You are here

Links

The Steelers will have to overcome low expectations in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 9:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers find themselves in the rare position of having low expectations as they prepare for the 2021 regular season. But the bleak outlook is mostly coming from the outside world—the national and local experts. It would appear that the Steelers’ own expectations are as high as usual. Who’s right: the outside world or the Steelers?

As the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers begin the pad-popping portion of a training camp that will be conducted away from St. Vincent College for a second straight summer, they do so with a regular-season outlook that hasn’t been this bleak in almost a decade.

I realize “bleak” is a rather dramatic word to use when talking about what people are expecting out of Pittsburgh in 2021 but is it though? Let’s be honest, the low expectations for the Steelers 2021 campaign started to become apparent the second their 2020 season came to a crashing halt in a 48-37 home loss to the Browns in the wildcard round on January 10.

Would quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finally retire after 17 seasons? The wish for that to become a reality was more palpable than ever. How would the Steelers, a cap-compromised franchise that would almost certainly have to make major cuts just to be compliant—let alone do anything noteworthy in free agency—even be able to piece together a semi-competitive roster?

A team free of Roethlisberger would take some getting used to, sure, but at least the Steelers could free up some finances and finally begin their future, a future that would almost certainly start with a major rebuild.

Instead, Roethlisberger and the Steelers worked out a deal where he would take a pay cut and they could make some moves in free agency. They didn’t make moves that earned them high praise, of course. B.J. Finney? Not inspiring. The surprise re-signing of receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster? Believe it or not, polarizing. The sudden contract dispute between the team and cornerback Steven Nelson that ultimately led to Nelson’s release? Bizarre.

In the meantime, Mike Hilton departed, as did Matt Feiler and Bud Dupree. None of these were surprising exits, but they sure didn’t do much to raise those low expectations for 2021.

Throw in the retirements of center Maurkice Pouncey and tight end Vance McDonald, the failure to retain the services of defensive lineman Tyson Alualu—or so it seemed—along with the not-so-surprising release of inside linebacker Vince Williams, and the tide was quite low in Steeler Nation.

But as they often tend to do, things eventually settled down. Alualu actually had a change of heart and returned to the Steelers after verbally agreeing to a deal with his former team, the Jaguars. The Steelers ultimately had to cut veteran guard David DeCastro, but they quickly signed another veteran guard to take his place—Trai Turner.

Let’s not forget about the recent signing of outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, a player who will either provide great insurance or be a dangerous weapon, depending on who you talk to.

Oh, and how about a 2021 NFL Draft class that most fans are pretty darn optimistic about?

Yes, sir, a Steelers offseason is a lot like a whirlwind first week at a new job. It’s all so confusing at first, and you never know how you’re going to get through it, but everything eventually slows down and starts to come into focus.

But that’s just the fans, folks who are always secretly optimistic, even if they don’t often give off that vibe. As for the local and national football experts, I don’t think most have changed their tune about the Steelers and their low expectations for them in 2021.

What’s the point of bringing Roethlisberger back at the age of 39? Why draft a running back—Alabama’s Najee Harris—in the first round? Sure, the team parted ways with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner after three seasons, but this Matt Canada has no experience designing an offense at the professional level.

The offensive line appears to be in total-rebuild mode. The new offensive line coach certainly isn’t Mike Munchak. It’s some guy named Adrian Klemm. Sure, he talks a good game, but who cares about that? What are his credentials?

Alex Highsmith is going to replace Dupree at outside linebacker, but he’s obviously not going to be as good. People are excited about the fact that the team was able to retain the services of Cam Sutton, but is he going to replace Hilton in the slot or Nelson on the outside? Will he be as good as either of those guys? What about the depth at inside linebacker now that Vince Williams, who the team actually re-signed in April at a reduced cost, has suddenly retired at the onset of training camp?

And let’s not even get into what the experts think of head coach Mike Tomlin, who is preparing for his 15th season as the man in charge on the sidelines.

Oh, and the rest of the AFC North, a division the Steelers won with a 12-4 record in 2020, appears to be passing Pittsburgh by in terms of talent. The Ravens have been a few paces ahead for a while (according to the experts). The Browns sped by the Steelers on Art Rooney Ave. back in January. Heck, even the Bengals appear to have a young and talented team on the rise, one that includes a super-capable quarterback in Joe Burrow.

Vegas has the Steelers finishing with nine wins in 2021, a total that might actually seem generous to some.

But that’s all coming from the outside world. What are the Steelers' expectations for 2021? Surely, they wouldn’t have brought Roethlisberger back at age 39 just so he could have a farewell tour. As for that offensive line, one that factored heavily into the team finishing last in rushing yards a season ago? How could it be any worse? What if it’s actually better with some younger blood at most positions, including left tackle (Chukwuma Okorafor), left guard (Kevin Dotson), possibly center (rookie third-round pick Kendrick Green) and right tackle (Zach Banner)?

To the outside world, it was stupid to draft Harris in the first round, but what if he becomes a difference-maker on par with Le’Veon Bell in his prime? What if Canada actually designs a better game-plan than Fichtner? After all, that’s what he was hired to do.

To the outside world, Highsmith is a downgrade from Dupree. However, people are paid to find players to take the place of other players who simply can’t be retained in the salary cap era. If he were to do so, Highsmith wouldn’t be the first Steelers prospect to successfully replace a productive outside linebacker.

It’s actually happened a lot in the long and storied history of the organization.

Maybe the traditional way in which the Steelers are handling their current situation at outside linebacker—draft a guy, groom him for a year or two, and then throw him in there when the other guy leaves—is an example of the disconnect between how they see themselves and how the outside world views them.

I have no doubt in my mind that the Steelers think they can compete for a title in 2021.

As Tomlin has often said: the standard is indeed the standard.

I guess the biggest question the Steelers must answer as they prepare for the 2021 regular season is this: are they living in reality or their own bubble?

We’ll find out the answer to that question soon enough.

Training Camp Recap, Day 5: TEs take on new role, and attitude

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 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...

There were several positions which can be deemed as weak entering the 2021 offseason. Tight end might not be atop the list, but it would certainly make the cut. And this isn’t breaking news. Fans knew it, coaches knew it and so did the players. That was a driving force behind the Steelers taking Pat Freiermuth in the 2nd Round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and the focus on the position remains in training camp.

In fact, the primary tight end tandem Eric Ebron and Freiermuth were in front of the media, and they are focused on changing the perception of the position in 2021. In fact, their tight end room has a nickname, courtesy of new TE coach Alfredo Roberts, and it is “the bad asses”.

This year’s Tight End room nickname - The Bad Asses - brought to you by new TE coach Alfredo Roberts.

Ebron: “Tight ends, we should be bad asses. We should block ass. We should be able to run badass routes. And we should be able to score on anybody in a badass way.” pic.twitter.com/LGWKGD7CZZ

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) July 27, 2021

They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, and that would describe where the team’s tight end depth chart currently resides.

Now onto the other news from Monday’s practice at Heinz Field...

No Big Ben

Fans who constantly criticize the Steelers giving Ben Roethlisberger days off won’t like this news, but Mike Tomlin excuses Roethlisberger from practice Monday for personal reasons. He is expected back for the first padded practice of camp Wednesday.

No Ben Roethlisberger today at practice. Tomlin said that he excused him for personal reasons.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) July 27, 2021

Mike Tomlin said QB Ben Roethlisberger was excused from practice Tuesday for personal reasons. He is expected to practice Wednesday when the pads come out and fans are in the stands.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) July 27, 2021

Injury Update...sort of

If you were looking for an injury update, this is about as close as we go from head coach Mike Tomlin after Monday’s practice:

“Had a number of guys that missed some work for a variety of reasons, most of which we’ve been talking about. I gave Ben (Roethlisberger) the day off for personal reasons. He’s been excused by me. We look forward to getting him back tomorrow. Other guys that are working their way back, getting back to us, we’d expect those guys to be back in a short number of days.”

A lot still to prove

A huge part of the issues surrounding the tight end position has been their blocking, or lack thereof. Freiermuth has been flashing his pass catching/play making abilities throughout camp thus far, but with pads being donned soon, fans will soon know what their 2nd round pick can do, from a blocking perspective.

TE Pat Freiermuth can catch. Can he block?
"It's hard to show you can block with (only) helmets on. My job is to make catches and block ends and block LBs. I've had a good couple days but the real work starts tomorrow when the pads go on and I've got to prove I can block D-ends."

— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) July 27, 2021

We don’t draft first round picks to not block

Don’t think Eric Ebron doesn’t know what drafting Najee Harris being drafted in the first round means for the tight ends. Just watch...

Fun exchange I had just now with Eric Ebron here. I’ll have a Steelers column up later. pic.twitter.com/lLALudv9o0

— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) July 27, 2021

How good were the TEs at blocking last year? Try terrible...

Speaking of Ebron’s honesty, is there anything more honest than his comments on how poor the tight ends were last year?

"... all should do better, including myself. Yeah, if you want to get paid and you want to perform and you want to be amongst the best, you've got to be able to block. Yeah, that's a pivotal part of our focus this year." 2/2

— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) July 27, 2021 BTSC Training Camp Recap Podcast VIDEO

#SteelersCamp practice is #LIVE at @heinzfield!

Watch Training Camp Live, presented by @FedEx, an exclusive daily live look-in at #SteelersCamp!

For more training camp coverage, watch @NFLNetwork. https://t.co/6INOD7G0qy

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 27, 2021

#LIVE: Hear from Coach Tomlin and 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/8vurOP2357

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 27, 2021

"Guys were energized in this environment."@OurFordStore | Coach Tomlin on today's practice: https://t.co/7vKIVD4em0 pic.twitter.com/8jhm7KMBgv

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

Back at @heinzfield & loving every second@budlight | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/4fT7sgVZtO

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 28, 2021

Get outta @ohthatsNajee22's way pic.twitter.com/0wroUUNG8y

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

TE TD@Ebron85 | @pat_fry5 pic.twitter.com/hioLJVXlcF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

@_TJWatt | @DOCnation_7 pic.twitter.com/t7Z7XtRgbX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

See you soon, #SteelersNation @pat_fry5 pic.twitter.com/9ZQGgY6bfX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

Yinzers getting ready for #SteelersCamp at @heinzfield@JoeyMulinaro pic.twitter.com/tgsc6Du95S

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021 PHOTOS

Visor heat pic.twitter.com/EYeFGHoif1

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

Steelers work out during their first day of training camp at Heinz Field Tuesday afternoon. pic.twitter.com/RFmehoAHDN

— Matt Freed (@mattfreedpghpg) July 27, 2021

The 2021 Training Camp Confidential

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 7:12am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are at Heinz Field, and the pads are popping! We welcome you to the multi-day stream of content called the Training Camp Confidential.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in pads at Heinz Field for a strange training camp, meaning not at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, and it is time to get fans excited for the events which are about to ensue.

This is where the 2021 Training Camp Confidential comes in!

Right here is where all of the articles which fall under the Training Camp Confidential will be housed for your reference. Obviously, not every article which is produced at BTSC will be content for the Camp Confidential series, but this will be a place for you to see what you may have missed, keep up with comments and ultimately prepare yourself for the 2021 regular season!

For those new to these parts, the Training Camp Confidential is a 3-4 day feature where we run anywhere from 5-6 pieces a day directly related to the start of training camp. This usually takes place as players report to dorms at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, but with things out of whack, again, this season we thought the start of padded practice would be a good place to start.

Therefore, check out all the content right here, and be sure to check back often to enjoy all of the fine work by the staff here at BTSC for the 2021 Training Camp Confidential!

6 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following Tuesday’s practice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 7:00am
Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking to the media after the first practice at Heinz Field, the Steelers head coach answered many questions about specific players.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at Heinz Field for the first time of 2021 Training Camp. 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.

Chase Claypool & Cam Sutton

One play of note from practice on Tuesday was a battle for a pass thrown to Chase Claypool and defended by Cam Sutton. Coach Tomlin was asked his thoughts on the play between the two players.

“I just like the energy and effort. We cannot take the energy and effort for granted. Everybody wants a good day. Everybody wants a good and competitive environment, but it requires all of us to be actively engaged in the creation of that. And so those guys right there were creating that, competing the way they did for that play. We all want to be a part of a good environment, we’re all responsible for being active participants in the building of it. So, I just want to highlight that.”

Coach Tomlin was asked for his ruling on the play.

“Incomplete.”

Pat Freiermuth

In his press conference earlier on Tuesday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert commented about second-round draft pick Pat Freiermuth and how Mike Tomlin responds when he makes a play. According to Colbert, Tomlin says, “Nice catch, but can you block?” Coach Tomlin was asked about making that statement to his young tight end.

“Yeah, I’m gonna play my role. I’m going to be consistent. So don’t ask me anything glowing about him. Those of you that know me, it’s too early in the process to get that from me.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked about how Freiermuth responds when he asks the question about blocking.

“I’m not surprised by it. He’s a Penn State kid, regional dude, I’ve got a very good relationship with Coach (James) Franklin, went to his Pro Day, got a lot of exposure. I don’t think any of us are surprised by what we’re seeing from him.”

Arthur Maulet

One of the Steelers free agents they acquired in the secondary is defensive back Arthur Maulet who has played 35 NFL games for three different teams in four seasons, most recently with the New York Jets. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he likes about Maulet.

“He’s got a reputation for being a rough and tumble teamer and a versatile defender. And I just think guys that show that level of versatility in two phases, you better have an interest in. He’s displaying that out here. Obviously, tomorrow will be a big day and the subsequent days after we step into stadiums and stuff like that, but that’s what his resume tells us and he’s exemplifying that.”

Zach Banner & Chuks Okorafor

One large area of concern for many Steelers fans are the starting offensive tackles going into the 2021 season. Both Zach Banner and Chuks Okorafor have not been full participants in team drills throughout the training camp. Coach Tomlin was asked if he expects to see his two tackles doing team drills before the Hall of Fame Game.

“You very well may, certainly.”

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.

"Guys were energized in this environment."@OurFordStore | Coach Tomlin on today's practice: https://t.co/7vKIVD4em0 pic.twitter.com/8jhm7KMBgv

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

The 2021 State of BTSC Address

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 6:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Time to update what is going on here at BTSC heading into the 2021 regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 season is upon us, and with training camp already underway it is time for us here at BTSC to start our annual ‘Training Camp Confidential’ series. This was usually a series we did on the day players reported to camp, and ran for 48-72 hours after, but the past two seasons have had very anticlimactic starts. We decided to combine our feature with the start of the excitement — the first padded practice.

