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5 red-hot Steelers predictions for the 2018 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 9:15am

With the time for speculation nearing its end, we provide some hot takes for 2018

Preseason games start this week, which means the conjecture and speculation that have allowed us to slash through the summertime ennui and keep the message boards aflame will soon die out and we’ll be stuck making empirical and analytical observations like a bunch of chuds. “It’s Week 7, and Le’Veon Bell’s current 3.9 yards per carry average tells us that he simply isn’t the same player!” Borrrrrring.

I love hot NFL takes. “James Conner and Jaylen Samuels could easily match Le’Veon Bell’s production.” I want to shoot these takes directly into my veins. So, in that spirit, I’d like to totally forgo journalistic decorum and offer five of my own hot takes (or “bold predictions,” if that’s more palatable), and I’d like you, reader, to do likewise down in the comments section. The hotter the better. This is a safe space. I’ve written about this kind of thing before but, just as a reminder, here are a few of my coldest Steelers takes:

  • Cortez Allen, Limas Sweed, and Jarvis Jones will be a Pro Bowl-caliber players.
  • Ryan Shazier and T.J. Watt will not be good professional football players.
  • Mike Wallace is better than Antonio Brown (this is my single worst sports take ever).
  • Big Ben will throw 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in a single season (he’s come awfully close to 5,000, but he’s never really threatened 40 tuddies).
  • The Steelers should sign Darrelle Revis (in 2015 before he signed a $70 million with the Jets and again in 2017 after the Jets—the Jets—looked at Revis’s hollow corpse and said “Nah, we’re better than this”).
  • The Steelers should sign Byron Maxwell (shortly before he signed a $60 million with the Eagles and thereafter proceeded to surrender a million touchdowns).
  • The Steelers should see if Patrick Willis will un-retire to man the linebacker corps.
  • Todd Haley isn’t that bad of a coach (a hill I was willing to die on for nearly five years until Haley’s dialed up a halfback toss on fourth-and-nanometers IN A PLAYOFF GAME).

You get my point. I could fill an encyclopedia with my own bad Steelers takes. I don’t know why Jeff permits me to broadcast my sports opinions on the Internet.

Anyway, despite this terrifying record of inept foreshadowing, please consider the following predictions:

Le’Veon Bell will amass 2,400 all-purpose yards

In 2016, Le’Veon Bell had what was inarguably one of the most outstanding regular-season campaigns in NFL history. Despite being limited to just 12 games (he was suspended for Pittsburgh’s first three games of the regular season and sat out their meaningless Week-17 game against Cleveland), Bell gained 1,884 yards from scrimmage—if you extrapolate Bell’s 157 yards-per-game average to a 16-game schedule, Bell would’ve set the single-season record for combined rushing and receiving yards. I can’t realistically envision a scenario in which Le’Veon Bell is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019, so my guess is that Mike Tomlin is going to get his money’s worth by providing Bell with workload commensurate of a 2,500-yard halfback.

No member of the defense will finish with more than 9 sacks

Cameron Heyward very quietly solidified himself as one of the most productive defensive linemen in the NFL, proving himself capable of disrupting offensive game plans in myriad ways. In leading the team with 12 sacks, Heyward became the first Steeler since (check notes) Lamarr Woodley to cross the double-digit sack threshold.

I don’t think he’ll do it again, as getting a dozen or so sacks is a pretty tall order for what is essentially an interior defensive lineman. This isn’t to imply that Heyward will somehow regress, but to suggest that opposing defenses will commit more resources to stopping him, which is itself a strong acknowledgement of Heyward’s dominance. I think the Steelers, as a team, are gonna wind up with a ton of sacks, but will see maybe four or five guys each getting seven or eight of them.

JuJu Smith-Schuster will gain 1,000 receiving yards

This isn’t really “hot” or “bold” since Smith-Schuster gained over 900 yards as an infrequent starter in 2017, but consider this: since 2004, Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season, the Steelers have only had two seasons in which two different receivers gained 1,000 or more yards, Hines Ward and Santanio Holmes in 2009 and Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace in 2011. That this particular feat hasn’t occurred since 2011 is largely the result of Brown manifesting himself in Pittsburgh’s offense as an omnipotent, ball-absorbing supermassive black hole. But it’s also attributable to the lack of consistent secondary and tertiary playmakers. There are only so many targets to go around (Bell, in addition to the 25 or so carries he’ll get per game, is probably in line for at least a half-dozen targets per game, too), so there may be weeks during which Smith-Schuster is little more than a decoy. Still, I think he’s got a great shot of getting past 1,000 yards.

Terrell Edmunds will be the third-best player on the defense

Morgan Burnett’s camp absence has kinda fast-tracked Edmunds’ development (hopefully, anyway) by enabling him to take some first-team snaps that he maybe otherwise would’ve missed. This being the case, I think Edmunds has a legitimate shot to have a Cam Heyward- or Joe Haden-sized impact on the defense (Haden is the second-best player on the defense, by the way, don’t @ me).

The Steelers will advance at least to the AFC Championship

I don’t really have much to add to this. Please God, let the Steelers beat Tom Brady in the playoffs just once.

So, that’s my list. List some of your own predictions about the upcoming season down below and—please—be nice to each other.

Training Camp Recap: Antonio Brown makes triumphant return to camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 7:33am

The Steelers were back on the gridiron at training camp, and we’ve got the recap for you!

Tuesday marked several key moments in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ progression towards their first preseason game Thursday night vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.

Mike Tomlin held his usual Tuesday press conference where he announced several players won’t be participating in the preseason opener, but also gave some promising injury news regarding several players who have been banged up throughout the team’s time at Saint Vincent College.

Oh, and Antonio Brown returned.

I mean, it isn’t like this was a big deal or anything, right?

Antonio Brown back on campus and talks to WR coach Darryl Drake at the start of practice. Don’t expect him on the field until Saturday pic.twitter.com/cuEkwgHWHz

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 7, 2018

He’s back. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/7GrQ3wTKUg

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 7, 2018

Antonio Brown back on the practice field. The world can breath a sigh of relief. #Steelers #dkps pic.twitter.com/91Ff6NpBUt

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 7, 2018

Good to see @AB84 working. pic.twitter.com/dO9K0bmzut

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 7, 2018

Couple thousand people watching practice today. I’d say more than half of them right now are watching Antonio Brown do rehab on a side field.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 7, 2018

When the game’s best receiver is sent home from camp to not only have a lower body injury further evaluated, but to rest and take it easy, his return is certainly something of note.

Brown didn’t practice with the team, as planned, but his progress of getting back on the field and doing individual work, as well as rehabilitation work, is a very positive step in the right direction.

Again, the best news for the Steelers are this point is the injury happened so early in the process. Brown doesn’t need the repetitions in the preseason, nor does he need any extra work with Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers’ best course of action will be to be 100-percent sure Brown is fully healed, to avoid a setback, so they can press on with a fully loaded receiving corps anchored by Brown himself.

Brown, among others, will not be participating in the game Thursday night, and will open the door for other players searching for an NFL home to do just that.

More Injury News

The Steelers have been extremely cautious with certain injuries to key players this training camp. Mainly T.J. Watt and his hamstring injury, as well as Vance McDonald and his foot. The team had a few others sitting out of practice Tuesday, but also received a scare when Maurkice Pouncey limped off the field.

Maurkice Pouncey just limped off the field. He’s kneeling next to trainer John Norwig now

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 7, 2018

Thankfully, it looks as if all is well with Pouncey.

Pouncey just jogged down the field after team drills ended. He seems to be OK.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 7, 2018 Wednesday Practice

Wednesday’s practice will NOT be open to the public as the team prepares for their trip to Philadelphia.

VIDEOS

Mason Rudolph is looking forward to taking the field for the first time as a pro. pic.twitter.com/OUvGfdQ9oj

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 7, 2018

Antonio Brown got some work at Steelers practice, and though it wasn’t pain-free, he’s getting closer to a full return to practices. pic.twitter.com/xIXEVFEf6r

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 7, 2018

See you in Philly. pic.twitter.com/JfgfF4G2Ee

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 7, 2018

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: "Mason (Rudolph) has done a really good job, but...he hasn't been hit." Tomlin wants to play Rudolph, Landry Jones and Josh Dobbs at quarterback in the preseason opener in Philly. pic.twitter.com/6tdD6AOgRm

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 7, 2018

Our guys are ready to line up against some new faces to get the preseason underway in Philadelphia. pic.twitter.com/OwX1fYSNya

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 7, 2018

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin previews Thursday night’s preseason matchup vs. the Eagles. https://t.co/xfM7ygUdnp

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 7, 2018 PHOTOS

.@steelers Antonio Brown is back to practice working on the side, Ben Roethlisberger with Randy Couture and Vince Williams' helmet makes a nice play during practice. pic.twitter.com/N5drqBZ1vZ

— Charles Palla (@ChazPalla) August 7, 2018

Thursday.
Lincoln Financial Field. #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/8QKKUjykn1

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 8, 2018

Underrated Starter: Vince Williams is poised for a breakout season in 2018

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 6:37am

Overshadowed by the players around him at times, Vince Williams could be the next big name at linebacker for the Steelers in 2018

Vince Williams will begin the 2018 season as the Pittsburgh Steelers' most significant inside linebacker, but it wasn't too long ago that the team was trying to replace him. After attempting to sign Dont’a Hightower in free agency last year, the Steelers appeared to be looking for an upgrade at the position.

While Hightower would go on to play in only five games in 2017 with the New England Patriots due to injury -- the fourth consecutive year he's been unable to complete a full season -- Williams had his best year as a professional. As per Pro Football Focus, Williams led all NFL inside linebackers in sacks and was among the better players in coverage at his position.

“Williams led the league’s inside linebackers with seven sacks (actually recorded eight) and finished fourth in total pressures at 18. The former Florida State product racked up his 18 pressures on just 73 pass-rushing snaps showing, a testament to why he was sent to rush the passer on 20.2 percent of his snaps, or fifth-most among inside linebackers. Williams did not give up a touchdown all season and was seventh in catch rate allowed into his coverage.”

Pro Football Focus Pass Rush Productivity

Entering the league as a sixth-round draft choice, plenty of voices questioned his ability to make it in the NFL, but Williams continually silences the doubters. Without Ryan Shazier in 2018, the coaching staff will be looking for Williams to emerge as a leader, and the former Florida State product seems more than ready to fill the role.

"I feel like being a leader is an attitude" -- Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) believes the @steelers have enough talent to be the #1 defense in the NFL pic.twitter.com/p3yK9gZJhS

— Chase Williams WPXI (@chasepwilliams) July 29, 2018

The outgoing personality that has made Williams a hit with the fans hasn't gone away, as evidenced by his arrival at Saint Vincent College, but there's no mistaking the added focus he has brought to Latrobe this year. True to his word, Williams is staying away from social media and concentrating on improvement, and early reports out of camp have been nothing but positive about his performances in drills.

Set to cost only $2.5 million against the cap this season, Williams current contract will expire in 2019, but he's not letting that distract him from the task at hand. When he's spoken to the media, his answers have been short and sweet, addressing questions about his contract with a simple-but-definitive statement - “I want to die a Pittsburgh Steeler.

A model of reliability, Williams has never missed an NFL game due to injury in five years and he's filled whatever role asked of him, both on special teams and defense -- something he's more than willing to do this year if it ends in a championship. As he told Kevin Gorman of TribLive.

“I’m ready to go, man. I’m not worrying about solidifying myself or anybody’s opinions of what they think I can and can’t do. I’m just trying to be the best linebacker I can be and win the Super Bowl. If that’s doing the same thing as I did last year, that’s what I’m going to do. If my role has to increase, then I’m going to do that, too.”

If the Steelers are to bring a seventh Lombardi back to Pittsburgh, Williams will likely be a key player in the quest for another championship. While his 2017 performance was something of an eye-opener for Steelers Nation, it didn't earn him the national accolades it deserved. Respected by his teammates, but underrated by so many experts outside of the organization, 2018 could be the year when Williams becomes a household name, especially if it ends with a Super Bowl trophy.

2018 NFL Preseason: Steelers vs. Eagles Week 1 replay time and date

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 5:34am

A large majority of the fan base won’t get to watch the game live, so we let you know when it will be aired for your viewing pleasure!

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base is ridiculously large, and when it comes to watching the black-and-gold on TV no one wants to miss a minute.

While many fans, like yours truly, pony up the money for DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket to watch every regular season game from the comfort of your own home, the package does not include preseason games.

The NFL Network, another channel not promised to everyone with a television and cable, promises to air every preseason game, but only a select few are aired live and in real-time. The Steelers almost always grab one of those live game broadcasts, but their Week 1 preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles is not one of them.

While the Steelers will be battling the cross-state Eagles in the city of brotherly love, fans who tune into the NFL Network will get to watch the Cleveland Browns battle the New York Giants.

YEAH!

Have no fear! According to the NFL Network’s preseason schedule, the Steelers and Eagles game will be re-aired in its entirety on Friday, August 10th, at 4 p.m. So, set your DVRs to record so you can watch and analyze those 4th and 5th string performances!

