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It was nice to see James Pierre step up at just the right time in the win over the Broncos

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/14/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

James Pierre saved the Steelers victory over the Broncos on Sunday with a clutch interception with seconds remaining. In doing so, Pierre gained some valuable and positive experience that will help him grow at the NFL level.

When I heard that Cam Sutton would miss the Steelers game on Sunday with (you guessed it) a groin injury, I thought it could be trouble for the defense.

After all, the Steelers’ secondary had just dealt with the absence of cornerback Joe Haden in Week 2 (that’s right, a groin). When you consider the permanent absences of both Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton after their departures this past offseason, it seems like Pittsburgh’s secondary just isn’t strong enough to handle many in-season absences in 2021.

It’s understandable to think that way. For starters, Sutton isn’t even all that polished as, well, a starter. Throw in the baptism-by-fire approach the team has to take with youngsters Tre Norwood and James Pierre this season, and it just feels like the secondary isn’t as trustworthy and reliable as it’s been in recent seasons.

Speaking of Pierre, he got the start in Sutton’s place on Sunday. I thought he had a decent enough game against the Broncos, that is, until I saw that he was the cornerback in charge of covering receiver Courtland Sutton on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater that pulled Denver to within five points with 5:26 left in the fourth quarter.

When I saw that, I said, “Yikes!” I mean, I said that literally in my apartment in Crafton, Pa. For one thing, Pierre was out there on an island, which seemed like a lonely situation to be in for a former undrafted free agent who is still in the infancy stages of learning his craft at the professional level. For another thing, the play looked eerily similar to the 34-yard touchdown pass Pierre surrendered to receiver Ja’Marr Chase in a Week 3 loss to the Bengals at Heinz Field.

They say a cornerback is supposed to have a short memory, but that’s probably more accurate advice to give to a veteran like Haden. However, when you’re a baby at the cornerback position, believe me, you’re going to remember every little experience, both good and bad.

How many really good NFL experiences had Pierre had up to the point in Sunday’s game when he surrendered the touchdown to Sutton? Considering his overall lack of experience, he obviously didn’t have many.

This was why I was simply overjoyed to see Pierre make the key play in Sunday’s game when he intercepted a pass by Bridgewater on fourth and goal from the two with just 11 seconds left. Pittsburgh was ahead by eight points, and with Bridgewater down to his last bullet, who do you think he was going to target? That’s right, the receiver who was being covered by the baby cornerback.

But Pierre seemed more than comfortable on this particular island. Sure, he could have just as easily knocked the pass down, but I’m glad he intercepted it. Why? It will likely reinforce the good feeling of making the game-saving play.

As an undrafted free agent, Pierre will likely always lack the necessary physical attributes most scouts and coaches covet in their NFL cornerbacks. However, anyone can gain experience and learn from it, both good and bad.

It was nice to see James Pierre gain some good experience by sealing the victory for the Steelers on Sunday.

Podcast: Three ‘firsts’ which will drive the Steelers success

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/14/2021 - 4:30am

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

There’s been so much discussion about what Mike Tomlin and the 2021 Steelers needed to do to succeed after starting 1-3. Now, at 2-3, the word of the season is “firsts” as there are three of them that the Pittsburgh Gridiron Gang needs to keep doing to be a legitimate contender. Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Three ‘firsts’ which will drive the Steelers success
  • and more geeky numbers!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Steelers Injury Report: Devin Bush, Cam Sutton full participants in practice Wednesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 3:12pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers had a larger number of their injured players participating in practice in some manner.

The Pittsburgh Steelers broke thier three-game losing streak and are looking stack a couple wins going into their bye week. As the Steelers take the practice field for their first day of preparation for the Seattle Seahawks, 10 names were on the injury list. In the first injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR department, there were four players who did not participate while four players were limited.

Steelers PR Department

As expected, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not practice on Wednesday as it is his scheduled day off. Just like previous weeks, rather than have him listed as a coaches decision, Roethlisberger is listed as having an injury. This week, it is once again listed as a pectoral/hip injury.

Devin Bush left Sunday’s game with a groin injury. It still has not been reported if it was a really aggravation of his previous injury or a new issue. Regardless, the good news is Bush was a full participant in practice on Wednesday. Hopefully Bush’s groin in responds to the workout and he is able to continue practicing this week.

Two key players who missed Sunday’s game due to injury were James Washington and Cam Sutton both with groin injuries. Hoping to get back on the field this Sunday, Sutton was also a full participant in practice on Wednesday while Washington was limited. Much like Devin Bush, seeing how their injuries responds to the work out and how they progress throughout the week will be key to their availability on Sunday.

The other player who was out on Sunday due to injury was defensive tackle Carlos Davis. After missing four-straight games, Davis was able to practice in a limited capacity with his knee injury.

A name that is still on the Steelers injury list because he has yet to be placed on Injured Reserve is JuJu Smith-Schuster. Until he officially gets put on the Reserved/Injured List, which is likely to occur when the Steelers have another player to put on the roster, Smith-Schuster will continue to appear on the injury report.

Much like last week, Cameron Heyward showed up on the injury report as a limited participant with a neck injury. Hopefully this is much like the previous week and he can return to action on Thursday.

To round out the report, they were two players who did not participate but not due to injury. Both Melvin Ingram IIII and Trai Turner were given the day off on Wednesday as their designation showed their unavailability was not injury related.

As for the Seahawks’ injury report, you can see the names below when available.

Podcast: Building on the Steelers Week 5 performance

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 2:00pm

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

The Steelers got that elusive victory No. 2 last week against Denver. But, of course, the black and gold can’t stop at just one. It’s now time to build on that win. 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
  • Building on the Steelers Week 5 performance
  • Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Power Rankings: Steelers make a big jump after beating Denver

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 12:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers broke their losing streak, and have moved up in the latest Power Rankings.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious for the first time at Heinz Field against the Denver Broncos in Week 5, and the win over Denver has given the Steelers a boost, according to the latest Power Rankings.

