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Podcast: What surprises lie ahead for the 2021 Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/23/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman leads the way with his AM studio show on the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

As members of Steeler Nation, there are so many things that we expect from the Men of Steel in 2021...but what surprises lie ahead for the Steelers? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC senior editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Steelers 2021 Training Camp: Tracking Day 1 Practice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 3:03pm
handout photo

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

After reporting to the facility yesterday, the Pittsburgh Steelers are scheduled to hit the field at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for 2021 training camp on Thursday.

Exactly what will be going on in the first week of training camp for the players has not been reported at this time. One thing we know for sure is the first padded practice at Heinz Field where fans can be in attendance is scheduled for next Wednesday, July 28. Until that time, we will be compiling as much information as to what is going on with the Steelers at practice as we possibly can.

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

Let’s get it!! pic.twitter.com/nDBNfY5NYk

— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) July 22, 2021

All smiles for another day of #SteelersCamp @Juiceup__3 | @rell_island6 pic.twitter.com/F0VXVH6Z2V

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 22, 2021

Ben Roethlisberger’s shirt suggested things will be different this season, but to do that, he’s not making any drastic overhauls to his offseason training. pic.twitter.com/JpiA34BxKI

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 22, 2021

New career peak: compared Ben Roethlisberger to Taylor Swift on @GetUpESPN this morning. pic.twitter.com/rfswSblDn2

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 22, 2021

First day of Steelers camp. Practice No.1 in two hours. pic.twitter.com/6q7pryryik

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) July 22, 2021

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

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

When @DerekWatt34 is running late to pick me up on the day he’s driving to work… https://t.co/jmKz9i0UV6

— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) July 22, 2021

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

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 22, 2021

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

— Charles Palla (@ChazPalla) July 22, 2021

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

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 22, 2021

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

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

What can’t Najee Harris do? pic.twitter.com/LZ5kVK9TAz

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 22, 2021

Steelers aren’t starting out with anyone on the PUP list, though a few guys didn’t participate - including LG Kevin Dotson, who Mike Tomlin said “tweaked” something but should be fine in a few days. TJ Watt didn’t do team drills, but did participate in individuals.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 22, 2021

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

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 22, 2021

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

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 22, 2021

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

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) July 22, 2021

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

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 22, 2021

Steelers re-sign a 2021 UDFA to fill out their 90-man roster

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 12:18pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday’s retirement of Vince Williams left the Steelers with one open spot on the roster.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers hit the practice field for the first time of 2021 training camp, an additional roster move has been made to get the team to 90 players. With the announcement of the retirement of Vince Williams yesterday, the Steelers have re-signed linebacker Calvin Bundage.

We have signed LB Calvin Bundage. @BordasLawhttps://t.co/CpWzMksi96

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 22, 2021

Bundage was released on Tuesday when the Steelers officially announced the signing of Melvin Ingram. But now that there is a spot open on the roster, the Steelers have brought back the 2021 undrafted free agent.

Missing all of the 2019 college season due to injury, Calvin Bundage received recommendations from doctors to not return to football. Overcoming his back injury, Bundage played 10 games his senior year at Oklahoma State where he notched 20 tackles, 8.5 of which were for loss, 7.5 sacks, and one pass defensed. In his four years with the Cowboys, Bundage appeared in 40 games with 149 tackles with 23 being for loss, 12.0 sacks, and two passes defensed.

Listed simply as a linebacker by the Steelers, it is unsure which position the Steelers were going to have Bundage settle in as he played both inside and outside linebacker for the Oklahoma State Cowboys at various times in his collegiate career. During minicamp, Bundage was seen in drills with inside linebacker coach Jerry Olsavsky, so it appears the Steelers were at least giving him a run at that position. Now that Bundage has been released and re-signed, perhaps he will be tested at the other linebacker position.

With many of these players at the bottom of the 90-man roster, they could be moving in and out throughout training camp as the Steelers make other roster moves. Whether or not this is the final transaction involving Bundage will be answered over time.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, training camp reports, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers Trifecta: The complete breakdown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

31 Days of articles tied up with a nice bow.

Welcome to the final edition of the Steelers Trifecta! Over the past 31 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 training camp, we highlighted three players every day in order cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. There were some roster moves done early enough it did not affect anything, but three roster moves over this process dictated a 31st day which lined up perfectly with the first day of camp.

Throughout this process we’ve learned a lot about this roster and those players that aren't household names. This exercise has made even the most boring of pre-season game interesting as we have some knowledge on every member of the team. Below I try my hand at building a depth chart for all 90 guys (minus the spot left behind by Vince Williams).

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dewayne Haskins, Josh Dobbs

RB: Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Kalen Ballage, Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds

FB: Derek Watt

TE: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Kevin Rader, Zach Gentry, Dax Raymond

WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud, Anthony Johnson, Cody White, Tyler Simmons, Rico Bussey, Isaiah McKoy, Mathew Sexton

C: Kendrick Green, B.J. Finney, J.C. Hassenauer

LG: Kevin Dotson, Rashaad Coward

RG: Trai Turner, Aviante Colllins

LT: Chuks Okorafor, Joe Haeg, Dan Moore Jr.

RT: Zach Banner, Chaz Green, John Leglue, Brandon Walton

DE: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Henry Mondeaux, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Abdullah Anderson, T.J. Carter

DT: Tyson Alualu, Carlos Davis, Isaiah Buggs, Calvin Taylor

OLB: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Cassius Marsh, Quincy Roche, Jamar Watson

ILB: Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert III, Miles Killebrew, Marcus Allen, Tegracy Scales, Christian Kuntz, Jamir Jones, Jarvis Miller

CB: Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Stephen Denmark, Shakur Brown, DeMarkus Acy, Mark Gilbert

FS: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Arthur Maulet, Tre Norwood, Lamont Wade

SS: Terrell Edmunds, Antoine Brooks Jr., Donovan Stiner

K: Chris Boswell, Sam Sloman

P: Pressley Harvin III, Jordan Berry

LS: Kam Canaday, Christian Kuntz

So without further ado, here is every link for every player we covered over the course of this series. So take a trip through the links below and learn a little bit more about this team, and the guys you will be rooting on in the fall!

Since we’ve made it to the end of these stories it means the return of Steelers football! Thank you for enjoying this series with us!

Podcast: A wild week of Steeler football is amping up before camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 11:00am

Michael Beck and Bryan Anthony Davis give their thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers and the teams they will have to take down on their way to a Lombardi trophy. Todays show will feature breaking news, commentary, and predictions for the 2021 season

Signings, retirements, rumors, and the beginning of training camp! Join Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict as well as many special guests as they break down one of the craziest weeks of the offseason and a look into training camp.

  • News and Notes
  • Guest Chris Carter, DK Sports
  • Get to know Chris Pugh, Paul Yanchek and Joe Frost from the upcoming BTSC podcast The Steelers Power 1⁄2 Hour

Michael and Geoffrey walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

T.J. Watt Sack Party, Part VI: Saving the Steelers from the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 10:00am
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Watt dominated the depleted Ravens as the Steelers escaped with a win.

The Steelers entered week 12 with a 10-0 record after winning their last two games by more than 20 points. They faced a Baltimore Ravens team that was in the midst of a Covid-19 outbreak, limping into the game with numerous significant absences.

Week 12, second quarter, 10:25. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the right side of the screen.

Watt takes #74 for a ride and records another sack (QB Robert Griffin III’s knee touches right before Dupree and Heyward get hands on him). You may remember that offensive lineman from earlier in this series when he ran a play wrong and got Lamar Jackson sacked in week 8. Rookie Tyre Phillips was overmatched as a rookie guard in week 8, in week 12 he was playing tackle and facing T.J. Watt. His technique is understandably flawed, and you can’t bring that against T.J. Watt and expect anything but bad results. The Ravens didn’t have a tackle that could handle Watt 1v1, and it was a major problem for them all game.

-Bonus, non-sack clip-

Week 12, third quarter, 9:48. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the right side of the screen.

Compounding Baltimore’s struggle to block T.J. Watt with a lineman is his athleticism and explosiveness off the snap that ruins running plays that try to account for an edge rusher without blocking them, like this one. Watt is in the backfield fast enough to read the handoff and make the play on either the quarterback or running back.

Week 12, third quarter, 4:41. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the right side of the screen.

That explosiveness combined with Watt’s knack for finishing plays makes him probably the most dangerous player in the NFL if he’s unblocked. Keith Butler does a great job giving blockers a lot of different schemes and looks to think about, and with a patchwork roster, a mistake like this was inevitable. Both Tyre Phillips and running back Gus Edwards take the inside rusher and Watt has a free run at Robert Griffin III.

T.J. Watt led both teams with 2 sacks, 3 QB hits and 3 tackles for a loss in this game, and he tied Robert Spillane for the Steeler lead with 6 total tackles. With the Steelers starting a terrible offensive run of 4 games without scoring 20 points, T.J. Watt’s domination of a depleted Ravens kept the Steelers undefeated for another week.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after Vince Williams’ retirement

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

With three changes after the signing of Melvin Ingram, the Steelers’ salary cap has barely moved.

On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that inside linebacker Vince Williams I was retiring after nine NFL seasons.

The retirement of Williams is not the only change to the Steelers roster since the last salary cap update following the signing of Melvin Ingram. The Steelers also signed their final 2021 draft pick in Kendrick Green and added an offensive tackle in Chaz Green.

First, Kendrick Green’s contract slid into the top 51 once he signed his deal on Tuesday. It ultimately bumps out one of the eight contracts which have a cap hit of $850k. The cost after displacement for Green’s contract will now be about $36.5k which will be added to the salary cap.

As for Vince Williams, he was one of the eight players whose salary cap hit was at $850k for 2021. His “dead money” from his previous contract when he was released has already been factored in so it doesn’t change anything. If simply saying Vince Williams was the $850k contract which was bumped by the Kendrick Green signing, Williams could be classified as not in the top 51 salaries. In other words, the Steelers do not save a single dollar at this time by the retirement of Vince Williams.

As for Chaz Green, his contract falls under the veteran salary benefit and only costs $780k against the salary cap according to overthecap.com. At this amount, he does not land in the top 51 salaries and does not affect the current salary cap number.

What exactly is the veteran salary benefit? As a reminder, here is an explanation given by frontofficenfl.com:

Veteran salary benefit: Formerly known as the minimum salary benefit, the veteran salary benefit allow teams to offer a “Qualifying Contract” to any player with at least four credited seasons at a reduced salary cap hit. Under this provision, a qualifying contract is a one-year deal worth the minimum base salary applicable to a player with his number of credited seasons, plus $137,500 in additional compensation (i.e., signing bonus, roster bonus, incentive, etc. — amount begins to increase in 2022). These contracts are charged against the salary cap at the rate of a player with two credited seasons that league year.

Now where do the Steelers currently stand with the 2021 salary cap? Before free agency kicked off, the Steelers were little more than $6 million under the salary cap. Since then, the number has fluctuated due to various moves.

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit, or change from what it previously was, for each player in 2021.

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $6 million

Ray-Ray McCloud: Reported $1 million salary; After displacement: -$0.34 million
B.J. Finney: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Cam Sutton: New report of $1.7 million; After displacement: -$1.04 million
Zach Banner: Reported $2.875 million; After displacement: -$2.215 million
Vince Williams: Saved $4 million salary; After displacement: +$3.34 million
Chris Wormley: Reported $1.6 million; After displacement: -$0.94 million
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Reported $2.4 million; After displacement: -$1.74 million
Tyler Simmons: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Joe Haeg: Reported $1.5 million; After displacement: -$0.84 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Steven Nelson: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.59 million
Cassius Marsh: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Eric Ebron: Reportedly saved $3.904; No roster displacement: +$3.904 million
Tyson Alualu: Reported $2.0375 million; After displacement: -$1.2575 million
Jordan Berry: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Kalen Ballage: Reported $920,000; After displacement: -$0.14 million
Rashaard Coward: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.07 million
Matthew Sexton: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jarvis Miller: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jamir Jones: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
T.J. Carter: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Abdullah Anderson: Reported $780k; not in the top 51: -$0
Vince Williams: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.07 million
Joshua Dobbs: Reported $900,000; After displacement: -$0.12 million
Mason Rudolph: Reported $2,193,066 cap number; After increase: -$0.945199 million
Dan Moore Jr: Reported $834,475; After displacement: -$0.054475 million
Buddy Johnson: Reported $784,836; After displacement: -$0.004836 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.067 million
Pat Friermuth: Reported $1,096,033; After displacement: -$0.311197 million
Najee Harris: Reported $2,372,263; After displacement: -$1.568887 million
Offseason Workouts: 90 players x $275/day x 32 days: -$0.792 million
David DeCastro: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.946624 million
Trai Turner: Reported $3 million; After displacement: -$2.196624 million
Melvin Ingram: Reported $4 million; After displacement: -$3.165525 million
Kendrick Green: Reported $886,502; After displacement: -$0.036502 million
Vince Williams: Saved $850,000; After displacement: -$0
Chaz Green: Reported $780,000; not in the top 51: -$0

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $9.87 million

Note: Miles Killebrew was the final contract displacing a $660k salary. From Cassius Marsh on, the displacement is a $780k salary. Buddy Johnson was the final contract displacing a $780k salary, so from that point on the contracts varied which were displaced. Now the contracts are at $850k which would be displaced.

So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $13,085,466 under the salary cap. OTC has accounted for all other Steelers’ moves except for Mark Ingram, so once they get Ingram’s contract on the books their number will be extremely similar to mine assuming Ingram’s deal does not include any void years.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $14,733,320 under the cap and has not changed since the last salary cap update. It should be noted that Spotrac does not have contracts for Ingram, Kendrick Green, or Chaz Green as well as the offseason workouts on the books at this time. Another discrepancy comes from where they are counting the prorated signing bonuses of players not in the top 51 toward the salary cap. One very big discrepancy is Spotrac has Trai Turner’s contract including four void years which has not been reported by any other outlet. If adjusting for these things, their number is also about the same as mine.

Also, the Steelers will need about an additional $9.5 million come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year. This number is dependent on the NFL going with a 16-man practice squad, and the exact players the Steelers release when they cut down their roster on August 31.

As training camp ramps up this week, the Steelers only have 89 players on their roster with the retirement of Williams. If the addition to the roster has a salary less than $850k, it will not affect the Steelers salary cap space at this time.

Podcast: Why Steeler fans can take “safety” in numbers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 8:25am

Matt Peverell breaks down the Steelers salary cap and player personnel situation every week in The War Room.

The safety position for the Steelers has been looked at over the years with skepticism. But the stats how that you can take safety in numbers. Join BTSC’s Matt Peverell for his solo show as he looks at possible future Steelers and examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers dollars and “sense” situation when it comes to personnel.

Check out the newest addition to the BTSC family of podcasts and stay a while with Matty in The War Room.

Rundown of the show:

  • Melvin Ingram - Comparisons to another noteworthy AFC North Edge rushed acquisition.
  • Terrell Edmunds - How he’s performed statistically better than what he gets credit for (comparisons to Derwin James and Jessie Bates)

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Predicting the Steelers’ 2021 53-man roster: Pre Training Camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With 2021 training camp around the corner, it’s time to make our way-too-early predictions for the Steelers 53-man roster.

The kickoff to the 2021 NFL preseason is only two weeks away. With players reporting to training camp, it’s time to give our way-too-early predictions for the Steelers 53-man roster to begin the 2021 season. Until we see players in action during preseason games, it’s difficult to project who the bottom of the roster players will be. Regardless, BTSC editor Dave Scofield and senior editor Jeff Hartman will give their input onto their thoughts of who will make the roster come August 31. Any changes from their first roster prediction in May will be noted.

Just like in 2020, it is still a 53-man roster. While last year some believed the roster was actually increased to 55 players, it was the possible elevation of two practice squad players who were eligible to move up to the roster each week without displacing any other players which had caused some confusion. Not that we’ve had a year to get used to it, hopefully there is no need to explain why it is a 53-man roster.

As always, we welcome you to join the conversation in our comment section below this article. Let your voice be heard and join in the black-and-gold conversation!

Offense

Quarterback (3)

Dave: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs

Changes: None

Analysis: I’m still not moving on from Dobbs until I see what Dwayne Haskins can do in black and gold. If he truly is a “low risk, high reward” guy, it will have to be evident in the preseason.

Jeff: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins

Changes: None

Analysis: The Steelers might have taken a flier on Haskins, but he also could represent the future of the position. No one thinks Dobbs is the future of the position for the Steelers, in fact, it really comes down to Rudolph and Haskins for that role, who are currently on the roster. Therefore, I see Dobbs as nothing but an insurance policy for training camp/preseason play in case Haskins stinks up the joint.

Running Back (4)

Dave: Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels

Changes: None

Analysis: Much like Dwayne Haskins, it will take Kalen Ballage showing what he can do with the Steelers in some game action before I put him ahead of players who were on the roster in 2020.

Jeff: Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels

Changes: None

Analysis: Does anyone think Ballage will actually make the team? I don’t.

Fullback (1)

Dave: Derek Watt

Changes: None

Analysis: Move along… still nothing to see here.

Jeff: Derek Watt

Changes: None

Analysis: What he said...

Wide Receiver (5)

Dave: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud

Changes: None

Analysis: The only thing is if they keep and extra receiver this year. If not, the other players are fighting for two or three spots on the practice squad.

Jeff: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud

Changes: None

Analysis: Barring an injury, this is their crew in 2021.

Tight End (3)

Dave: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry

Changes: Kevin Rader out, Zach Gentry in

Analysis: Although I like Rader’s special teams contributions more, I think Gentry may get the spot to start the year. If that is the case, I won’t be shocked in Rader is pulled up from the practice squad at some point.

Jeff: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry

Changes: None

Analysis: Gentry missed the vast majority of last season with a knee injury, but he was a drafted player. For that reason, and that reason alone, I give him the nod over Rader.

Offensive Line (9)

Dave: Zach Banner, Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, Trai Turner, B.J. Finney, Kendrick Green, Joe Haeg, Dan Moore Jr., Rashaad Coward

Changes: David DeCastro out, Trai Turner in

Analysis: The change was obvious as the roster move was made. The biggest questions come at the bottom of the list and if the Steelers want to have more pure guards than have an extra center. I think Coward has the chance to show more of what he can do than Hassenauer.

Jeff: Trai Turner, Zach Banner, Chuks Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, B.J. Finney, Kendrick Green, Joe Haeg, Dan Moore, J.C. Hassenauer

Changes: David DeCastro out, Trai Turner in

Analysis: The drafting of Green gives the Steelers some depth on the interior of the offensive line, and I just don’t see Rashaad Coward sticking around.

