You are here

Links

Black and Gold Links: As a Restricted Free Agent, Matt Feiler isn’t looking to go anywhere soon

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/21/2020 - 4:31am
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how Matt Feiler, a Restricted Free Agent, isn’t looking to go anywhere anytime soon.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers have another diamond in the rough when it comes to offensive tackle Matt Feiler. Feiler is a Restricted Free Agent this offseason, but the Steelers will likely lock him up sooner than later.

Feiler hoping to stay put

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Matt Feiler shook his head, thinking about it for a minute.

He remembers the days when he didn’t know if he would make an NFL roster, let alone be a starter.

Keep in mind this is a guy who went undrafted in 2014, eventually signing with the Houston Texans and spending the 2014 season on their practice squad.

He was then released by the Texans before the start of the 2015 season, and was signed to the Steelers practice squad, spending another season watching and learning.

The 2016 season was almost the same, spending the vast majority of the year on the Steelers practice squad, active for just one game.

In 2017 it all changed. Feiler made the Steelers 53-man roster and played in five games, including one start. It might not seem like a lot, but it was the start of something special. In 2018, when Marcus Gilbert went out early injured, Feiler stepped in, playing in 11 games and starting 10 at right tackle.

This past season, he started all 16 games and became a staple on the offensive line.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Lawyer discusses what could happen if Mason Rudolph sues Myles Garrett for defamation

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Of all the ridiculous things that were said by ESPN panelists over the past week regarding the Myles Garrett-Mason Rudolph situation, one of them genuinely made me laugh.

In the moments after Mike Tomlin’s interview on “First Take” where he defended Rudolph against Garrett’s reiterated charge of a racial slur, co-host Max Kellerman sarcastically referred to Mike Tomlin on numerous occasions as “Rudolph’s defense attorney.”

To which fellow host Stephen A. Smith responded, “As far as I’m concerned you’ve acted as a defense attorney for Myles Garrett.”

That was funny. And Smith was right.

On a couple levels.

Because whether Kellerman meant to do this or not during the course of the conversation, Kellerman kept slipping in the phrase, “I think Myles Garrett believes Mason Rudolph said something. He thought he heard something.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Who should the Steelers be targeting at the NFL Scouting Combine?

Going on the offensive: Who should the Steelers scout at the NFL combine?

By: Brooke Pryor, ESPN

With a tight cap situation and $33.5 million tied up in Ben Roethlisberger’s 2020 salary, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have to acquire most of their talent for the upcoming season through the draft.

Adding to the difficulty of that task is the lack of a first-round pick, traded away to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

It was a smart trade for the Steelers, grabbing a Pro Bowl safety in exchange for the No. 18 overall pick, but, barring a trade back into the first round, it means things in Pittsburgh will likely be pretty quiet on the first day of the draft.

Assuming they stand pat, the Steelers aren’t slated to make their first selection until the second day with the No. 49 overall pick, coming midway through the second round.

That means the first wave of ultra-talented prospects will be off the board by the time the Steelers make their first selection. Pittsburgh has had recent success with mid-round picks, adding players like receivers Antonio Brown (No. 195 overall) JuJu Smith-Schuster (No. 62) and Emmanuel Sanders (No. 82), defensive lineman Javon Hargrave (No. 89), and running back James Conner (No. 105).

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

Doin' it for the city. @joehaden23 | #UltimateHighlight pic.twitter.com/fPUIfm2XiG

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 20, 2020

#OTD in 2016, Heath Miller retired in Black & Gold. pic.twitter.com/fRIc3U6fR3

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 19, 2020

#83 in your program. #1 in your heart. #HEEATH pic.twitter.com/d7jaucpNXS

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 19, 2020

NFL owners vote to move forward with the current CBA proposal

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 4:11pm
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

In order for teams to know how to properly conduct business, the owners stated if this particular CBA is not agreed-upon by the players the 2021 season will operate under the previous one.

The NFL owners have voted on moving forward with the current proposal for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement beginning in the 2020 season.

NFL owners voted today to accept the negotiated terms on a proposed new CBA. Up to the players now.

— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) February 20, 2020

With the owners officially agreeing on this version of the CBA, it will now be up to the players to either accept or reject the agreement. It will take a vote of twi-thirds of the player representatives in order for the proposal to go to a vote by individual players. Only a simple majority of the player vote is necessary to accept the agreement.

The owners needed a three-fourths vote to approve in order to send the proposal to the players. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it was not a unanimous decision by the owners.

NFL owners were not unanimous in the approval of the proposed CBA, per source. Not every owner voted for it.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 20, 2020

Even though it appears the ball is now in the players court, they simply can accept or reject the proposal. It appears as if a counter proposal would push the negotiations until the 2021 off-season as the league feels it needs to have rules in place before teams get into their regular business of the 2020 season.

Owners also voted today to move forward under the terms of the current CBA if players don’t vote to approve. League’s official statement days clubs and players need to “know the rules they will operate under by next week.”

— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) February 20, 2020

Beginning next Tuesday, teams can use both the franchise and transition tags on players. Being the final year of the CBA, teams can actually use one of each type of tag. A new CBA would not allow teams to designate multiple players, hence the need to know if a new agreement would be in place.

The full statement released by the NFL regarding the owners voting to approve this version of the CBA can be seen below.

Full NFL statement on today’s news. pic.twitter.com/ZNPjLRDJNL

— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) February 20, 2020

A creative way to schedule 17th game for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the entire NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 2:21pm
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL should consider geographical rivalries for its 17 game if the new CBA is agreed upon.

The NFL schedule follows a pretty simple formula:

Home and Home within you division.

Rotating playing full NFC and AFC divisions.

And the other two same-conference teams that placed similarly in their own divisions.

The proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and NFLPA is suggesting a 17th game being added to the current model. This throws a wrench in the traditional model, but I think the NFL can use the week to develop new rivals. Because of the way the conferences are set up there are teams playing in close geographic location, but will only face each other every four years. Planning the extra game properly should feature matchups like the New York Jets vs. the New York Giants, the Texans and Cowboys, or the battle of Los Angeles between the Rams and Chargers.

In the Steelers case, that team is the cross-state Philadelphia Eagles. I believe a yearly series with the Eagles would be great for football within Pennsylvania, and it could feature a matchup that would bring out the best in both teams in the battle of state superiority.

They could even take a page out of college football’s playbook and give the rivalry some sort of fancy name and put a traveling trophy on the line. Not that it’s necessary, but it could make for an interesting sub-plot throughout each season.

When it comes to locations of these games I would say let the owners decide if they want to rotate the home stadium or play at a neutral site, in this case it could be at a place like Penn State.

As for years when the AFC North faces the NFC East they could play in a Super Bowl rematch against Seattle, Arizona, L.A. Rams, or Minnesota.

Here is my full 17th week cross conference rivalry slate:

Pittsburgh-Philadelphia

Baltimore-Washington

Cleveland-Detroit

Indianapolis-Chicago

Seattle-Denver

Arizona-Las Vegas

LA Rams-LA Chargers

Buffalo-Green Bay

NY Giants-NY Jets

Minnesota-Kansas City

Dallas-Houston

Jacksonville-New Orleans

Tampa Bay-Miami

Tennessee-Atlanta

Cincinnati-Carolina

New England-San Francisco

Only two teams miss out on a this kind of proximity rivalry play (New England and San Francisco) but they can spin that one as 11 combined titles.

What do you think? Is this a good idea for scheduling game 17? Let us know in the comments below!

Steelers are the favorites to be highlighted on ‘Hard Knocks’ in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 12:24pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a tight-lipped organization which likes to keep their guard up at all times. They better be ready for the culture shock of HBO’s Hard Knocks in 2020.

The Pittsburgh Steelers like to keep things in-house. They have are very strict with what news does, and does not, get released to the public, and because of this you can only imagine the headaches the Public Relations team would have if the Steelers would ever be on HBO’s Hard Knocks series leading up during training camp.

Well, if you are on the Steelers’ PR staff, you might want to look away because the Steelers are looking like favorites to host the show this summer.

You might be wondering why the Steelers haven’t been featured before. After all, they are a global brand with one of the largest, if not the largest, fan bases in the entire NFL. The show would certainly grab a ton of ratings. Well, this is the first year they have qualified for the show. Take a look at the exceptions and why teams like the New England Patriots have been eligible for the show:

3 Exemptions:

1) They have a first-year head coach.

2) They have a playoff berth in the past two seasons.

3) They have appeared on “Hard Knocks” in the past 10 years.

The Steelers being on a two year drought, having the same coach since 2007 and never being on the show before puts them in them on the list to be on HBO every week showing the camp life for the black-and-gold.

Recently, Dan Hanzus of NFL.com ranked the Top 5 teams who are likely to be hosting HBO this summer, and you’ll never guess who was atop the list...

5. Detroit Lions
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Arizona Cardinals
2. Denver Broncos
1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Here is what Hanzus had to say about the Steelers, and why he sees them as the perfect fit for the reality TV show:

“They’re the heavy Vegas favorite for a reason. The Steelers are NFL blue blood royalty and come fully loaded with one of the most passionate fan bases in the sport. Let’s face it: Franchises of the Steelers’ quality don’t show up very often on Hard Knocks. If you apply the current inclusion rules to the entire run of the show (which dates back to 2001), Pittsburgh would have been an option for mandatory inclusion just once before 2020. So NFL Films and HBO have a window here, and it might not stay open long. Throw in Ben Roethlisberger’s return from a major elbow injury, engrossing human interest stories around guys like Ryan Shazier and James Conner, and the completely inevitable Wiz Khalifa camp visit, and Pittsburgh is a slam dunk No. 1 choice.”

Fans might not like the thought of the distraction of having the cameras everywhere, but the truth is you have to also be a little excited for the inside look at the team who is always behind closed doors.

Personally, I would love to watch, and hear, what is said during specific moments of camp. Meet some of the players and get to know them better. Will it be a distraction? I wouldn’t think any more of a distraction than life at Saint Vincent College already is with the requirements and fans in attendance to watch their favorite team.

What do you think? Would you love to see the Steelers on Hard Knocks? Or do you hate the idea? Let us know in the comment section below!

Report: A vote on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could begin by the end of this week

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 11:00am
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Both the owners and the players association are holding separate meetings and could vote on proposals within the next few days

In a report from ESPN’s Dan Graziano, both the National Football League Players Association and the owners are meeting this week individually to discuss the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Each side could vote on a proposed agreement by the end of the week.

Here's our news story with everything we know on the NFL labor talks now scheduled for Thursday and Friday: https://t.co/eOZUvjt6v2

— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) February 19, 2020

According to Graziano, all 32 NFL owners are set to meet in New York City on Thursday. The owners could take the chance to vote on the current proposed CBA which will take a three-quarters majority in order to pass.

As for the players, each team’s representative was scheduled to meet in person in Washington DC on Friday but have decided instead to gather via conference call. The representatives could vote to accept or reject the NFL’s current CBA agreement. A vote to accept the agreement, which would be needed from two-thirds of the representatives, would only mean the proposal would go to the players. Once the players are involved, only a majority is needed for the agreement to be accepted.

A source close to the negotiations informed Graziano that if the players representatives reject the offer, the negotiations may not resume until next off-season.

Some of the key issues involved are a 17-game season, shortening the preseason, expanding the playoff field to 14 teams, as well as minimum salaries and revenue sharing. Graziano laid out the issues as follows:

The league’s desire to expand the regular season from 16 games to 17 games has been met with harsh opposition from many players, who view an expanded season as an unnecessary increase in the risk to players’ health and safety. As a result, a deal that looked bound for ratification as recently as two months ago has encountered some peril with less than a month to go before the start of the 2020 league year. Union leaders have touted to players the benefits of the proposed new deal, which includes a higher percentage of league revenue going to players, improvements in the drug policy and discipline policy, higher minimum salaries, higher per-team spending floors and relaxed offseason work rules.

One of the concessions players have been seeking since CBA talks began last year is an increase in the minimum salary, which applies to a significant chunk of the league’s population. Under the proposed new CBA, sources told ESPN, NFL minimum salaries would rise by roughly 25%. For example, the minimum salary for rookies in 2020 was scheduled to be $510,000. Under the new CBA, which would begin in 2020 and run through 2029, that figure would rise to $640,000. The minimum for players with one year of experience would jump from $585,000 to around $730,000, and so on up to the 10-year veteran minimum, which is scheduled to be $1.045 million in 2020 and would rise to roughly $1.3 million.

If a new collective-bargaining agreement can be reached before the new league year begins on March 18, the Steelers will have more freedom to restructure contracts in order to help with this year’s salary cap. Stipulations such as the “30% rule” which governs the final year of a CBA would no longer be in place and the Steelers could both restructure and offer contract extension to several players.

Either way, it looks as if there may be a little more clarity in the coming days about how willing to compromise each will be moving forward.

Based on 2019 records, the Steelers have the second easiest schedule in the NFL for 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 9:29am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Only the Baltimore Ravens will be facing teams with a lower combined win-loss record from 2019

As reported by multiple outlets this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers have what is deemed as the second-easiest schedule in the NFL for 2020. This ranking is determined by combining the 2019 win-loss records of the Steelers 16 opponents for 2020. Of course, there’s no guarantee that each of these teams will be the same quality they were in 2019, but at this point there’s really nothing else to go on.

The combined win-loss total for the Steelers opponents for 2020 is 117-139. The Steelers will only have six games where their opponent had a winning record in 2019. Those games will be both matchups against the Baltimore Ravens along with their games against the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans. The Steelers will also face the Dallas Cowboys in Texas who had the same 8–8 record as the Steelers in 2019.

The reason the Steelers have one of the easiest schedules is because of their games with their AFC North opponents as well as facing the NFC East. The NFC East gives the Steelers a lower winning percentage due to the fact it only produced 24 total wins among the four teams in 2019. The AFC North had the next fewest total wins of any division in the NFL with 30 wins.

The easiest schedule in the NFL for 2020 is held by the Baltimore Ravens. With the Ravens only having two different opponents in 2020 than the Steelers, one would assume they would have a more difficult schedule. Instead of facing the 10–6 Buffalo Bills like the Steelers will in 2020, the Ravens will face the 12-4 New England Patriots. The larger discrepancy lies in the teams AFC West as the ravens will face the 12-4 Kansas City Chiefs while the Steelers face the 7-9 Denver Broncos.

With the discrepancy of seven additional wins the Ravens will face from these two opponents, the reason they have the easier schedule is because they face the 8–8 Steelers while the Steelers opponent is the 14-2 Ravens. With these games occurring twice, it is a 12-game swing in favor of Baltimore. Therefore, the total record of the Ravens 2020 opponents from the 2019 season is 112–144.

