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Updating the Steelers’ 2022 offensive depth chart following draft weekend

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/05/2022 - 12:45pm
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

After filling out their roster over draft weekend, where do the Steelers stand at each position?

As the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to shape their 2022 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 retained several of their free agents and added new players into the mix both in the draft, free agency, and undrafted rookie free agents.

Since the team filled out and ready to head into Phase 2 of OTAs and minicamp, let’s look at the Steelers offensive depth chart by position. For now, we will look at all players on the Steelers’ roster and the rookies who were added. The players added over the weekend put the Steelers over the 90-man limit, so once new contracts are made official there will need to be a few cuts.

QB
Mitch Trubisky
Mason Rudolph
Kenny Pickett
Chris Oladokun

RB
Najee Harris
Benny Snell Jr.
Anthony McFarland
Trey Edmunds
Mataeo Durant
Jaylen Warren

FB
Derek Watt

WR
Diontae Johnson
Chase Claypool
Geroge Pickens
Calvin Austin III
Miles Boylin
Cody White
Anthony Miller
Steven Sims
Tyler Vaughns
Rico Bussey
Gunner Olszewski

TE
Pat Freiermuth
Zach Gentry
Kevin Rader
Connor Heyward
Jace Sternberger

OT
Chukwuma Okorafor
Dan Moore Jr.
Joe Haeg
Chaz Green
Jordan Tucker
Jake Dixon

G
Kevin Dotson
James Daniels
John Leglue
Malcolm Pridgeon
Nate Gilliam
Chris Owens

C
Kendrick Green
Mason Cole
J.C. Hassenauer

When it comes to the offensive line, I picked just one category for players at this time although there are a number of players with position flexibility.

Much like defense, the Steelers have proper numbers at each position group going into training camp. Well the Steelers seem to be satisfied with the names in each group, fans May have differing opinions when it comes to that for each position.

So what position group stands out as having more players than necessary? Which ones do you think the Steelers still may have the most concerns? Give your thoughts in the comments below.

After the draft, the Steelers still have a huge hole on offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/05/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft has come and gone, but the Steelers still have a huge hole on their offense.

There has been a reoccurring theme to all of my offseason articles thus far. How could the Steelers acquire much needed, game-changing players at good value, all while replenishing the talent reserves up and down the roster?

Way back at the beginning of the offseason, I surmised how the Steelers were smack dab in the middle of a rebuilding period, even if the Steelers hierarchy treats that phrase like a four letter word. I also expressed it was highly unlikely the Steelers could fill all their glaring needs in one offseason.

I assumed it would take a couple of free agency periods and draft classes to return to contender status. The Steelers are trying their best to prove me wrong.

The Steelers have filled multiple needs in free agency already. The Steelers went from being a team without an optimal option at starting center in 2021, to a team with up to four legitimate candidates.

Kendrick Green has a rookie season filled with struggles under his belt. If the old adage "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger" is true, then Green should be greatly improved this season. Free agent newcomer Mason Cole has NFL experience at both center and guard, and proven capable at both. Prized free agent acquisition James Daniels is a four year veteran at only 24 years young, who also has NFL experience at all interior positions, although he is penciled in at guard. The future of the Steelers interior offensive line appears to be in good hands.

The Steelers lost three of their top five wide receivers in free agency, including their most experienced pass catcher in JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers did a masterful job filling two of those openings by double dipping at receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft. First, the Steelers selected an athletic deep threat with length and speed in Georgia receiver George Pickens with their second round selection. Then they drafted a versatile weapon with elite speed in fourth round selection Calvin Austin lll from Memphis. Both young men were considered excellent values when and where they were taken. It should shock absolutely no one if the Steelers add a veteran presence to the extremely young receiver group.

Steelers General Manager (GM) Kevin Colbert expressed the desire for the Steelers to have four quarterbacks heading into training camp. The Steelers drafted two signal callers in the 2022 draft: Kenny Pickett from Pittsburgh in the first, and Chris Oladokun from South Dakota State in the seventh, to fill their desired quota. The Steelers have a full stable of young talent at the position.

The Steelers have a couple of talented young tight ends in Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry. Freiermuth enjoyed an impressive all around rookie season, and appears on the verge of a breakout sophomore campaign. Gentry was a pleasant surprise in his third season, and has cemented his status as TE2. The third spot on the depth chart potentially could be sixth round selection Connor Heyward from Michigan State, as the rookie's versatility will allow him to possibly fill multiple positions on the depth chart.

The Steelers have one of the best young running backs in the NFL in Najee Harris. Harris had the most rushing yards and combined yardage for a rookie last season; plus leading the entire league in total touches, all while playing in an extremely limited offense thanks in no small part to an atrocious offensive line. Harris merely needs at least an average line to be a Pro Bowl caliber player. The Steelers depth at running back is a huge question mark. Mike Tomlin has been reluctant to utilize his running back depth, even when he has some. That has to change moving forward. The Steelers have to find some quality depth, and then the Steelers coaches have to be committed to utilizing it, or risk shortening Najee's career.

That brings us to what I believe is the Steelers biggest need still left unfulfilled on offense: offensive tackle depth. Specifically, swing tackle.

The Steelers have decided to run it back with last year's starting tackle combination, so to speak. Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor are the returning starters, and both players are young and physically talented. The Steelers are trusting both players will be able to show growth and improvement with another year of experience, coupled with the expected improvement along the interior.

The Steelers are also hoping both projected starting tackles will benefit from the tutelage of new offensive line coach Pat Meyer, and that the perceived zone blocking concepts will be a better fit for Moore and Okorafor's mobility and abilities.

The Steelers current depth chart after the starters consists of Chaz Green and Joe Haeg. Two well-traveled veterans who are emergency spot starters at best at this point in their careers. The Steelers also have former undrafted free agent John Leglue filling out the depth chart. Leglue is a great story, and has shown the capacity to perform at both guard and tackle, but it's anybody's guess if he is capable of eventually being the full-time swing tackle.

The remaining free agent market at tackle is filled with recognizable names that are mostly long in the tooth and possibly past their expiration dates. If the Steelers are patient, they may be able to get a proven guy on the cheap. A player capable of defying the odds one last time by exceeding even their own expectations. The end of the preseason waiver wire may prove worth watching.

The Steelers aren't looking for a star, or even a starter. They just need an improvement on what they already have.

Part 2 of this series will focus on the Steelers biggest glaring hole on defense. Stay tuned.

Updating the Steelers’ 2022 defensive depth chart following draft weekend

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/05/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

After filling out their roster over draft weekend, where do the Steelers stand at each position on defense?

As the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to shape their 2022 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 retained several of their free agents and added new players into the mix both in the draft, free agency, and undrafted rookie free agents.

Since the team filled out and ready to head into Phase 2 of OTAs and minicamp, let’s look at the Steelers defensive depth chart by position. For now, we will look at all players on the Steelers’ roster and the rookies who were added. The players added over the weekend put the Steelers over the 90-man limit, so once new contracts are made official there will need to be a few cuts.

Defensive Line
Cameron Heyward
Chris Wormley
Tyson Alualu
Stephon Tuitt
Montravius Adams
Isaiahh Loudermilk
DeMarvin Lael
Henry Mondeaux
Carlos Davis
Khalil Davis
Daniel Archibong
Donovan Jeter

OLB
T.J. Watt
Alex Highsmith
Derrek Tuszka
Genard Avery
John Simon
Delontae Scott
Tyree Johnson
T.D. Moultry

ILB
Devin Bush
Myles Jack
Robert Spillane
Ulysees Gilbert III
Marcus Allen
Buddy Johnson
Mark Robinson
Tegray Scales

CB
Cam Sutton
Levi Wallace
Ahkello Witherspoon
Arthur Maulet
Justin Layne
James Pierre
Linden Stephens
Isaiah Johnson
Bryce Watts
Chris Steele

Safety
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Terrell Edmunds
Damontae Kazee
Tre Norwood
Miles Killebrew
Karl Joseph
Donavan Steiner

Despite only drafting two players on defense in the 2022 NFL draft, the Steelers have filled out their position groups quite nicely when it comes strictly to the numbers. Whether or not the players they have at each position is the quality needed for success remains to be seen and up for debate. Between the two draft picks, two recent free agents safeties, and five undrafted rookie free agent signings, the Steelers have the adequate numbers.

So what position group stands out as having more players than necessary? Which ones do you think the Steelers still may have the most concerns? Give your thoughts in the comments below.

4 reasons why the Steelers were the best choice for Terrell Edmunds

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/05/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Steelers strong safety chose to return to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal.

Of all the positions on the Steelers roster for the 2022 NFL season, strong safety was the one left in limbo for the longest throughout free agency. With general manager Kevin Colbert openly admitting the Steelers needed to address having a starter at the position, it almost looked as if the Steelers were going to enter the 2022 NFL draft with a glaring need. Instead, less than a week before the draft kicked off, the Steelers re-signed Terrell Edmunds, their starting strong safety for the last four seasons.

It was a somewhat unusual free agency period when it came to safeties in the NFL. Admittedly, I didn’t follow that much of what was going on around the league and tried to stay focused on what was happening with the Steelers. But the answer to that question was “nothing” up until the end of April when it came to the starting strong safety.

The big name some tossed around for the Steelers was Tyrann Mathieu formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs. While some believed the Steelers were in the running to land Mathieu, there wasn’t any real sense of how things were going to play out. With a report that Mathieu was waiting until after the draft in order to sign, this put the Steelers and what they wanted to do in an interesting situation. Additionally, it probably affected Terrell Edmunds and his market as well.

Going strictly on my own sense of things, I believe the Steelers wanted to nail down the strong safety position before the draft. While Edmunds might have had a better market following the draft, the opportunity to return to Pittsburgh might not have been there. Therefore, Edmunds returned to Pittsburgh while he still had the chance.

The following are four reasons why I believe it was a wise move for Edmunds to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers. While it’s easy to say why the Steelers could have chosen Edmunds, he also had to choose the Steelers. As you will see, these four ideas grow on each other, hence why they were given in the order they were.

Familiarity

Edmunds knows the Steelers defensive system. Despite having a new defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin, it’s still the same secondary coach Edmunds played for since 2019 and the chances of there being major changes in the secondary are probably small. In addition, Edmunds teammate at free safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick, will remain the same and the two have been playing together for almost three full seasons. If Edmunds is looking to have the most success, the familiarity in Pittsburgh has to be a big factor.

A better chance to start

In order for Edmunds to make himself a more valuable player in the eyes of the NFL, it’s very important to be a starter. Particularly at safety, it is a position where players rarely leave the field as they don’t rotate in and out like other places on the defense. Unless he would only be utilized in sub packages, starting the game is almost the only way to get playing time. Being the four-year incumbent as well as the familiarity issue, somebody else grabbing the starting job would be much more difficult on the Steelers versus Edmunds being the new player on another team and having to overtake the competition.

An earlier chance to hit it big

If the goal for Edmunds is to get as big a contract as possible, sometimes having that contract be right now isn’t the easiest path. Based on the market, perhaps 2022 was not the best offseason for Edmunds to cash in. But if he’s looking to do it as soon as possible, being a free agent for 2023 would be the ultimate goal. We’ve already addressed the need to be a starter. What Edmunds really needs to do is make as much as money as possible in 2022 and hit the free-agent market again next year. The Steelers gave him the best chance to do that as you will see in the next category.

The most bang for their buck

All three other categories culminate here. Also, there is going to be a lot of speculation to exactly how everything went down with Terrell Edmunds, but it is based on what we actually do know. It appears as if Terrell Edmunds did not get the long-term offers he was hoping to get. If there was a specific number in mind for what he wanted each year for the length of a contract, it appears it wasn’t in the cards at this time. If Edmunds was not going to be getting what he felt he could make, the next best thing would be to make as much money as possible in 2022 then try again next year. The place to make the most money, based on the salary cap, was with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If teams were wanting to keep the salary cap hit low for Edmunds, chances are he was looking at signing for more than one season or for a Veteran Salary Benefit Contract. This contract is for only one year and can be outlined with what the Steelers paid Genard Avery. Avery will receive a salary in 2022 of $1.1875 million including a signing bonus but will only count on the salary cap for the Steelers at $1.0475 million. This might have been what Edmunds was looking at with other clubs if he was only going to sign for one year. If they paid him more, every dollar would have been a straight salary cap hit for 2022.

When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, they could give Edmunds a Four-Year Player Qualifying Contract in which he could be paid as much as $2.5 million, including signing bonus, for one season yet only cost $1.1875 million on the salary cap. So of all the teams who could have offered Terrell Edmunds a one-year deal in which there was less money counting on the salary cap than what he was being paid, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers who could offer the most based on Edmunds being on the roster every game the previous four seasons. Chances are other teams wanted to give him less money on a one-year deal or wanted multiple years to keep the 2022 salary cap hit lower.

When factoring in these four things, it made the most sense for Terrell Edmunds to return to the Steelers if he was not going to get a lucrative deal somewhere else. Even if there was a team who was willing to pay Edmunds a little more than the $2.5 million he would make this season, was it enough of a payout to have to learn a new system and earn a starting job?

Even though it’s not guaranteed Edmunds will be the starter for the Steelers, he definitely has the inside track. Putting himself in the best scenario for a single season, Edmunds appears to be betting on himself for 2022 in order to maximize his value for 2023 and beyond.

Steelers set to begin second round of interviews for GM vacancy

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/05/2022 - 7:32am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a vacancy at General Manager, and they are beginning their second round of interviews to fill the position.

The Pittsburgh Steelers just wrapped up their 2022 NFL Draft, and it was a big moment for the organization for several reasons. Not just because they selected Kenny Pickett 20th overall in the first round, but also because it was General Manager (GM) Kevin Colbert’s final draft in his position.

This isn’t breaking news, and there have already been several interviews done both with internal and external candidates for the opening. There was never a timetable placed on the team making the hire for their next GM, but according to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network the organization is scheduled to start their second round of interviews to fill the vacancy.

The #Steelers will have a second round of interviews for their vacant GM job. Among those who have been scheduled are the #Titans’ Ryan Cowden and the #Buccaneers’ John Spytek, sources tell me, @RapSheet and today’s @gmfb cohost @TomPelissero. Others will interview, too.

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) May 5, 2022

According to Garafolo, Tennessee Titans Ryan Cowden and Tampa Bay Buccaneers John Spytek are on the list for the second round of interviews, and it is also likely both Omar Khan and Brandon Hunt, internal candidates, will likely get another interview.

During a round of radio interviews, Colbert himself gave a recommendation for the next GM of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it was Philadelphia Eagles Director of Personnel Andy Weidl.

This per Dan Sileo:

@steelers GM Kevin Colbert just said he recommended @Eagles Director of Personnel Andy Weidl #FlyEaglesFly

— Dan Sileo (@DanSileoShow) May 4, 2022

The Steelers have done a great job keeping the list of candidates being interviewed public and made known via their website and social media channels. Assuming this continues, we will keep you up to date with all the latest, breaking news surrounding the Steelers GM search.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the most up-to-date news on the team as they prepare for the next phase of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), rookie minicamp and mandatory minicamp.

The selection of Kenny Pickett was one of the most memorable draft moments in Steelers history

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/05/2022 - 7:15am
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers selected a quarterback in the first round for the first time since 2004, which made last Thursday night a memorable and exciting one for Steelers fans everywhere.

“Huh?”

That may have been the reaction of so many Steelers fans and media members on April 29th, 1980, when the team selected Mark Malone, quarterback, Arizona State, in the first round (28th, overall) of the 1980 NFL Draft.

With the Steelers just coming off their fourth Super Bowl title in six years, and with Terry Bradshaw not turning 32 until the start of the 1980 regular season, was that really the right move? Were people calling for Pittsburgh to draft Bradshaw’s successor and groom him to ultimately take the Blond Bomber’s place?

Or maybe nobody even cared or really noticed. Perhaps folks were so drunk off of Super Bowl success and parades, that there was a belief the championship run would go on forever.

But I can’t imagine anyone being overly excited about the team drafting a quarterback in the first round. How much could he help right away? How could he possibly change the franchise’s fortunes or be its new savior?

The right move may have been to find an offensive weapon or lineman for Bradshaw. If not that, then what about some help for an aging defense that, little did anyone know at the time, was about to become too old to continue the dominance it often displayed in the previous decade?

I wasn’t old enough to care or even know about the draft back then, but I was certainly old enough to see and hear the concerns about the Steelers coming up with a succession plan for Ben Roethlisberger over the last half-decade or so of his glorious career. But what was the point of doing that while the big guy was still around? As long as you had him, you might as well have continued to try and fortify the roster around him in order to give the team the best chance to make another championship run until you didn’t have him.

That’s why this offseason, the first one without Roethlisberger as the face of the Steelers franchise since the winter and spring of 2004, was so exciting and fascinating. That was why there was all the talk about going and getting an Aaron Rodgers or a Russell Wilson. That was why it felt like such a huge deal when the Steelers agreed to a two-year contract with Mitch Trubisky, the presumed best available veteran quarterback, at the onset of free agency in March. And that was why the lead-up to the 2022 NFL Draft was dominated by quarterback talk and speculation.

And that’s why last Thursday night, as I watched the draft unfold at Industry, a bar in Lawrenceville, a popular neighborhood in Pittsburgh, was so exciting as the Steelers’ pick in the first round (20th, overall) drew closer and closer. Since I was in a bar, naturally, the television was on mute, and when Franco Harris finally came to the podium with the Steelers selection in his hand, I tried to read his lips as he announced the pick.

But I was mostly just waiting for ABC to post the selection on the screen.

Every quarterback prospect was still available to the Steelers, something that still seems unreal to me. I mean, your first offseason since the winter and spring of 2004 without Ben Roethlisberger as the face of your franchise, and you have a full buffet of quarterbacks sitting right in front of you as you prepare to make your first-round selection—and that selection is all the way down at number 20!

As Franco moved his lips, I was sure he was saying “Malik Willis,” but when the selection appeared on the screen and read, “Kenny Pickett,” I couldn’t believe it.

Why? Much like Roethlisberger 18 years earlier, Pickett was the quarterback that had been linked to the Steelers since the previous fall. Back then, Philip Rivers, quarterback, N.C. State, emerged late as the Willis of his day—the presumed favorite of the Steelers and head coach Bill Cowher, like Rivers, a Wolfpack alum—as the draft drew closer. Unlike 18 years earlier, however, when Rivers was snatched away by the Giants seven spots before Pittsburgh could have a chance at him, Willis was still there at 20.

Yet, the Steelers still picked the guy everyone said they were going to take before the pre-draft process ramped up a few months earlier.

Everyone clapped, including me, someone who had fallen for the physical attributes and upside of Willis. I may have recently started to like Willis, but I always liked Pickett.

Above everything else, I liked the idea of the Steelers going for it and trying to find the next guy to lead their franchise. My quarterback philosophy is simple when it comes to the NFL Draft: When you have the guy, you help the guy. When you don’t have the guy, you try and get the guy.

The Steelers got the guy, or at least the guy who will try to be the guy.

Anyway, back to the bar scene. Some guys lost bets. Some guys won bets. Some guys lost money on which quarterback the Steelers would take. Some won money for them simply taking a quarterback, period.

Fate is a funny thing.

If this actually works out, and Pickett really is the next guy to quarterback the Steelers to a lot of great moments, I’ll never forget where I was when everything—luck, pre-draft opinions, pre-draft needs of other teams and maybe even a little gamesmanship and charm by head coach Mike Tomlin—came together to make it all possible.

The NFL Draft might not always be “Must See TV,” but it sure is when the Steelers are looking for their next franchise quarterback.

Scouting Roundup on Steelers defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/05/2022 - 6:00am
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the pre-draft evaluation of the Steelers 3rd round pick.

DeMarvin Leal was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 84th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Here’s what was being said about Leal before the Steelers drafted him in the third round.

Keith Sanchez for The Draft Network

The Good

Leal plays as both an IDL and an edge player. On the interior, he has an exceptional first step that allows him to quickly get into gaps and get backfield penetration. Displays very fluid hips in his ability to get upfield and redirect based on which way the ball-carrier goes.

The Bad

As an edge player, he is inconsistent in his ability to get off the ball quick enough for him to get that leverage on offensive linemen and dictate the play. Needs to improve on his effort rushing the passer. When his initial pass rush move doesn’t work, he, at times, stops working to the QB and stalls at the line of scrimmage.

The Verdict

Leal has rare athleticism and power that allows him to play all over the field and be an effective player.
Second Round Value

Natalie Miller for Draft Wire

The Good

Leal plays with excellent strength, using push-and-pull techniques to move bigger lineman into the backfield or clear the outside edge to contain/pursue. That power is the high point of his game, as he’s often able to use one arm to separate from blockers before closing in on the ball carrier. He routinely punishes opponents who are late off the snap by putting them on the ground.

The Bad

A bit of a “tweener,” Leal will need to find the right fit in the NFL, as he will likely not be explosive enough to play a typical edge role. He’ll need to play inside in any scheme and learn the nuances of playing there at the next level.

The Verdict

Given his athletic traits and overall talent, it was a bit alarming that Leal did not have top-tier production and didn’t jump off the tape more often when watching the Aggies’ defense. He’ll need to play with more consistency and maximize those impressive physical tools if he wants to realize his lofty potential in the NFL.

Saivon Mixson for Last Word on Sports

The Good

Leal showed comfortability at every spot on the defensive line. He is strong as an ox, yes. However, Leal’s best attribute in college was his ability to force the offense to stay away from either his edge or gap assignment. In the Alabama game this past season, Leal was seen either unblocked on the backside or stymied by a double-team with a chip for a majority of the game. Even with that, he still found a way to get in on six assisted tackles and seven total tackles.

The Bad

He has to work on his ability to disengage from blockers. DeMarvin Leal engaged with offensive linemen for too long, allowing them to re-direct him. Also, he has to start coming to the line with a rush plan. At times he found himself to be lost when his initial move did not work, which caused him to have to throw up a hand as a last resort.

The Verdict

An aspect of Leal’s game that was truly enjoyable was seeing his production from year to year. Expect Leal to continue to get better at the next level as he continues to carve out his role on a defensive line.

Nick Lammatina for The NFL Draft Bible

The Good

Leal was moved all over the defensive line in 2020 for the Aggies defense, which hints at one of his biggest strengths, versatility. His size suggests he will move to an interior role on the defensive line, but he has shown to be proficient in every technique.

The Bad

Isn’t the fastest or most dynamic pass rusher. Struggles to get home on a lot of his pressures because of his lack of quickness in and around the pocket. Wasn’t asked to rush the outside shoulder from the base end position and didn’t have much bend when he did. Will probably need to further develop his rush moves to make himself less predictable.

The Verdict

DeMarvin Leal is a premiere defensive lineman in this class because of his power up front and versatility. Teams will be able to move him around the line based on their thresholds and mold him into the player of their desired role.

Ryland B. for Behind the Steel Curtain

The Good

He has a great combination of size and athleticism and plays with good strength and power. Leal has plenty of football smarts. . . He’s a versatile player, but also a sure tackler who is extremely effective and disciplined against the run. His pass-rush isn’t on the same level, but Leal plays with choppy hands and a good motor.

The Bad

Despite being a natural fit on the inside, he was used as an edge rusher in 2021, which showcased Leal’s versatility but may postpone his development as an interior defender. Leal lacks the requisite burst and bend necessary to play edge in the NFL. He also seems to play a bit high which may result in him losing the leverage battle at first in the pros.

The Verdict

In the end, Leal is a certain first round prospect who may be a bit of a project, but he has elite upside as a defensive lineman.

Summary

Before the combine, DeMarvin Leal was considered one of the elite defensive line prospects of the 2022 NFL Draft. At the combine he showed speed and agility, but scored lower in power-based events and his 283 lb. weight brought up questions on his ability to play inside.

As you can read above, he was considered an elite interior defensive lineman that was out of position on the edge. With his lower weight and less impressive jumping, teams questioned if he can be that player he showed on tape in 2019 and 2020 in the NFL.

The Steelers are in position to give Leal opportunity to showcase his abilities, but also take time if he needs it to build NFL strength and refine his pass rush without having to start or carry a heavy load in snaps. Hopefully it works out for DeMarvin Leal like it did for LaMarr Woodley, who played sparingly in his rookie season while showing lots of potential, and then took off in 2008 and was a dominant defender for years.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/05/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show.

The War Room: The Pickett pick and where the War Room prospects landed

On the War Room over the past months leading up to the 2022 Draft, BTSC profiled a plethora of prospects on the War Room. Where did they land and was Kenny Pickett one of them? Check out BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matt Peverell in The Steelers War Room. Join Matty P. as he puts you in the mind of the Steelers’ decision makers.

Rundown of the show:

  • How the Steelers picks stacked up against prospect rankings and big boards
  • The War Room view on the Pickett pick or thinking behind it
  • Favorite prospects covered on War Room and where some of them landed
  • A fun look back at colleges where Colbert has drafted players from and how DeMarvin Leal & Kenny Pickens influenced his most picked colleges
  • A WAY, WAY, WAY too early 2023 mock draft and a mock draft that mocks the mock drafts
  • Much More

Check out the BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matty in The Steelers War Room.

Exclusive BTSC Interview with Steelers’ QB Chris Oladukon

Kenny Pickett wasn’t the only quarterback selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2022 NFL Draft. With their final selection, the Men of Steel used a seventh rounder on South Dakota State Quarterback Chris Oladokun. The new Steeler spoke with Andrew Wilbar and Jeremy Betz of The Steelers Draft Fix to discuss his career so far and his future in the Steel City.

The Steelers Curtain Call: What does the Steelers’ 2022 Draft look like outside of Steeler Nation?

It’s the show where Geoffrey Benedict and Shannon White break down a black and gold off-season full of change in the manner in which they examine the enemy. Scenarios, questions and more will be pondered on the latest episode of the BTSC family of podcasts. This time around, Geoff and Shannon welcome Joey Christopoulos from Bleav in Bears to recap the Steelers’ 2022 Draft.

  • News and Notes
  • Special Guest: Joey Christopoulos of Bleav in Bears

Bryan and Shannon walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

The Steelers Stat Geek: Did the Steelers break the mold by drafting two quarterbacks?

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t typically draft a quarterback, let alone two. What about the 31 other NFL teams? Did the Steelers break the mold. Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed by Dave Schofield on the Thursday episode of the AM podcast lineup, “The Steelers Stat Geek”. Join BTSC’s Editor as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The drafting of two quarterbacks
  • and more geeky numbers!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

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Position flexibility, not bloodlines, was the driving force behind the Connor Heyward pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/04/2022 - 2:30pm
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers took Connor Heyward in the 6th round, and the answer to “why” isn’t just because he is Cam’s younger brother.

During the 2022 NFL Draft you could hear the imaginary eye-roll from Pittsburgh Steelers fans when their 6th Round pick was made.

“The Pittsburgh Steelers select...Connor Heyward, tight end, Michigan State.”

Fans likely went straight to their preferred social media platforms to bemoan another set of brothers on the Steelers’ current roster. In case you didn’t know Connor Heyward joining his big brother Cam now makes four sets of brothers on the team.

Terrell and Trey Edmunds
Carlos and Khalil Davis
T.J. and Derek Watt
Cam and Connor Heyward

Speculation of why the pick was made began to run rampant. Some thought the Steelers valued bloodlines over talent, considering many draft “experts” had better players available in the 6th round. However, when the Steelers sent their coaches to the podium after a pick was made, you quickly realize the Heyward pick wasn’t because of bloodlines, but talent.

“Very talented guy.” Tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts said after the selection was made. “I know he’s done somethings, positional flexibility things, and when I saw him as a tight end, I had an opportunity to look at him as a tight end and he offered some value.

“I knew he could be an outstanding [special] teams player, but right now we get a chance to focus on him being a tight end and fitting in with the rest of the guys.”

What Roberts said about special teams is 100% correct. Heyward’s fastest path to the field is by showing he can play special teams. This isn’t new to any rookie, but in his case his value in Year 1 will likely be on Danny Smith’s units. But let’s not believe he would make the roster and not have some type of role on the offense as well.

Roberts believes he is more than capable of playing the tight end position at the NFL level.

“For me, I saw him play in-line, I saw him make plays down the field as a tight end, catching the ball and running after the catch, I saw him catch screens, and he showed value as a runner. He showed value as a ball-catcher.

“People talk about his limited playing in-line. He has that want-to and the savviness to do some other things that are really attractive and getting him on our football team and the things that we’re trying to do with moving, he gives you that added dimension.”

Speaking of an added dimension, after the draft Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert talked about each pick at length. When Colbert got to Heyward, he spoke about his ability to not just be a pass catcher, but also as an ‘h-back’.

“Connor Heyward, obviously people understand who he is.” Kevin Colbert said. “First and foremost, that’s not why we drafted him. Connor Heyward was a running back at Michigan State, and really, I give Coach Tucker and his staff credit for taking Connor and using him in a different manner as an H-back tight end/fullback.

“Connor has got exceptional ball skills, receiving abilities, for a big man. We’re excited to see what he can do as a tight end, as an H-back, as a special teamer. This guy one time against the University of Maryland put up I believe it was 140-some yards in a game, so he’s very, very talented. He’s very versatile.”

Some will call this nothing but blowing smoke. Touting a pick to make it seem like something many believe it isn’t. For instance, many still wonder what Heyward brings to the team which Derek Watt doesn’t? Roberts compared Heyward to Watt, and what separates the two.

“Similar, but he [Watt] played more of a true fullback, where Connor gives, in my opinion, a different flex and tight end responsibility and he just gives you that value.”

Ultimately, the reason for the pick was position flexibility, not the fact he is the latest set of brothers to don the black and gold. Heyward will not just play special teams, but can bring value as a tight end, fullback and even running back if needed. When people use one of Tomlin’s favorite Tomlinisms, being a Swiss Army Knife, Heyward fits that description.

In case you want a visual of why the Steelers would value Heyward’s do-it-all persona for an offense, Brian Baldinger broke it down on his verified Twitter page. Check it out below:

.@MSU_Football @ConnorHeyward1 every team needs a “Heyward” in the #NFL. Connor does so much; so much of the dirty work that has to get done for the stars to shine. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/mrbczmCVrj

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) April 28, 2022

Mike Tomlin put it best when asked about Heyward in the post-draft press conference:

“Connor’s resume speaks for itself. He’s a Swiss Army knife. He’s very talented. He has a nice skill set. He’s a capable runner. He’s a capable blitz pickup guy. He’s very good in terms of the screen game, timing and feel. He made some plays down the field as a tight end in that offense. He’s a physical guy.

“We imagine that he could be an offensive contributor in teams, and so he was very worthy of that consideration, and I didn’t want to water that down in any way by including big brother.”

Enough said.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for minicamps and the rest of OTAs.

Steelers fans approve of both the direction of the team, and the Kenny Pickett selection

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/04/2022 - 12:45pm
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, the Steelers fan base is approving of what the team has accomplished so far this offseason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base isn’t the most easy-going fan base in the NFL. In fact, some might use adjectives like spoiled, fickle and even angry to describe the overall feelings of the fan base on most occasions.

This isn’t to suggest all fans fall into those categories, but there certainly are times when the fans of the Steelers feel as if the sky is falling at every turn. With that being said, when the fans approve of anything the Steelers do it feels noteworthy.

When it comes to the overall approval of the team, and their direction, shockingly a large majority of the fan base is confident in what they’ve done thus far. Thanks to the DraftKings Sportsbook Reacts poll, a whopping 73% of fans are confident in the direction of the football team.

The confidence in team from the fan base stems from what many viewed as an extremely productive free agency period. The team was able to bring in talent like the signings of Mitchell Trubisky, James Daniels, Levi Wallace and Myles Jack. Throw in the re-signings of players like Ahkello Witherspoon, Terrell Edmunds, Chuks Okorafor and Montravius Adams, and the Steelers have improved their roster with the money available in free agency.

But free agency is just one fraction of the offseason and talent acquisition. Most fans will point to the NFL Draft as the big ticket event, especially for the Steelers who like the old school method of growing your own talent through the draft.

With the dust on the three day event settled, the Steelers now have seven new players who were drafted in Rounds 1-7. No pick was more key than the team’s top pick of Kenny Pickett, quarterback out of Pitt, at No. 20 overall.

First round picks, and the process for the selection, are always highly scrutinized. Fans always feel as if there was a better player, and better value, than the pick which was made. However, when Steelers fans took the Reacts survey, there was a shocking approval of the Pickett selection.

It was split 44% for both a grade of an “A” and a “B.”

Check the full breakdown below:

The NFL offseason is full of excitement, as well as ups and downs, but it all means nothing unless the team can come together to win football games this fall. On paper, the Steelers are a vastly improved team at most positions; however, anyone who has followed the NFL, and the Steelers, for any duration of time know winning the offseason doesn’t equate to winning games in the regular season.

It will be up to Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff to put these new players in position to succeed, and hope the right pieces fall into place to not just have a winning season, but make the postseason, and hopefully actually winning a postseason game.

What do you think of the Steelers’ offseason to date? Do you approve? How about the Pickett pick? 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 rookie minicamp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after signing Damontae Kazee

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/04/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Signing Kazee immediately following the 2022 NFL draft, the Steelers did not break the bank to add another safety.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made numerous moves to start off the 2022 NFL league year. While reports come in of these deals well before they are official, even after pen is put to paper it can sometimes take some time to know the exact financials within the contract. Relying heavily on reliable salary cap websites such as overthecap.com or spotrac.com, when they are able to report a player’s contract numbers over the specific years I then update the salary cap situation with a more precise number.

In this case, the salary cap sites do not have the new contract for Damontae Kazee at this time, but it has been reported by ESPN’s Field Yates:

Damontae Kazee’s one-year deal with the Steelers includes a $152K signing bonus and a base value just north of $1M.

A nice value deal for Pittsburgh for a player with plenty of starting experience in his career.

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 4, 2022

Even though Yates does not give the exact dollar amount for Kazee‘s base salary, based on the signing bonus it appears he has been given the exact same Veteran Salary Benefit Contract the Steelers also gave to Genard Avery. Kazee should have a base salary of $1.035 million for 2022 and the maximum signing bonus of $152,500. Despite this total coming in at almost $1.2 million, Kazee will only have a $1.0475 million cap number for 2022. The extra $140,000 is considered a “salary benefit” and does not count against the salary cap.

Once again, if you are looking for the added salary cap due to the 2022 draftees, they will not be included at this time as they have not signed their contracts. But based on the structure of rookie salaries in the latest CBA, the estimated dollar amounts are known for 2022. Therefore, an explanation as to how much the rookies will cost is given at the bottom of the article.

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2022. Players who were released, were given a tender, or had their exact salary reported are indicated below and the precise numbers are known.

(NOTE: Unless indicated, reported salaries displaced a $825k salary.)

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $28.8 million

Dwayne Haskins: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$1.715 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $1.5175 million; After displacement: -$0.6925 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $1.535 million; After displacement: -$0.71 million
Mitch Trubisky: Reported $3.66 million; After displacement+: -$2.765 million
Mason Cole: Reported $2.556666 million; After displacement+: -$1.661666 million
Chuks Okorafor: Reported $4.333333 million; After displacement: -$3.508333 million
Robert Spillane: Tendered $2.433 million salary; After displacement: -$1.608 million
Marcus Allen: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement: -$1.715 million
James Daniels: Reported $4.166666 million; After displacement: -$3.341666 million
Levi Wallace: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement*: -$1.672317 million
Montravius Adams: Reported $1.7675 million; After displacement+: -$0.8725 million
Zach Banner: Saved $5 million salary; After displacement: +$4.175 million
Myles Jack: Reported $4.75 million; After displacement*: -$3.90139 million
Joe Schobert: Saved $7.834 million salary; After displacement+: +$6.939 million
Ahkello Witherspoon: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement+: -$1.6225 million
Gunner Olszewski: Reported $1.5825 million; After displacement+: -$0.6875 million
Genard Avery: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
Karl Joseph: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Miles Boykin: Reported $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$0
Terrell Edmunds: Reported $1.1875 million; After displacement+: -$0.2925
Damontae Kazee: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525

Estimated salary cap space: Approximately $12.85 million

*The salaries displaced by these two contracts were $845,183 (Tre Norwood) and $848,610 (Pressley Harvin)

+A $895k contract was displaced

++Displaced by each other, giving no change to the cap

So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites (at the original time of publishing, before any potential updates)?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $11,362,210 under the salary cap. OTC has all of the above reported contracts on the books except Kazee, and they still have Haskins’ contract. Otherwise our numbers are exactly the same.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $12,747,153 under the cap. Spotrac has the above contracts except for Kazee, but also has Miles Boykin’s prorated bonus incorrectly counting for the Steelers instead of it sticking with the Ravens. Spotrac does not have the offseason workouts counting against the salary cap at this time either. Additionally, Spotrac counts the potential dead money hits of players outside the top 51 salaries in their totals.

What about the 2022 rookies?

Now that the 2022 NFL draft is over, it is known that the Steelers stayed with their designated selections. Based on their draft choices, when rookie contracts are signed this offseason they will only be three salaries out of the seven drafted players and 10 undrafted free agents that will land in the top 51. Only Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, and DeMarvin Leal should have a 2022 cap hit that will put them in the top 51. After factoring in displacement, their contracts together will count approximately $2.5 million towards the salary cap based on the rookie pool estimate chart provided by OTC. Since these contracts are not signed yet, they will not be included at this time until the precise dollar amounts are known. Even if taking these amounts into account, the Steelers would still have approximately $10.35 million left in salary cap space.

The Steelers will need as much as an additional $10.8 million come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year as outlined in the following article:

Based on this number, the Steelers are within a reasonable range of what they need for the 2022 season at this time without freeing up any other money. Even though there could be some dead money in contracts with players not making the 53-man roster, it should be offset even more by larger contracts of players who are waived. Also, a Minkah Fitzpatrick extension would likely lower his 2022 cap hit if he and the Steelers can reach an agreement.

Does something not make sense? Curious about any of the specifics? Leave your questions in the comments below and I will check in and do my best to answer them.

Steelers Vertex: What can Damontae Kazee add to the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/04/2022 - 10:00am
Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers added another safety after the 2022 NFL draft, but what does he add the the seconday?

The Pittsburgh Steelers did not draft a safety in the 2022 NFL draft. Instead, the Steelers signed free agent safety Damontae Kazee, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys. So what does Kazee bring to the Steelers secondary? This is the subject 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:

In five seasons in the NFL after being a fifth-round selection of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 NFL draft, Damontae Kazee has appeared in 69 regular season games while getting 49 starts. After starting a combined 29 games in 2018 and 2019 for the Falcons, Kazee started the first four games of 2020 before he was lost for the season with an Achilles injury. During his time in Atlanta, Kazee had 10 interceptions, including an NFL-leading 7 in 2018, 13 passes defensed, five forced fumbles, and 199 tackles. Casey also had a forced fumble and three tackles in two playoff games for Atlanta in 2017 although he was not a starter.

In 2021 when Casey teamed up with his former head coach and current Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, he started 15 of 17 games for Dallas. With two interceptions and four pass defensed, Kazee also had two forced fumbles and 52 tackles. Kazee also added eight tackles in the Cowboy’s playoff game in 2021.

When it comes to the advanced statistics, Kazee gave up 52% of his completions according to Pro Football Reference. Being targeted 25 times, quarterbacks had 13 completions for 205 yards against Kazee. Of those 13 completions, four of them were for touchdowns.

When it came to his time in Atlanta, Kazee gave up four touchdowns in 2018 but only one in 2019 despite giving up a higher completion percentage of 65.1% versus 53.3% the previous season. Only playing four games in 2020, Kazee was only targeted four times for three completions and no touchdowns.

While the numbers tell a good part of the story, the film will be able to break down what Damontae Kazee brings to the Steelers even more.

The Film Line:

Demontae Kazee is a coverage specialist, not that his tackling or run support is a weakness (we’ll cover that last), but he’s most dangerous as a zone defender. That’s why he’s a safety.

Cowboys vs. Chargers

Demontae Kazee is the safety to the top of the screen (standing on the goal line).

The receiver slips on this play, but even if he hadn’t, this throw was in trouble. Kazee shows good zone sense here, covering the inside route while keeping his eyes on the quarterback so he can see where the throw is going. He easily reverses course and is in position to cut off the pass for an interception in the end zone.

His ability to make plays on the ball and secure interceptions makes him dangerous, and that danger shows up in the respect opposing quarterbacks give Kazee when he is in coverage. When you combine that respect with good positioning, you have an effective deep safety.

Cowboys vs. Chargers

Demontae Kazee is the deep safety.

Kazee doesn’t commit to defending one half of the field until Justin Herbert commits to his throw. His presence is enough to convince Herbert to test Trevon Diggs instead of going deep, and Diggs makes the play for an interception.

If you look at when the ball arrives at the target, and look back at Kazee, you can see he was well within his range of making a play had Herbert tested him deep.

Cowboys vs. Chargers

Demontae Kazee is the deep safety.

There’s a lot of good coverage on this play, but watch how Kazee reads and inserts himself into the most important zones, and Herbert ends up taking a sack for a big loss.

That’s three drives in scoring position that resulted in three total points for the Chargers in a 20-17 Cowboys win. Demontae Kazee played a role in all three with his deep zone coverage.

Mostly Demontae Kazee was used in that deep coverage safety role, but against some offenses that are more short-pass focused, the Cowboys moved him up into short zones, especially when the opponent spread the field to attack on short routes.

Cowboys vs. Saints

Demontae Kazee is the safety to the top of the screen (moves to shorter coverage with the snap).

Kazee covers a lot of ground on these plays, and he almost gets to this pass even though he was covering the running back.

Cowboys vs. Saints

Demontae Kazee is to the bottom of the screen, walking forward at the snap.

I love how fluidly he moves and how effortlessly he covers ground on this play. An ill-advised and inaccurate throw, but that throw comes from a quarterback not respecting Kazee’s awareness and mobility.

Lastly, Demontae Kazee is undersized for a safety, he’s listed at 5’11” and 174 lbs. But that doesn’t mean he can’t tackle. In fact, he’s quite good attacking the line of scrimmage, even if it isn’t a role you would want him to take on regularly.

Cowboys vs. Saints

Demontae Kazee is the safety to the bottom of the screen.

With the edge rushing and the corner following the slant inside, the Saints think they have a back open in the flat. But Kazee is already there when the ball arrives and that play isn’t gaining much of anything. Look at the ground Kazee covers there, that’s impressive.

Cowboys vs. Saints

Demontae Kazee is the deep safety.

You don’t want Demontae Kazee being your leading tackler, but he is a willing participant and he gets to the ball quickly.

Kazee over the season showed all the tools you want from a free safety. He’s not a star at all, but I can tell you it isn’t easy finding film of him being tested by quarterbacks. Mostly they avoided throwing his way. Not on the level of Minkah Fitzpatrick, but it was legit.

Perhaps the most impressive game for Kazee all season was against Kansas City, when the Cowboys took him out of the starting line-up and he only played a few snaps early in the game. By the time the Cowboys put him in for real, the Chiefs had scored 16 points on their first three drives. They would score three points the rest of the game, and didn’t complete a deep pass when Kazee was on the field. It stood out on film that the Chiefs moved the ball effectively when he was off the field, and their offense dried up when he came back in. It wasn’t him making plays either, there wasn’t a single play I even considered using from that game, they just avoided deep throws when he was in, and the offense dried up.

The Point:

The Steelers will find a use for a deep zone coverage specialist like Demontae Kazee. He’s not as talented as Minkah Fitzpatrick, but he’s a more natural centerfielder than Fitzpatrick is, and that should let the Steelers do more with Fitzpatrick while still having an interception threat in deep coverage. It should also allow Terrell Edmunds to more around more and play to his strengths in man coverage and in the box.

While we can’t really predict exactly how the team of Mike Tomlin, Teryl Austin, and Brian Flores will evolve the defense in 2022, I think it is a safe bet that Demontae Kazee’s deep coverage skills will play a role in shaping what the Steelers defense is capable of doing.

FILM ROOM: Steelers draft another high-risk, high-reward player in DeMarvin Leal

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/04/2022 - 8:30am
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarvin Leal might not be your proto-typical defensive lineman, but he certainly is a high-risk, high-reward player.

In the 2nd Round of the 2022 NFL Ddraft, the Steelers took wide receiver George Pickens from the University of Georgia, a player who would have been selected much higher had it not been for an injury and questions about his maturity. In Round 3, they doubled down on that formula, opting for Texas A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal.

Like Pickens, Leal was once projected to go in Round 1 but fell because of questions about his maturity — he was arrested for marijuana possession — and a sense he didn’t always give great effort. Also, at 283 pounds, he was considered by many as a “tweener” without a natural fit in most NFL schemes.

On the other hand, Leal was a consensus All-American whose burst off the ball and great hand technique make him difficult to block one-on-one. There are shades of Devonte Wyatt in his game, and his ability to slant, twist and loop will allow the defensive coaching staff to get creative with how they use him. He will need to add weight to become an every-down player but his get-off could make him useful in certain packages right away.

Here’s a closer look at Leal, and at what makes him intriguing.

The 2021 Orange Bowl: Texas A&M vs. North Carolina

For this film room, I’m focusing on Leal’s game against North Carolina in the 2021 Orange Bowl. With the accusations that Leal can lack focus and take plays off, I thought evaluating him over the course of an entire contest would be more instructive than combing through highlight clips.

What I found was encouraging. Leal disappears at times, but when he does it’s more a product of bad technique than lack of effort. He doesn’t make any splash plays in this game — no sacks, forced fumbles or big hits that would make a highlight reel — but his presence is felt in other ways. You can see why the Steelers like him, and how, with time to develop under position coach Karl Dunbar, he could become a fixture on their defensive line.

Leal is No. 8 and is circled in most clips. He plays outside, at the 5-tech, in nearly all of them.

First, Leal (left edge) shows off one of his best traits — his arm extension. He uses his hands very well, in both his pass rush and to defend the run. Here, he wins inside on Carolina’s right tackle and uses his leverage advantage to jolt him backwards. Once the tackle is on his heels, Leal drives him into the lap of quarterback Sam Howell, forcing an incompletion:

Next, we see Leal against a read-option concept. Leal is such a good run defender that Carolina often tried to neutralize him by reading him. Read-options are frequently used against the opponent’s best or most aggressive defender. Rather than block him, offenses try to make him wrong no matter how he reacts.

Here, Carolina runs inside zone to the right while Howell reads Leal, who is the edge to his left. If Leal sits back, Howell will give the football. If Leal pursues, Howell will pull it and run. Leal plays this well by muddying Howell’s read. He doesn’t commit one way or the other. Instead, he stays square and shuffles down the line, making it difficult for Howell to decide whether to give the ball or pull it. With the alley player coming, too, Howell makes the safe play and gives the ball to the back. Leal still manages to pursue the play and make the tackle for a short gain:

(Side note — Carolina had a 2nd level RPO built into this play, too, with the slot receiver running an out-cut. If Howell had pulled the football, he could have either run it or thrown the out, depending on the reaction of the alley defender. The blitz from A&M forced him to give the ball, making the second read moot. Still, this play shows how intricate read-options have become, and makes me wonder how far Matt Canada will take them with the Pittsburgh offense.)

In this next clip, we see another example of how well Leal neutralizes blockers with his hands. He’s on the back side of a GT Counter by Carolina — “GT” means the guard and tackle are pulling — and the H-back is tasked with cutting off Leal. Leal is too strong, though. He stands the H-back up with a good strike to the chest, then plays off him to make the tackle:

On the next play, Carolina runs at Leal. They again assign the H-back to him, and the result is the same. Leal is simply too strong to block with anyone other than a lineman:

Next, Leal, who to this point had used bull and speed rushes to pressure Howell, changes things up with an up-and-under move. His second step is hard to the outside, which gets the offensive tackle leaning that way. Leal then redirects across his face. He has the tackle beat, until the guard grabs Leal, drawing a holding penalty. This is a nice counter move by Leal that showcases his pass rush repertoire:

In the second half, A&M began to twist and stunt. On this play, Leal, who is the edge to the right of the front, comes inside on a gap exchange with the tackle. Carolina’s guard and tackle do a nice job trading off and picking up the stunt. But Leal uses a nice rip move to drive the guard into the A-gap. When he can’t beat the guard inside, he spins back out, showing good tenacity:

In Pittsburgh, a stunt like this would likely be paired with a cross-fire from the opposite backer. Rather than have him fall into coverage, the backer would blow the B-gap between the guard and tackle where the gap-exchange creates a seam. A player like Leal, who can move quickly and displace offensive linemen, can be useful in these schemes.

Next, we see one of the weaker plays from Leal in this contest. He is pinching from the left end into the B-gap, where he winds up one-on-one against the guard. It’s a full slant from A&M’s line, with an alley blitz from the left edge, so Leal doesn’t have containment. He’s free to use whatever move he can to beat the guard. Leal tries to bull rush him at first but can’t get movement. Then he tries to throw the guard off of him but the guard won’t budge. At this point Leal is stuck, and winds up dancing with the guard until Howell makes his throw:

This is a good example of how a pass rusher must be able to adjust his plan even as a play is unfolding. This is an issue where spending time with Coach Dunbar, and being around a veteran like Cam Heyward, can benefit Leal.

Later in this same drive, we see Leal make one of his best moves of the night. Watch him execute a textbook club-and-rip to beat Carolina’s left tackle and pressure Howell. Something you hear pundits discuss at length when analyzing pass rushers is the term “bend,” which refers to how well a player can redirect towards the quarterback once he clears a blocker. Leal bends extremely well here, showing expert agility for a big man:

Next, we see him again use his hands to defeat a block and make a tackle on an inside run. He was tremendous against the run in this game, winning every encounter against Carolina’s H-back and most against offensive tackles.

In this final clip, near the end of the game, with Carolina trailing and in hurry-up mode, Leal has free reign to rush the quarterback. Look at this beautiful up-and-under move to beat the tackle. A&M is falling back into eight-man coverage, so there is no one to contain Howell as he scrambles out of the pocket. But, in a more structured pass rush scheme, this would be a wicked move by Leal:

How Leal may be used with the Steelers

Leal is a great candidate to play the 4i technique in Pittsburgh’s “Tite” front, a scheme the Steelers used at times last year but which Brian Flores employed frequently in Miami. It’s a scheme I’d expect the Steelers to use more often in 2022.

The Tite front would put Leal on the inside shoulder of an offensive tackle, where he would be a penetrator. Put simply, his job would be to get into the backfield through the B-gap. The Tite front is great for players like Leal, who aren’t necessarily old-school two-gap run stuffers like Casey Hampton but are quick and athletic and can disrupt blocking schemes with their get-off.

Leal may also bump outside at times to play the 5-tech, like we saw him do in the film clips above. I was speaking with BTSC writer Shannon White about Leal, and Shannon mentioned a scout he respects who believes Leal is similar to LaMarr Woodley. Leal does not possess Woodley’s lateral movement and would struggle in coverage. But, as you saw in the clips above, he looks a bit like Woodley when he’s in a two-point stance, and he can certainly rush the passer. The Steelers may use him situationally to do just that.

They could also use him in pressure packages like the one below, where his quickness could be effective. This is one of Flores’s schemes in Miami, where eight defenders are stacked at the line in an attempt to confuse the offense about who is coming and who is dropping.

The player circled is Christian Wilkins, an athletic defensive tackle like Leal. He’s lined up on the inside shoulder of the guard in an “amoeba” look:

At the snap, Wilkins bluffs a pass rush then drops, taking away the quarterback’s hot read in the middle of the field. The stunt creates confusion up front, and Miami gets home for a sack. Leal is a good candidate to play the Wilkins role in movement-based fronts like these.

In short — the Steelers have options with Leal, and time to find him a proper role.

It was an atypical draft for the Steelers. Pittsburgh often opts for safer choices in the higher rounds, like Najee Harris and T.J. Watt. In Pickens and Leal, they gambled on themselves, betting they’ll be able to minimize the distractions and maximize the high upside. Time will tell if the Steelers were right to take the risk. But, if they are, they’ll have landed two of the best talents in the draft.

George Pickens is the latest receiver the Steelers picked on Day 2 of the NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/04/2022 - 7:15am
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers selected yet another receiver on the second day of the NFL Draft when they took Georgia’s George Pickens. However, unlike in past years when the receiver position was considered to be full of riches, the selection of Pickens addresses a major need at the position.

Another year, another receiver selected by the Steelers on the second day of the annual NFL Draft.

I’m talking about George Pickens, the Georgia wideout with fast feet and maybe even faster hands if you ask that one defensive back from Georgia Tech.

Anyway, as has become a round-two custom, there was a receiver left on the board who everyone wanted the Steelers to select with the 52nd pick on Friday night—Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, who hails from Pittsburgh and played his high school ball with Mike Tomlin’s son—but, instead, Pittsburgh took Pickens in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Not a bad pick, considering Pickens more than held his own in the pre-draft rankings with a crop of receivers that was considered to be extremely deep.

In fact, had Pickens not suffered a torn ACL last spring during a non-contact drill, he may have had a junior season monstrous enough to put him in serious first-round contention.

As it stands, Pickens worked his way back in time to appear in four games for the Bulldogs a season ago. And while he didn’t factor heavily into Georgia’s National Championship season—Pickens caught five passes for 107 yards—you have to like his determination to recover so quickly after suffering such a serious injury.

Judging by the 40 time Pickens recorded at the Combine—4.47—it doesn't look like speed is going to be a major concern for him at the professional level after the injury.

How about production? This is where it gets a bit tricky. Pickens had a combined 85 catches for 1240 yards over his first two seasons at Georgia. Not bad, but not prolific, either. Probably a bit unfair to point that out, however, since we’ll never know how much Pickens would have produced for a great and extremely talented Georgia team had he been fully healthy in 2021.

As for those fast hands, they came to light late in the 2019 campaign when Pickens got into a fistfight with Georgia Tech defensive back Tre Swilling. Pickens was ejected from the game against the Bulldogs’ fierce rival and then suspended for the first half of the following game versus LSU.

Pickens was also suspended for violating team rules early in his collegiate career. Major concerns? I’d say they’re not. These things happen—especially fistfights in games against fierce rivals.

All I know for sure is that the selection of Pickens addresses a major need for the Steelers, one that became quite apparent after JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud all bolted for more money in free agency.

Drafting receivers seemed to be a luxury for the Steelers in past seasons—just adding more riches to riches—but now it’s paramount that Pittsburgh rebuilds its receivers' room as quickly as possible.

Maybe George Pickens can help with that. If he was so determined to come back so quickly from a torn ACL while still in college, perhaps the skyy (see what I did there?) is the limit for what he can do at the professional level.

Scouting Roundup on Steelers WR George Pickens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/04/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Looking at the pre-draft evaluation of the Steelers 2nd round pick.

With the 20th pick in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft the Steelers selected George Pickens from the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

Here’s what was being said about Pickens before the draft.

Drae Harris for The Draft Network

The Good

He is sudden off the line of scrimmage and quickly closes the DB’s cushion. He is fluid and shows good body control as a route-runner, easily attacking leverage against man coverage. He has a very good catch radius and shows tremendous athleticism to contort his body and make difficult catches on off-target throws.

The Bad

Will need to add mass, bulk, and upper-body strength to his wiry frame in order to play through physicality in the NFL.
Because he is lean and there have been injury concerns in his past, this could affect the projection to the next level.

The Verdict

Ultimately, he has redeeming value in his athleticism, agility, and catch radius.
Third round value.

NFL Draft Buzz

The Good

Before his injury, was the NFL Draft’s most physically gifted receiver.
Very good athlete with excellent length, impressive hands and catch radius.
Able to track the ball over his shoulder.
Natural pass-catcher with reliable hands and very good focus.
Amazing red zone target can jump and make contested catches.

The Bad

Never looked explosive off the line of scrimmage.
Only put up 1285 yards in three years in college.
ACL injury and the extent it hurt his value — is undetermined.
Has a number of off-the-field issues, has been suspended and ejected. . . called undisciplined by his own head coach.

The Verdict

Pickens could easily be the biggest boom-bust prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft class. He has quite possibly some of the most natural receiving talent in the draft and has shown dominating Calvin Johnston-like skills before his injury.
He, however, is still recovering from an ACL injury. Pickens also has displayed some behavior red flags that need to be thoroughly investigated before teams consider spending a high pick on him.

Mike Williams for Bleacher Report

The Good

Pickens is a long outside wide receiver with good size and play strength. He plays with a competitive streak that shows up when he is attacking the ball in the air and in the run game as a blocker.
Pickens’ hand-eye coordination and balance show up when he’s tracking deep throws and on contested catches. He is a natural catcher of the football and can consistently contort his body and haul in throws at all angles.

The Bad

He can get stuck or stumble at times when breaking. He’ll need continued refinement with his route-running details.
Pickens can be a bit lackadaisical with his tempo coming off the ball, but he has enough long speed to threaten defenders vertically.

The Verdict

NFL teams will have to assess his medical history to see if Pickens recovers to his 2020 ability and athleticism. If he’s fully healthy and continues to add details to his route running, he will be a useful option for NFL offenses with some room to grow into a more featured role.

Natalie Miller for NFL Draft Wire

The Good

Pickens is one of the best receivers in a deep class, especially when it comes to tracking and adjusting his body to the football and going to get it. He uses top-tier body control, length, and hand strength to adjust to deep balls at any angle, and almost always comes down with the catch.

The Bad

Pickens will need to work on beating press man on bigger corners at the next level, where slapping them away did not quite work for him in college. He’ll have to develop a Plan B to not get bullied in those situations, and work on improving his overall play strength.

The Verdict

Pickens has the ability to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, as his athleticism and body control are truly next-level stuff. Questions will linger about his injury and inconsistent play strength, but if he overcomes these issues, he will end up being a dominant pass-catcher at the next level.

Summary

Everyone agrees that Pickens is fantastic adjusting to the ball in the air and winning contested catches. He is touted as physical, but also as a player that doesn’t have the bulk to be that player in the NFL. He plays physically but doesn’t always get good results from his physicality.

But the bottom line for Pickens is if he can get off the line and catch the ball downfield he will be an impact player in the NFL, because the deep passing game matters just as much now as it always has, and that is his strength.

Get the latest BTSC gear for the Steelers’ rookie quarterback, Kenny Pickett

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/04/2022 - 5:30am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a brand new quarterback in Kenny Pickett. Get the latest BTSC shirt featuring “KENNY PICKETT”

The 2022 regular season is getting closer, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have found a new quarterback in rookie Kenny Pickett.

Pickett was the first quarterback taken in the draft, and is hoping to prove he is worthy of that pick. Either way, fans are excited, and rightfully so, about what Pickett can bring to the team, so why not get some new gear to show off your Steelers pride?! Of course, this could be the perfect gift for the Steelers fan in your life!

The new designs are simple, and is officially licensed by the NFLPA.

The designs read: KENNY PICKETT / QB1 / PICKETTSBURGH

Check out the designs below:

By now, you might be wondering how to order yours? Just click the link below, and get any of the above designs today!!

Did you know we have a BTSC Apparel store? You can get this design, and many others including the classing BTSC design shirt, in the link below!

BTSC Apparel Store

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/04/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each broadcasted episode.

The Steelers Draft Fix: Draft Grades & what the Steelers could have done differently

The leadup to the Steelers Draft was months in the making. So much was analyzed, hoped for and speculated on. Now, it’s time to break it all down. Join Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar as they sift through the 2022 Draft. All of this and more on BTSC’s Steelers Draft Fix.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The picks are in
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Scho Bro Show: Taking sides in the Steelers QB race

There are many an opinion when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sides are being taken. Are you Team Steelers, Team Pickett, Team Mitch, Team Mason or Team Oladukon? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show with BTSC Editor Dave Schofield and his older brother Rich.

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
  • Who are you backing in the Steelers’ QB race of 2022?

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Let’s Ride: Have the Steelers done enough to rescue their dying offense?

The Steelers offense has been fairly disappointing as of late. During the 2022 NFL Draft, the franchise made many a move to revive the point-scoring equation of their operation. Dis they do enough? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts, “Let’s Ride” with BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman. Join Jeff for this and more on the Wednesday episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Are the offensive additions of the 2022 offseason enough to revive a dying offense?
  • The Mail Bag
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Who was your favorite draft pick by the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/03/2022 - 2:30pm
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers added seven new players through the 2022 NFL Draft, but which one was the favorite?

The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books, and with the dust settling fans and pundits can start to take a look at draft classes as a whole and analyze the newest acquisitions. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they added seven new draft picks, along with 10 undrafted rookie free agents (UDFAs).

Throughout the three day selection process, it is natural to tend to like some picks more than others. Some talk about value, based on the pick and the round they were selected, while others talk about potential.

Either way, everyone is analyzing draft classes, and ESPN’s Todd McShay gave his best pick per team. For the Steelers’ draft class, his favorite pick was none other than the team’s second round pick, George Pickens out of the University of Georgia.

Take a look at his reasoning behind why he liked the pick so much...

George Pickens, WR, Georgia (Round 2, No. 52)

Everyone knew Pittsburgh was going to draft a quarterback in Round 1, and it did when it took Kenny Pickett from down the road at Pitt at No. 20. Whether or not the Steelers took the right QB will be debated for a while, especially since no other signal-caller was drafted until No. 74. (I had Liberty’s Malik Willis ranked higher, but Pickett has solid accuracy and good pocket mobility.)

But regardless of whether Pickett or Mitch Trubisky will be under center, Pittsburgh had to add some playmakers in the draft. Pickens was getting first-round buzz — in fact, I had him at the tail end of Round 1 in my final mock draft — and could be a great get for Pittsburgh on Day 2. His best trait is tracking the deep ball. He accelerates off the line of scrimmage, knows when to get his head around to find the ball and has the second gear to run underneath it.

A torn ACL in his right knee kept Pickens off the field for most of his final season at Georgia, but he is healthy and ready to contribute. Pittsburgh added another playmaker, though, who will fight with Pickens for touches. Memphis’ Calvin Austin III is 5-foot-8 but lightning fast and a threat to take the ball the distance any time he touches it. I thought about him here, too, but Pickens has a chance to be a star.

There is a lot to like about Pickens. Whether it’s his overall size and stature, athleticism or ability to track the ball on deep routes. Pickens likely would have been a first round pick had he not been recovering from a torn ACL the majority of this season.

Nonetheless, there is a lot to like about the vast majority of Steelers additions in this year’s draft class. Which begs the question, which draft pick was your favorite from the 2022 class? Was it Kenny Pickett in Round 1? Calvin Austin III in Round 4? How about DeMarvin Leal in Round 3?

Let us know which draft pick was your favorite in the poll below, and be sure to let us know why you made that selection in the comment section! Stay tuned to BTSC for all the latest on the Steelers as they prepare for rookie minicamp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp.

Steelers officially announce the signing of free agent safety Damontae Kazee

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/03/2022 - 12:21pm
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

After reports surfaced of the signing over the weekend, the Steelers make the announcement official on Tuesday

The Pittsburgh Steelers are continuing to add to their 2022 offseason roster even after acquiring 17 new players between the 2022 NFL draft and undrafted rookie free agents. After reports on Saturday night that the Steelers added another free agent safety into the mix, the team officially announced on Tuesday the signing of safety DeMonte Kazee to a one-year contract.

We have signed S Damontae Kazee to a one-year contract. @BordasLaw https://t.co/uGwqidZZFW

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 3, 2022

A fifth-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, Kazee appeared in all 16 games his rookie year, getting one start while being used primarily on special teams. After an injury to starting strong safety Keanu Neal in Week 1, Kazee was the starter for the remainder of his second season where he shared the league lead in interceptions with seven. Starting 14 games in 2019, Kazee also entered as the starter for the Falcons in 2020 before tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 4 and missed the remainder of the season.

A free agent for the 2021 offseason, Kazee signed a one-year, Veteran Salary Benefit Contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Playing for his former head coach Dan Quinn who was the Cowboys defensive coordinator, Kazee started 15 games and had two interceptions for Dallas. A free agent once again in 2022, Kazee remained unsigned through the NFL draft.

At this time, the financials of Kazee‘s deal are not known other than it being a one-year contract.

With the return of Terrell Edmunds announced before the 2022 NFL draft, along with the addition of Damontae Kazee, the Steelers look to have a number of options at the strong safety position for 2022 when only a couple of weeks ago it was the most glaring need on the roster. Additionally, Kazee has played the free safety position as well.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, rookie breakdowns, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

10 Reasons to love the Steelers 2022 draft class

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/03/2022 - 11:30am
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Here are 10 reasons why the Pittsburgh Steelers crushed the 2022 NFL Draft.

The dust has settled following the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers had as good a draft as you could have hoped for, and optimism for this team feels higher than it has in some time. With the seven new players added to the roster, it is a time to be excited. And considering some of the names they were able to acquire, the excitement has reached a fever pitch. If you weren’t already on the edge of your seat for the 2022 class, here are 10 reasons why you should be excited for the Steelers rookies.

10. The team is unquestionably better Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Take a look at the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers roster, more specifically the one that lost the Wild Card game to the Kansas City Chiefs, and compare it to the Steelers roster as we sit here today. On paper you could argue every position group is either better or the exact same. Not one spot on this Pittsburgh Steelers team is taking a step back from what they were when the season came to a close. Considering the Steelers made the playoffs a season ago, and the fact this team is better than that team, my excitement levels for this season are pumping through the roof.

9. Kept a stud player away from the Ravens Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

News broke on Monday how the Baltimore Ravens were set to select Calvin Austin III one pick after the Steelers brought him to Pittsburgh. And by the sounds of it, the Ravens were not happy at all that they missed out on the speedy receiver. Instead of having to face the kid many analysts are calling one of the biggest steals of the draft, the Steelers will get to utilize his talents against the division rival. It was a good pick when the Steelers made it, but keeping him out of Baltimore makes it even sweeter.

The Steelers drafted Calvin Austin one pick before the Ravens would have. https://t.co/Qv2vDaRPPb

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 2, 2022 8. Took advantage of minimal picks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers only had seven picks to their name in the 2022 NFL Draft. With trades and compensatory selections it meant the Steelers would have fewer than most organizations. A great way to combat having few picks is making home run selections with what you do have. Sure, we won't know how good any of these players are until the regular season begins, but we do know the team got George Pickens, DeMarvin Leal, and Calvin Austin III way later than many teams expected. So for the moment, the Pittsburgh Steelers were assassins when it was time to turn their draft cards in.

7. Depth through the roof Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have a ton of depth now throughout their entire roster. Not to jinx anything, but on paper it looks as though the team can weather the storm from an injury to any position group. This draft solidified the teams quarterbacks, receivers, defensive line, and brought more bodies to an already deep special teams corps.

6. Offense, defense, AND special teams Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Speaking of special teams, it is definitely worth mentioning two of the Steelers’ late round picks should make for key contributors in the kicking game. Both Mark Robinson and Connor Heyward are both hard working, and hard hitting, players which is the perfect combination to find in special teams studs. These guys should step in fairly quickly and help out the likes of Derek Watt, Miles Killebrew, Robert Spillane, and many other of the Steelers special teamers. If I was the opposition's kick returner I would dread having to face the Pittsburgh Steelers.

5. Keeping it in the family Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Some may roll their eyes, but I am a firm believer that having family members on the same team is a positive. If a player is good enough to be in the NFL, having a sibling on the team is only going to make them want to work harder and be more accountable off the field. Adding Connor Heyward to the team is a perfect example. Connor was always going to have to bust his butt to land a full time gig in the NFL given the nature of his position, but bringing him into the mix probably puts years onto Cam Heyward’s career. Having your little brother on the team would only push you to not let him pass you in any way, shape or form. I wouldn't be surprised to find out Cam Heyward had the best offseason of his career prepping to take on his little brother. I also wouldn't be surprised in Cam Heyward has a longer career because of how much fun he will have playing with his younger brother. All in all, I was excited about this pick for a number of reasons.

The @steelers have FOUR sets of brothers on the roster after drafting Connor Heyward pic.twitter.com/OW2KRmtTvJ

— (@sportingnews) April 30, 2022 4. Years to grow together Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers landed a quarterback and two receivers in the same drat class. At minimum, these three players will get to develop together for four straight seasons. The chemistry between Kenny Pickett and George Pickens and Calvin Austin III by the time they reach year four should be through the roof. Not only that, but when you pull the camera back and look at the entire offense you will quickly see how young the entire group is and the potential for them to work together for a very long time. The average age for the projected starting offense is just 24 years old and the oldest players being 26 by the time the season starts. This group getting to develop together is exciting and knowing they will get even better with each passing year makes the future exciting as well.

From @ByJoshCarney

Projected Offensive lineup
Pickett (24)
Harris (24)
DJ (26)
Claypool (24)
Pickens (21)
Pat F (23)
Moore (23)
Dotson (25)
Cole (26)
Daniels (24)
Chuks (24)

Average age: 24.0 Years old. Youth on offense

— Michael Beck (@MichaelBeck56) April 30, 2022 3. Value, Value, Value Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The combination of George Pickens, DeMarvin Leal, and Calvin Austin III represent three players that had no business making it to the Steelers selection in their respective rounds. Not even close. Pickens legitimately has the potential to become the best receiver in this draft class, Leal was seen as a Top-10 pick a year prior, and Calvin Austin III is closer to Tyreek Hill than he is Dri Archer. These are three of the biggest draft day steals I can remember. If you are a draft nut, then I guarantee you loved the middle rounds of the Pittsburgh Steelers class.

2. The receivers are considerably better

Out with JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington, and in with George Pickens and Calvin Austin III. My honest assessment of the new receivers are that of Pickens having WR1 potential, and could legitimately be the team’s best receiver in year one, and Austin being one of the biggest headaches for defensive coordinator’s to try to defend in the league. Both of these receivers appear to be problems for the rest of the league. As for JuJu and Washington, it feels like the Steelers lost a slot and a depth player, neither of which has game changing quality.

1. They got their guy Photo by Logan Whitton/Getty Images

The biggest reason to love this Pittsburgh Steelers draft class is because of their first selection. The Pittsburgh Steelers placed hours of time into scouting the quarterbacks of the 2022 class. They went to every Pro Day, Senior Bowl/All star game, NCAA games, combines, dinners and so much more that they possibly could have to find a quarterback. And when the dust settled and the Steelers were able to select any quarterback of their choosing, they went with the guy at the end of the hall. If that doesn't say confidence in a draft pick I don't know what would. The Steelers put in more time in one position than I think I ever have seen from ANY team, and they got the guy they 100% wanted from the start.

While it is possible any player busts, the time and effort the Steelers went into evaluating quarterbacks should make you excited for Pickett. This kid has a real chance of giving this team back-to-back franchise quarterbacks. I trust this organization to have selected the best quarterback based on the effort they put in, and as of this moment I think Pickett is the guy to carry this team to the promised land.

The call that made @kennypickett10 a Pittsburgh Steeler pic.twitter.com/vfFEgf8qF7

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 29, 2022

But what do you think? What reasons do you love the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL Draft class? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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