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11 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following practice on Thursday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 7:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking to the media after the first practice in pads, the Steelers head coach answered many questions about specific players.

The Pittsburgh Steelers dodged the weather at Heinz Field for 2021 Training Camp on Thursday. Since the Steelers were back on the field, we were also given the typical media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Therefore, it’s time to look at the players mentioned by Coach Tomlin during his media time. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.

Diontae Johnson

Coach Tomlin was asked about what he’s like the most from the Steelers two minute drill. In discussing what happened, Coach Tomlin specifically brought up a play he liked by wide receiver Diontae Johnson.

“I just liked the competitive spirit. I liked the communication pre-snap on defense, I like the way the quarterbacks were working to challenge them down on the grass. You’ve got to take calculated risks in those moments, you’ve got to have a big play every now and then. I thought the play by Diontae when he reversed field and got out of the pocket of the defense and was able to get additional yards and get out of bounds is a type of play you’ve gotta have in those moments. It allowed us to get a chunk of real estate, it allowed us to preserve a time out. All of that is critical in that situation.”

Minkah Fitzpatrick

When Coach Tomlin was asked about something he didn’t like about the two minute drill, he talked about the Steelers offense not making the right play with very little time left. Instead, Coach Tomlin mentioned safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and how he made the play that stopped the offense and ran out the clock.

“At 15 seconds, we’ve got to take shots at the endzone. When Minkah tackled that guy on the field of play right there, the game’s over, and we’ve got to have that level of awareness. It was annoying, yes, but I also acknowledge that the learning process is part of this. It’s an opportunity to teach but some of those guys have been around a little bit, and so I expressed that feeling.”

T.J. Watt & Stephon Tuitt

Always part of the concern throughout training camp are the players who do not practice each day. Coach Tomlin was asked about when T.J. Watt would be available to practice and he lumped him together with Stephon Tuitt.

“I’m just day-to-day to be honest with you. Probably the same level of participation with some others: Stephon Tuitt and others. I’m focused on the guys that are working and their opportunities and the process that this group is collectively going through.”

Coach Tomlin was asked a follow-up question about if T.J. Watt was dealing with an injury.

“I don’t have to report injuries this time of year, so I won’t.”

Pressley Harvin III

One player who was noted for making a splash in regards to special teams was seventh-round draft pick Pressley Harvin. Coach Tomlin was asked about the hangtime exhibition Harvin was putting on with his punts on Thursday.

“He looked like Ray Guy a time or two, didn’t he? Yeah, those guys have been battling and we respect all the battles that are going on out here. So are the snappers. They don’t get a lot of attention, but believe me, we value it. The guys are interested in how they’re competing and we provide a platform for those guys to distinguish themselves as much as we can.”

Rico Bussey & Matthew Sexton

A young wide receiver who was turning a lot of heads at practice on Thursday was undrafted free agent Rico Bussey out of Hawaii. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he thought of Bussey’s play on Thursday and he brought up fellow wide receiver Matthew Sexton as someone who was making plays on a previous day.

“He made a play or two. But Sexton made a play or two the other day. You guys didn’t call Sexton over.”

Tre Norwood

One player who was noted for having an interception on Thursday was the other seventh-round draft pick Tre Norwood. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he has seen from Norwood so far this training camp and if interceptions are a specialty of his.

“I hope so. He’s a sharp kid. He communicates well, and at this stage of the journey, that communication indicates understanding. So that’s a good place to be at for a guy in his spot. We’ll just keep putting him in position to do what he’s done thus far.”

Coach Tomlin was asked a follow-up question about if Norwood will be getting into the competition for the slot cornerback position.

“Position flexibility we value, but we’re not doing a lot of that at this juncture. There’s going to be plenty of time to move people around. We just wanted to get him stable at safety first. There’s going to be opportunities for that. We’re working some others in some of the subpacket stuff. At the end of the day, we just want to know what all of them are capable of and have some flexibility there, and he’s obviously one of those chess pieces.”

Dwayne Haskins

Being a former first-round draft pick, Dwayne Haskins is a player who is likely to be scrutinized with every good and bad thing he does on the field. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he has liked from Haskins so far in training camp.

“I like what he’s doing. He’s taking care of the ball but at the same time being aggressive. He’s dialed in been in the reps in which he’s not going. He’s building a rapport with the group of guys that he’s getting an opportunity to work with. And I think that’s a component of this that we don’t often talk about too is there’s a get to know in terms of the cohesion, particularly when you’re working with multiple groups and multiple people. And that’s a guy that’s getting some third group reps, that’s a guy that’s getting some second group reps, and so he’s got a lot of people to get comfortable with.”

Robert Spillane & Devin Bush

The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to have Devin Bush and Robert Spillane as their top two linebackers on the depth chart for 2021. Interesting enough, the two players have rarely seen the field together in their time in Pittsburgh. Coach Tomlin was asked about the importance of the relationship between Bush and Spillane.

“It’s about cooperative work and communication in a tandem. And it’s cool from my perspective because it’s generational. I watched it happen with Vince Williams and Ryan Shazier when they were young, and it’s really kind of born out of that, and it’s been passed down from duo to duo over the years in that room. That’s one of the cool things that happens in environments like this.”

A portion of Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen below as well as a link to the full interview on the Steelers’ YouTube channel.

Coach Tomlin talks about today's #SteelersCamp practice.@OurFordStore | Full : https://t.co/S5SVokIgub pic.twitter.com/MmNCQoXQZK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 29, 2021

Steelers ‘Digit Dynasty’: Who wore his number best? No. 26-50

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/30/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers have a rich history, but looking back at their jersey numbers it makes you wonder which player wore the Nos. 26-50 best.

In Part One of Steelers Digit Dynasty, BTSC examined the best of the best to wear the numbers from 0-25 in franchise history. This time around, our journey takes us through No. 50. We will answer such burning digital questions like:

  • Will Le’Veon Bell’s gaudy stats place him as the all-time best two-sixer?
  • What free agent departs in 2021 as the best to wear his jersey number?
  • Is the No. 33 the numerals that has the most worthy competition?
  • Can Minkah Fitzpatrick’s amazing accomplishments in a short amount of time give him the crown as the top No. 39?

We will see. Let’s take a look.

Part Two: Numbers 26-49

Note: Years provided came from The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Media Guide

No. 26 CB/KR/PR Rod Woodson (1987-1996)

Woodson spent ten years of his Hall of Fame resume’ in black-and-gold, but most Steelers fans still view him as the one that got away. The world-class hurdler thrived for seven more seasons in the NFL after departing Pittsburgh. It’s hard not to wonder if his leadership on defense would have brought another title to the City of Champions, especially in 1997. During his Steel Town tenure, Woodson was named All-Pro six times, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1993, three-time Steelers MVP and was included on the 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Rod holds the NFL record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns at 12. To illustrate how huge these numerals have been in Steelers’ history, Le’Veon Bell isn’t the best to wear the number for the franchise despite the gaudy offensive numbers he’s produced.

Other Notables: Brady Keys 1961-1967, Deshea Townsend 1998-2009, Le’Veon Bell 2013-2017

Current Wearer: RB Anthony McFarland Jr. S Donovan Stiner

No. 27 S Glen Edwards (1971-1977) Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Edwards is another one of those 70s Steelers who gets overshadowed by the Hall of Famers of that era. In eight seasons as a member of the Steel Curtain defense, Edwards picked-off 25 passes. The four-time All-Pro played in Super Bowl IX and X, before leaving for San Diego.

Other Notables: Thomas Everett 1988-1991, Brent Alexander 2000-2003, Willie Williams 1993-1996 and 2004-2005

Current Wearer: S Marcus Allen

No. 28 S Chris Hope (2002-2005) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Hope started 32 games with the Steelers in four seasons. The talented safety started in Super Bowl XL and then departed for Tennessee, where he enjoyed a Pro Bowl season in 2008.

Other Notables: Lupe Sanchez 1986-1988

Current Wearer: LB/ST Miles Killebrew

No. 29 Barry Foster-RB (1990-1994) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The ball-carrier served five enigmatic seasons for the Steelers. Foster enjoyed the finest single-season ever in club history in 1992, rushing for a team mark of 1,690 yards and earning the team’s MVP honor. Foster ran and received for nearly 5,000 yards and scored 28 times in Pittsburgh. The emergence of Bam Morris plus some nagging injuries hastened his departure in 1995. Foster joined Carolina and Cincinnati in 1995, but he never played a game for either club.

Other Notables: Chidi Iwuoma 2002-2006, Ryan Mundy 2009-2012

Current Wearer: RB Kalen Ballage, CB Shakur Brown

No. 30 RB Frank Pollard (1980-1988) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The high school track star won a state track team championship in Texas as the only member of the team. Pollard was a very productive runner in Pittsburgh during the eighties. In nine seasons, Pollard ran for 3,989 yards and 20 touchdowns. He spent his entire career wearing black-and-gold, but part of it wearing No. 44 as well.

Other Notables: Larry Anderson 1978-1981, Chad Scott 1997-2004, James Conner 2017-2020

Current Wearer: CB DeMarkus Acy

No. 31 S Donnie Shell (1974-1987)

Not only did the Steelers draft four Hall of Famers in 1974, Donnie Shell, the undrafted safety from South Carolina State will now join them in Canton. In 14 seasons with the Steelers, Shell amassed 51 interceptions. Two of those picks came in the 1984 season-finale win over the Los Angeles Raiders that propelled the team into the playoffs. He ranks third in franchise history, six behind the leader, Mel Blount.

Other Notables: Mike Logan 2001-2006

Current Wearer: CB Justin Layne

No. 32 RB Franco Harris (1972-1984) Photo by Ross Lewis/Getty Images

The Super Bowl IX MVP and owner of four rings is the all-time team rushing leader with 11,950 yards. His Immaculate Reception remains the greatest play in NFL history and some people believe it marked the turning point for a perennial loser. His is another non-retired number that is no longer issued. Harris thrilled his Italian Army as a nine-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 1970s All-Decade team and even earned a visit to practice from the legendary Frank Sinatra.

No. 33 RB John “Frenchy” Fuqua (1970-1976) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Fuqua had 2,492 yards for the Steelers and held the single-game rushing mark of 220 yards in a 1970 contest. That record lasted 36 years before Willie Parker broke it in 2006 (Le’Veon Bell owns it today by virtue of his December 2016 performance in Buffalo). “The French Count” is the only man who knows the truth behind the Immaculate Reception. Fuqua, who remains mum on the subject and has turned down large sums to reveal, was the player for whom the fateful pass was originally intended. Fuqua narrowly edges out Merril Hoge and Fran Rogel for No. 33 supremacy and also reigns as the most fashionable personality in team lore. And yes..he wore shoes with live goldfish in the heels.

