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5 reasons the Steelers will definitely not keep 4 quarterbacks in the organization

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 11:55am
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Including the practice squad, the Steelers can’t afford to completely waste a roster spot.

I’m not exactly sure where the notion came from, but there have been discussions among Steelers fans about the team keeping all four of their quarterbacks currently on their preseason 91-man roster. Frankly, the idea is absurd when you take the time to think it through rationally. Regardless of how good a player is, if they are buried so deep on the depth chart where they would be more likely to run the water onto the field during a timeout than to actually be wearing a helmet on game day, the player would be better off earning a higher spot on another squad. If you happen to be someone on the fence about the possibility, here are five reasons to talk you out of it before you come off as crazy to your Steelers buddies.

Getting Practice Reps

During a regular week of preparation for an NFL game, there are limited opportunities for practice. During the 2018 season, Mason Rudolph rarely saw practice reps outside of when Ben Roethlisberger was getting a day off. Even when Ben was resting, Joshua Dobbs was taking advantage of all the reps he could get. Other than the bye week, Rudolph was mainly tasked to run the scout team offense. With hardly any work available for the third string quarterback, why would the Steelers keep a fourth? Wouldn’t the practice squad spot be much better served with someone who could actually help during practice?

Taking up a Roster Spot

The Steelers are able to keep up to 64 players to be a part of their team in 2019. Not counting players on the Injured Reserve or Physically Unable to Perform lists, the Steelers have their 53-man roster, 10 practice squad players, and one practice squad international exemption for Christian Scotland-Williamson if they chose to keep him. As coveted as roster spots are, keeping Scotland-Williamson is a no-brainer. What a lot of fans may not realize is an NFL practice squad is more than just a place to attempt to hide away talent. The players on the squad are an integral part in helping the team prepare for their upcoming opponent. If you don’t believe me, look at the positions kept on the practice squad in years past. When matched up with the active roster, it is clear the Steelers need a certain number of players at given positions in order to get the proper work at practice.

Benefit to the 2019 Team

If the Steelers keep a player who would only see the field if three other players were injured, is that player really helping them win in 2019? What role would they serve? The only reason to keep that many quarterbacks would be if the Steelers felt their fourth guy would be their number one or number two quarterback the next season. If they really felt that way, why not make that player the number three quarterback this season? If they feel the same way about the number three quarterback, then why not make them the number two quarterback? They can’t believe all four players could be the starter or backup in 2020. I understand Ben Roethlisberger is a franchise quarterback who is closing in on the end of his career. Even if the Steelers think it could be Ben’s last year, they need to decide who could be their starter and backup without Ben the following year and those two players should make the team. All this discussion still doesn't mean anything to help the Steelers win this year.

Clearing Waivers

In order for a player to be signed to the practice squad, they must first be released and pass through waivers. At that time, any team can claim the player and place them on their 53-man roster. The only way a team can keep a player safe is by keeping them on the active roster or placing them on IR. If the Steelers think a quarterback is so talented they wish to keep him, don’t you think at least one other team might want the player as well? If the player does clear waivers, are they really worth keeping on the practice squad? Even if the Steelers did, the second any quarterback gets injured throughout the league, there is a good chance their quarterback is going to get poached. Any player on an NFL practice squad may be signed by any other team to their active roster. So the Steelers could be wasting a practice squad position for a player who is more likely to help someone else later in the season. Let’s say the Steelers don’t sign their fourth quarterback to the practice squad and they end up on a different one. If the Steelers have an injury and need a quarterback, thy could always sign them back from wherever they are, either on the street or another team’s practice squad.

Doing Right by the Player

If a player is the fourth quarterback on the roster, does it even benefit them to stay on the team? If they are of little help to the franchise as outlined above, keeping a player around who isn’t helping now along with not having a plan to utilize them in the future does not help the player’s development. The only upside for the player is the salary. But could they find a better situation to increase their salary both now and in future seasons? If the Steelers aren’t going to have a plan for a player, they would much rather wish them the best of luck and give them the opportunity to catch on somewhere else.

If you are one of the Steelers fans holding out hope that they will keep one of their quarterbacks on the practice squad, I hope this was a bit of a wake-up call. I can’t remember the last time any NFL team kept four quarterbacks aside from a situation with multiple questionable injures at the position. While there may be some franchises who put quarterbacks on the practice squad, those teams are ones who only keep two on the active roster. Since the Steelers are one of the teams which insist on keeping three quarterbacks, they’ve pretty much made the statement that the practice squad is for positions other than quarterback.

While Devin Bush drew rave reviews, Justin Layne’s NFL debut was less than stellar

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 10:34am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The rookie cornerback got off to a rough start in the preseason, but that doesn’t mean his career is destined for to follow suit.

After Week 1 of the NFL Preseason, Pittsburgh Steelers fans were all buzzing about rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush. Bush got the attention of the national media with his 10 total tackles in just under a half of football played. In his weekly press conference Mike Tomlin compared Bush’s play to Ryan Shazier’s debut in the league.

High praise coming from the head coach, but what got swept under the rug was sub-par play by fellow rookie Justin Layne. The former Michigan State cornerback played almost the entire game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, but left plenty to be desired.

“It looked a little big for him at times,” Mike Tomlin said, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “We talked openly about that today. … I’m sure it’s going to be valuable experience for him but (it was) not necessarily a positive experience for him.”

I appreciate the positive spin Tomlin put on Layne’s performance Friday night, but the picture he was really painting was a horrible performance by the third round draft pick. As for Layne, after the game it didn’t seem like he needed his coach to diagnose how bad his performance was.

“Oh yeah,” the cornerback said of being nervous in Week 1. “Everything about it — walking into the stadium, driving in, checking in — all that. It’s crazy.

“But hey, I got to learn.”

“I felt like I had fun even though I messed up,” Layne said after the Steelers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday. “It’s football. You are going to mess up some plays.”

Acknowledging a problem is often the first step to fixing the issue, and when asked what Layne needs to do better he gave a concise answer.

“Put my head on people.”

Needless to say, Layne understands this isn’t college ball anymore.

“It’s not college anymore, (so) just relax a little bit. I felt like the last couple series I was more relaxed, and I was more myself and in my state. But at first I felt like it was normal jitters every rookie has.”

“In the NFL, it’s just a lot faster,” Layne added. “I just have to adjust. It is an adjustment thing.

“I don’t feel like I have to rush into it. It’s just something I have to keep working on and building on.”

The good news is the rookie will have plenty of opportunities to fix his game moving forward with Joe Haden expected to be held out of the game with an ankle contusion, and Steven Nelson not likely to see the field much vs. the Kansas City Chiefs this Saturday at Heinz Field.

A concern for many black-and-gold faithful is if Layne could turn into a stellar cornerback of the future, or if he is just the next in a long line of mid-round cornerbacks who flamed out before they lit the game on fire.

Layne has the build and pedigree of a great cornerback, but as the Week 1 game illustrated he needs development. Will the Steelers be able to develop Layne? Gone is Carnell Lake, and in are Tom Bradley and Teryl Austin as defensive backs coaches. Layne should be considered their next project, and if they can succeed where others have failed will be a very interesting experiment to watch over the next 2-3 seasons.

The Steelers have two days of training camp remaining before they break camp and head back to Pittsburgh prior to their Week 2 Preseason game on Saturday night. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold.

7 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin during his press conference on Tuesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 9:30am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Coach Tomlin answered questions after his press conference before players returned to the field for Tuesday’s practice

At the end of his weekly press conference on Tuesday before the Pittsburgh Steelers took the field for practice, head coach Mike Tomlin answered football-related questions from the media. Earlier in the press conference, Tomlin answered questions pertaining to the passing of Coach Drake. Separating personal tragedy from football issues, Coach Tomlin finished up being asked questions about specific players in regards to their recent play and their role in the upcoming game. This list isn’t to suggest these players were the only ones who stood out, but highlights players about whom Tomlin was asked questions.

Joe Haden

Steelers’ CB Joe Haden, who was carted off the practice field today, suffered what is being described as “a minor ankle” injury, per source. Looks like major injury averted.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 7, 2019

When the report surfaced of Joe Haden being carted off the field last Thursday, half of Steelers Nation held their breath while the other half screamed in frustration. Luckily the cart was only used so Haden didn’t have to walk up the hill and the injury doesn’t appear to be something which would linger into the regular season.

Coach Tomlin was asked about the status of Haden’s foot/ankle.

“It’s a contusion. That being said, I don’t know that he’ll be participating today. We’ll continue to address injury situations the way we always do in training camp style. We’ve got a lot of guys working their way back on the grass today.”

Maurkice Pouncey

Maurkice Pouncey just left practice with an athletic trainer. Smiled and waved to fans as he left, but something to keep an eye on. #Steelers

— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) August 5, 2019

When Maurkice Pouncey left the Family Fest practice at Heinz Field on Sunday, August 4, Coach Tomlin described the injury as minor. While some reports stated it was a back injury while others suggested a leg ailment of some sort, details of Pouncey’s injury have been kept in-house to this point.

Coach Tomlin was asked what sort of injury Pouncey was dealing with.

“I don’t get into the details. He’s day-to-day. He’ll be back out probably sooner rather than later.”

Cameron Sutton

Nice coverage on third-and-short by Cam Sutton. Forces incompletion. Bucs will try a 55-yad FG with :04 remaining. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 10, 2019

The other third-round pick from the 2017 draft, Cam Sutton is still fighting for playing time anywhere in the secondary. Starting on the outside at corner on Friday, Sutton has also played in the slot and at safety.

Coach Tomlin was asked about Sutton’s play on the outside Friday night.

“I thought he did some solid things. He’s done some solid things out here playing on the outside. I think just a description of his performance and contributions to this point I think have been really solid. I think his versatility is really showing. I think he’s been above the line outside and inside, and I think that’s useful for him in terms of earning and establishing a role and, obviously, useful for us.”

Tomlin was asked a follow up question about what he thinks is Sutton’s best position.

“I think we are going to continue to determine that. Particularly as we get in stadium action. The work out here is football-like, but not football. We’ve got three other weeks of action awaiting us, so we’ll continue to work him and others and establish an opinion there.”

Justin Layne

Rookie cornerback Justin Layne struggled in his preseason debut.

Overall defensive coverage grade of 44.9.

On 9 targets he allowed 8 receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown.

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) August 11, 2019

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Justin Layne went through a lot of different moments in his first NFL game. Starting at corner opposite of Cam Sutton, Layne missed several tackles, two of which resulted in touchdowns. While his play did improve as the competition across the line of scrimmage diminished, Layne has his work cut out for him the next few weeks in order to earn a helmet on game day.

Coach Tomlin was asked his thoughts on Layne’s first extended time.

“It looked a little big for him at times. We talked openly about that today. That’s what I mean when I say we’re going to be really transparent. It’s a big business day for us. But I also told every member of the team not to over-analyze performances. Justin Layne is a very young guy who stepped in the stadium for the first time and had an opportunity to start and to start against an NFL starting quarterback because of injury and lack of availability of others. Maybe not necessarily because of what he did to get in that spot. Such is life in football and particularly in football this time of year. I’m sure it is going to be valuable experience for him, but not necessarily a positive experience for him. You also take another young guy like Ulysees (Gilbert) who made a lot of splash plays, but I pointed out to the team that those plays were made between plays 80-89 defensively. So the people that he was on the field with were not the quality of people that Justin Layne was on the field with. So we better not read too much into quality of performance. We all just better keep our heads down and keep working. That’s what the group intends to do, Justin Layne included.”

Ulysees Gilbert III

Ulysees Gilbert played 46 defensive snaps in almost 2 quarters. He finished the game with an elite overall grade of 92.2 — the 2nd-highest mark among the 53 off-ball linebackers who played at least 30 snaps in the first week of the preseason.

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) August 13, 2019

In one of the lighter moments of the press conference, Mike Tomlin referred to Ulysees Gilbert as “Ulysees Grant” while discussing young players when asked about Justin Layne. As for Gilbert’s performance, his statistics from Week 1 speak for themselves as he had 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception on a two-point conversion.

Coach Tomlin was asked if referring to him as “Ulysees Grant” was a slip or a nickname.

“A slip. You know how it is. I’ve got a lot going on.”

I have a feeling it will now be both.

James Washington

Former Oklahoma State teammates Mason Rudolph and James Washington connect for the TD

(via @NFL)

— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 10, 2019

After his struggles to get acclimated to the NFL his rookie season, James Washington wasted no time in year two showing why he was drafted in the second round. One only the second offensive play from scrimmage, Washington pulled in a 43-yard pass from Joshua Dobbs. Washington ended the night with four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Coach Tomlin was asked about the depth of receiver regarding players like James Washington and Tevin Jones.

“They played well. We’re excited about getting some others out that missed time. So, we’re just going to keep working, but I like the accounting that those guys have made of themselves.”

Tomlin was asked another question about Washington and what he is looking for when it comes to making catches and and gaining yards.

“All the things you just mentioned and others. A high level of consistency in play, to look like a guy that has done a lap around the track like we’re asking of all guys moving into their second year.”

Johnny Holton

Johnny Holton won't go down!

: #TBvsPIT on NFL Network (or check local listings)

— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) August 10, 2019

The forgotten free-agent signing of the 2019 season, Johnny Holton showed why he was able to stick in the NFL for the three previous seasons. Hauling in two passes, one of which was for 59 yards, Holton showed he can be both the receiver and the special teams player the Steelers lost when they didn’t re-sign Darruis Heyward-Bey.

Coach Tomlin was asked how aware he was of Holton before the Steelers signed him in the spring.

“Very. He has NFL resume and tape.”

Mike Tomlin’s full media session can be seen here:

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 13, 2019

Predicting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 53-man roster after Preseason Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 8:28am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With one preseason game under our belt, it’s time to update our predictions for the Steelers 53-man roster.

Preseason Week 1 is in the books. Now that most most players have taken the field to show they are worthy of making the cut, let’s re-visit our 53-man offseason roster prediction. Did anything change? Who do we have projected to make the team, and who will be looking for employment in a few weeks?

As always, we welcome you to join the conversation in our comment section below this article. Let your voice be heard and join in the black-and-gold conversation!


Quarterback (3)

Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Joshua Dobbs

Changes: None, other than the order

Analysis: Rudolph looked more like the Steelers back up for 2019. Can they both hold off the surging Devlin Hodges?

Running Back (3)

James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell Jr.

Changes: None

Analysis: Trey Edmunds is a name to watch, but there just doesn’t appear to be any room.

Fullback (1)

Roosevelt Nix

Changes: None

Analysis: The 2017 Pro Bowler is a lock.

Wide Receiver (6)

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Eli Rogers, Johnny Holton

Changes: Holton in, Ryan Switzer out

Analysis: I liked Johnny Holton before the first preseason game, and I like him even more now. Keeping him fills the Darrius Heyward-Bey role from last season. To make room, Switzer or Rodgers had to go. I flipped a coin, so this week it’s Switzer.

Tight End (3)

Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Zach Gentry

Changes: None

Analysis: Gentry at least showed he was on the team in Week 1. I never noticed Grimble. A move here is still possible before the regular season.

Offensive Line (9)

Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, B.J. Finney, Fred Johnson, Zach Banner

Changes: Johnson and Banner in, Grey and Hawkins out

Analysis: I added a couple of big boys to the squad. Both Johnson and Banner are earning spots on the field while Hawkins has seemed to struggle.

Total Offense: 25 Defense

Defensive Line (6)

Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Javon Hargrave, Tyson Alualu, Isaiah Buggs, Lavon Hooks

Changes: None

Analysis: I think Buggs and Hooks can both bump Daniel McCullers off the roster. Keep an eye out for Henry Mondeaux who played well at the end of the Tampa game.

Outside Linebacker (4)

T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi

Changes: Smith out

Analysis: By not taking the field in Week 1, Sutton Smith has an uphill battle to make the squad. Chances are he doesn’t bump an OLB, but instead would take a spot from some other position group. It doesn’t help Tuzar Skipper is also getting noticed.

Inside Linebacker (4)

Vince Williams, Mark Barron, Devin Bush, Ulysees Gilbert III, Tyler Matakevich

Changes: Matakevich in

Analysis: With both Gilbert and Matakevich playing well against Tampa, both players could earn the spot.

Cornerback (6)

Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne, Artie Burns

Changes: Burns in, Allen out

Analysis: It’s strange Artie Burns moved back onto the roster when he didn’t play in the game. Still, Brian Allen didn’t stand out in any way. Justin Layne will stay due to his draft status, but look for him to be inactive most of the season.

Safety (4)

Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Dangerfield, Kameron Kelly

Changes: Kelly in, Allen out

Analysis: Marcus Allen didn’t really do anything to get noticed so far this preseason. But don’t count him out yet because he didn’t do much in 2018 until Week 3.

Total Defense: 25 Special Teams

Specialists (3)

Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry, Kameron Canaday

Changes: None

Analysis: Boz looks better, but Berry may be in more of a battle with Ian Berryman than he realizes.

Total Team: 53

Steelers 2019 Training Camp Recap: Rain cuts somber practice short on Tuesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 7:25am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers have just a few training camp practices left, and while there are times it is still considered “football in shorts”, the team has had plenty of news coming from these workouts heading into the preseason.

Of all the workouts to date from Saint Vincent College, Tuesdays practice might have gone down as one of the more somber practices in Latrobe, PA. After finding out about the death of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake early Sunday, it took all the energy and enthusiasm out of camp — as expected.

The Steelers were forced to try and move on, and try to find some sense of normalcy, but there is a new normal the team must try and get accustomed to both at camp and when the team returns back to Pittsburgh in a few days. Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review describes the scene Tuesday before practice.

It’s very quiet on the field and in the stands as one might expect for the first practice for the Steelers since Darryl Drake’s death.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 13, 2019

But when the players took the field, the scene was visibly different, and I’m not referring to the rain clouds forming in the sky above Saint Vincent in the video below by The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly.

A powerful moment at Steelers camp. @TheAthleticPGH

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 13, 2019

If a picture tells a thousand words, this one might just tell a million. It can’t be easy, but a great shot telling a very real story from Matt Sunday of DKPittsburghSports.

.@JamesWashington comforting @Switz after the prayer circle broke. These dudes are a family. #DKPS #Steelers

— Matt Sunday (@mattsunday) August 13, 2019

The team still practiced, without pads, and there was some minor news which came from it. Time to dig in and see what happened Tuesday.

Ray Sherman, former Offensive Coordinator, helping with WRs

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced they do have a succession plan for Drake’s vacant role as wide receivers coach, but they weren’t going to reveal it at the time. However, at practice Tuesday Ray Sherman, former offensive coordinator, and Blaine Stewart, coaching assistant, were the coaches putting the receivers through their paces.

Some might read this as Sherman is the new receivers coach, but I would hesitate drawing any conclusions at this moment. Nothing is official yet.

Former Steelers OC and longtime WR coach (nearly 20 years in the NFL) Ray Sherman has been helping out at camp all month. He jumped in with Blaine Stewart leading the receivers through drills during first practice since the passing of Darryl Drake. @TheAthleticPGH

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 13, 2019

Several Players Return

There was some good news Tuesday, and it was the return to the practice field, and hopefully the playing field Saturday, for several players.

Artie Burns back out there for Steelers today #steelers#dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 13, 2019

Deionte Johnson back at practice for the #Steelers

— Tony Serino - Locked On Steelers (@steelercountry) August 13, 2019

It wasn’t long into practice before the sky opened up and the rain started to pour. When lightning was spotted in the area coach Mike Tomlin elected to just cancel practice rather than wait out the storm.

The team will have open practices Wednesday and Thursday before breaking camp and heading back to Pittsburgh prior to the Week 2 preseason game vs. the Chiefs and the remaining two weeks of the preseason.


#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 13, 2019

Working with the wide receivers is Ray Sherman, a longtime NFL assistant who last coached in league with Rams from 2012-15. He was Steelers offensive coordinator in 1998. Coaching assistant Blaine Stewart, son of former WVU coach Bill Stewart, also is helping run position drills.

— Kevin Gorman (@KGorman_Trib) August 13, 2019 PHOTOS

The offensive players met at the middle of Chuck Noll Field to pray just as the rains started coming down. #DKPS #Steelers

— Matt Sunday (@mattsunday) August 13, 2019

Much different feel here today, to be expected. @TeamJuJu, just lying on the grass ahead of team stretches, helped up by @drm_12. #DKPS #Steelers

— Matt Sunday (@mattsunday) August 13, 2019

A special moment before Tuesday’s practice for Coach Drake.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 13, 2019

This tells me something...

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 13, 2019

Devin Bush jumps into the lead for best odds to win Defensive Rookie of the Year

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 6:34am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In odds updated after Week 1 of the preseason, Bush moves into the top spot

When placing a wager on anything associated with the NFL, timing is everything. To maximize your winnings, or to get the best possible lines, placing your bet at the precise moment can make or break the wager. If you were hoping to make the most money on Devin Bush winning Defensive Rookie of the Year (DROY), your time may have passed after his performance against Tampa Bay on Friday night.

Before preseason games were played, Bush was tied for fifth on the list for DROY according to with 10/1 (+1000) odds on July 18. The top spot went to Nick Bosa at 5/1 followed by Josh Allen at 7/1, Devin White at 8/1, and Quinnen Williams at 17/2. Ed Oliver was the other player tied with Bush at 10/1.

Odds to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (BetOnline):

Bosa +500
Allen +700
White +800
Q. Williams +850
Bush/Oliver +1000
Sweat +1200
Burns +1400
Ferrell +1600
Gary +2000
Tillery +2500
Murphy/Winovich/Baker/Williams/Thornhill/Ya-Sin +2800

— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) July 18, 2019

In an article publish on Sunday, August 11 on, the odds courtesy of Bovoda have shifted to favor the Steelers first-round draft pick. After his debut on Friday, Devin Bush is now at 5/1 (+500) odds to bring home the DROY honor, matching Nick Bosa’s initial mark. With injuries keeping him out of the preseason and the fear they could linger into regular-season play, Bosa’s line has dropped to 15/2 which is still enough to keep him in second place. With the exception of Devin White remaining at 8/1, all other players previously in the top ten saw their odds making them less likely to win the award.

As for why Bush’s odds lowered by half, it was not merely his performance in a meaningless game to start the season. With playing time a large determining factor for winning Defensive Rookie of the Year, Bush showed on Friday night he is ready to step in at a key position on the Steelers defense. If Bush can match his playing time with the productivity he showed in the only game under his belt in the NFL, his chances of being in the running for DROY are fairly certain.

The cutoff for placing bets on season awards like Defensive Rookie of the Year is September 5. With three more preseason games to go, these odds could continue to change for many of the players. Of the various individual awards, the offensive and defensive rookie honors are the ones affected the most my preseason games. When the original lines came out, all the odds-makers had to go on was college tape and statistics. With only one game so far to show how players could possibly be utilized, there was already a lot of movement. One can only imagine how the odds will continue to shape up after three more games, let alone how injuries could become a larger factor.

If 5/1 odds are appealing to you as a sports gambler, placing a wager on Bush would be a wise decision. If you happened to be someone who got in on the action ahead of time, the 10/1 odds are looking pretty good right about now. But if you are a Steelers fan who doesn’t actually place wagers but instead likes to see how things are projected for the season, the lowering of Devin Bush’s line is a welcomed sight for the 2019 season.

Podcast: Plenty of challenges await the Steelers in Preseason Week 2

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 5:30am

In the latest BTSC podcast, our Steelers ‘Stat Geek’ breaks down the numbers surrounding the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is just starting, and the news is just starting to heat up. 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 podcast The Steelers Stat Geek. On this show deputy editor Dave Schofield breaks down all things Steelers stats, and also answers questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Training Camp Notes
  • Challenges awaiting the Steelers in preseason Week 2 vs. the Chiefs
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave walks 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


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: James Washington remains humble after a flawless preseason opener

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/14/2019 - 4:30am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to the gridiron when they reported back to training camp. With practices underway, the news surrounding the black-and-gold is just starting to heat up. As the team prepares for the coming season, we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the season starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how despite being nearly flawless against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the NFL Preseason, James Washington remains humble in his approach to Week 2 vs. the Chiefs and beyond.

Let’s get to the news:

  • You can say a lot of things about James Washington, but calling him a self-centered, or self-absorbed is way off. The young man remains humble every step along the way.

Washington humble after 2019 debut: ‘I never think I’m perfect’

By: Hunter Homistek, DKPittsburghSports

James Washington had himself a night in the Steelers’ preseason opener, a 30-28 win against the Buccaneers at Heinz Field.

Washington, a player the Steelers need to make a big leap in Year 2, hauled in four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, earning high praise from Pro Football Focus in the process.

I had to ask Washington about that connection with Rudolph. Those two did work in college, and it appears that connection is rolling into the NFL as well. In 2016, Washington was named the Alamo Bowl’s Offensive MVP after catching nine passes for 171 yards and a touchdown from Rudolph. In 2017, he won the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In all, Washington caught 198 passes for 4,016 yards and 33 touchdowns from his sophomore year to his senior year — the same time frame Rudolph held down the team’s starting role.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • How did Mike Tomlin view the three quarterbacks who played on Friday night vs. the Buccaneers in Week 1? “Above the line.”

Mike Tomlin: Play from Steelers 3 QBs in preseason opener ‘above the line’

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn’t mention any of his three backup quarterbacks by name, but during Tuesday’s news conference he did offer an unsolicited hearty endorsement of the play of Josh Dobbs, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges during the Steelers’ preseason opener four days prior.

“I thought, generally, the quarterback play was positive,” Tomlin said. “All three guys, I thought, made a good accounting of themselves in the stadium. They handled some of the game-situational things above the line (and) did a great job of communicating and even executing some situational ball scenarios relatively well.”

Dobbs started and engineered two possessions, Rudolph handled four drives – two each before and after halftime – and Hodges was running the offense for the final four offensive drives of what ended up a 30-28 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Is it possible the Steelers new about Antonio Brown’s helmet situation and was another reason why the team was willing to ship the receiver to the Raiders? Seems far fetched to me...

Did Steelers know helmet mess was looming for Antonio Brown?

By: Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

Raiders receiver Antonio Brown wants to wear the helmet he wore during nine seasons with the Steelers. His insistence on getting his way has become one of the strangest off-field stories in recent memory, if not ever.

Here’s an interesting question about the situation: Did the Steelers know that the helmet fight was coming?

Although Brown’s helmet isn’t one of the 11 models that as of this year are banned from use by NFL players, Brown’s helmet simply couldn’t be certified for use again because it’s now more than 10 years old. Last year, it wasn’t. It’s fair to wonder whether someone at some point within the Steelers organization became aware that 2018 was the last year that Brown could wear his helmet of choice.

Given that the Steelers knew Brown’s proclivities and eccentricities as well as anyone, it’s possible that they sensed the coming storm. Avoiding this potential distraction to their 2019 preseason preparations may have been one of the factors in the team’s decision to move on from Brown.

Yes, the perception is that Brown broke up with the Steelers. That he wanted out and got out. But the Steelers may have wanted him out, opting to let him think he was getting his way because the broader objective was just to get him away from the organization.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 13, 2019

24 Days Until NFL Kickoff!

#24 Benny Snell carried the load early on Thursday night (a team-high 13 carries) but averaged just two yards per carry on the night.

Final grade was

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) August 12, 2019

After the 1st week of the preseason no team had a higher overall PFF pass rush grade (90.3) than the Pittsburgh Steelers

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) August 12, 2019

LB Tyler Matakevich led the way for the #Steelers defense in preseason Week 1!

— PFF (@PFF) August 13, 2019

James Washington made a huge impact in the Steelers' first preseason game and led all wide receivers with at least four targets this week with his 7.00 yards per route run average.

He also ranked second with 65 yards on passes of 20-plus air yards

— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) August 11, 2019

Will Lamar Jackson stay healthy long enough for the Ravens to revolutionize offense in the NFL?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 2:44pm
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

The Ravens are hellbent on designing their scheme around the abilities of quarterback Lamar Jackson and revolutionizing modern offense in 2019. But if Jackson can’t improve as a passer, there will be no such revolution.

Maybe I’m just a Steelers jerk fan when I ask this question: When John Harbaugh, the coach of the Ravens, says he’s going to revolutionize offense in the NFL, is this just his way of saying, “Yeah, our quarterback isn’t very accurate with his passes, but he sure can run, so we’re going to make the best of it”?

Yes, it’s true, John Harbaugh, a coach known more for his knowledge of special teams and defense, has been pretty adamant early in Ravens training camp that they can do for the modern NFL offense what the 49ers did in the 1980s under the leadership of the brilliant Bill Walsh, in many ways the godfather of the contemporary passing game.

“Standing in front of the team, Harbaugh said the Ravens weren’t going to chase the long-standing model of the drop-back passer. Baltimore is going to break the mold of NFL offenses, the head coach told his players.”

That was a snippet from an article published on July 31, which details Harbaugh’s vision.

The reason for Harbaugh’s decision to go against the grain is his quarterback: Lamar Jackson, the second-year man out of Louisville and the key component to Harbaugh’s master plan.

The Ravens are going to try and keep opponents off-balance with an array of run-pass option schemes designed around Jackson’s ability to make things happen with both his arm and his legs.

Fine, but can Jackson do the arm thing? That’s going to be the real key to this plan. If Jackson can’t, if his accuracy and inability to progress beyond his second read before taking off and running (two things that were listed as weaknesses in his Draft Profile), are still problems in 2019, I don’t see how he will last long enough to revolutionize anything.

Jackson set the record for single-season rushing attempts for a quarterback last year with 147. That’s a lot of rushing attempts for a passer that is listed at 212 pounds. Even if Jackson is a little bigger this year, as was mentioned in the story, will his frame be able to withstand the pounding over the course of a 16-game season, especially since Harbaugh seems to indicate his young quarterback would likely smash the single-season record for attempts in 2019?

To the Ravens credit, they recognized they were going nowhere with Joe Flacco a season ago; they made Jackson their starter late in the year, utilized his ability to make things happen with his feet, and they rode him all the way to an unlikely AFC North title.

But in Baltimore’s playoff game against the Chargers, Jackson was exposed as a quarterback a defense could keep in check just as long as it contained him as a runner.

Isn’t that the recipe for any NFL defense, make an offense one-dimensional? And if the strength of an offense is running the football, shutting that element down almost guarantees success.

To lend some expertise to Harbaugh’s vision, he hired Greg Roman as offensive coordinator. Roman was previously the architect of offenses led by Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor. Therefore, the theory is, he’ll be able to take Jackson, who is considered to have a much higher upside, and, to reiterate, pull a Bill Walsh.

The thing that Walsh did with the 49ers in the 1980s, though, was take advantage of the many rules enacted in the previous decade—narrowing the hash-marks, eliminating bump and run coverage, allowing offensive linemen to extend their arms in pass-protection, etc.—that were clearly designed to favor the passing game. And in case you haven’t been paying attention over the past 40 years or so, the league has never stopped trying to create ways to make passing the football easier.

Instead of trying to take advantage of these rules, the Ravens want to break the mold and go against the grain?

What will the Ravens do if Jackson can’t significantly improve on those aforementioned passing weaknesses? If he does, look out to the entire NFL. Fran Tarkenton and Steve Young are in the Hall of Fame. Michael Vick was likely headed there before he made some very poor life choices. Randall Cunningham was a handful in his day. But what made those guys truly special was that they were complete quarterbacks who could sit back in the pocket and pick defenses apart when they had to.

NFL defenses are filled with freakish athletes who are big, fast and strong. They dream of getting a free shot at the quarterback. Sure, the Ravens might initially do some damage with this planned attack that’s hellbent on revolutionizing modern offense. But what happens when defenses begin to catch up? And it might not take them too long to catch up if Jackson doesn’t have the accuracy to find his shiny new receivers downfield. What happens if Jackson becomes just another run-first quarterback? That’s a lot of hits per game to absorb from those freakish athletes on the other side of the ball.

Not to disparage Jackson too much, but Harbaugh’s plan sounds an awful lot like what the Broncos may have had to do with Tim Tebow had Peyton Manning not been released by the Colts prior to the 2012 season.

Is what Harbaugh’s proposing truly innovative, or is it merely smoke and mirrors aimed at covering up the deficiencies of his young quarterback?

I guess the Steelers and the rest of the NFL will soon find out.

Steelers Training Camp 2019: Live news and updates 8/13

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 1:30pm
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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 2019 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and the rabid fans awaiting their chance to watch the Black-and-gold, are prepared for training camp, and that comes with the first day of actual practice. The Steelers are back to practicing!

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 is 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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Mike Tomlin provides clarity to Joe Haden injury, as well as other banged up Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 12:15pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have some banged up players heading into Week 2 of the preseason. Time to recap those walking wounded.

Leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 1 preseason game on Friday night, the hot news item was the weird and mysterious injury to cornerback Joe Haden. Wedensday’s practice saw team reporter Missi Matthews report Haden was carted off the practice field. What happened was Haden walked off the field and was taken in a cart up the hill to the dorms for further examination.

Later that day the Steelers stated they wouldn’t address Haden’s injury until after the game, but did label the injury as minor.

The game came and went, and after the passing of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake Sunday, Haden’s minor injury was forced onto the back burner. Tuesday, as Mike Tomlin addressed the media prior to the team’s Week 2 preseason game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs he was asked about Haden’s injury. Tomlin described Haden’s injury as an ankle contusion, and didn’t make it sound like a long-term injury. However, Tomlin did say Haden, and a few other Steelers could miss some time in practice this week.

This from Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Joe Haden has an ankle contusion. He does not expect him to practice today. Also no Pouncey or DeCastro today. But other injured players are expected to work their way back in some capacity this afternoon when the Steelers practice.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 13, 2019

The other players mentioned from the press conference were Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro, who were both listed as day-to-day. Christian Scotland-Williamson continues to deal with a ‘soft tissue’ injury, which was labeled as a hamstring injury post-game Friday night, which might limit his participation this week.

It might seem difficult to move on to football after the passing of a coach, but Tomlin reiterated the need to handle things in a professional manner and remember the NFL world keeps spinning no matter what.

To see Tomlin’s full press conference, check the video below:

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 13, 2019

Steelers have a plan in place to fill Darryl Drake’s role, but aren’t going to reveal it yet

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 10:57am
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost their wide receivers coach this weekend, and they plan to replace him. Just not yet.

The Pittsburgh Steelers organization was delivered a devastating blow this past weekend when wide receivers coach Darryl Drake suddenly passed away on Sunday morning. The organization cancelled practice Sunday and Monday, and head coach Mike Tomlin met with the media on Tuesday to recap the Week 1 preseason win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and to talk about the upcoming Week 2 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Clearly, Tomlin had to touch on the loss of Drake, and one of the questions which came up was what the organization is going to do since they don’t have a wide receivers coach at the moment.

Mike Tomlin stated they do have a plan in place to replace Drake, but at this time they aren’t willing to make those plans public.

In terms of who will handle coaching the WRs, Coach Tomlin said they have a plan in place, but he didn't want to go into it right now.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 13, 2019

Tomlin said he didn’t think it was appropriate right now to talk about what he might do to replace Drake.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) August 13, 2019

The likely plan for the Steelers is to give the news of Drake’s passing some time to pass before announcing what those plans will be to fill out the coaching staff. When will this plan come to fruition? Or at least be made known to the public? That is a delicate situation which will be answered inside the walls of the Steelers’ organization.

Football returns to Saint Vincent College on Tuesday afternoon, whether coaches and players feel like it. The team will have open practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before a closed practice Friday leading up to the Chiefs game Saturday night at Heinz Field.

When asked if getting back to football will help dealing with the loss of coach Drake, Tomlin wasn’t so sure.

Coach Tomlin on how getting back to football today helps: ‘I don’t know if it does.’

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 13, 2019

The Steelers will return with heavy hearts, but the hope is getting back on the field will help the entire organization begin the difficult process of healing.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers heading into Week 2 of the NFL preseason.

Mike Tomlin not concerned about longevity with the Steelers, solely focused on 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 9:35am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach understands what people are saying about his contract, but he doesn’t care about the future...just 2019.

Mike Tomlin has been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach since 2007. 12 years in Pittsburgh, and if you are reading this article, and have followed the team closely for his entire tenure with the team, you know Tomlin has a way with words. He is a wordsmith if I’ve ever seen one.

When talking with others about Tomlin’s press conferences, I jokingly say Tomlin says everything, while saying nothing. If he is giving hard truths, it typically means something really bad has happened. Think Antonio Brown’s Facebook video, or Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount’s joy ride.

Otherwise, Tomlin deflects questions like Ben Roethlisberger deflects would-be tacklers, but he doesn’t do it like Bill Belichick. Tomlin isn’t a grumpy old man. No, he is someone who loves to use all his ‘Tomlinisms’ and delicately weave a web of words to try and answer the question, without giving away any unnecessary information whatsoever.

This is the case every time Tomlin steps in front of a microphone, and was when he was interviewed by NBC’s Peter King at Saint Vincent College prior to the team’s first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. King specifically asked Tomlin about his one-year contract extension he received prior to camp, and Tomlin’s answer was a classic.

“I love the job. I love the challenges it presents. The variables are ever-changing. It’s continually stimulating. In terms of longevity, I don’t think a lot about longevity. I just like to feel the urgency of now. You do that enough, and you win enough, and you get longevity. Longevity has never been my focus. I just want to be a really good football team here in 2019.”

Tomlin Translation: I still love coaching very much, but I try not to think about the team giving me just a one-year contract. Rather, I just want to focus on winning in 2019. If I can do that, future contracts will take care of itself.

Mike Tomlin has seen a tremendous amount of success in his time in Pittsburgh. 12 seasons, and no losing seasons. For most NFL franchises this would be cause for a parade, but not in Pittsburgh. Not in the city where success is gauged by one thing, and one thing only — Super Bowl titles.

In this regard, Tomlin has fallen short too many times for the rabid fan base. It is a now-or-never type approach entering 2019, and this with a team who is missing a massive amount of talent and production they had seen in previous years.

Gone are Le’Veon Bell, and gone is Antonio Brown. Bell wasn’t there in 2018, but Brown’s 15 receiving touchdowns certainly were. Does this put more pressure on Tomlin to perform, especially after most are saying Tomlin has his locker room back after years of disarray?

“The adversity of the journey really creates some of the opportunities you’re talking about … The winning, the losing, the challenges of the journey, is where the test will be. I feel really comfortable with this group, but time will tell with that story.”

Tomlin Translation: Losing those players isn’t easy, but this will be a good test for the current team. I like this team, but have no idea what to really expect in 2019.

The truth of the matter is Tomlin might not be concerned about the future, and rightfully so. After watching his two star players run their way out of town, one way or another, and leave a path of destruction in their wake, the head coach has placed all of his chips on himself. He believes in the team he has now, and their ability to get the job done with it matters the most in 2019.

Will they get it done? Only time will tell, but Tomlin certainly knows the brevity of the current situation.

Brian Baldinger gives a glowing review of Devin Bush’s first NFL action with the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 8:33am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NFL Network analyst, and former player, Brian Baldinger didn’t hold back his unbridled enthusiasm when it comes to the Steelers’ top draft pick.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a heavy investment in their first round draft pick Devin Bush. Trading up 10 spots into the Top 10 to take the Michigan linebacker in the 2019 NFL Draft made fans’ expectations increase significantly.

Throughout the offseason fans had heard about Bush’s potential, his natural ability to track the ball carrier, his superior coverage skills and overall intelligence when it comes to the game of football.

But no one had seen it yet.

That was, until Friday night.

When Bush stepped onto the field at Heinz Field in Week 1 of the NFL Preseason, the anticipation was palpable. All eyes were glued on No. 55, and he didn’t disappoint. He registered 10 tackles and nearly had an interception returned for a touchdown. Not a bad start for a player who was perceived to be the weaker of the two ‘Devins’.

NFL Network analyst, and former NFL lineman, Brian Baldinger is a football junky, and loves breaking down film. He posts many of these breakdowns on his verified Twitter account, and one of the many he posted after Week 1 of the preseason was none other than Devin Bush.

Baldinger had nothing but positive marks for the former Wolverine, and provides some really good analysis to the performance of No. 55 in black-and-gold.

Check out the breakdown in the video below:

.@steelers @_Dbush11 #steelers @UMichFootball made a big splash at MLB v @Buccaneers playing 40 snaps and making 10-11-12 tackles. I lost track. He was everywhere. His lateral speed is a blur. Makes the Steelers defense look faster. #BaldysBreakdowns

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) August 11, 2019

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs to come to Heinz Field in Week 2 of the preseason this Saturday night.

Breaking down scheme and personnel from Steelers vs. Buccaneers, Preseason Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 7:30am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers squared off Friday night, and let’s look at just how they did it.

As I write this, the captain has just informed us that we are cruising at thirty-two thousand feet somewhere over Nebraska. From my view out the window, the landscape below is a sea of green sectioned into neatly organized squares and rectangles. It’s a beautiful bit of geographic geometry.

I am flying home after an amazing week with the family at Yosemite. For those of you who haven’t been, I strongly recommend putting it on your bucket list. I had seen plenty of Yosemite images in books and documentaries but the majesty of it up close is something to behold. It’s so stunning that it feels surreal.

The Boeing 757 jet I’m currently wedged into is short on comforts. It does, however, come with a small television set built into the headrest of the seat in front of me. I’m watching ESPN, where the crawl at the bottom of the screen just announced that Antonio Brown is threatening to quit over a helmet grievance. I have no idea what that means but it made me chuckle. Namaste, Steelers Nation. Namaste.

Gloriously, the airline’s cable package also includes the NFL Network, where momentarily the Steelers will kick off the pre-season against Tampa Bay. I should get to watch most of it before our plane lands. I’ll watch the rest on the DVR at home.

I realize by the time this story runs there will have already been a good amount of discussion about how the rookies looked and how the quarterbacks played. I will stay away from those types of evaluations. Instead, I will focus on the coaching staff. What personnel groups are they using on offense or sub-packages on defense? What concepts or schemes are they working on? This is week one of pre-season so the X and O’s will be pretty vanilla. Still, they will give us a window into how we might operate down the road.

Here, then, are my observations for pre-season game number one:


  • First drive for Tampa. They go to a tried-and-true early season move and run a heavy dose of 12 personnel with unbalanced sets. That’s the “we’re going to pound the rock and establish our toughness” move by old friend Bruce Arians. The Steelers counter with their base 3-4 and roll Terrell Edmunds down as an 8th box defender. Standard operating procedure.
  • When the Bucs switch to 11 personnel, the Steelers counter with their 2-4-5. Dan McCullers out, Mike Hilton in. Hilton blitzes right away and they play cover-1 behind it.
  • FWIW, the TV broadcast just showed a graphic introducing the Steelers starting defense and they had 12 guys up there in a 3-4-5 configuration. Congrats to Keith Butler for figuring out how to get an extra player on the field.
  • It’s a thirteen-play touchdown drive for the Bucs. The Steelers go 3-4 versus every 12p set and 2-4-5 whenever Tampa is in 11. Lots of cover-1, which is tough on rookie corner Justin Layne. The Bucs pick on him.
  • Steelers first possession. They go no-huddle and hit James Washington for a big gain. Then it’s back-to-back play-action passes with some pocket movement by Josh Dobbs. Interesting opening for the offense. Randy Fichtner is scripting to Dobbs’ strengths (deep ball, deception/mobility) whereas BA targeted our weaknesses by using heavy personnel against our backup DL and throwing at Layne. That’s the difference between having an experienced QB (Jameis Winston) versus a young one (Dobbs). With the experienced guy you can take what’s there. With the young guy you have to run what he can execute.
  • Tampa’s second series on offense. Bucs have a 3rd and 5 and show their first 10 personnel group of the night. Steelers play 2-4-5 and bring linebacker Mark Barron on a stunt. The pressure forces a quick throw from QB Blaine Gabbert that nearly turns into a pick-six by Devin Bush.
  • Another slot blitz from Hilton out of the 2-4-5. Butler has been very aggressive with his second-level blitzes so far.


  • 4th and 1 for Tampa at the Steelers 16. No field goal for BA. He’s going to challenge his OL here. Bucs 12 personnel versus our base 3-4 plus one (Edmunds). The result? Loss of two yards. No slant, twist or stem by Butler - just the big guys up front not getting moved and Devin Bush being a heck of a football player.
  • I said I wasn’t going to talk about players but I have to add a note about Bush. Early as it may be, he is demonstrating tremendous instincts. He finds seams really quickly and can redirect at full speed. Watch Bush, aligned at right inside backer, take the gap on the 4th and 1 play then immediately get flat to make the tackle:

If he turns out to be as good as he looks so far he is going to allow Butler to get very aggressive with his scheme. He will be able to blitz Barron and Vince Williams to occupy offensive linemen and let Bush run to the football. That’s exciting.

  • Steelers back on offense. “Benny Snell Football” will be a lot more effective when the defensive line isn’t relocating the line of scrimmage two yards into the backfield. Tampa’s front seven is playing downhill like the field is tilted. I’m not going to say it looks like they know Benny is getting the ball. But it looks like they know Benny is getting the ball.
  • A couple of pocket throws and no max pass protections for Dobbs. It’s nice to see Fichtner has taken the training wheels off. Dobbs is less effective running these concepts, however. He’s better off of play-action or reacting to a single read.
  • 7:12 left in the half and the Steelers run their first offensive snap in something other than 11p. It’s a 12p set with Christian Scott-Williamson as the 2nd TE opposite Xavier Grimble. Grimble looks bigger and stronger, which is important since the Steelers like two-tight end groups. They’re great for creating single coverage on Juju but only if we can run the football from them. To do that, Grimble’s progress as a blocker will be essential.
  • Three and out by the Bucs. Mason Rudolph in at QB. The Steelers go right to the timing routes. A couple of quick-outs and a beautiful back-shoulder fade to Washington for a touchdown. Rudolph doesn’t have Dobbs’ arm strength but his reads are cleaner and the ball is out faster. The play-calling approach is definitely different between Dobbs and Rudolph.
  • Bucs football with 1:56 left in the half. The Steelers show cover-2 but rotate post-snap to cover-1. Jordan Dangerfield is aligned 15 yards deep at safety and comes sprinting down at the snap to cover the running back. The back stays in to block so Dangerfield rushes the QB. I literally have never seen a safety attempt to bring pressure from 15 yards deep before. It’s actually funny to watch. I know Jordan is trying to mask the coverage but he’s going to have to creep up a little in order to be effective.
  • Two plays later and it’s another five-man pressure. Keith Butler is blitzing the heck out of Tampa tonight. Coach LeBeau must be ecstatic! On this one, Tyler Matakevich gets a sack/fumble and the Steelers recover. P.J. Locke runs the same concept Dangerfield ran a few plays earlier. You can see Locke show up late in the GIF below. It’s a great coverage disguise — rotate down from two-high to cover the back and keep coming if he stays in to block — but the safeties need to work on the timing.
  • 3rd and 12 and the Steelers throw a dig route (a deep in) to Diontae Spencer. Good ball by Rudolph and a nice play by the DB to break it up. This is about the fifth time I’ve seen some version of a dig or deep cross. Fichtner clearly wants to attack the middle of the field in the passing game. Between Juju, Vance McDonald, Jaylen Samuels and their bevy of quick slot receivers, the Steelers will have plenty of ways to do this.
  • The teams trade field goals to end the half. 13-10 Steelers.


  • Interesting start to the 3rd quarter. The Steelers come out in 12 personnel and go unbalanced (both tight ends on the same side of the line). They run a gap concept with a pulling guard and Snell hits it for a gain of five. The first half was pretty much all inside zone in the run game. Fichtner is more of a gap guy and transitioned the run game in that direction last season. It might be they were working on IZ in the first half and will work on gap in the second.
  • Snell, by the way, looked tentative running the IZ scheme but Samuels hit one for 22 yards in the 2nd quarter. Samuels looks slimmer and quicker this summer. I love seeing that.
  • Butler picks up right where he left off in the first half. He’s in 2-4-5 versus 11 personnel, blitzing and playing cover-1. This is obviously the design for the evening.
  • Steelers ball. They return to the unbalanced look from 12 personnel. Rudolph hits Johnny Holton for a 60 yard catch and run on a mesh route, where two receivers criss-cross in the middle of the field at the linebacker level while a third runs up the seam and settles at about 15 yards. In the GIF below, we see the Bucs miscommunicate trying to cover all of the bodies moving in different directions. This is a great route against backers who do not excel in coverage.
  • Two plays later, Rudolph hits rookie tight end Zach Gentry underneath the left upright for a touchdown. The Steelers look great attacking the middle of the field in the passing game. Gentry is probably a year away from being a varsity player but if they can get him to the point where he’s a serviceable blocker they will have great mismatches against smaller linebackers.
  • 2nd and 20 for Tampa late in the quarter. The Steelers blitz again, bringing inside backer Ulysses Gilbert while leaving the other inside backer, Robert Spillane, in man coverage on the tight end. It’s nice coverage by Spillane but a great throw by quarterback Ryan Griffin for a first down. This might be a preview of things to come with Vince Williams or Mark Barron as the blitzer and Bush carrying the tight end in man.
  • Devlin Hodges in at quarterback. My goodness, when he scrambles around in that #6 jersey he is Bubby Brister reincarnated…
  • Seeing some bunch sets from Fichtner now with quick throws and counter gap runs. I love this look out of 12 personnel for the varsity offense with McDonald, Juju and Grimble/Samuels in the bunch with Moncrief or Washington solo on the other side of the formation. It really stresses a defense by compressing the bunch side with big bodies who can catch and block and putting a deep ball threat away from it. This is a set I’d like to see a bunch of this season.
  • I apologize for the previous sentence.
  • Touchdown pass from Hodges to Tevin Jones from an empty formation. Great pass protection from the OL as Hodges is able to reset his feet twice before throwing. Same thing happened on Rudolph’s TD throw to Gentry. The young guys on the OL haven’t gotten much of a push in the run game but new coach Shawn Sarrett appears to have them well-prepared in pass pro. That’s a good sign for the varsity, too.


  • It’s really interesting that on this Tampa drive that began with less than 9:00 to play and the Steelers up 30-16 that Keith Butler is still bringing heat from his deep reserves. They are twisting, looping and firing five and even six guys on every snap. Tampa, to their credit, is picking up the stunts and Griffin is moving the offense with well-placed throws under pressure. This could be one of two things on Butler’s part: seeing how the young players execute the playbook or setting a tone for how the Steelers intend to stay aggressive defensively. Maybe it’s both.
  • Tampa scores. I guess the blitzes are more effective when you have guys on the field who can get to the quarterback.
  • Fichtner must have gotten the same memo Butler did. 4:00 to play, up 30-22 and he’s in an empty set chucking the football. Hodges throwing quick screens, crossing routes, bootlegs. The whole enchilada. It’ll be interesting to see if this is pre-season play-calling or a sign of things to come.
  • Tight end Kevin Rader just coughed up the ball after a nice catch and run. Let’s see what Butler does with the D needing a stop to seal the win.
  • He’s still blitzing. And one of them gets there! Sack/forced fumble from Ulysses Gilbert! Somehow the Steelers fail to recover.
  • Two plays later: another blitz and another sack from Gilbert.
  • Griffin gets the Bucs into the end zone with :10 left. The Steelers stop the two-point conversion attempt with (wait for it) a blitz! Good guys win, 30-28.


Consider much of this with a grain of salt due to the fact it’s August 9th but there are some interesting takeaways as far as the scheme goes:

  • Defensively, Keith Butler showed that he will continue to evolve into a matchup defense by using his sub packages to counter the personnel groupings of the offense. Tonight we saw him go base versus 12 personnel and 2-4-5 versus 11. Tampa didn’t show much else and Butler stayed out of situational packages. But early indications are we can expect a lot of two DL, five DB looks. Who earns that fifth DB role will be something to watch for as the pre-season unfolds.
  • Butler also blitzed like it was going out of style and played a ton of cover-1 behind it. Did he do this because, with faster personnel this year, he intends to be more aggressive than he was last season? Did he want to see how his young players executed these schemes? Or was he throwing out a red herring for Bill Belichick since Belichick is likely to have already broken this film down and committed it to his cyborg memory? This, for me, was the most interesting thing we saw on defense tonight.
  • Offensively, the run game looked the same as it did last year with zone and gap runs from predominantly 11 personnel formations. The gap stuff in the second half looked a little better than the zone stuff, likely because zone schemes are harder to block for young players who haven’t had time to build chemistry together. Frankly, there wasn’t much to see in the run game.
  • The passing game was far more interesting. The Steelers attacked the middle of the field with great success and, given their receiving weapons, should continue to make money there as the season progresses. They appear to be able to stretch the field vertically as well. If they remain committed to their RPOs and quick throws and can protect the QB like they did tonight, they could have a tremendous passing attack
  • Also, we saw a different approach in the passing game with Rudolph than we did with Dobbs. With Dobbs the attack is more vertical; with Rudolph, it’s more horizontal. The line has to protect a bit longer with Dobbs because his throws tend to be further down the field and he takes longer to process. He can bail the OL out with his legs though, which we saw tonight. With Rudolph the ball is out quickly and the defense must tighten the throwing windows because of his accuracy. He does not possess a canon or the ability to scramble, however. Rudolph is a bit more like Roethlisberger at this point in Ben’s career, which could give him an edge on Dobbs for the backup job.

There you have it. A journal that began at 32,000 feet is literally being filed at sea level now as I’m safe on the ground back at the Jersey Shore. The Steelers are 1-0 in the pre-season and there is a lot to talk about. Looking forward to your thoughts in the comments below.

Devin Bush looked comfortable in his Steelers debut, and that’s a great way to start an NFL career

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 6:32am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers first-round pick Devin Bush didn’t necessarily dazzle in his professional football debut against the Buccaneers Friday night at Heinz Field. But he did look comfortable and at home. That’s as good a way as any to start your NFL career.

Thirty years ago this month, former Steelers running back Tim Worley made his professional football debut in a preseason game against the Eagles at old Veterans Stadium.

Worley was a high draft choice, and the anticipation of his arrival was fairly palpable, especially on the heels of a 5-11 disaster of a season in 1988. On Worley’s first carry, Stan Savran, the Steelers TV play-by-play man for preseason action in those days, called the play with an excitement in his voice normally reserved for the final seconds of a Week 16 regular season match-up. Unfortunately for Worley, he battled both professional and personal demons and never came close to living up to the hype or the excitement in Stan’s voice.

Devin Bush, the inside linebacker from Michigan who the Steelers traded into the top 10 to select in the 2019 NFL Draft, made his professional debut Friday night as he and the rest of the Steelers took on the Buccaneers at Heinz Field in the first preseason game of 2019.

Bush made his first tackle at some point in the first quarter, and I don’t recall Bob Pompeani, the Steelers current TV play-by-play man for preseason action, describing it in an excited way.

Bush didn’t necessarily make a thunderous debut, save for combining with Ola Adeniyi to stuff a fourth and one running play that snuffed out a long Tampa Bay drive early in the second quarter.

Bush did lead the defense in tackles with 10—including seven solo. Although, he did play the entire first half, therefore, his head coach may have been the first to tell him that it’s not much of a surprise when a Steelers inside linebacker leads the team in tackles under those circumstances.

No, Bush didn’t dazzle on Friday night, but he did look fairly comfortable, which was nice to see. I’m sure mistakes were made—he is a rookie, after all—but they didn’t jump out at you as you watched him do his thing.

Bush was here, he was there, he was everywhere. He knocked down a pass that he came within inches of intercepting and taking to the house (and, even though it would have been called back for a roughing the passer penalty against Tyson Alualu, Pompeani certainly would have had a chance to put some thunder in his voice as he described the action). Bush spent the night chasing down receivers, running backs and quarterbacks—he looked like he did in the many YouTube videos that highlight his days wreaking havoc as a Wolverine.

He also looked at home, like the moment wasn’t too big for him, as Mike Tomlin is often fond of saying when talking about his rookies.

It’s obviously way too early to anoint Bush as the second-coming of Ryan Shazier—or even Larry Foote. But it’s not too early to be excited about his future and just how far he can progress once he does figure everything out and the game begins to slow down for him.

If Devin Bush does evolve into a special talent at inside linebacker, Bob Pompeani and many other NFL announcers will have plenty of chances to act excited when they watch him do his thing on the football field.

Podcast: After one preseason game, should Steeler Nation feel better about the QB depth?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 5:28am

Join Bryan and Tony for the fallout after the Steelers 30-28 exhibition victory over Tampa in the latest episode of the ‘Steelers Hangover’.

Join Bryan Davis, and Anthony Defeo from BTSC as they share their thoughts on the overall landscape of the Steelers backup-quarterback situation, the receiving corps, the rookies, the long shots and the defense after the preseason opener against Tampa. It’s the extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”.

In case you are new to the show, you can check out a complete rundown of the show below:

  • The week that was for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Who is the early favorite for QB2, WR2 and RB2?
  • Early thoughts on the defense.
  • Remembering Darryl Drake.
  • and MUCH MORE!

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


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: Darryl Drake’s family releases statement after death of Steelers WR coach

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/13/2019 - 4:29am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to the gridiron when they reported back to training camp. With practices underway, the news surrounding the black-and-gold is just starting to heat up. As the team prepares for the coming season, we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the season starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the family of Darry Drake released a statement following the death of the team’s wide receiver coach.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers organization is still picking up the pieces after the loss of wide receiver coach Darryl Drake, and the family of Drake released a statement thanking fans for their thoughts and prayers.

Family of Darryl Drake thanks well-wishers

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

The family of Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, who died suddenly Sunday morning at the team’s training camp at Saint Vincent College, responded Monday to the outpouring of well wishers in a statement released by the team.

Statement from Darryl Drake’s family:

— Burt Lauten (@SteelersPRBurt) August 12, 2019

Drake, 62, had been with the Steelers since replacing longtime receivers coach Richard Mann at the end of the 2017 season, following Mann’s retirement.

He had been a coach for 37 years, first at the college level, then with the Bears, Cardinals and finally the Steelers.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Tim Benz: Raiders should already regret trading for Antonio Brown

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Should any of us be surprised at the nature of the latest Antonio Brown debacle?

I’m not even talking about his allegedly cryotherapy-frostbitten feet.

I’m talking about him pitching a fit and reportedly staying away from the Raiders in part because he’s mad that the NFL is forcing him to play with a new model of helmet.

Am I surprised it reached such a level this quickly in Oakland? Yes. I thought Brown would, at least, wait to flip out until his first regular-season drive without getting a target.

Am I surprised it’s over such a stupid thing as a league-mandated helmet? Yes. Somehow, the foot frostbite surprises me less.

But the genesis of the helmet issue is incredibly consistent with all of Brown’s problems in Pittsburgh. He simply thinks rules don’t apply to him and that he should never have to follow them.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • In a surprise to no one, Devin Bush was named the Steelers Player of the Week after his performance vs. the Buccaneers on Friday night.

Bush is Digest Player of the Week

By: Bob Labriola,


Inside Linebacker

When training camp opened and Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about No. 1 pick Devin Bush, he said, “He has a lot to learn. He has a lot to prove.” Forty-eight hours before kickoff of tonight’s preseason opener vs. Tampa Bay at Heinz Field, Tomlin was asked about Bush’s progress, and he answered, “Communication is often a display of understanding, and he’s a pretty good communicator. So that tells us that he’s understanding what he’s doing and what he’s being asked to do. He’s got a big challenge in front of him tonight in the stadium, but I think he’s game for it. I know we’re all going to be excited watching him play.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 11, 2019

May you rest in the arms of the Lord who formed you from the dust of the earth. May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints welcome you now that you have gone forth from this life. May Christ who was crucified for…

— stephon tuitt (@DOCnation_7) August 12, 2019


— Ryan Switzer (@Switz) August 12, 2019

Antonio Brown threatening to quit football over a helmet dispute may be the most diva thing ever

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 1:35pm
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Just when you thought Antonio Brown couldn’t be any more of a diva, he threatens to quit football over a helmet dispute.

Before you say, “Can we please stop talking about players who aren’t here!!!!!!!!” just hear me out. I mean, this is some next-level bizarre stuff.

That’s right, if you didn’t think Antonio Brown, the former Steelers receiver, was the problem before, now just tapped you on the shoulder and is asking if you’d like to rub some cream on his frostbitten feet.

Speaking of Brown’s feet, feet that were reportedly injured when he traveled to France for some cryotherapy treatment, news began to surface on Friday that they weren’t the real reason for his absence from Raiders training camp. No, what is supposedly keeping Brown from building that chemistry with Derek Carr is a lack of interest in playing football while wearing a helmet that’s not the one he’s had since his rookie season.

Brown is worried about the new-style helmets players must wear in 2019—helmets that tests have proven to be much safer than the one he has been wearing (and, as I alluded to, are now mandatory) —will hurt his vision and ability to catch passes.

Word is, if Brown doesn’t get his way, he’ll simply quit the National Football League.

Does it get much more diva than that? To be clear, Brown not being happy about having to adjust to a new piece of equipment does not make him a diva—other players have also complained. Refusing to report to camp, filing a grievance that an arbitrator must make a decision on, and threatening to quit football if the decision isn’t to your liking, those are the actions of a diva.

This is like Frank Sinatra getting into his limo and going home just moments before a concert because he just didn’t feel like playing that night. This is like that cliched joke about a singer refusing to perform if the bowl of M&M’s in their dressing room includes green ones.

Brown left Pittsburgh in the spring in a trade with the Raiders, who, I’m assuming, asked the Steelers to lie on the floor face-down and count to 100 as they ran away with their massive bounty. In other words, the Steelers were supposedly robbed in a deal that netted them just draft choices in the third and fifth rounds.

This is another assumption, but if the Raiders had to do it all over again, I’m guessing they’d be unwilling to part with much more than that singer’s bowl of M&M’s for a receiver who has done nothing so far but bring his tired circus act to their training camp.

And, to reiterate, Brown’s mostly been MIA at Raiders training camp.

It’s no real surprise that Brown has multiple reasons for his refusal to practice with the Raiders, because he spent the entire offseason giving multiple reasons for why he simply could no longer play for the mean and toxic Pittsburgh Steelers.

I think Brown’s latest saga(s) validates what many have been trying to tell us all along: Brown is just an unstable and unreasonable human being. At a certain point, don’t you have to comply with what your bosses tell you to do? I don’t want to sound like those people who think professional athletes should just do whatever they’re told. However, being asked to wear the proper equipment to play a violent sport isn’t unreasonable. And it’s not infringing on an employee’s rights.

Brown has always exhibited anti-authority behavior, and I think this latest act of defiance is a clear sign that he may now be unemployable.

While I may have said it a few times, I didn’t want to believe it was possible Brown was actually a diva receiver on par with the Terrell Owens of the football universe. But there is now no question he is.

Instead of moving on from his ugly Steelers departure and having a dignified second act in Oakland, Brown seems destined to play out the final years of his career bouncing from team to team until all 32 of them feel he’s no longer worth the headache.

Vegas odds show a significant shake up in the AFC North in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 10:50am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the odds for each AFC North team and where they will place in the division.

When it comes to sports betting, you can find somewhere to place a bet of almost anything. Some of prop bets for the Super Bowl have become so outlandish it has made their popularity skyrocket. While most people aren’t interested in taking the over/under on the length of The Star Spangled Banner, placing a wager for the Steelers to win the AFC North is something fans may want to consider.

Using the numbers courtesy of BetOnline, each of the four AFC North teams have been given odds at each finishing position for the 2019 season. While I could just simply give you the odds (which I will at the end), let’s look at some of the numbers that stand out the most.

Lowest Odds: Cincinnati Bengals to finish in 4th place at 2/5

The only bet in the AFC North to not draw even money is for the Bengals to finish is last place. With a new head coach and a lot of questions across their entire roster, it’s not surprising the Bengals coming in last place is the safest bet available. So if you really need and extra $2 for you New Year’s Eve party, run out and spend $5 on a bet for the cellar-dwelling team from Cincinnati. Or just keep your $5.

Highest Odds: Cincinnati Bengals to finish in 1st place at 14/1

It would be safe to say if a team is viewed as a shoo-in to come in last place, they would be the longest shot to finish first. And so it is. While 14/1 isn’t the largest payout around, if someone was sold on the Bengals over-achieving it would make since to place a small wager.

Most Common Odds: Browns and Steelers in 2nd place, Ravens in 3rd place at 2/1

While the 2/1 odds for the Ravens to finish third in the division is their lowest odds, it is not the case for the Browns and Steelers. I find it interesting they both have the same odds for second place. But while both teams have greater odds to finish in first than in second, they do not have identical odds. Which leads to this...

Lowest Odds to Win the Divisions: Pittsburgh Steelers at 7/5

While the Cleveland Browns are continually getting slobbered over by the national media, the Steelers still managed to squeak out a narrow victory as the odds-on favorite to win the AFC North. With the Browns following closely at 3/2, the slightest thing, such as an injury, could shift the odds enough for the teams to switch positions.

Highest Odds to Finish Last in the Divisions: Pittsburgh Steelers at 12/1

This one wasn’t even close. The next lowest odds to come in fourth place in the division are the Cleveland Browns at 8/1. While it is a long shot for the Steelers to finish last in the AFC North, it is still more likely than the Bengals finishing first.

So there you have it. According to BetOnline the Steelers will be the 2019 AFC North Champions, followed my Cleveland, Baltimore, than Cincinnati. It is interesting that both the Steelers and Browns have their best bet as finishing in first place. As much as I would like to see how these odds pan out at the end of the season, it will be very curious to see how the odds will have shifted after the first quarter of the season.


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