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Artie Burns unsure of starting spot heading into Buccaneers game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 12:37pm

The Steelers might be shaking up their starting cornerback across from Joe Haden.

There are times when a scapegoat is used. A player who is used as an example for a poor performance.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football it looks like the team might have found their scapegoat following a poor performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2.

Who is the player? CB Artie Burns.

Artie Burns said he did not know if he would start Monday night. Coty Sensabaugh confirmed he has first team reps in practice Saturday. Burns said his toe injury from last week is not an issue.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) September 22, 2018

Burns popped up on the injury report last week with a toe injury, but Burns isn’t using that as an excuse. It also should be noted Burns hasn’t been listed on the team’s injury report this week.

Nonetheless, Coty Sensabaugh has been splitting reps with Burns this week, and the former first round pick is unsure if he will be across from Joe Haden on Monday night, or relegated to backup duties.

Burns hasn’t played well throughout this young season, but he is hardly alone. The entire secondary collapsed last week, and it is difficult to pin the performance just on Burns, but it seems if the Steelers make a change it will be at the cornerback position.

What might surprise some is how it is Sensabaugh, not Cameron Sutton, who would be filling in if Burns is indeed benched.

Maybe this speaks more to the state of development for both Burns and Sutton, combined with the solid play by Sensabaugh.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding this story.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans’ confidence plummets as team prepares for Monday Night Football

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 11:20am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team on the ropes, and the fan base doesn’t know what to think.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and their 0-1-1 record have their fan base in a fit. After a horrendous tie in Week 1 vs. the Cleveland Browns, they followed that up in Week 2 by wasting a 37-point output by the offense and surrendering 42-points to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs at home.

The players feel they can right the ship, and there are a lot of games left on the schedule, but the fans’ outlook is very short-sighted. In other words, all they see is the misery they find themselves in currently.

For those who participate in the BTSC FanPulse questionnaire every week, you are consistently asked about your confidence level heading into that particular week’s game. Needless to say, there has been a steady decline each week. Well, to be honest, some might just call this a free-fall.

Want to be a part of the SB Nation FanPulse, a survey of fans across the NFL powered by SurveyMonkey. Each week, we send 32 polls to 100+ plugged in fans from each team. Steelers fans, sign up HERE to join FanPulse.

The 2018 Steelers are an anomaly from what everyone thought coming into the season. Was the 13-3 season of 2017 a mirage? Or will the Steelers be able to right the ship and get back to their winning ways?

Only time will tell, but with every passing week it is proving you truly never know what will happen in the NFL. As the Steelers search for a consistent winning equation, the fan base just longs for consistency across the board. Coaching, executing and overall performance. Just consistency.

The Pittsburgh offense is talented enough to win a championship, and have put up nearly 30-points a game early in the season without Le’Veon Bell, but the defensive side of the football resembles a mixed bag of goods more than a Steel Curtain. Fans, rightfully so, feel if the defense can just hold a team to 21-points, the offense should be able to handle their business.

Where this team goes from here is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure, the Steelers are a team brimming with potential in many areas. Desperately in need of a win, and a signature win against a red-hot team at that, beating the 2-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football just might be the springboard the team needs to propel them to bigger and better things this season.

Steelers Draft Prospects: College Game Day and Open Thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 10:39am

Time to check in on the NCAA slate of games for Saturday!

Welcome to Week 4 of the college football season. There are a couple of Top 25 match ups this week.

No. 22 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama at 3:30 on CBS

No. 7 Stanford at No. 20 Oregon at 8:00 on ABC

Taking a look at the weekly college schedule in an effort to give you your money’s worth for potential Pittsburgh Steelers draft picks in the 2019 season. In other words what games give you the best chance to check out the most draft-able players.

This weeks highlight game:

No. 22 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama - 3:30 on CBS Alabama

Ross Pierschbacher #71 C 6’4” 309

Lester Cotton #66 Lester Cotton G 6’4” 325

Jonah Williams #73 OL 6’5” 301

Irv Smith Jr. #82 TE 6’4” 241

Damien Harris #34 RB 5’11” 213

Terrell Lewis #24 LB 6’5” 256

Isaiah Buggs #49 DL 6’5” 286

Raekwon Davis #99 6’7” 316

Anfernee Jennings #33 6’3” 266

Mack Wilson #30 LB 6’2” 239

Deionte Thompson #14 S 6’2’ 196

Texas A&M

Erik McCoy #64 OL 6’4” 315

Trayveon Williams #5 RB 5’9’ 200

Daylon Mack #34 NT 6’1” 320

Kingsley Keke #8 DL 6’4”305

Use the comment section to tell us what game and what players you have your eyes on, and who you would love to see in the Black and Gold next year.

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking the full Week 3 slate against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 9:21am

We make our picks against the spread and versus the game totals for every game on the NFL schedule in Week 3

While the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to disappoint this season, so do we with our weekly picks. Despite Editor Jeff Hartman making a slight amends for his underwhelming efforts on opening weekend, my results in Week 2 were shocking after I failed to post a positive record against either the spreads or the totals.

With several home favorites in Week 3, only four travelling teams are expected to win their matchups on Sunday and only one double digit spread on the day suggests the bookmakers are predicting a number of close contest this weekend. Six games feature a spread of less than a field goal.

After picking many of the same winners from most of Sunday's action, it is hard to separate our selections with so many solid favorites on offer. As much as it pains us to acknowledge them, the Cincinnati Bengals not only look great value to cover the spread, but also to win the game outight against the Carolina Panthers and may be one of the more attractive bets of the weekend.

Selections have been made using the consensus Las Vegas odds from VegasInsider.com as per Friday night and we encourage you to play along with us by adding your picks below.

Crunching the Numbers: The Steelers on MNF, and running without Le’Veon Bell

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 8:26am

How difficult has it been for the Steelers to replace the production of No. 26 in the games he’s missed?

Are You Ready For Some Football?

There’s something special about playing on Monday Night Football. For those of us who live outside the Pittsburgh area, it’s the excitement of definitely being able to see the game on television. After enduring a Sunday with no Steelers, the upcoming work week is a little easier to start off with the all-day anticipation of the game under the lights.

It’s also very helpful knowing the Steelers are one of the most successful franchises on Monday Night Football. Most fans are familiar with the Steelers’ 31-11 record dating back to 1990, but that wasn’t always the case. After going 10-5 on Mondays during the 70s, the Steelers had a bit of a rough run during the 80s. With a 4–8 record from 1980 to 1986, the team was excluded from this particular prime-time slot for the final three years of the decade.

Over the course of Ben Roethlisberger‘s career, the question wasn’t if the team would be playing on Monday Night Football, but when and how often. In fact, the Steelers have played at least one Monday night game every season since Ben‘s rookie year in 2004. As a starter, Rothlisberger is 14-4 when playing on Monday (including last year‘s Christmas Day game), with 26 passing touchdowns, 2 more rushing TD’s, and 17 interceptions.

Monday night’s game will only be the second time Ben Roethlisberger has played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. His only other appearance was during the 2008 season with a 27–23 victory in Super Bowl XLIII over the Arizona Cardinals, where Ben was 21–30 for 256 yards with one TD and one INT. The Steelers last game in Tampa was in 2010 with a Charlie Batch-led 38-13 victory in Week 3 during Ben Roethlisberger’s four-game suspension. Overall, the Steelers are 4-1 at Raymond James Stadium with the only loss coming on their first trip in 1998.

Consistency, Thou Art A Jewel

It’s fair to say that the inconsistency of the Steelers’ kicking game has been a major concern after two weeks. Chris Boswell is 0/2 in FG attempts and 3/4 on PAT’s. After going 4/4 on game-winning attempts in 2017, Boswell is 0/1 this season. Luckily, the miss only created a tie instead of a loss.

The truly inconsistent kicking has come in the punting category. In 12 punts this season, Jordan Berry has a 42.3 yard average which ranks him 28th in the NFL. But NFL ranking has not been a very strong point for Berry, with his last three years being ranked 32nd, 18th, and 30th.

Distance isn’t always the deciding factor in the quality of a punt. Almost any punt inside the 20-yard line is deemed a success, while punts inside the 10-yard line are more highly coveted. So far this season, Berry has four punts inside the 20, one of which was a 59-yard punt inside the 10 which was downed at the 1-yard line and led to a Steelers’ safety. The trouble is, out of the eight punts not downed inside the 20-yard line, five of them traveled less than 40-yards. This means 62.5% of punts not downed inside the 20 were of the 30-some-yards variety. And it doesn’t even count Berry’s last punt which was officially 56-yards but netted only 36 because it was a touchback.

The kicking game hasn’t been the only inconsistent aspect for the Steelers. The Steelers’ defense only gave up 21-points and 197 passing yards while registering seven sacks and eight passes defended in Week 1. But in Week 2, they surrendered 42-points and 326 passing yards with only one sack and one pass defended. The most consistent part of the defense has been that they’ve surrender more than 125 rushing yards in each game.

The offense has been inconsistent as well. Week 1 brought 159 rushing yards while Week 2 netted only 33. A lot of this was because the Steelers were playing from behind, but even when they did attempt to run the ball, it wasn’t very successful. Additionally, the Steelers improved on their six-turnover performance to have no turnovers the following game. So at least the inconsistency in offensive output (minus the rushing attack) is with an upward trend.

Life Without Le’Veon

In the 85 games the Steelers have played since drafting Le’Veon Bell in 2013, he has started and played in 66 of them. During those games, Bell has averaged 87.3 yards per game with 0.697 touchdowns per contest. Add on his 41.7 receiving yards a game, and Bell has accounted for an average of 129 total yards in each game he’s played.

But what about the other 23 games since 2013 where the Steelers had to find an alternative at running back? It’s definitely been a mixed bag of results. The Steelers have had nine different running backs lead the team in rushing in the games they’ve played without Bell. In the four games Bell missed in 2013 and 2014, a different running back led the team in rushing each game: LaRod Stephens-Howling, Felix Jones, Johnathan Dwyer, and Josh Harris. In those four games, no running back registered more than 40-yards rushing or managed to find the end zone.

In 2015, the Steelers invested in DeAngelo Williams as a quality reserve running back. Williams played 13 games out of the 23 where Bell was not in uniform. During those games, Williams averaged 85.5 yards rushing per game with an average of 1.23 TD/G. He added 29.3 receiving yards per game for a total of 114.8 yards per contest.

In 2015, Williams was also injured and the Steelers had to rely on Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman for the final regular-season game, as well as in two playoff contests. Neither back rushed for more than 65-yards (although combined, the two rushed for 123 yards in the wild-card win) but only had one total touchdown.

In Week 17 last season, Stevan Ridley rushed for 80-yards with a touchdown when Bell was given the game off before the playoffs.

So far this season, James Connor has rushed for an average of 76 yards per game with 1.5 TD’s. Connor has also managed to average 52.5 receiving yards for a total of 128.5 yards per game.

Another standard of measurement is the percentage of games a running back rushes for 100 yards or more. In that category, Le’Veon Bell has rushed for at least 100 yards in 30.3% (20 of 66) of his games. DeAngelo Williams rushed for 100 or more yards in 38.5% of the games he started for the Steelers (5 of 13). James Conner has eclipsed the century mark in 50% of his starts (1 of 2).

When comparing the stats, James Connor has maintained the standards set by Le’Veon Bell for the most part. Could this be because he’s not deemed as much of a threat when other teams game plan against the Steelers? Perhaps. The biggest thing is he doesn’t have a very large body of work. But with every week Bell refuses to show, it allows Conner to put up more stats as the Steelers’ starting running back.

Random Thoughts from a Black-and-gold Mind: Jesse James, Walter White and Absent Antonio edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 7:08am

BTSC’s meteor-minded madman’s meanderings manage to massively maneuver to your medulla.

Oh the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers, Dysfunction’s Darlings. With the defenseless disaster against the Chiefs, the star receiver’s allegedly-excused absence, the runaway RB riding rotundly on a jet ski in a Miami, storm clouds surrounding the quarterback’s alleged affiliation with the president and a porn star in her upcoming literary debut and the media going more batty than Adam West’s closet — my black-and-gold brain is lobotomy bound. So as always, I pass the ravings on to you.

But first a Lobester-fest of lament goes out to and for the follow transgressions from a week ago.

  • Labeling (plagiarism at its’ finest) my @btscbad Twitter followers as my #minyinz. Still only 38, if we got to 300...there’s a prize drawing. (Sorry, It’s not an autographed 8x10 of Tony Defeo),
  • Mentioning Manson followers with no Squeaky.
  • Not enough Necessary Roughness references.
  • Hall and Oates
  • Leaving Danny Devito out of the War of the Roses reference
  • Completely butchering the plot of a Family Ties episode for the sole purpose of including a photo of Gina Davis and Michael J. Fox.
  • Plugging books of non-Steelers.
  • James Conner’s hair stylist
  • The Road Warrior
  • Bruno Mars

Now the latest edition of Random Thoughts from a Black-and-gold Mind.

  • Like Bryan Cranston’s Walter White in the legendary A&E series Breaking Bad, I fear that Antonio Brown is slowly drifting into a level of madness that he may never recover from. His Thursday meeting with the media was evidence of that.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
  • I had no problem with AB’s response to a former team-staffer’s douchey tweet that was nothing but bait for No. 84. It had nothing to with wanting traded. I’m not going to give this clown any more publicity by electronically printing his name, but I feel like he caused a lot of unneeded drama. And he was wrong, to boot. Way to hide behind your keyboard pal.
  • Seriously though. I’m not concerned about AB at all. He’s still going to perform. It’s the Defense/ST that have me back in the Burger King Drive-thru with a vengeance.
  • I don’t know if it was the elbow, but despite his stats, Ben Roethlisberger overthrew a lot of open guys. This team needs a sharper BB for it to succeed.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • A future president, an NFL quarterback and a porn star walk in a bar. I have a feeling that no one will be laughing at the punchline of this one. I’m going to try to abstain from commenting any further on this story.
  • I’m not a sports agent, but I’ve seen most of Arliss and Ballers on HBO and I’ve been to the theater multiple times to see Jerry McGuire (I had a lot of one-and-done first dates in 1996-97). That still doesn’t make me an authority on how to counsel athletes. But I think that if I did have a client currently withholding his services from an NFL franchise, I’d advise him not to appear on social media looking like Ving Rhames on a jet ski. I’m definitely starting to think that Week 10 might not even happen for a Peaches and Herb-style reunion between Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers.
  • I think, at this point, Steelers Nation is becoming more and more okay with the prospect of the above scenario.
  • Terrell Edmunds is a rookie with a mere two games of NFL experience in the regular season, but he looks exposed out there. Maybe he’s been thrown to the wolves too early and needs to incubate more at this level, but don’t label him yet. Remember a guy named Troy and another named Cam needed some seasoning before they ultimately flourished. Tom Bradley needs to work some magic with No. 34.
  • When it comes to the Tight End position in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, they are searching for something that they don’t think that they possess. Jesse James has the smarts, the hearts and no fear. Like Frank Morgan’s Wizard character said, “Everything you were looking for was right there with you all along.” The same could be said about No. 81.
  • Just like against the Chiefs, I would take the over this week for MNF in Tampa.
  • Speaking of MNF, not having to listen to Jon Gruden has my Monday made already.
  • We know about “the Killer Bees”. How about a new stable label for a trio on the offense. Jesse, Conner and Washington should be known as “the James Gang.” I’ll work up the t-shirt tonight.
  • The Steelers are pretty happy with their top-reserve on the offensive line, B.J. Finney. While Josh Dobbs is an actual rocket scientist, No. 67’s full name suggests that he should be the one with the big degree...Benjamin Isaac J Finney II.
  • I was in the crowd at Heinz Field on Sunday and I might possibly have been the only person rooting for Pittsburgh in attendance who wasn’t booing Jordan Berry. Not sure how the tryouts will shake out this week, but if Berry makes it onto the charter flight to Florida, he’ll need the punting performance of his life, or else those Disney angels that help down-and-out players survive and thrive. If you happen to see a couple of orphans following No. 4 around on the sidelines, then you’ll know that everything will be just fine.
  • Oh no! Just checked my local listings and the reboot of Magnum PI is on opposite the Steelers this week. Football wins out, but it’s going to be tough to have to wait until Tuesday.

And finally,

Until next time, I ask you to ponder the significance of the lyrics to Pink’s rambunctious single So What? and just how this might pertain to the 2018 Steelers:

So, so what?

I’m still a rock star

I got my rock moves

And I don’t need you

And guess what

I’m having more fun

And now that we’re done

I’m gonna show you tonight

I’m alright, I’m just fine

And you’re a tool

So, so what?

I am a rock star

I got my rock moves

And I don’t want you tonight

Uh, check my flow, uh

.................

Take that for what it’s worth, Go Steelers and Don’t Stop Shalievin’.

Steelers’ Injury Report: Marcus Gilbert and David DeCastro miss practice again on Friday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 6:05am

The Steelers were missing two of their starting offensive lineman for a second consecutive day on Friday, and their availability for Monday is very much in doubt.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ second official injury report of the week was something of a mixed bag on Friday with four players held out of practice for the team’s penultimate training session of the week.

Official Steelers injury report lists Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster and Tyson Alualu as full participants. Morgan Burnett (groin), David DeCastro (hand), Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) did not practice. Stephon Tuitt (illness) was added to report as DNP. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) September 21, 2018

The continued absence of starting offensive lineman David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert is the most troubling aspect of this latest update, as both were sidelined for the second day in a row. With just one day of practice remaining for both players to prove they’re healthy enough to play in Week 3, it’s looking increasingly like the Steelers will be forced to go without them.

Although rookie Chukwuma Okorafor is officially listed as the backup to Gilbert, it would appear that Matt Feiler has been preparing to start at right tackle in training. When speaking to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, Feiler confirmed he had been getting all the reps with the first team.

“You have to prepare the best you can and practice like you are playing, I keep working the craft. I feel pretty comfortable. I have been getting reps all week.”

Consecutive days as full participants at practice for Joe Haden, Tyson Alualu and Ramon Foster bodes well for their inclusion on Monday and Haden sounded like he might be close to a full recovery when talking to Varley.

“It feels a whole lot better. This week it feels a whole lot better. I am able to run. It’s a whole lot better. We are progressing.”

Unfortunately, Morgan Burnett seems to be regressing with a groin injury that caused him to be limited on Thursday, and he was held out practice altogether on Friday. Hopefully, the illness Stephon Tuitt is currently battling will have cleared up by game day. Rookie Terrell Edmunds would start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if Burnett cannot go, while Alualu would replace Tuitt.

The Buccaneers Friday injury report can be read on our sister site Bucs Nation.

Black and Gold Links: How to fix the defensive communication issues plaguing the defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/22/2018 - 5:03am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with disappointment for the second week in a row after the Kansas City Chiefs came into Heinz Field and dismantled the home team. Heading into Week 3, the team must slowly turn its attention away from the embarrassing loss and solely focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their Week-3, prime-time matchup. Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-Gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet, and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we focus on the glaring need for the Steelers’ defense to fix the communication issues which seem to be surrounding Keith Butler’s unit, and we look at how these issues might be rectified.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers attempt to address communication issues on defense

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Receivers running wide open down the field — not just once, but on multiple occasions.

Confused players sprinting onto the field, getting into alignment just before the ball was snapped. Other times, a similar frantic run was stopped as an annoyed teammate shooed him back to the sideline.

Communication issues, by the defensive coordinator’s own admission, not just among the secondary but within the front seven as well.

To put it bluntly: It wasn’t just the final score that was ugly for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense in last week’s 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

It’s difficult to pin down a worst moment for coordinator Keith Butler’s crew last Sunday. But when half of the defense was running one scheme and another half was in a different set during a first-quarter snap deep in Steelers territory, the result was an easy Travis Kelce 19-yard touchdown.

“We have a quarterback on the (defense), and we always have to play what he is playing,” Butler said. “Even if he is wrong, we all have to be wrong. We all have to be ‘wrong,’ and we will be right if we do that.

“I know that doesn’t make sense to y’all, but it makes sense to our guys.”

Steelers fans watching some of the carnage might think the defensive calls weren’t making sense.

The defense was facing one of the NFL’s better offenses in the Chiefs, and its issues ranged well beyond communication. But the players and coaches on the unit themselves acknowledged confusion was a significant factor in allowing three times as many touchdowns (six) as punts (two) during Kansas City’s 11 meaningful drives.

It’s an issue that must be addressed by Monday when the Steelers face a Tampa Bay team that leads the league in total yards (482.5) and passing yards (405.0) per game and is second in scoring at 37.5.

“Everybody needs to be talking, linebackers and safeties, making sure the linebackers and the D-linemen hear it,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “So it’s just echoing the calls. I think that’s about it (to fix the issues).”

Kevin Gorman: Steelers star Antonio Brown wants to win, but business isn’t booming

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Antonio Brown is accountable for his actions and took full responsibility for causing distractions for the Pittsburgh Steelers, even if he mostly blamed it on the media for magnifying his life under a microscope.

The All-Pro wide receiver spoke publicly Thursday at Steelers headquarters for the first time since his “trade me” tweet, explaining his emotions are tied directly to being in the business of winning.

And business is anything but booming.

So, as Brown tells it, the heated sideline exchanges between Brown and assistant coaches Randy Fichtner and Darryl Drake in the 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday was merely a misunderstanding.

Simply, the Steelers were losing, and Brown wants to win.

“We haven’t won a game yet. For me, as a Steeler, that’s unacceptable,” Brown said. “I’m not on the sideline begging for the ball or making statements like you guys make. I’m (angry). We’re losing. We (stink).”

If you were expecting a public apology, you’ve got the wrong guy.

Brown did offer a mea culpa for forcing his teammates to answer questions about his tweet, which he called “a stupid remark online.” But he was otherwise defiant, a trait one teammate called “that dog in him” that carried Brown from sixth-round draft pick to NFL superstardom.

“You guys make assumptions about my emotions. You don’t know me at all,” Brown said. “Everyone in this locker room knows what I stand for, knows what I’m about.”

Steelers might just benefit from Antonio Brown’s defiance

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

On the offensive, an unapologetic and defiant Antonio Brown replaced his signature ear-to-ear smile with tense, sometimes combative words.

His Thursday session with the media was an extension of frustrations he expressed about the media back in the spring, offering a hint of contrition about his turbulent 72 hours -- mainly, his “trade me” tweet that he called a “stupid remark” and a distraction for his Pittsburgh Steelers.

Brown is on edge, and has been for a while. He’s hot. And it’s still hard to believe what’s real, like what did Steelers coach Mike Tomlin really know about Brown’s Monday absence before it happened?

But Brown’s broad message -- being “pissed off” the team’s not winning -- resonates in the Steelers’ locker room as just the edge this team needs after an 0-1-1 start.

”That’s what you want the team to be thinking -- to be pissed off,” running back Stevan Ridley said.

Brown and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner are cool, with Fichtner calling the sideline exchange a nonissue. And teammates expect Brown to go off on Monday Night Football against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Coming off Brown’s previous two controversies -- the Facebook Live broadcast in the locker room during the playoff two years ago and the flipped Gatorade cooler early last season -- Brown produced a combined 17 catches for 234 yards in the following games. In the Jacksonville game, Brown got 19 targets, or 25 percent of the Steelers’ offense.

Guard Ramon Foster acknowledges Brown was rattled Sunday but dominates when the focus stays intact.

”It’s more mental than anything,” Foster said of Brown’s game. “The physical part is just what he does. The mental part is when his mind is made up, that’s what makes him great. He’s not a weak guy. He’s a guy who understands and laughs at this stuff because he knows the end of this is going to be something great for him. I look forward to him bouncing up big time.”

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Week 3 Bucs Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 5:39pm

The games finally count, and there is plenty to talk about!

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. If you are Randy Fichtner, what does your opening script look like vs. the Bucs? Do you come out up-tempo throwing the ball, focus on establishing the run, or stay balanced?

2. We asked this question the other day on our podcast: Do you think the Steelers’ “drama” has somehow impacted the team’s play on the field? Explain your answer.

3. OVER/UNDER Steelers sacks of Ryan Fitzpatrick: 2

4. If you are Keith Butler, what adjustments are you making to slow down the Buccaneers’ high-powered unit?

5. What is your stress level heading into the Week 3 game vs. the Buccaneers?

1 - No stressed...we got this.

Or

10 - Our pets heads are falling off!!

6. Fun questions to end it tonight:

Who scores the first Steelers’ TD?

and

Who makes the first Steelers tackle?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

The arc of an NFL career shows why fans should be patient and trust the process

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 2:28pm

The Steelers’ future stars might currently be cooling their heels on the sidelines — or not.

In the history of the NFL, few players have stepped onto the field as rookies and changed the game. Earl Campbell would qualify — and Mean Joe. The average NFL career lasts all of four years. That includes the guys on the bottom of the roster and the guys on top. That is, guys who barely survived the cut, and guys who have full-fledged careers. In the latter group, we spend a great deal of time and energy analyzing their downward arc, the painful loss of abilities as age runs its inexorable course. I’m hoping again this year that Father Time sacks Tom Brady, falling on No. 12 with all of his weight. I’ve seen enough of Tom Terrific. I want the kind of precipitous decline we saw in Peyton Manning during his last year. It happens to the best of them.

But what we spend less time considering is the upward arc at the beginning of a career. Some ascend the learning curve like Spiderman, others plod their way up like TV Batman pulling himself up with his Bat-a-rang. One of the blessings of my own ascent into middle age is having seen both sides of the arc multiple times with multiple players. I remember watching the original special-teams ace, young Donnie Shell, put the hurt on hapless return men, and wanted him in the lineup. When he got there, he shined. What, I wondered for several years, took so long? And some of you may be surprised to know that, when the Steelers won their first Super Bowl, their starting wideouts were Frank Lewis and Ron Shanklin, while future hall-of-famers Swann and Stallworth watched from the sidelines.

The truth is that judging abilities of football players comes with two great challenges. First, you don’t really know what a guy can do without putting him in the game. Football in shorts is football in shorts, and practice is practice. Even preseason games don’t truly tell the tale because of the level of competition being faced. The second challenge, however, is that players aren’t static. They can get better and they can get worse. Most of the time, on the front end of the arc, they’re getting better. But even then, we never can tell how quickly they’ll get better, or what their top-end will turn out to be. Remember, for a year or two, a seat on the bench was a step up for James Harrison.

What that means in the here and now is that we’re only just beginning to know what we have, at least on the defensive side of the ball. Yes, the Bud Dupree experiment is in its last phase, but the results at this point are inconclusive. Things look good with T.J. Watt, but we don’t yet know how good he can be. And in the defensive backfield we have a bumper crop of we-don’t-know-yets.

With the exception of Mean Joe, the early Noll drafts were top heavy with recognizable names on the offense — Bradshaw, Franco, Swann. But the defense carried the team to their first two trophies. By XIII and IX, the roles had changed — which is why I continue to have high hopes for the long term. We may have three more years with Ben. We may have six more games with Bell. But a day might well come in the not-too-distant future, when the Killer B’s are a memory and the defense is once again carrying us again to greatness. In short, be patient, and trust the process.

How Randy Fichtner is re-building the play action pass into the Steelers playbook

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 12:33pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers once relied on play action passing to move the football, but not as much recently. That might all be changing under Randy Fichtner though.

If there is one aspect of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense which constantly befuddles me, it is how since Bruce Arians retired/was fired the team has not run as much play action as they once did.

A large reason for the team bringing in Todd Haley after Arians’ departure was to help keep Ben Roethlisberger healthy. Shortly upon his arrival, the 8-step drop backs for Roethlisberger started to diminish, and the quick-hitting timing routes became more of an onus within the offense.

While Arians, and other coordinators like Ken Whisenhunt, loved to run play action and chuck it deep, it wasn’t the forte of Haley. But what about new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner? It is a small sample size, but early indications are Fichtner wants to run more play action than his predecessor, but the plays themselves might look different.

Take a look at what play action passing might resemble in the new-style offense Fichtner has been running off of Haley’s offensive skeleton.

Big game for the #Steelers this weekend with the #Chiefs coming into town!

Check out @GregCosell showing how @_BigBen7 used play action to move a linebacker and get @TeamJuJu sprung for a big TD last week.#KCvsPIT #HereWeGo #ChiefsKingdom @NFLFilms pic.twitter.com/G8fb1dUoOx

— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) September 14, 2018

Again, with only two weeks under the team’s belt, it is too early to tell if the play action passing game will become a staple, or just a weekly feature depending on matchups. However, when comparing this season to 2017, there is already an uptick in play-action passing.

Last season, #Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger used play action on only 9.5% of his dropbacks. The next lowest QB was Josh McCown with 13.0%.

In Week 1 Roethlisberger's play action % rose to 17.0% which ranked 24th in the NFL.

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) September 13, 2018

If you are like me, you are hoping for even more play action passing in the future, and it is worth noting the team would have to establish a running game for the play action to be truly effective. Sure, you can always freeze the linebackers with a play action play, but to get the secondary to bite on the fake as well, that is where you make your real money.

As the Steelers now prepare for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3, establishing the run, and utilizing play action might just be the trick against a very aggressive defense who will want to fly to the ball and make plays.

Do you wish the Steelers used more play action, or is this something which is a dated style of offense which should be phased out of the playbook? Let us know in the comment section below!

NFL Expert Picks: Who the experts are predicting to win Steelers vs. Buccaneers in Week 3

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 11:20am

Time to check in on who the experts like in this Monday night showdown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are quite the enigma as they prepare for their Week 3 game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Possessing a ridiculously talented offense and a defense who surrendered 42-points in Week 2 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, no one really knows what to think about Pittsburgh as they now face the red-hot Buccaneers.

After a 13-3 season in 2017, fans, and media alike, are waiting for the Steelers they all thought would show up, to actually arrive. Yet here we are, and the 0-1-1 Steelers are in desperate need of a big-time win.

Are Ryan Fitzpatrick and the boys the perfect elixir for what ails Pittsburgh? On paper it certainly doesn’t seem like it, but this is why we look to the NFL ‘Experts’ and see who they are taking in the upcoming contest.

If you are looking for a panel of experts who are leaning hard on the Steelers, look no further than those at ESPN. 6 of the 10 experts who submit weekly picks like the Steelers to right the ship and win their first road game of the season.

For those who enjoy a nice middle-of-the-road prediction set, CBS Sports is your site to check out. 8 experts, 4 picks the Steelers and 4 picks the Buccaneers.

Other websites who submit expert picks weren’t nearly as kind as ESPN or CBS Sports. Here at SB Nation, only 2 of the experts believe the Steelers have what it takes to win.

You might be wondering about all the other major media outlets, and websites across the world wide web, who submit weekly picks? Who do they think will win the game? This is where our friends at NFL Pick Watch come in. NFL Pick Watch is a website which takes all NFL expert picks and puts them into one easy-to-read chart.

According to NFL Pick Watch, 59-percent of experts like Tampa Bay to hold serve and move their record to 3-0, while sending the Steelers to an 0-2-1 start to the regular season.

What might be even more intriguing about this matchup is the Vegas line. The latest betting line has the Steelers as 1-point favorites on the road in prime time. Some are stunned at this line, but like I always say, “Vegas knows more than you and me.”

Will the Steelers pull out the win? Or will their misery continue? Only time will tell, but the NFL experts seem to be putting their eggs in the Buccaneers’ basket.

ESPN predicts the Steelers to rebound and still finish with 10 wins this season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 9:57am

Things are doom-and-gloom among Steelers fans, but ESPN might have just given the fan base a new sense of hope.

To be totally honest, I don’t read ESPN’s work much anymore. Not only do I create Pittsburgh Steelers content, but there always seems to be a better venue where I can find quality content.

But when I was checking various websites recently, I was stunned when I saw an article which painted the Steelers in a positive light. At this point, I’m willing to read anything positive regarding the Black-and-gold.

With the fan base figuratively foaming at the mouth in anger after the first two weeks trying to figure out how this team can crawl out of its 0-1-1 hole, that’s an interesting task to undertake.

Thankfully, Bill Barnwell of ESPN did just that, as he went through all of the teams currently at 0-2, or 0-1-1 in Pittsburgh’s case, to see what the chances are of them making the playoffs.

Take a look at what he thinks of the Steelers’ chances — the concerns he has and where he sees them ending up. A pretty good read, if I say so myself.

Preseason playoff odds: 77.7 percent

Current playoff odds: 36.6 percent

The Steelers don’t technically belong on this list as an 0-1-1 team, but I’m sneaking them in because they seem to be in disarray. Pittsburgh is a blocked field goal away from 0-2. It just allowed Patrick Mahomes to throw six touchdown passes in his third career start. Le’Veon Bell doesn’t appear to be on his way to work anytime soon. Antonio Brown is daring ex-Steelers PR people to trade him away, then missed practice on Monday. FPI suggests the Steelers’ slow start has slashed their playoff odds by more than half. Pittsburgh was not supposed to be in crisis by mid-September.

I think the Steelers are going to be fine. Let’s start with the easy stuff. Brown isn’t going anywhere. Pittsburgh would incur $29 million in dead money over the next two years if it traded the star wideout. Even if the Steelers traded Brown next year, they would be responsible for divvying up $21 million on their cap over the 2019 and 2020 campaigns. They would be hitting the reset button on their team by trading Brown. It’s not worth talking about again.

There are other elements of Pittsburgh’s slow start that I wouldn’t expect to recur. Normally reliable kicker Chris Boswell has missed both of his field goal tries wide left. The Steelers recovered two of the eight fumbles in their games this season, including going 0-for-4 against the Browns. That’s total randomness, and the Steelers won’t have too many games in which they turn the ball over six times, as they did in Week 1. Keith Butler’s defense isn’t going to keep allowing six points per red zone trip. These sorts of things can happen over a two-game sample, but they feel more meaningful because they happened to come during the first two games of the season.

There are genuine concerns about this team, though, and the issues aren’t surprising. Pittsburgh sorely misses Ryan Shazier, and it didn’t do enough to replace him this offseason. The Steelers are using athletic special-teamer Jon Bostic as a regular inside linebacker, playing more than 60 percent of defensive snaps, and Bostic just hasn’t been successful against the pass in any of his three previous NFL stops. The Steelers also converted Sean Davis into a full-time free safety, and he was overwhelmed against the Chiefs, though he looked solid in the Browns game.

Injuries are also a short-term concern for what was the league’s fourth-healthiest team a year ago. The Steelers lost cornerback Joe Haden during the Browns game, and Cleveland was able to pick on Cameron Sutton during its comeback. (Sutton later came up with an interception on an underthrown Tyrod Taylor pass.) Haden should be back this week, but star guard David DeCastro doesn’t yet have a timetable for a return after breaking his hand. Brown is struggling with quad and calf injuries, though he has managed to average 80 receiving yards per game.

At the same time, this team just hasn’t been bad enough to justify any sort of significant early-season concerns. The pass rush has been excellent, and while it got home more frequently against Taylor and the Browns, Pittsburgh ranks second in pressure rate (40.5 percent) through two weeks. Bell fill-in James Conner was effective as a runner in Week 1, and the Steelers rank eighth in the league in offensive expected points added through two weeks. The pass defense looked awful against the Chiefs, but I think a lot of pass defenses are going to be ripped apart by Mahomes, particularly during this first month of the season as Andy Reid shows off what he has been working on over the summer. The Browns even went into New Orleans and nearly beat the Saints, so a tie in Cleveland might not be as disappointing as it seemed at the time.

Anybody expecting another 13-3 season was likely to be disappointed, given that Pittsburgh went an unsustainable 8-2 in games decided by seven points or fewer in 2017. A more reasonable expectation for 2018 would have been a 10-win season, and barring a rash of injuries, the Steelers should still be able to get there by the time they get to the end of the season.

Week-3 betting preview: Steelers 1-point favorites over Buccaneers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 8:46am

We take a look at the latest odds for the Steelers’ clash with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night

To the surprise of many observers, the Pittsburgh Steelers opened as 2.5 points favorites over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the start of the week, and while the bookmakers have since made an adjustment, they’re still giving the Steelers a slight edge in the contest. With the Las Vegas sports books currently offering a line of -1 at the time of this writing, Pittsburgh is an increasingly good value for those who haven’t lost faith in the Black-and-gold.

While an initial totals position of 49.5 points has more commonly been replaced by a line of 53.5 points, it might not yet be high enough to account for the two defenses that will be on the field at Raymond James Stadium — each of which has struggled to stop anyone from scoring this season. But it’s perhaps worth noting that only one of the 10 games played between these two teams dating back to 1976 has ever exceeded the current points total.

Moneyline backers should be attracted by a change in price from an early offering of -167 to +130 on Monday to a more appealing line of -120 to +100, if you like the Steelers.

According to Oddsshark, although Pittsburgh is 1-8 against the spread in their last nine games, they are 4-1 ATS in their last five games versus Tampa Bay. While the the total has gone over in four of the Steelers’ last five games, it has gone under in four of their last six against the Buccaneers. Our pick would be to take Pittsburgh and the over on Monday night.

Those looking for value-prop bets for the game should look into the available prices for James Washington to be first touchdown scorer. He was the target on the opening pass to start the game in Week 2 that could have gone for a significant gain if completed, and he figures to be a consistent target throughout the evening in Tampa. Expected to be listed around 12/1 or higher, the young rookie is well worth considering.

Steelers Injury Report: David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert sit out practice on Thursday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 7:35am

The Steelers saw three starting offensive linemen miss practice on Thursday, while Joe Haden was making more-encouraging progress with his return from a hamstring injury.

The list of names on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first official injury report of the week looks depressingly long for such an early point in the year. Thankfully, of the seven names featured on Thursday, only two were held out of practice for injury reasons, and there are positive indications the Steelers might see one or two players return in Week 3 who were absent last Sunday.

FULL: Joe Haden, Tyson Alualu, Ramon Foster
LIM: Morgan Burnett (groin)
DNP: Dave DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey (coach’s decision)

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) September 20, 2018

After practicing in some capacity on Wednesday, David DeCastro reportedly left the field in some pain toward the end of the session and it is perhaps no surprise to learn he was among the names sitting out. Speaking to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, DeCastro sounded rather frustrated by the injury,

“I am just making sure it’s protected and I don’t make it worse. I don’t want to take one step forward and four steps back and miss more time. We have a good staff. They are being smart, we are all being smart. I want to get back out there as much as possible. I don’t like it, it’s abnormal, but it’s part of it.”

While Marcus Gilbert is dealing with a hamstring injury, he’s likely to be given as much rest time as possible before a decision needs to be made about his availability for Monday. If he cannot play, rookie Chukwuma Okorafor would be the next man up in his place.

There was better news about the health of Joe Haden, Ramon Foster and Tyson Alualu after all three were full participants in training once again. Haden was apparently limited the day before, so his increased involvement is an encouraging sign. The veteran cornerback was optimistic about his progress when talking to Varley.

‘It feels pretty good. I am excited. I am feeling healthy. Glad I have a little more time. This is the best-case scenario.”

While Maurkice Pouncey wasn’t practicing, it would seem he was the beneficiary of a coaches day off and he should be back at work on Friday. But the addition of Morgan Burnett as a limited participant was an unexpected inclusion, and his status will be one to watch in the coming days.

The Buccaneers injury report can be read on our sister site Bucs Nation.

Black and Gold Links: It is time for the Steelers superstars to take over

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 6:25am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with disappointment for the second week in a row after the Kansas City Chiefs came into Heinz Field and dismantled the home team. Heading into Week 3, the team must slowly turn its attention away from the embarrassing loss and solely focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their Week-3, prime-time matchup. Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-Gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet, and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we focus on the fact that it’s time for the Steelers’ superstars to be just that —spectacular. Talking about players like Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt and the offensive line. When the team is searching for answers, it should be the stars who lead the way.

Let’s get to the news:

Kevin Gorman: Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown must be exceptional

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers should thank their lucky stars, to borrow a favorite phrase of the week, that Ben Roethlisberger never worried that Antonio Brown’s “trade me” tweet was a real threat.

A team that’s 0-1-1, to borrow their least favorite phrase, can’t afford to have its superstar quarterback and superstar wide receiver in a spat when its superstar running back is creating a splash.

The Steelers’ soap opera took an unexpected plot twist: Big Ben had AB’s back, twice calling him “the best in the world” and offering public support for his favorite target amid controversy.

“We’re all frustrated because we’re not winning right now,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s not the only guy who gets frustrated during the game. We all get frustrated. When you’re the best in the world you might get a little more frustrated than others but AB is a very passionate football player. We all know that, the fans know that. It’s what makes him special, is his passion for this game and the passion to be great.

“We’re not going to want to take that away from him.”

Roethlisberger’s support came after a former Steelers public relations assistant tweeted that “Ben got AB paid” and “you know darn well he wouldn’t put up those numbers for other teams,” to which Brown replied “Trade me lets find out.” If that was an idle threat, Brown only fanned the flames by missing team meetings on Monday. His absence allowed trade talk to linger until his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was forced to dismiss it.

Good thing Roethlisberger cleared the air by talking directly to Brown.

“If I spoke to him and personally he reiterated those things to me or if I felt they were personally coming from him and not just a reaction to someone else, maybe I’d have a little more worry,” Roethlisberger said, “but, as of now, I don’t feel that, any worry.”

That was the first step in a positive direction for the Steelers, hopefully a sign that their social-media sideshow is about to stop. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced in the afternoon that Brown had been disciplined for missing meetings on Monday, albeit without announcing the actual punishment.

If the Steelers are to save a season that’s off to an ignominious start, it will require Roethlisberger’s leadership. Not only is he a team captain but the 15-year veteran is the Steelers’ lone holdover from their Super Bowl XL champions.

“I think it’s important,” Roethlisberger said. “I just keep trying to lead by example: Do my job, show up to work and playing my butt off.”

But if Brown learned that there are different sets of rules for different players — some might call that exceptionalism — from anyone on the Steelers, it was from Roethlisberger.

The Rooneys stood by Big Ben during the days of his boorish behavior, knowing how difficult it is to find a franchise quarterback. He rewarded their support by becoming the most prolific passer in franchise history. So, it should come as no surprise that they will do the same with Brown, on his way to becoming its most prolific receiver.

Tim Benz: Mike Tomlin allowing Steelers to become Bengals

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Here’s the statement regarding wide receiver Antonio Brown that was delivered after Pittsburgh Steelers practice on Wednesday.

”There was discipline involved for his missed meeting, for Monday. Some of the other things we talked about extensively. He’ll speak for himself on some of those things. Really, our focus is on preparing to win this game on Monday night,” said Steelers head coach Marvin Lew ...

Oops. My bad. I meant, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Sorry. The two have become increasingly similar over the years. It’s getting hard to distinguish one from the other.

Think that’s unfair? Well, consider this.

Over the last 10 years, one of those two coaches has piloted a very talented but combustible AFC North team to great regular-season success and numerous division titles. But along the way, arrests, suspension and other negative incidents from within the locker room have dominated headlines as much as football games themselves. And his winning percentage has been offset by playoff upsets and multiple postseason losses at home.

The other coach is Marvin Lewis.

Yes. The Steelers are becoming the Bengals. And around these parts, no greater insult can be levied.

JuJu Smith-Schuster has a new manager: his mom

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN Steelers Beat Writer

JuJu Smith-Schuster is still adjusting to the latest addition to Team JuJu.

”It’s cool, man -- it’s weird because she’s my mom, but she also does business with me,” the Pittsburgh Steelers receiver said.

Managing a budding NFL star with a mushrooming social media profile is a big job, and mom Sammy Schuster wanted to help.

Smith-Schuster is a client of Roc Nation, working closely with agent Kim Miale and manager Jisset Pena. Coming off a rookie year of almost 1,000 yards, seven touchdowns and well-rehearsed touchdown celebrations, Smith-Schuster and his mother discussed expanding his profile and increasing her role.

Things were moving, after all. His social audience had grown with lighthearted side stories about retrieving a stolen bike, cooking at home and getting his driver’s license. This year, Smith-Schuster is fifth in receiving yards through two games (240) and has the eighth-best-selling jersey, according to Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Smith-Schuster has deals with Call of Duty, Pizza Hut, Adidas, New Era and more. His YouTube channel has more than 550,000 subscribers.

Smith-Schuster said duties for his mother -- or “Momager,” as Sammy jokingly calls her role -- include handling his money and his schedule. But the two also have a common goal when it comes to his brand: meet business with authenticity.

For example, they felt the Call of Duty deal was important to both of them because of Smith-Schuster’s avid gaming. Smith-Schuster finalized that deal this year.

Le’Veon Bell saga 3.0: Protecting future money, fantasy fallout, more

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN Steelers Beat Writer

The juxtaposition couldn’t be more clear. While the Pittsburgh Steelers are putting out fires with Antonio Brown’s sideline and social media behavior, Le’Veon Bell is coolin’ on jet skis in South Florida.

The gap between star player and team widens by the week.

Bell’s situation continues to fascinate the longer he stays away, and his wave-running excursion doesn’t exactly exude confidence for a return for Monday Night Football at Tampa Bay.

Unless he surprisingly shows up for a midweek practice, Bell is set to miss another $852,941 check on that $14.5 million franchise tag, which would bring his maximum 2018 earnings to $11.9 million -- if he signs the tag in Week 4.

Bell’s absence in Week 1 left much to unpack. When he missed Week 2, it created more questions. Now that Week 3 is here, Bell clearly has a long-term play that we can examine further.

Podcast: Previewing the Steelers Week 3 matchup with the Buccaneers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 5:30am

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

As the Pittsburgh Steelers resume their September schedule on Monday Night Football, facing the Buccaneers in Tampa, there’s a surge of Steelers news — so it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading up to this week’s game!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Injuries
  • Key Matchups
  • Fantasy Players
  • Week-3 predictions
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Bryan Anthony Davis 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’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below. Be sure to follow us on iTunes by searching The Standard is the Standard.

A message from BTSC’s Community Manager to our loyal followers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 4:55am

With the season not even a quarter of the way over, it’s time to get on the same page regarding moderation, guidelines, etc.

The horrendous start to the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers’ season has once again brought out the worst in some of us here at Behind The Steel Curtain. I want to apologize to the faithful who come here on a daily basis to get their news and to talk Steelers Football in a reasonable and civil manner.

I’ll try to do a better job.

I want to address the members who show up out of nowhere when the Steelers are playing poorly, and then disappear just as fast when the team turns it around. Yes, I believe the team will turn it around.

You also have some members who do everything they can to bring race into the discussion, but won’t admit that they hate the fact the Steelers employ a black head coach. Yes, Coach Tomlin has flaws, as do we all, but being black isn’t one of them.

Also, I ask members please stop hijacking threads with your own agenda. We have a Fan Post section for that. Write an article if you want to see how many people follow your line of thinking. Otherwise, please keep your comments related to the article about which you’re commenting.

Last but not least. There are always complaints about moderation — the lack of, too much or biased. It’s an inexact science and, yes, the mods each have distinctive opinions and ways of handling things. Should we all get on the same page? Probably — and that falls on me to some extent. Please understand we all have jobs and lives outside of BTSC. I’ve received a few emails from some who have expressed concerns and hopefully they have a better understanding of the challenges associated with the job.

If you don’t like how something is being handled, give me a shout, but don’t do it in the threads or articles. If you fall into the category of being a “crusader for other members” STOP!! Don’t be the one who gets banned for trolling moderators. To date, I haven’t heard anything from anyone on their own behalf who might have been banned, warned or messaged.

I do appreciate those that have spoken up on behalf of BTSC or who have done some moderating of their own. ‘Thank You’ isn’t enough.

The comments section is yours, and I will do my best to answer any questions.

Thanks,

Pittsblitz56
BTSC Community Manager

Steelers vs. Buccaneers Week 3: Time, TV Schedule and game information

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 4:24am

We’ve got all the information you need to know to keep up with the action from the Steelers’ Monday night clash with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Seemingly, off-field drama and poor defense might derail the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season before it’s barely begun if they can’t turn it around in Week 3. The Black-and-gold’s Monday night clash with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now looks much more imposing than it did before the season started.

With the undefeated Buccaneers among the league’s more-surprising teams during the first few weeks of the season, the Steelers will need to play much better than they’ve done in Weeks 1 and 2 if they hope to get their first win of 2018 in Tampa. As much as Antonio Brown has been garnering all the headlines this week, the real story should’ve been the play of the defense last Sunday — and the prospect of playing the NFL’s highest-rated quarterback is an daunting one.

Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the league with 819 yards passing and a 151.5 quarterback rating, while completing 78.7 percent of his passes and throwing eight touchdowns to only one interception. But as dominant as the Buccaneers have been on offense, their defense has been feckless. Pittsburgh might have given up a disgusting 63 points through two weeks, but Tampa Bay has allowed 61 points, and only one team in the NFL has given up more yards on defense than the Buccaneers’ average of 443.5 yards per game.

If the Steelers’ defense can play a half-decent game, a win should be quite likely — but we could have said the same about the last two games as well.

Week 3:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)

Date: Monday, September 24

Kickoff: 8.15 p.m. ET

Venue: Raymond James Stadium

Weather: Live weather update

Watch:

TV Channel: ESPN, broadcast locally on KDKA-TV-2 with Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland as commentators and Lisa Salters the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

Online: NFL.com Game Pass on delay in the U.S and live for international viewers or live in the U.S via a subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket. The NFL Game Center will update the action on a play-by-play basis.

Radio: Steeler Nation Radio with Bill Hillgrove and Tunch Ilkin as commentators and Craig Wolfley as the sideline reporter. Broadcast live on WDVE 102.5 FM and WBGG 970 AM in the Pittsburgh area and via their local affiliates. Listen online via Steelers.com and with the Steelers Official Mobile App. Alternatively, you can listen to a radio broadcast on SiriusXM.

You can also follow Behind the Steel Curtain on Twitter to catch all of the highlights as they happen, and be sure to check back with us after the game for our post-match roundup.

Injuries:

As of Thursday, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert look to be the biggest question marks for the game after both offensive starters sat out practice. DeCastro is possibly the biggest question mark for Monday as he deals with a fractured hand. Joe Haden is showing positive signs as he recovers from a hamstring injury, and he seems to have a good chance of playing against the Buccaneers — assuming he has no setbacks over the weekend.

Upcoming schedule:

Browns vs. Jets, Thursday Night Football: How to watch and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/20/2018 - 6:45pm

An AFC North team is playing, which means Steelers fans will be watching this game.

Thursday Night Football isn’t very good. In fact, it can be downright horrible, but when you are a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and you just got smoked by the Kansas City Chiefs you are going to be paying attention to the Thursday night contest between the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets in Week 3.

Get the information on how to watch the game, and feel free to discuss this game in the open thread below.

Week 3

Browns vs. Jets
Where: Cleveland, OH
Time: 8:20 p.m ET
TV: NFL Network
Announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman

Enjoy the game, and remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

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