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Checking in on what several Steelers are doing this offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/30/2018 - 6:05am

The Steelers only have a few weeks left before they report to training camp, and it is time to check in on what some players are doing this offseason.

The NFL calendar looks like it has a lot of down time on it upon first glance. However, after the regular season ends, free agency quickly approaches, the NFL Draft comes and goes and players report for offseason workouts.

Then they get a few weeks to themselves before reporting to training camp.

So, what are members of the Pittsburgh Steelers doing this offseason? Many are going for a little rest and relaxation, while others had other endeavors they wanted to accomplish. Now it is time take a look at what certain members of the Steelers are up to this offseason.

Keion Adams earns his degree

Adams returned to Western Michigan and became a proud member of the Class of 2018.

D E G R E E ✅ pic.twitter.com/h5pEpnxYhH

— #QuiickBandz #BOSrackz (@civilSAVAGE1) June 24, 2018 Ramon Foster doing work while on vacation

Getting some rest and relaxation doesn’t mean you can’t also do some work and get better. Foster posted his workout while in Hawaii on vacation. Not a horrible time for an offensive lineman.

Morning 5K done with @_fosterluv @joshbey in Hawaii. Work even on vacation so we can continue to have vacation. ✔️ . Big men run too. #GiveMore

A post shared by Ramon Foster (@theramonfoster) on Jun 24, 2018 at 9:42am PDT

Javon Hargrave gives back

Hargrave returned to his hometown to put on a free clinic for the youth there. Fun Fact: Hargrave and Keion Adams grew up near each other and competed against one another in both football and basketball in High School.

Thanks to @paquichips @DrinkBODYARMOR @KraveJerky @Bonk_Breaker for making my camp a great 1 thanks for everything you provided for the camp pic.twitter.com/JHMGTq4hGr

— Javon hargrave (@Jay_MostWanted) June 25, 2018 Mike Hilton does his part

Hilton, like Hargrave, is giving back to the youth in his community.

Former @OleMissFB standouts @Chadkelly_6 & @MikeHilton_28 on why they give back to young athletes at the You Gotta Believe football camp in Jackson. pic.twitter.com/ajMjdJ3lzu

— Samaria Terry (@samariaterry) June 28, 2018 Joshua Dobbs takes in the sites

Dobbs traveled to Rome recently and posted several pictures of the sights before he will be taking in the sights at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

Tutte le strade portano a Roma.
Day 5️⃣ #SymphonyOfTheSeas. #WorldTourContinues pic.twitter.com/m2uu3Lu8CB

— Josh Dobbs (@josh_dobbs1) June 28, 2018

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they wrap up the offseason and prepare for training camp.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 23

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 5:42pm

Ugh...the offseason continues. Here We Go.

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. Speaking purely for on-field performances. Who would you take if you could only pick one? Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell?

2. Finish the sentence...the perfect season for James Conner looks like ______.

3. If you were to put a percentage on the chances Le’Veon Bell DOES sign a new deal before July 16th, what would it be?

4. Rank the following Steelers’ Cornerback from best-to-worst:

Ike Tyalor
Mel Blount
Chad Scott
Rod Woodson
Carnell Lake

5. If you choose to grill over the 4th of July, or anytime during the warm months, are you a simple hamburgers and hot dogs person? Or do you like the more challenging items to grill which require much more focus on internal temperature?

6. If you are a grill master, what is your grill of preference, and what type? (Ex. — You might love Weber grills and always use Charcoal)

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Watch Bud Dupree get pass rushing tips from Von Miller this offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 10:54am

Pittsburgh Steelers OLB Bud Dupree needs all the help he can get, and he was getting some tips from one of the best pass rushers in today’s game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and their fans, have been waiting patiently for their top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft to finally start playing up to his draft status. Bud Dupree has always been brimming with potential, but has yet to turn his freakish athleticism into anything which resembles dominance on the football field.

The past two offseasons Dupree has been attending Chuck Smith’s pass rushing clinics with other pass rushers around the NFL, and despite Smith suggesting Dupree could have a Defensive Player of the Year season in 2017 (he didn’t), Dupree is back at it hoping to truly get a grip on his craft before the 2018 season.

While there, it wasn’t just Smith who was doing the instructing, but Dupree was getting a one-on-one tutorial from one of the best pass rushers in today’s NFL — Denver Broncos Von Miller.

Watch as Miller walks Dupree through how he utilizes his shoulder, and his angles, to make his lethal spin move work on opposing offensive linemen.

Check out the video below:

The Steelers picked up Dupree’s 5th year option this offseason, and are patiently waiting for Dupree to finally develop into the pass rusher the team needs on the outside. They obviously still have confidence in Dupree, or else they would have picked up another pass rusher in the NFL Draft, or in free agency.

They did neither.

Hopefully these sessions, and this help from a player like Miller, can help Dupree learn some of the tricks of the trade which will help him go from a first round bust, to a big-time player for the Steelers.

Deciphering the most annoying fan bases in the NFL to Steelers Nation

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 8:14am

If you’re a Steelers fan, what other team’s fans hassle your hypocycloids the most?

I was at Sam’s Club the other Sunday and I ran in to four separate families I know. At one point, I ran into a good friend of mine who’s a New Englander and a Pats/Sox/Bruins die hard. While we were talking, another good friend of mine (and BTSC editor) approached to say hello. I introduced my two friends to one another and prefaced it with the disclaimer that my friend from the Northeast is quite possibly the only cool Pats fan I know. The jestful response I got from my black-and-gold-veined buddy was...”Wow. I didn’t know that existed.”

We had a laugh and eventually all went our separate ways in a race to get all the good samples.

I thought about that introduction and brief summit between Steelers Nation and my Pats Fan buddy (ironically named Pat). It left me to wonder which team’s fan base Steelers fans consider the most obnoxious.

So, for your consideration, here’s a list of certain NFL team supporters that are most irritating. These fan stables are so chafing, the burn from the Aqua Velva is as unpleasant as finding baby pictures of your spouse wearing a Browns onesie.

But before I begin, let me preface this with the fact that I approach opposing fans like I approach anybody. Just don’t be an a-hole to me and we will have the potential to be lifelong friends.

Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

A large majority of Steelers Nation fans don’t find their state-mate’s backers as annoying as they do despicable. If this was a poll on worst behavior, the Cheesesteak-heads would be favorites. They may get even more annoying now that the Lombardi resides in Eastern PA, but they were included mostly for the sole reason of highlighting below the depravity of those who sing, “Fly Eagles, Fly”.

  • YouTube videos of vicious fights at Lincoln Financial Field are pretty much a Monday morning occurrence in the fall.
  • The website Woot! once targeted Philly fans in a battery advertisement due to their penchant for chucking them at opposing teams.
  • In both playoff games this year, fans were arrested for punching police horses in the face. Freaking horses!
  • Booing and throwing snowballs at Santa Claus started in 1968. You know they’re gonna celebrate that golden moment this December.
  • Family members of mine from Chicago went to an Eagles-Bears game in the 90s at the Vet. Their eight-year-old had the audacity to wear a Bears jacket. He was harassed the entire game.
  • A fan set off a flare gun in Veterans Stadium in 1997.
  • There was a jail and court was held in the bowels of both stadiums by the presiding judge Seamus P. McCaffrey. The jail was done away with a couple of years ago. But things were so bad, fans had to be incarcerated.
  • Last year when a 99-year old Vikings fan named Millie was given tickets by the NFL to attend a Minnesota playoff game, fans in Philly held up an unedited sign that said, “F@#$ Millie”. Classy. Millie was offered tickets to go to the NFC Championship Game in the City of Brotherly Love. She declined.
Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas fans are insufferable, especially the ones that emerged from that great run in the mid-90s. Fans of the Steelers and Cowboys will always clash because of the great battles for supremacy in the decade of the 70s. They’ve taken the moniker of “America’s Team” and the inquiry of “How ‘bout dem Cowboys” to a level of entitlement that exceeds most annoyance levels. If you want to rile up a Dallas fan, remind them that the Rooneys legitimately declined the title of “America’s Team” that they so loudly boast, thus they landed it by default.

Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Again, these guys made the list for sheer entertainment reasons. The “Bills Mafia” make English soccer fans look like the upper crust of society. These are long-suffering fans that turn tailgates into drunken WWE events by bodyslamming each other, their wives and girlfriends onto tables. The city of Jacksonville banned the sale of folding tables to anybody with out-of-state IDs when they hosted Buffalo in the playoffs in January. They aren’t annoying as much as they are simply trashy. If a guy wants to get obliterated and jump off the top of an RV onto a burning table, fine with me. I’m not paying the deductible. But if a guy in LeSean McCoy merch comes to the door to date my daughter, he’d better run.

Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

I live in Maryland and my annoyance for “Ratbird” backers runs pretty deep. I even considered banning purple from my house. The truth is this...Baltimore fans hate Steelers Nation with much more intensity than we hate them. It comes from a deep jealousy of Pittsburgh’s great tradition of winning and regret about merely being the bastard sons of Art Modell.

My contempt for Ravens Rooters has calmed recently, especially after the honorable way they, as a franchise and fan base, empathized with us during the Ryan Shazier injury. However, I’m still reluctant to take my family to a game at M&T Bank Stadium where some people habitually go out of their way to harass Steeler fans. My biggest problem with Ravens fans is the manner in which they retreat during a down year. They have no problem bragging about their dominance when they’re winning, but as soon as a losing season occurs...they’re gone. Also, they will never come to grips with the fact that they were once the Cleveland Browns.

New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Patriot fans are absolutely arrogant, that’s why it was so sweet to watch them lose in the Super Bowl. The biggest reason Pittsburgh fans take exception with Pats fans is they never let us forget their head-to-head dominance during the Brady/Belichick era. Here are other reasons to find disfavor with the group of fans affectionately known as “Massholes”...

  • The franchise has been around since 1960, but most fans believe that the history books start in 2001. A majority of fans couldn’t tell you who Raymond Berry, Steve Grogan or Stanley Morgan were. If they name-drop Scott Zolak, you know that you’re in the presence of a true Pats fan.
  • The over use of the phase “You hate us, cause you ain’t us” and “Do your job” is grating, especially in that accent.
  • The constant over-justification of cheating. It’s okay with them. When they do get caught red-handed, they cry persecution and break out the aforementioned phrase. Seriously though, the best possible person to marry is a Patriots fan...they don’t care if you cheat.
  • The G.O.A.T., I swear some of these people have a crucifix fashioned to their wall with a Tom Brady McFarlane on it instead of Jesus.
  • The fire alarm incident before the AFC Championship game. Enough said.

Maybe I am jealous. No....Well, maybe.

Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I’m showing my hand here. This is my choice for most vomit-inducing of fan bases. I can’t stand most Cincinnati fans I come across. They abhor Steelers fans and act as if their team of thugs are persecuted choir boys and accuse Pittsburgh of the very thuggery their players commit. For the most part, they lack football knowledge and more so lack tact. They were unsympathetic after the Shazier injury and largely blamed it on his “dirty” style of play. I’m sure there are good Bengals fans, but I’ve yet to meet one. I loved the images of them filing out in droves early in the fourth during a Steelers visit in 2014. Oh and “Who Dey?”....What does that even mean?

Oakland Raiders Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Obi-Wan Kenobi described the Mos Eisley Spaceport by saying, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy”. Obviously, Old Ben never attended a Raiders game. “Black Hole” dwellers are a terrifying bunch. They put a Steelers fan in a coma in 1990. “What was his transgression?”, you ask. He was wearing Steelers garb. You can get stabbed in the parking lot at a Raiders game by a guy dressed like a reject from a Mad Max movie. Opposing players do not let their families go to games there. My cousin married a Raiders fan and I actually got along with him real well. But I was mortified when he showed me two scars on his head, “This one is from the Broncos Game in ‘87, this is the Seahawks fight in ‘89”. It was bad in Oakland, bad in Los Angeles and the culture probably will move with them to Vegas — quite the wholesome locale.

Seattle Seahawks Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Nationally, “the 12th Man” is getting negative notoriety for being an unruly fanbase. Steelers Nation has little problem with them, but the annoyance lies in their inability to accept the loss in SB XL. I realize that there were some questionable calls, but the Steelers still won that game by a sizable enough margin. I remember when a diner in Seattle got in trouble for spitting on a Steelers fan’s cheeseburger before serving it to them. Wow! All I can say is wow.

Cleveland Browns Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Neither I, nor Steelers Nation really have a huge problem with “the Dawg Pound.” Any trash they talk merely stems from years of frustration which comes from being another city’s bitch year after year. Actually Pittsburgh fans mourned for them when Art Modell moved the team in 1995. But know this, when they finally reemerge..the hate will be great.

Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

To quote Michael Jackson, “I’m talking to the man in the mirror”. Truthfully we aren’t the worst, but in no way are we not above this list. I was at a Ravens game tailgating in full Steelers garb and was sure to be very respectful of my hosts. Then this drunken boob in a Steelers jersey stumbled by and started yelling at all the fans. My friend, a Ravens fan, looked at me and tried to bet me five bucks that the next thing that “drunky” would say would be something about six rings. I’m glad I didn’t get a chance to take that bet. It happened almost immediately.

As a writer for BTSC, I’ve encountered some terrible behavior in the comments section. I know every team has rude and misguided fans, but we could be above that. We are also a bit spoiled as well, but that is bound to happen when you follow one of the greatest franchises in the history of sports.

Back in January 2005, I sat alone in complete devastation as the seconds drained from the clock in the AFC Championship Game. My friend left the stadium and staggered back to the hotel, but I chose to stay. I was not wanting to encounter possible anger from drunken fans after that bad loss. As I sat alone in the stands after the game, I felt like I just might be the last Steelers fan in the stadium. Joe Namath was on hand to present the Lamar Hunt trophy to New England. I walked up closer to the railing in Section 125 to get a better look. Standing among a small throng of Pats fans, I decided that I just couldn’t handle it and turned to leave. I was sporting a Joey Porter jersey, and was surprised when a guy in a Ty Law jersey didn’t see me and ran smack into me. Something told me a confrontation was imminent. But he turned and apologized profusely. Without cracking a smile, I extended my hand to him and wished him luck in the Super Bowl. “You’re kidding me? You’re the nicest Steelers fan I’ve met this trip. Will you take a picture with me?”, he asked with a shocked expression. I agreed, but told him that I refused to smile. We posed, shook hands and I left the stadium with my head held a little higher. The reason I’m recounting this incident is simple. All fans root for their teams for the same reason that I root for the Steelers. We’ve got the same sporting hopes, dreams and pride. But we’re all just people wearing different laundry. I know I negatively portrayed certain fan bases in this piece, but there are good people repping these teams too. Unfortunately, though, the bad ones give fan love a bad name. Let’s start making it better by extending a hand too.

Antonio Brown puts his own unique spin on ranking the Top 10 NFL quarterbacks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 6:32am

In the wake of David Carr leaving Ben Roethlisberger off his Top-10 QB list, Antonio Brown produced his own list.

If NFL.com’s goal of having David Carr rank the Top 10 quarterbacks in the league was to cause waves — they succeeded.

Carr, who left Ben Roethlisberger off the list, only to rank his brother Derek Carr 4th, caught the attention, and ire, of Pittsburgh Steelers fans as they wanted to know how in the world he could leave a 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback off his list? Not just ranked lower than they thought, but completely off the list?!

This news was so far-reaching, Roethlisberger’s No. 1 target, Antonio Brown, took to his verified Twitter account to release his own Top 10 quarterback rankings...with a unique spin on them.

Check it out:

Top NFL QBs Ranked

10. You can’t
9. possibly rank
8. the best QBs
7. in the
6. NFL
5. because they
4. are all
3. so
2. talented
1. Big Ben#thatsmyquarterback

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) June 28, 2018

Not only is the statement made in the tweet true, but it also comes at a time when Brown has been catching passes from Cam Newton, since the two have been training together in Florida. Brown has seen first hand just how gifted other throwers are in the league, and he certainly makes ranking them seem rather silly.

After all, for the accuracy Tom Brady brings to the Patriots, Newton brings a completely different, and rather unconventional skill set to the Panthers. Talent is talent, even if it isn’t what fans are used to.

However, I think all Black-and-gold fans agree with who Brown has listed as No. 1.

Podcast: What is the missing piece of the Pittsburgh puzzle?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 5:39am

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:

  • Le’Veon Bell contract talk mean anything?
  • Playmakers on defense?
  • Antonio Brown “free” comments
  • Expectations for the Steelers’ offense
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams goes over everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold on the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard”.

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 frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

Former Penn State star Saquon Barkley leads NFL jersey sales

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 5:28pm

Saquon Barkley jerseys are popular, even in his new shade of blue. 

Bring on Ryan Fitzpatrick; Steelers will face backup in Week 3 after Jameis Winston suspension

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 2:55pm

The Steelers will face backup Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 3 when the team travels to Tampa Bay.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to slightly alter their preparation for their Week 3 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the league officially announced Winston will be suspended three games due to violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.

See the official release below:

Official word of Jameis Winston’s three-game suspension: pic.twitter.com/GCQYZ9I3ex

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 28, 2018

We reported this story when it was just a “source”, but it turns out the source was spot on with their evaluation of the situation. While the suspension itself might not come as a surprise to many, not after the initial report, what should surprise some is how Winston is not going to appeal this suspension.

This isn’t a situation like Marcus Gilbert had last year where he felt he could have fought a 4-game suspension, but didn’t want to miss a playoff game. This is a situation where Winston could have claimed what was reported was false. In the past, the league has been lenient on players and decreased suspensions if the player avoided getting in further trouble.

Ben Roethlisberger saw this treatment in 2010 when his 6-game suspension was reduced to 4-games, pending his good behavior. But Winston seems to be willing to take the suspension and prepare to move on starting in Week 4.

As for Fitzpatrick, if you are wondering how he has done in his career vs. the Steelers, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the numbers — and they aren’t pretty.

With Jameis Winston sitting out vs. Steelers, they likely will get Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is 0-5 in his career against the Steelers. He has 79.9 passer rating and has been sacked 14 times against them. https://t.co/R2JoykMEFE

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) June 28, 2018

Call it good fortune for the Steelers, but it is safe to say the Week 3 game in Tampa Bay just took on an entirely different look with Fitzpatrick slated to be under center.

With Jameis Winston suspension, the Steelers get lucky again

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 2:43pm

The NFL on Thursday officially announced a three-game suspension for Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, meaning the Steelers will face a backup when they travel to play the Buccaneers in Tampa in September.

Mason Rudolph is a football junkie, and that is great news for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 12:39pm

Not every football player is cut from the same cloth, and Mason Rudolph certainly is one who is bred from a football family.

When NFL teams interview prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine, one of the more common questions players hear is, “Do you love the game?”

Sure, every player is going to say ‘yes’ as an answer, but it doesn’t mean everyone actually believes that. There are numerous accounts of players who have been drafted in the early rounds, only to flame out and find themselves unemployed before cashing in on the really big money.

Some players are in it only for the money, and the game is just an avenue to a rich and famous lifestyle.

On the other hand, there are some players who are football junkies. They would play the game for free, and just want to go out on the field and compete with their teammates. Those players are usually the ones who succeed, even if they aren’t as talented as others.

You can lump Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph into the football junkie category. After all, he comes from a football family. When Teresa Varley, of the Steelers official website, asked Rudolph what his biggest inspiration was, his answer was his father.

“It would be my dad (Brett Rudolph). He played football at North Carolina, was a middle linebacker there back in the 1980s. He was my hero, idol, mentor, not just in football, but he spent a lot of time with my brother and I in the backyard, taking us to the field all of the time, getting in extra instruction. He worked with us helping us with instruction, weight training or nutrition knowledge. He was the guy and he still is to this day. He has a lot of good advice he has given us.”

Rudolph was just another example of a pedigree pick in for the Steelers in the NFL Draft process. In 2017 T.J. Watt was the team’s first pick, and we all know what the Watt name means in NFL circles. In 2018, Terrell Edmunds became the team’s top pick, and not only did his brother also get drafted in the first round, but their father played football in the NFL.

But family background doesn’t define Rudolph’s love for the game.

“I love it. I wasn’t able to play quarterback when I was younger. I was one of those kids growing up that I played football, but never played quarterback. I was on the team with the coach’s son, and he was the quarterback. I have a lot of years of playing quarterback ahead of me and I want to keep maxing that out. I love the position. I love the game. I love the stress of learning a new offense. The reward of going out there, understanding it and making a great play. It’s a feeling, it’s an adrenaline rush like there is nothing you can compare it too. I want to continue to do that. I play for my family. There are goals you want to achieve.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Rudolph loves the stress which comes from learning a new offense. In that case, he should absolutely love the transition from Oklahoma State to the Steelers. Not only is it a completely different offensive scheme, he will have to learn how to take snaps under center, as well as all the terminology which comes with an NFL playbook.

The underlying theme of Rudolph’s journey to the Steel City is his love for the game. You don’t find that every day. However, his desire to succeed, even when others might have said he wouldn’t pan out, could be just what motivates him to not only be the next quarterback of the Steelers, but the next great quarterback for the black-and-gold.

Get ready for some flag football this weekend in Pittsburgh

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 11:41am

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see a squad of average Joes take on former NFL football players and pro athletes on the gridiron? With a $1 million dollar prize on the line, no less?

Predicting the Steelers 53-man roster, by position: Inside Linebacker

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 10:58am

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

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

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

Today’s position: Inside Linebacker

Depth Chart/Roster:

Vince Williams
Tyler Matakevich
Jon Bostic
L.J. Fort
Matt Galambos
Matthew Thomas

Similar to the first position covered in this series, the safety position, the inside linebacker position is one of uncertainty. No one really knows who is going to play alongside Vince Williams when the regular season starts.

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

Starters:

Vince Williams — Williams has been somewhat of a scapegoat for Steelers fans this offseason, many believing he isn’t fast enough to play along side someone not named Ryan Shazier. I disagree. Sure, Williams has his limitations, but I feel he is more than capable on the inside of the defense for 2018.

Jon Bostic — Right now Jon Bostic has been behind Matakevich in offseason workouts, but I don’t expect that to last. Bostic is no Shazier, but his experience, and superior athleticism over Matakevich will make him the man on the inside when the games start counting.

Depth Player(s):

Tyler Matakevich — Matakevich might not be the fastest, or athletic, linebacker in the game, but he is an extremely intelligent player. He will be the backup at both inside linebacker positions in case someone were to go down with an injury.

Matthew Thomas — I am taking a flyer here on Thomas to make the team, strictly on potential and special teams play. The team could use Thomas’ 4.5 speed on special teams, and if he can keep his head on straight he will certainly be able to provide depth at the position. To make the team, and not just be a practice squad candidate, Thomas will have to beat out Fort who has experience on the former Florida State product.

Players to be Cut:

L.J. Fort
Matt Galambos

Roster Spots taken: 9/53 Next position: Wide Receivers Past Articles:

Predicting the Starting Safeties

Finding a rookie RB to potentially replace Le’Veon Bell isn’t as easy as you think

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 8:36am

With Le’Veon Bell’s future in Pittsburgh in flux, many fans believe finding another running back in the draft is easy. Think again.

Kansas City Chiefs running back, Kareem Hunt, took the NFL by storm last season and snared the NFL’s rushing title (1,327 yards) in his inaugural season. Fellow rookie running back, Alvin Kamara, showcased his receiving ability while finishing second in receptions (81 receptions) among all running backs.

The duo was drafted during the 2017 NFL Draft in the third round.

With the inevitable departure of 3-time Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell on the horizon, social media discussions have been rampant with respect to the ease of replacing No. 26 via the NFL Draft, or perhaps by reverting to a Running Back By Committee (RBBC) scheme.

The focus here is on running backs drafted since 2011 and how they’ve fared in the NFL up to the 2018 season. A running back needs modest production during his entire career. As a Steelers fan, do you want a one-year wonder? Do you want to use any draft pick on a player who’s one and done? Do you want the next Ickey Woods?

Of course not. Fans want value in the team’s draft picks.

I’ve set standards for each draft class, aligning those numbers with Bell’s typical production both rushing, and receiving.

The bar isn’t set overly high and should be obtainable if one is talking about replacing a potential Hall of Fame back in Le’Veon Bell in one fell swoop or setting up half of an RBBC. Running backs need to average 550 yards rushing or 50 receptions — low standards for what Steeler fans expect out of the running back position.

Due to potential one-year wonders, the 2017 class will not be noted. The choice of 550 yards is based on Bell’s rushing yards following his suspension and injury-plagued 2015 season. Using 50 receptions is just an arbitrary benchmark that denotes the need for a running back to snag receptions in the Steelers’ pass-happy offense. According to Pro Football Focus,the offense used Bell on 500 passing routes last year.

2016: Must have either 1,100 yards rushing or 100 receptions.

The three running backs who meet either of these criteria are Zeke Elliot (2,614), Jordan Howard (2,435), and Derek Henry (1,234). No running back met the reception mark for the 2-year span. Elliot (4th overall) and Henry (45th overall) were drafted high, while Howard was the diamond-in-the-rough drafted in the fifth round. There were 20 running backs drafted in total, with nine drafted before Howard.

2015: Must have either 1,650 yards rushing or 150 receptions.

Melvin Gordon (2,743) and Todd Gurley (3,296) meet the yardage parameter, while Duke Johnson (188) meets the reception criteria. The other fifteen backs who were drafted miss the criteria. Gurley and Gordon were top-10 draft picks, while Johnson was drafted 77th overall.

2014: Must have either 2,200 yards rushing or 200 receptions.

Fourth rounder, Devonta Freeman, is the cream of the crop with 3,248 yards, while second-rounders Jeremy Hill (2,873) and Carlos Hyde (2,729) cracked the yardage barrier. No back broke 200 receptions, as Freeman comes closest with 193. The draft saw 19 backs selected and a dozen before Freeman. Bishop Sankey was the lone selection before Hill.

2013: Must have either 2,750 yards rushing or 250 receptions.

Not surprising Bell meets both criteria (5,336 and 312) — while three of the other 25 running backs drafted reach the threshold. Sixty-first overall pick Eddie Lacy (3,614), who is currently unsigned and potentially falling out of the league, is a distant second. Former sixth-round steal, Latavius Murray (3,120), may only have a lone thousand yard season under his belt, but he was valued in the Vikings RBBC last year which led the NFL in rushing. The gifted Cincinnati Bengals back, Gio Bernard (2,900) — the first back chosen with the 37th overall pick — ends up 20 receptions shy of the reception mark.

2012 Must have either 3,300 yards rushing or 300 receptions

Alfred Morris (5,503), Lamar Miller (4,891) and Doug Martin (4,633) meet the standards for rushing yards. Miller tops the list of receptions at 184, well short of the yardstick. Miller was snared in the fourth round while Morris, with his fantastic 3-year run to start his career, was taken in the sixth round. There were seven backs taken before Miller while 13 were chosen before Morris with 21 backs selected. Martin — the second back chosen and the 31st overall — is currently locked in a contested battle for carries with the Oakland Raiders.

2011 Must have either 3,850 yards rushing or 350 receptions

DeMarco Murray (7,174) surpasses the touchstone along with late-bloomer and current New Orleans Saint, Mark Ingram (5,362). Murray tops the reception charts with 307 catches — which falls shy of the goal. Murray was drafted 71st overall and the sixth back taken in the class that saw 29 backs drafted. Ingram, on the other hand, was drafted 28th overall and was the first back selected.

...

There were 103 running backs selected during the span from 2012 to 2016, with 18 of them meeting the criteria. Four of the running backs were drafted before Pittsburgh drafted in the first round, and another five were drafted before the Steelers second round selection. In order to select one of these backs, the Steelers would have had to move up in the first or 2nd rounds — something they rarely do.

The reality is, it’s highly unlikely Bell will be wearing black-and-gold next season, as most believe contract talks are dead. So the next logical step would be to start laying the foundation for a RBBC, or find the elusive, bell-cow back. Is part of that foundation on the team now? That’s debatable. Will the 2019 starting back be the next Bell? Will the Steelers use another high draft choice like they did with Rashard Mendenhall? Or will they go for a mid-range pick in hopes of landing someone better than what Pittsburgh saw out of Bam Morris? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Throwback Thursday: The bounty game against the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 6:52am

This is a game most Steelers fans will never forget. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

This week, the time circuits on my BTSC Delorean are set to a time when Beverly Hills Chihuahua topped the box office, as confused movie-goers looked for Eddie Murphy and not a dog in a sombrero. Pink’s “So What”was big on the radio and the Dow slumped 777 points in what was the biggest single-day drop ever. Welcome to September 29, 2008.

The Steelers were hosting the Ravens on Monday Night Football to complete Week 4. The Ravens were 2-0 and storming into Heinz Field with a new coach (John Harbaugh) and Joe Flacco at the helm. Rex Ryan’s defense wasn’t ranked as high as usual, but Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott and Haloti Ngata were a dangerous bunch. How criminally dangerous we didn’t know until later on MNF.

The Steelers were 2-1, but had just gotten embarrassed a week before in Philly. Roethlisberger looked pedestrian and was injured, the Offensive Line was the wrong kind of “offensive” and the defense wasn’t sharp either. A win was imperative to get the team back on track, especially when a bitter rival was visiting.

The hard-hitting rivalry remained just that, as Andre Frazier was hurt on the opening kickoff and had to be stretchered off. That was a precursor of the brutality that was to come.

The Steelers’ defense was without Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel against a run-first team. But the defense shut down Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain on the first few drives.

The Steelers’ first drive featured Ben Roethlisberger completions to Nate Washington, Heath Miller and Santonio Holmes, as well as nice runs by Rashard Mendenhall. But Corey Ivy sacked Ben on third down and Pittsburgh had to settle for a Jeff Reed 49-yarder with 6:44 to go in the first quarter.

On 3rd-and-long during the next drive, LT Adam Terry saw James Harrison blow by him and plant Flacco into the turf to force a punt. After the punt, Roethlisberger looked to go deep but threw a five-foot pass right into the gut of Ngata for the INT. That led to a Matt Stover 33-yard boot to tie the game with only :22 left in the quarter.

Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After stopping the Steelers, Flacco and his backfield drove down the field aided by runs and passes to McClain and McGahee. The drive halted on the Steelers’ three and Stover converted a chip-shot for a 6-3 lead.

With less then four minutes in the half, the boo-birds came out at Heinz Field as Roethlisberger was sacked twice. To make things worse, Kendall Simmons had to be helped off of the field after the second sack and third of the game. The Steelers’ offense was in the midst of an 8-quarter TD drought and the OL’s poor, 8-sack performance against Philadelphia the week before looked less like an anomaly and more like a persistent problem.

Aided by good field position, Flacco again looked like an accomplished veteran as he led his team into scoring territory. A few plays after McClain rumbled a screen pass 28-yards and the Steelers’ D took undisciplined penalties, No. 5 threw his first NFL TD pass. The 8-yard score to TE Daniel Wilcox made the score 13-3, as a stunned home crowd sat through halftime in disbelief.

The second half didn’t start any better, as Rashad Mendenhall got absolutely walloped by Ray Lewis and walked off with his shoulder hanging low. The Steelers had to punt yet again.

This play was quite significant as it launched the rivalry into an even nastier stratosphere. Instead of calling for help, Lewis boasted, “You’re done,” to the fallen first-rounder. Suggs later bragged on radio that a bounty was out on Mendenhall and Hines Ward.

“The bounty was out on him and the bounty was out on (Ward). We just didn’t get him between the whistles.” said Suggs on ESPN’s Mike and Mike. Admitting to a major breach of football law and the Ravens were still never punished. Wow!

With Mendy, starting in place of an injured Willie Parker, out of the game and for the season, Bruce Arians’ offense had to turn to FB Carey Davis and their 3rd-down back, Mewelde Moore. Still, they couldn’t get anything going.

Defense prevailed once again in the third quarter. Jarrett Johnson, who never was penalized for 15 yards in his career of six years, got nailed for hitting Hines Ward out of bounds. Ward was instigating, as he did so well. With 4:12 left in the third, Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes across the middle and he sprinted all the way into the end zone for a 38-yard score.

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With 12:30 left in the game, the Steelers tried to put the nail in Baltimore’s coffin. Roethlisberger ducked Bart Scott on a blitz and found a wide-open Hines Ward who rumbled all the way down to the Raven 10-yard line for 49 yards on the play. However, the Steelers had to settle for a Jeff Reed field goal from 18 yards when the drive stalled at the one. The score was 20-13 in favor of the home team.

Harrison and Woodley continued to run wild with an elapsing clock in the fourth quarter, however Flacco completed a 35-yard pass to Mason from the Steelers 40. With 2nd and goal to go, McClain’s dominance continued when he ran over Lawrence Timmons for a 5-yard touchdown. With 4:02 left on the clock, it was a 20-20 tie.

Carey Davis exited with a bad left ankle, so Mewelde Moore was the only back available for Pittsburgh. The Steelers couldn’t get in Reed’s range, so they punted. The Ravens surrendered their final time out when McClain got hurt and limped off with less than a minute to go. Baltimore opted to take a knee and try their luck in overtime.

The Ravens won the coin toss and Ray Lewis, like he did everything, vociferously yelled, “We wanna receive! We wanna receive! We wanna receive! We wanna receive!”, which they did. With an accurate kicker in Stover and sudden-death rules, nerves were tight in the Steel City. But Yamon Figurs great return past the 50 was negated by four flags and the drive began at the Baltimore 15. Great coverage by Bryant McFadden on Mason and a third down sack by Timmons of Flacco, gave the Steelers a shot at the win. Ben went deep to Santonio, but it fell incomplete. On third down, Moore took a short pass and rambled for 24 and the Steelers were in range for Reed. A few plays later, No. 3 came in and nailed a 46-yarder for the OT win. There was much rejoicing as the Steelers vanquished their rival for the first of three times in that magical season.

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As for me, I was quietly trying to watch the game on the bedroom floor as my 13-month-old and my pregnant wife were deep in slumber. But I couldn’t control myself when Woodley scored in the third and screamed in complete joy. The child cried, my wife yelled and I apologized as I fibbed about stubbing a toe. She went back to bed as I worked to get my son back to sleep, which was a chore back then. Now in a rocker, I whispered to my son the significance of the game as I rocked him back to dreamland. It was our first bonding moment with the Steelers. It just felt right and I felt like the king of the world.

Watch Antonio Brown talk about how important Le’Veon Bell is to the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 6:07am

Mike Tomlin gave Le’Veon Bell the nickname “Juice”, and Antonio Brown told the NFL Network just how important “Juice” is for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is a rabid bunch. In fact, rabid might be an understatement, and when this fan base, who view each other as family, feel they are crossed — watch out.

For many, not all, Steelers fans, this is how they view Le’Veon Bell at the current time.

After 2014, when Bell exploded onto the scene, he could do no wrong. Then off-field instances combined with some not-so-smart comments on social media have turned him into a lightning rod for criticism.

During this time, some fans have forgotten just how good a player he is, and how integral he is to the Pittsburgh offense in 2018, and possibly moving forward.

With that in said, it was interesting to hear Antonio Brown’s comments about Bell after the NFL Network aired their final episode of their Top 100 players of 2017 list. Brown was asked about Bell, and what kind of teammate he is, and his words spoke volumes.

Brown posted this on his verified instagram account...

JUUUIIICCEEEEE let's get this ring @leveonbell

A post shared by Antonio Brown (@ab) on Jun 27, 2018 at 1:50pm PDT

If that isn’t a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

While this is unlikely to sway any fans with a bad taste in their mouths over Bell’s contract demands, it should at least give a glimpse as to how Bell’s teammates feel about his as a player.

The Steelers and Bell have until July 16th to negotiate a new long-term contract, and if they are unable to do so Bell would be forced to play under the Franchise Tag for the second straight year.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on this story, among others, as the team prepares for training camp on July 25th.

Several members of the Steelers talk about the unseen value in Darrius Heyward-Bey

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 3:31pm

While many have written off Darrius Heyward-Bey, his teammates shine a light on why he hasn’t gone anywhere.

If you’ve written, or talked, about the Pittsburgh Steelers over the past three seasons, there is a good chance you have mentioned Darrius Heyward-Bey as a player who could be a cap casualty, or one who is constantly embroiled in a training camp battle. You know, someone who is always considered on the roster “bubble”.

No matter how many suggest Heyward-Bey will be gone, or what the predictions say — he always seems to find a way to make the team.

Heyward-Bey’s role has changed dramatically since he was drafted in the first round out of the University of Maryland by the Oakland Raiders, and some wonder why the Steelers keep bringing him back year after year.

Let his teammates tell you why the team has kept the player they call “DHB” around for all these years.

“He comes in every day, works hard,” Marcus Tucker told Teresa Varley of the Steelers official website. “He was a first-round draft pick, but he works like he was one of the guys who still has to prove himself day-in and day-out. I love how he helps the young guys out. He is so knowledgeable about the game, as far as the receiver spot and special teams goes. He is one of the guys I look up to as far as effort, working hard and knowledge.”

Heyward-Bey was within ear shot of Tucker’s comments, and chimed in on what makes him tick. How he has come to accept the role of special teams ace, and true team player, over anything glamorous.

“I look forward and always appreciate the opportunity to come here and not only get the work in for myself, but also be someone guys can lean on when they have questions about football, when they have questions about life. I have seen it all. I was a first-round draft pick, I was a starter, special teams, a guy coming off the bench. I have seen a lot in this league.

“I understand there are eyes on me, younger guys have their eyes on me. I have to bring the effort every day.”

That sounds great, but he was a first round pick as a wide receiver, not a special teamer. Doesn’t that have to bother him deep down?

“I have embraced the role,” said Heyward-Bey. “As long as I am doing my job, I’ll have a job. That is the way I look at it. That is most important to me, to fight with my teammates to win a championship and provide for my family.

“It’s an adjustment, but you take the strides, you understand this is where I am in my career. This is my role, who I am right now, and I embrace it. A lot of people wake up in the morning, brush their teeth and lie to themselves. I try not to. I try to tell myself the truth so I can get better.”

It gives you a glimpse into Heyward-Bey the person, and teammate, which might be why the Steelers choose him over other receivers who have come and gone. Heyward-Bey might not be lighting up the scoreboard anymore, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t value in a veteran who is willing to sacrifice his own goals for the sake of the team’s.

If it hasn’t become clear yet why Heyward-Bey continues to hold down a spot on the Steelers’ 53-man roster, it should. It also should make you appreciate what Heyward-Bey brings to Pittsburgh.

Come to think of it, the Steelers could possibly use more DHBs on their team...

Le’Veon Bell suggests Randy Fichtner will use him in space as the ultimate mismatch

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 12:34pm

If there is one thing defensive coordinators don’t want to see, it is Le’Veon Bell getting the ball in open space.

The Pittsburgh Steelers love Le’Veon Bell, and rightfully so. The man is a workhorse, and is truly a three-down running back in the league. He can do it all: Run, block and catch will All-Pro skill and efficiency.

Despite the ongoing contract negotiations between the Steelers and Bell regarding a potential new long-term, there has also been a significant change on the offensive side of the football.

Gone is Todd Haley, and in is Randy Fichtner as Offensive Coordinator.

Most assume this change in title for Fichtner won’t result in many on-field changes, but when talking to the NFL Network after they revealed their Top 10 of their Top 100 player list Le’Veon Bell suggested Fichtner might utilize his talents differently than Haley — mainly as a receiver.

“A lot of my touches will be the same. I don’t think I will see less. I don’t think I will see more,” Bell told Kurt Warner. “I think Randy will find different ways to get me more open space. Allow me to use my moves and my strength more so against DBs as opposed to linebackers and running in between the tackles.

”I think I will have more catches and less carries but the touches will all be there.”

Bell should be utilized as much as possible in a variety of ways, but he would later in the interview state how what hurt him last season after sitting out the preseason and training camp was his cohesion with Ben Roethlisberger, not necessarily the running game.

Although the offensive line will have become accustomed to blocking for James Conner, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley in the preseason, Bell suggested it doesn’t take long for he and the line to regain the form they had to finish off the 2017 season.

Nonetheless, if Fichtner is able to get Bell into space, either flexing him out wide or out of the backfield, it will only equate to success for Bell, and the Steelers’ offense. Everyone remembers the abuse Bell delivers to defensive backs in the open field, just ask Dre Kirkpatrick of the Bengals, and to see more of that will be a welcome sight.

A lot of this may hinge on the success of others. For instance, if James Conner is running the ball well, they might be able to run two-back sets and utilize Bell as more of a receiver and allow Conner to stay in the backfield. However, if Bell is used as more of a receiver, would it impact how many receivers make the team?

A lot of questions, and possibilities, in this scenario, but one thing which remains a constant and that would be those pesky contract negotiations. If the two sides can somehow come to terms on a deal, it would make life for Fichtner and the Steelers’ offense a lot easier.

Bud Dupree is the Steelers' biggest weakness according to Pro Football Focus

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 11:05am

The Steelers won 13 games last season and made the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, so it’s probably not a surprise their roster ranks among the best in the NFL.

Paul Zeise's mailbag: Why won't Clint Hurdle hold players accountable?

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 10:54am

Welcome to Paul Zeise’s weekly mailbag, where the Post-Gazette columnist and 93.7 The Fan radio host answers your questions about sports, life and everything in between. If you want to ask Paul a question, tweet him @paulzeise or email him at pzeise@post-gazette.com. Let’s get started:

When it comes to defensive coverages, the Steelers are still a zone team, but can also play man

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 10:30am

The Steelers’ fan base has long been disgusted with the team’s inability, or unwillingness, to play man coverage. Recent PFF stats show although they don’t play it often, they are capable.

The debate among Pittsburgh Steelers for years has been why the team relies on zone coverages on defense. Besides the fact Mike Tomlin is a Tampa-2 disciple, the coaching staff the team has hired has typically followed suit regarding zone coverage over man coverage.

Despite Tom Brady and the Patriots, among others, shredding the zone to pieces, the team almost has had a stubbornness regarding changing this approach. In a recent article on Pro Football Focus (PFF), they diagrammed all of the different man and zone schemes NFL teams utilize, but added some interesting data behind these coverages.

Check out what they had to say about the Steelers in regards to their schematic decisions on the defensive side of the football.

Man Coverage

Although the Steelers didn’t use man-coverage a lot, when they did they were extremely successful.

By completion percentage allowed, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the best defense in the NFL when they ran Cover-1, allowing just 44.8 percent of passes to be completed, but they ran it on just 13.4 percent of their snaps against the pass.

Zone Coverage

When it comes to playing zone coverage, only the Carolina Panthers used zone schemes more than the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Carolina Panthers – 72.5 percent

Pittsburgh Steelers – 70.1 percent

Buffalo Bills – 68.3 percent

Cleveland Browns – 66.9 percent

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 66.4 percent

...

What is unique about these statistics is how the Steelers rarely used man-coverages, but when they did they saw success. If you see something working, why go back to the alternative instead of seeing what you have with this specific scheme?

This is where the frustration usually kicks in for Steelers fans, but if one thing is different about 2018, compared to 2017, is there has been a tremendous amount of turnover from last year. Gone is Carnell Lake as the defensive backs coach, hired was Tom Bradley. Gone are Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden, and in their place is a great combination of athleticism, versatility and speed.

Will this be enough to actually for the Steelers to even be more of a 50/50 team in 2018 when it comes to man-to-zone coverage used? If I were a betting man I would bet against it, but you never know.

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