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Why the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger might equate the return to block numbers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 1:15pm
Minkah Fitzpatrick rocking the ‘79 throwback block number jersey | Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers jersey is timeless, but there's still a better version of it.

In 1997 the Pittsburgh Steelers tweaked its uniforms to feature italicized numbers instead of the traditional block number design. The current design has been synonymous with some of the modern greats like Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, and James Harrison (among many others), but they might be most tightly tied to future hall-of-fame Quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

When all is said and done Roethlisberger will have played roughly 20 years (2 decades!!!) for the black and gold. Adding to that, he will hold every passing record and will be the Steelers all-time leader in games played.

It is definitely fair to say no one will wear number 7 for the Pittsburgh Steelers ever again. But the team may decide to take that one step further..

In 2018 the Steelers decided on a new throwback jersey to honor the 40 year anniversary of the 1979 Super Bowl Championship winning team. Since bringing the Block numbers back, many fans have been pining for a full time return of the old digits.

While this seems like something the organization would be willing to do based on every alternate/throwback jersey in franchise history featuring a block number (Seriously look it up). I don't think the organization would want to pounce on switching it back full-time until the final chapter of its franchise quarterback comes to a close.

Retiring the rounded numbers when Big Ben calls it quits is a tribute he deserves and would signal the start of a new era.

Tom Brady got that treatment from the patriots this past season, and I think if anyone is deserving of that send off on the Steelers it’s clearly Big Ben.

With the NFL’s current jersey rules teams are allowed 4 different Jerseys, 4 different pants with any combinations of the four.

Just picture this:

  • Block numbers at home
  • Block numbers on road whites (which could also be worn with white pants/black stripe à la 1965)
  • The Color-Rush jersey
  • And why not an all gold version of the Color-rush jersey

While I'm going all-in on jersey talk, they might as well change the finish on the helmets from glossy to matte as it looks so much better (just look at the vikings current helmets) and also rotate in a grey face-mask with any jersey combination.

A timeless look just with more game-day options, and a firm grip on the title of nicest jerseys in the NFL.

What do you think? Should the Steelers go back to the block number full-time? Should they wait for Big Ben to retire to make that decision? Let us know in the comments below!

There’s so much wrong with the NFL’s proposed changes to the Rooney Rule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 11:25am
Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

The NFL might have meant well with their new proposition, but its proved to be a bad idea.

It’s been well known for a while now that the NFL’s long-standing Rooney Rule hasn’t done much towards its purpose in recent history.

The Rooney Rule is an NFL policy requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a head coach, general manager, or other such position. However, minority hirings for such positions hit an all-time low this year since the instigation of the the rule.

The NFL has put a lot of time and money into raising awareness for social issues and other such issues, but has come under fire lately due to the lack of representation in their teams’ front office staffs.

The league apparently has a solution in mind, with NFL.com’s Jim Trotter reporting the league’s plans to vote on a new proposition regarding racial issues.

BREAKING: NFL owners will vote next week on a resolution that would improve a team's draft position if it hires a person of color as head coach or general manager, per sources. Currently there are only 2 black GMs & 4 HCs of color, matching 17-year low https://t.co/867umaUe4o

— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) May 15, 2020

Trotter’s article covered the proposition in more detail:

If a team hires a minority head coach, that team, in the draft preceding the coach’s second season, would move up six spots from where it is slotted to pick in the third round. A team would jump 10 spots under the same scenario for hiring a person of color as its primary football executive, a position more commonly known as general manager.

If a team were to fill both positions with diverse candidates in the same year, that club could jump 16 spots — six for the coach, 10 for the GM — and potentially move from the top of the third round to the middle of the second round. Another incentive: a team’s fourth-round pick would climb five spots in the draft preceding the coach’s or GM’s third year if he is still with the team. That is considered significant because Steve Wilks and Vance Joseph, two of the four African-American head coaches hired since 2017, were fired after one and two seasons, respectively.

If a minority assistant left to become a coordinator elsewhere, his former club would receive a fifth-round compensatory pick. And if a person of color leaves to become a head coach or general manager, his previous team would receive a third-round compensatory pick.

One final provision: Any team that hires a person of color as its quarterbacks coach would receive a compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round if it retains that employee beyond one season. The provision is an attempt to get a more diverse pool of coaches working with quarterbacks, since the trend of late is to hire head coaches with offensive experience — 24 of the past 33 hires have been from the offensive side of the ball — and it’s considered even more beneficial to have worked with quarterbacks. Currently there are only two African-American QB coaches in Pep Hamilton of the Chargers and Marcus Brady of the Colts.

In an attempt to increase representation in the NFL’s pool of coaches, the NFL took everything that was wrong with the Rooney Rule and made it much, much worse.

Fox Sports contributor Rob Parker summed up many of my thoughts perfectly.

Rewarding teams for hiring minorities is simply disrespectful. Assuming that bribery is necessary for the hiring of minority coaches seems to insinuate that such candidates can’t get hired on their own— will an asterisk have to be placed by every non-white hiring?

Whatever happened to the best-qualified individual getting the job?

The complicated rules of moving draft picks for different types of hiring reveals the ridiculous details of the clunky new idea, as if making decisions purely based on skin color was ever a good idea. It’s inevitable that teams will find ways to abuse the new rules to move up in the draft, and disrespect minorities even more than they were when the idea was first proposed.

Coaching hires should only be made to to improve, well, the coaching of the team. Not for any racial or draft ambitions.

Yes, it’s a simple math problem to see that the representation of African Americans in NFL coaching and administrative staffs is disproportionately lower than the 70% of players represented throughout the league.

But let’s focus on that for a second.

By the logic of the NFL’s proposed new rule, should the Carolina Panthers receive incentives for having Christian McCaffrey, one of the few white running backs in the NFL, on their roster? Should teams with black punters and kickers be able to move up in the third round? Should teams be punished for the fact that there is not one white cornerback in the entire league? Should the 49ers receive an extra draft pick for being one of the few teams with a female coach?

The answer should be no. This isn’t an attempt to say that all of these issues are exactly the same, but rather to show the faulty logic the NFL has put into their new proposition. If they go all-in on the new rule idea, what’s to stop them from attempting to balance the uneven racial numbers at every other position in the NFL?

The notion of underlying racism in various places throughout the NFL has proved to be a difficult issue to deal with. Take, for instance, the controversial Deshaun Watson story last week. Watson, a black quarterback, was taken after Mitchell Trubisky, a white quarterback, in the 2017 NFL Draft. As any NFL fan would know, Trubisky’s career with the Bears has turned into a massive first-round bust, while Watson has developed into one of the better players at the position in the NFL.

Doug Williams, a former Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Redskins, was quoted as saying that if Watson was white, he would have been taken earlier, sparking a massive debate on Twitter.

Bears declining 5th yr. option on Mitchell Trubisky, QB they chose AHEAD of Patrick Mahomes AND DeShaun Watson. I asked Doug Williams where Mahomes and Watson would have gone if they'd been white: "Ahead of Trubisky," he said. "Ahead of No. 2" I said. "Absolutely," he answered.

— John Feinstein (@JFeinsteinBooks) May 3, 2020

Fox Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb took to the social media platform to condemn the the assumption that the “…league evaluates a QB on race in 2020,” which prompted a response from Watson himself.

The bears NEVER ONCE talked to me.. https://t.co/nMX7JKW99P

— Deshaun Watson (@deshaunwatson) May 9, 2020

Watson appeared to have strong evidence the Chicago Bears’ racism, or at least a flawed scouting department, until Rich Eisen, a popular radio host, broke the news that Watson appeared to be lying.

It wasn’t over yet, however, as Quincy Avery proved an interesting point defending Watson.

Not exactly. Explain it to you same way I did for Doug. Every year, players are instructed by their agent to leverage the media so that teams feel that there is more competition in the market place than there actually is.

— quincy_avery (@Quincy_Avery) May 9, 2020

So what happened?

We’ll never know for sure, as there are far too many layers to the story. Did the Bears perform their due diligence with Watson and mess up in the scouting process, or was there a racial element involved?

Thankfully, the NFL has a common-sense, obvious way to punish racism and/or bad scouting - and its completely objective.

