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Report: Morgan Burnett expected to sign with Browns on Friday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 9:35am

The former Steelers safety looks to have found a new home in 2019 already after it was reported he had agreed to a two-year deal with the Cleveland Browns

The Pittsburgh Steelers only officially released Morgan Burnett on Monday, but it would appear that he has already found a new home. Reportedly agreeing to a two-year deal with the Cleveland Browns on Friday, Pittsburgh fans will still get to see plenty of the former Green Bay Packer in 2019 after he opted to remain in the AFC North.

This is going to be a 2-year deal. Fills a need with a solid veteran https://t.co/YlDMx8BdAe

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 5, 2019

Signed by the Steelers to a three-year contract worth $14.35 million during free agency last year, Burnett’s debut season in the Steel City was rather disappointing. Limited by injuries once again, just as he had been throughout much of his career with the Packers, the safety would see action in only 11 games in 2018, recording a mere 30 tackles.

Burnett made no secret of his desire to leave Pittsburgh this offseason, unhappy with the role he had been asked to play on defense and his lack of playing time when healthy behind first-round draft pick Terrell Edmunds. Attempts to trade him were clearly met with little interest and the Steelers finally granted him his release earlier in the week.

He will compete with the Browns newly acquired safety Eric Murray for the role vacated by Jabrill Peppers who was traded to the New York Giants as part of the deal for Odell Beckham Jr.

The genie is coming out of the bottle with the NFL’s decision to replay interference

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 7:54am

The NFL has decided to allow interference calls to be reviewable. This is just opening up Pandora’s box.

The NFL adopted a new rule recently allowing NFL coaches to now challenge offensive pass interference (OPI) and defensive pass interference (DPI). The coach can throw the red challenge flag to try to overturn a perceived bad call, or one that was not originally called on the field. In the final two minutes of either half, those judgments are left up to the booth to determine. On paper, the change looks fantastic due to the horrid non-call in the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams NFC Championship game this past season. While it looks fantastic on paper, they do not play the game on paper.

Needless to say, the genie has been let out of the bottle with this decision, and will not be pushed back in.

Four reasons why:

1. Pass interference is one of those calls is at the referee’s discretion and can be possibly called on every play. Some crews let players jostle for position and hand fight, while others call the game strictly by the book. Will the slightest of bumps or the vaguest of hand fighting be called now? While the NFL has regulated what is and what does not make up a catch, the league will have to do the same for DPI and OPI. The NFL’s new rule change is intended to fix the egregious calls, but what about the slightest of judgment calls?

2. The Hail Mary is one of the least successful plays in the game, but the one that stops your heart during the progress. During every Hail Mary play, a ref could throw a flag for DPI or OPI while players crash into each other jockeying for position. How often is interference called? Can anyone think of a time it ever happened? That will change and could change outcomes of games for better or worse.

3. Does anyone believe this is just a one-off and no further plays will be put up for review in the future? In 1978 the NFL initiated the Mel Blount Rule. In the following two years, spearing and clothes-lining were outlawed. Fast forward four decades and now defenders get flagged for unintentionally hitting wideouts in the head and neck area, let alone separating a “defenseless” receiver from the ball. It is the nature of the NFL to further the integrity of their product. DPI and OPI will not be the first, or the last, plays to be the subject for review in the future. That is not how the NFL works.

4. Will this increase the length of games? While it is important to get the calls right the first time, in the final two minutes of either half plays are scrutinized by the booth. The networks bring anywhere from 12 to 20 cameras to game. How many of those angles will the booth review personnel want to see? All? (Fun fact: In 1939, NBC broadcast the first pro football game with two cameras.) Could four-hour games become the norm?

...

No one is against fixing bad calls during the NFL games, but implementing using replay is taking an imperfect game out of imperfect human’s hands and putting the calls into another imperfect human’s hands. It is a bad step in the wrong direction. The length that the challenges to the plays in the final two minutes of a game or half will make advertisers giddy with excitement and fans groan with displeasure.

In the next five or ten years will there be more penalties allowed to be reviewed and will coaches be allowed more challenges to make up for the number of reasons a play can be reviewed? Only makes sense that that would go hand in hand.

Quotes by a few head coaches: Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

“My opinion, it’s a bad idea. I think when you slow it down, frame-by-frame and do it (by) letter of the law, it can be very ticky tacky.

“I sat in with the coaches yesterday, and we talked about one play that we slowed down frame-by-frame-by-frame. Even the offensive coaches didn’t think it was pass interference, except maybe Bruce (Arians).”

Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

“Let’s make sure the standard of what OPI or DPI is, if we go down that road, let’s make sure that everybody’s working from the same standard.”

Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers

“We’re talking about it. We’d like to come up with something to take care of the egregious missed calls. Officials are human. They make mistakes.

“At the same time, trying to make this game a perfect game — that’s not realistic. We don’t want to slow it down. I’m sure we can come up with something.”

Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers

“I’m still trying to mull that one over, because when you really slow it down, it just depends. Are we watching it at live speed, or are we slowing it down? I think it could be a slippery slope. When you’re watching it (at) so many frames per second, it’s really slow, everything looks like pass interference.

“I think I think there’s an element to be able to officiate the game at live speed. For example, a great clip of this happening was in the Super Bowl, when Brandin Cooks was (catching) a go ball. It was 10-3, late in the game, and he got his arm tugged. At live speed, it didn’t necessarily look like PI, but when you slow it down, it did.

“But yeah, I think it could be a slippery slope.”

Santonio Holmes and Brett Keisel to introduce Steelers 2nd and 3rd round picks in 2019 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 6:45am

The NFL announces the two Steelers who will be announcing the team’s Day 2 draft picks for the 2019 NFL Draft.

The NFL is a creative organization, ready to travel any avenue possible to get eye balls on their product. This is the driving force behind their Breast Cancer Awareness, turned to Caner Awareness, month. Also for their Salute to Service month. It isn’t as if these are bad things, and they raise a lot of money, but publicity, and viewers, are paramount to this multi-billion dollar organization.

The NFL Draft is one of the most hyped events of the year for the National Football League, but ratings dip after the first night. How could the league get more viewers of teams glued to their screens for all three days, or just day two? How about they get well-known players to announce picks?

This is what they did in 2018 when Arthur Moats and Jerome Bettis announced selections in the second and third rounds of the draft. In 2019 it will be Santonio Holmes and Brett Keisel.

Santonio Holmes and Brett Keisel will announce the Steelers' second- and third-round picks in Nashville on Day 2 of the draft.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) April 4, 2019

For the fans who are at the event live, this is a unique situation where they get to be up-close-and-personal with the former players, but for those who are loyal followers of the draft it doesn’t matter who, or what, is announcing the draft selections.

In the past, the NFL has found fans to announce some, if not all, the Day 3 picks of the NFL Draft, which means the Steelers will have plenty of other people involved with a whopping 10 total picks to add to their roster throughout the 7-round process.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the black-and-gold as they prepare for the draft just a few weeks away.

Podcast: Is there a cornerback in the 2019 NFL Draft worthy of a first round pick?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 5:30am

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

As the Pittsburgh Steelers season is over, and while the team isn’t playing anymore, it doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to discuss — so it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading into the offseason.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Black-and-Gold News
  • 2019 NFL Draft Team Needs — CB
  • The wildly popular game ‘Either/Or’
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, Bryan Anthony Davis and Dave Schofield walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Forget Antonio Brown, the Steelers want JuJu to just keep improving

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/05/2019 - 4:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Steelers just want JuJu Smith-Schuster to just keep improving...regardless of where Antonio Brown is playing football in 2019.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Forget about Antonio Brown...the Steelers are just hoping JuJu Smith-Schuster keeps improving. And if he does that — watch out.

Replace AB? Steelers want JuJu Smith-Schuster to continue on own career arc

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

“I don’t base that on whether [Antonio Brown] is here or not,” Tomlin said last week from the NFL owners meetings. “I just want to see him grow and mature as a player, as a person. He’s done a good job of that between Year 1 and Year 2.”

Smith-Schuster is his own man now, and that’s exactly how the Steelers want it.

What has become clear is the Steelers don’t want Smith-Schuster focused on replacing Antonio Brown, who was traded to the Oakland Raiders, but rather on maximizing his own enormous potential independent of his NFL receiver peers. A good start is reaffirming his alignment with his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, in a supportive social media post.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • The Steelers secondary is confident, but they might want to be careful what they wish for...

Steelers ‘can’t wait’ to face OBJ twice a season

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

Starting cornerbacks Joe Haden and Steven Nelson have both expressed excitement to match up with the new Cleveland Brown twice a year.

”I can’t wait, man,” Haden told TMZ Sports. “You’ve got to go against the best to be the best.”

Haden is going on his third season with Pittsburgh, but once faced Beckham in 2016 as a member of the Browns. Beckham spent his first four seasons with the New York Giants before the Browns acquired him at the start of free agency. He appeared with new teammates Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Jarvis Landry in a news conference Monday.

Last month, Nelson had a news conference of his own in Pittsburgh after signing a three-year, $25.5 million deal with the Steelers.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Sam Darnold is excited to have Le’Veon Bell, and he should be. Bell will be a great weapon, and safety valve for the second year quarterback.