While it is a cool numbers game to think about how the schedule shapes up, it will really make no difference as the 2020 season gets underway. In 2019 the Steelers lost to two teams who qualified for the playoffs but were among the bottom of the NFL in 2018. The San Francisco 49ers only had four wins in 2018 but reached the Super Bowl this past season while the Buffalo Bills flipped their record from 6-10 in 2018 to 10-6 in 2019.

Ultimately, the 2019 records of teams mean very little when games are played next season. But for now, it’s an interesting exercise in crunching the numbers during the off-season.

Over the Cap illustrates the Steelers upcoming woes in free agency and the NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 7:47am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t in a good place regarding the salary cap, and Over the Cap shows just how much trouble they are in heading into 2020.

The other day I was perusing Twitter, one thing I rarely do, and I ran across a tweet by Over the Cap which hit me really hard. It was a chart diagram with every NFL team on it. Team’s positions are based upon a combination of cap space along with draft capital. While I knew about the Pittsburgh Steelers cap situation, I had paid little attention to the draft. (Silly since I will be in attendance for all three days.) I sure did not think about the two being paired together compared to the rest of the NFL.

I have been sounding the alarm bells over the Pittsburgh Steelers salary cap situation for sometime now. There is no disputing the mess the cap is in ($1.4 million in the black), what is in dispute is how to fix it.

Let’s toss that aside for the moment and focus on our draft capital. The Miami Dolphins traded Minkah Fitzpatrick along with a 2020 fourth-round pick (Looked at a number of sources that contradict each other on where the pick will be. Either No. 108 or No. 132.) and a 2021 seventh-round pick, in exchange for a first and fifth round pick in 2020, and 2021 sixth-round pick, during the 2019 season. So far, that has been a barn burner of a move and Steeler Nation hopes that continues for years to come. (This is not figured into the chart but even if was, the Steelers would still be solidly in the bottom half.)

The Steelers will have pick No. 49 in the second round, pick No. 102 (The pick is the second to last in the third round for compensation for losing Le’Veon Bell.), sixth round pick No. 179, and seventh round pick No. 210.

Round 1 pick No. 18 traded to Miami

Round 2 pick No. 49

Round 3 pick No. 83 traded to Denver

Round 3 pick No. 102 Bell compensation

Round 4 pick No. 108 or No. 132 from Miami

Round 4, Pick No. 121

Round 5 pick No. 137 from Jacksonville for Joshua Dobbs traded to Seattle for Nick Vannett

Round 5 pick No. 145 traded to Miami

Round 6 pick No. 179

Round 7 pick No. 210

One pick in the first 101 picks means loads of young talent have already come off the board before the team picks again. To put this in further perspective, no team has less draft capital than the Steelers in the first three rounds. The San Francisco 49ers have only one selection in the first three rounds, but it is pick No. 31 while three teams have multiple first rounders.

To give this further perspective, here are the other AFC North teams.

Baltimore Ravens: $31.4 million under the cap with picks #28, #60, #92, #126, #131, #136, #145, #173, and #225. (Yup, that is four picks in the fourth round.)

Cincinnati Bengals: $44.8 million under the cap (More when they move on from Andy Dalton.) with picks #1, #33, #65, #104, #147, #180, and #215.

Cleveland Browns: $50.7 million under the cap with picks #10, #41, #74, #101, #112, #224, and #236.

The Steelers have to restructure current contracts, cut players, or both, to sign their draft class, let alone the 52nd and 53rd players (they do not count in the offseason because of the Rule of 51) and the team’s practice squad. Each player the team cuts opens up cap space but leaves a void that has to be filled. How will those voids get filled? Will they get filled via inexpensive free agents or possibly late round draft picks? A storm is brewing and general manager Kevin Colbert is at the center for the next couple of months.

Draft Cost vs Cap Space

Top right: Should be active in FA and have a good draft class
Bottom right: Probably needs to rely on the draft
Top left: Probably needs to rely on free agency more than draft
Bottom left: Hardest path to improve. Cap likely devoted to draft picks. pic.twitter.com/QS3rUio6pN

— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) February 14, 2020

The Steelers put all their eggs in the Ben Roethlisberger basket, and their success relies on it

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 6:28am
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are playing with fire, but they don’t really have any other option.

The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in a tough spot entering the 2020 season. Once again, they have put all their eggs in the Ben Roethlisberger basket, but this isn’t like in years prior. Up until Roethlisberger’s season-ending injury in Week 2 of the 2019 regular season fans would expect nothing less from the organization.

But when a 37, soon to be 38, year old quarterback suffers a season-ending injury to his throwing elbow, it raises some red flags.

There hasn’t been much chatter surrounding Roethlisberger’s return, other than how his February 21st appointment will be the next step in the process, and possibly when Roethlisberger will be permitted to start throwing objects again.

Despite the unknown that is Roethlisberger’s elbow, and future, the Steelers’ brass remain confident in their franchise quarterback returning to form.

“We have to be realistic,” Kevin Colbert told local media last week. “He’s a great quarterback who suffered a season-ending injury to his right arm. Optimistically, he’s on schedule to return, and we hope he’ll return to be a better Ben Roethlisberger than he was previous to the injury.”

A better Roethlisberger would be a huge positive for a team who had to suffer through Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, both ridiculously inexperienced at the NFL level, starts. Colbert is hopeful, but remains realistic.

“We’re hopeful he can make a complete recovery, and as of right now, he’s on schedule for that,” Colbert said. “Where that goes remains to be seen.”

When Mike Tomlin took to ESPN this week, he was asked about Roethlisberger and if he has any hesitation about his ability to not just return, but return to the type of player he was before the injury.

“I have no hesitation,” Tomlin said, “and I base that opinion on my experience and relationship with him and being around him for the number of years that I have. This guy is the ultimate competitor. He’s dropped the gauntlet down, he’s made a statement that he’s coming back – and I look forward to watching him answer that challenge.”

Then Tomlin was asked the question many fans have been talking about since Roethlisberger decided to grow his beard and add more and more street clothes as winter moved into western Pennsylvania.

How does Roethlisberger look?

“He looks awesome, man,” Tomlin said of Roethlisberger, “but he hasn’t been asked to do anything as it pertains to his rehabilitation. The process, day-to-day, is going great – but we’re not at a significant crossroad and it’s going to be a number of days before we are.”

Roethlisberger’s situation truly is day-to-day, and the Steelers look as if they are deciding to go into 2020 playing with fire, again. Colbert had this to say about the team’s backup quarterbacks on the current roster.

“We understand who our backups are, and we’re comfortable with who our backups are,” Colbert said. “I thought they did a representable job in 2019 under the circumstances.”

If you are honest about the situation, and the team’s salary cap space remaining, you know they have very little room to make any type of moves at any position, let alone at quarterback. Would it be great to upgrade to a player like Case Keenum to backup No. 7? Absolutely, but if they decide to retain Bud Dupree there won’t be much money available to pay anyone, let alone a depth position.

The Steelers are playing with fire, again, but they really have no choice. If Roethlisberger is able to recover and be the quarterback fans are longing to see play again, the team will be just fine and a will resume their role as a playoff contender. But if he isn’t the quarterback he once was, and flounders upon his return, it could be the hat trick for the Steelers and missing the playoffs for the third straight season.

