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The best Pittsburgh Steelers to not to start their career in the Steel City: The Defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 9:11am

In Part Two of our look at the best players to start their careers in other cities, BTSC tackles the defense.

BTSC continues to profile the best Steelers players to begin their careers with other teams since 1969 by chronicling the starting defense. While there are some blockbuster names at certain positions, other slots are filled with lesser-known names that may be deemed questionable. But know this, there were some spots that the Steelers continually drafted well. So very well, in fact, that reserves are occupying that position on this list.

Take note that James Harrison is NOT on this list. He originally came to the Steelers as an undrafted free agent and wore the No. 93. He was let go twice and the Ravens picked him up. Harrison played in the World League for the Rhein Fire and eventually returned to the Steelers when Clark Haggans was injured in 2004. Trust me, Deebo would be on this list if the Steelers weren’t his first team out of Kent State.

Let’s take a look at the best defensive imports.

DE Donald Evans

Evans’ first few years in the league didn’t yield too much production after being a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1987. After a stop in Philadelphia and a year of not playing at all, the third time was a charm for the defensive end from Winston-Salem State. No. 66 started all but two of 64 games after he caught on with Chuck Noll’s Steelers. After the 1993 season in which he had 6.5 of his 14.5 sacks as a Steeler, Evans left for a free-agent deal with the New York Jets.

DE Ray Seals

Seals never played college ball, but his success with the minor league Syracuse Express of the Empire Football League led him to an opportunity with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for five seasons in 1989. Seals was responsible for Bret Favre’s first-ever completion when he batted his throw into the air and Favre caught his own pass. As a free-agent signing in Pittsburgh, Seals was a hard charger and a force on the defensive line for the Steelers. He also was part of the Super Bowl XXX club. No. 97 was most infamous for organizing “the 60-Minute Men” music video the week of the AFCCG loss to San Diego following the 1994 season. But his 15.5 sacks made his two seasons in Pittsburgh a success. Seals didn’t play in 1996 due to injury and spent 1997, his final year in the NFL, in Carolina.

DT Kimo von Oelhoffen

Kimo originally burst onto the scene as a sixth-rounder with the Bengals in Cincinnati where he played his first six professional seasons. In 2000, the Steelers came calling and No. 67 spent six years with the Steelers organization and tallied 20.5 of his career 26.5 sacks wearing the black-and-gold. The Hawaiian won a Super Bowl with the Steelers and his play up front helped them achieve that.

OLB Arthur Moats

Moats joined the team in 2014 and has now spent the same amount of time with the Steelers that he has with the team that drafted him in 2010, the Buffalo Bills. The sixth-rounder out of James Madison was a valuable reserve for the Steelers and has filled in ably to start when needed. Moats, a big community guy as well, recorded 11.5 of his 16.5 career sacks as a Steeler. Moats isn’t currently on the team’s roster for 2018.

OLB Kevin Greene

The first of the great free-agent pickups in team history, No. 91 was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in Round 5 of the 1985 NFL Draft. After eight seasons in Anaheim, Greene sought out 3-4 defenses and decided on the Steelers. In only three seasons in the Steel City, Greene logged 35.5 sacks and led the NFL with 14 in 1994. A member of the esteemed “Quiver and Quake” duo with Greg Lloyd, Greene played the run well and was a devestating pass rusher. Despite spending only three years in the Burgh, the NFL’s third all-time sacker elected to receive his HOF ring from the Steelers franchise.

ILB James Farrior

In 2002, Steelers Nation was reeling from the loss of LB Earl Holmes to the Cleveland Browns in free agency. But then James Farrior arrived and became a mainstay on the inside for a decade until after the 2011 season. The 15-year vet was drafted eighth overall by the Jets out of Virginia in 1997, but initially was merely pedestrian. As a Steeler, however, he was a driving force on two Lombardi winners, twice an All Pro and the team’s MVP in 2004. Because of his 10-year tenure in Pittsburgh, “Potsie” may be the greatest free-agent pickup in team history.

ILB Clint Kriewaldt

Another valuable reserve, but even more a solid special-teamer, Clint was drafted in the sixth round by the Detroit Lions in 1999. A Super Bowl champion in the Burgh, Kriewaldt finished his five-year career as a Steeler in 2007.

CB Dewayne Washington

The Vikings chose Washington in 1994’s first round and the CB joined The Steelers after his rookie contract ran out. Of his 31 career interceptions, 19 came while playing for the Steelers for six seasons from 1998 to 2003. No. 20 did solid work in the Steeler secondary and retired after 12 seasons in 2005 as a Kansas City Chief.

CB Joe Haden Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Haden was a surprise that fell in the Steelers lap right before the start of the 2017 campaign, when the Browns played “Moneyball” with him and released the two-time Pro Bowler. Haden would have made more money from other offers he received, but chose the Steelers for a shot at the title and (allegedly) a shot at the Browns twice per year. Last season, Haden had only one of his 20 career interceptions, but he helped strengthen a young secondary when he wasn’t out of the lineup due to injury.

S Ryan Clark

Ryan Clark entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Giants in 2002, but stayed in the league for 13 seasons. After a stint with Washington, Clark joined Bill Cowher’s Steelers in 2006 as a free agent. The explosive hitter won a ring in a Pittsburgh uniform in 2008 and was an integral part of a dominating defense during that period. A Pro-Bowl selection in 2011, No. 25 spent eight seasons wearing black-and-gold.

SS Tyrone Carter

The hard-hitting Carter played college ball at Minnesota and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2000. After three years there and another season with the Jets, the 5’8” Carter enjoyed six of his finest seasons in the Steel City, where he had six picks and won two Super Bowl rings.

P Chris Gardocki

Gardocki was a third-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 1991 and enjoyed a 16-year career in the NFL, his final three as a Steeler. Gardocki, a Pro Bowl punter in 1996 with Indianapolis, averaged 42.1 yards per punt with the Steelers and helped win a Super Bowl in 2005.

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So there you have the best players that the Steelers brought in after playing for another franchise. As always, there will be omissions. But please state your case in the comments for why your choices are better than the ones selected.

Enjoy!

Hollywood calling: Steelers' Antonio Brown will be a guest on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' Thursday

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 8:57am

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown will be a guest on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Thursday night. The one-time “Dancing With the Stars” contestant is no stranger to the network, or Hollywood.

Report: Steelers and Le’Veon Bell long-term contract will be a “challenge”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 7:04am

Contrary to what Mike Tomlin said over the weekend, Adam Schefter of ESPN is suggesting this deal is far from close.

Over the weekend, there was a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggesting some headway had been made between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell to reach common ground on a long-term contract.

Then Mike Tomlin, who spoke at his annual football camp in Virginia, also said there was reason for optimism, but he added the negotiators would have to get into a room and start hashing out details.

This likely will occur during the majority of the day on Monday, July 16th, when the two parties have until 4:00 p.m. ET to get a deal done. If not, Bell will be forced to play the 2018 season for $14.5 million dollars under the Exclusive Rights Franchise Tag, and likely become a free agent at season’s end.

Sunday night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter threw a good bit of water on the burning hopes of fans who think a deal can still be struck between these two parties.

Despite Mike Tomlin’s confidence that a deal can be struck by 4 p.m. Monday, it will be challenging for Pittsburgh and Steelers’ franchised RB Le’Veon Bell to reach a long-term contract agreement, per league sources. The two sides came close last year and will keep trying Monday.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 16, 2018

This was then followed by this tweet from ESPN’s Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler:

Yep. Not much optimism in recent weeks/months but let's see whether deadline moves either side. https://t.co/p5rw1lhyDw

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) July 16, 2018

For those who followed this situation closely a year ago, the same thing happened leading up to the deadline.

Some reports said they were close, while others said a gaping divide remained in negotiations. Fans will believe what they want to believe, but one thing is certain — by 4:00 p.m. ET Le’Veon Bell will either be reporting to training camp on July 25th with the rest of his teammates, or he won’t be present until the week prior to Week 1, September 9th.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news on this story as it develops throughout the day.

Gene Collier: Jim Kelly handles a life’s suffering with grace

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 6:45am

On Wednesday night, during the annual ESPYs telecast from Los Angeles, Jim Kelly will accept the Jimmy V. Award for Perseverance and offer a short speech, the only kind possible when your face and jaw form a virtual cauldron of unrelenting pain.

The definition of a Steelers legend certainly has changed since Ernie Stautner played

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 5:55am

Championships have become important currency for cementing a player's legacy in the world of modern sports. Would Ernie Stautner be an immortal Pittsburgh Steeler had he played more recently? What happens if Antonio Brown never wins a Super Bowl?

Ernie Stautner, the 10-time All-Pro defensive tackle who played for the Steelers from 1950-1963, had it lucky because he came along way before championships had become a calling card for the organization.

You might say that’s crazy. Why would a professional football player not want to play in an era where trophies aren’t just expected, they’re demanded? For starters, you see that picture on old Ernie’s Wikipedia page, the one of him standing with his Hall of Fame bust after being inducted in 1969? Let’s just say that, had he played from maybe 1988 to 2001, this picture might have been taken after his third or fourth time on the ballot.

Take Steelers’ Hall of Fame center Dermontti Dawson, who finally punched his ticket to football immortality in 2012, some 12 years after retiring from the NFL. According to his Wikipedia page, Dirt was a six-time, first-team All-Pro. He was named to the 1990’s All-Decade Team and was considered the best center of his era by many people who know a thing or two about that. But the voters still rejected him multiple times before he finally made it.

Why?

The Steelers didn’t win a fifth Super Bowl when Dawson was in Pittsburgh, so that might have had something to do with it.

That’s the thing about an organization which has established championship success — once it does, a player’s career is often defined by it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s like that pretty much everywhere. But I live in Pittsburgh, I’m a Steelers fan, and I know you kind of have your doubts about Antonio Brown, the receiver who’s on one of the greatest statistical runs in NFL history, complete with 582 receptions for 7,848 yards since 2013.

At age 30, Brown’s career numbers rival those of Jerry Rice at a similar stage of his career. No. 84 is unquestionably the NFL’s most dominant receiver since Terrell Owens. Brown may in fact be the most dominant player, regardless of position, in the NFL right now.

Yet, some people are like, “Yeah, I don’t know. He may need to win a Super Bowl or even two. If not, he may have to wait his turn before he can put on that gold jacket.”

And those people are likely right.

Owens had to wait his turn before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer. In fact, he had to wait multiple times, something so infuriating to the poster child for diva receivers, that he decided not to show up for the event (as of now, anyway).

Think about that for a second. Owens caught over 1,000 passes for close to 16,000 yards during his career, and he was passed over for induction more than once.

Owens was no Rice, but in baseball terms, if Rice was Hank Aaron, then Owens was Willie Mays.

So why’d Owens have to wait?

He was a big jerk for one thing. But it also didn’t help that he never won a Super Bowl title.

Championships mean more to a player’s legacy in the modern era of sports than they did in Stautner’s time. Sure, they meant something back then, but the truly great players could pass on into immortality a lot easier without them.

Even the unquestionable greats such as Rod Woodson, a cornerback who played 10 seasons with the Steelers and was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 2009, doesn’t get celebrated in Pittsburgh as much as he probably should for such a decorated career.

Woodson was so good, he was voted to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team as an active player. Yet people are like, “Yeah, but I kind of have a problem with the fact that he never won a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh. Also, he left as a free agent and won a Lombardi with the Ravens. Sorry, Rod.”

Yeah, it’s like that now.

Character is a big thing, too.

Fans often celebrate Stautner’s legacy online by using his name or number when they visit various football sites.

”He was a great and classy man,” they say.

I’m sure Ernie was a classy dude, but that doesn’t mean he was a saint.

I mean, the guy would go out drinking with quarterback Bobby Layne and act as his bodyguard in-case, you know, they drank too much and trouble started. Heck, Myron Cope usually joined them on these little adventures, adventures that didn’t always end without police intervention.

Could you imagine if news broke that Ben Roethlisberger went out drinking with Cam Heyward, and Heyward often had to intervene when trouble started? Could you imagine if Tunch Ilkin was seen drinking with them?

Fans would lose their minds.

Actually, stuff like that does happen today (it used to happen with Roethlisberger a lot), and these days, people consider it wrong.

Forget drinking and fights, if a player is a bit too vocal on social media, it rubs people the wrong way (just ask JuJu Smith-Schuster in like five minutes).

In the modern era, championships are probably the greatest passport to immortality, and those legendary Steelers teams of the 1970’s changed the way we view legacies.

Anyway, you might think you’d still honor a legend like Stautner, had he played in this era and didn’t win a ring, but don’t be so sure.

If there’s one thing that’s changed since Ernie Stautner’s time, it’s that legacies aren’t cheap, and if you want one as member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you’re damned-well going to have to earn it.

Mike Tomlin notes similarities between raising teenagers and managing players

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 12:45pm

A father of two teenage son, Mike Tomlin notes the parallels between parenting children and coaching a team

Each summer for the last 10 years, Mike Tomlin has hosted a youth football camp in his hometown of Hampton, Virginia for the Hampton Road Youth Foundation. When not working with the kids, Tomlin has traditionally always made time to talk with Bruce Rader of WAVY TV 10 to answer a few questions ahead of the upcoming season and this year was no exception.

While the interview is always rather gentle and the line of questioning somewhat soft, Tomlin seems to appreciate the change of pace from the grilling he gets in Pittsburgh and there are often one of two insights worth sharing.

Talking on topics ranging from how he focuses his team for a new season to his hopes that there would be news of a new extension for Le’Veon Bell before the deadline on Monday at 4 p.m ET, it was his response to a question about the similarities between parenting and being a head coach that was perhaps the most revealing about Tomlin. As he told Rader.

“Hey I’ll tell you, my sons are 16 and 17 now, man I really see the parallels, you know. It is [similar] in a lot of way because if you want to truly be successful leading the men, it goes beyond the X’s and O’s in football, you’ve got to be willing to help them in growth and development in every aspect of their life, and that’s a part of the job that I embrace.”

As much as Tomlin’s main goal is to win a championship each year, his desire to impact the lives of his players beyond the world of football has always been one of his more admirable qualities to my mind.

Some may question how successful he has been in this endeavor given the off-field antics of some of his players, but there are few parents who can honestly say they are proud of everything their children have every done. Ultimately, the respect and admiration his retired former players seem to have for him speaks volumes about the impact Tomlin has had on their lives. It will be interesting to note if and how this approach changes as he gets older.

Which current Steelers player would have been a perfect fit on the 70s teams?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 10:46am

If you could put anybody on the current roster on the “Team of the 70s”, who would it be?

A few weeks ago, BTSC ran a fantasy piece I wrote which asked fans what Steelers player from the past would best help the current roster. Guys like Jack Lambert, Rod Woodson and Troy Polamalu (just to name a few) were frequent inclusions in the comments section. Looking back on this contribution to the site, I was thinking “outside the bun” again and started to wonder about the players of today and how they would fit in 1970’s Pittsburgh. Even though he is retired now, I always thought Hines Ward would have been a perfect throwback to play on Chuck Noll’s 45-man roster. But what about today’s guys?

Could the Steelers have won more Super Bowls in that era if David DeCastro was blocking for “the Blonde Bomber”? Where would Antonio Brown be listed on the WR depth chart? How would Chuck Noll handle Le’Veon Bell’s second career as a Disco singer? Would Cameron Heyward start on the defensive line? Would JuJu Smith-Schuster get his ten-speed stolen?

These are fun offseason, weekend questions to ponder when the spouse has a headache and the Ambien hasn’t kicked in yet. State your case and scenarios in the comments section. Keep in mind that body types in the 70s were on average smaller, so let’s try to keep out of the weeds with the fact that you could replace the entire O-Line with today’s guys because they are bigger. This is pure fantasy, so we will focus more on the quality of a player’s performance.

Now...let’s “Marty McFly” somebody and see if there’s enough room in the trophy case.

Enjoy!

Report: As expected, contract negotiations between Steelers and Le’Veon Bell to go to the wire

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 9:06am

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ All-Pro running back isn’t going to be signing on the dotted line until he has absolutely seen the team’s best offer.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell have until Monday, July 16th at 4:00 p.m. ET to come to terms on a new long-term deal.

As if you didn’t already know this. But as fans wait to see the fate of the team’s All-Pro running back’s long term prognosis with the black-and-gold, reports have already started to swirl regarding the negotiations.

This from NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport:

Much of the focus for Monday will be on #Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell once again. There has been some progress, but it sounds like this one may come down to the wire — just like last year. It got close. Time will tell if they can push it over the line.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 14, 2018

While Rapoport’s report doesn’t shed a ton of light on just how negotiatons are going, it does bring light to the fact these negotiations will likely go down to the wire.

Fans should recall it was last year when reports stated the Steelers and Bell’s agents had come to terms on a verbal deal, only to have Bell say ‘No’ at the last minute.

While it isn’t clear whether the two sides are even close to a deal, as they reportedly were last year, it will certainly take the Steelers best, and likely final, offer, combined with Bell giving a litte on his end too to actually come to terms on a new contract keeping him in Pittsburgh for more than the 2018 season.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and rumors surrounding this situation as it develops.

Believe it or not, the AFC North is a division on the rise

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 7:21am

With the Cleveland Browns apparently ready to field a professional football team, the AFC North might actually become a four-team division again.

I was speaking with a family friend from Chicago at a birthday party recently when the discussion inevitably switched to professional football.

Naturally, he proclaimed to be a lifelong Chicago Bears fan. He lamented about the team’s recent struggles and how long it had been since the team felt like a real contender in the NFC North. I countered with what a great player Walter Payton had been and said the fans would always have memories of that dominant 1985 Bears Super Bowl Championship team.

I reminded him that this year’s team might be much improved with impressive young quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the two-headed monster tandem in the backfield that the Steelers witnessed up close and personal last season, plus an improved receiving corps.

He thanked me for the encouragement and then he made a hilarious statement that really stuck with me. “At least we aren’t the Cleveland Browns!” he said with a chuckle.

His wife, who happened to be standing nearby and overheard our conversation, chimed in with “Ain’t that the truth. They are the worst team in the league. What a joke. They didn’t even win a game last year.”

When they asked me where my allegiance resides, I proudly professed that I bleed black-and-gold. He immediately acknowledged what an outstanding team and organization the Steelers are and then mentioned the AFC North is the most vicious division in the NFL.

That got me thinking — he’s absolutely correct about the division. Of course, we already knew that, but I have a feeling it’s about to get much worse.

Nothing builds contempt for an opponent like familiarity. Especially that familiar feeling of getting your rear end handed to you on a regular basis. That’s why I feel there are three distinct levels of contempt for each divisional rival here in Steelers Nation.

First you have the Baltimore Ravens. Ever since the original Cleveland Browns escaped to Baltimore in hopes of starting over in 1996, they’ve been a thorn in the Steelers’ side. Like the Oakland Raiders in the 70’s during the Steel Curtain era, the Steelers and the Ravens go to war each and every time they line up across from each other. You can be sure that even the winning team from one of these epic confrontations will head into the following week’s game shorthanded, battered, and bruised.

The players and fans truly despise one another. In the modern age of free agency this isn’t always the case but, if you ever doubt the legitimacy of this contempt, just Google Terrell Suggs or Ed Reed discussing their feelings towards our very own Hines Ward.

Despite the loathing that exists between the teams, there’s also a profound mutual respect between the franchises. A respect and admiration that can only be achieved by lining up and testing your mettle against an opponent at the highest level for 60 minutes. Modern-day gladiators leaving blood, sweat and tears on the field of battle. True respect has to be earned.

Which brings us to the Cincinnati Bengals. They want to join this mythical fraternity but they’re not willing to make the sacrifices necessary for membership. To earn respect, you must first be willing to compete with honor, both on and off the field. This is where the Bengals as an organization and as a fan base have been so woefully lacking.

On the field, look no further than the cheap-shot artist Vontaze ‘karma knocked me out’ Burfict and Pacman Jones. Their disrespectful and childish attitude permeates the entire team and has hindered the Bengals organization’s attempt to climb back to respectability during the past decade. It wasn’t too long ago when the Bengals were like the present-day Browns, a perennial favorite in preseason to be the worst team in the league.

Off of the field, multiple legal issues and player arrests have continued to plague the franchise. Also, I feel the conduct of some the Bengals fans has been particularly disturbing. For example, I remember that the comment boards lit up with prayers and well wishes for Ben Roethlisberger right after his motorcycle accident in 2006. There were “get well” messages by fans from every NFL team in the league, including the Ravens and Browns. Sadly, I recall several messages from Bengals fans that said stuff like “I hope he dies” or “Serves him right.” I was shocked to say the least.

I might add, I’ve got friends who are Bengals fans who would never think about doing something so heartless, but that memory has always stuck with me.

What would cause such hatred between the franchises? I believe the answer is twofold.

First, the fact that the Steelers have owned the Bengals pretty much since Ben came into the league in 2004. And because Ben is an Ohio native, you begin to fill in the blanks.

Secondly, some Bengals fans still believe that Kimo Von Oelhoffen's hit to Carson Palmer's knee was intentional. You could understand their disdain if true, but I still believe it was accidental.

That leaves us with the Cleveland Browns — the worst team in the league for more than a decade. Ben is basically the hometown boy who torments the Browns’ faithful after they passed on him in the draft. That’s akin to having a big bag of flaming dog poop on your doorstep — a constant reminder twice per season of your own personal ineptitude as an organization.

But it appears things might finally be a changing in Cleveland. This off-season, the team realized they’d never lure the impactful free agents required to turn their franchise around, no matter how far under the cap they were. So they went out and traded for an impressive stable of offensive talent to add to their talented, young defense.

These off-season additions may very well prove to be the foundation for a football revival in Cleveland. They already have a faithful and rabid fan base. Suddenly, the Browns appear determined to bring professional football back to the Dawg Pound.

If so, those two additional bye-weeks the Steelers enjoyed each season may be coming to an end and the AFC North will once again become survival of the fittest.

Check out the BTSC Want Ads for the upcoming 2018 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/15/2018 - 6:18am

We are looking for a few qualified individuals to help us fill out our roster for the upcoming season.

Hello folks, just your friendly BTSC editor here writing to let you know there are few openings on the website for the upcoming season. Please check below for the want ads, and PLEASE read carefully before contact anyone for an available position.

Writer (Paid)

As you see above, this is a paid writing position. No, it isn’t enough for you to retire and/or quit your current job, but it could be an avenue for you to make some side cash while writing about the team you love.

PLEASE, do not inquire about this position if you don’t have writing experience. I know we are all fans, and even though you’ve been a fan of the black-and-gold for the past 40 years doesn’t necessarily qualify you for the position. If you email me with zero writing experience, don’t expect a response.

If you DO have writing experience (I’m talking about college newspaper and above...no High School yearbook writing), you will need to email me (bngblitz@gmail.com) telling me about yourself, as well as a sample of your work. Pick a current angle about the team, and write it up.

Just to be clear, this person will be expected to contribute 2-3 articles per week, so you will need to have the time to be consistent with this work load. I don’t want to have to track down writers to meet their quota.

Lastly, I am looking for someone with a unique voice for commentary. We have the news and different tidbits of information surrounding the black-and-gold pretty much covered. What I want is someone who isn’t afraid to write what they believe, have the tact to do it gracefully and the consistency to do it.

Think you meet those qualifications? Send me a note.

Moderator (Not Paid)

As I mentioned in a previous article, we have a new Community Manager in the user named PittBlitz56. He is responsible for bringing on new moderators, training them, and keeping things in order in the comment section.

This isn’t an easy job, and he could use all the help he could get, but there will be a process. If you are new to BTSC, you might want to get your feet wet with the characters who call this site home before you jump on board. If you are someone who visits the site regularly (talking 5 or more times a week), you might be a great addition to the team.

If you are interested, you can email him here: ralphiddings@gmail.com

Podcaster (Not Paid)

Similar to the writing, if you have ZERO podcasting experience, please don’t apply. I simply don’t have time to train someone on the tools used, as well as the expectations for how a good podcast should sound.

If you have experience, email me (see above) with some information about you, as well as a copy of some of your work. If you don’t have that, please don’t apply.

...

Thanks! Hopefully some of you can become a part of the BTSC team as the Steelers press on to Super Bowl glory!

Watch T.J. Watt, with his brothers, in a hysterical commercial for Gatorade on hydration

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 1:57pm

T.J. Watt joined his two brothers for a hysterical blooper reel for a commercial for Gatorade.

The Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft was well known before his name was called by Roger Goodell on draft night. T.J. Watt, the youngest of three brothers who are all currently playing in the NFL, looked to create his own path in the league as an outside linebacker for the black-and-gold.

But that doesn’t mean he certainly doesn’t still train, and spend a lot of time with family. Most recently Watt, and his brothers, joined up with Gatorade to talk about the importance of hydration as football programs across the country gear up to start another season.

You can check out the videos below, but if I might make a recommendation it would be to watch the ‘Blooper Reel’ at the bottom of the page. It seems the youngest Watt is well represented in this particular segment.

While the Steelers are hoping Watt continues his maturation as a linebacker this season, the offseason can be time for some fun, and it looks as if this filming was just that for the Watt brothers.

The Blooper Reel

NFL officials declare new catch rule won’t change much for them, and they are right

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:57am

The NFL has changed their catch rule, but according to game officials it won’t be a big change for the officials making the snap decisions.

2017 might have been known as the year of the controversial catch. There was the Jesse James overturned catch vs. the Patriots in Week 15, and the Kelvin Benjamin oveturned catch vs. the Patriots later that season.

There were more examples last season of catches which were highly debated and discussed among media and fans in the days following.

The NFL changed the ‘Catch Rule’ this offseason, but NFL officials who gathered in Dallas Friday for their annual preseason meeting don’t see it as changing much with how they make calls on the field.

“Most of the calls that seemed to create the most controversy, we ruled them correctly and then they were overturned on replay,” Walt Coleman said via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “From our standpoint, we’re just going to continue to officiate the plays like we have.”

In hindsight, this is true. When Jesse James scored the would-be go-ahead touchdown for the Steelers in Week 15, it was ruled a touchdown on the field. It was then reviewed and overturned. And this wasn’t the only play in 2017 which happened like this, where it was replay which overturned the call, not the officials on the field.

“People just didn’t understand that you had to hold on to the ball going to the ground,” Coleman said. “When you catch the ball and you reach out, everybody thought that should be a catch. The way the rule was written, it wasn’t.”

So, just to recap, what does this new catch rule look like?

The new rule essentially eliminates the ground as a factor on catches while establishing three main criteria:

— Having control of the ball;

— Getting two feet down or another body part;

— Making a football move, such as taking a third step or extending the ball.

Ron Torbert, another veteran game official, doesn’t think the new rule is a knee jerk reaction to last season, or all about simplifying the former rule.

“We had a good idea of what it was and how to officiate it,” Torbert said. “We certainly understand that the way it was written, plays that people wanted to be a catch weren’t a catch under the older rule. We understand that.”

Every Steelers fans favorite person, Al Riveron, chimed in as well regarding the reason why the rule was changed, and why the league listened to the outcry over some of these overturned calls.

“I don’t think it was one thing,” senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said. “I think we got to a point where fans, the office, coaches, players, wanted to see more exciting plays. How do we make this particular play a catch? How do we take the Dez Bryant play and make it a catch?”

Either way, the league’s changing of the catch rule will be one of many changes in the game heading into the 2018 regular season, and while the league is always trying to make things simpler — it can sometimes lend itself to the opposite.

The Le’Veon Bell contract saga has been turbulent for both the Steelers and their fans

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 9:21am

An exhausting saga is reaching its merciful conclusion and, I for one, cannot wait.

The deadline for the Pittsburgh Steelers to sign All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell to a long-term contract is July 16, and all signs seem to point to a singular eventuality: Monday will come and go without a deal getting done, Bell will play 2018 on the franchise tag, and by the time 2019 rolls around, dat boi gone. Bell seems hellbent on obtaining a contract befitting a top-tier running back — in his defense, he totally is — and a top-tier secondary receiver. This would be unprecedented, record-setting and might precipitate serious discussions about how to aptly compensate running backs, a comparatively marginalized group that has been and currently is criminally underpaid. The Steelers, meanwhile, are a vast enterprise governed by shrewd and discerning businesspersons — which is to say that they’re keenly aware of the various pitfalls that come along with committing millions of guaranteed American dollars to a single player, such as torpedoing the cap and thereby preventing the acquisition or retention of other players.

Bell and the Steelers have been locked in this stalemate for, like, two years, so in some ways, there’s comfort in knowing that we’re T-minus one week away from a resolution, even if said resolution likely involves both sides agreeing to part ways after the 2018 season. There’s a faint glimmer of hope that the participants will come to an agreement that keeps Bell in Pittsburgh for at least the remainder of his prime; Bell has indicated that both sides are “a lot closer” than they were at this time last season, a pronouncement that you may take however you want.

This is the part where I’ll disclose I think the Steelers should just go ahead and pay Bell. Yes, in theory you could reinvest the $17 million or whatever Bell is reportedly asking for elsewhere, but I’m kind of at a loss to understand how constructing a committee backfield from nebulous commodities is more sensible than simply overpaying a guy who you know is gonna produce in myriad ways. The backfield-by-committee strategy absolutely does work, but unless the Steelers know exactly what they’re getting, I think maybe it would behoove them to hang on to a historically-productive and generationally-talented offensive powerhouse while their Super Bowl window is still wide-open. Also, while I don’t claim to be any sort of expert in NFL economics, I assume the Steelers could build some sort of opt-out in Bell’s contract that would significantly reduce the dead money resulting from a release if his game craps the bed.

I digress, though, because the purpose of this blog is not to stan for Le’Veon Bell, but to call specific attention to the gaping aperture that’s emerged between Bell, Steelers fans, the organization, and the local media. If the Steelers don’t sign Bell to a long-term contract before Monday’s 4pm deadline, the 2018 season is going to be awkward and contentious as hell. He’ll skip training camp again (as he’s certainly entitled to do—he has no obligation to risk injury for this organization), which will spur a maelstrom of scorching takes from fans and smarmy media types as well as some very public opprobrium from coaches and veteran teammates. Bell will be treated like a petulant, spoiled child for refusing to accept anything less than what he thinks he’s worth, and in return he will gaslight on social media, posting arcane status updates and writing rap lyrics that explicitly outline his frustrations. He’ll be criticized, harshly, for being anything but brilliant (Twitter, for instance, was an utter cesspool during Pittsburgh’s first three games last season, during which Bell was very notably not quite himself), and any “struggles” will be attributed to his camp absence. Honestly, he’ll probably wind up getting booed at home games.

However, I’m most concerned about the impact this whole ordeal has had on the fan base. Like any team, the Steelers have very distinct contingents within their fanhood, and I’m certainly not naive enough to think Le’Veon Bell demanding a $17 million annual contract was gonna be a unifying moment. But man, this whole thing has been really nasty. Look at some comments on this blog.

Goodness.

Of course, infighting is a standard aspect of sports fandom proceedings, and I understand that after the whole Le’Veon Bell situation resolves itself, we’ll just find something else to complain about. But I can’t remember in my time following the Steelers—and certainly not in my last four years writing about them—any singular saga invoking such divisiveness.

Regardless of what happens with Bell, I hope we all soon can just enjoy watching things unfold and catch a championship parade — or three.

Sportsbook offers bets on Le’Veon Bell signing an extension or staging a holdout

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 7:45am

If you think you know how Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation will be resolved, one gambling site is offering you the chance to cash in on it

You can bet on almost anything these days and with the deregulation of the gambling industry within the U.S recently, the range of markets to wager on will only increase this season. Gamblers will find a lot more proposition bets available in 2018, novelty bets designed to test your knowledge of sports beyond simply picking which team will win the game.

With the start of the regular season still several weeks away, there is not much to wager on in the world of football at the moment, but one innovative sportsbook has still come up with way of generating some interest among Pittsburgh Steelers fans with a range of proposition bets based on Le’Veon Bell and his ongoing contract negotiations.

Online sportsbook My Bookie.ag is currently offering a variety of markets on the Steelers’ star running back and are offering a bet about Pittsburgh being forced to use the franchise tag on Bell in 2018, effectively a bet on whether he will sign a long-term extension before the July 16 deadline or play the season under the tag.

Should an extension not be struck in time, the possibility of a holdout will become a concern and My Bookie has a market for that too. Bets can be placed on Bell to holdout throughout preseason and also into the regular season.

If you believe the front office will ultimately get so frustrated with Bell they decide to trade him, there is even a market for that as well.

Of all the proposition bets the sportsbook is offering, perhaps the best value of them all is Bell to sit out the preseason at +200. Assuming a long-term deal is not struck, it would be a surprise if Bell did anything different than he did last year when he missed the entire preseason. Missing a regular season game seems unlikely and the odds are not really attractive enough to deserve the action.

That being said, while I accept no liability for any money lost following my advice, I do accept paypal contributions for any profits earned from my tips.

The real reason, and possible solution, for the Steelers decreased attendance

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 07/14/2018 - 6:24am

Attendance at Heinz Field has dropped by an average of about 6,000 fans per game the past two seasons. What can the Steelers do to get those fans back? With the game-day experience being so great from home these days, there might not be an easy answer.

The hot topic (well, mildly warm topic) this week — a week that falls just short of mid-July, thus still too far away from the start of Steelers training camp — has been a recent decline in attendance at 68,000-seat Heinz Field.

Why have less people been showing up to Heinz Field each and every week — according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, an average of 62,471 fans were in attendance last year, representing a nearly 2,000-person decline from 2016?

According to the Post Gazette, the Atlanta Falcons may have found one possible explanation and a bit of a solution. They slashed their concession prices just a bit in 2017, a move that generated better food and even merchandise sales during game days.

I get that concession prices are insane, and when you think about it, it really is amazing how we can be trained into thinking the cost of something is now reasonable (“$5 for a beer? Not bad!”), but there’s an even better way than lowering prices to combat this on game day:

I call it the “going three hours without food or drink” technique.

I know it might seem crazy, but you really can go a few hours without beer and nachos. I do it all the time. In fact, I did it just today. I’ll probably do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

As a single man without children, I realize this is almost impossible to do if you attend a football game with someone who calls you “honey” or “dad.” But I also realize a few bucks off on a red Solo cup of beer shouldn’t make much of a difference when deciding if you’re going to get in your car and head on down to the North Shore.

Which brings me to the real reason I think attendance has declined just a smidge in recent years:

Going to football games is just a pain in the butt. It really is and, quite frankly, I can’t believe 62,000 people still do it on a weekly basis. That’s actually quite amazing.

I mean, by the time you pay for your ticket and parking, the price of which amounts to about five red Solo cups of beer in Pittsburgh, and eight red solo cups in Atlanta, you’re already out roughly $150 — and that’s if you go by yourself and your seat has a bird’s-eye view of the river.

If you go with significant others — people that, as I alluded to previously, aren’t about to not utilize my “going three hours without food or drink” technique — you’re looking at at least $500 per game.

And let’s say that, by some miracle, you go with a few significant others that don’t want anything to eat or drink for a few hours (LOL!). What about all those other people in your row that want to eat and drink the entire game?

How many times do you have to stand up and let people by before you start raging on the inside? If you said “four,” that’s two times longer than it takes me.

What about all those people in the rows below you that don’t seem to realize there are fans above them trying to watch the action?

What about all those people--fans who have been double-fisting $8 red Solo cups of beer (or maybe those cups are black and/or gold)--who spend the entire three hours screaming “You suck!” and/or “Here we go Steelers!!!!!!!”?

What about the traffic coming home?

It’s all a pain in the butt, at least in 2018, when the alternative is a cozy man-cave, carpeting that doesn’t smell like beer and nachos, a nice recliner, plus a flat-screen, high-definition television you can buy for the price of one game-day experience.

Did Jesse James catch that pass against the Patriots? Who knows for sure, but I certainly had a better idea while sitting in my living room last December 17 than most of the fans at Heinz Field.

I got to see the play from every angle and in super-slow-motion.

That’s the thing most people seem to miss about attendance. Unlike baseball, basketball and especially hockey, football and television were made for each other.

So how can the Steelers get back those 6,000 fans that didn’t attend the past two seasons?

Obviously 13 wins might not be enough of an incentive.

The Steelers have sold out every home game since 1972 (sellouts are different than the turnstile count), so there’s no way the Rooney family will lower ticket prices anytime soon.

Let’s face it, you can have a better game-day experience at home while paying nothing than you can inside the stadium paying a king’s ransom.

I think we should just thank those 62,000 fans who show up to Heinz Field each week and hope to God they don’t finish their own man-caves anytime soon.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 25

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 5:42pm

Ugh...the offseason continues. Here We Go.

Several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night Open Thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring it back to Friday night — with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six-Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six-Pack of Steelers Questions and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. Many people couldn’t stand Mike Mitchell. Now that he is gone, how do you remember his time as a Steeler?

2. Finish the sentence...the perfect season for Le’Veon Bell looks like ______.

3. In your opinion, what is the weakest position on the Steelers’ defense?

4. Throughout the years there are players who wear the black-and-gold who rub you the wrong way. Maybe it is something they say, or do, which annoys you, but who has been the Steelers play your weren’t fond of the most?

5. Random Question, which sport involves more athleticism? Soccer or Tennis? (Considering the World Cup and Wimbeldon are both ongoing)

6. Been seeing this a lot...Is a hot dog a sandwich?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Cris Carter talks about the dominance of Antonio Brown, and how he will continue his pace

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 1:42pm

The Hall of Fame wide receiver talks about Antonio Brown, and how he is one of the last true “warriors” in the NFL.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a fortunate franchise. Not every team can produce, and select, the wide receivers Pittsburgh has under the Mike Tomlin/Kevin Colbert era. You think about a team like the Baltimore Ravens, who have struggled to find a true No. 1 receiver, and the Steelers seem to just churn them out.

But Antonio Brown is a different beast. His work ethic, combined with a ridiculous attention to detail in his game has made him the best wide receiver in the game.

They say greatness recognizes greatness, and this was certainly the case when Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter spoke about Brown’s greatness, dominance and training in the show “First Things First”.

It is here where Carter talks about how it is much more than Brown’s on-field production which makes him great. He admits to talking with Brown on more than one occasion, and mostly about off-field aspects of his game.

His training, his off-field image and how he approaches the game.

The video is worth watching, check it out:

One of the more interesting aspects of this interview was how Carter talked about how he feels Brown’s game will “age”. In other words, does his style of play lend itself to being successful well into his mid-30s? He feels he is more than capable of doing just that, and the Steelers hope that is the case as they hope to add to their trophy collection while Brown is dominant.

Ron Cook: The Steelers' most valuable 'Killer B' is ...

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 9:38am

Ben Roethlisberger is a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Antonio Brown is in position to challenge Jerry Rice’s NFL receiving records. Le’Veon Bell will be far and away the league’s highest-paid running back this season if he does a new long-term contract by Monday’s deadline or plays under the franchise tag.

For Steelers fans, July 16th can’t come soon enough

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 9:13am

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ All-Pro Running Back has been sending all sorts of cryptic messages, and fans just want the saga to end.

The date of Monday, July 16th has been ingrained in every Pittsburgh Steelers fan’s mind now for a long time. It’s the final day when the Steelers can reach a long-term contract with their All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell.

The sprawling Black-and-gold fan base has been through this once before — last year — and although Bell and the Steelers have said the right things throughout this offseason, the vast majority of fans just want to know the answer.

Will Bell and the Steelers come to terms on a new deal? Or will it be a one-and-done year for No. 26 before he moves on to a new franchise via free agency next season?

One thing is for sure, the cryptic tweets and social media posts by Bell certainly have started to wear thin after all these months.

The latest from Bell:

I do not forget a thing, I'm patient, it's a gift... pic.twitter.com/BtyM6BWeJ9

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 12, 2018

While this was reportedly nothing more than lyrics, it is far from the only example.

There also was this...

9-9-18...I can’t wait! #JustBePatient pic.twitter.com/p2vpWQnCVy

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) May 14, 2018

Then this...

They swear that I’m bad news, people always thinkin that the Juice a bad dude… pic.twitter.com/on3jw9keUl

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) May 1, 2018

Then this gem...

Miss it... pic.twitter.com/d5ysoEpQ67

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) April 5, 2018

And the best of them all...

it’s so hard to be a hero in a city that paints youu out to be the villain.. pic.twitter.com/TBFAHTQJcm

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) March 29, 2018

There is hope on the horizon.

Monday, July 16th at 4 p.m. EST.

The deadline for the potential deal to get done. I realize you, the reader, are sick of articles on Bell, but hopefully you realize we here at BTSC are tired of writing them too. We all share something in common. We look forward to a time when the reports, rumors, tweets and talking out of both sides of their mouths to finally end. One way or another.

Monday can’t come soon enough...

Cameron Heyward successfully petitions EA Sports to change his Madden 19 rating

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 7:14am

After an All-Pro and Pro Bowl season, Cameron Heyward was understandably unhappy with his low rating in the latest version of the game and was quick to ask EA Sports to change it

As we reported on Wednesday, the release of the new player ratings for Madden 19 were not well received by everyone on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster, and it seems EA Sports has already made an effort to placate one of the unhappy names.

In a move that reeks of a publicity stunt, the company behind the popular football game released a statement Thursday on social media inviting players who disagreed with their grade to contact EA Sports if they believed their rating should be reconsidered.

pic.twitter.com/3B0PM3A30S

— EA SPORTS Madden NFL (@EAMaddenNFL) July 12, 2018

Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward was one of several names to receive the message from EA Sports and he was quick to respond with the facts supporting his case, although he was far less inclined to include a highlight video.

And if you want video watch my tape

— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) July 12, 2018

Just a few hours later, Heyward’s application was under review with the Madden 19 “Rating Experts”.

pic.twitter.com/TZnsr48bXU

— EA SPORTS Madden NFL (@EAMaddenNFL) July 12, 2018

And then approved.

STR ⬆️ 93
AWR ⬆️ 96
PRC ⬆️ 96

Thank you for your Madden Ratings Performance Plan submission #Madden19 pic.twitter.com/Aio7ANPRjr

— EA SPORTS Madden NFL (@EAMaddenNFL) July 12, 2018

The change has resulted in an extra three points added to his strength score and an extra point each to his awareness and play recognition stats. However, there’s no indication as to how much this has increased his overall rating.

Reading through the tweets on the EA Sports Madden NFL official Twitter page, Heyward is the first player to have his grade readjusted so far, but it’s unlikely he will be the last. Who knew a computer game could be so controversial?

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