Total Offense: 25 Defense

Defensive Line (6)

Dave: Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis, Isaiahh Loudermilk

Changes: None

Analysis: The Steelers may try to find a way to keep more guys here, but it will be tough. I look for Mondeaux to land on the practice squad if he can get there much like last season. Buggs is a tough one to judge as well. Training camp will be big for both of them.

Jeff: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis, Isaiahh Loudermilk

Changes: None

Analysis: I agree with Dave here, but I think they find a way to keep Buggs, I just haven’t figured out where I would create that roster spot this early in the game.

Outside Linebacker (5)

Dave: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Quincy Roche, Cassius Marsh

Changes: Add Melvin Ingram

Analysis: I think the Steelers try to carry an extra guy on the edge with the addition of Ingram. Marsh brings a lot to special teams and and it’s too early to give up on Roche.

Jeff: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Melvin Ingram, Quincy Roche, Cassius Marsh

Changes: Add Melvin Ingram

Analysis: I don’t necessarily see the Steelers adding Ingram meaning they don’t keep all of their outside linebackers. Marsh, for what he lacks as a edge setting linebacker, is one heck of a special teams player. There is value there.

Inside Linebacker (4)

Dave: Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert III

Changes: Vince Williams out (retired)

Analysis: If the Steelers keep 5 outside linebackers, then they probably only keep four on the inside. With players like Miles Killebrew who could fill in from the safety position if needed (or listing him here and have him fill in at safety if needed), it’s the most reasonable way to work the numbers at this time. And with Williams’ retirement, there is not an obvious choice to go here at the moment.

Jeff: Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert III

Changes: Vince Williams out

Analysis: Barring the Steelers bringing in someone like Avery Williams, players like Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert II and Marcus Allen just got a big boost from Vince Williams’ retirement. I don’t have Allen listed as a linebacker, but he’ll be vying for the linebacker/safety role the Steelers like to utilize on their roster.

Cornerback (5)

Dave: Joe Haden, Cameron Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Arthur Maulet

Changes: Shakur Brown out, Arthur Maulet in

Analysis: Until we see them on the field, I have to think they guy with NFL game experience is ahead of the UDFA. But things could change early and often.

Jeff: Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Arthur Maulet

Changes: Shakur Brown out, Arthur Maulet in

Analysis: As much as I like Brown as a prospect, I could see him on the practice squad as the Steelers brought in Maulet to help the secondary.

Safety (5)

Dave: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew, Antoine Brooks Jr., Tre Norwood

Changes: Lamont Wade out, Tre Norwood in

Analysis: I put Killebrew here where I believe he belongs, and I switched Norwood for Wade because the Steelers coaches seem to be high on him. I still don’t like predicting that every draft pick makes the roster.

Jeff: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew, Antoine Brooks, Tre Norwood

Changes: None

Analysis: The Steelers value their draft picks, almost to a fault. Norwood is a versatile player, who can also play cornerback, and this will equate to a spot on the roster. Mike Tomlin loves players who are versatile.

Total Defense: 25 Special Teams

Specialists (3)

Dave: Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin III, Kameron Canaday

Changes: None

Analysis: The Steelers have never drafted a player who was strictly a punter and did not have him punt every game his rookie season.

Jeff: Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin III, Kameron Canaday

Changes: None

Analysis: As much as I want to get excited about Jordan Berry not being on this list, I also realize the Steelers started the 2020 season without Berry, and he found his way back onto the roster. I won’t be happy until Pressley Harvin boots Berry out of a job permanently.

Total Team: 53

Current and former Steelers congratulate Vince Williams on his retirement

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers remember Vince Williams’ career after his sudden retirement.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were dealt a surprise, and a blow to the roster, Wednesday when Vince Williams suddenly decided to retire from the NFL. After eight seasons, Williams is calling it a career, and this after a very strange offseason.

During this offseason Williams was released from the team, due to salary cap restraints, only to then sign back with the team for a one-year, veteran minimum contract. It just seemed odd to hear Williams, especially on the first day of training camp, chose then to say he was done playing the game.

Nonetheless, Williams has been a fan favorite since he was first inserted into the starting lineup after Larry Foote’s injury his rookie season. He embraced the fans, and the fans embraced him right back. Whether it was his Twitter beefs with opponents, his no-nonsense approach to the game or just his ability to send a message with a bone-jarring tackle.

Williams will be missed in the locker room as much as on the field, and now the Steelers will have to find a backup plan without No. 98 lining up next to Devin Bush. Will they stick to who they have now? Or will they try to bring in another linebacker to help fill the void?

Either way, both current, and former, Steelers teammates took to social media to congratulate Williams on a job well done, and to wish him well in his retirement. Check out some of the comments below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

(Editor’s Note: As more players take to social media, this story will be updated.)

One of the realest to do it!!!! Always kept it !! Enjoy your retirement fam!! https://t.co/t5BKDtN05U

— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) July 21, 2021

Congratulations on a phenomenal career @VinnyVidiVici98 !! I’m lucky to have shared the field with you! https://t.co/BLjS9k0kiP

— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) July 21, 2021

@VinnyVidiVici98 heck of a career! Enjoy the retired life!

— Arthur Moats (@dabody52) July 21, 2021

Congrats @VinnyVidiVici98 on a hell of a career man! pic.twitter.com/uuhHgJlf5n

— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) July 21, 2021

@VinnyVidiVici98 is the definition of a true professional. Congratulations and continuous blessings on a tremendous career brother! https://t.co/G9DMTvPn3o

— Josh Dobbs (@josh_dobbs1) July 22, 2021

@VinnyVidiVici98 congratulations on a great career bro! Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

— Robert Golden (@R0bG0lden) July 21, 2021

Podcast: Which offensive line combinations were most successful in 2020?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/22/2021 - 4:30am

The Oracle Dave Schofield shares his thoughts in the AM platform with the classic stats show with the Editor of BTSC.

Again, the Steelers offensive line is crucial to their 2021 fortunes. Which players played when and how the 2020 Steelers fared in those games may give you a glance into 2021. Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Balancing offensive and defensive production for the 2021 Steelers
  • and MUCH MORE!

Be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Vince Williams announces his retirement from the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/21/2021 - 5:12pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

On the day the Steelers reported to training camp, Vince Williams has decided to retire from football.

