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Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Vol. 12

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/13/2022 - 5:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There is always something to talk about when it comes to the Black & Gold!

It’s Friday again, so it’s time for the six pack of questions. It seems as if Jeff and Dave come to a consensus in cutting to the chase...

This week, I, Dave, will be tasked with the questions up for discussion.

The rules are still the same...

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.

Procedural Note: Since the title feature has gone away, please feel free to leave your usual title as the first line of your response and even bold it if you can for the ease of others.

So here we go! With the formalities out of the way, it’s time to jump on in. Hopefully this party is exactly what you’re looking for on a Friday night. Here goes:

1. Before diving into questions about the schedule, Steelers rookie minicamp started today. What is your level of intrigue in regards to rookie minicamp, especially since the Steelers drafted a first-round quarterback this year?

2. The 2022 NFL schedule is out. I have to ask this first before anything else: What are your thoughts on the Steelers playing at 8:15 PM ET on Christmas Eve?

3. The first quarter of the season has the Steelers opening at Cincinnati, home against the Patriots in Week 2, a short week traveling to Cleveland, then a return home to face the New York Jets. What do you think the Steelers record will be after their first four games of 2022?

4. The Steelers will not be facing the Carolina Panthers in the preseason this year, breaking a tradition going back to 2003. Is it sad to see this stop, or is it no big deal since it’s just the preseason?

5. Looking at the entire schedule (posted below in case you need it), what do you believe is the Steelers toughest game based on how everything falls?

Week 1: at Cincinnati Bengals 1 PM
Week 2: vs New England Patriots 1 PM
Week 3: at Cleveland Browns Thursday 8:15 PM
Week 4: vs New York Jets 1 PM
Week 5: at Buffalo Bills 1 PM
Week 6: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 PM
Week 7: at Miami Dolphins 8:20 PM
Week 8: at Philadelphia Eagles 1 PM
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: vs New Orleans Saints 1 PM
Week 11: vs Cincinnati Bengals 8:20 PM
Week 12: at Indianapolis Colts Monday 8:15 PM
Week 13: at Atlanta Falcons 1 PM
Week 14: vs Baltimore Ravens 1 PM
Week 15: at Carolina Panthers 1 PM
Week 16: vs Las Vegas Raiders Saturday 8:15 PM
Week 17: at Baltimore Ravens 1 PM
Week 18: vs Cleveland Browns TBD

6. Now that it’s known the Steelers bye week is in Week 9 (Sunday, November 6), will you be making any special plans for the first weekend in November? What would be your ideal weekend getaway that time of year?

Stay safe out there!

And it wouldn’t be a Friday night unless we said...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

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Steelers swap offensive linemen on 90-man roster

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/13/2022 - 4:23pm
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made a move on the 90-man offseason roster.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have wrapped up their first day of rookie minicamp, and there has already been a move on the team’s 90-man offseason roster.

As always, the NFL offseason roster is fluid and changes often, and the Steelers haven’t wasted time making a change along their offensive line.

Friday evening the Steelers announced the signing of veteran offensive tackle Trent Scott. To make room on the roster the team released guard Malcolm Pridgeon.

This per the Steelers official Twitter page:

We have signed OL Trent Scott to a one-year contract.

To make room on the 90-man roster, we waived G Malcolm Pridgeon. @BordasLaw https://t.co/cfpNUtGHHv

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 13, 2022

Scott provides the Steelers with a veteran presence at the offensive tackle position. Scott has been in the league for four years, and started 19 games during that span.

During Scott’s time in the league he has played for both the Chargers and Panthers.

When it comes to tackle depth, the 6’5” 320 lbs. Scott will be competing with players like Chaz Green and Joe Haeg for the backup swing tackle spot along the line. This is assuming both Chuks Okorafor and Dan Moore Jr. hold down starting roles at both tackle positions.

This is unlikely the last move to be made on the offseason roster, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers this offseason.

Steelers sign second-round draft pick George Pickens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/13/2022 - 3:07pm
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers rookie wide receiver is the first of their 2022 draft picks to sign their contract.

The Pittsburgh Steelers began their 2022 rookie minicamp on Friday. Following practice, the team announced they have signed second-round draft pick George Pickens.

We have signed WR George Pickens to a four-year contract. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 13, 2022

Selected as the 52nd overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, Pickens played three years at Georgia as a wide receiver. Suffering an ACL injury during spring workouts following his sophomore season, Pickens returned to play four games his junior season. Coming back for their last regular season game against Georgia Tech, Pickens also played in the SEC Championship Game as well as the national semi finals and finals. In the National Championship Game, Pickens had one reception for 52 yards.

Admired for returning to play when Pickens could have just as easily continued to rehab and prepare for the 2022 NFL draft, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert commended Pickens on his dedication to return. In the 24 games Pickens played in his career at Georgia, he had 90 receptions for 1,347 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Pickens is the first of the Steelers draft picks to sign their rookie deal in 2022. With the rookie wage scale in place from the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are not a lot of negotiation factors involved with draft picks like there were years ago. For this reason, the Steelers are likely to sign several more of their draft picks throughout the coming days. All contracts for draft picks are for four years with any first-round selections having a fifth-yearoption.

According to overthecap.com, Pickens salary cap hit for 2022 is estimated at $1,320,306.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, rookie minicamp reports, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

11 regular season schedule nuggets for the 2022 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/13/2022 - 2:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 regular season schedule has been released, and it is time to take a deep dive into the slate of games.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, along with the rest of the NFL, received their 2022 regular season schedules Thursday night, and everyone is pouring over the details of the new slate of games. It isn’t as if the opponents or locations weren’t already known, they were, but everyone is excited to go over the minutia of the schedule.

I love the schedule release, even though the NFL goes a bit overboard with it, and I love to take a deeper dive into the 17-game schedule. Here at 11 nuggets of black and gold goodness for you to digest related to the 2022 regular season schedule. Enjoy!

  • The last time the Steelers had a bye week in a double-digit week was back in 2015 when they had their bye in Week 11.

2015: Week 11
2016: Week 8
2017: Week 9
2018: Week 7
2019: Week 7
2020: Week 4 (Thanks, Titans)
2021: Week 7

  • The Steelers are opening up the season on the road vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, and this is a first for the rivalry. Since 2000, the Steelers have faced one team more than any other. The Cleveland Browns (4 times). But there were three teams who the Steelers have faced three times. They are: the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots.
  • As if you haven’t heard yet, the Steelers will open on the road for the 9th straigh time. Blame the Pirates.
  • In Weeks 1-3, the Steelers will have played three games in 11 days, two of those being AFC North games.
  • The Steelers first five games of the 2022 regular season are against AFC opponents (CIN, NE, CLE, NYJ, BUF)
  • Throughout the 17-game schedule, the Steelers never have play three in a row either at home or on the road. As Art Rooney II said, the schedule is pretty balanced. I’d agree.
  • For the second straight year the NFL schedule makers have pushed the Steelers vs. Ravens game back towards the end of the season. Last year the Steelers played the Ravens in Weeks 13 and 18. This year they don’t play Baltimore till Week 14, and then again in Week 17. Neither being prime time games, unless they get flexed into that slot.
  • After Week 3, at Cleveland on Thursday night, the Steelers don’t play another divisional game until they host the Bengals in Week 11. After that, no divisional games until they host the Ravens in Week 14.
  • While the Steelers have the maximum amount of prime time games (5), the rest of their games are scheduled for 1 pm ET kickoffs. While this can change in the later portions of the season, not having any 4pm kickoffs is rare.
  • People use the term “revenge game” a lot, but the Steelers will have a genuine revenge game in 2022. That will be in Week 7 when Brian Flores and the Steelers’ defense travel to Miami to play the Dolphins on Sunday Night Football.
  • Will the Steelers be able to finally get a win in Philadelphia? It’s been since 1965, and they play the Eagles in the city of brotherly love in Week 8.

What were your thoughts on the Steelers 2022 schedule? Anything which stood out to you? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason.

Opening lines for the Steelers complete 2022 schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/13/2022 - 12:45pm
Set Number: X163789 TK1

Now that the schedule has been released, it’s time to see the opening betting lines and over/unders for the Steelers 17 games.

When the NFL schedule comes out every year, many experts, as well as fans, quickly jump on the chance at predicting the teams record for the upcoming season. We here at Behind The Steel Curtain were no different as several of our podcasters gave their predictions for the 2022 season.

Choosing teams to win or lose a game is one thing, but the real lucrative ability of predicting games comes in choosing correctly against the spread.

Now that the NFL schedule has been released, the oddsmakers at the DraftKings Sportsbook have released their betting lines for the entire 2022 season. When it comes to the Steelers and their odds for the season, they are only favored in four games, two of which are at home. The Steelers are favored in two games on the road, both of which are against the NFC South. There are no lines in regards to the Cleveland Browns for the entire season based on the uncertainty of the possible suspension of Deshaun Watson.

Last season, the only visiting team who was favored in the opening lines in May at Heinz Field was the Baltimore Ravens, a game the Steelers won 20-19. This season, the Steelers open as underdogs in five home games with the final game of the season with the Browns yet to be determined. The game in which the Steelers are the biggest underdog at home in 2022 is set at +3.5 when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6.

The Steelers are most heavily favored in 2022 in Week 4 when they host the New York Jets and currently hold a 3.5-point spread. The game in which the Steelers are currently the biggest underdog is Week 5 in Buffalo where the Bills are favored by 8 points.

It’s not uncommon for the lines to move in the first couple of games of the season as the offseason progresses. Factors such as new signings or injuries could cause the lines to move slightly. As the season progresses, the rest of the lines will go all over the place based on team performances on the field.

For reference sake, here is the Steelers current betting odds for all 17 of the regular-season games now that the schedule has been released.

Be sure to check out the DraftKings Sportsbook for all the latest odds.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers (+6.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals
New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers (+1)
Pittsburgh Steelers (NO LINE) @ Cleveland Browns
New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+8) @Buffalo Bills
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5) @ Miami Dolphins
Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) @ Philadelphia Eagles
BYE
New Orleans Saints @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5)
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+4.5) @ Indianapolis Colts
Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5) @ Atlanta Falcons
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers (+2)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-1) @ Carolina Panthers
Las Vegas Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers (+1.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+5.5) @ Baltimore Ravens
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers (NO LINE)

Tarik Cohen to the Steelers could be a perfect match

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/13/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Free agent running back Tarik Cohen possibly signing with the Steelers could be a match made in the Steel City.

Some player/franchise free agency signings seem to make too much sense.

Free agent running back Tarik Cohen possibly signing with the Steelers could be the start of a beautiful friendship. Both parties have a need, now they just need to determine the will and the way.

If you haven't already read Cohen's heartbreaking, and heart touching, essay he wrote to his younger self that published just recently, I highly recommend it.

“Nothing I can write in this letter could possibly prepare you for everything that is about to happen.”@TarikCohen pens a letter to his younger self. https://t.co/IFaYEX8QjV

— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) May 10, 2022

It's a revealing and brilliant reminder that we never truly know what any individual is dealing with in their personal life at any moment, so we should treat everybody like we would like to be treated. It's really not that hard actually. Respect one another.

I wouldn't dare try to add or take away a single word from Cohen's own honest and heartfelt retelling of the last decade of his life, as I would never do it justice. Just know that he has displayed courage, determination, and faithfulness.

I am writing this article because I was already mulling over the possibly of the Steelers bringing him in for a look-see, even before reading his article. After reading it, it only reaffirmed my initial opinion.

The Steelers are always in the market looking for good value, and Cohen could be just that, if he has finally fully recovered from his devastating knee injury. If so, Cohen and the Steelers could have a mutually beneficial relationship.

As I mentioned earlier, the general consensus among the masses is that the Steelers need a serious upgrade at backup running back, even if Mike Tomlin and company have proven to be extremely reluctant to utilize the position in the past. Najee Harris is a certified stud, but it wouldn't seem prudent to run the wheels off their young star running back. Another 381 total touches last season, Harris’ usage from his rookie season, would be ill-advised.

The Steelers current running back depth chart leaves much to be desired, but that is an article for another day. It's nearly impossible to fairly evaluate the abilities of any of the Steelers’ reserves, as they have been operating behind a sub-par offensive line for the past handful of seasons, coupled with the aforementioned scarcity of opportunities.

Here's the "million dollar question". Would Mike Tomlin and company actually utilize a change of pace backup running back if they had one?

Benny Snell is a north and south plodder, definitely not a change of pace guy. Anthony McFarland has the necessary speed, but hasn't proven effective, nor durable enough to contribute on the field. Rookie Connor Heyward has impressive versatility, and may be able to earn some snaps as a short yardage specialist at the RB3 position, but I can't see him being entrusted as Harris’ main backup. The Steelers have signed a couple of undrafted free agents, but those guys are often undrafted for a reason.

Tarik Cohen is reportedly completely recovered from his 2020 knee surgery. After suffering a couple of setbacks in his lengthy rehabilitation, Cohen hasn't been able to get back on the field since. The Chicago Bears released Cohen in March of 2022.

When healthy, Cohen was the definition of a change of pace running back. He was equipped with ‘water bug’ quickness and acceleration, and was a mismatch waiting to happen. He was a threat to go the distance anytime he touched the ball, whether it was on offense or via kick return. Nobody knows how much of that explosiveness has been diminished by the knee injury, but what would it hurt to bring him in for a closer look? It doesn't cost much to kick the tires on a potentially good deal.

I believe Cohen would appreciate and fully embrace the Steelers family-like atmosphere and culture, implemented by the Rooneys. The personal relationship cultivated by Mike Tomlin himself, whom numerous players have credited with having a father like presence in their lives, would possibly mean even more to a talented 26 year-old young man like Cohen.

The fact a player with Cohen's resume has received little-to-no interest in free agency confirms that teams are still wary of his remaining abilities and availability after such a long and arduous rehab journey. Cohen has shown an impressive resolve to continue fighting through all of his setbacks, whether they have been of the professional or family variety.

The Steelers currently have an intriguing young roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The type of young roster that hopefully will have every opportunity to grow and mature together. There has been a lot of talk recently among Steelers faithful about the team’s need to bring in a veteran presence, or two, to provide leadership and NFL experience.

Tarik Cohen is a young man wise beyond his years. He has experienced the highest of highs as a professional football player, earning All-Pro status in 2018. He has experienced more pain and anguish in his private life than most will experience in a lifetime. Yet he appears dedicated and determined to continue living out his NFL dreams.

The Steelers could invite Cohen in for a workout to evaluate where he is in his recovery. If both parties are interested, the Steelers could offer him a incentive-laden one-year contract. He would then have every opportunity to prove his worth in training camp and during the preseason, and the Steelers could determine if he is a good fit for Matt Canada's offense.

Whatever the future holds for Tarik Cohen, both in his professional and personal life, I wish him and his family well. Respect.

FILM ROOM: What does Chris Oladokun bring to the Steelers QB room?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/13/2022 - 10:00am
Matt Zimmer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Breaking down the Steelers final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Pittsburgh Steelers added two high-end quarterbacks to the roster in Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett, but the Steelers weren’t done re-making their quarterback position with those two candidates for the starting quarterback job.

The Steelers like to have four quarterbacks for their offseason camps and workouts and with only Mason Rudolph returning from the 2021 quarterback room, the Steelers chose to add a fourth quarterback through the draft with their final pick when they selected Chris Oladokun from South Dakota State.

With three higher pedigree quarterbacks already on the roster, what does Chris Oladokun bring to the Steelers, and does he have a real chance of turning his offseason roster spot into a place on the team when the season begins?

Let’s look at the film.

South Dakota State vs. Sacramento State, FCS Playoffs, second round

Chris Oladokun has a quick release, good accuracy and arm strength, and here shows he can get a pass out decently in rhythm. He doesn’t throw this ball before the receiver makes his break, but does get it out immediately after, and the ball gets to the target in time for a catch to be made.

Oladokun in the pocket thrives when the play is timing based and his main read is clear. His quick release and good accuracy on short throws is on display again here.

A good on target throw, showing good arm strength and he leads his receiver away from the defender. You can see the tools that led the Steelers to draft Oladokun, he certainly has potential as a passer, even if he isn’t refined and his level of competition and number of times he changed teams to get the chance to play aren’t positives.

Oladokun is also athletic and a good scrambler, here no one is open and Oladokun takes off to convert a 3rd and 6 with his legs.

You can see here that when the traffic in front of him is messy he can struggle to come up with a plan, and his peripheral awareness isn’t the best, he doesn’t notice the defenders until he looks at them.

Chris Oladokun transferred to South Dakota State to be the experienced quarterback leading a really good team in desperate need of a quarterback. Oladokun led them to an upset of 4th ranked Sacramento State in the FCS Playoffs, and South Dakota State ended up making it to the semi-finals with Oladokun.

After the season, Oladokun was invited to take part in the NFL Players Association Bowl, designed to give players that were overlooked in other draft-prep-bowls and the combine a chance to shine.

NFLPA Bowl

One of the main things the coaches at the NFLPA Bowl wanted Oladokun to do is take snaps from under center, something he did not do in college. It’s clear he has worked at his footwork from under center, and when the play works, he shows the ability to take his drop and get a throw out in time and accurately.

This play shows one of the chief problems with Chris Oladokun’s game. This is a simple route combo, where the outside receiver runs the slot defender back, opening up a short pass to the slot. Oladokun sees the clear route work and makes the throw. What Chris Oladokun doesn’t see is the linebacker waiting for the slot receiver and the throw.

Oladokun tends to lock onto whatever he is looking at and miss the overall picture, that shows up as a runner and a passer.

Here the start under center and the play action takes Chris Oladokun’s eyes off the defense, and as he turns, he sees the defender coming free and throws an ill-advised pass that is intercepted. Out of a shotgun set he would be able to see the defender much earlier, but with his inexperience on plays like this, he is unprepared and makes what looks like a panic throw.

Chris Oladokun shows the raw traits to become an NFL quarterback. He has the athleticism, arm strength, release and accuracy to be a quality NFL quarterback, but he lacks a lot of the skills necessary to make use of those abilities. The Steelers will give him a chance to develop in an NFL camp. I am skeptical he can grow enough in his decision making and awareness to convince the Steelers to part with one of their top three quarterbacks, and if he can’t earn the No. 3 quarterback spot, he won’t be a Pittsburgh Steeler in September.

3 reasons to like the Steelers’ selection of Kenny Pickett

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/13/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Here are three reasons why Steelers fans can be optimistic about the polarizing selection of Kenny Pickett.

The dust has settled on the 2022 NFL Draft, and the early stages of the offseason program are about to unfold. Having had two weeks to meditate on the Steelers’ selections, it is time to look at the positives, and negatives, of the Steelers’ selections.

Today, we are going to begin with the positives of the Steelers’ first round selection, Kenny Pickett. Pickett was a super senior at Pitt who enjoyed a breakout 2021 season, finishing as a Heisman Trophy finalist. He first caught my eye back in 2017 when he led the Panthers to an upset victory over the Miami Hurricanes in late November, and before returning to school in 2021, I pegged him as the biggest quarterback sleeper in the 2021 draft class.

This year, I had the pleasure of writing Pickett’s scouting report for the BTSC Big Board. When watching his tape, the biggest takeaways were his patience in the pocket and his accuracy over the middle of the field. You can check out my full scouting report on him below.

Kenny Pickett | QB | Pittsburgh Overall Rank: 30
Position Rank: 3

Andrew Wilbar: I have been a big fan of Pickett’s ever since he stepped foot on campus at Pitt. I stood up for him when fans were disgruntled with the offense, and before he decided to return to school for 2021, I was a big proponent of taking a late-round flier on him. I was not surprised when he had his breakout season in 2021, but he has risen too high on the national draft boards for my liking. Pickett is a very solid quarterback who has a decent arm and sneaky good athleticism, but he is older than some of the other quarterbacks in this class, and he does not have an incredibly high ceiling as a pro. The biggest issue, especially for teams that play in cold weather, will be his incredibly small hands. Pickett participated in the 2022 Senior Bowl, but he struggled badly in practices when it was raining. There is no denying that he lost his accuracy and struggled to push the ball downfield when the weather got rough. Pickett’s accuracy improved by leaps and bounds this season, but he sometimes struggled to get off his first read and get through his progressions before the pressure got to him. He reminds me a lot of Kirk Cousins when it comes to his ability to roll out to his weak side, and his delivery and arm strength remind me of a Derek Carr or an Andy Dalton. The big question will be, “Is he capable of anything greater than that?”. That is what teams are going to have to determine over the next few months when it comes to Pickett and how high he should be taken.

We will conclude this two-part breakdown of Pickett next week when we discuss reasons to dislike the selection, but for today, we are going to focus on the good things and give fans a reason to be excited about the team’s next franchise quarterback. If you have any thoughts on this topic, be sure to share them in the comment section below.

Let’s dive in!

1. He was the safest option at quarterback

Everyone seemed to have his own take on this year’s quarterback class. Some saw potential, while others saw projection. However, one constant during the process was the floor of Kenny Pickett. Now, a quarterback’s floor should not be the end-all when it comes to his evaluation. After all, the same was said by many pundits about Josh Rosen, and he has clearly had the least success of the top quarterbacks in the 2018 class. However, I believe it would be a shock to almost any avid fan if Pickett did not become one of the top 32 quarterbacks in the NFL in short order.

2. He has the “it” factor

Pickett’s instinctual ability to make smart decisions with the football is a trait comparable with many of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and his leadership in the locker room has been noted by many with ties to Pitt. This is what I believe separates him from players such as Josh Rosen, who was also considered a safer pick with a lower ceiling. It is extremely unlikely Pickett becomes an elite quarterback in the NFL, but his passion for the game and for his team could carry him farther than most people believe. Combine that with his top-notch instincts, and you have yourself a competent quarterback.

3. He has dual-threat ability

Pickett is no Malik Willis when it comes to athleticism and ability as a runner, but compared to what the Steelers have had under center from an athletic standpoint over the past few seasons, his ability as a runner will be a noticeable upgrade. In a league where defenders are coming in smaller and faster every year, it is becoming more and more necessary for the man under center to have some speed of his own. Pickett is a true 4.7 guy who runs the football like a Justin Herbert or Kirk Cousins in this aspect: he will use his mobility as a way to make plays outside the pocket as a passer more often than he will use it to gain chunk yardage on the ground as a runner. If he can be for the Steelers exactly what he was in college in terms of mobility usage, he will be sufficient for what Matt Canada is looking for.

What do you think is the biggest reason for Steelers fans to be excited about Kenny Pickett? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC for news and notes surrounding the Steelers as we head into the summer portion of the offseason program.

Game-by-game predictions of the Steelers 2022 schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/13/2022 - 7:00am
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The hosts of The Steelers Preview podcast give their knee-jerk predictions of the Steelers 17-game 2022 schedule.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 schedule has officially been released. Even though the opponents have been known for some time, knowing exact dates, times, and locations for matchups make a difference when it comes to the expectations throughout the season. For example, the Steelers traveling to Cleveland for a Thursday night game after hosting the Patriots the previous Sunday makes for a much more difficult contest than if they were making the trip the week following their bye.

Although we are still 13 weeks away from the Steelers first preseason game, and 17 weeks away from Week 1, predicting the outcome of each game gives a baseline starting point for expectations for 2022. Things such as injuries and unexpected quality of play will greatly affect these matchups as they approach. Regardless, the hosts of The Steelers Preview podcast had a special schedule prediction show and took our shot at determining the outcome of each game from week-to-week.

Below are the predictions of Bryan Anthony Davis, Jeff Hartman, and Dave Schofield for the Steelers 2022 season.

(Note: Jeff predicted 17-0 on the show, but gave what he considered a more “down to earth” prediction for the purpose of the article.)

Week 1: at Cincinnati 1 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: W Dave: L

Week 2: vs New England Patriots 1 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: W Dave: W

Week 3: at Cleveland Browns Thursday 8:15 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: W Dave: L

Week 4: vs New York Jets 1 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: W Dave: W

Week 5: at Buffalo Bills 1 PM
Bryan: L Jeff: L Dave: L

Week 6: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 PM
Bryan: L Jeff: L Dave: L

Week 7: at Miami Dolphins Sunday Night 8:20 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: W Dave: W

Week 8: at Philadelphia Eagles 1 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: L Dave: L

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: vs New Orleans Saints 1 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: W Dave: W

Week 11: vs Cincinnati Bengals Sunday Night 8:20 PM
Bryan: L Jeff: L Dave: L

Week 12: at Indianapolis Colts Monday Night 8:15 PM
Bryan: L Jeff: W Dave: W

Week 13: vs Atlanta Falcon 1 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: W Dave: W

Week 14: vs Baltimore Ravens 1 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: W Dave: W

Week 15: at Carolina Panthers 1 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: W Dave: W

Week 16: vs Las Vegas Raiders Saturday 8:15 PM
Bryan: L Jeff: L Dave: W

Week 17: at Baltimore Ravens 1 PM
Bryan: W Jeff: L Dave: L

Week 18: vs Cleveland Browns TBD
Bryan: W Jeff: W Dave: W

Final Record:
Bryan: 12-5 Jeff: 11-6 Dave: 10-7

So there you have it, folks. Our way-too-early predictions are surely ones you won’t want to spend your life savings backing, but it does give us some expectation of the Steelers 2022 season. These predictions are simply made on paper, but performing on the field is ultimately what matters most. And even more important is knowing the dates and times where we can cheer on our beloved Steelers.

The entire Schedule Preview podcast with an explanation behind each game can be heard here:

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/13/2022 - 4:30am

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

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

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

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

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout: Jersey Jinx

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout is the conversation about the Steelers social media conversation. Hosts Kyle Chrise (@KyleChrise) & Greg Benevent (@GregBenevent) break down the hottest and most toxic takes on Steelers twitter. This week, the fans (mostly) welcome a new draft class. We’ll break down the report cards from across the media. Plus, we’ll introduce the newest Steelers to some of the people they’ll find on Black and Gold social media. Then the results of our Mock the Mock study. We’ll tell you who had the most and least mockable mock drafts of the off-season, and reveal what the mocking stats tell us about reality.

Rundown of the show:

  • Toxic Takes
  • Jerseys and the ones that haven’t hosted spectacular players
  • Much, Much More

Take a deep dive into the world of Steelers social media from a yinzer perspective as BTSC proudly presents a very unique show that highlights “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout”.

The Steelers Preview: Immediate reactions to the Steelers’ 2022 schedule release

Two weeks removed from the start of the NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers learned their official 2022 schedule on Thursday. Did the league do the Men of Steel a disservice? There are plenty of narratives attached to the slate of games. This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Steelers Preview with Jeff Hartman, Bryan Anthony Davis, and Dave Schofield. Join the triumphant trio as they combine all things Steelers with shenanigans galore.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the Week
  • Inside the Steelers’ 2022 schedule release
  • Trivia
Let’s Ride Friday: 5 things to watch during Steelers Rookie Minicamp

The Pittsburgh Steelers are conducting Rookie Minicamp this weekend and there’s so much to focus on. What are the 5 things to watch for? This, and more, on the latest “Let’s Ride” podcast with BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • A guide to the Steelers Rookie Mini Camp
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Knee-Jerk Reactions to the Steelers 2022 regular season schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/12/2022 - 7:45pm
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One BTSC writer shares his initial and real time unadulterated reactions to the Steelers 2022 schedule.

Knee-jerk Reactions are immediate responses to a situation without taking the time to analyze the situation. As sports fans, we typically do this every time our team takes the field or is in the news for one reason or another. Steelers’ fans are no different. As is the custom, knee jerk thoughts are recorded in real time and are published immediately after each Steelers game. It’s the BTSC version of shooting first and apologizing later. So with that being said, I’m going to employ that philosophy here during the NFL schedule release. Here are my initial reactions to the Steelers season-to-be.

  • We found out officially a couple hours ago the Steelers will visit the Bengals in Week 1. Make it eight straight seasons opening up on the road.
  • No Brady. No Roethlisberger. It will be a much different Steelers vs. Patriots have to open up the season at Heinz Field.
  • Brady does get to come to Heinz Field for Week 6. I hope he gets up close and personal with T.J. Watt.
  • Two Sunday night games, one Thursday night game, and one Monday night game in terms of prime time. However three of those are on the road, with Week 11 against the Bengals being the only home national prime time matchup.
  • With a Week 9 bye, the Steelers fall right in the middle of the season with their bye week. I'm not feeling a late bye as as big a deal now that the Steelers do not have a 35+ year old quarterback.
  • 8:15 p.m. home game against the Raiders on Christmas Eve. I will probably end up with that game, but not sure I really want it.
  • The Steelers don't see the Ravens at all until December, and then again on January 1. Interesting that they waited until that long end of the season to have those two teams meet up. Reminiscent of 2020.
  • Nice that the farthest west the Steelers go is to Indianapolis and New Orleans.
  • I didn't think about it until looking at the last few games on the schedule, but it is nice that the Steelers go to Buffalo early again this season.
  • Minus the Bengals and Raiders, and not knowing yet the time on the Browns game to end this season, all the other Steeler home games look to be at 1:00 p.m. Great for those of us traveling to the games.
  • I really don't have a lot to complain about with this particular schedule. My biggest complaint is the late Christmas Eve game.
  • A lot of 1:00 p.m. home games, not having to travel to the West Coast at all, mid-season bye in Week 9, overall this schedule makes me pretty happy.
  • Now that the schedule's out I'm even more excited for the regular season. Can't wait!

There you have my knee jerks. I’m going to sleep on these and we’ll see how they hold up in the morning.

The Pittsburgh Steelers official 2022 regular season schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/12/2022 - 7:08pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The full Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 schedule has been released!

The time is here. No more guessing on when the Pittsburgh Steelers will play those critical AFC North divisional games. No more wondering when the Steelers will have their annual bye week. No more speculating if the Steelers will play Christmas Eve or on New Years Day.

The waiting is over as the NFL has released the official 2022 regular season schedules for all 32 teams. Time to see who the Pittsburgh Steelers play, when they play, and what time they take the field!

Please note many of these times are subject to change for a variety of reasons. First, flex scheduling can move games as it has in years past, but starting in 2021 Monday Night Football was thrown into the mix. Although the times and even days of games can change, the weeks will remain the same barring any extenuating circumstances like fans saw two seasons ago.

Time to check out the schedule!

Be sure to check out the DraftKings Sportsbook for all the latest odds.

Preseason Week 1: vs. Seattle Seahawks, Saturday August 13th, 7 PM
Preseason Week 2: at Jacksonville Jaguars, Saturday August 20th, 7 PM
Preseason Week 3: vs. Detroit Lions, Sunday, August 28th, 4:30 PM

Week 1: at Cincinnati Bengals 1 PM
Week 2: vs New England Patriots 1 PM
Week 3: at Cleveland Browns Thursday 8:15 PM
Week 4: vs New York Jets 1 PM
Week 5: at Buffalo Bills 1 PM
Week 6: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 PM
Week 7: at Miami Dolphins 8:20 PM
Week 8: at Philadelphia Eagles 1 PM
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: vs New Orleans Saints 1 PM
Week 11: vs Cincinnati Bengals 8:20 PM
Week 12: at Indianapolis Colts Monday 8:15 PM
Week 13: at Atlanta Falcons 1 PM
Week 14: vs Baltimore Ravens 1 PM
Week 15: at Carolina Panthers 1 PM
Week 16: vs Las Vegas Raiders Saturday 8:15 PM
Week 17: at Baltimore Ravens 1 PM
Week 18: vs Cleveland Browns TBD

(Photo Courtesy of the Steelers official Twitter Account)

Be sure to let us know what you think of the schedule in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2022 season.

Steelers complete second interview with John Spytek for GM opening

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/12/2022 - 5:46pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue their second round of interviews for the vacant GM position.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have held a second interview every day this week as they try to find their next General Manager (GM) after Kevin Colbert’s retirement after the 2022 NFL Draft.

On Tuesday, the Steelers announced they concluded a second interview with one of the candidates reported last week, Ryan Cowden of the Tennessee Titans. Wednesday came and it was reported the Steelers concluded their second interview with Doug Whaley. Thursday saw the team have a second interview with John Spytek of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

We have completed a second round interview for our General Manager position with John Spytek (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 12, 2022

Spytek has been busy this offseason. He already this offseason has interviewed with both the Minnesota Vikings and Las Vegas Raiders as they were trying to find their next GMs.

For some background on Spytek, this is a great description from the Tampa Bay Times when the Vikings put in a formal request to interview Spytek for their GM opening:

Spytek is in his sixth season with Tampa Bay and his 18th in the NFL. Prior to joining the Bucs, Spytek spent three seasons with Denver, where he worked as the Southwest area scout in 2013 before being elevated to national scout, a position he held for two years (2014-15). He spent three seasons (2010-12) as Cleveland’s director of college scouting.

Spytek is in charge of the Bucs’ college and pro scouting departments, handles the preparation for free agency and works with general manager Jason Licht regarding the draft.

He was instrumental in the acquisition of free agents such as linebacker Shaquil Barrett, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, running back Leonard Fournette and trading for linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul.

When the Bucs decided to pursue Tom Brady in the 2020 offseason, it was Spytek who dubbed it Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson, from the movie Field of Dreams. “If you build it, he will come,’’ Spytek would tell Licht.

The Steelers have remained steadfast in their approach to naming their next GM. They haven’t been in any hurry, but it should be coming sooner than later with the draft in the rear view mirror. Will it be an outside hire, or someone in-house like Omar Khan and/or Brandon Hunt?

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on throughout the offseason.

Steelers announce their first two games of the 2022 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/12/2022 - 5:19pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers open on the road for the eighth consecutive season before returning to Heinz Field in Week 2.

With the release of the 2022 NFL schedule a mere hours away, each team was granted permission by the NFL to officially announce their first home game at 6 PM ET. The Pittsburgh Steelers have announced they are scheduled to take on the New England Patriots on Sunday, September 18, 2022 at 1 PM at Heinz Field.

See you at @heinzfield on September 18th for our home opener!

2022 NFL Schedule Release: Tonight at 8 pm ET on @nflnetwork

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 12, 2022

With the Steelers opening up at home in Week 2 of the 2022 NFL season, it means they will be on the road on Week 1 for the eighth consecutive season. While no official announcement has been made yet, there have been plenty of rumors surrounding the Steelers first game and the possibility of them opening at the Cincinnati Bengals.

UPDATE: The Steelers have confirmed they will be opening their 2022 season in Cincinnati on Sunday, September 11, at 1 PM ET.

The regular season begins in Cincinnati.

2022 NFL Schedule Release: Tonight at 8 pm ET on @nflnetwork

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 12, 2022

All of the Steelers home and visiting opponents have been known since the conclusion of the 2021 regular season. But in which weeks and what kickoff times is each matchup is played is still a highly anticipated event for NFL fans.

With the Patriots coming to town, it will likely be the first time the Steelers will face New England with their new quarterback, Mac Jones, as the assumed starter. exactly who will be the starters for the Steelers a quarterback well likely not be known for sometime. The last time the Patriots visited Heinz Field was in December 2018 when the Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers defeated Tom Brady and the Patriots 17–10.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for full coverage of the Steelers schedule release at 8 PM on Thursday, May 12, 2022.

Getting to know the Steelers 2022 UDFAs: Jaylen Warren

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/12/2022 - 2:00pm
Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The Steelers didn’t draft a running back in 2022, but have multiple options with undrafted rookies.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected seven players in the 2022 NFL draft, they continued adding to the roster with ten undrafted free agents. With many draft profiles focusing on those players towards the top and middle of the NFL draft, it is time to get to take a look at these other members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who will have just as much opportunity to make the roster in 2022 as those who were selected in the draft, despite the more difficult path.

Remember, some draft profiles for these players are quite harsh as they are looking at them as a draftable prospect. Taking a flyer on an UDFA is a completely different story as many times the potential the player shows is what lands them on an NFL offseason roster.

Next on the list is Duke running back Jaylen Warren.

Jaylen Warren Running back
Senior
Oklahoma State
5’8” 215 lbs

After two years at Snow College, the same community college where Brett Kiesel started his college career, Jaylen Warren spent 2019 and 2020 at the Utah State where he had 151 rushing attempts for 821 yards and eight touchdowns as well as 20 receptions for 215 yards. Transferring to Oklahoma State for an additional senior season, Warren rushed for 1,216 yards with the Cowboys on 256 attempts and 11 touchdowns along with 25 receptions for 225 yards.

Current Steelers at the position:

Running back

  1. Najee Harris
  2. Benny Snell Jr.
  3. Anthony McFarland Jr.
  4. Trey Edmunds
  5. Mataeo Durant
  6. Jaylen Warren
Draft Profiles:

There was more adequate information in the terms of breakdowns for Warren heading into the 2022 NFL draft. Here is a breakdown from si.com:

Pros:

Determination is a hard factor to quantify, but the peripherals of Jaylen Warren’s journey from JUCO to the draft suggest that he has plenty of it. His style is that of a north-south runner, rarely ever losing yardage. Warren has short, choppy footsteps that allow him to shift direction rapidly. He keeps his weight underneath him, which helps him maintain balance through most contact. Warran showcases above-average acceleration for someone of his size. His physical metrics are NFL-ready back based on height-to-weight ratio. Warren shows good vision, following blockers and consistently hitting the correct hole.

Cons:

Acceleration is there for Warren, but long speed is certainly not. Most college defenders can easily catch him from behind. His weight is adequate, but his height is less than ideal at five-foot-eight. Despite his compact frame, Warren doesn’t consistently lower his shoulder when making contact. He often fails to drive his legs after contact, even while hitting holes hard. Warren shows limited elusiveness, possibly limiting his role at the next level. He wasn’t asked to catch many passes in college, so it’s unclear whether Warren can excel in that arena.

Summary:

There is a role available for Warren at the NFL level. He shows impressive footwork and acceleration for a player of his size. His limited stature might limit his upside, but it allows him to get naturally small when running through holes. Warren has a north-south running style that perfectly suits his abilities. If he can learn to consistently lower his shoulder and drive his legs through contact, he could cement himself in a backup role or as a goal-line back. His long speed and lack of elusiveness will likely prevent him from being a three-down back at the next level. That said, there is plenty of value in a running back who knows how to pick up three or four yards on any given play.

Here is another draft profile from nfldraftbuzz.com:

Strengths

Not truly explosive, but possesses enough speed to beat linebacker to the edge.

A quick, smooth athlete with the footwork to make sharp cuts and redirect his momentum in a flash. Shows good vision and patience with natural running instincts.

Shows a surprising burst to beat linebackers to the edge. Can plant his foot in the ground and explode, showing better straight-line speed than expected.

Does not possess top breakaway speed, though he’s rarely caught from behind.

Has sneaky speed but won’t always get to the corner. Runs low through the hole with size and strength to move the chains as an interior runner. Has a strong stiff-arm and spin move to slip defenders. Best in goal-line situations finds another level of determination. Good recognition as a runner and pass blocker. Natural receiver with versatility as a route-runner.

Has the feet and feel running between the tackles and in the open field. He has very good vision and patience to pick through defenses.

Has good burst to and through the hole. A patient runner with good vision and burst for the cutback. Squares his shoulders and can knock the defender back onto his heels. Good leg drive and forward lean to gain extra yardage after contact.

Weaknesses

Too indecisive and hesitant at the line of scrimmage.

Offers little in pass protection and poor technique cut blocking, fails to do more than slow down blitzers by laying down in front of them.

Lacks elite size for the position and looks maxed out physically - also carries some durability concerns. Has short legs with only average top-end speed and can be caught from behind.

Film:

To finish off the breakdown of Jaylen Warren, no evaluation is complete without film:

(WARNING: Videos could contain explicit lyrics)

Projected QBs the Steelers will face in the 2022 regular season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/12/2022 - 11:45am
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL schedule will be released tonight, but it is time to take a look at the QBs the team will face in 2022.

The 2022 NFL regular season schedule will be released Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, and while everyone will be looking at the important aspects of the schedule, bye week, divisional games, prime time games, there is another facet of the schedule which is extremely important.

Quarterbacks.

We all know the importance of quarterbacks in today’s NFL, and you can argue how who you will face at the position every week could indicate your overall success. When you take away a team’s starting quarterback, for whatever reason, it can severely impact the outcome of the game.

Take the Week 6 game vs. the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field last season for example. Russell Wilson was the man at the helm until he injured his finger. Suddenly, it is Geno Smith, not Wilson, coming into Pittsburgh for a Sunday Night Football game. Completely different feel to the game once that happened.

So, while these names could change, looking at the projected starters of each opponent the Steelers will play is a valuable exercise.

Let’s take a look at the Steelers’ 2022 opponents, and where they will play...

HOME

Baltimore Ravens — QB: Lamar Jackson

Things aren’t “fine” in the Charm City between Jackson and the Ravens, but he’ll play under his 5th year option on 2022.

Cincinnati Bengals — QB: Joe Burrow

Nothing else to see here...moving on.

Cleveland Browns — QB: Deshaun Watson (??)

Cleveland is excited to start their new chapter with Watson at the helm, but those 22 cases hang over their head like a cloud. Will Watson be suspended? If so, for how long? This could change things dramatically for the Browns. Jacoby Brissett and/or Joshua Dobbs are next in line. I guess Baker Mayfield could stay too...this situation could be interesting.

New England Patriots — QB: Mac Jones

Jones is the guy in New England.

New York Jets — QB: Zach Wilson

The second year gun slinger from BYU will be at the helm after an injury-plagued rookie season.

New Orleans Saints — QB: Jameis Winston

Everyone thought the Saints would be in the running for Kenny Pickett, but New Orleans ignored the position throughout the entire draft.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers — QB: Tom Brady

Just when you thought his retirement meant he would never play in Pittsburgh again, he’s back. Barf.

Las Vegas Raiders — QB: Derek Carr

The Raiders paid Carr handsomely this offseason. Remember when everyone thought they’d trade him? Yeah, not anymore.

AWAY

Baltimore Ravens — See Above

Cincinnati Bengals — See Above

Cleveland Browns — See Above

Atlanta Falcons — QB: Marcus Mariota (??)

After the Steelers picked up Mitchell Trubisky in free agency, Mariota eventually signed with the Falcons after they traded away Matt Ryan. On top of that, the organization drafted Desmond Ridder in the 3rd Round. Mariota will be the starter, but will he be there for the entire season? That has yet to be determined.

Carolina Panthers — QB: Sam Darnold (??)

The former first round draft pick was replaced by an aging Cam Newton last season, and after the team drafted Matt Corral in the 2022 NFL Draft you have to wonder if Darnold’s leash is short. Needless to say, who the Steelers face in this game will depend on when they play Carolina.

Buffalo Bills — QB: Josh Allen

Nothing to see here. Moving on.

Miami Dolphins — QB: Tua Tagovailoa

Tua is the guy in south beach, and the organization certainly put the pieces in place for him to succeed. One has to think if Tua struggles this year, he might be out of time in Miami.

Indianapolis Colts — QB: Matt Ryan

In: Matt Ryan. Out: Carson Wentz. Talk about an upgrade for Indianapolis. Even though Ryan is in the waning years of his career, he should be a stabilizing force for the Colts’ offense.

Philadelphia Eagles — QB: Jalen Hurts

Talk to any Philly fan and they’ll tell you Hurts is on a one-year trial basis. If he plays well in 2022, he could be viewed as the guy. But as of right now many are considering him still in the “try-out” phase of his career.

The Steelers’ 2022 regular season schedule might not be the most difficult, based on 2021 opponent winning percentage, but the quarterbacks they will face certainly bring another dimension to the schedule. Will they end up facing all of these quarterbacks, or will other factors, like injuries, prevent some of these matchups from happening?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news on the schedule release tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

Steelers Vertex: Can Kendrick Green gain the consistency needed to be a quality starter?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/12/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Stelers starting center from 2021 will need to take a step forward in his second season if he hopes to retain the job.

The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t add any offensive linemen in the 2022 NFL draft, although they did sign three UDFAs to the offseason roster. Building the roster via free agency, the Steelers would likely see the biggest jump in production from the line if their young players improve for 2022. One player in particular is 2021 starting center Kendrick Green. But does Green bring enough to the table to be the starter in 2022? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

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

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

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

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

Once again, the statistics for offensive line are difficult to come by. But as for Kendrick Green‘s rookie season of 2021, he was a rarity for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a player starting his very first game in Week 1 as a third-round draft pick. Green started the first 15 games of the season for the Steelers and played a total of 977 offensive snaps. On the season, Green had six accepted penalties against him, the majority of which were for holding.

When it came to scores by Pro Football Focus, I did all I could to try to make sense of the data and how Green was somewhat all over the charts. Who was playing next to him at left guard was something I looked into, but the number still fluctuated and no pattern emerged. Just to clarify, Kevin Dotson started the first nine games at the left guard next to Green with J.C. Hassenauer getting the next start. B.J. Finney then started two games at left guard for the Steelers but only played three snaps in the second game and was relieved by John Leglue. Leglue held down the position for the remainder of the year.

While it would be an easy explanation to see if Green had scores that lined up with his various teammates, they simply did not. His overall PFF score for the season was 52.4 with a 50.7 grade for pass blocking and a 54.7 mark for run blocking. Green’s best game of the season according to PFF was in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers with an overall score of 77.2, a pass blocking score of 68.0, and a season-high 80.5 run blocking score. Green’s best pass blocking score on the season came in Week 9 against the Chicago Bears.

As for his worst games of the season, Green was very inconsistent as he had scores in the 40s in Week 5, Week 14, and Week 16.

Looking at the stats, the biggest thing that stands out about Kendrick Green’s rookie season is inconsistent play from week to week. Perhaps a little bit more will come into focus after looking at the film.

The Film Line:

Kendrick Green was incredibly inconsistent, mostly because his technique was inconsistent. But instead of trying to show that, I wanted to focus on what he was more consistently good at.

Steelers at Bills, 1st quarter, 13:30.

Kendrick Green is the center.

This is Kendrick Green’s first NFL snap. You can see his athleticism in his burst to aid Trai Turner and the impact he has on the defensive tackle that leads to a pancake block. He gets to the linebacker and gives Najee Harris a bit more room in his run.

Steelers at Bills, 3rd quarter, 14:59.

Kendrick Green is the center.

This time Green also shows off his tenacity as he picks up the block started by Trai Turner and ends up folding the defender backwards in his quest to finish the block.

These two blocks show Kendrick Green’s upside, He covers ground quickly and converts his quickness into a good first strike when he meets his target. He has a nasty streak and once he gets an advantage, he likes to make his opponent pay for it.

These were from his first NFL game, and it wasn’t a bad game for the rookie at all. You can see why the Steelers wanted to get him involved early on a team that was hoping to be a much improved rushing team.

Steelers at Browns, 2nd quarter, 5:34.

Kendrick Green is the center.

Kendrick Green, in the middle of the season, was part of a line that seemed to be developing into a solid unit. His main strength is still on his combo blocks, and you can see the left side of the offensive line was starting to dominate. Anytime the Steelers got Kendrick Green moving forward before having to block he did really well, and that makes him especially good on these combo blocks.

Steelers at Vikings, 2nd quarter, 2:20.

Kendrick Green is the center.

But even when Green wasn’t just helping, he often was up to the task. Here Green matches the defender and stays with them, staying on the block until he has to let the defender go to avoid a holding call.

Kendrick Green shows potential when he is able to use his athleticism and tenacity to attack defenders.

Steelers at Browns, 2nd quarter, 4:07.

Kendrick Green is the center.

The problems were when Green wasn’t attacking the defender, but had to use technique to slow down and absorb defenders. This clip shows really well how badly he loses first contact here, and while he is able to steer the rush away from Ben Roethlisberger, you can see the difference when Green was attacking and when he was not.

The Point:

For the future, the Steelers have to hope that Kendrick Green can improve his technique and become a complete offensive lineman. It is also worth noting that offensive line coach Pat Meyer is all about his lineman being aggressive and attacking defenders instead of waiting and trying to counter the defender’s attack. That may have a favorable impact on Kendrick Green’s chances of becoming a quality NFL starter. With multiple options on the interior offensive line for 2022, training camp and the preseason will be interesting to watch. If Kendrick Green is the starter come September, it should be due improved and consistent play rather than being the only viable option.

Top 5 Steelers roster battles of the 2022 offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/12/2022 - 8:30am
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL Draft behind us, we start looking at the most important competitions of the offseason.

The 2022 NFL Draft is over. Undrafted Free Agents have been signed. Rookie minicamp is coming soon, and after that the players will start competing for starting jobs, rotational snaps and for many, just to keep their NFL dreams alive.

Taking a look at the current roster, some clear battles emerge that will be important to watch as the offseason progresses. Here’s my Top 5 roster battles for 2022.

#5 - Defensive Line Depth

The Steelers struggled to put together a competent group of three defensive lineman in 2021 due to several key injuries. But in 2022? Everyone from 2021 appears to be returning, and the Steelers added a 3rd round pick in DeMarvin Leal and bring back a surprisingly good mid-season roster addition in Montravius Adams.

This isn’t a debate over which bottom of the depth chart lineman the Steelers like best. If everyone stays healthy through the preseason, the Steelers will have to make some tough decisions on the defensive line.

Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Montravius Adams, Isaiahh Loudermilk and DeMarvin Leal would all be locks in most years due to their pedigree and quality of prior play. But that’s seven defensive lineman, and the Steelers usually keep 6. Could they keep seven? Sure, but that will cost the Steelers a quality special teams player, and none of those seven are special teams players.

This will likely sort itself out before the preseason, either through injury, drop off in play or even the potential of Stephon Tuitt not returning to the team. But if they all return and stay healthy, someone is going to have to be knocked off this roster, and it will not be easy.

#4 - The Inside Linebacker Rotation

This may not seem like an obvious roster battle, the Steelers let Joe Schobert go and brought in Myles Jack, but the issue here is the role the inside linebackers play. Myles Jack and Devin Bush are both linebackers that have excelled in coverage and in their ability to cover ground to get to the ball. Devin Bush is a question mark due to his struggles to bounce back from injury, but if he is healthy the Steelers could have two Pro-Bowl level linebackers competing for the same role.

No matter what level Devin Bush is able to return to, the Steelers need an inside linebacker that can take on blocks and attack the line of scrimmage more than drop into coverage and run laterally. They don’t have any proven options in that role to choose from. Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson and possibly versatile linebacker Genard Avery could all grab that role and the snaps that go with it.

Ideally Devin Bush returns to the linebacker we saw early in 2020, Myles Jack returns to the form he showed early in his career before the Jaguars defense was dismantled and Buddy Johnson becomes the player the Steelers saw he could be when they drafted him last year. But no matter what happens, the inside linebacker position is one spot with a clear opportunity for players to grab a bigger role in the Steelers defense.

#3 - The Starting Center

Kendrick Green was thrust into a starting role as a rookie, and it was clear he wasn’t ready for it. He lost that job to J.C. Hassenauer who showed massive improvement over the player he was as a rookie in 2020. The Steelers signed Mason Cole in Free Agency to add veteran competition for the center job as well.

There’s also a chance the Steelers move James Daniels to center, a spot he has played before, although it is more likely he takes the wide-open starting guard spot, after he played the best season of his young career at right guard.

Can Kendrick Green make a Hassenauer-esque leap from year one to year two? Can Hassenauer continue his assent and provide legitimate competition for the starting job? Will Mason Cole’s experience make him the best option for the starting job? That remains to be seen.

#2 - Sorting out the Cornerback Room

The Steelers lost Joe Haden for a time last season, and in his absence Ahkello Witherspoon played a series of great games in coverage, reminding everyone of the promise he showed in college but has struggled to put on an NFL field consistently. Witherspoon joins Cameron Sutton and free agent Levi Wallace in a very solid group of three cornerbacks. All three have shown they can be successful in the No. 2 cornerback role, while all three have struggled when leaned on to be their team’s top corner.

How the Steelers sort out their starting corners and the nickel back role will be the biggest decision on the defensive side of the ball. Add into the equation Arthur Maulet’s experience as a nickel back, Tre Norwood’s potential improvement on a very good rookie season as the dime back and backup free safety, and the potential of using one of their three top safeties in the slot and the question of how the Steelers will sort out the cornerback roles and snaps is an obvious storyline to pay close attention to this offseason.

#1 - The Starting Quarterback

Mason Rudolph has been the starter in waiting for years, and he’ll get a shot at the job. Mitchell Trubisky was a priority Steelers target in Free Agency, signing almost immediately with the Steelers. Kenny Pickett may be a rookie, but he’s also a first-round pick, and first round quarterbacks usually end up starting early on.

The Steelers added two quality lottery tickets in their quest to find their next starting quarterback after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, but which one will take the reigns and control of the offense?

The most important position in the game has been a position of stability for just under two decades for the Steelers, and in the first quarterback battle the Steelers have been engaged in since after Roethlisberger’s phenomenal rookie year, the Steelers have three contenders for the title.

This is easily the most important roster battle of the 2022 Steelers offseason and will rightly be the focus of most of the speculation and analysis these next several months.

The Steelers have added a lot of talent to the roster so far in the 2022 offseason, but few of those players came in with a clear role. From free agent additions through every draft pick, there are a lot of questions as to what their role on the team will be.

That makes for an exciting offseason, and a fantastic time for the Steelers to return to Saint Vincent College for training camp.

What do you think? Any of these roster battles overblown? Is there a big one I overlooked? Let me know.

Steelers Post-Draft Roster Review, Part 2: Wide Receivers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/12/2022 - 7:15am
Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL Draft is over and the Steelers have added many new faces to the roster. In this series, we’ll take a look at each position and what you need to know as the offseason rolls on. In Part Two, we’ll break down the wide receivers.

There has been a ton of turnover in the Steelers wide receiver (WR) room from 2021 to 2022. Gone are recent fixtures like Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster (Chiefs), Ray-Ray McCloud (49ers), and James Washington (Cowboys). Until the events in Las Vegas, only two pass-catchers were under contract who had any prior production with the team.

Those two players are 2021 top target Diontae Johnson and 3rd-year pro Chase Claypool, who has yet to really break out in the way the Steelers and their fans probably would have hoped. The remainder of the existing unit consists of roster hopefuls like Ricco Bussey, Anthony Miller, Steven Sims, Tyler Vaughns, and Cody White, as well as return specialist Gunner Olszewski and the newly acquired Miles Boykin after being waived by the Ravens.

Then came the NFL Draft, where the Steelers addressed the position early and often, with WR selection in Rounds 2 and 4 in the form of Georgia stud George Pickens and the diminutive, but dynamic, Memphis product Calvin Austin III. No Undrafted Rookie Free Agents (UDFAs) were added, so the Steelers head into the remainder of the offseason with 11 players at the position.

With so much young talent and potential in the room, the Steelers will look to field an explosive, game-changing unit for whoever starts under center in 2022. Like we did with the Quarterbacks in Part One of this series, let’s break down how this position could shake out for the regular season.

Preview Post-Draft Roster Reviews:

Player Breakdown

Let’s start with the known commodities. Diontae Johnson is suddenly the elder statesman and WR1 of the group with the departure of Smith-Schuster. His route-running prowess and quickness are well-documented, as are his, at times, questionable hands. He returns as the likely top receiving target in this Matt Canada offense.

The team’s real wild card is former 2nd round pick Chase Claypool, who has all the physical tools, but has yet to put it all together in the NFL. If he can figure it out, Claypool has the ability to be a top-tier wideout in the league.

The rookies both have real shots at quality snaps and production in 2022. George Pickens could have the same said about him as Claypool. All the physical tools in the world. Can he put it together? For Pickens, injury history is a concern, but the team seems very confident he is 100% healthy. Look for Pickens to be a major part of this offense early in the year. He has that kind of talent.

Austin III is such a fun prospect to watch and root for. A truly explosive and fast player, he has the ability to take the top off the defense or take it the distance on any given play. How Matt Canada envisions his role in the offense will play a major role in his year-1 success, but the Memphis product brings a lot to be excited about.

Don’t sleep on guys like Anthony Miller and Steven Sims making a run at significant snaps, let alone a roster spot. Miles Boykin brings a decent amount of experience from Baltimore, but likely finds more of a role on special teams. The Steelers did a good job of adding/retaining upside at the position. The group as a whole could be one of the league’s best and deepest, if all goes according to plan.

Depth Chart Prediction

Both Claypool and Pickens have the ability to be this team’s top dog at WR, and by the end of the season, I believe you’ll see one (or both) of them really established as a game-changing weapon on the outside. Claypool often has looked his best playing out of the slot (see vs. Philadelphia in 2020), while I see Pickens as more of a traditional “X” receiver. For now though, Diontae Johnson returns as the team’s most reliable and dangerous WR and could even be better in a fully-installed Matt Canada system that helps receivers find open space. Johnson in open space is a problem for opposing defenses.

Austin’s speed gives the Steelers the downfield threat they haven’t had in a long time, and should keep defenses honest any time he is on the field. Look for Austin to be used a lot in the jet sweeps and pre-snap gadgetry famous to a Canada offense as well. At his best, he has Tyreek Hill-like ability. Even if the Steelers don’t get that out of him in year one, he has a lot of upside as an all-around weapon on offense.

Outside of Gunner Olszewski, who likely takes over both kick and punt return duties, I like Anthony Miller or Miles Boykin as having the best odds to make the 53-man roster as speedy guys with special teams ability to round out the room. Sims makes sense in that thought process too.

WR1: Diontae Johnson

WR2: Chase Claypool

WR3: George Pickens

WR4: Calvin Austin III

WR5: Gunner Olszewski

WR6: Miles Boykin

Practice Squad: Anthony Miller, Steven Sims, Cody White

How do you see this room shaking out during the offseason? Who’s going to be the top target by season’s end? Let me know your thoughts in the comments and the poll below.

The NFL dominates everything, even on people’s birthdays

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/12/2022 - 6:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL continues to ruin birthdays with its annual schedule reveal.

Hey, it’s almost Thursday night, which means we get to see when every team in the National Football League, but especially your precious little Steelers, plays their silly little regular-season games in 2022.

Sure, you’ve known the who and where for months, but you’ve just got to know the when. Look at you, you’re all hopped up on the National Football League, and all it’s giving you is crumbs this time around.

And what do you do with those crumbs? You inhale them as if you haven’t consumed NFL news in months. “Oh, thank you, NFL, for revealing your schedule to me for free, even though I would have totally paid for the privilege of knowing the “when” part of your royal and totally divine dates and times. Do you have any other schedules you’d like to reveal to us, your gridiron sheeple, like maybe when your grounds crews cut the grass at your teams’ training camp locations?”

Hey, look, I just found a copy of the Steelers 2009 regular-season schedule in my desk drawer. They played teams at various times, days and locations that year. Who knew?

Anyway, as the title suggests, Thursday, May 12, is my birthday, and for the second-straight year, the NFL has decided to reveal its schedule on the very same day. You know, it used to be that I could get away from the NFL for a bit, as could my friends and family, and bask in the glow of my special day without Lord Goodell encroaching on it for his own glory and gratification.

It’s bad enough that Mom does that to me every few years with her “special day,” now I have the NFL coming in and slowly eradicating it from the memories of all of my fans altogether? Not only is Thursday my birthday, but it's my 50th. And as you may or may not know, that’s the age when red-blooded American male football fans not named Tom Brady stop fantasizing about scoring the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl and start fantasizing about scoring the game-winning touchdown in their co-ed recreational flag football league.

Don’t you already have enough, NFL? You own everything. You’ve got Thanksgiving. You’ve got Christmas. You’ve got New Year’s. Heck, your most-recent Super Bowl fell on February 13, which means you practically own Valentine’s Day now (I suppose I should thank you for that).

You own all of March with your free agency. You own all of April with your draft. If an NFL player decides to not show up for OTAs, you own that whole week. Mini-camp takes away June. Training camp devours July and August. Before you know it, it’s September, and you’ve got your little disciples completely under your spell for the next six months.

Is there no birthday or holiday that is sacred to you, NFL?

What about Major League Baseball or the NBA/NHL playoffs? Do we even know who’s playing? No, because of your glorified college graduation known as the NFL Draft followed by the revealing of your “when.”

You are not going to ruin my birthday for me, again, NFL. I plan on eating cake and watching anything but your dog and pony schedule reveal. “But how will you ever know when the Steelers play in 2022?” you may be asking me.

I’ll just Google it 10 seconds later. I might be old and grumpy, but I still know how to use the Internet.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to try and remember why I was so angry when I first started writing this Steelers article.

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