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The Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiving corps is coming into focus

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 8:21am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A survey of what the team is likely to do, and who it will choose to do it

A few weeks ago CHISAP pointed out that 11-personnel (three WR’s, one TE, and one RB) has become the Steelers’ dominant formation by a large margin. We’ve also seen how Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner wants, above all else, to have multiple ways to attack different defenses in different weeks. I believe things are shaking out enough to identify how the current roster of offensive weapons will be used to fit those preferences.

Tight Ends Are Pretty Much Locked
  • TE Vance McDonald (6’4”, 287 lbs.) McDonald may play as many snaps this year as Big Ben. Why would you ever take him off the field? He is the #1 guy by such a wide margin that Steeler fans who insist on seeing the glass half full live in dread of yet another injury. He’s also entering the prime of a Tight End’s career, since they typically mature a little slower than other positions. That suggests he will be even better in 2019 than he was last year. I expect a Pro Bowl showing if he doesn’t get hurt.
  • McDonald will be backed up by the ever-improving Xavier Grimble (6’4”, 251 lbs.). The X-Man is also hitting his NFL stride, and the coaches will judge based on body of work even if a certain portion of the fan base prides itself on an elephantine memory for fluke mistakes at inopportune times. I prefer to focus on all the good things he did earlier in the play-that-should-be-ignored.
  • The 12’3” rookie Zach Gentry has an inside track on the TE3 position subject to competition from the 12’4” English newbie Christian Scotland-Williamson. Okay, yes. I may have exaggerated that by a hair. But I really doubt that either man will get any material snaps in his rookie year that aren’t oriented toward his jump ball advantage, and maybe not even then if they don’t learn to block at the level required by Pittsburgh’s team philosophy. Neither is likely to earn a hat any time soon. (For you sticklers out there: Gentry is officially listed at 6’8”, 265 lbs., and CSW at 6’9”, 274 lbs.). Happy now?
Running Backs Too
  • RB James Conner. We fans would love to see a measured load, but can you name a situation where you think anyone else would help the team as much? Let alone better?
  • The backups are going to be Jaylen Samuels (weaker as a pure runner, excels as a multitalented threat) and Benny Snell (a hard running, charismatic rookie). Snell has a chance to absorb some snaps but he will have to keep improving before he will close the very obvious quality gap that exists at this point).
  • Trey Edmunds (Terrell’s older brother) mounted an early push for time but seems to have fallen back a bit.
The Corps of Wide Receivers THREE ALL-AROUND RECEIVERS WHO ARE LOCKS:
  • Juju Smith-Schuster (6’1”, 215 lbs.) Going into Year 3, JJSS has emerged as an all around, established star who makes a phenomenal “big slot” but has also the chops to play outside. He plays bigger and faster than he measures and, like McDonald, could easily play every snap. Juju will earn constant double- and triple-teams until his running mates prove that they can beat single coverage, but his performance in the preseason suggests that he’ll get his targets and catches nevertheless.
  • Donte Moncrief (6’2”, 216 lbs.) A veteran free agent who has established instant rapport with Roethlisberger, Moncrief has true, deep threat speed and size but that isn’t the only part of his game. No one doubts that he can also play “big slot” even though he profiles better on the outside. Double Juju too often and Moncrief will kill you. Unless...
  • James Washington (5’11”, 213 lbs.) gets you first. Washington is a 2nd-year, all-around WR known for gumby arms, great leaping ability, and a superb combat catch ability that stands out even against NFL competition. His rookie year was handicapped by the need to raise his route running to NFL standards, the slow process of really learning to understand an NFL offense, and the simple fact that AB and JJSS absorbed such a high percentage of targets. Reports and signs from the preseason suggest that he’s over those humps and is ready to embark on an even more Hines Ward-ish career than Juju’s.

Let’s pause for a minute at this point to emphasize something basic: JJSS, Moncrief and Washington are “do it all” talents with better than NFL-average size, speed and hands. None of them are 4.3 burners, and none are 6’5”, but all three manage to be close enough to handle those roles quite well, thank you very much. How many opponents have three cover-Corners who won’t be overwhelmed by the spectrum of challenges that all three of those assets present? Very. Bloody. Few. Maybe even none.

There is zero reason to believe those three won’t be used on the field together. It isn’t a typical 3-WR look because their extended skill sets don’t fit our cute expectations about ‘typical roles.’ E.g., there is no way to reliably point to the deep threat, the chain mover, and the slot guy. So. Bloody. What? Put those three together and you have a potent, nasty package that will be extremely hard to defend, especially when you factor in their combined (and proven) ability to contribute as run blockers in the running game. For this reason I fully expect Moncrief and Washington to be WR2.a and 2.b. Or vice versa. Unless pure quickness is called for in a particular situation, in which case...

THREE SCAT-RATS, TWO OF WHICH ARE LOCKS:

Tom Brady has proved how potent the superball types can be when paired with a top QB who can get them the ball on time and on target. Absurd COD (change of direction) skills can be all but unstoppable in the slot, where they can’t be jammed (slot receivers don’t crowd the line) and have two-way routes turn whatever the cover-corner does into a mistake. “Cover me inside and I will zag out; cover me outside and I will zig across.”

The Steelers won’t “need” that skill set. See the discussion above. JJSS, Washington and Moncrief can beat CB’s in so many ways that adding a specialist won’t always make sense. But don’t forget how OC Fichtner likes to switch things up. For this reason, plus the benefits inherent in veteran leadership, I expect the team to keep at least two of the following three players. Doing so would give the flexibility to run 11 Personnel with every flavor from “JJSS + Two Bigs” to “JJSS + Two Quicks.” Factoring in the variations from shifting around the TE and RB group would provide almost every type of threat an offensive mind could dream up.

The ability to shift from big, beat-em-up mode into flashy, where’d-they-go mode will leave Fichtner chuckling with delight, and opposing defenses battling weekly migraines.

  • Diontae Johnson (5’10”, 183 lbs.) DJ emerged from the 2019 draft with a reputation for absurd COD skills, well developed route running skills, some wiry strength, and a special ability to beat press coverage when shifted outside... For A College Receiver Against College Opponents. The early signs are encouraging. Make no doubt. I believe Johnson has already shown enough to claim one of the two “superball/return” slots. But I also believe that we need to apply some cold water to overblown, post-draft expectations that he was brought in to replace the disgraced HOF-level departure. The bottom line truth is that Diontae Johnson is a rookie and that matters. Hope all you want, but no one should “expect” him to perform as well as either of the vets who are described below. That is doubly true because the Super Bug slot receiver role requires all-but-telepathic levels of communication with the QB, and that in turn relies on a superior class room understanding of how NFL offenses and defenses work.

Thus I have real doubts about whether Johnson can earn any material snaps in the first half of the season, and I hope for little more than progressive improvement in the back half. But don’t mistake me for a hater! I believe with even more strength that Diontae Johnson will flat out erupt onto the scene in 2020. And it isn’t because of any specious AB comparisons.

The things that I see holding Rookie DJ back can all be fixed with a year of hard, expertly assisted work. He really needs to rebuild his body to NFL (let alone Tomlinesque) standards; to learn how to read and react to NFL defenses in sync with his QB; and to learn how to study film at a level that will let him attack NFL Corners with NFL precision. He will also benefit a lot from working with coaches who can help him refine his natural route running genius in a way that will eliminate the tell-tales that NFL opponents will use against him. Improve any of those areas and Sophomore DJ will be a scary young man. Improve all four and... [public giggling is to be discouraged].

  • Ryan Switzer (5’8”, 185 lbs.) Switzer, who has become a personal friend of his QB, is a classic “slot WR” superball who also returns kicks. His entire game revolves around extraordinary COD skills. Yes, he’s a one trick pony in that regard; but it’s a darned good trick. Word on the street says he has worked hard to learn the offense at an even deeper level, which should help him to excel even more in his scat-rat, slot receiver role.
  • Eli Rogers (5’10”, 187 lbs.) Cut, rinse, and repeat. I could cut and paste the Eli Rogers description from Switzer’s, except he is two inches taller, two pounds heavier, has built his rapport with Roethlisberger for an extra year or two, and may be a quarter-inch less shifty.

Time to pause again. Will the Steelers keep all three? I suspect they might. There are too many advantages to be reaped from doubling up on the COD specialists against particular teams that might have a slightly bigger and less-quick style of defense. Yes, that would be a perfect way to ease the rookie into his future role. But why assume it? Pittsburgh has a number of other young receivers with some promise but I contend there is no “missing role” that is waiting to be claimed by some specific physical stereotype. The team’s top-5 will have plenty of height, especially if you factor in the TE’s; an abnormal level of tough guys; plenty of possession receivers; several viable deep threats; and more scat rats than you can shake a stick at. The only way for the rest of the unit to make the 53 will be to beat out the veterans (Switzer and Rogers) mano-a-mano, and that won’t be easy to do.

THE GROUP TRYING TO OUST EITHER SWITZER OR ROGERS FROM THE WR6 POSITION:
  • Johnny Holton (6’3”, 190 lbs.) Holton has a slight edge here because he has better deep speed (4.42) than anyone else on this list. But while that speed is excellent even for NFL receivers, it isn’t Mike Wallace or Martavis Bryant weird. There are some Corners he won’t be leavin’ just because he managed to be even. That said, Holton did look particularly good at the end of the first preseason game. I was encouraged. But we can’t forget that he couldn’t be more than an “almost...” guy for several other teams. Let’s wait and see.
  • Tevin Jones (6’2”, 225 lbs.) Another tall receiver who’s shown serious deep-threat (4.38) speed, but hasn’t done enough to make it off the practice squad in any place he’s been. Has he improved? Perhaps. Jones has also looked very promising in his limited snaps against B- and C-grade talent. But to make this team he will need to do more than just improve. He will need to be so much better that his upside will offer more than the loser of the Rogers/Switzer competition. That is a deep row to hoe.
  • Trey Griffey (6’3”, 192 lbs.) Griffey looks almost identical to Holton on paper but isn’t quite as straight-line fast. He’s been good enough to make a lot of practice squads, but can he step up? Yes, he’s tall; but he’s only an inch taller than Moncrief and he’s 20 pounds lighter than any of the three projected starters.
  • Diontae Spencer (5’8”, 170 lbs.) The super-fast Canadian Football superstar. He’d have a major chance to make the team if he wasn’t 15-20 pounds lighter than the other scat rats. Football up north is a much wider-open game that gives extra room for Speed to elude Size and avoid Strength. We’ve seen way too many men with that profile fail on an NFL field. I wish the young man nothing but the best. It would be awesome if he proved to be the exception that proves the rule. But I’ll bet on one of the veterans to win that competition.
  • Brandon Reilly (6’2”, 200 lbs.) Who? No disrespect. He’s got enough of everything to attract the notice of Buffalo, Detroit (twice), and Dallas as well as the Steelers. So he’s clearly a far better athlete than I ever was, and lord knows will ever be. But it’s hard to see what he’d bring that this overloaded roster does not already have.

So, do you see anyone there who’s likely to beat out a competent veteran for the WR6 position? I do not. Holton and Jones have the best chances because of their physical assets, but I don’t see either’s odds as particularly good. Rogers and Switzer may have overlapping skill sets. They do. There’s no arguing that fact. But it is a skill set the team can use, and both men have the inestimable bonus of knowing their QB well. One of the two will probably get insulted on a weekly basis by receiving no helmet on game day. But oh well. Such is life. And if someone does, God forbid, get injured, there will be little doubt that both of these quicksters have the ability to be a more-than-viable next man up.

Think I’m crazy? Or just missing something? Bring it on. There’s a Comments section waiting to hear from you.

Steelers 2019 Training Camp Recap: Camp goes out like a lamb with another weather shortened session

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 7:26am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers were back on the gridiron for another training camp practice, and we’ve got the recap for you!

The Pittsburgh Steelers had their last training camp practice Thursday, and while there are times it is still considered “football in shorts”, the team has had plenty of news coming from these workouts heading into the preseason.

Maybe it was fitting the Steelers’ 2019 camp ended the way it did, with an altered schedule and a couple weather shortened practices. After dealing with the death of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, the team looked as if they wanted nothing more than to get out of Latrobe, PA as fast as possible.

Nonetheless, the team still had work to do, but before all of that took place the media were finally able to speak to some players who had yet to speak to the media about the loss of coach Drake, and what he meant to them.

Here is Ryan Switzer talking about Drake and how the loss can both impact his teammates, but also how it could eventually help motivate the 2019 Steelers.

.@Switz talks about what Coach Drake meant to him and his teammates. pic.twitter.com/fDXdyOPAKf

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 15, 2019

Ben Roethlisberger also spoke with media for the first time in weeks Thursday, and he didn’t just talk about how coach Drake impacted his life in the short amount of time he spent with the Steelers, but his young wide receivers and what this camp has been like compared to others.

Check out the full media session below:

.@_BigBen7 talks about the wide receivers, Devin Bush, what Coach Drake meant to the team and more. pic.twitter.com/9kBxS3Zhqu

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 16, 2019

This wasn’t the only thing which took place at practice Thursday. The weather shortened practice saw the kickers get plenty of work.

Check out the breakdown by Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

The kickers were put to the test Thursday before the threat of lightning forced practice to wrap up an hour earlier than scheduled.

Boswell and Wright, the undrafted free agent who is challenging to unseat the incumbent kicker, each made 6 of 7 tries while kicking from distances spanning between 33 and 52 yards.

• Each kicker was successful from 33 yards, the equivalent of an extra point.

• Boswell boomed his 52-yard try through the uprights. Wright’s attempt from 52 was short and wide left.

• Each kicker converted from 40 yards.

• In a “mayday” drill in which special teams coach Danny Smith counted down from 12 seconds, Boswell missed his 52-yard attempt wide left. Wright sneaked his 52-yarder over the crossbar.

• Boswell and Wright each connected successfully from 33 and then from 42 yards.

• The “mayday” drill was run again from 52 yards. This time, Boswell made his attempt as did Wright.

Landry Jones news

For those who are pining for Landry Jones news, the former Steelers quarterback was one of the first players to sign an XFL contract with the upstart league.

Former #Steelers QB Landry Jones is the first player to sign an XFL contract. The XFL will sign 7 other leading QBs before its inaugural player draft in Oct & each team’s coach will select his QB just prior to the draft.

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) August 15, 2019

This wraps up the 2019 Steelers training camp, and the team now will head back to Pittsburgh for the rest of the Preseason and the 2019 regular season.

PODCASTS VIDEOS

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin previews Saturday's matchup against the Chiefs. https://t.co/lC1JdNh6Or

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 15, 2019 PHOTOS

After turning down my interview request at noon, JuJu rallies big-time at practice. pic.twitter.com/CeHTFTriFw

— James C Wexell (@jimwexell) August 15, 2019

That’s it for #SteelersCamp 2019!

Thanks for everything, @MySaintVincent pic.twitter.com/0EixNKH7tN

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 15, 2019

JuJu Smith-Schuster spotted a fan with a JuJu bobblehead and decided to greet him during a dead moment in practice, which ended abruptly at around 4:30 p.m. due to weather. pic.twitter.com/4bNFBCoKoB

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 15, 2019

The passing of Darryl Drake is probably the first major tragedy for many of the Steelers young WRs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 6:35am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to forget that the Steelers receivers are mostly young and inexperienced. Therefore, the sudden loss of their position coach, Darryl Drake, is likely a life-altering moment and something they may not be able to process for quite a while.

“Coach Drake always called us his sons. He didn’t have any boys. He always called us his sons. We took that at the beginning of camp. He just called us his sons.”

Those words, courtesy of the team’s official website, were spoken by Steelers receiver Ryan Switzer, as he addressed the media on Thursday in the days after the tragic and sudden death of receivers coach Darryl Drake, who passed away Sunday morning at the age of 62.

Switzer, in his second season in Pittsburgh, had a hard time holding back tears as he spoke to reporters, which was also the case on Tuesday, following a team prayer right before the start of the first training camp session since Drake’s death.

As Switzer wiped away the tears on Tuesday, he was consoled by second-year receiver James Washington. JuJu Smith-Schuster, the third-year man and presumptive leader of the receiving corps, hasn’t been his usual jovial self, and he is taking the loss of his position coach as hard as anyone else.

Drake’s passing was obviously a huge blow, both professionally and personally, as head coach Mike Tomlin described it on Tuesday. Drake was a well-respected coach, not only in the NFL, but in the college ranks, where Tomlin first befriended him over two decades ago.

But Drake wasn’t just respected for his work with receivers, he was respected for how he treated them.

And that’s why it has to be especially hard for these guys.

Something resonated with me as Switzer spoke with the media on Thursday. He mentioned that this was the first death of anyone he’s ever been close to. Switzer is 24 years old and married.

Smith-Schuster entered the NFL two years ago as a 20-year old who didn’t know how to drive. Washington just turned 23 in the spring. Diontae Johnson, a third-round pick out of Toledo in the 2019 NFL Draft, is also 23 and has yet to play a single down of professional football—preseason or otherwise.

It’s easy to forget that, in many aspects of life, a lot of these guys are just babies and likely haven’t been touched by something so tragic as the sudden loss of a relative/friend/coach/mentor.

I was just days shy of my 22nd birthday when I experienced it for the first time—and I was expecting it.

I can’t even comprehend enduring what those guys did over the weekend. Imagine an entire team living on a campus—coaches, players, trainers, doctors, etc. You’re in your early-20s, you go to sleep thinking about nothing but work and play, and you wake up the next morning to the news that a family member, a coach, a mentor, has died without warning.

How do you process all that goes along with a sudden death?

As Switzer’s emotions told us on Thursday, maybe you can’t process it, not at that age, not when it’s likely your first time.

As fans, it’s easy for us to go on social media and say things like, “They need to dedicate this season to Coach Drake and bring home a seventh Lombardi!” But that’s how we view just about everything Steelers-related. It’s always our goal.

For a player, especially a young one, he may look at things a bit differently.

Smith-Schuster is expected to be a leader, but now he has to do it without his leader.

Washington is expected to make a big leap this year, but now he has to jump without the only receiver coach he’s ever known at the professional level there with a safety net just in case.

Switzer said on Thursday that he trusted Drake, that trust is something other teams and coaches have betrayed a few times so far in his young football career. Switzer may or may not be in another fight to stay on an NFL roster. Where does he stand? What are his chances? He’ll have to figure all of that out without his football father to guide and reassure him.

In many ways, what the Steelers young receivers are going through right now is a learning experience that they can lean on for the rest of their lives.

The sad irony for these young receivers as they mourn their tragic loss, is the man they’re mourning was probably the first person they would have turned to to help them process such a life-altering event.

Podcast: Previewing the Steelers Preseason Week 2 game vs. the Chiefs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 5:30am

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

The 2019 season is upon us!! With the Pittsburgh Steelers now in the preseason, 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 Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading into the offseason.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers Stat Geek
  • Steelers vs. Chiefs Preview
  • The ever popular Either/Or segment
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Mike Tomlin keeps cards close to the vest when talking about Steelers’ injuries

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 5:01am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to the gridiron when they reported back to training camp. With practices underway, the news surrounding the black-and-gold is just starting to heat up. As the team prepares for the coming season, we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the season starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how Mike Tomlin didn’t really give a good glimpse into the team’s injuries heading into the Week 2 Preseason game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Wanting to know the latest update on the Steelers’ walking wounded? Well, don’t expect to get the low down from Mike Tomlin.

Mike Tomlin offers vague injury updates for Saturday’s second Steelers preseason game

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Though Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he expected more players to play Saturday than did in last week’s preseason opener, he was vague in disclosing any information on most of the injury news regarding players.

Safety Sean Davis again practiced Thursday and is expected to make his preseason debut at Heinz Field against the Chiefs. Center Maurkice Pouncey was in uniform (on a non-padded practice day) but appeared to be in a limited capacity. With his 10-year NFL veteran status, it would be shocking if Pouncey played Saturday.

Among those who again sat out practice were guard David DeCastro, cornerback Joe Haden, linebacker Vince Williams and tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson. Interior offensive lineman B.J. Finney did not practice a day after he left a session for what Tomlin said were heat-related issues.

Four members of the rookie draft class — linebacker Devin Bush, receiver Diontae Johnson, tight end Zach Gentry and linebacker Sutton Smith — are dealing with injuries. Johnson and Bush are expected to play Saturday after practicing Thursday, and Smith’s return to practice suggests he could, too.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Diontae Johnson hasn’t been available much this preseason, but when he has he has been turning heads.

Diontae Johnson impressing Steelers with his skills, frustrating them with his injuries

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

It was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round pick who most impressed during their first preseason game.

Will their second pick from this year’s draft shine in their second game?

Like first-rounder Devin Bush did in his NFL preseason debut last week, Diontae Johnson has mostly wowed teammates and coaches with his talents. But for Johnson, that’s only happened when he’s taken part in training-camp practices at Saint Vincent.

That participation has been far from a daily occurrence, mostly because of a groin injury. And Johnson, the quick and shifty receiver who was taken near the top of the third round out of Toledo, also missed much of summer organized team activities because of injury.

“You’d like to see him on the field,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, “because then you can kind of see what he can and can’t do.”

The rest of the organization and Steelers fans likely second that notion. Everyone could get what they wish for Saturday night when the Steelers host the Kansas City Chiefs in preseason game No. 2.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The last training camp practice was built around the kickers.

Steelers Inside the Ropes: Kickers take center stage at final camp practice

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Coach Mike Tomlin’s intention is to have kickers Chris Boswell and Matthew Wright alternate attempts Saturday when the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Kansas City Chiefs in their second preseason game.

Circumstances, however, could lead to Tomlin changing his mind.

“We have a couple more days of work,” Tomlin said Thursday before the team’s final practice at Saint Vincent. “We will challenge them some here in these settings, and the outcome of those challenges may dictate otherwise.”

The kickers were put to the test Thursday before the threat of lightning forced practice to wrap up an hour earlier than scheduled.

Boswell and Wright, the undrafted free agent who is challenging to unseat the incumbent kicker, each made 6 of 7 tries while kicking from distances spanning between 33 and 52 yards.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin previews Saturday's matchup against the Chiefs. https://t.co/lC1JdNh6Or

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 15, 2019

JUST RELEASED

The new Steelers-edition Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 is now at the Steelers Pro Shop!

Plus, we're giving you free shipping when you purchase the shoe.

SHOP NOW: https://t.co/vRKf0iNcEq pic.twitter.com/khGb6JdWuH

— Steelers Pro Shop (@SteelersShop) August 15, 2019

.@_BigBen7 talks about the wide receivers, Devin Bush, what Coach Drake meant to the team and more. pic.twitter.com/9kBxS3Zhqu

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 16, 2019

Can't leave #SteelersNation empty-handed! @joehaden23 pic.twitter.com/3AGbFe5SvQ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 15, 2019

#SteelersCamp ☑️

you at @heinzfield on Saturday‼️@joehaden23 pic.twitter.com/HAlmvbHLIz

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 15, 2019

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 4:30am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

All the information needed to watch or listen to the Steelers second preseason game this Saturday against the Chiefs at Heinz Field

It may not be football that counts, but exhibition football is better than no football. The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to continue their 2019 preseason on Saturday night when Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, and the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs invade Heinz Field in Week 2.

This will be the last chance for Steelers fans to see their team at Heinz Field before the regular season kicks off in less than a month. Although most starters did not see the field in Week 1, Coach Mike Tomlin has already said more of the starters will be used in Week 2.

Ben Roethlisberger has been the only player indirectly ruled out for the game, as coach Tomlin did not say specifically he would not suit up but did not list him on the progression of the quarterback rotation. Mason Rudolph has been listed as the starter for the first time in a game at Heinz Field, followed by Joshua Dobbs and Devlin Hodges. Players such as Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro who have not practiced this will will also likely sit out, but others who are not nursing injuries are likely to see limited action. Can Devin Bush and Uylsees Gilbert III follow up their Week 1 performances with another strong showing? Can Justin Layne show marked improvement? Will Steelers fans finally get to see Dionte Johnson in stadium?

All of these questions will be answered throughout the rest of the team’s preseason. Get all the information you need so you can enjoy the Week 2 showdown below:

Preseason Week 2:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs, Kansas City Chiefs

Date: Saturday August 17

Kickoff: 7:30 P.M. ET

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Weather: Live weather update

TV Channel: Broadcast locally on KDKA-Channel 2 with Bob Pompeani and Charlie Batch as commentators with Missi Matthews as the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

Outside of the Pittsburgh are: Broadcast LIVE! on NFL Network.

Online: NFL Game Pass offers live out-of-market NFL Preseason games and replays of every game during the season with a paid subscription. NFL Game Center will update the action on a play-by-play basis. The Watch NFL Network mobile app on Apple or Andriod will carry the game live for anyone who is subscribed to the NFL Network channel. A login through you TV provider will be required.

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

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

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 4:30am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

All the information needed to watch or listen to the Steelers second preseason game this Saturday against the Cheifs at Heinz Field

It may not be football that counts, but exhibition football is better than no football. The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to continue their 2019 preseason on Saturday night when Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, and the rest of the Kansas City Cheifs invade Heinz Field in Week 2.

This will be the last chance for Steelers fans to see their team at Heinz Field before the regular season kicks off in less than a month. Although most starters did not see the field in Week 1, Coach Mike Tomlin has already said more of the starters will be used in Week 2.

Ben Roethlisberger has been the only player indirectly ruled out for the game, as coach Tomlin did not say specifically he would not suit up but did not list him on the progression of the quarterback rotation. Mason Rudolph has been listed as the starter for the first time in a game at Heinz Field, followed by Joshua Dobbs and Devlin Hodges. Players such as Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro who have not practiced this will will also likely sit out, but others who are not nursing injuries are likely to see limited action. Can Devin Bush and Uylsees Gilbert III follow up their Week 1 performances with another strong showing? Can Justin Layne show marked improvement? Will Steelers fans finally get to see Dionte Johnson in stadium?

All of these questions will be answered throughout the rest of the team’s preseason. Get all the information you need so you can enjoy the Week 2 showdown below:

Preseason Week 2:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs, Kansas City Chiefs

Date: Saturday August 17

Kickoff: 7:30 P.M. ET

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Weather: Live weather update

TV Channel: Broadcast locally on KDKA-Channel 2 with Bob Pompeani and Charlie Batch as commentators with Missi Matthews as the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

Outside of the Pittsburgh are: Broadcast LIVE! on NFL Network.

Online: NFL Game Pass offers live out-of-market NFL Preseason games and replays of every game during the season with a paid subscription. NFL Game Center will update the action on a play-by-play basis. The Watch NFL Network mobile app on Apple or Andriod will carry the game live for anyone who is subscribed to the NFL Network channel. A login through you TV provider will be required.

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

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

Living in Pittsburgh, it’s easy to take Steelers training camp for granted

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 3:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I live in Pittsburgh, but I don’t get to Steelers training camp nearly as much as a die-hard fan should. Is that wrong?

The Steelers will break camp Thursday out at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.—a place where they’ve prepared for every regular season since the 1960s—and for the 43rd time since 1972, I will have missed every single practice session.

I could have attended any practice I wanted to this summer. Take Tuesday, for example. I received a text message from my uncle on Monday morning asking me if I wanted to take his son (my cousin) to a meet and greet session with Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley followed by VIP access to that day’s practice session.

I thought about it long and hard, but after deciding that earning money (something no non-Steeler who attends training camp besides Ed Bouchette, Christopher Carter and a few others can actually do) was more important for my immediate survival, I texted back a disappointed “no.”

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t THAT disappointed. After all, how much better could a VIP view of Steelers training camp be than, say, the vantage-point from the hillside I sat on last summer?

Probably much better, right? Oh well, there will be other VIP offers, and if there aren’t, I can just make a day of it at the team’s annual Family Fest Heinz Field practice they conduct on a select Sunday in early August. The Steelers held such a practice on August 4, 2019. I know, I was there—or should I say, I was on the North Shore, getting my Sunday steps in as I passed many fans clad in black and gold gear. I could have very easily checked into Heinz Field, paid $10 for a ticket and observed a few hours of practice.

Nah, I had to get home and get ready for my bowling match that evening. To reiterate, there will be another Family Fest practice next season that I can attend...provided it doesn’t interfere with my bowling night.

As a life-long Pittsburgher, am I taking training camp for granted? Saint Vincent College isn’t exactly a hop, skip and a jump from where I live (it’s 36 miles, according to my GPS), but it’s certainly close enough to attend at least one practice every summer.

There are fans that drive and fly from far and wide to attend a Steelers training camp. I know because I’ve talked to folks from Minnesota, California and even Europe during previous visits to Latrobe.

People save money to book flights and hotel rooms just to attend one training camp session. Some would rather spend a week’s vacation sitting on the grass of Saint Vincent than on the sand of some beach.

Me, all I need is a half a tank of gas and some money for tolls, and yet, my general reaction to the idea of going is “meh.”

At this point, I need a girlfriend to get me to camp (that’s the only reason I finally started attending them in the late-00s) or a kid (mine or someone else’s—I took my niece last year). I offered to drive a couple of friends to camp this summer and pay the tolls, but not because I really wanted to go. This was just to show my gratitude for friend things they’ve done for me recently (yeah, because that equals a free ticket to a Pitt basketball game—I’m such a cheapskate).

Am I a bad Steelers fan for only going to camp every other season or so since 2009? For that matter, am I a bad Steelers fan for not going at all until 2009?

Should I forever be banished from Saint Vincent College? If your answer to all of the above is “yes,” am I a bad Steelers fan for not being too upset about it?

Steelers juggle preseason roster by signing a tight end and linebacker heading into Chiefs game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 2:37pm
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers made an preseason roster move by signing two players leading into Preseason Week 2.

The NFL preseason roster is a constantly changing thing. There are 90 players, or in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ case 91, who are hoping to prove enough to just get a shot at making the cut for the 53-man roster.

On Thursday, two days before the Week 2 Preseason game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field, the Steelers signed two and released two.

This from the Steelers official Twitter page:

We have signed TE Micky Crum & LB Christian Kuntz.

We have released LB JT Jones & CB Jermaine Ponder.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 15, 2019

The Steelers have parted ways with linebacker JT Jones and cornerback Jermaine Ponder. In their place are linebacker Christian Kuntz and tight end Micky Crum.

This from the Steelers official website on the two additions to the team’s roster:

Crum, who played at the University of Louisville, had a tryout with the San Francisco 49ers during their 2019 rookie minicamp. While at Louisville he had 45 receptions for 493 yards and four touchdowns in 39 games. He had a career-high 22 receptions for 224 yards in 12 games as a redshirt senior.

Kuntz, who spent time with the Denver Broncos during the 2018 offseason, was signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad at the end of the 2018 season and then signed a futures deal at the end of the year. The Pittsburgh native, who played at Chartiers Valley High School, played collegiately at Duquesne University. He finished with a school record 30.5 sacks, winning two Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards and is the only player in school history to earn All-American honors three times.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they wrap up training camp and prepare for the Chiefs this Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Steelers Training Camp 2019: Live news and updates 8/15

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 1:35pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and training-camp practices are underway! Follow along with BTSC as the players start to hone their skills and prepare for the 2019 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and the rabid fans awaiting their chance to watch the Black-and-gold, are prepared for training camp, and it is hard to believe camp is coming to a close in with today’s being the last practice of camp.

If you’re stuck at work, or at home, follow along with those on the scene at Saint Vincent College for the best pictures, video and news coming straight from the practice field in Latrobe, PA. Don't miss a minute of the action!

Today's practice is at 2:55 p.m. EST, and is open to the public. Take a look at the training camp schedule below and, as always, follow along with live updates in the Twitter feed below.

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FanPulse: Steelers fan confidence soars heading into the 2019 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 12:01pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

We take a look at the pulse of Steelers Nation to see how confident they are heading into the season.

To suggest the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base was at a low at the end of the 2018 season is an understatement. Missing the playoffs, watching the Baltimore Ravens winning the AFC North, and witnessing the spontaneous combustion of Antonio Brown taking place after he was benched during Week 17.

Yeah, it was bad, and fans’ confidence was low at the end of the season.

However, a stellar offseason with the additions of Steven Nelson, Mark Barron, Donte Moncrief and a 9-man 2019 NFL Draft class highlighted by Devin Bush in the first round has the fan base looking up.

In Week 1 of the NFL Preseason the Steelers got the best of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-28, but what happened on the field not related to the score is what was truly made fans excited.

In other words, Devin Bush happened.

The Steelers’ prized draft pick was flying all over the field making 10 tackles in just over a quarter and a half time in the lineup. On top of that, stellar performances from players like Mason Rudolph and James Washington have the fans geared up and ready for the games to start in just a few short weeks.

As you can see in the graph below, thanks to SB Nation’s FanPulse surveys, the fans confidence has been growing, and is still growing with each passing week.

For those looking for specific numbers from the above image, check the specific percentages at each point along the way since the end of the 2018 season to now:

End of Season: 15% Confidence

Free Agency: 56% Confidence

Pre-NFL Draft: 57%

Post-NFL Draft: 70%

Preseason Week 1: 86%

I think it is safe to say Steelers’ fans are excited for the upcoming season. Not just the decreased amount of drama with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown gone, but the promise of a young, and potentially up-and-coming, team to hone their skills and maybe get the team back to the promised land.

What are your thoughts, not only of the above numbers, but also your confidence level heading into the 2019 season? Let us know in the comment section below!

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

Mason Rudolph to start, more Steelers starters to play in Preseason Week 2 vs. the Chiefs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 11:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field in Week 2 of the NFL Preseason, and the team should look markedly different than Week 1.

There is a big difference between Week 1 and Week 2 of the NFL Preseason. Week 1 is more of a backup riddled game, but Week 2 is when the starters usually start to get sprinkled in and get more game action leading up to the regular season.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 2 will mean more starters to see the field when the Kansas City Chiefs come to Heinz Field Saturday night.

This per Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports:

Tomlin said he expects to use more starters this week #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 15, 2019

In Week 1, offensively the only starters who saw the field were offensive tackle Matt Feiler, who played guard, and James Washington, if you consider him a potential starter this year. Defensively Terrell Edmunds and Javon Hargrave were the only starters from last year to see significant playing time vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Friday night.

This should change dramatically in Week 2, but don’t expect to see Ben Roethlisberger on the field. During Mike Tomlin’s press conference Thursday he said Roethlisberger won’t be playing vs. the Chiefs, but did mention the team will have a new starter under center compared to Week 1.

Joshua Dobbs got the start vs. Tampa Bay, but Mason Rudolph will be the quarterback to get the nod with some starting offensive linemen on Saturday night.

As expected, Mason Rudolph will start Saturday night against the Chiefs. Ben Roethlisberger not going to play. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 15, 2019

While only the backup quarterback spot on the team, the Dobbs vs. Rudolph battle has been highly contested and often talked about throughout Training Camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

To wrap things up, the Steelers will have more starters on the field in Week 2, and it is safe to say you could see a much more complete defense on the field but injuries could keep players like Sean Davis and Joe Haden out of the lineup one more week.

The Steelers will have their final practice of camp Thursday at 2:55 p.m., which is open to the public, before breaking camp and heading back to Pittsburgh for the remainder of the season. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for Kansas City in Week 2 of the preseason.

To watch Mike Tomlin’s complete press conference, check the video below:

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin previews Saturday's matchup against the Chiefs. https://t.co/lC1JdNh6Or

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 15, 2019

5 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin after practice on Wednesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 9:39am
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Tomlin answered questions after the final padded practice in Latrobe for 2019.

At the end of the final practice in pads for the Steelers’ 2019 training camp on Wednesday, head coach Mike Tomlin briefly addressed the media. Afterwards, Coach Tomlin was asked questions about specific players in regards to their recent play. This list isn’t to suggest these players were the only ones who stood out, but highlights players about whom Tomlin was asked questions.

B.J. Finney

BJ Finney leaves practice. He was in front seat of cart sitting up. Unsure what the injury is.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 14, 2019

Entrenched as the reserve for the interior of the offensive line, B.J. Finney was unable to finish practice on Wednesday. Over the past few seasons, Finney has made spot starts at all three inside positions. Earning a new contract this past offseason, Finney is one of the main reasons the Steelers’ offensive line is considered to have some of the best depth in the NFL, so him leaving practice on the cart is a bit concerning.

Coach Tomlin was asked about the status of Finney.

“He was taken off and is being evaluated- heat related like symptoms. August football-like things.”

Ben Roethlisberger

And #Steelers 7 shots in the books, offense wins 4-3.

Ben goes 2-4 with TDs to Vance & JuJu. One breakup by Edmunds on an amazing jump. Edmunds has INT on reverse pass from JuJu.

Dobbs goes 2-3 with 2 TDs to Johnson and a great throw to Grimble but 1 foot out. #dkps

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) August 14, 2019

It was the first time Ben Roethlisberger has been involved in a fully padded practice in almost a week. With his playing time most likely to remain at zero in Week 2, the only gauge on Roethlisberger’s rapport with his new receivers is his limited work in camp. With so many days off, it has been difficult to remember in which drills Roethlisberger has participated.

Coach Tomlin was asked if it was Roethlisberger’s first time running the two-minute drill.

“Not in life. I haven’t thought a lot about it. I don’t worry about the guys that aren’t working. I worry about the guys that are. Obliviously, because of our rotations, particularly in stadium, we focused in recent weeks on the young guys because these are the guys that are going to be in the game- end of the half, end of the game. We do want to keep him up to speed and growing and readying himself, so we did infuse him today.”

Sutton Smith

Sutton Smith still not practicing. But he did some drill work. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 14, 2019

There was a lot of buzz around Sutton Smith when he was first drafted this past offseason in the sixth round out of Northern Illinois. Add in him taking reps on both sides of the ball and his versatility became something Steelers’ fans ate up. What’s been hard to swallow with Smith is his lack of availability in training camp due to injury.

Coach Tomlin was asked if Smith is falling behind due to the amount of time he has missed.

“Yes.”

Donte Moncrief

Roethlisberger TD to Moncrief in red zone. Nice play on both ends #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 14, 2019

One of the players who returned to practice on Wednesday was wide receiver Donte Moncreif. Although he is in his first year with the Steelers, Moncrief is entering his sixth season in the NFL. The third oldest wide receiver in camp behind Johnny Holton and Eli Rogers, Moncrief has more than twice as many NFL games played than any other player in the position group.

Coach Tomlin was asked if it’s easier for a veteran like Moncrief to get back in the flow and if he saw that today.

“I wasn’t directly looking at him, but just largely that is the case. Certainly, you’re talking about a veteran player with time spent is significantly different than a guy like Sutton Smith.”

Mark Barron

Steelers LB Mark Barron this morning on his impressions so far: "I didn't really know what to expect, from the outside looking in; you know, you have all the stuff that was going on with the media and all of that, but when I got here, I didn't see any of that. And I still don’t."

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 14, 2019

A former top-ten draft pick in 2012, Mark Barron has transitioned from a slightly over-sized safety to a somewhat undersized linebacker. Signed in March by the Steelers after being released by the Rams, Barron filled a void for the Steelers before the 2019 NFL draft. After selecting Devin Bush with the 10th overall pick, the Steelers will need to figure out exactly how they are going to utilize Barron, Bush, and Vince Williams at inside linebacker.

Coach Tomlin was asked about Barron’s value to the other young linebackers.

“Mark is kind of a mute. He doesn’t have a lot to say. He’s truly professional in terms of how he goes about his work, but he’s not an overly vocal guy. If the young guys are learning from him, they’re learning by watching.”

Mike Tomlin’s full media session can be seen here:

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following Wednesday's practice. https://t.co/oPJhB0xxQY

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 14, 2019

Ranking the 2019 Steelers roster heading into Preseason Week 2: The Defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 8:37am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking each player at their position after the first preseason game.

With the first preseason game out of the way, I want to do a power-ranking style look at the roster, reflecting on what I saw in the game and where I would rank the players at each position.

This isn’t a 53-man roster prediction, just where I would rank them right now. I’m not valuing draft pick status at all, just what they’ve shown on the field.

For example, it doesn’t really matter where Justin Layne is ranked right now, he’ll be on the 53-man roster. I’m also not going to cover everyone, just the ones that moved up or down the chart through their performance.

First up, the defense.

Cornerback

Justin Layne: Didn’t look ready at all to be an NFL CB in his first shot at it. But as Mike Prisuta reported in his article on Steelers.com, it was more about learning than being ready for the Steelers young CB. There is a positive note though, as Layne played on a lot of ST units, and looked good as both a gunner and as a guy tasked with blocking the opponent’s gunner. (is there a name for this job?) If he can earn ST snaps he will be able to be on the active roster and develop his skills as the last CB on the depth chart. Drops 1 spot.

Marcelis Branch: Hit hard and drew a penalty that shouldn’t have been called, was always nearby but never in good enough position in coverage. Drops 2 spots.

My current CB rankings:

1. Joe Haden
2. Steven Nelson
3. Mike Hilton
4. Cameron Sutton
5. Artie Burns
6. Justin Layne
7. Brian Allen
8. Jermaine Ponder
9. Marcelis Branch
10. Trevon Mathis

Safety

Kameron Kelly: Looked good in a few plays, but with Devin Bush making most of the plays in front of Kelly he didn’t get tested much, and while that is a good sign for the defense, it does limit our ability to evaluate Kelly. What I did see of him he looks like he might have a really good sense for reading the offense, as he broke on a few plays before the snap. It could make him a good player in spite of his limited athleticism, or it could make him a target for misdirection by the offense. Moves up 1 spot.

Marcus Allen: Did not look good Friday. Was content tackling the catch and missed on a few plays. Was around but not impactful on ST. Was hoping he’d take the #3 safety spot, and that didn’t happen at all this game, instead he drops 2 spots.

Dravon Askew-Henry: Similar to Allen, allowed catches and didn’t stand out in tackling at all. He may get some credit for defending passes that were incomplete, but it didn’t look like his defense was that impactful and it was more on the offense. Drops 2 spots.

P.J. Locke: Looked the best of the non-Kelly safeties that played, but that doesn’t say much. Moves up 2 spots.

My current Safety rankings:

1. Sean Davis
2. Terrell Edmunds
3. Jordan Dangerfield
4. Kam Kelly
5. P.J. Locke
6. Marcus Allen
7. Dravon Askew-Henry

Inside Linebacker

Devin Bush: He’s the No. 1 ILB. He shouldn’t leave the field on defense or play much on ST, he is exactly what the Steelers were missing on this defense last year, speed to the ball, tackling and ability to competently cover TEs. If he is playing ST much at all Week 1, or plays less than 75% of defensive snaps I will be surprised and unhappy. Moves up 2 spots.

Robert Spillane: Solid on ST, showed both his strengths and weaknesses on defense. Really good football player but probably not enough of an athlete to make it in the NFL. He could be another Tyler Matakevich. Moves up 1 spot.

Ulysees Gilbert III: If it wasn’t for Devin Bush dominating the conversation at the same position, Uly would have locked up the Redman award and fans would already be calling for him to start over Mark Barron after Friday’s performance. When you look past the stats and look at the film it gets even better. Multiple times he ended up outside lined up like a corner, and made a pass breakup and intercepted a pass on a 2pt conversion from those spots. He showed he could get off blocks against 3rd stringers and make tackles, although he needs to get better at it. He showed some rush ability even if he isn’t Vince Williams. On ST he showed up frequently on film making key blocks and filling return lanes. If he continues to play like he did week 1 he’ll be a real asset for this team. Moves up 1 spot.

Tegray Scales: While playing in Uly’s shadow Tegray Scales looked very good in coverage and solid in run support. While showing up less than Gilbert in ST he still showed up a decent bit, increasing his value. Drops 1 spot. It was that kind of day for the ILBs, Scales looked better than I expected and he still dropped.

My current ILB rankings:

1. Devin Bush
2. Vince Williams
3. Mark Barron
4. Ulysees Gilbert III
5. Tyler Matakevich
6. Rob Spillane
7. Tegray Scales

Matakevich isn’t going anywhere right now. I’d keep 5 ILBs if the 53 cutdown was today.

Outside Linebacker

Ola Adeniyi: Ola surprised me a bit in coverage, he looked competent, and I didn’t expect that growth from him in his second season. He was solid in run support, but not great. He showed again his ability to win 1v1 in pass rush, a skill that has earned him comparisons to late career James Harrison, but he also showed the same vulnerability to QBs taking off and running his way that James showed late in his career. He showed up on ST a decent bit and was impactful. Overall liked the growth from Ola, but I don’t think he’s taken over the No. 3 OLB job yet. Didn’t move on my rankings, but he gained on Chickillo a lot.

JT Jones: He had the pass breakup on the 2-point conversion so he prevented overtime and saved us all from staying up later for no good reason, and I applaud him for that. Outside of that he didn’t show much in coverage, run support or pass rush, he was on ST and showed up a bit. Moves up 1 spot.

Tuzar Skipper: Got to the QB a few times and was good on ST, but his pass rush was like Bud Dupree, a few hand moves and outside of that mostly pushing. He did quite well with his shoulder dip that didn’t involve bending the edge...it was weird. When his moves didn’t work, he did nothing, guys like Ola and Chickillo contain the QB better, Tuzar looked like he was just throwing himself forward and hoping for the best. Drops 1 spot.

My OLB rankings:

1. T.J. Watt
2. Bud Dupree
3. Anthony Chickillo
4. Ola Adeniyi
5. TJ Jones
6. Tuzar Skipper
7. Sutton Smith

Defensive Line

Lavon Hooks: He got a lot of early snaps, disappeared in traffic, showed strong drive but didn’t get off blocks in 1v1 pass rush, got picked on a lot in run defense. Late in the first half and into the second half he did better holding the line and getting push on pass rush. Drops 3 spots.

Isaiah Buggs: Also got some early snaps and showed some good moves and was quicker on stunts than others, showed he could split the walls and double-team blocks, but when the OL locked him up 1v1 he was done. In the second half he was strong across the board. Moves up 1 spot.

Henry Mondeaux: Showed some good moves, but not much drive. For a good amount of the game he was the only one with any pass rush moves to speak of. Moves up 3 spots

My DL Rankings:

1. Cameron Heyward
2. Stephon Tuitt
3. Javon Hargrave
4. Tyson Alualu
5. Daniel McCullers
6. Isaiah Buggs
7. Henry Mondeaux
8. Greg Gilmore
9. Lavon Hooks
10. Conor Sheahy
11. Tegray Sales
12. Winston Craig

Alualu and McCullers didn’t show up in stats, but only Hargrave looked better than them in this game. I think their spots are pretty secure right now.

...

Any disagreements? Think I’m too high or too low on anyone? Be a part of the discussion and let me know in the comment section below!

Steelers 2019 Training Camp Recap: A sense of normalcy returns as the Steelers near end of camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 7:42am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers were back on the gridiron for another training camp practice, and we’ve got the recap for you!

The Pittsburgh Steelers have just a few training camp practices left, and while there are times it is still considered “football in shorts”, the team has had plenty of news coming from these workouts heading into the preseason.

Wednesday the Steelers returned to some sense of normalcy as the team continues to rebound after the loss of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake this past weekend. The weather cooperated, and the Steelers wore pads for practice for the last time during training camp.

There were some highlights from camp, so let’s get down to business from Wednesday’s workout:

2 minute drill

The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the practice with the two-minute drill, and this is always a very exciting part of any camp practice. The Steelers offense had two quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger and Joshua Dobbs, lead the team on one drive each. Wouldn’t you know the defense, yes the defense, actually won both of these drills.

Chris Carter of DKPittsburghSports gives the breakdown of those drills:

Defense wins both 2min drills w/forcing TO on downs vs Ben and an INT on Dobbs.

Solid coverage most plays. Gilbert and Hilton had nice plays over the middle, Vance caught a good floater from Ben.

Dobbs INT looked like an overthrow on Switzer’s hook. #Steelers #dkps

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) August 14, 2019

If you are wondering why Mason Rudolph wasn’t given a chance, according to Carter the team splits overall reps with both Dobbs and Rudolph, not necessarily in particular drills.

Finney exits early

Fans were concerned when they saw tweets like the one below from DKPittsburghSports’ Dale Lolley of B.J. Finney being carted up to the dorms from practice.

BJ Finney just left practice early. Didn’t see what happened to him. #Steelers #Dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 14, 2019

However, as it turns out, Mike Tomlin said after practice Finney left practice due to heat related issues.

Tomlin says Finney was carted off earlier due to heat concerns. “Normal August football stuff there,” he says. Indicated no major injury there as JC Hassenauer played center today. #dkps #Steelers

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) August 14, 2019

Walking Wounded Update

There were plenty of Steelers who were held out of practice Wednesday, but there was also some good news as players like Maurkice Pouncey, Joe Haden and Vince Williams are nearing their return back to the practice/playing field.

The #Steelers are in pads today.

Maurkice Pouncey, Joe Haden, and Vince Williams are on the field, but not in uniform.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 14, 2019

Another late addition, Zach Gentry.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 14, 2019

Devin Bush also is not practicing. He is in uniform but is wearing a floppy hat.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 14, 2019

Camp Darling falling behind

When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Northern Illinois outside linebacker Sutton Smith in the 6th round of the 2019 NFL Draft, fans fell in love. A spark plug of a player who can play multiple positions, but fans haven’t seen much of him since camp started as he has been nursing in undisclosed injury.

With him likely not playing on Saturday night, Tomlin was asked if he was falling behind, and his answer was precise.

When asked if Sutton Smith is falling behind, Mike Tomlin simply replied “Yes.” #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 14, 2019

Not a good comment from a head coach when it comes to a player whose spot on the team is anything but solidified.

Seven Shots

The offense has absolutely dominated the seven shots drill throughout Training Camp, and why would anything change now? The Offense wins 4-3, and Chris Carter gives us the breakdown of what went down.

And #Steelers 7 shots in the books, offense wins 4-3.

Ben goes 2-4 with TDs to Vance & JuJu. One breakup by Edmunds on an amazing jump. Edmunds has INT on reverse pass from JuJu.

Dobbs goes 2-3 with 2 TDs to Johnson and a great throw to Grimble but 1 foot out. #dkps

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) August 14, 2019

Last day in pads

As I said earlier, the Steelers will wrap up training camp on Thursday, their final open practice, and that meant Wednesday was the last padded practice of the 54th Training Camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

Coach Tomlin said today was the last day in pads for the team in Latrobe. Thursday is the final #SteelersCamp practice open to the public and media.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 14, 2019 PODCASTS VIDEOS

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following Wednesday's practice. https://t.co/oPJhB0xxQY

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 14, 2019

#LIVE: The crew takes you through today's practice report, gives an update on the defensive backs and more on #SteelersLive. https://t.co/WsWpI4JvC0

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 14, 2019

Alejandro Villanueva on Coach Drake: "Everyone respected him." pic.twitter.com/pBX2oFu5hF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 14, 2019

Ray Sherman observes while Blaine Stewart barks out instructions and Marcel Pastoor throws passes to the Steelers receivers. pic.twitter.com/j2GHxTzTWS

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 14, 2019 PHOTOS

Joe Haden in good spirits as he plays catch with Terrell Edmunds before practice. Still out with a foot contusion but walking without a limp. pic.twitter.com/FqQasGPIgD

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 14, 2019

After a preseason debut that Mike Tomlin called a ‘really solid performance’ based on performance, rookie linebacker Devin Bush is not practicing Wednesday. Bush had 10 tackles and a pass breakup against Tampa Bay. pic.twitter.com/AHwvgESgGB

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 14, 2019

Steelers Stock Report: Running backs trending down, receivers trending up heading into Week 2

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 6:39am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Time to see whose stock is trending up, and down, after Week 1 of the NFL Preseason.

I’d planned on watching last Friday’s preseason game from my apartment. I rip on the NFL preseason with impunity, but I’ll shamelessly allow that the opportunity to watch live football is a welcome respite from televised golf tournaments, HGTV, and the ongoing disgrace that is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Around 4 o’clock I received a text message from my wife informing me that, actually, we would not be watching football, but would instead be taking a house tour later that evening; football would have to wait. The house ended up being okay but nothing worth putting serious consideration into. After the showing, we booked it to Eat n’ Park for a late dinner.

We settled into a booth near the front bar. (Well, definitionally it’s a bar in the sense that it has an elevated tabletop, stools, and gruff patrons adorned in tattered Steelers garb, but it doesn’t serve alcohol so pragmatically it’s a catch-all for to-go orders and staff members who just wanna rest their elbows on something for a second.) Much to my delight, the television overhanging the bar was showing the preseason game.

It was about midway through the second quarter and Chris Boswell was about to attempt what looked to be about a 35-yard field goal. Two years ago, Chris Boswell squaring up a kick from anywhere remotely in the vicinity of Heinz Field’s goalposts was among the surest of sure things, but witnessing his disastrous 2018 campaign, one punctuated by a litany of shanks and squibs, has engendered in me deep and potentially chronic feelings of distrust. So, I sat sideways in a restaurant booth nervously watching a foremost source of my frustration with the 2018 iteration of the Steelers line up a chip-shot field goal and all of a sudden felt a damp warmth on my leg. My five-month-old daughter, who was sitting on my lap so that we could both revel in the enchantment of taking in our first Steelers game together, had spit up a portion of her previous meal. As my wife scrambled to find napkins, I turned the baby around to face me; unbothered by the proceedings, she giggled. I lifted her skyward to evaluate the collateral damage to my pants, noticing minimal staining—thankfully; these were good pants—but very pronounced wet spots all over my crotch area. Awesome. I handed the baby off and headed for the bathroom, where I tried but ultimately failed to remove the wet spots from my pants. Dejected, I exited into the main lobby right as a group of about five or six teenagers was entering the restaurant. One of them spotted me, glanced down toward my crotch, and smirked. I was sans baby at the time, so the markings on my pants looked exactly like what these teens assumed they were.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I missed the rest of the live telecast of the game and, like a fool, watched a recap on NFL Game Pass specifically for the purpose of writing this article. Therefore, before leaving a mean comment, please remember that I was vomited on and laughed at to bring you this story. Stock report!

Quarterbacks: Trending up

Josh Dobbs started Friday’s game, which is probably a pretty reliable indicator of where he stands in the pecking order. He played efficiently, orchestrating a pair of successful forays that yielded a grand total of six Steelers points, and was responsible for the most fun play of the night, in which he evaded roughly 17 Tampa Bay defenders during a scramble on 3rd-and-long.

Josh Dobbs has the chance to have a nice NFL career.

Via @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/X0hZci2gnD

— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) August 10, 2019

But what Dobbs failed to do was draw praise from Dez Bryant, who is currently semi-retired and Extremely Online. In that regard, Mason Rudolph excelled mightily.

I’m not being biased I promise...@Rudolph2Mason look like a starter in this league..keep killing brotha

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) August 10, 2019

Dez might be on to something! Rudolph looked real sharp against Tampa Bay’s scrubs, throwing a pair of touchdowns, avoiding any sacks, and just generally looking like a professional quarterback who was comfortable in his element. I am of the mind that it’s still entirely too early to draw any reliable conclusions about Dobbs or Rudolph, but if both players continue to perform well and the Steelers find themselves with a surfeit of quarterback talent as a result, it may behoove them to liquidate the quarterback room.

Also, the Steelers should bring Dez in for a tryout.

Running backs: Trending down

Dobbs’ aforementioned scamper and a 21-yard run by Jaylen Samuels accounted for more than 50 percent of Pittsburgh’s gross rushing output, so the 108 rushing yards amassed by the Steelers is a pretty uninspiring figure. Benny Snell, a player who I genuinely believe(d) could play a valuable role in the rushing attack this season, had a rough night. Indeed, I expected the former All-American to slalom effortlessly through Tampa’s ranks of meaty backup defensive lineman, but by the time the final whistle sounded Snell had only managed 26 yards on 13 carries. Thankfully for Snell, no one else in the backfield did much to challenge his standing as the presumed no. 3 back.

Samuels rules hard and should play be afforded a reasonable share of the backfield duties.

Receivers: Trending up

You’ve by now undoubtedly read many dozens of words about James Washington, so I’ll spare your eyes the needless legwork. I do want to point out how much it sucks that the receiver depth chart is more or less already set. Juju Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, and Washington are mortal locks, as is Dionte Johnson by virtue of his third-round draft status. You have to assume that Ryan Switzer’s multi-functionality as a returner and sure-handed slot receiver assures him a spot and Eli Rogers is a proven commodity, so I think his job’s safe, too. I cannot envision a reality in which the Steelers retain seven receivers, so barring any major injuries or Switzer’s or Rogers’ games going to hell, Ken Griffey Jr’s kid probably doesn’t stand much of a chance to make this team.

It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that Zach Gentry is not, in fact, Jesse James.

Offensive line and Defensive line: No movement

Not much to report on either side. The starting units are already set. I suppose for a bit of meat to chew on you can consider keeping an eye on any ongoing “battles” for the top rotational spot on either line. The frontrunners at present are Tyson Alualu and B.J. Finney, but of course that’s subject to change.

Linebackers: Trending up

I’ll eschew the redundant Devin Bush analysis (seriously, he looked so, go good) in favor of general feedback about some other linebackers. Ulysees Gilbert III had a nice game, as did Olasunkanmi Adeniyi. I thought Adeniyi had a good chance of making the final roster last season, so I think he’ll find himself in that conversation once again so long as his game remains consistent. If he elevates his play, he could find his way into the rotation. The Steelers will likely keep eight or nine linebackers, no more than four of which being the inside variety. Bush, Vince Williams, and Mark Barron should be locks, but it is not unreasonable to suggest that Gilbert III could supplant longtime special teamer Tyler Matakevich, a decent high-energy player with limited upside and a severely-capped professional ceiling.

Secondary: No movement

The secondary is currently dealing with a number of injuries, so I actually considered leaving this alone entirely. Moreover, given the lateness of this article, you’ve already digested more than a few helpings of piping-hot Justin Layne slander. This is a tepid take, but I think it may be mutually beneficial for Layne and the Steelers to make the 2019 campaign something of a redshirt season for Layne. The Steelers have plenty of warm bodies to make the secondary work and it could do Layne a world of good to watch the likes of Mike Hilton and Joe Haden ply their trade, iron out any idiosyncrasies, and then dive headlong back into the muck in 2020.

Special teams: Trending up

God bless you, Chris Boswell.

Podcast: 5 Steelers to watch in Preseason Week 2 vs. the Chiefs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “Steelers 1-on-1” 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 finally here, and news is heating up. 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 Steelers 1-on-1. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Chris Carter of DKPittsburghSports break down all things Steelers.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Top storylines as the Steelers break Training Camp
  • 5 players to watch in Week 2 vs. the Chiefs
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Chris Carter 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: How Cameron Sutton’s unique, and versatile, skill set will help him in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 4:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to the gridiron when they reported back to training camp. With practices underway, the news surrounding the black-and-gold is just starting to heat up. As the team prepares for the coming season, we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the season starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how Cameron Sutton’s unique skill set could help him see more playing time in 2019.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team who might have the unique situation where they have a good number of quality defensive backs. Cameron Sutton could be a player who pushes someone like Mike Hilton, and others, for playing time in 2019.

Cameron Sutton shows off his versatility in Steelers’ secondary

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In the slot. As the dime linebacker. At outside cornerback, strong safety or free.

If it’s in the secondary, Cameron Sutton has played it during his two full seasons plus one preseason with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Any position feels like home,” Sutton said before practice Wednesday at Saint Vincent.

Sutton has had plenty of homes, even during this training camp. The 2017 third-round pick has served as the first-team “dime” and the second-team nickel, and he’s been on outside corner with the third team.

Sutton played 49 of the Steelers’ 94 defensive snaps last week in their preseason victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He started at outside corner and moved to nickel in the second half for the final two series he played.

“I thought he did some solid things,” coach Mike Tomlin said this week. “He’s done some solid things out here playing on the outside. I think just a description of his performance and contributions to this point at this point have been really solid. His versatility is really showing; he’s been above the line outside and inside, and I think that’s useful for him in terms of earning and establishing a role – and obviously useful for us”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Alejandro Villanueva: Darryl Drake wouldn’t want Steelers to ‘dwell’ on his passing

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

As the only player on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster to serve in the military, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva has experienced tragic loss, watching young boys in his platoon die while fighting overseas.

An Army Rangers who was deployed three times to Afghanistan, Villanueva was awarded a Bronze Star, among other commendations, for his service.

Villanueva is equipped with handling death perhaps more than any other player on the roster. Still, the unexpected loss of 62-year-old wide receivers coach Darryl Drake on Sunday brought back some unpleasant memories.

While many Steelers players, including most wide receivers, were still too emotional to talk about Drake’s passing Wednesday morning, Villanueva relied on his military experience and how it helped him process Drake’s death.

“You can’t compare the two,” Villanueva said. “In the Army, you prepare for these things to happen. You expect these things to happen. They definitely unify the group when the do happen. Maybe not for the right reasons, but they definitely have an impact on morale of the unit.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers don’t plan on letting Darryl Drake’s death sink their season. Instead, they plan to march.

Steelers still grieving after loss of Darryl Drake, but “we intend to march”

By: Darin Gantt, ProFootballTalk

Training camp is supposed to be the time when teams sequester themselves in football, isolate themselves from every worldly distraction.

Reality intruded on the Steelers, and the sudden passing of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake changed everything for the team.

They returned to the practice field Tuesday for the first time, but it was a somber day, with players gathering for prayer, many with tears in their eyes, before they returned to work. As much as they might have wanted to focus on football, however, it wasn’t going to be easy. The young receivers Drake worked with may not have been their sharpest, often taking breaks and being consoled by teammates.

We’re all devastated. I really can’t think of any other appropriate words,” Tomlin said, via Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com. “Our time and attention in recent days have been spent in support of the Drake family. Miss Sheila and Darryl’s daughters and extended family — many of us have had an opportunity to spend time with them through this. They’ve been amazing. In making arrangements and adjusting, we’ve tried to be as supportive organizationally to them as we can in what is a very difficult time.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following Wednesday's practice. https://t.co/oPJhB0xxQY

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 14, 2019

#LIVE: The crew takes you through today's practice report, gives an update on the defensive backs and more on #SteelersLive. https://t.co/WsWpI4JvC0

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 14, 2019

RIP coach Drake! Will keep your family in my prayers! ❤️ https://t.co/f14mIHBMHx

— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) August 14, 2019

The emotionally reeling Steelers needed a voice, and Alejandro Villanueva was the perfect fit

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 5:35pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are an emotionally drained group as they head into their last day of training camp. In this time they needed a voice, and Alejandro Villanueva was the man for the job.

Since the passing of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, the Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 Training Camp has taken a turn for the worse. What was an emotionally charged camp, built with players who were destined to write their own page in the Steelers’ history books, turned into a somber memorial of a loved one lost.

After cancelling practice Sunday and Monday, the team reported to practice on Tuesday — if you would even call it practice. The team did some individual drills, fumbled their way through some team drills before the heavens opened and practice was ended early.

Before and after practice no players were available for comment.

Wednesday came and the team knew they had to have someone speak with the media, after all, they have a job to do too. In other words, the Steelers needed a voice, and they found it in left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

Villanueva stood and answered questions about Mike Tomlin’s leadership, the team moral and what he thought Coach Drake would want the team to do moving forward.

His responses in the media scrum courtesy of Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Can Villanueva compare the loss of Drake to the loss of a member of the military?

“You can’t compare the two,” Villanueva said. “In the Army, you prepare for these things to happen. You expect these things to happen. They definitely unify the group when the do happen. Maybe not for the right reasons, but they definitely have an impact on morale of the unit.

“Sometimes it’s vengeful and you want to get the culprits. In this case, it was not one person doing it. The kids that died in battle are usually 18-19 years old, and that’s tougher to swallow. You look at their kids that they’ll never be able to meet. It’s part of the culture.

“You deal with death. Once you get over the deployments, once you can put it in the rear view mirror, you can learn some very valuable lessons about death. It makes you appreciate life. Death is a part of life. You cannot have life without death. It’s something that individually everyone has to deal with at some point because it does come to all of us.”

In Villanueva’s opinion, how has Tomlin handled this situation?

“Today is kind of the first day we’re getting back into the schedule, but it’s going to be interesting how we honor him throughout the season,” Villanueva said. “Individually, each player will have a different plan. Collectively, it’s been pretty impressive and pretty tough on Coach Tomlin to deal with the loss of one of his coaches.”

“I think Coach Tomlin has done a very good job of understanding what Coach Drake would want from all of us at this moment,” he said. “He’s not going to want us to dwell on this. He definitely would want us to have a big sense of humor. For us, it’s about starting to realize that we have a season to play, that we have to get focused, that playmakers have to make plays.

“It’s a great opportunity to honor his life and his legacy by making those plays, by staying focused and by playing our best football.”

What role did Drake play with the team outside of the wide receiver room?

“He had a pretty important role with some of the distractions in the locker room,” Villanueva said. “He spoke of the values of the team and unity and helping each other out. His voice was heard, his values. He definitely was one who helped us get through the tough end of the season last year.”

“He just walked in, he didn’t have to do any introductions, he started opening up his mind, being a very outspoken leader about the things he thought needed to be said,” Villanueva said. “People respected that, people responded to that.”

Maybe it is the Army background of Villanueva, or maybe it is just upfront, easy-going nature which made him the perfect man for the job, but there is a calming presence around Villanueva. It was Villanueva who answered questions about the Steelers’ National Anthem escapade in Chicago, and it was Villanueva to stand up and take the brunt of the questions off the shoulder of his teammates Wednesday.

Like in the military, Villanueva is the ultimate teammate, and he was the perfect person for the job when the team needed a voice after Drake’s death.

Watch Villanueva’s full interview session below:

Alejandro Villanueva on Coach Drake: "Everyone respected him." pic.twitter.com/pBX2oFu5hF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 14, 2019

Steelers Training Camp 2019: Live news and updates 8/14

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 1:36pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and training-camp practices are underway! Follow along with BTSC as the players start to hone their skills and prepare for the 2019 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and the rabid fans awaiting their chance to watch the Black-and-gold, are prepared for training camp, and it is hard to believe camp is already coming to a close in just two days.

If you’re stuck at work, or at home, follow along with those on the scene at Saint Vincent College for the best pictures, video and news coming straight from the practice field in Latrobe, PA. Don't miss a minute of the action!

Today's practice is at 2:55 p.m. EST, and is open to the public. Take a look at the training camp schedule below and, as always, follow along with live updates in the Twitter feed below.

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