They are all-in on Roethlisberger, and the fact remains, their success in 2020, and potentially beyond, relies on it.

Podcast: Does Mike Tomlin’s defense of Mason Rudolph solidify his spot as the future QB?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 5:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is over, and although there are no more games, the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Mike Tomlin’s comments mean Mason Rudolph is considered the next QB?
  • Should Rudolph pursue legal action?
  • Diagnosing the issues with the Steelers using statistics
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams 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.

Black and Gold Links: How Kevin Colbert’s disappointment has turned into confidence

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/20/2020 - 4:28am
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how General Manager Kevin Colbert’s disappointment has turned into confidence.

Let’s get to the news:

  • 2019 was a giant disappointment, but that doesn’t mean 2020 will follow suit.

Colbert disappointed, but optimistic

By: Bob Labriola, Steelers.com

They now have gone back-to-back seasons without qualifying for the playoffs. The franchise quarterback will celebrate his 38th birthday in the first week of March, and he’s coming off surgery on his right elbow that caused him to miss all but six quarters of the 2019 regular season. The way the arithmetic is expected to work out, they’re looking at having to make some roster moves to get the salary cap to a level that will allow them to keep one of their best defensive players as he’s heading toward unrestricted free agency. Injuries wrecked their depth chart last season, not only at quarterback, but also at running back, tight end, and to a lesser degree at wide receiver. And they have no first-round draft pick for the first time since Chuck Noll was coaching defensive backs in Baltimore when the NFL team in that city was the Colts.

So why is General Manager Kevin Colbert so optimistic?

”I think when you have a quality player, those quality players should be quality players no matter what,” said Colbert during a media session today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “We can talk about this as, well, they had an off-year because we didn’t have our great quarterback available to us, but we can’t use that. We have to find ways to win without our guys. Coach (Mike Tomlin) always says, ‘Let’s go’ instead of ‘Oh no,’ and so we have to find a way to be better (in the face of injuries). Those (quality) players have to find a way … Collectively, individually, they have to meet that challenge. Did they meet that challenge? I can say this. We’re all disappointed at 8-8, but I feel better moving into 2020 than I did moving into 2019 coming off 9-6-1.”

How? Why?

”Just the way I feel about the group that’s coming back,” said Colbert.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • How significant was Mike Tomlin’s defense of Mason Rudolph? Significant.

Mark Madden: ESPN interview one of Mike Tomlin’s most significant moments as Steelers coach

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

I’m not necessarily a big Mike Tomlin fan. Given the resources at hand, Tomlin’s Steelers teams have mostly underachieved over the past decade. I also think whoever replaced Tomlin wouldn’t be as good, or do as well.

But that’s another debate for another time.

What Tomlin did when he spoke on ESPN’s “First Take” Monday was very important. Tomlin knew that. He never does media during the offseason.

But you can’t let a lie be told repeatedly about one of your players.

What the BrownsMyles Garrett said — again — not only reflects badly on Mason Rudolph, but reflects badly on Tomlin and badly on the Steelers organization.

You also can’t let others pile on, as ESPN did during the “Outside the Lines” segment that followed Garrett doubling down on his claim that Rudolph said the n-word.

As a black coach, Tomlin couldn’t be silent. It would look like tacit confirmation of Garrett’s claim.

But Tomlin wasn’t silent when all this went down Nov. 14, and he certainly wasn’t silent Monday. He defended Rudolph. He attacked the fake news of that “Outside the Lines” segment. He made it clear the Steelers won’t be pushed around on this.

As a black man, this wasn’t without risk for Tomlin.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The million dollar question right now, will Mason Rudolph actually sue Myles Garrett?

Will Mason Rudolph actually sue Myles Garrett?

By: Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

In a possible effort to avoid being regarded as a reckless, Vontaze Burfict-type NFL villain, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has accused Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph of provoking a helmet-to-unhelmeted-head attack by uttering a racial slur. Rudolph’s agent/lawyer has suggested that Garrett may now be sued for defamation of character.

So here’s the question: Will Rudolph do it?

“I would expect him to do what was appropriate in terms of protecting his name and reputation,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said during his Monday appearance on ESPN, via Ed Bouchette of TheAthletic.com. “And I would do so aggressively, and I don’t blame him.”

The biggest challenge for Rudolph, if suit is filed, continues to be the higher standard that applies to defamation cases brought by public figures. He’ll need to prove that Garrett acted with “actual malice,” which means that Garrett said what he said knowing it was false or with reckless disregard as to whether it was true or false. And if Rudolph rolls the dice but fails to meet the enhanced standard, a jury verdict entered in Garrett’s favor under the “actual malice” test easily (but incorrectly) could be regarded by the public as a finding that Rudolph used a racial slur.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

Catch @_TJWatt's best from the 2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣9️⃣ season! pic.twitter.com/RRPwjrsado

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 19, 2020

New wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard comes to Pittsburgh with plenty of NFL coaching experience. pic.twitter.com/3WTryMr7ww

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 18, 2020

The best plays from our defense in 2019 ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/dt4Of5elW3

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 18, 2020

The best of Boz!

MORE: https://t.co/cvtYXVQPWB pic.twitter.com/4L7NohesEv

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 18, 2020

NFL Playoffs could be changing as early as next season if new CBA is agreed upon

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/19/2020 - 6:08pm
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

There could be a significant change to the NFL Playoff system if there is a new CBA signed soon.

The NFL and the NFLPA are working out the details of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Those details aren’t just bumps in the road, but some are considered huge hurdles in the two parties not experiencing a lockout as they did the last time a CBA was set to expire.

As the NFLPA and the NFL try to iron out a new deal, they hope to achieve these results before the new league year begins on March 18th. If a new deal isn’t struck by then labor peace will be put off until after the 2020 season.

The clock is ticking...

But news of what the two sides are discussing are starting to come to light. One of which would be a change in the current playoff situation, and this would occur as early as next season.

This per Adam Schefter of ESPN:

NFL playoff structure is about to be changed. Under the current CBA proposal, seven teams from each conference will make the playoffs, with only bye per conference, sources tell ESPN. It would go into effect this upcoming season. More coming on https://t.co/rDZaVFhcDQ.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 19, 2020

Seven teams, compared to the traditional six, would mean only one team per conference would get a first round bye, and the other four teams would then participate in Wild Card weekend.

It would be different, and would obviously involve one more team into the postseason, something I doubt any owner or player would argue about.

But there are other issues at hand. Check out some other burning topics during negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA, per ESPN’s Dan Graziano:

The current proposal would allow the league to expand the regular season from 16 games to 17 games at some point in the next four years (though no sooner than 2021) in exchange for financial and other concessions the players have sought in negotiations.

The league’s desire to expand the regular season from 16 games to 17 games has met with harsh opposition from many players, who view an expanded season as an unnecessary increase in the risk to players’ health and safety. As a result, a deal that looked bound for ratification as recently as two months ago has encountered some peril with less than a month to go before the start of the 2020 league year. Union leaders have touted to players the benefits of the proposed new deal, which includes a higher percentage of league revenue going to players, improvements in the drug policy and discipline policy, higher minimum salaries, higher per-team spending floors and relaxed offseason work rules.

