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If the Steelers are in ‘Rebuild Mode’, there is no need to extend Ben Roethlisberger’s deal

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/11/2019 - 12:07pm

Some are suggesting the Steelers are in ‘Rebuild Mode’, but if this were the case they shouldn’t worry about extending Ben Roethlisberger’s contract.

Believe it or not, there are many fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers who feel the team is officially rebuilding. Or “Rebuild Mode” as the kids are calling it these days, I think. Anyways, if this were the case, I have a recommendation for the black-and-gold:

Don’t worry about giving Ben Roethlisberger a new contract.

Reports are stating the Steelers and their franchise quarterback are due to ink a new deal as soon as possible, likely before the new league year begins, and this shows a team who is doing the opposite of rebuilding — they are trying to re-stock.

With the departure of both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, and likely a few other players via free agency, it is natural to take a glass-half-empty approach to the upcoming season and seasons to come. Nonetheless, if the Steelers truly were in a rebuilding phase, it would be foolish to extend Roethlisberger’s current contract.

Yes, this would likely mean the end of an era if this were to take place, but what is the use of keeping Roethlisberger around if you are planning on gutting the system and starting over? This wouldn’t be smart business, and the good news is this isn’t happening.

Let’s just take a look at the team to realize a rebuild not only isn’t necessary, but also isn’t happening:

  • Outside of the right tackle position, the Steelers return their entire offensive line in 2019, and beyond.
  • The running back tandem of Jaylen Samuels and James Conner seems to be a lethal 1-2 punch heading into 2019.
  • Other than the hole left by Brown, the position the Steelers draft the best, the team will rely on Roethlisberger to do what he has done so many other times in his career — turn a good unit into a great one.
  • The defensive front, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave and Cameron Heyward, is one of the best 3-4 units in football when everyone is health.
  • Although thin at OLB, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree accounted for 18.5 sacks last season...a number which certainly will rise.
  • The safeties will have a year under their belt, and even though some transition may occur with Morgan Burnett, they seem to be poised for a step forward in 2019.
  • There is a hole opposite Joe Haden at cornerback, but the hope is the team can find an answer for that position this offseason.
  • Inside linebacker is the glaring need on the defense, and will have to be identified in free agency, the NFL Draft, or both.

The point here is the Steelers aren’t rebuilding.

Did they lose a lot of talent in Bell and Brown? There is no doubt they did; however, it isn’t to suggest the Steelers won’t be successful without them. The Steelers offense might look different in 2019, but different doesn’t necessarily mean bad.

Randy Fichtner’s group might be more run-oriented, with a heightened focus on balance between run and pass, and with this offensive line there shouldn’t be much complaining if this is the direction the team wants to take next season.

Different, not necessarily bad.

If you are someone who believes the Steelers have lost too much, have too many gaping holes to fill to actually compete for a Super Bowl championship, then you also should be hoping the team doesn’t give Roethlisberger a new contract. Instead, let him play out the final year of his contract and see what you have in Mason Rudolph and/or Joshua Dobbs.

The Steelers will give Roethlisberger an extension on his current contract. I would be comfortable betting a large sum of money they do just that before the start of the new league year. But don’t misconstrue this move for blind faith in No. 7. This is a move based on the team still being able to win, even without Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.

As a Steelers fan, you should know this team doesn’t rebuild, they re-stock, and this offseason will be absolutely crucial for the short-term success of this team moving forward. Miss out on key free agents, fail to bring in a serious draft haul and the outlook on this team will dramatically change.

But don’t think they have hit ‘Rebuild Mode’ status just yet.

Steelers 2018 decision to restructure contract of Antonio Brown had no impact on salary cap in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/11/2019 - 10:45am

The Steelers are getting dragged by the media following their trade of Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders, with some using fraudulent claims to disparage the Steelers organization.

In the wake of the Pittsburgh Steelers trade of disgruntled wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders over the weekend, the organization is taking heat from the media on all sides. From those questioning the return they got for the player, to others questioning the integrity of their words leading up to the trade, it is a rough day to be a Steelers fan if you are following the news on Monday.

But while some of the barbs might seem unfair and perhaps a little one sided, they are merely opinions some might not agree with rather than fake news passed off as fact. However, there is one narrative that appears to be gaining momentum surrounding the team’s decision to restructure Brown’ s contract in 2018 that is a pure fabrication, an unfounded criticism made by both local and national reporters.

Think the Steelers regret frontloading him money last year in a restructure in an attempt to sign Bell? All that did was hike up dead money cap hit this year.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) March 10, 2019

Short term gain = long term pain. See Brown, Antonio and Pittsburgh Steelers. https://t.co/6rdWHGezqX

— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) March 11, 2019

To say that this is undeniably false is not simply an opinion, but a fact born out by the simple mathematics these critics have chosen to ignore.

When the Steelers restructured the contract of Brown last season, they turned $12.96 million of the money he was due that year into a signing bonus that was spread out over the remaining length of his deal. The move created $9.72 million in salary cap space in 2018 and added $3.24 million to each of the remaining years of his contract in 2019 and beyond.

But with the cap space having been created to accommodate the franchise tag placed on Le’Veon Bell that he never signed, the money rolled over into 2019 as part of the $14.544 million the team saw credited back to their account.

Had the restructure not happened, trading Brown would only have left Pittsburgh with $11.4 million in dead money to account for this season, rather than $21.12 million, but they would not have had the $9.72 million to rollover from the previous year, leaving them in exactly the same place their are now financially. It should not require a math professor to point out that $11.4 million plus $9.72 million equals $21.12 million.

If Bell had played the season and the restructure money had been spent, there would be a fair argument to make that the Steelers had erred, but given that he sat out, the criticism is completely without merit.

Noted Steelers salary cap expert Ian Whetstone was the first to point out the fallacy in this line of thinking, providing a far more detail rebuttal on Sunday that he has kindly allowed us to share here. An explanation that is well worth a read for those interested in the facts rather than the media fiction.

Ian Whetstone

Ramon Foster is one of the good guys, and I’m glad to see he’s decided to stay with the Steelers for life

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/11/2019 - 9:33am

After signing a new two-year contract on Thursday, it’s nice to know that Ramon Foster will be a Steeler for life.

Even with all the news surrounding Steelers disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown, I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that the team inked veteran left guard Ramon Foster to a new two-year contract on Thursday, a deal that will keep him in Pittsburgh through the 2020 campaign.

That the contract is reportedly worth over $4 million per season is even more surprising, especially for a team that is looking to add pieces in areas other than the unit where it seems to have an abundance of resources: the offensive line.

With B.J. Finney looking primed to assume a starting role after a few years of honing his craft behind the likes of Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and, of course, Foster—and getting the very best teaching from his old boss, Mike Munchak and his new boss, Shaun Sarrett—saving money by parting with Foster just seemed inevitable.

But I’m glad to be so surprised. I’m glad The Big Ragu is back in the fold and will continue to be a fixture on one of the best offensive lines in football. Fact is, Foster, an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2009, became a mainstay on the offensive line way back in 2011 when he started 14 games.

Speaking of which, Foster’s durability and consistency are highly underrated, as he’s started at least 14 games in every season for the past eight year years. While other, more highly-pedigreed offensive linemen—Marcus Gilbert, Pouncey and DeCastro—have garnered the praise and accolades; while an even bigger underdog with longer odds—Alejandro Villanueva—has provided the sexier story for mass consumption, Foster’s been the anchor of the line, so to speak, a man that’s always there. A calming presence. The ultimate veteran.

It may have been easy for the Steelers to allow Foster, 33, to get on with his life’s work—especially when he was very vocal last season about the team needing to pay him if it wanted to keep him.

Actually, judging by the reported contract details, the Steelers did pay Foster. They obviously value what he brings to his position, as well as what he brings to the locker room as a team leader.

Foster is not only a leader in that locker room, he’s the team’s union rep and someone who isn’t afraid to speak up when he has to.

I’m a huge fan of Foster. The way he conducts himself in the media—and on social media—is what you want to see from your favorite players. I’m actually proud of myself, because for someone who knows jack about offensive lineman technique and measurables, I saw something in Foster early on. Maybe it was that he was able to break through and stick around even while the organization was aggressively trying to improve a unit that once allowed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to get sacked 46 times or more in four straight seasons.

At any rate, it’s become quite popular in recent years to trash NFL players for their behavior both on and off the field. But the fact is, we only focus on the small minority of players that create negative headlines. As for the vast majority of NFL players, they’re good people who just go about their business and do so in the right way.

Foster is one of the good people. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great player. He’s incredibly consistent on the field, off the field and with the fans and the media.

I’m glad Ramon Foster has decided to be a Pittsburgh Steeler for life.

Did the Steelers get fleeced in the Antonio Brown trade? An internal discussion

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/11/2019 - 7:58am

I, a hater of draft capital but understander of pragmatism, have an internal debate about the Antonio Brown trade

Late Saturday evening, two important developments transpired. First, the Steelers reportedly agreed in principle to trade Antonio Brown, ostensibly the last remaining indignant element in Pittsburgh’s fractured locker room, to the Oakland Raiders—which, you know, thank God. We’ve collectively spent the better part of two months watching in intrigued horror as the situation between Brown and the Steelers has devolved from tenuous but potentially salvageable to beyond disrepair, so very truthfully the conclusion of these acrimonious proceedings is good for our emotional well-being. We can now shift our attention to free agency, or the draft, or the Penguins’ dubious playoff prospects, or even the Pirates, an organization from which we’re at least accustomed to unceasing disappointment.

The second development is the natural corollary to the first one, though I suppose its severity is a matter of perception: the Pittsburgh Steelers got worse. Antonio Brown is inarguably one of the two or three best receivers in the NFL, and he’s debatably among the 10 or so best receivers of all time. Last season marked the sixth in which he amassed 100 or more catches and 1,200 or more yards, and he paced the league with 15 touchdown receptions. He’s about to turn 31, yes, and his eventual decline is inevitable, but there is no evidence from 2018 to suggest that Brown’s falloff is imminent: he’s in remarkable shape, he’s been lucky to avoid significant injuries, and his skill set should age well. These factors, coupled with Brown’s innate familiarity with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense indicate that Antonio Brown almost certainly would’ve balled out in 2019 as a member of the Steelers.

From Pittsburgh’s perspective, the reported compensation in the Brown trade is underwhelming: third- and fifth-round picks in this year’s draft, according to a variety of tuned-in NFL Knowers. For context, the Steelers received a third-round pick from the Raiders for Martavis Bryant last season, despite Bryant having previously served two suspensions and never fully living up to lofty his potential. In no universe does trading a player of Brown’s caliber make the seller better, and that’s especially true when the return involves draft picks.

So, for the sake of transparency, I’m on record as saying that I’m never a fan of trading established commodities for nebulous draft capital because the draft itself is a total crapshoot. What’s conflicting me at present is balancing that bias with my understanding that, pragmatically, Brown needed to be moved. As such, I’m left arguing with myself:

Me: I will admit that the Steelers have managed to find some good players in the third and fifth rounds of the drafts—James Conner, Jesse James, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, Javon Hargrave, and William Gay, to name a few—but it’s impossible to ignore the myriad duds they’ve uncovered during middle rounds of the draft. Dri Archer, never forget.

Also me: You could perform the same exercise for every team in the NFL. No scouting department can consistently beat the draft. The only way to combat the inherent uncertainty of the NFL Draft is to make as many educated guesses as possible. With the Brown trade, the Steelers now have 10 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft; they ought to be able to parlay that surplus into at least one serviceable player who can help them win this year and beyond.

Me: I’ll buy that, but the Steelers should have and very well could have done better. Brown is easily among the most valuable non-quarterbacks in the NFL. Kevin Colbert said that he would not initiate a trade unless he received just compensation.

Also me: I believe Colbert’s quote was actually “best compensation.” The Raiders’ offer might have been the best offer the Steelers received.

Me: Okay, but the Steelers didn’t have to trade Antonio Brown. They’re on the hook for $20 million-plus regardless of where Brown plies his trade in 2019, so they easily could’ve just kept him on the roster and benched him every week. Better yet, they could’ve proceeded as usual, and if he refused to participate, they could’ve reasonably argued that he violated the terms of his contract.

Also me: So, you’re suggesting that the Steelers petulantly hold Brown hostage, banking on him voiding his own contract? In this case, the Steelers would receive no compensation and Brown would be free to sign with whomever he chooses, to say nothing of the thermonuclear bomb of animus that would’ve exploded in Pittsburgh’s locker room if Brown stayed on the team. A third and fifth plus Brown playing in Oakland beats the hell out of no compensation and Brown playing in New England.

Me: Let me ask you this point blank—did the Steelers receive fair compensation for Brown? Please be objective.

Also me: Based on Brown’s credentials, no, they did not. Brown’s “old” I suppose, but he looks as volcanic as ever. Besides, it isn’t as if receivers can’t excel mightily well into their 30s. Jerry Rice, a player to whom Brown has been favorably compared, recorded 1,500 yards in his age-31 season and had six additional seasons of 1,000 or more yards after that. The Raiders, perhaps more than any team in the NFL, should be acutely familiar with just how effective “older” receivers can be. Tim Brown compiled 7,000 yards there between the ages of 31 and 36, and Rice posted a 1,200-yard season in Oakland when he was 40 years old. None of this is necessarily to say that, because Brown has been so prolific to this point and fits a similar profile, his career trajectory will mirror that of Rice and Brown, both Hall of Famers. However, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Brown has multiple All-Pro seasons left in the tank.

Me: Mhmm.

Also me: BUT! Brown is a unique circumstance; namely, he vaporized his own stock through social media gaslighting, public appearances in which he exhibited thoroughly byzantine behavior, and, most notably, demanding that his new team be willing to re-negotiate his current contract. (I’ll pause to note that Brown tanking his trade-worthiness has no tangible impact on Antonio Brown; it only affects the Steelers.) If the price to acquire Brown was simply a pair of mid-round draft picks, every team in the league would have beat down the Steelers’ front door to get a trade done. Very probably a bidding war would have ensued. But because Brown was so strident in outlining his preferences, he was able to essentially dictate where he ultimately ended up. For instance, the Steelers apparently had a trade in place to ship Brown to the Bills, but Brown vetoed this transaction by threatening not to report. He presumably did this because the Bills suck turds and because Buffalo is a barren hellish moonscape, which is understandable, but it’s entirely possible that he could’ve leveraged what little executive recourse he has to nix trades for other reasons, such as if the suitor refused to redo his contract.

Me: Okay, but the Raiders seemed to check all the boxes for what Brown was seeking in a preferred destination: a stable quarterback situation, a warm climate, and a willingness to restructure his contract to his liking. This is the same organization that traded a third-round draft pick for Martavis Bryant and who traded away Khalil Mack, the consensus second-best defender in the NFL, specifically because they did not want to pay him. Clearly the Raiders wanted Brown just as much as Brown wanted the Raiders. I find it impossible to believe that the Steelers couldn’t have done better.

Also me: But no team was gonna trade a first-rounder for Brown.

Me: Who’s saying anything about draft picks? The Steelers have done pretty well drafting in the first round—defensive cornerstones T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward were both first-rounders—but this franchise is also responsible for enlisting the likes of Jarvis Jones and Artie Burns. If it was clear that a first-round pick was not on the table, couldn’t the Steelers have asked for a player? Gareon Conley, perhaps?

Also me: I appreciate the gripe about the compensation, but you’re being a little defeatist, no? You’re assuming that whatever players the Steelers select with the picks they received in exchange for Brown won’t pan out. You said yourself that the Steelers have drafted a number of quality players in the third or fifth round. Conner, Wallace, and Sanders have all made Pro Bowls! Brown himself was drafted in the sixth round...

Me: Ugh, please spare me the “but but but Brown was selected...” nonsense. In 2010, the year in which Brown was drafted, Brown wasn’t even the Steelers’ first pick of the sixth round! That honor belongs to Jonathan Dwyer. Finding a player of Brown’s caliber that late in the draft is a once in a generation happenstance. Listen, I respect the Steelers’ legitimately unparalleled ability to locate and cultivate top-tier receiving talent, but let’s not pretend that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are dang clairvoyants in this department. As the Patriots can attest, any organization with a good quarterback and head coach can transform a serviceable receiver into a Pro Bowler. I do believe that Brown, as well as Sanders, Wallace, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, the amiable youngster who will assume Brown’s mantle as the no. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh, were and are absurdly talented receivers independent of circumstances. But I ask you to consider some other receivers the Steelers have drafted over the past decade or so: Limas Sweed, Toney Clemons, Justin Brown, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, and Demarcus Ayers. Certainly, the Steelers are better at drafting effective receivers than most organizations, but to assume the Steelers will automatically parlay Oakland’s third-rounder into a Pro Bowler is lunacy.

Also me: The Steelers needed to trade Brown, correct?

Me: Yes.

Also me: Alright, so we agree on that. I think we can also agree that, although the compensation is kinda lackluster, it’s better than nothing. Okay?

Me: Okay.

Also me: I think we kinda need to just trust the process on this. The rate at which Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl window is closing is analogous to the rate at which Ben Roethlisberger’s skillset deteriorates, so you have to figure the plan for this offseason is to make some noise in free agency and in the draft in order to maximize their Super Bowl chances in the remaining year or two of Roethlisberger’s prime. At the very least, the Steelers need to find starters at cornerback and inside linebacker. Deepening the receiving corps ought to be a foremost concern, as well. Here’s a fun thing to consider: What if, to offset the lackluster return on the Brown trade, the Steelers package some picks to move up in the draft? That way they can attempt to position themselves for a blue-chipper like LSU’s Devin White or Georgia’s DeAndre Baker.

Me: That would be neat.

Also me: It would be neat. For now, let’s just be happy we can move on from what was easily the most tumultuous offseason of our lifetimes.

2019 NFL Draft: Steelers updated picks after trades of Antonio Brown and Marcus Gilbert

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/11/2019 - 6:45am

The Steelers will now have 10 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft following the trades of Antonio Brown and Marcus Gilbert.

With the trade of Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders now agreed to in principle, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have a total of 10 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, the most selections they have held in any draft since 2010.

Unusually for the Steelers, only half of their picks this year were originally allocated to them by the league, with five of their upcoming selections arriving via trade.

When the trade for AB becomes official, Pittsburgh will receive the Raiders third-round pick (66th overall) and fifth-round pick (141st overall) to add to Oakland’s sixth-round pick they already own following their trade for Ryan Switzer last season. A deal that also cost them their original fifth-round draft choice this year.

A trade of Marcus Gilbert to the Arizona Cardinals on Friday will give the Steelers an extra sixth-round selection when the NFL officially confirms the agreement. A pick that is expected to be the last of the three picks they own in Round 6 (207th overall).

Pittsburgh sent their seventh-round selection to the Cleveland Browns as part of the trade for Sammie Coates that saw them receive a sixth-round draft pick in 2018. Their seventh-round selection in 2019 comes from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as part of the trade for J.J. Wilcox in 2017.

With five picks in the final three rounds and two picks in Round 3, the Steelers should have more than enough draft capital to contemplate moving up in the draft on Day 2. They should also be able to move up in Round 1 if they are prepared to give away one of their mid-round draft picks.

The Tennessee Titans moved up three spots in the first-round last year by trading their first and fourth-round draft picks to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for their first and sixth-round draft picks in order to select linebacker Rashaan Evans. The sort of move Pittsburgh might want to make this year if the right player is within reach.

Podcast: Steelers left picking up the pieces after Antonio Brown trade

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/11/2019 - 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 season is over, but 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 flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers, including a fun game of “True or False!”

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Talking Antonio Brown’s trade
  • Who was the big winner in the trade?
  • The other trades/transactions which took place this week
  • 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: The Antonio Brown trade might not be as one-sided as many think

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 03/11/2019 - 4:31am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Steelers’ trade with the Oakland Raiders for Antonio Brown might not be as one-sided as many believe initially.

Let’s get to the news:

  • If you’ve spent any amount of time looking at anything Steelers related since Sunday morning, you’ve seen the anger. You’ve seen the vitriol. You’ve see how upset the Steelers fan base is with Brown’s antics, as well as the Steelers organization. But what if the trade isn’t as one-sided as many believe?

Ron Cook: Is the Antonio Brown deal as one-sided as it seems?
By: Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It’s easy to say Antonio Brown won and the Steelers lost. Brown is getting what he wanted from the Oakland Raiders — a new, bigger contract with more guaranteed money. The Steelers are getting little in return for their greatest wide receiver in franchise history — third- and fifth-round draft picks.

It looks so one-sided.

I guess I’m looking at it a little differently.

It’s hard to say the Steelers will be better without Brown, but I think there is a chance. You don’t win championships with selfish, me-first players who think they are bigger than the team. The Steelers didn’t win a Super Bowl with Brown, right? He is a bad guy. They might not be better on the field without him, but they’ll be better in the locker room. With this team at this time, that’s important.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Everyone knows the Steelers wanted to eliminate the distraction that was Antonio Brown, but how bad did they want him gone? How about a 3rd and 5th round pick trade? Yeah, it was that bad.

Analysis: Antonio Brown deal shows Steelers prioritized getting rid of distractions

By: Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By accepting a third- and fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft for a player who is the most productive receiver in NFL history in a six-year period, the Steelers showed they wanted nothing to do with Brown’s repeated antics and left no doubt they were never going to welcome him back to the team.

The Steelers have an agreement with the Raiders to trade Brown, a four-time All-Pro receiver, but the deal cannot become official until Wednesday, the first day of the 2019 NFL season. A team source emphasized to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday the deal is a verbal agreement only and “it ain’t over till it’s over.”

The trade is arguably the biggest involving a star player in team history and gives the Steelers two choices in the third round of the April draft. It also replaces the fifth-round pick they lost last year when they traded with the Raiders for receiver Ryan Switzer.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Were you a Steelers fan who wanted Eric Weddle? Well, that ship has sailed.

Eric Weddle agrees to terms on 2-year deal with Rams

By: Kevin Patra, NFL.com

Eric Weddle is on the move.

The Los Angeles Rams agreed to terms on a two-year deal with Weddle that is worth up to $12.5 million with a $10.5 million salary, a source told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport on Friday. The team later confirmed the signing.

Weddle had 11 offers and narrowed the list down to five teams before choosing the Rams, per Rapoport and Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • The Steelers are suddenly looking at a very bad trend of players forcing their way out of town. The list is getting longer, and that isn’t a good thing.

Steelers need to slam the door on players talking their way out of town

By: Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

They can’t be surprised that Brown felt like the contract he received two years ago vindicated his antics. And they also can’t be surprised that players like Brown would think that misbehavior has its rewards. In 2014 (as Andrew Fillipponi reminded me during a Friday visit to his 93.7 The Fan afternoon-drive show), running back LeGarrette Blount seemed to orchestrate his release from the Steelers, so that he could return to the Patriots — something he didn’t deny when asked about it during the week preceding Super Bowl XLIX. Linebacker James Harrison reportedly slept his way out of Pittsburgh in 2017.

Ultimately, this kind of stuff flows right back to Tomlin, who seat surely has gotten a lot hotter now that his mismanagement of Brown will result in the Steelers enduring a public humiliation, along with the loss of a highly talented player. But it also flows up the chain of command to ownership, which seems to have allowed the three-coaches-in-50-years thing to become so much of the franchise’s identity that Tomlin has never had to fear the ultimate consequence for failing to get the most out of one of the most talented teams in football.

To read the full article, click HERE

JuJu Smith-Schuster proclaims he is ready to be the Steelers’ No. 1 receiver moving forward

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/10/2019 - 3:24pm

JuJu Smith-Schuster is ready to make people say, “Antonio who?” in 2019.

The loss of Antonio Brown is far from an ‘easy fix’ for the Pittsburgh Steelers moving forward. The loss of Brown immediately makes the wide receiver position sky rocket up the team needs list.

But don’t tell JuJu Smith-Schuster he can’t be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 1 receiver moving forward. In fact, Smith-Schuster sent this message out on all of his social media platforms. The message is simple, yet powerful:

“I’m ready...”

I’m Ready... pic.twitter.com/K9EZVna0VV

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) March 10, 2019

If that weren’t enough, Smith-Schuster sent out a video to remind fans everywhere he is more than capable of picking up the slack left behind by Brown.

I promise, I am never lettin up pic.twitter.com/N3mnd4qPs0

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) March 10, 2019

Just as Brown timed his social media posts with things like Mike Tomlin’s end of the year press conference, don’t think Smith-Schuster isn’t doing the same exact thing with the news of Brown being traded to the Raiders.

Brown wants to tout being a member of the silver-and-black? Smith-Schuster is here to remind fans of the black-and-gold he is here, and he is ready to do work.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes as this story continues to unfold, as well as other news and notes surrounding the Steelers throughout what is shaping up to be a busy offseason.

Antonio Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus tries to explain the deal between the Steelers and Raiders

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/10/2019 - 2:13pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers got just a 3rd and 5th round picks for Antonio Brown, and Brown’s agent tries to justify the process.

At this point and time, not many fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers would be considered fans of Drew Rosenhaus.

Rosenhaus is the agent for Antonio Brown, and helped orchestrate not just his departure from the Steelers, but also getting a new contract with Oakland making him the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL.

While the Steelers received just 3rd and 5th round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft from Oakland, Brown received a new home and a contract with over $30 million in guaranteed money.

Rosenhaus joined the NFL Network Sunday and talked about the trade, how it happened, and how he feels the deal was good a good one for both sides.

Antonio Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was asked on @nflnetwork how things got here... pic.twitter.com/vf7B27oiJO

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 10, 2019

Steelers fans will read this and chuckle to themselves when Rosenhaus calls the deal a win for everyone involved, but at the same time he has to be beaming with pride after he orchestrated such a deal for his client.

The Steelers now have 10 total draft picks in the upcoming selection process, and fans of the black-and-gold are just hoping the team is able to turn those 3rd and 5th round draft picks into something which can have an immediate impact on the 2019 roster and help ease the pain they are currently feeling.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding this team as they progress through the offseason.

2019 NFL Draft: The Atlanta Falcons are on the clock, but who will they select?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/10/2019 - 11:14am

It’s time to make a pick for the Atlanta Falcons in our 2019 Community Mock

...the pick is in

With the 13th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select Kyler Murray QB from Oklahoma

The Atlanta Falcons are now on the clock

Team Needs: IDL/Edge/IOL/CB/LB/RB

2018 Draft Selections

1 (26) Calvin Ridley, wr, Alabama.

2 (58) Isaiah Oliver, cb, Colorado.

3 (90) Deadrin Senat, dt, South Florida.

4 (126) Ito Smith, rb, Southern Miss.

6 (194) Russell Gage, wr, LSU.

6 (200) Foye Oluokun, s, Yale.

2019 Draft Order and Selections

Pick 1 - Arizona Cardinal Nick Bosa Edge Ohio State

Pick 2 - San Francisco 49er’s Josh Allen Edge Kentucky

Pick 3 - New York Jets Jonah Williams OT Alabama

Pick 4 - Oakland Raiders Quinnen Williams IDL Alabama

Pick 5 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers Greedy Williams CB LSU

Pick 6 - New York Giants Dwayne Haskins QB Ohio State

Pick 7 - Jacksonville Jaguars Drew Lock QB Missouri

Pick 8 - Detroit Lions Clelin Ferrell Edge Clemson

Pick 9 - Buffalo Bills Ed Oliver IDL Houston

Pick 10 - Denver Broncos Devin White ILB LSU

Pick 11 - Cincinnati Bengals Cody Ford OT Oklahoma

Pick 12 - Green Bay Packers Jachai Polite Edge Florida

Pick 13 - Miami Dolphins Kyler Murray QB Oklahoma

Note: For those that may vote “other”, let us know who you would have picked. If its a trade scenario fill us in on what you are thinking.

Antonio Brown gets pay raise while Steelers are left with historic amount of dead money

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/10/2019 - 10:40am

The Steelers will have to account for $21.12 in dead money in 2019 after agreeing to trade Antonio Brown to the Raiders, the largest amount ever for a player in a single season in league history.

There was only one real winner in the trade between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders, and it certainly wasn't either of the teams involved. No one benefits more from the receiver’s move to the West Coast than Antonio Brown after it was announced that the trade would also be accompanied by a significant increase in salary.

Based on new contract numbers released by Adam Schefter of ESPN, Brown not only gets to leave Pittsburgh for far less than a first-round draft pick, but will also earn an extra $11.2 million for his troubles over the next three seasons, a figure that could rise to $15.2 million if he meets incentives.

Originally set to earn base salaries of $12.625 million in 2019, $11.3 million in 2020 and $12.5 million in 2021, as well as a $2.5 million roster bonus this year for a total of $38.925 million, Brown will now receive at least $50.125 million from the Raiders over the same period and possibly as much as $54.125 million. And if that wasn't enough to put a smile on his face, Schefter also reports that $30.125 million of it is guaranteed.

Raiders are adding money to Antonio Brown’s deal: He now will have three years worth $50.125 million - with incentives to go to $54.125 million, per source.

Where there was no guaranteed money there’s now $30.125 million guaranteed, per source.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 10, 2019

As Pittsburgh is left questioning the series of events that caused them to lose the NFL’s best wide receiver, they are also left facing the task of replacing him while accommodating the largest amount of dead money ever recorded for a player in a single season. A figure that represents more dead money than the Steelers have ever had to deal with in one year, even when compared to previous seasons involving multiple releases of players under sizable contacts.

#Steelers also will be taking on a whopping $21.12 million dead money charge. I believe thats the largest 1 year dead money hit of all time (guys split over 2 like Suh have been higher overall)

— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) March 10, 2019

The Steelers are now off the hook for the $15.125 million in cash they were due to pay Brown this season, but still need to account for the three outstanding years of prorated signing bonus attached to his contact totalling $21.12 million. Since Brown was due to cost $22.165 million against the cap in 2018 if he had remained in Pittsburgh, the Steelers will actually see salary cap savings of $1.045 million this year.

But whether two mid-rounds picks and an extra million in cap space are worth it to get AB off the roster remains to be seen.

Steelers 2019 Free Agent Market Watch: The Quarterbacks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/10/2019 - 8:45am

BTSC highlights the top free-agents at each position in 2019 and whether or not they might be considerations for the Steelers. Here are the top quarterbacks on the market.

The Steelers have a plethora of holes to fill going into 2019. One of them is definitely not a Starting Quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger is set to extend his deal in Pittsburgh. The team is not looking for a starter. However, finding a better option to replace Ben (if an injury occurs) should be. With Joshua Dobbs having looked less-than-pedestrian against Oakland and Mason Rudolph possibly not ready...a veteran reserve might be a good player to look for.

Here are the best free agent signal-callers available that might fit the Steelers bill.

Nick Foles - Philadelphia Eagles

The guy won a Super Bowl MVP in 2017 and played well enough to get the Eagles a return-ticket to the playoffs. While last year wasn’t as brilliant as the previous year, this guy is looking for a starting gig. He’s not going to be anywhere near an option for Pittsburgh. It is expected Foles will be signing with the Jaguars when the new league year begins.

Teddy Bridgewater - New Orleans Saints

Bridgewater is still not back to perfect after the 2017 injury that knocked him out for the season in the preaseason. When healthy enough his first two seasons, Bridgewater was 17-11 as a starter. But he has only started one game since 2015 and that didn’t go swimmingly in a loss to Carolina in the season finale. The 26-year-old still has a chance to reclaim his spot as a starter in this league, but another backup stint might be where he needs to start his road back. If the money is right, he could be a steal though.

Tyrod Taylor - Cleveland Browns

Taylor didn’t do particular well as a place setter for Baker Mayfield. The previous three years with Buffalo, Taylor threw 51 TDs vs 16 interceptions and led the Bills to the playoffs in 2017. As a backup, Taylor could be a find.

Josh McCown - New York Jets

At 40, McCown is most-likely looking for a deal as a backup and a mentor. Two seasons ago, the veteran of eight teams had 2,926 yards, 18 TDs vs 9 picks and a completion percentage of 67.3%. If the price is right, bringing in a guy like this could be good should disaster strike.

Ryan Fitzpatrick - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This guy is 36, but he is the epitome of the perfect insurance policy as a BUQB. Weeks 1-3 last season, Fitzmagic became the first player in NFL history to have three-straight games of 400+ passing yards. Sure he looks like a hobo that is sleeping on freight trains, but the Harvard graduate is an excellent leader that can get the Steelers through a Big Ben absence.

Other Notable Free Agent Quarterbacks

Trevor Siemian - Minnesota Vikings

Ryan Griffin - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mark Sanchez - Washington Redskins

Josh Johnson - Washington Redskins

Geno Smith - Los Angeles Chargers

Brock Osweiler - Miami Dolphins

Colin Kaepernick - Nike?

Robert Griffin III - Baltimore Ravens

Brett Hundley - Seattle Seahawks

Tom Savage - Cincinnati Bengals

Kevin Hogan - Denver Broncos (RFA)

Matt Cassel - Detroit Lions

Antonio Brown will have a lot to prove as a member of the Oakland Raiders

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/10/2019 - 6:30am

Is Antonio Brown a changed man? Can he recreate the magic with Derek Carr? We will see...

That. Just. Happened.

As most fans of both the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers wake up on Sunday, they are reading all about the agreement between the two organizations to send Antonio Brown to the west coast for the foreseeable future. The reactions on both side of the table are justifiable, for obvious reasons, but to me this move is all about Antonio Brown, not the compensation the Steelers’ received, or anything else of that nature.

Upon his dismissal, and most likely long before he walked out on his team, Brown had been a disgruntled employee just waiting to go off. He did just that prior to the Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and proceeded to completely disparage his coach, owner, general manager, quarterback and the entire organization as he left.

Not only did Brown want out of Pittsburgh, he wanted more money — guaranteed money. This on top of his already huge contract which would have given him over $20 million in 2019 had he stayed in Pittsburgh.

Between every Instagram Live video, every Q&A Twitter session and even his interviews/media spots in between, Brown did whatever he did to hurt his trade value. Why? Because he didn’t just want out, it seemed as if he wanted to hurt the organization which payed him handsomely when no one even knew his name.

Nonetheless, Brown now has his wish. He is gone from Pittsburgh.

Away from Mike Tomlin, the man who drafted and gave him so many perks throughout his time in Pittsburgh.

Away from Art Rooney II, the man who continually obliged when Brown wanted more money in the waning years of his previous contract.

Away from Kevin Colbert, who drafted him.

And away from Ben Roethlisberger, who essentially made him.

The question now is simple — what will Brown do?

While no one knows for sure what Brown will do in Oakland as a player and person, I can make a few educated guesses on what might take place.

At his introductory press conference he will flash his million dollar smile, be very soft spoken, and do and say all the right things. He will gush over Jon Gruden, Derek Carr and the entire Raiders organization. Heck, I wouldn’t be shocked if he claimed he was always a Raiders fan growing up.

In other words, he will do, and say, all the right things as he walks into another facility.

Training camp will come, and Brown’s work ethic will be on full display. He will stay after practice and catch hundreds, if not thousands, of passes on the JUGS machine. The media and fan base will talk about his unrelenting work ethic and drive.

Then the games will start.

At first, if Carr doesn’t have time to throw, or if Carr looks elsewhere, Brown will keep to himself. He won’t immediately start throwing Gatorade jugs on the sidelines. No, he will simply mind his business. However, if Carr doesn’t start to feed him the ball as much as he feels is appropriate, frustration will start to gather.

For Raiders fans who might be reading this thinking Brown is a ticking time bomb, think again. It took Brown 9 years with the Steelers to reach his tipping point. Whether his tipping point was even logical is another story, but it was a slow escalation from the start. Brown will always expect more...of everything.

Antonio Brown will have a lot to prove while in a new venue. As someone who has never caught a touchdown pass from anyone not named Ben Roethlisberger, his ability to gel with Derek Carr will be on display from Day 1. Most believe the rapport Roethlisberger and Brown took years to develop, but the Carr/Brown connection won’t have nearly as much time to do so. With Brown turning 31 this year, time is certainly not on his side regarding his NFL future.

While the on field portion of this is intriguing enough, what Brown does off the field might be equally as intriguing. He leaves behind a perennial playoff contender for one of the worst teams in the NFL. Sure, the Raiders have quite the selection of draft picks in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft, but gutted their roster throughout the 2019 season in preparation for the move to Las Vegas next year.

If the Raiders stumble, and are still really bad, how will Brown handle it? Will he just smile and collect a paycheck? Or will he start to demand another trade two years down the road, wanting to play for a team who can win him a championship?

Needless to say, all eyes will be on Antonio Brown this year for a multitude of reasons. He will have a lot to prove both on and off the field.

Antonio Brown is headed to the Raiders, but did the Steelers get enough in return?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/10/2019 - 5:12am

The Pittsburgh Steelers sent Antonio Brown out to the west coast, but was the compensation enough for the All-Pro WR?

In the early morning hours Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders came to terms on a deal which will send Antonio Brown to the Raiders for 3rd and 5th round picks in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft.

Hardly the haul many expected for the All-Pro wide receiver.

However, even though everyone was suggesting a first round pick, having two more draft picks can certainly be valuable in terms of trade stock during the three day process. For instance, if the Steelers wanted to move up in the first round from their current No. 20 position, they certainly could package some of the new picks they’ve recently received to help sweeten a deal to do so.

I just the past 72 hours the Steelers have gained a 6th round pick for offensive tackle Marcust Gilbert, and now a 3rd and 5th for Antonio Brown. This leaves the Steelers will 10 total draft picks, so far, leading up to the big event.

With that said, what do you think of the compensation the Steelers received for Brown? Let us know by voting in the poll below, and also feel free to tell us your complete thoughts in the comment section below!

NFL Players, and Antonio Brown, take to social media to talk about the Steelers/Raiders trade

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/10/2019 - 4:50am

Social media was buzzin’ after the Raiders agreed to terms on a trade with the Steelers for WR Antonio Brown.

The trading of Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Oakland Raiders has been building for some time. Other teams might have shown some general interest in the All-Pro wide receiver, but it always seemed as if the Raiders were the front runners for Brown’s services — and now they have him.

After sending Pittsburgh a 3rd and 5th round pick, they also agreed to terms on more money for Brown, making him one of the highest paid wide receivers in the league today.

Needless to say, when news hit the wire of Brown’s impending trade, which won’t become official until the new league year begins this week, social media went off. See what current and former players, and of course Brown himself, had to say about the trade via social media.

(Editor’s Note: This article will be updated throughout the day as more people take to social media to discuss Brown leaving Pittsburgh and heading to Oakland.)

☠️☠️☠️ #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/ul6lIVk9dE

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) March 10, 2019

Love at first Sight...... @derekcarrqb pic.twitter.com/YiuCLq3G9z

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) March 10, 2019

Raiders fans right now pic.twitter.com/RmAHfQT5lo

— The Bishop (@JoshHarris25) March 10, 2019

Bag secured @AB84

— Secure The Bag Media (@STB_Media) March 10, 2019

Boomin!!! https://t.co/q3THUgPe2G

— Derek Carr (@derekcarrqb) March 10, 2019

‍♂️ https://t.co/0zyf6au21Y

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) March 10, 2019

BREAKING: Steelers and Raiders agree on terms for a trade for Antonio Brown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/10/2019 - 4:20am

The day has finally come. The Pittsburgh Steelers have traded Antonio Brown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Antonio Brown have been headed down this path for the past few months, and the divorce has finally taken place.

That’s right Steelers fans, there is finally an end to the Antonio Brown drama.

Early Sunday morning, the Steelers agreed on terms to trade Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a third and fifth round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Hardly the compensation they expected for the All-Pro wide receiver.

BREAKING: The Steelers have an agreement to trade All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a third- and fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft, per reports.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) March 10, 2019

The trade for Brown gives the Steelers two choices in the third round and replaces the fifth-round pick they shipped to the Raiders last year for receiver Ryan Switzer.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) March 10, 2019

The draft haul is not what the Steelers were expecting or hoping for Brown, the most productive receiver in NFL history over the past six seasons. But his erratic behavior and demand for more money scared off teams and drove the bargaining price down.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) March 10, 2019

The draft picks weren’t the only thing changed between Pittsburgh and Oakland for Brown. Antonio Brown also received a new contract, giving him even more money than he already was set to receive in Pittsburgh with three years left on his current contract.

This really is wild. Antonio Brown skipped work, disparaged the Steelers publicly, said he wouldn't play on a contract with three years left, then got a raise of almost $20 million with $30-plus million in new guarantees on his way to a new team. Savage power play.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 10, 2019

Brown’s departure from Pittsburgh should be bittersweet for fans, regardless of how the final few months played out. Brown gave the organization 9 amazing years, and the highlights which remain will stand the test of time. However, with Brown essentially forcing himself out of town, it leaves a very bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.

Will Brown be able to reproduce the magic with Derek Carr in Oakland/Las Vegas like he did with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh? Only time will tell, but the Steelers, and their fans, can finally move on and prepare for life without Brown moving forward.

Steelers 2019 Free Agent Market Watch: The Running Backs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/09/2019 - 12:55pm

BTSC takes a look at the top free agents at each position and how they may or may not be a consideration for the Steelers. Here are the running backs.

Le'Veon Bell is the hottest free agent in the class, but he’s not going to be returning to the Steel City. James Conner filled in nicely for Bell, but the final quarter of his season he was absent due to injury. With Jaylen Samuels in the mix, the Steelers may be content at the position. But should they be shopping, here is a look into the 2019 free agent class with a closer review of other available rushers.

Jay Ajayi - Philadelphia Eagles

Ajayi was a huge factor in the Eagles’ championship run of 2017, but an ACL tear took away pretty much most of his 2018 campaign. Ajayi is only 26 and a return to health could be a return to 2016, when he ran for 1,262 yards and 8 TDs.

Mark Ingram - New Orleans Saints

Ingram was platooned with Alvin Kamara the past two seasons, but still put up decent numbers of 1,769 yards, a 4.8 YPC and 19 TDs Over that span. While Ingram may want to pilot the running game of his new team solo, the 29-year old would be a great fit in most backfields splitting carries. Ingram may be too pricey for the Steelers.

Adrian Peterson - Washington Redskins

A sure bet to land in Canton when it’s all said and done, AP had his best season since 2015 with the Redskins last year. With 1,042 yards, 4.2 YPC and seven scores, Peterson revitalized his career. While he could be a good acquisition to go along side of James Conner, Washington is probable to resign Peterson this week.

C.J. Anderson- Los Angeles Rams

Anderson was a guy that many hoped that the Steelers would look to when James Conner fell injured in early December. Instead he went to Los Angeles and revitalized the Rams who were minus Todd Gurley. In two regular season and three postseason games, the 28-year old ran for 488 yards and had four TDs. Anderson has stated his case and still be a feature back in this league again,

Other Notable Free Agent Running Backs:

Latavius Murray - Minnesota Vikings

Marshawn Lynch - Oakland Raiders

Spencer Ware - Kansas City Chiefs

T.J. Yeldon - Jacksonville Jaguars

Alex Collins - Baltimore Ravens (RFA)

Doug Martin - Oakland Raiders

Peyton Barber - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (RFA)

Darren Sproles - Philadelphia Eagles

Frank Gore - Miami Dolphins

Tevin Coleman - Atlanta Falcons

Fullbacks

The Steelers seem to not be out on the market and pretty set at the FB position with Pro Bowler Roosevelt Nix signing a four-year extension last year. So, Fullbacks need not be listed here, but since I don't adhere to convention...here are the top FBs available.

Mike Burton - Chicago Bears

Dan Vitale - Green Bay Packers

Anthony Sherman - Kansas City Chiefs

Tommy Bohanon - Jacksonville Jaguars

Jamize Olawale - Dallas Cowboys

Tre Madden - Seattle Seahawks (RFA)

Marcus Gilbert was a luxury the Steelers couldn’t afford

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/09/2019 - 11:15am

Marcus Gilbert was too expensive and injured far too often to remain with the Steelers in 2019.

What happens when you are part of a unit that has developed a reputation for turning undrafted free agents into millionaires? You get traded if you are too expensive and injured far too often.

Such was the case for Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who was shipped off to the Cardinals on Friday in exchange for a sixth round pick.

The handwriting was on the wall for Gilbert, who earned roughly $8 million over the past two seasons while playing in a grand-total of 12 games due to either injury or suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Truth be told, Gilbert and his base salary of $4.8 million according to spotrac may have been safe in 2019 if not for the ability of his old boss, offensive line guru Mike Munchak, to mold project offensive linemen into fine professionals—even, as I alluded to already, millionaires.

One such millionaire is Chris Hubbard, an undrafted free agent out of UAB in 2013, who signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the Browns last spring after starting 10 games for an injured and/or suspended Gilbert in 2017.

Another undrafted free agent of promise—and one who may some day join Hubbard in the millionaire offensive linemen club—is Matt Feiler, who started 10 games at right tackle in Gilbert’s place a season ago. Honestly, the Steelers are probably hoping Chukwuma Okorafor, last year’s third-round pick out of Western Michigan, will take that all-important first-to-second year leap and ascend to the top of the depth chart at right tackle. But even if Chuks needs more seasoning, is anyone feeling all that nervous about Feiler picking up where he left off in 2018 and becoming the next great underdog offensive lineman story for the Steelers?

Maybe Feiler will. Maybe he won’t. The same holds true for Okorafor, this despite his greater potential and much higher draft pedigree. But there’s been more than enough evidence in recent years to suggest Pittsburgh made the right move by parting with Gilbert.

Is it unfortunate? Sure. It wasn’t long ago that Gilbert had honed and perfected his skills so much, he was regarded by many as the best right tackle in the NFL, a man who rarely let his opponent sack the very valuable Ben Roethlisberger.

Gilbert, who seemed to struggle a bit with desire and commitment after being selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, exemplified what someone like Munchak could really do if you gave him a prospect with enormous potential, and that prospect “got it.”

Gilbert got it and certainly could have been a fixture on the right side of the Steelers offensive line for many more years to come—much like the very underrated and underappreciated John Jackson was at left tackle in the 1990s.

Sadly, however, being great in sports isn’t just about talent and/or commitment. Many talented players have fallen victim to the injury bug over the years—as the old saying goes, you can’t make the club in the tub.

And in Gilbert’s case, you can’t remain on the club, especially when you’re due to make nearly $5 million.

All the best to Marcus Gilbert. He’s a talented offensive lineman, but just too expensive to be injured so often.

And that was especially the case with a much cheaper alternative(s) waiting in the wings to take his place permanently.

Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert might be missing out on his true calling

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/09/2019 - 9:30am

The subject matter for a great children's book is playing out right before our very eyes. Hopefully Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert will capitalize on the opportunity.

This has already been an incredibly busy off season for Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, but all the wheeling and dealing is just par for the course and comes with the position.

I am sure that Colbert never thought he would see the day that his name would be trending across the internet and his words would be so closely discussed and dissected by sports talk show royalty, but here he is and that day has arrived.

He already knew this off season was going to be a busy one, with the Ben Roethlisberger extension topping the list of priorities. The perceived urgency of this free agency period and the NFL Draft coming up in April would be enough to keep him spread pretty thin and offer plenty of sleepless nights, but the Antonio Brown situation has kicked all that up a notch.

Colbert has left no stone unturned in his efforts to make this the most successful off season possible. He has watched Kevin Costner's character from the movie Draft Day on multiple occasions for inspiration and for any trade secrets available. Play your cards right and a single draft weekend can turn around a team's fortunes instantly, just look at last year's Colts draft for the most recent example.

Colbert was home minding his own business, contemplating writing a children's book titled 'Big Ben and his 52 baby goats visit Mr. Rooney's house for Thanksgiving' when suddenly his phone rang. It was Mr. Rooney. He explained to Kevin in detail how he had went to check on one of the baby goats that had went astray, but was unable to save it. It had somehow changed into a black sheep. Rooney asked Kevin to speak to the media on behalf of the Steelers franchise and to reaffirm that stability still permeating through the organization and try to set Steelers Nation mind at ease. Colbert accepted the challenge and scheduled the press conference. The rest is history. Mission not accomplished.

Trying to kill two birds with one stone, Colbert innocently mentioned the book idea hoping for a positive response and instantly his words were taken out of context. His statement has been picked over more than a carcass on the Serengeti. His statement of support for face of the franchise, future HOF QB Ben Roethlisberger was immediately viewed as an insult toward all the other players on the team. Colbert stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Thankfully Robert Kraft offered a distraction for the blood thirsty national media, at least until the black sheep decided he wasn't done bleating.

This past weekend Colbert was back to a sense of normalcy and in his familiar happy place at the NFL Combine. Shaking hands, signing autographs, and kissing babies. Colbert and the rest of his Steelers entourage resembled Tiger Woods and the gallery at the Masters. Everybody wanted to know how his book was coming along, or so he thought. When he informed them that he had to place the completion of the book on the back burner due to time constraints, the conversations invariably turned to what would it take to get a Antonio Brown deal done. Many of these discussions happened off the record, so they could maintain their anonymity and deny plausibility. Colbert has continued to keep his cards close to his chest and let the hand play out.

Colbert has suggested the Roethlisberger extension is pretty much a forgone conclusion, but the figures involved in the extension would be good to know with free agency lurking just around the corner. There is work to be done in free agency that, unlike most years, doesn't just pertain to their own free agents.

Your franchise QB has already stated he is planning to suit up for a few more seasons, health permitting, but he has also made his desire known that his offensive line returns intact next season. That makes for an interesting dilemma.

The Steelers are blessed with a couple of potential starting lineman presently in backup positions. B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler would be younger, cheaper alternatives to UFA Ramon Foster and oft injured Marcus Gilbert. Both veteran linemen are proven performers when healthy and have a close relationship with Big Ben, on and off the field. The financial savings could definitely be used to strengthen other positions on the team, but I suspect the desired happiness of their franchise QB to take precedent in the end.

L.J. Fort would be best served to stay in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers have expressed a desire to make that happen. Jesse James production shouldn't be that difficult to replace, but Eli Rogers may be worth consideration, if the price is right. Same could be said concerning Cody Sensabaugh. Good depth piece, but most definitely not a starter.

This is an exciting and intriguing time for Kevin Colbert, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and all of us in Steelers Nation. It is impossible to know the great unknown, but it sure is fun to speculate and let your imagination run wild. Come to think of it, that could be the theme of Colbert's next children’s book. Hope he reads this article.

I don’t follow the NFL Combine, but I do know D.K. Metcalf is really big and fast

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/09/2019 - 8:04am

Once again, I didn’t follow the annual NFL Combine, and I don’t have much to offer in this article....other than receiver D.K. Metcalf’s workout was so awesome, it likely slammed the door on the Steelers chances of ever acquiring the 49ers’ second over all draft pick in exchange for Antonio Brown.

It’s that time of year again where I ask myself if I’m a bad football/Steelers fan for not really paying much attention to the NFL Combine.

The Combine is, of course, a pre-draft prospect evaluation event held annually in Indianapolis, Indiana—and that one year came just weeks before Peyton Manning was drafted one spot ahead of Ryan Leaf.

The combine (I never know if that word should be capitalized) came and went again this past weekend, and from what I could glean from Twitter, a lot of guys ran really, really, really fast.

One such guy was D.K. Metcalf, a wide receiver from Ole Miss whose dad, Terrence, spent seven seasons in the NFL as an offensive lineman. Speaking of big players, at 228 lbs, D.K. is not only really big for a wide-out, he’s really fast for a big wide-out—his 40 time of 4.33 was the fastest ever recorded at the Combine by a player over 225 lbs.

The 49ers are reportedly interested in Metcalf, whose stock will now likely rise to parallel San Francisco’s number two overall draft pick. That might be bad news for the Steelers and their fans—why trade the number two pick for Antonio Brown, when you can get a rookie receiver with crazy measurables (and without the crazy behavior) with that draft choice?

Anyway, that’s my biggest takeaway from the just concluded 2019 NFL Combine—D.K. Metcalf’s combine workout has destroyed whatever hope remained for Pittsburgh acquiring the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

My other big takeaway despite not really watching or paying much attention to the combine (every other “Combine” will begin with a lowercase “C” until I get some answers) was that the Steelers were interested enough in LSU inside linebacker Devin White (yeah, right, no chance in heck of getting him at No. 20) and Alabama inside linebacker Mack Wilson (he’s a fringe first-round pick at this point, so the cries would be “Reach! Reach! Reach!” on draft night) to officially interview them.

In my opinion, inside linebacker is Pittsburgh’s biggest need heading into the draft (although, it could be wide receiver if Brown leaves and isn’t sufficiently replaced during free agency). So I was glad that some of the best prospects at the position were getting attention.

Other than those nuggets, I don’t have much to say about the 2019 NFL Combine, other than I’m glad you pay close attention to it. Why? Because it’s about that time of year where I research all of your research and use it to write draft articles (sometimes, actual mock, mock drafts that make people angry).

So, finally, I want to thank you for all the combine work you do because it makes my post-combine and pre-draft life easier.

Now, get cracking on some Combine articles. I’ve got a quota to fill.

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