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NFL Power Rankings: Steelers continue to rise near Top 5 status

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 11:57am

The Pittsburgh Steelers were a unanimous Top 5 team heading into the regular season, but not anymore. They finally are starting to play as they were projected to start the season.

The only consistent aspect of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018 have been their inconsistencies, but maybe this trend is starting to change.

After an opening week tie with the Cleveland Browns, followed by a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Steelers had shown it all — amazing offense, head-scratching play calling and shoddy defense, among others.

Needless to say, the Steelers experienced a precipitous drop in the weekly NFL Power Rankings because of their poor play which resulted in a 0-1-1 record heading into Week 3. However, a 30-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football had the Steelers on the rise. Right on cue, the next week they suffered a 26-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football, the Pittsburgh roller coaster was again on the decline.

Have no fear Steelers fans, a dominant performance in Week 5 vs. the Atlanta Falcons in followed by a big win over the Cincinnati Bengals has the team continuing on their upward trend. Or as Mike Tomlin would say, “The arrow is pointing up.” Throw in their most recent win, a Week 8 win over the Browns, and it is safe to say it looks like the Steelers have turned the proverbial corner.

So, where do they rank in the latest Power Rankings?

We all realize these power rankings mean nothing, but they’re great for conversation and debate. This week, the Steelers saw themselves claw their way back into the Top 10, but some are still hesitant in the black-and-gold.

Coming off their Week 8 win, the Steelers will be looking to continue their winning ways as they prepare for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8, and a win would certainly resurrect their rankings status.

Check out the rankings, and let us know what you think in the comment section below!

ESPN

1. Los Angeles Rams
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. New Orleans Saints
4. New England Patriots
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Carolina Panthers
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
“The Steelers have been spooked into dropping the football too often. Pittsburgh’s offense has 11 fumbles through seven games, including five for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and three for running back James Conner. The offense recorded 15 fumbles all of last season. Though many of the fumbles were recovered, coach Mike Tomlin values ball security above nearly all else.”
8. Minnesota Vikings
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. Baltimore Ravens

USA Today

1. Los Angeles Rams
2. New Orleans Saints
3. New England Patriots
4. Kansas City Chiefs
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
“Treat — there are few things more fun right now than watching TE Vance McDonald consistently go Mark Bavaro on opposing defenders.”
7. Washington Redskins
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Minnesota Vikings
10. Philadelphia Eagles

SB Nation

1. Los Angeles Rams
2. New England Patriots
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Carolina Panthers
8. Chicago Bears
9. Washington Redskins
10. Philadelphia Eagles

NBC Sports

1. Los Angeles Rams
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. New England Patriots
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
“Why they’re here: Who needs Le’Veon Bell? James Connor has had three straight games over over 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns. This team is a contender, with Bell or not.”
6. Los Angeles Chargers
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Washington Redskins
9. Carolina Panthers
10. Houston Texans

James Conner is an exceptional talent, and he’s here to stay as the Steelers’ running back

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 10:47am

James Conner isn’t just any running back, and that’s why he’ll be able to replace Le’Veon Bell.

With 922 yards from scrimmage through seven games—including 212 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-18 victory over the Browns at Heinz Field on Sunday— Steelers second-year running back James Conner is on pace for 2,107 for the season.

Those totals may shock you, given the underdog theme of the early portion of Conner’s NFL career. However, as a highly-decorated college football player for the University of Pittsburgh—AFCA First-Team All-American (2014); ACC Player of the Year (2014); First-Team All-ACC (2014, 2016)—they shouldn’t.

Also, let’s not forget Conner was picked in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, a round that normally comes with expectations of a player starting sooner rather than later. But Conner wasn’t expected to start sooner, and it’s safe to say many didn’t figure he’d even start later.

It’s true that it was hard to envision Conner ever unseating Le’Veon Bell, the two-time First-Team All-Pro and the undisputed champion of workhorse running backs, and few did—but not just because of Bell’s impressive resume.

When Conner was selected, the feel-good chapter was the only part of the story people wanted to read. In-fact, some even went so far as to say that chapter was the only reason Conner was picked as high as he was.

I’m sorry, but no coach is stupid enough to select a player in the third round simply out of pity or because of his medical triumphs. There’s too much at stake, too many jobs and careers on the line—including the coach’s.

No, you select a player in the third round because you envision a time—again, sooner rather than later—when he will help your football team in a major way. In Conner’s case, maybe the Steelers foresaw a time in-which Conner would fill in for Bell thanks to a lengthy absence due to injury or suspension.

Did the Steelers ever envision a time when Conner would be their workhorse for an entire season or multiple campaigns? Possibly.

Did the Steelers think that time would come 17 games into Conner’s career? Probably not. Yet, here we are, seven games into the 2018 season, and Bell is nowhere to be seen, while Conner is making history, with four 100-yard/two-touchdown performances, including the past three—all Steelers’ wins.

There are many that are giddy about Conner’s success, especially in the wake of Bell’s ongoing holdout. Those same people want Bell gone simply because. But that’s not a rational desire. Sports stories being what they are, there may yet be a time when the Steelers—and the fans—must heavily rely on Bell’s considerable talents before the 2018 campaign is over.

But I think it’s safe to say Conner has a bright future as the Steelers’ starting running back. Looking at things rationally, it isn’t like he’s going to “lose his fastball” anytime soon. He’s 23, in fantastic shape and still has a lot of tread left on his tires.

As for those tires, they’re not attached to a little engine that could. They’re attached to a high-octane machine capable of great power and speed, as his 2018 season as shown thus far.

If you’re surprised by Conner’s 2018 performance, you shouldn’t be. He’s been showing us what he can do since his days at Pitt.

If Conner didn’t have such a feel-good underdog story off the field, and if he wasn’t following in the footsteps of Bell on the field, you probably wouldn’t be all that shocked by what he’s been able to do this season. After all, James Conner was a highly-decorated college football player who was selected with a premium draft pick.

James Conner isn’t proof that the Steelers can replace Le’Veon Bell with just any running back. James Conner is an exceptional talent, and that’s why the Steelers will be able to move forward with him as their franchise running back.

Will the NFL trade deadline frenzy include the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 9:42am

The NFL trade deadline is today. Will they go against their nature for a shot at the title?

The MLB trading deadline on July 31st of every season is typically a festival of familiar faces going to new places, the media on standby waiting to be first to report comings and goings and phones in every GM’s office ringing like ear drums after a 1988 Guns ‘n Roses concert. The NFL trading deadline usually is more reminiscent of my teenage rotary phone on a Saturday night in that very same year...it barely rang.

That was then, this is now and the now may be uncharacteristically more like baseball and less like the norm that has featured a smattering of swaps over the years. Contending teams are starting to consider letting go of the unknown behind door number two and play for a championship with a proven commodity now. Although draft picks are important, they aren’t a given to contribute. Neither are players that teams are willing to surrender. The bottom line is that nothing is a certainty in professional sports when it comes to prospects and veterans,

The Eagles found a piece of their Lombardi puzzle in-season in the form of Jay Ajayi last year. The cost was a fourth round pick. Who wouldn’t gamble a RB named Kallen Ballage with the 131st pick for a guy that can help and did lead the way to the top of the mountain?

Philosophies in the NFL are changing and more teams are willing to forgo the future to win now. While other teams are more content to shed salary and start the rebuild sooner rather than later. Pittsburgh is typically not a buyer or a seller in this situation, but the Patriots are...and it has definitely proven to be a good practice. The Pats are willing to do it again with names like Demaryius Thomas, Lesean McCoy and Jamie Collins Sr. rumored to Belichick in to Foxboro.

While teams typically don’t like to make reactive moves, fans don’t want to see the Steelers stand still (notice...not stand pat) and watch while NE rebuilds. It is time to address needs in anticipation of the possibility of meeting with the conference crown at stake.

It is no secret that the Steelers are most weak at the corner opposite Joe Haden. An upgrade there seems obvious. While everybody wanted Patrick Peterson, he’s not going to be made available by Arizona. Janoris Jenkins and Garreon Conley are not “can’t miss”, but they could be an upgrade. It would be a missed opportunity not addressing the right corner, especially with the high-powered KC attack rolling and if the Pats add a receiver.

Corner might not be the only position the Steelers would benefit by addressing. The receiver position falls off of a cliff after Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. James Washington’s career has been slow to get off of the ground, Justin Hunter has not seized opportunity and Ryan Switzer is merely a bit player. Bringing in a pass-catcher like a Kelvin Benjamin or a Thomas could and should be a priority as well. It’s just not typical of Kevin Colbert and the organization.

The idea of working a trade-away of the disgruntled Lev Bell is virtually impossible, so don’t expect that to happen. A lot of stuff would have to fall into place for that to transpire. So don’t count on it,

The league is evolving. The Steelers need to evolve as well to not stall half way up the Lombardi ladder. But will they?

.

Steelers Stock Report: See whose stock is rising, and falling, after the win over the Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 8:39am

After three straight wins, it is time to check in on the Steelers Stock Report.

Eleven people died Saturday morning at a church in Squirrel Hill, a predominantly Jewish neighborhood just to the east of Pittsburgh. A gunman, radicalized by hate and anti-semitism and armed with a semi-automatic rifle along with three handguns, entered the Tree of Life synagogue and shot over a dozen attendees, killing Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil and David Rosenthal, Rose Mallinger, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger in cold blood. One of the victims was a Holocaust survivor, man. This is awful.

More than a million people viewed this website last month. We’re one of the most popular team blogs on the SB Nation network, and that’s a testament not to the quality of the writing and analysis here (though the writing and analysis done by my colleagues here is exceptional), but to the tangible online community that you, the readers, have created. Now, I know that my irreverent musings are not generating millions of page views each month, but the Stock Report seems to be a fairly well-read blog, so I want to ask you, this online community, to assist Pittsburgh, my community, in its time of need. Please consider donating to the Tree of Life victims fund, the official GoFundMe for which can be found here. Thank you.

ANYWAY...

Stock up: Offensive efficiency and balance

Sunday’s proceedings did not get off to a great start. The Steelers failed to convert a single first down on their first three drives, and on the second drive Ben Roethlisberger tossed a hilariously ill-advised pass in the general vicinity of JuJu Smith-Schuster, only to see said pass carom off some person’s extremity into Derrick Kindred’s awaiting arms. It definitely felt like it was going to be one of those games.

Fortunately, the aforementioned interception represented the nadir for the offense (not including whatever happened with Roosevelt Nix and Ryan Switzer on that punt, but we’ll get there). Roethlisberger was sharp, completing 24 passes and throwing a pair of touchdowns to Antonio Brown, thereby further demonstrating that their near telepathic connection is stronger than ever, and James Conner’s multifaceted skillset was on full display, as he trucked, dodged, eluded, and stiff-armed his way to more than 200 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. I went to the game Sunday, and I don’t know if this is a regular thing, but midway through the third quarter a pocket of fans near the south end-zone starting chanting Conner’s name. Shortly thereafter, a deafening chorus of “Conner” chants echoed throughout the entire stadium. It was really neat.

All told, the offense converted six of its 13 third-down attempts (six of 10 if you’re inclined to look the other way on those three stalled drives to start the game), generated more than 400 yards (they ran 68 plays and amassed 421 yards; we were sooooo close to the magic numbers, you guys), and controlled the time of possession. More impressively, their run/pass splits were about as good as you can hope for from a professional football team. If they can maintain that level of balance moving forward, they’ll be a difficult unit to slow down, let alone stop.

Stock up: The secondary

Who’d’ve thunk that parking Artie Burns on the bench would’ve alleviated the secondary’s woes? Oh, that’s right, everyone.

Listen. It isn’t like Coty Sensabaugh, Burns’s “replacement”, played like vintage Darrelle Revis and it isn’t like Cleveland’s passing attack is as potent as, say, Kansas City’s. Baker Mayfield’s the best quarterback the Browns have had on their roster since, like, Otto Graham, or something, but he’s still a rookie and he’s still surrounded by what is still a supremely underwhelming supporting cast. Still, holding a professional quarterback to 180 passing yards and two touchdowns—one of which was the trashiest and most pungent garbage-time touchdown you can ever hope to see—on 36 attempts is a commendable feat regardless of circumstances and it’s something upon which the Steelers can build.

Also, Joe Haden, already the best cornerback in NFL history, made one of the best interceptions you will ever see a defensive back make. On the eighth play of Cleveland’s ensuing series after Roethlisberger connected with Brown on an unscripted play for a 43-yard touchdown strike, Mayfield said “screw it” and hucked a bomb to Damion Ratley. Haden tracked it the whole way, high-pointing the pass near the opposing sideline and tapping both feet inbounds. I was in line for food and had to watch it on TV. That—getting stuck in line because I couldn’t wait until halftime to shovel food into my stupid mouth and failing to witness an electric play in person—is the worst. I’m very thankful for closed circuit game-feeds. God bless those of you who attended games before concession stand TVs were a thing.

So, yeah, it was a good interception. He dropped a pair of should-be picks against the Bengals in Pittsburgh’s last game, so it was nice to see him make arguably the play of the game; against his old team, no less.

Of course, one of primary factors in guiding the secondary’s success was...

Stock up: The pass rush

The Steelers only picked up a pair of sacks, but their pass rushers were regularly in and around Mayfield’s headspace, causing many a hurried throw. In fact, the pass rush was responsible for putting some points on the board, as the Steelers were awarded a safety after Browns tackle Desmond Harrison attempted to remove Bud Dupree’s head from his spinal cord.

Stock down: Communication

Following the safety, there seemed to be some confusion Roosevelt Nix and Ryan Switzer during the requisite punt. Specifically, Nix called for a fair catch, which led Switzer to back away from the ball’s charted course and allow it to hit the ground. With no Steelers in sight to pounce on the now-loose ball, a caravan of Browns recovered it, after which they were awarded possession. Switzer apparently was not aware that safety punts not treated like regular punts, but like kickoffs, wherein that a ball is live until it’s recovered and downed by the kicking team. I was also not aware of this. Unlike Switzer, though, I am not paid to know this rule, so it would’ve been nice for him to, ya know, maybe clarify that point with the coaching staff before heading on field. Special teams coordinator Danny Smith and head coach Mike Tomlin are not absolved of blamed in this matter, as the onus to inform personnel of complexities such as that is kinda on them.

Steelers come out flat, waking up in time to steamroll the hapless Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 7:37am

Before eventually flattening Cleveland, it seemed that the entire Steelers’ offense had just gotten off the plane after a week at the beach with “Bahama Ben.”

During the first of his past two weeks leading up to the Steelers-Browns matchup at Heinz Field, Ben Roethisberger was posting on social media from somewhere in the Bahamas enjoying some well-deserved R&R. But Ben never told us that he took his entire offense along for the week of frolicking in the sand and chugging umbrella drinks. This might be only a rumor, but that’s certainly the way the Steelers’ offense appeared throughout the first quarter at Heinz Field on Sunday. But as the game wore on, the hometown crowd finally got a taste of what they had expected from the opening kickoff — a dominant, 33-18 Steelers’ victory in a game that wasn’t quite as competitive as the final score.

So let’s chalk this one up to post-beach hangover, because the alternative explanation would be that the Black-and-gold has reverted to its well-known habit of playing down to the competition. As they say, “All’s well that ends well.” But given some notable Steelers’ flubs that nearly allowed the Browns to make a game of it, the result might have been worse if Rooney U. been facing a finely-tuned NFL offense (e.g. New England or Kansas City) instead of the Browns.

While Cleveland’s young QB Baker Mayfield looks like he might become an NFL star someday, he’s clearly still in the developmental stage, along with pretty much the entire Cleveland offense. Of course, the Steelers’ defense did turn in another strong showing, hounding Mayfield from sideline to sideline throughout most of the game. But offensively speaking, and particularly in terms of their offensive line, the Browns are still mired in a sorry state of affairs punctuated by the firing of Head Coach Hue Jackson and OC Todd Haley. It seemed pretty obvious that Cleveland’s coaches knew their jobs were on the line because, by the end of the fourth quarter, Jackson appeared to be cursing at raindrops while Haley was seen staring silently into space along the sideline. Yep, same old Browns but with a slightly different twist of the dagger. Joe Haden’s excellent performance might just have been the straw that broke the camel’s back in Cleveland.

So maybe we should simply consider this game as a scrimmage for the Baltimore Ravens next weekend — a chance for the Black-and-gold to shake the sand out of their shoes and recover from one too many Pina Coladas. But if you were looking for any definitive clues about the general state of the team at mid-season, you probably didn’t find any on Sunday, despite the relatively easy win. The Browns simply are too awful to draw any conclusions from this game.

Nevertheless, there were some good things to consider. James Conner continues to make the question of when Le’Veon Bell returns to the locker room increasingly irrelevant. Antonio Brown is still AB and the Steelers’ offensive line continues to resemble an impregnable fortress protecting King Ben.

This was a case of winning a game that we likely chalked up as a victory back when we took our first glance at the Steelers’ 2018 schedule. Seen in that light, it’s clearly a positive and necessary step forward. But we shouldn’t ignore the Steelers’ poor start or the huge screw-up on the free kick following a safety which would have enabled any reasonably competent NFL team reason to get back in the game. In general, the Steelers played mediocre football throughout the entire first half, and that’s an issue they’ve got to address if they want to avoid playing from behind against teams with potent offenses.

But all’s well that ends well — at least until next weekend. Say what you will about Baltimore Ravens’ head coach Jim Harbaugh — he knows exactly how to frustrate most of the things the Steelers’ offense likes to do. Harbaugh’s game uses tough defense to force the Black-and-gold to play out of character. This can be an especially frustrating spectacle because, in reality, the Ravens themselves are still a pretty mediocre bunch — albeit not quite as hapless as the Browns.

On the positive side, though, if the Steelers can’t manage to run away with the AFC North divisional title this season, then their issues would be far more serious than anyone imagined. Given what we’ve seen so far in 2018, it seems inconceivable that either the Bengals or the Ravens has the ability to make a race out of this division.

But most of the teams on Pittsburgh’s schedule in the second half of the season are considerably stronger than those they’ve already played. So until we see the results of the upcoming games with Carolina, Jacksonville and the Chargers, we won’t have a very good fix on the true strength of these 2018 Steelers. If Pittsburgh coasts into the playoffs with six or seven losses due to poor competition in their own division, they might be in for another rude awakening like the one they received at Heinz Field last January.

On the other hand, if Pittsburgh puts together another late-season winning streak, as they’ve done in recent years, it’ll suggest the team is ready to compete seriously in the playoffs. Beating the Browns might be an ego boost, but November football will determine which way the arrow truly is pointing.

Report: Artie Burns’ lack of playing time could be due to being late to team function

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 6:32am

Artie Burns didn’t play a defensive snap vs. the Browns in Week 8, and we might know why.

One of the big questions surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers after their 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 8 was why the team decided to bench Artie Burns for the duration of the game.

After Mike Tomlin spoke about Burns getting more reps to get him the confidence needed to regain his form in his weekly press conference, the first round draft pick didn’t play a defensive snap on Sunday.

Why? According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN it could have been a punishment for Burns being late to a team function.

Steelers cornerback Artie Burns was late to a team activity last week, according to sources, with one source saying that activity was a walkthrough. Burns did not play a defensive snap Sunday against Cleveland despite productive moments in practice.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 29, 2018

Fowler would go on to say the activity Burns was tardy for was a walkthrough prior to the Browns game.

If this report is indeed true, what is curious about this decision is how Mike Tomlin elected to not punish Le’Veon Bell when reports of him missing a walkthrough prior to the team’s playoff game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars surfaced after the loss.

Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what the team does with Burns moving forward. Coty Sensabaugh played the majority of the game before leaving with a foot injury. Cameron Sutton then came in to fill the vacancy across from Joe Haden. Sensabaugh’s injury could determine Burns’ availability, but ultimately the Steelers gaping hole at the CB2 position remains to be a glaring weakness on an improving unit.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news on this story, as well as other news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for their Week 9 game vs. the Baltimore Ravens.

Podcast: Can the Steelers continue winning despite first quarter lulls?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 5:24am

Despite a landscape of tragedy, the Steelers found their focus...but do they finally know who they are?

Once again, The Steelers won a ballgame despite falling flat in the fourth quarter. The 33-18 win was a pleasant instance on a tragic weekend in the Steel City. BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and Anthony Defeo took a day to recover and asked your opinion of the terrain ahead in the latest edition of Steelers Hangover.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the call-in extravaganza. On this show, the fellas discussed the good, the bad and the ugly, plus the path ahead.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Reactions
  • Can the Steelers continue winning despite first quarter lulls?
  • Calls
  • Closing Time/Looking forward to Baltimore
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Are the Steelers slowly living up to the preseason hype?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 4:30am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won three straight games, and have finally started to “stack wins”. After their 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, the team has to move on from the win quickly as they now prepare for the Baltimore Ravens, on the road, in Week 9.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about whether, after winning three games in a row, the Steelers have turned the corner and are now on their way to living up to the hype which surrounded them when the season began. This was before their dreadful month of September, followed by a resurgence, and undefeated, October.

Let’s get to the news:

Tim Benz: Resilient Steelers show they might be up to the hype after all

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

During the Steelers’ season opener at Cleveland, a two-score lead in the second half dissolved into an ugly tie.

It all started with one huge mistake.

In the rematch at Heinz Field, the same potential existed. Except this time the Steelers took a mistake and shoved it right back at Cleveland en route to a 33-18 victory.

“That’s what we want to do as a football team,” linebacker T.J. Watt said. “Make the corrections we need to make. Don’t make the same mistake twice.”

Leading 21-7 in the fourth quarter of Week 1, running back James Conner fumbled. That turnover was followed by a slew of strip sacks, blown coverages, missed tackles, botched blocks, bad routes and missed kicks.

The Steelers came unglued.

Only the Browns’ ineptitude prevented the Steelers from starting 0-1.

On Sunday, the Steelers suffered another epic blunder after the Browns yielded a safety at the 8-minute, 7-second mark of the third quarter. Leading 16-6, the Steelers allowed the ensuing free kick to lie on the field until Cleveland recovered it. Returner Ryan Switzer became confused when Roosevelt Nix called for a fair catch but left him to field the ball.

The Browns recovered. A few plays later, they scored a touchdown. That closed the gap to 16-12 after a missed extra point.

That bad Steelers team in early September crumbled after hitting a pothole. The first-place Steelers in late October rolled right over it.

“In a boxing match, even the best boxer gets hit a few times,” defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. “You never want to put your head down after they made a couple plays. You just have to keep going.”

On the next drive, the Steelers returned to a run game that hadn’t been efficient in the first half. Conner had just 33 yards on 10 carries at halftime. When the Steelers got the ball back, he accounted for 60 yards on four carries, including a touchdown to make it 23-12.

In the first matchup, Conner struggled after his mistake. The coaching staff eventually gave up on the run game, exposing Ben Roethlisberger to lousy weather and an effective Browns pass rush.

On Sunday, the weather was almost as bad, but the results on the ground were remarkably better. Conner finished with 146 yards rushing. He added 66 yards on receptions.

As opposed to the opener, the Steelers defense squashed any life the Browns had after they drew closer. The defense forced three straight punts. Two were the result of three-and-out series.

After last week’s kerfuffle over who should be running the Browns offense, does anyone else besides Hue Jackson or Todd Haley want to try?

Anyone?

The Browns’ perceived return to respectability after a 2-2-1 start now appears to be short-lived. However, the Steelers potential return to AFC playoff contention may be picking up steam.

“Nothing has really changed,” Conner said of the Steelers’ improvement in recent weeks. “We are just doing our jobs, trying to be a team on the rise.”

James Conner takes over Heinz Field, dominates Browns again

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The spin move to get loose. The stiff-arm in the end zone. The “Con-ner! Con-ner!” chants from the Heinz Field crowd.

James Conner is no longer a fill-in, but is a major catalyst for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2018 season.

He can play. He has left little doubt.

Conner’s monstrous second half helped seal the Steelers’ 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns and strengthen their position in the AFC North. Over the span of two drives in the third and fourth quarters, Conner gashed the Browns for 95 total yards and a score. The Steelers were reeling after several mental mistakes before Conner spun his way to a 30-yard gain to start a third-quarter scoring drive.

“I’m just running hard,” Conner said when asked if he’s getting stronger by the week after compiling 525 yards over a three-game stretch.

Conner started the game with 36 yards on 12 carries but finished with an explosive 146 yards on 24 carries along with five receptions for 66 yards. That gives Conner a startling 404 total yards in two games against the Browns.

That will do.

Steelers players kept pumping up Conner publicly over the last two months, and it was not an empty proposition. They feel strongly about their running back, with or without Le’Veon Bell. He’s ready for AFC North football, and so is an offensive line that has been stellar the last three weeks.

“He wants to be that guy,” guard Ramon Foster said of Conner. “He plays with a passion that’s out of this world.”

Mike Tomlin made passionate address to Steelers after Pittsburgh shooting

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin addressed the Pittsburgh shooting with his team Saturday night in what players called a passionate moment.

Tomlin told his team he lived close to the Tree of Life Synagogue, where a mass shooting left 11 people dead and several others injured earlier Saturday.

”I’m a member of the Squirrel Hill community personally,” Tomlin said after the Steelers’ 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. “Words cannot express how we feel as members of the community. We are prayerful.”

Tomlin added he wouldn’t make the moment “about me or us” and is glad to serve the community in a small way with the game. Tomlin estimated he lives about 800 yards from the synagogue.

Among the dead were David and Cecil Rosenthal. Their sister, Michele Rosenthal, used to work for the Steelers as a community relations manager.

”It was tough. It was crazy tough, especially with Michele and the closeness we have with her,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “We’re thankful for the victory, but we also understand there are bigger things -- there’s life. I’m glad we could gift people three hours with a break.”

The Steelers held a moment of silence inside Heinz Field before kickoff.

”Way bigger than football,” guard Ramon Foster said.

Several players issued supportive tweets over the weekend and were proud to take the field for their city.

”Tragedy what happened to our city,” running back James Conner, a Pennsylvania native who played college football at Pitt, said after the game. “Today was much bigger than the game of football. Good we got the win to try and uplift spirits and vibes of our city. Our city took a hit today. Our hearts with all the victims and all the victims’ families. We still have them in mind.”

Defensive end Cameron Heyward entered the stadium with a T-shirt featuring a heart around the word “Pittsburgh.” Many fans inside Heinz displayed a “Stronger than Hate” sign pairing the Steelers’ logo with the Star of David.

Podcast: ‘Steelers Hangover’ returns tonight at 9:30 p.m. EST

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 8:35pm

BTSC recaps the Steelers rematch with the Cleveland Browns and opens the phones to you, the listener, to join in.

Join Bryan Davis and Anthony Defeo from BTSC for the day after extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”. The Steelers tried to give their grieving city a three-hour escape from the hurt and the result was a 33-18 win over Cleveland. With half of the AFC North on the losing end yesterday, the Steelers remained atop of the division. Tony and Bryan will discuss the weekend that was pleasant on the field amid great emotional trauma off of it.

Check out a rundown of the show:

- Reactions

- Grades/Valedictorian and Honor Roll

- Calls

- Looking ahead to B-More

- and MUCH MORE!

You can listen to the show live by logging onto our BlogTalkRadio page at 9:30 p.m. EST but WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! What did you think about the game, the upcoming regular season or whatever you want to talk about Steelers related. Simply dial (347) 850-8581 anytime during the show to make your voice heard!

Steelers open as 3-point underdogs vs. Ravens in Week 9

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 1:55pm

Baltimore has lost three of their last four, while Pittsburgh have won three in a row, but somehow the Steelers are still underdogs for their Week 9 rematch.

The Pittsburgh Steelers may well be riding a three game winning streak but it would appear that is not quite enough to convince the bookmakers they will be leaving Baltimore with a win in Week 9. Even though the Ravens have lost three of their last four games, a period in which they gave the lowly Cleveland Browns only their third win in three years, Baltimore has been installed as 3-point favorites for their rematch with the Steelers.

When the two sides met in Week 4, a disappointing second half performance from Pittsburgh doomed them to defeat in a 26-14 loss. An all too familiar slow start put the Steelers in a 14-0 hole before they battled back to tie the game before halftime. However, they failed to move the ball after the break, with the longest drive of the half covering just 27-yards, leaving the Ravens to run out easy winners.

Both teams have moved in different directions since their first meeting and with Joe Flacco playing his worst game of the year in their latest loss, those looking to back Pittsburgh in this matchup may want to grab the points before the line tumbles. An initial totals position of 47.5 points looks to be a fairly reasonable starting point for this contest and it seems unlikely there will be any dramatic movement to this line in the coming days.

Prior to their last meeting, the Steelers had won their last three in a row against Baltimore, but are 1-4 in their last five games at M&T Bank Stadium. Pittsburgh is 4-2-1 on the season and 4-3 against the spread, while the Ravens are 4-4 for both.

AFC North Roundup: Big-time matchup with the Ravens looms for Steelers in Week 9

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 12:40pm

Taking a look around the AFC North heading into Week 9.

With Week 8 of the NFL schedule officially in the books, at least for the AFC North, it’s time to take a look back at those teams who call the AFC North home to see how they fared and what the standings look like after this week’s action.

The first goal for each team in the NFL is to win its division. Doing so guarantees both a playoff spot and a home playoff game, so even these early-season games are important when it comes to divisional rankings.

Let’s take a spin around the AFC North to check on the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Week 8 Results

Carolina Panthers - 36
Baltimore Ravens - 21

Don’t let the score fool you. This game wasn’t that close. Joe Flacco left a lot to be desired, and Lamar Jackson actually threw a touchdown pass. The Steelers come to M&T Bank Stadium Sunday, and if Pittsburgh walks out of Baltimore with a win, and Flacco is less than impressive, you can expect the cries for Jackson to start getting louder.

Cincinnati Bengals - 37
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 34 OT

It looked like the Bengals were going to run away with this game, but Ryan Fitzpatrick took over for the benched Jameis Winston, and Fitzmagic almost struck again. Sending the game into overtime, Randy Bullock nailed a 44-yard field goal to give the Bengals the win. The Bengals win keeps them right in the thick of things after dropping back-to-back games.

Pittsburgh Steelers - 33
Cleveland Browns - 18

The Steelers let the Browns hang around longer than they probably should have, but it was good to see them pull away in the second half. Just think...if not for the free kick gaffe, and the garbage time touchdown, the defense very well could have held the Browns to 6 points. I know, it is the Browns, but still impressive.

Week 9 Schedule

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens — 1 p.m. ET kickoff
Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns — 1 p.m. ET kickoff
Cincinnati Bengals — BYE WEEK

AFC North Standings

Pittsburgh Steelers - 4-2-1
Cincinnati Bengals - 5-3
Baltimore Ravens - 4-4
Cleveland Browns - 2-5-1

...

Let us know what you think about the division after Week 8 in the comment section below. Do you see this being a powerhouse division? Which teams are contenders and which ones are nothing more than pretenders?

Browns finally fire both Hue Jackson and Todd Haley after loss to Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 12:16pm

The Cleveland Browns parted ways with their head coach on Monday, a move that is about two years overdue.

The Pittsburgh Steelers not only beat the Cleveland Browns on the scoreboard on Sunday, they also cost two men their jobs in the process.

Breaking: The Cleveland Browns have fired head coach Hue Jackson. (via @AdamSchefter) pic.twitter.com/tpxviuJzO3

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 29, 2018

Source: The #Browns have fired OC Todd Haley. More madness.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 29, 2018

An utterly pathetic record of 3-36-1 should have earned Hue Jackson his marching orders long before the 2018 season, but the Browns management somehow believed the man who had gone winless in 2017 deserved another chance to prove he wasn't arguably one of the worst head coaches in the history of modern football. Seven games into another dire season, ownership has finally got the message that Jackson is not the right man to the lead any NFL team.

Losing to the Steelers has become something of a career killer for Cleveland coaches as of late, with Jackson just the latest in a long line of Browns’ staff members to be fired in the wake of another defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh.

Here’s a streak Cleveland would like to snap after Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh: The last five Browns⁠’ head coaches - Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rod Chudzinski, Mike Pettine - were fired after the second Steelers’ game of that season.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 29, 2018

While Browns fans are likely overjoyed by the news, Pittsburgh fans should be sad to see the back of a man who has gifted the Steelers so many wins with his inept play calling and questionable personnel decisions. Steelers Nation can only hope that the next head coach Cleveland employs is even half as bad.

Haley might feel somewhat hard done by to have been fired just seven games into his tenure with Cleveland, but as Pittsburgh players might contest, he is not always the easiest man to get along with.

The Browns have named Al Saunders as interim head coach, poisoned chalice that it is.

Winners and Losers after the big win over Cleveland in Week 8

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 10:55am

After a game, we take note of certain players who performed well and others who didn’t. This is where the Winners and Losers column comes in.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns took part in a big divisional game at Heinz Field on Sunday, and the Steelers presented their loyal fan base with their first home division win of the regular season. The 33-18 victory might have been the team’s most complete performance to date, and there were some good, and bad, performances worthy of recognition.

During the game, some perform well, while others fall short of the standard. This is where the Winners and Losers column comes in. After the game, when the dust settles, we decipher who falls into which category.

As always, feel free to comment on the list in the comment section below. Be part of the conversation!

Winners

James Conner
Stat Line: 24 carries, 146 yards, 6.1 ypc, 2 TDs / 5 rec, 6 targets, 66 yards

It has been a long time since I’ve enjoyed watching someone play football as much as I do enjoy watching Conner tote the rock. He runs with a reckless abandon, yet has the balance and burst to be a threat in every possible way. At this point in the game, I don’t think anyone is wondering about Le’Veon Bell anymore, just wondering if the team will trade him so Conner can keep rolling.

Antonio Brown
Stat Line: 6 receptions, 8 targets, 74 yards, 2 TDs

Not a ridiculous day for No. 84, but when you catch 6 of 8 targets and score twice, it isn’t a bad day at the office. Maybe, just maybe, Brown doesn’t care about his stats anymore. Perhaps he is more focused on wins, and scoring touchdowns. Brown leads the league in touchdown receptions, and I’m sure he would exchange his receptions and yardage statistics for a Super Bowl ring.

Bud Dupree
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 1 solo, .5 TFL, 2 QB hits

Nick Farabaugh in his post-game reaction article put it best when talking about Dupree, maybe this is just who Dupree is?! If that is the case, he is far from a bust, but just an average pass rusher. Dupree did what he should have done. The Browns put all their attention on Watt, and he won his one-on-one matchup against a subpar left tackle. He isn’t an elite pass rusher, but he certainly isn’t Jarvis Jones either. This was one of Dupree’s best performances as a pro, in my opinion.

T.J. Watt
Stat Line: 7 tackls, 6 solo, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL, 1 QB hit

When Watt plays the Browns, expect him to at least continue to add to his sack total. Watt’s lone sack on Baker Mayfield gives him 7 on the season, and is just three off Aaron Donald for the league lead. Although I doubt he will break any records, sadly the Steelers don’t play the Browns again this year, Watt is having himself a banner year for such a young player. His play is improving weekly.

Ben Roethlisberger
Stat Line: 24/36, 257 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 1 sack, 94.3 Rating

This was the game I wanted to see from Roethlisberger, maybe except the first quarter. Take away the interception when he tried to force the ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Roethlisberger had a very efficient day at the office. He was only sacked once, and the Browns’ defense registered just one QB hit.

Aggressive Mike Tomlin
Stat Line: 1/1 on 4th Down Conversions

I was waiting for Chris Boswell to trot onto the field for a chip shot field goal at the end of the second quarter, but Tomlin rolled the dice of 4th down, and it paid off with a first down completion to Smith-Schuster, and then a touchdown pass to Brown to put a dagger in the Browns. Loved the call.

Mike Hilton
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 3 solo, .5 TFL, 1 Pass Defense

You might look at the stat line above and wonder why Hilton found his way on the winners list. After all, he didn’t have an interception or a sack, but when he is on the field the entire defense is different. Hilton is a tremendous blitzer, and I would argue he is the best slot defender in the NFL. What a steal he was when Pittsburgh claimed him off the scrap heap.

Joe Haden
Stat Line: 3 tackls, 3 solo, 2 TFL, 2 Pass Defenses, 1 INT

Some say Haden is too old. Some say Haden is injury prone. Some suggest Haden has lost a step. Well color me stupid, because what I saw on Sunday at Heinz Field was a dominant performance by Haden. The interception was nice, and resulted in a touchdown for the offense, but the play which stood out to me was the swing pass to Jarvis Landry. Landry caught the pass and turned up field only to be met by Haden. Haden didn’t rush and try to tackle Landry immediately, but broke down and was ready to make a play. Landry tried an inside move, and an outside move, but Haden didn’t budge. Landry just went out of bounds. Tremendous.

Offensive Line
Stat Line: 168 total yards rushing, 2 rushing touchdowns, surrendered 1 sack, and only 1 QB hit

I always see these silly position rankings around the internet, and when talking about offensive lines, no one ever puts the Steelers’ unit at the top. Not sure why. In the past three games they have surrendered just one sack, and two QB hits. On top of that, James Conner has been running wild through gaping holes which you could drive a truck through. Oh, and this week Marcus Gilbert wasn’t in the lineup, but Matt Feiler. Anyone notice a difference? I sure didn’t. Mike Munchak for president!

Losers

Ryan Switzer/Roosevelt Nix/Danny Smith
Stat Line: Are you serious?

Against a different team this mistake would have been the straw which broke the camel’s back. In our post-game podcast, which can be heard above, we asked whether this was on the players or the coaches. My answer is both! After the safety Danny Smith had time to get his unit together and remind them this is a live ball after being kicked. Sure, Nix’s fair catch signal was strange, but Switzer, who is known as a return specialist, should know the rules and still have caught the football. Plenty of blame to go around...I’m just thankful it didn’t cost the team the game.

Penalties
Stat Line: 8 penalties for 60 yards

The penalties weren’t as bad as it looked at the start of the game, but this team sure knows how to compound sloppy play with stupid penalties. Need to play a cleaner brand of football next week vs. the Ravens.

The 1st Quarter
Stat Line: Offense didn’t obtain a first down till the second quarter

The defense gave up 6 points, should have been more, and the offense didn’t get a first down the entire quarter. I know coming off the bye week can a slow adjustment, but this team needs to develop more consistency when starting games.

3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 6-for-13 on 3rd down conversions

Below .500 in 3rd down offense is not acceptable in the NFL. The teams who make it far are teams who know how to move the chains and create long, time consuming, drives. The Steelers got their act together in the second half, but the first half was rough. On the flip side, I should say how the Steelers’ defense did a tremendous job on third downs, holding the Browns to 3-for-13 on the key down.

9 Takeaways from the Steelers’ 33-18 thrashing of the Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 9:44am

The Steelers came out on top, and there are a ton of positive takeaways from the win over Cleveland

The Steelers have officially advanced to 4-2-1 after their win over the Baker Mayfield-led Cleveland Browns. There is a lot to be excited about, but there are still things which need to be fixed by the Steelers. They did not play a flawless game, obviously, but it is a big win with the Ravens coming up next week.

Therefore, here are nine takeaways from the Steelers’ victory:

James Conner is officially in Le’Veon Bell’s tier of RB

Oh no James Conner did not just do that. He is a star. What contact balance and burst to pull this run off. Incredible. pic.twitter.com/ZvX7O4EGu7

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 28, 2018

James Conner is absolutely legit. I can’t give a hoot if you think Bell is better, that is up for debate, but I think it is time to put Conner in the same tier as him. What has Conner not done that Bell can do? I can’t tell you.

Conner has better balance than Bell, and while Bell has better vision, the burst from Conner is impeccable. He runs fast and just bounces off defenders. He clearly can run routes well and has soft hands too. In addition, his pass blocking is now at an elite RB level too.

Conner isn’t like Bell, and may not be him, but he is very special. The kid is a star and the Steelers know it. What a find Conner was in the 3rd round.

Mind you that compensation pick was for Kelvin Beachum.

Someone tell the Special Teams the rules

Hate to bring this one back up, but this is inexcusable. You can't let this happen as a ST coach or a HC. Gotta fix this during the week, an insane play. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/h3vuzCywlB

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 28, 2018

Uh.... I don’t know how to explain this play. They just didn’t know the rules. As a Special Teams coach and Head Coach, Danny Smith and Mike Tomlin have to ensure their players know the rules.

The Special Teams play was actually really good today outside of this play, so I am not calling for Danny Smith’s head at all. You can blame the coaches, Roosevelt Nix, or Ryan Switzer, but just know, most of the time, they are a good unit.

But please, make sure they know the rules! This is inexcusable.

Pittsburgh should trade for a CB2

Well, Artie Burns literally did not play a defensive snap today. That is not good, at all. Tomlin and Butler have either given up on Burns, or they are letting him go back into the lab and making him gain his confidence back through practice alone. Bradley has improved this entire secondary aside from Burns, and it might just need to be time to let him sit.

So then, the answer, what is it? I can tell you one thing, Coty Sensabaugh ain’t it.

Why the #Steelers need to trade for a CB......shown by Coty Sensabaugh. Draped all over him and still doesn't stop him. pic.twitter.com/d0JiCv1bY1

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 28, 2018

This is just a really sad play by Sensabaugh. He is draped all over Callaway and still allows a TD. You can’t let that happen as a CB.

Is Cam Sutton it? I.....don’t know. He looked good today, and has looked up-and-down all season, but I would rather not trust him right now. I think he is better suited as being the main backup at a plethora of positions in the secondary. Instead, I would reccommend Gareon Conley still.

Peterson isn’t happening, and Jenkins is washed. I want the young guy who can be coached up. And, yes, I trust Tom Bradley. With how the rest of the secondary has looked aside from mediocre players such as Burns and Sensabaugh, I think a guy with the talent of Conley would be the guy you want. He has flashed, he will put it together eventually, trust the tape.

Justin Hunter deserves snaps

Yeah, yeah you can tell me he’s Justin Hunter, and he is. Did he really do much? No, he really did not. He had one catch, which was a nice, sharp out route for a good completion of about 13 yards.

However, Hunter should have had two touchdowns today. Ben overthrew him twice. Once, where he burnt Breian Boddy-Calhoun and another where he won off release and boxed out BBC to only be overthrown and held on a should be a TD.

Justin Hunter should have had two TDs today. Ben overthrew him twice. Here Hunter wins inside leverage and has BBC boxed out, If Ben hits him this is a TD all day. (also might be some contact) pic.twitter.com/jHRZvt54U6

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 28, 2018

He showed he could be the big play threat the team needs on offense. To be fair, we can also blame that last play on Hunter, who does slow up for some reason. Yet, I am not okay with not giving James Washington reps at the very least. That is how he will get better, with reps. You need to let the guy do work so he can become a better receiver. I get trying to win now, but Washington is going to need snaps to improve.

Joe Haden, still a Top 10 Corner

Haden is having an elite season, and his return to his elite form has transformed the Steelers defense. It has allowed them to blitz more, as they do not have to fear the team’s No. 1 receiver nearly as much as they would have before, and the secondary can play aggressive.

Well....we have a DB with ball skills in Pittsburgh! Fantastic play by Haden to mirror and just run step-for-step with Ratliff and then high point the ball. pic.twitter.com/zrWjwRLS8R

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 28, 2018

I can’t say enough about Haden. He shows clear ball skills here, something only he and Mike Hilton have showcased. It is a beautiful play. He has now shut down the likes of Jarvis Landry, A.J. Green, and Julio Jones. He is absolutely a huge contributor on this defense.

Bud Dupree might not be more than average, but he is fine enough

Look, I get why Bud Dupree gets so much hate, but some of it isn’t warranted. He misses tackles and is always run up the arc when he pass rushes, but he is still average and not as easily replaceable as he may seem. He is a great coverage LB, good for stunts (Butler loves them), and is a competent run defender.

Today, he had what I thought to be a fine game. I don’t think he was great, but he had flashes, exhibit A.

Bud actually has a fantastic first step and uses his hands to limit what Harrison can do. That is a sack if he doesn't get absolutely yanked down. Also, good play in coverage by VW. pic.twitter.com/KYqecKwxrb

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 28, 2018

Dupree got a fantastic first step here and just beat Harrison around the edge because he used his hands! This would have been a slam dunk sack if not for the hold. Dupree was in the backfield all day, so you can credit that to him. With Ola Adeniyi coming back soon, I expect OLB to be fine for this season. The team must add one in the offseason, though.

L.J. Fort is good, real good

You all know I have been the train guiding the ‘BTSC L.J. Fort should get playing time’ train, and boy am I glad he did. When you watch the tape, you just notice Fort is a player the Steelers need out there. He is downright great in coverage and showed some great processing Sunday. He blew up the play on a screen for Nick Chubb, point blank. He also showed he was really good in coverage.

Two things:

1. Mike Hilton is a pro bowl level slot corner. Sticky coverage on one of the best slot guys in the game in Jarvis Landry

2. Look at L.J. Fort be all physical up there to the left. Completely takes the receiver (looks like Chubb?) out of the play. He was big today. pic.twitter.com/rOGvaVKHoi

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 28, 2018

Look at how aggressive Fort is here. Straight up smothers Nick Chubb and takes him out of the play. Beautiful job of doing that against a shifty RB in the slot. Hilton also makes a nice play. Fort should continue to see work in sub-packages and on passing downs. He is a good player.

Sean Davis is the answer at Free Safety

Vince has to fill there backside. He sees it but takes a bad angle and over-pursues which allows the reach to get to him. He has to work under that and get to Chubb, Another nice tackle by Sean Davis. pic.twitter.com/PCkHxmONCF

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 28, 2018

Some really rough run defense here. Not what you would like to see from the DL. Heyward and Hargrave have to have better block shedding ability. Vince has to shed that block and make the tackle too. Great tackle in the secondary by Sean Davis. He's been really good at FS. pic.twitter.com/aKjpQcbv5K

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 28, 2018

Sean Davis is looking the best he has since his rookie year. He looked great there because he was able to play to his job, do it aggressively, and it showed on tape. Now, he is doing the same thing. Once the play reaches Davis, the play is done, straight finished. He has only missed one tackle this season, which is fantastic. You never hear anything in the vicinity of Davis anyways.

Just watch the All-22, and Davis always does his job, and he does it well. Davis is truly a good player now, and he has helped this secondary along with the improving Terrell Edmunds.

Ryan Switzer admits he did not know the rules regarding free kicks after a safety

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 8:35am

If you thought it looked like Ryan Switzer didn’t know the rules surrounding free kicks, you are not wrong.

Ryan Switzer has been something of a revelation as a return man for the Pittsburgh Steelers since arriving via trade before the start of the season, but he had fans out of their seats for all the wrong reasons on Sunday afternoon with a catastrophic error midway through the third quarter.

With Pittsburgh set up to receive a free kick after recording a safety, confusion between Switzer and Roosevelt Nix led to a huge mistake that saw the Browns recover the ball at the Steelers 25-yard line.

Steelers inexplicably fail to field a free kick and let the Browns have it. Browns could have run it in for a TD pic.twitter.com/yMyT6PqMeR

— Vikings Blogger (@firstandskol) October 28, 2018

Seemingly believing the ball would be ruled dead if not returned by one of their teammates, both Nix and Switzer failed to make an attempt to dive on the live football when it had gone over the heads and the Browns pounced on it. While it would be incorrect to say Cleveland could have advanced the ball any further, they were still set up for a short drive that would end in a touchdown.

Speaking to Chris Adamski of TribLive after the game, Switzer confirmed he really did not know the rules that governed free kicks and actually thought it would still be Pittsburgh’s ball, just as it appeared he did.

“I was thinking that punts were dead and kickoffs were alive, so honestly just one of those things that you wish didn’t happen and obviously you learn from it, which I certainly will. Unfortunate, but the guys had my back today and we came out with a win, which helped me a lot.”

“I saw Rosie giving the fair-catch signal in front of me. I was running up to the ball, ‘AB’ was running up to the ball, and it was just a lot of miscommunication going on.”

“I have little experience being back there after a safety, but regardless ,that doesn’t matter. I have got to know the rules, and I misinterpreted wrong and it cost us today. But the offensive line, (running back James Conner) especially and the defense, they all had my back today, and I am grateful for that.”

If Switzer was open to acknowledging his mistake, Nix was far less willing to discuss it with reporters in light of another victory.

“What you wanna know? You’re asking questions. You sound like you know every (expletive) thing… We won. So you wanna write an article about one play? It don’t matter. We will figure it out when we watch the film about it.”

Doubling down later on fans who dared to call him out for the play via Twitter.

Lol y’all really doggin me and my guy @Switz .... it’s insane

— 5⃣Roosevelt nix (@Dat_Dude_Nix) October 28, 2018

Against a more credible opponent, a mistake of this magnitude could have cost them the win and the Steelers can considered themselves lucky they were only playing the Browns. Clearly, many on the team needed a lesson about the rules surrounding free kicks and they all got one in the harshest way possible. If it prevents it from happening again, it will have been worth it.

As understandable as it is to criticize the players for not knowing the rules, it would be fair to say that special teams coach Danny Smith deserve his share of blame for the play too. It is his job to have his players prepared for every eventually. A free kick after a safety is hardly unheard of, even if it is only the second one the Steelers have returned all season.

Report Card: Grading the Steelers win over the Browns in Week 8

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 7:39am

BTSC breaks out the red pen and assigns grades to the Steelers after their flushing down of the Cleveland Browns.

Week in/Week out, I’ve got to issue the grand disclaimer. You know the story. I’m not a football coach, or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. I must admit that I was nervous about coming off of the bye against a hungry Cleveland team and a young, exciting Browns defense equating to a loss. But the ultimate result was a victory of most satisfying proportions.

Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what count the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well.

So let’s take a look at BTSC’s early perceptions:

Offense:

Cleveland’s defense was tough to penetrate at first. Ben Roethlisberger was real shaky in the early goings, but settled down and ended with a solid 24/36 and 257 yard day. His hookups with Antonio Brown (6 catches/74 yards and 2 scores) got them back in the black and the gutsy 4th Down Conversion was huge. The squad of Villanueva, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro and Feiler were great and allowed only one sack of their quarterback. But Big Al’s performance against Myles Garrett (allowing only one sack) was pretty significant. They assisted, as well, on the amazing performance (212 total yards/2 TDs) by James Conner. His performance as a rusher, receiver and pass protector was MVP-like. After early struggles, the unit performed quite well.

Overall Offense Grade: A- Defense

Keith Butler’s defense still isn’t impenetrable, but looked pretty good as the game went on. The run-defense looked like they were going to get shredded by Nick Chubb early on after his 41 yards rushing. He only got 24 the rest of the game. The defensive line was good with Stephon Tuitt getting two sacks. The linebackers were pretty good with Bud Dupree being absolutely destructive. The secondary did not get exposed, it was pretty solid with Joe Haden leading the way as a shut-down corner. The scoreboard may have read 18 PA, but the score after the botched free kick left them with a short field and the garbage time TD was just that. It was a solid go.

Overall Defense Grade: B+ Special Teams

Boswell May be cured and Switzer is exciting, but Jordan Berry’s punts were subpar again and AB and Switz not knowing the rules on the the free kick is inexcusable.

Overall Special Teams Grade: C

Overall Team Grade: B+

It wasn’t exactly a complete 60-minute performance of dominance, but it was a very good division win for a traumatized city. With a three-game streak, the team could be on a roll with a victory over Baltimore.

Valedictorian: James Conner

Honor Roll: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, James Conner, Alejandro Villanueva, Joe Haden, Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt

Detention: Special Teams and First Quarter Ben

Steelers’ players take to social media to talk about their win over the Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 6:35am

Members of the Pittsburgh Steelers take to social media after their 33-18 win over the Brownsin Week 8.

The Pittsburgh Steelers came off their Week 7 bye and looked sluggish. This isn’t out of the norm under Mike Tomlin, but after the first quarter the team, both offensively and defensively, woke up in a big way against the Cleveland Browns in Week 8.

Following the Steelers’ 33-18 win, players took to social media to celebrate their first AFC North win at home, and their third straight victory.

Take a look at what was said on different platforms following the game! I also added in some interesting video which I felt fans might enjoy.

(Editor’s Note: This article may be updated as more players take to social media to talk about the team’s victory.)

Great Team Win!! Let’s keep it goin #SteelerNation pic.twitter.com/t9494HidwF

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) October 28, 2018

This win today was for Pittsburgh and the Jewish community. What happened yesterday was wrong, and will never be justified. But to know that the men in Black and Gold got that win for you and the victims should hopefully inspire you to live your lives for them as well!#HulkSmash pic.twitter.com/GP6xMKmAqB

— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) October 28, 2018

Back in action ❗️#HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/VoYMfBRF2S

— L.J. Fort (@i_Serve24) October 28, 2018

Let’s GET IT!!!! https://t.co/jugwUdFySI

— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) October 28, 2018

GREAT team win ✅✅

— Terrell Edmunds (@rell_island6) October 28, 2018

This is what really matters and I’m glad my team was able to just hold up the city up during this tragic time. #steelers #doittuitt @ Heinz Field https://t.co/ZpUugierOK

— stephon tuitt (@DOCnation_7) October 28, 2018

That was for the City!!!! Hope it can bring a small amount of light during this dark time.

— Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) October 28, 2018

Podcast: Steelers, and James Conner, put exclamation point on Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 5:36am

In the latest episode of “The Steelers Post-Game” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-gold from the game that was.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are closing in on the midpoint of their 2018 season. With a surge of Steelers news, it’s time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Post-Game Show. On this show Jeff Hartman and co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers from the game that was!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Injuries
  • Most complet win of the season?
  • What does this tell us about the Steelers?
  • Talking what’s ahead
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams 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.

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