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NFL and Pro Football Hall of Fame making alternative plans for ceremony/game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/05/2020 - 12:25pm
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With the COVID-19 crisis looming over the sports world, the NFL and Pro Football Hall of Fame are making arrangements for activities this August.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and their loyal following, are anxiously awaiting this summer to celebrate their trio getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and then there is the Hall of Fame game pitting the Steelers vs. the Dallas Cowboys.

Then the coronavirus impacted the sports world and everything has been in a holding pattern since. With the NFL slated to release their schedule for the 2020 preseason and regular season this Thursday, many are wondering what will become of the NFL’s first preseason game?

The Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the NFL, have already been preparing on what they will do not only with the game, but also the ceremony to induct the latest members of the Hall of Fame.

This per USA Today:

David Baker, executive director of the Hall of Fame, told USA TODAY Sports that there are five different contingency plans under consideration for the annual preseason kickoff game and the ceremony to induct 10 new Hall of Famers, currently scheduled for two days later.

The uncertainty is obviously a sign of the times, with the NFL set to unveil its regular season schedule on Thursday despite questions whether it will play its slate as planned given adjustments that could be made necessary by the health and economic crises attached to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re not going to do anything that’s not safe,” Baker said on Monday. “But I do hope that we can lead in showing that this can be done in a way that will inspire us.”

5 different plans is certainly impressive, but what will some of those alternative plans look like?

One possibility: Push the game and ceremony to a point later in August if the NFL scales back the preseason.

This theory is based on the chance the NFL pushes back their start date, and minimizes their preseason to help things stay as normal as possible with the 2020 season. Then again, the league could just can the extra preseason game.

If the game is canceled, two other options that haven’t been ruled out for 2021: staging the enshrinement during Easter Weekend or inducting two classes.

Of course, Baker sees the bright side. More than 20,000 tickets were sold in mid-March for the Cowboys-Steelers matchup in minutes – less than two days after the NBA season was shut down and two Utah Jazz players tested positive for COVID-19. More than 14,000 tickets have been purchased for the enshrinement ceremony (and they remain on sale) that, like the game, is pegged to be staged at Tom Benson Stadium.

Baker can’t predict how this will unfold but realizes clues could be found as other sports pursue plans for re-opening.

“We know more now than we did 30 days ago,” he said, referring to the pandemic.

If the clearance comes from the medical experts and various authorities, Baker added, “We need to be ready.”

The NFL, being in their offseason, has been able to take a wait-and-see approach to the vast majority of their offseason, and when the NBA, NHL and MLB will get back to work soon, the NFL can plan accordingly after the ice has been broken by the other major sport leagues.

The schedule release on Thursday might offer some hints as to the league’s plans, but odds are the schedule will be released as if nothing is changed, with alterations ready in case the league needs to push back dates and/or eliminate some.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the 2020 regular season schedule release Thursday.

Let’s Make A Deal: A long-term contract for Bud Dupree

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/05/2020 - 11:10am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the Steelers and Dupree come to terms rather than play under the franchise tag, what would it look like?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 offseason has progressed appropriately since the beginning of the league year. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, the Steelers were able to restructure contracts, offer tenders, use the franchise tag, sign free agents, make their draft selections, and get their undrafted rookie free agents under contract. With a focus on getting their draftees under contract in the coming weeks, the Steelers will also be looking to sign some players to either a new contract or a contract extension.

While some of these new deals may not come until the summer, it’s not out of the question for player representatives and the Steelers to be working on something now. With that said, which Steelers going into the last year of the current deal are likely to be given a new contract before the 2020 season begins?

Rather than focus on all the players, let’s tackle one at a time. With each player, it will first be determined if they should receive a new deal along with how much would be a fair contract to both parties. This exercise is meant to just be fun and speculative as we all get to play general manager and salary cap guru for a day.

If you wish to give a basic contract answer without diving too deep into numbers, simply skip over the italicized section. If you are the kind of person who would like to see how the contract would affect the salary cap, here it is...

Coming up with an exact contract can be tricky. Rather than get into roster and work out bonuses or different amounts per season, we’re going to estimate the salaries as simply as possible. For whatever deal the player gets, the first year will have all but $1 million put into a signing bonus which will get spread over the life of the contract. For example, if a player were to sign a three-year contract for $10 million per year, the first year would have a $1 million base salary and a $9 million signing bonus. Therefore, the bonus would be spread out to $3 million over each season where the player would count $4 million dollars for 2020 and $13 million for the other two years.

One other factor which needs to be considered is if the player brings any dead money from the previous contract. To account for this in a simple manner, throw it into the salary cap hit for the first year of the players deal. Using the above example, if a player had $4 million in dead money on their last contract, the salary cap hit for their first year would be $8 million.

After looking at a deal for Cam Heyward, now let’s see what kind of contract Steelers’ fans would like to work out with Bud Dupree rather than play the 2020 season on the franchise tag.

Bud Dupree

Age: Turned 27 in February
Years: 5
Draft: 1st Round, pick 22 in 2015
Previous Contract: Rookie contract with a 5th year option of $9.232 million
2020 salary cap hit: $15.828 million (2nd highest on the Steelers)
Dead Money: None

Other top contracts average per year (AYP) at the position (3-4 OLB) according to overthecap.com:

Khalil Mack: $23.5 million
Von Miller: $19.1 million
Za’Darius Smith: $16.5 million
Chandler Jones: $16.5 million

Dupree ranked 24th among edge rushers in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus. Here are the players under contract who ranked closely to Dupree:

19. Trey Flowers: $18 million
21. Olivier Vernon: $17 million
23. Von Miller: $19.1 million
25. Shaquil Barrett: $15.828 million (franchise tag)
27. Trent Murphy: $7.5 million
28. Melvin Ingram III: $16 million

Notes: Although Steelers’ General Manager Kevin Colbert has been quoted many times saying their goal is to sign Bud Dupree to a long-term deal before the 2020 season, the numbers are quite concerning. Knowing the Steelers are going to have to pay fellow edge rusher T.J. Watt within the next year or two looms over the Dupree contract situation. Locking in Dupree with an AYP less than that of the franchise tag would be ideal, but looking at the numbers of some of the edge rusher‘s ranked similar to him could lead to Dupree demanding more money than the Steelers are willing to pay.

So now it’s deal time! Perhaps the first question should be a completely different game show: Deal or no deal? Should the Steelers look to lock up Bud Dupree long term? If so, what should the deal look like? Please leave your response with the number of years and the average salary per season in the comments below.

Next time on Let’s Make A Deal: JuJu Smith-Schuster.

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/05/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Did the Steelers win the 2020 NFL Draft? No, but they weren’t going to do that anyway. The real question is did they utilize their resources as best they could to win the real battle that will come during the 2020 regular season?

Grades. Winners. Losers. Jumps for Joy/Smashed Remotes (shameless article plug). You can’t have any sort of post-draft discussion without such things.

As it pertains to the recently-concluded 2020 NFL Draft, and the Steelers performance in it, I don’t know what grade you’d give them. I don’t know if they were losers.

But they certainly weren’t winners.

They were never going to be, not with only six picks, not without a first-round selection.

What criteria do people normally use to grade a team’s draft class? One way is by determining whether or not it addressed its most pressing needs. Another way is by determining whether or not a team got great draft value in as many rounds as possible. A third way could be based on the selection of a well-known name or three. A fourth way could be based on the number of draft picks it had at its disposal—a high quantity could help a team achieve all of the above.

The Steelers had needs at various positions, and determining which was the most pressing was a matter of opinion. As for draft value? Chase Claypool over (insert a name you think should have been selected here) in the second round? Alex Highsmith over (ditto) in the third round? The Steelers didn’t impress many people in that department. As far as well-known names, Claypool was certainly one, but so was Denzel Mims, receiver, Baylor, a player whose draft value was deemed to be higher by many.

And, of course, the lack of picks. People love those picks. People go nuts over lots of picks. Give the people quantity over the number one overall selection, they’ll sleep very well. When it came to that, the Steelers sent many folks to bed hungry—very, very hungry.

But I knew the Steelers weren’t going to satisfy many in the 2020 NFL Draft. I knew this for months. I knew this as far back as last September when Pittsburgh traded its 2020 first-round selection to the Dolphins in-exchange for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Throw in the fifth-round choice for Seahawks tight end Nick Vannett, as well as the original 2020 third-round pick that went to the Broncos in the trade that allowed Pittsburgh to move up and select inside linebacker Devin Bush in the previous draft, and let’s just say I was prepared to read a bad report card or two.

I was also prepared for the angst that would result from the Steelers not being able to measure up to their AFC North rivals on draft weekend—including the Ravens, a team that had 10 picks to Pittsburgh’s six. Baltimore would also get to draft six players by the time the Steelers picked two.

Sure, enough, the Ravens drew universal praise. They were in-need of a linebacker. Boom! Patrick Queen, linebacker, LSU, first round (28th, overall). In the second round, it was that guy the Steelers should have taken (said many), J.K. Dobbins, running back, Ohio State (55th, over all—or six picks after the Steelers passed on him). Baltimore even had four selections in the third round—talk about finding great value in a draft that was considered to be deep at so many positions.

Damn.

Anyway, I realize I’m going to come off as a total homer, but the Steelers couldn’t worry about “winning” or that their closest rivals probably would. All they could do was utilize the resources they had as well as they could.

Did they?

That’s a matter of opinion. What they did do, though, was select six players from six different positions, positions that the Steelers needed to add depth to heading into the draft. If all the stars align, and every single draft pick actually makes the team, Pittsburgh will head into the regular season in much better shape at wide-receiver, outside linebacker, running back, guard, safety and defensive line than it was entering the draft.

If the Steelers can achieve such things—or even come close—they’ll likely win something far more tangible than post-draft praise in 2020.

Why Chase Claypool is the next Martavis Bryant for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/05/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Steelers’ top draft choice in 2020 is eerily similar to the lanky former Pittsburgh wide receiver in multiple facets.

Since 2017, the Steelers have been without a formidable “jump ball” wide receiver. That all changed with just the submission of a (virtual) draft card on April 24th.

With the 49th overall pick, the Steelers took former Notre Dame Fighting Irish wideout Chase Claypool; the 22-year-old stands at a hulking 6’4” and weighed in at 238 lbs in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Pittsburgh has had a bevy of outstanding receivers over the last few years, including former disgruntled star Antonio Brown, standout JuJu Smith-Schuster, deep threat James Washington and speedster Diontae Johnson.

However, I’m not sure any compare to Claypool—that is, none over the past 2 seasons.

When the Steelers nabbed Claypool, a thought that instantly came to my mind was Wow, this guy is built incredibly similarly to Martavis Bryant.

In fact, I’m surprised this comparison has not been made more since the NFL Draft.

Let’s start with the measurables.

Bryant, whom the Steelers drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft, stands at 6’4” and weighed roughly 210 pounds during his NFL tenure that lasted from 2014-2018.

But Claypool and Bryant aren’t just similar in terms of their frames. Take a look at how each fared—and flourished—during their respective NFL Combines:

Claypool: 4.42 40-yard dash, 19 bench press reps, 40.5” vertical jump, 126” broad jump

Bryant: 4.42 40-yard dash, 16 bench press reps, 39” vertical jump, 124” broad jump

The two are almost exact clones of one another, and this mantra extends in terms of on-the-field play.

While calling Heinz Field home from 2014-17, Bryant was an excellent complement to the quick Brown and hastily became one of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets. In 36 games in Pittsburgh, Bryant accumulated 156 receptions for 1,917 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns.

Unfortunately, the former Clemson star’s biggest challenges came away from the game. Bryant was suspended indefinitely following the 2016 season as a result of failing 6 drug tests.

Though he excelled in 2017 following reinstatement, GM Kevin Colbert cut ties with Bryant by trading him to the Oakland Raiders for the #79 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft—a selection that the Steelers, ironically, ended up packaging to the Seattle Seahawks.

Bryant’s transient tenure in Oakland was a proliferation of his qualms in Pittsburgh. He started just 2 games in 2018 for the black and silver; he was initially cut in early September but re-signed with the team before the opening of the regular season. Bryant was ultimately suspended for an indefinite period once again in December 2018 and applied for reinstatement as of July 2019.

It’s a real travesty that Bryant couldn’t stay on the playing field; he was a truly dynamic talent and is arguably best known for this clutch catch against the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2015 AFC Wild Card Game.

During his four seasons in South Bend, likewise, Claypool also thrived.

The Abbortsford, British Columbia product saw his receptions and receiving yards augment each season. As a senior in 2019, he amassed 66 receptions for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns, the latter of which was tied for 7th in the country.

Claypool’s stock began to rise after his time spent at the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and skyrocketed even further after the Combine, where he drew umpteen comparisons to legendary Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Claypool became the second player ever to run a 40 in under 4.45 seconds while measuring 6’4” and 235+ pounds; Johnson was the only other prospect to accomplish the feat.

The parallels between Johnson and Claypool are certainly evident, but it’s time to start scrutinizing similarities between the incoming rookie and former Steelers wideout who helped Roethlisberger accumulate 3 of his 6 Pro Bowl bids.

Here’s to hoping Claypool can avert the off-the-field crises that plagued Bryant and that his #11 jersey number isn’t a harbinger of any sort of dropped passes.

The NFL has announced their schedule release show will air Thursday at 8PM

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/05/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Although the opponents have been known for months, the exact dates and times for all 16 of the Steelers’ regular-season games will be released Thursday on NFL Network

The NFL has announced it will release the 2020 NFL schedule in a special release show this Thursday at 8PM EST on NFL Network.

NFL 2020 regular-season schedule officially will be released Thursday night at 8 PM ET.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 4, 2020

In previous years, the schedule has been released the week before the NFL draft. With some uncertainty as to if the season will be able to start on time or the procedures in which games could possibly be held, the NFL had more issues to iron out this year before announcing the schedule. One possible adjustment is the scheduling of international games, many of which included teams who had already been notified. According to NFL.com, the NFL will be skipping their international schedule for the 2020 season.

NFL update on 2020 season schedule.

— NFL UK (@NFLUK) May 4, 2020

Between making theses adjustments and possibly tweaking the schedule to where it could be altered should things change between now and September, coming up with a very complex schedule appears to have taken a little longer than in years past. Even with all the issues behind determining a schedule getting ironed out in order to be released, there are still other questions which remain. Will games be played in front of fans? If so, will stadiums be allowed to operate at full capacity? Will the NFL go ahead and sell tickets to games as usual and adjust to these questions at a later time?

While the schedule release is an opportunity for many fans to plan trips to see their favorite NFL team in action, this year there are still many uncertainties for some fans to commit to purchasing tickets in advance. But when it comes to fans being able to know when they’ll be able to see their team in action on television, the release of the schedule gives the specifics for fans to be excited about this fall.

Will the Steelers open the season on the road for a league-leading sixth season in a row? How many games will be scheduled for primetime? Will the trip to face the Dallas Cowboys be on Thanksgiving Day? All of these questions will be answered Thursday night.

Podcast: Should Ben Roethlisberger have any say in organizational decisions?

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

In the latest episode of “Steelers Q&A” show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo analyze the extent of their QB’s power.

Over the years, many have wondered how much power Ben Roethlisberger has after 16+ years as the Steelers quarterback. He definitely has earned input on the offensive side of the ball, but how about in other organizational matters? Those are the questions we will hope to answer.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Q&A Show. On this show Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Does Big Ben get organizational say?
  • Special Guest: Ed Demartino - Richland High School Football Play-By-Play
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Bryan Davis and Tony Defeo, of BTSC, 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: Who could be the eventual successor to Ben Roethlisberger at QB?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/05/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft is officially over. After finishing last year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, have another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at which quarterback could be the successor to Ben Roethlisberger as Steelers QB.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Who is the eventual successor to Ben Roethlisberger as Steelers QB?

Mark Madden on who could replace Ben Roethlisberger someday

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks.

They drive the news cycle 24-7.

Especially when those quarterbacks are in cities such as Pittsburgh, Dallas, Chicago and New Orleans.

Yes, even in May. Yes, even during a global sports shutdown.

So on this week’s “Madden Monday” podcast, Mark Madden and I wade into those waters, particularly as it relates to the Steelers QB depth chart after Ben Roethlisberger and the national media’s coverage of him.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Plenty of members of the Steelers family remember the late Don Shula.

Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert, Bill Cowher among those paying tribute to Don Shula

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers president and general manager and their only living former coach were among those mourning Monday after the death of legendary NFL coach Don Shula.

Steelers president Art Rooney II said Shula was on his “Mount Rushmore of NFL head coaches.” Rooney II also cited Shula’s recommendation to Rooney’s grandfather, team founder Art Rooney, in hiring eventual four-time Super Bowl winning coach Chuck Noll, a former Shula assistant.

“Shula’s coaching career impacted so many people on and off the field,” Rooney II said in a statement released by the team.

“I know both (Rooney Sr. and Noll) had a great respect for Coach Shula and all of the outstanding contributions he made to the NFL. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Shula family as he will be missed by the entire NFL community.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • When it comes to Alex Highsmith, you can describe him as a worker.

Highsmith brings a relentless approach

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Demon.

Wrecking ball.

They are words that might not be the most complimentary for the vast percentage of the population, but for a college linebacker, they are words which are welcomed.

And for Alex Highsmith, hearing the way he plays described like that is something he doesn’t mind at all.

“I like those words on the field,” said Highsmith. “My motor and effort are relentless in every aspect of the game. I can’t wait to be a wrecking ball for the Steelers.

“I feel like I have a lot of room for growth. I am not close to reaching my potential. I can’t wait to learn from T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree and work with the guys in the room. I can’t wait to just be a sponge and learn everything I can and be the best player I can.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

The confidence among Steelers fans is growing

What would Cam Heyward’s next Steelers contract look like?

A scouting report on Steelers’ 7th round pick, Carlos Davis

The Steelers brought in some “alpha dogs” during this draft

Is Chase Claypool the deep threat the Steelers need?

  • Social Media Madness

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

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 5, 2020

.@missi_matthews speaks with @TerpsFootball head coach @CoachLocks about @AnttMacc_ & @TwanDoee and what they will bring to the team.

Watch the full video on YouTube ⤵️

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 4, 2020

Wishing a #HappyBirthday to @jharrison9292!

Hope your day is ! pic.twitter.com/a5m2qIEqM9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 4, 2020

#HappyBirthday, @jharrison9292! pic.twitter.com/Bz7EMi1pl8

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 4, 2020

People want the Steelers to sign a backup QB so bad, they’re even falling for sarcasm

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/04/2020 - 2:15pm
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Just how bad do people want the Steelers to sign a backup quarterback? So bad, they’re reporting on just about anything—including obvious jokes.

I woke up Monday morning and Googled “Steeler news” just to see what was going on in this post-draft, ongoing sports shutdown world of, well, Steelers stuff.

What was the first thing that popped up? A headline that read: “Steelers offered a better deal to Andy Dalton than Cowboys.”

This headline was for an article from the website ClutchPoints (a name that now sounds tragically ironic). The writer merely touched on the news that Dalton signed a one-year deal to play for the Cowboys in 2020 and spent most of the article speculating on Dalton’s decision to not sign with Pittsburgh, a team that “offered him more money.”

Why did the writer spend so much time doing that? Because of a now-deleted Tweet over the weekend from Trib writer Jonathan Bombulie that inspired his “clutch” article in the first place:

Andy Dalton was offered a more lucrative deal by the Pittsburgh Steelers, per source. In the end he decided to learn under Dak Prescott and Mike McCarthy.”

Bombulie did offer an explanation as to why he deleted the original Tweet.

I deleted my Dalton joke tweet because Cowboys fans were finding it and they didn’t know the back story and I felt bad. Next time, I’ll post pictures of my dog in a hat in a way that can’t be misconstrued.

— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) May 3, 2020

You can find the Bombulie Tweet in the ClutchPoints article linked above. So good job by the writer for citing his sources. But a very poor job in detecting sarcasm, because Bombulie was clearly trolling. The person he was trolling was Nick Sitro, who Tweeted the exact same thing last week regarding Jameis Winston and his decision to sign a deal to be the Saints backup quarterback in order to learn under Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Only Sitro, a guy who didn’t seem to be connected enough to have a source close to the Steelers organization, was serious—very, very serious—and spent most of last week defending his claim, one that the Steelers brass—including general manager Kevin Colbert—vehemently denied.

I never went to any sort of journalism factory (or whatever they call school), but I know you have to vet things before hitting submit. Heck, the writer could have waited a minute and would have known that Bombulie’s secret source was actually his dog. Better yet, he should have just read the replies to the Tweet (always a good way to detect sarcasm). But the author was too busy speculating on Dalton’s decision to pass on Pittsburgh’s more lucrative offer to vet anything:

“Having whiffed on Dalton, does this mean the Steelers might look into signing Cam Newton?”

My goodness.

What is this obsession with wanting the Steelers to sign a veteran back-up quarterback? Seriously, the desire to see it happen has reached an almost absurd level.

At any rate, I hope the obsession continues, because one of my favorite pastimes is watching people fall for satire—especially mine.

To that point, I’d like to leave you with some news of my own:

(Insert free agent quarterback here) was offered a more lucrative deal by the Pittsburgh Steelers, per source. In the end, he decided to learn under (insert quarterback and head coach here).

Pittsburgh Steelers fan confidence continues to rise after after the 2020 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/04/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

NFL FanPulse results show the Steelers’ fan base is starting to gain confidence in their beloved black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off the 2020 NFL Draft after adding six players to their offseason roster. In case you live under a rock, here are the players who were added:

Round 2 - Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
Round 3 - Alex Highsmith, OLB, Charlotte
Round 4 - Kevin Dotson, OG, Louisiana
Round 4 - Anthony McFarland, RB, Maryland
Round 6 - Antoine Brooks, S/LB, Maryland
Round 7 - Carlos Davis, DT, Nebraska

With the moves which have been made, fans are actually gaining confidence in the team heading into the 2020 season. The SB Nation FanPulse crew has continued to poll fans regarding their overall confidence level, especially after the draft has been conducted.

The latest FanPulse results certainly paint a pretty accurate photo of how fans truly feel:

Considering fan confidence was around 60% at the end of the team’s 8-8 2019 season, 70% after the initial wave of free agency, the fact they are now above 80% shows fans are starting to gain confidence in where the team is headed.

Could fan confidence continue to grow? Absolutely it could with the hope of Ben Roethlisberger returning to full health. While offseason workouts like minicamp and Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are in jeopardy, due to the coronavirus pandemic, those events would help solidify Roethlisberger’s overall health. In the meantime, fans will have to bank on the media/team to provide updates on Roethlisberger and his overall progress back to the field.

Does fan confidence hinge on just one player? For the Steelers, 2019 proved that indeed can be the case. With Roethlisberger in the lineup, and an improved defense, the Steelers should be considered a contender. Without No. 7 they would be considered nothing more than pretenders.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they continue through Free Agency and prepare for the 2020 NFL Draft.

Do you want to be a part of the BTSC Steelers FanPulse? It is easy to sign up for, and takes mere minutes a week. Simply click HERE and fill out the appropriate information!

Let’s Make A Deal: A new contract for Cam Heyward

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/04/2020 - 11:05am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

If the Steelers come up with a new contract for their veteran defensive lineman, what would it look like?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 offseason has progressed appropriately since the beginning of the league year. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, the Steelers were able to restructure contracts, offer tenders, use the franchise tag, sign free agents, make their draft selections, and get their undrafted rookie free agents under contract. With a focus on getting their draftees under contract in the coming weeks, the Steelers will also be looking to sign some players to either a new contract or a contract extension.

While some of these new deals may not come until the summer, it’s not out of the question for player representatives and the Steelers to be working on something now. With that said, which Steelers going into the last year of the current deal are likely to be given a new contract before the 2020 season begins?

Rather than focus on all the players, let’s tackle one at a time. With each player, it will first be determined if they should receive a new deal along with how much would be a fair contract to both parties. This exercise is meant to just be fun and speculative as we all get to play general manager and salary cap guru for a day.

If you wish to give a basic contract answer without diving too deep into numbers, simply skip over the italicized section. If you are the kind of person who would like to see how the contract would affect the salary cap, here it is...

Coming up with an exact contract can be tricky. Rather than get into roster and work out bonuses or different amounts per season, we’re going to estimate the salaries as simply as possible. For whatever deal the player gets, the first year will have all but $1 million put into a signing bonus which will get spread over the life of the contract. For example, if a player were to sign a three-year contract for $10 million per year, the first year would have a $1 million base salary and a $9 million signing bonus. Therefore, the bonus would be spread out to $3 million over each season where the player would count $4 million dollars for 2020 and $13 million for the other two years.

One other factor which needs to be considered is if the player brings any dead money from the previous contract. To account for this in a simple manner, throw it into the salary cap hit for the first year of the players deal. Using the above example, if a player had $4 million in dead money on their last contract, the salary cap hit for their first year would be $8 million.

Now let’s see what kind of deal Steelers fans’ would like to offer Cam Heyward before the 2020 season.

Cameron Heyward

Age: Turning 31 on Wednesday
Years: 9
Draft: 1st Round, pick 31 in 2011
Previous Contract: 5 years, $10.46 million average per year (APY)
2020 salary cap hit: $13.25 million
Dead Money: $3.75 million

Other contracts (AYP) at the position (3-4 DE) according to overthecap.com:

Aaron Donald: $22.5 million
J.J. Watt: $16.7 million
Leonard Williams: $16.126 million (franchise tag)
Kawann Short: $16.1 million
Jurrell Casey: $15.1 million
Stephon Tuitt: $12 million

Notes: Although now officially listed as a defensive tackle, Heyward‘s contract is listed as a 3-4 defensive end on OTC. In looking at the list of players at the position, it seems appropriate for Heyward to be placed in this group. Ranked as the number two defensive interior lineman according to Pro Football Focus in 2019, Heyward was only behind Aaron Donald. Although Donald has a hefty price tag, it would be difficult for Heyward to believe he would be worth as much on a contract which begins after he turns 31. So not only will the total dollar amount come into play due to age, so will the number of years.

So now it’s deal time! Perhaps the first question should be a completely different game show: Deal or no deal? Should the Steelers look to extend Cam Heyward this offseason? If so, what should the deal look like? Please leave your response with the number of years and the average salary per season in the comments below.

Next time on Let’s Make A Deal: Bud Dupree.

The Pittsburgh Steelers just added some alpha dogs to their pack

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/04/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Elliott Brown/E and P Phtography/Getty Images

After taking a closer look, the Pittsburgh Steelers targeted prospects with a certain personality trait; Alphas, in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, and all that is left is the discussions and debates. It sure was nice to actually have some honest to goodness sports anticipation and excitement again. We are surviving our sports withdraw gourging ourselves on a limited buffet of game replays, repetitive sports talk shows, and wonderful sites like BTSC trying to successfully get our football fix. These will have to do till we can get the real thing. It may be the equivalent to a placebo pill, but it's better than nothing.

There will always be opinions on both sides of the isle about who the Steelers actually selected versus the prospects who happened to be available at that time. You can please some of the people some of the time, but it is impossible to please all the people all of the time. Steelers Nation is no different.

Some of us are accused of seeing all things Steelers through Steelers colored glasses, while others always seem to wonder what might have been. You know, the grass is always greener on the other side. We may be different, but like any large family, we all have a unifying theme, our love for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sometimes we may bicker and quarrel, but nobody better not mess with our Steelers family. Like anytime a fan from a division rival drops by to comment on a BTSC thread. Usually they are respectful, but Heaven help them when they are not. They are cruising for a bruising.

This years draft class created plenty of spirited debate immediately here at BTSC. Most BTSC members are well informed and make me proud to be associated with our site. We are blessed in this way, and if you don't believe me just visit some other Steelers sites, like I am prone to do. I am a member of multiple sites, and every site has strengths and weaknesses. However, some have more than their share of casual fans who struggle to keep up to date with current affairs with the team. There is nothing wrong with that mind you, but it is especially aggravating when said fans want to argue with you about things they obviously know nothing about, so I avoid those situations.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We all have our opinion on the draft class, which is ours alone. However, just because it is our opinion doesn't make it fact. It's pure insanity to argue opinion. Best to harvest what there is to learn from an opposing opinion, and move on.

I was reading a member's comment recently attempting to explain why they felt this year's draft class left much to be desired in their opinion. They based their evidence on the fact that the Steelers failed to select a single player from a College Football Playoff contending team in last season's rankings. They surmised that the best prospects come from the best programs, and the Steelers were continuing to miss out on all that talent. That would seem to make sense, to a point.

There are two sides to every story. Many times a prospects weaknesses can be hidden or diminished by the surrounding talent, while the opposite can be just as true. Some players are forced to fight tooth and nail in an all out effort just trying to keep their team competitive. Valuable personal insights are gather even in defeat, lessons learned that can shape a better person and player.

Claypool was the focus of every opposing defense, and he still produced. Highsmith was the one defender that each offensive coordinator had to plan for, and he improved every year. The same can be said about the majority of this year's selections. They were the underdogs, and saved some of their best games for their most talented opponents.

It's not hard to look good when you play for one of the most talented teams in the nation and are blowing teams out by thirty every week. The guys on the other sidelines are playing for something more, something special. Respect for themselves and their team, an education leading to a better life for themselves and their families, and the love of the game. Different life lessons you can be assured.

It's easy to be a gracious winner, but nobody wants a good loser on their team. The immortal Vince Lombardi once said, "Show me a good loser, and I will show you a loser."

It's not the size of the dog in a fight that matters, it's the size of the fight in the dog. At first glance it appears the Steelers got some dogs with plenty of fight in them in this year's draft class.

I heard the words "junkyard dog" and "underdog" thrown around a lot about these guys this past weekend. Sounds like Steelers type players to me.

Who's ready to let the dogs out?

Film Room: Is Chase Claypool the deep threat the Steelers are looking for?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/04/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Check out Part Two of the Chase Claypool film room series.

The first part of this film room showed Chase Claypool’s route tree in shorter routes. Chase Claypool ran a lot of routes, showed a solid understanding of speed control as well as being a physical blocker and violent runner after the catch.

In this article we are going to look at Chase Claypool as a deep threat WR, both the good and the bad.

Go routes

A go route is the simplest of routes, run in a straight line toward the end zone. It’s a great route not just for making big plays, but also for stretching the field and creating space for the rest of the offense. Claypool, with his speed and height, seems built for go routes.

Chase Claypool scores a TD on this play, but the best part is the start of the route. Claypool runs right at the CB, the same way he does for out routes, for hooks, the same way he runs when he’s blocking. When he hits the 35 yard line he accelerates and runs outside the CB. That acceleration matters. If Claypool can do that a few times in the NFL, defenses will start cheating safeties back and toward Chase Claypool’s side.

That play shows Chase Claypool using up the cushion he was given before revealing his route, this next one shows him doing it against press coverage.

Claypool wins this release, faking to the outside to change the CB’s target for his bump, then cuts inside and sweeps the DBs hands off of him. He makes a nice catch for a big gain. Chase Claypool can run deep routes if you play off of him, and if you jam him.

But Claypool did have struggles. Most notably when matched up with the better corner backs he faced.

Chase Claypool is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

As Claypool leaves the screen the CB has outside leverage and is in position to physically attack Claypool’s route, while staying over top of the route. his QB throws the ball to the outside of his route, but look at how far to the middle his route has gone, and the CB is right on him, even a perfectly placed ball is going to be hard to catch. Claypool’s biggest weakness is against defense like this, let him get off the line and then physically get into him during his route, as he allows DBs to stay on his hip and also lets defenders move him off his route.

Chase Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

Again the ball goes to the outside when the defender has outside leverage, but you also see that Claypool doesn’t do well establishing himself when there is contact in his route. I don’t see a WR who has a natural feel for playing through contact, but one who has to change his thought process when defenders attack him in his route.

Out Routes

When defenses are staying in front of a WR with outside leverage a great way to attack them is with an out route.

Chase Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

Virginia Tech’s CB again shows outside leverage and is staying in front of Claypool. When Claypool cuts outside the CB isn’t in position to interfere because he is staying in front of the route, and because he is leveraged outside and facing the QB he has to turn around to pursue the route, and that creates space.

The CB signals that it was incomplete, but here’s a better view of the catch.

In the NFL you need two feet in bounds, but it won’t be hard for Claypool to learn to keep his left foot back for a sweet two-toe drag.

Now that Chase Claypool has shown he can catch that out route, it’s time to unleash the out and up. Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

The CB bites hard on the out cut, only to get burned by a double move for 28 yards. Notice Claypool’s acceleration on the second cut. the faster you are moving and the more mass you have the harder it is to change direction, it’s science. Claypool is running slower because he needs to cut, but when he accelerates out of a cut, he creates space quickly.

Post routes

With Chase Claypool’s speed and frame to protect the catch window he’s built to be a menace on post routes.

Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.

It’s pretty simple, the CB has outside leverage, the safety in the middle isn’t covering deep enough, and Claypool is a big target downfield.

But it isn’t enough to just be big and fast.

Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.

The CB is right with him and has stayed on top of the route, which allows the defender to limit his adjustment to the ball and it ends up an interception. Again Claypool fails to create space and the defender is able to win the football. Claypool plays big when he’s blocking, in his releases and when he is running with the football, but in his route running he doesn’t physically create space for his route or fight to win the catch point very well.

Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

This is a lovely post-corner route, and another nice catch from Claypool. It is important to have routes that counter strategies that he is vulnerable to. The Steelers are going to need to have a counter punch ready for when defenses try to take advantage of Claypool’s weaknesses, if they don’t get the opportunity to fix those flaws in the offseason.

Playing to the ball

I’ve shown several different ways where Claypool struggles in route with physicality, and it shows up in a big way on fade routes.

Chase Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.

It’s not a great throw, but Claypool does nothing to create space for himself to get the ball. In a goal line situation where space is limited I want WRs that play into the defender and then break off of contact into space. In this case I would want Claypool to run more of a straight line into the CB, make contact, then break off to the corner and find the ball, by just running the route Claypool lets the defender come to him at the catch point, instead of Claypool coming off of the defender and gong to the catch point. He isn’t able to catch the ball off the opponent’s helmet, and this drive ends with a FG.

Chase Claypool is the WR to the bottom of the screen.

Claypool starts this route on the numbers, ends up on the sideline with the defender right on him. He doesn’t keep his lane, he doesn’t keep the CB out of his lane, he doesn’t give the QB much room to work with and the catch can’t be made. Even if the throw was perfect, the defender is all over Claypool because he didn’t use his physicality to create space in his route.

Claypool needs to run this route farther away from the sideline, giving his QB more of a margin for error, and giving himself the chance to get off the defender and go get the ball. He can’t let the defender run his route into the sideline.

If you are thinking that pass interference needs to be called here, remember that Chase Claypool is a big man, no CB is close to his size, and he plays a very physical game when he’s blocking, on his releases and running with the ball. Just like Plaxico Burress didn’t get many pass interference calls, Chase Claypool won’t either.

There are counters for physical defense that wants to steer the receiver into the sideline, if the receiver can turn and adjust to the ball. . .

Which Chase Claypool can do.

Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.

Here the corner is driving Chase Claypool to the sideline, but that just sets him up to get beat by a back shoulder throw for a 21 yard gain on 2nd and 19.

Chase Claypool is the WR to the top of the screen.

This starts like a fade, and the defender is ready for it, driving Claypool to the sideline and putting himself between the receiver and the ball. When Claypool stops and turns the defender overshoots him and it’s an easy TD.

Conclusion and final thoughts

Chase Claypool runs a ton of routes, and he runs all of them pretty well. There’s always room for improvement, but it’s clear that Claypool is not just a deep threat, he can run the whole route tree. Claypool shows good understanding of speed control, and his acceleration out of cuts will be a weapon in the NFL. He does a good job of protecting the catch point with his frame, although not consistently, has really good hands, and shows strong body control taking catches to the ground. He’s strong releasing against press and bump coverage, runs violently with the ball and is a dominant blocker.

His one glaring weakness is not physically establishing his route. As long as Claypool lets defenders interfere with and dictate his routes he will never reach his potential. Diontae Johnson is significantly smaller than Chase Claypool, yet in his college film he would establish his route physically, and when CBs tried to alter it Johnson won almost every time. It is strange to see a big, physical WR like Claypool let defenders win positioning and shrink the field on him with very little fight.

If he can fix that weakness, the sky is the limit.

2020 NFL Draft: Scouting roundup on Steelers DT Carlos Davis

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/04/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

What analysts were saying about the Steelers 7th round pick.

Carlos Davis was drafted with the Steelers final pick of the 2020 NFL draft, the 232nd pick of the draft. Carlos Davis played DT along with his twin brother Khalil Davis for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Here’s what was being said about Carlos Davis.

Matt Miller for Bleacher Report

The Good

Great athletic testing (4.82-second 40) for a big fella (6’2”, 313 lbs).
Fires off low and stays low to play with leverage.
A roller coaster on the interior; keeps arms and hands inside and takes you for a ride.
Keeps his eyes in the backfield while taking on blocks.
Has the strength to bring down running backs with one arm while fighting blocks.

The Bad

Lacks arm length (32”) to lock out NFL guards and tackles.
Limited agility down the line.
A touch slow out of his stance.
Limited to no pass-rushing ability; two-down player.

The Verdict

A natural athlete, Davis never dominated at Nebraska, but he could find a home in the NFL once he isn’t asked to consistently shuffle schemes and alignments. His arrow is pointing up, and he’ll have a good chance to find his way into a defensive tackle rotation and outplay his draft stock.

Dane Brugler’s 2020 Draft Guide

The Good

Pounces out of his stance with body control
Uses a low center of gravity to maintain proper leverage at the point of attack
Shoots gaps and stays balanced through contact
Impressive chase speed for his size
Motor is constantly revving, tapping into his reserve tank when necessary.

The Bad

Functional play strength doesn’t match his weight room strength
Hands are quick, but too soft, lacking a bully element to his game
Hyper-focused on the ball and loses sight of potential roadblocks
Only one season as a starter.

The Verdict

Overall, Davis needs to develop his point of attack power and technique, but he is an ascending pass rusher and his persistence chasing the football gives him a shot to earn an NFL roster spot.

Lance Zierlein for NFL.com

The Good

Possesses NFL heft inside
Plays with some blocking scheme recognition at times
Keeps hands working inside the frame
Quick punch and lift power against plodding guards
Put favorable reps at point of attack on tape against Ohio State
Active hands to swat pass attempts when rush stalls

The Bad

Arm length falls well below desired NFL level
Struggles with short-area athletic movements
Lacks initial snap quickness
Below-average lateral range and too easily cross-faced
Plays way too tall and is frequently out-leveraged
Lack of knee bend hinders contact balance and anchor
Offers no NFL value on passing downs

The Verdict

Davis has NFL heft on the scales, but he’s short-armed and plays too straight-legged, rendering his size much less effective than it should be. He has some pop at the point of attack when he’s first with his hands, but he’s just not as quick off the snap as he needs to be. He’s not a plus run defender and offers no value as a rusher, so finding a fit will be tough.

Kyle Crabbs for The Draft Network

The Good

His punch power is notable however, using his compact build to his advantage and uncorking heavy hands. Surprising amount of burst for his stature and he can overwhelm lightweight centers on the interior if drawing head up assignments in one on one. Will be in his element as a true nose tackle and occupying space.

The Bad

His pad level at the point of attack can be hit or miss and as a result his play as a congestion creator is intermittent. Redirection skills are modest and his lateral range moves approximately B-gap to B-gap. His ability to string out blocks is tempered down by his lack of foot speed and his ability to peel back across his momentum is significantly lagged to stay in his gap as the blocking front is stretched.

The Verdict

Carlos Davis projects as a low end interior IDL at the pro level. Davis’ pass rush pallet is too stale to ignore and his general lack of fluidity and mobility on the interior will cause problems for a team looking to find value for anyone other than a pure interior plug. Without lateral range, Davis is a sitting duck on the interior and doesn’t possess the necessary gravitational pull to warrant consideration as a starting nose tackle.

Carlos Davis lettered all 4 years at Nebraska in both track (discus) and in football. He is an athlete, and like most track and field guys, did well at the combine. there is near universal agreement that he lacks consistent fundamentals and has little in the way of lateral mobility. The descriptions here read more like a smaller version of Dan McCullers than a Javon Hargrave, but you can’t be too picky in the seventh round.

Podcast: Was Chase Claypool drafted as JuJu Smith-Schuster’s replacement?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/04/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “Home and Hater” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over, and the Steelers lost their final game by losing to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, ending their record at 8-8.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Home and Hater Show. On this show Jeff Hartman and Lance Williams break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Was Chase Claypool drafted as JuJu Smith-Schuster’s replacement?
  • Week in Review
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Black and Gold Links: It isn’t a coincidence the Steelers draft multiple players from the same school

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/04/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft is officially over. After finishing last year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, have another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how it shouldn’t be considered a coincidence to anyone how the Steelers tend to draft players from the same school in a draft class.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Bringing in college teammates in the same draft class is nothing new for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Drafting multiple players from same school not just a recent trend for Steelers

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In 2017, it was a pair of Volunteers. The following year, a couple of Cowboys. At training camp last year, Mike Tomlin often was heard yelling, “Big Blue.”

Then, within a 3½-hour span last Saturday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers took two Terrapins.

It’s become a trend, four consecutive NFL Drafts running, that the Steelers select a pair of teammates on the same weekend.

“We’re always going to have each other’s backs,” sixth-round safety Antoine Brooks said of he and former Maryland teammate Anthony McFarland. “Me and him being in the same locker room is like reunited. We’re just on the next level now.”

Just like how last year, Michigan’s Devin Bush (first round) and Zach Gentry (fifth round) were reunited months after they’d thought they’d played their final games as teammates. In 2018, after quarterback/receiver duo Mason Rudolph and James Washington were done tearing apart the Big 12 for four years at Oklahoma State, they probably couldn’t have envisioned the same team would draft them in the third and second rounds, respectively.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Some of the best, and worst, offseason moves for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

From TE to ILB, ranking the best and worst Steelers’ offseason moves

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The transition from monitoring offseason transactions to overseeing offseason training — even if on a virtual basis — began Monday for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This period, also known as Phase 1 of the NFL’s conditioning program, provides an opportune time to analyze the moves the Steelers made — or didn’t make — since their season ended Dec. 29 in Baltimore.

Over the past four months, the Steelers have added and lost players, tendered contracts to restricted and unrestricted free agents, added six draft picks, 10 undrafted players and raided the XFL while crafting a 90-man roster.

Some positions were strengthened, others weakened. With that in mind, here is a ranking of 12 position groups on the roster with one overarching thought: Did the Steelers get better, worse or stay the same?

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • How can the Steelers run the ball better in 2020?

Labriola on how the Steelers can run the ball

By: Bob Labriola, Steelers.com

Ready or not, here it comes:

• It started on Jan. 15 with this from Steelers President Art Rooney II: “I would like to see us be a team that can be more consistent running the football. I think that has to be a part of the game.”

• Then there was this on April 20, 72 hours before the start of the NFL Draft, from Coach Mike Tomlin: “There’s some top-quality backs in this draft who could help us, but there are also some other positional guys who could help us. We’ll let the development do the work for us. If we get an opportunity to add a back who could bring some things to our current pool, we’ll be excited about that. We have every intention of running the ball better in 2020 than we did in 2019, whether we add that back or not, and that’s just being bluntly honest with you.”

• And following the draft, there was a lot of this from fans: “So we selected another receiver for Ben Roethlisberger and allowed the Ravens to select running back J.K. Dobbins. I do not believe the current group of running backs can balance the offense effectively. Championship teams have a feature back, and I still believe Dobbins, or D’Andre Swift, or Jonathan Taylor could have been that for the Steelers. Our defense is physical but our offense continues to be less than the Steelers’ traditional physical style. Le’Veon Bell ran over defenders much like Jerome Bettis did. James Connor runs tough but is injury-prone. Anyhow, we had a shot at a feature back a la Ezekiel Elliot, and we passed on him for a big wide receiver.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

How Anthony McFarland could be a diamond in the rough for the Steelers

Why is everyone so sure Ben Roethlisberger won’t play out 2020?

We need a nickname for Chase Claypool!

If you look at the way the Steelers add defensive linemen, there is a method to their madness

  • Social Media Madness

Gimme that @_TJWatt pic.twitter.com/fqMbyjhDwQ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 3, 2020

Refused to be denied @TeamJuJu pic.twitter.com/t1yaRVvx6c

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 3, 2020

Congratulations to Julie and Matt Feiler on the birth of their daughter Emery! pic.twitter.com/W0c4rC1Pvw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 3, 2020

Missing @heinzfield & #SteelersNation! pic.twitter.com/llnFE3vL0f

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 4, 2020

How Anthony McFarland’s injured ankle makes him a gem for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/03/2020 - 11:25am
Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Did the Steelers find a diamond in the rough with 4th round pick Anthony McFarland?

There is always so much more to a player than where/when they were drafted. There are underlying circumstances to a player dropping, or rising, on teams’ draft boards. A bad performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, a bad interview or even people thinking you are immature can cause a prospect who could have been drafted on Day 1 or 2 fall to a Day 3 selection.

It doesn’t take away from their overall talent, but it means they are things teams need to consider before pulling the trigger on the selection.

Former Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr. would certainly fall into this category. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in the 4th round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and many considered the selection to be a “reach”.

After all, McFarland was labeled as “childish” and “immature” by scouts, not to mention his numbers in 2019 took a dip from his 2018 stats.

But what if, just for a minute, we change our thinking on this player.

When McFarland, who played for Matt Canada at Maryland, labeled Canada as a “father figure” you have to wonder about how he will respond to coaching in the NFL with a man he knows in the system. On top of that, he was plagued with an ankle injury throughout the 2019 season, which hindered his stats.

Just look at what was said in his overview of his NFL Draft Profile:

“A high-ankle sprain may have been at the root of his unimpressive 2019 tape, as he showed a little better burst and tackle-breaking ability in 2018, but in both seasons he needed either clear points of entry or to be operating in open space to get it going.”

Translation: An injury in 2019 made him less explosive, but the player has a lot of potential. How much potential? Just watch his highlights from the game in 2018 vs. the Ohio State Buckeyes.

So, let’s bring this full circle. What made McFarland drop to Day 3 of the draft process? Lack of production his last year in college? Off-field concerns?

Well, if Canada can speak of his character, and the team drafted him anyway, you have to think they know what they are getting with the pick. McFarland said he is fully healed from the ankle injury which hobbled him in 2019, so you have to wonder if the Steelers will be getting the 2018 McFarland.

In other words, the Steelers could have gotten a diamond in the rough in McFarland. His 2020 season might be as more of a change-of-pace back, but when you watch him run all over teams, like in the Ohio State film above, you see a player bursting with potential. For a 4th round pick, McFarland has a ton of upside, which is just what the Steelers need at the running back position.

What are your thoughts on McFarland as a prospect/player? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.

The Steelers have developed a pattern when drafting defensive linemen

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/03/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s the only position group they draft as often as wide receivers

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected defensive lineman Carlos Davis out of the University of Nebraska in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft, I started to recall the Steelers other late-round draft picks at the position in recent seasons. After further study, I found the Steelers have drafted at least one defensive lineman in all but one draft over the last 12 years. The only year the Steelers did not address the position was 2017.

In the last 12 drafts, the Steelers have taken 13 defensive lineman. There were two seasons in which the Steelers drafted two players— in 2009 with Ziggy Hood and Ra’shon Harris, and in 2014 with Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers.

Of the 13 defensive lineman drafted over the last 12 years, eight of them were selected in either the sixth or seventh rounds. Of those eight players, four did not play a single game with the Pittsburgh Steelers. One of those players is obviously this year‘s draft choice Carlos Davis. The other three players who did play with the Steelers were McCullers, L.T. Walton, and Isaiah Buggs. Of those eight players selected, the only players to start a game for the Steelers were Walton with four and McCullers with three. Additionally, McCullers is the only defensive lineman drafted by the Steelers outside of the first two rounds who received a contract beyond their rookie deal since Brett Keisel.

With the Steelers generally taking a defensive lineman late in the draft, they have basically been taking a flyer on the position in order to add depth. No player they have taken in the last 12 drafts has ended up being the answer as a long-term starter with the Steelers.

When it comes to the five players not drafted in the final two rounds of the last 12 NFL drafts for the Pittsburgh Steelers, none were drafted in the fifth round. The Steelers did make one selection in the fourth round in 2012 when they drafted Alameda Ta’amu. After some legal trouble, the Steelers cut ties with Ta’amu as he never appeared in a game for the black and gold.

The other four selections by the Steelers were in the first round of 2009 with Ziggy Hood and again in 2011 with Cameron Heyward. The Steelers also selected Stephon Tuitt in the second round in 2014 followed by Javon Hargrave in the third round in 2016.

In looking at the pattern when it comes to the defensive line, it appears when the Steelers are in need of a starter and are not addressing the position through free agency, they use higher draft capital on the player. Specifically, the Steelers have found starters on the defensive line every time they have drafted one in the first three rounds of the NFL draft since 2009. The same trend goes back even farther to 2002 when Brett Kissel was drafted in the seventh round and ended up starting 114 games for the Steelers. Otherwise, every draft pick on the defensive line beyond the third round has not been a regular starter for the Steelers.

Why is this history lesson important? Perhaps it may ease some expectations of Steelers’ rookie Carlos Davis. While some feel he was drafted because the Steelers need a starting nose tackle, it s not the expectation for Davis to fill this role in 2020 or even beyond. For now, Davis is merely a death piece who is questionable to make the roster come September. Perhaps someday the Steelers can find another Brett Kissel and get a genuine starter on the defensive line late in the NFL draft. But this wouldn’t be another glorious exception, because it is definitely not the rule.

Why is there so much certainty that Ben Roethlisberger won’t finish the 2020 season?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/03/2020 - 8:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

While it appears that way with some Steelers’ fans, it’s really the national media which is pushing this narrative

For some reason, there are a number of national sports media experts who have been talking for months about upgrading the quarterback situation for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It ranged from the constant mock drafts which had the Steelers taking a QB with their first selection to the continuing narrative discussing all the flashy names who they are certain will end up in the quarterback room in Pittsburgh. It has gone from Jalen Hurts to Jameis Winston to Cam Newton to Andy Dalton . Now, crazy enough, throw in Aaron Rodgers. It’s the story that just won’t die in the 2020 offseason.

Of course, the more Steeler fans hear about it, the more some are persuaded. There are some local sports media members jumping on board with the Steelers making a move at quarterback, and as the more they say it, the more some fans are convinced.

But have you noticed the phrases they are using, and what they ultimately mean?

For any of these names which some have tied to the Steelers, they followed up with a statement like “...could lead this team into the playoffs.” Do we realize what is ultimately being said with this statement?

To summarize, these statements are basically saying Ben Roethlisberger will not finish the 2020 NFL season.

I understand there is more concern now than there ever has been with Ben Roethlisberger being the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s coming off his first time ever on injured reserve and having elbow surgery on his throwing arm. Yes, it’s concerning. Yes, it would be foolish to not consider another injury as a possibility. But the Steelers made their decision on how they felt about Ben Roethlisberger weeks ago and that is the direction they are going.

The biggest issue with adding another quarterback for the Steelers is money. More specifically, the salary cap. As I’ve already laid out before, teams who have a quarterback on their roster with more than a $20 million salary cap hit generally do not pay a back up quarterback more than $2 million. It’s the reality of the situation as it is difficult to sink too much money into one position in which only one player can be on the field at a time.

The Steelers had a decision to make this past spring. Either Ben Roethlisberger was going to be their quarterback for 2020 and they believed he would complete the season (notice I did not say play every game along the way), or the Steelers needed to address the position right away. First of all, by guaranteeing almost all of Ben’s 2020 contract by turning it into a signing bonus and saving more than $10 million on the salary cap, the Steelers locked in their decision. The only way they were going to do that is if they had the confidence that Roethlisberger would be available for all of 2020. If not, they should have made a different move financially and made sure they had another option for this coming season.

For those saying the Steelers need a better quarterback to lead them into the playoffs, you’ve written off Ben Roethlisberger and you’re saying he will be injured. If you throw in the phrase, “if Roethlisberger gets injured,” then you are merely living in your fears. One of the biggest sticking points with the Steelers is that they don’t live in their fears.

If you are a Steelers fan much like myself, you were simply saying you are hopeful that Ben Roethlisberger can play throughout the 2020 season. If that is the case, then your thinking is exactly what the front office has been saying both in word and deed. Rather than go out and spend salary cap money or high draft capital in order to secure up what happens if Ben Roethlisberger can’t complete the 2020 season, the Steelers have used their free-agent acquisitions and their top draft choice in 2020 to improve the offense for Roethlisberger.

As for addressing the quarterback room, so far the Steelers have not yet felt that an upgrade they would make would be considerable enough to outweigh the financial ramifications. Should something change, especially in regards to Roethlisberger, then the Steelers will make whatever move they must to improve the situation. It’s exactly how General Manger Kevin Colbert stated it following the draft.

Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 2020. If the situation changes, specifically where it’s dealing with the remainder of the season, the Steelers will address the issue in whatever manner possible at that time. Until this occurs, the Steelers made sure to spend their draft capital and salary cap space on creating the best team around that quarterback position as they could. Believing Roethlisberger is not going to finish the season before it even starts is not the best use of resources for an NFL franchise, especially one the caliber of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mapletron? Let’s find Chase Claypool a nickname [POLL]

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/03/2020 - 6:30am
Claypool has always made time for the fans, but now he needs our help. Lets find him a nickname | Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

From college ‘til now Chase Claypool has already had a plethora of nicknames.

Being a mountain of a human, and Canadian, has a few perks especially if you’re in the market of having a cool nickname. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2nd round pick, Chase Claypool has already been dubbed a few things by the fan base.

Before we even start this exercise with Chase’s decision to wear number 11, if he develops to be a deadly weapon for Big Ben Roethlisberger, The name: 7/11 will definitely be thrown around for the duo because ‘they’re always open’.

But this is just about Chase, let’s do this!

His first nickname came about when he was in College. When Philly G (Contributor at our sister site: One foot down) nicknames Chase ‘The Maple Bandit’ a name that stuck around his college career dating back to 2017.

Next, after exploding onto the scene at the NFL combine and sharing almost identical numbers as Calvin Johnson he found himself with the name: Mapletron. Now it’s definitely unfair to start comparing the rookie to one of the most dominant receivers in a generation, but dang is that name fun.

Another name I’ve recently seen floating around the Twittersphere is ‘Deadpool’. Obviously both Claypool and Deadpool share a suffix, but also they both hail from (or very close to) Vancouver, Canada. I don’t think Marvel comics would ever let the Steelers print Deadpool merch but the name could stick.

Lastly I want to throw a name in the hat, Air Canada. Yes, Vince Carter has used that name when he was ripping up the NBA and dunk contest as a member of the Raptors. However, his split from Toronto coupled with Carter not actually being Canadian leads me to believe that name is up for grabs. With Chase’s insane vertical if he starts to ‘Moss’ people on a weekly basis. I have no doubt in my mind you’ll start hearing Color commentators start throwing around ‘Air Canada’.

When I ran this through my twitter account Maple Bandit had just edged out Air Canada. But we need to cast a wider net into Steeler Nation. What do you think? What’s your favourite nickname choice for Claypool? Hit the Poll below!

Podcast: Reviewing the Steelers’ 2020 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/03/2020 - 5:30am

The Steelers 2020 season is being shaped now, so we take a look back at the 2020 NFL Draft class.

The Pittsburgh Steelers now move on from the 2020 NFL Draft and turn their attention to the regular season, but before we get ahead of ourselves it is time to take another look back at the six new players drafted a week ago.

This is going to be the talking point in the latest podcast featuring BTSC’s own Tony Defeo. Welcome to Steelers Brunch with Tony!

Check out the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section below!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

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