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The Steelers did the right thing not picking up Devin Bush’s option, but he could still pay off for them

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/10/2022 - 7:15am
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Bush struggled last year, and the Steelers decided not to pick up his 5th year option. Smart move? Seems like it, but there is still time for Bush to overcome his issues and become an asset to the team.

Perhaps lost in all of the hoopla over the just-concluded 2022 NFL Draft was the reported last Monday that the Steelers had decided to decline the fifth-year option for inside linebacker Devin Bush.

Bush, a top prospect from Michigan in the 2019 NFL Draft, was someone deemed so necessary to the future of the Steelers defense, that they traded multiple picks to the Broncos in order to move up to the 10th spot so they could be in a position to take him.

That decision was looking good early on, as Bush showed the potential of being a player who could be a cornerstone for Pittsburgh’s defense.

But then Bush suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a blowout win over the Browns in October of the 2020 campaign, and that ultimately changed everything for the Steelers, Devin Bush, and his future with the organization.

Bush made his return in time for the 2021 season, but he was just never really the same player that he was over the first 21 games of his career. Bush looked lost, disinterested, someone not willing to stick his nose in the pile and make a play.

It’s one thing for the fans to question a player’s effort, but it’s quite another when former players do it. One such former player was an ex-linebacker for the Steelers, Arthur Moats, who said just that during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan late in the regular season:

“I’m more of an action guy. So every time we bring up Devin, every time we bring up a player that might be struggling we always want to point to these other things, we want to justify and it’s like no, . . . your tape is going to tell me everything I need to know so don’t’ tell me you want to make plays when I cut the tape on you, you’re not showing that effort.”

Quite telling. Keith Butler, Bush’s now ex-defensive coordinator, said essentially the same thing.

With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that the Steelers would then decide not to commit to Bush beyond the 2022 campaign.

Can Bush’s struggles last year be attributed to him being less than 100 percent—if not physically, then certainly mentally and emotionally—after suffering such a serious knee injury the season before?

Absolutely, but that’s an even better reason to not pick up Bush’s option, an option that would have paid him just under $11 million in guaranteed money in 2023.

What if Bush never overcomes the knee injury? What if it isn’t all mental and emotional hindrances that are causing Bush to play with less effort—at least according to people who have played and coached the game at the highest level?

You can’t blame the Steelers for taking a wait-and-see approach.

Fortunately—and this is solely my opinion—I think Bush’s reluctance to play with gusto in 2021 was a combination of many things, but the fear of getting hurt again may have been at the top of the list.

We’ve all had bad injuries and/or major surgeries that have been hard to overcome. For many of us, it might take a while to get over the psychological hump and give your body up to reckless abandon like you did when you were 100 percent healthy.

This is a normal response to trauma. Is it normal for football players? I don’t know, but I do know Bush is a human being, and we can be tricky.

Bush has recently posted videos to social media showing him working out at full speed and looking like the athlete he was when Pittsburgh parted with so much just to have a chance to draft him three springs ago.

That’s good news because it should erase any doubt about the physical component of Bush’s post-ACL struggles. If he can get by what I think are the mental and emotional roadblocks, he could finally get back to being that centerpiece the Steelers envisioned for the defense the night they drafted him in 2019.

If Bush makes it all the way back, he’ll pay off for the Steelers, and the Steelers will probably pay him a lot more than $10.9 million.

What’s in a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey number?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/10/2022 - 6:00am
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 class received their official numbers Monday, what’s in a number?

On Monday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced the official jersey numbers for their 2022 NFL Draft class. In case you missed it, here is the official tweet from the Steelers verified Twitter account with the new players’ numbers.

DRAFT PICK JERSEY NUMBERS ARE HERE pic.twitter.com/T5UlwHqa5d

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 9, 2022

Shortly after the numbers were released you saw a plethora of thoughts and feelings about the number selections on social media. All of these thoughts and opinions got me thinking about jersey numbers in general. Some just brush off jersey digits, but others take them more serious.

So, what’s in a jersey number? I decided to take a look at the rookie class, their new jersey numbers and the immediate thoughts which went through my head when I saw their decisions.

Before getting to this exercise, it should be noted rookie players can change their number if/when they make the team if a number they’d rather have opens up. Therefore, keep that in mind as many were not too happy with several jersey numbers.

Kenny Pickett

Jersey No. 8

This was a no-brainer for the newest Steelers quarterback. Pickett wore No. 8 his entire 5-year tenure with Pitt, and the number was vacated by both Melvin Ingram III and Karl Joseph before he was re-signed this offseason. However, when I see No. 8 the only thing I can see is Tommy Maddox’s old number. Many lament Maddox’s time as the Steelers quarterback, but I look back on those days from my days in college watching games which were both frustrating and electrifying at the same time. Let’s just hope Pickett can pan out better than Maddox did.

George Pickens

Jersey No. 14

Pickens wore the No. 1 in college, and it didn’t seem like that would be a choice for the second round pick. The Steelers haven’t had a player wear No. 1 since Gary Anderson wore the single digit in the 80s. Going with No. 14 harkens some bad memories of failed wide receivers. Whether you go back to Limas Sweed out of Texas, or Sammie Coates out of Auburn. The No. 14 hasn’t always been the best for pass catchers. Most recently worn by Ray-Ray McCloud, hopefully Pickens can pave a new way with the new number, if he decides to stick with it.

DeMarvin Leal

Jersey No. 98

The Texas A&M defensive lineman chose a number which is well-known in the Steelers fan base. The most notable player in recent memory to wear No. 98 has been inside linebacker Vince Williams. After Williams’ sudden retirement before training camp in 2021, he requested just one thing for the next player to wear No. 98...that he “be a dog”.

The next 98 better be a dog! That’s all I ask.

— Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) July 25, 2021

The next player to wear No. 98 was Taco Charlton in 2021, but Leal might be the long-term holder of Williams’ old number. Will he be “a dog” as Williams requested? Only time will tell if the number fits the former player’s demands.

Calvin Austin III

Jersey No. 19

Considering I’m as dense as a brick sometimes, I finally got why so many of my “Let’s Ride” podcast listeners wanted Austin to wear the jersey No. 16. Austin III (3) wearing No. 16. Austin 3:16. Get it? Well, I didn’t for a while, but No. 16 is currently occupied by backup punter Cameron Nizialek. Instead, Austin chose No. 19, which every fan will know was recently occupied by JuJu Smith-Schuster. Will he make fans forget all about Smith-Schuster? Those are big shoes to fill, despite how Smith-Schuster left the team.

Connor Heyward

Jersey No. 83

Of all the numbers which were given out, the fans had the biggest problem with Heath Miller’s old number being handed out. The Steelers have long had unofficial retired numbers within the organization. Only two numbers are officially retired, Ernie Stautner’s No. 70 and “Mean” Joe Greene’s No. 75. However, numbers like No. 43 for Troy Polamalu aren’t put in circulation for obvious reasons. Millers’ number has been used since his retirement, and most recently was donned by Cobi Hamilton. Heyward will be the first tight end to wear the number, if you call him a genuine tight end. Needless to say, fans aren’t happy seeing Heath’s digits hitting the field on another tight end.

Mark Robinson

Jersey No. 93

The Ole Miss linebacker chose a classic linebacker number when he selected No. 93. When I think of No. 93 in recent memory the first player which comes to mind is Jason Worilds. I know there have been players to wear No. 93 since Worilds played, but that’s the player I think of when I see the number. The most recent player to wear this number was Joe Schobert in 2021. Even with only one year under his belt at linebacker, there is hope he helps fans forget all about the brief Schobert era in Pittsburgh.

Chris Oladokun

Jersey No. 5

Here at BTSC the Steelers Draft Fix crew of Andrew Wilbar and Jeremy Betz got the chance to interview Oladokun (you can hear the interview in the player below) and I couldn’t help but listen to the interview and think to myself, “This guy sounds a lot like Joshua Dobbs.” It seems fitting Oladokun will take over wearing Dobbs’ old number when he tries to make the Steelers’ 53-man roster this year at training camp.

What do you think about these new numbers? Do you care? Are there any players who are going to have to get some good karma going with their new number? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to remember these numbers, outside of Pickett, can change if they make the team.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/10/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website, but now we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said or typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

BAD Language: The value of Mason Rudolph

Mason Rudolph has seemingly been cast aside by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Some fans think that he has no value to the organization and other teams wouldn’t want him. That’s not necessarily true. Everybody’s got an opinion. Some subscribe to conventional wisdom. others are ill-informed, while some are unorthodox and way out there. So, BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis decided to make no apologies and share his black-and-gold brand of enlightenment. Join BAD preaching his own gospel of the hypocycloids on the new show, BAD Language. This week, it’s all about the value of Mason R.

  • News and Notes
  • Mason Rudolph’s future in the NFL
  • A visit from Britsburgh Owen, Voice from Across the Pond
  • and MUCH MORE!
Steelers Hangover: How have expectations changed for the Steelers?

With the Steelers 2022 Draft in the books, does the upcoming season look better or worse? Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White discuss this and more on the latest edition of the Monday show from the Behind the Steel Curtain Family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Are the 2022 Steelers better off than 2021
  • and MUCH MORE!
From the Steelers’ Cutting Room Floor: Steelers retool their offense in the draft

The Pittsburgh Steelers retooled their offense with the additions of Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, Calvin Austin III, Connor Heyward and Chris Oladokun in the NFL Draft. Geoffery Benedict takes a deeper dive into the Steelers’ offensive draftees and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Breaking down the Steelers 2022 offensive selections
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Steelers announce official jersey numbers for the 2022 draft class

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/09/2022 - 3:53pm
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Take a look at the jersey numbers for the Steelers 2022 NFL Draft class.

A number is an athlete’s identity. Some free agent arrivals try to pay big bucks to get the same number they’ve worn elsewhere. But for rookies, a lot of times they are at the mercy of the equipment managers. The Pittsburgh Steelers have announced the jersey numbers for the 2022 NFL Draft class. Time to see who will wear what...

DRAFT PICK JERSEY NUMBERS ARE HERE pic.twitter.com/T5UlwHqa5d

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 9, 2022 QB Kenny Pickett Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 8

Steelers Number: 8

In the NFL’s rush to make this jersey available in home, away and color rush... Pickett gets the ocho that he wore in college at Pitt.

WR George Pickens Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 1

Steelers Number: 14

The Steelers don’t normally give the No. 1 out. Even though Pickens did wear the uno in college and has the bravado to not let it be too big for him. However, the Steelers went the Sammie Coates/Ray-Ray McCloud route. Let’s see if George can top them with the catorce.

DT DeMarvin Leal Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 8

Steelers Number: 98

Here’s another Steeler draft pick that sported No. 8. Leal is the kind of player that could make any number work for him, but adding a nine and evoking the legacy of Vince Williams seems right.

WR Calvin Austin III Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 4

Steelers Number: 19

The speedy Austin III wore No. 4 in college and does indeed seem like a single digit guy. Right now Sam Sloman, a kicker, is occupying that number. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be CA3’s later. It was suggested in the live chat of The Steelers Preview to go with No. 16 by a “Stone Cold” Steve Austin fan. Think about it... “Austin 3:16 just said I kicked your bleep”. But I don’t think that Punter Cameron Nizialek is going to step aside for that. JuJu Smith-Schuster vacated No. 19 when he jetted for Kansas City. Let’s see what Austin 3:19 says about that.

FB/TE Connor Heyward Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 11

Steelers Number: 83

It would have been cool to see Connor wearing Ironhead’s old number, but Terrell Edmunds has laid claim No. 34 since 2018. Chase Claypool has No. 11, Heywards Spartans number. So with no Ben Roethlisberger to veto it, No. 83 is back on a Tight End in the Burgh.

LB Mark Robinson Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 35

Steelers Number: 93

Joe Schobert wore this number last and it seems like a good fit for Robinson.

QB Chris Oladokun

College Number: 6, 10

Steelers Number: 5

Pressley Harvin III and Mitch Trubisky have Oladokun’s college digits spoken for, so Josh Dobbs’ and Bruce Gradkowski’s No. 5 seems about right.

Getting to know the Steelers 2022 UDFAs: Tyree Johnson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/09/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers added a second player from the Texas A&M defensive front hours after the 2022 NFL draft.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected seven players in the 2022 NFL draft, they continued adding to the roster with ten undrafted free agents. With many draft profiles focusing on those players towards the top and middle of the NFL draft, it is time to get to take a look at these other members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who will have just as much opportunity to make the roster in 2022 as those who were selected in the draft, despite the more difficult path.

Remember, some draft profiles for these players are quite harsh as they are looking at them as a draftable prospect. Taking a flyer on an UDFA is a completely different story as many times the potential the player shows is what lands them on an NFL offseason roster.

First on the list is Texas A&M outside linebacker Tyree Johnson.

Tyree Johnson Outside linebacker
Red-shirt Senior
Texas A&M
6’4” 240 lbs

After a red shirt season, Tyree Johnson made the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2018 with 14 tackles, two for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Stepping up to 32 tackles and 4.0 sacks as a sophomore, Johnson followed up with another solid season in his junior year with 23 tackles and 4.0 sacks. As a senior, Johnson had 31 tackles, nine of which were for loss, and 8.5 sacks along with a fumble recovery.

Current Steelers at the position:

Outside Linebacker

  1. T.J. Watt
  2. Alex Highsmith
  3. Derrek Tuszka
  4. Genard Avery
  5. John Simon
  6. Delontae Scott
  7. Tyree Johnson
  8. T.D. Moultry
Draft Profiles:

Here was a breakdown of Johnson from thedraftnetwork.com:

Tyree Johnson is a former 3-star prospect from the Washington D.C. area. Johnson is a redshirt senior defensive lineman that has contributed since the 2018 season, starting/playing in more than 40 games as an Aggie. Johnson is a versatile edge defender that has had his most productive season this past season. During the 2021 season, Johnson was able to rack up eight sacks and more than 30 tackles. This performance was rewarded with Johnson being named a Second-Team AP All-American and it also helped put Johnson on the radar for many NFL scouts. Johnson is a defender that has shown he can play the run effectively and also provide a good rush from the edge. Early on in his NFL career, I believe that Johnson will have to focus on developing his pass-rush repertoire and should primarily be used as a rotational guy. Johnson has a knack for getting to the quarterback and while he doesn’t have any elite traits like speed or length, he is a guy that has upside as a starting edge player in the NFL.

Ideal Role: 3-4 OLB

Scheme Fit: 3-4

Here is another recent breakdown following the 2021 season from si.com:

Overall, Tyree Johnson doesn’t have the frame, strength, flexibility, or length to be a difference-making pass rusher in the NFL. He has the upside to be a situational pass-rusher who could be a 3-4 OLB at the next level. Johnson is a smart run defender who lacks the desired size/physicality to be a three-down player.

Finally, here is a breakdown of Johnson from NFL.com:

Overview

Explosive edge talent whose pass rush tape far surpasses the run defense tape. Johnson won’t get dominated at the point of attack, but he’s far less urgent and invested in thwarting blocks. He plays with a powerful base to balance through contact but needs to work on playing past blockers for better tackle production. His pass rush offers an impressive pairing of explosive speed and elite bend that can rocket him up and around the edge to hunt quarterbacks. The traits are present to project him as a future sub-package rusher.

Strengths

Plays low and with good stability through contact.

Quick response to capture contain positioning play-side.

Pass-rush elements are connected and fluid.

Frequently capitalizes on an early rush advantage.

Explosive get-off can rocket him around the corner as rusher.

Eye-popping bend and ankle flexion at the turn.

Hip strength leaves him unbothered by redirection.

Can rush to additional depth and pivot sharply to access the pocket.

Weaknesses

Blocks land and stick to him for longer.

Lacks suddenness as a run-game defender.

Feet get heavy in lateral change of direction.

Needs to play with greater urgency from backside.

Rush dies when tackles get into him cleanly.

Hasn’t created a menu of moves and counters.

Inside spin doesn’t get him where he wants to be.

Could struggle to drop and cover in 3-4 scheme.

Film:

To finish off the breakdown of Tyree Johnson, no evaluation is complete without film:

McShay 2023 Mock Draft: Steelers take an OT just outside the Top 10

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/09/2022 - 12:45pm
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers look to bolster their offensive line in Todd McShay’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft.

The 2022 NFL Draft is just over a week old, and draft “experts” across the web are putting together some 2023 mock drafts to give those draft enthusiasts their fix who might be going through some mock draft withdrawal.

As for ESPN’s Todd McShay, it is customary for him to do a mock draft shortly after the current draft based on the fact he refuses to grade players and/or overall classes. While many view a 2023 mock draft as an exercise in futility, there are some things which fans can glean from these way-too-early predictions.

To me, the most interesting aspect of these mock drafts aren’t who the team selects, but when they have the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting. For instance, in this mock draft McShay has the Steelers selecting 11th overall. That means the Steelers would struggle mightily in the 2022 season to get a near Top 10 selection.

On top of that, what they predict as a top positional need for the Steelers is also noteworthy. The Steelers targeting an offensive tackle in Round 1 certainly is telling considering they have Dan Moore Jr. on his rookie contract, and just gave Chuks Okorafor a new 3-year deal this offseason.

With all that said, let’s take a look at how the McShay mock draft turned out for the black and gold:

1. Houston Texans - C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State*
2. Detroit Lions - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama*
3. New York Jets - Will Anderson Jr., DE, Alabama*
4. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State*
5. Atlanta Falcons - Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia*
6. Carolina Panthers - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida*
7. Chicago Bears - Jordan Addison, WR, Pittsburgh*
8. New York Giants - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
9. Seattle Seahawks - Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami*
10. Washington Commanders - Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama*

11. Pittsburgh Steelers - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State*

Only the Dolphins had a worse pass block win rate than the Steelers last season (48.8%), and I don’t think Pittsburgh did enough to fix the line. When it decides to turn the offense’s keys over to new quarterback Kenny Pickett, the protection has to be there. Johnson has 13 career starts (all at right guard) and allowed only one sack last season. He will slide outside to left tackle this year.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO) - Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia*
13. Las Vegas Raiders - Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern*
14. Minnesota Vikings - Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson*
15. New England Patriots - Noah Sewell, ILB, Oregon*
16. Miami Dolphins - Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson*
17. Tennessee Titans - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame*
18. Indianapolis Colts - Derick Hall, DE, Auburn
19. Philadelphia Eagles - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas*
20. Arizona Cardinals - Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah*
21. Baltimore Ravens - Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU*
22. Cincinnati Bengals - Trenton Simpson, ILB, Clemson*
23. Houston Texans (via CLE) - BJ Ojulari, DE, LSU*
24. Dallas Cowboys - Henry To’oTo’o, ILB, Alabama
25. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) - Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State*
26. Los Angeles Chargers - Zion Nelson, OT, Miami*
27. Miami Dolphins (via SF) - Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama*
28. Detroit Lions (via LAR) - Tony Grimes, CB, UNC*
29. Green Bay Packers - Emil Ekiyor Jr., G, Alabama
30. Kansas City Chiefs - Nolan Smith, OLB, Georgia
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Josh Downs, WR, UNC*
32. Buffalo Bills - Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma*

What do you think of the mock draft? Not just the selection, but the position and when McShay has the Steelers picking? Could 2022 be that bad the team is near a Top 10 pick? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), rookie minicamp and mandatory minicamp.

