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Steelers’ defensive struggles vs. the Chargers were as much about scheme as execution

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 9:57am

The Pittsburgh Steelers failed on multiple levels, but the defensive game plan was a huge issue.

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the Week 13 showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers with a Top 10 defense, and an opportunity to prove themselves capable on the national stage against a high-powered offense.

What ensued was a blown 16-point lead, and there is no need to re-hash all of the missed opportunities which led the Pittsburgh’s ultimate demise in the game. However, while the players on the field have to make the physical plays, there are situations when the scheme is almost as guilty as the execution.

This game would be one of those games.

Keith Butler’s game plan against the Chargers’ most lethal receiving threat, Keenan Allen, was questionable at best. Butler continued deploy zone coverage schemes which resulted in a linebacker covering the slot receiver. Who was the slot receiver? Keenan Allen.

As any smart quarterback would do, when Philip Rivers saw Allen with a linebacker over top of him, he threw it to him time and time again. How often? Just check out the stats below:

Keenan Allen was targeted 9 times when a Steelers linebacker was the nearest defender. No wide receiver has been targeted more against a linebacker in a game since #NextGenStats began tracking nearest defender metrics in 2016.#LACvsPIT #FightForEachOther pic.twitter.com/J4jOev3nER

— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 3, 2018

L.J. Fort was the man who was in charge of trying to cover Allen more often than not, and he did the best compared to his teammates, but another head-scratching moment was on arguably the most important play of the game, Fort was off the field and Jon Bostic was covering Allen in the slot.

Just look at the play, and tell me Rivers doesn’t know exactly where he is going with the ball before the ball is even snapped.

When you cover Keenan Allen with a LB on the game’s biggest play (and most of the game, tbh). Just ridiculous defwnse pic.twitter.com/JYpeYQVLnw

— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 3, 2018

Can the Week 13 loss be chalked up solely to Butler’s poor defensive play calling? Of course not. The ill-timed interception and missed wide open would-be touchdown by Ben Roethlisberger didn’t help, nor did the offense completely shutting down for the vast majority of the second half.

However, when you continue to do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, well Einstein dubbed that the definition of insanity.

The Steelers have lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2016, and everyone needs to improve. From the coaching staff down to the players executing on the field. Because when you have games against the Patriots and Saints looming, you better be at your best. If nothing changes, the upcoming game against the Raiders might be a tough test for this Pittsburgh team.

AFC Playoff Picture: Steelers latest loss has little impact on them in the AFC standings

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 8:52am

It is time to start tracking where the Steelers stand in the AFC Playoff Picture, and it is so-far-so-good for the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off back to back disappointing losses to the Denver Broncos in Week 12, and the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13. With the rest of the AFC wrapping up their games this week, it is time to put things in perspective as it relates to the AFC Playoff Picture.

Sure, there is still a lot of football left to be played, but at the same time it doesn’t hurt to look ahead and see just where every team resides in the playoff picture, and who they have coming up, to get a grip on the Conference Playoff scenarios.

After Pittsburgh’s horrid start to the season, they have rebounded to the tune of a 7-4-1 record, and thanks to some losses to other AFC competitors, find themselves in a Top 4 spot in the AFC Playoff Picture. This week’s loss hurts, though, making a first round bye a pipe dream.

So, before we go any further, time to update the Playoff Picture heading into Week 14.

AFC Playoff Picture Week 14

1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-2)REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Ravens (7-5), vs. Chargers (9-3), at Seahawks (7-5), vs. Raiders (2-10)
2. New England Patriots (9-3)REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Dolphins (6-6), at Steelers (7-4-1), vs. Bills (4-8), vs. Jets (3-9)
3. Houston Texans (9-3)REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Colts (6-6), at Jets (3-9), at Eagles (5-6), vs. Jaguars (4-8)
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1)REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Raiders (2-10), vs. Patriots (9-3), at Saints (10-2), vs. Bengals (5-7)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (9-3)REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Bengals (5-7), at Chiefs (10-2), vs. Ravens (7-5), at Broncos (6-6)
6. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Chiefs (10-2), vs. Buccaneers (5-7), at Chargers (9-3), vs. Browns (4-7-1)

_______

In the hunt:

8. Miami Dolphins (6-6) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Patriots (9-3), at Vikings (6-5-1), vs. Jaguars (4-8), at Bills (4-8)
9. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Texans (9-3), vs. Cowboys (7-5), vs. Giants (4-8), at Titans (6-6)
10. Denver Broncos (6-6) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at 49ers (2-10), vs. Browns (4-7-1), at Raiders (2-10), vs. Chargers (9-3)
11. Tennessee Titans (6-6) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Jaguars (4-8), at Giants (4-8), vs. Redskins (6-5), vs. Colts (6-6)

For those who don’t know, the reason the Chargers, who have a better record than the Steelers, are behind in the standings is due to Pittsburgh leading their division and the Chargers being behind the Chiefs in the AFC West.

As for Pittsburgh, their remaining schedule doesn’t get any easier. The Patriots and Saints, along with the Raiders and Bengals all await the Steelers in the coming weeks as the regular season winds down.

The fun is just beginning...

Take a look at the above standings, who do you see failing down the stretch? And which team will be a surprise to climb the rankings? Let us know in the comment section below!

6 takeaways from the Steelers’ disappointing loss to the Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 7:40am

The Steelers are dealt a crushing blow as they blow a 16 point lead to the Chargers.

The Steelers were dealt a blow they weren’t expecting after their first half Sunday night, but this loss to the Chargers really dampens the mood on this season for the Steelers. Now, with the Ravens nipping at their heels, the Steelers have to rebound, win their division, and show their resilience in an attempt to prove they can indeed win a Super Bowl.

Regardless, with a tough loss, here are 6 key takeaways from the tough loss:

Keith Butler is a schematic mess

Why can Keith Butler not dial up coverages? The guy can dial up a blitz anytime he wishes, but he runs far too much cover 3 when his team thrives out of man coverage and cover 2 looks. That is a big, big issue on this defense, because not only does it create openings all game, but it also leaves LBs isolated if the personnel decisions are not good.

That was the case on probably the biggest play of the game, when Keenan Allen somehow got matched up with Jon Bostic, who had barely even played prior to that play.

Biggest play of the game, LJ Fort and Marcus Allen have been great. WHO CARES LETS TAKE THEM OFF THE FIELD FOR JON BOSTIC AND VINCE WILLIAMS. Keith Butler is schematic disaster. He should be fired after this season, I don't care what improvement you've seen. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/iGmrBAafJe

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 3, 2018

I will never understand why Bostic was on Keenan Allen, or why LBs not named L.J. Fort were on Keenan Allen 9 times, and he caught every single one of them. Butler has done this in many other games where he just gets caught napping with LBs on great receivers, and it makes no sense.

Butler has done that for years, and if it keeps up, it is time to say goodbye to him.

And you wonder why this team gets owned by the Patriots every year? There you have it.

Death, Taxes, and Special Team Penalties

Speaking of that, I don’t think it would be terrible if Danny Smith joined Butler on the unemployment line. Smith’s STs unit leads the NFL in penalties by the wide margin of 4 penalties to the nearest team. The offside penalties are not an issue, Haden was not even offside, but the blocks in the back, clipping, and holds are huge issues.

Smith has an inconsistent record and shows little to no improvement from year-to-year, and it is time to admit that he just isn’t it. Smith’s units continue to be mediocre at best.

L.J. Fort should be starting

I got a positive for ya. LJ Fort is a beast and should start. You gotta wonder why they somehow dominate the middle of the field once he's off the field. He's the best ILB on the team, and Bostic is the second best. Those are your starters, straight up. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/9fvT0z1ugh

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 3, 2018

Why? Here you have it. This guy changes this defense in the middle of the field. There are so many more schematic options with Fort in. He really was everywhere tonight and has been very good in his role since stepping into it, but he deserves to start all night. This guy continues to show why he is still so huge.

When he went off the field, stuff went off the rails, and shockingly, they drove the field. He wasn’t even on the field for the biggest play of the game, and for no reason. Just questionable to leave out the guy who has been balling. L.J. Fort was a rare bright spot tonight, and I thank him for it.

Fire those refs into the sun

I can’t say the Steelers didn’t play bad, and the refs are not the sole reason the home team lost this game, but, yes, they are a big reason. Missing a key block in the back, a false start, Haden not being offside, and a phantom hold on Foster, which killed a drive for the Steelers, this is simply a terrible show by the officials. This crew showed themselves to be incompetent, and the Steelers should have walked away with a ‘W’ if it were not for them.

I don’t usually blame officiating, but they were such a big proponent in this game, you have to point it out. Now, the Steelers have to bounce back, and I gotta say, I think they will...but their home stretch is anything but easy.

Ben Roethlisberger is a blessing and a curse

This is the second biggest missed opportunity. Instead of a Boz FG, it should have been a TD to Hunter, but Ben somehow missed him. Team lives and dies by the guy, crazy miss. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/por1wSj7h9

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 3, 2018

I think we need to evaluate Big Ben Roethlisberger a bit here. Schematic issues are the biggest issues on defense, but do you need to know what the issue is on offense? It really isn’t that hard — it is Big Ben. The lack of a consistent WR3 is a bigger issue than people think, but the lack of consistency in the QB position is what kills this team. They cannot deal with all of these dumb INTs and turnovers.

Ben has to reel in this gunslinger mentality, let the game come to him, and quite honestly, just make the smarter read. The INT and the Hunter overthrow are two of the key things I keep coming back to when I say why we lost this game. Ben simply cannot let this stuff happen anymore. The team lives and dies by him, and he has to be the guider not the inhibitor.

This team is their own worst enemy

This is one of the worst plays I have ever seen. Haden picks this off and the #Steelers win, I guarantee that. What a terrible play by Sean Davis, who has been good this year, but chose to be doo doo right there. Turning point of the game right there. pic.twitter.com/AANw4tkO3G

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 3, 2018

That sums up the Steelers pretty well. The past three weeks, this Steelers team has found ways to try to lose games, and two of them they have lost. They should have won this week and last week, and frankly, this game isn’t that dissimilar from that Denver game. Just so many blown opportunities, and the Haden INT is the peak of that. The Steelers had a shot to really make a statement and they just didn’t do it here, at all. They need to go and just play sound football next week. Oakland has been their kryptonite, but they have to win that game. If they win that game, it is time to make a statement. Nothing will do that more than knocking off Tom Brady.

Also, no, the Steelers will not miss the playoffs. They will make it, the real question is if they can do anything once getting in.

Report Card: Grading the Steelers 33-30 loss to the Chargers in Week 13

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 6:43am

BTSC breaks out the red pen and assigns grades to the Steelers after their return home against top-tier talent

The Steelers were held back last week in the Mile High City. This week they returned home and it’s time to see if they made the grade or if a letter is going home to their parents, Spoiler alert...they didn’t.

Despite my less than prestigious BTSC teaching certificate, I have to issue the necessary disclaimer. You know the story; of course, I’m not a football coach, or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. All week, I found myself noticing just how equal the two teams actually are and that shows in their respective records. And then I realized that these teams both usually battle fiercely in tight contests. Then the game happened and judgments followed.

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 let’s take a look at BTSC’s early perceptions:

Offense:

James Conner didn’t go over 100 yards, but so think you need to put his game in perspective. He had a big run called back, but he protected the ball well and ran hard. Plus two TDs are nothing to sneeze at. He averaged 4.0 ypc on only 15 carries. But even worse, he looks like he’s going to miss some significant time. What more can you say about Antonio Brown? His line of 10 catches for 154 yards and a TD was so valuable. Ben Roethlisberger threw an ugly pick again. But he also threw some great balls to set up all four scores. But in the end, he couldn’t put a team away when he really should have.

Overall Offense Grade: C- Defense

The defense was impressive in the first half. They only gave up 2 yards rushing the first 30 minutes. Everybody seemed sharp. The first score was a blatant miss by the officials. The second was a fluke deflection. The Steelers found a way to stop Austin Ekeler. But they couldn’t stop the rookie Justin Jackson. In the end, their inefficiencies in the secondary (and defensively overall) killed them. Kennan Allen destroyed this team. But when you continuously can’t get off of the field, you defeat yourself.

Overall Defense Grade: F Special Teams

The missed extra point was terrible. The continued penalties on returns were inexcusable. The TD return by Desmond King was Irreprehensible. unit wasn’t that bad. I feel like Danny Smith’s unit as regressed from last week. However, Jordan Berry is punting so much better and L.J Fort’s block we’re pleasing.

Overall Special Teams Grade: D-

This was another contest that they should have won. Despite the horrible officiating, they had multiple opportunities to close out this team and failed.

Overall Team Grade: F

Valedictorian: Antonio Brown

Honor Roll: Offensive Line, James Conner, LJ Fort, Javon Hargrave, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Berry

Detention: Ben Roethlisberger, Sean Davis, Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Chris Boswell, Danny Smith Jr

Podcast: Blow opportunities and bad calls lead to Steelers defeat

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 5:44am

In the latest episode of “The Steelers Post-Game” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-gold from the game that was.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have now passed the midpoint of their 2018 season. With a surge of Steelers news, it’s time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Post-Game Show. On this show Jeff Hartman and co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers from the game that was!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Injuries
  • What is up with the turnovers this season?
  • What does this tell us about the Steelers?
  • Talking what’s ahead
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

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

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

Knee-jerk reactions to the #Steelers’ inexcusable loss vs. the Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 11:29pm

One BTSC writer shares his real-time, initial thoughts of the Steelers’ 33-30 defeat at home.

The letdown against the Denver Broncos last week was disappointing, but not a backbreaking loss. Losing at home in Prime Time could be though. The Steelers need to rebound and an impressive win against an upper-echelon team like the Los Angeles Chargers would mean something to the Steelers, especially while hosting great legends from glory days of yesteryear.

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’ most recent battle.

Quarter 1
  • Nice to see the legends from ‘78 and ‘08 back home.
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
  • Even nicer to see the Pouncey and Watt families in the house.
  • Big fan of deferring.
  • Looks like some Watt-on-Watt action early on.
  • It could be a long night with Keenan Allen getting 20 catches.
  • I agree with Collinsworth. Rivers is playing the best of his career.
  • A 53-yarder in Heinz Field is ill-advised, unless it’s last minute.
  • Score early. But let the run set up the pass.
  • Thanks for the short field.
  • Good opening run by Conner.
  • Love me some Tony Toe Tap.
  • That was gorgeous. Classic Ben to Vintage AB.
  • Love that dive-sack by Terrell Edmunds. That looked beastly.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • Good coverage. Good defensive series. Now make ‘em pay.
  • Switzer is going to take this punt to the house.
  • Thats a shame. Short kick. Would’ve made for a nice return.
  • Guess not.
  • Ben going deep to Switzer. He’s in his qb’s confidence now.
  • JC with a second already. He needs this.
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images
  • Boswell makes my brain hurt.
  • Allen was selected a mere three picks before Markus Wheaton.
  • That play should have never happened. But did that effect Hilton getting burnt that badly?
  • Desmond King just made my ‘Punk List’ for throwing his towel at JuJu like that.
Quarter 2
  • Good running by Conner.
  • Good running by Samuels too.
  • Al Michaels knows how to pronounce Randy Fichtner’s name. I hope Jim Nantz is taking note.
  • JuJu with a clutch third down. But did he just walk like a dog?
  • That was a lazy pass by Ben. Of course it’s going to get picked-off.
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images
  • That was an ugly series.
  • Beautiful punt by Berry. 63 yards...Wow!
  • Good defense again.
  • Great punt block by Fort. Thought they were going to lose possession though.
  • Hunter wide open. Ben’s gotta hit him.
  • Ben’s not on right now.
  • Boswell from 48. He must just be a field goal guy.
  • L.J. Fort just walloped Keenan Allen.
  • Davis with some good coverage.
  • Stephon Tuitt is making a difference as well.
  • Fantastic run by Conner. Great pull by Pounce.
  • Great job by JuJu. By not giving up, he pulled another six or seven out of that play.
  • Brown is tremendous. Too bad it’s coming back.
  • That one isn’t. Brown and Ben were brilliant there. But the line makes it all possible.
  • Good Half.
Quarter 3
  • This is where they can break the Chargers back.
  • Vance advances...and punishes.
  • Losing Hunter makes not dressing Washington glaring.
  • Run the ball. Repeat.
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
  • It’s a shame that that run is coming back.
  • Ramon’s infraction could have been excused.
  • The Steelers are tackling better with every contest.
  • Reel-em in. Hargrave is super model hot right now.
  • Ola could have had his first sack if it wasn’t for the hold by Okung.
  • Pass defense is looking a little lax right now. Tighten it up, fellas.
  • You break up a pass and the deflection turns into a TD. That’s a bummer.
  • Haden needs to be okay.
  • The ultimate liability...Artie Burns. Ughhhhhhh.
  • These penalties on run backs are getting annoying.
  • Jaylen Samuels is getting valuable work. But being only up eight, is this the best time?
Quarter 4
  • Dammit Big Al.
  • Things are crumbling. Now L.A. has good field position upcoming.
  • Scratch that. Horrible time to give that up.
  • Horrendous officiating. That was a block in the back.
  • Allen all alone. Inexcusable.
  • Three and out. Ben is looking antsy. This could be over.
  • Edmunds is having a game.
  • Somebody stop Keenan Allen.
  • Somebody stop Justin Jackson.
  • They are giving up.
  • Have to answer here. Have to.
  • It may be too early to abandon the run game.
  • I love watching AB play.
  • Don’t challenge this.
  • Gonna need that TO back.
  • Ben is sloppy.
  • Switzer got murdered on that play. How’d he hold on.
  • Once again, not dressing James Washington could cost you.
  • Why throw to Hey-Bey?
  • Conner is hurting.
  • This is real bad.
  • Samuels is crucial here. Can he step up?
  • He did. But it was scary. Nice!
  • Boswell made it. We shouldn’t have to cross our fingers on extra points though.
  • Defense needs a huge stop here.
  • Though Fort could’ve been called there.
  • If they ever needed a turnover, it is now.
  • They’re gonna blow this.
  • Why can’t they stop Jackson?
  • Good Gravy. Can’t stop the pass.
  • And it’s over. They blew this. This team can’t play with a lead.
  • Oh my God, Joe Haden was offsides.
  • Offsides again!
  • And it’s over. They blew this. This team can’t play with a lead.

James Conner one of several players injured in Steelers loss to Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 11:22pm

The loss to the Los Angeles Chargers could be felt well into next week after a number of key players were forced from the game early on Sunday night.

The second half went awry for the Pittsburgh Steelers in many ways on Sunday night in their 33-30 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and the damage might have gone deeper than the Steelers hopes of a favorable playoff seeding. As the Chargers started to rack up the points after the halftime break, the injuries began to mount for Pittsburgh and it should be expected that several players will be limited as they prepare for Week 14.

While Justin Hunter was the first to leave the game prematurely with a shoulder injury in the first half, he would be joined on the sidelines by Ryan Switzer and James Conner later in the game. Switzer appeared to take a blow to the head on a play that resulted in a 15-yard penalty and would not return after he was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion.

Ryan Switzer got LIT up pic.twitter.com/UYNY2aGieL

— #FreePhillipDorsett (@ftbeard_17) December 3, 2018

Conner appeared to go down in some pain when his leg was twisted on a tackle later in the contest, also ending his day early. When speaking to reporters after the game, Mike Tomlin would characterize his injury as a lower leg contusion, but in a rather brief post-game press conference, had little else to share.

“On the injury front, a number of things. Hunter’s got a shoulder, wasn’t able to return. Kam Canaday, the snapper, got a knee sprain. James Conner’s got a lower leg contusion. Ryan Switzer’s in the concussion protocol and Chickillo’s got an ankle.”

James Conner was walking around the locker room. Didn't look like he was limping all that bad. But let's see what 12 hours brings. Justin Hunter had a huge contraption on his shoulder.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) December 3, 2018

Kameron Canaday was able to continue, even though he was visibly limping at times, while it is unclear what specific play caused Anthony Chickillo to get hurt. Although he was not mentioned by Tomlin in his injury update, it looked like Joe Haden took a blow to the head from Sean Davis in the second half that caused him to drop an interception and he could yet be another name to worry about this week.

When you add in the already sidelined Morgan Burnett and Marcus Gilbert, Pittsburgh could be significantly short-handed when they face the Oakland Raiders next Sunday.

Steelers blow 16-point lead in 33-30 loss to Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 10:32pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers blew a 16-point lead at home in prime time to drop their second straight game of the 2018 regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a nice winning streak going when they entered Week 12, but the Denver Broncos snapped that streak, and putting a small dent in the Steelers’ hopes of clinching the AFC North division early. With the Los Angeles Chargers in town for a Week 13 showdown on Sunday Night Football, that small dent could become a big dent if the home team didn’t get back into the ‘W’ column quick.

With this game carrying some serious AFC Playoff significance, it was the visiting Chargers who started with the football after the Steelers elected to defer their possession to the second half.

Philip Rivers and company were able to move the ball with ease to Keenan Allen, but when they entered enemy territory they were forced to attempt a 52-yard field goal, which sailed wide left.

The missed kick gave Pittsburgh tremendous field position, and Ben Roethlisberger took little time hitting Antonio Brown on back-to-back plays, the second being a 46 yard bomb to the one-yard line.

So to recap....@AB84 did this. pic.twitter.com/UcAclMwwAF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 3, 2018

What happened next was a James Conner one-yard plunge to give the home team an early 7-0 lead after Chris Boswell nailed the point-after.

A Chargers three-and-out gave the ball back to Pittsburgh inside Los Angeles territory, and Roethlisberger did Roethlisberger things on the ensuing drive to get the Steelers to the one-yard line. With the pocket collapsing, keeping his head down the field, Roethlisberger targeted Ryan Switzer in the endzone, but he was interfered with giving the Steelers the ball at the one-yard line. James Conner did the rest, scoring his second touchdown of the game. However, Chris Boswell missed the extra point, making the score 13-0 with 4:41 left in the opening quarter.

In need of an answer, the Chargers found that in a deep shot to Travis Benjamin. What was shocking to the home team, and their fans, was the blatant false start which wasn’t called on that same play. Regardless, it wasn’t called and the Steelers’ lead was cut to 13-7.

Pittsburgh’s offense put together an impressive drive to start the second quarter, but as they entered field goal range, on 3rd and 10, Roethlisberger lofted an awkward pass intended for Vance McDonald which was intercepted by Derwin James, giving the ball back to the Chargers’ offense.

The Chargers were unable to turn the interception into points, and after both team exchanged punts it was L.J. Fort who got a piece of a Chargers punt setting up the Pittsburgh offense well inside Los Angeles territory. After Roethlisberger overthrew a wide open Justin Hunter, the drive stalled and settled for a 48 yard Chris Boswell field goal, making the score 16-7 with 2:40 left in the half.

After the Boswell field goal, the Steelers’ defense forced a punt, giving the ball back to Roethlisberger with 1:35 left in the half and all three timeouts remaining. With a good mix of run to start the drive, and pass to finish, it was capped off by a 28-year beauty of a throw from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown for the Pittsburgh touchdown.

Chris Boswell made the extra point, and the score read 23-7 heading into halftime.

A holding call on Ramon Foster killed the Steelers’ opening drive of the second half, and resulted in a Jordan Berry punt. What followed was the Chargers’ best drive of the game, but how it ended might have been the strangest aspect of the drive. In the red-zone, Rivers threw a pass intended for Keenan Allen, and looked as if it would be intercepted by Joe Haden. That is when Sean Davis, also playing the ball, hit Haden and the ball popped into the air and into Allen’s out-stretched arms.

After a successful two-point conversion, the Steelers’ lead was cut to 23-15 nearing the end of the third quarter.

A three-and-out by the Steelers led to a Berry punt, but Desmond King took it 73-yards to the house to make the score 23-21. The Chargers went for the two-point conversion, and Rivers found Keenan Allen for the successful conversion to tie the game 23-23.

When the Steelers needed an answer, they got anything but that. Instead, it was another punt followed by another Chargers’ touchdown. This time, it was more Rivers to Allen, but also some quality running and the touchdown gave the Chargers their first lead of the game, with the score 30-23 with 8:09 left in regulation.

The Steelers weren’t going to go down without a fight, and were able to put together a lengthy drive with timely third down conversions getting the offense into the red-zone. It was there James Conner exited the game with an ankle injury, but his backup Jaylen Samuels was able to catch a dump off pass and run into the endzone for the score. Boswell’s point-after tied the game 30-30 with 4:10 left in regulation.

Rivers was able to move the ball down the field with ease and put the offense in position for the game-winning field goal. When it looked as if the kicker missed the game-winning kick, the officials called offsides on Pittsburgh, giving him another chance which he didn’t miss.

The Steelers loss was their second in a row for the first time in 2018, and moves their record to 7-4-1 on the season as they now prepare for a Week 14 trip to Oakland to play the Raiders. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they continue their march through the 2018 season.

Steelers vs. Chargers, Week 13: 3rd quarter in-game update

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 9:35pm

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

A holding call on Ramon Foster killed the Steelers’ opening drive of the second half, and resulted in a Jordan Berry punt. What followed was the Chargers’ best drive of the game, but how it ended might have been the strangest aspect of the drive. In the red-zone, Rivers threw a pass intended for Keenan Allen, and looked as if it would be intercepted by Joe Haden. That is when Sean Davis, also playing the ball, hit Haden and the ball popped into the air and into Allen’s out-stretched arms.

After a successful two-point conversion, the Steelers’ lead was cut to 23-15 nearing the end of the third quarter.

The Steelers have the ball and are driving to end the third quarter.

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 8:57pm

The Steelers are back on the gridiron! The 2018 regular season is here with the Steelers and Chargers locking horns in Week 13. 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 Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13.

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. Chargers, Week 13: 2nd quarter in-game update

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 8:52pm

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

Pittsburgh’s offense put together an impressive drive to start the second quarter, but as they entered field goal range, on 3rd and 10, Roethlisberger lofted an awkward pass intended for Vance McDonald which was intercepted by Derwin James, giving the ball back to the Chargers’ offense.

The Chargers were unable to turn the interception into points, and after both team exchanged punts it was L.J. Fort who got a piece of a Chargers punt setting up the Pittsburgh offense well inside Los Angeles territory. After Roethlisberger overthrew a wide open Justin Hunter, the drive stalled and settled for a 48 yard Chris Boswell field goal, making the score 16-7 with 2:40 left in the half.

After the Boswell field goal, the Steelers’ defense forced a punt, giving the ball back to Roethlisberger with 1:35 left in the half and all three timeouts remaining. With a good mix of run to start the drive, and pass to finish, it was capped off by a 28-year beauty of a throw from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown for the Pittsburgh touchdown.

Chris Boswell made the extra point, and the score read 23-7 heading into halftime.

Steelers vs. Chargers, Week 13: 1st quarter in-game update

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 8:00pm

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 a nice winning streak going when they entered Week 12, but the Denver Broncos snapped that streak, and putting a small dent in the Steelers’ hopes of clinching the AFC North division early. With the Los Angeles Chargers in town for a Week 13 showdown on Sunday Night Football, that small dent could become a big dent if the home team didn’t get back into the ‘W’ column quick.

With this game carrying some serious AFC Playoff significance, it was the visiting Chargers who started with the football after the Steelers elected to defer their possession to the second half.

Philip Rivers and company were able to move the ball with ease to Keenan Allen, but when they entered enemy territory they were forced to attempt a 52-yard field goal, which sailed wide left.

The missed kick gave Pittsburgh tremendous field position, and Ben Roethlisberger took little time hitting Antonio Brown on back-to-back plays, the second being a 46 yard bomb to the one-yard line.

So to recap....@AB84 did this. pic.twitter.com/UcAclMwwAF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 3, 2018

What happened next was a James Conner one-yard plunge to give the home team an early 7-0 lead after Chris Boswell nailed the point-after.

A Chargers three-and-out gave the ball back to Pittsburgh inside Los Angeles territory, and Roethlisberger did Roethlisberger things on the ensuing drive to get the Steelers to the one-yard line. With the pocket collapsing, keeping his head down the field, Roethlisberger targeted Ryan Switzer in the endzone, but he was interfered with giving the Steelers the ball at the one-yard line. James Conner did the rest, scoring his second touchdown of the game. However, Chris Boswell missed the extra point, making the score 13-0 with 4:41 left in the opening quarter.

In need of an answer, the Chargers found that in a deep shot to Travis Benjamin. What was shocking to the home team, and their fans, was the blatant false start which wasn’t called on that same play. Regardless, it wasn’t called and the Steelers’ lead was cut to 13-7.

That score would stand heading into the 2nd quarter.

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 7:08pm

The Steelers are back on the gridiron! The 2018 regular season is here with the Steelers and Chargers locking horns in Week 13. 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 Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13.

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!

Cameron Sutton, James Washington and Morgan Burnett among the inactives for Steelers in Week 13 vs. Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 5:57pm

Marcus Allen and Ola Adeniyi will also dress for their first game this year.

Having been listed as doubtful on the Pittsburgh Steelers injury report on Friday, it should come as no surprise to learn that Morgan Burnett will join Marcus Gilbert on the inactive list in Week 13. However, while Bud Dupree and Cam Sutton were both listed as questionable, on Dupree will play against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.

Matt Feiler starts in place of Gilbert for the sixth consecutive week, while the absence of Burnett has created an opportunity for Marcus Allen to see some snaps for the first time in 2018. As Stephon Tuitt returns from the elbow injury that forced him to miss the last two games, L.T. Walton resumes his familiar place on the inactive list.

As they have been for most of the year, Mason Rudolph, Zach Banner, and Justin Hunter are once again watching from the sidelines out of uniform. Barring injury, they are unlikely to dress for a game unless the Steelers are in a position to rest their starters in Week 17.

Predicting the Steelers’ Week 13 inactive list vs. the Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 4:27pm

There are at least 12 players who could end up on the seven-man list Sunday night.

Between the injury report and the roster move, the inactive list has a lot of different possibilities for this week.

