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Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown connection is strong against Falcons: ‘The wifi was lit’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 4:44pm

The prolific partnership appeared to be back on track in Week 5 with some vintage moments from the duo against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

A final stat line of six receptions for 101-yards and two touchdowns might not rank among the best of Antonio Brown’s career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it certainly put a smile back on his face on Sunday. With a 47-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Ben Roethlisberger to Brown connection looked just as strong as ever, and the NFL’s best wide receiver was quick to note he had never lost faith in his quarterback, when talking to the media after the game.

“We always on the same page, we always positive. We never listen to what the media say, we know we got to stay together regardless of what's being said. All of my touchdowns, all of my catches if from him, and that's my guy. I live and die with him. the wifi was lit”

There are no words. pic.twitter.com/g4MH2R43qW

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

An average of 16.8 yards per reception was a vast improvement over Brown’s more pedestrian outings as of late, and the duo looked to be in 2017 form against the Atlanta Falcons, relative to their efforts through the first four weeks of this season.

While it would be fair to say that Big Ben appeared to be forcing the ball to his star receiver at times, a decision that clearly led to an interception as the end of the first half, there were finally moments in the contest when the due looked perfectly in sync. Brown’s opening touchdown of the game was another highlight fans have become used to seeing from the two players.

Antonio Brown has tied John Stallworth for the 2nd-most touchdown catches in #SteelersHistory. pic.twitter.com/SgWaidA6k1

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

Two touchdowns on the day were enough to move Brown past John Stallworth for the second most receiving-touchdowns in team history with 64, behind only Hines Ward (85). He also tied a record for the most muti-touchdown reception games in Pittsburgh history with Ward, as per the Steelers’ PR manager Dom Rinelli.

With two touchdown catches today, Antonio Brown (@AB84) has posted the 15th game of his NFL career with at least two scoring grabs, tying Hines Ward for the most multi-touchdown catch games in #Steelers history:

Antonio Brown 15
Hines Ward 15
Lynn Swann 10

— Dom Rinelli (@drinelli) October 7, 2018

Knee Jerk Reactions to the Steelers’ 41-17 win over Atlanta in Week 5

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 3:14pm

One BTSC writer shares his real-time, initial thoughts of the Steelers’ breakout against Atlanta. But is it real or is he on his deathbed?

As Week Four was as demoralizing as it gets, I felt compelled enough to pick against the Steelers again at home against Atlanta. It started off better this week, but Steeler Nation is snake bitten, So I should just shut my trap and react as the game develops and open the window to all of you. So if you want to know how my emotions fluctuated throughout the evening, keep on reading.

Nonetheless, a simple reminder, a knee jerk reaction is an immediate and unthinking, emotional reaction. It’s basically shooting first and apologizing later. I can safely say that’s a true definition of your’s truly and a good lot of Steeler Nation. Here’s my real-time reactions during the Steelers and Falcons quest for redemption.

Quarter 1
  • James Conner has to set the tone early. Gotta set up the pass with the run.
  • Not a TD. Should be reversed.
  • Nice dive by Conner. That’s definitely a score.
  • How much more of Boswell can we take?
  • Is Landry’s absence as a holder the problem?
  • I really wanted to see Matthew Thomas, but Fort is playing with heart.
  • The Steelers really need to set the tone early with no points on the first drive.
  • I know it is a free play, but Vance still needs to catch balls like that.
  • Conner looks like a true feature back so far.
  • Ben is not on point at all.
  • The Ridley change-of-pace is good scheming.
  • Great grab on a not-so-great pass by JuJu.
Quarter 2
  • A T.J. Watt sighting...good.
  • Don’t blame AB, Ben is missing him.
  • Defense is regressing.
  • Edmunds looks good during this drive.
  • Dammit Dupree.
  • Watt the f#$@?????????????
  • Hard to blame T.J. on that. Hate that call.
  • Terrible third down defense.
  • Two sacks one drive. Am I in a coma?
  • Finally a third down stop.
  • Blitzing makes a huge difference. Wish they could have done that last week.
  • Mike Hilton is valuable to this team.
  • Huge penalty on that punt. Gotta capitalize.
  • Good decision by Ben to pull Dan and run instead of throw it away.
  • Tak McKinley, that’s why you here about Big Ben. Made you look silly on that play.
  • Bad decision by Ben. Blew a decision for a Chris Boswell miss on that pick.
  • He’s decomposing by the week.
Quarter 3
  • Decent defense to start the second half.
  • I don’t think he is, but if Ben is throwing to AB out of spite...that’s a problem.
  • That was a pretty drive.
  • Ben and AB are magic when they connect.
  • Defensive stop and a Special Teams block...how many wires am I hooked up to?
  • Rosie Nix is a perfect Steeler.
  • Frustration leading to a defensive penalty and it isn’t the Steelers. Definitely a coma.
  • Get in the end zone and widen the gap.
  • Great assist by Rosie. Nice run by JC.
  • Bostic fell. Horrible call.
  • Bud needs his hands chopped off. That’s two, Alvin.
Quarter 4
  • Don’t worry Fox announcers, Julio is going to get his catches and then some.
  • Ito Smith is named after Lance Ito? Kudos Mrs. Smith. Just Brilliant.
  • That hookup between AB and Ben was Jennifer Aniston gorgeous.
  • Falcon fans, I feel ya. Your team looks like they’ve gone to a Western PA school of discipline as well.
  • Conner is putting on a clinic.
  • I want that “Pittsburgh is Stronger Than Cancer” T-shirt.
  • Brian Allen is having a great game on Special Teams.
  • Good job, Artie Burns.
  • Correction. C’mon Artie Burns.
  • Watt came to life today. Fort as well.
  • Defensive TD? My God....they’re going to pull the pug on me. I’ve got to fight the white light.
  • Huge win. Ben was much better in the second half.
  • This was a huge win. I should pick against them more.

...

So...now as I replay the game more and more in my head, my perceptions and maybe my prescriptions will alter. But for now, you just got a glimpse of the first thoughts that popped in my mind while I was watching this game. Feel free to get your commentus maximus on in the section below.

Steelers dominate Falcons 41-17 for first home win of the season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 3:04pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers got back in the win column with a very nice win over the Atlanta Falcons at home.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had been stalling the past few weeks with a dull 1-2-1 record, and their opponent in Week 5 was following suit. The Atlanta Falcons entered the game at Heinz Field with a 1-3 record, and completely out of sorts. However, this game was a shootout in the making with both offenses looking to light up the scoreboard to get their team back in the win column.

After Atlanta won the coin toss, and deferred to the second half, the Steelers’ offense got their first first down on their opening possession of the season, and much more. The drive highlighted big plays by running back James Conner, and ended with a Conner one yard plunge into the endzone. However, Chris Boswell’s kicking woes continued as he missed yet another point-after, giving the Steelers a 6-0 lead.

Going pic.twitter.com/y3H0nu6uEK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

After the Steelers defense forced a Falcons punt, Pittsburgh’s offense marched 96-yards down the field and capped off the drive with a Ben Roethlisberger strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster for the touchdown. Mike Tomlin elected to allow Boswell to try another extra point, which was good, making the score 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.

What.
A.
Catch.
pic.twitter.com/sVYNn6QtIr

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

On their next drive, and only their second possession of the game, the Falcons knew they had to come up with an answer. After converting several third-and-long situations, Matt Ryan found Mohammed Sanu for the Falcons’ first score of the game, making the score 13-7.

After the Steelers’ first three-and-out of the game, the Falcons’ went on a time consuming drive deep into Pittsburgh territory. A pair of Pittsburgh penalties aided the drive, but back-to-back sacks by T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward held Atlanta to a Matt Bryant field goal. The 47-yard kick was good, making the score 13-10 with just under 5 minutes remaining in the first half.

Throughout the second quarter, the Steelers had yet to even gain a first down, let alone put points on the board, but with 1:42 left in the half the Pittsburgh defense got the offense the ball back with a chance to extend their lead. With the ball inside the 10-yard line, Roethlisberger tried to find Antonio Brown in the endzone but was intercepted.

After halftime, and an Atlanta punt to start the third quarter, Pittsburgh took the ball and wasted little time adding to their lead. Led by Conner, Roethlisberger threw a bullet to Antonio Brown for the touchdown, and to extend the lead 20-10.

Antonio Brown has tied John Stallworth for the 2nd-most touchdown catches in #SteelersHistory. pic.twitter.com/SgWaidA6k1

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

Atlanta’s ensuing drive resulted in another three-and-out, but on the punt Roosevelt Nix knifed through the line of scrimmage to get his hand on the football for the block. The play gave the Steelers the football already in the red-zone.

Get you a guy who can do it all. pic.twitter.com/Ues60WZfz9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

Two plays later it was James Conner who followed Roosevelt Nix’s blocking and hit pay dirt for the second time of the day, and extending the Steelers’ lead 27-10.

Punts. Defenders. Doesn't matter.@Dat_Dude_Nix blocks them all. pic.twitter.com/UObRDayME4

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

In desperate need of a scoring drive of their own, Atlanta was able to do just that by taking advantage of several Steelers penalties in a lengthy drive which was capped off with a two-yard touchdown run by running back Ito Smith. The score cut into Pittsburgh’s lead by making the score 27-17 with just over 12-minutes left in the fourth quarter.

With plenty of time to answer, the Steelers continued to milk the clock, but more importantly, finish drives with touchdowns. After James Conner moved the offense to midfield, it was a 47-yard deep pass from Roethlisberger to Brown for his second touchdown of the game, and extended the Steelers’ lead 34-17 with just over 9-minutes left in the quarter.

There are no words. pic.twitter.com/g4MH2R43qW

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

At this stage in the game, Atlanta needed points, and decided to go for it on 4th down on their next drive, but the Ryan pass intended for Sanu fell incomplete, giving the ball back to the Steelers on downs. Pittsburgh failed to convert the possession into points, but were able to take valuable time off the clock.

In on last ditch effort to climb back into the game, Matt Ryan was sacked again by T.J. Watt, and fumbled the football into the end-zone. L.J. Fort fell on the ball in the end-zone to make the final score 41-17.

The Steelers’ win moves their record to 2-2-1, their first win at Heinz Field of the season, with the team now preparing for a Week 6 showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals in Ohio. Stay glued to BTSC for the latest, and greatest, Pittsburgh Steelers news heading into Week 6.

Steelers vs. Falcons, Week 5: 3rd quarter in-game update

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 2:19pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and we keep you up to date with those who aren’t able to watch the game live.

1st Quarter In-Game Update

2nd Quarter In-Game Update

After halftime, and an Atlanta punt to start the third quarter, Pittsburgh took the ball and wasted little time adding to their lead. Led by Conner, Roethlisberger threw a bullet to Antonio Brown for the touchdown, and to extend the lead 20-10.

Antonio Brown has tied John Stallworth for the 2nd-most touchdown catches in #SteelersHistory. pic.twitter.com/SgWaidA6k1

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

Atlanta’s ensuing drive resulted in another three-and-out, but on the punt Roosevelt Nix knifed through the line of scrimmage to get his hand on the football for the block. The play gave the Steelers the football already in the red-zone.