Report: Steelers QBs knew Pickett was the guy, and why Pickens is in the perfect spot

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/09/2022 - 11:30am
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ top two picks in the 2022 NFL Draft have their own unique reports as they came to the Steel City.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL Draft class was highlighted by their top two picks. Kenny Pickett, quarterback out of the University of Pittsburgh, and George Pickens, wide receiver out of the University of Georgia.

These two offensive playmakers have the opportunity, and ability, to make the Steelers’ offense more dynamic in the coming years, but reports coming out of the draft certainly lend different narratives to both selections following the picks.

According to ESPN’s senior NFL writer Jeremy Fowler, the Steelers made their desire to draft Kenny Pickett known to almost everyone. That would include the quarterbacks on the team’s roster.

The Steelers scoured the country for quarterbacks in the draft but didn’t reveal their plans. The feeling among some of the Steelers’ players (even in the QB room) is that if Pittsburgh did draft a signal-caller, Kenny Pickett would be the guy. Mitch Trubisky was loosely prepared for this potential dynamic — what GM Kevin Colbert calls a competition with those two, along with Mason Rudolph.

For those Steelers fans who were hoping the team would select Malik Willis with their pick at No. 20, the Willis camp didn’t think there was a chance he’d fall past the Steelers.

But I also heard from someone close to Malik Willis who largely did not expect the QB to fall past the Steelers at No. 20, believing his upside would be enough to sway Pittsburgh at its spot. The team did do a lot of research on Willis during the process.

As we know now, the Steelers passed on Willis, and so did every other team in the league until the Tennessee Titans trade up to draft him in the 3rd Round.

When it comes to the Steelers’ second round pick, George Pickens, he has long been considered a player when both healthy and focused could be one of the top receivers in the game. The fact the Steelers got him at pick No. 52 was astonishing, but, as Fowler points out, also put Pickens in a great spot to thrive with the security the Steelers organization provides.

In the second round, wide receiver George Pickens entered an ideal scenario. Questions about his work ethic swirled around draft time. Many evaluators thought, on talent alone, he belonged in the conversation with the top wideouts, but he ended up going No. 52. Pickens and people close to him are happy he is going to a good environment like Pittsburgh’s to learn from trusted veterans and absorb a model NFL culture.

As stated earlier, Pickens is a player with a tremendous amount of potential. A lack of focus and work ethic might have had many NFL teams shy away from drafting the Georgia Bulldog wideout. Fowler states the slip to Day 2 could be just what Pickens needs to get him on the straight and narrow.

The truth about Pickens is he was heralded as a five-star talent since high school and probably let his focus slip at times. But being a first-round talent and slipping to Day 2 should refocus him in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers will be relying on these two players, Pickett and Pickens, to be mainstays within the offense for years to come. Will they pan out? Will they develop a connection similar to some of the other great Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback-to-receiver connections in team history?

Only time will tell, but the Steelers have to be excited about the potential they have on the offense after free agency and the NFL Draft.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamps.

Predicting the Steelers 2022 regular season schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/09/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the NFL schedule being released Thursday, two BTSC writers square off to tackle the insane task of predicting the Steelers 2022 slate of games. Will we get a single one right? We will see.

Finally, the NFL schedule is finally coming out and there are only a few things that we know for sure about the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 slate of games. We know that the Steelers are going on the road for their extra game this season, we know that the black and gold won’t be playing an international game, and we know that there’s going to be many a game in prime time again. We also know that the contributors at BTSC enjoy competition and bragging rights as well. With that, editor Dave Schofield and podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis will square off while predicting when the Steelers play who. With no expectations of getting a single game right, let’s take this for a spin.

If you think mock drafts are pointless, check out this exercise in futility.

Week 1 (September 8 - 12)

BAD: at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday Night Football)

Que up Willie Nelson, the Steelers will be on the road again to open up their NFL season. It worked out surprisingly well last year in Buffalo, so I am fine with it due to the fact that the AFC has nine road games this season.

Dave: vs. New England Patriots (Sunday Night Football)

So will the NFL screw the Steelers over for an eighth-straight year of making them begin the season on the road? It’s actually the Pirates fault as they are once again scheduled to play a game at home at 1:35 PM on that Sunday. If the Steelers do open at home, it has to be in prime time on either Sunday or Monday. Am I a fool to believe the NFL comes through?

Week 2 (September 15 - 29)

BAD: vs. New York Jets (1 PM)

It could be an early homecoming game for the Steelers against the J-E-T-S, Mess, Mess, Mess

Dave: at Baltimore Ravens (1 PM)

If the Steelers finally open at home, they have got to turn around and go on the road especially since they have the extra away game in 2022. Plus, the last time the Steelers drafted a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft they traveled to Baltimore the second week of the season.

Week 3 (September 22 - 26)

BAD: at Philadelphia Eagles (4:25 PM)

In 2008 and 2016, the battle for Keystone State supremacy occurred in the City of Brotherly Love in Week 3. Maybe the third time will be a charm leading to a victory for the first time in Philly since 1965.

Dave: at Atlanta Falcons (4:25 PM)

With the Steelers on the road to Atlanta it will likely have the game on CBS. It’s not like it’s a stellar match up, but I just feels like a 4:25 PM game to me.

Week 4 (September 29 - October 3)

BAD: at Baltimore Ravens (1 PM)

The Steelers usually play the rats around Week 4. I’m calling it for a road tilt in 2022.

Dave: vs. Las Vegas Raiders (1 PM)

Last year the Steelers faced the Raiders early in the season at home (which I correctly predicted last year). I don’t think it’s right to put it the same week, but it fits in well here.

Week 5 (October 6 - 10)

BAD: vs. New England Patriots (1 PM)

This doesn’t even feel like a rivalry any longer with Ben and Brady gone. But it’s still Tomlin vs. Belichick, but not national audience-worthy.

Dave: at Buffalo Bills (Monday Night Football)

Going to Buffalo isn’t nearly as bad the earlier the game is in the season. If the NFL had their schedule ready before the draft, they might have thought this was a guaranteed Trubisky homecoming to put in prime time, but now we don’t know who the starter is going to be.

Week 6 (October 13 - 17)

BAD: vs. New Orleans Saints (1 PM)

Finally, two home games in a row for the Steelers. It comes against a team that Mike Tomlin has never defeated.

Dave: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4:25 PM)

Tom Brady comes to Pittsburgh for the first time with the Buccaneers. This game at least deserves to be the national game on FOX in the afternoon.

Week 7 (October 20 - 24)

BAD: at Miami Dolphins (1 PM)

The Steelers in Miami is never an easy trip, but it typically comes in late October. Here we go again.

Dave: at Cincinnati Bengals (1 PM)

The Steelers need to have at least two AFC North matchups before they reach November.

Week 8 (October 27 - October 31)

BAD: vs. Raiders (Monday Night Football)

Steelers at Raiders feels like a throwback to past years of glory. Marketing this storied-rivalry on All Hallows Eve seems right to me.

Dave: at Philadelphia Eagles (1 PM)

Perhaps the Steelers can finally get a win in Philadelphia.

Week 9 (November 3- 7)

BAD: BYE

The Steelers usually get stuck with a week off early. This year can’t bring complaints of league-bias against the black and gold as far as the week off goes.

Dave: BYE

Putting the bye as close to the midpoint as possible would be nice since the Steelers have had theirs come early in recent years. I just can’t believe BAD and I picked the same week.

Week 10 (November 10 - 14)

BAD: at Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have a great defense that has gotten even better and they are pretty good on offense too. It doesn’t matter when they come up on the schedule, it is going to be a challenge.

Dave: vs. Cleveland Browns (Sunday Night Football)

For some reason, it feels like the Steelers have been put in prime time coming off there bye quite often. Hosting the Browns again under the lights would still give the NFL a good matchup.

Week 11 (November 17 - 21)

BAD: at Cleveland Browns

This is the first time the Steelers face the Browns in 2022. It could be Deshaun Watson on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Dave: at Carolina Panthers (1 PM)

The Steelers get a regular 1 PM road game between two prime time weeks.

Week 12 (November 24 - 28)

BAD: vs. Baltimore Ravens (Thanksgiving 8:20 PM)

Again, the Steelers are a good draw for a holiday primetime game. This could be a makeup for the lost Covid game of 2020 that nobody is asking for.

Dave: vs. New Orleans Saints (Monday Night Football)

Rather than go with a Thanksgiving matchup, the Steelers do end up in prime time but must wait until Monday night to square off against the Saints.

Week 13 (December 1 - December 5)

BAD: at Atlanta Falcons

The Steelers need to go on the road to face the NFC South, it starts in Atlanta.

Dave: vs. Baltimore Ravens (4:25 PM)

Even with the extra away game, it’s nice to squeeze in back-to-back home games at some point of the season.

Week 14 (December 8 - 12)

BAD: at Carolina Panthers

Being on the road against southern teams who are not formidable for the second week in a row is definitely favorable.

Dave: at Miami Dolphins (1 PM)

It’s the longest trip the Steelers have to make all season. But going to Miami in December is a nice break in the weather.

Week 15 (December 15 - 19)

BAD: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (4:25 PM)

This is a tough part of the schedule, but having the home field here helps. It is definitely primetime worthy.

Dave: vs. New York Jets (1 PM)

The Steelers kick off their last quarter of the season with a ho-hum matchup on the road.

Week 16 (December 22 - 26)

BAD: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Christmas Day 4:25 PM)

I definitely don’t want to work Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. Actually, Christmas Day would probably be much easier. With three games on the schedule on 12/25, I see the Steelers getting one of them. Although I doubt that the NFL will make Tom Brady work on Christmas, I’m going out on a limb here.

Dave: at Indianapolis Colts (Thursday Night Football)

I confess this is for completely selfish reasons. Not wanting to have to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, it would be much more convenient for the Steelers game to already be complete. Thursday night games are no fun, so might as well fit it in the best possible spot.

Week 17 (December 29 - January 2 )

BAD: at Buffalo (Monday Night Football)

No flexing out of a tough and possibly snowy road date.

Dave: at Cleveland Browns (4:25 PM)

I see the NFL doing the same thing as last season and doubling up on division matchups for the final two weeks. This time, the Steelers first one is on the road as they hosted Cleveland in Week 17 last season.

Week 18 (January 7-8)

BAD: vs. Cleveland (1 PM)

I really like Dave’s pick below, but I went with the Browns to close out the 2022 schedule. With my selection of Cincy to open the season, something I never recall the Steelers doing, I can’t bookend the Bengals and Steelers.

Dave: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1 PM)

I specifically set up this game first out of the entire schedule. The Steelers will get an AFC North team to finish off, and it hasn’t been the Bengals for quite some time. With these two teams getting the top two spots in the division last season, it seems to make sense.

FILM ROOM: Mark Robinson is a project with real upside for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/09/2022 - 8:43am
Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While he is a seventh-round pick, the Steelers linebacker has a shot to be a good NFL player.

Seventh Round picks in the NFL Draft aren’t expected to be much more than bottom of the depth chart players, and many seventh round picks don’t ever play a snap in the NFL.

The Steelers have had more success than most teams, but for every Brett Keisel and Kelvin Beachum there are far more Gerrod Hollimans and Joshua Fraziers. That’s why I love it when teams go outside the box with their late picks. Take a gamble on a player that has some different circumstances or a unique skill set.

Mark Robinson fits in as a player with interesting circumstances in his college football career. Robinson was drafted as a linebacker, but he started out as a running back, but in 2020 while sitting out to transfer he swapped to playing linebacker, and won a starting job on the Ole Miss defense in 2021.

Ole Miss vs. Louisville

Mark Robinson is the inside linebacker just inside the hashmarks.

This was Mark Robinson’s first game playing linebacker. He leads with his helmet, hits the helmet of the runner, and was ejected from the game for targeting.

Not a great way to start your transition to defense. He went into contact the same way a running back does, and it showed up in other games as well, he was used to putting his head down and that’s a hard habit to break.

Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt

Mark Robinson is standing up, right in the middle of the defensive line.

Although some of his running back instincts got him into trouble, his knack for finding creases in the offensive line and exploding through them is a great benefit to Robinson in run defense. He doesn’t have refined moves to get past blockers, and usually tries, like he does here, to just run through his opponent.

Ole Miss vs. Tennessee

Mark Robinson (#35) is the inside linebacker to the bottom of the screen.

He shows fluid change of direction and an instinctive understanding of angles that you would expect to find from a running back turned linebacker. Part of the reason Robinson gets to this ball carrier is how comfortable he is running tight to the other players, whether his fellow defenders or blockers. That makes him a dangerous blitzer as he squeezes the play and forces blockers to bunch together to stop him.

Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt

Mark Robinson is the inside linebacker to the left side of the screen (on the 5-yard line).

Another positive that shows up is how quickly Robinson reads many run plays and how well he understands rush lanes and leverage. He diagnoses this play, beats the guard to his gap and hangs on to make the tackle for a minimum gain.

Ole Miss vs. Tennessee

Mark Robinson is the inside linebacker to the bottom of the screen.

On this play Robinson reads the back, picks up the outside lane and again holds on to make the tackle and limit the gain. Robinson isn’t a Vince Williams, you don’t see him crashing into lineman and outmuscling them, he beats lineman with his elusiveness or with leverage. Here he is again tight to the formation and the lineman can’t turn tight enough to meet him square.

Mark Robinson is a solid to very good run defender, he’s not an elite lateral mover and he isn’t going to bully offensive lineman, but he reads the play quickly, does a fantastic job sniffing out the rush lane and beating blockers to it. He hits hard and hangs tough against blockers, and you can see he improved his tackling form by the middle of the season.

Ole Miss vs. Tennessee

Mark Robinson is the linebacker to the top of the screen.

Where Robinson isn’t very good yet is in coverage. He gets to his spot, but you can see he isn’t fluid or quick to the ball. As a rookie he is not a player you want dropping into coverage at all.

Ole Miss vs. Tennessee

Mark Robinson is the linebacker to the bottom of the screen.

I just said you don’t want Mark Robinson in coverage, but there is an exception. Where he is slow and a bit awkward defending most passes, he shows a good knack for covering running backs, you can see here how he picks up the leaking back as he slips out and is right there to take away the dump-off option.

Ole Miss vs. Tennessee

Mark Robinson is the inside linebacker to the right side of the screen.

Here Robinson is covering the running back, and when the back stays in, Robinson shifts from a run defense approach to rushing the quarterback. What is impressive here is how tight he rushes to the offensive line, and it lets him slip through the bodies in his path to find the quarterback.

Mark Robinson is already a pretty good green dog blitzer, covering backs and if they are kept in to block, rushing the quarterback. This role of being manned up on the back lets Robinson focus on run defense, puts him in coverage situations he can do well in and lets him blitz like this when the offense keeps that back in to block.

Ole Miss vs. Tennessee

Mark Robinson is the linebacker to the top of the screen. He moves up to the line right before the snap.

Another green dog blitz and Robinson does a great job reading and attacking the blocking, and he disrupts a throw to a wide-open receiver.

Ole Miss vs. Tennessee

Mark Robinson is the linebacker on the hash marks toward the bottom of the screen.

Tennessee is struggling to deal with Robinson’s blitzes, and the coaches send in this quarterback draw that is relying on Robinson reading the running back and playing aggressively to free the quarterback to get out of the pocket and score. You can see he had the blockers to cut outside and make it too, but Robinson sees the play and is able to adjust and make the tackle.

Mark Robinson is most likely never going to play a snap on defense in the NFL, but he was a pretty good linebacker with less than one season at the position, and while he has clear flaws that come from his inexperience, he also has innate traits that signal the Steelers may have found another Robert Spillane level player who just needs time to learn the position.

If Mark Robinson can make the roster on special teams, or even sit on the practice squad, he will get the time to develop. While there is no guarantee he will develop those skills, the potential is there, and it makes this pick a good use of a 7th round draft pick.

Steelers add another name to the second round of general manager interviews

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/09/2022 - 8:43am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After two second-round interviews were reported last week, another name has been added to the candidate pool.

With the conclusion of the 2022 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers are picking up their search for a new general manager as Kevin Colbert is stepping away from the position after 22 seasons. Last week, it was reported the Steelers had two candidates they brought in for a second round of interviews.

As the process continues, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the Steelers are bringing in another candidate this week, Pittsburgh native Doug Whaley, for a second interview.

The #Steelers are bringing in Doug Whaley this week for a second interview for their GM job, per source.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 9, 2022

Whaley first interviewed with the Steelers for the open GM position in the middle of March during the beginning of the NFL‘s new league year.

A former defense of back at the University of Pittsburgh, Whaley was the Steelers pro personnel coordinator for 10 years and worked directly under Kevin Colbert. Hired as the assistant general manager and director of pro personnel by the Buffalo Bills during the 2010 offseason, Whaley moved into the general manager position in 2013, a position he held through the 2016 NFL season.

After a season as a recruiter for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Whaley was hired as the senior vice president of football operations for the XFL in November 2018. When the league folded in April 2020, Whaley was laid off but was later re-hired as the vice president of player personnel in November 2021 as the XFL moves forward in continuing their league in the spring of 2023.

It is uncertain at this time how many candidates the Steelers plan to interview in their second round. Without an official announcement from the Steelers, it is unclear if any of the internal candidates have been included in the current round of interviews.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as the Steelers search for a new general manager and as Phase 2 of OTAs gets underway.

The Steelers’ recent moves reflect unwavering faith in their coordinators

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/09/2022 - 7:15am
Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Giving Matt Canada and Teryl Austin a mix of versatility and talent has been the team’s goal this offseason.

Entering the 2022 offseason, questions lingered regarding the Steelers’ coordinator positions. Would the squad elect to keep Matt Canada despite an offense that scored just 20.2 points per game and was 24th in overall EPA? Furthermore, with Keith Butler retiring, who would take over at defensive coordinator, a position Butler manned for seven years in Pittsburgh?

To the chagrin of some fans, Kevin Colbert elected to retain Canada, banking on the introduction of a new quarterback to better usher in and execute his concepts. Likewise, some were disappointed when the Steelers expectedly hired in-house, as they are wont to do, by promoting Teryl Austin to defensive coordinator on February 9.

With the calendar having already flipped to May, the 2022 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, as are the major transactions that each team has made. While the Steelers have been active in acquiring new players since free agency got underway in mid-March, their latest moves – particularly the draft – indicate that the team never questioned who would be its offensive and defensive coordinator.

The dust has started to settle on the Steelers’ latest draft class – in so doing, revealing a total restocking of talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Everything starts at the top with the team’s principal pick, Kenny Pickett. Unquestionably, one of the facets of Pickett’s game is his immediate readiness; other quarterbacks, such as Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder, are likely to need more significant fine-tuning and thus won’t play immediately. Having been at Pitt for five years, Pickett is a polished, accurate, poised and somewhat mobile quarterback that can hastily make a difference.

Also worth noting is the structure of the offense that Pickett ran at Pitt. While Willis’ offense under Hugh Freeze at Liberty or Matt Corral’s RPO-tethered scheme at Ole Miss posed questions about NFL translations, Pickett orchestrated a system run by Mark Whipple, the Steelers’ quarterbacks coach from 2004-06 and Pitt’s offensive coordinator from 2018-21. Whipple’s offense still incorporated newer looks, such as play action on 28.6% of Pickett’s 2021 drop backs, yet it better simulated how a pro-style offense appears, allowing Pickett to create in and out of structure.

Factoring in Pickett’s preparedness and offensive experience, he meshes quite well with Matt Canada, both in terms of scheme and the Steelers giving Canada a player that can promptly carry out his ideas.

Turning to receiver, the Steelers snagged Georgia’s George Pickens in the second round. Character concerns aside, Pickens boasts terrific hands, physicality and route-running. While Pickens will primarily be used on the outside to win one-on-one battles with defensive backs, it appears that Pittsburgh drafted him with visions also lining him up in the slot. During his time in Athens, Pickens appeared in the slot during 9.6% of plays – a smaller figure, yet one that demonstrates his versatility.

Pickens also provides an edge in blocking, something which the Steelers sorely missed from their receivers last year. The second-rounder’s presence will especially be felt on runs to the outside, where he can level people.

Moreover, Calvin Austin III should be yet another gadget for Canada. With his speed in tow, 38% of Austin’s routes were at least 15 yards downfield in 2021, according to Sports Info Solutions. Pittsburgh did not enjoy much success on deeper routes run last year, whether due to Ben Roethlisberger’s inconsistent play or Chase Claypool’s inability to properly high-point a ball.

Austin should also be utilized for motion, pitches and sweeps. The Memphis product only had eight career rushes, but he averaged a gaudy 21.1 yards per attempt. The Steelers only used motion on 33% of snaps last year, which ranked 28th; maneuvering Austin around, even as a decoy, will help free running lanes for Najee Harris and generally boost offensive productivity.

Finally, fifth-round selection Connor Heyward offers Canada a chance to really run to the drawing board. Although Heyward may lean towards becoming a tight end early on, the former Michigan State Spartan evokes memories of a player that Steelers fans may rather forget: Jaylen Samuels.

While he never panned out in Pittsburgh, Samuels was the H-back at NC State with Canada calling the shots. In 2021, BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict provided a great breakdown about Samuels’ responsibilities, which included blocking, being put in motion, running and catching passes. Heyward checks all of those boxes in spades, and the Steelers haven’t really had a player on the roster that fits that niche in Canada’s time with the team.

Turning to the other side of the ball, the Steelers emphasized improving their secondary this season, something fitting after promoting their secondary coach.

It begins with acquiring Levi Wallace, a corner who had grown into his own in Buffalo while playing on the perimeter. Also, retaining Ahkello Witherspoon grants Austin another year to work with the emerging corner, who never gave up more than 45 receiving yards in the Steelers’ final nine games of 2021, per PFF. With Wallace and Witherspoon slotted as their top two corners, Pittsburgh could still very well look to add to its CB room, especially if James Bradberry becomes available.

Speaking of continuity, Colbert allowed safety Terrell Edmunds to continue to grow under the guidance of Austin; the two have worked together since 2019, enabling Edmunds to round into form. Austin has coached Minkah Fitzpatrick and Edmunds in his time in Pittsburgh and has robust experience with both players’ skillsets and how the tandem best operates coherently.

The signing of Damontae Kazee, too, speaks to the Steelers wanting to cater to Austin’s specialty. A physical safety who can play the traditional free, in the box and in the slot, Kazee grants Austin a cheap, experienced chess piece for nickel, dime and even three-safety looks.

Coming off of a 2021 campaign in which neither the team’s offense nor defense looked overly dominant, fans of the black and gold were understandably frustrated when the Steelers maintained their two leaders of both units.

But if one thing is clear based on the Steelers’ free agency and draft periods, it’s this: Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have full confidence in Matt Canada and Teryl Austin to succeed in 2022.

Scouting Roundup on Steelers tight end Connor Heyward

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/09/2022 - 6:00am
Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Looking at the pre-draft evaluation of the Steelers 6th round pick.

The Pittsburgh Steelers used their 6th round draft pick to select Connor Heyward from Michigan State.

As a Spartan, Heyward was used as a running back for years, but transitioned to tight end for his 5th season. The Steelers drafted Heyward as a tight end, according to tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts who pushed for the team to draft him.

Here’s what draft analysts were saying about Connor Heyward before the draft.

Kyle Crabbs for The Draft Network

The Good

Heyward has a heck of a resume. He’s returned kicks and punts early in his career, has two 30-plus reception seasons on his resume, has a 500-plus yard rushing season on his resume, and has now been charged with a blocking role and completely transitioning to a role player at tight end.

The Bad

Heyward doesn’t have high-level physical tools and he at times “wins ugly” in his role. He’s had some reps flexed into the slot and routes there are not overly fluid or dynamic and his ability to sell the stem and create separation isn’t inspirational at this point.

The Verdict

Projecting him forward, I think Heyward is going to need to find a home where he can continue to “win ugly,” playing on special teams and executing a lot of dirty work in an offensive system that looks to add on to the blocking surface in both the run and pass game with untraditional alignments.

Daniel Kelly for Sports Illustrated

The Good

Thick-framed, short-to-intermediate target who is tough to bring down and a solid run-blocker. Versatile. Can move around and motion pre-snap. Heyward is more of a hybrid player, who is not limited to playing a single position (which only adds to his value). Heyward can be lined up at tight end, fullback, out wide and he can be motioned in to block or chip block and then go out on a route. He can even be lined up at running back.

The Verdict

Having a player on offense with this kind of versatility can create mismatches and even confusion for opposing defenses. Heyward has to be accounted for at all times.
Fourth Round grade

Tony Pauline for Pro Football Network

The Good

Quickly gets off the line of scrimmage into pass routes, immediately gets to top speed, and splits the seam as a pass catcher. Gets vertical, snatches the ball from the air, and displays good eye/hand coordination. Runs solid routes for a big man.

The Bad

Must improve his blocking techniques and learn to finish off opponents. Lacks the size, specifically the height, you want in a tight end.

The Verdict

He’s sort of an in-between skill player who lacks the height for tight end and the speed for running back. His best spot would be lining up as a West Coast fullback for an offense that employs the position.

Andrew Wilbar for Behind the Steel Curtain

The Good

Heyward is a good blocker who, much like his brother, displays great effort and toughness on every down. Just to give insight as to how versatile he is, Michigan State used him as a kick returner his first two seasons in Lansing as well as making him a rotational running back. As a blocker, Heyward plays to the whistle and beats his opponents with physicality.

The Verdict

The brother of Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, Connor is a fairly athletic fullback who can be used as a runner, blocker, and receiver.
204th ranked prospect (Heyward was drafted with the 208th pick)

Heyward is a versatile player, and while that has obvious value, it also means he isn’t polished at any one role or position. Similar to former Steeler Jaylen Samuels, who excelled as an H-back in college, but wasn’t a good enough receiver, blocker or runner to carve out a long-tern role in the NFL. Heyward has a similar problem, but Heyward is built like a blocking fullback, and while he has shown he lacks polish, his effort is intriguing and he shows plenty of potential to become an NFL caliber blocker.

That will be the key to Heyward making it in the NFL. If he can become an NFL caliber blocker from tight end and fullback alignments, his ability to catch and run will make him dangerous, if he can’t he won’t make it, because his threat as a runner and receiver aren’t good enough.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/09/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and written, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

We Run the North: Answering all questions AFC North

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • AFC North Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Steelers Sunday Night Q&A: Is it truly an open QB competition?

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers have a genuine open competition at quarterback, or is it Mitchell Trubisky’s job to lose? BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman and Big Bro Rich Schofield dive into that topic, and answer fan questions on the latest episode of the Steelers Q&A.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers Draft Analysis
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
Let’s Ride: Time for Matt Canada to get the Steelers offense right

Matt Canada had the best Christmas ever last week during the draft, getting tools and not toys in his stocking. It’s time to put those players to proper use and get the offense right. Join BTSC’s senior editor the morning flagship show in the Behind the Steel Curtain family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers Offensive Draft Analysis and Matt Canada’s need to take advantage of it
  • The Monday Morning Conversation with BTSC’s K.T. Smith
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/08/2022 - 2:30pm
Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Steelers’ season ended three months ago, but there’s plenty of news coming out of the Steel City. BTSC continues their recap of the past week’s events for our readers. So, let’s all take a look at the week in the ‘burgh together.

Sunday 5/1

I watched it live. Said he loves Pittsburgh and said don't be surprised if he sticks around someday. https://t.co/AQ7DqZPyNq

— HailToPitt (@HailToPitt68) May 1, 2022

My main question here is, “Why is anybody watching the Pitt Graduation live?”. Riddick is a celebrity candidate. I don’t really know if this is best for business. But truthfully, I don’t know if this is nothing more than deep speculation.

Monday 5/2

Per @peter_king, the Ravens were set to pick WR Calvin Austin III with their 4th-rd pick (addressing a dire need for them)... but the Steelers took their man 1 pick prior.

They took TE Charlie Kolar, and ended up with no WRs all draft.

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) May 2, 2022

Better than the rat birds losing out on Jordan Love, the Steelers stole Austin from B-More. Love it!!!!!!

Washington is signing former Steelers’ free-agent guard Trai Turner to a one-year, $3 million deal, per source. Turner previously played for Ron Rivera in Carolina.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 2, 2022

Not that this is a huge surprise, but when you are at Arby’s and the cashier asks what ever happened to Trai Turner... now you know.

Steelers declined to pick up the fifth-year option for Linebacker Devin Bush, per source. He now will be playing on an expiring contract.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 2, 2022

On a day that saw DeAndre Hopkins suspended for six games for PED use, the Falcons release RB Mike Davis and Tyrann Mathieu signing with the Saints...the big news in Steeler Nation was not the announcement of rookie minicamp being held May 13-15 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, but the team declining to pick up Devin Bush’s fifth-year option. This doesn’t mean that Bush is done with the Steelers, it just provides more of a sense of urgency for No. 55 to earn a deal to stay in the Burgh longer.

Tuesday 5/3

We have signed S Damontae Kazee to a one-year contract. @BordasLaw https://t.co/uGwqidZZFW

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 3, 2022

The Steelers made Saturday’s news of Damontae Kazee with Pittsburgh official. Kazee brings better value than the Honey Badger for a whole lot less money. Plus, the idea of yinzers trying to pronounce his name is glorious.

Today, we remember Dwayne Haskins on what would have been his 25th birthday. ❤️ ️ pic.twitter.com/9SDCVWf9Pe

— NFL (@NFL) May 3, 2022

After 10 years at @nflnetwork, it’s time for some new challenges. I’ve had a decade of great adventure, wonderful friendships and the opportunity to share all sorts of stories. Now, I’m on to some other dream-chasing. Stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/UmVNk5WbyM

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 3, 2022

For those of you celebrating Aditi’s departure from the NFL Network, the joke’s on all of us when those new challenges include being named the next GM of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Wednesday 5/4

Damontae Kazee’s one-year deal with the Steelers includes a $152K signing bonus and a base value just north of $1M.

A nice value deal for Pittsburgh for a player with plenty of starting experience in his career.

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 4, 2022

This proves just how invaluable Omar Khan is.

Wishing a #HappyBirthday to @jharrison9292!

Hope your day was !

More highlights on https://t.co/XL7UQstAvd pic.twitter.com/brpKvH0qhl

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 5, 2022

How significant is it that a legendary Steeler more menacing than Darth Vader was born on May 4th, Star Wars Day? Happy Birthday James Harrison.

pic.twitter.com/N5GWfQQECM

— GhettoGronk (@TheGhettoGronk) May 4, 2022

The Pickens memes and GIFs, or whatever they are called, just keep getting more epic. To quote BTSC’s Kyle Chrise, ”The internet remains undefeated”.

Thursday 5/5

The #Steelers will have a second round of interviews for their vacant GM job. Among those who have been scheduled are the #Titans’ Ryan Cowden and the #Buccaneers’ John Spytek, sources tell me, @RapSheet and today’s @gmfb cohost @TomPelissero. Others will interview, too.

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) May 5, 2022

The GM search is getting exhausting. Can’t Kevin Colbert just re-up for another 20 years?

Friday 5/6

With the full NFL schedule being released Thursday night, here is a look at the teams that will travel the most miles and the most time zones this season, via @billsperos.

The Steelers will travel the fewest miles and not leave the eastern time zone all season. pic.twitter.com/MAzxijyYAC

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 6, 2022

Not going to the West Coast is good for the Steelers, but the trip to Philadelphia looms large. The Steelers haven’t won in the City of Brotherly Love since 1965.

Athletic profile comparison only, but dang. The similarity is striking. pic.twitter.com/48x4kiOrUZ

— Geoffrey Benedict (@phantaskippy) May 6, 2022

Great stuff from BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict. If Calvin Austin III can make the jump to the NFL in the same manner that Tyreek Hill did (on the field, not off), the Steelers will have made the steal of the draft.

RT to wish @CamHeyward a #HappyBirthday! pic.twitter.com/zQoo7sACRX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 6, 2022

Happy Birthday to a current player and living Steelers legend

Saturday 5/7

Mike Tomlin is here and the crowd goes wild for it pic.twitter.com/RV67VB6ITl

— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) May 7, 2022

Again, I love how the Pittsburgh franchises support one another. Hell, they even go to Pirates games. Rumor has it that the Steelers Head Coach tried to throw the red flag on a few occasions. I wonder what Coach T was thinking when the Penguins blew a 4-1 second-period lead. But all was well when the Pens finished with a field goal to prevail 7-4.

Mitch Trubisky knew there was a chance Kenny Pickett would be the Steelers pick. https://t.co/dqQfqq8guA

— Steelers Wire (@TheSteelersWire) May 8, 2022

It’s cool that the Steelers gave their free agent pickup notice that he could have competition in the form of a top pick. I wonder if Mason Rudolph received the same consideration.

Sunday 5/8

#HappyBirthday, @CowherCBS! pic.twitter.com/LtPQVHX4Yg

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 8, 2022

William Laird Cowher turns 65 today. Next to BTSC’s Tony Defeo, Cowher is the second-most famous native of Crafton.

Happy #MothersDay to all the Moms across #SteelersNation! pic.twitter.com/EQe9boyxEU

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 8, 2022

Happy Mom’s Day to all out there from BTSC.

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

The dangers of over-expectations of a first-round quarterback

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/08/2022 - 1:00pm
Photo by Logan Whitton/Getty Images

Steelers fans haven’t had a quarterback selected in the first round in almost 20 years. Hopefully the unfamiliar territory doesn’t give them too high of immediate expectations.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and their dedicated fan base are in unfamiliar territory heading into the 2022 NFL season. Dating back to 2004, the Steelers had gone the fourth longest of any NFL franchise since they had drafted a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft (Seattle in 1993, Dallas in 1989, and New Orleans in 1971). Being 18 years since Steelers fans had a quarterback drafted in the first round on the roster, what should they expect going into their rookie season?

After selecting quarterback Kenny Pickett out of the University of Pittsburgh in the 20th position of the 2022 NFL draft, there are many Steelers fans who expect him to be the starter Week 1 in September. There are a number of reasons behind this, some of which are valid in some of which are not. Let’s take a look at a few of these things to make sure they actually stand up to what is going on in the current NFL.

One justification of starting the rookie quarterback in Week 1 is because it is that more teams are starting quarterbacks right away. This actually is not the case. Going back 10 years (2012 to 2021), there have been 27 quarterbacks drafted in the top 20 of the NFL draft. In fact, they were all drafted in the top 16 because there were no quarterbacks taken between pick 17 and pick 21 over the last decade until the Steelers made Kenny Pickett the NFL‘s first-ever quarterback drafted in the 20th position. Of those 27 quarterbacks drafted in the first half of the first round, 13 of them were starters for Week 1 of their rookie season. Doing the simple math, that means 14 of those quarterbacks did not start right away. So based on those numbers, it’s pretty much 50-50 if a rookie quarterback is given the reins to start for their team at the beginning of the season when drafted in the top half of the NFL draft.

As for quarterbacks taken in the second half of the first round of the NFL draft over the last 10 seasons, there have only been six selected in that spot prior to 2022. Of those quarterbacks, only Brandon Weeden of the Cleveland Browns in 2012 started their team’s first game. Of the other five quarterbacks, four of them eventually started games their rookie season but did not begin the season doing so. The only exception was Jordan Love of the Green Bay Packers who did not appear in a game his rookie season.

In looking at Steelers history and how they handled their rookie quarterbacks who were first-round draft picks, there are only three players since 1970 to choose from. Terry Bradshaw started his first game in 1970 as the first overall pick of the NFL draft, but did not start every game of his rookie season. Mark Malone was the 28th overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1980 NFL draft and did not throw a pass in a game until 1981. The better standard for Steelers fans is Ben Roethlisberger, selected 11th overall in the 2004 NFL draft. Despite being such a high draft pick, Roethlisberger entered the 2004 season as the Steelers third quarterback. Roethlisberger was quickly moved up to the second position when Charlie Batch suffered a knee injury and was lost for the entire season. But even then Roethlisberger was the backup and did not start until the third game of his rookie year after coming off the bench in Week 2 due to the injury suffered by Tommy Maddox.

When comparing the Kenny Pickett situation to Ben Roethlisberger, some Steelers fans are ready to force Pickett into the starting lineup right away because of the quality of quarterbacks on the roster. While they believe this to be true, the two quarterbacks ahead of Roethlisberger his rookie season did not have winning records at that point in the NFL. Combined, Batch and Maddox had a record as starters of 32–44–1 while the current record of the quarterbacks on the Steelers 2022 roster of Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph have a combined record of 34–25–1. In other words, Trubisky and Rudolph have two more wins in 17 fewer games of the quarterbacks that still stayed ahead of Ben Roethlisberger on the depth chart his rookie season until injuries occured.

While some may want to argue about Kenny Pickett turning 24 years old this offseason and that he was deemed as the most “pro ready” quarterback of the 2022 NFL draft class, are these reasons to push Pickett into the starting lineup prematurely? First, the most “pro ready” quarterback only relates to those in the 2022 quarterback class. It’s not that Kenny Pickett was deemed the most “pro ready” quarterback in the NFL draft in the last 10 years. While this does give him an advantage of being prepared sooner, it shouldn’t necessarily force the issue. As for the age factor, quarterback is one of the few NFL positions where players can have an unusually long career. Whether Pickett would turn 34 or 35 after 10 years as a starter in the NFL isn’t overly significant at this time.

Yes, there is a large portion of the Steelers fan base who is very excited to see what Kenny Pickett can do at quarterback in 2022. While he will see action for sure during the preseason, for many that is simply not good enough and want to see him against the best other teams are offering. But is it necessary for the fans to know this right away? Or would it be better for the Steelers to not push Pickett into the starting lineup before they wish to do so?

I’m not saying Kenny Pickett shouldn’t be played in Week 1 his rookie season. I do question fans who have the expectation for Pickett to play right away. Let the preseason tell the story. If the Steelers choose to give him a little more time before being handed the reins, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Additionally, based on how first-round quarterbacks have been utilized in their rookie seasons over the last 10 years, it wouldn’t be that the Steelers are doing something out of the ordinary if they show some patience.

The More You Know: Random facts about your Steelers, It’s Black and Gold edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/08/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Time to learn more about your favorite NFL team, and some trivia as well!

It’s the offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers and there are so many topics to talk and write about. Free agents, the coordinator conundrum, the next quarterback, the NFL Draft, and breaking news will all be covered here at BTSC. But who’s going to give you little-known-facts out of the 500 Level?

Luckily, your one-stop, and non-stop, shop for everything Steelers employs a Steelers fan that was allegedly dropped on his head as a one-year-old during the Immaculate Reception. Useless and somewhat fascinating facts are his forte. So, here we are with off-the-wall thoughts from the dark side of a black-and-gold brain that nobody asked for. But the joke’s on you as you’ll be telling your peeps something you read here later.

412 Forever

You may not remember Billy Gardell from hit TV shows like Mike and Molly and Bob Hearts Abishola, but the comedian born in Swissvale in 1969 won’t let anybody ever forget that he’s a yinzer and a diehard Steelers fan. Despite his family moving to Florida when Gardell was a teen, the tv star still considers Pittsburgh home and is always rooting hard for the Men of Steel. Gardell has led a number of Terrible Towel twirls at Heinz Field, Including the one before the AFC Championship Game win against the Jets in 2011.

BTSC Steelers Jeopardy

(Answer at bottom of article)

Middle Name Madness

We love citing the second name of members of the Men of Steel here at Behind the Steel Curtain. We always cite Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger, Christopher Lynn Boswell and Trent Jordan Watt, but who else? Hence, the “More You Know Middle Name of the Week”. This week we feel compelled to feature the Steelers top pick in the 2022 Draft. Since he’s a quarterback, expect to hear a lot of the name...

Kenneth Shane Pickett This Week’s Birthdays of Steel

(Because of not running this feature last week due to the NFL Draft, BTSC is running last week’s birthdays as well)

5/2 - Russ Grimm (1959)

5/3 - Dwayne Haskins (1997), B.W. Webb (1997)

5/4 - Canonball Butler (1943), James Harrison (1978), Rohn Stark (1959), Fitzgerald Toussaint (1990), Karlos Williams (1993)

5/5 - Jonathan Bostic (1991), Barrett Brooks (1972), Ike Taylor (1980)

5/6 - Dustin Colquitt (1982), Cameron Heyward (1989), George Tarasovic (1930)

5/7 - Johnny Unitas (1933)

5/8 - Bill Cowher (1957), Felix Jones (1987)

5/9 - Tom Yewcic (1932)

5/10 - Drew Butler (1989), Derwin Gray (1995), Todd Kalis (1965), Miles Killebrew (1993), Randy Rasmussen (1945), Tegray Scales (1996)

5/11 - Steve Bono (1962), Justin King (1987), Mathias Nkwenti (1978)

5/12 - Tyson Alualu (1987), Shorty McWilliams (1926)

5/13 - Joe Glamp (1921)

5/14 - Gary Glick (1930), Lawrence Timmons (1986)

Steel Stats

In Kevin Colbert’s final draft, the Steelers outgoing GM selected two receivers in the same draft for the seventh time. There are high expectations for George Pickens and Calvin Austin III for the 2022 season. The rookie leader under Colbert among wide receivers is Chase Claypool with 11 combined trips to the end zone (nine receiving and two rushing) and 62 catches in 2020. JuJu Smith-Schuster accumulated the most receiving yards under Colbert with 917 in 2017. These are all-time team records for rooks as well. Below is a list of the duos drafted in the same campaign and the expectations that Pickens and Austin will look to reach and surpass as far as receiving yards and catches go.

2000

Plaxico Burress: 22 Receptions, 273 Receiving Yards, 0 Touchdowns

Danny Farmer: 0 Receptions, 0 Receiving Yards, 0 Touchdowns

Total: 22 Receptions, 273 Receiving Yards, 0 Touchdowns

2002

Antwaan Randle-El: 47 Receptions, 489 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns

Lee Mays: 0 Receptions, 0 Receiving Yards, 0 Touchdowns

Total: 47 Receptions, 489 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns

2006

Santonio Holmes: 49 Receptions, 849 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns

Willie Reid: 0 Receptions, 0 Receiving Yards, 0 Touchdowns

Total: 49 Receptions, 849 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns

2010

Emmanuel Sanders: 28 Receptions, 376 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns

Antonio Brown: 16 Receptions, 167 Receiving Yards, 0 Touchdowns

Total: 44 Receptions, 543 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns

2013

Markus Wheaton: 6 Receptions, 64 Receiving Yards, 0 Touchdowns

Justin Brown: 0 Receptions, 0 Receiving Yards, 0 Touchdowns

Total: 6 Receptions, 64 Receiving Yards, 0 Touchdowns

2014

Martavis Bryant: 26 Receptions, 549 Receiving Yards, 8 Touchdowns

Dri Archer: 7 Receptions, 23 Receiving Yards, 0 Touchdowns

Total: 33 Receptions, 572 Receiving Yards, 8 Touchdowns

Disturbing Sights

Playing wide receiver next to two Hall of Famers in the late 1970s and early 1980s for the Steelers, Jim Smith got lost in the Lynn Swann-John Stallworth shuffle quite a bit. But the 6’2” Smith was a valuable receiver who scored 25 TDs for the black and gold during two championship seasons in 1978 and 1979. When Smith defected to the USFL, he was awarded a contract higher than any NFL receiver. One can’t help to wonder what the Men of Steel could have accomplished with Smith in the lineup in the mid 80s. He may not have been an absolute Steeler legend... but the sight of No. 86 as a Birmingham Stallion is still disconcerting.

Hypocycloids Gone Hollywood

Troy Polamalu’s IMDB only lists two feature films, but they are absolute blockbusters. As he states, the Pro Football Hall of Famer is not an actor but merely a retired, “beat-up” football player. Troy made his movie debut as an uncredited football extra as a Gotham Rogue in the Dark Knight Rises. But his main claim to film fame was a speaking part as Villager No. 1 in Disney’s Moana. Polamalu had a speaking role in a film that celebrated his Polynesian culture.

The Cliff Clavin Corner

It’s a little known fact that the Steelers drafted Michigan State WR Lynn Chandnois with the 8th overall pick of the 1950 NFL Draft. Exactly 50 years later, the Steelers had the 8th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft and selected a WR from Michigan State… Plaxico Burress.

So, there you have it. Anybody can spout out stat after stat, but not everybody can embrace the colorful and personal side of the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, the more you know, the more you can stupefy your friends, family and neighbors with your big, black-and-gold brain. By the way, “Who is Lynn Chandnois?” is the correct clue in BTSC Steelers Jeopardy.

We’ll see you right here next week. Until then keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the hypocycloids.

A history of Pitt quarterbacks with the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/08/2022 - 10:30am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The relationship between the Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterbacks from the Univeristy of Pittsburgh is quite extensive.

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted two quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL draft, something they have not done since 1968. With the selection of Kenny Pickett in the first round and Chris Oladokun in the seventh, and the Steelers have now drafted 50 quarterbacks in their franchise history according to Pro Football Reference.

With the Steelers selecting Kenny Pickett as the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, it is not the first time they have selected a quarterback out of the University of Pittsburgh. While many Steelers fans will always remember when the Steelers did not draft a Pitt quarterback in 1983, the Steelers had previously drafted a quarterback from the University of Pittsburgh five times. With Pickett being the sixth quarterback taken from the same school by the Steelers, it leads the way by far as no other university has had more than two quarterbacks drafted by the Steelers.

The first quarterback the Pittsburgh Steelers ever drafted out of the University of Pittsburgh was Pete Neft in 1956 when they selected him in the 23rd round at the 268th overall pick. Corny Salvaterra was also drafted by the Steelers the following year in 1957 in Round 17 and pick 199. Rounding out the pre-merger era, The Steelers also drafted Ken Lucas as one of four quarterbacks they drafted in 1966 when he was selected at the 263rd pick in Round 18.

With all three of the pre-1970s Pitt quarterbacks drafted by the Steelers, none of them were selected before Round 17 and barely made it before pick 200. The other thing of note about these three quarterbacks is none of them ever appeared in a regular season game in the NFL for any team, let alone the Steelers.

The next two Pitt quarterbacks selected by the Steelers were Rick Trocano in 1981 in Round 11 at pick 292 and Alex Van Pelt in 1993 in Round 8 at pick 216. While both of these players appeared in the NFL, neither one of them appeared in a regular season game with the Steelers. Trocano played eight games with the Cleveland Browns while Van Pelt had a long career as a backup where he appeared in 31 games with 11 starts all with the Buffalo Bills.

So when it comes to comparing Kenny Pickett to the other five University of Pittsburgh quarterbacks drafted by the Steelers, there is a stark difference. For one, Pickett was the only one drafted within the number of rounds which are currently used in the NFL which started in 1994. Also, Pickett was drafted 179 selections before the next closest Pitt quarterback. But keeping all this in mind, if Kenny Pickett simply takes one snap for the Steelers at some point in his career, he will be the first quarterback drafted out of the University of Pittsburgh to appear in a game for the Steelers.

If removing the stipulation of the player had to be drafted by the Steelers, there has been one quarterback for the University of Pittsburgh to appear in a game for the Steelers. Undrafted in 1998, Pete Gonzalez spent two years with the Steelers mostly as the third quarterback on the roster. But in the Steelers opening game of the 1999 season where they faced the Cleveland Browns who were returning to the NFL after their franchise had been relocated to Baltimore, Gonzalez entered the game in the fourth quarter with the Steelers leading 43–0. After a handoff to Amos Zereoue for no gain, the next two plays, both runs, we’re nullified by offensive holding penalties. After another handoff to Zereoue for two yards, Pete Gonzalez became the only Pitt quarterback to throw a regular season pass for the Pittsburgh Steelers when on 3rd & 22 he completed an 8 yard pass to Hines Ward. After the Steelers punted and recovered a fumble forced by Joey Porter on the second play, the Steelers got the ball back just inside of two minutes remaining. After another handoff to Zereoue for seven yards, Pete Gonzalez went into the record books by having two rushing attempts, both of which were kneel downs for a total loss of three yards.

With the given information, Kenny Pickett’s Steelers career can reach all-time marks for quarterbacks out of the University of Pittsburgh very early once he gets an opportunity. Once Pickett starts a game, he would be the only Pitt quarterback to do so for the Steelers. If Pickett completes two passes, he will have more completions than any other Pitt quarterback in Steelers franchise history. Simply by hitting double digit passing yards, Pickett will become the all-time leader for Pitt Panther quarterbacks with the Steelers. Additionally, if Pickett gets into the game at Heinz Field, he would be the first Steelers quarterback out of the University of Pittsburgh to play in their home stadium as Pete Gonzalez only appearance came on the road.

On the negative side, Kenny Pickett‘s first career incompletion will ruin the perfect percentage of University of Pittsburgh quarterbacks with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But if Kenny Pickett becomes any type of long-term solution at quarterback for the Steelers, the occasional incompletion is something Steelers fans should tolerate.

For more information on this topic, as well as the NFL history of teams drafting two quarterbacks in the same draft and having them both make the team, they were outlined on the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast which is available here:

A Letter From the Editor: The devaluing of positions in the NFL is amazing

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/08/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

After the NFL Draft, the devaluing of certain positions continues to amaze me.

The NFL Draft always reveals a lot about the game of football and how teams value certain positions. The 2022 draft was certainly an interesting exercise in the value of certain positions. Sure, every draft class has strengths and weaknesses, but there are some positions which have been so devalued over the years it still amazes me.

This year the quarterback class was known to be both thin, and not as talented as previous draft classes. When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected 20th overall in this year’s draft, never in a million years did most think the team would have their pick of quarterbacks available without them trading up to get their guy.

But this year’s class was an aberration. The quarterback position is still considered the most important position in professional sports. Even though Pickett was the only quarterback taken in the first round, and no other quarterback was selected until the third round, next year it wouldn’t shock me to see 3, likely more, quarterbacks selected in the first round of the draft.

For the Steelers, them taking the only player at a specific position isn’t new. Just look at the 2021 draft when Pittsburgh was the only team to take a running back in the first round. Some NFL experts laughed at the thought of a wasted pick of a running back as a team’s top pick.

With today’s NFL becoming so pass-happy, and mid-round players to even undrafted rookie running backs turning in tremendous careers, many thought it to be foolish to spend a first round pick on Najee Harris out of Alabama.

Clearly, the Steelers don’t care about the trends in the NFL, but it still doesn’t mean the other 31 organizations don’t view certain positions like second-class citizens.

Outside of running back, another position which has been devalued is safety. While Kyle Hamilton was taken by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round, the thought of a team trading up in the first round to get a safety, like the Steelers did in 2003 to take Troy Polamalu, seems to something which would never happen in the modern game.

As stated earlier, some positions will always hold their value. Quarterback, offensive tackle, EDGE rushers. The value those positions bring to an organization will always be considered paramount when the draft process begins. However, you have to wonder if the game will evolve back to where it was just a decade, or so, ago. You know, back when players like Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Marshawn Lynch were household names and must-have commodities on an NFL roster.

While that seems like a pipe dream at this point, I couldn’t help but notice Le’Veon Bell’s response to KDKA’s Bob Pompeani when he was asked what he would do differently if he could do it all over again.

I’d play WR https://t.co/sfT0sZ5g8j

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) April 21, 2022

In hindsight, Bell sees what him being a running back did to his career. Sure, he also turned down a contract with would have kept him in Pittsburgh for a long time, but the way he valued himself was more of a receiver than a running back, in a league which has severely degraded the value at the position.

Will it ever revert back to the way it was even in the early 2000s? I doubt it, but it makes you wonder what the future holds in terms of how teams value positions in the NFL.

(Note: The Letter From the Editor feature runs every Sunday morning during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)

Calvin Austin III considered one of the best “sleeper” picks in the draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/08/2022 - 7:30am
Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 NFL Draft class has several players who are considered to be diamonds in the rough.

The Pittsburgh Steelers2022 NFL Draft has concluded, and with the seven new players on the roster fans are getting to know these new members of the black and gold. First round pick Kenny Pickett certainly is garnering a lot attention, but he isn’t the only player drafted who is considered to be a tremendous pick with upside.

In fact, ESPN recently ran an article where they asked Power 5 coaches and coordinators several questions about the recent draft, and one of those questions was who they would consider to be a “sleeper” pick. In case you don’t know, a “sleeper” pick is someone who might not have received a lot of attention prior to the draft, but garners a massive amount of value when they were selected.

A player who was mentioned and was drafted by Pittsburgh was none other than Calvin Austin III in the 4th Round. Here is what ESPN had to say about the selection:

Austin had consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards and one punt return touchdown.

“He’s little but he is so dynamic,” an AAC defensive coordinator said of the 5-foot-9, 162-pound Austin. “His catch radius is really good for his size. He can do so many things, and he’s legit, legit fast. Since Tyreek Hill and those guys have been doing some damage, a guy like him might.”

5’9” might be generous for the smaller receiver out of Memphis, but his overall potential within Matt Canada’s offense is tough to ignore. Austin’s sub-4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash is one thing, but when you see him on the field his speed is undeniable.

Haven’t seen it for yourself yet? Check the video below:

The thing about Austin’s game is he isn’t just a one-trick pony, as Mike Tomlin famously called Mike Wallace as a rookie out of Ole Miss. He is an accomplished route runner, can carry the ball out of the backfield, run jet sweeps and even has returner capabilities.

If the Steelers, and Matt Canada, are smart, they will scheme ways to get Austin the football in space and let him use his speed to make defenses pay. Unlike when the team drafted the likes of Chris Rainey and/or Dri Archer, there are plenty of examples in the NFL of smaller players doing damage. Look no further than now Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill and what he used to do with the Kansas City Chiefs.

I’m not about to suggest Austin is the next Hill, especially as a rookie, but the Chiefs’ ability to get Hill open in space was what made him so tough to stop. The same can be said about Austin as he begins his journey as a professional.

What do you think about the Steelers’ pick of Austin? Do you see him as a diamond in the rough, or Dri Archer 2.0? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason.

A Happy Mother’s Day wish to all those Steelers moms

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/08/2022 - 6:30am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

To all those Pittsburgh Steelers moms, or even those who tolerate our obessessions, today is your day!

My mother is an educated woman. As a teacher she worked hard in education for over 40 years, and wanted the absolute best for both of her two sons. She watched both graduate high school and college, and then be on their own respective ways.

As for her youngest son, his path was always a bit skewed compared to most.

That youngest son is me, and I will always remember my mother harping on me to do my very best in school. The only problem was, I never really liked school all that much. I would say I tolerated school, and the education system tolerated me right back.

Throughout my upbringing I was always more infatuated with things like sports statistics, overall records and those tidbits of information which only I found truly interesting. I mean, who wouldn’t love to know the fact Andy Van Slyke was the only batter on the 1991 Pittsburgh Pirates roster who didn’t wear batting gloves?!

I would often spout off these off the wall facts about Pittsburgh sports to my mom, and her response was always the same.

“If only you cared about your studies like you do those sports.”

As an athlete growing up, my mom was always there. Middle school football and track, high school baseball. All of it. While I have not always walked the path my mom thought I’d walk, she supported me nonetheless.

When I started down this venture of writing about the Pittsburgh Steelers, she was hesitant to fully get behind the idea. After all, I had a full-time job as a teacher, was coaching and had a young family of my own. When the venture of covering the Steelers turned into essentially another full-time job, one which would further help me support my family, my mom was all-in. She reads my articles, listens to my podcasts and even chimes in on the YouTube channel’s live stream chat once in a while.

As a father of five small children now, I can only imagine what I must have been like as a youth. Stubborn as an ox, and a strong will to match.

Those characteristics got me this far on this crazy journey, but I also got those characteristics from my mother. On this Mother’s Day I wish my mom the very best! She has tolerated my shenanigans for far too long, and I’m proud to say she’s my No. 1 fan.

It’s still funny how to this day, she will bring up how maybe all of those Pittsburgh sports facts I remembered as a kid somehow helped me get where I am today...maybe it did.

To all those mothers out there who bleed black and gold, or maybe those who tolerate our obsessions on a daily basis...this is your day! Happy Mother’s Day!

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