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Saturday Night Open Thread: A sincere thanks to David DeCastro

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/26/2021 - 6:00pm
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Come and join this merry band of Steelers’ faithful for some lively debate about our Steelers, good food and the merits of the odd cold beverage.

With the sad news this week of the Steelers releasing David DeCastro I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight what I think he has meant to this team during his tenure.

There are many different types of leaders. Those that yell, those that think they know best and are willing to tell you or show you, those that lead from the middle so to speak, not too loud but not too quiet, and then there are those that simply let their actions do the majority of their ‘talking’. Dave struck me as a quiet leader who was 100% comfortable with letting his actions talk way louder than his words. However, I also believe that when he did talk, everyone, not just the line, listened. Dave struck me as a calming influence which was all the more important during the AB and Bell years now that we ‘know’ what we know.

Steelers Nation will miss you dearly Dave. You really were our Christmas Pony!

  1. Who will step into the quiet leadership role that DeCastro had?
  2. How big of a loss will DeCastro be? To the line, the offense and to the team in general?
  3. Which type of leader are you or do you respond best to?
  4. We hear lots about how professional sport players mess up. Drugs, domestic abuse, speeding tickets... However, we all know how much so many of these guys give back to their communities. Share a ‘give back’ type story that has impressed you. I’ll start here
  5. With summer upon us my kids are starting their summer jobs. Give us your best summer (or part time) job. P.S. One of my kids will be lifeguarding at the beach. DAMN!!!

The Steelers Trifecta: Carter, Christmas, and Claypool

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/26/2021 - 2:30pm
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Day 6 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring T.J. Carter, Demarcus Christmas, and Chase Claypool.

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:

T.J. Carter Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Defensive End
Age: ? Not listed on the internet
Year: 1
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 289
Drafted: UDFA 2021
College: Kentucky
Roster Outlook: Extremely Doubtful
Analysis:

The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of if not the deepest DLine in the NFL today. They brought back all of their players from 2020 and even invested a 2022 fourth round pick into adding another one this year. If you are not in the core 8 of defensive lineman you don’t have a shot at making this team. Genuinely, only seven defensive lineman make this team and it is a challenge trying to figure out which one will end up getting the axe. In Carter’s case the best he can do is land on the practice squad but for the Steelers depth even that feels unlikely.

Demarcus Christmas Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Defensive Tackle
Age: 25
Year: 3
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 302
Drafted: 2019, Round 6, Pick 209 (Seattle Seahawks)
College: Florida State
Roster Outlook: Extremely Doubtful
Analysis:

You could virtually copy the same passage as above and place it here. Given Christmas’ age you could even say he is less likely to make this team than T.J. Carter. You don’t want to be a defensive lineman on this team if your name isn't Heyward, Tuitt, Alualu, Buggs, Davis, Wormely, Loudermilk, or Mondeaux —And even one of them won't make this team.

Chase Claypool Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Position: Wide Receiver
Age: 22
Year: 2
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 238
Drafted: 2020, Round 2, Pick 49
College: Notre Dame
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

This particularly boring day of the Steelers trifecta breakdown ends with a bang! Chase Claypool has shown signs of superstar potential at his receiver position. The Steelers should be more likely to play him more in 2021 than they did when they were trying to protect him last year. In more playing time and with chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger I predict the big Canadian will have a big sophomore season. Things are lined up for Claypool to surpass the Steelers other receivers and become this teams true number one receiver. I wouldn't count him out to not only break the 1,000 yard plateau but to push 1,300+ receiving yards. I also expect him to be a touchdown hoarder with his combination of speed and size, Claypool will score at will in 2021.

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.

David DeCastro and Trai Turner had similar storylines entering 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/26/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The narratives for both DeCastro and Turner for this coming season was almost identical.

This past Thursday was a busy day in regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only was there the disappointing announcement that Steelers were not granted permission by the NFL to return to St. Vincent College for training camp in 2021, Steelers released former All-Pro guard David DeCastro the same afternoon.

While Steelers’ Nation was reeling from the news, it didn’t come completely out of the blue after it was reported former Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers guard Trai Turner and visited the Steelers immediately following minicamp. Something seemed to be off with things based on the need for the visit.

A mere hours after DeCastro was released, it was reported that Steelers signed Turner to a one-year contract.

Exactly how the Steelers offensive line will perform with Turner instead of DeCastro in 2021 will be an ongoing question throughout the summer and into the fall. What is interesting about the two players is they had a very similar narrative from fans going into the season. Exactly what was that narrative?

If only they can get over there injuries and return to pre-2020 form, they will be set up to have a great season.

Even though David DeCastro was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2020, it’s difficult to find anyone in Steelers Nation who would say he had a good year. Starting off on the wrong foot, DeCastro missed the first two games of the 2020 NFL season. After coming back to play all the offensive snaps in Week 3 against the Houston Texans, DeCastro didn’t even make it a third of the way through the Steelers next game against the Eagles and missed the following week against the Browns. After missing those games, DeCastro never seemed to be quite the same player.

As for Trai Turner, he had a pretty rough 2020 as well. Traded to the Los Angeles Chargers in the offseason for Russell Okung, Turner missed seven of the first eight games for the Chargers in 2020. Upon his return, he struggled immensely and had the worst run blocking grade of any guard in the NFL last season according to Pro Football Focus.

What is interesting is both players were coming off five-straight Pro-Bowl seasons going into 2020.

Trai Turner was drafted in the third round of the 2014 draft by the Carolina Panthers and started nine games his rookie season. By 2015 Turner was the starting right guard for the Panthers in every game and started his Pro Bowl streak.

There are some slight differences between both of these players and what got them to this point. David DeCastro did also have two All-Pro seasons on his résumé in 2015 and 2017. DeCastro also benefited from playing his entire career with the Steelers while Trai Turner may have had some struggles in the 2020 season because of changing teams.

So without looking at the names, earlier this offseason the Steelers were hoping to have their multiple Pro -Bowl guard rebound from an injury riddled 2020 season. At this time, the narrative just so happens to be the same, but with a different player. The only difference is DeCastro was a more known commodity from being with the Steelers and Trai Turner is now someone from the outside coming in. But with Turner being only 28 years old, he is looking to extend his NFL career while DeCastro wasn’t sure how much he has left at the age of 31.