It has been a roller coaster offseason for Steelers linebacker Vince Williams. After being released by the Steelers as a cap casualty in March prior to the start of the 2021 league year, Williams signed back with the Steelers in mid April. But on the day players reported back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to kick off 2021 training camp, Vince Williams has announced his retirement from the NFL.

Vince Williams has announced his retirement.https://t.co/l3mx9MBo7n

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 21, 2021

In his eight seasons in Pittsburgh, Williams appeared in 121 regular-season games with 69 starts. Starting 11 games as a rookie for an injured Larry Foote, Williams did not become a regular starter again until his fifth season in Pittsburgh. With two career interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and five passes defenses, Williams has six career fumble recoveries, 20.5 sacks, and almost 500 combined tackles. In 2020, Williams was among the top players in the NFL in tackles for loss with 14.

A sixth-round draft pick in 2013, Williams spent his entire career in Pittsburgh. Exactly what brought the circumstances for Williams to retire are not known at this time.

Vince Williams was the embodiment of what it meant to be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. His hard-nosed, smash-mouth style of football continued to earn him a spot on the Steelers roster season after season.

Even after Williams retirement, the Steelers continue to have options at the inside linebacker position. With the return of Devin Bush, the Steelers also have Robert Spillane to take on the other starting role. Others on the depth chart include 2021 fourth-round draft pick Buddy Johnson as well as Ulysees Gilbert III. Additionally, the Steelers have several former safeties who are listed as linebackers on their roster such as Marcus Allen and Miles Killebrew.

On behalf of BTSC, we wish Vince Williams the best in his future endeavors.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, training camp reports, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

Devin Bush fully recovered from ACL tear, expected to be fully cleared to return to practice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/21/2021 - 4:30pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers should have Devin Bush back on the field for Day 1 of practice in training camp.

The Pittsburgh Steelers reported to their training camp at the team’s South Side UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Wednesday, and outside of everyone showing up they received some tremendous news.

No, it wasn’t the acquisition or trade of another player, it was the fact inside linebacker Devin Bush has healed enough he is deemed fully recovered from his ACL injury last season.

This per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Good news for Steelers on reporting day: ILB Devin Bush has recovered so nicely from ACL he is expected to be cleared to fully practice right away, per several sources.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) July 21, 2021

Not just getting Bush back, but having him back fully healthy is a huge boost for the Steelers defense. In fact, our own Kevin Smith just analyzed how Bush’s simple presence on the field can impact what the Steelers do on defense. Check out the link below:

Bush only appeared in five games in 2020 as he was injured halfway through the Steelers Week 6 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. In his roughly 4.5 games, Bush had three passes defensed, 1.0 sacks, two quarterback hits, and 26 tackles. But she was targeted 22 times in the passing game allowed 14 completions for 63.6% rate according to Pro Football Reference. Although only accounting for one sack himself, the Steelers averaged 4.8 sacks in games in which Bush appeared versus 2.91 sacks in games where he was not on the field due to his season-ending injury.

Bush’s return, combined with the addition of Melvin Ingram, has fans thinking this 2021 Steelers defense could be special. If Ingram and and Bush prove anything it is how important health is to the overall success of a defense. The Pittsburgh defense will again be considered one of the best in the NFL if they are able to avoid those gut-wrenching injuries which end players’ seasons prematurely.

On Day 1 the Steelers already are receiving good news, let’s hope that trend continues throughout training camp and the preseason.

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

Benny Snell named potential trade target for Rams after Cam Akers injury

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/21/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Could the Steelers be unloading a running back to the L.A. Rams?

Every year there are major injuries at the running back position, some of which occur before the season even begins. Well, this year is no different.

Running back is not a difficult position to find a replacement at if your starter goes down, but your depth is likely lacking after an injury. When Le’Veon Bell held out during the 2018 season, James Conner came in and softened the blow of not having Bell on the field. However, it is not comforting as a fan when your backups are now Stevan Ridley, Jaylen Samuels, and Trey Edmunds. Having Conner as the backup and Ridley as the third stringer would have been a much better scenario.

In fantasy football, it is a killer if you draft the starter that gets injured, but if you snagged their backup at a later point in the draft, you are feeling on top of the world. Sometimes, the backup may be available on the waiver wire and you are able to replace the injured starter you drafted, but if you cannot get to him in time, you just lost one of your only reliable running backs and have no way to replace him.

On Tuesday morning, it was reported that Rams running back Cam Akers suffered a ruptured achilles and could potentially miss the entire season. Backup running back Darrell Henderson, who was my highest rated running back in the 2019 NFL Draft, will now become the full-time starter.

Unfortunately, this injury leaves the Rams with very little depth. Running back Xavier Jones, a former undrafted free agent, seems to be the favorite for the backup job as of now, but he has not yet played an offensive snap in the NFL. Maryland rookie Jake Funk, who the Steelers reportedly had interest in before the draft, probably has the most upside of the bunch, but he struggled to stay healthy in college and is just a seventh round pick. After being released by the Buccaneers, 2020 seventh round pick Raymond Calais was signed by Los Angeles, but early indications point to him being used primarily on special teams. Otis Anderson is the only other running back currently on the roster, and he is only an undrafted free agent that was never the lead back during his time at UCF.

Whether it be via free agency or trading, the Rams are likely to add someone before the season, even if it is not a household name. After the way things ended with Todd Gurley in Los Angeles, a reunion seems unlikely. Le’Veon Bell is still on the market, and he would likely be an ideal fit for Sean McVay’s offense, but would a team with Super Bowl aspirations and improving chemistry want to bring in a guy that would bring as many distractions as Bell would? The Chiefs tried last year, and although he did not seem to be a major distraction during his time with the team, he was a shell of his former self on the field. He also burned down bridges on his way out, calling out Andy Reid for not giving him the playing time he had expected to get.

Perhaps a less controversial player that fits Sean McVay’s scheme is the way the Rams choose to go. In an article by Nathan Jahnke at Pro Football Focus, Steelers running back Benny Snell was mentioned as a potential trade target. Here is what Jahnke had to say about the potential move.

Benny Snell Jr. would be the biggest trade option for the Rams. He already appears to be the odd man out after Pittsburgh drafted Najee Harris. Snell has earned the 14th-best rushing grade on outside zone and man runs over the past three seasons at 79.0.

This is a very interesting suggestion. It is true that Snell is in danger of missing the roster, and if the Steelers could acquire a late round pick for him, it would be an excellent move by the Steelers front office.

However, the chances of the Rams biting seem iffy at best. Now, Geoffrey Benedict and K.T. Smith could elaborate on Snell’s running style in comparison to Sean McVay’s scheme much better than I could, but if we are going strictly off who would be the best complement to Darrell Henderson and who is the most attractive option for the Rams, a player such as James Robinson makes much more sense for the Rams. It is clear that Urban Meyer does not hold Robinson in as high esteem as the previous coaching staff, as they just spend a first round pick on Travis Etienne. Plus, Robinson would not likely be overly expensive to trade for, as the Rams would likely have to trade only a fourth or fifth round pick for Robinson. Trading for Snell would only cost a sixth or seventh round pick, but you are getting a much more productive back in Robinson.

Patriots running back Sony Michel is another player who could potentially be dealt or cut altogether. Damien Harris seems to be gaining steam as the top back in New England, and Michel cannot seem to avoid the injury bug. After the Texans added Mark Ingram and Philip Lindsay to the fold, David Johnson is another player who could be on the move.

Would Snell be a better fit for Sean McVay’s system than most of the options currently available in free agency? Possibly, but considering the other potential trade options and free agents that could be available after roster cutdowns, it would be a surprise if the Rams chose Benny Snell, especially when you consider that he himself could be cut and available for the taking in just a matter of weeks.

But what do you think of a potential Snell trade? Would you approve of such a move? Do you think there is any chance somebody offers anything of value for Snell’s services? Do you think Snell makes the 53-man roster in Pittsburgh? Be sure to light up the comment section with your thoughts on this topic and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!

The Steelers Trifecta: Wormley, Green, and Ingram III

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/21/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Day 31 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Chris Wormley, Chaz Green, and Melvin Ingram III

Welcome to the Steelers Trifecta! Over the 30 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 training camp, we will be highlighting three players every day in order cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. With roster moves, there is a bonus 31st day today to cover all the player. So without further ado, here are today’s three players:

Chris Wormley Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Position: Defensive Tackle
Age: 27
Year: 5
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 300
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 74, 2017 (Ravens)
College: Michigan
Roster Outlook: Likely
Analysis:

Chris Wormley’s inaugural season in the black and gold was hampered by injury but still enough to re-sign him to a two-year deal. Wormley will be fighting for the primary backup job on the Steelers defensive line, and has the size and skill to do it. Staying healthy will be the key for Wormley to make it to a third season with the Steelers. If he can stay on the field and provide quality play behind Heyward and Tuitt his new contract could look like a real sweetheart deal.

Chaz Green Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Tackle
Age: 29
Year: 5
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 315
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 91, 2015 (Cowboys)
College: Florida
Roster Outlook: Unlikely
Analysis:

Chaz Green has struggled in the NFL, although he manages to stick around and has made it to year five. But this move to me was more about replacing Jarron Jones with another cheap body and Green was the guy they settled on. He will compete with Joe Haeg and Dan Murphy Jr. for the swing tackle job, but I would say it’s unlikely he can supplant either.

Melvin Ingram III Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Outside Linebacker
Age: 32
Year: 10
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 265
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 18, 2012
College: South Carolina
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

The signing of Melvin Ingram cemented the depth chart of the Steelers defense. It was a necessary move that finally came to fruition and made the Steelers a better team because of it. He will compete with Alex Highsmith for playing time while providing key veteran support for T.J. Watt. If Ingram can remain healthy he should see around 30-50% of the snaps in every game, and because of the Steelers depth, Ingram won't have to worry about taking any special teams reps. This is a perfect fit for both sides.

Be sure to check back everyday for anther ‘trifecta’ of Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announces the schedule for enshrinement speeches

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/21/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Rich Graessle/PPI/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Five members of the Steelers organization will be recognized in the ceremonies on August 7th and 8th.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced the order of their ceremony for both the Centennial Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 the first weekend in August. The Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday, August 5, 2021, at 8:00 PM between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. The enshrinement of the two Hall of Fame classes will take place on Saturday evening for the 2020 class and Sunday evening for the class of 2021.

It was originally reported that Troy Polamalu would kick off the speeches on Saturday evening. Since the original announcement, the change has been made where Polamalu will appear in the 10th spot between Donnie Shell and Bill Cowher.

The speech orders for the Centennial Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 Enshrinements. Note that the order has been revised for the 2020 Enshrinement.#PFHOF20 | #PFHOF21 pic.twitter.com/qaEmetjG3f

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) July 20, 2021

The first ceremony will be on Saturday, August 7 beginning at 6:30 PM. The Hall of Fame has announced that they will keep the show at a much faster pace and asked members of each class to keep their remarks to six minutes. If a speech reaches the eight minute mark, there will be a musical cue to end their remarks.

The complete order for Saturday night’s enshrinement is listed below courtesy of profootballhof.com:

The full order of speeches for the Centennial Class of 2020 will be:

1. HAROLD CARMICHAEL

2. CLIFF HARRIS

3. EDGERRIN JAMES

4. STEVE ATWATER

5. PAUL TAGLIABUE

6. STEVE HUTCHINSON

7. DONNIE SHELL

8. ISAAC BRUCE

9. JIMBO COVERT

10. TROY POLAMALU

11. JIMMY JOHNSON

12. BILL COWHER

Special video tributes to the eight members of the Centennial Class of 2020 elected posthumously – BOBBY DILLON, WINSTON HILL, ALEX KARRAS, STEVE SABOL, DUKE SLATER, MAC SPEEDIE, ED SPRINKLE and GEORGE YOUNG – will be interspersed with the 12 live speeches. Each was enshrined in a special ceremony April 28 at the Hall of Fame.

With former Steeler safety Donnie Shell going in the seventh spot, all three players tied to the Pittsburgh Steelers who are a part of the centennial class will be in the second half of the ceremony.

On Sunday, August 8, 2001, the ceremony will begin at 7 PM and will include the seven members of the 2021 class as well as a video tribute to legendary Steelers scout Bill Nunn. Former Steelers All-Pro guard Alan Faneca is set to give his speech in the next to last spot:

The ceremony begins at 7 p.m.

The full lineup will be:

1. DREW PEARSON

2. TOM FLORES

3. PEYTON MANNING

4. JOHN LYNCH

5. CALVIN JOHNSON

6. ALAN FANECA

7. CHARLES WOODSON

A video tribute to Class of 2021 member BILL NUNN will be shown as part of the program.