What to do if you don’t want to miss the game? There are several ways you can still watch the game. If you live in either the Pittsburgh or Philadelphia area, pretty much the entire state, you will get to watch the game live. If you have someone who lives in the Pittsburgh viewing area, you can always invest in a SlingBox. That is how I watch all the preseason games. Then there are the questionable streaming sites. I’m sure some will be listed in the comment section below, but realize we here at BTSC do not endorse any of these links and are not responsible for damages done due to using them.

So, how will you be watching the game?

Steelers ranked in the bottom half of the NFL for Under-25 talent

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 2:45pm

The Steelers are considered Super Bowl contenders, but just where do they rank in terms of talent under the age of 25 on their current roster?

There is no denying the talent on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ current roster. They are considered Super Bowl contenders by most experts, but just how deep is their roster? To decipher that fact, ESPN took a look at all 32 NFL teams’ rosters to see who had the best talent under the age of 25.

Before fans jump off the deep end considering the Steelers’ rank on the list, it should be noted this will favor teams who have to rely on younger players to fill out their 53-man roster. Teams like the Cleveland Browns who have a plethora of draft picks, but until this year lacked any type of veteran presence across their roster.

On the flip side, the Steelers have veterans like Joe Haden, Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey who, since older than 25, will actually hurt the Steelers in these rankings. With that said, time to see where the Steelers rank, and ESPN’s explanation of why the Steelers rank where they do.

1. Los Angeles Rams
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Cleveland Browns
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6. New York Giants
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
8. Minnesota Vikings
9. Dallas Cowboys
10. Chicago Bears

18. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Pittsburgh’s mastery of drafting wide receivers is well-known, but it was reinforced with JuJu Smith-Schuster’s rookie performance last year. He finished No. 1 in DVOA for wide receivers and made the longest catch in the NFL last season (a 97-yard touchdown in Detroit). If rookie James Washington can have a similar impact in replacing Martavis Bryant, then the Steelers are poised to climb up these rankings. There are only so many balls to go around, but tight end Jesse James is still only 24. He would have had an extra touchdown under new catch rules ... maybe.

The Steelers also have been a linebacker factory for decades, and last year’s first-round selection of T.J. Watt should only continue to pay off well for the defense. The secondary is where Pittsburgh has struggled over the years, but cornerback Artie Burns showed some improvement in his second season. He still gambles a bit too much, but he is only 23. Safety Sean Davis missed 21 tackles last season, but he is worthy of starting. First-round rookie Terrell Edmunds should be able to contribute this season, but an unheralded player in this secondary is Mike Hilton. The Steelers love to blitz him and no cornerback had more than his eight quarterback knockdowns last season.

The Steelers have a lot of potential to rank higher in 2019 if this secondary continues to develop together and Smith-Schuster avoids a sophomore slump.”

What do you think of these rankings? Do you see the Steelers’ arrow pointing up, or down, in regards to the team’s Under-25 talent? Let us know by leaving a comment in the comment section below!

Steelers will play the Eagles with a trio of backup quarterbacks, the order of which is unknown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 1:40pm

Ben Roethlisberger won’t be playing in the preseason game vs. the Eagles Thursday, and how the rest will shake out is anyone’s guess.

Sometimes I truly believe Mike Tomlin just likes to mess around with the Pittsburgh Steelers faithful, and the media who cover them.

Why?

As Tomlin held his weekly press conference leading up to the team’s first meaningless, I mean preseason, game against the Philadelphia Eagles, he said how Ben Roethlisberger will not be playing when the team travels to the city of brotherly love.

No one with a solid head on their shoulders expected No. 7 would even step foot on the field for a Week 1 preseason game, but who played in his stead would be something of note. So, who will start in Roethlisberger’s place?

Good question — Tomlin isn’t saying.

Tomlin said he hasn’t decided on a rotation or how much each of the quarterbacks – Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs and rookie Mason Rudolph – will play, though it is expected Jones will start against the Eagles.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) August 7, 2018

As stated above by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it is expected fans will see Landry Jones under center when the team opens the game in the first quarter, but after Jones is certainly up for debate.

Joshua Dobbs and/or Mason Rudolph will be the ones conducting the offense for the remainder of the game, but how much each will play, and when, was not divulged. It is safe to say if Dobbs and Rudolph have three quarters to split, you could see them getting equal time. However, the difference between second quarter reps and fourth quarter reps in the preseason is a big deal. You go from backups, to players who are just trying to stay alive at the NFL level.

On top of the assumption Rudolph and Dobbs will split time, it is also safe to envision Tomlin flipping the script in Week 2 of the preseason. In other words, if Dobbs gets the nod after Jones on Thursday, Rudolph very well could assume that role in Week 2. Just to give each player a fair shake against better competition, and with more talent around them on the offensive side of the ball.

This is just one of the intriguing aspects of the preseason, and fans should stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they press on to the first preseason action of 2018.

Steelers Training Camp 2018: Live updates 8/7

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 1:10pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and training-camp practices are underway! Follow along with BTSC as the players start to hone their skills and prepare for the 2018 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the rabid fans awaiting their first glimpse of the Black-and-gold are prepared for another official day of training camp! The Steelers are finally back to practice, so it is time to prepare yourself!

If you’re stuck at work or at home, follow along with those on the scene at Saint Vincent College for the best pictures, video and news coming straight from the practice field in Latrobe, PA. Don't miss a minute of the action!

Today's practice begins at 2:55 p.m. EST, and is open to the public. Take a look at the training camp schedule below and, as always, follow along with live updates in the Twitter feed below.

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Several players ruled out for Steelers first preseason game against Eagles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 11:31am

Injuries will prevent at least four key names from playing in the Steelers first preseason game of the year on Thursday

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been carrying a number of injuries at some key positions throughout training camp this year and those bumps and bruises look set to prevent several significant names from taking part in the team’s first preseason game on Thursday.

When speaking to the media for the last time before their game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, Mike Tomlin made it clear that many of the players carrying injuries would be held out of the contest.

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin previews Thursday night’s preseason matchup vs. the Eagles. https://t.co/xfM7ygUdnp

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 7, 2018

Among the names specifically mentioned by Tomlin were Antonio Brown (quad), T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree (concussion) and Vance McDonald (foot) and all of them have been notably absent from training for several days now. Ben Roethlisberger is also expected to miss the game, but not because of injury.

Brown was back with his teammates at Saint Vincent College on Tuesday and it is hoped he will be able to resume practice after Thursday’s game, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

After a five-day absence, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (quad) was back for the team walkthrough Tuesday morning. Coach Mike Tomlin said Brown won’t practice today but will return to action after Thursday’s preseason game against Philadelphia.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 7, 2018

As more information becomes available about the status of the Steelers’ injured players, we will be sure to update this post.

Joe Haden believes ‘it’s truly a blessing’ to be with the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 9:45am

After spending eight offseasons with the Cleveland Browns, Joe Haden is enjoying his first training camp with the Steelers

For the first eight years he was in the NFL, Joe Haden arrived at training camp with relatively low expectations. As a member of the Cleveland Browns, there was little to get excited about as he prepared for a new year of football. But heading into his ninth season in 2018, Haden might be enjoying training camp more than ever before.

While he might not have wanted to leave Cleveland in the first place, he’s clearly happy with where he ended up. When speaking to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Haden was also quick to note the difference in attitude between the two franchises.

“It’s truly a blessing to be here, just with so many great players and just being able to be here with guys that understand the game, with a great coaching staff. We come here to win just championships, World Championships, that's all they talk about. . . I’ve never been on a team with this much talent and literally, singularly focused up. The only thing we talk about is a championship, it’s only football stuff we talk about here.”

“It’s a mentality, as soon as I walked in here, everybody is just legitimately focused here and ready to go. Everybody understand what we’re here for, there’s no other grey, it’s all about football, it’s all about getting better and competition.”

Having been coached by the likes of Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, Mike Pettine and Hue Jackson in his time with the Browns, it should come as no surprise to learn that Haden much prefers playing under Mike Tomlin.

“He’s my favorite coach I’ve ever had. Not just, when you say that I’m not taking that for granted at all over the great coaches I’ve had like Coach Myers is amazing, but with Tomlin it’s a different relationship. He’s a great leader of men. he knows how to control us, he knows how to get the best out of us. He knows how to just get on you and I think that the thing I like about him, he’s just so honest. He’s going to let you know exactly where you stand and exactly what he needs from you, so there’s no grey area.”

Even with a limited knowledge of the Steelers’ defense in 2017, Haden’s presence seemed to elevate the level of play in the secondary and his absence was notable when he was lost for five games with a broken fibula. After experiencing his first training camp with Pittsburgh, there’s every reason to believe that Haden will be even more successful with the Black-and-gold this year. His goal is to understand every aspect of the defense, which will help both him and his teammates. As reported by the Associated Press and published by Cleveland.com.

”I’m trying to understand the whole defense, not just the corners and safety, but also the linebackers and defensive linemen. I’m just trying to get the whole system from the ground up and get an overall grasp of the defense.”

If communication was the Achilles Heel of the defense last year, Haden could be part of the cure in 2018.

Pittsburgh Steelers football season is almost here, even if it is just the preseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 8:23am

The Steelers first preseason game is almost upon us, and believe it or not, we can learn a lot.

As the Steelers’ first preseason game approaches each summer, I tell myself I’m not going to do it, but I do it anyway.

What is that, you ask?

I get excited.

Why do I get excited? Because I love football, of course, and nearly seven months without it is enough to make any die-hard fan yearn for its return — regardless of the form.

In the case of Pittsburgh’s very first preseason game this Thursday night in Philadelphia against the Super Bowl-champion Eagles, the form will be quite predictable.

Landry Jones will start, as will a host of other second-stringers. Even the second-stringers will quickly give way to the third and fourth-stringers, some of whom will be (say it with me) bagging groceries in a few weeks. I’ll likely doze off once or twice after halftime, but not before offering my “evaluations” on several of the youngsters hoping to make good impressions, as well as discussing those veterans who likely were “on the bubble” before training camp even started.

Take veteran receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, for example. Yes, he’s a great special-teams player but, at this point, do the Steelers still need a guy like that on their roster, or is this the summer that a young, undrafted receiver finally comes along and sends DHB packing? (I’m looking at you, former Pitt standout, Quadree Henderson.)

What about some other rookies such as fellow fifth-rounders, safety Marcus Allen and running back/tight end/everything Jaylen Samuels? Sure, fifth-round picks seem nice and full of possibilities in April and May, but August is really when you find some things out. You haven’t heard all that much about Allen and Samuels making huge impressions so far in camp, but some actual stadium football may be enough to awaken the potential in one or both.

How about that seventh-rounder, Joshua Frazier, the kid that new defensive-line coach Karl Dunbar mentored at Alabama? Can Frazier beat the odds and earn a roster spot as part of Pittsburgh’s deep and talented defensive line?

How about those draft picks that are certain to make the team, such as first-rounder Terrell Edmunds? Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but word out of camp seems to be that he’s impressing in a way similar to that which T.J. Watt did a year ago.

If that’s the case, will Edmunds shine in his professional football debut like Watt did a year ago, when he recorded two sacks against the Giants in the preseason opener?

And I can’t discuss the new draft class without mentioning quarterback Mason Rudolph. How much will he play, and will those third-stringers and future grocery baggers take the starch out of his heir-apparent status? Also, what’s Joshua Dobbs, last year’s young quarterback darling, thinking as he prepares for this Thursday night?

I’m certainly hoping the actual rocket scientist makes the most of whatever reps he receives against the Eagles.

Preseason football might not be all that and a bag of potato chips, but after months of hearing about the Steelers’ shiny new toys, at least we’ll have a better idea of what they can do after this Thursday’s action.

Steelers’ preseason football: You’d better not sleep on it.

Jaylen Samuels could be the latest ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 6:49am

Historically, the Pittsburgh Steelers have reaped the benefits of multi-purpose performers who, first and foremost, were solid, all-around football players.

They were heartbreaking bookends. The 1994 season ended with a last-second, potentially lead-changing pass batted away, sending the Chargers to the Super Bowl and the Steelers packing. September 3, 1995 was the following season’s opening day, and in that first game, our one true superstar went down with a season ending injury. Rod (Woodson) was no longer God, unless God uses crutches. We had come so close the season before, and now as the new season dawned the lights seemed to dim on our hopes.

That season also ended in heartache, as a decidedly non-superstar defensive back Larry Brown intercepted two Neil O’Donnell passes before hoisting the Lombardi. But at least we got there. Say what you will — losing the Super Bowl is better than not playing in the Super Bowl.

A key part of the reason we ended up playing for the trophy was the selflessness and giftedness of one Carnell Lake. When Woodson went down, Lake stepped up, literally, taking over Rod’s cornerback position. It’s an astounding feat made all the more so by the fact that Lake played linebacker at UCLA. How is it possible for one player to be good enough to excel in the NFL not at one position, but two? In an era of mass specialization, sub-packages and x-y-z receivers, where draft prospects are judged on whether they are a 2-down guy or a 3-down guy, how could it be that “next up” was a guy already manning another part of the field? With all due respect to the standard being the standard, Lake was no Woodson that season — but he was an outstanding cornerback.

I think the answer is simple enough. Before he was a linebacker, a safety or a cornerback, Lake was a football player. He understood the game, and had the tools to run fast, hit hard and react instantly.

Lake was neither the first nor the last to fill sundry roles for the Steelers. For you fans still wet behind the ears, when you watch highlights from the glory days, know that the guy who caught that touchdown pass in Super Bowl IX is Larry Brown, the same guy who played Left Tackle in our next three Super Bowls. And of course, in that same Super Bowl XXX loss, one of O’Donnell’s most dangerous targets was none other than Kordell Stewart/Slash. That guy, who never got the credit he was due as a quarterback, lined up in various spots that season — split wide, under center, in the backfield — even punting once. Kordell Stewart was good at playing football.

The temptation is to assume that, because a player excels in doing more than one thing, he therefore doesn’t do any one thing particularly well. Thus Jaylen Samuels found himself the subject of much debate after the draft. Some skeptics argued there was a reason he was available on Day 3. Some optimists began daydreaming of never-ending trickeration.

The truth, as is often the case, is likely somewhere in the middle. What makes a man able to play different positions usually is the fruit of understanding the game, being able to visualize the moving parts on the playing field, and knowing how to manipulate them to your advantage. If blazing speed were all it took, DHB would be in the Pro Bowl, AB on special teams and Chris Rainey still on the roster. If brute strength were the key, then Daniel McCullers would be manning our middle. “Understanding the game” isn’t merely being able to pass an exam — it’s real-time translation of tactical advantages.

I’ve been persuaded for years that Todd Haley had an inordinate love for the element of surprise. How many times have we seen Ben drop deep on third and short and we pull our hair out — even if from time to time we rejoiced over a big play? And then there’s the deep sweep right, which was about as successful as the Colts’ weird punt formation. It’s not the tricks and the gimmicks that make the difference, but the tools. Here’s hoping Jaylen Samuels comes through with multiple sharp edges, twists and turns galore, and — come February — a tool for popping a cork.

The Martavis Bryant experiment with the Raiders hasn’t gotten off to a good start

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 5:45am

It seems Martavis Bryant is having some of the same struggles in Oakland which plagued him in 2017 with the Steelers.

Everyone has heard the same thing about Martavis Bryant since he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft: “When he’s healthy and focused on the field, he’s almost unstoppable.”

But the issue has been that Bryant hasn’t always been healthy and available on the field. After multiple suspensions led to his year-long suspension in 2016, the Steelers saw a different Bryant in 2017 — a player who was rarely on the same page with Ben Roethlisberger, wasn’t consistent on the field and who periodically seemed as if he was trying to get out of town.

During the 2018 NFL Draft, the Steelers granted Bryant his wish when they traded him to the Oakland Raiders for a third-round draft pick. Jon Gruden got a nice new piece of weaponry for his offense, but it seems the Bryant-to-Oakland experiment hasn’t gotten off to a very good start.

After rumors swirled of another looming suspension, Bryant was publicly criticized by his head coach during training camp for his lackluster play.

“He’s got to get out here and play better,” Gruden told USA Today Saturday. “He’s in a competitive situation. Right now, a lot of the other receivers have had a nice camp. He’s just got to learn the offense. He’s got to stay out here. He’s had some illnesses. He’s got to get on the field. He’s got to master the offense and become more versatile, and that’s the key to making this team better.”

Realizing he should quickly backpedal to avoid a media firestorm, Gruden followed with this:

“I’m not saying he’s behind, I’m just saying he’s got to be more versatile,” Gruden continued. “I’m not going to say anything more than that. He’s in a competitive situation. Nothing is going to be given to anybody. It doesn’t matter how you got here or what your history card says. We need everybody to understand the best players are going to play, and he’s got to be more consistent. And I’m confident he will.”

Sounds quite familiar to the Steelers’ faithful.

Will Bryant be able to get his act together to have a productive career in his new location? Or is this the beginning of the end for the receiver who was given the nickname “The Alien?” The majority of Steelers fans wished Bryant well upon hearing of his trade, but at least early on it doesn’t seem he’s making much of a positive impression in his new digs.

5 Steelers Questions which need answered before Week 1 of the regular season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/06/2018 - 1:35pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the thick of training camp, and there are 5 questions which will need answered before Week 1 of the regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the thick of training camp, and it officially starts the beginning of the 2018 football season. While the masses rejoice at this news, the team, and organization, still have several questions which need answered before Week 1 of the regular season.

I have narrowed the questions down to 5, and will try to decipher whether or not these will have their own answers, or a resolution, before the team starts to play football games which actually matter in the regular season.

1. Will the Steelers bring in outside talent again?

Last year the Steelers bucked the trend of going to war with what you have, and brought in talent from the outside before the start of the season. The team added Joe Haden, Vance McDonald and J.J. Wilcox before the regular season. This year there is a clear need for help at the offensive tackle, inside linebacker and possibly tight end positions entering the 2018 season. Will the team, with very little cap space available, just sit tight and go with what they have? Or will they bring in players they feel can help the team win a Super Bowl?

2. How will the running back position shake out early in the season?

Last year Le’Veon Bell reported the week prior to Week 1, and when he did he assumed the top position from Day 1. No one is questioning whether he should be the top running back, but should the Steelers ease him back, rather than thrusting him into a full workload as they did in 2017? Whether it was Bell, the defenses they were facing or the offensive line’s production, Bell wasn’t nearly the same player as he usually is in the first three weeks of the season. Should Tomlin use more James Conner and company early in the regular season?

3. Will the offense continue to stall in the red-zone?

Todd Haley wasn’t as bad as many people suggest, but when the field got short, Chris Boswell was utilized more than he should have been. Randy Fichtner has a tall task ahead of him, and it isn’t appeasing Ben Roethlisberger. It is to get the Steelers to score more touchdowns, and settle for field goals less. Can he do that with such a ridiculously talented offense? Todd Haley struggled with it...

4. What will the defense look like in specific situations?

At this point if you didn’t know the Steelers are not really a 3-4 defense, but focus almost entirely on sub packages, you need to wake up! The question here isn’t what will the Steelers do on defense, but how will they handle specific situations? Their inside linebackers are clearly a weak link, but what will happen on 3rd and long? Or what about 3rd and 5? Keith Butler has a lot of wrinkles to iron out on this defense in the preseason, and how he deploys his units on these key downs will be something to keep an eye on.

5. Will the entire team’s demeanor be different?

The Steelers were humbled in 2017 by the Jaguars — twice. Well, let me say they should be humbled after those losses. The question here is simple, did they learn from those defeats, or will they remain the same arrogant team who feels just showing up will be enough to win? Or will this team be more driven to prove the doubters wrong? That starts with Mike Tomlin, and hopefully bleeds down throughout his staff and to every single player on the 53-man roster.

...

How do you think these questions will shake out? Let us know by commenting below and contributing to the community!

Keith Butler hints at potential hybrid role for Morgan Burnett in Steelers defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/06/2018 - 11:23am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have some very versatile safeties, and Keith Butler is still working out his plan for how his defense will run in 2018.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have gone from having absolutely no depth in the secondary, to now having a plethora of such across the board. Whether cornerback or safety, the Keith Butler led defense has something it never had in the past — options.

For instance, at the safety position you have versatility across the board. Sean Davis can play both free and strong safety, and can even drop into the box to stop the run and blitz. Morgan Burnett filled a very similar role throughout his career with the Green Bay Packers. And top draft pick Terrell Edmunds is showing his capabilities, and versatility, every day at training camp.

With these options at safety it has fans wondering what the defensive coordinator has up his sleeves for the upcoming regular season.

When asked what Burnett brings to the defense, Butler’s answer possibly hinted at how they want to deploy the veteran safety.

“Versatility, more than anything else. Not just playing on 1st and 2nd downs, but maybe playing in the box on 3rd downs, and stuff like that. We have to see if our guys can do that.”

To hear the full interview with Keith Butler, check the video below:

DC Keith Butler on the defense, who has stood out at #SteelersCamp, our upcoming preseason game against the Eagles and more. pic.twitter.com/mjeoTZP9Q1

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2018

This shouldn’t come as a shock to fans regarding his thoughts on how to deploy Burnett. After all, Burnett’s primary role in Green Bay was to play in the box and cover tight ends. He is considered one of the best tackling safeties in the league, and would be a welcome addition in that capacity to a team who truly struggled to tackle efficiently in 2017.

However, if Burnett wins the starting strong safety spot on the starting defense, and the team plans on moving him into the hybrid S/ILB position on 3rd downs, you have to wonder who will be going back to fill the strong safety position?

Right now Terrell Edmunds is by far the player leading this race, but you also have options with defensive backs like Cameron Sutton, Brian Allen and even Mike Hilton.

In the above interview Butler goes on to talk about how Thursday night’s preseason game in Philadelphia against the Eagles will really just be an opening audition for many of the players, and he is mainly referencing the younger players on the roster. For as deep as the Steelers are at the safety and cornerback positions, they have also had several training camp injuries at those positions — especially safety.

Sean Davis has been hampered by a groin injury, and Burnett suffered a hamstring injury which had him watching more than practicing the first two weeks of camp. Nonetheless, this could be a great opportunity for the new players to showcase their talent, and for the starters to start the process of cohesion, if the coaching staff decides to play them sparingly in the first half.

Either way, stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they approach the upcoming 2018 regular season when the games really count.

Ola Adeniyi has the makings of an impact player for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/06/2018 - 9:36am

The UDFA from Toledo has stood out at camp, and he might be a force in the Steelers’ pass-rush.

The Steelers have had a rocky relationship with the Outside Linebacker (OLB) position lately. They whiffed on Jarvis Jones, and Bud Dupree hasn’t lived up to the expectations of Steelers Nation. The James Harrison fiasco stained the Steelers’ legend in the eyes of a number of fans. If we want to go far back enough, LaMarr Woodley fell off a cliff after his big payday and Jason Worilds shockingly retired after his breakout season.

The Steelers, however, seem to have hit on two prospects recently in Anthony Chickillo and T.J. Watt. Chickillo has played extremely well in his backup role, and he continues to be a steal for his sixth-round draft tag. Watt had a great rookie year, and it seems stardom may be in the future of the young edge rusher.

Ola Adeniyi is unique among all recent Steelers’ draft picks. He’s the type of outside linebacker that the Steelers haven’t had since James Harrison was in his prime. He’s not ideal size at all, as his build is small and stocky, but Adeniyi has shown a lot of upside that could easily land him a spot, not just on the practice squad, but on the 53-man roster as well.

The Steelers are not very deep at OLB, with Watt and Dupree as the starters and then only Chickillo guaranteed a true roster spot. Keion Adams is coming off of shoulder surgery and has had a decent camp, but he has said that he wants to do even better. That means, should Adeniyi perform well, he very well could find himself on the 53-man roster.

At only six-foot-one, Adeniyi is undersized for the position, but he uses that size to full advantage on the field. Adeniyi has a stocky frame, and he’s not incredibly long. Instead, he’s short and strong and this will allow him to get leverage more easily when going against the much taller offensive tackles in the league.

The key to this stocky frame isn’t only that he gets leverage, nor merely his strength — but it’s the way he combines both traits to generate pressure. Adeniyi does this beautifully, as he has some of the best explosiveness from the snap of all the edge rushers in this class. Sometimes Adeniyi wins matchups based on pure explosiveness alone. His ability to get leverage and explode off the line of scrimmage allows him to create lots of tackles for loss, of which he had 28 last season.

There is the explosion from Adeniyi, he looks like he is fired out of a cannon straight from the snap. He shows some decent hand usage here, but his explosion from the snap really allowed him to win this one. pic.twitter.com/Gb94jW5BFN

— Nick Farabaugh (@BuzzkillFB) August 5, 2018

You do not see this kind of explosion everywhere, folks. That explosiveness combined with the leverage he gets is why he generates pressure. More importantly, though, he has the ability to bend to capitalize on the explosiveness he uses to get around the edge. This is one of the plays when he uses his hands well, but generally speaking, he doesn’t have great hand usage. That’s one of the key knocks on Adeniyi. The play below is a great example of the bend Adeniyi has and how he uses it to full advantage.

The #Steelers have one of their best UDFA classes in a while, and Ola Adeniyi is an impressive one. Has lots of bend and lots of explosion right at the snap too. Good pass rusher and run defender, and a smart player who makes many high IQ plays. He's a real player. pic.twitter.com/1hBNXctMzW

— Nick Farabaugh (@BuzzkillFB) August 5, 2018

Another thing I like is his leverage, yet he often loses that very leverage and gets washed straight out of plays. If his explosiveness and leverage don’t win, he isn’t likely to get to the quarterback on that play. The good news is that it seems his hand usage has gotten much better at camp, as he’s beaten many linemen using rips, swims, and a variety of other moves in his arsenal. If his success in winning off of the line increases, he might be a double-digit sack guy. If he wants to become truly elite, though, his speed-to-power ratio needs to improve. He has explosiveness to get around tackles, but often cannot get through them, which will limit his sack totals.

The real key for Adeniyi is his run-defense coupled with his defensive IQ. The Steelers had a deplorable run-defense on both edges last season. Neither Dupree nor Watt were good in run-defense, and when Ryan Shazier went down, teams could run to the edge at will. It’s a key reason they lost twice to the Jacksonville Jaguars. I can confidently say Ola Adeniyi helps rectify this problem in a big way.

Not only is he strong enough to hold his position at the line and stay in his gap, but he’s great at not getting washed out of plays, especially on pulls. He’s great at ripping or swimming through them and blowing up plays to the outside. It’s also evident that Adeniyi has spectacular field vision, as he knows when to get off his blocks or just how to get back into a play. He boosts the outside contain extremely well.

Strong rip through and he read through this play straight from the start. He does not let himself get trapped in the pulls and instead gets the leverage with his frame and powers through to make a really nice play. pic.twitter.com/wgpI2TniFy

— Nick Farabaugh (@BuzzkillFB) August 5, 2018

I talked about his ability to blow up plays and he just powers right through that using a rip and his leverage. When Adeniyi puts it all together it’s a thing of beauty to watch. He did this more than once per game too, always seemed to do it in clutch situations.

Adeniyi has the IQ needed to be a starter in the NFL, and he’ll blow up running plays. His IQ in coverage remains an issue, though. Not only does he not move well in space, but in coverage he’s inexperienced and a liability. He seems extremely stiff in coverage, so it’ll be one area he needs to improve on. However, he’ll be acutely aware of options, screens, and other gadget plays, as shown below.

High IQ play to realize the screen here and Adeniyi does this often. but he also does it often on the option and diagnosing run plays, especially plays like counters. pic.twitter.com/6g8TNY2zQM

— Nick Farabaugh (@BuzzkillFB) August 5, 2018

One thing I love about Adeniyi is that he doesn’t disappear. He always seems to be around the ball and somewhere in the play. He will get constant pressure on the QB, so it’s not only his sacks that count for his importance to the defense.

Adeniyi has the potential to blossom into a starting OLB in the future, and he might be very useful depth this year should the Steelers carry five OLBs. He needs to work on his somewhat raw, pass-rushing ability, but if he can hone that, he might be a future starting OLB on this team.

Training Camp Recap: Rain shortened workout highlighted by the goal line drill

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/06/2018 - 8:03am

The Steelers were back on the gridiron at training camp, and we’ve got the recap for you!

The Pittsburgh Steelers were scheduled for a full workout on Sunday, but Mother Nature had different plans.

After having the workout already pushed back due to impending weather, the team was forced to leave their grass field and head to the field turf. Even there the weather shortened a good portion of practice.

Bad news for those in attendance, but probably good for the banged-up Steelers. With a scheduled day off on Monday, a large majority of the team was given the day off. Nonetheless, practice still went as scheduled, or as close to it as possible, and that included the first goal-line situation for the offense and defense.

Unfortunately, nothing really noteworthy took place during these drills, other than a Xavier Grimble catch which would have been ruled incomplete in 2017, but was a touchdown in 2018. When they existed the field, it seemed as if the players were anxious to get out of the weather and enjoy a day off.

While the defense did win the overall drill, it should be noted that David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert were given the day off.

Time for some other nuggets of information from this shortened practice:

Tuesday’s workout should be better

With the Steelers traveling to Philadelphia on Thursday for their first preseason game, Tuesday will be a big practice, and Coach Tomlin is looking to have many of the banged-up players back on the field.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: "I anticipate us getting a number of those (injured) guys back on Tuesday." That might include Antonio Brown, who's considered day-to-day.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 5, 2018

That’s pretty much it. Not much to report due to the shortened workout and many players given the day off.

VIDEOS

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following practice at #SteelersCamp. https://t.co/8L40mkwEOq

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2018

DC Keith Butler on the defense, who has stood out at #SteelersCamp, our upcoming preseason game against the Eagles and more. pic.twitter.com/mjeoTZP9Q1

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2018

Roethlisberger practicing corner routes with the running backs. #Steelers #dkps pic.twitter.com/SFpV8Ns7bY

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 5, 2018

Thanks for sticking it out with us, #SteelersNation. pic.twitter.com/lslzJfnQgi

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2018 PHOTOS

.@steelers tight end Xavier Grimble pulls in a touchdown pass during goal line drill, JuJu Shuster-Smith looks for a good one and quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Landry Jones look on as Ben Roethlisberger throws. pic.twitter.com/Rci8F7q7ly

— Charles Palla (@ChazPalla) August 5, 2018

#FootballisFamily pic.twitter.com/bW9CbPepna

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 6, 2018

A breakout year for Artie Burns can help the Steelers' defense become dominant in 2018

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/06/2018 - 6:45am

Steelers’ third-year corner Artie Burns has shown great improvement at training camp this summer. That could bode well for the overall improvement of Pittsburgh's defense in 2018.

Like a lot of young defenders the Steelers have drafted recently with an eye towards rebuilding a unit that was once one of the most dominant and feared in the NFL, the opinions on third-year cornerback Artie Burns have been a mixed bag between very good and not so great.

But that’s to be expected at the highest level of professional football, especially at a position where playing on an island is an important job requirement, and even the very best in the game often walk away with burn marks and bruised egos.

A significant portion of the goodwill Burns had built up near the end of his rookie season in 2016, after the Steelers made him their somewhat controversial first-round draft pick, began to erode during his sophomore year, this despite him starting all 16 games in 2017.

Don’t get me wrong, Burns was a decent-to-very good cornerback last season, but he just didn’t seem to make that all-important first-to-second-year leap you like to see out of a youngster, especially one with a first-round pedigree.

Burns’ biggest strength coming out of the University of Miami was considered to be his man-to-man coverage skills — while playing zone defense and tackling were his biggest weaknesses.

As for those weaknesses, they were on display occasionally a year ago, and the word “bust” became synonymous with Burns, at least among a small-but-vocal minority.

But as all-world receiver Antonio Brown famously (or infamously) said during OTAs this past spring, the only way you get better is by showing up. And Burns has done just that since his rookie year. Not only has Burns shown up consistently, he’s regularly had to duke it out with Brown, not merely all-world at his craft, but the best on the planet.

If you’re a former first-round pick and you don’t improve at your job while practicing against a man who’s better than anyone you’ll face in a regular-season game, shame on you.

This is why it’s encouraging to hear the stories coming out of training camp about Burns not only smothering mere mortal receivers in passing drills, but also winning his share of battles against the immortal No. 84.

In a story published on Triblive.com following the first weekend of camp, we learned that Burns intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass intended for Brown and took it the distance. Later, Burns intercepted yet another pass intended for Brown during a two-point conversion drill--backup quarterback Landry Jones was the victim this time around.

”There’s a certain time in the play where you feel like it’s coming to an end,” said Burns of his second interception courtesy of Triblive.com. “I felt that and took my shot. Some times, the guy may miss or could have broken out. This time, he broke in, and I made a play on the ball.”

Football instincts? A great sign from a young corner. That means he could possibly be getting it, this whole cornerback-playing-on-an-island thing.

All throughout the spring, and before the start of training camp, many were predicting second-year man Cameron Sutton might possibly take Burns’ job. And while Sutton is obviously highly-thought of and looms large in Pittsburgh’s plans for a revamped secondary, you’d hate to see a talent such as Burns unseated so quickly.

And this is why it’s also encouraging that the talk of Burns being unseated has mostly disappeared this summer.

”It’s my third year,” said Burns (again courtesy of Triblive.com). “It’s time to start chipping in and show what I can do.”

If Burns really does make a huge leap this year, opinions on him won’t be so mixed, and at least one area of the Steelers’ defense will be vastly improved.

Explaining the many complicated reserve lists in the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/06/2018 - 5:48am

There are many complicated reserve lists in the NFL, and we take a look at all of them to see which Steelers fall under each category.

The official Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster shows the 90 players who are active, but it also shows injury lists which can confuse football fans. The ramifications surrounding the list to which an injured player is assigned has an impact for both the player and the team. Along these lines, there are also lists which are not injury related, but still noteworthy.

How do these designations affect the Steelers’ roster and the salary cap? Let’s look at how these lists work, and which players are on these lists.

Reserve/Injured

NFL fans know this as injured reserve (IR). This designation denotes that a player will not play in the upcoming season unless the player is designated as returning. The “designated for return” rule allows a team to activate up to two players who have been placed on IR and who have missed 10 games.

Injured reserve players do not count against the current 90-man roster, or the 53-man roster during the season, but their salaries do. A subsequent article will explain how a team can lessen the financial burden of these players.

Steelers on injured reserve

Jerald Hawkins

Trey Johnson

Jake McGee

Ryan Malleck

Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)

The Reserve/physically unable to perform list is a short-term list which encompasses players who couldn’t pass their physical when entering camp. Players with this designation do not count against the 90-man roster. Players placed on this list are ineligible for the first six weeks of the regular season and cannot practice. The team then can take up to another three weeks to activate them off of the list.

The player’s salary will count towards the cap, but he will not be credited with an accrued season. If the player is in the final year of his contract, the player will become a free-agent after the season.

Steelers on Reserve PUP

Ryan Shazier

Active / PUP

The active physically unable to perform list is used only during the preseason. Once a player takes part in a practice, he cannot be placed on the active PUP list. Players on this list are those recovering from surgery or injuries in the offseason that are football related who are not ready to practice. They may also place players who fail their conditioning test on the list. Generally, this designation is for players who will practice during camp or preseason.

These players do not count against the 90-man squad but they count against the salary cap. If a player is not activated by the end of preseason, the player reverts to the Reserve/PUP list.

Steelers on active PUP

Eli Rogers

(The Steelers have no players on the following lists.)

Reserve and active NFL list

The non-football injury list is for players unable to practice due to an injury that is not football related or an illness. Players are treated the same way as if they were on the reserve or active PUP lists except that they may or may not get paid during their time on the list.

Reserve/Suspended list

Steelers fans are familiar with this list due to the recent suspension with Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell. Players on this list do not count against the cap because players are not paid, nor do they count against the 90- or 53-man rosters.

Reserve/Retired

These players are listed due to their early retirement while still under contract. The salary cap aspect is the same as if these players were cut. All prorated money comes due in the year the player retires.

Reserve/Left Squad

Reserve/Did Not Report: These players have either quit their teams or quit playing in the NFL and have not yet filed their retirement papers. The player’s salary doesn’t count against the cap, nor does the player count against the 90- or 53-man roster. Daimion Stafford hit this list in 2017 when he didn’t report to the team.

Reserve/Military

Players who are required to serve in the military while under contract with an NFL team. These players do not count against the team’s salary cap nor against the 90- and 53-man rosters.

The NFL has myriad injury and reserve designations — for the most part, players on the Black-and-gold have avoided the lists. Hopefully, this clears up any questions fans might have had and who is on which list.

Will the Steelers be able to avoid impact players hitting the dreaded IR list? Only time will tell. Do you think Rogers will be activated off of the active PUP list, or do you believe he ends up being inactive into the season?

Chris Boswell and the Steelers have started negotiations on a new contract

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/05/2018 - 1:19pm

The Pro Bowl kicker deserves a new contract, and he and the Steelers have now begun negotiations.

Just like Mike Tomlin always says regarding injuries, “One man’s injury leads to an opportunity for another.”

This is certainly the case with a couple members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who are looking for new contracts. The fact the Steelers were unable to come to terms on a new deal with Le’Veon Bell, and now they turn their attention to other players.

One of those is Pro Bowl kicker Chris Boswell, who is playing the year under a Restricted Free Agent tender. As of Sunday, Boswell admitted he and the Steelers have started negotiations on a new deal.

Chris Boswell said his agent and the Steelers started negotiations on a new contract earlier in the week.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 5, 2018

However, when prompted with how negotiations are going, Boswell stays separated from the ongoing talks, rather leaving it up to his agent so he can focus on football.

Chris Boswell on negotiations with the Steelers. “I’m going to let it play out. I told my agent I really don’t want to hear about it.”

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 5, 2018

Boswell isn’t the only player who might be looking for a new deal. Players like Mike Hilton and B.J. Finney, who could have huge roles on the current team and are playing this season under a similar tag as Boswell.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as the regular season inches closer.

Steelers Training Camp 2018: Live updates 8/5

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/05/2018 - 1:05pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and training-camp practices are underway! Follow along with BTSC as the players start to hone their skills and prepare for the 2018 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the rabid fans awaiting their first glimpse of the Black-and-gold are prepared for another official day of training camp! The Steelers are finally back to practice, so it is time to prepare yourself!

If you’re stuck at work or at home, follow along with those on the scene at Saint Vincent College for the best pictures, video and news coming straight from the practice field in Latrobe, PA. Don't miss a minute of the action!

Today's practice begins at 2:55 p.m. EST, and is open to the public. Take a look at the training camp schedule below and, as always, follow along with live updates in the Twitter feed below.

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