Jets QB Sam Darnold loves signing of Le’Veon Bell

By: Kevin Patra, NFL.com

In an interview with the New York Post before Wednesday’s Yankees game, the Gang Green quarterback glowed about how much the running back can help him, and the rest of the offense.

”I love it. What’s not to love about it? Le’Veon’s a great player,” Darnold said, via The Post’s Brian Costello. “He’s very instinctful, too. He’s very quarterback friendly, which I’ve noticed watching his tape a little bit.”

Bell suggested after signing that he hopes to become Darnold’s “security blanket.” The QB believes there is no better back for that job in the NFL.

”Whenever Big Ben (Roethlisberger) was back there, as a quarterback you sense when time runs out and you start looking for guys and Le’Veon’s always really friendly and right there in your vision or he was always in Ben’s vision. I’m looking forward to that,” Darnold added. “Whenever I need him, just him to be that security blanket that I need, just check it down and he can get yards after the catch. I’m really excited about it.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Many probably don’t forget about Jon Bostic, but after the 2018 season it is easy to even consider him to be an answer at the ILB position. He is ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Bostic prides himself on football IQ

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

When you talk about being a student of the game, you might not find a better example than Jonathan Bostic.

Bostic prides himself on his football IQ, something that came from his dad and not because of football, but because of the importance of education...

“I blitzed a lot more than I ever have,” said Bostic. “I was always the cover guy. I never blitzed that much. In the defenses we ran in the past, I didn’t blitz much. That was new for me. Now heading into my second year here, it’s getting them to understand me even more as a player, how I think, how I play and how I can help the defense.

“For me, I am willing to do whatever is asked. Whatever we have to do to win I am down for it. I like to play fast, play physical. That is what it comes down to.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • AFC North Links

Apparently, RGIII is still considered a commodity
A pair of Ravens are ready to “take the next step”
When Baker Mayfield’s dreams become a reality
Poor, poor Sashi Brown

  • Social Media Madness

James Washington discusses his growth during his rookie season, what he learned, his relationship with Ben Roethlisberger, correcting mistakes and what he's working on heading into Year 2. #FaceTime | @JamesWashington pic.twitter.com/SoScSh1Mub

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 4, 2019

#WallpaperWednesday pic.twitter.com/Nax6itqFtT

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 3, 2019

➡️ #WildPlayWednesday | @mvp86hinesward pic.twitter.com/42GUKztZZm

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 3, 2019

These ! No lie. Look like high school jerseys on road to glory. ‍♂️ ‍♂️ https://t.co/CZobFKv7zl

— Ryan Shazier (@RyanShazier) April 4, 2019

2019 NFL Draft: The Minnesota Vikings are on the Clock, but who will they take?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 2:14pm

It’s time to make a pick for the Minnesota Vikings in our 2019 Community Mock Draft

...the pick is in

With the 17th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the New York Giants select Brian Burns Edge Florida State

The Minnesota Vikings are on the clock...

Team Needs: IOL/OT/ IDL/Edge/LB

2018 NFL Draft Selections

1 (30) Mike Hughes, cb, UCF.

2 (62) Brian O’Neill, ot, Pittsburgh.

4 (102) Jaylin Holmes, de, Ohio State.

5 (157) Tyler Conklin, te, Central Michigan.

5 (167) Daniel Carlson, k, Auburn.

6 (213) Colby Gossett, g, Appalachian State.

6 (218) Ade Aruna, de, Tulane.

7 (225) Devante Downs, lb, California.

2019 NFL Selections and Order

Pick 1 - Arizona Cardinal Nick Bosa Edge Ohio State

Pick 2 - San Francisco 49er’s Josh Allen Edge Kentucky

Pick 3 - New York Jets Jonah Williams OT Alabama

Pick 4 - Oakland Raiders Quinnen Williams IDL Alabama

Pick 5 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers Greedy Williams CB LSU

Pick 6 - New York Giants Dwayne Haskins QB Ohio State

Pick 7 - Jacksonville Jaguars Drew Lock QB Missouri

Pick 8 - Detroit Lions Clelin Ferrell Edge Clemson

Pick 9 - Buffalo Bills Ed Oliver IDL Houston

Pick 10 - Denver Broncos Devin White ILB LSU

Pick 11 - Cincinnati Bengals Cody Ford OT Oklahoma

Pick 12 - Green Bay Packers Jachai Polite Edge Florida

Pick 13 - Miami Dolphins Kyler Murray QB Oklahoma

Pick 14 - Atlanta Falcons Montez Sweat Edge Mississippi St.

Pick 15 - Washington Redskins D.K. Metcalf WR Mississippi

Pick 16 - Carolina Panthers Rashan Gary Edge/IDL Michigan

Pick 17 - New York Giants Brian Burns Edge Florida State

Note: For those that may vote “other”, let us know who you would have picked. If its a trade scenario fill us in on what you are thinking.

Steelers Stats: Analyzing first round NFL Draft Selections by position

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 12:50pm

A compilation of Steelers statistics from myself and from various Tweets over the past week.

Compiling statistics can take hours upon hours in order to find the proper numbers. To save you the trouble, here are some of the best statistics about the Steelers from the past week.

I will begin with a few statistics of my own before going on to other various Steeler sources. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @STLRSuperFanDad in order to get some of BTSC’s geekiest stats.

From The Steelers Preview podcast:

The Steelers have drafted in the first round at least one player of every offensive and defensive position since 1996. The Steelers most recent pick at each position are:

QB: Ben Roethlisberger (2004)

RB: Rashad Mendenhall (2008)

WR: Santonio Holmes (2006)

TE: Heath Miller (2005)

T: Jamain Stephens (1996)

G: David DeCastro (2012)

C: Maurice Pouncey (2010)

...

DT: Cam Hayward (2011)

NT: Casey Hampton (2001)

OLB: T.J. Watt (2017)

ILB: Ryan Shazier (2014)

CB: Artie Burns (2016)

S: Terrell Edmunds (2018)

The most drafted position in the first round in Steelers history is running back (20). Since the NFL merger in 1970, the most common position the Steelers have drafted in the first round is wide receiver (7).

The Steelers have drafted five quarterbacks in the first round. They are Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Mark Malone (1980), Terry Bradshaw (1970), Len Dawson (1957), and Ted Marchibroda (1953).

Now onto some other crazy Steelers stats:

The last offensive player the Steelers drafted in the 1st round of the NFL draft was David DeCastro in 2012. Excluding offensive linemen, the last position player on offense the Steelers took in the first round was 11 years ago: Rashard Mendenhall in 2008.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) March 31, 2019

The #Steelers have 10 draft picks in the 2019 NFL draft. The last time the Steelers drafted 10 players was 2010 when the Steelers picked @MaurkicePouncey in the 1st round, the only player still on the team.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) March 31, 2019

Of the 28 active NFL QB’s with at least 50 regular season starts, only Tom Brady (68.7%) and Ben Roethlisberger (60.4%) have a road winning percentage over 60% in regular season games started.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) March 27, 2019

The only #Steelers team with a higher winning percentage than the 2018 team (59.4%) to also NOT make the playoffs was in 1962 (9-5, 64.3%) when only 2 teams qualified for the postseason.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) March 26, 2019

Coty Sensabaugh allowed a reception just once every 17.0 snaps in coverage in 2018. pic.twitter.com/MreG10PNl6

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 31, 2019

Jayon Brown finished the 2018 season with the highest pass-rushing grade among linebackers.

The top 5 ⬇️ ⬇️ https://t.co/pWrZg61PXh pic.twitter.com/VT8SRzkez7

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 28, 2019

Big Ben lit up the field from a clean pocket – making more big-time throws than any other QB. pic.twitter.com/yPuUYq3QCd

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 27, 2019

#Steelers Pro Bowl RB James Conner (@JamesConner_) tied for third among all #NFL players with 12 rushing touchdowns in 2018.

His 12 rushing scores in 2018 were the fifth-most by a Steeler in a single-season in team history and were the most since 2010 (Rashard Mendenhall, 13). https://t.co/dPBLjM7sr2

— Dom Rinelli (@drinelli) March 26, 2019

Steelers host Texas LB Gary Johnson among group of four pre-draft visitors on Thursday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 11:30am

West Virginia safety Dravon Askew-Henry, Central Michigan cornerback Sean Bunting and Akron linebacker Ulysees Gilbert rounded out the list of visitors to the Steelers facilities on Thursday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to host prospects at team facilities this week, with another four players in town on Thursday for a pre-draft visit with the team. Focusing on the defensive side of the ball once again as they did on Wednesday, the group includes two players the Steelers were connected to after meeting them at their pro days this offseason.

Linebackers Gary Johnson of Texas and Ulysees Gilbert of Akron are the two prospects who have already met with someone from Pittsburgh recently, with GM Kevin Colbert among the names on hand to watch Johnson’s pro day last week. For West Virginia safety Dravon Askew-Henry and Central Michigan cornerback Sean Bunting, this is the first we have heard of the Steelers interest in the players.

Pre-draft visitors for the #Steelers on April 4: S Dravon Askew Henry from West Virginia; CB Sean Bunting from Central Michigan; LB Ulysees Gilbert from Akron; LB Gary Johnson from Texas

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) April 4, 2019

With Askew-Henry counting as a local visitor coming from West Virginia, just as Penn State running back Miles Sanders and West Virginia linebacker David Long did earlier in the week, the Steelers have now officially used 15 of their 30 allocated visits so far this year, assuming some have not gone unreported prior to this week.

LB, Gary Johnson, Texas

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

“Active inside linebacker with plenty of passion and aggression but a fundamental lack of NFL-caliber movement skills in space. Johnson is capable of handling downhill duties between the tackles but could struggle to match up with today’s space-oriented offensive attacks.”

Music that accompanies this highlight video is NSFW.

LB, Ulysees Gilbert, Akron

Scouting report from Pro Football Draft Zone.

Positives: Outstanding productivity and range. Excels in pursuit. Very agile and athletic. Can often avoid and out-quick blockers in space. Good movement and change-of-direction skills. Able to run with backs in coverage. Closes quickly. Good skill set for special teams.”

“Negatives: Undersized. Struggles to take on and shed blockers at the point of attack. Gets bounced around and easily washed out at times. Tends to bite on play action, leaving passing lanes open behind him.”

“Summary: Weak-side linebacker prospect who needs to play off the ball and excel on special teams to make it.”

With limited highlight videos available for Gilbert, this was the best available. I strongly suggest muting the commentary. It is not vulgar, it is just bad.

S, Dravon Askew-Henry, West Virginia

Scouting report from Brad Kelly of The Draft Network.

PROS: Can stick ball carrier with good physicality and short-area quickness. Good filler outside, scans the field well. Solid traits for coverage, hip mobility and sound technique. NFL-ready frame and the ability to cover a variety of receivers. Solid open field tackler. Good long speed necessary to play free safety or in the slot.”

“CONS: Takes poor angles far too often. Though he sees the field well, he will consistently overrun ball carrier and miss tackles as a result. Unsure at times of when he needs to attack the line of scrimmage and make tackles. Can catch tackles and not drive through the ball carrier. Poor angles get him in trouble to cover deep.”

With limited highlight videos also available for Askew-Henry, this was the best available. I strongly suggest muting the music which contains lyrics that are NSFW.

CB, Sean Bunting, Central Michigan

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

“Long, lanky press corner who plays with good control, an ability to stay connected to routes and above-average ball skills. Bunting is a bail or trail corner who is more adept at shadowing the release than road-blocking it with physicality due to a leaner frame. He’s confident in coverage and doesn’t play with panic, but has to prove his top-end speed. He’s proven his worth on 50-50 balls, but may fall below NFL standards with closing twitch and instincts. He’s a solid Day 3 prospect with CB4 potential.”

I suggesting muting the music on this one too, but only because it is terrible.

Ryan Switzer grateful to Ben Roethlisberger for his help and support

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 10:45am

Antonio Brown may not have much regard for Ben Roethlisberger, but Ryan Switzer has very different feelings towards the quarterback

Despite attempts by Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and the national media to portray Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the devil incarnate, comments from a number of his current and former teammates have contradicted that characterization as of late. But perhaps none more so than the revelations of wide receiver Ryan Switzer on Monday.

When speaking to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, the young receiver opened up about the impact the business of football can have on a player, acknowledging the challenges he faced after being traded twice in the same year and the psychological toll it took on him.

“I am not going to downplay it, it was extremely hard. I was in a pretty bad place when I showed up to Pittsburgh. Being traded twice in five months. Not sure what was going on. Not knowing why it wasn’t working out. When the stuff started happening in Oakland, the last two weeks of training camp the coaches stopped talking to me. They weren’t giving me any reps in the preseason. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I came to find out I was on the trading block for a while.”

“Moving out of a house, to the West Coast, back to the East Coast. I lost a lot of money moving. It was a mess. I was newly married. There were a lot of factors that went into why I was feeling how I was. When I got here I didn’t expect too much. My mind hadn’t settled down. I was processing everything that was going on. That was the state I was in. I was in a really bad place mentally.”

And while Roethlisberger might not have a reputation as the warmest of people, especially if you believe the recent remarks of Brown and Bell, it was interesting to note that Switzer thanked both Big Ben and Mike Tomlin for making him feel welcome when he initially arrived in Pittsburgh.

“It was no question the lowest I have ever been in my football career, the lowest without a doubt. Just to go from the lowest I have ever felt to potentially the highest, being integrated into this team, such a strong group of guys. It went from the lowest to the highest. That is a credit to Coach (Mike) Tomlin, the veterans in the locker room, the organization. Everyone who welcomed me and made me feel like I was at home.”

“To have a Hall of Fame quarterback work with me, reach out to me. It would have been so easy for him to say this guy got here seven days before the first game. I don’t trust him, I don’t want to work with him. But he didn’t do that.”

Crediting Roethlisberger for helping to reinvigorate his love of the game, Switzer paints a very different picture to the one the national media has been pushing over the past few months.

“Ben and I talked after the season, I wanted to express my thanks to him. When I got here I remember telling my wife, my agent, I am going to see how this first couple of days go. I was so low mentally I was ready to retire. The game at that point wasn’t worth the mental stress it was putting on me and my life. He helped me so much.”

While this interview first appeared on Monday on the Steelers official website, it is rather telling that not one of the media outlets who have devoted hours to bashing Big Ben this offseason have repeated a single remark from Switzer on air. I guess they must have missed the piece. (If the system allowed it, I would insert a rolls-eyes emoji here)

The full interview can be found here

NFL Mock Draft: With both Devins gone, the Steelers take a surprise LB in Round 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 9:25am

The Steelers could still draft a linebacker in the first round, even if Devin Bush and Devin White are both off the board.

The 2019 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and as the NFL world turns their focus from Pro Days to pre-draft visits, fans typically begin the process of trying to predict who their favorite team will select.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have now gained 10 total draft picks throughout the three day, 7 round process. Most websites simply consist of showing who they think the team will take in the first round, and maybe a two-round mock draft, but there are a few rare media personalities who will take a stab at a full 7-round prediction.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo is one of those rogue journalists, and put out his second full mock draft of the year recently. At this point these predictions are just stabs in the dark. Great for conversation and debate, but that is about it.

For the record, Fittipaldo goes into great detail on all of his selections, you can read them all HERE, but out of respect to the work he did I will show his explanation of just his first round pick.

At this point, check out the full mock draft below, and feel free to let us know what you think of the haul in the comment section below!

The background of the selections:

But what happens if White and Bush are both gone by the time the Steelers pick and they fail in their efforts to move up to get one of them?

In that scenario, general manager Kevin Colbert would be forced to consider taking a cornerback such as Greedy Williams of LSU or Byron Murphy of Washington, or perhaps a receiver or maybe even speedy tight end Noah Fant of Iowa.

Here is a wild-card scenario that hasn’t been discussed very much: how about...

1. Florida State outside linebacker Brian Burns

If the Steelers really want to upgrade their defense, they’ll resist the urge to use a first-round pick on an offensive player. By signing free agent corner Steven Nelson, linebacker Mark Barron and receiver Donte Moncrief, the Steelers are in position to select the best defensive player available should they have to select at No. 20.

And Burns very well might be the best player available at that point. The Steelers don’t necessarily need an outside linebacker this year, but there is some uncertainty at the position long term with Bud Dupree looking like he will play on a $9.2 million fifth-year option on his rookie contract...

...It’s a pick that comes with some risk. The return might not be immediate – at least not in terms of his overall play. But Burns has potential to become a Pro Bowl player.

It would be up to defensive coordinator Keith Butler and his staff to bring that out of him. The Steelers have lacked dynamic playmakers on defense. In addition to 23 sacks at Florida State, Burns had seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in college. For a turnover-starved team like the Steelers, Burns could be the difference-maker they need.

2. CB Julian Love of Notre Dame (5-11, 195)

3.a. ILB Mack Wilson of Alabama (6-1, 240)

3.b. WR Terry McLaurin of Ohio State (6-0, 208)

4. TE Josh Oliver of San Jose State (6-5, 249)

5. DL Kingsley Keke of Texas A&M (6-3, 288)

6a. WR David Sills of West Virginia (6-3, 211)

6b. S Saquan Hampton of Rutgers (6-1, 206)

6c, P Jake Bailey of Stanford (6-1, 200)

7. RB Qadree Ollison of Pitt (6-1, 228)

Breaking Down the Ravens: Defending Lamar Jackson and other thoughts on the Steelers’ biggest rival

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 7:58am

The Baltimore Ravens are still the Pittsburgh Steelers top rival, but they will have a new look this year. Breaking down how the Steelers will defend Lamar Jackson and company in 2019.

Last week, I wrote an article addressing the hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns. Specifically, how many have anointed them the team to beat in the AFC North. The Browns have no doubt made impressive strides in the last year but they are yet to prove themselves the only place it counts - on the field. Until they do, the North remains a two-team division. Those teams, of course, are Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Since the North was created in 2002, Pittsburgh has claimed eight division titles while the Ravens have won five, including last season. The two franchises have accounted for four Super Bowl appearances and three titles over that span. Cincinnati’s four division crowns feel like an aberration by comparison, especially since they produced a total of zero playoff wins. The Browns have yet to win the North. And so, until Cleveland actually breaks through, it remains Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

Fueling the Cleveland hype-train is the fact that, like their Steel City counterparts, the Ravens are a team in transition. On the defensive side of the ball, they have lost veterans Terrell Suggs, Za’Darious Smith, C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle. Earl Thomas, whose injury issues have sidetracked what once looked like a Hall of Fame career, has been brought in from Seattle to fill the void on the back end left by Weddle’s departure. The front seven, however, will lean heavily on young players and new faces.

The offense began its transition a bit sooner when they benched one-time franchise quarterback Joe Flacco midway through 2018 in favor of rookie Lamar Jackson. Flacco parlayed a 2013 Super Bowl win into a giant pile of cash and not much else. His lack of mobility and regression as a passer, illuminated by a stat line of 110 touchdown passes and 70 interceptions since 2013, which translates to a pedestrian 1.6 touchdown to interception ratio, made him expendable with Jackson on deck. Flacco was traded to Denver in February, meaning the Baltimore offense belongs to Jackson now.

Rarely have I seen a team attempt to transition so completely from one style of quarterback to another. Flacco, at 6’6, is built like a bamboo shoot. He possesses a big arm and a knack for mixing the dink and dunk checkdown game with the home run deep ball (what some around BTSC have dubbed the “Heave and Pray”). He is the classic pocket quarterback in that he does not leave the pocket. When he does, he moves with the grace of a baby giraffe learning to walk.

Jackson, on the other hand, is shorter at 6’2 and a sturdy 215 pounds. He moves effortlessly and accelerates like a sports car. He rushed for 695 yards and five touchdowns last season and looked like the best quarterback running in the open field since prime Michael Vick. He has a powerful arm but is not particularly accurate, as evidenced by his 58.2 completion percentage. And he is by no means a developed pocket passer. Jackson has a long way to go before he understands the nuances of the progression passing game the way Flacco did.

As dramatic as the transition from Flacco to Jackson is, the Ravens managed to do something fairly remarkable: they made it mid-season, completely revamped the offense and managed to get better while doing so. Take a look:

The Ravens improved in most crucial measurables, including yards per game and points per game while maintaining the same turnover rate. Most importantly, they went from 4-5 under Flacco to 6-1 under Jackson. They did this while completely transforming their style of play. Under Flacco, 74.5% of their yards came from the passing game while just over 25% came via the run. Under Jackson, that split became 60/40 in favor of the run game. Kudos to the Baltimore staff for having both the courage to move on from Flacco and for figuring out how best to revamp the offense under Jackson.

Interestingly, Marty Mornhinweg, who directed the offense in 2018, has been replaced as offensive coordinator by tight ends coach Greg Roman. Roman also had the title of run game coordinator in Baltimore and was an assistant on Jim Harbaugh’s staff in San Francisco when Colin Kaepernick had his best seasons there. According to an article by Clifton Brown on the Ravens official team website, Baltimore is thought to have used some of the same run concepts and blocking schemes with Jackson at quarterback as the 49ers did with Kaepernick. Presumably, they believe Roman will be better for Jackson’s development than was Mornhinweg because he will run an offense better tailored to Jackson’s abilities.

What are Jackson’s abilities, then? And with him at the helm, what might we see from the Baltimore offense? Most importantly, how might we stop it? Here are some thoughts.

WHAT DOES THE BALTIMORE OFFENSE LOOK LIKE UNDER JACKSON?

Flacco was benched after we’d played our Baltimore portion of last year’s schedule, so we only got a look at Jackson in his role as a sub-package quarterback. That consisted mostly of him running sweeps from unbalanced formations and occasionally throwing the ball into the flat off of play-action. In two games against us Jackson carried the ball nine times for 27 yards and was 1-1 passing for 12 yards. Nothing earth-shattering there. Jackson was generally easy to defend because he came into the game with a small package of prepared plays that inevitably involved simple quarterback runs (sweep, zone read) paired with play-action passes. There were no coverage beaters, read progressions or audibles involved. Pretty vanilla stuff.

Once Jackson took over as the starter, Baltimore evolved fairly quickly. They did a nice job mixing spread sets that opened up the middle of the field and let Jackson run between the hashes with heavier sets that employed fullbacks, extra offensive linemen and multiple tight ends. The heavy sets forced defenses to counter with bigger, slower personnel of their own, thus creating an advantage for the uber-athletic Jackson on edge plays like bootlegs, zone reads, designed sweeps and scrambles.

Here we see Jackson running the Power Read concept from an 11 personnel set against Kansas City. 11 personnel creates a six-man box at the snap and allows the Ravens to block all of the interior defenders while Jackson reads end Dee Ford (#55). If Ford sits inside, Jackson will give the ball to running back Ty Montgomery on the outside handoff. If Ford widens with Montgomery, Jackson will pull the ball and run inside of him behind guard James Hurst (#74). Ford widens, so Jackson pulls and goes. This is a classic high school and college scheme that plays into Jackson’s comfort zone and maximizes his best skill - speed.

The Ravens also went fairly heavy on RPOs which gave Jackson the choice to run or pass the football. Here's one against Atlanta where Jackson actually has three options on the play. He will read the left defensive end (#50) to decide whether to give the ball on an inside handoff or pull it and attack the edge (this is the opposite read of what we just saw above). The end comes down to play the dive so Jackson pulls the ball and gets outside. He runs parallel to the line of scrimmage because he now has a pass option. He can throw the football to any of the receivers running the post-wheel-flat combo into the boundary. On 3rd and 3, Jackson is likely looking for tight end Hayden Hurst (#81) in the flat. When two Atlanta defenders chase Hurst, Jackson chooses option number three and runs it himself.

This is fairly standard stuff at the lower levels of football where high school and even college teams often put their best athlete at quarterback and create schemes that let him run around. We rarely see anything like this at the pro level, however. The 1st-level zone read has been here for a while but the Ravens are tapping into 2nd and even 3rd level reads to create complications for defenses all over the field. On this play alone, Atlanta must defend the inside zone run play, a three-receiver combo route and the quarterback running the football on the edge. If Jackson makes the right reads and the Ravens execute properly, he can make the defense wrong no matter what they do.

When the running game was working, the Ravens were then able to take advantage of play-action and let Jackson throw from the pocket. His tight ends were his favorite targets and, as a substitute for Flacco’s outside deep ball ability, he often looked to them to create explosive plays. With Flacco as the starter, Raven tight ends averaged 11.7 yards per catch. That number increased to 15.1 with Jackson at the helm.

Here’s a home run from Jackson to TE Mark Andrews against the Raiders. Baltimore compresses the Oakland defense with a tightly-packed unbalanced set featuring two tight ends to the right side of the formation. Notice how the corner (#22) is rolled up almost to the line of scrimmage. Baltimore will run a two-vertical concept with the tight ends. The inside route holds the safety while Andrews widens and runs past the corner, who is frozen by the run fake and the threat of Jackson pulling the ball and attacking the edge with his feet. Jackson’s running ability sets up explosive plays like this because it forces defenders to account for the quarterback as though he were a running back. The corner tries to serve two masters here - defend both the run and the pass - and it gets him beat.

Another reason Jackson may lean so heavily on his tight ends is because Baltimore lacks play-makers at wide receiver. After letting Michael Crabtree walk in free agency, their top three are currently Willie Sneed (62 receptions-651 yards), Chris Moore (19-196) and Jordan Lasley, a 5th round pick in 2018 who caught no passes. Odds are strong the Ravens will upgrade the position either in the remaining free agent market or with a high draft pick. Still, their receiving corps will frighten no one.

Fortunately for Jackson, the Ravens are deeper at tight end than at receiver (as they always seem to be). Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst all return (one-time BTSC draft crush Maxx Williams is a free agent after an uninspiring tenure in Baltimore). That trio combined for 70 catches for 928 yards and four touchdowns in 2018. They are the keys to making this Baltimore offense go, as Jackson’s strengths play towards 11, 12, 21 and 22 personnel groups and the use of play-action passes like the one above that exploit aggressive defenders who over-commit to the run. Baltimore can afford to play those heavy groups because they return a stout offensive line and they signed running back Mark Ingram to help them pound the ball between the tackles. They are constructed to operate from the inside-out.

The bottom line on the Baltimore offense, then, is this: they want to pound the rock inside, get Jackson free in space and use the run to set up the pass. Defenses will have to be physical up front and fast on the perimeter in order to contain them.

HOW MIGHT THE STEELERS DEFEND BALTIMORE?

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ray Fittipaldo stated in one of his recent online chats that defensive coordinator Keith Butler has admitted the Steelers are preparing defenses for Jackson. What might some of those be? Since the NFL is a copycat league, let’s start with the AFC Wild Card game between the Ravens and Chargers last January.

