You are here

Links

Mike Tomlin address the challenges of a virtual rookie minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 2:05pm
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In a recent interview, coach Tomlin answered questions about adjustments make to hold rookie minicamp without physically being wit the players

Over the weekend, Steelers’ Head Coach Mike Tomlin answered question from the Pittsburgh media on a phone conference call. The interview was not made available on Steelers.com, but is on the Pittsburgh Steelers YouTube channel strictly for those who have subscribed.

Taking place during rookie mini camp, Coach Tomlin was asked if it was a challenge having to view his players on a computer screen rather than be able to look them in the eye.

“I’ve gotten quite comfortable with it to be honest with you,” Tomlin confessed. “Over the course of the time that we’ve been in shelter in place I’ve gotten quite comfortable with utilizing the technology and getting some things done in a normal way even under these circumstances. That hasn’t slowed down this weekend at all.”

Although Coach Tomlin has become more familiar with attending meetings as of late over the Internet, the ultimate goal is to eventually meet with players in person. Tomlin was asked about being able to move forward in order to meet with his players person-to-person.

“I’d imagine that day is coming – when it’s coming I do not know,” Tomlin confessed. “There ‘s a couple of things that we’re committed to adhering to and that’s the global approach of the National Football League in regards to football operations and how important competitive fairness is in our game. So we’ve all got to get started on the same footing in that regard.”

With the first step of being all teams being available to progress in the same manner, Coach Tomlin also addressed what it takes specifically for each team to be able to open their facility.

“Also, respecting our local governments and the guidelines of what they prescribe individually in terms of workplace safety. Those are the two key components for us. We are in a wait-and-see mindset, but will be ready to go when both boxes are checked. Until that time, we’re going to focus our energies on what is available to us and take advantage of that.”

Until that time, the Steelers and all other NFL franchises are dealing with virtual meetings. When it come specifically to dealing with their rookies, there are specific challenges which are present in the given circumstances. When asked about if the amount of information given to the rookies has been adjusted, Tomlin explained the bigger issue other than the amount of information thrown at the newest Steelers’ players.

“The evaluation of their ability to absorb the information— the retention of the information— is probably the most significant difference when working in this setting,” Tomlin admitted. “It’s much more difficult to get the feedback, to get the feel of somebody receiving the information when you’re working remotely than it is when you’re dealing with someone in an intimate space. So it’s probably not about the material or the amount of material that we could give, it’s about the tools of evaluating what they learned, how they learned, and the reinforcement of what we give them is probably the most challenging element of the circumstances.”

To follow up on the previous question, Tomlin was asked about how the coaches have to adjust to the evaluation of players in a virtual setting.

“We are in a teaching and instruction phase right now and we will be in that until we get into a football environment and a training camp-like setting and we’re playing the game. All the things that we’re doing for them right now is preparing them for that. There’s very little evaluation per se in these circumstances, and that would be the same even if we were working together. The only thing that we evaluate is how they learn.”

Although rookie mini camp had to be conducted virtually, the success of the acclamation time for the Steelers’ newest members will not be fully known until the team can gather in person and get onto the playing field. Exactly when that time will be is anyone’s guess, so until then the Steelers need to get as much accomplished as possible in this manner in order to hit the ground running once the time comes.

Let’s Make A Deal: A new contract for James Conner

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

If the Steelers and Conner were to come to deal this offseason, what would it look like?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 offseason has progressed appropriately since the beginning of the league year. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, the Steelers were able to restructure contracts, offer tenders, use the franchise tag, sign free agents, make their draft selections, and get their undrafted rookie free agents under contract. With a focus on getting their draftees under contract in the coming weeks, the Steelers will also be looking to sign some players to either a new contract or a contract extension.

While some of these new deals may not come until the summer, it’s not out of the question for player representatives and the Steelers to be working on something now. With that said, which Steelers going into the last year of the current deal are likely to be given a new contract before the 2020 season begins?

Rather than focus on all the players, let’s tackle one at a time. With each player, it will first be determined if they should receive a new deal along with how much would be a fair contract to both parties. This exercise is meant to just be fun and speculative as we all get to play general manager and salary cap guru for a day. The biggest question with the remaining players is if a contract would be better before this season or next offseason.

If you wish to give a basic contract answer without diving too deep into numbers, simply skip over the italicized section. If you are the kind of person who would like to see how the contract would affect the salary cap, here it is...

Coming up with an exact contract can be tricky. Rather than get into roster and work out bonuses or different amounts per season, we’re going to estimate the salaries as simply as possible. For whatever deal the player gets, the first year will have all but $1 million put into a signing bonus which will get spread over the life of the contract. For example, if a player were to sign a three-year contract for $10 million per year, the first year would have a $1 million base salary and a $9 million signing bonus. Therefore, the bonus would be spread out to $3 million over each season where the player would count $4 million dollars for 2020 and $13 million for the other two years.

One other factor which needs to be considered is if the player brings any dead money from the previous contract. To account for this in a simple manner, throw it into the salary cap hit for the first year of the players deal. Using the above example, if a player had $4 million in dead money on their last contract, the salary cap hit for their first year would be $8 million.

After looking at a deal for: Cam Heyward, Bud Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Alejandro Villanueva, and Matt Feiler, now let’s see what kind of contract Steelers’ fans would like to work out with James Conner now rather than play the 2020 season before making a decision.

James Conner

Age: Just turned 25 last week
Years: 3
Draft: 3rd round, 105th overall
Previous Contract: Rookie deal
2020 salary cap hit: $1,001,572
Dead Money: $176,572

Other top contracts average per year (AYP) at the running back position according to overthecap.com:

Christian McCaffrey: $16 million
Ezekiel Elliott: $15 million
Le’Veon Bell: $13.125 million
David Johnson: $13 million
Derrick Henry: $10.278 million (franchise tag)
Kenyan Drake: $8.483 million
Melvin Gordon: $8 million

Conner ranked 21st among all qualifying NFL running backs in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus. Here are the players under contract beyond their rookie deals who ranked closely to Conner:

15. Duke Johnson: $5.2 million
19. Latavius Murray: $3.6 million
20. Le’Veon Bell: $13.125 million
22. David Johnson: $13 million
24. Tevin Coleman: $4.25 million
26. Kenyan Drake: $8.483 million

Notes: This is a very interesting scenario as many Steelers’ fans do not feel Conner will get a contract after the 2020 season, let alone before. Missing a number of games each year, there is a reason to be concerned and why the 2020 season would help give more data to determine if the investment is worthwhile. But is there a cheap enough deal the Steelers could offer to make it worth their while before the 2020 season?

So now it’s deal time! Perhaps the first question should be a completely different game show: Deal or no deal? Should the Steelers look to sign James Conner before the 2020 season? If so, what should the deal look like? Please leave your response with the number of years and the average salary per season in the comments below.

Next time on Let’s Make A Deal: Mike Hilton.

Chase Claypool considered one of the NFL’s “sneaky draft steals” of the 2020 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 11:05am
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ top draft pick is considered one of the steals of the 2020 NFL Draft.

What defines a draft “steal”? While there is no Webster’s Dictionary definition for such a thing, I would feel pretty safe calling a steal, in this instance, a player who has a tremendous amount of value which doesn’t match up with when they were drafted.

So, a player selected in the 3rd round who could turn into an every down starter would certainly be considered a “steal”, as it pertains to the NFL Draft. Were the Pittsburgh Steelers able to claim one of these “steal” players in the 2020 NFL Draft?

According to ESPN insiders, they did just that when they selected Chase Claypool, wide receiver out of Notre Dame, in the second round with pick No. 49. This is what an NFL offensive coordinator had to say about Claypool going to the black-and-gold.

WR Chase Claypool, second round to Steelers: “Matchup guy, runs vertical, big, 238 [pounds]. Exactly what that team needs.”

Some might read this and shrug off a comment like, “Exactly what the team needs.” but you can’t underestimate what Claypool brings to the Steelers’ offense. Not only the big-bodied receiver Ben Roethlisberger has been longing for since Martavis Bryant left town, but the deep threat who is capable of drawing a safety to his side on a regular basis.

Drawing a safety, so what!

Well, if you think back to JuJu Smith-Schuster’s production when Antonio Brown was in the lineup, you should know he was able to exploit one-on-one coverage. 2019 was an injury plagued season for Smith-Schuster, so the jury is still out on whether he can beat double coverage, but with Claypool in the lineup the Steelers’ wide receiver depth chart is pretty complete.

Claypool won’t, and shouldn’t, be expected to step in on Day 1 and be the deep threat for the team. But if he becomes just a threat at all, he can open up things for Smith-Schuster, James Washington and the dynamic Diontae Johnson. When Martavis Bryant was a rookie, he didn’t play a full season, but when he did he was a deep threat and got the attention of the defense.

Players like that, and I would put Claypool in this category, open up things not only in the passing game, but also the running game. If defenses can’t load the box to stop the run, for fear of being exploited in the back end, it makes the offense more functional. And better.

Claypool was a steal, but only when he proves he can be the threat the team needs at the position. Nonetheless, the Steelers’ offense is certainly better now, compared to the 2019 offense, with Claypool in it.

It’s encouraging to see some sports starting up again amidst COVID-19

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

With individual sports starting back up, could team sports be far behind?

I don’t really get into MMA or sprint car racing, but I do know UFC 249 took place on Saturday evening, and that a motorsports sanctioning body called World of Outlaws had an official race with some funny looking cars the night before.

Major League Baseball owners are working on a plan for an 82-game schedule that could begin as early as July, if they and the players union agree on the particulars.

Nothing is set in stone, obviously, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.

After all, if baseball doesn’t have a season in the summer, how could the NFL have one in the fall?

I realize the NFL is high and mighty, but not high enough and not mighty enough to begin its league after a spring and summer where other major professional sports leagues didn’t begin or finish theirs (the NBA and NHL are still trying to figure out ways to have actual postseasons).

We’re still in such a fragile state as it pertains to the psyches of everyone in society—including the citizens, players, fans, etc.—that just about anything involving the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic could topple any MLB 82-game proposal, send racing cars back to their pits and put the UFC in a choke-hold by Round 2.

But with that in mind, I think it was weirdly encouraging that a UFC fighter named Ronaldo Souza, and his cornermen for his fight, tested positive for COVID-19. However, instead of cancelling the entire event, Souza's bout was simply yanked from the card.

Was that the right move? I guess we’ll have to see if there is any sort of post-event fall-out from that particular decision.

If there isn’t, perhaps that can act as an example of what to do in the near future if a professional athlete from a team sport tests positive for the Coronavirus mid-season. In fact, I’m guessing there are already plans in place for such an occurrence, as someone eventually testing positive seems all but likely.

Things are weird right now, I get that. As much as we may not want to, we do have to accept a new normal for all things, including sports (at least for the remainder of 2020). Which brings me to something I failed to mention earlier. These sporting events that took place over the weekend—UFC and sprint car racing—did so without any fans in the stands.

If that’s how it has to be for baseball, football, basketball and hockey, I have no problem with it. Would it be weird? Would it totally take away homefield advantage? Most likely yes in both cases.

But we’ve gotten used to so much as citizens over the past two months—despite the noise of social media, we’ve really adapted as a society—we can get used to that, too.

The players will surely get used to it, as well. After all, sports may be our pastime, but it is their profession.

Professional athletes, like the fans, may be more eager than we realize to start their new normal.

Film Room, Part 1: Anthony McFarland is the Steelers new weapon-X

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Looking at Anthony McFarland’s 2018 rise to national recognition.

I’ve been going through a lot of film on Anthony McFarland Jr., and I decided to break this film room into 3 sections, similar to the breakdown of Diontae Johnson I did after the 2019 draft.

Part 1 will cover the first nine games of his college career,

Part 2 will cover the final three games of his Freshman year, his breakout games against Indiana and Ohio State, as well as the season finale against Penn State.

Part 3 will cover his sophomore season, and I’ll try to show why his numbers dropped, the impact of his injury as well as any growth in his game, and will include my thoughts for the 2020 season.

But for now let’s start at the beginning of his college career.

Anthony McFarland broke his fibula in his senior year of High School. Even without being healthy he was still a highly valued recruit, ranked in the top 100 by several recruit rankings. In 2017 he wasn’t fully recovered, and ended up red-shirting that season. Coming into the 2018 season McFarland, a RS Freshman, was toward the bottom of a deep RB rotation.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB

This is one of McFarland’s 3 touches in his first college game, his balance is nice here, the defender gets a really good swipe at his feet, and he is able to get 7 yards after that contact.

Against Bowling Green he would get 10 touches, ranking 4th on the team, mostly in shotgun or H-back. While his rushing was modest, this game contained the longest reception of his college career.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

A nice run and catch for a big gain, even though this was in the second game of the season, McFarland would only gain 17 receiving yards the rest of the 2018 season.

McFarland would be the leading rusher in the next game, moving from 8th in touches against Texas to 1st with 11 touches and his first 100 yard game in a loss to Temple.

While he has a number of good runs in that game, this was my favorite. Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

It may not look like much, but the point where he plants his right foot on the 37 yard line and explodes into the hole marks one of the first times in his college career we’d see his best trait.

Here’s a half-speed zoomed in view of it.

He almost looks like he teleports a yard with that move, and here it gets him past the 2 defenders who are right on him and he falls forward for a 5 yard gain, 7 yards after he planted his foot to burst into the hole. When you are fast enough to make a GIF look like frames were removed, that’s impressive.

Maryland would next face Minnesotta, coming in at 3-0 and who would end up going 7-6 with a Bowl Game win over Georgia Tech. Ty Johnson and Anthony McFarland would both run for 100+ as the Terrapins handed the Gophers their worst loss of the season.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

While the Maryland offensive line was dominant that day, you can see McFarland’s speed and his smart angles on this run, his first college TD. I really like his path after breaking into the secondary, as he gets the rest of the defenders trapped behind his downfield blockers. Downfield blocking will be a consistent theme in his big plays.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

McFarland’s second TD is even better than the first. He shows smart running here, pinching as close to his lineman #75 as he can, and it sets up his cut outside, and again you can see the acceleration at the <40 yard line (about 4 yards after the line of scrimmage) where he turns up field and is gone. Notice how his hips and shoulders all instantly align. McFarland has straight line speed, and the ability to line everything up instantly and explode forward is a real weapon.

McFarland only touched the ball 6 times in the game, but he was involved in other areas, here he is lined up as the wing-back, the player farthest to the top of the screen.

A good effort, but not very good execution. Blocking is a weakness, but he will improve.

Against Devin Bush and the Michigan Wolverines the Terrapins would struggle, especially from the tailback position, as most of their rushing yards were gained on jet sweeps and QB scrambles.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any good runs. McFarland is the RB behind the QB in this play.

There isn’t much blocking success on this play, but after breaking a Chase Winovich tackle attempt McFarland is able to gain 14 yards with blue shirts all over him. McFarland runs low and with good balance, which makes him hard to bring down when defenders can’t get him squared up.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

This is a great run in heavy traffic, finding his way through the blue shirts for a solid gain. This is it for the good, but on a day where McFarland had very little help he was still able to pull off a few nice runs.

Against Rutgers McFarland would again lead the Terrapins in touches with 11.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the H-back, just off the line to the top of the screen.

I think plays like this could have been more valuable for the Terrapins if they used it more, defenses counter those jet sweeps by getting their DEs into the backfield wide, you can see the DE coming up looking to defend the sweep, then backing off and McFarland gains 5 yards on the pass. It doesn’t look like he’ll even get that much, but he is able to burst into his straight line speed and get past the first defender.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

This reminds me a lot of what the Steelers RBs saw in tougher games last season, the line is holding ground, but not getting any push, and there aren’t any run lanes. I like that McFarland doesn’t try to bounce this outside, but lowers his head and crashes into the side of his lineman, giving enough added push to move the pile a bit and fall forward for a 5 yard gain.

Iowa was the second best run defense in the Big 10 in 2018, one of the three teams to hold Maryland to single digit points (MSU, PSU), and the only team to shut them out.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the wing back to the bottom of the screen.

Here the DE reads the play quickly and is fast enough to get to McFarland in the backfield. This will show up again, where a disciplined defense with smart, athletic DEs are able to wreck Canada’s run game. The QB play didn’t help, the DE isn’t reading from the QB to the RB here, and there was a lane for the QB if he kept the football.

Against Illinois McFarland would get more than 11 touches for the first time in his college career, Ty Johnson strained his calf early in this game, and would only see 5 more carries over the last 4 games of the season.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the RB.

That’s good hard contact McFarland bounces off of, and he gains another 9 yards for it. He’s not a power back, but he is built low and can deliver a hit if the defender isn’t squared up.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the wing back to the top of the screen.

McFarland approaches this block with the intelligence and patience he shows in his runs, he follows the TE until the defender commits to a course, and then engages.

Michigan State would also take down the Maryland rushing attack, barely giving up any yards before the 4th quarter when they had a 3 score lead.

Anthony McFarland Jr. is the running back.

McFarland runs right at his RT who is getting driven back, which causes the LB to come outside to try to seal the edge, then you see McFarland jump cut and manage to gain yards. The defense was up to the task and it is a small gain, but the thought process from McFarland is consistent and effective.

While the next 2 games would launch McFarland into the national spotlight, I wanted to show why he was in position to have those 2 games. What you see in these plays is the same thing you will see in the next part of this series. McFarland put a lot of good traits on this film, vision, using blockers, patience, balance, and enough power to break poor tackles.

But the important thing is his speed. McFarland is largely a straight line speed guy. his best traits are that wicked jump cut when running laterally, and his ability to plant his foot, turn his hips and shoulders and explode forward in that straight line.

When he sees the lane open up he hits it fast with breakaway speed. In part 2 we’re going to see all of these traits come together in dominant fashion.

Is J.J. Watt coming to the Steelers an inevitability?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 6:30am
JJ Watt is an all time great on a team trending in the wrong direction | George Bridges/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Is it just a matter of time?

When Derek Watt signed his deal to become the second Watt brother on the Steelers roster much of our fan base started to call on the organization to bring in the final Watt brother.

While J.J. Watt still has two years remaining on his deal, there really isn't anything that he hasn't accomplished for the Texans and the city of Houston. While yes, he still hasn't brought a ring to Texas’ other team, the organization seems to be trending away from any shot at a Super bowl championship. While it’s still doubtful that J.J. could be traded, I don't see him taking another deal with Houston if a shot to finally play with his brothers becomes available.

It’s clear J.J., Derek and T.J. are very tight. They interact with each other almost daily on social media, and seemingly are always spending time together even during the season. And while Derek and T.J. have been teammates in the past, J.J. has yet to experience playing the game with his actual flesh and blood.

While yes, J.J. has run into some injury problems the last number of seasons, he is still dominant when he is on the field, and that kind of talent is one any organization would be happy to have.

I think an addition like the eldest Watt could also make for some creative defensive formations within the D-line as well. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and (J.J.) Watt could play a 30 front or they could put T.J.’s hand in the ground and make a 40 with either Watt outside the edge.

But what do you think? Is J.J. Watt destined to play in Pittsburgh? Let us know in the comments below!

Podcast: Can the Steelers reclaim the AFC North in 2020?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Q&A” show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo analyze the Steelers chances to knock Baltimore off the top of their AFC North perch.

Since the AFC North was established in 2002, no team has three-prayed. With Baltimore winning the last two division titles, that statement could be in jeopardy. The Steelers have won eight of those crowns, the most in that time. Can they get back to the top or will Baltimore continue to run the show? Those are the questions we will hope to answer.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Q&A Show. On this show Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Can the Steelers win the division title in 2020?
  • Who has the most to prove in 2020?
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Bryan Davis and Tony Defeo, of BTSC, walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Of those entering the final year of their contract, which Steelers will stay?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/12/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft is officially over. After finishing last year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, have another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at which players, who are in the final year of their contract, will remain with the black-and-gold next season?

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers have some key players entering the final year of their contracts, and which players stay is worth discussing.

Mark Madden: 3 starters likely entering final season with Steelers

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Alejandro Villanueva, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner are all likely headed into their final season with the Steelers. Each will be in the last year of his contract.

Villanueva’s exit would be logical. He’s 31 and struggled last season after making the Pro Bowl in 2017 and ’18. Villanueva’s performance likely took a hit when Ramon Foster (since retired) imploded to his immediate right. But if Villanueva does OK this campaign, he may get another year by way of not breaking in somebody new at left tackle for what figures to be Ben Roethlisberger’s final season in 2021.

Smith-Schuster, 23, is in an odd place. He didn’t rise to the level of No. 1 receiver in Antonio Brown’s absence this past year. If he does so now, Smith-Schuster will price himself out of Pittsburgh. If he’s subpar again, the Steelers won’t want him. Either way, he’s gone. The Steelers won’t franchise him, not at an $18 million price tag.

Conner, 25, is the most interesting case. There’s more at stake for him than for Smith-Schuster.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Anthony McFarland’s one day at a time approach could be just what the doctor ordered for the rookie RB.

McFarland taking it one day at a time

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

It’s not the way he anticipated spending his first few weeks as a Steelers’ rookie.

Anthony McFarland thought he would be headed to Pittsburgh last week for the team’s rookie minicamp, three days of on-field drills and getting his first taste of the NFL.

Instead the running back from Maryland, who was one of the team’s fourth round selections, is living in a virtual world, taking part in a virtual rookie minicamp, interacting with his fellow rookies and hearing from his coaches.

“I am going on Facetime, meeting my coach, going over things I need to know,” said McFarland. “I am getting ready for everything, doing what I would be doing even though it is virtual. It’s a valuable time. I am learning. I am willing to learn. I am stepping into something totally different than college. It’s like getting a step ahead before we report, whenever that is.

“I am taking it one day at a time. Anything my coaches give me virtually. I am looking at it. I want to make sure I know everything I need to know. When it is time to go, I will be ready.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Jay Glazer criticized Ben Roethlisberger, but sure did pivot quickly.

Why did Jay Glazer pivot so quickly after jabbing Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger?

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In this week’s “Madden Monday” podcast, Mark Madden and I give you tons of sports.

Even though there are no sports.

Thankfully, the NFL continues to give us plenty of content during the covid-19 pandemic. The league’s schedule came out. Now the question becomes, will it actually be played, or will the virus keep the whole sport on the sidelines?

Similarly, Major League Baseball has come up with its latest plan to restart the season. But how feasible is it? Mark and I have doubts. And one specific concern stands out beyond the rest.

We also debate if a season of less than 80 games is worth playing.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

The Steelers have slightly bumped up in the latest NFL Power Rankings

Predicting the Steelers’ 53-man roster, post NFL Draft

6 teams the Steelers struggle with, historically

Alex Highsmith...already better than the guy he is replacing

Will Mason Rudolph get the 2020 he should have had in 2019?

  • Social Media Madness

Some Minkah for your Monday pic.twitter.com/ntJ0DHsLz2

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 11, 2020

.@kdd7696 has been a #Steelers fan his entire life and now he will wear the Black & Gold as a member of our offensive line!

Full : https://t.co/3HbOhP9dHL pic.twitter.com/MoftBUvxb9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 11, 2020

Our games at @heinzfield! pic.twitter.com/XWlqRuSwal

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 11, 2020

Let’s Make A Deal: A new contract for Matt Feiler

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 2:10pm
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

If the Steelers and Feiler can work out a deal instead of playing on his restricted free agent tender, what would it look like?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 offseason has progressed appropriately since the beginning of the league year. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, the Steelers were able to restructure contracts, offer tenders, use the franchise tag, sign free agents, make their draft selections, and get their undrafted rookie free agents under contract. With a focus on getting their draftees under contract in the coming weeks, the Steelers will also be looking to sign some players to either a new contract or a contract extension.

While some of these new deals may not come until the summer, it’s not out of the question for player representatives and the Steelers to be working on something now. With that said, which Steelers going into the last year of the current deal are likely to be given a new contract before the 2020 season begins?

Rather than focus on all the players, let’s tackle one at a time. With each player, it will first be determined if they should receive a new deal along with how much would be a fair contract to both parties. This exercise is meant to just be fun and speculative as we all get to play general manager and salary cap guru for a day. The biggest question with the remaining players is if a contract would be better before this season or next offseason.

If you wish to give a basic contract answer without diving too deep into numbers, simply skip over the italicized section. If you are the kind of person who would like to see how the contract would affect the salary cap, here it is...

Coming up with an exact contract can be tricky. Rather than get into roster and work out bonuses or different amounts per season, we’re going to estimate the salaries as simply as possible. For whatever deal the player gets, the first year will have all but $1 million put into a signing bonus which will get spread over the life of the contract. For example, if a player were to sign a three-year contract for $10 million per year, the first year would have a $1 million base salary and a $9 million signing bonus. Therefore, the bonus would be spread out to $3 million over each season where the player would count $4 million dollars for 2020 and $13 million for the other two years.

One other factor which needs to be considered is if the player brings any dead money from the previous contract. To account for this in a simple manner, throw it into the salary cap hit for the first year of the players deal. Using the above example, if a player had $4 million in dead money on their last contract, the salary cap hit for their first year would be $8 million.

After looking at a deal for Cam Heyward as well as Bud Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Alejandro Villanueva, now let’s see what kind of contract Steelers’ fans would like to work out with Matt Feiler rather than play the 2020 season on his restricted free agent tender.

Matt Feiler

Age: Will turn 28 in July
Years: 6, including practice squad
Draft: Undrafted
Previous Contract: $645,000 as an exclusive rights free agent
2020 salary cap hit: $3.295 million (2nd round tender)
Dead Money: None

Other top contracts average per year (AYP) at the right tackle position according to overthecap.com:

Lane Johnson: $18 million
Trent Brown: $16.5 million
Jack Conklin: $14 million
Ja’Wuan James: $12.75 million
Mitchell Schwartz: $11.255 million
Bryan Bulaga: $10 million
La’el Collins: $10 million

Feiler ranked 19th among all NFL tackles in 2019 regardless of which side they played according to Pro Football Focus. Here are the players under contract beyond their rookie deals who ranked closely to Feiler:

14. David Bakhtiari: $12 million
15. Bryan Bulaga: $10 million
16. Tyron Smith: $12.2 million
21. Laremy Tunsil: $22 million
22. Halapoulivaati Vaitai: $9 million
23. Duane Brown: $11.5 million

Notes: Since Feiler played right tackle last season, I did the comparison with the tackles. Although he could move back to guard in 2020, it’s up for debate whether that will be the case or not. The top seven contracts for left guards finishes up at the 10 million mark much like those of right tackle. The biggest question with Feiler would be the amount of the contract. While he was the highest-ranked lineman on the Steelers in 2019, perhaps waiting another year before possibly breaking the bank would be in the Steelers best interest.

So now it’s deal time! Perhaps the first question should be a completely different game show: Deal or no deal? Should the Steelers look to sign Matt Feiler to a long-term deal rather than play on his Restricted Free Agent contract? If so, what should the deal look like? Please leave your response with the number of years and the average salary per season in the comments below.

Next time on Let’s Make A Deal: James Conner.

Power Rankings: Steelers move up in the rankings after the 2020 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 12:35pm
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With the 2020 NFL Draft officially in the past, the Steelers see a slight bump in the latest rankings.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the NFL turn their attention away from the 2020 NFL Draft, and are now faced with the task of getting their free agent acquisitions, and rookies, acclimated to their new responsibilities without having access to their facilities.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic took its grip on the globe, teams are now getting creative with online Organized Team Activities (OTAs) as they wait to see if they can return to work before the later phases of OTAs and minicamp might take place in person.

Either way, with the big news of free agency, the draft and the 2020 regular season schedule release done, it is time to take a look at the Power Rankings to see who the experts deem to be the cream of the crop, and where the lesser than teams reside.

If you look at the Top 3, it shouldn’t shock anyone who tops the list of teams this week. Clearly, the Super Bowl champions will be at the top, and Baltimore and San Francisco falling in behind Kansas City makes sense.

After that, it is up for debate.

Power Rankings are pointless, but they are good for starting debate. In other words, do you agree with the rankings? Or do you think other teams, like the Steelers, should be ranked higher than they are. Time to take a look at the latest ESPN Power Rankings:

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Seattle Seahawks
6. Green Bay Packers
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. Tennessee Titans
9. Minnesota Vikings
10. Dallas Cowboys
...
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
Players who benefited: QBs Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph. The quarterbacks came away from the draft with new playmakers and more job security. Roethlisberger got Martavis Bryant 2.0 with WR Chase Claypool, and the team didn’t draft a quarterback, further solidifying Rudolph’s job as the backup and potential heir apparent whenever Roethlisberger retires. Rudolph had a rocky 2019 season, but the team believes in developing him with the help of new QB coach Matt Canada. All of the moves signal that they believe Roethlisberger will be at full strength whenever the season starts, and they want to make his job as easy as possible. — Brooke Pryor”

Predicting the Steelers’ 2020 53-man roster: Post NFL draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 11:01am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With virtual rookie minicamp underway, it’s time to make our way-too-early predictions for the Steelers 53-man roster.

The scheduled beginning of the 2020 NFL season is just about four months away. While numerous things can happen between now and then, it’s time to give our way-too-early predictions for the Steelers 53-man roster to begin the 2020 season. With no players actually setting foot on the field, it’s difficult to project who the bottom of the roster players will be. Both BTSC deputy editor Dave Scofield and editor Jeff Hartman will give their input onto their thoughts of who will make the roster come September.

For those unsure exactly how the NFL rosters will work this season, it is still a 53-man roster. While some believe the roster is actually at 55 players, each team will only have 53 as they prepare each week for their opponent. Two practice squad players (from now a pool of 12 compared to 10 in 2019) will be eligible to move up to the roster without displacing any other players. The first two times a player is called up they will not have to clear waivers to go back onto the practice squad.

As always, we welcome you to join the conversation in our comment section below this article. Let your voice be heard and join in the black-and-gold conversation!

Offense

Quarterback (3)

Dave: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Paxton Lynch

Analysis: The top two spots are pretty set, but the battle between Lynch, Devlin Hodges, and J.T. Barrett for the final QB position on the roster will be interesting. Since this may be Lynch’s last chance in the NFL, I see him grasping the opportunity.

Jeff: Same

Analysis: I tend to agree that Paxton Lynch would bring more upside to Devlin Hodges, and if he were in the system longer would have been a better option down the stretch than “Duck”. Sad to say, but the Duck Dynasty ends in 2020.

Running Back (4)

Dave: James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland

Analysis: The Steelers typically carry three backs to start the season, but since they dressed five at the end of last season caring four is not a stretch.

Jeff: Same

Analysis: I like them keeping four running backs, especially with Conner’s health history, but the team never admits draft failures, which is why Samuels and Snell make it over Kerrith Whyte Jr.

Fullback (1)

Dave: Derek Watt

Analysis: Even with another full back on the 90-man roster, this is an easy choice.

Jeff: Same

Analysis: Nothing to discuss here...you don’t bring in Watt as a free agent to have a camp battle.

Wide Receiver (6)

Dave: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Chase Claypool, Deon Cain, Ryan Switzer

Analysis: While many would like to see Switzer knocked off of this list, you can’t rule out the Roethlisberger factor.

Jeff: Out Switzer, in Saeed Blacknall

Analysis: While I think the Steelers could keep Switzer on the roster, I see Blacknall being a player they like as more of a threat, and he pushes Switzer off the roster.

Tight End (3)

Dave: Vance McDonald, Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry

Analysis: The Steelers could try to sneak gentry onto the practice squad and pull him up when needed if they wanted to keep an extra player at another position.

Jeff: Same

Analysis: I hate agreeing with Dave this much...

Offensive Line (8)

Dave: Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Stefen Wisniewski, Kevin Dotson

Analysis: Although the Steelers usually keep nine, having the option to pull up an extra lineman from the practice squad will allow them to use the extra position elsewhere.

Jeff: Same, but could be a change

Analysis: I really like Derwin Gray. Call it a gust instinct, but I think he has a chance to force the Steelers keeping 9 linemen on the roster and maybe have them keep just 5 wide receivers, or 3 running backs.

Total Offense: 25 Defense

Defensive Line (6)

Dave: Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux

Analysis: While many are arguing over rookie Carlos Davis and Daniel McCullers as to who will make the squad, last season’s practice squad fixture Henry Mondeaux sneaks onto the 53-man roster instead.

Jeff: Same

Analysis: I have openly said on our podcasts that I think McCullers time with the team is up, and I meant it. However, Mondeaux is really going to have to show something to beat out the Shade Tree.

Outside Linebacker (5)

Dave: T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Alex Highsmith, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Tuzar Skipper

Analysis: These five are really the only players they have on the roster right now unless one of the XFL players slides out from defensive line. The only way this changes is if the Steelers find and keep another inside linebacker as they usually keep nine between the two.

Jeff: Same

Analysis: Agreeing with Dave is frustrating...

Inside Linebacker (4)

Dave: Vince Williams, Devin Bush, Ulysees Gilbert III, Robert Spillane

Analysis: This is one position the Steelers could still bring in a player, but for now these are the four with which they will roll.

Jeff: Robert Spillane out, Free Agent in

Analysis: I don’t think Spillane is the answer, as it pertains to quality depth. And I think the Steelers will go out and get another player to help fill out the ILB depth.

Cornerback (5)

Dave: Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne,

Analysis: The Steelers usually keep 10 defensive backs. I would keep a sixth corner, but other than undrafted rookie Trajan Bandy, no one really jumps out to take the spot.

Jeff: Same

Analysis: The Steelers have one of the best secondaries in the league...no need to change it.

Safety (5)

Dave: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Dangerfield, Antoine Brooks Jr., Marcus Allen,

Analysis: If the Steelers only have five corners to keep, then all five of the safeties should be safe. If not, Marcus Allen could be back on the practice squad again in 2020.

Jeff: Marcus Allen out

Analysis: I could see the Steelers keeping just 4 safeties if it means they carry another offensive linemen, or another position. Allen has had multiple shots to make his impact on the roster, and has never lived up to the hype.

Total Defense: 25 Special Teams

Specialists (3)

Dave: Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry, Kameron Canaday

Analysis: Although I’m not convinced Jordan Barry will be punting for the Steelers this season, I’m not sure Corliss Waitman is the person to take the job. If he loses it, it will probably be to someone who is cut from another NFL team before the start of the season.

Jeff: Jordan Berry out, anyone who can kick in

Analysis: The Steelers brought in competition at the punter position, and I just pray he is good enough to supplant Berry.

Total Team: 53

Six teams on the 2020 schedule the Steelers historically have had trouble defeating

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

BTSC lists the teams from the 2020 schedule that the Steelers have struggled the most against throughout history.

In every profession, there are situations, clients or specific aspects of the job that you do better with than others. Then there are the ones that rarely go right. The first half of the Steelers’ 87-year history was chock-full of teams that dominated Rooney’s Renegades. That is a major reason why the Steelers have losing records against a majority of NFC squads. In this submission, BTSC lists the teams on the 2020 slate of games that have given a heartburn to Steeler Nation much like that netted from Polish sausage and pierogi weekend bender. Here are the teams that make necessary the Tums.

New York Giants (30-44-3 .409) Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Giants are one of those teams that owned the Steelers early and often. Pittsburgh was 2-14-1 against the New York Football Giants from 1933-1941. In recent times, the Steelers own a 6-4 record (2-1 in Tomlin era) since against the other storied franchise family that can claim Kate and Rooney Mara. These teams are scheduled to square off at MetLife on Monday Night Football to open the season on September 14.

Denver Broncos (11-20-1 .359) Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The AFC team that the Steelers really have struggled against most in their history is the Denver Broncos. In the beginning, Pittsburgh went 0-3-1 against the Mile Highers and have never really caught up. The Steelers have also only won three of eight playoff games against Denver, but the two teams split their AFC Championship series...a Denver road win after 1997 and a Black and Gold victory in the rarified air to go to Super Bowl XL. Recent Bronco activity has been tough on Steeler Nation as well. Mike Tomlin has a 2-5 record against the blue and orange and the Steelers have only won six of twenty since 1985. The two teams are officially scheduled to play again in Week Two at home.

Philadelphia Eagles (28-48-3 .373) Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Eagles inclusion on the Steelers schedule has clipped theIr wings throughout time. It wasn’t always that way though, as the Steelers took six of seven from their in-state rivals from 1934-1937. But then things got real bad and the Eagles have dominated throughout the history of the two PA teams. Since the last time the western team won out east in 1965, the Steelers have gone 5-13 against Phily. Mike Tomlin is 1-2 against the green clad devils and the teams will reunite Week Five at Heinz Field.

Washington Redskins (33-42-3 .442) Photo by John McDonnell / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Against the Redskins, the Steelers are 33-42-3 since 1933. But in recent times, Steeler Nation enjoys seeing Washington on their schedule. They have won six-straight dating back to 1997 and are 8-3 since 1973. However, the series started off with the Steelers going 4-19 against the Redskins from 1933-1945. The two teams will battle again on December 8th in Pittsburgh.

Jacksonville Jaguars (12-14 .462) Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thrust into an AFC Central rivalry with a loss in 1995, the Steelers and Jags have swapped big blows for almost 25 years. The Steelers won a thriller in 2018, but Jacksonville has devestatingly knocked Mike Tomlin’s team out of the playoffs twice (2007, 2017). Tomlin is 4-3 against the Northern Florida team and despite no longer being in the same division...the rivalry is real and will recommence on November 22 in Duval.

Dallas Cowboys (15-17 .469) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Just like against the Saints two seasons ago, the Steelers lost an absolute heartbreaker to Dallas in 2016 that would have evened the series between teams with a rich Super Bowl history and out-of-conference rivalry. In the series that included Steelers wins in SB X and XIII and a loss in SB XXX, there have been stretches of dominance by both teams. Mike Tomlin is 1-2 in his history against “America’s Team” (a title the Rooney Family rejected) and the Steelers are only 2-6 against them since 1991. The two teams will face off again November 8th in Dallas.

While some of these teams listed aren’t true tormentors of the Steelers now like they were in the early days of the NFL, teams like the Eagles, Broncos and Jaguars have had Pittsburgh’s number as of late. However, the Steelers could be favored against all three this season and bridge the gap. So streaks may happen and fortunes could change. Just be aware of history the next time you see these teams listed on the game slates.

Alex Highsmith is the polar opposite of the man he was drafted to replace

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Fresh out of the box Alex Highsmith is nothing like the player he was drafted to replace, former Steelers OLB Anthony Chickillo.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are absolutely loaded at the outside linebacker position. They have DPOY candidate T.J. Watt on one side and the presently franchise tagged Bud Dupree on the other. They represent arguably the best pass rushing duo in the league, especially at OLB.

Currently the Steelers have inexperienced potential waiting in the wings as depth for their superior starters. The returning backups are Ola Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper, two unproven training camp darlings who have flashed impressive pass rushing abilities of their own, admittedly in a limited sample size.

Last season's main backup at both OLB position, Anthony Chickillo; the same player that unbelievably had been offered and signed a two year contract prior to last season, was released this off season after another year of underwhelming production. The Steelers renowned affection for familiarity and continuity are the only logical explanation for signing Chickillo to that two year contract.

Although Chickillo was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers for five seasons, I struggle to recall a single impact play he provided during his time on the field. Before certain individuals heads explode, let me specify I am referring to his contributions on defense. He was a quality special teams contributor, and I seem to recall a blocked punt and a fumble recovery or two, but that's about it.

I had high hopes for the young man when he arrived out of Miami. The Steelers brass believed he had been playing out of position at defensive end for the Hurricanes and that he could flourish after dropping some weight and moving to OLB. It made sense to me, and I believed the Steelers knew what they were doing. I even told myself to be patient because of the necessary position change, so I waited. Everyone in Steelers Nation patiently waited for something that never happened.

It has to have happened in five years, right? At some point, he had to have found himself with a favorable matchup that should have allowed him the opportunity to shine, to make a splash play. Isn't that the knock on Adeniyi and Skipper, they make big plays during the preseason, but it's insignificant because it is against third string longshots or future insurance salesmen. The problem is I can't recall Chickillo making a one on one impact play against any opponent, preseason or not.

Chickillo represented a body in a Steelers uniform across the line of scrimmage from the opposition. He allowed the Steelers to have eleven defenders on the field whenever they needed to spell a starter, and nothing more. He absorbed the action, only making a play if the action flowed into his section of the field. Like a unmotivated little leaguer who the coach tries to hide in right field, praying that nobody hits the ball in his direction. Make a few special teams tackles, again only when the action falls into your lap, and keep drawing an NFL paycheck for five years. It's great work if you can get it.

The Steelers drafted Alex Highsmith from UNC Charlotte to fill the void after releasing Chickillo. Nobody knows what type of player that Highsmith will eventually develop into, but I feel certain about one thing. Highsmith is the polar opposite of Chickillo as a player. He is a high octane performer who will impact the play whenever he is on the field. He doesn't absorb the action, he influences the action and creates an impact.

I had a coach who once made this statement about a high energy novice newcomer of a teammate, "He has no idea what he is doing, but he is definitely doing something!" Is that really too much to ask? Maybe you overrun the play, or get caught out of position, but at least everyone can see you are going all out to make a play. Whether it be good or bad, at least you are making some kind of impact.

I wholeheartedly believe that Alex Highsmith will eventually be a starting OLB for the Pittsburgh Steelers and will become a fan favorite right out of the gate due to his all out effort and passion for the game, but only time will tell. I admit I have been wrong before, if only once or twice.

For sake of comparison, consider Indianapolis Colts MLB Darius Leonard. Although they play different positions, Leonard and Highsmith both are small school standouts who blossomed late due to an insane work ethic and the overwhelming internal drive to be a success. I remember many BTSC members basically praying that the Steelers would select Leonard, so much so I tried to learn more about the young man. His intensity was impossible to ignore. The only question was how his impressive abilities would translate to the NFL and the step up in talent. Leonard has more than answered all those questions, and has become arguably the best interior linebacker in the NFL.

Highsmith has many of the same qualities as Darius Leonard. We can only hope that he has anything close to a similar impact. However, I would warn against limiting his potential impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers based solely on his small school career and former walk on status. Many opponents made the same assumptions, and paid the price for that mistake.

Alex Highsmith will make a lasting impression on the Steelers faithful this season. He will make an impact on the field when given the opportunity, whether it be good or bad. His style of play is impossible to ignore.

Will Mason Rudolph finally get the 2020 season he needed in 2019?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In one offseason, Rudolph went from inactive to starter which was obviously not the plan

Throughout the 2020 offseason, the three main faces of the Pittsburgh Steelers front office— Team President Art Rooney II, General Manager Kevin Colbert, and Head Coach Mike Tomlin— have all gone on record about their confidence in Mason Rudolph as the Steelers back-up quarterback for the upcoming season. While many fans are quite skeptical of Rudolph after his struggles in 2019, the team has not wavered in their feelings of Rudolph to fulfill the role.

One of the biggest inhibitors with Rudolph for the 2019 season was he was thrust into action much sooner than anyone anticipated. A rookie in 2018, Rudolph reserved the third quarterback role for the entire season as he was not active for a single regular-season game for the Steelers. The Steelers used Josh Dobbs as their backup quarterback on game days as Dobbs had a year of experience on Rudolph as he had been the third quarterback the previous season. But for 2019, Rudolph and Dobbs switched roles as Rudolph earned the job to back up Ben Roethlisberger for the season.

Although 2019 was Rudolph’s second year in the NFL, many classified him more as a rookie. Being the third quarterback on the roster does not give a player much practice time during the regular season in order to gain experience. With the majority of the time for the quarterback going to the starter and then trying to get every valuable snap they can to prepare a back up, focusing on the third-string quarterback is not something most NFL teams can afford.

A prime example of a third quarterback not getting enough practice time occurred with the Steelers just last season. After Mason Rudolph replaced Devlin Hodges in Week 16 only to leave the game with a season-ending injury, some fans hoped the Steelers may start third-string quarterback Paxton Lynch. But in his weekly press conference, Head Coach Mike Tomlin admitted the team was not comfortable with going with Lynch due to his very limited amount of work with the team due to the nature of being the third quarterback. Throw in the fact the Steelers haven’t had an official quarterbacks coach for the last two seasons, the third person on the depth chart is not getting nearly the preparation needed in order to jump straight to being a starter.

After a rookie season in which Mason Rudolph got very limited practice time during the regular season, 2019 was supposed to be his year to learn and grow. Perhaps he might have been called into some spot duty throughout the season, but Rudolph was not expected to have to come into the game in his second regular-season contest in which he was active, let alone be the starter for the remainder of the season. In essence, Rudolph jumped from number three to number one in 1.5 regular season games.

2019 should have been a great opportunity for Rudolph. Getting more practice reps throughout the regular season would have been the most obvious plus. With Ben Roethlisberger taking at least one day off each week throughout the preseason and regular season, Rudolph was the prime candidate to take almost every other snap available. But instead of having a year with better opportunity for growth, Rudolph was cast into the fire very early.

While many Steelers’ fans are ready to complete the story on Rudolph as they have decided he will never even be an adequate back up for the NFL, there is a lot more potential for growth in his career. Should Ben Roethlisberger return to form and remain healthy for the majority of the 2020 season, Rudolph should be able to gain valuable practice experience and maybe play in some spot duties throughout the season. Add in the fact he has a quarterbacks coach for the upcoming season, Rudolph has a chance to grow even more than he would have in 2019.

I would find it very difficult to find a true Steelers’ fan who wants to see Rudolph have to come in and start an extensive number of games in the 2020 season. We are all pulling for the return of Ben Roethlisberger to lead the Steelers on another Super Bowl run. But if called in to limited duty along the way, hopefully Mason Rudolph can continue to grow throughout the season and help the Steelers in the event he has to be called upon. But if the perfect situation arises, hopefully Rudolph gets to learn throughout the season and can start in a meaningless game Week 17 in Cincinnati.

Podcast: How will virtual workouts hinder the Steelers’ rookie class?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “Home and Hater” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over, and the Steelers lost their final game by losing to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, ending their record at 8-8.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Home and Hater Show. On this show Jeff Hartman and Lance Williams break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • How will virtual workouts hinder the Steelers’ rookie class?
  • Week in Review
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Anthony McFarland has always looked up to Le’Veon Bell, but will wear No. 26 differently

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft is officially over. After finishing last year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, have another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how Steelers rookie RB Anthony McFarland grew up idolizing Le’Veon Bell, but wants to create his own path as a running back wearing No. 26 for the black-and-gold.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers have a new No. 26, but he shouldn’t be compared to the old No. 26 who ran the football.

Steelers’ Anthony McFarland ‘idolizes’ Le’Veon Bell, but will forge own path as No. 26

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

He’s been given high praise on a national stage by a legend at his position. A college teammate who’s joined him in the pros can’t say enough good things about him. A prominent new teammate has taken a liking to him, and he has quite the “in” with a notable member of his new offensive coaching staff.

Two weeks into his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers, it seems Anthony McFarland can do no wrong. Even if he hasn’t yet been on so much as a practice field and even if he somewhat-unwittingly added an extra layer of pressure via his choice of uniform number.

McFarland, a running back, will wear No. 26 for the Steelers. The same number that Le’Veon Bell wore for the team while accumulating almost 8,000 yards from scrimmage and two first-team All Pro honors over five seasons for the team.

“I watch his game, I study his film as somebody who’s been a great back in the league for a long time,” McFarland said during a video conference call with media Saturday. “It’s definitely me looking up at him and not a sign of disrespect.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Sports without fans? That sounds awful, and you know it.

John Steigerwald: Sports without fans will be dreadful, and we all know it

By: John Steigerwald, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Good for the NFL.

The league, after taking major heat for holding its draft as scheduled at the end of April, released its 2020 schedule Thursday with the intention of starting the season on time.

The big question, of course, is will fans be allowed to attend the games?

If not, the NFL should forget it. Write off the 2020 season.

Same goes for MLB, the NHL, NBA and NCAA football. I know, the planet has never gone this long without having sports to watch even if you count UFC, but the contrived versions of seasons being proposed in baseball, hockey and basketball are ridiculous.

Obviously, there is too much money to be saved by playing some facsimile of a season for them not to give it a try, but what’s being planned without fans will be dreadful.

The novelty of games without fans will wear off quickly and who, other than the most die-hard fan, is going to want to watch regular-season hockey played in an empty arena in July and August?

Will this season’s Stanley Cup Final be played in an empty building? Imagine Sidney Crosby skating around the rink with the Cup in an empty PPG Paints Arena.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Mike Tomlin “extremely confident” Ben Roethlisberger will be ready

By: Darin Gantt, ProFootballTalk

The Steelers now know which teams they’re supposed to play and when, and the hope is that when that time comes, Ben Roethlisberger will be there.

The latest expression of optimism came from coach Mike Tomlin.

During an interview on NFL Network, Tomlin said all the signs were positive regarding his quarterback

“As we sit here today, we are extremely confident in his readiness,” Tomlin said, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We are enjoying the process that he’s going through right now. Obviously, it’s not without its angst. The guy is coming off a season-ending injury and surgery. But we like where we are. He’s throwing on a rehab schedule, and it’s going well, and we fully anticipate him being ready to go for that opener.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

A look at the opening lines for the 2020 regular season

A message to all Steelers mothers out there

Derwin Gray, a forgotten prospect for the Steelers

Should Cam Newton be on the Steelers’ radar?

A look at an Ivy League route to the NFL

  • Social Media Madness

Connie Watt & Cookie Edmunds caught up with @missi_matthews to talk about motherhood, their sons and the NFL!

Full : https://t.co/jLfzsyF0fr@_TJWatt | @DerekWatt34 | @rell_island6 | #MothersDay pic.twitter.com/r6fzQCCa3A

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 10, 2020

"We hope your day is as special to you as you are as special to us every single day!"@_TJWatt, @DerekWatt34, @rell_island6 & Trey Edmunds wish a Happy #MothersDay to their Moms and to Moms everywhere! pic.twitter.com/K40tM5a1BL

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 10, 2020

Happy Mother’s Day to my beautiful mama, you deserve it all! I Love you !! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/6TpisvbHOD

— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) May 11, 2020

Our 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣0️⃣ season schedule..

..in photos from our last meeting with each opponent!#HereWeGo

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 10, 2020

Opening lines for the Steelers complete 2020 schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/10/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Since the draft and the release of the 2020 schedule, the lines have only moves very slightly in two of the Steelers’ games

As soon as the NFL schedule comes out every year, many experts, as well as fans, quickly jump on the chance at predicting the teams record for the upcoming season. We here at Behind The Steel Curtain were no different as several of our podcasters gave their predictions for the 2020 season. But choosing teams to win or lose a game is one thing, but the real lucrative ability of predicting games comes in choosing correctly against the spread.

Now that the NFL schedule has been released, the oddsmakers at BetOnline have released their team-by-team betting lines for the entire 2020 season. Although the lines based on opponents had already been published back in April, taking into account new players added in the NFL draft as well as the timing of when games are played can move lines slightly even this far removed from the upcoming season.

When it comes to the Steelers and their odds for the 2020 season, very little has changed since the release of the NFL schedule. In fact, only two games had a change in the line out of all 16. In both games, the only change came as 0.5 points in one direction or the other.

Originally, the Steelers were favored by 2.5 points against the New York Giants before the schedule was released. Opening the season on Monday Night Football in New York, the Steelers are now favored by 3 points.

The only other change came in the Steelers Week 2 match up against the Denver Broncos. Originally a 5.5-point favorite against Denver, the odds have dipped slightly as the Steelers are now 5-point favorites in their home opener.

It’s not uncommon for the only lines to move to occur in the first couple of games of the season. As the season progresses, the rest of the lines will go all over the place based on injuries and team performances on the field.

For reference sake, here is the Steelers current betting odds for all 16 of the regular-season games now that the schedule has been released. Just like the lines established earlier in April, the Steelers are favored in 10 games and underdogs in six. Favored in seven of their eight home games, the Steelers are favored in only three games on the road.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) @ New York Giants
Denver Broncos @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-5)
Houston Texans @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2) @ Tennessee Titans
Philadelphia Eagles @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-1½)
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-3½)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+7) @ Baltimore Ravens
BYE
Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) @ Dallas Cowboys
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-9½)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers (+2½)
Washington Redskins @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-10)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2½) @ Buffalo Bills
Pittsburgh Steelers (-4) @ Cincinnati Bengals
Indianapolis Colts @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-2½)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+1) @ Cleveland Browns

A Letter From the Editor: A Mother’s Day message to Steelers Nation

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/10/2020 - 10:40am
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is not only vast, but diverse. Here is a shout out to all the mothers who don the black-and-gold and are proud of it!

Ah Mother’s Day. A day to celebrate the women who brought us into the world. For some, it is a day of remembrance. For others, it is a chance to pick up the phone and call, or visit, their mom and thank them in person for all they’ve done for them.

During the 5 years I have been the captain of his ship, I have seen, and read, how many mothers were the ones who brought their children up donning the black-and-gold. Maybe your mother didn’t have a hand in your becoming a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but we all can understand the role they played in our lives.

As for me, my mother wasn’t the die hard fan who got me involved with the Steelers, that was my father. But she was the one who had to put up with me spouting statistics about Barry Foster in 1994, how Neil O’Donnell was clearly paid off in Super Bowl XXX and even how the dog bite rumors surrounding Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 were nothing but rumors.

She always listened, then told me to get back to my work. On occasion, I would get the, “If you only put your mind towards something valuable.” comment, but that wasn’t that often.

My mom has become a fan of the site, a viewer of our podcasts and I feel she has become a more Steelers fan because of that. None of it would have happened if she didn’t tolerate me as an adolescent who was obsessed with all things Pittsburgh.

Now to another very important mother in my life, my wife. While my own mother put up with me as a kid, my wife has to put up with me as an adult. She is the perfect counterbalance to me, and raising our 5 children. She puts up with NFL Draft weekend, the regular season and night games when I don’t get to bed till almost 2 a.m.

There was a time when she would roll her eyes when I said I had to go write an article, but now she understands it is all part of the job. She puts up with all of it, and more often than not puts my job ahead of her wants/needs.

For that, and so much more, I am forever grateful.

I give the fans reading this the comment section below to tell tales of their own mothers, whether they are related to the Pittsburgh Steelers or not, and celebrate them any way you can.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

Steelers Derwin Gray is an intriguing, although seemingly forgotten, prospect

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/10/2020 - 9:20am
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers Derwin Gray, after making the most of a redshirt season on the practice squad, is better prepared to compete for a roster spot on the field this season.

Prior to the 2020 NFL Draft, there was a lot of discussion about the Pittsburgh Steelers presumed lack of depth along the offensive line, especially on the interior. Some concern felt warranted, taking into account the retirement of longtime starting G Ramon Foster and the free agency loss of position flexible B.J. Finney. The loss of two talented and durable interior linemen is in no way insignificant and their absence is sure to be felt, both on the field and in the locker room.

However, the free agency acquisition of proven veteran G/C Stefen Wisniewski and the selection of G Kevin Dotson in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft should go a long way toward addressing the aforementioned losses. If Wisniewski can fill Finney's old role as quality depth at all three interior positions, the role that best suits his abilities and what I believe the Steelers had in mind when signing him, then the Steelers definitely got noticeably younger on an aging offensive line that needs to start injecting some youth into the group. Dotson may not be ready to start right out of the gate from day one, but it sounds like the Steelers are more than willing to ease him into the fray to see what he can do.

Reliable T Matt Feiler was the Steelers best offensive lineman last season, and his impressive versatility will be invaluable as the Steelers try to determine a starting unit this season. Throw in tackle prospects Chuks Okorafor and Zack Banner with established starters and former Pro Bowlers Pouncey, Decastro, and Villanueva; and you have the makings of an impressive offensive line.

With that being said, there just maybe even more good news on the horizon. Seemingly forgotten from the 2019 NFL Draft class, seventh round selection Derwin Gray is preparing to unveil his talents to the Steel City faithful after a season spent learning and honing his craft as a member of the Steelers practice squad.

The Steelers decision makers utilized their unique relationship with the Maryland Terrapin's football program to sneak a peak behind the scenes and identified two prospects they felt were good fits for their immediate plans moving forward. They selected RB Anthony McFarland and LB/S Antoine Brooks in this year's draft class. They no doubt benefited from this same connection with the selection of Derwin Gray the year prior.

Derwin Gray is like any late round selection or UDFA, an unknown commodity. Therefore, the more information that can be acquired on the prospect the better. I gave Gray's initial selection a B grade in my Grading the Pick article immediately after the draft. I thought he offered solid value as a developmental project who potentially could become at least a solid depth piece in the future. I accurately predicted that an inevitable redshirt season would be required and beneficial. He wisely spent his first professional season learning at the feet of inspirational overachiever Ramon Foster. The value of those sessions about football and life should not be underestimated.

The Steelers knew prior to the 2019 Draft that Gray had been dealing with an undisclosed injury throughout his senior season and that it undoubtedly affected his on the field performance. The time spent on the practice squad allotted Gray an opportunity to heal physically and adjust mentally to the professional game. His time spent with Foster and his fellow teammates helped in his maturation process. Sometimes being forced to watch from the sidelines as your team runs into battle will ignite your passion for the game that may have slightly diminished after years of taking the opportunity for granted.

Derwin Gray is an intriguing prospect. He possess a massive frame with extremely long arms that he uses to their full advantage. Although he is more agile than he looks, many scouts projected a shift to the interior in the NFL due to a perceived lack of quickness and to maximize the impact of his superior girth and arm length. If Gray's agility and movement skills have improved ever so slightly due to improved health and conditioning achieved during his time on the practice squad, then I see no reason he would need to be shifted to the interior. That being said, Gray's top heavy build and limited lateral agility seems to suggest he should be viewed as a right tackle only if manning an outside position. His aforementioned skill set makes him an intriguing interior prospect as well.

As we know, the Steelers value versatility in their offensive linemen. The Steelers apparently haven't felt the need as of yet to designate Gray another position. He is currently listed as a tackle on the official depth chart.

As this unbelievable and unpredictable off season progresses, it will be interesting to see if Gray receives reps at both guard and tackle during training camp. That would be the first insight into how the Steelers coaching staff views both Gray's ability to make an immediate impact on the roster and a glimpse into their plans for him into the future.

From The Iliad to “The Duke”: How the Ivy League Shapes Football Players for the NFL—and Beyond

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/10/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Current and former Ivy League NFL players detail how their collegiate careers led them to success—both on and off the field—as well as helped to create everlasting bonds.

NOTE: This article, per se, doesn’t relate directly to the Steelers. Feel free to read it, though, to witness really unique journeys to the NFL as well as what players do to better their communities, both away from the game and after retiring!

To start the 2020 season, the Steelers are projected to have at least 9 SEC players, 9 Big Ten alumni, 7 ACC products and even 6 former Mid-American Conference (MAC) participants.

In the entire NFL, there were just 22 Ivy League alums to make a roster entering the 2019 season; only 18 played just one regular season snap a year ago.

Across the country, there are a plethora of “small school” conferences, including the aforementioned MAC, Mountain West, Conference-USA and even the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

However, none has fewer—and more distinct—participants than the Ivy League.

To transition from some of the nation’s most antiquated and erudite college campuses to raucous, avant-garde stadiums is a marvel in and of itself. But those who have ventured from Ivy League football to the pros don’t just enable themselves to excel in the NFL—they often look decades beyond.

When Joe Valerio was recruited by the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) Quakers in 1986, he was allured by the program’s undefeated record that season and its history of fabled names like John Heisman, Chuck Bednarik, Skip Minisi and more.

What most fascinated Valerio, though, was not just being close to his native Philadelphia, but Penn’s rigorous curriculum.

“I think academically for me, Penn was a really good fit because they have the Wharton School—I did take some Wharton classes,” Valerio, the former First-Team All-American offensive lineman and 2005 Penn Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee, said. “I just felt like, for me, it provided an academic environment that was diverse and it was also what I felt would’ve met my post-graduate needs as far as where I would like to work.”

A second round pick by Kansas City in 1991, Valerio was able to enjoy 4 seasons with the Chiefs between 1992-95, though his NFL tenure took an unexpected turn after a severe back injury in a 1996 preseason matchup against the Dallas Cowboys in Monterrey, Mexico.

For Valerio, the recovery process was painstaking; moreover, the premature birth of his triplet daughters incentivized the 6’5” O-Lineman to retire at just 27 years old.

But the journey for Valerio was far from over: in fact, it was just beginning.

Valerio quickly put good use to his Penn economics degree, earning jobs within the insurance industry with corporations such as Marsh, Wells Fargo Insurance Services, TD Bank Insurance and Willis Towers Watson, where he has served as a Regional Operations Officer since 2018.

In fact, Valerio’s quest for higher learning has proliferated to this day. He is currently in the process of earning his MBA from Villanova University, and even serves as an adjunct professor of Leadership in Sports at Arcadia University.

What allowed Valerio to transition from signing crimson helmets to bank checks? A strong, nurturing nexus of Penn alumni.

“Any time I would look to a new career to try something different, the Penn community was always there with a helping hand; [I could] talk to somebody who was in a hiring position who was a Penn grad,” Valerio said.

For individuals like Valerio, the rigor of Ivy League institutions proved fruitful post-playing days. But for others—like Columbia University alum Josh Martin—success outside the hashes has come before hanging up his cleats.

Martin was drawn to Columbia due to its campus being located within a cosmopolitan hub: New York City.

“The city energizes me,” Martin, a current free agent who totaled 17 sacks in three years for the Lions, said. The thought of being around billions of other people that come here [to New York] every year to pursue their dreams or people that are actively pursuing their dreams. This is the place where I wanted to be.”

Since going undrafted in 2013, Martin has spent time with a bevy of teams, including the Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and most recently the New Orleans Saints. Martin signed a one-year deal with New Orleans in 2019 but tore his labrum in the preseason and did not partake in regular season or postseason action.

After traveling more than he did within the confines of Columbia’s concrete campus, Martin was finally able to settle in with the New York Jets from 2016-18 and even started 9 contests in 2017.

Martin’s return to New York wasn’t just special because of flourishing on the field; he was able to return to Columbia and visit jazz clubs in New York City, a concept that helped reignite his interest in music.

As a high schooler, Martin “would skip [football] practice to go to band rehearsal”; recently, he was able to rekindle such passion by joining the Harlem School of the Arts as a member of the organization’s Board of Directors.

Martin hasn’t just explored euphonious tunes when not assailing opposing quarterbacks, though.

Through the help of his agency, VaynerSports, Martin has been able to produce video series such as “First Down and Life” and “First Down Feasts”; hosts “Journey For More,” a podcast devoted to gaining insightful tidbits of knowledge through a variety of guests; and even is working on “Making America,” a documentary about America’s myriad of cultures.

“Taking that team player mentality from football and applying it to other ventures,” Martin details as his overarching goal. “At the root of everything, it’s about building community, recognizing that whatever I do, it’s possible because of others.”

Even for those who are neophytes to the NFL, further, the Ivy League has already deeply resonated with them.

Isiah Swann, Dartmouth College’s all-time interception leader and an undrafted free agent signee of Pittsburgh’s rival Cincinnati Bengals, adulated his colleagues in Hanover, New Hampshire. But the former Big Green cornerback was especially impressed by how athletes were treated no differently than other students on Dartmouth’s campus.

“There’s no favoritism with football players,” Swann said. “You don’t have any special privileges. I kind of like it that way. That’s what you want: you want everyone to be treated equally.”

As he entered the 2020 NFL Draft process—especially in the unprecedented COVID-19 era—Swann needed a crutch who could deeply relate to him. He found exactly that in Vernon Harris, a former Dartmouth cornerback who signed with the Chiefs out of college.

Both Valerio and Martin, too, were able to utilize the bond of Ivy League football to connect with other Ivy League players and hopefuls, especially from their alma maters.

“From a Penn perspective, we call it the ‘Penn Brotherhood,’” Valerio said. “I think Penn football has an incredible brotherhood of alums that stick together and really take care of each other in times of needs, in times [not of] need, where we really look after each other from a career perspective and a personal perspective.”

Valerio has also been able to connect with former Quakers Brandon Copeland—a linebacker for the New England Patriots—and Justin Watson—a receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—at Penn Football Banquets and other awards ceremonies.

Likewise, Martin hosted an Instagram Live interview session in April with 2020 Draft prospects Niko Lalos (former Dartmouth defensive end; UDFA signing with the New York Giants), Michael Hoecht (former Brown University defensive lineman; UDFA signing with the Los Angeles Rams) and Daniel DeLorenzi (Columbia all-time sack leader; remains unsigned). As he entered the Draft himself in 2013, Martin was able to connect with former Lions defensive end and current Fox Sports 1 “Speak For Yourself” host Marcellus Wiley.

There is no shortage of Ivies who have flourished in the NFL. Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Harvard University), San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk (Harvard), Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter (Cornell University), former Patriots fullback James Develin (Brown) and more have enjoyed Pro Bowl selections and Super Bowl rings throughout their professional careers.

What has allowed these sublime stars to shine so brightly? Their wits may be the answer.

“I feel like it’s a technical game now, so I feel like their smarts really help them and enhance their athletic ability,” Swann said.

At the same time, what truly distinguishes Ivy League athletics is that no athletes are awarded scholarships for their sports. As such, players’ success in the American northeast may translate well due to tenacious motivation and a true love for the game.

“They’re [Ivy Leaguers] playing football because they love the game,” Valerio posited. “It gives [an NFL] coach an opportunity to have somebody on the roster that is never going to take anything for granted.”

While suiting up at Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium, Martin was able to find inspiration via the pursuit of excellence of his diligent classmates. His Columbia pupils, in fact, still drive him today.

“I have classmates that reach out to me to help with their different endeavors, whether it’s creating a video for their nonprofit or having a conversation to offer their students or kids that they work with,” Martin said. “It’s just an inspiration seeing what some of my classmates are accomplishing now.”

Ultimately, the ability to receive world-class instruction while honing pass blocking skills and tackling prowess is what truly makes Ivy League football unique.

Valerio, Martin and Swann concur that looking up at an Ivy League diploma each day is what makes playing Ivy League football truly worth it.

But it’s more than just a simple document: Valerio feels strongly that the Ivy League provides an unparalleled experience and is the paragon of learning for life.

“You’re not gonna play in front of 50,000 people; you’re not going to go to the Fiesta Bowl and the Rose Bowl.

“But the level of football that you will play is fantastic, competitive football. You couple that you’re going to be able to hang on your wall an Ivy league degree and be able to use that advantage for the rest of your life. It’s the ultimate combination of being a student-athlete.”

Pages

Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator