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Deon Cain elevated from the Steelers practice squad for Week 6

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 3:03pm
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Due to the injury of wide receiver Diontae Johnson, the Steelers used the rule from the new CBA for the second straight week.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are using a new rule with the most recent collective bargaining agreement signed in March where up to two practice squad players could be elevated to the active roster each week without displacing another player. So far in 2020, the Steelers have only used this new rule once to elevate running back Trey Edmunds from the practice squad to the active roster for Week 5. Having to give the player a weekly salary of an active roster player, being selective of when to use this rule has been a wise move.

With Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson ruled out for Sunday’s game, the Steelers have chosen to elevate Deon Cain from the practice squad to the active roster for Week 6. After the game, Cain will revert back to the Steelers practice squad. This per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor:

With Diontae Johnson out for Sunday’s game, the Steelers have elevated WR Deon Cain from the practice squad.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) October 17, 2020

Drafted in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft for the Indianapolis Colts, Cain spent the 2018 season on the Reserve/Injured List. After appearing in seven games for the Colts in 2019, the last of which was against the Steelers at Heinz Field, Cain was cut and added to the Colts’ practice squad. Less than a week later, the Steelers signed Cain to their active roster ahead of their Week 12 game against the Cincinnati Bengals and he was active for the remainder of the 2019 season. In six games, Cain had five receptions for 72 yards for the Steelers. During his time with the Colts, Cain had four receptions for 52 yards.

Being elevated from the Steelers practice squad, Cain looks to see snaps at wide receiver against the Browns on Sunday. If so, it will be his first NFL action catching passes from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as the Steelers prepare to take on the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field on Sunday at 1 PM.

Podcast: The Browns are built to test the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 3:02pm

There is plenty to discuss on the latest episode of the popular new podcast Steelers Brunch w/ Tony.

The Browns have been working to build a winner for a long time now. A major key to running the North is getting through the Steelers and the Browns have the ability to win a big game against their Steel City rivals. This is going to be just one of the talking points for the latest podcast featuring Tony Defeo. Welcome to Steelers Brunch with Tony! Join the veteran BTSC contributor as he discusses so far and beyond.

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

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • The win over Philly
  • The Browns are built to test the Steelers
  • Preview of the Steelers vs. Browns
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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.

Steven Nelson still playing with a chip on his shoulder despite his successes

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers’ cornerback continues to play with a chip on his shoulder, no matter what.

Prior to the 2019 season the Pittsburgh Steelers made a strong play in free agency when they signed cornerback Steven Nelson to the biggest free agent contract in team history.

The fan base was surprised, considering many weren’t familiar with Nelson’s work with the Kansas City Chiefs. Nonetheless, Nelson was rock solid for the Steelers in 2019, and although he didn’t bring in the interceptions many hoped, he was so strong quarterbacks often never threw to his side of the field.

Throughout it all, Nelson kept a giant chip on his shoulder. He heard what people said about his lack of big plays and used it as motivation. This week Nelson was a guest on The Jim Rome Show, and Rome asked him if he feels as if there is a lack of respect still there when people talk about the best cornerbacks in the league.

“Yeah, people still sleeping on me man.” Nelson said.

“It just comes with the territory. I haven’t had enough splash plays, and I recognize that. If you don’t get the splash plays you don’t get the recognition.

“That was my whole motto coming into this season was to make more splash plays than I had last season, even though last season I didn’t really give up too much. At the end, when it comes to the stats and all that kind of stuff they look at the splash plays over everything.”

Rome then asked about quarterbacks avoiding his side of the field, and if that played a factor in his lack of interceptions last season. He even went as far as to point out how it was Joe Haden who was tested more, and therefore had more opportunities to haul in interceptions.

“It is part of the game, you just have to be patient and wait your turn.” Nelson added. “That is what I’ve learned in this league. Things don’t happen when you want them to, they just happen as time goes on.

“Like last week I had two interceptions. I went into the games always wanting to make a big play, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it to the point where if I don’t make a big play I get down on myself. Sometimes you just have to let things come to you.”

The Steelers have to be thrilled with Nelson’s work since they brought him in last year. He has been the perfect compliment to Haden, and the two make up one tremendous duo many consider one of the best in the NFL.

Despite the Steelers’ secondary being a little softer than normal in the first quarter of the 2020 regular season, there is hope they can turn it around. After all, it isn’t just Nelson and Haden who are returning to the team this season. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton and Terrell Edmunds all return as well. This secondary should be thriving, not barely surviving, and they will have plenty of work do to in the coming weeks.

That work continues this Sunday when the Steelers host the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field in Week 6, and it is safe to say all eyes will be on the defense to see how they match up vs. Baker Mayfield and company.

To check out Nelson’s segment on the Jim Rome Show, check out the video below:

A Browns player no one is talking about who could impact the outcome vs. the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 1:30pm
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns square off in Week 6 and this player could play a big role in the outcome.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns renew their rivalry in Week 6, and the battle of the AFC North rivals certainly has a lot of headlines swirling around it.

Myles Garrett’s first game vs. the Steelers since that dreadful Thursday night debacle in Cleveland last year in Week 10.

The Steelers’ trying to keep their record perfect and stay atop the AFC North.

Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to continue to improve and make the Steelers’ offense more dynamic.

Among those story lines are players who aren’t talked about often, but can certainly play a role in the outcome of the game. This week I was fortunate enough to ask Dawgs By Nature’s editor Chris Pokorny several questions leading up to the big game Sunday.

One of those questions was if he could give me a player who isn’t being talked about, but could play a big role in who wins and loses the game. He didn’t disappoint and gave a player Steelers fans should become acquainted with heading into Week 6.

“Let’s go with slot receiver Rashard Higgins. He is one of the longest-tenured Browns still on the roster, and showed a lot of chemistry with Baker Mayfield during the quarterback’s rookie year. Higgins barely saw the field last year due to an injury and what many people attributed to incompetence by former head coach Freddie Kitchens. However, this year, Higgins had mostly been inactive, because Stefanski was using a blocking receiver (KhaDharel Hodge) as his third wideout. Hodge was injured two weeks ago, so Higgins played half of the game last week against the Colts — he caught all 3 passes thrown to him, including a touchdown, and had a key block on a big running play to help seal the game.”

A week after the Steelers allowed Tyler Fulgham to rip them to shreds, Higgins should be on their radar. If Keith Butler’s defense decides to sell out to stop Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, assuming both play, it could lead to a favorable matchup for Higgins.

Will Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton and occasionally Devin Bush be able to keep Higgins from pulling a Fulgham on them? Only time will tell.

While there are plenty of players who can have an impact on the upcoming game, Higgins certainly will be highlighted by Pittsburgh, and their fans, during the Week 6 showdown.

For the best news on the opposition, check out Dawgs By Nature, and stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers leading up to the 1 p.m. kickoff at Heinz Field.

Important Steelers statistics at the quarter pole of the 2020 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Some perspective on how the Steelers have performed in the season’s first month

The other day I landed on an NFL stats page that noted that T.J. Watt and Vince Williams are currently ranked first and second in the entire league in Tackles for Loss, despite having played one fewer game than most of their competitors. (They’re up by quite a bit too – Watt has nine, Williams has eight, and no one else has more than six.)

Well, sometimes that’s all it takes. Suddenly I was three miles down the rabbit hole, sorting and resorting stats at the 2020 season’s quarter-pole (at least for the Steelers). Raw numbers often don’t mean much to me mid-season – I really don’t know what an impressive number of completions looks like for a four game stretch – but conference and league rankings make sense. So I collected some, many of which were quite surprising.

Below are some highlights of what I found. I tried to use percentages or “per game” versions instead of raw numbers, to account for the fact that not every team has played five games. I also didn’t bother noting where the Steelers were tied with another club at a certain number, but that happened sometimes.

This won’t necessarily add up to a single conclusion (at least not one I can extrapolate), but it’s an interesting snapshot of how ferociously the Steelers are tearing up the league in some categories, and how clumsily they’re stumbling along on in others. Enjoy.

Passing Offense Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

A couple of things leap off the page. For one, Ben Roethlisberger is playing very careful football right now. He’s getting the ball out of his hands faster than anyone else in the league, even though he’s one of the least blitzed quarterbacks in football. It’s also not an illusion that he’s passing short — he’s playing nearly the shortest game in the NFL. Moreover, the Steelers are running less play action than anyone in the league, which is often a way to buy receivers time to get deep.

This strategy also seems to be working: Ben is one of the least touched quarterbacks in the game right now. His completion percentage would also be a career high if it were sustained over 16 games, as would his passer rating, and his percentage of touchdowns and interceptions are both top 5 in the NFL.

And that takes us to the gut-punch of the chart: according to Pro Football Reference, Roethlisberger is top tier for passes being on target, but his receivers are among the worst in football for drops. It’s also worth noting that PFR credited Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster with zero drops between them, so the rest of the WR/TE/RB corps must be exceptionally inconsistent when it comes to simply making the catch. If Big Ben seems to trust Claypool more than a lot of his other receivers already, there might be a reason why.

Overall and Rush Defense Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

So apparently rumors of the death of the Steelers defense were a bit exaggerated. This unit gave up a few too many plays to the Eagles, but they are still an absolutely elite defense — arguably the best in football, according to the numbers.

First in the league in tackles for losses (note: second place is 6.2/gm; the Steelers are first by a staggering 48%). Also first in the conference in rushing, as well as rushing yards per carry, and second in the conference (third in the league) in overall yards per game. Even third in the conference in points per game (which surprised me).

And they’re right in the middle of the pack in missed tackles, which sounds about right — and definitely needs to get resolved.

Pass Defense Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Look at all those 1’s. Goodness.

We knew the Steelers had a fercious pass rush (they’re on pace for a ridiculous 80 sacks this year). But there are definitely some numbers here I didn’t expect: completion percentage, opponent YAC, interception percentage, passer rating...

One area of perplexing failure, though, is in yards per completion, where the Steelers are dead last in the league. This is complicated. The Steelers allow one of the lowest completion percentages in football, and when opponents do get a reception, the Steelers give up the fewest yards after catch of anyone in the game (and, to the surprise of some I’m sure, only miss tackles at a moderate rate). Moreover, when quarterbacks hold the ball too long, allowing receivers to get deep, the Steelers are punishing them for it at an historic pace. So how are teams getting all these yards?

The only explanation for this is that Steeler opponents have found they can’t run, and they can’t play a short-passing game against this team. Screen passes, short crosses, and other plays designed to get the ball out quickly and get the receiver in space, aren’t working at all. The Steelers swarm, gang-tackle, and otherwise cover too tightly up close. So opponents just keep trying to throw deep. That’s why they’re getting pounded so much. It’s why they’re completing at such a low rate. And it’s why they’re getting such high yardage per reception: they don’t complete a ton of these, but they get enough to hurt (and turn too many into touchdowns as well).

This is just a hypothesis, but it bears watching as the season moves on.

Efficiency Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to efficiency, the story takes an awkward turn. The Steelers are outstanding in time of possession and sustaining drives. (Side note: it’s a problem when your offense continually needs to convert on third down. But if you’re converting at a high rate, a lot of third downs means a lot longer and more demoralizing drives.) Meanwhile, the Steelers defense is among the league’s worst at getting off the field on third downs. Keep that in mind; it’s going to come up again later.

Another lesson we might learn at this point is that the Steelers’ terrific run defense and efficient, short passing game suggests a type of long-haul thinking. That is, when the opponent can’t run or pass short, they can’t control the clock. That 6:22 time of possession advantage is going to mean an awful lot as the season drags on and players start getting banged up.

Other Team Stats Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

So this is also confusing — the Steelers appear to be in the lower third of the league/conference at sustaining drives, and yet they lead the AFC in time of possession. How is that possible? Well, look at the defensive stats here. Opponents cannot sustain drives against this Steelers defense at all. No one creates 3-and-Outs like the Steelers D.

But what about all those third-down conversions from the previous graph? you might ask. Well, it turns out that the Eagles game was a real outlier for these guys (and with a four-game sample, one bad week can really throw off the averages). The Steelers defense’s 50% conversion rate was 42.8% before the Philly contest — which would have moved them from 14th in the AFC to 7th.

It also seems to me there’s a feast-or-famine quality to this defense. Remember the yards per completion stat from before? Opposing offenses seem to either move backward while going 3-and-out against the Steelers, or (at least last week) they covert on 3rd and 17. I want to believe that they’ll get back on track as the competition gets stronger (they tend to raise their game against the NFL’s elite teams), but we’ll see.

I also want to draw your attention to the penalty stats. The Steelers are middle of the pack in committing penalties, which is not a big surprise. But if you feel like their opponents are getting away with holds, late hits, interference, and other infractions — well, you might be onto something. The Steelers opponents are getting flagged at an improbably low rate. This is even more startling because of how supposedly poor those squads are. “Losers” aren’t typically disciplined squads, but against the Steelers, this “inferior” competition seems to play pretty clean.

It’s nice that fewer flags are flying this year (there’s nothing worse than a game decided in the referee huddle), but this certainly seems worth watching. And it undercuts the sour grapes claim you sometimes see, that the Steelers have the refs in their pockets. The numbers suggest otherwise.

Anyway, as expected, this doesn’t necessarily add up to a single conclusion. But maybe these trends will be worth watching this weekend and in the months that follow.

Go Steelers.

Steelers 2021 NFL Draft and College Gameday Open Thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 11:05am
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Let’s take a look at Week 7 of the 2020 football season.

Hello Steeler Nation and good Saturday afternoon, welcome to Week 7 of the college football season. The biggest news of the week came out of Alabama, Coach Nick Saban as well as the AD both tested positive for COVID 19. The SEC also had two other games postponed this week, LSU at No. 10 Florida and Vanderbilt at Missouri. There were 4 other games that were also postponed. Most notable, No. 7 OK State at Baylor and No. 8 Cincinnati at Tulsa.

Highlighted Game

No. 3 Georgia at No. 2 Alabama 8pm on CBS

Both teams are coming into this matchup at 3-0 and this is where the rubber meets the road. Alabama is currently ranked as the top offensive unit in college football and Georgia has one of the best defenses in 2020. Something has to give.

Highlighted Player

Jordan Davis, IDL, No. 99 Georgia 6’6” 330lbs

Yes he is a big man and he can hold his own on the Bulldog front. Davis still needs work in getting after the quarterback and being that tall doesn’t help in the leverage department but all I can say is he can wreck running lanes up the middle. He can handle double teams and maintain his gap integrity, while also pushing into the backfield. I don’t think he is Casey Hampton but at the same time I don’t think he is Big Dan either. Interesting match up this week, it will be worth the watch.

Other Notable Games

No. 5 North Carolina at Florida State 7:30 PM om ABC

Mack Brown has the Heels ranked in the Top 5 and I don’t think they have hit their stride, Sam Howell has been inconsistent at best. Still though, for me at least, it’s exciting seeing Carolina in the Top 25 and it’s not even basketball season. If I’m not mistaken Brown has never beaten Florida State. The Tar Heels have an ILB that should start drawing some attention if he hasn’t already. Chaz Surratt #21, former Quarterback is still learning the position but has acclimated very well.

Join in on the conversation and tell us what game(s) you are watching and what prospect(s) you would like to see in the Black and Gold.

Stay Safe and Go Steelers!!

Touchdown Under: Steelers come to town by bringing the Browns down

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 11:00am

BTSC continues to offer new podcast for your Steelers listening pleasure. Check out our latest weekly venture with an international flavor. Put another shrimp on the barbie and check out Steelers Touchdown Under with two blokes from Australia, Matty Peverell and Mark Davison.

The Cleveland Browns are 4-1 and pretty much for real. The Steelers are 4-0 and legit as well. The real contender to the Baltimore Ravens and the AFC North crown will emerge from Heinz Field on Sunday. Join Matty Peverell and Mark Davison from Steelers Nation Australia (and the future) as they bring an international perspective to the Steelers unexpected schedule swerve courtesy of the Browns, the Week 6 matchup with Baker Mayfield and much, much more. This is what will be discussed on the Touchdown Under, the newest sensation from the BTSC family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Overall preview to Week 6
  • Bell ain’t no bell-cow, no more, no more
  • Reactions to Steelers vs. Eagles
  • Players to watch for the Steelers and Browns
  • How the Steelers will turn the oven up on Baker notch, by notch, by notch
  • ‘Slingin’ the Slang’
  • Punts of the Week
  • and MUCH MUCH MORE!

Be sure to 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.

Part 1

Part 2

Predicting the Steelers’ Week 6 inactive list vs. the Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have two players ruled out, so an elevation from the practice squad would increase the number of inactive players.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to begin their AFC North showdowns on the right note as they face off against the Cleveland Browns this Sunday at Heinz Field. The Steelers have already ruled out two players, but they are not dealing with nearly as many injuries as the Browns. With the Steelers only carrying four healthy wide receivers this week, I am proceeding with the assumption the Steelers with elevate one player from the practice squad and will have 6 players inactive. My first assumption is it will be wide receiver Deon Cain who gets the call as he was one of the four players on the practice squad the Steelers protected this week.

There are new rules in 2020 when it comes to the players active on game day. As long as a team has eight offensive lineman who will be dressing for the game, they could have 48 players on their active roster rather than the 46 in previous seasons. So unless the Steelers elevate any players from their practice squad, there inactive list should only be five players.

NOTE: If there is a change to the projected number of inactive players after the release of the projected inactives, it will be updated to reflect the move.

Game Status

Out:
OL David DeCastro
WR Diontae Johnson

Here are the possibilities to end up inactive for Week 6:

Definitely:

OL David DeCastro- He’s only been active twice in 2020 and one of those games he did not make it out of the first quarter. Luckily for the Steelers, Kevin Dotson has shown he is up to the task filling in for DeCastro.

WR Diontae Johnson- He hasn’t finished two of the Steelers four games this season and won’t even start this one. There are a lot of expectations for Johnson in his second season, but they will have to stay on hold this week as he continues to struggle to remain on the field.

Most Likely:

QB Josh Dobbs- It seems Steelers’ Nation is forgetting Dobbs is on the Steelers roster. I saw a question this week on Steelers.com asking if he could be poached off of the practice squad.

DT Carlos Davis- We literally know nothing about the Steelers seventh-round draft pick and probably won’t this season. Unless an injury occurs, he’s probably not going to be active. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were an injury on the defensive line if there would be an elevation for the practice squad and Davis would still be inactive.

TE Zach Gentry- It’s been two tight ends so far in 2020 for the Steelers, and so far both have been healthy.

Possibly:

LB Ulysees Gilbert III- Active for the first time in Week 5, Gilbert only played on special teams for 13 snaps. Nothing he did stood out too much to make me think he could knock off Marcus Allen on the depth chart.

LB/S Marcus Allen- Yes, he practiced all week and has no injury status. But after Gilbert had the opportunity for one week, it’s not guaranteed Allen goes back to the exact same spot on the depth chart after missing a game.

Unlikely:

None. This week is shaping up to be fairly obvious.

Projected Inactive List:
  1. David Decastro
  2. Diontae Johnson
  3. Josh Dobbs
  4. Carlos Davis
  5. Zach Gentry
  6. Ulysees Gilbert III

As noted at the top, I’m assuming the Steelers are elevating a wide receiver for Sunday’s game so there will need to be six players inactive. Other than the two who are injured, the other four have pretty much been locks each week. Although I would have liked to have seen UG3 do something special against the Eagles and earn a helmet from this point on, I didn’t. Therefore the usual suspects fill out the rest of the list.

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

Film Room: The Steelers want even more versatility from their DBs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 9:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Mike HIlton is playing every position and it matters more than you think.

Mike Tomlin loves versatility. The more a player can do, the better their chance of making the roster, and the better their chance of seeing the field. The more one-dimensional a player is, the less likely they are to get snaps.

That’s been true for a while, but in 2020 the Steelers are pushing that much farther than in previous years. We see that on offense where wide receivers have 86 yards and a touchdown rushing, we have seen Terrell Edmunds line up as a receiver in a bunch formation, we’ve even seen rookie guard Kevin Dotson come in as a second eligible lineman.

On defense the Steelers are pushing their players to be more versatile than ever, and it has shown up on film with good plays, and with bad plays.

Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton

Mike Tomlin lover small players that hit hard, defensive backs that think they are linebackers. That’s why the Steelers draft players like Antoine Brooks Jr., and it’s why a player like Mike Hilton has become one of the most valuable slot defenders in the NFL.

Week 5, 4th quarter, 14:14. Mike Hilton is the slot defender to the bottom of the screen.

That’s an un-blocked backside pursuit that T.J. Watt should be jealous of, and he’s one of the best in the NFL at backside pursuit.

Look at how far out Hilton is lined up. Look at how few steps the running back takes before Hilton has his legs. This play is ridiculous. This angle shows the distance covered really well.

But to get an appreciation for the way Hilton adjusts to, and finishes the play look at it from this angle.

Watch Tyson Alualu, the defensive tackle to the right side of the screen. He holds his ground, and by the time the running back gets to him Hilton has the running back’s legs.

Look at Hilton alter his path, getting really low to change direction without losing speed, then wrap and twist Miles Sanders legs. Watch it 5 or 6 times. You don’t get to see a play like this every week, unless you are a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

If the Steelers line up Terrell Edmunds behind Mike HIlton and you don’t have a blocker dedicated to Mike Hilton he’s going to wreck your play.

Week 5, 4th quarter, 6:19. Mike Hilton is the slot defender to the top of the screen, Terrell Edmunds is lined up behind him.

The Philadelphia Eagles learn from their mistake, they see Hilton is coming, and their left tackle leaves Bud Dupree to be blocked by the guard and he blocks Hilton. Normally this leads to easy yards as the slot receiver is being covered by a safety who is giving him 10+ yards of cushion. This time Terrell Edmunds is up to the challenge and breaks up the pass.

Look at that break up, in the current NFL that could be called pass interference and not make the fans list of worst calls in the game. It is incredibly hard to crash that route fast enough to make the play and even harder to make sure you time up contact so you don’t get a penalty. Most of the time these routes are easy yards with Terrell Edmunds flying in to make the tackle.

On the Miles Sanders touchdown run in the first quarter, the Steelers used a different defensive back as the slot blitzer.

The Steelers switch Cameron Sutton and Mike Hilton’s roles on this play, Sutton blitzes, HIlton plays dimebacker and neither makes the play. Look at the difference between Hilton’s run blitz above and Sutton here. The Steelers know teams are used to Mike Hilton blitzing, so they want to be able to mix it up, but Sutton isn’t in the same league as Hilton as a blitzer, and Hilton isn’t as good at dime backer as Cameron Sutton is.

That’s not the only time the Steelers switched Sutton and Hilton’s traditional roles in week 5.

Week 5, 2nd quarter, 1:10. Mike Hilton is the slot corner to the top, he starts dropping back right before the snap, Cameron Sutton is in the same spot, on the opposite side of the field.

The Steelers run their cover-3 variation I call their “tent” defense here. They rotate into the tent a little differently, and send Mike Hilton deep and keep Cameron Sutton up and on the outside. Mike Hilton had an interception in week 3 when he was playing deep like this. The Eagles see this same defense and attack Cameron Sutton.

Sutton isn’t guarding the first down line, he’s well in front of it and Travis Fulgham makes one of his many catches on the sideline for a third down conversion. The cornerback’s job is to not get beat deep, the underneath defender has to protect that first down line, keep the play in front of them and tackle the catch to force 4th down. Mike Hilton does a great job in that role, Cameron Sutton is much better playing the deep middle.

The Steelers are trying to build more versatility, to be less predictable and allow them to move players like Minkah Fitzpatrick around more without the other team being able to predict where Minkah will be. Plays like these are the growing pains the defense is going through as it tries to evolve.

Slot Linebacker

Mike Hilton is a slot linebacker, he can cover well enough, but his physicality is his real strength. For Mike Hilton that physicality shows up in his blitzing. For Terrell Edmunds, it shows up in his athleticism and run defense.

Week 5, 2nd quarter, 11:45. Terrell Edmunds is the slot defender to the bottom of the screen.

The Steelers are in their 3-4 set, and they line up Terrell Edmunds in the slot. When the receiver goes in motion, that coverage responsibility is passed off to Vince Williams, and Terrell Edmunds does his best Vince Williams impression, reading the run outside in, filling the lane and meeting the back with enough force to stop his momentum.

Terrell Edmunds isn’t the same player as Mike Hilton, but they are both players who can cover in the slot and also bring linebacker talents into the box.

This is what the Steelers want in their interior defensive backs, from their slot corners and especially from their safeties.

Week 5, 1st quarter, 14:54. Mike Hilton is the safety to the bottom of the screen.

A few ties a game, the Steelers have been subbing Terrell Edmunds out and playing Mike Hilton at strong safety. You can see here that it is a natural fit for his talents as similar to the Edmunds play above, Hilton is responsible for covering the slot but is strong in run defense as well.

If you saw my film room from yesterday focusing on Minkah Fitzpatrick, you may see this play and think that Mike HIlton’s role on this play would also be ideal for Fitzpatrick. Minkah Fitzpatrick is a dynamic defender when he is able to read the play in front of him and attack it. He is an elite talent, and versatile enough to also be the Steelers best free safety, but that role doesn’t play to his real strengths.

The truth is the Steelers have three really good slot linebackers on their roster right now. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds and Mike Hilton. The Steelers best showed this in week 3 of last season, when the Steelers truly used both safeties as both free and strong, and they alternated based on the offensive alignment. I covered that and the results in this film room from the offseason (the last third of the article covers that game and the results). For a quick summary, Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t a great blitzer, and Terrell Edmunds is not a good single-high safety, and the Steelers never tried it again.

Fitzpatrick also isn’t the most reliable tackler.

Week 5, 2nd quarter, 9:24. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the deep safety.

That is not the way. Fitzpatrick is a good, not great tackler, and he will occasionally do something like this. As a slot linebacker his linebacker side is more of a Mark Barron than a Vince Williams or Devin Bush.

There is a natural fit for Minkah Fitzpatrick on the field, but the Steelers rarely use it, and it leaves them exposed at deep safety.

Week 5, 2nd quarter, 0:27. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the safety to the top of the screen.

This is one of the many plays the Steelers run in their “prevent” defense package. Minkah Fitzpatrick comes up in a shallow middle zone, he’s playing a robber role, just a little deeper because of the situation. Terrell Edmunds is the deep safety, and it is fine here because of how incredibly deep he drops, at that depth he doesn’t need to react to the play quickly, he’ll have a lot of time to get to the catch point.

If you look at the defensive front on this play the Steelers rush 3, have Vince Williams spy on Carson Wentz (more about keeping him in the pocket than stopping him from running), and Mike Hilton playing a middle zone up close to the line.

Minkah Fitzpatrick can take away any routes to the middle, and he can jump routes knowing that he has help behind him. The problem using him in that role on most downs is the offense is going to see Terrell Edmunds deep and only have to deal with a 4-man rush.

This is why so many Steeler fans wanted a free safety to be drafted by the Steelers. This is why I was so excited by Sean Davis’s return to the team. Because with another safety who is actually pretty good in that cover-1 deep zone, Minkah Fitzpatrick could leave that deep zone role he is so often tied to and move around more and attack freely.

With all the tweaks to this defense we have seen, Sean Davis playing free safety isn’t one, in fact he hasn’t seen the field on defense at all. Instead Mike Hilton is learning to play both strong and free safety.

I was hopeful the Steelers would use more three safety sets this season, envisioning Sean Davis, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds being able to play interchangeably and change the entire dynamic of the defense on the fly depending on who played where. It doesn’t appear that Sean Davis will be involved in that, but the Steelers may still pull it off if Mike Hilton can add free safety to his list of roles he can play at a high level.

We are seeing the growing pains the defense is going through as it tries to evolve, hopefully in the future we will see fewer mistakes and more payoff.

Pittsburgh Steelers Fact or Fiction: Challenge Accepted edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 7:30am
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

BTSC takes five burning questions regarding the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers and labels them as fact or fiction.

There’s always so much to talk about when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the narrative is always changes. To quote the late, great Rowdy Roddy Piper, “Just when you think you’ve got all of the answers, I keep changing the questions”. Well the inquiries surrounding the black-and-gold are definitely ever-evolving. Especially this week with the Steelers nearly surrendering a 17-point lead to the Philadelphia Eagles. With the 4-1 Cleveland “Brahns” coming to “tahn”, BTSC tries to answer some of the poignant wonderings ahead of time. Take a gander at some bold statements on this and more as we label them as fact or fiction.

Are we on point? Only time will tell...

The offensive line can’t handle many more losses to injury Fact

The Steelers lost Zach Banner for the season and Stefan Wisniewski was lost for an undetermined amount of time in Week 1. Chukwuma Okorafor and Kevin Dotson then assumed their respective roles, as well as Jerald Hawkins rejoining the team to fill the eligible tight end role of Chuks. David DeCastro returned in Week 2, but was injured again against Philly. Maurkice Pouncey went out late in the win and may return Week 6, but it’s J.C. Hassenhauer if not. The line is doing a great job protecting Ben Roethlisberger and not bad opening lanes for running backs. But it can’t continue to sustain injuries to the unit. An OT is probably a front runner for the Steelers No. 1 pick in 2021, but that won’t help on the team’s Super Bowl quest in 2020. The Steelers need to stop the bleeding or aching or this season could turn on a dime with no bye to help.

The Steelers second quarter slate of games mark their most crucial stretch of the season Fact

It really does. What was the Eagles, Browns, Bye, Ravens and Cowboys is now the Browns, Titans, Ravens and Cowboys. What was teams with a combined record of 11-8 and a week of rest is now four games straight of 14-5 teams. This stretch can make or break the Lombardi hopes of the Steelers. The great feeling of 4-0 could be eviscerated in a hurry if the Steelers are anything worse than 6-2. Actually, in a season like 2020, 7-1 is probably the worst record you want with top and bottom-heavy standings.

The Steelers needed Le’Veon Bell to return to the Steel City Fiction

Le’Veon Bell back in the Burgh was never going to happen. I don’t think it was a question of animosity on either side of the equation, I just feel that the Steelers didn’t see a need to bring back their former second-round sensation and that Bell wanted to go into more of a welcome environment. If Art, Kevin and Mike had decided to welcome “Juice” back with open arms, I would have embraced it. But the Le’veon ship sailed and the port was not at the confluence of the Ohio, the Susquehana and the Monongahela. Instead Lev starts fresh in Kansas City, where he could be lethal.

Chase Claypool has emerged as Big Ben’s top target Fact

The Steelers are wealthy with pass catchers for Ben Roethlisberger to throw to. But “Seven”has loved big targets since his connection with Plaxico Burress during his rookie campaign. This is not to diminish the continued importance of JuJu Smith-Scuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and Ray Ray McCloud. But now that trust and rapport has surely been established with the rookie from Notre Dame after his four touchdown extravaganza against Philly, look for 7-11 to remain open as a favorite hangout.

Ben Roethlisberger will win the NFL MVP award at year’s ends Fiction

Right now, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson seem to be front-runners for the league MVP award with a quarter of the season gone. Ben Roethlisberger would definitely be in the equation with ten touchdowns vs. one interception. But I truly don’t think the NFL and media would ever put No. 7’s name on that honor regardless of how great of a season Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger has.

Are these statements valid? We will soon see. I, personally, am not endorsing all five of these scenarios, but it’s what my gut tells me will occur. What matters most are your opinions on the matter. Please state them in the comments below.

2 Steelers defenders are at the top of their position groups 4 games into the 2020 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 6:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

According to Pro Football Focus, two players on the Steelers’ defense are still ranked first in the NFL at their respective positions.

Only two games into the 2020 season, the Steelers had three players who carried a number-one rank at their position according to Pro Football Focus. Rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool had the top spot early in the season, but a one-catch performance with a fumble in Week 3 along with the Steelers’ Week 4 bye had him falling into the 20s before rocketing back up to 6th with his four touchdown performance against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. But as for the other two Steelers’ players scoring the highest at their position, they have maintained their ranking each week heading into Week 6 of the 2020 NFL season.

T.J. Watt

1st- Edge Defenders
92.4 Overall Grade

To the surprise of nobody in Steelers’ Nation, T.J. Watt is still the highest-graded edge defender in the NFL. Although his overall score is 0.7 points lower than it was following Week 2, Watt still holds the advantage by 0.6 over Khalil Mack. Watt also lands in the top five of each individual category of run defense, pass rush, and pass coverage.

T.J Watt is currently tied for 5th in the NFL in sack with 4.5 despite playing one less game than most of those ahead of him. He is also tied for the league lead in quarterback hits with 13 along with Aaron Donald. Watt is also 2nd in the league in tackles for loss with 8 which is only one behind teammate Vince Williams and is two more than anyone else in the league.

Tyson Alualu

1st- Interior Defenders
91.5 Overall Grade

Since Week 2, Tyson Alualu’s overall grade according to PFF has actually gone up 0.4 points. Alualu holds a 1.1 points advantange over Vita Vea of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 1.4 points ahead of the Ram’s Aaron Donald. Alualu’s run defense score is tops in the league by 6.0 points over the next closest interior defender.

Although his stats don’t jump off the page, what Alualu has done to the middle of the Steelers defense has helped them completely shut down the run game so far in 2020. In all, Tyson Alualu has one sack and three quarterback hits as well as to pass defensed and 12 tackles, three of which were for a loss.

So these are the two Pittsburgh Steelers defenders currently ranked first at their position in the NFL for the 2020 season. What are your thoughts about these rankings? Are these players deserving of the recognition they’re getting early on? Or does Pro Football Focus not really show much credibility in both who may have ranked high and who they don’t? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Pre-Game Podcast: Steelers vs. the Browns, Week 6

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 5:30am

Get ready for the Steelers’ home contest against Phily with pregame analysis from BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and K.T. Smith

The Browns could be legit for the first time in forever and the rivalry between Pittsburgh and Cleveland is getting hot, Join Bryan Anthony Davis and K.T. Smith, as they set the scene for the Steelers’ important home contest with Cleveland. The BTSC duo break down the Browns like no one else does on the latest podcast, the Steelers Pre-Game Show.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers vs. Browns Head-to Head Series
  • Browns overview
  • Keys to a Steelers victory
  • Predictions

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

The UPMC Children’s hospital honors Steelers legend Brett Keisel for a decade of donation

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 10/17/2020 - 5:00am

The two time Super Bowl champion has raised over a million dollars for the UPMC Children’s hospital

Legendary Steelers defensive lineman, Brett Keisel has been raising money for the UPMC Children's hospital through his “Shear Da Beard” fundraiser for the past ten years. While 2020 event marked the final time the Shear Da Beard event would take place, it also marked Keisel’s millionth dollar donated.

#UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh recognizing Brett Keisel's “10 Years, 10 Beards, $1 Million” efforts through his Shear Da Beard fundraiser and unveiling a new mural commemorating Brett’s involvement. ( Photo courtesy: UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh ) pic.twitter.com/pURq5Ppe1u

— Andrew Stockey (@astockeyWTAE) October 15, 2020

The children's medical center has honored Keisel's contributions, by unveiling a mural of the two time Super Bowl champion within the halls of the hospital.

The Shear Da Beard event came about following the Steelers sixth Super Bowl victory, where Keisel made it his mission to win another Super Bowl. During training camp in 2010 Keisel decided to stop shaving his now famous beard, until they won it all at the end of the year. While the Steelers came up short losing to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV, Keisel came up with his Shear Da Beard idea to have something good come from his famous face follicles.

The final Shear Da Beard was a success! Our good friend, @bkeisel99, has been shearing his beard for the past 10 years to support the cancer programs at UPMC Children's. We can’t thank Brett enough for his continued support of our patients and families! #ShearDaBeardX pic.twitter.com/UNXrxXFGDM

— UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh (@ChildrensPgh) February 17, 2020

Aside from being a stand up individual, Keisel was one of the best 3-4 defensive ends of his generation. Keisel racked up 30 sacks, 328 tackles, two interceptions and a touchdown in 156 games and to top it off he was a contributing member to two Super Bowl winning defenses.

Since his retirement from football, and sheering his beard in the offseason, Keisel now raises cattle, and have given his animals some fairly creative names. Your can check those out in the video below.

.@bkeisel99 couldn't help but name his bulls after some familiar faces.

: #NFLTheGrind airs tonight at 9/8c on @EPIXHD. pic.twitter.com/22VDECurT8

— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) October 14, 2020

Keisel made a tremendous impact for the city of Pittsburgh both on and off the field. Not bad for a seventh round pick.

Friday Night Six Pack of questions and open thread: Browns Week 6 Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/16/2020 - 5:45pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There is always something to talk about when it comes to the black-and-gold!

It’s Friday again, so it’s time for the six pack of questions. It seems as if Jeff and Dave come to a consensus in cutting to the chase...

This week, I, Jeff, will be tasked with the questions up for discussion.

The rules are still the same...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

Procedural Note: Since the title feature has gone away, please feel free to leave your usual title as the first line of your response and even bold it if you can for the ease of others.

So here we go! With the formalities out of the way, it’s time to jump on in. Hopefully this party is exactly what you’re looking for on a Friday night. Here goes:

1. The Steelers finished their first quarter of the season 4-0. What would be an acceptable record for their next quarter? The games are below:

vs. Browns
at Titans
at Ravens
at Cowboys

2. If you were to name ONE player on offense who has yet to have a big game, but will deliver on Sunday, who will it be?

3. With the Steelers hosting the Browns this Sunday, and after seeing Heinz Field with fans in Week 5, would you go to a game if you had the chance? Explain why yes or no...

4. What are your thoughts on the Steelers’ offense to date? Has it be above the bar, or still lacking? If it isn’t good enough, what needs to improve?

5. This is a big game on Sunday, and I would love to know everyone’s score predictions for the game. Who wins, and by what score?

6. What do you think about these strange Tuesday and early Monday night games? Like them? Or stick to Thursday, Sunday and Monday?

Stay safe out there!

And it wouldn’t be a Friday night unless we said...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

We added some new shows and a new platform to our podcasts...if you haven’t checked out Jeff’s new morning show Let’s Ride, Bryan and Tony’s Steelers Retro Show or Dave’s Steelers Stat Geek, or even the new evening shows, give them a try by listening below!

Steelers Injury Report: David DeCastro, Diontae Johnson out Sunday against the Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/16/2020 - 2:23pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Both players who exited in the first half of the Steelers game last Sunday will also miss this week.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are finishing up their preparation for their Week 6 matchup against the Cleveland Browns this Sunday at Heinz Field. In the final injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR department, two players carry an injury status for Sunday. Unfortunately, David DeCastro and Diontae Johnson have been ruled out against the Browns.

Steelers PR Department

The good news for the Steelers are the number of players who will be available for Sunday. Maurkice Pouncey seems to not be suffering any ill affects from his foot injury which caused him to leave last Sunday’s game against the Eagles just before it had concluded.

More great news for the Steelers is the return a fullback Derek Watt and linebacker/safety Marcus Allen who missed the Steelers Week 5 game. Both players were full participants in practice all week and will be available for the Steelers on Sunday.

With other players who had missed time due to injury throughout the week such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eric Ebron, and even T.J. Watt who was limited on Wednesday, it appears all players are healthy and good to go.

One blemish on the Steelers status for Sunday is DeCastro, who will miss his third game of the season. Only playing in five quarters so far in 2020, it has given the opportunity for rookie fourth-round draft pick Kevin Dotson to get more playing time. Dotson is anticipated to start on Sunday as he looks to continue to showcase his talents. Dotson is currently the highest ranked pass blocking guard according to Pro Football Focus.

The other player who is out for Sunday’s game is wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Returning to practice in a limited capacity on Thursday with a back injury, it was hopeful Johnson would be able to go for Sunday. Unfortunately, he was unable to practice on Friday which will keep him out of Sunday’s game.

With Johnson’s injury having the Steelers wide receivers down to only four, look for the Steelers to elevate a player off of the practice squad prior to Sunday’s game. Deon Cain was one of the Steelers four protected players from the practice squad this week. Amara Darboh is the other receiver on the Steelers practice squad.

Another player for Steelers’ fans to keep an eye on over the next couple days is offensive linemen Stefen Wisniewski. After returning to practice on Wednesday, the Steelers would be able to activate Wisniewski to the 53-man roster should they choose for Sunday’s game. If so, a corresponding roster move will have to be made. Wisniewski could bring some added depth on the Steelers’ offensive line with DeCastro being unavailable.

As for the Browns’ official injury report, you can find the list below courtesy of Steelers.com. The Browns will be without safeties Ronnie Harrison and Karl Joseph as well as their starting right guard Wyatt Teller.

Game Status

WR Odell Beckham Jr. (Illness) - Questionable
P Jamie Gillian (Left Groin) - Questionable
S Ronnie Harrison (Concussion) - Out
S Karl Joseph (Hamstring) - Out
WR Jarvis Landry (Hip/Ribs) - Questionable
QB Baker Mayfield (Chest) - Questionable
DT Larry Ogunjobi (Abdomen) - Questionable
LB Jacob Phillips (Knee) - Out
G Wyatt Teller (Calf) - Out
DE Olivier Vernon (Groin) - Questionable

For a recap of the injury report, check out the BTSC Steelers Injury Update podcast below:

Some interesting stats highlight the first quarter of the Steelers season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/16/2020 - 1:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

From random stat leaders, to numbers that just don't look right. The first quarter of 2020 has been far from predictable

The Steelers 4-0 start to the season has come with plenty of ups and downs. But with the win rate this team currently has, you can easily say the positives far out weigh the negatives.

Heading into this season, some of the things we knew about this team were we had a great defense, the offense sways on the health of Ben Roethlisberger, and someone needs to step up as an offensive contributor. Through the first quarter of games we can further pin point those statements, and the stats back it up. Let’s take a look at who's paving the way for this team, and what factors helped this team achieve a hot start.

The strength of the defense is talent across the board

Before this season even started, many fans across the NFL would point at T.J. Watt as someone who would dominate the Steelers stat lines. While, T.J. has put up some eye catching numbers, the talent surrounding him has limited his ability to do anything earth shattering.

Take sacks for example. The Steelers defense is currently tied for first place with 20 sacks, while only playing four games. At the top of the chain is T.J. Watt who sits with 4.5. After T.J., Stephon Tuitt has quietly accumulated 3.5 sacks of his own, followed by both Cameron Heyward and Mike Hilton with 3.

Speaking of Mike Hilton, he’s the man currently running away with the team lead in tackles with 29. Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds come in second with 21 a piece. But for a nickel corner to lead a team in tackles it means a couple of different things. One, he’s fearlessly stepping up into run defense or two, teams are throwing the ball at him often. In Hiltons case it is a bit of both. His ability to make the tackles when the ball comes his way will be one of the biggest factors in regards to the future of this team. Just looked what happened when Hilton bounced off of Miles Sanders who took the ball 74 yards for the score.

Ben is back

Highest career passer rating, check. Highest career touchdowns to interception ratio, check. Highest career completion percentage, check. If the season were to end today Ben Roethlisberger would have completed his most efficient season to date. With questions swirling about what Ben has left in his arm firmly behind us, we can shift our focus to how Roethlisberger has put together the most precise stretch of his career.

Roethlisberger has mastered the art of the run pass option, and has been money throwing the ball on third down. If he can continue the pace he’s at the Steelers will win a lot of games on 2020.

Spreading the ball around

One of the reasons Roethlisberger has found smooch success in 2020 is the talent and maturity levels of his supporting cast. Each week the Steelers seemingly have a different offensive skill player have a massive statistical out put. When you look at the rushing and receiving totals you may be flabbergasted to see the level of parity and how just two players are on pace for 1,000 yard seasons.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is neither of those guys. Not to mention Smith-Schuster is in a contract year. If this were to happen too wide receivers of old, the entire locker room would have been burnt down by now. Smith-Schuster on the other hand has taken this in stride and has done anything he can to make his teammates succeed.

The two guys on pace for 1,000 yards are James Conner, and Chase Claypool. I doubt any of Steelers nation would have guessed those two names would be sitting in this position just six weeks ago.

But what do you think? What has surprised you the most about this season? Let us know down in the comments below.

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Week 6 games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/16/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Several of the BTSC staff pick all the NFL games both against the spread and over/under point totals

The 2020 NFL season is well underway. Their are only four unbeaten teams remaining with two residing in each conference. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans are teh only unbeaten teams remaining in the AFC, but this would not have been the case if... okay, I’ll let it go for now.

For the 2020 NFL season, six of the BTSC staff (a group I have affectionately named the “BTSC Super Six”) have signed up to pick every game against the spread and the over/under point totals. We are doing things a little different this year and including the Thursday games. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers. We are just a group of Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

We are using a new program called Tallysight this season. It will allow us to show picks in a much more “friendly to the eye” manner. To understand how it works, the default tab is for our picks against the spread. To see the over/under picks, click the “O/U” tab in the upper right.

Last week, when picking games against the spread we pretty much stunk up the joint. The only person who managed a .500 record was Jeff going 7-7. Unfortunately for Jeff, he still brings up the rear in the overall picks as Bryan continues in the top spot at 47-30 with Geoffrey coming in next at 43-34. T

When it comes to picking the over/under, Shannon had a good week going 9-5 with Bryan being the only other person above .500 going 8-6. Geoffrey still leads overall at 43-34 where myself and Bryan are the only other ones above .500 on the season at 39-38.

So here are the picks for the games for Week 6 of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along!

Ben Roethlisberger can't seem to win for losing with the national sports media

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/16/2020 - 11:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Leave it to the national sports media to try and turn Ben Roethlisberger's words of praise for his current wide receivers group into a shot at Antonio Brown.

Ben Roethlisberger can't seem to win for losing with a large portion of the national sports media, no matter what he does. They will take a completely innocent statement and try to turn it into something negative. I witnessed just such an incident of media manipulation on Thursday while eating lunch at an Italian eatery.

I am not certain if it is kosher to mention the name of the show or the channel, but let's just say it is one of the big boys. The two former players hosting the show were discussing all things NFL football, and they were pretty entertaining up to this point. Then the next topic of discussion popped up on the screen, much to my surprise.

"Was Ben Roethlisberger taking a shot at Antonio Brown when complimenting the selflessness of his current receivers in a recent interview?" Then they proceeded to discuss what they felt his true intentions were in making that statement. Surprisingly, the segment never turned into a bash Ben discussion, as all corresponding comments about the subject were rational and reasonable.

That got me thinking. I can't think of another franchise QB who's words and actions are so carefully dissected and discussed. Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers straight out labels the media a derogatory term who write nonsense basically only for clicks. Can you imagine the negative kickback from the talking heads if Ben ever went on a profanity laced tirade on the sidelines aimed directly at his teammates, specifically his offensive linemen, like Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady during the loss to the Chicago Bears last Thursday? Talk about a double standard.

So what did Roethlisberger mean when he took the time to mention how proud he was of how JuJu Smith-Schuster handled himself in the locker room after Chase Claypool's record setting four touchdown game against the Eagles on Sunday? Why did he go into detail about discussing with his wife and closest friends how pleased he was with the team first mindset of his receiver core that was on full display immediately after a game dominated statistically by Claypool, with young men more concerned with the final outcome than their personal statistics?

Because that type of behavior definitely wasn't the normal modus operandi that Ben had become accustomed to over the years prior to the unceremonious departure of the best Gatorade cooler chucker and temper tantrum taker in the league. He had come to expect the whining and self serving pleading for the ball from the Steelers superstar pass catcher. The stress and frustration resulting from the constant badgering started to reveal itself in the post game pressers and on his weekly radio show. The media quickly jumped on any suggestion that there might be some trouble in Steelers paradise; assigned blame squarely on Roethlisberger, labeled him a bad teammate, and questioned his leadership.

Even after the truth became more than apparent with the complete meltdown of the malcontent, no apologies or corrections were ever given. Why would they? The truth doesn't fit the tired narrative that Ben Roethlisberger is not a good guy. Once certain individuals are labeled, it's nearly impossible to change that perception.

Roethlisberger wasn't taking a shot at Antonio Brown with that statement, he was merely complimenting the maturity and character on full display of his talented young receivers. Now does that statement reflect poorly on the aforementioned All World receiver who displayed plenty of selfish tendencies and immaturity during his time in the Black and Gold? If the shoe fits wear it.

Podcast: The gloves are off with divisional games on deck for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/16/2020 - 11:00am

BTSC’s Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis talk news of the day and everything surrounding Week 6 vs, Cleveland. All of this while mixing in fun and frivolity like only they do.

There is absolutely no love lost between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. You know it is going to get chippy. In fact, with division games making up 50% of the remaining schedule for the Men of Steel, the gloves need to come off and the Steelers have to be ready to fight for the division. This is the subject that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold and there you have the topic for the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview with Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis. Join the triumphant trio as they combine the down all things Steelers and with shenanigans galore.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Injury Report
  • Updated Odds
  • Players to Watch
  • X-Factor
  • Predictions
  • Trivia

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:

The Steelers offense in Week 5 gave fans a glimpse of what the unit can be

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/16/2020 - 10:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense was dynamic in Week 5, and the hope is to continue that trend in Week 6 and beyond.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense showed up in a big way vs. the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5 at Heinz Field. Not only were their 38 points scored their first time going over the 30 point plateau since 2018, but it was the first time Ben Roethlisberger and the offense looked in rhythm and in sync.

It is safe to say both Roethlisberger and the offense have taken time to get acclimated, but they are improving every week, their latest performance being their best.

When you consider the issues coming into this season, no offseason workouts and an altered training camp, no wonder it took the Steelers’ offense some time to get revved up. With new weapons like Eric Ebron, Chase Claypool and Roethlisberger coming off elbow surgery, fans knew it would take time.

But what exactly does offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner think, and contribute this new success, to? A combination of things.

“You know, you come to practice and you are at the fall practices and things. You keep building things. You can’t do everything in one week.” Fichtner said. “We like to think that as a staff offensively that we are trying to put our guys in the best positions weekly for them to have success, for Ben to be comfortable to have the successes that he had just in general and on third downs and situation football.

“I think last week you got a chance to see maybe a little more comfortable look of where we can be. Again, situational football drove last week. Ben was outstanding on third downs. The wide outs, the protection against a very good front. We are going to need that again this week. You look up, and it’s like every defensive front we are playing is just outstanding and this is another group. But I think it is a little bit of all of that. It really is. I think a little comfort. I think if you can mix the run and the pass, you are always going to be better off and we have been able to do that.”

The Steelers’ offense might not be the best statistically, but they have been good enough to win every single game they’ve played to date. I think it is safe to suggest the Week 6 game vs. the Cleveland Browns very well might be their biggest challenge yet, and it will be the offense who will have to go out and put up enough points to win.

As for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he is just excited to play an AFC North divisional game.

“This is AFC North football, and you can say what you want about past records and times played, but those are previous years.” Roethlisberger said. “This is a new football team, new coaching staff, but they obviously have a new staff.

“We’re a new team. They’re a new team. They’re a good football team, really good. They’ve got a really good defense. A lot of those guys—I looked at their roster today, they only have two guys that have 10 years of experience in the league. It’s not like these guys have been playing us for years and years and years and worrying about how many times the Steelers have won. That’s not what it’s about. It’s a new season, new teams, and they’re a really good football team.”

Another game, and another chance for the Steelers’ offense to take another step forward. If they can do so against the 4-1 Browns, they very well could be 5-0 heading into Week 7.

For the latest news and notes on the Steelers as they prepare for the Browns on Sunday at Heinz Field, stay tuned to BTSC.

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