately, It comes down to the injury report. The team acquired Vance McDonald from the 49ers right before the 2017 opener, but can they rely on the big man to stay healthy? The trio of McDonald, Jesse James and Xavier Grimble would be a solid stable, but McDonald was only available for ten games last year.

The team has just listed McDonald as the starter on the depth chart, and I doubt they wade in the waters of free agency, but there are good names topping the list of available tight ends if they choose to do so.

Jimmy Graham - Seattle Seahawks

The price tag is hard to figure for Graham, who at 31 has struggled with injuries and had 5.1 less yards-per-reception and only 520 yards in 2017. However, his ten touchdowns last year make him a red zone gem. I see a McDonald/James platoon here still, but Graham is still a scoring machine.

Trey Burton - Philadelphia Eagles

Burton's TD pass in the Super Bowl made his star shine brighter, but it is obvious that Zach Ertz is "the guy" in Philadelphia. Burton could be a star in another venue. With 248 yards and five scores in 2017, the extremely athletic Burton is going to see more green. He'd be a great find for the Steelers, but the cap room won't allow it.

Tyler Eifert - Cincinnati Bengals

When healthy, Eifert is an absolute stud. But when was the last time he was completely healthy? The Notre Dame product has played only ten games the past two seasons due to back issues. He could come as a bargain, but the Steelers have been cursed with injury woes by their TE newcomers as of late. Ladarius Green and Vance McDonald played sparingly after joining the Steelers and were besieged with injuries, but shined when healthy. Eifert is too much of a risk and if you're going to roll the dice, roll it on Vance.

Virgil Green - Danver Broncos

The Steelers have room for a blocking tight end. If the price is right, I could see the Steelers looking for a blocking specialist like the Bronco TE. Green only has 71 career catches in seven seasons. He could be a bargain for the Steelers to platoon.

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins - New York Jets

After three seasons of despair on the football field, ASJ showed promise with 50 catches in 2017. However, Jenkins is a character risk and has seemed lackadaisical since coming into the league. The Steelers will shy away from Jenkins if they even look at the position in free agency.

Other Notable Free Agent Tight Ends

Cameron Brate (RFA) - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antonio Gates - Los Angeles Chargers

Ben Watson - Baltimore Ravens

Ed Dickson - Carolina Panthers

Troy Niklas - Arizona Cardinals

Predicting the Pittsburgh Steelers complete offseason 1.0

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 9:24am

Taking you through the entire Steelers offseason and predicting everything from players who will be cut, mock draft, who will be re-signed and more!

I recently shared a three part series about Le’Veon Bell, as well as an offseason primer, so with all that work out of the way I think it is about time that I share a complete mock of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason.

I am not going to go into specifics with contracts, and cap savings, and cap specifics, this exercise is to just share a general impression of how I believe the team will attack the coming months.HERE WE GO STEELERS NATION!!!!

Released/Cut Players

FS-Mike Mitchell

S/ST-J.J. Wilcox

CB/S-William Gay

S/ST-Robert Golden

CB/ST-Coty Sensabaugh

WR/ST-Darrius Heyward-Bey

Bottom Line: I think we can all agree that the Safety play left a lot to be desired at the end of the season, and I believe the Steelers are going to see a big overhaul on the defensive side of the ball, especially with the way Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert have been rightfully critical of the defense last year. Also, I think the team could use a new injection of players on the various Special Teams units.

  • 5th Year Option Decision

Bottom Line: After a lot of deliberation, I believe the team will exercise Bud Dupree’s option, hoping for a breakout campaign. Dupree was asked to drop into coverage a lot last year, mostly because of the way the defense was being run, but I believe they should let him pin his ears back, and press the issue off the edge. What is more important is the OLB Coach and whichever Pass Rushing Guru he works with this offseason needs to help him develop an inside move, so he is not stuck with just trying to run around the OT’s. I also am very intrigued by our 7th Round pick Keion Adams from Western Michigan. He has a lot of raw talent, and is just finishing a red-shirt type rookie season.

Contracts that are revised or players given extensions that are FA in 2019.

