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Ryan Shazier continues to progress, is ‘1,000 times’ better than in December

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 5:36am

The injured, and beloved, inside linebacker updates fans on his progress.

When it comes to Ryan Shazier’s back/spinal chord injury which occurred on that fateful night in Cincinnati, everyone just wanted an update.

Something to give them even the smallest glimmer of hope.

Periodically UPMC, or the Steelers, would update Shazier’s status. However, it wasn’t until Shazier posted a picture of him standing alongside Ben Roethlisberger, and then stood at a Pittsburgh Penguins game when fans really started to feel at ease with the situation.

Football is great, but most just wanted Shazier to be able to walk and play with his child like a normal adult male.

While Shazier continues to rehabilitate his back, with him not playing in 2018 many may have put the Shazier story on the back burner. However, when he was a co-captain at the Ohio State University Spring Game this past weekend, ESPN caught up with Shazier to find out how he is doing.

“Every day I’m doing a lot better,” Shazier told ESPN’s Marty Smith. “I’m able to move around a lot more. I’m doing 1,000 times better than I was in December, and I’m just thanking everybody and all the prayers, because that’s definitely helping me get a lot better.”

To say he has learned a few things throughout this process might be a huge understatement.

“You just always have to understand that anything can happen,” Shazier said. “Everybody always says it, but you always never think it can be you. In this situation, it really made me realize that. It also made me realize that in certain causes that a lot of people can come together no matter what the situation is, and I’m really thankful for that.”

Shazier’s improvement is always good news, and we here at BTSC, along with all of our readers, continue to send our positive thoughts and prayers out to Ryan as he continues to work his way back to full health.


AB amazes through the years Videos - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 5:00am
Check out some of the best highlights from Antonio Brown over the past eight years.

Asked and Answered: April 17 News - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 5:00am
Another installment of Bob Labriola answering your questions about the Steelers and the NFL.

Former Steelers LB James Harrison an all-time team great who won't make Hall of Fame - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 5:54pm

The conversation was about Steelers all-time greats. A co-worker asked me to rank the best players in franchise history who won’t get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I didn’t include Alan Faneca, Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown because they will make it to Canton. My list had L.C. Greenwood, Donnie Shell, Andy Russell, Hines Ward and James Harrison. I put Harrison No. 1.

Phase One of offseason workouts begin Videos - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 5:00pm
Players are back in the building working towards the 2018 NFL season.

Phase One of Steelers offseason workouts begin Videos - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 5:00pm
Players are back in the building working towards the 2018 NFL season.

Mock Draft Monday: A draft day trade which moves the Steelers into the Top 10

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 1:12pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers picking in the Top 10? The latest mock draft draws up a trade which could have it happen.

For teams who draft in the back of the 2018 NFL Draft, there are times when things can get boring. As teams like the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and plenty of others are all talking about their Top 10 selections, a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers is forced to take a wait-and-see approach due to their on field success in 2017.

However, what if they didn’t have to just wait around to see what was going to happen and who might fall to them? What if the team actually made a draft day trade which impacted not just two teams, but three?

This is exactly the scenario Bill Barnwell of ESPN draws up in a recent article. He has the Steelers shipping Le’Veon Bell, the 28th pick and a third round pick, to the Washington Redskins, while the Redskins send Chris Thompson, the 13th pick and a 2nd round pick to the Indianapolis Colts.

What do the Steelers get in all of this mess? Try the No. 6 pick in the upcoming draft.

Take a look...

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers get: 1-6

Colts get: RB Chris Thompson; 1-13; 2-44 (from Washington)

Washington gets: RB Le’Veon Bell; 1-28; 3-92 (from Steelers)

It’s easier to think of this as a series of trades. First, Washington move up from No. 13 to No. 6 by sending its first- and second-round picks, which are a near-perfect match on the Johnson chart for the sixth overall selection. Washington sweetens the pot by including the wildly underrated Thompson, who is coming off of a broken leg but is about to begin a relatively team-friendly two-year, $7 million deal. He’ll be the pass-catching half of a rotation with Marlon Mack.

Then, Washington sends the sixth pick to the Steelers to get a new franchise icon in Bell, who obviously will be in line to sign a new deal as part of the trade. Washington moves down to 28 and gains a third-rounder after losing one in the Alex Smith deal. The 808-point difference on the Johnson chart roughly values Bell as being worth the 21st overall selection of a typical draft, which would be a generous return for a guy with one year left before free agency. (You could argue that Washington could just use the sixth pick to draft Barkley and save millions in the process, but that is a level of rationality the organization has not earned.)

That leaves the Steelers, who might be giving up on signing Bell to a long-term contract. Well, how does Barkley sound as a replacement? Trading into the top 10 for a running back wouldn’t exactly be a very Steelers-y move, but Barkley’s athleticism and wide-ranging skills would make him the best immediate replacement for Bell while the Steelers are in win-now mode at the end of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. It even creates about $6 million in new cap room for Pittsburgh to go after a veteran front-seven piece after June 1.

This trade would rock the NFL in many ways, but mainly for the Steelers. Barnwell has the Steelers taking Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the 6th pick, and moving forward with a combination of Barkley and James Conner in the backfield.

While this scenario is far-reaching, it is interesting to wonder what the Steelers would have to give up, and get, for Le’Veon Bell. However, it should be noted Bell would have to sign his franchise tag tender if the team plans on shopping him around on draft day.

Kevin Colbert has stated several times how he might not be the one making these trade calls, but he always picks up the phone when someone calls him. Could a team, or teams, put together a package deal which is just too good to turn down?

Only time will tell, and while unlikely it sure is fun to consider the ramifications.

Steelers 2017 Draft Retrospective: Did JuJu live up to the draft-night hype?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 11:35am

Steelers 2017 rookie receiver JuJU Smith-Schuster had a high bar to clear in 2017, considering he had to share a receivers room with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. But did he live up to the draft-night hype?

Confession time: I’ve never experienced “juju”, good or bad.

I’ve never Juju’d on that beat.

I’m not even a fan of Jujyfruit candies. Seriously, they’re like gummy bears on steroids. The stick to your teeth like it’s nobody’s business. Ever been entertained by a dog eating peanut butter for a few minutes? Feed the pup some Jujyfruits and settle in for hours of entertainment.

But I digress.

What I have done, though, is pass snap judgement on Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. It turns out I was a little wrong, and a good bit right in my kneejerk reaction after he was announced as the Steelers’ second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

What I said

On many levels, this feels like an unnecessary luxury pick. ... The Steelers got a very talented player, despite the need being questionable.

What happened

As it turned out, there was nothing luxurious about this pick -- the Steelers needed every last snap Smith-Schuster played. Of course, it would have been nuts to try keeping him off the field, anyway. From almost the beginning, he showed his value. In week two he had a modest three catches on four targets while adding his first career touchdown. He would go on to set a record for the most touchdowns scored before turning 21 years old, scoring five before his November 22 birthday. But what made him most valuable of all was that he was performing well on the field at a time when Martavis Bryant, returning from a yearlong suspension, was struggling to find his old groove with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

What I said

Smith-Schuster lacks deep-threat speed, but he uses his size exceedingly well to shield defenders and give him a clear shot at the ball. With long arms, combined with his 6’-1” height, he has tremendous length, too, which works if you are a true hands catcher, which Smith-Schuster absolutely is. Rarely do you ever see the ball get into his body. He has tremendous body control in the air, and gets his head around to see the catch into his hands. If he was a little faster, he may have been a first-round pick.

What happened

Let’s take the deep-threat part out of the equation for a second. Everything else here was based on observations from his college game film, and it was as true as ever in his first year as a pro. Smith-Schuster has some of the softest hands in the entire NFL, and I really don’t feel like that’s hyperbole. Sometimes, the greatness of others can be muted when you have a future Hall-of-Fame player like Antonio Brown playing the same position, but there is no reason to overlook just how effortless Smith-Schuster makes catching a football appear.

Now, about that deep-threat part: clearly, the kid spent time before the season learning from Brown how to generate significant separation when you lack a true top gear, because he had a knack for getting open against otherwise tight coverage. I offer his 97-yard touchdown against the Lions — the longest reception in the NFL in 2017 — as exhibits A through Z. This was all about impeccably precise route running and selling body fakes like they were Fifth Avenue real estate for pennies on the dollar. Rumor has it defensive back Quandre Diggs had bruises from getting beaten so badly. Bottom line: separation isn’t all about speed if you have the ability to move the defender out of the way without even touching them. With a mentor like Brown, there is no reason for anyone with half a brain to improve as a receiver, and Smith-Schuster absolutely did not disappoint.

What I said

[T]he need at receiver was a little bigger than it may have looked, based on sheer numbers. (Sammie) Coates suffered what turned out to be a significant injury to his hand [in 2017], and his production didn’t just drop, it plummeted halfway through the Earth’s mantle. Despite surgery to repair it, there is no guarantee he returns well.

What happened

This tells a mere one third of the story as to how Smith-Schuster became, for all intents and purposes, the Steelers’ number-two receiver. Coates was traded to the Cleveland Browns for approximately a box of peanuts. That cleared one potential obstacle out of the rookie’s way. Add to that the fact that Eli Rogers spent most of the first three quarters of the 2017 season failing to rise up to the bar he set in 2016, appearing most of the time to be not just on a different page than Roethlisberger, but perhaps a different chapter. He ended the season with just 18 catches in 14 games. That resulted in Smith-Schuster progressively spending more and more time in the slot.

But it was Bryant’s early-season struggles and, eventually, a social-media tirade that made Smith-Schuster a near-permanent fixture opposite Brown. In retrospect, no one is complaining.

Except, perhaps, Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict. But, again, I digress.

While the Steelers made a great first-round pick in outside linebacker T.J. Watt, Smith-Schuster could go down in history as the best pick of the entire 2017 draft, for any team, at least when looking at value. He was underrated due to a lack of top-end speed, and then proved he never needed it anyway, and nearly put up a 1,000-yard season as a rookie, on a team with Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and running back Le’Veon Bell all taking significant numbers of targets. That’s downright remarkable.

And, given how much the kid has endeared himself to the entirety of Pittsburgh with his whole-hearted embrace of the city, as well as his fun-loving, often child-like demeanor, it’s no surprise that fans are clamoring to see how he improves upon an already outstanding start to his career. He’s a Pittsburgher, through and through.

Not to mention, one heckuva draft steal.

Paul Zeise: James Harrison is an all-time Steelers great - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 11:32am

James Harrison announced his second retirement Monday morning, but it seems pretty clear he won’t be making another comeback. 

Two defensive linemen — LSU's Greg Gilmore and Delaware's Bilal Nichols — visit Steelers - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 10:34am

A couple of late-round defensive line prospects are visiting the Steelers Monday, 10 days from the start of the NFL draft. Greg Gilmore of LSU and Bilal Nichols of Delaware are visiting the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. 

Misconceptions Surrounding Le’Veon Bell, Part One: Greed and Loyalty

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 9:36am

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell have a unique relationship. With that said, the Steelers’ All-Pro running back is also extremely misunderstood.

Le’Veon Bell tweeted recently how he is a victim, complaining about how fans view him as a villain.

He’s right.

I read every day here on BTSC, and in other media sources, comments blasting Bell for everything from poor play, to being greedy, to his checkered past. Some aspects of these views have merit, but many others are half-truths or outright falsehoods. Most upsetting are the false narratives spread by other writers and fans on the web. Steeler fans are some of the most voracious and knowledgeable in the NFL. There is no such thing as an offseason for the majority of fans. Hunger for news or opinionated articles drives the fanbase too often to take opinions and assumptions as fact and not for the value of what they actually are — just some writer or commenter’s opinion.

So, it’s time to set things straight: Are fans judging Bell fairly, by his real past and actions on and off the field, or are they judging him according to “what they’ve heard”? Let’s take the misconceptions about the Steelers star one at a time and focus on the money, contract and salary cap aspects.

No. 1: Bell is a greedy player.

It amazed me, once I thought about it, how simple this misconception is to dispel. Think about it like this: After this season, Ryan Shazier will have made $18 million in the NFL. That is more than 99-percent of us will ever make in our lifetimes. Shazier had no choice in what he was going to make this season, or in the first four years of his career, for that matter. Pittsburgh slapped him with the fifth-year option, which meant he could not even test the open market.

Do you feel sorry for Shazier?

Now, what if that were Bell laying on the field clutching his back this season — would you feel pity for him? Would he still be greedy in your eyes?

No. 2: The song and the $15 million man.

What is the main purpose of a rap artist? His job and goal are to entertain, and by entertaining, sell copies of his music, which generate money. Do you really take everything a rapper says at face value? If so, doesn’t that make you look a little naive?

I can get behind the ideas that there are little green men, ghosts and even fortune tellers (OK, I am joking about fortune tellers; that’s going a little too far.). However, I am not ever going to take a mediocre/bad rapper’s lyrics as gospel.

In his song, Bell drops the line, “I’m at the top and if not I’m the closest, Ima need 15 a year and they know this.”

Now, think about the timing.

Bell penned these lyrics right after his troubled 2015 season, which included a three-game suspension and ended with a severely torn MCL which limited him to six games. After a year like that, Pittsburgh obviously was not going to tear up the last year of Bell’s deal when he was making a paltry $1.1 million and the team held the option to franchise tag him or simply let him walk.

Think about the rap again, and now you tell me: Is Bell a fortune teller? Or a just a young dreamer? Or is he simply a guy trying to make a buck?

No. 3: The $17 million quote/rap/rant. (I personally do not even know exactly what to call it. Was he rapping or just talking smack?)

It caused a big fuss a couple of weeks ago when NFL reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala stated in an interview that Bell “wants to be paid exactly like Antonio Brown is paid”. Steeler Nation and the entire NFL went ballistic; everyone was furious. She said it so offhandedly during the interview that it was like the idea was nothing new. Was she quoting a source? In my opinion, no, as she never mentions a source. As an NFL reporter, she would be sensitive to the need for quoting the source if there was one. So what I chalk this up to was a video in 2017 in which Bell responded to Brown after he called him out for not being in camp. You can watch it for yourself here.

Is Bell serious, is he rapping, is just having some fun with AB? All we can do is make our own assumptions. I already know what I think.

No. 4: Bell wants to be paid like a #1 RB and #2 WR, and he is just not worth it.

We have all seen this statement, which is attributed to Bell, via former teammate Ike Taylor. What exactly does this mean? Bell wants to be the highest-paid RB. I believe everyone is on board with that. Currently, the highest-paid RB under contract for 2018 is Jerick McKinnon at $10.5 million. That contract is an outlier because San Francisco is burning through cap money. (The cap hit is the highest year of his contract by a long way.) So instead of using McKinnon’s contract for comparison, I’ll use LeSean McCoy’s 2018 cap figure of $8.95 million instead, even though his contract is three years old and the cap has risen $34 million in that span. Now, let’s figure in what the average No. 2 WR gets paid. Using the contracts of the 33rd through 64th-highest-paid WRs for 2018, the average cap hit is $4.5 million per year. If you were to add McCoy’s cap hit and the average No. 2 WR, the total would be $13.45 million.

So, let’s examine the controversial part of him wanting No. 2 WR money by checking out the stats the average No. 2 WR puts up.

  • Average receiving yards for the 33rd- through 64th- highest-paid WRs (excluding TEs and RBs): 632 yards. Bell: 655 (46th ranked).
  • Average receptions (excluding TEs and RBs): 49.6 yards. Bell: 85.
  • Average yards per reception (excluding TEs and RBs): 12.1 yards. Bell: 7.7.
  • Jarvis Landry, who led all players in receptions, had only 1.1 yards per reception more than Bell.

While Bell does get blown out of the water in terms of yards per reception, he makes it up with a sheer volume of receptions than most #2 WRs simply cannot duplicate.

With those stats and hard facts in mind, you decide: Could Bell deserve #2 WR money in addition to #1 RB pay?

No. 5: Bell threatens to retire or sit out the season than to play under the tag for a second consecutive year.

Come on folks, who actually believed this frustrated bluster? Bell’s not missing out on $900,000 per game, let alone $14.5 million for the entire season.

It is understandable fans are upset having to go through this media circus. No one likes to have the offseason filled with uncertainty. But no one should be overly surprised with this situation and how it is rearing its ugly head again. Just take some of the things that are being thrown out daily with a grain of salt and delve a bit deeper to find the facts. Rappers rap to sell music. Players try to get notoriety to fuel both their egos, and fan bases and journalists jobs are to sell copy by pushing their agendas. Circle July 16 on your calendar. That is the last day the Steelers can work out a long-term deal with Bell. Finally, then the media circus shall cease. OK, that was wishful thinking as it will continue until Bell actually reports the third of September. That is my expectation at least.

Just like most fans, I cannot wrap my head around the amount of money NFL players take home. At the end of the day, it is small chunks of money out of the whole $14 billion pie. I am not one to take songs at face value or a player who is responding to one of his teammates out of frustration. The Steelers see Bell as worth at least $14.5 million per season, otherwise, they never would have franchised tagged Bell for a second time. So, it is actually fair to look at it that Pittsburgh is indeed paying Bell to be the top paid RB and a No. 2 WR because of the gap in pay between Bell and other RBs.

In the second part of this series I will be discussing the off-field issues and past injuries and how the perceptions surrounding them are either wrong or misleading.

Players are back to work News - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 9:15am
Phase One of the Steelers offseason program is underway.

Ed Bouchette: Mock drafts have gotten out of control - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 8:00am

There was a time when the only real NFL mock draft that counted arrived via the mailbox. Mel Kiper predicted the first round of the draft in his NFL Draft Report, a yearly book first published in 1979 that analyzed college prospects and team needs.

James Harrison announces his retirement from football — again

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 7:06am

The Pittsburgh Steelers legend has decided to hang up the cleats, but will he hang them up for good?

James Harrison is retiring from football — again.

After telling media he will wait until after the NFL Draft to decided where he wants to play the 2018 season, he has had a change of heart.

This from his verified Instagram page:

I've missed way too much for way too long...and I'm done. Many thanks to my family, coaches, the fans, and everyone who played a role in my football life. #2ndAndFinalRetirement #HarrisonFamilyValues #BlessedAndHighlyFavored #GodsPlan

A post shared by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on Apr 16, 2018 at 4:13am PDT

The caption reads:

“I’ve missed way too much for way too long...and I’m done. Many thanks to my family, coaches, the fans and everyone who played a role in my football life.”

He uses the hashtag “2nd and Final Retirement” after the caption, hinting at his retirement earlier in 2014 before being coaxed back to the game after Jarvis Jones’ injured wrist early in the regular season.

While he says he is done for good, you have to wonder if a team comes calling late in the season if he won’t come back for one more chance at a ring. Rumors were there were several teams interested, including the New England Patriots.

Harrison spent time with several teams before becoming a Pittsburgh Steelers legend. Despite how he left the team, and is currently viewed by the fan base, Harrison is the all-time sack leader for the black-and-gold, and will go down as one of the best pass rushers the team, and possibly the league, has ever seen.

Here at BTSC we wish Harrison the best in his retirement, and know when he is honored by the organization there will be nothing but applause for the man they called “Deebo”.

Former Steelers linebacker James Harrison announces his retirement...again - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 7:02am

Former Steelers linebacker James Harrison announced his retirement via his Instagram account Monday morning.

Day 3 sleepers the Steelers could target in the 2018 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 6:55am

The Steelers could find some gems on Day 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Day 3 of the NFL Draft is a time where teams look to find those true value picks they are searching for. In the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers, most notably, Antonio Brown has come out of the Day 3 resume of picks. However, it does not mean they are hunting for stars like Richard Sherman or Tom Brady, but rather for good, solid players that add to the team.

If you want an example of this, think of someone like Vince Williams or Anthony Chickillo. All of these are quality players who have proven to be either solid starters or high quality backups, as well as key Special Teamers. Thus, this is what teams want to see in a Day 3 player, and the Steelers have shown lots of interest in the Day 3 pool, in terms of visits so far this draft season.

It is no coincidence they do this and end up with good players from Day 3, while other teams, such as the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets, end up with players who never play a down.

Thus, here are some key prospects you should keep an eye on during Day 3 of the NFL Draft.

Jermaine Carter Jr, ILB, Maryland

We start off with a player who should remind everyone of Vince Williams, in terms of his mindset. Jermaine Carter Jr. is one of my favorite sleepers in the draft, and for good reason. There are few with better motors than Carter in the class, and he will give you his all on every play. A true leader, Carter has also been praised by coaches and teammates alike for being the hardest worker and a true leader in the locker room. He really is the guy that is there first and is always the last to leave.

However, his appeal is hardly limited to just his mentality and intangibles. Carter flashes on tape. His 4.69 40 is one of the most misleading in the class. If you see his film, you will believe he would be a sub 4.6 type of guy, and he flies around the field. A day 3 guy who can be a sideline to sideline player, Carter is always around the play no matter where he started the play. When he plays the run, he is incredibly gap disciplined and blows up plays at will due to this. You cannot shake him out either, Carter is an extremely sure handed tackler who can absolutely lay the boom at any given time. In coverage, Carter is not too shabby either, while not his specialty, he is much more advanced in this area than Vince Williams was when he came out of Florida State.

Okay Jermaine Carter Jr, you have my attention.

Love how he doesn't get caught up in the trash, squares up and tackles Barkley in the A gap.

— The Mick Nartin™ (@themicknartin) April 4, 2018

Let’s take a look at some excellent gap discipline and a fantastic tackle by Carter on the consensus number one running back in class, Saquon Barkley. Barkley is incredibly slippery, but even more so, Carter’s sure handed wrap up is even more impressive. We all know the issues the Steelers have had with tackling, but Carter will not be part of those problems. Carter is a smart football player too, he does not get filtered into unnecessary blocks and does not fall for the jukes many LBs do, he is incredibly disciplined.

WR tries to pull a rocker step on him, Carter is having none of it and just abuses that man.

— The Mick Nartin™ (@themicknartin) April 4, 2018

He is insane. Solid coverage here by Carter and he just runs and dominates this receiver from the beginning. Carter will not only be physical at the line, but will be incredibly physical at the point of catch. In zone, he is yet again, extremely smart and disciplined. This guy can rush the passer too, he has a chop move and can power through a good deal of Tackles. If you want a starter from Day 3 at ILB, Carter is your guy through and through.

Chris Herndon, TE, University of Miami

One word — Length.

Herndon is absolutely massive. His length alone helps him with a few things, but most certainly big plays, blocking, and Yards After the Catch (YAC). Here is where you can see just how long this guy is.

The guy is nearly 6’4” and 253 pounds of raw muscle. Herndon is an incredibly raw player all around, and added on is that he suffered a severe knee injury. On tape, the guy is hardly explosive at all and lacks that burst you want, but his strides are so long he just breaks away from defenders.

He is a former WR who can just create YAC due to that, and as such can be used on plays such as Bubble Screens and TE Screens.

By no means is he a polished route runner, but he is great off the line and his release is incredibly solid. Most importantly, Herndon can can block. He is strong and has the size to block, although he is rather raw in the area, he is a decent blocker. The guy improved every season, and that is key with a raw player, as it proves they are coachable. The guy has some shimmy and shake in him too, he frequently makes people miss to create yards, and his long strides only add to that big play ability he is keen for.

Miami (Fla.) TE Christopher Herndon (#23) is a guy I really like as a fit for the #Vikings, who could use a move tight end who can separate and stretch the field. More Herndon: @Chris_Authentic

— Kevin Brown (@nfldraftnik) March 30, 2018

The insane length and affinity to make moves is shown here. Herndon has an incredibly dangerous big play ability that few TEs carry in the league, and I firmly believe that would mesh very nicely with this Steelers team. As raw as he is, the Steelers have McDonald, James, and Grimble at TE, Grimble may be expendable for a big play type threat of TE like Herndon, who could be selected with one of team’s 5th round picks. His length and coach-ability may be too much for the Steelers to pass on in the 5th round.

Tracy Walker, Free Safety, University of Louisiana Lafayette

This right here is the safety no one is talking about. Walker has some of the best center field skills in the draft. Walker, Jessie Bates, and Damon Webb are some of my favorite FS prospects in the draft for their value and high energy level. Walker has an incredible motor, and with how smooth and loose he is in the hips, you love to this. The guy can easily get in and out of breaks to come back to the ball and make a play on it. Ball skills are great too, as he easily adjusts to balls in the air and has solid, soft hands to make grabs. The guy will go up and grab the ball at its highest point and make many impressive plays centerfielding. He is a sure tackler as well, and takes decent angles in pursuit. At 6’1” 206 and after running a 4.51 and genuinely playing faster than that on tape, Walker is an athletic player too, and he flashes it often when he closes in on balls and pass catchers incredibly fast. His play recognition in coverage is great too, and he stays disciplined at all times.

ULL free safety Tracy Walker, a #Cowboys 30 visit, finished just outside the top 100 on my final big board. This kind of man coverage prowess is consistent on tape. Love his potential as a centerfielder, but he can blanket slots in man.

— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) April 14, 2018

One more thing to mention about Walker is his man coverage ability. Perfectly illustrated here, Walker’s physicality at the point of attack and then the fluid break outside to stay step for step with the receiver is impressive. Walker then bats it away and proceeds to knock the receiver out of the play.

This is pretty much textbook coverage by Walker, and the Steelers have met with more and more disciplined and smart players this draft season, and this pick would accurately reflect that idea. Walker needs a year to develop to contribute, but nonetheless, a player with potential to be more than what his draft position will say.

Avonte Maddox, DB, Pittsburgh

Never doubt a player with heart and a big motor, is what most people would say. Maddox is the virtual definition of that. Maddox does not really have a position in the secondary, but he is more of a Tyrann Mathieu type of player. The guy can play outside, in the slot, and even in the box if he really wants to do it. Maddox has insane athleticism and tested extremely well at the combine.

Do not discount his effort either, the guy flies around the field, and even though he is only 5’9” he is the definition of physical. There is a lot of Mike Hilton in this guy. His speed and fluidity are some his best traits. He can bump you and be physical at the line or he can lock you down and come up to smack you in zone. He is the ultimate competitor and backs down from no one. He goes up and often gets interceptions or deflections due to this all world effort he contains. He can rush the passer too, and I would not mind having two Mike Hiltons in Pittsburgh right now. Absolutely high character and a well accomplished young man, Maddox will likely come for a local visit along with Jordan Whitehead, and it would not surprise me to see a Pitt Panther drafted by the Steelers again.

Players like Tyrann Mathieu have made it possible for prospects like Avonte Maddox to get more attention.

Maddox is a do it all player with no real position. He has the quick feet, athleticism, and speed to play many positions. The only issue is he’s 5’9. #Packers

— Eye In The Sky (@The_Green_Gold) April 7, 2018

I own season tickets for Pitt and constantly got to see Maddox play up close. It was always a treat to watch the guy fly around and just make plays versus opponents best receivers. Maddox is straight up sticky to the point that he blankets guys all game, I rarely ever saw him let receivers get behind him.

James Washington is really difficult to match up against vertically, but Avonte Maddox is patient, stays in phase on the hip pocket, and aggressively plays the ball at the catch point. Textbook stuff.

— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) April 7, 2018

Yet again, Maddox is also a disciplined player, and the Steelers have shown lots of interest this draft season in those types of high character, endless motor type players. This play here not only illustrates the coverage skills I am speaking of, but also that relentless aggression at the point of attack. He does it to one of my favorite receivers, James Washington. Make no mistake, Maddox’s size does not mean much, and he can tackle well too. A physical, sure handed tackler Maddox is, and I have him in my top 100. If the Steelers want another corner who can be Hilton-like, Maddox is their guy.


The Steelers have a history of hitting on high character, productive guys late in the draft. They have done so many times in the past and very well could again. I am guaranteeing you that one of these prospects in this article will become a Steeler. I do not know which one, but they fit the Steeler way of doing things, and would be great additions on the field and in the locker room.

Steelers raise ticket prices for the 2018 regular season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 5:34am

If you are making your trip to Heinz Field in 2018, it might cost you a little more than it did in previous years.

If you have never been to Heinz Field before, you are really missing out on a special place. The atmosphere from when you walk onto the property with tailgating, etc. to the game itself — it is a magical place for Pittsburgh Steelers fans.

However, if you have never been, there are some likely big reasons why.

First, you might live far away. Whether overseas or on the other side of the country, traveling isn’t cheap.

Next, speaking of cheap — the tickets aren’t cheap at all. In fact, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the ticket prices are about to climb again for the 2018 regular season.

Before you slam your keyboard at work in disgust, realize the Steelers have been holding true to their every-other-year policy regarding ticket prices. Ticket prices didn’t change for the 2017 season, so the upcoming season means prices are about to climb.

How much will they be increased? This from the Trib:

In Section 130, for example, the price of a ticket has increased by an average of $6 per game from the 2017 season. For a 10-game package, including two preseason games, that amounts to a $60 increase per ticket. Last year, ticket prices were kept the same as in the 2016 season. Tickets in that section that averaged $121.60 per game in 2017 will cost $127.60 in 2018.

While the hike in prices isn’t astronomical, it is still more money. If you have 4 season tickets, you are talking about a $240 increase for the 2018 regular season. Say what you want, but there will be some who are not on board with these changes.

Either way, if you are making the trip to Heinz Field, better be ready to pony up some more cash...and don’t get me started on beer prices.

Face Time: Drake excited to be in Pittsburgh Videos - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 5:00am
Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake looks forward to coaching Antonio Brown and the rest of the Steelers receivers.

What a catch! Videos - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 3:00pm
Check out some of the greatest catches from throughout Steelers history.


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