These Power Rankings are something which should be taken with a grain of salt, but if nothing else they are good for some healthy debate.

Yes, Power Rankings can be an interesting exercise, and while we don’t put too much stock into these rankings it does give you a taste of how the experts at certain sites view the Steelers. Who do they have topping the rankings this week? The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers? The Baltimore Ravens? How about the Buffalo Bills?

Time to take a look at the latest Power Rankings:

ESPN

1. Buffalo Bills
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. Los Angeles Rams
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Cleveland Browns
10. Kansas City Chiefs
...
21. Pittsburgh Steelers

Most improved player: DL Cameron Heyward

How they’ve improved: Playing like a man on a mission, Heyward has been the anchor on a Steelers defensive front that’s been in flux with a series of injuries. Through five games, the 11-year veteran is Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded interior defender, outpacing Aaron Donald and Jonathan Allen. As a unit, the Steelers’ pass rush hasn’t been able to get as much pressure as previous seasons, but Heyward is still a force with 14 solo tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.”

NFL.com

1. Buffalo Bills
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Green Bay Packers
7. Baltimore Ravens
8. Los Angeles Rams
9. Cleveland Browns
10. Kansas City Chiefs
...
16. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Progress. The Steelers desperately needed to show signs of it on offense in Week 5, and that’s exactly what they did. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 253 yards and two scores, and Najee Harris produced like the first-round pick he is in a 27-19 win over the Broncos. It wasn’t all good news for the offense, however: JuJu Smith-Schuster’s season is over after he suffered a shoulder injury that will require surgery. Pittsburgh has a good group of playmakers at wide receiver, but Smith-Schuster was a treasured safety valve in the slot for a veteran quarterback who loves to get the ball out quickly when the pass rush closes in (and even when it doesn’t).”

CBS Sports

1. Arizona Cardinals
2. Buffalo Bills
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Los Angeles Rams
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Cleveland Browns
10. Tennessee Titans
...
23. Pittsburgh Steelers

“They showed some fight in handling the Broncos the way they did Sunday. The defense dominated for much of the game. Could that be the game that gets them going?”

The Sporting News

1. Arizona Cardinals
2. Los Angeles Rams
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Cleveland Browns
10. Kansas City Chiefs
...
20. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The Steelers found their long-awaited offensive formula with Ben Roethlisberger and Najee Harris harmonizing in a tough spot against the Broncos. They still are a work in progress trying to become a complete team in an even more difficult division.”

Washington Post

1. Buffalo Bills
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Arizona Cardinals
5. Los Angeles Rams
6. Baltimore Ravens
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Los Angeles Chargers
9. Cleveland Browns
10. Tennessee Titans
...
19. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers aren’t done yet. The victory over the Broncos will quiet the talk, at least temporarily, that Roethlisberger has nothing left and the Steelers waited too long to move on. But it’s still an uphill climb to get back to contender status.”

What do you think of these rankings? Think the Steelers are too high? Not high enough? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to check out one of our newest podcasts where we do some rankings of our own! Check out the “Steelers Power Half Hour” in the player below:

Steelers add a CB to fill out their practice squad before Week 6

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 11:39am
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have filled out their 16-man practice squad by adding CB Linden Stephens.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made another roster move on Wednesday in order to bring their practice squad up to the 16 players allowed by the NFL.

We have signed CB Linden Stephens to the practice squad.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 13, 2021

Despite adding two new players to the practice squad on Tuesday while releasing another, the Steelers still had an open position after cornerback Mark Gilbert signed with the Detroit Lions to their 53-man roster.

To replace the lost cornerback, the Steelers added Linden Stephens. Undrafted out of Cincinnati in 2018, Stephens signed with the New Orleans Saints following the NFL draft. Failing to make the roster, Stephens spent a couple weeks on the practice squad at the Los Angeles Rams before landing on the Broncos practice squad for the remainder of his rookie year. Sticking with Denver through training camp, Stephens did not make the Broncos roster and signed with the Seattle Seahawks practice squad in late September. Late in the 2019 season, the Miami Dolphins poached Stephens from the Seahawks practice squad onto their 53-man roster where he appeared in three games and had three tackles.

Released from the Dolphins during the 2020 offseason, Stephens was claimed off waivers by the Seahawks where he spent training camp and landed on the practice squad. Stephens was signed to the Seahawks’ 53 man roster prior to Week 3 and appeared in 13 games and played primarily on special teams as he only saw 35 snaps on defense.

Stephens spent the 2021 training camp with the Washington Football Team but did not make the roster come September. Stephens spent both Week 3 & 4 of the 2021 season on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad before being released.

The Steelers now become Stephens’ eighth NFL team in which he has spent time in his four-year career. Being signed to the practice squad, Stephens is merely getting another opportunity to showcase his skills in order to stick in the league.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, injury reports, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare to take on the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday night at Heinz Field.

Podcast: Getting it done with the run and the Steelers triple threat

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 11:00am

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

The Steelers got it done in the run game last week against Denver and Najee Harris is starting to establish himself as a fantasy blue chipper. Plus, is there a a Men of Steel triple threat emerging? Also, with Russell Wilson out... do the Seattle pass catchers lose value? Get those answers and more as BTSC continues with the weekly show surrounding all aspects of the world of fantasy football with a black-and-gold twist. Welcome to the Steelers Fantasy Football Fix. Join BTSC’s Jeremy Betz for weekly fantasy football talk as it pertains to the Pittsburgh Steelers and for success in any of your leagues.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Previewing the Steelers vs. Seahawks for any of your fantasy leagues.
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

NFL Week 6 Betting Preview: Steelers currently 5-point favorites against the Seahawks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers are looking to start a winning streak in their first prime time game of 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers ended their three-game losing streak against the Denver Broncos this past week at Heinz Field. Taking on a Seattle Seahawks team in Week 6 who will be without starting quarterback Russel Wilson, the Steelers are looking to start a different kid of streak in their first prime time game of the 2021 NFL season.