August 5th through the 8th is shaping up to be a fantastic experience for Steelers fans. Whether attending in person or watching the activities at home, the Steelers are well represented in Canton this year. Between playing in the game and having three players, one coach, and a scout who will be the first person of color elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the contributor category as part of the enshrinement, it’s a full weekend for Steelers’ Nation.

Podcast: Answering the Steelers biggest questions going into camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/21/2021 - 11:00am

In the spirit of brotherly love, siblings Dave and Rich Schofield break down all things surrounding the black-and-gold.

The five biggest questions for the Steelers going into training camp are getting bigger each day as camp looms. What could they be and can they be answered? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers biggest questions going into camp

Dave and Rich 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

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If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

FILM ROOM: The return of Devin Bush and his impact on the Steelers defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/21/2021 - 8:47am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers will get Devin Bush back in 2021, and it will have a huge impact on the defense.

The Steelers kick off training camp next week with a host of storylines to follow. While much attention has been given to the changes on offense, from the elevation of Matt Canada to coordinator to the drafting of running back Najee Harris to the reshuffling of the offensive line, one of the most important developments is on the other side of the football.

Linebacker Devin Bush’s return from last season’s knee injury is a huge plus for Keith Butler’s unit. The defense is simply better when Bush is on the field. They play faster, rush the quarterback better, are better in coverage and are tougher against the run. Bush’s versatility allows Butler to vary his fronts, stunts and coverages without having to substitute, creating deception and flexibility.

Back in May, Geoffrey Benedict and Dave Schofield did a Vertex article on Bush’s return by juxtaposing his skills versus those of Avery Williamson, who replaced Bush in the lineup after Bush was injured. This film room takes a different tack. It examines two of the games against the Cleveland Browns from last season. The first game, in Pittsburgh in October, was a 38-7 romp for the home team in which the Steelers held Cleveland to 12 first downs and 220 total yards. Bush was all over the field, recording seven tackles, half a sack and playing great pass defense before suffering his season-ending ACL tear just before halftime.

The second game is the playoff contest against Cleveland in January. As we shall see, the Browns created mismatches in their game-plan to exploit Bush’s absence and had answers for just about every move Butler made to compensate. Cleveland hung 48 points on the Steelers in a demoralizing finish to a once-promising season.

Here’s a breakdown of those two games and of the impact Bush’s presence, and lack thereof, had on each.

October 18, 2020: Pittsburgh 38, Cleveland 7

An opening drive field goal for the Steelers followed by a pick-six from Minkah Fitzpatrick staked Pittsburgh to an early 10-0 lead. This did not deter Cleveland from their desire to pound the football, however. When they took possession midway through the 1st quarter, they loaded up in heavy (12) personnel and ran right at the Steelers.

It didn’t work. Pittsburgh countered with a 2-4-5 nickel look that invited Cleveland to attack their seemingly-outnumbered front. However, the Steelers cheated safety Terrell Edmunds (34) and nickel corner Mike Hilton (28) into the box just before the snap to create an 8-on-7 advantage. Pittsburgh’s defenders held their gaps on both sides of the ball, including Bush (55), who scraped patiently to lock down the backside cut. With the plus-one advantage, Vince Williams (98) came unblocked to drop running back Kareem Hunt for a loss:

On Cleveland’s next series, they tested the middle of the Pittsburgh defense again. With the ball on the left hash and Bush set to the field, Cleveland again went 12 personnel and aligned in an unbalanced look with both tight ends set to the right. They ran an inside zone concept, looking to get 6’6 tackle Jack Conklin (78) on the 5’10 Bush. But Bush beat Conklin to the hole, then squeezed the gap to prevent a seam from developing. Hunt was forced to bounce his run wide, where a host of Steelers swarmed him for a short gain:

Having no luck running inside, Cleveland tried the edge. They stayed heavy, aligning in 12 personnel with an extra offensive lineman to create an 8-man blocking surface. The Steelers countered with their 3-4 base defense and brought Edmunds into the box as an eighth defender. It was mano-a-mano up front, a scenario Cleveland must have felt confident they could exploit.

Once again, they could not. The Steelers set a hard edge, ran to the ball well and closed off the cutback lanes. Bush, who was aligned on the right hash on the backside of the play, did a nice job using his quickness to beat the reach block of the center. He scraped across the midline then neutralized the center’s block with a great two-hand punch to the chest, once again leaving Hunt with nowhere to go:

Soon after, the Browns found themselves in a 17-0 hole. At that point, they abandoned the run and let quarterback Baker Mayfield cut loose with his arm. Pittsburgh had a plan for that, too, with Bush again at its center.

First, Butler brought Bush (crowding the line of scrimmage outside the left hash) on a controlled blitz, where he drew a block from the running back to delay his check-release, then used his speed to pressure Mayfield into an incompletion when Mayfield bailed from the pocket:

Next, Bush (aligned directly over the ball at the snap) helped force an interception by blanketing Mayfield’s outlet receiver. Watch how Mayfield initially looked to his right as he took his drop. Then, when pressure from T.J. Watt forced him to step up in the pocket, he looked left for the back in the flat. Bush had effectively closed off that route, however. With the play now breaking down, and linebacker Bud Dupree closing in, Mayfield made a poor decision to throw off of his back foot into coverage, where corner Cam Sutton picked him off:

As the Steelers’ lead grew to 24-0, Butler stayed creative with how he used Bush. Here, from the base 3-4, he employed him as the “rat” to seal off the middle of the field, which Bush did effectively against an in-cut from tight end Austin Hooper:

Then, on a fire-zone stunt, Bush combined with Stephon Tuitt for a sack. Bush and Edmunds played a combo coverage on Hunt, with the defender to the side of Hunt’s release picking him up. Hunt released right, towards Edmunds, so Bush came on the delayed blitz. He used his quick closing speed to hammer Mayfield following Tuitt’s initial contact:

Finally, on the play where Bush was injured, he ran down D’Ernest Johnson (30) swinging out of the backfield. Bush’s coverage forced a poor throw from Mayfield. Had Mayfield put the ball on the money, Bush would have flattened Johnson. Instead, he planted awkwardly and was done for the season. It was a dark moment in an otherwise brilliant day for the Steelers.