We did it last year, and it worked out well, so why not do it again?

The start of the Training Camp Confidential also brings with it my State of BTSC Address. This is where I talk about all the exciting, and new, things happening here at this site.

At this point, the kinks are still being worked out with the Coral commenting system, but they are still working hard to get things right. It is a slow, and painful, process, but it is still ongoing.

Out podcast platform has never been better. We are ready to debut the following shows starting today (Wednesday August 28) and several in the coming weeks:

Steelers Fantasy Fix

  • This show is based around all types of fantasy football with a focus on the Steelers who could be in your lineup.

The Cutting Room Floor

  • Our very own Geoffrey Benedict will dive into the X’s and O’s of the Steelers with this unique twist to your standard podcast.

The Steelers Power Half Hour

  • Who doesn’t love to debate rankings? Welcome to the Steelers Power Half Hour, where the rankings are unique, fresh and guaranteed to cause a stir.

What Yinz Talkin’ About?

  • This show focuses on the fans, and how they use social media to vent. They will talk about what everyone is talking/complaining about by the week..

These shows are all unique, and will be a welcome addition to our already great lineup. I really hope you check them out. If you don’t know how to subscribe to our podcasts, check the links below:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

On the editorial side of the site, things won’t be changing all that much. We still strive to be the best Steelers site on the internet, and that doesn’t mean just the best fan-driven site. No, we want to be better than everyone. We are always open to ways to make the site better, so if you can do it in a constructive way, we are all ears!

I am genuinely proud to have such a tremendous team to work with on a daily basis. Whether it’s Dave Schofield being my right-hand man in almost all situations, Bryan Anthony Davis spear-heading the podcast platform, Michael Beck running the social media platforms or any of our writers who tirelessly pour themselves into their work all for you, the reader.

Here is to another Pittsburgh Steelers season! May it be filled with no drama, but plenty of wins!

HERE WE GO!

Steelers 2021 Training Camp: How to Watch, Listen, Follow, and more

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 5:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

All the information needed to stay up to date with the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Training Camp

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hitting Heinz Field for their first padded practice of 2021 training camp on Wednesday, July 28. While a limited number of fans will be permitted to view practice from the lower level of the visitor-side seats, the rest of Steelers’ Nation will be looking for as much information as possible in regards to the teams preparation for the 2021 season.

First, Behind The Steel Curtain will be offering our Training Camp Tracker each day which compiles various information, videos, and reports from training camp and put them all in one spot. This article will be updated continually as more information becomes available.

Additionally, each day BTSC will offer a training camp breakdown podcast each day the Steelers are on the field. These podcasts are available on the BTSC podcast channel wherever you listen to podcasts simply by searching for Behind The Steel Curtain.

A live look in is scheduled each day courtesy of Steelers Live and is described on steelers.com as follows:

Training Camp Live, Presented by FedEx, is an exclusive video program streamed live on Steelers.com and the Steelers Official Mobile App. Fans can take a live look-in at Heinz Field at at 1:30 p.m. ET each day that the Steelers practice, as well as have the opportunity to have their questions answered and see their social media posts featured in the program. Missi Matthews hosts.

Once the Steelers Live show is made available through the Steelers social media, it will be linked as the top item in the BTSC Training Camp Tracker. Additionally, the tracker will end with the Steelers Training Camp Wrap Up Show, which is described as follows:

Training Camp Wrap Up, presented by UPMC Health Plan, is streamed live on Steelers.com and the Steelers Official Mobile App and is your go-to program to see and hear all that happened during Steelers practice. Missi Matthews hosts.

As usual, Behind The Steel Curtain will continue to bring a wide variety of articles in regards to Steelers training camp including recaps, players mentioned by Coach Tomlin, and other breakdown of the goings-on at Heinz Field.

For your reference, a complete list of Steelers training camp practices open to the public can be seen below:

Who's coming to #SteelersCamp at @heinzfield⁉️

Practice dates & times have been announced!

Visit Training Camp Central for everything #SteelersCamp: https://t.co/VUo9sftRDN@FedEx pic.twitter.com/9jA3szeFrx

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 8, 2021

It should be noted that the practice on Friday, July 30, has been moved to 5 PM and is the Steelers annual “Friday Night Lights” practice. Additionally, practice on Saturday, July 31, will remain at 1:30 PM but will be a part of Steelers Fest with a variety of activities going on outside of Heinz Field beginning at 10 AM.

Join us on Art Rooney Avenue for Steelers Fest on July 31st! Enjoy activities outside the stadium, visit the @SteelersShop and more starting at 10 am ET. @GiantEagle

— SteelersNationUnite (@SteelersUnite) July 27, 2021

Additionally, don’t forget to tune in to the Steelers preseason games:

Thursday, August 5: 8 PM vs the Dallas Cowboys (Hall of Fame Game)
Thursday, August 12: 7:30 PM at the Philadelphia Eagles
Saturday, August 21, 7:30 PM vs the Detroit Lions
Friday, August 27: 7:30 PM at the Carolina Panthers

Be sure to check out Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and our training Camp confidential for the 2021 season.

Podcast: Have expectations changed for the 2021 Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/28/2021 - 4:30am

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

There has been a certain level of expectations for the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers since the season ended in embarrassing fashion in January. But since drafting Najee Harris and the signing of two former L.A. Chargers, there’s been an upswing in optimism. 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:

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • The Live Mail Bag
  • 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.

Najee Harris ranked most likely to upset Trevor Lawrence for Offensive Rookie of the Year

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/27/2021 - 2:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One NFL writer thinks big things are in Najee Harris’ future.

Lance Zierlein of the NFL dropped a list of the NFL’s most likely Offensive Rookie of the Year winners. Top pick and golden child Trevor Lawrence was obviously the top name listed, but Steelers fans will like who is clawing at Lawrence’s heels. Najee Harris is, without a doubt, the Steelers number one back, and yes we are less than a week into camp. This kid will be the bell-cow back of an NFL team from the first snap of the 2021 NFL season. So Zierlein is smart in his reasoning. His full quote is below.

This award has become quarterback-centric in today’s pass-oriented game, but running backs should not be counted out. An RB has been named OROY in four of the past eight years, and Harris is certainly a worthy contender. Pittsburgh understands that Ben Roethlisberger may no longer be capable of carrying an offense with his right arm. Harris gives the Steelers a bruising three-down back with qualities similar to former Steelers star Le’Veon Bell. Harris is a tenacious runner with good vision and the agility to make tacklers miss when needed. He should stack up rushing yardage, but his ability as a pass catcher and touchdown maker could be the difference if he is to win the award.

Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates: Najee Harris top threat to Trevor Lawrence (via @LanceZierlein)https://t.co/DohmASDrRZ pic.twitter.com/DdQo2ar8fj

— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) July 26, 2021

According to OddShark, Najee Harris has the fourth best odds (+750) of hoisting the award, or about a 12.50% chance of hearing his name called at the NFL honors ceremony. The thing is the guys in second and third, Justin Fields and Trey Lance, aren’t expected be starting for their teams for at least the first few handfuls of games into the 2021 season. If you're interested the sports betting world, the odds for Harris to win this award are too great to ignore. Steeler fan or not, this is the right bet to be placing.

