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Podcast: Can Devlin Hodges stay ahead of the learning curve?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/08/2019 - 5:15am

Devlin Hodges is 2-0 as a starter, but will the league catch up with him sooner or later?

Devlin Hodges is 2-0 as a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and ‘Duck Mania’ has hit the Steel City with a vengeance. How long can Hodges sustain this play, and will he be able to stay ahead of the learning curve in the NFL?

This is a tough question, and one where they can be multiple responses/answers to. This is going to be the talking point in the latest podcast.

Plenty has to be deciphered here, and Dave Schofield lays it all out there for the listeners in the latest show...

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

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

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

Distribution Map: Check out if you will get to see the Steelers vs. Cardinals game in Week 14

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 12/08/2019 - 4:28am

The Steelers are traveling to play the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14. Will you get to see it?

If you were like me, before I decided to sign up for the DirecTV Sunday Ticket package every week I was wondering whether I’d be able to watch my beloved Steelers in the comfort of my own home, or if I’d have to go elsewhere to watch the game.

Before there were websites devoted to this, it meant a lengthy trip on the television guide screen to see which game was scheduled to air, but now it’s just a click away.

So, will you get to see the Steelers and Cardinals go head-to-head in Week 14? Check out which games you’ll see in your local viewing area.

For those who want to know which game they’ll see, check the map below, courtesy of 506 Sports:

RED: Chiefs at Patriots
GREEN: Steelers at Cardinals
BLUE: Titans at Raiders

So, are you lucky enough to be able to watch the game live in your own home, or are you one of many who will have to find other means to view the game? Either way, today is the day to get pumped!!

HERE WE GO!!

Predicting the Steelers’ Week 14 inactive list vs. the Cardinals

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/07/2019 - 2:00pm
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Things are starting to be too familiar when it comes to who is left off the the game-day roster

The injury situation and available players for the Pittsburgh Steelers for Week 14 is very similar to what it has been over the last several weeks. While it is good from a defensive standpoint as no current players are injured, it is frustrating on the offense that two players who were 2018 Pro Bowlers have been unavailable the last three weeks. Because of this consistency for the first time in a while, there very well could only be one difference in the inactive list against the Cardinals then what the Steelers have had over the last two games.

Game Status

Out:
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee)
RB James Conner (shoulder)

Here are the possibilities to end up inactive for Week 14:

Definitely:

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster- in an interview this week, Smith-Schuster seems to think his timeline for return will be towards the end of the season.

RB James Conner- it has now been five straight practices where Conner has been participating in a limited fashion. He’s trying to stay in shape, but one bad hit to his shoulder could end his season.

Most Likely:

QB Paxton Lynch- it didn’t take long for some people to ask me when the Steelers are going to start Lynch. Since he’s still not even their back-up option, he will continue to not get a helmet.

OT Chukwuma Okorafor- another week, another day off for Chuks. It’s hard to believe he was a starter the last time he was in uniform.

TE Zach Gentry- it’s basically a red shirt season for Gentry as he collects active roster paychecks. he has now been inactive for a very long stretch.

LB Tuzar Skipper- as happy as Steelers’ fans are that Skipper is back on the roster, he isn’t getting the chance to get onto the field unless there is an injury.

Possibly:

CB Justin Layne- he has played very well on special teams when given the opportunity, particularly as a gunner. But with Artie Burns coming back from his injury, chances are it will be only one of these two players active and not both.

CB Artie Burns- as mentioned above, Burns has pretty much been used for special teams this season. Justin Layne has done a nice job filling in when given the opportunity, but right now Burns would be the better option at corner should he be needed in an emergency situation.

Unlikely:

LB Robert Spillane- taking the special team spot which Tuzar Skipper could earn, Spillane hasn’t done anything to cause doubt with his status for being active on Sunday.

Projected Inactive List:
  1. JuJu Smith-Scuster
  2. James Conner
  3. Paxton Lynch
  4. Zach Gentry
  5. Chuks Okorafor
  6. Tuzar Skipper
  7. Justin Layne

I feel the top six are locked in as they have made up this list over the last two weeks. With Artie Burns coming back, it’s not completely beyond the realm of possibilities for the Steelers make the switch to Justin Layne. I’m just not going to believe it until I see it, so Burns is in and Layne is out. The one other possible yet most surprising move could be for both Layne and Burns to be active in favor of someone like Robert Spillane.

As always, feel free to list your projected inactives in the comments below.

Film Room: Despite mistakes, Devlin Hodges brought home the win versus the Browns in the second half

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/07/2019 - 12:05pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in Week 13, and in large part because of a tremendous second half by Duck Hodges. But it wasn’t all great. Time to break it down...

Devlin Hodges made his second career NFL start of the season against the fifth-ranked Cleveland Brown defense last Sunday. His first half was serviceable, tying the game up at 10 before the half. We all waited for that other shoe to drop in the second half and dash our playoff hopes. What happened instead? Hodges went 7-10 for 108 yards and one interception. A very important stat that sticks out is two scoring drives in five series which led to a 20-13 home victory.

How did Duck play in the second half? Roll the tape!

Hodges is the unquestionable starter, and was a big reason the Steelers beat the Browns. Nailing down three third-down conversations in six chances in the second half wins games. That is exactly what the Steelers did. This is just a different team under Hodges.

Is Hodges flawless? Nope. We all saw some egregious mistakes especially in the red-zone with the fumble. His mistakes were not too costly in the second half, but can he keep that up? Will he implode at some part and show why so many teams passed multiple times on him?

Only time will tell...

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14.

The Pittsburgh Steelers attempt to address their need for speed

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/07/2019 - 10:47am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have added a couple of newcomers on offense lately in an attempt to address their need for speed. Initial results have been impressive.

Speed kills, especially on the football field. Coaches both covet and fear it. The possibility of the big play from any place on the field is intoxicating for coaching staffs. Many obsessively design game plans each week determined to utilize this advantage to it's fullest, similar to a mad scientist formulating another devious plan in their laboratory. The only thing worse than not having elite team speed is having it but not knowing how to use it properly.

Offenses across the NFL are enjoying great success this season by capitalizing on their speed advantages, and destroying any defense unable to match up. The Baltimore Ravens have built their offense around the speed of uber athletic MVP candidate QB Lamar Jackson to dominate the opposition. The Kansas City Chiefs have a track team at wide receiver that they use to their full potential, lead by Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman. The Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook specializes in using his impressive jets to make a living running outside the tackles. The list of speed merchants enjoying success across the league goes on and on. This article will focus on game changing speed on offense, and the Steelers current lack of it.

This Steelers team finds itself with a speed deficiency across the board at the skill positions. They have neither elite long speed or short area quickness. They lost both in spades with the trades of wide receivers Bryant and Brown over the past couple of off seasons, and are still in the process of replacing their explosive tendencies. The Steelers have attempted to address this predicament recently by signing two players off other team's practice squads to their active roster.

The Steelers signed RB Kerrith Whyte off the Chicago Bears practice squad and Deon Cain from the Indianapolis Colts practice squad. The Steelers were undoubtedly attracted to both players due to their superior speed. Though the sample size has been small, the initial results have been impressive.

At first glance it was assumed that the Steelers picked up Whyte to bring some much needed juice to their underwhelming kick return unit, but they obviously had even grander plans in mind. Whyte excelled as a big play performer at running back and kick returner in college for Florida Atlantic, primarily as a backup. He backed up starting RB Devin Singletary, who just so happens to play for the Buffalo Bills, the Steelers primetime opponent in two weeks. Whyte ran a sizzling forty yard dash time of 4.36 at Florida Atlantic's pro day, which would have been the second fastest time at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ended up being a seventh round selection by the Chicago Bears, flashing enough potential to end up being signed to their practice squad.

Whyte's speed and quickness could couple with the Steelers athletic offensive line, especially Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro, to open up the rushing attack outside the numbers. JuJu Smith Schuster and James Washington are superior blockers at the wide receiver position, and the tight ends are efficient as well. This bodes well for the Steelers to be able to capitalize on Whyte's big play abilities.

The Steelers also had a need at wide receiver after a rash of injuries struck the position, but surprised many in how they filled that need. Instead of signing a veteran free agent, like Terrelle Pryor, the Steelers reached out for Deon Cain. They may have dodged a bullet on that one. Either way, the Steelers have to be pleased with their decision.

It has been reported that the Indianapolis Colts were not pleased when the Steelers signed Cain off their practice squad. Cain is raw and definitely needs to hone his craft, but his talent is undeniable. Cain hails from WR U. Clemson, and is most often compared to former Tiger and Steeler WR Martavis Bryant. Cain happens to be a tad shorter and maybe not blessed with quite the freakish athleticism of the 'Alien', but he is not far off.

One of Cain's attributes has stood out already in his short time with the Black and Gold. Cain tracks and attacks the ball in the air far better than the aforementioned Bryant, who struggled mightily in that regard. Hopefully that is where the comparisons with Bryant comes to an end. After a failed drug test and suspension at the conclusion of his freshman year, Cain appears to have matured and cleaned up his act, on and off the field.

Thus far he seems to be a good fit with his teammates and coaches. He made an immediate impression after his first practice with the Steelers, with fellow receiver James Washington commenting on his impressive speed.

The Steelers have a need for speed on offense, and these two gentlemen are putting their hands in the pile hoping to fill that need. Only time will tell if they can carve out a niche in the offense and with the Steelers franchise, but it is the holiday season. What better time is there to dream, and to dream big? Dream on, gentlemen!

Three factors which should tell us plenty about the Steelers during the stretch run

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/07/2019 - 9:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Bennie Snell, Randy Fichtner, and Lamar Jackson and the unpredictable 2019 Steelers season

Between James Washington’s coming out party, Devlin Hodges’ firework-sparks, Mike Tomlin’s Coach of the Year candidacy (it’s about time), Bud Dupree’s increasing price tag, and the Defensive Player of the Year votes for T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, there’s no shortage of stories for the Steelers at the three-quarter pole of the 2019 season.

As the team heads to Arizona to try to hang onto the AFC’s sixth seed, here are three individuals that I’ve been thinking about lately, and the lessons I think they’re teaching.

The Steelers finally got a closer: Benny Snell Jr. Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

I keep saying this to anyone who will listen: I think Snell is the fourth quarter wrecking ball this team hasn’t had since Jerome Bettis retired.

Snell is no Bus (let’s not go that far) but so many of the Steelers featured backs over the last fourteen years seem out of their element when the clock needs to bleed. Willie Parker was never a power back. Rashard Mendenhall and James Conner both have had fumbling problems. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer weren’t reliable. It seemed dangerous to overfeed Le’Veon Bell, a three-down, four quarter guy with an injury history. Snell, though seems to be a better runner as the game goes on. In fact, though he’s been a featured back in three games already this season, he wasn’t all that effective in the first half of any of them; he did his damage late.

Against the Chargers, Bengals, and Browns, here’s how Snell’s numbers compare:

First half, composite stats
17 carries, 47 yards, 2.76 yds/carry

Second half, composite stats
38 carries, 189 yards, 4.97 yds/carry

Fourth quarter alone
22 carries, 124 yards, 5.64 yds/carry

That’s a closer if I’ve ever seen one.

Here’s why this matters: in the fourth quarter, bleeding the clock, the running yards are hardest to come by. The defense knows you’re going to hand off; they’ve got the box stacked in the hopes of stonewalling you and making you punt. Meanwhile, as the play unfolds, everyone is clawing for the ball. (Conner has several end-game fumbles on his own resume already, and experimenting with Stevan Ridley last season was such a disaster that Ridley didn’t even make the team this year.) These are the hardest spots for a running back to shine.

And here’s Benny Snell, in that very spot, killing it.

5:35 to go against Cleveland. 1st and 10 from the 1-inch line. Steelers leading 20-13. Snell takes the handoff and goes for 11 to take the team out of trouble. He’ll carry three more times for eight yards as the Steelers bleed the clock and close out the game.

5:11 left against the Bengals. 1st and 10 from the Cincinnati 43, leading 16-10. Snell carries five straight plays, for 35 yards, including a 21 yards blast on 3rd and 1. The Bengals will burn all three timeouts during this sequence. Just after the two minute warning in the same game, he’ll go 13 yards on 2nd and 6, to convert the final 1st down. Only kneel downs follow.

And while the Chargers frantically tried to pull a fourth quarter comeback in week 6, there was Benny Snell, converting three time-eating first downs, killing L.A. by slow, agonizing clock-death.

Gregg Easterbrook (of the now-defunct Tuesday Morning Quarterback columns) used to say “defense starts comebacks; offense stops them.” In other words, a big comeback is usually sparked by a defensive splash play – a pick-6, a momentum stealing sack, etc. But if you’re protecting a lead and the opponent is frantically trying to come back (like the Chargers in week 6), your defense isn’t the key; your offense is. Kill the momentum, kill the clock, kill the comeback. You need a closer for that. I think Benny Snell is the guy.

(P.S. I also think James Conner is a better athlete, a better receiver, and a more effective running in the first half by leaps and bounds. But I don’t trust him in the end-game. It’s oversimplifying to put it this way, but I’d love to see a scheme in which these two split carries through the game, with Conner being the featured back in early on, and Snell being the wrecking ball in the second half. With Jaylen Samuels as a third-down H-back, and Kerrith Whyte Jr. as a change-of-pace speed back, this is a nice four-headed backfield, all under 25.)

Randy Fichtner needs to abandon his scripted “First 15.” Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Fichtner has been a lightning rod this season. Many in Steelers Nation believe he’s been dragging the team down with uninspired play calling. Many others remain impressed that he’s getting anything out of the motley crew he’s been stuck with. For my money, I think Fichtner is a better in-game playcaller than he gets credit for; but he’s worse in the first quarter than anyone I’ve ever seen. A graphic I recently saw (but can’t locate now – mea culpa) noted that over the Steelers last 10 games, they’re averaging 1.3 yards on their opening drives. That’s not 1.3 yards per play. It’s 1.3 yards per drive. Holy hell.

The Steelers first quarter woes could be a reflection of their aforementioned rogues gallery of players, but my guess is that Randy also scripts a bad opener most weeks, and is just better at reading the game in progress and making it up as he goes.

It’s remarkable problem to have. Frankly, it’s the exact opposite gripe from what I used to say about both Todd Haley and Bruce Ariens. Those two guys ran fairly different offensive schemes, but both schemes were winning formulas. What drove me crazy about both Ariens and Haley was that they always seemed to dial up the wrong play when it mattered most. You can think of that as situational playcalling, and they were spotty there at best.

Ariens, for example, too often called slow-developing tap-dances at the goal line or dropped Ben deep when the defense was already teeing off on him. Everyone watching the team back then has at least one game where we thought, “we’re going to watch Ben Roethlisberger die on the field today if they keep dropping him back on every play,” but it’s also easy to forget how bad those teams were in the red zone as well (and how many 19 yard field goals Jeff Reed kicked those years). Meanwhile, while Haley’s teams were better in both of those areas, he had the inexplicable habit of calling the same play two or three times in a row, and then getting stonewalled by a defense that clearly saw it coming. Moreover, in his last couple of years, the Steelers seemed uninspired — even bored — for the bulk of the contests, then would suddenly explode when Ben would start calling his own plays in the two minute drill. (Remember all the frantic comebacks in 2017? Most of those games, the Steelers should never have trailed in the first place…) Both of those guys had a lot of success in Pittsburgh, but gave us far too many in-game face-palm moments as well.

Fichtner, meanwhile, seems to do alright with in-game adjustment, but his plans themselves seem sketchy. Case in point: Steelers haven’t scored an opening-drive touchdown in a year, but somehow keep winning. In fact, they’ve posted comeback victories in half of their wins this year, including double-digit comebacks against Cleveland and Miami (and they trailed Baltimore by 10 twice before taking them to overtime as well). Once the game is off and running, Fichtner calls fairly effective deep passing, good up-the-gut runs in the late-game, and keeps these third and fourth string quarterbacks comfortable (even when they have to step in mid-game, which keeps happening). He’s also shown a willingness to throw a change-up, with wildcat plays or end-arounds. As far as I can tell, he’s not bad in-game; he just seems untrustworthy when he’s had too much time to think. (Maybe this is why Roethlisberger – the best sandlot football player of all time – likes him so much…)

Since I’m sure some of you still aren’t convinced, let me throw one more statistical exclamation point at you. Against the Browns last week, the Steelers amassed 323 yards and scored 20 points. At the end of the first quarter, they had 4 yards (four!) and zero points. That means they’d racked up the previous numbers in just three quarters of play. A four-quarter game at that level would be 425 yards and 27 points. (This trend played out against the Chargers, Bengals, and Dolphins too.) If the Steelers were playing the kind of offense in the first quarter that they play in the ensuing three, no one would wonder about this offense at all.

Lamar Jackson should give us confidence in the Steelers defense Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Yes, you read that right. Let me explain.

We all know the Ravens keep on winning. They now hold the 1 seed in the AFC. and are viewed by many as the best team in football. The 49ers roughed them up a bit but couldn’t close the deal. Consequently, the consensus among talking heads seems to be that Lamar Jackson is still unstoppable. The Niners powerful D contained L-Jack as well as anyone could, limiting the presumptive MVP to just 105 yards passing, but giving him 101 on the ground. That’s not how you beat this team.

Listening to all this, you could be forgiven for believing that it takes a powerhouse like the 10-2 Niners to even try to contain the Raven’s star (and even then, good luck).

But I keep thinking – didn’t he look pretty mortal against the Steelers?

Five games into Jackson’s ascent, the Steelers intercepted him three times and sacked him five times, all while coming back from two ten point deficits to lead their arch rivals in the final minute. Despite Baltimore’s two extra possessions in overtime, Jackson was unable to throw for 200 yards or run for 75 (the only game all season he’s been held under both). Square his three picks (along with a fumble the Ravens recovered) against only one touchdown pass (and none of the ground), and you have by far Jackson’s worst performance of the season.

The most telling moment of that game surely came at the end of regulation, when Mike Tomlin (having won the overtime coin toss) elected to kick to Jackson to start the period. Given the way the Ravens offense sliced through the Patriots, Rams, Texans, and everyone else, this seems like insanity. But after four quarters of football, Tomlin believed his D would stop Jackson short, giving his offense a chance to win the game outright.

And then the defense did just that.

The Ravens opening possession of overtime was a pathetic 3-and-out, highlighted by a Bud Dupree sack of Jackson on 2nd down, and a one yard pass on 3rd and 15. Even after JuJu Smith-Schuster’s ensuing fumble, the Ravens went nowhere, picking up just six yards (for a two-possession net of 2 yards), to set up a non-gimme 46 yard field goal attempt. Mutant kicker or not, it would have behooved the Ravens to pick up a first down or two to guarantee a win. And they couldn’t.

Even though Baltimore walked away with the victory, that “revolutionary” Ravens offense we keep hearing about sure looked pedestrian against the Steelers D.

The smart money has the Ravens winning the follow-up game, and right now Vegas has them winning the Super Bowl. But I wouldn’t be so quick to assume. Defense wins championships, as the kids say, and the league is more wide open than it looks.

Go Steelers!

How the Cardinals offense will try and move the ball against the Steelers defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/07/2019 - 8:36am
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at how the Arizona offense will try to move the ball on the Steelers’ defense.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up for the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14 of the 2019 regular season. Entering the game with a 7-5 record, the Steelers prepare to travel to Pthe desert for the cross-conference matchup.

With this being an unfamiliar matchup for the Steelers, there are some faces many fans want to know more about. Sure, there are the big name players in the matchup, but what about all those other players who can make a difference?

So, I wanted to get a lowdown on what the Cardinals might have in store for the Steelers by talking with Revenge of the Birds, SB Nation’s Cardinals website, editor Seth Cox to pick his brain on the upcoming matchup.

In this first of many installments, I asked Seth what he thinks the Cardinals offense will do when they have the ball and trying to move the ball on the Steelers’ defense. Check out his response:

When the Cardinals have the ball you will see, at least I hope you will see, a diverse offense that has done a nice job of moving the ball, while not doing great at scoring touchdowns.

The Arizona Cardinals when they are playing well are able to run the ball with multiple backs (which includes their leading rusher and quarterback Kyler Murray) and really create huge running lanes.

That’s really the key to the Cardinals offense, as they don’t do a great job in pass protection and their receivers are not great. If they can run and force the defense to have to honor the run they are then able to be multiple in their passing game and not just have to take short throws.

All of this saying, if they play like they did against the 49ers twice and the Buccaneers their offense looks good. If they play like they did against the Rams last week, it’s like watching an inept high school offense and the Steelers won’t have to do much.

This is a matchup on paper which screams of dominance for the Steelers’ defense. The Steelers’ defense leads the NFL in sacks with 43, and the Cardinals have nearly surrendered that many sacks of Kyler Murray thus far in 2019.

Easy, right?

Wrong.

While Murray has been sacked a tremendous amount, he is also extremely elusive as a runner. This isn’t a situation where you try to contain someone like Baker Mayfield. No, Murray is a player like Lamar Jackson who has designed runs, and when the proverbial Red Sea parts he can take off and run for days.

In fact, Murray leads the Cardinals in rushing yards in 2019, which should tell you a lot about Murray as a runner, and the Arizona offense as a whole.

Ultimately, this is a matchup the Steelers should dominate, beating the second straight first round overall draft pick quarterback.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to keep tabs on BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Cardinals in Week 14.

Crunching the Numbers: The glaring statistical shortcoming of the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/07/2019 - 7:14am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Starting slow offensively has become the Steelers’ calling card

Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but when the Steelers continue to have one major issue game after game it’s difficult to not bring it up. Even after 12 games, the Steelers have still not figured out how to accomplish anything on their opening drive of each game. With NFL teams scripting the first set of plays in the game, it’s even more concerning that this is where the Steelers seem to be the most inept.

The fact the Steelers are 7-5 and the sixth seed currently for the AFC wildcard means they really should be commended for all the great things they have done! But it’s very difficult to ignore how slow the team starts offensively. While the Steelers slow start in games is something they have been able to overcome, it’s still an issue which could come back to bite them in the future. The Steelers have scored first in only four of their 12 games mainly because they shut out their opponent in the first quarter in those games. In fact, two of those four games the opening score came in the second quarter.

In this weeks installment of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take a look at the Steelers’ lack of offensive production on their opening drives and how it has affected the outcome of their games.

3

It’s the number they’ve been stuck on since the third week of the NFL season. Since their game in San Francisco where the Steelers forced a turnover deep in the 49ers’ territory, the Steelers have not managed to score a point in their opening drive. With only three points to their name, they are tied for 31st in the NFL with the Houston Texans. Because it is a tie, this is one of the many categories where the Steelers have nobody ranked behind them.

3.4

When it comes to their opening drive, the Steelers are only averaging 3.4 plays. This average has them ranked dead last in the NFL. The next closest team is the Miami Dolphins at 3.9 players per drive. For reference sake, the Baltimore Ravens lead the league with 7.9 plays on average on their opening drives.

4.8

Another category in which the Steelers rank dead last on their opening drive is the number of yards gained. The Steelers have only averaged 4.8 yards per drive. What makes this statistic even worse is the Steelers are nearly 10 yards less than the 31st ranked team in the Miami Dolphins who average 14.2 yards. The Steelers only have 58 yards of offense in total on the season on their opening possession. Of those 58 yards, 53 of them were gained in the two games against the Patriots and Colts which happened to be the only games where the Steelers recorded a first down on their opening drive.

1.56

Since most of these stats go hand-in-hand, it’s easy to assume that with so few yards and so few plays that the Steelers also have a very short time of possession on their opening drive. This would be true as they only average 1:56 per game which is tied for 31st with the Miami Dolphins.

4 for 20

One reason the Steelers may not be super-effective on the opening drive could be they are trying to not lose the game early. This narrative could be true, but the Steelers actually have more turnovers than points on their opening possession of each game. With two fumbles and two interceptions, the Steelers have turned the ball over in four of their 12 games on their opening possession. In turn, The Steelers have given up 20 points off of those turnovers as each one of them has resulted in at least a field goal.

0-1; 4-0

Behold, all of these statistics don’t necessarily mean “doom and gloom.” Interesting enough, the Steelers are 0-1 in games where they scored on their opening drive as they lost to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3. Additionally, every game in which the Steelers have turned the ball over on the opening drive they have gone on to win, giving them a 4-0 record in 2019. While these outcomes appear to make no sense, it means there has yet to be a overwhelming correlation between the Steelers’ opening drive and their overall 2019 success to date.

As bad as the Pittsburgh Steelers have been in 2019 to open up each game, they have ironically turned their worst starts into victories. The biggest problem with this are the following questions: Can they continue to overcome slow starts? Should the Steelers continue to play it safe early in the game hoping they can turn things around? If the Steelers would manage to score on the opening drive, will it lead to even better things? Please leave your answers in the comments below!

Podcast: I was wrong about a lot of things regarding the 2019 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/07/2019 - 6:32am

In a brand new show titled ‘Yeah, I said it’, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers have been a tough nut to crack. After Ben Roethlisberger’s injury the team stuck together and made trades which have paid dividends. All the while there is one BTSC podcaster who has been wrong about a lot of things relating to this 2019 Steelers team.

This is where the newest BTSC podcast “Yeah, I Said It” comes in. My co-host on ‘The Standard is the Standard’, Lance Williams tells fans how wrong he was so far this year...this will be good!

Time to deliver the goods on the latest show.

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!

Check out the audio below:

Feel free to give us your thoughts on the topic in the comment section below, and don’t forget to follow us on all our audio platforms by following the links below:

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Mike Tomlin and the 2019 Steelers are entering rarefied air while on their third QB

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/07/2019 - 6:03am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are on their third quarterback of the season, and the fact they are winning puts them in rarefied air.

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers are breaking the trend in the NFL this season by pulling off a winning record despite starting three different quarterbacks throughout the season. Not only are they currently the only team with a winning record in this category, they are the only team that has a chance to finish above .500 on the season.

5 @NFL teams have started more than 2 QB this season.

Only one has a winning record.

Steelers 7-5
Jets 4-8
Broncos 4-8
Lions 3-8-1
Redskins 3-9

— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) December 6, 2019

While starting three different quarterbacks or more throughout the season is not uncommon, success of said teams usually depends completely on the circumstances. For the Steelers, it began with the season ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger. After Mason Rudolph started several games before missing time with a concussion, it seemed the Steelers division of labor at the quarterback position was strictly due to injury. But as Mason Rudolph continued to struggle in the later part of November, the Steelers made the change to Devlin Hodges.

Another factor in using three quarterbacks which enters into the equation is Devlin Hodges being an undrafted rookie. Factoring this into the equation, a whole new level of statistics can be evaluated.

Mike Tomlin is one of 3 head coaches to use 3 different quarterbacks, including an undrafted rookie, within the first 12 games of a season and sit over .500.

The others: Rich Kotite (1991 Eagles) and Joe Gibbs (1987 Redskins).#TweetItOrDeleteIt

— Mike Golic (@espngolic) December 6, 2019

When An NFL team is experiencing a “quarterback carousel,” most of the time success is hard to come by. Between losing a high-quality quarterback or constantly trying to figure out which player can bring the team the most success, winning along the way is not usually in the cards. It takes a special franchise to still win as these problems present themselves.

Case in point, the last time an NFL team started three different quarterbacks and had a .500 record was in 2017 in the Arizona Cardinals. Starting Blaine Gabbert, Drew Stanton, and Carson Palmer, the Cardinals went 8-8 with Stanton as the only QB with a winning record of 3-1. To go back and find a team with a winning record, it would be 2016 and the New England Patriots where Tom Brady was 11-1, Jacoby Brissett was 1-1, and Jimmy Garoppolo was 2-0. As you may recall, the Patriots were put in the situation due to Tom Brady‘s suspension over “Deflate-gate.”

As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the last time they started three quarterbacks in a season was in 2015. During the season, Ben Roethlisberger was 7-4 while Michael Vick was 2-1 and Landry Jones was 1-1. The Steelers finished 10-6 and earned a wildcard birth and defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the playoffs before falling in Denver to Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

In the Ben Roethlisberger era, the Steelers have found themselves starting three different quarterbacks six different seasons including 2019. Other than the aforementioned 2015, the Steelers also started three quarterbacks in 2012 (8-8), 2010 (12-4), and 2005 (11-5) in a season in which they won the Super Bowl. So since 2005, the Steelers still managed to qualify for the postseason in four of the five seasons. Prior to the 2005 season, the last time the Steelers started three different quarterbacks was in 1985 when they went 7-9 between Scott Campbell, David Woodley, and Mark Malone.

Whether or not the Steelers will finish the season above .500 remains to be seen, but their current success along the way has been a great testament to their defense as well as the coaching staff. While each week seems to be an individual struggle for a plan for victory, when the 2019 season is over perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers may get some much deserved recognition in retrospect for overcoming the issues they have had to face at the quarterback position.

Black and Gold Links: Is this finally the week the Steelers tight ends break out?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 12/07/2019 - 4:42am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving into Week 14 of the NFL regular season, and as the team prepares for the Arizona Cardinals we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the next game starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Pittsburgh Steelers tight end duo of Vance McDonald and Nick Vannett have been quiet this season. Not that it isn’t expected with two backup quarterbacks calling the shots, but is Week 14 the week they break out?

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers want to expand their offensive playbook, and this should start with getting the tight ends more involved. Is this the week the tight ends have a huge game?

Could Steelers take advantage of Cardinals weakness in defending tight ends?

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Production has been mostly lacking from the tight ends in the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

If Vance McDonald and Nick Vannett don’t produce statistics Sunday, they might never do so.

The Steelers’ next opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, have been the NFL’s worst team in defending tight ends. In 12 games this season, opposing tight end have had 79 catches for 978 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Compare that to the combined season stats through 12 games for all Steelers tight ends this season: 38 catches, 315 yards, three touchdowns.

Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said that any lack of production from McDonald and Vannett is not because they are not part of the receiving gameplan.

“They’re in pass plays just like all of the other (skill players),” Fichtner said. “I mean, sometimes the ball doesn’t go there, maybe out of coverage, or it doesn’t go there because we ask them to chip or help in protection, and things like that.

“They’ve been patient, and they’ve taken advantage of their opportunities when we need them most.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Tim Benz: Steelers contained Baker Mayfield, but Cardinals’ Kyler Murray presents new challenge

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Here’s something you’ve probably heard a thousand times this week as the Steelers get ready to visit the Arizona Cardinals.

“Don’t sleep on the Cardinals. They can score some points.”

OK. But do they really?

The 3-8-1 Cardinals average 21.2 points per game. That’s good for just 20th in football. During their current five-game losing streak, they are averaging 18.8 points per game, as the Arizona “O” has been inconsistent, scoring under 10 points twice in that stretch, and 25, 26, and 27 points in the other three games.

“I think (the games) where they are scoring 27 is probably more them,” Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “They’ll be ready for us. They are going to be at home. Hopefully we can keep them under 20. Our goal is to keep everybody under 17. But we’ll see what happens.”

Of course, that’s the right thing for Butler to say. But his defense is first in forcing turnovers, third in sacks, fifth in total yards allowed, sixth in points per game allowed and seventh in passing yards allowed per game.

I’ll take the Steelers defense in that matchup.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Devlin Hodges is embracing every part of Duck-Mania, and can you blame him?

Devlin Hodges glad to be part of Duckmania

By: Darin Gantt, ProFootballTalk

The combination of a rabid fan base, a likable rookie with a catchy nickname, and some positive results have turned Devlin Hodges into a thing.

Actually, it’s probably easier just to refer to him as Duck now, since that’s taken his city by storm.

The Steelers new starting quarterback is taking his sudden fame in stride, accepting the fact that being an Alabama state duck-calling champion is part of the fun.

“If you’d have asked me five or six years ago when I first got the name, I’d have thought this is wild, a quarterback named Duck, but now it’s cool,” Hodges said, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Fans have gone all-in, wearing duck hats and costumes to games, embracing the moment. And Hodges felt the support when he attended a college basketball game this week, getting a big ovation when he was shown on the big screen. He’s even getting free branded hunting gear (though he took it off before doing interviews this week so as not to violate league rules about promoting anything but their product).

“It’s something that has caught on, something I’ve kind of embraced,” Hodges said. “It’s awesome to have the fans come up and say, ‘Hey, Duck, what’s up?’ When people call me Devlin, it catches me by surprise. ‘Do you know me that good?’ It’s cool. It’s unique and fits who I am. . .

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

#OTD in 2010, @tpolamalu came out of nowhere to knock the ball loose against the Ravens. #SteelersHistory pic.twitter.com/4JvONw78jq

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 5, 2019

2️⃣3️⃣ seals it‼️

RT to #ProBowlVote @joehaden23 pic.twitter.com/5PvWSXymbp

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 6, 2019

The numbers at LB @_TJWatt pic.twitter.com/zAyjwMgLNe

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 6, 2019

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions: Cardinals, Week 14 Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 5:46pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

1. Starting this on a serious note, if the Steelers rebound to a playoff berth, what would be your approach to the quarterback position for the long term?

2. I am a huge Christmas fanatic. I love everything about it. The music, the decorations and especially the movies. What are your Top 3 Christmas movies. For the sake of this debate, let’s assume these are pure Christmas movies, which would eliminate the likes of Die Hard from the discussion.

My Top 5, in no particular order:

Elf
A Christmas Story
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Home Alone
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original animation)

3. The Pittsburgh Steelers remaining schedule:

at. ARI
vs. BUF
at NYJ
at BAL

How do they finish?

4. OVER/UNDER on sacks of Kyler Murray Sunday — 3.5

5. Because every upcoming game is so huge, what is your prediction for the contest in Week 14? How do you see it playing out?

6. Caption this photo

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Steelers Injury Report: JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner ruled out for Week 14

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 1:51pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2018 pair of Pro Bowlers will miss their third straight game

The Pittsburgh Steelers had their final practice of Week 14 as they prepare to take on the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale this coming Sunday. According to the Steelers PR Department, there are only two players who are ruled out for Sunday.

James Conner is still dealing with the shoulder injury he reaggravated in Week 11. Practicing in a limited capacity the end of last week, it’s still unclear when Conner’s shoulder will be ready to handle full contact. He was limited once again all this week, but has still been ruled out for Sunday. Conner stated yesterday after practice he would not be playing in week 14.

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has yet to practice since Week 11 with a knee injury. Smith-Schuster was unable to practice again on Friday and is out for Sunday’s game. Juju continues to work towards a return by doing running drills which is a step forward from last week.

No other players from the Steelers have an injury designation. Mark Barron was limited in practice Friday with a knee injury but it did not warrant an injury status.

As for the Arizona Cardinals injury report, it can be seen below when available. Since the Cardinals are in the Mountain Time Zone, injury reports will not be due until later in the day.

A Pittsburgh Steelers win over the Cardinals would go a long way towards making the AFC Playoffs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 1:45pm
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Week 14 game vs. the Arizona Cardinals is a huge one for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff hopes.

Before anyone skips over the article and goes straight to the comment section to write:

“No kidding a win would help towards making the playoffs!”

Realize that every game down the stretch, combined with a myriad of other variables, brings with it a different magnitude towards the Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff hopes and dreams.

At 7-5, they are currently 6th in the AFC Playoff Picture heading into Week 14, but teams like the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders are lurking behind them. A slip up against the 3-8-1 Arizona Cardinals this Sunday would be devastating towards their playoff chances.

However, a win would be a huge catapult to the team getting into the January postseason schedule. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, a win Sunday would increase the Steelers’ odds of making the playoffs to 74.2%.

Playoff odds #AFC pic.twitter.com/EGV3y3ph1I

— PFF (@PFF) December 5, 2019

Talk about a stark difference between now and where the Steelers were back in September when head coach Mike Tomlin eloquently talked about getting that “September stench” off themselves.

They have done that by winning their last two games and five of their last six regular season games. The wins are tremendous, but how they’ve been winning are also noteworthy. They have been through three quarterbacks this season, a myriad of offensive players ranging from rookies to unknown names picked up off practice squads. On defense they have leaned heavily on their experience, but newcomers and trades were made to help put this unit over the top.

On paper it looks like a win this Sunday is a slam dunk, but nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and nothing is certain when it comes to Mike Tomlin’s teams traveling across the country. The good news is the last time the team made this cross country trek Devlin Hodges was the quarterback and they beat the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football.

Devlin Hodges is the quarterback heading into Week 14, and this game couldn’t be bigger for a team who is looking to defy the odds and make the playoffs after a year off of postseason play in 2018.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.

Film Room: How Devlin Hodges kept the Steelers in the Browns game despite a slow first half

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 12:30pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers got off to a slow start in Week 13, but Devlin Hodges kept them in the game until the end of the second quarter. We break it down in the latest Film Room.

Devlin “Duck” Hodges went out against the fifth-ranked pass defense on Sunday and walked out of the game with his second career win in as many games. The game did not start out well with only five offensive plays in the first quarter. During that span and halfway through the second quarter, grumblings out of the Steelers Nation started that he was a Duck out of water.

With the Steelers down 10-0, how does Hodges tie up the game heading into half?

Time to dive into the tape and see how this occurs.

As you saw in the tape, Hodges did have some nice throws and made some good decisions along with accuracy. But he is still making some of the mistakes that he was making back in the Baltimore Ravens game. Feeling the pressure in the pocket which simply is not there is a major issue. On top of that, rolling right into pressure could lead to big problems down the road.

In the first half, he continued to show that the NFL is not too big of a stage for him. Will that continue into the second half?

Drop by tomorrow to find the answer to that...

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14 of the 2019 regular season.

Steelers Power Rankings: Entering the home stretch edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 11:03am
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

BTSC ranks the best of the Steelers 2019 season at the 3/4 point of the season.

With the Steelers preparing themselves for the final four contests of the season, there have been players that have been playing as expected and those that have stepped up out of nowhere. This has inspired me to rank the Steelers that have had the finest twelve games of the first half of the 2019 season.

Steelers Power Rankings 1) T.J. Watt ↕️

Previous Rank: 1

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

T.J. Watt is the driving force behind the Pittsburgh Steelers defense right now. In his third NFL season, No. 90 is already tied for No. 11 on the all-time sack list with 32.5 sacks. His 12.5 in 2019 ranks him fourth in the league and the single-season mark in franchise history is in reach at 16 (James Harrison-2008). In the past nine games, Watt has had at least a half of a sack. Pro Football Focus has him at the top of their list for Edge Rushers as well. The defense, as a whole, is top shelf, but T.J. Watt is playing at an elite level.

2) Minkah Fitzpatrick ↕️

Previous Rank: No. 2

Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Nobody in Steeler Nation is really lamenting the trade of a No. 1 pick for Fitzpatrick at this juncture. The second-year safety has five interceptions in six games as a Steeler, including a pick-six of 96 yards against Indy and an alert fumble recovery for a score against the Ram. Minkah is ranked 5th at his position by PFF (rising 15 spots from four weeks ago) and is tied with Marcus Peters and Devin McCourty for the interception lead. No. 39 is getting credit for being the true stabilizing force that has transformed a paltry defensive unit into a juggernaut.

3) Bud Dupree ⬆️

Previous Rank: No. 4

Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A lot of fans and pundits wonder why it has taken Bud Dupree so long to look like a superstar and wonder if his success is powered solely by the fact that his contract is expiring. Bud is having a career year as the Steelers are letting him play the way he was meant to. With 8.5 sacks so far and having four forced-fumbles, Dupree is ranked as PFF’s 17th best rusher coming off the edge. Combining him with the No.1 Edge (T.J. Watt) and the Steelers have one of the best pass rushing combos in the league.

4) Cam Heyward ⬇️

Previous Rank: No. 3

Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Seven sacks has the stalwart veteran of the Steeler defense who once again resembles his dominant self of the past few seasons. No. 97 is ranked only behind Aaron Donald in PFF’s ranking of defensive lineman and Heyward currently is tops in AFC Pro Bowl voting at his position.

5) Joe Haden ⬆️

Previous Rank: Not Ranked

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Haden got paid right before the season to secure more time in Pittsburgh, however there were some pundits that felt his skills were eroding and decried the extension to stay in Steel City. As of late, Haden’s performance has definitely warranted that pay day. Joe is ranked six in passes defenses with 13 and his two interceptions have iced two of the last three victories. Haden gets more passes thrown his way than his counterpart Steven Nelson. No. 23 is most definitely a locker room leader and is becoming the epitome of a Steeler.

6) Vince Williams ⬆️

Previous Rank: No. 8

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

VinnyVidiVici98 is so valuable to this team. It is no coincidence that the Steelers defense started to emerge when the seven-year vet returned from injury. Before the season, the media and fans were hinting that No. 98’s lack of speed was a liability and were calling for his demotion with speedier linebackers on the roster. PFF’s 10th-ranked ILB is a staunch and suffocating run defender and is finally getting recognized as a valuable team presence.

7) Devin Bush ⬆️

Previous Rank: No. 7

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The rookie from a Michigan came in with a whole lot of fanfare and has proven already that the draft day trade to acquire him was a brilliant move. Bush with his great sideline-to-sideline speed does not have to carry the defense right now and merely needs to continue to grow into the role every week. The rookie is leading AFC ILBs in Pro Bowl voting and the team with 86 tackles and also has four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and a score.

8) Steven Nelson ⬆️

Previous Rank: No. 9

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Nelson and Joe Haden have teamed-up to form the Steelers best cornerback-tandem in years. Nelson’s signing in free agency last March was not met with a whole lot of fanfare, but the former KC Chief has significantly upgraded the Steelers secondary. No. 22 is credited with five passes defensed and no interceptions, but quarterbacks are avoiding Nelson like the plague. His not letting receivers get separation is one of the key reasons that the Steeler secondary is becoming a team strength.

9) Chris Boswell ⬇️

Previous Rank: No. 6

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

If Justin Tucker and the Ravens make the Super Bowl this year, Chris Boswell will most likely be selected to his second Pro Bowl. Last year is starting to seem more like an aberration when it comes to the field goal accuracy of No. 9, the Rice product is second only to Tucker in PFF’s FG rankings and is kicking with clutch accuracy once again. Boz is 23/25 and perfect on point-afters. His only two misses were from 54-yards out against Miami and the result of a bobbled hold in Cleveland. An invigorated Boswell is helping to carry the Steelers offense for stretches and seems to be the only true scoring option for Pittsburgh.

10) Maurkice Pouncey/David DeCastro ⬆️

Previous Rank: Not Ranked

Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s kind of a cop-out to combine the two players here, but I didn’t want to have to choose between both of these vital team leaders. DeCastro at 14 and Pouncey at 36 respectively in PFF’s rankings at their respective positions are still dominant in the field of play and (evident in Cleveland in Week 11) loyal teammates.

...

Honorable Mention: Devlin Hodges, Jordan Berry, James Washington, Javon Hargrave, Mike Hilton, Zach Banner

Falling Off: No. 5 James Conner, No. 10 Mason Rudolph

If the Steelers are to continue to rebound from 1-4 and make the playoffs, the power players need to keep their momentum going strong. At 6-5, the Steelers will need to continue to forge ahead with these ten leading the way. Post your agreements and the opposite in the comments section below.

Point/Counterpoint: Predicting a Steelers loss may be pessimistic, but it doesn’t mean you’re turning your back on the team

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 9:48am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

BTSC writers Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis offer differing opinions on whether or not predicting the Steelers to lose is a traitorous and unforgivable act.

The Steeler Hangover’s Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis, have differing viewpoints on the following subject. Join them as they slug it out in text below.

Predicting a Steelers’ loss may be pessimistic, but it doesn’t mean you’re turning your back on the team.

Bryan Anthony Davis’ Point

As many of you know, my work here at BTSC is merely a hobby. I do not do this to feed my family, so essentially this would not be what Chuck Noll would have referred to as my life’s work. The reason I am pointing this out is because I’m not an expert in the field of professional football, I am really just a diehard fan that has been blessed with an opportunity to have a platform to talk about my passionate love for the Pittsburgh Steelers. One of the reasons I am in this position is because I look at the Steelers much like I look at life, in a somewhat original and unorthodox manner. But with this platform, I am asked for my opinion and answer questions. I usually preface it with, I’m not an expert but....

Like my life and other fans, my opinions sometimes are way off base. A lot of times, I’m more of a faux pas than wearing white after Labor Day. But I have no problem being wrong and admitting it. Why not? I also have no reservations about highlighting the rare times when I’m spot on. Case and point, when I correctly guessed the 26+24 final score and winner of the Pittsburgh/Indianapolis game in early November. The sun shines on a dog’s butt every once in a while and mine usually is (nine times out of ten) nestled in the shade. However, with this platform I do risk coming off as a know-it-all.

As a part of our podcast responsibilities, we here at BTSC are asked to make predictions weekly. Just like prognosticators on the network shows do. It’s really a tough thing to do. If I really could predict the outcome of games, I’d be featured on “MTV Cribs”...if that still is even a thing. My colleagues here vary in their thought process in this arena. Jeff Hartman comes off as the ultimate optimist when it comes to predicting the Steelers to win every week. I think he had them going to 16-0 this season and every season that I know him. BTSC fans feel that Lance Williams, in turn, is an eternal pessimist. Most of the time he’s picking against the Steelers. Not because, he hates the Steelers like many of you have pinned on him, but because that’s how his mind operates. I can assure you...neither Jeff or Lance love the Steelers more than the other. They just go about it with a different thought process.

As for me, most of my friends look at me as an eternal optimist. I know my wife does. That’s why we gel so well, because she errs on the side of caution and worry...while I’m the guy thinking that everything is always going to be fine and dandy.

However, last weekend I picked against the Steelers and many have labeled this as a most heinous and traitorous act. I had a bad feeling in my gut about that game. The last time I had that eerie stirring in my belly was in 1999 and I got married anyway. I should have listened as that starter marriage ultimately ended in divorce. Plus, I want to live in reality and I don’t want to be a myopic homer.

Thankfully, my gut feeling about the second Browns game was incorrect. Just as it was against both Los Angeles teams. In fact, I’m 4-4 this season picking the Steelers to win and 1-3 when I prognosticate their demise. What’s that really mean? It means that I’m no Jimmy the Greek. It means that if you heed my advice and go to Vegas with your life savings, plenty of cheese lines are in your future. That’s not a Gouda situation to be in at all. What it really means is that fans really shudder now when Lance or I predict a Steeler victory for our beloved black-and-gold.

But the bottom line to the whole thing is this…It doesn’t mean that I’m turning my back on my team when I predict a loss. It doesn’t mean that I’m a traitor or that I secretly hate my team. It simply means that I have fear. And even though my Steeler midichlorians may be off the charts, a Steeler Jedi I shall never be.

Tony Defeo’s Counterpoint

Bryan, Bryan Bryan, I’m so glad you just missed out on being born in 1972. I don’t think I could share a birth year with someone who would ever go against the Steelers in any way—and that includes predicting they will lose an upcoming game. When I saw that you picked the Browns in last week’s game at Heinz Field, I’m not going to lie, I muted you on Twitter for a few days, and I also hid you on Facebook.

This is what I normally do with people who don’t agree with me on just about any of life’s topics, and when it comes to someone picking against my Steelers, I can’t think of a more mature and justifiable action than to just ignore them for a good while. You mentioned Lance Williams, that Pessimistic Perry. I’ve had him muted on Twitter for so long for his anti-Steelers’ remarks, I almost forgot we followed one another.

You can’t put that bad mojo out there, bro. We have thousands upon thousands of Steelers fans all over the world waving their Terrible Towels in unison for the sake of convincing the football gods to give us nothing but positive results on the field each and every week; when you pollute the air with that kind of negative talk, it’s no wonder interceptions and season-ending elbow injuries to the franchise quarterback happen out of thin air.

Besides, the people don’t come to BTSC to read that kind of negativity in an article or hear it in a podcast. They come to our site to read the Good News. They want to be nurtured with positivity. They don’t want to be sickened by negativity.

A number of years ago, I wrote a negative article following a Steelers loss, and one of the first people to respond said, “Do we really have to read this on the front page?”

I never forgot that advice.

I’ll leave you with one last story about the power of bad karma.

It was the morning of September 9, 2012. The Steelers were hours away from opening their 2012 regular season with a prime-time match-up against the Broncos and the newly-acquired Peyton Manning at Mile High.

I was at the 7-11 on the corner of Poplar St. and Noblestown Rd. buying a healthy breakfast, when I noticed that the woman at the register seemed to be in a really bad mood. “Having a bad morning?” I asked. She said, “My boss made me go home and change my shirt because it said, ‘If you ain’t a Steelers fan, you ain’t sh*t!’” I was appalled that this “boss,” who obviously wasn’t a Steelers fan, would treat a member of the Nation that way. Long story, short, Manning torched the Steelers that night in his Broncos’ debut, while Ben Roethlisberger threw a pick-six to put the game out of reach in a 31-19 loss.

Moral of the story: Be careful what you put out there in terms of negativity and bad karma.

My advice to you, Bryan: Next time you feel like writing something negative about the Steelers—and that includes a score prediction that has their opponent winning—ask yourself this: “Do they really have to read this on the front page?”

So...what are your thoughts? Which one of us gets to bask in the glory of being right this week? State your case in the comments section and be sure to vote in the poll. BAD dropped to 8-2 on the season, while TonDef is doing his goofy victory dance again as he has reeled off two-straight victories. Can Tony keep the streak going? Vote and state your case in the comments.

NFL Expert Picks: Experts definitely leaning towards the Steelers, but not a unanimous selection

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 8:45am
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers travel to play the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14, but who do the experts like in the cross-conference battle?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the final quarter of their 2019 regular season, and three of the four final games are on the road. The first game, and first road game, of this section of schedule is a trip to the desert to play the Arizona Cardinals.

On paper, this is a slam dunk pick for anyone who follows the NFL. The 7-5 Steelers vs. the 3-8-1 Cardinals seems about as lopsided as it can get in Week 14, but there is plenty of intrigue heading into this matchup.

The electric Kyler Murray will try to do some damage against the Steelers’ defense, and Pittsburgh fans are hoping the the legend of Duck Hodges continues on the road. If Hodges is able to lead the team to victory Sunday, he would be 3-0 as a starter. But this team is going to have to do it as a team, not just leaning on the arm of Devlin Hodges.

So, who do the experts think will win this game? Time to take a look...

Shockingly, there is only one expert panel which we check weekly which is unanimous in their selection of the visiting Steelers. That would be the expert panel at CBS Sports. Other than the folks at CBS Sports, there is at least one expert who believes the Cardinals have a chance at pulling off the upset.

Of course, the haters here at SB Nation have a trio of experts who like Arizona in Week 14. At ESPN, there is one lone wolf expert who is taking the Cardinals to hold serve at home this Sunday evening.

NFL expert at CBS Sports, Pete Prisco, gives a little more detail in his weekly selection, and see what he has to say about the upcoming Steelers vs. Cardinals game:

The Steelers would be in the playoffs if they started today, which is impressive considering all the injuries. With Devlin Hodges starting again at quarterback, I think this will be a run game for the Steelers with Bennie Snell. The Cardinals are awful on defense, which will show up. Steelers win it.

Pick: Steelers 24, Cardinals 14

These are just a few of the websites who produce weekly expert picks for the slate of NFL games. You might be wondering what about all those other sites, and who they are picking. This is where NFL Pick Watch comes in. They take all NFL expert picks and put them into an easy-to-read graph for fans to enjoy. According to them, 82% of experts like the Steelers, which is a lower number than I expected.

Will the Steelers win their third game in a row and put a stamp on their work in the desert? Or will the Cardinals continue to play hard and put a huge dent in the Steelers’ playoff hopes? Only time will tell, but the experts are clearly leaning towards the black-and-gold this Sunday.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers heading into Week 14 of the regular season.

5 plays that explain the Steelers’ slow start, and strong finish, vs. the Browns in Week 13

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 7:36am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the Steelers’ decisive win over the Browns at Heinz Field in Week 13.

The Steelers defended their home field Week 13, splitting the season series with Cleveland and effectively eliminating the Browns from the playoffs. But it was far from stress free, as the Steelers started off slow, falling behind 10-0 while running all of 5 offensive plays in the first half and a total of 9 when they fell behind by 2 scores.

Today in the Film Room we are going to take a brief look at how the Steelers fell behind, and how they dominated from then on.

Mike Hilton’s rough start

Third play of the game, 3rd and 7. Mike Hilton starts the play just above the hash mark on the 32 yard line, covering Jarvis Landry.

Jarvis Landry roasts Hilton for a 19 yard gain. The Browns would get a few good runs and end up turning this drive into a 3-point lead to start the game. Here’s a better view of just how badly Hilton got juked.

Landry throws down a filthy move and Hilton does well just to stay upright.

Hilton’s rough start wouldn’t end there.

Browns third drive, 3rd and 5. Hilton is to the top of the screen, college hashes at the 12 yard line.

This play is intended to run Kareem Hunt behind two other routes, and when he sees Hilton has fought hard to get outside, he cuts inside for the Browns only TD of the day.

Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton miss tackles on Hunt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick is a little slow getting back to help. Both Sutton and Haden are worried about Rashard Higgins and Hilton has no real help inside. 10-0 Cleveland because the Browns were getting it done on third down.

Attacking the Steelers aggressiveness

This season T.J. Watt is destroying opposing offenses, and the Steelers have largely released Watt from other responsibilities and most plays he just rushes aggressively. I’ve covered several different ways teams have tried to counter-punch against Watt’s aggressive rushing, and the Browns threw out one I haven’t covered.

3rd and 4

I was harsh on Vince Williams in my Mark Barron analysis, so here’s a classic Vince Williams play. The Browns try to sneak Kareem Hunt inside Watt’s rush after he looks like he’s committing to block Watt. Vince Williams stays home, and is able to avoid the right guard, and he makes a great tackle on Kareem Hunt for a 2-yard loss and a punt. Vince Williams is really good in small spaces, and he doesn’t miss tackles. Once the Steelers settled down, and started executing better the Browns couldn’t exploit the Steelers aggressiveness and after 3 third down conversions in the first quarter, and the TD to Hunt above for their fourth, they would not convert another third down in the game.

Solving a staple

I showed in my film room about Randy Fichtner and his offense with Mason Rudolph how often the Steelers run short crosses to give the QB an easy pass on most plays. The Browns did a great job of solving a three-route variation on those crosses.

Pay attention to the defenders and routes around the Steelers logo.

The camera pans out fast and Hodges is sacked pretty quickly here, but the routes in the middle of the field are locked down here. The big deal is the defender on the cross that is closest to their receiver hits their crosser after the defenders switch. This prevents the Steelers player getting a lead on them as the LB tries to reverse their momentum.

This was the Steelers first third down of the game, their third of 5 offensive plays they would run in the first quarter. Fichtner has been using those crosses and modifications of them all season to help out his young QBs. Teams are focusing on them now, and that’s one reason you saw the Steelers throw deep more, because the Browns took away Hodges’ training wheels.

Poor clock management, or a poor play call?

3rd and 6, 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter. A play that has been cited numerous places as a bad clock management decision, throwing a pass when a run play would have taken a lot more time off the clock for a Browns team that had no timeouts.

I don’t agree with that. Devlin Hodges had converted a 3rd and 5 and a 3rd and 6 already on that drive, the Browns were on their heels and a first down ends the game right there. Devlin Hodges has been at his best when he’s taking risks and making plays. I’ve got no problem with Tomlin and Fichtner betting on their young QB who was on a run.

I do have a problem with the play call. (Watch the middle of the field, the routes around the logo)

Look familiar? On the Steelers last third down of the game he runs the same routes as he did on the first one, this time from a different formation. The Browns use the exact same tactic to shut it down that they used in the first quarter.

I’ve been supportive of Randy Fichtner for changing up his offense on the fly, and for how well that offense has worked with so much talent off the field and all the new faces on the field, but this play call was a mistake. It will be interesting to see what Fichtner does to counter this tactic, because it is simple enough that any team we face can copy it.

James Washington

I’ve already covered 5 plays, but what’s in a name, really? It would be wrong to do a film room about this game and not include a James Washington catch, so here’s my favorite of his four receptions, and his last of the game.

That’s a fantastic route. Denzel Ward is a very physical corner and he tries to steer Washington into the sideline after his outside release. James just swats his arm away and protects his space to the sideline, then gives Ward a little something when Ward tries a second time, and that lets him create space for the catch. He just out-muscles the guy drafted 56 spots ahead of him to get to a ball that was thrown as soon as Hodges saw Washington was 1v1 with the Browns #1 corner. That’s trust. Hodges trusted Washington to keep his lane, beat Ward to the ball and make the catch.

And what a catch it was.

Ward’s last resort is to grab Washington’s arm and interfere with the catch, but Washington isn’t having that, he catches the ball one-handed and then puts his other hand on the ball, pulling Ward with it.

What a game.

It’s okay to be cautious with your optimism about Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 6:35am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

It’s Duck Season in Pittsburgh, baby! Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be cautious with our optimism about Steelers rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges.

It’s Duck Season. It’s Duckamania. It’s a quack-quack here, and a quack-quack there. Here a quack....you get the drift.

I’m referring, of course, to Steelers rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges and the sensation he has quickly become since being named Pittsburgh’s starter following the Bengals game on November 24, a contest in-which he relieved struggling second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph early in the third quarter and immediately quacked some life into the Steelers listless offense.

Everywhere I go, people are aggressively asking me for my opinion on Hodges. They’re practically grabbing me by the lapel (you know, like how they used to do in the 1940s before personal boundaries became a thing?) and wanting to know if I think he can “Keep this up until the end of the season?”

When I respond with answers like, “I sure hope so,” the spirit of the retort I’m usually met with is, “Oh, come on! What kind of answer is that? It’s Duck Season, baby! He’s an undrafted free-agent who nobody thought could do it, baby! He’s kind of short and small and his arm isn’t elite-level strong. Anyway, tell me why you’re not totally sold on him yet, damn it!”

“Duh,” says me. “Because of all the things you just rattled off.”

Not only is Hodges an undersized and undrafted rookie quarterback who possesses a less than elite-level arm, he has about 12 quarters of NFL experience under his belt. Therefore, it’s perfectly understandable why I would be cautious with my praise and my expectations of Duck Dynasty.

Do you want me to be all aggressive with my opinion of Hodges and one day wind up a victim of @Stupidoldtakes (or whatever the name of that Twitter handle is that they use to expose people who have opinions about stuff)?

I’m excited about Hodges and his moxie and his confidence, but it wasn’t long ago that I was feeling pretty good about Rudolph’s future. I still might feel good about Rudolph again.

Who knows?

That’s the reality of having two totally inexperienced quarterbacks. Your opinion can change on either in a matter of days—both positively and negatively. Neither Hodges nor Rudolph has a resume good enough to be given the benefit of the doubt.

If Hodges stinks it up this Sunday against the Cardinals, I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see him yanked for Rudolph. If Rudolph comes in and throws three touchdowns, that still wouldn’t be enough for me to make up my mind about him.

And let’s nip this whole notion of a quarterback controversy right in the bud. Quarterback controversies involve proven veterans, grown-ups, guys with mistresses (you know, like on the show, Empire).

Hodges and Rudolph aren’t embroiled in any kind of quarterback controversy. They’re just a couple of young dudes trying to make it in the NFL. Head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t have to worry about their egos. He can treat them and their position battle like he would any two guys at any other position. It might seem weird to say that, what with the importance of offensive cohesion, but there hasn’t been enough offensive cohesion in 2019 for a quarterback carousel to matter at this point.

Three weeks from now, if the level of Hodges’ play has risen to the level of the mania currently surrounding him, my opinion will change, as will my hopes and expectations.

As for right now, I just hope he has a decent performance against the Cardinals on Sunday.

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