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Happy Father’s Day to all of Steelers Nation!!

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/20/2021 - 11:30am
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On this Father’s Day we celebrate the dads in our lives, and remember those who may have left us.

Today is a day we honor fathers. Some might be new fathers, some might not be fathers, but either way today is a day to celebrate anyone who has stepped up as a father figure in our lives.

We here at BTSC wish everyone a very Happy Father’s Day!!

This year we decided to do something different on the podcast side of things. We had several podcasters provide their own tales of their fathers, and how their love for the Pittsburgh Steelers was instilled by these people. For some, the message turned from their fathers, to them now being fathers and raising their children in the black and gold.

You can check out all the podcasts below, but feel free to let this comment section be your sounding board/tool to write about the father who are/were in your lives.

Again, a very Happy Father’s Day to everyone out there! Hopefully your day is a special one!

Podcast: Predictable or unpredictable? That’s the question

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/20/2021 - 11:00am

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

The offseason rolls on, mini-camp complete and fans’ anticipation continues to rise.

On last week’s show, Matty dropped a “what the heck?” bombshell to end the show, this week Marky D has issued a ‘please explain notice’ - so buckle up Steeler fans and BTSC listeners this is “gonna be a fun one” as they say down under!

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

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • ‘Slingin’ the Slang’
  • A review of Matty’s “What The Heck 5?” and their prospects this season and beyond:
  1. Cassius Marsh
  2. Derek Watt
  3. Henry Mondeaux
  4. Marcus Allen
  5. Jaylen Samuels
  • Plus MUCH MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Of the two lost for the 2020 season, who will have the bigger impact for the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/20/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Both Devin Bush and Zach Banner will return to the lineup in 2021, but which will have a bigger impact this year?

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost several players to injury throughout the 2020 season. Players like Bud Dupree have gone to new teams for the upcoming season, but two players who tore ACLs in their knees will return and be expected to have big roles with the team in 2021.

Those players would be inside linebacker Devin Bush and offensive tackle Zach Banner.

Both Bush and Banner are expected to have massive roles with the Steelers this season. Bush is going to be resuming his role as the main cog on the interior of the defense, and Banner will finally get an opportunity to hold the right tackle position he won prior to the 2020 season.

The crux of this article is based on a difficult question for fans to answer, and that is who will have a bigger impact for the team in 2021?

Making the case for Bush, his absence last year was definitely noticeable. Robert Spillane filled in nicely, but he isn’t near the athlete of Bush. The return of Bush won’t just have a Top 10 draft pick returning to the starting lineup, but will allow the likes of Spillane, Vince Williams, Ulysees Gilbert III and rookie Buddy Johnson to fill roles which aren’t going to require a ton of snaps played. On top of that, it still stands how Williams, when paired with an athletic linebacker, can still be a tremendous piece of the defensive puzzle.

Bush returning to the lineup has a tremendous impact not just on the inside linebacker position, but also the entire defense. He’s that good.

With Banner, as the Steelers go through an overhaul of the offensive line, Banner’s experience, although not as a starter is valuable. In an offseason when the Steelers saw Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler leave via free agency, Maurkice Pouncey retire and Chukwuma Okorafor slide from right tackle to left tackle, experience comes at a premium.

Getting into specifics, many question Banner’s overall ability as a starting tackle, but if you are wondering about his skill set it resides as a run blocker. Question Banner’s pass blocking, and it would be warranted. The majority of his experience with the Steelers has been as a blocking tight end. Banner is just what the doctor ordered for Pittsburgh’s abysmal running game. Judgement will have to be held for Banner’s ability to protect Ben Roethlisberger.

Regardless, Banner will be a huge part of the offense in 2021.

With all that said, the time now comes for you, the reader, to predict who will have the bigger impact on the Steelers in 2021? Will it be Bush’s return to the linebacker position, or Banner anchoring the right side of the offensive line? Let us know what you think in the poll below, and be sure to explain your vote in the comment section below!

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the regular season.

Steelers Fact or Fiction: Don’t jump to conclusions and Mickey Mouse Club edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/20/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

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

There’s always so much to talk about when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the inquiries surrounding the black-and-gold are definitely ever-evolving, especially this week with David DeCastro on the sidelines at mandatory minicamp, Matt Canada making interesting comments about the use of Ben Roethlisberger in his scheme and the Steelers hosting another free agent. It seems like the musical selection that best fits this week’s Fact or Fiction could be the Annette Funicello’s Don’t jump to conclusions.

Here’s a sample...

So be careful gals and guy

take a tip and you’d be wise

If you want to minimize confusion

Don’t jump--- jump to conclusions

We had a country square dance and a dozen village boys

asked my cousin Kate to take her there

But Kate she waited till to late to pick her date

because she thought she’d rate the local millionaire

She jumped--- Jumped to conclusions

Shattered her illusions

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

Are we on point? Only time will tell.

Again, fans can not get overly excited when a free agent visits the Steelers Fact

The free agent visit has become nothing but a tease for Steeler Nation. But it doesn’t need to be looked at that way. Karl Joseph visited in team at the end of March and left without a contract. Joseph ended up with his old team in a new locale, Las Vegas. In early June, free agent Malik Hooker was at the facilities to talk with the Men of Steel about playing in a defensive backfield that includes Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. Again, wining and dining leads to no signing. With Trai Turner visiting now on Friday, fans are wondering again if the team is going to add to the roster. Don’t bet on it. Turner, cut by the Chargers in March, left without a deal too. It’s okay for the team to bring in a player, kick the tires and make the decision to decline if said player doesn’t fit their needs. So when a player that is still on the market in June visits, we should be glad that the front office is doing their due diligence.

David DeCastro is done with the Steelers Fiction

Holy Gramoly! We are reading way too much into David DeCastro, while present, not participating in mandatory minicamp. Even here at BTSC, we are speculating that there could be a problem with the All-Pro Guard. Let’s all take a step back relax and examine the facts. DeCastro, while still having been selected to the Pro Bowl again in 2020. had a down season, the first in his career. That less-than-stellar year could be attributed to injuries that No. 66 was hampered with all season. That could very well be part of the reason that DeCastro has not been on the practice field and doing drills. This is not based on a contract dispute, wanting to retire or being angry that his friends (Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva) are no longer with the team. Dave’s a quiet and reserved player and doesn’t gravitate towards the camera. Maybe he’s just taking it easy later in his career. Let’s not leap to conclusions.

Don’t rely on just a soundbite when it comes to statements from coaches and players Fact

I’ve said it all along about headlines, especially on social media, read the entire article or listen to the full interview. When Matt Canada said that “We are going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it.”, that’s what’s going to make the headlines. But listen to the rest, “Our job is putting every player in a position to make plays.”, furthered Canada. So on the surface, it seems like the team is going to defer to Ben’s wants and stroke his ego. But that’s not what’s going on here. Canada is simply saying that he will craft the scheme to fit Ben’s skill set. But understand that this quote doesn’t mean that Ben isn’t willing to learn a new offense, because he’s been doing it. Sometimes a headline skews the true reality of the situation.

The Steelers are not trading for Xavien Howard or Stephon Gilmore Fact

Nor are they making a deal for Aaron Rodgers. Every time a player is on the trade block, a large faction in Steeler Nation wants the team to pursue a trade. Since it actually happened with Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019, it isn’t impossible and out of the question. But anytime that a player wants to leave a team due to a dispute with their employer, you immediately have to wonder if the source of the unpleasantness will be replicated with their next franchise. Howard is vastly underpaid and Gilmore really wants to win. Minkah, a second-year player on a tanking team, was different. Although the Steelers did not trade for him, the Joe Haden situation was different. Typically, players with contract beefs aren’t the right fit for the Steelers. I always contend that the Steelers will find money if they want a player bad enough, but I don’t see them sacrificing precious draft capital at this juncture happening.

T.J. Watt will again not be named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 Fiction

Mark it down...this is the year that the youngest Watt brother gets his due. Many people felt that Trent Jordan was robbed last year and even I was greatly disappointed. But Aaron Donald is already a Hall of Famer and a player from out of this world. However, if Watt duplicates his dominance of last season, I actually see voters checking the box next to No. 90

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

Adrian Klemm describes how the new Steelers offensive mentality isn’t an option

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/20/2021 - 7:00am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers want to be more physical, and this isn’t an option for the offensive line.

Are you an old school football fan?

Do you like smash mouth football?

How often do you find yourself longing for three yards and a cloud of dust?

Well, if I just described you in the previous statements, you should absolutely love the Pittsburgh Steelers new offensive line coach, Adrian Klemm.

Klemm, a former player in the NFL, prides himself in physicality and aggressiveness. If you think a lineman for Klemm is going to be playing patty cake with the defender opposite him, you might want to think again.

During the Steelers’ three day mandatory minicamp, media were able to speak with Klemm and ask him a variety of questions about the upcoming season. Klemm didn’t hold back, or disappoint.

“You can’t stray away from it,” Klemm said referring to the physicality required in 2021 along the line. “You set the tone for what it’s going to be and you create an environment in a room, carry that out to the field. You’re demanding of it every, single day.

“It’s not that we’re trying to find ourselves; this is who we’re gonna be. If you’re gonna live in this world that’s how we’re gonna live. If you can’t do it, you’ll be at home or you’ll be on the sideline with a hat on. It’s not a democracy in our room; this is what it is.”

Well, then. Not much wiggle room when it comes to interpretation from the new line coach. But don’t think Klemm is one of those “all talk” type of coaches. He realizes the road the Steelers’ offensive line still has to travel, and it won’t be easy.

“It’s not about talking about it every day,” Klemm said. “It’s about (new offensive coordinator) Matt (Canada) designing plays that put us in situations that we can be physical. It’s about making it so there’s not that need for a ton of communication and plays where guys have to do a lot of reading and thinking. It’s running and taking advantage of their natural athleticism and allowing them to be physical. Not overcomplicating things, simplifying things where we can so they can be as physical as possible.

“The majority of our guys already have it in them. Once you create that culture, you just feed off of it and you grow. We’re nowhere near where we need to be but there’s been some gains made in that direction and it’s encouraging and I’m excited about it.”

Steelers fans don’t need to be reminded about the dismal running attack in Pittsburgh last season. Finishing dead last in yards per carry, and yards per game. This is something which didn’t just get Mike Tomlin’s attention. No, it went all the way to the top, to Art Rooney II.

“But I think up front, the mindset of what we are trying to do, again the charge from Mr. Rooney to be more physical, to run the football as an offensive lineman, you are going to like that.” Offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. “We are going to come off the ball and we are going to do that.

“That doesn’t mean we are going to run the ball a million times or anything like that. But giving them an opportunity to be more aggressive.”

Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp certainly isn’t enough to give fans a warm, fuzzy feeling about the team’s running game in 2021; however, the Steelers seem dedicated to changing the offensive philosophy under Canada and Klemm and a revamped offensive line.

The results for their work won’t be known immediately, but it will become evident starting in training camp at the end of July. So 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.

Introducing BTSC’s countdown to 2021 Steelers training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/20/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Looking to ease your Steelers fix during the downtime of summer? Behind The Steel Curtain has you covered.

It’s finally here. The dreaded dog days of summer. The Pittsburgh Steelers have concluded 2021 minicamp and have now scattered to various places and will not reconvene until training camp at the end of July.

So what are Steelers’ fan supposed to do to pass the time? Behind The Steel Curtain is here to help.

Tomorrow, Monday, June 21, BTSC will begin two 30-day series leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 training camp. Even though both the starting date and location of training camp this year has yet to be announced, we will still be bringing you all the content leading up to it. The NFL has given the Steelers permission to start training camp on July 21 due to playing in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday, August 5. If this is the date the Steelers reconvene to prepare for the 2021 season, Monday will mark 30 days from when this will occur.

So what will you see from Behind The Steel Curtain? Two separate daily articles coming at you from deputy editor Michael Beck, editor Dave Schofield, and senior editor Jeff Hartman. Here’s how they will break down:

Steelers Trifecta

Similar to what Michael Beck brought last year as he covered the 90 players on the Steelers offseason roster in 90 days, this year it’s coming the 30 days before training camp starts. Every day there will be three players featured in order to help you get to know every member of the Steelers 90-man roster. Articles will be covered by either Michael Beck or Dave Schofield over this time.

30 Predictions in 30 Days

Counting down the days to training camp, senior editor Jeff Hartman and editor Dave Schofield will bring 30 different predictions for the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers. Some may be simple, some may be complex, and some may be a little bit out there, but we will do our best to get you prepared for what to expect from a 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers.

So there are two articles you can look forward to every day between now and training camp. We hope they will help you get through this downtime of the year. And, as always, GO STEELERS!

Podcast: Call it a comeback in throwbacks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/20/2021 - 5:30am

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

Our journey in the BTSC Delorean to Steeler yesteryear begins in a time when Timecop was tops with moviegoers and I’ll Make Love To Youby Boyz II Men was the hottest song on the radio. Meanwhile, the 1-1 Steelers were taking on a quarterback they’ve never beaten to that point and trying to avoid falling in a hole early in the season.

Welcome to September 18, 1979.

Flash back to an awesome classic on the Steelers Retro Show and join BTSC’s Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis as they go back in time and relive another memorable game. This time it’s the Steelers hosting Jim Harbaugh and the Indianapolis Colts at Three Rivers Stadium.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • What was happenin’ in 1994
  • The Steelers host the Colts
  • and MUCH MORE!

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Saturday Night Open Thread: Happy Fathers Day Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/19/2021 - 6:00pm
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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

I’ll ask you all to indulge this crazy canuck a bit tonight...

Tomorrow will be a bit of a bittersweet day for me. On the positive side, I have children (and the incredible Mrs. Canuck) to celebrate with, and we have a full day planned. I will be showered with affection as a good Dad deserves. However, this will also mark the 20th Father’s Day without my Dad.

I miss him, his friendship, his laugh, his uncanny ability to stir the pot, certainly his counsel, but most of all, I miss what could have been. I missed out on having a chance to really celebrate the birth of my children. He was still alive for the birth of our first, but he was pretty sick by then and a shell of his former self. I missed out on having him attend my son’s hockey games. He would have been over the moon happy with the grades that my kids got. He always busted on us...if you pulled an 87 on a test he would literally say “That’s nice, but what happened to the other 13 %”… But again, I simply miss him, him presence, his laugh, his thoughts, his words and his love.

My Dad had his faults, like the rest of us, but he was MY Dad. He was a huge influence in my life and taught me countless important life lessons. He loved all his kids and was ridiculously proud of each of us. I am his carbon copy in that respect.

Please don’t read this and be down. No good father would want his kid to feel down due to anything about him and I know mine certainly would feel that way. However, it truly is bittersweet that my life has many of the things that he preached about and we cannot enjoy it together. He had simple wants and needs - good food, a good book, good friends and good times. Honesty, integrity and respect were the words he lived by to allow him to get those ‘simple things’.

Family meant everything to him and thus it is everything to me. And I do mean everything. Canuck Sr. was a straight shooter who often went out of his way to emphasize or illustrate life lessons that reinforced “that family was the most important thing in life”. I will surely be thinking of him tomorrow throughout the course of the day. I will also be thinking of my 2 brothers tomorrow. Dad would be incredibly proud of them and the kids that they have done a fantastic job raising.

To all you Dads out there, I hope you have a great day tomorrow. To those of you that are lucky enough to have your Dad still around I certainly hope you can give him a hug tomorrow (fist bumps are so 2020 after all). Tell him what he really means to you. Tell your kids too.

Lastly, If you are a dad, take a minute to take it all in. I am sure you have started your own amazing legacy.

Hopefully my thoughts are shared by you...

On to the questions...

  1. Alex Highsmith’s father is on twitter and he regularly posts about his son. This is something that is relatively new. Is this a Dad being a proud Dad, is this Dad helping promote his son’s brand or is it something else entirely?
  2. The Steelers have a long entrenched tradition of success. What would you say is the most important part of that tradition come game day?
  3. Last night late in the Habs vs. Knights game Marc Andre Fleury had a horrible gaff (worse than the earlier gaff by Staal). What is your most memorable gaff that allowed the Steelers to win? If you can’t recall one, you can just settle for any NFL gaff but it can’t be obvious (looking at you Leon Lett).
  4. Best gift you gave or received for fathers day?
  5. What are your plans for tomorrow? Are able to see your pops (or your father in law - come on, we can suffer together)? What special things are planned or are you anticipating surprises? Lastly, and naturally, what is on the menu?

Do the Steelers have something up their sleeves?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/19/2021 - 2:00pm

Plenty of free agents visits suggest the Steelers have some sort of roster plan.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had their names come across the NFL Network ticker an unusual amount of times for this time of year. Typically the only roster moves the Steelers make between May-July are signing their draft picks to entry level contracts. Instead we have found out the Steelers have hosted a trio of free agents. Those three players being Ryan Kerrigan (signed with the Philadelphia Eagles), Malik Hooker, and Trai Turner. On top of that, the Steelers brash have also expressed interest in finding depth at outside linebacker. All in all the Pittsburgh Steelers roster appears far from complete.

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

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 18, 2021

The equation remains, why are the Steelers bringing these guys in?

Aside from the simple due diligence answer, I think this team realizes some of the glaring holes they have behind their starters. After T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith are a pair of speed rushers that struggle to defend the run. After Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds isn’t anyone of note. And behind David DeCastro and Kevin Dotson are B.J. Finney and Rashaad Coward, who were awful in 2020. Perhaps the Steelers are getting on top of their roster flaws by filling these holes before an injury can occur. In doing so the team will have quality players that know the playbook can immediately step up in the event of an injury.

Former #Colts first-round safety Malik Hooker spent yesterday visiting the #Steelers, source said. He has also visited the #Dolphins and the #Cowboys this offseason.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 4, 2021

The Steelers could also be deploying an idea I wrote about back in January. Waiting until cap space dollars across the league dried up, and offering a number of veteran free agents contracts to at least be in the league for the 2021 season. The salary cap dropping eliminated a number of jobs for the NFL’s veteran middle class, and if these players want to continue earning an NFL pay day most of them would be wise to sign any contract, and make it until the cap rebounds.

Teams that showed the most interest in Ryan Kerrigan were the Eagles, Steelers and Bengals. But he opted to stay in NFC East. https://t.co/hIopweFdDA

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 17, 2021

There’s also the ‘super-team’ idea where one of the 32 NFL teams convinces a number of veteran free agents to sign with their team for minimum money in hopes of winning a Super Bowl. The Super Bowl pay bump is real, and free agents coming off a championship run typically garner premium assets on the open market.

Could the Steelers be trying to pull off any of these plans? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

What are the Steelers best and worst contracts ahead of the 2021 season?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/19/2021 - 12:15pm
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Although performance on the field is what most fans are looking for, comparing it to a player’s salary is a whole different monster.

The 2021 NFL offseason has been unlike anything we’ve seen before. For the first time since the salary cap was implemented in 1994 there was a reduction in the number causing teams to have to make tough decisions and get creative with their contract structures this year.

For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers began implementing void years into their contracts this offseason in order to lower the salary cap number for 2021. The Steelers did this with Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Sutton, Eric Ebron, and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

With all these deals and contracts going on, what contract has been deemed the best that the Pittsburgh Steelers have on their books? The obvious follow up question is: Which one is the worst?

Pro Football Focus recently outlined what each AFC team’s best and worst contract is going into the 2021 season. This is based off of their metrics and scoring, so the conclusions they come to may not fall in line with the typical thinking.

Best and worst contracts for every AFC team @PFF_Brad breaks them down https://t.co/BlFgStdsii

— PFF (@PFF) June 15, 2021

First of all, rookie contracts don’t count. These deals are almost always the best as players are controlled for the Steelers for at least four seasons at a reduced rate.

Before looking at PFF‘s results, remember this is coming from a source which is not always over-familiar with the Steelers. They are probably looking at each one based solely on numbers and not spending much time debating if it’s actually true. It you are expecting these conclusions to hold up well to scrutiny, you may be disappointed.

So which contract did PFF deem the best for the Steelers? Shockingly, it’s from the third-highest salary cap number for 2021 in defensive end Stephon Tuitt.

Best: Interior defender Stephon Tuitt — Five years, $60 million ($0 in remaining guarantees)

Cameron Heyward is the interior defender with name recognition in Pittsburgh, and for good reason, but Stephon Tuitt is a star in his own right. Since signing this extension in 2017, Tuitt has earned an 89.0 PFF grade (16th among interior defenders) with an 81.5 pass-rush grade (11th among interior defenders). His 29 tackles for loss or no gain also rank 11th among interior defenders, and his 170 pressures rank 10th.

With two years remaining on his deal, some believe Stephon Tuitt could do a restructure in order to save the Steelers some cap space. Unfortunately, being a subject which I’ve talked about extensively, a restructure for Tuitt does bring some complications based on the fact his contract was signed under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement and the fact the NFL added a 17th game.

What is interesting is that PFF feels the Steelers are getting great value for Tuitt, but the fact that he signed his contract in 2017 meant that they were playing 2017 prices. So it does make sense in that regard.

So what about the Steelers worst contract going into 2021? For that one, PFF went with the second-highest paid fullback in the NFL who only saw 52 offensive snaps in 2020.

Worst: Fullback Derek Watt — Three years, $9.75 million ($0 in remaining guarantees)

This is one of those contracts that falls in the poor relative value category. Watt is the second-highest-paid fullback in the NFL, at $3.25 million per year — one of just seven fullbacks making more than $1 million a year. In his first season in Pittsburgh in 2020, he finished with the 16th-best grade (42.0) among 19 fullbacks who played at least 25 offensive snaps. He does provide special teams value, but that’s probably not enough to justify this contract.

It’s hard to argue against the choice of Watt being the worst contract the Steelers have at this time. The bigger question is if it’s a bad contract.

As PFF mentioned, it’s the special teams aspect Derek Watt brings to the table which is also a factor. Honestly, I would look at Derek Watt more as a special teams player who also plays fullback. In 2020, Watt saw four times as many snaps on special teams in the 12 games he was healthy.

If comparing Watt to another special teams player who only fills in occasionally at their primary position, a good place to start would be former seventh-round draft pick of the Steelers in Tyler Matakevich. Last season in Buffalo, Matakevich saw 343 special team snaps while only 72 defensive snaps in 16 games. If looking at the snaps on a per-game basis to compare to Derek Watt since he only played in 12 games, they line up very similar.

In looking at the contracts of these players, Matakevich signed a two-year deal for $7.15 million going into 2020 while Watt signed a three-year deal for $9.75 million. With Matakevich signing an extension for another year for about $2.5 million, their contracts end up being extremely similar.

In other words, Derek Watt is getting paid on par to a top-notch special teams player who also is a reserve on defense. Add in the fact that Steelers could use Watt more on offense in 2021, and the value might be slightly better. The biggest questions that remain are if Watt is a top-notch special teams player himself, and will be actually be used more on offense in 2021.

Honestly, it will probably take another season before determining if Derek Watt has a bad contract or not. But classifying it is the worst one on the Steelers right now isn’t far-fetched.

So what do you think? Did PFF get these contracts right? Are there other contracts which you would deem better than Stephon Tuitt or worse than Derek Watt? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: Of course, Matt Canada is going to make Big Ben comfortable

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/19/2021 - 11:00am

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

Matt Canada said they are going to do what Ben Roethlisberger wants with regards to the Steelers offense. Of course. Also, Le’Veon Bell should retire. This and your questions and comments on this episode of Steelers Friday Night Six Pack! Join Tony Defeo on those those subjects, engaging in Pittsburgh pro football talk and much, much more.

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

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

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Ben Roethlisberger’s QB Index ranking is head scratching

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/19/2021 - 10:00am
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback ranks towards the last third in the NFL, but why?

The offseason is tough for NFL media outlets, including the site you are currently reading. With the only news typically coming to light being negative news, people rely on things like rankings to help get them through the dog days of summer.

But even though some lean on different types of rankings to keep the needle moving, it doesn’t excuse those writing said rankings for really bad takes. This was certainly the case with the latest NFL.com article ranking the 59 starting quarterbacks from the 2020 regular season.

Before going any further, know I am biased. This is a Steelers website, and I am a fan of Ben Roethlisberger just like many of you reading this article. However, it is difficult for me to understand how a quarterback who threw 33 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions in the regular season can somehow rank 20th in these rankings.

To be fair, see their reasoning behind Roethlisberger ranking where he does:

20. Ben Roethlisberger

Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 20 | Blair: 20 | Filice: 21 | Parr: 19

2020 stats: 16 games | 66.0 pct | 4,304 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 37 pass TD | 14 INT | 11 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 1 fumble lost

Parr: Steelers receivers let Big Ben down far too often: His 48 dropped passes in the regular season were 15 more than any other QB was troubled with, per Next Gen Stats. A disappearing running game didn’t help either. Roethlisberger played some of the best football of his career in the first half of the season, but the bottom dropped out down the stretch.

What is truly head scratching is how the article almost contradicts itself, talking about how Roethlisberger was let down too often. So, suddenly a quarterback is responsible for dropped passes?

I digress.

To really drive home the ridiculous nature of these rankings, let’s take a look at who they had ranked ahead of Roethlisberger:

19. Drew Brees
18. Joe Burrow
17. Philip Rivers
16. Dak Prescott
15. Kirk Cousins
14. Matt Ryan
13. Matthew Stafford
12. Derek Carr
11. Baker Mayfield
10. Kyler Murray
9. Justin Herbert
8. Ryan Tannehill
7. Lamar Jackson
6. Russell Wilson
5. Josh Allen
4. Deshaun Watson
3. Patrick Mahomes
2. Tom Brady
1. Aaron Rodgers

I’m not here to suggest Roethlisberger deserves to be in the Top 5. I’m also not here to suggest he should be in the Top 10. But when you see two rookies, Burrow and Herbert, and a quarterback who barely played in 2020, Prescott, ahead of Roethlisberger is immediately makes me wonder what they were watching I wasn’t.

Chalk this up to the latest hate intended for Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Some say such a bias is poppycock, but when you see things like this for the NFL’s official website, it makes you wonder.

Lucky for Steelers fans, this type of article only motivates Roethlisberger, if he even takes time to ready it. The Steelers, and mainly Roethlisberger thrive with a chip on their shoulder, and they have plenty of those to motivate them into the 2021 regular 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.

Why Steelers fans should be content to ride it out with Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/19/2021 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers seem ready to ride with #7 until Big Ben decides to retire, and the fans should embrace that strategy.

This offseason has seen the national media deliver some harsh judgment on the abilities of Ben Roethlisberger. The running narrative is that Roethlisberger is washed-up, and that the Steelers need to see the bigger picture and let him walk. While the national media has never been too kind to Big Ben, even the fans of the black-and-gold have seemed eager to jump on board with this idea, with the more vocal parts of the fan base loudly clamoring for the front office to move on from Ben and look to the future. I would have no issues with this plan if Ben had decided to retire, but many fans seem to desire this course of action regardless of Ben’s wishes. The Steelers, however, appear totally committed to Ben Roethlisberger, and I am on board with that.

For some reason, the general assumption is that Ben just can’t get it done anymore. The “experts” are ragging on the Steelers like it’s going out of style. The big issue here is that this is the same narrative that was discussed in perpetuity last offseason, and then the Steelers started 11-0 on their way to a division title, with Ben even being touted as a dark-horse MVP candidate at one point. Unfortunately, the promising season took a turn for the worse, and the Steelers limped into the playoffs before being embarrassed at home by a hungry Cleveland Browns team. After the disappointing finish to the season, everyone scrambled to find a scapegoat. Comment threads were filled with “Randy Fichtner sucks, his offense is way too predictable!”, “Ben is slow, and he can’t throw the deep ball anymore!”, “Tomlin is a terrible, underachieving joke of a head coach!”, and my personal favorite excuse for the playoff loss, “Ju-Ju just had to go and TikTok before every game! What a diva!”.

What is fascinating is that even with, according to these fans, the worst offensive coordinator of all time, the biggest underachiever in the league, and a washed-up quarterback, the Steelers were still somehow able to win the toughest division in football.

There were a lot of problems that the Steelers had to deal with last year, be it season-ending injuries to starters, an aging and injury-riddled offensive line, bland, unimaginative play-calling, or the NFL screwing them over by shuffling their games around and leaving them without a functional bye week. The Steelers overcame these issues to have what most teams would consider a successful season. But the Steelers aren’t most teams, and their fans aren’t satisfied with anything less than a Super Bowl. While this attitude certainly helps create a winning culture around the team, it is also a double-edged sword that causes fans to see the worst in their team and it’s players.

I’ll readily admit that I’m far more attached to Roethlisberger than most fans. Big Ben is the quarterback I grew up with, and my favorite player for the majority of my life. If Ben wants to retire, that’s fine, but does anyone really want to see him suit up in another team’s jersey, a la Philip Rivers? Personally, I’d rather see Ben play with the Steelers until his arm falls off, rather than watch him finish his career with whatever desperate team throws the most cash at him in free-agency.

I have no doubt Ben has one or two good years left in him, and I don’t think that a Super Bowl title is outside the realm of possibility. Like I said earlier, he was a serious dark-horse MVP candidate at one point last year. Besides, even if Ben doesn’t win another title before calling it a career, we can always just go back and watch him win Super Bowl XLIII a thousand more times. As it happens, the Steelers, and Big Ben, always seem to be at their best when the odds are stacked against them. So let the critics predict all they want that Ben is cooked, and that the Steelers will miss the playoffs. After all, we’ve seen this story before.

These are my own thoughts, but I’d love to hear where the rest of you stand on the matter. Are you down with the Steelers riding Ben until he decides to call it quits? Would you prefer that they usher him out the door, even if that means he goes somewhere else for his final season(s)? Let me know in the comments below!

There could be more than meets the eye with the Steelers and David DeCastro

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/19/2021 - 7:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Once factoring in all the data, there may be a reason to question DeCastro’s status for 2021.

The Pittsburgh Steelers just concluded their 2021 mandatory minicamp this week. With roughly 5 weeks to go until training camp, the team will not gather together again until at least July 21. The goal when the team comes together next time is to have their entire 90-man roster healthy and ready to prepare for the season.

One player where some mystery clouds the issue is Steelers All-Pro right guard David DeCastro. While DeCastro was at Heinz Field for Steelers minicamp, he did not participate in any of the activities. When head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about DeCastro and his injury status, he dismissed the question in a way only coach Tomlin does.

“If I thought injury circumstances or reasons why people were not participating were significant,” Tomlin stated, “I would share them with you, but I’m not going to address day-to-day like things in this environment. It’s not required.”

If this were it, there wouldn’t be much left to think about the situation. But Friday afternoon changed everything when it was reported the Steelers brought in five-time Pro Bowl right guard Trai Turner for a visit.

It should be noted Turner is coming off what would be considered by far his worst season as a pro. After being released from the Los Angeles Chargers in March as a cap casualty, Turner could possibly be looking for work at a bargain value.

But of all the positions the Steelers could spend their limited resources on, why would they choose to invest at guard?

There are a number of possible answers. Perhaps the Steelers are not sold on any of their centers and may be considering a position move for DeCastro or Kevin Dotson. It’s not completely out of the question that either one of them could get bumped in to center.

Another possibility could be the Steelers really aren’t comfortable with their depth at the position. Even though they brought in Rashaad Coward, who has started 15 games at guard over the last two seasons for the Chicago Bears, maybe he just isn’t working out. Additionally, the other depth at the guard position are the three centers that are battling for the starting job for the Steelers.

Yet another possibility is that the Steelers wanted to bolster their offensive line and they felt the best player on the market was Turner. Maybe they weren’t worried as much about his exact position on the line and they were just looking to add another experienced player.

After these possibilities, ones around David DeCastro start to creep in and seem like more of a greater chance. Even though Tomlin said the injury was not significant by not disclosing it, maybe DeCastro’s availability for 2021 is much more bleak than the Steelers realized. If there is concern that DeCastro won’t be healthy for the season, it would make sense for the Steelers to explore other options.

There is another possibility when it comes to DeCastro which is more of a longshot, but still a possibility. They were various reports in 2020 that DeCastro did not have the same love or fire for the game of football. It could be seen in his film as the nastiness DeCastro once brought didn’t seem to be present in his game. While many chalked it up to injury, it could have just been indifference to the game, or a combination of the two factors.

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that DeCastro came to Steelers minicamp this week after skipping OTAs and just wasn’t feeling the fire to get back onto the field. Maybe after giving it three days, DeCastro informed the Steelers that he was going to be calling it quits. Perhaps he didn’t even inform Steelers of this, but they were getting the feeling themselves and wanted to be proactive about any possible decision DeCastro could make.

The bottom line is, it is all speculation. We really don’t know if there’s more to the Dave DeCastro story as the Steelers have no reason to share any more information than what they already have. It is interesting that out of all Steelers players who were made available to the media this week, DeCastro was not one of them as pointed out by Mark Kaboly of The Athletic.

Over the 4 weeks of OTAs and minicamp, we talked to every starter .... except David DeCastro.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 18, 2021

If DeCastro was missing time due to injury, it makes sense that he wouldn’t want to answer questions. But if the injury wasn’t that big of a deal, than speaking into the media should not have been either.

The timing of the Steelers bringing in a guard, particularly a right guard, for a tryout is curious. Granted Trai Turner reportedly left Pittsburgh without a contract, so nothing has been solidified in that department. But to say the status of the 2021 season when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers and David DeCastro is concerning would be quite the understatement at the present time. And for those Steelers fans already worried about a number of things going into the season, this just adds one more item to stress over.

Why Le’Veon Bell should just hurry up and retire

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/19/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It’s time for former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell to recognize he is done and just retire.

Le’Veon Bell, to quote Don Rickles whenever he roasted Dean Martin and/or Frank Sinatra: “It’s over. The voice is gone.”

Of course, I’m not referring to your voice, Le’Veon. That’s still in prime condition. No, seriously, I’ve heard your rap music: that’ll get picked up! Anyway, I’m referring to your legs, Le’Veon. They’re shot.

In fact, there’s strong evidence to suggest they were worn out as far back as 2017 when you toted the rock 60 more times than you did the year before and averaged nearly a yard less per carry. Your longest run that year was 27 yards.

Don’t get me wrong, 2017, your last year as a running back with the Steelers, was still pretty darn good. You did what you had often done since the moment you became Pittsburgh’s top offensive weapon: you gained nearly 2,000 total yards from scrimmage (1,946, to be exact). The only problem was—if I may say the same thing a different way—it took you a lot longer to accrue those yards.

Heck, from 2014-2016, you were supernatural. You were the man. You were what was causing the Steelers' offense to shine. You were the most potent of all the Killer B’s.

I’ll always be grateful for how you lifted up a struggling team that had missed the playoffs the previous two seasons and carried it to the 2014 AFC North crown on the strength of 2,215 yards from scrimmage. It was obvious how valuable you were to the team when you were lost on the eve of the postseason, and Pittsburgh had no way to make up for your absence.

You essentially did the same thing two seasons later when the Steelers, a team that was depleted at receiver and had just lost four games in a row, decided to hop on your back and ride you all the way to the AFC title game. You WERE the Steelers offense down the stretch of the 2016 regular season and into the playoffs, where you set and then broke the franchise record for single-game rushing yards in back-to-back victories over the Dolphins and Chiefs.

But I believe that grind broke your back, Le’Veon. Or should I say your groin? That’s right, you suffered a serious groin injury during that historic stretch and were no good for the AFC title game against the Patriots.

During that offseason, when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was cryptically contemplating retirement, you decided to have surgery to fix that groin issue. I had no problem with that. I also didn’t have a problem with you electing to hold off on signing the franchise tag the team had placed on you. I also didn’t have an issue with you holding out of training camp. You were in your physical prime (or so it appeared). At the very least, you were coming into your prime free-agent years; you should have been able to go out and get paid by signing a contract that included a ton of guaranteed money. In a perfect world, it may have happened for you, Le’Veon.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

After a 2017 season that ended in the most disappointing way imaginable, you took it one step further in 2018. The Steelers again placed the franchise tag on you. Not only did you once again decide not to sign it right away, you decided not to sign it at all. Not only did you once again skip out on training camp, but you also skipped out on the entire season.

Was I angry? Not angry so much as disappointed. I think you could have made a difference for a Steelers’ team that just barely missed the playoffs after blowing a 2.5 game lead in the AFC North.

Then again, maybe you couldn’t have made a difference. You see, I believe you knew that you weren’t the same player you had been and the 2017 campaign was your evidence. Come on, Le’Veon, nobody knows their own body better than a finely-tuned professional athlete. You had to be aware of your wear and tear. Maybe that’s why you were suddenly concerned about getting too many touches after building your All-Pro career on that basic concept—you were a workhorse.

I’m now glad that you turned down the Steelers' rather lucrative offer(s) that didn’t include as much guaranteed money as you wanted. It actually benefited Pittsburgh. This doesn’t mean I resented the fact that you were still trying to get yours even though you probably knew the tread on the tires was worn beyond repair. After all, the NFL is a rough business, and these guys will chew you up and spit you out without losing a second of sleep. As a running back, they get your best years at a cheap price and often decide to move on when it's time for you to get rewarded with a big contract.

It’s not fair.

Oh well, at least the Jets gave you a satisfactory deal. Oh, I don’t want to quibble over whether Pittsburgh’s contract(s) would have been more valuable in the long run. Again, the Steelers were probably better off in the end that you decided to shun their offer(s). But there’s no doubt you were basically a shell of your former self by 2019, when you gained roughly 1,200 yards from scrimmage, with your longest run being a measly 19 yards.

The 2020 campaign, a season that saw you get cut by the Jets and then sign with the Super Bowl-bound Chiefs, was more damning evidence against you and your current abilities, Le’Veon. You posted 466 total yards from scrimmage.

Running backs with something left in the tank don’t putter along for three or four seasons.

Face it, Le’Veon, it’s over. You need to realize that. You’ve made the news again and for all the wrong reasons. You took to Twitter over the weekend to say you’d retire first before ever playing for Chiefs coach Andy Reid again.

You hinted at why you now have such disdain for the man when you went on to say, “I said what I said & I don’t regret at all what I said. For those who have a PERSONAL PROBLEM with me because of what I SAID, that’s fine. you have your right! just understand I ALSO have MY RIGHT for how I feel about MY PERSONAL problem with dude because of what HE SAID to me.”

I don’t know exactly what Reid said to you, Le’Veon, but it was probably along the lines of “You stink.”

Honestly, there may be nothing sadder than a professional athlete who doesn’t realize that it’s over. I don’t think Reid is going to lose any sleep over your declaration.

I also don’t think anyone’s going to be blowing up your phone to sign you. And even if someone does sign you, buyer beware.

Washed-up running backs are like worn-out shocks and struts. They don’t suddenly get better with rest.

Look, Le’Veon, you had your day and one hell of a career while you were at the height of your powers. It’s time to hang up those cleats. Get out while you still have a shred of dignity left.

Unlike Martin or Sinatra, nobody is going to pay to see an old running back try to belt out one last hit.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Vol. 22

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 5:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

The rules are still the same...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

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

1. Which of the following second year players will have the biggest impact in 2021?

Anthony McFarland
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Carlos Davis

2. On a scale from 1-10 (1 being scared to death and 10 being extremely positive) what is your confidence level in Chuks Okorafor at left tackle?

3. Which rookie has the best chance to make an impact within his particular position group?

Dan Moore Jr.
Buddy Johnson
Tre Norwood

4. What 2020 game was most memorable for you? And why? Doesn’t have to be for any specific reason, like a win, but could have meaning in other ways.

5. Father’s Day weekend is always accompanied by the U.S. Open. Do you golf, or have you ever tried your hand at the game? I have been golfing since I was about 9 years old, and absolutely love the game. If you are a big time player, let me know your handicap! (I sit at a 7 right now)

6. With Father’s day this weekend, what is your favorite memory with a father, or father figure, in your life? It doesn’t have to involve the Steelers, but feel free to share!

Stay safe out there!

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

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

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

Steelers bring in a former Pro Bowl guard for a visit

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 4:49pm
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Steelers wasted no time following minicamp to kick the tires on players still available in free agency.

Even though the Steelers offseason activities concluded on Thursday after the final day of mandatory minicamp, it does not mean the team would stop looking to improve the roster for 2021. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Steelers visited with former Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles ChargersPro Bowl guard Trai Turner on Friday.

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

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 18, 2021

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

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

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

Although it’s not surprising to see the Steelers look to bolster their offensive line, the fact they are choosing to do so at guard is very intriguing. Believed to be the strength of the Steelers offensive line which is currently in transition, the Steelers did notably miss David DeCastro from minicamp this week as noted by ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.

Interesting visitor to the Steelers. On paper, they have more depth at guard than tackle BUT David DeCastro didn’t participate in minicamp.

Something to watch. https://t.co/iH38wPd3gN

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 18, 2021

Simply because a player comes in for a visit does not mean it is the right fit for either them or the Pittsburgh Steelers. While I do not believe the Steelers would be interested in coming anywhere close to the $45 million over four years Turner received with his last extension, if he is merely just trying to stick around in the NFL on a reduced salary, and can return closer to form that he saw in Carolina, adding a player like Turner isn’t going to hurt the offensive line.

With the Steelers visiting with other players in recent weeks, such as Malik Hooker, it is apparent they will continue to look to shape their 2021 roster between now and the start of the season. Whether or not any of these visits turn into contracts remains to be seen, but it’s something to keep an eye on during the next several weeks leading up to training camp.

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

Are the Steelers more likely to make a trade or sign a player?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

The Steelers still want to improve their roster.

Minicamp and OTAs are in the books. The only thing now standing in the way of the Pittsburgh Steelers and actual football games is training camp. While we are still more than a month away from Latrobe (or Heinz Field...) the Steelers front office could still be busy bees. Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin have both expressed a desire to improve the depth at outside linebacker, and the Steelers actions have backed up those claims. The Steelers reportedly offered a contract to Ryan Kerrigan a few weeks ago, but the weren't able to strike a deal. But that doesn't mean they won't keep trying.

The legitimate free agency options come down to Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram, both of which have gone on multiple free agent visits without having signed a contract. To me, that means they are way too expensive, and for the cash strapped Steelers, expensive isn't going to cut it. The Steelers could wait until final cuts and try to sign the best released player on the market, but these guys will be sought after by a lot of teams around the league. Pass rushers are a premium position after all. While it’s more likely they scoop someone up post cuts, I don’t think that’s the perfect scenario this team would want to wait on.

The cheapest option at this point will to be acquire a player via trade. You don’t have to pay players entire salaries at this point and you don’t have to negotiate with them at all. The best part, if you make the move before training camp you can have the traded player go through all the practices with the team and understand the playbook fully. The only down side would be giving up draft capital assets to acquire said player. The Steelers don’t have many picks remaining from the 2022 draft after previous trades, but moves using future picks aren't unusual at this time of year.

Finding a player on an expiring rookie contract for a 2023 pick is the perfect scenario. You can pry them away from their teams, especially if they are deep at the position, and if everything goes well you have primary negotiation rights. If the Steelers want to commit to fixing a certain position group, making a trade in my opinion is the best way they can go about it.

But what do you think? Will the Steelers next move come via trade, or through free agency? Let us know your thoughts down I the comments below.

Matt Canada feels great about the strides the Steelers revamped offensive line is making

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 12:30pm
Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ new offensive coordinator likes what he sees from his new offensive line.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense is undergoing a major overhaul in every way imaginable. New offensive coordinator, new offensive line staff, new quarterbacks coach, new tight end coach and even almost an entirely new offensive line.

Despite those changes, new coordinator Matt Canada, who spoke to the media for the first time this past week during mandatory minicamp, has seen great strides made from his offensive front. That includes his coaching staff as well.

“I feel great about the strides our offensive line is making.” Canada said. “[Adrian] Klemm and Coach Morgan have done a great job with that unit. Obviously, we’ve got some change, there’s no doubt about that. When you talk about the guys with [Maurkice] Pouncey leaving, just the history he has had here and the tremendous player and leader, I’m obviously a huge Pouncey fan. We have to find and fill those roles.”

Suggesting the holes the Steelers have to fill along the offensive line are just the one vacated by Maurkice Pouncey is putting it lightly. The Steelers will be without starters Alejandro Villanueva (left tackle), Matt Feiler (left guard), Pouncey (center) and moving their starting right tackle, Chukwuma Okorafor, to left tackle.

Talk about an overhaul, but it isn’t just the roster which is having an overhaul, so is the mindset. The mindset of running the ball and being aggressive in doing so. Something that wasn’t just Canada’s thought, but came from the top. I mean the way top with Art Rooney II.

“But I think up front, the mindset of what we are trying to do, again the charge from Mr. Rooney to be more physical, to run the football as an offensive lineman, you are going to like that.” Canada added. “We are going to come off the ball and we are going to do that. That doesn’t mean we are going to run the ball a million times or anything like that. But giving them an opportunity to be more aggressive.”

All in all, Canada has been extremely pleased with the work ethic and dedication of the offensive line. Across the board.

“All the way across the board, guys are working really hard. Because of the situation, we haven’t gone against our defense at all yet, so that will be interesting with Minicamp. And there will be some growing pains as we all know. But to get to go up against our defensive line every day makes us better and I feel really good about where the product will be in the fall when it matters.”

With the conclusion of minicamp on Thursday, the Steelers won’t reconvene until they report to training camp. At this time, no one knows where training camp will be held, but the hope is the team will return to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA at the end of July. Either way, the Steelers’ offensive line will dictate the success, or failure, of the offense in 2021.

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.

Grading the Steelers current depth at each position group on defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

With the Steelers finishing up mandatory minicamp this week, where do they stand with their depth on offense?

The 2021 NFL offseason is beginning to wind down. Once the Steelers have completed mandatory minicamp this week, they now have just over a month off before training camp begins, hopefully at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. While the Steelers could continue to make roster moves during the next several weeks of downtime, there is just as much chance they will enter training camp with the same 90 men as they finished minicamp.

With the players the Steelers currently have on the roster, how is the depth at each position perceived? This is the question which will be answered by BTSC co-editors Dave Schofield and Jeff Hartman as they give their grades for the depth at each defensive position.

Defensive Line

Dave’s Grade: A

Analysis: The Steelers have the best defensive line in the NFL, and they have so many players it will be tough to decide who to keep. Of course there is a drop off with the reserves, but that’s to be expected. But having a nose tackle in Tyson Alualu can also fill in at defensive tackle in sub packages really helps.

Jeff’s Grade: A+

Analysis: I don’t give away A+ often, but if there is a position which deserves it on the Steelers’ roster it is the defensive line. Between Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt, you would be hard pressed to find a better 3-4 defensive front in the NFL. Throw in Chris Wormley, Carlos Davis, Isaiah Buggs and Isaiahh Loudermilk as depth and this group is stellar from top to bottom.

Outside Linebacker

Dave’s Grade: F

Analysis: I had to do it. Although I have a lot of hope for Quincy Roche, banking on having a sixth-round draft pick be your first “next man up” to start the season isn’t advised. Add in the fact this is a position where the reserves see the field, it’s even more concerning

Jeff’s Grade: D

Analysis: I could have followed Dave’s lead and gone with an F grade, but I am banking on the Steelers adding to this position at some point before the start of the season. If they head into 2021 with Quincy Roche and Cassius Marsh as their only depth, this grade would move to an F-.

Inside Linebacker

Dave’s Grade: B+

Analysis: Although it wouldn’t have been shocking for the Steelers to spend a high draft pick at inside linebacker just to improve the position overall, they have plenty of players there. They, in essence, have three starters for two positions and a fourth-round draft pick hoping to show what he can do. Throw in several safeties-turned-linebackers as well as a somewhat promising 2019 draft pick who can’t stay healthy in UG3, there are a lot of options.

Jeff’s Grade:

Analysis: A-

The Steelers’ inside linebacker depth went from horrible in 2020 without Devin Bush, to outstanding in 2021. With Robert Spillane, Vince Williams, Ulysess Gilbert III and Buddy Johnson now in the mix, this group is as deep as ever. Spillane proved himself as quality depth in 2020, and that will be huge dividends in 2021. If Johnson can be a good depth piece, this would easily turn into a solid A.

Cornerback

Dave’s Grade: B

Analysis: While some people feel the Steelers need another cornerback, I think the ones they have show a lot of promise with what they have. I think James Pierre is going to be the next Mike Hilton. I think the Steelers have who Justin Layne could help out in a pinch, and they have a lot of promising rookies where they only need one of them to pan out.

Jeff’s Grade: C+

Analysis: A lot of unproven depth in the Steelers’ cornerback room. Joe Haden is a known commodity, as is Cam Sutton, but behind that nothing is certain. James Pierre is the talk of the town, but still very unproven. Justin Layne hasn’t lived up to the hype of a mid round pick, and beyond that we are talking about players who are hopefully contributors. I’m not unhappy with the depth, it just is unproven.

Safety

Dave’s Grade: C

Analysis: I had no idea where to go here. Behind the two starters, there’s a lot of guys who seem to be more sub-package players than ones who could come in and hold down a starting job if needed. I still don’t even know where to put Miles Killebrew when it comes to a position group, but he could help with depth here if the Steelers take him out of the linebackers and put him in the secondary.

Jeff’s Grade: B

Analysis: A lot of this grade depends on how the Steelers plan on using players like Miles Killebrew, Marcus Allen and Antoine Brooks Jr. If they are going to use these players as traditional safeties, I think the team’s safety depth will be just fine. If they are looking at those players being just box safeties, I am suddenly not as happy with the depth on the roster. If the team doesn’t feel their safety depth is up to snuff, someone like Jordan Dangerfield is still on the open market.

So there are our grades for the Steelers current depth at the various defensive positions. We will revisit this exercise once the Steelers have established their 53-man roster for the 2021 season. Additionally, check out the grades for the depth at the various offensive position groups.

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