Game Status

Out:

OT Marcus Gilbert (knee)

Doubtful:

S Morgan Burnett (back)

Questionable:

LB Bud Dupree (Pectoral)

CB Cam Sutton (Personal)

Roster Move

Add:

LB Ola Adeniyi

Release:

LB Matthew Thomas

Here are the possibilities to end up inactive for Week 13:

Definitely:

OT Marcus Gilbert- he is out for a sixth straight game, missing seven now on the season. With two different players filling in nicely in his absence, the talk of Gilbert’s future in the Steel City is bound to increase.

Most Likely:

QB Mason Rudolph- here’s hoping Rudolph gets a hat in Week 17 because the game is meaningless.

OT Zach Banner- I honestly thought Banner would get a helmet last week for depth with Feiler being questionable. But the special teams need was too much. So if he didn’t play last week, there’s no chance he’ll be dressed for this one. Personally, I think he should be breathing a sigh of relief that he is still on the 53 after the roster move was made.

DT L.T. Walton- although he did get a chance for two weeks to show what he could do in game action, Walton was not enough of a standout to overtake any other defensive lineman. With Stephon Tuitt getting back in the starting lineup, Walton gets to watch yet again.

S Morgan Burnett- The Steelers have yet to play someone in 2018 with a doubtful designation. And with the report of Marcus Allen possibly being active for the first time, I don’t see any way Burnett plays.

Possibly:

WR Justin Hunter or James Washington- it could go either way between these two. Washington has struggled lately and seems to be lacking confidence, so making him inactive could compound the situation even more. I thought it was a mistake when he was inactive coming out of the bye. If Hunter gets the nod instead, Washington could be a wash for the rest of 2018.

CB Cam Sutton or S Marcus Allen- I know. I already mentioned the report of Allen being active this week. Too many other times I thought he was a possibility, but the Steelers have yet to make the move. So I’m not a believer yet. And with Sutton been questionable because of a personal matter, it’s really hard to judge if he’s going to play or not.

Unlikely:

LB Bud Dupree- his practice participation trended in the right direction all week. Unless he has a setback, I see the Steelers having him go but possibly not giving him quite the workload as he would get otherwise.

CB Brian Allen- if Cam Sutton is available, I still see Brian getting the nod over Marcus. This has been the decision every week it has come up so far in 2018.

LB Ola Adeniyi- it would make no sense to activate Ola from the IR on Saturday if the plan was not to dress him on Sunday. It could be insurance if Dupree can’t go, but if Ola is on the 53, let’s find a way to get him a helmet and see what he can do at least on special teams.

Projected Inactive List:
  1. Mason Rudolph
  2. Marcus Gilbert
  3. Morgan Burnett
  4. Zach Banner
  5. L.T. Walton
  6. Justin Hunter
  7. Marcus Allen

There’s a real possibility the final two spots on this list could be completely different. Between Washington, Dupree, Sutton, Adeniyi, and Brian Allen, there are too many factors to do anything other than take a wild guess. I’m going with Hunter because, frankly, it’s what I want. And as much as I’d like to see Marcus Allen on the field, I won’t believe he is active on game day until I finally see it, regardless of the reports.

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

Week 13 Late Games: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 2:54pm

The Steelers don’t play until later in Week 13, but we all will be watching on Sunday to see how things shake out.

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t play until 8:20 p.m. ET in Week 13, with the Steelers not slated to play until they host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football. We all know the Steelers Nation fan base will be watching all the earlier games today to see how things shake out.

Some take this time to just relax and get caught up on things outside of football, but if you are like me, you are still watching the full slate of action on Sunday.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on Sunday. Which game are you watching? Are you someone with NFL Sunday Ticket who has access to all games, or are you stuck watching just one or two games? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all those AFC North games in the process.

As always, remember we are all here for the same reason...

GO STEELERS!

Steelers Film Room: Chuks Okorafor — the good, the bad, the ugly

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 2:47pm

Time to examine how the rookie offensive tackle did in his first start as a professional.

Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Chukwuma Okorafor was not only a surprise start in Week 12 against the Denver Broncos but he played all the 78 offensive snaps. Starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert was again inactive for his fifth consecutive game. Backup tackle Matt Feiler, who many thought would start, was active but seemingly only available in case of an emergency due to a pectoral injury sustained the week before against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Fans were already anxious due to Broncos strongside linebacker Von Miller. Miller would see extensive action against the right tackle position. The six-time Pro Bowler is having a banner year as Miller came in tied for fourth in the NFL with 10 sacks heading into the contest.

Okorafor, the 2018 fourth-round pick out of Western Michigan, did not embarrass himself during the game but he received help from Steelers tight ends, running backs and Pittsburgh’s right guard David DeCastro in trying to limit the destruction that Miller could bring to the field.

Miller did not take over the game like some fans feared, but he was a disruptive factor while being lined up across from Okorafor. Below is some good, bad and ugly tape on Okorafor against Miller but also other Bronco defenders in the pass and run aspect of the game.

The Good The Bad The Ugly

Miller came out of the game productive with one sack, two tackles and a quarterback hit and Okorafor gave up other pressures to Broncos defenders. It was not an abysmal day for the raw first-year Steelers tackle, but it was far from a glowing first full complement of snaps either. Feiler has practiced all week and should be on track to start at right tackle Sunday. Feiler should be an upgrade over Okorafor, but is coming off a poor game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers will need to give the right tackle position help tonight against the Los Angeles Chargers and Melvin Ingram, as the team did against the Broncos. Ingram not only leads the Chargers in sacks (5.5), but also in tackles for losses (6).

