You are here

Links

AFC Championship Game Open Thread: Keep tabs on all the playoff action

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 5:30pm
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

The Steelers are done, but that doesn’t mean fans won’t be watching football. Why not spend it with fellow Steelers fans?

It is hard to believe, and some might still struggle with it, but NFL football is in the postseason!

It wasn’t always certain there would be a return of America’s favorite game, but here we are, preparing for an awesome slate of games in the NFL’s Championship Sunday. Yes, it’s the playoffs so the NFL season is now in the home stretch.

Here is the schedule for the day:

Bills at Chiefs — 6:40 p.m. ET

This obviously isn’t the first NFL Sunday of the 2020 season, but our new commenting system remains an issue for some. While improvements have been made, and they aren’t done with those improvements, just wanted to put a message here from NFL Manager Jeanna Thomas about the system:

Here are a few features that you might want to include in game day thread articles, to help your community enjoy the game day threads more:

If you change the ‘Sort By’ option to “Oldest,” you can read all the comments in chronological order, and the comment box moves to the bottom. If you leave it as “Newest”, the latest comments will appear at the top.

If you’re using a computer, you can move down the comments using C, and move back up using shift-C by clicking once inside the comments area. This can also be used to ‘load more’ comments.

Under the ‘My Profile’ tab, you can keep track of replies to your comments, and also sign up for email notifications of replies

If you want to auto-show all images/GIFs/Tweets, you can opt into this under My Profile - Preferences

As always, we’re continuing to improve the system, and will be watching how everyone is using it on game days – and if you or your community have suggestions on how we can further improve the game day thread experience, we’d love for you/them to join our commenting feedback group: https://forms.gle/2FTSCHRgnggxH6SR6 or you can email support@coralproject.net.

For those wondering, you can enjoy some lively commentary with the best Steelers fans across the globe in the open thread for all BTSC members in the comment section below. Let’s remember to keep it clean, respect everyone’s thoughts and ideas, and ultimately remember we’re all here for the same reason—to root for the Steelers!

If you don’t want to listen to the talking heads during games, you can always watch the games on mute and listen to some of our great Steelers podcasts. Check out the playlist below:

So enjoy the games and be sure to follow BTSC for all the latest news surrounding the team throughout the game and afterwards!

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

Maurkice Pouncey reportedly planning on retiring after 11 seasons

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 4:33pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

After 11 seasons in Pittsburgh, the nine-time Pro Bowler is reportedly calling it a career.

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers exit from the 2020 NFL postseason, Many got the feeling Steelers center and offensive captain Maurkice Pouncey had possibly played his last NFL game. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh post-Gazette, the speculations are true and Pouncey is planning on retiring after 11 years with the Steelers.

Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey has told teammates he is likely retiring after 11 seasons. Barring a change of heart, could be making a decision soon, per sources.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) January 24, 2021

Pouncy was the 18th overall draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 NFL draft. Earning the starting spot in training camp, Pouncy made the Pro Bowl in all nine seasons in which he played more than eight snaps. Pouncey also added All-Pro selections in 2011 and 2014.

Although he was with the Steelers for 11 seasons, Pouncey did not appear in a regular season game in 2015 after being lost for the season due to a foot injury in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Only two seasons prior, Pouncey was injured on the Steelers first offensive drive of the 2013 season after playing eight snaps against the Tennessee Titans.

Pouncey started all 134 regular season games in which he appeared with the Steelers. He also added eight playoff games over his career. Unfortunately, Pouncey was injured and did not appear in Super Bowl XLV his rookie season.

If Maurkice Pouncey does go through with his decision to retire, he is set to save the Steelers $8 million towards the salary cap. Although the Steelers could technically attempt to recover part of Pouncey’s $6.475 million dead money hit against the salary cap in 2021, it is unlikely they attempt to do so.

On behalf of BTSC, we congratulate Pouncey on a great career in Pittsburgh and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.

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

NFC Championship Game Open Thread: Keep tabs on all the playoff action

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 1:55pm
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Steelers are done, but that doesn’t mean fans won’t be watching football. Why not spend it with fellow Steelers fans?

It is hard to believe, and some might still struggle with it, but NFL football is in the postseason!

It wasn’t always certain there would be a return of America’s favorite game, but here we are, preparing for an awesome slate of games in the NFL’s Championship Sunday. Yes, it’s the playoffs so the NFL season is now in the home stretch.

Here is the schedule for the day:

Buccaneers at Packers — 3:05 p.m. ET
Bills at Chiefs — 6:40 p.m. ET

This obviously isn’t the first NFL Sunday of the 2020 season, but our new commenting system remains an issue for some. While improvements have been made, and they aren’t done with those improvements, just wanted to put a message here from NFL Manager Jeanna Thomas about the system:

Here are a few features that you might want to include in game day thread articles, to help your community enjoy the game day threads more:

If you change the ‘Sort By’ option to “Oldest,” you can read all the comments in chronological order, and the comment box moves to the bottom. If you leave it as “Newest”, the latest comments will appear at the top.

If you’re using a computer, you can move down the comments using C, and move back up using shift-C by clicking once inside the comments area. This can also be used to ‘load more’ comments.

Under the ‘My Profile’ tab, you can keep track of replies to your comments, and also sign up for email notifications of replies

If you want to auto-show all images/GIFs/Tweets, you can opt into this under My Profile - Preferences

As always, we’re continuing to improve the system, and will be watching how everyone is using it on game days – and if you or your community have suggestions on how we can further improve the game day thread experience, we’d love for you/them to join our commenting feedback group: https://forms.gle/2FTSCHRgnggxH6SR6 or you can email support@coralproject.net.

For those wondering, you can enjoy some lively commentary with the best Steelers fans across the globe in the open thread for all BTSC members in the comment section below. Let’s remember to keep it clean, respect everyone’s thoughts and ideas, and ultimately remember we’re all here for the same reason—to root for the Steelers!

If you don’t want to listen to the talking heads during games, you can always watch the games on mute and listen to some of our great Steelers podcasts. Check out the playlist below:

So enjoy the games and be sure to follow BTSC for all the latest news surrounding the team throughout the game and afterwards!

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

Devlin “Duck” Hodges finds a new home with the Los Angeles Rams

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 1:43pm
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The man known as “Duck” is flying west to be a part of the Los Angeles Rams’ organization.

Earlier this offseason the Pittsburgh Steelers made the announcement they have let several practice player contracts expire. One of those players was quarterback Devlin Hodges.

The man fondly called “Duck” for his duck calling expertise, was able to be a significant player during the 2019 season. After Ben Roethlisberger was lost in Week 2 vs. the Seattle Seahawks with an elbow injury, and a concussion removed Mason Rudolph from the lineup, it was Duck’s team.

