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Training Camp Recap: Antonio Brown returns as a full participant in practice

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/12/2018 - 8:27am

The Steelers were back on the gridiron at training camp, and we’ve got the recap for you!

Saturday marked the Pittsburgh Steelers’ triumphant return to training camp at Saint Vincent College, and Antonio Brown was a full participant in practice. Not just doing work on a side field, but a full participant.

It was good to see Tony Toe Tap back doing damage on the field.

AB back in full. Here’s Brown in individuals, and he was awfully chirpy once he started winning one-on-ones. “You ain’t stick me since we been here,” Brown told Artie Burns. pic.twitter.com/RimXI8etas

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 11, 2018

Artie Burns vs. Antonio Brown in the Red Zone. #Steelers #dkps pic.twitter.com/Rh3A7nIPcL

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 11, 2018

While Brown will most likely be given another preseason game off Thursday, there is a distinct difference between the offense with Brown, compared to without. Despite what he does to the offense, fans should rest easy knowing the injury which required him to leave camp for further evaluation seems to be healing well.

Barring a setback, Brown looks more than ready for another huge season.

Time to check in on other nuggets which happened at Saturday’s training camp session.

Missing Time

There were a lot of Steelers who missed all, or part, of practice. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler runs down who left during practice, and those who missed practice all together. Check out the list:

Several Steelers missed practice time Saturday: FS Sean Davis (groin), OLB Bud Dupree (concussion), C Maurkice Pouncey (undisclosed), OT Marcus Gilbert (personal), TE Vance McDonald (foot), OG B.J. Finney (quad contusion), OLB T.J. Watt (hamstring) and TE Xavier Grimble (wrist)

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 12, 2018 Special Unexpected Guest

One of the stranger stories most have ever heard from Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA is how a fan tried to get onto the field to practice with the team. From the reports, he actually made it down to the field before being caught and escorted off campus. He should have known it wasn’t a padded practice Saturday.

Rookie.

A .@steelers impostor is detained by security after sneaking onto the practice field and started stretching with the team. @AB84 back to practice with a toe tap td, @_BigBen7 leads running back James Conner and @JamesWashington catches a touchdown during practice, pic.twitter.com/aG873pWXDs

— Charles Palla (@ChazPalla) August 11, 2018

Antonio Brown looks pretty healthy. Watch the toe tap. #Steelers #dkps pic.twitter.com/7SVgINyZ6N

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 11, 2018

This 84 guy is in pads today for the Steelers. Practicing catching bad balls. #dkps #Steelers pic.twitter.com/DS3EDKjDJA

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 11, 2018 VIDEOS

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following practice at #SteelersCamp. https://t.co/UZwNbM8xW2

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 11, 2018

JuJu Smith-Schuster TD from the 20 vs. Brian Allen. #Steelers #dkps pic.twitter.com/PBiSl4neyL

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 11, 2018

Steelers receiver Damoun Patterson hit a backflip after his beautiful 29-yard touchdown catch in Philly. On cue, Patterson re-enacts the flip. pic.twitter.com/7vVsdgoY0D

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 11, 2018

#CampLife pic.twitter.com/2ABrl3wboj

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 11, 2018 PHOTOS

Great to have @nyknicks coach David Fizdale at practice today. Always enjoy sharing ideas and philosophies with others in the business. pic.twitter.com/ibwBsYayBG

— Mike Tomlin (@CoachTomlin) August 11, 2018

Another good day camp. Three days to go. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/WCDluFTlmV

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 11, 2018

Le’Veon Bell will attempt to replicate the camp experience with a private trainer

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/12/2018 - 6:51am

The Steelers’ star running back will attempt to make up for all the drills and exercises he's missing in Latrobe by working with a trainer in South Florida

Followers of Le’Veon Bell on social media might wonder if he ever has time to workout during the offseason, given how focused he seems to be on his “music career.” But just because he rarely posts highlights of his training regimen like many of the other names on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, it doesn’t mean he's not staying in shape.

Despite missing the entire preseason last year, it would be fair to say that Bell was in good condition when he did eventually arrive. However, it would also be just as fair to note that he wasn’t actually in football shape until about Week 4 or 5. Coincidentally enough, that was about the same length of time it took the rest of his teammates to complete the team's organized training activities he had missed before the season started.

Perhaps hoping to avoid another slow start to the year after missing a second training camp this offseason, it seems Bell will be doing his best to recreate the exercises and drills he would have done at Saint Vincent College, but without the inconvenience of actually having to be there.

According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Bell will be working with private trainer and noted footwork specialist Rischad Whitfield in the coming weeks, and the man known as “The Footwork King” has created a workout program that will somehow account for Bell’s absence from camp. As he told Fowler.

“For Le’Veon’s case, since he’s not at camp right now, a lot of our workouts will consist of running back drills that are applicable and functional for game-time situations. I will incorporate tons of reading and reaction drills as if he’s running the football and he has to read and react quickly with the proper footwork, body control and agility needed to get from one hole to another and make defenders miss in the open space.”

While this sounds good on paper, it's hard to imagine how this will adequately replicate the physical nature of training camp. If he's looking for the camp experience, it would seem simpler just to go to Latrobe. Bell opted to work with Whitfield right before the start of the 2017 season, and that didn't appear to make up for missing out on three weeks of training with his teammates. Regardless, Whitfield remains confident.

“I’ll do a lot of things that will help Le’Veon with his quickness, agility and coordination. I’ll be fine-tuning his football endurance as well as doing a lot of tempo runs.”

If Bell actually is in football shape when he finally arrives, Whitfield should be heralded as a miracle worker and fans are advised to prepare for another slow start to the season from the team’s star running back, just in case Whitfield cannot do the impossible.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have mastered the art of transition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/12/2018 - 5:45am

Fans often bemoan all things Steelers, but when you look at their history a deep appreciation and trust should reside.

We all tend to think that the way things are when we first become aware of them is the way things will always be. I supported Richard Nixon in the ‘72 election, the first I was aware of, not because I knew anything about politics, but because he was the president. (And rumor had it McGovern was in favor of year-round schools.) Ali, in my mind, would always be the champ, AJ Foyt would always win the Indy 500. And Terry Bradshaw would always be the Steelers’ quarterback.

That sense of immutability was both confirmed and shaken near the end of the ‘83 season when, like Rocky Balboa getting off the canvas, Walt Frazier coming out of the locker room, Curt Schilling bleeding at the ankle, Bradshaw pulled out a victory over the Jets with a wounded wing that had just two more touchdown passes in it. He won the game because he was the quarterback. But at the end, he was done for good and was the quarterback no more.

Sometimes the transition goes smoothly -- other times it does not. When Swann and Stallworth pushed out Frank Lewis and Ron Shanklin, that was quite an upgrade. When Sam Washington replaced Mel Blount, not so much. While we have every reason to expect success in a given season, we shouldn’t expect every position to be one where a Pro Bowler, as his day in the sun ends graciously, hands the baton to the next Pro Bowler.