The highlights of Jackson running wild all look pretty scary, which is what much of the NFL seemed to think until Los Angeles stymied the Baltimore offense in the playoffs. The Chargers seemed to created a template for defending Jackson by employing seven defensive backs and playing with no true linebackers in the box for all but one snap as they held the Ravens to 11 first downs and 229 yards in a 23-17 win. LA’s commitment to speed at the second level to defend the perimeter while managing not to get gashed between the tackles seemed like a genius move until New England (who else?) subsequently exploited it in the Divisional round with 21 personnel power football and better in-line blocking from Rob Gronkowski than the Ravens managed with their collection of tight ends.

Still, the LA scheme was some brilliant, outside-the-box thinking. Jackson is an outside-the-box quarterback so the solution to stopping him likely required the same. The Chargers did so by rolling their stud rookie safety Derwin James into the box and pairing him with fellow safeties Adrian Phillips and Jahleel Addae. They now had three sub 4.5 guys at the linebacker level to chase Jackson on the perimeter. In order to keep Baltimore from slamming the ball inside at their “linebackers,” LA went heavy on a Bear front that covered the center and one or both guards so they could not climb to the linebacker level. This let the converted safeties run free to the football. The base front looked like this:

There are four LA defensive backs lined up across the second level. The Baltimore center, guard and tackle to the boundary are covered by the nose, defensive tackle and edge defender, leaving no one to block James (circled). Baltimore has a physical advantage to the strength of the formation, where they can use their tight end and fullback to run a power-gap concept against LA’s smaller personnel. But with the fast, aggressive James free to run to the football from the back side, that advantage is nullified. If Baltimore wants to fake the power run and boot Jackson into the boundary, James has no pass responsibility and is free to pursue him. And if Baltimore wants to run a zone or power read scheme to the field, LA has speed in the alley. They also have seven defensive backs on the field to play their cover-1 man scheme, meaning there are no mismatches of more athletic Baltimore receivers paired up against LA linebackers (cough cough).

The Steelers will likely look to mimic this scheme in some fashion by putting as much speed on the field as possible to defend Baltimore. The signing of Mark Barron is ideal in this regard as he gives them an interior backer with lateral speed who can also kick outside to fulfill the “box safety” role they experimented with last year using Terrell Edmunds and Morgan Burnett. Barron or Edwards could both play the Derwin James role above, provided the Steelers corners can lock down Baltimore‘s receivers on the outside.

Most likely, though, the Steelers would leave Barron inside and put true defensive backs in the alleys. If we plug Steelers’ personnel into the scheme LA used, it might look something like this:

This look would mirror, to a degree, the look LA employed. At the first level, Watt and our front three of Heyward, Tuitt and Hargrave are solid run defenders and will do a good job occupying Baltimore’s blockers and not getting moved off the ball. In the secondary, Haden and Nelson should be trusted to play man coverage against Baltimore’s mediocre corps of receivers while Hilton and Davis would likely bracket the tight end in coverage. So far, so good. The challenge, then, is finding the right players to plug in at the second level.

Edmunds and Hilton are both fast enough to defend Jackson in the alley and are solid tacklers. Barron, a trained safety now playing linebacker, would provide plenty of speed inside. Who is that fourth guy, though? The player who would become the de facto Buck linebacker playing to the strength of the formation? Would the Steelers try to use a true safety there, as LA did, by plugging in a guy like Jordan Dangerfield? It worked for LA, although the thought of Dangerfield assuming the responsibilities of the Buck is sure to raise concerns.

If the Steelers were intent on using seven DBs like LA did (with Barron counting as the 7th), they could put Edmunds at the Buck and play Dangerfield or perhaps Marcus Allen in the weak side alley. In the LA defense, that weak side alley player was key because he was the unblocked player on strong-side runs who was free to run to the football and make plays. Derwin James made five solo tackles in the playoff game against the Ravens, including a tackle for loss. Can Dangerfield be trusted to make those plays? Can Allen?

What about playing Allen inside at the Buck? He’s certainly big enough. But is he ready for that type of role? If not, maybe they keep Edmunds in the alley and use Jon Bostic at the Buck. Bostic doesn’t have the lateral speed of a safety but he’s not exactly slow. Or maybe, assuming they see stopping Jackson and the Ravens as Priority #1 to reclaiming the North, they shock the world and trade all the way into the top 10 in the upcoming draft to grab LSU’s Devin White, whose combination of physicality and athleticism would make him ideal to play the Buck in this particular defense. An interior of White and Barron with Edmunds and Hilton on the edge would give the Steelers better second level talent than the group LA had success with in January.

Given what it would cost to move up that high, odds of the Steelers acquiring White appear thin, however. What about Devin Bush, then? Bush’s 40 time at the Combine was just a hair slower than White’s. Perhaps Bush is the missing piece at the Buck if they can manage to draft him. There appear to be a host of options but no clear idea yet which is best. Whatever it is, the Steelers are surely considering this scheme, or something similar, in their off-season preparations for Baltimore. The key to stopping this new-look Ravens offense could be the Steelers’ ability to find that missing second-level piece.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Given that Baltimore has now had an off-season to study what LA did, they will undoubtedly have a response for this type of look. What will it be? Spread sets that force safeties like Edmunds into coverage against quick slot receivers? Seven and eight-man blocking surfaces that reduce the ability of defenses to cover up offensive linemen and allow them to climb to the smaller defenders at the second level? Are they working hard on Jackson’s ability to recognize man coverage and audible to those particular coverage beaters? We shall see.

The key from a defensive perspective is being able to match personnel with versatile defenders. If Baltimore goes heavy the Steelers will respond. If Baltimore goes quick the Steelers will respond. But what if Baltimore figures out how to get into multiple looks without changing personnel? This is one of the things that has made New England so effective for so long. The Patriots have found ways to line up in heavy sets and spread sets and pretty much everything in between without having to substitute. Having a freak like Rob Gronkowski obviously helped them do this, as Gronk could line up out wide in an empty set and then put his hand down and run block with equal effectiveness. The benefit of this was it let New England exploit just about any personnel package a defense put on the field. Go with speed to counter New England’s spread sets and they would pound the ball. Go heavy and they would spread the field.

Given how LA neutralized Jackson with speed at the second level, the key for Baltimore will be figuring out how to exploit that look. They can’t just bring in a bunch of big guys because the defense will sub to match them. How, then, will they seek mismatches from their base 21 personnel group? And how might we respond?

I don’t have the answer to the former question, but the key to the latter is to acquire versatile defenders who can do more than one thing well. Mark Barron fits this mold as he can play both in the box and in the alley when needed to. Edmunds is this type of player as well with his (hopefully improving) ability to play two-high safety and his physicality at the second level. I believe the Steelers drafted Marcus Allen last year with this thought in mind as well. Given the emergence of Jackson in Baltimore, the Steelers may again seek hybrid types, possibly at edge, inside backer or safety, in the upcoming draft.

What’s the moral of this story, then? For Baltimore, it’s maximizing Jackson’s unique athleticism in a way that creates mismatches while helping him develop as a pocket passer so that teams cannot load up against the run. For Pittsburgh, it’s finding enough versatile defenders to counter whatever look Baltimore presents. The chess match is on, then. No disrespect to Cleveland, but whichever staff wins it may once again find themselves kings of the North.

Steelers 2019 season win total set at nine by Las Vegas sportsbooks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 6:45am

The latest odds are out for the projected win totals around the NFL in 2019 and the Steelers are not expected to improve on last season

The start of the 2019 NFL season may still be several months away, but there are already plenty of markets to bet on after Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technologies unveiled their individual team win totals for the upcoming season. However, as per the numbers released by The lines.com, it would appear that the bookmaker does not have too much faith in the Pittsburgh Steelers this year.

An opening total of just nine wins is far from inspiring, matching the disappointment of 2018, with a repeat performance sure to see the Steelers miss the playoff for a second year in a row. Despite the current hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns, it is interesting to note that they have also opened with the same win total, while the Baltimore ravens are just half a game back at 8.5 wins. The Cincinnati Bengals are unsurprisingly at the back of the pack in the AFC North with a win total of six.

New England take the top spot overall with a projected win total of 11, with the Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams all tied for second place at 10.5 wins. It would also appear that both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell should prepare for their first ever losing seasons as professionals, with the New York Jets win total set at seven and the Oakland Raiders at six.

The full list as per The Lines.com.

Graphic and numbers from TheLines.com

These lines are now available to be backed at multiple Las Vegas locations, with CG Technologies operating sportsbooks at the Venetian, Palazzo, Tropicana, Hard Rock, Palms and more.

If you were a bettor, where would you place your money on the 2019 Steelers? Let us know by whether you would bet on the OVER or UNDER in the poll below, and feel free to explain in the comment section below!

Podcast: Who has more pressure on them in 2019? Ben Roethlisberger or Mike Tomlin?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 5:30am

As the 2019 season quickly approaches, who has more pressure on them to succeed next year? Tomlin or Big Ben?

This upcoming 2019 season is huge for a lot of reasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only is it the first year in 9 seasons without Antonio Brown on the roster, but you better believe the players and coaches will be feeling the heat after an offseason filled with turmoil, and missing the playoffs in 2018.

With that said, there is certainly going to be some pressure on the organization to succeed, but two people in particular...

Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin.

In the latest ‘Steelers Burning Question’ podcast I delve into who is feeling the heat to succeed more...Big Ben or Coach T.