TE-Vance McDonald

QB-Ben Roethlisberger

ILB-Vince Williams

DL-L.T. Walton

Bottom Line: McDonald is a matchup nightmare who was just coming into his own at the end of the year. I think it would be in the best interest of both parties to find a common ground and bring him back, especially with the rapport he and Ben Roethlisberger were building. Giving Vincenzo a short-term extension for some stability after all the upheaval with the loss of Ryan Shazier makes some sense, not a break the bank type deal, but one that he deserves after a solid season. Re-signing Walton to a deal is giving the defensive line a dependable and quality, player a chance to continue to develop and find a niche in a talented rotation.

Re-signed Free Agents

RB-Le’Veon Bell

K-Chris Boswell (RFA)

OLB-Anthony Chickillo (RFA)

WR-Justin Hunter

RB-Stevan Ridley

Bottom Line:The biggest debate of the offseason comes to an end, with a long term extension given to Le’Veon Bell. After hearing Kevin Colbert’s comments recently I genuinely believe they will get a deal done. I just hope it doesn’t hamstring the club’s ability to improve in other areas on the roster. I believe Boswell will get a long term deal before the deadline for teams to tender contracts to RFA’s. Chickillo is a quality special teams player, and rotational OLB who still has some growth potential, so he is deserving of a tender. Justin Hunter and Stevan Ridley are only re-signed to non guaranteed vet minimum type deals.

Outside Free Agent Additions

ILB-Derrick Johnson-Kansas City Chiefs

S-Bradley McDougald-Seattle Seahawks

DT-Mike Pennel-New York Jets

S/ST-Michael Thomas-Miami Dolphins

WR/KR/ST-Jeff Janis-Green Bay Packers

Bottom Line: After the Bell extension, the Steelers will only have enough cap space to troll the middle tier of free agency, which is where they usually come out with some underrated additions.

I know the mentioning of Derrick Johnson will elicit some negative responses because of his age (35), and him having had some injury issues in the last few years, but he still is a very smart, and reliable ILB who would have a calming and steadying force for the run defense next year. He also is a willing mentor which should foreshadow some things to come in the draft portion of this article. Short term deal without a ton of guaranteed money for Johnson.

Dexter McDougald has a lot of experience starting in the NFL, and really flourished for the Seahawks last year when he bagan the season as a sub package/third S type, who saved the Seahawks bacon come the end of the season, due to injuries to Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Will be a hard sign due to interest from the Seahawks wanting to resign him. Played the run very efficiently, and is a converted WR in college that shows he has some ball skills, an interchangeable S type that the Steelers seems to covet in the back end.

Mike Pennel was a rotational NT for the Jets last year, and really showed well in being able to two gap as a 0T(NT), and has enough athleticism to be able to scrape down the LOS and make a play or two in the backfield. Should be able to help rotate with Javon Hargrave on early downs, and allow him to play a better part as a pass rusher. Had some off the field issues previously that made the Packers sour on him even though he was one of their projected starters. Seems revitalized and cleaned his act up with a change of scenery last year.

Michael Thomas, no not the Physical WR from N.O., but rather Pro Football Focus’s Special Teams Player of the Year. He filled in admirably for an injured Reshad Jones in 2016, and flashed instincts and smarts as a third safety type who can help our Special Teams units get into a good place.

Jeff Janis, is a very talented and underappreciated asset that could never really crawl up a very talent laden Packers WR Depth Chart. Big, and very fast WR who can be very dangerous as a return man, and ST Gunner. Putting him in the building with our talented wideouts could bring the best out of him.

Pre-Draft Team Needs

ILB

Pass Rusher

S

S/LB Hybrid for nickel and dime packages

WR Depth/ Slot type?

OL Depth

RB Depth

2018 NFL Draft Selections

1st Round-Darius Leonard-LB-South Carolina State

Leonard is a big-time athlete who showed really well in his jump in competition at the Senior Bowl. I know a lot will be bashing me for taking a player from a lower level of college competition, but this guy is explosive, and has quick twitch fibers that Tomlin loves.

2nd Round-Hercules Mata’afa-DE/DT/OLB Washington State

Mata’afa was PAC-12 offensive coordinators worst nightmares for the last 2 years. Consistently lived in the backfield even though he was miscast as an interior DL, which shows the type of explosion and power he has in his build just by being able to dominate the way he did against such bigger OL. I think he could really flourish as a run defender in the team’s front as a 34 OLB, then shift inside as a nickel rusher to wreak more havoc in the QB’s face. Tremendous hand fighter. Would have went in the first round if he weren’t lacking in some measureables, like height.

3rd Round-Deontay Burnett-WR-USC

Burnett was Sam Darnold’s go to WR this past year. He is a dangerous weapon after the catch, and has an excellent grasp of how to get open with variances in his route running, and by being able to adjust his routes according to how DB’s are playing him. Has great playing speed, and I see some comparable undertones in his skill set to Antonio Brown when he came from Central Michigan.

5th Round (From SF)-Troy Fumagali-TE-Wisconsin

Fumagalli is an enormous Target at TE, who dealt with only having 9 fingers since a surgery when he as a child due to a problem that was not life threatening but very painful. Even without a tenth finger he may have the best set of hands amongst this TE class. He really can be a load to bring down after the catch, and coming from Wisconsin he knows how to run block. More of a chain mover, than a seam stretcher, but can be a bull for smaller DB’s to try and tackle. A quality TE to add to the room with Jesse James being a FA in 2019.

5th Round-Micah Kiser-ILB-Virginia

Kiser is a throwback style of thumper who is vastly underappreciated as an NFL prospect. He gets the best out of his athleticism, but it his diagnostic ability to react instantly that will give him a place on an NFL Roster. Can take on blocks and shed them adequately. Is a hard hitting ILB. Has enough speed to make tackles sideline to sideline. A real steal this late in the draft.

5th Round (Compensatory Pick Projection)-David Bright-G/T-Stanford

Bright is a Swiss army knife OL who played all along the OL at Stanford, except for C. He is a strong, and long armed OL who seeks to bury defenders when he gets the chance. Earned the nickname “Salty Dave” from his teammates because of his nasty playing demeanor. Very good short area puller, and is able to target defenders with ease at the second level. Was also used as a move TE, and H-Back in different formations, which could give him an in with the departure of Chris Hubbard.

6th Round (From NYG)-Heath Harding-S/CB-Miami (OH.)

*A bit of Draft news here...Bob Labriola stated on a Asked and Answered that due to the amount of playing time Ross Cockrell accrued with the Giants, the Steelers will actually gain a 6th Rounder, not a 7th as was originally thought.

Referred to as the “Mayor” by his teammates. Consistent presence in all aspects on and off the field. Was a Day 2 prospect coming into this year, but dealt with some injury issues as a Senior. I have a tremendous feeling about this guy because he is unafraid to come up in run support, and has excellent closing quickness as well as terrific feel for where and when the ball is coming. Played the majority of the time as a CB at Miami (OH.), but I could really see him flourish as a S in Pittsburgh. Have a very reliable source who says he is a very humble kid, and was willing to take younger players under his tutelage. It was a crime he didn’t get a invite to the NFL Combine.

7th Round-Darrel Williams-RB-LSU

Williams was a big time recruit out of High School that took a back seat to Derrius Guice at LSU, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t talented in his own right. Would be a good developmental prospect to add to the end of the RB roster. Runs with great power, and is one of the better pass protector’s in this year’s draft class. He also is a pretty reliable checkdown target out of the backfield. Showed pretty well at the Senior Bowl, and may be gone before the 7th Round.

...

This is Version 1 of my Offseason Predictions. I will try and update it as the offseason rolls along, and feel free to give me some feedback of what you liked, and didn’t like, on this approach to improving the Steelers roster.

Report: Steelers now receive 6th round pick from Giants in Ross Cockrell trade

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 7:46am

What was initially a 7th round draft pick in the trade with the Giants, has now reportedly turned into a 6th round pick.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had one heck of a cornerback battle going throughout the preseason between Ross Cockrell and Coty Sensabaugh to see who would start opposite Artie Burns in the 2017 season opener.

And then Joe Haden happened.

When the Steelers signed the Pro Bowl cornerback from Cleveland as a free agent, it made Cockrell, who lost said cornerback battle, expendable. Pittsburgh shipped Cockrell to the New York Giants for a 7th round draft pick.

Or so we thought.

Unbeknownst to the general public, there must have been a condition in the trade where if Cockrell played a certain percentage of snaps, the draft pick would turn into a 6th round pick. Conditions like these are normal in trades, just like the Steelers’ trade with the Philadelphia Eagles and Brandon Boykin a few years ago.

Nonetheless, according to Bob Labriola, of Steelers.com, Cockrell played enough snaps to change the draft pick from a 7th, to a 6th.

Was the Immaculate Reception actually the first play in @Steelers history to be subjected to a video review? A&A: https://t.co/vJYZ9hrXGu

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) February 15, 2018

Before this change, the Steelers would have had to sit out both the 4th and 6th rounds, but will now have a pick in every round but the 4th. The team, as well as the rest of the NFL, will be waiting to hear if they were awarded any compensatory picks as well.

But, in the meantime, the Steelers seem to have claimed a 6th round pick from the Giants.

So, they have that going for them.

Which is nice.

With this news, here is a rundown of the Steelers draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft:

  • Round 1: 28th pick
  • Round 2: 28th pick
  • Round 3: 28th pick
  • Round 4: None
  • Round 5: 11th pick from San Francisco, 28th pick
  • Round 6: 2nd pick from the New York Giants
  • Round 7: 28th pick

February 20th marks an important date for the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 6:19am

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell will likely be doing some talking Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell have reportedly been going through some long-term contract negotiations, and Tuesday, February 20th is a big day in those discussions. Reportedly, the Steelers and Bell circled the 20th on the calendar as a goal to get a long-term contract completed.

Why the 20th? The 20th of February is the first day NFL franchises can choose to place franchise tags on players, something Bell would like to avoid for the second straight year.

This from ProFootballTalk back during Pro Bowl week:

Bell told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN on Thursday that this is precisely what has happened. The deadline set by the team is February 20, and Bell said he’d like to get a deal done by then, too.

“That is definitely the goal,” Bell said.

Bell also said that negotiations can continue if they don’t hit their goal.

The date of February 20 wasn’t randomly selected; that’s when the window opens for applying the franchise tag. For Bell, the tag would result in a one-year guaranteed salary of $14.56 million, a 20-percent raise over his 2017 franchise tender of $12.1 million.

The move isn’t a surprise, because the Steelers often create artificial rules and deadlines when it comes to negotiations, and Steelers players almost always comply. Bell, frankly, should decline; the Steelers can huff and puff and leak unflattering details about Bell and otherwise whine about him taking a hard line, but Bell has the leverage. And he should use it.

There is a chance the Steelers and Bell come to terms on a new deal, especially after the team was able to create salary cap space by restructuring both Stephon Tuitt and David DeCastro’s current contracts.

However, if the two sides don’t come to terms on a deal, and the team places the franchise tag on Bell, again, it doesn’t mean a new contract isn’t going to get done. The two parties will have time to get a deal done, and if they don’t, like in 2017, the team will risk calling Bell’s bluff regarding his comments made of potentially walking away from the game rather than playing another year under the franchise tag.

With all that said, there could be big news Tuesday, but the day could also come and go with nothing more than the announcement the Steelers have placed the franchise tag on Bell.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on this story, and others, surrounding the black-and-gold.

NFL and DirecTV continue to stick it to fans by raising Sunday Ticket prices again

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 5:02am

If you are an NFL fan outside of your team’s viewing area, get ready to shell out more money for the product this year.

If you are like me, you are a fan of an NFL franchise and don’t live in the viewing area of said organization.

For me, I am obviously a Pittsburgh Steelers fan who now lives in Maryland. If I turn my television on during an NFL Sunday, I will see the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins. There is the occasion when the Steelers will take over, due to the Ravens having a late game or are on a bye, but those are few and far between.

So, how do I make sure I never miss a game?

Hello DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket!

I have been a Sunday Ticket subscriber for a long time, almost 10 years, and the product is remarkable. Not only do you get every game, but the picture-in-picture options and fantasy football trackers make the viewing experience awesome.

There isn’t a lot of negatives with the product, except one huge draw back — the price.

Some fans would rather go to a sports bar, listen to the game or try and use a shoddy online streaming service rather than shell out over $250 for the basic Sunday Ticket package.

Well, I have bad news for displaced fans like myself. The price is going up for the 2018-2019 season.

This from ProFootballTalk:

DirecTV is raising prices on its NFL Sunday Ticket package, which is the only way to watch every NFL game. The retail price will reach an all-time high of $293.94 in 2018, with the package that includes Red Zone Channel increasing to $395.95.

Many subscribers don’t pay full price, as DirecTV often offers discounts to entice new subscribers, or to convince current subscribers to renew. But the base price of the package is higher than ever.

The fact the NFL, with their viewer numbers going the wrong way, would not entice DirecTV to decrease the cost, or keep it the same, is beyond mind-boggling. Some fans are looking for a reason to stop following the National Football League, and the league office, who allowed DirecTV to have the rights to the Sunday Ticket package, are giving fans more reasons to stop watching.

However, as soon as I say this, I also realize I will pay for Sunday Ticket — even at nearly $300. Not only is following the Steelers a job now, but it is still a passion of mine. I can’t not watch the team, and I’m sure plenty of you reading this article are just like me.

With that said, will anyone not get Sunday Ticket, or may have already cancelled their subscription in previous years, do to the overall price? Let us know what you plan to do next season in the comment section below!

HIGHLIGHTS: All of Brown's TDs in 2017

Steelers.com Videos - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 5:00am
Check out all of Antonio Brown's touchdowns from the 2017 NFL season.

Asked and Answered: Feb. 20

Steelers.com News - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 5:00am
Another installment of Bob Labriola answering your questions about the Steelers and the NFL.

Mock Draft Monday: Steelers pick Boise State linebacker to fill huge void

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 12:53pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers take a linebacker from the blue turf to help them fill the giant hole they have at ILB.

The 2018 NFL Draft process is still very young. All-Star games like the Shriner and Senior Bowls have all concluded, but with the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is just days away things are just starting to heat up.

After the combine, where NFL teams will be meeting with specific athletes, Pro Days and pre-draft visits, then fans will truly get a feel for teams’ interest in specific athletes. Until then, most, if not all, NFL Mock Drafts are purely speculation and guessing.

Here at SB Nation, the latest mock draft has a linebacker coming to Pittsburgh, and this player is gaining momentum as an early fan favorite for the team’s first round draft pick.

Here is who Dan Kadar has mocked to the Steelers with pick No. 28 in his latest mock draft:

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Without a true explanation to the selection, some fans might want to know more about the kid from Boise State, and whether he could be a good fit for Pittsburgh or not.

This from his NFL Draft Profile:

STRENGTHS

Big, long and athletic. Has history of achievement with dominant performances and state titles in two sports in high school. Former basketball standout with fluid hips and smooth movement around the field. Almost no delay in his change of direction. Has agility and quick-twitch for sudden lateral bursts in his slides to close out slashers. Triggers with compact burst to the ball. Works under climbing blockers to stay clean. Easy sideline-to-sideline range as tackler. Has athletic ability to recover and tackle despite over pursuit. Widens frame and opens arms to welcome his prey as a tackler. Generally wraps up. Very talented in coverage. Quick but smooth in his drops. Mirrors quarterback’s eyes with ability to redirect from side to side as he follows. Uses active, catch-ready hands to breakup the pass or take it away. Shows real rush talent and instincts as a blitzer. May have enough ability to beat a tackle as edge rusher from time to time.

WEAKNESSES

Has just one year of starting experience. Still filling out his frame. Play strength has room for improvement. Has some struggles in taking on blocks and will get washed away by down blocks. Hasn’t learned to use hands effectively to punch and separate. Takes himself out of tackle opportunities by attacking iso-blocks and lead blocks with a shoulder. At times, will over pursue or run himself out of position in attempt to play fast and avoid having to deal with blockers.

BOTTOM LINE

Vander Esch is a loose-hipped, instinctive linebacker who played in 2017 like he had a GPS tracker on the football. His production totals against both the run and pass are rare for being a first-year starter and with a frame that is primed for more muscle, his NFL ceiling is high. Vander Esch might benefit from a reduced role his rookie season while he improves his play strength and becomes more skilled at taking on blocks. He’s an every-down linebacker with very good starting potential and the talent to fill up a stat sheet.

For the visual learners out there, check out Vander Esch’s highlight reel from his time on the blue turf:

What do you think of Vander Esch as a prospect? What do you think about the overall pick? Let us know in the comment section below!

If released, Mike Mitchell’s Steelers legacy will be one to forget

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:18am

The safety who loves to talk might be remembered for all the wrong reasons if released this offseason.

Leading up to Super Bowl 52, James Harrison, of the New England Patriots, was asked about his legacy with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After a rocky departure from the team midway through the season, Harrison drew the ire of fans across the globe.

He didn’t seem to care too much, citing Franco Harris ending his career with the Seattle Seahawks, not the Steelers, but every player who ever dons the black-and-gold leaves some sort of legacy.

Some legacies are written in stone, never to be forgotten.

Players like “Mean” Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jerome Bettis, Troy Polamalu and many more.

Some legacies are written, but would be better off being forgotten.

If Mike Mitchell has played his final snap in the Steel City, I would put his Pittsburgh legacy among the latter, not the former.

Signed as a free agent after a tremendous 4 interception season with the Carolina Panthers, Mitchell has done very little to live up to the hype, and his contract.

His tenure in Pittsburgh has been riddled with injuries. While a player cannot always help the fact they are injured, there is something to be said about those who can stay healthy, and ultimately stay on the field.

Mitchell dealt with groin, hamstring, ankle and shoulder injuries while in Pittsburgh, and, to his credit, he usually played through almost all of those injuries. Toughness was never the question with Mitchell, but production was.

In his four years in Pittsburgh, Mitchell has tallied 4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 23 pass defenses. All while never registering a sack. Compared to his time with the Oakland Raiders and Panthers, Mitchell production fell of a cliff when he came to the Steelers.

On top of the production woes, Mitchell was a player who fans didn’t respond well to considering his knack for being a bit too vocal, and sometimes at the wrong times. For the record, Steelers fans are okay with players who talk trash. Joey Porter is still a fan favorite, and no one talked more trash than Porter in his day, but Porter knew when to run his mouth.

The news of Mitchell’s talk before the Jaguars playoff game, and celebrating big hits in strange situations just compounded the overall fan reaction to Mitchell’s play, and his demeanor in doing so.

Although Mitchell claims to not care what fans think of him, or his style of play, his fan relations certainly say the complete opposite. Mitchell is known for blocking anyone, or website, on social media who may have ever criticized him at any point. In fact, Mitchell has blocked the official BTSC Twitter account for years, long before I became the editor of said establishment.

This has lead to many speculating Mitchell’s time in Pittsburgh has expired. This from Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

In some instances, those long pass plays were short completions that turned into big gains, in part because of poor tackling and bad angles in the back end. The Steelers want to address both — and correct both in the offseason.

And they could start with Mike Mitchell.

He is scheduled to count $8.1 million against the salary cap in 2018, a large number for a player who has just one interception, no forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries the past two seasons. More significantly, it has also become apparent to the coaching staff Mitchell cannot run well enough anymore to be effective, perhaps because of a series of injuries.

In any event, they will likely part ways with the 10-year veteran and seek a safety in free agency or select one high in the draft — or both. Each of the past two starters at free safety — Mitchell and Ryan Clark — were signed in free agency, so it is possible the Steelers could pursue that route again.

Mitchell may be back, and I wouldn’t be stunned if that happened, but there is a strong feeling he may be a salary cap casualty heading into the 2018-2019 season. If the team does release Mitchell, it is safe to say his Steelers legacy would be one to forget.

Steelers-By-Position: TEs

Steelers.com News - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 10:00am
The trade for Vance McDonald brought the team a player they believe can be a No. 1 tight end.

Do the Steelers have too much money invested in star players?

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 9:55am

The Steelers and Le’Veon Bell are hours away from their artificial deadline to finalize a new contract. Bell told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month that both sides would like to do a deal by Tuesday, the first day teams can place the franchise tag on players.

The Steelers’ 56 sacks didn't equate to a very opportunistic defense in 2017

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 9:05am

Despite leading the league in sacks with 56, the Steelers still didn't have an opportunistic defense in 2017.

Before the start of the 2017 regular season, if you would have told me the Steelers' defense, one still in the rebuilding stages after the glory days of Dick LeBeau, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, would go on to lead the league in sacks with 56, I would have waited around with bated breath for some sort of highlight video, detailing all those awesome takeaways and defensive touchdowns.

I'm sure whatever official 2017 video the Jaguars release this summer will highlight their defense's 55 sacks, but it will likely also pay tribute to its 33 takeaways and those seven touchdown returns—including two against Pittsburgh (three, if you count the playoff game on January 14).

I'm not much of a football expert, but I always kind of assumed a defense that was capable of producing well-over 50 sacks (and countless quarterback hits and pressures) would somehow be able to also scare up its share of takeaways and defensive touchdowns.

Unfortunately, Keith Butler's unit, while often ferocious, hard-hitting and obviously sack-capable in 2017, was far-from opportunistic.

In 16 regular season games, Pittsburgh managed a very underwhelming 22 takeaways to go along with zero, that's right, zero defensive touchdowns.

How does that even happen?

I mean, if you're getting to the quarterback as many times as the Steelers did on a consistent basis last year, how do you not manage a few more strip sacks, or a few more errant throws that result in interceptions?

How do you come away with exactly six fumble recoveries the entire season?

The whole thing just doesn't add up, especially when you consider the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles' defense managed to get the quarterback to the turf just 26 times in 2017, yet it was able to record 31 takeaways and six touchdown returns.

For years, starting in 2011, the Steelers defense, one that was "old, slow and it's over " by that point, struggled to get to the quarterback to the tune of about 35 sacks a season. As the years progressed, and the lack of a consistent pass-rush continued, I just assumed this was a big part of the reason the defense averaged under 20 takeaways a season between 2011-2014.

In 2015, Pittsburgh's defense posted a more than impressive 48 sacks, along with 30 takeaways.

Again, I just assumed those things went hand-in-hand, and the defense was becoming opportunistic again.

But that just hasn't happened.

Those 22 takeaways Pittsburgh recorded last year were preceded by just 23 the season before.

As we painfully found out last season, turnovers often play a vital role in the outcome of a football game.

A blocked field goal—effectively a turnover—ultimately proved to be the difference in an overtime loss to the Bears in Week 3.

Two quick interceptions returned for touchdowns in the third quarter helped the Jaguars come into Heinz Field and rout the Steelers, 30-9, in Week 5.

In the playoff rematch at Heinz, two turnovers—an interception and strip sack—led to 14 points in a game that was ultimately decided by three.

And, of course, Pittsburgh may not have had to face perhaps its worst possible match-up in the divisional round, if not for that deflected pass that was intercepted in the end zone in the final seconds of that devastating regular loss to the Patriots a few weeks earlier.

As it pertains to the Steelers lack of an opportunistic defense, you can blame the unfortunate injury to Ryan Shazier if you want, but that didn't happen until Week 13.

Besides, Shazier only missed a few games in 2016, when Pittsburgh's defense managed to post those measly 23 takeaways.

So why didn't sacks and takeaways go together for the Steelers defense last year?

If I had those answers, I'd be writing a different article. I do know opportunistic defenses have almost always been a main theme for any Super Bowl champion, as evidenced by the average of about 36 per year every Lombardi winner has posted over the past 52 regular seasons.

There have been some exceptions in recent years, namely the Patriots two most-recent Super Bowl champions, but, for the most part, if you don't take the football away at a reasonable rate, you don't win a Super Bowl.

The Steelers have solved many problems, as they've made the transition from Super Bowl contender in the 00's to Super Bowl contender in the 10's.

But one thing the Steelers haven't been able to solve—even in 2017, when they set a team record with 56 sacks—is their inability to produce an opportunistic defense.

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