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Miles Boykin’s great play in Week 18 may have brought him to Pittsburgh

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/26/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Boykin was a standout on special teams in the Ravens’ overtime loss to the Steelers.

The Steelers didn’t just pick up Miles Boykin, they spent a waiver claim to get the rights to the former Baltimore Raven. In doing so they committed to paying him just over $2.5 million dollars, which is more than they paid Terrell Edmunds to return to the team.

That’s a pretty serious investment for a player who caught one pass for 6 yards in 2022.

K.T. Smith already broke down his play at wide receiver, and what value he may bring to the team in the passing game, so I won’t cover that.

What I want to look at is the final game of the 2022 regular season, when the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime to earn a playoff berth in Ben Roethlisberger’s final season. In that game Boykin didn’t play a single snap on offense, but he was an impactful force for the Ravens on special teams.

Steelers at Ravens, 1st quarter, 15:00

Miles Boykin is second from the bottom of the screen for the Ravens.

Boykin’s job on kickoffs is getting downfield quick and forcing the returner to run to the middle of the field. You can see Ray-Ray McCloud take a step to Boykin’s side before cutting into the middle through a small gap in the coverage. Boykin was in the right spot and has the physicality to counter blockers and take away outside returns. He was effective in that role all season for the Ravens.

His best role on special teams is as a gunner on special teams. As the gunner, Boykin’s job is to get downfield fast and disrupt the punt return.

Steelers at Ravens, 2nd quarter, 5:40

Miles Boykin is the gunner, farthest to the bottom of the screen.

James Pierre is one of the better blockers in the NFL on punt returns, he mirrors well and is physical enough to control most gunners off the snap. Boykin’s release off the line is pretty well countered by Pierre, but his strength and speed win the matchup and Pierre is forced to let him go or get a holding penalty. Boykin shuts this return down, forcing a fair catch.

Steelers at Ravens, 2nd quarter, 2:43

Miles Boykin is the gunner, farthest to the top of the screen.

Here Boykin is away from Pierre. He wins the release easily with his long arms and solid hand fighting, uses his physicality to create space for himself, finds the ball and catches it, putting the Steelers inside the 10 yard line.

You can see some of the value a wide receiver offers in the gunner role compared to defensive backs, with their releases and hand fighting directly applying to the job. Boykin brings physicality and speed to the role as well, and while he doesn’t record many tackles (3 tackles in 417 special teams snaps for his career), you can see how tackles aren’t a key stat for covering punts. Forcing a fair catch or downing a punt are better than recording a tackle, even if it means you get no stat for the play.

Boykin was good enough on punt coverage to warrant special attention from the Steelers later in the game.

Steelers at Ravens, Overtime, 6:38

Miles Boykin is the gunner, farthest to the bottom of the screen.

The Steelers double teamed Boykin, and you can see the physicality and power he brings to the job as he fights through the double team block to again be in position to help had this punt been returned.

Miles Boykin brings one more benefit to the punt unit that deserves to be covered.

Miles Boykin is the Raven farthest to the bottom of the screen.

As a wide receiver with solid hands, Boykin is always a threat to catch a pass if his team decides to fake a punt. The Steelers drafted Pressley Harvin III in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and Harvin threw a touchdown pass in college. The Steelers didn’t have wide receivers playing the gunner role on the punting team though, and they didn’t have Harvin attempt a pass. With Miles Boykin on the unit with Harvin III, the Steelers have that threat.

I view Miles Boykin as a very good special teams player, who played on three of the four special teams units (he also played on kick returns but didn’t stand out). I wouldn’t call him a special teams ace though, and at 2.54 million dollars he will be slightly more expensive for 2022 than likely starting safety Terrell Edmunds. I expect that they see potential in Boykin to be a more productive receiver in Pittsburgh than he was in Baltimore, because even a really good punt and kickoff coverage player isn’t worth that kind of pay, unless Harvin III to Boykin becomes a regular connection...

Should the Steelers select a WR in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers need more talent at wide receiver. Should they take one early or late in the draft? Or double up at the position?

With each Big Board article this spring, the BTSC Big Board crew will be publishing a second article complementary to that respective portion of the big board. This week, we are going over this year’s class of wide receivers and whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers will want to draft that position in April.

If you have thoughts as to whether or not the Steelers should draft an wideout, let us know in the comment section below. Let’s see what our resident draft analysts have to say.

Ryland B.: The Steelers are in major need of some receiver talent, as Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are the only two wideouts on their roster at the moment who are proven starters. And if you’ve been following the news, there’s a chance Johnson’s future with the Steelers may be in doubt. As a result, I think the Steelers need to target a receiver in the first three rounds.

In the first round, the Steelers will likely be prioritizing QB, CB, and possibly DL, but if one of Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, or Jameson Williams is somehow available at #20, they would be hard to leave on the board. Jahan Dotson could be an intriguing option here as well. However, the team’s second round pick is the ideal receiver spot, where there’s a chance my draft crushes this year in Christian Watson and George Pickens could be in play. Skyy Moore or John Metchie wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize, either. Beyond that, it’s a deep receiver class and the Steelers are proven talent evaluators at the position, so I wouldn’t mind them taking a flier on a seventh-round pass-catcher in addition to an earlier pick at the position. All in all, wide receiver is something the Steelers absolutely have to address in the upcoming draft.

Andrew Wilbar: A more practical question may be “How many receivers will the Steelers draft?” If the Steelers do not come away with a receiver by the end of Friday, I will be not only shocked, but thoroughly disappointed. I am afraid the run on receivers will occur between picks 20 and 45, which could put the Steelers in a bind picking at 52. If Skyy Moore is there, I would be somewhat surprised if the Steelers passed on him, but I am not sure whether he will be available or not.

If Moore is gone, two names to watch at pick 52 are John Metchie III and Wan’Dale Robinson. Robinson would be a reach in the second round, but he is a versatile weapon I could see Matt Canada having an affinity for. If they decide to double-dip at the position, Isaiah Weston could be in play on day three. The Steelers reportedly have interest in him, and his testing numbers are similar to those of Martavis Bryant.

Do you think the Steelers should acquire an receiver this offseason? If so, when and how should they do it? Let us know your thoughts by voting in the poll and commenting down below.

2022 NFL Draft: Biggest Day 3 Sleepers at each position (Defense)

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/26/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who should the Steelers be targeting on day three of the draft? Here are some late-round NFL Draft prospects you need to know about.

I do many different draft-related articles here at BTSC, but outside of my mock drafts, my favorite articles each year are my articles focused on the biggest sleepers in the draft. First-round picks and quarterbacks get talked about by the national draft pundits at nauseum, and we generally become familiarized with our favorite prospects that may be available on day two of the draft, but very rarely are the day-three prospects even mentioned when talking about the draft. Today, we are going to shed some light on the best late-round draft prospects you may not have heard about.

Just like last year, we will split the sleeper series into two parts: offense and defense. Today, we will take a closer look at the defensive side of the ball. In case you missed last year’s defensive sleeper article, one of the sleepers I mentioned was Illinois corner Nate Hobbs, who started 9 games for the Raiders and recorded 74 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 passes defended, and 1 interception.

This year, there will be a plethora of talented prospects available in the later rounds as well, some of which we will discuss today. If you want a full rundown of the day-three prospects in this draft, make sure you check out the final BTSC Big Board, which will be released the week of the draft. It will include in-depth breakdowns for the top 250+ prospects in this year’s draft, and just like last year, we will have a printable PDF of the Big Board rankings that you can use as a source and guide on draft weekend.

If you have any thoughts on the players mentioned in this article, be sure to share them in the comment section below. Do not forget to share your own list of steals as well!

Let’s get to the sleepers!

Defensive Line

Glen Logan | NT | LSU

There are not any day-three defensive line prospects that blow me away, but Logan definitely has me intrigued if he slips to round 6 or 7. As a sophomore defensive end in 2018, Logan had his most productive season as a pass rusher, recording 4 sacks and 5 tackles for loss in 12 games. If he can enjoy good health in the NFL, he has a chance to stick around for a while. Here is my scouting report on Logan for the BTSC Big Board.

Andrew Wilbar: Glen Logan brings some intrigue on day three. He lacked consistency as a pass rusher, but there are times when you watch him on tape and think that he could potentially become a 3-down nose tackle. He has suffered some foot injuries, however, and foot injuries can be a nagging issue for big linemen. Those injuries cost him a handful of games throughout his collegiate career. He does not close on ball-carriers quickly, but he takes up a good chunk of space in the middle of the defense, While I see him as nothing greater than a day-three prospect, I do believe there is a bit of untapped potential here.

Other Sleepers: Eyioma Uwazurike (Iowa State), Noah Elliss (Idaho), Chris Hinton (Michigan)

EDGE Rushers Adam Anderson | EDGE | Georgia

One of the most polarizing prospects in this draft, Anderson brings a wealth of talent to the table at outside linebacker. He still need to fill out his frame, but he has the length to do so. His pad level needs to become a little more consistent, but that is also a fixable issue. With elite quickness and explosiveness coming off the edge, Anderson should have plenty of suitors on day three. Here is my scouting report on him for the BTSC Big Board.

If not for off-field concerns, Anderson would be a top-50 pick hands down. His frame is on the lighter side, but he is quick, bendy, feisty, and instinctual. I expect him to add additional weight once he gets with a strength-and-conditioning program in the NFL, which should ease concerns about functional strength. The problem lies in his character, or lack thereof. In November of 2021, Georgia suspended Anderson after he was accused of rape. He was released on bond not long after, but a second allegation quickly followed. If his legal situation clears up and he stays clean from here on out, he could be a tremendous steal on day three, but it is a major risk to invest high draft capital in him.

Jesse Luketa | EDGE | Penn State

Luketa did not play an overabundance on the edge, but that is where I believe he projects best at the NFL level. He may not have tested well at the combine, but he is a sound tackler, and he closes on opposing ball handlers in a hurry. Here is what I had to say about Luketa on the BTSC Big Board.

Luketa is one of my favorite day-three prospects in the draft. While his athletic testing was unbelievably poor, he put out impressive tape in 2021 for scouts to look at. The numbers are not going to jump off the page, buthe began playing a snap at outside linebacker here and there as the season went on. He was primarily a middle linebacker at Penn State, but to me, it was as clear as day that he was playing out of position. When aligned at outside linebacker, he simply displayed a better feel for the game. He timed his jumps off the line of scrimmage almost perfectly, and he looked incredibly smooth coming around the edge, displaying a natural feel for rushing the passer. While his straight-line speed may not be elite, he has excellent closing speed, and he rarely misses a tackle once he closes on the ball-carrier. If the Steelers can grab him late on day three, it would be one of the best value picks in the entire draft.

Other Sleepers: Owen Carney, Jr. (Illinois), Big Kat Bryant (UCF)

Inside Linebackers D’Marco Jackson | ILB | Appalachian State

Jackson may not be the biggest linebacker, but he plays a downhill, hardnosed style of football Steelers fans would love. Jackson raised eyebrows with his 4.55 40 at the combine, but what is more impressive is his production. During the 2021 season, the Appalachian State linebacker recorded 119 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 5 passes defended, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. Here is my full report on Jackson from the BTSC Big Board.

Jackson’s play speed and physicality is impressive when you watch him on tape. Despite his lack of elite size, Jackson has a nasty streak in him, delivering big hits on opposing ball-carriers consistently. I also came away impressed with Jackson’s ability to close holes quickly. The instincts to predict which hole the runner is going to go through is evident on tape as well, as he is quick to shoot gaps and plug holes in the run game. While I do have concerns about his change-of-direction skills and fluidity in coverage, I do like his ability as a blitzer. He is incredibly lethal on delayed blitzes, displaying fantastic closing speed. Size and agility are the potential downsides here, but once we get to day three, there will be plenty of teams who are willing to take a risk on him.

Other Sleepers: Malcolm Rodriguez (Oklahoma State), Tariq Carpenter (LB/S —Georgia Tech)

Cornerback Jack Jones | CB | Arizona State

Jones dealt with some off-field issues early in his collegiate career, but he seems to have gotten his head screwed on correctly, receiving academic accolades as well as football accolades since then. With the Steelers currently in need of a nickel cornerback, I have payed close attention to Jones and consider him to be an excellent value pick on day three. Here is what I had to say about Jones on the BTSC Big Board.

Jones was a five-star athlete coming out of high school who had committed to USC. After a breakout 2017 season, Jones’ was declared ineligible to participate in football for academic reasons. It did not end there, however. During the summer of 2018, Jones was arrested for burglary, and his football career was in jeopardy. To make a long story short, Jones transferred to Arizona State, got his life into some sort of order, and actually made the Dean’s List for the 2020 spring semester. He has matured greatly during his time at Arizona State and has now regained his footage as a draft prospect. After a year of solid production followed by an impressive combine performance, he is more than worthy of a mid-round selection. He would provide schematic versatility to any team in need of a slot corner.

Darrell Baker, Jr. | CB | Georgia Southern

Baker may be the most exciting of the sleepers at cornerback, as he is an athletic specimen who displays tremendous confidence in his physical abilities. Just a couple years ago, there was a corner coming out of Georgia Southern by the name of Kindle Vildor, who is now playing a prominent role in the Chicago Bears secondary. Only time will tell as to whether or not Baker can find the same success, but he possesses every physical trait you look for in a corner. Here is my scouting report on him from the BTSC Big Board:

Baker is relatively new to the position, but he looks the part of an NFL cornerback. Not only does he have adequate size, but at his pro day, he recorded a 4.43 in the 40, a 41 ½” vertical, a 135” broad jump, and a 7.07 in the 3-cone drill. The athleticism is off the charts, and it is evident when you watch him on the field. He has incredible explosiveness in hips, and his fluidity when moving laterally is second to none for someone as new to the position as he is. The turnover production has not yet arrived, but Baker does have the ability to create splash plays, having played receiver in high school.

Jeremy Betz and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for the Steelers Draft Fix, and we both came away impressed with his confidence and demeanor. You can check out the full interview below.

Gregory Junior | CB | Ouachita Baptist

Junior is in a similar boat to Baker in that neither prospect has been given many opportunities to face high-end competition at the collegiate level. However, just like Baker, Junior has dominated the level of competition he has faced. We have not seen much production from him when it comes to creating turnovers, but in all fairness, his opportunities to create them have been few and far between. Here is my full scouting report on Junior from the BTSC Big Board.

Junior is a good athlete who provided lockdown coverage capabilities for a low-level college team. At 5’11 7/10”, 203, Junior recorded a 4.46 40, 18 bench reps, 39.5” vertical, 4.17 short shuttle, and 6.97 in the 3-cone drill. He has the versatility to play inside or out, and when it’s all said and done, he may actually be best suited for an outside role. He has some feistiness in him, has active hands at the LOS, and bumps receivers off their route. I would like to see him take better tackling angles, but he looks the part of an NFL corner. The only issue is that his success came against poor competition.

Other Sleepers: Damarri Mathis (Pittsburgh), Isaac Taylor-Stuart (USC), Tre Avery (Rutgers), Tony Adams (Illinois)

Safety Isaiah Pola-Mao | S | USC

Both safeties I am mentioning today have family ties to the Steelers. Pola-Mao, the cousin of Steelers legend Troy Polamalu, is an intriguing prospect oozing with upside. While he is not the same freak of an athlete that Troy was, Isaiah displays solid athleticism and physicality. With Karl Joseph and Miles Killebrew being the only legitimate depth options behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers could be in play for a safety on day three. If they indeed pull the trigger in the later rounds, Pola-Mao would make a ton of sense. Here is my scouting report on him from the BTSC Big Board.

In case you were wondering, Pola-Mao is the cousin of Steelers legend Troy Polamalu. It is surprising that he has flown under the radar, as there is a ton of untapped potential here. He is a physical safety who is not afraid to lower his shoulder and blast opposing receivers and running backs. Do not let his physical play style fool you though, as he displays plenty of range in coverage as well. I just feel as if USC failed to put him in position to create splash plays in 2021, and I also feel as if he was playing out of position, aligning primarily at free safety for the Trojans. At 6’3”, I think the best scenario would be for him to add a few pounds and move to strong safety, where his physicality and blitzing ability would be utilized in a better way. Pola-Mao is more than likely not the next Troy, but he could be a nice toy for Teryl Austin in the secondary. If you would like to look into Pola-Mao’s game more extensively, check out this film breakdown by former BTSC contributor and current Pro Football Network analyst Nick Farabaugh.

Quentin Lake | S | UCLA

Another safety who could logically end up with the Steelers, Lake is an instinctually sound player who displays excellent fluidity. He lacks have top-end speed, but for a safety of his play style, he has enough speed to get by. Here is my scouting report on Lake for the BTSC Big Board.

Quentin, the son of former Steeler Carnell Lake, was one of my day three sleepers in the 2021 draft class, but he decided to return to school in an attempt to improve his draft stock. He is primarily a free safety who brings solid athleticism and great instincts to the table. He has become much stronger against the run, and his tackling angles have also improved. He has also become unafraid to lower his shoulder, get dirty, and lower the boom on an opposing receiver. Overall, there is not much to complain about with Lake, especially when you consider that you will only be spending a late-round pick on him. Playing in a weak conference and playing games late at night may partially be why he is getting hyped so little, but don’t overthink it. Lake is a good football player who should definitely make an impact in the NFL, whether it be as a starter, backup, or special teamer.

Jeremy and I had the pleasure of interviewing Lake, who came across as a smart, friendly, and funny individual who enjoys playing an old-school style of football. You can check out the full interview below.

Other Sleepers: Markquese Bell (Florida A&M), D’Anthony Bell (West Florida), Nolan Turner (Clemson)

Those are my favorite defensive sleepers, but who are yours? Do you see any of late-round prospects in this draft that could be potential steals? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft in the comment section below!

12 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert in Monday’s press conference

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/26/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In their first press conference since January, the Steelers head coach and general manager were asked some questions about their current roster.

After three months of silence except for a brief Q&A ahead of the league meetings almost a month ago, Steelers fans were finally able to hear from head coach Mike Tomlin ahead of the 2022 NFL draft. Alongside Tomlin was Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert who both gave opening remarks before taking questions. Based on the questions, the “Players Mentioned” article is able to make a brief return! In order to have enough “players” I expanded the names highlighted to any members of the Steelers’ either past or present. Remember these are players mentioned in response to specific questions during the Q&A period. Whether it was Mike Tomlin or Kevin Colbert speaking will be noted.

Dwayne Haskins

The Steelers are still mourning the tragic loss of quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Coach Tomlin was asked if the tragedy has affected their outlook at the position in the upcoming draft.

Tomlin: “In regard to Dwayne, our energy has been on paying proper respect and supporting his family. We have not approached it from a business decision or a business decision-making standpoint. We feel like that’s the appropriate mindset for us to have as we sit here today.”

Terrell Edmunds

At the owners meeting, Kevin Colbert said the Steelers had capable starters at every position on the team other than strong safety. Colbert was asked how the team and Terrell Edmunds were able to come together on a contract to bring him back and if it affects their thoughts about drafting a safety this year.

Colbert: “We were open and honest with Terrell throughout the whole process, as he was with us. We were able to stay connected and see where it all went. We didn’t know where the market would be; he didn’t. We always encourage our free agents to look, it’s going to better serve you to go out and find out what else is there. And that’s part of the decision-making. Understand that we are doing the same thing on our side. Fortunately, he’s coming back to us, and he gives us that 22nd starter, so to speak. And when we say that, you know, I want to emphasize, we are not saying we’re good enough, we’re saying we have NFL veteran starters at each position. And the Draft process will provide great competition for that, but it isn’t like any of these young men that we drafted will come in and be ordained a starter. I know Coach doesn’t do that ordinarily, but when you don’t have great depth or what you believe to be a starter, sometimes those guys have to play a little quicker than possible — or than desirable, and we like to avoid that. Again, to Coach’s other point on the free agency, anything we did in free agency is not going to preclude us from drafting a player at that position.”

Benny Snell Jr. & Anthony McFarland Jr.

One position in which the backup role could possibly need an upgrade is running back. Coach Tomlin was asked about expectations for Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland for this year and if they need to add more players to the group.

Tomlin: “Both capable young guys. Their resumes speak for themselves. Benny has been capable as a backup runner, has been capable as a [special] teamer. McFarland less so, less availability there. But they will define their roles with how they perform and obviously how they perform against competition, competition that’s here and maybe competition that’s not here.”

Stephon Tuitt

Many people in Steelers’ Nation are still wondering about the availability of Stephon Tuitt for the 2022 season. Coach Tomlin was asked if there was any further clarity in regards to Tuitt.

Tomlin: “No. No updates, but he’s doing well.”

Coach Tomlin was asked a follow-up question specifically asking about last week’s voluntary workouts.

Tomlin: “No updates.”

Troy Polamalu, Santonio Holmes & Casey Hampton

One possibility going into the 2022 NFL draft is if the Steelers could trade up or down at various spots. Kevin Colbert was asked how many opportunities the Steelers have had to trade up or down over the years. In his response, Colbert mentioned both the two players the Steelers traded up for and the one player they got when trading down during his time as general manager.

Colbert: “That’s a lot to try to recall.”

Mike Tomlin: “Every year.”

Colbert: “When we go into it, we will have touched base with every team above us, below us; hey, they are interested in moving up, they are interested in coming down. We’ll guesstimate what it will cost to move from 20 to 7 and then from 20 back down to 32, and you’re always making those assessments. But we can always say what we gave up for Troy (Polamalu) , a 3 and a 6, to move up more spots. Then we gave up to move for Santonio (Holmes), we gave up a 3 and a 4, and I forget how many spots we moved, maybe four, but in those of those endeavors, both those moves helped us win a Super Bowl. That’s why we never will lock ourselves into — they have got draft charts with the numbers, and this is a good deal and not a good deal. I think you can determine all that only after the fact. So, we will be knowledgeable of what it will cost, and we will decide as it unfolds. I never want to trade for a specific spot without knowing a specific player, or if you go back to Casey Hampton, when we traded back, we traded back three spots, we had three people, Casey included, who was the top of those three that we would have felt good about. So, we are always making those decisions, but it’s never black and white

Brett Keisel & Heath Miller

There was a lot of focus on this being the last draft for general manager Kevin Colbert. Colbert was asked about if he had any particular draft that was his favorite. In his response, he outlined how different players were good draft picks from various spots, giving the example of Brett Kiesel in the seventh round and Heath Miller in the first.

Colbert: “Not really. I mean, again, obviously the ones that helped you win Super Bowls, those, but I can’t say which part of which one because different guys came out of different drafts. I mean, Brett Keisel was a seventh rounder, Heath Miller was a first. I can’t really say there’s one specific one. There’s too many to look back on. And maybe there’s not enough to look back on, too, because Coach and I are never going to be satisfied with what our results were or are to this point. I hope this one’s the best one.”

Emmanuel Sanders & Antonio Brown

Whenever the Steelers are trading away draft picks, often times they think about the potential of what they could be giving up by not making a selection. Kevin Colbert was asked if he had a grasp on what teams would be doing in front of them, and his response he specifically talked about players he equated with certain round draft picks.

Colbert: “Honestly, no. And again, we did away with mocking other teams probably...”

Tomlin: “Ten?”

Colbert: “Twelve years ago? We just said, I don’t know why we do this. We are just guessing. And it doesn’t matter. We mock ourselves. We’re picking first who we take and we’re picking — that player is gone, we’re picking second, who are we taking. We go all the way down to 20 and we have guys lined up in the fashion that we will pick them, and then we will decide if we want to trade up or trade down. And that’s based on that earlier why question; there’s values to doing that. Again, when we trade away a third and a sixth, are we trading away Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown? We don’t know. But we always try to put a player to that scenario. So, no, we don’t concern ourselves with anybody but else but ourselves. I know there’s 20 players. By Wednesday, we’ll know the order and we’ll pick them, and we’ll know who may or may not be interested in moving up or coming down, and we’ll try to make the decisions as best we can.”

For a full recap of Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert’s press conference, check out our podcast recap below:

The entire press conference can be seen here: (note: there is no audio for the first 3.5 minutes)

#LIVE: GM Kevin Colbert & Coach Tomlin speak to the media ahead of the #NFLDraft. #SteelersDraft https://t.co/7NtuaH4zya

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 25, 2022

A History of the Steelers and the NFL Draft, Part 8: Linebackers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/26/2022 - 6:00am
A view not unlike this nearly turned John Elway an accountant.

Steeler linebackers are legendary; how have they been drafted?

And we’re back for part 7 of this tour through the Pittsburgh Steelers draft history. Previous parts can be found here:

Part 1: Overview
Part 2: What colleges do the Steelers prefer?
Part 3: What colleges did Noll, Cowher, and Tomlin prefer?
Part 4: Positions by coach — backfield
Part 5: Positions by coach — pass catchers
Part 6: Positions by coach — offensive line
Part 7: Positions by coach — defensive line

In this edition, the linebackers. Just like defensive linemen, linebackers are hard to discern in the early years because two-way players are often listed only for their offensive roll. Moreover, the Steelers sometimes played with five man fronts in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Linebackers truly backed the line — the linemen were the stars. That’s going to affect the discussion of the stone ages a bit, but it obviously won’t change the rules for the real focus of these articles — the decisions made by Chuck Noll (1969-91), Bill Cowher (1992-2006), and Mike Tomlin (2007-present).

Onward:

Linebackers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images “When the genie gave me one wish, I should have asked for a fair shake from Hall of Fame voters, instead of just wanting to be the best looking linebacker on the team.”

The earliest Steelers draftee listed at “linebacker” came in 1949, and the team drafted all of 17 before Chuck Noll; 98 since then. This is a reflection of the game changing, I think, more than anything else.

There are a few notable names among that early 17. The highest selection of those years was #19 overall, a second round pick in 1961 named Myron “Mo” Pottios. Pottios was a Pro Bowler in three of his first four years, but the one year he missed was instructive: he missed the whole 1962 season for injury, along with half of 1964 and 1965. The Steelers sent him to Washington by 1966, when they’d replaced him with probably their best pre-Noll linebacker choice: Andy Russell (16th round/1963). Russell also missed a whole season (1964) for military service, but came back to make a Pro Bowl on a horrible 1968 Steelers team. Then Noll was hired, and all the sudden the old man was one of he league’s best, making six straight Pro Bowls, from 1970 to 1975. He collected two rings in town and started 12 games on the greatest defense ever assembled, the 1976 Steelers.

Chuck Noll and the Linebackers Vikings RB Dave Osborne demonstrates how he posted a stat line of 8 carries for negative-1 yard in Super Bowl IX.

The Emperor drafted 54 linebackers in his 23 years at the helm. Most of these players came in the middle rounds of the draft, as 32 picks from rounds 5 through 10 were ‘backers, and only seven in rounds 1 through 3.

Noll’s highest draft choice on a linebacker is undoubtedly his worst, 1991 first round selection (15th overall) Huey Richardson — who dressed for five games as a rookie, recording zero stats, and then found himself out of Pittsburgh altogether. Yikes. Four of the remaining high picks were success stories, including 1977 first rounder Robin Cole, who started Super Bowls XIII and XIV, and Mike Merriweather, a three-time Pro Bowler who held the team sack record for 23 years (before pulling a LeVeon Bell, sitting out a whole season to find his way out of town, and never playing well again).

Of course, we know the real highlight of the highly picked linebackers were two second Jacks, 1971’s Jack Ham and 1974’s Jack Lambert, who combined with Russell to form arguably the greatest linebacking corps in NFL history. Collectively, the trio accounted for 24 Pro Bowls, 12 All Pro selections, three team of the decade selections (Ham and Lambert 1970s, Lambert also in the 1980s), one AP Defensive Rookie of the year award (Lambert 1974), three Defensive Player of the Year awards (Lambert AP 1976, UPI 1976, 1979), one Alan Page Community Award (Russell 1972), four NFL 75th Anniversary and 100th Anniversary selections (Ham and Lambert were on both teams), two Hall of Fame busts (Ham and Lambert), and ten — seriously TEN — Super Bowl rings. Imagine lining those guys up year in and year out, especially with Ham and Lambert getting nine seasons together. Goodness.

Coach Noll deserves a shout-out for his numerous mid-round gems before we move on, including: Loren Toews (8th/1973), Bryan Hinkle (6th/1981), David Little (7th/1981), Hardy Nickerson (5th round/1987), Greg Lloyd (6th/1987). Man, I didn’t realize Hinkle and Little both came in 1981, or that Nickerson and Lloyd both came in 1987 (same draft as Rod Woodson, Delton Hall, Thomas Everett, and Merrill Hoge). If the Steelers could have hung on to Nickerson and Everett, and if Lloyd could have stayed a little healthier, this would be one of the great drafts of all time. When Noll and company hit it in the draft, they really hit it.

Bill Cowher and the Linebackers In this photo, we see Bengals runner Eric Bieniemy in the opening stages of planning his coaching career, because this is terrible.

Coach Chin may have played linebacker once upon a time, but he didn’t draft that many on his watch. The Steelers picked up 20 ‘backers in Cowher’s 15 years at the helm, including a big ZERO in the first round. That’s a shock to me.

The highest three choices of Cowher’s career were all home runs. The highest was Levon Kirkland (2nd round, 1992 — pick #38), where the next two would have been Kendrell Bell (2nd/2001 — #39) and Chad Brown (2nd/1993 — #44). All three picked up Pro Bowl nods in black and gold, with Kirkland and Brown also being named All Pro on the outstanding mid-90s Steelers Blitzburg defenses. (Add in Lloyd and free agent Hall of Famer Kevin Greene and you have another of the best linebacking corps in league history.) Meanwhile, Bell might have been the best of the bunch if he could have stayed healthy. His transcendent Defensive Rookie of the Year season in 2001 featured a ridiculous 23 tackles for loss.

That said, Cowher’s best draft choice spent on a linebacker is (in my opinion) a 1999 third rounder from Colorado State named Joseph Eugene Porter. Peezy was the emotional leader of the Steelers defense for a decade, leading the team to the Super Bowl in 2005. Along the way, he collected three Pro Bowls and a first team All Pro nod in 2002, ultimately being named to the NFL’s team of the decade for the 2000s. Nod bad for the 73rd overall choice.

Cowher’s worst linebacker choice is undoubtedly his fourth 2nd round choice (alongside Kirkland, Brown, and Bell): 2003’s #59 overall choice, Alonzo Jackson from Florida State. Jackson stuck around for two and a half years, logging nine games (zero starts) and no sacks. Uf.

Other noteworthy Cowher linebackers: Jason Gilden (3rd/1994), Earl Holmes (4th/1996), Mike Vrabel (3rd/1997), Clark Haggans (5th/2000), and Larry Foote (4th/2002). And of course, the best of the bunch was the guy Cowher didn’t draft: a 2002 UDFA from Jack Lambert’s alma mater, Kent State, named James Harrison. But this isn’t about UDFAs, so wipe that one off the list.

Mike Tomlin and the Linebackers Doug Kapustin/Tribune News Service via Getty Images Lawrence Timmons and Lamarr Woodley politely inform LaDanian Tomlinson that they will be returning to the Super Bowl in January 2011, instead of LT’s Jets.

Inasmuch as Cowher didn’t choose linebackers, Mike Tomlin loves them. In 14 drafts, Mike Tomlin’s Steelers have chosen ‘backers six times, nearly half of the time, and we can add two more second rounders. Tomlin has drafted 24 linebackers overall.

Tomlin’s highest selection is the highest linebacker selection in team history: #10 overall in 2019, current work-in-progress Devin Bush. A lot of fans are down on Bush after his middling 2021 season, but he looked like the real thing as an All Rookie selection two years ago. Torn ACL is a rough injury for an athletic, sideline-to-sideline sprinter; we’ll know a lot more about Bush after this upcoming season.

Coach T’s best linebacker selection will come as no surprise: 2017 first rounder (#30 overall) three time All Pro and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, already one of the most dominant players ever to play in this town. If it’s possible for so highly decorated a player to be underrated, T.J. is it — after being passed over twice on DPOY in 2019 and 2020, and with a legitimate case for NFL MVP in 2021. But 29 other NFL teams know they should have dialed up his number five years ago.

Tomlin’s worst linebacker selection is his only first or second round choice who never delivered at all: 2013’s #17 overall pick Jarvis Jones from Georgia. (With all these superstars coming out of Georgia this year, it looks weird to me to even associate Jarvis with that school...) The Steelers reached on Jones after 2010 pick Jason Worilds hadn’t risen to the job, and Harrison had been released in a contract dispute. In four years, Jones started 35 games but picked up all of 6.0 sacks. As a Steelers OLB, that’s rough. Meanwhile, Worilds caught lightning in Jones’ first two years, picking up 15.5 sacks over 2013 and 2014, before shockingly retiring to focus on his faith, shoving Jones right back onto the field. What a mess.

That said the rest of the high picked Steelers linebackers of the Tomlin years have been rock stars: Lawrence Timmons (1st round/2007, #15 overall), Lamarr Woodley (2nd/2007, #46), Ryan Shazier (1st/2014, #15), and Bud Dupree (1st/2015, #22). Timmons and Woodley, Tomlin’s first two overall draft choices as coach, combined with Harrison and veteran FA James Farrior to create (yet AGAIN!) one of the all time great linebacking corps in the game. Frankly, if Shazier hadn’t been tragically (and terrifyingly) injured in 2017, we might be talking about yet another all time squad — imagine Shazier lining up beside Myles Jack on the inside, with Watt and Dupree (or Alex Highsmith) outside. Man.

In any case, Tomlin has chosen linebackers in the sixth round eight times, including one of the best value choices around, 2013’s Vince Williams. If you were betting, you’d be on firm ground imagining a Tomlin led Steelers office taking ‘backers in both the first and sixth rounds — a double-down they’ve pulled four times: 2013 (Jones/Williams), 2014 (Shazier/Jordan Zumwalt), 2015 (Dupree/Anthony Chickillo), and 2019 (Bush/Ulysses Gilbert and Sutton Smith).

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images Kevin Zeitler (70) and Chris Wormley (95) get a front row seat to history — T.J. Watt’s sack #22.5

What does this add up to? Well, the Steelers are masterful at picking linebackers. All four of the Steelers eras have featured all stars, and while linebacker isn’t necessarily a high urgency need in 2022, if the Steelers grab a ‘backer, the odds favor it being a good one.

Next up: Secondary (and a note about special teams). Then, I don’t know, maybe it’ll be time to actually draft some players. Onward...

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/26/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website, but now we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said or typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

BAD Language: What have you done for me lately?

We throw away toys and tools and what have you when we are done with them. Some fans do that with athletes, completely disregarding their feelings. That needs to stop. Everybody’s got an opinion. Some subscribe to conventional wisdom. others are ill-informed, while some are unorthodox and way out there. So, BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis decided to make no apologies and share his black-and-gold brand of enlightenment. Join BAD preaching his own gospel of the hypocycloids on the new show, BAD Language. This week, it’s all how some fans and media treat players like objects and less like people.

  • News and Notes
  • The discarding of players by fans and media
  • A visit from Britsburgh Owen, Voice from Across the Pond
  • and MUCH MORE!
Steelers Hangover: The Fourth Annual BTSC Live Chat Mock Draft

With three days to go before the NFL Draft, BTSC extends Mock Draft Monday as Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White unveil the mock to end all mocks, the BTSC Hangover Live Draft. Check it all out on the latest edition of the Monday show from the Behind the Steel Curtain Family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The live chat at BTSC make the first 20 selection in the NFL Draft
  • and MUCH MORE!
From the Steelers’ Cutting Room Floor: What type of players could the Steelers be looking for at each position and when?

There are so much talent vying for selection in the NFL Draft. But what type of players exactly are the Steelers checking out at each position? Geoffery Benedict examines this and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • What traits do the Steelers look at at each position?
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Productive free agency period has the Steelers set up for success in the draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/25/2022 - 2:30pm
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers free agency period has the team set up for the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a busy offseason thus far, and this all started when the league’s legal tampering period began. The Steelers wasted little time making moves, and they used their new found salary cap space to help bolster their roster.

As most fans know, the goal for the Steelers every offseason is to have their free agency period fill all of the holes on their roster, and then they can approach the NFL Draft with an open playbook, so to speak.

When you look at the Steelers’ moves made this offseason, they’ve done just that.

Free Agent Additions:
QB Mitchell Trubisky
OL Mason Cole
OL James Daniels
CB Levi Wallace
LB Myles Jack
KR/PR/WR Gunner Olszewski
LB Genard Avery

Re-signed Players:
DL Montravius Adams
CB Akhello Witherspoon
OT Chuks Okorafor
SS Terrell Edmunds
S Karl Joseph
S/LB Miles Killebrew
CB Arthur Maulet

During Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert’s pre-draft press conference Monday, Tomlin said just that when he was asked about how free agency has set up the team’s draft plan. Check the video below:

"We think that free agency has really set us up nicely to have a good draft." Coach Tomlin pic.twitter.com/CYQrOUc5Nl

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 25, 2022

On top of the free agent moves which have been made, Tomlin and Colbert both spoke openly about how the draft process has been much better than in past years. The biggest difference? The lack of protocols placed on teams/scouting departments.

This has allowed the Steelers to have a “good feel” about the process considering the NFL Scouting Combine, Senior Bowl, Pro Days and individual pre-draft visits were all a go for the first time in almost three years. Some might shrug it off, but it helps the Steelers narrow their focus when they can talk with these individuals, in person, more.

Mike Tomlin on draft prep: "It's a good feel because we've had the totality of the process" referring to have the combine and pro days for the first time in 3 years.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) April 25, 2022

On top of that, Colbert said he feels more prepared for this draft compared to others, citing good information and a good number of visits leading up to the three day selection process as to the main reasons why they have confidence.

Colbert says he feels more prepared for this draft maybe than some others -- says they got good info and a good number of visits.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) April 25, 2022

This NFL Draft is more than just Colbert’s last, it is a vital part of the future of the organization. With Ben Roethlisberger retired, and Colbert on the way out, having the cupboard stocked with young talent will be paramount for the future of the franchise.

Everyone views rookies differently, as it pertains to how much they should contribute their first season as a profession, and Colbert outlined what he feels with rookies. Colbert told the media the team’s top three picks, Days 1 and 2 of the draft, have to become starters in the Steelers’ business model.

#Steelers GM Kevin Colbert during pre-draft presser today at @heinzfield : 'Our top 3 picks have to become starters in our business model.'

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) April 25, 2022

The Steelers did a good job in the 2021 NFL Draft finding NFL ready players, but this year, equipped with cap space, they were able to fill some of the voids with veteran players. This should decrease the necessity for rookies to play, but the expectation remains the same based on the round the prospect is drafted.

Will the Steelers be able to hit more home runs than strikeouts in this year’s draft? It certainly would be helpful as the team has an offseason filled with transition. The better the draft class, the more equipped the team will be for future success.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of free agency and the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft.

For more information on Tomlin and Colbert’s press conference, check out the Press Conference Recap podcast below:

Mock Draft Monday: Offseason recap of possible Steelers selections

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/25/2022 - 12:45pm
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

In the 15 weeks of the Mock Draft Monday series, who were the 15 players covered?

The 2022 NFL draft is mere days away. With the draft finally upon us, the 2022 mock draft season is coming to a close. Love them or hate them, mock drafts seem to be here to stay and the 2023 mocks will likely begin in a week’s time.

Each Monday since the Steelers final game of the 2021 season, I have outlined a different player who was tied to the Steelers in a recent mock draft. Since the final Monday is upon us before the 2022 NFL draft, and the final Mock Draft Monday article has been published, I thought it would be a good time to recap all 15 players who were covered in the series.

When looking back at these players, it is important to keep in mind the dates in which each article came out. Mock drafts which were published before the start of NFL free agency have an entirely different feel than those after free-agent moves have been made. Additionally, if you were someone who did not begin following the series until part way through, there may have been players you were wondering why they weren’t being covered. Yes, as the series progressed it became much more difficult to find a new player mocked to the Steelers. At times some “outside of the box” articles were highlighted in order to see different players.

Here is the list of the 15 players covered and the date in which the article was published. A link to each article will be included, but keep in mind that some of the data may be outdated due to the NFL combine, free agency, Pro Days, and things of that nature.

Week 1 (January 17, 2022): Malik Willis, QB, Liberty Week 2 (January 24, 2022): Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi St Week 3 (January 31, 2022): Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh Week 4 (February 7, 2022): Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa Week 5 (February 14, 2022): Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan Week 6 (February 21, 2022): Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington Week 7 (February 28, 2022): Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina Week 8 (March 7, 2022): Kenyon Green, IOL, Texas A&M Week 9 (March 14, 2022): Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati Week 10 (March 21, 2022): Daxton Hill, S, Michigan Week 11 (March 28, 2022): Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia Week 12 (April 4, 2022): Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa Week 13 (April 11, 2022): Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama Week 14 (April 18, 2022): Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College Week 15 (April 25, 2022): Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

So there are the 15 players highlighted throughout the Mock Draft Monday series. Do you think one of these players will be the Steelers selection at 20? Do you think it’s one of the other players that could possibly be the selection who were not highlighted? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Steelers make one-year deal with Terrell Edmunds official

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/25/2022 - 11:18am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

No longer just a report, the Steelers make the Terrell Edmunds signing official.

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason knowing they were in need of safety help. This help could have come in a myriad of ways, both in free agency and/or the 2022 NFL Draft. One of the players who remained an option for the team was one of their own, Terrell Edmunds.

Edmunds, the former first round pick in the 2018 draft, remained unsigned as of last Friday. Many assumed he would be following Tyrann Mathieu’s lead and waiting till after the draft before deciding which team he would sign with for the 2022 regular season.

Nonetheless, for some reason he decided to stay with Pittsburgh. It was reported Friday evening he was staying on a one-year contract, and the team made it official Monday.

We have signed S Terrell Edmunds to a one-year contract. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 25, 2022

Starting 60 games in his first four seasons, Terrell Edmunds did not get his fifth-year option picked up by the Steelers as they opted to pick up free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick’s, who was acquired via trade in 2019, instead. With 340 tackles, five interceptions, and 21 passes defensed, Terrell Edmunds has been a player who is constantly available as he has only missed one game, Week 17 in the 2020 season, in his entire career.

As for how much it will cost the Steelers to bring back Edmunds, the answer is not much. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the one-year deal is just $2.5 million dollars. Quite the bargain, even if just for one season.

Pittsburgh is giving S Terrell Edmunds a 1-year deal worth $2.5M, source said. He had two other offers, but the former first-rounder elects to stay home. https://t.co/fewx3UrbBy

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 22, 2022

The Steelers weren’t the only team who was hoping to bring Edmunds in via free agency. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals both were interested in Edmunds’ services. Nonetheless, he decided to stay in Pittsburgh.

This is now done. Dolphins, Bengals were among teams in mix RT @JFowlerESPN: Former first-round pick Terrell Edmunds is expected to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers, per source. Barring late change of plan, four-year starter back in the fold as Steelers approach the draft.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) April 22, 2022

With Edmonds back in the mix for the Steelers in 2022, their options at the top of the upcoming NFL Draft are much wider. Not having to address a specific need, the Steelers may once again be in a situation where they can take the best player available. This doesn’t mean they won’t address safety in the draft, but it no longer becomes a high priority as the draft begins next Thursday.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and continued draft coverage for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the rest of free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft.

State of the Steelers Secondary: Pre-Draft Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/25/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Looking at the players currently in the Steelers secondary.

The Steelers secondary came together in 2019 and became one of the top units in the NFL. The addition of Teryl Austin to the coaching staff, the signing of Steven Nelson and the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick took the Steelers pass defense from below average to elite. In 2022, there aren’t many of the key players from that group left. Nelson and Mike Hilton left after the 2020 season, and both Terrell Edmunds and Joe Haden are currently free agents. That leaves only Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Sutton from that two year run of elite secondary play. Sutton has moved from the dime back role to starting outside, and Minkah Fitzpatrick remains the teams star free safety.

But heading into the 2022 NFL Draft there are a lot of questions about how good this secondary can be, and specifically if they can reverse the drop off they experienced in 2021 and bounce back to being one of the top pass defenses in the NFL.

Let’s look at the players the Steelers currently have and see what they have, and what they should be looking for to bolster the secondary in the draft and free agency.

The Locks

Minkah Fitzptrick: Not much needs to be said about Fitzpatrick. Since he joined the Steelers in 2019 the Steelers have been one of the best defenses against deep passes in the NFL, and Fitzpatrick has deservedly been a First Team All-Pro safety in two of his three seasons with the Steelers. In the only season he wasn’t recognized he led the Steelers in tackles as the run defense fell apart around him. He’s the star of the Steelers secondary.

That’s it for locks. Every other player is facing competition for snaps or their spot on the roster.

Front-runners

Levi Wallace: The Steelers free agent from the Buffalo Bills is best described as Joe Haden circa 2019 with less playmaking ability. He’s a natural cover-2 corner, and is well equipped to plug into Haden’s spot on the defense where his short yardage coverage ability and tackling are a strength, but will need some help covering deep threats.

Cameron Sutton: Sutton enters year two of his two-year deal which saw him move from an elite dime back to the No. 2 corner spot. He was fine in that No. 2 corner spot, taking over the role Steven Nelson played in 2019 and 2020. But when other players were injured, Sutton lost a lot of the help he needed to succeed, and didn’t look as good. Sutton would benefit from a true No. 1 corner being on the roster, or sub package players that don’t need a lot of help. Sutton isn’t a guy you want on an island, but outside of that, he’s well-rounded and a good corner.

Akhello Witherspoon: Witherspoon is the best man coverage defender on the team, and that’s an important designation. Witherspoon is also really good in deep zone coverage. His weakness is his physicality and tackling that make him a serious liability in run defense and in short zone assignments that involve defending wide receiver screens, running backs in the flat, and sealing off outside runs. Witherspoon has coverage-ability to be a No. 1 corner, but whenever he has taken on that role, teams attack his weakness aggressively. If Witherspoon can be protected from short responsibility and physical demands he’s an incredible coverage specialist, but this is football, and that’s not an easy task.

The Steelers top three corners are all players who need help to really shine, and while that help is readily available in many sub-package schemes the Steelers use, the starting outside corners don’t get much help at all.

Rotational Parts

Arthur Maulet: Maulet is a solid nickel back. That doesn’t look great in Pittsburgh because fans have become used to very good slot corner play, with Mike Hilton, William Gay before him and DeShea Townsend before that. Maulet is physical and solid in short coverage, and like most nickel backs, needs help when his man is running deeper routes.

Tre Norwood: The Steelers 7th round pick in 2021 was drafted to play the same role he played in college, where as a safety he played almost the exact same role Cameron Sutton played in dime packages for the Steelers in 2019 and 2020. With Sutton moving outside, Norwood stepped right in and took over that role and played well. How he evolves as a defensive back will be something to watch, especially if he can compete for the nickel role, but if he’s just a top tier dime back and backup safety that would be fine as well.

James Pierre: The only UDFA to survive the 2020 COVID-19 affected offseason, Pierre played well in the few snaps he received in 2020, and earned a rotational spot on the roster in 2021. A good zone defender, Pierre was overmatched when injuries put him in the starting job and he was tasked with covering a receiver like Ja’Marr Chase in man. He ended up losing his spot in the rotation entirely after the Bengals game. If Pierre can improve in man coverage, he could earn that spot back, if not he’ll need to compete for a depth spot where the Steelers can use him more selectively.

In the Mix

Justin Layne: Layne played a decent amount in the 2020 season, but ended up losing his role in the rotation to James Pierre. In 2021 he was almost exclusively a special teams player, but I would rate him as solid in special teams, and that may not be enough to even stick around on the roster. Layne is entering the last year of his rookie contract, 2022 will be a critical season for Layne to carve out a spot for himself in the NFL. He’s primarily a man cover corner, but needs to either improve to a higher tier man cover specialist, improve his zone coverage ability to round out his defense or become a top tier special teams player to hold value in the NFL going forward.

Linden Stephens: Stephens didn’t play in 2021, but he has played for other teams before, logging 65 snaps on defense, mostly at outside corner, and 189 snaps on special teams in 2019 and 2020 combined. He’s a player that has benefitted from the changes in rules on the practice squad, and that puts him in position to continue to compete to make a roster.

Donovan Stiner: A 2021 UDFA, Stiner was signed to the practice squad and stuck around all season, earning a futures contract at the end of the season. A safety who also played in the slot in college, there is plenty of opportunity for Stiner to earn a bottom spot on the roster or stick around on the practice squad in 2022.

Safety or Linebacker?

Not going to cover them individually, but the Steelers signed three players to new deals this offseason who fit into a safety/linebacker hybrid role.

Marcus Allen, Myles Killebrew and Karl Joseph are all box safeties that skirt the line between defensive back and linebacker. Allen and Killebrew were both top 5 special teams players by snaps in 2021. None of the three are going to be starters, but it is highly doubtful the Steelers signed all three just to play special teams.

Bryan Flores has used safeties up on the line of scrimmage as blitzers in his defenses, and Terryl Austin has used Marcus Allen and Myles Killebrew in sub packages as linebackers, bigger dime backs and a few times as outside corners versus a heavy alignment from the opposing offense.

It will be worth watching to see if the role for these players expands in 2022.

Where should the Steelers be looking to add talent?

There is a clear need for a starting strong safety, and it is a position the Steelers have admitted they don’t have on the team right now. That position could be considered filled after the team reportedly signed Terrell Edmunds to a one-year contract last Friday. However, I doubt anyone would consider the position of safety off the board at this point.

Beyond that, there is clearly room to add a top tier corner in this draft. The Steelers essentially have three No. 2 corners on their roster, and could easily let a top tier prospect start slowly and move into almost any position in the defense, nickel, No. 2 starter, No. 1 starter, any spot would work.

It would be a fantastic situation for a young corner to come into, especially after the Steelers brought back Edmunds. Fluidity to play wherever best fits them right away and throughout the season, with great safety play behind them to help them transition into the NFL, and that’s ignoring the pass rush in front of them that also helps make any corner’s job easier. I think a cornerback in Round 1 or 2 for the Steelers would fit and it would be a great environment for that player to develop in.

I don’t think later picks make a lot of sense as the defensive back group has a lot of depth, and is really only missing a top corner and potentially a future starting strong safety.

What would it cost the Steelers to trade up in the first round of the draft?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/25/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The price tag for picking higher than #20 overall could be gaudy, yet worth it.

With under a week until the 2022 NFL Draft, the anticipation is palpable. In fact, I can almost see the flowing fountains of the Bellagio already.

Draft season is always uber enjoyable for fans who project the future and are invested in their team’s roster construction, but it feels especially meaningful for Steelers die-hards this year. The team will almost certainly look to find its long-term successor to Ben Roethlisberger in addition to plugging several noteworthy voids on the depth chart.

In other words, Kevin Colbert’s last draft is likely to go out with a bang.

Knowing how important April 28-30 will be in the franchise ledger, Colbert will do his best to position the team for success under a new general manager. Considering the heightened importance of 2022 and how much rests on the upcoming draft class, Colbert very well may look to be aggressive and assertive to land future franchise cornerstones.

One doesn’t need to read the tea leaves to see how infatuated the Steelers have been with Malik Willis; however, there are several other premier players that the team has been linked to, including LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr..

What would it cost the Steelers, situated at #20 overall, to move up the ranks to land Stingley, someone else or potentially Willis? Utilizing recent history as well as value charts, let’s prognosticate the parameters of a potential monster shake-up.

Note: This article is not advocating for the Steelers to move up or to stay put. Rather, it is simply assessing the cost that it would likely require the team to acquire better draft positioning. Also, this does not factor in trading players (e.g. Diontae Johnson).

Historical Precedent

Last year’s draft gave us two excellent examples of packages that teams configure in order to snag franchise signal-callers.

In the days leading up to the draft, the San Francisco 49ers stunned nearly everyone by sending a haul to the Miami Dolphins in order to move from #12 to #3 overall. The full package was as follows: the #12 overall pick, a 2022 first-round pick, a 2022 third-round pick and a 2023 first-round pick.

The Dolphins ultimately repurposed the #12 overall pick as well as some of their original selections in order to attain the #6 overall slot from the Philadelphia Eagles, but the first leg of the trade very much emulates something the Steelers could do this year.

During draft day itself, the Bears also climbed the pecking order, swapping picks with the Giants to land Justin Fields. Chicago yielded the #20 overall pick, a 2021 fifth-rounder, a 2022 first-rounder and a 2022 fourth-round pick for the #11 overall slot. Both the 49ers and Bears advanced nine picks, and both paid humongous prices.

Another instance of a team towards the bottom portion of the draft order rocketing up boards was the Chiefs in 2017. KC gave the Bills the #27 overall pick, a 2017 third-rounder and a 2018 first-round pick for the #10 overall selection five years ago (wow, has time flown by!). Given today’s more pass-happy league, this compensation seems retrospectively low for a 17-spot move-up, but Brett Veach still mortgaged significant assets in order to secure Patrick Mahomes.

In these three aforementioned situations, teams traded either into or on the precipice of the top 10, but there exists a reality in which the Steelers want to be in better position by just a handful of slots. What might those hypotheticals look like?

Take 2020, in which the Packers moved from #30 to #26 to draft Jordan Love; in order to do so, Green Bay had to give the Dolphins a fourth-rounder.

In non-quarterback terms, the Eagles swapped firsts with the Cowboys in last year’s draft, the former going from #12 overall to #10 overall at the cost of a third-rounder in 2021. Even a one-spot trade-up will cost extra picks: ask the Buccaneers, who had to give the 49ers a fourth-round pick in order to move up one pick. The swap ended up being quite worthwhile, as Tampa Bay drafted superstar right tackle Tristan Wirfs.

What can we glean from these recent deals? First, gaining entry into or near the top 10 will indubitably cost a future first-round pick and more, if not multiple ones. Additionally, if the Steelers want to move up just a few picks, they will need to be willing to part with a mid-round pick – likely at least a fourth-rounder, something which is valuable to a team with a bevy of needs.

Draft Value Trade Charts and Possible Team Fits

When reading the trades above, it was probably hard to grasp whether a trade was fair based on the pure numbers themselves. Seeing all the selections next to each other is inherently confusing, and the value of the picks is somewhat nebulous to begin with; we know #1 overall is better than #263, but the line between #16 and #17, say, becomes blurry.

A methodology that can help allocate worth to specific draft picks are draft pick value trade charts. The original table was devised by Jimmy Johnson in the 1990s and is frequently used as a benchmark in order to assess the parity of transactions. It should be noted that there are comparable yet adjusted charts, including this one by Brad Spielberger and Jason Fitzgerald.

As an example of how the chart works, let’s analyze the Bears-Giants trade in 2021.

Per the chart, the Giants’ #11 overall pick is worth 1250 points. The Bears gave up Pick #20 (850), Pick #164 (26), their 2022 first-round pick (#7 overall; 1500) and their 2022 fourth (#112 overall; 70). In essence, the Giants started with 1250 points and wound up with 2446 in return; in a binary sense, New York easily won the trade from a draft pick value standpoint.

It goes without saying that any team trading future picks, especially first-rounders, is banking on those slots being lower in order for the eventual transaction to be as even as possible in value. In the case of the Bears, the team probably didn’t expect for its 2022 first-rounder to be higher than #11 overall to begin with, but such a gamble was requisite to pick Fields.

If Colbert and the Steelers want to play their odds in a similar fashion, what could some exchanges with relatively fair value look like? Here are two scenarios.

In the first, the Steelers want to move ahead of the Seahawks and thus trade with the Falcons, who own #8 overall. The 8th overall pick has a value of 1400 points, so Pittsburgh would have to send a package near or even greater than that number — teams are frequently unwilling to deal unless they see immediate payout from the squad trying to move up.

One option for the Steelers could look like this: #20 overall (850), #52 overall (380), 2023 first-rounder and 2023 second-rounder. In terms of base value, this trade is worth a minimum of 2090 points: the Steelers’ 2022 picks correspond to 1230 alone, while the lowest first- and second-rounders are 590 and 270, respectively. This may appear lopsided, but it’s on par with what the 49ers surrendered in 2021.

What if Colbert wants to jump the Saints and move up to #15, tantamount to 1050 points? A shipment to the Eagles could include #20 overall (850) and #84 overall (170).

If the Steelers do elect to move up, as they did for Devin Bush in 2019, they need to be content with betting on themselves to perform well in future years and thus reduce the value of the initial deal.

In fact, if the 49ers and Bears have taught us anything, Pittsburgh may need to tolerate giving up much more than it wants to stomach to land its primary target – then again, there might not be a price that’s too steep to land a game-changing talent for years to come.

Mock Draft Monday: The Steelers have the top safety fall to them in Round 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/25/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In the latest mock draft, the Steelers use their first pick on a player many thought could go top five, but some fear may fall down the board.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were much bigger players in the 2022 free agency market than what fans are used to seeing. Filling a number of needs during the first wave, there could still be a few positions the Steelers need to address, either as free agency continues on or through the NFL Draft later this month. With the NFL Scouting Combine and player Pro Days behind us, there was a lot more information in regards to draft prospects this year.

When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. After the first week of free agency, there are some who would like to see the Steelers still go with either offensive line or quarterback with their first-round pick. Others feel defensive line or cornerback could still be on top of the list. Two other current team needs include wide receiver and strong safety. With the draft now only days away, the Steelers should have a very firm grasp on what they are looking for. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.

In a recent seven-round mock draft by Walterfootball.com, they have the Steelers having the top safety for 2022 plummet down the board and into their lap. Even with the Steelers adding Terrell Edmunds last week on a one-year deal, if the Steelers have the chance to add a game-changing talent to the position group it should still be something they consider. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first pick, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets.

Check out the Steelers 20th pick:

20. Pittsburgh Steelers | Kyle Hamilton | S | Notre Dame | Junior |

Even with the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine and Pro Days behind us, there may be some players some fans may not be as familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Hamilton according to thedraftnetwork.com:

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton might just be the best NFL draft prospect I’ve personally studied since entering into the draft space in 2014. This is a unicorn-caliber player who is physically capable of executing a slew of roles and responsibilities and the Notre Dame program did a terrific job accentuating his versatility and allowing him to shine on all three levels of their defense. Hamilton’s football IQ and instincts are simply on another level, too. He sees the game differently and that allows him to play the game with a rare patience before calling upon elite physical skills to transition and drive to the football. Hamilton’s youth trainer credits him with a 40” vertical, an 11’ broad jump, and ‘the fastest (electronic) 10-yard split I’ve ever timed at my facility’ at the age of 18 when he left for the Irish program. Keep your binoculars handy when you watch him play, he’ll keep you busy searching for him on a play-by-play basis. One game studied featured Hamilton’s first few snaps that involved playing coverage on the punt team, aligning in the nickel and pushing to the flat, driving to deep middle of the field coverage, aligning as a stack player and playing robber, and then aligning as an end man on the line of scrimmage in a pressure look. He’s an elite tackler, offers tremendous range, and allowed his ball skills to shine in 2021 before an injury cut short his season as a junior and cost him the second half of the Irish’s season. NFL teams will have the luxury of plugging him into their secondary and getting an immediate upgrade and an impact player; be it fitting the box from deep alignments, man or zone coverage from the nickel or as a part of pressure packages prowling the line of scrimmage. Hamilton can do it all and should be considered a defensive weapon that is given as many roles as a team can craft for him. He shouldn’t leave the field on defense in any personnel grouping thanks to his IQ and physical versatility and elite size for the safety position. For my money, this is the most physically talented player in the class and, as previously mentioned, is on the short-list for my best prospects since 2014.

Ideal role: Defensive weapon

Scheme tendencies: Creative system that moves players and manufactures personnel advantages in critical down and distance situations

For all you who are finding yourself diving more into draft analysis, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Hamilton with their first pick? Do you feel this is not a position the Steelers would address in the first round? Is the thought of Hamilton falling all the way to pick 20 too far-fetched?

Personally, and I’ll say it one last time, I’m just thankful to find a crazy enough mock draft to have it be a player I had yet to cover. But in all seriousness, if the Steelers have the opportunity to get Kyle Hamilton even if it would take a small trade up a few positions, I would be totally in favor of it. This is a player the Steelers shouldn’t have even been considering as a possibility as it was believed he was going in the first hour of the draft. But recently, a number of mock drafts have Hamilton falling because they are concerned the teams don’t know exactly what position to play him. Is he really a safety or is he more of a linebacker? It only takes one team to know what to do with him and he’ll be off the board.

For me, if the Steelers didn’t make a move and Hamilton is available at 20, should they even consider anybody else? My answer would be no. But for you, each person is entitled to their own opinion so make sure you leave it in the comments below.

NOTE: On Monday afternoon, look for the Mock Draft Monday offseason recap article outlining every player covered since the Steelers began the offseason in January.

Training camp at Saint Vincent College is one Steelers tradition that never should change

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/25/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s nice to see the Steelers sticking with tradition and keeping training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

The Steelers announced on Wednesday that training camp will be back where it rightfully belongs this summer: At St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Steelers will again spend parts of July and August intertwined with a community they’ve been close with since the mid-1960s.

I always wondered if the move to Heinz Field and the team’s South Side complex—the site of training camp the previous two summers—would become permanent since it has to be logistically easier to do that. At the same time, how complex can something be that you’ve been coordinating for over five decades?

Personally, it wouldn’t have mattered much to me if Pittsburgh kept its training camp at its team facilities—I’ve learned to roll with the punches as a sports fan—but I’m only one person, and I know it means the world to the folks up at Latrobe. Saint Vincent and the surrounding community is also a special and sacred place for so many Steelers fans at home and abroad.

I personally know folks who schedule their vacations around the opportunity to make the yearly pilgrimage to Latrobe; they spend multiple days there and, like the players, become a part of the community during the time they’re in town.

I tend to go to training camp once every few years or so, and it’s amazing the sense of history I feel when I’m there. Ever watch old Steelers training camp footage from decades ago? Those beautiful hills you see in the background as the players put in their work are as beautiful and stunning today as they were back then.

The Steelers often get criticized for being stuck in their ways, for being slow to adapt to the changing times, and that it holds them back from being able to fully compete with other NFL franchises. While that criticism does have merit in many cases—the organization most recently had to change its ways with the $80 million it guaranteed to T.J. Watt last summer—their respect for the past and tradition is certainly appreciated when they decide to not make a change just because it might be logistically easier.

I get the feeling that, despite the current cloudy prospects for the 2022 season, Latrobe will be rocking this summer like the Steelers are coming off a Super Bowl win.

Maybe I will go to Latrobe to take in a training camp session at St. Vincent College this summer, after all. It’s been four years since I’ve been up there.

That grassy hillside I’m always forced to sit on might be a pain in the (well, you know), but I’ll just bring an extra blanket or two.

After all, sitting on that hillside has become a tradition for me and thousands of other Steelers fans over the years.

Maybe I’ll stop taking it for granted.

The Steelers obviously have never taken it for granted.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/25/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and written, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

We Run the North: How the North Four match up with their out of division opponents

The teams of the AFC North all have common opponents but three. How do they all match up against those foes that only they face. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the newest installation of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Kevin Tate for a look at the Steelers and their division rivals on “We Run the North”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • How the North Four match up with their out of division opponents
  • and MUCH MORE!
mbed Code The Steelers Sunday Night Q&A: The time is now for newly-minted Men of Steel

It’s another offseason Sunday in 2022 with no NFL football and no games scheduled. However, the Steelers will be on the clock in just a few days and BTSC is continuing a question-and-answer free-for-all from you the loyal fans. This time, join BTSC’s Chris Pugh and Andrew Wilbar as they team up to take questions from the live chat for some good Steelers discussion.

Let’s Ride: Steelers are tying up loose ends before the draft

Join BTSC’s senior editor the morning flagship show in the Behind the Steel Curtain family of podcasts, as the Steelers tie up loose ends before the draft.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • The Monday morning Conversation with Tom Reed, formerly of DKPS
  • and MUCH MORE!

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Have a BAD Week: A look back at the Steelers week from a black-and-gold mind

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/24/2022 - 2:00pm
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

BTSC’s random-thought renegade is back with his bizarre look at the Steelers week that was.

The Steelers season ended weeks ago, but there’s plenty of news coming out of the Steel City. BTSC continues their recap of the past week’s events for our readers. But where they went wrong was asking the one narcissistic writer that would put a bizarre spin on it to do it. So, let’s all take a look at a BAD week in the ‘burgh together.

Monday 4/18

Final. pic.twitter.com/qM3J2jStWm

— Pittsburgh Maulers (@USFLMaulers) April 19, 2022

Seriously, I would have taken any news about the Steelers on Monday. I would have watched a 30-for-30 on Senquez Golson. Instead, I watched the Pittsburgh Maulers for the first time in 38 years. In may need to be another 38 before I’m compelled to watch again. Ah screw it! They play Philly on Saturday. I’m in.

Tuesday 4/19

LB Marcus Allen has signed a one-year restricted free agent tender. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 19, 2022
  • Marcus Allen is back as a versatile depth piece to the chagrin of some fans. Look! The Steelers need to have players at different levels and skill sets. Allen is a good bring back.

We have been awarded WR Miles Boykin off waivers. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 19, 2022
  • When the Ravens cut their 3rd Round pick from a few years back, I was thinking that he would be a good guy for the Steelers to throw into the mix at a thin WR corps. Lo and behold… the Steelers got a good addition.
Wednesday 4/20

#SteelersCamp is headed back to @MySaintVincent!

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 20, 2022
  • Hallelujah! Hide your phones and reserve a lappy at the Bee Hive w/ Sapphire. The boys are back in ‘tahn.
Thursday 4/21

Feelin' mighty #BurghProud tonight!

Hi @steelers fam! pic.twitter.com/abmrkkVhSI

— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 22, 2022
  • Najee at the Pirates game this week and the Pens contest on Thursday. Look at the bruisers accompanying No. 22. If they can skate, maybe the other Mike Sullivan could use a few defensemen.
Friday 4/22

Family, friends and teammates gathered in honor of Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins. pic.twitter.com/pbrjlSrF10

— Post-Gazette Sports (@PGSportsNow) April 22, 2022
  • Mourners showed up in Pittsburgh for a Celebration of Life to honor Dwayne Haskins. One of the six speakers was Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin. RIP DH3.
Saturday 4/23

12 years and one day after losing 20-0 to the Brewers, the Pirates lost 21-0 to the Cubs on Saturday.

RECAP: https://t.co/UDEldd57Ml pic.twitter.com/hUuwPMgtId

— KDKA (@KDKA) April 23, 2022
  • The good news it’s only five days until the Steelers draft their 2022 NFL Draft class, the bad news is that the Pirates still have five more months of play.

This was the significant week that was for the Steelers, mixed-in with my black-and-gold loving life. I’m sure next week will be full of Steelers happenings as well, so we’ll have to do this again. Have a great week, but better yet have a BAD one.

Realistic expectations for a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/24/2022 - 12:00pm
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

What accolades should the Steelers expect from players drafted in the first round?

As the 2022 NFL draft is a mere days away, there is a lot of speculation as to what the Pittsburgh Steelers will do throughout the entire process. Of course, nothing is more important than the Steelers first round draft pick. Missing on this selection is more costly than any other pick the Steelers will make in 2022.

When it comes to Steelers first round draft picks, there’s a wide variety of what fans believe should be their career path. While some believe every first-round selection the Steelers make should be on a path to Canton, others are satisfied if they simply end up being an All-Pro player. Of course, the minimum accolade a first-round draft pick should receive in most fans eyes is being a Pro Bowl selection.

So how realistic are these expectations? I decided to dive into the Steelers first-round picks since the NFL merger in 1970. In looking at those 52 selections, as the Steelers had one year with two first round picks (1989) and another year with zero (2020), I noted how many players ever made a Pro Bowl, were selected first-team All-Pro, or are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here is how the numbers break down:

Steelers Round 1 Picks (1970-present)

Hall of Fame: 6 of 52 (11.5%)
All-Pro: 10 of 52 (19.2%)
Pro Bowl: 23 of 52 (44.2%)

Before getting into the other two categories, it should be noted that realistically the Hall of Fame category should not include the last 20 years. There are a number of players the Steelers selected who have a decent chance of landing in Canton such as Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, Cam Heyward, and T.J. Watt to name a few.

The first number that jumps out is that more than half of the Steelers first-round draft picks since 1970 were never selected to the Pro Bowl. Of those 23 players who were Pro Bowlers, only 10 of them were selected first-team All-Pro. This accolade is much more difficult to do as Ben Roethlisberger ended his NFL career never making first-team All-Pro.

At first glance, Steelers fans might be disappointed with these numbers and think the Steelers have not been overly successful with their first-round draft picks. To help put these numbers in context, I looked at the first overall draft picks for the last 52 years to see how the Steelers compared to those selections.

NFL 1st overall Picks (1970-present)

Hall of Fame: 8 of 52 (15.4%)
All-Pro: 12 of 52 (23.1%)
Pro Bowl: 33 of 52 (63.5%)

Looking at the numbers, the Steelers are not far behind the first overall picks. Remember that the Pittsburgh Steelers have had only one first overall draft pick in this era which happened to come in the first year after the NFL merger with Terry Bradshaw. In these categories, Bradshaw fits into all three. But the Steelers have nearly as many Hall of Fame players from all their first-round draft picks regardless of where they were taken when compared to first overall draft picks. The Steelers also aren’t that far off in the All-Pro category as they are also two behind. When it comes to being selected to the Pro Bowl, the Steelers are a little bit farther behind, but remember these are first overall draft picks.

What if we expand the numbers a little bit further where they are still manageable? What about comparing the Steelers first-round draft picks to the top 10 draft picks since 1970?

NFL Top 10 Picks (1970-present)

Hall of Fame: 48 of 520 (9.2%)
All-Pro: 137 of 520 (26.3%)
Pro Bowl: 256 of 520 (50.8%)

When comparing these numbers to the Steelers first-round draft picks, the first obvious thing is that the Steelers have had a higher percentage of Hall of Fame players drafted in the first round. Keep in mind, only seven of the Steelers 52 first-round draft picks landed in the top 10. Yet looking at the first round as a whole, the Steelers have better numbers in the Hall of Fame than the league average for top 10 picks.

Another interesting number that jumps out is a higher percentage of All-Pro selections in top 10 picks versus the first overall picks. There’s actually a pretty good explanation for this. Of the 52 first overall picks since the NFL merger, exactly half of them, 26 to be precise, were quarterbacks. When it comes to All-Pro, only one quarterback is selected each season and it is extremely difficult to be that one player. Hall of Fame quarterbacks such as Troy Aikman and John Elway were never selected first-team All-Pro. It is quite an elusive honor for the position.

To answer the question of why I did not look at all the first-round draft picks since 1970, sifting through the 520 selections of the top 10 was quite extensive and I was not prepared to nearly triple the number in order to do it again.

To bring it all together, the number of accolades by the Steelers first-round draft picks are fairly close to those of players selected in the top 10 of the NFL draft. For those fans who feel anything less than making the Pro Bowl for a first-round draft pick makes them a bust, then basically half of all top 10 draft picks since the NFL merger have been busts.

Whether or not you believe this to be true is completely up to you, but putting some numbers behind the context of expectations is usually helpful. Perhaps being a quality start for a few seasons would be good enough, regardless of making a Pro Bowl.

The More You Know: Random facts about your Steelers, It’s Black and Gold edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/24/2022 - 10:30am
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Time to learn more about your favorite NFL team, and some trivia as well!

It’s the offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers and there are so many topics to talk and write about. Free agents, the coordinator conundrum, the next quarterback, the NFL Draft, and breaking news will all be covered here at BTSC. But who’s going to give you little-known-facts out of the 500 Level?

Luckily, your one-stop, and non-stop, shop for everything Steelers employs a Steelers fan that was allegedly dropped on his head as a one-year-old during the Immaculate Reception. Useless and somewhat fascinating facts are his forte. So, here we are with off-the-wall thoughts from the dark side of a black-and-gold brain that nobody asked for. But the joke’s on you as you’ll be telling your peeps something you read here later.

412 Forever

Wiz Khalifa, the Pittsburgh native and award-winning rapper, makes no mistake on which NFL team he’s dedicated to. When Cameron Jabril Thomaz wrote his 2011 hit “Black and Yellow”, he was hoping to produce an anthem to accompany the Steelers for all time. The No. 1 single was huge, but the Taylor Allderdice High School alum and Canonsburg resident’s catchy song didn’t capture the hearts of all Steelers’ purists merely because of the title. I love the song Wiz, but it’s BLACK and Gold!!

BTSC Steelers Jeopardy

(Answer at bottom of article)

Middle Name Madness

We love citing the second name of members of the Men of Steel here at Behind the Steel Curtain. We always cite Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger, Christopher Lynn Boswell and Trent Jordan Watt, but who else? Hence, the “More You Know Middle Name of the Week”. This week we feature the two Steelers defenders that reupped with the team this week.

Marcus Deshawn Allen and Fe’Derius Terrell Edmunds Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images This Week’s Birthdays of Steel

4/24 - John Rowser - 78

4/25 - DeAngelo Williams - 39, Theo Young - 57

4/26 - Melvin Ingram III - 33, Mortty Ivy - 36, Kevin Rader - 27, LaRod Stephens-Howling - 35

4/27 - Adrian Cooper -54, George Papach - 97, Mark Stock - 56, J.R. Wilburn - 79

4/28 - Earl Holmes 49

4/29 - Fred Broussard - 89

4/30 - Edmund Nelson - 62

5/1 - Artie Burns - 27, Marty Kottler - 112, Alex Van Pelt - 52

Disturbing Sights

Playing in a river of Hall of Famers in the 1970s for the Steelers, Glen Edwards gets capsized a bit by the epic careers of many other black-and-gold Hall of Famers. But the three-time All Pro was a major part of two Super Bowl winners in Three Rivers lore. The aggressive and hard-hitting safety was traded in August 1978 for a sixth rounder to San Diego and ended his career in 1983 with the Tampa Bay Bandits. Edwards collected 25 interceptions in seven seasons as a Steeler and 39 overall in the NFL. He may not have been an absolute Steeler legend... but the sight of No. 27 as a Charger is still disconcerting.

Hypocycloids Gone Hollywood

Adam Sandler’s 2005 remake of the football/prison classic “The Longest Yard” is a fun comic romp featuring a cast of Hollywood legends, rappers, professional wrestlers, NFL alums, comic geniuses and more. Sandler played Steelers quarterback Paul “Wrecking” Crewe who lands in jail after a drunk driving incident. Crewe leads a misfit crew of inmates in a game against the vicious prison guards. Hilarity ensues.

So, there you have it. Anybody can spout out stat after stat, but not everybody can embrace the colorful and personal side of the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, the more you know, the more you can stupefy your friends, family and neighbors with your big, black-and-gold brain. By the way, “Who is Karl Dunbar?” is the correct clue in BTSC Steelers Jeopardy.

Photo by Gin Ellis/Getty Images

We’ll see you right here next week. Until then keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the hypocycloids.

A Letter From the Editor: Do the Steelers really need Saint Vincent College?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/24/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are headed back to Saint Vincent, but does it even matter?

The last two seasons the big question around this time of year was whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers would be holding training camp at their typical location, Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, or if they would be holding it at their southside UPMC Rooney Sports Complex/Heinz Field?

In 2020, it seemed obvious the NFL’s protocols wouldn’t allow the team to travel away from their facility. Well, to be honest, it wasn’t as if they wouldn’t be able to travel, but there wouldn’t be fans there.

As we all know, the Steelers elected to stay in Pittsburgh.

Fast forward to 2021, and while protocols still existed, it seemed like a good chance the team would be back in Latrobe for their annual summer session.

As we all know, the Steelers stayed in Pittsburgh.

It was around this time I was wondering if the Steelers genuinely valued their trip to Saint Vincent College? Sure, it’s all some coaches/players knew since they became a part of the organization, but did the past two seasons in Pittsburgh have them second-guessing their stance on going away for training camp?

Other teams used to travel and have since decided to just stay at their home facility. The Baltimore Ravens used to travel to McDaniel, formerly Western Maryland, College, but now stay in their Owing Mills facility. Baltimore isn’t the only team who has elected to just stay close to home.

On top of that, fans have heard Mike Tomlin wax poetic about how the team values their time at Saint Vincent. The camaraderie, the bonding, the work put in at all hours. He made it sound as if it was a missing piece of the team’s puzzle as they prepare for the regular season. After two years away, I, for one, was starting to wonder if that was all nothing but lip service.

Much to my surprise, and enjoyment, the Steelers announced they will be heading back to Saint Vincent College this summer.

See you at @MySaintVincent! #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/GYCGuKuB5n

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 20, 2022

But this got me thinking about their trip to Latrobe. Do the Steelers really value/need Saint Vincent? Or is it just something nice for the fans to get an up-close-and-personal look at their favorite football team. A chance to get a few autographs on some memorabilia.

To be honest, when I see the list of players who have never experience a training camp away from Pittsburgh, I feel the team will benefit from getting back to the dorm rooms.

This was from Dave Schofield’s article here at BTSC regarding the news of the Steelers heading back to Latrobe this summer:

In being away for two seasons for training camp, the Steelers only have 22 players currently on the roster who have been a training camp in Latrobe. Out of 74 players currently on the roster, that leaves the Steelers with less than 30% of their players who have attended training camp at Saint Vincent College. If the Steelers do not sign any other players who have been at Latrobe, such as Terrell Edmunds, this number means that more than three-quarters of the players once the Steelers fill out the complete 90-man offseason roster will have never stayed at Saint Vincent for Steelers training camp.

Obviously, Edmunds was brought back on a reported one-year deal, but the fact remains only 23 players on the current roster have experienced a camp in Latrobe. Only 23 players have gone through the sweat of a workout, only to have no reprieve from each other. To be forced into an environment where the only thing you eat, sleep and drink is football.

There will be those fans who don’t think it matters. How this is all for the fans and nothing more. You might be right, but if you’ve ever gone away for a camp in your life. For anything, not just sports, you know the value it brings to the entire experience. The experience in and of itself is different.

To me, there is value in the Steelers going away for training camp. Do they need Saint Vincent College? We’ll have to see how things pan out in 2022, but after the past two seasons I think it is safe to say going back to the friendly confines in Latrobe can’t be considered a negative at this juncture.

(Note: The Letter From the Editor feature runs every Sunday during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)

2022 NFL Mock Draft: Determining all 7 Pittsburgh Steelers selections

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/24/2022 - 7:30am
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Playing Steelers GM for a day, a group of loyal BTSC podcast viewers helped select the Steelers seven picks in a full seven-round draft simulation

On Tuesday night’s BTSC podcast of The Scho Bro Show, we held a mock draft simulation where those in attendance as part of our live chat on YouTube or Facebook got to chime in to help make the Steelers picks. The simulation was done through thedraftnetwork.com and used their predictive rankings to select the other 31 NFL franchise’s picks while we chose those of the Steelers.

Before getting into the selections, we realize the chances of getting any, let alone all, of the selections correct is a very long shot. In last year‘s exercise where the Steelers made eight selections, we correctly chose Najee Harris in the first round, but that was it. The draft plays out in strange ways, and a player we selected in the fourth round was taken ten spots before the Steelers selected Pat Freiermuth in Round 2. This is what makes watching the draft so exciting and entertaining as you never know what is going to happen.

Additionally, remember that this was a simulation and that our options were based off of players who could have already been selected by other teams. Last season, one person was quick to comment on the podcast listing out all the players we should have taken in the simulation. To nobody’s surprise, the first five players they listed had already been drafted before the Steelers had the opportunity to take that player where they suggested.

As this draft played out, there were a lot of times players a lot of Steelers fans may have looked for in certain rounds were already gone, despite their rankings being lower than where the Steelers were picking. For example, Conner Heyward was gone before either of the Steelers’ seventh-round picks which had him taken much sooner than expected.

So here are the seven selections taken by an attempted consensus of BTSC viewers in the live chat. Remember this draft was not including any possible trades.

Round 1, pick 20: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio St

There weren’t a lot of options here the way this draft played out. Malik Willis went second overall to Detroit, but there wasn’t a big run on quarterbacks which put other players in play for the Steelers. Given the options, and after a lot of debate, this was the pick that won out.

Round 2, pick 52: Travis Jones, IDL, UConn

This one was a little bit more clear-cut by the live chat. Although the Steelers did not send anybody to UConn‘s Pro Day, this is still a pick many fans would like and therefore Jones what is the Round 2 selection.

Round 3, pick 84: Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington St.

It figures this is how the draft plays out. All the top players that were remaining seemed to be either wide receivers, defensive lineman, or running backs. With the Steelers already picking two of those positions, and using their first pick on a running back in 2021, the best offensive tackle remaining ended up being who the viewers went with.

Round 4, pick 138: Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati

This pick had a pretty good consensus with most of the live chat. The fact that we were even discussing it had some people frustrated. Needless to say, it was an overwhelming response.

Round 6, pick 208: Tyquan Thorton, WR, Baylor

At this point, it was drafting as much for position as anything based on the top players that were left. This was a tough call, but ultimately the Steelers took their second wide receiver in the draft.

Round 7, pick 225: Isaiah Pola-Mao, S, USC

One thing that was definitely wanted in the live chat was some Steelers bloodlines. As previously mentioned, Connor Heyward was off the board. The next top priority was Troy Polamalu’s nephew coming to Pittsburgh.

Round 7, pick 241: Noah Burks, EDGE, Wisconsin

There was no need to add Quentin Lake as the Steelers just took a safety with the previous pick. This final selection ultimately came down to the Steelers having success picking Wisconsin edge rushers in recent years, so taking a flyer with their last pick was as good as anything.

So there are the seven selections from the live chat of The Scho Bro Show this past Tuesday. How do you think we did? How many of these draft picks could you see realistically landing with the Steelers? As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’d like to watch/listen to the entire show to see what other options were available, or just to hear me butcher the pronunciation of players’ names, the YouTube link and audio podcasts are below.

A History of the Steelers and the NFL Draft, Part 7: Defensive Line

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/24/2022 - 6:30am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Let’s talk defense!

And we’re back for part 6 of this tour through the Pittsburgh Steelers draft history. Previous parts can be found here:

Part 1: Overview
Part 2: What colleges do the Steelers prefer?
Part 3: What colleges did Noll, Cowher, and Tomlin prefer?
Part 4: Positions by coach — backfield
Part 5: Positions by coach — pass catchers
Part 6: Positions by coach — offensive line

In this edition, we’re turning to defense. The early years of Steelers drafts are hard to gauge because players routinely went both ways in the 30s and 40s, so their listed “position” was often the one that accumulated stats — and that meant offense. So a running back who also played linebacker would be listed as “back.” And unless he registered takeaways, he sometimes wouldn’t even appear in the box score on defense.

That’s going to affect the discussion of the stone ages a bit, but it obviously won’t change the rules for the real focus of these articles — the decisions made by Chuck Noll (1969-91), Bill Cowher (1992-2006), and Mike Tomlin (2007-present).

Onward:

Defensive Linemen Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images Look at how much fun Ernie Stautner is having, charging at the camera man with murderous intent

The Steelers have drafted 125 designated D-Linemen since one-way players became the norm. Only eight of these were first round choices, and none before the hiring of Chuck Noll. While some defensive linemen were legit players in the old days, the king of the era was 1950 second round DT Ernie Stautner, the first Steelers (and still one of only two) to have his number retired. In many ways, it’s hard to know what to make of these players, since the schemes were so different. For example, one talented defensive lineman from the 50s was Dale Dodrill, who was a four time Pro Bowler and one time All Pro at a position called “Middle Guard,” which appears to be the nose tackle on a five-man line (so there are still interior linemen beside you). That kind of formation affects everyone’s position (see next article: linebackers).

In any case, the D-Line became a different focal point immediately after Noll arrived.

Chuck Noll and Defensive Linemen This is who, punk.

Chuck Noll’s first ever draft choice was also the highest pick ever spent by the Steelers on a defensive lineman: #4 overall in 1969, on North Texas DT Joe Greene. Appropriately, the Pittsburgh Press famously headlined an article the next day with: “Who’s Joe Greene?” No one asks that anymore, as Greene, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, is generally regarded as the greatest draft choice in Steelers history, often thought of as the greatest player in Steelers history, and in many minds, has a claim as the greatest defensive lineman (or simply defensive player) in NFL history.

So let’s say he’s Noll’s best DL draft pick.

Noll drafted 52 other defensive linemen over the years, but most of his success came in later rounds, including the entire Steel Curtain front: Dwight White (4th round/1971), Ernie Holmes (8th/1971), and L.C. Greenwood (10th/1969).

Amazingly, most of Noll’s DL draft picks didn’t work out. Of his 13 draft picks on the line among rounds 1-3, only Greene and NT Gerald Williams (2nd/1986) became regular starters. It would be easy to name Gabe Rivera (1st/1983) as the worst pick, coming as he did with such fanfare (and in lieu of Dan Marino), but he looked good a month into his rookie year, and I can’t penalize a guy whose career ended on a car accident (though maybe I should; he was supposedly drunk driving). Instead, I’ll name Darryl Sims, (1st/1985), who was picked one spot earlier than Rivera overal (20th to 21st), and started zero games in a two year Steelers career.

Two other notable draftees: 1979 fifth rounder Dwaine Board, who (just like Brent Jones in the last edition) never played in Pittsburgh, but had a decade-long career in San Francisco, where he logged 61 sacks and gathered two rings. Also 1990 eighth rounder Karl Dunbar, who didn’t make the team but came back in 2018 to coach the defensive line, and has been here ever since.

Bill Cowher and Defensive Linemen Photo by Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images OH MY GOD, LOOK OUT!!!!

Bill Cowher chose 23 defensive linemen over his 15 drafts, but only five of those came in the opening three rounds, whereas 13 came in rounds 5-12 (rounds that would be “day 3” picks now, or in rounds that no longer exist).

Cowher’s highest choice was his only first round choice, Casey Hampton, 2001’s first round choice (#19 overall), who was named to five Pro Bowls and started three Super Bowls. (Now that I’ve typed that, why does no one ever talk about Big Snack for the HOF?) Surprisingly few of Cowher’s other linemen were more than rotational backups. For every Aaon Smith (4th/1999), there are a half-dozen Kendrick Clancys (3rd/2000), with his four starts in five years.

The best choice of the Chin’s career is either Hampton (the best overall lineman Cowher drafted) or 2002 seventh rounder Brett Keisel, who far exceeded expectations for the 242nd overall choice. For Bill’s worst choice, I’ll say 1998 second round DE Jeremy Staat (41st overall), who recorded 30 tackles and two starts in three years before the Steelers let him go.

Mike Tomlin and Defensive Linemen Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Please come back, Stephon.

As many of us have noted in recent years, Mike Tomlin’s defenses seem to lean on their D-Linemen than the space-eaters of the Cowher years, who created double-teams and then let linebackers collect stats. That said, Tomlin’s front office have only drafted along the D-Line 16 times in 14 years, with just four picks in the drafts’ first three rounds. However, all four of them had respectable (or great) careers.

Continuing the trend of “highest pick = best pick,” Tomlin’s earliest choice along the line has been Cameron Heyward (1st/2011, 31st overall), a three time All Pro, coming off his fifth straight Pro Bowl at age 32. Three years later, the Steelers spent the only second round DL pick of Coach T’s career, snagging Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt, and two years after that, Tomlin’s only third rounder, Javon Hargrave of South Carolina. For a brief moment, that was the NFL’s best line, bar none (before Hargrave found deeper pockets in Philly). The only other low-round lineman of Tomlin’s career was 2009 first rounder (32nd overall), Evander “Ziggy” Hood. Hood was a bit of a disappointment — he was probably miscast as a 3-4 end — but was a better player than many remember, collecting multiple postseason sacks in the 2010 Super Bowl run and starting 46 games in his last four years in town.

Hard to pick a “worst,” since most of Tomlin’s remaining draftees were lower round guys. But I’ll say Alameda Ta’amu (4th/2012) because the Washington DT came with some real promise, and delivered essentially nothing. Ta’amu spent his rookie season on the practice squad, then failed to make the final cuts in year 2, retiring after only two seasons (three starts) in Arizona.

Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Man, the Steelers TOWER over the Ravens front line.

Will the Steelers draft a DL this year? If Jordan Davis slips to #20, I’d be stoked. But with 2021 fifth rounder Isaiahh Loudermilk already on the roster (and starting to get the pro game) the Steelers might not feel the urgency. Just like last year, it all depends on Stephon Tuitt. We’ll see...

Linebackers are next. See you there —

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