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Trying to diagnose why Steelers fans are so obsessed with Chase Winovich

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/08/2019 - 9:20am

The love for Michigan outside linebacker/defensive end Chase Winovich is growing in Steeler Nation. But does he have what it takes to be the next Kevin Greene? Or do is measurables scream Jarvis Jones?

There seems to be one prospect that has the majority of Steeler fans clamoring for the team to select him every year, leading up to the annual NFL Draft.

In 2015, it was UCLA defensive end Owa Odighizuwa that had many black and gold faithful dreaming about the possibility of the team taking him. In fact, one BTSC reader said (and I’m paraphrasing), “I’m going to bed, but not before I watch some highlights of Owa Odighizuwa.” Odighizuwa was selected in the third round by the Giants. He spent two seasons with New York, a cup of coffee with the Bills last year and is now a free agent. Much like me, an almost 47-year old who has unwillingly been out of the dating game for nearly two years, it’s likely time for Odighizuwa to get on with his life’s work (for him, it probably means utilizing his college education; for me, it means spending even more hours watching Netflix, Hulu and CBS All Access). Anyway, people were so in-love with Odighizuwa that when the always lacking in the secondary Steelers were linked to safety Landon Collins leading up to that year’s draft, another BTSC reader said (and I’m not paraphrasing), “If they draft him, I will smash my remote!” Collins was also selected by the Giants, one round ahead of Owa. In four years in New York, Collins played in three Pro Bowls, was named a First Team All-Pro in 2016 and just signed an $84 million free agent contract with the Redskins.

But I digress.

There have been other examples of Steeler fan draft crushes.

Baylor defensive tackle/nose tackle Andrew Billings was one in 2016. He was selected in the fourth round by the Bengals and has had an okay career—very big Dan McCullers like but nothing more.

Two years ago, it was Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes—okay, I’ll give you that one (although, with Ben Roethlisberger about to sign a new contract extension through his early 40’s, what would have been the point)?

That brings me to the point of this piece. Chase Winovich, Michigan outside linebacker/defensive end. Just about every mock draft involving the Steelers includes some fan typing (often in ALL CAPS): “THEY NEED TO DRAFT CHASE WINOVICH!!!!!”

I obviously get the appeal. For starters, Winovich is from Jefferson Hills, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. He’s also intense, passionate and has a Kevin Greene-like motor. Speaking of which, there’s the long blond hair sticking out of his helmet that just makes you want to jump out of your seat when he does something intense and celebrates obnoxiously (only receivers get grief for that kind of celebrating).

I just watched the 4:09 highlight video linked in the previous paragraph, and as a yinzer, I’m now pretty darn fired up! I can just picture the banners, the memes, the Tweets, the Facebook comments, all of which will say the same thing after a big play by Winovich: “Chase is Winning, B**ch!!!!!!!!”

Let’s face it, Chase Winovich is straight out of Pittsburgh sports hero casting.

But, then, when you read what some experts have to say about him, well, it kind of gives you pause. For example, The Draft Network’s profile on Winovich talks about his lack of burst and explosiveness, not to mention a lack of lateral movement. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like Jarvis Jones? And then there’s his lack of bend, which is something that has irritated many fans about Bud Dupree for years.

Don’t get me wrong, The Draft Network is mostly flattering in its evaluation of Winovich, praising his hand usage, run defense and, of course, passion—“Motor never quits.”

Many mock drafts have Winovich going in the second round, which makes sense considering most experts feel that he has what it takes to be a starter, albeit one who may never reach double-digits in sacks.

Wait a minute, never reach double-digits in sacks? Speaking of Bud Dupree.....

OK, as I’ve said many times over the years, I am no draft expert. Therefore, I want to learn from you, a Steeler fan who perhaps has more draft knowledge than me. What makes you so giddy about Chase Winovich? What tangibles and intangibles could he bring to Pittsburgh’s defense?

As a 250-plus pounder with 40 speed that’s a shade under 4.6, does he have what it takes to be a very good to elite pass-rusher at the professional level?

If the Steelers take him in the first round, would you be happy? How about the second or third round?

I want to learn all that I can about Steeler Nation’s latest draft crush.

Ryan Shazier continues to amaze, prove doubters wrong in the process

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/08/2019 - 7:57am

Ryan Shazier has amazed everyone, even the skeptics, and continues to do so throughout his rehabilitation.

There are certain people in this world who refuse to let circumstances dictate their future. You see this with people who are born with deformities, lose limbs in accidents or are told they will never do something ever again.

How do they respond? They refuse to allow someone else to put any type of limitations on them, and prove the doubters wrong.

Ryan Shazier is one of those people.

After the former Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft pick was injured in Cincinnati on Monday Night Football in 2017, he was told there was a strong chance he would never walk again. But on the outside chance he could walk again, it would probably be assisted in some way.

What happened over the next six months was nothing short of amazing. After a few pictures and videos from hospital rooms, Shazier went dark. He didn’t post anything on social media, but just focused on his faith and his rehabilitation. Finally, there was the photo of Shazier standing, unassisted, next to Ben Roethlisberger.

From that point on, Shazier’s rehabilitation continued to sky rocket. He was seen at the team’s facility in a wheelchair, but took the world by storm when he walked onto the stage to announce the team’s first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Reports this year were Shazier was jogging, but there was no video to support these claims. On Sunday, Shazier took to his verified Instagram account and showed the world how far he has come by doing a 3-foot box jump.

We all #SHALIEVE.

: @RyanShazier pic.twitter.com/wrYAJoxKGa

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 7, 2019

Words can’t describe just how amazing Shazier, and his recovery, has been. To go from being unable to move his lower body to doing box jumps is absolutely astounding.

This isn’t the time to discuss whether or not Shazier could, or should, ever play football again. Instead, this is when Steelers Nation continues to support Shazier throughout his rehabilitation and wishes him nothing but the best in whatever comes next!

Continue to SHALIEVE!!

Embittered Antonio Brown attacks JuJu Smith-Schuster via social media

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/08/2019 - 6:45am

Despite forcing his way out of Pittsburgh, it would appear that Antonio Brown can't let go of his former team

Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown might well be in a new relationship with Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders, but it is clear that he still has not got over his ex after an unprovoked attack on JuJu Smith-Schuster on Sunday afternoon.

The day had began in relatively normal fashion for AB, posting an ambiguous that reeked of hypocrisy, but quickly turned nasty when the overwhelming response was not as supportive as he might have liked.

Keep your emotions off the internet

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 7, 2019

Emotional pittsburgh fans it’s over bro move on fam buy my @Raiders jersey https://t.co/1Qn7ZREM3j

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 7, 2019

Emotion ‍♂️ https://t.co/8l5Y66NmW2

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 7, 2019

But of all the comments he received, there was one that seemed to trigger him more than most, sending him down a path that would perhaps reveal another of his reasons for wanting to leave Pittsburgh. Responding to a picture a fan tweeted at him honouring Smith-Schuster winning the Steelers 2018 MVP award, Brown failed to heed his own advice from a few hours earlier in the day when he let his emotions out all over the internet.

Emotion: boy fumbled the whole post season in the biggest game of year ! Everyone went blind to busy making guys famous not enough reality these days ! by the way check the list https://t.co/2SWWT8k0jx

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 7, 2019

An unnecessary attack that Smith-Schuster could not ignore.

Keep your emotions off the internet

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) April 7, 2019

All I ever did was show that man love and respect from the moment I got to the league. I was genuinely happy for him too when he got traded to Oakland w/ a big contract, and now he takes shots at me on social media?

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) April 7, 2019

Crazy how big that ego got to be to take shots at people who show you love! Smh

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) April 7, 2019

Smh pic.twitter.com/jkmA3oWWRS

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) April 7, 2019

Brown has received an inordinate amount of support from the national media and fans of many NFL teams over his desire for a trade away from the “evil” Ben Roethlisberger and the “cruel” management style of Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin, but needlessly attacking Smith-Schuster is unlikely to end well for him in the court of public opinion.

I respect his game but I can’t wait to smash this dude No need for that https://t.co/luWgSZqCOB

— Justin Reid (@jreid_viii) April 7, 2019

No need for that. Showing true colors right here. No respect for this dude

— Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard) April 7, 2019

Facts. But what AB was childish.

— Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard) April 8, 2019

Who does that??? Lol. Times have changed bro

— Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard) April 8, 2019

Lol. Truth always comes out big bro. Man what a childish move by him.

— Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard) April 8, 2019

Alexa, play “Why can’t we be friends?” by War pic.twitter.com/7J7LmnwHQ1

— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) April 8, 2019

Enraged Steelers fans left Brown in no doubt who they supported and it should come as no surprise to note that many of the comments are far from safe for publication. Others were also quick to point out mistakes that AB had made that had cost Pittsburgh victory over the years. (h/t @jamesandjuju)

Remember when you stepped out of bounds and we didn’t make the playoffs? Thanks a lot @AB84 pic.twitter.com/mOYVso2rro

— DRAFT DEVIN BUSH (@jamesandjuju) April 7, 2019

Remember Week 15 in 2012? Our record is 7-6 and we need a win. We are up 7 in the 4th..You fumbled, we lost and missed the playoffs. Thanks @AB84 pic.twitter.com/sO4OchxLXS

— DRAFT DEVIN BUSH (@jamesandjuju) April 7, 2019

Remember this? Thanks @AB84 pic.twitter.com/6fStlTe700

— DRAFT DEVIN BUSH (@jamesandjuju) April 7, 2019

Lashing out at a player who has said nothing put positive things about Brown is not a good look, and at some point it has to be believed that the Raiders will be talking to their new star receiver about his unhinged outbursts towards his former team. But until that happens, it should be expected that this is not the last we have heard of AB this offseason.

Podcast: How JuJu Smith-Schuster finally shut up Antonio Brown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/08/2019 - 5:38am

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 season is over, but the news is just starting to heat 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 flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers, including a fun game of “True or False!”

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Ryan Shazier is doing box jumps now...this dude is amazing!
  • Antonio Brown just can’t keep the Steelers out of his mouth
  • The other trades/transactions which took place this week
  • 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: Jaylen Samuels is ready to take the next step in his progression

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/08/2019 - 4:25am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how second year running back is ready to take the next step in his NFL progression in 2019.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers are a fortunate team, when it comes to the running back position. They lose an All-Pro player like Le’Veon Bell, and have James Conner waiting in the wings. On top of that, the H-Back they drafted out of NC State, Jaylen Samuels, turns out to be pretty solid himself.

Samuels: ‘That is what I wanted’

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

He knew there would be changes, coming from N.C. State where he was used as a little bit of everything – receiver, tight end, receiver, fullback and even a little running back – to the Steelers where he would primarily be a running back as James Conner’s backup, where his skills would be used differently.

It was a change, but a change he welcomed with open arms.

“That is what I wanted,” said Samuels. “I knew coming into the league I was going to play running back. I didn’t play running back in college, but I knew coming into the league that was going to be my position in the NFL.

“I knew what came with the job, what I had to do with pass protection, the physical side of it. I was watching different stuff on film. I started looking at what type of coverages they run, the pressures they bring, stuff like that, what type of front they are in. Adjusting to that was a key. Changing my game from a receiver to a running back, that was the biggest transition I did. I feel like I did pretty well with it. I knew what came with it, I was ready for the task.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Everyone wants the Steelers to trade up in the upcoming NFL Draft, but that is easier said than done.

Colbert on free agency, trading up in a draft, Ben

By: Bob Labriola, Steelers.com

“Trading up or trading back, that is always going to be a possibility. We won’t know that until probably draft day, but you always have those different scenarios. Understanding when you have 10 you have more ammunition to either take 10 players or use ammunition to trade up.”

Trading up in the first round is an extremely popular strategy among Steelers fans, and Colbert said it’s something that usually doesn’t come together until the moment is upon you, and it’s also not something that’s done carelessly with regard to the cost of the trade. Oh, and the Steelers don’t adhere to any universal draft pick value chart when negotiating trades with other teams.

“Everybody uses their own (formula), and we understand that,” said Colbert. “When we are making a trade with a team, they may tell us it doesn’t match the value and that is their decision, but if you go back to when we traded up for Troy [Polamalu], I think we went from No. 27 to No. 16 and I think we gave up a third and a sixth. When we traded up for Santonio Holmes, I think we went from No. 32 to No. 25, I can’t even remember, and we gave up a third and a fourth and people say we gave up too much. My immediate response would be, well he did catch the touchdown pass to win a Super Bowl.

“I think in any year that value is what you decide it to be. Someone may say we need this, or it doesn’t match our chart, and so we may say we want to exceed those charts. We don’t know until we get moving on it.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Joe Haden, and the rest of the Steelers defense, says they are excited to play Odell Beckham Jr. twice a year. Yes, they really said that.

Joe Haden “can’t wait” to face Odell Beckham

By: Josh Alper, ProFootballTalk

Haden told TMZ.com that he’s happy for the city and that the fans deserve good things after suffering through many lean years. A big reason for the optimism about the Browns is the arrival of wide receiver Odell Beckham, who Haden says will bring “flash and flair” to the team.

Haden also said he’s looking forward to his chance to keep Beckham from making big plays when the Browns and Steelers face off later this year.

“I can’t wait,” Haden said. “You gotta go against the best to be the best.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Madness

HE IS BROKEN IN HALF! (*Jim Ross voice*) #Wrestlemania pic.twitter.com/qzS6h8ZP3E

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 7, 2019

We all #SHALIEVE.

: @RyanShazier pic.twitter.com/wrYAJoxKGa

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 7, 2019

A Letter From the Editor: The magic that is the NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/07/2019 - 12:17pm

Why the NFL Draft is one of my favorite events in the sports world.

The 2019 NFL Draft is just a few weeks away, and I have to admit while I have learned to despise the lead up to the draft, I still absolutely love the actual event. I love when the speculation stops, and the picks start flying off the board.

In fact, I would go as far as to suggest it is one of my favorite sports events to watch.

Why? Because it is must-see TV.

Throughout the course of 7 rounds, you have 32 NFL organizations and fan bases, all 0-0, brimming with hope. Hope they will land the playmaker they need to take their team to the next level, and the potential of finding that diamond in the rough in the later rounds. Those 6th round gems, like Antonio Brown and Tom Brady, aren’t common but you just never know.

The acquisition of talent is one thing, but the spectacle of the draft is almost equally tantalizing. Who could ever forget Ryan Shazier walking to the podium during the 2018 NFL Draft to announce the Steelers’ selection of safety Terrell Edmunds?

There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

The players hugging commissioner Roger Goodell as they are welcomed to the league. The respective fan bases showing incredible emotion, both good and bad, with every pick passing. The spectacle is just that, a spectacle.

But the one aspect of the draft which makes me sitting through 7 rounds of picks tolerable?

The unexpected.

Every year there are those players who are projected to be selected in the Top 10, who fall to the second round. There are surprise picks where a team who is projected to take a receiver takes a guard, and the ripple effect from that pick changes everything. Now prospects who you never thought would be available, are ripe for the taking.

Just thinking about it gets me excited.

Draft trades. Players falling. Players ascending the ranks. Improving the team every step along the way. Endless hope of the fan base. Arm chair General Managers thinking they could always do better.

No matter what anyone says, the NFL Draft itself, not the exhausting lead up, is an incredible event. The NFL is genius for making it a three day event, and there are plenty of people who remain glued to the TV for all three days to not only see the festivities and events, but to hopefully witness a player being selected who will get their team over the proverbial hump.

The NFL Draft is magical, and the definition of must-see TV.

Who will be the Steelers No. 2 WR ? How the receivers will be used in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/07/2019 - 10:29am

Who will be the Steelers’ No. 2 wide receiver in 2019? Not such an easy answer.

The other day during one of our BTSC podcasts (you can listen to our podcasts in the player below this article) a listener asked me a very simple question with a not-so-simple answer.

Who will be the team’s No. 2 wide receiver in 2019?

Every Pittsburgh Steelers fan around the globe knows JuJu Smith-Schuster will be the team’s No. 1 receiver entering his 3rd NFL season, but who will be the man riding shotgun? You know, the No. 2 receiver?

Let’s look at the candidates, as of now:

James Washington
Donte Moncrief
Eli Rogers
Ryan Switzer

We all assume there will be at least one wide receiver addition via the 2019 NFL Draft, but just focusing on the players already on the roster makes you wonder who will be the true No. 2 heading into 2019?

Assuming Rogers and Switzer will be delegated to special teams and slot responsibilities, it makes this a two horse race between Washington and Moncrief. Washington continues to be an unknown commodity after a rough rookie season, but the same could be said about Moncrief who has struggled the last three seasons with mediocre-to-bad quarterbacks throwing him passes.

It is easy to sit here and suggest the Steelers will draft a wide receiver who is Day 1 ready, but as you know there are no guarantees when it comes to the NFL Draft. When the Steelers selected Smith-Schuster in the second round, no one expected much, then he almost amassed 1,000 yards as a 20 year old. When the Steelers selected Washington in the second round, everyone expected another JuJu-like performance, but was treated to an up-and-down season with very little contributions to the team.

In other words, you can’t account for a rookie to jump into the No. 2 wide receiver role, even though it has happened before.

When looking at both Moncrief and Washington, you don’t really have to choose one or the other. Sure, this will be a very good camp battle to watch, but the Steelers might just be able to have Moncrief, Washington and Smith-Schuster on the field at the same time regularly.

Hear me out...

If you look at the statistics, Smith-Schuster does some of his best work from the slot.

JuJu Smith-Schuster racked up the targets from the slot last season – expect him to see a high volume of targets come 2019 pic.twitter.com/NrKifG1VW9

— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) February 27, 2019

Sure, it sounds weird to have your top wide receiver running from the slot, but putting Smith-Schuster, who is ridiculously versatile, in the slot will maximize mismatches. Put a safety on Smith-Schuster, he will win. Smith-Schuster will even win against most slot cornerbacks in the league. So, if you put Smith-Schsuter in the slot, it will allow Moncrief and Washington to do damage on the outside.

This isn’t to suggest the Steelers won’t ever have Smith-Schuster on the outside, he will certainly play there when the team only deploys 1 or 2 wide receivers, but when they have multiple wide receivers on the field the team certainly has options.

In this situation, there really is no clear-cut answer to the question of who the Steelers’ No. 2 wide receiver will be in 2019. It could be a multitude of players used in that role, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maximizing matchups is something every NFL team does with regularity, and if the black-and-gold can get some solid contributions from receivers not named Smith-Schuster, their depth chart, and passing attack, will be just fine.

Ryan Switzer doesn’t hold his tongue when sticking up for the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/07/2019 - 8:42am

As former members of the Pittsburgh Steelers do their best to tarnish their former franchise, and Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Switzer did some media rounds to give his side of things.

We have all seen the videos, heard the sound clips and read the quotes from former teammates of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Lousy teammate.

Horrible leader.

Last one in, first one out.

I could go on, but every black-and-gold fan around the globe knows exactly what I’m referring to. While it took a while, several players have come to Roethlisberger’s side to show some support during this trying time.

It started with James Harrison, then trickled down to players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner and Ryan Shazier.

You can now add wide receiver Ryan Switzer to the list of those players who are backing the franchise quarterback. But before you just brush this off as a teammate trying to keep the peace, Switzer’s situation is certainly unique. After being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, and playing with quarterback Dak Prescott, he was traded to the Oakland Raiders, with Derek Carr, after his rookie season. His time was brief in Oakland before being traded to the Steelers.

In other words, Switzer has seen what it is like on other teams, played with several big-name quarterbacks and knows a thing or two about locker room dynamics. Recently Switzer did the rounds at Fox Sports, and FS1, to talk about, you guessed it, Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin.

Take a listen to what he has to say, and his honest answers to provide some context to what has been said, and what is the current day truth within the Steelers organization and in the locker room.

ESPN predicts the Steelers will give Ben Roethlisberger a 4-year extension before the 2019 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/07/2019 - 6:48am

Ben Roethlisberger needs a new contract, and ESPN is predicting the Steelers will be giving their franchise play caller a monster deal in his final contract in the NFL.

Just a short month ago all you heard coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers was the impending contract for franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The vast majority of the media, and fan base, thought Roethlisberger would receive his new contract before the start of the new league year to avoid paying him his roster bonus, and to potentially free up some salary cap space heading into free agency.

That day came and went, and the Steelers have yet to give No. 7 a new deal.

Some are suggesting the deal is much more complex than many believe, considering it is likely Roethlisberger’s final contract of his NFL career, while others just figure the two sides know a deal will get done, and are just taking their time.

Either way, assuming a deal will get done, what will the deal look like? Will it be an extension? Will there be a lot of guaranteed money? How many years?

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell took a stab at predicted all quarterback deals which are looming around the league. Here is what he had to project about Roethlisberger:

2. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Remaining on his contract: One year, $17 million in cash ($23.2 million cap hit)

There are two reasons Roethlisberger is likely to be the first of the three quarterbacks from his now-legendary draft class to sign. One is that he was first the last time their contracts came due. In 2015, Roethlisberger signed his extension in March, while Philip Rivers waited until August and Eli Manning signed his deal in September. Roethlisberger got more in practical guarantees than Rivers, but he came away with $65 million over the first three years of his new deal, while Rivers was at $68 million and Manning sneaked slightly ahead at $68.5 million.

The other concern is public relations-related: The Steelers probably need to energize their fan base after moving on from both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in a matter of weeks. Roethlisberger isn’t going to play anywhere else, of course, but extending their 37-year-old quarterback allows the Steelers to draw a line underneath a frantic free-agent period and get back to the business of locking up their stars. This offseason, it will be Roethlisberger; next year, they’ll be able to extend JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner.

Big Ben looked like he took a step backward on deep throws last season, but he shouldered an enormous workload in throwing a league-high 675 passes. Crucially, the future Hall of Famer has been able to stay healthy; for just the second time in his career, he managed to go consecutive seasons without missing a game due to injury. Most players don’t get healthier as they age into their late 30s, but Roethlisberger has missed only one start via injury since the 2015 playoffs.

While I wrote about how the Steelers refuse to guarantee multiple years of base salaries as a policy, the one exception they’ll make on this current roster is for Roethlisberger. In his previous extension, he had the second and third years guaranteed for injury. The Steelers might be willing to guarantee only the second year for injury given Roethlisberger’s advancing age, but he is also likely to get a large enough signing bonus to render the base salary guarantee irrelevant.

What his new deal could look like: Four years, $116 million with $44 million guaranteed at signing.

Roethlisberger’s 2015 extension provided him with the largest annual average salary in terms of new money, at $21.9 million per year, but I doubt he’s going to get more than Rodgers or Wilson will get on their deals. This gets him to $29 million per season in new money, which would be fourth in the NFL behind Rodgers, Wilson and Matt Ryan.

This deal would lock up Roethlisberger well into his 40s. I don’t think he’s actually going to play four years, but the Steelers will probably want to keep five years (which includes the final season of his current deal) on the books to help spread out that $44 million signing bonus over as long of a time frame as possible. We would be looking at about $87 million over the first three years of this contract, and the Steelers would guarantee his 2020 base salary of $15.5 million for injury.

What are your thoughts on his prediction? What would you give Roethlisberger if you were calling the shot, and how would you make it fair for both sides? Let us know in the comment section below!

Steelers News: How high should the defensive line be on the Steelers’ NFL draft needs list?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/07/2019 - 5:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether the Steelers should start to consider drafting some depth along the defensive line in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft.

Let’s get to the news:

NFL Draft: Defensive line might be of interest

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

In fact, you could make the argument the starting defensive line is one of the strengths of the team. In Tuitt, fellow defensive end Cameron Heyward and nose tackle Javon Hargrave, the Steelers have three very good players up front around whom to build their defense.

In fact, Hargrave had something of a breakout season in 2018, recording 49 tackles and 6.5 sacks from the nose tackle position, showing he’s the long-term answer there.

But the 26-year-old also has just one season remaining on his current contract and the Steelers, despite re-signing veterans Tyson Alualu and Daniel McCullers, are lacking depth at a position where they typically keep six players.

To read the full article, click HERE

Allen focused on a tough task

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

When Brian Allen said the most important things for him to do this offseason was to get quicker and faster, the question had to be expected.

How do you accomplish that?

Allen laughed, knowing saying getting quicker and faster is easy to say, but not necessarily the easiest thing to do.

“I went back to California and worked with my trainer,” said Allen. “Work on getting in and out of breaks faster. A lot of band work, resistance work, jump rope work. Things to get my lower body stronger and keep my pad level down.

“I need to work on my strengths, my physical side. Just getting quicker and faster. Doing the things that set me apart. Show my skill set that is different than the other guys we have.”

To read the full article, click HERE

The Baltimore Ravens aren’t known for their offense, or their receivers, but it doesn’t stop them from adding at the position.

Roundup: WR Seth Roberts signs with Ravens

By: Herbie Teope, NFL.com

A day after being released by the Oakland Raiders, Roberts signed a one-year deal, pending a physical, with the Baltimore Ravens, the team announced. ESPN first reported the news.

Whether he meets the criteria of the Ravens taking at-bats and swinging at the wide receiver spot remains to be seen, but there’s little arguing Roberts lands in a good spot with an opportunity for playing time.

After parting ways with Michael Crabtree and watching John Brown sign with the Buffalo Billsduring free agency, the Ravens have a clear need at a position currently led by Willie Snead and Chris Moore. Baltimore also has a pair of 2018 draft picks in Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott returning.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Some other NFL transactions which took place recently, one including a Pitt product who spent training camp with the Steelers in 2018.

Around the League

By: Herbie Teope, NFL.com

Here are other transactions we’re monitoring from Friday:

1. The Oakland Raiders announced the signing of safety Jordan Richards on Friday afternoon. Terms were not disclosed. Richards is a four-year vet who played 2018 with the Falcons, making a career-high 12 starts.

2. The Cleveland Browns signed receiver Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi. This will be the wideout’s first NFL job.

3. The Chicago Bears announced the signing of exclusive rights player Rashaad Coward, an offensive lineman, on Friday.

4. The New York Jets claimed former Giants wide receiver Quadree Henderson off waivers. Henderson did not catch a pass last year as a rookie but returned 14 punts and kickoffs. The Panthers also put in a claim for him, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Madness

Stephon Tuitt will have _____ sacks in 2019. pic.twitter.com/Q6duYnSVzV

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 7, 2019

Casey Hampton doesn’t like to talk about himself, but others love to talk about what a great guy he is.

That is why he was the perfect person to roast at the 21st Annual Mel Blount Youth Home All-Star Celebrity Roast. pic.twitter.com/EJ1hV5dZV9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 6, 2019

Thankful for the opportunity to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams to fly w/ @AFThunderbirds! S/O to my pilot, Maj. Jason Markzon (#8) & the entire crew. Thank you for your service & representing our country! Hope to fly again soon. Watch out...Astro coming to a sky near you! pic.twitter.com/fGrQUDIJ3u

— Josh Dobbs (@josh_dobbs1) April 7, 2019

Report: Steelers ‘are in love’ with West Virginia WR David Sills

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/06/2019 - 10:55am

The former quarterback turned receiver appears to be on the Steelers radar as a Day 3 option in the draft

If the Pittsburgh Steelers are interested in adding a wide receiver on Day 3 of the NFL Draft, it would appear that they might already have a candidate in mind if a recent report from Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst is to be believed.

Speaking on the site’s weekly podcast earlier in the week, Pauline suggested West Virginia receiver David Sill is a prospect the Steelers are particularly enamored with.

“I’m told the New Orleans Saints really like Sills and the Pittsburgh Steelers are in love with Sills. He be a great fit for both teams, but I could absolutely see the Steelers using a pick in the fourth-round to acquire David Sills.”

Tim Benz of Trib Live also noted Pittsburgh’s interest in the player in a column on Friday, while not quite hearing the “love” Pauline had spoken of. There also seems to be little doubt that he is at least on Mike Tomlin’s radar.

Sills with a nice catch and some love from Mike Tomlin on the sideline. pic.twitter.com/x0NMx31EGE

— Gold And Blue Zone (@GoldAndBlueZone) January 22, 2019

#Steelers GM Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin are here at @WVUfootball Pro Day. Standing next to them are WRs Gary Jennings and David Sills. You know who has a knack for finding mid round gems at that position? ( via producer extraordinaire @APGroover) pic.twitter.com/JRF4E6LNro

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 21, 2019

Converted from quarterback to wide receiver after arriving at college, Sills is an intriguing prospects who figures to have a lot of growth left in him given his limited experience at the position. But impressive numbers in just two full years at receiver and a 6-foot-3 plus frame should be enough to see him taken in the middle rounds of the draft.

#NFLCombine key measurements thread…

172. #WestVirginia WR David Sills
Height: 6-3 2/8
Weight: 211
Hand: 9
Arm: 32
Wingspan: 75 5/8

— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) February 28, 2019

Sills recorded over 60 receptions and 15 or more touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, finishing his career with 132 receptions for 2,907 yards and an impressive 35 touchdowns.

This scouting report from Brad Kelley of The Draft Network indicates a player who could potentially carve out a role for himself in the Steelers offense, possibly providing a valuable target in the redzone.

“Sills has been an ultra-productive wide receiver for the last two seasons at West Virginia, but projects as a complimentary receiver in the NFL. There are concerns holding back his projection, as his thin frame and lack of second gear weigh him down. Still, his body control and jump ball ability are a weapon, as is the way he defeats press coverage. Because of those traits, he should have an immediate role in the NFL and stick in the league for a lengthy career.”

Mason Rudolph readying himself for intense QB competition for the Steelers’ backup job in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/06/2019 - 9:14am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have drafted a quarterback in each of the past two NFL Drafts, but Mason Rudolph is preparing himself to take over as the team’s primary backup this season.

There is no questioning who the starting quarterback is for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That is clearly No. 7, Ben Roethlisberger. But who will be the primary backup in 2019 is quite the debate among the fan base.

Joshua Dobbs, who is entering his third year with the team coming out of Tennessee, was the surprise player of 2018 when the Steelers trimmed their roster to 53 players last year. If you recall, everyone expected Landry Jones to remain with the team, and Dobbs to be given his outright release. What happened was Jones became unemployed, and Dobbs was promoted as the team’s primary backup.

The competition wasn’t just about Dobbs and Jones. Mason Rudolph, the team’s 3rd round pick out of Oklahoma State in the 2018 draft, came into the organization with a different feel about him. While Dobbs was almost universally thought of as a career backup, Rudolph was perceived to be the possible heir to the Steelers’ quarterback throne.

As a rookie, Rudolph didn’t even dress for a game in 2018, rather he simply watched and learned — a tough thing to do for someone who had started every game at quarterback since his sophomore year in High School. But don’t let that skew the way you view Rudolph’s approach to the game, and especially to the upcoming workouts in the offseason.

“I need to do a lot,” Rudolph told Teresa Varley of the Steelers official website. “I need to keep our offense fresh in my mind this offseason. The last thing you want to do is not revisit stuff and look back at Week 2 and say what did we call here, what was effective, what could we have called better, what worked.

“You have to do a self-scout evaluation of each game, even if you weren’t playing. Go back and watch it again and stay in the playbook.”

This offseason Rudolph hasn’t just been reviewing the playbook, but has elicited the help of a quarterbacks coach to help him with his mechanics and decision-making.

“I had a quarterback’s coach I worked with,” said Rudolph. “Any time you can get a pair of eyes on you that aren’t completely involved in the game plan that are just looking at you, are seeing your mechanics and ways to improve you. Randy (Fichtner) is one of the best quarterback coaches in the league. But to have someone else helps. It’s a different dynamic when you don’t have the stress of the season going on, a different set of eyes on you. It’s all going to help me.”

Year 2 for NFL players, especially quarterbacks, is night-and-day different from Year 1 in so many ways. Rudolph will not only get to spend the entire offseason in Pittsburgh, and participate in all workouts leading up to OTAs, but he knows the players and the system, something which couldn’t have been said shortly after he was drafted in 2018.

“I keep hitting up the receivers and the guys you are going to spend time with in OTAs and making sure they are constantly trying to better themselves and they are learning,” Rudolph told Varley. “Now that I have almost as full year under my belt I have the relationships. It’s easy to get on the phone with a guy and review something or get in person with them and kind of talk through some specific routes.”

Doesn’t sound like a backup quarterback, does it? Not to me. In my opinion, it sounds like a guy just waiting for his opportunity. For the sake of the Steelers, you hope Roethlisberger stays healthy, but for the sake of the future most would say they hope Rudolph is the one who wins the backup job in 2019 and takes the next step in his progression as the potential future quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

2019 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have very different outcomes for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/06/2019 - 7:34am

In ESPN’s latest mock draft their two Draft experts go head-to-head to see who the Steelers select in Rounds 1 and 2 in the 2019 NFL Draft.

There are certainties in this life. Death, taxes and a constant disagreement regarding who NFL experts predict will be selected in the NFL Draft.

Of all the ‘draftniks’ ESPN’s crack crew of NFL Draft experts, primarily Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, love to go back-and-forth as to who will go first overall, and how that will impact the rest of the first round of the Draft.

Every year they have the two experts go head-to-head in a two-round mock draft, and this year’s was interesting for who they predicted for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both experts have the Steelers going all defense in the first two rounds of the selection process.

Take a look at their first round projections:

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Kiper: Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan

Pittsburgh brought in Mark Barron in free agency, but he shouldn’t be a lock to start. Bush is a playmaker and every-down linebacker.

McShay: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

The Steelers would love an edge rusher or a guy like Bush here, but there just aren’t solid options at No. 20. Williams’ length and speed ought to help him overcome his lower-end tackling skills.

While many will disagree with whether a player like Williams is worthy of a first round selection, take a look at who they have going to Pittsburgh in Round 2.

52. Pittsburgh Steelers

Kiper: Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame

If the Steelers don’t add a corner in Round 1, they’ll monitor the position on Day 2. There’s a need even after signing Steven Nelson in free agency.

McShay: Oshane Ximines, DE, Old Dominion

Pittsburgh tied for the league high in sacks in 2018 (52), but a good chunk of that came from the linebacking group. Ximines’ quick first step would give Mike Tomlin another pass-rushing weapon.

To summarize, here are their selections:

Kiper:
Round 1: Devin Bush
Round 2: Julian Love

McShay:
Round 1: Greedy Williams
Round 2: Oshane Ximines

We all know mock drafts are absolutely meaningless, but they do help create some conversation about what could possibly go down when the picks start flying off the board at the end of April. With that said, what do you think of the projected picks by Kiper and McShay? Let us know in the comment section below!

The Steelers’ draft hat is just the latest example of the NFL having fans right where they want them

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/06/2019 - 6:25am

Why do the Steelers even have a draft hat? Because, why not?

I was scanning my Facebook page the other day, when I noticed a bunch of people making negative comments on something involving the Steelers.

No, it wasn’t about Mike Tomlin or Ben Roethlisberger or Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell.

It was about some new Steelers hat that, if I’m being honest, wasn’t all that flattering. Take a look for yourself:

Get your hands on the hat before our pick does.

Retweet for your chance to win our 2019 #SteelersDraft hat. pic.twitter.com/JXai2nsxzV

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 4, 2019

I forgot about it for a day or so (life always seems to get in the way of worrying about hats) until it hit me. This wasn’t just any old, ugly Steelers hat people were commenting on. This was the new Steelers draft hat. “Why do the Steelers even have a draft hat?” I asked myself rather bluntly.

Then I started doing research, and it turned out the Steelers weren’t the only team that has a baseball cap dedicated to the upcoming NFL Draft. Every team in the league is now hawking its own version of the draft hat—yes, even Bill Belichick’s team.

All 32 teams will be trying to get you, yes, you, to buy and wear these hats to commemorate the 2019 NFL Draft. This is just a guess, but I bet every new draftee that walks to the podium will don these new hats as he tells everyone how much either he or his mother/father was a huge fan of (insert new team here) growing up.

I guess I answered my own question that I asked in the title of this article. Why do the Steelers even have a draft hat? Because the NFL has us by the.....well, in the palm of its hand 24/7/365.

Think about it, as soon as the Super Bowl ends, its time to talk about NFL free agency, but not before we poke and prod those future draft picks at the NFL Combine.

Then it’s those fancy new rule changes that make us break out in a cold sweat while thinking about how they will screw our team during the upcoming season. Also, there’s an endless supply of mock drafts in the weeks and months leading up to the actual draft. But before the real draft, the league likes to make you tune in for the official release of its 2019 NFL regular season schedule. Oh, sure, you know who the Steelers will be playing next season, but you don’t know when and at what time. You don’t know if you’ll be happy with the schedule or outraged (okay, you’ll be outraged).

After that, it’s rookie camp (“I knew he was a bust!”), OTAs (“Screw him for not showing up!”), mini-camp (“Screw him for not showing up!”) and then training camp (“I knew he was a bust!”).

The NFL has us so captivated, it can make you actually care about a hideous looking baseball cap dedicated to the draft. Yes, according to Facebook, you think it sucks, but you think everything sucks—but it didn’t stop you from commenting on it (click bait!).

I think the new draft hat sucks, but it didn’t keep me from writing an article about it (click bait!).

Where can I get one of these hats?

Black and Gold Links: Is the 2019 NFL Draft a go-big-or-go-home scenario for Kevin Colbert?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/06/2019 - 5:10am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how some are suggesting Kevin Colbert and the Steelers must trade up in the first round to get a player who will make a difference in 2019.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers fan base wants the team, and GM Kevin Colbert, to make a splash in this 2019 NFL Draft by trading up. But should they?

Carter’s Classroom: Colbert must trade up

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

All eyes are on Kevin Colbert and what moves he could make in the NFL draft.

If there ever was a year for Colbert to be aggressive to get higher in the first round, this is it. Specifically because there still remains a pressing need for a game changing inside linebacker and there are very good prospects drawing interest from several teams ahead of the Steelers.

Let’s look closer:

Last week I wrote about Mark Barron being a solid addition to the Steelers’ defense because of the team’s desperate need of coverage linebackers. This week is all about who Colbert can bring in behind Barron, or to start ahead of him.

The Steelers’ glaring need at inside linebacker is not just for a competent player at the position, but a playmaker who can change games by forcing turnovers or pulling off amazing plays that beat the X’s and O’s of opposing coaches.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Just when you thought the dirt couldn’t get deeper between the Steelers and Antonio Brown, it is third year wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is taking the high road.

JuJu Smith-Schuster calls Antonio Brown “my guy”

By: Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk

After JuJu Smith-Schuster defended Ben Roethlisberger‘s leadership last week, Antonio Brown responded with a message about his former teammate.

“Do not listen to any NFL player who haven’t got paid yet! They will do and say anything to make sure they going to get paid even if it’s compromising integrity or anything ! sad but true,” Brown wrote on social media.

Smith-Schuster, though, said the receivers do not have a beef.

“That’s my guy,” Smith-Schuster said, via TMZ Sports. “[Everything’s good between us] always. There’s no bad blood.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Jaylen Samuels was able to get some awesome experience in 2019, and he is more than excited to get back to work in year 2.

Samuels: ‘That is what I wanted’

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

...It was a change, but a change he welcomed with open arms.

“That is what I wanted,” said Samuels. “I knew coming into the league I was going to play running back. I didn’t play running back in college, but I knew coming into the league that was going to be my position in the NFL.

“I knew what came with the job, what I had to do with pass protection, the physical side of it. I was watching different stuff on film. I started looking at what type of coverages they run, the pressures they bring, stuff like that, what type of front they are in. Adjusting to that was a key. Changing my game from a receiver to a running back, that was the biggest transition I did. I feel like I did pretty well with it. I knew what came with it, I was ready for the task.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • If the Steelers are going to get an impact player in the first round, it likely will come at the inside linebacker position. But can the Steelers land one of the ‘Devins’?

Can Steelers get either of ‘The Two Devins?’ NFL draft analyst discusses

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In Thursday’s Sided.co podcast, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com joins me to preview the NFL Draft.

We talk about the prospect of the Steelers getting one of “The Two Devins.” No doubt, Steelers fans have zeroed in on the prospect of the local team grabbing either LSU’s Devin White or Michigan’s Devin Bush. The two inside linebackers have become coveted in Western Pennsylvania as Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert continue to search for a way to replace Ryan Shazier.

But they both may be gone by the time the Steelers select at pick 20. So, should they trade up?

To read the full article, click HERE

  • AFC North Links

Could the Ravens sign Eddie Lacy??
Browns dip into the AAF free agent pool
Baker Mayfield challenges media to go to Cleveland and talk to OBJ
The Bengals off-field struggles continue

  • Social Media Madness

Fast Willie. #fbf pic.twitter.com/cuHnzhyrG2

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 6, 2019

Former @steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton, aka ‘Big Snack,’ was honored at the @MelBlountYLI Celebrity Roast. Former teammates @bkeisel99, @hokiebro76, and Aaron Smith and Coach John Mitchell roasted him, while @Realrclark25 was the emcee.

More: https://t.co/XsbRY8Mg2Z pic.twitter.com/7uQEEVNBGC

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) April 6, 2019

Nailed it. pic.twitter.com/WC9WnvFx9w

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 5, 2019

C
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F
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M
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(Sorry about your timeline) #tbt pic.twitter.com/sTjzSSIvFB

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 5, 2019

Something to think about. #ThursdayThoughts pic.twitter.com/bWbMjHRlch

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 4, 2019

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 14

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 5:53pm

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

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

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

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

1. If you had to pick a breakout player for the Steelers in 2019, who would it be?

2. I spoke about this on my Steelers Burning Question podcast (you can listen to it below), so I thought I would ask here: Who has more pressure on them in 2019? Ben Roethlisberger or Mike Tomlin? Explain your answer.

3. Which player from the 2017 NFL Draft will have the bigger year in 2019? JuJu Smith-Schuster, T.J. Watt or James Conner?

4. Who is the most underrated member of the Steelers current offensive line?

5. If you had to pick one, who would you pick? Barry Foster or Bam Morris?

6. The AAF folded like a cheap lawn chair this week. Do you foresee a time when the NFL will actually have another league which helps feed talent to the NFL?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Steelers officially sign former AAF players Jack Tocho and J.C. Hassenauer

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 4:12pm

The Steelers confirmed the expected signings of two former members of the Birmingham Iron on Friday

With the Alliance of American Football confirming their former players were free to sign contracts with the NFL on Thursday, the Pittsburgh Steelers have joined several teams around the league in moving quickly to snap up some of available talent.

In line with reports that emerged earlier in the day, the Steelers officially announced the signing of two former members of the Birmingham Iron on Friday, inking defensive back Jack Tocho and offensive lineman J.C. Hassenauer to new deals.

We have signed C J.C. Hassenauer and DB Jack Tocho to one-year contracts.@BordasLaw TRANSACTION: https://t.co/qXqpWOuIh2 pic.twitter.com/V9jT8imkfA

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 5, 2019

Drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh-round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Tocho spent most of his rookie season on the Vikings practice squad before being released a few weeks before the end of the regular season. After a second year in training camp with Minnesota, he would find himself looking for a new team come September, eventually spending a few weeks on the Washington Redskins practice squad later in the season.

In eight games with the Iron, Tocho recorded 19 tackles, one interception, six passes defended, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery as part of the AAF’s best defense, a unit that limited opponents to an average of 16.6 points a game.

Ervin Philips drop leads to a Jack Tocho pick pic.twitter.com/rPcgqiNW2y

— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 24, 2019

Jack Tocho lays the wood pic.twitter.com/Hflgp1AnCh

— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 24, 2019

Jack Tocho with the strip pic.twitter.com/3j18dFvNQT

— Steven (@akulawolf) February 16, 2019

Hassenauer served as the starting center for Birmingham in 2019, but also has experience playing guard from his years at the University of Alabama. He spent time with the Atlanta Falcons during training camp last season after going undrafted, only to be released in the final round of cuts, but was re-signed to their practice squad later in the year.

The young offensive lineman would end his time with the Iron as the team’s highest graded player on offense with an overall rating of 75.6 from Pro Football Focus.

Big man spike! #ForgeOn @JCHassenauer pic.twitter.com/cz9NHntbAZ

— Braedon 80wman (@braedonbowman) March 29, 2019

Round 2 Steelers March Madness: Best of the Rest featuring 2001 vs 1976

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 2:15pm

Bracketing the best teams in the past 50 years of Pittsburgh Steelers history never to win a title. Who do you consider the “Best of the Rest” between the 2001 Steelers and the 1976 version?

BTSC continues to search for the best and most-memorable Steeler team to not win a title. Last time around, you voted a 15-1 team featuring a star rookie QB that fell short of the Super Bowl over a team that came close to a huge update over Dallas in SB XXX. Here are the final tallies.

No. 1 - 2004: The 15-1 Ben-ginning of a new era - 63% No. 10- 1995: More than one Big Nasty D - 37%

Here is the remaining schedule for Round Two:

No. 2 Seed: 2001 (13-3) vs No. 8 Seed: 1976 (10-4)

No. 3 Seed: 2017 (13-3) vs No. 6 Seed: 1994 (12-4)

No. 4 Seed: 1972 (11-3) vs No. 5 Seed: 2010 (12-4)

Once again, you may not agree with the seedings...but they were done by record in the regular season and then postseason success.

This time around we pit a 13-3 AFCCG team against a team that may have three-peated if not for injury. Be sure to vote for the team that remains the most memorable to you or the one you feel is simply the “best of the rest”. Your choice. Be sure to wax poetically in the comment section below.

No. 2 Seed: 2001 (13-3) Inaugural Heinz Field Heroes

After three-straight years out of the playoffs, the Steelers christened the newly-opened, Heinz Field with their best record in 13 seasons. The season started out rocky with a 21-3 loss in Jacksonville. After two weeks off due to 9/11 and a scheduled bye, Kordell Stewart and Jerome Bettis led the way to wins in 13 of the next 15 regular-season games. Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress each went over 1,000 receiving yards. The signature win came in Week 14 at Baltimore. After beating the Ravens in the Divisional Playoffs at home, the Steelers fell to the Patriots at home in the AFCCG 21-17

Pro Bowlers: Kendrell Bell, Jerome Bettis, Alan Faneca, Jason Gildon, Kordell Stewart, Hines Ward

First-Team All Pros: Alan Faneca, Jason Gildon

Second-Team All Pros: Kendrell Bell, Jeff Hartings

Team MVP: Kordell Stewart

First Round Selection: Casey Hampton

Rookie of the Year: Kendrell Bell

No. 8 Seed: 1976 (10-4)

After winning their first two titles the previous two seasons, it seemed likely that the Steelers could three-peat as an even stronger unit. However, Chuck Noll’s team shockingly started off as a disappointing 1-4. To make matters worse, QB Terry Bradshaw was injured in a Week 5 loss in Cleveland. Bradshaw sustained the injury after the infamous Joe “Turkey” Jones slamdown. Fortunes would turn with Mike Kruczek behind center, as the rookie set a NFL record (later broken by Ben Roethlisberger in 2004) for wins to start a career. Bradshaw would return intermittently throughout the remainder of the season, but most of the Steelers success was due to a suffocating defense (five shutouts and a mere 28 points surrendered in those final nine games) and the rushing tandem of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Harris (1,128 yards/14 TDs and Bleier (1,026 yards/5 TDs) were basically the entire offense, as the leading receiver (Lynn Swann) had a mere 516 yards and three scores. On a defense that included five All Pros, Mel Blount and Glen Edwards led with six interceptions a piece and Jack Lambert had two picks and six fumble recoveries. In the playoffs, the Steelers pounded Baltimore 40-14. Bradshaw threw three TD passes, two of them to Swann and Reggie Harrison had two rushing scores. Harrison was in due to injuries in the game to Harris and Bleier. Unfortunately, No. 46 and the Steelers weren’t as productive without the pair of 1K rushers the next week in the AFC Championship against Oakland. The Raiders went on to play Minnesota in SB XI, while Steeler Nation saw one of their best teams in franchise history wonder what might have been.

Pro Bowlers: Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Glen Edwards, Joe Greene, L. C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, Lynn Swann and Mike Wagner

First-Team All Pros: Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Glen Edwards

Second-Team All Pros: Joe Greene and Mike Wagner

Team MVP: Jack Lambert

No. 1 Draft Pick: Bennie Cunningham

While the 2001 team had a 13-3 season, Kordell and Co. may not evoke memories of one of the greatest defenses of all time. Vote and comment below.

Check back Monday for the results and the next matchup of Round Two.

Steelers host Michigan State CB Justin Layne and Temple CB Rock Ya-Sin on pre-draft visits Friday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 12:15pm

In something of a change from the rest of the week, the Steelers only welcomed two draft prospects to the Steel City on Friday

The Pittsburgh Steelers welcomed a slightly smaller of group of players to team facilities on Friday than we have seen over the past few days, with just two cornerbacks on the guest list this time around.

Justin Layne of Michigan State and Rock Ya-Sin of Temple became the latest names invited to meet with the Steelers this week, both defensive options expected to go on the second day of the draft.

Pre-Draft visitors for the #Steelers on April 5: CB Justin Layne from Michigan State; CB Rock Ya-sin from Temple

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) April 5, 2019

Generally ranked among the top 10 cornerbacks by most draft experts, it would be fair to say they are arguably two of the more highly ranked names the Steelers have hosted in Pittsburgh so far this offseason. The Steelers have now officially used 17 of their 30 allocated visits, with Dravon Askew-Henry, David Long and Miles Sanders all counting as local visitors who do not count against their allowance.

Scouting reports for each player can be found below, along with a highlight video for both prospects.

CB, Justin Layne, Michigan

Scouting report from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network.

“Justin Layne is a developmental cornerback who has the necessary physical skills to become a high end starting cornerback at the NFL level. Layne has terrific ball skills, prototypical length and good long speed. Where he’s lacking? Layne is pretty rough around the edges in his transitions and struggles when detached from receivers to transition and gave up a lot of soft receptions as a result. With greater footwork, Layne has excellent potential. ”

CB, Rock Ya-Sin, Temple

Scouting report from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network.

“Rock Ya-Sin has really exciting upside as a lock-down cover man corner in the NFL. Ya-Sin has adequate recovery burst and is pretty explosive when he’s collected over the top of routes, which allows him to aggressively drive to the football and combat the catch point. Ya-Sin has some flaws and issues with his feet that force him to play a little wild at the top of routes, so he’ll need some patience. But he’s really physical in man and projects favorably as a boundary starter in the NFL. ”

Four former AAF players the Steelers should consider signing

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 11:00am

With the Alliance of American Football players now allowed to sign with NFL teams, we take a look at four players who might interest the Steelers

The premature demise of the Alliance of American Football marks a disappointing end to a league that offered a lot of potential But for some of the of the players let down by majority AAF owner Tom Dundon on Tuesday, there may yet be something positive to take away from the experience.

With the league office officially confirming that all AAF players were now eligible to sign contract with teams in the NFL on Thursday, it should be expected that some of the players who distinguished themselves over the league’s eight weeks of play will be getting offers from NFL teams over the coming days.

Effective immediately, all AAF players are authorized to sign with NFL Clubs.

— The Alliance (@TheAAF) April 4, 2019

If rumors are to be believed, the Pittsburgh Steelers might already have two AAF players in mind that they would like to add to their roster, with Birmingham Iron offensive lineman J.C Hassenauer reportedly signing with the team on Thursday and Atlanta Legends safety Tyson Graham expected to meet with the Steelers on Friday.

Looks like Kitt O'Brien and Brandon Greene both signed with the Panthers and JC Hassenauer signed with the Steelers

— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) April 4, 2019

Breaking: Former AAF tackle machine Tyson Graham is flying to Pittsburgh to meet with Steelers https://t.co/SGMpjWr2Dt #NFL #NFLDraftNews pic.twitter.com/BBEcarlaIT

— NFL Draft Diamonds (@DraftDiamonds) April 4, 2019

They would join names like Orlando Apollos cornerback Keith Reaser, who signed a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, and Arizona Hotshots wide receiver Rashad Ross who has apparently already found a new home with the Carolina Panthers.

Deal includes $100k up front — $50K signing bonus, $25k workout bonus and $25k roster bonus, per source. https://t.co/3EEUn6cUiK

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 4, 2019

Another jump from the AAF to the NFL: WR Rashad Ross from the Arizona Hotshots to the Carolina Panthers, per source.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 4, 2019

Options like Reaser and Ross represent two of the more productive players in the AAF over the past eight weeks, but there is still plenty of talent available. And while names like running back Trent Richardson and quarterback John Woolford are sure to attract the attention of some teams, their chances of making the roster in Pittsburgh are slim.

Focusing our attention on players who could reasonably be expected to compete for a spot on the final-53 or a place on the practice squad, these are four of our favorite options for the Steelers to sign in the coming days. A list of names that starts with a couple of familiar faces.

CB Jamar Summers

Signed as an undrafted free agent coming out of the University of Connecticut in 2018, Jamar Summers did not quite do enough to distinguished himself with Pittsburgh last year but he certainly did not disgrace himself either. Signing with the Birmingham Iron gave him the chance to work on his game and he was arguably the league most productive cornerback over the few weeks of the season and recording 13 tackles, three interceptions and 10 passes defended.

Graded by Pro Football Focus as the fourth best cornerback in the AAF with a score of 77.6. Summers saw 42.4% of the passes thrown his way caught by a receiver, allowing a passer rating of just 48.9. Set to turn 24-years-old in June, Summers has a lot of development ahead of him and could be a candidate for a practice squad role or better with Pittsburgh in 2019.

Jamar Summers coming up with the clutch @aafiron INT!

34.2 passer rating allowed in coverage coming into Week 6 (3rd among CBs)#BIRvsSD

pic.twitter.com/mWseVepJWU

— PFF_AAF (@PFF_AAF) March 18, 2019

Happy game day folks! With a few hours until kickoff, I figured I’d do a quick thread on one of my favorite players in the #AAF so far.#ForgeOn CB Jamar Summers has been the best at his position. Making an impact in all phases of the game, including special teams. pic.twitter.com/pOJWvslf5w

— Jonathan Valencia (@JonValenciaBF) March 2, 2019 DL Casey Sayles

Much like Summers, Casey Sayles was with the Steelers during training camp in 2018, signed to a futures contract after the 2017 season had ended. Released in the final round of cuts in September, Sayles would re-emerge with the Iron, showing enough to suggest he deserves another shot in an NFL training camp.

Still only 23-years-old, Sayles was used as a defensive end in the Iron’s 3-4 scheme and was one of the standout performers on the league’s best defense. A stat line of 12 tackles, a sack and five tackles for a loss does do justice the effort Sayles put on display each and every week, but his 24 quarterback pressure do, a number that was good enough for second best in the AAF, as per PFF. He also finished the season ranked third at his position overall with a grade of 87.6

Casey Sayles sacks Matt Simms pic.twitter.com/naAQ0qBaUA

— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 24, 2019

Memphis goes for it on 4th & 1 and get stopped! Great play by #90 Casey Sayles pic.twitter.com/ESBA4tE9Sp

— 69 (@ftbeard_17) February 10, 2019 DB Kameron Kelly

Blessed with a 6-foot-2 frame and an ability to play cornerback or safety, former San Diego Fleet defensive back Kameron Kelly is another name that should have the Steelers interest this week. Converted from cornerback to safety during his freshman year at San Diego State, he would join the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2018, only to be released in the final round of cuts later in the year.

His four interception for the Fleet was tied for first in the league and his nine passes defended ranked fifth overall. He also ranked fifth in passer rating allowed among cornerbacks, as per Arif Hasan of The Athletic. Kelly will not be 23-years-old until August.

Former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Kameron Kelly had three interceptions on Saturday, one returned for a touchdown. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, it wouldn’t surprise me if he earns a tryout from the #49ers. Like @eric_crocker said, he fits their mold.pic.twitter.com/9IR4errINe

— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) March 10, 2019

Kameron Kelly went ⬆️ for this INT!#SDvsAZ

pic.twitter.com/5OIC69CVy4

— PFF_AAF (@PFF_AAF) March 24, 2019 LB DeMarquis Gates

The for Ole Miss linebacker did not get much of a shot with the NFL the first time around, seeing only a brief stint with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but he was among the league leaders at linebacker for the AAF this season. As per Hasan, he led the league in stops, a tackle that constitutes an offensive failure, having 10 more such plays that the next best linebacker. He also recorded the second-highest blitz rate among players at his position.

The AAF leader in tackles with 52, including 46 solo stops, Gates also recorded eight tackles for a loss, a sack, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Former Ole Miss LB DeMarquis Gates bringing the pressure on the Birmingham QB! #HottyToddy #MemphisExpress pic.twitter.com/igoiaN0b4a

— Evie Van Pelt (@OleMissEvie) March 25, 2019

DeMarquis Gates forces the Gilbert fumble!

Corey Crawford with the scoop and score and Memphis takes the lead, 23-22! #ORLvsMEM

pic.twitter.com/yT1rzIRXlw

— PFF_AAF (@PFF_AAF) March 30, 2019

Let us know some of the AAF players you think the Steelers should sign in the comments section below.

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