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CBS ranks Chris Boswell the NFL’s third-best kicker going into 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/29/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

It took two seasons of outstanding performances to erase Boswell’s dreaded 2018 season.

In a recent article at CBSSports.com, John Breech ranked the top 10 NFL kickers and punters going into the 2021 NFL season. Although the Steelers did not have a punter crack the top 10, it would be crazy to think they should as the job has yet to be settled. But as for placekicker, the Steeler’s Chris Boswell landed at the third spot on the list.

Here is the breakdown by Breech which put Boswell in the top three:

3. Chris Boswell, Steelers

Back in 2018, nearly everyone in Pittsburgh wanted to see the Steelers release Boswell after a disastrous season where he hit just 65% of his kicks.

In the end, the Steelers decided to keep their kicker and the gamble definitely paid off because Boswell has been one of the best kickers in the NFL over the past two years. In 2020, he hit 19 of 20 field goals, which is even more impressive when you consider that his only miss came from 59 yards out. Boswell’s 95% hit rate on field goals was the fourth-highest in the NFL. Although he struggled on extra points in 2020 — he hit just 89.5% — he’s only one year removed from a 2019 season where he made them all.

Boswell was one of the NFL’s best kickers during his first three years in the league (2015-17) and he’s returned to that form over the past two years. One other reason Boswell is ranked so high is because he holds the NFL postseason record for most field goals without a miss (16 for 16).

It has been great to see Boswell bounce back from his disastrous 2018 season. After missing seven field goals in 15 games, Boswell only missed three combined field goals over 30 games over the last two seasons. Between getting over injury and the mental block which can happen after a number of missed kicks, Boswell is back to one of the best in the NFL.

To the surprise of very few, Baltimore’s Justin Tucker grabbed the number one spot on the list. With the Chief’s Harrison Butker coming in second, the AFC grabbed the top four spots with Jacksonville’s Josh Lambo coming in a spot behind Boswell. Green Bay’s Mason Crosby was the NFC’s top kicker on the list coming in at number five.

Boswell made the Pro Bowl in 2017 after hitting numerous late-game field goals to help the Steelers to a 13-3 record. Since then, Boswell hasn’t been called on to be the hero on a consistent basis. After the nightmare that was 2018, it appears Boswell once again has the confidence of Steelers’ fan to knock the big kick through if the situation arises.

Podcast: Great D-Expectations for the Steelers’ defenders in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/29/2021 - 4:30am

In the latest podcast on the BTSC family of podcasts, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

There are so many theories, hopes and dreams for the 2021 Steelers, But what are realistic expectations for the team? Let’s continue with the defense and what could be expected of Keith Butler’s unit.

Join BTSC Deputy Editor Michael Beck on the latest edition of The Live Mike as he helps Steeler Nation navigate through the 2021 offseason and beyond.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Expectations for the Steelers’ defense in 2021
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Who was the Steelers’ top value draft pick since 2006?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/28/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Taking a look at the past, Pro Football Focus gives the Steelers’ best “value pick” since 2006.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been a team who builds from within. In other words, they don’t rely on free agency, but focus on the NFL Draft to build the foundation of a successful franchise.

Barring a drastic change in the front office, this isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Kevin Colbert has been doing a tremendous job drafting players since he took over as the General Manager. Sure, there have been some duds, but there have also been some tremendous value picks to accompany those few early round misses.

Which pick was the Steelers’ best “value pick”? Pro Football Focus (PFF) took a stab at all 32 teams’ best value pick since 2006, and it shouldn’t shock anyone who they chose for the Steelers.

None other than Mr. Big Chest himself, Antonio Brown.

See what they said about the selection:

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: WR ANTONIO BROWN, CENTRAL MICHIGAN (195TH OVERALL IN 2010)

While Brown has kept himself out of the limelight this offseason, don’t let his recent transgressions distract you from how good he was at his peak. He notched 100-plus receptions in six straight seasons and averaged 1,524 yards a year over that span.

When you select arguably the best wide receiver in the game in the 6th round, it is hard to argue with such a selection, but who else could be considered a value pick since 2006? Here are a few names which stood out...

Martavis Bryant — 4th Round, 2014
Vince Williams — 6th Round, 2013
Kelvin Beachum — 7th Round, 2012
William Gay — 5th Round, 2007

As I looked back at the Steelers’ draft picks for all those years, I tried to think about players who were 4th round or later, and who have proven themselves as great players for the Steelers.

It also should be noted this isn’t counting undrafted players like Ramon Foster or Matt Feiler.

So, do you agree with Brown being the team’s best value pick since 2006? Outside of your overall disdain for Brown, is there someone else you would have put ahead of him? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

The Steelers Trifecta: Davis, Denmark, and Dobbs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/28/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Day 8 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Carlos Davis, Stephen Denmark, Josh Dobbs

Welcome to the Steelers Trifecta! Over the 30 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 training camp, we will be highlighting three players every day in order cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s three players:

Carlos Davis Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Position: Defensive Tackle
Age: 24
Year: 2
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 320
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 232, 2020
College: Nebraska
Roster Outlook: Likely
Analysis:

The Steelers defensive line is possibly the deepest unit on this team, it won't be easy for anyone to crack the roster at this spot but Davis made himself known in 2020. The defensive tackle worked his way up the Steelers depth chart last season and has put himself into a position to become the primary backup defensive tackle. Davis may be one of the names to watch moving forward and someone who could replace Tyson Alualu when he decides to call it a career. This should be a big year of sorts for Carlos Davis.

Stephen Denmark Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Defensive Back
Age: 25
Year: 3
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 217
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 238, 2019 (Chicago Bears)
College: Valdosta State
Roster Outlook: Very Unlikely
Analysis:

The Steelers do have some open spots across their defensive backfield. However, for a journeyman player like Denmark, he will have a very tough time making this roster. From a half dozen UDFA’s, draft picks, and free agent signings any reserve contract type player will have a mountain to climb in order to make this team. Even the practice squad will be a hard unit to make considering the amount of younger eligible players the Steelers will be more interested in developing.

Josh Dobbs Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Position: Quarterback
Age: 26
Year: 5
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 216
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 135, 2017
College: Tennessee
Roster Outlook: On the bubble
Analysis:

This will be one of the more interesting players to watch throughout the 2021 preseason. On one hand his arm is the least physically impressive quarterback on the roster, on the other hand he is by far the smartest, and most athletic. Josh Dobbs also has the trust of Ben Roethlisberger, who often seeks Dobbs advise on the sideline. One of Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins will make this team it will come down to how close Dobbs can get to being the third guy and push someone else off of the roster.

If Dobbs is able to make this team and dress on Sunday’s we might just see his play package get called a number of times in 2021. If you remember Dobbs got a coupe of series in the season finale again the Cleveland Browns in which he operate a run heavy scheme.

Be sure to check back everyday for anther ‘trifecta’ of Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

Najee Harris proving he is a unique beast for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/28/2021 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ top 2021 draft pick is proving he is not your average rookie running back.

Every year you read/hear about players being labeled as a “football junkie”. This would refer to them constantly looking to improve their game in one way or another. Whether it is extra reps on a jugs machine, in early for film study or hosting player workout sessions.

Anyone who simply can’t get enough of the game of football.

If that is the criteria set forth to be labeled a “football junkie”, you can consider the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Najee Harris, a junkie. The kid just can’t get enough, and it has in the early stages of offseason workouts it was running backs coach Eddie Faulkner who had to tell Harris to take some time off. To go home and relax.

“It is true,” Faulkner confirmed to media during mandatory minicamp. “I’m for all the hard work and the extra, I’m all here for that, I love it. But he also has to learn how to give himself breaks, too. He works his butt off and sometimes it’s a reward, like, ‘Hey man, go home, relax, watch TV, do something different than the football.’

“And so with him being the kind of guy he is, so engaged and always wanting to do drills, always wanting to be developed, sometimes I’m trying to teach him, ‘Sometimes you gotta take a deep breath.’”

When Harris spoke with the media during Rookie Minicamp, he spoke about how refreshing it was to just be able to focus on the game of football, and not classes. After receiving his degree from the University of Alabama, Harris has earned the opportunity to focus on one thing — being the best running back he can be for the Steelers.

What separates Harris from other players is his work ethic and attention to detail. Harris isn’t sloppy with anything he does involving the game. The way he trains, the workouts he puts himself through and even how he approaches drills given by Faulker this offseason.

“It’s crazy because I don’t have to coach any of it with him,” Faulkner continued. “Most of the time you encourage guys, ‘Hey, man, come in, get extra tape, come in, do extra work, etc., etc. Have not had to have one, single conversation with Najee in that regard because he’s always soaking it up and always wanting it. That’s a coach’s dream. That’s what you want, tail-waggers, like a dog wagging a tail ready to learn. And that’s exactly what he is in terms of his ambition and drive to want to learn.

“That’s fun as a coach.”

Harris has done everything right so far this offseason. Putting in the time and effort to show the Steelers they didn’t make a mistake when they selected him 24th overall in the draft. Harris clearly is willing to do the back end work to be great, but the biggest challenge of all has yet to be seen. That being whether he is capable of going out and putting it all together in between the white lines. During the team’s training camp, which is slated to begin at the end of July, few storylines will loom as large as Harris. With all eyes on him, it will be interesting to see how the young running back responds.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Podcast: Wading through the Steelers’ constant that is change

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/28/2021 - 11:00am

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

In the wake of another great Steeler of the decade departing the team, change is afoot for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Change is definitely the one thing that you can count on in the NFL. but how can Steeler Nation wade through that constant? Join BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis with the other side of the Men of Steel. This leads to the topic of the latest episode of the most unique member of BTSC’s family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Wading through the Steelers’ constant that is change
  • Steelers that bleed black and gold

If you haven’t heard, we have a YouTube channel, and the main reason for this is to increase the sound quality on our shows. But if you’re a visual learner you can watch the show below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1

Part 2

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: Steelers running backs will shatter 2020 receiving numbers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/28/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the new “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2021 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

It is simple how it works. We provide you the scenario, reasons why it will or won’t happen, and then our prediction for what we think will take place.

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: The Steelers running backs will shatter 2020 receiving numbers

Receiving yards and touchdowns by Steelers running backs:

2020: 376 yards; 0 touchdowns
2019: 640 yards; 4 touchdowns
2018: 752 yards; 4 Touchdowns

Why it will happen: If you’re looking at the numbers from 2020, it’s hard to get much worse. Not even getting to 400 combined receiving yards among all the Steeler receivers was bad enough, but no receiving touchdowns magnified the situation. Looking at just the addition of Najee Harris, who had four receiving touchdowns his senior year at Alabama, these numbers should go up at least a little.

Why it won’t happen: Of the running backs the Steelers still have on the roster, they combined for only 161 receiving yards in 2020. With the departure of James Conner, the majority of the Steelers receiving yards by running backs is now in Arizona. The Steelers did add 166 yards in the form of Kalen Ballage as a free agent. Otherwise, the Steelers are putting all their eggs in the basket of their first-round rookie.

Prediction: The success of Steelers’ running backs in 2021 ultimately comes down to if Najee Harris is going to help the Steelers in the passing game as well. By all indications, I believe he will. Add in a new offensive coordinator and it would be surprising if the Steelers don’t double their receiving yardage from running backs next season and score more receiving touchdowns than they did in 2018 or 2019.

Check out yesterday’s ‘30 Scenarios in 30 Days’ prediction:

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Why Tyson Alualu gives hope to the Steelers cornerback position

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/28/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What does the Steelers starting nose tackle have to do with replacing the holes at the cornerback position?

The NFL is a business. Players come, and players go. With new players being drafted each year, when the season ends each team’s locker room know that is the last time those exact players will be assembled together. It’s just how it works.

How teams respond to their losses in personnel are a big indication as to the development of other players who fans may not see their progression. If a team is quick to go out and find a replacement for a player who was lost, it tells you they are not comfortable with the other players at the position they have on their roster. If no move is made, then there may be something more there than what the fans realize.

The Steelers have two great examples of this within the last year. The first one happened just days ago when the Steelers released former All-Pro guard David DeCastro. Within hours of his release, the Steelers had signed Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner. If the Steelers had been confident in their other options at the position, they would have just rolled into training camp. Instead, the Steelers made the best move they saw as being available at this time in order to address the position.

An example from the other end of the spectrum comes from the Steelers nose guard position in 2020. After losing Javon Hargrave to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, there was a segment of Steelers’ fans who felt the team made a big mistake by not addressing the position either in the draft or through free agency. Instead, the Steelers chose to roll with veteran Tyson Alualu.

If you’re a Steelers fan and didn’t just wake up from a coma, you should realize Tyson Alualu had possibly the best season of his career in 2020. Although he did not have the sack numbers the Steelers lost in the departure of Hargrave, Alualu was a dominant force in the run game for the Steelers.

For those who put any stock in the player scores by Pro Football Focus, Alualu had the third-highest score (86.6) on the Steelers in 2020 only behind T.J. Watt (91.6) and Cameron Heyward (89.5). In fact, Alualu had a higher score than Heyward for a large portion of 2020 before missing time with an injury.

I could go on and on about Tyson Alualu and his great 2020 season. The fact that I believed he would be an adequate replacement before the season began does help a little bit, but part of the reason I had confidence in the Steelers’ decision was the fact that they made the decision.

In other words, I trust the Steelers to know what to do better than myself.

I know for some Steelers’ fans that’s hard. They like to make a massive list of everything that this team has done wrong and how they haven’t adequately addressed certain things. But this is the Pittsburgh Steelers that were talking about, and they get it right an awful lot. And when the Steelers don’t get it right, they have to answer for it. When we mess up what we think is the best for the team to do, we just roll on to the next talking point.

Now to finally get to the cornerback position.

The reason I believe Tyson Alualu gives hope for what’s going on at cornerback for the Steelers in 2021 is because of the moves the Steelers didn’t make. The Steelers chose to re-sign Cameron Sutton. The Steelers chose not to resign Mike Hilton. The Steelers also chose to release Steven Nelson. Steelers did not go out and sign another big-name player at the position.

Although the NFL salary cap went down for the 2021 season which could throw a wrench in things somewhat, I still believe the Steelers made moves accordingly based on what they thought they had on the roster. Perhaps the Steelers would have kept Steven Nelson had there not been a reduction in the cap. Maybe he wasn’t in their plans no matter the financial situation. All I know is the Steelers would not have made that move, and there’s subsequent other moves at the cornerback position, have they not had a plan based on the players they have on their roster.

In 2020, the Steelers didn’t panic and go out and throw a bunch of money at the nose tackle position. Even though they traded for Chris Wormley, he informed us here at BTSC in an interview that he was never asked to bulk up in order to play nose tackle. He was not the answer.

In 2021, the Steelers did not panic about the cornerback position. They didn’t even address it in the 2021 NFL draft, only with undrafted free agents. Instead, the Steelers chose to bring back Cam Sutton and let two other players go.

For me, I’m hoping that cornerback in 2021 is just like that of nose tack in 2020. I’m going to trust that the Steelers knew what they were doing and were (or weren’t) making moves appropriately.

Is it beyond reason to think the Steelers could bring in a cornerback in training camp or after roster cut downs if they don’t like how things worked out this preseason? Absolutely. But for now, the Steelers seem to be using their inside information from their own team to make a decision they believe will bring them success in 2021.

Was Trai Turner’s 2020 as bad as advertised?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/28/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Using both film and stats, one BTSC writer explores how much Turner’s production really dipped a season ago.

Several days before the COVID-19 pandemic began, a gigantic trade sent shockwaves throughout the NFL. Pro Bowl offensive linemen Trai Turner and Russell Okung were being exchanged for one another, with the Chargers acquiring Turner and Okung heading to the Panthers.

Turner, who was coming off of five consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with Carolina, seemed like an instant upgrade for Los Angeles’ offensive line. However, as the 2020 season panned out, Turner was not the same—largely due to several injuries, namely one to his groin.

In fact, the Chargers were so discontent with Turner that they released him this March after being unable to find a trade partner.

Around three and a half months later, Turner finally found a suitor: the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were in desperate need of a starting right guard after cutting two-time All-Pro David DeCastro in an unexpected maneuver.

As headlines have begun to swirl subsequent to the Steelers’ latest acquisition, much attention has been directed towards how dismal Turner’s play was a year ago, and rightly so. In fact, Turner ranked as the second worst guard in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.

Trai Turner dealt with a groin injury last year, but according to Pro Football Focus, Turner finished 79th out of a possible 80 guards in 2020. He's also regressed in his PFF grade every year since 2017, falling from 73.8 to 67.9 to 63.9 to 34.8. #Steelers

— Blitzburgh✨ (@RenegadeBlitz) June 25, 2021

However, was Turner as horrible as most think? Using both film and metrics, let’s dive more deeply into his 2020 campaign.

Pass Blocking

Throughout the first six seasons of his illustrious career, Turner had been touted among the league’s best pass-blocking guards. That didn’t change at all last season.

To start, the numbers indicate Turner certainly maintained, if not proliferated, his outstanding pass protection. Per Sports Info Solutions (SIS), Turner had just six blown blocks while protecting Justin Herbert (and Tyrod Taylor for a game) in 319 passing snaps played, good for a 1.9 blown passing blocks percentage. For context, while suiting up for 592 throws with Carolina in 2019, Turner posted a 2.4 blown passing blocks percentage.

Heading over to NFL Game Pass largely elucidates the same idea: that Turner was an incredibly stout guard during passing plays.

In Week 2, his first game of the season, Turner faced the arduous task of challenging Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones. On this particular rep, Turner gets Jones off balance by faking a blow to Jones’ left shoulder, then initiating contact by keeping his hands high. Ultimately, Jones is completely negated on the play.

After the Chargers’ heartbreaking loss at the hands of the eventual AFC Champions, Turner missed six consecutive games via injury. However, he didn’t seem to miss a beat in terms of his pass protecting prowess post-groin aggravation.

On this down against the Jets in Week 11, Turner puts on an absolute clinic by patiently treading water and remaining completely unfazed by two incoming defenders, effectively blocking both.

In Los Angeles’ final game of the year, Turner played just 17 snaps. With Cole Toner filling in for the seemingly ailing Turner, there was a noticeable difference in right guard play. Look no further than this throw by Herbert, which is rushed—and eventually incomplete—via a futile attempt to block Tanoh Kpassagnon.

In summation, Turner was, yet again, a phenomenal pass blocker. Wounded or not, his excellent skills shown through in 2020—in fact, I could hardly find a play where Turner even allowed Herbert to be grazed.

Run Blocking

For as well as Turner played in pass pro, he struggled fairly mightily when helping clear lanes for Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley and current Steeler Kalen Ballage.

Utilizing data once more, it’s exceedingly apparent that Turner was simply not the same player in terms of run blocking.

In only 193 rushing plays, Turner missed eight blocks, per SIS. Despite being involved in nearly 25% fewer rushes, Turner still set a career high in blown rushing blocks. In fact, his 4.1% blown rushing block rate ranked 9th worst among offensive linemen with over 100 rushing snaps played.

Switching on the tape also indicates the inconsistency with which Turner helped generate push in the run game.

At times, Turner certainly demonstrated shades of his Pro Bowl stature, such as this rush against the Miami Dolphins in which he allows his defender to get nowhere near Ballage.

Yet for as solid as Turner occasionally appeared, he undoubtedly had many more instances of failing to secure blocks and, truthfully, hurt the Chargers on many rushing downs—case in point, this dive attempt by Turner in which the aforementioned Jones completely manhandles him, blowing up the play.

Finally, on this run against the Jets, Turner does a nice job engaging with his defensive foe; at the same time, his inability to truly shove his defender aside constricts the rushing lane of Ballage, resulting in fewer yards attained than possible. In red is how Turner should have been positioned; accordingly, the light blue lines are how much wider Ballage’s space could have been.

Career-wise, Turner had been a plus guard during runs. Whether due to injuries or a failure to execute, he simply wasn’t as dominant ground game-wise in 2020.

Physicality

Although Turner vacillated in terms of his performance in run blocking, his “nasty” tendencies certainly were prominent in scouting his campaign a year ago.

Throughout me watching him, Turner demonstrated an aptitude for finding additional players to block; he generally seems to enjoy continued contact with defenders until the final whistle.

In particular, watch Turner drift over and completely pancake Emmanuel Ogbah.

That same mentality of aggression extended to parts of run blocking as well. On this snap, Turner decimates his man, shoving him as if his 300 pounds of muscle consist of feathers. Even though the Chargers were obliterated 45-0 in this contest, Turner definitely was not.

The Steelers were devoid of physical, gritty, indefatigable offensive line play in 2020. Turner slotting in at RG should certainly provide a spark in that department.

2021 Outlook

As detailed earlier, most assessments of Trai Turner gave him a failing grade as the Chargers’ starting right guard, in PFF’s case, it was essentially the second worst in the class.

Did Turner struggle in areas in which he had previously flourished? Absolutely.

But combining Turner’s consistently marvelous pass blocking with his wishy-washy run blocking doesn’t translate to being one of the worst linemen in the NFL.

It’s especially pertinent that Turner wasn’t healthy last year, as he called it a “rough season” especially with COVID-19. I commend Turner for playing 75% or more of the Chargers’ snaps in seven of his nine starts given his circumstances—the fact that he still had the drive to suit up and push opponents with Mack truck-like force should be a good harbinger of play this year.

Without a doubt, Turner’s every twist, hand movement and kick back will be scrutinized relative to DeCastro. Even though DeCastro was injured for most of 2020, he still started 13 games and excelled, as both his missed pass block and missed rush block rates were under 1.3%.

If Turner is fully healthy—as he claims—then it would surprise few if he became the linchpin of Pittsburgh’s offensive line, possibly reclaiming the Pro Bowl stage once more. It’s not overly unrealistic for Turner to match DeCastro’s astounding level of play during his storied career in black and gold. What will be awfully tough is outperforming prime DeCastro, a feat few can ever rival.

In order to regain his mojo and mitigate DeCastro’s departure, Turner has no choice but to overcome a regressive 2020 and the nagging injury bug.

Joe Haden knows Cam Sutton will better the Steelers’ defense in 2021 as a starter

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/28/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers will turn to Cam Sutton to fill the void left by Steven Nelson and/or Mike Hilton, and Joe Haden doesn’t see him disappointing.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers were preparing for the offseason, they knew certain aspects would take place. They knew there was no way the salary cap would stay the same, at $198.2 million, and they also knew they would be unable to keep all of their Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs).

After the NFL announced the salary cap would dip for the first time in league history, more certainties became known to the Steelers. Most importantly was how there would be cap causalities.

Two players were let go due to their cap savings, Steven Nelson and Vince Williams, and after Williams chose to return on a veteran minimum deal, it left a gaping hole at the cornerback position.

The Steelers didn’t blink when free agency began, and chose to sign Cam Sutton to a new contract. Not Mike Hilton, but Sutton. With mandatory minicamp now in the books, it was Joe Haden who spoke to the media and talked about how confident he is in Sutton to not just fill the void, but to make the defense better.

“Cam Sutton is going to be able to thrive on the outside corner. He is a great nickel and outside guy. He is going to be a solid corner starter in the league.” Haden said during minicamp.

The one thing about Sutton is his versatility. He has literally done it all as a defensive back since being drafted out of Tennessee. He has played outside, the nickel and the dime backer role.

“It’s a different ball game on the inside,” said Haden. “Those little slot receivers, the route trees are totally different. Just timing and stuff like that. Cam Sutton, that is what he does. He is a great inside and outside guy. I am more of an outside guy. Cam is able to play both at such a high level. He is able to go inside and outside. Cam is a Swiss Army knife. He can do a little bit of everything.”

When asked if he would like to throw his hat in the ring to fill the vacancy in the slot, Haden wasted little time answering.

“I don’t want no parts of the slot,” laughed Haden.

Don’t get these messages mixed up. Haden knows he could play the slot, but at this stage in his career it would be a lot for him.

“I can do it,” said Haden. “The studying, it’s just a lot harder when you are playing the nickel back position. We have a lot of defenses. on the outside corner it’s more basic. On the inside there are so many different calls. It’s a lot. Cam did a really good job. He knows the entire defense. He knows what is going on. And being able to cover those smaller quicker dudes, you have to be very, very quick. That is just what he does.”

Speaking of Haden’s career, he recognizes where he is on the spectrum of an NFL career. Haden has become an avid golfer over the years, and it is safe to say he is on the ‘back nine’ of his playing career. He also understands what it takes to continue to be successful, up until the day he calls it a career.

“Getting older I just have to keep my speed,” said Haden. “It’s less lifting weights, it’s more conditioning, training, running, keeping that speed. That is the first thing that goes when you get older as a corner is the speed. If you can’t keep up with those dudes, that’s what starts to get your game out of there. Above the neck I am so much smarter, I just work on keeping my speed up.”

When you think back to training camp in 2020, it was Haden who told the world to watch out for Chase Claypool. He was right. Let’s hope he is right about Cam Sutton as well. You never know, we might be lauding the Steelers’ front office when all is said and done.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Podcast: What David DeCastro’s departure means for the 2021 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/28/2021 - 4:30am

In the latest podcast on the BTSC family of podcasts, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

There are so many theories, hopes and dreams for the 2021 Steelers, But what are realistic expectations for the team? Let’s start with the offense. So what challenges does the Steelers’ offensive line face in 2021.

Join BTSC Deputy Editor Michael Beck on the latest edition of The Live Mike as he helps Steeler Nation navigate through the 2021 offseason and beyond.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The challenges that the offensive line of the Steelers face in 2021
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/27/2021 - 2:00pm

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

BTSC continues their recap of the past week’s events for our readers. But where they went wrong was asking the one narcissistic writer that would put a bizarre spin on it to do it. So let’s all take a look at a BAD week in the Burgh together.

Monday 6/21
  • Las Vegas Raider Carl Nassib announced that he was gay on this day and became the first player in NFL history to proclaim that openly. While Missouri’s Michael Sam was the first openly gay player to be drafted back in 2014, Nassib is a trailblazer in the sense that he is the first established player to ever announce it.
  • It was a strange day of unrest as Pitt’s Jaylen Twyman, a rookie for Minnesota, sustained a gun shot wound and Arizona first rounder Zaven Collins was arrested for reckless driving. BTSC’s Tony Defeo pointed out that with Tyman hailing from Pitt and Arizona being Pittsburgh West, blame will fall on Mike Tomlin as it always seems to do.
Tuesday 6/22
  • The NFL is opening up the Scouting combine to all 32 teams for bid. The Steelers aren’t really expected to be players in this process unless the search for new player talent is done at the Beehive on Route 30.
Wednesday 6/23
  • The NFL rescinded the one helmet rule allowing teams, starting in 2022, to wear an alternate helmet. This is cool because we would have the opportunity to see great throwbacks like the white helmets worn by Tampa and New England way back when. We also could see new helmets arising as well. While the Steelers could bring back the gold throwback helmets, wouldn’t it be cool if they wore a white concept helmet? In related news, BTSC is now allowing the Schofield brothers to wear more than one hat on the Scho Bro Show. After a couple of years, those things got to be getting funky.
Thursday 6/24
  • Despite the author’s insistence that David DeCastro and the Steelers were fine, the team released DeCastro after nine exceptional seasons. It didn’t take long for the team to tab No. 66’s replacement by signing Trai Turner a couple hours later. This whole thing is giving me flashbacks to my first marriage when the minute I was asked to move out, another dude moved in.
Friday 6/25
  • With approximately $13.1 million over the cap now after the Steelers’ made moves on Thursday, social media is abuzz with who the Men of Steel should sign. It’s a lot like my daughter after her birthday with money burning in her pocket like a forest fire out of control.

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.

The Steelers Trifecta: Collins, Coward, and Coyle

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/27/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Day 7 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Aviante Collins, Rashaad Coward, and Anthony Coyle.

Welcome to the Steelers Trifecta! Over the 30 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 training camp, we will be highlighting three players every day in order cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s three players:

Aviante Collins Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Position: Offensive Tackle
Age: 28
Year: 4
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 292
Drafted: UDFA 2017 (Minnesota Vikings)
College: TCU
Roster Outlook: Unlikely
Analysis:

After four years in the Minnesota Vikings organization, Aviante Collins signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Steelers in February. Collins appeared in three games in 2017 for the Vikings but missed 2018 with an elbow injury. Spending the majority of 2019 on the Vikings practice squad, Collins did start their Week 17 game. In 2020 Collins landed on the practice squad again and was elevated for one game in which he did not appear. With the Steelers having a number of young tackles going into training camp, Colins does have a chance to shine, but his most likely course would be trying to catch on the practice squad yet again.

Rashaad Coward Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Offensive Line
Age: 26
Year: 4
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 326
Drafted: UDFA 2017 (Chicago Bears)
College: Old Dominion
Roster Outlook: Likely
Analysis:

A converted the defensive tackle, Coward does bring some starting experience at the guard position with 15 starts over the last two years. With the release of David DeCastro and the signing of Trai Turner, Coward could use the unfamiliarity with Turner to try to grab a starting position should he rise to the occasion. The most likely path for Coward is to make the Steelers 53-man roster as depth at guard should he perform well enough in the preseason.

Anthony Coyle Photo by Rob Tringali/XFL via Getty Images

Position: Offensive Tackle
Age: 24
Year: 2
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 298
Drafted: UDFA 2019 (Houston Texans)
College: Fordham
Roster Outlook: Unlikely
Analysis:

After not sticking with the Houston Texans out of college and a brief stent on the Falcons practice squad, Coyle found his way to the NFL via the XFL. Playing for the New York Guardians, Coyle was brought in last season to the Steelers and spent the entire year on the practice squad. Well, almost the whole year. Coyle was elevated to the active roster for three games in 2020, but did not see a single snap. Although it would appear Coyle would have an inside track with the Steelers, it’s most likely by way of the practice squad yet again as there will be no less than four players already ahead of him on the depth chart.

Be sure to check back everyday for anther ‘trifecta’ of Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

Power ranking the best free agent fits for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/27/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Steelers finally have some money but how should they use it?

Following the wild moves the Steelers made at their guard position, they have found themselves with a surplus of salary cap space. The team historically plays to the salary cap max with $5-7 million in space to fill holes throughout the year. Following the signing of Trai Turner, the Steelers sit with roughly $12.5 million in space, and should spend another $5.5-7.5 million dollars before the season starts. Here are some of the names the Steelers could look to bring in with this new found cap space.

Justin Houston Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The most important spot the Steelers need to fill with this new found cap space is their outside linebacker position. The primary backup at this position plays close to 40% of the defensive snaps, at minimum. This means the Steelers still need to greatly improve on what they currently have on the roster, otherwise they will be exposed when T.J. Watt or Alex Highsmith need a rest.

Justin Houston is the best edge rusher remaining and was a stud for the Colts in 2020. It will come down to if he is willing to accept a slightly lesser role. But the Steelers may be able to offer him the money he wants.

Melvin Ingram Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The second best edge rusher is Melvin Ingram. Ingram is the same age as Houston, but has been plagued by injury in recent years. This is the guy that might be more likely to take a lesser role, but comes with his injury flaws. It would still be an interesting addition and definitely improve the position.

Malik Hooker Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Hooker is a Pittsburgh native and someone the organization has already worked out in the past. Clearly the team has some interest in signing a safety this offseason, as they have brought in a number of players on free agent visits. Hooker is also an injury prone player, but has played at an extremely high level. Hooker’s addition would allow the Steelers to move Minkah Fitzpatrick around pre-snap and let Hooker roam the deep secondary.

Steven Nelson Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The absolute best available corner that fits the Steelers is Steven Nelson. Now, the bridges are extremely burnt between the two sides, but never say never. Nelson once claimed to have all these contracts offers but nothing has materialized. Maybe the Steelers could offer him something just to play in the NFL again. But for right now I think the Steelers like Cam Sutton better.

Mitchell Schwartz Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

If the Steelers want to improve their offensive line there are a number of players still available. Schwartz has contemplated retirement this offseason, but nothing has happened. He was a serviceable tackle protecting Patrick Mahomes before injuries shortened his 2020 season.

Brian Poole Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

If the Steelers still don’t think they have the right guy to play the slot corner role, one stud is still on the market. Brian Poole is a dynamo at the nickel spot. He hits, and defends receivers like it’s nobody’s business. He may have a better all-around game than Mike Hilton, but would have to improve his pass rushing skills to seamlessly replace Hilton.

Russell Okung Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Okung once said the Steelers don’t have enough money to afford him, well they have a bunch of money now. Offensive linemen are going off the free agent board at roughly $3 million, so I wouldn't expect Okung to receive any more than that. The Steelers would have another sure fire piece at tackle and further sure up their offensive line.

Austin Reiter Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the Steelers are uncomfortable with Kendrick Green as their starting center, they still have another option. Austin Reiter was the point man for back-to-back Chiefs Super Bowl runs. He has the experience, and talent to lead an NFL team’s offensive line, and he could do so for the Steelers.

Adrian Peterson Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

We are getting into the very unlikely category, but Adrian Peterson has said he wants to play for the Steelers. He is also a good friend and training partner of Najee Harris and has played the mentor back role the last number of seasons in his NFL career. He has also been a very good short yardage back, which if the Steelers give up on Benny Snell they would have an option at replacing him.

Richard Sherman Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

The fit doesn't make any sense, but the name value and experience is something many Steelers fans have been calling for all offseason. Richard Sherman would make up one half of the oldest corner back duo in the league standing opposite of Joe Haden. It could be a lot of fun watching the old guys go to work.

But what do you think? Which of these players should the Steelers sign? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: The history of tasting postseason victory of the 2021 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/27/2021 - 11:00am

Check out our latest weekly venture with an international flavor. Put another shrimp on the barbie and check out Steelers Touchdown Under with two blokes from Australia, Matty Peverell and Mark Davison.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have not won a playoff game since 2017. Chris Boswell score all 18 points from 6 field goals to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 18-16. How many active Steeler players have won wearing the black and gold. Plus heaps more!

Here we go Steelers! Join Mark Davison and Geoffrey Benedict (in for Matty Peverell) - from the future - as they bring a global perspective to the Steelers 2021 offseason and what needs to be done to set the team up for a successful 2021 chase for that seventh Lombardi.

This is what will be discussed on the latest episode of Touchdown Under, the Australian sensation from the BTSC family of podcasts, which has now moved over to its live YouTube home.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • ‘Slingin’ the Slang’
  • Plus MUCH MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Steelers Fact or Fiction: Eating Crow edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/27/2021 - 10:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

There’s always so much to talk about when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the inquiries surrounding the black-and-gold are definitely ever-evolving, especially this week with David DeCastro’s departure, Trai Turner’s arrival and St. Vincent College on hold. It seems like the musical selection that best fits this week’s Fact or Fiction could be the Boyz II Men’s End of the Road.

Here’s a sample...

We belong together

And you know that I’m right

Why do you play with my heart?

Why do you play with my mind?

Said we’d be forever

Said it’d never die

How could you love me and leave me

And never say goodbye?

When I can’t sleep at night without holding you tight

Girl, each time I try I just break down and cry

Pain in my head, oh, I’d rather be dead

Spinning around and around

Although we’ve come

To the end of the road

Still I can’t let go

It’s unnatural

You belong to me

I belong to you

You can ponder the significance or wonder whether these lyrics are really related here. Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to listen to some smooth jams. But anyhow, there is surely a lot to wonder about. BTSC tries to answer some of the poignant wonderings ahead of time. Take a listen to some bold statements on this and more as we label them as fact or fiction.

Are we on point? Only time will tell.

Sometimes the author is wrong/David DeCastro is done with the Steelers Fact

Boy, did I pull the ultimate boner last week? I made the claim that there was absolutely no problem with David DeCastro and the Steelers. I asked fans and my fellow contributors at BTSC to take a step back relax and examine facts. I even quoted an Annette Funicello song and subtitled the article Don’t Jump to Conclusions. Well, Doordash me an order of Crow Nuggets and I’ll eat it up whole. David DeCastro couldn’t be more done with the Pittsburgh Steelers, In fact, their could be grievances filed with the team. The bottom line remains that there was an inferno to go along with the smoke from mandatory minicamp and my wife is right again in the assessment that I’m wrong...AGAIN.

Signing Trai Turner was the best move that the Steelers could have made Fact

There are a load of fans and media that feel that the Steelers panicked and made a rash move in signing Trai Turner so quickly. There is also a narrative that Turner is terrible, especially against the run because of PFF rankings. Here’s the deal, Pro football Focus is not the end all and be all, Patrick Mahomes just denounced PFF this week. But most crucial, the Steelers had more than a week to assess Trai Turner’s value to the team. DeCastro was lost to the Steelers with a third ankle surgery on the horizon. The younger five-time Pro Bowl selection that is being brought into the Steel City is the best possible replacement for DeCastro at a bargain price of $3 million. In late June, what do you expect is out there. BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman put out an article this week listing the other available guards. Trai Turner may not work out, but he is overwhelmingly the best opportunity for the Steelers to move on from the great David DeCastro.

Kendrick Green could start the season at the guard position Fiction

The question was raised the other evening on The Steelers Preview on whether the Steelers would take Kendrick Green, the Steelers’ third-round pick at center, and move him to guard as a backup plan should Trai Turner falter. This would be not ideal. The Steelers got better play out of B.J. Finney the first time around in Pittsburgh and if Green is starter ready, he would be best-served playing the position he was drafted to play.

The Steelers free agency shopping will heat back up Fiction

So, the Steelers have found themselves with more salary cap cash after the whole David DeCastro/Trai Turner situation was factored in. According to BTSC Senior Editor Dave Schofield, GM Kevin Colbert has approximately $13.1 million to work with under the cap. The Steelers still have depth needs in certain areas such as the defensive backfield and at the EDGE linebacker spots. Significant name players such as Justin Houston, Brian Poole and Malik Hooker have been bandied about and still are not affiliated with another team. Do I expect the Steelers to be like my daughter who is in constant need of purchasing something or anything to relieve the burning from birthday money in her pocket? No, I don’t. The Steelers will do due diligence to vet these players and see if they indeed fit their program. As fans, we find out that these guys are available and we want to sign them immediately with out careful consideration of why they are on the market. Ultimately, I think that the the Steelers will pass on these guys and be content with the Cassius Marsh’s and Arthur Maulet’s of the world.

Not training at St. Vincent College will not affect the success of the team Fact

I went to St. Vincent College numerous times as a kid in the 1980s. My father has gone quite a bit in the past decade. It is a great fan experience. It is also an economy boon for the businesses of Latrobe. For that, I am saddened that the Steelers will not be holding training camp there for the second consecutive year and second instance since 1967. But I can’t ignore the fact that this is actually a welcome decision for the players. They don’t have to be away from the comforts of family and home for nearly a month and sleep in the discomfort of dorm life. The Steelers front office doesn’t have to worry about the logistics of sending them there, when they have the facilities that they own right there in Pittsburgh. Players on social media were elated upon hearing the news. Even though this is against the traditions of the Rooneys and the team, the performance of the 2021 Steelers will not be hindered one bit.

Check out the Fact or Fiction podcast to learn even more about these topics every single week and listen for more on the player below.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: T.J. Watt will see his first decline in sack production in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/27/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In the new “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2021 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

It is simple how it works. We provide you the scenario, reasons why it will or won’t happen, and then our prediction for what we think will take place.

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: T.J. Watt will see his first decline in sack production in 2021

T.J. Watt Career Sack Production:
2017: 7
2018: 13
2019: 14.5
2020: 15

Why it will happen: T.J. Watt has been amazing since entering the league in 2017, but you have to wonder at what point will Watt’s meteoric rise start to level out? When looking at the numbers above, you see a steady increase in his sack production, but there are a lot of reasons why that could take a step the other way in 2021. First, let me state if Watt’s sack numbers do go down a bit, it won’t necessarily mean his overall play has gotten worse. In fact, I might go as far as saying he could improve, but see his sack numbers dip a bit. Nonetheless, you have to wonder without Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree and Steven Nelson, how that will impact Watt, especially Dupree.

Why it won’t happen: Watt will not just have another year of experience under his belt. Another year of learning the position and perfecting his craft. But he will also have an extra regular season game to get to at least 15 sacks, and press James Harrison’s single season sack record. Watt will be without his pass rushing mate this season, but Alex Highsmith should be good enough to take some pressure off of Watt. On top of that, if Stephon Tuitt can duplicate his dominant season in 2020, Watt will have plenty of one-on-one matchups to win and get to the quarterback.

Prediction: If there is a player who I sit there and say, “He can’t keep this up, can he?” It’s T.J. Watt. Watt has continued to get better every year, and you expect a step backwards is inevitable, but I don’t see it happening in 2021. Watt is as motivated as ever after losing the Defensive Player of the Year award for the second straight season. Even without Dupree opposite him on the Steelers 3-4 defense, Alex Highsmith looks poised to fill the role with relative ease. Throw in the 17 game schedule, and I see Watt’s sack numbers going up. It might not be much, but I see Watt improving on his 15 sack number he posted in 2020. For the sake of this prediction, I’ll have Watt recording 16.5 sacks and breaking James Harrison’s record of 16 sacks in a single season.

Check out yesterday’s ‘30 Scenarios in 30 Days’ prediction:

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.

Chase Claypool in PFF’s top 5 fantasy options from the 2020 wide receiver class

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/27/2021 - 7:00am
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The 2020 class of receivers made noise as rookies and look to continue in 2021.

They were a number of wide receivers from the 2020 NFL draft class who made an impression in the rookie season. Among those was Steelers second-round draft pick Chase Claypool. With the 2021 season quickly approaching, Pro Football Focus ranked the top five receivers drafted in 2020 according to their fantasy value for the upcoming season.

5. Chase Claypool

1. Justin Jefferson

Ranking the top-5 WRs from the 2020 draft class ⤵️https://t.co/qpg1VA83jH

— PFF (@PFF) June 26, 2021

While this would be the appropriate spot for me to give my typical PFF disclaimer, this is speaking strictly about fantasy football which is an entirely different monster. Ranking players according to their fantasy output depends totally on scoring systems and things of that nature. Since this is the case, it is important to realize that any source speaking about fantasy football is merely just speculation from their own projected value.

As for Chase Claypool, he landed in the fifth spot on the list of the best fantasy football candidates from the 2020 NFL draft class of wide receivers. Here is the breakdown from Pro Football Focus as to why Claypool landed at this spot on the list:

5. CHASE CLAYPOOL, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Alpha wide receivers demand extremely high target rates. That’s why the likes of Davante Adams, Keenan Allen, Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins perennially lead the league in that metric.

So when Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool led all rookies in target rate per route run (24.3%) — also known as threat rate — it’s insane not to take notice.

This is a telltale sign that big things are coming for the 6-foot-4 standout from Notre Dame. Since 2013, that mark ranks fifth-highest among any rookie wideout. The four players who bested it were Tyreek Hill, Odell Beckham Jr.,Kelvin Benjamin and Cordarelle Patterson.

A high-end target rate isn’t the only thing that stood out about Claypool’s rookie year, as his 11 touchdowns were an extremely rare feat — rookie or not.

Rookie WRs with double-digit TDs

Season Player Touchdowns

1998 Randy Moss 17
2016 Tyreek Hill 12
2014 Mike Evans 12
2014 Odell Beckham Jr. 12
2010 Mike Williams (TB) 11
2020 Chase Claypool 11
2018 Calvin Ridley 10

Claypool became just the seventh rookie to score double-digit touchdowns, a threshold that puts him into an esteemed company. But, again, his seasonal accolades don’t end there.

He also led the NFL in deep targets (42), finished fifth in total air yards (1,825) and tallied 5.3 yards after the catch — a mark that ranked 12th best. His combination of a top-12 season in terms of YAC/reception and aDOT (15.1), places him among another elite group of receivers that includes Calvin Ridley, Kenny Golladay, Stefon Diggs, Chris Godwin and Tyreek Hill. The only difference? It took those players more than one season to accomplish this.

Claypool’s historical comparisons are virtually off the charts, so fantasy football gamers need to be all over him. The concerns around a crowded Pittsburgh Steelers receiver room and Ben Roethlisberger’s declining arm are real but were also present last season.

Only Justin Jefferson (16.9) and Brandon Aiyuk (15.4) scored more fantasy points per game than Claypool (13.6) among first-year players. That’s amazing considering Claypool was the No. 3 receiver in the target pecking order, and Roethlisberger was one of the league’s most inaccurate quarterbacks throwing the ball 20 or more yards downfield.

Claypool commanded just a 17% target share in games with Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster playing in full. Big Ben’s on-target percentage (34%) on those throws was well below league average (42%), ranking 31st out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks.

There’s a surplus of baked-in upside with Claypool’s role as the team’s primary deep threat even with an erratic/declining passer under center; take that all day at his WR29 ADP. Alphas don’t stay at WR3 price tags for very long.

If looking at the other names on the list, perhaps Claypool could have been ranked a little higher. But this is fantasy football. It appears PFF is going out of their way to project Claypool to have a good year fantasy-wise despite the fact his quarterback is Ben Roethlisberger whom they have next-to-no confidence in for 2021.

It should also be noted the Chase Claypool was the last player drafted out of the five players on the list. Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, and Brandon Aiyuk were all first-round draft picks while Tee Higgins was the first player selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft.

If you are both a Steelers fan and someone who plays fantasy football, I think Chase Claypool is already on your radar for the 2021 season. Even if fantasy football is not your thing, I’m still sure you are still looking for Claypool to continue to show his abilities as a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021.

Would you be happy with Dwayne Haskins as the Steelers' first attempt as the heir apparent?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/27/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dwayne Haskins has all the talent in the world. What if he shines bright this summer at training camp and in the preseason? Would you be happy if the Steelers decided to give him the first chance to be Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement in 2022?

There are some things in life that are about as predictable as the sun setting in the west.

As it pertains to NFL quarterbacks who are recent first-round draft picks, you can almost guarantee they’ll look pretty darn good in football workouts that don’t involve wearing pads.

Dwayne Haskins, who was signed by the Steelers in early 2021, not even two years after the Washington Football Team selected him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, was one such quarterback as he participated in OTAs and the mandatory minicamp earlier in the offseason.

Despite checking most of the physical boxes one wants in an NFL quarterback, Haskins was released by Washington prior to the end of the 2020 season for reasons that included a perceived lack of discipline and dedication to his craft.

Haskins was the proverbial flyer that Pittsburgh quickly scooped up in late January.

There was an initial uproar over the possibility that Haskins was snatched up in order to be groomed as the heir apparent for Ben Roethlisberger. However, that talk quickly subsided due to the free-agent season and then the 2021 NFL Draft.

Fast-forward to today, the official dog days of the offseason. To reiterate, all of the OTAs are in the books. The mandatory minicamp concluded last week. What are we left with as it pertains to the perception of Haskins? People are excited about him.

Haskins drew praise from Roethlisberger, who said he had one of the prettiest throwing motions he had ever seen.

Haskins apparently has the support of head coach Mike Tomlin, who seems eager to give him a second chance.

Haskins, himself, has been saying all the right things: “They expect a lot out of me, as far as being prepared and being the best version of myself,” Haskins said last week in a quote courtesy of the Associated Press. “It’s up to me to allow that to speak for itself.”

Again, this is all so predictable. Talented passer draws praise from teammates and head coach and is determined to make the most of his second chance.

This all brings me to the point of this article. What if Haskins shines bright like a diamond in training camp? What if he kicks butt during the preseason and undoubtedly has the media and fans calling for him to win the backup quarterback spot over Mason Rudolph?

Say that happens. Say Roethlisberger doesn’t miss one second of the 2021 regular season. Say he takes the Steelers on a nice and memorable postseason run, one that may or may not end with the ultimate prize, and then rides off into the sunset as any old cowboy would do.

Would you be comfortable with Haskins as the first official heir apparent to the big guy in 2022? Would you accept that and a somewhat lucrative contract the Steelers would give Haskins to be that guy—even for just one season?

Would you be okay with that, even if a few decent veteran quarterbacks suddenly became available, either on the open market or on the trading block? What if the Steelers decided to ignore the quarterback position entirely in the 2022 NFL Draft?

I ask all of these questions because they seem fairly plausible at this point. Enough folks have already made up their minds about Rudolph, never mind the fact that he’s signed to a deal for next season and is currently the only quarterback on the roster who is. This will be Rudolph’s fourth year with the organization, and he’s appeared in 15 games and started five. However, I can almost guarantee you few people would be happy if he was given the first realistic chance to be the Steelers' next starting quarterback in 2022.

Haskins could be a much different story...I think.

One never knows how the fans and the media will react to the Steelers' first attempt to move forward without Roethlisberger. Anything short of a first-round pick or a known free-agent commodity could be seen as a disappointment.

But Dwayne Haskins has all of the tools one needs to be the man; if training camp and the preseason play out like I think they will, the Steelers just might give him every chance possible to be the heir apparent in 2022.

Podcast: The Steelers mix up a KC masterpiece

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/27/2021 - 5:30am

Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo take a look back into Steelers lore in the BTSC family of podcasts. Check out the newest offering of the “Steelers Retro Show“.

Our journey in the BTSC Delorean to Steeler yesteryear begins in a time when Death Wish 3 was tops with moviegoers and the instrumental Miami Vice Themeby Jan Hammer was the hottest song on the radio. Meanwhile, the first place 4-5 Steelers were hoping to rebound and stay atop the AFC Central.

Welcome to November 10, 1984.

Flash back to an awesome classic on the Steelers Retro Show and join BTSC’s Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis as they go back in time and relive another memorable game. This time it’s the Steelers traveling to Kansas City to take on the struggling Chiefs.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • What was happenin’ in 1984
  • The Steelers visit Arrowhead and the Chiefs
  • and MUCH MORE!

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

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