Week 13 Early Games: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 11:49am

The Steelers don’t play until later in Week 13, but we all will be watching on Sunday to see how things shake out.

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t play until 8:20 p.m. ET in Week 13, with the Steelers not slated to play until they host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football. We all know the Steelers Nation fan base will be watching all the earlier games today to see how things shake out.

Some take this time to just relax and get caught up on things outside of football, but if you are like me, you are still watching the full slate of action on Sunday.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on Sunday. Which game are you watching? Are you someone with NFL Sunday Ticket who has access to all games, or are you stuck watching just one or two games? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all those AFC North games in the process.

As always, remember we are all here for the same reason...

GO STEELERS!

Austin Ekeler is not Melvin Gordon, but do not dismiss his talent

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 11:18am

Even without Melvin Gordon, the Steelers could have their hands full with Austin Ekeler.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week when Melvin Gordon, the star running back for the Los Angeles Chargers, was ruled out. Gordon, the fourth year back out of Wisconsin will miss the Steelers game tonight due to a sprained MCL he suffered in last Sunday’s 45-10 win against the Arizona Cardinals. Gordon is sixth in the NFL in rushing yards with 802 and fourth in the league with nine rushing touchdowns to go along with 453 yards receiving and four more touchdowns. Pittsburgh fans should not jump the gun too fast and dismiss the next man up for the Bolts, Austin Ekeler.

In 2017, the former Western State Mountaineer went undrafted even though he had over 7,000 yards rushing and receiving combined and 63 touchdowns in his four-year career at the small Division II school. The 23-year-old will look to punish another team for dismissing his ability due to his 5-10 200 size or the level of competition he faced while in college.

Once a player leaves college, the stats there are meaningless and now what counts is what a player has done in the pros. That is where Steelers fans should be uneasy.

Ekeler has a career 5.7 yards per carry average which is buoyed by his 5.8 yards per carry average on 117 carries in 2018. His value does not end there. Ekeler also has 32 reception on 39 targets so far in 2018 to go along with his four total touchdowns.

Ekeler is coming off a career-best in Week 12 with 10 receptions for 68 yards on 11 targets to go along with five rushes for 35 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. Justin Jackson did split carries with Ekeler and was also effective with seven carries for 57 yards. Those are hefty averages when looking at a Cardinals defense that has yielded 3.5 yards per carry with their sixth-best run defense unit in the NFL.

It would thrill steelers fans for Ekeler to have a similar mediocre game like the one he had in Week 7 when he started for an injured Gordon. Against the leagues fourth-best defense against the run, the Tennessee Titans, Ekeler rushed 12 times for 42 yards and caught five passes for 26 yards while snaring five of seven passes for 26 yards. Ekeler had an 11-yard rush and completion as he was bottled up for most of the day as he was kept out of the endzone.

There has only been speculation on how Ekeler will be used by the Chargers tonight or how effective his presence will be. How ready will the Steelers and their fifth-ranked defense in yards allowed be against the 8-3 Chargers? Will the Steelers be fired up or hung over from their Mile High loss last week to the Denver Broncos? Can the Steelers do a better job at containing Ekeler then the 110 yards given up to Philip Lindsay last week? Both teams are in the playoff hunt and look to solidify their position within the playoff scenarios.

Will Ekeler rub the Steelers’ noses in the fact that they bypassed him in the draft? Or will he reassure Pittsburgh fans that GM Kevin Colbert was right to seek talent elsewhere?

Report: Steelers ILB Ryan Shazier jogged on Friday for the first time

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/02/2018 - 10:00am

A must-read for all fans everywhere as the Holiday season begins

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Ryan Shazier have been an inspirational story from the moment Shazier laid flat on the Paul Brown Stadium turf in December 2017. Shazier, who suffered a severe spinal chord injury on the Monday night game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, football fans everywhere have been mesmerized with Shazier’s astounding progress.

Whether it was his social media post standing next to Ben Roethlisberger, or him delivering the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first round draft pick selection of Terrell Edmunds at the 2018 NFL Draft.

Every step of the way, literally, has been inspirational, and as of December 1st there is news on Shazier’s continued progress. All football fans everywhere received what may be the best gift of all - hope - as the Holiday season kicks off with Hanukkah this evening. From this morning’s Post-Gazette:

In the year since [Ryan] Shazier was strapped to a backboard and carted to an ambulance at Paul Brown Stadium, he went from a hospital bed to a wheelchair, then a walker, then two canes, and then one. Now he wears a bracelet that reads “Walking Miracle.” Shazier moves along the Steelers sideline during practices and games, walking with only a slightly halting gait.

Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter said Shazier jogged on Friday for the first time since the injury.

The rest is a wonderful article about all the things you want to know: the young man, the injury, the team, the linebacker room, etc. But that’s the magical, wonderful, make-your-Holiday gist.

We hope fans of the black-and-gold can refrain from the debate of whether Shazier should, or shouldn’t, ever return to football if his health allows him, but instead focus on one very importance of the fact Shazier is approaching one year from his partial paralysis, and is now starting to job.

Always SHALIEVE!

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