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PFF dives deep into the Steelers statistical minutia this offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 1:37pm

Some love PFF. Some hate PFF. Either way, these stats regarding the Black-and-gold are telling.

More often than not, when Pro Football Focus (PFF) numbers are thrown about on BTSC, a skirmish ensues about the validity of PFF and their grading or rankings. Steelers fans can either take them as an oracle for advanced metrics and film break-downs, or simply as entertainment. However you want to take them, they do churn out some interesting tweets about Pittsburgh Steelers players.

Last fall, PFF made more Twitter accounts directing their tweets towards the teams involved, and not just to their general feed. This made it easier for followers to grab info from their favorite teams — instead of digging through the mountain of information whipped out on their main Twitter handle.

One of the tweets that gets Steelers fans salivating is JuJu Smith-Schuster’s rating when targeted. Smith-Schuster not only led all rookies in this category, he led all NFL wideouts.

The 2017 second-round pick reeled in 58 of his 79 targets and scampered into the end zone on seven occasions. The sure-handed product out of USC had only two dropped passes, making him a favorite of Ben Roethlisberger’s. For reference, a perfect quarterback rating is 158.3.

Targeting JuJu Smith-Schuster in his rookie year was a very good idea

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 1, 2018

For those Steelers fans who have been clamoring for a box safety, look no further than Green Bay Packers castoff Morgan Burnett. Burnett has been crowding the line of scrimmage for years, but the pinnacle was last season. In 2017, Burnett played within eight yards of the line on an astonishing 83% of his snaps. I wonder how this rate compares to Steelers’ legend Troy Polamalu.

New #Steelers S Morgan Burnett's % of run defense snaps lined up within 8 yards of the LOS since 2014:

2014: 50%
2015: 53%
2016: 59%
2017: 83%#SteelerSpotlight

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) May 29, 2018

James Washington fans who have glowed about his college stats and tape already have seen what the Steelers’ 2018 second-round pick did to Big-12 defenses. Out of his 1,549 receiving yards, 815 were of the long variety. It’s an interesting stat, but PFF doesn’t list what constitutes “deep receiving yardage”. That’s up to you to debate in the comments section.

The Pittsburgh Steelers latest deep threat!

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 25, 2018

Cornerback Mike Hilton burst onto the scene and excited Steelers fans during the 2017 preseason. At that point, not many fans had an inkling about who he was. But after the 2017 season, fans knew exactly who he was. The former undrafted rookie bounced between the Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots before landing on the Steelers’ practice squad in December of 2016.

Hilton earned PFF’s eighth-highest ranking for all slot cornerbacks which is based on all facets of his game, including not only pass coverage but also run defense. Let the debate begin over how PFF uses their proprietary methods to rank players.

  • 17 total QB pressures.
  • First among all CBs in run-stopping percentage.
  • Allowed 53 passing yards from Week 12 through Week 17.
  • Allowed a 61.7 quarterback rating out of the slot which was good enough for second among all CBs.

.@MikeHilton_28 : UDFA ➡ Top 8 Slot Corner in the NFL

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) June 1, 2018

Mike Hilton + slot = ⬇

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) May 22, 2018

I’ve stayed away from Le’Veon Bell mentions in articles lately. I thought BTSC fans had already been inundated by the constant chatter about him. But judging from the popularity of Bell articles, it’s clear the majority of Steelers’ fans are not as tired of hearing about him as some of the fan base is. With OTAs concluded and training camp still well over a month away, what is there really to discuss and debate?

Bell is coming off his third Pro Bowl selection — which oddly opens up the debate on how good he actually is. PFF does show his versatility and also his running style.

Bell-cow back

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) May 30, 2018

#Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell picked up 835 of his rushing yards last season after contact! That ranked 2nd in the NFL, behind only Kareem Hunt who had 838. #SteelerSpotlight

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) May 20, 2018

Le'Veon Bell remains one of the toughest running backs in the NFL to bring down.

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 11, 2018

It’s left up to you exactly what you gather from the above tweets. For me, at the very least, it’s entertaining during the most boring time of the year for the NFL. At most, I find the tweets informative as nuggets of information not found elsewhere.

Do the tweets give you a bit more insight into new additions such as Burnett and Washington? Do you catch a new perspective from what you saw out of JuJu, Bell and Hilton in 2017?

Mike Gundy feels the Steelers are a perfect fit for Mason Rudolph and James Washington

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 11:45am

Mason Rudolph and James Washington will see success for years to come in Pittsburgh, according to their college coach.

If you’re like me, when someone mentions the name Mike Gundy, head coach of the Oklahoma State football program, I immediately think of this:

While Gundy seems to be the only coach who had a legendary rant, yet has kept the same job for years, for Pittsburgh Steelers fans, he was the man responsible for getting two of the team’s seven draft picks to the NFL.

Gundy coached second-round pick James Washington and third-round pick Mason Rudolph throughout their time in Stillwater. Considering he recruited these players and coached them throughout their college tenures, there isn’t a better person to hear from when it comes to their overall football prowess and how they will fit with the Black-and-gold.

Speaking of that, in an interview with Missi Matthews of the Steelers official website, Gundy spoke about the fit for Rudolph and Washington in Pittsburgh, and he labeled it as perfect.

Yes, there will be growing pains — especially for Rudolph — as he gets acclimated to taking snaps under center, something he hasn’t done since his early days in High School. But it’s also a challenge for Washington to learn to deal with the high-caliber defenders who will be lining up opposite him every down in the NFL.

Either way, Gundy sees the Steelers’ rookie duo having a lot of success for a long time in Pittsburgh.

Regarding Washington, he spoke about his work ethic and uncanny ability to accelerate underneath a pass to make the reception. In other words, according to Gundy, Washington plays much faster than his 40-yard-dash time might indicate. As for Rudolph, Gundy referred to him as a pure football guy who loves the game, works on his craft and studies at every possible moment. Gundy even suggested he wouldn’t be shocked if Rudolph already has a great grasp of the Steelers’ playbook, and just needs the physical repetitions to be labeled ‘ready to go’.

Gundy was asked when he last spoke to the duo, and he said it was just a few weeks ago. The two are staying in a hotel in Pittsburgh together, and when he spoke with his former star quarterback, Rudolph was studying the playbook while Washington was on the phone with people in his hometown talking about coyote hunting — this was a Friday night.

The Oklahoma State coach gives great insight into the type of players the Steelers were able to pick up in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the interview is certainly worth watching. Check it out in the player below:

.@CowboyFB Coach Mike Gundy discusses the tremendous fit for his former players in Pittsburgh, @JamesWashington's quiet personality, breaking down a 'deep threat', @Rudolph2Mason as a student of the game and more.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 7, 2018

When it comes to football and the national anthem, Trump is seen as the ultimate culture warrior - Steelers/NFL - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 11:00am

President Donald Trump rescinding the invitation to the entire Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles was viewed as suggesting that in Mr. Trump’s America, the president will accept nothing short of full agreement with his worldview.

Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason heading into minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 10:25am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are wrapping up OTAs, and it’s time to put a grade on their offseason so far.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason has been unique, to say the least. For once, the team hasn’t had to deal with any suspensions or major injury news (I just knocked on wood for those superstitious readers out there). But it doesn’t mean there haven’t been speed bumps along the way.

The Le’Veon Bell saga continues, Ben Roethlisberer’s comments on Mason Rudolph ruffled feathers and, of course, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) attendance is always at the top of the headlines, even though the workouts are completely voluntary.

Off-field distractions aside, the Steelers have also gotten their first look at their 2018 NFL Draft class and undrafted, free-agent rookies. Needless to say, the reports have been solid, even though it’s nothing more than football in shorts.

Mason Rudolph was lauded for his command of the huddle and arm strength, while James Washington’s deep play ability has been on display during team drills. Terrell Edmunds’ overall football intelligence and communication skills seem to be a great addition to the secondary.

Thinking of all this made me wonder just how fans would grade the offseason so far, and if their grade changed at all since the 2018 NFL Draft wrapped up.

I noticed an article recently in Sports Illustrated grading every team’s offseason so far, and this is what they said about the Steelers:


2017 record: 13-3

Crucial veteran additions: S Morgan Burnett, LB Jon Bostic

Crucial veteran losses: WR Martavis Bryant, S Mike Mitchell, OT Chris Hubbard, DB William Gay

What improved?

Theoretically, Pittsburgh did their best to get younger and faster in the secondary, though this is still an offseason consistent with the club’s measured approach. The Steelers are still built to win now, which means striking the delicate balance between developing their young players and massaging their core of star offensive players.

What needs work?

Pittsburgh’s offense spent part of last season lost in the woods before hitting hyperdrive. It’s a foregone conclusion each year that Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell will form one of the NFL’s most maddening offenses, but for how long? Roethlisberger spent a portion of the offseason steamed about the team drafting his possible successor. Bell, for another year, will enter the season with no long-term contractual stability. When will the personalities, expectations and disappointments become too big to handle?

What can we expect?

Barring a Lamar Jackson takeover that revolutionizes Baltimore’s offense, this is still a Steelers team that can (and probably will) win the division. Though, how much longer is this a safe bet? With Roethlisberger turning 36, vacillating between retirement and a career resurgence, embattled by internal squabbles, what do we really know for sure about the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Fact/tidbit/piece of news learned from OTAs/minicamp: Per the great Ed Bouchette, the Steelers are experimenting with their rolodex of pass rushing, outside linebackers. After the Steelers defense was torched multiple times in big spots last year, the push is on to find a solution.

Letter grade: B. The Steelers are a great organization, and it’s nearly impossible to pacify three offensive megastars, especially one like Roethlisberger. And yet, here we are picking them to win the AFC North again.

A grade of “B” seems pretty accurate, depending on how you felt about the team’s additions and subtractions this offseason. When I think about where the Steelers were last season, and where they are now as the offseason continues to roll on, I have to admit I’m excited about this team.

I’m excited about the athleticism which is the Steelers’ secondary, offensive playmakers at every turn and a lot of new coaches who could make an impact on the field. Given these offseason additions, I think this team will be one to be reckoned with again by the time the regular season comes to a close.

Grade: B

What grade would you give the team at this point in the offseason? Vote in the poll below, and be sure to explain yourself in the comment section!

Another Super Bowl victory will go a long way in eliminating some of the Steelers’ “distractions”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 8:26am

The Steelers have certainly been no strangers to distractions in recent years. Many have said these issues have prevented them from winning a title. Accurate? Doubtful, but a seventh Super Bowl sure would make these "distractions" disappear.

Ever since arriving in Pittsburgh a few seasons ago, the Penguins’ star forward Phil Kessel has shown all the signs of a distracting diva.

It has been said that Kessel doesn’t practice hard; he avoids contact on the ice; he doesn’t block shots; he cares more about his consecutive-games-played streak than he does about resting up and getting healthy for the playoffs. Hockey writers have described him as a pain in the ass. He sulks if he doesn’t get to play on the same line as star center Evgeni Malkin. He has been seen on the bench arguing with Malkin, and perhaps the biggest indictment of Kessel is that he’s simply uncoachable.

These sure are a lot of unsavory traits attributed to one hockey player. Yet, the fans have embraced Kessel and even celebrate his quirky and often surly disposition.

Here is footage from March of 2017 of Kessel losing his cool on the bench after the team trainer or equipment manager couldn’t fix his broken skate in a timely fashion.

I get it, emotions run high in the midst of an intense sporting event, and it’s not really all that uncommon for a player to get angry and throw a tantrum or two.

You would think something like that might get discussed and dissected at great length by the media and fans. However, it was quickly laughed off. In fact, I’ve seen a GIF or two of that footage altered to make it seem like Kessel was arguing about a hot dog (he came to Pittsburgh from Toronto with a reputation for not taking care of his body and for eating too many hot dogs).

Hilarious stuff, right?

If you’re a Steelers fan (you obviously are, and you’re probably wondering when I was going to get to them on this Steelers site), you remember the sideline meltdown of star receiver Antonio Brown in a Week-4 matchup against the Ravens last season; Brown was so upset following a play in which quarterback Ben Roethlisberger failed to get the football to the completely uncovered superstar, he tossed a Gatorade cooler in disgust.

The CBS game-day crew captured Brown’s tantrum on tape for all the world to see.

Again, these emotional outbursts happen all the time in professional sports, but instead of chalking them up as just that, Brown’s sideline antics were deemed more controversial and selfish than humorous.

Brown is your typical star receiver, in that he cares about his statistics and gets upset when he isn’t being involved enough.

Like Kessel, Brown once took great pride in a personal streak of his own, when he caught at least five passes for at least 50 yards in 35-straight games.

Brown’s streak often made news, but it was also often ridiculed.

Despite his superstar status and popularity, Brown has certainly been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism during the past few seasons, and I could never understand why a player like Kessel wasn’t receiving the same sort of backlash.

But then the Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs in May, thus preventing them from winning a third-straight Stanley Cup. Not long after the Pens’ postseason exit, rumors surfaced that they were looking to unload Kessel via trade.

Why? Because Mike Sullivan, the Penguins’ head coach, has never been the greatest fan of Kessel, further cementing the player's reputation for being uncoachable.

Last summer, following the Penguins second-straight championship, Sullivan and Kessel reportedly tried to mend fences.

Today, on the heels of his first postseason exit as a Penguin, Kessel is reportedly on the trading block.

It’s amazing how much people (fans, coaches and even the media) are willing to overlook as long as championships are being won.

When championships are elusive, however, nothing is overlooked — not sideline temper tantrums, not Facebook Live posts from victorious playoff locker rooms, not even the skipping of voluntary OTAs.

Social media is considered a distraction.

Producing your own rap song is taboo.

Elaborate touchdown celebrations are frowned upon.

When the offensive coordinator tells someone to “shut the bleep up” (Todd Haley to either a player or another assistant coach during a game against the Colts last season), funny GIFs aren’t made by fans. Instead, it’s discussed ad nauseam for the better part of a week on sports-talk radio.

When a team wins multiple championships, distractions aren’t even a thing.

When a team hasn’t won a title in years, distractions are the only thing.

Off-field distractions aren’t the reason the Steelers haven’t won a Super Bowl in recent years (and it’s debatable whether most players are even thinking about anything but the task at hand when they’re in the throes of a football game).

But capturing a seventh Lombardi trophy sure would make “distractions” become a non-issue in the eyes of many in Steelers Nation.

Terrell Edmunds is ready to 'go out and hit somebody' - Steelers/NFL - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 8:00am

The development of No. 1 pick Terrell Edmunds is right on schedule. The next phase comes when the Steelers convene their three-day minicamp beginning Tuesday. And then it’s on to training camp, where the real work will commence.

Steelers OTAs Recap Day 10: Defense getting exotic, and praise for the prized rookie

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 6:45am

The Pittsburgh Steelers put a bow on their OTAs, and it’s time to recap all that went down on the 10th and final workout.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have officially wrapped up their 2018 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in all three phases. With the on-field portion of the workouts completed, you think back to the key story lines coming from the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Of course the biggest news was either Ben Roethlisberger’s comments regarding Mason Rudolph, or the overall attendance, or lack thereof, by the ‘Killer B’s’. What wasn’t discussed much, though, outside of Rudolph, were players in the team’s rookie class.

Especially Terrell Edmunds.

The team’s first-round pick seems to keep a low profile, and that isn’t a bad thing. There’s something to be said about someone who simply puts his head down and grinds. But at the same time, fans want to hear glowing reports about the team’s prized rookie draft choice.

While Mike Tomlin spoke more about “team building” at Dave & Busters recently than he has about football throughout OTAs, he was very vocal in his praise — and criticism — of Edmunds during one of the secondary drills at Thursday’s workout.

Check out the video below, courtesy of ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler:

Mike Tomlin grades the performance of ‘pup’ Terrell Edmunds -- the Steelers coach praises the first-round pick’s footwork but gives his hand usage a D-minus.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 7, 2018

You can hear Tomlin praising Edmunds’ footwork, but he’s not happy with his hand usage in this particular drill. Sure, it’s just one video, but Edmunds looking comfortable on the biggest stage is something worth noting. If you recall other players in their first OTAs, there are some where the stage seems too big and the lights too bright.

Not Edmunds. Tomlin clearly sees the raw potential in this player, and he’s going to do whatever it takes to get every ounce of potential out of him. I can say I’m extremely excited at the prospect of seeing No. 34 in black-and-gold making plays this preseason.

Time to get through some other news on the Steelers in their last workout:

Exotic is the name of the game...

No, I’m not talking about exotic dancers. The Steelers are wisely using this time to test out some new formations and packages with unique tweaks and twists to them.

A lot of news was made earlier in OTAs when Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt took practice repetitions on opposite sides from the OLB positions they played last season. But this news would be particularly intriguing. Per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the team has been practicing a formation where Watt and Dupree are lined up on the same side.

Bud Dupree said him and fellow OLB T.J. Watt pass-rushing from the same side of the formation in a recent practice is an example of the defense experimenting with different looks in offseason work.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 7, 2018

I’m nowhere near smart enough to dissect how this style of approach would or could impact the team’s defense, but it might be a sign of things to come in the upcoming season. In other words, expect the unexpected.

What now?

The Steelers have wrapped up OTAs, and next comes mandatory minicamp. No more voluntary workouts...just mandatory workouts. These workouts are three days long, and start Tuesday June 12th. You can bet we’ll have all the latest news and notes for you on who is there, who isn’t, and what’s going down at the team’s headquarters.

Now for some content you might enjoy:


Cameron Heyward talks about how he uses OTA's to keep improving his game, his excitement for the potential of the defense, Ryan Shazier and more.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 7, 2018

James Washington dishing on how he tries to catch up to NFL play with the Steelers in OTAs:

— Jacob Klinger (@Jacob_Klinger_) June 7, 2018

Rookie James Washington goes high for a back-of-end-zone catch.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 7, 2018

Welcome to the NFL @1CSW being put the through the paces at @steelers OTA

( @steelers)#NFLUK

— NFL UK (@NFLUK) June 7, 2018 Just because...


— Antonio Brown (@AB84) June 7, 2018 PODCAST

Podcast: Veterans who could be given the ax before the regular season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 5:23am

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

The 2018 NFL Draft is over and, believe it or not, there’s lots to talk about heading into a big week of offseason news for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the new show Steelers News:

  • OTAs news and notes
  • Players who could are on the verge of being cut before the regular season:

Coty Sensabaugh, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, Fitzgerald Toussaint...check out the podcast for the complete list!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, goes over everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on our BlogTalkRadio page. If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below. Be sure to follow us on iTunes by searching The Standard is the Standard.

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also check out his website to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

Steelers fans shouldn’t forget about Brian Allen when talking about the cornerback position

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 2:34pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers second year cornerback is looking to make an impact on the defensive secondary in 2018.

Ask Pittsburgh Steelers fans to list the cornerbacks on the current roster, and it would probably look something like this:

Artie Burns
Joe Haden
Mike Hilton
Cameron Sutton

They would then stop listing players and go on about how the team can’t stop the run and exactly why the defense is the reason the team doesn’t have more than six Super Bowl victories.

Nonetheless, there is a name which isn’t on the above list, but probably should be. The name is Brian Allen.

Allen is entering his second year as a cornerback on the team, but more importantly only his fourth year as a defender. In college he was recruited as a wide receiver before transitioning to the defensive side of the football. When you look at his physical traits, he has the size and speed which is a rare combination in a cornerback, and is learning how to use his size to his advantage.

Allen is more than just another body at cornerback; he could be a “sleeper” player for the Steelers in 2018. No, he may not see the field a ridiculous amount of time on defense, but not only will he likely be a standout on special teams, he is certainly a player to watch in the future.

Every day, every practice, Allen is improving, and he is destined to get on the football field. While some may think he doesn’t even deserve a spot on the 53-man roster, there is a reason the Steelers kept him on the roster last year as a rookie. The team clearly likes what they have in Allen, and although he may be nothing more than depth in 2018, his future could be very bright.

So, the next time you are asked to list the Steelers’ cornerbacks, don’t forget Brian Allen on your list...

Check out the video below where Allen talks about his preparation, his maturation as a defender and adjusting to a new secondary coach.

Brian Allen talks about the specific things he is working on to elevate his performance this offseason.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 5, 2018

The Steelers are still waiting for Daniel McCullers to explode - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 1:28pm

Five years into his professional career, the 6-foot-7, 350-pound nose tackle takes the field with the rest of the Steelers.

Morgan Burnett views Steelers rookie Terrell Edmunds as a “bright young talent” in the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 1:16pm

The Steelers’ top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft got some praise from a veteran teammate.

The Pittsburgh Steelers went from having no safeties, to a lot of safeties in a very short amount of time.

After acquiring Morgan Burnett via free agency, the team then drafted Terrell Edmunds in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and followed it up with Marcus Allen in the fifth round.

But back to Burnett for a second.

Burnett has been around the block a time or two in his nine seasons in the NFL. He was on the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 45, albeit injured, when the Packers beat the Steelers, and he brings with him a wealth of knowledge and versatility to his new team.

With young safeties roaming around the secondary, Burnett has already assumed the position of veteran in the secondary, along with Joe Haden, despite the fact he is learning the new defense with the first year players. This isn’t Burnett’s first rodeo with this job title, and he has seen more than a few rookies come in and try to be difference makers from year one.

However, Burnett, who recently joined Jim Rome on CBS Sports Radio, spoke highly of the Steelers’ top draft pick Terrell Edmunds. He praised his communication, maturity and labeled him as a “bright young talent in this league”. He would go on to talk about excited he is to see Edmunds on the Heinz Field turf making plays for the Steelers.

Check out the interview below to see/hear Burnett talks about playing in a different city for the first time, his first reaction to being picked up by the Steelers and much more:

When it comes down to it, Burnett, Sean Davis, Edmunds and even Marcus Allen are going to have to be one cohesive unit as they prepare for the 2018 season. The Steelers’ defensive coaching staff has already laid the groundwork for an extremely creative set up to their sub packages, and the safety play will have to be a large part of the equation.

Remaining Free Agents: Offensive players left, should the Steelers need to add to their roster

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 10:30am

BTSC examines the remaining free agents on offense and if they might possibly find their way to “the Burgh”.

The free-agent frenzy in the NFL typically happens in March, but with (give or take a week) six weeks left before the start of training camp, there's a full slate of very able players that currently do not have NFL jobs. These men can be viable additions to any one of the 32 NFL teams, depending on their specific needs. Just like everybody else, The Pittsburgh Steelers are not a complete team. They need to meet their own very specific requirements if they hope to go all the way in 2018. Perhaps one of these men can help Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin and company.

BTSC examines the available players at each position that could be possibilities for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In some cases, they don’t have needs at that position. However in this first installment, we will examine the offensive side of the ball and whether or not they would be a realistic and helpful option for the Black-and-gold. With the salary cap space always being an issue, we realize that not every player would be a possibility. But the following are the best at each position that free agency has to offer at this late juncture.


Best Remaining: Colin Kaepernick - San Francisco

Other Options: Jay Cutler - Miami

The Steelers are not going to add a signal caller through free agency, especially after trading up for Mason Rudolph and adding him to a stable that includes Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs. If for some remote, bizarro reason they would, it surely wouldn’t be the veteran Cutler, who starts tire fires everywhere he goes — or Kaepernick and the PR issues that would follow.

Running Backs

Best Remaining: DeMarco Murray - Tennessee

Other Options: Orleans Darkwa - New York Giants, Adrian Peterson - Arizona, Alfred Morris - Dallas, Terrance West - Baltimore

It appears the Steelers are still banking on a late-arriving Le’Veon Bell to be in uniform on Week 1. While one wouldn’t expect No. 26 to stubbornly pass on $14.5 Million, nothing would surprise me. If the Steelers were to stumble on cash and gamble on a backup plan for Bell, Murray would be a decent addition. The former Cowboy, Eagle and Titan had a down year with only a 3.6 ypc in 2017, but the 30-year old would benefit from a stellar offensive line and a potent receiving stable. For now, it seems the Steelers are content to stand pat with the promise of Bell, James Conner, Fitz Toussaint, Stevan Ridley and Jaylen Samuels.

Wide Receivers

Best Remaining: Dez Bryant - Dallas

Other Options: Eric Decker - Tennessee, Dontrelle Inman - Chicago, Jeremy Maclin - Baltimore

Here’s another situation where, if the Steelers would add, it would strictly be veteran-minimum depth. That’s not anywhere near Bryant’s zip code, even though the pipe dream of adding him along with AB, JuJu and James Washington would be mind-blowing. Eric Decker (54 rec/563 yards) would be a nice veteran add here, but I see the Steelers giving Justin Hunter much more of an opportunity in this high-powered attack.

Tight Ends

Best Remaining: Antonio Gates - Los Angeles Chargers

Other Options: Coby Fleener - New Orleans, Brent Celek - Philadelphia, Julius Thomas - Miami

If Vance McDonald stays healthy and available for 16 games, the former second-rounder could be a major weapon for the Steelers. The prospect of that is up in the air after last season though. The guys on this list aren’t any better than McDonald, Jesse James and Xavier Grimble. But adding a presence such as a ring-driven Gates (30 rec/316 yards)for one year, would be fun.

Offensive Line

Best Remaining: G Alex Boone - Arizona

Other Options: G Luke Joeckel - Seattle, G Jahri Evans - Green Bay, OT Will Beatty - Philadelphia, G Richie Incognito - Buffalo

With three of the five starters (David DeCastro, Alejandro Villanueva and Maurkice Pouncey) selected to the Pro Bowl in 2017, you wouldn’t think that this stable needs much help. But with “the Munch Bunch” getting long-in-the-tooth, depth could be an issue. Jerald Hawkins went down in OTAs and with Chris Hubbard in Cleveland, the Steelers drafted Chuks Okotafor and just brought in the journeyman Bryce Harris this week. I don’t see the Steelers bringing a higher-priced/high-problem guy like Incognito or a broken-down Evans in. Boone is solid, but the money is probably best spent elsewhere.

Will the Steelers make any more moves or stay put? Stick with BTSC for not just all of the offseason news, but for our breakdown of the defensive players on this list, as well.

Steelers OTAs Recap Day 9: Ben Roethlisberger returns and offers explanation for absence

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 8:30am

Time to get you squared away as the Steelers wrap up their third week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs).

The Pittsburgh Steelers have almost completed their Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and there was a ton of news coming from the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Wednesday. First, Ryan Shazier addressed the media for the first time since injuring his back last December in Cincinnati.

Shazier seems to be in tremendous spirits, is walking with a cane and still aims to return to the football field he once called home. And no, he isn’t scared about potentially returning to the field.

While Shazier was wrapping up his media session, Steelers players were hitting the gridiron for the ninth time. A familiar face was back, as Ben Roethlisberger returned for the first time since the team’s first OTA session weeks ago.

Many fans, and media, speculated why and where Roethlisberger was during the past few weeks, and the man fans call “Big Ben” responded to these inquiries.

Ben also had an interesting take on OTA attendance. “If Coach (head coach Mike Tomlin) asked me to be here every day, I’d be here every day. They haven’t asked me to do that. The time I was gone with my family on vacation was an awesome opportunity for the other QBs to get reps.”

— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) June 6, 2018

Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice today and said he had a pre-planned vacation. That’s why he missed OTAs. @TheAthleticPGH

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 6, 2018

For those who would rather hear it from Roethlisberger himself, here he is talking to the media about why he wasn’t in attendance.

Ben Roethlisberger, who missed six on-field OTAs while on a pre-planned vacation, said he would have been with the team every day had coach Mike Tomlin wanted him there.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 6, 2018

Personally, I’m okay with Roethlisberger missing OTAs for multiple reasons. As he mentioned, it mainly gave Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph a lot more repetitions, which they need — and wouldn’t get — if Roethlisberger were present. Also, the risk of injury simply isn’t worth it in my opinion. Roethlisberger spoke about how the offense hasn’t changed much, either in scheme or personnel, so him missing wasn’t a huge deal.

While plenty will still be talking about the absence of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, they should find solace in the fact Mike Tomlin certainly knows and understands where his players are during these voluntary workouts.

For those who are curious, the Steelers’ final OTA will be Thursday, June 7th, and the mandatory minicamp will begin on June 12th at the team’s facility.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes regarding the Black-and-gold as they head into more offseason workouts and prepare for the 2018 regular season.

Steelers Throwback Thursday: Working overtime in the Windy City

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 6:39am

BTSC remembers a game when a desperate Steelers team tried to get their season back on track in a venue where they’d never won.

The BTSC Delorean is all plutoniumed up and ready to hit 88 mph as we head back in time to when Yitzhak Rabin (Israel’s Prime Minister) was shot dead at a peace rally in Tel Aviv, Typhoon Angela was ravaging the Phillipines, Mariah Carey was topping the charts with ”Fantasy” and the Travolta/Devito film Get Shorty remained number one at the box office.

Meanwhile, the Steelers were mired in a season that, so far, had produced a disappointing 5-4 record as they headed to Chicago to face the 5-2 Bears. Pittsburgh was 0-11 all time in the Windy City and Bill Cowher proclaimed the week before the game that the Steelers’ win over Jacksonville had to be the start of a “nine game season”.

Opposing Cowher was another Pittsburgh-bred coach, Dave Wannstedt. The mustachioed coach looked like Cowher and was said to also have been a finalist for the Steelers job in 1992. The Bears were led by red-hot QB Erik Kramer, who had thrown 18 touchdown passes to only four picks. Kramer was playing behind a solid line that saw him get sacked only four times so far that season. It was unusual to see such a high-octane offense in Chicago. Kramer, along with rookie RB and 1994 Heisman winner Rahsaan Salaam, plus receivers Curtis Conway and former Steeler Jeff Graham, formed the nucleus of the offense with the second best points-per-game average in the NFL at 27.3.

Cowher had made big changes on both sides of the ball to shake things up. Carnell Lake was at corner in place of injured star Rod Woodson, and rookie Kordell Stewart was starting to see increased action at WR.

The Steelers’ defense wasn’t performing like the “Steel Trap” of a year earlier. But stars like Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown, Levon Kirkland and Joel Steed were looking to break out.

In the first quarter, Ray Seals pressured Kramer, who barely got the ball off. With a clear path to a pick-6, Kevin Greene was a step late and couldn’t nab the ball. Two neural zone infractions on the first drive by the Steelers kept the drive alive, as Kramer drove the Bears into Steelers’ real estate. Fine defense by Willie Williams on Michael Timpson forced fourth down and a Kevin Butler 39-yard field goal made it 3-0 early.

On their first drive, the Steelers saw a sharp Neil O’Donnell move the Steelers to the Chicago 36, only to punt after surviving a Charles Johnson fumble that was ruled an incompletion. On the drive to follow, Kramer threw upfield to the 30-yard line but it was picked off there by Darren Perry, who returned the ball to the original spot at the 13. It was Perry’s third interception of the year and the Steelers were in serious business to score. However on 3rd-and-9, O’Donnell threw a screen to Erric Pegram to get down inside the 10-yard line. But Vinson Smith turned Pegram inside, forcing him into Carl Simpson, who forced a fumble that wound up in the arms of Smith.

But Kramer and the modern-day Monsters of the Midway would surrender the ball again. Driving inside the Pittsburgh 35, Robert Green rolled off an eight-yard run, only to fumble the ball and watch as Darren Perry recovered it for his second takeaway of the first quarter.

The Steelers took over on a drive that extended into the second quarter. A mix of rushes by Pegram, catches by Yancey Thigpen and a 27-yard reception by Kordell Stewart got the Steelers down to the one. On a second effort plunge on the drive’s 14th play, Pegram plowed in for his fourth touchdown of the year. With Norm Johnson’s point-after, it was 7-3 Pittsburgh with 9:42 remaining in the second quarter.

After Nate Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards to the Steelers’ 26, the Bears had a short field to work with. A few plays later, the Bears regained the lead when Curtis Conway beat Lake on a 6-yard scoring pass from Kramer.

The Steelers followed the great return by Lewis with one of their own. Ernie Mills had a 46-yard return that set up the Steelers at the Chicago 49. But Pittsburgh could only muster a 40-yard Norm Johnson field goal to tie the game at ten with 2:40 remaining in the half.

The Steelers would get another chance to take the lead right before halftime. With the Bears at midfield, their QB threw his second pick into the waiting arms of Greg Lloyd. No. 95 (in what would somewhat resemble James Harrison’s epic interception return 23 years later) rumbled and tiptoed down the sideline to the Chicago five. After escaping pressure, O’Donnell dumped a pass off to Pegram, who found his way into the end zone for a 7-yard score and a 17-10 lead.

The Bears were driving deep again and trying to tie the game before the half, but Anthony Johnson fumbled after getting cracked by Myron Bell. Darren Perry recovered for his third takeaway of the half.

The third quarter began (and stayed) ugly when Pegram absorbed a hit by Anthony Washington and Chris Zorich recovered his fumble at the Steelers’ 32. A few plays later, FB Tony Carter took a screen from Kramer and sped down the sideline for a 12-yard score. Carter stepped out at the one, but there was no instant replay in 1995 to overturn it. 17-17.

The Bears continued to come alive. After sacking O’Donnell twice and partially blocking a Rohn Stark punt, “Da Bears took over on the Pittsburgh 39. Almost immediately, Kramer threw his third touchdown pass, this time to TE Ryan Wetnight for 14 yards and a 24-17 lead.

The Steelers would put points on the board in the third. Norm Johnson’s 46-yard field goal cut the Bears’ lead to 24-20 with 4:17 left in the third. The Steelers stalled after that. O’Donnell, working from his own 20-yard line, was intercepted by Anthony Marshall. The Bears had great field position and looked ready to slam the door on their visitors. But solid coverage by Carnell Lake to break up a Graham TD halted the drive. Then Kevin Butler opened the scoring in the fourth quarter, extending the Bears’ lead to 27-20 with a 27-yard field goal.

Another fantastic return by Ernie Mills set the Steelers up at the Chicago 45. Pittsburgh capitalized after an amazing sideline catch by Yancey Thigpen that kept the drive alive for Pegram (behind great blocking by John L. Williams) to score from seven yards out to tie the score at 27 with 12:19 left.

The Bears mounted another drive, but a Ray Seals sack of Kramer forced a Todd Sauerbraun punt that the Bears downed at the Steeler three. Apparent disaster struck next when Alonzo Spellman beat Leon Searcy and tipped O’Donnell’s pass to Kevin Minter, handing him a two yard march to paydirt. The turnover-fest continued as the Steelers’ gaffes matched the Bears’ at four.

The Steelers seemed defeated at this point. They couldn’t get past the 20 on their next possession and had to punt. With Graham returning the punt to the Pittsburgh 47, it looked like the Bears would close things out. The clock was rapidly draining as Salaam was moving the chains and moving the Bears into field-goal range. But on 3rd-and-3, Jerry Olsavsky stopped Salaam and Butler came out to slam the door on the Steelers with 3:53 left in the game. But the Bears kicker, who hadn’t missed any of his 16 kicks all season, did just that. Butler, who had hooked his previous attempt and barely made it, overcompensated and the ball went with the wind, wide right.

Down by three, O’Donnell took over from his own 35. A pass to John L. moved the chains right away, but then Zorich’s sack of No. 14 made things look grim again. But O’Donnell dusted himself off and fired a strike to Charles Johnson for a first down at midfield. On 3rd-and-7, Hastings caught a ball to barely move the chains at the 2-minute warning. After that, Neil threw a 27-yard beauty that Ernie Mills caught on his fingertips to get to the 15. On the next two plays, Hastings couldn’t hang on to passes. Then, on 3rd-and-10, Fred McAfee got five yards on a screen, but a penalty on McAfee for illegal use of hands gave the Steelers a 3rd-and-18. O’Donnell threaded a needle to Hastings at the six, but it was one yard shy. On 4th-and-1, and without Bam Morris (who was out due to injury), the Steelers needed to convert with 1:10 left in the game. Things seemed dire when rookie Guard Brendan Stai was guilty of a flinch for a false start and the Steelers were marched backwards by five yards. But that opened up more field for Ernie Mills, who scored on an 11-yard pass from a calm O’Donnell.

What happened next was a brilliant move by the riverboat gambler, Bill Cowher. Knowing that the potent Bears had two timeouts and 1:06 remaining to get in position for a game-winning field goal, the Steelers seemingly huddled up for a go ahead 2-point conversion instead of sending out Johnson for the tie. This shrewd move forced Chicago to waste a timeout. Then Johnson came out and kicked the point-after, tying the score at 34.

Johnson squibbed the kickoff and the Bears started at their own 38 with a minute left. Steelers Nation was as nervous as a snitch at an Italian restaurant urinal. But this crazy game turned once again. Kramer went for it all with a deep pass down the middle. Conway seemingly made a great catch, but the ball bounced off of his hands and into those of Willie Williams for another turnover. Williams returned the ball to the Steelers’ 38 and the Black-and-gold suddenly found themselves in the same boat that Chicago had been in only seconds earlier — with a golden opportunity to win.

Just like that, O’Donnell found Thigpen for 20 yards, but the offense couldn’t get close enough for Norm Johnson. So after a Hail Mary fell to the turf, the two teams headed for overtime.

After the brief intermission, the Steelers had another obstacle to overcome, as Chicago won the coin toss and elected to receive against the wind. The Steelers’ defense stopped Salaam on first down, got a gift when Kramer missed an open Conway on second down, and then rose to the occasion when Lake broke up a pass on third down to force a punt.

Then the Steelers went to work from their own 31. On third and long, Mills caught a ball at the sticks on the sideline for a first down at the 42. As he had done all day, Pegram came up big again when he took a screen pass for 15 yards. After a first down catch by Johnson, rookie TE Mark Breuner got nine and Pegram was able to move the sticks by a hair on the next play. Offensive Coordinator Ron Erhardt relied on Pegram and Williams to get closer and closer on the ground. After getting the ball to the left hash, Johnson kicked a 24-yarder into the cold Chicago night to seal the 37-34 OT victory. As of this writing in 2018, this still stands as the Steelers’ only triumph over the Bears — EVER!

At the time, I was 23 and working in radio in Elkins, West Virginia. I had just been dumped by an older woman and decided that I was too depressed to go out and watch the game in public. Plus I had gone turkey hunting a few days earlier for my first time ever and the only thing I bagged was a weird infection from which I was unable to move my neck. So this was also my first dance with muscle relaxers and I surely wasn’t the one leading. I was in a fog all weekend and barely remember anything that was going on, most especially that woman who ripped my heart out of my rib cage and stomped on it. But I do remember being aware of the 4:00 pm start, so I decided to forego relief and the subsequent daze to try to focus on the game. I’m glad I did. This was the game that turned things around for the 1995 edition of the Black-and-gold, and I’m thrilled I was cognizant for it. They meshed after that victory and lost only once more during the regular season — that loss being a pretty-much meaningless game in Week 16 at Green Bay. Sure they also lost against Dallas in Super Bowl XXX, but I’ll always remember the magic of that ‘95 campaign.

My infection cleared, my neck healed, the fog lifted and I stopped thinking about the older woman. But I’ll never forget watching that frigid OT classic when the Steelers advanced their record to 2-0 in their “9-game season”.

Pittsburgh Steelers release official 2018 Training Camp schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/07/2018 - 5:33am

The Steelers will be back at training camp before you know it, and you can now plan accordingly to see the Black-and-gold at Saint Vincent College.

Whenever someone talks about training camp, the Thin Lizzy song “The Boys are Back in Town” comes to mind. You know, when the convoy of semis containing weightlifting equipment and gear come rolling through the hills of Western Pennsylvania. When Black-and-gold fans flock to Saint Vincent College as if it were some type of mecca, and when Antonio Brown and company show up in style to impress on the first day of training camp.

Before you know it, the boys will be back in Latrobe, PA, getting ready for the 2018 regular season.

Never been to training camp? I strongly suggest you make it at least once in your lifetime, and what better time than the present?

The Steelers just released their official training camp schedule. So start making plans to head up to campus to take in one or two practices. Check out the complete schedule below:

July 25, players report by 4 p.m.

July 26, 2:55 p.m.

July 27, 2:55 p.m.

July 28, 2:55 p.m.

July 29, 2:55 p.m.

July 30, 2:55 p.m.

July 31, OFF

Aug. 1, 2:55 p.m.

Aug. 2, 2:55 p.m.

Aug. 3, 7 p.m. (Latrobe Memorial Stadium)

Aug. 4, 2:55 p.m.

Aug. 5, 2:55 p.m.

Aug. 6, 2:55 p.m.

Aug. 7, 2:55 p.m.

Aug. 8, practice not open to public

Aug. 9, preseason opener at Eagles, 7 p.m.

Aug. 10, OFF

Aug. 11, 2:55 p.m.

Aug. 12, 2:55 p.m.

Aug. 13, 2:55 p.m.

Aug. 14, 2:55 p.m.

Aug. 15, practice not open to public


Ravens fined by NFL, lose practices for rules violation - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 4:28pm

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens have been fined by the NFL and forced to forfeit two days of practice this week for violating offseason workout rules.

Ryan Shazier embracing role as unofficial coach during Steelers OTAs - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 2:32pm

Wednesday, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier re-affirmed that he’s committed to returning to the game of football after suffering a spinal cord injury Dec. 4.

Antonio Brown reminds fans of one of his biggest assets as a receiver — his stiffarm

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 2:23pm

Antonio Brown can do a lot on the football field, and among all those aspects of his game, the most underrated might be his stiff arm.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown can do a lot. Heck, who am I kidding...he can do it all. He can run every route on the route tree, has tremendous hands, can come down with the tough combat catches and has the statistics to prove just how great he has been during his NFL career.

One aspect of his game which doesn’t get as much attention is his stiff arm. When you ask any fan of the Steelers about a stiff arm, they probably think of this play...

Le'Veon Bell with the YAC and lethal stiff-arm! #Steelers

— Blitzburgh (@Steel_Curtain4) October 23, 2017

While Bell’s stiff arm of Dre Kirkpatrick was one to remember, Brown has had his share of quality stiff arms throughout his career.

In true Antonio Brown fashion, it took it upon himself to remind fans of some of his greatest stiff arms throughout his career. Check out the pictures he posted on his official Instagram account below:

Stiff Arm #fortheconfusion

A post shared by Antonio Brown (@ab) on Jun 6, 2018 at 6:29am PDT

Certainly brings back some memories from Brown dishing out the pain to defenders. Not quite sure why him kicking punter Spencer Lanning in the face made the cut, but that picture/video simply never gets old.

Come to think of it, what was the best stiff arm you can remember? The ones Brown listed are great, but I can’t think of a better stiff arm than Bell’s on Kirkpatrick last year. What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below!

Ben Roethlisberger: Other QBs 'were thanking me' for OTA vacation - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 2:03pm

Maybe Mason Rudolph should bake Ben Roethlisberger a cake.

If able, Ryan Shazier wouldn’t be scared of playing football again

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 12:33pm

Ryan Shazier addressed media to talk about his rehabilitation, progress and dreams of still playing football.

When Ryan Shazier was injured against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football on December 4th, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and their fan base, didn’t know what to think. As they watched their budding star linebacker carted off the field with no movement in his lower body, everyone wasn’t sure what to expect.

After the spine stabilization surgery, his first public comments and eventually walking across the stage at the 2018 NFL Draft, Shazier was very outspoken regarding his desire to play football again one day.

As Shazier addressed the media at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex Wednesday, his goal remained the same. When most fans and media members hear this they immediately think about the prospect of a man who was partially paralyzed by this game suiting up again and putting himself at risk of further injury.

This commonly leads to statements like “Let’s just hope he returns to a full life...not football.”

But that isn’t how Shazier thinks. He is cut from a different cloth.

Shazier wants to play again, but for the first time he talked about whether he would be afraid of re-injury if he did indeed regain his playing form.

In case you didn’t know — he isn’t scared.

#Steelers LB Ryan Shazier: "A lot of people have told me 'You shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that.'" Said he doesn't have a fear of playing the game.

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) June 6, 2018

Ryan Shazier said he does not have a fear of absorbing another hit that could injure him if/when he returns to playing football.
"I'm trusting in the Lord, and I feel like if He gives me a chance to play again, I'm going to go out and make the best of it."

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) June 6, 2018

Some will remain skeptical regarding Shazier’s overall progress, but the fact remains the progress he has shown to date is remarkable.

Think about it.

On December 4th he couldn’t move his lower extremities. Fast forward to the NFL Draft in April, and he walked, albeit assisted by his fiance, across the stage to announce the Steelers’ pick of Terrell Edmunds in the first round.

Absolutely amazing, if you ask me.

My personal opinions of Shazier and a potential return don’t matter, and to be honest no one’s opinions matter other than No. 50’s. Some scoff at the thought of him playing again, but when they watched him being carted off the field at Paul Brown Stadium in December, I would assume many would scoff at him walking across the stage in Dallas to announce the team’s draft pick.

I’ve learned not to bet against Ryan Shazier. He says he is going to play again, and to me that means the man will one day suit up in the black-and-gold again.

Take a look at Shazier walking into the press conference to greet the general media for the first time:

Ryan Shazier talked to the media today. @TheAthleticPGH

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 6, 2018


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