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More NFL teams are opting for lighter offseason workloads in 2022

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/14/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t the only team in the NFL who has shortened their offseason workout program in 2022.

If you follow offseason workout schedules for NFL teams, you know the basic fundamentals of the offseason program known as Organized Team Activities (OTAs). There three phases of OTAs, with the third being the most notable.

Phase 1 is when players are working with strength and conditioning coaches and getting in shape for the upcoming season.

Phase 2 is when players can start to work with individual coaches, and can begin doing position drills and workouts.

Phase 3, which includes mandatory minicamp, is when teams can start working on team drills. It could be 7-on-7, 9-on-9 or even 11-on-11. There are no pads, but there can be 13 total workouts during Phase 3, 10 are considered just standard OTAs, while three are minicamp.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers released their offseason workout schedule, the team had scheduled 10 OTAs, and would wrap up their offseason schedule with mandatory minicamp this week. Suddenly, without any official notice, the Steelers cut the last four OTA workouts and had their minicamp a week earlier than scheduled.

No one knew why, or who, made the decision, until Mike Tomlin spoke with the media after the first day of minicamp. Here is how the interaction went down with the question and answer session:

Reporter: Who made the decision to only do two weeks of OTAs?

Tomlin: I did.

Reporter: What went into that?

Tomlin: Personal choice.

For the football fan, eliminating workouts seems to be counterintuitive, especially for a team which is ushering a new era at quarterback and trying to get a new defensive coordinator acclimated with his staff/players.

Nonetheless, what is becoming more known is the Steelers aren’t alone as it pertains to trimming back their offseason schedule. In fact, more and more teams are doing just that.

This from a recent ESPN article on the topic:

The Eagles have scaled the on-field portion of their offseason training program way back. Teams are allowed to hold 10 OTA practices as well as a three-day mandatory minicamp during Phase III, the part of the offseason where 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills are permitted. Philadelphia joined the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals as the only teams that declined to schedule a minicamp, while holding a league-low six of a possible 13 Phase III practices. Sirianni opted not to conduct 11-on-11 drills during those six practices, preferring to focus more time on fundamentals in individual drills to lay a proper groundwork for training camp.

The Eagles represent a group of teams opting to lighten players’ offseason workloads. Earlier this week, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Pederson announced that most veterans would be exempt from attending minicamp. The New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants are among the teams that cut their minicamps short.

Injuries are a part of the game, but it seems NFL coaches are doing whatever they can do decrease the chances of dealing with injuries throughout the season.

Will this methodology prove to be valuable and worthwhile? That has yet to be seen, but this is exactly what the players, and NFLPA, want. They want less offseason workouts to decrease injuries during the season. If the coaches of these franchises feel as if the work they’ve done is good enough to get them to training camp, you have to think they would know best. After all, there is only so much you can do in shorts in the game of football.

What do you think about this? Let us know your thoughts on this topic, and others, as the Steelers enjoy a break before reporting to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA on July 26th.

“Hard days and tough times” have Tyson Alualu anxious for his return to the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/14/2022 - 10:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers will get Tyson Alualu back in 2022, and the veteran defensive lineman couldn’t be happier.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were without Stephon Tuitt in 2021, and while this may have garnered most of the headlines, the loss of Tyson Alualu was likely more impactful. The reasoning behind this is vast, but boils down to the simple fact the team never had Tuitt last preseason/training camp. All he did was work individually on the side and was placed on Injured Reserve (IR).

However, the team was banking on Alualu to be the fill-in for Tuitt, and the rock across from Cam Heyward who could help the run defense not turn into a sieve. When Alualu was lost in the home opener vs. the Las Vegas Raiders, the run defense was never the same. Players like Isaiah Buggs, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk and even Henry Mondeaux were called into action, but none filled the void left where Alualu stood at the start of the season.

After rehabilitating his injured ankle, Alualu is back on the field and can’t be more excited about it. Even Organized Team Activities (OTAs)...

“It felt great,” Alualu said after OTAs. “Just to be around the guys and be able to compete. Whether it’s vets or young guys, they can always learn and watch. When you are away from the game for so long it shows you how much you missed it. More than anything, it’s the camaraderie of being around the guys. I missed that and it felt great to be around them.”

There were some who felt Alualu might be able to return to the lineup, considering his injury occurred so early in the season, but the injured ankle took much longer to heal. A return in 2021 wasn’t possible.

“It’s definitely a tough injury,” said Alualu. “Definitely a tough rehab getting an injury like that. I think just being around the guys, both physically and mentally, was very helpful in that process.

“I just enjoy those hard days and those tough times. Those build character trying to get back and play on Sunday. My mindset was always get healthy and enjoy that grind.”

Enjoying the grind is something many don’t either enjoy or value, but Alualu found himself longing for the hard work which happens in every facet of the game. The weight room, the practice field, the meeting rooms and of course on game day. As stated earlier, Alualu even has shown an enjoyment and appreciation for OTAs.

“The way OTAs are now compared to how it used to be where we were pretty much playing football back in the days,” said Alualu. “It’s different now and it helps get back to playing football. Whether you are coming back off a normal offseason or coming back off an injury, I think this is a great way to knock off some of those kinks and get back to playing football and football shape.”

The Steelers 32nd ranked run defense is no secret, and has been a growing concern among the fan base for months now. The team didn’t do much to help this area of the team both in free agency or in the 2022 NFL Draft. Yes, they drafted DeMarvin Leal in the 3rd Round of the draft out of Texas A&M, but outside of that acquisition the team is banking on Alualu to return to form.

On top of Alualu’s return, a big step forward for players like Wormley and Loudermilk, especially after gaining so much experience in 2021, will be a welcome addition to the team’s sluggish run defense this season.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they get through the dog days of summer and prepare to report to training camp at Saint Vincent College on July 26th.

Game Plan: 3-safety package is an exciting option for the 2022 defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/14/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary could look drastically different in 2022 with their trio of safeties.

This is the third installment of the “Game Plan” series I’m working on through the reasonably quiet part of the calendar between the draft and training camp. To read the most recent article in the series, see the link below.

Coaches at every level of football grapple with a fundamental question when it comes to devising their schemes: Is it better to build around the abilities of the players on hand, or to find players to fit into a predetermined system?

A case can be made for doing it both ways. Many coaches are system-oriented, and look for players who fit well into theirs. A great example is the Los Angeles Rams, where Todd McVay’s wide zone, play-action attack took off with Matthew Stafford at quarterback. The offense had become sluggish under Stafford’s predecessor, Jared Goff. Goff was largely a dink-and-dunk passer, which didn’t mesh with McVay’s aggressive mindset. So, he traded for Stafford, who was more adept at attacking down the field. The move paid huge dividends. After just one season with Stafford, the Rams hoisted their second “sticky Lombardi.”

Then there are the teams who marry their scheme to their personnel. This is what the Steelers did for years with Ben Roethlisberger. Once Roethlisberger established himself as an elite passer, Pittsburgh’s offense was less about its coordinator and more about its quarterback. Bruce Arians, Todd Haley and Randy Fichtner all molded their schemes to what Roethlisberger preferred and did best. The results, for a time, were impressive. From 2014-2018, Pittsburgh finished seventh or best in total offense each year, with a trio of Top 3 finishes in that span.

Current coordinator Matt Canada is more like McVay than his predecessors in Pittsburgh. He has a system he prefers. Like McVay with Goff, Canada struggled to run that system with Roethlisberger taking snaps. Roethlisberger retired, and Pittsburgh quickly revamped its offense with players they believe will better compliment Canada. Time will tell whether this proves to be wise. There’s no question, though, that on the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers are building around a system rather than adapting to the personnel on hand.

On defense, Pittsburgh has been system-based since the early 1980s, when they adopted the 3-4 as their base. For decades, they have invested in players who fit that scheme. They still base out of the 3-4, but more in name these days than in practice. More commonly, the Steelers are in some sort of sub package, whether it’s 2-4-5 nickel, 2-3-6 dime, or something else. These sub packages are responses to changes in the way the game is now played on offense, and have come to define defense in Pittsburgh as much as the 3-4.

How the Steelers plan to structure their defense this season, and the degree to which it will be personnel-driven, scheme-driven, or some combination of the two, is intriguing. There have been significant coaching changes since January. Coordinator Keith Butler retired, defensive assistant Teryl Austin was elevated to coordinator and former Miami head coach Brian Flores was added to the staff. It’s logical to expect some aspects of Butler’s system to remain. It’s also likely Austin will put his own stamp on things, and Flores will have input as well. Then there’s head coach Mike Tomlin, who called the defense on game day while Butler was coordinator. That’s a lot of cooks in the defensive kitchen. It’s hard to know what they’ll produce, or how their collaboration will fare. But, by examining their personnel moves this off-season, there are clues.

For starters, the Steelers seem determined to be versatile. We can conclude this because they’ve acquired players who can execute a variety of roles. Myles Jack, for example, can play both the Mack and the Buck linebacker positions and has also taken reps on the edge. Jack can fit almost any package the Steelers devise. Genard Avery is best as an edge player but has experience playing inside, too. He can move around, if necessary. Ditto for 3rd Round pick DeMarvin Leal, Pittsburgh’s top selection on defense in the recent draft. Leal is versatile enough to play the 3-tech, 5-tech or move to the nose as a situational pass rusher.

The most interesting addition on defense, however, may be safety Demontae Kazee. Pittsburgh signed Kazee to a one-year contract shortly after re-signing fellow safety Terrell Edmunds. Signing Kazee after Edmunds is curious. Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick will be the starters, which would seem to relegate Kazee to a depth role. But Kazee was a starter the last four seasons in Atlanta and Dallas, where he played over 75% of the defensive snaps. Neither Edmunds nor Fitzpatrick have injury histories — they have missed just two games between them in eight combined seasons — so it seems odd that Kazee would sign in Pittsburgh to sit behind two veterans who rarely leave the field.

Unless, of course, the Steelers don’t plan to sit him that much. They could play him in the slot in their nickel and dime packages, where he has some experience. This is not his forte, however. Kazee is a true deep safety whose strength is as a ball-hawk on the back end. This leads me to believe the Steelers may consider playing Kazee, Edmunds and Fitzpatrick together in a three-safety configuration that departs from their traditional sub-packages.

The impetus for such a package stems from the fact Kazee, Fitzpatrick and Edmunds all have different strengths. Kazee’s back-end skills are underscored by his 12 interceptions since 2018, which ranks 5th among NFL safeties over that time. Kazee can play deep half in cover-2, deep middle in cover-3 and single-high in man-free. In this sense, he’s a more natural free safety than anyone on the roster.

Fitzpatrick can do a bit of everything. His 13 interceptions since 2018 rank just ahead of Kazee. But Fitzpatrick can play down low, too, and is especially good as a robber where he drops from a two-high alignment to disrupt routes at the linebacker level. Fitzpatrick has some Troy Polamalu in his game, in the sense he can be moved around to allow a coordinator to get creative with design.

Edmunds is the most physical of the three and does his best work in the box. He is solid in coverage against tight ends and his tackling has improved, making him a reliable run defender. He can be disruptive near the line of scrimmage, too, using his aggressive mindset to make plays:

Edmunds (34) has a nose for the football around the line of scrimmage.

Edmunds struggles in deep coverage, but in a package with Fitzpatrick and Kazee, that weakness could be mitigated. Putting all three on the field together would allow each to work to his particular strength.

A package like this would be new to Pittsburgh, but not new in general. Three-safety defenses have slowly been working their way into NFL playbooks. They are the latest moves by defensive coordinators in the never-ending chess match against their offensive counterparts. When offenses started ditching their fullbacks for an extra receiver in the early 2000s, defenses responded with nickel packages that utilized an additional defensive back. Offenses countered that move by installing athletic tight ends as slot players, giving them favorable matchups against those smaller nickel defenders. Now, in an effort to defend the Travis Kelce’s and, yes, Pat Freiermuth’s of the league, defenses are countering back. One way they’re doing so is by playing three safeties.

There are several benefits of a three-safety package in Pittsburgh. For starters, it would allow the Steelers to get their best personnel on the field. When Pittsburgh goes to their traditional 2-4-5 nickel, Cam Sutton or Arthur Maulet are the slot corners while Edmunds and Fitzpatrick are at safety. In the three-safety look, Edmunds would man the alley with Kazee and Fitzpatrick on the back end. Kazee is a better two-high defender than Edmunds, while Edmunds is a better run defender than any slot corner on the roster. Against teams who want to get the Steelers into their nickel package so they can run the football, like Cincinnati does below, this is a nice solution:

The Bengals take advantage of Arthur Maulet (35) as a run defender by attacking him in the alley.

Edmunds also adds the benefit of being a physical pass defender against tight ends. He has good closing speed to the ball and can withstand the contact tight ends use to create separation. Playing Edmunds in the box is a nice way for the Steelers to answer teams who want to use their athletic tight ends on underneath routes to move the chains.

A three-safety package would also allow the Steelers to get creative with their coverage disguises. They would have tremendous versatility in terms of who plays underneath and who plays deep. For example, they could roll Fitzpatrick into the box from a two-high structure while dropping their corners to play cover-3, like we see them do here:

The differences between this defense, which Pittsburgh used against Josh Allen and the Bills in last season’s opener, and one that features three safeties are subtle but important. Edmunds, who is the deep safety to the bottom of the screen in this clip, would be in the box instead, where he is best. Kazee would be the one rotating out of cover-2 to play the deep middle third. This would put Edmunds and Kazee in their positions of strength while freeing Fitzpatrick to do Polamalu-like things.

Fears that Edmunds will be exploited in coverage could be alleviated by coverage checks. The Steelers might not want to be in man-to-man, or in cover-4, if it means Edmunds will have to carry a quick receiver up the seam. There may be an occasional situation, like if a blitz is called, where they’ll have to live with that. Often, though, they’ll be able to check the coverage to get out of a bad match-up. If Buffalo shifted to maneuver Stefon Diggs onto Edmunds, for example, the Steelers could use a “safe” check, which would put them in something generic like cover-3, to make the coverage more sound.

The Steelers have thought outside the box like this before. In 2020, for example, they ran a 3-5-3 configuration against Baltimore to get bigger personnel on the field to defend the run. They used it against the Ravens’ 12 and 21 packages, inserting a fifth backer and removing a corner:

Pittsburgh’s 3-5-3 against Baltimore in 2020 included 3 DL, 5 LBs, 2 safeties and 1 CB

With just one corner on the field, a package like this could only be used against heavier looks from an offense. By contrast, the three-safety package is more versatile and would only be vulnerable to 10 or 20 groupings that spread the field with speed.

So, as for that fundamental question I posed at the top of the article, will the Steelers build their defense around the personnel on hand or around a preferred scheme? Only the minds in their coaching room truly know. But, with the talent they’ve acquired at safety, putting together a package that includes Fitzpatrick, Edmunds and Kazee would get their best talent on the field in a scheme that maximizes their abilities. That makes it something the coaches should consider.

5 major storylines to follow until the Steelers enter 2022 training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/14/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pittsburgh may be distributing lots of money to a myriad of positions — and vendors.

From rookie minicamp starting on May 13 to mandatory minicamp concluding on June 9, the Steelers recently wrapped up their first legitimate phase of team practices held in the offseason. The team will not don pads or practice drills until the first practice of training camp on July 27, when Pittsburgh returns to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Early June to the end of July can be a slow period for NFL fans eager to watch their favorite players in jerseys or to listen to quotes attained by reporters in front of players’ lockers; little happens in the span of time besides the franchise tag deadline. However, with a month and a half until the Steelers hit the field again, there are still several important items to monitor.

From contracts to potential moves to more, here are five storylines to follow until the Steelers begin training camp.

1. Extensions for Minkah Fitzpatrick, Diontae Johnson and Chris Boswell

Both Fitzpatrick and Johnson have expressed their desire for new deals, as each is a free agent at the end of the 2022 season. Fitzpatrick has seemingly been “holding in,” not participating in drills— as T.J. Watt did last summer until he landed his gaudy extension— while Johnson missed the initial portion of voluntary OTAs.

In most experts’ eyes, a new contract for Fitzpatrick will be the first domino to fall, as the safety has been one of the Steelers’ defensive mainstays and has been in the NFL longer than Johnson has.

Entering the last year of his rookie contract and after the organization exercised his fifth-year option, Fitzpatrick is slated to make $10.6 million in total cash in 2022, which ranks 14th among safeties. The current highest-paid safety in the NFL is Jamal Adams at an annual average of $17.645 million, so Fitzpatrick will presumably seek $18-20 million each year. A contract of five years and $90 million seems reasonable.

The league’s receiver market has continued to explode, with Cooper Kupp and Hunter Renfrow landing huge sums in the last week alone. Renfrow’s extension was for two years and $32 million; with receivers continuing to aggregate more money, Johnson will probably want $18-22 million each season.

Finally, do not forget about Chris Boswell, who has quietly been one of the best kickers in pro football since a subpar 2018. Per special teams coordinator Danny Smith, it appears that a revised contract for Boswell is already underway.

At age 29, Justin Tucker signed a four-year, $20 million extension with the Ravens. Boswell is 31, so mirrored numbers could be in order.

2. Kenny Pickett’s rookie deal

With Pickett immersed in a quarterback battle with Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, the principle that the 20th overall pick is yet to sign his initial NFL contract has flown under the radar.

Pickett is one of two 2022 first-rounders yet to ink a deal, joining 29th overall pick Cole Strange. Further, the quarterback is the remaining Steelers pick this year that has not signed.

There is no shortage of time for Pittsburgh and Pickett to agree to terms, but avoiding disputes as preseason time nears would be ideal for both sides.

Recent examples of first-round quarterbacks selected in a similar spot are Mac Jones (15th overall; four years, $15.59 million) and Jordan Love (26th overall; four years, $12.38 million). Expect Pickett’s deal to be four years and under $16 million with a traditional fifth-year option as that is the estimate based on his draft position by overthecap.com.

3. Does the team add any defensive linemen?

On June 1, Stephon Tuitt announced his intentions to retire, hanging up the cleats after missing the 2021 season. The Steelers have sufficient depth along their defensive line next to Cam Heyward in the form of the returning Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Montravius Adams, Isaiahh Loudermilk and rookie DeMarvin Leal. At the same time, DL coach Karl Dunbar is banking on Wormley sustaining his seven sacks and 10 quarterback hits in 2021 as well as is banking on the development of youngsters Loudermilk and Leal.

If Pittsburgh does decide to add a cheaper free agent defensive lineman, there are still several solid options available, including Ndamukong Suh, Eddie Goldman, Linval Joseph, Star Lotulelei and Larry Ogunjobi. Each would provide experience and depth to stabilize the unit.

Alternatively, the Steelers could try to pry a defensive lineman from another team. Trade candidates could include Fletcher Cox, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford and Davon Godchaux.

4. When do we get a first look at the new front office in action?

Since Omar Khan was named the Steelers’ new general manager on May 26, the only contracts Khan and his team have generated are for Tuzar Skipper and Calvin Austin III while waiving Trevon Mason and Isaiah Johnson. In other words, few of these moves were convoluted or unexpected.

Pittsburgh fans should be eager to watch the first few transactions that Khan, assistant general manager Andy Weidl, and player personnel coordinator Dan Rooney Jr. make at the helm. These could include extensions for Fitzpatrick, Johnson or Boswell; signing an aforementioned defensive lineman; or the unlikelier event of cutting a player before training camps starts.

By the end of the Steelers’ stay in Latrobe on August 18, we should have a better idea of how the new triumvirate will operate and the philosophies they will adopt.

5. Will Heinz Field keep its name?

With fans mired in minicamp and OTAs, the uncertainty surrounding the name of the Steelers’ stadium has largely been neglected.

The franchise’s contract with Kraft Heinz for the stadium’s naming rights expired after last season, which was following an extension of the name “Heinz Field.” Latest reports from late March reveal that the two sides were exploring a longer-term continuation, but little noise has been produced since then.

It’s likely that the Steelers will have settled on a conglomerate to provide its stadium’s name before 2022, so this should be resolved in the next few months.

Kenny Pickett was relatively quiet during Steelers OTAs and minicamp, but that’s okay

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/14/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kenny Pickett didn’t appear to turn many heads during the team’s offseason workouts, but that’s not the end of the world. At least he didn’t appear to be lost or overwhelmed.

One thing I noticed about Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett as he navigated his way through his first three stages as an NFL player—rookie minicamp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp—was that I didn’t necessarily notice him all that much.

Obviously, I noticed Pickett while he conducted his many interviews with the media during the offseason workouts in shorts and a helmet, and there were certainly enough videos and photographs of him in action.

But that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about the “wow” factor, as in “Kenny Pickett wows coaches at mandatory minicamp.” Or, how about, “Kenny Pickett turning heads at OTAs.”

Should Steelers fans expect more in the way of tantalizing headlines when it comes to Pickett, the most-recent first-round draft pick and a player who is in line to take the place of Ben Roethlisberger sooner rather than later?

No, at least not right now. When it comes to news involving Pickett at this point of the offseason, perhaps it’s fitting that we’ve now entered the quietest part of the year. Why? Because no news is good news when it comes to your rookie quarterback’s first go-around with spring-time football in shorts.

The last thing you’d want to hear or read about Pickett is that he looked like a deer in headlights at OTAs or that he had a hard time holding onto the football at mandatory minicamp.

All we can assume right now about Pickett is that he’s absorbing everything that he can from his coaches, his teammates and, heck, maybe even Mitch Trubisky and/or Mason Rudolph (not to get too political by bringing up the mentor topic).

What you really want to pay attention to is how Pickett looks once training camp begins on July 26. How is he at handling live defenses? How is he at handling scrimmages? Is he able to command the huddle in those situations?

Maybe my memory is a bit fuzzy, but when I think back 18 years to Ben Roethlisberger’s first spring and summer, I don’t recall the rookie turning a lot of heads. It was a different circumstance, of course; everyone rightly assumed that Tommy Maddox, the team’s veteran starter for most of the previous two seasons, would be the guy Roethlisberger would sit and learn behind for one year.

It wasn’t until Roethlisberger was thrust into the lineup in Week 2 due to injury that people began to see the kind of talent he possessed.

Even then, it took some time for then-head coach Bill Cowher to take the shackles off of his rookie—the playbook was quite limited early on.

There will be plenty of time for Pickett to turn some heads once training camp ramps up this summer. If he does that, maybe he’ll do Roethlisberger one better by being named the starter in Week 1.

If not? That wouldn’t be the end of the world, either, especially if reporters aren’t using metaphors about deer and headlights to describe his demeanor at St. Vincent College.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/14/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website, but now we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said or typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

BAD Language: An Unanswerable Steelers Mailbag

Everybody’s got an opinion. Some subscribe to conventional wisdom. others are ill-informed, while some are unorthodox and way out there. So, BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis decided to make no apologies and share his black-and-gold brand of enlightenment. Join BAD preaching his own gospel of the hypocycloids on the new show, BAD Language. This week, it’s all about an unanswerable mailbag.

  • News and Notes
  • The Unanswerable Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
Steelers Hangover: Steelers that may have chips on their shoulders this camp and those that need one

Some Steelers will be entering training camp with a major chip firmly resting on their shoulders. Some may want to think about acquiring one. Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White discuss motivated players and shoulder chips on the latest edition of the Monday show from the Behind the Steel Curtain Family of podcasts, The Steelers Hangover.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Motivated/Angry 2022 Steelers going into camp
  • and MUCH MORE!
From the Steelers’ Cutting Room Floor: Are the Steelers tight ends the strength of the offense?

The Steelers have strengths, and then they have a weakness or two as well. could a stable that includes Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader and Connor Heyward be considered the biggest strength of the Men of Steel? Geoffrey Benedict examines this and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The Steelers tight ends and their strength level on the team
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Going For Two: Calvin Austin III & Genard Avery

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/13/2022 - 2:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Day 3 of Going For Two, featuring Calvin Austin III and Genard Avery.

Welcome to Going For Two! Over the 45 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 training camp, we will be highlighting two players every day in order to cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s two players:

Calvin Austin III Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Wide receiver
Age: 23
Year: 1
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 162
Drafted: 2022, Round 4, Pick 138
College: Memphis
Roster Outlook: Highly likely
Analysis:

The speedster out of Memphis will offer a unique skill set for the Steelers offense in 2022. But exactly how will the Steelers utilize Calvin Austin, especially in his rookie season? Will he lineup on the outside much like his time in college or will he spend time in the slot? Will he get involved in the rushing attack and will he be called on in any form of kick returns? Being a Day 3 selection, he’s not exactly a roster lock but is as close to one as possible. The biggest thing for the Steelers and Austin in 2022 will be how soon and how much he gets involved in the offensive game plan.

Genard Avery Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Position: Outside linebacker
Age: 27
Year: 5
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 250
Drafted: 2018, Round 5, Pick 150 (Cleveland Browns)
College: Memphis
Roster Outlook: Highly likely
Analysis:

After being traded from Cleveland to Philadelphia in the middle of his second season, Genard Avery is looking for exactly how he fits with a specific NFL team. While Steelers fans appreciate the versatility of Avery as either an inside or outside linebacker, it appears he will at least start off on the outside as that is how he is listed on the Steelers roster. One of several players added to the Steelers defense this offseason who may not fit exactly into the typical mold of one position group, seeing how the Steelers defense utilizes potential ‘hybrid’ players such as Avery this season is something to look for throughout the preseason. If, for some reason, Avery didn’t pan out and did not make the Steelers roster, it would come as a big surprise.

Be sure to check back everyday for another two players for the Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

Be a part of the BTSC Fan Post weekly contest/question

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/13/2022 - 12:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are off for the next several weeks, so here is an idea to pass the time!

I still find myself sneaking into the Fan Post section of BTSC. Even with such great content on the front page, there are occasionally some solid articles still being written there. In the past I have made a point to pass on some of those articles to our Senior Editor, and in return he has posted many of those articles on the front page. Not only does it provide exposure for someone interested in writing, but it can provide BTSC with potential future writers.

This particular idea is not my own, but one from Pin Stripe Alley where the Editor poses a writing subject/question and the members that are interested write about that subject or question in a Fan Post. The winner gets their respective article posted on the front page.

Every Monday for the next six weeks I will provide a subject or question. The article must be submitted by Friday of the same week with plans for it to be published on Sunday. In the heading of the article make sure to add that it is for the Front Page Submission. also attach your own article heading.

Example: Front Page Submission - Pickett not Marino, Steelers refused to let another Pitt Panther QB slip by them

I shouldn’t have to remind everyone, but I will. Make sure all articles submitted follows the SB Nation/Vox/CORAL Guidelines. Those that don’t will not be considered.

This weeks subject/question:

In terms of the Pittsburgh Steelers second year players, which one guy could have that “Sophomore Jump”, what player gives the greatest value to the teams 2022 success?

As always stay safe, and go Steelers!

Levi Wallace is up to the challenge within the Steelers defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/13/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense will need Levi Wallace to step up in a big way in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers wasted little time adding player to their roster via free agency. First it was Mitch Trubisky, then Mason Cole. Knowing they needed to make a move in the defensive backfield, the Steelers were able to obtain the talents of former Buffalo Bills cornerback Levi Wallace.

Wallace has spent his entire NFL career in Buffalo, and adapting to a new city, team and system hasn’t been the easiest thing for the former Alabama cornerback.

“This is the first time I have moved teams,” Wallace said during Organized Team Activities (OTAs). “It’s been good so far. The team has embraced me. The DB room is a great group of guys. Learning the scheme, new plays and stuff. Just getting into the groove. Feeling my way through the defense.”

This stage of the NFL calendar is vital in team development, but also in giving players like Wallace an opportunity to get acclimated to the new system of Teryl Austin. There might not be contact during OTAs and mandatory minicamp, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done.

“This is the time you start training your eyes, what you are looking at in specific coverages,” said Wallace. “For me it is big. With the Bills I was in the same defense for four years. I could run that with my eyes closed. It’s challenging, but fun at the same time learning new plays.

“The biggest thing for me is learning new signals. Everyone runs the same defense, the same play calls. It’s all about communication and verbiage. That’s the biggest thing when you come into this defense. I’m picking it up pretty well, but there are always some tweaks you can learn from.”

As for Austin, this is his first stint as defensive coordinator for the Steelers, and his impact goes well beyond the X’s and O’s of the defense. Wallace has leaned on Austin for his expertise in the defensive secondary.

“He is also a really great person to talk to, ask questions to, easy to communicate. I definitely appreciate it. Just asking questions. Just seeing how he sees it through his eyes. It gives me the best chance. He breaks it down. His door is always open for me and for the rest of the guys. It is easy to communicate with him and ask, what could I have done better here, and he gives a truthful answer.”

Wallace himself said every team runs the same defense, but how different is the Steelers’ scheme compared to the one he ran in Buffalo? It might be different, but that simple fact doesn’t mean both the defense and Austin aren’t putting together the pieces of a stellar defense.

“It is a little bit different,” said Wallace. “It’s unique, but I love how he [Austin] is as a play-caller thus far. I love the defense. It’s just a little different. I think it’s just different for me because I just came from a different system, so learning it and seeing the ins and outs, how I can be successful in the defense when I go out there with my opportunities.”

Moving into a new organization can be an adjustment, and how new teammates embrace a player can be a difference maker. Thankfully for Wallace, the Steelers defense has been tremendous in welcoming him into the fold and starting the process of improving the defense as a whole in 2022.

“I love how together everybody is,” said Wallace. “The grittiness they play with. They are all trying to do the same thing. They are all trying to be on the same page. They all communicate, which I love. It’s been good. A great group of guys.

“And there are no egos in the room, which I really appreciate. It makes the biggest difference when you have the goal that we are just here to win. We all support each other. Here everyone is on the same page, everybody wants everybody to be successful and go from there.”

The Steelers secondary is anything but proven heading into the regular season. When you look at the list of cornerbacks who have NFL experience, they lack a genuine top cornerback. Take a look at the depth chart:

Levi Wallace
Ahkello Witherspoon
Cam Sutton
Arthur Maulet
Justin Layne
James Pierre

While names like Tre Norwood might impact the above list, you can see how the Steelers are hoping Wallace steps up in a big way for the defense this season. It won’t be easy, but Wallace seems to be up to the challenge.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA July 26th.

Does that sound like something the Steelers would do?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/13/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you are ever indecisive about whether or not a certain move is a good idea, simply ask yourself this question.

There is always something to discuss when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Throughout the season, there are past performances and upcoming games are great conversation pieces. When the season is over and talk of play on the field diminishes, items such as moves in free agency and what direction to go in the NFL draft are great topics. As the offseason rolls on, there are talks of position battles, roster moves, and other various things leading up to another season.

Between websites and podcasts such as Behind The Steel Curtain, social media, and various TV and radio shows across a plethora of sports networks, sometimes the ideas presented when it comes to the Steelers can be a little bit out there. Sometimes there are ideas that seem to be good ideas but never come to fruition. If you were ever in need of trying to refine the suggestions into reality, I do so by asking one question…

Does that sound like something the Steelers would do?

In simply asking this question, and giving it an honest answer, one can find themselves coming in on the correct side of the discussion quite often. While it might not be the most popular opinion, it can often keep one grounded in reality and not yield unrealistic expectations.

I’ll give an example from The Steelers Preview podcast last week when one of our beloved live chat members brought up a subject which has been discussed to great lengths here and BTSC. It was once again the suggestion of trading Diontae Johnson ahead of the 2022 season, which is the last one where he is under contract with the Steelers. My response, paraphrasing to the best of my memory, was as follows..

“The Steelers already lost three of the five wide receivers they had on their roster to begin 2021. If they were to trade Diontae Johnson, that would leave them with only one receiver returning for 2022 who played any significant snaps for the team the previous year. Does that sound like something Steelers would do?

The response was something to the nature of, “Darn you, Dave. How dare you refute my point with sound logic?”

That’s one of the benefits of being a fan of such a stable franchise. The Steelers emerged in the 70s under Dan Rooney and have continued with most of their philosophies to this day. Yes, the NFL has changed with the emergence of free agency and things of that nature, but the Steelers holding true to the principles is what makes them relevant year after year. Because of this, it does make it much easier to identify if making a certain move or paying a certain player is something Steelers would do.

While there are exceptions to looking at things this way, it will help in determining the most likely path an overwhelming majority of the time. The occasional move, such as trading away a first-round draft pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick or giving T.J. Watt three seasons of guaranteed money will pop-up occasionally, but if the Steelers didn’t change it up every once in a while, what fun would that be?

When there were a lot of different scenarios being discussed about the Steelers quarterback situation heading into the 2022 season, this question came in very handy. With at least three different big names tossed around by Steelers fans and how they should pursue them as a quarterback, I asked the question a lot. Not only would it take an enormous salary for the Steelers to pay someone, which is not something they are keen on doing with that player has yet to wear the black and gold, it also would have taken a lot of draft capital, mainly multiple first round picks, in order acquire any of these players. Does that sound like something that Steelers would do?

Remember this question as different subjects come up leading up to training camp throughout the preseason. While this question does do well standing on its own, giving a small explanation and finishing off with the question could be very effective.

Let’s try one last example of something that I’ve heard which may come up again throughout the preseason…

“The Steelers should just admit that they got it wrong and release Devin Bush.”

An easy response looks like this…

Devon Bush is in the final year of his rookie contract where he is sets to earn over $3 million in guaranteed salary with almost another 3 million in dead money. He will count $6 million against the salary cap this year whether he’s on the team or not. So the Steelers should flat-up release a former first-round draft pick still on their rookie deal where there is no salary cap savings and, even if he gets replaced as a starter, could provide quality depth? Does that sound like something Steelers would do?

It’s a magical little phrase that can get Steelers fans thinking in a much more realistic way. It’s difficult to find a member of Steelers’ Nation who doesn’t understand the tradition and consistency in which this franchise operates. Sometime the slightest reminder in the form of a question is all that needs done in order to put things into perspective.

Predicting the Steelers’ 2022 53-man roster: Post-minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/13/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the conclusion of 2022 mandatroy minicamp, it’s time to make our way-too-early predictions for the Steelers 53-man roster.

The kickoff to the 2022 NFL preseason is just about two months away. While numerous things can happen between now and then, it’s time to give our way-too-early predictions for the Steelers 53-man roster to begin the 2022 season. With no players actually setting foot in pads on the field yet, it’s difficult to project who the bottom of the roster players will be. Regardless, BTSC editor Dave Schofield and senior editor Jeff Hartman will give their input onto their thoughts of who will make the roster come September.

As always, we welcome you to join the conversation in our comment section below this article. Let your voice be heard and join in the black-and-gold conversation!

Offense

Quarterback (3)

Dave: Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph

Changes: None

Analysis: Nothing from minicamp was reported where either of these three were not performing well, or that Chris Oladokun was blowing the doors off of everyone. While those things could happen in training camp, they haven’t happened yet so the list stays the same.

Jeff: Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph

Changes: None

Analysis: Chris Oladokun doesn’t make it to the team’s 53-man roster, but the hope is he is either stashed on Injured Reserve (IR) like Joshua Dobbs last season, or placed on the practice squad. If Oladokun plays well in the preseason, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him make the roster and another roster move being made, like a trade.

Running Back (3)

Dave: Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Mateo Durant, Anthony McFarland Jr.

Changes: Mateo Durant out, Anthony McFarland in

Analysis: I ultimately would like a new name to the 53-man roster for the final spot. Since that isn’t the case at this time, I’ll likely switch players in and out until we get a preseason game.

Jeff: Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr.

Changes: None

Analysis: McFarland was a draft pick, and the Steelers still favor those players in these situations. Otherwise, I see Benny Snell being the No. 2 back regardless of the third player on this depth chart.

Fullback (1)

Dave: Derek Watt

Changes: None

Analysis: I’ve talked enough about him the last few weeks, so there will be nothing else said.

Jeff: Derek Watt

Changes: None

Analysis: The only true fullback on the team. Moving on...

Wide Receiver (6)

Dave: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III, Gunner Olszewski, Miles Boykin

Changes: None

Analysis: There are still two spots up for grabs, that is if the Steelers go with six players. I think the top for are basically locks, but Boykin, Olszewski, and company will have to show they deserve to be there.

Jeff: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin, Gunner Olszewski

Changes: None

Analysis: If there is a player whose roster spot isn’t guaranteed, it’s Boykin. Someone like Cody White or Anthony Miller could push him off the depth chart if they out-perform him in camp/preseason. At this point, I like Boykin’s ability to play special teams, giving him the nudge over the others.

Tight End (3)

Dave: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward

Changes: None

Analysis: I’m sticking with these three for now because I believe they all bring something different to the table.

Jeff: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward

Changes: None

Analysis: I could see the team possibly keeping a fourth tight end in Kevin Rader, and considering Heyward could fall under several categories on this prediction it could be feasible. As for now, I’ll still to these three.

Offensive Line (9)

Dave: Chukwuma Okorafor, Dan Moore Jr, James Daniels, Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, Kendrick Green, Joe Haeg, J.C. Hassenauer, John Leglue

Changes: None

Analysis: I believe the top six are pretty locked in, and Joe Haeg has shown he brings veteran versatility. I think others could get into the mix here, but I’m not sure which players it would be yet so I’m leaving things the same. Plus, it’s hard to gauge things on the line until the pads come on.

Jeff: Chuks Okorafor, Dan Moore Jr., Joe Haeg, John Leglue, James Daniels, Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole, Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer

Changes: None

Analysis: As of now I have Haeg beating out Chaz Green, but this is an area, primarily offensive tackle, where I could see the team making a move after cuts have been made. Otherwise, the interior of the line is constructed.

Total Offense: 25 Defense

Defensive Line (6)

Dave: Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, DeMarvin Leal, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Montravius Adams

Changes: None

Analysis: There is nothing to change because I didn’t have Stephon Tuitt on the list last time. I take no joy in that correct assumption.

Jeff: Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, DeMarvin Leal, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Montravius Adams

Changes: Stephon Tuitt out

Analysis: So Tuitt retired, making my initial prediction look bad. Looking at the roster I have decided to use that vacancy at another position. So, Tuitt is out, and doesn’t get replaced by another defensive lineman.

Outside Linebacker (4 - Dave, 5 - Jeff)

Dave: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Derrek Tuszka, Genard Avery

Changes: None

Analysis: I was so tempted to take Tuzar Skipper, but I don’t know which player I would replace.

Jeff: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Derrek Tuszka, Genard Avery, Tuzar Skipper

Changes: Add Tuzar Skipper

Analysis: Steelers save a roster spot with Avery being able to play both ILB and OLB. The addition of Skipper has me adding Tuitt’s vacant spot to the outside linebacker position. Avery’s position versatility helps in this area.

Inside Linebacker (5)

Dave: Devin Bush, Myles Jack, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Mark Robinson, Marcus Allen

Changes: Mark Robinson out, Marcus Allen in

Analysis: I’ve decided I will likely change someone at this position each time we do a prediction because I feel there are four guys fighting for two spots. Despite being the most expensive of the bunch, I kept Allen this time because of the ‘hybrid’ potential. I dropped Robinson off simply because of the added hype he’s been getting, making me feel like we’re more likely to be set up for disappointment.

Jeff: Devin Bush, Myles Jack, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, Mark Robinson

Changes: None

Analysis: While it’s no guarantee Robinson makes the roster, I think he’ll be a very good special teams player for the Steelers. There is value in that, and so I think he makes the team.

Cornerback (5 - Dave / Jeff - 4)

Dave: Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, Arthur Maulet, James Pierre

Changes: None

Analysis: Maulet brings help in the slot, and having four guys who can play outside is preferred.

Jeff: Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, James Pierre, Arthur Maulet

Changes: James Pierre out, Aurthur Maulet in

Analysis: Going into a season with just four cornerbacks isn’t ideal, but the Steelers will likely utilize some of their safeties as slot cornerbacks. At this point, they need more help in the slot than they do on the outside. This gives the edge to Maulet, in my opinion.

Safety (5)

Dave: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, Miles Killebrew, Tre Norwood

Changes: None

Analysis: All five players appear to bring a little something different and fill out the room nicely.

Jeff: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Damontae Kazee, Miles Killebrew, Tre Norwood

Changes: None

Analysis: For those who freaked out over having four cornerbacks, Norwood and Edmunds will likely help round out the defensive back depth chart by playing more flex positions.

Total Defense: 25 Special Teams

Specialists (3)

Dave: Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin III, Christian Kuntz

Changes: None

Analysis: Why change anything unless another punter starts booming kicks every time?

Jeff: Chris Boswell, Pressley Harvin III, Christian Kuntz

Changes: None

Analysis: No need to make any changes, as of yet.

Total Team: 53

We break down the 53-man roster further on the latest episode of the “Let’s Ride” podcast. You can check out the latest episode in the player below:

Does Alex Highsmith bring enough to the Pittsburgh Steelers defense?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/13/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Taking an in-depth look at what Alex Highsmith brings to the Pittsburgh Steelers defense.

Alex Highsmith made a strong showing in his rookie season in 2020. He provided solid, albeit not flashy, play and showed a lot of promise for his future enough so that the Steelers made him the starter in his second season, playing him on 76% of defensive plays. As an edge rusher, Alex Highsmith is going to be mostly judged by sacks. While he tripled his sack production in year two, six sacks isn’t a very impressive total, ranking right around 50th in the NFL. Looking beyond sacks to quarterback hits, Highsmith, with 15, ranks just outside the top 50.

For a team that has led the NFL in sacks for six straight seasons, that’s not impressive. But it doesn’t mean that Alex Highsmith can’t get to the quarterback.

Steelers vs. Seahawks, 2nd quarter, 0:52.

Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the bottom of the screen.

Highsmith gets a good jump off the line at the snap, torching the left tackle. When the opposing team gives Highsmith an opening to exploit, he can take advantage of it quickly.

He has less success against good blocks.

Steelers vs. Bills, 2nd quarter, 4:46.

Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the top of the screen.

You can see how he loses this rush, with the tackle able to overpower him as he gets into his bend. Highsmith saves the play with his tenacity and hustle and draws a holding penalty. There were other times he got taken down like this and there wasn’t a penalty, largely because the takedown worked. Highsmith fighting through the takedown makes the penalty obvious and makes this a good play for the Steelers.

Steelers vs. Bills, 1st quarter, 13:40.

Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the bottom of the screen.

Alex Highsmith looks like he is leading a stunt here, and I would expect Cameron Heyward to loop outside of Highsmith when you see Highsmith crash into the guard like that. But stunts aren’t the only way to attack using this technique. As Highsmith occupies the guard, Heyward is left one-on-one with the center, a matchup he easily dominates for a batted pass.

Highsmith isn’t the best at beating lineman quickly, but when it comes to physically engaging them, he does fine, and he’s willing to do the dirty work and the offense is forced to respect that.

Steelers vs. Ravens, 4th quarter, 7:14.

Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the bottom of the screen.

This isn’t some outside the box pass rush technique as you don’t sack the quarterback by running away from him. This is Alex Highsmith in a containment role. I picked this one because it is obvious, but Highsmith has a ton of plays where he isn’t trying to get off of a block, he’s two gapping on a lot of pass play to keep the quarterback from escaping the pocket. This play is intended to force the offensive line to switch the guard and tackle’s assignment, making it hard to keep Cameron Heyward blocked, while it also keeps containment on the pocket with Highsmith dropping back.

The Ravens have it countered because they slide the center to that side and the guard can hand Heyward off without worrying about Highsmith. Of course that means T.J. Watt is one-on-one with a tackle and with the Steelers trapping the quarterback in the pocket, escaping Watt proves to be a little too much to ask.

Steelers vs. Raiders, 4th quarter, 9:44.

Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the left of the screen.

When T.J. Watt was off the field in 2021, the Steelers pass rush was weak, and Highsmith showed part of the reason when he was double teamed. He did not have the ability to generate much pressure when his blocker had help.

Highsmith showed the ability to compete and beat one-on-one blocks, albeit not at a high rate and not fast enough to beat T.J. Watt to the quarterback. Highsmith showed little ability to win when his blocker had help, but he did show the ability to capitalize and finish plays when the offense messed up and gave him an opening.

Rushing the passer isn’t the only thing for an outside linebacker to do on a passing play. There are always coverage roles, and in the Steelers 7-man fronts, one outside linebacker is going to often be in coverage.

Steelers vs. Bills, 1st quarter, 13:40.

Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the bottom of the screen.

Highsmith drops into coverage here, and if you watch the quarterback’s head, those shallow crossers are the quarterback’s second read. Teddy Bridgewater is trying to dump the ball off when he’s getting sacked, and Highsmith is the guy covering the throw he wants to make. Highsmith never turns and looks at the receivers, yet he covers the crossing routes perfectly, getting to the middle then passing off his man and taking over the other route fluidly.

One thing Alex Highsmith shows a lot on film is great awareness of the play and how to defend it properly.

Steelers @ Bengals, 3rd quarter, 5:35.

Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the left side of the screen.

Highsmith starts to rush the quarterback, but before Joe Burrow even turns to make the throw Highsmith has the play figured out and gets hands on the ball. Sadly he is unable to finish the play, but his awareness and quick reaction gave him an opportunity and the play is still a good result for the Steelers. As in pass rush, Highsmith has a lot of value, he just doesn’t finish the play and collect flashy stats.

Steelers vs. Vikings, 3rd quarter, 10:32.

Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the right side of the screen.

Highsmith does a fantastic job on this play. He communicates well through the motion, steps out, and dominates the outside blocker cutting off the receiver from his blocking. Highsmith absolutely destroyed this play by adapting to the motion, realizing the right course of action and executing it immediately and effectively.

The Steelers have two outside linebackers with this kind of awareness, but while Alex Highsmith is a pretty solid pass rusher, T.J. Watt is one of, if not THE best pass rusher in the NFL. There’s a very good reason they put Alex Highsmith in roles where he reads the play first, then makes the smart moves and does the dirty work to make the whole defense better while they put T.J. Watt in position to rush the quarterback and not worry about the rest of the play on almost every snap.

There’s one more area to cover, and it is where Alex Highsmith shows up on the stat charts. According to Pro Football Focus, Alex Highsmith was second in tackles on run plays among all edge defenders in the NFL, and third in stops (tackles that constitute a failed down for the offense). His average depth of tackle was a pretty impressive 2.1 yards, meaning that the 42 times Alex Highsmith made a tackle on a run play that play gained an average of 2 yards.

When you consider he did that on the worst run defense in the NFL, it’s pretty impressive.

Steelers vs. Seahawks, 3rd quarter, 4:58.

Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the right side of the screen.

There’s a lot to take in here, but first the context. This is in the middle of the third quarter against Seattle, when the Seahawks ran roughshod all over the Steelers. Two main problems showed up in the Steelers run defense for that quarter. First, the defensive line getting pushed out of plays, often past the play opening up cutback lanes. Second, offensive lineman were getting off combo blocks at will and reaching linebackers, opening up big gains for the Seahawks runners.

Highsmith does three things well here.

On this play you can see the lineman behind Highsmith are moving laterally much faster than Highsmith is. Highsmith doesn’t have to get outside quickly on this play, he has Terrell Edmunds to take the outside. The tackle grabs Highsmith to pull him along with him, but Highsmith holds his ground.

Highsmith doesn’t give much ground vertically. Once the guard gets to him, Highsmith starts moving laterally to stay with the play, and the guard is trying to drive him off the line of scrimmage while Highsmith is moving laterally. Highsmith gives up all of 2 yards while getting shoved, that’s pretty good.

Lastly, watch the tackle as he tries to disengage with Highsmith. Highsmith keeps hold of the tackle, slowing him down and allowing Devin Bush to get outside of the tackle untouched. That forces the run right into Highsmith and he’s there holding the line to limit the gain.

That’s fantastic run defense that only shows up on the stat sheet as a tackle assist.

Steelers vs. Lions, 4th quarter, 4:27.

Alex Highsmith is the edge rusher to the top of the screen.

At this point the Steelers were running a 4-4 defense with Terrell Edmunds acting as the 4th linebacker in the box. Notice that the Steelers have Cameron Heyward on the other side of the field because T.J. Watt out putting Highsmith and Heyward on the same side of the field is essentially putting a “Run here for a good time!” sign on the other side. They choose to go after Highsmith and all he does is win the outside arm of the tackle, drive that tackle backwards a yard while waiting for the runner, then disengage to force a 4-yard loss.

Steelers @ Bengals, 3rd quarter, 10:47.

Alex Highsmith (#56) is the edge rusher to the left side of the screen.

Another example of Alex Highsmith reading the play and doing exactly what he needs to do to blow it up. You can see him signaling where the play is going right before the snap, then he takes on blocking tight end Drew Sample, driving him backwards in front of the play, powering through his blocker’s play side shoulder and makes the tackle.

Alex Highsmith was not a great pass rusher in 2021, and while he can still improve in his pass rush and add a lot more threat than he did in his first two seasons, his main value isn’t in his ability to chase the quarterback. Alex Highsmith is a fantastic run defender, a smart player in coverage, and he brings a fantastic awareness to the field on every snap. While I think we’d all love to see Highsmith get double digit sacks in 2022, sack totals aren’t a good judge of his impact on the games or his value to the team.

6 types of Steelers stories that will dominate headlines between now and training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/13/2022 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s now officially the downtime of the Steelers offseason. However, the traffic and rage-inducing stories must go on.

The Steelers just concluded their three-day minicamp last week, which officially punted the schedule down to the portion of the NFL offseason where news and activities are scarce.

That’s right, there will be no scheduled Steelers activities between now and the end of July when the boys convene at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., for training camp. But there still has to be NFL news, right?

We all know the NFL likes to dominate the spotlight 24/7/365, which, math and time being what they are, includes June and July. Therefore, stories must be generated. Discussions must be had. Faux outrage must be induced.

With that in mind, below are the six types of Steelers stories that will dominate the headlines between now and training camp:

1.) The Steelers should sign (insert veteran free agent here) for depth

Just look at this list of available free agents, courtesy of Spotrac.

Julio Jones is still out there. “Should the Steelers sign Julio Jones to mentor their young receiving corps?” Gold. “Why the Steelers should kick the tires on Ndamukong Suh.” Think about the discussions this headline would generate, especially when you consider how much Suh has always loved to kick things, himself.

2.) The Steelers should trade Mason Rudolph to that team with the poor quarterback depth

If you’re reading this, chances are, you hate Mason Rudolph. But you likely still think the Steelers could fetch a draft pick by trading him to a team in desperate need of quarterback depth.

And if the Steelers do that...

3.) Should the Steelers try and lure Ryan Fitzpatrick out of retirement?

That’s right, Fitzmagic, the jolly journeyman quarterback, just announced his retirement from the NFL after 17 seasons and nine different teams. If the Steelers unload Rudolph, that would pave the way for them to sign a veteran quarterback to come in and assume the very vital mentorship role. Heck, if there’s still some magic left in that right arm of his, Fitzpatrick could start for a year, while Mitch Trubisky, Kenny Pickett and Chris Oladokun (practice squad) sit and learn. Obviously, it doesn’t have to be Fitzpatrick. Just about any available free-agent quarterback will work. How about Cam Newton? Damn, that would drive hella traffic!

4.) (Insert Steelers player here) creates controversy with social media stuff

It was about a year ago at this time that Devin Bush, who had a very opinionated summer on Twitter, created quite the buzz by quote tweeting a video of a cat falling down a stairwell. Bush made matters worse by using the “quote” portion of the tweet to make a tasteless joke. This generated discussions and debates that lasted for days. I got involved in these discussions and sided with Team Devin. Anyway, I just went to a wedding last week and danced awkwardly for like an hour. I don’t know what was more cringe-worthy: My wedding dance moves last week or my decision to debate Devin Bush’s cat joke last summer.

5.) National NFL reporter gives Steelers no chance to do anything in 2022

That’s right, at some point this summer, some national reporter will pick the Steelers to finish dead-last in the AFC North. This will lead to outrage, debates, various local interviews with this national reporter, and calls from some fans for Mike Tomlin to be fired—in July, when coaches almost always get fired.

6.) That time I went to that one Steelers game with my dad at Three Rivers Stadium/Heinz Field/some road venue

For the record, I really love these kinds of stories. Heck, I plan on writing a few of them between now and the start of Steelers training camp. I really want you to read them, too, even though I know you won’t (you’ll be reading the ones about Fitzmagic).

There you have it, the six types of Steelers stories you’ll be reading between now and training camp.

Happy summer!

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/13/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and written, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

We Run the North: Critical questions remain in the AFC North

As always, the Steelers are the most important thing when it comes to pour coverage of the NFL. But there’s an extreme need to know what’s going on with the three other teams in the divison and critical questions remain in the AFC North. Join BTSC’s Kevin Tate for a round table perspective with guests B-Dirt, Big-G and Damion Tate with the latest AFC North news on his signature show, We Run The North.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • Critical AFC North Questions
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Steelers Sunday Night Q&A: The Steelers are always relevant, even in June

It’s another offseason Sunday in 2022 with no NFL football and no games scheduled. However, the Steelers drafting is complete and so are their various minicamps. BTSC is continuing a question-and-answer free-for-all from you the loyal fans. This time, join BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict and Rich “Big Bro Scho” Schofield as they team up to take questions from the live chat for some good Steelers discussion.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
Let’s Ride: Steelers players to watch during the dog days of summer

There are always players to look for at all times, but before camp begins, there are certain players to pay attention to. Join BTSC’s senior editor the morning flagship show in the Behind the Steel Curtain family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Several Steelers to keep an eye on this summer
  • The Monday Morning Conversation with BTSC’s own Dave Schofield
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Have a BAD Week: A look back at the Steelers week from a black-and-gold mind

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/12/2022 - 2:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

BTSC’s random-thought renegade is back with his bizarre look at the Steelers week that was.

The Steelers’ season ended over four months ago, but there’s plenty of news coming out of the Steel City. BTSC continues their recap of the past week’s events for our readers. So, let’s all take a look at the week in the ‘burgh together.

Monday 6/6

RT to wish @kennypickett10 a happy birthday! pic.twitter.com/wrVJomRQgn

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 6, 2022

What do you get the 24-year-old that seemingly has everything? In this case, maybe a veteran offensive tackle.

We have signed WR Calvin Austin III. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 6, 2022

Austin 3:19 say, “I just signed a contract”. If this guy is just half as good as I think that he could be, I’d be pumped.

Sources: The #Rams have re-worked All-World DT Aaron Donald’s 3 remaining contract years to give him a massive $40M raise through 2024, making him the highest paid non-QB in NFL history at 31 years old. He gets $95M(!) through 2024. pic.twitter.com/SoDRw4GHE4

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 6, 2022

For those delusional dreamers that thought that Pitt’s Aaron Donald would one day end up in black and gold, this news will wake you up in a cold sweat quickly.

Tuesday 6/7

The Steelers return to Latrobe and Saint Vincent College July 26.https://t.co/7QqqX5SSko

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) June 7, 2022

To quote Vince Neil of Motley Crue, “I’m on my way. I’m on my way. Home, Sweet Home”.

Former K-State offensive lineman B.J. Finney told me last night he has medically retired from football after playing seven seasons in the NFL, mostly with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Not sure if that’s widely known or not. Just wanted to say congrats to him on a stellar career! pic.twitter.com/gO87uBerDt

— Kellis Robinett (@KellisRobinett) June 7, 2022

In related news, I am officially retiring my game-worn B.J. Finney pants.

Najee Harris said he and the coaches have talked about lightening his workload. He’s ok with it, but he said those discussions are ongoing. He still wants to be on the field a lot.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) June 7, 2022

Don’t wake me up if I’m dreaming this.

Wednesday 6/8

Steelers front office promotions/changes:
• Dave Petett (Pro/College Scout to Asst Dir of Pro Scouting
• Phil Kreidler (College Scout Coord to Sr Scouting Asst)
• Kelvin Fisher (College Scout to Sr Scouting Asst)
• Cole Marcoux (Football Admin Coord to Dir of Football Admin)

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 9, 2022

If you claim that you know enough about these guys to complain about their having been hired, color me skeptical. You are either a scouting insider, incredibly delusional, or have entirely way too much time on your hands.

QB work pic.twitter.com/glFH92BSGM

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 8, 2022

Did LEGO have a surplus of black pieces and donate them to the Steelers?

Legend (Wait for it) Dary.

Best locker room moment today goes to Connor Heyward, who told me he got the team donkey shirt for celebrating a third-down conversion catch in yesterday’s 2-minute drill. He said it’s a learning moment — one he won’t soon forget.

And then he pulled out the shirt! pic.twitter.com/gg1Dlw4BFO

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 8, 2022

Good thing my wife and BTSC don’t hand out shirts like this. I’d have to wear it permanently.

Thursday 6/9

Based on a couple of conversations that I had today, #Steelers fans should be encouraged about the progress of Minkah Fitzpatrick's contract situation.

Might not be imminent, but overwhelming sense is that it's in a very, very good spot. @937theFan

— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) June 9, 2022

If there’s a Honey-Do list for Omar Khan, this would definitely top it. I am encouraged at this news.

Friday 6/10

Linebacker Joe Schobert is visiting the Saints, per source. He had 112 tackles last year for the Steelers. Made the Pro Bowl in 2017 while with the Browns.

— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) June 10, 2022

Schobert wasn’t horrendous as a Steeler, he just wasn’t the right fit. Here’s hoping Joe gets a shot in the Big Easy.

Saturday 6/11

.@DanAndShay are reppin’ the Black & Gold tonight @heinzfield | @SteelersShop pic.twitter.com/O9b6ST9DLF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 11, 2022

A hometown concert. That’s pretty cool.

This was the significant week that was for the Steelers, mixed-in with my black-and-gold loving life. I’m sure next week will be full of Steelers happenings as well, so we’ll have to do this again. Have a great week, but better yet have a BAD one.

Going For Two: Tyson Alualu & Daniel Archibong

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/12/2022 - 12:00pm
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Day 2 of Going For Two, featuring Tyson Alualu and Daniel Archibong

Welcome to Going For Two! Over the 45 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 training camp, we will be highlighting two players every day in order to cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s two players:

Tyson Alualu Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Position: Defensive Tackle
Age: 35
Year: 13
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 304
Drafted: 2010 Round 1, Pick 10 (Jacksonville Jaguars)
College: California
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

Coming off of a fantastic 2020 season, Tyson Alualu appeared to be the answer for the Steelers at the nose tackle position. But an ankle injury in Week 2 which knocked him out for the season had some wondering if he would return for another NFL season. Coming back at 35 years old, the biggest question is how much Alualu has left in the tank. While a drop off in play is not something expected to a point which would have any roster implications, the higher quality of production Alualu can give the Steelers as he comes back from injury, the better off their defensivef line will be in 2022.

Daniel Archibong Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Defensive Line
Age: 24
Year: 2
Height: 6’6”
Weight: 307
Drafted: UDFA in 2021 (Chicago Bears)
College: Temple
Roster Outlook: Doubtful
Analysis:

After failing to make the Chicago Bears roster last offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers immediately signed Daniel Archibong to the practice squad. Called up twice in back-to-back weeks against the Chargers and Bengals, Archibong saw a total of 13 snaps on defense and six on special teams as he contributed to two tackles. With a very deep defensive line room at this time, Archibong‘s most promising path with the 2022 Steelers remains via the practice squad.

Be sure to check back everyday for another two players for the Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

The More You Know: Random facts about your Steelers, “We Do Kicking Right” Time edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/12/2022 - 10:30am
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Time to learn more about your favorite NFL team, and some trivia as well!

It’s the offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers and there are so many topics to talk and write about. Free agents, the coordinator conundrum, the next quarterback, the NFL Draft, signings, retirements and breaking news will all be covered here at BTSC. But who’s going to give you little-known-facts out of the 500 Level?

Luckily, your one-stop, and non-stop, shop for everything Steelers employs a Steelers fan that was allegedly dropped on his head as a one-year-old during the Immaculate Reception. Useless and somewhat fascinating facts are his forte. So, here we are with off-the-wall thoughts from the dark side of a black-and-gold brain that nobody asked for. But the joke’s on you as you’ll be telling your peeps something you read here later.

412 Forever

January Jones is not from Pittsburgh. The Emmy-Award winning actress actually hails from South Dakota, but found herself a faithful fan of 412 football nonetheless. In the lead up to the Steelers last appearance in the Super Bowl, Mad Men’s Betty Draper told USA Today back in 2011 that she gets frustrated by people who distract from the action. “I like to sit and actually watch the game. “I’m like, ‘Please stop talking about Lea Michele’s performance!’ When halftime’s over, let’s get back to the game.” Now that’s somebody serious about her Men of Steel and like their fan’s name, January is a good month for Pittsburgh.

BTSC Steelers Jeopardy

(Answer at bottom of article)

Steel Facts

In the last 50 seasons, the Steelers have had only 15 kickers attempt a field goal in a regular season game. Many would think that Gary Anderson would be the most accurate in that span, but it’s actually Chris Boswell. Three kickers have been perfect in their Steelers careers. Randy Bullock and Matt McCrane went 3/3 in only one game, while Matthew Wright went 4/4 in three games.

Roy Gerela (1971-1978) 64.3%

Matt Bahr (1979-1980) 63.8%

David Trout (1981, 1987) 63.2%

Gary Anderson (1982-1994) 78.2%

Norm Johnson (1995-1998) 82.7%

Matt George (1998) 0%

Kris Brown (1999 -2001) 77.7%

Todd Peterson (2002) 57.1%

Jeff Reed (2002-2010) 81.9%

Shaun Suisham (2010-2014) 87.9%

Josh Scobee (2015) 60.0%

Chris Boswell (2015-Present) 88.3%

Randy Bullock (2016) 100%

Matthew McCrane (2018) 100%

Matthew Wright (2020) 100%

Middle Name Madness

We love citing middle names of members of the Men of Steel here at Behind the Steel Curtain like Trent Jordan Watt, Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger and Michael Pettaway Tomlin. Hence, the “More You Know Middle Name of the Week”. This week we feature a kicker that executed the perfect onside kick in Super Bowl XXX and shares the same number as the current black-and-gold booter, Christopher Lynn Boswell.

Norman Douglas Johnson This Week’s Birthdays of Steel

6/12 - Larry Foote (1980), Gordon Gravelle (1945), Frisman Jackson (1979), Levi Wallace (1995)

6/13 - Vance McDonald (1990)

6/14 - Jamir Jones (1998), Trai Turner (1993)

6/15 - Tim Harris (1961), Tim Lester (1968), Frank Pollard (1957)

6/16 - Larry Brown (1949), Jerricho Cotchery (1982), (1965)

6/17 - Will Allen (1982), Dermontti Dawson (1965), Ray Seals (1965)

6/18 - Tom Clements (1963), Jack Robinson (1911), Lou Tepe (1930)

6/19 Jahine Arnold (1973), Dave Reavis (1950)

Disturbing Sights Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images Photo by Al Golub/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Not every NFL player retires with their original team, having played with no other franchise. We may try to forget the image of our Steel Heroes wearing another uniform, but it’s a part of fandom and legends sometimes change team colors. Jeff Reed burst out of the gate as a Steeler after a tryout in 2002 going 6/6 in his debut against Jacksonville. He became famous on the field in Pittsburgh and infamous off of it. After a rough start to 2010, the Steelers cut Reed and he ended up by the Bay in San Francisco. Always a fan-favorite in the Steel City, the sight of No. 3 wearing the scarlet, gold and white as a 49er will always be weird.

Varsity Blues Black & Golds

Shaun Suisham was a great addition to the Steelers in 2010 after Jeff Reed was cut. His career sadly ended after being hit trying to make a tackle in the 2015 Hall of Fame Game. As a kicker at Bowling Green, Suisham played under Urban Meyer and left as the all-time leading scorer of the with 361 points and a record 45 career field goals.

Hypocycloids Gone Madison Avenue

Matt Bahr didn’t stay long in Pittsburgh, only lasting two seasons. But the rookie out of Penn State won a Super Bowl with the Steelers and landed an endorsement with KFC. “I do kickin’ right” was a humorous play on the Colonel’s signature phrase, “We do chicken right”.

Cliff Clavin Corner

It’s a little known fact that the Steelers great kicker, Gary Anderson, was mentioned on an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” for missing a crucial field goal in the 1999 NFC Championship Game as a Minnesota Viking.

Steelers Jeopardy Answer in the Form of a Question: Who is David Trout? Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers replaced Matt Bahr in 1981 with David Trout, who was replaced the next season by Gary Anderson. When the Steelers needed a replacement kicker for Gary Anderson during the 1987 Strike, David Trout came back wearing No. 5 instead of his previous No. 1 now being donned by Anderson.

So, there you have it. Anybody can spout out stat after stat, but not everybody can embrace the colorful and personal side of the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, the more you know, the more you can stupefy your friends, family and neighbors with your big, black-and-gold brain.

We’ll see you right here next week. Until then keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the hypocycloids.

A Letter From the Editor: Welcome to the dog days of summer, Steelers fans

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/12/2022 - 9:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are on their month-long hiatus, but what can you expect from BTSC during that time?

Well, they’re here.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers wrapping up their three-day mandatory veteran minicamp last week, the team has mostly left the team facility and are off on their own until they report to training camp on July 26th.

Welcome to the dog days of the NFL calendar.

It is the next 6+ weeks where the age-old saying “no news is good news” comes into play. The only news fans want to hear about during this time are new contracts, the acquisition of a new player or any amount of content to get them prepared for the 2022 Steelers season.

Outside of the aforementioned news, very few are considered positive. This is when a player decides to go on a Twitter rant, spouting nonsense, I’m talking to you Devin Bush. It could also be when players get into trouble off the field, who can forget the news of another pending Martavis Bryant suspension? Plain and simple, the more boring these next six weeks are, the better.

But that’s not what this article is about. No, this article is about how we here at BTSC are going to help you get through these dog days until the start of training camp.

Before going any further, if you are someone who wants to step away from the Steelers, and the NFL, during these next few weeks, I get it. There are times I wish I could do this, but the NFL has become a 365 day job for the vast majority of sports media.

As for those who are the purest die hard fans, and never miss a day of content/coverage, I want to let you know we will have you covered every step of the way in every capacity.

On the editorial side, we will continue to deliver the same amount of coverage every day at BTSC. And while we might be diving into features and different types of series to get us all through the no-news period, there won’t ever be a day you check BTSC and don’t see at least six new articles on the page. The writing team will continue to keep their nose to the grindstone and provide the same quality content you’ve come to trust even during the season.

On the podcast side the same will be true. Monday thru Friday you will get three fresh podcasts a day, and continued coverage on the weekends. If news breaks, we’ll have everything right there wherever you enjoy your podcasts, we are everywhere just search ‘Steelers’ or ‘Behind the Steel Curtain’ wherever you get your podcasts to find our audio content. But just like the writing won’t let up, neither will the podcasts.

Again, there are some who like to enjoy their summer and will return back when the players report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA for the first time since 2019. But if you are reading this article, there is a good chance you are not one of those people. There is a higher likelihood you are the die hard fan who never misses a beat with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And for those fans, BTSC will have you covered every step of the way, in every single way.

You can take that to the bank.

Is it July 26th yet?

(Note: The Letter From the Editor feature runs every Sunday during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)

What’s the more intriguing training camp battle: Starting job or roster spot?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/12/2022 - 7:30am
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers will have plenty of battles, either to crack the starting lineup or to simply make the 53-man roster, when they begin training camp in July.

The Pittsburgh Steelers concluded all of their organized team activities for the 2022 offseason and have now entered the six week ‘time of darkness’ leading up to training camp. As fans patiently await their team to return to prepare for the upcoming season, there are many topics to think about and discuss.

One topic of discussion will be the numerous training camp battles going on with the Steelers in 2022. Rather than dive into the specific battles, I first wanted to raise the question as to which battles are more significant, those of players fighting for a starting position or those players fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster?

While I firmly believe the answer of ‘it depends on the battle’ may be the very best answer of all, sometimes it’s the name of the players and a position in which they are battling which means everything. For some, the battle for the third quarterback position may be more intriguing than the battle for the starting defensive lineman osition. For others, who the Steelers start at the interior of the offensive line may be much more important than the last linebacker on the roster.

But rather than get specific, this is just a general question knowing that there will be outliers in either case. So before you make your final decision, which you may very well have already made, here is an argument in favor of each stance:

The Battle for Starter

When it ultimately comes down to it, the players that are starting and receiving the majority of playing time is the most significant battle of them all. While there are positions where players still get snaps on a rotating basis, there are plenty of others where the starter sees all the snaps and the reserve is only there just in case. Players such as the defensive secondary, offensive line, and quarterback are all positions where a player could play 100% of the snaps on their side of the ball in a given game. Since those are the players that will make the most impact on the outcome of each contest, the battle for who is the starter has to be the most significant.

The Battle for the 53

Since these battles are specifically the ones taking place at training camp, simply getting onto the roster is more important. Players can gain or lose starting positions as the season rolls on based on their production, but in order for a player to be in the mix they first must make the roster. Even with the 16-man practice squad where players who come up just short of the roster battles often land, there is no guarantee they will make it through waivers and still remain with the Steelers. In order for a player to first earn a game day helmet, contribute on the field, and possibly be in line for a starting position, they first must make the roster. Additionally, looking beyond the upcoming season and shaping the roster for the future is also a consideration as it is beneficial for the Steelers players to grow while being a part of the team. So while who ultimately starts is noteworthy, it’s getting the cart before the horse when it comes to getting all the players on the roster for Week 1.

So there are at least part of the arguments for which type of training camp battle is more intriguing. But what are your thoughts? Make sure you vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Steelers rookies give back in a big way

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/12/2022 - 6:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers rookies have already started to make an impact in the community.

There are few players who have donned the black and gold who stand out in a crowd more than Mel Blount. Whether it’s his overall stature, or the cowboy hat, Blount has always made an impact wherever he goes.

Everyone knows about Blount’s impact on the field when he played for the Steelers, but off the field he has tried to make an ever larger impact on the community. Blount created the Mel Blount Youth Home in Claysville, Pa., and a special program through the Mel Blount Youth Leadership Initiative.

The program is run for area youth that provides an environment which fosters the desire to learn, work, play and to develop principles of respect, responsibility, and leadership through nurturing, moral & character development and guidance.

“This is one of the bright spots of our program,” Blount said at this year’s event. An event which dates back to 2004. “When these Steelers players come, it’s special. These kids that come for the program love and admire these athletes.

“I think it does two things. It helps the kids. They love these guys. They watch them on television, cheer for them, are big Steelers fans. When the players come out and sit and talk with these kids, and then see them on television and what they do in season, it’s special to them.”

For one Steelers rookie, this trip to Claysville wasn’t his first, and it certainly meant a lot in his return. That would be none other than the team’s top pick, Kenny Pickett. Pickett, who was drafted 20th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, had an appearance for the program during his freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh.

“It meant a lot,” said Kenny Pickett. “I came out here my freshman year at Pitt. To come out here as a rookie, came full circle. It was awesome to be out here with the guys and play some football, tell some stories.

“I think it’s awesome Mel stays involved with the organization and the guys give back. The whole rookie class was great today. Huge shoutout to the kids that came out. We had a blast with them. A lot of laughs. Went through a lot of drills, had some fun at the end. Had a good lunch conversation with the kids. It was a great day overall.”

The NFL player is often recognized for all they don’t do, or what they do wrong. Missing an assignment on a play, not delivering in the clutch or having anything go on off the field. I think it is important to also cite what these players do which is good, especially in the community.

The Steelers are incredibly active in the Pittsburgh area, and that isn’t including individual players’ initiatives like Cam Heyward’s “Heyward House”, which is something entirely separate from the Steelers organization. Often times the rookie class working with the youth at Blount’s youth home is just the beginning of their work in the community.

Throughout the offseason, and even in-season, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC not just for the X’s and O’s of the 2022 Steelers, but also to highlight the good the players and organization do in the community.

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