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Podcast: Analyzing the gambles and safe bets on the Steelers roster

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 11:00am

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

As does every NFL roster, the Steelers have sure things, question marks and absolute head scratchers occupying spots. Who are the most notable? This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts.

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the week
  • The gambles and safe bets on the Steelers roster
  • Trivia

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

T.J. Watt Sack Party, Part 2: The Fear Factor

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Sometimes the fear of the pass rush is worse than the pass rush itself.

In Part 1 we covered T.J. Watt’s ridiculous burst off the line of scrimmage, and how difficult he is to block because of it. Today we are going to see a few plays where players worrying about T.J. Watt cause them to make mistakes that hurt their team.

To start we are still in week 2, T.J. Watt recorded two and a half sacks in week 2, the last one in the third quarter. By this point in the game Broncos QB Jeff Driskel had had plenty of experience dealing with the Steelers pass rush, and it affected his judgement at the worst time.

Week 2, third quarter, 8:50. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the bottom of the screen.

T.J. Watt is actually blocked here, and he’s more concerned with getting in the way of any dump off to the running back than he is getting to the quarterback. If Driskel had stayed in the pocket and looked upfield, he would have seen this:

Steven Nelson and Joe Haden are on the same side of the field and there is some miscommunication between them. Nelson starts to follow the receiver going outside, sees Joe Haden and realizes the inside route is wide open. Nelson moves to cover that receiver while Joe Haden is reading the quarterback’s eyes and looking to jump any pass to the running back. The end result is two wide open receivers in the end zone waiting for a pass that will never come.

T.J. Watt ends up with this sack because he is able to recover and get to Driskel just before Vince Williams gets there. I don’t want to ignore Watt keeping his eyes up, seeing the back coming out and getting a hand in to disrupt the route and then jumping in the quarterback’s vision to shut down any pass to the back. It’s a typical T.J. Watt smart play, but the effect the Steelers pass rush has had on the quarterback is easy to see on this play. The Steelers got the sack, and after a 1st and goal at the Steelers 4 yard line, the Broncos would end up settling for a field goal.

Getting out of week 2 and the overmatched tackle and backup quarterback they faced in that game, we move on to week 3 and Deshaun Watson. In the 4th quarter T.J. Watt had hit Deshaun Watson multiple times, and on the first drive he hit Deshaun Watson as Watson threw an interception to Mike Hilton. The Steelers took the ball, drove 79 yards and scored a touchdown. A 2 pt conversion gave the Steelers a 28-21 lead. When the Texans got the ball back they had 75 yards to go, needing a touchdown to tie the game.

Week 3, fourth quarter, 6:24. T.J. Watt is the edge rusher to the top of the screen.

That’s not how you start a fourth quarter comeback drive. This play put Houston well behind the sticks and they would end up punting without making a first down, and would not get the ball back.

This play may look like T.J. Watt did something amazing to blow past his blocker and record this sack to put Houston out of the game, but look at a different angle.

The Texans’ right tackle is trying to get outside quickly, and he’s staying low so he doesn’t get driven into the pocket. Meanwhile the tight end #87 is supposed to help by chipping T.J. Watt. What ends up happening is the tight end pushes T.J. Watt too hard and the tackle gets outside too quickly and they end up sending Watt on a free rush to the quarterback. T.J. Watt isn’t going to let that kind of opportunity get away from him.

It’s one thing to lose to T.J. Watt, it’s another thing to psych yourself out and create opportunity for him where none should exist.

The Pittsburgh Steelers can only control their own effort

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are always looking for players determined to control the one thing they can on the football field.

The pursuit of perfection is destined to end in failure. This is true of any endeavor involving human beings because mankind is inevitably fallible. As I formulated this article in my mind, I was reminded of one of my father's favorite quotes growing up, "Show me an employee that has never made a mistake and I will show you an employee who isn't doing anything." It really is that simple. No matter how hard you try to always do the right thing, you will make a mistake eventually.

Athletic competition of any kind is not immune to this universal truth. Moments of perceived perfection are few and far between, and always fleeting. Some members of Steelers Nation have set the proverbial bar of success impossibly high for the franchise with the most overall wins, plus tied for the most Lombardi Trophies, in the NFL over the past half century. Even when the Steelers win the game, some fans choose to focus on anything and everything the players did wrong.

No matter how good a player is at his craft, some matchups are better than others. Some opponents will inevitably be more talented, skilled, or experienced than you if you play long enough and reach the highest level of competition. Those situations are often out of a player's control. The one and only thing that any player can actually control in any matchup is their individual effort.

My family can bear witness that there is one thing that infuriates me more than anything else watching athletic competition, particularly when my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers are involved. I can accept the Steelers losing a game to a more talented team, or a hard fought contest where the ball didn't bounce their way. What I will never be able to accept is when they don't appear to give their best effort, when they don't seem to care as much as their opponent. Because the one thing any player can control on the field of battle is their own personal effort. The one thing you can never do is let your opponent out work you.

The Steelers have made a conscious effort in the past few years to find individuals with this specific mindset. Look no further than last season's draft class and new acquisitions; specifically Alex Highsmith, Kevin Dotson, and James Pierre. All of these young men have exceptional work ethics and the insatiable desire to compete. These are guys you don't have to motivate in the off season trying to make sure the are working hard on their physical fitness. Mike Tomlin laid out his expectations at each gentleman's exit interview, and then he focused his attention elsewhere. Each player fully realized their importance this season to the success of the Steelers.

Nobody should have been surprised when Alex Highsmith showed up at OTAs looking ripped and ready. Dotson somehow looks even more intense and intimidating than last season. Pierre appears far more comfortable and prepared than at any point of his surprisingly successful rookie season, especially when you consider he was a undrafted free agent who made the final roster without the benefit of any semblance of a normal off season and zero preseason games.

Pierre is a prime example of the aforementioned effort. He is a competitor to the core. He is relentless and aggressive in run support, flying forward toward the ball carrier, where he finishes plays as a tenacious and effective form tackler. He has the short term memory loss of a classic throwback corner, instantly ready to jump back in the fray and compete, regardless of the results of the previous play. Couple those abilities with above the line instincts and ball skills, and the Steelers appear to have found themselves a baller. That's the competitiveness that he displayed in college and the biggest trait that caused the Steelers to offer him a chance after the draft. His star is already shining bright at this week's mini camp.

This years draft haul is filled with high effort, competitive young men. First round stud running back Najee Harris is so committed to the task at hand that the coaches have to remind him to go home periodically and get some rest. That must be both encouraging and refreshing for the Steelers coaches. A player with his athleticism, talent, and work ethic who has already figured out the formula for success starts within himself.

The 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers have the toughest schedule in the NFL. They will be the underdog more often than not, at a talent disadvantage more than they are accustomed. While they won't always be the most talented or experienced team in every game, it's up to the collected group to assure that nobody outworks them or competes harder than they do each week. That's really the only thing that they can control.

Minicamp Recap, Day 3: The mystery surrounding Dwayne Haskins grows

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the gridiron for mandatory minicamp, and plenty of news came from their last on-field work before training camp.

The Pittsburgh Steelers took a flier on Dwayne Haskins this offseason. When no one else, and I mean no one, wanted Haskins after his release from Washington, it was Pittsburgh who took a no-risk chance on the former first round pick.

Since the signing, Steelers fans everywhere have wondered what to expect from Haskins. Will he be just the latest Ohio State failure at quarterback? Will he provide quality depth? Or is he actually a possible future starter when Ben Roethlisberger calls it a career?

Haskins truly is the wild card in the quarterback room, and he spoke to the media today for the first time about his brief time in Pittsburgh. During the media session, Haskins talked about how he wanted to show the Steelers front office and coaching staff he is a changed man, and player, and his mind is in the right place.

Dwayne Haskins said via zoom today coming to the Steelers he wanted to show the coaching staff, teammates and everyone that his mind is in the right place and that he loves football.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021

On top of that, Mike Tomlin has spoken about Haskins and talked of just how anxious he is to get to know Haskins both on and off the field. After Haskins told media all he wanted was to feel as if he was wanted, the Steelers seem to be doing just that thus far this offseason.

Mike Tomlin is having another long talk with Dwayne Haskins after today's final mini-camp practice. Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert also standing with the pair. https://t.co/Hsaa4qotwg

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 17, 2021

Haskins isn’t just a wild card, but is a polarizing character for the Steelers’ fan base. People either love him or hate him, there is very little in between. Haskins will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself, and those will come during training camp and the 2021 preseason. With the Steelers not taking a financial risk on Haskins, the pressure falls solely on the former first round pick to perform.

Now for some other nuggets of information coming from the third, and final, day of mandatory minicamp:

Najee helping the WRs

Najee Harris hasn’t been talking much lately, but that doesn’t mean other players haven’t been talking about him. Diontae Johnson spoke to the media Thursday, and he spoke glowingly of Harris. Not just his work ethic or conditioning level, but his ability to take pressure off the wide receivers. A running game is a powerful thing in many ways, and when a defense fears the run, they can’t bracket receivers and specific routes. The hope is the new offensive line, the new offensive coordinator and the new running back will be able to get the job done.

Diontae Johnson talking via zoom this morning said the addition of @ohthatsNajee22 takes pressure off the wide receivers and that he sees Najee is hungry out there.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021 Tight End heavy offense?

There has been a lot of talk about Matt Canada’s offense this week, and rightfully so. Canada spoke to the media for the first time as the offensive coordinator, and everyone is wondering what the offense will look like. One prediction from Eric Ebron is how he feels the tight end position will take on a greater emphasis in the Canada offense. This would mean big things not just for Ebron, but also for rookie Pat Freiermuth.

Tight end Eric Ebron thinks his position will take on a greater emphasis in Matt Canada's offense.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) June 17, 2021 Let the work begin...

With minicamp officially over, Mike Tomlin spoke to his players through the media. This isn’t new, Tomlin does this regularly throughout the season. The one specific aspect of the team he wanted to see improve before training camp was the team’s conditioning. Tomlin often calls upon his players to be in the best shape possible leading into camp to prove they are game ready. Only time will tell if the players come through on their end of the bargain.

Coach Mike Tomlin said while the offseason program went well, the work really begins now. Told the players before they left minicamp today to come back well-conditioned for camp.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021 Press Conferences

Mike Tomlin and Eric Ebron (If you cannot see the clip below, click HERE)

Diontae Johnson and Dwayne Haskins (If you cannot see the clip below, click HERE)

Day 3 Live Look-In

There was no live look-in for Thursday’s practice.

VIDEO

Taking you behind the scenes of the Steelers punting competition at minicamp, with some absolutely horrendous camerawork. But later in practice they had a more spirited battle, one Mike Tomlin called “created adversity so guys have an opportunity to shine.” pic.twitter.com/6L3hMFe1HD

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 17, 2021 PHOTOS

on the prize pic.twitter.com/RYMe97Bddp

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2021

In the zone for the final day of minicamp pic.twitter.com/5irfzST8K4

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2021

Next up ➡️ #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/pKzTKh12aC

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2021

Going pic.twitter.com/grwwNbzfFG

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2021

It’s been fun minicamp.

Next up…training camp. pic.twitter.com/ZYYzP9CHmE

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021

3 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following Day 3 of minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking to the media for likely the final time before training camp, the Steelers head coach wasn’t asked many questions about specific players.

As the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at Heinz Field for the final day of minicamp on Thursday, we were also graced with another media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Although he wasn’t asked much about specific players, another “players mentioned” article is going to be squeezed out before the nearly 5-week absence of players before training camp. Remember these are players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period, although there were not other players mentioned in the opening statement.

Pressley Harvin

The Pittsburgh Steelers spent a draft pick on a punter in 2021, which was the first time in 14 years. On Thursday, there was some kind of punting competition going on at minicamp. Coach Tomlin was asked if some of the Steelers’ veteran players were giving a hard time to the rookie punter.

“No, that was just their way of encouraging. We have to create adversity for guys so we get to know them. That is part of our approach in terms of creating competition and having fun with it. We want to create some adversity, so guys have an opportunity to shine.”

Eric Ebron & Pat Freiermuth

With the Pittsburgh Steelers spending their 2021 second-round draft pick on Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth, it helped solidify him with Eric Ebron as the top two players at the position. Additionally, the Steelers could see more two tight end sets under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Coach Tomlin was asked what he has seen in regards to the relationship between Ebron and Freiermuth.

“I don’t know anything about relationships with Ebron, to be honest with you. I just see Pat out there working his tail off and making plays and having a good offseason and I’m excited about that.”

Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here:

Podcast: What we learned after the Steelers mandatory minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/18/2021 - 4:30am

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

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 we learned after the Steelers mandatory minicamp
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Should the Steelers get in on the Stephon Gilmore sweepstakes?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 2:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The veteran corners time in New England looks to be drawing to a close

Any time a big name NFL player places themselves on the trade market I think to myself whether or not they would be a fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers, both schematically and financially. This time we find former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore on the block. In this article I will look at reasons why the Steelers should be, and shouldn't be, interested in the All-Pro cornerback.

#Patriots star CB Stephon Gilmore, who wants a new contract and is rehabbing from a partially torn quad, is not present at the team’s mandatory minicamp today, source said.

*(Spelling fixed, no thanks to autocorrect)

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 14, 2021

Let’s start with the positives, firstly Stephon Gilmore is the ultimate shutdown corner. You can put Gilmore on any defense in the league, telling him to shadow any receiver in the game, and Gilmore will blanket them for four straight quarters. Playing opposite of Joe Haden, that duo would represent two of the smartest corners in the game and a steady veteran presence. Contractually, the acquiring team would only be on the hook for $7,735,294 on the final year of Gilmore’s deal, however he is looking for an extension on top of that. But let’s not forget we are just two years removed from his Defensive Player of the Year season and would be stepping into one of the best defenses in football.

Trading for Gilmore would also take the Steelers defense to another level. The secondary would be the best unit in the league to go along with the best pass rushers in football. Basically, the other team won't be throwing on this team at all. Also, a big move like this would give the Steelers its best shot at hoisting a Lombardi in the twilight years of the Ben Roethlisberger era.

However, the Steelers are facing a pseudo rebuild of sorts. The Steelers only have three players over the age of 30 under contract past 2022, and one of them is a kicker. There is no doubt about this Steelers team transitioning to a brand new leadership group, and all of those guys are in their mid-20’s. Would they really want to spend a ton of cash on a guy way older than their primary core? I think the fair answer is no, that is unless they believed they are cursed when it comes to drafting corners...

The Steelers have been more bold with their team building moves lately, but I can’t see them dealing a second or first round pick for a guy on the wrong side of thirty for perhaps only one season. Perhaps if the salary cap didn't drop but this doesn't feel like the right time to be making a trade like this.

But what do you think? Should the Steelers chase Stephon Gilmore and try to take one more shot at a Super Bowl? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Steelers await word from the NFL whether they can return to Saint Vincent for training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 1:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to return to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, but the waiting game continues.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to have their 2020 training camp at Heinz Field, not their usual location of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. The NFL told teams they were not allowed to leave their home facilities for camp, this during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here we are, wrapping up mandatory minicamp, and many want to know if the Steelers will be back on campus, and practicing on Chuck Noll field this summer. The answer? They still don’t know.

Mike Tomlin was asked about this very topic after the final day of minicamp, and although he had hoped to know, he stated the Steelers have yet to receive final word on the return to Latrobe.

This per Brooke Pryor of ESPN:

Mike Tomlin says they haven't received final word or details about training camp (Heinz Field vs. returning to St. Vincent):

"I thought I would know by now. We don't always get what we want, as we know. I had hoped to get some clarity prior to know, but I haven't."

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 17, 2021

It is important to understand the circumstances the Steelers face heading into training camp. For instance, the date which they report is up in the air. This from Dave Schofield’s recent countdown article:

Although the Steelers have not officially announced the start date of training camp, the date they are permitted to begin has been set by the NFL. With the Steelers set to play in the Hall of Fame Game, the fist day of training camp will be earlier than the rest of the NFL who are set to begin on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. The Steelers, as well as the Dallas Cowboys, can start as early as July 21, 2021 while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will face the Cowboys on the opening night of the NFL season, can start July 24, 2021.

Other teams have notified their fans of them being able to travel away from their home facilities, so it might just be a formality the Steelers haven’t heard yet. It also could involve the local/state government and restrictions whether or not they are permitted to have fans in attendance at practices. Team President Art Rooney II has stated if the team can’t have fans at camp practices, they would probably stay in Pittsburgh.

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

Steelers Minicamp Tracker: Compiling various reports from Day 3

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 12:35pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are at Heinz Field for the final phase of the 2021 offseason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are at Heinz Field for the third and final day of 2021 minicamp. This week was the first time the Steelers entire offseason roster was together, as well as the last time until training camp begins at the end of July.

When it comes to reports from mandatory minicamp, there may not be much information for Steelers fans as the week progresses. Luckily there are some player interviews before practice and Coach Tomlin has spoken after every session so far this week.

As for any other details coming from minicamp, we will do our best to post them in here once available. Reports should run from earliest to most recent as you scroll down the page.

Diontae Johnson talking via zoom this morning said the addition of @ohthatsNajee22 takes pressure off the wide receivers and that he sees Najee is hungry out there.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021

Dwayne Haskins said via zoom today coming to the Steelers he wanted to show the coaching staff, teammates and everyone that his mind is in the right place and that he loves football.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021

QB Dwayne Haskins said Coach Mike Tomlin has been great getting to know him, talking to him about on the field and off the field stuff. He said he has been a great motivator for him already.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021

Mike Tomlin is having another long talk with Dwayne Haskins after today's final mini-camp practice. Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert also standing with the pair. https://t.co/Hsaa4qotwg

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 17, 2021

Coach Mike Tomlin said while the offseason program went well, the work really begins now. Told the players before they left minicamp today to come back well-conditioned for camp.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021

Coach Tomlin said he doesn't have the answer on training camp location yet. He said rest assured wherever they are and when that is, they will be ready.

He thought he would know by now where camp would be.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021

In the zone for the final day of minicamp pic.twitter.com/5irfzST8K4

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2021

Tight end Eric Ebron thinks his position will take on a greater emphasis in Matt Canada's offense.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) June 17, 2021

on the prize pic.twitter.com/RYMe97Bddp

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2021

Taking you behind the scenes of the Steelers punting competition at minicamp, with some absolutely horrendous camerawork. But later in practice they had a more spirited battle, one Mike Tomlin called “created adversity so guys have an opportunity to shine.” pic.twitter.com/6L3hMFe1HD

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 17, 2021

It’s another beautiful day in Pittsburgh!

— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) June 17, 2021

Going pic.twitter.com/grwwNbzfFG

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2021

It’s been fun minicamp.

Next up…training camp. pic.twitter.com/ZYYzP9CHmE

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021

Next up ➡️ #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/pKzTKh12aC

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2021

Podcast: Why there is more to the Steelers’ “Q” than his time at “The U”?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 11:00am

BTSC broke down what the Steelers’ draft needs from specific universities before the NFL Draft and now they talk to the correspondents from the universities that boasted all nine of their draft selections.

When looking back at the 2021 Draft, most Steelers fans note Quincy Roche’ as a major steal. After a stellar career at Temple, what were the factors for Q’s drop to the sixth round as a Miami Hurricane? This week, join Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict to talk about the addition of the the EDGE that spent a year with the Hurricanes with Jake Marcus from State of the U.

  • News and Notes
  • Special Guest: Jake Marcus from State of the U
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael and Geoffrey walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

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

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

The Three C’s of the Steelers 2021 offseason: Contracts, Competition and Canada

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A brief rundown of what the Steelers have done to prepare for the 2021 season.

As the Steelers hold their mandatory minicamp this week, I thought it was a good time to reflect on their offseason so far. Among the various storylines that have been debated ad nauseam the past few months, three themes have dominated the conversation. They are the three C’s of the 2021 offseason: contracts, competition and Canada.

Contracts

The biggest and most interesting question of the offseason was asked before the dust had settled on the demoralizing playoff defeat to Cleveland in January: Would Ben Roethlisberger return as the Steelers’ quarterback? The answer to that question was yes, with Roethlisberger restructuring his deal to cut $5 million off of his salary and $15 million off his cap hit while adding voidable years down the road.

Even at age 39, Roethlisberger is clearly the best quarterback on the Steelers roster. Still, many argued the Steelers should have parted ways with him and allowed backup Mason Rudolph to run new coordinator Matt Canada’s offense for a season before deciding on a long-term replacement (I, for one, was not opposed to such a move).

The decision to bring back Roethlisberger sets up an interesting marriage between him and Canada, with the veteran quarterback preferring one style of play and the innovative coordinator seeming to prefer another. The degree to which the two can find common ground will go a long way towards determining the success of Pittsburgh’s 2021 campaign.

Roethlisberger’s contract restructure was not the only interesting move of the offseason at the quarterback position. Pittsburgh brought in Dwayne Haskins to compete with Rudolph to be Roethlisberger’s backup. While Haskins flamed out after being selecting in the 1st Round by Washington, his deal, which amounts to almost nothing (1 year, $850,000), makes him a low-risk, high-reward acquisition. Few expect Haskins to win the job as Roethlisberger’s successor, but early reviews suggest he is adapting well to his new environment. He will be an intriguing player to keep tabs on as the season evolves.

Finally, the contract situation that proved the most surprising this offseason involved the return of JuJu Smith-Schuster. As the 2020 season closed, Smith-Schuster seemed destined for a big pay-day on the free agent market. The Steelers, tight to the cap as usual, did not anticipate they could afford him. And yet, JuJu remains. How in the name of Omar Khan did that happen?

Khan, the Steelers’ cap management specialist, is a wizard at turning fifty cents into a dollar. But in this instance, it wasn’t really Khan’s doing. With the Covid pandemic sapping the resources of many franchises, the free agent market wasn’t quite the orgy of money it typically has become. Some teams chose to invest frugally (by modern NFL standards), with the premium dollars going to offensive linemen and edge rushers. In short, JuJu didn’t like the money. So, he signed a one-year deal to return to Pittsburgh with his eye on free agency next offseason, when the league will be flush with cash.

It was a smart move by both parties. The Steelers retained Smith-Schuster, alleviating their need to spend a high draft pick on a receiver, and JuJu returned to Pittsburgh under the guise of not wanting to leave while positioning himself for a better payday in 2022. No matter the motivation, if he plays lights-out this season, fans will love him for it.

Competition

There’s nothing a football player values more than playing time. Coaches, on the other hand, love few things more than genuine competition to earn it. Competition brings out the best in players by creating a sense of urgency. Or, to use another term, fear. The fear of being benched, or being cut, or losing out on a lifetime dream or a big payday. Fear is a great motivator. Competition breeds it.

The Steelers have done a really good job this offseason creating competition at various position groups throughout their roster. Where depth was necessary, or where a starting job was in question, they brought in veterans and draft picks capable of challenging each other.

Take the center position. With the retirement of long-time starter Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers had a huge hole to fill in the middle of the line. With only journeyman J.C. Hassenauer returning, they signed old friend B.J. Finney to a one-year deal before selecting Kendrick Green from the University of Illinois in Round 3 of the draft. Green is expected to earn the starting job at some point during his rookie season. The key word, though, is earn. By having to compete with the veteran Finney for the position, he won’t be handed anything. This ensures the Steelers will get the best possible version of Green right from the jump.

The same is true elsewhere on the line. Chuks Okorafor is moving from right to left tackle, where he is expected to be the starter. But the selection of Dan Moore Jr. in the draft creates a viable alternative if Okorafor falters. Moore is a pure left tackle who was a three-year starter from a Power 5 school. Okorafor was part of a weak offensive line in Pittsburgh in 2020, and while he seems better suited to play left tackle, Moore’s selection is bound to have put him on notice that his play must improve in 2021.

Then there’s wide receiver, where four veterans (Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and James Washington) will compete for three starting spots in Pittsburgh’s base 11 personnel grouping. That battle could be even more intense given the selection of Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in Round 2 of the draft. Canada loves tight ends, and with Freiermuth and Eric Ebron in the fold, the Steelers will likely increase their use of 12 personnel, which puts just two receivers on the field.

Elsewhere, the Rudolph/Haskins competition at backup quarterback will be intriguing. Rudolph is the clear favorite but Haskins has tremendous ability and should push Rudolph. The backup running back spot will be interesting, too. Someone among Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels and Kalen Ballage is getting cut. All will need to bring their ‘A’ game to survive.

On the defensive side of the ball, competition for the slot corner, dime backer, backup edge rusher and rotational line spots should be great. The Steelers may still add a veteran at one or more of those positions, which will add further intrigue to the mix.

It hasn’t been a sexy offseason from a personnel standpoint but the additions the team has made should ensure great competition at some of the weakest spots on the roster.

Canada

Do aliens exist? Who killed JFK? And what will Matt Canada’s 2021 Steelers’ offense look like? These are three of the great mysteries of modern times.

To the first, I say yes. To the second, Oswald — don’t overthink it. As for the third, who knows? But a small clue was offered last week when Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweeted the following clip from Steelers’ OTA activities. It is a video of Pittsburgh’s running backs and quarterbacks walking through some of the concepts Canada is installing. The video has a Zepruder-like graininess to it and forecasts a similar (albeit far less consequential) disaster: The shovel pass. Canada is bringing back the shovel pass!

To quote Captain Kurtz from Apocalypse Now: “The horror. The horror…”

But look closer, astute football junkies. This is not merely a shovel pass. This is a read-option. Specifically, it’s a concept the Baltimore Ravens have run time and again the past few years with Lamar Jackson. That’s right, the Steelers are installing a Lamar Jackson-style offense with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback!

Ok ok, simmer down. I’m joking. Kind of. Before you flip your lid at the thought of Roethlisberger attempting Jackson-style run plays, let me explain.

It’s not the exact same play. The concept is similar — it’s a play called Power Read — but the design is different. On both plays, the front-side linemen block their inside gaps while the backside guard wraps around for the play-side linebacker. And on both plays, the play-side edge player is left unblocked as a read-key. In Baltimore, the Ravens have Jackson ride the running back, who is on an outside run track, and read the edge. If the edge sits inside, Jackson gives the ball to the back. If the edge widens, Jackson pulls it and runs behind the guard.

Here’s Baltimore running the play against the Steelers last season. Jackson will read T.J. Watt, who is walked off the line just outside the right hash. When Watt widens at the snap, Jackson pulls the ball and attacks up the field:

Clearly, the Steelers don’t want Roethlisberger attempting anything like this. However, because read-option concepts are excellent ways to conflict a defense (the quarterback can make the read-key wrong no matter how he reacts), Canada wants to include them in the offense. How, then, can the Steelers gain the benefit of a read-option without asking Roethlisberger to carry the football?

Let’s look at the GIF from OTAs again and explain:

We see Roethlisberger ride the back (Najee Harris) just like Jackson did. You can see a Steelers’ assistant coach acting as the read-key. When the coach comes up the field to attack Harris, Roethlisberger pulls the ball and flips it inside to fullback T.J. Watt, who is following the guard from his pre-snap alignment on the backside of the play. Watt simply replaces the quarterback as the second runner.

This is a nice wrinkle on the traditional Power Read. It’s a versatile play, too. A variety of players can execute Watt’s role — Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Juju Smith-Schuster, Jaylen Samuels — so the Steelers can run it out of different formations and personnel groups. It will require reps between Roethlisberger and the running backs for the feel of when to give the ball and when to pull it. That’s why Canada is introducing the concept now, so the backfield can get plenty of practice throughout the summer.

Traditionalists may find these concepts gimmicky. Others may recall how Roethlisberger struggled with read-options under Randy Fichtner. Fair enough. Just remember that Canada specializes in these types of plays and that Roethlisberger, while not an outspoken advocate of their use, has said all the right things about the new offense so far. If Canada can teach them and Roethlisberger is willing to learn, these types of concepts could make the Steelers much trickier to defend than they were in 2020.

That last sentence underscores the bottom line. The Steelers’ offense had grown bland and stale. They needed to put defenses in greater conflict. Thus, Matt Canada. While the schemes aren’t likely to be radically different, the formations, personnel groups and smoke-and-mirrors used to protect those schemes will be.

Whether the offense is indeed better than it was in 2020 remains to be seen. The roll-out, though, will be fun to watch.

Steelers Vertex: Loss vs. gain at offensive guard

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In year two, Kevin Dotson is set to bring back the nasty to the Steelers offensive line.

With changes in the Steelers roster from 2020 to 2021, we’re going to highlight players lost at a position and the production of the assumed replacement. This week we looking at the loss of Matt Feiler and the retention of the player expected to start in Kevin Dotson.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

As I’ve said many times before, the statistics for offensive linemen are basically nonexistent. When it comes to comparing Matt Feiler and Kevin Dotson, I can tell you both players appeared in 13 regular-season games in 2020. While Feiler started all 13 games in which he appeared, Dotson had four starts on the season filling in at both guard positions. Feiler played 850 offensive snaps during the regular season while Dotson played 360.

Other metrics attributed to offensive linemen are penalties and sacks allowed. Kevin Dotson was credited with three penalties against him on the season while Matt Feiler’s total is up for debate. According to Pro Football Focus, Feiler had two penalties called against him while Pro Football Reference has him credited for four. As for sacks allowed, Dodson did not give up any on the season where Feiler was credited with two sacks surrendered.

If caring at all about PFF scores from 2020, Dotson came in slightly higher with an overall score of 66.2. His pass blocking score of 87.2 placed him as the highest guard in the NFL. It was Dotson’s run blocking, which he was known for coming out of college, which brought down his overall score as it was merely 55.1 on the season. As for Matt Feiler, his overall PFF grade was 65.0 with a 69.6 pass blocking score and a 59.6 run blocking score.

One last number I like to look at with players comes down to their salary cap amount. Being on his rookie contract, Kevin Dotson only counts $944,703 towards the Steelers salary cap in 2021. Matt Feiler signed a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason for $21 million. Even with the first year cap hit being lower, Feiler’s $5 million is more than five times that of Dotson, so the financial benefit is obvious.

Now that we know Kevin Dotson is a much better financial deal for the Steelers, the next question is if he’s a better product on the field. You know what’s coming. Geoffrey, you’re up.

The Film Line:

Matt Feiler is a good offensive lineman. He was a good right tackle in 2019, and he was a good left guard in 2020. Feiler brought good mobility and great strength to the position. That was on frequent display in 2020.

Week 8, second quarter, 6:36. Matt Feiler (#71) is fourth from the right side of the screen

This is when Feiler is at his best, getting upfield, finding the middle linebacker, and driving them out of the play.

Feiler’s weaknesses aren’t in his physical ability, but in his inconsistent technique.

Week 9, first quarter, 11:26. Matt Feiler is the second lineman from the right side of the screen.

Feiler gets off the ball and into the defensive lineman, but despite the run going inside of him, he doesn’t secure the defenders inside arm, and that is enough for his block to be shed.

Notice Maurkice Pouncey (one spot left of Feiler) taking on two defenders and bringing the nastiness the Steelers are looking for in 2021. That choke-block is just Pouncey doing whatever it takes to secure a block. It stands out in contrast with Matt Feiler, who in spite of his physical ability, too often gets caught playing with the opposition instead of looking to finish them.

Week 13, first quarter, 15:00. Matt Feilier (#71) is the left guard.

Like this play. Matt Feiler is hand fighting the defensive lineman and lets him get through to hit Ben Roethlisberger. He swings at the defender and even tries to get a leg in his path, but he fails to get a lock on his man. Compare Feiler to David DeCastro (#66, right guard) on this play and you can see the difference. DeCastro gets his hand on the outside of his defender’s arm and while he gives ground, he keeps control of the block. Feiler is playing guard, but his blocking technique is better suited to tackle, where hand fighting is a bigger deal. Which is why I think he’s a much better right tackle than left guard, and it frustrated me a lot in 2020 that they didn’t move Kevin Dotson to left guard and Matt Feiler to right tackle, or even let him backup everyone.

From that last sentence you should expect I’m going to argue that Kevin Dotson is a better guard than Matt Feiler. Matt Feiler ended up missing three games in 2020, the Week 15 nightmare in Cincinnati when J.C. Hassenauer was forced to start at left guard, and the last two games of the regular season.

With Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Kevin Dotson all starting, the Steelers had their best interior three together, even if David DeCastro wasn’t his usual self at that point.

Week 16, third quarter, 8:53. Kevin Dotson (#69) is the second lineman from the right.

First off, Kevin Dotson is pulling. The Steelers pull their left guard a lot, and while Kevin Dotson isn’t as athletic as Matt Feiler, he’s still really effective on pulls.

Week 16, fourth quarter, 9:45. Kevin Dotson (#69) is the left guard.

Kevin Dotson is at his best inside, clearing lanes and moving defenders. On this play Dotson gets a hold of his defensive tackle, driving him completely out of the play and into the other tackle.

On both of the last two plays you can see David DeCastro having some difficulty with his man. 2020 wasn’t DeCastro’s best year, and for the end of the season, Kevin Dotson was the Steelers most effective interior lineman, especially in the run game. I honestly don’t know how PFF graded him that low in run blocking. It makes as much sense as the Steelers putting Kevin Dotson on the bench in the playoffs.

But that’s run blocking, how about pass protection?

Week 17, first quarter, Kevin Dotson (#69) is the left guard.

I love this block. Kevin Dotson transitions from the linebacker threatening a blitz to the defensive tackle in his wide alignment. His step outside gives the tackle an angle to attack, but it doesn’t matter. Dotson anchors and gets control of the rush, cancelling the inside rush and throwing the defensive lineman outside to add a little insult to the end of his domination of that snap. #94’s body language says it all at the end. He had an angle and a head of steam and got whooped. Dotson jogging upfield like it was nothing is just fantastic.

That personality is exactly what the Steelers need on their offensive line, Kevin Dotson isn’t trying to win, he’s putting in work to dominate his opponent and make them feel bad about their career choice.

Week 17, first quarter, 0:49. Kevin Dotson (#69) is the left guard.

In the previous snap the Browns show blitz and drop, this time they bring the blitz, and if you count out the defender who makes Chukwuma Okorafor (#76, left tackle) stay out to account for him, the Browns have 5 rushers on 4 blockers. #33 comes free, but Mason Rudolph has room and time to get a clean throw off to Chase Claypool for the first down.

Look at David DeCastro and Kevin Dotson on this play, and how they collapse the rush into the middle, and in doing so actually take the rusher that J.C. Hassenauer is responsible for out of the play. Hassenauer helps, but the guards do the work. Dotson taking his friend from earlier (#94) and driving him into his linebacker is a great sight.

Week 16 involved a great second half performance from Ben Roethlisberger to comeback and beat the Colts. On film the biggest difference is Roethlisberger realized he didn’t have to get rid of the ball so fast, held on a bit longer and found receivers downfield. In Week 17 Mason Rudolph looked like a competent NFL quarterback, and plays like that 9 yard pass to Chase Claypool on 3rd and 8 against a blitz were a big part of it. The biggest part of that play’s success was the offensive line stopping the blitz and giving their quarterback a clean throw.

David DeCastro wasn’t playing well at the end of the season, but even then he and Kevin Dotson were able to give their quarterback time to make good throws and open holes in the run game. They also showed that they could cover for a young center who was struggling. There is a good amount of optimism for the Steelers offensive line in 2021, and there should be, based on what Kevin Dotson was able to bring to the offense in 2020.

The Point:

Offensive guard is one of the positions on the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers where a good argument could be made they have improved from the previous year. Kevin Dotson appears to be a younger, cheaper, and better version of what the Steelers lost at the position. What would be interesting is if the Steelers had chosen to re-sign Matt Feiler if he made the position switch yet again and moved back to tackle.

Kevin Dodson is the answer at guard for the Steelers for 2021 and beyond. The bigger question mark for this upcoming season at the position comes with David DeCastro and if he can return to his previous form or not. But the choice to move on from Matt Feiler, especially for $21 million over the next three seasons, was a no-brainer with Dotson waiting in the wings.

Podcast: How the new blood stacks up against Steelers legends

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 8:25am

Matt Peverell breaks down the Steelers salary cap and player personnel situation every week in The War Room.

The Steelers have a plan at both tackle spots. But there may need to be a contingency should things not play out just right. Plus, how do the current stats stack up against black-and-gold legends? Join BTSC’s Matt Peverell for his solo show as he examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers dollars and “sense” situation when it comes to personnel.

Check out the newest addition to the BTSC family of podcasts and stay a while with Matty in The War Room.

Rundown of the show:

  • The Approximation Value (from Pro Football Reference) of current Steelers players and a few notable legends
  • LT and RTs available in next year’s offseason based on current players with 1-year on their deals, as something to think about if Chuks and Banner don’t progress like expected.
  • Two wild dark-horse suggestions, and stat analysis, for OLBs to fill backup spots that would be an upgrade on Cassius Marsh and have shown promise at 26 & 27 years of age.

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.

Minicamp Recap, Day 2: James Pierre turning heads, ready to step up in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the gridiron for mandatory minicamp, and plenty of news came from their last on-field work before training camp.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Wednesday for the second of three mandatory minicamp practices, and while things weren’t as new and fresh as Day 1, there was plenty of news to talk about after the practice, and media sessions, came to a close.

Tuesday the Steelers’ new offense, and offensive coordinator Matt Canada, took center stage. It was the first time the newly hired coordinator spoke in front of the media since he was promoted from quarterbacks coach.

But while everyone was infatuated with asking questions about how Ben Roethlisberger will be utilized in Canada’s offense, Day 2 saw a rather unknown defender take the spotlight. That defender would be none other than James Pierre.

Towards the end of the 2020 season, it was Pierre, not Justin Layne, who saw significant playing time down the stretch. After Mike Hilton left via free agency, and Steven Nelson was a cap casualty, fans are wondering who will fill the voids left by those aforementioned players.

When you listen to the Steelers coaches, mainly special teams coordinator Danny Smith and secondary coach Teryl Austin, Pierre is set up to see significant starting repetitions this season.

Followed up with Steelers secondary coach Teryl Austin on 2nd-year UDFA James Pierre, who's competing to replace Steve Nelson as a starter. Austin: "I think there will be a big jump with him. I’m hoping we have all of a sudden found ourselves a nice, big corner for the future."

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 16, 2021

Pierre spoke to the media following practice Wednesday, and he outlined some plays which happened during minicamp. He started by talking about a play on Tuesday he missed, and his receiver caught the ball. Pierre said it made him sick, but motivated him for Wednesday.

And what a Wednesday he had.

Pierre got his hands on the football multiple times, many of those being interceptions, and it caught the attention of everyone in attendance, especially Ben Roethlisberger. Pierre looks to be a huge piece of the Steelers’ puzzle moving forward, but how they utilize him will be something to watch as training camp approaches at the end of July.

Now for some other nuggets of information coming from Day 2 of minicamp:

Avoiding the Drops

One aspect of the receiving corps which certainly has been beaten to death this offseason has been the drops. Whether it was Diontae Johnson or Eric Ebron, everyone has been talking about the drops, and receiver coach Ike Hilliard has also been talking to the receivers about dropping the football. It might not be enough for the fans, but know Hilliard acknowledges the issues and is working to eliminate those mistakes.

Steelers WRs coach Ike Hilliard: "Drops are part of the game. Obviously we had too many balls on the ground. It's been discussed. Our group understands and they know we have to do a better job of not putting the ball on the ground. We work at it every day."

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 16, 2021 Plug-and-Play Offense

Speaking of Hilliard, he was asked what type of receiver he wanted in this new offense the Steelers are rolling out under Matt Canada. The best way he could describe it was the more versatility you bring, the better. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a perfect example of someone who can play every receiver position on the field, this attribute makes him an easy weapon to have on the field.

WR Coach Ike Hilliard said they are working on an offense where they can plug and play guys. In relation to JuJu Smith-Schuster wanting to move outside, he said they will work on putting guys where they can be the most productive and make plays.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 16, 2021 A Business Decision

Joe Haden spoke to the media and was asked about his former running mate Steven Nelson being released. Haden said it was a surprise, and difficult, but he knew it was a business decision. He spoke highly of Nelson, but Haden has to be appreciative of the fact it was Nelson, and not himself, who was released due to salary cap constraints.

Joe Haden on the release of Steve Nelson: "I was a little surprised but it's a business thing. I think it had a lot to do with cap numbers. We're older players and had one year left on our deals. ...

"it was a business decision. Steve is a baller."

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 16, 2021 Punter Sneak?!

When Danny Smith talks, he is good for some funny one-liners. Smith was peppered with questions surrounding his newest punter, Pressley Harvin III, and he spoke about a play he is hoping to install in 2021. Ever heard for a punt-sneak? No? Get ready! Smith was obviously joking, or was he?

Steelers ST coordinator Danny Smith, who never disappoints, says of 250-pound rookie punter Pressley Harvin: "The first thing we're doing with him is, you're gonna see a punt-sneak play with this big dude! Maybe we can get a yard."

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 16, 2021 Golf Match Set

Tuesday T.J. Watt complimented Joe Haden’s golf game, and there seems to be a big time match brewing within the Steelers locker room. The match would have Haden and Watt as partners vs. Ben Roethlisberger and his brother. Haden is hopeful to get some strokes, and he should considering Roethlisberger was quite the accomplished golfer prior to his elbow injury in 2019. Hopefully the betting line will be announced soon...

Joe Haden's golf advice to TJ Watt: "I told him you got to swing the club a lot. I’ve been doing a whole lot of golfing out in LA after training."

Haden and Watt are supposed to play a match vs. Ben Roethlisberger and his brother. Haden hopes he and Watt get a lot of strokes.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) June 16, 2021 Press Conferences

Mike Tomlin and James Pierre (If you can’t see the video below, click HERE)

Joe Haden (If you can’t see the video below, click HERE)

Day 2 Live Look-In

There was no live look-in for Wednesday’s practice.

VIDEO

7 with goal line throws to his receivers. pic.twitter.com/iCLsQLxX88

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 16, 2021

Another episode of Running Back Drills with Eddie Faulkner with almost a causality. pic.twitter.com/cyoYq8FTVw

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 16, 2021

Love watching @coachfaulk’s drills at practice. Another fun one here with @DerekWatt34 taking his turn. pic.twitter.com/VxCViobprC

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 16, 2021

This is in real speed. Those are some quick feet @ohthatsNajee22 has. pic.twitter.com/duBM7XYA3h

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 17, 2021

So much for the “injury” Tuesday. This guy was back on the practice field today. #Steelers #dkps pic.twitter.com/jA0QmfufFq

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) June 17, 2021

.@joehaden23 on Cam Sutton & anticipating the younger guys to step up:

Full : https://t.co/gJEKqGZUUk pic.twitter.com/EwcHuRjrFR

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 16, 2021 PHOTOS

The Steelers’ second minicamp practice has concluded. Ben Roethlisberger was back out at Heinz Field today, while JuJu Smith-Schuster was in sweats. pic.twitter.com/pbczxnzjdf

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 16, 2021

Minicamp Day 2️⃣@_TJWatt's excited pic.twitter.com/Yr1lRsnXh4

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 16, 2021

It wouldn’t be Wednesday without a #BensDay post pic.twitter.com/Wn43gtRCO1

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 16, 2021

Steelers work out on day 2 of minicamp Wednesday at Heinz Field. pic.twitter.com/Dd4NLZx6oA

— Matt Freed (@mattfreedpghpg) June 16, 2021

.@VinnyVidiVici98 gettin' after it pic.twitter.com/ano6B1MZ4z

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 16, 2021

7 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin following Day 2 of minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking to the media for the second straight day, the Steelers head coach was asked about Day 2 of Steelers minicamp.

As the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at Heinz Field again on Wednesday for, we were also graced with another media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Since he was asked about a number of players following the team’s activities, another “players mentioned” article is able to make a brief appearance before the lull in football activities kicks in for several weeks. To qualify as one of the “players” I kept the names highlighted limited to members of the Steelers’ current roster. Remember these are players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.

James Pierre

One of the more intriguing reports from Day 2 of minicamp at Heinz Field was James Pierre had two interceptions. Coach Tomlin was asked about Pierre’s development.

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

Antoine Brooks Jr

The only rookie drafted in 2020 who did not make the Steelers 53-man roster to begin the season, Antoine Brooks still received playing time in his first year in the NFL. Coach Tomlin was asked about what makes him believe that Brooks could play in the slot position.

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

Dwayne Haskins

Pittsburgh Steelers added another former first-round draft pick to their roster in 2021 when they signed Dwayne Haskins after he was released by the Washington Football Team. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he has learned about Haskins in his short time in Pittsburgh.

“Really, I’ve been more concerned about Dwayne the person, kind of getting to know him and getting an understanding of what he’s been through and how that’s shaped him, affected him positively and negatively, how it’s affected the growth and development of his game. I think, more than anything, Dwayne and I are just trying to get to know one another. I think it starts there, and then we can focus on some things relative to the game itself. I leave some of the minutia and some of the detail about his football development between him and Sully (Mike Sullivan) and (Matt) Canada. I just want to get to know the young man and help him grow in that way.”

Joe Haden

When looking at the Steelers secondary, there is one player who stands out due to his extensive experience. Coach Tomlin was asked about Joe Haden’s veteran leadership and what the younger guys can learn from him.

“The PG County boys, it just uplifts their day when Joe’s here. Joe’s a leader of the secondary. He’s a leader of the guys from DC, but Joe is just a natural leader. He wears that in a very natural way, a very welcoming way. He calms the waters, if you will. He’s a guy that displays veteran presence and poise almost in all circumstances.”

David DeCastro & Zach Banner

After losing offensive captain Maurkice Pouncey to retirement following the 2020 season, the Steelers offensive line lost their long-time leader. Coach Tomlin was asked if the leadership on the offensive line would fall to David DeCastro because of his experience of to a big personality like Zach Banner

“I think that’s something that happens organically through the process. I think when guys like me try to create that, it’s not authentic. So there’ll be enough adversity and enough challenges and enough opportunities to let natural leadership ability show throughout this process. And that’s one of the interesting subplots that I’m interested in watching develop.”

Diontae Johnson

One of the biggest problems with the Steelers young wide receivers last year came in the category of drops. Leading the way was 2019 third-round draft pick Diontae Johnson. Coach Tomlin was asked if he was on top of the the issue Johnson had last year with drops.

“I haven’t given a lot of thought about it. Last year is last year. Everyone starts anew as far as I’m concerned. It hadn’t been a real topic of discussion to be quite honest with you.”

Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here:

Podcast: The Steelers’ age is just a number, or is it?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/17/2021 - 4:30am

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

Over the years the Steelers have had more veteran-laden teams and then there were other seasons when the roster included a long list of younger players. So, does the average age of the Steelers affected success at all? Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The average age of the Steelers and how it affects success
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

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You can listen to the show in the player below.

Keith Butler talks of the Steelers taking a wait-and-see approach at the OLB position

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/16/2021 - 2:35pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers might be adding an OLB, but not anytime soon.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 offseason roster is set, but that doesn’t mean new players won’t be added, or removed, from the list. One position the Steelers could certainly see a player added would be outside linebacker (OLB).

Currently, the Steelers depth chart at the position looks like this:

OLB1: T.J. Watt
OLB2: Alex Highsmith
OLB3: Cassius Marsh
OLB4: Quincy Roche

You might be wondering where the other names are, but there aren’t any. That would consist of the entire Steelers’ OLB depth chart. But could the team add talent at the position? It is a possibility, and one defensive coordinator Keith Butler spoke about Tuesday during his media session.

“That’s going to be up to Mike [Tomlin] and Kevin [Colbert] to look elsewhere and stuff like that, to give us a little depth right there.” Butler said. “So we’ll see as we go along training camp and preseason. We’ve got the four preseason games, playing in the Hall of Fame and all of that stuff. The good thing about all of that is it gives us a chance to evaluate who we have and who we don’t have. Hopefully we can find somebody that we think is capable of being as good as we have been in the past. So we’ll see what happens there, and if we need somebody else I’m sure Kevin and Mike will look around.”

It was Butler who said after the 2021 NFL Draft he team might not be done adding talent, and while they did add a few more pieces to the puzzle, none were at the pass rushing position.

The Steelers are now in the midst of mandatory minicamp, and Butler was asked what, if anything, he can take away from these workouts? The answer? Not much.

“Well, really, the only thing you can tell with guys with shorts on is how fast are they really and how do they react and how smart they are, stuff like that. And that’s fine. Our coaching staff and Mike [Tomlin] too, we want a physical team. We want to be a physical defense and we’re not gonna know where we are in terms of that until we put the pads on and we go through the preseason and let them play real games and tackle real people and the offensive line is out there trying to block them. So we’ll kind of wait and see on that with those guys and see if we’ve got some guys who are going to be physical.”

The biggest question surrounding the defense, and primarily the OLBs, would be T.J. Watt. Watt didn’t attend Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and will have a huge role within the defense in 2021. Did Watt not being present impact the team in any way? Did Watt miss out on any critical information?

“T.J. [Watt] is a big part of our defense, a big part of our team. He’s doing what he thinks is best for him and he’s gotta do that, I think. I support him as much as anybody because I was once a player too, who had to do the same thing going into free agency and stuff like that. There’s a reason that the Player’s Association got what they got in terms of better free agency stuff. He’s not a free agent right now—he’s still gotta go through the clause—but we’re hoping we can get him signed and get him in for training camp and stuff like that. He’s a big part of our defense.”

The Steelers very well might be waiting for training camp to assess their OLB situation, but they could also be waiting for other NFL teams to cut down their rosters prior to the regular season. Either way, it doesn’t look like the Steelers are going to settle for their current depth chart at OLB heading into 2021.

Putting Matt Canada’s “Do what Ben wants to do” comments in context

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/16/2021 - 1:00pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Steelers new offensive coordinator drew criticism as fans feared they will see the same offense in 2021.

On Tuesday morning, Steelers new offensive coordinator Matt Canada spoke with the media in a zoom press conference. While Canada spoke about a number of things about the Steelers offense for 2021, one particular quote stands out more than others.

“We are going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it.”

When Steelers fans hear this, nightmares of the end of the 2020 season start to creep back into their minds. With former offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner having a reputation of being “Ben’s guy” and Roethlisberger actually being more of the offensive coordinator, there is a fear that Canada might just allow more of the same. But is this really what Matt Canada meant by his comment?

To dive into the quote further, it’s time to take a look at the exact question that was asked and Canada‘s full response. The question came courtesy of NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala. She asked about what parts of Ben Roethlisberger‘s game Canada wanted to keep and how has the adjustment been in getting Roethlisberger into some new things.

Canada began his response by emphasizing the importance of the quarterback position. “I think in football, it is 11 men doing their job, but the quarterback is the focal point,” Canada explained. “It’s the greatest position in all of sport, in my opinion, because of all the things you have to do.”

This is now the complete setup to the portion of the quote which has been passed around social media.

“We are going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it,” Canada stated. “Our job is putting every player in a position to make plays.”

Where Canada definitely gets it right is embracing the job of putting every player in a position to succeed. A common theme we have seen this offseason is the Steelers focusing on the message to their players of taking what they do well and getting even better at it. Playing to everyone’s strengths. It’s a great philosophy and one which should bring success.

Where Canada may have not phrased things in the best manner is his choice of the word “wants.” Is Canada simply wanting to do what Ben Roethlisberger is wanting to do, or was he actually referring to doing things which would build to Roethlisberger’s strengths? Perhaps as we read further into the quote we will get a better picture.

“There are changes with terminology and how we are calling things which has been a challenge for Ben, and he has been great and learning it. Doing really well with it. I think he has adapted easily just like we all know he would.”

Okay. Nothing so far to add to Canada’s true intention of the point of contention. Let’s keep going.

“But the answer to your question, that is our job,” Canada continued. “Matchups are how you win football games. It starts with the quarterback. What does he do well? What does he like? What does he see? What is good to his eye in the passing game and then you build off of that and that is what we are going to do.”

Interesting. If looking at this statement and compare it to the earlier one, perhaps “wants” is not the best choice of words. It seems as if Canada is talking about building to Ben Roethlisberger strengths. Some may assume that the things Ben Roethlisberger does best are the things he wants to do. While Steelers fans can’t say that for sure, perhaps the man who spent the last season as Roethlisberger‘s quarterbacks coach and is now his new offensive coordinator would know a little better.

Another interesting phrase from this response was Canada saying “What does he like?” Maybe the word “like” is it better choice than “wants,” although it may not be a better situation in the eyes of many fans.

This still was not the end of Canada‘s response. There is still one sentence left. I specifically held it back because I think it is a great conclusion to the entire answer.

“His voice and his vision, what he sees is will be what we do.”

Now the intention comes into focus a little more once seeing things as a whole. If Steelers fans are concerned about Roethlisberger simply “drawing up plays in the dirt” and figuring out what he thinks will work for every game in 2021, this does not appear to be the case. But an offensive coordinator coming in to work with a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback with 17 years of NFL experience would be foolish not to rely on what he sees on the field.

If you were still concerned about the exact choice of words Canada used in regards to doing what Ben wants, perhaps the answer to the very next question will ease your mind.

The following question came courtesy of Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He asked about the importance of the quarterback being under center and running play action and if Ben Roethlisberger can do those things well at this point of his career.

“Ben can do everything really well. I don’t have any concern about Ben doing anything we want to do to that part of your question. As far as, if you are going to run the football, I think play-action is very important. We have to be able to run the ball.”

If Steelers’ Nation is still concerned over Canada‘s remarks on Tuesday, I think looking at a greater sample of what he said can give a little more peace of mind. Canada has not done a lot of press conferences since coming to the NFL, so perhaps maybe he just phrased things in a way which didn’t accurately depict what he meant.

Then again, perhaps the exact wording he used is exactly what he meant.

Until the Steelers take the field in the regular season this fall, we probably still won’t know exactly how things are going to pan out with Ben Roethlisberger running Matt Canada’s offense and exactly how it will look. But for now, Steelers fans will likely take Canada‘s words and run with them in whichever way they wants to go.

Steelers Minicamp Tracker: Compiling various reports from Day 2

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/16/2021 - 12:29pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are at Heinz Field for the final phase of the 2021 offseason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are at Heinz Field for Day 2 of 2021 minicamp. This week will be the first time the Steelers entire offseason roster will be together, as well as the last time until training camp begins at the end of July.

When it comes to reports from mandatory minicamp, there may not be much information for Steelers fans. One thing we know for sure is Steelers Live will be presenting a show at 1 PM while minicamp is going on at Heinz Field. The link to that show will be in the tracker below as soon as it is available.

As for any other details coming from minicamp, we will do our best to post them in here once available. Reports should run from earliest to most recent as you scroll down the page.

LIVE LOOK IN AT MINICAMP

It appears Steelers Live will not be broadcasting from minicamp on Wednesday. If a later broadcast occurs, it will be posted here.

Other News:

Day 2 of Steelers minicamp set to begin. #Steelers #dkps pic.twitter.com/xryTJjTlc4

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) June 16, 2021

#Steelers Special Teams Coordinator Danny Smith on Pressley Harvin: He's a talented guy. He's got a lot to learn...he's a powerful young man and we're just perfecting his skill set...we're very excited about him and working with him.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) June 16, 2021

Teryl Austin said it's great to have Joe Haden, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds playing their third year together so when anyone who comes in new to the secondary, that veteran leadership (including Cam Sutton) is really important when you have turnover.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) June 16, 2021

.@joehaden23 on Cam Sutton & anticipating the younger guys to step up:

Full : https://t.co/gJEKqGZUUk pic.twitter.com/EwcHuRjrFR

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 16, 2021

The Steelers’ second minicamp practice has concluded. Ben Roethlisberger was back out at Heinz Field today, while JuJu Smith-Schuster was in sweats. pic.twitter.com/pbczxnzjdf

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 16, 2021

Podcast: Fatherhood and the Steelers with Sam Highsmith 

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/16/2021 - 11:00am

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

As we celebrate Fathers Day this weekend, we turn to a father to ask about his experience as an NFL dad. Sam Highsmith joins the Brothers Scho to talk about his football journey with his son Alex from Pop Warner to Pittsburgh. This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show.

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Am interview with an NFL father Sam Highsmith
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

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