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Ben Roethlisberger’s $41.25 million salary cap hit was the Steelers decision, not his

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/28/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Exactly how Roethlisberger salary counted towards the cap had everything to do with what the Steelers wanted in previous seasons.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 salary cap situation is not good at this moment. The Steelers can’t just maintain what they have and be cap compliant by the beginning of the league year on March 17. Their situation is not impossible to deal with, but there must be decisions made in regards to contracts as to whether they keep these players for 2021 or extend them beyond the coming season.

At the forefront of this problem is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Carrying a $41.25 million salary cap hit into this season has Roethlisberger as the largest cap hit in the entire NFL according to ESPN‘s Field Yates.

Looking at the players with the top cap hits for 2021 and there's so much uncertainty amongst the Top 7:
1. Ben Roethlisberger: $41.25M
2. Matt Ryan: $40.91M
3. Aaron Rodgers: $37.57M
4. Drew Brees: $36.15M
5. Carson Wentz: $34.67M
6. Jared Goff: $34.63M
7. Mathew Stafford: $33M

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 27, 2021

Many Steelers fans are asking how Roethlisberger managed to get to the top of the league with his salary cap hit. “How could he do that to the Steelers and put them in such a bad position?”

Honestly, Roethlisberger’s salary cap number is inflated the way it is strictly because the Pittsburgh Steelers organization chose for it to be that way.

Going into the 2020 season, Ben Roethlisberger was scheduled to be a $33.5 million salary cap hit with 12.5 million being in dead money from his signing bonus, 8.5 million being in base salary, and 12.5 million being a roster bonus. Instead, the Steelers did a restructure for Roethlisberger prior to the 2020 league year. As a reminder, a restructure does not pay a player any more or any less, it just changes when and how they get paid in order to manipulate the salary cap number. For Roethlisberger, the Steelers converted $19.5 million of what would have been his $21 million salary into a roster bonus. By doing so, they were able to push off $9.75 million to the 2021 season.

Before Roethlisberger’s restructure last season, his salary cap number for 2021 would have been $31.5 million. This number would have dropped Roethlisberger out of the top seven in the above list and Russell Wilson would have taken the bottom spot. Although Roethlisberger‘s cap number of $31.5 million would have still not been desirable, it would have carried only $12.5 million in dead money rather than the now $22.25 million.

The fact Roethlisberger now counts so much more towards the salary cap is not his own doing. It was the Steelers that offered Roethlisberger the restructure in order to have more salary cap space for the 2020 season. This number being so high for 2021 was not something Roethlisberger planned on doing to the Steelers, but something that the Steelers did to themselves.

So what’s the answer? Is there any way that Steelers can save a little bit more without kicking the can too far down the road?

The $22.25 million dead cap hit is going to be applied to the 2021 salary cap regardless. The decisions the Steelers have to make will be in regards to the other $19 million Roethlisberger is set to make this season.

Of course, should Roethlisberger retire or be released, there’s the $19 million. But there is also another option. If the Steelers extend Rothlisberger for a couple more seasons, it could lighten his cap number for 2021 in what seems to be a crucial ‘cap crunch’ year for the entire NFL.

If I were trying to do a deal with Roethlisberger and work an extension, I would offer him an extra $0.5 million which would be paid in 2021 in order to extend him for two more years. Rather than $19 million, I would ultimately play Roethlisberger $19.5 million, $1.5 of which would be his base salary and $18 million would be his signing bonus. This would lower the Steelers 2020 cap number by $11.5 million and get Roethlisberger under the $30 million salary cap hit for this year. It would also put $6 million of dead money in each of the next two years for the Steelers. Of course, they would have to offer Roethlisberger a base salary in the next two seasons, which I would do around the same range as he would be making this season of $19 million. This number is not something I’m worried about getting into at this point because the Steelers can work that out and whichever way they want. Should Roethlisberger then retire following the 2021 season, he would just count $12 million in dead money against the cap which is certainly to go up for 2022. If he were to play again in 2022, his cap hit would be significantly lower at around $25 million if he were to make a $19 million base salary/roster bonus.

As you can see, the Steelers have options to deal with Ben Roethlisberger’s salary going forward. The only question they have to answer is if they want to stretch things out further or take the enormous salary cap hit all in one season in a year where the salary cap is expected to go down. If they do, remember it was their own decision to have Roethlisberger’s salary cap number be so high in 2021 based on their previous decisions to restructure.

Defensive backs would get called for holding a lot less if they stopped holding so much

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/28/2021 - 6:00am
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

There’s one way to reduce the amount of penalties called for defensive pass interference and holding in today’s NFL. Defensive backs should just stop doing those things so much.

As you know, the Packers would have been in Super Bowl LV if not for a controversial third-down holding call on cornerback Kevin King with 1:41 left that gave the Buccaneers a first down and effectively ended the game.

The officials were immediately put on blast for both calling a penalty they had mostly ignored for the duration of the game and for being in on the conspiracy of getting Tom Brady into the Super Bowl for the 10th time in his career.

I would be in agreement with everything in the previous paragraph (although, I can’t imagine the NFL NOT rigging things in favor of an Aaron Rodgers vs. Patrick Mahomes State Farm Super Bowl) if not for the fact that King totally held Tampa receiver Tyler Johnson. I mean, he pulled his freaking jersey out of his pants. In fact, I’ll bet if you go back and watch King’s game tape (it’s the offseason in Pittsburgh so we have to talk about watching a player’s tape as much as humanly possible between now and the NFL Draft), you’d probably find lots of incidents where he grabbed shirts, arms and maybe even jockstraps.

Heck, if you watched tape on every defensive back in the NFL, you could probably retroactively penalize them all a gazillion yards for holding, grabbing, arm-barring, the whole works.

Seriously, you know how they say you could call offensive holding on every play? The same goes for defensive holding, chucking, straight-up pass-interference, etc.

Those guys never stop touching receivers.

Is this stuff taught by secondary coaches in the modern era of football? I’m honestly asking. If it is, it goes directly against all of those rules the NFL put in place decades ago as a means to create more passing offense.

Do defensive backs even use inside and outside techniques anymore, or have they been replaced by holding onto a receiver’s arm like your girlfriend in a haunted house?

You may think I’m joking, but it’s honestly comical how all defensive backs—good, bad and in-between—do nothing but commit penalties on just about every passing play. Even when they reach around a receiver to knock a pass away, they often feel the need to wrap their arm around his back for some unknown reason.

You might say I don’t know what I’m talking about, that I don’t know anything about football, but I know holding and touching when I see them. I’ve been watching a lot of old Steelers games lately as part of my research for the weekly Retro Show podcast with Bryan Anthony Davis, and defensive backs from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s didn’t hold and hand fight nearly as much as they do today.