January 10, 2021: Cleveland 48, Pittsburgh 37

The playoff rematch began as a near mirror-opposite of the October contest. Cleveland scored on defense on the first play from scrimmage, then converted an ensuing Pittsburgh turnover into another quick score. As the game progressed, it became clear the Browns were exploiting Bush’s absence in three significant ways, none of which the Steelers could adequately answer.

First, Cleveland used a healthy dose of 11 personnel to induce the Steelers into a 3-3-5 nickel that substituted a defensive back for the Mack (weakside) linebacker. They then ran the ball to the weak side, exploiting the matchup of their linemen on Pittsburgh’s undersized Mack player.

Here, the Browns attacked Terrell Edmunds (34), who was slotted into the Mack role. Edmunds was manhandled by the guard and running back Nick Chubb rambled for 17 yards:

The Steelers then tried Mike Hilton (28) at the Mack. Unfortunately, the results were similar. Cleveland ran at the weak side again, this time using a gap scheme that featured their left side blocking down and the right guard pulling and kicking the edge. They tried to block down on Hilton with wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (11), who was compressed just outside the formation. Hilton beat the down block but was unable to read the play properly. He took himself out by running into the back of Robert Spillane (41), allowing Chubb to escape up the gut:

Cleveland’s second adjustment was to attack the perimeter when the Steelers played with two traditional inside backers. Once Pittsburgh scrapped the 3-3-5 by inserting Vince Williams at the Mack, the Browns immediately spread things out and forced Williams to play in space. They favored quick throws to the perimeter that made Williams navigate clutter and run to the football.

Watch here how Williams, aligned just outside the right hash at the 23 yard line, hesitated while reacting to the “now” screen thrown to Jarvis Landry. This allowed the left guard (68) to climb and reach him, pinning him inside. Only a nice job by Hilton of getting off a block and making a sound tackle kept this from being a big play:

Here’s another. With Williams aligned in the alley to the short side of the field, the Browns ran a slant-flat concept that served as a pick on Williams. Cleveland bet that Williams wouldn’t be able to navigate the pick and stay with Kareem Hunt as he worked to the flat. They were right. The pick wasn’t called and Cleveland got away with an easy catch and run:

Cleveland’s third major adjustment was to run the ball away from Spillane. This forced him to be the backside scrape and chase player, a role for which he was not well suited.

Think back to the earlier GIF that showed Bush beat the block of the center from the backside. Bush was quick enough to get over top of a lineman two gaps inside of him. Here, in stark contrast, Spillane (41) was unable to beat the reach block of the offensive tackle immediately to his right. He got hung up, lost ground, then was too high on his tackle and got bullied into the end zone by Hunt:

On this run, Spillane false-stepped away from the play and was again pinned by the guard. He provided no backside pursuit as Hunt glided easily into the end zone:

Whether it was running at smaller box defenders or exploiting bigger, slower ones in space, Cleveland did a nice job targeting the weaknesses in Pittsburgh’s defense created by Bush’s injury.

A healthy Bush, as we saw from the game in October, nullifies those advantages for an offense. He’s physical enough to play the inside run, fast enough to run plays down from the backside, skilled as a blitzer and capable of handling backs and tight ends in coverage. With him, Pittsburgh is an elite defense. Without him, they have matchup problems against versatile offenses. That’s why Bush’s return to the field, beginning at training camp next week, will be one of the biggest storylines of Pittsburgh’s 2021 season.

Steelers 2021 Training Camp Tracker: See the players reporting for Day 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/21/2021 - 8:40am
handout photo

The Steelers are reporting to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to begin the preparation for the 2021 season.

Today is the day many Steelers fans have been waiting for. It signifies the end of the 2021 offseason and the beginning of the 2021 preseason as the Pittsburgh Steelers report to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for Day 1 of 2021 training camp.

It had first been reported the Steelers would be kicking off training camp on Thursday, July 22, but late Tuesday evening the Steelers posted on Twitter players would be reporting on Wednesday.

Exactly what will be going on in the first week of training camp for the players has not been reported at this time. One thing we know for sure is the first padded practice at Heinz Field where fans can be in attendance is scheduled for next Wednesday, July 28. How much coverage of the goings-on at the South Side facility over the next week is unknown at this time, but the players have reported for business.

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

Back in the building #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/JoqpYcV0ht

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 21, 2021

7️⃣ checkin' in pic.twitter.com/YzfEMJaoPs

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 21, 2021

#SteelersCamp #️⃣1️⃣ for these guys pic.twitter.com/CwqLQ4nDJK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 21, 2021

.@kdd7696 with the @JeromeBettis36 #SBXL jersey pic.twitter.com/5VBZ5joqz0

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 21, 2021

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will win the Super Bowl in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/21/2021 - 7:30am
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

In the “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2021 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

It is simple how it works. We provide you the scenario, reasons why it will or won’t happen, and then our prediction for what we think will take place.

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: The Pittsburgh Steelers will win the Super Bowl in 2021

Why it will happen: When the Steelers’ backs are against the wall, it seems they play their best. The last time they had the strongest schedule, at least in my shoddy memory, was when they found their way to Super Bowl 43. I think most fans would admit if Mike Tomlin has a flaw, it is the fact his teams sometimes play down to the level of their competition. The good news is this won’t be happening very often in 2021. If the Steelers can play up to their competition, which happens almost as frequently as the alternative, the Steelers will be extremely competitive this season. But the scenario is they win the whole thing. I am a firm believer that you just need to get into the dance to have a chance at the trophy. If the Steelers are playing their best football, and as healthy as possible, entering the playoffs, they have as good a chance as anyone.

Why it won’t happen: The Steelers’ 2021 schedule is a murderer’s row if I’ve ever seen one, and you have to wonder if this roster will have what it takes to get the job done. You have to assume there will be injuries throughout a 17-game season, and if the Steelers lack anything it is quality depth at key positions. This is a season where it could go either way, it could be a 6-11 season, or an 11-6 season. You don’t have to go far on social media to find fans who believe this team will be awful, and after the salary cap dropped this offseason you can definitely understand why some think that way. A Super Bowl seems like a long shot right now.

Prediction: I am an eternal optimist when it comes to the Steelers. Always have been, always will be. However, I am long past the days of predicting Super Bowl championships. Back in 2005 and 2009, even during the season, I never thought the Steelers were going to win it all. This year is a team which could go either way. I’ll err on the side of the Steelers not winning it all. All in hope of being proven wrong.

Check out yesterday’s ‘30 Scenarios in 30 Days’ prediction:

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

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