When it comes to the betting lines for Sunday’s game, the following information is the current consensus spread and over/under for the Steelers this week as reported by DraftKings.com.

Game Info: Week 6 Pittsburgh Steelers vs Seattle Seahawks Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 8:20 PM

Betting line: -5

Over/under: 42.5

Last Regular Season Meeting: Steelers (L) 26-28 vs Seattle

Win streak: 2 games SEA

Last 3 Meetings: PIT 1 - 2 SEA

Last 10 Meetings: PIT 4 - 6 SEA

The opening line on the game was at -2.5 after the schedule was announced in May. This line moved to +2.5 before Week 5 when Russel Wilson was injured and the Steelers got a victory over the Broncos. Since then, the line moved back in favor of the Steelers.

Being the favorite on Sunday, the Steelers have a current moneyline of -225 to win the game straight up, which is the equivalent of 4/9 odds. So a $20 bet placed on the Steelers over the Seahawks would have a payout of $28.29 ($8.89 plus the original $20 bet). The Seahawks have a current moneyline of +185, or 37/20 odds. Therefore the same $20 bet placed on Seattle to win straight up would have a payout of $57 ($47 plus the original $20 bet) .

According to Oddsshark.com, the Steelers are 4-8 against the spread in their last 12 games and are 7-2 against the spread in their last 9 games against the NFC West. The Steelers also have gone UNDER in 4 of their last 5 games and have gone UNDER in 4 of their last 6 games against Seattle.

If looking at the futures bets at DraftKings.com, the Steelers odds to win the Super Bowl are 150/1 after Week 5. The Steelers odds to win the AFC Championship are now 60/1 odds. As for winning the AFC North, the Steelers are currently at 16/1 odds and are behind the Ravens at 5/6 odds, the Browns at 8/5 odds, and the Bengals with 10/1 odds.

FILM ROOM: Matt Canada got Zach Gentry an easy 13 yards vs. the Broncos

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 9:00am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steeler TE’s blocking turns into an opportunity for a nice catch and run.

Zach Gentry was one of the least beloved members of the Steelers roster the last two seasons, and heading into this season even fans of his college team, the Michigan Wolverines were questioning if he held any value at all on this roster.

Zach Gentry ultimately made the team and has received snaps as the Steelers blocking tight end. A job he is well suited for.

Steelers vs. Broncos, 1st quarter, 14:56

Zach Gentry is the Steeler farthest to the bottom of the screen.

Zach Gentry has become a reliable blocker to the point that the Steelers started the game running right at him and his block on the Broncos edge defender. Gentry wins the block, and the trust the Steelers have that he will win it allows them to send Kevin Dotson through the line, and through a hold, to get to the linebackers and create a nice gain for Najee Harris to start the game.

Steelers vs. Broncos, 1st quarter, 14:20

Zach Gentry is the Steeler farthest to the bottom of the screen.

Zach Gentry helps drive #96, 290 lb. Shelby Harris inside where Dan Moore Jr. can control him, then peels off to block one of the linebackers. Trai Turner and Derek Watt are coming for the edge defender and the other linebacker, this play is designed to create an alley between the blocks of Moore and Gentry and the pulling blockers. Even though Najee Harris has to cut back to the right to start the play, and both Turner and Watt’s targets are able to disrupt the design of the play, Harris gains a couple yards here, in large part because Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson and Zach Gentry do a fantastic job with their blocks.

Zach Gentry is one of the better run blockers on the Steelers, and a main reason the Steelers haven’t used a sixth lineman at all this season. That blocking ability and the high percentage of snaps Gentry spends blocking creates expectation from defenders when they see Gentry line up across from them. They know there’s a high chance the ball is coming their way in Najee Harris’ hands. They know they have to be ready to fight Zach Gentry to make a play.

All of that can be used against them if you have a coordinator that is willing and creative enough to exploit it. Fortunately, the Steelers have Matt Canada.

Steelers vs. Broncos, 1st quarter, 1:43

Zach Gentry is the tight end to the bottom of the screen.

This is a Matt Canada special. A play that has the defense looking in multiple directions, and then attacks them in a completely unexpected way.

The Jet motion draws the attention of the defensive back on JuJu Smith-Schuster, the safety to the side the motion is heading to but also Von Miller, who watches and waits to see if Smith-Schuster is going to get the ball. The play-action fake to Najee Harris draws the attention of the defensive line and the middle linebacker, and the edge that is lined up over Gentry is looking to get to the quarterback as soon as the play-action resolves. I especially love how Gentry is moving outside like he’s following the edge up the arc before just stopping and turning to catch the ball.

That’s great play design and great execution. When Gentry catches the ball the only player paying any attention to him is the inside linebacker who now has Dan Moore Jr. in his face. Gentry turns and runs and doesn’t come in contact with a defender till he’s past the first down line.

As K.T. Smith pointed out in his film room about the offensive line, everything in Matt Canada’s offense revolves around the offensive line and the run game.

With that run game improving, plays like this are going to be more effective. And when teams respect those other threats, they are a step slow to come help against Najee Harris and the run game.

It’s an offense that shines very bright when it is executing at a high level. We’ve also seen how much it can struggle when the execution is bad. With Najee Harris and a talented young line, the Steelers are betting on that execution only getting better from here.

7 Takeaways from the Steelers win over the Broncos

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 8:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Observations, reactions, and analysis from the Steelers’ win over the Broncos.

The Steelers took a step in the right direction on Sunday, winning their second game of the year against the Denver Broncos.

As always, there are plenty of takeaways to be had:

1. Back in the race

This might be singularly the most important takeaway from the game. The Steelers now sit at a 2-3 record, and with both the Browns and Bengals losing on Sunday, catching up with their 3-2 records seems attainable. If the Steelers can stack some more wins, especially with 5/6ths of their divisional games still ahead of them, they have a chance at placing in the top half of the AFC North by the end of the season.

2. Thanks, JuJu

JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a painful shoulder injury against the Broncos that will sideline him for the rest of the season. It’s a rough turn of events for the wide receiver, who was betting on himself this season in hopes of cashing in on the free agent market in 2022.