Hodges’ first start was in the city he will now call home, Los Angeles. The only exception was his first start was against the Chargers, and, according to his verified Twitter account, he is now a member of the Los Angeles Rams organization.

Excited for the opportunity to sign and be apart of the @RamsNFL! I’ve been to LA before ;) let’s get it! pic.twitter.com/2gqGDNhcuo

— Devlin Hodges (@DevlinHodges10) January 24, 2021

Hodges joins the ranks of Deon Cain and Matthew Wright who spent their 2020 season with Pittsburgh on the practice squad, but have found a new home elsewhere in the NFL.

While many will look back at Hodges’ time with the Steelers and grimace of what could have been a tremendous 2019 season, if you think about his story from start to finish it is stuff movies are made of.

An award-winning quarterback coming out of Samford gets a shot at showing what he can do at the NFL level with a Reserve/Future contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Due to injuries he didn’t just make the team, but was the starter for several weeks as a rookie. Hodges’ play was what gave the Steelers a chance at the playoffs in 2019, but also what did them in in the waning months of the season.

We here at BTSC wish Duck the best of luck moving forward.

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

Steelers have 3 players in Top 10 of PFF total QB pressures

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 1:00pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers got after the quarterback better than anyone in 2020, in more ways than one.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were a team whose defense was built around pressuring the quarterback. They led the NFL in team sacks, T.J Watt led the NFL in sacks and they were constantly harassing opposing quarterbacks.

Sometimes when people think of a defense being able to pressure the quarterback, they only think of one statistic: sacks. But sometimes just putting pressure on the quarterback can be equally effective in impacting the game.

If a quarterback doesn’t have the time to sit in the pocket and go through his multiple reads, it often equates to good things happening for the defense. Obviously, it could result in a sack, but it also could equate to an arrant throw.

When it comes to quarterback pressures, no one did it better than the Steelers in 2020. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the Steelers were the only NFL team to have three players rank in the Top 10 of total pressures.

Total Pressures:

T.J. Watt - 73
Stephon Tuitt - 71
Cameron Heyward - 62

Only Team with 3 players in the top 10 pic.twitter.com/66sXeS8U1y

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) January 24, 2021

When you look at the three names above, you don’t see any surprises. Watt led the NFL in sacks and Stephon Tuitt had double-digit sacks for the first time in his career. But then there is Heyward. Heyward clearly put pressure on the quarterback, but that pressure didn’t always result in sacks. In 2020 Heyward was only able to register 4 sacks this season, which would make many believe his season was disappointing. However, the above statistic shows how Heyward did have an impact on the defense, even if it didn’t always result in quarterbacks being taken to the ground.

The Steelers’ defense will likely remain a force to be reckoned with in 2021 with all of three of these players set to return for another season. Will they be able to continue their dominance rushing the passer? Only time will tell, but it is clearly necessary to the team’s success as a defense.

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

One small detail suggests the Steelers aren't done adding quarterbacks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Think the Steelers are done adding quarterbacks? Think again

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a notable move at quarterback this past week, when the club brought in Washington cast-off Dwayne Haskins. Now some might think the Steelers have their depth chart set at quarterback. But there is one detail we are all overlooking. All three quarterbacks currently signed to the Steelers’ roster have deals that expire in 2022. After this season the Steelers have no fall back options available to them.

If Ben Roethlisberger is set to retire at the conclusion of next season, and the Steelers deem Mason Rudolph their next starting quarterback, Rudolph will have to receive a significant pay bump by virtue of being a starting quarterback of an NFL team. A deal in the neighborhood of two years $30 million dollars ($15 Million per year) the same as Jacoby Brissett who's gone from meddling backup to being thrust into the starters role. Which is a fair amount of money for someone that is still unproven. There’s also a chance Rudolph doesn't want to play on the Steelers altogether. The newest Steeler, Dwayne Haskins will be a restricted free agent next year. So he will be cheap, but you are expecting him to completely turn his life around both on and off the field. I trust the Steelers will not put that much faith into the belief Haskins will turn into the prospect he was once thought of being.

As for the 2022 free agent quarterback class. There’s a whole lot of nothing. A 45-year-old Tom Brady, Taysom Hill, Marcus Mariota, and Sam Darnold highlight the class. The ladder of which likely won't even reach market.

If you think the Steelers will trust a rookie from the 2022 draft class to just step on the field and be the guy on Day 1, think again. The smartest move the Steelers could make right now is figuring out what picks they're willing to put together to move up in this year’s draft and find that quarterback now. There is a list of positives that come with such a move. Including that player getting a year to sit and learn under Ben Roethlisberger, while getting the chance to figure out the nuances of an NFL playbook that will be both brand new to him and the entire Steelers offense. This kid will get to grow with whoever the Steelers choose to be their next offensive coordinator.

Give the kid some time to marinate like how Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and even Ben Roethlisberger did at the start of their careers. Rookies can quickly have their confidence ripped away from them. So there is no need into rushing them onto the field.

The NFL’s quarterback carousel is shaping up to be even more of a spectacle than it was last year. A number of teams picking above the Steelers will either trade for, or sign, their next quarterback. Some teams might also decide to continue with the quarterback they already have. So for a team trying to move up to snag one of the top four quarterbacks of the 2021 draft class, I will say it is not impossible. If someone like Trey Lance can get past the Lions and the Panthers, all of the sudden the Steelers would have a real shot at making the move for him.

If the Steelers do in fact draft a quarterback this year, a ton of the worry vanishes about the future. Come 2022 the Steelers will have a mountain of salary cap and four more years remaining on said quarterback’s rookie deal. Not to mention the man under center would have more tools at his disposal than someone stepping straight out of college.

If the Steelers hire Pep Hamilton as their OC I’d have a sneaking suspicion he’s taking the deal on a promise to trade up for a QB.

— Michael Beck (@MichaelBeck56) January 24, 2021

Deep down I think we all know the right move is to draft the next quarterback of this great franchise here and now in 2021. Even if the Steelers were to regress next year they would be in a better position in the draft to get that young signal caller some weapons.

But what do you think? Should the Steelers draft a quarterback in the first round of this years draft? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Steelers Touchdown Under Podcast: Two weeks left, too many questions

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 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.