I realize that cornerbacks and safeties occasionally commit honest holding and pass interference (those things happen), but I also know that clutching and grabbing have become as big a part of a defensive back’s repertoire as fluid hips and looking back for the ball (not that they do that as much either, these days).

Finally, if you want to book the NFL on conspiracy charges, you better make sure Kevin King’s game tape isn’t admissible in court.

It would totally ruin your case.

Steelers and JuJu Smith-Schuster help out the Ryan Shazier Foundation

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/28/2021 - 5:00am
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers and JuJu Smith-Schuster donate a nice chunk of change to the Ryan Shazier Foundation.

The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t technically employ Ryan Shazier anymore. After his retirement before the 2020 regular season, he and the Steelers are officially two separate entities. However, don’t think Shazier isn’t still a big part of the Steelers, and the Steelers aren’t a big part of Shazier.

The former first round draft pick has put football behind him, and started his own foundation. The Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation was started to help those who are dealing with spinal chord injuries, like Shazier himself had to do in 2017 after he injured his back on a Monday night game in Cincinnati.

What are the main goals of his foundation? Shazier outlines those:

“My foundation is about people dealing with spinal cord issues. I dealt with the issue myself. I understand how much support and care you need for those with spinal cord issues,” said Shazier. “Sometimes people don’t get the right amount of care or support or rehab they need. I started this to give them more support, the caregivers more support and help them get more rehab. You always have to do some kind of rehab when injured. For spinal cord, usually you only get 30 sessions of rehab. That’s like trying to teach your kid to walk again in 30 sessions. That is almost impossible.

“We are just trying to give people more rehab, opportunities, give people back a meaningful lifestyle. Everyone is not going to walk again but give them the opportunity to get back to some type of independence. That is what my foundation is about, giving people back independence, letting them do things on their own and just give them the opportunity to have support. A lot of time with spinal cord issues that is the end of the road for them. I wanted to give them an opportunity and let them know they aren’t alone.”

To help Shazier’s foundation, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster donated $5,000 of his own money to help get Shazier some needed equipment and funds for his ongoing efforts. As a sign of good faith, the Pittsburgh Steelers matched Smith-Schuster’s offer, totaling $10,000 headed to the Shazier foundation.

“I am truly thankful for this,” said Shazier. “It means a lot. It lets you know the relationships you built while playing with guys, guys who are from different backgrounds and different parts of the world, really mean something. You have relationships that go beyond football.

“This doesn’t just mean a lot to mean personally, though. It means a lot because it’s going to help so many people who are going through the same thing I have gone through. JuJu has firsthand experience seeing what I have gone through when we played together. It’s amazing to have someone like that, someone who was a teammate not just support me, but support others.

“It’s great to see the young guys buy in to the social justice program, for them to see how important it is to help their community. To have the young guys understand it’s as important as the older guys do is huge. They see how big the fight we are trying to help out with is. It’s good to see those guys help out the same way the guys who have helped out for a while have been doing.”

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

Podcast: The “Comp and Circumstance” of the Steelers’ 2021 draft order

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/28/2021 - 4:30am

The Oracle Dave Schofield shares his thoughts in the AM platform with the classic stats show with the Co-Editor of BTSC.

The Steelers have seven official selections the 2021 NFL Draft so far. There is expectation and speculation that more will be added via the compensatory pick formula. How will it most likely shake out? This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he breaks out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The 2021 Steelers draft order with comp pick possibilities
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

You can listen to the show in the player below.

The Steelers’ recently released offensive line coach stays in the NFL as a Chargers assistant

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 2:30pm
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Shaun Sarrett didn’t stick with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but has found a new home with the Los Angeles Chargers.

It is ironic how on the same day the Pittsburgh Steelers bring in the former Los Angeles Chargers’ offensive line coach for an interview, the coach the Steelers decided to let walk, Shaun Sarrett, is hired by the Los Angeles Chargers as an assistant offensive line coach.

This per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network:

Former #Steelers offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett is expected to join the #Chargers as assistant OL coach, source said.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 27, 2021

It was just a few weeks ago when the Steelers decided to not renew the contract of Sarrett, this on top of three other coaches whose contracts had expired after the 2020 regular season.

What most people don’t realize, is Sarrett’s time with the Steelers pre-dates that of Mike Munchak. Sarrett had been with the team as an assistant before Munchak was hired, and now he returns to that assistant role with the Chargers.

Many pinned the poor Steelers’ running game on Sarrett, considering the past two seasons were his first as an offensive line coach, but you can’t blame players like Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Alejandro Villanueva necessarily on the offensive line coach. Some of the blame has to be put on Kevin Colbert for not re-stocking the cupboards with younger talent, as well as Randy Fichtner for his scheme not being conducive to having success on the ground.

There are a lot of factors as it pertains to the successes, or failures, of a group like the offensive line, and Sarrett has bore the brunt of those fan frustrations this offseason. Sarrett finds a new gig in Los Angeles, and the Steelers are still searching for their next offensive line coach.

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

Do you think the Steelers should start rebuilding, or try for one more run?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 1:05pm
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Steelers will be forced to start over soon enough, but should they just rip the band aid off and start the process now?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a very strange place. The COVID-19 pandemic stunted league revenue and in turn will lower the league’s salary cap. In doing so, many key free agents will be forced out of Pittsburgh. Plus, even more cuts than usual are expected. However, Ben Roethlisberger is still poised to return in 2021, and having a hall of fame quarterback on your roster means your window is never truly closed. But Roethlisberger is starting to look his age, and if he regresses at all next year the Steelers could be in a bad place.

I’ve seen first-hand how divided the fan base is online, and I could only imagine the conversations that are being conducted within the Steelers’ facility. If one thing is for certain it’s that the Steelers are going to have to make difficult and bold decisions this year and these moves will directly impact the trajectory of this team for a decade.

Should the Steelers find ways to bring talent in? Or should they sell off the oldest members and try to better their 2022 NFL Draft position? I’ll give you some points for either argument.

If you think the Steelers should push for one more Super Bowl run, you don't have to look any further than your future hall of fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. If Roethlisberger turns it on the Steelers can win any game they're playing in. With one of the best defenses in football at his back, the Steelers could make a run. Remember, this team was good enough to win 11 straight games at one point. If the Steelers can nail the draft they can still be competitive in 2021.

If you think the Steelers should begin the rebuilding process, you again should look at Ben Roethlisberger. If he plays like he did against the Cincinnati Bengals throughout an entire season the Steelers will be lucky to win a game. The offense is going to be a shell of itself, and it was already bad. Plus, solid defenders will get cut just to get salary cap compliant. If the Bengals put together a great draft class there's a shot the Steelers could be the worst team in the AFC North next year. Remember this team went 1-6 down the back stretch of the season.

Now I turn it over to you. What should the Steelers do this offseason? Hit up the poll and share your thoughts down in the comments below.

Steelers looking at another offensive line coach candidate in James Campen

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 12:07pm
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Campen spent 5 years in Green Bay as a player and 15 as a coach.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are continuing in pursuit of finalizing their 2021 coaching staff. With several vacancies still remaining, the Steelers are reportedly speaking to former Green Bay Packer James Campen about their offensive line coach position. This according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Steelers talking to former long-time Packers offensive line coach James Campen to be in charge of their offensive line, per source. Campen was with LA Chargers last season but was let go when Anthony Lynn was fired.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) January 27, 2021

Campen played seven years in the NFL as a center. Playing collegiately for Tulane, Campen started his career in 1987 with the New Orleans Saints. In two seasons he appeared in six games and started three. Campen moved on to the Green Bay Packers in 1989 where in five years he started 47 games and appeared in 61. In 1990, Campen started all 16 games for the Packers.

Following his NFL career, Campen began as the assistant offensive line coach in Green Bay in 2004. Promoted to the offensive line coach in 2007, Campen held the position with Green Bay for 12 seasons and also became the run game coordinator in 2018.

With the head coaching change in Green Bay in 2019, Campen became associate head coach and offensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns for 2019. In 2020, Campen was the offensive line coach for the Los Angeles Chargers but was once again not retained due to a head coaching change for the third time in three season.

The Steelers still have three coaching positions which were vacated after the 2020 season in the offensive line coach, quarterbacks coach, and defensive backs coach.

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

2021 Senior Bowl: Practice updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The 2021 Senior Bowl is underway, and pro scouts are in Mobile to watch the latest crop of prospects battle it out. We discuss practices and news that is going down.

The Reese’s Senior Bowl is set to take place on Saturday at 2:30pm on the NFL Network. One of the best parts about the actual game are the practices leading up to the game itself. The practices are set to air on ESPNU today and run through Friday and this is the place to discuss what is happening in those practices. According to reports, this may be the last we get to see of some of this year’s prospects. The Shrine game has been canceled, and the NFL Scouting Combine will have a different look with more of a Pro Day set up. It seems the COVID-19 virus will not let up.

Earlier in the week I gave a Watch List of some of the more known prospects, but I would like to add to that and give a few sleeper prospects, or just lesser known prospects.

National Team

Divine Deablo Safety, Va Tech - A possible hybrid linebacker/safety prospect that has size, tackling ability and some coverage skills.

Ben Mason FB, Michigan - Whoa, who put him here. Great as a blocker and has special teams ability but it’s not like we know how to use one. Still questions remain on what he can offer other than his blocking skills. We need a running game.

Quinn Meinerz OL, Wisconsin Whitewater - Always looking to add to the offensive line. This guy’s strengths lie in the run department. Being a Division lll prospect, the level of competition is automatically questioned. Many wondered who Kevin Dotson was.

American Team

Aaron Robinson CB, UCF - We are in an era where the slot/nickel/dime corner has undeniable value. The Steelers may lose two guys to Free Agency. This guy has the demeanor and play ability to fill a possible need. I love his closing ability.

Payton Turner IDL, Houston - The guy has some intriguing tools, the question remains were does he fit. personally I see him as a 5 Tech similar to the bearded one Brett Keisel.

So jump into the conversation and tell us what is on your mind concerning the practices and the Black and Gold.

Podcast: How returning injured players can keep the Steelers contenders

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 11:00am

BTSC breaks down Steelers expected to return from injury and how their presence can keep the Steelers as contenders.

Everybody is talking so much in the off-season about free agent departures and draft arrivals, but the Steelers can expect a boost from the return of injured players to the active roster in 2021. This and much more will be pondered on the latest episode from the BTSC family of podcasts, “The Curtain Call”. As always, it is a good time to talk everything Steelers. Join Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict as they break down all things Steelers.

  • News and Notes
  • What injured players can make a difference to the Steelers in 2021?
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael and Geoffrey walk you through everything you need to know regarding the 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:

Podcast: Familiar Steelers faces in same or new zip codes?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 11:00am

In the spirit of brotherly love, siblings Dave and Rich Schofield break down all things surrounding the black-and-gold.

The Steelers list of free agents is long and lucrative for 2021 and the departures could be sizeable. But who is most likely to stay in black-and-gold and who will be delving into real estate listings in different pastures? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment on the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • 2021 Steelers Free Agency
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the 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:

The Steelers are still projected for two compensatory picks in the 2021 NFL draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After taking into account all factors now available, the Steelers should end up with two additional picks in April.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers in full offseason mode, the start of the league year in March and the associated free agent signing period which comes with it, along with the 2021 NFL draft, are two things which will shape the roster of the 2021 Steelers. The Steelers currently have seven draft picks this year, but they are also set to pick up two more compensatory draft picks based on the free agents they lost in 2020.

According to the projections at overthecap.com, the Steelers have a net loss of three qualifying Compensatory Free Agents (CFAs) from 2020. This means the Steelers could be in line for as many as three compensatory draft picks for 2021. But since there are only 32 picks which can be used, it is only the top 32 that will be assigned. According to OTC, the Steelers have two selections in the top 32 falling in the fourth round and the sixth round. The other CFA loss from the Steelers was also in the sixth round but fell just outside of the top 32.

To remind everyone how the compensatory formula works, teams are only eligible for a draft pick if they have lost more qualifying CFAs than they gained. For example, the Steelers lost five CFAs yet only gained two who qualified. The signing of Stefen Wisniewski was not for a high enough salary to qualify as a CFA (within the top 35% of the league), much like the loss of Artie Burns did not qualify due to his salary.

One thing which really helps with understanding the compensatory formula moving forward from 2020 is there was much more detail into the process in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement signed last March. Players are initially ranked by salary and exactly how they are adjusted based on their performance was spelled out much more.

After all CFAs are determined, they are listed in order from highest salary to lowest along with all the qualifying players from the rest of the league at the conclusion of the season. Each player is then assigned a number based on their rank with number one being the lowest qualifying salary going up to the highest salary being the number of total qualifying players. Additional points are awarded based on the following according to the new CBA:

(b) All players shall be assigned additional points based on honors or participation, as follows:
(1) Selected 1st Team ALL NFL by PFWA or 1st Team ALL PRO by AP: 20 points.
(2) Selected All Conference by PFWA (except if selected ALL NFL or ALL PRO above): 5 points.
(3) One point for each percent of the total offensive/defensive plays in which the player participated (excluding special teams) provided that the player participated in a minimum of 25% of the offensive/ defensive plays (excluding special teams). For example: 67% participation equals 67 points, 0% to 24.99% participation equals no points. Exception: in the case of punters and place-kickers, 1 point will be awarded for each punt attempted and 1 point for each punt inside the 20-yard line during the regular season for the punters, and 2 points for each field goal attempted and 1 point for each field goal made during the regular season for place-kickers.

The points are added to the players original rank and they are broken into percentiles within the entire league in order to determine what round designation they would fall. The top 5% would be 3rd round, 5% to 10% would be 4th round, 10% to 15% for the 5th round, 15% to 25% for the 6th round, 25% to 35% for the 7th round, with 35% and lower not qualifying as a CFA.

The with all that said, Steelers CFA net losses and their projected rounds are:

Javon Hargrave ($13 M per year, 4th round)
B.J. Finney ($4 M per year, 6th round)
Sean Davis ($4 M per year, 6th round)
Tyler Matakevich ($3.575 M per year, 6th round)
Nick Vannett ($2.85 M per year, 7th round)

The Steelers CFA net gains and their projected rounds are:

Eric Ebron ($6 M per year, 6th round)
Derek Watt ($3.25 M per year, 7th round)

By canceling equal rounds (or a lower round if there is no equal), Ebron would cancel Finney while Watt would cancel Matakevich. What remains is the Steelers being eligible for a fourth round and two sixth round selections in 2021. As mentioned before, the second sixth round selection is not in the top 32 in order to receive a pick at this point. The first sixth round pick is the 31st ranked compensatory pick according to OTC with the second being the 35th. So one pick is projected to just miss the cut while the other barely makes the list.

Notice Sean Davis is on the list as a Steelers loss despite playing 16 games for Pittsburgh in 2020. This is something new in the 2020 CBA. The old rule stated a player must remain on the team’s roster through Week 10 of the NFL season. The new CBA has no such date listed in their expanded covering of the compensatory process. The only date described in the new CBA is as follows in Appendix V, Paragraph 1, Section A:

Commencing with 2020 free agency signing period, a Compensatory Free Agent (“CFA”) shall be defined as an Unrestricted Free Agent (“UFA”) who: (i) signed with a new Club during the prior free agency signing period (with the 2020 free agency period being the first such “prior free agency signing period” under this appendix) prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the Monday following the NFL Draft for that League Year or whose rights were retained by the prior Club by sending the player the Unrestricted Free Agent tender prior to such time and date; and (ii) ranked within the top 35% of all League players in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 2 below.

To clarify, Paragraph 2 which is referenced in the above quote simply describes where a player would fall by round and their scoring system for determining these things which was outlined earlier.

Although it isn’t completely clear, the precise wording of the new CBA would lead most to believe that once a free agent is signed with the team beyond the Monday following the NFL draft, they count in the formula even if they are released. As long as this is true, Sean Davis is still a loss for the Steelers and a gain for the Washington Football Team.

With all the information of the compensatory draft picks provided by overthecap.com as well as all regular draft picks including trades provided by prosportstransactions.com, I have calculated where the Steelers will approximately have their draft selections scheduled for the 2021 season. It should be noted there are an additional 3 third-round compensatory draft picks which of been awarded to the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, and New Orleans Saints due to losing minority staff members.

NOTE: The Steelers fifth-round draft pick was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for Chris Wormley and the Steelers received their seventh-round draft pick. The Steelers sixth-round draft pick was traded to the Miami Dolphins as part of the Mikah Fitzpatrick trade and the Steelers received their seventh-round draft pick. The Steelers received Tampa Bay‘s sixth-round draft pick as part of the Jerald Hawkins trade in 2019 and the Steelers surrendered their seventh-round draft pick. Until the Super Bowl is played, the exact pick from Tampa is not set.

Pick 24 in Round 1
Pick 55 in Round 2
Pick 87 in Round 3
Pick 128 in Round 4
Pick 141 in Round 4 (comp pick)
Pick 216 (or 217) in Round 6 (from TAM)
Pick 225 in Round 6 (comp pick)
Pick 244 in Round 7 (from MIA)
Pick 253 in Round 7 (from BAL)

Mel Kiper Mock Draft: Steelers go with a lesser known pass rusher in Round 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 8:30am
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have team needs, but is pass rusher atop that list heading into the 2021 NFL Draft?

The Pittsburgh Steelers team needs are many entering the 2021 offseason. Many would suggest quarterback, center, offensive tackle and inside linebacker would round out the top needs of the team.

But pass rusher?

While you can certainly make a case for why the Steelers would need to add depth at the position, you might be hard pressed to find fans who believe the team should spend a first round pick on the EDGE position.

However, Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t care what Steelers fans think, and their own personal team needs. In his first mock draft of the 2021 offseason, preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, Kiper has the team taking Tulsa pas rusher Zaven Collins with their top pick.

See why Kiper chose Collins:

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

Zaven Collins, OLB/DE, Tulsa

Pittsburgh lost five of its last six games after starting 11-0, and holes were exposed, particularly after edge rusher Bud Dupree tore his ACL in early December. And with Dupree now a free agent, this would be a pick to grab a replacement. Collins is a do-everything linebacker who had four sacks, four interceptions (two for TDs) and two forced fumbles on the way to winning the Nagurski Award last season. At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, he could slot into Dupree’s position and excel at getting after quarterbacks or dropping into coverage to confuse offensive coordinators. Collins is a really intriguing chess piece for a smart defense. The Steelers could also think about offensive line with this pick.

What does a player like Collins bring to the Steelers defense, if he were the team’s top pick? The Draft Network breaks down Collins’ game, and how he can fit into an NFL defensive scheme:

After a high school career in which Zaven Collins was a four-year starter at quarterback and linebacker/safety, Tulsa was the only Division I program to offer him a scholarship. He ended his college career by claiming the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s best defensive player. Collins offers an exciting blend of size, length, power, football intelligence, and versatility that makes him a dynamic prospect for the NFL. Whether it’s defending the run, dropping into coverage, or rushing the passer, Collins has the requisite skill set required to execute and was arguably the most dynamic defensive playmaker in college football for the 2020 season. He demonstrated notable growth in 2020, becoming a complete defender and making high-impact, clutch plays seemingly every week. The Belichick disciples and teams that deploy that style of defense are likely salivating over Collins’ skill set and he projects as an impact defender in the NFL that can make plays in a variety of ways.

Ideal Role: Starting linebacker given opportunities to rush the passer, drop in coverage, play downhill, and in space.

Scheme Fit: Collins projects favorably to a defense that is multiple with its alignments that presents the opportunity for him to unleash the full breadth of his skill set.

What do you think of Kiper’s pick? Would you be okay with the Steelers taking a pass rusher in the first round? Also, would you be okay with Collins being their “guy”? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the start of the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

2020 Steelers Replay, Week 2: Mike Hilton epitomizes the slot linebacker position

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Mike Hilton was one of the most disruptive players in the NFL early in 2020.

Slot linebacker is the name I give the position. Playing in the slot in Keith Butler’s defense is not easy. You are a cornerback first and foremost, you have to cover wide receivers. In the current NFL you are going to face plenty of No. 1 receivers, you will face big bodied physical receivers, small shifty ones, and legit speedsters. You are a key player in run defense, where teams will send tight ends and offensive lineman at you, and when they aren’t attacking you, you are still attacking them.

Mike Hilton doesn’t just play the position, he excels in it, creating splash plays on a defense full of playmakers.

Hilton was injured in the Steelers 5th game of the 2020 season, but before that game his stats weren’t just impressive, they were incredible.

2020 Season, through 4 games
Tackles (solo): 27 (#1 team, #3 NFL)
Tackles for a loss: 5 (#3 team, #4(t) NFL)
Sacks: 3.0 (#3(t) team, #12(t) NFL)
Turnovers: 2 (#1(t) team, #3(t) NFL)
QB hits: 5 (#4 team, #32(t) NFL)

When Hilton returned in week 11 he wasn’t 100%, and the Steelers were a defense missing a lot of talent. Hilton wouldn’t blitz as much, as they relied on him more to patch holes in the defense than to be an attacker. In the other 8 games Hilton played he recorded 0 sacks, 0 QB hits and 3 TFL.

If you look at Hilton’s early season explosion, only 20 other players in the NFL recorded at least 3 sacks, 1 interceptions, 5 TFL and 5 QB hits in the entire 2020 season, names like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, J.J. Watt, Khalil Mack, Montez Sweat are on that list, who isn’t? Any other defensive back in the NFL.

Hilton added 2 more interceptions on the season, and only 1 other player recorded 3 sacks and 3 interceptions in 2020, linebacker Eric Wilson in Minnesota. If you extend the time frame to look at Mike Hilton’s career, only 3 players have at least 8 sacks and 7 interceptions since 2017, Mike Hilton, Joe Schobert (LB) and Darius Leonard (LB). Mike Hilton leads that group in tackles for a loss, QB hits and passes defended, he’s also the only one that hasn’t made a Pro-Bowl.

Mike Hilton is a uniquely versatile player that perfectly fits what the Steelers want from their slot defenders. For the first 4 games of 2020, the situation around him was just right, and he dominated. Week 2, against the Denver Broncos was one of the best games of his career. Let’s take a look and see why Mike Hilton is so valuable to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Elite blitzing

What makes Mike Hilton stand out from other defensive backs is his ability to blitz. Sure he only recorded 3 sacks, but his value goes way beyond those sacks.

1st quarter, 14:56. Mike Hilton is the slot defender to the bottom of the screen.

Pay attention to the beginning of this play, the Broncos see Hilton cheating towards the middle, they see Terrell Edmunds lined up deep over the receiver, those are key signals the slot defender is blitzing. Broncos motion the tight end over to block T.J. Watt, send their running back to take on Hilton and slide the entire line to the other side. the Broncos end up keeping 7 players in to block, partly because of Mike Hilton’s threat.

Now watch the linebackers, they are in man on the back and tight end, when they see those players stay in to block they also rush the quarterback. You’ll notice Devin Bush isn’t very good at these blitzes, you may remember me saying multiple times how good Robert Spillane was at green dog blitzes. Sadly Hilton was injured in the game Spillane was injured, and while Hilton started getting back to form in week 13, Spillane was hurt in week 13. Before he was hurt in that game Spillane recorded a sack and 2 QB hits, in 21 snaps.

Mike Hilton forces offenses to keep an eye on him, to shift blockers his way, setting up green dog blitzes and with fewer routes being run, it makes Minkah Fitzpatrick’s job as a single high safety significantly easier. On this play you can see how it took a quick throw, a perfect pass and a tough catch on the sideline to beat this defense.

The real fun comes in when you combine Hilton’s blitzing prowess with deception.

1st quarter, 14:30, Mike Hilton is the slot corner to the bottom of the screen.

He’s showing that blitz right from the start again, but Denver doesn’t want to keep everyone in to protect, so Drew Locke moves his running back to Hilton’s side. Only Hilton isn’t blitzing, the Steelers are in zone and Locke looking to the hot route that isn’t hot means he’s late to the route over the middle and Minkah Fitzpatrick breaks up the pass.

These were the first two plays of the game. Keith Butler has Hilton show blitz both times, and lets the young quarterback know right from the start that it is going to be a rough day.

Those are plays when Hilton intentionally showed blitz early, and while I love the Steelers defense flexing like that on a young QB, Hilton’s true strength is in not showing his blitzes.

3rd quarter, 1:20, Mike Hilton is the slot defender to the bottom of the screen.

I want you to notice when Mike Hilton moves, giving away his blitz. It’s right after the quarterback lowers his head to receiver the snap. He has to look at the ball, so he isn’t seeing Hilton and that’s all the time the Steelers need.

The Broncos even have a counter to his blitz with a slant from the slot receiver, but Hilton hits the quarterback as he throws and the pass is high and incomplete. At 5’9”, 184 lbs, Mike Hilton is not going to win a ton of pushing matches with offensive lineman, tight ends, or even running backs. Hilton has to bring something special to find success, and that is timing. I haven’t seen any slot blitzer show the knack for timing up his rush that Hilton shows. And it goes beyond just waiting till the QB puts his head down.

2nd quarter, 14:06, Mike Hilton is the slot defender to the top of the screen.

Watch the quarterback to start this play. He puts his head down, gives a fake snap call, then comes back up and looks at Hilton. Locke is trying to get Hilton to tip his hand, but Hilton is still squared up on the slot receiver so Locke is free to look downfield. . . except he isn’t.

This is what Mike Hilton does to an offense. I mean you have Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Devin Bush, Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick on the field, high draft picks, elite talents with plenty of awards, and you have to account for the 5’9” undrafted slot cornerback or he will wreck your drive.

If you don’t absolutely love Mike Hilton, watch that play again, look at the quarterback taking time to account for Mike Hilton and still get sacked. Go look at every play in this article so far and look at how far out the Broncos are lining up their slot receiver. Mike Hilton was living in the Broncos heads in week 2, Keith Butler let them know from the first two plays that Hilton was going to be someone they needed to account for, and they tried. Hilton just made plays anyways.

The Broncos did manage to catch the Steelers in a Mike Hilton blitz a number of times, but one of the main reasons the Steelers can attack so much with Hilton is the players behind him.

2nd quarter, 8:42. Mike Hilton is the slot defender to the top of the screen, Terrell Edmunds is the safety behind him and Devin Bush is the linebacker to that side.

The Broncos send motion inside, pulling Mike Hilton closer to the line (and the QB), baiting the blitz, they use play action to get Hilton moving inside and roll the quarterback out to his right, taking Mike Hilton out of the play. But it doesn’t matter, because Terrell Edmunds is able to stay with his receive deep, and Devin Bush gets outside quickly to shut down the 2v1, QB and TE versus T.J. Watt they are hoping to get short. Bush sees what is going on, and is there to pick up the tight end and the Broncos throw the ball away.

We’ll get into Devin Bush and just how much he meant to this defense next week, but know that one of the reasons Hilton had amazing stats early on, and very few later was Devin Bush allowing him to be more aggressive, when he returned the Steelers couldn’t get away with being as aggressive.

Attacking the ball

The slot defender is a major part of run defense in nickel. And Mike Hilton is no slouch in that department either.

1st quarter, 2:22. Mike Hilton is the slot defender to the bottom of the screen.

In the Steelers nickel, the slot defender works a lot like the outside linebacker does in their 3-4 sets. Hilton is responsible for setting the edge here, and he does a fantastic job taking on a much bigger player, controlling the run lanes and making the tackle for a one-yard loss. The Broncos knew that motion would move the linebackers and delay Vince Williams, and while that let them attack the Steelers smallest player, Mike Hilton is living proof that it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog that matters.

Don’t get me wrong here, there are plenty of times a tight end or lineman get the better of Mike Hilton, they should win that matchup every time, Mike Hilton wins well more than his share, more than some linebackers that started for the Steelers this season.

4th quarter, 2:36. Mike Hilton is the slot defender to the top of the screen, he’s the guy rushing the line at the snap.

That’s some T.J. Watt level backside pursuit. Mike Hilton doesn’t just show great timing and anticipation on his blitzes, he also is great at finding the ball during his blitzes. He’s nut just running upfield hoping he finds something, he is great at finding the ball.

2nd quarter, 12:51. Mike Hilton is the slot defender to the bottom of the screen.

3rd and 25 and the Broncos just want to get some yards to help the field position off the punt. It doesn’t work out, though. Hilton sniffs out the screen with the motion coming, evades the blockers and it’s 4th and 24. Whether he’s blitzing, defending the run or sniffing out screens, Mike Hilton has the hearts and smarts of an all-pro linebacker, he’s just small.

Pass defense

-yawn-

You can’t discuss a nickel back without talking about pass coverage. coverage, and specifically deep coverage is the weak part of Mike Hilton’s game. That’s like saying Hines Ward’s pass catching wasn’t as impressive as his blocking. Hilton can cover, it’s just who wants to talk about solid pass coverage when there’s all the plays above to look at?

4th quarter, 3:09. Mike Hilton is the second defensive back from the top of the screen.

Again, attacking the ball is his strength, he shows good reaction time and closing speed to deny any yards after catch late in the game.

4th quarter, 4:05. Mike Hilton is the second receiver from the top of the screen.

I’ll compare Mike Hilton to Joe Haden in coverage (Haden now, not All-world Joe Haden in his prime), if you give Hilton short route responsibilities, or if you give him deep route responsibilities he can get the job done. That isn’t beautiful above, but it is not bad, it’s solid. Of the Steelers WRs, Hilton has the best advanced stats, largely because the Steelers know his limitations and don’t do something dumb like put him outside where he wouldn’t work well. They put Sutton out there instead and keep Hilton in the slot.

With Devin Bush playing, the Steelers also used a lot more pattern match zone coverages that let Mike Hilton deal with less of the field with fewer routes to worry about. Hilton excels in those situations, not just limiting catches but making plays on the ball.

Mike Hilton is a free agent, coming off an injury and limited production that followed that injury. I won’t pretend to know his market value, but I do know it will be far below his real value in the Steelers defense, because he’s small and not an elite athlete. But his on the field impact will be virtually impossible to replace, there just aren’t two Mike Hilton’s in the NFL right now.

Chuks Okorafor needs to migrate to the other side of the offensive line

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Steelers Chukwuma Okorafor spent his first season as a starter at right tackle, but his future is at left tackle.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a 2021 off season filled with uncertainty and the promise of substantial roster turnover. Some moves made will be necessary and made willingly, such as Vance McDonald's recent retirement. Additional retirements have been rumored but as of yet unconfirmed. The Steelers long list of unrestricted and restricted free agents, plus the team's current salary cap constraints, assures anything but another normally boring Steelers off season.

There are certainly no shortage of individuals in Steelers Nation willing to let their voices be heard concerning possible remedies to help heal the Steelers numerous ailments, and the suggestions have arrived both fast and furious. There has been one plan of attack universally agreed upon by every Steelers fanatic; the Steelers need to improve their offensive line by whatever means necessary.

Prior to the 2020 season opener, the Steelers shuffled two positions along the line while only adding one new participant. They boldly moved Matt Feiler from right tackle to left guard to replace the retired Ramon Foster, a unsuccessful maneuver by all accounts. Feiler was an effective right tackle, probably the Steelers best lineman in 2019, but struggled with the move to guard. The Steelers had the best of intentions, but the move ended up weakening two positions along the line and impacted the chemistry desperately needed within the unit.

Zach Banner was awarded the starting right tackle position after supposedly winning the training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor. I say supposedly because I believe the final decision came down to the fact that Okorafor had collegiate experience manning both tackle spots, while Banner is strictly a right tackle due to his limited athleticism and movement. That way if starting LT Alejandro Villanueva went down with an injury at any point Okorafor could fill in without impacting two positions along the line. Despite the Steelers logical reasoning, it mattered not. Banner was lost for the season in the opener against the New York Giants, and Okorafor started the rest of the year at RT.

Okorafor enjoyed a mixed bag of success in his first season as a starter. His effectiveness fluctuated greatly depending on the opponent; which is to be expected from a first time starter, but also by who was lining up beside him. Surprisingly, his best performances occurred with bright eyed rookie RG Kevin Dotson lined up next to him. So much for the ideal of experience being a steading influence on a young newcomer. The jury is still out on who benefited the most from the pairing, Dotson or Okorafor. Based on the benefit of a season's worth of evidence at both guard positions, Dotson is the real deal and a force to be reckoned with along the Steelers offensive line, preferably at right guard. Is a David Decastro trade out of the realm of possibility?

Make no mistake about it, Okorafor was drafted by the Steelers with the left tackle position in mind. At 6'6" and 320 lbs, coupled with superior athleticism and lateral movement, Okorafor is the prototypical prospect at left tackle. With the majority of NFL QBs being right handed, the left tackle requires the athleticism necessary to protect their QB's blindside from the opponent's best pass rusher. Whereas right tackles typically utilize more power aspects of the position, left tackles predominantly rely on superior length and agility to mirror opposing pass rushers. Okorafor was playing out of position on the right side, with a skill set better suited for the left.

That is the primary reason I believe that the Steelers would be better served focusing on the top guard and center prospects prior to the 2021 NFL Draft. Maybe even their top running back prospects if one happens to fall into their laps unexpectedly. Truthfully even the best RB prospect will struggle to produce consistently unless the Steelers improve the power and push of their offensive line. No one is suggesting the Steelers put the cart before the horse by selecting a top running back and sticking them behind a line incapable of NFL caliber run blocking, but who says they can't make the necessary improvements in one off season. Especially when you consider the possible positive impact of free agency and trades.

While it's impossible to predict all the inevitable changes along the Steelers offensive line, the need for said changes and improvement is undeniably necessary and imminent. The Steelers are expected to attempt to resign either Zach Banner or Matt Feiler; possibly both whereas Banner should be relatively inexpensive seeing he is a as yet unproven performer coming off injury, to man the right tackle spot with someone familiar with their schemes.

The good news is that another one of the necessary changes is a no brainer who already resides on the roster. Chuks Okorafor's time to take over at left tackle has arrived, and the time is now.

The Vegas odds on the Steelers getting Matthew Stafford or Deshaun Watson might surprise you

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 5:00am
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

It might be a long shot, but the Steelers are at least on the board in the Stafford and/or Watson sweepstakes.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ global fan base isn’t happy with their team. They haven’t had a playoff win since 2016, and the most recent playoff game was a Wild Card dud against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.

It propels the Steelers into a tumultuous offseason where a myriad of questions await.

Will the Steelers target a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Will they be able to retain many of their free agents?

Will Ben Roethlisberger return to play next season, or will he hang it up?

The latter question has many wondering if the Steelers might be thinking of life after Roethlisberger. What will that look like? Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins? A rookie? How about a veteran quarterback who might be looking for a new home?

In this case I am referring to Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford.

Stafford and the Detroit Lions have reportedly agreed to part ways this offseason, and the Houston Texans and Watson are the epitome of a rocky relationship heading into 2021 with a new General Manager and Head Coach.

Could one of these two star quarterbacks find their way to the Steelers? At this point, forget about compensation necessary to bring them in, but is it even feasible? Believe it or not, Vegas has the odds for who will be most likely to bring in Stafford and Watson, and the Steelers are on the board.

Check out the odds below!!

The below odds are provided by SportsBetting.ag:

Matthew Stafford Next team

Indianapolis Colts 3/1

San Francisco 49ers 7/2

Denver Broncos 9/2

New England Patriots 5/1

Washington Football Team 6/1

Carolina Panthers 8/1

Las Vegas Raiders 10/1

Los Angeles Rams 11/1

Houston Texans 12/1

Dallas Cowboys 14/1

New Orleans Saints 14/1

Atlanta Falcons 16/1

New York Jets 18/1

Philadelphia Eagles 18/1

Green Bay Packers 20/1

Jacksonville Jaguars 20/1

Pittsburgh Steelers 20/1

Chicago Bears 22/1

Miami Dolphins 25/1

Minnesota Vikings 33/1

New York Giants 35/1

Tennessee Titans 40/1

Deshaun Watson Next team

New York Jets 15/4

Miami Dolphins 4/1

Carolina Panthers 15/2

Indianapolis Colts 8/1

New Orleans Saints 8/1

San Francisco 49ers 8/1

Atlanta Falcons 9/1

Denver Broncos 9/1

New England Patriots 9/1

Las Vegas Raiders 10/1

Los Angeles Rams 10/1

Chicago Bears 12/1

Jacksonville Jaguars 12/1

Washington Football Team 12/1

Dallas Cowboys 14/1

Detroit Lions 14/1

Philadelphia Eagles 14/1

Pittsburgh Steelers 25/1

What do you think? What would you trade/give up to bring in either Stafford or Watson? Or would you even want these quarterbacks? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: Steelers fans, don’t read too much into these off-season stories

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 4:30am

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

There are so many stories and speculation surfacing in the off-season, it’s hard to keep everything straight. But some reports are unfounded and getting fans all riled up. Pay attention, but don’t read too far into everything. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Don’t read too much into offseason stories
  • BTSC Mail Bag
  • 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.

Podcast: Steelers fans, don’t read too much into these off-season stories

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/27/2021 - 4:30am

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

There are so many stories and speculation surfacing in the off-season, it’s hard to keep everything straight. But some reports are unfounded and getting fans all riled up. Pay attention, but don’t read too far into everything. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Don’t read too much into offseason stories
  • BTSC Mail Bag
  • 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.

A Letter From the Editor: I can’t stand Tom Brady, but I sure do respect his game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/26/2021 - 2:30pm
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Tom Brady is the ageless wonder, and it makes me sick.

Tom Brady spent the vast majority of his career being a thorn in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ side as a member of the New England Patriots. Year after year, it was Brady and the Patriots who always stood in the way of the Steelers reaching the Super Bowl.

Venue didn’t matter, but if the Steelers stood a chance it would have to be at Heinz Field. When you think back to the games between Brady’s Patriots and the Steelers, you can count the wins on one hand. As for the losses? Well, that would take a lot of time...

When Brady decided to leave New England prior to the 2020 season, and decided to take his talents to Tampa Bay with Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers, Steelers fans rejoiced in knowing Brady was out of the AFC.

At last, he could no longer torment the Steelers.

But at this point, the torture Brady inflicts on the Steelers isn’t as much on the organization as it is on the fan base. Steelers fans view Brady as the immoveable force, and how can you disagree with that statement? You may disagree with some of the antics the Patriots did, and got away with, throughout the past decade, but can you really hate on Brady’s dominance?

Brady is brash. He talks trash, just ask Anthony Smith...

But as a die hard Steelers fan, at what point do you say, “Sometimes you just have to give him props.” when referring to Brady’s success.

I know for me that time is now.

Let me make something crystal clear here. I still can’t stand Tom Brady. My disgust for Brady is more about the fact he is like that fly who just won’t go away. At this point I wonder if Brady will be playing until he is 50, and still winning.

Just the other day I was asked on social media if I was looking forward to the Chiefs and Buccaneers Super Bowl. I gave a candid answer, and that was how I am sick of both the Chiefs and Tom Brady.

Not a recipe for a game you really want to watch.

For all that is often brought up about Brady, things like:

His TB12 method.

His diet.

How he kisses his own children.

Trash talking.

His relationship with Bill Belichick.

Yelling at teammates on the sideline.

Brady just keeps winning. Everyone thought the change of conference would equate to failure for Brady. Everyone though the change in scenery would be one last season for Brady before his hangs it up. Everyone thought this was the end.

And here we are again, preparing to watch Brady in another flipping Super Bowl.

I can’t stand Brady, but I have to respect what he has been able to do throughout his career. His success is almost as much mental as it is physical at this point, but at the age of 43, you have to marvel at Brady’s ability to not just keep playing, but playing at a high level.

It pains me to say it, but I do respect Brady’s game. Anyone who says otherwise is likely just fooling themselves.

A list of potential candidates for the Steelers vacant quarterback coach position

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/26/2021 - 1:00pm
Photo by Shawn Hubbard/XFL via Getty Images

The Steelers intend on naming a quarterback coach after promoting Matt Canada to offensive coordinator .

With the Pittsburgh Steelers promoting Matt Canada to the role of offensive coordinator, the organization plans on naming someone else their quarterback coach. With the coaching carousel heating up, a number of names will quickly be snatched up. With time of the essence I bring to you a list of available coaching candidates that could be tasked with shaping the future of the Steelers quarterback position.

Canada will not remain as QB coach. Steelers will hire someone for that position.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) January 25, 2021 Pep Hamilton Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Once thought to be one of the candidates for the Steelers offensive coordinator job, Pep Hamilton might have to return to his role as a quarterback coach. He is still up for the coordinator job in Tennessee. However, that's the only job he has interviewed for that remains vacant.

Lateral moves for coaches are not allowed unless its to join a brand new head coach. In the case of Hamilton, he has been removed from the Los Angeles Chargers coaching staff page online. If he has been fired, he’s free to take any job of his choosing. That job might just be in Pittsburgh.

Pep Hamilton is no longer listed as the quarterbacks coach on the #Chargers team website. OL coach James Campen, RB coach Mark Ridgley and WR coach Phil McGeoghan have also been removed from the site.

— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) January 26, 2021 Hue Jackson

Hue Jackson was the other of the three reported interviews for the Steelers offensive coordinator position. Coach Jackson has been out of the NFL for a number of years now, and if doesn't land a role elsewhere taking a role as a quarterback coach could get him back into the league.

The former Browns and Raiders head coach is remembered more favorably as an assistant and his knowledge would be welcome to the position group.

Tim Kelly Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

My original prediction to become the Steelers next quarterback coach, Tim Kelly is still an option. Kelly is just 34 years old and by all accounts is a bright young mind of the NFL. He helped develop Deshaun Watson into one of the best quarterbacks in the game today and is destined to one day be a head coach in this league.

The problem here is the Texans have blocked Kelly from interviewing for jobs this offseason. However, he may become available whenever the Texans figure out their head coach spot.

Tony Elliott Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Clemson Tigers offensive coordinator, Tony Elliott is a name to watch as a future head coach in either the NCAA or even the NFL. He may be persuaded to join an NFL team following the departure of Trevor Lawrence via the NFL Draft. Elliott may choose to stay at Clemson to mentor rising star, D.J. Uiagalelei but a change of scenery might be welcome.

Ben McAdoo Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Homer City, Pennsylvania’s own Ben McAdoo was a catastrophic failure as a head coach in New York but has since manned the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback room. Having Pennsylvania ties is always good for a coach trying to get a job in Pittsburgh and he might get a shot to return home.

Jay Gruden Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Another former Jaguars assistant, Jay Gruden was the reigning offensive coordinator of the Jags until the coaching staffs dismissal. Gruden was most notably the Washington Football Team’s head coach for six seasons, and prior to that was the offensive play caller in Cincinnati for three seasons. AFC North experience is also great from landing a job in Pittsburgh.

Blaine Stewart

In what would be an unsurprising move, the Steelers could simply promote from within to fill the position. Blaine Stweart has been with the Steelers as an offensive assistant for three years where he was most recently the assistant wide receivers coach. In his first season with the team in 2018, it was reported Stewart was working with the quarterbacks while Randy Fichtner was attempting to do both roles. If the Steelers wanted someone on the inside, Stewart would most likely be the guy.

The Steelers are wasting no time in trying to fill the position as one additional name, Mike Sullivan (no, not the Penguins coach) is already in the mix for the position.

What do you think? Who will be the Steelers next quarterback coach? Any names you don’t see need to be mentioned? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Financial details of Dwayne Haskins’ Steelers contract make it as low risk as possible

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/26/2021 - 12:00pm
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers took a flier on Dwayne Haskins, but they certainly didn’t take a financial risk.

When the news hit the wire of the Pittsburgh Steelers brining in former first round pick Dwayne Haskins for a visit, the you-know-what hit the fan. Fans around the globe talked about Haskins the player, not good, and Haskins the person, even worse.

This was their opinion, however.

When the Steelers made the move official, you would have thought the sky was falling. Sure, there was a small contingent of the fan base who was okay with the addition, but the vast majority wondered what Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert were thinking.

Despite numerous individuals, including myself, talking about how low risk this decision was for the Steelers, the release of Haskins’ contract numbers makes it even more of a low risk move for the black and gold.

This per Field Yates of ESPN:

No bells or whistles to Dwayne Haskins' reserve/future deal with the Steelers: 1-year, $850K, 0 guarantees.

He's got plenty of money still due from WFT.

This was all about fit for Haskins, with a good chance to develop in Pittsburgh, while the Steelers take a zero risk flier.

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 26, 2021

Yes, you read that correctly.

The Steelers owe Haskins $0 in guaranteed money.

Nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

Could Haskins show up and stink up the joint? He absolutely could, and if he does the Steelers let him go and don’t owe him a dime. Could Haskins show up and prove he is capable of playing at a high level, living up to his first round pick pedigree? Absolutely, and if so the Steelers will have a quality player at a bargain bin price.

This is about as low risk as it gets for the Steelers, and a deal fans should get on board with. If Ben Roethlisberger decides to call it a career, the Steelers will likely have a quarterback battle between Haskins and Rudolph for the starting position in 2021. If Roethlisberger returns, expect Haskins to get a chance to prove his worth and make the team as a backup.

Either way, the Steelers made a smart move bringing in Haskins. Is there risk involved? Absolutely, but when you don’t have hardly any risk financially it offsets the other risk which is presented.

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

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