There was a long gap between Bradshaw and our having even a competent quarterback in Neil O’Donnell, let alone the wait for another Hall of Famer in Big Ben Roethlisberger. On the other hand, we have been fortunate that from 1989 to 2012 we had exactly three seasons where our right outside linebacker was not Greg Lloyd, Joey Porter or James Harrison. In like manner from 1975 to the present, the Steelers have had all of 12 seasons in which at least one of their starting receivers wasn’t worthy of the Hall of Fame -- Swann, Stallworth, Hines Ward and Antonio Brown.

All of which ought to lead us not to lose sight of the good fortune of having a gifted front office. It’s quite possible, even in the NFL, for a team to get lucky and become a flash-in-the-pan. But success year by year, decade by decade, stems from an effective transition. In our case, the transition from Chuck Noll to Bill Cowher to Mike Tomlin -- and a still more vital transition -- from the Chief, to Dan Rooney to Art Rooney II.

We don’t expect any radical changes in the makeup of the roster this season. But changes are coming. Le’Veon Bell will be taking his talents elsewhere. Big Ben will, in the coming years, start to run down. Their replacements might be in Latrobe right now preparing for future greatness. They might be on some college campus getting ready for a new season. We don’t know. What we know is that we have reason to trust the process. For all our ranting and raving in the moment against Tomlin, Colbert or Rooney, it’s good to be thankful and hopeful.

Steelers injury report: Antonio Brown returns to practice while T.J. Watt remains out

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/11/2018 - 4:54pm

The Steelers were missing another starter on defense when they resumed training on Saturday while the offense saw the return of their star wide receiver

The Pittsburgh Steelers have less than a week of camp remaining and were back at practice on Saturday for the first time their since preseason win over the Philadelphia Eagles. While several key starters were unable to play on Thursday, it would appear that the extra days off have been beneficial for the team’s most significant injured player.

For the first time in over a week after suffering a quad injury, Antonio Brown was back in pads as a full participant, showing little sign of the injured that had sidelined him.

Antonio Brown has been a full practice participant so far today.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 11, 2018

Antonio Brown looks pretty healthy. Watch the toe tap. #Steelers #dkps pic.twitter.com/7SVgINyZ6N

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 11, 2018

AB back in full. Here’s Brown in individuals, and he was awfully chirpy once he started winning one-on-ones. “You ain’t stick me since we been here,” Brown told Artie Burns. pic.twitter.com/RimXI8etas

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 11, 2018

Brown even had time to pass on some recovery tips to T.J. Watt (hamstring), one of several names who were held out of practice.

Antonio Brown is on the sideline between plays giving Watt tips on how to work his hamstring. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 11, 2018

Vance McDonald (foot) and Bud Dupree (concussion) were held out once again, but it is worth noting that Dupree also just announced the birth of a child on Saturday afternoon. After suffering a quad contusion against the Eagles, B.J. Finney was always expected to miss some time on the practice field, but it was something of a surprise to note both Sean Davis (groin) and Xavier Grimble (thumb) spent the day on the sideline as well.

Davis, McDonald, Dupree, Watt, Finney, Grimble all did not practice today. Marcus Allen just left early. We’ll hear from Tomlin in a bit. #Steelers

— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) August 11, 2018

B.J. Finney walked with slight limp as he entered cafeteria. He did not have his leg wrapped which is a good sign regarding his quad contusion injury.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 11, 2018

Xavier Grimble not practicing today. Has a cast/brace on his right wrist. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 11, 2018

When addressing the media at the end of the day, Mike Tomlin appeared upbeat about the status of Finney, suggesting his absence “shouldn't be a lengthy period of time”, but had nothing to share about a timescale for the return of players like Watt or Dupree.

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following practice at #SteelersCamp. https://t.co/UZwNbM8xW2

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 11, 2018

Steelers practice Saturday could see several regulars returning

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/11/2018 - 1:15pm

The Steelers are in their final week of training camp, and they could see some regulars come back to the practice field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will return to practice Saturday, and they are entering the final home stretch of training camp at Saint Vincent College before heading back to the Steelers’ headquarters after the Week 2 preseason game Thursday in Green Bay vs. the Packers.

However, Saturday’s practice could see the return of several regulars who have missed time over the past week or so.

Here is a rundown of who might be back on the practice field:

Antonio Brown — Quad Strain

Brown could be back on the practice field Saturday, but the Steelers also may elect to be extra cautious with the All-Pro’s injury before unleashing him again. I would expect more rehab work for Brown before he returns to practice.

T.J. Watt — Hamstring

Watt injured his hamstring in the first week of camp, and hasn’t returned since. I would expect to see Watt at least working his way back this week, but like Brown, the Steelers could practice caution with their starting left outside linebacker.

Bud Dupree — Concussion

Dupree suffered a concussion during the Friday Night Lights practice, and prior to the Week 1 preseason game against the Eagles, Dupree was starting the recovery process by jogging and exercising. When Dupree returns isn’t up to the Steelers, but when he clears the protocol.

Vance McDonald — Foot

McDonald was injured early in camp, and like Watt hasn’t practiced since. McDonald hasn’t reportedly been seen doing anything regarding rehab, at least in public, so it will be interesting to see if he returns anytime soon. As Steelers fans know from Senquez Golson’s short time with the team, foot injuries can be difficult. Any type of return by McDonald would be great news for the Steelers tight end.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes regarding the Steelers’ injured, and their status, as the team returns to work.

Steelers Training Camp 2018: Live updates 8/11

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/11/2018 - 1:08pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and training-camp practices are underway! Follow along with BTSC as the players start to hone their skills and prepare for the 2018 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the rabid fans awaiting their first glimpse of the Black-and-gold are prepared for another official day of training camp! The Steelers are finally back to practice, so it is time to prepare yourself!

If you’re stuck at work or at home, follow along with those on the scene at Saint Vincent College for the best pictures, video and news coming straight from the practice field in Latrobe, PA. Don't miss a minute of the action!

Today's practice begins at 2:55 p.m. EST, and is open to the public. Take a look at the training camp schedule below and, as always, follow along with live updates in the Twitter feed below.

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Mason Rudolph tells his side of the ‘Deflategate’ story from Thursday night

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/11/2018 - 12:20pm

The Steelers, and by proxy Mason Rudolph, were accused of deflating footballs. Rudolph tells his side of the story.

As if Mason Rudolph didn’t have enough on his mind heading into Thursday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 of the NFL Preseason, the last thing he probably expected was to be accused of deflating footballs.

That is exactly what happened when a second half pass sailed out of bounds, and a sideline reporter picked up the football and described it as feeling like a “marshmallow”. This ignited a slew of rumors surrounding the Steelers equipment staff, and Rudolph, but the NFL would later say all proper procedures were followed and it was nothing more than a defective football.

With that out of the way, the question is what did happen? How did Rudolph end up being snapped a defective football? Before training camp practice on Saturday, Rudolph talked to the media about his side of the story.

Mason Rudolph said he knew right away the ball was deflated. Said it was like an old ball that was on your grandpa garage for two years. @TheAthleticPGH

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 11, 2018

Said it was on go route to Patterson in third. Ball was taken out of play after that. Said it was so deflated that it was almost impossible to throw.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 11, 2018

So there you have it, folks.

By listening to Rudolph’s account of the events which took place at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night, the deflated football in question was certainly anything but a competitive advantage. In fact, it could be considered the complete opposite.

The Steelers get back to training camp practice Saturday as they begin their preparation for their Week 2 preseason game against the Packers in Green Bay this Thursday.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they get back to work at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.

Here is video of Rudolph talking about the events which took place:

Mason Rudolph on the defective football vs #Eagles. #Steelers @937theFan pic.twitter.com/eBFFhuoYqo

— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) August 11, 2018

Stock Report: See whose stock is rising and falling after the win over the Eagles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/11/2018 - 11:25am

What’s up and what’s down in the bull market of expectations.

It’s time fur sum football! Please enjoy the stock report responsibly.

Stock up: Young receivers!

Let the record reflect that preseason football is delusive, inherently boring, and generally unwatchable and that sitting through an entire preseason game — like many of us probably just did — is the kind of masochistic activity that should require a safe-word and a post-game cigarette. Let the record also reflect that, oftentimes, any events that transpire during a preseason game don’t portend a significant (or even tangible) paradigm-shift in the natural order of things. For example, Baker Mayfield and Tyrod Taylor are still basically doomed, and no amount of pageantry or positivity in the preseason is gonna change that, you know?

Be that as it may, the Steelers have some really exciting receivers on their roster! JuJu Smith-Schuster, whose goodness is already well-established, outmanned Rasul Butler for an underthrown Landry Jones pass and then took the daggum rock the whole way to the house for a 71-yard tuddy.

JuJu Smith-Schuster touchdown!pic.twitter.com/TjDMIJdmwB

— Sports Notes (@SportsNotes23) August 9, 2018

James Washington, whose goodness is, thus far, less established than Smith-Schuster’s but still palpable, caught two passes for 44 yards, including a very sexy 35-yard contested catch near the sideline on a 3rd-and-8 in the second half. Look at this nonsense.

Nice catch by James Washington on a free play: pic.twitter.com/ZJCfpLK7rP

— Cian (@Cianaf) August 10, 2018

Look at how Washington boxes-out Avonte Maddox—who, as a member of the University of Pittsburgh’s secondary, watched in terror as Washington amassed 420 receiving yards in two starts against Pitt as a member of the Oklahoma State Cowboys—right until the ball reaches it’s highest point, at which time he breaks away and snags the ball right the heck out of the air. That’s some expert-level awareness. YA CAN’T TEACH IT. You also can’t glean too much from a single play, but it’s clear that Washington possesses the ability and — equally importantly — the knowhow to make an outsized impact on the Steelers’ offense in his rookie campaign — that is, of course, assuming he manages to fend off world-beating football catcher Damoun Patterson.

Joshua Dobbs trouve Damoun Patterson pour un TD, et le WR nous sort un backflip pour célébrer ! pic.twitter.com/oejdUGXiYF

— NFL France (@FirstDownFR) August 10, 2018

(Please forgive the exceedingly random sources of these tweets; the big-wig bureaucrats at the league office have apparently forbade the linkage of embedded media. Sad!)

This ruled! The catch was great and legitimately difficult and he should be commended for getting both feet in-bounds, but his celebration really elevated the whole thing. It was so neat. Including the above-linked 29-yard touchdown catch, Patterson caught six passes for 77 yards, all the while showcasing his ability to beat single coverage, run concise routes, and make contested catches in high-traffic areas. To be sure, he did most of his damage against guys who will be working at Nordstrom in four weeks, but Patterson at least looked the part of a complete receiver. And it should be noted that the Steelers have plenty of depth receivers to play around with, so the fact that Patterson was a foremost component of the offense against Philadelphia shows that Mike Tomlin et al. are going to provide free rein for Patterson to claim a roster spot. Plus, it’s not like it would be groundbreaking if the Steelers did manage to unearth another star receiver.

Stock down-ish: Middle linebackers

I don’t wanna imbue this whole thing with negativity right out of the gate, but the middle linebacker situation isn’t off to a strong start. Vince Williams is a fantastic middle linebacker but probably doesn’t possess the sideline-to-sideline briskness to realistically be consistently reliable in coverage. Jon Bostic made a couple of impressive, instinctual plays, shooting open gaps al la Ryan Shazier to snuff out a pair of runs, but he also missed a couple of tackles. That Tyler Matakevich could legitimately be starting at middle linebacker in Week 1 should terrify you. Early in the second quarter, Matakevich had a completely unabated free run at Nate Sudfeld, Philadelphia’s third-string quarterback. In response, Sudfeld, who is, you know, not James Harden, shuffled his feet awkwardly, which apparently caused the part of Matakevich’s brain that tells his legs and feet what to do to vaporize. Instead of getting an easy sack, Matakevich fell harmlessly forward, his ankles glued to the turf. Matakevich is a nice special-teams player, but he should not be starting meaningful football games for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

But I’ll chalk up any deficiencies to Keith Butler, um, conducting some “schematic experimentation.”

Stock up: The quarterbacks

Landry Jones completed all four of his passing attempts for 83 yards and a touchdown (great!), Josh Dobbs threw a really bad interception but also a really good touchdown (good!), and Mason Rudolph, in his very first NFL action, took a pair of sacks and nearly lost two fumbles (not good!) but threw for 101 yards on 12 attempts (not bad!). I’d guess that Landry Jones’ glorious reign as the No. 2 quarterback will endure through 2018, so figuring out the No. 3 quarterback is gonna be the storyline to watch for the remainder of the preseason.

In lieu of the proprietary Ben Roethlisberger Retirement Index, I’d like to introduce the Dobbs-Rudolph Scale:

Dobbs———————————Too Close To Call——————————-Rudolph

Very empirical. Anyway, after one preseason game, I think this is too close to call, so we’re setting the arrow right in the middle.

Here’s a spicy take: if Dobbs balls out and “wins” the No. 3 job, the Steelers should trade him. Not long ago, the Patriots managed to get Philip Dorsett (a terrible receiver, but a former first-round pick nonetheless) from the Colts for former third-stringer Jacoby Brissett. If the Steelers could get a similar return for Dobbs, they absolutely should do so.

Stock up-ish: Most of the running backs

The Steelers have compiled an interesting stable of secondary running backs, headed for the moment by former Pitt standout James Conner, who looked pretty solid running the ball Thursday night but was little more than a speed-bump on a play in which Michael Jenkins nearly assassinated Landry Jones. Jaylen Samuels was considerably less effective than Conner (Samuels had seven yards on six carries, which, yikes), but did play in a variety of positions throughout Thursday’s game. This indicates that the Steelers are, at the very least, interested in deploying Samuels in the same jack-of-all-trades role that he played in college. Stevan Ridley, whose performance against Cleveland in the 2017 season finale alone should warrant him roster consideration, was ineffective running the ball (10 carries for 14 yards) but snagged three passes out of the backfield for 45 yards, and the resulting snaky, carefully-calculated forays showcased just show effective and dangerous he can be in the open field.

Of course, these performances will be rendered moot once the regular season starts and Le’Veon Bell rejoins the backfield, but they’re certainly entertaining in the meantime.

Stock down: THE RULES

Sidney Jones was flagged for targeting, which is, under the NFL’s revised “helmet policy,” an ejectionable offense. It wasn’t a dirty or intentional or malicious hit, and Jones, along with his teammates, the coaches, the play-by-play guys, the fans in the stadium, and several members of the Steelers’ offense, seemed to be genuinely confused by the ruling on the field. Listen — I fully support any measures that make football “safer,” no matter how nebulous the benefits conferred by said measure may be. But this new targeting thing is absolutely going to turn viewers off. If the league thought its arcane “catch rule” was horrible and contentious and poorly designed, just wait until the targeting rule metastasizes into some similarly byzantine and impossible-to-interpret thing and leads to a bogus ejection or directly influences the outcome of an important game. People will riot in the streets.

Stock down: Randy Fichtner

New offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, who replaced cargo shorts-wearing turbo clown Todd Haley, either has a very angry happy face or was furious that Juju Smith-Schuster had the gall to celebrate a touchdown. If it’s the latter thing, Fichtner needs to chill out in a hurry. If Fichtner’s endgame is to implement some sort of authoritarian “hand the ball back to the referees and scamper back to the sideline” directive, he’s coaching the wrong team.

The Steelers’ improving quarterback depth could open up doors of opportunity

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/11/2018 - 7:41am

The Steelers’ wealth of quarterbacks could help them make some moves to improve the team.

With Week 1 of the 2018 NFL Preseason in the books for the Pittsburgh Steelers, there was a lot to sift through after the 31-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

One of the nuggets recovered is improved depth at quarterback for the Black-and-gold.

Ben Roethlisberger is the entrenched starter, Landry Jones seems to be the inevitable No. 2, and Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph will likely battle for the third and final spot on the quarterback depth chart.

After the game Thursday night, it became apparent how, even with Dobbs’ shortcomings, he shows promise as both a runner and thrower. Is Dobbs a future starter in the NFL? No, but he certainly might be a quality No. 2 for a long time in the league.

Watching Dobbs play during the second quarter, it was clear he's better than a lot of quarterbacks currently employed in the NFL. This got me thinking.

If the Steelers aren’t going to keep four quarterbacks, which is likely, they will be parting ways with one of their signal-callers. The odds-on favorite to be given his release is Dobbs, and if there's a position which might have trade value, it could just be quarterback.

After watching Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan for the Eagles, there was no doubt in my mind there might be a suitor for Dobbs’ talents. However, for this to even become a possibility, there would first need to be a team suffering an injury at quarterback. Secondly, Dobbs would have to continue to improve his play throughout the preseason.

Dobbs will have plenty of opportunities to show his capabilities and, if the Steelers are already sold on Landry Jones being the primary backup quarterback, you might as well put Dobbs on display as possible trade fodder.

This is the point where fans ask what type of return the Steelers might get for Dobbs. We aren’t talking about a starter, but possibly a valuable veteran backup to help solidify one of many positions of need, especially the offensive line. If the team could somehow swing a backup offensive tackle for Dobbs, it would be a trade well worth it.

It's still early and a lot can change, but if the writing is on the wall for Jones and Rudolph to fill out the top-3, the Steelers would be wise to make some calls to see if anyone is interested in a backup quarterback with lots of potential.

Is this likely to happen? Probably not, but if the Steelers were looking to make a trade, the quarterback position might be one of the best places they could offer value to get value.

The NFL's new helmet rule might be a pain, but holds promise to be good for football

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/11/2018 - 6:14am

The NFL's helmet rule may ultimately make football a safer sport to play.

There are many Steelers/NFL-related topics that are very controversial to write about these days.

Examples include the ongoing National (censored) controversy; the ongoing training camp holdout of running back Le’Veon (censored); and the NFL Catch bleeping, bleep, bleep, bleep.

And now with the 2018 preseason officially underway after the annual Hall of Fame Game between the Bears and Ravens last week, we have another controversial topic that will surely take up bandwidth and airtime across this great land of ours this entire football season:

The NFL’s new (or is it new emphasis on an old rule?) Helmet Rule and hits to the head in general.

While this seems like a controversial subject, it really shouldn’t be, well, not until your favorite football team is affected by it, that is.

I can see it now: The Steelers are taking on the Patriots at Heinz Field this December in yet another important Week-15 match-up that will sway the AFC’s postseason fate one way or another. With mere minutes remaining, Tom Brady drops back to pass on 4th-and-10, only to be mercilessly taken to the turf by a hard-charging Cam Heyward. Yes! The Steelers finally defeat the Patriots and procure the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the process.

But wait...there’s a flag. That’s right, Heyward is called for lowering his helmet before sacking Brady, even though the many replays clearly show that the decorated defensive lineman used proper technique and only made incidental contact with his face-mask in the process of taking Brady to the turf.

Brady takes advantage of this dubious penalty by driving his offense downfield for the game-winning (and AFC playoff picture-altering) score.

And I break more things in my apartment.

Anyway, Al Riveron spends the next several days telling us why it actually was a foul, while the rest of America tells Al Riveron that he’s a horse’s (censored).

Yes, if Thursday night’s preseason kickoff vs. the Steelers and Eagles was any indication (the rule was enforced several times and created a lot of confusion during and after the game), there could be many such occurrences throughout the NFL in 2018.

It seems inevitable the league will go through some growing pains while trying to make the helmet less a part of the tackle and more a device to protect its players.

As a long-time football fan, I think I might be okay with some frustrating moments (well, maybe not the fictional one I described above) provided that it leads to a safer game.

Speaking of frustrations, I think a lot of fans are misguided when they vent about the NFL becoming less of a physical sport.

Football can still be a super-physical sport without people using their helmets as weapons to hit other people.

Like everything else in football, if you use proper technique while tackling, blocking or, in the case of a skill-position player, engaging a would-be tackler, you should be able to get the job done in most cases.

The NFL released a Fact Sheet recently detailing the Helmet Rule, what the officials will be looking for and how it will be called.

Included in the Fact Sheet are a series of instructional videos conducted by several NFL coaches who break down proper and improper blocking, hitting and tackling techniques by offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, defensive backs and even ball carriers.

While these coaches all stress things such as keeping your knees bent, pads low and face up, they repeat over and over again the importance of football players not leading with the crown of their helmets, not lowering their heads to take on opposing players.

If you watch the linebacker portion of these videos, you’ll see a play where Ryan Shazier leads with his helmet as he tackles an opposing Browns player in Week-1 of last season--this play drew a 15-yard penalty.

Knowing what we now know about Shazier’s quality of life being put in great jeopardy last December 4 at Paul Brown Stadium in a Monday night game against the Bengals, watching that play from earlier in the season is quite chilling.

Speaking of topics, it seems like the NFL loses no matter which direction it tries to go these days (for example, the National (censored) controversy), and I guess the same can be said about the Helmet Rule and trying to eliminate head shots in general.

Some people tune out because they’re appalled by the sport’s brutality, brutality that has claimed many victims due to the league’s once nonchalant attitude towards concussions and the neurological effects of repeated head shots.

Other people tune out because they think rules aimed at making football safer have made it less watchable.

I guess some battles you just can’t win, but the NFL shouldn’t stop trying to win the war on making its sport as safe as possible.

I’ve heard it said many times that football would be safer if you just eliminated the helmet. Maybe that’s true, but if you’re admitting you could safely play tackle football without a helmet, you’re admitting there’s a proper and safe way to tackle someone while wearing a helmet.

Therefore, the techniques that have always been taught and reinforced at every level of football from Pop Warner to the pros are sound techniques that can be applied on just about every play, while maintaining the physical spirit of the sport. And in those cases where they haven’t been taught and reinforced, the coaches responsible have failed their players.

The Helmet Rule will likely be a frustrating one in 2018 as the league works out the bugs, but if this ensures we’ll still have football in 2038, it’ll be worth it.

Podcast: Breaking down what went right, and what went wrong vs. the Eagles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/11/2018 - 5:28am

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

The 2018 season is officially underway with the 2018 preseason officially kicked off. This means there is plenty of news for the Pittsburgh Steelers faithful everywhere.

Take a look at the rundown for the first episode of the new season Steelers Post-Game Recap. On this show, Jeff Hartman discusses what went right, and what went wrong in the game that wasy.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Q&A from fans
  • What went right
  • What went wrong
  • Looking ahead to Week 2
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, walks 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 our BlogTalkRadio page. If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below. Be sure to follow us on iTunes by searching The Standard is the Standard.

(Having techincal difficulties with the podcast platform. Will be posted ASAP!)

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also check out his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Training Camp Edition, Vol. 3

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 5:30pm

At last...training camp!!

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

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

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

1. If you could pick ONE PLAYER who stood out, in a good way, to you on Thursday night, who would that be?

2. On the flip side, who is the ONE PLAYER who absolutely looked horrible?

3. It is just one week, but were any of the concerns facing the Steelers calmed, not answered, after their first live game action of the preseason?

4. It seems as if JuJu Smith-Shuster picked up where he left off last season. Do you think he will make the offense more dynamic and explosive than when Martavis Bryant was here? Explain.

5. If there was ONE PLAYER you would cut right now, who would it be? And why?

6. If the Steelers could bring in an experienced player to help bolster the depth at just ONE POSITION, what position would it be?

Extra Credit: If you are going to training camp anytime this month, and you get some good photos or videos you want featured on the site and on our social media platforms...hit me up via email (bngblitz@gmail.com) and we will make it happen!

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Young talent starts the Steelers’ 2018 preseason on the right foot

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 12:27pm

In a matchup that didn’t count, youngsters vying for spots on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster sure played like it did.

Two Pennsylvania teams squared off at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Thursday night, but only the team wearing black-and gold looked like the hungry bunch. In a game that was tightly contested throughout most of the first half, the Steelers pulled away from the defending Super Bowl champs, on their way to a convincing 31-14 win in front of an Eagles’ home crowd that, by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, probably wished they had stayed home and saved their money.

Not only did the Steelers beat the Eagles in very convincing fashion, but Philadelphia never really competed with the array of young talent the Steelers showcased in grabbing a victory in their first preseason game. In particular, the performance of the Steelers’ three backup quarterbacks raised lots of eyebrows — not only among the faithful of Steelers Nation, but for anyone watching the game. In preseason games, it’s typical for teams to appear disjointed with their patchwork offenses and frequent substitutions. Backup quarterbacks usually are judged as successful in such contests if they can merely handle their leadership role semi-capably and without totally melting down.

But Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs and Mason Rudolph accomplished far more than the norm during this game, accounting for a total of 252 passing yards, including three deep throws yielding 135 yards and two TDs. While the Eagles’ backup quarterbacks performed about as one might normally expect, each of the Steelers’ young field generals showed they’re capable of moving an offense down the field. I’m proudly biased, of course, but I think anyone watching this game who’s not a Steelers or Eagles fan had to be favorably impressed by the arm strength, accuracy and moxie shown by the three QBs competing for the honor of playing second fiddle to Ben Roethlisberger.

Equally impressive were the youngsters on the receiving ends of those big plays. Pretty much as advertised in advance, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington made huge receptions by out-leaping their defenders. But perhaps more surprisingly, Damoun Patterson, put on a show that surely will prompt many Steelers fans to entertain visions of No. 83 teaming up someday soon with No. 7, perhaps even as the team’s No. 3 wide receiver. Obviously, Patterson faces tough competition in that quest, and he must continue to impress throughout the remainder of the preseason if he’s going to succeed. But it’s difficult to imagine any more impressive coming-out party than the one he just had in the City of Brotherly Love.

Patterson’s 29-yd. TD grab near the end of the first half was one of the more difficult catches you’ll see. Dobbs reared back and uncorked a missile which was just a bit off-target, and as he was breaking past the defender, Patterson was able to pick up the flight of the ball and deftly twist his body around to the opposite side, making an extremely tough catch, maintaining possession and getting his feet down in the end zone. The perfect-10 back-flip he executed in celebration was just icing on the cake.

On the Smith-Schuster TD, his stature, physicality and ability to leave defenders behind after the catch was again on display — the reason why JuJu is becoming a unique weapon in Big Ben’s arsenal. And when Rudolph dialed up the number of his former Oklahoma State teammate James Washington for a 35-yd completion late in the third quarter, we saw the reason why the Steelers selected No. 13 in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. By all appearances, Washington ranks right up there with JuJu when it comes to using strength and sheer combativeness to come down with the football.

Defensively, there was less to talk about. But interceptions by Cameron Sutton and Coty Sensabaugh were welcome signs that perhaps the Steelers’ secondary will transition from being a liability last season to become a team strength in 2018. While Jon Bostic and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi presented some evidence of their potential to aid the Steelers’ linebacker woes, the play of Tyler Matakevich and Anthony Chickillo suggested that their days with the Steelers might be numbered.

But overall, and especially on the offense, the Steelers have the look of a team that’s absolutely loaded with young, hungry talent. And the training-camp battles for roster spots appear to be especially intense this year — what with young James Conner competing with veterans Stevan Ridley and Fitzgerald Toussaint to back up Le’Veon Bell.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin certainly takes his share of abuse in the comment threads but, based on the way Pittsburgh’s young backups came into Philadelphia and throttled their counterparts on the Eagles, Tomlin clearly has set the right tone in these dress rehearsals for the regular season. Overall, in the aftermath of this convincing win, it was difficult not to feel considerably more positive about where the Black-and-gold stands in their preseason preparations.

Report Card: Grading the Steelers Week 1 Preseason win against the Eagles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 10:45am

BTSC grades the preseason debut of the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers opened their preseason schedule on a high note with a 31-14 win over the Super Bowl Champion Eagles in Philadelphia last night. Of course, these games don’t register in the regular season standings, but what happens during these contests is paramount in shaping the team. It also might be the difference between continuing one’s dream as an NFL player or having to start from scratch or perhaps begin the search for their life’s work.

Grading games like this is an extremely difficult task. Four quarters of work is hardly enough to tell the story, but it’s a start. While the coaches’ grades are what count the most, the media and fans evaluate as well.

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

Offense

Randy Fichtner’s charges moved the ball and showed positive signs throughout the night. They were handed some gifts via “magic” Eagle penalties, but they still looked good. While I would have liked to see them finish off more drives, 31 points in a preseason match is nothing to sneeze at.

Mason Rudolph’s first appearance as a Steeler, while not amazing, wasn’t bad either. His first pass was a drop and he was hurried quite often. But the goal isn’t (perish the thought) to see him on Sundays during the regular season in 2018. He’ll have time to grow into the role. The other quarterbacks showed equal parts good and bad. Although unspectacular, Landry Jones made a case for one more year over Joshua Dobbs.

Running Backs and Wide Receivers looked good. James Conner, Stevan Ridley and Fitzgerald Toussaint all seemed to have good footwork and moved the chains. It could be argued, though, the level of competition by the time veterans Ridley and Fitz got onto the field wasn’t as good as what Conner saw. JuJu Smith-Schuster established himself as a great complement to Antonio Brown with that big TD, and James Washington/Damoun Patterson looked like really viable additions. The pressure now will be on Justin Hunter and Eli Rogers to stay.

The depth of the offensive line has been in question, and it showed last night. B.J. Finney’s injury doesn’t seem to be serious, but look for Kevin Colbert to bolster it one way or another.

Overall Grade: B

Honor Roll: James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Damoun Patterson, Stevan Ridley, Fitzgerald Toussaint

Defense

Evaluating Keith Butler’s bunch at this point is tough. The full starting unit wasn’t on the field. While the Eagles seemed to gash the run defense often in the early going, the Steelers only gave up two TDs. Dashaun Phillips was beaten badly in the first half for a score, tackling was abysmal at times and the hole left by Ryan Shazier still looms large. But they got some turnovers and applied pressure. Terrell Edmunds was on the field a bit, but had no glaring triumphs or faults to speak of. Of course, there’s plenty of improvement still needed, but the unit could be better than when it ended the season last year.

Overall Grade: C+

Honor Roll: Jon Bostic, Cameron Sutton, Coty Sensabaugh, Ola Adeniyi, Javon Hargrave

Special Teams

I wanted to see Quadree Henderson do more, but the opportunities just weren’t there. Danny Smith’s unit didn’t cover well at all and the Eagles had significant returns. Chris Boswell was awesome as usual.

Overall Grade: C-

Honor Roll: Chris Boswell

The first effort of the season was positive. There’s still plenty to be excited about and just as much to address. That’s why they go to camp. Overall, a pleasing display.

Overall Team Grade: B-

Steelers ‘Deflategate’ scandal Thursday night already deemed a non-issue

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 10:06am

A preseason controversy accusing the Steelers of deflating footballs has already been dismissed by the NFL.

A few hours ago, the internet was ablaze with a newly-minted controversy surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers’ QB Mason Rudolph and an apparent deflated football. However, the NFL is already debunking the issue.

Last night, an Eagles Sideline reporter named Howard Eskin reported and tweeted that a third quarter incompletion from Rudolph was done with the use of a football that was “like a marshmallow”. Eskin went on to chastise “the quarterback”, as he called him twice without using his name, for using the ball and wondering aloud if he has small hands to do such a thing.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported the NFL has already deemed that all footballs were in compliance with league rules and all proper procedures were followed. The ball was reported as “defective” and is being sent back to the manufacturer, Wilson, for review.

From NFL’s
Michael Signora, “All footballs were in compliance with NFL rules following the pregame inspection process and all proper procedures were followed. In 3rd quarter, a football that was found to be defective, removed from play and will be sent back to Wilson for review https://t.co/TtcdPgFE80

— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) August 10, 2018

So the controversy has already died on the table, but you can safely bet that fans in Massachusetts, Ohio and Maryland won’t forget this incident at all.

Steelers players take to social media to talk about their preseason win over the Eagles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 9:35am

Members of the Pittsburgh Steelers take to social media after their 31-14 win over the Eagles in Week 1 of the preseason.

It may just be the preseason, but you can feel the excitement surrounding the approaching football season. And it isn’t just the fans who feel this way.

Following the Steelers’ 31-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 of the preseason, players took to social media to celebrate and appreciate the team’s first, albeit-meaningless victory of the season.

Take a look at what was said on different platforms following the game! I also added in some interesting video which I felt fans might enjoy.

(Editor’s Note: This article may be updated as more players take to social media to talk about the team’s victory on Thursday night.)

ITS LIT! Go up and get it!!! pic.twitter.com/Rof36vx5g6

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) August 10, 2018

Let’s Goooo!! Great Throw! Great Catch!!

— Eli Rogers (@__bELIeve17) August 10, 2018

Good team win ✅

— Terrell Edmunds (@rell_island6) August 10, 2018

That was a sweet catch and a 71-yard TD for JuJu Smith-Schuster. So is that new #Steelers OC Randy Fichtner’s happy face? pic.twitter.com/vAOqz3J4zg

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) August 9, 2018

The Human Retweet. pic.twitter.com/QTkUlOE6D8

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2018

Steelers football is back. Who ready to ride this thing out through February? #CallGod #StairwayTo7 pic.twitter.com/90kWYbkJCr

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) August 9, 2018

Need Everything!!!! pic.twitter.com/V464jb9WVb

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) August 10, 2018

Good start to 2018... long way to go #StairwayToSeven pic.twitter.com/auLJ29qkJH

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) August 10, 2018

I’ll never give in. U will have to kill me first. and that’s on my Madears grave.

— L.Joshua Frazier (@JoshuaFrazier69) August 10, 2018

You gotta love the Toledo guy Bob! https://t.co/AeIArKpWxK

— Bruce Gradkowski (@bgradkowski5) August 10, 2018

You gotta pay for this. I remember when I used to pray for this. @rudolph2mason pic.twitter.com/I5h6xwHSIj

— KiD-RiD (@StevanRidley) August 10, 2018

7 takeaways from the Steelers’ Preseason win over the Eagles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 8:05am

The Steelers won their first preseason game. so what can be extracted from it?

After a disappointing end to the 2017 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they opened up their preseason with a resounding defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles. Because of the talent they faced, especially on a team having the depth of the Eagles, it was a very welcome sight to see them play this well.

Thus, there are a few things we can take away from this game. We didn’t see the starters much, but a few of them left me either with a positive or negative impression. So here are a few takeaways, 7 to be exact, from the Steelers’ victory.

Jon Bostic is better than Tyler Matakevich

There was a camp battle between these two, but it now seems painfully obvious which one is the better player. Jon Bostic flew to the football and made tackles the whole game. He was decent in coverage and by far the best linebacker on the field in that respect. Bostic made tackles in the open field and penetrated the line for losses frequently, and it showed why he’s a nice addition to the defense. Aside from one play where he took a bad angle and allowed Jay Ajayi to gash the defense, Bostic had a very solid game. He looked strong and instinctive, and with the run-defense as bad as it was last season, Bostic made plays we wouldn’t have seen last year.

Matakevich, on the other hand, struggled in nearly every area. He missed lots of tackles, was bad in coverage, took bad angles, and overall looked slow. When he and Vince Williams were both on the field, that was when the Eagles got those big gains and, when Matakevich whiffed on what appeared to be a golden opportunity for sacking Eagles’ quarterback Nate Sudfeld, it resulted in a Philly touchdown.

Clearly, the battle isn’t completely over, but you would have to think Bostic has a leg up after this game.

Sean Davis is still Sean Davis

Sean Davis is making the transition to being starting free safety this season after the Steelers released Mike Mitchell. He looked no different, though, than during his past two seasons in Pittsburgh.

While Davis is always a proponent of being around the football, he again was missing open-field tackles. He also helped spring a few big running plays that should have never happened. While Davis has great instincts for run-defense, he simply doesn’t tackle well and it showed on Thursday night.

But the area of greater concern was his coverage. Davis often looks lost in coverage and, to say the least, this outing was no different. He and Vince Williams were often the reason Dallas Goedert was completely wide open in zone coverage. Davis has almost no awareness in zone concepts and he gets beat even by simple double-moves.

Nice route by Goedert. Got Sean Davis spinning. Vince doesn’t get enough depth. Easy pitch/catch pic.twitter.com/j2rGNtawrO

— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) August 10, 2018

Here you can see what I’m talking about. Davis loses sight of Goedert and, with Vince Williams not being a spectacular coverage-LB, this is an easy play for the Eagles. This is the type of play Davis cannot let happen, and with Terrell Edmunds having a solid game, he might need to watch out.

Cameron Sutton has become a dynamic playmaker

If there’s a Year-2 player I was most excited about seeing, Sutton topped the list. He showed last season he’s a solid cornerback when he took over for Joe Haden and played well, especially on run-defense.

Sutton backed up everything we knew about him. He can has great coverage skills and a real presence on run-defense. The big plays never happened on Sutton’s side but, instead, he shut them down. Add to this his interception and you can see ball skills. Although it looked like miscommunication on that particular play, Sutton had the receiver blanketed pretty well, which allowed him to be in the right spot.

Sutton also showed aggressiveness today, though. He was more physical than last season and, because he was, he threw lots of receivers off of their routes. He was strictly playing lockdown on Thursday, wherever he was. His versatility should excite fans too. If he keeps this up, it’ll be hard to keep him off the field, especially if Artie Burns continues to have mental lapses and shows an affinity for not wrapping-up backs in run-defense.

Ola Adeniyi and Damoun Patterson might make the 53-man roster

The two UDFAs who really showed up were Adeniyi and Patterson, and their efforts may have given them very real shots at the 53-man roster.

Adeniyi has had a strong camp, both in pass-rushing and run-defense. His explosiveness and bend allow him to beat tackles easily. He showed that Thursday with some good hand usage as he strip-sacked Eagles’ QB Joe Callahan. It was pure explosiveness and bend. He was getting around the tackle often, and was a constant source of pressure. He made a nice play in run-defense on Wendell Smallwood when he held his place, ripped through, and made the tackle. He held his edge all night and minimized Philly’s plays. His discipline, though, needs to improve. Known for taking lots of penalties at Toledo, and with two more Thursday, it needs to be fixed.

Patterson had tapered off in camp during the last few days, but he had a fantastic game against the Eagles, starting with the acrobatic catch from Joshua Dobbs. Based on tape, I knew he had great body control and could catch well when he was near the boundaries, but that was, by far, the most impressive catch he’s made. The back-flip was a nice touch too.

Yet, he also demonstrated the little things that make a complete player. He had a willingness to block, his routes were crisp and he made catches in traffic. The biggest area was his need to show up on Special Teams, and he did that with the kickoff tackle he registered. If he can continue to do that, he has a good shot at joining the 53-man roster.

James Conner and Fitzgerald Toussaint look leaner and quicker than they ever have

I expected to see a lean James Conner, but did not expect to see a leaner Fitz Toussaint. Despite struggling in pass blocking, Conner proved he can at least be a good backup. His burst and agility were solid and he was hitting holes with burst. More important was his improved vision. He didn’t cut back into holes previously like he did in the past, and it showed as he gained more yards due to that vision. Overall, Conner had a great showing.

Toussaint looked very quick and agile in this game. He never seemed to have that much agility as he showed on Thursday night, and he was getting good gains throughout the game because of it. I think the key thing I noticed with him was his improved balance. He didn’t just go down on contact, but instead fought for extra yards and grinded them out. He set himself up well to earn a roster spot this year.

Chukwuma Okorafor has progressed faster than we thought

Okorafor was a very raw prospect coming out of college, so it was a surprise to see him taking on guys so easily.

He has fantastic pass-blocking ability. He’s quick and agile, but strong as well. He really didn’t give up much ground in pass-blocking vs. the Eagles, but he needs to learn to use his hands more. He looks more aggressive than he was at Western Michigan, but he still doesn’t punch, but catches instead.

In run-blocking, Okorafor is still raw, but he was driving people out off the edge. He needs to learn to gain leverage easier. He still plays far too high and sometimes ducks his head, which now will likely get him flagged. But he showed the quickness it took to get to the second level, which is always a great sign for the guy who was touted as a “project.” Regardless, it seems like Swing Tackle shouldn’t be a grave concern — only a light one at this juncture.

Josh Dobbs is inconsistent and Mason Rudolph has real starter potential

These two backup quarterbacks were under scrutiny. The Steelers knew what they had in Landry Jones and he performed like Landry Jones. But the future was what fans were really paying attention to.

Dobbs showed his impressive arm talent in Philly. He threw a few ropes when he hit Damoun Patterson for the touchdown, and had some bullets in between defenders. He had those flashes, and they were impressive, but his ball placement is still questionable. His processing of the play also hasn’t significantly improved by any means. The interception he threw was a big mess. First, he stared down Patterson and then attempted a touch pass with Douglas over the top. This is a classic example of bad processing and not going through your reads. Dobbs must improve on that during these next three games to make the roster.

Rudolph showcased progress compared to his college tape. His processing has gotten substantially better as a whole. He went through all his reads and never made any mind-numbing decisions. He has great timing with his receivers on routes and makes those precise throws. He looked good. His pocket presence is the biggest issue I have with him. Many times, he would put his head down and not see defenders. He showed some poise by stepping up into the pocket, but he has to become more aware of what’s happening around him. That should be his main area for improvement during the preseason and I hope to see that develop. Overall, a good first game for the “heir.”

Winners and Losers in the Steelers 31-14 Preseason win over the Eagles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 6:25am

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in their first live game action of 2018, and it is time to decipher who did well for themselves, and who left a lot to be desired.

For the die hard fans, you might read the headline and wonder how you can possibly have any ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ after a Week 1 preseason game. For those who think that, you underestimate me!

While these games’ outcome is truly meaningless, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t meaning in the contest for players fighting for a roster spot! Players put it all on the field, and while some played well, others left a lot to be desired.

Considering it was the Steelers’ first live game action of the 2018 season, I decided to take it easy and pick 3 winners and 3 losers from their 31-14 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia. Some might say this is nit-picking, but so be it.

Here we go...

Winners

Damoun Patterson

My goodness, you hear reports from training camp, but rarely do they translate to the games, but Patterson sure did put on a show. His 6 catches, on 10 targets, for 77 yards and a touchdown led the Steelers, but how he scored that touchdown was hands-down the play of the game. Patterson is making a case for himself to make the 53-man roster as a potential 5th or 6th receiver. He got off to a hot start, the key now is to stay that way.

Takeaways

The Steelers’ defense set a new franchise record for sacks in 2017, but lacked in the takeaway department. While not facing Nick Foles or Carson Wentz, the Pittsburgh defense did their job when presented with an opportunity. The Steelers racked up three turnovers on the day, two interceptions and one fumble recovery, and it was a very good sight to see when comparing to last season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

When the Steelers traded Martavis Bryant before the season, there were skeptics wondering if Smith-Schuster would be able to take the top off a defense like Bryant did in his time with the Steelers. If Smith-Schusters 71-yard touchdown reception should have done anything, it would have been to silence some, if not all, of those skeptics. Looks like JuJu picked up right where he left off.

Losers

Tackling

Now, I will admit the tackling improved as the game went on, and there is a chance the poor tackling in the first half were players still getting used to the speed of the game again. With that said, there was some really bad tackling by the starting defense, and this is a trend everyone wants to see stay in 2017. Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler have hammered tackling home plenty in training camp, and now it is time for the Steelers to put that onto the field. Sure, not all the starters were in, but even the backups should be able to bring down the ball carrier.

Dashaun Phillips

It was only one play, but sometimes just one play seems to leave an impression more than others. When Phillips was toasted for a big touchdown, it brought back horrible memories of 2017. Phillips, who is battling for a spot on the 53-man roster, can’t afford to put those kind of plays on tape. He ended the day with two tackles, but his most memorable play is the one he would most like to forget.

Penalties

The new NFL rules will take some time for players to get accustomed to, and I know this is the preseason for the officiating crews...but come on! This isn’t even about the penalties themselves, but the quantity. It seemed as if every play there as a flag thrown. There were a whopping 19 penalties accepted (11 - PHI / 8 - PIT). I realize the backups might be a bit sloppier than the starters, but it doesn’t mean every infraction needs to be called. They say you can call holding on every play in the NFL, and it seemed as if this crew was bound-and-determined to throw a flag on every play. I’m sure this will subside, but it was a loser for me.

Steelers Injury Report: B.J Finney leaves game vs. Eagles with quad contusion

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 5:33am

B.J. Finney headlines the list of injury concerns after Steelers first preseason game of the year against the Eagles

The Pittsburgh Steelers were missing some some key names due to injury when they faced the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, but it appears they might have managed to leave Lincoln Financial Field largely unscathed after their first preseason game of the year.

Although he was able to leave under his own power, guard B.J. Finney was the most notable player forced from the field prematurely when he left the game late in the second quarter, and he was seen receiving treatment on the sideline as the first half ended. While Finney did not return after the break, Mike Tomlin would describe the injury as “not significant” when he headed to the locker room at halftime.

Speaking to the media after the game, Tomlin would characterize Finney’s injury as a quad contusion, based on the initial evaluation by the medical staff, but had no more information to share about the extent of the injury.

#LIVE: Postgame press conferences following our preseason win vs. the Eagles. https://t.co/peJttgQoUE

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2018

Finney appears to be the only name worth mention in the immediate aftermath of the game, but his extended absence would be problematic for a team already missing injured starter Ramon Foster and it can only be hoped he will not be out too long.

While not expected to miss the game against the Eagles, those of you with a keen eye might have noticed that Marcus Gilbert was not in Philadelphia on Thursday night, an absence explained by Tomlin during his post-match press conference when he shared the news that Gilbert had been excused due to the birth of a child.

Knee Jerk Reactions from the Steelers win over the Eagles in Philadelphia

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 9:59pm

One BTSC writer shares his real-time, initial thoughts of the Steelers/Eagles preseason tilt.

A knee jerk reaction is defined by Webster’s as an immediate unthinking emotional reaction. I have those often. I know you in Steeler Nation are prone to them too. While watching the very first exhibition game of the 2018 season, I recorded my initial thoughts with no time to reconsider them.

I’m thrilled that the Steelers defeated the Eagles in their house by a decent margin, but the first time taking the field never tells the true story. Take these in. As always, I welcome you to weigh in.

First Quarter
  • Good heads up from Coty Sensabaugh on the pick. Mike Hilton was in the vicinity, but he looked hesitant.
  • The Offensive Line doesn’t ever seem to want to block Fletcher Cox.
  • That was a huge whiff by Jon Bostic on the long Jay Ajayi run.
  • The run defense looks leaky early.
  • Bostic had good burst on that four-yard loss and good penetration again on the third and 14.
  • James Conner’s footwork and vision looks better than 2017.
  • Great awareness by Landry Jones to go deep when Phily jumped offsides.
  • Nice, JuJu Smith-Schuster TD! Not afraid to combat catch if he needs to.
  • I’m not quite sure how great that pass from Landry was, but you can’t argue with the result.
  • Am I too out of touch? I didn’t quite figure out JuJu’s celebration. But as long as they’re celebrating, I can’t complain.
  • Javon Hargrave doesn’t get enough credit for how mobile he is for a nose. Sniffing out a screen is not typical of a NT.
  • Huguenin is a baller. I’d like to see him get a serious look.
Second Quarter
  • Early on, Bostic seems to be involved and have a nose for the man with the ball.
  • Tackling issues seem to have been corrected.
  • Terrell Edmunds looked like he was trying to cover two separate guys on that touchdown reception by Dallas Goedert.
  • I would really like to see Quadree Henderson get a chance to return something.
  • I am not a fan of the new lowered-head rule.
  • The Eagles helped the Steelers out big-time with the two penalties on the drive.
  • Cameron Sutton can be big for this team. Nice to see two picks from corners.
  • Dashaun Phillips won’t make the 53.
  • Tyler Matakevich knows the defense, but I wonder if he’s athletic enough to man the middle.
  • Joshua Dobbs looks merely pedestrian to me. I’d like him to play on my pub trivia team though.
  • What an athletic catch by Damoun Patterson. He could be this camp’s Marcus Tucker.
  • If I was a coach, I would go for two after every touchdown in the preseason.
Third Quarter Fourth Quarter
  • The rap coming out of camp was that Rudolph couldn hit James Washington on the deep rout every throw. Looks like he’s found quite a rapport with Patterson in the short and medium routes.
  • I expected to see more of the Allens, Brian and Marcus. Where are they?
  • This game is not typical of Steeler preseason games. It seemed like there were more scoring drives than usual.
  • I would have liked to have seen Rudolph do more like throw a TD pass, but I thought he looked decent despite the level of protection and talent surrounding him.
  • A win is good. But there’s more work to do.

Now I will analyze the replay of the game and my opinions may alter some. Where am I spot on and way off? I’m sure you’ll let me know.

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