Other Notables: Fran Rogel 1954-1957, Merril Hoge 1987-1993, Byron “Bam” Morris 1994-1995, Isaac Redman 2011-2013

Current Wearer: RB Trey Edmunds, LB Calvin Bundage

No. 34 LB Andy Russell (1967-1976) Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Andy Russell was a part of the greatest trio of linebackers in NFL history. Not as recognizable as Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, Russell still thrived for 12 years and won two Super Bowl titles. His 93-yard fumble return in the 1975 playoffs versus Baltimore was voted by fans as the seventh best play in Three Rivers history. Russell was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and was a four-time All-Pro.

Other Notables: Walter Abercrombie 1982-1987, Verron Haynes 2002-2007, Rashard Mendenhall 2008-2012, DeAngelo Williams 2015-2016

Current Wearer: S Terrell Edmunds

No. 35 RB John Henry Johnson (1960-1965) Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images

Hall of Famers galore wore No. 35 in Pittsburgh, including Bullet Bill Dudley, Walt Keisling and John McNally. However, John Henry Johnson wore it for six seasons during his Hall of Fame career in Pittsburgh. Johnson ranks fourth all-time on the team’s career rushing list.

Other Notables: Delton Hall 1987-1991, Dan Kreider 2000-2007

Current Wearer: S Arthur Maulet

No. 36 RB Jerome Bettis (1996-2006)

The Rams’ presumed “trash” became the Steelers’ treasure when they acquired the big rusher in exchange for a second- and fourth-rounder in the 1996 draft. The Bus trails only Franco Harris for the team lead in most rushing categories. Despite spending his first three years in LA and St. Louis, Jerome rushed for 10,571 yards and scored 80 touchdowns for the Steelers. As the Steelers celebrated their Super Bowl XL win, Bettis retired on the podium in his home city of Detroit. Bettis, who was enshrined in Canton finally in August 2015, is sixth all-time on the NFL rushing list.

No. 37 S/CB Carnell Lake (1989-1998)

A linebacker at UCLA, Lake switched to safety in the pros and his play earned him inclusion on the 1990’s All-Decade team. Lake, who stepped down in February 2018 as the Steelers defensive backfield coach, was a 5-time Pro Bowl selection and a 4-time All-Pro during his time with Pittsburgh. Lake tallied 677 tackles, 25 sacks, 16 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries during his 10-year career by the three rivers. Lake’s defining moment was switching to cornerback in 1995 after Rod Woodson’s season-ending injury in the opener. Lake’s performance that season proved to be a major factor in the team’s SB XXX entry.

No. 38 RB Sidney Thornton (1977-1982) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Thornton was picked in the second round of the 1977 draft. Mostly a backup to Franco Harris, Sidney played in 76 games, hit pay-dirt 18 times and combined rushing and receiving for more than 2,000 yards. Thornton played in both Super Bowls XIII and XIV.

Other Notables: Earl Gros 1967-1969, Tim Worley 1989-1993, Jon Witman 1996-2001, Carey Davis 2007-2009

Current Wearer: RB Jaylen Samuels, DB Stephen Denmark

No. 39 RB Willie Parker (2004-2010) Photo by Mike Ehrmann/NFLPhotoLibrary

Fast Willie Parker wasn’t supposed to start in Pittsburgh, but in 2005 when both Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley were deemed unable to play in the opener, Parker ran the rock for 161 yards and finished the season with 1,202. In Super Bowl XL, Parker’s 75-yard dash is still the longest running-play in Super Bowl history. Injuries cut short the career of the 2-time Pro Bowler, who finished his career as the third best rusher in team history with 5,378 yards and 29 touchdowns. Parker held the record for most rushing yards in a single game, notching 223 on a frigid December night in 2006, until Le’Veon Bell broke it in 2016. Pretty soon, Minkah Fitzpatrick might just take over the list.

Other Notables: Bobby Walden 1968-1977, Rick Moser 1979-1982, Darren Perry 1992-1998

Current Wearer: S Minkah Fitzpatrick

No. 40 S Myron Bell (1994-1997 and 2000-2001)

The man known as “Boo” played six non-consecutive seasons for the Steelers. The safety from Michigan State collected three interceptions during his time and started in Super Bowl XXX against Dallas.

Current Wearer: LB Tegray Scales

No. 41 S Lethon Flowers (1995-2002)

Flowers was a big-league hitter and an all-league talker. Lee never met a microphone he didn’t like. In eight years, Flowers had four picks, 432 tackles and 12 sacks. Lee appeared in 3 AFC title bouts and Super Bowl XXX.

Other Notables: CB Sam Washington 1982-1985, CB Antwon Blake 2013-2015

Current Wearer: LB Robert Spillane

No. 42 RB Dick Hoak (1961-1970)

Dick Hoak is one of the longest-tenured Steelers with ten years as a running back and 36 years as a running-backs coach. Hoak’s 3,965 yards ranks him sixth all-time on the list of Steelers’ rushers.

Current Wearer: CB James Pierre

No. 43 S Troy Polamalu (2003-2014)

The 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year retired as one of the most popular players in the history of the team. The eight-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro was known for his kamikaze-style of play and his trademark hair. Troy is a member of the NFL’s 90’s All-Decade team, the franchise’s All-Time team and the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and team MVP. Polamalu concluded his career after the 2014 season with 581 tackles and ranks seventh all-time with 32 interceptions. Troy became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2020.

Other Notables: RB Ernest Jackson 1986-1988, WR Frank Lewis 1971-1977

No. 44 D.J. Johnson-CB (1989-1993) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The bandana-sporting Johnson stood out opposite Rod Woodson at corner in the early 90s. During his Steelers career, he thieved 19 passes.

Other Notables: Mike Collier 1975-1976

Current Wearer: FB Derek Watt, LB Jamir Jones

No. 45 Chris Fuamatu Ma’afala-RB (1998-2002)

The massive Hawaiian spent five years carrying the pigskin for the Steelers. Referred to as “One Bad Ma’Afala”, Chris chipped in with eight touchdowns during his era and scored his biggest in the epic Wild Card Game against the Browns following the 2002 season.

Current Wearer: LB Jarvis Miller

No. 46 Reggie Harrison-RB (1974-1977)

Harrison lasted four years with the Steelers and made his mark on special teams. His pivotal punt-block in Super Bowl X resulted in a safety. Twice a Super Bowl Champ, Harrison started in place of the injured Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier in the 1976 AFC Championship. He’s now known as Kamal Ali Salaam-El.

Other Notables: Will Johnson 2012-2015

Current Wearer: LB/LS Christian Kuntz

No. 47 CB Mel Blount (1970-1983) Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

The Hall of Famer was so dominant that the league instituted a rule — the 5-yard chuck — primarily because of him. In fact, teammate John Stallworth credits that rule as a part of his own success. Blount revolutionized the corner position and ranks as the team-best with 57 interceptions during his career, including 11 in 1975 when he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The 5-time Pro Bowler made All-Pro six times and is a member of the 1970s All-Decade team and the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.

Other Notables: Marv Woodson 1964-1969

No. 48 OLB Alvin “Bud” Dupree (2015-2020)

Dupree, the 2015 top selection out of Kentucky, had a promising rookie season for the Steelers. Dupree accumulated 11.5 sacks in 2019 which earned him the franchise tag for 2020. After eight sacks in a mere 11 games, Alvin “Bud” suffered a season-ending knee injury against Baltimore on 12/2. Upon departing for a lucrative free agent deal with the Titans in the offseason, Dupree wrote a love letter to the team and city to celebrate his six years in Pittsburgh.

Current Wearer: LB Quince Roche

No. 49 C Dwayne Woodruff (1979-1990) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

As good as Woodruff was for 12 seasons for the Steelers, the work that the 1982 team-MVP does now impacts more people. A member of the SB XIV winning squad, Woodruff was elected to serve as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in 2005. He also ran for openings on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but fell short. His 37 interceptions in 12 seasons ranks him fourth all-time in Pittsburgh.

Current Wearer: LB Cassius Marsh, TE Dax Raymond

No. 50 LB Ryan Shazier (2014-2019) Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In 12 years with the Steelers, David Little had 10 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries and was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1990 season. Even though Little had a long and successful career, Ryan Shazier accomplished a pretty amazing body of work in a small amount of time. The Steelers’ top pick in 2014 out of Ohio State had 299 tackles, seven sacks and seven interceptions. What he might have accomplished during a full career, we most likely will never know due to his career-threatening injury in 2017. Shazier was a field general on defense and his dominating performance against Cincinnati in the 2015 Wild Card Game made the victory possible by forcing two fumbles late in the game.

Other Notables: LB John Reger 1955-1963, OL Jim Clack 1969-1977, LB David Little 1981-1992, Earl Holmes 1996-2001, LB Larry Foote 2002-2008 and 2010-2013

Current Wearer: LB Jamar Watson

Feel free to state your own claims in the comments section and check back for Part Three very soon.

If you missed Part 1 of Digit Dynasty, check it out here.

The Steelers ‘Digit Dynasty’: Who wore the number best? No. 0-25 - Behind the Steel Curtain

Podcast: Is 2021 a Super Bowl or bust season for the Steelers?

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

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

The Ben Roethlisberger era is coming near it’s end in the Steel City. The Steelers have signed a number of players to one-year deals. Is 2021 a Super Bowl or bust season for the Steelers? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC senior editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

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

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Pat Freiermuth continues to exceed expectations at training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 2:05pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Could the Steelers have found their next great tight end in Pat Freiermuth?

In the long and storied history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have never really had a game changing right end. Heath Miller is by far the organizations greatest at the position, but even at his peak Miller never scratched the upper echelon of tight ends that were currently in the league. Aside from Miller the Steelers have had a handful of guys that produced a couple decent seasons here and there but nothing that ever lit the NFL world on fire. The Steelers have only had five Pro Bowl seasons from a tight end in their history (Miller-2, Green-2, and Carpenter-1) and have no First Team All-Pro or Pro Football Hall of Famers. But, here in 2021 they may have finally found a player with the talent to end the Steelers long drought at the tight end position.

Pat Freiermuth, the second round pick out of Penn State, is receiving a ton of praise from the Steelers coaches and media alike. He’s catching everything thrown his way, and has been hauling in a number of highlight reel type receptions. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has begun a new catch phrase every time Freiermuth catches a pass, likely to keep the rookie level headed. That line is simply ‘you can catch, but can you block?’ Well, Freiermuth got the opportunity to show off his blocking skills.

Look at @pat_fry5 pic.twitter.com/BGC6ul9tgt

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 25, 2021

In a blocking drill on Wednesday, Freiermuth was able to shut down Alex Highsmith, who himself had a great day of rushing the passer. We are still a very long way from determining whether Freiermuth can be a great blocker, but the fact he was one of the better blocking tight ends on this day stands out. To get the opportunity to be a big-time contributor in the Steelers offense at tight end you have to be able to block, even if it’s to that players detriment. Look at Eric Ebron who the Steelers forced to put his hand in the dirt and block, which has never been a part of his game and he unsurprisingly struggled.

Pat Freiermuth stops Alex Highsmith cold. Mike Tomlin asked if he could block, hell of a response by Freiermuth

— Nick Farabaugh (@Nick_Farabaugh) July 28, 2021

For Freiermuth to become an impact player as a rookie he will need to continue to impress in the blocking game. If he can do that, the Steelers will inevitably get him on the field more and, in turn, give him the ability to catch more passes. The Pittsburgh Steelers may have a special talent on their hands for the first time in a very long time. If they can use Freiermuth to his strengths, the organization may have a weapon the offense has been lacking for a very long time. A big rookie year from the tight end may even put the Steelers back on track toward a playoff spot.

But what do you think? Can Pat Freiermuth be a big-time contributor in Pittsburgh as a rookie? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Podcast: Steelers Training Camp brings enthusiasm that can’t be curbed

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 2:00pm

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

Training Camp brings the game of football back to the players and the fans. It also brings a ton of excitement for the regular season. Join Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict as they break down training camp so far and just who and what is generating the excitement.

  • News and Notes
  • The excitement of Steelers Training Camp 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Steelers 2021 Training Camp: Tracking Thursday’s Practice at Heinz Field

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 1:55pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are back in front of fans at Heinz Field on Thursday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in full swing in regards to practices as they are scheduled to continue at Heinz Field for 2021 training camp. There are some weather concerns today, and whether or not the Steelers will be at Heinz Field could change before practice arrives. With fans hopefully in the stands once again, there should be plenty to report about practice if things go off as planned. And when the Steelers are on the field, we will be compiling as much information as to what is going on at practice as we possibly can.

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

The Steelers Live show from Heinz Field at 1:30 PM can be seen here:

Get an exclusive live look-in at today's #SteelersCamp practice on Training Camp Live, presented by @FedEx!

For more training camp coverage, watch @NFLNetwork. https://t.co/b8rgE9ci8a

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 29, 2021

Inclement weather is expected in the Pittsburgh area on Thursday and we will provide updates as they become available through our digital and social platforms.https://t.co/IGPx3BcOPZ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 29, 2021

As of noon, Steelers still planning camp practice today at Heinz Field. They see a small weather window between 1-4 pm that will allow them to do so. pic.twitter.com/dIV29B2uHk

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) July 29, 2021

Stephon Tuitt still not in pads for the Steelers. I would imagine that remains the case until they get back from Canton next week.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 29, 2021

First defensive player on the field for Steelers practice today is Minkah Fitzpatrick. Obviously he's already being fueld by his Madden rating.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 29, 2021

Doesn't look like Watt will be practicing today, either.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 29, 2021

Threat of rain, plus a light drizzle now, hasn't stopped the fans from showing up at Heinz Field for second practice of camp. Steelers are not in pads today.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 29, 2021

No shells today for Zach Banner but it does appear that Kevin Dotson has shells on. He hasn't practiced yet for the Steelers.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 29, 2021

It looks like the Steelers will be practicing their no-huddle today. Repping it in warmups.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 29, 2021

On a mission. pic.twitter.com/P3KOZdE2z5

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) July 29, 2021

LG Kevin Dotson, who hasn't yet practiced, is working with the second-team OL in walkthrough. In his place is Rashaad Coward. Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner are left and right tackle, respectively. Believe this is the first time we've seen both of them out there together.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 29, 2021

Ready to get to work #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/dEgRqmwB7C

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 29, 2021

Doesn't look like Eric Ebron will be practicing today. He had an elbow injury Wednesday.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 29, 2021

Kevin Dotson isn't fully participating, but he is in shells and wearing a helmet while he does work off to the side. Improvement for the LG who hasn't practiced yet.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 29, 2021

JC Hassenauer running today on the sideline

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 29, 2021

Sun is coming out at Heinz Field and there are a good number of fans in the stands now. It's cooler than yesterday, temps checking in a 76 degrees, down from upper 80s/low 90s yesterday.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 29, 2021

Ben Roethlisberger with KT Tape on his right knee -- KT Tape is an elastic sports tape designed to relieve pain while supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 29, 2021

Steelers doing another round of "7 Shots" 11-on-11 goal-line drill. Lot of backups in on D.

First play, JuJu Smith-Schuster can't quite haul in a pass in the back right corner of the end zone. He lined up on the outside. James Pierre in coverage.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 29, 2021

Steelers offense scored on the next two plays, though. Two touchdowns to Chase Claypool, one over Cam Sutton in the back left corner, next one out of the slot on a quick slant.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 29, 2021

Second-team O not as successful in 7 Shots. Mason Rudolph "sacked" by slot corner Art Maulet, then tosses a TD to Ray McCloud that was slow to develop.

Dwayne Haskins came in with the 3s, threw one TD to Tyler Simmons, then boinked one off TE Dax Raymond's head on the last play.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 29, 2021

Eric Ebron (elbow soreness) isn't practicing today, but he was hanging nearby Roethlisberger during a throwing drill -- making good on his promise to be Big Ben's pet peeve.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 29, 2021

Just sayin' hi to #SteelersNation pic.twitter.com/xyd4MB0P9l

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 29, 2021

Rashaad Coward still working with the first-team line even though Doston is back today.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 29, 2021

Melvin Ingram hasn’t done much — if anything — today. Seeing a lot of Cassius Marsh paired with Alex Highsmith on the outside. Joe Haden also a vet who’s here but not practicing. Would guess it’s a vet day off for both, but we’ll find out after practice.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 29, 2021

✌️ @TeamJuJu pic.twitter.com/3x06suA7Wd

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 29, 2021

Pat Freiermuth made a contested catch on a nice ball from Josh Dobbs over Calvin Bundage and the fans at Heinz Field gave the rookie a taste of what he’ll experience in the regular season with a decently loud MUUUUUUTHHHHH

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 29, 2021

Melvin Ingram getting a light workload today at Steelers practice but he just got done fielding some punts, or trying to. The fans enjoyed it.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 29, 2021

An inside look at the Steelers first padded training camp practice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers put on the pads in front of fans Wednesday, and there was plenty to see from the events which took place.

The Pittsburgh Steelers moved their camp practices to Heinz Field on Tuesday, but Wednesday was the big day. It was not just the first day fans attended camp practices, but also the first padded practice for the black and gold.

Unlike previous training camp practices where media are restricted on what they report, with fans there with phones to record, you can get a good glimpse of what the Steelers were up to thanks to some fans who took, and shared, video from the day that was.

Below are some great videos from the Steelers’ first day of padded practices. Mind you this is just a fan taking video from their seat at Heinz Field. These videos came from Twitter use “Steelers World-Wide”, you can follow this person HERE, and they provide those who can’t attend training camp practices with an inside look at what took place Wednesday.

As a side note, if any readers attend practice and take some good video, feel free to send them our way and we would gladly include them into an article. We would gladly give credit for those who help out! Simply email videos to me at bngblitz@gmail.com, or if they are on Twitter you can send them to me by using the handle @JHartman_PIT.

Let’s get to the video...

Najee Harris TD reception with Devin Bush in coverage

The Play pic.twitter.com/FLA08J0mQF

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 29, 2021

Cam Sutton pass break up on Chase Claypool

Great coverage from Cam Sutton Chase Claypool here #Steelers #SteelerNation #SteelersNation #SteelersCamp @BlitzVideos @Steelersdepot @bepryor @steelers @SteeIerNation @MikedUpSports1 pic.twitter.com/2WVjizvCcw

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 29, 2021

Botched snap between Green and Roethlisberger

Video pic.twitter.com/4180DqUYre

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 29, 2021

Blocking Drills

The Just Being A Team Leader Watching The Lines Work #NFL #Steelers #SteelerNation #NFLTrainingCamp pic.twitter.com/llFbNnku6n

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 28, 2021

Alex Highsmith spin move

Highsmith got em jumping.. scared…hits an incredible spin. @TeamHighsmith your boy is out here KILLING IT ☠️ ☠️ ☠️ #SteelerNation #Steelers #NFL #NFLTrainingCamp #NFL pic.twitter.com/LCirxqwhBr

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 28, 2021

7-on-7 Roethlisberger to Najee

All… Year… Long…. 7 to 22 #SteelerNation #Steelers #NFL pic.twitter.com/yYlICIKb06

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 28, 2021

Dwayne Haskins threads the needle

Dwayne Haskins with a nice little dumps off…. Even faked me out pic.twitter.com/4TrqINQNrV

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 28, 2021

Play-action from Roethlisberger to Freiermuth

Big Ben With A Big Throw!!! pic.twitter.com/HliTOPVELM

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 28, 2021

Hard run by Najee Harris

Your 1st RD Pick Steeler Nation!!! pic.twitter.com/tWYWgCNk2x

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 28, 2021

Dwayne Haskins fade route to Tyler Simmons

Future QB 1 Dwayne Haskins pic.twitter.com/lQ8Pb9wM4k

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 28, 2021

7 Shots Plays

Someone yelled “F U Haskins” right before this play pic.twitter.com/0VH1tVacNU

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 28, 2021

Snell for the TD pic.twitter.com/7FiELEEaW6

— Steelers World-Wide (@Steelers__WW) July 28, 2021

A huge shout out to Steelers World-Wide, follow them HERE, for posting these videos from training camp practice. It gives some context to the reports we have all seen the past few days/weeks.

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

Podcast: How can the Steelers’ pass rush stay on the edge of glory?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 11:00am

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

The Steelers pass rush has been remarkable over the past five seasons. Despite losing Bud Dupree to free agency and aging, the defense still can get to opposing quarterbacks. But how can they continue to keep it up? Join BTSC’s Matt Peverell for his solo show as he looks at possible future Steelers and examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers dollars and “sense” situation when it comes to personnel.

Check out the BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matty in The War Room.

Rundown of the show:

  • The lofty pass rush standards set by the Steelers, how the edge rushers have contributed to this, what fans need to look out for production wise going into 2021
  • Which free agents or potential draft picks might help sustain this into ‘22.

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Steelers Vertex: Success passing the ball to the left of the formation in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 10:00am
Set Number: X163366 TK1

Breaking down the success of both short and long passes to the left side of the offensive formation last season.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers approach 2021 training camp, we are going to spend the next several weeks breaking down various aspects of the Steelers passing game in 2020. Next up this week is looking at passes thrown to the left of the offensive formation and the Steelers’ tendencies they will hopefully overcome in 2021.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

Once, I’m going to give the same disclaimer as last time. Although they don’t explicitly say it, I’m assuming the cutoff for whether it is a short pass or a long pass is the receiver being 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. The two sources for information in regards to the stats included are coming from NFLGSIS and Pro Football Reference. Their stats are extremely close as it is sometimes a fine line between whether or not the pass was thrown to the left or to the middle of the field. For this next exercise, we are looking at the statistics and the film of passes thrown to the left side of the formation as both short and long passes. This also is only including regular-season data.

Although the Steelers were ranked poorly across the NFL when it came to their passes to the right side of the formation, the left side is a completely different story. The Steelers threw 36 passes to the deep left in 2020 which ranked them 19th in the NFL, but their completion percentage of 50.0% and average gain of 15.28 yards per pass had them ranked 7th and 5th in the league respectively.

The Steelers scored only two touchdowns when throwing the ball to the deep left. As for who caught these passes, The first was an 84-yard touchdown to Chase Claypool against the Denver Broncos with the other being a 25-yard touchdown to JuJu Smith-Schuster against the Colts. Both passes were thrown by Ben Roethlisberger as he was 16 of 32 for 458 yards and no interceptions to go along with the two touchdowns one passing to the deep left on the season. Mason Rudolph was also 2 for 4 with 88 yards of passing and no interceptions to the deep left.

When it comes to the receivers, Chase Claypool had the most yards on passes to the deep left with 161, but only had three receptions on nine targets. Diontae Johnson was targeted the most as he had five receptions on 10 targets for 158 yards. Eric Ebron was close in targets as he had nine just like Claypool but had five catches for 106 yards. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught every ball thrown to him deep on the left side of the formation as he had four receptions on four targets for 94 yards. To round out the receiving stats, James Washington had one reception on four targets for 27 yards.

When it came to short passes on the left side of the formation, the Steelers threw 208 passes which ranked 4th in the NFL. In the short passing category, the Steelers threw more passes to the left than they did to either the middle or the right. As for the Steelers completion percentage on passes to the short left, they completed 78.44% of the passes ranking 9th in the NFL. They gained 6.74 yards per attempt which was 6th in the league.

The Steelers scored 10 touchdowns on passes to the short left side of the formation. Of the touchdowns, three went to JuJu Smith-Schuster while two apiece went to Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Eric Ebron. James Washington added one touchdown. The Steelers targeted 12 players to the short left of the formation. Other than Kevin Rader being 0 for 1, the lowest catch percentage belonged to Diontae Johnson with 35 receptions on a team-high 54 targets for a 64.8% catching percentage. James Washington is the next lowest percentage at 10 receptions on 15 targets for a 66.7% catch rate. Other than those three players, all other receivers had at least a 75% catch rate on balls thrown to the left that were fewer than 15 yards downfield.

As for the quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger completed 145 of 193 passes to the short right for a completion percentage of 75.1% with 1,253 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Mason Rudolph completed 10 of 15 passes for a 66.7% completion rate and 106 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

When passing to the left side of the formation, the Steelers had much more success than passing to the right. Is there a specific reason for this? Let’s see if the film gives any indication.

The Film Line:

One of the points I tried to make in our vertex covering passing to the right side was the right side of the offense being where the Steelers put their slot receiver. The left side is more likely to have a big gap between the outside receiver and the next receiver. That space makes it harder to give the corner help, and the Steelers love to attack that space. Antonio Brown was the Steelers X receiver and used his incredible change of direction and elite route running to dominate 1v1 coverage, forcing teams to pull defenders from the rest of the field to help cover Brown. Antonio Brown is no longer a Steeler, but the Steelers have a few players who have shined in that role.

Week 1, third quarter, 1:36. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the top of the screen.

The left side of the field is the shorter side, or boundary side of the field (the ball is on the left hashmark). The Steelers, in 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR), put Johnson all alone on the left side. You can see how the Giants deep safety is moving to help the side with three receivers, leaving Johnson in a 1v1 matchup, and Johnson uses his change of direction to win the route and create yards after the catch.

Week 5, second quarter, 11:57. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

This was a devastating route combo early in the season, and a major reason the Titans started dropping linebackers into the hook zones by the X receiver on almost every snap in Week 7. With Eric Ebron in-line at tight end, Claypool still has a lot of space to work with at the X receiver. With a single high safety, the corner can’t get beat outside, and a quick fake to the outside has Claypool driving upfield while Ebron’s out route pulls the linebacker out of the way of the throw. The space Claypool has at the catch point gives him time to see and avoid the tackle from the safety and the Steelers get a touchdown.

Week 5, third quarter, 15:00. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the top of the screen.

The Eagles aren’t going to get beat like that twice, so they start the second half running 2 deep safeties, and to Claypool’s side, you can see the safety preparing to jump an inside route while the outside corner is dropping deep. Any in-breaking route is going to be covered by the safety, while anything outside or vertical is the cornerback’s. The Steelers are a step ahead and use that cushion to get a quick 5 yards on first down.

If you’ve seen the Steelers pattern matching coverages, you know how defenses can defend this much better if there are more receivers and less open space, it’s much harder to switch responsibilities when there is more distance between the receivers.

Week 7, second quarter, 1:03. Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the top of the screen.

First watch the edge to the top of the screen, look at his drop. The Titans rush the middle linebacker but make sure there is a defender watching that slant route as the middle linebacker shuffles to the other side. The Titans, by the end of the first half, were watching for those routes. Meanwhile Diontae Johnson takes advantage of a big cushion to pick up 6 yards on 2nd and 8. Again, you’ve seen Mike Hilton read a pass like this to the outside receiver and attack it from his nickel spot. With only the outside corner to Johnson’s side, there are fewer defenders to be concerned with, the outside corner gives a cushion, and the quick pass is there.

Of course, you can always just play tight coverage and take away those quick throws.

Week 11, second quarter, 15:00. Diontae Johnson is the receiver.

With less deep help to his side and a tight coverage start, the corner has to turn and run with Johnson, and can’t afford to trail him. That sets up this catch. Johnson runs into the body of the corner, shedding him and creating space for the catch. While there were far fewer deep shots to the left than the right as Dave mentioned above, they connected far more often on them, and it is precisely because the short routes are harder to defend with more space, and when a defender over-commits to defending the shorter passes, you burn them deep.

Both Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool excelled in the X receiver role, and that shows up in their left/right splits. Johnson averaged 7.89 yards per target to the left side, and 5.41 yards per target to the right. Claypool posted an even bigger gap with a 5.61 yards per target to the right but an incredible 12 yards per target to the left side. JuJu Smith-Schuster also posted much higher yards per target to the left, a lot of that on routes coming across the formation underneath, while Claypool or Johnson pulled defenders deep.

With two players that are at their best playing the X receiver spot, it will be interesting to see how the Steelers split time at that spot between their two young receivers in 2021.

The Point:

Although the stats only break it down as right, left, or middle, the film ultimately shows how the Steelers were much more successful attacking defenses from the single-receiver side. While this side is generally the left side of the formation, it’s not always the case. And of course, different formations can throw things off as well as there may not even be a side with only one receiver. The biggest takeaway of all might be pointing out how the Steelers have a multiple receivers, such as Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, they can use to successfully attack the single-receiver side of the formation.

Xavien Howard wants out, and Steelers fans want the team to acquire more players

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 9:00am
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When will Steelers fans stop wanting the team to acquire more players?

I was going to title this article: “The Steelers should change their name to the Pittsburgh Acquirers,” but I had a change of heart when I figured that those who don’t read articles (you know who ALL of you are) would just freak out and say things like, “They should change their name to what? This site has become a joke!”

Anyway, I woke up Wednesday morning to this Tweet from one of our loyal readers: “Do you think we should go into win-now mode and trade for Xavien Howard? Or will we lose too much for him?”

My first thought was in question form: “Who is Xavien Howard?” My follow-up thought was, “Did he mean Xavier Howard?”

Turns out, Xavier Howard does not exist (at least not in the football world), but Xavien Howard does. He’s a cornerback for the Miami Dolphins, and he took to social media on Tuesday to demand they trade him.

Among Howard’s grievances with the Dolphins is an insufficient contract; apparently, he wants one that would indicate they respect him as much as Byron Jones, a fellow corner they signed to a five-year, $82.5 million deal last year. Howard might have a great point, especially when you consider he’s a two-time Pro Bowler who led the NFL with 10 interceptions a year ago. Only problem is, Howard inked a five-year, $75.25 million contract in 2019. That’s not exactly as much as what Jones is making, but it’s still a lot of dough.

And he wants even more. According to my research, Howard doesn’t want A LOT more, but he evidently wants more than the substantial cash he’s already contracted to make. I’ve never been one to call myself a salary-cap wizard, but I do know that no matter how Pittsburgh would go about it, it would take some doing to fit Howard’s $12-plus million base salary he’s supposed to earn in 2021 under the cap. Even if that were to happen, what about next year’s $12.3 million base salary? While we’re at it, how about the $11.4 million Howard is supposed to earn in 2023 or the $11.6 he’s scheduled to collect in 2024?

Also, did I mention Howard wants to make even more than that?

I guess my whole point is this: if the Steelers were going to trade for Howard, 28, they probably would have just kept Steven Nelson, 28, instead of cutting him in the spring in order to open up salary-cap space for 2021. I realize Nelson is no Xavien Howard—he’s never made the Pro Bowl—but he was a pretty darn good starting cornerback during his two seasons with Pittsburgh.

The Steelers didn’t think he was valuable enough to pay him roughly $8 million in base salary this season, however. I might not be a salary-cap wizard, and Nelson may not be as accomplished as Howard, but $12 million is a lot more money than $8 million. Is the talent and production gap between Howard and Nelson big enough to even notice the difference?

Did I mention Howard wants even more money than he’s already making?

Sure, Nelson Tweeted some not-so-nice things about the Steelers before they released him, things that had to do with money and respect, but didn’t Howard just do that to the Dolphins? This isn’t official, but I believe 94 percent of Steelers fans permanently put Nelson on their bleep list after he went public with his work grievances back in March. What if Howard did something similar after he became a Steeler? Would they have to cut him?

Even if the Steelers managed to pull off a trade with Miami to acquire Howard’s services, not only would it require at least one premium draft pick (a pick in round one—let’s be honest), he’d still want a new deal once he arrived in town. It isn’t as if Howard would get off the plane in Pittsburgh and suddenly say, “Well, now that I’m away from that Jones fella, I feel so respected that I don’t need more money. Where is the closest Primanti Bros. so I can eat there and upload it to my Instagram page?” (BTW, I swear if someone posts a picture of Howard at some airport under the guise that it’s Pittsburgh International, I will disable every social media account I have forever.)

To sum it all up, the Steelers aren’t going to trade for Howard and his $12 million salary because that would be dumber than just keeping Nelson and his $8 million salary.

Now that I’m done with that portion of the article, I have a question: when will you stop wanting the Steelers to trade for and/or sign players? How many more players do you want them to have? Sure, they have more room under the cap thanks to some creative financing, but that’s rainy day stuff at this point, right? I mean, don’t you like to keep a little cash around just in case something big comes up down the road?

The Steelers went out and got their new starting right guard. They just acquired the backup outside linebacker you so desperately wanted them to have. What more do you want?

I was fine not knowing who Xavien Howard was when I woke up on Wednesday morning. Now I know way too much about him. And stop asking about Aaron Rodgers. While you’re at it, stop asking about Deshaun Watson. The Steelers are now practicing in pads at training camp. That’s the story. We have the entire 2022 offseason to talk about acquiring Rodgers, Watson and probably a bunch of other players I currently don’t know the names of.

Training Camp Recap: With pads on, Najee Harris has an “appetite” for action

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 8:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back at Training Camp, and it is time to check out what went down during the latest practice!

It isn’t Saint Vincent College, but it hasn’t been Latrobe, PA since 2019. The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking in their 2021 Training Camp between Heinz Field and their UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the Southside of Pittsburgh.

What went down during the latest training camp practice? That is where this article comes in. Check out all that was said, as well as photos and videos from the day’s workouts.

Here we go...

As the Steelers donned the pads for the first time this preseason, all eyes were on the rookie class. Well, one in particular. That would be none other than the Steelers’ first round pick, and 24th overall, Najee Harris.

Throughout the non-padded portions of practice, quarterbacks and pass catchers tend to get all the news. After all, how do you gauge a running back’s capabilities when they can’t be hit or tackled?

This was the day fans were waiting for. Not only to attend practice in person, but also to see what Harris can do. Head coach Mike Tomlin did his job, and put Harris in the spotlight in a variety of ways. Not just team drills, but also in the famous ‘backs on backers’ drill.

When Tomlin put the rookie up to the plate, he had him going against safety-turned-linebacker Marcus Allen. Check out how it went down:

Usually the case, the defense has advantage in backs on backers. Najee Harris struggled with the drill early, but picked things up. Was paired with M. Allen at first. Lost his first and did fine the next 3 — with some holds. Stood Spillane up on his last try. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

Najee Harris manhandled Robert Spillane in the last rep or backs-on-backers and the QB loved it.

Roethlisberger ran over and jumped in the air to celebrate with Harris and yelled “PUT EM DOWN”

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 28, 2021

Following practice Tomlin was asked about Harris’ inaugural NFL practice with pads on, and he was clearly asked about his reps during the ‘backs on backers’ drill. His answer says it all. Harris doesn’t run away from the challenge, he runs towards it. He has an appetite for action.

Marcus Allen got the better of Najee Harris in the first two head-to-heads of backs on backers, but Najee showed more in the third. By the Spillane rep, Najee pretty much dominated.

But whatever you do, don’t tell Mike Tomlin it looked like his first-round pick struggled. pic.twitter.com/yiI7qWN2Tu

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 28, 2021

Tomlin was complimentary of Harris in every way possible, but don’t take these words for granted.

Mike Tomlin on backs-on-backers: ‘I think we all saw that Najee ran to the competition, not away from it. That’s exciting. His demeanor. I appreciated that.’

— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) July 28, 2021

If you’ve been following Mike Tomlin’s career since he was hired in 2007, you would know he does not hand out compliments to rookies often. The amount of times he has been almost at a loss of words when talking about a rookie, in a good way, are few and far between. The last rookie to do that was none other than T.J. Watt, who eventually pushed James Harrison out of the door.

Harris still has a long way to go, but he certainly got off to a great start Wednesday.

Now onto the other news and notes from Wednesday’s practice...

Players in and out

It is worth taking a minute to see who returned from practice, and who remained sidelined during Wednesday’s practice.

First the players returning:

Antoine Brooks is back today for the Steelers #dkps #Steelers

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

Zach Banner is in full pads today. Hasn't practiced since the day the Steelers opened camp. But has been on the sidelines working hard. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

Chuks Okorafor is in full pads today. We'll see if he practices. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

Also the players out:

Kevin Dotson still not practicing for Steelers #dkps #Steelers

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

Stephon Tuitt still not in pads yet. Hasn't practiced yet. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

J.C. Hassenauer isn't practicing today. But he's also no longer wearing a knee brace. Just has a sleeve on his left leg. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

WR Cody White not in pads today for the Steelers. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

Injury Update

It wouldn’t be a Steelers practice without an injury report, and a few new names were added to the list. Offensive tackle Anthony Coyle left practice with what was labeled as a stinger, and tight end Eric Ebron left with elbow discomfort. There was no timetable for either’s return this week.

Injury update from today's @steelers practice includes OT Anthony Coyle, who has a stinger, and TE Eric Ebron, who left practice with elbow discomfort. Both players will be evaluated further, but Coach Tomlin hopes they won't miss much time.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) July 28, 2021

Offensive line positions are open

With hitting taking place at training camp, the offensive line was absolutely on display, and it made several members of the media wonder if those projected starters were just, well, projected. Mike Tomlin confirmed that indeed every job along the offensive line is open for business.

I just asked Mike Tomlin the degree to which the offensive line competition is open, and he didn’t exactly mince words: pic.twitter.com/E1ZGyOlJzo

— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) July 28, 2021

Not the report you want to see...

We all knew this was going to happen, and if I were smarter, I’m not, I would have predicted this to happen during this very workout. Everything had been smooth between Ben Roethlisberger and Kendrick Green thus far, but Wednesday things got a little rocky. Before fans freak out over a few botched exchanges, look at the situation. This was the first padded practice, and the first time Green was having to snap the ball and hit the opposition. Throw in the jitters of working in front of fans, and you have a recipe for mistakes. If it was only these two, I would say it is a good day. Don’t start worrying until it becomes a trend.

Steelers finishing up now with 11-on-11. Ben Roethlisberger fumbled a snap from under center, then had to make a nice grab on the next one out of shotgun. The early days of what could be a fruitful connection with rookie center Kendrick Green.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021

Is Ben...under center?!

The footage here is fun to watch. You see the classic Matt Canada motion, you see Najee Harris breaking off a big run and needing multiple defenders to bring him down, but that isn’t what I saw right off the bat. I saw Ben Roethlisberger under center. The Steelers rarely, if ever, had No. 7 under center in 2020, and him doing this just for training camp is at least a step in the right direction. Maybe there is hope for the running game after all.

Fan footage from across the stadium shows Najee Harris’ big run to start a team period. pic.twitter.com/pLJhpwFeN6

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 28, 2021

New year, new Ant Mac?

There are a lot of expectations surrounding Anthony McFarland. The hope of him making the big jump from Year 1 to Year 2, and with a year of experience under his belt. McFarland has been doing his part this offseason, everything from avoiding social media to gaining five pounds of muscle this offseason.

Steelers rookie RB Anthony McFarland says he’s been staying out of social media, working on himself, blocking out the outside noise. Says he put on about five pounds this offseason. pic.twitter.com/oFBmt1R1jN

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021

McFarland seems like a perfect change of pace back, but he is willing to play whatever role is asked of him in 2021. If that means special teams and a third down back, so be it.

Anthony McFarland asked what his role might be in the Steelers offense in Year 2: “That I don’t know, man. I’m just coming in here, putting my head down, and wherever they put me I’ll give it 100%.”

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021 BTSC Training Camp Recap Podcast VIDEO

#SteelersNation is in the house & Training Camp Live, presented by @FedEx, is #LIVE!

Get an exclusive live look-in at #SteelersCamp!

For more training camp coverage, watch @NFLNetwork. https://t.co/lMBRvoSKuG

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 28, 2021

#LIVE: Hear about all that happened at today’s practice at @heinzfield on Training Camp Wrap Up, presented by @UPMCHealthPlan.

For more training camp coverage, watch @NFLNetwork. https://t.co/EMuIC6xYvS

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 28, 2021

#Steelers rookie @The_fridge53 fresh off his first day in pads: “It was a good day, but obviously a lot to work on.” #SteelersCamp #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/78P92qNgq6

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) July 28, 2021

The Spillane Train is comin' through @14rspillane pic.twitter.com/MX1lVaGXYX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 28, 2021

Predicting Mike Tomlinisms after training camp practice pic.twitter.com/M83SKk9yoS

— Joey (@JoeyMulinaro) July 28, 2021

We out here‼️ #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/tlNlECz29c

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 28, 2021 PHOTOS

Ben & Coach T big chillin’ pic.twitter.com/iog5v0b1au

— Joey (@JoeyMulinaro) July 28, 2021

pic.twitter.com/oichLFdRBg

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 28, 2021

After a decade with 53 as his best friend, the QB is bonding with a new 53 pic.twitter.com/h4EuVQUeoS

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) July 28, 2021

@ChaseClaypool pic.twitter.com/adcItpBrGd

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 28, 2021

4 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following the Steelers first practice in pads

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 7:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking to the media after the first practice in pads, the Steelers head coach answered many questions about specific players.

The Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at Heinz Field for the first time in pads of 2021 Training Camp on Wednesday. Since the Steelers were back on the field, we were also given the typical media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Therefore, it’s time to look at the players mentioned by Coach Tomlin during his media time. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.

Najee Harris

It’s no surprise that the first day of padded practice had many eyes on first-round draft pick Najee Harris. Coach Tomlin’s first question of the day was about the “backs on backers” drill and he specifically mentioned Harris in his response.

“I think probably the most significant drill that we see is the one that will run next time we’re in pads: Tight ends vs. outside linebackers in the run blocking. That end of the line, that ability to control the end of the line or set an edge on defense I think is more revealing than any other little compartmental drill that we do. Obviously the backs on backers is important because it’s more of an attitude drill. It’s an opportunity to get to know some of these people. I think we all saw that Najee likes competition and he doesn’t run away from it, he runs to it. And that was something about the drill that was exciting from my perspective today.

Coach Tomlin was asked a follow up question where a statement was first made about Harris struggling with his first few reps of the “backs on backers” drill. Coach Tomlin did not wait for the question and gave his response.

“I would disagree with that. Your words, not mine.”

Coach Tomlion was finally asked if he expected Harris to get stronger as the drill went on.

“His demeanor was telling. It was exciting that he had an appetite for that action.”

Coach Tomlin was later asked another question about what he saw from Harris and the run game as a whole in their first live action.

“It was a good sample, but a very small sample size. I’m not rushing to judge or draw conclusions or seek comfort. We’re all kind of in that mindset, right? We drafted the guy in the first round, you can trick yourself into believing everything. ‘Boy, he’s ready to go.’ No, it’s just one practice. It was a good practice and we’ll see what the subsequent practices have for us in that regard.”

Kendrick Green

Another of the Steelers 2021 draft picks many are keeping an eye on is third-round draft pick Kendrick Green. Coach Tomlin was asked what kind of growth he wants to see from Green as training camp goes on.

“I just want to see him digest the verbiage, to do a good job of communicating and being kind of that hub, or focal point, of the offensive line. He’s embracing that element of it. I like what he did from a conditioning standpoint between the end of the spring and now. You can see he’s one of the guys that took a step that month or so away from us. He really spent that time in the right areas and it should be continually beneficial for him as we continue through the process.”

Alex Highsmith & Chukwuma Okorafor

The final question asked of Coach Tomlin in the press conference was about his impressions of the run game on both offense and defense. Coach Tomlin specifically brought up the play Alex Highsmith. He also noted that it was not Chukwuma Okorafor who Highsmith was facing during practice.

“It’s ebb and flow. It’s what you expect when you’re in my position this time of year. It was some good plays had on both sides of the ball. I thought we had a couple runs or two initially early. I thought 56 particularly, Alex Highsmith, was stout at the point of attack when we ran over in that direction. But again, he’s playing against a younger guy who’s first exposure to the drill because we didn’t have Chuks in there. So you can paint with a broad brush and tell whatever story you want to tell this time of year, I’m just going to keep snapping the ball and let those guys reveal to us who and what they are.”

A portion of Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen below as well as a link to the full interview on the Steelers’ YouTube channel.

"@ohthatsNajee22 likes competition and he doesn't run away from it, he runs to it."@OurFordStore | Full : https://t.co/1fHQkB0JkQ pic.twitter.com/s5mfAKUnJx

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 28, 2021

Steelers ‘Digit Dynasty’: Who wore his number best? No. 0-25

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

The Steelers have a rich history, but looking back at their jersey numbers it makes you wonder which player wore the numbers 0-25 best.

As the Steelers have officially started training camp at Heinz Field, we will see familiar faces donning the numbers of 7, 19, 39 and 97. These men have made those numbers recognizable and symbolized them in Pittsburgh over the years.

Once again this year, rookies and first-year players will not only be vying to make a name for themselves, but they will be attempting to immortalize their newly-issued number.

For instance, will Najee Harris be the guy to wrestle the No. 22 title from the legendary Bobby Layne?

What young players already are the best to ever play in Pittsburgh with their particular number?

This all remains to be seen, but who are the greatest Steelers synonymous with each number from 00 to 99 in the previous 88 seasons of the franchise’s existence? In this multi-part series, we will list the best for each digit. Some were very tough calls and some genuine Steelers’ stars didn’t make the cut. Judge for yourself and let us know who we missed. I’m sure you will.

Part One: Numbers 0-25

Note: Years provided came from The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Media Guide

No. 0/00 QB/RB Johnny Clement (1946)

After serving in World War II as an officer in the Army Air Corps, Clement returned to the NFL and joined the Steelers. Clement is the only player to wear the goose egg in Piittsburgh franchise history, playing three years in black-and-gold.

No. 1 K Gary Anderson (1982-1994)

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Landslide team leader in career scoring and field goals made. The quintessential Steelers kicker should be enshrined in Canton, but a presumed kicker-bias and the miss in the 1998 NFC Championship for the Vikings may be keeping him out. But Anderson is the No. 1 player ever to wear the uno in Pittsburgh.

No. 2 QB Mason Rudolph (2018-Present)

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Not a lot to pick from here. Dennis Dixon only wore No. 2 for one start with the Steelers. Despite an imperfect career so far, Mason is the best to don the deuce as a Steeler.

Current Wearer: Rudolph

No. 3 K Jeff Reed (2002-2010)

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Reed was definitely not a favorite among Pittsburgh law enforcement, bouncers and Sheetz paper towel dispensers. But the thick-legged kicker is possibly the second best ever to play in Pittsburgh. Crazy off-the-field antics aside, the free agent from North Carolina beat the field in a tryout and conquered the Heinz Field conditions for parts of nine seasons.

Other Notables: Mark Royals 1992-1994

Current Wearer: QB Dwayne Haskins

No. 4 P Josh Miller (1996-2003)

Miller averaged 42.9 yards-per-punt for eight seasons in the Steel City. He remains one of the most popular Steelers’ punters in team history. Miller boasts both a Grey Cup and Super Bowl ring during the part of his career played in other cities. The man who once boasted in a Steeler Gameday program to having an extensive Pez collection returned to Pittsburgh to do local sports radio until 2018. He co-authored a book showcasing the best Steelers eateries and bars in every NFL city.

Other Notables: Byron Leftwich 2008-2012

Current Wearer: P Jordan Berry

No. 5 QB Terry Hanratty (1969-1976)

The consensus All-American from Notre Dame, Hanratty is most famous in Pittsburgh for being the alternative to Terry Bradshaw during the early 70s when No. 12 struggled. The Butler product was drafted in the second round, a year before Bradshaw arrived. The two-time Super Bowl Champ started 18 games for the Steelers at various times and finished the AFC Championship and Super Bowl X when Bradshaw went down in both games.

Other Notables: Craig Colquitt-P 1978-1981 and 1983-1984, Bruce Gradkowski (2013-2015)

Current Wearer: QB Joshua Dobbs

No. 6 QB Bubby Brister (1986-1992)

The brash native of Louisiana never had Pro Bowl numbers, but the wild playoff ride which he led the Steelers on in 1989 remains part of team lore. Brister, with a Super Bowl ring as a Bronco, is fifth among the Steelers’ all-time passing leaders and certainly one of the most entertaining sound-bites ever.

Other Notables: Shaun Suisham 2010-2015

Current Wearer: P Pressley Harvin III

No. 7 QB Ben Roethlisberger (2004-Present)

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

No argument here for the guy that holds almost every passing record in team history. Don’t expect to see this number ever worn by a Steeler again. Big Ben is a three-time Pro Bowler and the youngest starting quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl. He also surpassed Mike Webster for most seasons as a Steeler.

Other Notables: Jim Finks 1951-1952 and 1954-1955

Current Wearer: Roethlisberger

No. 8 QB Tommy Maddox (2001-2005)

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

I actually still own a “Tommy Gun” jersey. Maddox was selling insurance in Dallas when he returned to football in the Arena League and then the XFL. In 2002, his electrifying quarterback play took the Steelers from a 1-3 record to nearly a spot in the AFC Championship. My friends and I politely called out to him at the airport that same year. He made a beeline to come over and shake our hands. He’s a pretty nice dude.

Current Wearer: OLB Melvin Ingram

No. 9 K Chris Boswell (2015-Present)

Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Last season Norm Johnson was the choice here and happens to be the author’s favorite Steelers kicker of all-time. His perfectly executed onside-kick in Super Bowl XXX is one of team legend. But the current wearer has taken the No. 9 crown from King Norm. Boswell is tied with Roy Gerela for third all-time in Steelers’ field goals made and first in team history with his 88.0% field goal percentage.

Other Notables: Matt Bahr 1979-1980, Norm Johnson 1995-1997

Current Wearer: Boswell

No. 10 QB/WR Kordell Stewart (1995-2002)

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Despite Santonio Holmes’ Super Bowl MVP performance in XLIII, Stewart’s body of work gives him the nod here. A very polarizing player during his time in Pittsburgh, Stewart burst onto the scene in 1995 and was a key contributor to the team’s Super Bowl XXX appearance as a jack-of-all-trades, mostly as a receiver. The best-running QB in franchise lore had 2,874 yards on the ground, but Kordell was hot-and-cold as a passer. Stewart led the team to two AFC Title Games, throwing multiple picks in both games. Kordell has been featured most recently on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and was the subject of bizarre allegations due to it.

Other Notables: Martavis Bryant 2014-20017, Santonio Holmes 2006-2009, Roy Gerela 1971-1978

Current Wearer:

No. 11 WR Chase Claypool (2020-Present)

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

In just one season out of Notre Dame, Chase Claypool has established himself as the finest to don the snake eyes in Steel City history. As a rookie in 2020, the Canadian eclipsed Troy Edwards’ 1999 record by one with 62 grabs. Chase finished the year with 873 yards and 11 total touchdowns.

Other Notables: Markus Wheaton 2013-2016, Stefan Logan (2009)

Current Wearer: Claypool

No. 12 QB Terry Bradshaw (1970-1983)

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

No-brainer selection here. Hall of Famer; Four-time Super Bowl Champion; Two-time Super Bowl MVP. No. 12 hasn’t been retired yet, but it hasn’t been reissued since Bradshaw’s retirement. The Blonde Bomber is a three-time Pro Bowler, a two-time team MVP and a member of the 1970’s All-Decade team. Ben Roethlisberger has eclipsed most of his team records, but Bradshaw remains one of the most legendary figures in team lore. I finally met Terry in 2018. It was one of my finest experiences as a fan meeting an athletic hero.

No. 13 WR James Washington (2018-Present)

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

With a small body of work and little competition at the number, the receiver out of Oklahoma State gets the nod. Washington was the team leader in 2019 with 735 receiving yards and had 30 receptions and five touchdown catches in 2020.

Current Wearer: Washington

No. 14 QB Neil O’Donnell (1990-1995)

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Neil is one of the most loathed (undeservedly in my opinion) Steelers of all time, mostly due to the two interceptions he tossed in Super Bowl XXX. Although I disagree, some members of Steelers Nation claim he was in on a fix. But then again, they don’t make it to the Super Bowl without O’Donnell that year. Funny story...two years before that fateful game in Phoenix, I was booed for wearing a No. 14 jersey to a game at Three Rivers Stadium. O’Donnell is statistically the third-best quarterback in team history.

Current Wearer: KR/WR Ray-Ray McCloud

No. 15 John Blood McNally-HB/DB (1934 and 1937-1938)

Johnny Blood played one season in Pittsburgh in 1934 and returned in 1938 to serve as a player/coach of the Pirates. Art Rooney Sr. recalled McNally as the most memorable character he’s ever known in his career. Hall of Famer.

Other Notables: Mike Kruczek 1976-1979

Current Wearer: WR Cody White

No. 16 QB Charlie Batch (2002-2012)

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

While Len Dawson is a Hall of Famer, it happened mostly because of his performances in Kansas City. Charlie Batch was a very valuable backup for eleven seasons, going 6-3 as a starter and stepping up in high-pressure situations. The Steel Valley native is a two-time Super Bowl champ.

Other Notables: Mark Malone 1980-1987, Len Dawson 1957-1959

No. 17 WR Mike Wallace (2009-2012)

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

As a deep threat, the speedy Wallace was a dream weapon for Ben Roethlisberger and a nightmare for defenses. The leader of the ill-fated “Young Money” stable had 235 receptions for 4,042 yards, caught 32 touchdowns and averaged 17.2 ypc. Unhappy over money and Antonio Brown’s extension, Wallace left the team as a free agent after his rookie deal ran out in 2013. The Steelers later saw Wallace burn them in 2016 as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Other Notables: Joe Gilliam 1972-1975

Current Wearer: CB Mark Gilbert, WR Isaiah McKoy

No. 18 QB Mike Tomczak (1993-1999)

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Tomczak joined the Steelers as a free agent pickup from Cleveland. Mike was the starter in 1996, leading the team to the playoffs that year. The rest of his career was spent as a reliable reserve quarterback in the Steel City.

Other Notables: Cliff Stoudt 1977-1983, Harry Newsome 1985-1989

Current Wearer: WR Diontae Johnson

No. 19 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (2017-Present)

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

JuJu captured this title in only three seasons wearing the number. The 2017 winner of the Joe Greene Award as the team’s top rookie captured the hearts of Steelers Nation both on and off of the playing field. No. 19 re-signed with the Steelers in the offseason after a season with 97 catches and a career-high of nine touchdown receptions.

Other Notables: Andre Coleman 1997-1998, David Woodley 1984-1985

Current Wearer: Smith-Schuster

No. 20 RB Rocky Bleier (1968 and 1971-1980)

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The four-time Super Bowl champion is also a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. After his rookie season, Bleier was drafted into the U.S. Army and was sent to Vietnam where a grenade blew off part of his foot. While recovering, Bleier received a note of encouragement from the Chief, Art Rooney Sr. A year later, the Rock returned and became an important cog in the Steelers’ offensive machine. Bleier retired after the 1980 season with 3,865 rushing yards, 136 receptions for 1,294 yards and 25 touchdowns. In my mind, this guy is Hall of Fame.

Other Notables: Paul Martha 1964-1969, Dwight Stone 1987-1994, Erric Pegram 1995-1996, DeWayne Washington 1998-2003, Bryant McFadden 2005-2008

Current Wearer: CB Cam Sutton

No. 21 RB Mewelde Moore (2008-2011)

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Tulane alum was an unsung hero of the Super Bowl XLIII season. Mewelde’s 908 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns that year were paramount in keeping the team afloat after Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall went down with injuries.

Other Notables: Tony Dungy 1977-1978, Deon Figures 1993-1996, Amos Zereoue 1999-2003, Joe Haden 2017

Current Wearers: CB Tre Norwood

No. 22 QB Bobby Layne (1958-1962)

The six-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Fame quarterback spent the last five years of his career in Pittsburgh. Twice named to the Pro Bowl as a Steeler, Layne was 27-22-2 as a starter. Legend has it that, upon being traded to Pittsburgh, Layne cursed the Lions claiming they would not win for 50 years. Sixty years later, that curse endures.

Other Notables: John L Williams 1994-1995, William Gay 2007-2011, 2014-2017

Current Wearer: RB Najee Harris

No. 23 S Mike Wagner (1971-1980)

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The two-time Pro Bowler is one of those guys that got lost in the shadows of all of the Hall of Famers from the fabled Steel Curtain defense, but Wagner tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions in 1973. When Wagner retired in 1981, he had compiled 36 interceptions and currently ranks sixth on the franchise’s all-time list.

Other Notables: Tyrone Carter 2004-2009, Joe Haden 2018-Present

Current Wearer: CB Joe Haden

No. 24 (Tie) CB J.T Thomas (1973-1981) / CB Ike Taylor (2003-2014)

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Like Wagner, Thomas was another awesome player lost in the shuffle of superstars on the vaunted Steel Curtain defense. Playing alongside Mel Blount, the duo was dubbed as the 6th best cornerback tandem in NFL history by NFL.com. J.T., not to be confused with the Survivor winner of the same name, had 20 interceptions in his nine seasons with the Steelers. The 4-time Super Bowl champ was named to the 1976 Pro Bowl.

If Taylor had possessed better hands, he would have been a perennial Pro Bowler, However Mr. Miyagi probably caught more flies with chopsticks than Taylor did balls thrown his way. Nonetheless, Ike was the best corner on his two Lombardi-winning clubs and a major team force. He was also a locker room leader on a dominating defense during his eleven seasons at Heinz Field.

Other Notables: Rich Erenberg 1984-1986, Chris Oldham 1995-1999

Current Wearer: RB Benny Snell Jr., RB Lamont Wade

No. 25 WR Ray Matthews (1951-1959)

In 1954, Ray Matthews scored four touchdowns in a game against Cleveland. A member of the Steelers’ 75th Anniversary team, Matthews ranks seventh among team leaders for career touchdowns with 43. Ryan Clark is a very close 1A here.

Other Notables: Ryan Clark 2006-2013, Ron Shanklin 1970-17

Current Wearer: S Antoine Brooks Jr.

Feel free to state your own claims in the comments section and check back for Part Two very soon.

Podcast: When the Steelers defense comes through with the key stop

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/29/2021 - 4:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

How many times in recent years has the Steelers defense come up with a big stop to save a game or give the offense a chance to win it? Quite a bit, as a matter of fact. Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • End of game situations when the Steelers defense comes up big
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

The 2021 Steelers preseason To-Do list

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 2:05pm
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers still have a number of roster moves to complete before we make it to Week 1

The Pittsburgh Steelers roster is virtually set as we are just a few short days until preseason action gets underway. But as we creep closer to the regular season the Steelers still have a list of roster moves they have to wade through. Below are the things the Steelers still need to accomplish. While some of these aren't actually necessary, the Steelers will be a better team if they are able to make these moves.

Re-Sign T.J. Watt Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The crown jewel move of the offseason is the team signing T.J. Watt to his mega-deal extension. While both Watt and the Steelers aren't openly discussing the deal, by all accounts the parties are working on it. This contract will set records league wide and will likely see Watt take home $30 million annually. Getting this deal on the books takes a ton of pressure off the Steelers for next offseason, and would link the face of the franchise to the team for the foreseeable future.

Consider Re-Signing Joe Haden & Others Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers should also consider signing other veteran players on expiring deals. Coming to terms now could add extra salary cap space for this season but more importantly, and much like T.J. Watt, would lock up players well before the next free agency window. If the Steelers think Joe Haden still has some juice left in the tank they should definitely consider signing him now.

Cut 37 Players Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This is an absolute of any NFL offseason, every team has to axe 37 players before building a practice squad. The Steelers will have some tough decisions to make including cutting a number of veterans. From Josh Dobbs or Dwayne Haskins, to a handful of running back cuts are coming and more than a few of them will be names even casual fans recognize.

Swing A Trade Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This is likely the hardest move for the Steelers to pull off. But managing to trade a cuttable player for future draft capital would be a win for the organization. They’ve done it before trading Josh Dobbs to the Jaguars, and Jerald Hawkins to the Buccaneers. Bringing in addition draft compensation could lighten the loss of the Steelers 2022 fourth round pick which they used to deal for a 2021 fifth rounder, Isaiahh Loudermilk. One minor rumor that circled the Internet was the Rams looking for a running back, and Benny Snell being a possible schematic fit.

Mini Free Agency Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers usually make a move or two right around cut time every year now. In 2017 they signed recently cut Joe Haden, then traded for Vance McDonald. But every year talented players get the axe for whatever reason and still make an impact for another team. According to the Steelers Stat Geek, and BTSC Editor Dave Schoefield himself, the Steelers can lock T.J. Watt into a contract and still spend $4 million on another outside player. If the right positional fit becomes available the Steelers can again improve their roster before they take a run at another Lombardi trophy.

But what do you think? Which of these moves will actually get done? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: Which Steelers will thrive when the pads go on?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 2:00pm

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

The Steelers have had some good showings early on in camp, but business will indeed pick up when the pads go on. But just who will thrive when pads get strapped on? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show.

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers biggest questions going into camp

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Steelers 2021 Training Camp: Tracking Wednesday’s Practice at Heinz Field

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 1:40pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are putting on the pads Wednesday and will have fans in the stands at Heinz Field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in full swing in regards to 2021 training camp as they make the move to Heinz Field for 2021 training camp and put on the pads for the first time. Add in the Steelers will be in front of fans for the first time in preparation for the 2021 season, there should be plenty to report about practice. And when the Steelers are on the field, we will be compiling as much information as to what is going on at practice as we possibly can.

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

The Steelers Live show from Heinz Field at 1:30 PM can be seen here:

#SteelersNation is in the house & Training Camp Live, presented by @FedEx, is #LIVE!

Get an exclusive live look-in at #SteelersCamp!

For more training camp coverage, watch @NFLNetwork. https://t.co/lMBRvoSKuG

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 28, 2021

Pads 2day

— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) July 28, 2021

Pads today…. And Fans today!!! What a DAY!

— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) July 28, 2021

Today's the day! Can't wait to see you for #SteelersCamp, #SteelersNation pic.twitter.com/5s70lB6XoG

— SteelersNationUnite (@SteelersUnite) July 28, 2021

Almost that time ⏳ pic.twitter.com/Zq4zWxVR26

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 28, 2021

A few fans starting to trickle in to Heinz Field for their first look at the 2021 Steelers. #Steelers #dkps pic.twitter.com/MYHrie9NAc

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

WE BACK‼️ #SteelersCamp | #SNUProud pic.twitter.com/2Rydszp8Fu

— SteelersNationUnite (@SteelersUnite) July 28, 2021

Mac Miller blasting over the speakers at Heinz Field and fans in the stadium.

Pittsburgh is back, baby

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 28, 2021

After being excused from practice Tuesday, Ben Roethlisberger is on the field for warmups today.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 28, 2021

Chuks Okorafor is in full pads today. We'll see if he practices. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

J.C. Hassenauer isn't practicing today. But he's also no longer wearing a knee brace. Just has a sleeve on his left leg. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

Zach Banner is in full pads today. Hasn't practiced since the day the Steelers opened camp. But has been on the sidelines working hard. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

Stephon Tuitt still not in pads yet. Hasn't practiced yet. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

Kevin Dotson still not practicing for Steelers #dkps #Steelers

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

Antoine Brooks is back today for the Steelers #dkps #Steelers

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

WR Cody White not in pads today for the Steelers. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

With Dotson out, Rashaad Coward continues to take snaps at LG for the Steelers. The rest of the line is intact today, with Kendrick Green at center. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

We out here‼️ #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/tlNlECz29c

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 28, 2021

Ben Roethlisberger, who was excused yesterday, is not in uniform today at Steelers practice. But he is spending a lot of time with Najee Harris at the moment.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021

After going through warmups without his pads, Ben Roethlisberger putting them on now. Ready to go. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) July 28, 2021

“Now listen here, buddy, I have the best hair and tats combination on this defense! pic.twitter.com/2ZWIkWa6Qz

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021

Your scene for the stretch here as Steelers hold first practice in front of fans in almost two years. pic.twitter.com/AHzBVXkCUD

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 28, 2021

Big Ben ➡️ MUUUUUUTH pic.twitter.com/ulXVCdAYZo

— Joey (@JoeyMulinaro) July 28, 2021

Second snap, offense got Najee Harris split out wide in empty, Devin Bush on him, and it was an easy pitch and catch for Ben and the rookie. Bush did give a little extra push at the end to try to dislodge the ball.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021

Benny Snell up and at em for the first rep of backs-on-backers blocking drill under the watchful eye of Mike Tomlin. But Robert Spillane seemed to get the better of him.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021

Najee Harris got the second rep, then asked to run it back with Marcus Allen, which was music to Mike Tomlin’s ears. Those two locked horns, to say the least.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021

JuJu just caught a contested pass and celebrated by busting out a Tik Tok dance on the field. The 6ish thousand in the stands loved it. Safe to say that’s not going away this year.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 28, 2021

Last rep of the backs-on-backers action, Najee Harris drew a matchup with certifiable lunatic Robert Spillane. Harris neutralized his rush and got a flying chest bump from Ben Roethlisberger for his efforts.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021

7️⃣➡️1️⃣9️⃣@_BigBen7 | @TeamJuJu pic.twitter.com/3cvIG721SK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 28, 2021

Now in an 11-on-11 inside run period, Najee Harris dazzles with a nifty move against the first team D (which now has veteran safety Miles Killebrew playing slot corner).

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) July 28, 2021

Why the Steelers have been using void years rather than restructuring more contracts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 11:30am
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Even the two bigger contracts the Steelers signed this summer included void years to reduce their 2021 salary cap hit.

After getting reports of the one-year deals the Steelers signed with Trai Turner in June and Melvin Ingram in July, it was later discovered both contracts have void years with them in order to reduce the salary cap it for the 2021 NFL season. This per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic.

Both Melvin Ingram and Trai Turner had voidable years put into their contracts. That's now 6 for the Steelers this offseason.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 27, 2021

In my most recent salary cap update article, I adjusted for the Steelers using void years for Melvin Ingram. By doing so, the Steelers saved $2.34 million off of this year’s salary cap which will be applied, most likely, all to next year. Apparently Trai Turner’s deal also has void years included. The exact number of years has yet to be reported, but when it is another salary cap update will be forthcoming.

As a reminder, void years are placed on the end of a player’s contract in which they do not have a base salary and are not tied to the team. If a player has two void years at the end of their contract, it means they are set to be a free agent during that first void year. If that becomes the case, the money from all the remaining void years will count that next season towards the team’s salary cap.

For now, I’m going to assume Turner’s contract has four avoid years with it just like Mark Ingram‘s. If so, the Steelers are saving another $1.54 million for the season. If you’re keeping track, that makes $3.88 million saved just with the last two contracts of players the Steelers have brought in this summer to bolster their roster for 2021.

What is interesting is the Steelers have opted to go with this method of saving money at this time of the year. In 2020, the Steelers saved as much salary cap space as they could by restructuring every possible contract. As another reminder, a contract restructure is basically taking as much of a player’s base salary as they can (usually reducing it to the league minimum) and converting it into a signing bonus which gets prorated out over the remaining years of the players contract. So if a player only has two years left on their deal and $4 million gets converted into a signing bonus, $2 million get pushed out into the next year and that is how much the team saves by doing the restructure. Remember, they only save the money for this year as every penny will be accounted for at some point. That point is just in the future.

Another thing to remember is a typical restructure is pointless for a player with only one year left on their contract. The obvious reason for this is that a signing bonus can’t be spread into additional years (because there aren’t any) and would all count toward this season anyway. That is, unless void years are added to the contract. This is what the Steelers did with Eric Ebron as they converted $4.88 million into a roster bonus for 2021, the final year of his contract, and added four void years to his contract. This reduced Ebron’s salary cap number by $3.904 million for 2021, but that money is set to count towards the salary cap in 2022.

Both of these examples, restructures and void years, are what is meant by teams “kicking the can down the road.” The player gets paid the same amount of money, but based on how and when they are paid the team is able to account for it against the salary cap at different times.

As noted for 2020, the Steelers use contract restructures all the time in order to gain more salary cap space for a given season. The 2021 offseason is the first time the Steelers have used void years in contracts in order to save money. The Steelers have now used these years for the contracts of Ben Roethlisberger, Eric Ebron, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cam Sutton, and now both Melvin Ingram and Trai Turner. Cam Sutton‘s contract is different than the other five as he signed a two-year deal with three void years added after 2022. So he is the only one of these players still under contract for next season.

As for the other five players, they are set to be free agents in 2022. Depending on each of their contracts, when the void years kicks in has to be specified. Typically, this date comes the week after the Super Bowl. If the player signs an extension with the team before this deadline, it is my understanding the void years will continue to be spread out over the new contract and won’t all come due the next season.

If the dates for these void years to kick in are the first week after the Super Bowl, it does not give the Steelers much time to sign any of these players in order to spread out the salary cap hit. It does not mean that the Steelers cannot sign these players later on, but the full dead money hit will already be in place.

So why have the Steelers chosen do use void years over the remaining restructures they could do this offseason? The Steelers had already restructured Cameron Heyward and Derek Watt in order to lower their salary cap hit for 2021, but the Steelers still have two players with multiple years remaining on their contract that they could restructure in Stephon Tuitt and Chris Boswell.

I outlined back in February while restructure for these two players would be difficult based on the fact their contracts were signed during the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement. Even though the NFL had not announced the 17th game at the time of the previous article, the fact that it was looming, and eventually happened, created a different situation.

To sum up the difficulty with a restructure for these players, the Steelers would actually have to pay more money and add more to the salary cap in order to do the restructure fairly in terms of the player. The only way around that would be for these players to take a loss in salary which they generally do not do during a restructure. This all comes down to the league compensating players with contracts under the old CBA for playing in a 17th game. This money is based off their base salary and does not count towards the salary cap. I explained this in another article back in February if you want a greater explanation.

As stated in the previous article, a player such a Stephon Tuitt would be due to pick up an extra paycheck of $530k for the extra game. If Tuitt reduces his base salary in a restructure, he will receive less than this, if anything at all. If his salary would be reduced to the league minimum, he would not receive any extra money as agreed upon in the last CBA.

A Stephon Tuitt restructure would save the Steelers less than $4 million on the salary cap for 2021. Ironically, the savings from a Tuitt restructure would be almost the same amount the Steelers just saved by adding void years to both Melvin Ingram’s and Trey Turner‘s contract.

Could it be the Steelers added void years to these two contracts when they did not have to in order to have the extra money they would have gained by restructuring Stephon Tuitt? If that was the case, they were just able to save the money without having to pay more out of pocket or add extra money to the salary cap.

This does not mean that the Steelers can’t restructure Tuitt and Boswell if they find that they still need the extra money. But by adding the void years to both Turner and Ingram when they had the room to sign both of them without having to do so, it has now created a situation in which the money that got pushed down the road is dollar-for-dollar and they don’t have to do the final two possible restructures.

Podcast: The Steelers Fantasy Football Fix, I want my quarterback

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 11:00am

Join BTSC’s Jeremy Betz for weekly fantasy football talk as it pertains to the Pittsburgh Steelers, your draft and for success in any of your leagues.

Fantasy Football is a phenomenon and some of us could use a little help with our drafts and during the season. With that in mind, BTSC is debuting a new weekly show surrounding all aspects of the world of fantasy football with a black-and-gold twist. Welcome to the Steelers Fantasy football Fix. Join BTSC’s Jeremy Betz for weekly fantasy football talk as it pertains to the Pittsburgh Steelers, your draft and for success in any of your leagues.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The quarterback you need for your Fantasy Football team!
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeremy Betz of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers in the landscape of Fantasy Football and then some.

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

BTSC Roundtable: Who are you most excited to see in the Hall of Fame game?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the main players on the sideline, who are you excited to get a look at?

With the Hall of Fame game approaching the BTSC team is here to give you their picks for the player they are most excited to see take the field in Canton Ohio. While Ben Roethlisberger will join many of the Steelers best known players on the sideline, the hall of fame game will be the first chance many new faces and returning depth players will have to show Steeler fans what they can do. Here are our thoughts on the players to look for.

Dave Schofield: Kendrick Green

Thanks to my nephew Kyle, a new nickname has been given as “Quadrick Green.” If you’re unsure why Green would get this nickname, check out any coverage from Tuesday’s practice at Heinz Field. The Steelers third-round rookie is already in line to start the Hall of Fame Game and Steelers Nation wants to know how close he is to grabbing the starting role for the 2021 season. Until the pads come on, we’ll never truly know what Green has to offer. Since he’s getting the start, we should see Green matched up against the best players who will appear on the other side of the ball.

Big Bro Scho: James Pierre

There has been plenty of talk that Pierre could challenge Cam Sutton for the starting spot opposite of Joe Hadden. We got a very small sample size from Pierre last season, but what we got looked VERY good. He should get plenty of opportunities this preseason to show the coaching staff exactly what he can do. I really like his size and speed and am excited to see more of what he has to offer this secondary.

Bryan Anthony Davis: Isaiah McKoy

In a college season that was only four games, Kent State’s McKoy had 25 receptions for 455 yards, an 18.2 yard average, and five touchdowns in 2020. Isaiah is big at 6’2” and is a fast, deep threat that can add to an already talented stable. I want to see if McKoy can thrive in the NFL and make things even more interesting in Pittsburgh.

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K.T. Smith: Antoine Brooks

The Steelers need someone to step up and claim Mike Hilton’s role in the nickel. Brooks is being given a shot to do it. Like Hilton, he was a great tackler and aggressive blitzer coming out of college. I’m excited to see how he looks.

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Shannon White: Buddy Johnson

Buddy Johnson is a more athletic run thumping inside linebacker in the mold of Vince Williams. He is a hard hitting Buck linebacker who may very well be Robert Spillane's backup in this his rookie season. He has been lauded for his tackling and leadership qualities, and his solid athleticism suggest he should improve in pass coverage through hardwork and improved coaching. Beyond excited to watch him in the Black and Gold.

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Michael Beck: Pat Freiermuth

it’s been a very long time since the Steelers have had a tight end with the athletic and receiving ability of Freiermuth’s. If this kid plays as well as he’s reportedly done at training camp he may revolutionize the Steelers offense.

Andrew Wilbar: Anthony McFarland

After an unproductive rookie year behind a struggling offensive line, McFarland will be hungry to prove doubters wrong. He will obviously be running behind the backup linemen, but with his former college coach Matt Canada running the offense, I expect McFarland’s skill set to be utilized much better in year two. Despite the vanilla play calling we will see in the Hall of Fame game, I am excited to see McFarland have an opportunity to shine.

Anthony Defeo: Quincy Roche

Roche, selected in the sixth round out of Miami in the 2021 NFL Draft, was super productive in college. He had 30.5 career sacks in four years—including 26 in three seasons at Temple before transferring to Miami in 2020. Why was he drafted so low? If he bucks the odds and plays above his draft pedigree, that could bode well for the Steelers and their depth at outside linebacker—at the very least. Roche figures to go up against players at his level or lower during the preseason. Will he dominate? Will he struggle? I’m excited to find out.

Jeff Hartman: Dwayne Haskins

While everyone chooses rookies or undrafted players, I am excited to see what the team has in Haskins. Could he be the next quarterback for the Steelers? Some scream yes, while others scream no. How will we ever know? By watching him play this preseason and seeing if he is the first round pick, or a dud who couldn’t survive in Washington. For all those reasons, and many more, I am excited to see Haskins play in the black and gold for the first time vs. Dallas.

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

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