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Get the latest BTSC shirt “I’m still calling it Heinz Field”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/14/2022 - 6:00am

Hate the name of the Steelers stadium? Get the latest BreakingT shirt to tell everyone what you think!

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a new home, and it is not Heinz Field anymore. It is Acrisure Stadium. After the team made the announcement official Monday, fans have been in an uproar over the decision.

Some have been upset the organization chose a company from Michigan. Others were hoping they would find another local company to get the naming rights. Most just wanted the name Heinz Field to remain and not change a thing.

Nonetheless, many fans are saying they won’t be calling it anything different. Regardless of what name is on the outside, it will always be Heinz Field. So, this inspired BreakingT to put together a t-shirt design for all those fans out there who feel this way.

It reads: I’m Still Calling It Heinz Field

Check out the design below:

By now, you might be wondering how to order yours? Just click the link below, and get yours today!!

Did you know we have a BTSC Apparel store? You can get this design, and many others including the classing BTSC design shirt, in the link below!

BTSC Apparel Store

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/14/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show.

The War Room: Do the Steelers get value from their early round draft picks?

When it comes to adding personnel to a team, the early rounds of the draft are crucial. Typically, how do the Steelers in this facet? Check out BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matt Peverell in The Steelers War Room. Join Matty P. for his solo show as he examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers in an attempt to put you in the mind of Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin, Omar Khan, Brandon Hunt and Kevin Colbert when it comes to personnel. This week, Matty examines if the Steelers get value from their early round picks. in the NFL Draft.

Rundown of the show:

  • Early Round Success
  • Much More

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

The Steelers Curtain Call: The mindset and playsets of Matt Canada

Matt Canada has a lot to prove in Year 2 as the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he has a ton of weapons at his disposal. How well can he apply those specific players with specific schemes and play calling. Welcome to the Curtain Call. It’s the show where Geoffrey Benedict and Shannon White break down a black and gold off-season full of change in the manner in which they examine the enemy. Scenarios, questions and more will be pondered on the latest episode of the BTSC family of podcasts. This time around, Geoff and Shannon welcome BTSC’s K.T. Smith to talk Matt Canada and the Steelers offensive mindset.

  • News and Notes
  • A look at The Steelers Offensive Scheme
  • Special Guest: K.T. Smith from Here We Go, The Steelers Show

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

The Steelers Stat Geek: A Heinz Field stats send off

Magical things occurred in the building known as Heinz Field since the stadium’s opening in 2001. The venue remains the same, but that can’t be said about the name. Which players shined the most under the umbrella of giant ketchup bottles? Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed by Dave Schofield on the Thursday episode of the AM podcast lineup, “The Steelers Stat Geek”. Join BTSC’s Editor as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The best in Heinz Field
  • and more geeky numbers!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Going For Two: Mark Robinson & Mason Rudolph

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/13/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Day 32 of Going For Two, featuring Mark Robinson and Mason Rudolph

Welcome to Going For Two! Over the 45 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 training camp, we will be highlighting two players every day in order to cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s two players:

Mark Robinson Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Linebacker
Age: 22
Year: 1
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 235
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 225, 2022
College: Mississippi
Roster Outlook: Bubble
Analysis:

Outside of a few positions, mainly those involving special teams, a seventh-round draft pick is anything but a lock to make the roster. Add in the fact inside linebacker Mark Robinson has at least six other players at the position all trying to make the team, somebody is going to be left out. The absolute most inside linebackers the Steelers could consider keeping would be six, but the more likely number is five. Can Robinson, someone who has only played the position for one year in college, show enough to make the 53-man roster? If he doesn’t, and one of the other players who have already established themselves with the Steelers takes the position, Robinson is absolutely a priority for the Steelers practice squad. The only question would be if he would make it through waivers. Hopefully all these things get ironed out more clearly during the preseason. Until then, Steelers fans will just have to wait and see on which side of the bubble Mark Robinson falls.

Mason Rudolph Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Quarterback
Age: 26
Year: 5
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 235
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 76, 2018
College: Oklahoma State
Roster Outlook: Who knows?
Analysis:

Talk about one of the most difficult predictions on the Steelers roster, Mason Rudolph could end up all over the place according to Steelers’ Nation. Predicted by fans to fall anywhere from the Steelers Week 1 starting quarterback to being cut out right, the possibilities of where Rudolph ultimately lands are endless. Add in the fact many are looking for the Steelers to look to trade Rudolph before or during the 2022 season and it makes things even more difficult. For this reason, there’s nowhere close to consensus as to the role Mason Rudolph will land in 2022, whether with the Steelers or another team.

Be sure to check back everyday for another two players for the Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

Improving the run defense is paramount for the Steelers in 2022

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/13/2022 - 12:52pm
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers know 2021 wasn’t the standard, but can they get back to where their expectations reside?

Hall of Fame player and coach Dick LeBeau used to preach one fundamental truth with his defenses.

Make the opposition one-dimensional.

This typically meant the Pittsburgh Steelers defense would stop the run, and force teams to move the ball through the air, if they could.

This philosophy has been tested throughout the years, and while every LeBeau defense hasn’t been the top defense in the league, and hasn’t won every game, it is still an approach almost every NFL defense still deploys on a weekly basis.

The Steelers still try to do it, even though LeBeau hasn’t been a part of the team for almost a decade. The key word in the previous sentence was “try”, and in 2021 I think you could have typed the sentence as follows:

The Steelers failed to do it.

Last season the Steelers were wrecked with injuries to Tyson Alualu and the absence of Stephon Tuitt. In their stead, the defense called upon newcomers like Montravius Adams and rookie Isaiahh Loudermilk to fill the voids. As you can imagine, the results varied.

When the dust settled on the 2021 season, the Steelers ranked dead-last (32nd) in rush defense. This would be the opposite of the fundamental philosophies LeBeau once preached to a proud defense.

“The standard is not last year,” Inside linebacker coach Jerry Olsavsky told media. “The standard is years previous, a Top 10 run defense, that’s the standard.”

While fans bemoaned the team’s inability to stop the run, it wasn’t as if the players and coaches were happy with their production, or lack thereof.

“We’re all upset,” Olsavsky said.

As for defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, he realizes the team has to move forward and look ahead to 2022, but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t thought about that porous defense in 2021.

“The team has turned the page, I haven’t.” Dunbar said. “Giving up the yardage we gave up last year was probably a first in my career.”

Many wanted to point the finger at one aspect of the team for the failures in the run defense department. Maybe it was Tuitt’s absence, or Alualu’s injury. Either way, the coaching staff knows stopping the run isn’t a one-man job.

“Stopping the run is a seven-man or an eight-man proposition up front,” Olsavsky maintained.

If there was one statistic from 2021 which showed how bad the Steelers’ run defense was, it was the fact Minkah Fitzpatrick led the team in tackles. Having your free safety having to make that many tackles is never good for business.

“It obviously starts with the front, having a healthy front,” Fitzpatrick offered. “Having a dominant front, a physical front is going to help us.

“Pushing the line of scrimmage on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage is gonna be big. It’s something we lacked last year just because of our depth.”

Most would say the Steelers’ depth is better in 2022, at least on paper, but whether they get the job done won’t be decided until Week 1 when the Steelers travel to Paul Brown Stadium to play the Cincinnati Bengals.

Until then, the defensive line competition might be one of the most hotly contested battles in training camp which is set to kick off on July 26th at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

“Me as a coach, I’m looking forward to all this competition, these guys trying to get better and help us be a better defense.” Dunbar said.

If the Steelers can improve their run defense, which it can’t get statistically worse than 32nd out of 32 teams, it would impact every facet of the defense. The secondary would be able to do their primary job in coverage, and the pass rush also would benefit.

But that is a big if.

Hopefully the Steelers can right the proverbial ship this season, and in the meantime be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on throughout the offseason.