One of the concessions players have been seeking since CBA talks began last year has been an increase in the minimum salary, which applies to a significant chunk of the league’s population. Under the proposed new CBA, sources tell ESPN, NFL minimum salaries would rise by roughly 25 percent. For example, the minimum salary for rookies in 2020 was scheduled to be $510,000. Under the new CBA, which would begin in 2020 and run through 2029, that figure would rise to $640,000. The minimum for players with one year of experience would jump from $585,000 to around $730,000. And so on up to the 10-year veteran minimum, which is currently scheduled to be $1.045 million in 2020 but would rise to roughly $1.3 million.

But sources say the players who are opposed to a 17-game season have pushed back and asked the union to demand further concessions from owners, particularly in the area of offseason and training camp work rules.

What are your thoughts on the CBA negotiations, and the changes to the playoff format? Let us know in the comment section below!

Update:

More details, per Schefter:

More details: Under the current CBA proposal that NFL owners are pushing for, the playoff field would be expanded to seven teams, while the regular season would be increased to 17 games per team, and the preseason shortened to three games per team, per sources.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 19, 2020

Bud Dupree moves on from his agent ahead of free agency

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/19/2020 - 2:19pm
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With NFL free agency one month away, Dupree will be looking for new representation for his next contract

Set to become an unrestricted free agent next month, Bud Dupree has moved on from his current representation and will be seeking a new agent for the 2020 season.

Steelers LB Bud Dupree, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent, has left CAA Sports.
The NFLPA's 5-day waiting rule is in effect, so he cannot sign with a new agency at this time.

— Liz Mullen (@SBJLizMullen) February 18, 2020

Hoping to cash in with a nice pay day based on his 2019 production, Dupree must wait until the weekend before he is allowed to sign with a new agent.

Formerly represented by Creative Artists Agency, considered to be one of the top agencies in sports and entertainment, it is unclear why Dupree found the need to find a new representation. With a number of superstars as clients across various sports such as Derek Jeter, David Beckham, and both Eli and Peyton Manning, CAA has a high reputation within the industry.

Just last week, fellow Steelers teammate and 2020 unrestricted free agent Javon Hargrave signed with Rosenhaus Sports as his new representation.

@Jay_MostWanted welcome to the @RosenhausSports family! pic.twitter.com/6ILiUcCwj2

— Drew Rosenhaus (@RosenhausSports) February 14, 2020

It has been a general rule in the NFL as of late that a player’s second contract is the largest and most important of their career. On average, it is the largest paydays for most players especially outside of the quarterback position. Both Bud Dupree and Javon Hargrave are entering this phase of their career and hope to make the most out of their recent production.

While Dupree expects to be entering ab open negotiation phase for 2020, the Steelers still could use the franchise tag (either exclusive or non-exclusive) for one more season if they choose to keep Dupree at the expected $16 million price tag. Several moves would have to be made by the Steelers in order to use the designation. Additionally, the Steelers would most likely try to work out a different long-term deal which could lower the 2020 cap hit.

Like all NFL teams, the Steelers may begin using the franchise or transition tags next Tuesday, February 25 and have up until March 10 to place the designation.

Steelers 2020 Free Agent Market Watch: The Backup Quarterbacks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/19/2020 - 12:36pm
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

BTSC takes a look at the top free agents at each position whether or not they are in the Steelers price range. Here are the Backup QBs.

Disclaimer: The author realizes that the team is burning in Salary Cap Hell and can’t pony up much money for free agents. However, you never know what they have planned and it’s the author’s responsibility to highlight the free agent options. When it comes to the salary cap and the backup signal caller position, It’s like the lyric in the Crosby, Stills and Nash tune, “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey...love the one you’re with”.

The Steelers have plenty of options behind Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, but are they good options? The front office keeps on saying that they are content with Mason Rudolph as a back up to Ben Roethlisberger. They also say that they are fine with Duck Hodges, JT Barrett and Paxton Lynch fighting it out for the third spot. However, they saw what happened with inexperience and subpar play at the most important offensive position on the field, as they faltered down the stretch. The say they won’t, but here are the available free agents should the Steelers find themselves looking to add at quarterback come March.

Case Keenum - Washington Redskins - 6’1”, 215 lbs, Age 32

2019 Passing - 10 games, 1-7 record, 64.8%, 1707 yards, 11 TD, 5 INT

Career Passing - 67 games, 27-35 record, 62.4%, 14368 yards, 75 TD, 47 INT

Keenum is a solid veteran backup. In 2017, he led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game. After being acquired to start in a Denver and Washington, the veteran of six teams since 2012 would be the perfect guy to sub for Roethlisberger if he were to go down. I imagine the 2019 Steelers going much further with Case coming in Week 2.

Matt Moore - Kansas City Chiefs - 6’3”, 219 lbs, Age 35

2019 Passing - 6 games, 1-1 record, 64.8%, 659 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT

Career Passing - 55 games, 16-16 record, 7597 yards, 49 TD, 36 INT

One of the reasons that the Kansas City Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years is due to Matt Moore keeping the team afloat when Patrick Mahomes was injured in October. A career backup in Carolina and Miami, Moore is another guy that is great at getting teams through an injury to their starter.

Chase Daniel - Chicago Bears 6’0”, 229 lbs, Age 33

2019 Passing - 3 games, 0-1 record, 70.3%, 435 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT

Career Passing - 65 games, 2-3 record, 68.3%, 1430 yards, 7 TD, 5 INT

In the league since 2009, Daniel just recently established himself as a top-tier backup in the NFL over the past few seasons. He has provided Chicago with a capable backup play that has a good skill set and is a quality teammate and influence. If the price is right for the journeyman, Daniel is a quality add.

A.J. McCarron - Houston Texans 6’3”, 215 lbs, Age 29

2019 Passing - 2 games, 0-1 record, 56.8%, 225 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Career Passing - 15 games, 2-2 record, 62.4%, 1153 yards, 6 TD, 3 INT

A two-time NCAA champion at Alabama, McCarron filled in brilliantly for Andy Dalton during the stretch run in 2015. Once tabbed as starting material, the game manager with decent arm strength was set to possibly start in Buffalo, but was derailed by injury. Since then, McCarron has been relegated to backup duty in locales such as Oakland and Houston.

Mike Glennon - Oakland Raiders 6’7”, 225 lbs, Age 30

2019 Passing - 2 games, 0-0 record, 60.0%, 56 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

Career Passing - 29 games, 6-16 record, 60.9%, 5163 yards, 36 TD, 20 INT

Glennon has made a lot of cash in this league for having only six total wins, one-third of those wins came against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Because he’s done so well financially with minimal wear on his tires, the market price will be lower for a guy like Glennon. But there will be a market for a QB that can make throws, purely as a relief or spot option.

Other Notable Free Agent Backup QBs

Kyle Sloter - Detroit Lions

Blaine Gabbert - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brett Hundley - Arizona Cardinals

Nate Sudfield - Philadelphia Eagles

Josh McCown - Philadelphia Eagles

Trevor Siemian - New York Jets

Colt McCoy - Washington Redskins

Brock Osweiler - Miami Dolphins

Taysom Hill - New Orleans Saints (RFA)

You may have noticed that many huge names were omitted from the large list of options. With the hope that Ben Roethlisberger comes back, the Steelers aren’t searching for a quarterback with starting aspirations to gum up the works. They also can’t afford one. But for the sake of listing every option, here are the gems of the 2020 free agent class of passers.

Notable Free Agent Starting Quarterbacks

Teddy Bridgewater - New Orleans Saints

Tom Brady - New England Patriots

Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints

Phillip Rivers - Los Angeles Chargers

Jameis Winston - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Marcus Mariota - Tennessee Titans

Ryan Tannehill - Tennessee Titans

Dak Prescott - Dallas Cowboys (RFA)

The Steelers are the only franchise with six Lombardi trophies, and no threat of an asterisk

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/19/2020 - 11:05am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Quick question for Steelers Nation. Is it more important that the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Super Bowl, or how the Steelers win the Super Bowl?

Houston, we have a problem! I guess it would be more accurate to say the Houston Astros have a huge problem. Major League baseball recently concluded an investigation into the 2017 World Series champions and have accused the Astros of cheating. An elaborate system of stealing signs, masterfully executed utilizing modern technology like trash cans and hidden mics. This is a scandalous story that shows no sign of going away anytime soon.

The Houston Astros place in the annals of World Series champions seems destined to include an asterisk. Since it is impossible to go back in time to right a wrong, MLB has chosen to add an asterisk to any achievement it feels was accomplished by unsavory methods.

So far MLB has attached asterisks mainly to the accomplishments of individuals deemed guilty during the steroid era, but the Astros may be the first team to be branded as cheaters in the modern era. If they are guilty, then the punishment is well deserved. It's not much, but it's a start.

This situation got me wondering. Where are the New England Patriots asterisks? They are credited with winning six Super Bowl titles, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most ever. But do they deserve to be recognize in the same rarefied air as the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise if they have been proven guilty of cheating in the process of winning at least a couple of those titles?

To be clear, I am not referring to the multiple occasions during their supposed dynasty where the Patriots have seemed to receive preferential treatment from the referees, replay officials, and the league offices. The New England Patriots have been found guilty on two occasions, Spygate and Deflategate. These situations have been discussed at length, and I can see no reason to rehash either occasion. It serves no purpose in this conversation.

That brings me to my question for Steelers Nation. Should the Patriots have an asterisk attached to any of their championships? Would it, or should it, make any difference in the end? Should the NFL follow MLB's example and plunge head first down that rabbit hole? In my humble opinion, the answer is no.

First off, the asterisk wouldn't change a thing honestly. You can't go back and replay the games, or give the title to a more deserving team. Nobody really knows if the outcome of any of their games those seasons would have turned out any different. Maybe the Patriots would have won those Super Bowls anyway.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a championship organization, a perennial contender, and a exemplary franchise. The Steelers don't need anybody to feel sorry for them, or have another franchise reprimanded to feel better about themselves. The Steelers strive for the same goal every season, to win another Super Bowl title and bring home their seventh Lombardi Trophy. An asterisk next to a Patriots title wouldn't change a thing.

Here's a funny story for our less experienced readers. I was having this same discussion with a rather geriatric football fan, definitely not a Steelers fan, after the Deflategate fiasco a few years ago. I mentioned Spygate, and what I felted was countless other instances of apparent favoritism toward the Patriots. I proclaimed that something had to be done. Then my fellow conversationalist made a interesting accusation.

He brought up the fact that the Steelers were accused of steroid usage during the Steel Curtain dynasty years. I pointed out two important facts. First off, these were rumors and accusations. The Steelers interior lineman, both offensive and defensive, were considered abnormally powerful for that day and age. Some speculated that steroids had given them an unfair advantage on the field.

Maybe that was true, but that brought me to my second point. At that point in NFL history, steroids were not considered a banned substance. NFL usage was in it's infancy stage, and the potential health risks were yet unknown. Even if the Steelers were using steroids to perform at their peak on the field, so what? It wasn't illegal, any team could have done it.

Now for my summation. I couldn't care a less if the NFL ever utilizes an asterisk. I do however care how the Steelers conduct their business. I expect the Steelers to do things the Right Way, to play the game with character and honor. That matters more to me than the total number of trophies, or any asterisk.

When the time comes, the Steelers shouldn’t have a problem paying T.J. Watt

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/19/2020 - 9:28am
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the Steelers most prolific playmaker on his rookie deal, there should be no reason for concern when it comes to making sure Watt remains with the Steelers long term

One of the biggest questions of the 2020 off-season is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ ability to keep Bud Dupree without breaking the bank. After having a very strong season in the final year of his contract, Dupree is looking to cash in as much as he can. But with only one year out of five of high quality production, giving Dupree an enormous contract may not be in the best interest of the Steelers.

Another issue looming over the situation when it comes to the outside linebacker position is knowing the Steelers will eventually need to extend their 2019 Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt. With salary cap space being a premium in 2020, signing Dupree even to the franchise tag seems like a tall task. But will the Steelers have a repeat of the situation when it’s time for Watt to become an unrestricted free agent?

First of all, unless the next season or two brings completely unexpected results, there’s no reason to believe that T.J. Watt would not be a wise investment for the Steelers to break the bank. So the question isn’t if the Steelers should pay him, it’s can they afford his contract? The simple answer is: Yes, when the time comes.

Watt is currently entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. Being a first-round pick, it will be a no-brainer for the Steelers to exercise the fifth-year option on Watt when the time comes later this year. With the Steelers having Watt locked up for both 2020 and 2021 (assuming there is no work stoppage with the CBA negotiations), Watt will be due to sign a new deal right when Ben Roethlisberger‘s current contract will be coming to an end. With salary cap numbers of over $30 million a season the next two years, Roethlisberger’s salary takes up 16.8% of the salary cap for 2020. Once his contract is off the books, the Steelers should have plenty of room to sign Watt and potentially give him the largest contract of a defensive player in the NFL. If he signs a contract in the typical fashion the Steelers structure things, chances are the first year will have a smaller salary cap number than the following years due to the signing bonus.

But what if Roethlisberger is not done playing after his next contract? Well, if Ben Roethlisberger is still deserving of a $30+ million contract each season beyond 2021, then the Steelers are already in very good shape. Taking his age into account, if Roethlisberger is playing at that high of a level, the Steelers will most likely be having some amazing success with hopefully some nice hardware to go with it. If this is not the case, but yet Roethlisberger still wants to continue to play for the Steelers, he will have to see the writing on the wall and realize his contract would have to be much less than what he has earned over the course of his career.

Even if Roethlisberger were to sign a one-year extension, the Steelers would still have the option of using the franchise tag on T.J. Watt for the 2022 season. In a scenario where Roethlisberger does merely finish out his final contract, the Steelers may use the franchise tag on Watt simply to have more time to sign him to a long-term deal. Regardless, Watt would be a prime player to use the franchise tag. With all things considered, T.J. Watt can be under contract with the Steelers for three seasons at the very least before a long-term deal.

Of course, there could be something crazy that goes on with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement where there’s a change in the franchise tag or things of that nature. Obviously those sort of changes can’t be taken into account at this point. But based on business continuing as usual, T.J. Watt is going to be in black and gold for quite some time.

Another factor in the whole scenario is the Steelers can’t say for sure who will be their quarterback following Ben Roethlisberger. Unless they break from their normal way of business, it will not be a player who is demanding anywhere close to the salary Roethlisberger is currently collecting, therefore the money should be available.

It is interesting how the face of the Steelers’ franchise is changing. As Ben Roethlisberger enters his 17th season, it’s the Steelers defense which is beginning to emerge with T.J. Watt as their superstar. It will only be a matter of a season or two before Watt’s leadership, marketability, and salary all take over from what Roethlisberger‘s once was.