Plenty has to be deciphered here, and I lay it all out there for the listeners in the latest show...

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: With an aging offensive line, the Steelers might be wise to start adding to the cupboard

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/04/2019 - 4:35am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether the Steelers should start adding some depth along the offensive line...after all, those players aren’t getting any younger.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The 2019 NFL Draft is on the horizon, and one of the last possible positions fans are thinking the team should target is the offensive line. But should it be a concern moving forward?

NFL Draft: Interior line looks solid but aging

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked like the Steelers could possibly be in the market for an interior offensive lineman.

After all, left guard Ramon Foster, who’s been with the team longer than anyone not named Ben Roethlisberger, was set to head into free agency. And it didn’t appear the Steelers were going to make a push to re-sign the 33-year-old.

Then, surprisingly, the Steelers did an about face, signing Foster to a two-year, $8.25-million contract, keeping the interior of their line of Foster, center Maurkice Pouncey -- who also signed a contract extension -- and right guard David DeCastro intact for the eighth-straight season, something unheard of in today’s NFL.

It also means they’re all getting up in age.

To read the full article, click HERE

Rudolph: ‘I need to do a lot’

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

In his first full NFL offseason the young quarterback, who was one of the Steelers third round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, is focused on improving in every area, including the mental and physical side of things.

“I need to do a lot,” said Rudolph. “I need to keep our offense fresh in my mind this offseason. The last thing you want to do is not revisit stuff and look back at Week 2 and say what did we call here, what was effective, what could we have called better, what worked.

“You have to do a self-scout evaluation of each game, even if you weren’t playing. Go back and watch it again and stay in the playbook.”

Rudolph has been back in Pittsburgh for a few weeks already, and will be taking part in the team’s full offseason program, something he didn’t have the luxury to do last year. And he is leaning on the relationships he built last season, communicating with the receivers and guys he will be working with when the team takes the field for OTAs in May.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • If there is a player who could be viewed as the leading candidate to take a big step forward in 2019, it might just be the 2018 first round pick Terrell Edmunds. He is ready for that next step.

Edmunds ready to take the next step

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Last year was a process for first-round draft pick Terrell Edmunds. From rookie minicamp, to training camp and through the season, there were lessons learned along the way. Lessons that helped him grow each and every week, and will continue to help him grow this offseason and beyond.

“Being in the NFL for just one year already has been amazing,” said Edmunds. “The ups and downs, the adversity you face along the way and just still fighting. That’s the biggest thing throughout the year you have to adjust to.

“The more and more snaps you get under your belt, you get more and more comfortable. Once you get more comfortable, you can play your game and take more chances. And play that game that you know how to play like the back of your hand. It’s just not thinking because you know the system and to play like you know how to play and react.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • In light of the Rooney Rule, where minority candidates should be at least interviewed for openings, Mike Tomlin realizes it was a bad year for minority candidates looking for work in the NFL.

Mike Tomlin: This was disappointing hiring cycle for minorities

By: Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk

Since Dan Rooney — the namesake of the Rooney Rule — died two years ago this month, NFL teams have made 15 head coaching hires with Flores and Steve Wilks the only African-Americans. Wilks lasted only one season in Arizona.

“I think the numbers speak for themselves in that regard,” Tomlin said, via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It was a disappointing hiring cycle for someone who watches it like I do, knowing some of the deserving men I do who I thought should have gotten an opportunity and didn’t. But we’ll continue to work and fight for equality and opportunity.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • AFC North Links

Despite retirement rumors, the Ravens are expecting Marshal Yanda to play in 2019

Welcome to the ‘Liar’s Luncheon’ before the 2019 NFL Draft

For once, the Browns are having to block out the noise and just focus on football

OBJ was ‘shocked’ by being traded to the Browns, but is cool with it now

Is AJ Green posturing for a new deal with a new team?

  • Social Media Madness

Very, very, very #GoodJuJu.#UltimateHighlight | @TeamJuJu pic.twitter.com/jxS3WMxzW5

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 3, 2019

Ryan ✖️ Magic

: @BigTenNetwork, @RyanShazier, @MagicJohnson pic.twitter.com/pHakf9fhSa

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 2, 2019

Had an amazing time dancing at the Pitt Dance Marathon, raising funds for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh! Thank you so much @pitt_pdm for having me! pic.twitter.com/gNvDWeDLX3

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) April 2, 2019

One of our personal favorites.#AprilFoolsDay | #SBXL pic.twitter.com/lQ6vBmymhI

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 2, 2019

Be there for every play and for every celebration.

Enter to win years of #Steelers season tickets by posting a or that proves you're our biggest fan. Tag #NFL100Contest and @NFL to enter before April 7th.

DETAILS: https://t.co/TllkcIbnQU pic.twitter.com/Uessf0GNog

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 2, 2019

Round 2 of Steelers March Madness: The Best of the Rest 2004 vs. 1995

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 2:52pm

Bracketing the best teams in the past 50 years of Pittsburgh Steelers history never to win a title. Who do you consider the “Best of the Rest” between the 2014 Steelers and the 1995 version?

BTSC continues to search for the best and most-memorable Steeler team to not win a title. Last time around, you voted the team that fell three yards short of a Super Bowl over a team that couldn’t beat New England in the AFCCG again. Here are the results...

No. 8 Seed: 1976 - The Steel Curtain Defense at their highest level - 97% No. 9 Seed: 1973 - About three bricks shy of a load - 3%

Here is the schedule for Round Two:

No. 1 Seed: 2004 (15-1) vs No. 10 Seed: 1995 (11-5)

No. 2 Seed: 2001 (13-3) vs No. 8 Seed: 1976 (10-4)

No. 3 Seed: 2017 (13-3) vs No. 6 Seed: 1994 (12-4)

No. 4 Seed: 1972 (11-3) vs No. 5 Seed: 2010 (12-4)

Once again, you may not agree with the seedings...but they were done by record in the regular season first and playoff advancement next and there could be upsets in Round 2 to even things out.

This time around we pit a 15-1 team against a team that nearly got that “thumb ring”. Both teams featured CB Willie Williams. Be sure to vote for the team that remains the most memorable to you or the one you feel is simply the “best of the rest”. Your choice. Be sure to wax poetically in the comment section below.

No. 1 Seed: 2004 (15-1)

Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season saw Bill Cowher’s Steelers post their best regular season record in the team’s history. Ben shattered the NFL record of six wins by a QB to start his NFL career by going 13-0 in the regular season. Besides the mania surrounding the rookie phenom, this was the season that saw the debuts of Duce Staley and Willie Parker in Pittsburgh and the original last days of Plaxico Burress. We also saw James Harrison get to take advantage of a chance when Joey Porter punched William Green in Pregame of a November bout in Cleveland. The highlights of the season included beating undefeated New England (halting their 21-game win-spree) and Philadelphia in back-to-back games in Weeks 8 & 9 respectively. The story ended at home in the AFC Championship Game as New England trounced the Steelers 41-27 and went on to win the Super Bowl.

Pro Bowlers: Jerome Bettis, Alan Faneca, James Farrior, Jeff Hartings, Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter, Aaron Smith, Marvel Smith, Hines Ward

First-Team All Pros: Alan Faneca, James Farrior, Jeff Hartings, Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter, Aaron Smith, Marvel Smith, Hines Ward

Second-Team All Pros: Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter, Hines Ward

Team MVP: James Farrior

No. 1 Draft Pick: Ben Roethlisberger

Rookie of the Year: Ben Roethlisberger

After falling three-yards short in the AFC Championship at home against San Diego after the 2004 season, the Steelers were itching to get back and avenge that loss. The franchise lost some key personnel in the offseason as well, with RB Barry Foster’s departure, Gary Anderson to the Eagles and TE Eric Green joining the Dolphins for a huge deal. However, the addition of RB Erric Pegram from the Falcons and Andre Hastings from Tampa in free agency and a draft class that included TE Mark Breuer, Kordell Stewart and G Brendan Stai helped ease those losses and make the Steelers the NFL’s top scoring offense that year. On opening day a devestating blow was felt as CB Rod Woodson was lost for the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury. Starting QB Neil O’Donnell went down too and would miss four games. Mike Tomczak and Jim Miller would both fill in at QB and Willie Williams (a 6th rounder from ‘93) stepped-in and later Carnell Lake switched to corner to fill the huge void left by Woodson. Despite winning the first two games and going 3-2 in O’Donnell’s absence, the ‘95ers found themselves at a dismal 3-4 (that included a loss to expansion Jacksonville) and were eerily close to watching their division hopes crash and burn early on. The team met in the locker room and vowed to pull together in what would essentially be a nine-game season. They went on a tear, winning the next eight games, before losing in Green Bay in Week 17. That streak included two notable victories in which the Steelers had to come from behind in Chicago and Cincinnati. The Cincy win came after they were down 18. This season also saw the emergence of Stewart. Nicknamed “Slash” for his jack-of-all-trades contributions, No. 10 helped revitalize the team. Other leaders included 0’Donnell, Pegram (813 yards/5 TDs), Morris (9 TDs), Ernie Mills (8 TDs), Yancey Thigpen (1,307 yards/5 TDs), Williams (7 INTs), Greg Lloyd (6.5 sacks/6 forced fumbles), Kevin Greene (9 sacks), Ray Seals (8.5 sacks) and Norm Johnson (141 points as the NFL leader). After clinching, Bill Cowher rallied the team by telling them they had (as the two seed) at least one game at home. It would be more like two. After demolishing Buffalo 40-21, the Steelers welcomed Jim “Captain Comeback” Harbaugh and the underdog Indianapolis Colts to Three Rivers. A defensive stand, a conversion on 4th and three late from O’Donnell to Hastings, a Bam Morris TD after a 37-yard catch by Mills and a dropped Hail Mary by Aaron Bailey in the end zone highlighted a very exciting AFCCG. The Steelers would gain entry to their first SB in 16 years and Steeler Nation was at a fevered pitch. The Steelers fell behind in Arizona in SB XXX to Dallas 13-0, but a Thigpen TD catch cut the lead right before halftime. In the second half, momentum was clearly on Pittsburgh’s side. A surprise onsides recovered by Deon Figures, a Levon Kirkland sack and a Morris TD put the Steelers in position to take the lead. However, No. 14 threw to ugly interceptions to Larry Brown and the underdog Steelers couldn’t pull off the win. On the way to the locker room, Bill Cowher hugged and kissed his family and said to his daughter, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose”. This would be the last game for O’Donnell and Morris in a Pittsburgh Uniform. Neil would join the Jets after signing a big deal and Morris would get busted with a huge bag of weed and get cut in the offseason. Despite the loss in the big one, 1995 goes down as an almost magical season in Steeler lore.

Pro Bowlers: Dermontti Dawson, Kevin Greene, Carnell Lake, Greg Lloyd, and Yancey Thigpen

First-Team All Pros: Dermontti Dawson and Greg Lloyd

Second-Team All Pros: Carnell Lake

Team MVP: Neil O’Donnell

No. 1 Draft Pick: Mark Breuner

Rookie of the Year: Kordell Stewart

While the 2004 team had a near perfect regular season, there were a lot of close calls and the team barely made it past the Jets in the Divisional Round. The 1995 struggled out of the gate due to major injuries and then finished strong. Both had amazing strengths and flaws as well.

Check back Friday for the results and the next matchup of Round Two.

Alliance of American Football suspends operations eight games into inaugural season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 1:59pm

After weeks of speculation surrounding the fledgling league, the AAF finally suspended play in 2019 on Tuesday

While the future once appeared bright for the Alliance of American Football, the realities of the recent investment from Tom Dundon became starkly apparent after it emerged that the majority owner had decided to suspend operations just eight weeks into the inaugural season.

Sources: The AAF will suspend all football operations today. New owner Tom Dundon will lose approximately $70 million on his investment. Dundon makes decision against wishes of league co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian.

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 2, 2019

Initially hailed as the savior of the AAF when it was reported he had invested $250 million into the league just a few months ago, Dundon opted to pull the plug when it became clear that he would not be getting the immediate cooperation from the NFLPA that he was looking for. Seeking a formal affiliation with the NFL that would guarantee the fledgling league players at the fringe of NFL rosters and also significantly increase the value of his investment, Dundon’s attempts to leverage the NFLPA into giving him the agreement he wanted have unsurprisingly fallen flat.

His decision to end play at this stage of the season appears to have come as a surprise to the rest of the AAF, including co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian, with Polian issuing this statement on Tuesday and reported by Darren Rovell of The Action Network.

“When Mr. Dundon took over it was the belief of my co-founder, Charlie Ebersol, and myself that we would finish the season, pay our creditors, and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all.”

“The momentum generated by our players, coaches and football staff had us well positioned for future success. Regrettably, we will not have that opportunity …”

“I sincerely regret that many that believed in this project will see their hopes and efforts unrewarded. They gave their best for which I am deeply grateful. Unfortunately, Mr. Dundon has elected this course of action.”

AAF employees were informed of the league’s suspension via a somewhat impersonal mass email sent out to players, coaches and staff members alike. A note that hints of the AAF’s hopes to return with new investment in 2020.

The email #AAF employees were sent minutes ago, announcing the almost assured end of their inaugural season and the immediate suspension of their league’s operations. (Via an AAF source.) pic.twitter.com/iS2rPzXy4d

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) April 2, 2019

And as the league disintegrates, the truth behind the way the league was poorly managed is just starting to emerge.

Source says AAF teams making players pay for their own flights home. What a clown show this was.

— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) April 2, 2019

AAF players contracts are immediately terminated and there is no severance pay. Last paycheck was for last week’s game.

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 3, 2019

Was just told by a coach in the @TheAAF that everyone showed up ready for practice and were told to go home.
Wow man.. I feel bad for all of those guys.. #AAF

— Will Blackmon (@WillBlackmon) April 2, 2019

Couple other cost-cutting AAF details I unearthed/found interesting ...

• Only coaches/players were allowed eat on the team plane. Docs, trainers, equipment guys weren't fed.

• Night-before-game team dinners were eliminated. Players got a $30 per diem instead.

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 2, 2019

While some reports have attempted to lay the blame for league’s failure at the feet of the NFL and NFLPA for failing to negotiate with the AAF, it would seem that most blame Dundon for the league premature end.

I know the @NFLPA felt this way, and I agree: Saying that their non-involvement in @theAAF sunk the league is a total red herring.

If you think NFL teams allocating the 57th and 58th players on their rosters to play in a minor league in March was going to be a game-changer ...

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 3, 2019

Final note on the AAF: The league folding has less to do w/the viability of the product and more to do with what happens when you take the wrong $. They took $ from the wrong person in lead investor Reggie Fowler, which forced them to take $ from the wrong person in Tom Dundon.

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 3, 2019

For players like former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Jamar Summers who was one of the AAF’s standout performers, the exposure the league gave him should be enough to earn him a spot in training camp this year. But for many of the players in the league, their best shot of ever playing professional football again might be when the XFL when that launches in 2020.

#WeAreBirmingham #ForgeOn pic.twitter.com/WXxwuQ67eH

— Birmingham Iron (@aafiron) April 3, 2019

Breaking down Mike Tomlin’s replay challenges, and just how bad it really has been

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 12:55pm

Mike Tomlin hasn’t won a challenge in his past nine tries, but is this the same narrative which is told throughout his entire tenure with the Steelers?

With the NFL implementing new replays rules to include pass interference on plays when a flag is thrown or not thrown, will this be nothing more than opportunities for Mike Tomlin to squander challenges and timeouts?

Pittsburgh Steelers fans sure hope not as they hope that the team’s head coach will quit relying on his gut feeling, and more on his coaches and his own eyes.

Tomlin has been abysmal with his challenges the past three seasons, and four out of the last five. In the past five seasons, Tomlin has succeeded challenging 8 times in 29 attempts. A 27.6% success rate in the span should have fans nervous with up to 50-yard challenges hanging in the balance.

Tomlin’s numbers by year:

2007: 3 of 9 successful

2008: 5 of 6 successful

2009: 2 of 4 successful

2010: 3 of 7 successful

2011: 3 of 6 successful

2012: 4 of 6 successful

2013: 4 of 6 successful

2014: 2 of 6 successful

2015: 4 of 7 successful

2016: 2 of 5 successful

2017: 0 of 4 successful

2018: 0 of 5 successful

Some things get finer with age, but Mike Tomlin’s challenges are not one. After spending much of his career over the 50% mark, Tomlin’s numbers have taken a sharp downturn in recent years.

By down I am referring to total challenges and the number of challenges successfully overturned.

1st: 5 of 12 successful

2nd: 9 of 14 successful

3rd: 16 of 26 successful

4th: 0 of 12 successful

Kickoff: 2 of 4 successful

Second and third down challenges success rate is impressive, but the fourth down conversion number is shocking. One surprising aspect is that half of those fourth down challenges were wasted on punt plays. (Maybe this only surprises me.)

Distance to make a first down. (Excluding the four kickoffs.)

0-5 yards: 8 of 22 successful

6-10 yards: 18 of 36 successful

11+ yards: 4 of 9 successful

Tomlin has never challenged a play over 20 yards. With implementing the new interference rule, that is sure to change.

How does Tomlin compare to five long-tenured peers?

Tomlin: 32 of 71 successful (45.1%)

Bill Belichick: 48 of 117 successful (41%)

Sean Payton: 44 of 103 successful (42.7%)

John Harbaugh: 46 of 99 successful (46.5%)

Jason Garrett: 21 of 41 successful (51.2%)

Ron Rivera: 27 of 54 successful (50%)

Take out the past two seasons — Tomlin would be at the top of the list instead of being around the middle of the road.

Steelers fans are excited to see if Coach Tomlin gets help with deciding whether or not to challenge plays in 2019 from newcomer Teryl Austin or whether the long-time Pittsburgh head coach continues to go with his gut or eyes. With the possibility of huge chunks of yardage now on the table to be challenged, fans can only hope Pittsburgh returns to success they had prior to the past three seasons.

*All stats provided by Pro Football Reference

Will the Steelers boom or bust with instant replays in 2019? Please share your opinions in the comments section below.

Steelers host Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. among group of four pre-draft visitors on Wednesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 12:04pm

Oregon safety Ugo Amadi, Oklahoma State linebacker Jordan Brailford and Washington linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven rounded out the list of visitors to the Steelers facilities on Wednesday.

After two days of hosting predominately offensive players at team facilities, the Pittsburgh Steelers welcomed four defensive prospects to the Steel City on Wednesday, a group that included two names who had already been rumored to be coming to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit this year in safeties Darnell Savage Jr. and Ugo Amadi.

The were joined by linebackers Ben Burr-Kirven from Washington and Jordan Brailford of Oklahoma State, two players connected to the Steelers for the first time this offseason.

Pre-draft visitors for the #Steelers today: S Ugo Amadi from Oregon; LB Jordan Brailford from Oklahoma State; LB Ben Burr-Kirven from Washington; S Darnell Savage from Maryland

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) April 3, 2019

Pittsburgh has so far used up 12 of their allowed 30 pre-draft visits, with both running back Miles Sanders and West Virginia linebacker not counted as out of town visitors.

Scouting reports for all five players can be found below, along with a highlight video for each prospect.

S, Darnell Savage Jr., Maryland

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

“Savage will offer an interesting litmus test for how teams value instincts, IQ and coverage quickness against size. He sports a compact frame with a muscular build, but lacks desired height for downfield challenges and size for volume tackling. However, his sticky cover skills and ability to close on throws from all areas of the field are valuable commodities that should not be undervalued. Savage could be targeted as a hybrid defender offering two-high zone or slot cover talent.”

S, Ugo Amadi, Oregon

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

“Amadi lacks a clean fit from a positional standpoint, but he’s a productive player with good toughness who improved each season. He lacks recovery burst and the height to handle downfield jump-balls and he lacks coverage twitch against slots, but he’s strong and physical in press and is a willing run supporter which gives him a shot as a sub-package down safety with punt return talent.”

LB, Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

“Small, hyper-instinctive linebacker who plays with “clear eyes, full heart” and consistently punches above his weight class for production totals that contradict his size. Unfortunately, size does matter -- especially in the middle of a defense -- and he might be too maxed out to add necessary mass. However, instincts and willful demeanor are traits required for outliers and Burr-Kirven has a chance to be just that kind of outlier as a backup linebacker and special teams demon.”

LB, Jordan Brailford, Oklahoma State

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

“High-effort edge talent who became a disruptive presence this season thanks to scheme, motor and burst. Brailford’s measurables fall a little short of NFL edge standards and his movement is more linear than lateral which creates limitations in space. He operates with decent play strength and hand violence, and he offers enough upfield rush for teams to work with. He’s a likely middle round backup with special teams value, whose ceiling could be pushed higher by additional coaching.”

Midweek Mock Draft Roundup 11.0: A look at the Steelers latest mock draft projections

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 10:45am

We take a look at 10 of the latest mock draft offerings from some of the more notable names in the game.

With the college pro day schedule almost at an end for 2019, the mock draft experts should have a much better understanding of which prospects are on the Pittsburgh Steelers radar this year.

Each and every Wednesday for the next three weeks, we will bring you a selection of the latest mock draft projections from around the NFL draft community in an effort to help identify some of the players Pittsburgh could be interested in come April. So far, we have looked at 100 contrasting offerings from some of the more well-known names in the business, with five different defensive players standing out from the pack as the most popular names to project to the Steelers over the past ten weeks.

This week we have 10 more mock drafts worthy of review:

Charles Davis, NFL Network - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

“My favorite CB in the draft. I enjoy watching his cover skills and willingness to tackle on tape. I believe he has tremendous instincts, too.”

(Previous pick - WR, Marquise Brown, Oklahoma)

Chad Reuter, NFL Network - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan

“Sometimes inside linebackers become available later in the first round than their talent would warrant, providing great value. The Steelers pinch themselves that a player like Bush is still on the board.”

(Previous pick - CB, Deandre Baker, Georgia)

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

“Murphy didn’t test well at the combine, and while he may be undersized, he is a tenacious defender who would immediately upgrade a Steelers secondary looking to replace Artie Burns.”

(Previous pick - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington)

R.J. White, CBS Sports - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan

Steelers get No. 18 for No. 20, 141, 207

In a recent Pick Six Podcast mock draft, I had the Ravens trade ahead of the Steelers to land a falling Devin White. If that were to happen here with Bush, it would basically be a worst-case scenario for the Steelers, so I wouldn’t be shocked if they explore a move a few spots up to secure the talented Michigan linebacker once White is off the board.”

(Previous pick - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan)

Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan

“The Steelers need an upgrade at linebacker, and I believe Bush is a good a bet as any to be one. I like Devin White more, but Bush is going to be a leader of any defense he ends up on. I also love his attitude, and he’s proven to be an effective blitzer as well, something I’m sure the Steelers will appreciate.”

(Previous pick - CB, Deandre Baker, Georgia)

Brad Kelly, The Draft Network - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan

“Pittsburgh was never able to fully replace what it lost with Ryan Shazier’s unfortunate injury, making inside linebacker a need moving forward.”

“Devin Bush would provide that physical presence, and fits what Pittsburgh looks for in their defensive players with his athleticism and power. He’s a relentless player with excellent range, and would immediately upgrade the middle of Pittsburgh defense.”

(Previous pick - CB, Bryce Hall, Virginia)

Steve Palazzolo and Mike Renner, Pro Football Focus - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan

“Bush can cover ground and adds coverage to the linebacking corps.”

(Previous pick - first mock)

Doug Farrar, Touchdown Wire - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

“Pittsburgh’s defense took an enormous step back last season, and while some of that had to do with Ryan Shazier’s absence (why Pittsburgh should also consider an athletic linebacker early in the draft), it was also a scheme that didn’t play well with a host of limited defensive backs. If the Steelers are to continue to play a heavy Cover-zone scheme, they might as well get a guy who plays it at a high level. That’s Murphy, who plays with a technical refinement that transcends most college players at his position.”

(Previous pick - LB, Devin Bush, Michigan)

Dan Kadar, SB Nation - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

“Murphy may not be the biggest cornerback, or have the best athletic testing numbers, but he is arguably the top cornerback in this draft because of his playmaking and instincts. Murphy has shown he’s willing to come up and play the run, and he’s among the best tackling cornerbacks in the draft. Speed will beat him occasionally, but Murphy can stick with most receivers.”

(Previous pick - WR, Marquise Brown, Oklahoma)

Luke Easterling, DraftWire - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington

“While the Raiders appear to move up and snipe the Steelers here, Murphy is hardly a consolation prize for a team desperate to upgrade at corner. Murphy may not have elite physical traits, but his instincts, intelligence and ball skills set him apart.”

(Previous pick - CB, Byron Murphy, Washington)

A week removed barely registering with our panel of “experts”, Michigan linebacker Devin Bush is back in the mix, ending in a dead head with Washington cornerback Byron Murphy with five votes each. For the first time since we started this exercise back in January, only two different players are represented in our selections of opinions, and those who had been projecting a wide receiver to the Steelers as of late appear to off that particular bandwagon.

We will add more mock drafts to our weekly roundup as they appear and we encourage you to let us know which experts you think we should be highlighting over the coming weeks.

Power Rankings: Steelers plummet out of the Top 10 after a rocky offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 9:15am

After free agency, the Steelers are on the outside looking in at the Top 10 in the latest Power Rankings.

The NFL Free Agency period isn’t over, but the majority of the big name players who were looking for a new home have found their new football residence as the 2019 offseason continues on a crash course with the 2019 NFL Draft at the end of April.

With free agency in its final stages, several media sources like to post Power Rankings after the latest segment of the offseason, and for the Pittsburgh Steelers these rankings certainly aren’t very pretty.

Before the 2018 season the Steelers were considered to be a Top 10 team, if not a Top 5 team. But times have changed. Gone are Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and everyone from Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are being questioned from top to bottom.

My how things have changed.

The loyal Steelers fan base is hopeful the team can still succeed with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, and addition by subtraction when talking about Brown and Bell. Either way, the Steelers have their work cut out for them in 2019. No one believes in them, while everyone is on the Browns’ bandwagon, so you could say they are playing with house money. But can they cash in? That has yet to be determined...

I realize Power Rankings mean absolutely nothing, but they are also a very good way to create discussion about who is going to be the best of the best in 2019. With no further ado...

Check out the Post Free Agency Power Rankings via ESPN:

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Los Angeles Rams
3. New England Patriots
4. Kansas City Chiefs
5. Los Angeles Rams
6. Chicago Bears
7. Indianapolis Colts
8. Philadelphia Eagles
9. Cleveland Browns
10. Dallas Cowboys
...
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Three-words-or-less description: Bye Killer B’s. One of the league’s most feared offensive trios disbands without a Super Bowl appearance to show for all those yards. Le’Veon Bell turned his yearlong holdout into a new contract with the New York Jets, Antonio Brown forced his way to the Oakland Raiders via trade, and Ben Roethlisberger is the last one stinging in Pittsburgh. The Steelers will gladly welcome less drama and can quietly replenish the roster via free agency and the draft. The Bell and Brown sagas were exhausting for the entire locker room.”

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