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Tomlin on Roethlisberger’s physical bounce back: ‘It’s a process he is going through’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/06/2020 - 12:30pm
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ head coach acknowledges his franchise quarterback is on the right track, but far from a finished product.

Thursday morning was a busy one for Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. After meeting with local and national media in the morning, he hopped on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football show to talk about all things Steelers.

Of course, one of the first questions he fielded was about Ben Roethlisberger. Everyone, including the fan base, wants to know the state of Roethlisberger’s elbow after having it surgically repaired in 2019.

Tomlin spoke openly about it, and called his physical bounce back to the 2020 season ‘a process he is going through’.

Check out the clip below:

.@steelers HC Mike Tomlin joined #GMFB to tell us what we can expect from Big Ben in 2020 ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/J3VUVYauH9

— GMFB (@gmfb) August 6, 2020

Here is the full quote:

“In terms of physically, and how he is rebounding from this, I think that it is a process he is going through and we are preceding, obviously leaning on the expertise of the medial people and how he feels. So far so good.

“I’ve watched him throw a couple times this week. He appears to have Ben-like velocity. I’m still looking for that extremely tight spiral that I am used to seeing. So there is still some ground to cover, but we still have some time.”

Did you really think Tomlin would gush over Roethlisberger without giving something for the quarterback to glean from his comments? Just this week Roethlisberger spoke about how his arm feels, especially after increased workouts, and he said he felt good.

“You know, my arm feels really, really good. I threw a lot of balls yesterday. I was kind of waking up today to see how it was going to feel, and it feels great. That’s kind of what I anticipated because we have been working more than usual in the offseason in terms of throwing.

“I’ve put together a regimen of 2-3 days a week of throwing for the last two months, if not longer than that too.” Roethlisberger said. “I think the plan is still to kind of pitch count, if you will, through training camp. I worked really hard yesterday in terms of a lot of throws. I’ll throw maybe try about half that amount today. Then, tomorrow, I’ll just really back off again just to kind of to see how it will feel.

“Obviously, this is a little different training camp because you’re not really doing one-on-ones. You’re not really doing 7-on-7s right now. Right now, we are just building up and working on timing with receivers, tight ends, running backs, things like that. I’ve had no setbacks. It feels really good, so I’m really excited about that.

Tomlin gave him something to add on his to-do list, and that would be work on that tight spiral so many fans have seen since he put on the black-and-gold No. 7 back in 2004.

Nonetheless, Tomlin knows what is means to have Roethlisberger under center, and he knows how he responds to any type of situation where he feels like an underdog. In other words, Tomlin is ready for Roethlisberger to assume his role as Superman for the team.

“I’m excited about him doing what he does, stepping out of the phone booth, if you will, with a cape on and being the guy that he has been for us and facing the challenges this season is going to present.”

Diontae Johnson confirms Matt Canada’s influence on the offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/06/2020 - 11:05am
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

In his interview on Wednesday, Diontae Johnson mentioned Matt Canada’s motion schemes being implemented in the Steelers offense.

In Diontae Johnson’s press conference with the media he was asked about Matt Canada, and if Diontae Johnson thought he would benefit from some of his ideas. His response was the first real confirmation we have had that the Steelers are implementing the kind of plays Matt Canada brought to the college game.

I’m going to do whatever they ask me to do, that’s the main thing. Although it’s new stuff, I’m still actually learning all those new motions and stuff he’s (Canada) brought over to us. I wouldn’t say it’s tough, it’s just something you’ve got to put your mind to it and just want to learn. Like I said I’m going to go out there and do whatever it takes to help.

When asked if it would benefit him in particular he responded:

Yeah, most definitely. It’s going to create ways for me to get open and make plays, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.

Randy Fichtner, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Canada have been non-committal in their recent interviews, with coach Canada stating the usual coach speak:

I’m coming in and learning our system, learning what we’ve done here. That’s my job, to just enhance whatever I can. . . We’re going to focus on what Ben does well, what he’s always done well, and however I can assist that I’ll do it.

Canada also directly downplayed the Steelers using motion in the offense this season:

It’s part of what (I’ve) done in the past, but again, I’m coming in here and I’m focused on learning our system and getting going with what we are doing here.

Until Diontae Johnson’s interview it didn’t seem like there would be much change at all in the offense due to the addition of Canada. But with Johnson letting the cat out of the bag, we now know the Steelers are working more motion into the offense, even if they don’t want to talk about it.

This is something to listen for as the Steelers go through camp, to see what clues we can get about the extent of Canada’s influence, and what players are learning and executing any new wrinkles to the offense. The team seems to have embraced utilizing Matt Canada’s expertise, with even Ben Roethlisberger seeming open to the change. In his interview this week, while discussing how the new coaches and players can help the offense he added this comment:

. . .misdirection stuff, we brought coach Canada in to help with some of that stuff.

Roethlisberger then expressed his excitement for what the offense could accomplish in 2020.

While most of what we have heard coming from the Steelers is the usual information we get, a whole lot of platitudes and team-speak, there are signs that the team is going forward with Matt Canada having an impact on the design of the offense, and are embracing an increased use of pre-snap motion to generate opportunities to make plays.

Now that Diontae Johnson has confirmed that players are learning motions and “stuff” specifically brought to the team by Matt Canada, fans can stop wondering whether Fichtner and Roethlisberger will embrace new ideas, and start thinking about how much influence Canada will have, and what the impact of his schemes will have on the offense.

Podcast: How does Matt Canada factor in Ben Roethlisberger’s Lombardi hunt?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/06/2020 - 11:00am

With “The Standard is the Standard” being retired, Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold from the week that was.

When Ben Roethlisberger met with the media on Tuesday, he proclaimed that he still feels like he has a lot left in the tank. After an elbow injury and subsequent surgery shut his 2019 season down after only six quarters of play, the 17-year veteran expressed his motivation by saying, “I still have a lot to give this team. I still have a lot to give the fans. And I still want to win Lombardis, and I say that with a plural on the end.” With No. 7 back and hopefully better then ever, he returns with a new quarterbacks coach, Matt Canada. What kind of a role will Canada have in Ben’s quest for more championships? This inquiry and more will be pondered on the latest episode in the BTSC family of podcasts. As always, it is a good time to talk everything Steelers.

Take a look or listen to the newest episode in the BTSC family of podcasts. With The Standard is the Standard retired, Michael Beck takes the weekly helm alongside Geoffrey Benedict with the new Wednesday offering, Beck On Black. On this week’s show, Mike and Geoff give their twist on all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Ben Roethlisberger is hunting Lombardi trophies
  • How does Matt Canada factor in on Big Ben’s quest?
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael and Geoffrey 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:

The standard is the standard for player safety at Steelers training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/06/2020 - 9:45am
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The word out of Heinz Field is the Steelers are handling COVID-19 safety measures like they do everything: First class

As coaches and players continue with media availability as workouts get underway at training camp, the entire process being so abnormal compared to years past opens up the question as to how everyone is handling the situation. So far for the Steelers, the answers have all been of a similar theme...

The Pittsburgh Steelers are focused on doing the right thing, and doing it well, when it comes to player safety in regards to COVID-19 restrictions for the 2020 season.

It’s been a challenge for sure as players and staff to get used to the guidelines. Last Thursday, Mike Tomlin mentioned safety protocols in his opening statement during his first media session of Steelers 2020 training camp.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for this environment that we are in,” Tomlin explained in a virtual press conference on Zoom. “We are working our tails off to familiarize ourselves to adhere to the COVID protocols in an effort to keep the individuals, and us as a collective group, safe as we can possibly be in the midst of this.”

Of course player safety should always be a top priority when it comes to an NFL franchise. There is a chance some teams are doing it better than others, but in the new environment which is the 2020 season, player safety is at a whole new level. Not only is it important for players to feel safe in regards to COVID-19, but it is also important for players to know the seriousness of following the safety protocols for the protection of the entire organization.

Coach Tomlin laid this out to the team early on and did not hold it back from anyone who questioned their stance on COVID safety.

“What you are talking about is conduct that is detrimental,” Tomlin said, “and that is a term that is used often in our business and appropriately so. Because in this COVID environment, if you are not exercising digression and being thoughtful about how you move, that conduct is detrimental to your cause and ours collectively. That is the message that I am delivering to those guys. We have to conduct ourselves accordingly.”

It appears Tomlin’s message is coming through loud and clear to the players. In his interview with the Pittsburgh media on Wednesday, Steelers veteran linebacker Vince Williams praised the team for what they have done for player safety according to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com.

Vince Williams said it's about safety first right now. He said the Steelers have done a great job of providing the players with a safe environment.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 5, 2020

Players being in an environment in which they feel they are safe as possible is paramount to the Steelers 2020 season. The Steelers are one of the very few teams who have yet to have a player opt out for 2020. Exactly why the Steelers don’t have any players choosing to forego the 2020 season could be from any number of factors, but seeing the team handle safety issues firsthand has to make players feel better about their decision.

Steelers second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson also addressed safety protocols with the Steelers workouts as training camp is getting underway. Knowing teams have to follow the protocols in order to have a possibility of completing the 2020 season, Johnson understands this is just part of the process.

Diontae Johnson said he is still getting accustomed to all of the protocols teams have to adhere to now, but it's something that they have to adhere to and he won't complain.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 5, 2020

For a better idea of exactly what Johnson could be speaking of, Coach Tomlin addressed more safety issues in his most recent press conference Thursday morning. One of the differences Tomlin noted is being able to address the entire team at one time.

Coach Tomlin said the team is doing different things during the conditioning period, testing things out. In the morning meeting today he met with the veterans in person, while the rookies and assistant coaches all watched it virtually throughout Heinz Field.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 6, 2020

But player safety throughout the pandemic is more than just on the field and in the locker room. After his session with the local Pittsburgh media, Coach Tomlin went on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football where he also discussed providing players with the proper and most readily available information regarding the situation.

Coach Tomlin on @gmfb said the team is working hard now, and even remotely in the offseason, providing players accurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic. He said players have had a thirst for information.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 6, 2020

Perception and reality can often be two different things with many aspects of the NFL, as well as life in general. So far, when it comes to the Steelers 2020 training camp, it appears the team is doing its best when it comes to safety to not only make the players feel as safe as possible, but for them to actually be safe given the circumstances.

Mike Tomlin not ‘extremely confident’ in the upcoming NFL season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/06/2020 - 8:42am
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach is cautious regarding the upcoming 2020 regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are just one of 32 NFL teams who are putting protocols and safety measures in place to have players in facilities and working out. During the coronavirus pandemic, and sports returning, there has been plenty of skepticism regarding whether an NFL season could be played or not.

The NFL has had the luxury of time with other sports like Major League Baseball, the NHL and NBA all back to game play. But let’s not pretend all of these sports are created equal, as it pertains to the success of their return.

The NHL and NBA have returned to a bubble environment where players are staying in one location to help prevent outside infection within the bubble. So far, both professional leagues have been successful in this plan.

Baseball, on the other hand, is not participating in a bubble. Teams are traveling from city to city, the only changes being facial coverings worn by some and no fans in ball parks. And there have been plenty of issues with MLB protocols and return policy.

The Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals have both seen a spike in cases which has forced games to be postponed or rescheduled. This has only compounded the concern over the NFL returning in a similar format. The biggest differences about the two sports are glaring. Baseball the players are rarely touching, where football has players hitting one another every single time the ball is snapped.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who met with media during a Zoom call Thursday morning, was asked about his confidence level heading into the season.

His response was candid.

This via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Tomlin said "I don’t know that I'm extremely confident" about the NFL season, given what has happened in baeball. "I think we're all proceeding with caution and working extremely hard not to become part of that."

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) August 6, 2020

After watching the struggles of MLB to keep things in control, everyone in NFL circles should have some pause about the upcoming season, but it also could be chalked up to yet another challenge entering a season.

Tomlin realizes this is one of those challenges, and is ready to embrace it, like he does every year.

This per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com:

'I always come into the season expecting it to be challenging. There is always a challenge. What it might be, or the highlights of it, is difficult to forecast. But we all come into this time of year ready to embrace, meet and hopefully overcome the challenges.' - Coach Tomlin

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 6, 2020

There are some fans who will read Tomlin’s quotes and think the NFL season is destined for failure before it even starts. But let’s not forget there are some very smart people working with the league, and individual teams, to help make this season as safe as possible for all involved.

On top of that, there is also the simple fact the NFL is learning from MLB and their shortcomings. Again, football has had the luxury of time, and the ability to witness the success and failures of sports who have returned already.

Will a season happen in 2020? No one knows for sure, but the NFL has a plan in place they, and the NFLPA, believe in. Whether the players, coaches and personnel can execute said plan might be the difference between a season, and failure.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they press on with 2020 Training Camp at Heinz Field.

The Steelers’ plan for having fans at Heinz Field in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/06/2020 - 8:15am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If there will be fans in the stands for home Steelers games, season ticket holders have been given a glance as to what the process will look like.

On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers informed their season ticket holders of how they plan to move forward if fans are allowed in the stadium for the 2020 season. Uncertainty in regards as to how the Steelers will handle having fans in the stadium has been an ongoing question for those who are hoping to attend games. While many season ticket holders are still holding on to hope they will be cheering on the Black and Gold for all eight home games this fall, some have chosen to opt out of their tickets for 2020 but still keep their seats for 2021.

Recently, Ticketmaster refunded all purchased single-game tickets at Heinz Field, including those which were re-sold by season ticket holders. In essence, all ticket transactions are on hold as seat availability isn’t something the Steelers can guarantee.

Many season ticket holders were hoping for come clarity as to how both game and seat allotments will work in order to decide if they will take the opt out alternative. With August 14th being the deadline for season ticket holders to make their decision, the added information given on Wednesday should be helpful.

Here is what the Steelers announced to season ticket holders in regards to their seats for 2020:

If it is determined that fans are permitted to attend games, it is highly likely that seating capacity will be greatly reduced to allow for social distancing and other safety measures. It will also be necessary to create seating groups or “pods” to allow for social distancing between various groups while seated. Given these requirements, we will not be able to offer you your exact season ticket location for the 2020 season. Every effort will be made to offer you a seat location that is similar to your season ticket location.

With the NFL already announcing the first several rows of stadiums will be able to have the seats covered in tarps which can hold advertising, the question of some season ticket holders not having their regularly assigned seats was one issue which needed to be addressed. With the explanation of the use of “pods” it appears tickets from the same party will be able to sit together while being distanced from others.

So how will the Steelers determine who will sit where?

If fans are permitted to attend games, season ticket holders who have elected to keep their season tickets for the 2020 season will have the opportunity to select new seat locations on a game-by-game basis. You may apply the funds that you have already paid for your 2020 season tickets towards these new seat location offers. Any unused funds will remain on your account as a credit toward the 2021 season or you may request a refund.

Although the Steelers have given season ticket holders a glimpse as to what they are considering should fans be allowed in the stadium, there are still a lot of questions to be answered. On what basis will the order of choosing seats be determined? Will it be a “first come, first served” basis much like when single-game tickets go on sale? Will the Steelers merely assign certain seats for only some of the games for each account? At what point will this actually take place? What about fans who don’t have season tickets?

The answer to the final question looks to be something many may not want to hear. Unless you are Steelers season ticket holder, chances are you most likely will not have an opportunity to attend games at Heinz Field in 2020. It’s unclear at this time as to how many season ticket holders have chosen to take the opt-out route, but chances are there will be more wanting their tickets for the season than the number of seats which will be available.

The best way to secure Steelers tickets to Heinz Field in 2020 is to know a season ticket holder who hasn’t yet opted out of their tickets for the year. While there may eventually be an opportunity to purchase tickets from someone selling them on the secondary market, it is not something which is currently available.

Additional details about this process will be communicated to you once the plans are finalized. In the meantime, the ability to sell or transfer tickets remains unavailable.

Of course, the entire process could be a moot point if it is deemed by local health officials or the NFL that fans will not be able to attend games at Heinz Field. But as they have stated throughout the entire process, the Steelers remain hopeful at least some fans will be in attendance.

Film Room: Deciphering if Paxton Lynch is a viable back up option

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/06/2020 - 7:15am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Looking at Paxton Lynch’s last start in December of 2017.

Since we aren’t going to get a quarterback battle played out in preseason games, and are unlikely to get very much drama from the few reporters allowed into Steelers camp, I thought it would be fun to look at Paxton Lynch’s last NFL start, from week 17 of the 2017 season, the end of Lynch’s second season in the NFL, and the last of his 4 starts.

First let’s set the scene. The Denver Broncos were a mess, they had Demaryius Thomas, but not much else on offense. Their defense was only really good at stopping the run. The Broncos did not have a good quarterback situation, with Lynch, Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler all starting multiple games in 2017. Week 17 was Paxton Lynch’s second start of the season, his previous effort cut short as he was benched in the third quarter with the Broncos stuck on zero points.

Lynch’s week 17 opponent was the Kansas City Chiefs, a team Alex Smith led to a 9-6 record, locking them into a Wild Card game. With the Broncos game unable to affect their playoff fate, the Chiefs rested just about everyone, giving Patrick Mahomes his first NFL start, while also resting the vast majority of their defense.

The Chiefs played 16 players on defense that week, and only two, CB Terrance Mitchell and DE Chris Jones, played 50% of the Chiefs defensive snaps that season. Mitchell, due to injuries in the secondary played the whole game, while Chris Jones (before he was a regular starter) played 27 snaps. Seven Chiefs started on defense for the only time that season in week 17, and three defenders recorded at least 45 snaps in that game without recording a single defensive snap the entire rest of the season.

For the 2019 Steelers that would be like Robert Spillane, Justin Layne and Marcus Allen starting on defense, supported by Jordan Dangerfield, Tyler Matakevich, Daniel McCullers, Artie Burns, Isaiah Buggs, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper, with Mike Hilton playing outside and Tyson Alualu rotating in.

This is important, because the Broncos offense was not good, but the defense they were facing was made up of special teams players and rotational pieces.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the film.

Short passes

1st quarter, 7:39. Demaryius Thomas is the slot receiver to the bottom of the screen.

The Chiefs ran really vanilla defense most of the game, and early on these slants were wide open, and Paxton Lynch made good passes on these routes.

1st quarter, 1:26. Demaryius Thomas is the receiver to the left side of the screen.

Drag routes were a different story. Here Thomas makes the catch, but the ball is thrown late and behind him, forcing him to slow down and turn to make the catch, and he has no chance to gain yards afterwards.

2nd quarter, 6:27.

Wide open receiver 7 yards downfield, and while this one is complete, the ball is low and away from the receiver, giving him no chance to do anything after the catch.

2nd quarter, 5:06.

Paxton Lynch’s first touchdown pass of the game, a screen pass broken for a big play.

4th quarter, 4:19.

This big play in the 4th quarter put the Broncos in position to tie the game. It isn’t a tough throw, but Lynch hits the running back in stride and the Broncos have a first down in the red zone.

4th quarter, 2:58. A few plays later.

Paxton Lynch throws his second touchdown, an 8 yard pass to Demaryius Thomas. I don’t like Lynch’s side of this play. He drifts to the outside of his pocket, then lobs a jump pass when he had plenty of time to set his feet and make a good throw. There’s no need for the little steps he is taking that wreck his footwork and lead to this lob of a pass.

Fortunately for the Broncos, the Chiefs defensive back falls down.

If the defender doesn’t fall down that’s a contested ball, as Thomas has to slow to almost a stop to catch it. But an ugly touchdown pass is worth the same number of points, and the Broncos tied the game on this play, with less than 3 minutes left.

Deep passes

Paxton Lynch has a strong arm, something that gets brought up quite a bit during discussions about who will be the Steelers backup quarterbacks in 2020. But how does it show on film?

1st quarter, 12:53. Demaryius Thomas is the receiver to the top of the screen.

This is the first Paxton Lynch pass attempt of the game. It’s not catchable.

1st quarter, 6:57.

Lynch places this ball to the inside of his receiver, when there is plenty of space to the sideline, and he’s lucky this ball isn’t picked off. Look at Lynch’s throw, he sees the rush coming, and while he has time to get the throw off, he leans back as he throws and the ball is underthrown.

2nd quarter, 0:41.

This is a better placed ball, not great placement, but good enough and his receiver is able to win the contested throw. This time Paxton Lynch has no one around him and the pass is a decent one.

2nd quarter, 0:26.

This is a bad decision. The throw is late and into the teeth of the defense. But more than that, this is a 24 yard throw, straight down the middle of the field, released at the 38 yard line, the receiver was at the 14 yard line. The linebacker who tipped the ball had time to take 4 steps from when he saw Lynch throwing until he tipped the ball.

Watch #53 as Lynch starts to throw.

These are the kinds of throws a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger can make, because he can get the ball there before the defense can converge on the receiver. This isn’t a 45 yard throw, Paxton Lynch’s arm strength is overrated.

4th quarter, 5:16.

This is good use of the space to the sideline on this play, again the pocket is secure and Lynch has no one around him. This is his best deep throw of the game, and is as good as deep throws we’ve seen Mason Rudolph make.

4th quarter, 7:12.

This is a bad throw. It is thrown too late and again, too close to the defense. It is important to note that this is Lynch’s 4th start in the NFL, and he’s had time between starts to learn and improve, and he threw two gift balls to the Chiefs backups.

Pocket presence

Lastly we will focus a bit on Paxton Lynch’s lack of chill in the pocket. As plays above showed, Lynch frequently lets even the illusion of pressure mess with his mechanics.

3rd quarter, 2:04.

Paxton Lynch has options on this play, the receiver just off the line (third from the top) has good position on the defender, the slant behind him is not wide open, but it’s there, and yet Paxton Lynch takes off. There wasn’t any real risk here, the only defender getting close to him is already behind him, once Lynch takes a step to his right he has even more time, but he runs. The underneath receiver in the middle of the field reacts with a short angry hop when he sees Lynch start to run.

3rd quarter, 1:18.

On the other side of the coin is this play, where Lynch seems determined not to run too soon, and instead stays in the pocket for over 3 seconds before taking a sack.

4th quarter, 8:35.

This is terrible. There is no pressure to the middle, and the right guard switches to push the blitz outside, but Paxton Lynch turns and runs directly into the rush, giving up 5 yards before they make contact.

4th quarter, 7:51. Watch the receiver to the front of the trio to the bottom of the screen.

Lynch has his guy open in the middle of the field, but takes off running. There is pressure here, because Lynch sets so deep in the pocket that the left tackle can’t seal the edge. Lynch drops ten yards behind the line of scrimmage, and doesn’t throw the ball. He has options here, but he runs. And he runs for the sideline when there is grass in front of him and plenty of time on the clock.

This was a third down play, the next play was the interception (4th quarter, 7:12) I showed above. He doesn’t pull the trigger here, but pulled the trigger on that play.

Conclusion

In all fairness I need to state that I went into this film room expecting to find that Paxton Lynch was pretty bad, because I had seen him play before. So if you want to say I found evidence to support my own opinion, then you wouldn’t be wrong. The film still shows what the film showed a year ago when the Steelers put Lynch on the roster and I went and watched his games.

This film is worse than Mason Rudolph’s early starts that I knocked. This film is as bad as Devlin Hodges against the Buffalo Bills. But while Devlin Hodges was facing one of the best defenses in the NFL with only one of the starters from week one playing at skill positions, Paxton Lynch was facing a preseason caliber defense running largely vanilla schemes.

Paxton Lynch has a strong arm, but it doesn’t show up as a trait he uses well on film. What does show up is poor mechanics exacerbated by a lack of poise in the pocket, mixed with poor timing, accuracy and awareness.

Paxton Lynch had played 209 snaps at quarterback before this game, and had been in the NFL for two seasons, with plenty of time between his starts. He had more on-field snaps than Mason Rudolph did heading into the Colts game, the start of a stretch where Mason Rudolph showed real growth in his timing and pocket presence, before the nightmare that was the second half of the Cleveland game. Devlin Hodges reached that snap count in the Arizona game, and he did not have 2 seasons of NFL coaching invested in him.

I’m certain Paxton Lynch has improved since December of 2017, but Lynch shows so many flaws, and a good number of them are ones that don’t get worked out with time very often. So while I won’t rule out Paxton Lynch being better than he was in December 2017, I will continue to state that I think it is more likely that Devlin Hodges pushes Mason Rudolph for the #2 quarterback spot than Paxton Lynch takes the #3 spot from Hodges. And that isn’t a big endorsement of Devlin Hodges.

Ben Roethlisberger’s health is the least of the Steelers’ worries

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/06/2020 - 6:00am
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

As it pertains to the health of his elbow and the fitness of his 38-year old body, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know when he spoke to the media on Tuesday.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke to the media on Tuesday for the first time since he suffered a major elbow injury in Week 2 of 2019 and was forced to miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery.

Roethlisberger said a lot of things during his virtual chat with reporters, including how he had been dealing with discomfort in his elbow for years, that he finally felt he had reached a point of no return with his elbow after a deep pass to receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in the game against the Seahawks at Heinz Field and that he had to have three torn flexor tendons reattached during his surgery.

Roethlisberger also mentioned that he’s lighter than he’s been in many years and is determined to come back better than ever.

It was nice to hear from Roethlisberger and listen to him put his own spin on last season’s ordeal that had just about every supporter of the team wondering if he’d ever come back and be anywhere near the player he was before. But other than providing some fresh early-August news in the form of the franchise quarterback finally talking to the media and throwing in some of his patented Big Ben injury flair “From what I’ve been told, it’s never happened to a quarterback of this magnitude. I believe there was at least another quarterback that had one, maybe two torn off, but from what I understand, not three.”, what Roethlisberger said on Tuesday didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.

And what I already know is that Roethlisberger’s health should be the least of the Steelers concerns as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.

Yes, of course, they should be concerned about the physical condition of their meal ticket, their franchise, their most expensive asset and least expendable commodity, but that goes without saying for a professional football team with common sense.

The Steelers are doing the usual things you’d expect with Roethlisberger early on in training camp, such as placing him on a daily “pitch count” and monitoring his condition the next day.

But that’s standard practice for most teams with veteran franchise quarterbacks, major elbow surgery or no major elbow surgery.

Maybe this is easy for me to say, being an outsider, but I haven’t really been worried about Roethlisberger since shortly after he was spotted throwing his first post-surgical football in some gym somewhere in California way back in February. You, like me, may refer to that era as The Before Time.

That’s right, the whole world has changed since February, and I’ve spent the past five months or so worrying about lots of other things. But since this is a Steelers article, in that sense, I’ve been concerned about whether or not they’ll actually play the 2020 season, considering COVID-19 has been on the longest drive in the history of football.

Now that it looks like the virus will reluctantly kick the football off after scoring many touchdowns (I know that’s not how it works, but the virus is playing under pandemic rules), will the NFL go on a long drive of its own, or will it be a quick three and see you in 2021?

These are now my major concerns in a football/Steelers sense.

As for Roethlisberger, maybe I’m just overly-confident in modern sports medicine—we are nearly a decade removed from running back Adrian Peterson suffering a torn ACL one season and then coming within nine yards of breaking the single-season rushing mark the next—but I have no doubt he is back.

As I alluded to earlier, all the things Roethlisberger mentioned, we kind of already knew prior to his virtual presser on Tuesday.

Many suspected something wasn’t quite right with Roethlisberger’s arm in recent years (or at least we were hoping so) based on the shakiness of his deep throws, particularly in 2018. It was either age or an injury, and major surgery or not, I’ll always take injury as a reason for poor play over age any day of the week. Why? I’ll refer you once more to modern medicine and my Adrian Peterson example.

As for those three flexor tendons? I don’t know if any other quarterback has undergone a surgery of that magnitude (you never know with Big Ben injury speak), but we’ve known about the three tendon reattachments for months.

What about Roethlisberger’s rehab and whether or not his elbow is on the way back to 100 percent? In addition to the gym throw in February, there was that hype video months later of him throwing passes to James Conner, Ryan Switzer and Smith-Schuster.

As for Roethlisberger’s fitness, he didn’t have to tell us he’s lighter than he has been in years—it’s visually obvious. Actually, when you combine Roethlisberger’s trim waistline with that neatly trimmed beard, he looks about as handsome as he ever has during his 17-year career.

The 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers may encounter 99 problems, but Ben Roethlisberger’s surgically-repaired elbow likely won’t be one of them.

I think he’s all the way back.

Podcast: Stephon Tuitt is the Superman the Steelers defense needs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/06/2020 - 5:30am

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

The Steelers finished 2019 as a top-tier defensive corps. However, one of the pieces of that defense, Javon Hargrave, has taken his talents cross-state to Philadelphia. The good new is that Keith Butler’s unit gets a monstrous talent back from injury in the person of seven-year man Stephon Tuitt. No. 91 was tearing quarterbacks up with 3.5 sacks and causing mayhem before his season-ending injury in Week 6 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Could the veteran from Notre Dame be the Superman that the Steelers defense needs in 2020? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the BTSC podcast “Let’s Ride”. Join BTSC Co-Editor Jeff Hartman with his new show as he discusses this burning topic and breaks down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Stephon Tuitt is the Superman the Steelers defense needs
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Black and Gold Links: The goal for Ben Roethlisberger is multiple championships

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/06/2020 - 4:30am
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. With the scheduled start of training camp now behind us, it looks like we’ll have to wait until opening weekend to see the Steelers take the field. Just because the NFL has cancelled the preseason doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how Ben Roethlisberger isn’t talking about winning just one Super Bowl, but more than one.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers fan base is excited about Ben Roethlisberger returning, and him talking about winning championships, plural, has them ecstatic for the 2020 season.

Ben Roethlisberger: I still want to win Lombardis

By: Josh Alper, ProFootballTalk

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger met with the media on Tuesday and said that he never considered retirement after tearing three flexor tendons off the bone in his right elbow early last season.

The injury kept Roethlisberger from playing in the final 14 games of the 2019 campaign and he said he might have considered calling it a career if he felt he “was closer to the end” after the injury. Roethlisberger doesn’t feel that way, however.

While he may not have another decade left in the tank, he thinks he has “good years left in me” and a desire to add some Super Bowl rings to his collection.

“I still want to win Lombardis and I say that with a plural,” Roethlisberger said, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Matt Canada is not trying to recreate the wheel with the Steelers’ offense.

One direction

By: Mike Prisuta, Steelers.com

Matt Canada is reluctant to talk about the impact he’ll have on the Steelers’ offense as a first-year NFL assistant, but the franchise quarterback and the offensive coordinator are absolutely interested in hearing what the new quarterbacks coach has to say.

“When it comes to ideas and when it comes to thoughts and things you can bring to the table every week, what he can bring to the table might be different than I would,” offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner observed.

Fichtner anticipated a process of give-and-take exchanges that’ll be “really fun to see and develop.”

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger perceived the misdirection game as an area in which Canada would be potentially impactful.

“We brought Coach Canada in to help with some of that stuff,” Roethlisberger said.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Roethlisberger finally opens up about the actual nature of his elbow injury.

Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger feels ‘really good,’ says 2019 surgery repaired 3 torn elbow tendons

By: Brooke Pryor, ESPN

PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger knew something was seriously wrong with his right elbow the instant he let go of the football late in the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks last year.

Speaking for the first time since he suffered the season-ending injury in Week 2, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said he dealt with the elbow pain “for years,” but the feeling that radiated through his elbow after he threw a long pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster was different.

“On the drive in Seattle, just kind of that pain wasn’t really going away,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday morning. “I threw one deep one to JuJu down the right side, and I really felt a different pain and different discomfort than I ever felt. It was shooting down my arm, and so I knew something was different at that moment.”

A couple of weeks later, Roethlisberger had season-ending surgery to reattach three torn flexor tendons in his right elbow.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

Diontae Johnson talks about the “new” Ben Roethlisberger

Will Antonio Brown find a new home in 2020?

The Steelers are one of a few who have not had a player opt-out yet

How many upcoming FAs will the Steelers be able to bring back?

Talk about a communication breakdown on the defense in 2019!

Sights and Sounds from Steelers Training Camp

  • Social Media Madness

Doing whatever it takes

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2020

Ju Ju having fun at a Photoshoot! #Steelers pic.twitter.com/UvNodYq2NQ

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) August 5, 2020

First look at Eric Ebron Geared Up in the Black and Gold! @Ebron85 #Steelers pic.twitter.com/rNWx0NElfh

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) August 5, 2020

Those aren’t questions @TeamJuJu @MikeHilton_28

However, we’re big @Juiceup__3 fans too pic.twitter.com/3oYjnPgIKa

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2020

Joe Haden has his own Suite to hang out in at Heinz! #Steelers pic.twitter.com/f5DncmvE0r

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) August 5, 2020

Gear up for training camp with the Steelers New Era Summer Sideline collection

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 7:30pm
Fanatics

Get the gear the players are wearing to get you looking the part heading into the 2020 season!

I can’t speak for everyone who might stumble upon this article, but I have always loved the gear the players wear on the sideline. It always was more expensive, but to walk around town wearing the jacket, hat or shirt that players wear on the sideline during games was almost like a badge of honor.

If you have a love for hats, especially Steelers hats, like I do, then you are always looking for the latest lid to add to your collection.

With 2020 Training Camp underway at Heinz Field, you can see players and coaches wearing the latest New Era hats and gear during their workouts. The good news? You can get the same gear they are wearing right here!

Check out the links below for the newest Steelers hats. They come in Flex Fit, Adjustable, different colors and a pretty sweat straw hat for those adventurous to rock that around town.

Place your order now and enjoy the newest collection of Training Camp hats!!

Fanatics New Era 2020 NFL Summer Sideline Official 39THIRTY Flex Hat for $36

Fanatics New Era 2020 NFL Summer Sideline Official 9FORTY Adjustable Hat for $35 Fanatics New Era 2020 NFL Summer Sideline Stretch Snap 9FORTY Snapback Adjustable Hat for $35 Fanatics New Era 2020 NFL Summer Sideline Official Straw Hat for $40

Cam sends clear message to the defense with Instagram hype video

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 3:00pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive captain puts together a sweet hype video for the 2020 defense.

There are questions surrounding the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers, but a lot of those questions are not pertaining to the defense. In fact, many are expecting the defense to carry the Steelers this upcoming season and hopefully get them to the promised land.

When you look at the teams offensive and defensive rosters, it should be the defense who carries the team. The unit is riddled with first and second round draft picks who are entering, or are already in, their primes.

These are strange and crazy times we live in right now, and the Steelers are feeling it too. Training camp is underway and the team isn’t at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, but at Heinz Field.

Without the college feel of being in the dorms and on Saint Vincent’s campus, defensive captain Cam Heyward put together a hype video, of sorts, together for his defensive teammates on Instagram.

Check out the video below, and note the music might not be labeled ‘safe for work’:

View this post on Instagram

@bud_dupree @t_alualu93 @tjwatt90 @stuitt @_bigdan93 @dbush_10 @vinnywill98 @joehaden23 @stevennelson20 @oh_thatsmike28 @camsutton20 @fittypat21 @rell_island6 @love_ola_9 @ballforever_b91 @dangerfield__ @chicohndrx let’s get it

A post shared by Cam Heyward (@camhey97) on Aug 3, 2020 at 3:33pm PDT

The caption of Heyward’s video says it all, “Hard to choose one....we back!!!”

The Steelers are back, and are looking to build off their 2019 defensive success and get even better entering the 2020 season.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as training camp rolls on.

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: JuJu Smith-Schuster

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 1:45pm
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

Moving along with part 73 of our 90ish-part series — assuming the roster does not change before we are complete — which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man (now 80-,man) roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s take a look at the Steelers most veteran Wide Receiver:

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Position: WR
Height: 6’ 1”
Weight: 215 lbs
College: Southern California
Draft: 2nd round, 53rd overall in 2017

2019 Stats

12 Games played
42 Receptions
552 Receiving Yards
3 Receiving Touchdowns
1 Fumble

Contract remaining

Expires in 2021
$1,335,000 salary cap number (.67% of total cap)
$297,869 Dead money
$1,037,151 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Lock. Despite taking a step back in 2019, Juju Smith-Schuster is still a bright young talent of the game. He is the most veteran receiver, and is still just 23 years old. Plus, Smith-Schuster is in the final year of his rookie deal which, money wise, is barely even noticeable.

The biggest question here is if Smith-Schuster will be brought back in 2021. For right now JuJu isn't going anywhere.

2020 projection

With the return of Ben Roethlisberger, I expect JuJu will take a step back in a positive direction. Teams will still focus on Smith-Schuster as a number one target but that shouldn't stop the youngster from notching another 1,000 yard season. The entire offense should take a leap forward this season, with the emergence of Diontae Johnson, and the additions of behemoths Eric Ebron, and Chase Claypool the Steelers will become match up nightmares. JuJu should reap the benefit of all the talent surrounding him.

Projected stats:

16 Games played
90 Receptions
1,250 Receiving Yards
7 Receiving Touchdowns

Summary

The Steelers receiving core is loaded with talent from JuJu to Johnson, James Washington, and Claypool. The arsenal is stocked for Ben Roethlisberger. Juju Smith-Schuster still projects to be the crown jewel of this corpse. A big season for JuJu probably skyrockets his next contract value through the roof and likely out of Pittsburgh. It will be interesting to watch Smith-Schuster over the next six months and see where his career takes him. But for right now he has to bounce back from a brutal 2019 season.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett -Cut
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney -Cut
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh
Carlos Davis
David DeCastro
Christian DiLauro
Kevin Dotson
Bud Dupree
Eric Ebron
Terrell Edmunds
Trey Edmunds
Matt Feiler
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Zach Gentry
Ulysees Gilbert III
Derwin Gray
Joe Haden
J.C. Hassenauer
Quadree Henderson -Cut
Dewayne Hendrix -Cut
Cam Heyward
Alex Highsmith
Mike Hilton
Devlin Hodges
John Houston
Anthony Johnson
Diontae Johnson
Jarron Jones
John Keenoy
Tyree Kinnel -Cut
Christian Kuntz -Cut
Justin Layne
Leo Lewis
James Lockhart
Paxton Lynch
Dan McCullers
Vance McDonald
Anthony McFarland Jr.
Henry Mondeaux
Christian Montano -Cut
Alexander Myres
Steven Nelson
Spencer Nigh
Chuks Okorafor
James Pierre
Maurkice Pouncey
Kevin Rader
Dax Raymond
Ben Roethlisberger
Mason Rudolph
Jaylen Samuels
Tuzar Skipper
Wendall Smallwood

Vince Williams sees Devin Bush taking serious strides entering Year 2

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

It could be a second year jump, or a sophomore slump for Devin Bush. Teammate Vince Williams sees the former Michigan LB making serious strides.

As it pertains to depth, the Pittsburgh Steelers have issues at a few positions. Inside linebacker would be one of those positions. This isn’t suggesting Vince Williams or Devin Bush aren’t capable of anchoring the middle of the defense, but if one of those two players is lost due to injury it could mean trouble for the black-and-gold.

Think back to when the Steelers lost Ryan Shazier in 2017 and were forced to sign Sean Spence off the couch to try and fill those massive shoes.

We all know how that worked out.

That is the kind of drop off the team faces now if Bush or Williams would be lost for any stretch of time with an injury. Ulysees Gilbert III is entering his second year, and Robert Spillane is hoping to solidify the spot once occupied by Tyler Matakevich, but those names hardly give fans a warm and fuzzy feeling when talking about ‘what if’ scenarios.

If Bush and Williams are able to stay healthy, and remain the key cogs on the defense, the position should be able to thrive. In fact, Williams sees the former Michigan standout making some serious strides entering his sophomore season as a professional.

This per Missi Matthews of Steelers.com:

Vince added that "Devin is making tremendous strides" in terms of making that Year 2 jump Coach Tomlin always talks about. Vince said he's noticed little things like Devin coming in at a consistent time every single day.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 5, 2020

Bush had what few rookies get to experience as a rookie, and that is a full season under his belt. Bush was a mainstay on the defense. Bush played in all 16 games and amassed 109 combined tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 4 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble 2 interceptions and 4 pass defenses last year, and this experience will only help him improve in Year 2.

But the fact remains Bush is hardly a seasoned veteran when it comes to the intricacies within the defense. It is Bush’s position which has to make calls to the rest of the defense, ensure everyone is where they are supposed to be and know what they are supposed to do.

No one can expect Bush to be perfect in this regard, and during a recent group interview with local reporters, Williams said he is assisting Bush with these duties to help get him acclimated and accustomed to the role.

This also from Missi Matthews:

Vince Williams said he is trying to lead by example in terms of communicating on the field for Devin Bush.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 5, 2020

The Steelers have long been known for their linebackers, both inside and outside, and Williams knows what being a Steeler linebacker is all about. He wears it as a badge of honor and realizes the fans’ expectations of not just him and the team, but the position.

There is a long lineage of great linebackers from Jack Lambert to James Farrior, and Williams, along with Bush, are just trying to carve out their own niche in that history every time they put on the jersey and step between the white lines.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they continue through Training Camp at Heinz Field, and prepare for the upcoming 2020 regular season.

Diontae Johnson itching to get started with ‘different’ Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:00am
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The second year receiver is excited to get to work with the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

When you think about Diontae Johnson’s brief professional career, it has been anything but smooth sailing. After all, the receiver position is completely reliant on others to see success, and the Steelers’ quarterback play in 2019 was anything but consistent.

Whether it was Mason Rudolph or Devlin Hodges, Johnson has yet to play with a quarterback of the caliber of Ben Roethlisberger for more than six quarters of a regular season.

To say he is excited about the potential of his production, as well as the offense, with Roethlisberger under center might be an understatement. But during a Zoom interview with reporters Wednesday, Johnson said how Roethlisberger isn’t the same quarterback he worked with as a rookie in 2019 leading up to the season.

No, he is different.

This from Brian Batko, who was on the group interview, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Steelers WR Diontae Johnson on Zoom: "Everybody wants to play for Ben. He's our leader, he's our quarterback, so everybody's locked in. ... He's different this year, from what I saw last year. He's more excited, anxious to get on the field and play with us."

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 5, 2020

Roethlisberger spoke with media on Tuesday, and mentioned how he was nervous for the upcoming season. Nervous because he has never had his season ended with an injury in his long career, but also nervous about the fact he has a lot to prove.

Johnson sees a Roethlisberger who is different outside of any nerves he may be experiencing. Mainly he notices how Roethlisberger is excited and anxious to just get on the field to play. This is a big change, and a welcome one for Johnson.

This per Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network:

Diontae Johnson, who could (& should) be a #Steelers gamebreaker this year, said there's a noticeable difference in Ben Roethlisberger this year. Said, "He's more excited. He's anxious to get on the field and play w/ us." That in turn, the WR said, makes HIM feel more connected.

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) August 5, 2020

Some might read the above quotes and take the stance that Roethlisberger wasn’t excited or welcoming last year. If that is your take, so be it, you might not be wrong. But having something you may have taken for granted away from you can be a powerful motivator. It can make you appreciate the little things like walk-throughs and practices even more. This could be what is happening with Roethlisberger who stated he wants to win Lombardis, plural, before he calls it a career.

When you look at what Johnson did as a rookie with Rudolph and Hodges under center, it was pretty remarkable.

Johnson managed to pull off some pretty impressive numbers in 2019 despite the poor quarterback play. With 59 receptions in his first year, Johnson is second in franchise history only behind Troy Edwards’ 61 in 1999 which tops the list for Steelers rookies. When it comes to receiving yards, Johnson is 8th all-time in franchise history for a first-year receiver with 680 yards. With only 3 receptions for 25 yards thrown from Roethlisberger before his injury last season, many are hoping the two players can find some magic in 2020.

A question which has been on everyone’s mind is how Roethlisberger’s arm has looked in workouts, and according to Johnson Roethlisberger’s arm looks stronger than ever. Going as far as saying his arm looks “way better” from this time a year ago.

This per Brooke Pryor of ESPN:

Diontae Johnson: "Ben's arm is way better from what it was last year."

Says he's cut "a lot of them" loose. Says he has a "nice, tight spiral. He's going to put the ball wherever he wants it."

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 5, 2020

Johnson is a budding star in the NFL, and having Roethlisberger back will certainly help him reach the next level of production, and stardom, in 2020. What does Johnson have in store for fans this season? With Roethlisberger back, and possibly better than ever, the sky is the limit.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2020 regular season.

Podcast: Steelers cautious, but more focused on football

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:00am

In a rebranding of the BTSC podcast, Steelers ‘Stat Geeks’, brothers Dave and Rich Schofield, break down the numbers surrounding the Black-and-Gold.

The 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers have fully arrived at training camp, Covid-19 style. While the pandemic is firmly on everybody’s mind, the Steelers are doing their collective best on focusing more on football. The bars have been raised to drown out the noise and bring another Lombardi back to the Steel City. This is the subject that will be discussed and speculated on in the newest edition of the BTSC family of podcasts.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold and there you have the topic for the first episode of the BTSC podcast The Scho Bro Show. 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
  • Steelers cautious but more focused on football
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • 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:

Will Antonio Brown find a home after serving his 8-game suspension?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 9:45am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After waiting seemingly forever to find out his fate, Antonio Brown was handed an 8-game suspension by the NFL for conduct detrimental to the league. That’s the bad news. The good news is he still might have a final chapter in football. Will he finally take advantage of what appears to be another chance?

Antonio Brown, who quickly went from the man everyone loved to the man everyone loved to hate, finally learned his fate on Friday as it pertained to the NFL’s ongoing investigation into some of Brown’s unsavory and very high-profile off-the-field behavior.

Brown will serve eight games, starting with Week 1 of the 2020 regular season. This means whether or not a team signs him prior to Week 8, he’ll be eligible to play after that time. Now the question for the former Steelers receiver who played in Pittsburgh from 2010-2018 is will a team sign him? Brown has been linked to the likes of the Seahawks and Ravens in recent weeks, with both Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson publicly throwing their support behind him.

Months earlier, after the Buccaneers won the “Tom Brady Sweepstakes,” Brady, who played a grand-total of one game with Brown during the 2019 season when he signed with the Patriots following his release from the Raiders, reportedly lobbied for the controversial receiver to join him in Tampa, a possibility that was quickly squashed by head coach Bruce Arians.

That last paragraph was quite the mouthful, but it perfectly illustrates just how messy Brown’s life has been since the tail-end of the 2018 season, when he went AWOL on the Steelers—twice, actually.

Brown’s problems are his own, obviously, and he has nobody to blame but himself. But there’s a small part of me that wants to see him succeed again. Like any messy divorce, I was through with Brown following a 2019 offseason in which he did all that he could to make Steelers fans delete his phone number and block him on social media.

But time does really heal all wounds, and, as weird as this is for me to admit, I wouldn’t mind seeing Brown get his life together and actually have a final NFL chapter, if for no other reason than to give him some structure.

Say what you want about Brown—and there is a lot to say about him that is negative—but he’s a tremendous competitor and the hardest worker most people who have been in his presence have ever seen. As we’ve witnessed when Brown doesn’t have football or a reason to work, he seems lost, he seems directionless.

Now that he knows where he stands with regards to his immediate future, it’s up to an NFL team to give him another chance. Will one? It’s worth noting the NFL is still waiting to see what ultimately happens with a civil suit involving Brown and an alleged sexual assault. It’s unclear whether or not the league will dish out more punishment based on the final result of the suit—innocent, guilty or settlement—but it’s obviously not a minor issue.

Will Brown get a lengthier suspension, or will the league take a wait and see approach and monitor his actions during the two months that he’ll have to stay away from the NFL and any team that might sign him between now and Week 1?

For a player like Brown, who seems to need a routine and something to work for, this suspension lets him know that there may be a chance for redemption if he gets to the other side of it in one piece.

It’s probably not going out on a limb to say any team that signs Brown from now until the end of his NFL career will quickly put him on the proverbial short leash. But, again, that’s Brown’s fault.

Will he finally get it this time? Will he finally realize that being a team-player is the only way he’s going to get a chance to make things right?

That’s anyone’s guess, but it’s looking more and more like Antonio Brown may get yet another second chance.

The Steelers are one of 4 NFL teams yet to have a player opt out for the 2020 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 8:30am
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The deadline for players to opt out without special consideration is Thursday at 4 PM EDT.

It’s been an ever-changing story over the last week and a half. Once the NFL and Players Association agreed on moving forward with the 2020 season, players have been exercising their right to opt out for the year. Names have been trickling in, and Behind The Steel Curtain has been running a player tracker throughout the process. It’s been an ever-changing story.

How “ever-changing” has it been? Since Tuesday afternoon, I have had to change the title of this article several times. Additionally, there’s a fairly good chance by the time you are reading this article after it is published, the number could have changed again. But as of 11:59 PM EDT Tuesday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of four NFL teams who have yet to have a player opt out for the 2020 season.

According to my records, the NFL could have a squad complete with opt-out players as my current tally is at 54. From those 54 players, all but four teams have had at least one player take the opt out route for the upcoming season. Those four teams are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On Tuesday, the Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and Miami Dolphins all had their first players join the list.

Just because a team had a player opt out does not mean it will dramatically affect their 2020 season. Some players were questionable to even make their team’s roster. Other players were projected starters. It varies across the NFL as to how much teams were affected by the players choosing to opt out.

The team which has been affected the most has been the New England Patriots with eight players choosing not to play in 2020. Whether it be for personal reasons or safety concerns, it’s hard to say if there is a common reason between all the players. While some speculate there may not be trust in the organization to follow safety protocols (it’s not like New England has the best reputation for following the rules), or perhaps the players are used to being Super Bowl contenders each year and they are not really believing in the team, the reasons behind the opt outs may never truly come to light.

The only other teams who has more than two players currently opting out for the season are the Cleveland Browns, Las Vegas Raiders, and Dallas Cowboys. The Browns have now had four players deciding to forego the upcoming season with the Raiders and Cowboys each having three players who have opted out at this time.

But what does this say about the teams who have yet to have a player opt out? Does it have to do with the organization itself? Do the Pittsburgh Steelers players trust such a well-run franchise to do everything in their power to keep their players as safe as possible? As a card-carrying member of Steelers Nation, I hope this would be the explanation.

But who knows? Perhaps the Steelers just happen to have players in the correct situations, even though both James Conner and Cameron Heyward are more at risk when it comes to COVID-19. Perhaps the Steelers will have a slew of players opt out just before the deadline. As I said before, it’s a constantly changing story.

But for the time being, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still one of the few remaining teams with every player choosing to go forward with the 2020 season.

Film Room: Communication issues on the 2019 Steelers defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 7:15am
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What was happening, and who was to blame?

When Keith Butler stated that Vince Williams would be starting next to Devin Bush in the 2020 NFL season because of his communication skills, a few plays immediately popped into my head. Because, while the Steelers defense was great after Minkah Fitzpatrick joined the team, there were still plays that left you scratching your head wondering what was going on.

Miscommunication is something Steelers fans have had more than enough of. Star players running completely uncovered and baffling match-ups in man coverage had plagued the Steelers defense and tortured Steeler fans for years. I’m not saying things are that bad, but I have to agree with Keith Butler’s statement:

As we went back and looked at our (2019) video and graded ourselves, if anything went wrong with our defense it was more on our communication, and really on our secondary communication. There’s primary communication, which starts at the first part of the play, and as the play starts to play out a little bit there’s secondary communication when sometimes you have to make adjustments.

Let’s look at some examples of miscommunication.

Week 6, 2nd quarter, 2:58. Watch the top of the screen.

That is a communication failure. Joe Haden and Mike Hilton both go after the screen pass and let the deeper route run free. This mistake makes sense to me, though. Steven Nelson was out for the game and Joe Haden took his spot, Mike Hilton is used to covering short routes while Steven Nelson takes the deeper route and Joe Haden is used to being the corner who jumps short routes on his side. When necessity put Haden on the other side with Hilton, you can understand a momentary lapse into their normal roles.

But there are worse ones.

Week 11, 2nd quarter, 9:59. Jarvis Landry is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Two Browns run free in the end zone while the Steelers double team the fullback. You can see Terrell Edmunds (lined up just off the line to the bottom of the screen) pointing his arm at Landry right before the ball is snapped. He appears to be talking to Joe Haden, who will join him in covering the flat a second later. This kind of confusion is something we would expect to see with a second year safety calling the defensive adjustments.

The fact that Terrell Edmunds was leading communication was a problem, he was a second year player taking a big step up in his role, but the other options included Minkah Fitzpatrick, who joined the team in season and was himself a second year player, Devin Bush, a rookie, Mark Barron, who was new to the team, and Vince Williams, who would only play 36.5% of defensive plays. Sean Davis was out for the season, someone had to step up.

Terrell Edmunds was the best candidate on that list, but he would struggle some as the Steeler secondary became more and more complex, and required increasing amounts of communication.

Week 11, 2nd quarter, 13:19. Terrell Edmunds is to the top of the screen, moving up to the 30 yard line pre-snap. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the other safety, toward the bottom of the screen, on the 35 yard line at the snap.

Right before this clip starts, Mark Barron (25 yard line, standing up to the top of the screen at the snap) acts like he is going to cover the receiver tight to the line of scrimmage. Terrell Edmunds moves into his safety spot right behind Barron, and Barron then moves to blitz. This is almost certainly a robber look out of cover-1, with Edmunds coming up to take away the slant before running across the field to follow Mayfield and take away anything leaking into the middle. But Minkah Fitzpatrick doesn’t look like he knows he has underneath support. Fitzpatrick hesitates, trying to determine if he should jump the route under him or take the deep route, and that moment of hesitation means he’s covering neither.

The week 11 Browns game was a mess, but a big part of it involved plays like this, where the moving parts of the Steelers defense caused the Steelers more problems than it caused the the Browns.

The reality of the situation is the coverage is still pretty simple, but before the snap there is a lot of disguise work, and that’s great when it makes the quarterback hesitate, buying the defense valuable time. When it ends with the defense hesitating or confused, it isn’t good at all.

A few of the most egregious miscommunications involved Terrell Edmunds and Mark Barron.

Week 13, 4th quarter, 9:35. Mark Barron is the middle linebacker, Terrell Edmunds is just above him on the screen, and will cover the tight end.

Nick Chubb is wide open coming out of the backfield and picks up 21 yards. This play would set up a field goal to pull the Browns within 7. Fortunately it was the last points scored in the game.

But look at what happened before the snap.

You can see Barron starts the play covering Chubb, following his motion to the other side of Baker Mayfield. When Odell Beckham Jr. motions to the top of the screen Barron switches off Chubb, but Edmunds moves down and sends him back.

The switches that take place at that point are: (top to bottom) Haden switches from the tight end to Beckham Jr., Terrell Edmunds takes over the tight end from his deep safety spot, and Bush changes from covering Beckham Jr. to a free defender, meaning he will be blitzing here, and Minkah Fitzpatrick moves to single high safety.

Before Odell Beckham Jr. goes in motion the Steelers look to be set up to run pattern matching to Bush’s side of the field, they did that the vast majority of the time you see trips with a LB on the inside receiver. Pattern matching would let Bush take the inside route, instead of trying to cover Beckham Jr. Terrell Edmunds would be the deep safety on that side, while to the top of the screen they are either going to run man or a cover-2 style zone.

When the Browns balance the offensive formation the Steelers switch assignments to a cover-1 with Edmunds covering the TE, Devin Bush blitzing and Minkah Fitzpatrick the lone deep safety.

The only problem is, when Edmunds sends Barron back to his previous spot Barron doesn’t cover Nick Chubb.

Two weeks later a lapse in communication would cost them more than 21 yards.

Week 15, 4th quarter, 6:49. Mark Barron is the linebacker in the middle of the defense, on the 10 yard line. Terrell Edmunds is the deep safety to the top of the screen, Joe Haden is the cornerback to the top of the screen, just outside Barron, also on the ten yard line.

I’m sure most Steeler fans remember this play, it gave the Bills a 17-10 lead that would hold up as the final score.

Again, let’s take a look right before the snap, where the television angle gives us a great view of Edmunds and Haden both talking to Mark Barron.

Now go ahead back to the all-22 film of the play and watch Joe Haden after the TD. He’s staring directly at Mark Barron.

Check out that body language.

The television angle gives a good shot of Terrell Edmunds’ reaction as well.

It is important to remember that both Steeler drives after this play ended up inside the Bills 30 yard line, well inside Chris Boswell’s range. If the Steelers hold the Bills to a field goal here, they have a great shot at tying the game without asking their rookie camp invite quarterback to play hero ball.

After week 13 Mark Barron would play fewer snaps, and both Devin Bush and Vince Williams would play more, although not a drastically different percentage. After the season the Steelers released Mark Barron and he is still a free agent, while they are committing to playing Vince Williams more this season. When Sean Davis was lost for the 2019 season Terrell Edmunds became the next man up, calling the secondary assignments, and while he wasn’t terrible, there were issues. I would not be surprised to see Minkah Fitzpatrick take more responsibility in that role this season, and with Vince Williams playing line backer, I don’t expect there to be as many miscues.

Vince Williams may not be the athlete Mark Barron was, but you can expect him to know where he should be on each play, and the Steelers trust him to improve the communication across the defense.

Odds the Steelers sign their pending free agents before hitting the open market

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/05/2020 - 6:00am
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

With the financial uncertainty beyond the 2020 season, it will be difficult to sign current Steelers players to new deals before the start of the regular season.

It is not a secret the Pittsburgh Steelers have some mammoth salary cap issues heading into 2021, and the team has 20 players up for new contracts at the end of the 2020 season.

But where should the team’s priorities lie?

Tough decisions will have to be made.

Projections have the NFL salary cap contracting down to as low as the threshold of $175 million from $198 million in 2020. This has to come into focus when extending or waiting until the end of the season to hand out a new deal. I will not get all wild and crazy and say the Steelers cannot afford to pay any of their current players, instead I will base my likelihood of them returning.

Amara Darboh (0%) Doubt he makes the team this year.

Paxton Lynch (0%) Doubt he makes the team this year.

Breon Borders (0%) Doubt he makes the team this year.

Wendell Smallwood (0%) Doubt he makes the team this year.

Ryan Switzer (0%) Expensive buddy of Ben Roethlisberger cannot remain employed for the mediocrity he brings.

Mike Hilton (0%) I think he is that good of a CB and will command a lucrative contract.

James Conner (5%) Too brittle to be counted upon, especially with a host of relatively high draft picks waiting in the wings.

Bud Dupree (5%) OLBs are not a dime a dozen and the Steelers cannot afford his services.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (10%) Big year, he prices himself out of our market. Another down year and he will want a change of venue.

Cameron Heyward (10%) Ironhead’s son is arguably the 2nd best defensive linemen in the league. Even at 31, he will command a huge contract that the Steelers cannot afford.

Daniel McCullers (15%) Kevin Colbert refuses to draft a player high enough to replace ‘Shadetree’.

Tyson Alualu (25%) He will be 34 in 2021. Pittsburgh might have to bring him back next year, no matter how he does at NT as a cheap starter.

Jordan Berry (25%) At $2.175 million this year, I hope the mediocre punter does not make the team this year. But he probably will.

Deon Cain (25%) I am a big fan of his and want to put a higher percentage up there due to my bias, but will refrain a bit.

Jordan Dangerfield (50%) The team needs cheap veteran talent with starter experience. Their could be a lot of players like Dangerfield as backups and starters in 2021.

Zach Banner (50%) So hard to really say about Banner because of his limited number of snaps. 2020 will be an audition for a big payday, or taking a minimum salary in 2021.

Matt Feiler (50%) There is not a bigger free agent in 2021, in my opinion. Can the Steelers afford him? Can they afford to let him go?

Alejandro Villanueva (75%) Villanueva does not get enough credit for protecting Roethlisberger’s backside. Is he an elite left tackle? No. Does he get paid like an elite left tackle? No. He is a necessity protecting a $41 million QB with a long list of injuries.

Cameron Sutton (90%) While I am not a Sutton fan, losing Mike Hilton makes the move a necessity.

Chris Wormley (90%) An excellent run stuffer who offers excruciating little in the pass rush aspect, Wormley is exactly what the Steelers need to replace Heyward. Cheap, young (26), with some talent, but not too much.

That is a very long list of players the team has no money to re-sign at this point. Maybe the NFL and NFLPA work out some kind of agreement and the cap remains flat and does not contract. Even with a flat cap, the team has an effective cap of $18 million in 2021 according to Over the Cap. That number does not include the 2021 draft class and a host of other transactions that will take place in 2021.

What percentages did I get right, and which ones did I get wrong? Please share your thoughts in the new comment section below.

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