Get you a guy who can do it all. pic.twitter.com/Ues60WZfz9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

Two plays later it was James Conner who followed Roosevelt Nix’s blocking and hit pay dirt for the second time of the day, and extending the Steelers’ lead 27-10.

Punts. Defenders. Doesn't matter.@Dat_Dude_Nix blocks them all. pic.twitter.com/UObRDayME4

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

The Falcons have the ball, and are driving, to end the 3rd quarter.

Steelers vs. Falcons: Second-half live updates, injury news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 1:35pm

The Steelers are back on the gridiron! The 2018 regular season is here with the Steelers and Falcons locking horns in Week 5. Keep tabs on all things Black-and-gold with our updates and open thread.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back on the field in the 2018 regular season as they prepare to face off against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5.

Throughout the game, be sure to check back here for score updates, injury news and any breaking news from those on the sidelines following the team live. You can also follow along in the Twitter feed below.

For those wondering, you can enjoy some lively commentary with the best Steelers fans across the globe in the open thread for all BTSC members in the comment section below. Let’s remember to keep it clean, respect everyone’s thoughts and ideas, and ultimately remember we’re all here for the same reason—to root on the Steelers!

So enjoy the game and be sure to follow BTSC for all the latest news surrounding the team throughout the game and afterwards!

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

Steelers vs. Falcons, Week 5: 2nd quarter in-game update

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 1:28pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and we keep you up to date with those who aren’t able to watch the game live.

1st Quarter In-Game Update

On the first drive of the second quarter, and only their second of the game, the Falcons knew they had to come up with an answer. After converting several third-and-long situations, Matt Ryan found Mohammed Sanu for the Falcons’ first score of the game, making the score 13-7.

After the Steelers’ first three-and-out of the game, the Falcons’ went on a time consuming drive deep into Pittsburgh territory. A pair of Pittsburgh penalties aided the drive, but back-to-back sacks by T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward held Atlanta to a Matt Bryant field goal. The 47-yard kick was good, making the score 13-10 with just under 5 minutes remaining in the first half.

Throughout the second quarter, the Steelers had yet to even gain a first down, let alone put points on the board, but with 1:42 left in the half the Pittsburgh defense got the offense the ball back with a chance to extend their lead. With the ball inside the 10-yard line, Roethlisberger tried to find Antonio Brown in the endzone but was intercepted.

The score would stand 13-10 at halftime, with the Falcons due to get the ball to start the 3rd quarter.

Steelers vs. Falcons, Week 5: 1st quarter in-game update

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 12:39pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and we keep you up to date with those who aren’t able to watch the game live.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had been stalling the past few weeks with a dull 1-2-1 record, and their opponent in Week 5 was following suit. The Atlanta Falcons entered the game at Heinz Field with a 1-3 record, and completely out of sorts. However, this game was a shootout in the making with both offenses looking to light up the scoreboard to get their team back in the win column.

After Atlanta won the coin toss, and deferred to the second half, the Steelers’ offense got their first first down on their opening possession of the season, and much more. The drive highlighted big plays by running back James Conner, and ended with a Conner one yard plunge into the endzone. However, Chris Boswell’s kicking woes continued as he missed yet another point-after, giving the Steelers a 6-0 lead.

Going pic.twitter.com/y3H0nu6uEK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 7, 2018

After the Steelers defense forced a Falcons punt, Pittsburgh’s offense marched 96-yards down the field and capped off the drive with a Ben Roethlisberger strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster for the touchdown. Mike Tomlin elected to allow Boswell to try another extra point, which was good, making the score 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Steelers vs. Falcons: First-half live updates, injury news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 11:45am

The Steelers are back on the gridiron! The 2018 regular season is here with the Steelers and Falcons locking horns in Week 5. Keep tabs on all things Black-and-gold with our updates and open thread.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back on the field in the 2018 regular season as they prepare to face off against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5.

Throughout the game, be sure to check back here for score updates, injury news and any breaking news from those on the sidelines following the team live. You can also follow along in the Twitter feed below.

For those wondering, you can enjoy some lively commentary with the best Steelers fans across the globe in the open thread for all BTSC members in the comment section below. Let’s remember to keep it clean, respect everyone’s thoughts and ideas, and ultimately remember we’re all here for the same reason—to root on the Steelers!

So enjoy the game and be sure to follow BTSC for all the latest news surrounding the team throughout the game and afterwards!

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

Steelers fans’ confidence in the team hits an all-time low for the season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 11:24am

Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans aren’t very confident in their favorite NFL team heading into Week 5.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team in flux. Starting the season with a 1-2-1 record, it is safe to say fans of the black-and-gold are more than ticked off with the direction, and confidence in, the team.

Thanks to the SB Nation FanPulse, we have been tracking the fan base’s confidence in the team, and it has been a downward decline since the team’s Week 1 contest in Cleveland vs. the Browns.

Check out the exact results:

[Steelers fans: Sign up for FanPulse, our weekly Steelers survey]

You have to imagine what this poll might show if the Steelers lose to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5, but on the flip side, you have to wonder what this graph will show if the Steelers are able to beat the Falcons. Pair that up with a win over the Bengals in Week 6, this chart could sky-rocket as the team heads into their Week 7 bye week.

Confidence might be at a low for the season, but with plenty of the schedule remaining this chart could start to make an upward trend before too long.

Where do you see the Steelers going from here? Onward and upward? Or continuing down into the cellar?

Vince Williams, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Morgan Burnett all inactive for Steelers in Week 5

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 10:35am

All of the names listed as doubtful by the Steelers on Friday will miss the game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers injury report has once again had a significant impact on the list of inactives for Sunday, with all the of the players designated as doubtful on Friday among the names sitting against the Atlanta Falcons.