The success of the Steelers offensive line in 2021 seems to be hinging a lot on players who are trying to bounce back from a rough 2020 season. Players include Zach Banner coming off of an ACL injury, B.J. Finney returning to Pittsburgh after failing to find the field in Seattle or Cincinnati, and now Trai Turner who struggled on the West Coast and missed nearly half the season. The only difference now is David Castro is no longer another player with the Steelers that fits into this category.

3 pros of drafting a running back in the first round

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/26/2021 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While you may already know the negatives of a first round RB, here are the positives

When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Najee Harris with their first-round pick, there were two distinctive reactions. One was of sheer bliss while the other was a sentiment of ‘you should never take a running back in the first round’. The latter’s reaction is warranted as running backs typically have the shortest career spans, and fall off quickly (see Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, etc). But for those that hated the pick because of the nature of the move, there are still some positives with taking a running back in the first round. Here are three such examples:

The Fifth Year Option

While some question drafting a running back in the first round, almost everybody agrees you don't give a running back a second contract (at least not anymore). The extra year on the rookie deal has become a massive one. If Najee Harris proves to be everything he is expected to become, the Steelers can simply slap the fifth-year option on him. If his production still doesn't fall they can give him a franchise tag. That’s six years of contract control with the latter two years basically becoming team options. This means the Steelers can avoid the drama they once had with Le’Veon Bell and the financial mess the Los Angeles Rams put themselves in paying Todd Gurley.

Get the Players Best Years

The past 15 years of football has shown us the overwhelming majority of running backs best years are within their first three years in the league. The position caps off its growth basically between rookie and sophomore seasons. Plus, running back is also the most pro ready position at the time of the draft. This isn't a spot you want to find a player through free agency, as any big-money deal has blown up in team’s faces like clockwork. With a first-round pick you get the player and you get the most out of him.

Getting the most talented Runner in the Draft

Between Le’Veon Bell and Najee Harris the Pittsburgh Steelers tried to fill the running back spot with day three draft picks. While this philosophy has worked for many teams in the past, it’s still a significantly harder option of finding a starting-caliber player. A first round pick like Najee Harris is coming into the league without any holes in his game, and is a well-rounded runner. He is basically as sure a thing as you can get in the NFL Draft. Aside from Trent Richardson, basically every number one rated running back in the draft carves out at least a nice couple of years for themselves in the league.

But what do you think? Do you care if a team drafts a running back in the first round? Tell us why or why not down in the comments below.

Podcast: Steelers Turn the Page at Right Guard

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/26/2021 - 11:00am

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

David DeCastro was released on Thursday after nine mostly great years as a Steelers starting right guard. Where does his release leave Pittsburgh’s offensive line? What kind of impact will the newly acquired Trai Turner have on the unit? All of that and your questions and comments on this episode of Steelers Friday Night Six Pack! Join Tony Defeo on those those subjects, engaging in Pittsburgh pro football talk and much, much more.

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

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Could the Steelers’ new look offensive line take a page from the 2005 team?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/26/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in transition on the offensive line, but they could learn something from the past.

After the news of David DeCastro being released from the Pittsburgh Steelers, fans of the black and gold took it tough. It makes sense. After all, DeCastro was a multiple Pro Bowl and All-Pro player at right guard for the Steelers, replacing him won’t be easy.

Regardless of his level of play in 2020, the Steelers now face a very uncertain future along their offensive line. Not only because of the players, but because of the coaching staff. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada will have to find a way to dial up a scheme to help improve the running game, and Adrian Klemm will be tasked with getting this young, and rather inexperienced, offensive line to top form.

Friday, NFL Network’s analyst and former NFL Player Brian Baldinger took to his verified Twitter account to point out how the Steelers’ new look offensive line could take a page from the 2005 offensive line who won a Super Bowl trophy.

Before getting to the breakdown, it is worth noting how that offensive line Baldinger was talking about was a very good group.

LT - Marvel Smith
LG - Alan Faneca
C - Jeff Hartings
RG - Kendall Simmons
RT - Max Starks

This group compared to what the Steelers will roll out in 2021:

LT - Chukwuma Okorafor
LG - Kevin Dotson
C - Kendrick Green or B.J. Finney
RG - Trai Turner
RT - Zach Banner

Either way, Baldinger talks about how the Steelers could benefit from getting this new offensive line to become more of a power running game. This would allow them to come off the ball, pin their ears back and dish out punishment to the defenders across from them. It is about imposing their will on the defense, and this would have immeasurable benefits to the entire offense not just the running game.

Check out Baldinger’s breakdown below, and let us know what you think in the comment section below!

.@Steelers as they rebuild their OL; perhaps they should dust off some 2005 tape to see how they assembled that SB winning group. Great physical style of play. Could wear you down with an assortment of RB’s; but they loved to run “Power O” with Faneca #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/QgyAbnecUt

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) June 26, 2021

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will break the all-time record for consecutive regular-season games with a sack

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/26/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/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: The Steelers will break the all-time record for consecutive regular-season games with a sack

Consecutive regular-seasons games with at least one sack:

Detroit Lions: 76 (1960-1965)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 73 (2016-2021)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 69 (1999-2003)

Why it will happen: There are many people who think the Steelers have already broken this record, but technically that is not the case. Although they have the longest streak since sacks became an individual statistic in 1982, for some reason many have been dismissing the accomplishments of the Detroit Lions from 1960 to 1965 which included the great Dick LeBeau.

One of the biggest factors in the streak continuing will be the matchups the Steelers have at the beginning of the season. They will need three games to tie the record and four to break it. Opening in Buffalo, the Steelers has never had a regular-season game against the Bills in which they didn’t register a sack. As for facing the Raiders, they have registered a sack in every game but one since 2001. The Steelers haven’t played the Cincinnati Bengals at home in a game where they have not recorded in sack since 1995. The game which would set the Steelers over the top is against the Packers, and the Steelers have registered a sack in every game against Green Bay dating back to 1970.

Why it won’t happen: The Steelers have had a lot of changes in their defense. Outside linebacker Bud Dupree moved on to the Tennessee Titans, and slot cornerback Mike Hilton is now in Cincinnati. Between those two players, 11 sacks from 2020 have disappeared.

Of the four opponents the Steelers face to start the season, history shows it may be the Las Vegas Raiders who could give the Steelers trouble. The last time the Raiders traveled to Pittsburgh, not only did the Steelers lose the game they did not register a sack.

Prediction: I could have listed even more reasons why I believe this streak will continue. The return of Devin Bush will help the Steelers generate more sacks based on the data from 2020 even though Bush himself was not the one getting to the quarterback. Additionally, the Steelers averaged 5.0 sacks a game their first four games of the season in 2020, so starting the season strong in the sack department will hopefully continue in 2021.

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.

Steelers All-Time, All-Rookie Team: Part 4, the Tight Ends

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/26/2021 - 7:00am
Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Time to take a look at the Steelers all-time best rookie Tight Ends.

And we’re back with part 4 of the Steelers All-Time All-Rookie team, to get us through the dead zone between the draft and the preseason. Here’s how it works: I’ll include an introduction to account for some players you may expect to see, but who didn’t make the cut. Then I’ll list my picks for starters, backups, and others worth consideration — followed with a poll for Steelers Nation to weigh in.

The apologia for the sequence appears in the first article (here), but here are the ground rules:

The Ground Rules:

1 — I’m looking at the entire history of the Steelers/”Pirates.”
2 — The player must have begun his career with Pittsburgh.
3 — Only the rookie year will factor in; a great career is unnecessary.
4 — The poll and the comments section are open — have at it.

For past essays:

Part 1: Quarterbacks
Part 2: Running Backs
Part 3: Wide Receivers

With that in mind, here’s part three of the mixed-multitude of the Steelers all time All Rookie team — position group by position group.

Part 4: Tight Ends Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports Pat Freiermuth can’t qualify for the team yet, but I’m hoping that he shoots to #1 by this time next year.

This will be the shortest article because Tight End is the least defined position we’ve looked at. In fact, tight ends aren’t really a thing (at least in Pittsburgh) until 1962 — the first year a tight end was listed on a Steelers roster. At the time, it seems like tight ends were simply big pass catchers who lined up inside (tight, instead of split outside, like a “split end,” or a step back, flanking the line, like a “flanker”). Some caught a lot of passes; some were glorified linemen. Just like today. And just like today, there’s no solid measurement for a complete player at the position. That makes TE a hard position to evaluate.

With that said, I suspect you’ll recognize most of the names you see below. Names you won’t see include Randy Grossman and Bennie Cunningham, the tight ends from the 1970s squads. The two combined for zero starts as rookies, and pulled in only 18 passes, with one touchdown, combined. I read this as evidence that neither of them contributed much to the passing game in year 1, but also that they weren’t essential as blockers in the run game (or they’d have started more).

Other familiar names that I can’t justify including: Jerame Tuman, who started no games and caught zero passes as a rookie. And Jesse James, who sat behind Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth in 2015, caught all of eight passes that year, and only even dressed in eight ball games.

Mike Mularkey (more famous now as a head coach, or as one of the Steelers offensive coordinators) was once a Steelers tight end, but his career started in Minnesota, so he’s out. Recently retired Vance McDonald had a fun couple of years (especially 2018), but started his career in San Francisco.

That leaves just a handful of rookies worth discussing. Let’s do it:

Starters: Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images This is the profile they’ll put on a coin if Heath Miller is ever made president. Heath Miller (2005)

15 regular season starts, 4 playoff starts on Super Bowl winner
39 catches, 459 yards, 6 touchdowns (#2, #3, #2 on Steelers, respectively)
7 catches, 107 yards, 1 touchdown in playoffs
Blocker on #5 (NFL) rushing team
NFL All-Rookie Team

Heeeeeeath! It’s hard to picture Heath Miller as a rookie. I feel like he came out of the womb as a 29 year old veteran tight end. But Miller was an immediate impact player on the Super Bowl XL champion Steelers. As a blocking tight end, Miller helped pave the way for a 2nd year nobody named Willie Parker to blast the league for 1200 yards rushing. As a receiving threat, Miller was a steady safety valve for improv magician Ben Roethlisberger, and caught passes in all three Steelers playoff wins on the road to Detroit. And not to gild the lily, it was rookie Miller, hustling to trail the play, who ultimately brought down Colts DB Nick Harper on the season-saving tackle against Indianapolis, when Ben had famously tripped up the safety at the 40 yard line.

Big Ben voted for Miller for team MVP every year of the tight end’s career. That’s a good enough endoremsent for me.

Backups: Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images Maybe it’s the facemask or the angle, but Eric Green looks enormous here — like there’s no player in football who could tackle him one-on-one. Eric Green (1990)

34 receptions, 387 yards (#3 on team in each category)
7 touchdowns (#1 on Steelers, #12 in NFL)
Most TD receptions in NFL among all TEs
NFL All Rookie Team
2nd Team All-Conference (UPI)

This is the hardest starting position I’ve confronted yet — Eric Green is absolutely deserving of the top spot as well. He currently sits at #2 all time among Steelers tight ends, behind Miller, both in career accomplishments and rookie numbers. And he did it with Bubby Brister and Neil O’Donnell. Go with either and you can’t go wrong.

There are some meaningful differences between the two, however. Green was almost certainly a more dangerous target, as he led all NFL tight ends in touchdown receptions as a rookie. 1990 was the first season that Joe Walton served as offensive coordinator, and the transition was beyond clumsy. The Steelers dug a 1-3 hole to start the year, and scored ZERO offensive touchdowns in that stretch. None. Eric Green, meanwhile, nearly pulled a Le’Veon Bell — holding out through the season’s first three games, and threatening to sit out the whole year. He eventually showed up, and in his first extensive playing time (week 5), he scored the team’s first two offensive touchdowns of the whole season. The Steelers 8-4 finish was nearly enough to get them to the playoffs, but not quite. One wonders how that would have changed with Green on the field for 16 weeks.

In the end, Miller got the nod from me for his team play — the blocking and hustle. But it’s really not as wide of a gap between them as I’d have expected. Green (who played at 280lbs) was impressive in 1990, but he’d be a monster today.

Also considered: Mark Bruener (2001) Photo by Michael J. Minardi/Getty Images Mark Breuner, doing his best “Elvis face”

13 starts
26 receptions, 238 yards, 3 touchdowns (#3 on team in TDs)
Started Super Bowl XXX

Did you know there was a Steelers rookie tight end who started a Super Bowl before Heath Miller? Mark Breuner is mostly remembered today as a prototype blocking TE, but during his rookie year, the Steelers running game wasn’t actually that great, finishing 12th on the way to the team’s only Super Bowl appearance between 1979 and 2005. The defense that season was a powerhouse, while the offense was a real craps-shoot. Eric Pegram led the team in rushing, though Bam Morris was probably the best runner on the team; Neil O’Donnell and Mike Tomszak split the load at quarterback, while rookie QB Kordell Stewart did more as a wide receiver than under center. It was a little bit wild-west.

Hard to know what Breuner would have been able to do in a more stable offense. But he’s a very respectable rookie anyway.

Matt Spaeth (2007) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images You know how photos sometimes make a sound in your ears? I can’t look at this one without, “pfffft.” That’s not even a knock on Spaeth — it’s just the look on his face...

Five starts
Five catches, but three touchdowns
Blocker in #3 rushing offense
Started as TE2 in playoff game

I did not expect to include Matt Spaeth in this list, but (a) there simply weren’t that many rookie tight ends that accomplished much in Pittsburgh, and (b) Spaeth is the best player to spotlight as a primary blocker.

By 2007, the Steelers offensive line had begun to collapse, with Jeff Hartings’ retirement and Alan Faneca playing out the thread. Meanwhile, with new offensive coordinator Bruce Ariens calling for more deep passes, it was suddenly crucial for this team to block for Big Ben and run the ball to take advantage of blitzers who want to tee-off against the franchise. Matt Spaeth wasn’t the key to that protection, but his role was almost entirely in that realm. And the result was a Division title, the #3 rushing team in football, and a team record 32 passing TDs. Matt Spaeth helped make that happen. Probably not enough to get a ticket to the All-Rookie team, but not bad at all.

John McMakin (1972) Photo by James Flores /Getty Images The final score of this game was 24-2. That’s got to be one of the only times that’s ever happened.

13 starts
21 catches, 277 yards, 1 touchdown (all #3 on the team)
Blocker on NFL’s #2 rushing team
Started two playoff games (including Steelers first ever win)

Pulling together lists like these inevitably introduces you to players you’ve never heard of. John McMakin is just such a player. His rookie season happened to coincide with Franco Harris’s (so there was no chance he’d be a rookie standout, even on his own team), but he seems to have been a pivotal figure on an historic Steelers squad — the first playoff winner ever. A significant figure in the passing game, and a blocker on the league’s #2 rushing team, McMakin seems like a legit player overall. Unfortunately his rookie year was the best of his career. He left Pittsburgh after Super Bowl IX, and was out of football by 1977. But he’s one of the more well rounded players on this list.

Stay tuned for the Offensive Line.

David DeCastro’s release was a predictable result I did not see coming

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/26/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers released David DeCastro to the shock of many, including yours truly.

They say where there’s smoke there’s fire.

As it pertains to long-time Steelers guard, David DeCastro, I guess I wasn’t seeing any of the smoke signals that were looming this offseason regarding the ultimate demise of his career in Pittsburgh.

They also say athletes are human, even though it’s often easy to forget that part, especially when it comes to huge football players wearing the armor of battle each Sunday.

I didn’t really know what was ailing DeCastro last season when he missed several games due to injury and didn’t look like his perennial-Pro Bowl self while actually playing, but like a lot of folks, I simply assumed he would be just fine once the 2021 campaign rolled around. In fact, I assumed that a long time ago, as far as back the spring, when I expected DeCastro to be an anchor of an offensive line that had lost a number of veterans over the past year so, including Ramon Foster (retirement), Maurkice Pouncey (retirement), Matt Feiler (free agency) and Alejandro Villanueva (free agency).

I couldn’t even bother to read much into the fact that DeCastro didn’t dress for the recently-concluded mandatory minicamp. I figured it was just a precautionary act so as to preserve a 31-year old stud who obviously didn’t need to be out there honing his craft in a helmet and shorts.

As for veteran guard Trai Turner’s visit the week of minicamp? I chalked that up to general manager Kevin Colbert’s earnest insistence that the Steelers are always looking at players and evaluating what they could bring to the organization.

With all of that in mind, let’s just say I was super shocked to find out that the Steelers had released DeCastro on Thursday after nine years of superbly picking up the slack that Alan Faneca had left behind when the future Hall of Famer guard departed Pittsburgh following the 2007 season.

I guess DeCastro is human after all. Looks like ankles—as it turns out, the ankle was the culprit last season—can be just as tricky for All-Pro guards as they often are for recreational basketball players.

DeCastro will have to have his ankle “cleaned out” for the third time in his career. Will it help? Will he continue to play somewhere else? Will he simply retire and enjoy his post-football life as quietly as he did his playing career?

None of those questions can really be answered at the moment. All I know for sure is that DeCastro was the last domino to fall for an offensive line that went from a perennial liability at the beginning of the 2010s to a perennial juggernaut by the middle of the previous decade.

I guess I really should have seen the DeCastro release coming, and I suppose I may have if I had been aware of that trick ankle.

It’s much harder to play professional football with one of those than it is recreational basketball.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Vol. 23

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/25/2021 - 5:45pm
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

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

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

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

The rules are still the same...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

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

1. With the release of David DeCastro on Thursday, what will you remember him for the most during his time with the Steelers?

2. Trai Turner was also signed on Thursday for a reported one year for $3 million. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

3. The Steelers now have a few million dollars to work with even after accounting for everything they will need come September. Let’s put the number at $4 million. If you were GM, how would you spend it?

4. Are you currently watching any other sports going on? In the last week, what sports have you watched?

5. The Steelers also announced on Thursday their request to hold training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe was denied. Once again the Steelers will be holding training camp in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field and the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. The difference this year is there may be practices open to fans, but no details have been released. If practices are free to attend, would you make the trek to Heinz Field to take it all in?

6. You get to order takeout from anywhere in the world tonight. Where are you ordering and what’s for dinner?

Stay safe out there!

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

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

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

The Steelers Trifecta: Bush, Bussey, and Canaday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/25/2021 - 2:00pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Day 5 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Devin Bush, Rico Bussey, and Kameron Canaday

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:

Devin Bush Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Position: Linebacker
Age: 22
Year: 3
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 234
Drafted: UDFA 2020
College: Michigan
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

Prior to tearing his ACL in the 2020 season Devin Bush was breaking out as a star linebacker in this league. He was a menace from sideline to sideline and was primed to pick up his first Pro Bowl or even All-Pro nod. Had he avoided injury the Steelers likely would've gone much further in the 2020 playoffs but this is football after all and injuries do happen. Bush will reprise his role as the man in the middle of the defense. Offseason videos have shown Bush already running around without a brace and participating in offseason activities. Bush himself has stated he feels 80-90% and feels like he will be ready to go by training camp.

I think it’s also worth noting that Bush is letting his personality show on social media. When he first got to the league I think he could be best described to be a bit on the shy side. With Bush getting more comfortable off the field I think he will flourish further on it.

Rico Bussey Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Position: Wide Receiver
Age: 23
Year: Rookie
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 190
Drafted: UDFA 2021
College: Hawaii
Roster Outlook: Practice squad at best
Analysis:

When it comes too wide receivers the Steelers are stocked up full on the main roster. They will likely only carry five guys (maybe six) on game day, which makes life pretty tough for any receiver on the outside trying to make the team. One way they can make it however is though the practice squad. The Steelers will almost certainly want to carry someone on their practice roster and they will have six guys battling it out for one or two spots on that unit. Rico Bussey was renowned for his speed at the university of Hawaii and could possibly translate that to a spot on the practice roster. He will need to show coaches he can be a deep threat in the preseason, making his relationship with the back up quarterbacks critical. A long touchdown or two in the preseason will go a long way in making the team.

Kameron Canaday Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Position: Long Snapper
Age: 28
Year: 5
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 245
Drafted: UDFA 2020
College: Portland State
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

Canaday is another player that is basically going unchallenged for his spot on the team. Hybrid linebacker/long snapper, Christian Kuntz has failed to take his job in the past and I have a hard time believing anything will change this time around. Canaday has a good relationship with the other special teamers, but will have to develop chemistry with Pressley Harvin III who likely takes over punting and holding duties from Jordan Berry.

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.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after the signing of Trai Turner

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/25/2021 - 12:41pm
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The reported salary only uses a portion of what the Steelers saved with the release of David DeCastro.

The news on Thursday afternoon took a many Steelers’ fans by surprise when the team released former All-Pro guard David DeCastro.

The Steelers wasted no time in signing Pro Bowl guard Trey Turner to a one-year deal just hours after DeCastro’s release. When it comes to the financials of Turner’s deal, it was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that the one-year deal is for $3 million.

It’s 1-year, $3M for new #Steelers guard Trai Turner. https://t.co/va0GE4C1hn

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 25, 2021

Assuming this is the salary cap number for Turner that there is nothing else included in the deal (such as void years), Turner will bump Carlos Davis back out of the top 51 contracts. After the displacement, Turner will count just under $2.2 million towards the Steelers salary cap.

If not wanting to worry about the displacement and simply look at DeCastro’s contract going away and Turner’s coming in, the Steelers gained $5.75 million in cap space.

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

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit, or change from what it previously was, for each player in 2021.

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

Ray-Ray McCloud: Reported $1 million salary; After displacement: -$0.34 million
B.J. Finney: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Cam Sutton: New report of $1.7 million; After displacement: -$1.04 million
Zach Banner: Reported $2.875 million; After displacement: -$2.215 million
Vince Williams: Saved $4 million salary; After displacement: +$3.34 million
Chris Wormley: Reported $1.6 million; After displacement: -$0.94 million
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Reported $2.4 million; After displacement: -$1.74 million
Tyler Simmons: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Joe Haeg: Reported $1.5 million; After displacement: -$0.84 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Steven Nelson: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.59 million
Cassius Marsh: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Eric Ebron: Reportedly saved $3.904; No roster displacement: +$3.904 million
Tyson Alualu: Reported $2.0375 million; After displacement: -$1.2575 million
Jordan Berry: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Kalen Ballage: Reported $920,000; After displacement: -$0.14 million
Rashaard Coward: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.07 million
Matthew Sexton: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jarvis Miller: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jamir Jones: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
T.J. Carter: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Abdullah Anderson: Reported $780k; not in the top 51: -$0
Vince Williams: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.07 million
Joshua Dobbs: Reported $900,000; After displacement: -$0.12 million
Mason Rudolph: Reported $2,193,066 cap number; After increase: -$0.945199 million
Dan Moore Jr: Reported $834,475; After displacement: -$0.054475 million
Buddy Johnson: Reported $784,836; After displacement: -$0.004836 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.067 million
Pat Friermuth: Reported $1,096,033; After displacement: -$0.311197 million
Najee Harris: Reported $2,372,263; After displacement: -$1.568887 million
Offseason Workouts: 90 players x $275/day x 32 days: -$0.792 million
David DeCastro: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.946624 million
Trai Turner: Reported $3 million; After displacement: -$2.196624 million

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $13.1 million

Note: Miles Killebrew was the final contract displacing a $660k salary. From Cassius Marsh on, the displacement is a $780k salary. Buddy Johnson was the final contract displacing a $780k salary, so from that point on the contracts will vary which will be displaced.

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

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $15,336,617 under the salary cap. OTC has accounted for the DeCastro release, so once they get Turner’s contract on the books their number will be extremely similar to mine.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $15,821,653 under the cap. It should be noted that Spotrac does not have Turner’s contract or the offseason workouts on the books at this time. One last discrepancy comes from where they are counting the prorated signing bonuses of players not in the top 51 toward the salary cap. If adjusting for these things, their number is also about the same as mine. As for those signing bonuses they are counting, they will count toward the salary cap if the player makes the 53-man roster, but ultimately should be a savings as they would be replacing a player with a higher cap number. If the player does not make the team, their signing bonus will count as dead money for 2021 as well as 2022.

As for the Steelers’ only other player not counting toward the salary cap, Kendrick Green’s contract will slide into the top 51 once signed and will ultimately bump out Dan Moore Jr’s contract. The ultimate cost after displacement for Green’s contract will now be about $52k once it gets made official.

Also, the Steelers will need as much as an additional $10 million (a very high estimate, with $7 million coming in on the low end) come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year.

The Steelers now still have some salary cap space in order to make another move before training camp if they wish. Exactly what the Steelers will due with the difference in David DeCastro’s versus Trai Turner’s cap hit will be quite a discussion point in the coming weeks.

T.J. Watt finishes just outside the top 10 of Pro Football Focus’ top 50 players

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/25/2021 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Watt was the fourth-highest ranked defender on PFF‘s list going into the 2021 season.

As the NFL offseason pushes on, Pro Football Focus has used their scoring system to project the top 50 players at this time heading into the 2021 season.

The countdown of the #PFF50 continues

No. 50-11 is LIVE ⤵️https://t.co/098bxFpKXN

— PFF (@PFF) June 24, 2021

Without further ado, I have to give my typical PFF disclaimer. While many look at their grading system as the best available to evaluate NFL players, others feel their scoring has a lot to be desired. The validity of Pro Football Focus is completely up to you as we are just merely reporting their rankings.

Now that this is out of the way, we can look forward to see that Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt landed as the number 11 player in their top 50.

#PFF50

No. 1️⃣1️⃣ @_TJWatt

Watt: 205 pressures since 2018 (T-1st among edge defenders) pic.twitter.com/kmmP3ulTBQ

— PFF (@PFF) June 24, 2021

As previously reported, Watt was not alone in the top 50 list when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers as Cameron Heyward checked in at number 31.

As for Watt, some feel maybe he should have been a top-10 player. Here is the breakdown from PFF and you can decide for yourself if his ranking is appropriate:

11. EDGE T.J. WATT, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Watt has been right on the verge of Defensive Player of the Year levels over the last two seasons and may well have won one by now if not for the perennially absurd play of Aaron Donald. Over that same period, Watt has earned the highest overall PFF grade among all edge rushers (92.6) as well as the best pass-rushing grade (92.2). He leads all edge rushers with 12 batted passes and even has three interceptions to his name. Watt has become a dominant force on the edge for Pittsburgh and consistently looks to be one of the very best players in the league.

While it’s difficult to compare offensive and defensive players, it should be noted Watt was the fourth defender on the list. Those ahead of him were defensive tackle Aaron Donald (1), outside linebacker Khalil Mack (6), and linebacker Bobby Wagner (8). These rankings really come as no surprise as PFF has continued to place Mack as their top edge rusher following the 2020 season based on their rankings even though he did not earn All-Pro honors or reach double-digit sacks.

It should also be noted that Watt is the third-highest ranked player from the AFC only behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (2) and Travis Kelce (3). Watt was the highest-ranking player from the AFC North with the next highest player being Myles Garrett (25) of the Cleveland Browns.

While it is great to see the Pittsburgh Steelers represented on the list, seeing a finalist for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the last two seasons fall outside the top 10 is a little puzzling. But PFF made their list based on their rankings and projections for 2021 as explained in their article:

The ranking below is a projection of what we think will happen and not necessarily a reaction to a spectacular or underwhelming 2020 season. Additionally, positional value is not considered here, so safeties, guards and even running backs have just as good a chance to rank highly as quarterbacks, who would dominate the list if positional value was heavily factored.

When looking at PFF scores, the next closest player for the Pittsburgh Steelers who had a chance to make the top 50 based on their 2020 scores would have been Tyson Alualu with an overall score of 86.6. Alualu only ranked less than three points behind Cameron Heyward (89.5) who came in at number 31. In fact, Alualu’s 2020 PFF score was higher than all but one of the players ranked 41-50. But as stated earlier, their ranks are based on their projections.

So what do you think? Was T.J. Watt placed appropriately on the list by PFF? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: How broken is the Steelers’ offensive line?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/25/2021 - 11:00am

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

Just like that, David DeCastro makes the fourth veteran from the offensive line to be a former Steeler since February. Sure Trai Turner has been signed, but how in disarray is the Steelers’ offensive line. This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts.

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the week
  • How broken is the Steelers’ offensive line?
  • Trivia

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers defense will lead the NFL in takeaways

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/25/2021 - 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 defense will lead the NFL in takeaways

Steelers 2020 Takeaways
INTs: 18 (T-1st)
Fumble Recoveries: 9
Total: 27 (2nd in NFL)

Why it will happen: When you are talking about the Steelers’ defense in 2021, many might believe the unit is bound for a step backwards. But what if the defense is poised to take a step forward? They will need contributions from younger players like Alex Highsmith, James Pierre and Devin Bush, but this defense is still going to cause chaos. Highsmith and T.J. Watt are going to continue to harass quarterbacks, and even after losing Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, the Steelers’ defensive ball skills might have improved with Cam Sutton and James Pierre in the lineup. Needless to say, the Steelers defense shouldn’t have any problem taking the ball away again in 2021.

Why it won’t happen: When you lose players like Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton and Bud Dupree, it puts a big dent in the defense. Can players like Alex Highsmith, James Pierre and Cam Sutton step up and get the job done even close to what those previous players did? That is the question right now, and that ultimately has a direct impact on the team’s ability to take the ball away. Nelson didn’t take the ball away at a tremendous clip, but Dupree and Hilton sure did cause a lot of bad decisions by quarterbacks. Those led to turnovers, and there is a lot of uncertainty on the defense heading into this season.

Prediction: Last season the Miami Dolphins led the NFL in takeaways with 29, and you have to think the league leader will be at 30, or above, with the 17th game now a permanent fixture in the NFL. Can the Steelers eclipse 30 and lead the league in takeaways? Absolutely they can, but they’ll need some things to go their way. And by that I mean they need some of those loose balls bouncing into their hands. Takeaways come in bunches, and the Steelers typically put themselves into great position to take the ball away. I do believe their secondary has tremendous ball skills in 2021, and they’ll continue to get pressure on the quarterback, resulting in more takeaways. I’ll predict the Steelers lead the league with 32 takeaways in 2021.

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.

Slot corner for the Steelers might not be a one man job

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/25/2021 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers maybe better served to utilize a committee approach at slot corner this season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost three starters from their outstanding defense during the off season; Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson. Dupree leaving via free agency was to be expected, so much so that the Steelers drafted his eventually replacement by selecting Alex Highsmith in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Nelson's departure was rather unexpected, happening seemingly out of nowhere after contract restructuring discussions reached an impasse and salary cap saving measures were taken.

Mike Hilton's odds of returning were no better than 50/50, a proverbial flip of the coin. On one hand, Hilton was the prototypical Pittsburgh Steelers player. He was the undersized, overachiever who's junkyard dog mentality more closely resembled a diminutive linebacker than a slot corner. He helped set a tone for the defense and his intensity was no doubt inspirational for his teammates. He had two obstacles standing in the way of him finally signing a long term contract with the Steelers; the Steelers severely limited cap space and the fact that teammate Cameron Sutton, his main competition for the slot position, was also a unrestricted free agent. The Steelers signed Sutton, presumably because of his superior pass coverage and versatility. Hilton finally got the multiyear deal and financial security that had eluded him for so long, only it was with the Cincinnati Bengals.

That left the Steelers without technically two starting cornerbacks prior to the 2021 NFL Draft. Sutton has experience with the Steelers defense, both in the slot and on the outside, but where will he prove more valuable and his services be needed the most? The Steelers have a couple of talented but inexperienced young corners who are strictly outside corners in Justin Layne and James Pierre. They seemed destined to compete to be the first corner off the bench, especially if Sutton slides inside when needed. While I personally feel that Pierre is more than capable of filling that role if and when the Steelers deem it necessary, he will have to prove himself on the playing field.

The good news is the Steelers actually have multiple options they may be able to utilize at the slot corner position. They could consider a committee approach, depending on the matchups and opposition personnel. The Steelers brought in multiple undrafted free agents after the draft trying to find another diamond in the rough, similar to how they discovered the aforementioned Mike Hilton back in the day.

However, in a perfect world, the Steelers would prefer to rely on a more proven commodity at the slot position. Somebody who actually has some NFL experience, preferably within the Steelers defensive system. Based on those parameters, I will focus on the potential contributions from Cameron Sutton, Antoine Brooks Jr., and Arthur Maulet. Each player brings their own unique skill set to the equation, and could maximize their contributions if utilized correctly by the coaches.

Sutton has improved every year he has been in the league. Always a strong coverage corner, he has gained functional playing strength and has become a reliable tackler. He showed a knack for forcing fumbles last season, and he has always shown exceptional ball skills. Anytime the Steelers face an opponent with strong receiving options out of the slot, I would fully expect the Steelers to counter with Sutton.

There has been some reports recently suggesting that the slot position is Antoine Brooks job to lose. I can neither confirm nor deny those rumors, but the logic seems to have merit. The Steelers realized that there was a real possibility that they would be unable to retain Hilton in free agency, and they valued his contributions as a type of slot linebacker. If Hilton was a bigger individual, he would be considered a hybrid, a tweener if you will. Brooks is a strong safety by definition, with the aggressive downhill mindset of a linebacker. Another player who plays bigger than his size; he is an excellent, high volume form tackler. He will be most effective against the more physical, run oriented opponents like the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears.

That brings us to former New York Jet Arthur Maulet. Another former undrafted free agent like the aforementioned Mike Hilton, Maulet is with the fourth NFL franchise of his career since signing with the Steelers. In typical UDFA fashion, he has carved out a professional career by being ready, willing, and able. He has excelled on special teams from day one, and has displayed the position versatility often coveted in defensive depth. His shorter stature and less than ideal long speed limits him primarily to the slot, where his short area quickness and physicality can truly shine. Quick observation for anyone who hasn't seen any of Maulet's Twitter posts since signing with the Steelers. He is jacked up. He looks like a MMA fighter at weigh ins. Reminds me of a smaller version of Steelers legend Greg Lloyd.

When you throw much ballyhooed UDFA Shakur Brown and extremely versatile Tre Norwood into the discussion of possible chess pieces at the Steelers disposal, there appears to be plenty of talented candidates that the Steelers can mix and match depending on the matchups, as they see fit.

The collective group of candidates will battle it out during training camp and the preseason games, trying to establish a pecking order. Let the chips fall where they may.

Remaining free agent guards if the Steelers want competition for Trai Turner

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/25/2021 - 7:00am
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers could be looking for another guard on the open market, here is who is left.

The timing of the Pittsburgh Steelers releasing David DeCastro wasn’t ideal. In fact, it was downright awful. With DeCastro reportedly dealing with an ankle issue, the Steelers decided to cut ties with the All Pro guard Thursday afternoon.

Whatever the timing, or the reason, the Steelers now have a gaping hole on their offensive line. Some are suggesting Kevin Dotson sliding to right guard, his position in college, but that still leaves a vacancy on the line.

Could the team put either Kendrick Green or B.J. Finney at guard, whoever doesn’t win the center job?

Absolutely, but it won’t be ideal.

Could the team put Rashaad Coward at one of the guard positions? He did start several games there for the Chicago Bears in 2020.

They could, but are these the Steelers’ best options?

No, they aren’t the best options, but they are options nonetheless. What everyone wants to consider is who is still available on the open market at the position. Let’s take a look at the available free agent guards who haven’t signed with a team if they want to bring in competition for newly acquired Trai Turner.

Nick Easton — Saints
James Carpenter — Falcons
J.R. Sweezy — Cardinals
Mike Iupati — Seahawks
Joe Dahl — Lions
Kelechi Osemele — Chiefs
Rashod Hill — Vikings
Chance Warmack — Seahawks
Ryan Groy — Chargers
Marcus Martin — Patriots
Danny Isidora — Steelers
Malcolm Pridgeon — Browns
Marquel Harrell — Raiders
Ross Reynolds — Patriots

Will the Steelers sign any of these listed players? They’ve already met with the top player on the list, Trai Turner, last Friday which ignited the rumors of DeCastro leaving Pittsburgh one way or another.

If a move is made, expect it to happen quickly, so 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: What will it take for the Steelers to reclaim their team identity?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/25/2021 - 4:30am

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

The Steelers have claimed a great place in NFL history through toughness and a strong running game. Has that slipped too much and if so, how can that identity be reclaimed? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the flagship morning show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • What will it take for the Steelers to reclaim their team identity?
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Steelers sign Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner to a one-year deal

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/24/2021 - 7:15pm
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers waste no time in making a move to fill the void at guard.

With the Steelers releasing former All-Pro guard David DeCastro on Thursday, they have wasted no time and making sure they are covered at the guard position for the 2021 season. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, guard Trai Turner has agreed to a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Former Pro-Bowl guard Trai Turner and the Pittsburgh Steelers have agreed to terms on a one-year deal, per his agent @DrewJRosenhaus.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 24, 2021

Financial terms of the deal have yet to be announced. With the Steelers now with just over $15 million in salary cap space after nearly doubling their available spending money with the release of DeCastro, it will be very interesting to see exactly how much of the salary cap was eaten up with Turner’s contract.

Turner spent his first six seasons in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers after being drafted in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft. While in Carolina, Turner made the Pro Bowl five straight seasons from 2015 through 2019 while playing right guard. With two years remaining on his contract going into last season, Turner was traded from the Panthers to the Chargers in March of 2020 for Russell Okung.

Needless to say, Turner’s year in Los Angeles with the Chargers was not what either side expected. Only playing in nine games after missing seven of Chargers first eight games due to injury, Turner was ranked as the 79th out of 80 guards according to Pro Football Focus with an overall score of 34.8. Turner’s pass blocking score was 51.3 while his run blocking was scored at 29.8 which was by far the worst in the NFL of any guard regardless of the number of snaps played.

After such an abysmal year, the Chargers released Turner just before the start of the 2021 league year in order to save $11.5 million in cap space as he carried no dead money for Los Angeles.

Exactly what the Steelers will get in Turner remains to be seen. During his visit in Pittsburgh last week it was reported that Turner has recovered from the injury that set back his 2020 season.

There is still speculation as to exactly what happened with David DeCastro as he was designated a “non-football injury” release.

On behalf of BTSC, we would like to welcome Trai Turner to the Black & Gold. Hopefully he can find his Pro-Bowl magic again in the Steel City.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after the release of David DeCastro

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/24/2021 - 4:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the release of the former All-Pro guard, the Steelers now have the space available to add to the position.

The news on Thursday afternoon took a many Steelers’ fans by surprise when the team released former All-Pro guard David DeCastro.

While the exact details and reasons of DeCastro’s release are not done at this time, exactly how it affects the salary cap can be calculated. DeCastro carries a $5,547,500 dead-money hit with him being in the last year of his contract. But since DeCastro was the fourth-highest salary cap number the Steelers had for 2021 at the time of his release, the savings will still be significant. DeCastro’s $8.75 million base salary for 2021 is no longer on the books and does not count towards the Steelers’ salary cap.

But remember, we have to factor in the fact another player slides into the top 51 salaries for the Steelers. Carlos Davis was sitting outside of the top 51 contracts with a salary cap hit of $803,376. With that being the amount that comes into play, DeCastro’s ultimate salary cap savings is $7,946,624.

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

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit, or change from what it previously was, for each player in 2021.

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

Ray-Ray McCloud: Reported $1 million salary; After displacement: -$0.34 million
B.J. Finney: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Cam Sutton: New report of $1.7 million; After displacement: -$1.04 million
Zach Banner: Reported $2.875 million; After displacement: -$2.215 million
Vince Williams: Saved $4 million salary; After displacement: +$3.34 million
Chris Wormley: Reported $1.6 million; After displacement: -$0.94 million
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Reported $2.4 million; After displacement: -$1.74 million
Tyler Simmons: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Joe Haeg: Reported $1.5 million; After displacement: -$0.84 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Steven Nelson: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.59 million
Cassius Marsh: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Eric Ebron: Reportedly saved $3.904; No roster displacement: +$3.904 million
Tyson Alualu: Reported $2.0375 million; After displacement: -$1.2575 million
Jordan Berry: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Kalen Ballage: Reported $920,000; After displacement: -$0.14 million
Rashaard Coward: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.07 million
Matthew Sexton: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jarvis Miller: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jamir Jones: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
T.J. Carter: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Abdullah Anderson: Reported $780k; not in the top 51: -$0
Vince Williams: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.07 million
Joshua Dobbs: Reported $900,000; After displacement: -$0.12 million
Mason Rudolph: Reported $2,193,066 cap number; After increase: -$0.945199 million
Dan Moore Jr: Reported $834,475; After displacement: -$0.054475 million
Buddy Johnson: Reported $784,836; After displacement: -$0.004836 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.067 million
Pat Friermuth: Reported $1,096,033; After displacement: -$0.311197 million
Najee Harris: Reported $2,372,263; After displacement: -$1.568887 million
Offseason Workouts: 90 players x $275/day x 32 days: -$0.792 million
David DeCastro: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.946624 million

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $15.3 million

Note: Miles Killebrew was the final contract displacing a $660k salary. From Cassius Marsh on, the displacement is a $780k salary. Buddy Johnson was the final contract displacing a $780k salary, so from that point on the contracts will vary which will be displaced.

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

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $7,389,993 under the salary cap. OTC has yet to account for the DeCastro release, so once they do their number will be extremely similar to mine.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $15,821,653 under the cap. It should be noted that Spotrac does not have the offseason workouts on the books at this time. One last discrepancy comes from where they are counting the prorated signing bonuses of players not in the top 51 toward the salary cap. If adjusting for these things, their number is also about the same as mine. As for those signing bonuses they are counting, they will count toward the salary cap if the player makes the 53-man roster, but ultimately should be a savings as they would be replacing a player with a higher cap number. If the player does not make the team, their signing bonus will count as dead money for 2021 as well as 2022.

As for the Steelers’ only other player not counting toward the salary cap, Kendrick Green’s contract will slide into the top 51 once signed and will ultimately bump out Carlos Davis’ contract back out. The ultimate cost after displacement for Green’s contract will now be about $83k once it gets made official.

Also, the Steelers will need as much as an additional $10 million (a very high estimate, with $7 million coming in on the low end) come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year.

The Steelers now have some salary cap space in order to make a move before training camp. Unfortunately, they also now have a large void left in their roster with the departure of David DeCastro.

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