Its as simple as the Bears and Mitchell Trubisky have been terrible, while the Deshaun Watson-led Texans have had a successful run since they drafted the Clemson quarterback.

So how does that tie in to the polarizing minority coach debate in the NFL?

Eric Bieniemy, the Chief’s offensive coordinator who is believed by many to be the league’s top minority candidate, hasn’t yet been hired as a head coach for seemingly no reason at all. He’s constantly fielded one of the best offenses in the entire league, but has been snubbed from a chance to lead a team on his own.

All of the teams that had a chance to hire Bieniemy, racists or not, were forced to watch him brilliantly coach his team to a Super Bowl victory, while all the others sat at home.

Enforcing perfect racial equality in the NFL is a pipe dream, unfortunately, as it’s never clear why exactly a team made a certain decision.

Maybe the answer is as simple as bad choices resulting in bad seasons.

Racism is obviously a terrible thing, and while the NFL’s attempts at stopping it could be considered admirable, their attempts at fixing the problem might just make it worse.

Thankfully, the new proposal wasn’t all bad, as a ridiculous NFL rule that has long been hindering all coaching hires might finally be removed.

The belief internally is the numbers can be reversed by removing some of the barriers that have hindered minority mobility, such as teams blocking assistants from interviewing for coordinator positions elsewhere. Many owners view coordinator experience as essential for first-time head coaches, but currently Eric Bieniemy in Kansas City and Byron Leftwich in Tampa Bay are the only minority coordinators on offense.

Under the proposed resolution, clubs would be prohibited from the end of the regular season to March 1 from denying an assistant coach the opportunity to interview with a new team for a ”bona fide” coordinator position on offense, defense or special teams. Any dispute about the legitimacy of the position would be heard by the commissioner, and his determination would be ”final, binding and not subject to further review.”

The possible removal of that rule might help open up the hiring process for many successful coordinators and positional coaches, and might do the most to help up the numbers of minority hirings in the NFL.

NFL owners will meet and vote on the proposal at some point, with 24 out of 32 votes required for it to pass. It remains to be seen how any owners feel about the proposed rule.

Besides a single bright spot in the new proposal, the possible amendments to the Rooney Rule are blatantly disrespectful, poorly-planned, and seemingly devoid of common sense.

Balancing the expectations for NFL rookies based on their draft positions

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 10:15am
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

How much does draft pedigree influence expected production for a player’s rookie season and beyond?

Reasonable expectations.

It is a difficult topic to nail down even with every piece of information. When a player is drafted into the NFL, exactly what should be expected? Are there certain players with higher expectations than others? Where do these thresholds lie?

I have always been operating under the assumption that a player’s draft position generally dictates expectations when it comes to the NFL. Granted, certain positions operate differently, but as a general rule: The higher a player is drafted, the greater the expectations placed upon them. For years I felt this way and just assumed so did everybody else. But recently this thought process was brought into question.

In a discussion during one of the live podcasts through the Behind The Steel Curtain YouTube channel, I made a statement that the addition of Alex Highsmith was an upgrade over the loss of Anthony Chickillo. With Highsmith being a third-round draft choice, I had a certain expectation for him this coming season with a path for growth in years to come. Surprisingly, I was blasted for my opinion at even considering Highsmith as an upgrade.

You’re probably asking why this notion seems so ridiculous to someone. Their argument was Highsmith has yet to take a snap in the NFL so he can’t possibly be considered an upgrade over someone who has played the game. It didn’t matter that Chickillo only had 0.5 sacks in 143 snaps in 2019, it was better than Highsmith’s zero on the NFL level. Until a player takes regular-season NFL snaps, they can’t possibly be deemed a better player than someone who has already done so.

Personally, I find this premise flawed. By the same evaluation, even the second overall pick in the 2020 draft— edge rusher Chase Young out of Ohio State— couldn’t be considered an upgrade to Anthony Chickillo. When thinking about it logically, it just doesn’t make sense. But in hashing out the discussion, it caused something to get stuck in my brain: Should there be expectations on any rookie as they enter the NFL, and what should those expectations be?

Obviously, I’m not going to back down from having expectations for NFL rookies. The higher a player is drafted, the higher the expectations. I’ve decided to actually put down my thoughts based on draft position while not looking at any specific position. I also understand if a player is drafted at the end of the first round and another is at the top of the second round, they are generally equal. So when using a round designation, I’m going to generalize being drafted in the middle of the round.

When it comes to first-round draft picks, the expectation is they are a player who could possibly start right away while being someone who is completely ready to start by season’s end. A second-round draft pick should be a player who is expected to become a starter within their first couple of seasons. For me, by the time you get to the third round, I am looking for a player who should be at least a quality back up with starter potential down the road.

By the time you get to a fourth-round draft choice, we are obviously into the third day of the draft. I’d like to think fourth rounders are players who will pretty much be given a spot on the team their first year unless they go out of their way to show they don’t deserve it. Fourth-round picks are sometimes a “shot in the dark” player where they could become a quality starter or someone who is completely out of the NFL in only a few seasons. Going on to the fifth round, those players are pretty much the same as the fourth round, except with less of a guarantee to make the roster their first season.

As for sixth and seventh-round players, they are guys who are great if they can contribute to the team at all. These players are generally kept throughout all of training camp and are prime candidates for the practice squad should they not make the team. As for the undrafted rookie free agents, they are just behind the seventh round draft choices. The biggest difference with them is a team would be much quicker to cut ties during training camp if it doesn’t seem like they’re working out.

I also acknowledge that some positions are handled in different ways. Obviously, quarterback is its own entity. Also, if a team drafts a specialist such as a kicker or punter in a late round, they are much more of a fourth or fifth-round mentality versus a sixth or seventh-round based on the nature of their positions. Since the majority of these players who are starters on NFL teams were undrafted, actually using draft capital on the position means they are more highly coveted than normal.

Of course, these are my own general rules that I’ve come up with. But after the conversation I had this week, I was wondering if I was completely off-base. So what are your thoughts? What are your expectations for players coming into their rookie year? Do you have certain things you want to see out of them based on where they were drafted? Or do you feel each player starts at the bottom of the depth chart until they prove they can do something regardless of where they were selected? Please help me out by leaving your thoughts in the comments below.

If you think your life is surreal, right now, try being a Pittsburgh Steelers rookie

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 8:50am
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Zoom meetings and passwords. Imagine that as your first experience as an NFL player. The Steelers 2020 rookie class doesn’t have to imagine it.

“Bleep! I forgot my mask, I gotta go back home and get it!” is something I never thought I’d ever be saying as recently as a month ago.

“Bleep! I can’t figure out how to get into this Zoom meeting, Coach is gonna kill me!” is something I’m sure no Steelers rookie ever thought he’d be saying about his first days as a professional football player.

Imagine being a Steelers newbie and engaging in your first rookie “mini-camp” in a virtual setting, where meetings aren’t immediately followed by on the field application—all you have are more meetings. Yes, a lot of people can work from home, and that’s fine if you already know how your job works. But learning the “installs” of your first professional football team’s offensive or defensive playbook during a virtual meeting has to be akin to learning how to play your first guitar with the help of a YouTube video.

“I want to get a good grasp of the playbook after this,” said rookie receiver Chase Claypool of his rookie mini-camp experience, courtesy of Steelers.com. “Obviously you can’t get the whole playbook in a few days. Just a good grasp on the concepts, the terminology. That is what I learned today, those basic things, and we are going to progress as days go on.”

It’s a familiar sounding way to go about business for anyone who has ever had to endure a week’s worth of online training before heading into the office to truly begin their new job—but it’s got to be different for your average NFL rookie.

Sure, even in a “normal” job, those things you learn through online training only take you so far, and you don’t truly begin to get your feet wet until you get out there in the field and start doing it. But NFL OTAs and rookie mini-camps are filled with meetings, followed immediately by field work to see how quickly or how well a player has grasped what he just learned. And if it’s evident that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, believe me, his new boss will remind him of that.

“It’s definitely different. We have a couple of different websites that we use to get in and out of meetings that has information and stuff,” Claypool continued. “They were able to supply me with an iPad that has some of the basic terminology and stuff, but not the entire playbook. It’s kind of hard to dissect it that way. That is what this rookie mini-camp is for. It’s definitely a unique experience.”

There you go. In addition to grasping their new playbooks, these rookies also have to be tech savvy enough just to log on and find their materials. Fortunately, since we’re all products of our era, I’m sure it’s much easier for a person in his or her early-20s to adapt to work-life in a virtual setting (regardless of his or her profession) than it is for someone a little older who never had to attend a Zoom work meeting in their entire life.

Still, though, it has to be a whole different kind of pressure for an NFL rookie. How do you know you’ve got this new playbook down until you get out there and do it?

And in terms of working out, these guys are essentially on their own with regards to staying in tip-top shape until they can finally join their new team.

Athletes are used to structure and being told what to do and when to do it. Now, they’re in charge of their own discipline? That might be much easier for a veteran who knows what it takes to be a professional. But discipline doesn’t come naturally to everyone—it often has to be learned over time.

In terms of preparedness, this class of rookies might be behind the proverbial eight ball more than any in recent Steelers history—or the total opposite of the advantage Pittsburgh’s rookie class enjoyed 46 years ago. Hall of Fame receiver Lynn Swann once talked about the 1974 players’ strike that occurred during training camp. The rookies weren’t a part of this and got to attend camp. As Swann put it, by the time the strike ended and the veterans returned, he and his fellow rookies felt like it was their camp—perhaps it’s no surprise that so many of them made the team and contributed heavily to Pittsburgh’s first Super Bowl title.

Finally, imagine being drafted by an NFL team. You picture getting the phone call, hearing the commissioner announce your name and then going up on stage to receive your new team’s cap and jersey. Anyone can imagine that based on years of following the draft.

As for the football part of it, thanks to his college experience, a player might have a pretty decent idea of what his first interaction with his head coach will be like, and how his first practice session will probably go.

But who could have imagined all that has transpired since mid-March?

In terms of what these rookies may have imagined of their first NFL experiences vs. the reality of it, this has to be how the 2001 Patriots felt as they prepared for Super Bowl XXXVI. Not only did they get just one week to enjoy the build-up, when it was finally time for the individual starters to be introduced prior to kickoff, coach Bill Belichick insisted that the entire team run out onto the field as one.

In terms of challenges, the Steelers 2020 rookie class is in uncharted territory.

It’s going to be interesting to see who adapts and who suffers.

What’s your hottest Pittsburgh Steelers take?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 7:15am
Lets hear you Steeler Nation what’s your hottest take? | Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Got an opinion that doesn’t fit with the majority? get it off your chest

Whats the one thing you firmly believe in but hold tight to your chest because public perception holds a different take?

Is there one player you think is trash but they're going off a pro-bowl season?

What about your thoughts on the 2020 draft? do you think a 7th round pick is the steal of the draft?

We all have them, but it’s time to share yours.

In practicing what I preach here’s one of my hottest Steelers takes:

Ben Roethlisberger will outplay his current deal.

Yes, not only do I think the Steelers gunslinger will bounce back to form pre-elbow-surgery, but he will sign on to play another year or two past the end of his current deal. Playing into his early 40’s.

Now it’s your turn! The best and hottest takes will feature in a BTSC article next week! So comment below, on twitter, and on facebook!

Podcast: From James Harrison’s envelope, to Ben Roethlisberger’s weight

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 6:00am

There is plenty to discuss on the latest episode of the Steelers Brunch w/ Tony podcast.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a talking point around NFL circles after James Harrison’s “envelope” talk recently. Oh, and Ben Roethlisberger’s weight and conditioning is always a talking point.

This is going to be the talking point in the latest podcast featuring BTSC’s own Tony Defeo. Welcome to Steelers Brunch with Tony!

Check out the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section below!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Black and Gold Links: Why it’s time for the Steelers and James Harrison to mutually part ways

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 5:00am
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft is officially over. After finishing last year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, have another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how it is time for the Steelers and ex-OLB James Harrison to just call it a break up.

Let’s get to the news:

  • James Harrison likes to talk, and it might be time for the Steelers to just put an end to their relationship with the former Defensive Player of the Year.

Mark Madden: Time for Steelers to cut ties with James Harrison

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

James Harrison went too far…again. He threw Mike Tomlin and the Steelers logo under the bus…again.

It’s time for the Steelers to excommunicate Harrison. Make him persona non grata. Harrison should never again be welcome at Heinz Field.

When Harrison said Tomlin “handed me an envelope” after Harrison got fined $75,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit in 2010, he put the Steelers in the path of an NFL investigation. (The complaining of Sean Payton in New Orleans will see to that. No coach, team or city whines more, or better.)

Harrison is lying, or a snitch. Either is indefensible. (Bet that he’s lying. Even Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, denied it: “Absolutely not. Never happened.” And it would take an awful big envelope to hold $75K.)

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers will be re-opening their facilities, not to coaches and players, on Tuesday.

Steelers to join other NFL clubs in reopening team facilities Tuesday

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell giving teams permission to reopen their facilities Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to take advantage.

“We will begin the process of opening our facilities on Tuesday, May 19, with a limited number of staff being permitted in our buildings,” Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said in a statement Friday night. “Health and safety of our employees will continue to be our priority as we phase up to the fully allowed staff level.”

NFL facilities have been shuttered to team personnel since March 25 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The Steelers offices are at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side, which houses the team’s practice and training facility. Some employees work out of Heinz Field and North Shore Place on the North Side.

In a memo sent to the 32 teams Friday, Goodell said facilities could be opened as long as “governing state and local regulations, are in compliance with additional public health requirements in their jurisdiction, and have implemented protocols,” developed by NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Sean Payton doesn’t see the Steelers being investigated for James Harrison’s comments.

Payton calls Bountygate a ‘sham,’ would be ‘shocked’ if Tomlin is punished

By: Hunter Homistek, DKPittsburghSports

Saints head coach Sean Payton heard all about the James Harrison “envelope story,” in which Harrison claims Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin handed him “an envelope” after he was fined $75,000 by the NFL for an illegal hit on Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010.

Problem with that story is this: It’s completely illegal for coaches or teams to pay players’ fines or to otherwise give them money with a wink and a nudge for any purpose.

Payton knows this scenario well, as he was suspended for the entirety of the 2012 season for his role in “Bountygate,” a system the Saints had established from 2009 – 2011 which rewarded players for big hits and/or knocking opponents out of the game. Most notably, Saints defensive coordinator at the time, Gregg Williams, claimed linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered a $10,000 incentive to any teammate who could knock Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game.

The Saints won that game and the Super Bowl that year, but Favre did indeed take a few questionable hits from the Saints, calling it one of the most violent games he’d ever played.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

Should the Steelers trade for Josh Rosen?

The James Harrison incident is everything you thought it would be

An inside look at Donnie Shell’s Hall of Fame gear

Mike Tomlin still not keen on a running back by committee approach

The NFL is slowly coming back!

  • Social Media Madness

Lost & found@Bud_Dupree | @CamHeyward pic.twitter.com/HfhK5SzGpP

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 16, 2020

His motor is always running @highsmith34 pic.twitter.com/3dKm0JaIDN

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 17, 2020

When the pizza rolls are ready pic.twitter.com/BDylIXrBmE

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 16, 2020

When meets @DevlinHodges10 pic.twitter.com/hguDKvyeBD

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 16, 2020

An inside look at Donnie Shell’s display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 2:00pm
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

From awards to jersey’s, Shell’s items includes artifacts from both the Steelers and South Carolina State

In preparation for his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this fall, Donnie Shell has given numerous items to help tell his football story. Over the course of 10 days, the Hall of Fame shared a number of of the artifacts which will go on display in Canton.

The 2020 Hall of Fame class includes three individuals from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Along with safety Donnie Shell are coach Bill Cowher and safety Troy Polamalu. Shell is scheduled to be enshrined as part of the special centennial class on Friday, September 18, 2020. Fellow Steelers Troy Polamalu and Bill Cowher are scheduled to be on enshrined as part of Hall of Fame weekend on August 8th. With the current global pandemic, the August festivities which include the preseason matchup between the Steelers and Dallas Cowboys on Thursday August 6th are still scheduled to proceed. The Hall of Fame has announced they have a number of contingency plans should the ceremony need to be postponed. Although it has not been officially stated, any plans to change the September ceremony would likely not be announced until after and adjustment in Hall of Fame weekend which would occur six weeks prior.

Regardless of when the ceremony is held, here are a number of items announced by the Pro football Hall of Fame which will be included as a part of Donnie Shell’s display. The items range from both Shell’s college and professional career.

We recently received artifacts from Class of 2020 member @donnie_shell that will be placed on display later. Pictured is Shell's 1973 All-American trophy from collegiate career at @SCSTATE1896.

More on the Shell artifact collection: https://t.co/Soy67rKXBI#PFHOF20 | @steelers pic.twitter.com/E6Nrw8X5sP

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) May 7, 2020

We recently received artifacts from Class of 2020 member @donnie_shell that will be placed on display later. Pictured is a throwback Steelers jersey.

More on the Shell artifact collection: https://t.co/Soy67rKXBI#PFHOF20 | @steelers pic.twitter.com/Jn66Xj3Mwg

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) May 8, 2020

We recently received artifacts from Class of 2020 member @donnie_shell that will be placed on display later. Pictured is a South Carolina State University jersey - where Shell played in college.

More on the Shell artifact collection: https://t.co/Soy67rKXBI#PFHOF20 | @steelers pic.twitter.com/Xn5hALEsiD

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) May 9, 2020

Continuing our preview of artifacts from Class of 2020 member @donnie_shell's collection, this is the football from when he recorded his 2nd Career Interception (1978).

More on the Shell artifact collection: https://t.co/Soy67s2z0i#PFHOF20 | @steelers pic.twitter.com/vweYbGArrB

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) May 10, 2020

Continuing our preview of artifacts from Class of 2020 member @donnie_shell's collection, this is the bible he used during his playing career.

More on the Shell artifact collection: https://t.co/Soy67s2z0i#PFHOF20 | @steelers pic.twitter.com/6o2cOjO6wg

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) May 11, 2020

.@donnie_shell's personal #TerribleTowel!

More on the Shell artifact collection: https://t.co/Soy67rKXBI#PFHOF20 | @steelers pic.twitter.com/TXBnrVUQFP

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) May 12, 2020

A framed photo of the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers. This team went on to win Super Bowl IX. This was also @donnie_shell's rookie season.

More on the Shell artifact collection: https://t.co/Soy67rKXBI#PFHOF20 | @steelers pic.twitter.com/bhLPFSEXQX

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) May 13, 2020

A 1973-73 Sportsmanship Award from South Carolina State University that was presented to @donnie_shell.

More on the Shell artifact collection: https://t.co/Soy67s2z0i#PFHOF20 | @steelers pic.twitter.com/ETMCj3NcRm

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) May 14, 2020

The final item highlighted in the recent collection of artifacts we received from Class of 2020 member, @donnie_shell, is a placard that highlights notable accolades from his college & pro careers.

More on Shell artifact collection: https://t.co/Soy67rKXBI#PFHOF20 | @steelers pic.twitter.com/x0XHCV1mLR

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) May 15, 2020

Mike Tomlin still resistant to the “running back by committee” approach

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 11:00am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When asked about using multiple running backs or just one featured guy during a fan call this week, Tomlin gave his thoughts about how to utilize players at the position

Earlier this week, Steelers’ Head Coach Mike Tomlin participated in a fan forum phone call through Steelers Nation Unite. Taking question from a variety of fans across the country, Tomlin addressed some interesting inquiries in a very Tomlin-esque manner. Already featuring Tomlin‘s thoughts on 2019 rookies Devin Bush and Justin Layne, the Steelers head coach was also asked specifically about the running back position.

The question for Tomlin inquired about if the Steelers were going to take an approach of running back by committee (RBC) with the addition of Anthony McFarland Jr. in the 2020 NFL draft, or if Tomlin was going to continue with the featured running back approach.

“I’m a ‘feature runner’ type guy by mentality,” Tomlin confessed. “I think that if you have a featured runner, it gives them an opportunity to drop a stake in the ground and allows others to rally around him. It gives you a set of core run plays that he specializes in and you find a rhythm in that way.”

While many Steelers fans have been calling for them to spread their carries around in order to possibly preserve the health of running back James Conner, Tomlin gave no indication he was interested in lightening the workload when Conner is available. But with 20 out of 32 NFL franchises having their leading rusher in 2019 miss at least one game throughout the season, not having a featured back available at some point seems to be inevitable in today’s NFL. Tomlin acknowledged this notion and discussed the idea of having other rushers ready and available.

“But there’s no question in today’s game that a feature runner needs to be supplemented,” Tomlin added. “Supplemented by guys who are capable of doing similar things in case he misses time, but also supplemented by guys who are capable of doing different things to maybe challenge the defense in different ways. I think that’s just the makeup of our group right now.”

Coach Tomlin went on to particularly mention James Conner first out of the running back room. Acknowledging health is always a factor, Tomlin also mentioned the attributes Benny Snell Jr. brings to the team and his similarities to Conner.

“James is a feature runner and a proven guy when healthy,” Tomlin stated confidently. “We’re excited about him getting back to health and displaying that in 2020. Benny Snell is a guy who plays with a physical style in a similar manner as James and might be capable of being a James-type guy if James is unavailable.”

Getting back to the question at hand, Tomlin went on to discuss the addition of Anthony McFarland Jr.

“As you mentioned,” Tomlin said in reference to the specific question which was asked, “we’re excited about McFarland who brings a different component. He’s got catch quickness, is quick to speed, and is capable of producing big plays in open spaces. We like the collection of guys we have in the group.”

Whether intentional or not, Tomlin did not address any other half back on the roster. With the running back room being quite crowded, it is still unclear both how many and which particular running backs will make the 53-man roster.

One other player who is certain to make the team is newly acquired fullback Derek Watt.

“I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the addition of Derek Watt at the fullback position,” Tomlin continued. “We’re excited about him. We’re excited about what the group is going to do largely. But usually when it’s doing well, it’s because you have a lead dog out front and that guy is the featured runner.”

While it seems the Steelers have all the pieces in place to use an RBC approach to their offense, Coach Tomlin is giving no indication the Steelers plan to spread out the workload. Yes, Tomlin could simply not be wanting to tip his hand as to what he plans to do this season. But if past seasons are any indication, expect the Steelers to give the majority of carries to whoever is their featured running back each week based on health and availability.

The James Harrison envelope incident is only a big deal if you want it to be

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Do you think the James Harrison “Envelope-gate” is a really big deal? If so, I penalize you 15 yards for excessive worrying.

Did you listen to the Going Deep podcast in-which James Harrison was interviewed by Steven Cheah and Willie Colon? If you did, perhaps you thought it was insightful and funny.

If you didn’t, well, you likely only focused on the part where Harrison implied that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin gave him an envelope of cash after he was fined for a helmet-to-helmet hit way back in 2010. And if you focused on that part, you may be embarrassed to be a Steelers fan. If you’re not embarrassed, you’re outraged that Harrison would sell out his former team and coach and share those dirty locker room secrets. If you’re not an outraged Steelers fan, perhaps you’re an outraged fan of another team that has now jumped to the conclusion that paying a player’s fine is either equal to the Saints bounty-gate or some sort of Spygate-like incident in-which Pittsburgh gained a competitive advantage.

That’s right, a competitive advantage...by agreeing to cover a player’s fine if he takes out Mohamed Massaquoi, the Browns’ wide-out that received the helmet-to-helmet hit that led to Harrison’s $75,000 fine and a possible scandal a decade later.

First of all, what bounty involves a player getting his fine covered by the coach/team? What incentive would Harrison have to do that? Shouldn’t there be a profit for all that trouble? Secondly, say it wasn’t a bounty, what competitive advantage would the Steelers have gained by taking out Massaquoi and/or covering Harrison’s fine? He was still fined, wasn’t he? The team was still penalized 15 yards during the game. And with each penalty came a harsher fine. How could it possibly benefit the team to keep paying them? Whether Pittsburgh covered the cost of the fine or not, the league was still getting its money, and Harrison was inching closer and closer to suspension.

What this sounded like to me was the team feeling as if its player was being singled out by the league. If you remember 2010, that’s when all the stuff suddenly hit the fan in terms of the NFL trying to legislate head shots out of the game. It was a national scandal. Former players were in the news constantly for the tragic effects of years of playing the game of football in an era when concussions and other traumatic head injuries were not taken seriously. The problem was the legislation started during the season, and players, coaches and officials had to adjust on the fly. You may remember the helmet-to-helmet hits Harrison was fined for, but you may not remember some of the legal-looking hits where Harrison was also penalized and/or fined for.

One such play occurred in a blow-out victory over the Raiders at Heinz Field. At one point during the game, Harrison hit Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell just as he threw a pass that was intercepted by Ike Taylor (of all people) and taken to the house for a pick-six. Only problem was the penalty on Harrison for roughing the passer. To the naked eye, it looked like a perfectly legal play, but to the officials who were suddenly on the look out for illegal hits (especially by James Harrison), it was deemed excessive.

With plays like that in mind, perhaps it was no surprise general manager Kevin Colbert was supposedly just as contentious as Harrison was when he and Harrison visited the league offices that season to appeal Harrison’s fine(s).

If this envelope story is true (and everyone but Harrison has reportedly denied it), again, what it sounds like to me is a team saying to its player, “This fine is bullspit, and we got your back.”

If you’re a fan of NFL history, chances are you’ve watched many interviews of former players on old NFL Films features. And if you have watched those shows, you may have seen a few former players from a bygone era joke about their old teams habitually covering their fines for illegal hits, off-the-field conduct, etc.

Of course, that was then, and this is now. And now is a time when every mole hill is turned into Mt. Everest.

Maybe you think the Steelers covering Harrison’s fine (perhaps more than once) allowed him to continue his rampage and carnage totally unfettered and without any regard to his fellow human beings. That may have been true, if not for the one-game suspension Harrison received late in the 2011 season for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns’ quarterback Colt McCoy during a Thursday night game. The move was considered unprecedented back then, because it was the first time Commissioner Roger Goodell had suspended a player for a helmet-to-helmet hit.

Finally, for all of his bravado and stubbornness with regards to the league’s crackdown on head shots, Harrison actually did change his game, something that wasn’t really that hard for him to do. Harrison may have had a disposition similar to Jack Lambert, but his tackling technique was also a decent imitation of Jack Splat’s. In other words, Harrison, who, by the way, was a damn-good football player (the all-time sack-leader in franchise history, they tell me), tackled people legally and with good form far-more often than he did illegally.

I don’t know what’s going to come from “Envelope-gate,” but if it’s much more than a decent soundbite from a really good podcast, well, that would be excessive.

The Steelers should trade for Josh Rosen if they want a QB of the future

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 8:05am
Josh Rosen could use another change of scenery | Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Since some of you love QB related articles so much, I present you with another!

Josh Rosen has gotten the short end of the stick to start his young NFL career. The former No. 10 pick in the draft has already been replaced by two top-5 draft picks in as many seasons. When his career started in Arizona it felt like they had a player who could be their QB for years to come, but a change at head coach coupled with having the first overall pick forced the Cardinals hand in forcing Rosen out of town.

Rosen again got shafted when he wound up on a team destined to wind up with the first overall pick. The Dolphins were selling any and all talent on its roster and in turn lost a ton of games. Not only that but the second straight season of no protection and a new offence seemed to shatter Rosens confidence. Miami has since drafted Tua Tagovailoa and still has Ryan Fitzpatrick under contract for another season. So seemingly Josh Rosen should be back on the block.

Any team looking to add Josh Rosen to its QB room should have room to let him sit a couple of seasons to regain his confidence and learn an offence. BUT that team should be getting ready to move onto its next quarterback in the near future.

Enter the Pittsburgh Steelers

Any knock you had against bringing in a Jameis Winston or Cam Newton you don't have to worry about with Rosen.

His contract? Still a rookie deal but being traded twice makes it worth even less to the Steelers cap situation. Plus he has a 5th year option if he seems promising.

His age. Only 23 years old and if he sits for a couple years would be coming onto the field completely healthy.

And his trade value won't get much lower than it is right now.

If there was a better fit available I haven't seen it.

Both Mason Rudolph and Josh Rosen could battle it out for the QB2 job for the next two seasons before one could possibly take over for the future hall of famer. That time with QB coach Matt Canada and learning the Steelers offence would only set up the Steelers for success.

But what do you think? Should the Steelers kick the tread on a Josh Rosen trade? They've had some recent success trading with that club! Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

NFL begins their own re-opening process on May 19th with team facilities opening up

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL has started the re-opening process for the league, but there are obviously stipulations.

The National Football League has been the one professional sports team throughout the COVID-19, coronavirus, situation which has not flinched when it comes to making decisions. While the NHL, NBA and MLB all waffle on their re-opening process, it was the NFL who went against the grain and kept their draft as scheduled.

It was the NFL who delayed the release of their schedule, but did so with their standard dates, not anything altered, yet.

And it is the NFL who has released a memo to all 32 NFL teams about them re-opening team facilities as early as May 19th.

Check out the details via Field Yates of ESPN:

Notes from the NFL's memo to teams about reopening:
▪️ Facilities can reopen as soon as May 19th, if permitted to do so under state regulations
▪️No coaches are allowed
▪️Only players undergoing rehab or treatment are allowed
▪️A max of 50% of staffers (up to 75 people) total

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 15, 2020

The headline of this article may have some fans thinking coaches and players will be back in facilities, but they won’t. Not yet anyways. But just as the United States has started to re-open, it is done slowly. Facilities will not be open to coaches, but will be for 50% of their employees, and only players who are receiving treatment or rehabilitation can return at that time.

What really is the talking point throughout all of this is how the league has determined each team will have to rely on their local government to determine if they will be able to enter the re-opening process.

So, for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they will be fortunate their local area will be re-opening soon; however, on the opposite side of the state, Philadelphia, they remain in strict stay-at-home orders. Roger Goodell said during the 2020 NFL Draft teams won’t be practicing or returning until all teams are able, and this will be a difficult aspect of the re-opening process.

With California, New Jersey and New York looking as if there is no end in sight for their lock down, will teams head to neutral sites to start the re-opening process? That is to be determined, but at least the NFL is taking the initiative and getting the ball rolling.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.

Podcast: The biggest Steelers issue isn’t a return of a healthy Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 5:45am

In a brand new show titled ‘Yeah, I said it’, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There are a lot of questions surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into 2020, and some consider Ben Roethlisberger’s health to be the biggest question. But what if the team’s lack of depth is the biggest issue.

This is where the newest BTSC podcast “Yeah, I Said It” comes in. My co-host on ‘The Standard is the Standard’, Lance Williams talks about why he can’t stand the entire NFL Draft “experience”.

Time to deliver the goods on the latest show.

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!

Check out the audio below:

Feel free to give us your thoughts on the topic in the comment section below, and don’t forget to follow us on all our audio platforms by following the links below:

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

Black and Gold Links: No setbacks for Ben Roethlisberger in his rehabilitation

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 5:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft is officially over. After finishing last year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, have another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how Ben Roethlisberger is continuing to progress through his rehabilitation, per Mike Tomlin.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Mike Tomlin spoke to fans recently on a SteelerNation Unit call, and he gave an update on Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab.

Mike Tomlin: ‘No bumps in the road’ for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Mike Tomlin provided a brief update Thursday on the status of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his recovery from right elbow surgery in September.

“He’s doing great thus far,” Tomlin said on a 15-minute conference call with fans. “He’s in great physical condition. Rehabilitation in regards to the injury itself is going well. I hear nothing but positive reports from that standpoint. There have been no bumps in the road.”

Roethlisberger is about eight months removed from surgery that ended his 2019 season after two games and six quarters. Roethlisberger turned 38 in March and will be entering his 17th NFL season.

Roethlisberger resumed a light throwing program in February.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Kevin Colbert understands Ben Roethlisberger could just walk away from the game, but his dedication is keeping him coming back.

Colbert praises Ben: ‘He could easily walk away’

By: Hunter Homistek, DKPittsburghSports

Did Kevin Colbert and the Steelers even consider shaking up their quarterback room through free agency or the NFL Draft?

“No. Nuh-uh.”

That was Colbert responding to the question from Mark Madden Wednesday on 105.9 The X. Throughout the interview, several themes became clear:

The Steelers have faith that Ben Roethlisberger will not only be ready for Week 1 but can be better than we’ve seen him in recent years.

Mason Rudolph, Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges and Paxton Lynch are at the ready if that isn’t the case.

This is how Colbert and company want it to be. This is by choice.

Oh, and one more:

Roethlisberger isn’t fat and out of shape. At all.

“I know where Ben is,” Colbert said. “I know where he’s been in his career, and I never worried about his conditioning. When he shows up at a training camp, he’s ready to go, and he knows how to prepare himself. The amount of work that he’s gotten in previous training camps — it’ll be different, again, whenever we get in because he’ll still be in a semi-rehab state — but I have no concerns about him [and his] physical conditioning.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Steelers fans shouldn’t expect another Devlin Hodges to emerge prior to 2020.

Finding another ‘Duck’ unlikely in 2020

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

The progression of Devlin Hodges from tryout participant at rookie minicamp to starting quarterback for the Steelers was one of the stories that gripped fans not just in Pittsburgh, but across the league in 2019.

Plenty of people got caught up in the rags-to-riches nature of the story, as Hodges went from being a player who was not only not drafted by any NFL team, but also not signed by one in the aftermath of the draft.

He was instead one of the handful of players who accepted an invitation to rookie minicamp who caught the eye of the coaching staff, earning a spot on the 90-man roster. From there, he continued to progress to the point where he was starting for the Steelers in a Week 6 victory by the team in Los Angeles against the Chargers.

It marked the first of three-straight victories in games started by Hodges, something that put him in beyond rarified air. No undrafted quarterback in a non-strike season had won his first three NFL starts in the Super Bowl era.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

The 3rd, and final, installment of the Anthony McFarland Film Room

A complete breakdown of “Envelope Gate”

What would a new contract for Chris Wormley look like?

Don’t want to hear what James Harrison has to say? Don’t ask him questions

Mike Tomlin addresses two defensive 2019 draft picks

Art Rooney, and James Harrison, deny the reports on “Envelope Gate”

  • Social Media Madness

Powering in @benny_snell pic.twitter.com/hSBvUaZAps

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 15, 2020

We asked our rookie class what their favorite pregame meal is! Whose would you choose? @PALottery pic.twitter.com/ny4xqSZNW0

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 15, 2020

.@AnttMacc_ is excited to be a Steeler!

Full : https://t.co/XC2zSy6kY2 pic.twitter.com/As8Z10XS3f

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 14, 2020

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions: Offseason, Vol. 19

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 5:45pm
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

There is plenty to talk about regarding all things black-and-gold!

Several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night Open Thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring it back to Friday night — with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six-Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six-Pack of Steelers Questions and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. Who do you think is the most overrated member of the 2020 Steelers?

2. Which player would you say will have a BREAKOUT in 2020?

3. A topic I’ve been wanting to ask here: What are your thoughts/expectations Justin Layne heading into 2020? Just quality depth, or a future starter on the way?

4. What is the ONE thing the Steelers need to do better on defense to make their unit truly elite?

5. Who would be on your Steelers Mount Rushmore? Remember, there FOUR presidents on Mount Rushmore. Explain why you chose who you did!

6. A lot of talk during these open threads circulate around food. What are some of your best BBQ recipes/rubs/meals to cook on the “barbie”?

Stay safe out there, and hopefully you use BTSC the same way I do — as a getaway from the madness.

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

A complete breakdown of James Harrison’s response to the envelope backlash

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The former Steelers OLB has made waves, and it is time for a complete breakdown of what has gone down.

Unless you have been living under a rock over the last day or so, you have probably heard James Harrison’s comments on Barstool Sports’ Going Deep podcast that Mike Tomlin “handed him an envelope” after he was fined $75,000 for his 2010 hit on Cleveland Browns’ receiver Mohamed Massaquoi.

Harrison has been receiving quite a bit of backlash for his remarks as people have been comparing the situation to Bountygate and claiming the league should investigate the matter. Appalled by what he has been seeing, he took to social media this morning to defend himself and Coach Tomlin.

View this post on Instagram

Wow y'all really comparing what I said to BOUNTYGATE?!? Mike T. Has NEVER paid me for hurting someone or TRYING to hurt someone or put a bounty on ANYBODY! If you knew the full story of what happened back then you'd know that BS fine for a Legal Play wasn't even penalized during the game. The league was getting pressure because the first concussion lawsuits were starting and they had to look like they cared about player safety all of a sudden. Before that they had been SELLING a photo of THAT SAME PLAY FOR $55 on the NFL website with other videos of the NFL'S GREATEST HITS that the league Profited On back then. When the league had to start pretending like they cared about player safety they took all those things down off their website and they started fining guys ridiculous amounts for the same plays they used to profit off of. EVERYBODY knew it - even these same media people and all the fans that were sending money to me and the team to cover the fine. AGAIN AT NO TIME did Mike T. EVER suggest anybody hurt anybody or that they'd be rewarded for anything like that. GTFOH with that BS!!! #receipts

A post shared by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on May 15, 2020 at 7:40am PDT

If you listen to what he actually said in the interview, it’s pretty obvious that he meant Tomlin gave him the envelope to cover his fine. In no way, shape, or form was he saying that Tomlin paid him to hurt Massaquoi or any other player for that matter.

Harrison made it a point in his post to highlight the fact that the only reason he was fined in the first place is because it was at a time when the league was under pressure due to an increasing amount of concussion lawsuits being levied against them. If you go back and look at it, the play didn’t even draw a flag during the game. So was it a case of the hit actually being too brutal or the league just trying to save face?

Harrison also exposed the NFL for profiting off of his hit by selling pictures and videos of the collision on their league websites. Considering how severely he was fined for his actions, he claims it is quite hypocritical of the league to be using that exact play to make money for themselves. And it is. The league should have either fully condemned the hit and never put it online or left Harrison alone in the first place. There is no way to justify fining a man for the same play that the league, in turn, used for profit.

Perhaps the best part of Harrison’s post was where he stated that media members and fans from all over were sending him money to cover his fine. Some people thought at the time that he was being over-punished, so to see all the support he was receiving behind the scene is pretty amazing. Steelers’ Nation has always had a reputation for sticking with players through thick and thin, and this just goes to show that sentiment rings true.

Overall, Harrison said most of what we already knew. The league has never been consistent in their discipline and it is absurd to compare this situation to Bountygate. Coach Tomlin was never paying anyone to hurt other players and Harrison wasn’t entirely in the wrong for his actions. I think, at this point, it’s time to put this story to rest. Case closed.

Let’s Make A Deal: A new contract for Mike Hilton

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 12:35pm
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

If the Steelers and Wormley came to terms on a new contract before he plays his first game in the black and gold, what would it look like?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 offseason has progressed appropriately since the beginning of the league year. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, the Steelers were able to restructure contracts, offer tenders, use the franchise tag, sign free agents, make their draft selections, and get their undrafted rookie free agents under contract. With a focus on getting their draftees under contract in the coming weeks, the Steelers will also be looking to sign some players to either a new contract or a contract extension.

While some of these new deals may not come until the summer, it’s not out of the question for player representatives and the Steelers to be working on something now. With that said, which Steelers going into the last year of the current deal are likely to be given a new contract before the 2020 season begins?

Rather than focus on all the players, let’s tackle one at a time. With each player, it will first be determined if they should receive a new deal along with how much would be a fair contract to both parties. This exercise is meant to just be fun and speculative as we all get to play general manager and salary cap guru for a day. The biggest question with the remaining players is if a contract would be better before this season or next offseason.

If you wish to give a basic contract answer without diving too deep into numbers, simply skip over the italicized section. If you are the kind of person who would like to see how the contract would affect the salary cap, here it is...

Coming up with an exact contract can be tricky. Rather than get into roster and work out bonuses or different amounts per season, we’re going to estimate the salaries as simply as possible. For whatever deal the player gets, the first year will have all but $1 million put into a signing bonus which will get spread over the life of the contract. For example, if a player were to sign a three-year contract for $10 million per year, the first year would have a $1 million base salary and a $9 million signing bonus. Therefore, the bonus would be spread out to $3 million over each season where the player would count $4 million dollars for 2020 and $13 million for the other two years.

One other factor which needs to be considered is if the player brings any dead money from the previous contract. To account for this in a simple manner, throw it into the salary cap hit for the first year of the players deal. Using the above example, if a player had $4 million in dead money on their last contract, the salary cap hit for their first year would be $8 million.

After looking at a deal for: Cam Heyward, Bud Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, James Conner, and Mike Hilton, now let’s see what kind of contract Steelers’ fans would like to work out with Chris Wormley now rather than play the 2020 season before making a decision.

Chris Wormley

Age: 26
Years: 3
Draft: 3rd round, 74th overall (Baltimore)
Previous Contract: Rookie deal
2020 salary cap hit: $2.133 million
Dead Money: None

Here are the top contracts average per year (AYP) at the 3-4 DE position according to overthecap.com:

Aaron Donald: $22.5 million
J.J. Watt: $16.7 million
Leonard Williams: $16.126 million (franchise tag)
Kawann Short: $16.1 million
Jurrell Casey: $15.1 million
Stephon Tuitt: $12 million

Wormley ranked 63rd among all qualifying NFL defensive interior linemen in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus. Here are the players under contract beyond their rookie deals who ranked closely to Wormley:

t-61. Rodney Gunter: $6 million
t-61. Christian Covington: $1.5 million
t-63. Sheldon Rankins: $7.69 million (5th-year option)
t-65. Maliek Collins: $6 million
t-65. Corey Peters: $4 million
68. Brandon Williams: $10.5 million

Notes: The whole notion of giving Wormley a new contract before he plays with the Steelers may be far-fetched, but with the salary cap hit of over $2 million it’s not the team-friendly deal many thought the Steelers would be getting since he was on his rookie contract. Wormley’s 2020 salary cap number is more than Minkah Fitzpatrick, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Stefen Wisniewski. If the Steelers worked out a small extension in order to lower his cap hit for 2020 it could make sense, but there’s no reason to break the bank for player who has yet to put on the Steelers’ uniform.

So now it’s deal time! Perhaps the first question should be a completely different game show: Deal or no deal? Should the Steelers look to sign Chris Wormley before he even plays for the team in the 2020 season? If so, what should the deal look like? Please leave your response with the number of years and the average salary per season in the comments below.

Next time on Let’s Make A Deal: Cameron Sutton.

Art Rooney, James Harrison blatantly deny Bountygate comparison 

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 11:05am
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers owner, James Harrison, and his representation have all chimed in on the alleged “envelope” incident.

Thursday afternoon, James Harrison was on the Barstool Sports “Going Deep” podcast to discuss his former playing days with the Pittsburgh Steelers with his old teammate Willie Colon.

During the interview Harrison told the story of how he had received an “envelope” from head coach Mike Tomlin after his hit on Cleveland Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Harrison was eventually fined $75,000 for the hit on the Browns wideout.

While some thought Harrison’s comments were about Tomlin handing him money for the fine, the better assumption was the Steelers could have had a program in place for defenders knocking players out of the game, similar to the “Bounty Gate” scandal with the New Orleans Saints.

Many across the NFL landscape are speculating, but Steelers President Art Rooney II decided to try and get ahead of the rumors by releasing a statement.

Check out the statement below, via ProFootballTalk:

Steelers president Art Rooney II, on James Harrison's claim that he received "an envelope" from Mike Tomlin: "I am very certain nothing like this ever happened. I have no idea why James would make a comment like this but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this."

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 14, 2020

The statement reads:

“I am very certain nothing like this ever happened. I have no idea why James would make a comment like this but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this.”

This would be expected from the team owner/president, but James Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, took it a step further when he was asked if he had any knowing of Harrison receiving payment for dirty hits.

Absolutely not. Never happened,” agent Bill Parise told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I would have known that. It didn’t happen.”

Just recently, Harrison added more details to the situation via his Instagram account and vehemently denies any comparison to “Bountygate.”

View this post on Instagram

Wow y'all really comparing what I said to BOUNTYGATE?!? Mike T. Has NEVER paid me for hurting someone or TRYING to hurt someone or put a bounty on ANYBODY! If you knew the full story of what happened back then you'd know that BS fine for a Legal Play wasn't even penalized during the game. The league was getting pressure because the first concussion lawsuits were starting and they had to look like they cared about player safety all of a sudden. Before that they had been SELLING a photo of THAT SAME PLAY FOR $55 on the NFL website with other videos of the NFL'S GREATEST HITS that the league Profited On back then. When the league had to start pretending like they cared about player safety they took all those things down off their website and they started fining guys ridiculous amounts for the same plays they used to profit off of. EVERYBODY knew it - even these same media people and all the fans that were sending money to me and the team to cover the fine. AGAIN AT NO TIME did Mike T. EVER suggest anybody hurt anybody or that they'd be rewarded for anything like that. GTFOH with that BS!!! #receipts

A post shared by James Harrison (@jhharrison92) on May 15, 2020 at 7:40am PDT

For Steelers fans, this is one of those stories which you wish would just go away, but the fact remains this is far from over. Could Roger Goodell and the NFL look into this and do a full-blown investigation? It is possible.

In other words, stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.

Mike Tomlin talks up a pair of 2019 Steelers’ defensive rookies

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

In a special phone call taking questions from Steelers fans through Steelers Nation Unite, Tomlin discuss the rookie seasons of Devin Bush and Justin Layne and their expectations for 2020

On Thursday afternoon, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin participated in a fan forum phone call through Steelers Nation Unite. Tomln answered a variety of questions ranging from the recent draft to what he has been doing with his time during the current stay-at-home order (Spoiler: It’s watching Netfix).

One particular question about both the cornerback and inside linebacker positions gave Coach Tomlin the chance to talk about a pair of 2019 rookies and how the Steelers are looking for them to contribute during the upcoming season.

“We took Devin Bush a year ago and as a 20-year old and he logged a bunch of snaps for us,” Tomlin stated. “We feel good about the overall trajectory of his play. Sometimes when you feel like you have a need, it doesn’t necessarily mean going out and getting a new component, it’s about the improvement of the component you have.”

While some in Steelers’ Nation may feel the Steelers are lacking at the inside linebacker position, especially based on the question, 2019 was one of the best seasons the Steelers have had at the position since the loss of Ryan Shazier. With Devin Bush starting 15 games and playing a high number of snaps, it is hopeful he can continue to grow in both ability and playing time for the 2020 season.

“We’re excited about him taking a significant step between year one and year two as a quality inside linebacker for us,” Tomlin continued, “being an all situations type player, and to be the type of player to play to a Pro Bowl caliber level the way Ryan Shazier did.”

Coach Tomlin also took the opportunity, since the quarterback position was mentioned, to bring up 2019 third-round draft pick Justin Layne.

“We’re really excited about Justin Layne in the same way. He was a rookie a year ago and was inactive early on, but carved out a role for himself as a special-teamer.”

Although Layne did not play a single defensive snap in 2019, his progression throughout the season on special teams made him a valuable asset as the season progressed. By the end of the year, Layne had supplanted Artie Burns in earning the active roster spot on game day.

Tomlin continued describing Layne’s progress in 2019 and their hopes for the 2020 season.

“He’s going through the natural participation and developmental process,” Tomlin stated. “He really distinguished himself in a positive way in a practice setting over the second half of the year. Those are usually signs a guy is going to take a step in his second year. We’re exited about him and his development and what he can bring to us at the cornerback position, just like we’re excited about the development of Devin Bush and him taking a significant step off a solid rookie campaign he gave us at linebacker.”

Although both playing on the defensive side of the ball, Bush and Layne had significantly different rookie seasons. With Bush being a top-10 draft pick, he was thrown into action early on. As for Layne, his development was not a trial by fire but rather working through practice and showing himself on special teams. Although both players should see vast improvements in their second seasons, Bush will look to be a main staple at the linebacker position while Layne will serve as a valuable back up to either Joe Haden or Steven Nelson.

A transcript of the entire phone call can be seen courtesy of Teresa Varley by clicking the link below to Steelers.com.

Coach Tomlin spoke about Ben Roethlisberger's health in the @SteelersUnite Huddle. #SNUHuddle

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 14, 2020

Film Room, Part 3: Anthony McFarland is the Steelers new Weapon-X: 2019 and beyond

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 7:45am
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

What happened to Anthony McFarland in 2019 and what to expect in 2020.

Anthony McFarland Jr. rushed for 520 yards in the last three games of 2018, then in 2019 he only rushed for 614 yards. While he had a high ankle sprain he also only missed one game, and clearly he didn’t live up to the hype that followed the Ohio State game in 2018.

This is going to have a lot of clips, so let’s jump right in and look at McFarland’s 2019 season and see what happened, and how his injury affected his play, starting at the beginning when he was healthy.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB to the bottom of the screen.

McFarland was a nightmare for a LB to cover in man. He is going to be a mismatch for a lot of LBs in the NFL. You can also see this offense is more traditional, no wing backs in 2019.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

This is as good as any run he made in 2018. Two jump cuts and two changes of direction. He doesn’t just jump to his right to start the run, he turns his hips and bursts outside, before jump cutting again, landing squared up to the goal line and with one downfield block he’s gone.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

A nice little RB out route, and McFarland shows again that he’s that break a tackle and he’s gone type of RB.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

McFarland avoids the penetration, then shows his lateral speed and creative running.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

These cutback runs were deadly in 2018 and again in 2019. Everyone shows a run to the right, but he gets a lead blocker in the other RB, and the edge defender is too wide and McFarland goes inside to go outside for another big gain.

Anthony McFarland didn’t get a lot of touches in the season opening demolition of Howard, then put up 120 yards and 3TDs on 16 touches in a beat down of the then 21st ranked Orangemen. Maryland followed that with a close loss to Temple in which McFarland ran for 132 yards and 1 TD on 26 carries. McFarland injured his ankle in the Temple game, but the coaches said they realized he was hurt in the next game, against Penn State.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

McFarland wouldn’t put up many yards against Penn State, but he did have this run, where he does a great job of working through traffic for 12 yards.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

This is a good run, but you see McFarland get run down from behind, something that you didn’t see in 2018 or the early games of 2019.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

This was a nice catch and run against Purdue, but this was it for his good pays in that game, and you can see it didn’t require any cuts. Outside of this catch and run, MdFarland gained 6 yards on 5 touches, and would miss the next game against Indiana.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

Here McFarland makes a nice catch while running backwards and a fluid turn after the catch. I also like seeing him leak out of the pocket, something the scheme didn’t include in 2018.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the slot receiver to the top of the screen.

He didn’t do this much at all, but it is good to see that he was prepared to run a route from the slot, even if it is a simple in route and his in cut is way too slow allowing the DB to come in and break up the pass. This shows he did get practice doing this, and that is good.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

Watch how he slows down before the cut, he’s putting as little lateral pressure on his ankle as he can. Some of the scouting reports on him talked about how he’d struggle to slow down into his cuts, and they probably watched film of him after his injury.

The defense didn’t always give him time to slow down though.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

Here he has to cut faster, and the ankle can’t do it.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

And again, this was one of his best moves in 2018, run right at the penetrating edge, then jump cut up field past him. The second clip in this article is a great example, but after the Temple game he couldn’t do it. It stood out to me that they tried to do it against Nebraska, he must have been feeling better.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

The jump cut isn’t strong there, but it still works, and you can see the speed is coming back, he wasn’t breaking runs like this most of the season, he would get caught or angled out of bounds. It is good to see him blow past the angles again.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

I love this run, it combines his jump cuts with the vision and patience to move through traffic he flashed in the Penn State game (6th clip in the article). If you want to know what could cause Reggie Bush to say Anthony McFarland could be better than LeVeon Bell, this is the kind of run Bush was thinking of. And honestly, that’s some crazy upside, because he shows that kind of patient, vision based running that Bell was so good because of, but where Bell had more power, McFarland has breakaway speed.

To be clear, I don’t endorse that statement at all, but I can see the same things that would cause a person to think that.

It stands out like a giant neon sign that the two times he recorded more than 30 carries in a two game span he either struggled mightily afterwards or was injured. LeVeon Bell was one of the Elite RBs in league while averaging 19.8 carries a game over 62 games in 5 years. Anthony McFarland is not going to be that kind of RB.

Anthony McFarland Jr. ran for 255 yards on 60 carries in the 8 games (7 he played in) after his injury against Temple (4.25 yards per carry).

In the first three games (one a blowout he played sparingly in) and the season finale against Michigan State, Anthony McFarland ran for 359 yards on 54 carries (6.65 yards per carry).

Seven of his 9 TDs came in those 4 games as well.

This is the second draft in a row the Steelers have drafted a player who had lower numbers in their pre-draft season due to injury, then showed up at the end of the season in their last game.

In that Michigan State game Anthony McFarland also did something he hadn’t done at all in his college career, he returned a kickoff.

That’s a solid return, and was clearly meant to show NFL teams that he is capable of it. In 2018 Ty Johnson was the kick returner, and he was great at it and also looking to make it in the NFL. When Ty Johnson was out of the way McFarland was the #1 RB and the teams top offensive weapon, he wasn’t going to be the kick returner.

One thing I kept wanting to include was his pass blocking, but these posts have been really long so I kept cutting it. So here are three plays that show his strengths in pass blocking. Anthony McFarland is the RB in all 3.

Good job to step up and give the QB room, he is ready to help with the first blitzer, then easily reads and picks up the twist, absorbing the impact.

Here no one is there to help him, and while three defenders converge on his QB, McFarland takes the first one, and while he’s not going to stand him up, he is able to redirect the rush to the side to keep his QB clean and Maryland picks up a first down.

And that’s Anthony McFarland blocking Chase Young. I used this one because it is Chase Young, but one of his better attributes in blocking is carrying an edge around the arc.

McFarland shows intelligence in reading blitzes, and he can absorb a hit when he has time to get set, but he won’t hold that block for long. He can buy your QB a second, just don’t expect more than that.

Conclusion

McFarland is a dynamic runner when he’s got fresh legs and good blocking. He doesn’t need great holes, but when he gets a great hole, he can turn it into a big play.

McFarland also shows some receiving ability, experience as a wing back, and untapped potential as a kick returner.

This is why I call him the Steelers new weapon-X, because he is in position to be used in multiple ways, and the addition of Matt Canada to the staff, and the versatility on the roster makes me think he is going to get a chance to be that kind of player.

Kick returner, a change of pace runner who can come in and abuse a tired defense, but where he is really interesting to me is the potential for the Steelers to throw some wing back plays into the playbook.

Line him up at RB, then run him out to a wing back position, and he could be running a route, blocking or running. Which is the role Canada was starting to use him in early in 2017 before he jumped into the top of the RB rotation. It isn’t an every game type of strategy, but if you are facing a team with less disciplined DEs, or ones that are used to just rushing the QB (Chase Young comes to Pittsburgh week 13) could be vulnerable to some Jet sweeps, and a few of those gaining yards gives a whole new thing for defenses to prepare for. If he can play in the slot that works even better.

Imagine a trips alignment where McFarland is the inside WR (essentially an H-Back), you can run a jet sweep out of that. Or you put McFarland at RB, a tight end on one side and trips with Diontae Johnson as the inside WR and motion McFarland out to wing back outside the TE. You can jet sweep with McFarland or Diontae Johnson in that situation, threatening to run to either side out of empty. It just adds so much new threat to the field.

I’m not going to make any prediction for yards or TDs, because it may not be possible to implement too much this off-season. But after the excitement about what Eric Ebron and Derek Watt could bring to the offense, Anthony McFarland brings a whole new element, and opens up some interesting possibilities.

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