Vince Williams will miss a game for the first time in his professional career because of an injury, snapping a streak of 83 consecutive regular season games played. Morgan Burnett misses out for third time in his short Steelers career as he continues to struggle with a groin problem and Darrius Heyward-Bey sits for the first time this season due to an ankle issue. With Heyward-Bey sidelined Justin Hunter get a rare chance to dress.

Despite his elbow injury, Mike Hilton will still play against the Falcons and should be even easier to spot on defense wearing a brace on his arm. Despite missing a day of practice on Thursday, Marcus Gilbert looks good versus the Falcons.

For Mason Rudolph, Zach Banner, Marcus Allen and L.T. Walton, it is just another normal Sunday on the inactive list, with none of them expected to suit up on game day without an injury to one of the names ahead of them on depth chart. Recently promoted cornerback Brian Allen is active in his first Sunday on the 53-man roster.

NFL Picks, Week 5: Predicting the winner of Steelers vs. Falcons

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 10:10am

Time to take a stab at who wins this Week 5 game at Heinz Field between the Steelers and Falcons.

When the 2018 NFL regular season schedule was released, the Week 5 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons would certainly be considered a marquee matchup.

Matt Ryan vs. Ben Roethlisberger

Antonio Brown vs. Julio Jones

Calvin Ridley vs. JuJu Smith-Schuster

All of this offensive firepower poised to top the other and walk off into the sunset with the victory.

Then the 2018 regular season officially started, and the Steelers bring a 1-2-1 record to the table, and the Falcons sport a 1-3 record coming into Heinz Field. Certainly not what the major broadcasting networks expected when they saw FOX would have the game.

Nonetheless, these two high-powered offenses come into Sunday’s showdown with the thought of righting their proverbial ships and getting back on track. What is scary to most fans, is how it seems as if this game will come down to which offense can put up the most points. The definition of a shootout. Which unit will consistently put up points, but more so, score touchdowns instead of field goals.

When you look at the defensive units of these teams, both sides have glaring issues. The Steelers, who will be without Vince Williams, have been torched over the middle, and have one of the worst red-zone defenses in the league. On top of that, the Falcons’ defense has struggled mightily in both stopping the run and the pass.

This game very well might come down to which defense can get a few stops, and force a punt. Points shouldn’t be at a premium, and predicting the winner of this game is anything but easy. Both defenses are so bad, and the Steelers’ offense is so inconsistent, but I refuse to think Pittsburgh will lose 3 games at home to start the season. I also refuse to believe the defense is as bad as advertised.

A shootout it will be, but I like the Steelers to win this game and get back on track heading into a Week 6 matchup with division rivals Cincinnati Bengals.

Steelers - 38
Falcons - 35

In all facets, the Steelers’ 3-pronged ILB rotation is a disaster waiting to happen

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 9:28am

With Vince Williams out, the Steelers have said they’ll employ a 3-ILB council in his place — quite the disastrous idea.

Well, it seems the Steelers indeed will be without Vince Williams against the Atlanta Falcons at home on Sunday. Williams has been an incredibly underwhelming presence on the defense, and I dare say he’s currently playing himself right out of a starting job, should one of his three understudies step up.

But that would imply this experiment might possibly prove to be a positive. After all, there are three hungry linebackers who want their shots at getting more snaps once Williams returns to the fold. Maybe these guys will offer something Williams does not, and they might at least somewhat remedy an ailing defense as it goes against a top-5 offense in the NFL.

Unfortunately for us all, the Steelers’ coaches not only ignore the shortcomings of these backups, which cause the idea to be so horrendous, but they also refuse to watch the tape, to give them an idea of the guys who ought to be playing. It seems that’s a huge issue with the Steelers’ current coaching staff.

Offensively, it’s curious how the Steelers never use play-action when it works every time they run it. Or why not give Jaylen Samuels some opportunities to play when James Conner and Stevan Ridley are getting stuffed? In the case of their linebackers, though, it’s why not give Matthew Thomas and L.J. Fort all the snaps after what they’ve shown on tape.

If anyone watched tape from the Ravens game, they’d see that, in relief of Vince Williams, L.J. Fort actually played pretty well. Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora broke down in two GIFs how L.J. Fort made a difference in the run game right away.

Back to back quality snaps against the run from L.J. Fort. One vs power, one vs zone. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/k9XMImdTbs

— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) October 4, 2018

Fort makes two excellent reads and navigates through traffic well on both. The rip on the first one is particularly well done. That’s what they call ‘getting skinny.’ On both plays, you can see Fort has the athletic ability that the Steelers have been missing. His range allows him to make those plays and, if anything, he deserves more snaps for plays like this. But instead, he’s shunned to the sub-packages for Tyler Matakevich in base.

The most egregiously non-athletic ILB in the NFL is going to be the one you want covering running plays and going into the flat to deal with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman?

That’s not going to work, and this ‘sprinkling in’ of Matthew Thomas needs to be in higher doses. We know Thomas is a raw project, but this team needs some athletic play-making in the middle of the defense.

Who offers that? Matthew Thomas and L.J. Fort — so play them.

Unfortunately, personnel decisions aren’t the only reason why this is a terrible idea. Since we all know it should be Fort and Thomas getting the bulk of the playing time, why are we rotating three ILBs in the first place?

First off, the Special Teams is already hurting heavily with two of its top-3 players down for the count this week. Nat Berhe is done for the season with a torn pectoral muscle and Darrius Heyward-Bey is out with an ankle injury. If Matakevich happens to get injured, and he is a great special-teamer, you’ll be down your three core special-teamers. Not exactly what I’d like to see.

But even more importantly, you’re now running two councils — one of four guys at CB2 and three now at ILB. In the past two weeks during which you employed that CB2 council, there were frequent instances of 12 men on the field and 10 men on the field. Personnel didn’t know the play call on many occasions. So now you suddenly think this will change because of this rotation?

I highly doubt it and I predict more 12-men-on-the-field penalties this week. You are without your two main communicators on the defense in Vince Williams and Morgan Burnett. Those two are the guys that would communicate the defense if you will. Who does that now?

It will likely have to be either Cam Heyward or Joe Haden, which means your main means of communication will never be in the middle of the field. If it happens to be Sean Davis, the young kid ought to be focusing on his improvement at FS — not worrying about handling communication on top of it. And if it’s Jon Bostic — well how do we even know he’s ready to call plays from a playbook he picked up about five months ago?

Disarray is going to be afoot on the Steelers’ defense this week and possibly worse than ever. In terms of communication, Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler better have their straps buckled in tight.

They’ll need it.

Steelers Nation is getting sick and tired of vanilla

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 8:20am

The game plan on both sides of the ball has become so bland that only precise execution can get the job done.

The Good Ol’ Days

I was a teenager in the fall of 1995. I remember coming home from church on Sunday in eager anticipation to watch every second of the Steelers game each week. I couldn’t wait to go to school the next day to talk about what we witnessed the day before. The rookie season of Kordell Stewart, where the Steelers began using him in unprecedented ways, kept me glued to the TV for the duration of each game. I didn’t want to miss whatever crazy thing they were going to do next.

Fast forward a decade to the time when the Steelers were using Antwon Randel El to boost the creativity of their offensive attack. This not only made for exciting football to watch, but it gave opposing teams something difficult to game-plan against. The gadget plays weren’t something that had to happen all the time — just enough to keep opponents on their toes. And it even played a role in a Super Bowl win.

As Neapolitan those last two examples are, the Steelers’ current offense and defense have become extremely vanilla. Coupled with poor execution, it’s become so bland that it’s hardly watchable. The philosophy of “we’re going to do what we do and do it better than you” has worked in the past, but not in 2018. One of the biggest reasons, of course, is that we’re not doing anything better than anyone else these days. Passes are inaccurate — routes are sometimes sloppy — it just isn’t working yet.

And the defense is no better. Joe Flacco stated this was the easiest Steelers’ defense he’s ever gone against. Yes, the Steelers would crowd a bunch of players on the line to try to mask who was coming on the blitz. But when you do this over and over but don’t blitz anyone, it doesn’t serve the intended purpose.

Both offensive and defensive units have become predictable, and predictability is not going to cut it in the NFL of 2018.

Painting the Barn with a Broad Brush

It’s interesting how Steelers Nation feels about “Tomlinisms.” When the Steelers are succeeding, these quips are bearable, sometimes even comical. But when things aren’t going well, they’re annoying and off-putting. Two phrases heard far too often this season are “when you have red paint, you paint the barn red,” and “I’m not going to paint with a broad brush.”

Although “painting the barn red” is actually attributed to former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, it has a lot of merit. When I used to coach high-school football, I had a team one season with four large, skilled offensive linemen and a fantastic running back. We would line up in “I” formation and run the ball down the throats of our opponents. Another season, I had undersized linemen, a great quarterback and a large number of receivers. For this particular season, we ran a spread offense based on quick passes. A coach must adapt to the personnel they have and do what’s going to give them the best chance to succeed.

So painting the barn red makes sense, but how they paint the barn is a different question. The problem with the Steelers is they’re only willing to paint their barn with a broad brush. They don’t even want to use a ladder. Maybe sometimes you need to bust out a paint roller, or even a sprayer. But instead, the “broad brush” is all they’re willing to use. It’s time to get creative.

Randy Fichtner is in his first season as offensive coordinator. Other than actually being able to run the quarterback sneak and finally using play-action passes a time or two, there really isn’t much difference in this year’s offense. In fact, I’d argue it’s much less creative.

Keith Butler has been around the Steelers long enough to know what needs to be done. I don’t know if it’s a lack of skill at each position (attributable to poor draft evaluations), or if he’s being overly cautious, afraid to make mistakes. But it seems like the Steelers are lining up and not fooling anyone with what they’re doing on defense. If the defense is easy to read, it’s very easy to exploit. And the numbers show this defense is getting exploited up and down the field.

Maybe I’m alone, but I feel the game plan on both sides of the ball has been one of “living in our fears.” The Steelers have replaced surprise and creativity with the concept of making sure they don’t screw up. It’s important to note that, during the Kansas City game, the defense was more confused by what they were going to do than what the Chiefs were doing. I’m not sure if that’s from poor game-planning or shortcomings in football IQ by the players on the field. If it’s the former, then Coach Butler has 12 games left with the Steelers at most. If it’s the latter, it’ll be a long-term effect until either the defensive personnel can be improved or the younger players gain more experience.

What To Do? What To Do?

First and foremost, the Steelers have to play better. The players and coaches are the first ones to admit this. But playing better isn’t the only thing necessary to claw their way out of the hole they’ve put themselves in. Coach Fichtner needs to start throwing things at opposing defenses which they might not have seen from the Steelers before. Strange formations or the occasional gadget play — something to change up the vanilla. Even if it’s just cookies and cream — or even sprinkles.

Sprinkles would be a good start. Sprinkle in something a little unusual on offense. Try it on defense as well. Yes, the defense could give up a big play trying to do something creative. But they could also make a splash play that could really make a difference. I, for one, am willing to forgive the defense if they give up the big play because they’re trying something unique. Just don’t keep screwing it up.

Neapolitan, cookies and cream, or even sprinkles — I’m ready for something different. And if the Steelers don’t soon figure out something innovative to do, the only option left will be Rocky Road.

Predicting the Steelers’ Week 5 inactive list vs. the Falcons

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 7:17am

At least one Allen should make their 2018 debut in Week 5.

A change in the 53-man roster makes the inactive list quite telling this week. Will Marcus Allen finally make his debut, or will the newly-added Brian Allen’s special teams experience give him the advantage?

Game Status

Doubtful:

S Morgan Burnett (Groin)

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (ankle)

LB Vince Williams

Here are the possibilities to end up inactive for Week 5:

Definitely:

Once again nobody has been ruled out, but a “doubtful” designation has been the same thing for the Steelers in 2018.

Most Likely:

QB Mason Rudolph- Josh Dobbs could sprain an ankle walking into the stadium, but I doubt it.

S Morgan Burnett- I sound like a broken record: his weekly progress was in the wrong direction. Burnett will be out again.

LB Vince Williams- he didn’t practice all week. There isn’t much hope that he will dress Sunday.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey- it’s the same story as Vince. Hey-Bey was out all week, so playing this weekend isn’t likely to happen.

DT L.T. Walton- The defensive line is healthy again this week, so Walton one again ends up being the guy to sit this one out.

OT Zach Banner- he needs two linemen to be hurt in order to dress, and this week there are none.

Possibly:

OT Matt Feiler- last week the Steelers did dress an eighth lineman because their inactive list was already pretty full. It’s pretty full this week as well, but depth in other areas and special teams play may factor in more.

S Marcus Allen- it’s very difficult to determine if the Steelers are interested in dressing this Allen. Because he hasn’t played at all, it’s hard to say if there’s any special teams value or positional depth he brings. Nat Burhe went on the IR this week and was replaced on the roster with a corner, so being a safety could help his cause.

CB Brian Allen- he just moved from the practice squad to the main roster and has special teams experience from last season. It’s strange that he could not be on the 53, but once promoted jump ahead of others that are still waiting for a helmet.

WR Justin Hunter- it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for the Steelers to go into the game with only four WR’s, especially with Ryan Switzer emerging as more than just a return man. Even though he brings nothing to special teams, Hunter will probably dress for depth and may even get a handful of snaps on offense.

Unlikely:

OT Marcus Gilbert- he did miss one practice this week with his injured hamstring, but didn’t end up with a designated game status. Unless something unexpected arises, Gilbert should be good to go.

Projected Inactive List:
  1. Mason Rudolph
  2. Morgan Burnett
  3. Vince Williams
  4. Darrius Heyward-Bey
  5. L.T. Walton
  6. Zach Banner
  7. Marcus Allen

I thought Marcus Allen was ready to get a helmet last week. For the Steelers chose to give it to Matt Feiler and his zero snaps for the game, it’s quite obvious that they don’t feel ready to use him even on special teams. Therefore, I think Brian Allen gets the helmet ahead of Marcus to help replace the special teams void left by Darius Heyward-Bey. Unless one of the doubtful players is somehow ready on Sunday, the Steelers carry the extra lineman in Feiler.

Feel free to list your projected inactives in the comments below.

Steelers vs. Falcons: Three Steelers who need to step up at Heinz Field in Week 5

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 6:23am

Time to see who needs to improve their game for Pittsburgh to get a much-needed win.

Let’s be honest here, the whole team needs to step up, including the coaching staff. The abysmal start to the 2019 season already has Steelers Nation on the warpath with pitchforks in hand. It won’t be an easy task going against the high-powered Atlanta Falcons offense on Sunday afternoon but, just like Pittsburgh, Atlanta has issues on defense. I would be taking the OVER (58) if I were a betting man.

Let’s take a look at this week’s trio.

Ben Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger has had some Jekyll-and-Hyde in his play this year, and it seems increasingly to be an issue with him. I’m not saying Ben is done, but I do believe he’s as stubborn as a mule, and that’s impacting his play and, ultimately, the outcome of games. Make no mistake about it, this season hinges on what No. 7 brings to the table. Getting little to no help from the defense, Big Ben needs to reappear. He’s owned up to his poor play lately, and it was the right thing for him to do. But talking about it means little at this point — we need results on the field, not a feel-good moment during an interview.

Antonio Brown

I know AB and Roethliberger have been out of sorts, not on the same page or Brown zigging when Ben’s zagging. I know No. 84 will draw more than his share of attention on the field from opposing defenses, but it’s time to reclaim his title of “Best In The World.” I know it’s in there, and I realize the responsibility doesn’t fall solely on Brown, but (in Bruce Buffer’s voice) IT’S TIIIIIIIIIIIME!

Alejandro Villanueva

I’m starting to think it’s a bad idea to give players new/juicy contracts in Pittsburgh. The former Army Ranger has come along way in a short time, but it seems as if he has reached another plateau in his play. The fact he’s been walked back and is getting beat on a regular basis needs to get fixed. I’m not laying all the blame at his feet but he’s paid handsomely to protect the most important person to our football team and season. So let’s get back to doing what Villanueva got paid to do. You don’t have to run-block because we don’t run the ball anymore, but keeping the opponent’s EDGE rusher off of the QB is top priority.

You: Blitz, Where are the defensive guys?

Me: That’s what I’d like to know.

So, in the comments section, tell me your thoughts and who you believe needs to bring their “A” game on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons if the Steelers are to secure a win.

See if you’ll see the Steelers vs. Falcons Week 5 game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 5:30am

Will you get to see Steelers vs. Falcons in the comfort of your own home?

If you were like me before I decided to sign up for the DirecTV Sunday Ticket package, every week I was wondering whether I’d be able to watch my beloved Steelers in the comfort of my own home, or if I’d have to go elsewhere to watch the game.