From great odds that should hit to sleeper odds that likely won't, Pro Football Focus unveiled a list of Most Valuable Player award sleepers and listed Ben Roethlisberger at +8000 odds. These are terrible odds if we’re being honest, however the hate for Roethlisberger this offseason has gone off the rails. He has been written off by so many of the national pundits it has tanked his stock. While he still wouldn't be considered a favorite in a normal year, Roethlisberger should still have better odds than everybody not named Tom Brady listed below. This is a shot in the dark bet that could net you an unreal profit if it pays off.

Betting for the 2021 MVP? @PFF_George hits you with the bets that hold the most value

Which is your favorite bet? pic.twitter.com/ohK3v1q38J

— PFF (@PFF) July 26, 2021

Both Roethlisberger and Harris are being severely slept on in the sports betting world (just like the regular world). Either player will surprise a lot of people come the fall, and hammering these bets could line your pockets come the new year. Of course, that’s only if they hit! (Bet wisely and at your own risk)

But what do you think? Are you at all surprised that Steelers players are being slept on in the eye of the national media and Las Vegas? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/27/2021 - 12:36pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have made the move to Heinz field and will practice on Tuesday before putting on the pads Wednesday.

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 on Tuesday. Even though the team won’t be in pads, or in front of fans, until Wednesday, there is still 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:

#SteelersCamp practice is #LIVE at @heinzfield!

Watch Training Camp Live, presented by @FedEx, an exclusive daily live look-in at #SteelersCamp!

For more training camp coverage, watch @NFLNetwork. https://t.co/6INOD7G0qy

— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) July 27, 2021

Good morning #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/hhEnWxmuu3

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

@heinzfield @Juiceup__3 | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/bMiJ9ucxdu

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

.@DerekWatt34: Big ketchup guy pic.twitter.com/U8ICIdi6Ux

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

Checkin’ in @rell_island6 | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/cCEUcw7RKB

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

Here We Go. pic.twitter.com/JaiSJO1JDk

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) July 27, 2021

It’s finally here - the #Steelers first practice @heinzfield.

Join us at 1:30pm as the team takes the field and we bring you Training Camp Live, presented by FedEx. https://t.co/1RalwIBxv3 pic.twitter.com/GSq82TeaSx

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) July 27, 2021

Let’s work #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/cHigwtOiUh

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 27, 2021

6 players mentioned by Matt Canada so far in training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/27/2021 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With no press conference from Mike Tomlin on Monday due to a player’s day off, let’s see which players were discussed by the coordinators.

The 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers have four practices in the books at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. With no media session from head coach Mike Tomlin on Monday, let’s look back at the players mentioned by defensive coordinator Keith Butler and offensive coordinator Matt Canada who spoke to the media on Friday and Saturday respectively. With so many player who were discussed, this will be split into two articles with one occurring for each coordinator.

After looking at those mentioned by Coach Butler earlier today, next up is Coach Canada and the offense from his press conference on Saturday. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period. Not every response has been included due to some repeat statements.

Mason Rudolph

When Ben Roethlisberger is not participating in practice at Steelers training camp, Mason Rudolph is the guy getting the reps with the first team. Coach Canada was asked about Rudolph’s performance on Saturday when Rothlisberger did not practice.

“I can’t tell you details about today, but Mason’s working hard. Obviously, he’s got a high expectation of himself and I think he, like everyone three days in, is having good days and bad days, good plays and bad plays. We’re happy with where Mason’s at. Got to keep getting better.”

Coach Canada was asked a follow-up question about his confidence in Rudolph if he needs to be called on during a regular-season game.

“Sure. Definitely. We have confidence in everybody. We have to get everybody ready to go. And obviously, the beauty of the Hall of Fame game for us is we get extra time to work, extra time to practice. Like I said, we’re installing at a nice pace because we have time to do it and guys are getting reps. We feel good about where we are.”

Dwayne Haskins

The quarterback who may be more closely watched during training camp is former first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins. Coach Canada was asked about his impression so far of Haskins’ time with the Steelers.

“We’re happy with where Dwayne’s at as far as the way he’s working. I think he’s come in and really worked very hard to learn our system. He’s spent a lot of time studying what we do, how we do it, what Ben’s done. In our offense, obviously we’re making some changes, some not. But I think he’s doing everything he can. His work ethic, his time in the office has been awesome so really happy with where he’s at and got to keep getting better, like we all do.”

Trai Turner

One of the offensive players new to the Steelers since minicamp is former Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner. Coach Canada was asked about how Turner has fit in the offense so far.

“We’ve been here three days so it might take a couple more. He had a mistake today that I didn’t see on the side as we worked he came up and knew what it was and said it right away. Obviously a veteran like him who’s played as well as he has, I think we’re very fortunate to have him and really like where he’s at. And he’s worked very hard to not have those mistakes and to be as efficient as he has been in three days is really a real positive for us and him. Big fan of him.”

Pat Freiermuth

The Steelers spent the first four draft picks of the 2021 NFL draft on offensive players. For this reason, the offensive coordinator will be asked plenty of questions about rookies. The first question coach Canada was asked was about tight end Pat Freiermuth.

“Really been pleased with him. Certainly, we were all, obviously, excited when we got him, excited he was still around. And I think he has exceeded or met every expectation. He’s certainly a student of the game, very conscientious and working hard. I like him a lot. He’s done a very good job as this point. As everybody, a long way to go, but really, really pleased with him.”

Ben Roethlisberger

One of the biggest questions of the Steelers 2021 offseason was how veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would adapt to Matt Canada‘s offense, and vice versa. Coach Canada was asked about how Roethlisberger and other players are grasping changes to the offense.

“I feel like they’ve grasped them very well. Again, I look at Ben and the time he’s played and all the time he’s had to put in, knowing his system. The tweaks on the run game and things are there and he’s done a great job and worked really hard and (has) been a great leader for the young guys too. It’s been great.”

Najee Harris

Although it was the final question asked, there was little surprise that the Steelers offensive coordinator was going to be asked about first-round draft pick Najee Harris. Coach Canada was asked about if he was surprised at how Harris prepares before he steps on the field.

“He loves football. He’s as advertised as far as his work ethic in those things. Obviously, expectations are what they are, but the way he works, the way he prepares, he’s going to do everything he can to be ready to play. And that’s a huge compliment to him and the way he’s going to go after it. So certainly like him a lot.”

Podcast: Early Steelers’ camp stars and those we’re waiting to see shine

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/27/2021 - 11:00am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Hangover” show, Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White look at the week that was and the Steelers going forward.

It’s always nice to see young players emerge in Year Two in Training Camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers and it is happening again in 2021. Who are those men on the rise and shining bright? Who are the players we are waiting to play up to a higher level as well? On this show, Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White break down all things Steelers! Join the veteran trio as they analyze all things black-and-gold.

Check out the rundown of the show

  • News and Notes
  • Camp phenoms so far and those that need to step it up

and MUCH MORE!

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

Alex Highsmith approaching camp with a starter mindset, despite Melvin Ingram’s presence

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/27/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers now have a decision to make at the outside linebacker position, but Alex Highsmith isn’t worried about it.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers approached the 2021 regular season, they had to be concerned with their depth at the outside linebacker position. With Bud Dupree gone via free agency to the Tennessee Titans, the Steelers were faced with a pretty bare cupboard when it came to one of the most important positions in the team’s 3-4 base defense.

Nonetheless, when the 2021 NFL Draft came and went with the Steelers only taking Quincy Roche in the 6th round, you had a feeling the team was somehow satisfied with their depth.

Just to refresh your memory, this was the depth at outside linebacker after the 2021 draft:

T.J. Watt
Alex Highsmith
Cassius Marsh
Quincy Roche (R)

R = Rookie

No one viewed Marsh as a genuine No. 3 pass rusher, and fans were left wondering if the team would put that much pressure on a rookie like Roche, who wasn’t selected until the 6th round out of Miami, to be the guy to spell Watt and/or Highsmith.

Throughout it all, it seemed natural to believe Highsmith was going to be the guy opposite Watt in his sophomore season. That was, until the team signed Melvin Ingram III right before training camp began.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, fans were wondering if Highsmith was the starter, or if Ingram came into to do what he does best — start. The answer to this question isn’t decided yet, but Highsmith is extremely excited to be working with someone as experienced and seasoned as Ingram.

“It was awesome,” Highsmith told reporters last week. “So far Melvin has been great for us here. He’s been a guy that I’ve been able to ask questions and be able to learn from. He’s a veteran, Pro Bowl guy. All of us were excited whenever we brought him in. He’s going to be a great addition to our D-line and our outside ‘backer room.

“I’m really excited for the pass rush we’re gonna have this year. He’s been great so far, works hard. He has a lot of knowledge. I’m excited to just continue to work with him.”

For those who paid attention last season, you shouldn’t expect much of a sound byte out of Highsmith. He knows he should say he is excited about Ingram, but one thing which isn’t stretching the truth is the genuine excitement for the team’s pass rush in 2021.

“I just know it’s gonna be a good one,” Highsmith said. “All three of us, I think, are definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with. I’m excited to work with him and T.J. this year, it’s gonna be awesome.”

But who will be starting? Is this going to be a training camp battle? Is the job actually up for grabs? Maybe our assumptions of Ingram being pass rusher No. 3 were overblown, and Highsmith’s job is anything but set in stone. Either way, Highsmith is going to do whatever is asked of him, in whatever role.

“I’m just gonna go in and whatever role I play, that’s what I play. I’m gonna have that starter mindset, of course. But whatever role that I have, that’s the role I want to play. My role is to be the best player I can be for this team.”

Highsmith is an easy player to root for. He doesn’t make waves, puts his head down and works and is always being praised by coaches for his preparation and willingness to improve. Even if Ingram sees equal, or more, snaps than Highsmith, fans shouldn’t view it as a slight against Highsmith. It might just be he needs more time. Not every pass rusher is a player like Watt who comes into the league and makes an impact almost immediately.

Just don’t expect Highsmith to give up the No. 2 spot opposite Watt without a fight, and I’ll never count out Alex Highsmith in that situation.

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

Bart Scott's recent comment reveals respect for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers franchise

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/27/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Former Ravens LB turned ESPN talk show contributor Bart Scott recent comments showed a tremendous amount of respect for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers franchise.

By this point in his career, the hand writing is already on the wall. Ben Roethlisberger will go down as one of the most disrespected, great players in NFL history whenever he decides to hang up the cleats. I really don't believe there is anything he could accomplish this season to change that in all honesty.

He could have a monster season, good enough to win his first MVP award, and lead the Steelers to their NFL record 7th Lombardi Trophy. It still wouldn't change how so many of the national sports media view him. They would simply utilize his late career success as further evidence that he could have accomplished so much more if he would have taken his conditioning more seriously, maybe studied the playbook a little more, or even been more coachable earlier on in his Steelers career. You know, be more like Tom Brady.

Well, I am here to tell you why that is totally inaccurate and utter nonsense. While many pundits will eagerly point out that Ben could never be like Brady, I will point out another obvious truth: Tom Brady could never play like Ben Roethlisberger. Brady would have never survived. He was never close to being tough enough to be a warrior like Ben. There, I said it. Now all the closet Brady fans can lose their minds fawning all over the GOAT, and tell me how crazy I sound. Prior to that inevitable response, read a little farther.

I am not arguing that Ben Roethlisberger is better than Tom Brady, or even that Brady isn't the GOAT. Regardless of my personal feelings or opinions about Brady, the numbers don't lie and Brady is the greatest winner in NFL history. He has accomplished all his success playing the toughest and most influential position in all of professional team sports. He will be at the top or near it in every conceivable statistical categories by his retirement. By the way, I almost forgot to mention he has not only played longer than any QB in NFL history, but he has achieved the most success at a later age than anyone ever. I definitely don't like the player, but you better believe that I have the utmost respect for his accomplishments.

I am not debating Brady versus Ben, merely pointing out that Ben Roethlisberger is a special player in his own right, an all time great actually. Roethlisberger is a old school warrior who could have played in any era. His toughness and will to win are legendary. Willing to battle every single play till the last instance trying desperately to make a game changing play. Not only is he on pace to retire in the top five in most passing categories himself, he will also go down as one of the winningest QBs in NFL history. Did I mention that he is getting ready to begin his 18th NFL season with the Steelers, a record for longevity and loyalty to a single franchise? That's a record that may never be broken in the free agent and salary cap era.

All that is well and good, but his numerous accomplishments mean nothing to some people. They will never forgive him for the arrogance of his youth. How he was surly, cocky, and filled with pride. He didn't appreciate his good fortune to be drafted by the greatest franchise in NFL history, to a loaded team simply in desperate need of a franchise QB. He enjoyed the most successful start to a NFL career for a QB, but he apparently took all his good fortune for granted. Then came the accusations and legal issues. More fuel for the haters fire. They already hated the Steelers, and Roethlisberger became the poster child for that hate.

Ben Roethlisberger is now a husband, father, and man of faith. He is a outstanding representative for the Steelers franchise and Steelers Nation. While he will never receive the respect he is due from the national sports media; or even from some in the fanbase, he is respected where it truly matters, by his most fierce rivals. Specifically the Baltimore Ravens.

Former Ravens standout LB Bart Scott made a comment about Ben a couple of days ago that reminded me of the respect reserved for Ben Roethlisberger the player from his opponents. After former NBA center Kendrick Perkins ranked Roethlisberger the worst QB in the AFC North, Scott couldn't hide his respect for Roethlisberger.

Scott said, "Big Ben is greatness. He won't be fully appreciated until he is gone." That is a small snippet of his complete statement, where he went into detail to defend his stance on Big Ben and the Steelers. The respect for Ben and the franchise was undeniable.

This means a lot coming from the man who laid one of the hardest hits this football fan ever witnessed on a NFL QB when he blew Roethlisberger up after being unblocked on a blitz attempt in a blowout victory for the Ravens in Baltimore. There have been precious few QBs over the years that wouldn't have been carted off the field after that vicious assault. That fact that Ben survived that train wreck of a collision, eventually walking off the field in intense pain, had to have made an impression on Scott and his teammates.

Through the years they have battered and bruised him repeatedly, even breaking his nose on one occasion. Through it all, he remained in the game and kept competing. If you believe that Brady would of or could have done the same, I would love to speak to you about investing in some beautiful ocean front property here in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.

I have heard former Ravens greats Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs make similar statements about Roethlisberger. Their statements show proper respect for Ben's talent, toughness, and competitiveness. They know his ability and greatness more than most, because they have been on the wrong side of it numerous times.

That's all that really matters in the end. Having the respect of your opponents, especially in that intense rivalry, is more important than the accolades of the national sports media.

Greatness recognizing greatness when they see it, up close and personal. It's a beautiful thing in my opinion. Just saying.

10 players mentioned by Keith Butler so far in training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/27/2021 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With no press conference from Mike Tomlin on Monday due to a player’s day off, let’s see which players were discussed by the coordinators.

The 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers have four practices in the books at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. With no media session from head coach Mike Tomlin on Monday, let’s look back at the players mentioned by defensive coordinator Keith Butler and offensive coordinator Matt Canada who spoke to the media on Friday and Saturday respectively. With so many player who were discussed, this will be split into two articles with one occurring for each coordinator.

First up is Coach Butler and the defense from his press conference on Friday. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period. Not every response has been included due to some repeat statements.

Stephon Tuitt

Sometimes life goes so far beyond football. With the tragic death of his brother in an automobile accident this offseason, Stephon Tuitt was rightfully granted permission by the Steelers to skip OTA’s as he attended to his family. Coming into training camp where Tuitt was eased into things based on his time away, Coach Butler was asked about his thoughts on Tuitt.

“He’s our starter. He always will be our starter. I feel bad for him in terms of what happened to his mother and him. I mean, that’s horrible. My brother died four years ago and it’s always tough to lose a member in your family. Stephon handled it probably like I’d handle it too. Very tough, very hard. He’s got to take care of his mom. She lost a son. I’m not worried about it. I’m not worried about him; I think he’ll be okay. When time comes to play, he’ll be ready to play.”

Coach Butler was asked an immediate follow-up question about what Tuitt is able to do right now.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. Can he go out there and play right now? I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see when we get in pads. All this stuff is based off what we see in pads. We’re running around in shorts right now. Everybody looks good in shorts.”

With one final follow up question, Coach Butler was asked how Tuitt is handling everything.

“Yeah, he’s handled it mentally and stuff like that. He wants to play ball. He’s getting along well with his teammates. He’s a good teammate, always has been a good teammate. I think he’ll be okay. When time comes to play, he’ll be ready to play”

Robert Spillane & Devin Bush

After speaking about the retirement of Vince Williams, Coach Butler was asked about how to replace him inside linebacker. His response specifically brought up both Robert Spillane and Devin Bush (55).

“I think we’ll be okay inside. We’ve got a couple of good guys right there. I think Spillane did a good job for us last year and he’ll continue to do a good job. 55 should be ready to play. So, we’re counting on him being ready to play and I think he’ll be ready to play. There’s a couple more guys that we drafted, some young guys that we want to see in pads before we make a decision. That position is determined so much by how they do in pads. What kind of personality do they have with the pads on and stuff like that. I’m a guy who likes to see people hit. If they’re not gonna hit, they’re gonna play for somebody else. That’s me.”

Melvin Ingram & Alex Highsmith

Coach Butler was asked a variety of questions dealing with his outside linebackers. Although he talked about “three guys,” this section is keeping it to specific questions dealing with Melvin Ingram and Alex Highsmith. As for T.J. Watt, he will have his own section next. The first question was if there was an open competition between Ingram and Highsmith.

“Well, you always want to have three guys that can play. We did last year. Alex came in and did a good job filling that role when Bud was here. So, we played all three of them quite a bit. We think we’ve got three now that are gonna be capable of playing for us. So, we can rest each other.”

The next question Coach Butler fielded about the outside linebackers is if he expects Alex Highsmith to maintain the starting role.

“I don’t know, we’ll see. I’m not going to expect anything, I’m just going to watch them. So, we’ll see.”

Coach Butler was then asked if they could have all three linebackers on the field at the same time and if it’s something they’re shooting for.

“Well, not if we got Tuitt, no. If we have Tuitt, I’d rather see a true four-man, two outside guys, two inside guys, like that. If you want to do that, it’s going to have to be a third and long situation. In different situations there’s a possibility you can do that. There always is. But right now, can we put all three of them on the field at the same time? Yeah, we’ve done that stuff before. Does it help us? Not in mixed downs. What I mean by mixed downs is first and seconds downs, third down maybe. Maybe.”

Finally, Coach Butler was asked if he planned on leaving Alex Highsmith on the right side of the defense.

“He played both sides last year. And Melvin played both sides. So, both have done that. I’m not worried about which is playing which. Both might be in there at the same time and they probably will because we’re going to rest T.J. some too. So, we feel like we’ve got three good players there and hopefully, that will help us in terms of keeping the same numbers in our pass rush in terms of sacks and stuff like that. Hopefully we’ll do that.”

Later in the interview, things circled back to Highsmith as Coach Butler was asked about him being one of the last players on the field during Friday’s practice.

“He’s not crazy, that’s what he is. That’s what he is. Last year, when we had him as a rookie, we’d tell him to do something one time and he did it. He was very easy to coach. He comes off the sideline, he doesn’t drop where he’s supposed to, so we tell him, “Okay, look at this and drop where you’re supposed to.” He does and he picks the pass off. He is easy to coach, real easy guy to coach, got a great attitude. I wish I had 11 like him.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Butler was asked about if he knew about Highsmith’s coachability before he was drafted.

“I didn’t. Maybe our scouts did, but I didn’t. I didn’t until he got here, and I talked to him and got a chance to teach him a little bit, stuff like that, how he learned more so than anything else.”

One final question for Coach Butler about Alex Highsmith was how he took to the signing of Melvin Ingram.

“Well, I think he understands what we did last year because he knew he was kind of a three-way guy last year. Meaning that he mingled in there with Bud and T.J. when those guys were tired. So, he knows that it’s very difficult to sit two outside linebackers out and let them play the entire game when they’re wrestling with guys that weight 300 pounds. You ever wrestled a 300-pounder? Those suckers are strong. You get tired doing that, you know what I mean? I was just trying to give the example that I wouldn’t.”

T.J. Watt & Cam Heyward

As promised, T.J. Watt is next on the list has Coach Butler was asked about his football IQ and if he expects to see him be better in year five that he was as a rookie.

“Oh, of course, he should be. But you saw Bud (Dupree) didn’t you? It takes awhile to learn. Even outside linebackers, I want them to know what everybody around them is doing because they know where the help is. And if they know where the help is, then they’ll apply pressure away from the help. And T.J. knows that now, and he’s learned it as he’s gone on for the four or five years, as Bud did. I expect him to improve as much as Bud did his fifth or sixth year. Hopefully he’ll be a good player for us. I think he will.”

To bring Camm Hayward into the mix, Coach Butler was asked about Watt’s role as a spokesman for the defense. In doing so, Coach Butler also brought up the other defensive captain in Heyward.

“I think he likes the role. I think he does. As long as he likes it, I’m fine with it. All of us will be fine with it because he’s a good player. He just doesn’t talk about it, he does it on the field. So, if he’s capable of doing it on the field, he’ll get a lot more respect from his teammates and the guys around him, and they kind of see that in him. It’s not something that he’s being assessed about or anything like that. He’s not. He’s a quiet guy. He’s a confident guy in terms of what he’s doing and stuff like that. He’ll be a good leader for us. So is Cam Heyward too.”

Antoine Brooks Jr.

One surprise to many Steelers fans is the emergence of Antoine Brooks in the nickel cornerback position. Coach Butler was asked if Brooks has been showing things similar to what they had in 2020 with Mike Hilton.

“Not yet. But we hope he does. He’s gotten better. He’s practiced better these last two practices, but we’ve been in shorts. Everybody looks good in shorts. So, we’ll see. We’ll see when he gets the pads on and he starts coming from outside and putting a little fear into the quarterback a little bit. I think he’ll be good at that.”

Coach Butler was asked a follow-up question about choosing Brooks for that role.

“Mike (Tomlin) has known him a long time. His son went to Maryland and he played at Maryland, so he knows of him. And so, he’s seen him play in games before we drafted him and stuff like that. He’s still got a lot to learn but we think he’s capable of doing it, capable of learning. We’re not gonna not be competitive with him. Meaning that we’re going to get somebody behind him that’s going to be competitive with him to push him a little bit. And we try to do that with everybody on our defense.”

Quincy Roche & Cassius Marsh

With Keith Butler also being the outside linebackers’ coach, it was only fitting he was asked about the rest of the depth chart with Quincy Roche and Cassius Marsh. Coach Butler was asked if the situation with these two players is down to being “two dogs, one bone.”

“Roche is still going to come on. He’s still a rookie. And we’re not forgetting about him either. We’re not forgetting about Cassius either. We’ve got some pretty good outside guys, we feel like, but they’ve still got a lot to learn. The reason Alex was as successful as he was is because he learned quickly, and we were confident enough to put him in there and let him play. So, we’re not worried about that. We like the competition level of what we got, and we’ll see what happens when we get in the preseason. The best thing about this year is we’ve got three preseason games where we can evaluate people. Last year, we didn’t have that. So, it’s going to be good for us to get that evaluation and make sure we’re right on the outside.”

It was a fitting tribute the Steelers practiced with zero centers on Maurkice Pouncey’s birthday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/27/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I found it rather fitting and kind of ironic that the Steelers finished their practice session on Saturday with no healthy centers. Why? It was Maurkice Pouncey’s birthday. Perhaps it was a reminder that replacing him isn’t going to be as easy as some think.

I was doing hill sprints on Saturday (hill sprints are a great exercise that can burn fat...provided you eat right) when it suddenly occurred to me that it was former Steelers’ center Maurkice Pouncey’s birthday.

It is probably a little unsettling to anyone reading this that I would know such a thing. I mean, when you remember the birthday of your mom, your girlfriend or a child, that’s endearing and meaningful. But when you just happen to remember the special day of a football player who doesn’t know you’re alive (unless, of course, he’s reading this article, and if you are, Maurkice, I love you, man! Hey, PFF, y’all suck! — Ramon Foster), well, that’s just next-level living in your mom’s basement kind of stuff.

That might be true about the living-in-mom’s-basement vibe I’m giving off, but you can’t help whose birthday you happen to remember, right? Anyway, after I got home from sprinting, I decided to Google Pouncey’s birthday just to confirm. Sure enough, it was the 32nd special day of the recently-retired and highly-decorated Steelers center.

After Googling that, I researched the Steelers’ news of the day, courtesy of Behind the Steel Curtain, of course. That’s when I learned that the team finished its padless practice session without any healthy centers. Kendrick Green, the rookie third-round pick from Illinois, was excused from the day’s activities due to personal reasons, while both B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer left with what was described by head coach Mike Tomlin as minor injuries.

What an unintentionally fitting tribute to Pouncey on his birthday and kind of eerie when you really think about it. It was sort of a reminder of how precarious the center position may be until proven otherwise.

Who will man the position, now that the nine-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro has decided to get on with his life’s work after 11 seasons? It’s assumed that Green will take up the mantle and carry on the team’s very rich tradition at center, but one never quite knows how these things will pan out.

I think what happened on Saturday should be a reminder that a certain segment of the football population—let’s call them fans and media members—either took Pouncey for granted or didn’t appreciate just how talented he really was as he held down one of the most vital positions along the offensive line (I believe Pro Football Focus has gone on record as saying July 24 is a very overrated birthday).

Pouncey wasn’t the perfect center, but he was really, really good, and he might actually get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. To paraphrase my mom when I complain about work (or BTSC editors), you should kiss the ground Pouncey walks on!

Happy belated birthday to Maurkice Pouncey! Replacing you at center will be harder than many people think.

Podcast: The (Steelers) kids are alright

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/27/2021 - 4:30am

In the latest podcast on the BTSC family of podcasts, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

As per every training camp, a majority of fans and media types have their eyes fixated squarely on the rookies. All of the reviews are indeed positive, but is four days too early to determine if the players drafted will help the team in 2021? Join BTSC Deputy Editor Michael Beck on the latest edition of The Live Mike as he helps Steeler Nation navigate through the 2021 offseason and beyond.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • How positive rookie buzz early can help the Steelers.
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael Beck of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Men of Steel.

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 Steelers current plan for Cam Sutton can change quickly

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/26/2021 - 2:00pm
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers gave Cam Sutton a new contract this offseason, and they are trying to develop a plan for his versatile skill set.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary is anything but set in stone. Outside of Joe Haden playing on the outside, not much is settled on their depth chart. This offseason the team signed Cam Sutton to a new contract, and the expectation of Sutton is still up in the air.

Will Sutton play on the outside, replacing the released Steven Nelson, or will he be moved to the inside to fill his normal role in the dime sub package and help fill the role Mike Hilton occupied in the past?

When defensive assistant coach, and secondary coach, Teryl Austin met with media he knows one thing for sure, Sutton is a really good, and versatile, player.

“Cam is an extremely, extremely bright person. A bright football player,” said Austin. “He sees things that happen, and he’s really good in terms of route recognition. He’s another guy who has been steadily improving since I got here, and I’ve had a chance to be with him for a couple of years. You can really see the improvement. He’s going to be fine outside. He has great ball skills, a solid tackler, good quickness, great awareness, so he’s got the things you need to be able to play corner.”

What would need to take place for Sutton to move back to the inside? Would the emergence of someone like Justin Layne and/or James Pierre make the decision to move Sutton inside easier?

“That scenario is always there, because we want to put our best guys on the field,” said Austin. “Right now what we’re working with is we know Cam can play nickel, but he’s playing outside now as a starter. We don’t know what we have inside at nickel, so we want to make sure of what we have there. And we know if James Pierre really has an outstanding camp, or if Justin Layne, who has been doing well, continues to do well – if those guys play lights out in the preseason – whoever the five best are, those are the guys we want on the field.

“We know Cam Sutton can always play in there,” said Austin. “I don’t doubt Cam, but that’s not where we want Cam right now. I want to make sure we get those two guys (ready) and see if we can strengthen our team by having a guy in there.”

It is clear the Steelers want Sutton to be on the outside, which means they need to find someone who can fill the roles in both the nickel and dime sub packages. Antoine Brooks Jr. has been given the first shot at the slot, with Arthur Maulet awaiting his chance. Rookie Tre Norwood is someone who has been discussed as filling Sutton’s old role in the dime, but is there any type of deadline for these type of decisions to be made? Austin doesn’t think so.

“I don’t think there’s a date in mind,” said Austin about a possible deadline. “I think it’ll shake itself out. Those things usually do once you see them play a couple of preseason games and you see them in a competitive situation. One guy usually separates himself from the others. It’ll work itself out. I’m not worried about it, and I’m not worried if it doesn’t work out with either one of them and we have to move Cam back inside. I’m not worried about that. Cam can get himself ready for that with a week’s worth of repetitions.”

The Steelers valued Sutton enough to go out and sign him over Hilton, and his versatility and intelligence was a large reason why. In the meantime, unless the Steelers can develop someone to play the interior, Sutton could be seeing himself play multiple positions on the defense, again, in 2021.

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

The Steelers’ rookies are dazzling at training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/26/2021 - 12:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers need their rookies to step up in 2021 and they’ve been up to the task thus far

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered training camp with a number of holes remaining on their roster. A majority of these positions were addressed by the team during the 2021 NFL Draft. However, the Steelers’ history with playing their rookies right away is spotty at best. To put it simply, if you're a rookie, don't be prepared to play much in your first season. But with a salary cap crunch, and a roster needing to be re-tooled on the fly, the Steelers will be forced to call upon their first year players more than ever before.

5 from Steelers

1) Najee Harris is CONSTANTLY working. Noticeable the time he's spending—every down minute—with coaches. At 230, he's flashing as a receiver too.

2) TE Pat Freiermuth was a monster Saturday. Catches everything. The rookie's trending towards a real role.

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 25, 2021

This was reflected in the Steelers initial depth chart release. In it Najee Harris was listed as a starter, Kendrick Green, and Pat Freiermuth were listed as primary back-ups, and the rest of the class are competing with teammates for both playing time and a chance to climb the depth chart. Check out the entire chart at the link below.

Early reports from training camp state that a healthy Kendrick Green is receiving the bulk of the starting center snaps. Not to mention Pat Freiermuth has been the star of the early portion of camp, making several highlight real plays which caught the eye of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Even Dan Moore Jr. has shown a nasty streak not previously seen before getting into spirited fights, which is to be expected this time of year. Even the retirement of Vince Williams has opened the door for another rookie in Buddy Johnson who could climb to be the Steelers primary backup at inside linebacker before the time training camp concludes.

3) Obviously, the big ? is on the OL, and rookies Dan Moore and Kendrick Green could well wind up being answers at C and LT.

4) Corner's another spot to be sorted out—But Cam Sutton's inside/out versatility will help, with Antoine Brooks and Arthur Maulet fighting for snaps.

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 25, 2021

Najee Harris is still of course the star of the show, where he has flashed his work-ethic, and freakish athletic ability. The rookie running back has been pulling off hand stands in stretching line, shown his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and, once again, being reported to be studying the game like crazy when he’s off the field.

The Steelers need a huge effort from this rookie class to remain a contender in 2021 and maintain the Steelers’ usual level of success heading into the future. But early returns suggest the Steelers have acquired a very nice draft class for themselves. It wouldn't surprise me to see the majority of these players in some sort of difference making role before the 2021 regular season concludes.

But what do you think? How important is it for the Steelers to get a huge impact out of their rookies? Does the early positive news coming out of training camp give you any hope? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Ben Roethlisberger shoulders responsibility of teaching what it means to play for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/26/2021 - 11:30am
handout photo

Entering Year 18, Ben Roethlisberger is doing more than just helping teammates with he X’s and O’s.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the early days of their 2021 training camp, and, as always, eyes are on the quarterback for the black and gold. Ben Roethlisberger has always been a focus of media and fans since he was drafted 11th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, but even as he enters year 18 of his career, the focus remains the same.

After the Steelers started out 11-0 in 2020, they stumbled in the month of December, limping into the playoffs and having another one-and-done postseason visit. It has made many declare how Roethlisberger needs to prove himself all over again. But Roethlisberger doesn’t agree with that sentiment.

“It’s not about proving anything,” Roethlisberger told Albert Breer of Monday Morning Quarterback. “It’s about a love of the game, and a love of this team and this city, and feeling like I still got it. I can’t really call it a job. I understand that it is, but I can’t call it a job because it’s what I love to do. It’s fun. That’s what keeps me coming back.”

When you consider Roethlisberger’s credentials, what else does he have to prove? What else is there to check off his to-do list? He has already outlasted all quarterbacks drafted with him in the ‘04 class, including Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, but what Roethlisberger wants, or needs, to do doesn’t have anything to do with on field performance.

It’s about his teammates.

“I think my goal in all this, in all the years and all the experiences I have, is to do the best I can to pass down Steeler tradition and Steeler history, what it means to wear the black-and-gold,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s what I try and do everyday, just let these guys know what it takes and what it means, and what’s expected of you when you put this jersey on every day.

“It’s something that I don’t know you can ever really put into words for the person that’s not here. But it means a lot. These fans bleed black-and-gold, so we need to bleed black-and-gold. And I do. I think a lot of guys on this field do. Young guys are still learning it. But I think as soon as they step on the field in Week 2 at Heinz Field, and the fans are going nuts, they’re gonna understand what it is to play for this team.”

If you can imagine what Roethlisberger felt as he walked into the team’s UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for mandatory minicamp this year, it was probably a lonely feeling.

Gone is good friend Vance McDonald to retirement.

Gone is battery mate and friend Maurkice Pouncey to retirement.

Offensive linemen David DeCastro (released), Alejandro Villanueva (free agent departure) and Matt Feiler (free agent departure) are also gone.

Roethlisberger had to stop and look around the room and wonder where he was. Who were these young players? Nonetheless, head coach Mike Tomlin thinks Roethlisberger realizes how he needs to count on these young players. After all, if he wants to win a third Super Bowl before calling it a career, those young players will have to step up in a big way.

“I think he realizes there are a bunch of young people that we’re counting on,” Tomlin told Breer. “And so he’s just putting his hand in the pile in terms of helping them grow and understand. Assignments are one thing, this process of handling assignments. But the informal communication, the gaining of understanding, the communication from player to player, that provides the detail that really gives us the winning edge. He’s been on the job 18 years, he understands that.

“He realizes he’s going to need some of those guys to make plays, and so he’s trying to accelerate the maturation process.”

All of this talk is great, and is hardly new for the Steelers fans who cling to information every preseason. While fans will gawk over Roethlisberger’s intentions, his on field performance is ultimately what he will be judged by. It is the only criteria which truly matters. In September no one will talk about how Roethlisberger was helping young players understand what it means to be a part of the organization if the team starts out 1-3.

So, how does Roethlisberger feel heading into 2021? As it turns out, hindsight can be 20-20.

“I feel great,” he says. “You go two years ago, only playing a couple games, having elbow surgery, last year’s your first year back from a major surgery. I think if you ask anybody that’s had a major surgery, their first year back, no matter how far removed from it, it’s always a re-figure out, and getting to a comfort level with that part of your body. For me to feel more back to normal, I’m excited for that.

“It’s always interesting, because when asked last year how I felt, I would tell you I felt great. But then, one year removed, I look back on it, and I’m like, Man, maybe I wasn’t as good as I feel now.”

Roethlisberger admitted to feeling run down at the end of last season, and with a more regular offseason under his belt he should be better suited for a 17-game regular season. On-field performance aside, the Steelers quarterback recognizes where he is in his career, and is hoping to leave the Steelers organization, one day, the same way he found it. With players who understand how special the organization is, and the pride which accompanies it.

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

Podcast: Building the All-Personality Steelers Team

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/26/2021 - 11:00am

With the Steelers now in their off-season, it’s time to bring back an old favorite as we look back at Steeler tales from yesterday and today surrounding the black-and-gold.

They all say that personality goes a long way. While shining on the field is paramount, which Steelers shined with their demeanor of of it? This leads to the topic of the latest episode of the most unique member of BTSC’s family of podcasts. Join BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis with the lighter side of the Men of Steel.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The top Steelers personalities of all time

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

Pages

Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator