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The Pittsburgh Steelers official 2020 regular season schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 6:39pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Steelers 2020 schedule has been released!!

The time is here. No more guessing on when the Pittsburgh Steelers will play those critical AFC North divisional games. No more wondering when the Steelers will have their annual bye week.

The waiting is over as the NFL has released the official 2020 regular season schedules for all 32 teams. Time to see who the Pittsburgh Steelers play, when they play and what time they take the field!

Please note many of these times are subject to change for a variety of reasons. First, flex scheduling can move games as it has in years past. Second, the current coronavirus pandemic could force the NFL into altering their plans and either eliminate, or push games back, to help make things safe for players and staff.

Time to check out the schedule!

Preseason HOF: vs Dallas in Canton, OH, Thursday 8 PM
Preseason Week 1: vs Tampa Bay, TBD
Preseason Week 2: vs New Orleans, 8 PM
Preseason Week 3: at New York Jets, TBD
Preseason Week 4: at Carolina, TBD

Week 1: at New York Giants, Monday 7:15 PM
Week 2: vs Denver, 1 PM
Week 3: vs Houston 1 PM
Week 4: at Tennessee, 1 PM
Week 5: vs Philadelphia, 1 PM
Week 6: vs Cleveland, 1 PM
Week 7: at Baltimore, 1 PM
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Dallas, 4:25 PM
Week 10: vs Cincinnati, 1 PM
Week 11: at Jacksonville, 1 PM
Week 12: vs. Baltimore, Thursday 8:20 PM (Thanksgiving)
Week 13: vs Washington, 1 PM
Week 14: at Buffalo, 8:20 PM
Week 15: at Cincinnati, Monday 8:15 PM
Week 16: vs Indianapolis, 1 PM
Week 17: at Cleveland, 1 PM

Be sure to let us know what you think of the schedule in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2020 season.

Is quarterback really the Steelers’ biggest roster hole heading into 2020?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several holes on their roster, but is quarterback the biggest?

The main wave of NFL Free Agency has come and gone, and the 2020 NFL Draft is now officially in the rear view mirror. In other words, team’s rosters won’t be changing much as the 2020 regular season approaches.

With rosters essentially set for the upcoming season, it is safe to look back at teams’ rosters and see where the might be holes to fill. Areas where the depth might be lacking.

In the NFL there isn’t a team in the league who doesn’t have holes on their roster. But that isn’t to suggest some teams have small holes, while other teams are sporting gaping holes in both their starting lineups and as it pertains to depth.

When talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are certainly positions which leave a lot to be desired, but the majority of these “holes” are found in the depth on the roster. Think about the projected starting lineup, and there really isn’t any one position which you see a starter who probably should be supplanted for someone else.

Now, when it comes to the depth of the team, that is a different story altogether. It begs the question of which position is the biggest hole on the team’s 2020 offseason roster. According to ESPN, they say it is quarterback.

Check out what they had to say:

Pittsburgh Steelers: Quarterback

The one team that did not touch its main pre-draft hole in this division was Pittsburgh, which is rolling with Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges as the members of the quarterback room. Roethlisberger has missed portions of four of the past five seasons and made several in-season cameos in which the “240 pounds” he was listed at appeared to be just a suggestion. We can understand that Steelers fans believe he’ll be good next season, and we’re not counting that out by any chance — there’s absolutely a scenario in which he plays 16 games and throws for 5,000 yards — but if he can’t stay healthy, the terrific remainder of this roster is going to be shackled with subpar quarterback play because we have no faith in the backups.

There are a lot of fans who would agree with quarterback being at the top of the list, but what about other positions? There are certainly some which leave fans feeling anything but confident heading into the new season.

Positions like...

Interior Offensive Line — When the Steelers watched B.J. Finney leave for the Seattle Seahawks, they lost that depth piece which helped keep them afloat at both Guard and Center. Now, the team is going to have to lean on Stefen Wisniewski for that role, but there is a good chance he is the starting LG to kickoff the season. If something were to happen to Maurkice Pouncey, it would mean a ton of movement along the line, which is never a good thing.

SafetyMinkah Fitzpatrick is the best young safety in the NFL, and Terrell Edmunds is a die hard who rarely misses a snap. Outside of the starting tandem, the pickings are slim. Marcus Allen, Jordan Dangerfield and other unknown-type players fill out the depth chart. Not a good position if one of the two starters goes down.

Inside Linebacker — The team let Mark Barron walk to save salary cap space, and now they are faced with Ulysees Gilbert III and Robert Spillane as the primary backups behind Devin Bush and Vince Williams. Let that sink in...

With that said, do you still feel quarterback is the biggest team hold on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 roster? Let us know what you think in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.

Let’s Make A Deal: A new contract for Alejandro Villanueva

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 11:00am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the Steelers and Villanueva can work out a deal to keep the left tackle in Pittsburgh, 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.

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 and JuJu Smith-Schuster, now let’s see what kind of contract Steelers’ fans would like to work out with Alejandro Villanueva rather than play the 2020 season on the final year of his current deal.

Alejandro Villanueva

Age: Will turn 32 in September
Years: 6, including practice squad
Draft: Undrafted
Previous Contract: $6 million average per year
2020 salary cap hit: $8.39 million
Dead Money: $3.39 million

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

Laremy Tunsil: $22 million
Anthony Castonzo: $16.5 million
Taylor Lewan: $16 million
Nate Solder: $15.5 million
D.J. Humphries: $14.75 million
Jake Matthews: $14.5 million

Villanueva ranked 24th 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 Big Al:

21. Laremy Tunsil: $22 million
22. Halapoulivaati Vaitai: $9 million
23. Duane Brown: $11.5 million
28. Andrew Whitworth: $10 million
29. Cornelius Lucas: $1.9 million
30. Dennis Kelly: $5.75 million

Notes: This is another questionable situation as Villanueva will be turning 32 during the season. How much time does he really have left at his age even though he has only played for five seasons? Earning Pro Bowl honors in 2017 and 2018, the Steelers have to decide how much of an investment they want to make an offensive lineman on the wrong side of 30. Would the Steelers be better off waiting to see how Villanueva performs in 2020 before having to make a major commitment? Or with the Steelers be wise to offer a small back-loaded extension somewhat similar to Ramon Foster in 2019?

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 Alejandro Villanueva going into the final year of his current 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: Matt Feiler.

NFL Schedule Release: The Steelers 2020 schedule will be released at 7:30pm ET

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 10:15am

A show specifically for the Steelers schedule will be aired before the league-wide release on NFL Network

The NFL is changing up their procedures for releasing the 2020 schedule later this evening. The 8 PM schedule release show on NFL Network is still taking place to discuss games across the league, but each franchise is permitted to do their own schedule release at 7:30 PM to specifically address their team’s schedule. For the Steelers, they will be having a schedule release show at 7:30 PM on Steelers.com and their social media platforms.

: We will announce our 2020 season schedule at 7:30 pm tonight
: We have to wait until 7:30 pm tonight

Plenty of special programming beginning at 7:30 pm on our digital/social platforms! Then tune into @nflnetwork at 8 pm for a schedule breakdown!https://t.co/JLom7hjAtw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 7, 2020

For the show, Steelers reporter Missi Matthews will be hosting along with Mike Prisuta and Craig Wolfley. Steelers team president Art Rooney II is expected to make an appearance to discuss the schedule. If fans are not able to view the episode live, it will be available on replay at Steelers.com.

For those who are unable to catch the show, Behind The Steel Curtain will publish the schedule on our website as soon as it is made available.

Additionally, Behind The Steel Curtain will be doing a special schedule release show on our YouTube channel at approximately 8 PM EST. Scheduled to appear are editor Jeff Hartman, deputy editor Dave Schofield, Bryan Anthony Davis, and Lance Williams. A link to the YouTube channel can be used HERE. To view the show, one can either go to the channel at 8 PM for the show or simply subscribe to the channel and turn on notifications to be given an alert when the show begins.

Roger Goodell’s memo to NFL teams includes preparations for team facilities to eventually open

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by NFL via Getty Images

The sports world remains on hiatus, but that might be ending soon, and the NFL will be ready to go when things open back up.

The sports world has been shut down since the end of March during the coronavirus pandemic which has had a stronghold on the world. But things are starting to shift. As people come to grips, and learn more, about the virus itself, sports teams/leagues are making plans to re-open.

Major League Soccer saw some teams resume practices recently, and the PGA Tour is slated to return to play at the beginning of June, without fans for the first four events.

Whether there will be fans in attendance for any of these events is up for debate, and won’t likely be resolved anytime soon, but sports are clearly on their way back sooner, rather than later.

But what about the NFL? Despite being in their offseason, fans are wondering if Organized Team Activities (OTAs), minicamps and even training camp will be going on as planned. On Wednesday, commissioner Roger Goodell shed some light on this topic in a memo sent to all 32 NFL teams regarding the reopening of team facilities.

“The protocols are intended to allow for a safe and phased reopening,” Goodell wrote. “The first phase would involve a number of non-player personnel. ... No players would be permitted in the facility except to continue a course of therapy and rehabilitation that was underway when facilities were initially closed.

“Clubs should take steps to have these protocols in place by Friday, May 15 in anticipation of being advised when club facilities will formally reopen.”

It should be noted that prior to the 2020 NFL Draft, Goodell was interviewed by NFL.com’s Judy Batista and stated how no team facility will be permitted to open until all team facilities are opened up according to their state law. So, if the state of Pennsylvania allows the Steelers and Eagles to return to work, but California has not lifted their ordinances, no NFL teams will be permitted to getting back to work. It is deemed as an unfair advantage.

“That principle remains intact,” McCarthy’s statement began. “This memo outlines the actions clubs will take to have the protocols in place by May 15. After that time, clubs will be advised when facilities could formally reopen. These steps include the clubs reviewing their plans with the appropriate state and local officials. It’s anticipated there will be further discussion on the reopening of facilities at the May 19 league owners virtual meeting.”

These are unprecedented times we are living in, and the NFL is being prepared to hit the ground running if/when all states are allowing businesses to re-open. When will that happen?

“It is impossible to project what the next few months will bring,” Goodell stated, but being prepared is a key step to this process for the NFL and all sports leagues preparing to resume play.

An open defense of JuJu Smith-Schuster

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Steelers No. 1 WR has become a target for fan frustration.

Recently there has been a lot of negative buzz about JuJu Smith-Schuster. Even his defenders admit that he had a bad season in 2019, and a lot of people want to take that bad season as the real JuJu Smith-Schuster, as evidence that he can’t be a #1 WR, and that the Steelers offense doesn’t have any star power outside of a QB that was drafted 16 years ago.

But that’s not the whole story, not by a long shot. There are a lot of good reasons to believe that JuJu Smith-Schuster will be a super-productive WR again in 2020. To start, let’s look at Ben Roethlisberger in his short 2019 campaign.

While Ben Roethlisberger was struggling, he wasn’t having a hard time getting the ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Against New England Smith-Schuster accounted for 78 yards, the 6th highest total the Patriots allowed all season, and the 2nd most in the first ten weeks of the season, when the Patriots were on pace to be the best defense in NFL history.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was producing with Ben Roethlisberger at QB, but what about when Mason Rudolph took over?

Through week 5, with Mason Rudolph at QB.

The numbers aren’t great for any of the receivers in those games, but if you look at the percentage of passing yards, JuJu Smith-Schuster was accounting for just under 30% of team passing yards, which is a really good share.

If we take that 29.4% of team passing yards and multiply it by the 2019 final total of 2981 passing yards, it comes out to 876 yards, that doesn’t seem like #1 WR territory.

But if you take that same percentage and multiply it by the passing yards the Steelers had in 2018, you get 1472 yards, more than Smith-Schuster actually recorded in 2018.

Receiver stats are always dependent on team passing stats, Antonio Brown’s highest percentage of team passing was 35%, 35% of the 2019 Steelers passing game would have been 1043 yards. Antonio Brown had 490 more yards than that in 2017, because the offense was better.

There’s a good counter-argument to this, that a great WR would boost the team’s passing game, but I would respond to that by pointing out the 2016 season, when Antonio Brown recorded the lowest totals between 2013, when he became the #1 WR, and his last year in Pittsburgh, 2018. In 2016 Antonio Brown’s receiving yards dropped almost 400 from his average the three previous seasons and dropped a full yard per target. In 2017 both his total yards and yards per target bounced back to where they had been.

The problem wasn’t Antonio Brown, but the offense around him, as the team’s WR depth fell apart and ended with Antonio Brown playing across from Cobi Hamilton, who would start 8 games for the Steelers in 2016 and record a total of 1 catch outside of that season.

As bad as Cobi Hamilton was, the gap between Martevis Bryant and Cobi Hamilton pales to the drop-off from Ben Roethlisberger to Mason Rudolph to Devlin Hodges. Against the best pass defense in the NFL a not very good Ben Roethlisberger put up 276 yards, the most the Steelers threw for in 2019. In the second game, as his elbow made it clear he couldn’t play with it anymore, Roethlisberger put up only 75 yards in the half he played, with JuJu Smith-Schuster accounting for 27 of them.

The Steelers QBs would not reach 240 passing yards in a game the rest of the season, and only three times would they throw for at least 200 yards. If JuJu Smith-Schuster had continued to produce like he did the first three weeks for 16 games, he would have amassed 1296 receiving yards. That’s the pace he was on, even while facing both the #1 and #2 passing defense of 2019 in New England with DPOY Stephon Gilmore covering him and the San Francisco 49ers.

JuJu Smith-Schuster injured his toe late in week 1, and continued to produce. Versus Cincinnati in week 4, he would play the 2nd fewest snaps since his breakout game against the Lions his rookie year, and be targeted even less in a runaway Steeler win. The next week in Baltimore the Steelers would lean heavily on Smith-Schuster, where he would account for 37.7% of team passing, the lone receiving TD and a ridiculous 27.9% of the Steelers entire offense. That game will be remembered most for his fumble at the end, but that game is a blowout loss without Smith-Schuster carrying the offense.

Against the Chargers with Devlin Hodges at QB, JuJu Smith-Schuster would only account for 7 yards in a game where the Steeler wide receivers accounted for a combined 30 yards on 9 targets. The next week was the bye week and JuJu Smith Schuster would put up 103 yards and a TD against Miami after a week of rest. He would not be much of a factor the rest of the season.

Injuries and the QB situation wrecked a season that had started off great for JuJu Smith-Schuster. He would end up missing games after sustaining multiple injuries against Cleveland, and while he would return for the final two games, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Devlin Hodges could not connect on anything, with 8 targets resulting in 6 yards gained and an interception. In the short time Mason Rudolph returned in week 16, Smith-Schuster caught 2 of 3 targets for 22 yards.

If he is healthy, and the quarterback isn’t Devlin Hodges, there’s no reason to doubt JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2020.

When it comes to the release of the Steelers 2020 schedule, perspective is key

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Steelers’ Nation has their thoughts on what they would like with the 2020 schedule, but what one set of fans hope to see may be different than others

There are so many things in life that come down to perspective. Since people always bring different experiences to any situation, how the details are viewed different greatly depend on the person. Even though most Steelers fans share an excitement for the upcoming season, the specifics of what they hope to learn when the schedule is released Thursday night can differ greatly from person to person.

Depending on from where fans live across the globe to traditions in making pilgrimages to Heinz Field each season, what each person looks for when the schedule is released varies across the board. For those covering the team, many local reporters have voice their displeasure in primetime games due to working late nights. For others, making sure a game is televised is the most important aspect.

My perspective is different conglomeration of several different things. First of all, I have to give a bit of a disclaimer that I realize it is quite the privilege to be a Steelers season ticket holder. I have now completed five seasons in which I have access to every home game in Pittsburgh. Although I hope to see different things when it comes to the Steeler schedule than what I did when I was just a regular fan, the last thing I want to do is come across as complaining about the situation. There is not much in this world I would trade in order to continue to call myself a Steelers season ticket holder. This is just one of my perspectives when it comes to the schedule.

Another perspective in which I view the Steelers and being able to watch their games is from someone who lives outside the Pittsburgh viewing area. Without access to NFL Sunday Ticket, I rely on Steelers games being broadcast on television as part of the national coverage. Another way I can catch the game is if the Baltimore Ravens happen to not be playing at the same time. Living in their viewing area, generally the Steelers game gets carried if Baltimore is not playing at the same time. So when the schedule comes out, I find myself comparing both the Steelers and the Ravens schedules in order to see if there’s a chance I will be able to catch the Steelers game each week.

One last perspective I have been looking at the schedule for the Steelers is that of someone who is covering the game for behind the steel curtain. With post game analysis and the need for articles for immediately following the game as well as the next day, I know the conclusion of each game, regardless of time, will be devoted to bringing the best possible content here at BTSC.

I’m sure many steelers fans across the country anticipate the black and gold playing in primetime so they are guaranteed to have the game available. But since I’ve become a season ticket holder, I look at the schedule in hopes of games which may not be the best scenario for the Steelers.

First of all, I always check to see when the Steelers are stuck playing on Thursday night. Although I’m happy to be able to see the Steelers, I know a home game is preferable since road teams have a major disadvantage when preparing for a short week. But in looking at this situation as a season ticket holder, I end up hoping the Steelers are on the road for the Thursday game. Additionally, any primetime game is better as a road game.

Even if I lived in Pittsburgh, a Thursday night contest is hard to attend with games not finishing until after 11 PM. It makes for a long night when having to worry about work the next day. Add in the fact I live more than 3.5 hours away from Heinz Field, the situation is compounded even more.

Of course, I could just choose not to go to the game. The biggest problem in this situation as I am not alone. Many season ticket holders don’t want to attend all the primetime games every year. Believe it or not, it’s difficult for fans without season tickets to choose to attend a primetime game over a 1 PM or 4:25 PM start. It’s a lot to ask to invest so much money into a game that is more inconvenient than others. Many times I find myself going to the primetime games simply because I am unable to sell my tickets. Rather than resell my tickets online for anyone to purchase, I attempt to do it myself in order to make sure it is Steelers fans sitting in my seats.

Last season I attended four Steeler games– one preseason and three regular season. Of those four games, three of them were in primetime. The last game I attended was the final home game of 2019 against the Buffalo Bills which was flexed to Sunday Night Football. I reported here at BTSC following the game that I have never seen so many opposing fans at Heinz Field before. Once the game was moved to an 8:15 PM start, it became so inconvenient for many of the ticket holders to still attend which caused them to put tickets up for sale. Unfortunately, many tickets were snagged by crazed Bills fans who were excited to see their team have a chance of making the playoffs.

I am in an unusual position when it comes to the Steelers’ schedule. It seems like no matter what’s going to happen I won’t be completely happy. I want as many games as possible to be on television, but I also don’t want to have to worry about late night coverage. I also don’t want to have a bunch of primetime games at home which makes it difficult as a season ticket holder, but I want to see the Steelers have the best advantage for winning a game. As much as I would enjoy watching the Steelers on Thanksgiving should they be matched up against the Dallas Cowboys, having to “work” on the day I ususally travel to spend with family is not something I look forward to.

For the 2020 season, I don’t even know what to expect when it comes to attending games. With so much uncertainty as to how things will progress for the 2020 season, my first hope is the Steelers play their schedule even if it is in front of an empty stadium. I think we can all agree on that point.

When it really comes down to it, my personal presences are insignificant. What I would like to see is the Pittsburgh Steelers put in the best scenario to win football games. All the other things I would like to see is merely from my own convenience. Whether it be attending the games or breaking them down for BTSC, if the Steelers aren’t victorious that nothing else really matters.

So what is your perspective on the upcoming NFL 2020 schedule, particularly for the Steelers? What would you like to see? What are your reasons behind it? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: What player benefits most from the Steelers 2020 NFL Draft?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold from the week that was.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is over, and although there are no more games, the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • What player benefits most from the Steelers 2020 NFL Draft?
  • Diagnosing the issues with the Steelers using statistics
  • 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: Devin Bush confident the Steelers ILBs are just fine heading into 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/07/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire 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 how Devin Bush is more than confident with the ILBs on the Steelers roster in 2020.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Devin Bush and Vince Williams...according to Bush, they will be just fine.

Devin Bush confident he, Vince Williams can shoulder Steelers ILB workload

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Mark Barron is gone. Tyler Matakevich, too. No reinforcements were added via free agency, and no direct help is coming in from the draft.

That leaves Devin Bush and Vince Williams as something of the last men standing at inside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020.

But Bush is confident if that remains the case, the Steelers defense will be just fine.

“If it comes down to me and Vince taking all the reps, I don’t think we’ve got a problem doing it,” Bush, who won’t turn 22 until July, said during a video call with Pittsburgh reporters Tuesday.

Moments earlier, Bush expressed even more swagger regarding the abilities of himself and eight-year veteran Williams to shoulder the load of virtually an entire team’s worth of inside linebacker snaps.

“I have no doubt that me and Vince will go out there and control the defense,” Bush said.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers could figure out the inside linebacker situation prior to the 2020 season.

Tim Benz: New people for an old idea. That could help Steelers figure out ILB void.

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The line of inquiry for Steelers linebacker Devin Bush on Tuesday was not a surprise. Most of the questions had to do with how the defense will adjust to losing 750 snaps from fellow inside linebacker Mark Barron, who was released by the team as free agency hit.

How the Steelers coaches eventually answer those questions may not come as a surprise either. Because they’ve tried to do so once before already.

For his part, Bush said all the diplomatic things you would expect. If the coaches call on him to absorb more of a workload in his second year, he can “handle the whole season.”

If he and Vince Williams are asked to do so as a tandem, Bush insists he has “no doubt (they) can go out there and control the defense.”

Bush said if the front office tries to add a player in free agency, that would be good “for depth and special teams” because of Tyler Matakevich’s departure to the Buffalo Bills. And he claims Ulysees Gilbert may be capable of contributing this year, touting Gilbert’s athletic abilities and intangibles.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Taking gym class to a new level

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Staying physically active is one of the most important things everyone can do while working from home and going to school virtually.

And for Steelers players, that is definitely paramount.

That is why Jordan Dangerfield and Terrell Edmunds spent time sharing the importance of exercise during a virtual gym class with students from the Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh.

“The kids did pretty well. The kids got me warmed up for my workout,” said Dangerfield. “It was important for them to have the change up. It’s good they are keeping them active and engaged. To keep them moving, keeping them active, it’s important. Gym class is important. It’s a key to keep that intact.

“I saw the smiles on their faces. I saw the way they were at the beginning, where they weren’t as excited, then as we got going and they saw they were being joined by a player and we got going, they got more excited and they were smiling and energized. To get them up and active was pretty special. I was smiling the entire time.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

Two of the Steelers’ free agents pick their jersey numbers

Chase Claypool won’t be pushing anyone off the Steelers’ roster in 2020

The Steelers’ history dictates expectations for the class of 2020

Predicting the Steelers 2020 regular season schedule

What will the NFL do with the Hall of Fame Game/Ceremony?

  • Social Media Madness

Pittsburgh to the core #HappyBirthday, @JamesConner_! pic.twitter.com/x9bPTfzJdL

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 6, 2020

Sticking to the jersey numbers they've worn for a long, long time.@Ebron85: #️⃣8️⃣5️⃣@stefenwiz61: #️⃣6️⃣1️⃣

More coming pic.twitter.com/8DbimRSEg6

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 6, 2020

Joe Greene#Steelers pic.twitter.com/DnXFbYXdGl

— Old Time Football (@Ol_TimeFootball) May 6, 2020

Steelers rookies start claiming jersey numbers for the 2020 season 

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 3:41pm
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have begun releasing the official numbers of the rookie class, starting with their top draft picks

The Pittsburgh Steelers have begun announcing throughout the day the jersey numbers for players new to the team in 2020. Already highlighting their free-agent and trade acquisitions, the latest release has tarted the announcement of the 2020 rookie class.

The first stop for Steelers are the top two draft selections, second-round pick Chase Claypool and third-round pick Alex Highsmith.

Looking good in Black & Gold! @ChaseClaypool: #️⃣1️⃣1️⃣@highsmith34: #️⃣5️⃣6️⃣ pic.twitter.com/fXWlFl7NZO

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 6, 2020

Last week, Chase Claypool announced on Twitter he would be wearing number 11 for the black and gold. Wearing number 83 throughout college, many felt Claypool would keep the same number as it was available with the Steelers. Instead, Claypool was assigned the number 11.

New threads.. New number.. New beginnings. #1of1 #8plus3 #SteelerNation pic.twitter.com/AtcQKQ9Ds3

— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) April 29, 2020

Since the last player who wore number 83 for the black and gold was rookie Zach Gentry during the preseason of 2019, many felt Claypool was influenced in the same way as Gentry. It was reported Ben Roethlisberger asked Gentry to change numbers out of respect for former tight and Heath Miller. While this could be one explanation as to why Claypool went with number 11, the other could just as easily be the Steelers young receivers have all gone with number starting with “1” instead of the typical “8.”

As for third-round draft choice Alex Highsmith, sticking with his number from college is not permitted in the NFL. Highsmith wore number 5 to finish his career with UNC-Charlotte, but defensive players in the NFL are forced to wear double-digit numbers which fit into a certain category based on position. Highsmith will instead wear number 56 which will still sport his college digit. As many Steelers’ fans recall, number 56 was worn most recently by reserve outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, a player many feel Highsmith was drafted to replace.

UPDATE: According to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, the other numbers assigned to the Steelers rookie draft class are as follows:

26- Anthony McFarland
69- Kevin Dotson
25- Antoine Brooks
73- Carlos Davis

Kevin Dotson had previously conducted a Twitter poll for Steelers’ fans asking which available number he should choose. Sticking with the results, Dotson will start off with number 69 while not completely committing to the number for the regular season should his top choice become available.

As more rookie uniform numbers are announced, check back for this article at Behind The Steel Curtain as they will be updated here.

No one should have an issue with the NFL releasing its 2020 regular season schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 1:40pm
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The NFL and its fans have a right to look forward to the 2020 regular season...even if it ultimately doesn’t arrive on time.

“The NFL’s schedule release show was just what we needed.”

I don’t know if that will actually be true, but I suspect I will see at least a few headlines that look similar to the above as early as Friday morning—or mere hours after the NFL’s three-hour prime-time schedule release special airs on the NFL Network on Thursday night.

I just wish some people weren’t so convinced that the NFL releasing its 2020 regular season schedule was the exact opposite of what we needed, right now.

You see, ever since COVID-19 put a halt to the entire world in mid-March—or right around the time the NFL’s new calendar year was set to kick-off—the league has drawn constant criticism for trying to keep things as status quo as possible.

Since mid-March was when unrestricted free agency began, naturally, people had a problem with teams signing free agents to lucrative deals. Was it the optics? It had to be, since no handshakes were involved.

Even six weeks later, after the entire world—including sports fans—had run out of memes to post on social media regarding Anne Frank and that thing she had to do which was much, much worse than self-isolation, there were those who didn’t want the league to conduct its annual NFL player draft.

Again, though, there were no handshakes. There weren’t even any bro hugs from Commissioner Roger Goodell (even if he did try to virtually bro hug one of his new draftees during a video chat). That’s right, the 2020 NFL Draft was a virtual event, and it couldn’t have come off better. It was an amazing production under the circumstances.

And it really was what we needed at that time—at least sports fans.

But just when I thought we were past all of this petty optics business, there are those that feel like the NFL is being tone deaf and insensitive by releasing its full 2020 regular season schedule—even if it did delay the release date by a few weeks or so.

What’s the big deal? Does it look bad considering what’s going on right now? If you were going to reel me in with that kind of talk, it would have happened during the free agency period.

As for the draft, I’m guessing the dreaded bad optics weren’t a thing. Otherwise, the league wouldn’t have drawn record ratings for the three-day event.

And unless Goodell invites the entire Bills Mafia to the schedule release and has them crash through a burning table after each team’s dates and times are announced, I don’t see how it’s going to come off as insensitive.

OK, maybe it’s not the optics that you have a problem with. Maybe it’s the desire to release a full schedule that could very well be altered if September 10 (the scheduled date for the league’s Thursday Night Kickoff Classic) rolls around, and we’re still dealing with the Coronavirus shutdown.

Perhaps that will happen, but schedules get changed all the time in sports and in life.

Heck, the NFL has a flex system in place, where the times of games are altered with very little notice. It happens every year. Annoying? Yes, but it’s not the end of the world. I’m guessing if the league has to delay the start of its Week 1 slate of games, it won’t be by a week or two. It will probably be a month, maybe even six weeks. Therefore, if you decide to buy tickets to a game—even one that is out of town—you’ll have plenty of time to make alternate plans.

If you can’t make the game, I’m fairly certain that the league and its teams will find a way to make it right. These are extraordinary times, and I doubt the NFL will operate in an ordinary fashion when it comes to its paying customers.

There’s nothing wrong with the NFL planning ahead, preparing, just in case we’re back to normal (or at least as close to it as possible) four months down the road.

As for the schedule release, we really do need it. We can use the distraction. It’s like planning a vacation. They say it’s almost as much fun to plan a vacation as it is to actually go on one.

You know how your wife or girlfriend will sometimes bring up a hypothetical vacation out of the blue, which leads to a pleasant two or three-hour conversation about how much fun that would be?

That’s what picturing a 2020 NFL season may be like for a lot of season-ticket holders who live for going to see their favorite football teams play eight-to-10 times a year.

Will they necessarily get to go on time or at all?

I don’t know, but someone once said that the key to happiness is always having something to look forward to.

It’s okay for the NFL and its fans to look forward to a regular season—even if it ultimately doesn’t come on time.

Steelers offseason acquisitions claim new jersey numbers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 12:46pm
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

All of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ free agent and trade acquisitions have announced what jersey numbers they will wear for the black-and-gold in 2020.

As it pertains to NFL fans, they love anything which has to do with jerseys. New jerseys, alternate uniforms and also jersey numbers. When a team goes through the NFL Draft process, fans clamor for the latest jerseys of the players who were selected. The same can be said about free agent acquisitions.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have officially announced the jersey numbers for Eric Ebron and Stefen Wisniewski. For both players, they will be keeping the numbers they have worn their entire NFL careers.

Sticking to the jersey numbers they've worn for a long, long time.@Ebron85: #️⃣8️⃣5️⃣@stefenwiz61: #️⃣6️⃣1️⃣

More coming pic.twitter.com/8DbimRSEg6

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 6, 2020

For both Ebron and Wisniewski, their choice of number was a no-brainer. With no other player currently on the Steelers from 2019 wearing either number, there was no need for a change. Previously, Derek Watt announced his new jersey number as number 34 was already taken by Terrell Edmunds. The elder of the two Watt brothers on the Steelers went with the number 44 for the 2020 season.

Eric Ebron‘s choice to stay with the number 85 will see this particular jersey number being worn again in 2020. Most recently, Xavier Grimble wore the number 85 for the three games in which he appeared in 2019. The player to wear the number 85 for the Steelers in the most seasons in recent history was David Johnson from 2009 to 2013.

When it comes to the number 61 which will be donned by Stefen Wisniewski, he will also be wearing a number with no overwhelming Steeler legend attached to it. Most notably, current Steelers’ guard David DeCastro wore number 61 in his rookie season in 2012 before changing to his current number 66 the following year. There has not been a Steelers player to wear number 61 for more than a season season since Blake Wingle from 1983 to 1985.

While for some players a jersey number is significant, others seem less attached to having certain digits below their name. Since both of their previous numbers were available, it’s hard to say how much Ebron or Wisniewski would be bothered by having to change. As for the fans, anyone looking to purchase a jersey for either player can now safely do so.

UPDATE: The Steelers have also announced the numbers for Derek Watt and Chris Wormley. Watt previously reported his number 44 jersey via social media. Wormley will wear number 95 for the black and gold. His previous number of 93 is currently in use by Daniel McCullers.

New team, new number.@DerekWatt34: #️⃣4️⃣4️⃣@Chris_Wormley43: #️⃣9️⃣5️⃣ pic.twitter.com/09jIffwNiq

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 6, 2020

Let’s Make A Deal: A second contract for JuJu Smith-Schuster

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 11:40am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

If the Steelers and Smith-Schuster can work out a deal to keep the wide receiver in Pittsburgh beyond his rookie contract, 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.

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, now let’s see what kind of contract Steelers’ fans would like to work out with JuJu Smith-Schuster rather than play the 2020 season on the final year of his rookie deal.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Age: 23
Years: 3
Draft: 2nd Round, pick 62 in 2017
Previous Contract: Rookie contract
2020 salary cap hit: $1,335,020
Dead Money: $297,869

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

Julio Jones: $22 million
Amari Cooper: $20 million
Michael Thomas: $19.25 million
A.J. Green: $18.171 million
Tyreek Hill: $18 million
Odell Beckham Jr.: $18 million

Smith-Schuster ranked 85th among wide receivers in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus. Here are the players under contract beyond their rookie deals who ranked closely to JuJu:

76. Phillip Dorsett: $1.048 million
78. Damiere Byrd: $1.6 million
83. Seth Roberts: $3.75 million
87. Chris Conley: $2.3 million
92. Albert Wilson: $8 million
100. Mohamed Sanu: $6.5 million

Notes: The biggest trick when it comes to Smith-Schuster is the money. After a down 2019 season, it’s hard to calculate what kind of salary JuJu would command. The top 24 salaries for receivers in the NFL are all making $10 million or more per season. Does JuJu deserve that much money? Could the Steelers get a better deal this year after a down yeaar from Smith-Schuster? Or is the best bet for both sides to wait and see what the 2020 season brings?

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 JuJu Smith-Schuster going into the final year of his rookie 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: Alejandro Villanueva.

Chase Claypool won’t be pushing anyone off the Steelers’ roster in 2020, not even Ryan Switzer

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The Steelers’ new selection will make an impact this season, but not at anyone else’s expense.

When the Steelers added Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool with their first selection of the 2020 NFL Draft, the usual reaction followed. Some people loved the pick, some people hated it, and others felt very ‘meh’ about it. However, there were also those who took it as a sign that the front office didn’t like some of last year’s starting wideouts as much as we thought.

And while it’s obvious to see that some receivers might be seeing a little less playing time than they did last year as a result, the Claypool selection isn’t necessarily a message that Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington, or Ryan Switzer are on their way out of Pittsburgh.

Sometimes it feels as if Diontae Johnson is the only wide receiver Steeler fans actually want to keep around this year.

Whether you think it’s good or bad, Steelers’ GM Kevin Colbert definitely had Ben Roethlisberger’s well-being on his mind during the offseason. The team is supremely motivated to win a ring for Ben in the last few years of his career, and there’s no better way to do so than giving the veteran quarterback good protection (Wisniewski, Dotson), as well as some new weapons (Claypool, Ebron).

All that to say, the front office doesn’t see the receiving corps as a weakness, but rather saw a chance to improve it - and did so.

Pittsburgh is a team that notoriously sticks to their draft board. Claypool was most likely the best player available to them at the time, and so they took him. Remember, Pittsburgh has one of the more complete rosters in the NFL, but their depth is questionable at almost every position. Claypool is wide receiver depth - and in a receiver room with only three clear-cut starters, a quality backup is a fantastic move for the offense.

Don’t forget that Claypool is a second round pick. This isn’t a first-rounder who needs to step in immediately like Devin Bush last year. Every player or position that the Steelers could have or did pick in the 2020 draft would be depth pieces on Pittsburgh’s roster this year. Claypool is going to start at #4 on the depth chart, and will have to work his way up from there.

NFL.com’s Michael Fabiano wrote an article on NFL teams’ personnel groupings from last year, and showed that the Steelers were in 11 personnel (3 wide receivers, 1 tight end) 70% of the time in 2019. Claypool adds a reliable fourth option at receiver into that mix, which will come in handy if someone gets injured, needs a breather, or Claypool is simply a better fit for that particular play.

Also, the return of Big Ben means the return of more empty sets. Going five wide only increases Claypool’s chances of seeing the field, all without taking snaps from someone else.

That same article mentions that the Steelers were using two-tight end packages over twenty percent of the time last year. Claypool’s size and blocking ability could have him playing some tight end in 2020 - especially since Vance McDonald and Eric Ebron aren’t exactly known for their health. Claypool’s physicality and athleticism provide the Steelers with a combination no one else on the roster has.

It looks as if Claypool will be carving out his own role on the roster, not taking someone else’s.

However unlikely, there’s always the possibility that Claypool turns into the second coming of Calvin Johnson, making it so the Steelers can’t afford to pay or play everyone in their wide receiver corps. However, Juju, Washington, Johnson, and Claypool are all still on their rookie contracts, and only Juju’s will be up next year.

It’s too early to tell what price tags these players will be demanding, or who exactly they will develop into. However, as long as these four are affordable, you can bet they’ll be sticking around on the Steelers’ roster.

Pittsburgh usually keeps six wide receivers on their roster each year. And most of them, at least the top four, receive plenty of playing time during the season.

The Steelers receiver depth chart will probably look like this at the start of 2020:

Juju Smith-Schuster

Diontae Johnson

James Washington

Chase Claypool

Deon Cain

Ryan Switzer

Claypool will be replacing Johnny Holton on the depth chart, filling in a similar role as a deep-threat and special teams gunner. He’ll be a massive upgrade there, but don’t get your hopes too high for year one.

The addition of Claypool won’t even push Ryan Switzer off of the roster - the Steelers need six wideouts total on the final 53 man roster, and Claypool and Switzer aren’t comparable players physically or role-wise. In fact, Deon Cain’s roster spot is probably in the most in jeopardy of any Steelers’ receiver this year.

Switzer is pure slot receiver, something that Pittsburgh doesn’t really have anywhere else. He’s also a solid, albeit unexciting, returner who could be starting there in 2020 if the team doesn’t want to risk Johnson on special teams. Switz isn’t exactly a terrible player, either. Fans love to hate him, but he is a reliable, tough, good locker room guy whose decent 2018 season was quickly forgotten after a down year without his starting quarterback.

Switzer’s role and spot on the depth chart will remain unchallenged in 2020.

With coronavirus possibly affecting or delaying training camps and other such things, it will be hard for players who weren’t on the team last year to displace any veterans. Being a familiar face will be many a veteran’s greatest weapon in securing a roster spot this year.

Even though Claypool has a guaranteed roster spot, a lack of rookie minicamp, amongst other issues, might slow his development. Thankfully, the Steelers have three proven starters ahead of him to weaken the blow, which will allow Claypool to ease into an exciting role in the Pittsburgh offense.

Chase Claypool is a dynamic new addition to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who might be the final piece in pushing their offense to the next level. However, he won’t be replacing any established Steeler receiver right away, even though the team will still find ways for him to play.

The Steelers’ NFL Draft history hints at what we should expect from the class of 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

If you look at history, it will show you what we can expect from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 draft class.

Now that the dust has settled on the recently completed NFL draft, it’s time to speculate on the impact these newest Steelers might make.

One way to do that is to draw on recent history. In this article, I break down the Steelers’ draft classes from 2010-2019 with the following questions in mind: what does history tell us about the contributions we can expect from the 2020 class? How many starters are likely to be produced? How many backups and role players? How many will be cut or fail to make an impact? And, of course, which draftees may fulfill which roles? It’s an inexact science, of course, and with only six picks in 2020 the past may not translate as cleanly. But, as a framework for expectation, it’s a worthy exercise.

In breaking down the past decade worth of drafts, I have created three categories to assess the Steelers’ selections. They are as follows:

Starters

Backups/Role Players

No impact

There is no exact way to predict which picks should become starters but we can make some generalizations. A study by Forbes magazine published in 2015 showed that 29.9% of starters in the league at that time had been selected in the first round while another 30.1% were selected in rounds two and three. Therefore, with 60% of the starters in the league selected in the first three rounds, teams would do well to produce two starters in a given draft from those (on average) first three picks. The remaining 40% of starters were either day-three picks (rounds 4-7) or undrafted free agents. Finding a third starter among those picks would be ideal. Landing between two and three starters on average in the draft might not seem like a high bar. The numbers, however, suggest that it is.

This chart shows the results of the Forbes study breaking down starters by draft slot (2015).

All starters are not created equal, of course. To put Ben Roethlisberger, a starter, in the same category as, say, Marcus Gilbert, who would also qualify as a starter using this metric, undervalues Roethlisberger’s impact on the franchise. Among the starters a given draft produces, teams must hope to occasionally find stars. Starting-quality players often solidify a draft but a star can define one. For example, the Steelers’ 2004 draft produced just one notable player besides Roethlisberger (tackle Max Starks) and included six players who ranged from memorable busts (Ricardo Colclough) to dudes you’ve simply forgotten about (Bo Lacy, Matt Kranchick and Drew Caylor, anyone?). A draft where just two of eight players selected make any sort of impact would typically be considered a failure. Yet only a career cynic or a rigid stat geek would argue against the 2004 draft as one of the greatest in franchise history. I have no metric for star players here but landing one can truly transform a draft class or even a franchise.

The second category includes backups and role players. These are players who may have started a game or two along the way but who generally filled substitute roles or contributed on special teams. These players tended not to hang around very long, either seeking opportunities elsewhere once their rookie contracts expired (Tyler Matakevich) or eventually being traded or released by the franchise (Josh Dobbs). Backups and role players are commonly replaced once younger and cheaper alternatives become available. Still, a reliable backup at a key position, like quarterback, nickel corner or a swing player along the offensive line, can be extremely important. Finding a player like this in the draft can have great value to the franchise.

Finally, there are the players who fail to make an impact. Some are cut right out of camp while others hang around for a year or two without ever really contributing. Players like Brian Allen and Jerald Hawkins fit the latter description while guys like Sutton Smith and Joshua Frazier fit the former. According to Pro Football reference, about 54% of draft picks fall into this category (16.7% who never play for the team that drafted them, 37% who make almost no contribution).

So, to summarize, the league average suggests a team should hope to find about two starters per draft while roughly half of their picks (46%) should make the team and contribute in some fashion. How have the Steelers measured against this metric over the past decade? Here’s a breakdown by class, with their draft slot in parenthesis:

2010

Starters - 4: Maurkice Pouncey (1), Jason Worilds (2), Emmanuel Sanders (3), Antonio Brown (6)

Backups/Role Players - 1: Jonathan Dwyer (6)

No Impact - 5: Thaddeus Gibson (4), Chris Scott (5), Crezdon Butler (5), Stevenson Sylvester (5), Doug Worthington (7)

Summary: 5/10 picks wound up contributors (50%), with two stars (Pouncey and Brown) and four starters. This draft was low on role players but its star-power made it a great draft.

2011

Starters - 2: Cam Heyward (1), Marcus Gilbert (2)

Backups/Role Players - 1: Cortez Allen (4)

No Impact - 4: Curtis Brown (3), Chris Carter (5), Keith Williams (6), Barron Batch (7)

Summary: 3/7 picks wound up as contributors (43%), with one star (Heyward) and two starters. A decent draft that was also light on backups and role players.

2012

Starters - 1: David DeCastro (1)

Backups/Role Players - 2: Sean Spence (3), Kelvin Beachum (7)

No Impact - 6: Mike Adams (2), Alameda Ta’amu (4), Chris Rainey (5), Toney Clemons (7), David Paulson (7), Terrence Fredrick (7)

Summary: 3/9 picks wound up as contributors (33%), although that figure looks worse due to four long-shot 7th round picks. Only one starter (DeCastro) but he turned out to be a star. A big miss in the 2nd (Adams) and a poor character pick in the 4th (Ta’amu). Overall, not a great draft.

2013

Starters - 4: Jarvis Jones (1), Le’Veon Bell (2), Markus Wheaton (3), Vince Williams (6)

Backups/Role Players - 2: Shamarko Thomas (4), Landry Jones (4)

No Impact - 3: Terry Hawthorne (5), Justin Brown (6), Nick Williams (7)

Summary: 6/9 picks wound up as contributors (67%) with one star (Bell) and four starters. The raw numbers look a bit better than the reality, however. Jarvis Jones was a starter but one of the least productive 1st round picks of the decade. Wheaton started just 22 games in four years in Pittsburgh, which isn’t great for a third-round pick. Thomas and Landry Jones qualify as role players but both were disappointing overall. This is a tough draft to assess.

2014

Starters - 3: Ryan Shazier (1), Stephon Tuitt (2), Martavis Bryant (4)

Backups/Role Players - 1: Dan McCullers (6)

No Impact - 5: Dri Archer (3), Shaq Richardson (5), Wesley Johnson (5), Jordan Zumwalt (6), Rob Branchflower (7)

Summary: 4/9 picks wound up as contributors (44%), with one star (Shazier) and three starters. This draft was great at the top but diminished from there, especially in light of Bryant’s inability to keep his personal life together.

2015

Starters - 2: Bud Dupree (1), Jesse James (5)

Backups/Role Players - 1: Anthony Chickillo (6)

No Impact - 5: Senquez Golson (2), Sammie Coates (3), Doran Grant (4), Leterrius Walton (6), Gerod Holliman (7)

Summary: 3/8 picks wound up as contributors (38%), with no stars and two starters. James didn’t quite feel like a starter, however, and Dupree only emerged last season. A lack of star-power, Dupree’s mediocre first four seasons and big misses in rounds 2-4 make this the second-least effective draft of the decade.

2016

Starters - 3: Artie Burns (1), Sean Davis (2), Javon Hargrave (3)

Backups/Role Players - 1: Tyler Matakevich (7)

No Impact - 3: Jerald Hawkins (4), Travis Feeney (6), Demarcus Ayers (7)

Summary: 4/7 picks wound up as contributors (57%) with no stars and three starters. Despite the solid percentage of contributors, this was the least effective draft of the decade. Burns started 32 games but was a bust as a 1st round pick. Davis was disappointing as well. Hargrave was a solid player but is now gone. No players from the 2016 draft remain with the Steelers. That says it all.

2017

Starters - 3: TJ Watt (1), Juju Smith-Schuster (2), James Conner (3)

Backups/Role Players - 2: Cam Sutton (3), Josh Dobbs (4)

No Impact - 3: Brian Allen (5), Colin Holba (6), Keion Adams (7)

Summary: 5/8 picks wound up as contributors (63%) with one definite star (TJ) and two others with star potential (Juju and Conner). Dobbs, although he didn’t do much while in Pittsburgh, did yield a fifth-round pick in the trade with Jacksonville that the Steelers used in part to acquire Minkah Fitzpatrick. A great bounce-back draft after two poor ones.

For 2018-2019, I will speculate on certain players since it’s too early to make a definitive assessment of the draft class.

2018

Starters - 2: Terrell Edmunds (1), James Washington (2)

Backups/Role Players - 3: Mason Rudolph (3), Chuks Okorafor (3), Jaylen Samuels (5)

No Impact - 2: Marcus Allen (5), Josh Frazier (7)

Summary: 5/7 picks are shaping up as contributors (71%) with Allen having the chance to make it 6/7 should he emerge in 2020. There are no stars in this group but Edmunds and Washington are both improving. Rudolph should develop into a competent backup, as should Okorafor. So far, this looks like a solid depth draft.

2019

Starters - 2: Devin Bush (1), Diontae Johnson (2)

Backups/Role Players - 4: Justin Layne (3), Benny Snell (4), Isaiah Buggs (6), Ulysses Gilbert (6)

No Impact - 3: Zach Gentry (5), Sutton Smith (6), Derwin Gray (7)

Summary: 6/9 picks are shaping up as contributors (67%), with two potential stars in Bush and Johnson and a host of role players from the mid-rounds. Gentry and Gray could both become decent backups at some point, which would make this a great draft. As is, it looks another solid one.

Totals, 2010-2019:

Draft Picks: 75

Starters: 26/75 (2.6 per draft)

Backups/Role Players: 18/75 (approx. 2 per draft)

No Impact: 31/75 (approx. 3 per draft)

Summary: the Steelers have produced 44 contributors out of 75 total picks for a percentage of 58.6 (it will be over 60% if Allen, Gentry or Gray pan out). That’s well above the league average of 46%. Their 2.6 starters per draft seem, the best I can tell, slightly above league average as well. The Steelers are often thought to be a team that drafts well and the numbers bear that out.

What does this mean for the 2020 draft class? With only six picks, the raw numbers may be altered. Still, if the percentages hold, the Steelers will likely procure 2-3 starters and a couple of role players. Here’s an opinion on which category each of our picks may fit:

2nd round, Chase Claypool (Starter/Star)

From 2010-2019, the Steelers made nine second-round picks. Seven became starters while Le’Veon Bell was a star and Juju is on the fringe. Two of the second round picks were busts (Mike Adams, Senquez Golson).

It seems almost impossible that Claypool will bust. He’s just too big, fast and talented and he has no known character issues. Claypool seems destined to become one of the starter’s from this draft class and could develop into a star.

3rd round, Alex Highsmith (Role Player/Starter)

The Steelers success in round three has been mixed, with some solid picks (Conner, Hargrave, Emmanuel Sanders) and some weak ones (Curtis Brown, Dri Archer, Sammie Coates). I have my reservations about Highsmith as a future starter. I’m leery of edge rushers who lack the power or craft to beat NFL linemen with something other than speed. Highsmith will undoubtedly get stronger and hopefully, with solid coaching, will develop into a more complete player. For now, I see him as a special teams contributor and situational pass rusher more than a long-term partner for TJ Watt. Scouting reports indicate he’s a determined individual and a hard-worker, however, so I won’t be shocked if he proves me wrong.

4th round, Anthony McFarland (Role Player), Kevin Dotson (Starter)

In the past ten years, the Steelers fourth-round picks have produced one starter, five role players and four players who made no impact here. That’s a solid 60% contribution rate from the round. This year could be one of their best fourth-round hauls in recent memory.

McFarland has a skill set (speed) the team lacks in the backfield. He seems like a perfect change-of-pace back to compliment the power-running style of James Conner and Benny Snell. Dotson is a physical run-blocker who most pundits believe was a steal in the fourth. With no established starter or recent draft pick at the guard position opposite David DeCastro, Dotson has a clear path to the starting lineup. I expect him to join Claypool as the second definite starter from this draft class.

6th round, Antoine Brooks (Role Player)

I’m going to buck the percentages and give the Steelers a fifth contributor out of their six picks. Brooks is just too good of a tackler, and the Steelers have too big a hole at sub-package linebacker, for him to flame out. If Brooks does fail it will be because he’s too small to fill the sub-package role and not good enough in coverage to make it as a two-deep safety. But there is always room for a guy who can run and tackle on special teams, which seems a likely spot for Brooks this season as he learns the sub-package role. I like this kid and I think he’ll stick around for a while.

7th round, Carlos Davis (No Impact)

In ten years, the Steelers have never had an entire draft class contribute. With just six picks, 2020 could be the year. Still, I don’t see a way Davis makes the team unless the Steelers carry a seventh defensive lineman, which is doubtful. Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Isaiah Buggs and Dan McCullers are all ahead of Davis on the depth chart. He’d have to beat one of them out to stick. The odds say he won’t.

Recent history tells us the Steelers usually land between two and three starters and four to five total contributors per draft. This draft class should follow suit, with Claypool and Dotson looking like starters, Highsmith a starting candidate and McFarland and Brooks as contributors. The draft has been the heart of the team’s success over the past decade. Hopefully, the 2020 class will continue that tradition.

Predicting the Steelers 2020 regular season schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the NFL schedule bein* released Thursday, a renegade BTSC writer tackles the insane task of predicting the Steelers 2020 slate of games. Will he get a single one right? We will see.

Finally, the NFL schedule is finally coming out and the Steelers will have an idea when they are slated to play who. However, everything still is up in the air. But with BTSC subs rib8ng to the wishful thinking of things going off without a hitch, I’ve taken the liberty of fruitlessly trying to guess the schedule. With no expectations of getting a single game right, let’s take this for a spin.

Sunday, September 13 at Cleveland Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

After the Myles/Mason debacle from last November, I don’t think the NFL is bold enough to put this game in Prime Time. But in Week One, this even-angrier rivalry could be an electric opener with the Steelers opening on the road for the sixth-straight season.

Monday, September 21 vs. Houston (MNF) Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Watt vs. Watt vs. Watt needs to happen under the lights. But more important, it needs to happen before J.J. Gets hurt and is gone for the year. This clash of three brothers should be much better than last season’s Edmunds vs. Edmunds vs. Edmunds.

Sunday, September 27 vs. Philadelphia Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

I’m just glad this game won’t be in Phily. The Steelers haven’t won there since 1965. Once again, the battle for Keystone State supremacy will be fun.

Sunday, October 4 at Baltimore (SNF) Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Steelers and Ravens have met quite a bit in Week 4 as of late. The last two times have been brutal. Hopefully, Ben’s expected return to the rivalry will halt the two-game skid.

Sunday, October 11 at Buffalo Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

This game needs to be held earlier than December. The last time the Steelers played in upstate New York in front of those rabid maniacs they call fans (2016), the field was white...but the winners wore black-and-gold. The Steelers will crave revenge after last year’s debilitating loss in Week 15.

Sunday, October 18 vs. Cincinnati Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This could be Joe Burrow’s welcome to this intense division-rivalry in the Steel City. After meeting up with the Steeler defense, he might never want to come back.

Monday, October 26 vs. Indianapolis (MNF) Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The clash of the QB Class of 2004 between Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger needs to be nationally televised. Last year’s visit by Indy was exciting enough, but what will happen when you upgrade the passing game with two legends?

Sunday, November 1 - Bye

The Steeler bye is usually circa Week 8 or 9. This seems like a good week for rest, if byes are still a thing in 2020.

Sunday, November 8 at Jacksonville Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jacksonville has the look of a team with a winning ticket in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes, but the Jaguar King (Gardner Exotic) might have something emphatic to say about that. Don’t expect a runaway Steeler victory. Duval is a tough place for the Steelers traditionally to play and Minshew can light it up.

Sunday, November 15 at New York Giants Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images

Last time the Steelers played a sub .500 team at MetLife Stadium, it went badly. It’ll be fun to see Saquon Barkley, but this will be a game the Steelers will need to win with tough tests coming up.

Sunday, November 22 vs. Denver (SNF)

The last time the Broncos rode into Steeltown, the Steelers penetrated the “no fly zone”. That doesn’t exist anymore, but the Broncos are an intriguing team with rising talent. This is a matchup worthy of Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth.

Thursday, November 26 at Dallas (Thanksgiving) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

This just seems inevitable. These two iconic teams haven’t played on Turkey Day since 1991 and it would surely command a national audience. The Steelers aren’t stellar on the November holiday, but they are riding a one game winning streak on Thanksgiving. This game may rival the phenomenal classic from 2016.

Sunday, December 6 vs. Washington Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Since 1973, the Steelers are 8-3 and have been victorious in their last six against Washington.

Sunday, December 13 vs. Cleveland Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Are the Browns good on paper or on grass? The Steelers are 31-5-1 since 2000 against the Brownies. But if this team finally turns the corner, it will get interesting. But still they haven’t been the victors at Heinz since 2003.

Sun December 20 at Cincinnati Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Steelers are 28-9 in the last 20 years versus Cincy. Will Burrow play in this contest or will his offensive line have him shelved before the holidays?

Saturday, December 26 at Tennessee (8:00 PM) Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

These two teams could be challenging for seeding at this particular juncture. Music City isn’t always the most harmonious place for the Steelers to play.

Sunday, January 3 vs. Baltimore Ravens Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The home-field advantage doesn’t mean too much in this great rivalry. Hopefully this game means more to Baltimore than last year. I would rather see Lamar Jackson play, then having already clinched the division. In fact, if I had my furthers it would be to see a healthy Ben resting on this day instead...voluntarily.

This is an absolute crap shoot, but what do you think? If I get four right, I’ll be celebrating.

Podcast: How can Alex Highsmith impact the Steelers in 2020?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest BTSC podcast, our Steelers ‘Stat Geek’ breaks down the numbers surrounding the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over, and the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Stat Geek. On this show deputy editor Dave Schofield and his brother Rich break down all things Steelers stats, and also answers questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • A look how Alex Highsmith can impact the roster in 2020
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • Close look at the Steelers’ goals for 2020
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on 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.

The Stat Geek Q&A which will publish at 4:00 p.m. ET audio below:

Steelers fans, get ready for Chase Claypool with the latest ‘Mapletron’ design

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 5:00am
BreakingT

Be a part of the Mapletron clan and get the new Chase Claypool Mapletron designed t-shirt!

The Pittsburgh Steelers might not have had a first round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but it doesn’t dampen the excitement for the team’s top pick in the second round of the selection process. That would be none other than wide receiver Chase Claypool.

For those who don’t know, Claypool hails from Canada, which has opened up a bevy of nicknames for the former Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver. One of the nicknames seems to have stuck with Steelers faithful — Mapletron.

Maple syrup from Canada, and Claypool’s slightly premature comparison to Calvin Johnson, also known as Megatron.

What do we do at BTSC? We want to provide Steelers fans with unique ways to root for the team. The unique aspects of our BTSC website, including the comment section, and also with providing some gear for fans to wear!

Check out the latest “Mapletron” t-shirt design, and buy yours below! Also, don’t forget to check out our entire store to get BTSC logo t-shirts, sweatshirts and other designs!!

Looking for more Steelers apparel? Visit our Behind The Steel Curtain Steelers FanShop for jerseys, hats, and more.

Black and Gold Links: After a “red shirt” year, Derwin Gray is ready to claim a spot on the Steelers OLine

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire 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 how second year offensive lineman Derwin Gray is ready to make his mark on the Steelers offensive line.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The former University of Maryland offensive lineman is ready to make his mark after a year on the Steelers’ practice squad.

Taking the next step

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

A rookie season can be a challenge, trying to learn the ropes, adjust to a new team, new city. For the majority of young players, it comes with a big role change, going from being one of the standout players on your college team to someone who might only get limited snaps, if any snaps at all.

For offensive lineman Derwin Gray, his rookie season was definitely an adjustment. The team’s seventh round draft pick last year spent the entire 2019 season on the practice squad, working like his teammates were, going to meetings, practicing, everything, but not reaping the benefits on game day. It’s something that could have discouraged him, could have gotten him down. But Gray didn’t let himself get discouraged. Just the opposite. He used the 2019 season as a time to learn, to grow, to develop so he will be ready to go when his opportunity comes.

“I wasn’t out there. The coaching staff understood why I wasn’t out there, why I needed that time,” said Gray. “I understood I needed the time. It was helpful for me moving forward. It was the best thing for me. It was like a redshirt year. I needed that year. I could have tried to rush out there and play but I don’t think that would have been a smart move for me because I was coming off of surgery still in college. I think Coach (Mike) Tomlin and the whole staff knew that. They could see the change in my body from when I first got here until now. This year will be a different year.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • This dream has become a reality for Kevin Dotson.

When a dream becomes reality

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

The smile is something that is going to be on Kevin Dotson’s face for a long time.

And you can’t blame him.

Just think about it for a minute. You are a young kid watching your favorite football team on television, dreaming someday that you will be that player out there on the field.

And then one day you get a phone call, and boom. That dream has come true.

That is life in a nutshell for Dotson.

Like so many kids, Dotson grew up a Steelers fan. He watched games on Sunday with his family in their Steelers cave, cheering on his favorite players. His dream was to play for the black and gold and that became a reality when he was selected by the team in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

“I couldn’t even imagine it when I was talking on the phone with Coach (Mike) Tomlin,” said Dotson, who has a twin brother, Kenny. “It’s crazy. I have been thinking about it since I was five, that I want to play for the Steelers. Now I am doing it. Right now. This is really going through right now. They chose me out of all of the guards they could have chosen, they chose me, the team I always wanted to go to. It’s a Godsend.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Next year’s NFL Draft could be crazy...buckle up!

Tim Benz: Steelers fans, did you like this year’s draft? Good. Because next year could get weird.

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Here’s a odd thought for Steelers fans.

Let’s say the franchise drafts Ben Roethlisberger’s successor at quarterback next year. Then all of Pittsburgh sits down to watch him suit up …

… in his college bowl game.

What?!

Weird, right? But not entirely out of the question.

Given the uncertainty of, well, everything because of the covid-19 pandemic, no one knows what is going to become of the fall football schedule.

For the time being, the NFL is attempting to plow through as unscathed as possible. With or without fans in the seats.

But college football could get put on the shelf for a while. Some conferences may play (like the SEC), while others may not. And there is even talk of moving the sport to a February-May 2021 schedule. If college football doesn’t play in the fall, then the NFL may soak up the open Saturday dates. That could benefit both the league and the networks.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

The Steelers were never going to “win” the 2020 NFL Draft

Chase Claypool...the next Martavis Bryant?

The 2020 NFL regular season schedule will be released this Thursday

Why do Steelers fans want a backup QB so bad?

Steelers fans are confident in the upcoming 2020 season

  • Social Media Madness

The Chief and Don Shula.
1972 AFC Championship #Steelers #Dolphins#RIPDonShula pic.twitter.com/FMyKHiQaRh

— Old Time Football (@Ol_TimeFootball) May 4, 2020

Don Shula
Chuck Noll#Dolphins#Steelers #RIP pic.twitter.com/70hOpyc1uE

— Old Time Football (@Ol_TimeFootball) May 5, 2020

6 out of 8 straight Super Bowls won (1973-1980) between the two of them, 8 out of 9 AFC Championship appearances (1971-1979). pic.twitter.com/v4jsSB2Abb

— Starless Steelers (@1947Steelers) May 4, 2020

A tip & a pick.@Nelson_Island pic.twitter.com/B7qGNETrFZ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 5, 2020

Don Shula’s best years came during the NFL’s greatest era

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/05/2020 - 2:15pm

Was Don Shula the greatest head coach of all time? It’s hard to say. But the era in-which he coached was certainly the greatest in NFL history.

I don’t expect very many people to read this. Let’s face, it’s not exactly about the Steelers, their backup quarterback situation or anything that happened less than five minutes ago.

That’s fair. After all, I’m guessing the 1940s—and the influential people and events of that decade—weren’t too important to those living in the 1970s.

But I feel as if it’s important to talk about. What? Not what, really, but who. I’m referring to Don Shula, the legendary head coach who passed away on Monday at the age of 90.

Shula coached two teams over a 33-year period—the Colts and Dolphins—and when he finally retired after the 1995 season, he was the winningest head coach in the history of the NFL, with a regular season record of 328-156-6. Of course, he wouldn’t have been able to compile such a regular season record without having enormous success in the postseason—including back-to-back Super Bowl championships following the 1972 and 1973 regular seasons as the Dolphins head coach, as well as an NFL championship in 1968 as Baltimore’s main man on the sidelines.

That’s right, the Colts were actually the NFL Champions in 1968, an accomplishment that was considered way more prestigious in those days than that trophy awarded to the winner of the AFL-NFL World Championship Game.

The prestige of that event would forever change two weeks after Baltimore destroyed the Browns, 34-0, when the underdog Jets knocked off Shula’s heavily-favored Colts team, 16-7, in a world championship game now being called the Super Bowl—Super Bowl III, to be precise.

As I said, Shula went on to even greater success in the 1970s—and got that Super Bowl monkey off of his back—by leading Miami to two-straight Super Bowl titles in the early-’70s—including a 17-0 perfect season in 1972. Shula was the only coach to pull off such a feat in the modern era. He was also the last. That was 48 years ago. Many coaches have aimed for perfection since 1972, but they’ve all failed. Not only did Shula succeed, he went for it. He demanded his players get it. He kept them focused for all 14 regular season games and three postseason match-ups. That 17-0 season was considered Shula’s greatest accomplishment. That’s the thing people usually bring up first when mentioning his legacy.

Do they ever talk about him as the greatest head coach of all time? Not all that often. But that’s okay, because they don’t usually say that about Chuck Noll or Tom Landry, either.

If you ask most people who the greatest head coach of all-time is, it’s either Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick. Fair enough. Lombardi’s Packers dominated the 1960s by winning five NFL Championships and the first two Super Bowls. Heck, the Super Bowl trophy is named The Lombardi Trophy. As for Belichick, he actually owns the most Lombardi trophies, thanks to leading the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles between 2001-2018.

It’s hard to argue with those legacies. It’s hard to vote against either in any poll.

But it’s easier to be remembered when you dominated an era.

It’s much harder when the era you coached in was golden.

The bulk of Shula’s coaching career took place during the golden era of professional football. In addition to that perfect season and those back-to-back titles, did you know Shula was the first head coach to lead his team to three-straight Super Bowls? The Cowboys beat up on the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI, following the 1971 season.

That early-’70s success may be easy to forget, due to the Steelers dynasty that included four Super Bowl titles in six years between 1974-1979.

Miami may have actually been the first and only team to win three-straight Super Bowls. Unfortunately, John Madden, Ken Stabler and the Sea of Hands 1974 divisional playoff loss to the Raiders got in the way. As for those legendary Oakland teams of the ‘70s? The Steelers prevented them from building their Silver and Black dynasty until the ‘80s.

What about those Dallas teams of the late-’60s through the early-80s? Their collection of talent was so impressive, they could have easily been the greatest dynasty in the history of the NFL. Unfortunately for them, the Packers, Colts, Steelers, Vikings, Rams and 49ers had a little something to say about that.

Noll was actually the standard-bearer for Super Bowl success for many years, until Belichick finally tied him with four in 2014.

I’m not sure if people actually realized that. I do know there was never a call to change the name of the Super Bowl trophy to The Noll Trophy.

Why? Like Shula, Landry and even 49ers coach Bill Walsh, Noll’s era was the golden one.

Perhaps Shula would have won a few more titles in the 1980s, if not for Joe Gibbs, John Riggins, Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Walsh, the Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers.

It’s hard for anyone to be remembered as the best when their competition for that title is just as worthy of the honor.

That’s the kind of competition Shula went up against during his career, and the fact that he emerged as the winningest head coach of all time says a lot.

Was Don Shula the greatest head coach of all time? Impossible to say, but he was at his best during the greatest era in NFL history.

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