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Which uniform numbers will Steelers players switch to if the jersey rule is changed?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Jersey rules could change, so how ill it affect the Steelers?

The NFL rules committee is expected to loosen uniform rules in the coming weeks. With it makes single digits available to a litany of position groups (sorry lineman). If free agency didn't wreak enough havoc to your jersey collection, then league wide number switching will surely do the trick. As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a number of players wore single digits in college and might be willing to make the switch back to those old threads in the pros.

The rule change was proposed by the Kansas City Chiefs, who ran out of usable uniforms last year and had three different players appear in number 30. Due to the expansion of the practice squad, which still isn't expected to shrink, this was becoming a necessary rule change.

The #Chiefs proposal to expand the use of single-digit numbers is likely to pass when owners vote later this month, per @peter_king. 24 votes are needed.

This would be the updated look:
QB, K, P: 1-19
RB, TE, WR: 1-49, 80-89
DB: 1-49
LB: 1-59, 90-99
OL: 50-79
DL: 50-79, 90-99

— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) April 5, 2021

Before we get into the players that may want to switch, we have to look at the numbers that are not available. The numbers which players appear invested in are digits 1-19, so lets start there.

1. Unclaimed
2. Mason Rudolph
3. Dwayne Haskins
4. Jordan Berry
5. Unclaimed
6. Unclaimed
7. Ben Roethlisberger
8. Corliss Waitman
9. Chris Boswell
10. Unclaimed
11. Chase Claypool
12. Unofficially Retired (Terry Bradshaw)
13. James Washington
14. Ray-Ray McCloud
15. Cody White
16. Unclaimed
17. Unclaimed
18. Diontae Johnson
19. JuJu Smith-Schuster

So, who are some Steelers who could change jersey numbers?

Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

Jaylen Samuels is fighting for his NFL career entering his fourth training camp. He may flourish in Matt Canada’s system, and maybe a new number can signify a change of on field play. Samuels can rock hissed number one.

Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

The first name you may think of is Joe Haden, who made the number five famous back at the university of Florida, but Haden has already said he won't be switching his number again. Instead, I think it’s Anthony McFarland would switch back to his college digits. McFarland is expected to take a big step this year and a new number might do him some good.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Devin Bush could be the biggest name player to switch digits. Coming off an ACL tear Bush could mark his comeback by going back to an old number. Bush did decided to wear 55 because 5+5=10 after all.

For the most part Steelers players just don’t have old numbers available to them. Big time jersey sellers won't be changing for the sake of changing either. So, don’t expect too many crazy swaps. But what do you think? Which players will switch their numbers? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Which position is the bigger team need for the Steelers in 2021, center or running back?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 12:33pm
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

After looking at two positions on defense, which position is the bigger team need on the offensive side of the ball?

The Pittsburgh Steelers still have a number of team needs as they continue through the 2021 offseason. With free agency still an option, as well as the upcoming NFL draft, the Steelers will need to fill out all of these needs prior to training camp.

For an interesting exercise, I’m going to give two positions and ask which one is the greater need to add a player for the 2021 season. Previously, the question was asked about inside linebacker versus outside linebacker.

In this case, it’s time to look at the offensive side of the ball. To be more specific, is center or running back the bigger team need for 2021?

When looking at a team need, I like to break it down into two different types. First, there’s certain positions where the need is simply to have enough players as the Steelers don’t have enough options at this time. The Steelers may be set with their starters, but they may not have the needed depth at the position simply by not having enough players. The other option is whether Steelers could have enough players at a position, but they need to upgrade the quality of play on the depth chart. The Steelers may have more than enough bodies at the position, but the quality of those players even at the top is questionable.

When it comes to looking at center depth versus running back depth, I feel both of these positions fall primarily into the second category.

When looking at the team need at center, the Steelers problem is uncertainty at the starting position. Additionally, the Steelers really could use at least one more body for training camp as having only two players who primarily snap the ball is not ideal. This means the Steelers have room to add a center at some level, but it would be in their best interest to add someone at the top of the depth chart. With B.J. Finney returning to the Steelers after a year away split between the Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals, he hasn’t seen an offensive snap since he last wore the black and gold. With the other option being J.C. Hassenhour who had to start four games in 2020 at both center and guard, neither player instills a lot of confidence in Steelers’ Nation moving forward. While the clock may have run out on the option of upgrading the position through free agency, it’s almost certain the Steelers will have to look for a center at some point in the 2021 NFL draft. The big question is with what selection.

When it comes to the running back position, the Steelers have a large number of players on their roster. Leaving full back and Derek Watt out of the discussion, the Steelers have four running backs on their roster who appeared in games for them in 2020 as well as the free-agent acquisition of Kalen Ballage. So even though the Steelers have more players than what they should keep on the roster, the biggest issue is the quality at the top of the depth chart. Last season neither Benny Snell Jr or Anthony McFarland Jr appeared to be a player ready to be the bell cow for the Steelers. With James Conner currently an unrestricted free agent, the starting job is wide open for whoever can grab it. The biggest question is who is best fitted to carry the load for the Steelers who would help to improve the rushing attacked which ranked last in the NFL in 2020. So even though the Steelers have enough players at the position for training camp, having a player who’s ready to be “the guy” is the biggest issue.

So which position is the greater team need? Will the Steelers look to add a center high in the 2021 NFL draft? Should the Steelers look to invest a top draft pick at running back rather than continue adding mid-round picks to the room year after year?

Personally, I think these two positions are the top two needs for the 2021 Steelers. The issue lies in whether or not either one is worthy of a first-round draft pick. When it comes to running back, investing in one of the first round when the shelf life is shorter than most positions makes it a tough choice. As for center, while it could be a player locked in with the Steelers for a decade, it seems taking one at pick number 24 could be a bit of a reach. As for which position is the greater team need, the best way for me to decide between the two is to ask if I could only add a player at one or the other, where would it be. For me, the choice would be center as I think a great offensive line can make an average running back that much better. But in all actuality, these two needs are neck-and-neck in this race.

So what do you think? Which position, center or running back, is the greater position of need at this time for the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers offense? Make sure you vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

If Christian Darrisaw is available at No. 24, is he too good for the Steelers to pass on?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For teams who are looking for an offensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft, Christian Darrisaw might be a prospect to keep an eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at an offensive tackle in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current offensive line depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, but after players like Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater, there are a lot of talented tackles who could be available to the Steelers at pick No. 24.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a tackle to bolster their offensive line depth in 2021, and if Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw is available when the Steelers pick, is he too good to pass on?

I did some digging on Darrisaw, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Darrisaw. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Darrisaw in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Draft Profiles The Draft Network

Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw earned the opportunity to start for the Hokies as a true freshman and did nothing but improve for three seasons, developing into a dominant blocker in 2020. From a size, length, and mobility standpoint, Darrisaw firmly checks the boxes and should immediately become an asset to an NFL franchise in pass protection, outside zone runs, and utilizing his exceptional ability to pull and connect with moving targets in space. Like most young offensive linemen, Darrisaw has room to add functional strength to improve his overall power at the point of attack, but it’s far from a deficiency that is of major concern. The amount of technical growth Darrisaw has demonstrated throughout the course of his career is exciting when considering his starting point for the next level and how he peaked at the perfect time. It shouldn’t take long for Darrisaw to earn a starting role in the NFL and he has the upside to become a standout, franchise left tackle.

Ideal Role: Starting left tackle

Scheme Fit: Zone run scheme

Walter Football

Strengths:

  • Excellent skill set
  • Ideal height, length and weight
  • Good athlete
  • Quickness
  • Quick feet
  • Gets depth in his drop to neutralize speed rushers
  • Can play the typewriter to cut off the corner
  • Bends at the knee
  • Doesn’t have to reach for rushers
  • Fast to the second level
  • Walls off and ties up defenders in the ground game
  • Athletic upside
  • Three year starter

Weaknesses:

  • Finesse blocker
  • Does not have a mean streak, tenacity
  • Coasts through plays; doesn’t finish defenders off
  • Struggles when he has to get physical
  • Not a bull dozer in the ground game
  • Struggles to knock defenders off the ball
  • Lacks heavy hands
  • Complacent style of play

Summary: Darrisaw broke into the starting lineup in 2018, and over three seasons, he became a good starting left tackle for the Hokies. Darrisaw and his skill set earned the attention of NFL scouts as a potential blind-side protector for the next level, and he has the physical talent to be an early-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

As a pass protector Darrisaw has a lot of qualities that NFL teams look for in starting left tackles. He has good size, length, and athleticism to block on the edge. Darrisaw is quick out his stance to get in position to pick up edge rushers, and his size makes it tough for defenders to get around him. Thanks to Darrisaw’s quality hand placement and length, edge rushers struggle to avoid contact with him, and that sets him up to win a lot of his assignments quickly. Darrisaw is quick and a good athlete on the edge. With his agility and movement skills, Darrisaw has the ability to neutralize speed rushers off the edge.

Darrisaw is solid as a run blocker. He uses his big body to tie up defenders and lean on them. Darrisaw is more of the type to turn defenders and tie them up from getting to the ball-carrier, rather than knocking them off the ball. For the NFL, Darrisaw could be better off in a zone-blocking system rather a power-man rushing attack.

Player Comparison: Russell Okung. Team sources compared Darrisaw to Okung. It makes sense as they are both athletic, big and agile, but lack physicality and a mean streak.

Fan Nation

Extremely athletic left tackle with long-looking arms and brute power and physical playing strength, with an inconsistent motor. Declared as a junior. Tends to stay off the ground. Sometimes gives up on blocks too soon — both in pass pro and run blocking. Once in a while, a “flash-fire” temper comes out, and he will blow someone up.

Looks good setting up pre-snap, with his left foot kicked outside. Looks alert and poised to protect. Quickly slides into position on the outskirts of the perimeter. Decent hand placement at the point of attack. Hard to beat once he gets his powerful and strong hands on the opponent. Fighter. Slides and maintains most of the time, but does show a strong, glaring tendency to stop moving his feet toward the backdoor of the pocket, to then bend his waist and start losing control. Speed rushers with power could be a real issue in these situations at the next level. Another concern was in all four games, he allowed one quarterback hit, after release on blitzes coming from his area of responsibility.

Strong-at-the-point run-blocker who often sustains and controls just long enough. Position and leverage blocks to seal the lanes. Did show tendency to sometimes give up on a block too soon. Incredible in space. Excellent at second level — way downfield — and at pulling. Rare athletic and blocking ability in space. Looked graceful moving around. Flashes extreme aggression and physicality (especially against smaller players).

Darrisaw, overall, is a physical specimen, with the rare combination of pure power and athleticism.

The three main consistent concerns are his footwork at the back door in pass pro, blitzes off his edge and when he has a letdown and gives up on a block too quickly.

These three negatives could cause noticeable issues at the next level. However, they do not overshadow all the things he does at a very high level.

Breakdowns Game Film Other Breakdowns

QB

RB

ILB

TE

Podcast: Which Steelers position groups are market ready in 2021?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 11:00am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Hangover” show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo look at the week that was and the Steelers going forward.

With the draft less than a month away, the Steelers are in good shape in some positions and needing help in others. Which position groups are fixer uppers and which are market ready? This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed on the latest episode of the BTSC podcast, The Steelers Hangover. On this show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo break down all things Steelers! Join the veteran duo as they analyze all things black-and-gold.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Which Steelers position groups are market ready in 2021?
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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.

Part 1

Part 2

Mock Draft: ESPN GM mock has Steelers going center in Round 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 10:00am
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The latest ESPN NFL Mock Draft has the Steelers looking for, and hopefully finding, their next long term center in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

With the 2021 NFL Draft on the horizon, NFL outlets are pumping out content as fast as they can. That would include the annual Mike Tannenbaum General Manager (GM) Mock Draft on ESPN.

This is where the former NFL executive takes a stab at who he projects will go to all NFL teams who have a first round selection in the upcoming draft. In this year’s mock draft, he has the Pittsburgh Steelers taking, what they hope would be, the next long term center for the future.

Tannenbaum’s pick for the Steelers is none other than Oklahoma C/G Creed Humphrey. See what he had to say about the pick, and why he made the selection:

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

Creed Humphrey, C/G, Oklahoma

It’s still too early for a running back, and there isn’t a first-round quarterback left on the board. So my initial leaning becomes even stronger: Get Pittsburgh a lineman. Finding a center you can form an offensive line around is Team Building 101. A former high school wrestler, Humphrey is tough, physical and smart.

One thing to know: According to Pro Football Focus, Humphrey did not allow a single sack on 401 pass plays in 2020 or 799 plays in 2019.

For those who might not know much about Humphrey as a player, here is a simple breakdown of his game, via The Draft Network:

Humphrey is a wide-bodied interior blocker that has a wealth of experience along the interior. With 37 career starts (36 straight), he’s been a three-year starter that’s been a key cog of one of the most explosive offenses in the country. As a left-handed center, he’s one of the few in the country. While being a limited athlete, he has the smarts of knowing how to use his frame, strength, and football IQ to his advantage. Hardly ever asked to exit outside of his parameters in the A-gaps, he’s quick to mark his territory and isn’t one to waste time jostling back and forth with interior defenders. In the right scheme, he has the chance to go on to eventually become a long-term starter in a power-centric offense that keeps his demands in short areas. He graduated with a degree in Finance (Dec. 2020).

Ideal Role: Starting Center

Scheme Fit: Man/Gap/Power scheme

At this stage of the offseason, I always find it intriguing to go back and look at who else was available for the Steelers when this particular “expert” made their pick.

In this scenario, all of the top tier quarterbacks were off the board, but a big run on offensive tackles left the Steelers without any option at that position in the first round. Zaven Collins of Tulsa was the New York Jets selection at pick No. 23, right before the Steelers head to the podium. Other notables in this scenario, and Tannenbaum mentions this in his paragraph of the Steelers’ pick, is how no running backs had been taken before pick No. 24. In fact, Tannenbaum only has one running back being selected in the first round, and that is Clemson’s Travis Etienne who went to the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at pick No. 32.

This would leave both Najee Harris and Javonte Williams available to be had in the second round on Day 2 of the draft process.

What do you think of the pick? Do you see Humphrey as a reach for the Steelers in Round 1, or is he the answer the team needs at the center position for the long haul? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the NFL Draft.

Steelers 2021 NFL Draft Fits: Which Tight Ends make sense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 8:30am
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Smith and Geoffrey Benedict discuss draft prospects and how they fit Matt Canada’s offense.

Geoffrey: With the Steelers draft approaching, I thought it would be fun to discuss some of the offensive players the Steelers could target, with a look at how they would fit in to the Steelers 2021 offense. I got Kevin Smith (CHISAP) on board to give his thoughts as well.

We are starting with tight end, the position most likely to change under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Wherever Canada has coached he has used tight ends in versatile ways. Heath Miller spent his whole career lining up in largely the same spot, that isn’t what we’ll see from Steeler tight ends in 2021.

For a short breakdown on how Matt Canada uses tight ends, I’ll turn it over to Kevin.

Kevin: One thing we’ve noted since Canada was hired is that he’s great at adapting his offense to his personnel. If he has a bunch of slammers, he’ll pound the football. If he has quick guys, he’ll get them the ball in space. It’s a logical approach. But sometimes, with the way coordinators can get attached to a system, it can be overlooked.

Accordingly, Canada has used tight ends in a variety of ways over the years. They’ve been anything from glorified offensive tackles (Wisconsin) to big, athletic running backs (Jaylen Samuels at NC State). His favorite way to use a tight end is as an off-ball H-back who performs a variety of roles. Canada’s H-backs move around the formation and can line up as a fullback, a wingback, a slot receiver or a traditional tight end. He schemes them to get an extra blocker at the point of attack in the run game or to find a favorable matchup in the passing game. They are asked to block, catch and even run the ball at times.

Ideally, this requires a versatile player who is both strong and athletic. Here’s a look at some of those candidates in the upcoming draft.

Kyle Pitts (Florida)

Kevin: Kyle Pitts is the gold standard for tight ends in both this draft and just about any draft you can think of. There have only been four tight ends taken in the Top 10 overall picks since 1997. Pitts seems destined to be the fifth.

Pitts is 6’6-245 and ran an absurd 4.44 forty at his Pro Day. At Florida, he often played in the slot, where his athleticism allowed him to destroy safeties and linebackers in coverage and his size made him a problem for most corners. He runs routes with the fluidity of an outside receiver and his speed makes him a home-run threat in the open field. He is not the most physical blocker in the draft but he’s not an unwilling one, either. In short, Pitts is a special talent.

Pitts would be ridiculously good in Canada’s offense. But, like all those million dollar beach houses in my hometown that my wife and I can’t afford, he’s going to be unattainable for the Steelers.

Geoffrey: Something you will hear about Kyle Pitts is that Florida used him to block too much, something you will also hear said of the Steelers and Eric Ebron. Early on in the 2020 season when the run game was working in Pittsburgh, Eric Ebron was a reliable target averaging 40-50 yards a game and on pace for a career best season. When the run game fell apart Ebron was targeted more, but with worse results as he was asked to make tougher catches to replace the run game. Pitts will work the same. He would be a great fit in Pittsburgh’s offense in 2020 and would be the centerpiece of the offense when it has to break in a new quarterback.

Kyle Pitts could fall in a big way and still not reach Pittsburgh, so this is just fun speculation. Pitts would be a dream pick, but any thoughts of him falling to the Steelers is just a fantasy.

Pat Freiermuth (Penn State)

Geoffrey: Pat Freiermuth would give the Steelers a high end receiving tight end to pair with Eric Ebron. Freiermuth showed willingness as a blocker in college to go with good straight line speed. He isn’t a savvy route runner, he didn’t show a lot of talent for finding ways to get open on short routes, but provided a lot of value attacking the seams on deeper routes.

In my opinion Freiermuth adds a lot of the same deep threat that Eric Ebron brings. That could be a great fit in the Steelers offense. The last season Ben Roethlisberger had two tight ends that were healthy and solid as receivers was 2018, when the Steelers frequently used Jesse James and Vance McDonald together and were one of the best passing teams in the NFL to tight ends.

Kevin: I like the comparison of Ebron and Freiermuth to James and McDonald, with the difference being the former duo would be far more versatile and athletic. Ebron would operate predominantly as the off-ball tight end in 12 personnel packages but Freiermuth can play that role as well. The Steelers would put defenses in a bind with two versatile tight ends on the field paired with any of their receivers. They could attack any area of the field in the passing game and have better options in the run game, too.

Adding Freiermuth would also solidify the tight end position if Ebron departs after the 2021 season. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a first or second round pick to get him. With bigger immediate needs at center, running back and linebacker, it’s hard to see the Steelers spending a high pick on a tight end who, with Ebron and four established receivers already on the roster, may not see a ton of snaps as a rookie.

Tommy Tremble (Notre Dame)

Kevin: Geoffrey and I are both high on Tommy Tremble for the Steelers. At 6’3-242, he’s more an H-back than a pure tight end. But his varied skill set makes him valuable no matter how his position is defined.

Tremble is a physical player who relishes contact. To put it bluntly, he looks to punish defenders whether he is blocking or carrying the football. He’s a high-energy player whose relentless effort will make him a fan favorite. Think Ryan Clark if he were an H-back.

Tremble is more than just a hammer, though. He ran 4.59 in the forty at Notre Dame’s Pro Day, which makes him a great blend of athleticism and physicality. Tremble was not showcased much as a receiver in Notre Dame’s offense but he is capable in that regard. He also lined up at fullback and would be a nice Swiss Army knife for Canada to play with. Tremble’s stock is rising but he’s likely to be available in the third round. If he is, the Steelers should give him serious consideration.

Geoffrey: I agree with Kevin’s take on Tremble, and I’ll add to it. Tremble is the kind of athlete that would create immediate pressure on the defense in Canada’s motion heavy plays. His ability to block, or slip out and make a catch with his high end athleticism for his size is a serious weapon. When he would go into motion the defense would have to account for him as a potential receiver, blocker or even as a ball carrier on shovel passes and sweeps.

He’s a raw prospect as a route runner, but those motion plays often create releases and pressure without asking the player to run a good route. He would have the upside of a player that can improve his skills and become a real receiver as a tight end, but even without that he would be a tough matchup for the defense to account for.

Hunter Long (Boston College)

Geoffrey: Hunter Long led all Division I tight ends in receptions in 2020. He also is expected to fall to the late rounds of the draft. Long is not a high end athlete and his route running isn’t great, he’s more of a blocking tight end, but like most college players is going to need to hit an NFL weight room for a while to bring the same level of blocking to the NFL.

He’s not a new tight end, he’s a throwback to the Heath Miller mold of tight ends. He’s no Heath Miller, but in the current NFL Heath Miller wouldn’t be a first round pick. Hunter Long highlight film is a long series of play action passes. He does a great job of slipping his blocks and finding space in the defense, and he shows really good hands and body control at the catch point. Long would also free up Eric Ebron to move around and not have to worry about playing in-line as much. Ebron is a much better player when he isn’t lined up next to the offensive tackles’ shoulder.

Kevin: Long would be a nice compliment to Ebron. He played for Steve Addazio for three years at BC, whose offense was built on power runs and play-action passes. In that regard, Addazio is similar to Canada, just without all the bells and whistles. So, Long would be well-trained in many of the things Canada would want him to do.

Long is one of the better blocking tight ends in the draft but, as Geoffrey noted, may need time in the weight room to get stronger. That means it’s unlikely he’ll see the field a lot as a rookie. His draft projection is all over the place. I’ve seen him as high as the third round and as low as the sixth. If the Steelers could get him in the middle of that window, maybe with one of their two selections in the fourth, he’d be worth the investment.

Tre’ McKitty (Georgia)

Geoffrey: McKitty spent most of his college career at Florida State, where he was used out wide and not very much in-line or as an H-back. He transferred to Georgia to play in the SEC in more traditional tight end roles so he could show his ability to block. The interest in Tre’McKitty rose after a great performance at the Senior Bowl that showed he may have more to offer than he showed in college as a receiver.

McKitty has lined up all over the field. Out wide, in the slot, in the backfield, in-line, H-back and wingback. He also was a valuable player in two different offensive systems. When he got a chance to play in a more pro-style offense at the Senior Bowl, he did even better. He’d be an interesting pick up late in the draft.

Kevin: To me, McKitty is Ebron 2.0. I agree with Geoffrey about his athleticism and versatility. I’m just not sold on his physicality. If the Steelers want a replacement for Ebron, I’m on board. If they want a compliment, he feels redundant. I don’t think he’s physical enough to be the predominant in-line blocking tight end in 12 personnel sets and, if they’re drafting him to catch passes, I’d rather leave one of their established receivers on the field.

That said, I would not be opposed to McKitty as a day-three pick. He could be a nice replacement for Ebron down the road. I’m just not sure how he fits in the current Pittsburgh offense.

Conclusion

In conclusion, here’s how we’d rank these tight ends, not in terms of ability but rather practicality. How do they fit in Pittsburgh, and what would it take to get them?

Kevin:

  1. Tremble (3rd round). Great fit and the cost shouldn’t be too high. He would be a demon on special teams from day one as he grows into his H-back role.
  2. Long (first of our two 4th round picks). He’d be a nice fallback option if we miss out on Tremble.
  3. McKitty (5th-6th round). I don’t love the fit with Ebron but if McKitty is still there in the sixth (or even as a trade-up into the fifth) he’s too good a prospect to bypass.
  4. Freiermuth (2nd round). If Freiermuth is sitting there at #55, he’d be very tempting. But I suspect he'll be gone, which means we’d have to trade up to get him. That’s too expensive for what we need in this draft at a position we can likely fill with a later pick.
  5. Pitts (1st round). We’d have to trade into the top 10 to take him. Not gonna happen.

Geoffrey:

  1. Freiermuth (2nd round) The deep threat of Freiermuth and Ebron would open up the underneath passing game for Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and draw safety help off of Chase Claypool.
  2. Tremble (3rd round) If you asked me to design an H-back for Matt Canada’s offense, that player would be named Tommy Tremble.
  3. Pitts (trade up in first) Let’s say half the NFL goes crazy. Pitts falls to 15, the Steelers make a big trade up and grab him. Holes elsewhere matter less when you have that kind of a talent on your team. He’d do for the Steelers what Kelce does for the Chiefs.
  4. McKitty (5th round) If the Steelers haven’t addressed the position by the 5th round and McKitty is there, it should be an easy selection.
  5. Long (4th round) Long fits in great with Ebron in 2021, but after that he’s a Matt Spaeth in need of a #1 TE who also fits the H-Back role in Canada’s offense. That’s not a lot of value.

The ripple effect the Sam Darnold trade has on the 2021 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Sam Darnold is now a member of the Carolina Panthers, and this trade has a ripple effect on the 2021 NFL Draft.

Monday was an exciting day for the NFL wire, and that was with the news of the New York Jets sending former first round pick Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for the following draft stock:

2021 6th Round Pick
2022 2nd Round Pick
2022 4th Round pick

In return, the Panthers bring on Darnold for the 2021 season before having the option to pick up his 5th year option.

Who won this trade for Sam Darnold? pic.twitter.com/quavEY2Az4

— PFF (@PFF) April 5, 2021

For Pittsburgh Steelers fans, this news doesn’t really matter much. There might have been a small contingent who thought, or hoped, the Steelers would make a run at Darnold to be the replacement for Ben Roethlisberger when he decides to hang it up for good. But the reality of the situation is it was highly unlikely the Steelers would pull off this trade. It just wasn’t in the cards, if you were being realistic.

However, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a ripple effect after the trade within the 2021 NFL Draft. When you look at the draft order, you see there are specific teams who will want a quarterback. Up until Monday, the Panthers were one of those teams, but with them getting Darnold it doesn’t seem feasible the team would want to add a rookie quarterback high in the draft. They could still pull the trigger on a quarterback, but it seems highly unlikely.

Let’s first take a look at the upcoming draft order.

2021 NFL Draft order:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars *
2. New York Jets *
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans) *
4. Atlanta Falcons *
5. Cincinnati Bengals
6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia Eagles)
7. Detroit Lions
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Denver Broncos
10. Dallas Cowboys
11. New York Giants
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers)
13. Los Angeles Chargers
14. Minnesota Vikings
15. New England Patriots
16. Arizona Cardinals
17. Las Vegas Raiders
18. Miami Dolphins
19. Washington Football Team
20. Chicago Bears
21. Indianapolis Colts
22. Tennessee Titans
23. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks)
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)
26. Cleveland Browns
27. Baltimore Ravens
28. New Orleans Saints
29. Green Bay Packers
30. Buffalo Bills
31. Kansas City Chiefs
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The teams who have an asterisk next to their team name are seemingly locks to take a quarterback in the draft. The Top 5 quarterbacks in the draft would be:

Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)
Zach Wilson (BYU)
Justin Fields (Ohio State)
Trey Lance (North Dakota State)
Mac Jones (Alabama)

This means there will be one quarterback who will likely slide in the draft. Which quarterback is up for debate, but there are teams like the Patriots,, Lions and Broncos who also could be in the mix for a quarterback.

But this ripple effect isn’t just about the quarterbacks entering the draft. This also could have an impact on other position groups. If a team like Carolina was going to take a quarterback, they now will likely be selecting another position taking another talented player off the board.

There could be more moves made before the draft begins at the end of April, and all will have an impact on the entire process. That includes the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are sitting at pick No. 24 and have to see who will be available when it is their turn to pick.

A lot can change between now and then, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

NFL considering moving on from their MNF doubleheader in Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

After playing two games on Monday the opening week of the season since 2006, low ratings might cut the number back to one.

For the last 15 seasons, the NFL has concluded it’s opening weekend by playing a doubleheader on Monday Night Football. These game times were usually around a 7 PM and 10PM EST kickoff with the second game obviously being played in the western half the United States. According to Peter King in Football Morning in America, ESPN will no longer be airing a doubleheader on Monday night to open the season. Instead, ESPN comes out even better by picking up a Saturday doubleheader the final week of the season.

This per Peter King:

Looks like ESPN will lose the second game of the week-one Monday night doubleheader but gain a hugely valuable property this season: the week 18 Saturday doubleheader on Jan. 8, 2022. What a trade. In the last five years, the Monday night week one nightcap had a string of forgettable matchups: Tennessee-Denver, Denver-Oakland, Rams-Oakland, Chargers-Denver, Rams-San Francisco (pre-either team being good) with relatively poor ratings. Now, ESPN is likely to have one Monday night game in week one at the normal MNF gametime of 8:15 p.m. ET, with a doubleheader to kick off week 18.

When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Monday night doubleheader to start the season, they have played twice in the early spot, both of which occurred in the last five seasons. Additionally, the Steelers played both contests on the road and against NFC East opponents. The Steelers were victorious over the Washington Redskins in 2016 by score of 38-16. The Steelers also played the opening game of the Monday night doubleheader last season in 2020 at the Meadowlands where they were victorious over the New York Giants by a score of 26-16.

Because of rescheduling games due to the global pandemic in 2020, they were a total of four Monday night doubleheaders last season. Those additional games occurred in Week 4, Week 6, and Week 13. The Steelers were once again involved in the doubleheader, this time hosting the Washington Football Team in the rescheduled early game on December 7.

So what exactly did ESPN gain by giving up the doubleheader in Week 1? Apparently, the NFL plans on spreading out the games during the final week of the season even more. After keeping a fair competitive advantage by having every team play on Sunday since 2007, it appears two games will be chosen to be played on Saturday.

Once again, this per Peter King:

In a normal last week of the regular season, the NFL has picked one game with (the league hoped) a win-and-in scenario for at least one of the teams playing. The other 15 games would be crammed into the early and late Sunday afternoon windows. Now, the league is planning a 2-13-1 setup of games in week 18: two on Saturday (late afternoon and Saturday night), 13 divided between the early and late Sunday afternoon windows, and the premier game of the weekend on Sunday night. Could the Saturday games be duds? Possibly. But last year, for instance, there were a few games with playoff significance, like Cowboys-Giants (with the winner copping the NFC East if Washington lost in Philadelphia Sunday night) that could be attractive standalone games rather than games competing against others for viewership on Sunday.

When comes to the Monday Night Football doubleheader to open the season, I was not a big fan of it when it involved the Steelers. Although it was nice to know the game would be nationally televised for Steelers’ fans to see across the country, waiting the extra day to see the Steelers take the field for the first time was worse in Week 1 than anytime else throughout the season.

While news of the NFL moving on from the Monday Night Football doubleheader in Week 1 is the first thing fans will experience, the bigger story is spreading out the final week of the season by bringing Saturday into the picture. While teams who get their game a day earlier before heading into the playoffs could have a slight advantage, chances are they won’t know they are operating with one less day of preparation for what could be a “win and you’re in” scenario until the weekend before.

So what are your thoughts? Did you like the Monday night doubleheader to start the season? How do you feel about two games being played on Saturday the final week of the season? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.

What Steelers fans don’t want you to know about Robert Spillane’s hit on Derrick Henry

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 5:30am
Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

The ugly truth about Robert Spillane’s hit on Derrick Henry.

Robert Spillane, an undrafted free-agent inside linebacker from Western Michigan in 2018, first became a Pittsburgh Steeler in 2019.

Spillane, the grandson of 1953 Heisman Award winner and former Steeler, Johnny Lattner, was mostly a special teams contributor through October of last year before finally getting his chance to start in the wake of a season-ending ACL injury suffered by Devin Bush in a game against the Browns at Heinz Field.

Derrick Henry, a running back from college-football powerhouse, Alabama, first gained national prominence when he won the 2015 Heisman Trophy.

However, it wasn’t until the 2019/2020 NFL playoffs when the 2016 second-round pick became a bit of a mythical legend; the 247-pound nightmare crushed the souls of every defensive player from New England to Baltimore while carrying the Titans to the AFC Championship Game.

Henry, the 2019 rushing leader, continued his dominant ways during the 2020 regular season, leading the NFL in rushing, once again, while also helping Tennessee punch its ticket to the postseason for a second-straight year.

But there was one soul Henry could not crush in 2020, and that was the one that belonged to Spillane, who got his first career start in a game against the Titans at Nissan Stadium on October 25.

Early in the fourth quarter, and with the Steelers clinging to a 27-17 lead, Pittsburgh’s defense faced the impossible task of keeping Henry and the Titans out of the end zone on third and goal from the one. Perhaps Cameron Heyward and Co. could have kept a mere mortal out of the end zone. However, there’s nothing mere about Henry’s immortality.

Who would man up and save the day for the Steelers and their nation of followers? It was Spillane who accepted this mission and stepped into the hole that Henry thought would be there as he took the handoff from quarterback Ryan Tannehill and headed straight up the middle.

SPILLANE SPLAT!!!!!!

It was the collision heard ‘round the world. Henry wasn’t a machine; he was a man! As for Spillane, he was a little worse for wear, but it didn’t matter. A legend was born.

Soon, fans began to call Spillane their favorite as they basked in the glow of his amazing feat. “I’ll never forget where I was when Spillane smacked Henry,” millions would say.

As for the Steelers, they went on to win, 27-17...or did they?

The truth has finally been revealed. What Steelers fans don’t want you to know is that Spillane, a man who many even started to follow on Twitter because of this hit (a true sign that you’ve made it in life), did not totally save the day. Why? Because Minkah Fitzpatrick, that pathetic excuse for a safety, was called for holding on the very next play; the Titans had new life and quickly scored a touchdown to pull to within three points.

It was a scary final 10 minutes; Pittsburgh hung on for dear life and ultimately needed a missed field goal with mere seconds left to walk away with a victory.

I realize this revelation may be a jolt to your system, especially if you’ve been playing Spillane’s hit over and over again since it first happened. But the truth must be known.

Spillane pulled a Carlton Fisk. That’s right, he hit a home run to win Game 6 of the World Series, but there was still one more victory to secure.

He pulled a Bart Scott. I’m sorry you had to read that, but it’s true. Spillane’s hit was nothing more than a CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!! in tackle form. Unfortunately for Scott, his Jets apparently couldn't wait to lose to the Steelers the following week with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Spillane’s hit on Henry was the Raiders’ Sea of Hands game from the 1974 divisional playoffs. You read that right; legend even has it that Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel huddled with his team after the hit and said: “The Steelers act like they won the damn Super Bowl on third down. Well, I’m here to tell you that the Super Bowl won’t be played until February and the best damn team in football is here in this stadium.”

Pretty profound.

One might even say that Spillane’s hit was the Immaculate Reception in tackle form...

Again, sorry to have to break this to you, but there are four downs in football, and Spillane’s hit occurred with one more to go.

It’s an ugly truth, but it’s one that will ultimately wind up on a website linked to the bottom of another website. You don't want this dark secret revealed to the world during a 27-page slideshow, do you?

I didn't think so.

Podcast: Will the Steelers follow their own trends in the 2021 Draft?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/06/2021 - 4:30am

In the latest podcast on the BTSC family of podcasts, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers and their draft plan for 2021.

In his 20-plus years of drafting for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kevin pick has developed certain trends for first rounders. What are they, will they continue in 2021 and who are possibilities for the black and gold? Join BTSC Deputy Editor Michael Beck on the latest edition of The Live Mike as he helps Steeler Nation navigate through the 2021 offseason.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The Steelers draft trends under Kevin Colbert
  • First Round possibilities
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael Beck of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Men of Steel.

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

What position would you want the Steelers to target in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 2:00pm
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of team needs, but what position should they target with their top pick in the draft?

The Pittsburgh Steelers, like all 32 NFL teams, have their share of needs heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. With the salary cap dropping for the first time in league history, teams have not been able to spend as freely as usual, putting more of an emphasis on the upcoming selection process.

With that said, it begs the question of which position the Steelers should target with their first round pick (No. 24)?

There are many avenues you can take to find this answer. You can analyze team needs ahead of the Steelers, and what positions they might be targeting. This practice will leave you with players available for the Steelers to potentially select. You can also look at specific players who are projected to to be late first round picks and ones which the Steelers would be best suited to take with their top pick.

These are just two methods to find this answer, but the question remains: Which position would YOU like the Steelers to target in the first round?

I’m not talking about specific players. Just positions.

I asked this question on Twitter, you can give me a follow @JHartman_PIT, and had a great reaction to the poll. See the results below:

Which position would you like to see the #Steelers target in Round 1 in the 2021 NFL Draft?

— Jeff Hartman (@JHartman_PIT) April 3, 2021

It is pretty obvious the majority of the people who saw the tweet, almost 2,500 people, want to see the Steelers take a running back in the first round. Now, if you want to take a look inside the brains of many of the black and gold fan base, read some of the comments under the aforementioned poll.

Let’s just say a lot of fans found the thought of taking a running back before solidifying the offensive line as a blasphemous thought.

With this poll having such great results, I thought it would also be a good practice here at BTSC. So, I ask you the same question I asked my Twitter followers. What position should the Steelers target in Round 1?

I should mention how on Twitter you can only list four options, so here I have a fifth option of “Other”. All I ask is you please don’t cop out and say, “I think they should just take the Best Player Available (BPA).” Come on. We are looking for your thoughts on the specific position you would like to see the team take in Round 1.

So, let us know your thoughts in the poll below, and feel free to explain your selection in the comment section below!

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Will the Steelers be able to plug all the holes on the 2021 roster?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Steelers are starting to run out of time to sure up some key positions.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are loading up their roster like a team wanting to compete in 2021. The problem is there still is a number of glaring holes on the roster, and any competent opponent will exploit those weaknesses. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Well, they can just fill these holes in the draft”. The flaw in this is the Steelers have far too many holes to fill with just eight draft picks. They would also have to hit on a minimum of five of those picks.

Basically, the Steelers are reliant on a perfect draft.

Let’s just take a look at the Steelers positions of need kicking off with positions that still need starting caliber players:
Center
Running back
Tight End
Cornerback (Nickel or outside)
Inside Linebacker

After those positions, the Steelers have a number of vacancies at a number of important depth positions including Outside Linebacker, Safety, and along the Offensive Line.

When it comes to free agency, the market seems to have slowed to a halt. At the time of writing, Karl Joseph’s meeting with the Steelers was nothing more than that. If the Steelers were able to scoop up a couple more depth players, they could take a whole lot more pressure off their 2021 draft class. This team is still able to make some money saving moves, so if they recognize the flaws in their roster they would be wise to add some more veteran talent into the fold.

This team will also need some old faces to make a big step this year. At least one of the following players will be a starter on the offensive side of the ball:

B.J. Finney
Kevin Rader
Zach Gentry
Benny Snell

Defensively, the pressure falls on Alex Highsmith, Cameron Sutton, James Pierre, and Robert Spillane. Big steps must be taken by these players for the Steelers to have any chance to get back to the playoffs.

Basically, the Steelers are reliant on a number of players taking a big step forward, and a number of rookies playing far beyond expectations. In my opinion, this team will be pretty good but will have one big time glaring hole, we just don't know where yet. Let’s just hope that weakness doesn't cause the team to collapse.

But what do you think? Will the Steelers roster have a big time hole? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

How will Robert Spillane, paired with Devin Bush, impact the Steelers’ defense?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 11:30am
Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a move at ILB, and what kind of impact will it have on the overall defense?

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a decision at the start of the 2021 new NFL league year, and that decision was to release veteran Vince Williams and retain Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA) Robert Spillane.

It seemed like a simple transaction, and one which many might have expected, but the question which remains was this about more than salary cap savings? Was this more than the front office working financials? Or was this about the Steelers believing Spillane, paired with Devin Bush, could improve the interior of the defense?

Spillane and Bush haven’t played much together in a regular season setting, not after Bush tore his ACL in the Week 5 blowout over the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field, but Spillane, speaking with reporters via Zoom, said he doesn’t think their lack of on-field experience together is a big deal.

“We have been working together for the past two years,” Spillane said. “I know and understand his style of communication and his play. So I think we feed in well with each other, we work well together and we’ve been able to do that off the field, so now it’s just going to be translating to taking our communication styles and meshing them together to get the best message to the teammates.”

Steelers ILB Robert Spillane on starting next to Devin Bush in 2021 pic.twitter.com/g7HARtXopw

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) March 29, 2021

Spillane is a player who hasn’t had anything given to him since he entered the NFL. After going undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft, Spillane was signed by the Tennessee Titans. He was signed to the practice squad, and eventually elevated to the active roster in October of that season. However, when he was cut a few weeks later he spent the rest of the season as a free agent and signed with the Steelers in February of 2019.

Since getting the opportunity to play in place of Bush in 2020, he has proven his worth, but don’t think how he got to this point has him thinking his spot is guaranteed.

“I don’t pencil myself in anywhere because nothing’s guaranteed,” Spillane said. “Nothing’s given to you. I know I’m going to have to go in to (organized team activities and minicamp) and earn everything that I have.

“I don’t expect anything to be given to me. I don’t want anything to be given to me. I expect to go out there and earn it. Go through the offseason program and show that I can be a better player than I was last year. Show that I’ve gotten better — that’s my goal every year. Nothing’s changed with that. I look forward to getting back with the guys and showing the improvements I’ve made this offseason and going from there.”

There are a lot of people who would like to see the Steelers sign a linebacker at some point early in the 2021 NFL Draft. The overall consensus about this falls on whether you believe a Spillane and Bush duo would be sufficient at both stopping the run and in coverage to help the Steelers’ defense succeed.

For as great as Vince Williams was throughout his time in Pittsburgh, his lack of athleticism, and overall coverage skills, was what had Keith Butler using Williams in only specific situations. If Williams is paired with an athletic linebacker, like Bush or Ryan Shazier, he is fine, but without that athleticism to complement his hard-hitting, downhill style, he becomes a liability.

The Steelers might draft a linebacker at some point during the draft, and adding talent to the group will certainly boost the depth at the position; however, Spillane isn’t about to just step aside and let someone else take his job.

He’s come too far to do that, but he also realizes nothing will be given...he will have to earn it.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of Free Agency and the NFL Draft.

Podcast: It’s all in a name

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 11:00am

With the Steelers now in their off-season, it’s time to bring back an old favorite as we look back at Steeler tales from yesterday and today surrounding the black-and-gold.

Everybody knows that the Steelers were originally the Pirates, but not that they could have been the Yankees. How about t he fact that Art Rooney sold the team in 1941 briefly to a Boston billionaire named Alexis Thompson and they were registered by another name before “The Chief” moved the Eagles to Pittsburgh and renamed them the Steelers. Plus, does anybody realize that Woodrow Wilson was once drafted by the Steelers? Join Bryan Anthony Davis from Behind The Steel Curtain as he has fun with names. This leads to the topic of the latest episode of the most unique member of BTSC’s family of podcasts... Divas.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Fun with Steelers Names
  • and MUCH MORE!

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.

Part 1

Part 2

If the Steelers decide to draft a TE, is Pat Freiermuth their guy?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 10:00am
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

For teams who are looking for a tight end in the 2021 NFL Draft, Pat Freirmuth might be a prospect to keep an eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a tight end in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current quarterback depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, but after Kyle Pitts of Florida, there aren’t many top tier prospects.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a tight end, but when they would have to take a tight end is certainly debatable. There are some who consider the talent after Pitts to be end of Round 1, or Day 2 at the earliest.

One prospect which has come to my attention recently, mainly after the Steelers showing interest at the Penn State Pro Day, is Pat Freiermuth. While most fans point to running back and offensive line as pressing needs, the Steelers’ depth at tight end certainly leaves a lot to be desired, making tight end a viable option throughout the draft. Not necessarily in the first round, but potentially on Day 2.

I did some digging on Freiermuth, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Freiermuth. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Freiermuth in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Draft Profiles The Draft Network

Pat Freiermuth projects as an impact receiving tight end at the professional level. Freiermuth has a prototypical build for the tight end position and ample ceiling as a blocker to continue to develop into a quality asset with his hand in the dirt in the run game. But today’s NFL is ultimately rooted in the passing game and tight ends are the new-age mismatch weapons that put defensive play-callers in a bind. Freiermuth can be that caliber of a receiver thanks to his blend of size, hands, route-running, and physicality in the secondary. Freiermuth burst onto the scene as a freshman at Penn State and incrementally became a bigger piece of the passing offense, culminating in 2020 with several high-production contests before a shoulder injury ended his season prematurely and forced him to undergo surgery. The medicals here will be something NFL teams must vet, as well as exploring his lack of development as a blocker. As Freiermuth has developed his body and added muscle during his time at Penn State, the assumption was that he would continue to progress as an in-line blocker; but we never really saw that leap in that chapter of his game, even once he returned for the 2020 season. But Freiermuth’s value to an NFL franchise won’t be rooted in run blocking; it will be in his versatility as a receiver and the mismatches he’ll win in coverage. That is where the value for tight ends lies anyway, so the deductions on Freiermuth’s pre-draft evaluation for blocking are only marginal. He still feels destined to be an impact player in an NFL offense.

Ideal Role: Hybrid role with a primary focus on F alignment (early in career).

Scheme Fit: 12-personnel heavy offensive system, spread concepts to isolate in space.

Pro Football Network
  • Position: Tight End
  • School: Penn State
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 258 pounds

Positives: Nice-sized tight end who shows a complete game at the position. Natural receiver who plays heads-up football and shows great awareness. Sells routes, extends his hands, and snatches the ball away from his frame with strong hands. Displays focus as well as concentration, consistently finds the soft spot in the defense, and takes a big hit yet holds on to the throw. Easily adjusts to the errant pass and makes the reception in stride.

Often lines up in the slot, fluidly releases into pass routes, and gets downfield. Locates the pass in the air and makes the difficult catch in a crowd with multiple defenders draped on him. Bends his knees, plays with leverage, and gives effort blocking even if the play is away from him.

Negatives: Possesses average blocking strength and really doesn’t get much movement. Average run-after-the-catch skill. Doesn’t show the great burst or play speed for a top-rated tight end.

Analysis: Freiermuth was a consistent tight end for Penn State the past three seasons and has an NFL-ready game. He must improve his strength as a blocker and may never be a great downfield threat at the position, but Freiermuth is reliable in all aspects of his position.

Fan Nation

A four-star tight end prospect out of high school who committed to Penn State over Ohio State and Notre Dame, Pat Freiermuth is the latest in a long line of Penn State tight ends to hit the NFL. He has received lofty praise throughout his high school and college careers too, even earning the moniker of ‘Baby Gronk’ thanks to his No. 87 jersey and play style. He was also a two-time team captain for the Nittany Lions.

Freiermuth’s true freshman season saw him put up big numbers as Penn State’s top red zone threat. He recorded 26 receptions for 368 yards (14.2 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns, terrific figures for someone who was in high school a year prior. He started nine games and his eight scores were the most by a Penn State freshman since 2005.

In his sophomore season, Freiermuth saw his numbers take a jump in terms of volume as he was voted a team captain for the first time. He caught 43 passes for 507 yards (11.8 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. His big-play ability may have taken a step back to a degree, but his production stayed stead as he took on an even bigger role in the passing game. He was seventh in the Big Ten and fourth among FBS tight ends with seven touchdown receptions.

Once again a captain in 2020, Freiermuth played just four games as a junior due to a shoulder injury. He saw a large volume of targets in those four games, catching 23 passes for 310 yards (13.5 average) and one touchdown. He ended his Penn State career with 92 catches for 1,185 yards (12.9 average) and 16 touchdowns, which set a Penn State record for career touchdown receptions by a tight end.

NFL.com

2019 statistics: 43 catches for 507 yards (11.8 average) and seven touchdowns.

What I liked: Freiermuth has an ideal build for the position. He has a big, thick frame and plays to that size in the passing game. Penn State moves him around the formation — he collects snaps with his hand on the ground, flexed in the slot and split out wide. He’s at his best working in the middle of the field. He uses an arch release to avoid getting jammed at the line of scrimmage and presents a big target to the quarterback down the seam.

Freiermuth isn’t an explosive route runner, but he has subtle quickness at the top of his route to create some separation. He also has a good feel for working and settling in zones. He has outstanding hands. He takes some big shots at the catch point and still manages to hold on to the ball. He has a big catch radius and his concentration is superb.

Freiermuth’s also very effective after the catch because of his physicality. He pinballs off tacklers. He aggressively attacks safeties and lowers his shoulder to power through tackles when he has a runway. He’s effective as a back-side run blocker, too. He takes proper angles and shields off defenders long enough to get the job done.

Where he needs to improve: Freiermuth needs to improve in the run game. He survives on the back side, but he really struggles as a front-side run blocker. He gathers and pauses on contact instead of running his feet and creating some knock-back on his defender. This allows opponents to quickly shed his block and get involved in the play.

He’s not as explosive as former Penn State TE Mike Gesicki, a second-round pick of the Dolphins in 2018. If you’re looking for that type of speed or athleticism from Freiermuth, I think you’ll be disappointed. I haven’t watched him play in person, but I am curious to see if he could gain some extra juice by losing a little bit of weight. That isn’t a big deal, though. He can still have a long, successful pro career with the tools he possesses.

Biggest takeaway: I’ll use this analogy since baseball season is underway: Good tight ends are like good closers. They are reliable! Freiermuth doesn’t come with all of the bells and whistles of some of the other top tight ends we’ve seen over the last handful of NFL drafts. However, when it’s third-and-6, you can count on him walling off his defender, attacking the ball and holding on through contact. That’s why his offensive coordinator and quarterback are going to love him at the next level.

He reminds me of: Freiermuth reminds me of Hunter Henry coming out of Arkansas. Both guys were good athletes, but they weren’t ultra-twitched up and explosive. Henry was better as a run blocker, but they share similar route-running savvy and football instincts. They have strong, reliable hands and they are outstanding options on third down and in the red zone. Henry has emerged as one of the premier TEs in the AFC. He received the franchise tag from the Chargers this offseason and is due to collect a big payday next offseason. Freiermuth has some work to do to get to that level, but it is attainable.

Breakdowns Game Film Other Breakdowns

Mock Draft Monday: The Steelers take a chance on an edge rusher with their top pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In the latest mock draft, the Steelers look to add another piece to the outside linebackers in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.

The 2021 NFL draft is now less than one month away. With free agency rolling on followed by the upcoming NFL draft, the Steelers will have a plethora of decisions and moves to make before making their first draft selection. Because the NFL combine will not be held, pro days are the best option to get player information. It will be interesting to see what limited information ends up being available in regards to draft prospects this year.

When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. Before any gains or losses in free agency, there are some who would like to see the Steelers go with either offensive line or running back with their first-round pick. Others feel tight end or linebacker could be on top of the list. With plenty of chances for the Steelers to shape their roster prior to April, their goal is usually to get into position to draft the best player available rather than target a specific position. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.

This week it continues to be difficult to find a mock draft which has the Steelers taking a player we have not already covered, therefore it takes looking at some interesting scenarios. In the latest mock draft by cbssports.com, they have the Steelers taking an edge rusher who would likely fit better in a 4-3 defense. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first selection, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets, regardless of how terrible they may appear.

Check out the Steelers 24th pick:

24. Pittsburgh Steelers | Carlos Basham Jr. | EDGE | Wake Forest | SR |

Even though the draft process has been going on for a while, there may be players some fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Basham according to thedraftnetwork.com:

Wake Forest defensive end Carlos Basham Jr. takes his game to the next level after racking up splash play after splash play from 2018-2020. In 31 games across that span, Basham Jr. has 33.5 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and a defensive touchdown. At the next level, Basham Jr. projects most favorably as a left defensive end in a 4-3 scheme that situationally gets chances to rush interior gaps. He’s a power style end that is strong at the point of attack, does well to contain, and features a sufficient pass-rushing skill set where his technique and effort leads to pressure on the quarterback. If a team is in search of a burst and bendy pass rusher, that’s not Basham’s game. He wins with power, technique, effort, and angles to get home. For Basham to reach his ceiling at the next level, developing his secondary pass rush moves, trimming weight, adding functional strength, and improving his block recognition skills on run plays will be important. If everything comes together, Basham can be a productive starter for a 4-3 defense.

Ideal Role: Left defensive end in a 4-3 scheme that gets chances to rush from the interior on long and late downs.

Scheme Fit: 4-3 front.

For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Basham with their first pick? Or do you feel the Steelers should look at one of the other edge rushers who could be available? Personally, this mock draft was terrible. They had inside linebacker Micah Parsons of Penn State dropping all the way to the 26th pick and yet having the Steelers not draft him at 24. Instead, the Steelers took an edge rusher who will likely be there in Round 2 when they pick at number 55. I’m sorry, but if Micah Parsons is available to the Steelers without having to trade up, they should be on the clock for about 0:04 seconds as it should be all the longer it takes to write down his name on the card. As for Basham, the Steelers have struggled with taking players who are a better fit for a 4-3 scheme. I don’t see them making that mistake in the first round anytime soon. It’s not that Basham would be a bad selection for the Steelers at all as some have him as an option in Round 2 and beyond.

As always, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and remember these mock drafts are merely speculation and caused to create discussion among the fan base.

2021 NFL Draft: BTSC Big Board, Outside Linebackers/EDGE

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ranking and analyzing the top 34 edge rushers in the 2021 NFL Draft

The 2021 NFL Draft’s class of edge rushers has been called a weak one by many draft analysts, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Despite lacking a top 5-10 talent like a Chase Young or Bosa brother, this year’s class is incredibly deep and still has a solid group of prospects that could hear their names called in the first round.

The Steelers likely won’t be one of the teams picking an edge rusher in the first round, as despite star pass-rusher Bud Dupree leaving in free agency, 2020 third round pick Alex Highsmith seems more than ready to pick up the mantle as T.J. Watt’s partner in crime. However, a lack of depth behind Watt and Highsmith has led many to believe the team will spend a pick at some point on the position as a depth piece behind the two starters.

Further complicating things is the Steelers’ defensive scheme, a 3-4 front, in which the edge rushers are lined up at the outside linebacker position. This position requires a specific skillset, meaning that it won’t be the right fit for every edge rusher in the draft. But in a deep class, the Steelers shouldn’t have any problem finding their guy at the position.

Before checking out this year’s class of edge rushers, make sure you’re caught up on the previous positions. You can check out the first eight installments of the board here: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers (Part 1), Wide Receivers (Part 2), Tight Ends, Interior Offensive Line, Offensive Tackles, and Interior Defensive Line.

As always, the main rankings are steelerfan11’s, while the analysis is a collaborative effort. SNW’s consensus rankings are an average of where the prospects appeared on big boards (ranking all positions) from other draft websites to see where the prospects stack up elsewhere. The websites, in order, are CBS Sports, Drafttek, ESPN, Mock Draft Database, and Tankathon.

We always appreciate hearing your draft takes in the comment section, and if you’d be interested in adding them to the BTSC Big Board we’d appreciate the help. Let us know in the comments below if you’d be interested.

Let’s get to rankings:

1. Kwity Paye — #19, Sr, 6’4”, 272 lbs, — Michigan
Top 15 grade
Consensus ranking: 15 (8, 20, 18, 14, 15)
2020 season stats: (4 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 50, TFL 12.5, Sacks 6.5 (12 games)

steelerfan11: Paye is a physical specimen that began to blossom in 2020. He is a top-notch run defender who uses his hands well and maintains a good pad level. At over 270 pounds, Paye actually has a legit shot of running 4.4 in the 40. His speed is evident when he beats the tackle to the outside and runs down the quarterback. While he has the trait to become a dominant pass-rusher, he is not quite there yet and will still need to develop more in that area. Nonetheless, he will be an instant impact player due to his ability to play the run at a high level.

Itz JustNoah: Paye is built like a semi-truck. He was incredible against the run in college due to his great feet and hands, and I don’t doubt that that will translate to the NFL. However, he relies too much on his athleticism as a pass rusher and that is something that has to be fixed if he wants to be successful as a true edge. If he can develop as a pass rusher on the technical side of things, he has the potential to be extremely good. Paye is ineffective when dropping back into coverage so a 4-3 scheme, where he can play on the edge while not being asked to drop back in coverage, would work very well.

2. Azeez Ojulari — #13, So, 6’3”, 240 lbs, — Georgia
Top 25 grade
Consensus ranking: 39 (58, 30, 58, 22, 25)
2020 season stats: Tackles 71, TFL 19.5, Sacks 14, PD 3, FF 5, FR 1 (10 games)

steelerfan11: Ojulari has been a favorite of mine for a while. His bend around the edge is terrific, probably the best in the class. His burst off the line makes him difficult to contain coming around the edge, especially for bigger lineman that do not have the lateral quickness to keep up with him. His strength did not seem to be a strength of his on tape, but he impressed at his pro day by putting up 28 bench reps. He has good overall awareness and makes plays in the run game, but he would be even better if he was ten pounds heavier. At 6-2, it is unclear as to how much weight he will be able to add to his frame, but he has the potential to become one of the best pass-rushers in the league.

Ryland B.: I’ve seen some comparisons between Ojulari and former Steeler Bud Dupree, likely due to the incredible athleticism both pass-rushers possess. I was impressed with how fast and twitchy he is on tape, and those traits alone give him one of the higher ceilings in this class. Ojulari isn’t the biggest guy, and he doesn’t have the greatest length, but if he can continue to gain strength it shouldn’t be a problem. He’s not the most polished pass-rusher, but he has the effort and athleticism to succeed, and a decent array of moves already. Ojulari’s athleticism makes him very versatile, and although I see him best succeeding as a 3-4 OLB, others, such as The Draft Network, see him as an off-ball linebacker.

Itz JustNoah: Ojulari has great athleticism and technique. He uses his hands well, he’s quick and he’s got a great bend that helps him stay upright. He has average size for an edge rusher so he could use a bit more strength but his speed off the line has helped him be successful without the ideal size. His major flaw comes as a run defender. When he’s forced outside and has to set the edge, he doesn’t have his burst off the line so he isn’t able to get by blockers. He’s not polished, but he’s got a high ceiling that makes him well worthy of being taken in the first round. He excelled in Kirby Smart’s 3-4 defense at Georgia and I think that’s where he will fit best in the NFL.

3. Joseph Ossai — #46, Jr, 6’4”, 253 lbs, — Texas
Top 25 grade
Consensus ranking: 34 (34, 36, 29, 38, 34)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 90, 14.5 TFL ,6 Sacks , Int 2, PD 3, FF 2 (13 games)

steelerfan11: Talk about a guy who has the feel for getting after the quarterback! Ossai makes it look so easy at times. His quick and violent hands allow him to gain leverage on opponents, and his short-area burst and closing speed help him finish plays. Not only is his motor always running at 100%, but he is also always looking to improve his game. He still needs to become better in coverage, and he is not a perfect run defender yet, but he showed obvious improvement each year in college. I expect that to continue when he is in the NFL.

Ryland B.: Joseph Ossai played as both a pass-rusher and an off-ball linebacker at Texas. He projects best at EDGE though, where he uses his quick first step and array of pass-rushing moves to get to the quarterback. He is fairly new to the position, which makes his mental processing a little slow at times, but overall Ossai is highly athletic, fairly polished, and plays with a high motor. He has a knack for forcing fumbles as well. Never the most productive, Ossai still had a lot of pressures that showed up on tape, and hopefully he’ll be able to hit home more often in the NFL.

Itz JustNoah: I absolutely love Ossai. He has pretty much everything you want in a 3-4 OLB. He’s very quick off the line, his balance is phenomenal, he uses his hands extremely well and he has a wide range of pass rush moves. The stats may not show it but he is almost always in the backfield whether it be a run or a pass. Unlike a lot of the other edge rushers in this class, Ossai is very versatile. He can easily drop back into zone coverage or even play man against some tight ends or running backs, so he is the perfect 3-4 edge. I see a lot of TJ Watt in him because of his quickness, balance and his knack for creating turnovers. I’ve seen him fall out of the first round in some mocks but I think that any team that uses a 3-4 should take him before any other edge rusher.

4. Gregory Rousseau — #15, So, 6’7”, 265 lbs, — Miami
Late 1st round grade
Consensus ranking: 15 (16, 12, 16, 16, 16)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 54, TFL 19.5, Sacks 15.5 (13 games)

steelerfan11: This class is filled with boom-or-bust prospects, and Rousseau is one of those prospects. He was extremely productive in the one year that we have a good sample size of him, but again, it was only one year. His numbers were incredible in 2019, but if you go back and watch his tape, a couple of his sacks were more coverage sacks than anything else. It is also worth noting that a lot of that production came when he was moved inside to rush from the interior. He has the versatility to be moved around on passing downs, but he will occasionally take plays off and be a complete non-factor. I realize that there is a lot of upside here, but if I am given the choice between him and Ossai, give me the guy who has more tape and never takes a play off.

Ryland B.: From a draft perspective, I really wish that Rousseau hadn’t opted out of the 2020 season. He put up 15.5 sacks — as a redshirt freshman — in 2019, and was seen by most as a surefire top 10 pick entering the following season. But after opting out the following season he’s dropped in most rankings. The problem? Despite Rousseau’s impressive production, he’s still very raw, and with only one true season under his belt he’ll be a massive risk for whichever team gets him. He has all of the physical traits you could want in an edge rusher with great size and athleticism, but his game is still fairly underdeveloped. Rousseau has the talent to be a first round pick, but it will be interesting to see if he can live up to that billing.

5. Jaelan Phillips — #15, Jr, 6’5”, 266 lbs, — Miami
Early 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 30 (40, 47, 17, 24, 24)
2020 season stats: Tackles 45, TFL 15.5, Sacks 8 (10 games)

steelerfan11: Phillips was the top pass-rusher in his class coming out of high school, earning a five-star rating as he entered college. He played his first two seasons at UCLA, but he struggled with concussions, which is probably the biggest red flag for him as a draft prospect. He has all the tools physically, but he never really showed them until 2020. He was a much healthier version of himself at Miami and made the loss of Gregory Rousseau go almost unnoticed. However, he is still undisciplined when it comes to pad level. There are a few other technical issues in his game, but if those can get cleaned up, he has the chance to be an elite defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.

Ryland B.: I hadn’t watched a ton of Phillips until I started analyzing him for this board, but I came away very impressed. He’s a plus athlete with good size, which I had known before, but he seemed to be more technically sound than most think he is. What really stood out to me is how violent of a pass-rusher Phillips is. His hand usage is strong and choppy, his motor is nonstop, and he’s a very disruptive, hard hitter. He’s solid against the run as well. Phillips can still be inconsistent and play too high at times, but he has all of the tools to succeed and should just continue to improve. The only red flag is his concussion issues, which unfortunately, could be quite the issue.

6. Carlos Basham — #9, Sr, 6’5”, 285 lbs, — Wake Forest
Mid 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 50 (56, 62, 41, 48, 42)
2020 season stats: Tackles 28, TFL 5.5, Sacks 5, PD 1, FF 1 (7 games)

Ryland B.: Basham is a powerful edge rusher who has more of a clear fit as a 4-3 defensive end than anyone I’ve profiled so far for this board. He’s not a bad athlete per se, but he lacks the pure agility and bend of some of the others on this list, and his array of pass-rush moves isn’t the strongest. Still, Basham has good strength, plays with good discipline, and has a solid all-around game. He may not be an overly dynamic athlete, but Basham still made his impact at Wake Forest with some big plays. Hell be a good second round pick as he can start right away but he lacks the upside of a first rounder. He’s a good player but probably not a great fit in Pittsburgh.

7. Patrick Jones — #91, Sr, 6’5”, 260 lbs, — Pittsburgh
Mid 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 55 (31, 67, 49, 67, 60)
2020 season stats: Tackles 44, TFL 13, Sacks 9 (11 games)

steelerfan11: When you watch Jones, he reminds you of Bud Dupree or Jadeveon Clowney. He is tight in the hips and plays with his pads too high at times, but he has good functional strength, strong hands, and enough quickness to beat less athletic tackles around the edge. He is not quite as athletic as a Dupree, and the separation in athleticism is what will likely limit Jones to defensive end in a 4-3 system. His repertoire of moves is impressive, as he has shown many different ways of getting to the quarterback. Overall, I like Jones’ potential, but he does not provide the versatility that some of these other prospects do.

Ryland B.: Jones is an athletic pass-rusher with an insanely quick first step. He has solid size, and while he’s still a little raw overall there aren’t any major concerns when rushing the passer or defending the run. As a 4-3 defensive end, Jones is a very solid prospect who will just need some time to grow into his role in the NFL. However, as a 3-4 outside linebacker, a position Jones would play in the Steelers’s system (an actual possibility as the team met with him at the Senior Bowl), there would be a lot more to work on. Jones has the ideal size and athletic profile but is severely lacking when it comes to anything besides rushing the passer from a defensive end stance.

8. Jayson Oweh — #28, So, 6’5”, 253 lbs, — Penn State
Mid 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 47 (80, 50, 35, 35, 33)
2020 season stats: Tackles 63, TFL 13.5, Sacks 0, PD 2, FF 2 (7 games)

steelerfan11: Oweh has as much potential as anyone in the class, but he lacked production in 2020. It is not every day that you see a 250+ pound athlete run the 40 in under 4.4 seconds, but Oweh can do it. However, he has struggled to translate his God-given athletic gifts to the football field. Some scouting reports that you read will say that he is limited to 4-3 schemes, but I believe the exact opposite. I think that he will only have success as a 3-4 outside linebacker. If you watch his tape, you will see that he lacks quickness out of his stance when lined up as a down lineman with his hand in the dirt, but he was a totally different player when he was a stand-up linebacker. He had a quicker first step, and he was more effective using his speed. If a team is willing to be patient with Oweh and not expect much from him in year one, he will have a chance to blossom into one of the top 3-4 outside linebackers in the league. For more perspective on Oweh, here is an interesting scouting report on him from Big Blue View.

Ryland B.: I have a sneaking suspicion that Oweh will be picked much higher than most think he will be due to his blazing 40 time (see steelerfan11’s analysis above). Unsurprisingly, Oweh is a fantastic athlete, but there’s more than just that to being a good pass-rusher, although the upside is undeniably there. Oweh is just incredibly raw, and despite his solid weight at 253 he looks and plays smaller on the field than expected. He got pushed around a lot and didn’t have great awareness either, almost like he was still learning the position. That isn’t to say I don’t like Oweh — I think he’d be a fantastic pick in the third or fourth round as a developmental 3-4 OLB, but he’ll likely be picked much earlier than that.

9. Chris Rumph — #96, Jr, 6’4”, 235 lbs, — Duke
Mid 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 107 (94, 120, 63, 150, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 53, TFL 12.5, Sacks 8, PD 1, FF1 , FR 1 (11 games)

steelerfan11: Rumph’s stock seems to be headed in the right direction. I am not the biggest fan of his, but he may be the beneficiary of what most people consider to be a poor class at outside linebacker. My biggest concern with Rumph is his size. I think that he can get stronger once he is in the NFL, but his frame is very small. This allowed opponents to have their way with him in the running game, as he was oftentimes unable to set the edge. He lined up all over the place for Duke and showed his versatility, but he will need to settle into one position in the NFL. He is best suited for a team that plays a lot of subpackage defense and moves their linebackers around.

Ryland B.: If Rumph was just a little bit bigger and stronger I’d think he’d be ranked a lot higher on this board. He’s an explosive, versatile pass-rusher with fantastic bend around the edge. He was very disruptive and fairly productive while at Duke, but he’ll have a much harder time in the NFL. Rumph lacks ideal size and strength, and even in college he could get swallowed up by bigger offensive tackles. Thanks to his versatility and athleticism, Rumph might be able to find a spot as an inside linebacker in the NFL, but it remains to be seen how that transition would work out.

10. Joe Tryon — #9, Jr, 6’5”, 262 lbs, — Washington
Mid 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 53 (65, 72, 31, 53, 46)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 61, TFL 14.5, Sacks 9, PD 2 (13 games)

Ryland B.: Tyron is a very athletic presence on the edge with good size and strength. He has impressive hand usage and some good pass-rush moves, and when paired with his speed and agility it can be quite the combination. Against the run Tyron is solid, but he can get pushed back a little more often that you’d like and isn’t the strongest tackler. It’s also worth noting that Tyron sat out the 2020 season, which might drop his draft stock a bit as 2019 was really his only good year in college.

steelerfan11: I like Tryon best as a 4-3 defensive end, as he is one of the few edge rushers that actually seem to get a better start off the line when his hand is in the dirt. He has the frame to add even more weight, if he wanted to. He does a great job of setting the edge in the run game, and he has decent bend around the edge. Coverage is not Tryon’s specialty, but his schematic versatility and three-down value makes him worthy of a day two pick.

11. Ronnie Perkins — #7, Jr, 6’4”, 248 lbs, — Oklahoma
Late 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 70 (NA, 98, NA, 59, 52)
2020 season stats: Tackles 24, TFL 10.5, Sacks 5.5, PD 0, FF 0, FR 0 (6 games)

Ryland B.: Perkins is a strong, aggressive EDGE with good athleticism. He has violent hands and a good collection of pass rush moves, although there is room to develop in that area. For someone listed at under 250 pounds, Perkins plays much bigger than he is and I can’t stress enough how impressive his strength is. He’s a good tackler and has all of the tools to be a good run defender, but hasn’t completely arrived there yet, with The Draft Network noting that he is “wildly undisciplined” when defending the run. A suspension at Oklahoma could be a red flag as well.

12. Daelan Hayes — #9, Sr, 6’3”, 266 lbs, — Notre Dame
Late 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 142 (NA, 163, 77, 185, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 17, TFL 6, Sacks 3, PD 0, FF 2, FR 1, Int 1 (12 games)

steelerfan11: Hayes is the 4-3 version of Joseph Ossai, except he does not have the high ceiling that Ossai has. He is a natural pass rusher and looks very fluid coming around the edge, but his athleticism is not eye-popping. He never eclipsed three sacks in one season at Notre Dame, but he had a good Senior Bowl week which was highlighted by a strip sack in 11-on-11 drills. He is a solid run-blocker and sets the edge well, but there are still questions as to whether he can be a three-down player in the NFL.

13. Jordan Smith — #22, Jr, 6’7”, 255 lbs, — UAB
Late 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 136 (NA, 150, 133, 126, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 53, TFL 17.5, Sacks 10, PD 1, FF 4, FR 0 (14 games)

Ryland B.: Smith is an interesting prospect simply due to his impressive length at 6’7”. He has a lean, athletic build for a pass-rusher, and while it helps with his agility and overall athleticism, he would still ideally bulk up some more in the NFL. Smith plays with great effort and has excellent physical traits, but his game is still very raw all around. Smith has impressed in coverage though, and could be a versatile 3-4 OLB on the next level. There are red flags though, as Smith was involved in a credit card fraud scheme during his freshman year at Florida. His lack of top competition at UAB may lower his draft stock as well.

14. Quincy Roche — #9, Sr, 6’3”, 245 lbs, — Miami
Early 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 102 (91, 87, 163, 78, 91)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 49, TFL 19, Sacks 13, PD , FF 1, FR 2 (13 games)

steelerfan11: Roche’s quickness off the edge and excellent hand usage give him the upper hand against tackles that only have average athleticism. He lacks the strength to bull rush and is forced to rely on his quickness to beat the tackle around the edge. That lack of strength also hurts him as a run defender, as many tackles were able to push him around at will. However, he is a smart football player that overcomes his lack of strength with good technique. Although he will get pushed around at times, he is still solid against the run. His ceiling is not quite as high as some of the other rush linebackers in this class, but if he can add some weight to his frame, he will provide a team with value on all three downs.

15. Hamilcar Rashed Jr. — #9, Sr, 6’4”, 235 lbs, — Oregon State
Early 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 103 (110, 86, 127, 98, 94)
2020 season stats: Tackles 23, TFL 2, Sacks 0, PD 1, FF 1, FR 0 (7 games)

Ryland B.: Rashed’s 2019 season was incredible, as he garnered 22.5 tackles for loss, leading the nation and being named a First Team All-American. Despite being widely considered a fringe first round talent, Rashed decided to return to school for his Senior year in 2020, a well-intentioned move that didn’t work out for the star outside linebacker. Known for his high motor and production, Rashed showed neither in 2020, often looking disinterested in the game and spending more time than usual on the sidelines. He only recorded two tackles for loss the entire season, and his lack of polish really showed. There’s a possibility Rashed was fighting through an injury, but regardless it was a big step back for him that sent him tumbling down draft boards. Still, there’s reason to hope that Rashed can regain top form in the NFL, as he has incredible athletic upside and has shown the capacity to be both effective and productive when defending the run and rushing the passer. The other major concern with Rashed is his weight, listed only at 235 lbs. However, Rashed has the frame to bulk up and size was never a huge issue for him in college. He’ll probably be limited to a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker, but Rashed has the potential to be an elite pass-rusher on the next level.

16. Shaka Toney — #18, Sr, 6’3”, 252 lbs, — Penn State
Mid 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 143 (NA, 166, 138, 126, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 31, TFL 7.5, Sacks 5, PD 4, FF 4, FR 1 (9 games)

steelerfan11: Toney was expected to be overshadowed by Yetur Gross-Matos in 2019 and Jayson Oweh in 2020, but both seasons Toney was the more consistent and more productive player. He has elite quickness off the line of scrimmage, but much like Rumph and Roche, he does not have a big frame. If he is going to become a three-down linebacker, he will have to add weight to help him set the edge better as a run defender. Nonetheless, he will be a good situational player who can excel as a speed rusher.

17. Dayo Odeyingbo — #10, Sr, 6’5”, 279 lbs, — Vanderbilt
Late 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 107 (NA, 103, 112, 107, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 13, TFL 8, Sacks 5.5, PD 0, FF 0, FR 0 (8 games)

Ryland B.: Odeyingbo is a big, athletic defender with some of the most impressive versatility in this class. He’s played on both the interior and edge of defensive lines, and despite his weight at nearly 280 lbs, he has the ability to play as an DE/OLB in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. Despite his size, however, he doesn’t have the greatest play strength, and he’s still very raw as a pass-rusher. Odeyingbo is a player best selected to develop into a star over the next few seasons, not contribute right away. However, his impressive size/athleticism combination may make it hard for coaches to keep him off the field.

18. Rashad Weaver — #17, Sr, 6’6”, 274 lbs, — Pittsburgh
Late 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 88 (NA, 94, 87, 84, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 35, TFL 14.5, Sacks 7.5, PD 2, FF 3, FR 1 (9 games)

steelerfan11: In only nine games in 2020, Weaver accumulated 7.5 sacks across from Patrick Jones, who had a breakout season of his own. He does not have elite speed or explosiveness, but he has decent bend, which was evident at his pro day when he ran a 6.98 in the 3-cone drill. He has good length and hand usage, and he displays great awareness as a run-blocker. What lowers his floor is a knee injury that he suffered in 2019. If he can remain healthy, he could be starting caliber defensive end in a 4-3 system.

19. Patrick Johnson — #7, Sr, 6’3”, 255 lbs, — Tulane
Late 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 229 (NA, 244, NA, 214, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 39, TFL 14.5, Sacks 10, PD 2, FF 2, FR 0 (11 games)

steelerfan11: Johnson is a versatile pass rusher who lined up all over the place for Tulane. While he did not always play against elite competition, he was successful in every aspect of his game for Tulane, whether it was rushing the passer, dropping into coverage, or stopping the run. He has tremendous hand usage and a good repertoire of pass-rushing moves, but his biggest strength may be his ability to process information quickly as a run defender. His pro day numbers will be telling as to how high his ceiling is athletically, but Johnson will be able to step in immediately as a 3rd or 4th outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He may be able to fight for a starting job on a team as early as year two.

20. Chauncey Golston — #57, Sr, 6’5”, 274 lbs, — Iowa
Early 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 235 (NA, 353, 145, 206, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 45, TFL 8.5, Sacks 5.5, PD 0, FF 1, FR 0 (8 games)

Itz JustNoah: Golston is one of my favorite late round guys in the entire class. He has defensive tackle size, with defensive end pass rush ability. He has a good first step, his hand placement is great and he plays with a high motor. He doesn’t have much to offer in the run game though. Despite his quick first step, he’s not super fast so he doesn’t have the ability to get to the edge well. And he only put up 22 reps on the bench, which is good but not great especially for a guy his size. Golston rarely dropped into coverage while at Iowa so his best fit is in a 4-3. If he can improve as a run defender, he has a great shot at being a steal for any team that wants to take a chance on him.

21. Malcolm Koonce — #50, Sr, 6’3”, 250 lbs, — Buffalo
Early 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 200 (NA, 200, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 30, TFL 6.5, Sacks 5, PD 2, FF 0, FR 0 (6 games)

Ryland B.: Another highly-athletic pass-rusher, Koonce brings a lightning-fast first step and an incredible motor to the table. He also has a good array of pass-rush moves, but despite his solid size he’s lacking in strength and can be moved out of the way a little too easily by a good offensive tackle. Koonce’s lower level of competition could be a concern, but it also serves to keep him as an underrated prospect with the tools to succeed in the right scheme on the NFL level.

22. Chris Garrett — #52, Sr, 6’4”, 245 lbs, — Concordia St. Paul
Early 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 402 (NA, 443, NA, 361, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 69, TFL 20.5, Sacks 14, PD 5, FF 7, FR 2 (11 games)

steelerfan11: Garrett is my favorite sleeper in this class of edge rushers. Playing Division II football, he obviously did not play against excellent competition, but let’s not forget that it works the other way as well. He did not exactly have a group of all-stars playing alongside him on defense. In 28 games in college, he racked up 36.5 sacks and 48.5 tackles for loss. Garrett’s burst off the line is excellent, and he always flies to the football to make big plays. He will need to get stronger in the lower body if he is going to be able to hold up against the run in the NFL, but I would love it if the Steelers took a late round flier on this guy. He has a chance to be special.

23. Victor Dimukeje — #51, Sr, 6’3”, 265 lbs, — Duke
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 169 (NA, 178, NA, 160, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 44, TFL 11.5, Sacks 7.5, PD 1, FF 2, FR 1 (11 games)

Ryland B.: Dimukeje is a strong, physical defensive end who is best suited for a 4-3 scheme. He doesn’t have great size but is built well enough for his position, and similarly his athleticism is solid yet nothing to write home about. He’s a good, technically-sound run defender, and as a pass-rusher he has a good motor but simply isn’t as dynamic as some of the others in this class. Dimukeje will likely be a solid depth piece for a 4-3 team in the NFL.

24. Tarron Jackson — #9, Sr, 6’2”, 273 lbs, — Coastal Carolina
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 210 (NA, 288, 154, 189, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 54, TFL 14, Sacks 8.5, PD 0, FF 3, FR 1 (12 games)

steelerfan11: Jackson was a big part of Coastal Carolina’s 2020 success, displaying his ability to dominate lesser competition as a pass rusher. He has violent, strong hands, but his hand usage is still inconsistent at times. He has the size and skill set to be a top-notch run defender, and his relentlessness helps him recover after a bad rep, but he lacks bend and is very tight in the hips. It is difficult to project where he fits in the NFL, but he has some intrigue if he can overcome his technical issues.

25. Payton Turner — #98, Sr, 6’6”, 289 lbs, — Indiana
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 161 (NA, 294, 78, 110, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 25, TFL 10.5, Sacks 5, PD 0, FF 1, FR 0 (5 games)

Ryland B.: At nearly 290 pounds, Turner is likely too big and lacks the ideal athleticism to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. As a 4-3 defensive end, however, Turner would be a really good run-stopping piece due to his great size, strength, and high-effort style of play. He lacks the ideal speed, burst, and bend to be much of a pass-rushing threat, however. Technically sound and a good run defender, Turner will be a good late-round pick for a team that can use him correctly.

26. Janarius Robinson — #11, Sr, 6’5”, 258 lbs, — Florida State
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 242 (NA, 325, 165, 237, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 26, TFL 7, Sacks 3, PD 2, FF 0, FR 0 (9 games)

steelerfan11: Robinson has good lower body strength to set the edge against the run, and his long arms help him win the battle for leverage, but the natural ability did not always match the production at Florida State. His contributions against the run will go unnoticed by simply looking at the stat sheet, but he was a bright spot on a Florida State defense that was very inconsistent the past couple seasons. If he can reach his athletic ceiling, he has the chance to become a very good starting defensive end in a 4-3 system.

27. Jonathan Cooper — #0, Sr, 6’4”, 257 lbs, — Ohio State
Late 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 208 (NA, 221, NA, 195, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 20, TFL 2.5, Sacks 2.5, PD 0, FF 0, FR 0 (6 games)

Ryland B.: He may not be a Chase Young or Nick Bosa, but Jonathan Cooper is another quality pass-rusher from Ohio State. While not a freak athlete, Cooper has good athletic traits, showing a quick first step and good speed and agility. He’s very technically sound, playing with good effort and impressive hand usage. He’s best suited as a pass-rusher but had his fair share of good plays against the run as well. He’d be a good fit in a 3-4 or 4-3.

28. Elerson Smith — #16, Jr, 6’7”, 254 lbs, — Northern Iowa
Late 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 222 (NA, 309, 213, 143, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 63, TFL 21.5, Sacks 14, PD 4, FF 5, FR 0 (15 games)

steelerfan11: I imagine that Ellerson Smith and Spencer Brown were fun to watch going against each other in practice. Having an NFL prospect to go against every day will help Smith down the road, but what is ironic is that both Brown and Smith are incredibly long prospects, and neither do a great job of using it to their advantage. He needs to get stronger and lower his pad level if he is going to become a good run defender, but he has the technique and athleticism to become a solid pass-rusher in a 3-4 defense.

29. Wyatt Hubert — #56, Jr, 6’3”, 270 lbs, — Kansas State
Late 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 198 (NA, 171, 223, 200, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 27, TFL 13, Sacks 8.5, PD 1, FF 2, FR 0 (10 games)

Ryland B.: Hubert was quite productive at Kansas State, but his physical limitations may prevent him from replicating that in the NFL. AT 6’3”, 270 pounds, Hubert is more compactly built than the average NFL pass-rusher, and paired with his below-average athleticism (for the NFL), I see him having a hard time against offensive tackles on the next level. Hubert would win reps with a relentless motor and good technique, which makes me think he could be an excellent special teamer in the NFL .

30. William Bradley-King — #7, Jr, 6’4”, 254 lbs, — Baylor
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 221 (NA, 295, 143, 226, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 49, TFL 13.5, Sacks 8.5, PD 0, FF 3, FR 2 (13 games)

steelerfan11: As a run-blocker, Bradley-King has good awareness and anticipation, but he does not always do a great job of setting the edge. He does not have the quickest feet, nor does he have the ability to process information quickly, which will sometimes prevent him from making the tackle on an elusive defender in open space. He will overthink things instead of simply making the play. Nonetheless, he is a solid athlete who can become a contributor on passing downs if he becomes more consistent.

31. Adetokunbo Ogundeji — #91, Sr, 6’4”, 268 lbs, — Notre Dame
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 220 (NA, 291, NA, 148, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 23, TFL 7, Sacks 7, PD 0, FF 1, FR 1 (12 games)

Ryland B.: Nothing really stands out with Ogundeji’s game, which is both a good and bad thing. He has a solid game all-around, with solid size, strength, athleticism, technique, and production. However, he has no particularly dynamic elements to his game to separate him from the rest of the pack. Due to his size and lack of top-tier athleticism I see Ogundeji as a 4-3 defensive end, who has enough potential to potentially be a starter on the right team.

32. Joshua Kaindoh — #13, Jr, 6’7”, 261 lbs, — Florida State
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 157 (NA, 176, NA, 137, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 13, TFL 3, Sacks 0, PD 1, Int 1, FF 0, FR 0 (8 games)

steelerfan11: Kaindoh had some really good reps against Dillon Radunz at the Senior Bowl, but he never really reached his full potential at Florida State. Much like his counterpart Janarius Robinson, he may have been a victim of poor coaching and a lot of turmoil within the football program. He relies on his length and quickness too much, which allows tackles to simply push him away from the pocket. His 2019 season was cut short due to a lower leg injury, and he was plagued with hamstring problems the year previous. There are a lot of concerns with Kaindoh, but if he does not get drafted, it would be wise for some team to give him a shot and see if he can develop.

33. LaRon Stokes — #96, Sr, 6’4”, 278 lbs, — Oklahoma
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 257 (NA, 257, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 12, TFL 2.5, Sacks 0, PD 1, FF 0, FR 0 (8 games)

Ryland B.: Stokes is a versatile defensive lineman with experience on the interior defensive line as well as at EDGE. Due to his build and strong bull-rush I think he’d be best suited for the interior, as he looked pretty good there on tape as well. His athleticism isn’t great for an edge rusher but it’s impressive for the interior defensive line. No matter what position he ends up at, I think he’d be best suited for a 4-3.

34. Shane Simmons — #34, Sr, 6’3”, 247 lbs, — Penn State
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: NA (NA, NA, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 16, TFL 4, Sacks 3, PD 1, FF 0, FR 0 (9 games)

steelerfan11: Yet another edge rusher that will likely be limited to a situational role, Simmons lacks the quickness that you would like to see from him coming off the line of scrimmage. One major concern is that he does not always seem dedicated to football, and that is why I do not think he will be drafted. He gets good leverage, maintains a consistent pad level, and moves with good fluidity, but all of that means nothing if he is not dedicated to the game.

Notable prospects who decided to return to school for 2021:

Cincinnati EDGE Myjai Sanders

Clemson EDGE Xavier Thomas

Ohio State EDGE Tyreke Smith

Auburn EDGE Big Kat Bryant

Western Kentucky EDGE Michael Pitts

Should the Steelers draft an EDGE rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft?

steelerfan11: Based on the current roster, I would be shocked if the Steelers did not draft an edge rusher at some point. The Steelers literally have nobody behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. There are still a couple of reasonable free agents that could be viable #3 outside linebackers, but we will have to see where the Steelers stand in terms of the salary cap a month from now. Joseph Ossai and Azeez Ojulari are two of my personal favorites, but as I have stated before, the Steelers are going nowhere until that atrocious offensive line is fixed. Generally speaking, the middle rounds would be the right time to draft a #3 outside linebacker, but I do not see any guys who will provide excellent value until maybe round four. That is when I would consider a guy like Rashed if he happens to be available. If I am the GM, however, I am trying to find my #3 edge in free agency and drafting Chris Garrett from Concordia St. Paul in the 6th or 7th round as the #4 edge rusher. I believe that he has starter potential but will need a year or two to develop. If we can add a veteran in free agency such as Ryan Anderson and follow that up by drafting Garrett as a developmental linebacker, I would feel pretty confident in our depth at the position.

Ryland B.: The Steelers starters are set at outside linebacker for the 2021 season in T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. However, the depth behind them is incredibly weak, and with the team’s dependence on a situational third pass-rusher, outside linebacker is actually a rather large need for the Steelers in the upcoming draft. However, with positions like running back, center, and cornerback being even bigger needs, I wouldn’t expect the team to draft an outside linebacker until round 4 at the earliest, unless an incredibly talented EDGE falls into the team’s lap earlier. In the rounds 4-5 range, Shaka Toney and Hamilcar Rashed are both pass-rushers who I really like, while Daelen Hayes is someone who the Steelers have shown some interest in during the draft process. While it’s not a top-heavy class at the position, EDGE is one of the deepest this year, and I fully expect the Steelers to find a quality backup for Watt and Highsmith at some point in the mid-to-later rounds.

This is a collaborative effort, and we are looking for more contributors to add to the board by helping with the analysis.

If you are interested in contributing, or just want to share your thoughts about the draft, please let us know in the comments below.

Stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for more content, including the rest of this big board, as we inch closer to the 2021 NFL Draft.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation with all players currently under contract

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

With reports available on every signing the Steelers have made in 2021, where do they stand in regards to the 2021 salary cap?

By combining multiple sources, the contracts for every player currently signed by the Steelers can be determined at this time. Since it has been a while since every new contract has been reported, it’s a great time to update where the Steelers stand with the 2021 salary cap.

Even though Tyson Alualu’s contract has not gone on the books at the major salary cap sites, it was reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Update to the wild story from Saturday night: Tyson Alualu’s deal with the #Steelers is two years, $5.5 million with $1.925M guaranteed, per source. Pretty close to the deal he ended up turning down in Jacksonville. https://t.co/9EplSwSCvm

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 30, 2021

Assuming Pelissero’s report is correct, this means Alualu has a $1.075 million base salary for 2021 and a $1.925 million signing bonus. This leaves $2.5 million as a base salary for 2022. If this is indeed the case, Alualu’s cap hit for 2021 would be $2.0375 million and would cost $1.2575 against the cap after displacement.

Another contract which has been reported by overthecap.com is offensive lineman Rashaard Coward. According to OTC, Coward will be paid $990k for 2021 but will only count as $850k toward the cap due to the veteran salary benefit. It is an identical contract to running back Trey Edmunds. After factoring in roster displacement, Coward only adds $70k toward the Steelers current salary cap.

As expected, OTC has the contracts for Matthew Sexton and Jarvis Miller are only for $660k each and do not fall in the top 51.

Now where do the Steelers currently stand with the 2021 salary cap? Before free agency kicked off, the Steelers were little more than $6 million under the salary cap. Since then, the number has fluctuated due to various moves.

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number. With the last update, the Steelers displaced the last $660k salary and have now moved into the $780k group, meaning displacement amounts will be slightly lower.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2021.

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $6 million

Ray-Ray McCloud: Reported $1 million salary; After displacement: -$0.34 million
B.J. Finney: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Cam Sutton: New report of $1.7 million; After displacement: -$1.04 million
Zach Banner: Reported $2.875 million; After displacement: -$2.215 million
Vince Williams: Saved $4 million salary; After displacement: +$3.34 million
Chris Wormley: Reported $1.6 million; After displacement: -$0.94 million
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Reported $2.4 million; After displacement: -$1.74 million
Tyler Simmons: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Joe Haeg: Reported $1.5 million; After displacement: -$0.84 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Steven Nelson: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.59 million
Cassius Marsh: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Eric Ebron: Reportedly saved $3.904; No roster displacement: +$3.904 million
Tyson Alualu: Reported $2.0375 million; After displacement: -$1.2575 million
Jordan Berry: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Kalen Ballage: Reported $920,000; After displacement: -$0.14 million
Rashaard Coward: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.07 million
Matthew Sexton: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jarvis Miller: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $11.25 million

Note: Miles Killebrew was the final contract displace a $660k salary. From Cassius Marsh on, the displacement is a $780k salary.

So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $11,719,086 under the salary cap. OTC has all of the above contracts on the books except for Tyson Alualu. For some reason, they have the number lower than it should be. Even when adding up the Steelers’ top 51 salaries and dead money owed this year, their own numbers don’t make sense to come in where they are.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $9,174,203 under the cap. Spotrac does not have contract numbers for McCloud, Finney, Billage, Coward, Alualu and Ebron. With Ebron’s savings being much more than the reduction of the other five players, their number comes in lower than what is expected.

While the Steelers are going to need cap space for a number of things this offseason, it doesn’t have to be at this time. Following the NFL draft, the Steelers will begin signing their draft picks and are estimated to need no more than $2.75 million in cap space once figuring roster displacement. Now that the salaries being displaced are $780k, the amount needed looks to be closer to $2.07 million. But remember, the Steelers won’t need this amount until at least May.

Also, the Steelers will need as much as an additional $10 million (a very high estimate, with $7 million coming in on the low end) come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year. With this in mind, the Steelers have a a couple million dollars to use and could still have enough space come September, and that is without doing any extensions or restructures.

So the Steelers now have a lot more breathing room under the salary cap, at least for now. Other moves could still be on the horizon as the Steelers have more they can do to shape their 2021 roster. It might not be long before you hear from me again as things continue to change.

An updated list of NCAA Pro Days leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 5:30am
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine canceled, Pro Days become even more important. So, here are the upcoming Pro Days leading up to the NFL Draft.

The 2021 NFL offseason will still be different. Even with the 2020-2021 season officially behind us, the preparation for the NFL Draft will look drastically different. As NFL fans usually enjoyed Pro Day workouts prior to the NFL Scouting Combine, there will be no Scouting Combine to look forward to this offseason.

With the NFL preparing for the draft without the combine, it puts an emphasis on Pro Days. Scouts, coaches and general managers will be all over the country leading up to the draft to try and figure out which prospects will become members of their organization when the draft rolls around at the end of April.

Check out where the Pittsburgh Steelers, and all other NFL franchises, will be headed this offseason to get the best look at prospects to try and make the best decisions possible before the draft process.

  • Texas Tech: Thursday, April 7
  • Houston: Friday, April 9
  • Ball State: Friday, April 9
  • UAB: Friday, April 9
  • Rice: Friday, April 9

It is hard to believe, but this is the final week of NCAA Pro Days before the players, coaches and scouting departments shut down travel and start to work on their big boards in preparation for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of free agency and the upcoming draft.

Podcast: A deep dive into the trenches of the 2021 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/05/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman brings an AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

They say that a football game is won in the trenches. The Steelers have an intriguing situation on one side of the line and one of stability on the other. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

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