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Ranking Steelers players based on Fantasy Football value

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Fantasy draft season is quickly approaching and here are the Steelers players you want on your roster

The start of the summer typically means that fantasy football draft season is right around the corner. With rankings to fill, and players to pick, the most die hard of fantasy fans will be busy. But if you just like playing for fun and want to land your favorite Pittsburgh Steelers players, I have got you covered. Below are the rounds you should typically see these guys come off the draft board, so be prepared and get your guy!

Let’s do this...

10. Pat Freiermuth - Undrafted Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to rookie Tight Ends they tend to not get the best shake in Pittsburgh. While I think Freiermuth could be one of the in-season pick ups of the year if he doesn't develop you will only be losing a roster spot by drafting the young big man. He is an interesting late round pick for those dynasty users out there.

9. Eric Ebron - Undrafted Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This year isn't shaping up great for Eric Ebron. He’s a year older, he’s probably going to be asked to block more, and a rookie is hot on his heels. I highly suggest finding your tight end elsewhere and picking up Ebron only if it’s absolutely necessary.

8. Ben Roethlisberger - Undrafted Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, I know this may be surprising to some but Roethlisberger’s stock is extremely low across the league. If your opponents aren't Steelers fans Ben will go unclaimed, but I still wouldn't be surprised if he put up Top 10 fantasy numbers for a quarterback. Bottom line is load up your team at other spots and circle back around early on in the season.

7. James Washington - Undrafted Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Washington will again be the least productive of the Steelers big four receivers making his status as an undrafted player fairly obvious. However, If someone got hurt this would be a sneaky good add to fill the void left by your other Steelers receivers.

6. Chris Boswell - Round 15 (Last round) Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Fact, you need a kicker. Fact, Chris Boswell is a good kicker. Fact, you're bad at fantasy football if you select a kicker anywhere outside of the last round.

5. Steelers Defense - Round 12 Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers still have the number one ranked fantasy football defense. Typically you would want to take this spot with your second last pick however, with their talent and point discrepancy from number two you’ll need to grab them a round or so earlier.

4. JuJu Smith-Schuster - Round 7-8 Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

JuJu Smith-Schuster has tumbled down fantasy rankings as the years have gone on. His misuse in Pittsburgh is a concern, however splitting out wide may get the senior receiver some better routes and more yardage.

3. Chase Claypool - Round 6-7 Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Chase Claypool is a fantasy beast who's on the cusp of breaking out as a deep threat. Overall he may prove to be the most talented Steelers receiver, but the outside concerns with Ben Roethlisberger caps his ceiling, which could easily be blown off. This could be your sleeper pick of the year.

2. Diontae Johnson - Round 4-5 Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Diontae Johnson has become Roethlisberger’s top target. He gets a load of passes thrown his way and if you're playing in a point per reception league that means everything. The biggest worry is if the drop problems insist and the Steelers bench Johnson for a number of weeks. But if he figures it out he could pay big dividends for your fantasy team.

1. Najee Harris - Round 2-3 Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Could it be anyone else? Fantasy football is a running back centric game, and the Steelers invested heavily in this one. Harris has the potential to become the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. He could claim an upwards of 400 touches (23 per game) and smash all expectations of the rookie running back class. If your playing with other Steelers fans you might need to grab him in the late first round or early second round, but if you manage to scoop him up in the third round you might just win your league!

But what do you think? Which Steelers do you want on your fantasy football team? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

The Steelers Trifecta: Anderson, Ballage, and Banner

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 12:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Day 2 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring Abdullah Anderson, Kalen Ballage, and Zach Banner

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:

Abdullah Anderson Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Defensive Tackle
Age: 25
Year: 3
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 295
Drafted: UDFA 2019 (Chicago Bears)
College: Bucknell
Roster Outlook: Outside looking in
Analysis:

Despite having two years of NFL experience (six games in Chicago in 2019 and one game in Minnesota in 2020), Anderson has a long road ahead to make the Steelers 53-man roster. Returning all their defensive tackles from last season in which they carried one more than usual, the Steelers also traded into the fifth round in 2021 to draft another. With multiple players who have logged snaps with the Steelers possibly not making a squad, Anderson is going to have to really turn heads to land on the 53 or even the practice squad.

Kalen Ballage Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Position: Running Back
Age: 25
Year: 5
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 231
Drafted: 2018, Round 4, Pick 131 (Miami Dolphins)
College: Arizona St.
Roster Outlook: Bubble
Analysis:

The reception of Ballage by Steelers’ Nation is either burning hot or ice cold as he’s played for three different NFL teams in three seasons. Most fans either believe he will finally be a key piece to give depth to the Steelers running back room or that he’s just another camp body and nothing really special. Listed as a bubble player, pretty much all the Steelers reserve running backs fall into this category as training camp and the preseason will ultimately be the test in bringing the cream to the top. If Ballage offers something none of the other backs can give, his chances of making the team will continue to grow.

Zach Banner Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Position: Offensive Tackle
Age: 27
Year: 6
Height: 6’8”
Weight: 335
Drafted: 2017, Round 4, Pick 137 (Indianapolis Colts)
College: USC
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

While most believe Zach Banner will be the starting right tackle for the Steelers come Week 1, there are still other possibilities. Perhaps he ends up at left tackle, and perhaps he ends up not in the starting lineup. The key to Banner’s season hinges on the strength and agility of his surgically repaired knee. Even if it takes time for Banner to get back to form, it shouldn’t affect his “roster lock” status barring an injury designation.

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.

The Steelers land their first player on the PFF Top 50 list

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 11:30am
Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers see their first player on the PFF Top 50 players of 2020 list.

It is summer, and the dog days of the National Football League calendar. While teams around the league wait until the end of July, or early August, to report to their respective training camps, media outlets are scrambling to create content.

Sure, there is the breaking news of injuries, arrests and new contracts, but between those blips on the radar seem to have become riddled with lists/rankings.

The Top 100 players of 2020

Power Rankings

The Best Fantasy Football Values

I could go on, but you get the picture. If you pay attention to NFL news in the offseason, which not everyone does, you know all too well what the offseason content looks like. The folks at Pro Football Focus (PFF) are no different. They are currently in the midst of their Top 50 players series, and when they released players No. 30-40, the Pittsburgh Steelers had their first player on the list.

Take a look at why Cam Heyward was the first Steelers player listed, and where he landed on the rankings:

31. DI CAMERON HEYWARD, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The later into his career he gets, the better Heyward seems to play. His best four seasons in terms of PFF grade have been his most recent four seasons, and Aaron Donald is the only interior lineman who has a higher overall PFF grade since 2019.

The longtime Steeler’s 75 defensive stops lead all players at his position over the same period by seven, and he trails only Donald in terms of total pressures. The Los Angeles Rams star is in a world all by himself, but Heyward has a good case to be seen as the best interior defender not named Donald in the NFL — and that’s an impressive achievement.

It is good to see Heyward finally getting some credit for the work he does on the interior of the defense. It was just a few years ago when Heyward’s position of defensive end in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme kept him out of Pro Bowl voting. Fan voting saw Heyward lumped into pass rushers, instead of interior defensive linemen. This has since been changed, and Heyward has been getting more and more credit for his dominant play.

Heyward might not put up jaw dropping statistics, but if you watch the defense closely you see how disruptive Heyward is for the Steelers. His ability to collapse the pocket, take on double teams and make plays in the backfield is second only to Aaron Donald, as PFF pointed out.

Be sure to check back with BTSC to see if any other Steelers players make the PFF Top 50, and as they team prepares for the 2021 regular season.

Podcast: Taking stock of the Steelers foes up and down the schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 11:00am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Hangover” show, Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White look at the week that was and the Steelers going forward.

There is so much to be sorted out before 2021 starts for the Steelers, but where do the Men of Steel stand right now with all 17 games. This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed on the latest episode of the BTSC podcast, The Steelers Hangover. On this show, Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White break down all things Steelers! Join the veteran trio as they analyze all things black-and-gold.

Check out the rundown of the show

  • News and Notes
  • Stock up or down for all 14 opponents for the Steelers in 2021

and MUCH MORE!

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

James Pierre the latest player to make the big jump in Year 2 of his Steelers career

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There is typically a big jump in production from Year 1 to Year 2 in the NFL, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have a young defensive back they are hoping will do just that in 2021.

Most sports fans have heard of a sophomore slump. The tendency for a player, at any sport in any level, to not have the success in Year 2 that they had in their first year. For the Pittsburgh Steelers they have seen more sophomore jumps than sophomore slumps. Think about players like James Conner, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and even Ben Roethlisberger, all took a huge step forward in their careers in their second seasons.

There are many players on the Steelers’ 2021 roster who could follow this trend. Chase Claypool, Kevin Dotson and Alex Highsmith come to mind, but the player who is being talked about the most, as of late, has been undrafted cornerback James Pierre. Pierre had a noteworthy mandatory minicamp last week, and Mike Tomlin spoke about his progress made from his rookie season to Year 2.

“He is one of those second-year guys that we all have high expectations for,” Tomlin told the media after practice. “I think it’s reasonable when you’ve been around a guy that’s been in the program and understands what to expect, what is needed of him physically, mentally and so forth. I think we are looking for all of those second-year players to gain experience. That guy gained a lot of experience last year. He didn’t play a lot of defense, but he had a helmet every week, he was preparing every week. He was a critical component of our special teams unit and that is usually an indication that a guy is ready to proceed and advance, and I think it’s reasonable to expect him to do so.”

Pierre was even called to the podium to talk to the media, and he spoke about the practice he had where he got his hands on the football more than once. What spawned such a spirited practice, even if just in shirts and shorts? It was a bad practice the day before.

“I had one bad play, guy caught the ball, I just took it personal,” Pierre explained. “I came in with the right mindset.

“I should come in every day like that. I was on myself for letting somebody catch the ball. I woke up early, earlier than I usually do, attacked the day with the right mindset.”

The difference between Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp is the fact teams can do 11-on-11 drills, like the two-minute drill. There might not be contact, but Pierre outlines how he loved the two-minute based on the energy it brought to the practice session.

“I like the two-minute because it actually got the guys, got the whole team, the energy of the defense, just to see the guys turning up with me,” Pierre said. “The two minute, to end it, it’s just a good feeling just to see the guys pumped, the energy of the defense.”

One of Pierre’s interceptions came against Ben Roethlisberger, and it was an interaction with the veteran quarterback after practice which boosted Pierre’s confidence even more heading into the break before training camp.

“To be honest, Ben is not just throwing anybody a ball,” Pierre said. “It’s precious to get one of those. It’s hard to get it from Ben so when I got those it kinda made me smile. But just to see the other guys, it made me happier.

“And then after practice Ben came up to me, told me good job, gave me a fist bump. It built my confidence a little bit.”

There is another second year player who is hoping to make an impact on the defensive backfield, and that would be Antoine Brooks Jr. The former 6th round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft caught Tomlin’s attention, and is seen as someone who can help fill the void left by Mike Hilton.

“He played the slot for us some last year in regular season football games when Mike Hilton missed a block of time,” said Tomlin. “One specifically here at home he probably played 25 plus snaps on defense. His college resume indicates he has capability in that area. We worked him there in the past. He’s had some success. He will be given an opportunity to grow and develop and display those skills. We’ll determine when we get closer to action how we divide the labor and who does what. But he’s done a good job of that thus far.”

With Hilton and Steven Nelson gone from the defensive backfield the Steelers will have to rely on younger players to fill those voids, and it looks like the sophomores will be called upon early and often to make big contributions on the defensive side of the ball.

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.

Film Room: Improved line play for the Steelers won’t be just physicality, but also technique

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line is revamped in 2021, but the improvement won’t just come from physicality.

One of the challenges the Steelers face heading into the 2021 season is to rebuild their once-stellar offensive line. Their play regressed significantly the past two seasons from its level under former coach Mike Munchack, who departed Pittsburgh in 2018. Munchack’s successor, Shaun Sarrett, was fired in January, resulting in the promotion of his assistant, Adrian Klemm. Klemm is now tasked with improving the performance of a unit that contributed to the league’s worst rushing attack.

Klemm has spoken at length this off-season about changing the mind-set up front. He is emphasizing physicality and moving people off the line of scrimmage. One step he plans to take in this transformation is to get the linemen out of the two-point stances they used regularly the past few seasons. Critics argue that two-point stances, while helping linemen in pass protection, result in them playing too high in the run game, creating less power at the point of attack. Klemm wants his linemen to get their hands in the dirt, fire off the football, stay low and move people. It’s a welcome change from a unit that has tried, unsuccessfully, to finesse-block defenses the past two seasons.

While the adjustment to their stances will both transform the mindset of the unit as well as help with their leverage, Klemm will have to eliminate some of the bad technique and poor execution that has crept into their play as well. Offensive line play, as much as any position group on the field, requires great attention to detail. While it’s certainly a physical job, physicality is not enough to succeed. Great technique, communication and execution is required as well. The Steelers have been neither physical nor sound up front the past two seasons. Klemm will need to teach his players to be technicians as well as brawlers.

For a better idea of what I’m referring to, let’s look at some film of the Steelers line from 2018 and then at their 2020 counterpart to see where their performance has slipped and what Klemm must do to sharpen it.

The 2018 Steelers Offensive Line

When talking offensive line technique, three factors stand out. The first is footwork, the second is hand placement and the third is leverage. A lineman wants to pound the ground with small, choppy steps from snap to whistle, which provide him a better base and greater odds of moving his opponent. He wants to win inside with his hands, meaning he wants to strike the chest of his target while not giving up his own chest. And he wants to gain vertical leverage on the block. “Low man wins” is a phrase every line coach in America has uttered at some point. A line that can do these things, in addition to playing hard and being physical, will be effective.

Munchack’s units tended to be proficient in all these areas. They were not the most physical in the league, but that was largely a part of how the run game had been adapted to accommodate Le’Veon Bell’s unique style, which required more horizontal movement than brute force. They played hard, though, and they were extremely sound from a technical standpoint.

Below we see video of two Steelers’ games from 2018 as evidence. The first clips are against New England and the latter ones against Carolina. In all of them, Steelers’ linemen play with good feet and good hand placement. They move defenders with sound technique. And they finish their blocks, which means they play hard to the whistle.

Take this play against the Patriots. Focus on left guard Ramon Foster (73). Foster’s assignment is to block New England’s one-technique tackle (#90). Because this is a gap block, there is no chip-off to a linebacker. Foster is one-on-one and needs to create movement. He does so by getting his hands inside, making first contact and taking short, choppy steps:

The photo below gives a better view of how Foster wins inside with his hands. Once he’s gotten into the chest of the defender, he’s gained control of the block:

If you watch the clip again, you will see center Maurkice Pouncey block back on the three-tech DT then chip off to get a piece of a defender filling from outside the box. You will see left tackle Alejandro Villanueva finish his block with a shove. You will see right tackle Matt Feiler knock his defender back with a strong punch to the chest then chase the football. This is a line that is executing soundly, playing scrappy and giving great effort.

Here’s another play from the New England game. I like right guard David DeCastro’s block here. Watch how patient he is as he approaches the linebacker milling around at the line of scrimmage. DeCastro can’t tell from the backer’s alignment if he’s coming on a blitz or bailing. So, rather than running at him and putting himself out of position, he takes small steps, keeps his chest square and then violently punches the backer at the point of contact. DeCastro’s strike turns the backer away from the play, eliminating his path to the ball-carrier:

Elsewhere, Foster and Feiler each do a nice job working their feet to create movement while Villanueva wins inside leverage with his hands and manages to lock up the edge player just long enough for running back Jaylen Samuels to scoot through the hole. This is terrific technique and execution by the big guys up front.

Here’s one more versus the Patriots. This is a zone run where the Steelers insert receiver Juju Smith-Schuster to block safety Devon McCourty (32) and leave Pouncey and Foster in a two-on-two combo against New England’s 0-tech nose and the box safety (#23).

Pouncey and Foster (labeled 1 and 2) have a combo block on the corresponding 1 and 2

The Patriots slant their nose to the right. Pouncey steps with him, then quickly redirects to thwart the safety, who is trying to blow the opposite A-gap. Foster, meanwhile, takes over the nose and drives him back inside with a wide base and good footwork. DeCastro also gets good movement (notice his hand placement). The Steelers make four yards from the +10 yard line, which is a win in the run game:

It’s interesting to note that the only lineman who executes poorly is Feiler, who lunges at the edge player (54) rather than moving his feet. Technique matters, and we see why here.

The next few clips are from Pittsburgh’s 2018 game against Carolina. On the first, watch the leg drive from Feiler (71) as he pushes a 4i tackle five yards off the line scrimmage. Feiler gets a nice chip from DeCastro to halt the tackle’s initial charge then simply digs in and moves him. Look at the bend in his left leg as he explodes into the defender. He takes a short first step to get his weight under him then uncoils. This looks just like it would if Feiler were driving a sled in practice:

On the next clip, watch how the feet of all the Steelers’ linemen never stop moving. Foster pulls here, but the five interior blockers (including tight end Vance McDonald) continue to chop away and pound the ground as the play progresses. This keeps them in contact and makes it hard for Carolina’s defenders to disengage (I especially love how Pouncey pursues the play, looking for an extra block, once running back James Conner has gotten upfield):

Finally, on this zone play, watch how square everyone stays up front. No one turns their shoulders (except Pouncey a bit, which became more of an issue for him after Munchack left). By staying square, they cover all gaps and prevent any penetration from Carolina’s front. This allows Conner to find a seam to the edge, where he cuts upfield behind a great block from receiver James Washington (13). Even Washington gets his hands inside and runs his feet on contact. Good habits are contagious when emphasized and taught properly.

The 2020 Steelers Offensive Line

While Sarrett was saddled with a line that was both older and less talented than the units Munchack worked with, his groups lacked the craftwork necessary to compensate.

Here we see them in Week 13 against Washington. In this first clip, there are issues just about everywhere. At tight end, McDonald plays with no base and is caved in by Chase Young. At left tackle, Villanueva’s base is also poor. He lunges at his playside defender and winds up on his face. At left guard, Feiler is too high, gets stood up and is knocked over by McDonald. At center, J.C. Hassenauer generates no power out of his stance. Rather than put force into the ground with his initial steps, he tippy-toes into his block. On the right side of the ball, neither DeCastro nor Okorafor move their feet. The result of the play reflects the line’s failure to get off the ball and use their legs effectively:

On this next clip, I don’t know what the Steelers are running. It feels like a draw because of how the linemen all pop up into pass sets and give ground. But neither Anthony McFarland nor Ben Roethlisberger sell draw. Whatever it is, you can’t block like this. To a man, every Washington defender makes first contact with a Steeler lineman. WFT are the hammers here and the Steelers are the nails. There’s only one word for this. It’s an ugly word that brings shame to offensive linemen like some sort of scarlet letter. The word is soft:

Soft is not in the nature of most linemen. It’s often something that is bred. Pittsburgh, by becoming so reliant on the pass, sapped a good deal of their line’s aggressiveness. The way they were taught to block, and the techniques they used, contributed to their lack of physicality.

On this final clip, the Steelers run a trap play with Feiler (left guard) pulling and kicking out the right edge player. As you can see from the photo below, it’s six to block six in the box. The Steelers should make positive yardage provided they cover up the Washington defenders:

DeCastro and Okorafor have a combo block on the 3-tech and backside linebacker. But they execute as though it’s a reach block on an outside zone play. This opens up the A-gaps like the parting of the Red Sea. McDonald, meanwhile, must climb to the playside backer. He trips over Okorafor, which is something that happens when the line call is miscommunicated. Neither backer gets blocked, and McFarland has nowhere to go with the football:

So, while Klemm is right to establish physicality as the theme of the 2021 line, he can’t ignore the technique and execution issues that hampered the performance of its predecessor. To run the football better, the Steelers will certainly have to knock people off the line of scrimmage. That begins, however, with better stances, better leverage, better footwork and better hand placement. In other words, the little things. When it comes to offensive line play, it’s incredible how much they matter.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: Why the Steelers will reach 60 sacks in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Jason Miller/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 Pittsburgh Steelers defense will reach 60 sacks this season

Steelers Recent Sack Statistics:

2020: 56*
Leader: T.J. Watt (15.0)

2019: 54
Leader: T.J. Watt (14.5)

2018: 52
Leader: T.J. Watt (13.0)

2017: 56*
Leader: Cam Heyward (12.0)

2016: 38
Leader: James Harrison (5.0)

Why it will happen: The Steelers had 56 sacks last season, so one additional regular-season game in which they get four sacks would have them hit the mark. The Steelers were also averaging five sacks a game in the first four weeks of 2020 where Devin Bush played the entire game. Once the Steelers lost Bush, the average fell to three sacks a game. With Bush’s return, even though he is not a player who produces much in the sack department as he’s only had one in each season of his NFL career, he does allow the Steelers to use different schemes and blitzes.

Why it won’t happen: Although the Steelers 2020 sack production took a dive with the loss of Devin Bush, it also suffered in the games without Bud Dupree. Steelers we’re actually on pace to break 60 sacks last season until Dupree was lost for the year. So with Dupree now in Tennessee, the Steelers may not be able to produce the same amount of sacks as they did in 2020. Additionally, if the Steelers are not as strong in the secondary due to the loss of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, quarterbacks may be able to get the ball out quicker than in 2020.

Prediction: I would bet the Steelers set their franchise sack record in 2021 simply because they have an extra game to do so. Whether they get to 60 is the big challenge. Even though Bud Dupree is gone, I’m going with the prediction that they will reach 60 based solely on the numbers. Yes, the Steeler saw less sacks in games where Devin Bush was missing. But when looking at games where Dupree played and Bush did not, the Steelers averaged less than three sacks a game (2.83), but wants to Dupree was out the Steelers average actually went up a little bit (3.0). Therefore, I’m going with the return of Devin Bush will be more than the loss of Bud Dupree. Also, the Alex Highsmith factor has not even been discussed as many are looking for him to take a huge step 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.

Diontae Johnson doing all he can to eliminate drops from his game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 6:00am
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ dynamic receiver is getting unconventional this offseason in hopes of eliminating drops in 2021.

If you were to approach a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and ask them the following question, you could probably guess their response.

“Tell me the first word that comes to mind when you think of Diontae Johnson.”

The responses you could possibly get would be:

“Dynamic”

“Fast”

“Shifty”

But let’s be honest. The most common response would be...

“Drops”

In 2020 Johnson was the team’s leader in dropped passes, and it got to the point where he was benched at one point by head coach Mike Tomlin. It is easy for fans to sit on the couch and yell how it is their job to catch the football. Don’t think Johnson doesn’t realize that. However, Johnson has been working hard this offseason to eliminate drops from his game. The first step was to recognize the problem.

“I have been working on everything,” Johnson told reporters during mandatory minicamp last week. “You can’t focus on one specific thing. Yeah, I had drops last year but that comes with focus and stuff like that. Just having confidence in myself. I have been believing in myself every time and knowing every time that ball comes my way, I am going to make that catch.”

If you are like me, the above answer isn’t enough to have me satisfied Johnson is over the drops in 2021. I want to know exactly what he is doing to help him hold onto the football better this season. As it turns out, Johnson is thinking outside the box in this regard.

“I have been catching on my tennis ball machine I bought this offseason,” said Johnson. “It’s a smaller target so you have to focus on the ball. It’s not a big object coming at you. Now when I catch a football, it’s always been easy to me, but it’s that focus and keeping it.

“Taking your eye off the ball that one split second. That is the main thing. Focus. I have been focusing on catch first, run second.”

Another change which might be coming to the receiving corps is the addition of running back Najee Harris. You might be wondering how Harris, a rookie running back, can impact the receivers. Johnson sees Harris dual threat capability alleviating pressure in the passing game.

“It’s different,” said Johnson of Harris’ pass catching ability. “It takes a lot of pressure off the receivers having a guy like him being able to catch out of the backfield like that. It’s special because it also puts a lot of pressure on the defense too because they have to worry about covering a running back who is capable of catching like a receiver.”

You might not believe a rookie can help motivate veterans, but that is exactly what the Alabama product is doing within the Steelers’ locker room.

“Being around him, his work ethic, how hard practice shows he is hungry and ready to play.” Johnson said.

If Johnson can eliminate the drops, and Harris can impact the offense the way he suggests, fans might be in for a treat this season.

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

Podcast: Setting realistic expectations for the 2021 Steelers offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/22/2021 - 4:30am

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

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

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

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

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

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Eric Ebron excited to see “silky smooth” Pat Freiermuth get started with the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/21/2021 - 2:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers second round pick has impressed Eric Ebron so far this offseason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have never been a team known for their dominating tight ends. They’ve never had a Rob Gronkowski or Tony Gonzalez type player. Sure, Heath Miller was phenomenal, but he wasn’t the athlete of those other tight ends. With that said, the Steelers are hoping their latest addition to the tight end room is going to make the group a more versatile unit.

Already with Eric Ebron on the roster, the retirement of Vance McDonald left the team with just Zach Gentry, Dax Raymond and Kevin Rader as the only tight ends on the roster. Needless to say, something had to be done. That something came in the form of Pat Freiermuth of Penn State being selected in the 2nd round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Freiermuth has already been through Rookie Minicamp and Organized Team Activities (OTAs), but none of those had him really interact with Ebron. During minicamp, that took place and Ebron was impressed with what he saw.

“Pat’s gonna be good, man, Pat’s gonna be pretty good,” Ebron assessed during mandatory minicamp. “It’s hard to dictate what everyone looks like in shorts and helmets, because everyone looks good. But I’m excited to see him grow as a tight end. It’s a lot of information we’re throwing at him. It’s a lot of different things he needs to know at this position.”

Sure, football in shorts isn’t a great way to dictate someone’s true potential, but Ebron sees a ton of potential within Freiermuth.

“I’m just looking forward to see him grow, man. To me, he’s just a smooth playmaker. He’s silky smooth, he doesn’t look like he’s trying too hard and he’s capable of a lot. He asks a lot of questions, which is good. He’s really easy to talk to, which is cool. I look forward to seeing him grow in this league. It’s gonna be fun to watch him.”

Of course, every offensive player who was interviewed during minicamp was asked about Matt Canada and his new offense. Ebron was excited, and hopeful, the tight ends would be more of a focus in the new offense.

“It gets me very excited,” Ebron said. “I think I’ll be featured a lot more. The tight end position, period, I feel like will be featured a lot more. Having Pat and some of the other guys we have, our tight end room is pretty strong.

“From the three days that I’ve been here, well, two, we’ve dominated. And I say that with emphasis because I feel like our room is pretty good and I feel like we should carry a lot of stress upon our room to be great every week because we’re very capable of that, especially in Canada’s offense.”

The thought of watching Freiermuth or Ebron catching passes down the seam and rumbling down the field is certainly enthralling. Then again, we’ve heard this song and dance before, and the proof is in the pudding.

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.

The Steelers Trifecta: Acy, Allen, and Alualu

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/21/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Day 1 of the Steelers Trifecta! Featuring DeMarkus Acy, Marcus Allen, and Tyson Alualu

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:

DeMarkus Acy Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Position: Corner
Age: 23
Year: 2
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 195
Drafted: UDFA 2020 (San Francisco 49ers)
College: Missouri
Roster Outlook: Doubtful
Analysis:

Despite the Steelers need at cornerback, the roster is loaded to the gills with guys with better talent than Acy. DeMarkus Acy’s best shot at making this team is as a practice squad guy. His main competition consists of the long list of Steelers 2021 UDFA cornerbacks and Tre Norwood. Long story short, it will be an up hill battle for Acy.

Marcus Allen Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Linebacker
Age: 24
Year: 4
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 215
Drafted: 2018, Round 5, Pick 148
College: Penn State
Roster Outlook: Bubble
Analysis:

Marcus Allen has carved out a little niche for himself on the Steelers roster. He’s cemented himself as a special teams player and a depth linebacker. But entering his fourth year in the league Allen will need to continue to grow, otherwise he might be shown the door in favor of younger players like Buddy Johnson.

Tyson Alualu Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Position: Defensive Tackle
Age: 34
Year: 13
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 304
Drafted: 2010 Round 1, Pick 10 (Jacksonville Jaguars)
College: California
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

Tyson Alualu replaced Javon Hargrave beautifully in 2020. The Steelers defense didn't miss a beat with the former first-round pick clogging up the middle. Despite nearly losing him at the start of the 2021 offseason, the Steelers managed to retain the services of Alualu and will look to him to play big snaps this year. Alualu is not going anywhere on this roster and will be a staple of the Steelers defensive line until he retires.

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

Keith Bulter ranked as one of the NFL’s best defensive play callers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/21/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Pro Football Focused ranked the top six defensive play callers going into the 2021 season.

Just when I thought all the various position rankings were over from Pro Football Focus, yet another one comes onto the scene. This time, PFF has graced us with a list involving coaches as they released their top six defensive play callers going into the 2021 NFL season.

NFL's best defensive play callers https://t.co/HyKgSBn6Kl

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) June 20, 2021

On the list was Steelers’ defensive coordinator Keith Butler who came in at the third spot. Here is the explanation of the selection according to PFF:

3. KEITH BUTLER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Steelers tied for second in the NFL in yards per play allowed while generating pressure and knocking down the quarterback both at a rate roughly four percentage points higher than any other defense in 2020. This was despite the fact that Bud Dupree and Devin Bush were injured for much of the season.

The Steelers were the NFL’s best team in terms of limiting positive expected points added plays, and they stayed among the league’s top units despite a turnover rate that decreased by roughly one-third from their absurd 2019 season to 2020.

When looking at the success metric of these teams, it’s difficult to tell if it’s exactly from the play calling. Regardless, it was still good to see the Steelers being represented.

Something which Pro Football Focus may not have taken into account, which is also something Steelers fans would like to know themselves, is if defensive coordinator Keith Butler is the person calling the defensive plays. It has been reported that at times head coach Mike Tomlin takes over the play calling duties. Exactly who is making the calls on defense is not exactly known and could vary from game to game.

Looking at how the list shaped up, five of the six teams on the list came from the AFC. The only NFC team represented on the list was Todd Bowles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth spot. The Steelers were not the top team in the AFC North as Baltimore’s Don “Wink” Martindale came in at the second position behind Brandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Whether it be Coach Butler or Coach Tomlin who is making the calls on defense, there is little argument as to the Steelers having a successful defensive unit during the 2020 regular season. Hopefully the defensive play calling can help keep the Steelers defense at or above the same level as the previous year despite the loss of some 2020 starters.

Podcast: Dads of Steel, Fathers Day edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/21/2021 - 11:00am

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

To conclude Father’s Day Week, Steelers fandom between a father and son is again brought to the forefront. Join BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis and his dad with the other side of the Men of Steel. This leads to the topic of the latest episode of the most unique member of BTSC’s family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers Memories
  • Special Guest: BAD and his Dad

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

How a Tennessee quarterback became the future of the Steelers offensive line

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/21/2021 - 10:00am
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

As trades in the NFL occur, it turns from one player into another, into another, into another…

In case you didn’t know, I love tracing back how the Steelers were able to land a certain player based on the previous moves which put them, or the draft pick used to select them, into their hands. Whether it be connecting Santonio Holmes to Diontae Johnson, or Keyaron Fox to James Conner, it’s a fun little exercise in diving into the rabbit hole to see exactly how someone landed with our beloved Steelers.

This time, we begin in 2012 and the eighth overall selection of the NFL draft. After seeing Andrew Luck go number one overall to the Indianapolis Colts ending the Peyton Manning era, they were a couple of top five picks who ended up being NFL busts. First, Trent Richardson did not pan out at running back for the Cleveland Browns at the number three pick, and at number five wide receiver Justin Blackmon had all sorts of trouble with the Jacksonville Jaguars. A member the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019, Mark Barron was the seventh overall pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2012 draft.

While we could reminisce about the entire 2012 draft, the player which starts this process was quarterback Ryan Tannehill who was selected by the Miami Dolphins at the eighth position. After three seasons and a record of 23-25, Tannehill signed a $96 million extension in 2015 which would have kept him with the Dolphins through the 2020 season.

Unfortunately, Tannehill only spent four more years in Miami, three of which he saw the field where his combined record was 19-21. Tannehill missed the Dolphins final three games of the 2016 season, along with their playoff matchup in Pittsburgh, due to a partially torn ACL. After choosing therapy and rehab over surgery, Tannehill ultimately had to have surgery during training camp of the 2017 season. After missing another five games in the middle of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury, the Dolphins chose to move on from Tannehill.

Traded at the beginning of the 2019 league year, Tannehill was moved from the Miami Dolphins to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round draft pick as well as the Dolphins swapping their 2019 sixth-round pick for the Titans 2019 seventh-round pick.

The pick the Titans sent to the Dolphins ended up being the 135th overall pick in 2020. But the Dolphins did not use this draft pick. Instead, it became a part of trade which brought Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers.

Following Week 2 of the 2019 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers acquired safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for their 2020 first-round draft pick. Also included in the deal was the Steelers gaining a fourth-round pick from the Dolphins in exchange for the Steelers fifth-round draft pick in 2020, as well as the Steelers sending their sixth-round pick in 2021 to the Dolphins in exchange for their seventh-round draft pick.

Interesting enough, the Miami Dolphins did not send their own fourth-round draft pick to the Steelers in 2020, but it was the draft pick they acquired from trading Ryan Tannehill to Tennessee. With this draft pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kevin Dotson with the 135th overall selection.

Dotson surprised many in his rookie year with the Steelers despite not even being invited to the NFL combine. Going into the 2021 season, Dotson is projected to be the Steelers starter at left guard.

So there is the connection. The Miami Dolphins eighth overall draft pick in 2012 helped lead to the Steelers drafting Kevin Dotson in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL draft. It was the fourth-round draft pick the Dolphins acquired for Ryan Tannehill, which ended up being a part of the package sent to the Steelers along with Minkah Fitzpatrick.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: Why Najee will break Franco’s rookie rushing records

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/21/2021 - 8:30am
Handout Photo-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: Najee Harris breaks Franco Harris’ Steelers rookie rushing records

Franco Harris 1972 Statistics:

Games: 14
Attempts: 188
Yards: 1,055
TDs: 10
Yards/Attempt: 5.6
Yards/Game: 75.4

Why it will happen: There are a lot of reasons why Najee Harris will be given every opportunity to break the above rushing records. Harris is entering the NFL to a team which loves to have a bell cow back. Mike Tomlin does not like a running back by committee approach. Never has, and likely never will. Harris will be given plenty of carries, and with his experience he will be provided tons of carries. Let’s also not forget in 1972, Franco Harris’ rookie season, he played in just 14 games. With 17 games in 2021, Najee Harris will have every opportunity, by way of three more games, to break these records if he can stay healthy.

Why it won’t happen: There is no doubt Harris is a tremendous talent, and will likely be in the NFL for at least the next decade. But the Steelers have been Exhibit A of ‘you need to have an offensive line who can open holes’ regardless of the running back. There is so much uncertainty surrounding the Steelers’ offensive line. Gone are Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler via free agency, Maurkice Pouncey retired and Chukwuma Okorafor will be moving from right tackle to left tackle. With such uncertainty it makes you wonder if even a talent like Harris can thrive. Then there are the injury concerns. No, Najee Harris doesn’t have a history of injuries, but you see injuries to running backs every season. That would kill his overall productivity.

Prediction: While Harris will have three extra games to break this record, and as great as I think Najee Harris will be for the Steelers, I don’t see him breaking Franco’s rookie rushing records. Could he break Franco’s 1,235 total yards? Possibly, but I see Najee Harris finishing just shy of the 1,000 yard mark. However, his versatility as a pass catcher will get him well over 1,000 total yards. Could he pass Franco’s total yardage mark? That’s a scenario for another time...

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.

Are miserable Steelers’ fans really fans of the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/21/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

If nothing the Steelers do is right or gives you any joy, do you even like them?

Chances are you know at least one. Even if it’s not someone you know personally, there’s that person who has to comment on every article or social media post who acts like nothing more than a Browns fan in disguise.

Nothing is right.

The sky is always falling.

There is no hope.

I’m sure every fan base has them, but being a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers I see those people who are never happy. Even when the Steelers win, there’s always something wrong. This player didn’t play well. They should have scored more points. They shouldn’t have given up that field goal. It’s always something.

And it’s not just during the season. The Steelers salary cap situation is as bad as it’s ever been and there’s nothing they can do to recover. The Steelers aren’t signing any players. The Steelers signed a player but they’re not the right player. The Steelers didn’t draft the best player they should have. The Steelers traded up in the draft when they should have traded back.

It goes on and on and on…

Seriously. It never stops. The misery and loathing in regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers is a 24/7 hobby for some people. I refer to them as “miserable Steelers fans.”

I find myself asking this question: Are these people who are never happy and can’t take anything positive or find any joy in the Pittsburgh Steelers, do they really love the Steelers? Are they really fans of this franchise?

Before going on, I have to say the type of fan I am not speaking about. Just because there’s something about the Steelers you don’t like doesn’t mean you fit into this category. There is a difference between looking at things realistically (the “realistic Steelers fan”) and always trying to find the negative in everything.

For example, let’s say the Steelers won a game 38–0. The realistic Steelers fan enjoys the triumphs but still wants to look at the team shortcomings and how they can improve for the next game. The miserable fan can’t even enjoy the victory. Instead they comb over the five incomplete passes in the game and breakdown how they should have been completions. Or they look at the four other players that should have gone for touchdowns, or the play that should have been a sack and ended up being a 3 yard completion on 3rd & 17. Or that the Steelers had to settle for one field goal among their other touchdowns.

Another test between the realistic fan and the miserable fan would be the moment following a Steelers Super Bowl victory. Are they celebrating, silently taking in the whole experience, or vocally saying how many free agents the Steelers have the coming offseason and how there is no chance the Steelers can repeat?

I hope now you see the difference.

So getting back to the question: Are miserable Steelers fans actually fans of the Steelers?

Yes, they are.

As annoying as they can be to us “possibly too optimistic Steelers fans,” the miserable Steelers fans are simply expressing their emotion in a different way than others. This is how some people live their life. Some people aren’t happy unless they are miserable. Nothing is ever good, nothing is ever positive, and the misery they feel is what makes life what it is. Some people want to feel very strong emotions towards the Steelers, and the strongest emotion they can feel is misery and disgust.

And that’s okay.

There are many types of Steelers fans. There are the crazy fans who dress up when they go to games. I admit I fall into this category. There are fans that hardly have any item in their wardrobe that doesn’t have a Steelers logo or is either black or gold. So far I’m two for two. There are also fans I think the Steelers can do no wrong. They’re also fans they can point out flaws but still love the team. There are also fans that can only look at the worst in everything and dwell on it like nothing else. But they all bring something to the fan base.

A good example of how these types of emotions can work together is the Pixar movie Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about the mind of a young girl and how it is controlled by the five major emotions of joy, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness all personified as different characters. In the end, all the emotions realize that they need each other in order to make the person complete.

This is Steelers’ Nation. Sometimes we need the person who could never find anything good going on with the Steelers to keep those who can never find any bad in check. Perhaps we should appreciate them for who they are and not question their love for the black and gold.

Alright, we don’t have to question their love, but I don’t know if will ever fully appreciate it. If you want to bring the negativity, that’s fine. But you also have to understand that a lot of times many Steelers fans just get tired of it coming out constantly, and I do mean constantly, and prefer to just move on and high-five somebody else. And if you don’t appreciate it when other types of Steelers fans views you as a “closet fan of the Mistake by The Lake,” please realize that it’s just really hard to tell the difference most of the time.

It makes perfect sense Ben Roethlisberger will do things he wants in Matt Canada’s offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/21/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Did you really think Matt Canada would come in and force Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to adopt an entirely new offensive philosophy? I mean, get real.

People use the term “clickbait” a great deal in expressing their displeasure over particular articles. For example, when I wrote that Kendrick Green, the Steelers newest third-round draft choice, could actually go on to become the greatest center in franchise history, at least one person accused me of clickbait...I guess because of an ability they thought I had for being able to know such things way ahead of time?

That’s not clickbait. You know what clickbait actually is? A headline that reads: “You’ll never guess what Big Ben refuses to do this summer at Steelers training camp” followed by an article about how Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won’t be trimming his beard until the start of the regular season.

Clickbait might be a thing when it comes to certain articles, but you know what’s an even bigger problem on the Internet? People not reading articles. That’s right, people don’t read.

I guess that’s why it was really easy for the media to dupe Steelers fans into being extremely angry last week by taking one quote from a press conference with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada—“We are going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it”—and run that sucker into the ground. If you would have just searched out Canada’s whole quote—again, I realize lots of folks don’t like to read, but I found the entire thing on YouTube—you would have gained a broader perspective of what he really meant.

And what Canada meant was that he wants Roethlisberger to run the plays and do the things that he’s most comfortable with...within the framework of his offensive system.

I knew that before I even found Canada’s interview on YouTube. Why? Because it makes total sense, that’s why. But the media knew a lot of fans wouldn’t go digging; they’d just see that quote and head for the nearest bridge. Why? Because many Steelers fans were presupposing that Canada would come in and try to force-feed Roethlisberger a radical new offensive scheme.

That was never, ever going to happen. Canada wasn’t brought in to totally overhaul the Steelers offense and make Roethlisberger become a completely different player at the age of 39. That just wouldn’t make sense, and it would have been a horrible business decision.

Heck, Todd Haley didn’t even do that after he was hired to be the Steelers’ new offensive coordinator in 2012. Nope, he simply followed Art Rooney II’s edict and helped Roethlisberger “tweak” the way he played. Roethlisberger became a much better and more efficient passer under Haley, but he didn’t radically change the way he played quarterback. Why? Because the way he had been doing it up to that point was incredibly effective.

You can say the same for the 2021 version of Roethlisberger. The Steelers offense struggled down the stretch in 2020, but it started out looking mostly unstoppable. In my opinion, Canada was hired to smooth out the rough edges that made the offense so anemic by the end of the 2020 campaign. In other words, he was brought in to “tweak” the scheme and game-plan and find what works best for all involved.

Of course, there’s also the “He’s too big for his britches” perception of Roethlisberger that gets under the skin of a lot of folks. When they see a quote such as, “Do what he wants to do,” it just rubs them the wrong way.

“He should just shut up and call the plays that he’s told to call.” Oh, really? You want someone like Roethlisberger, who has accomplished so much during his legendary career, to just do what he’s told? You don’t want him offering any input? You don’t want him offering any suggestions based on the countless defenses he’s had to read and break down over the past 17 seasons?

That doesn’t seem logical, nor does it make sense to assume that Canada’s new system will be much different from what Roethlisberger has known up to this point. To reiterate, Roethlisberger has been pretty darn good at his job since coming into the league in 2004.

If you’re Canada, you want to incorporate a lot of what Roethlisberger knows, likes and does well into your new offensive system.

That’s what any good coach would do, and it’s still up in the air as to whether or not Canada is a good coach.

Will the terminology be different? That’s a question we can already answer with a definitive “Yes!” But that was part of the reason why Canada was hired in the first place. He was brought in to make the offense less predictable and more creative.

Canada wasn’t hired to seize total control of the unit and make Roethlisberger one of his foot soldiers.

One of Mike Tomlin's smartest decisions, when he was hired to be the Steelers’ new head coach back in 2007, was keeping Dick LeBeau on as his defensive coordinator. It would have been easy for Tomlin, a former defensive coordinator in his own right, to come in and say, “This is my ship, and I’m the captain.” However, he knew a good thing when he saw it. Perhaps, Tomlin knew that a collaborative approach would have been better.

Maybe that’s how Canada feels about working with his first professional franchise quarterback.

Even if Canada doesn’t feel that way, he probably knows that’s the smart move.

Ben Roethlisberger doing what he wants will always be what’s best for the Steelers and their offense.

Hmmm, maybe I should have made that my headline. It’s very clickbaity.

Podcast: What will it take for Ben Roethlisberger to silence the doubters?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/21/2021 - 4:30am

C0-editorJeff Hartman presents his AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the Monday episode of “Let’s Ride“.

Ben Roethlisberger threw 38 touchdown passes, but still he’s washed up in a lot of people’s eyes. But there’s so much to suggest otherwise. What will it take for the legendary Steelers QB to silence his doubters? 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 Ben Roethlisberger to silence the doubters?
  • 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.

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/20/2021 - 2:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

Monday 6/14
  • Mike Sullivan, the new QB Coach of the Steelers, said this week that he’s a big fan of the Penguins and their namesake head coach and would like to meet him. I’ve got an idea, why not set a date for the Tuesday after the Super Bowl on a Pittsburgh street during a parade?
Tuesday 6/15
  • The Scho Bro Show kicked off Father’s Day Week by having a Steeler Dad on the show, Sam Highsmith. What a great interview. Dave and Rich did not comply with my wishes to see if he wanted to adopt a 49-year old podcast producer to take to games.
Wednesday 6/16
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster announced that he had hired a new agent. There’s no word yet, but there’s a possibility that the now pink-haired wide receiver has the same representation as Strawberry Shortcake.
Thursday 6/17
  • There was a lot of speculation of why David DeCastro wasn’t active during mandatory minicamp, despite being there. I don’t think it’s a big deal. It’s kind of when a friend asks me to help them move and I volunteer to take pictures.
Friday 6/18
  • The Steelers hosted yet another free agent, Trai Turner, without tendering a contract. It reminds me of the days when my blind dates never asked me for another date.

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

The interview with Sam Highsmith can be heard below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Would you rather the Steelers sign Trai Turner or Malik Hooker?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/20/2021 - 12:41pm
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

One player fills a need but could there be a bigger issue we don’t know about?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been busy bees lately, bringing in plenty of veteran players for free agency visits. However, none of these visits have resulted in contracts yet. This begs the question whether the Steelers are trying to sign players right now or simply having a plan ready in the event of an injury. Perhaps Kevin Colbert and company just want to know who they would sign if someone isn't ready to go at training camp or gets hurt early on in the season. But what about the last two guys the Steelers brought into their facility?

Five-time Pro-Bowl guard Trai Turner wrapped up a visit today with the Pittsburgh Steelers, per source.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 18, 2021

Malik Hooker and Trai Turner are two players that have been battling injuries as of late. But when healthy, both players are as good as anyone at their positions. The Steelers very clearly don’t have much depth safety at all so giving Hooker a shot to be a rotational player makes a lot of sense. Guard, on the other hand, is seemingly a position of strength for the Steelers yet they brought in the former five-time Pro Bowler for a visit. Instantly we all worried about the health or passion of David DeCastro who battled injuries last year and also admitted his heart wasn't fully in on football without fans in the stands.

With about $7.4 million in remaining salary space, the Steelers would only likely sign one more player before the start of the 2021 season (if they sign anyone at all). By bringing in Malik Hooker the Steelers would have three starting capable safeties and would be able to play all three on any given snap. In Trai Turner the Steelers would either have a replacement for David DeCastro or continue to bolster the depth of their offensive line.

If there is in fact something going on with DeCastro, bringing in another guard is clearly the biggest need. But if it’s simply a depth signing I think Hooker would have a much larger impact than any backup caliber offensive lineman as the starters generally play 100% of the snaps.

But what would you do? Would you rather the Steelers sign Trai Turner or Malik Hooker? Hit up the poll and share your thoughts down in the comments below.

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