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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/13/2018 - 6:11am

BTSC names the top Steelers since 1969 that started their careers with other franchises. Part One starts with offense.

Contrary to popular belief, the Pittsburgh Steelers draft well. Throughout the years, the best and brightest to wear the black-and-gold are either homegrown through the draft, or signed by the Steelers after not being drafted out of college. Since 1969 when the Chuck Noll Era began, the vast majority of the greats of Pittsburgh’s football franchise started their careers in the Steel City.

That’s impressive.

But seeing that made me ask — who are the finest to be drafted or catch-on in a different NFL locale first? The following is a list of the best Steelers imports of what I call the Modern Steelers Era.

QB Tommy Maddox

“Tommy Gun” was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on the second day of September in 1971. That happened to be the 23rd birthday of another quarterback hailing from Shreveport — Terry Bradshaw. Maddox was drafted at age 20 in the first round of the 1992 draft by the Denver Broncos, but was unimpressive initially and was traded to the Los Angeles Rams. Nothing clicked for Maddox in LA, nor with the Giants and Falcons. He ended up out of football and selling insurance for three years, but then re-emerged in the Arena League in 2000. In 2001, he delivered the Los Angeles Xtreme of the XFL a championship and was that league’s only MVP. This led him to the Steelers in 2001, where No. 8 rescued a poor-starting team in 2002, leading them all the way to overtime in the second round of the playoffs, where they fell to Tennessee. He was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year and won a Super Bowl as a backup in 2005, ultimately spending five years in Pittsburgh.

FB John L. Williams

Williams is actually one of my favorite Steelers import players ever. After a solid eight seasons in Seattle, the 15th overall pick of the 1986 draft arrived in 1994 to begin a two-season stint in Pittsburgh. Twice a Pro Bowl selection at fullback in Seattle, Williams played like one in Pittsburgh, gaining 417 yards rushing plus 505 receiving. He was the lead blocker for Barry Foster, Bam Morris and Erric Pegram during those two years. Super Bowl XXX was his last NFL game.

RB Jerome Bettis

Drafted by the L.A. Rams in the first round of the 1993 Draft, Bettis’ fortunes went south when the team moved east to St. Louis. There, Jerome clashed with new coach Rich Brooks and his production dipped. The Rams replaced him with a future murderer (Lawrence Phillips) shipping Bettis to Pittsburgh for a second-round pick in 1996. Proving that one team’s trash is another team’s treasure, “The Bus” became the Steelers’ second all-time leading rusher behind Franco Harris, a Super Bowl Champion and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

WR Yancey Thigpen

In 1991, the San Diego Chargers selected Thigpen in the fourth round out of Winston-Salem State, but never was thrown a single pass. The Steelers picked him up in 1992 and he played sparingly until 1994 when he caught 36 balls for 546 yards. His true breakout year was 1995, when he hauled in 85 passes for 1,307 yards, five scores and a Super Bowl TD. In 1997, No. 82 had his second All-Pro season with 79 catches for 1,398 yards and 7 TDs. The very first jersey I ever purchased was Yancey Thigpen’s. A couple of months later, he left town for a very lucrative contract to play three mediocre seasons in Tennessee.

WR Courtney Hawkins

Starting his nine-year career in Tampa Bay in 1992, Hawkins arrived in Pittsburgh in 1997. No. 88 was never a No. 1 WR in the Steeler City, but he was a solid contributor with 1,829 yards and five touchdowns in three seasons.

WR Jerricho Cotchery

Cotchery was a New York Jet originally, having been drafted in the fourth round in 2004 . In 2011 and after seven solid seasons near the Big Apple, Cotch started a three-year stint in the Steel City. As a third WR, Jerricho meshed well with Ben Roethlisberger and caught 79 balls for 1,044 yards. He ended his career in Carolina after the 2015 season.

TE Jonathan Hayes

The Chiefs drafted the Iowa TE in the second round of the 1985 draft and he stayed there for nine seasons. No. 85 signed with the Steelers in 1994 and started in Super Bowl XXX. More of a blocking tight end, Hayes was a solid veteran presence for Pittsburgh who came up big at crucial junctures.

OT Wayne Gandy

Gandy, an All-American from Auburn, was a first-rounder for the Los Angeles Rams in 1994. After five productive years in L.A. and St. Louis, Gandy started 63 games at LT for Pittsburgh, protecting the likes of Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham and Tommy Maddox.

OT Alejandro Villanueva

Everybody knows the story of the highly-decorated Army Ranger. But does everybody know the 6’9” Villanueva actually started his career as a defensive lineman and property of the Philadelphia Eagles? The Pro Bowl LT is quickly becoming a fan favorite and developing into a franchise stalwart.

G Will Wolford

Wolford was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 1986 draft, and it seemed like he would be a Bill for life. But after his third straight loss in the Super Bowl, Wolford parted ways with his franchise of seven years and ventured off to Indy for a three-year stay, in which he played in another AFCCG — a loss to the Steelers. Then, the 6’5”/300 pounder joined his recent tormentors in 1996, finishing his career in the Burgh with three years as a Steeler, mostly at Left Guard.

G Duval Love

Another Ram from the O-line that found his way to the Steel City is the 10th-rounder from UCLA, Class of ‘85. Love spent seven seasons in the city where he matriculated, before becoming a three-year Steeler. In Pittsburgh, Love was a valuable protector of Neil O’Donnell from 1992-1994.

C Jeff Hartings

The Penn State Nittany Lion primarily played Guard after being drafted in the first round in 1996. Hartings played five seasons in the Motor City before switching to Center in the Steel City in 2001. No. 64 won a ring in Pittsburgh and was named First Team All-Pro in 2004. He continued the great run at his position that Pittsburgh had enjoyed since the tenures of Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson. Hartings retired in 2006, after six seasons of representing the hypocycloids.

K Gary Anderson

It’s hard to believe that one of the greatest kickers the NFL has ever seen was cut as a rookie sixth-rounder in 1982 by the Buffalo Bills. The Steelers, unwilling to go another year with the inconsistency of David Trout, picked up Anderson right before their opener against Dallas. Anderson stayed until after the 1994 season and left as the Steelers’ all-time scoring leader.

KR/PR Allen Rossum

Rossum started his career as a Philadelphia Eagle for two years, but spent a majority of his NFL career as an Atlanta Falcon. The Pro Bowl returner arrived in Pittsburgh late in his career in 2007 and spent a productive season with one TD return during Mike Tomlin’s inaugural season.

...

These are the players on offense deemed the finest imports since 1969. Of course, like anything, these can be debated. Feel free to do so and stick with BTSC for the defensive import list coming soon.

Mike Hilton is, and will be, driven to prove people wrong

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 2:48pm

The diminutive Steelers cornerback tells why his size has been a huge motivator for him throughout his football career.

At 5-feet 9-inches and a mere 184-pounds, Mike Hilton has always been viewed as a target on the football field. You know, an opposing offense will see Hilton in the defensive secondary, and decide he is the player they are going to pick on.

This has happened Hilton’s entire career, and continued into his first year with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017 when he set the fan base ablaze with his tremendous play as the team’s nickel/slot cornerback.

Last season Hilton tallied 64 total tackles, 16 solo tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions and 6 pass defenses.

Not too bad for a player everyone essentially left on the NFL scrap heap after going undrafted out of Ole Miss.

What motivates Hilton? After all these years he tells Teresa Varley of the Steelers official website it is his size.

“To be honest, my size. If you look at me, people are going to attack me and not expect me to play the way I do. I take that and play with a chip on my shoulder.”

And his size has been a common thread for him throughout his football career. It was what he listed as his biggest challenge in the game.

“A lot of people tell me you can’t do it because of your size. That is all I heard. I knew with my ability, I could play with anybody. I just don’t look the part. I catch people off guard.”

Catch people off guard he certainly did in 2017, and the Steelers will want a duplicate performance in 2018 as they hope to bring the Lombardi trophy back to Pittsburgh for the seventh time.

Ultimately, it is confidence and a pure love for the game which has helped Hilton get to where he is today.

“Just playing with confidence. I knew I had it in me. I have taken those steps, high school, college and now the pros. Just being confident in my ability.”

It is all about the love for the game of football.

“For the love of the game. It’s something I have been doing since I was young. It’s something I just love to go out there and do. It’s stress free, doing what you have been doing for so long and having fun with it. You just react and use your instincts.”

Hilton is essentially a starter, and helps make up one of the most improved position groups on the Steelers’ roster heading into the regular season. After looking at his 2017 stat line, you have to wonder what he has in store for 2018.

Steelers fans can’t wait to find out!

Pro Football Focus ranks Steelers offensive line among the best in the NFL

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

With all five starters returning once again for their third-straight year together, the Steelers strengths up front are not lost on Pro Football Focus

The grades produced by Pro Football Focus might not be to everyone’s liking, but there is no doubt their opinions carry some weight with NFL teams. With all 32 clubs in the league now a subscriber to their services in some form or another, the company has grown rapidly in recent years.

While not all the data PFF produces is released to the public, their controversial grades are, and in an article written by analyst and recent Bachelorette contestant Mike Renner, he ranked every offensive line in the NFL.

Fans may not agree with some of the grades given to the starting unit, but few can argue with the Pittsburgh Steelers overall position on the list at No. 4. As Renner explained.

“2018 marks the third-straight season that the Steelers will have their starting five intact heading into the year. Expectations were ridiculously high for them heading into 2017, but an injury to Marcus Gilbert and uncharacteristic down year from Ramon Foster hampered their effectiveness. Still the entire starting five is 30 years old or younger and capable of recapturing their 2016 form.”

Pro Football Focus

The Philadelphia Eagles take the top spot on Renner’s list, with the Dallas Cowboys at No. 2 and the Atlanta Falcons at No.3.

David DeCastro was PFF’s highest graded guard in 2017 and their second highest graded offensive lineman overall after Eagles center Jason Kelce. However, while the grades for Marcus Gilbert and Alejandro Villanueva seem fair given their performances last year, many fans will be surprised by the low grades given to Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey.

With the contract of Foster set to expire at the end of the year, the 2018 season could be the last time this unit will play together and his departure could be the first of many across the offensive line in the coming years with both Pouncey and Gilbert out of contract after 2019.

Colin Cowherd likes the Steelers, not the Patriots, to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 10:49am

The usually pro-Patriots sports talk host is all aboard the black-and-gold train heading into 2018.

There are a lot of you reading this article who may not listen to sports talk radio, or watch the simulcast on live television. I get it. Many of these programs rarely talk about the teams you actually want to hear about, but each and every host takes on his/her own shape and form throughout their career.

For former ESPN Radio turned FOX Sports Radio host Colin Cowherd, he has forever been a New England Patriots / Tom Brady fan. He openly admits to loving how Bill Belichick conducts himself, and how his team follows suit.

So, as he was going through the AFC North in his division-by-division breakdowns, you expected to hear a lot of the same when talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers:

“Super talented, but just don’t have ‘it’”

“Is Ben Roethlisberger’s time in the NFL light coming to a close?”

“Can Mike Tomlin win another Super Bowl?”

Instead, what was said caught me, and likely many other listeners, off guard. Cowherd predicted the Steelers will be the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs when all is said and done.

I know, it is shocking...take a listen:

"The No. 1 seed in the AFC this year will be the Pittsburgh Steelers... The Cleveland Browns have the most improved roster in the NFL."@ColinCowherd makes his AFC North prediction pic.twitter.com/x1rwNRITUb

— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) July 11, 2018

Ultimately, Cowherd predicted the Steelers to win their third straight division title, something which hasn’t been accomplished since the realignment, with a 12-4 record. On top of that, he cites how the Steelers’ most difficult games are played at Heinz Field, and not on the road, as a crucial aspect to his forecasted success for the black-and-gold.

Many hate Cowherd, and rightfully so, but he does make some legitimate points when talking about the Steelers, as well as the rest of the AFC North. He has the Steelers atop the division, the Ravens finishing second and the Bengals and Browns tied in the basement with 6-10 records.

A lot of Steelers fans are pessimistic regarding the team’s chances of locking up a top seed in the AFC Playoffs, but what do you think? Do you agree with Cowherd? Or just think he is using the vast fan Steelers fan base to move the needle? Let us know in the comment section below!

Steelers ABCs — Part 3, Breaking down the second half of the 2018 schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 9:17am

We complete our rundown of the Steelers’ 2018 opponents.

Week 10 vs Carolina

What should happen: Listen — Thursday night NFL games are wholly disinteresting and woebegone affairs hated by players and fans alike, but this one, featuring a pair of legitimate contenders in Pittsburgh and Carolina, should actually be pretty entertaining!

What could happen: As anyone who’s ever played fantasy football can attest, Cam Newton has a proclivity for totally balling out, ascending to a plane of existence unreachable by the vast majority of his mortal contemporaries. When Newton finds this gear, jugulating opposing secondaries with pinpoint, laser-beam throws and plowing through opposing front-sevens like a runaway semitrailer, there’s not a defense in the world that can adequately contain him. Importantly, the Panthers have made a concentrated effort to improve the quality of players surrounding Newton, signing erstwhile Bronco and three-time Breakout Candidate of the Year C.J. Anderson and spending high draft picks on amorphous skill players like D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Christian McCaffrey. So there’s theoretically less pressure on Newton to carry the full brunt of the offensive load. In sum, Carolina boasts a well-rounded offensive unit buoyed by an explosive, multitalented quarterback only three years removed from a historically-efficient MVP campaign. The Steelers will have their work cut out for them.

Week 11 at Jacksonville

What should happen: The Steelers should have this matchup circled on their calendar. For all the noise that was made about the AFC being a two-horse race between Pittsburgh and New England last season, it was Jacksonville who wound up as the second-best team in the AFC, defeating the Steelers convincingly (in Heinz Field, no less!) on two separate occasions. If Pittsburgh hopes to win its seventh ring in 2018, it’ll have to face Jacksonville at least once, and possibly twice.

What could happen: Jacksonville could simply be a better team than Pittsburgh. The thing about the Jaguars that’s so insanely frustrating is just how well they match up with the Steelers—their offensive game plan is built around second-year running back Leonard Fournette, a bank vault who runs a 4.4 forty, which allows them to utilize play-action passes and misdirection runs to great effect. The defense, meanwhile, is stacked at all three levels, including a deep, monolithic defensive line, a stable of speedy and athletic linebackers, and a secondary that features the best cornerback duo in football.

Week 12 at Denver

What should happen: The Broncos probably will not be very good this year, whereas the Steelers should probably be very good! Ergo, the Steelers should win!

What could happen: Oh, this game is on the road? In that case, the Steelers will probably lose 30-27 or something.

Week 13 vs Los Angeles Chargers

What should happen: Lots of points should be scored. The Chargers are a trendy playoff contender, due in no small part to their formidable offense, particularly the passing attack.

What could happen: The Chargers’ defense could dominate the game. Los Angeles has quietly assembled a very exciting defensive unit, including what might be the league’s best pass-rushing duo in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Their secondary, which was one of the league’s best outfits last season, should be even better following the addition of a healthy Jason Verrett and elite rookie prospect Derwin James, a player who a non-zero number of scouts pegged as a top-five talent in the 2018 NFL Draft. Given the Chargers’ woes against the run last season, I’d expect Pittsburgh to feature Le’Veon Bell—however, if LA jumps out to an early lead, airmailing a comeback could prove difficult.

Week 14 at Oakland

What should happen: The Steelers should amass a bunch of yards and score a bunch of points, because beyond Khalil Mack, Oakland’s defense is kinda butt.

What could happen: The ineptitude of the Raiders’ defense could be irrelevant, because their offense has a lot of...interesting, high-upside players. This I guess is an amiable way of saying that virtually every skill player on the offensive side of the ball has something to prove: Derek Carr wants to prove his MVP-caliber 2016 campaign wasn’t a fluke and that he’s worth every dime of his $125 million contract; Doug Martin wants to prove he’s capable of being the same kind of impact player he was in 2012 and 2015 (and, if any firm conclusions can be drawn from the Muscle Hamster’s career output to this point, he’s due for around 1,400 yards this season); Amari Cooper wants to prove that he’s a bona fide No. 1 receiver; newly-signed Jordy Nelson is seeking a rebound after being ousted from Green Bay; Martavis Bryant, formerly of the Steelers, is also pursuing a career revival — this team is interesting! Plus, the incomparable Jon Gruden is (perhaps fittingly) coaching this goofy crew, so that’ll be fun. If everything comes together, the Raiders are looking down the barrel of 19-0.

Week 15 vs Patriots

What should happen: Statistically speaking, the Steelers should win one of these games eventually.

What could happen: Pittsburgh’s damned efforts to surmount these insuperable Patriots could remain rooted in futility which, honestly, would be a pretty big bummer. Getting to watch Tom Brady’s historical reign of utter dominance has been cool and all, but it definitely sucks that it’s been at the expense of my favorite team. This is typical yinzer rhetoric, but the Steelers would have 10 Super Bowls by now if not for this New England team. I am so sad.

For this game, the Steelers will probably keep it very, very close, only to lose at the last second because Rob Gronkowski distracted Sean Davis with a 69 joke.

Week 16 at Saints

What should happen: A fun game between a pair of evenly-matched, offense-heavy division leaders.

What could happen: Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara could happen! This is a very misguided and potentially misinformed take, but I think if we’re judging the “GOAT NFL backfield duo” solely on said duo’s collective playmaking aptitude, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara very well could be the best backfield duo in NFL history. I wanna be ahead of this, because I remember many years ago former Golden State Warriors coach (and current TNT color guy) Mark Jackson claimed that his very young, very unproven backcourt duo composed of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry would wind up being the best NBA backcourt ever—and we, the idiotic public, rebuked this lofty declaration. Sure enough, five years and three NBA championships later, Jackson proved to be spot-on with his analysis. Against Pittsburgh, I think we’ll see Ingram and Kamara each cross the 1,500-all-purpose yards and 10 rushing-receiving touchdown thresholds in this game.

Week 17 vs Bengals

What should happen: A de facto bye. For the third year in a row, the Steelers should have the AFC North in hand and be resting their starters.

What could happen: A de facto AFC North championship game—or worse, a de facto Wild Card game. It isn’t difficult to envision a scenario in which the Steelers “regress” to 10-6 or something despite keeping the core pieces of their roster more or less intact. For one thing, the AFC North—as well as the AFC in generally—should be significantly more competitive. This could prevent the Steelers from coasting to 13-3 as they did a year ago. Notable, too, is the fact that the Steelers posted a handful of wildly improbable and borderline miraculous comeback-victories last season, including one over the Bengals. So, I think a more competitive AFC North, coupled with maybe two of those close games falling the other way, might foreclose the luxury of allowing the Steelers to rest their starters.

Throwback Thursday: Danger in the desert vs. Arizona

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 7:23am

BTSC travels back to 1997 for a thrilling “Bus Ride” in Arizona.

Our journey in the BTSC Delorean to Steeler yesterday begins in a time when Robin Williams and Flubber bounced to the top of the movie box office, Sugar Ray’s “Fly” was hot on the radio and “Cities For Life Day” helped citizens of 300 world cities oppose the death penalty.

Meanwhile the Pittsburgh Steelers were trying to keep their playoff hopes alive in a place that was all too unfriendly to them in 1997...the road. At 8-4, Bill Cowher’s Steelers had only won twice away from Three Rivers Stadium. After losing a game they were supposed to win in Philadelphia the week before, the Steelers were at a crucial juncture, tied atop the division with Jacksonville who already won on the day. Their foe was a 3-9 Arizona who had lost seven of their games decided in the final minute and four that went into Overtime. Couple it with being in a city that they have lost all three times they visited, including Super Bowl XXX...the Steelers needed to win badly.

Welcome to November 30, 1997.

The Steelers shut down Arizona with a three-and-out on the first series and took over after an Arizona punt by Jeff Feagles. QB Kordell Stewart, in his first full year as a starter, marched his team on to the field. One would have thought that he forgot his passing arm, as the Steelers took to the ground and pretty much stayed there. Of the eleven plays on the opening Steeler drive, nine were runs. Most of them were executed by Jerome Bettis, who bullied his way for 39 yards and capped it off with a two-yard score.

The remainder of the half was fairly pedestrian on the offensive side of the ball for both teams. Rookie Jake Plummer, before he got all vagranty later in his career, couldn’t do much at all as Arizona went three-and-out their on first four drives. On their fifth drive, Plummer connected on a 43-yard bomb to Rob Moore, who burned Donnell Wolford in the process. The Steeler defense held and Joe Nedney buried a 32-yard field goal to cut their deficit to four. It was 7-3. But behind the legs of Stewart and Bettis, Pittsburgh finished off a 12-play drive with a Norm Johnson 40-yarder. With 1:13 left in the first half, the visitors led 10-3.

Vince Tobin’s men had an opportunity to tie the game before heading to the locker room, but Carnell Lake put a stop to that with two sacks on the series. It was his second and third of the half and the third (Mike Vrabel and Kevin Henry combined for one and Chris Oldham got the other) of the Steeler’s five sacks the first 30 minutes.

The second half saw more offensive action. After the Steelers went three-and-out, Jake Plummer and Frank Sanders hooked up three times for 45 yards on their opening drive of the new half. The third connection was for a three-yard TD. The score was tied at 10-10. The Steelers roared right back though, as Kordell drove the Steelers 80 yards with two completions to Charles Johnson and one each to Yancey Thigpen, Courtney Hawkins and RB George Jones. On 2nd and goal from the Arizona seven, Bettis barreled in for his second score. The Steelers were up 17-10 with 4:20 to go in the third.

The festival of scoring continued when Plummer took to the air again with passes to Moore, Sanders and, finally, Chris Gedney for a score from 11-yards out. With only a minute left in the third, it was tied again at 17.

In the fourth, Norm Johnson kicked another field goal for a three-point lead. But Jake Plummer was on fire and had something to prove. Another long pass of 44 to Moore got Zona inside the Steeler 10. With a 3rd and Goal at the Steeler 1, Nolan Harrison and Darren Perry saved the game by stuffing Larry Centers for a loss of one. The Cards had to settle for a game-tying field goal with 4:20 left in the game.

What could have been the winning series was not. The Steelers couldn’t get past their own 42 and punted to the Cards, pinning them deep at the 15. But “Jake the Snake” was finding himself (with a 15-yard scramble) and hit Rob Moore twice again for a total of 50 yards on the drive. With :22 seconds left and definitely in Nedney’s range, Nolan Harrison came up huge with another sack of Plummer (ten total on the day). Nedney, who won the previous week’s game with a 43-yarder at the gun, marched on and lined up for the game winner. But his 46-yarder swung right and both teams headed to overtime.

Arizona won the toss, but Levon Kirkland and Jason Gildon continued “Blitzburgh Sackapalooza” and Feagles punted again. Hawkins fielded the punt and the Steelers set up shop at their own 48. Stewart went to work and hooked up for two passes and 32 yards with Thigpen. With the Arizona crowd chanting “Here we go Steelers”, Bettis rumbled twice for eight yards to the ten. On third down and two, the Bus bounced off two tacklers and one of of his own lineman into the end zone for a thrilling win. The Steeler-heavy crowd rejoiced as Pittsburgh moved to 9-4 and remained in a tie with Jacksonville at the top of the AFC Central.

Both Bettis’ ninth 100-yard rushing game of the season (161 total yards) and three scores were paramount for the Steelers, especially as he shredded a defensive line coached by Steeler legend Joe Greene. Rob Moore’s 188 receiving yards fueled Arizona. But without Jim Haslett’s stifling defense, the Steelers would have fallen in the desert night. The win for Pittsburgh was their first ever in Arizona and put them back on track to defeat both Denver and New England to reach the playoffs. Their journey ended a game short of the Super Bowl in January, but this game was another memorable contest from that year.

Usually this is where I insert a touching family memory, but this one is pretty seedy. During the time of this game, I was mired in a very rare personal controversy. It was strange because I rarely have a problem with anybody and vice-versa. But I was playing “Curly”, the villain, in a West Virginia community theatre production of “Of Mice and Men”. As a 25-year old free agent, I joined the production to hook up with acting chicks. I thought my character, who was a complete slime ball, needed even more character, so I found it fitting to stuff socks in my jeans for effect. Well, let’s just say a few of the theatre regulars and the married woman playing my wife found my corked-Wranglers offensive. They called me in for a cast meeting. The stage manager that had been flirty with me tipped me off that it was some bizarre theatre-etiquette intervention to discuss my horrid behavior. That was to be at 7 PM. I was annoyed that I was in this position, especially since the Steelers were still on, so I decided to make them wait.

The Steelers won, so I was on quite a high. I’m not very confrontational, but I marched in late and announced my presence by pulling a pair of socks out of my pants and spiking it on the stage floor. I then proclaimed, “This is nothing compared to some of the things I’ve seen back stage. So lay off!” I then stated that I was leaving and pointed to the stage manager that helped me out and asked her if she was coming with me. It was kind of like a lame version of that scene in Jerry McGuire. But she rose to join me as I exited stage-something.

Nothing more was said the rest of the show’s run.

Probably not my best moment, but I finally started sticking up for myself, and always did after that. Did the Steelers really have anything to do with my new awakening? Well, I just witnessed their reawakening and was inspired. That 1997 team was one that had flaws and pitfalls, but rose above most of the season with a cool swagger.

So, yes...I kind of think so.

Pittsburgh isn’t the only home to a team called the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 6:07am

If you thought there was only one team in the world called the Steelers, you might be surprised to know the one is Pittsburgh is just one of many that carries the nickname

When it comes to team nicknames, some are more common than others and it should come as no surprise to learn that the most popular ones involve animals. According to the mascot database (yes there really is such a thing), more sports teams in America are called the Eagles than anything else. The second most popular name is the Tigers, with the Bulldogs, Panthers and Wildcats filling out the top-5.

While birds and cats appear to be featured the most in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers are the only two teams whose nicknames are inspired by the industries in their hometowns. As unique as the name “Steelers” might seem, it’s not exclusive to the professional football team that resides in Pittsburgh.

From California to New York, a number of high school football teams have adopted the nickname. Fontana High School in California calls itself the “Home of Steelers pride” as does Lackawanna High School in New York. The Farrell Steelers in Pennsylvania even drew comparisons by reporters to the Pittsburgh version after a big win last season, a headline we’re sure they’ve all used more than once before.

Various semi-pro football teams have adopted the Steelers nickname over the years and, although many, like the Rhode Island Steelers, are no longer in business, the Philadelphia Steelers and Westchester Steelers are just two examples of active teams using the name today.

A number of teams with the nickname have been involved in professional basketball leagues — for example, the Alabama Steelers and Gary (Indiana) Steelers, plus several in professional baseball leagues as well. The Moose Jaw Steelers were a team in the Western Canada Baseball League in 1961 based in Saskatchewan. Canada also was once the home of a professional soccer team called the Hamilton Steelers.

The handle has even traveled beyond North America, with teams in a variety of sports bearing the nickname on three other continents. The Kobelco Steelers are a professional rugby team in Japan owned by the Kobe Steel company. While they might not officially carry the moniker, the Australian Paralympic wheelchair-rugby team is known as the Australian Steelers. Not to be outdone, New Zealand also has a rugby team called the Steelers, or to give their full name, the Counties Manukau PIC Steelers.

Surprisingly, the UK is home to the most teams outside of North America with the name, as well as the home of perhaps the most successful professional sports teams carrying the nickname and not based in Pittsburgh. The Sandwell Steelers are an amateur football team in the British-American Football league who apparently just secured their place in the playoffs last weekend. The Kings Cross Steelers are a rugby team based in London who won their league last season. The Sheffield Steelers are a professional ice-hockey team in the Elite Ice Hockey League who have won multiple league and cup titles dating back to 1994 and they’re one of the more dominant teams in the history of British ice hockey.

If you know of another sports team called the Steelers we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments section below and, should you ever find yourself near one of these teams in the future, be sure to try and catch a game in your black-and-gold attire to represent on behalf of the originals.

Predicting the Steelers 53-man roster, by position: Cornerbacks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 12:58pm

While other outlets are giving you just one bland prediction article, we’re taking it position-by-position as we make our way through the team’s 53-man roster.

For those of you who read the headline to this article and rolled your eyes thinking “Here we go again with another 53-man roster prediction article” — think again.

Every outlet around the country is doing their own version of predicting who will, and won’t, make the Pittsburgh Steelers’ final roster after training camp. The preseason has officially ended, but I decided to go a bit more in-depth on the prediction side of things. Therefore, I decided to lead up to my first complete 53-man roster prediction by going position-by-position and deciding who makes the team and who doesn’t.

Today’s position: Cornerbacks

Depth Chart/Roster:

Joe Haden
Artie Burns
Mike Hilton
Cameron Sutton
Brian Allen
Dashaun Phillips
Coty Sensabaugh
Jamar Summers

Unlike the other positions I’ve covered in this series, while the majority of the depth chart is set in stone, the cornerback position might be the deepest position on the team. After the top 3-4 players, there is plenty to debate. No one really knows how many cornerbacks the Steelers will keep, but I’ll take a stab at who will stick around and who will be looking for employment elsewhere.

This will certainly be something not decided until training camp/the preseason rolls around, but I have a feeling I know what the depth chart will look like, and how each player will fit into the team’s scheme when all is said and done, barring injury.

Top 3:

Artie Burns — Barring a huge step backwards, which I don’t see coming, Burns is the starter on the outside coming into camp. The 2016 first round pick has a lot to prove this year, but he should be the starter heading into Week 1.

Joe Haden — The aging veteran still has something left in the tank, and like Burns, barring an injury or setback he will be opposite Artie when the real game start in September.

Mike Hilton — Of all the cornerbacks on the Steelers’ roster, this one has been debated the least. Hilton burst onto the scene in 2017, and didn’t fade at all throughout the season. Hilton has huge expectations hanging over his head in 2018. He will be the top cornerback coming off the bench.

Depth Player(s)/Special Teamers:

Cameron Sutton — Sutton will likely be the 4th cornerback on the depth chart, at least to start the season, and can play inside, outside, safety and can even return kicks. His versatility makes him a very valuable part of the defense/team.

Brian Allen — The second year cornerback will be expected to provide depth at cornerback, and be a key member of special teams in 2018.

Deshaun Phillips — If the Steelers keep six cornerbacks, Phillips is their guy. While Sensabaugh has the experience, the team can save some money by going with Phillips, and fans shouldn’t forget the Steelers traded with the Redskins for Phillips — which speaks volumes about how they view him as a prospect.

Players to be Cut:

Coty Sensabaugh
Jamar Summers


Roster Spots taken: 24/53 Next position: Outside Linebackers Past Articles:

Predicting the Starting Safeties
Predicting the Starting Inside Linebackers
Predicting the Starting Wide Receivers
Predicting the Starting Running Backs

New Madden 19 ratings are out, and several members of the Steelers are not very happy

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 11:40am

The latest player rankings for Madden 19 have been released and some of the Steelers’ players are less than happy.

EA Sports may not be due to release Madden 19 until August 10, but that didn’t stop them from giving fans an early look at the updated player ratings for their latest version of the game on Tuesday. But not everyone was happy with the new numbers.

Although the grades are somewhat subjective, there can be little question they shape the opinions of some fans. As for the players, the ratings can be a source of pride or shame. Countless players over the years have complained about their scores and 2018 looks like no exception, with several players earning grades far below a level they would have expected to see when compared to their peers.

Unsurprisingly, Antonio Brown is the highest-rated player in the game on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster and one of the few players to earn a score of 99, but others on the team weren’t so fortunate. Le’Veon Bell won’t be too dissatisfied with his rating of 96, but Cameron Heyward seemed far from pleased with a score of 88.

What a joke

— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) July 10, 2018

88 and it’s trash

— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) July 11, 2018

When you consider Heyward was voted onto the All-Pro team and also made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2017, his complaint seems entirely justified given the rankings earned by the other names on the list.

Ryan Shazier was another player unhappy with his score when he thought he was getting an 85 a few weeks ago and a final official rating of 86 for 2018 is hardly the improvement he was hoping for.

@EAMaddenNFL hey I know im not a 99 club yet madden. But I feel I deserve better than an 85. I see to many LBs that’s rated higher than me.

— Ryan Shazier (@RyanShazier) June 28, 2018

This is one of the most disrespectful things I seen a a long time. @EAMaddenNFL what did I do to deserve this?? pic.twitter.com/1RJuN58xnB

— Ryan Shazier (@RyanShazier) July 11, 2018

After Brown and Bell, David DeCastro is the next highest rated player with a 95, followed by Ben Roethlisberger who earns a disappointing 88 along with Heyward. Joe Haden (85) and Artie Burns (81) should be fairly happy with their grades, all things considered. But it’s hard to imagine Cameron Sutton being too thrilled with his rating of 69, a lower grade than the 71 safety Jordan Dangerfield earned.

In the battle of the backup quarterbacks, EA Sports seems to believe Mason Rudolph is the best of the three after giving him a score of 72. Joshua Dobbs received a rating of 69 and Landry Jones was given the lowest grade of the group with a 65. Many of the lowest-rated players figure to be off of the Steelers’ roster long before the regular season begins, but spare a thought for long-snapper Kameron Canaday, oddly the lowest player in the game on the Pittsburgh roster after he was given a rating of just 40.

Those possibly most pleasantly surprised by a generous rating this year might be tight end Vance McDonald (79), linebacker Bud Dupree (72) and defensive tackle Daniel McCullers (71). But as something of a games aficionado and a regular Madden player, JuJu Smith-Schuster cannot be too impressed with his score of 80.

My own personal gripe among the many questionable ratings is how anyone could possibly give Pro Bowl kicker Chris Boswell a score of 79, yet give a higher grade to 13 different kickers in the league. That is quite simply insane, he’s easily an 85 if ever I’ve seen one and don’t get me started on Pro Bowl fullback Roosevelt Nix receiving a 68, that is just insulting.

Lawyer: Former Pitt star LeSean McCoy orchestrated assault of woman

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 10:40am

ATLANTA — The lawyer for the ex-girlfriend of NFL star LeSean McCoy says the Buffalo Bills running back orchestrated an attack that left her bloody amid attempts to get her to leave his suburban Atlanta mansion.

New Panthers owner David Tepper under contract to keep Richardson statue

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 9:44am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While new Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper would like the focus to be on his plans for the team’s future, he cannot completely put the franchise’s sullied past behind him.

Ike Taylor chimes in about the contract situation between Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 9:23am

Bell’s former teammate opens up about the contract situation which will be coming to a head in less than a week.

Life in the National Football League opens up players and teams for criticism from all directions. Essentially, anyone with a website, social media account or a voice chimes in regarding the news surrounding all things NFL.

This certainly has been the case when someone brings up the contract situation between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell.

Fans love to shout how Bell should be a team player, while former players talk about how Bell has to look out for himself, his future, his family and his overall well-being. Either way, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but their opinion doesn’t mean a thing unless they have some type of inside information.

This is where Ike Taylor comes in. Taylor, who retired in 2015 on the heels of his teammate and best friend Troy Polamalu, still remains close to the organization. Taylor spent last preseason as a scouting intern with the team, and was present throughout training camp and the preseason.

In other words, he’s still very much connected to the team and the players. So, when he talks about what Bell is thinking and/or saying, I’m more inclined to listen compared to someone like Colin Cowherd or Stephen A. Smith.

After being dismissed by the NFL Network, it seems as if Taylor has found a home with CBS Sports, and of course he was recently asked about the contract situation that will come to a head by July 16th.

Here’s what Taylor had to say about the whole situation:

“This is a good and bad situation for Le’Veon,” Taylor said. “Good meaning everything is guaranteed with his franchise tag. Bad meaning you don’t know if you’re going to be a Pittsburgh Steeler for life, something I know Le’Veon wants to do. And I know the Rooneys also want to work that deal out with Le’Veon.

“On the other hand, I’m preserving my body as a running back. That’s how I’m looking at it. I’m missing training camp, you know I’m staying in shape, you know my physique, you know my body of work when I get on the field. That’s they way I’m looking at Le’Veon.

”Now, from a coaching standpoint and a teammate standpoint, I’m looking at it like, ‘Le’Veon, you’re the difference in the locker room, we love your camaraderie, you’ve got a different type of personality which we love, and we need you here.’

”But for Le’Veon, he has to make a business decision on a number in which he likes from the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Taylor brings a unique perspective as both a member of the media and a former player, and he lays out the true crux of the situation between the two parties. Bell, although he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, has to look after himself and get the most money he feels he deserves. Meanwhile, the Steelers, who want Bell to stay in Pittsburgh, can’t sell the proverbial farm to keep him at his asking price.

Either way, this conundrum will be resolved soon enough. On July 16th, fans will finally know if it is Franchise Tag 2.0, or a new contract for Bell and his reporting to camp. Finality is on the horizon.

Former NFL WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh reveals just how cheap the Bengals used to be

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 7:24am

Cincinnati has never been known as one of the league’s big spenders, but revelations from one of their former players on Monday were surprising

The Cincinnati Bengals have never been one of the league’s free-spending teams, with former owner Paul Brown well known for keeping a tight rein on the purse strings. But life seemingly has not improved much under his son either. Mike Brown took control of the team in 1991 and the Bengals are consistently one of the teams with the most salary cap space available at the start of each new league year, often reluctant to spend the money necessary to retain their best players.

But if not for an interview with former NFL wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh posted by Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports on Monday, we would never have known just how cheap the Bengals really were until now.

Storytime with T.J. Houshmandzadeh about the early years with the Bengals: No bottled water or Gatorade, jockstrap issues and showing up to home games straight from the club pic.twitter.com/nvSX7STorM

— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) July 9, 2018

According to the Bengals’ former wide receiver and scourge of Steelers Nation for many of his years in Cincinnati, the Bengals organization went to extreme lengths to save money during his rookie season. Rather than provide bottled water or Gatorade in the locker rooms, the players were given only access to a water fountain. While that might seem only a minor hardship, their policy on jock-straps was much more disturbing. As Houshmandzadeh told Cowherd.

“The year before I got there, [offensive tackle] Willie Anderson was telling me ,they didn't even have jock-straps. They would buy, get a bunch of used jock-straps, throw them in the middle of the locker room and say ‘here you go’.”

Thankfully, for the sake of hygiene and plain human decency, Willie Anderson and rookie running back Ki-Jana Carter purchased new ones for the entire team, but even this wasn’t the low point of the Bengals’ thriftiness.

Every NFL team in the league puts their players in a hotel the night before a home game, although that was apparently not the case in Cincinnati. In a cost-saving move, the Bengals ownership opted to have their players stay at home when they had a game at Paul Brown Stadium. A decision that shows why the rest of the league insists on their team staying in a hotel.

“Everybody stayed in hotels for every home game, every team I’ve been on. When I first got to the Bengals, we stayed at home. So, as a rookie, you figure ‘Oh I was inactive last week, I’m going to be inactive this week’, you’d go out. You’d go out and go straight from the club to the stadium on Sunday.”

The entire interview has to be heard to be believed, and I encourage you to click on the link above to listen to Houshmandzadeh’s words in person. As he observes, the arrival of Marvin Lewis in 2003 brought about a culture change, and many of these practices were quickly ended. But with Brown still very much in charge of the team, you have to wonder about the other ways he’s found to save money these days.

What Antonio Brown needs to do to become known as the best all-time Steelers WR

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 6:10am

Among the greatest receivers in Steelers’ franchise lore, where does Antonio Brown rank?

The Steelers have always seemed to have a stalwart catching passes in the Steel City. The Pittsburgh pass-catcher of the 30s was Bill Sortet. Elbie Nickel and Val Jasante led the end-of-the 40s, while Ray Matthews was the man of the 1950s. Buddy Dial, Gary Ballman and Roy Jefferson were stars of the 60s. The 70s started with Ron Shanklin ruling, but Lynn Swann and John Stallworth were revolutionary in that decade. The 80s were defined by Stallworth and Louis Lipps, while Yancey Thigpen and Charles Johnson made the 90s nice. In the 2000s, Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes were the prize guys. Mike Wallace seemed to be the talent for the 2010s, but that was short-lived. The reason for that was the surprising emergence of a sixth-rounder out of Central Michigan...Antonio Tavaris Brown.

Who is the cream of this incredible crop? Stallworth and Swann were paramount in delivering four championships, ranking third and sixth respectively in receiving yards and fourth and sixth in receptions. These two were considered the preeminent receivers in the team’s history. Heath Miller is regarded as the finest TE ever to wear the black-and-gold with 592 catches (ranks 3rd) and 6,569 yards (ranks 4th). Louis Lipps (358 receptions/6,018 yards) ranks fifth in both categories. Ward is the reigning champ, and tops the charts with both 1,000 receptions and 12,083 yards, but like Stallworth (14 seasons/165 games) and Miller (11 seasons/168 games)...Hines accumulated that top status in a high number of seasons (15) and games (217).

Brown came to the Steelers almost as an afterthought. The son of perhaps the greatest Arena Leaguer in history, Eddie Brown of the Albany Firebirds, Antonio joined a crowded wide receiver stable which featured Ward, Wallace, Arnaz Battle, the returning Antwaan Randle-El and third-rounder Emmanuel Sanders. His return skills helped get him drafted and displace Stefan Logan. His work ethic and drive kept him on the team, despite Bruce Arians allegedly lobbying to release him. Brown broke out in 2011, being named a Pro-Bowler when he became the first NFL player to eclipse 1,000 yards in both receiving and returns in the same season. When Wallace’s contract demands got combative, the organization surprised many by awarding Brown with the big contract (five-year/$42.5 Million) and letting the speedster walk the following year. After injuries derailed his 2012 season, No. 84 began an epic run (never-before-or-since-accomplished) of five-straight seasons with over 100 receptions. His lowest yardage total in that span was 1,284 in 2016, 101 catches in 2017 and eight touchdowns in 2013. In eight seasons, he was named All-Pro four times, and to the Pro Bowl six times. This tops everybody ahead of him on the list.

No. 84, in only 115 career games, ranks second in catches (733)/receiving yards (9,910) and third in career TD catches (59) behind Ward’s (85) and Stallworth’s (63). Two seasons would be a stretch for Brown to catch Ward with receptions and TDs, but the 2,174 needed to be the yardage champ seems doable. Being under contract for another three years, the Miami native seems like a lock, barring injury, to end his career atop these three major categories for the Steelers.

All of the other players ranked in the top-6 in team-receiving history, except Lipps (who never played in one), are Super Bowl champions. Ward and Swann are SB MVPs, while Stallworth could, and should, have been named one for his performance in Super Bowl XIV. Brown was not a big factor in his only SB appearance, a loss to Green Bay his rookie year.

With all of Antonio’s tremendous accomplishments, he’s considered by some as one of the greatest of receivers in Steelers’ history. But some are giving him the Dan Marino treatment. The belief is that he won’t be considered the king of Steelers “Catch Mountain” until he has a ring on his finger. Brown is driven to win a title, and has expressed his intense desire to do so.

A Lombardi validated Bill Cowher’s successful career even further, and it would do the same for Antonio Brown. But the major question remaining still is whether the absence of a Super Bowl title is the main factor keeping Brown from being named “Best Steelers Receiver” of all-time? And if so, would one be enough?

Ron Cook: Steelers camp a sports lifeline, but about those Pro Football Focus rankings

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 6:00am

There is a lifeline in the sea of sports despair created by another Pirates miserable season. It comes from Pro Football Focus and gives us something to discuss in a slow time of the year with the local baseball team so irrelevant again. It also is a much-needed reminder Steelers training camp opens in two weeks. I can’t wait.

Let's talk about the Steelers' 'Madden 2019' ratings

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Tue, 07/10/2018 - 6:25pm

If you play as the Steelers in “Madden 2019,” you might want to throw the ball to Antonio Brown.

Could the Steelers get involved in this year's supplemental draft?

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Tue, 07/10/2018 - 5:04pm

The NFL supplemental draft will take place Wednesday with five players eligible to be selected by any of the league’s 32 teams. Just don’t count on the Steelers being active participants.

Former Pitt star LeSean McCoy denies domestic violence, steroid accusations

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Tue, 07/10/2018 - 3:35pm

Buffalo Bills running back and former Pitt standout LeSean McCoy said an allegation posted on social media accusing him of bloodying his former girlfriend’s face is baseless and false.

Everything you need to know about the 2018 NFL supplemental draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/10/2018 - 2:50pm

The supplemental draft will be held on Wednesday July 11 and we have all the information you need to know from the Steelers persepctive

The NFL will hold their 41st annual supplemental draft on July 11 at 1 p.m. ET and for the first time in three years, there are actually some prospects who might get selected. Isaiah Battle was the last player to be picked in a supplemental draft when the St. Louis Rams gave up a fifth-round draft choice for him in 2015 and only 43 players have ever been taken dating back to 1977.

Open to players who did not declare for the main draft in April, but are still three years removed from high school, supplemental draft applicants are traditionally underclassmen who have been ruled ineligible for the upcoming college season, often due to academic or disciplinary reasons.

While it is not broadcast publicly, the teams connect with the league office online to make their selections and follow a prearranged draft order. Teams are split into three groups and the order within each group is determined by a weighted lottery system. Ultimately, it will closely follow the order of April’s draft and Pittsburgh are sure to be picking towards the end of each round.

Should the Steelers be interested in taking one of the names available, they simply need to enter a bid for the player they want and hope they are the first team in that round to choose that prospect. Any pick they make would require them to give up the corresponding selection in the 2019 NFL draft.

Although Pittsburgh has yet to select a player in any supplemental draft, they gave Terrelle Pryor some serious consideration in 2011 and may have their eye on a few prospects from the 2018 class. This year there are five names eligible to be selected as there is a good chance that at least two of them will be taken on Wednesday.

Top of the list for most teams is Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal. Rated by some draft experts as a possible second-round talent or better, Beal looks almost certain to be the first off the board. An impressive showing at his pro day will have done little to put teams off either.

One team told me they viewed Beal as 2nd-round pick had he been in 2018 draft, but that round likely to be lower in sup draft. Keep eye on teams with extra picks in Rounds 3-4 next year, including Browns (Round 3) and Bills (4). https://t.co/9OOBymQvDE

— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) June 28, 2018

If Beal does go early, that could easily open the door for another team to make a move for Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander. Like Beal, Alexander was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for academic reason, but he also has some disciplinary issues that might scare some teams off, including a charge for possession of marijuana. However, as a 6-foot-2 cornerback, many teams will be able to look past his transgressions if they believe he has the talent to play in the NFL. Matt Barrows of the San Francisco Bee reported 26 teams were on hand for his pro day and there can be little doubt there is plenty of interest in him around the league.

Official pro day workout results yesterday for @VT_Football CB Adonis Alexander:

Ht/wt: 6-2 1/4, 194
Hands/arms: 9/31
40: 4.62/4.63 (indoors/field turf)
VJ: 35.5
BJ: 10-4
SS: 4.38
3-cone: 7.19
Bench: 9

Redskins DB coach Torrian Gray ran drills. Alexander had good workout.

— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) June 21, 2018

Former Mississippi State safety Brandon Bryant might be less likely to be selected than the aforementioned names, but he has already drawn the attention of the Steelers. Pittsburgh was one of the 14 teams on hand for his pro day and Bryant has an outside chance of being selected in the later rounds. Considered to be somewhat undersized for the position at 5-foot-11, Bryant should have impressed the scouts with his athleticism and speed, but will have questions to answer about his maturity and an arrest for drink-driving in January 2017.

Official pro day results for CB Brandon Bryant (supplemental draft date July 11):

Ht/Wt: 5-11/207
Arms: 32 7/8
Hands: 9 3/8
40: 4.45/4.52 (field turf)
SS: 4.23
3-cone: 7.26/7.52
VJ: 34
BJ: 10-3
Bench: DNP

*11 teams attended https://t.co/xPGt8iGxBX

— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) June 25, 2018

Rounding out the draft class are Oregon State linebacker Bright Ugweogbu and Grand Valley State running back Marty Carter. After Ugweogbu was indefinitely suspended from college for undisclosed reasons, there are sure to be teams wary about taking a linebacker with off-field issues who is 6-foot-1, weighs only 205 pounds and ran a 4.95 40 at a pro day attended by six teams.

Carter did not hold a pro day, preferring to let his game film speak for itself instead. At 6-foot and 200-pounds, Carter was a two time first team All-GLIAC running back and rushed for 2,797 yards on 391 carries as well as recording 19 receptions for 125 yards and 28 touchdowns in two seasons at Grand Valley State. While neither Carter or Ugweogbu are expected to be selected on Wednesday, both have a chance of making an NFL roster before training camp begins as undrafted free agents.

Two players have not been taken in the same supplemental draft since 2010 and you have to go all the way back to 1989 to find the last time three or more prospect were drafted in the same year, and although the 1989 record looks safe, that 2010 milestone could well be equalled in 2018.

The Steelers’ defensive philosophy remains the same, but execution needs to improve

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/10/2018 - 12:44pm

Is it scheme, execution, or both?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is not the strength of their team.

That’s hardly breaking news, and any Black-and-gold fan would gladly tell you exactly why the defense isn’t measuring up to the example set by the team’s star-studded offense. But after a season which had many highs (e.g. setting a new franchise record for sacks in a season), and many lows (e.g. Ryan Shazier’s injury and surrendering big plays at every turn), you have to think some significant adjustments will be made by the coaching staff.

After all, you can’t expect to do the same things and get a different result, can you?

This is when you get down to the discussion of which is more important — the game plan or the execution of said plan.

Depending on who you ask, the answer will vary. Anyone who’s had any significant coaching experience will tell you even the best laid plan will fall flat if the players on the field don’t follow the plan to a ‘T’. On the flip side, if the plan itself isn’t sufficient, there’s no need to even talk about execution, because, in this case, players would be executing a flawed plan.

This debate will go on and on, but when it comes to the 2018 Steelers’ defense, and when you listen to Keith Butler’s remarks, it seems that the philosophy of the defense won’t change. They’re just hoping for better execution from the players.

Check out what Butler said to the Steelers’ official website regarding the defensive plan for the upcoming season:

STOPPING THE RUN IS JOB ONE: “Same remedy we always try to use on defense, try to stop the run and get ’em in position where we know they’re going to throw the ball, and then try to rush the passer.”

RUN TO THE BALL: “What we always try to do and talk about it in meetings and stuff like that is make sure they’re running to the ball, everybody runs to the ball. Because we’re going to miss tackles, that happens. Hopefully we won’t miss too many tackles. If somebody misses a tackle, hopefully, we can run it down.”

MIX UP THE PASS RUSH: “I don’t think you can do the same thing all the time, you’ve heard me say that many, many times, or they’ll catch up with you and burn your butt. We gotta make sure we switch it up and give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

GET PRESSURE WITH FOUR WHENEVER POSSIBLE: “You can’t always blitz all the time. If you blitz all the time, they’re going pick it up and hurt you. You have to change it up. And you have to have a good enough four-man rush to be effective before your blitzing is effective. It’s a lot more effective if you can rush four, put pressure on the quarterback and play good coverage, and then every now and then blitz.”

GET SACKS FROM EVERYWHERE: “The only thing that matters to me is we get pressure on the quarterback. It really doesn’t matter to me who does it. We’re not looking to try to get anybody more sacks than the other. We’re just looking to try to put pressure on the quarterback the best way we can put pressure on the quarterback.”

WORK IN CONCERT: “Like I’ve always said, coverage and rush, they have to go together.”

NO BIG PLAYS ALLOWED: “We’re not going to win a world championships doing that. We have to take care of the splash plays, the chunk plays on the other side.”

While you can’t expect Butler to wax poetic about all the changes the Steelers will be implementing this preseason, you have to think fans won’t see any drastic changes, but essentially maintaining the status quo in 2018. If this is the case, you’ll get to see whether the problem is Butler’s system/philosophy, or the players execution of that system/philosophy.

With only a few pieces missing from the 2017 defense, Shazier, Robert Golden, Mike Mitchell and William Gay, there will still be room for improvement. Some debate which is more important, the plan or the play on the field. But it’ll need to be some combination of these factors if the Steelers want to return this season to the vaunted defense they once possessed — a defense which was feared, and one that did the intimidating, rather than the other way around.

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