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3 games to watch in Week 9 which give perspective on the Steelers future opponents

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/31/2019 - 8:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There are several NFL games this week which will help shape the perception of teams the Steelers take on later in 2019

It was a long 15 days to go without watching the Pittsburgh Steelers play a football game. And, unfortunately, they made fans wait an extra 15 minutes until they decided to start playing in the second quarter. But after all was said and done, the Steelers left the field with a 27-14 victory and instantly turned around to prepare for the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

One major question which still remains with the 2019 Steelers is trying to figure out where they truly stand among other NFL teams. They have lost to high-quality opponents and beaten inferior ones. So where do the Steelers really fall in the whole scheme of the NFL? Are there other games other than the Steelers versus the Colts which can help us figure this out?

For Week 9, here are the three games in which two teams on the Steelers’ schedule face each other:

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Thursday at 8:20 PM on NFL Network, FOX

Although it is one of the NFL games with the largest pointspread for Week 9, it is an interesting matchup as the 49ers travel to Arizona. The Cardinals started off the year with a tie against the Detroit Lions before dropping their next three games. Turning it around to win three games in a row, albeit to teams with losing records, the Cardinals ended up getting beat pretty bad 31-9 as Drew Brees returned to the New Orleans Saints. With the 49er still undefeated, if Arizona can give them a game it could be an indication as to which direction the Cardinals are trending when the Steelers travel to Phoenix in Week 14.

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins Sunday 1:00 PM on CBS

First and foremost, I must say one thing: Do not watch this game! Not only is it at the same time as the Steelers play, it’s two teams at the very bottom of the league. But with the Steelers coming off a win over the Dolphins and facing the Jets in Week 16 in New Jersey, this game could tell a little something about the Steelers future opponent. But at this point, the game with the Jets is a little far out to care very much. Obviously, this was the only other game in Week 9 where two teams in the Steeler schedule faced off.

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens Sunday at 8:20 PM on NBC

This is a big one. I’m not telling you how to vote, but come on! This game is currently the most narrow point spread for the New England Patriots in the 2019 season. Yet, while going on the road, the Patriots are still favored by more than a field goal against another division-leading team. As much as I would like to see the Patriots fall from the ranks of the unbeaten, the Steelers need the Ravens to lose to opponents to which the Steelers have already lost. So New England taking down the Ravens would be one of the necessary steps for the Steelers to attempt to climb back into the AFC North race.

So there are the three other NFL matchups which can give Steelers’ fans an indication as to where they fall in the NFL hierarchy, and also the quality of upcoming opponents in 2019. While each week is a different game and upsets due to certain matchups are bound to happen, the greater the body of work each team puts on the field can help to draw better conclusions.

So which of these games on Sunday will be the most telling as it pertains to the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

Report: Benny Snell undergoes procedure on knee, will miss “weeks”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/31/2019 - 7:34am
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers depth at running back takes another huge hit after it was reported Benny Snell will miss weeks after undergoing a procedure on his knee.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ depth chart at the running back position has been absolutely decimated over the course of one week. After the team’s Monday Night Football win over the Miami Dolphins, the Steelers are now looking at possibly going into a Week 9 game vs. the Indianapolis Colts without James Conner and Benny Snell.

A report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggests the question of whether Snell could suit up this week is out of the question. According to Rapoport, Snell underwent surgery to trim his meniscus recently, which will have him missing 2-3 weeks.

See the report below:

#Steelers RB Benny Snell recently underwent surgery to trim his meniscus, source said, a minor procedure that should keep him out 2-3 weeks. The knee injury from Monday night hits Pittsburgh's RB depth.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 31, 2019

If the report is true, and Snell is out for 2-3 weeks, the return of Jaylen Samuels couldn’t have come at a better time for the black-and-gold. His return certainly softens the blow of losing Snell, and possibly Conner, this week. But behind Samuels is anything but proven depth.

Assuming James Conner can play, the depth chart for Sunday would likely be:

James Conner
Jaylen Samuels
Trey Edmunds

Take Conner off that chart and it likely means the team has to promote one of two running backs they currently have on their practice squad. Not an ideal situation with a quality team like the Colts coming to town.

But back to Snell. As most look at this injury as a huge hit to the running back position, it might be smarter to see it as a huge hit to the special teams units. Snell has been one of the better special teams players so far this year and a contributor on kick coverage teams. With Snell out, someone else will have to fill his role on special teams. Not an easy task for a team who has struggled in this area so far this year.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news on the injury front as the team prepares for Steelers vs. Colts in Week 9 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Hawaiian Punch” has some big shoes to fill

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/31/2019 - 6:32am
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers DL Tyson Alualu doesn't have the explosive attributes of your typical first round draft pick, but the abilities he does possess makes him more than capable of getting the job done.

Not trying to be critical, but the truth is the truth. Tyson Alualu (pronounced AH-loo-AH-loo) is no Stephon Tuitt, the man who's production Alualu is being asked to help replace. Tuitt was having his best season prior to his injury, consistently being a disruptive force.

Tuitt has always had the superior athleticism needed to be one of the best defensive ends in the NFL, but durability has been an issue. Sadly for Tuitt, availability is one of the greatest abilities. Luckily for the Steelers, Alualu is nothing if not reliable. In no way exceptional, Alualu is a pro's pro. By definition, a solid contributor needed on any professional football team. Think Brett Keisel, sans the beard.

A better comparison to Alualu would have to be former Steelers DL Kimo von Oelhoffen, another journeyman lineman who flourished after joining the Steelers, and a native Hawaiian himself. Kimo became a key contributor on a stout Steelers defense that managed to bring a 5th Lombardi Trophy back to Pittsburgh in 2005.

It will undoubtedly take a joint effort by multiple players to help offset the loss of production created by Tuitt's season ending injury, but make no mistake about it, the Steelers need Alualu to pick up his share of the load.

Alualu is no stranger to great expectations, especially the unrealistic variety. Circumstances often created by no fault of his own. That is the inevitable result of being overdrafted. It comes with the territory.

A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, Alualu was a standout performer for the University of California, earning All Pac-10 honors as a senior. Alualu enjoyed a solid all around NFL Combine and pro day performance after the season, but nothing that would explain what transpired next.

While Tuitt was considered a excellent draft value, a second round selection with first round talent, Alualu was inexplicably selected with the 10th overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Never possessing the talent necessary to justify the selection, Alualu was quickly labeled a bust.

Strange how one man's trash can become another man's treasure.

The Steelers signed Alualu to a two year contract prior to the 2017 season to add depth to their defensive line rotation. His performance as a Steeler over the last two years helped earn him a new two year contract during this past off season. Although Alualu has been asked to make a spot start or two, his main contributions have been as a backup.

Alualu has displayed impressive versatility, able to play meaningful minutes at each position along the defensive line at a above-the-line level. The Steelers value position versatility in their lineman on both the offensive and defensive lines, and Alualu definitely fits the bill.

Although not blessed with exceptional burst off the snap, Alualu has an excellent base with the strength necessary to occupy blockers against the run, and collapse the pocket versus the passing game.

Alualu is one of the Steelers underappreciated glue guys. He has the team first mentality necessary to excel as a quality backup on a team blessed with more than their fair share of stars. Alualu is more than happy to sacrifice his own statistics and revel vicariously in the adoration received by his teammates. He understands his value to the organization, and is clearly aware of his own limitations. His ability to tie up blockers allows his fellow defenders the opportunity to shine.

When blessed with the opportunity, watch Alualu interact with his teammates, both on and off the field. Always ready to offer support or advice to a starter coming off the field, Alualu acts as a second set of eyes on the sidelines, conveying the information gathered as an engaged sideline participant. Wisdom gathered over a nearly decade long professional career.

Alualu is a family man and respected member in his community. He appreciates the support and realistic expectations of the Steelers organization and Steelers Nation. His game has blossomed in the Pittsburgh environment and with his renewed mindset.

Although the expectations on Alualu may have kicked up a notch or two since Tuitt's injury, I believe he is more than capable of stepping up to the challenge.

Podcast: Can the Steelers finally beat a team with a winning record?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/31/2019 - 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 underway, and the news is really starting to heat up. 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
  • A look ahead to the Indianapolis Colts
  • Diagnosing the issues with the Steelers using statistics
  • Predictions
  • 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: With the Andy Dalton benching, the AFC North gets a complete QB makeover

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/31/2019 - 4:35am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving into Week 9 of the NFL regular season, and as the team prepares for the Indianapolis Colts this week we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the next game starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how after the Cincinnati Bengals benched Andy Dalton recently, it marks a unique time in the AFC North division.

Let’s get to the news:

Kevin Gorman’s Who Runs the North?: Bengals bungle benching of Andy Dalton for a rookie

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Bengals demoted Dalton after 128 career starts, which produced a 68-58-2 record. They demoted Dalton after he completed 32 of 52 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown without an interception in a 24-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Wembley Stadium in London. They benched Dalton, despite a dreadful offensive line that has allowed him to be sacked 29 times this season, third-most in the league.

Of course, the Bengals (0-8) do have the worst record in the NFL.

It wasn’t so much the plays that Dalton made that got him benched but rather the ones he didn’t. Dalton threw a touchdown pass to Joe Mixon to tie the game at 10-10 but was sacked on a third-and-10 late in the second quarter, taking the Bengals out of field-goal range while trailing, 17-10. The Bengals also were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 6 when Auden Tate’s catch in the end zone was ruled incomplete upon review.

No wonder he had a career-worst 38.8 rating.

After a bye, rookie Ryan Finley will make his first NFL start against the AFC North-leading Ravens. Finley joins a division that features second-year quarterbacks in Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and the Steelers’ Mason Rudolph. No doubt the team whose signal-caller performs the best will take control.

We know this much with certainty: It won’t be the Bengals.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Were you hoping for Devlin Hodges in the early portions of Week 8 on Monday night? Mike Tomlin wasn’t...

Mike Tomlin maintained ‘confidence’ in Steelers’ Mason Rudolph during early adversity

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Despite Mason Rudolph’s poor start that resulted in a non-existent passer rating after the first quarter Monday night, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had no intention of having backup Devlin Hodges begin warming up for possible relief duty.

Tomlin made that clear Tuesday at his weekly press conference when he offered a terse response to a reporter’s question about why he didn’t have Hodges get ready on the sideline.

Tomlin paused, looked around the room and said, “Next.”

Rudolph recovered to throw for 251 yards and two touchdowns in the Steelers’ 27-14 victory against the Miami Dolphins.

Rudolph was starting for the first time since he sustained a concussion 22 days earlier against Baltimore. It was his fourth career NFL start. Tomlin said the long layoff presented a “unique” challenge to the second-year quarterback.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in him,” Tomlin said. “We didn’t need to see that. We’ve been working with him going on a couple years. That’s just in his DNA. That’s one reason the guys rally around him and believe in him.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Monday Night Football is awful, and has been bad for years. But they did make one addition by subtraction to the broadcast...

ESPN ditches MNF halftime music videos

By: Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

Many were surprised to see those awkward, black-and-white, truncated musical performances return to halftime of Monday Night Football games in 2019. But now, after seven weeks of the season, the ’80s-style music videos are no more.

Via AdAge.com, ESPN executives “decided that using halftime for more news and analysis was ultimately the best way to serve our NFL fans.”

The musical acts never really resonated. Most if not all consisted of lip-syncing. Few were actually live. Some, like the Charlie Puth pool party video played during halftime of last Monday’s Patriots-Jets game, had no apparent geographic or temporal connection to the contest in which they were featured.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

.@TeamJuJu: "When it's your time to make a play, you make a play." pic.twitter.com/yJLir286vK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 29, 2019
  • Social Media Madness

Tunch on Mason Rudolph's performance in the second half vs. Dolphins: "He looked very much more relaxed and knowing where he was going to put the ball."

Full #SteelersLive: https://t.co/LNfYp4o9jQ pic.twitter.com/bykYRyB2yt

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 29, 2019

When #️⃣7️⃣2️⃣ is reported as an eligible receiver. @ZBNFL pic.twitter.com/jcN6qjJu4J

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 30, 2019

We can tell you're stoked

We want more ! Send in your videos using #HereWeGo and we may share yours! https://t.co/t2JQVb71TG

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 30, 2019

In the second video on his book "A Different Way to Win", Jim Rooney speaks about his grandfather, Art Rooney Sr., his father's leadership and more.

FULL : https://t.co/j4wjR6N2y9@ADiffWay2Win pic.twitter.com/GZimqNRdTu

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 30, 2019

Steelers Injury Report: James Conner held out of practice Wednesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 3:15pm
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In all, 7 players did not take the field for the first practice of Week 9

The Pittsburgh Steelers practiced for the first time since their victory on Monday Night Football. As they prepare for the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the Steelers are hoping players are recovered enough to get in the work needed. According to the Steelers PR Department, seven players sat out practice on Wednesday.

As expected, James Conner did not practice on Wednesday. Head coach Mike Tomlin said in his Tuesday press conference that Conner will get some time off early in the week, but if his shoulder progresses enough he will still be available to play on Sunday. Another person who missed practice was rookie running back Benny Snell Jr. Coach Tomlin stated Snell needs to practice in order to be available on Sunday. Jaylen Samuels was a full participant and is expected to be available to carry the load on Sunday if needed.

Ramon Foster is still in the concussion protocol and was unable to practice on Wednesday. Daniel McCullers was another player injured in Monday’s game and was unable to practice as on Wednesday due to his ankle injury.

Coming off of the recent game, several players were given Wednesday off in order to heal from various issues. Maurkice Pouncey usually does not practice on Wednesdays, but was listed as not participating due to his calf injury. Mark Barron was also given the day off as he is nursing his hamstring even though he played on Monday, therefore he was listed as a coaches decision. Tight end Vance McDonald was another player who was given the day off as a coaches decision.

The only other player on the injury report was Ulysees Gilbert III who was limited with his back injury which held him out of the game Week 8.

As for the Colts injury report, it can be seen below courtesy of Steelers.com.

Indianapolis Colts Participation/Injury Report, Week 9

Wednesday, October 30

DT/DE Denico Autry (Neck) - DNP
CB Pierre Desir (Hamstring) - DNP
CB Kenny Moore II (Knee) - DNP
DE Jabaal Sheard (Foot) - DNP
S Khari Willis (Foot) - DNP
DT Carl Davis (Hamstring) - Limited
WR T.Y Hilton (Calf) - Limited
G/C Quenton Nelson (Hip) - Limited
DT/DE Tyquan Lewis (Ankle) - Full

BTSC Survivor Pool Update: Getting too easy to pick games?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 2:21pm
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Every contestant who made their pick got it correct

The Behind The Steel Curtain survivor pool finished up its eighth week with every pick which was entered being correct. While technically we started with 592 entries, I have one entry in each league as the commissioner so there were 587 different contestants. Hundreds have entered, but only one can go home with the autographed David DeCastro football. Entering Week 8, there were exactly 100 contestants still alive.

The most common selection for Week 8 was the Pittsburgh Steelers defeating the Miami Dolphins which led or was tied in four of the six leagues as the choice for 37% of all the remaining entries. The Steelers had a lot of people concerned as they trailed the Dolphins 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. But the Steelers defense forced four turnover and didn’t surrender another point for the 27-14 victory.

Another most popular choice was the Minnesota Vikings over the Washington Redskins on Thursday Night Football. There were 35% of the choices for the Vikings and another 22% who picked the Los Angeles Rams over the Cincinnati Bengals in London. The only other choices were the Lions, Colts, and Seahawks with one selection each. This week saw every team making a selection move on to Week 9. In all, only three people were eliminated across all six leagues.

After eight weeks, 15.7% of contestants still remain since only three people of those who entered Week 8 were eliminated. Since I am still alive in all six leagues, it means we have less than a hundred contestants remaining from the 97 entries still alive. If you are still in the contest, make sure you enter your pick early so you don’t get knocked out due to a lack of selection. In fact, go do it right now if you are still alive!

As the season moves forward, it does become slightly easier to know what a team is supposedly capable of based on their body of work, but the choices become fewer as many contestants have already used the NFL’s top teams. With the Dolphins taking on the Jets this week, the Bengals being on bye, and only a few matchups of teams with winning records facing teams with losing records, who will be the go-to team of choice?

Weekly Update: Upcoming Week 9 Games of Note:
  • Most heavily favored: San Francisco (-10) at Arizona
  • Closest match up (other than the Steelers): Houston (-1.5) at Jacksonville
  • The Steelers match up: Pittsburgh (-1) at home vs Indianapolis
  • On Bye Week: Atlanta, Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Los Angeles Rams

(all lines are courtesy of oddshark.com as of 10/29)

So there you have it! Make sure you check back at Behind The Steel Curtain to stay updated on the contest. Even if you did not enter or have already been eliminated, feel free to check in and see how you would have fared each week.

PFF hands out some impressive grades for the Steelers in Week 8

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 1:01pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in Week 8, and PFF shows the how and the why of it all.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in Week 8 vs. the Miami Dolphins and advanced their record to 3-4 on the season. While the game wasn’t always pretty, there were some remarkable performances from the home team in front of an anxious crowd.

There are the obvious players who performed well, but when it comes to players who might not get the accolades as other, this is where Pro Football Focus comes in. While many don’t agree with their grading system/philosophy, they do a lot of work when it comes to not just watching film, but looking at the analytics of the game.

See what the fine folks at PFF put together this as a knee jerk reaction to the Steelers’ Week 8 victory over the Dolphins.

Mason Rudolph targeted JuJu Smith-Schuster on an out route, but John Jenkins pushed Maurkice Pouncey into Rudolph as he threw the ball. Dolphins veteran cornerback Xavien Howard intercepted the pass on the play. Later in the game, Rudolph threw behind James Washington on a crossing route and hit Howard in the chest, but he wasn’t able to hold onto the interception. Rudolph’s best throw of the night was a beautifully placed go route to Smith-Schuster down the right sideline for a gain of 34 yards.

Rookie wideout Diontae Johnson turned a shallow crossing route against a blitz into a 45-yard touchdown at the end of the second quarter. Smith-Schuster made the play of the game on a vertical route where he had to turn back and pluck the ball off the helmet of Chris Lammons for a touchdown.

T.J. Watt dominated Miami right tackle Jesse Davis all night. He came up big in the fourth quarter too, forcing two fumbles on Ryan Fitzpatrick, one of which he recovered himself while the other was to end the game. Pittsburgh’s defensive line put forth a good effort against a poor Miami offensive line unit, with Bud Dupree and Cam Heyward having big nights, as well.

Minkah Fitzpatrick showed out against his former team, picking off two Ryan Fitzpatrick passes. One of these was a pass that ricocheted into the air after a drop, while the other was on an overthrown deep ball.

As for regular positional grades, for those who might not know how PFF grades, a 100.0 would be considered a perfect game. No mistakes, no flaws. So, if a player is graded in the 90s, they had themselves a tremendous game.

Take a look at the players on the Steelers’ offense who graded out the highest:

The #Steelers offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage on #MNF pic.twitter.com/ZqSaUlB3d3

— PFF (@PFF) October 30, 2019

Now, check out the defense:

T.J. Watt was on another level on MNF pic.twitter.com/8Z0mKpnQUu

— PFF (@PFF) October 30, 2019

Watt’s 94.7 is a tremendous grade for the third year edge rusher out of Wisconsin, and just shows other people, not just Steelers fans/media, are starting to see just how impressive he is on a weekly basis.

What do you think of these grades? Do you agree, or disagree? Do you feel someone was graded too high, or too low? Let us know 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 Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field in Week 9.

All charges have been withdrawn against Steelers OLB Anthony Chickillo

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 11:38am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In regards to the incident with his girlfriend which took place on on October 20, no charges are being pursued against either party

In Fayette County court this morning, all charges were withdrawn against Steelers outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo and his girlfriend.

#Breaking: Charges against #Steelers LB Anthony Chickillo and Alysha Newman have been withdrawn. Fayette County DA says he met with both and they agreed to withdraw charges. pic.twitter.com/pDPEXHfNUE

— Jim Madalinsky (@JimWTAE) October 30, 2019

With neither party wanting to pursue the issue as both parties felt the entire incident was blown out of proportion. By withdrawing the charges, the authorities believe there was nothing about the situation which deserves criminal prosecution.

Originally charged with simple assault, criminal mischief, and harassment following his arrest during the Steelers’ bye week, Chickillo was placed on the commissioners exempt list by the NFL on Tuesday, October 22.

While criminal charges have been dismissed, the NFL could choose to take action against Chickillo based on conduct detrimental to the league. It is unsure at this time when the NFL will make any decision with Chickillo as to any sort of suspension or if to remove him from the list. Until then, Chickillo will continue to receive his salary but cannot participate in any team activities and does not count as a spot towards the 53-man roster.

Make sure to stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain is more on the story develops.

Mike Tomlin discusses the performance of the Steelers new secondary pieces for 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 11:25am
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Minkah Fitzpatrick and Steven Nelson were involved in three of the four Steelers takeaways on Monday night

In his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin took questions from the media after discussing injuries, the team’s win over the Dolphins on Monday night, and outlining their opponent for the upcoming game. Among the questions were a couple centered around the Steelers new additions in the defensive secondary for the 2019 season. Coach Tomlin was asked if he was surprised with Minkah Fitzpatrick’s successes in the defense and what he’s been able to do.

“Not really,” Tomlin answered. “Like I said man, we were so enamored with him in the draft process. We really felt like we understood not only his talent level, but his approach, his football character. Couple that with Karl Dunbar, our defensive line coach, who was the defensive line coach at Bama when he was there. So, we had someone around him that just watched his day-to-day approach. There were very little unknowns about him from that stand point.”

Selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Miami Dolphins, it was a longshot for the Steelers to land Fitzpatrick in the draft. But in doing their due diligence, the Steelers were familiar enough to pull the trigger after Week 2 of 2019 to make the trade to bring in the safety from Alabama. Although they gave up their 2020 first-round draft pick, the Steelers believe Fitzpatrick will pay more dividends than whatever selection they could have made. And based on his performance in his four games, Fitzpatrick’s play has backed up this claim.

Tomlin went on to explain that while Fitzpatrick’s production has been highly welcomed, they are still hoping for improvement.

“So, we’re not surprised by what we’re getting, and hopefully it not only continues, but it improves as he gets his feet on the ground and gets a sense of not only what he’s doing, but how it fits into the big picture of things.”

The other new piece to the Steelers’ secondary in 2019 is cornerback Steven Nelson. Signed as a free agent after his first four years playing with the Kansas City Chiefs, Nelson has been more productive than most Steelers’ fans expected. Coach Tomlin was asked about how much has Nelson’s play influences what the Steelers do defensively.

“You know, like Minkah, he’s just a low maintenance, low key, really high floor professional. The performances that we get from him week in and week out are really consistent.”

So far in 2018, Nelson hasn’t had his name called very often. When it comes to playing outside cornerback, this is usually a good thing as teams have been avoiding throwing the ball in his direction.

“He does a good job of staying close to his guy to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin continued. “So he’s not targeted a lot. All those things bode well for him and for us, and we like the overall trajectory of his play.”

On the season, Nelson has two passes defensed, a fumble recovery, and 22 combined tackles. Since Fitzpatrick has joined the Steelers, he has three interceptions, five passes defensed, a forced fumble, and 23 combined tackles. With Nelson shutting down one side of the field and Fitzpatrick taking care of things on the deep end, teams are finding Joe Haden is the only other option to attack the Steelers in the passing game. And with Haden being one of the Steelers best secondary weapons in 2018, the defensive backfield is quickly becoming one of the strengths of the team.

Steelers add a RB to the practice squad as insurance if James Conner is out in Week 9

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 10:16am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made a practice squad move to help the depth at the running back position.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back depth chart is in dire straits, at least on paper. James Conner is dealing with an AC sprain in his shoulder, and Benny Snell Jr. has a knee injury. During his weekly press conference Mike Tomlin didn’t rule out either running back, but mentioned they both could be limited in the early portions of the week.

The difference between Conner and Snell is their experience. Tomlin said if Conner was limited it wouldn’t impact his availability on Sunday, but the opposite was said about Snell. Being a rookie he needs all the practice he can get to prepare.

With that said, the Steelers will be headed into their Week 9 game vs. the Indianapolis Colts with two healthy running back: Jaylen Samuels who is returning from a knee injury and Trey Edmunds.

In other words, if Conner and/or Snell can’t play on Sunday the team will need to have an insurance policy at the position. They did just that by signing Darrin Hall to their practice squad Wednesday.

We have released TE Kevin Rader and have signed RB Darrin Hall to our practice squad.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 30, 2019

Hall played his college football at the University of Pittsburgh, and should be comfortable in his new location. A brief synposis of Hall, and what he brings to the Steelers if he is called upon:

Running back prospect with three-down backup size and versatility who is limited by a lack of field vision and cut quickness. Hall is too tight-hipped to be a sudden, one-cut runner on outside zone plays, but he does have the raw build-up speed to take it the distance if he finds wide open daylight. His size, strength and pro day testing give him an outside shot of surprising in camp.

Hall will be the second running back on the Steelers practice squad as they already have Tony Brooks-James who was added several weeks ago. This will bring the Steelers total amount of running backs to seven between the active roster and the practice squad if including fullback Roosevelt Nix. Adding another running back at this point, even to the practice squad, gives a strong indication that Benny Snell Jr. may not be available in preparation for Sunday’s game.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as thtye prepare for the Indianapolis Colts to invade Heinz Field this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Breaking down the touchdown drive that may have saved the Steelers season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 8:59am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pinned with their heels on their own goal line, the Steelers produced a 97 yard touchdown drive that might have saved their season.

Last week, I wrote about how the Steelers needed to find ways to buck their trend of miserable first quarters and start faster, particularly on offense.

So much for that idea.

Mason Rudolph was intercepted on his first throw of the evening, the defense could not defend a simple slant route and the Steelers exited the first fifteen minutes of play trailing a junior varsity Dolphins team 14-0. I did not follow nor have I examined the BTSC Open Thread of the game, but I can only imagine.

Thankfully, there were still forty-five minutes of football remaining, and in that time Mike Tomlin’s crew managed to shake off the lethargy their bye week seemed to induce and put 27 consecutive points on the board. Miami certainly helped the cause, turning the ball over four times and playing arguably the worse third-and-long defense of all-time on a play near the end of the half that resulted in a 45 yard touchdown pass from Rudolph to Diontae Johnson. Blitzing eight? That was some kamikaze defense for the ages. Who did Brian Flores study under? General Tojo?

Still, the Steelers trailed 14-10 at the half, and midway through the third quarter, after Minkah Fitzpatrick’s second interception of the night gave them possession at their own three yard-line, a 97 yard touchdown drive seemed inconceivable. After all, to that point in the contest, Rudolph had gone 11-24 passing for 165 yards, with 45 of those coming on the touchdown Miami had gifted to Dionate Johnson. To make the odds even longer, the last Steelers quarterback not named Ben Roethlisberger to engineer a touchdown drive of ninety of more yards was Kordell Stewart back in 2001 when he hooked up with Bobby Shaw on a 90 yard catch-and-run against the Ravens. Through two-plus quarters Monday evening, Rudolph seemed an unlikely candidate to become the next quarterback to do it.

And yet, with some solid play-calling from offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, good protection from his offensive line, hard running by James Conner and a few big plays from his receivers, Rudolph did just that. In all, the drive took 12 plays, covered all 97 yards and consumed nearly eight minutes of clock. The Steelers took the lead, 17-14, and dominated from there on out.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, it’s not far-fetched to suggest that drive may have saved, for now, the Steelers season. A three-and-out or a short drive there would have likely given Miami excellent field position. With momentum, and a Steelers team still searching for answers on offense, it’s conceivable the Dolphins could have held on to win. A home loss for the Steelers coming out of the bye to an awful Dolphins team would have been devastating to say the least, and at 2-5, would have pretty much put a nail in the coffin of any realistic hopes of making the playoffs. Instead, the team remains in the hunt for both the wild card and the AFC North division title. Funny how quickly circumstances can change.

Let’s look more closely at Rudolph’s best drive as a professional, and at how the Steelers put it together when they needed it most.

1st and 10, -3 yard line, 11:03 3rd qtr

To kick-start the drive, Zach Banner reported as a sixth lineman and joined tight ends Vance McDonald and Nick Vannett in a jumbo package that, by my rough calculations, included approximately 12,000 pounds of blocking for James Conner. Though Conner gained a modest three yards on the first down carry, Fichtner made effective use of the jumbo package overall, as it helped pave the way for 158 rushing yards from a unit that had been averaging roughly half that through the first six games.

On 2nd and 7, Rudolph made a big-boy throw to get the Steelers out of the shadow of their own end zone. With the Steelers in an 11 personnel set versus an eight-man combo coverage, the young quarterback stepped into a fairly cluttered pocket and threw a dart from a yard deep in the end zone to Juju Smith-Schuster who, along with McDonald, was running a double slant concept. The throw hit Smith-Schuster in stride against tight coverage for a first down at the 23:

The Steelers had now achieved the minimum goal for a drive that starts deep in their own territory: gain at least one first down and give the punting unit a chance to flip the field. Now they could set their sights on something more productive, like generating points.

2nd and 20, -13 yard line, 9:06 3rd qtr

Not so fast. A holding penalty on McDonald wiped out a 20 yard run by Conner and put the Steelers back in a hole. Following an incompletion, they faced 2nd and 20 at their own 13. Fichtner returned to 11 personnel and Miami countered by bringing a delayed five-man blitz. Corner Nik Needham, aligned to the bottom of the screen in the GIF below, came off of press coverage on Johnson and was unblocked to the quarterback. It’s unclear whether Rudolph saw the blitz out of the corner of his eye or not. Regardless, he hung in the pocket long enough to allow James Washington to make an “in” cut at the sticks twenty yards down the field, then delivered a strong throw to him just before absorbing a shot from Needham.

This play was impressive for several reasons. First, the offensive line handled the inside stunt from the Dolphins seamlessly, providing Rudolph the time in the pocket he needed to wait for Washington to come open. Second, Rudolph showed real courage hanging in the way he did considering the wicked concussion he received from a hit to the head by Earl Thomas in week five. Any questions about Rudolph’s toughness should have been answered on this play. Finally, Washington made a nice catch with his hands on a ball that was thrown slightly behind him, then turned and fought for the first down among three Miami defenders. For the struggling Washington, this was an important contribution.

1st and 10, -34 yard line, 8:21 3rd

On the next play, Fichtner went heavy again, bringing back the jumbo package and running a counter-gap scheme into the boundary with left guard David DeCastro pulling and kicking the edge player and Vance McDonald pulling behind him to lead on the play-side linebacker. The jumbo package created a mismatch, as the Dolphins walked 230 pound Sam Eguavoen (49) down to set the edge. Eguavoen was manhandled by Vannett, who washed him down with ease. That allowed DeCastro to turn up-field and pick off linebacker Raekwon McMillan (52) while McDonald turned back on Jerome Baker (55). Conner rumbled for fourteen yards. He was untouched for all but the final few.

(I used slow-motion on the GIF to provide an appreciation for how physically dominant the O-Line was on this play. It takes longer to watch but it’s a thing of beauty...)

3rd and 8, +38 yard line, 4:51 3rd

Another run to Conner and a short throw to McDonald garnered a first down in Miami territory, but on a 2nd and 6 play from the Dolphins’ 36 Rudolph was dropped for a loss on an odd bootleg that looked either mistimed or as though it was a broken play. That set up a crucial 3rd and 8 just out of field goal range at the +38.

The Steelers aligned in a 2x2 set with McDonald to the right while Miami countered with the goofy “amoeba” defense they had been messing around with for much of the night. The idea of the amoeba is to disrupt the offensive line’s protection calls by having defenders move around at the line of scrimmage rather than aligning in set positions. If an offensive line is used to setting its protection off of the Mike linebacker, as many do, this could cause confusion.

Experienced units like the Steelers rarely struggle with a gimmick like the amoeba, however, especially one as poorly executed as Miami’s. For starters, the Dolphin defenders were 2-3 yards off of the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped. This delayed their pass rush and made it easier for the Steelers’ linemen to kick-step, gain depth and identify who was rushing where. The Dolphins ran a twist stunt and brought Baker (55) into the A-gap. They actually got some penetration with this, as center Maurkice Pouncey was a bit late switching off to pick up Baker. But because Baker started so far off of the ball, he had no chance of disrupting Rudolph’s throw.

Rudolph, for his part, didn’t quite step into the throw (his front foot actually stepped more towards the sideline than at Diontae Johnson, his target) and the ball was a bit short as a result. Johnson, who was running a hitch route just beyond the sticks, did a nice job working back out of his break and cradled the throw in his chest for a big first down.

This was one of multiple clutch plays by Johnson on the evening, including the touchdown at the end of the first half as well as an incredible one-handed catch for a big gain in the second quarter that was wiped out by a bogus offensive pass interference call. Johnson’s combination of quickness, precise route running and good hands have allowed him to establish himself as the team’s #2 receiver behind Smith-Schuster much faster than anticipated. Given the fact he was drafted with capital from the Antonio Brown trade, the swap of Brown for Johnson, at the moment, looks like a slam-dunk for the Steelers.

2nd and 9, +26 yard line, 3:16 3rd

A short throw to Conner gained a yard, setting up 2nd and 9 at the +26. Miami pressed the Steelers receivers at the line of scrimmage in a cover-1 look and brought pressure from both edges. Tackles Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva swallowed up the speed-rushing outside backers while B.J. Finney, filling in for the concussed Ramon Foster, rode his defender wide. Pouncey and DeCastro deftly handled a twist stunt, giving Rudolph a clean pocket from which to throw. He targeted Smith-Schuster, working a wheel concept out of the left slot, against corner Chris Lammons. Watch:

It’s been a rough first half of the season for Juju. He has struggled to separate from man coverage at times and has found less space in which to operate while drawing extra attention as the team’s number one receiver. Juju’s 25 catches for 340 yards through six games didn’t feel like the production of a “number one” guy, leaving some to wonder if his numbers last season weren’t more a factor of being Antonio Brown’s sidekick than a legitimate threat of his own.

Questions about his ability to function as a “number one” may be valid. But make no mistake about it - Juju is a heck of a football player. He is big, strong, physical and, above all, he makes plays. The absence of the uber-talented Brown opposite Juju in the Steelers offense has certainly limited his play-making ability. But Juju is still capable of plays like these, where he high-points the football and simply rips it away from the over-matched Lammons. The result was a touchdown that punctuated the Steelers most impressive drive of the season and gave them a lead they would not relinquish.

In all, the Steelers were 6-7 passing for 70 yards on the drive and they ran it five times for another 27 yards (not including Conner’s 20 yard run wiped out by the hold on McDonald). Fichtner mixed his jumbo package with a variety of looks from 11 and 12 personnel. The jumbo worked because it forced Miami to walk its smaller outside linebackers down to the line of scrimmage to act as edge players, where they were pushed around by the Steelers’ bigger personnel. The Steelers also picked on Miami’s sub-par secondary, routinely winning one-on-one match-ups on the outside. The offensive line was stellar in the run and pass, giving Rudolph time to throw and Conner room to run.

Granted, the Dolphins are a bad football team and the drive finally showed the sort of dominance many Steelers fans had been expecting from the opening kick. The fact it took until the middle of the third quarter to impose their will likely rankled some of the faithful. Still, behind their young quarterback, on a night where they were struggling offensively, 97 yards in 12 plays was darn impressive no matter the opponent.

With the red-hot Indianapolis Colts coming to town next Sunday, the Steelers won’t have long to enjoy this victory. Enjoy it they should, however, because, as winners of three of their last four contests, their playoff hopes, which seemed all but extinguished when it was announced Roethlisberger would undergo season-ending surgery after week two, are still alive. That might not be the case today had the offense not engineered a 97 yard drive that, for now at least, may have saved their season.

James Conner named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance vs. Miami

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 7:46am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back received a league-wide honor for the numbers he put up vs. the Dolphins in Week 8.

It was a good day for the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night. Not only did they defeat the Miami Dolphins 27-14 on Monday Night Football, but they had some awesome individual efforts by several players on the team.

One of those players, running back James Conner, was given a league-wide award for his play when he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 8 of the 2019 regular season.

1️⃣4️⃣5️⃣ rushing yards
1️⃣ touchdown@JamesConner_ has been named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance vs. the Dolphins.

MORE: https://t.co/BSbrz8veA7 pic.twitter.com/Dvct9caYPq

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 30, 2019

During the game Conner registered 145 rushing yards, his first 100+ yard game of the season, and scored a rushing touchdown on top of that. Conner’s average of 6.3 yards per carry is the highest of any game in his NFL career in which he had more than five rushing attempts.

While the performance was fantastic, Steelers fans are concerned about the health of their Pro Bowl running back moving forward. In the waning minutes of the Week 8 contest Conner left the game with what is being described as an AC joint sprain in his shoulder. He hasn’t been ruled out for Week 9 yet, but there is still hope he could play in the upcoming game vs. the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field.

Conner’s performance was outstanding, but a few other players could have also been serious contenders for their own individual awards after Monday night. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 103 yards receiving and 1 TD would have been in the discussion, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s 2 INT game should have been considered and T.J. Watt’s 2 sack, 3 QB hit, forced fumble and fumble recovery was one heck of a night as well.

It is a good problem to have when you are debating which player from your favorite team could win an award for their stellar performance on the field that week. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Colts in Week 9.

The Steelers 27-14 victory over the Dolphins wasn’t pretty, but it kept the 2019 season alive

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 7:35am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t pretty, but the Steelers 27-14 victory over the lowly and winless Dolphins on Monday Night Football kept their season alive.

You heard/read the normal refrains from the social media universe in the early portions of the Steelers match-up against the lowly and winless Dolphins at Heinz Field on Monday Night Football.

There were charges that the Steelers, as usual, were rusty following their bye. There were accusations that the head coach, Mike Tomlin, didn’t have his guys ready to play against a lesser opponent.

It was pretty standard, really. But what’s not standard in 2019 is who these Steelers really are. When you’re missing your franchise quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger and, yes, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, the word “always” really can’t be used to describe anything that’s taking place before your very eyes.

As for lesser opponents? Sad to say, but there aren’t many of those as it pertains to the Steelers in 2019. This isn’t to suggest they’re an awful football team, but they’re certainly severely compromised, at least on the offensive side of the football.

When one is missing so many key cogs, one must assume nothing.

And that’s why it wasn’t much of a surprise when Mason Rudolph, who was making his fourth-career start three weeks after suffering a scary concussion at the hands (well, helmet) of Ravens’ safety Earl Thomas, made a curious first pass-attempt that was easily intercepted at the Pittsburgh 26-yard line.

Maybe you were hoping the defense would limit the 0-6 Dolphins to a field goal attempt, and you would have had every right to expect that if this was 2008, and guys named Troy and Casey were leading the way. But those guys weren’t around on Monday night. This isn’t to say this current Steelers’ defense can’t be that good one day. Based on talent, it really can be. In fact, it appears to be trending that way in many categories. However, it’s not there yet. It’s just not likely to stand its ground when the other team—even one that is actively trying to tank its season—is only 26 yards away from pay-dirt.

Besides, Ryan Fitzpatrick, currently keeping the “Fitzmagic” nickname warm for the safety the Steelers just acquired from Miami, is no slouch in the quarterback department. As the saying goes, he’s on scholarship, too, and quickly turned Rudolph’s gift into a 7-0 lead.

Moments later, Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins on a more traditional touchdown drive to make it 14-0, tankers.

Yikes, and that was especially the sentiment after Rudolph spent the entire first quarter and most of the second looking like a guy who should have been replaced by Devlin Hodges and his moxie.

But, again, this is a whole new world. The Steelers can’t rely on their quarterback to carry them on their back and win them games, at least not yet.

And that’s why it was so imperative that Minkah Fitzpatrick did that thing he’s fond of doing where he finds a way to clasp his hands on the football whenever it’s near him. This occurred for the first time at midfield and near the end of the first half, with the Steelers trailing, 14-3.

Moments later, and after having endured the miscarriage of justice that was a phantom offensive pass interference call on rookie receiver Diontae Johnson on a pass that should have given the Steelers a first and goal, Rudolph faced a third and 20 from the Dolphins 45.

With just seconds left in the second quarter, getting into reasonable field goal range was all that could be expected, right? Not when you’re facing a winless team that, for some reason, decided that an all-out blitz and aggressive man-to-man coverage was the way to go. And that’s why it wasn’t all so surprising that Johnson easily found himself wide open. To his credit, Rudolph made the wise decision of hitting him in stride, and the rookie receiver made the wise decision of heading straight for the goal line.

Just like that, it was 14-10.

And, just like that, the game belonged to the Steelers, who spent the second half choking the life out of a team that was in the business of losing.

Rudolph looked much more decisive in the second half, as he led the Steelers to two touchdowns—including a 26-yard hook-up with JuJu Smith-Schuster, who did most of the heavy lifting with one of his patented combat catches, to give Pittsburgh its first lead of the evening.

That score was surprisingly set up by Minkah Fitzpatrick's second pick, which came at the Steelers own three-yard line. It's weird to say that an interception led to a 97-yard touchdown-drive, but that's how it felt.

The defense, one that is slowly starting to get the importance of closing out games, continued to shut things down in the second half by denying Fitzpatrick on a fourth and one quarterback keeper late in the third quarterback and forcing two fumbles in the final period .

Running back James Conner, who rushed for 145 yards on the evening, helped Pittsburgh capitalize on the aforementioned defensive stand against Fitzpatrick by scoring from nine yards out to make it 24-14.

Those two fourth-quarter takeaways only led to three more points on a Chris Boswell field goal, but that’s okay.

The point was, the Steelers didn’t have to rely on their young quarterback.

Much like against the Bengals and Chargers, it was a total team effort.

The Steelers won on Monday night thanks to dominant defense, efficient offense (eventually), good coaching and, believe it or not, a successful challenge by Tomlin, after Fitzpatrick’s keeper was initially deemed effective enough to give the Dolphins a first down near midfield.

It wasn’t pretty, but it’s likely not going to be pretty the rest of the way.

This is what happens when a team is forced to reinvent itself mid-stride.

The Steelers are now 3-4 and still have a pulse.

That’s all you can ask for...even against the lowly and winless Dolphins.

NFL Betting Preview: Steelers currently a 1-point favorite vs. the Colts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 6:36am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

After their 13-point victory over the Dolphins Monday night, the Steelers are slightly favored over Indy

After a rusty start coming out of the bye, the Steelers settled in for a Week 8 win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. With 15 days in between their previous two games, the Steelers now have only six to prepare for the Indianapolis Colts. With such a quick turnaround after playing on Monday, the oddsmakers had some catching up to do when it came to projecting the Steelers chances for Week 9 as the they weren’t originally favored before their latest win. Regardless, the Steelers have won two games in a row and are looking to stack another win by once again playing in front of their home crowd at Heinz Field.

When it comes to the betting lines for Sunday’s game, the following information is the current consensus spread and over/under for the Steelers this week as reported by oddsshark.com.

Game Info: Week 9 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts Sunday, November 3, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Betting line: -1

Over/under: 42.5

Last Regular Season Meeting: Steelers (W) 20-17 vs Colts

Win streak: 5 games PIT

Last 3 Meetings: PIT 3 - 0 IND

Last 10 Meetings: PIT 8 - 2 IND

The opening line on the game was -2.5 when the schedule was released in April. With both teams now operating with a different quarterback for the season than who was expected six months ago, the Colts have still managed to a 5-2 record. Although they lead the AFC South, Indianapolis is still a bit of a mystery as they have lost games to the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders while managing to to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.

Being the slight favorite on Sunday, the Steelers have a current moneyline of -115 to win the game straight up, which is the equivalent of about 20/23 odds. So a $20 bet placed on the Steelers over the Colts would have a payout of $37.39 ($17.39 plus the original $20 bet). The Colts have a current moneyline of -105, or 20/21 odds. Therefore the same $20 bet placed on Indianapolis to win straight up would have a payout of $39.03 ($19.03 pus the original $20 bet) .

According to Oddsshark.com, the Steelers are 7-3 straight up in their last 10 games at home and are 14-1 straight up in their last 15 games at home against the Colts. The Steelers also have gone UNDER is four of their last five games, but the total has gone OVER in four of Pittsburgh’s last six games against Indy.

If looking at the futures bets, the Steelers odds to win the Super Bowl vary from 30/1 to 90/1. They also have varying odds to win the AFC Championship from 16/1 odds to 35/1. As for winning the AFC North, the Steelers are at 9/2 odds and they are projected to place second the AFC North. Baltimore has better odds to win the division at 1/4 while Cincinnati is still the biggest long shot to win the AFC North at 5000/1.

Podcast: The Steelers vs. Colts game features two teams with plenty of unknowns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 5:37am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is underway, and the news is just starting to heat up. 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 breaks down all things Steelers stats, and also answers questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Injury Update after the Chargers game
  • Why Week 8 is the perfect recipe for a Steelers win over the Dolphins
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave 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.

Podcast: Did the win over the Dolphins feel like a loss?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 5:05am

Join Bryan and Tony for the fallout after a week off for the Steelers in the latest episode of the ‘Steelers Hangover’.

The Steelers beat the Miami Dolphins in Week 8, but did it really feel like a win or a loss? Join Bryan Davis, and Anthony Defeo from BTSC as they share their thoughts on the overall landscape of the Steelers 2019 season after the bye and a big Baltimore win. It’s the extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”.

In case you are new to the show, you can check out a complete rundown of the show below:

  • Rehashing the Pittsburgh Steelers third win of the season
  • Do the Steelers have the slightest chance of catching the Ravens in 2019 or has too much damage been done?
  • Live chat Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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: Vince Williams, of all people, picking up the slack for Stephon Tuitt

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 4:30am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving into Week 9 of the NFL regular season, and as the team prepares for the Indianapolis Colts this week we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the next game starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how Vince Williams, of all people, is picking up the slack for injured defensive end Stephon Tuitt.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers would have to be creative to replace Stephon Tuitt, and they are doing just that to try and keep the defense from dropping off. The latest man to take over some of those duties? Vince Williams.

Vince Williams helps pick up slack in Steelers first game minus Stephon Tuitt

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The first of 10 games the Pittsburgh Steelers will play without Stephon Tuitt featured an outside-the-box way of filling his spot in defensive subpackages.

Linebacker Vince Williams was used as a de facto defensive lineman in some pass-rushing situations in the Steelers’ 27-14 victory against the Miami Dolphins. Cameron Heyward was the only true defensive lineman on the field in that formation.

Williams had four tackles and two quarterback hits while playing 34 of 60 snaps. Rookie Devin Bush played every snap at inside linebacker, and Mark Barron was on the field for 40 defensive plays.

“That’s probably indicative of how we move forward,” coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. “When you talk about replacing a guy like Stephon, it’s not only a multi-person job, it’s also probably a multi-positional job. I thought we did a good job of establishing a baseline of what that looks like moving forward.”

When healthy, Williams is a capable pass rusher. He is two years removed from recording a career-high eight sacks.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Did the Steelers’ offense find their identity vs. the Dolphins in the running game?

Kevin Gorman: These Steelers will let their blocking do the talking in the running game

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

That neither Zach Banner nor Roosevelt Nix talk much with the media has as much to do with their own personal reasons as it does the positions they play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A fullback who stars as a special-teams captain, Nix prefers to keep it low-key by doing the dirty work of blocking, tackling and making the occasional catch in short-yardage situations.

A swing tackle once projected as a first-round draft pick but now on his third NFL team, Banner wants to earn a spot in the starting lineup before he begins to bask in the limelight.

The blocking of the offensive line, with the support of Banner and Nix, got the running game going as the Steelers rolled to a season-high 158 rushing yards in their 27-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins on “Monday Night Football” at Heinz Field.

Having Nix lined up as the lead blocker or Banner as an extra blocker was a sign the Steelers were serious about running the football, maybe the most important development for an offense struggling to find its identity.

“I thought we established a run game in ways offensively that we hadn’t done to this point in the season, so that was encouraging,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I thought the inclusion of Rosie Nix and his availability probably was a significant component in that, not only in terms of the tangible things that he brings but just the general attitude and presence of a guy like that, a combat guy like that and what he does for a huddle and a unit, I thought, was significant.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Benny Snell Jr. had charges which were filed against him in the state of Ohio dropped, but he isn’t out of the proverbial woods yet.

Ohio drug charge against Steelers’ Benny Snell withdrawn

By: Tom Davidson, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A drug charge filed in an Ohio court against Pittsburgh Steelers running back Benny Snell was withdrawn, but the rookie could still face consequences under the NFL’s code of conduct.

Snell, who the Steelers selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft, admitted to smoking marijuana about 20 minutes before he was pulled over for speeding Aug. 30 on Route 250 in Harrison County, Ohio, according to a report released by the county’s sheriff’s office.

Snell, 21, of Westerville, Ohio, initially faced a drug charge after Deputy Nathan Stuckey found 2.74 grams of marijuana in a plastic baggie with a Star Wars logo on it that was in a bag on the passenger seat of the car, according to Stuckey’s report.

The drug charge was withdrawn, as is common practice in Ohio in cases involving small amounts of marijuana, according to Jack Felgenhauer, assistant prosecuting attorney for Harrison County.

“We are aware of the situation regarding Benny Snell, and we alerted the NFL Office when we learned of the incident,” Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said in a statement.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Mike Tomlin Press Conference

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media ahead of Sunday’s game against the Colts. https://t.co/WM7kD68V9B

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 29, 2019

.@TeamJuJu: "When it's your time to make a play, you make a play." pic.twitter.com/yJLir286vK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 29, 2019
  • Social Media Madness

When #️⃣7️⃣2️⃣ is reported as an eligible receiver. @ZBNFL pic.twitter.com/jcN6qjJu4J

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 30, 2019

Tunch on Mason Rudolph's performance in the second half vs. Dolphins: "He looked very much more relaxed and knowing where he was going to put the ball."

Full #SteelersLive: https://t.co/LNfYp4o9jQ pic.twitter.com/bykYRyB2yt

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 29, 2019

Reliving last night all over again

We want to see your reactions! Tweet your videos using #HereWeGo to submit yours & we may use it! pic.twitter.com/zDxdZTvRiT

— SteelersNationUnite (@SteelersUnite) October 29, 2019

All love for #SteelersNation‼️@Juiceup__3 pic.twitter.com/sE8HAT8aWW

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 29, 2019

Post-Game Sound: Hear from Steelers coaches and players after their prime time win over the Dolphins

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/29/2019 - 2:36pm
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in Week 8 of the NFL regular season. Take a look and listen to what was said after the game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in the seventh game of the 2019 regular season after a 27-14 win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 8.

After the game, there was plenty of video/audio to take in from inside the locker room and down at field level. Here at BTSC we try to gather as much information as possible for those fans who might not be on social media and see this on a weekly basis.

Therefore, in the post-game sound article you will hear from head coach Mike Tomlin, and a myriad of other players as the Steelers official Twitter account goes around the room to hear from all who participated on Friday night.

Enjoy the content and be sure to stay with BTSC for all things black-and-gold as they now turn their attention away from their third win, and get to focus on playing the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9...but first, the post-game sound:

Around the Locker Room

Go around the locker room and hear from Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and others following Monday night's win over Miami.@HeinzKetchup_US pic.twitter.com/4Kp0QcaLzi

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 29, 2019

Diontae Johson On-Field Interview

.@Juiceup__3: "We came back, got it going, just stayed focused and we put points up on the board."

: @McDonalds pic.twitter.com/IVKVttJRgQ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 29, 2019

Mason Rudolph Post-Game Press Conference

#LIVE: Mason Rudolph addresses the media following our victory over Miami.@budlight https://t.co/WI6GHvPuS8

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 29, 2019

Mike Tomlin Post-Game Press Conference

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following our win over the Dolphins.@budlight https://t.co/WLirdz6904

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 29, 2019

NFL Power Rankings: Win over lowly Dolphins does little for Steelers’ position in rankings

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/29/2019 - 1:17pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of work to do before they are even considered a Top 15 team in 2019.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now 2-4 after Week 7 of the 2019 regular season, but how they got to this record has been a roller coaster ride. After a 33-3 drubbing by the defending champion New England Patriots, the Steelers followed it up with a close 28-26 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 at Heinz Field. The loss was more than just another loss on the record, but the team lost Ben Roethlisberger in the process. With Mason Rudolph under center in Week 3, he was unable to lead the Steelers to victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, but did claim his first career win after beating the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football in Week 4.

How did they follow up that prime time win? With a gut-wrenching overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field in Week 5. In typical fashion, with their backs against the wall the Steelers gutted out a big win on Sunday Night Football over the Los Angeles Chargers before heading into their Week 7 bye week. Coming off the bye the Steelers continued their winning ways with a 27-14 win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, it is that time of week where we check in on what other outlets are saying about the black-and-gold in those weekly Power Ranking articles. We all realize these rankings are completely meaningless, but they are great for discussion. Not just where the Steelers are ranked, but who made the Top 5 who should have, or shouldn’t have?

Check out the Power Rankings below, and be sure to let us know your thoughts on the rankings in the comment section below!

ESPN

1. New England Patriots
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Green Bay Packers
5. Kansas City Chiefs
6. Baltimore Ravens
7. Seattle Seahawks
8. Minnesota Vikings
9. Houston Texans
10. Los Angeles Rams
...
21. Pittsburgh Steelers
Player who needs to step up: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR

“It’s not entirely his fault that he has had a forgettable first half of the 2019 season. Losing Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2 hasn’t helped the offense, but Smith-Schuster also needs to prove he’s capable of being the No. 1 WR the team needs with the departure of Antonio Brown. Smith-Schuster has only 25 catches for 340 yards and two TDs through six games. He also had two TDs at this point a year ago, but he had a lot more catches (42) to go with 561 yards. -- Brooke Pryor”

NFL.com

1. New England Patriots
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Green Bay Packers
5 .Minnesota Vikings
6. Seattle Seahawks
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Houston Texans
9. Kansas City Chiefs
10. Baltimore Ravens
...
18. Pittsburgh Steelers
“Things were not looking good for the Steelers on Monday night. Down 14-0 to the Dolphins with Mason Rudolph playing like a guy who could use a few more weeks on the sideline. But Rudolph improved as the game progressed, and James Conner lent a much-needed hand with a big day on the ground (though he exited late with an injury). Even JuJu Smith-Schuster delivered a 100-yard game with a score, much to the delight of impatient fantasy owners. On the defensive side, T.J. Watt clinched the win with a sack/forced fumble/recovery in the fourth quarter, and Minkah Fitzpatrick had two interceptions against the team he couldn’t wait to get away from. I’m sure that felt nice. The Steelers have won three of four with the AFC South-leading Colts up next. Good test for a team that was left for dead at 0-3.”

CBS Sports

1. New England Patriots
2. San Francsico 49ers
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Green Bay Packers
5 .Baltimore Ravens
6. Minnesota Vikings
7. Seattle Seahawks
8. Indianapolis Colts
9. Dallas Cowboys
10. Los Angeles Rams
...
19. Pittsburgh Steelers
“They came off their bye and started slowly against Miami, but they played much better in the second half. They’ve won two straight and face a big one against the Colts this week.”

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