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Teven Jenkins is versatile and physical, but is he an option for the Steelers in Round 1?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 10:00am
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

For teams who are looking for an offensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft, Teven Jenkins might be a prospect to keep an eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at an offensive tackle in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current offensive line depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, but after players like Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, there are a lot of talented tackles who could be available to the Steelers at pick No. 24.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a tackle to bolster their offensive line depth in 2021, and if Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins is available when the Steelers pick, is he an option as a first round talent?

I did some digging on Jenkins, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Jenkins. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Jenkins in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Draft Profiles The Draft Network

Playing in 37 career games (35 starts) at Oklahoma State, Teven Jenkins experienced time at right guard, left tackle, and right tackle. With a bulk of his experience coming at right tackle, he blossomed during his final two seasons. Playing in the first eight games of the season, he elected to opt out after suffering what was reported as lower back issues. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound fifth-year senior offensive tackle is a top-heavy blocker that has experienced success in the team’s Air Raid offense. A quick setter that’s prone to take horizontal pass sets, he’s created a habit of establishing quick wins by striking his hands and controlling defenders. As a run blocker, he’s able to create considerable amounts of movement when able to gain momentum prior to engagement points. A well above average finisher, Jenkins is the type of offensive lineman that attempts to humiliate players in the opposite color jersey. The echo of the whistle doesn’t slow down his process and he continues on with his process until he wants to conclude. Jenkins’ athleticism and lack of overall range may create questions about his potential at offensive tackle and there will be some teams who grade him as a guard as a result. Jenkins will have a strong chance of being the first offensive lineman drafted from the program since Russell Okung (2010).

Ideal Role: Developmental offensive tackle that could eventually turn into a starter at tackle or guard.

Scheme Fit: Man/Gap/Power.

Fan Nation

Height: 6’5”
Weight: 317 lbs.
Class: Senior (red shirt)
School: Oklahoma State

Notables

Jenkins opted out of the final two Oklahoma State games to focus on the NFL Draft and the upcoming Senior Bowl. However, Jenkins ended up pulling out of the Senior Bowl event; it’s unclear if it’s injury-related.

Traits

He is a mean tackle with good overall size and bulk through his body but adequate length with solid overall athletic traits. Jenkins is patient as a blocker and has solid foot quickness to get into his vertical sets—he’s got enough fluidity, albeit not elite.

He plays with an excellent attitude and wants to run through opponents’ faces. He does a very good job getting his vice grips inside and exploding through his body while churning his legs on contact.

He sticks his control hand into the breastplate of defenders while using excellent grip strength to control. He positions himself well in the run game; frames blocks, plays with solid leverage and has enough athleticism to execute reach/stretch types of blocks.

Does a good job in deuce situations and transitions well—solid ability to locate defenders at the second level. He can lean a bit when moving laterally, which hinders his typically good balance.

He uses very good core strength to initiate contact and turn his body to create a seal against containing defenders on the line of scrimmage. He has a ton of power in his upper body and tosses defenders out of holes; he does a great job finishing blocks almost to an embarrassing level for the defender.

He has enough foot quickness to be a solid pass protector, but his length is somewhat an issue. Jenkins does a good job attacking the control arm of defenders in pass protection, limiting their space and making the longer defenders shorter. Jenkins shows good reactionary quickness and ability to handle attempted counter moves in this area.

His anchor ability is good; he sinks his lower body, plays with a firm base, has controlled speed to power moves through most of his career (Oklahoma’s Ronnie Perkins exposed this on a play in 2019).

Pewter Report

Jenkins is one of those prospects that changes your mind about it being “boring” to scout offensive linemen. I didn’t need any convincing, as it’s one of my favorite positions to study on tape, but Jenkins is a bar room brawler who tries to bring the pain on every rep. The root of football is grounded in physicality, and Jenkins embodies that mindset on every snap.

In his matchup against consensus top 50 edge defender Joseph Ossai from Texas, Jenkins was the dominant winner, putting Texas defenders on the ground all afternoon. He slammed Ossai in the play above, but even on plays where he wasn’t finishing like a mad man, Jenkins was getting the job done. The most undersold aspect of Jenkins game is explosiveness. He might not be the most tool-sy or athletic tackle in the class, but Jenkins checks the box in the areas that matter most for offensive linemen: explosive, short-area movements and body control.

...

By now you’ve probably seen the rumors that Jenkins’ arms might be under 33 inches long, but the offensive tackle told me on Friday that his arms measured 33 3/8 inches at the EXOS pro day on February 26. That’s a great sign for his hopes of remaining at tackle in the NFL, as sub-33 inches likely would have fallen short of every NFL team’s threshold for tackles.

Still, Jenkins’ lack of length is going to concern some teams at tackle, and there are occasions where it shows up on his college tape. He’s so good with his hands that I’d definitely still start him out at tackle in the NFL, but even if he’s good there, it’s very possible that Jenkins could be a Tier 1 guard in the NFL. His biggest concerns at tackle are going to be change-of-direction and length, and neither of those issues are as likely to be exposed on the interior.

Jenkins reminds me a lot of former Ravens guard Marshal Yanda, an excellent college tackle who would probably have been a very good tackle in the NFL, but was one of the best guards in the league for over a decade instead. I’m not saying Jenkins is quite on Yanda’s level, as the 2020 retiree will likely receive some Hall of Fame consideration, but Jenkins’ ceiling at guard is pretty high. He could be a special player there with some time to transition to a new spot.

However, there is more money, value and greater need at tackle in the NFL, and I would absolutely feel comfortable using a top-32 pick on Jenkins to play that position.

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A QB who can run would benefit the Steelers’ offense in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Whenever the Steelers decide to get the QB to replace Ben Roethlisberger, finding a mobile signal caller will be important.

With Ben Roethlisberger returning as the starting quarterback for the Steelers in 2021, changes in the team’s offense will likely be subtle. New coordinator Matt Canada may bring more shifts and motions to the table and will likely try to convince Roethlisberger to use more play-action and personnel groupings than he has in the past. But, for the most part, the offense will still rely upon Roethlisberger’s ability to throw the football from the pocket as its primary mode of attack.

I don’t know what the Steelers have in mind for their post-Roethlisberger offense, but, with the future Hall-of-Famer now 39 years old, they will need to turn their attention soon to finding his successor. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are the current backups. One or both may be given a shot to claim the starting job when Roethlisberger steps away. It is unlikely, however, that either is the long-term solution. Given how a new wave of young, mobile quarterbacks are reshaping the position, my hope is the Steelers will find a player who, in addition to being a proficient passer, is athletic enough to incorporate more quarterback run schemes into the offense when they decide on his replacement.

Often, when a suggestion like this is made, skeptics offer two criticisms. First, that a player like Lamar Jackson is required to conduct such an offense. And second, that this approach is reckless because it subjects quarterbacks to unnecessary hits and increases their potential for injury. Run the guy with the nine-figure contract so safeties and linebackers can tee off on him in the open field? Sure. That’s a great idea.

There are two problems with these criticisms. First, while Jackson is perhaps the best runner at the quarterback position in the history of the game, it does not require a player like Jackson to make quarterback runs effective. It doesn’t even require Kyler Murray or Cam Newton. Players like Josh Allen, Daniel Jones, Teddy Bridgewater and Ryan Tannehill are all effective runners. Those players, while not exceptionally fast or elusive, are mobile enough to exploit a defense that fails to account for them as run threats.

As for injuries, yes, in theory, the more a quarterback runs, the more likely he is to get hit. Dallas’s Dak Prescott saw his 2020 season end when he suffered a gruesome ankle injury on a designed run. Prescott’s injury, however, was no worse than Joe Burrow’s, who tore his ACL after getting rolled up on while stationary in the pocket, or Roethlisberger’s, who missed most of 2019 after suffering a non-contact throwing injury. Quarterbacks are well-protected by the rules of the game these days and are learning to minimize the hits they take by knowing when to slide and when to get out of bounds. A quarterback in the open field will always be a target. But he is harder to hit, and in some ways better protected, than one standing still in the pocket.

Additionally, as younger coordinators migrate up from the college ranks, where quarterback runs are common, the schemes are coming with them. Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury, Baltimore’s Greg Roman, Buffalo’s Brain Daboll, Carolina’s Joe Brady and, of course, Matt Canada all worked in the college ranks before coming to the NFL. Plus, quarterbacks reaching the NFL these days are trained more on read-options and pocket movement from the shotgun than on seven-step drops from under center. The game is changing, and pro offenses are changing with it.

As evidence, consider the following from @SharpFootball’s Warren Sharp. Total rushing yards by quarterbacks were at a record-high in 2020, eclipsing 2,000 yards for the first time. Those numbers are skewed a bit by Jackson, who accounted for nearly half of them. But the broader trend shows how quarterbacks have been used increasingly as rushing threats, especially in the last five years:

An even more telling statistic shows the increase in rushing touchdowns by quarterbacks. Those numbers have exploded the past few seasons, with the 2020 total blowing away the previous numbers:

Defenses get so used to playing 11-on-10 on run plays, relying on the plus-one advantage they gain when a quarterback hands the ball off and then becomes a spectator, that they often fail to account for him as a potential run threat. This is especially prevalent in the red zone, where defenders are often locked in man-to-man coverage with their backs turned to the quarterback or where they are loaded up between the tackles to stop the inside run. In both instances, they are susceptible to a running quarterback.

Here are some examples of how quarterbacks can be used in the run game, particularly as red zone threats. First, we see Houston’s Deshaun Watson. This is a 4th and 1 play where the Texans put two tight ends on the field, suggesting some sort of power run. Houston dials up an inside zone play but they do it as a read-option, allowing Watson to diagnose the edge player (indicated by the arrow in the photo below) and give or pull the ball based on his reaction:

Their smart use of 12 personnel employs one tight end (Jordan Akins, #88) as a fullback and another (Darren Fells, #87) split wide to create a blocking advantage against the corner to the boundary. Watson sees the edge defender bite on the inside run fake, pulls the ball and is escorted to the alley by Akins. Meanwhile, Fells wipes out the corner and gets a piece of the safety in the process. Watson uses his athleticism to finish the run in the end zone:

This is a nice play design, but it does benefit from the fact that Watson is one of the more elite athletes playing quarterback in the NFL these days. Let’s look at a player not quite on his level. Buffalo’s Josh Allen is a huge man at 6’5-237 but he moves well enough that the Bills have run him 300 times for 1,562 yards in his 44 NFL starts. That’s an average of 35 yards rushing per start. It’s not a crazy number but it’s more than enough to force a defense to account for him.

Here’s a great example of how the Bills use Allen as a red zone run threat. With a 2nd and 5 from the +6 yard line, Buffalo gets into one of my favorite formations: nub-trips (or, more specifically, trips to one side with an attached tight end to the other). I won’t list all of the reasons I love this set, but the Bills demonstrate one of them. The condensed edge to the tight end side creates a scenario where a cornerback must become the force player against an off-tackle run. By using Allen as a ball-carrier, Buffalo gets a numbers advantage into the boundary with the added benefit of running at the corner:

The corner (indicated by the arrow) must become the force player on this QB sweep by the Bills.

This is too easy. Buffalo pulls the center and play-side guard while leading with the back as well. The guard wipes out the corner while the back shields Allen from the safety. Touchdown, Bills:

A mobile quarterback can also be advantageous in unscripted situations. As mentioned above, when defenders lock on in man coverage they are forced to turn their backs on the quarterback to run with receivers. This delays their reaction time against the run since they cannot see the QB leave the pocket. In the GIF below, Dak Prescott takes advantage of such a situation.

The Cowboys call a bootleg from the +8 yard line. Miami’s edge player bites on the run fake, allowing Prescott to get outside the pocket. When the safety runs with tight end Jason Witten (82) in coverage, it opens up a huge alley through which Prescott escapes into the end zone:

Here’s a similar scenario involving New York’s Daniel Jones. Watch the middle of the field open like the Red Sea on this 4th and 5 play. The Giants, anticipating Tampa will be in man coverage, run a series of man-beating horizontal routes that draw the secondary towards the numbers. Tampa loses the integrity of their pass rush lanes, allowing Jones to exit the pocket into a pasture of green grass in the middle of the field:

No one will ever confuse Jones with Jackson or Murray. But he is athletic enough for the Giants to get creative with him as a runner. They predominantly use Jones on designed runs to the edge like this one, where he has plenty of space to slide or run out of bounds to avoid taking a hit (here, he simply uses his speed to outrace a defender to the end zone):

The play above looks a lot like a Matt Canada design. It involves a condensed formation, horizontal motion and a ball fake to attack the open grass. Canada will not be able to use these concepts with Roethlisberger. And, while younger and more mobile, neither Rudolph nor Haskins are especially athletic outside the pocket. But Canada doesn’t need a Jackson or a Murray to run his quarterback effectively. Jacoby Brissett, who has never been considered a “running” quarterback, rushed for 902 yards in two seasons with Canada at NC State. A merely decent athlete would allow Canada to get creative with the QB run game.

None of this is to suggest the Steelers should build their offense around a running quarterback the way Baltimore has. The NFL is a passing league and any team who struggles in that area will find themselves limited (as evidence, look at what’s happened to the Ravens in the post-season the past few years). The league’s best offenses supplement successful passing with efficient running. And, more and more, they use their quarterback as a run option to increase efficiency, particularly in the red zone.

The Steelers were a good red zone team in 2020, finishing 8th in the league in scoring percentage. They were woeful in 2019 without Roethlisberger, however, finishing dead last. Once Roethlisberger is gone, it’s likely they’ll have to find more creative ways to score. Designed runs with the quarterback are proving to be an effective way to do so.

Nearly all the top QB prospects in the upcoming draft are mobile. Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance can all move effectively. Only Alabama’s Mac Jones resembles the stationary pocket passers who once defined the position. That generation, led by Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Roethlisberger, is quickly fading away. In its place is a new breed of quarterbacks who, in addition to being accomplished passers, are trained to play with their legs. In their search for an heir to Roethlisberger, the Steelers should seek a quarterback who is first and foremost an elite passer. But to unlock the true potential of Matt Canada’s offense, they would be wise to target one who can run the football as well.

Podcast: The Steelers still have roster options for 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 8:25am

Matt Peverell breaks down the Steelers salary cap and player personnel situation every week in The War Room

The Steelers have made moves in the 2021 offseason and holes still exist. But so do plenty of roster options. Plus, two more players get added to the big board. Join BTSC’s Matt Peverell for his solo show as he examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers dollars and “sense” situation when it comes to personnel.

Check out the newest addition to the BTSC family of podcasts and stay a while with Matty in The War Room.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

If reports are true, the Steelers simply didn’t want Steven Nelson for 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The player with the biggest free agent deal in Steelers history wasn’t asked to change anything with his 2021 contract.

On Friday, March 19, news broke of the Pittsburgh Steelers allowing starting cornerback Steven Nelson to seek a trade. The move seemed to catch numerous Steelers fans off guard as they were enjoying quality cornerback play the like they had not seen for several seasons. By the following Tuesday, Nelson was granted his release and is currently a street free agent.

So what exactly happened to cause the parting of ways between Nelson and the Steelers? Many assumed, me included, the two sides were working out changes in his contract for 2021 and simply didn’t see eye-to-eye. It was a logical conclusion as the Steelers were needing to reduce their salary cap and Nelson was a prime candidate for a contract extension.

This appears to not be the case.

In a recent interview on the “Movin’ the Chains” podcast with Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan on SiriusXM Radio, Nelson opened up about his departure from Pittsburgh. One of the revelations of the situation according to Nelson was there was no effort from the Steelers to change anything about Nelson’s contract prior to informing him to seek a trade and then granting his release. I was able to have Steven Nelson personally confirm this to me that this was the situation.

Here is how Nelson explained the situation on “Movin’ the Chains” on Tuesday.

“It came down to me being traded, or being released, and I just want to make it very clear, to those out there who might not know or are assuming, that there was never a discussion with me being able to get take a pay cut,” Nelson explained. “I was never even given that opportunity to take a pay cut. It was either trade or release. I just want to clear that up.”

What Nelson failed to explain was if he would have been willing to take the pay cut he was not offered. Of course, we will never know if the Steelers simply chose to move on from Nelson and not work out his contract in any way. Based on other portions of the interview with Nelson, it appears unlikely he would have been on board with taking a pay cut as he feels he has over-performed his contract with the Steelers over the past two seasons.

“I felt, and also my agent felt, that we were due an extension due to the fact that I had outplayed my current contract for the past two years,” Nelson explained. “Given that where the corner market is, there was a lot of high cap numbers on the team going into the offseason. Everybody can put two and two together. Somebody like myself, in my prime, would have thought to help that situation, and an extension would at least be at the front of the line for discussion. But it clearly didn’t go that way for whatever reason. The Steelers wanted to move a different way and thought I was expendable in my prime via trade.”

Although the Steelers made the decision to move on, Nelson believes he has more than proved himself to be deserving of a sizable contract with another NFL franchise.

“I know my value.” Nelson stated. “I know my worth. I just turned 28. Being a five-year starter, a proven starter. I’ve played over a thousand snaps, maybe the only corner who has played a thousand snaps in the last three years. If you’re talking durability and what teams want, you know what you’re going to get.”

According to Nelson, there are a number of teams who understand the value he brings enough to at least inquire about his services.

“I don’t what to put out the exact teams, but let’s just say about a third of the NFL, a lot of corner-needed teams, have reached out,” Nelson stated.

Even though things didn’t work out in the end with the Steelers, Nelson does not hold a grudge against the franchise for having to do what they did in a salary-cap-strapped season.

“I have no ill will towards the Steelers,” Nelson confessed. “It is what it is. You can’t cry over spilled milk. They made their decision, I’m a man about it, and we move on. I wish them the best.”

So it appears the book on Steven Nelson in Pittsburgh has been closed. Exactly what the Steelers thought process is has not yet been explained, and likely never will. Perhaps it was strictly a numbers game as the Steelers would have been on the hook to pay Nelson $8.25 million for 2021. Perhaps it was that the Steelers felt bringing back Cam Sutton fit more in line with their defensive philosophy. Perhaps the Steelers felt that Nelson believed he carried more monetary value than what they were willing to pay for his services despite not even having a discussion. Perhaps it was simply a “cost above replacement” move.

As much as Nelson’s interview answered some questions, it raised even more. But at this point in the 2021 offseason, and with Steven Nelson a free agent, these simply aren’t questions which will make any difference to the 2021 Steelers when it comes to taking the field this fall. Instead, it’s simply “next man up” at the cornerback position.

Steven Nelson‘s entire interview on “Movin’ the Chains” can be heard here:

Check out my podcast, The Source with Steven Nelson , on Anchor! https://t.co/FzbqZtwf4e

Full interview from @SiriusXMNFL for all you hungry listeners. #Boom

— Steve Nelson (@Nelson_Island) April 7, 2021

Why I like to wait until the final month to start really getting into Steelers draft talk

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 6:00am
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always smart to wait until the final month to talk about the Steelers’ draft needs.

We’ve finally hit the month of April, and the 2021 NFL Draft is now just over three weeks away.

It was about two weeks ago that I finally got off my butt (or, more accurately, planted it in front of my laptop) and started to really get into the prospects and who I thought the Steelers might select with the 24th pick. When it comes to that, you might say I’m lazy, but I like to think I’m a man of my word. You see, it’s my approach to draft coverage each year and always will be.

I’m very honest about my routine and have lots of reasons for this policy.

For one thing, even after the Steelers’ season officially ends, I still stay super focused on the NFL playoffs, a tournament that often isn’t over until a month later. For another thing, I love football; I look forward to the start of each season the way kids do their summer vacations. I just hate to see the football season end, and I want to squeeze every last ounce of excitement out of it while I can—even if the Steelers aren’t main characters in the final chapters.

Third, except for a few prospects, the stocks of these guys rise and fall so much between early January and the actual draft, I figure there is no point in paying attention until around now—and even now, it’s like trying to gauge the local daily weather forecast by watching all three news affiliates. Have you seen these big boards? Have you seen where Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is ranked on all of them? He’s all over the place. He’s up; he’s down. That goes for a lot of these guys; trying to predict where most will go is akin to attempting to catch a butterfly on a windy day.

Fourth—and this might be the most important reason of all to wait—no matter which answer I come up with for the “So, who do you think the Steelers will draft?” question, there is always backlash—especially on the Internet. I know what you might be thinking. Sure, arguing about sports with your friends is fun, but the Internet is so not your friend. My friends don’t say things like, “Your opinion is trash; it’s garbage. It’s both trash and garbage at the same time, which I never knew was possible.” “I used to love coming to your house, but I rarely want to hang out here anymore, because your opinions are nothing but garbage.” “I don’t know who owns this house, these days, but they should be embarrassed at what a dump it has turned into.”

Also, your friends don’t call you from burner phones and use aliases as they badger you for a month over an opinion you may have had about a center.

And, of course, you don’t have to take restraining orders out on your friends or ban them from your home after your latest mock draft.

So, no, it’s not quite the same as arguing about sports with your friends.

Fifth—and this might be the most sensible reason to wait—the first major wave of free agency often has a way of narrowing down the direction the Steelers may go in the draft.

For example, after the Steelers signed Eric Ebron last year to be their number two tight end opposite Vance McDonald, you could accurately assume the position was off their draft board. Sure enough, they didn’t select one at all.

This year, after the Steelers made no major free-agent moves, you can point to six positions—offensive tackle, center, running back, tight end, inside linebacker and even cornerback—as possible round-one targets. No, free agency didn’t answer many questions for the Steelers, but now that we know that, we can research their draft needs with a much broader scope than we did last year.

In conclusion, I realize I still might have to deal with all the aforementioned pre-draft annoyances—especially those pesky restraining orders. However, by waiting, I only have to do so for the final month.

That, my friend, is the best draft value.

Podcast: The Steelers draft better than you think they do. Or do they?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 4:30am

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

The Steelers are an organization who is known as a great drafting franchise. But how do they compare to the rest of the NFL in the drafting process? Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he breaks out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • How the Steelers compare to the rest of the NFL in drafting
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Steelers continue to add to their offseason roster by adding another linebacker

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 3:38pm
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are bringing in another linebacker to their offseason roster.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, like the rest of the NFL, continues to add players to their offseason roster. The offseason roster remains fluid as the team will add, and subtract, players all the way up until the NFL mandates they trim their roster for the regular season.

With that said, the Steelers continued to add to the defensive depth chart by signing linebacker Jamir Jones. The Steelers made the addition official Wednesday afternoon.

We have signed LB Jamir Jones. @BordasLaw https://t.co/krafGrss29

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 7, 2021

Jones, the younger brother of offensive tackle Jarron Jones, spent time on the Houston Texans’ after being an undrafted rookie free agent in 2020. He was released when NFL teams were forced to cut their training camp rosters from 90 to 80 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and spent last season working towards the 2021 season as a fresh opportunity.

Jones played his college football at Notre Dame, and is hoping he can make a lasting impact on the Steelers in 2021 and beyond. His brother Jarron had this to say to the Steelers official website about the Steelers signing his brother:

“I am very proud of him,” said Jarron Jones. “He had a very different career. He switched positions his junior year. That was his year to compete at linebacker and they switched him to defensive end. It was a selfless move by him. He just worked and learned and caught up. He was supposed to redshirt and started last four or five games and made the most of his opportunity. He didn’t have a lot of college film and for him to make it on the roster I have the utmost respect for him. He grinded.”

Jones won’t be the last addition to the Steelers’ roster, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they continue through Free Agency and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

How would you feel if the Steelers selected a QB at pick No. 24?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Some may welcome the idea, while others will hate it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that could legitimately use their first round pick on a dozen different positions. One of those spots that really hasn't been talked much about is the quarterback position. We can attribute the over-valuation of the drafts top five prospects at quarterback as the main reason we don’t debate this topic much at all. But we can’t forget Ben Roethlisberger is creeping toward retirement and the Steelers probably don’t have the long term option in-house.

So, that begs the question, how would you feel if the Steelers decided to draft the top remaining quarterback on their board with their first pick, No. 24?

Booger McFarland thinks Florida QB Kyle Trask would be a fit for the Steelers in the second round #Steelers pic.twitter.com/Aiy92PrzS0

— BlitzburghUSAVideos (@sdextrasmedia) April 7, 2021

That prospect doesn't necessarily have to be Kyle Trask of Florida, Jamie Newman of Wake Forest, Kellen Mond of Texas A&M, or Davis Mills of Stanford, just the position in general. The motive would be obvious, the Steelers would want one of these players to sit and develop into NFL quarterbacks. This in a year they have zero chance of playing.

Sure, it may hurt the short term future, but if the Steelers find the right quarterback the long term benefit greatly tips the scales. The biggest problem is this would be the sixth quarterback taken off the board, and should probably have no reason going in the first round other than the fact they play the quarterback position.

The reasoning on making a historic draft reach may just be that with so many quarterbacks quickly taken off the board, someone will just as quickly take the sixth best signal caller as well. Is that a risk the Steelers can afford to take if they do want to sure up the position for the future? We also know the Steelers don’t historically draft to fill this year’s needs. They are much more aligned with taking a prospect that will help the team deep into the future.

Teams with OC or QB coaches in attendance Texas A&M pro-day to watch Kellen Mond:

* Steelers
* Panthers
* Bears
* Bengals
* Cowboys
* Vikings pic.twitter.com/iHoVuGWRYY

— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 30, 2021

If on April 29th Rodger Goodell announces the Steelers have taken a quarterback 24th overall we can expect a title wave of angry tweets, posts, and comments. Justifiably so, as the best quarterback available at 24 will be far from the best player available on draft boards. But at the end of the day I, personally, will quickly get over the sinking feeling of “What have we done?!” into the realization that Kevin Colbert has kept the Steelers as a consistent winner throughout the duration of the 2000’s. A young quarterback selection would also suggest the future management of the organization backs the move.

But what do you think? how would you feel if the Pittsburgh Steelers took a quarterback with their first round pick? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Updating the Steelers’ offensive depth chart as the draft approaches

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

With the draft only three weeks away, where do the Steelers stand at each offensive position?

As the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to shape their 2021 roster, some things become a little more clear as others still have plenty of questions. Looking specifically at the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers have added depth at running back and offensive line in Kelen Ballage and Rashaad Coward since the last update.

While the upcoming NFL draft will help fill out some of the offensive needs, let’s look at the Steelers offensive depth chart by position in order to give a better grasp on where the Steelers need to add pieces. Although the Steelers retained a large portion of their practice squad and signed others to Reserve/Futures contracts, we will be focusing for now on just those players who spent significant time on the Steelers 53-man roster in 2020 and anyone added from other teams who has appeared in NFL games.

QB
Ben Roethlisberger
Mason Rudolph
Dwayne Haskins

RB
Benny Snell Jr.
Jaylen Samuels
Anthony McFarland
Kalen Ballage
Trey Edmunds

FB
Derek Watt

WR
JuJu Smith-Schuster
James Washington
Diontae Johnson
Chase Claypool
Ray-Ray McCloud

TE
Eric Ebron
Zach Gentry
Kevin Rader

OT
Chukwuma Okorafor
Zach Banner
Joe Haeg

G
David DeCastro
Kevin Dotson
Rashaad Coward
B.J. Finney

C
B.J. Finney
J.C. Hassenauer

Since B.J. Finney has started games at both guard and center in years past with the Steelers, I included him in both depth charts.

As you can see, while the Steelers do have enough players to fill out all their starting positions should they have to take the field tomorrow, there are still plenty of position groups in which upgrades could be made either in free agency or the draft. With the Steelers usually keeping right around 25 offensive players on their 53-man roster to begin the season, they have enough players but not necessarily at the right position groups. For example, there are more running backs currently on the depth chart than what the Steelers are likely to keep. With the Steelers likely to add a number of offensive players in the draft, there are names on this current list who will not make the 53-man roster. Spots could also still be filled by players on their roster who signed futures contracts, free agent signings, or rookies added via the draft or as undrafted free agents.

So what position group stand out as being nearly complete moving forward? Which ones do the Steelers have the most work to do? Give your thoughts in the comments below.

Mock Draft: PFF 3-round mock has Steelers getting necessities early

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several team needs, and many of those needs are addressed in PFF’s latest 3-round Mock Draft.

The 2021 NFL Draft is just weeks away, and with this huge event on the horizon media outlets are scrambling and producing as much pre-draft content as they possibly can. This means a massive influx of mock drafts circulating the internet.

The thing about mock drafts is so many people take them as legit predictions, when, in reality, they are just guesses. Mock drafts are the same as Power Rankings. Just someone’s overall opinion.

Nonetheless, you can learn a lot about prospects be reading mock drafts and different outlets’ thoughts on those prospects.

In the latest Pro Football Focus (PFF) mock draft, they predicted three rounds for all 32 NFL teams. For the Steelers they have the team addressing some serious needs in the first three rounds. Take a look at their projected picks, a description of each player and a grade for each pick below:

Pick 24: T Walker Little, Stanford

If the Steelers aren’t going to take a quarterback — and Pick 24 would be a weird spot to do that — then let’s protect Big Ben. He refused to hold on to the ball for any length of time in 2020, presumably because he didn’t want his injury-riddled body to take any hits. Pittsburgh is losing mainstay Alejandro Villanueva and his 77.1 pass-blocking grade at left tackle, so the team must replace him immediately or Ben will continue to throw the ball short and quick, leaving the offense devoid of big plays. Insert Walker Little, Dillon Radunz, Christian Darrisaw or any other large human being. Little hasn’t played in a few years, but he has all the tools to be an elite tackle in the NFL.

Pick 55: RB Javonte Williams, UNC

If the passing offense continues to be lackluster and short, the Steelers are will need a home-run hitting running back so that they can at least create explosive plays on the ground. Pittsburgh finished 31st in explosive run play percentage in the regular season. Javonte Williams’ 4.59 yards after contact in 2020 is over a yard better than the Steelers’ overall yards per carry mark last season. The Steelers will try to run him into the ground, and he will keep on breaking tackles and gaining extra yards. Clemson’s Travis Etienne could work here, as well.

Pick 87: LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky

Pittsburgh also needs someone to play next to Devin Bush. Davis has been rocketing up draft boards the past couple of weeks because he is a freakish athlete who, while he needs to play a little better within himself, possesses great potential. His length is exciting for NFL teams, particularly with his ability to close open windows in the passing game and to match up body-wise with the new breed of NFL tight ends. He comes out of the box as a run stopper and has the traits to become a great coverage linebacker.

Travis Little: B
Javonte Williams: C+
Jamin Davis: C+

Overall PFF Draft Grade: B-

What do you think of the projected three picks for the Steelers in the 2021 NFL Draft? Would you be on board with the selections, or do you think there would be better value at different positions/players? On top of that, if the draft did play out the way PFF predicts, do you agree with their grades? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: What positions will the Steelers select with their 8 draft picks?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 11:00am

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

The Steelers have a number of needs in the 2021 NFL Draft. Positions bandied about are center, edge rusher, offensive tackle, running back, quarterback, tight end, inside linebacker and more. But which ones will actually be selected and in what order? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment on the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • What positions will the Steelers draft of their eight selection?
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Updating the Steelers’ defensive depth chart as the draft approaches

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

As the NFL draft quickly approaches, where do the Steelers stand at each position on defense?

As the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to shape their 2021 roster, some things become a little more clear as others still have plenty of questions. Looking specifically at the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers have only signed one player with NFL experience since the last update. Fortunately, that signing was significant as Tyson Alualu decided not to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars and return to Pittsburgh.

While the upcoming NFL draft will help fill out the various needs, let’s look at the Steelers defensive depth chart by position in order to give a better grasp on where the Steelers need to add pieces. Although the Steelers retained a large portion of their practice squad and signed others to Reserve/Futures contracts, we will be focusing for now on just those players who spent significant time on the Steelers 53-man roster in 2020 and anyone added from other teams who has appeared in NFL games.

Defensive Line
Cameron Heyward
Stephon Tuitt
Tyson Alualu
Chris Wormley
Carlos Davis
Isaiah Buggs
Henry Mondeaux

OLB
T.J. Watt
Alex Highsmith
Cassius Marsh

ILB
Devin Bush
Robert Spillane
Ulysees Gilbert III
Marcus Allen
Miles Killebrew

CB
Joe Haden
Cam Sutton
Justin Layne
James Pierre

Safety
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Terrell Edmunds
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Miles Killebrew

While some may put Marcus Allen on the safety depth chart, he is listed as an inside linebacker on Steelers.com so that is where he will be placed for now. Miles Killebrew has been listed as both a linebacker and defensive back on Steelers.com, so he is currently placed on the depth chart at both inside linebacker and safety.

As you can see, while the Steelers do have enough players to fill out most of their starting positions should they have to take the field with this roster, there are positions such as outside linebacker where the Steelers do not have enough reserves at the moment. Of course, there is a spot or two where an upgrade would be welcomed or even necessary via free agency or the draft. With the Steelers usually keeping right around 25 defensive players on their 53-man roster to begin the season, there are more additions which will be needed between now an training camp. Just looking purely at the numbers, there should be no less than three players on defense who will be on the Steelers 53-man roster in September who are not currently on this list, assuming that all the current players make the team. Spots could still be filled by players on their roster who signed futures contracts, free agent signings, or rookies added via the draft or as undrafted free agents.

So what position group stand out as being nearly complete moving forward? Which ones do the Steelers have the most work to do? Give your thoughts in the comments below.

Steelers Vertex: Will Justin Layne or James Pierre be higher on the 2021 depth chart?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As things stand right now, one of these players looks to be called into significant duty for the Steelers in 2021.

The Steelers have seen some big changes in their cornerback room since the end of the 2020 season. With the departures of Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson, it appears as if Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton will begin training camp as the two starters on the outside. Of course, the 2021 NFL draft could change things, but for now we can only look at the players on the roster.

It is believed that Cam Sutton would play on the outside in the Steelers base defense, but slide in to take the slot corner responisiblites when the Steelers go into their subpackage defense. If this is indeed the case, the Steelers currently have options of Justin Layne and James Pierre to fill the spot on the outside.

The big question is which player, Layne or Pierre, will get the call for playing time in the Steelers defense. It’s such a good question, it has been chosen as the topic for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

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

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

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

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

When looking at the stats for both Justin Layne in James Pierre, there’s not a ton to go by. Layne did not see the field on defense as a rookie in 2019, which wasn’t a bad thing. For this exercise, I’m going to stick to strictly 2020 regular season and postseason numbers on defense as special teams is a whole different issue.

Justin Layne played 117 snaps on defense in 2020, all of which were during the regular season. The game played with the most snaps was the loss to the Washington Football Team where he played 28 snaps and was targeted for times for four completions and 25 yards along with a touchdown according to Pro Football Reference. On the season, Layne was targeted 12 times and gave up 10 completions for 127 yards and the one touchdown against Washington. Layne was the only Steelers corner not credited with a pass defensed in 2020.

As for James Pierre, he played 27 defensive snaps during the regular season and additional eight in the postseason. The most snaps Pierre saw on defense was in Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns where he played 18 snaps and was not targeted. On the season, including the playoffs, Pierre was only targeted twice with one completion for -1 yards. Pierre also had a pass defensed on his lone target in the postseason.

One of the biggest numbers when it comes to comparing these two corners is looking at the snaps played as the season went on. After pretty much splitting time in Week 17 were Pierre saw 18 snaps and Layne had 16 snaps on defense, it was Pierre who was called into action in the postseason with eight snaps while Layne was not on the field on defense. Like my coach used to say, it’s not who starts but who finishes.

As for their salaries, both players are on rookie deals and have minimal effect to the Steelers salary cap. In fact, once the Steelers sign their 2021 draft class, James Pierre’s contract won’t even fall in the top 51 for the team.

So now that we know how the numbers played out, what does the film show between these two cornerbacks?

The Film Line:

Justin Layne started the season as the #5 cornerback after the team let Artie Burns leave in free agency. He stayed in that role for most of the season. The only time he didn’t seem to be the Steelers #5 cornerback was in the second half of Week 17 and in the Wild Card game, both against the Cleveland Browns. While Justin Layne had good and bad plays throughout the season, we are going to focus on that Week 17 matchup to see if it shows why the Steelers went with James Pierre over Justin Layne in the playoffs, and what it shows for the competition between the two this season.

Week 17, 2nd quarter, 13:21. Justin Layne is the cornerback to the bottom of the screen.

Justin Layne loses track of his receiver on the double move, and it’s a 42-yard gain. I often talk about Minkah Fitzpatrick not being a true cover-1 safety, but man, look at the ground he covers to keep this from being a touchdown. Justin Layne and Cameron Sutton had problems with busted plays to their side earlier in the season, and it shows up again with no one else to blame.

Week 17, 2nd quarter, 0:05. Justin Layne is the cornerback to the bottom of the screen.

I wanted to show this one because he plays this double move almost the exact same way, but with help behind him it’s not a bad play. It’s possible the 42-yard gain he gave up earlier in the 2nd quarter was a miscommunication.

Layne didn’t have a terrible day in Week 17, he only gave up the one completion, but giving up a 42-yard pass on a blown coverage is the kind of Artie Burns flashback no one wants.

Contrary to what I’ve heard stated multiple times since the season ended, the Steelers didn’t just play Layne in the first half and Pierre in the second half. In the third quarter the Steelers played Marcus Allen at linebacker and at nickelback, bypassing Layne in nickel, and then when Allen was hurt, the Steelers played both Layne and Pierre on dime plays. The Steelers rested more and more players as the game went on, and in the 4th quarter Cameron Sutton and James Pierre were the corners when the Steelers went with a 7-man front.

Week 17, 4th quarter, 10:02. James Pierre is the cornerback to the bottom of the screen.

James Pierre does a really good job closing on this route, and if you look at when Baker Mayfield releases the ball, Pierre would have arrived in time to have a shot at defending a pass to his side. Baker Mayfield wisely went after Marcus Allen on this play, leaving Pierre alone.

Week 17, 4th quarter, 8:42. James Pierre (#42) is the cornerback to the right side of the screen.

I love this play. Pierre supports Alex Highsmith really well here. He starts off with good position as Highsmith holds his block, staying behind himwhere he can attack the gaps to either side of Hisghmith. When Highsmith sheds the block by putting the blocker to the inside of the play, Pierre shifts focus to that inside lane, and then swaps places again, putting his body into Highsmith’s discarded blocker to cover a cut outside, before finally engaging to be a part of the tackle.

I went through all that to show just how much Pierre was processing on that run play. James Pierre is a smart and aggressive run defender, while we can talk about willingness to tackle with other defensive backs, Pierre is closer to a Joe Haden in his commitment to defending the run, and that matters a lot to the Steelers coaching staff.

I’m not trying to go out of my way to pick on Justin Layne, and he never played in the Steelers 7-man front sets, but here’s Justin Layne taking on a running back in the open field.

Week 13, 2nd quarter, 0:35. Justin Layne is the cornerback to the top of the screen.

This isn’t apples to apples at all, but seriously, that tackle is high and if the back isn’t trying to get out of bounds, ripe for getting broken. Layne recorded 22 tackles with 5 missed tackles (18.5%!) in 2020, while James Pierre recorded 10 tackles with 0 missed. Small sample sizes, but even in small sample sizes numbers can show significant trends, and in this case the film backs it up. Tackling and run defense is a strength for James Pierre, and while there is no film of Justin Layne in a 7-man front set, his tackling doesn’t look good for his run defense.

Week 17, 4th quarter, 8:03. James Pierre is the cornerback to the bottom of the screen.

And then there is this play.

The Steelers struggled more with miscommunication and missed assignments as starters went down on defense and backups were communicating with backups. But on this play? James Pierre switches receivers smoothly with Marcus Allen and while Minkah Fitzpatrick early on is committed to bailing out the undrafted rookie if he loses his man, Pierre sees the play extending and alters his technique, facing his man and keeping him uninvolved in the extended play.

Plays like this one really stand out for a rookie, especially one getting snaps on defense for the first time in the NFL. That makes it easy to understand why the Steelers chose to play James Pierre over Justin Layne in the playoffs. Where Pierre would make this play:

Wild Card game, 2nd quarter, 11:31.

Before that third down pass defense, the Browns had converted every third down and had scored a touchdown on each of their drives. They would punt for the first time on the next play. He played really well on every snap he played in that playoff game, and Baker Mayfield didn’t target him again.

Justin Layne had good and bad film, but mostly he showed a player that struggled with more complex assignments, losing players on double moves, miss reading switches and reacting late in zone.

Meanwhile James Pierre showed great technique in all areas of the game, and executed the defense at a much higher level than you would expect from even a high draft pick rookie.

The Point:

Admittedly we are looking at a very small sample size with James Pierre, but in that sample size he looked more like a starting corner than a number 4 corner. And even though fans saw a small sample size, the Steelers have a much better idea of Pierre’s ability and have demonstrated the confidence in him as well. It’s difficult to believe he is behind Justin Layne on the depth chart right now, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he ended up pushing Cameron Sutton for the starting cornerback job. Both Layne and Pierre will get an opportunity in training camp, and Justin Layne may even get the first crack at things being a third-round draft pick, but James Pierre has already put on tape what he can do with his limited opportunities. Chances are, barring injury to either player, Pierre gets the snaps played advantage over Layne in 2021.

B.J. Finney details how it took mere days for the Steelers to bring him back after his release

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 7:15am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers wasted little time bringing back a familiar face in B.J. Finney.

In maybe the most predictable move of the offseason, the moment the Cincinnati Bengals released B.J. Finney, you knew the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to be picking up the phone. What we didn’t know is how long it would take for them to make the call. As Finney himself told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, it didn’t take long at all.

“It was within a couple of days of being released by Cincinnati that Mr. (Kevin) Colbert and Omar (Khan) reached out to my agents,” said Finney. “They were like Pittsburgh is interested in bringing you back. We can work out the details and see what takes place. A couple of other teams were interested but didn’t know what they had with the salary cap and so forth. We were stern and said tell us what you are going to offer, or I will be on a plane to Pittsburgh. Fast forward a couple of days and I was headed back to Pittsburgh.”

When you read Finney’s half of the story, it certainly seemed as if Pittsburgh was the only destination for him after failed stints with the Seattle Seahawks, who signed him in free agency after he left Pittsburgh, and the Bengals. Why would it be the only destination for Finney and his family? Outside of being a life long Steelers fan, Pittsburgh is now where he calls home.

“Honestly, it’s like coming home,” said Finney. “You can’t wait to get home, so we are excited to be back. My family and I are excited to be back. Hopefully everything plays out well.”

Finney has been though it all since leaving the team who picked him up as an undrafted rookie free agent. Signing a lucrative deal with Seattle seemed like a step forward for a player who had been relegated to backup duty his entire time in the NFL. Nonetheless, despite his challenges and being away from his former teammates, he still kept tabs on the black and gold.

“You can never fully get away from anything with all of the friends and family we have on the team,” said Finney. “Last year we were keeping tabs on everybody, checking in on everyone to make sure they were doing all right, keeping the lines of communication open. When you still have friends and family on the team, you are still going to follow it.”

Fast forward to today and you have Finney rejoining a team he is comfortable with, but outside of the organization not much is the same. New offensive coordinator, new offensive line coach and even the vast majority of his former teammates are now elsewhere.

“We had that same crew of guys for my entire five years on the line and now it’s potentially just Dave (DeCastro) and I left out of the original seven,” said Finney. “I went from being the youngest in the room to now the second oldest I believe. Just one year removed it all changes so fast. There is always learning to be done, especially with new players and coaches, just figuring out how to do things.”

So what does 2021 have in store for Finney? Are the Steelers expecting him to be the Day 1 starter at center? Is he coming back just to be a depth piece, like he used to be? Will it all hinge on the success, of failure, of the 2021 NFL Draft? Finney says head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t mince words with him when talking about expectations.

“They just painted it with a broad-brush stroke,” said Finney. “Coach Tomlin told me my fate is in my hands and we will see where it leads. We always have control over it. It’s just a matter of opportunities rolling our way. It’s nice to be in more control than I had prior to.

“If that is where they want me to play, at center, I will accept the challenge. That is a legacy that is hard to live up to in Pittsburgh with all of the great centers we have been fortunate to have as an organization. To throw my name into the ring, to have the opportunity to be one of those centers, is amazing in itself. It’s not something to be taken lightly, and I am not. I want to do the best that I can, and the best I know how to do it is how I have been raised to do it. Coach T knows that and sees that, and we will see where it leads.”

Someone will have to fill the giant shoes left by Maurkice Pouncey when he retired. Will that person be Finney? Only time will tell, but Finney is happy to be back in Pittsburgh, and the fan base is hoping he can regain the form which got him that lucrative contract in Seattle. If he can do that, the offensive line might just be okay in 2021.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of Free Agency and the upcoming NFL Draft.

An in-depth look at Steelers fans’ offseason obsessions in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A deep dive into the minds of the obsessed as NFL Free Agency rolls on, and the 2021 NFL Draft is on the horizon.

The National Football League just moved to implement a 17 week season, which provides fans over four months of weekly intensity. But for legions of die hard fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s a 365-day-a-year obsession.

While many normal, and probably well-adjusted, fans move on to other pursuits once the Super Bowl concludes, the obsessed worry and opine about their beloved team even more. After all, the offseason always engenders hope for the future, as well as fears.

If you’re reading this site and watching the NFL Network daily this time of year, chances are you pass the litmus test of the obsessed.

What’s next, these fans want to know, and how can we improve so we can obnoxiously brag we are on the Stairway to 7? Here are some of the issues the obsessed offseason Steelers fans are pondering.

The Ben Roethlisberger situation

Let’s get the elephant out of the way first. Probably the most discussed Steelers topic of them all, from both fans and pundits. Ben’s 2021 performance will be the lynchpin for the entire season, the difference between beating those hated Ravens and Browns, or watching those teams in the playoffs.

While this is the worry, I feel Big Ben will be in a good position to lead the team as long as he is upright and healthy. Let’s not forget that he was coming off major surgery with no preseason last year. Still, he led the team to an 11-0 start, and finished the season with 38 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Many point to the fact that his yards per attempt decreased and that he had weaker games later in the season, suggesting a downfall of his abilities.

Maybe.

But you can point to several issues that also just as easily could have led to his late season swoon. First, the protection was awful, forcing him to get the ball out quick. Couple that with Randy Fichtner’s seeming fetish for a short pass game plan, and defenses caught on and snuffed out that strategy as the season progressed. Additionally, the run game was so ineffective that that put even more pressure on Ben and the passing game. With no fear of the run game and a line that didn’t protect its quarterback, it is not surprising that Roethlisberger’s stats regressed.

It was a lot to overcome, especially for an aging QB.

When it wasn’t the line faltering, or the OC calling a game plan of quick, short passes, the receivers decided to go through a multi-game streak of dropping ball after ball, getting so bad that the once reliable Dionte Johnson was benched. Had those balls been caught at their normal rate, Ben’s numbers would have been much better, and, likely, some of those lost games would have been won.

Also, I think it was obvious when Ben injured his knee in the Dallas game on November 8, it effected his play towards the end of the season. This probably made him try to get the ball out even quicker to avoid the sack. If you remember watching his initial reaction to the hit on his knee, it did not look good. He limped around and occasionally grabbed at the knee. It’s hard to believe that just disappeared. If I’m correct, Ben playing through that nagging pain is admirable, but it very well made him veer even greater towards quick passes behind his shaky protection.

Ben shouldn’t be asked to carry the entire team on his shoulders anymore. As long as he’s not, I think there’s reason for optimism for solid play if he maintains his health.

The Running game

A Steelers team that can’t run the ball? Sacrilege! When do you recall the last weak Steelers run game? Merrill Hodge, maybe? Walter Abercrombie? Frank Pollard?

Yep, that’s right – it’s ancient history!

You simply can’t be excited with a backfield of Benny Snell Jr, Kalen Ballage, and Anthony McFarland Jr. That trio is as weak as any in the league. I will say the jury is still out on McFarland because of the limited chances he had last year, but he projects as more of a third down back with some juice than as a reliable three down back. If James Conner were still on the team, he would still be the best option when he’s healthy, which is his big concern, of course. It’s possible he comes back ala Ju Ju Smith-Schuster, but who knows.

It seems the draftniks believe the Steelers will add to this stable during the draft, and we can only hope so. Najeh Harris, Travis Etienne, and Javonte Williams appear to be the consensus top three, with others like Chuba Hubbard included in a slew of others considered later picks.

It’s hard to see a scenario where the Steelers don’t draft help so as not to put it all on their 39-year-old quarterback’s arm. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

But, the first two issues above unfortunately depend on the next Steelers fan’s offseason obsession.

The Offensive Line Woes

The importance of the offensive line to Ben Roethlisberger and the run game can’t be overstated. The line was not up to standard last season and this was with the now retired, possible HOFer Maurkice Pouncy. Ben was crying at the end of the Cleveland playoff loss likely because his buddy played his last game, but probably a few tears were also shed realizing the pain he could possibly endure in the near future without his rock protecting him.

That said, Pouncey was on the decline anyway. He’s not the only loss, though. As of this writing, the future of Alejandro Villanueva is also up in the air and I would include him in the same category as Pouncey as an asset on the decline. Losing Matt Feiler to free agency further depletes a line that needs an overhaul.

I’d argue the line play has slipped overall ever since losing Mike Munchak. The guy was invaluable. His loss, aging, and simple lack of talent are all factors in an evident decline. An injection of new juice and improved play from those currently on the roster is desperately needed.

Richard Dotson looked like a good addition last year and David DeCastro was still solid, but Chukwuma Okorafor has to improve and Zach Banner is a question mark, though the Steelers’ brass seemed to like him. The center position is rough with BJ Finney seemingly the starter at this point.

There were a couple free agent additions, but, really, did any excite you? Didn’t think so. You can hope.

Since this unit effects Ben and the running game, it is a big offseason worry. It needs addressed even more so than the running back position in the draft since a good line can cover up inadequacies in most backfields, as San Francisco has illustrated. Any back SF threw behind their blocking scheme seemed to excel.

Opinions vary, but some suggest a first round pick on an offensive lineman at the Steelers’ draft position might be better used elsewhere since, aside from the high valued line talent at the top of the draft, there are many 2nd and 3rd round picks as good as any in the late first.

Perhaps, but it can’t be ignored.

The New Offensive Coordinator

Let’s just state this every season because, really, don’t the fans always want to crush the offensive coordinator? Randy Fichtner? He stinks, fire him. Todd Haley? He stinks, fire him. Bruce Arians? Yep, Steelers fans hated him, too, and wanted him fired. Time may have left that hazy in people’s minds, but, yes, there was no love for him when we had him and fans wanted a change, and there were zero outcries when he was fired (retired…lol) by the Rooneys.

That said, Randy Fichtner was pretty awful. This time, a change was as inevitable as Thanos. The hope is Matt Canada can get some creativity out of an offense that has been as predictable as any I can remember.

Better scheme and play calling can only improve all the offensive components already outlined above.

Those Defensive Defections

Lastly, this snuck up as a concern and snowballed towards the end of last season and picked up steam into the offseason. The defense that looked so sterling early last year suddenly has causes for concern. Losing Devin Bush Jr to injury started the in-season decline of the defense, and by the end of the season his loss, and that of Bud Dupree and Tyson Alualu, was really noticed.

Injuries happen. Those players, sans Dupree, will be back, and even Dupree had a nice fill-in by Alex Highsmith, who Pro Football Focus raves about. But, the exodus of Dupree still isn’t a good thing, Highsmith or not, especially when followed by Mike Hilton, Steve Nelson, and Vince Williams.

While this is a concern, you can’t be too frightened for the prospects of a defense that still has Bush, Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and T.J. Watt. Those are true talents. If Cam Sutton and Justin Layne can live up to their draft expectations, that would go a long way to solidifying the backfield. Then there are those like DB James Pierre that have received praise from the coaching staff. Who knows? Mike Hilton wasn’t all that till given the chance, either.

And, it would not be surprising again for the Steelers to draft an impact linebacker that will likely fall to their draft position with all the hyped QBs and WRs in this draft. It just seems that’s what the Steelers do in the first round.

The bottom line:

There is a flood of opinions and daggers being thrown from the football intelligentsia that the Steelers are on the decline, and could finish third in the division. It’s trendy to bury the 6-time Super Bowl champs. They believe the 11-0 start of last season is squarely in the rearview and it is the beginning of some lean times for the Steelers.

I think this is overblown, to a degree.

While any of these above concerns that fans are obsessing about can help derail the Steelers, I think the most important is the offensive line play. If this unit improves through some combination of new additions, better health, cohesion, and offensive scheme, the offense will solidify behind Ben Roethlisberger for his last run, improving both the run game and pass game with them.

This, admittedly, is a big if. You only need to re-watch the last Super Bowl to see how weak line play can derail even the best quarterbacks.

Ben isn’t done yet. I’ve never seen a done QB throw for 500 yards and 4 TDs in his final game, not to mention setting a league record with 47 completions in the process. As long as he’s not forced to shoulder the entire load and gets his protection, he’s more than capable of leading this team.

The defense needs contributions from new parts in the defensive backfield, but overall has its fair share of studs to keep it a quality unit. Hopefully, this takes some pressure off the offense as well.

The next fan obsession, the draft, will go a long way to quelling some concerns. Or, it will only enflame them. Stay tuned obsessed Steelers fans.

I know you will.

Identifying the stock of players who opted out of the 2020 season remains difficult

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 5:30am
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

For the players who sat out the 2020 NCAA season, figuring where they belong in the 2021 NFL Draft class isn’t quite clear.

As if 2020 wasn’t difficult enough, entering the 2021 NFL Draft there is a contingent of players who opted out of their last college season, with the outlier who played for a team who had their season canceled.

COVID-19 took away a lot for players looking to turn to the professional ranks, but when it comes to evaluating these prospects who missed most, or all, of their 2020 season, trying to identify their draft stock is anything but easy.

ESPN Senior Writer Jeff Legwold looked at these players who opted-out of last season, and whether their stock is rising or falling leading into the 2021 NFL Draft. See what he had to say below:

The prospects who opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic have teams relying on methods they’ve used in the past for prospects who missed the season before they entered the draft. Rob Gronkowski, who did not play his final season at Arizona due to a back injury, was a tidy 270-pound Super Bowl reminder that body of work is important in this process. He was the No. 42 overall pick in 2010.

Evaluators have tried to make the best of what they saw at the Senior Bowl in January and the pro days of some of the opt-out players. Stanford’s Paulson Adebo, for example, is still a tough call for some as the two-time All-Pac 12 pick had an injury end his 2019 season nine starts in and he opted out in 2020.

Overall, there will be some fluctuations between how the opt-out season impacts a variety of prospects, with each team having its own criteria for how those players are graded. From my discussions with scouts and personnel executives, here are a few who could be placed in two categories:

Opt-out prospects teams still love:

  • Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
  • Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
  • Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
  • Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
  • Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina (played until November before opting out)

Opt-out players who have spurred debate and could drop:

  • Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
  • Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
  • Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia
  • Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest

When you look at the players whose stock might be falling, you have to wonder which team will take a chance on these prospects. It isn’t as if they lost talent in a season off, but they might just need a chance to prove themselves.

This could provide some tremendous value in the middle rounds of the draft for teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers who might not have the high draft selections, or overall draft capital. What would you think about drafting a player who didn’t play in 2020? Let us know in the comment section below, and he sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: Real ripple effects from pre-draft trades can impact the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/07/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman brings an AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

Sam Darnold is now a Panther, Jared Goff is a Lion, Matt Stafford is a Ram and their respective old teams are drafting differently. Also the 49ers, Eagles and Dolphins are drafting in different places now. Just how will these pre-draft trades affect the Steelers draft plan? That is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this, the LIVE mailbag and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • How pre-draft trades will affect the Steelers draft plan
  • The LIVE mailbag!
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Which uniform numbers will Steelers players switch to if the jersey rule is changed?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Jersey rules could change, so how ill it affect the Steelers?

The NFL rules committee is expected to loosen uniform rules in the coming weeks. With it makes single digits available to a litany of position groups (sorry lineman). If free agency didn't wreak enough havoc to your jersey collection, then league wide number switching will surely do the trick. As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a number of players wore single digits in college and might be willing to make the switch back to those old threads in the pros.

The rule change was proposed by the Kansas City Chiefs, who ran out of usable uniforms last year and had three different players appear in number 30. Due to the expansion of the practice squad, which still isn't expected to shrink, this was becoming a necessary rule change.

The #Chiefs proposal to expand the use of single-digit numbers is likely to pass when owners vote later this month, per @peter_king. 24 votes are needed.

This would be the updated look:
QB, K, P: 1-19
RB, TE, WR: 1-49, 80-89
DB: 1-49
LB: 1-59, 90-99
OL: 50-79
DL: 50-79, 90-99

— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) April 5, 2021

Before we get into the players that may want to switch, we have to look at the numbers that are not available. The numbers which players appear invested in are digits 1-19, so lets start there.

1. Unclaimed
2. Mason Rudolph
3. Dwayne Haskins
4. Jordan Berry
5. Unclaimed
6. Unclaimed
7. Ben Roethlisberger
8. Corliss Waitman
9. Chris Boswell
10. Unclaimed
11. Chase Claypool
12. Unofficially Retired (Terry Bradshaw)
13. James Washington
14. Ray-Ray McCloud
15. Cody White
16. Unclaimed
17. Unclaimed
18. Diontae Johnson
19. JuJu Smith-Schuster

So, who are some Steelers who could change jersey numbers?

Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

Jaylen Samuels is fighting for his NFL career entering his fourth training camp. He may flourish in Matt Canada’s system, and maybe a new number can signify a change of on field play. Samuels can rock hissed number one.

Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

The first name you may think of is Joe Haden, who made the number five famous back at the university of Florida, but Haden has already said he won't be switching his number again. Instead, I think it’s Anthony McFarland would switch back to his college digits. McFarland is expected to take a big step this year and a new number might do him some good.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Devin Bush could be the biggest name player to switch digits. Coming off an ACL tear Bush could mark his comeback by going back to an old number. Bush did decided to wear 55 because 5+5=10 after all.

For the most part Steelers players just don’t have old numbers available to them. Big time jersey sellers won't be changing for the sake of changing either. So, don’t expect too many crazy swaps. But what do you think? Which players will switch their numbers? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Which position is the bigger team need for the Steelers in 2021, center or running back?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 12:33pm
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

After looking at two positions on defense, which position is the bigger team need on the offensive side of the ball?

The Pittsburgh Steelers still have a number of team needs as they continue through the 2021 offseason. With free agency still an option, as well as the upcoming NFL draft, the Steelers will need to fill out all of these needs prior to training camp.

For an interesting exercise, I’m going to give two positions and ask which one is the greater need to add a player for the 2021 season. Previously, the question was asked about inside linebacker versus outside linebacker.

In this case, it’s time to look at the offensive side of the ball. To be more specific, is center or running back the bigger team need for 2021?

When looking at a team need, I like to break it down into two different types. First, there’s certain positions where the need is simply to have enough players as the Steelers don’t have enough options at this time. The Steelers may be set with their starters, but they may not have the needed depth at the position simply by not having enough players. The other option is whether Steelers could have enough players at a position, but they need to upgrade the quality of play on the depth chart. The Steelers may have more than enough bodies at the position, but the quality of those players even at the top is questionable.

When it comes to looking at center depth versus running back depth, I feel both of these positions fall primarily into the second category.

When looking at the team need at center, the Steelers problem is uncertainty at the starting position. Additionally, the Steelers really could use at least one more body for training camp as having only two players who primarily snap the ball is not ideal. This means the Steelers have room to add a center at some level, but it would be in their best interest to add someone at the top of the depth chart. With B.J. Finney returning to the Steelers after a year away split between the Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals, he hasn’t seen an offensive snap since he last wore the black and gold. With the other option being J.C. Hassenhour who had to start four games in 2020 at both center and guard, neither player instills a lot of confidence in Steelers’ Nation moving forward. While the clock may have run out on the option of upgrading the position through free agency, it’s almost certain the Steelers will have to look for a center at some point in the 2021 NFL draft. The big question is with what selection.

When it comes to the running back position, the Steelers have a large number of players on their roster. Leaving full back and Derek Watt out of the discussion, the Steelers have four running backs on their roster who appeared in games for them in 2020 as well as the free-agent acquisition of Kalen Ballage. So even though the Steelers have more players than what they should keep on the roster, the biggest issue is the quality at the top of the depth chart. Last season neither Benny Snell Jr or Anthony McFarland Jr appeared to be a player ready to be the bell cow for the Steelers. With James Conner currently an unrestricted free agent, the starting job is wide open for whoever can grab it. The biggest question is who is best fitted to carry the load for the Steelers who would help to improve the rushing attacked which ranked last in the NFL in 2020. So even though the Steelers have enough players at the position for training camp, having a player who’s ready to be “the guy” is the biggest issue.

So which position is the greater team need? Will the Steelers look to add a center high in the 2021 NFL draft? Should the Steelers look to invest a top draft pick at running back rather than continue adding mid-round picks to the room year after year?

Personally, I think these two positions are the top two needs for the 2021 Steelers. The issue lies in whether or not either one is worthy of a first-round draft pick. When it comes to running back, investing in one of the first round when the shelf life is shorter than most positions makes it a tough choice. As for center, while it could be a player locked in with the Steelers for a decade, it seems taking one at pick number 24 could be a bit of a reach. As for which position is the greater team need, the best way for me to decide between the two is to ask if I could only add a player at one or the other, where would it be. For me, the choice would be center as I think a great offensive line can make an average running back that much better. But in all actuality, these two needs are neck-and-neck in this race.

So what do you think? Which position, center or running back, is the greater position of need at this time for the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers offense? Make sure you vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

If Christian Darrisaw is available at No. 24, is he too good for the Steelers to pass on?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For teams who are looking for an offensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft, Christian Darrisaw might be a prospect to keep an eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at an offensive tackle in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current offensive line depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, but after players like Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, there are a lot of talented tackles who could be available to the Steelers at pick No. 24.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a tackle to bolster their offensive line depth in 2021, and if Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw is available when the Steelers pick, is he too good to pass on?

I did some digging on Darrisaw, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Darrisaw. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Darrisaw in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Draft Profiles The Draft Network

Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw earned the opportunity to start for the Hokies as a true freshman and did nothing but improve for three seasons, developing into a dominant blocker in 2020. From a size, length, and mobility standpoint, Darrisaw firmly checks the boxes and should immediately become an asset to an NFL franchise in pass protection, outside zone runs, and utilizing his exceptional ability to pull and connect with moving targets in space. Like most young offensive linemen, Darrisaw has room to add functional strength to improve his overall power at the point of attack, but it’s far from a deficiency that is of major concern. The amount of technical growth Darrisaw has demonstrated throughout the course of his career is exciting when considering his starting point for the next level and how he peaked at the perfect time. It shouldn’t take long for Darrisaw to earn a starting role in the NFL and he has the upside to become a standout, franchise left tackle.

Ideal Role: Starting left tackle

Scheme Fit: Zone run scheme

Walter Football

Strengths:

  • Excellent skill set
  • Ideal height, length and weight
  • Good athlete
  • Quickness
  • Quick feet
  • Gets depth in his drop to neutralize speed rushers
  • Can play the typewriter to cut off the corner
  • Bends at the knee
  • Doesn’t have to reach for rushers
  • Fast to the second level
  • Walls off and ties up defenders in the ground game
  • Athletic upside
  • Three year starter

Weaknesses:

  • Finesse blocker
  • Does not have a mean streak, tenacity
  • Coasts through plays; doesn’t finish defenders off
  • Struggles when he has to get physical
  • Not a bull dozer in the ground game
  • Struggles to knock defenders off the ball
  • Lacks heavy hands
  • Complacent style of play

Summary: Darrisaw broke into the starting lineup in 2018, and over three seasons, he became a good starting left tackle for the Hokies. Darrisaw and his skill set earned the attention of NFL scouts as a potential blind-side protector for the next level, and he has the physical talent to be an early-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

As a pass protector Darrisaw has a lot of qualities that NFL teams look for in starting left tackles. He has good size, length, and athleticism to block on the edge. Darrisaw is quick out his stance to get in position to pick up edge rushers, and his size makes it tough for defenders to get around him. Thanks to Darrisaw’s quality hand placement and length, edge rushers struggle to avoid contact with him, and that sets him up to win a lot of his assignments quickly. Darrisaw is quick and a good athlete on the edge. With his agility and movement skills, Darrisaw has the ability to neutralize speed rushers off the edge.

Darrisaw is solid as a run blocker. He uses his big body to tie up defenders and lean on them. Darrisaw is more of the type to turn defenders and tie them up from getting to the ball-carrier, rather than knocking them off the ball. For the NFL, Darrisaw could be better off in a zone-blocking system rather a power-man rushing attack.

Player Comparison: Russell Okung. Team sources compared Darrisaw to Okung. It makes sense as they are both athletic, big and agile, but lack physicality and a mean streak.

Fan Nation

Extremely athletic left tackle with long-looking arms and brute power and physical playing strength, with an inconsistent motor. Declared as a junior. Tends to stay off the ground. Sometimes gives up on blocks too soon — both in pass pro and run blocking. Once in a while, a “flash-fire” temper comes out, and he will blow someone up.

Looks good setting up pre-snap, with his left foot kicked outside. Looks alert and poised to protect. Quickly slides into position on the outskirts of the perimeter. Decent hand placement at the point of attack. Hard to beat once he gets his powerful and strong hands on the opponent. Fighter. Slides and maintains most of the time, but does show a strong, glaring tendency to stop moving his feet toward the backdoor of the pocket, to then bend his waist and start losing control. Speed rushers with power could be a real issue in these situations at the next level. Another concern was in all four games, he allowed one quarterback hit, after release on blitzes coming from his area of responsibility.

Strong-at-the-point run-blocker who often sustains and controls just long enough. Position and leverage blocks to seal the lanes. Did show tendency to sometimes give up on a block too soon. Incredible in space. Excellent at second level — way downfield — and at pulling. Rare athletic and blocking ability in space. Looked graceful moving around. Flashes extreme aggression and physicality (especially against smaller players).

Darrisaw, overall, is a physical specimen, with the rare combination of pure power and athleticism.

The three main consistent concerns are his footwork at the back door in pass pro, blitzes off his edge and when he has a letdown and gives up on a block too quickly.

These three negatives could cause noticeable issues at the next level. However, they do not overshadow all the things he does at a very high level.

Breakdowns Game Film Other Breakdowns

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