How will the Steelers QB battle will impact the WRs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/13/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Which receivers will benefit the most from the different potential starting quarterbacks in 2022?

Steelers’ fans, and the Steelers themselves are going to look at the current competition to be the starting quarterback from just one angle: Who helps the Pittsburgh Steelers win more games?

But the different quarterbacks will shape the Steelers offense through their strengths and weaknesses, and different receivers will fit better with different quarterbacks. That’s what I want to discuss in this article. I’m going to go through different types of plays and throws and rank the quarterbacks in those specific skills. Then I’ll give my opinion on which quarterback each receiver will benefit from the most.

I understand that my analysis and opinions won’t line up with everybody else’s analysis and opinions, and I’m not saying any quarterback/wide receiver combination cannot work, just which combinations seen to be a better fit.

I’m going to break down the passes into seven categories, and then to wrap up I’ll give you my thoughts on which receivers would benefit the most from which quarterback.

The Throws 1 - Screen passes

Whether to wide receivers, running backs, or even tight ends, screen passes are a major part of NFL offenses as well as a big part of Matt Canada’s offense. For this category I’m mostly looking at screen passes where the quarterback has to catch the snap and get the ball out very quickly. This requires different mechanics than most throws as resetting your feet throws off the timing of the play.

Worst - Mitchell Trubisky. This is a serious weakness in Trubisky’s game. His quick screen passes are not good, frequently off target enough to wreck the timing of the play.

Best - Kenny Pickett. Screen passes were a big part of Pitt’s offense, and Pickett executes them really well.

WR impact: Most players are involved in the screen game in Matt Canada’s offense, but I’d say a player like Calvin Austin III is going to be most affected by how well the quarterback can deliver a quick screen.

2 - Short In-cutting routes

Quick passing games thrive on accurate passes delivered before the defense can really get going. Slants, drags, and crossers are some of the most thrown passes in the NFL, and with those throws frequently going into traffic, placement and timing is critical.

Worst - Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky isn’t bad on these, it’s not a weakness like his screen game, but he tends to put the ball right on the player’s helmet, and puts his receivers in position to take hits.

Best - Rudolph/Pickett. I’d give this hands down to Pickett, but these quick routes are so timing dependent that I would put Rudolph even with or ahead of Pickett right now. The NFL is a different timing and Pickett will need to adjust. The second he does, he’s the best in this category. Pickett does a great job throwing over the middle, and on film his receivers aren’t taking many big hits as he has good timing and frequently will lead receivers out of a big hit.

WR impact: Read my thoughts on Mitchell Trubisky and watch Diontae Johnson’s dropped passes. Diontae Johnson struggles coming across the middle on balls thrown at his face mask. It’s consistent from college through 2021, even with the improvements he has made, it’s one of his most likely throws to drop, especially when he’s taken a few hits. This is a big reason I think Diontae Johnson stands to benefit a lot the earlier Kenny Pickett takes over, or even if Mason Rudolph is the starter Week 1.

3 - Short out routes

A quick out all the way to the 10 yard out routes are throws that have to be made with rhythm, anticipation and arm strength.

Worst - Kenny Pickett. Pickett’s lesser arm strength shows up the most here, and I like him better on the 10-yard outs than the 5-yard ones. The more pure velocity matters and the less touch matters the worse Kenny Pickett is. He can cover a lot of that with anticipation and accuracy, but some routes just need the ball to be going fast. This isn’t a serious weakness, just one route that is harder for him to compensate for his slightly weaker arm.

Best - Mason Rudolph. This was a very close competition between Rudolph and Trubisky. Rudolph didn’t throw these routes with anticipation in 2019, but he has improved on them a lot since. Trubisky hasn’t played enough to show if he’s gotten better at these routes, and on film it is close between him and Rudolph, so with a little improvement this could be Trubisky.

WR impact: Out routes are a great weapon. It is a route with very little opportunity for defensive help and completing a few of them will open up double moves and inside routes later in the game. Both Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are good on these routes and the double move potential really benefits Claypool and a receiver like George Pickens.

4 - Deep middle routes

When we talk about attacking the middle of the field, we’re usually talking about routes that are 15+ yards downfield. Not looking at bombs here— routes attacking the deep middle of the defense, not ones trying to out throw their ability to get deep.

Worst - Mason Rudolph. This isn’t a big weakness for Rudolph like it was in 2019, he has improved, but he still tends to wait too long to throw these passes and instead of throwing a covered receiver open will often throw an open receiver into coverage. Again, not as bad as it was in 2019, but still not a strength.

Best - Kenny Pickett. Pickett was fantastic attacking the middle of the field in college, and he should be in the NFL as well. While I would rate Trubisky ahead of Rudolph here, his occasional overthrows are more dangerous here than anywhere else, and he has a history early in his career of throwing a lot of these passes into the dirt.

WR impact: While every receiver benefits from being able to attack the middle of the field, the one I think will benefit the most is Pat Freiermuth. Freiermuth is a big, athletic target in the middle of the field, and if his quarterback can hit him in stride reliably, he’s going to be a nightmare for opposing defenses.

5 - Deep outside routes

I’m excluding one type of throw from this category, and that is your sideline, over the shoulder type throws. I want to keep the touch throws over the defense separate, for reasons you will see when I cover those. This covers deep outs, and throws deep outside that don’t need to be lofted over defenders.

Worst - Kenny Pickett. Not a big weakness at all, and an area where Pickett can excel when the play works. But he isn’t going to rifle a ball into spots where he shouldn’t. That’s a good thing. It just isn’t nearly as good as having the ability to throw the ball hard enough that it doesn’t matter. Pickett is only third here because this also happens to be one of Mason Rudolph’s best areas.

Best - Mitchell Trubisky. This is where Trubisky shines. Rifling a ball thirty yards downfield is no problem for him, and he has the gunslinger personality to rifle a ball into spaces other QBs can’t. This is the one area where I would compare Trubisky to Ben Roethlisberger, because they both have the arm strength and chutzpah to split defenders for big plays. If you want to be excited for one thing in 2022, it’s the chance that Trubisky brings back those throws to the Steelers this season.

WR impact: Chase Claypool is a monster on seam routes, and while none of the three options the Steelers have will come close to what Ben Roethlisberger would do routinely on these routes pre-2019, if they can replicate what Roethlisberger and Claypool did on these routes for most of the 2020 season, it will be a huge boost to Claypool’s production.

6 - The Bombs

This is specifically for throws lofted deep down field, looking for a receiver to run under them. It also incorporates a lot of back shoulder throws, as those also generally involve more touch.

Worst - Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky doesn’t have good touch on his deep passes. If he can throw a laser beam to his receiver, he’s great. Toss it over the defense and lead his receiver? not so much.

Best - Mason Rudolph. While Kenny Pickett has even better touch than Mason Rudolph on these throws, Rudolph’s better arm strength is a big factor. Mason Rudolph’s best throws are downfield and outside the hash marks, it’s where he shines.

WR impact: George Pickens is the receiver most likely to benefit here. He is in line to replace Chase Claypool on the outside in 3+ wide receiver sets, where this will be his main usage as a rookie. Where these routes are a weakness for Chase Claypool, they are a huge strength for George Pickens. Is he good enough to still do well with Mitchell Turbisky on these routes? Allen Robinson was, so it is possible.

7 - Off-script throws

Lastly we’ll look at how these quarterbacks fare when the play breaks down. This is where Ben Roethlisberger made the most impact early in his career, scrambling, breaking tackles until he could find an open receiver.

Worst - Mason Rudolph. Rudolph might be the best overall pocket passer on the Steelers in 2022. He can move too, he isn’t slow. But Rudolph doesn’t do a great job of making plays when the play breaks down. He isn’t as good at extending the play, and he doesn’t excel at finding receivers at that point.

Best - Kenny Pickett. Kenny Pickett’s area where he compares the best to Ben Roethlisberger is his ability to extend a play and keep his eyes downfield to find a way to still make a play. Trubisky and Rudolph are more likely to run for yards when things break down, Pickett does a great job of extending while still looking for a weapon.

WR impact: Pat Freiermuth was becoming Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to receiver on the few extended plays he mustered in 2021, and that knack for finding the gaps in the defense as the play breaks down will benefit him no matter who is the quarterback, but it could be the difference between having a good season and a great one.

The Verdicts Mason Rudolph

Rudolph’s strengths lie in pocket passing, so the biggest downside to him starting wouldn’t be to any receiver, but to the effectiveness of Matt Canada’s offense as a whole. But looking at his impact on receivers:

Biggest boost: George Pickens and Chase Claypool. Rudolph’s deep throws are his strength, and when the Steelers go with three wide receivers, having Pickens and Claypool next to each other would be a great situation for Rudolph and a very tough half of the field to defend for his opponents.

Biggest drop: Pat Freiermuth. When Rudolph played in Week 10, Freiermuth set his season high in targets, but he and Rudolph only converted 5 of his 9 targets for 31 yards. That 3.44 yards per target was the second lowest of his rookie season, his catch rate the lowest, and yards per reception was fourth lowest. It hasn’t been a good fit on film or on the stat sheet.

Mitchell Trubisky

Trubisky’s best usage is on plays where he is rolling to one side, seeing his target and throwing a laser downfield. He’s not as good in the pocket, and he isn’t a touch passer.

Biggest boost: Chase Claypool. Trubisky is great firing on seam routes and deep crosses, and those line up with Trubisky’s laser arm. His occasional overthrows are lessened here by Claypool’s vertical reach and his lack of touch passing lines up with Claypool’s weakness catching those passes. Of course this presumes that the Steelers won’t be asking Trubisky and Claypool to hook up on those routes as they asked Roethlisberger and Claypool to do so much last season, if they do. . . ugh.

Biggest drop: Diontae Johnson. While Claypool’s production plummeted as Ben Roethlisberger shied away from his aggressive attacks on safeties in 2021, Diontae Johnson’s production soared in the Steelers quick underneath passing attack that followed. Trubisky brings the exact opposite skills that Diontae Johnson wants to see in a quarterback. Does that mean Johnson will be bad if Trubisky is the starter? No. It isn’t like Trubisky can’t make throws— all the quarterbacks can make throws— they are just better at some than others. For these reasons, Diontae Johnson will have a tougher path to big production if Trubisky is the quarterback.

Kenny Pickett

Kenny Pickett doesn’t have elite arm strength. What he does have is accuracy, touch, and a knack for making plays.

Biggest boost: Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth. The quick passing game, attacking the middle of the field and making off-script throws are all strengths of Kenny Pickett. If Pickett takes over early and the run game is working, I think Pat Freiermuth could have a huge season. While Pickett fits well with Diontae Johnson on paper, they will need to develop chemistry to make it come to fruition. I think it will happen.

Biggest drop: Chase Claypool. This is a hard one, because Chase Claypool does well on short routes and attacking the middle of the field, but he is at his best on seam routes and deep posts and those aren’t Pickett’s best routes. I don’t think it is a big drop off, but similar to 2021 production.

I know I put Chase Claypool in each quarterback’s impact, but really, that’s where the skill sets show the most impact. I don’t think Diontae Johnson will suffer too much with Trubisky starting, and I don’t think he’ll put up Antonio Brown numbers with Pickett. But I do think we will see a significant difference in Chase Claypool’s production based on who is the quarterback. I don’t think any one of the quarterbacks is really bad for the passing game as all of them have players that work with their style of play. The numbers will just divide up a bit differently depending on who is starting, kind of like how the numbers differed in 2020 and 2021 largely due to the throws Ben Roethlisberger had confidence in.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: Chase Claypool will lead the team in total TDs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/13/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

In the “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2022 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp back at St. Vincent College in order to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

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

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: Chase Claypool will lead the team in total touchdowns in 2022.

Why it will happen: The expectations for Chase Claypool as a rookie were tremendous coming out of the 2020 NFL Draft. As the team’s top pick, a second round selection, Claypool lived dup to the hype. He burst onto the scene and became an instant threat. During that season Clapool tallied 11 total touchdowns, 9 receiving and 2 rushing, and proved he could be a force in the league.

While 2021 was a step backwards, it is safe to say with JuJu Smith-Schuster gone and a new quarterback who is willing to test the middle of the field, Claypool could have a resurgence in 2022.

Why it won’t happen: As stated before, after a booming rookie season, Claypool’s production fell off a cliff in 2021. How bad? He had two receiving touchdowns, and no rushing touchdowns. That’s it. Maybe it was because other teams were paying close attention to him last season, or maybe he didn’t fit the team’s offensive philosophy.

Either way, while I can absolutely see Claypool’s statistics improving this season, I’m not about to think it would be improve to the point where he is leading the team in total touchdowns. Not with players like Diontae Johnson, Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth poised for big seasons next year.

Prediction: As much as I would love to say I see Claypool coming back in a big way, I don’t see it happening. I think Claypool will have a very good season, but leading the team in total touchdowns just seems like too much of a stretch for me at this juncture of the season. I would love nothing more than to be wrong on this and eat crow, but until then I’ll go with Najee Harris to lead the team in total touchdowns in 2022.

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

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2022 regular season.

One Steelers coach considers Montravius Adams a starting nose tackle candidate

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/13/2022 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers Defensive Line Coach Karl Dunbar recently stated he envisions Montravius Adams competing for the starting nose tackle position in 2022.

When Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Line coach Karl Dunbar speaks, I tend to listen. The man is arguably the best defensive line coach in the NFL.

Being a position coach in the NFL often gives you a certain level of anonymity. It's kind of a best of both worlds situation, meaning you get the dream scenario of coaching at the highest level, but rarely get recognized when out in public with the family. All of the fame, but none of the fuss.

On the flipside, being a position coach in the NFL may just be the most underrated and underappreciated position in the coaching hierarchy. Everybody knows the head coach, whether the situation be good or bad. The offensive and defensive coordinators are next in line for notoriety.

A position coach is usually only noticed if his group's results are extreme, in one way or the other. Everybody remembers Mike Munchak, but will never forget Adrian Klemm either. I bet most fans would struggle to remember the offensive line coach between those two gentlemen, or to name the man who currently holds the position, without looking it up.

Karl Dunbar has been extremely successful at his craft, everywhere he has been, for quite awhile now. So when he states, like he did in a recent interview, that he envisions Montravius Adams competing for the starting nose tackle position in 2022, I take notice. Dunbar is a hard-nosed coach, and a man of few words, not prone to hyperbole.

At first, I struggled with the idea, finding it highly unlikely. But then I remembered.

Stranger things do, and have, happened.

A funny story comes to mind. The setting was a blazing hot day at training camp in Latrobe for the Steelers. A few of Steelers legend Casey Hampton's teammates were ribbing him about rookie first round pick Ziggy Hood's feats of strength exhibited in the weight room. Hampton apparently wasn't too impressed with the youngster's accomplishments. He said something along the lines of "That's nice, but I have grown man strength."

There's so much truth in that statement. There's a huge difference in weight room strength, and functional playing strength. It usually only takes the younger players a few games to figure out the difference.

For a defensive lineman, especially a 3-4 nose tackle, it's in the ability to anchor. It's one thing to be able to squat an obscene amount of stationary weight while lifting, versus not giving precious ground against 600+ pounds of double team hitting you from both sides. In any 3-4 defense, the latter ability is crucial.

Especially if you are attempting to run with two undersized inside linebackers, as the Steelers apparently intend to do once again this season. The results were disastrous last season, by any stretch of the imagination. Totally unacceptable, and can in no way be repeated.

Karl Dunbar did an admirable job with what he had to work with last season. At least half the blame for the Steelers league worst run defense; it still hurts to type that, falls at the feet of the Steelers uninspired and extremely passive inside linebackers. I will leave it at that, as my thoughts are well known on the subject.

Dunbar helped turn Isaiahh Loudermilk, a huge project, into the second best run defender on the line. He helped Chris Wormley develop into a serviceable starter on occasion, out of necessity. Plus, he quickly got the aforementioned newcomer Adams up to speed when he arrived midseason. Adams was able to contribute immediately and to show enough potential for the Steelers to resign him in the offseason. He is now firmly entrenched in the Steelers plans for improvement this season.

I surmised in a recent article the possibility, if not probability, of the Steelers starting Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, and Loudermilk across the defensive line. I assessed that trio would put the Steelers best run stuffing unit on the field to begin each contest. Then they could utilize the pass rush prowess of Wormley, Adams, and Ogunjobi on later downs as part of the rotation.

Apparently Coach Dunbar has other ideas in mind.

I admire Dunbar's confidence and faith in Adams to not only get the job done, but at a starting level. He sees the immense talent and potential in the young man. However, Adams performs more like a young Javon Hargrave than a young Tyson Alualu. The main difference is in the ability to anchor.

Javon Hargrave was always a 4-3 tackle trapped in a 3-4 scheme. It wasn't an ideal fit. Hargrave was a penetrator, looking to explode through seams and slip double teams. He regularly made plays in the backfield due to his quick twitch ability. That is a perfect comparison for Adams.

On the other hand, Alualu is the classic nose tackle, able to absorb and anchor against double teams. That's why I naturally assumed that Alualu would be the more logical option. Especially with the run and chase abilities of Myles Jack and Devin Bush, the two inside backers entrusted to patrol the middle of the defense.

Dunbar appears to be suggesting that the Steelers might be considering a return of the penetrating, disruptive nose tackle. Gravedigger style.

I sure would feel more comfortable with that possibility if the Steelers had a more physical tandem of interior linebackers.

That being said, I am more than confident that Coach Dunbar will have all his troops ready for action.

Diontae Johnson was an elite wide receiver in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/13/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Despite what some Steelers’ fans feel about Johnson’s contributions, he was at the top of the league last season.

The 2022 NFL offseason saw an explosion in the wide receivers market that was more than most predicted. With a dozen players now with contracts averaging $20 million or more each season, it’s insane how much the the contracts have escalated. With the Steelers top receiver from the last two seasons in terms of yards going into the last year of his contract, one might think that the Steelers would be looking to sign Diontae Johnson to a long-term deal. But in a market this hot, is Diontae Johnson the receiver the Steelers are willing to shell out big bucks to keep?

There are many Steelers fans who would say no to this question. Some have even gone as far as thinking the Steelers should trade Johnson and leave themselves with only one player at the position who played significant snaps for the Steelers last year. Unless the Steelers are immensely confident in both their newly drafted wide receivers, moving on from Diontae Johnson when they still have him on a cheap contract would not be a smart move, especially if he signs a big deal somewhere else next year and can bring as much as a third-round compensatory draft pick. The Steelers still also have the option of either using the franchise tag or signing Johnson to a deal next year if they so choose.

But none of this talk matters if Diontae Johnson is not an elite wide receiver in the NFL and worthy of the contract.

Several weeks ago on an episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I was asked to break down some numbers as to what would make a player a top-tier wide receiver. The first step was determining which stats to look at in order to break players into categories. For this exercise, I chose receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns as my three categories. Additionally, I figured the best way to break wide receivers into tiers is by going every 32 players. Theoretically, every team would have a Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 wide receiver if it all fell perfectly so it made sense to be the breaking point.

For the exercise, I broke down numbers for both 2021 and 2020 to try to get an idea of what the numbers would look like going forward. When looking at the top 32 receivers for 2021 in each category, it fell where players had at least 848 receiving yards, 67 receptions, and six touchdowns. While that put a player in the top 32 for each category, only 21 players were the top category in all three categories. Of those 21, one of them was Diontae Johnson.

Even though I broke down Tier 2 and Tier 3 wide receivers, I was also interested in who were really the top receivers in the league. Instead of going top 32, I then went with statistics of the top 16 in each category. To make those qualifications, players had to have at least 1,082 receiving yards, 83 receptions, and eight touchdowns.

In looking at the numbers to put players in the top 16 in the league, there were only six who met the criteria in all three categories. Those players were Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, Devante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, and Diontae Johnson.

In all honesty, I was surprised Diontae Johnson was in the same category with these other five players. I always felt Johnson was a quality wide receiver, but I did not realize the elite group he was in when it came to the top three statistics for wide receivers.

Even looking back at 2020, Diontae Johnson was still in the top tier of wide receivers in all three categories, even though his statistics were not as good as 2021. There were 18 wide receivers who were the top 32 in all three categories. I also did a breakdown of the top 16 and there were five players who made it in all three categories in 2020, but Diontae Johnson was not one of them.

Even after making the Pro Bowl and putting up numbers which had him in the top of the NFL in 2021, there are still some Steelers’ fans who aren’t sold the Diontae Johnson deserving the big contract. I completely understand. If the Steelers are not sure how Diontae Johnson is going to fit into what they want to be able to do with their offense in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, it’s understandable that they may want to wait another season to have a better idea of what they are investing in.

But waiting could also cost more in the long run. So knowing the Steelers might end up having to pay more next year than they would this year for Diontae Johnson is a risk they are just going to have to be willing to take. But the worst thing they could do is pay the big money now only to find out that the Roethlisberger-to-Johnson connection is what was so productive.

The renaming of Heinz Field was likely never going to be satisfactory

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/13/2022 - 6:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The rights to stadium names—including Heinz Field—have been dominated by huge corporations over the past two decades. Therefore, no matter what they were going to rename Heinz Field, it wouldn't have felt special or organic.

It was reported on Monday that the Kraft-Heinz corporation will no longer be paying for the right to call Heinz Field Heinz Field starting in 2022, which means Heinz Field will have to be called something else effective immediately: Acrisure Stadium.

Yes, it’s the end of the world as we know it—or not. Believe it or not, people on social media, the Steelers, despite their “ways,” aren’t above changing the name of their football stadium to reflect the title of whatever cooperation agrees to pay them millions of dollars per year for the rights--even if that company is based in Michigan.

Honestly, I wish they would have struck a deal with Hunt’s and called it Hunt's Field. I wanted them to rip the Heinz labels off of those huge ketchup bottles at The Pittsburgh Football Stadium (my hip name for it if I had my way) and replace them with giant Hunt’s labels. It would have been like the time Marian Hossa signed with the Red Wings but with ketchup. It would have brought me so much joy. I’m tired of the constant faux outrage expressed by people from Pittsburgh, as well as those not from here but who are just swimming in our wake, every time they’re at some airport and see a bottle of Hunt’s. “Look, guys, I’m having a pre-flight meal at the airport in Memphis (insert social media pic of a bottle of Hunt’s ketchup here). Can you believe they don’t have Heinz? Unacceptable.” Yes, I can totally believe it, because they probably don’t worship ketchup brands in Memphis (everyone knows they worship fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches). I mean, come on, ketchup has been around for like 2,000 years. You seriously think no other company has been able to put together the perfect combination of ingredients to make its version taste as good? How hard can it be? It’s freaking ketchup! In fact, I’m reading the label on the Giant Eagle brand bottle of ketchup I just took out of my fridge that’s located in Crafton, which is a suburb of Pittsburgh, and there are only like four ingredients.

Come to think of it, I wanted the Steelers to change the name of their stadium to Annie’s Organic Ketchup Vegan Food Court so you alpha males out there would have lost your minds and screamed about how we’ve gotten soft as a society.

I digress.

Obviously, the chances of The Pittsburgh Football Stadium being named after a new ketchup were pretty slim, but had Hunt's ponied up the necessary cash to make it happen, the Steelers would have gladly accepted the offer.

It’s the way of the sports world in 2022. Mostly gone are the days of Three Rivers Stadium, Memorial Stadium, Riverfront Stadium, Veterans Stadium and Cleveland Stadium.

Heck, I can’t believe Soldier Field is still called Soldier Field in 2022 and not something like Ditka’s Soldier Field.

You’d think the past would have been more like the present in terms of naming rights. With owners of yesteryear being so pocket poor and desperate for cash, I’m surprised more teams didn’t name their venues after the companies who were willing to sign the biggest checks.

Today, with the TV contracts alone making every owner a billionaire, the Steelers could afford to name their venue The Chief’s Man Cave, and they’d still be quite profitable.

But maximizing every revenue stream is the reality for NFL owners in 2022, which is why we’ll never see a Renegade Ranch or Steel City Bowl.

Instead of whatever Acrisure is, I was assuming the new name would have had something to do with UPMC. Just think of the possibilities during those moments when the defense was really dominating. Triage Center? Perfect.

Oh well.

Finally, your attitude might be something along the lines of, “It will always be Heinz Field to me,” but you’re still talking about ketchup.

Not quite the same as Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium or the Civic Arena.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/13/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each broadcasted episode.

The Steelers Fix: Fantasy Headliners in the house

As we start thinking about our fantasy teams for the 2022 campaign, it’s good to consider all things when drafting your players. Looking for some winning strategies? This week, Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar look at certain players to consider for your 2022 roster. This week a very special interview with the Fantasy Headliner, Jake Hubman and Kyle Richardson.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Interview with the Fantasy Headliners, Jake Hubman and Kyle Richardson

and MUCH MORE!

Art Rooney II Press Conference: Introducing Acrisure Stadium

The Steelers have a new name for their home stadium. On Tuesday, Steelers President Art Rooney II held a press conference with Acrisure co-founder and CEO Greg Williams to announce the new name. Join BTSC Editor Dave Schofield as he recaps all the details of the press conference.

The Scho Bro Show: Will the Steelers have a player make their first Pro Bowl in 2022?

The Steelers have their share of stars that have received plenty of accolades, including Pro Bowl selections. The there are those valuable players that haven’t received national due. Who is ready to take that next step and earn at least a Pro Bowl nod? 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
  • What Steelers is ready to take that next step and earn their first Pro Bowl nod?

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Let’s Ride Wednesday: Are Steelers fans really crying about a stadium name??

To state that the reaction of Steeler Nation to Heinz Field being renamed Acrisure Stadium is negative would be an understatement. Fans are going bonkers in a bad way. But why? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts, “Let’s Ride” with BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman. Join Jeff for this and more on the Wednesday episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers fans aren’t too sure about Acrisure
  • The Mail Bag
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Going For Two: Carlins Platel & Kevin Rader

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/12/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

It’s Day 31 of Going For Two, featuring Carlins Platel and Kevin Rader

Welcome to Going For Two! Over the 45 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 training camp, we will be highlighting two players every day in order to cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s two players:

Carlins Platel Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Defensive Back
Age: 22
Year: 1
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 205
Drafted: UDFA, 2022
College: South Carolina
Roster Outlook: Very unlikely
Analysis:

Carlins Platel was not initially signed by any NFL team following the 2021 NFL draft and made it onto the Steelers 90-man roster following a tryout at rookie minicamp. Only playing one season as a graduate student at South Carolina after transferring from Division II Assumption University, Platel is truly a longshot to make the Steelers roster. In fact, should he be able to stick around for all three preseason games and make it to final cut downs it would be an accomplishment and could set him up to find a way onto the Steelers practice squad. The good news is Platel appears to be on his way to Latrobe for Steelers training camp where he will get his opportunity to show his skills and try to catch on in the NFL.

Kevin Rader Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Tight End
Age: 27
Year: 2
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 250
Drafted: UDFA 2018 (Green Bay Packers)
College: Youngstown State
Roster Outlook: 50/50
Analysis:

Not appearing in an NFL game until his third year, Kevin Rader it is still only officially in his second NFL season. Appearing in seven regular season games and both of the Steelers playoff games the last two seasons, Rader has two receptions on four targets for 8 yards in his career. In 2021 he was once again on the Steelers practice squad and elevated in Week 9 when Eric Ebron missed the game due to injury. Once Ebron went on the Reserve/Injured List following Week 11, Rader was promoted to the Steelers 53-man roster but was not active every week. Rader’s most playing time he saw was in Week 16 against the Kansas City Chiefs when Pat Freiermuth missed the game and Rader played 17 offensive snaps with one reception for 7 yards. For 2022, Rader’s biggest competition will be how the Steelers utilize sixth-round draft pick Connor Heyward. With Heyward spending his time with the receivers and tight ends, it is more likely that is the position he will be battling for rather than fullback. If so, Rader would have to prove more valuable than the versatile rookie or else he could once again find himself on the practice squad.

Be sure to check back everyday for another two players for the Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

Steelers Unsolved Mysteries: Benny Snell Football

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/12/2022 - 12:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Its one of the great unsolved mysteries of all time. Can we solve it, in this article?

In life there are so many unsolved mysteries. Whether it be cold cases of grizzly murders, the Bermuda Triangle or is it jam then cream or cream then jam on your scones in England? For me, there is a bigger question that needs to be answered.

Who really shot JFK? No, no, no...

Try — What is Benny Snell Football?

Since Benny Snell was drafted in the 4th Round of the 2019 NFL Draft he has promised to bring ‘Benny Snell Football’ to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But what is it? I have heard so many different ideas from so many fans. One group say its running into the back of your own blockers and not being able to spot gaps. Others say its being a short yardage back, who can hustle and run it up the gut.

In his Steelers career Benny Snell Jr. has rushed for 870 yards in his three seasons, has had 6 rushing touchdowns and averages 3.6 yards a carry. He has also has 15 receptions for 97 yards. Not exactly figures to write home about. Especially when you consider Najee Harris had 1,200 yards in one season, and, yes, I know Harris is a better back and a 1st Round pick.

So what is Benny Snell Football? Let’s ask the man himself. When Snell arrived in Pittsburgh and was asked what is Benny Snell Football is, he said the following:

“It could be 2nd and 3 or 3rd and 3, it could be 4th and 2, 3rd and goal, 4th and goal, or it could be the four-minute offense — you just have to run the clock out to win the game. It’s just feeding him, feeding him, let him run it up. He’s getting up, he’s having fun. He might dance a little bit, but he’s going to come back and do it again. Everybody in the stadium, both teams know what’s happening.”

There we go, that’s what it is! Clear? As mud? Yep.

Let’s try and interpret it. So looking at the first part of the quote, its being used in short yardage, tough situations to get first downs and keep the drive going. Now, remember this is just my interpretation. It’s using him over and over again, letting him work up a head of steam multiple carries for short yards and eat the clock. Its about being a showman and getting the fans on your side. Also, the fact that he can’t be stopped. Now that’s my interpretation of what he said. So he’s a short yardage, hard-nose running back who can be depended on. That’s what he says, I believe

Have we seen this yet? In short bursts maybe? Last year? No. But does Benny Snell deserve the benefit of the doubt? He’s had 3 years and hasn’t shown anything.

I can hear the arguments now.

But has Snell had a line to run behind?

In 2019 he didn’t have Ben Roethlisberger.

In 2020 and 2021 the Steelers were not been able to establish the run.

Why? Well, due to the line and the fact that Roethlisberger’s arm and mobility had gone, and his unwillingness to throw over the middle crippled the running game.

Furthermore, Snell is still on his rookie contract and is still learning, he was a 4th round pick not a 1st or 2nd round selection.

The line has improved, on paper, this year, the quarterback is now mobile, whether it be Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett, and the Steelers have Najee Harris. Snell has worked hard this offseason to get into condition. This will really be a prove-it year for Snell. He has a cap hit of $1,410,517 in 2021, and is in the final year of his rookie deal. Snell must step up this season if he is going to get a new deal.

We also must remember Snell is a key contributor on special teams and is a player Danny Smith loves having on his units. Make no mistake, this is a massive year for Benny Snell, the coaches seem to like him and have had faith in him. Its time for him to repay that faith with production!

Financial details of Acrisure’s naming rights for Steelers home venue released

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/12/2022 - 11:30am

The Pittsburgh Steelers home venue has a new name, and Acrisure paid a pretty penny to get those naming rights.

So long Heinz Field.

Bye bye ‘The Big Ketchup Bottle’.

Hello Acrisure Stadium!!

As the news of Acrisure acquiring the naming rights for the Pittsburgh Steelers home venue made waves with the Steelers’ global fan base, many were wondering what the price was for the Michigan company to out-bid the semi-local Kraft-Heinz company for the naming rights.

Before getting into the recently released numbers for Acrisure winning the bidding war for the naming rights, it’s important to provide some context. SoFi, the company who purchased the naming rights for the stadium which is home to the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams, pays $20 million dollars a year for those rights. When the Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers had their new stadium built, Heinz was the winning bidder for the naming rights. They paid $57 million dollars for a 20-year agreement.

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Acrisure is paying $150 million for their 15-year contract for the naming rights on the stadium.

SOURCE: Steelers naming rights deal with Acrisure is worth $150 million over 15 years. More than triples the 20-year, $57 million deal they had with Heinz when stadium opened in 2001.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) July 12, 2022

In just six seasons the organization who owns the venue, not the Steelers or Pitt, will gain more money than they did in the first 20 years the stadium was in use.

Fans of the black and gold were furious when it was announced Heinz didn’t keep the naming rights. On top of that, many were upset it wasn’t replaced with a local company. When the Pittsburgh Penguins arena went from Consol Energy Center to PPG Paints Arena, fans went easier on the decision considering PPG Paints is a local company.

I get the sentiment, but the organization which runs the venue was looking for the most money possible, not a feel-good story. With that being said, the $15 million dollars a year deal from Acrisure just proves the deal was too rich for them to pass up.

These are just the reported numbers for the naming rights, and they could change, but if they are true it is an impressive deal for the venue.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news on the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for training camp to start July 26th at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will have a winning record on the road in 2022

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/12/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

In the “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2022 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp back at St. Vincent College in order to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

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

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: The Steelers will have a winning record on the road in 2022

Why it will happen: With the NFL going to a 17-game schedule in 2021, the Steelers will have an extra road game for 2022. Needing five victories on the road to secure a winning record, the Steelers have an extra chance to win that fifth game as they could still take four losses and have a winning record. Unlike their home schedule were half their games are against playoff teams from 2021, the Steelers only have three of their nine games against teams who were in the postseason last year in the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, and Philadelphia Eagles. Add in the fact the Steelers don’t make any trips out west this year and do not leave the Eastern time zone, the road schedule is one of the kindest they have seen in a while.

Why it won’t happen: Even under Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers only had winning road records half the time including the 2019 season where Roethlisberger only started two games. Over the last four seasons, the Steelers have had a winning record on the road once in 2020 when they went 5-3. Last season, as well as 2019, the Steelers went 3–5 on the road during the regular season. Being a team with a lot of changes in the offseason, it very well could be that the Steelers take more time to come together as a unit, especially in their road matchups.

Prediction: This is another tough one, but I’m going to agree with the scenario. The biggest reason is because of the Steelers favorable schedule both in matchups and distance traveled. I would not be surprised if the Steelers have a losing road record before their bye week as all three of their matchups against playoff teams from 2021 are early in the season. But trips to Atlanta and Carolina towards the end of the season will hopefully get the record back on track and the Steelers can squeeze out five wins on the road this year.

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

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2022 regular season.

A mediocre slate of opposing quarterbacks should benefit the Steelers in 2022

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/12/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense could be feasting on some mediocre quarterbacks in 2022.

The NFL is just a few weeks from training camp, which means national pundits are coming forward with their predictions. For Steelers fans, the news is not good. Most have Pittsburgh finishing third or even fourth in the AFC North. Meanwhile, a recent ESPN mock draft for 2023 anticipates a poor season ahead. They have the Steelers picking 6th overall. Vegas doesn’t think highly of the Steelers either, pegging their over/under win total at 7.5.

The skepticism is understandable. This will be the first season since 2005 the Steelers are without Ben Roethlisberger as their starting quarterback. Their current group of Mitchell Trubisky, rookie Kenny Pickett and veteran backup Mason Rudolph doesn’t exactly “wow” people. Pittsburgh is widely regarded as lacking at the game’s most important position.

There’s a flip side to that story, though. The Steelers may not be particularly sexy at quarterback, but their counterparts aren’t exactly Beyonce in tights. Barring injuries, the Steelers will see fourteen different opposing quarterbacks this season. Five have never faced them. The remaining nine have posted a combined regular season record against them of 18-18. That number gets worse when you subtract Tom Brady. Pittsburgh’s long-time nemesis is 9-3 in the regular season against the Steelers. Minus Brady, the remaining eight are 9-15. So, while many anticipate the quarterback play in Pittsburgh to be a weak spot, the signal-callers the Steelers will oppose either have no experience, or have had limited success, against Pittsburgh in their careers.

This article does not suggest the Steelers will win games simply because many of the quarterbacks they will face have struggled against them previously. It does, though, offer a counter to those who discount Pittsburgh’s chance at success because of the quality of their quarterback play. If Pittsburgh is not especially strong at the position, what about the quarterbacks they will face? That should factor into the equation, too.

Here’s a breakdown of those quarterbacks based on how they’ve fared against the Steelers. Their mediocrity may give Pittsburgh a better chance at success than many anticipate.

The Studs: Tom Brady, Derek Carr, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen

The four quarterbacks in this tier have a combined 15-6 record against the Steelers. They’ve thrown 46 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. The Steelers have sacked them an average of 1.8 times per game and their cumulative QBR is 99.6.

In other words, ugh.

The sack number is particularly problematic. When the Steelers get to the quarterback, they are one of the best defenses in the NFL. When they do not, they struggle, especially against elite QBs.

Carr shredded them for 373 yards on 39 attempts last season. The Steelers sacked him twice. Burrow’s offense put up 65 points on the Steelers in two games. Pittsburgh sacked him twice, too. They’ve sacked Allen just five times in three contests, although they did frustrate him last season by using exclusively nickel and dime looks, falling back into coverage and taking away his throwing lanes. Brady has been nearly untouchable over the years, playing comfortably from the pocket and picking apart Pittsburgh’s defense like he’s coasting through a 7-on-7 drill:

There is some good news, however. The Steelers initially face Burrow in Week 1, where they’ll have all summer to devise a game plan for which Cincinnati is unprepared, like they did for Buffalo in last season’s opener. With new defensive architects in Teryl Austin and Brian Flores, Pittsburgh can throw looks at Burrow he has not yet seen from the Steelers. This provides hope for an otherwise tough road test to start the season.

The Raiders are potentially scary, having added free agent receiver Davante Adams. Adams and tight end Darren Waller provide Carr two of the best in the league at their respective positions. The offensive line, however, is an Achilles heel. PFF rates it as the 29th best unit in the NFL. Silver and Black Pride, the Vegas version of BTSC, describes the line situation heading into training camp as “fluid.” That’s never a good adjective when discussing a position group that depends on consistency to develop.

Then there’s Brady. The soon-to-be 45-year-old plays behind one of the best offensive lines in the league in Tampa Bay. Blitzing Brady has proven to be fatal over the years (as proof, re-watch the GIF above). The best way to frustrate him is to get pressure rushing four. This is how the New York Giants beat him in two Super Bowls and how the Steelers, in 2019, held Brady in check in a 17-10 win. New England was flagged for five holding calls in that contest. Most were the result of a ferocious effort by Pittsburgh’s front, like we see here from Stephon Tuitt on this inside rush move:

Brady has lost some of his ability to move about the pocket, where he was once magnificent at sliding away from pressure and staying on platform. He turtled up and ate sacks more last season than he’s done throughout his career. That’s a natural consequence of aging and not wanting to take hits. We saw it with Roethlisberger, who was one of the toughest men to ever play the position. We’re seeing it now with Brady. If Pittsburgh can get a push with their interior rushers and get clutter at Brady’s feet, they can make him uncomfortable.

Burrow will be the toughest of the bunch to corral. His pocket presence is excellent, and his young legs provide him an elusiveness Brady no longer possesses. Carr and Allen are mobile, too, but neither has this sort of poise and vision under duress:

Getting to Burrow relies on maintaining the integrity of rush lanes. In the GIF above, Kansas City’s Melvin Ingram (24) comes on a loop stunt through the B-gap. He fails to get square, though, and the guard washes him down, providing an escape route for Burrow. The Steelers must seal these lanes as they push the pocket to give their outside rushers a chance.

Pittsburgh plays five games against these four quarterbacks. Three are at home, where they are generally tougher on defense. They are unlikely to win a majority of these games, but if they can win two it will set them up nicely considering the quality of quarterback play they will face the rest of the way.

The Duds: Lamar Jackson, Jacoby Brissett, Matt Ryan, Marcus Mariota, Baker Mayfield

The story changes abruptly with these five quarterbacks. They have won 3 of 12 games against the Steelers, with 19 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, a sack rate of 4.2 and a combined QBR of 79.7. Pittsburgh has generally made their lives miserable by blitzing the daylights out of them, disguising coverages effectively and creating confusion.

This is particularly true of Mayfield, who went 2-5 in Cleveland with a 4.1 sack rate and a 76.9 QBR against Pittsburgh. Mayfield, who is projected to be the starter in Carolina, has often been flustered by Pittsburgh’s coverage disguises, causing him to hold the football too long and take sacks, like we see here:

Those pump fakes reveal a quarterback who is unsure of where to go with the football. This is often the result of misreading the coverage. The pre-snap look in this GIF is limited, but the soft corners Pittsburgh shows seem to indicate zone. At the snap, though, the Steelers play match-man, locking on once they diagnose the route combinations. Mayfield fails to anticipate this, and his indecision gives T.J. Watt time to get home for the sack.

Lamar Jackson is a similar story. Jackson is 1-2 against Pittsburgh, with a 59.0 completion percentage, four touchdowns, six interceptions and a 67.4 QBR. Jackson has rushed an average of 63 yards per game, but his miscues as a passer have off-set the effectiveness of his running.

Pittsburgh’s coverage disguises have baffled Jackson at times, forcing him into costly mistakes. Take this play from 2020. The circled defender in the photo below is linebacker Bud Dupree. Jackson expects Dupree to rush on this 3rd and 6 play, as he customarily would. Because of this, he targets the inside receiver to the trips formation to his left, who appears to have a clean release up the seam:

Dupree doesn’t rush, though. He falls back into coverage, closing off the seam. Jackson has an option, which I’ll discuss in a moment, but he doesn’t take it. Instead, he comes off the read and throws, almost blindly, to a slant from the opposite side of the field. Linebacker Robert Spillane is sitting on that route, and he easily picks it off and takes it to the house:

This play underscores Jackson’s limitations in conceptualizing routes and coverages. Even though he was fooled, he should have known that as Dupree carried the seam route, a window was opening for the slant coming underneath it. Not throwing there was mistake number one. The bigger error was in thinking a slant to an inside receiver on the opposite side of the field would be open. A quarterback can never be late with the football near the hashes. Defenses value that real estate far too much to allow quarterbacks the luxury of pitching the ball there on a whim. To throw across the middle, the timing and read of the coverage must be precise. Jackson had neither on this play, and paid for it dearly.

The Steelers play seven games against these quarterbacks. There is little chance they will sweep all seven. But winning four or five is not out of the question, especially considering their past success against these players.

The Newbies: Mac Jones, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Jameis Winston, Zach Wilson

None of the quarterbacks in this tier should scare anyone. Several, however, play in offenses that accentuate their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. New England did that with Jones last season, turning him into an efficient passer with a high completion percentage (67.6) who rarely took risks. Philadelphia did the same with Hurts, surrounding him with one of the best rushing attacks in the league and allowing him to get out of the pocket and be creative. Neither Jones nor Hurts are game-changers on their own. But, within their respective systems, they can both be effective.

The others are wild cards. Tua has a new head coach in Miami, who will bring a very different scheme than the RPO-heavy one he executed last year. Winston has been a turnover machine at times whose penchant for risk-taking plays into the hands of a defense that pressures the quarterback like the Steelers. And Wilson has a long way to go for a franchise that must integrate a host of new players into the lineup. The Jets start the season by playing all four AFC North teams, and could be 0-3 when they head to Pittsburgh in Week 4.

It’s hard to say how the Steelers will fare against these players. But for quarterbacks who are unfamiliar with Pittsburgh’s blitzes and disguises, the learning curve can be tough. The Steelers should win three, and perhaps even four of these games, with only the contest at Philadelphia looking daunting.

With all of this considered, it’s not hard to see the Steelers going 10-7. That’s optimistic, for sure, but is it unreasonable? I don’t think so. The Steelers could steal a game or two from the top tier by finding a way to get to those quarterbacks. They could extend their domination over the middle tier by continuing to create confusion with blitzes and disguises. And they could fluster the newbies by playing relentless Steeler defense as a means of introduction. If they can do these things, it won’t be shocking if they prove wrong the national people who were quick to write them off.

It’s perfectly normal to be optimistic about the Steelers this time of year

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/12/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers are about to begin real preparation for their 2022 regular season. This is a time to be happy, not mad.

The Steelers are about to embark on another training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. In fact, that will begin in about two weeks.

It’s exciting, isn’t it? Yes, sir, every season, especially the 2022 campaign when Pittsburgh hopes to find its successor at quarterback to the immortal Ben Roethlisberger, offers a time for rebirth, possibility, hope, and fun.

At least that’s how it is if you’re one of those black-and-gold glasses-wearing types who want to drink the Steelers' black-and-gold Kool-Aid (eww!) and think the team can do no wrong.

If that’s who you are, I got news for you: Stay that way, at least until the Steelers' regular season begins to unfold, and we get a clearer sense of who and what they are.

If the Steelers really do find their next Big Ben quicker than expected, and they get off to an incredible start, why, those black-and-gold glasses will look rather fashionable, as will those crazy and zany 15-2-type predictions.

If they don’t, if they struggle mightily, if Mitch Trubisky looks like a bum, if Kenny Pickett doesn’t look ready, and if an underwhelming Mason Rudolph is piloting the offense, that will certainly be a time to naysay and spell gloom and doom.

It would be silly to be irrationally optimistic and defensive, that’s for sure. Believe me, I certainly had enough of that from a certain BTSC reader last year, a person who would say stuff like, “Jeff, enough with the negativity,” in the comments section of an article about how the Steelers were underdogs by 10 points in their very next game.

Not only were the Steelers huge underdogs a time or two in 2021, but they found themselves down by huge scores on many occasions. They never really looked like that great of a team, even if they somehow snuck into the playoffs as the seventh seed in the AFC.

Those in-game meltdowns during the Behind the Steel Curtain game-day threads were often justified, as were the calls for head coach Mike Tomlin’s job. Yes, we may have debated back and forth over that. Yes, I may have been firmly on Team Tomlin (aren’t I always?), but I certainly didn’t think he was above reproach for his and his team’s performance in 2021.

But that stuff is common during the season. During the offseason, however, especially this portion of the offseason when the smell of football is in the air? I don’t want to engage in such debates. Who wants to do that now?

Who wants to have long, drawn-out debates about whether or not Tomlin should be on the hot seat in 2022? Who’s still complaining about the first-round selection of Pickett in the 2022 NFL Draft? The guy is about to truly begin his professional career in the NFL. He’s excited. The Steelers are excited. Their fans—every single one of them—should be off-the-chains excited. Imagine if Pickett shows the same kind of potential Roethlisberger did in his rookie season of 2004? What a find he could be!

And it’s not just the young quarterback. What about the young running back? How about the young offensive line that actually looks like it might have the right youthful pieces to succeed as a unit?

There’s promise on the defensive line with Tyson Alualu returning, Larry Ogunjobi arriving, and Cam Heyward still dominating.

I can give you more examples, but the point is this: We’re long past the point of the offseason when you should be complaining about anything. I mean, my goodness, it’s like some of the fans want Tomlin fired so bad, they’d enjoy that more than...

Anyway, I think I’m the perfect writer to talk about this kind of thing since I’ve been accused of being a totally blind Steelers shill, as well as having the most negative Steelers take of an entire season (that’s right, I cherish my 2021 Yinzie Award for my negative reaction to the Steelers 36-10 loss to the Chiefs last December).

I’m happy when I’m supposed to be happy, and I’m mad when it’s time to be mad.

July isn’t a time to be mad about the Pittsburgh Steelers, however. Save it for the season...if the moment calls for it.

Heinz releases statement on being out-bid for naming rights of the Steelers home venue

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/12/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers’ new home stadium is Acrisure Stadium, and Kraft-Heinz released a statement as to what went on doing the negotiation process.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Panthers have a new venue name for their home games. As everyone heard Sunday night and Monday morning, gone is Heinz Field, and now begins the Acrisure Stadium era.

The Steelers fan base was not happy with the change, and the Kraft-Heinz company saw an opportunity to let the fan base know they tried to keep the naming rights, but it was the Steelers who eventually took the higher bid from Acrisure.

Here is the statement:

Pittsburgh is the city where H.J. Heinz was born and where he launched what is now an iconic, global brand. The Steelers are a legendary franchise, and together with Heinz are a winning combination that represent some of the best of Pittsburgh.

While we worked diligently with the Steelers for several months around a new naming rights deal, they found a new partner willing to pay significantly more than we could justify. While our name will no longer be on the stadium, Heinz will remain a significant, long-term sponsor of the Steelers and we’re excited to announce the details of our new partnership in the days ahead.

Kraft Heinz is committed to its ongoing support of the Steelers and the Pittsburgh community, in a city that is our co-headquarters. In addition to our partnership with the Steelers, we look forward to our continued support of organizations such as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Grow Pittsburgh, as well as sponsorship of events like Picklesburgh, among others.

We wish the Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers the best of luck in the season ahead.

With that, the Kraft-Heinz company lets the fan base know they made every attempt to keep the naming rights for the “big ketchup bottle”, but now fans will have to get used to the new name — Acrisure Stadium.

Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but fans will have to adapt quickly as the deal which was signed was a 15-year agreement. In the meantime, fans of the Steelers will likely not care what the name of the stadium is where the Steelers call home, but if the Steelers are winning football games while in the venue.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason and training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA on July 26th.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/12/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website, but now we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said or typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

BAD Language: The art of being a happy Steelers fan

Everybody’s got an opinion. Some subscribe to conventional wisdom. others are ill-informed, while some are unorthodox and way out there. So, BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis decided to make no apologies and share his black-and-gold brand of enlightenment. Join BAD preaching his own gospel of the hypocycloids on the new show, BAD Language. This week, it’s all about

  • News and Notes
  • Enjoying your black-and-gold fandom
  • and MUCH MORE!
Breaking News: Steelers announce new name for their home stadium

The Steelers have played their last game at Heinz Field. While the stadium still remains, the name will be different moving forward as Pittsburgh ushers in the Acrisure Stadium era. Join BTSC Editor Dave Schofield as he breaks down all the latest information.

Steelers Hangover: If a stadium name is Steeler Nations’ biggest problem…

Heinz Field has a new name and not many people love it. In fact, Steeler Nation is up in arms. We, as a fanbase, have gripped over things before and it turned out well. Join Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White with discussion of this and more on the Steelers Hangover.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Stadium Name Outrage
  • and MUCH MORE!
From the Steelers’ Cutting Room Floor: Excitement and questions abound in Steelers WR room

We have seen this particular movie before. The Steelers seem to be stacked at the wide receiver position and everybody is excited about it. Will this year’s stable give us all the fun and production we crave? Geoffrey Benedict examines this and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The mystery that is the Steelers WR room
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Steelers place Daniel Archibong on the Reserve/Retired List

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/11/2022 - 4:50pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers now have a spot to fill on their 90-man offseason roster.

The Pittsburgh Steelers now have an opening on their 90-man offseason roster when it was announced the team placed defensive lineman Daniel Archibong on the Reserve/Retired List.

This per NFL Insider Aaron Wilson:

Steelers placed Daniel Archibong on reserve-retired list

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) July 11, 2022

For some background on Archibong, here is the breakdown from Dave Schofield’s “Going for Two” feature which highlighted Archibong.

After failing to make the Chicago Bears roster last offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers immediately signed Daniel Archibong to the practice squad. Called up twice in back-to-back weeks against the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals, Archibong saw a total of 13 snaps on defense and six on special teams as he contributed to two tackles. With a very deep defensive line room at this time, Archibong‘s most promising path with the 2022 Steelers remains via the practice squad.

The loss of Archibong isn’t crippling considering how deep the team is at the defensive line position. What might be more intriguing is how the team now has the roster space to bring in another player.

Could it be a player who is considered a name among fans? Possibly, but it also could be someone who is nothing more than a camp body as the team prepares for training camp to start at Saint Vincent College on July 26th in Latrobe, PA.

Either way, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Pittsburgh Steelers as they press on throughout the offseason and prepare for the start of camp in just a few weeks.

Going For Two: Kenny Pickett & James Pierre

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/11/2022 - 2:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Day 30 of Going For Two, featuring Kenny Pickett and James Pierre

Welcome to Going For Two! Over the 45 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 training camp, we will be highlighting two players every day in order to cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s two players:

Kenny Pickett Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Quarterback
Age: 24
Year: 1
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 220
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 20, 2022
College: Pittsburgh
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

There is no debate as to the roster status of first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett. Where the debate comes in is if and when he will take over as the starting quarterback. With the Steelers not starting a rookie quarterback in Week 1 since first-overall pick Terry Bradshaw 1970, history does not bode well for Pickett. But in a competition where the best player gets the job, history is not the only governing factor. If the Steelers have any doubts, it would be wise to slow play Pickett this season. But if they do, when does he come on the field? Chances are, if he’s not the Week 1 starter, Kenny Pickett will not be entering the mix due to good circumstances as it will likely be because of injury or ineffective play by others at the position.

James Pierre Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Position: Corner
Age: 25
Year: 3
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 185
Drafted: UDFA 2020
College: Florida Atlantic
Roster Outlook: Bubble
Analysis:

If the question of James Pierre’s roster status for 2022 would have been asked midway through the 2021 season, most would believe he would be a roster lock. Seeing significant defensive snaps each week through Week 12, along with four starts, James Pierre was completely pulled from the field on defense following the Steelers loss to Cincinnati. But all was not lost as Pierre continued to contribute at a high-level on special teams. With more options at the safety position this year, some believe James Pierre and Justin Layne are in a “two dogs, one bone” situation fighting for a roster spot. Whether or not this is the case remains to be seen, but James Pierre is not a guarantee at this time to make the 53 come September.

Be sure to check back everyday for another two players for the Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

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