With two weeks left in the 2020 season, the Steelers are gearing up for next year and questions keep piling up for fans of the black-and-gold. Join the two Aussie blokes, two mates, Matty Peverell & Mark Davison from Steelers Nation Australia - and the future - as they bring an international perspective to the Steelers 2020 season and what needs to be done to steady the ship, to set the team up for a successful 2021 chase for that seventh Lombardi. This is just some what will be discussed on the latest episode of Touchdown Under, the Australian sensation from the BTSC family of podcasts that’s now moved over to its live YouTube home.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • ‘Slingin’ the Slang’
  • Punts of the Week

and 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:

Steelers Fact or Fiction: Scorpions edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via 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 a retirement, assistant coaching searches and an interesting addition at quarterback. It reminds me of the biggest single for Klaus Meine and his epic German band the Scorpions, song Winds of Change. “The world is closing in. Did you ever think that we could be so close, like brothers? The future’s in the air can feel it everywhere, I’m blowing with the wind of change”. So there is surely a lot to wonder about. BTSC tries to answer some of the poignant wonderings ahead of time. Take a gander at some bold statements on this and more as we label them as fact or fiction.

Are we on point? Only time will tell.

Fans should be concerned about the signing of Dwayne Haskins Fiction

On the contrary. In fact, this is a perfect signing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But fans are over-reacting to the deal. It’s not like they signed the former Ohio State and Washington Football Team quarterback to a long-term deal. They signed him to a futures contract. Most always, futures contracts are minimum-salary deals with little or no signing bonus. Usually players signed to futures contracts turn out to be camp bodies, But every once in a while a team strikes gold here. The Steelers definitely did when they signed Mike Hilton to a futures deal in 2017, after spending a couple of weeks on their practice squad in December of 2016. Sure the former first-round and 15th overall pick underachieved and subsequently earned a bad reputation for poor play and work ethic in our nation’s capitol. However, everybody deserves a second chance and the Steelers could be a good situation for Haskins to turn things around. They could easily cut ties with him if it doesn’t work out because it’s a futures deal. There’s really very little risk and high reward if he finds a way to revitalize his career. But the Steelers did not bring him in to be the starting quarterback. He’s not there to replace Ben Roethlisberger or Mason Rudolph in 2021. He’s there to replace Devlin Hodges and Duck was QB4 last year.

The Steelers offense line is not going to go through the long rebuild that most fans think is going to need to happen Fact

When fans talked about the Steelers offensive line getting older, they were not incorrect. They are long-in-the-tooth at three spots. That trio consists of left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and 2020 Pro Bowlers David DeCastro at right guard along with center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey is said to be 50/50 regarding next season, but has a season left on his deal. I’d bet on his return, but the Steelers will most likely draft their future at the position he’s held down since 2010 in April. DeCastro was reportedly hurt last season and, with time left on his deal too, will be back. The return of these two will provide the veteran leadership for another season. But Villanueva’s contract is up and speculation has run rampant that the 32 year-old blindside protector won’t return next season to the Steelers and possibly retire. I would think that fourth-years Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner, should he be resigned, would hold down both tackle positions with Kevin Dotson assuming right guard. With the draft bringing in new life on the line, the rebuild won’t be too extreme.

Vance McDonald’s retirement creates a huge void Fact and Fiction

Vance McDonald was a very valuable tight end for the Pittsburgh Steelers since coming over in a trade right before the start of the 2017 regular season. Although his stats weren’t gaudy, the Vanimal was a very valuable blocking tight end as well as a reliable receiver. But because of the salary cap, a lot of people thought No. 89 was going to be a cap casualty and be released. Vance was not given a lot of targets in 2020, but with Eric Ebron being more of a receiver than a blocker, he was definitely needed. The Steelers are going to need to find a blocking specialist if they don’t think that Kevin Rader or Zach Gentry is the right player to fulfill that role. So Vance McDonald’s retirement does create a void, but the Steelers would have been the ones creating it had McDonald not stepped away.

The Steelers are not likely to hire a quarterbacks coach in 2021 Fiction

The Steelers have not always had quarterback coaches. When Randy Fichtner was promoted from that particular rank of position coach in 2018, it was left vacant for two seasons. However, it proved to be a glaring mistake when Ben Roethlisberger went down with an injury in 2019 and young quarterbacks like Rudolph and Hodges could have definitely benefited from having that sort of mentor. Reports have surfaced that Matt Canada, the 2020 quarterbacks coach, is still the front runner for the offensive coordinator post. However, because of the Rooney Rule the Steelers need to interview minority candidates, but only one. We’ve seen in the past with this particular rule, that a more-suited candidate can arise because of it. That happened in 2007 when Mike Tomlin overtook Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt to assume the Steelers’ top job. With Hue Jackson and Pep Hamilton in the mix now, the Steelers could be interviewing for the next QB coach as two of the three mentioned could be getting a job out of it. With Hamilton reportedly interviewing with the Tennessee Titans, I could see both Canada and Jackson wearing headsets in Pittsburgh next season. No matter who gets what, the Steelers cannot afford to have merely an office of coordinator without a quarterbacks coach.

2021 will be Ben Roethlisberger swan song with the Pittsburgh Steelers Fact

It definitely feels like it’s going to be that way. Ben Roethlisberger is a Hall of Fame quarterback and statistically the greatest signal caller in the history of the black-and-gold. But all great careers have got to come to an end. If you were not dealing with a salary cap situation, then you could conceivably build your team around keeping No. 7 if both sides wanted to keep the party going. But Ben has essentially priced himself off of the team. If he plays in 2021 (and I fully expect him to), he’s going to count $41 million dollars against the cap. That could possibly be a quarter of the teams cap money. Ben cannot be re-signed to another deal. It just wouldn’t work. The Steelers don’t have to move on from Ben this year, even though it would save almost $20 million of a cap hit, but they can’t go on much further without greatly hindering the rest of the team.

Check out the Fact or Fiction podcast to learn even more about these topics, and their status, heading into this week’s game and listen for more on the player below.

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Conference Championship games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Several of the BTSC staff pick both of this weekend’s NFL games both against the spread and over/under point totals

The 2020 NFL playoffs are down to only three games remaining. Championship Sunday is the last day of the NFL season where fans can enjoy more than one game in a day. By Sunday night, we will know who will be facing off in Super Bowl LV in Tampa.

For the 2020 NFL season, six of the BTSC staff (a group I have affectionately named the “BTSC Super Six”) have signed up to pick every game against the spread and the over/under point totals. We are doing things a little different this year and including the Thursday games. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers. We are just a group of Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

We are using a new program called Tallysight this season. It will allow us to show picks in a much more “friendly to the eye” manner. To understand how it works, the default tab is for our picks against the spread. To see the over/under picks, click the “O/U” tab in the upper right.

Last week, when picking games against the spread, Michael, Shannon, and I led the way by going 3-1 with all of us each missing a different game. Michael picked the Chiefs to cover while Shannon thought the Ravens would stay within three points of the Bills. I didn’t see the turnover fest coming by the Saints and had them getting a third win over the Bucs. Bryan continues to hold the top spot overall at 135-131 and cannot be caught as he holds an 9-game lead of Geoffrey and I with only 3 games remaining in the season.