Breaking Down Diontae Johnson’s Rookie Season, Part 2: Early season film review

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/19/2020 - 7:47am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

An in-depth look at Diontae Johnson’s start to the 2019 season.

In the first part of my Diontae Johnson season review, we talked about his stats, how they ranked against his team mates, his fellow rookies, and historically among recent rookie WRs and Steelers rookies of the past. In the second and third parts of this analysis, we are going to look at his film from the season, his strengths and weaknesses, and how his game developed over the course of his first season.

Diontae Johnson missed practice during training camp numerous times as the Steelers were being careful with the young WR and his minor injuries. At the start of the season, Diontae Johnson wasn’t receiving a lot of snaps, even compared to other recent rookies. In spite of that, Johnson was able to flash his ability as well as show his flaws.

Quick hands

Week 1, 1st quarter, 3:05, 3rd and 20. Diontae Johnson is the WR to the top of the screen.

Diontae Johnson’s first NFL target was a pretty simple drag route to gain some space for the punt team, but Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball a little high and Johnson makes a one handed catch, showing off his quick hands and ability to keep his stride while making off target catches.

That first game also showcased Johnson’s biggest weaknesses.

Not a deep threat

Week 1, 3rd quarter, 5:41, 1st and 15, Diontae Johnson is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

Here Johnson takes an easy outside release but is unable to get past the defender or create space on this deep route. This would be a consistent struggle throughout most of the season. In fact, before week 10 Diontae Johnson would record only 2 receptions on 8 deep passes. I’ll show both of them here.

Week 3, 4th quarter, 10:48, 1st and 10. Diontae Johnson is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

Here Diontae Johnson burns Jason Verrett for a TD. Verrett loses track of Johnson quickly, barely managing to even touch him as Johnson runs straight upfield. Verrett was a 1-year free agent signing for the 49ers in 2019, and he played only 4 snaps all year, this and a 32 yard pass interference call got him benched after one drive. It’s possible that this was the last play of his career, as he again ended the season on Injured Reserve with a knee injury.

Week 4, 3rd quarter, 9:32, 2nd and 10. Diontae Johnson is the WR to the top of the screen.

Here Diontae Johnson scores a TD on a route where JuJu Smith-Schuster pulls the attention of all three deep defenders long enough for Johnson to be wide open, with no one within 10 yards at the point of the catch. While there was nothing wrong with this run and catch, Johnson didn’t really do anything, just managed to not trip on the grass and not drop an easy catch for a TD.

Those are Diontae Johnson’s only deep ball receptions from the first half of the season. The rest of the film shows a WR who struggled to create space on deep routes against all types of coverage, losing physically after his release, or unable to create separation from trail technique. It didn’t help that his QBs weren’t very good at getting the ball to him deep, but Johnson wasn’t good enough either.

Ball Security

While JuJu Smith-Schuster’s two fumbles in 3 seasons and 221 touches have received a lot of attention, Diontae Johnson’s five fumbles in 83 total touches has largely been ignored. But ball security goes beyond fumbling. For a receiver shielding a catch from a defender looking to punch the ball out is part of ball security. Both types of ball security were a problem for Diontae Johnson in his rookie season.

Week 1, 4th quarter, 13:19, 1st and 10. Diontae Johnson is the WR to the top of the screen.

A quick slant to Diontae Johnson, the ball is thrown chest high and Johnson fails to get his frame between the defender and the ball, giving the defender a clean shot at the football, and it is knocked out easily for an incomplete pass. You can see how his shoulders are squared not to the QB, but to the far sideline, so the CBs right arm has an easy path to the ball.

Working his way into the mix

As the early season progressed, Diontae Johnson’s strengths became more and more of a part of the offensive game plan.

Week 3, 2nd quarter, 5:24, 3rd and 7. Diontae Johnson is in the slot to the bottom of the screen.

These WR crossers became a staple of the offense with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, and here is a good example of why they worked. Richard Sherman stays with Johnson, but a quick reverse of direction and a juke gets Johnson from the line of scrimmage to the first down marker for a conversion. the Steelers threw a lot of passes right near the line of scrimmage to Johnson, but unlike Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson was able to turn them into consistent gains.

This was a significant play for Johnson, to this point in the season his stats were pretty bad, 4 receptions for 34 yards on 11 targets. This play started a streak of 6 games where his usage wasn’t high, but his efficiency was, catching 26 of 35 targets for 321 yards and 3 TDs.

Week 5, 3rd quarter, 5:51, 3rd and 8. Diontae Johnson is the receiver at the very bottom of the screen.

With Johnson not being a real threat on deep routes, the Steelers started running more outs and hooks with Johnson, with a stop route being one of his best weapons as defenders locking down the deep route couldn’t stop and turn as fast as Johnson.

This is a sharp out cut, even if it isn’t perfect, and the defender who hasn’t even committed to running deep can’t stop the catch because of it. However, Diontae Johnson fails to protect the football and again, the ball gets punched out. Fortunately for the Steelers this play counted as a catch and fumble out of bounds.

Early season judgement

The first three games of the season Diontae Johnson weren’t very productive, but when the Steelers changed the offense to focus on short passes and running the ball to help Mason Rudolph and later Devlin Hodges, Diontae Johnson started to thrive. In the second half of the season teams would start focusing on taking away those short routes more, and in the next part of this series we will look at those games to see how Diontae Johnson fared, and what the tape shows of his progression over the course of his rookie year.

A way-too-early look at 3 key position battles for the Steelers in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/19/2020 - 6:36am
Training camp usually features a few position battles. But even before the start of the new league year this team has a few spots up for grabs. | Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have some holes to fill on their roster, and we take a look at three key position battles heading into 2020.

Even before the Pittsburgh Steelers make a single offseason move, multiple positions will be up for grabs. While this list will grow in the coming weeks, let's take a look at the early camp battles featuring players on the current roster.

Right Tackle Matt Feiler vs. Chukwuma Okorafor vs. Zach Banner

This battle is contingent on the rumored release of Ramon Foster. If the left guard spot opens up, Matt Feiler would likely kick over to the position. Okorafor vs. Banner should be one of the most tightly contested position battles of 2020.

Banner is the highly popular swing tackle who has yet to make a start at a regular O-Line position, but played a lot in 2019 as an eligible tight end. Okorafor has started 2 games at RT in the past, but was a healthy scratch for most of the 2019 season.

I’m excited for this camp battle because this one is going to come down to who puts in the most work this offseason. Whoever wants it more will be a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020.

Deep Threat Wide Receiver/WR5 Johnny Holton vs. Deon Cain

In 2019 the Steelers liked to trot out a receiver specifically for taking the top off of defenses. for most of the year that was Johnny Holton who caught 3 passes on 15 targets.

After injuries to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson the team elected to claim Deon Cain from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad. While only being targeted just 6 times, Cain was able to hall in 5 of them.

A full offseason will make this battle interesting (as long as more wide-outs aren't brought in). I’d expect Cain would be the favorite heading into camp as his production during his short time was impactful. But this one will come down to who has the most chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger.

Quarterback 3 Duck Hodges vs. Paxton Lynch

These two quarterback’s paths to this spot couldn't have been more different. Lynch is a first round pick, from an FBS school, and stands at 6’7” tall. Duck Hodges, an UDFA, is the all-time passing leader in FCS, and is a slight 6’1”. But regardless of their past (and physical stature) they’re both vying for the QB3 position.

Having started games for the Steelers, Hodges obviously will have the edge heading into camp. But Lynch’s size, strength, and running ability will be hard for coaches to look past. This will come down to who can make the throws and who has the best grasp of the offense. Which makes it hard to predict but will be a fun sub-plot of camp.

And guess what Steeler fans?! We might be able to see all this play out on HBO’s Hard Knocks!

Who do you think will win these battles? Are there any other positions up for grabs that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Podcast: Does the 2020 Steelers’ success hinge on turnovers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/19/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest BTSC podcast, our Steelers ‘Stat Geek’ breaks down the numbers surrounding the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over, and the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Stat Geek. On this show deputy editor Dave Schofield and his brother Rich break down all things Steelers stats, and also answers questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • Close look at the Steelers’ turnovers in 2019
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walks 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.

The audio of the Stat Geek Q&A will be published at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Here is the audio:

Black and Gold Links: Terrell Edmunds realizes what needs to happen with the Steelers defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/19/2020 - 4:33am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how safety Terrell Edmunds realizes exactly what needs to happen with the Steelers’ defense in 2020.

Let’s get to the news:

  • What needs to happen for the Steelers’ defense to take the next step next season? Just ask Terrell Edmunds, he knows.

Terrell Edmunds feels Steelers defense needs to go from good to great

By: Josh Alper, ProFootballTalk

The Steelers remained in the playoff race into the final weeks of the regular season despite on offense that ranked near the bottom of the league.

Offensive struggles were a result of playing almost the entire year with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges at quarterback, so most of the credit the team’s ability to hang around has to go to a defense that ranked fifth in both yards and points allowed. That doesn’t mean that the team can’t do more on that side of the ball.

Linebacker T.J. Watt said the Steelers “didn’t shut teams out and control the game defensively” while safety Terrell Edmunds sees the need to go from good to great for the unit to reach its full power.

“We never did anything great, spectacular,” Edmunds said, via Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com. “We did a whole lot of good things, we made some good plays, but we didn’t make too many great plays even though we had the stats. I guess this is something that we can work on this offseason and something we have to build off of and be able to take that next step. We are doing a lot of good things, but not a lot of things great and that’s what we want to do.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

John Dorsey: Myles Garrett made accusation against Mason Rudolph postgame

By: Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk

Former Browns General Manager John Dorsey confirmed Myles Garrett‘s account of what happened immediately after the defensive end’s ejection Nov. 14 against the Steelers.

Garrett said he told Dorsey, coaches and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi that Mason Rudolph‘s use of a racial slur is what set him off. The Steelers quarterback repeatedly has denied the allegation, most recently in a Saturday statement.

Dorsey confirmed to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal on Monday that Garrett had informed the team of his racial slur accusation postgame.

“Correct,” Dorsey told Ulrich. “It’s the truth.”

That follows what Dorsey said in a prepared statement Nov. 21 in which he said Garrett “was open and honest with us about the incident from the start.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Just when you thought this whole issue stemming from that Thursday Night Football game was over, think again.

Mark Madden: Myles Garrett is lying about Steelers QB Mason Rudolph

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Myles Garrett is lying.

But very few will say that, at least not directly.

As a result, Garrett’s lie is, by default, becoming the truth. Entire sports-talk TV segments are built around “what if.” As in, “what if Mason Rudolph did call Myles Garrett the n-word?”

As George Costanza said, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” At this point, Garrett may believe his own fiction.

Garrett now specializes in double-talk. He wants to “move past it,” yet keeps bringing it up. He doesn’t “want to make it a racial thing,” yet keeps doing exactly that. He implies the NFL is suppressing audio that proves him right.

Rudolph’s attorney is threatening legal action against Garrett. (Rudolph punctuated that possibility by calling Garrett’s most recent statement “a bold-faced lie” and “a disgusting and reckless attempt to assassinate my character.”)

The NFL reiterated its investigation absolved Rudolph.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin released a statement that supports Rudolph and, for all intents and purposes, calls Garrett a liar. Tomlin followed that up Monday with an appearance on ESPN that aggressively defended Rudolph and excoriated ESPN for positioning Garrett’s accusation as true.

But, again, the l-word wasn’t used.

It should be. Garrett is a liar.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

The best plays from our defense in 2019 ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/dt4Of5elW3

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 18, 2020

.@missi_matthews sits down with @rell_island6 to discuss the 2019 season, Minkah Fitzpatrick's spark, this year's defense & more. pic.twitter.com/SrZ3K2DTYf

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 17, 2020

Mike Tomlin Tuesday: You have to work in concert as a football team

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/18/2020 - 2:14pm
Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

With no more press conferences from Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin in the foreseeable future, we’ll look back at some of interesting quotes from the 2019 season

Once again, it doesn’t seem like a Tuesday unless we are graced with words from Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin from his weekly press conference. Even though we got a surprise appearance on ESPN’s First Take on Monday which provided plenty of quotes, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting quotes Tomlin has given us this past season.

We’ve experienced several “Throwback Tomlin Tuesday” quotes so far this off-season. So far we have re-lived the following:

A nose guard is like Blockbuster video
We weren’t ready for prime time tonight
So that’s how you lay an egg
We’ve got to make plays
I’m not a doctor
We’re excited infusing him into the fold

As we continue trough the 2019 season, let’s go back to the post-game press conference following the Steelers Week 3 loss in San Francisco. During the question and answer period, coach Tomlin was asked the teams inability to finish the game off since they were leading n the fourth quarter.

“Like I outlined,” Tomlin replied, “We got turnovers in the first half, we settled for field goals. They got turnovers in the second half and scored touchdowns. Thus the outcome.”

It was the story of the game. Even though the Steelers were +3 in turnover margin, they were -8 in points off of turnovers. The Steelers kicked two field goals off the first two turnovers, but when they received the ball they were already in field-goal range. Between the two drives, they managed only one first down. As for the other three takeaways, they were deep in Steelers’ territory and kept the 49ers from putting points on the board. Regardless, it takes multiple aspects of the team working together to maximize takeaways.

“When you get them down, you have to work in concert as a football team,” Tomlin explained. “And they worked in better concert than we did. When we put their defense on a short field in the first half, they made us settle for three. When our defense was in the short field in the second half, they got touchdowns.”

The most painful of the turnovers the Steelers surrendered was after recovering a fumble at their own 14-yard line with less than seven minutes remaining in the game. The Steelers cashed in back-to-back 5-yard gains from a James Conner rush and reception for a first down. Unfortunately, the next play was a James Conner rush to the right in which he lost 2 yards as well as the ball. The 49ers took over at the Steelers 24-yard line with just over five and a half minutes to play. Even though it appeared the Steelers had held the 49ers to a field goal just before the two minute warning, a defensive holding penalty gave them new life and two plays later they scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Tomlin made sure to reiterate it was a team effort when it came to the turnover situation. It was not just the defense failing to stop the 49ers after each turnover, but the offense’s inability to do something with the ball after the defense forced the takeaway.

“And so it’s all of us collectively. That’s football teams. We didn’t do enough today to win it. We didn’t work in concert to accentuate the positive, we didn’t work in concert well enough to minimize the negative.”

It was a tumultuous game for the Steelers in Week 3 of 2019. Notoriously struggling on the West Coast with a quarterback making his very first start, it was a tough situation for the Steelers to overcome. But with the defense coming up with five takeaways, the Steelers had their chances to pull out the victory against the eventual NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately they came up just short.

Pages

Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator