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Ben Roethlisberger‘s beard releases an official statement in regards to his recent incident

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

With so many others having to release statements about “The trim heard round the world,” it is only fitting to hear directly from the beard himself

**Disclaimer. Although this site is focused on Steelers news and commentary, the subject of Roethlisberger‘s beard has been a fun, ongoing topic among fans. Please enjoy the following article in jest.**

In a statement prepared today, Ben Roethlisberger‘s beard has broken his silence and issued a response to his current controversies highlighted by many both within and beyond of the sports world.

“I would first like to thank Mr. Roethlisberger for the amazing opportunity I’ve had over the last eight months,” Roethlisberger’s beard stated. “Although my initial role within the Steelers organization was to bring comfort to Mr. Roethlisberger during his time of rehabilitation, I understand my current actions have been both controversial and selfish. Over the last several months, I have entered a downward spiral in which I was out of control. As I continued to do my part for Mr. Roethlisberger and his family, I felt had my actions continued, it would be of no benefit for either the Roethlisberger family, the Pittsburgh Steelers, or their fanbase.

“As promised, my agreement with Mr. Roethlisberger was to step out of the limelight once he was able to resume significant football activities which included throwing a football at an NFL standard. With Mr. Roethlisberger hitting this milestone in recent days, I thought it was time for me to step back from my place as the face of Roethlisberger’s rehab and fulfill the role for which I was originally assigned.

“I would also like to recognize those others who are a part of our team that have operated both in a reserve role as well as those completely behind the scenes. I would like to thank Mr. Roethlisberger’s hair in its support of this quest as it has been by my side throughout the entire process. I would also like to mention, not necessarily by name, the other follicles of Mr. Rothlisberger who have done a fantastic job in support throughout this process. Although you were operating out of sight, it would not be fair had I failed to mention your support throughout this ordeal.

“Since I began spiraling more and more out of control, I felt that any opportunity to improve myself would be welcomed by the public. Unfortunately, my actions were deemed both reckless and selfish by many. I would like to apologize to Mr. Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and anyone who may have been offended by my selfish act of self-improvement. I would also like to apologize to Mr. Norman who, as a personal favor, put himself on the line for me and my well-being.

“When I burst onto the scene several months ago, I never imagined being where I am today. As days went on, my popularity, although often negative, continued to grow. But as newsworthy as I have become, I never imagined the steps taken to better myself would draw attention from so much more of the national media than my initial rugged and unkempt persona. I would like to apologize to any of those whom I offended in either my natural or more perfected state.”

It is unclear at this time if we will ever hear from Roethlisberger’s beard in this manner again. It is our hope, along with the majority of Steelers’ Nation, that Roethlisberger‘s beard can continue in his quest for self-improvement without further controversy.

Mike Tomlin to speak with NBA coaches in virtual development meeting for equality initiative

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach will speak to NBA coaches in a virtual development meeting.

The sports world is on hiatus, at least from in-person meetings/practices, and with the downtime some leagues are utilizing the time to help their coaches to develop in several ways. For the NBA, they are holding a virtual development session for their coaches on equality.

The speaker? Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

This from Shams Charania, NBA writer for The Athletic:

Sources: Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will speak at a virtual development session in front of NBA coaches on May 27 for an equality initiative.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 20, 2020

Tomlin being chosen to speak on equality makes sense, as one of the few minority head coaches in the NFL, but is also fitting considering the recnet news on the adjustments, and potential changes coming, on the NFL’s Rooney Rule.

Here is a run-down of the new rules put in place for the Rooney Rule moving forward in the NFL:

3 enhancements to Rooney Rule passed: 2 minority interviews for a head coach job; 1 minority interview for a Sr. Football/GM job; 1 minority interview for a coordinator job; 1 minority or female interview for a Sr. level job at league or club level. More coming on #Steelers.com

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) May 19, 2020

If there is one thing Steelers, and NFL, fans know about Mike Tomlin, it is he knows how to captivate a crowd. Whether it be commencement speeches, pre-game talks or even his weekly press conferences, Tomlin has a way with words. His slogans and ‘isms’ used are now things of legend among the black-and-gold following.

The NBA bringing in someone like Tomlin, with his experience at the highest level of his sport, will be well worth their time, and certainly an opportunity the Steelers coach will not take for granted.

For the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC as the 2020 regular season approaches.

Podcast: Rejoice! Ben Roethlisberger has shaved, and looks back

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 5:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is over, and although there are no more games, the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was 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 flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Ben Roethlisberger is back! Now what?
  • Diagnosing the issues with the Steelers using statistics
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams 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: Ramon Foster tells Steelers fans they should be patient with Mason Rudolph

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft is officially over. After finishing last year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, have another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how ex-Steelers guard Ramon Foster thinks Steelers fans should be patient with Mason Rudolph’s development.

Let’s get to the news:

  • In case you didn’t know, Ramon Foster has gone from football to writing, and he is telling fans they should be patient with Mason Rudolph’s development.

On The Line: Be patient with Mason

By: Ramon Foster, DKPittsburghSports

I’m a firm believer that the quarterback is the head of the organization when it comes to the game of football. And that holds true at every level, with the exception of flag football, which I’ve coached over the past five NFL offseasons.

When coaching kids’ sports such as flag football or pee-wee ball, it almost always comes down to which team has the fastest kid. It’s sad but true. I’ve seen one kid completely win a game by himself in flag football.

Once those kids begin tackle or middle-school football, though, it’s all about one position: Quarterback. If they’re good enough, they’ll control the trajectory of your whole football life as a fan, player, coach and even up to an NFL franchise’s ownership. The really good ones are expected to win at least half the games based on their own talent. That’s no jab at all the other offensive positions or defense or special teams. That’s just how it is when one individual can milk the clock, dice up the opposing defense and have an impact on all three phases that way.

To read the full article click HERE (Free)

  • The changes to the Rooney Rule should have a positive impact on the NFL.

Mark Madden: Changes to Rooney Rule should have trickle-up effect

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Rooney Rule that promotes minority hiring in the NFL is a noble idea, and very worthy of having the late Dan Rooney’s name attached.

But right now, it’s just not working.

Minorities fill four head coaching jobs in the NFL and two general manager slots. The Rooney Rule requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for those positions. It was adopted in 2003 when African-American head coaches Tony Dungy (Tampa Bay) and Dennis Green (Minnesota) got fired despite successful tenures. Rooney personally added bite to the rule’s bark when he hired Mike Tomlin to coach the Steelers in 2007.

But the Rooney Rule has mostly led to token interviews where time gets wasted. There have been 16 head coaching vacancies in the past three years. Only two were filled by minorities. Washington hired Ron Rivera and Miami hired Brian Flores.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Pennsylvania governor was not happy that Ben Roethlisberger got a haircut/beard trimming during the COVID-19 crisis.

Gov. Wolf voices ‘general concern’ over Ben Roethlisberger’s trip to barbershop

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ben Roethlisberger’s visit to a barbershop wasn’t enough to make Tom Wolf pull his hair out, but Pennsylvania’s governor wasn’t pleased the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback violated the state’s yellow phase reopening after the coronavirus shutdown.

During his daily press briefing Tuesday, Gov. Wolf criticized Roethlisberger’s decision to get a haircut and beard trim at a Sewickley barbershop.

Wolf was asked whether the salon would receive disciplinary action and whether the state would investigate the matter.

“My concern is just a general concern,” Wolf said. “Anybody who puts himself or herself into harm’s way is something that I think we have to try to avoid. When you go to something like a barbershop, and you’re not protected, I don’t care who you are, the chances of that virus actually wreaking havoc on your life increases.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

T.J. Watt thinks the Steelers defense can be legit in 2020

The Steelers’ culture and stability will get them through the coronavirus pandemic

JuJu Smith-Schuster is going through his own “Groundhog Day”

The Steelers have been cautious with Ben Roethlisberger from the start

Jack Lambert was a part of a Sports Illustrated jinx?

  • Social Media Madness

.@Juiceup__3 enjoys long trips to the end zone & wide open space. #TDTuesday pic.twitter.com/P8vvwUzUwM

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 19, 2020

#Renegade fires us up too pic.twitter.com/xnbkZK6kcQ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 19, 2020

.@_TJWatt has always been an ultimate tagger @UltimateTagFOX premieres tonight at 9 pm ET on @FOXTV! pic.twitter.com/rKsv4GobpR

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 20, 2020

I never realized Jack Lambert was a victim of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 2:35pm

Jack Lambert: The myth, the legend, the toothless enforcer of Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s, was taken out by the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

I’ve been thinking and talking an awful lot about Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert, these days.

It’s only natural. After all, James Harrison, in many ways, Lambert’s modern-day equivalent, has been in the news for a recent podcast he did with former teammate Willie Colon in-which he was his usual defiant self as he recalled playing-day stories of, among other things, being defiant.

And with that in mind, maybe it was fate that I watched an NFL Network/NFL Films production on Saturday about the top 10 football curses (as of 2013, anyway).

It was no surprise that the famous (or infamous) Sports Illustrated cover jinx was one of the curses. But what was a surprise was a quick flash of Lambert’s famous “Man of Steel” cover appearing on the screen as this particular curse was being discussed by players, celebrities and scribes.

“Was Lambert’s turf toe injury he suffered in 1984—the one that would lead to his retirement following the season—the result of the SI cover curse?” I asked myself as I quickly grabbed my smartphone to Google for answers.

First of all, I never realized the SI story of Lambert that included the iconic cover—you know, the one where he’s dressed in black and gold and staring right at you with that toothless scowl as if he’s trying to figure out a way to steal your very soul?—was published in 1984. Thanks to the black face mask, I knew it wasn’t early in Lambert’s career (the Steelers face masks were gray back in the mid-’70s), but I assumed it was the late-’70s, a time when the Steelers were still at the height of their dynastic powers.

I guess I never bothered to look at the cover very closely. If I had, I may have seen the actual date: July 30, 1984. That was three weeks after Lambert’s 32nd birthday, and just a few months after he played in his ninth-straight Pro Bowl. He was also voted a First-team All-Pro for the sixth time in his career following the 1983 season—unbeknownst to him, his last full year as a player.

Of course, I already knew how Lambert’s career ended. I knew that he barely played in ‘84 thanks to that aforementioned turf toe injury—he appeared in only eight games and started just three. I knew this injury forced him to retire after the season.

I just didn’t know this all came about due to the SI cover jinx.

Now that I know this, it all makes perfect sense.

After all, of all the Steelers players from the 1970s, Lambert was perhaps the most mythical. The toughest of them all. The guy who slammed Cliff Harris to the ground in Super Bowl X. The man who went up to receiver Lynn Swann and said to the 1974 first-round pick, “Hey, Swann, I should have been picked in the first round, and you should have been picked in the second (instead of the other way around).”

Lambert first started wreaking havoc on a professional level 46 years ago. Greg Lloyd, the man who would be the first to carry Lambert’s baton as the Steelers enforcer linebacker in the ‘80s and ‘90s—a player Jerry Glanville once called "the meanest guy in football”—was only nine.

As for Harrison, he wasn’t even born yet.

Lambert created the template for mean, ferocious, defiant, rebellious Steelers linebackers.

What’s he like today? It would seem he’s still pretty defiant. He’s certainly mysterious. His former teammates don’t know him that well: “You won’t find him. The guy’s a recluse. Why, I haven’t talked to him in I don’t know how long,” said Jack Ham in a Los Angeles Times article about Lambert from January of 1996.

As for his neighbors in Worthington, Pa. (Lambert’s residence at the time of the story—perhaps now, who knows?), they were well-aware of his intimidating ways: “No, he’s liable to walk in here at any time,” said Kristin Shaul, working the counter at Long’s (Market). “And if he does, don’t get shook. He’s an intimidator. If he thinks he can intimidate you, he will. He likes to take his teeth out and see how people react.”

The general sentiment gleaned from his neighbors who were interviewed in that LA Times story was that, while Lambert was generally a nice guy, he didn’t talk about football and nobody knew him all that well.

Intimidating. Mysterious. Defiant (according to the book, “Their Life’s Work,” he refused to put on a jacket handed out at a 1999 team reunion because it looked like something the Pirates would wear).

Nobody could tell Lambert what to do during his playing days. And it appears nobody has been able to tell him what to do after football.

No mere mortal has ever been able to get in Lambert’s way.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the only thing that actually could take Jack Lambert down was a mystical curse.

T.J. Watt on the Steelers 2020 defense’s potential: “The sky’s the limit”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ All-Pro linebacker realizes the potential which lies within the Steelers 2020 defense.

While the talk around the Pittsburgh Steelers has been focused on the health of Ben Roethlisberger this offseason, the team’s defense should be considered a major talking point entering the 2020 season.

After all, it was the defense which kept the Steelers competitive in 2019 as the offense failed to hit 30 points scored throughout the entire season. It was the defense, led by T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick which did what they had to do, often scoring points, to get the team the wins necessary to remain in playoff contention.

Last season the Steelers led the league in turnovers, but also in sacks, with 54, and are just a glimpse into the legitimacy of the unit moving forward. How good can the Steelers’ defense be in 2020?

According to Watt, who joined SiriusXM NFL Radio Wednesday, the sky is the limit.

“A lot of people like to bring in when Minkah [Fitzpatrick] was able to come in the back end and kinda solidify our defense. We kind of brought him in with stride, and just able to have that extra half a second, or quarter second, whatever it takes to be able to get to the passer. As a pass rusher we welcome that with open arms.” Watt told hosts Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan.

“You think about getting a guy like Stephon Tuitt back this upcoming season, I think the sky’s the limit for our defense.”

Tuitt is a name not being discussed much, even though he was lost for the majority of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Maybe it is Tuitt’s laundry list of injuries he has suffered throughout his brief NFL career, but if Tuitt is able to return, and stay healthy, it can not just ease the blow of losing Javon Hargrave, but catapult the defense to new levels.

Ultimately, Watt just loves the group of guys he takes the field with every week.

“I really like the guys we have in the locker room and we are just going to continue to grow off of each other and build the off-field camaraderie to make us better.”

The question I often ask is how good can this Steelers defense be, from a statistical standpoint? Can they eclipse 60 sacks in 2020? Can they best their league-leading 38 takeaways next season?

Reaching some of these milestones would indeed be rarefied air for the defense, but as a unit who has continued to improve every season, just like Watt has since entering the league, you learn not to count them out.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2020 regular season.

Report: Steelers have been cautious with Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab, he has “been ready”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 11:05am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a lot of time to get Ben Roethlisberger back and ready to play, and Roethlisberger is ready to go.

The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base received a welcome gift on Monday when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger posted a video compilation of both him getting his now-legendary beard trimmed, but also throwing passes to teammates Ryan Switzer, James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The video concluded with Smith-Schuster pointing at the camera saying, “He’s baaack!”

Yes, the video went viral and caused instant excitement among Steelers fans everywhere. In the following hours after the video was posted, reports began circulating of the health of Roethlisberger’s surgically repaired elbow.

In fact, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported how the Steelers have been more than cautious with Roethlisberger’s recovery, and the patience has paid off with him being more than ready for the rigors of being an NFL quarterback when the 2020 regular season rolls around.

Take a look at Rapoport on Good Morning Football talking about Roethlisberger:

From @GMFB: #Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger shaved and threw yesterday -- not necessarily in that order. The reality is, Pittsburgh has been overly cautious with him, as he's been ready to throw for some time. pic.twitter.com/7HkCXOJgcK

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 19, 2020

When you think about the timeline of Roethlisberger’s injury, which occurred in Week 2 of the 2019 regular season vs. the Seattle Seahawks, he will have nearly a full calendar year to recover from his injury before stepping back on the field for a regular season contest.

Throughout the offseason, Kevin Colbert had told media they have had to take it slow with Roethlisberger, often reminding him to take it slow. The one thing the organization cannot afford is a setback with Roethlisberger’s recovery.

From all accounts they have been successful in this endeavor, and Roethlisberger seems more than ready to suit up and play again for the black-and-gold. This is absolutely the best news for the Steelers as they approach 2020 regular season with a budding elite defense, and an offense brimming with skill at the wide receiver position.

However, if 2019 taught anything, it would be the importance of the quarterback position in today’s NFL. If Roethlisberger is healthy and ready-to-go, it will boost the team’s chances of making noise in the postseason.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the upcoming 2020 regular season.

JuJu Smith Schuster lived through his own ‘Groundhog Day’ experience last season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 9:30am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith Schuster must have felt like he was trapped in a remake of the comedy classic Groundhog Day last season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster lived through an all too real nightmare last season, and survived to tell the tale. After enduring an precipitous drop in production in spite of his best efforts, JuJu has hopefully grown both as a man and a professional from the experience.

As the old saying goes, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." JuJu had to question the logic behind that statement at various times last season.

JuJu must have felt trapped in a day stuck on repeat last season, like Bill Murray's character in the comedy classic Groundhog Day.

Imagine with me for a moment if you will, you are JuJu Smith-Schuster heading into last season. You are starting your third season as a professional, hoping to improve on a record setting start to your career. Even though you are coming off a Pro Bowl level season, many pundits openly question your ability to maintain your elite level of production, due to extenuating circumstances beyond your control. You lost your all world running mate, at no fault of your own, and now you have been entrusted with the mantel of WR1. Now you would draw the opposition's number one corner on a consistent basis, maybe even with a safety over the top unless your teammates could step up their game enough to prevent double teams, the same thing you did for your now former superstar teammate.

There was sure to be growing pains, but you were prepared to put in the hard work and commitment necessary to overcome the situation.

The good news was you already had developed an impressive chemistry with your future HOF QB Ben Roethlisberger. You would have to learn how to adjust on the fly to the additional attention in coverage, but the talent was there and the process was doable, it would just take some time. Besides, the Steelers went out and got you some assistance in free agent Donte Moncrief and third rounder Diontae Johnson.

You are feeling pretty good about your chances of continued success, that is until both reality and tragedy struck. The reality that Moncrief turned out to be a far greater liability than he was an asset, and the tragedy of Big Ben being lost for the season.

But you still tell yourself that you got this. You promise yourself that you will go that extra mile, pick up the slack of your fallen comrade by accepting the added responsibility, and drag this collection of inexperienced offensive talent to a successful season.

You had only the best of intentions. The best laid plains of mice and men.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan at first, and your initial numbers through the first quarter of the season were pretty respectable, especially considering the inexperienced QB situation. You managed a number of big plays through your all out effort and intensity. Eventually the opposing defenses adjusted to better exploit the Steelers weaknesses. Then the times, they started changing.

Suddenly every game seemed to be a repeat of the last. Like Bill Murray reliving the same day over and over in Groundhog Day, nothing you did seemed to matter. Even the ill timed fumble against the Ravens, only the second fumble of your entire NFL career, was eerily similar to the one against the Saints the season prior. Somehow you managed to struggle on.

You would explode off the snap against the best corners the opposition had to offer, running the route with the precision and timing necessary to reach the designated spot, often while trying to free yourself from coverage. Finally you reach your destination and...nothing. More often than not the ball wasn't on time, inaccurate, or it never arrived at all. No worries, just run back to the huddle and get ready to do it all again. To say this was a frustrating situation would be a huge understatement.

The mental aspect of this struggle is much tougher than the physical. JuJu had experienced almost instant success in his first two seasons in the NFL. The timing and accuracy of Ben's passes were a far cry from what JuJu experienced last season. His diminished production perfectly reflected the difference.

Now JuJu is faced with a career defining situation. He needs a bounce back season to solidify his reputation and for leverage in negotiating the first substantial contract of his professional career. JuJu wants WR1 money, but first he has to prove he is more than just an exceptional WR2. Not just to the Steelers, but to the rest of the league as well.

JuJu has been working hard to do just that. He has been seen recently working out with Big Ben and a few of his teammates. Reestablishing the chemistry between the two that once seemed so effortless, and adjusting to catching passes from a franchise QB with a new and improved throwing arm. These are indeed exciting times.

I fully expect JuJu to have a bounce back season this year where he establishes himself as a star receiver. I look forward to seeing the infectious smile back on his face, and hopefully we will continue to see it around the Steel City for years to come.

The culture and stability of the Steelers is a huge benefit in these uncertain times

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ should be set up well during these strange, and difficult, times.

When I was hired at the school where I coach, the football program had won nine games in the previous three seasons combined. We had some good players, however, especially among the rising senior class, and I convinced myself we could be successful with some revamped schemes and greater attention to fundamentals.

We went 2-8 that year. Boy, was I wrong.

The problem wasn’t talent. We weren’t loaded with studs but our talent was on par with many of our opponents. The problem was culture. We were a losing program that had developed losing habits. Kids showing up late to meetings and workouts. Not hustling at practice. Acting like bullies in the hallways. Jealousy among players. Parents angry over their son’s playing time. Emails to the athletic director complaining about everything from the color of our helmets to the music we played in our pre-game warmup.

I inherited all of these problems and did nothing that first year to resolve them. They became worse, actually, as players and parents tested me to see where I was weak or could be manipulated. With my attention so focused on schemes, I didn’t take stock of how toxic the environment had become. It was a long first season, to say the least.

The following January, I convened the team for our off-season meeting. Only 34 players showed up. There had been 50 on the team that first year and we had recruited the hallways hard to get more kids to come out. We were hoping at least 60 would attend. It was disappointing, to say the least.

Shortly after, I saw the mother of a boy I had been recruiting pretty hard in the supermarket. He was a 6’3 basketball player who could jump out of the building and could have made a great wide receiver. I asked her why he decided not to come out. Her answer hit me like a lightning bolt.

“Honestly, Coach,” she said. “We’re not impressed with the football culture.”

That was a seminal moment in my coaching career, one that probably saved my job. I went back to school and erased the white board in the coaches office that was filled with X and O’s, all of the new schemes we wanted to implement that we thought would be so brilliant. In their place I wrote, CULTURE. Then I set out to decipher what that actually meant.

Seven years later, the investment has paid off. It didn’t happen overnight (my second season we went 3-7) but we’ve now made the playoffs in three straight seasons and have about 90 players in the program. I won’t bore you with the details of how we got there but three points of emphasis were especially impactful: stability, identity and accountability. Among the dozens of coaches I spoke with about how to build a positive culture within a program, those three themes emerged. We incorporated them into everything we did until they became second nature to everyone involved. Be consistent, know what you stand for and take responsibility for your actions. Those points of emphasis — not scheme, not talent — have made all the difference.

In retrospect, I’m disappointed it took so long to embrace them. As a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers for forty years, I should have recognized them from the start.

Comparing high school to professional football isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples examination. I manage sixteen year-olds who eat Pop Tarts for lunch and stay up half the night playing video games and texting their girlfriends. Mike Tomlin manages millionaires (some of whom probably eat Pop Tarts for lunch and stay up half the night playing video games and texting their girlfriends). Maybe it’s not so different after all?

One thing that’s certain is the impact of culture on almost any organization at any level, whether it’s high school versus professional football, a small business or a global corporation. Wherever people interact together with a common goal in mind, there must be attention paid to the values, beliefs, behaviors and attitudes that drive that organization for it to be successful. This is its culture.

The question of culture is especially relevant as we consider the coming NFL season and the ongoing global pandemic. With teams forced to convene virtually and no group activities permitted until... well, no one really knows... teams with established stability, levels of expectation and strong leadership have a leg up on those in transition.

The Steelers are one of the most respected franchises in professional sports when it comes to these things. Mike Tomlin enters his 14th year as head coach in 2020. He is one of just three head coaches the Steelers have employed since 1969. Coupled with the fact they have been owned in some form by the Rooney family since the 1930s, they are a model of stability.

In terms of identity, even casual football fans understand what to expect when they see the familiar black and gold uniforms of the Steelers. The team’s identity has long been built on a physical brand of football that emphasizes great defense and overall toughness. While that has not been universally true these past fifty years, it has become Pittsburgh’s reputation. Incoming players talk about this a great deal. When they are drafted by or sign with Pittsburgh, they know the brand of football expected of them.

As for accountability, Steeler players have long been expected to conduct themselves in a way that doesn’t embarrass the franchise. This message has been enforced by an ownership group that has valued character, by coaches who exemplify it and by leaders in the locker room who hold players accountable. A player who can be trusted with his personal conduct is likely one who can be trusted professionally. This logic has driven the Steelers’ personnel decisions for decades.

The Steelers have not been infallible in these regards. We don’t have to look back very far to find an example. The 2017 and 2018 teams suffered from poor play in the defensive backfield and, as the staff transitioned from Dick LeBeau to Keith Butler as coordinator, some questionable schemes as well. But the offense was so good, so loaded with high-end talent, that it seems impossible the franchise did not win a single playoff game in that time.

Why didn’t they? Look no further than the eroding team culture, which featured a host of issues that were atypical for the Steelers. Antonio Brown’s various fiascos. Le’Veon Bell’s holdout. James Harrison’s petulant behavior. Ben Roethlisberger’s passive-aggressive radio show commentary. The “culture” didn’t give up 45 points in that 2017 playoff loss to Jacksonville, cause the devastating injury to Ryan Shazier or overturn the Jesse James touchdown against New England. And, in light of Brown’s downfall since leaving Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin may have done a better job keeping things together than he gets credit for. But those teams did not experience the success they could have given their considerable ability. A regression of the overall culture, particularly when it came to the team’s high-profile players, contributed significantly to that.

The Steelers went to great lengths to rebuild that culture last season. Brown, Bell and Harrison were not retained. Roethlisberger gave up his polarizing radio show. The defense added talent but also high-character players in Devin Bush and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The 2019 squad was a determined, disciplined bunch that fought through the devastating Roethlisberger injury to remain competitive until the final week of the season. A team with a lesser culture would likely have imploded. So, while there may be examples where some discretions were treated differently than others and where exceptions to the preferred culture existed, the rule has long outweighed those exceptions.

Culture matters under normal circumstances but it is especially important in this particular moment. A team with an established culture like Pittsburgh’s has a leg up on much of its competition while trying to conduct operations during a pandemic. The Steelers tweaked their staff this off-season but did not change the head coach or either coordinator. They return 20 of 22 starters, with only retired guard Ramon Foster and free agent defensive tackle Javon Hargrave exiting the lineup. There are a few rookies and free agents to integrate and a hole at sub-package linebacker to fill. And, of course, there is the return of Ben Roethlisberger to consider. But the schemes, the personnel, the leadership and the famous “standard” Tomlin often refers to remain largely intact.

How does this benefit them? Roethlisberger will need reps to shake off the rust of his lost 2019. But he will not need to learn a new scheme, which is far more labor-intensive. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, once said, “An organization’s ability to learn, and to translate that learning into rapid action, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” The stability of Pittsburgh’s scheme and personnel should translate into rapid learning when players are once again permitted to take the field.

Beyond scheme, teams with coaching changes will need time together to establish patterns of expectation that cannot be implemented virtually. How a coach disciplines players, when he pushes and when he pulls back, his conditioning regimen, the tempo of his practices and the work ethic he demands all impact the culture of a football team. None of this can be established through Zoom.

New England, Cincinnati, the Chargers and Indianapolis must all integrate new quarterbacks into their system. Cleveland has a new head coach, Kevin Stefanski, who must repair their ever-suffering culture. Stefanski is bringing in an entirely new staff, including both coordinators. The Steelers first three opponents are all undergoing changes at the top of the coaching ranks as well. The Giants have a new head coach (Joe Judge) and new coordinators on offense and defense. Denver has a new offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmer, who must get together with their young quarterback, Drew Lock. Houston has new offensive and defensive coordinators. Each of these teams must figure out how to integrate new pieces, implement their schemes and establish a winning culture without the luxury of meeting directly.

Unfortunately, the big dogs atop the AFC remain stable. Kansas City, Baltimore and rapidly-improving Buffalo all return their head coach, their coordinators, their quarterback and the core of their team. The Chiefs and Ravens, especially, have veteran head coaches who have won Super Bowls and established effective cultures. By remaining stable, having a clear level of expectation and retaining a strong leadership model, these teams should have less problems navigating the challenges of the pandemic than much of the competition. They will each present significant hurdles for the Steelers to overcome if they are to return to the Super Bowl.

There is an adage that says, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Culture could figure into that equation somewhere. Talent matters. Schemes matter. But culture matters as much, if not more. Plenty of talented teams have failed because of poor culture. Thankfully, the Steelers retain a model that should benefit them as we navigate these uncertain times.

The NFL expands the Rooney Rule, tables the resolution on hiring incentives

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In a league meeting on Tuesday, the expected expansion of the Rooney Rule was accepted while another resolution tying hires to draft picks will be discussed at a later time

The NFL held a virtual league meeting on Tuesday. Items discussed involved the expansion of the Rooney Rule as well as another proposal which would award teams higher draft selections if they were to hire a minority coach or general manager. As expected, the expansion to the Rooney rule has been made official, but the proposal on giving teams incentives for hiring minority candidates has been tabled.

BREAKING: NFL owners have tabled the resolution to incentivize the hiring of minority coaches and general managers, per source.

— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) May 19, 2020

The proposal would give teams a higher draft pick with their third round selection should they hire and retain either a minority head coach or general manager. The idea was scrutinized by many, including former Steelers’ player and defensive coordinator Tony Dungy who was the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl. Dungy believed the proposal would have unintended consequences which would not be beneficial.

Steelers’ team president Art Rooney II is also the chairman of the NFL’s Workplace Diversity Committee. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Rooney will be looking into the resolution for future consideration.

#Steelers chairman Art Rooney, the chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee, says the league will “take an additional look at and get more input on” the resolution tabled today that would provide incentives for hiring minority candidates to certain positions.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 19, 2020

As for the changes to the Rooney Rule, they were outlined in a previous article here at Behind The Steel Curtain. For A brief explanation, here is one courtesy of Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola.

3 enhancements to Rooney Rule passed: 2 minority interviews for a head coach job; 1 minority interview for a Sr. Football/GM job; 1 minority interview for a coordinator job; 1 minority or female interview for a Sr. level job at league or club level. More coming on #Steelers.com

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) May 19, 2020

Another way to expand the opportunities for all coaches to move up the NFL ranks came with another decision accepted by the owners on Tuesday. In the past, teams have been able to block employees from interviewing for jobs with another franchise.

BREAKING: NFL owners have voted to approve the resolution that would prevent teams from blocking assistant coaches from interviewing for coordinator positions, per sources. This is an important step.

— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) May 19, 2020

In all, the NFL expanded the Rooney Rule in order to give minority candidates additional opportunities for advancement. While figuring out a system to actually aid in the hiring of these candidates is something the league has yet to figure out, it may simply come down to their not being an easy answer to solve a difficult problem.

Labriola’s entire article outlining the changes as well as thoughts from Art Rooney II himself can be seen below.

#Steelers President Art Rooney II: 'It’s a question of developing coaches at all levels, and some of the things we’ve tried to do here today will help us address that.' https://t.co/yQhOzkb8YV

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) May 19, 2020

Podcast: Is Kevin Dotson the future at guard for the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest BTSC podcast, our Steelers ‘Stat Geek’ breaks down the numbers surrounding the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over, and the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was 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 Stat Geek. On this show deputy editor Dave Schofield and his brother Rich break down all things Steelers stats, and also answers questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Will Kevin Dotson be the Steelers future guard?
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • Close look at the Steelers’ goals for 2020
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walks 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.

The Stat Geek Q&A which will publish at 3:00 p.m. ET audio below:

Black and Gold Links: James Conner not concerned with post-cancer and COVID-19 threat

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft is officially over. After finishing last year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, have another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how James Conner, a cancer survivor, is not afraid of the scare of COVID-19 and his current immune system.

Let’s get to the news:

  • James Conner is in a unique health situation, as a cancer survivor, and he is well aware, but not scared, of the coronavirus.

Steelers RB, cancer survivor James Conner ‘not concerned’ about playing in covid-19 age

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

James Conner might be the only member of the Pittsburgh Steelers who has worn a surgical mask while doing football workouts long before anyone heard of covid-19.

But Conner’s status as a cancer survivor is causing him zero additional anxiety and puts him at no additional risk if and when the NFL resumes operations amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Steelers running back said on an ESPN podcast released Tuesday.

Conner underwent chemotherapy treatments in late 2015 and early 2016 that successfully helped him beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the time, Conner was considered immunocompromised. But Conner told podcast host Adam Schefter that, at present, playing football in the world of coronavirus leaves him nothing to have any heightened concern.

“Honestly, it truly doesn’t,” Conner said. “I am so far removed from (cancer treatments) — I am going on four years now — so just talking with my doctor, I have great relationship with him, Dr. (Stanley) Marks, he said, ‘You don’t have anything to worry about as far your immune system or any of that.’ I am far removed, and our bodies are constantly healing and changing. So I have no concerns with that.

“I am still keeping (social) distance and all that, just like everyone should and is doing. But as far as my health history, there’s nothing I’m concerned about.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • This isn’t good...

Tim Benz: A link between the Rooney Rule and the NFL Draft is bad. What it says about the league is worse.

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The NFL’s plan to expand the Rooney Rule is bad.

The commentary the league is making about itself for even considering such a proposal is even worse.

The NFL has only four minority head coaches (Mike Tomlin, Steelers; Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins; Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers; and Ron Rivera, Washington Redskins) and two minority general managers (the Dolphins’ Chris Grier and the Cleveland Browns’ Andrew Berry).

On Tuesday, the league will consider a plan to incentivize organizations to hire minority candidates to fill vacancies at those positions by moving them up in the draft.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • A special day for Steelers Nation.

The day it all began for the Steelers

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

May 19, 1933

This day in Steelers history

The process had to begin somewhere, and for Art Rooney Sr. it all began on May 19, 1933.

It was on that day that Rooney’s application for a National Football League franchise was granted, and the Pittsburgh Professional Football Club, Inc. joined the NFL in exchange for a fee of $2,500.

The team would become official on July 8, 1933, but it was this day in May, 1933 where it all started.

Below is an excerpt from the NFL Newsletter written by then league President Joe Carr, making the announcement to the other teams in the NFL of the addition of a team in Pittsburgh.

“The application of the Pittsburgh Professional Football Club Inc., accompanied by a check for Twenty-Five Hundred ($2,500.00) Dollars is on file in the office of the President. I have already received the unanimous approval of the Executive Committee for this application that will come before the July meeting for ratification by the entire membership.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

James Conner has no concerns over Ben Roethlisberger’s health

What would a new contract look like for Cam Sutton?

COVID-19 or not, the Steelers are selling tickets for 2020

One less beard, and an ecstatic fan base

3 huge story lines heading into 2020 no one is talking about

  • Social Media Madness

Coming to an end zone near you @ChaseClaypool | @NDFootball pic.twitter.com/2BLbNlJzKl

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 18, 2020

WHAT. A. CATCH.@JamesWashington pic.twitter.com/ebu4M3wVL6

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 19, 2020

"And I'm T.J.!" @_TJWatt will have his lines down by the premiere of #UltimateTag tomorrow at 9 pm ET on @FOXTV! @UltimateTagFOX pic.twitter.com/vOrN3kun5H

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 19, 2020

Let’s Make A Deal: A new contract for Cam Sutton

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 2:05pm
Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the Steelers and Sutton come to an agreement on a new contract before his rookie deal expires, what would it look like?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 offseason has progressed appropriately since the beginning of the league year. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, the Steelers were able to restructure contracts, offer tenders, use the franchise tag, sign free agents, make their draft selections, and get their undrafted rookie free agents under contract. With a focus on getting their draftees under contract in the coming weeks, the Steelers will also be looking to sign some players to either a new contract or a contract extension.

While some of these new deals may not come until the summer, it’s not out of the question for player representatives and the Steelers to be working on something now. With that said, which Steelers going into the last year of the current deal are likely to be given a new contract before the 2020 season begins?

Rather than focus on all the players, let’s tackle one at a time. With each player, it will first be determined if they should receive a new deal along with how much would be a fair contract to both parties. This exercise is meant to just be fun and speculative as we all get to play general manager and salary cap guru for a day. The biggest question with the remaining players is if a contract would be better before this season or next offseason.

If you wish to give a basic contract answer without diving too deep into numbers, simply skip over the italicized section. If you are the kind of person who would like to see how the contract would affect the salary cap, here it is...

Coming up with an exact contract can be tricky. Rather than get into roster and work out bonuses or different amounts per season, we’re going to estimate the salaries as simply as possible. For whatever deal the player gets, the first year will have all but $1 million put into a signing bonus which will get spread over the life of the contract. For example, if a player were to sign a three-year contract for $10 million per year, the first year would have a $1 million base salary and a $9 million signing bonus. Therefore, the bonus would be spread out to $3 million over each season where the player would count $4 million dollars for 2020 and $13 million for the other two years.

One other factor which needs to be considered is if the player brings any dead money from the previous contract. To account for this in a simple manner, throw it into the salary cap hit for the first year of the players deal. Using the above example, if a player had $4 million in dead money on their last contract, the salary cap hit for their first year would be $8 million.

After looking at a deal for: Cam Heyward, Bud Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, James Conner, Mike Hilton, and Chris Wormley, now let’s finish off the series and see what kind of contract Steelers’ fans would like to work out with Cam Sutton now rather than play the 2020 season before making a decision.

Cameron Sutton

Age: Turned 25 in February
Years: 3
Draft: 3rd round, 94th overall
Previous Contract: Rookie deal
2020 salary cap hit: $1,009,032
Dead Money: $184,032

Here are the top contracts average per year (AYP) at the cornerback position according to overthecap.com:

Darius Slay: $16.683 million
Byron Jones: $16.5 million
Xavien Howard: $15.05 million
James Bradberry: $14.5 million
Patrick Peterson: $14.01 million

There is no reasonable belief Sutton would be worthy of a top-end contract. It gets tricky when ranking Sutton’s worth since he plays a limited number of snaps. so we’ll look at two different things to help put more perspective to where he lies among other NFL corners. First, Sutton did not play enough snaps o be given a ranking among all qualifying NFL cornerbacks in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus (which is a debatable process for players in the secondary, so keep that in mind). Sutton played 268 defensive snaps where it took about 330 to qualify. So even though he wasn’t ranked, he had the exact same overall score as Nickell Robey-Coleman who ranked 16th. Here are the players under contract beyond their rookie deals who ranked closely to Sutton:

14. Byron Jones: $16.5 million
15. Kenny Moore: $8.325 million
16. Nickell Robey-Coleman: $1.35 million
17. Jason McCourty: $5 million
19. Jonathan Jones: $7 million

The other issue to consider players who also didn’t qualify in the PFF rankings but scored a simialr overall rank as Sutton (74.5). Here are the players under contract beyond their rookie deals who scored higher than 63.0 but did not qualify for a ranking due to their number of snaps played at cornerback last season:

71.9 (216 snaps) Tye Smith: $962,500
67.5 (132 snaps) Antonio Hamilton: $1,047,500
65.8 (115 snaps) Dean Marlowe: $1,425,000
63.9 (282 snaps) Anthony Brown: $5.167 million
63.1 (329 snaps) Terrance Mitchell: $3.333 million

Notes: Sometimes the forgotten draft pick from 2017, Cam Sutton may be the trickiest of all these deals. Locking him in now would probably give the Steelers a much better discount should he have a big 2020. But being the final year of his rookie deal, it would almost definitely cost more on this season’s salary cap. If the Steelers could lock Sutton in for only a few million dollars per season it would be wise.

So now it’s deal time! Perhaps the first question should be a completely different game show: Deal or no deal? Should the Steelers look to sign Cameron Sutton before he finishes his rookie deal? If so, what should the deal look like? Please leave your response with the number of years and the average salary per season in the comments below.

When it comes to Ben Roethlisberger being back, James Conner has “no doubts”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back, who has worked out with Ben Roethlisberger, is confident No. 7 is back to the player he was in years prior.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and their global fan base, know all too well what is the most important player on the Steelers’ roster. It might be the one player who has the biggest impact on the team winning and losing.

That would be none other than quarterback Ben Roethliseberger.

Monday, Roethlisberger posted a video of not just his beard getting a trim, but also him throwing to teammates JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer and James Conner.

In case you missed it, check it out:

The beard is trimmed...

...you know what that means @_BigBen7 | @TeamJuJu | @JamesConner_ | @Switz pic.twitter.com/YLTtCynK25

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 18, 2020

One of the players who was catching passes from Roethlisberger in the above video was running back James Conner. Conner recently joined ESPN’s Adam Schefter on his podcast to talk about a myriad of topics, but none trumped the future health of the Steelers’ franchise quarterback.

Schefter asked how Roethlisberger has been looking during these workouts, and Conner was candid in his response.

“Yes, we’ve been at his place. Throwin’ it around.” Conner said. “He is lookin’ good, man, he got a haircut too. He is looking good throwing the ball, and he is stylin’ now too.

“It’s been fun, man, and it’s been awesome, this year. We’ve really grown as teammates and friends. All of us from receivers like JuJu (Smith-Schuster) and Switz (Ryan Switzer) and just being around them it is motivating, encouraging. Ben, he is looking great.”

The follow up question was obvious, and Schefter delivered. Does Conner have any doubts regarding Roethlisberger’s health? Does he feel confident in his ability to lead the Steelers to victory in 2020?

“I don’t have no doubts, personally I know his work ethic. I know his mindset of what he is capable of and what he wants to do.” Conner replied. “That is what we all want to do, and that’s win and win it all. Take it one game at a time.

“He is looking healthy. He is fired up and anxious to play, and I can’t wait to get out there with him and play my heart out for him and the rest of our teammates.”

To suggest Roethlisberger is anxious to play might be a giant understatement. Roethlisberger, who was injured in Week 2 of the 2019 season, had to sit and watch a budding defense dominate, and an offense flounder with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges at the helm.

How important is the quarterback in the NFL? Steelers fans saw just that in 2019, and it wasn’t very pretty. The simple fact remains, with Roethlisberger this team is considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Without Roethlisberger, at least at the current moment, they are nothing more than pretenders.

If you put any stock in the video which was shared, and Conner’s comments to Schefter, it seems as if Roethlisberger is back and ready to do what he has done his entire career — win.

To listen to the entire podcast, check the tweet below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.

Steelers’ RB James Conner, whose contract is up after this season, said it would be hard to leave Pittsburgh.

https://t.co/L1auFqRAo9

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 19, 2020

Despite COVID-19, the Steelers are planning on selling tickets for all 10 home games

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 11:05am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be selling tickets to their home games soon, despite the uncertainty around the future of live sporting events.

The National Football League is preparing for a 2020 regular season, despite skepticism among the masses involving the current global coronavirus pandemic. While some are questioning whether games are going to be played this season, others are wondering when fans might be able to attend games again.

As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who opened their facilities Tuesday to non-football personnel and rehabilitation for players, they are pressing on as if the 2020 season will go off without a hitch.

In other words, they are planning on having a limited number of tickets for sale for all 10 home games, including the two preseason games, this Friday at 10:00 a.m. ET.

This per Brooke Pryor of ESPN:

Steelers announce a limited number of tickets will go on sale Friday at 10am for the team’s home preseason and regular-season games.

No details about a refund or rain check policy in the release should there be a schedule shift.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) May 19, 2020

As Pryor suggests, there have been no details about a refund or rain check policy, although I’m sure one will be initiated at some point. It was announced the Steelers would lose over $150 million dollars if fans are not able to attend games in 2020, something which could not just impact the organization’s bottom line, but also the 2021 salary cap number.

But that is a different story altogether.

In the meantime, if you are looking to try and get to Heinz Field in 2020, and want to hope for the best, tickets go on sale this Friday and can be purchased on Ticketmaster’s website. If you don’t feel comfortable attending games, even if fans are allowed to attend, then you can sit back in your favorite chair and enjoy the game from the friendly confines of your home.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the 2020 regular season.

3 of the biggest Steelers stories that will get overshadowed this offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 9:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of storylines to follow this offseason, and there are 3 which will likely be overshadowed.

There will be plenty of headlines that will be written extensively on BTSC over the next three plus months, if the season opens on time. Years past the articles that have enamored most BTSC fans has been drama related. Ben Roethlisberger hinting at retirement a few years back, the Le’Veon Bell saga that would never end, the mental implosion by Antonio Brown, just to name a few. Hopefully, this offseason will not have the drama, but other articles will garner most of the headlines.

Now this offseason we have topics that will be written about extensively. Big Ben’s elbow and how healthy will he be when the season starts and how will the pecking order be for the backup quarterback situation pan out? Will James Conner go back to being the bellcow and how will the running back rotation look behind him? Can the defense repeat its outstanding performance of a year ago?

For me, I will let others focus on those aspects and will not write much about them because of some of the other unheralded facets. Three aspects that I believe will get overlooked will be, overall team depth, how the team plans on trying to sign the multitude of unrestricted free agents with our cap space in 2020 and 2021, and the lack of talent at the nose tackle position.

Looking at the overall team depth, one aspect that really jumps out is the lack of veteran depth and inexperienced players. The following are players who I project to be backups with five or more years of NFL experience who are on the roster.

Tyson Alualu

Jordan Dangerfield

Eric Ebron (If you feel he is the starter then replace him with Vance McDonald)

A case could be made for Daniel McCullers being veteran depth but I will pencil him in as the starting nose tackle. (More on that later.)

Backups with the most snaps last year and their snap count.

Offense

Mason Rudolph - 523

Devlin Hodges - 376

Jaylen Samuels - 362

Zach Banner - 216

Benny Snell - 166

No other player had over 100 snaps on offense.

Defense

Alualu - 432

Cam Sutton - 265

No other player had over 100 snaps on defense. You could split hairs calling either Mike Hilton or Vince Williams a backup, but I included neither.

Depending on how you look at the list of free agents after the 2020 season, there could be nine starters whose contracts will expire. (Jordan Berry and McCullers would be the ones who are debatable being called starters.) The Steelers have milked about as much money as they can with restructured contracts and sit at $5.7 million under the cap, (Not including the 2020 rookie class along with other offseason expenses.) so signing Bud Dupree or Cam Heyward to extensions might be the only to bring about any kind of cap savings. (The team does not have enough cap space to conduct all the moves that are still necessary in 2020.) Any long-term contract takes away from the Steelers 2021 cap with the team $28 million in the black but with only 38 players under contract. (The cap could shrink for the 2021 season but more on that another time.) So dealing with the cap cannot be looked at one year at a time.

The nose tackle position is maybe something I have stuck in my head that is a bigger deal than it really is but until that angst is negated, the position will gnaw at me. I was a tremendous fan of Javon Hargrave who will be sorely missed. He surpassed everyone’s expectations both in defending the run and pass game. Now that he is gone via free agency to the Philadelphia Eagles, the prospects to fill his shoes alarms me. How do we fill the void? I have Big Dan penciled in but fans in Steeler Nation have talked about Alualu, Chris Wormley, Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux, or even (gulp) Carlos Davis eating up the snaps that Gravedigger leaves behind. Most of those players besides McCullers baffle me because of their lack of size or lack of playing time at nose tackle or their lack of talent. I am not saying McCullers is a rock star, but he is a gargantuan body that the Steelers have kept around for a half decade for a reason.

I have seen others suggest the team not run with a nose tackle and run oodles of subpackages instead. McCullers and Gravedigger accounted for almost 75% of the defensive snaps last season, so is this train of thought realistic with solid running backs in our division and others on our schedule to go with less beef up front? For me, the answer is no.

The health of Big Ben will be at the forefront of the entire offseason. His inability to recover from elbow surgery could derail the 2020 season like it did in 2019. That being said, the NFL is a team sport and all 53 players are expected to contribute in one fashion or another. I just worry that our thin depth and backups with little to no playing time, may be as devastating. It shocked me that GM Kevin Colbert ignored the nose tackle position in free agency while waiting until the seventh round to pull the trigger on Davis. (gasp) While those aspects could derail the 2020 season, how the team handles the players whose contracts are expiring, affects the team’s future. For me, I view these as important topics that may fly under the radar for most and I plan on expanding on my thoughts more over the upcoming months on these important subjects.

One less beard, one more reason to be happy about the progress of Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With Ben Roethlisberger’s clean-shaven face and hard-slinging right arm, Steelers fans have even more reason to be excited about the 2020 regular season.

It’s hard to say who’s happiest, these days: Steelers fans, Ben Roethlisberger or Mrs. Roethlisberger.

I do know one thing: There is plenty of happiness to go around in Steeler Nation, thanks to a video released by Roethlisberger’s Twitter account on Monday of him slinging darts to JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner and Ryan Switzer.

Not only did Roethlisberger’s arm look strong, his waist looked slim. That’s right, Big Ben still had his big beard in the workout portion of the video, so he kind of looked like Santa Claus in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer right before Mrs. Claus fattened him up on Christmas Eve.

Speaking of weight, the beginning of the video showed a clean-shaven Roethlisberger talking to someone while flying on a plane; even more so than his trimmed face and hair, the first thing I noticed about Roethlisberger was his trimmed waist.

Good news on two fronts.

Does this mean Roethlisberger’s surgically-repaired elbow will hold up to the rigors of 29.8 passing attempts per game (Roethlisberger’s average prior to last season) once the bullets start flying for real? Of course it doesn’t mean that.

It doesn’t mean anything at this point, other than Roethlisberger’s right where he needs to be at this stage of his rehabilitation. Let’s face it, with less than four months to go before the start of the 2020 regular season (as of now), if Roethlisberger wasn’t posting impressively-edited social media videos of himself throwing “legit NFL passes,” as he put it while flying in said plane, that would mean big trouble.

But when you combine those big bombs with his small waist, I think that’s a testament to Roethlisberger’s commitment to getting back to where he was before his 2019 season was cut short.

As I’ve said before, bouncing back from major elbow surgery isn’t for the faint of heart for just about anyone. I believe that goes double for a major professional athlete like Roethlisberger who is being counted on to play the quarterback position at the same level he has for the vast-majority of his Hall of Fame career.

There have always been questions about Roethlisberger’s commitment. And now at the age of 38, there is suddenly a concern about his age. I believe he answered a lot of questions with one little video on Monday.

Can Roethlisberger bounce all the way back? Can he prove the doubters wrong? It certainly looks like he’s motivated to do so.

Speaking of beards and speaking of commitment, if Ben Roethlisberger does return to his old form in 2020, perhaps he can commit himself to growing a playoff beard next January.

I’m sure Mrs. Roethlisberger won’t mind.

Report: The NFL’s “Rooney Rule” to be expanded immediately

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 6:30am

The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissaro reported changes will be implemented immediately following virtual league meeting on Tuesday

The NFL is holding their virtual league meeting on Tuesday and teams are set to vote on several different items. One item which was reported over the weekend was offering teams an incentive by increasing their draft position if they were to hire a minority candidate for either head coach or general manager. While the effectiveness and and legitimacy of such a change in policy was questioned by many, it is unclear if the proposal will get the support it needs in order to be implemented.

Although the proposal would be taking the NFL’s “Rooney Rule” to a whole new level, the league is also looking into expanding the original rule regardless of the vote towards the increase of draft capital. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the NFL is looking to expand the number of minority candidates who must be interviewed for any vacant head-coaching position from one to two. Additionally, teams would also have to interview at least one minority candidate for any vacant coordinator position.

The NFL is immediately instituting changes to the Rooney Rule, requiring clubs interview at least 2 external minority candidates for head coach openings and 1 minority candidate for any coordinator job, I’m told. That's on top of two resolutions up for vote @JimTrotter_NFL noted.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 18, 2020

A further expansion of the Rooney Rule would also be in hiring front office staff. Currently the rule applies to general managers, but will reportedly be expanded to other team positions.

Teams must interview 1 external minority candidate for senior football ops/GM jobs, too. And clubs and the league office must now include minorities and/or female applicants for senior-level positions, including club president. All effective after virtual league meeting tomorrow.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 18, 2020

The effectiveness of the Rooney Rule has been called into question as of late as the number of minority head coaches has declined in past seasons. Although candidates still must be interviewed, the NFL was looking to add an incentive for actually making the hire. Just this offseason, several NFL franchises were questioned if the candidates who were interviewed in fulfillment of the Rooney Rule were actually done in good faith or if the team had already made a decision and simply brought in the candidate to “check the box.”

The heart of the Rooney rule was to give minorities an opportunity for advancement in the NFL they may have not had otherwise. By at least getting an interview, minority candidates could not be locked out of the process all together. Expanding the number of candidates who are interviewed will be quite interesting, but if it does not lead to more qualified minorities actually being hired it will just add more to the formality of the process.

Expanding to coordinators could become an interesting aspect of the rule as well. With some teams looking to advance coaches into coordinator positions who are already on staff (much like the Steelers with their most recent hires), more interviews done nearly as a formality is definitely a possibility. On the other hand, if teams are forced to hold outside interviews it could allow them to see something more than just the personnel with which they are already familiar.

If we lived in a perfect world, there would be no need for the Rooney Rule or an expansion of it. If the best candidates simply got the opportunity in all cases, it would not be an issue. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and that is why something like the Rooney Rule exists. Hopefully the NFL can adopt an expansion to make the rule more effective rather than create more problems.

Podcast: At what point will you deem Ben Roethlisberger “back”?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Q&A” show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo analyze Ben Roethlisberger’s proclamation of readiness.

A beardless Ben Roethlisberger announced on social media that he’s ready for 2020. But when should the public believe it? Those are the questions we will hope to answer on our latest podcast.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Q&A Show. On this show Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • At what point should will we deem Ben Roethlisberger “back”?
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Bryan Davis and Tony Defeo, of BTSC, 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: The Steelers organization could lose more than $150 million if no fans in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL Draft is officially over. After finishing last year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, have another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Steelers could lose some serious cash if the NFL deems no fans can attend games in 2020.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers organization want fans in seats in 2020. Why? Because without those ticket sales the team will be out some major cash.

Forbes: Steelers to lose more than $156 million in stadium revenue if there are no fans

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribuen-Review

As sports leagues around the world stage events without fans, the clock is ticking on the scheduled start of the NFL’s 2020 season. And if the coronavirus pandemic dictates empty stadiums in the fall, that would put a significant dent in team revenues.

According to Forbes.com, the NFL would lose more than $5.5 billion in revenue if games are played without spectators. The financial magazine reported that figure is what teams grossed from tickets, concessions, sponsors, parking and team stores during the 2018 season. That number surely would have been higher in 2020, particularly because three teams are scheduled to move into new stadiums.

According to Forbes, 38% of the NFL’s revenue comes from stadiums. That is a significant figure, but it also reinforces why playing in front of no fans (but on television) is still highly profitable.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Teammates, fans react to Big Ben’s beard trim

By: Hunter Homistek, DKPittsburghSports

Ben Roethlisberger crushed it with this announcement.

Randomly, at 12:58 p.m. ET on a Monday, Roethlisberger dropped a bomb on Steeler Nation:

Props on all this. The timing of it. The execution, starting with a clean-shaven shot then progressing through some throws to JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner and Ryan Switzer.

And, of course, including the trim itself.

With this, Roethlisberger stamped the fact that he’s making a full recovery … and his teammates — past and present — and fans were hyped, starting with Cam Heyward and Mike Hilton:

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • There is a new addition to the Rooney Rule.

NFL making changes to expand Rooney Rule

By: The Associated Press

The NFL is amending the Rooney Rule to require more interviews of minority candidates for head coaching and coordinator positions, two people familiar with the decision told the Associated Press.

Reacting to a lack of diversity progress in hirings for those jobs, the league will require teams to interview at least two minority candidates from outside the organization for head coach openings. At least one minority candidate must be interviewed for a coordinator’s spot, the people said Monday on condition of anonymity because the NFL has not announced the additions.

The rule, named after late Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, was adopted in 2003. It has had some impact, but in the recent spate of coach hirings, few positions have gone to minority candidates.

During a Super Bowl week news conference, commissioner Roger Goodell admitted changes were needed to the rule. Those changes are coming.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

The Steelers have one of the easiest strength of schedules in the NFL

Beard trimmed, Big Ben is back

The Steelers ILB depth has a lot to do with Ulysees Gilbert’s health

10 deals the Steelers made for draft picks

Alex Highsmith is the prototypical Steelers OLB

  • Social Media Madness

The beard is trimmed...

...you know what that means @_BigBen7 | @TeamJuJu | @JamesConner_ | @Switz pic.twitter.com/YLTtCynK25

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 18, 2020

This game has one simple rule: DON'T GET CAUGHT!

Catch the premiere of @UltimateTagFOX, hosted by the Watt brothers, Wednesday at 9 PM ET on @FOXTV!@_TJWatt | @DerekWatt34 pic.twitter.com/sbsbvRAlNL

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 18, 2020

WHAT. A. CATCH.@JamesWashington pic.twitter.com/ebu4M3wVL6

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 19, 2020

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