When it comes to picking the over/under, Bryan crushed us all and was the only person to get to .500 at 3-1. Michael continues to hold the top spot overall at 137-129 by two games over Geoffrey who went 0-4 last week. When combining both sets of picks, Bryan moved into the top spot at 265-267 combined. Michael is within striking distance needing to make up 3 games and Geoffrey has fallen to 5 games back.

So here are the picks for the games for the Conference Championship Games of the 2020 postseason. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along!

When the Steelers got to the quarterback in 2020, it made a difference on the scoreboard

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 7:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When the Steelers registered a sack in 2020, how did it affect the outcome of each drive?

For the fourth straight season, the Pittsburgh Steelers led the NFL in sacks and eclipsed the 50 mark each season. With the Steelers holding their opponents to under 20 points a game in 2020, how much did sacking the quarterback directly lead to a reduction in points?

In order to answer this question, I looked at every drive during the 2020 season in which the Steelers sacked the quarterback at least once. Interestingly enough, with 56 sacks the Steelers only had two drives on the season where they sacked the quarterback multiple times. Therefore, there were a total of 54 drives out of the 188 the Steelers defense faced in 2020 in which the quarterback was sacked.

Since two drives the Steelers defense faced in 2020 consisted of only quarterback kneel downs, I’m taking them out of the equation simply because it makes sense. So for the 2020 season, the Steelers had 54 defensive drives Where they achieved at least one sack and 132 drives where they did not. This means 29.0% of the drives the Steelers defended they got to the quarterback at least once where 71.0% of the drives they did not.

On the season the Steelers surrendered 312 points as a team. Six of those points directly came by the offense against the Buffalo Bills (which they subsequently missed the PAT) so they will not be counted against the Steelers defense. This leaves the Steelers surrendering 306 points on the season. With 29% of the total drives having a sack, it would make sense for the Steelers to have surrendered about 90 points on these drives. This was not the case. The Steelers actually surrendered 52 points on drives in which they had at least one sack.

If you’re looking at it from a points per drive breakdown, the Steelers only surrendered 0.96 points per drive when they had a sack and exactly twice as many at 1.92 points per drive when they did not.

When looking strictly at the outcome of drives the Steelers had a sack, the end result was as follows:

Punt: 28 (51.9%)
Turnover: 6 (11.1%)
Downs: 3 (5.56%)
End of Half: 3 (5.56%)
Missed FG: 2 (3.70%)
Field Goal: 8 (14.8%)
Touchdown: 4 (7.41%)

NOTE: The two drives which ended the half were actually fourth down plays as time expired so they could have been in either category.

As you can see, the Steelers only gave up four touchdowns in 2020 on drives where they had a sack. Interesting enough, two of those four touchdowns were against the Baltimore ravens in Week 8. The other two touchdowns came against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6 (their only touchdown of the game), and the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16. Also, the 2 drives on the season which had multiple sacks each ended with a successful field goal in Week 10 against Cincinnati and Week 13 against Washington.

Rather than do a complete breakdown of all Steelers drives, I’ll highlight some of the main numbers. While the Steelers forced a punt on 51.9% of drives where they had a sack, their season average of all drives was 43.1% because when the Steelers did not get a sack they forced a punt on 40.2% of those drives. When it came to scoring points, the Steelers only gave up a field goal or touchdown on 22.2% of drivers were they had a sack where their total average was 29.6% with an average on the drives where no sack was achieved was 32.6%.

Obviously, The Steelers gave up less points on drives where they had at least one sack. But there’s still more to the story…

Out of all drives on the season, the Steelers surrendered a successful field goal on 10.8% of drives. What’s interesting is that drives that ended with the successful field goal where the Steelers had a sack were 14.8% of the time. So the Steelers were more likely to give up a field goal on a drive where they got a sack than on ones were they did not.

Why would this be the case? Actually, it’s quite obvious when looking at all scoring drives. Looking at touchdowns, the Steelers opponents reached the end zone on 18.8% of drives in 2020. But when the Steelers got a sack, their opponents only scored a touchdown on 7.41% of drives. With the Steelers giving up less points on drives than their season average when they had a sack, and giving up much less of a percentage (less than half) when it came to teams scoring touchdowns, it goes to show that sacks helped keep opponents scoring drives to 3 points rather than 7 points.

Ultimately, it would be great if the Steelers never surrendered points at any time. But that’s not how the NFL works. It would also be great if every time the Steelers got a sack it resulted in their opponent being unable to score. That’s a bit of an unrealistic goal as well. But even though the Steelers allowed their opponents to score less often on drives where they had a sack, they also overwhelmingly had those drives end in field goals rather than touchdowns.

As expected, sacking the quarterback has a direct result on teams ability to keep points off the board. When a sack kills a drive, or turn 7 points into only 3, getting even just one at the right time can make a huge difference in a game.

With the Lions hiring Anthony Lynn, Ike Hilliard returns to the Steelers, for now

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t have to be hiring a new wide receivers coach, for now.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have more coaching turnover this offseason than usual. If you go back to last offseason, the Steelers simply added two coaches, not getting rid of any of their coaching staff.

However, that won’t be the case this offseason with the team already having to replace four coaches.

The coaches who were lost, for one reason or another, were:

Randy Fichtner (Offensive Coordinator)
Tom Bradley (Secondary Coach)
Shaun Sarrett (Offensive Line Coach)
James Daniel (Tight End Coach)

This list could grow with Matt Canada interviewing with the Miami Dolphins for their offensive coordinator and Teryl Austin interviewing for the Tennessee Titans’ defensive coordinator opening.

Those two interviews didn’t surprise many, but a lot of Steelers fans were surprised when they read about wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard being interviewed for the Detroit Lions’ offensive coordinator vacancy.

Good news for the Steelers is they won’t have to be looking for a new receivers coach this upcoming season with the Lions deciding to go with former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn as their new play caller.

Two solid coordinator hires for Dan Campbell RT @DanGrazianoESPN: Per sources, the Detroit Lions will be hiring former Chargers coach Anthony Lynn as their offensive coordinator.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 23, 2021

Hilliard joined the Steelers’ staff prior to the 2020 season, and he took over a position which was vacated for all the wrong reasons. Prior to the 2019 season was when Darryl Drake passed away at Saint Vincent College during the team’s training camp. Ray Sherman took over on the interim basis until the 2019 season had concluded.

The Steelers were able to lure Hilliard away from his job with the Washington Football Team, and the players seemed to be very pleased with Hilliard’s experience both as a player in the NFL and a receivers coach.

Typically when a coach gets an interview for a coordinator position, it is just the beginning of the ascension up the ranks of the coaching totem pole. However, as of now, the Steelers look won’t have to worry about replacing their wide receivers coach again.

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

AFC Championship flashback: Steelers vs. Oiliers, January 7, 1980

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/24/2021 - 5:00am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

With the AFC Championship Game going on this weekend without the Steelers, BTSC looks back at an epic and controversial win that led to their fourth Super Bowl title and helped lead to instant replay.

Let’s dial the time circuits on the black-and-gold Delorean back to a time when the forecast was frigid, but the mental thermometer in the City of Champions read downright tropical. It’s fitting that you join me as we head back to a time when the top song on the radio was still Escape (The Piña Colada Song), television viewers were watching Three’s Company and President Jimmy Carter authorized $1.5 billion in loans to bail out the Chrysler corporation. Meanwhile, the Steelers were gearing up for their sixth AFC Championship appearance in eight seasons, as they welcomed the Houston Oilers once again.

Welcome to January 7, 1980.

Houston came in to the title game with the seventh-ranked defense and the most takeaways in the NFL. That seemed to potentially bode well for the Oilers against the team that gave the ball away a league leading 52 times. Leading the takeaway charge for Houston was Safety Mike Reinfeldt with twelve interceptions to best the NFL in 1979 and Vernon Perry, who was the defensive star the week before in San Diego with four interceptions and a field goal block that he returned 57 yards before being tackled by the holder. But the defending champs still had three Lombardi Trophies on their resumé and were hosting a dome team on a frozen field in 22 degree weather. Even Pirate World Series MVP Willie Stargell was on hand for this one.

The Steelers won the opening kickoff and elected to receive. The black-and-gold were in Oiler territory almost immediately, courtesy of Terry Bradshaw passes to John Stallworth and runs by Franco Harris. However, Vernon Perry wasn’t done yet and intercepted a Bradshaw pass to Bennie Cunningham from the Oiler 36 and returned it 75 yards for the touchdown. Two-and-a-half minutes in, Bum Phillips’ team led 7-0.

After the Steelers punted, Dan Pastorini and the Oilers took the field for their first drive of the game. However, the league’s leading rusher, Earl Campbell, was stopped for 2 yards on two carries and LC Greenwood sacked Pastorini to force a punt. Behind a timely pass to Swann and a scramble on third and 14 from Bradshaw for 25 yards, Pittsburgh was threatening deep in Oiler territory. The drive stalled at the Houston four. Matt Bahr hit from 21 and the Steelers cut the lead to 7-3.

The Oilers began to storm back with a 72 yard drive though. Behind a 45-yard screen pass reception by Tim Wilson and Pastorini connecting with Ronnie Coleman for 32 yards, Houston was driving at the Steeler 16 at quarter’s end. The Steel Curtain stiffened once again though and Austrian Tony Fritsch added a 27 yard field goal to extend the Houston lead to 10 to 3.

Bradshaw and the top-scoring offense of 1979 got back to business on the next drive at their own 33. The “Blonde Bomber” tore up the Houston defense with swift passes to Bleier, Harris and twice to Swann with 9:55 remaining in the first half. Bennie Cunningham caught a pass from No. 12 over Vernon Perry for a 16-yard touchdown and a 10-10 tie.

On their next possession, Houston was driving despite Earl Campbell‘s (15 yards on 17 carries the entire game) inability to get going. Pastorini was connecting with Mike Renfro. But No. 82 was changing hands and fumbled at his own 49 after being hit by Donnie Shell with Mel Blount recovering.

To follow, great running by Bleier and Harris on trap blocks by Gerry Mullins (subbing for Steve Courson) set up a Bradshaw touchdown pass to John Stallworth from 20 out with 2:35 remaining in the half.

Houston tried to answer, but rookie Dwayne Woodruff intercepted Pastorini at the Pittsburgh 45, and Matt Bahr missed a 46-yard field goal to close out the half.

Down 17-10, The Oilers got the football to start the second half and an opportunity to tie the score. The problem though was that George Perles’ defense was a picture of absolute dominance, as they forced a Cliff Parsley punt. This was temporarily good news for both squads as Theo Bell slipped trying to field the ball at his own 38 and the pigskin squirted into Houston’s hands at the Steeler 42. But once again, Houston squandered their best field position of the day.

For a short time in this game, Houston lost communication in their head sets. So the Steelers had theirs disconnected and both teams had to use hand signals temporarily.

After another Steeler punt, Pastorini lined up under center with good field position again in an attempt to tie. He was walloped by LC Greenwood and left for a play and came back less than 100%. The Three Rivers crowd then came in to play on 4th and two from the Steeler 37 What appeared to be a first down was nullified when Houston failed to get the snap off in time. Que Parsley to punt again.

On a drive in which Mike Renfro recovered a fumble in the vicinity of five Pittsburgh defenders, drew Mel Blount into a chuck penalty and caught a key first down...the second-year man from TCU was involved in one of the most controversial calls in Title Game history. With 1:30 left in the third, Pastorini threw a six-yard rainbow to Renfro for an apparent touchdown in the corner of the end zone over Ron Johnson. The replay showed that Renfro had clear control of the ball with his left foot down and his right foot hitting the pylon. NFL Films much later showed some movement in Renfro’s hands. If instant replay was in effect, the call on the field very well could have been reversed and Pittsburgh fans would have been hard pressed to argue it. (It was much more borderline than what first appeared on NBC television.) The officials conferred and referee Jim Tunney ruled it out if bounds. Houston was livid. Steeler fans accepted the gift. It was now second down and goal from the six and the Steeler defense held the Oilers to a field goal. It was 17-13 at the end of the third.

The Renfro play was unfortunate, but Pastorini claimed after the game that it was not the sole reason that his team lost. What a lot of people forget is that Houston had other opportunities to reclaim the four points lost and failed to do so.

In the fourth quarter, the Steelers iced it. It started on third and 20 when Bradshaw found a sliding Swann for a first down. After a five minute, clock-draining drive, Matt Bahr kicked a 39-yard field goal. It was still only a touchdown lead. Pittsburgh 20 and Houston 13.

With Houston nearing desperation mode, the impressive Pastorini began to engineer a game-tying drive at his own 11 with 9:42 remaining. But after No. 7 in white found Guido Merkens over the middle, disaster struck. Mel Blount jarred Merkens and Donnie Shell recovered at the Houston 45 with 5:46 left.

Bradshaw, only needing to get his team in field goal range for the victory, went for the kill shot. Rocky Bleier caught and ran for two first downs while the precious seconds ticked away. Then, on third and goal from the five, Bleier took the hand off and burst into the end zone with less than a minute remaining.

The rest is history as the Steelers went on to Pasadena and won a tough game 31-19 over the Los Angeles Rams for their fourth title in six years. This was the first AFC Championship Game I so vividly remember. In fact, the game started with an eight-year-old me actually hoping the Steelers would lose. My parents had just learned a day before that they could get Super Bowl tickets if the Steelers should prevail. I was scared of them going on a plane to California and never coming back, plus the little a-hole in me was pissed that I wasn’t invited. It took me about a minute into the game to revert back to my Steeler fanhood and get over it and root for my team. Three years ago, my dad and I got to meet Terry Bradshaw and briefly told him this story. Bradshaw told me that he wouldn’t have taken me either. I joked that I was still pissed, which I’m not at all. He looked at me and said, “Just be glad that you still have him” and shook my hand. Terry Bradshaw also made me realize how great it is to have such precious memories of an epic team.

If you want to hear more about this game, check out the Steelers Retro Show as Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo chronicle this game in the player below.

Saturday Night Steelers Open Thread: Duds, Defense, and Dogs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 6:30pm
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Come join the virtual party for some conversation about your Steelers and a few random items

With the off season comes debate and this week started off with a bang or was it a dud? With all the debate over the signing of a former 1st round pick to a futures contract at least we know that the passion for our Steelers runs strong. However, we won’t debate the merits of the signing here as BTSC has already seen about 232,457 and a half comments on the topic, so I think everyone’s position is clear.

Anyway, the polar vortex has made it’s way down to southern Ontario, and it is cold. Not stupid cold, mind you, but cold enough that if you haven’t started your ODR, now is the perfect time. What? You don’t know what an ODR is? You live in Pittsburgh and you call yourself a Pens fan?? Come on...

  1. Last week I gave you the power to be Kevin Colbert for a day to do one thing on the offensive side of the ball. This week, do your thing on the defensive side of the ball. One day, one choice, keep it realistic.
  2. With the announcement by the Vanimal of his retirement, what changes do you think the future holds for the TE group next year? A high draft choice? An elevated role for Rader or Gentry? Does Jessie James make a return? Something else?
  3. Call your retirement shots now... Who retires before the 2021 season starts? Ben Roethlisberger? Maurkice Pouncey? Alejandro Villanueva?
  4. This week you have likely seen footage of Steeler playoff victories, or even Super Bowl wins. Give us your favorite memory.
  5. Most of you surely know about Big Ben’s foundation and the relationship with the police and their canine units. While I did not grow up a dog lover, we are on dog No. 2 here in the canuck household. Are you a dog lover? If not, what about other pets? Tell us about your furry (or not) friend.

Matthew Wright signs a Reserve/Future contract with the Detroit Lions

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 2:30pm
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The substitute placekicker for the Steelers in 2020 is getting his shot with the Detroit Lions in 2021.

At the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season, they elected to let a group of players’ practice squad contracts expire. Many fans were perplexed by the decision, but it was essentially the Steelers giving these players a chance to start fresh somewhere new. Somewhere they could lock up a role for themselves, and not just sitting on the practice squad wondering if an injury would give them a shot.

Among those names were players like Devlin Hodges, Deon Cain and placekicker Matthew Wright. The day after Cain signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Baltimore Ravens, Wright has found a new home with the Detroit Lions.

Per Aaron Wilson Wright signed a Reserve/Future contract of his own with the Lions.

Lions signed Matthew Wright to reserve-future deal

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) January 22, 2021

During the 2020 season, with Chris Boswell nursing multiple lower body injuries, Wright filled in and did so as well as can be expected. During his time in the lineup Wright never missed a field goal or extra point.

The biggest knock on Wright his is leg strength. The longest field goal he attempted, and made, was a 46-yard kick. He made two such kicks during his time with the Steelers, and it made Mike Tomlin’s decision to not even attempt a field goal at that distance in the team’s first loss vs. the Washington Football Team at Heinz Field.

After proving he can make those mid-to-long field goals, it was only a matter of time until Wright got a shot with another franchise, and it was the Lions who came calling. If Wright doesn’t make the roster in 2021, the Steelers would be wise to put in a call in case Boswell gets banged up for the second straight season.

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

Which remaining team are Steelers fans pulling for on Championship Weekend?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 1:00pm
Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

With the Steelers offseason underway, is there a team this weekend Steelers fans want to see make it to the Super Bowl?

We know. It’s not the Steelers.

Before even diving into looking at the matchups this weekend, it’s inevitable that someone thinks they’re going to be highly witty and original and talk about how the Steelers are the only team they care about winning this weekend and they’re not even playing. We get it. It stinks that the Steelers’ 2020 season has come to an end.

But for many of us Steelers’ fans, even without our beloved Black & Gold playing, the game of football is something we love and will try to enjoy the few remaining games even though we don’t have a dog in the fight. It’s a long time until August, and there are only 3 games left until then.

In the eyes of Steelers’ Nation, there are pros and cons for all four of the remaining teams looking to bring home the Lombardi trophy in February. Whether it be wanting one particular team to win, or simply wanting a different team to lose, those tuning in to the two Conference Championship games on Sunday will likely cheer for one team over another.

So the question is, which team are you pulling for the most this weekend? Let’s look at the matchups.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers Sunday 3:05 PM on FOX

The NFC signifies the “old guard” when it comes to the quarterback position. Both players have previously won a Super Bowl, but we all know one has a major hardware advantage over the other. Do Steelers’ fans want to see Tampa win it’s first Super Bowl in 20 years, or do they not want to see another championship for Tom Brady or a first one for Antonio Brown? Are Steelers’ fans still bitter over their last Super Bowl appearance where Aaron Rodgers emerged victorious? Do fans want to see an NFC team win and not the AFC? With the Steelers not facing either of these teams in 2020, they just might be too far removed for Steelers’ Nation to really care.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Sunday 6:40 PM on CBS

With the old guard holding down the quarterback position in the NFC, the AFC highlights the youth movement. Patrick Mahomes already has his Super Bowl championship in 2019, so some fans may not want to see the Chiefs go back-to-back and begin a dynasty in the AFC. While the Buffalo Bills team may not be the largest rival with the Steelers just yet, their fan base sure does get riled up and can rub Steelers’ Nation the wrong way at times. Can the Black & Gold find it in their hearts to pull for the Bills Mafia? With both teams on the schedule in 2021, the Steelers are definitely facing a Super Bowl team next year. The only question is if they will face the Super Bowl LV Champion.

So there are the Conference Championship matchups this weekend. So which of these teams are you pulling for the most? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

Possible replacements for Vance McDonald’s tight end spot

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers will be in desperate need of some reinforcements at the tight end position following McDonald’s retirement

With Vance McDonald putting a bow on his NFL career. The Steelers find themselves down a tight end. The league waits to celebrate no man, so the Steelers will have already begun prep work on finding a suitable replacement. With Eric Ebron set to reprise his position as the primary pass catching big man, the Steelers will need to find a top blocking option to pair with him.

Now, for this exercise I will be avoiding any players in the draft. The way the Steelers have used their number two tight end is typically just in a blocking type role. With Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader already on the roster, the Steelers aren't going to replace either of them with a sixth round pick, at least not right away. So let’s get started.

Jesse James Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

I’ll start this list with a very familiar name. Jesse James has done virtually nothing since since his 4-year $22 million dollar deal with the Detroit Lions. With two seasons remaining on his deal with the Lions, James would have to be released before such a deal could be made. However, with the amount of production and playing time he has gotten in Detroit. Getting cut looks like a certainty.

Time heals all wounds, and if James becomes available this would be the most likely move in my mind.

MyCole Pruitt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The other tight end in Tennessee. The Titans will have their hands full trying to re-sign Jonnu Smith to a contract extension. But it’s Mycole Pruitt, that will both fit schematically and financially into the Steelers’ system. Pruitt is a devastating blocker, and works extraordinarily well in the second tight end role.

Although not a receiving threat, Pruitt has had to grind his way just to earn an NFL job. His work ethic would be welcomed into the locker room.

Antony Auclair Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

If the Steelers want to take a flyer on a cheep blocking option, Auclair might be a good bet. Missing most of the Buccaneers regular season with a calf injury, Auclair has gotten lost in the fold of the Bucs’ vast depth chart. Auclair might be the biggest dice roll of anybody on this list, and the only player that will get a significant raise in playing time.

Tyler Eifert Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

I wanted to end this list with two bigger names that are less realistic, but will come cheaper than ever. At one point Eifert was considered one of the top tight end prospects in the NFL. Injuries have plagued his career, however Eifert is a fighter to remain in this league. Still just 30 years old, Eifert played in 31 games over the past two seasons, and has had the best stretch of health in his career. I’m not against a one year flyer for the former Cincinnati Bengal.

Zach Ertz Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Zach Ertz has played his final game as a Philadelphia Eagle. He will either be traded or cut in the coming months, and I would have to imagine the Steelers would at least put in a phone call. Ertz’s [traded] cap hit is a smaller than the savings from McDonald’s retirement, so he’s not unaffordable. Sure he’s on the last legs of his career, however the right team could pull another solid season from the veteran tight end. Keep in mind the entire situation in Philly was a disaster, coupled with some injury issues to Ertz himself and it’s no surprise his numbers suffered. Ertz will be better in 2021.

That’s the list. What do you think? Who do you anticipate the Steelers bring in as their blocking tight end? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Podcast: Don’t fret over the Haskins signing, Steelers fans

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 11:00am

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

The Steelers made a few futures-contract signings this week, but one made major waves among Steelers fans. A large portion of Steeler Nation had less than a favorable reaction to the signing of Dwayne Haskins on Thursday. But don’t fret fans, the signing means less than over-reacting fans think. Join Tony Defeo as he moves his Saturday show to the lights of Friday night and discusses the Steelers with plenty of answers to questions from the fan base. Welcome to Steelers Friday Six Pack with Tony! Join the veteran BTSC contributor as he discusses the Steelers so far and beyond.

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

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Dwayne Haskins
  • 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:

There could be a Watt Family Reunion this season, in Houston

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 9:00am
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If Ben Roethlisberger decides to hang up his cleats, the Steelers should attempt to trade TJ Watt to the Houston Texans for Deshaun Watson.

A few days ago my fellow BTSC colleague, and Steelers brother from another mother, Michael Beck penned a hugely successful article discussing the possibility of Houston Texans star DE J.J. Watt maybe joining his brothers in the Steel City one glad day in the future. The mere thought of the three Watt brothers all wearing the Black and Gold makes for great theater and generates an excitement that their Subway commercials could only imagine.

I immediately commented that the idea itself created a fun topic of discussion, but unless J.J. Watt had somehow been hiding the ability to play lights out at left tackle, the Steelers had far bigger needs that demanded their attention. I thoroughly enjoy articles that generate positive discussions at a time when they are desperately needed for the Steelers faithful. Michael Beck's creatively inspired article did just that.

That article got my creative juices flowing, got me thinking outside the box so to speak. As anyone who has the misfortune of knowing me personally can attest, it doesn't take much. Anyone familiar with my writing over my two years with BTSC already knows my suggested acquisition articles often skirt around the edges of reality. I resist taking the deep dive into the practicality of trading personnel as far as salary cap considerations are concerned because the pencil pushers somehow find a way to make it work if they want to bad enough. Push the hit down the road a couple years if need be. Colbert, get out the corporate credit card if you would be so kind.

With that being said, here is my brilliant idea. Keep in mind this whole scenario is only viable if Ben Roethlisberger decides to call it a career, and ride off helmetless on his Suzuki Hayabusa into the sunset. If, and only if, Ben retires; then the Pittsburgh Steelers should look into the possibility of trading All Pro OLB T.J. Watt to the Houston Texans for Pro Bowl QB Deshaun Watson. Before anybody starts sending hateful texts and emails to our BTSC editors, hear me out for a second.

T.J. Watt is the odds on favorite to win the NFL DPOY award this season. That type of recognition for a 26 year old first team All Pro will demand an astronomical number when contract negotiations roll around in the near future. Watt will warrant the largest contract for a defender in NFL history in all likelihood. Think Myles Garrett with the Cleveland Browns, only bigger. Keep in mind T.J. Watt has never attempted to use a piece of football equipment as a deadly weapon in front of a national television audience.

Also keep in mind how poorly the Steelers have handled contract negotiations with their superstar players in recent years, everybody that is besides Ben Roethlisberger. That is because QB negotiations are far more straight forward and easier than other positions. With quarterbacks the market value is all relatively set, with few exceptions. As Mike Tomlin stated a couple of weeks ago, it's the cost of doing business.

Any team with a franchise QB knows it needs to set aside 30 to 40 million dollars per season, the current cost of doing business with a franchise QB. That is if you are lucky enough to have one; if not, you better get busy acquiring one. In today's NFL, more than ever, no team is a true contender without one.

I know what you are thinking, that takes up a huge percentage of a team's salary cap. Consider the four teams playing in the conference championship games this weekend. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Green Bay Packers, and the Kansas City Chiefs are all already paying handsomely for their franchise QBs. Only the Buffalo Bills, with QB Josh Allen, are still reaping the benefits of having a QB still on his rookie contract. As huge an advantage that appears to be at first glance on paper, one would assume that there would be multiple teams in that advantageous position competing for the Lombardi Trophy every season, but that is seldom the case. The franchise QB factor is far more prevalent.

Therefore if Ben retires, the Steelers are no longer legitimate Super Bowl contenders without a franchise QB on the roster. Maybe they no longer are even if their elder statesmen of a QB returns for one last go around. That is certainly debatable and it will be up to Roethlisberger and the Steelers to decide if that is the case. Regardless, it would make little sense to tie up an inordinate amount of the salary cap in a defensive superstar, no matter how talented the individual, if you lack the one player that every true contender must have at their disposal. Especially when you consider that two time All Pro FS Minkah Fitzpatrick will be needed a substantial raise not long after T.J.

The truth is a superstar defender can be game planned for and neutralized for long stretches of games. Double teams and chip blocks can make them nearly invisible at times. Franchise QBs like Deshaun Watson are always impactful as they touch the football on every offensive play. Watson is a true superstar who produced incredible numbers this season surrounded by a talent deficient roster in Houston.

Put Deshaun Watson on the Steelers and the Steelers are back to contender status in no more than a couple seasons. He is a talented young man of solid character who deserves far more support than he is presently receiving. He could be just the man to add to the Steelers already crowded trophy case.

Kevin Colbert needs to pick up the phone and call the Houston Texans. Offer T.J. Watt and next year's number one for Watson. Throw in Derek Watt for good measure. It would make for a great storyline in Houston. I can see the headlines now as the Texans PR department promoted the Watt Family Reunion. Subway could purchase the licensing rights to the stadium. It might even cause J.J. Watt to reconsider abandoning the franchise.

A man can dream can't he.

The Steelers have options for managing the 2021 salary cap, they just have decisions to make

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 7:30am
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Although the Steelers salary cap situation looks bad going into 2021, there are ways around it depending on what they want to do.

During the 2020 offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers chose to restructure basically every contract available in order to maximize their salary cap space. Unfortunately, with the majority of those contracts only running through 2021, all the money they pushed down the road is now coming due. So does this mean the Steelers’ salary cap situation is hopeless?

As we’ve learned in years past, the Steelers always find away.

Ultimately, the Steelers are going to have to decide the route they are going to take. It’s not that they must do the same thing across the board, but they have options with a number of their players. It’s going to take a lot of work, but once the decisions are made when it comes to players the Steelers have options to reduce the salary cap in multiple places. As reported by Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, the Steelers just saved $15 million on the salary cap without having to decide anything themselves:

So, the cap is expected to be $180M instead of $175M. The Steelers have about $5 million on rollover and now save $5.2 with McDonald's retirement. Just like that, they have gained $15 million in cap space from the worst-case scenario and they have done nothing

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) January 22, 2021

I spent the last three days outlining which category the Steelers 16 biggest salary cap hits fit into going in the 2021 (It was 17, then Vance McDonald retired). I placed every player who had a cap hit of at least $1.5 million into one of three categories. The reason this figure was chosen is because it eliminated almost all rookie contracts a deals at or close to the league minimum.

The first category was players who would actually increase the Steelers salary cap if they were released because of the amount of dead money would be more than their current cap number. In other words, it’s safe to label these players “uncuttable.” This has nothing to do with how they were performing on the field, but their contract for 2021 is in a way where there’s no benefit in releasing them.

An example of this type of player would have been the Steelers’ situation with Antonio Brown in 2019. By trading Brown, he actually cost Steelers more towards the 2019 salary cap that if he would have been playing under his current contract. Unfortunately, Brown forced his way out and Steelers had to take the hit.

Having contracts such as these are not a problem, but when players end up not playing it can cripple a franchise for years. This is why the Steelers are not parting ways with any of these players.

Hopefully this is a little better explanation for this article as some people seemed to be confused as to why it was even being written and why I was suggesting these players should be cut. That was not what I was intending and hopefully, after the rest of the series came out, it became much more clear that this was simply putting each of the Steelers top 16 salaries into one of these categories.

The next group of players are ones where the Steelers could save salary cap space, but the amount of dead money which would still count towards the 2021 salary cap was more than the savings. It doesn’t mean that these players can’t be released, it just means it would come with notable consequences.

The final category of these players were ones who had some dead money, but the salary cap savings was a much higher figure. These players are ones where it would make sense to move on from a financial standpoint if the Steelers were not happy with their own field production. Remember, this is dealing strictly with the numbers, as the notion of moving on from a player such as T.J. Watt would be much more crippling than 100 bad contracts.

With this basic review session, the Steelers have a number of players in which they need to do something about their 2021 contract. That something could be simply moving on from the player and regaining as much as they can towards the salary cap. Especially with aging players, this is often the case when they head into the last year of their contract. But with a number of players on the Steelers, the best thing to do is a contract extension in order to lower the 2021 cap hit as much as they can and spread the money out into future years.

As much as 2020 was the year of the restructure for the Steelers, 2021 looks to be the year of the extension. Before the extensions start coming, the first thing that will happen is the Steelers will release any players that they’re not planning to extend. Once those players have been determined, look for a number of extensions in order to help Steelers get below the 2021 salary cap and possibly even have a little bit of space to retain a few of their upcoming unrestricted free agents.

Deon Cain signs Reserve/Future contract with the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/23/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers watched as Deon Cain went to the Baltimore Ravens this offseason hoping for an opportunity.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are often considered a wide receiver factory. General Manager Kevin Colbert has been known to find wide receivers with the best of them, and that isn’t just allocated to the NFL Draft.

If you remember back in 2019, the Steelers were in need of receivers after injuries had hampered the unit, and the Steelers picked up a former Clemson receiver named Deon Cain.

Cain didn’t have mind-boggling numbers, but was a big, tall and fast receiver who could stretch the field. In fact, the majority of the impact he made was by drawing pass interference penalties when given an opportunity.

In 2020 Cain spent the majority of the season on the Steelers’ expanded practice squad, and after the Steelers decided not to extend his contract in 2021, a division rival swooped in and picked up the free agent receiver.

The division rival? The Baltimore Ravens.

We have signed WR Deon Cain to a Reserve/Future contract.

: https://t.co/99kOdShE85 pic.twitter.com/qwrA5YFFlA

— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 22, 2021

Even though the Steelers could be losing JuJu Smith-Schuster to free agency this offseason, the Steelers not extending Cain’s contract was to give the player a chance to find a team where he could see increased playing time.

The Ravens fit the bill.

If you think about the end of last season for Baltimore, who were the receivers Lamar Jackson had at his disposal?

Marquise Brown?

Mile Boykin?

Willie Snead?

Dez Bryant?

While I don’t think Cain will walk into the facility and be the best receiver on their roster, he will be an upgrade.

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

Pages

Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator