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Expert Picks: Who the experts predict to win Steelers vs. Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 11:49am

Time to check in on the experts to see who they like in the Week 13 showdown between the Steelers and Chargers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 12, one where they figuratively shot themselves in the foot via four turnovers. As they enter Week 13 with a 7-3-1 record, the road to the postseason doesn’t get any easier with the Los Angeles Chargers coming to Heinz Field for a prime time Week 13 showdown.

This is a crucial game for both teams, for a variety of reasons. For the Chargers, if they want to to try and keep pace with the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs, they cannot afford to lose another game. For the Steelers, a victory on home soil would further their quest to win the AFC North for the third straight time, and keep them in the conversation for a first round bye in the AFC Playoff Picture.

In other words, this game is big.

Philip Rivers vs. Ben Roethlisberger will highlight the Sunday Night Football matchup, but other battles make this game extremely difficult to pick. That is why we look to the experts for their point of view.

Who do they think will win? Let’s take a look...

The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t lost back-to-back games since the 2016 season, they are playing at home and Ben Roethlisberger’s career record at home in prime time is astounding. This is a large reason why experts are backing the home team in this upcoming AFC grudge match.

The fine folks at ESPN are very Steelers heavy this week, with 6 of their 9 experts liking the Steelers to hold serve at home. Even the haters here at SB Nation have turned the tide and are starting to pick the Steelers. Only 2 of the 7 experts believe the visiting Chargers can escape the 412 area code with a win. At CBS Sports, they too are pro-Steelers in their picks. Only Pete Prisco, 1 of 8 experts on the panel, like Los Angeles in this matchup.

The kicker here is these are only a few websites who submit weekly expert picks. There are so many others out there which are left off this article. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to track who they are taking in Week 13.

Thanks to our friends at NFL Pick Watch, a site which compiles all expert picks into one easy-to-read graph, a whopping 80% of experts are leaning the Steelers’ way this Sunday at Heinz Field.

Will the experts be right, and the Steelers improve to 8-3-1 on the season? Or will the Chargers continue to impress and hand Pittsburgh their second straight loss to an AFC West opponent? Only time will tell, but this is shaping up to be a tremendous game.

Bud Dupree hints at Ola Adeniyi being activated if he can’t play vs. the Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 10:37am

The rookie OLB could see some playing time for the first time this season if Bud Dupree can’t play.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most sacks in the NFL, and whether you like him or not, Bud Dupree is a part of the group which is leading the pack. However, Dupree suffered a pectoral injury vs. the Denver Broncos in Week 12, and it has left the former first round pick’s status up in the air leading into Week 13.

Dupree missed practice Wednesday, and was a limited participant on Thursday — leaving his availability vs. the Los Angeles Chargers in doubt. While the final game status report hasn’t been released yet, if Dupree is unable to play he hinted at the activation of rookie Ola Adeniyi in response to his absence.

This per Jacob Klinger of Pennlive.com:

Dupree’s muscle tear was not severe enough to require surgery, he said, because he suffered the same injury in college. His recovery, he said, will simply require rest. If he has not healed enough to practice Friday and play Sunday he expects Olasunkanmi Adeniyi to be activated.

While Dupree will undergo a test on his partially torn pectoral muscle Friday morning, Adeniyi is excited about the opportunity, if it indeed presents itself.

“Yeah, I’ve been getting a lot of reps actually just to get ready and be prepared just in case something does happen,” Adeniyi said. “But regardless I was going to be practicing, I was going to still be getting reps so I could still be developing.”

Adeniyi was taken off the team’s injured reserve list last week, and the organization has just under three weeks now to make a decision on his activation. The reality of the situation is even if Dupree doesn’t play, and Adeniyi is activated, it will be Anthony Chickillo who will take Dupree’s spot opposite T.J. Watt, with Adeniyi spelling either of the two throughout the game.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Chargers on Sunday Night Football.

The Steelers loss to the Broncos was their sixth in the last 106 weeks, and some feel heads must roll

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 9:39am

The Steelers loss to the Broncos on Sunday was their sixth since November 13, 2016. In other words, have some faith that they’ll be okay.

Just kidding.

Actually, near the end of the latest edition of the Hangover, the podcast I co-host with Bryan Anthony Davis each and every Monday night at 9:30 (unless the game is on Monday night, then it’s Tuesday at 9:30), I was doing the math in my head, and I was kind of astounded that the Steelers 24-17 loss to the Broncos this past Sunday was just the sixth since Bryan and I started doing the show together at the beginning of the 2017 campaign.

In-fact, the Steelers recent string of above-the-line football (at least in the win column) started on November 20, 2016. Since that day, a, at the time, pedestrian victory over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium that improved the team’s mark to 5-5, Pittsburgh has a regular season record of 27-6-1.

Included in that run of excellence are regular season winning-streaks of seven, eight and six games, respectively.

You wouldn’t think one little loss—even if it was the very definition of self-inflicted—would cause so much hostility, so much animosity among the fans, the people, the faithful.

Yet, it has.

Heck, two seconds after Case Keenum finished off the agonizing defeat with a final Victory Formation kneel-down, people were Tweeting that Pittsburgh would be lucky to win one or two games down the stretch, that the Ravens, fresh off of impressive victories over the mighty Bengals and Raiders, were going to jump up and snatch the AFC North out of the Black and Gold’s cold, dead hands.

Instead of the Steelers being two games up on Baltimore in the loss column, they were suddenly just one game up in the win column.

It wasn’t long after that that coaching was blamed for the loss: “See? This team is never prepared to play.” Never, really? “Never” seems like a pretty heavy word for a team that hasn’t lost more than one game in a row since November 13, 2016.

It was almost like people were waiting for the Steelers to lose, just so they could push the old panic button—and that’s when they weren’t pointing the blame finger.

Sure, there were many boneheaded plays in Sunday’s game, but to quote the late and great Dwight White: “Sometimes, this bleep happens.”

Sunday’s loss was just a mess of unthinkable mistakes that are unlikely to happen again—at least the ones committed by “Wrong Hand” Xavier Grimble and “Jumping” James Washington.

Far be it from me, a writer who once had the nerve to write scathing articles about the 0-4 and 2-6 Steelers, to tell you to have some faith in your football team but, come on, have some faith in your football team.

Stupid mistakes, aside, there is nothing to suggest that the Steelers most-recent loss is a prelude to a season-ending collapse. Yes, the past two games—one a sloppy win, and the other a sloppy loss—reminded one of the frustrating 2017 squad, a team that somehow managed to win 13 games despite never really looking disciplined.

But these past two games don’t represent the real 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers.

I’m willing to give the 2018 edition the benefit of the doubt and state that those games against the Falcons, Browns, Ravens and Panthers, where the team looked disciplined, buttoned-up and had a clear identity on both sides of the ball, is who these Steelers are.

The 2018 Steelers appear to be a team more capable of imposing its will on the opposition than the 2017 Steelers. The 2018 Steelers seem more prepared and focused than the 2017 Steelers.

But even the 2017 Steelers knew how to win, same with the late-2016 Steelers.

The Steelers have been doing a lot of winning over the past 106 weeks, and there is nothing to indicate fans need to be worried about a collapse.

If you truly believe the 2018 Steelers are the real deal, you should have faith that they’ll forget about this latest defeat and continue on with their winning ways. If you truly believe the 2018 Steelers are the real deal, you should have faith that they’ll beat teams like the Chargers and Patriots.

If you truly believe in the 2018 Steelers, you really should have some faith in them, in the program, in the consistency.

All I am saying is give faith a chance.

Fan Rooting Guide, Week 13: Who Steelers fans should root for in other games this weekend

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 8:25am

BTSC's guide to the other Week 13 games that might impact the Steelers the most.

We are all aware of the significance of winning vs. losing when the Steelers take the field at home against a top tier team like the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in Prime Time. Of course, the Steelers need to win to continue to ascend towards the top of the AFC. With less games remaining, the playoff contenders and pretenders are becoming much more defined and a majority of the AFC teams games are of importance. Most of the time, Steelers fans know who to root for. But here’s a guide to significant matchups, and whose losses the Steelers would benefit more from this weekend.

If the season ended today, the Steelers would be the second seed in the AFC, but there are plenty of teams to root for in other action. Here are the current AFC playoff standings.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs 9-2 (Would win AFC West and would earn them a First Round Bye)
  2. New England Patriots 8-3 (Would win AFC East and would earn them a First Round Bye)
  3. Houston Texans 8-3 Would win AFC South and host Wild Card Baltimore)
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-3-1 (Would win AFC North and host Wild Card Los Angeles Chargers)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers 8-3 (Would earn First Wild Card and travel to Pittsburgh)
  6. Baltimore Ravens 6-5 (Would earn Second Wild Card and travel to Houston)
  7. Indianapolis Colts 6-5
  8. Miami Dolphins 5-6
  9. Cincinnati Bengals 5-6
  10. Denver Broncos 5-6
  11. Tennessee Titans 5-6
  12. Cleveland Browns 4-6-1
  13. Buffalo Bills 4-7
  14. Jacksonville Jaguars 3-8
  15. New York Jets 3-8
  16. Oakland Raiders 2-9

...

Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons - Sunday 1:00 PM

The Falcons have been snake-bitten, but the talent is still there. The Ravens and the newly-minted Lamar Jackson era need knocked back.

Who to root for: Atlanta

Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals - Sunday 1:00 PM

Cincy is reeling. The Broncos are on fire and can bump this team further down the AFC rankings and put the Marvin Lewis era in peril. But a Cincy win here could halt Denver’s momentum.

Who to root for: Cincinnati

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars - Sunday 1:00 PM

The Colts are coming hard and they need to slow down. The Jags are down and (pretty much) out .

Who to root for: Jacksonville

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans - Sunday 1:00 PM

Can the hot Browns keep it going and slow the roll of red-hot Houston. I’d like to see that.

Who to root for: Cleveland

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders - Sunday 4:05 PM

The Steelers need to see the Chiefs lose, but I don’t see it happening against Gruden’s guys.

Who to root for: Oakland

Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots - Sunday 4:25 PM

The Pats are coming off of a win and look to be finding themselves again. A loss against a good Minnesota team could really help the Steeler cause.

Who to root for: Minnesota

Other less-significant AFC Games:

New York Jets at Tennessee Titans - Sunday 4:05 PM

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins - Sunday 1:00 PM

Steelers Injury Report: Marcus Gilbert and Morgan Burnett miss practice on Thursday while Bud Dupree is limited

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 7:35am

On a day that Gilbert and Burnett were forced to sat out training for a second day in a row, Pittsburgh also saw the return of Stephon Tuitt and Vance McDonald as full participants.

While the Pittsburgh Steelers saw several names return to practice on Thursday who had sat out the day before, it would appear there are at least two players in danger of missing the game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.

Morgan Burnett (back), BJ Finney (personal) and Marcus Gilbert (knee) did not practice today for the Steelers as non-coaching decisions. Bud Dupree (pectoral) was limited. Xavier Grimble, Stephon Tuitt and Vance McDonald were full participants. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) November 29, 2018

Marcus Gilbert continues to miss time with an ongoing knee issue that has plagued him since he returned from the bye-week and it looks highly likely he will miss his sixth consecutive game in Week 13. Despite missing the matchup against the Denver Broncos with a pectoral injury, Matt Feiler should resume his place as the starter with Gilbert sidelined after back-to-back days as a full participant in training.

Having missed a second day of practice with a back injury, Morgan Bennett is at risk of missing his fifth game of the season and first since Week 6 if he cannot return to training on Friday.

Thankfully, there was better news for Vance McDonald who was a full participant on Thursday after sitting out the day before, as was Stephon Tuitt, who was limited on Wednesday. Bud Dupree’s return in a limited capacity was also a positive step forward. Xavier Grimble continues to show he is recovering well from the concussion like symptoms he suffered earlier in the week and he was able to train fully for the second day in a row as well.

While Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey returned from their veteran days off, it was the turn of Ramon Foster to take his on Thursday. He was joined by B.J. Finney who was excused practice once again for personal reasons.

Beyond running back Melvin Gordon, the Chargers appear to have few injury concerns heading into this matchup.

Chargers practice report on Thursday — DNP: Melvin Gordon (knee), Brandon Mebane (not injury related). LIMITED: Tyrell Williams (quad). FULL: Austin Ekeler (neck), Antonio Gates (rest).

— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) November 29, 2018

Week 13 betting preview: Steelers remain 3.5-point favorites vs. Chargers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 6:31am

We take a look at the latest odds for the Steelers’ clash with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be hoping to rebound from their loss to the Denver Broncos the same way their opponent did when they meet in Week 13 after both teams had their six game winning streaks snapped by the Broncos in successive weeks. The Los Angeles Chargers got back to winning ways with a 45-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals last weekend and the Steelers will be looking for a similar bounce back game when they meet at Heinz Field on Sunday.

Despite the expected absence of featured running back Melvin Gordon, an opening spread of 3.5-points surprisingly still remains, while there has been little change to the early totals position of 52.5 points. Most sportsbooks are currently offering a line of 51.5-points, with one or two bookmakers offering an Over/Under of 52-points.

From an initial money line price of -179, the best price currently available is -170, while most sportsbooks have Pittsburgh priced up at -180.

According to Oddsshark.com, Pittsburgh is 5-1-1 against the spread in their last seven games and 6-4-1 ATS overall on the season. The total has gone under in four of the Steelers last six games and the over is 6-5 so far in 2018. Pittsburgh is 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games versus Los Angeles and the total has gone over in four of the Steelers last five games at home against them.

Alejandro Villanueva scoring the Steelers’ first touchdown was a huge surprise in Week 12 and we will be looking for a more conventional name to put the opening points on the board this Sunday. The sensible money says James Conner or Antonio Brown will be the first in the endzone against the Chargers and we will be siding with Brown at prices of around 7/2 for the game’s first touchdown and around 5/2 for first team touchdown this week.

Podcast: Beating the Chargers is how the Steelers can right the ship

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 5:35am

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 resume their November schedule heading into their Week 12 game vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, there’s a surge of Steelers news — 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 and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading up to this week’s game!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Injuries
  • Key Matchups
  • Fantasy Players
  • Week 13 AFC North predictions
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Bryan Anthony Davis 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: Ben Roethlisberger’s comments shouldn’t be swept aside

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 4:35am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers had their nifty winning streak snapped at the hands of the Denver Broncos in week 12, and after their 24-17 loss the team now has to turn the page quickly before they host the red-hot Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field in Week 13.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how Ben Roethlisberger’s comments directed at James Washington, Antonio Brown and Randy Fichtner shouldn’t just be swept aside as another ‘Drama Ben’ moment.

Let’s get to the news:

Kevin Gorman: When Big Ben speaks, Steelers should listen

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ben Roethlisberger is right, even if it sounds wrong.

Fifteen seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and two Super Bowl championships in a Hall of Fame-caliber career has earned him the choice of whether to be complimentary or critical of his teammates.

“I would hope that they would understand that as the quarterback and the captain that I have the right to do those things,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t feel like I abuse that situation, so I don’t think it’s an issue.”

Of course, it comes with the caveat that Big Ben has to first be willing to point the finger at the man in the mirror before he puts anyone on blast. And that’s something he’s refused to do since the Denver debacle.

That’s why Roethlisberger publicly ripping everyone from receivers Antonio Brown and James Washington to the play-calling of offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner this week has raised eyebrows — even inside the Steelers locker room.

“You take it for what it is, man,” Steelers receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “Everybody has different ways to encourage guys or to get guys going. You hear what he has to say, whether it’s in front of you or in the media, and you just try to get better because each and every day is a battle for every guy in here to prove themselves, not only to the coaching staff but to your teammates.”

It’s also an accountability issue, one that starts with Roethlisberger. The Steelers lost to the Denver Broncos on an interception in the end zone, a pass for which Big Ben blamed everything but himself. It was all excuses, from Maurkice Pouncey’s snap and block to Brown’s drifting in the back of the end zone. Not the decision or the throw.

It’s instructive to remember Roethlisberger, whether it’s in his weekly radio show on 93.7 FM or meeting with the media, rarely says anything without intent. There’s always an underlying message, a method of motivation.

“Being around for a long time with a lot of different players, you have to know how to motivate different guys in different ways,” Roethlisberger said. “I think that’s part of being a leader, being a captain, just understanding players. Sometimes you just grab them off to the side, and sometimes you have to be honest with them.”

Remember that Roethlisberger, two games removed from a perfect passer rating, completed 41 of 56 passes for 462 yards – only to have tight end Xavier Grimble fumble out of the end zone, Washington drop a pass in his hands and James Conner fumble deep in Denver territory. Maybe this is Big Ben’s way of saying that game should have never come down to the final play.

It’s one thing to hold a rookie like Washington to his second-round pedigree, another to blame Brown for his route running on the final play. But to suggest not only is JuJu Smith-Schuster a No. 1 receiver but so are tight end Vance McDonald, slot receiver Ryan Switzer and Conner had to be designed to get a rise out of All-Pro Brown.

Not that Brown needs any motivation. He carries his sixth-round selection status like a boulder on his shoulder. But the Steelers are at their best when Ben and Brown are clicking, like they did against Carolina. Something in their timing is off, as evidenced by connecting on only 58.2 percent of targeted passes. Brown was targeted on nine of Roethlisberger’s 12 interceptions.

“Maybe it’s his way of challenging guys, letting them know we’re not perfect as a team,” Steelers left guard Ramon Foster said. “I guess, more or less, it’s that he sees the opportunity. Whether he’s talking to them directly or through the media, we need to realize that we’ve got to take advantage of that opportunity.”

Why JuJu Smith-Schuster is outpacing Antonio Brown

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The script is becoming all too familiar.

The opposing team game plans to stop Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, leaving Brown to answer postgame questions about teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster’s big play.

“The safety was on my side,” Brown said matter-of-factly when asked about Smith-Schuster’s 97-yard touchdown Sunday against Denver’s single-high-safety defensive set.

Smith-Schuster’s ascension has had a direct impact on Brown’s production. While Smith-Schuster surpassed 1,000 yards in his second season thanks to his 189-yard display against the Broncos, Brown -- with 71 catches and 874 yards -- is on pace for his lowest yards total since 2012.

It sounds crazy given Brown’s greatness, but is Smith-Schuster the top option for the Steelers, at least right now?

Brown is targeted on 25.4 percent of his routes compared to 31 percent last year, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s 12 fourth-quarter throws Sunday at Denver, five targets went to Smith-Schuster compared with four for Brown.

Roethlisberger went as far as to say on his weekly radio show that he wished he threw to Smith-Schuster four times at the goal line and that Brown should have run a “flatter” route on the third-down interception over the middle.

But much of this is by defensive design given Brown’s top spot on the scouting report, according to Broncos coach Vance Joseph.

“I’ve been in games where he’s beaten me single-handedly,” Joseph said. “The plan was to take him away, stop the run game as best we could with a seven-man box and just deal with 19 the best we could.”

This is a tough position for a player who is as competitive as they come and sometimes shows it with sideline flare-ups. But even though Brown looks like he hasn’t lost a step, Roethlisberger has stated publicly that he didn’t want to force the ball into double coverages this season.

Defenses like to follow Brown closely with a corner and a safety shading over the top. Brown has seen press coverage on 54 of his 122 targets this season compared with 26 press-man targets for Smith-Schuster. The good news is that Brown has five touchdowns on those plays. The bad news is that 57 percent of those passing attempts were incomplete, including six interceptions.

Ben Roethlisberger going to keep throwing despite interceptions

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

Ben Roethlisberger makes no apologies for his 12 interceptions, tied with Ryan Fitzpatrick for second most in the NFL.

Shooters shoot.

”Sometimes those things happen. I’m a quarterback that is going to go out and sling it,” Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio show Tuesday. “You talk about gunslinger or whatever you want to talk about. I’m not going to worry about interceptions. I hate doing them. They bother me. But I’m going to go out and play my game and try to help us win football games.”

Roethlisberger is putting up prolific numbers for the 7-3-1 Steelers, ranking second in the league with 3,664 passing yards and tied for seventh with 24 touchdowns. But he isn’t afraid to take chances, resulting in 55 interceptions in 52 regular-season games dating to 2015.

He’s one of five quarterbacks with at least 50 interceptions during that span, including the Jacksonville JaguarsBlake Bortles (57 in 59 games), Tampa Bay BuccaneersJameis Winston (55 in 51), New York GiantsEli Manning (50 in 58) and Sunday’s opponent in Heinz Field, and Los Angeles Chargers’ Philip Rivers (50 in 59).

But Roethlisberger has the best record by far among that bunch, going 37-14-1 in those games, with 102 touchdowns. Only New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (44) has more wins since 2015.

The Steelers threw the ball 56 times compared with 16 runs Sunday, with Roethlisberger completing 41 passes for 462 yards. Roethlisberger said the game plan dictated more passing and the team didn’t need more run-pass balance.

The Steelers were in control Sunday in Denver with 527 offensive yards but lost 24-17 after Broncos nose tackle Shelby Harris intercepted a Roethlisberger pass at the goal line with 1:03 left. Roethlisberger wasn’t counting on Harris being near the ball, but the lineman got blocked back into the end zone. Roethlisberger called the play “kinda crazy” and flukish. Corner Chris Harris Jr.was in the line of the ball while covering Antonio Brown, and Roethlisberger said he told Brown he needed to run a “flatter” route to avoid getting undercut.

On an interception by Chris Harris earlier in the game, Roethlisberger said Brown was being held.

Coach Mike Tomlin said he’s concerned with his team’s minus-7 turnover ratio the past two weeks but not with Roethlisberger’s decision-making.

”Ben is just part of it. He’s not solely responsible for our inability to maintain possession of the ball,” Tomlin said. “He wasn’t carrying the ball into the end zone and fumbling it for a touchback. He just needs to continue to be thoughtful about the preservation of the ball, like he always is, and understand the responsibility that comes with being our signal-caller. I don’t see any issues in that area. But us, collectively, need to do a better job.”

How to watch Steelers vs. Chargers in Week 13: Time, TV Schedule and game information

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 4:15am

We’ve got all the information you need to know to keep up with the action from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ clash with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday,

The Pittsburgh Steelers return from a two game road trip to take on the Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field on Sunday night in a contest that could have significant playoff implications for both clubs. Playoff seedings and hopes of a possible postseason bye will be on the line in Week 13 and the Steelers face a tough challenge against a Chargers team that has only lost once in their last eight games.

While the Chargers will be missing their lead running back in Melvin Gordon, they still possess more than enough weapons on offense to test the Pittsburgh defense. With Phillip Rivers coming off a near perfect game against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12, a contest in which he finished with just one incompletion in 29 attempts, it will not be an easy matchup for the Steelers’ beleaguered secondary.

However, Pittsburgh has been almost unstoppable in primetime as of late, winners of 14 of their last 15 games played at night. Combine that with the fact that the Steelers are 18-2 in their last 20 games played in the month of December and all signs suggest this contest should be well deserving of the national television audience.

Week 13:

Game: Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)

Date: Sunday, December 2.

Kickoff: 8.20 p.m. ET.

Venue: Heinz Field.

Weather: Live weather update.

Watch:

TV Channel: NBC, broadcast locally on WPXI-TV, channel 11, with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth as commentators and Michele Tafoya the sideline reporter. As a nationally broadcast game, it should be available in all regions.

Online Streaming: NFL.com Game Pass on delay in the U.S and live for international viewers or live in the U.S via a subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket. FuboTV also allows you to stream the game online. The NFL Game Center will update the action on a play-by-play basis.

Radio: Steeler Nation Radio with Bill Hillgrove and Tunch Ilkin as commentators and Craig Wolfley as the sideline reporter. Broadcast live on WDVE 102.5 FM and WBGG 970 AM in the Pittsburgh area and via their local affiliates. Listen online via Steelers.com and with the Steelers Official Mobile App. Alternatively, you can listen to a radio broadcast on SiriusXM.

You can also follow Behind the Steel Curtain on Twitter to catch all of the highlights as they happen, and be sure to check back with us after the game for our post-match roundup.

Injuries:

The Steelers look likely to be forced to play without Marcus Gilbert for the sixth game in a row due to a knee injury, while Morgan Burnett is also in danger of missing his fifth game of the season and first since Week 6 because of a back concern.

Upcoming schedule:

The 2004 NFL Draft’s Three Amigos continue to impress years later

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 12:36pm

The 2004 NFL draft is universally considered the second best draft class for quarterbacks in league history, sporting three potential Hall of Fame QBs amongst the first eleven selections. All three are still playing, but for varying reasons.

Leading up to the 2004 NFL draft, I was like a kid anxiously awaiting Christmas morning to arrive. The Pittsburgh Steelers had the eleventh pick of the first round and all the stars had seemingly aligned for the Steelers to select their next long awaited franchise quarterback. I had been reviewing the scouting reports for each of the three top QB prospects available that year. They were Eli Manning from Ole Miss, Phillip Rivers from N.C. State, and Ben Roethlisberger from Miami of Ohio.

Eli Manning had the family genetics and pedigree, and was expected to be the first overall selection, so I didn't waste too much time considering the possibility of Eli coming to Pittsburgh. He was very cool, calm, and composed on and off the field it seemed, but he was too laid back for my liking, so I was glad the Steelers weren't considered a possible destination for his services.

Ben Roethlisberger was a large, athletic prospect with a cannon for an arm. I had watched his incredible Hail Mary heave to win a game against Akron multiple times and one thing stuck out to me. Even though the ball traveled approximately seventy yards in the air, it seemed he could have thrown it even farther if necessary. That is actually where he got the nickname Big Ben. Imagine Josh Allen from this years draft, only more accurate. Also like Allen, Ben was from a smaller college program and therefore hadn't always faced the toughest competition. I was convinced Roethlisberger had the highest ceiling by far of the three prospects, and that he would be long gone by the time the Steelers made their selection with the eleventh pick.

Phillip Rivers was a coach's son and a born leader on the gridiron. He had moxie, and he wasn't shy about showing it on the field. He didn't have the pedigree of Eli, or the arm talent of Ben, but he was far from a slouch in anyway. I thought it predestined that he was coming to Pittsburgh. He seemed like the perfect Steelers QB, an excellent fit for the franchise and the city. Boy, was I ever wrong on that prediction.

The San Diego Chargers selected Manning with the first pick in the draft as expected, even though the Manning family had made it perfectly clear he didn’t want to play there. A trade to resolve this issue was quickly worked out when the Chargers traded Eli to the New York Giants for Rivers, who the Giants had just selected with the fourth overall pick.

Then all I could do was wait those agonizing minutes in hopes Roethlisberger would somehow fall to us at eleven. Remember, I thought he was the best prospect of the three coming out, and never dreamed the Steelers would have a shot at him. The picks slowly came and went as the talking heads speculated Ben going here or there, but miraculously he was still there when the Steelers pick came up.

I should have been ecstatic, but I was scared out of my mind. The memory of the Steelers passing on Marino was forever etched in my memory, causing me great concern. I was like, “Please God, don’t let that happen again.” Thankfully, in typical Steelers fashion, the pick was already in and we finally had our second franchise quarterback.

The years have seemingly flown by and now all three young men are grizzled veterans. Eli’s game has started to slip recently due to age and the corresponding loss of arm strength, but he still has a few bullets in the old gun. He may require a change of scenery to restart his fading career, if that is a route he would choose to go. His Hall of Fame credentials have already been established. A two time Super Bowl winner, plus the fact he defeated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots both times to win them.

Big Ben and Rivers are still performing at the top of their games, leading their teams into playoff consideration. Their respective teams are preparing to face off this Sunday night in a huge game that will undoubtedly affect playoff seeding and overall momentum for the winner, as well as bragging rights for two great warriors.

While Ben’s legacy and Hall of Fame worthiness are pretty much set in stone, Rivers still has a few holes in his resume. As it stands right now, Rivers would have to be in the running for the greatest QB to have never played in a Super Bowl. Truth is it’s hard to get voted into the Hall without having won a Super Bowl as a QB. The list of QBs to accomplish the feat without winning one is short, but the list of QBs in the Hall despite never reaching a Super Bowl is miniscule. Three men have accomplished the feat. Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgensen, and Warren Moon. That’s it. Rivers is every bit as good a player as any of these gentlemen, maybe better, but winning a championship would definitely help his chances. Especially when your aforementioned peers won four of the five Super Bowls they have played in.

Sunday night’s match up of two of the all time greats is intriguing. Both men have their own unique personality. Ben is the self proclaimed gunslinger, a winner always trying to make a play even against all odds. Rivers is the constantly talking, junkyard dog who loves nothing better than reminding you that he just drove the last nail in your coffin.

This is a statement game that both teams desperately need. This should be fun.

5 Steelers who need to step up in a big way vs. the Chargers in Week 13

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 11:14am

Turning the page to the Chargers game, there are certain players who need to step up in a big way,

The Pittsburgh Steelers now turn away from their Week 12 loss to the Denver Broncos, and start to look ahead to the Week 13 Sunday Night Football game vs. the Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field.

Looking at the Steelers’ roster, there are several players who need to step up their play for the team to attain their 8th win of the season, and make yet another step towards winning the AFC North for the third year in a row.

Here are 5 players who need to step up in a big way for the black-and-gold:

1. James Conner

Not all of Conner’s issues are based on him running the football. After all, he needs holes to develop when getting his number called, and he needs his number to actually be called more than a handful of times in a game.

With that said, my reasoning for putting Conner on this list have to deal with his play in different areas the past few weeks. Mainly his pass catching and ball security.

There is nothing worse than having a player who has fans thinking, “Please hold onto the ball...” whenever they touch it, and Conner is entering that threshold. Compound that with some key drops in recent memory and there is no wonder the shine of James Conner has started to dull a bit. However, a big performance against a top-notch team like the Chargers could catapult Conner, and the Steelers, into the final quarter of the season.

2. Right Tackle...whoever that will be

The Chargers rank tied for 16th with 28 sacks on the season, but the majority of the year has been without their prolific pass rusher Joey Bosa. Bosa isn’t the only one who can rush the passer on this defense though. Melvin Ingram, Isaac Rochell, Derwin James all have 3.5 or more sacks on the season, but the Chargers are getting pressure from a variety of players...not just one or two.

The Steelers issues at right tackle are certainly something to keep an eye on. Chuks Okorafor started his first NFL game last week against the Broncos, and Matt Feiler filled in for injured Marcus Gilbert in the weeks prior.

The Steelers need to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright, and after a pristine stretch before and after their bye, they have been giving up more QB hits and sacks than usual. In the last two games, both on the road, the Steelers have surrendered 4 sacks and 12 QB hits combine, 2 sacks and 6 QB hits in both contest. Pass protection will have to be good in Week 13.

3. Jon Bostic

Coming out of the preseason, Bostic was a lightning rod for criticism from the Steelers faithful. Bostic looked vulnerable in pass coverage, and hesitant on the field.

What happened when the regular season arrived was the complete opposite. The coaching staff schemed Bostic away from coverage duties with sub packages, and Bostic was flying to the ball making plays. In fact, at one point Bostic was the team’s best, and most efficient, tackler on the roster.

Week 12 was certainly a bump in the road for Bostic as he was abused in pass coverage and was missing tackles. The Steelers will need to stop the run, even without Melvin Gordon available to the Chargers, and ensure Bostic is on the field to make the plays he is capable of making.

4. Joe Haden

Haden has been an absolute gem this season, but it doesn’t mean his play has been perfect the entire season. Haden isn’t as fast as he once was, and has admitted himself he prefers to play against bigger and stronger receivers compared to the smaller ‘burners’ some deploy out wide.

Emmanuel Sanders had his way with Haden on more than one occasion in Week 12, and with Philip Rivers and company coming to town the secondary will need Haden to be at his best to at least shut down his half of the field. This defense often goes as Haden goes, and the hope is Haden is at the top of his game on Sunday Night Football.

5. Chris Boswell

For all you superstitious readers, I did knock on wood before typing this paragraph. Chris Boswell has seemingly returned to form as of late, and this trend will have to continue after some serious early season struggles.

The Chargers are averaging 27.9 points per game, tied for 7th in the NFL, and if this game plays out as many think it will the Steelers will need every possible point which presents itself to them on Sunday night.

No missed extra points forcing two-point conversions. No missed field goals to give Los Angeles prime field position.

The Wizard of Boz needs to return, and having a perfect night in Week 13 will be a huge step in the right direction.

...

These are my 5 players who need to step up...what about you? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!

Ben Roethlisberger publicly rebuking a Steelers teammate is nothing new

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 9:58am

As is customary, Ben Roethlisberger is taking shots at teammates

It should come as absolutely no surprise that Ben Roethlisberger publicly rebuked a teammate; he’s done so before—many times, in fact—and will likely continue to do so, as is apparently his right as the self-proclaimed “leader” of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The latest victim of Roethlisberger’s vexation is rookie receiver James Washington, who did this in a 24-17 loss to the Broncos last Sunday:

I Believe I Can Fly.mp3

(via @thecheckdown) pic.twitter.com/GSXX86ZLI8

— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 25, 2018

Yikes. So, yeah, there’s little doubt that, by simply maintaining his gait for the duration of his route, Washington would’ve scored a touchdown—possibly the game-winning touchdown, but at the very least a game-altering touchdown. Alas, Washington, perhaps somewhat foolishly, opted to transform an otherwise routine play into a spectacular one, and the decision backfired. Washington is a rookie, and, as rookies are often wont to do, he made a mistake. C’est la vie, you know? Besides, Washington’s drop was but one of many calamities that underpinned Pittsburgh’s losing effort, so it feels a little ridiculous for anyone—especially the guy who threw two interceptions, including one that ended a potential comeback bid—to pinpoint a singular moment as being more or less significant than any of the others. It probably would’ve behooved the Steelers to just move forward and shift their attention to the Chargers, who are insanely talented and more than deserving of every bit of Pittsburgh’s attention. Roethlisberger felt otherwise. Speaking to 93.7 The Fan, Roethlisberger said the following about Washington’s non-catch (per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review):

“He has to make it. I just think he didn’t trust his hands. For some reason, he jump/dove. I’m not really sure what he was doing. We look at it (on film), and coach got on him pretty good yesterday. We took a long, hard look at it. James needs to run through that, and it’s a touchdown...Yes, he’s a rookie, but you’re not going to be out there if you‘re not going to make those plays for us.”

In the same interview, speaking on his own proclivity for turning the ball over (Roethlisberger’s thrown 12 interceptions this season, which leads the NFL), Roethlisberger said the following:

“Sometimes those things happen. I’m a quarterback that is going to go out and sling it. You talk about gunslinger or whatever you want to talk about. I’m not going to worry about interceptions. I hate doing them. They bother me. But I’m going to go out and play my game and try to help us win football games.”

Which, you know, okay. That’s fine. Ben Roethlisberger is the longest-tenured player on the Steelers. He’s a two-time Super Bowl winner. He is among the most prolific passers in league history. It could reasonably argued that, if he maintains his current output for another couple of seasons and wins another Super Bowl, he could insert himself in the “top 10 all-time” conversation. If he retired tomorrow, though, he’s still likely headed for the Hall of Fame. That resume, coupled with the fact that star quarterbacks are generally unassailable, allows Roethlisberger to speak honestly on whatever topics he deems worthy of his candor.

But it feels a little, I don’t know, tacky to air grievances with teammates to the media. Throwing teammates under the bus is one thing, but doing so in the same interview in which you deploy the If you can’t stand me at my worse, you don’t deserve me at my best rationale to defend your own mistakes seems incredibly tone-deaf. Wednesday, a day after Roethlisberger’s initial comments had the opportunity to marinade within our collective consciousness and ultimately metastasize into something newsworthy, Roethlisberger doubled-down. This, per ESPN:

“Being around for a long time, being with a lot of different players, you have to know how to motivate guys in different ways. That’s part of being a leader and a captain -- just understanding players. Sometimes you just grab them off to the side, sometimes you have to be honest with them. And so, I think I’ve earned the right to be able to do that, as long as I’ve been here. And I’ll be just as critical on myself in front of you guys as well. I would hope they would understand that as a quarterback and a captain that I have the right to do those things. I don’t feel I abuse that situation. I don’t think there’s an issue, but you’ll have to ask them.”

(That last part is interesting. Suppose you do ask them; what kind of responses can even you expect? I would be thoroughly shocked if anyone offered a response that wasn’t laden with sportsy axioms or public relations buzzwords. “Well, Ben, he’s a grizzled vet, a future Hall of Famer. Us guys have total respect for his wisdom and insights and we deeply value his criticism blah blah blah.” Just once I wanna see someone be like “Ben? Oh, that guy totally sucks. We all hate him and are counting the days until his retirement.”)

Captain Ben Roethlisberger: Expert Motivator and Leader of Men. Could you even imagine if the roles were reversed on this? Like, imagine if JuJu Smith-Schuster complained about Ben overshooting him on what probably would’ve yielded a touchdown. Antonio Brown cannot even exhibit the meekest iota of displeasure without hearing about it from the local media, and meanwhile Roethlisberger criticizes teammates with alarming regularity because he’s “earned the right” and everyone kinda just plays along? Give me a break.

This is the part where I’ll point out that, as Roethlisberger alluded to in the above quote, is very often critical of his own performance. Last week after a furious, balls-of-steel comeback against the Jaguars, for example, Roethlisberger began his postgame interview by pointing out that said comeback wouldn’t have been required had he avoided committing three ugly turnovers in the 59 minutes and 55 seconds that preceded his game-winning touchdown dive. But I don’t think that honest and sincere self-deprecation should necessarily grant you the ability to dump on teammates. And, while I think Roethlisberger’s credentials certainly enable him to deliver criticism with impunity, I don’t think it’s a great look to actually go through with it.

With all of that said, there are three things that I do not know: I do not know if Roethlisberger is right or wrong about his assertion that he “understands players” and is therefore well-informed when it comes to providing guidance, or whatever; I don’t know the relationship between Ben Roethlisberger and James Washington; and I don’t know how the rest of the team feels about Roethlisberger’s motivational tactics. James Washington’s rookie campaign has been mired by ineffectiveness and inconsistent playing time, so it seems, like, sort of mean to dump on the guy for what was a pretty innocuous sequence in the grand scheme of things. But Washington obviously has the potential to emerge as a volcanic, top-end playmaker in an offense replete with volcanic, top-end playmakers, so perhaps having to eat a little crow will serve him well. Regardless, it would be nice if the team’s star quarterback could be a little kinder to his teammates.

‘Nothing about confidence’ for Steelers WR James Washington - ‘I just misjudged it’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 8:46am

While the rookie wide receiver does not seem to have the confidence of his quarterback right now, that does not mean he has lost it in himself.

For a player who has garnered few column inches during his rookie season, James Washington has been all over the news for all the wrong reason in the last 24 hours or so. In a game full of mistakes against the Denver Broncos, his dropped pass has become the talking piece that has somehow overshadowed the two fumbles and two interceptions that really cost Pittsburgh the game.

Fueled in part by Ben Roethlisberger’s answer to a question about him the day before, Washington found himself the center of attention after practice on Wednesday as reporters sought a response to his quarterbacks remarks. Contrary to Big Ben’s suggestion he was lacking in confidence, Washington revealed there was actually a much simpler explanation for his failure to hold on to the ball, as he told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com.

“Well for me, you’ve just got to run through it. It’s nothing about confidence, just got to go out there and overcome adversity and execute.”

“I just kinda felt like I misjudged it. The ball, the nose was still in the air, so, for my part, I just, like I said, I just misjudged it, I gotta execute better.”

However, if he took exception to the comments of Roethlisberger, that was something he was not going to share with the media.

“You know with him being the captain of this team, he has freedom of speech, as well as we all do.”

If he is not finding much comfort from the words of Big Ben, Washington is at least getting support from other members of the team.

“My brothers around here, the other receivers, when one gets down we’re all down, so they’re just always in my head trying to give me encouragement and trying to get me back up. When I got drafted I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Like any rookie you have to go through adversity, whether it’s high school or college or now. That’s what I’m going through right now.

“We’re all made differently. None of us are the same. Sometimes it takes longer for others and sometimes it’s quicker for others. At some point in time in our life we’ll all grow up and overcome that stage.”

As his teammate at Oklahoma State, Mason Rudolph knows Washington better than anyone else and he is one quarterback on the roster who still has the receiver’s back when speaking to the press.

“If you’re referring to that ‘go’ ball, which a lot of us are, he didn’t run through it and that’s something he does all the time, something he’s done for many years,”

“People around the building, I keep hearing, ‘Hey, listen, tell him Emmanuel Sanders, even Antonio (Brown), Martavis Bryant, they all took about 10 weeks to kind of get going, almost a season to kind of get going, to understand and get comfortable. He’s a great player and he’s going to come along.”

“The more work he gets with (quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) in the offseason, as well as these next six weeks into the playoffs, he’s going to keep learning his craft and he’s going to produce.”

After 226 receptions for 4472 yards and 39 touchdowns in college, the 2017 Biletnikoff Winner did not forget how to catch when he made it to the NFL. The slow start to his professional career matches that of many of his illustrious predecessors and his impressive performances in preseason were just a taste of his potential before he was injured. Catching a go route has certainly not been a problem for him in the past either.

Hopefully Washington can rebound in Week 13, assuming he is given an opportunity to feature at some point in the game. While he might not have lost confidence in himself, it certainly appears Roethlisberger is starting to and that could hinder the rookie’s development more than any issues Washington might have with his own game.

Steelers Injury Report: 7 players sit out practice on Wednesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 7:35am

A long list on names on the Steelers first practice report of the week included four players missing training due to injury.

While it had always been expected that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be missing some notable names at practice on Wednesday, it was still something of a surprise to see seven players sitting out the team’s first training session of the week. Thankfully, three of those names were excused for reasons unrelated to their health and there was some good news in the return to practice of a player who has missed the last two games.

#Steelers injury report is a little, uh, rough. pic.twitter.com/bNyvt5YW59

— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) November 28, 2018

Stephon Tuitt was finally able to resume training on Wednesday, albeit in a limited capacity, and sounded like a man who was optimistic he could be playing on Sunday when talking to reporters after practice, as reported by Teresa Varley of Steelers.com.

“It felt great to be out there, it’s always great to be back out there with your boys. We had already tested the arm out. It was great. I did a great job in the weight room, making sure I stayed in shape, stayed strong. I am ready to get out there and rock and roll again.”

As Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey enjoyed a veteran rest day, B.J. Finney was seemingly also given permission to sit out practice for personal reasons and the main concerns for Week 13 will center around the four players sidelined because of injury.

Marcus Gilbert continues to struggle with a knee injury and will be in danger of missing his sixth game in a row against the Los Angeles Chargers. While Bud Dupree (pectoral) and Vance McDonald (hip) were among the injured players highlighted by Mike Tomlin the day before, the appearance of Morgan Burnett (back) on the injury report was unexpected. Their progress over the next few days will be a clear sign of their availability for Sunday.

Xavier Grimble’s inclusion as a full participant was rather surprising given he was only placed in concussion protocols the day before and there is good reason to believe he will be able to play against the Chargers.

AFC Playoff Scenario: What needs to happen for the Steelers to clinch the AFC North

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 6:31am

Week 13 has the potential to be make or break for several teams when it comes to the AFC North standings.

Eleven games into the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves with a 1.5 game lead in the AFC North. With wins by the Ravens and Browns coupled with the Steelers loss, the entire division got a lot tighter. Looking forward at the matchups, how many more victories do the Steelers need in order to secure the AFC North?

Here are the current AFC North standings after Week 12 of the NFL season:

  1. Pittsburgh 7-3-1
  2. Baltimore 6-5 (1.5 GB)
  3. Cincinnati 5-6 (2.5 GB)
  4. Cleveland 4-6-1 (3 GB)

Starting again with the Cleveland Browns, this team already has as many wins as their last three seasons combined. The Browns still would have to make up four games against the Steelers with only five remaining. So the division is a bit of a long shot, but the Browns are still just 1.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot. The Browns would actually be doing the Steelers a favor if they could take down the Texans in Houston on Sunday even though they are seven-point underdogs.

The Bengals are now 5-6 and seem to be in a lot of trouble after falling by 15 at home to the Browns. Missing A.J. Green the last several games has been devastating, but pile on Andy Dalton going out for the remainder of the season, victories for the Bengals are going to be hard to come by. They are currently a 4.5 point underdog at home to the Broncos this week. Add games against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 14 and in Pittsburgh Week 17, it will be difficult for Cincinnati to make up the three games they would need in order to overtake the Steelers for the division. With another game against the Browns in Cleveland, the only game the Bengals would possibly be favored in would be at home against Oakland in Week 15.

As for Baltimore, after picking up a game on the Steelers with their victory over Oakland, they are currently an even draw in Atlanta on Sunday. A win over the Falcons coupled with the Steelers loss to the Chargers would make the difference in the division less than one game. But if the script was flipped to where the Ravens fell in Atlanta and the Steelers took care of business at home, the division would almost be locked up. Add on the fact the Ravens must go on the road against Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers, this coming Sunday could completely define the AFC North moving forward.

One week later, the magic number for the Steelers to clinch the division is still four. But now the only team in which this number matters is Baltimore. The magic number to eliminate the Bengals is now three while it is just two for the Browns. So with five games left on the schedule, two Steeler victories coupled with two Raven losses would make Pittsburgh the AFC North champions yet again.

At 7-3-1, The Steelers went from dreaming of the top seed in the AFC one week to hoping there’s a chance they have a shot at a first-round bye the next. With the conference standings consistently changing from week to week, the best thing the Steelers can do is take care of their own business one week at a time.

Podcast: Was the loss to Denver the perfect medicine for the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 5:35am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into Week 13, and they’ve finally surpassed the halfway point of the 2018 regular season. With a surge of Steelers news, 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 flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers, including a fun game of “True or False!”

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Recapping the week that was
  • True or False!
  • Predicting Steelers vs. Chargers
  • Week 13 AFC North game predictions
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Getting more turnovers is easier said than done for Keith Butler’s defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 4:32am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers had their nifty winning streak snapped at the hands of the Denver Broncos in week 12, and after their 24-17 loss the team now has to turn the page quickly before they host the red-hot Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field in Week 13.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how atrocious the Steelers’ defense has been at creating turnovers. The team’s -7 turnover ratio is bad enough, but there doesn’t seem to be any help in the near future regarding the team’s ability to create turnovers.

Mike Tomlin spoke about how the team needs to create more turnovers, but this task is easier said than done for Keith Butler’s unit.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers defense aims for more takeaways

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Wide receiver Antonio Brown famously spends time after virtually every practice catching hundreds of footballs. A teammate suggested others should join him.

Defensive teammates.

“Maybe we have to spend some time with JUGS machine. All of us,” Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said.

Steelers’ defenders, indeed, have had that much trouble holding onto the football.

After another turnover-free game — their third over the past six weeks — contributed to a 24-17 loss at Denver on Sunday, the Steelers said they must get more takeaways if their defense is going to prove championship-caliber.

“We have been emphasizing it, but we have to continue to,” said Heyward, the defensive captain. “This isn’t something that is going to get fixed overnight. But we have to keep our head and keep preaching turnovers, turnovers (and) being in the right place, trust our eyes, let the ball guide you to and high-point it.”

After managing just four takeaways (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries) over the past six games, the Steelers are tied for 23rd in the NFL in takeaways with 12 (six interceptions, six fumble recoveries) in 11 games.

The problem is exacerbated by an offense that has not protected the ball well in recent weeks. The Steelers rank 26th in turnover margin at minus-7. The six teams ranked below them are a combined 19-47, so the Steelers’ 7-3-1 record and first-place standing in the AFC North are testaments to how well they have played otherwise.

But with three of the NFL’s best teams (Los Angeles Chargers, New England, New Orleans) among their final five regular-season games, the Steelers recognize they need to start acquiring turnovers to win.

“As a defense, you want to force turnovers to give the offense a short field,” slot corner Mike Hilton said. “But they come in bunches. You just have to find ways to get them.”

Perhaps in a nod to the randomness of fumbles (who recovers them, typically, is determined by luck), Heyward emphasizes interceptions as the Steelers’ clearest path to creating more turnovers.

The Steelers have only one interception over the past four games and two over the past eight games. Of their six on the season, four are from defensive backs — linebackers Vince Williams and Bud Dupree have pick-sixes for the others. The secondary has just one interception over the past eight games.

“Interceptions, they come when they come and you have to take advantage of the opportunity when they do,” Hilton said.

Should the Steelers be more aggressive in pursuing the ball?

“You can take some risks,” Hilton said, “but sometimes those risks will hurt you. You just have to try to be in position and try to make the plays when they are there.”

Mark Madden: Xavier Grimble’s fumble cost Steelers more than a TD

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions Sunday at Denver, the second especially regrettable.

If that damages the Steelers’ season, so be it. Roethlisberger has earned wiggle room and two Super Bowl rings.

James Conner had a big fumble. For the second time this year, Conner putting the ball on the ground arguably cost the Steelers a win.

Conner, too, gets some leeway. He’s filling big shoes with success and aplomb.

Xavier Grimble gets no such latitude.

Grimble is the No. 3 tight end. He’s lucky to be on the Steelers, or in the NFL. He plays just 16 percent of the offensive snaps. Grimble went undrafted. He’s borderline.

Grimble admits to intentionally taking on Denver safety Will Parks at the goal line when Grimble was about to score a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter: “I could have cut back and scored, but I wanted to run right through him.”

Grimble couldn’t even be bothered to switch the ball to his left arm to better shield it from impact.

If Grimble veers even slightly right, Parks’ tackle would have carried Grimble into the end zone.

Grimble outweighs Parks by nearly 70 pounds, but Parks jarred the ball loose and it went through the end zone for a touchback. The Broncos got the ball. The Steelers got no points.

The Steelers lost by a touchdown. Common sense dictates it was by that touchdown.

Grimble’s faux pas changed the game.

If Grimble scores, the trickle-down almost certainly renders moot mistakes made by Roethlisberger and Conner. That Grimble’s fumble was borne of ego dipped in machismo makes it all the worse. It set a tone for Steelers sloppiness.

It’s a mistake the No. 3 tight end can’t afford to make. It might earn a pink slip if you work for Bill Belichick.

The No. 3 wide receiver contributed a less-heralded absurdity: James Washington went unnecessarily airborne for a third-quarter pass that he dropped. If he just keeps running, the play is more easily made and he likely scores a touchdown.

I don’t want to say the Steelers are stupid. But if their brains were Crisco, they might not grease too big a pan.

But Grimble is the biggest of Sunday’s black-and-gold fools. A player of Grimble’s low stature can’t make that mistake.

Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger questions late play-calling

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t question the offensive strategy the Pittsburgh Steelers used in their 24-17 loss Sunday to the Denver Broncos.

The play-calling sequence at the end of the game is another matter.

Roethlisberger’s interception on a third-and-goal pass from the 2 kept the Steelers from pulling off a second consecutive fourth-quarter comeback on the road.

On his weekly 93.7 FM radio segment Tuesday, Roethlisberger questioned the Steelers deviating from the run-pass option play that was called on first down, and he criticized All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown’s route running on the third-down interception by Broncos nose tackle Shelby Harris.

The Steelers quarterback wanted the final series of plays to focus on wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had 13 catches for 189 yards, including a 97-yard catch-and-run for a score.

“I think we should have went to him four straight plays,” Roethlisberger said.

A 12-yard scramble by Roethlisberger gave the Steeler a first down at the Denver 3 with 1 minute, 57 seconds remaining.

The Broncos stacked the line of scrimmage to prevent a run. The play call sent in by offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner gave Roethlisberger the option to pass.

The first play featured Smith-Schuster breaking from the slot for the back-right corner of the end zone. Roethlisberger’s fade pass landed beyond the receiver’s grasp.

“You throw (in that situation) 99 percent of the time, maybe 100 percent of the time,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s the look to throw it, and JuJu had been winning all day.”

On second down, Roethlisberger was given the same play to use on the run-pass option. He also had Fichtner telling him in the headset to go with the run. James Conner gained a yard, bringing up third-and-goal at the 2.

Roethlisberger said he wanted to use the same run-pass option on third down.

“I was going to throw it to JuJu again,” he said.

Instead, Roethlisberger said he was given a different run-pass play in which he could throw over the middle to Brown, who would be breaking across the front of the end zone from the left. But Roethlisberger bobbled the snap and nearly collided with Conner in the backfield.

“I didn’t have a good grip on the ball,” Roethlisberger said. “So I kind of tried to throw it in the middle of the field (thinking) maybe AB can get there, but if not, there’s no harm done.”

Two things transpired that led to the ball never finding its way into Brown’s hands for a touchdown that would’ve given him a score in a ninth consecutive game.

First, center Maurkice Pouncey pushed Harris into the end zone. Harris was pushed so deep that he was in perfect position to snag Roethlisberger’s pass.

Second, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who was covering Brown, had gotten in front of the receiver, presenting another obstacle to a touchdown pass.

“I can’t tell if he would have caught it or not, but he did undercut AB,” Roethlisberger said. “Who knows what would have happened? I told AB, ‘You have to come in flat. You can’t drift in the end zone.’

“Those undercuts can’t happen.”

Roethlisberger didn’t think he made a high-risk throw, one that resulted in the fourth turnover of the game for the Steelers.

“I thought I was doing the safest thing by throwing it where AB was really going to have to make a play for it,” he said. “Like I said, I wish we would have gone back to JuJu for four straight plays.”

Ben Roethlisberger believes he has ‘earned the right’ to call out his teammates

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/28/2018 - 1:32pm

Some might question the wisdom of Big Ben criticizing his teammates in the press, but it is nothing new for his wide receivers.

Just a day removed from sharing his thoughts about the performances of some of his teammates in the Pittsburgh Steelers disappointing loss to the Denver Broncos, Ben Roethlisberger was left answering questions from the media on Wednesday about the wisdom of calling out players in the press.

Big Ben has never been shy about speaking his mind, even when it seems that some of his remarks might have been better said in private, and the quarterback defended his habit of publicly criticizing his teammates when speaking to reporters before practice.

“Being around for a long time, dealing with a lot of different players, you have to know how to motivate different guys in different ways and I think that’s part of being a leader, being a captain, just understanding players. Sometimes you just grab them off to the sides and sometimes you have to be honest with them. I think that I’ve earned the right to be able to do that with as long as I have been here, and I’ll just be just as critical of myself, as well, in front of you guys.”

Asked how he thinks players respond to his motivational tactics, Roethlisberger suggested he was the wrong person to ask.

“Go ask them, I have no idea. You would have to ask them. I would hope that they would understand that as the quarterback and the captain that I have the right to do those things. I don’t feel like I abuse that situation. So I don’t think it’s an issue, but you would have to ask them.”

Ben Roethlisberger talks about being ready for the 4th quarter of the season, all of his top targets, Philip Rivers and more. pic.twitter.com/KuMtGsbzA2

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 28, 2018

While Big Ben cannot have pleased players like Antonio Brown and James Washington or offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner with his remarks, it is worth noting that James Conner was not given the same treatment as his teammates. Roethlisberger has consistently stood up for his running back after questionable errors in the last two games and did so again during his recent radio segment in the face of criticism of Conner from the show’s hosts.

Tuesday was not the first time Brown or Washington have been called out by their quarterback either and it would seem they are the sort of players Roethlisberger believes respond better to tough love rather than the more sympathetic approach he appears to be taking with Conner. The offense line receive nothing but compliments from their quarterback, and did so even in an era when the unit was among the worst in the league. I am also hard pressed to ever remember hearing a negative word about Roosevelt Nix from Big Ben.

Upon reflection, it might perhaps be more accurate to say that Roethlisberger is more open to calling out his pass catchers publicly, and everyone else is off limits. Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster and even Hines Ward are just some of the receivers who have drawn the ire of Big Ben when faced with a microphone and that is unlikely to change in the future for players like Brown, let alone Washington.

Eli Rogers returns to practice, but is he the No. 3 WR the team is looking for?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/28/2018 - 12:39pm

Eli Rogers has returned to practice. The team now has a few weeks to figure out what to do with him.

During the Pittsburgh Steelers’ divisional round loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last season, Eli Rogers tore his ACL. Talk about bad timing. The undrafted free agent wide receiver was set to hit the free agent market this past offseason, but instead spent it rehabbing from his unfortunate injury.

Once healthy enough to know he could play in the 2018 season, Rogers visited several teams, including the Kansas City Chiefs, before deciding to stay with the Steelers for another season.

Rogers was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List, and has been there since the start of training camp — until now.

While Rogers technically remains on the PUP list, he has returned to practice, meaning the team has 21 days to decide what to do with the former Louisville product.

WR Eli Rogers has returned to practice today.

He will remain on our PUP List and can be activated to our 53-man roster within 21 days.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 28, 2018

With Rogers’ eventual return imminent, it begs the question whether he will be the answer for the No. 3 wide receiver position for the Steelers’ offense.

There is no doubt who No. 1 and No. 2 are within the high-powered offense. JuJu Smith-Schuster leads the team in passing yards, while Antonio Brown has turned into a touchdown machine this year. After those two, it is a big group of players trying to account for the passes which should be intended for the No. 3 wide out.

James Washington was supposed to be that player, but has struggled throughout his rookie season. Could Rogers be the man the team has needed? Or will he be just another weapon in the arsenal for Ben Roethlisberger and Randy Fichtner?

Only time will tell, but his return to practice shows the team is preparing to see what he can bring to the table as the calendar turns from November to December — and the games grow more and more important by the week.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Los Angeles Chargers to come to Heinz Field this Sunday night in Week 13.

Ben Roethlisberger is ‘not going to worry about interceptions’ despite costly turnovers against Broncos

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/28/2018 - 11:28am

Citing his gunslinger mentality, Big Ben has no intention of changing his playing style to avoid interceptions.

Appearing on on his weekly radio segment for 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday morning, Ben Roethlisberger had plenty to say about the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 12 loss. From questioning the play-calling in the final seconds of the game, to Antonio Brown’s inability to run a route properly, Big Ben was quick to point a number of mistake he believed were made on Sunday.

However, it was interesting to note that he had no real problems with the two interceptions he threw against the Denver Broncos. In response to questions about his own turnovers, the Steelers’ quarterback made no apologies for the part he played in losing the game.

“Sometimes those things happen. I’m a quarterback that is going to go out and sling it. You talk about gunslinger or whatever you want to talk about. I’m not going to worry about interceptions. I hate doing them. They bother me. But I’m going to go out and play my game and try to help us win football games.”

While self-confidence is an important trait for any successful NFL quarterback, it is hard to overlook the number of interceptions Roethlisberger has put up this season. Tied for second in the league at 12 with Ryan Fitzpatrick and just behind rookie Sam Darnold (14), Big Ben also leads the NFL in redzone turnovers with four.

Ben Roethlisberger a fascinating case of a QB unafraid of risk/turnovers while keeping win totals high. Only Blake Bortles has more interceptions than Roethlisberger's 55 since 2015, but as @gerrydulac pointed out, since then only Tom Brady has more wins than Big Ben, 44 to 37.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) November 27, 2018

As Jeremy Fowler of ESPN notes, Big Ben has thrown a frightening number of interceptions over the last few year when compared to his peers, but it is hard to question his win rate, even in games when he has thrown multiple picks.

On course to record the second highest number of interceptions he has ever given away in a season, beating the total of 16 he threw in 2015, Roethlisberger is thankfully unlikely to eclipse his record of 23 from 2006. His picks have also come in bunches in 2018, with eight coming in just three games and only one of those matchups ended in a Pittsburgh victory.

Facing a tough schedule over the remaining five weeks of the season, the Steelers will be hoping to see more of the quarterback who only threw four interceptions between Weeks 2 and 10 than the one they have been seeing as of late.

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