Before there were websites devoted to this, it meant a lengthy trip on the television guide screen to see which game was scheduled to air, but now it’s just a click away.

For those who want to know which game they’ll see, check the map below, courtesy of 506 Sports:

[Steelers fans: Sign up for FanPulse, our weekly Steelers survey]

The Steelers vs. Falcons game is the GREEN portion of the map.

If you are curious about the other matchups, they are as follows:

BLUE — Green Bay at Detroit
RED — NY Giants at Detroit
GREY — NO GAME due to local home game on CBS

GBLUE/PURPLE —

So, are you lucky enough to be able to watch the game live in your own home, or are you one of the many who will have to find other means to view the game? Either way, today is the day to get pumped!! Week 5 is ready for kickoff!

HERE WE GO!!

Six Steelers’ Slobberknockers for Week 5: A half-dozen questions for BTSC fans to discuss

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 10/07/2018 - 4:53am

Time to get ready for the Week-5 game vs. the Falcons!

What the heck is a “slobberknocker?” In football terms, it’s a hit that, well, knocks the slobber right out of the other player’s mouth. I’ll be posing six hard-hitting questions to BTSC fans every game-day morning during the 2018 regular season.

On the surface, the Atlanta Falcons and their 1-3 record would seem to present the perfect opportunity for the Steelers to get back on track. Atlanta is coming off of consecutive losses in Weeks 3 and 4 in a couple of shootouts — surrendering a late score to the Cincinnati Bengals last week and being bested the week before 43-37 by the New Orleans Saints. The Falcons, in many respects, mirror the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Falcons had their offensive hiccup in Week 1 (losing 18-12 to the Philadelphia Eagles) while the Steelers had theirs last week. But that shouldn’t be the case this week when the two prolific offenses square off against each other because their defenses are in shambles due to injuries and poor play.

Will this be the week that Steelers fans regain faith in their beloved team? That’s on the hearts and minds of BTSC fans — fans who are a cut above the run-of-the-mill Steelers fans. The following questions are geared towards these insightful fans to gauge their thoughts.

Q1: With inside linebacker, Vince Williams sidelined today, how much of an impact will his absence have? Who is your choice to replace him?

Q2: Where does the blame lie for the Steelers’ poor running game? Coaching, James Conner, offensive line or defensive schemes? Will Conner flourish today?

Q3: Falcons’ rookie wideout, Calvin Ridley is taking the NFL by storm, will he outshine Julio Jones again today? Who will have the bigger day?

Q4: The Steelers’ offense hasn’t scored in the second half of three games this year. Will that change today against a terrible Falcons defense? Will the team that scores last win the game?

Q5: Defensive end Vic Beasley will be the focus of the front-seven of Atlanta’s defense, with the rest either underwhelming or injured. Will this give Ben Roethlisberger a clean pocket and ensure he doesn’t throw his sixth interception?

Q6: Atlanta’s offensive line has given up 10 sacks so far this year, can the Steelers’ pass rush take advantage of the line and force Matt Ryan to turn the ball over?

Bonus: Steelers’ outside linebacker Bud Dupree is tied for the team lead in sacks (3). If he hits a double-digit sack total this season, are you OK with him making $9.2 million in 2019?

The season has been tumultuous so far, with the Pittsburgh Steelers struggling to a 1-2-1 record. Fingers are being pointed left and right at all aspects of the team here on the BTSC boards. The loss last week at the hands of their divisional rival, the Baltimore Ravens, has Steelers fans nervous about the team’s prospects for the rest of the season. Will the ship be righted against the Falcons and how will it happen?

Losing Well: A Look Back to 2006 when the Falcons met the Steelers in Atlanta

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/06/2018 - 3:06pm

Bearing defeat is never easy, but keeping some perspective about football vs. life’s larger trials is a winning strategy for any season.

The year was 2006 and I was living in southwest Virginia. I had lost 30 or so pounds over the previous few months — chemotherapy will do that to you. My cancer treatments left me, weirdly, both listless and tired, and often unable to sleep. Though I was confident I would be okay (my oncologist told me that, in their more macabre and honest moments, doctors call Hodgkins’ lymphoma the “good cancer” because it has a very high cure rate. Nevertheless, I began putting together a mental bucket-list. On that list back then, and still on that list now, was “fly on a private jet.” On that list then, but now checked off was, “See a Steelers game from a luxury box.”

Charlotte was the closest NFL city to me, but we played there only once every eight years. Nashville was next closest and I was blessed over the years to attend Steelers games there. A close friend had season tickets and was always gracious to invite me over for Steeler Sunday. Atlanta was third closest, but again, those matchups were only once every eight years. But 2006 happened to be one of those years. One of my dearest and closest friends lived in Atlanta and, like me, loved the Steelers.

That friend, Tim O’Brien, was like me in almost every way. He grew up in a Pittsburgh suburb, while I was just outside the band of bedroom communities, out in the sticks. He was Irish, as am I. He shared a nicotine addiction with me, as well as a deep love of all things Pittsburgh. We met twenty years earlier in college at Grove City, where every Sunday, we’d watch the game on my 10-inch black-and-white TV. He and I were together years later, downing chili dogs from Sheetz as we watched on his TV when Sid slid and the Pirates’ season came to an end. So I sent him an email to ask if he, now a corporate muckety-muck but still the same good man, had any connections by which I could score a couple of tickets.

He told me he’d look into it. Eventually word came back that he had tickets and plans were made. He refused to take my money and he led the way into the Georgia Dome, up an escalator, past attentive ushers and through a door into our own private luxury suite. There was a spread laid out for us, large screen TV’s, cold refreshments in the fridge, and seats looking out on the field. Getting there had worn down my battered body, but being there lifted my spirits. I not only got to check “luxury box” off of my bucket-list, I got to do it with my oldest friend.

The game itself was a seesaw battle. Michael Vick was still young Mike Vick. Hines scored a 70-yard TD on a pass from Charlie Batch and ran right out of his shoe on the way to pay dirt. Warrick Dunn scored, Santonio and Fast Willie each coughed it up. But the root of our demise was one Alge Crumpler, the Falcons’ tight end. This man was so huge that he made Eric Green look like Don Beebe. And he had a huge day as I watched from that luxury box, hauling in three touchdown passes. The Steelers dropped to 2-4 on their way to an 8-8 season. I, like that forlorn soul who had been turned into a newt by the witch, got better. And so did the Steelers. We might be on our way to another mediocre season this year, but you can find a way to redeem it anyway. Enjoy your friends and family — and give thanks that you're not a Browns fan.

Report Card: Grading the Steelers defense for the first quarter of 2018

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/06/2018 - 1:04pm

BTSC grades the Steelers’ defense after the first four games of 2018.

As I’ve stated all along, I’m not a football coach or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. Each week of the 2018 exhibition and regular season, I’ve graded the efforts of the Black-and-gold via “the eye test”. Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what count the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well. So you, the reader, get to vote as well. You even get to grade the grader in the comments section.

So let’s take a look at BTSC’s perceptions of the season’s first quarter defense:

Defense

The Steelers’ defense is ranked 30th in the league in total yarda allowed and 26th with a 29-points per game (ppg) average through four contests. This unit is 29th against the pass and tied for 22nd against the run. It may be the worst start on defense ever.

Despite the first half explosion against Tampa in Week 3, Keith Butler’s crew has imploded in a blaze of mediocrity. Mediocrity is actually too kind. While there may never truly have been a good solution available, the organization never fully found a way to recover from the loss of Ryan Shazier to the lineup. But the scheme is terrible and outdated. It starts with starting from scratch on paper. It also starts with a new coordinator and Mike Tomlin excusing himself from coaching the defense as well.

The defensive line seemed like it was going to be the strength of the unit. But the lack of pressure up front is giving quarterbacks plenty of time to pick apart the secondary. With pressure against Tampa, the defense looked a lot better. However the scheme is not allowing these guys the leeway to rush and also keeping a healthy Cam Heyward on the sidelines in favor of Tyson Alualu in a lot of situations is poor use of personnel. The Steelers have only four sacks from the defensive line, Stephon Tuitt has zero.

T.J. Watt exploded out of the gate in Week One with three sacks, but has been virtually nonexistent since. Bud Dupree has three as well and a pick six, but he still has a tendency to overrun the quarterback. Vince Williams, who is now injured, has been stable with 29 tackles. But the most consistent play from the linebacking unit has been from the newcomer, Jon Bostic, with 30 tackles and two sacks. Still the middle of the field has been a feeding frenzy for QBs and TEs.

The secondary is still an absolute mess. I’m not even sure of the solution. The positives have been CB Joe Haden, Mike Hilton and S Sean Davis. Though not perfect so far, these guys have performed the best for Tom Bradley’s unit. Had Haden been available against KC and Hilton against Bmore, the secondary could have fared better. Morgan Burnett’s absence has led to more Terrell Edmunds, who has struggled as a rookie. Artie Burns, Coty Sensabaugh and Cam Sutton are overmatched on the corners as well. The secondary has only three interceptions all season. I don’t have any answers, but by the looks of the scheming...neither do the coaches.

Defensive Valedictorian:

Joe Haden and Jon Bostic

Overall Offense Grade: D-

Bold and bizarre predictions for the Steelers vs. Falcons Week 5 game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/06/2018 - 11:35am

BTSC’s Nostradumbass predicts the Steelers’ contest on Sunday between two previous contenders that are playing like pretenders.

The 1-2-1 Steelers host the 1-3 Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Heinz Field. Both teams have high-powered offensive attacks with defenses that are downright bad. One previously-billed Super Bowl contender will take a step toward saving their season, while the other will start watching the top prospects available in the 2019 NFL Draft.

With this storyline and more, I’ve compiled a list of predictions (some basic, and some utterly idiotic) to look for in the Week-4 contest:

  • Back on the same page, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have a Montana/Rice day. AB finishes with over 200 yards on the afternoon.
  • However, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones shine as well.
  • Julio makes the Heinz Field end zone his schoolyard and the touchdown goose egg disappears with three trips there.
  • Not sure whether to gear his TD celebration towards the birthdays of Simon Cowell or Vladimir Putin, JuJu Smith-Schuster celebrates his second quarter TD by commemorating 1959’s Soviet probe Luna 3 when it transmitted the first-ever photographs of the far side of the Moon by taking a real cellphone shot of Ramon Foster bent over.
  • Much to the dismay of the fans, Tyler Matakevich gets a majority of the defensive snaps over Matthew Thomas at Vince Williams’ ILB spot. The middle of the field is torched all day long.
  • Because of the above prediction, fans lament not starting or picking up TE Austin Hooper in their fantasy leagues.
  • The Steelers get some semblance of a running game as James Conner grinds out 70 on the ground.
  • Le’Veon Bell debuts his latest rap single, Round is a Shape at halftime at Max and Erma’s.
  • Jordan Berry continues to get booed vociferously, but Chris Boswell’s arrow continues to point up and straight.
  • Despite a surge in offense, the defense continues to struggle. Falcons 38-Steelers 30.

...

Will any of this actually happen? I’ll bet at least one or two. Heck, maybe every one of them. Be sure to post your predictions — basic or bizarre — below.

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