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Crunching the Numbers: A lethal concoction of statistics in the Steelers’ favor makes Week 8 worrisome

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/26/2019 - 7:01am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The numbers are so skewed in favor of the Steelers on Monday night it seems too good to be true

Coach Tomlin said we can’t live in our fears. But the more he says it, the more I do it. When it comes to games the Steelers look like they should win handily, that is when I get the most nervous. I prefer The Steelers being the underdog. They seem to rise to the occasion. But when so many numbers are coming together to show why the Steelers should defeat the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, it makes me think that too much of a good thing is probably too good to be true.

In this weeks installment of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take at some of the Pittsburgh Steelers numbers on various topics such as coming off the bye week, playing at home on Monday night football, being favored by two touchdowns, and facing Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

17

It has been discussed at length that the Steelers have won 17 straight games at home on Monday Night Football. Their last loss was in 1991 to the New York Giants. Obviously, the Steelers have never lost a Monday night game at Heinz Field where they are currently 9-0.

4

Not only have the Steelers never lost on Monday night at Heinz Field, they’ve also never lost a game when they’ve worn their color rush uniforms. The Steelers have defeated the Ravens, Titans, Panthers, and Patriots all when wearing their color rush uniforms at Heinz Field.

6

The Steelers also have a six-game winning streak against Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick whenever he’s started the game. Fitzpatrick has never defeated the Steelers and Monday will be his seventh try with the sixth different franchise. The last time Fitzpatrick faced the Steelers was in 2018 in Week 3 as part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football where the Steelers were victorious 30-27.

8-1

The Steelers are currently favored by 14 points on Monday night. Since the 1970 merger, the Steelers are 13-3 straight up when they are favored by 14 points. Chuck Noll had a 4–0 record while Bill Cowher was only 1-2 in said games. Mike Tomlin has been favored by two touchdowns more than the other two coaches combined and has an 8–1 record. The last time the Steelers lost when favored by two touchdowns or more was in 2009 against the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field by a score of 27–24.

8-4

While it is not a super-impressive number for some, the Steelers are 8-4 coming off of the bye under head coach Mike Tomlin. With a winning percentage of 66.7%, his record after a bye is slightly higher than his overall regular-season coaching record at 64.4%.

23 vs 54

One number that is concerning for the Pittsburgh Steelers coming out of a buy is their slow start on offense under Mike Tomlin. Since 2007, the Steelers have only scored 23 total points in the first quarter in games following the bye. In fact, you would have to go back to 2008 to find where the Steelers scored a first quarter touchdown in there first game back from the bye week.

But after examining this number, the Steelers are meeting the perfect opponent in order to break this trend. In 2019, the Dolphins are last in the NFL in the number of points given up in the first quarter. They have surrendered six touchdowns and four field goals for a total of 54 points in each game. Their only contest in which they did not surrender any points in the first quarter was against the Washington Redskins whose lone victory on the season is against the Dolphins.

So these are some of the numbers outlining the Steelers situational history of multiple factors concerning Monday’s matchup with the Miami Dolphins. Can the Steelers keep these positive stats going with a win? Or are the reasons behind why the Steelers should win the game setting fans up for disappointment? Please leave your answers in the comments below!

Podcast: The biggest area of improvement necessary for the Steelers moving forward

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/26/2019 - 5:59am

Answering questions and breaking down what to expect from the Steelers vs. the Dolphins in Week 8.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-4, and there is no hiding from such an elementary truth, but there is always hope on the horizon and it comes in the form of the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

With there being an extra day off, Jeff Hartman took to the airwaves to answer all of your burning questions about the team leading up to the game, and we answer them to the best of our ability.

Plenty has to be deciphered here, and I lay it all out there for the listeners in the latest show...

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Don’t ask Dolphins coach Brian Flores about Minkah Fitzpatrick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/26/2019 - 4:40am
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving into Week 8 of the NFL regular season, and as the team prepares for the Miami Dolphins this week we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the next game starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how Dolphins head coach doesn’t want to talk about Minkah Fitzpatrick anymore.

Let’s get to the news:

  • He has moved on folks. Yes, I’m talking about Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The funny thing about it is he was the one who decided to trade Fitzpatrick, but what does that matter?

Dolphins coach Brian Flores has ‘moved on’ from Minkah Fitzpatrick trade to Steelers

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Brian Flores isn’t interested in rehashing history.

It has been nearly six weeks since the Miami Dolphins traded second-year defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, a former No. 11 overall draft pick, to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the Dolphins face the Steelers on Monday night at Heinz Field, the first-year Dolphins head coach would rather not talk about the past.

“It’s something that happened. We’ve moved on as a team,” Flores said Thursday on a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters. “We’ve worked on ourselves and building and improving on a day-to-day basis. That’s where the focus is. If you start to think about anything other than that or this happened or why did that happen … we put our energy in other places.”

Such as winning a game, something the Dolphins haven’t done with or without Fitzpatrick. They are 0-6 on the season, losing two games with Fitzpatrick patrolling their secondary and four without him.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Whether the Steelers are taking the 0-6 Dolphins lightly is anyone’s guess, but the players are saying all the right things.

Steelers insist they aren’t taking 0-6 Dolphins lightly

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Maybe it’s because the Pittsburgh Steelers have won just two of their first six games themselves, or perhaps memories of 2018 defeats to bottom feeders Oakland and Denver still linger. Regardless of why, though, the Steelers insist they are not looking past the winless Miami Dolphins.

Miami is 0-6 heading into Monday night’s game at Heinz Field.

“They are going to be awful hard to beat, because they play,” Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said, referring to the Dolphins’ effort. “And they are going to play well. They can look at their situation and say ‘We’re young,’ and they’ve had some transition, but they have been close to winning some games lately.”

After being outscored, 163-26, in losing all of their September games, the Dolphins have been much more competitive after their bye. In two games since the bye – and since switching from Josh Rosen back to veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick – Miami has a mere minus-11 point differential.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Frustrated Antonio Brown has active morning on Twitter

By: Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

Receiver Antonio Brown continues to wait for his next opportunity, and he continues to be justifiably frustrated by the fact that the NFL’s slow-moving investigation is essentially keeping Brown suspended without pay.

A day after Brown tweeted (and deleted) a suggestion that he’s being blackballed by the league and separately seemed to concede that he won’t play again until 2020, Brown embarked on an extended Twitter Q&A that was, to say the least, interesting.

He touched on various issues, from accusing Patriots trainers of stealing the football with which he scored his only touchdown with the team to expressing interest in playing for the Ravens to indicating that he wanted to play for the 49ers but that they weren’t interested to blaming the media for his current predicament to making it clear he has no interest in the XFL or CFL to repeatedly declining requests from radio stations to join their shows on Friday morning.

Brown also had this assessment regarding his parting message to Raiders fans: “Sorry it didn’t work bought crib out there was ready to go to work but I was to much steak for a chicken plan.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

.@Missi_Matthews goes 1-on-1 with @_Dbush11 to discuss his high school jersey retirement, leading the league in takeaways and surprising himself. pic.twitter.com/Hgi46P6tmX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 25, 2019
  • Mason Rudolph Media Session

.@Rudolph2Mason: “It’s behind me now, I’m ready to play football.” pic.twitter.com/lN5q92TucV

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 24, 2019
  • Social Media Madness

.@CharlieBatch16 stepped in and made the plays.

Relive our 28-17 win over the Dolphins in 2006.@GP_Protects pic.twitter.com/CT2yllBPAw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 25, 2019

On Thursday, Trey Edmunds and @TswaggJones put on chef jackets and cooked up healthy meals for some of the women at @MageeWomens. pic.twitter.com/5XBr2GcAUY

— Steelers Community Relations (@SteelersCR) October 25, 2019

Bullying impacts kids daily throughout the world.#BullyingAwarenessMonth pic.twitter.com/twTmoQNTCN

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 24, 2019

But together, we can stand up and #StopBullying.#BullyingAwarenessMonth pic.twitter.com/HKqjGdH86b

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 24, 2019

.@sackmaster91 took to the streets on behalf of @Headshoulders to settle some of the hottest debate topics in the Steel City, like Kevin’s hair or Brett’s beard? Pick up a bottle of Head & Shoulders at @GiantEagle today! #HereWeGo #OffenseDefense pic.twitter.com/faIUVj3t83

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 25, 2019

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions: Dolphins, Week 8 Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 5:42pm
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty to talk about regarding all things black-and-gold!

Several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night Open Thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring it back to Friday night — with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six-Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six-Pack of Steelers Questions and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. Deep thoughts to start...do you think it is mandatory to win in today’s NFL to be able to throw the ball as your primary mode to move your offense? Or do you still feel you can have a running game be your strength and still win?

2. What area of the Steelers’ defense needs to improve the most for this defense to take the next step towards being a dominant unit?

3. If the OVER/UNDER is set at 4 for Steelers sacks on Dolphins QBs, would you take the over or under?

4. The Steelers are currently averaging just over 20 points per game. Where does this offense need to be, in regards to points per game, to consider them a threat week-in and week-out?

5. The Steelers are 14.5 point favorites at home in Week 8. Heinz Field, Monday night, Color Rush uniforms...would you take the Steelers giving all those points?

6. Caption the photo below:

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Steelers Injury Report: JuJu Smith-Schuster returns to practice Friday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 1:35pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

T.J. Watt was able to progress to a full participant which is a positive sign for Monday’s game

The Pittsburgh Steelers practiced again Friday with one more day of work coming before the official status report. According to the Steelers PR Department, all players participated in some capacity on Friday.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was the only player on the injury report who did not practice on Thursday due to illness, but was able to return on Friday. If Smith-Schuster carries any kind of designation for the game Monday it would be surprising.

A very pleasant surprise on Friday was T.J. Watt returning as a full participant in practice. While some expected Watt to need another day of limited action before the Steelers’ final practice on Saturday, the fact he could participate fully is a fantastic sign towards his availability on Monday. Even if Watt is able to go on Monday, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi still looks to get more time on defense as Anthony Chickillo was placed on the commissioners exempt list.

The only negative part of the Steelers injury report is Mark Barron went from a full participant on Thursday to limited on Friday. With Devin Bush improving with every game and Vince Williams showing he is the dominant force in the middle when it comes to stopping the run, it is unclear how the Steelers will handle all three players for the two inside linebacker positions.

Even with 11 players listed on the injury report, it would be surprising to see more than two or three with any kind of injury status in the report on Saturday.

As for the Dolphins injury report, it can be seen below courtesy of Steelers.com.

Miami Dolphins Participation/Injury Report, Week 8

Friday, October 25

G Shaq Calhoun (Illness) - Limited

G**/**T Jesse Davis (Elbow) - Full

WR Jakeem Grant (Hamstring) - Full

LB Trent Harris (Foot) - Limited

CB Xavien Howard (Knee) - Limited

S Reshad Jones (Chest) - DNP

C Daniel Kilgore (Knee) - DNP

CB Chris Lammons (Ankle/Toe) - Limited

S Bobby McCain (Shoulder) - Limited

DE Avery Moss (Ankle) - Limited

QB Josh Rosen (Neck) - Limited

T J’Marcus Webb (Shin) - Full

CB Ken Webster (Illness) - Limited

WR Albert Wilson (Hip) - Full

The Steelers are now starting to see just how Minkah Fitzpatrick can impact the defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 12:40pm
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers traded for a pure play maker in Minkah Fitzpatrick, and the defense is just starting to see the benefits of that trade.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a trade last month which left fans both excited and anxious. Excited about the acquisition of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, but anxious about what it took to obtain the former Alabama defensive back.

After the Steelers sent their top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Steelers fans just wanted one thing — for Fitzpatrick to be worth it.

I don’t think anyone would argue this fact after he has spent the entire month of October with the team, registering 17 total tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 INT, 3 pass defenses and 1 forced fumble all in a four game stretch with the black-and-gold.

These are concrete facts, but what the Steelers, and mainly defensive coordinator Keith Butler, are realizing is just how Fitzpatrick can impact the defense.

“I think a lot of times it is the position. If you look at the safety position, those guys are really in the middle of it all, all the time. Not just in every situation, but every time the ball is snapped, the safeties are either in position or should be in position to make plays in case the front doesn’t make the plays in front of them. That is the biggest thing.” Butler said.

“He has done a good job for us. To me, he is very sudden. What I mean by that is once he realizes what is going on, he is quick to attack and do his job. I think that has probably helped us as much as anything else. “

Entering his fifth game in Pittsburgh, and more importantly coming off the bye week, you have to wonder at what point the coaches, and Fitzpatrick himself, will be given the freedom of the full playbook and ability to roam and make plays.

“We are trying to see what we can do with him.” Butler added. “Like I said, we are ever changing. We have to be ever changing if we want to get better. We can’t be running the same stuff over and over again. He understands that. I’m sure he probably had the same experience at Alabama. Nick Saban’s defense is not very simple. It is going to take the same thing in the National Football League. We can’t be really simple when we play people. We have to have certain shapes, getting in better defenses that we want to be in versus certain formations, stuff like that. We have to have guys who can make those decisions for us on the field. Not only that, but the guys that don’t make those decisions on the field listen to the guys who do make the decisions. He allows me to do that.”

Fitzpatrick getting comfortable in his new setting was also a topic of conversation at Mike Tomlin’s Tuesday press conference. Tomlin spoke of team chemistry, and getting players like Fitzpatrick and Nick Vannett, acquired via trade from the Seattle Seahawks, more in-tune with the system and what their job entails.

“I think we are developing in those ways particularly when you are talking about new components, whether it is Nick [Vannett] on the offensive side of the ball or Minkah on defense, just to get to know the communication, formal and informal, that comes with knowing people and having shared experiences. I think we are very much in development that way, but so are a lot of people.” Tomlin said.

Whether it is Fitzpatrick getting accustomed to the defense, or his teammates getting comfortable with his verbiage and/or movement on the field, the coaching staff is just starting to unwrap their proven commodity at safety the team obtained via trade. When you look at it this way, the possibilities are endless.

Randy Fichtner sees the Steelers’ offense on the verge of exploding

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 11:29am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ offense should start to settle in after the bye week, and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner thinks this unit is ready to start producing.

If you read the headline of this article, notice the title says ‘exploding’ and not ‘imploding’. Yes, that’s right, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner is expecting the offense to be more efficient, and just better overall coming off the Week 7 bye and preparing for the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

There are a lot of reasons to think Fichtner isn’t insane, but right in his thinking. First, Mason Rudolph will be back under center after his concussion, and had a full two weeks to prepare for the rest of the regular season. Second, the offensive line looked like they were finally starting to gel against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6. Finally, it looks as if the unit is starting to get healthy. Players like James Washington (shoulder), Vance McDonald (shoulder), Jaylen Samuels (knee) and even James Conner (quad) look to be on the fast track to not missing a snap on Monday.

So, are they close to exploding?

“I think we’re close.” Fichtner said. “They just haven’t come consistently enough. I don’t know if it’s by design, but we just have to take advantage of the opportunities when it presents itself. I think we’ve got guys that can make plays. I’m always finding ways to get the ball in JuJu’s [Smith-Schuster] hands. You see young 18 [Diontae Johnson] coming on. You see James [Washington] is coming back to us this week. It’s exciting, so I look forward to that.”

But what exactly needs to happen to induce such an offensive explosion, one the fans haven’t seen even when Ben Roethlisberger was the quarterback in Weeks 1 and the first half of Week 2?

It all comes down to splash plays...

“I think you do [need explosive plays]. It makes you go the long hard way. You like to say if you want to be proud of something, then I’d say I’d be very proud if you can consistently take 10-, 12- play drives and score. That’s just awfully hard to do. Defenses get paid well and get coached well, and that just doesn’t always happen. Chunks are nice. They help.”

Long runs are nice, but what needs to happen for Mason Rudolph to start having success delivering deep passes down field? According to Fichtner, the run game is where it all starts.

“Last year I would always talk about it. We had different ways to run the ball, and that didn’t necessarily mean it counted as a run. The ball was thrown short that ran long, that consistently gained plus four. To me, those are runs, and it keeps you ahead of the chains. It keeps you ahead in down and distance situations where we can operate better. I think that’s what hurts an offense to a certain degree.

“You know, if you don’t get a lot of reps at it because you’re not converting third downs, then all of a sudden you look up and you’ve had the ball six plays when you’ve only run it twice, maybe three times. That’s probably not enough to say you can or can’t run it that day. So, it’s always going to be about opportunity and touches, for a running back as well. They need them. James [Conner] deserves them. Our other running backs in those situations had been positive with the ball in their hands too. We’ve got to run the football. Our group knows that.”

On paper it seems simple. Running the ball opens up the entire offensive playbook, but at this point and time the ultimate factor should be an offense that can attack you in a multitude of ways. Both with the run, but also through the air. The Steelers are not that offense yet, but Fichtner is hoping the explosion is coming soon.

NFL Expert Picks: Experts are all-in on the Steelers on Monday Night Football

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 10:12am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers could have a “get right” game in Week 8 when they host the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field.

It is hard to believe, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing to play their fourth prime time game in seven games on Monday Night Football when the Steelers host the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

So far, the team has a 2-1 record on prime time, beating the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football in Week 4, beating the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football in Week 6, but losing to the New England Patriots to start the season on Sunday Night Football.

But there is more to this game than just the fact this game is on prime time. Mike Tomlin has never lost a home Monday Night Football game, and the last time the Steelers did such a thing was back in the 90s. The team will also wear their Nike ‘Color Rush’ uniforms, and they remain undefeated when donning those unique uniforms. On top of all that, Mike Tomlin has a pretty solid record coming off a bye week, which the Steelers after taking Week 7 off.

Does this all equate to a win for the home team on Monday night? According to NFL experts that is exactly what it means. Let’s take a look at who the experts like in this AFC matchup...

The folks at USA Today are all-in on the Steelers, and they aren’t alone. The same can be said about the experts at ESPN, SB Nation, CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated.

To be quite honest, I tried to find a website that had someone picking the Dolphins to win this game, but all I came up with was Bailey the Dog for SB Nation, and picks against the spread. With the Steelers giving the Dolphins 14 points, you have to wonder if the anemic Steelers offense will finally come alive at some point.

Nonetheless, these are only some of the sites who make expert picks every week. What about all those other sites that make picks? This is where NFL Pick Watch comes in. The fine folks at NFL Pick Watch take all NFL expert picks and compile them into an easy-to-read chart. According to them, 99% percent of the experts are liking the Steelers to hold serve at home and advance their record to 3-4 on the season heading into Week 9.

Will the experts’ picks hold true? For the Steelers’ playoff hopes they better hope they are right...

Will James Conner’s running style cause him to be injury prone?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 9:03am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back has a bruising running style, but will that lead to more injuries?

It is fair to wonder if James Conner’s running style will cause him to be injury prone. Running back is an injury prone position to begin with, but certain runner’s styles exacerbate the risk.

Franco Harris is a Pittsburgh Steelers legend. When you think of him, several things come to mind: Immaculate Reception, Hall of Fame, Franco’s Italian Army, and Super Bowl MVP. The stuff from which legends are carved. However, if you watched Franco in the 1970s, another thing comes to mind.

Running out of bounds.

Oh yeah, if you were a Steelers’ fan in that heyday era you certainly heard that complaint — or said it yourself — quite a bit. It is as much a part of Franco’s career as the aforementioned accolades.

Cleveland Brown’s legend Jim Brown famously said it, too. In fact, Brown was so disgusted by Franco’s style, he openly lamented the fact that Franco looked to be the running back that would break his career yards record in 1984. He was so disgruntled that he even challenged Franco Harris to a race on national TV, claiming he would beat Franco.

Keep in mind, Jim Brown was retired since 1965 at the time. It was ludicrous, and very insulting to Franco Harris. A classless act by Jim Brown. Usually, players show up to celebrate their records being broken. Or, at least they go through the motions and say the right things.

Not Jim Brown.

Franco Harris, to his credit, took it in stride because he has always had class. As it panned out, Franco Harris never passed Jim Brown anyway. Franco decided to hold out for more money, was cut by the Steelers, and then signed with the Seattle Seahawks in one of the worst PR moments in Steelers’ team history.

Franco, ironically, only gained 170 more yards and decided to retire mid-season despite only needing less than 200 yards to surpass Brown. To add more irony, Walter Payton did pass Jim Brown’s record that very same year. Walter Payton’s style was the opposite of Franco’s. He never ran out of bounds, and Brown never complained about him.

As for Jim Brown’s challenge, Franco did beat Brown in a 40 yard dash in special TV event in 1985, one year after Franco retired. Franco ran a 5.16 and Brown a 5.72. Brown grasped his hamstring during the race but didn’t blame that for losing. Both 40 times were uninspiring, and it does seem to help prove that the Steelers did the right thing in not paying Franco’s holdout demands.

Anyway, Franco Harris has been quoted as saying that watching Redskin’s running back Larry Brown — who came from Pittsburgh’s Hill District and played at Schenley High School — made him realize the impact of taking needless punishment. “Second effort” was synonymous with Larry Brown, taking on tacklers and gaining yards after contact.

Yes, it was hard-nosed football, and fans – including Steelers fans – love that style. His career biography was entitled, “I’ll Always Get Up.” Larry Brown, however, wore down and his career was cut short due to injuries. After a few great seasons, he withered away.

Franco Harris didn’t want to repeat that career arc. When needed, Franco put his head down and pushed forward. When it wasn’t needed, he often scooted out of bounds avoiding the hit. He had 91 rushing touchdowns, 11th all time, tied with fellow Steeler Jerome Bettis who hardly was known for running out of bounds. The Steelers won 4 Super Bowls with him the workhorse, and an MVP in one as mentioned earlier. Franco enjoyed a mainly injury-free 12 year career.

The one notable time he got injured was for the 1976 AFC Championship game versus the Oakland Raiders. He and running mate Rocky Bleier both missed that game, and Art Rooney’s choice for his best football squad of all-time went down in flames.

Thus, proving the importance of an injury-free Franco Harris, Jim Brown’s opinion be damned. It can be argued that Franco’s strategy was both successful in elongating his career and in team victories. You can’t complain about his personal or team accomplishments.

They were amazing.

Which bring me back to the case of James Conner. After watching him, especially this season, I just can’t help but come to the realization that he will always be a high injury risk. And it isn’t just because he doesn’t run out of bounds.

He never does that, of course. He takes on tacklers head on, and it is wonderful to watch. But practically all running backs do that in today’s NFL. I really can’t think of a running back that ducks out of bounds like Franco did playing in the NFL now, or even recently.

Franco was just unique in that way. It worked for him and the Steelers.

But, not every running back I feel is as injury prone as Conner even though they also don’t run out of bounds. It is because I couple Conner’s head-on, smashing style with another aspect of his style.

Recklessness.

He just looks wild when he’s running, almost like he’s overrunning at times. It seems like every run ends with him smashing into defenders, and then twisting, and/or spinning, and/or tripping, and/or flipping, and or/bending, and/or turning, and/or a lot of things — you insert the violent ending! There’s a ferocious end to a high percentage of his plays.

Le’Veon Bell was the opposite. He glided, and juked and cut, rarely seeming to absorb a hard hit or awkward ending to most of his rushes.

Conner is more like a bowling ball bouncing off of pins. You wince, at times, when Conner ends his runs, hoping he’s going to get up OK after he goes down awkwardly, bending in different directions. Bell rarely takes direct hits, while it is rare for Conner not to take a direct hit.

Chuck Noll once said of a forgotten Steeler running back of the past that he runs with “reckless abandon.”

That’s it! That’s the description of Conner’s style, dead on. Thanks, Chuck.

I’m not saying that James Conner should change his style or that there is anything wrong with it. He has been very effective so far. Furthermore, I don’t believe a running back can change his style any more than I think a QB can change his lifelong throwing motion. No amount of “fixing” was going to make Bernie Kosar or Tim Tebow throw differently. James Conner, too, is what he is.

He’s not going to morph into Le’Veon Bell.

I’m simply saying that it is hard for me to believe that his reckless abandon won’t lead to many injuries. The fact is that he has already had a multitude of injuries in his brief career. Just this season it seems he gets bruised up each game, missing time. He seems a question mark, either to his availability or to his effectiveness, due to “something” each week.

The Steelers have done the right thing in drafting Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell Jr. So, while you won’t -- or don’t want to – change James Conner’s play, you simply want to make sure you’ve got other capable players to come in for the inevitable missed time. The Steelers seem to have done that.

And, I think I’ll be surprised if he has a 12 year Franco Harris length career. It very well may go the way of bruiser Larry Brown.

One thing is for sure: Jim Brown will never feel the need to challenge James Conner to a race. He would approve.

Pittsburgh Steelers Fact or Fiction: Back to Work edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 7:40am
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

After a rare West Coast win and a bye for the Pittsburgh Steelers, BTSC takes five bold statements surrounding the current state of the team and labels them as Fact or Fiction.

The Steelers come out of the bye week Monday and the hope is that they can resume the momentum that led to a West Coast win in Week Six over the Chargers. But questions are still afoot. Will Mason Rudolph pick up where he left off? Could Devlin Hodges make an appearance? Are the Steelers hopes for the playoffs valid? Because of all of this and more, BTSC anticipates the storylines and issues bold statements regarding each one of them. Let’s take a look and deem them as fact or fiction.

The Steelers will bring back OLB Tuzar Skipper Fiction

I actually don’t think that they will. Skipper was a fan favorite in the preseason and should have never been let go in the first place. I’m still not overly sure how they are going to address the Anthony Chickillo situation, but my gut says that AThe more-experienced Jayrone Elliott gets the call from Kevin Colbert instead. I’m not saying it’s what they should do, I’m just thinking that’s what they do.

Note: The Steelers indeed went with Elliott on Wednesday.

The Duck Dynasty will continue to reign as Devlin Hodges becomes QB1 for the remainder of 2019. Fiction

Some fans want this to happen, but Mason Rudolph will not get Wally-Pipped out of the starting job due to the concussion sustained against Baltimore. Hodges did a great job in the win over the Los Angeles Chargers, but he had help from a conservative game plan, James Conner and the defense featuring Devin Bush: Turnover Machine. This is not an indictment on Duck’s ability and accomplishment, Mason needs to build on the progress he had made before the hit by Earl Thomas III.

The Bye Week came at the perfect time for the Steelers. Fact

I hate the bye week, because I’m selfish and want to see the Steelers play a schedule like the Penguins...82 games. I’m joking, but I’m not really. The team did need the week off to try and get players to return to better health, mentally and physically. At 2-4, the team started the break with an important win and will need momentum to carry over and start a run..

James Conner is having a bad season. Fiction

If rushing statistics are the measuring stick, sure he is. However, Conner has only averaged 12.33 attempts-per-game and is virtually running into brick walls due to the offensive line’s reluctance for opening up holes for No. 30. But despite only 235 yards on the ground, the third-year runner from Pitt has 231 yards receiving and is responsible for the majority of the offensive work load. With five TDs total, Conner is keeping the Steelers in games.

AFC Playoff dreams for the Steelers are no longer on life support. Fact

The priest is home watching Netflix (but not chillin’...that would be disturbing), but he is waiting by the phone to perform last rites. Hopefully, he’ll have to wait a bit. With a win on MNF, the Steelers would be at 3-4, but still two back of the bye-week Baltimoreons. AFC teams have to lose and the Steelers need to go on a roll. I recall a 3-4 team that did just that in 1995. But first they need to go one at a time and focus on Miami.

Are these statements valid? We will soon see. What matters most is your opinions on the matter. Please state them in the comments below.

James Washington is starting to run out of excuses

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 6:28am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of shade was thrown the Steelers WR group's way after they lost their lead dog via trade during a tumultuous off season. They have done little to silence those critics.

I guess I should have seen it coming. It may have been my black and gold colored glasses that hindered me from seeing the truth with more clarity.

The truth is the Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to part ways with the most productive wide receiver in their history after what started as a tantrum turned into the most mind numbing level of insanity in team history. Left with no other option, the Steelers traded the malcontent and moved on. There was bound to be growing pains.

Even with the loss of their best receiver, the cupboard was hardly bare or devoid of talent. JuJu Smith-Schuster exploded on the scene as the most productive young receiver in NFL history, and has displayed a knack for long touchdown receptions. Blessed with a grown man's physique and the gregarious nature of a young adult, JuJu has displayed a renewed focus on his maturity as he ascends to the mantle of WR1. His team first attitude has been refreshing and much needed.

The team also had promising WR James Washington returning for his second season. I say promising based on his uptick in late season production during his rookie campaign. He struggled mightily to gain separation against NFL caliber cornerbacks after feasting on the weaker defenders in the Big 12. To make matters worse, Washington appeared unable to develop a rapport with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Finally, late in the season, the star QB and the young receiver seemed on the verge of developing some chemistry. This created a modicum of hope heading into the off season.

The Steelers made two more additions during the off season to round out the receiver group. They signed talented but inconsistent free agent WR Donte Moncrief to bolster the group, then they drafted WR Diontae Johnson from Toledo in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. To say there has been mixed results would be a huge understatement.

First, the good news. Diontae Johnson looks like a bonafide NFL wide receiver, maybe even one with star potential. I realize his career is in it's infancy stages, and he hasn't proven anything yet, but I am excited by what I have seen thus far.

I was unable to attend training camp this year, but I watched what I could online. During a player interview with Tunch and Wolf, I was focused on some receiver drills taking place in the background. I was so impressed by what I was seeing I had to yell for my wife to come take a look.

One of the smaller receivers that I didn't recognize would allow the football to get deep in his zone and then pluck it out of the air at the last instant. I had to utilize the camp roster list to identify the player. It was Diontae Johnson. I hadn't witnessed that type of hand eye coordination since the aforementioned malcontent. Then his preseason performances revealed exception change of direction abilities and short area quickness. It was apparent why the Steelers thought so highly of him. His rookie season has included the inevitable learning curve, but so far so good.

Now for the bad news. I have struggled to recall a Steelers player having a worse start to his Steelers career than Donte Moncrief. His performance against the New England Patriots on opening night was historically bad, almost taking on biblical proportions. He singlehandedly thwarted multiple drives with untimely drops, including at least one potential touchdown against a Patriots defense that has only given up one so far this season.

Then he allowed a Mason Rudolph pass to go through his hands, bounce off his helmet, and eventually be intercepted by the Seattle Seahawks in his second game. Another game changing mistake which helped set up a Seahawks touchdown in another heartbreakingly close loss for the Steelers. The Steelers had seen enough and Moncrief's playing time disappeared.

A finger injury could be a culprit to explain his struggles, but it's now or never for Moncrief. Evidence came out recently that suggests the Steelers may have more incentive to release him than there is to keep him. Still only 26 years young and blessed with a powerful build and above average speed, Moncrief yet again faces an uphill climb to establish himself as a quality receiver without the services of a experienced star QB. Time waits for no man, so he better strike while the iron is hot.

The greatest unknown in this receiver group may just be James Washington. Reportedly Washington will return to the field this week after missing the Los Angeles Chargers game due to a shoulder injury. His return to action would be quicker than originally estimated, and not a moment too soon.

The Steelers need Washington to step up in a big way. Not only to punish opposing defenses for any additional coverages rolled JuJu's direction, but also to lessen the load on rookie Diontae Johnson and help create more favorable matchups for Johnson's still developing game.

Washington may be running out of excuses. He will undoubtedly see plenty of opportunities on the field. He will have his record breaking partner in crime from college, Mason Rudolph, throwing him the ball. No need to develop chemistry or build trust, the duo must learn to adjust to the smaller throwing windows of the NFL. Whether they like it or not, the tandem holds any hope for Steelers team success this season in the palms of their hands.

Podcast: Is there any chance the Steelers are overlooking the Dolphins?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 5:30am

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

The 2019 season is upon us!! With the Pittsburgh Steelers now in the regular season, it is time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading into the offseason.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Around the Horn Segment
  • Steelers Stat Geek
  • Preview of Steelers vs. Dolphins
  • Keys to victory
  • Fantasy Focus
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, Bryan Anthony Davis and Dave Schofield walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Have the Steelers neglected the outside linebacker position?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 4:35am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving into Week 8 of the NFL regular season, and as the team prepares for the Miami Dolphins this week we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the next game starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Steelers have failed to properly address the outside linebacker position, and it is now catching up to them.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers have drafted outside linebackers high in the NFL Draft, but have they really addressed the position in free agency for depth? That answer might be clear as day on Monday night when the Dolphins come to town.

Tim Benz: Failure to add OLB depth catching up to Steelers

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers set themselves up for this. They had it coming.

On Monday night when the team plays against Miami, it could be down to just one outside linebacker — Bud Dupree — with significant game experience.

Anthony Chickillo was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list because of his weekend incident at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. So don’t look for him to play.

T.J. Watt, arguably the team’s best player so far this season, is dealing with an oblique injury that could prevent him from suiting up.

That leaves Ola Adeniyi as potentially the other starter at outside linebacker. All he has for game experience is seven appearances with four tackles over two years.

“I’m not feeling great,” head coach Mike Tomlin said about his depth at outside linebacker on Tuesday. “But such is life in the National Football League. At times you are going to be challenged positionally.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Minkah Fitzpatrick downplays getting chance to play against his former team

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Minkah Fitzpatrick insists there is no extra motivation. No incentive to hand another loss to a team that has strung up six in a row to start this season. No reason to rip the organization he so badly wanted to leave in September.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers face the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, it will be “another game, another team from a different city, a different state.”

Those are the words Fitzpatrick, the Steelers’ 22-year-old safety, used Wednesday morning to describe what it will be like facing the Dolphins six weeks to the day after he was shipped to Pittsburgh in exchange for a 2020 first-round draft pick.

“I have to go out there, do my job, prepare like I usually do and play good ball,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s it.”

Fitzpatrick asked to be traded a few days after the Dolphins were overwhelmed 59-10 by the Baltimore Ravens in the season opener, which was Brian Flores’ debut as Miami’s coach. The Dolphins already had shifted into rebuilding mode before the season started by trading away talented young players Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Chris Boswell is having a tremendous bounce back year, and Danny Smith says it all comes down to attention to detail.

Smith on Boswell: ‘He is detailing his work’

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

What a difference a year is making for Chris Boswell. After a season where he made 13 of 20 field goal attempts and missed five extra points, Chris Boswell is off to a strong start. He has connected on 11 of 11 field goals and is 12 for 12 on extra points through six games.

Special teams coordinator Danny Smith said he sees a difference in Boswell, and most of that is in the way he is detailing his work.

“He is doing well. He really is,” said Smith. “His mind is right. His work habits are good. We are getting good work done. He has been very productive. He is detailing his work. You have to detail at that position, like any other position. When you lose some of those details, which might have happened in the past with an off year, we are going to come back together and put attention on the detail and it’s really showing in his production.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • T.J. Watt Media Session

.@_TJWatt: “We’re very confident with everybody in this locker room on whether they’re on the 53 or whether they’re on the P-squad.” pic.twitter.com/u1dzgaBqlJ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 24, 2019
  • Around the Locker Room

.@JaySam1k, @minkfitz_21, & @Juiceup__3 speak about overcoming challenges and what to expect in the weeks ahead. pic.twitter.com/ZL1MyDOewP

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 24, 2019
  • Social Media Madness

I went 1-on-1 with @_Dbush11 following the #Steelers Bye Week.

Here’s a preview of the interview: pic.twitter.com/YrASF8tvEz

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) October 23, 2019

: “James Conner was the best offensive player on the field for the #Steelers. He’s got to keep being that.”

FULL : https://t.co/z5noBskZGt pic.twitter.com/pXHCaDOwI9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 23, 2019

It's Color Rush Week!

Check out the story behind the iconic @Steelers Color Rush uniform with Tom Andridge, Art Director, On Field Performance at Nike.

GET YOURS TODAY: https://t.co/mebjT9cEcS pic.twitter.com/uVItz6qxRi

— Steelers Pro Shop (@SteelersShop) October 24, 2019

Waiting on Monday night... pic.twitter.com/Oty02LTO1V

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 24, 2019

How to watch Steelers vs. Dolphins: Time, TV Schedule, game information and tickets

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/25/2019 - 4:00am
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

All the information needed to watch, listen, or attend the Steelers game at Heinz Field on Monday night against Miami.

Buy tickets to Steelers vs. Dolphins from StubHub HERE

It is a very rare occurrence for a team with a losing record this far into an NFL season to be favored by two touchdowns. But the Steelers are expected to take care of business Monday night at Heinz Field against the 0–6 Miami Dolphins. Not only has Pittsburgh not lost at home on a Monday night since 1991, they will also be sporting their color rush uniforms in which they are also undefeated.

Do all of these things put together guarantee Steelers’ victory? Absolutely not. And other questions still remain. Will Minkah Fitzpatrick get revenge on his former team? Will Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finally break through and beat the Steelers on his seventh attempt? Will the Steelers be able to replace Stephon Tuitt’s production on the defensive line?

This Monday should answer many of these questions as the Steelers look to give the home fans another victory. Make sure you get all the information you need below so you can enjoy the Week 8 showdown:

Week 8:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins

Date: Monday, October 28th

Kickoff: 8:15 P.M. ET

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Weather: Live weather update

TV Channel: Broadcast nationally on ESPN with Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland as commentators and Lisa Salters as the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

Online: NFL.com Game Pass offers live games for international viewers and replays of every game during upon conclusion with a paid subscription. The ESPN App also carries games shown on their family of networks. fuboTV also allows you to stream NFL games online with a subscription. NFL Game Center will update the action on a play-by-play basis. The game is also available on the Yahoo! Sports App in some areas.

Radio: Steeler Nation Radio with Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin, and Craig Wolfley. The broadcast will be live on WDVE 102.5 FM and WBGG 970 AM in the Pittsburgh area or check the list of Steelers Radio Affiliates. Viewers can listen anywhere in the world online via Steelers.com, but the Steelers Official Mobile App does have geographical restrictions.

You can also follow Behind the Steel Curtain on Twitter or in the game thread article to catch all of the highlights. Be sure to check back with BTSC after the game for our post-match roundup, and subscribe to BTSC Steelers Radio on YouTube to catch The Steelers Post Game Show with Jeff Hartman and Lance Williams.

Steelers Injury Report: T.J. Watt limited at practice Thursday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/24/2019 - 3:03pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers’ young superstar got back on the field for the first time since leaving the game early in Los Angeles

The Pittsburgh Steelers practiced for the third time this week, but it was the first day they were required by the NFL to release an injury report. As they prepare for the Miami Dolphins on Mondy night, the Steelers are hoping to get several players back following the bye week. According to the Steelers PR Department, only one player sat out practice on Thursday.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was the only player on the injury report who did not practice, which was due to illness. Hopefully he will be able to return to practice by Saturday and be healthy enough by the game on Monday.

One of the players who was unable to finish the game in Week 6 and has been missing practices over the bye is T.J. Watt. On Thursday, he still was able to participate on a limited basis due to an abdominal injury. Should he be unable to go on Monday night, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi will look to get his first career NFL start opposite of Bud Dupree.

Other players who left the game against the Chargers early and are still dealing with injury are cornerback Joe Haden and linebacker Mark Barron. Both players were able to return Thursday and practice fully. James Conner also exited the Chargers game early but has been able to practice and said he is ready to go for Monday.

Quarterback Mason Rudolph has now been out of the concussion protocol for over a week, so he should have no reason to change from his full status. Roosevelt Nix returned to practice after missing five games and was also listed as a full participant. James Washington and Jaylen Samuels also were able to practice with Washingtongetting over a shoulder injury while Samuels returned only 17-days removed from his knee surgery. Steven Nelson was another player who missed Week 6, but was a full participant on Thursday as he continues to fight back from his groin injury. Mike Hilton was also mentioned with a calf injury, but was able to fully participate.

As for the Dolphins injury report, it can be seen below courtesy of Steelers.com. Although 14 players are listed, only two did not participate while eight were limited.

Miami Dolphins Participation/Injury Report, Week 8

Thursday, October 24

G Shaq Calhoun (Illness) - Limited
G/T Jesse Davis (Elbow) - Full
WR Jakeem Grant (Hamstring) - Full
LB Trent Harris (Foot) - Limited
CB Xavien Howard (Knee) - Limited
S Reshad Jones (Chest) - DNP
C Daniel Kilgore (Knee) - DNP
CB Chris Lammons (Ankle/Toe) - Limited
S Bobby McCain (Shoulder) - Limited
DE Avery Moss (Ankle) - Limited
QB Josh Rosen (Neck) - Limited
T J’Marcus Webb (Shin) - Full
CB Ken Webster (Illness) - Limited
WR Albert Wilson (Hip) - Full

Don’t look now, but the Steelers are boasting a Top 5 Red-Zone Defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/24/2019 - 1:16pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense might just become their calling card once again.

It has been a long time since the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense was their calling card. To be honest, the last time the team had a defense worth noting was probably their 2010 season when they reached the Super Bowl.

Since that time, after many of the veteran players called it a career, the Steelers have been slowly rebuilding their defense to be noteworthy once again. While they aren’t quite there yet, they are as close as they’ve been since Super Bowl 45.

Outside of sack totals and takeaways, the other area this unit has excelled is none other than red-zone defense. In fact, according to NFL Matchup on ESPN’s verified Twitter account, the Steelers boast a Top 5 red-zone defense heading into Week 8.

Through Week 7, these teams have the best defensive red zone efficiency. Only eight teams have allowed TDs on less than 50% of opponents' red zone trips.#GoPats #GoNiners #BroncosCountry #SeizeTheDEY #HereWeGo #DallasCowboys #DUUUVAL #GiantsPride

@gregcosell | @MattBowen41 pic.twitter.com/4T86h2WWQd

— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) October 23, 2019

While the 42.9% red-zone efficiency isn’t necessarily something to write home about, it certainly is a sign Keith Butler’s defense is headed in the right direction.

On the flip side of things, take a look at which defense has the worst red-zone unit. That’s right, none other than the Steelers’ Week 8 opponent, the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are giving up more touchdowns and red-zone drives allowed than any other team in the NFL. This is great news for a Steelers offense who needs to get right, and get comfortable, with Mason Rudolph under center.

The Steelers are coming off their Week 7 bye, and at 2-4 have hardly any margin for error moving forward if they want to keep their postseason dreams and aspirations alive. The Dolphins are the next on the list, but plenty of difficult games await. Can the Steelers’ defense lead this team to the promised land? Being Top 5 in red-zone defense is a step in the right direction, but plenty of work needs to be done.

Could Steelers’ fan confidence be tied with the Ravens improving to 5-2 in Week 7?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/24/2019 - 11:47am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers were victorious the last time they played in Week 6, but fan confidence has dropped over the bye week. Is it because of the Ravens?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a bye in Week 7, and after defeating the Los Angeles Chargers on the road in Week 6 on Sunday Night Football you would think the fan base would still be riding high.

Wrong.

Despite the team not even playing last week, the SB Nation FanPulse survey shows the Steelers are actually down on their team heading into a Week 8 game vs. the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

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

When it comes to the data, after the Week 6 win the confidence soared to a 51% approval rating, but then dipped to 41% after the bye.

So, what would cause this to happen? The only logical reason I can fathom is the fact the Steelers saw their division hopes take a huge hit when the Baltimore Ravens improved to 5-2 on the season after going to Seattle and beating the Seahawks handily. Not that the AFC North is all but settled, but the 2-4 Steelers face a severe uphill climb, and will need help if they want to make the playoffs via a division championship.

One thing many fans might be forgetting is how the Steelers seem to be getting healthy at just the right time. Mason Rudolph will be back under center vs. the Dolphins and players like James Washington, Vance McDonald, Steven Nelson and others are prepared to rejoin their team after missing some, if not all, of the game in Week 6.

A win against a winless Dolphins team will unlikely move the confidence needle very much, but when the team is 2-4 you have to take every win you can get — no matter what. This Week 8 game has the recipe of a win for the Steelers. Home on Monday night, where they haven’t lost since the 90’s, wearing their color rush uniforms and coming off a bye week.

Let’s hope all those trends hold true and the Steelers advance to 3-4 after the completion of the first if three straight games at Heinz Field.

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

A letter to Pete Carroll from a Steelers fan: You had one job to do, Pete, one job!

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/24/2019 - 10:10am
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The moment was too big for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks on Sunday, as they failed to defeat the Ravens and help the Steelers get back into the AFC North race.

There are only two things I can’t stand in this world. People who are intolerant of enthusiastic head coaches showing their emotions and hugging players on the sideline and Pete Carroll.

As a life-long Steelers fan, I expect many things. One of those things is for the team to always have a shot at the playoffs, regardless of circumstances or record.

The Steelers may have started out 0-3 and 1-4, but after a thrilling and satisfying 24-17 victory over the Chargers, they went into their bye week with a 2-4 record and all the momentum their fans needed to believe they could rise up the standings and catch the Ravens for the AFC North crown.

With Baltimore sitting at 4-2 and with a victory in hand over the Steelers, this task would be tall. Thankfully, the Ravens weren’t on a bye last week. Nope. Instead, they had to travel to Seattle to take on a 5-1 Seahawks team that boasted MVP candidate Russell Wilson as its quarterback.

The Seahawks also had Pete Carroll as their head coach, a man who had won a Super Bowl, as well as multiple national championships when he was on the sidelines at USC.

I mostly despise Pete Carroll. I remember those regular season and postseason battles the Steelers had against Carroll when he was the Patriots head coach in the late-90s. He was so annoying, the way he would hug his players on the sideline or run on the field to give them a high five or slap them on the back.

Can you imagine a head coach doing such things?

But I was all about that this past Sunday. I wanted Carroll to be as enthusiastic as possible. I wanted him to make life miserable for the Ravens and John Harbaugh. “Go get’em, Petey!” I screamed multiple times in the early stages of Sunday’s game.

If the Seahawks, playing in front of their loud and enthusiastic fans (did you know they invented noise?), could take care of Baltimore, Pittsburgh would inch just a bit closer to first place.

Instead of that, Carroll and his too small for the moment players (and fans) let the Ravens do that thing where they were efficient enough on offense, superior on defense and automatic in the kicking game (Justin Tucker) and won going away, 30-16.

Now, the Steelers task just got a bit greater. Now, Steelers fans must choose a new devil to root for.

I should have known this would happen. I should have learned my lesson after last season, when I sold my soul to the Chargers and that dag gum Philip Rivers, not once, but twice.

Forget about the fact that I wanted the Chargers to knock off the Patriots in the postseason and prevent them from winning a sixth Super Bowl (silly of me to think Rivers would be up to that task). My real folly happened in Week 16 as I put all of my hopes and prayers into Rivers and the Chargers, when they took on the Ravens on Saturday Night Football. If the Chargers could have just put Baltimore away, the Steelers, who were nursing a half-game lead in the division, could have effectively gone on cruise control over the final two weeks.

Didn’t happen. And after I didn’t get my January consolation prize in the form of Tom Brady’s tears, I felt dirty.

After signing the same deal with Carroll, I now feel sick to my stomach.

Hey, Petey, I hope you’re paying attention to what has befallen Rivers and the Chargers. Not only did they lose to Devlin Hodges in Week 6, they fell to Ryan Tannehill in Week 7.

One year after being a playoff team, Los Angeles is 2-5.

Karma is coming, my man. May Seahawks fans get so fed up with your antics, they start calling for Jim Harbaugh to be your replacement.

Gross, I know, but this is what happens when you don’t do your job.

Pittsburgh Steelers versus Miami Dolphins: A complete history of the rivalry

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/24/2019 - 8:40am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the NFL’s 100th season, a look at the Steelers and Dolphins, now and through history.

With all the NFL 100th season lists, I’ve been thinking about the histories of various Pittsburgh Steelers rivalries. So every week for the rest of the year, I’ll post a retrospective preview, considering the two teams and setting up for the upcoming game.

This week: The Miami Dolphins 2019 Comparison

Current Records:
Steelers - 2-4 (2nd AFC North)
Dolphins - 0-6 (4th AFC East)

2019 Off/Def Matchup:

Length of Career for Starting QBs:
Steelers (Mason Rudolph) 3rd start
Dolphins (Ryan Fitzpatrick) 129th start

Head Coaches’ Career Records:
Steelers (Mike Tomlin) 134 - 77 - 1 (.635) – including 8 - 7 in postseason
Dolphins (Brian Flores) 0 - 6 - 0 (.000)

Player in Common (current):
Minkah Fitzpatrick (Miami 2018-19, 1st Rd, 10 overall / traded to Pittsburgh in week 2, 2019, for 2020 1st round draft pick)

Note: The Steelers’ Defense has improved dramatically since Fitzpatrick was brought on board, as BTSC contributor DaveinNE illustrated: the first two weeks, quarterbacks performed considerably better against the Steelers than they have against everyone else; whereas the last four opposing QBs have performed considerably worse against the Steelers than others. Still, Fitzpatrick is controversial because of his price tag: a future 1st round pick.

Player in Common (past):
Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh 2009-12, 3rd Rd / signed as free agent with Miami 2013)

After averaging 17.2 yards per catch over four years in Pittsburgh and starting a Pro Bowl, Wallace was convinced he deserved “Larry Fitzgerald money.” When he spurned a more reasonable offer from the Steelers, Miami opened their (deep) pockets and Wallace walked. In his first Dolphins training camp, he famously declared (with a straight face) that Ryan Tannehill had a better deep ball than Ben Roethlisberger. Despite this, somehow, Wallace never averaged more than 12.9 yards per catch in Miami. He played for three other teams and is currently unemployed.

(Epilogue: in 2013, after Wallace left, the Steelers made a long term commitment to one Antonio Brown, who was quite happy to make “Mike Wallace money” (at least back then). Brown went on to have the best six year receiving stretch in NFL history, before losing his mind this offseason. He is now also unemployed.)

HISTORY: Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

All-Time Records:
Steelers : 664-583-22 (.532)
Dolphins : 468-370- 4 (.557)

Steelers have the 4th most wins in NFL history; 11th best all time winning percentage.
Dolphins have the 19th most wins, but are 5th in winning percentage.

Since Merger:
Steelers : 502-315-3 (.614)
Dolphins : 456-342-2 (.571)

These are the two winningest teams in the NFL since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger.

This Century:
Steelers : 212-115-2 (.648)
Dolphins : 145-164-0 (.469)

The Steelers are the #2 team in the NFL this millennium, behind the New England Patriots. Miami sits at #19.

Most Iconic Coach:
Steelers : Chuck Noll, the only coach to go 4-0 in Super Bowls
Dolphins : Don Shula, the NFL’s all-time winningest coach

Note: Noll was Shula’s defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Colts, where the two coaching giants engineered the 1968 NFL Championship over the Cleveland Browns 34-0, then suffered the much more famous Super Bowl III loss to Joe Namath’s New York Jets.

Most Iconic Player:
Steelers : Joe Greene, DT (1968-81), perhaps he best interior defensive lineman in NFL History.
Dolphins : Dan Marino, QB (1983-98), perhaps the best pure passer in NFL history.

Best Season/Team:

Pittsburgh: 1978
The team finished 17-2 and won its record breaking third Super Bowl, defeating the defending champion Dallas Cowboys in SB XIII. (This was possibly the best collection of talent ever assembled on a single, non-all-star football field, with a whopping 20 Hall of Famers on the field, the sidelines, and the owners boxes, collectively).

Miami: 1972
The team finished 17-0 and became the only team in the modern era to complete a perfect season, beating Washington in SB VII.

HEAD TO HEAD: Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

All-Time Series:
Pittsburgh: 14 – 13

Playoff Series:
Tie: 2 – 2

Current Streak:
Pittsburgh: 1 win (2016 playoffs)

Current Regular Season Streak:
Miami: 2 wins (2013-16)

Longest Streak:
Pittsburgh – 5 games (2004-10)
Miami – 5 games (1981-87) *counting 1984 playoffs

First game:

November 14, 1971
Pittsburgh – 21
Miami – 24

The Dolphins came into this game at 6-1-1. In Don Shula’s second year coaching there, Miami was entering a heyday in 1971, and would appear in their first of three straight Super Bowls that season (Super Bowl VI, which they would lose to the Dallas Cowboys 24-3). The Steelers were still finding their footing, having improved from 1-13 in 1969 to 5-9 in 1970. They entered this game 4-4 and would finish 6-8, before turning the corner the following season (after drafting Franco Harris). In this contest, Pittsburgh went up 21-3 in the first half on three Terry Bradshaw touchdown passes, then watched as the Dolphins chipped away with three Paul Warfield touchdown catches (the latter two going for 86 and 60 yards). This game is largely unremarkable historically, but I suspect anyone watching could tell that the Dolphins were turning into a powerhouse team, and that the Steelers (still missing many important cogs) were nonetheless on the cusp of something very interesting too.

Most Recent game:

January 8, 2017 (AFC Wildcard Playoff)
Pittsburgh – 30
Miami – 12

Avenging a regular season upset from mid-October, in which Dolphins tailback Jay Ajayi rushed for 204 yards, the Steelers blast the Miami with two first-quarter track-meet touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown. James Harrison and Bud Dupree terrorize Miami QB Matt Moore, Le’Veon Bell rushes for a team postseason record 167 yards, and the defense holds Ajayi to 33 on the day, as the Steelers advance to the Divisional Playoffs. This game might also be remembered as the first of only two playoff games in which all three Killer Bs were healthy (the other being the following week against Kansas City. The three started the AFC Title game that year, in Foxboro, but Bell was injured in the first quarter).

Biggest Game in the Series:

December 31, 1972 (AFC Championship Game)
Pittsburgh – 17
Miami – 21

Only the second game all time between the two, this contest is overshadowed by the immortal moments that occurred just before and just after. The previous week’s Divisional Playoffs saw the Steelers defeat the Oakland Raiders on the Immaculate Reception; the following game would be Super Bowl VII, in which the 17-0 Dolphins met their NFL destiny. Both teams were iconic and much mythologized, and while this game is rarely discussed, it was hugely consequential for NFL history (imagine if it had gone the other way). Steelers tackle Gerry Mullins recovered a Terry Bradshaw fumble for the game’s first touchdown, then Dolphins punter Larry Seiple ran a fake punt 37 yards to set up Miami’s first score. At halftime, tied 7-7, Don Shula replaced Earl Morrall (history’s greatest backup quarterback, who’d gone 11-0 in relief) with former starter Bob Griese. Despite Griese only throwing five passes in the whole second half(!), this seems to have made the difference, and the Dolphins pulled away for the win.

I hate to call a loss the “biggest game in the series” but this probably was.

Other Memorable Games:

January 6, 1985 (AFC Championship Game)
Pittsburgh - 28
Miami - 45

Most people probably remember this as the day the Steelers had to eat crow for not drafting local legend, Dan Marino, who shredded them for 421 yards and four touchdowns on the way to his only Super Bowl appearance. There’s some truth to that, but I think there’s another angle: the 9-7 Steelers were classic overachievers, who seemingly had no business playing in this game (as well as no answer for Marino’s record-breaking 14-2 Dolphins). Marino’s aerial show went flat in Super Bowl XIX, as they lost 38-16 to the burgeoning San Francisco 49ers dynasty. That Niners team won a record 18 games that year, finishing the regular season as the first ever 15-1 team. Their one loss? To the Pittsburgh Steelers. In week 7, Mark Malone had led a fourth quarter comeback with a late touchdown pass to John Stallworth, and the defense intercepted Joe Montana on his would-be game winning drive, setting up Gary Anderson for the upset.

Could the Steelers have done it twice? Why not? You might say there’s no way Bill Walsh would let his team lose twice to the ragtag Steelers, but if ever a coach knew how to prepare a team to win a Super Bowl, it has to be Chuck Noll. When we think of NFL David/Goliath stories, we’re usually thinking of Namath’s Jets or the 2007 Giants, but this could have been one for the ages too. One of the great What-Ifs, thwarted in Miami one game too soon.

September 26, 2004
Pittsburgh – 13
Miami – 3

This was not an exciting or meaningful game in any respect, except that it was the first NFL start for a 21 year old rookie named Ben Roethlisberger. It was a tight, defensive match in heavy Miami rain. The score was 6-3 in the fourth quarter, when Big Ben drove the Steelers down the field, throwing a pylon-fade that led Hines Ward into the end zone’s lower right corner for the insurmountable 10-point advantage. I remember Roethlisberger’s teammates glowing a little afterward. I think that drive/throw made some skeptics (ahem, Alan Faneca) start to believe. It was the first of his record-breaking 13 straight victories, and told a story of late-game heroics that we’ve come to expect.

November 26, 2007
Pittsburgh – 3
Miami – 0

Not all games are memorable for heroics. This was the week where heavy rains and overuse turned Heinz Field into soup. Jeff Reed knocked home a last second field goal for the game’s only points, but the enduring memory has to be the third quarter Dolphins punt that landed on the sludge and didn’t even bounce.

October 24, 2010
Pittsburgh – 23
Miami – 22

On the march to a second AFC Title in three years, the Steelers escaped from this one with a controversial finish. Late in the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger fumbled on the goal line, but replay was unable to determine who had recovered in the scrum. Possession was awarded back to the offense (a kind of “do-over” is seems), and Jeff Reed kicked an 18 yard field goal for the go-ahead points with 2:26 to play. Badly needing a win, the Dolphins faithful understandably hit the roof. But it didn’t matter: possession truly couldn’t be determined, the Steelers took home a one-point victory, then ultimately secured the AFC’s second seed and returned to the Super Bowl.

December 8, 2013
Pittsburgh – 28
Miami – 34

Another insane finish. The Steelers had begun the year 0-4, and clawed their way back to 5-7 and the edge of contention. Trailing 34-28 with no timeouts in the final seconds, Pittsburgh had a 4th and 4 at their own 26. So they dialed up a Stanford Band-style hook-and-ladder. Ben hit Emmanuel Sanders up the right sideline, who pitched to Le’Veon Bell, who pitched to Jerricho Cotchery, who pitched to Marcus Gilbert(!), who pitched back to Roethlisberger, who pitched to Antonio Brown up the left sideline. Brown, miraculously, found the corner, and outran the Dolphin defense for a 74 yard touchdown, with the game-winning extra point to come. Then, agonizingly (soul-crushingly) replays showed that Brown had stepped on the white paint of the sideline at the 12 yard line—untouched even. He was called out of bounds, the Dolphins took the victory, and the Steelers fell to 6-8. They’d close with two more wins and suffer playoff elimination in the final seconds of the season’s final game.

If Brown had stayed in bounds, this miracle comeback would have been one of the most improbable in team history—propelling the Steelers to the playoffs on a 7-1 run, with the confidence to play with anybody. Another great What If thwarted by the Dolphins…

Which Steelers outside linebackers have made the biggest impact?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/24/2019 - 7:33am
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at OLB stats since 2013.

The outside linebacker (OLB) has been a fabled position for the Pittsburgh Steelers ever since Bill Cowher took over as Head Coach in 1992. With names like Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley manning the position for 20 years, it’s easy to see why.

The 2012 season marked a drop off for the Steelers fabled OLB position. Harrison and Woodley would record a combined 10 sacks, a number equaled by Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote, as age and injury slowed one of the most feared pairs of edge rushers the league had ever seen. It was the first of 6 straight seasons without a Steeler OLB getting more than 8 sacks. Since 1992 the Steelers hadn’t gone 3 seasons in a row without at least 9 sacks from an OLB. This unprecedented dry spell wouldn’t end until last year, 2018, when TJ Watt recorded 13 sacks, the most since Woodley’s 13.5 sacks in 2009.

In 2013, Woodley would play his last season for the Steelers, alongside new starter Jason Worilds and rookie first round pick Jarvis Jones. In 2014, James Harrison returned from the Bengals and Arthur Moats joined the team as Woodley left. In 2015, Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo were drafted and Worilds retired. That group would stay in place for 2016. In 2017, TJ Watt joined via the draft and Jarvis Jones left while James Harrison would find a way to get kicked off the team. In 2018, Arthur Moats was replaced by UDFA Olasunkanmi Adeniyi. That covers all of the OLBs that have played significant snaps from 2013 to today.

So let’s look at the stats.

I wanted to look at impact plays, so this look will only be considering sacks, tackles for a loss, QB hits, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, passes defended and interceptions.

It’s not hard to see that T.J. Watt leads almost every category, trailing only in fumble recoveries and tackles for loss. Watt is the best pass rusher the Steelers have had since Woodley and Harrison were still tearing up the NFL, and he also makes plays in coverage, leading the list in passes defended and tied for the lead in interceptions.

I included snap counts because I wanted to also look at per-snap production. Per-snap production accounts for opportunities to produce, since it takes a pretty big error by the stats team for a player to get a sack while on the bench (it has happened) there is value in looking at production per snap. It is not a perfect measurement, but it is a good contrast to the regular counting stats.

Here’s the same stats, but listed as production per 1000 snaps, which ends up pretty close to a full season’s worth of defensive snaps if the player never left the field on defense.

There’s a good bit of interesting information on this chart. For one, old man James Harrison shows why he stuck around for as long as he did, because when the Steelers limited his usage he was still able to produce at a high rate, ranking second in sacks and QB hits and first in tackles for loss and interceptions per snap.

Another interesting bit is Jason Worilds coming in first in QB hits on the list. Jason Worilds never had a good partner on the other side of the field, playing with a shell of LaMarr Woodley, Jarvis Jones and old James Harrison. Knowing how the sacks would increase with Keith Butler taking over and Bud Dupree joining the position in 2015, I have always wondered how he would have produced if QBs were pinned in the pocket and couldn’t get away from him as easily. Seeing his rate of getting to the QB here makes me even more convinced he was better then the circumstances let him be.

Meanwhile Jarvis Jones ranks far below Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moats in everything but pass defense. Jarvis Jones wasn’t good at getting to the QB or stuffing RBs for a loss, but he was always good at getting his hands up in the passing lanes.

Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo put up very similar production in their snaps, even looking at this season, where Bud looks much better than he has in the past, his numbers are right around his career average and behind Chickillo’s. Dupree’s numbers are boosted quite a bit by his great 2016, where for 318 snaps he was producing stats as frequently as TJ Watt did in his amazing 2018 season.

Olasunkanmi Adeniyi has yet to produce any stats in his few snaps, even as he has looked better on film. I did look up Tuzar Skipper’s stats and adjust them per snap, but I’m not going to list them. I will tell you that his garbage time half a sack and one QB hit in so few snaps would rank him as significantly better than T.J. Watt and likely better than James Harrison in his prime. Which really does make you wonder why the Patriots let the Giants claim such an amazing talent...

I wanted to make this article since the preseason and the debate over which OLBs to keep on the 53 man roster, and thought the bye week would be a great time to make it. While it wasn’t a factor in the creation of this post, the Anthony Chickillo arrest makes it a little more interesting to see what kind of production the Steelers will need to replace with Chickillo being placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List.

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