Regardless, Sunday might’ve marked his last game as a Steeler.

If that’s the case, it will be hard to see Smith-Schuster go. He’s been one of the most reliable and productive members of the Steelers’ offense over the past couple years. Despite being underutilized at times by the Steelers’ offensive scheme and unfairly criticized by what can be an overzealous fanbase, Smith-Schuster undoubtedly played his heart out every time he stepped onto the field throughout his career.

Some will be glad to see him go, but in my mind Smith-Schuster embodies what it meant to be a Pittsburgh Steeler on the field. Here’s hoping he’ll be back next season.

3. The ups and downs of James Pierre

With starting cornerback Cam Sutton out against the Broncos, second-year defender James Pierre ended up with a starting role for the game. He had some fantastic plays, most notably his touchdown-saving tackle of Javonte Williams, as well as a game-sealing interception in the end zone. However, he was beat badly by Courtland Sutton for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the second big play he’s given up this young season.

That concerning trend is largely due to Pierre’s lack of elite athleticism, which hampers him when coverage becomes a footrace. Thankfully, such holes in his game can be fixed as his technique improves, and possibly some more safety help over the top.

Pierre has proven himself to have starter potential in the limited chances he’s had this season, and as he continues to develop his game should become more well-rounded. This is especially good news for the Steelers, as Joe Haden is nearing the end of his playing days, and the team might just have a quality replacement waiting in the wings.

4. Credit where it’s due

The Steelers’ offensive line has received a lot of criticism over the course of the season, and most of it has been well-deserved. However, they looked like a quality unit on Sunday. They opened up some running lanes for Najee Harris to the tune of 147 team rushing yards on the day. More impressive was their work in pass protection, where they allowed only one sack. Chuks Okorafor, who many (including this writer) have thought should be benched this season, did a fantastic job when up against future Hall-of-Famer Von Miller. Okorafor held Miller to just two tackles, along with no sacks.

5. Something that works

The Steelers’ offense played the type of game they’ll have to play the rest of this season if they want to win games. Ben Roethlisberger threw just 25 times for a solid 253 yards and two touchdowns. Roethlisberger also didn’t throw any interceptions, although he had a few passes that were nearly caught by the opposing team. Still, it was nice to see a clean game through the air for the struggling quarterback.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned offensive line held up great in pass protection all while being a force in the run game. This helped the Steelers control much of the game and take the pressure off of Roethlisberger, who was able to spread the ball around more than usual.

It’s clear that the Steelers’ offensive keys to victory this year are a strong, consistent running game paired with a smart and efficient passing game. What’s important is whether or not the team can consistently do so.

6. Blitzburgh

The Steelers haven’t enjoyed as much pass-rushing success as they usually do this season, likely due to a number of injuries along the defensive front. However, Pittsburgh has found a new weapon to blitz the quarterback with: athletic linebacker Devin Bush. He notched his second consecutive game with a sack against the Broncos, and was a noticeable force on the field until he had to leave due to injury. His speed when shooting the gaps has been a valuable asset for providing pressure up the middle, especially with both Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu out with injuries.

Last week I wrote about how it was nice to see the Steelers’ inside linebackers making splash plays once again. Hopefully it’s a trend that continues throughout the season.

7. A position to succeed

Chase Claypool enjoyed his best game of the season so far, recording a touchdown and well over 100 yards against the Broncos. Besides just good play and effort, some of Claypool’s success came via matchups, most notably in the slot and routes in the middle of the field. While Claypool has struggled on the outside so far this year, especially when it comes to making contested catches, his impressive athleticism makes him an absolute nightmare in the slot where he can draw favorable matchups and gain separation.

Perhaps the one silver lining of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s injury is that Claypool will likely play more in the slot in place of Smith-Schuster. Don’t be surprised if he has several other big games throughout the rest of the season.

Could the Steelers’ win over the Broncos be a turning point in their season?

Don’t forget to stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for all things Pittsburgh Steelers throughout the 2021 regular season.

13 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin during Tuesday’s press conference

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 7:00am
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Steelers head coach held his weekly press conference with the Pittsburgh media on Tuesday heading into Week 6.

The 2021 NFL regular season is underway and teams are starting to get into a routine with what occurs during a typical game week. As the Steelers begin their preparation for their first prime time game of the season, head coach Mike Tomlin held his regularly scheduled press conference on Tuesday. With many players discussed, it’s time for another players mentioned by Coach Tomlin during his media time. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud, Cody White, & Chase Claypool

In what will likely be his last time being mentioned in 2021, JuJu Smith-Schuster will soon be headed to the Reserve/Injured List as he is set for shoulder surgery on Wednesday. Coach Tomlin was asked how the Steelers plan to replace Smith-Schuster, and in his response he mentioned four other wide receivers.

“We’re not trying to replace JuJu. We’re just trying to provide additional opportunity for those that get expanded roles, and many of those guys, we have a lot of confidence in. James Washington. You guys asked a lot about James Washington during the course of team development and his role and things of that nature We’ve got a lot of confidence in James. So however unfortunate the injury is for JuJu, it does provide an opportunity for James to expand his role and to do some things that we all know he’s capable of doing. It provides an opportunity for Ray-Ray McCloud to expand his role and continue to develop as a receiver and get more opportunities in that space. Ray-Ray carved out a niche for himself as a return man, but that’s his day job. He’s been working to develop as a receiver and has done a great job of doing so. These opportunities are big opportunities for men like those two that I mentioned. They’re big opportunities for a guy like Cody White, who’s been fighting and scrapping for an opportunity to lay a foundation for what hopes to be a good career for him. He’s had a window because of lack of availability of others over the course of the last several weeks. Chase Claypool’s lack of availability gave him an opportunity. James Washington’s lack of availability gave him opportunity. Now JuJu’s lack of availability gives him an opportunity. My heart aches for JuJu, but I’m equally as excited for guys like the guys that I’ve mentioned. I know their preparedness, I know their desire to be positive contributors to our efforts, and so I’m excited about watching them first, prepare, but then, ultimately, perform. They know that quality performance is going to be required.”

Coach Tomlin was asked who will likely replace JuJu’s energy on the field and in the locker room.

“That’s team. That’s easy. Guys do that by simply being themselves, the same way that JuJu developed that persona and that ability to be that for us by simply being himself. I’m not going to ask anybody to be anything other than themselves and it happens organically.

Coach Tomlin was asked if he’s had a conversation recently about James Washington’s role on the team.

“Not specifically, and particularly not specifically of late. We’ve been talking about what it is we need to do to win games and players’ individual roles in it. But obviously, over the course of a 12-month calendar, we do have an opportunity to sit down and talk about the trajectory of his career and his goals and desires, and that’s something that we do quite often.”

Coach Tomlin was asked about James Washington and working with him after requesting a trade. Before the question was finished, Coach Tomlin interrupted to make a statement.

“I don’t know that I ever acknowledged that he requested a trade.”

Coach Tomlin was then asked the rest of the James Washington question about if he had any conversations with him about the subject.

“No, I did not. James is a professional and a quality dude and teammate. He’s always ready. He is always working. He’s low to no maintenance. I’ve just got a lot of respect for him as a player and as a man.”

Zach Banner

A player who is extremely likely to return to the Steelers this week is offensive tackle Zach Banner. Coach Tomlin was asked how to infuse Banner into the lineup if he is ready.

“Ready is not a problem. I’m not gonna make a negative out of him perceiving that he’s ready or him being ready. There’s nothing wrong with having more than five capable, ready men. Those are the type of problems that you want to have, and I look forward to the day that we’re managing that.”

Coach Tomlin was asked later low long they have to activate Banner from IR.

“21 days from the day of activation. I don’t have the exact date.”

Henry Mondeaux

The Steelers defensive line are down two of their three expected starters coming into the 2021 season. Coach Tomlin was asked about the cohesion of the group, and in his response he specifically mentioned Henry Mondeaux.

“It’s not a cohesion thing based on the newness of the collection of people. It’s a cohesion thing because of the moving parts because of lack of availability. The people that are playing have been here. They’re just getting increased opportunities. Their roles are emerging. I don’t want to put it in the same discussion because it’s a little bit different from that perspective. We’re not getting to know them. We’re just getting to know them as guys that get an increased opportunity and roles. Guys like Hank (Henry Mondeaux), for example, that had a nice play or two for us in this past game. That’s our focus. It’s about the development of depth and feeling comfortable with the quality of play, or having a certain anticipation with the quality of play of some of the backups in that space. That’s probably the discussion there.”

Diontae Johnson

One wide receiver not mentioned earlier was Diontae Johnson. Coach Tomlin was asked the growth and work of Johnson.

“Diontae is just going through the natural maturation process that we expect guys to go through. He’s no longer a rookie. He’s been in some circumstances and situations. He is understanding the game better. I think it’s allowing him to play faster. He’s finding his rhythm as a professional. I just had a conversation with him in there. He was laying on the training table getting his body taken care of. I see him every Tuesday before I come in here and visit with you all. I think he’s finding the rhythm in his professional preparation process, whether it’s formally, like in practice settings, or whether it’s informally, like what he does with a Tuesday. It’s reasonable to expect guys to grow and make more plays and develop better consistency as they find a steadiness in life, and I think that’s just where he is.”

In a follow up question, Coach Tomlin was asked about the process of draft wide receivers and in his response he mentioned both Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.

“I don’t even digest it in that way. I’m not looking at it in that way, to be quite honest with you. We look at general skillsets. We want somebody to stretch the field. Okay, Mike Wallace was a guy that stretched the field. Martavis Bryant was a guy that stretched the field. Chase Claypool is a guy that stretches the field. We like route runners. Santonio (Holmes) was a route runner. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders are route runners. Diontae Johnson is a route runner. But nothing any more detailed in that global perspective than I just gave you.”

Devin Bush

Unfortunately, Devin Bush left a game due to injury in Week 5. Coach Tomlin was asked if the injury was a re-aggravation of his previous injury or a new one.

“I don’t know, to be honest with you.”

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger is coming off his best game of the 2021 season. Coach Tomlin was asked about Roethlisberger developing connections with his receivers, both past and present.

“Not anything to wrap a neat bow around it. I think anytime you’re working to have success in the passing game, it’s steeped in in cohesion and understanding between passer and receiver, no matter who it is. That’s born out of, first and foremost, individual talents from all parties involved. And secondly, collective work. We spend a lot of time together, those guys do formally and informally. Ben has been here a long time, and over the course of that time, he’s seen receivers come and go and he’s taken a personal responsibility to be a component of their growth and development. I just think it is a very natural thing. I think you could point to those discussions regarding any well-tenured quarterback. You could say the same thing about Aaron Rodgers from Donald Driver to 17 (Davante Adams), who he’s working with now, etc., etc. Say the same thing about Drew Brees when he was playing in New Orleans for a length of time. I think that’s what the elite quarterback does. He develops a rapport and a relationship and an understanding with those that he targets. And when you’re on a job for the length of years that Ben has been, it’s gonna be a collection of guys that you can point to.”

Najee Harris

Although Najee Harris had his first 100-yard rushing game of his NFL career, he was unable to finish the game due to cramps. Coach Tomlin was asked if they were aware of Harris’ cramping issues in college and if there is a way to manage it.

“We were aware of it, and it starts with hydration. We’ve got professionals. He’s a professional. We have certified athletic trainers and nutritionists and so forth. We’re continually managing that. We’ve just got to do it a little bit better, but I will acknowledge that he had a little bit more work in that game that he had in others, and so we’ll continue to adjust and find our footing there. But it’s really no big deal, to be quite honest with you.”

Tre Norwood & Arthur Maulet

The Steelers used multiple players to fill in for Cameron Sutton who missed Sunday’s game due to injury. Coach Tomlin was asked about the players filling in due to injury in the secondary and he specifically mentioned Tre Norwood and Arthur Maulet, as well as Karl Joseph who is currently on the Steelers practice squad.

“First of all, we’re appreciative of their efforts and their willingness to compete and play and expand their roles. Particularly for the young guys, the guys that hadn’t had an opportunity to be around here a long time and really get that component of it and understand what those opportunities are for them: young guys like Trey Norwood, who have proven that it’s not too big for them. It’s exciting because they have a lot of growth in front of them, but they’re doing some good things now, they’re doing some positive things now to help secure victory. Karl Joseph is new to us. Arthur Maulet is new to us. Those are exciting things. We’re appreciative of their efforts. We realize that, usually, it’s a multiple man job when you’re talking about dealing with new and young people, and that’s why we spread responsibilities around. But at the same time, it is really encouraging.”

For more information on Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out the podcast below:

If you want to watch Mike Tomlin’s press conference, you can do so below:

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media prior to our game against the Seahawks. https://t.co/8QAvKE7wAE

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 12, 2021

AFC North Recap: The Steelers division hopes remain alive after Week 5

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers and Ravens were the only winners in Week 5, and it keeps Pittsburgh’s hopes in the division alive.

The fifth week of NFL football is behind us, and it was quite the week in the AFC North division. With that said, it is time to see how the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns all did in the week that was.

Time to take a look...

Los Angeles Chargers - 47
Cleveland Browns - 42

If you love defense, you should have avoided this game like the plague. The Browns and Chargers went toe-to-toe like two prize fighters who don’t care about blocking punches. Kind of like Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Anyways, Steelers fans were excited to see the Browns come out on the losing end of this game in hopes of slowly climbing out of the AFC North basement.

Green Bay Packers - 25 (OT)
Cincinnati Bengals - 22

Was there a more fitting way for the Bengals to lose than their kicker celebrating a would-be game-winning kick which sailed just left of the upright? It was as Bengals as Bengals gets. With that said, if anyone thinks the Bengals are a pushover, they aren’t watching the same game. I had a feeling this team would be vastly improved in 2021, but didn’t think they would make these strides. I hate to say it, but the Bengals aren’t likely to go anywhere anytime soon, barring another catastrophic injury like the one to Joe Burrow last season.

Pittsburgh Steelers - 27
Denver Broncos - 19

The Steelers were able to hold onto the victory, their first at home this season, and it sure did have a different feel to it. Suddenly, sitting at 2-3, the Steelers aren’t out of the division race. Think if they would have lost the game to Denver, sitting at 1-4 would almost feel like an impossible imposition for the black and gold. Nonetheless, the win keeps them very much alive, and if they can beat the Russell Wilson-less Seattle Seahawks they could be .500 heading into their bye week. Get there, and you have a shot with five divisional games remaining on the schedule.

Baltimore Ravens - 31 (OT)
Indianapolis Colts - 25

I have to be honest, when I went to bed Monday night the Ravens were getting smacked down on their home turf. I woke up to find the Lamar Jackson played out of his mind, as a passer for once, to come from behind and beat Carson Wentz and company. The Colts deserved to lose the game after red-zone turnovers and missed opportunities were the theme of the evening for them. Steelers fans watched as the Ravens went from 3-2 to 4-1 in the blink of an eye. The Ravens’ schedule doesn’t get easier with the Chargers and Bengals upcoming before their bye week.

AFC North Standings

Baltimore Ravens - 4-1
Cleveland Browns - 3-2
Cincinnati Bengals - 3-2
Pittsburgh Steelers - 2-3

Week 6 AFC North Schedule:

Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday
Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday
Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions — 1 p.m., Sunday
Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers — 8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday (SNF)

A look ahead...

Next three opponents for all AFC North teams:

Baltimore Ravens: vs. Chargers, vs. Bengals, BYE
Cleveland Browns: vs. Cardinals, vs. Broncos, vs. Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers: vs. Seahawks (SNF), BYE, at Browns
Cincinnati Bengals: at Lions, at Ravens, at Jets

Get the latest BTSC gear!! “Air Najee”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 5:30am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a stud running back in Najee Harris. Get the latest BTSC shirt featuring “Air Najee”

The 2021 regular season is already five weeks old, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have found a stud running back in Najee Harris.

Harris was the first running back taken in the draft, and has already proven he is worthy of that pick. Either way, fans are excited, and rightfully so, about what Harris brings to the team, so why not get some new gear to show off your Steelers pride?! Of course, with the holidays right around the corner, this could be the perfect gift for the Steelers fan in your life!

The new design is simple, and is officially licensed by the NFLPA.

It reads: AIR NAJEE

The image shows Najee Harris hurdling over a defender, something he has done to defensive backs since he was in high school, on the national stage for the Crimson Tide and even now in the NFL.

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: The Steelers can’t afford to look ahead beyond the Seahawks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/13/2021 - 4:30am

BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman presents his AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the Wednesday episode of “Let’s Ride“.

The Steelers got a much-needed win over Denver this week with a bye week and a showdown with Cleveland coming up after their home contest with Seattle on Sunday Night Football. The Seahawks are playing poorly and just lost Russell Wilson for 4-6 weeks. While the Steelers should be favored in this particular matchup, they definitely can’t afford to look past Pete Carroll’s crew from the Emerald City. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the flagship morning show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on the Wednesday episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • The Live Mailbag
  • Much More!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

BTSC Survivor Pool Update: Week 5 results

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/12/2021 - 5:00pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over 90% of the remaining contestants made it through to Week 6.

The Behind The Steel Curtain survivor pool continued on in Week 5 this past weekend. With four leagues completely filled with 100 entries, the fifth league finished with 46 participants. While technically there are 446 total entries, I have one entry in each league as the commissioner so there were 442 different contestants. Hundreds have entered, but only one can go home with the autographed Joe Haden Football.

The most common selection for Week 5 was the Dallas Cowboys over the New York Giants followed closely by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Miami Dolphins. Neither game was never really close in the second half and the outcomes were not really in doubt. The Cowboys allowed 35 contestants to move on while the Buccaneers helped 34 entries qualify for Week 6.

The next most popular picks were the New England Patriots over the Houston Texans and the Minnesota Vikings over the Detroit Lions. Both of these games came down to the wire but ended up on the right side of those choosing and allowed 24 and 23 contestants through to next week.

The game which eliminated the most contestants was the Las Vegas Raiders falling to the Chicago Bears which took out 8 entries.

So after five weeks, now only 31% of the entries still remain. If you are still alive, make sure you enter your pick early so you don’t get knocked out due to a lack of selection. This is your reminder, so go make your pick now!

Weekly Update: Upcoming Week 6 Games of Note:
  • Most heavily favored: Los Angeles Rams (-10.5) on the road over New York Giants
  • Closest match up: Minnesota (-1) on the road over Carolina
  • The Steelers match up: Pittsburgh (-5) at home over Seattle

(all lines are courtesy of oddshark.com as on 10/12)

So there you have it! Make sure you check back at Behind The Steel Curtain to stay updated on the contest. Even if you did not enter or have already been eliminated, feel free to check in and see how you would have fared each week.

Steelers add two to their practice squad, including WR Anthony Miller

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/12/2021 - 3:26pm
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have made a trio of practice squad moves Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have dealt with a lot the past few weeks. Injuries, players being signed off waivers after the team released them and now they have seen players being poached off their own practice squad.

Tuesday, the Detroit Lions poached cornerback Mark Gilbert off the practice squad, leaving the team with two practice squad openings, the other being the vacancy left when wide receiver Cody White was signed to the 53-man roster.

To fill out the practice squad, the Steelers signed two, while also releasing one. Nose tackle Eli Ankou was released from the practice squad, while wide receiver Anthony Miller and defensive tackle Isaiah Mack were added.

We have released NT Eli Ankou from the practice squad and signed WR Anthony Miller and DT Isaiah Mack to the practice squad.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 12, 2021

Miller was traded from the Chicago Bears to the Houston Texans this past offseason and appeared in two games for Houston before being released last week. He had five catches for 23 yards and a touchdown in those appearances.

Miller also had 134 catches for 1,564 yards and 11 touchdowns during his three seasons with the Bears, the team who drafted him in the 2018 NFL Draft.

As for Mack, he was signed by the Tennessee Titans as a rookie in 2019, and finished his rookie year with eight tackles, a fumble recovery, and 1.5 sacks. The following season Mack was waived and signed by the New England Patriots and stayed on their practice squad for the duration of the 2020 season. Prior to the 2021 season, Mack was signed by the Denver Broncos, where he was waived on August 31st.

If you follow the numbers, the team had a vacancy after White’s signing, they released Ankou and had Gilbert poached. That leaves three spots open, and they signed two. In other words, they still have one opening on their 16-man practice squad. Expect the Steelers to add a player in the near future, likely based on team need.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6 on Sunday Night Football.

Mark Gilbert poached from Steelers practice squad by the Detroit Lions

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/12/2021 - 2:47pm
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 UDFA was signed to the Lions 53-man roster on Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a member of the practice squad on Tuesday as cornerback Mark Gilbert was signed by the Detroit Lions. This per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Steelers’ practice-squad CB Mark Gilbert, cousin of Darrelle Revis, has been signed to the Detroit Lions’ 53-man roster, per his agent @ZacHiller.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 12, 2021

Gilbert went undrafted in 2021 out of Duke and sign=ed with the Steelers immediately following the NFL draft. Appearing in all four of the Steelers preseason games, Gilbert played 82 snaps and had four tackles and two passes defensed. Although Gilbert did not make the Steelers 53-man roster, he was signed the next day to the practice squad.

There are actually three stories to Gilbert’s college career. His overall stats had him with 65 total tackles, 5.0 of which were for loss, seven interceptions and 17 passes defensed. Most of his statistics came in the 13 games of his sophomore season, which covered more than half of his 23 total games with the Blue Devils. During his sophomore season in 2017, Gilbert had 35 tackles with 3.0 being for loss, six interceptions, and 15 passes defensed. Unfortunately, Gilbert only made it two games into his junior year before suffering a hip injury which cost him the remainder of 2018 and all of the 2019 season. After a foot injury two games into 2020, Gilbert opted out of the season to prepare for the NFL.

Gilbert was an interesting prospect for the Steelers as he had very high potential coming out of college before his two major injuries. Unfortunately, Gilbert now becomes the prospect of the Detroit Lions.

Gilbert was not the only player with ties to the Steelers to find a new team on Tuesday. Released on Saturday to make room on the active roster for wide receiver Cody White, Rashaad Coward has signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. This per Aaron Wilson.

Jaguars signed Rashaad Coward, Brandon Linder placed on injured reserve.

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) October 12, 2021

Coward signed with the Steelers this offseason after spending the previous four seasons with the Chicago Bears. A nose tackle at Old Dominion, Coward transitioned to the offensive line in the NFL. Coward was originally released when the Steelers cut down to the 53-man roster, but was re-signed the two days later when the Steelers made their moves to put players on the Reserve/Injured List. Inactive for the first four games of 2021, Coward had been ruled out of Sunday’s game with an ankle injury prior to his release.

With Mark Gilbert now in Detroit, and no possibility of the Steelers bringing back Rashaad Coward in any capacity, the Steelers currently have two vacant spots out of the 16 players allowed by the NFL on the practice squad. With the Steelers taking the field on Wednesday in preparation to face the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday night at Heinz Field, look for the Steelers to fill these two open positions as quickly as possible.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, injury reports, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

How can the Steelers survive the loss JuJu Smith-Schuster?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/12/2021 - 2:05pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers will need their other skill players to pick up the slack.

On Monday, the Pittsburgh Steelers and all of Steelers nation got the heart breaking news that JuJu Smith-Schuster will be lost for the year. The most veteran receiver on the roster is in need of a season-ending shoulder surgery that will put his 2021 campaign to an end. Smith-Schuster came back to the Steelers on a one-year prove-it type of contract, so the future is anything but certain for the fun-loving wide out.

But first, and most importantly, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to get through this season without JuJu, and they’ll have to do it with the guys that already make up this roster, plus perhaps another name.

So where does it begin?

Smith-Schuster has been called upon as a tough yardage type of player. A guy that gets the ball on third down and is asked to run through defenders to move the chains. This role will fall into the lap of James Washington. Washington has been the Steelers contested catch guy basically since the start of his career, but he will get his most significant bump in playing time with this injury to Smith-Schuster. Washington was unhappy with his role on the Steelers back in training camp, and reportedly asking to be traded. Now the Steelers will rely on him more than they ever have in the past. Washington deserves the opportunity, and is a high quality receiver in this game.

I also anticipate both Chase Claypool and rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth to see an increased workload in the passing attack. Both of these big body guys are matchup nightmares and someone the Steelers can distribute Smith Schuster‘s targets too. The Steelers are also heavily rumored to sign Anthony Miller formally of the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans. If/when he gets up to speed, I anticipate he will move into James Washington’s number four receiver role, but I don’t anticipate a gigantic statistical bump from him when he’s ready to go.

The one offensive player I don’t think will feel any affect of Smith-Schuster’s departure is Diontae Johnson. Johnson is already a high volume target from Ben Roethlisberger and will most likely only be asked to continue to run the things he has been running all year long. Johnson will continue to play primarily out wide, and running the same style of routes he has all season.

Not to trash Smith-Schuster while he’s down, but thankfully the Steelers really haven’t utilized him much at all this year. Replicating what they are losing in him shouldn’t be necessarily that difficult. Of course he is still the elder and vocal guy of that group and those intangibles aren’t something you can just find elsewhere immediately.

But what do you think? Do you think the Steelers will be able to survive without JuJu Smith-Schuster in the lineup? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: The Steelers down Denver, but are fans off of the ledge?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/12/2021 - 2:00pm

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers were mired in a three-game losing streak over the fist for games of 2021. With many fans convinced that the 1-3 start was a death knell for the Steelers’ chances for postseason inclusion, just how many have come down off of the ledge? In this show, Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White break down all things Steelers! Join the veteran trio as they analyze all things black-and-gold.

Check out the rundown of the show

  • News and Notes
  • Confidence level after the Steelers’ second win of 2021

and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1

Part 2

PFF grades for Week 5 show Ben Roethlisberger having his best game of 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/12/2021 - 12:37pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In the grades provided by PFF, Roethlisberger had his best score by throwing his fewest passes of the season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers got back to their winning ways in Week 4 and hope to start a different kind of streak moving forward. The offense put up their most points of the season, and the defense kept their opponent in check through the first three quarters. In all, it was a good team win.

But how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for their Week 5 performance. These score are just from Sunday’s game and not for the entire season. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. Next up this week is the offense. Included will be all the players who played at least one snap (with the exception of Minkah Fitzpatrick who was used for one snap in victory formation) and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 65 snaps on offense in Week 5.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

WR Chase Claypool: 87.4 (36 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 82.3 (22 snaps)
QB Ben Roethlisberger: 77.1 (65 snaps)
WR Diontae Johnson: 77.5 (60 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 70.6 (65 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

FB Derek Watt: 46.8 (9 snaps)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: 46.6 (25 snaps)
RB Benny Snell Jr.: 43.6 (13 snaps)
G Trai Turner: 43.1 (65 snaps)
C Kendrick Green: 33.9 (65 snaps)

Quarterback

QB Ben Roethlisberger: 77.1 (65 snaps)

There are a lot that goes into a better offensive performance more than just individual scores. With Ben Roethlisberger getting his best score since Week 13 of 2020, a lot of it came because of an improved running game and more time to throw in the pocket. With these things added to the Steelers offense, Roethlisberger managed the game well, hit on the big plays when needed, and led his team to victory.

Running Backs

RB Najee Harris: 70.1 (42 snaps)
RB Kalen Ballage: 50.4 (10 snaps)
FB Derek Watt: 46.8 (9 snaps)
RB Benny Snell Jr.: 43.6 (13 snaps)

Even though the Steelers run game burst forth in Week 5, Najee Harris was actually given a lower score than the previous week. One thing that is for certain when looking at the position group is the drop off in PFF scores after Harris.

Receivers

WR Chase Claypool: 87.4 (36 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 82.3 (22 snaps)
WR Diontae Johnson: 77.5 (60 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 70.4 (32 snaps)
TE Eric Ebron: 58.6 (25 snaps)
WR Ray-Ray McCloud: 52.8 (34 snaps)
WR Cody White: 52.3 (16 snaps)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: 46.6 (25 snaps)

Chase Claypool came back after missing the previous game and led the Steelers in receiving and with their top PFF score on offense. Despite only one target, it was a nice 13 yard gain to Zach Gentry which really boosted his PFF score as he has caught all three targets he has had in 2021. Despite a low score in the passing game of 40.8, Cody White had his score bumped up due to an outstanding run blocking score of 91.3 which was the best on the team this week, best in the NFL of any wide receiver in Week 5, and has a season score that leads all the NFL wide receivers. So if the Steelers are looking for someone who can stick their nose into the blocking game much like JuJu Smith-Schuster has in the past, Cody White may be the answer.

Offensive Line

OT Dan Moore Jr.: 70.6 (65 snaps)
G Kevin Dotson: 56.7 (65 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 53.4 (65 snaps)
G Trai Turner: 43.1 (65 snaps)
C Kendrick Green: 33.9 (65 snaps)

The biggest thing that needs to be noted first is how all five players on the offensive line played every snap for the first time in 2021. What is interesting is how the Steelers best performance as a unit so far in 2021 saw lower scores for the majority of players. Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr. switched spots as the rookies PFF grade is shown as having a great game or really struggling. Trai Turner also was given a low score after two weeks of solid contributions. But as these players would probably agree, their individual scores mean nothing as the unit made great strides in both the running and passing game in Week 5 regardless of their scores.

So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.

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