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Black and Gold Links: Looking at the Steelers 2020 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/18/2020 - 4:30am
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the Steelers are unable to hold their typical OTA’s doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at the Steelers matching up against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Two of the NFL’s biggest fan bases face off for the first time in four season

Steelers 2020 Breakdown: Week 9, Cowboys

By: Jeff Hartman, DK Pittsburgh Sports

After back-to-back AFC North games and a bye week, the Steelers hit the road and head to “Jerry World.” A regular season meeting with the Cowboys only comes around once every four years, but there always seems to be some extra magic between these classic franchises. Time to break it down.

MATCHUP

Opponent: Cowboys
2019 record: 8-8
Overall history (W/L): 17-15-0 Cowboys
Last 4 games: 2-2
Opening line:Cowboys (-3)
Date: Sunday, Nov. 9
Time: 4:25 p.m.
Location: Dallas

OUTGOING PLAYERS/ FREE-AGENT LOSSES

CB Byron Jones
LB Robert Quinn
WR Randall Cobb
G Xavier S’ua-Filo
S Jeff Heath
DT Maliek Collins
TE Jason Witten
T Cameron Fleming

RETIREMENTS

N/A

FREE-AGENT ADDITIONS

DT Dontari Poe
DT Gerald McCoy
K Greg Zeurlein
S HaHa Clinton-Dix
QB Andy Dalton
CB Daryl Worley

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers front office will be closed Friday

Steelers among NFL teams to close offices Friday in recognition of Juneteenth

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers are among a growing number of NFL teams that will close team headquarters on Friday in observance of Juneteenth as a company holiday.

A Steelers spokesman said Wednesday the team is following the lead of the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week the league would close its offices Friday in observance of Juneteenth, the day in 1865 that Texas became the final state in the union to receive word that slaves had been freed with the end of the Civil War.

“It is a day to reflect on our past, but more importantly, consider how each one of us can continue to show up and band together to work toward a better future,” Goodell said.

The NFL previously announced a commitment of $250 million over 10 years to social justice causes to “combat systemic racism and support the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African Americans.”

Although the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect Jan. 1, 1863 and the Civil War ended in April 1865, word didn’t reach Texas until June 19 when Union general Gordon Granger read the federal orders announcing that all enslaved people in the state were free.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Matt Feiler will be celebrating his first Father’s Day this weekend

A crazy time to become a new dad

By: Teressa Varley, Steelers.com

When Matt and Julie Feiler shared the news on social media back in October that they were expecting their first child, never in their wildest dreams did they think the last few months of her pregnancy would be the way it was.

Spent in quarantine.

When the United States basically shut down in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Julie was just a month and a half away from her due date. Their lives were slightly turned upside down, with the top priority being safety.

“We were trying to stay at home as much as possible, limit contact with people as much as possible,” said Feiler. “We were trying to disinfect everything and clean all of the time.”

But as we all know, babies aren’t going to wait for a pandemic to end. When they are ready, they are ready.

“It was definitely nerve racking,” said Feiler. “Before Julie and I got to the hospital, we had heard in New York there was a law that it was only the mother who was allowed in the room during labor, they weren’t allowing the father in there.”

Feiler said he was relieved when he learned that wasn’t the case in Pittsburgh at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, where the delivery went off without a hitch.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Ranking the Steelers all-time top 5 draft picks

David DeCastro lets his play speak for itself

Can Christian DiLauro make the Steelers 53-man roster?

Where does Cam Heyward rank along NFL defensive linemen?

First reactions to the new Madden NFL 21 trailer

  • Social Media Madness

Our leader.@_BigBen7 | #BensDay pic.twitter.com/NugfeRWVxZ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2020

8️⃣9️⃣ days.
8️⃣9️⃣'s spike.
8️⃣9️⃣ times. pic.twitter.com/vqXMZMPCrH

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2020

RT to wish @ProFootballHOF center @DermonttiDawson a #HappyBirthday! pic.twitter.com/tOoMMlzA6v

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 17, 2020

Numero Uni: Of the 25 most prolific Steelers jersey numbers of all time, which is ranked 17th?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/17/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Steelers have had a plethora of great players representing one number over the years. Find out which one number is ranked 17th.

BTSC continues to rank the best numbers in team history on a standpoint of thriving over time throughout multiple players. It seems there are a few numbers which are always represented with quality play in Steelers lore. One BTSC author has wondered aloud “what is the most accomplished number in Steelers history?” Through player and jersey value rankings found in Pro Football Reference, we have ranked the most successful numbers in Steelers history worn by multiple players. You won’t see numbers like 12, 58, 75, 32, 52, 59, 36, 63 and 47 as it would be basically ranking an individual player over the other and not the cumulative effort. In today’s submission, we take a look at those ranked 17th. Enjoy.

17) No. 50 Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Most Notable: Ryan Shazier 2014-2019, Larry Foote 2002-2008 and 2010-2013, Earl Holmes 1996-2001, David Little 1981-1992, Jim Clack 1969-1977, John Reger 1955-1963

The Steelers had some very good players sporting the five-zero over the years. Here’s a look at the notables.

In 12 years with the Steelers, David Little had 10 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries and was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1990 season. Drafted to the Steelers in the seventh round in 1981, the Consensus All American and University of Florida Hall of Famer was the brother of an NFL Hall of Famer, Larry Little. David passed away at the young age of 46 when a cardiac flutter while lifting weights caused 250 pounds to drop on his chest, roll to his neck and suffocate him. Th middle linebacker will be remembered as one of the most reliable and dominant defenders for the Steelers in the 80s.

Ryan Shazier accomplished a pretty amazing body of work in a small amount of time. The Steelers’ top pick in 2014 out of Ohio State had 299 tackles, seven sacks and seven interceptions. What he might have accomplished during a full career, we most likely will never know due to his career-threatening injury in 2017. Shazier was a field general on defense and his dominating performance against Cincinnati in the 2015 Wild Card Game made the victory possible by forcing two fumbles late in the game.

Larry Foote, a fourth-round selection out of Michigan in 2002, was a solid performer for the Steelers in two stints with the team, three Super Bowl appearances, and two championship rings. Foote’s breakout year came in his fourth season, the one that culminated in Super Bowl XL and the hoisting of the Lombadi. His interception in the AFC Championship in Denver thwarted a tide-turning drive and helped get the Steelers and Foote back home to Detroit for the big one. After a second championship in 2008 but a reduced role behind Lawrence Timmons, the Michigan native was released and signed on for one season with his hometown Lions. Returning after a year away, Foote resigned with the Steelers for four more years and was released in 2013. He then spent a season with the Cardinals before a transition into coaching. After a four-year stint as the linebackers coach in Arizona, Foote performs that same role currently in Tampa Bay. All in all, Larry Foote was a productive player for eleven total seasons in Pittsburgh.

When Earl Holmes was selected in the fourth round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of Florida A&M, the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year reportedly congratulated Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher for selecting “the best linebacker in the draft”. Holmes mouth didn’t write checks his talent couldn’t cash. He was a leader on defense for six seasons in a Steelers uniform. The inside linebacker had 546 tackles (35 for loss), nine sacks and four fumble recoveries for the Steelers before moving onto Cleveland via free agency. After one remarkable season as a Brown, Holmes spent three seasons as a Lion before retiring. After serving on his alma mater’s coaching staff, Holmes became the head coach for the Rattlers in 2012, but was fired after a 6-16 record. A lawsuit for not honoring the contract was filed by Holmes and is still pending. Known as “Hitman” in Pittsburgh, Holmes allegedly voiced regret for leaving Pittsburgh via free agency all those years ago.

Jim Clack, a guard out of Wake Forest, started 50 games for the Steelers in seven seasons for the team from 1971 to 1977 and was a part of two Super Bowl winning teams (IX and X). Clack was originally signed by Chuck Noll as an undrafted free agent, but was cut. On his third attempt in 1971, the under-sized lineman stuck with the team. A terrible trade sent Clack to the Giants for Heisman runner-up and Outland Trophy winner John Hicks. Hicks was injured in his first series in training camp and never played for the Steelers. Clack ended up going to three Pro Bowls as a Giant. The former Steeler suffered from four years of neck and throat cancer before dying of an atrial fibrillation at the age of 58 in 2006.

Pitt’s John Reger continued his playing career as an undrafted rookie for the Steelers in 1955. The pride of Wheeling West Virginia was a linebacker/guard for Pittsburgh and was known as one of the better two-way players in the league. Reger made three Pro Bowls from 1959 to 1969, started 90 games in nine seasons and had nine interceptions along with 17 fumble recoveries for the Steelers in his nine years there. Reger added six more picks for the Redskins in his final three NFL seasons. Reger passed away at the age of 82 in 2013.

Check back soon for the 16th best jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the most prolific jersey number stables in Steelers history. But first, a recap of the countdown so far.

Honorable Mention: No. 51, No. 93, No. 27 and No. 33
25) No. 24
24) No. 43
23) No. 83
22) No. 67
21) No. 53
20) No. 10
19) No. 20
18) No. 63

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Christian DiLauro

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/17/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by: 2018 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

Let’s dive into part 24 of our 90-part series—assuming the roster does not change before we are complete—which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Today’s profile features reserve offensive tackle:

Christian DiLauro

Position: T
Height: 6’ 6”
Weight: 300 lbs
College: Illinois
Draft: UDFA in 2018 (Browns)

2019 stats

N/A —Practice squad

Contract remaining

Expires in 2020
$610,000 salary cap number (0.3% of total cap)
$0 dead money
$610,000 cap savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Almost none.

I never want to give a player no chance of making the roster/practice squad, however, DiLauro has already bounced around the league a ton and is playing a position which is already loaded.

Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Derwin Gray, and former XFL player Anthony Coyle all sit above DiLauro on the depth chart and the Steelers will probably only carry 4 of those names.

2020 projection

At very best DiLauro gets back onto the practice squad and can make another run at the roster in 2021. At worst, obviously being the Steelers cutting him.

Projected stats:

N/A —Cut/Practice squad

Summary

The Steelers have a very talented offensive line, and it will be hard for anyone to crack last years top four. If DiLauro actually made this team it would because everyone got injured or something just clicked and he has become one of the teams best players. Sometimes fairy tails come true, this won't be one of those times.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh
Carlos Davis

First reactions to ‘the authentic NFL experience’ known as Madden 21

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/17/2020 - 11:00am
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Here’s a Steelers fan reaction to EA’s release of the first trailer for Madden NFL 21 and its new gameplay features

Yesterday, the day many NFL fans had been waiting for finally came, the announcement of EA Sports’ next edition of Madden, with Madden NFL 21 available from August 22 or 25 (depending on which version you purchase).

It’s litty like @TeamJuJu

Watch the full #Madden21 trailer: https://t.co/QUn8r3YUnS pic.twitter.com/BcDJ845YkL

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 16, 2020

The yearly edition of the ‘the authentic NFL experience’ (having been to my first Steelers’ game last year, no way is this true) always promises to draw the ire of a certain amount of the player base, both for real NFL players when it comes to ratings and gamers in balancing simulation with playability—and one can’t but help think this year will be no different.

Whether you play or not, the game will be a subject that dominates headlines as this offseason roles on, here’s my first reactions as a Madden player, NFL fan and Steelers fan:

  • It’s jarring to see Lamar Jackson on the cover and worse spinning through the Steelers defensive backs, particularly Steven Nelson, as he scores against the Steelers (please T.J. lead in sacks and be on next year’s cover).
  • Equally, the Steelers’ defense is again called out in the 90-second video preview, with Derrick Henry destroying Joe Haden (what do the developers have against the Steelers?).
  • At least we got a taste of what’s to come in our games against the Bengals, with Watt landing a QB hit (and what looks like a hurry) on Joe Burrow.
  • Bring on the pass rush with new ‘Skill Stick’ controls which offer greater responsiveness for specific pass rush moves and combos, while the offensive line builds resistance to moves used too often (thank’s EA, Madden20 was a nightmare against Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa, DeMarcus Lawrence). This is exciting for Steelers fans given our outside linebacker and defensive line depth, as I believe Watt and Tuitt will be the biggest beneficiaries of this addition.
  • The ‘Skill Stick’ is also set to revamp and improve offensive play, by offering ‘dead-leg’, ‘slide hurdles’, spins and loads of juking to create amazing gameplay. Whilst these additions or improvements are great for Madden players on YouTube or Twitch, for fans looking for an ‘authentic experience’ the new innovative ball-carrier system is what is most exciting and interesting.
  • ‘Face of the Franchise’, Madden’s Career Mode, is back with ‘Rise to Fame.’ This deepens the cinematic experience for players with two seasons of College Football Playoffs, not just one like in Madden 20. It also has the ability to play positions other than Quarterback, and there will even be a level of high-school play included in the mode (EA look to be testing the clear waters on appetite among fans for another NCAA Football game, once legislation is changed on student athletes profiting from their likeness).
  • Updated NFL Playbooks are also listed as a key feature. This will be interesting for teams like the Steelers with the move to sub-package heavy schemes. As a player who creates his own playbook based on the Steelers’ playbook, I’d still like to see EA bring back the ability to create your own custom plays (this was a feature in the late 1990s, early 2000s yet seems to be in the ‘too hard’ basket now).
  • ‘X-Factor Abilities’ are back and revitalized. I can’t wait to see how the Steelers’ top players are allocated, or not allocated, these in-game super-powers.
  • Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) is of course back, with the majority of new additions yet to be talked about and will be realized once the actual NFL season starts.

There’s my first reactions, let me know what you thought of this Madden NFL 21 news, will you be willing to spend $60 or more to play what some are calling a glorified roster update?

Who are the Steelers top 5 draft picks in franchise history?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/17/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

With so many quality draft choices to choose from, which five are the best Pittsburgh has ever made?

On a recent episode of The Standard is The Standard podcast, Lance Williams and myself answered the question of the top five draft picks the Steelers have ever made. We didn’t set any criteria other than the player being drafted by the Steelers. Whether it was a value pick or a selection which changed the franchise, it was completely up to each of us to determine our top five.

In order to help with the exercise, Lance enlisted the help of four other individuals to give their top five choices. Those who offered up their picks were Ian Whetstone of Steel City Insider, Chris Carter of DK Pittsburgh Sports, Nick Farabaugh of Pittsburgh Sports Now, and our own Bryan Anthony Davis.

So here are the top five picks for each of us in no particular order:

Dave Schofield
  1. Joe Greene
  2. Mike Webster
  3. Ben Roethlisberger
  4. Terry Bradshaw
  5. Rod Woodson
Lance Williams
  1. Antonio Brown
  2. Terry Bradshaw
  3. Ben Roethlisberger
  4. Mike Webster
  5. Joe Greene
Ian Whetstone
  1. Antonio Brown
  2. Mel Blount
  3. Mike Webster
  4. Ben Roethlisberger
  5. Troy Polamalu
Chris Carter
  1. Joe Greene
  2. Terry Bradshaw
  3. John Stallworth
  4. Troy Polamalu
  5. Ben Roethlisberger
Nick Farabaugh
  1. Ben Roethlisberger
  2. Joe Greene
  3. Antonio Brown
  4. Mike Webster
  5. Terry Bradshaw
Bryan Anthony Davis
  1. Franco Harris
  2. Jack Lambert
  3. Ben Roethlisberger
  4. Rod Woodson
  5. Terry Bradshaw

It should be noted Ben Roethlisberger is the only player who appeared on every list. Four time Super Bowl Champion quarterback Terry Bradshaw put on five of the six lists while greats such as Joe Greene and Mike Webster were included four times.

Those who chose Antonio Brown as the top draft pick in Steelers history were obviously ranking draft value extremely high. When it comes to players such is Mean Joe Greene, he was the face of the franchise for so long so it was his legacy which weighed in the most.

So what do you all think? Which top five list do you believe is the most accurate? Who would be the five players on your own personal list? Make sure you vote in the poll and leave your choices in the comments below.

To watch or listen to the podcast, click HERE.

Steelers guard David DeCastro lets his on-field performance do all the talking

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/17/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Steelers RG David DeCastro is a perennial Pro Bowl performer on the field that we know precious little about off the field.

Inspiration for any writer can come from the most unexpected places. Thankfully that truth also applies to sports writers, especially when there is precious little actual sporting events taking place from wince we can draw some sort of inspiration.

Recently I was perusing through the archives of my past articles when I happened upon a previously unknown realization. There is a particular Steelers player that I have never felt inclined to write about, who just so happens to be one of the Steelers most accomplished and tenured players. This got me wondering, why not?

As a writer and avid football fan, I enjoy spotlighting those individuals who may have previously been overlooked or underappreciated. Usually these players are fringe roster types, many of the late round or undrafted variety, who seemingly are always playing on a one-year contract with little to no job security. They survive by knowing their role and excelling on special teams, doing the jobs nobody else is volunteering to do.

Everybody wants to feel appreciated, and I like nothing better than to give a hardworking overachiever some howbeit fleeting moment in the spotlight.

Maybe this is my excuse for having never written an article about Steelers right guard David DeCastro. Everybody knows about DeCastro, the five time Pro Bowler and three time All Pro. DeCastro is one of the best guards in the NFL, and in Steelers history. He has to take a back seat at the moment to Alan Faneca, but this could change if he stays on his present career trajectory.

DeCastro is as technically sound as any interior lineman in the league. This is how he excels at the position. DeCastro is not notably powerful or explosive. He understands leverage and utilizes his quick hands and feet to his full advantage. Now a thirty year old savvy veteran, he has honed his craft and knows the tricks of the trade.

With such an impressive list of accolades, I am forced to ask myself this difficult question. Why do I honestly feel indifferent about him as a player? It's not as if I don't like him as a player or as a person. I root for all the Steelers players and pray for their safety on the field. We all have our favorite players, guys who we relate to more than others and want to see be successful maybe a little more than others, but they are all part of the Steelers family.

So why does DeCastro seldom come to mind when I am contemplating past or future Steelers success, when I am racking my brain trying to contemplate new writing content? Maybe I am guilty of taking his sustained excellence for granted, and maybe it is because we know precious little about the man as a individual or as a personality, and what I do know seems tinged with negative undertones.

The disastrous missed block by DeCastro that destroyed Maurkice Pouncey's knee, causing him to miss the entire 2013 season, immediately comes to mind. Calling out teammates, and even Head Coach Mike Tomlin, for not being prepared and focused enough after some heartbreaking losses also appear in my personal recollections for some reason. I am not even questioning the accuracy of those assessments, because he has behind the scenes knowledge that no mere fan can attest. I can only wonder why those incidents are the only ones I seem to remember?

DeCastro is a man of few words. He would prefer to let his performance on the field speak for itself. I have no problem with his mindset, as I actually find it refreshing and admirable. They say the only time we fans actually notice the offensive linemen is when the refs throw the yellow flag and call a penalty on one of the hardworking grunts doing the lion's share of the work. They prefer to go unnoticed to the untrained eye. They work in the shadows as their high profile teammates bask in the spotlight, only truly appreciated by those aforementioned teammates and coaches.

Hopefully all-time Steelers greats like ‘Iron’ Mike Webster and Dermontti 'Dirt' Dawson knew the true value of their personal sacrifices didn't go unnoticed by their Steelers family and Steelers Nation.

It's not David Decastro's responsibility to make fans like me take notice of his remarkable contributions as a player, that's my job. Hopefully this article is a start.

Is Cam Heyward the second best interior defensive lineman in the NFL?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/17/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Giving credit where it’s due, Cam Heyward is an absolute game breaker in the middle

If it wasn't for Aaron Donald wreaking havoc in Los Angeles, then maybe we’d be talking about Cameron Heyward as the best interior defensive lineman in the league. From bullying guards like Quenton Nelson, and Marshal Yanda to picking up a ton of awards, it’s the current three-year stretch Heyward is on which should see his name amongst the NFL’s elite.

Since 2017, Heyward has been twice named 1st team All-Pro and has been featured on all three Pro-Bowl teams. Just check out the stats breakdown of Cam Heyward and some of his contemporaries the past three seasons:

Cam Heyward:

Sacks: 29
Tackles: 179
Forced fumbles: 4
Passes defended: 12

Aaron Donald:

Sacks: 44
Tackles: 148
Forced fumbles: 11
Passes defended: 4

Fletcher Cox:

Sacks: 19.5
Tackles: 112
Forced fumbles: 5
Passes defended: 5

J.J. Watt:

Sacks: 20
Tackles: 100
Forced fumbles: 8
Passes defended: 9

Akiem Hicks:

Sacks: 17
Tackles: 119
Forced fumbles: 3
Passes defended: 5

Leonard Williams:

Sacks: 5.5
Tackles: 88
Forced fumbles: 1
Passes defended: 6

Seriously, if you didn't already know, Cam Heyward is lighting the league on fire. If it wasn't for a ‘once in a generation’ talent like Aaron Donald, the rest of the league would be taking a lot more notice on what Cam has been doing.

Not only is Cam Heyward great on the field but, has been one of the vocal leaders in the locker room for some time now. The blend of skills and leadership are so hard to come by and considering Heyward is entering a contract year, it should be a no-brainer for the club to re-sign him.

The 2020 season is a big one for Cam. The Steelers defense is primed to be one of the leagues best, Heyward should again be a captain and should flirt with individual awards, and he’s going to sign a massive extension. Let’s just hope it all happens and he re-signs in Pittsburgh.

But what do you think? Is Cam Heyward the best interior D-Lineman in the NFL not named Aaron Donald? Let us know in the comments below!

Podcast: Which players could the Steelers trade before the start of the 2020 season?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/17/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest BTSC podcast, our Steelers ‘Stat Geeks’, brothers Dave and Rich Schofield, break down the numbers surrounding the Black-and-Gold.

While no definitive decision has been made if training camp will start on time for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team has a full list of invitees. With camp helping to decide the personnel that will be suiting up Week 1, projections have already begun on who makes the roster. But as has been the case the last couple of years, the Steelers have made trades right before the opener, as was the case with the Jerald Hawkins trade with Tampa early last September. Who could be a candidate to be dealt after camp this year?

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold and there you have the topic for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Stat Geek. On this show, BTSC editor Dave Schofield and his brother Rich break down all things Steelers, stats and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Which players could the Steelers trade before the start of the 2020 season?
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich 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: Evaluating depth at the running back position

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/17/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the Steelers are unable to hold their typical OTA’s doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at the quality of depth at the running back position for the Steelers and not just the quantity.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Looking at the depth chart at running back for the Steelers

Steelers’ running back depth quantity vs. quality

By: Jeff Hartman, DK Pittsburgh Sports

Let’s get something straight: Mike Tomlin does not like a running back-by-committee approach.

Never has, and likely never will.

Whether it was running the wheels off Willie Parker, watching Le’Veon Bell be an every down back or James Conner being the primary ball carrier when healthy, any way you slice it, Tomlin likes to have a back he can trust, and lean on, when it matters most.

Entering the 2020 season, the Steelers are faced with a dilemma at the running back position, but it isn’t about having enough players on their depth chart. Instead, it is about having enough capable options on the roster.

Quality over quantity.

As stated earlier, Conner is the man for the Steelers’ offense, but his injury history forces fans to wonder what will happen if, or when, Conner is sidelined. When you look at the players on the depth chart, it does anything but give you the warm, fuzzy feeling. But first, let’s look at the players who make up the Steelers’ running back depth chart.

James Conner

Jaylen Samuels

Benny Snell Jr.

Kerrith Whyte

Trey Edmunds

Anthony McFarland Jr. (R)

Ralph Webb

Conner, a Pro Bowl player in 2018 during Bell’s holdout, has proven if he is healthy he is more than capable of getting the job done. After Conner, not much is certain.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Steelers fans may not be welcomed to watch their first scheduled preseason game

Hall of Fame Game ‘highly unlikely’ to be played in front of fans, says Ohio governor

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s business-as-usual approach to its signature events in August has met some resistance from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

DeWine said Tuesday that the Hall of Fame Game in Canton on Aug. 6 and the Hall of Fame induction ceremony two days later should not be held with fans in attendance.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys are scheduled to kick off the NFL preseason schedule in the Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Stadium, which has a capacity of 23,000.

The game sold out in an hour and more than 10,000 tickets have been sold for the Aug. 8 enshrinement ceremony.

“Having a crowd that size, I think is highly unlikely,” DeWine said. “Certainly, it could not occur today. It would be very dangerous to do it today.”

Given the proximity of the Hall of Fame from Pittsburgh, Steelers fans are expected to comprise a majority of the ticket holders for the game and the ceremony in which former safety Troy Polamalu and former head coach Bill Cowher are enshrined.

Last week, the Hall of Fame opened its doors to visitors after being closed since March 16 because of the coronavirus pandemic. A Hall spokesman said the preseason game would serve as a “test case” for the NFL in its return to play amid the pandemic.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Ramon Foster shares about what it takes to make it in the NFL

On The Line: Size, talent matter in NFL, though not like mental toughness

By: Ramon Foster, DK Pittsburgh Sports

It never comes as a shock.

When I’m in a public venue and I’m spotted, it’s easy to assume I played football or some sport at some level. That’s especially true around a crowd of people at those places we used to visit — bars, concert venues, restaurants — before the world was sat on its behind by this coronavirus pandemic.

Places where adult beverages flow freely, an easy conversation starter is “Wow, you’re a huge guy.”

Or I get asked, “Who do you play for?”

It might sound hard to believe, but I try to blend in as much as I can, or at least to avoid eye contact. Because I know that question is coming.

Not that I mind those types of walk-ups. I realize it comes with the territory, and most guys would love to be my height or to be a professional athlete. And hey, size is an attribute that’s easy to measure. If you’re looking for a significant other to start a family with, it could be a dealbreaker. Sad but true.

But this isn’t a column about height or being a big guy. It’s about something that took me a while to realize is an actual talent: Mental toughness!

One of the things Mike Tomlin always said to me is, “I don’t think you understand. Your mental toughness is a talent. Everything we’ve thrown at you, you’ve caught it and given it back. Your mental toughness is a talent, and you don’t understand it because you just live it.”

I never considered that a “talent.” I just had the mindset I was going to do everything I could to stick around and be “above the line” — as Tomlin likes to say — with my performance and not let my teammates down. It hadn’t clicked with me that it helped separate me from others.

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  • BTSC articles you may have missed

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As expected, the Steelers will not hold their annual “Friday Night Lights”

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Steelers make it official and cancel their annual Friday Night Lights practice in Latrobe

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 2:15pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another fan favorite offseason tradition will not happen in 2020.

The 2020 NFL off-season has been a roller coaster of changes. Organized Team Activities had to be held digitally. Then the NFL mandated the Steelers hold training camp at their own facilities, away from St. Vincent college. Now the Steelers have announced the popular Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium will not occur.

The #Steelers will not be hosting their annual Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. We look forward to returning to Saint Vincent College & Latrobe in 2021 for training camp. https://t.co/9JnHT5Dp7J

— Burt Lauten (@SteelersPRBurt) June 16, 2020

This shouldn’t be too much of a shock to anyone, as the NFL already refused to grant the Steelers an exemption to hold camp at Latrobe, it was not likely the Steelers would get approval to hold even a single practice away from team owned facilities.

But it is another blow to the usual build up to the season for Steelers fans, and a bigger blow to fans that don’t have the resources to attend the regular games. The Steelers training camp, and especially the Friday Night Lights practice, were always very kid friendly with activities for young fans and cheap tickets to see the practice. It was a great way for fans to get closer to the Steelers, and help new members of the team connect with the fanbase.

The wording Burt Lautner used rules out such a practice in Latrobe, but it does not rule out fans being able to attend some kind of practice event at Heinz Field, and there are more fan-friendly events that could still occur. Steeler Fan Fest is typically held at Heinz field right before the start of the preseason, the Hall of Fame game is still on the schedule, and the possibility of a Friday Night Lights style practice open to the public at Heinz Field has not been ruled out at this time.

Stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain to keep up with all the changes to the Steelers 2020 offseason schedule, and all your Pittsburgh Steelers breaking news.

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Carlos Davis

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

We are well on our way now bringing you part 23 of our 90-part series—assuming the roster does not change before we are complete—which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s take a look at rookie defensive lineman

Carlos Davis

Position: DT
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 320 lbs
College: Nebraska
Draft: 7th round 232nd overall in 2020

2019 stats (Nebraska)

32 Tackles
4 Sacks
1 Forced Fumble
3 Passes defended

Contract remaining

N/A rookie deals are not yet available as Davis has not yet signed his deal with the Steelers

Likelihood of making the roster

Main roster: Doubtful, Practice squad: Lock

Sure the Steelers don't have a true nose tackle on the roster, but that's more the case of nose being a dead position in the NFL. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, and Chris Wormley will rotate majority of the time. Daniel McCullers, Isaiah Buggs, Cavon Walker, and maybe even Henry Mondeaux are all canidates to be the primary back-ups. Davis will be called upon in the future, just don't expect much from the seventh round pick in a short offseason.

2020 projection

Expect Davis to be placed on the practice squad, and with any luck he won't be scooped off the roster in 2020. The best thing that could happen for the Steelers would be for a red-shirt year of sorts. When Davis comes back again for camp in 2021 hopefully he makes the final roster.

Projected stats:

N/A —Practice squad

Summary

Carlos Davis could be something, Key-word being ‘could’. He’s not going to have a very easy path to making the roster in 2020, so don't hold your breath. Davis is going to have to surpass multiple vets with almost no field time—it’s just a herculean task. Let’s just hope he doesn't get stolen off the practice squad, and gets a shot to make the team in 2021.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh

A way-too-early look at the 2021 NFL Draft: Cornerbacks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 11:00am
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Which defensive backs could be donning the black and gold next year? Let’s look at the top corners Steeler fans should be watching this college football season.

From the second the 2020 draft came to a close, speculation had already started up for the 2021 class. So, in that spirit, here we are with an article series highlighting prospects who look to be this upcoming draft’s biggest stars.

And the season hasn’t even started yet.

Admittedly, “way too early” draft predictions are exactly what they’re titled: Way too early - and as a result, are very rarely, or perhaps never, accurate at all.

In this draft primer series, we won’t be mocking players to any teams, but rather looking at the top players at each position who could get drafted by the Steelers with their first few picks in 2021. Prospects such as Trevor Lawrence, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Fields, and Penei Sewell, who are all expected to be gone long before the Steelers are projected to pick in the first round, will not be included.

The goal? Not to make any “hot take” predictions, but rather to look at some players that Steeler fans might want to watch a little closer than usual this college season.

Tenth in this series will be the position that is one of the hardest to translate into the NFL: cornerbacks. They are ranked in no particular order.

Shaun Wade, CB #24, Ohio State

2019 stats: 25 total tackes, 16 solo tackles, 1 interception, 8 passes defended.
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 194 lbs.

Ohio State has a long history of producing NFL cornerbacks. Most recently, 2020 first round picks Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette. Shaun Wade looks to be the latest in 2021.

Wade is a versatile corner with good size for the position. He’s a fluid athlete who has no problem flipping his hips and mirroring receivers. He has good speed, long arms, and can play in both man and zone schemes. He has good footwork and quickness, as well.

Another aspect of Wade’s game is his work near the line of scrimmage. He is a excellent run defender and can blitz when called upon. He is aggressive and surprisingly good at shedding blocks at 194 pounds.

Spending most of his time in the slot at Ohio State, there are some concerns surrounding Wade’s ability to play outside. He has the size to play on the boundary and has impressed when he has played in roles other then the slot, so he should have the versatility to play elsewhere in the NFL. Wade’s aggressiveness can get the best of him sometimes as he can be bit grabby on routes, and his ball skills are still below-average.

Wade has drawn a comparison to Steelers’ All-Pro defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick from NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah due to his versatility and style of play. Similarly to Fitzpatrick, Wade can expect to hear his name called in the first round as one of the best DB’s in his class.

Some notable articles about Shaun Wade:

Shaun Wade Draft Profile - The Draft Network

Scouting Shaun Wade: Ohio State star could be NFL draft’s next CB1 - NFL.com

Shaun Wade: The Enigma of the 2020 NFL Draft Class - With the First Pick

Patrick Surtain II, CB #2, Alabama

2019 stats: 42 total tackes, 32 solo tackles, 2 interceptions, 8 passes defended.
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 203 lbs.

Much like Shaun Wade, Surtain has a legacy to live up to in the NFL. Alabama has produced it’s fair share of NFL defensive backs, but Surtain’s father, also named Patrick Surtain, was an All-Pro corner who spent eleven years in the league.

Surtain is the full package at cornerback. He is an athletic, lock-down corner who possesses all of the traits of an elite defensive back. Surtain has excellent size and length, with speed and fantastic coverage ability. He’s a versatile defender who is best suited for the outside, but has impressed in the slot. He is a willing run defender with a knack for forcing fumbles, and has great ball skills, as well.

Surtain’s football bloodlines and athleticism/production combination should make him a popular prospect this fall. He is a first round talent who, along with Shaun Wade, is in the running to be the highest picked of this year’s draft class.

Some notable articles about Patrick Surtain II:

2021 NFL Draft: Patrick Surtain has the pedigree to lead cornerback position - Pro Football Network

Alabama Football: Player profiles 2019 – Patrick Surtain II - Bama Hammer

Paulson Adebo, CB #21, Stanford

2019 stats: 33 total tackes, 23 solo tackles, 4 interceptions, 10 passes defended.
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190 lbs.

Adebo is a athletic, physical corner with great size to match. He’s a prototypical boundary cornerback who can hold his own against big, fast receivers on the outside. He can flip his hips and stay with receivers quite well, even though his short area quickness could be improved.

As a run defender, Adebo isn’t shy, but still could work on his tackling consistency. He’s a converted wide receiver, with good hands as evidenced by his interception numbers. He can still be late to track the ball at times when in coverage, and could work on his overall awareness.

There are some similarities between Adebo and former Michigan State cornerback (and current Steeler) Justin Layne. Both are converted wide receivers, with good length and physical tools, with an aggressive style of play. Neither are freak athletes, but can hold their own despite being relatively new to the position.

Adebo looks to be primarily an outside corner in the NFL, as he’s not a particularly versatile defender. He’s still a little raw and inexperienced, but has a lot of potential with not many weaknesses in his game. He’s currently in the mid first-round/early second-round conversation. If he can continue to improve his game this season he could potentially be first corner off the board.

Some notable articles about Paulson Adebo:

Paulson Adebo Draft Profile - The Draft Network

2020 NFL draft: Paulson Adebo scouting report - Draft Wire

Caleb Farley, CB #3, Virginia Tech

2019 stats: 20 total tackes, 14 solo tackles, 4 interceptions, 12 passes defended.
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 207 lbs.

Farley is yet another cornerback who is relatively new to the position, but has impressed during his time on defense. He has great size and is an excellent athlete, but what stands out the most is his production. Four interceptions and twelve passes defended are no joke, making Farley’s coverage stats among the best in the nation in 2019.

After showing some potential in 2018, Farley showed that he had made it past the majority of his growing pains in an excellent 2019 season. His game was more polished overall and he was more consistent than before. Farley’s ball skills, speed, and sticky coverage have the makings of him becoming a talented cover corner on the next level.

Farley has a good chance at living up to his school’s legacy of producing NFL defensive backs. This season will be pivotal for him, as he will have to show that he can duplicate the success he had in 2019, and improve upon it as well. He’s an intriguing prospect with a good chance at becoming a first round pick in the upcoming draft.

Some notable articles about Caleb Farley:

Evaluating Virginia Tech’s 2021 NFL Draft Prospects - All Hokies

2021 NFL Draft: Three reasons Caleb Farley can be the first cornerback drafted - Pro Football Network

Virginia Tech Football: Will DB Caleb Farley Emerge As The Top Cornerback In ACC In 2020? - All Hokies

Some other names to look out for this season include Florida’s Marco Wilson, Georgia’s Tyson Campbell, Clemson’s Derion Kendrick, Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr., NC State’s Nick McCloud, South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu, Washington’s Elijah Molden and Keith Taylor, and Oregon’s trio of Deommodore Lenoir, Thomas Graham, and Verone McKinley III.

Will the Steelers be searching for another cornerback in the 2021 draft?

Unless contract woes or severe regression hit the cornerback room, probably not. Joe Haden and Steve Nelson are among the best corner duos in the league. Though Haden is nearing the end of his career, he still has a few good years left and is surrounded by a talented supporting cast. Mike Hilton has been a solid presence in the slot, while Cameron Sutton and Justin Layne provide quality depth.

Layne is the only major question mark, but without many contributions from him last year, the Steelers’ secondary was still a strength of the team. Both Hilton and Sutton are on contract years, but it’s impossible to predict who will stay or go with a full season yet to be played.

Corner is far from a pressing need for the Steelers, and that is definitely a good thing. The team’s first round pick can go towards strengthening another aspect of the roster, and fans who know of the Steelers unfortunate track record in developing defensive backs won't have to watch another Artie Burns-esque scenario play out.

Steelers UDFA Christian Montano “Ready to Give it 100%”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

In an exclusive interview with BTSC, the undrafted offensive lineman from Tulane details his journey to the NFL, why the Steelers were the perfect fit, his offseason training, his 2020 goals, and much more

The journey from college to professional football is unique for almost every single NFL player, and that mantra certainly holds true for Steelers rookie Christian Montano.

After playing at Brown for 4 seasons—he unofficially redshirted his freshman year, as the Ivy League prohibits players from officially sitting out—Montano was in search of a new home subsequent to breaking his foot. The injury came in the Bears’ first game of 2018 at Cal Poly, causing him to miss nearly all of the 2018 season.

Montano—who was named a captain in his 5th year in Providence—found that new home in Tulane, both a nascent community via nurturing coaches and a truly distinct environment relative to his hometown of Milford, Connecticut.

“I wanted to be able to go into a place where I had a pretty good chance of probably wining a starting role over competing for it in spring ball,” Montano said. “The coaches [at Tulane], they just seemed like really humble, down-to-earth guys. I think in the recruiting processes, you get used to coaches who are sometimes just trying to bait you to come there even though they don’t feel authentic. That couldn’t be the further from the truth when it comes to the Tulane coaches down there. They’re absolutely fantastic, and it felt like home from the first day I was down there.

“The historical factor of New Orleans and being on the Mississippi River there—it’s kind of the melting pot of the South,” Montano said in regard to the appeal of the French Quarter. “There’s the French culture, the Caribbean culture, there’s the true Southern culture down there. I really enjoyed that, and I think it was refreshing to go down there and be a part of not only a new football team and a new football community, but a new cultural community.”

As a graduate student and Green Wave team member, Montano enjoyed countless memories, some he never thought imaginable while initially playing in the Ivy League—a coterie which does not participate in FBS bowl games.

Montano was a part of a truly memorable victory—a buzzer beater against Houston on September 19th in which now-Falcons receiver Jalen McClesky caught a 53-yard touchdown pass with 3 seconds left to put the Green Wave up for good.

McClesky’s dagger helped Tulane earn a 6-6 overall record and ultimately a victory against Southern Mississippi in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, a game which Montano especially relished.

“Our [bowl] game was actually the second or third last one of the entire season—it was January 4th,” Montano reminisced. “We spent New Year’s Eve in Fort Worth, Texas. We got to hang out with the entire downtown community down there. We got to do a bunch of different things with the Lockheed Armed Forces Bowl celebration beforehand.”

Montano’s path to the NFL was undoubtedly shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 6’ 4” offensive lineman was training in New Jersey as the virus began to permeate the United States; his Pro Day ultimately got canceled, though he was able to improvise with drills posted to YouTube.

As the NFL Draft wore on without Montano hearing his name called, he and his agent—who was actually his former high school coach and someone who helped inspire him to pursue professional football—concluded whichever team was the first to contact Montano would likely be his undrafted free agent choice.

The voice on the other end of Montano’s first call from an NFL team? Mike Tomlin.

Timing wasn’t the only factor to influence Montano’s decision, though. He accredits the Steelers’ eminent history and revered coaching staff with making Pittsburgh the perfect fit.

“Obviously, [the Steelers are] one of the most successful organizations in NFL history,” Montano said. “I think not just in history, but in recent time as well. They’re a continual playoff contender. I think Coach Tomlin is an excellent coach—probably one of the best, if not the best in the league. I think Mr. Rooney is a fantastic owner who really cares about the players out there—after having been in a meeting with him a few times, he’s a great guy, and I can’t wait to meet him in person.”

Montano explained that the Steelers’ offseason programs have helped him acclimate to the team, as he and his colleagues meet every morning except for Fridays; in the afternoons, he enjoys watching film and making notes via flashcards.

“If it were just looking at Xs and Os, that would be tough. But I think being in the 21st century, [it] being 2020, having cloud computing now—being able to look at things from afar, having access to their full data archive with all their film cut-ups—it makes it a lot easier to adapt to this whole COVID situation,” Montano said about how the Steelers’ technology, including a team-issued iPad, has been beneficial.

But the UDFA’s transition to a new city and team hasn’t been entirely digital. In recent weeks, he ventured to Pittsburgh to practice with and meet some of his new teammates via several 2-hour practice sessions.

“I think being an offensive lineman, getting to meet guys like [Maurkice] Pouncey, Al [Alejandro Villanueva], Wis [Stefen Wisniewski]—who’s from Kansas City—those guys who have been in the league for 10+ years or nearly 10+ years,” Montano said. “It’s amazing to see the longevity they’ve had, to see things from their perspective, to be able to learn lessons from them, I really enjoyed that. And just some of the older guys—watching Ben [Roethlisberger], just the way he carries himself through practice meant a lot.”

For Montano, his overarching goal is simply to make the Steelers’ roster in 2020, though he remains confident in his ability to contribute in other facets.

“I know, obviously, being an undrafted guy, it’s going to be a tough situation going into—you really got to fight and compete and just give your all every day in camp to hopefully earn a spot on the team,” Montano stated. “Beyond that, I just want to be the best teammate I can be and the best football player I can be. If everything goes well and if I stay healthy, I think [with] my determination, I’ll be able to be in a good spot to hopefully add to the team and hopefully make a run at a Super Bowl.”

One factor which very well may help him crack the depth chart? Versatility.

Montano played both tackle and center in college. Additionally, he feels adapting to two disparate collegiate systems has augmented his football acumen.

“From a schematic standpoint, I think playing multiple positions in college is really beneficial because you kind of learn not just one position, but what the entire offensive scheme is,” Montano continued. “I think that also is true when transferring from Brown to Tulane, learning a whole other offense. I think if you’re at one place from a long time, it’s kind of like brushing your teeth—you don’t forget how to do it. But having to challenge yourself and learn a new playbook, it’s kind of like this year: I went from learning the Brown playbook to the Tulane one to now—I’m learning the Steelers’ one. Even though it was not an easy process to learn one with the other, it kind of prepared me to have to learn this playbook now.”

Though uncertainty about rookie minicamps and OTAs abounds, Montano remains optimistic he and his new teammates can practice with Pittsburgh’s coaching staff starting in mid-to-late July.

Some could certainly be worn out by a lengthy college career filled with numerous pit stops and the formidable COVID-19 pandemic. Montano, though, is full of vivacity, diligence and motivation to help the Steelers hoist a 7th Lombardi Trophy.

“I think I’d want [Steeler fans] to think of me as the same way the coaching staff and other players think of me,” he said. “Just a guy who’s ready to give it 100% all the time, who’s willing to be the first guy in the morning and the last guy there to leave at the end of the day.”

Adding more pre-snap movement to the Steelers passing attack in 2020 should help Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

When using motion, Roethlisberger had much more success passing over his last few games

I came across a tweet the other day that intrigued me. According to Warren Sharp of @SharpFootball, the five teams who used the most pre-snap movement on passing plays last season were five of the best teams in the NFL:

Those five teams went a combined 60-20 in 2019. Teams who finished near the bottom in this department included the Jaguars, Falcons, Jets, Dolphins and Vikings, whose combined record was 35-45.

Naturally, I wanted to know where the Steelers fell. The answer? Middle of the pack. The Steelers came in just below the league average of 35% for use of motion on pass plays. Charting motion is a relatively new statistic, but the Steelers typically do not use it much when they throw the football. Despite the fact they have enjoyed success in recent seasons (they’ve gone 62-33-1 since 2014), a question worth exploring is whether they could be even better with more pre-snap movement, particularly in the passing game. This question is the focus of this article.

The pros and cons of pre-snap movement

The arguments for and against using motion in general, but specifically in the passing game, are compelling. Peyton Manning famously did not like pre-snap movement because it displaced a defense in ways he could not predict. Manning preferred a static alignment which provided him a clearer picture of the coverage. Ben Roethlisberger seems to be in this camp as well, as evidenced by how often he allows a play clock to tick down to its last second, getting the longest possible look he can at a defense, before snapping the football. This strategy is feasible when an offense shifts a player from one spot to another, but, due to the timing involved, is much harder with continuous motion.

The counter to the no-motion argument goes as follows: In this age of post-snap rotations and coverage disguises, it’s too hard to determine what a defense is playing without a little help. As I highlighted in this piece, defenses have become expert at masking their schemes. Pre-snap motion, then, forces a defense to show its hand by requiring it to move from its base structure to compensate for the realignment of the player in motion. A shift or motion can help a quarterback determine man or zone coverage or discern what specific zone a defense is using. The effects of that information are distinct: according to ESPN, pass plays in 2019 with a man in motion at the snap yielded 0.08 expected points per play more than those from a static formation. While 0.08 may not seem like a big number, as ESPN notes, it equates roughly to the difference between the Chiefs scoring output (28.2 ppg) and the Raiders output (19.6) over the course of a full season.

Steelers pre-snap movement in the passing game

To study the Steelers’ motion tendencies, I’ve looked at the last three complete games in which Roethlisberger played: the final two contests of 2018 against New Orleans and the Cincinnati Bengals and the 2019 opener at the New England Patriots. It’s not a particularly large sample, but it’s enough to provide a general idea of how the Steelers employ pre-snap movement in the passing game. Here’s a look at each of those contests.

New Orleans

With motion: 4-6, 85 yards, 14.3 YPA

No motion: 29-44, 295 yards, 6.3 YPA, 3 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks

The Steelers faced a tall task on the road at New Orleans, made taller by the absence of James Conner who missed the game with a shoulder injury. To compensate, they used the short pass as a de facto rushing attack. Of Roethlisberger’s 33 completions, 18 went for 10 yards or less.

This partially explained the absence of pre-snap motion in the passing game. The Steelers ran twelve screens that day to backs or receivers. Twelve! There was no need to displace the defense or probe for coverage on these plays since the ball was not being thrown down the field.

The other explanation is New Orleans was in zone coverage for most of the game. The Steelers used an array of empty sets which kept the Saints’ defense fairly vanilla and gave Roethlisberger a good look at how they were configured. Out of empty, and with no motion, New Orleans had a hard time masking coverage. With five receivers spread across the field, there were too many voided areas in which Roethlisberger could throw for the Saints to try to roll and move their secondary pieces. Instead, they opted to play their safeties deep, keep the Steelers’ receivers in front of them, and give up short throws.

When the Steelers did move, it was generally a yo-yo type motion designed to determine whether New Orleans was in man or zone coverage. Here’s an example:

On the Steelers’ first offensive snap, New Orleans aligned with a single high safety. This could have been cover-1 man or cover-3 zone. To find out, JuJu Smith-Schuster motioned into the formation and back. No one followed him. The lack of a reaction told Roethlisberger it was cover-3. He threw the slant to JuJu off of a slant-flat combo, which is a common cover-3 beater.

The pre-snap movement numbers (4-6, 85 yards) look better than perhaps they were because of a 49 yard completion to Vance McDonald off of an extended play where Roethlisberger bought time in the pocket and McDonald shook free of coverage. Realistically, the Steelers use of pre-snap movement at New Orleans had little impact on the game. Their static sets, especially the use of Empty, provided Roethlisberger a clean picture of the coverage. It resulted in one of his best games of the season.

Cincinnati

With motion: 12-12, 125 yards, 10.4 YPA, 1 TD

No motion: 19-33, 162 yards, 4.8 YPA, 1 INT, 1 sack

The motion numbers in the final game of 2018 against the Bengals were eye-popping. When the Steelers used pre-snap movement on pass plays, they were an astounding 12-12 for 125 yards and a touchdown. As with the game at New Orleans, they used no continuous motion. All of it involved a player shifting and re-setting or yo-yoing back and forth. As we see below, the Steelers were effective using this shorter, more deliberate movement.

This is an RPO (run-pass option). The offensive line run-blocked an inside zone play while the receivers to the top of the screen ran double slants. At the bottom of the screen, James Washington executed the yo-yo motion, coming into the formation and then returning, before running a speed out into the boundary.

No defender followed Washington inside on his motion, which told Roethlisberger it was zone coverage. The Steelers had run the same play earlier with Roethlisberger handing the ball off. He had likely seen the late rotation by the safety and knew the corner would play soft as a result. Therefore, the speed out to Washington was a safe throw. Roethlisberger took it for an easy seven yards.

Here’s another one. On this play, the yo-yo (often called “return”) motion was executed by Eli Rogers. This time the slot corner moved with Rogers, indicating man coverage. The Steelers ran Mesh, one of their favorite route concepts, which includes a zone beater (the deep in) and a man-beater (the crossers meshing in the middle of the field). Roethlisberger used the information he got from the return motion to select the man-beater and dumped the ball to Rogers for a short gain.

The Steelers were clearly effective using these types of motions to help identify coverage against New Orleans and, especially, Cincinnati. They went a combined 16-18 for 210 yards and a touchdown with an average of 11.6 yards per attempt when throwing off of pre-snap movement. Given that success, I’m curious if they planned to incorporate more into the game-plan for 2019.

New England

With motion: 12-15, 117 yards, 1 sack, 7.3 YPA

No motion: 15-32, 159 yards, 1 INT, 5.0 YPA

Unfortunately, we never really got to find out. The 2019 season consisted of six unimpressive quarters for the Roethlisberger-led offense, including the opening night debacle at New England. The Steelers changed little in terms of their offensive philosophy between the final two games of 2018 and the 2019 opener. They still operated largely out of open sets, many involving empty backfields, and allowed Roethlisberger to drain the play-clock as he diagnosed coverage. Their receivers struggled to separate from New England’s aggressive man scheme. Roethlisberger was not particularly sharp. It was a rough night.

The Steelers did, however, use pre-snap motion on 16 of 48 pass attempts that evening, which was a larger percentage (33%) than they used against New Orleans (11%) and Cincinnati (26%). As we see below, the motions were the same— return motion, shifting players from one spot to another, nothing continuous— and again they were effective (12-15, 117 yards).

The yo-yo motion reveals man coverage, and Roethlisberger throws the whip route (man-beater).

Was the increase in pre-snap movement a specific game adjustment or a sign of things to come? It’s difficult to know for sure, given how the rest of the season transpired.

Summary and Conclusions

Including sacks, the Steelers threw the ball 147 times in the three contests examined here. They used some form of pre-snap movement on 34 of those snaps (23.1%). Here are the results:

Attempts with pre-snap motion: 28-33, 327 yards, 1 TD, 1 sack, 9.6 YPA.

Attempts without pre-snap motion: 63-109, 616 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 4 sacks, 5.5 YPA.

Collectively, the numbers are informative. Roethlisberger’s completion percentage on throws using pre-snap movement was a remarkable 85%. With no movement, it dropped to 58%. Obviously, the bits of information he acquired as a result of the motion, whether it revealed coverage, a blitz, or which receiver would be open, were valuable.

Although the Steelers used their static sets, particularly Empty, effectively against the zone coverage employed by New Orleans, they did not have as much success with them against Cincinnati and New England. The Patriots, especially, were too good for the Steelers to simply get set and have Roethlisberger attempt to pick them apart. New England looked far too comfortable on defense when the Steelers did nothing creative before the snap. An approach which incorporated more motion and deception to displace the Patriots from their base structures would have been beneficial.

Looking Ahead

I do not believe the Steelers will morph into the Chiefs or Ravens, whose shifts and motions are quite different than what we see in Pittsburgh:

Both teams will move any player from any position on the field, and both prefer continuous motion which features movement at the snap. The Ravens, in particular, like snapping the ball with the motion man close to the center, as we see above. With all of their ball-faking and play-action, this further muddies the reads for defenders.

I doubt we will see much of this from the Steelers. Still, I’m curious why they increased their use of motion against New England in the 2019 opener. Possibly, it was because the Patriots mask their coverages well. Perhaps Roethlisberger wanted help identifying their schemes. Or, possibly, it’s because this is the direction in which the offense was moving in general. Once Roethlisberger went down, their 33% pre-snap movement rate on pass plays became the norm with Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges at the helm. The higher percentage made sense with the young guys, given how pre-snap movement can be a cheat-sheet of sorts for a quarterback. But it also makes me wonder if they would have proceeded in this direction had Roethlisberger stayed healthy and, given the success he was having with it, what the results may have been.

The hiring of motion guru Matt Canada adds further intrigue as to what the offense might look like this fall. Roethlisberger may not be comfortable with any sort of drastic change or anything which complicates his reads, but he should be open to ideas that make the offense more effective. An increase in pre-snap movement is one such idea. The numbers suggest it’s a good one.

If the Steelers are creative and can get everyone on the same page, they can find a balance between Canada’s designs, Roethlisberger’s desire for simplicity, and however Fichtner sees the offense evolving. Increased pre-snap movement should make the 2020 unit more difficult to defend. I, for one, would welcome the adjustment.

An Examination of Pittsburgh's 2021 Free Agents: Defense Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 6:30am

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Given the recent news that the NFL’s salary cap could decrease next year, where do the Steelers stand in terms of players in need of new contracts on defense?

With the possibility that the NFL will lower the average salary cap next season, and an already tight budget in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are going to have to make some difficult decisions about who to keep and who to let walk. A few days ago, I released an article exploring the players on the Steelers offense who are set to become free agents after this season. Today we will take a look at the defensive side of the ball.

As it currently stands, the Steelers have 7 defenders whose contracts are set to expire in 2021. Again, this is only considering players who are expected to make the 53 man roster. This list consists of Cameron Heyward, Bud Dupree, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, and Daniel McCullers. All of these players are likely to be contributors to the Steelers defense this fall, and will want to be paid in the offseason. Let's take a look at each of them.

Cameron Heyward

Heyward is coming off one of the best seasons of his career as he enters the final year of a 6 year, $59 million deal. After turning 31 last month, Cam is no spring chicken, and won't be looking for a mega contract like the one he signed back in 2015. However, he is still a highly regarded player who would no doubt receive many offers should he reach the free agent market. Heyward has stated many times that he would like to remain a Steeler for life, but the recent news that the team has yet to make any progress towards an extension with him is slightly worrying. Considering his leadership both on the field and in the locker room, locking up the defensive lineman for a few more years should certainly be a priority in Pittsburgh. A contract similar to the 3 year, $39 million deal Javon Hargrave signed this past offseason should hopefully be enough to do the trick.

Bud Dupree

Dupree received the franchise tag this past offseason, earning him a salary of almost $16 million for 2020. The 2019 season saw the outside linebacker make huge strides as an edge rusher on his way to 11.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. The main question now is whether the improvement was due to the attention T.J. Watt was drawing on the other side. The Steelers have until mid-July to come to terms with Dupree on a new contract, but given their minimal cap space and the slew of other young stars looking to get paid, it doesn't seem likely a deal will be reached by the deadline. Dupree's best shot at staying in Pittsburgh is to replicate his 2019 campaign this season, and look for a new contract in the offseason.

Tyson Alualu

Alualu is going into the last year of a 2 year deal signed back in 2019. He is the oldest out of this group of free agents and, as a result, probably the least likely to receive a contract extension. He recently turned 33 years old, and considering that he is only a rotational player, there isn't much of a reason to extend the veteran defensive end. Even with Stephon Tuitt out for most of last year, Alualu played just 40% of the Steelers defensive snaps. Unless this number somehow drastically increases in 2020, he will likely need to find a new home next offseason.

Chris Wormley

Wormley is probably the hardest person on this list to judge because he has yet to play a snap for the Steelers. He spent last season with Baltimore where he played a fairly minor role recording just 1.5 sacks and 33 total tackles. It will be interesting to see how the Steelers decide to utilize him, and if he can help to fill the void left by the departure of Javon Hargrave. Whether or not the Steelers decide to offer him a new contract will depend on how big of an impact he can make in 2020.

Mike Hilton

After signing his tender last week, Hilton finds himself in a similar position to offensive tackle Matt Feiler. He is set to make over $3 million this year, but will likely be looking for a larger deal with much more long-term security in the offseason. The only issue is the Steelers already have a lot of money invested in their two outside cornerbacks and paying a third corner could be difficult with their limited cap space. Still, Hilton's play last year was enough to earn him a spot on PFF's top 25 cornerbacks list, and he is certainly a crucial part of the secondary. His contract status will hinge largely upon the NFL's salary cap decisions and his ability to continuing performing at a high level this season.

Cameron Sutton

Sutton is closing in on the last year of his rookie deal and will make less than $1 million in 2020. He is in a very similar position as Mike Hilton in that the Steelers are already spending a lot of money on the cornerback position. Due to superior talent above him, Sutton played less than a quarter of the Steelers defensive snaps last year. Hilton on the other hand played over 60% of the snaps and had a more defined role as a true slot corner. The Steelers will likely have to choose between these two corners, and while Sutton would likely be less expensive, he will have an uphill battle to prove his worth this season.

Daniel McCullers

Despite never really having a clear role on the defense, McCullers has found a way to stick around in Pittsburgh. Last year he earned $1.375 million, the same number he is set to make this year, and played in just 12% of defensive snaps. The departure of Javon Hargrave opens up the nose tackle position, and if McCullers wants to stay with the Steelers past 2020, he will have to take full advantage of the opening. Otherwise, he will have to move elsewhere, or resign for a very low salary.

Conclusions

The Steelers list of defensive free agents is really headlined by two big names, Cam Heyward and Bud Dupree. They will certainly try to keep them both, but whether that will be possible is very much up in the air. After them, it's a lot more picking and choosing between players who play the same position.

Who do you think will be extended next offseason? And who do you think will walk in free agency? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: What Steelers players will take that step to stardom in 2020?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Q&A” show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo analyze what Steelers players will emerge to new heights in 2020.

Steelers fans have seen players take their time to adapt to playing at the professional level and then breakout. Barry Foster, Bud Dupree and Cameron Heyward both took time to reach high heights, but it was worth the wait when they finally emerged. Who are the next Steelers ready to take that giant leap? This is the question we will hope to answer on our latest podcast, along with many more.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Q&A Show. On this show Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • What Steelers players will take that step to stardom in 2020?
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Bryan Davis and Tony Defeo, of BTSC, 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!

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: Stefen Wisniewski working hard as he waits to join his new teammates

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/16/2020 - 4:30am
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the Steelers are unable to hold their typical OTA’s doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at free agent signee Stefen Wisniewski as he patiently waits to get to know his fellow Steelers.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Adjusting to a new team is extra difficult in 2020

Wisniewski is working while he waits

By: Teressa Varley, Steelers.com

A few months ago, when Stefen Wisniewski signed with the Steelers, one of his first thoughts was how he couldn’t wait to get to work with his hometown team, get to know his teammates and coaches.

Fast forward three months, and never in his wildest dreams would he have thought that wouldn’t have happened yet.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, offseason programs for NFL teams became virtual ones, filled with zoom calls for meetings and players working out on their own.

While he has adapted like others, it hasn’t been the situation he expected.

“This is definitely something weird and different because we have never done anything like this in football,” said Wisniewski. “It’s an adjustment. I am still learning the plays, going through the play install. I am learning the name of everything. I am learning the calls we make at the line. I am learning all of the lingo. It’s just weird because it’s not in person. I am not getting to know my teammates as well because it’s virtual and not in person.

“It’s definitely an advantage to be a veteran. It will be tough for rookies across the league to learn things virtually and then just show up and do it. I am sure there are still a few rookies who will be able to do it. It’s definitely a big advantage being a veteran. I have been in a lot of different offenses. I have had five or six offensive coordinators in nine years. At the end of the day we all run the same plays. It’s a matter of what you call it, how you do the little things differently. I am learning what the Steelers call it and I will be ready to go.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Looking at the Steeters mid-season matchups with the 2019 AFC North champions

Steelers 2020 Breakdown: Week 7 and 12, Ravens

By: Jeff Hartman, DK Pittsburgh Sports

When Steelers fans see division games on the schedule, each team invokes a different emotion. The Bengals and Browns often bring about a chuckle, but the Ravens are a different story. Regardless of location, fans know what will ensue when these two hated rivals collide. Most likely, it is a close game, coming down to the final play to decide the outcome. Time to break down the two meetings between the Steelers and Ravens in the regular season.

MATCHUP

Opponent: Ravens
2019 Record: 14-2
Overall History (W/L): 28-24 for Steelers
Last 4 Games: 3-1, for Ravens
Opening Line: Week 7: Ravens (-7) / Week 12: Ravens (-2.5)
Date: Sunday, Oct. 25 / Thursday, Nov. 26
Time: Week 7, 1:00 p.m. / Week 12, 8:20 p.m.
Location: Week 7, Baltimore / Week 12, Pittsburgh

OUTGOING PLAYERS/ FREE-AGENT LOSSES

DT Michael Pierce
WR Seth Roberts
ILB Patrick Onwuasor
ILB Josh Bynes

RETIREMENT

G Marshal Yanda

FREE-AGENT ADDITIONS

DE Derek Wolfe
G D.J. Fluker

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils buy a small share of the Steelers

Steelers add 2 minority investors to ownership group

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Another group of minority investors has joined the Pittsburgh Steelers ownership group.

Wall Street financiers Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who also own the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, acquired a stake in the NFL franchise estimated at less than 5%.

The news was first reported by Bloomberg News.

“I am pleased that Josh Harris and David Blitzer have joined the Steelers ownership group,” team president Art Rooney II said in a statement. “Josh and David are successful sports business partners, and they are a welcomed addition to the Steelers family.”

With the Steelers being valued at $2.8 billion, according to the most recent Forbes estimate, a 5% share would equate to $140 million.

Harris and Blitzer are joining the Steelers as passive investors, according to the report, and they will have no say in day-to-day operations. The Steelers continued to be controlled by the Rooney family, led by Rooney II, grandson of franchise founder Art Rooney Sr.

It is the second time in a year that an ownership stake in the Steelers has changed hands. In 2019, David Tepper’s approximate 5% stake was purchased by Doug Lebda, NC Revocable Trust and Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc., of which Art Rooney II is president.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Opening drive woes plagued the Steelers in 2019

How big of a contract will T.J. Watt get when the time comes?

History shows Ben Roethlisberger has the advantage to win Comeback Player of the Year

Training camp at Heinz Field could be fun if fans are allowed to attend

Can Amara Darboh find his way back to the Steelers 53-man roster?

  • Social Media Madness

Year 1️⃣ is in the books for @_Dbush11 ☑️

MUCH more to come!

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2020

On this day, three years ago, the @StanleyCup met some friends over at the @steelers. pic.twitter.com/6SMztXeEYp

— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 15, 2020

9️⃣1️⃣ days until we open up the regular season ⏳@DOCnation_7 pic.twitter.com/tHDJp6wCxs

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2020

Numero Uni: Of the 25 most prolific Steelers jersey numbers of all time, which is ranked 18th?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/15/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers have had a plethora of great players representing one number over the years. Find out which one number is ranked 18th.

BTSC continues to rank the best numbers in team history on a standpoint of thriving over time throughout multiple players. It seems there are a few numbers which are always represented with quality play in Steelers lore. One BTSC author has wondered aloud “what is the most accomplished number in Steelers history?” Through player and jersey value rankings found in Pro Football Reference, we have ranked the most successful numbers in Steelers history worn by multiple players. You won’t see numbers like 12, 58, 75, 32, 52, 59, 36, 63 and 47 as it would be basically ranking an individual player over the other and not the cumulative effort. In today’s submission, we take a look at those ranked 18th. Enjoy.

18) No. 63 Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Most Notable: Dermontti Dawson 1988-2000, Pete Rostosky 1983-1986, Ernie Holmes 1972-1977, Rod Breedlove 1965-1967

Current Wearer: None

Only two players made an indelible mark on this particulay jersey number. One is a member of a legendary stable and the other is enshrined in Canton as one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Dermontti Dawson may be a Hall of Fame snapper but was originally drafted as a guard out of Kentucky in the second round of the 1988 draft. Dawson was a dominating center, anchoring the line in the 90s, making seven straight Pro Bowls, being named First Team All Pro six straight times, and is a member of the 90s All-Decade team. Nicknamed “Dirt” for his propensity to grind opposing players into the ground, he also was called “Ned Flanders” by teammate for his always cheerful demeanor much like the character from “The Simpsons”. Legendary coaches Bill Cowher and Bill Belichick consider the center as one of the best all-time at his position. Dermontti was inducted as an immortal in Canton in 2012 and is a member of the Steelers All-Time Team.

Ernie Holmes had two nicknames as a member of the famed Steel Curtain from 1972-1977, “Fats” and “Arrowhead”. To call Holmes merely a character would be an understatement. On the field, he was a vibrant wrecking ball who led the Steelers in sacks unofficially with 11 in 1974 and 10.5 in 1975. His 40 unofficial sacks would rank him eleventh all time in Steelers history. The man with an arrow-shaved haircut was an intimidating force that personified the Steel Curtain mystique. Dan Rooney once explained Holmes was one of the toughest players to ever wear Steelers uniform. Holmes’ off the field antics were troubling. After an emotional breakdown while driving on the Ohio Turnpike, Ernie was arrested for firing shots and a police helicopter as it pursued him. Holmes suffered with a diagnosis of acute paranoid psychosis which would plague him. After enduring ongoing weight problems, the Steelers traded homes to the Buccaneers in 1978, but he failed to make the Tampa team coming out of preseason and was released. He ended up with the Patriots, but retired after three games. After retirement, Holmes lived on a ranch and was an ordained minister. He also appeared in Wrestlemania 2 and in an episode of The A-Team. The two-time Super Bowl Champ and one-time All-Pro passed away at the age of 59 after dying in a one-car accident 80 miles from Houston.

Pete Rostosky was an undrafted offensive tackle out of Connecticut in 1983. The Monongahela native started eight of his 35 NFL Games with the Steelers from 1983-1986.

From the University of Maryland, 1962 Pro Bowler Rod Breedlove played three of his seven NFL seasons as a linebacker for the Steelers from 1965-1967.

Check back soon for the 17th best jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the most prolific jersey number stables in Steelers history. But first, a recap of the countdown so far.

Honorable Mention: No. 51, No. 93, No. 27 and No. 33
25) No. 24
24) No. 43
23) No. 83
22) No. 67
21) No. 53
20) No. 10
19) No. 20

Getting off to a good start each week is key for the 2020 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/15/2020 - 12:45pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

As important as it is to start the season strong, starting fast each game offensively was one of the biggest failures of the 2019 Steelers

One of the biggest concerns Steelers fans have going in every season is the Steelers inevitably seem to take a few games to really get warmed up, particularly on offense. This was the case in 2019 as the Steelers went 1-3 in the opening quarter of the season. But more importantly then starting the season on a positive note, the Steelers were notoriously terrible it’s starting games offensively in 2019.

I addressed the issue partway through the season last year as to how the Steelers needed to get going on there opening drive. Unfortunately, the season didn’t finish up any better than it started. The most frustrating thing in dealing with slow starts is these drives are the ones which are usually scripted for each game. Although execution was definitely a problem as many were able to see, it appears the game plan may not have been much better.

Here are some of the numbers for the Steelers opening drive of each game in 2019. Yes, only two of these drives (both of which ended in punts) were supplied with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

6

This is not the number of times the Steelers scored on their opening drives. Unfortunately, it is the total number of points scored on their opening drive in the 2019 season which was obviously last in the league. A pair of field goals, each against NFC West opponents on the road, were the only scores on the opening drive the Steelers had in 2019. Yes, it’s bad the Steelers never scored in their opening drives at home. What was worse is eight teams in the NFL scored as many touchdowns on their opening drives as the Steelers had points. The Steelers were the only team who did not find the endzone on their opening possession of the 2019 season.

11.4

One of the biggest reasons the Steelers did not score points in their opening drive was because they did not move the football. They averaged merely 11.4 yards per opening drive in 2019. If it wasn’t for the 66-yard field-goal drive in Arizona, the Steelers would have only averaged 7.73 yards/drive. To put this number in perspective, it was 8 yards less than the 31st raked Washington Redskins and 46 yards worse than the league-leading Baltimore Ravens.

6

Another factor to why there were not many points scored or yards gained is the six drives the Steelers had turnovers to open games in 2019. With four interceptions and two fumbles, the only team who had more turnovers on their opening drive was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But even having almost half their drives on the season to start the game end with the turnover, the Buccaneers still at least manage three touchdowns.

2:30

Basically rounding out all the other stats, the Steelers only held on the ball for an average of 2;30 seconds per opening drive in 2019 which ranked them next to last in the NFL. The Buccaneers, who had more turnovers than the Steelers, were last in the NFL with 2:15 in possession. The Steelers only had three opening drives in 2019 which lasted four minutes or longer. Their opening offensive possession of the season lasted 4:00 against the New England Patriots and ended in a punt. The first drive against the New York Jets in Week 16 lasted 4:42 before Devlin Hodges threw an interception. The Steelers most productive drive to open the game in the 2019 season was their Week 14 matchup in Arizona which was 13 plays for 66 yards in 8:00 and ended with a field goal.

11

What may be the most disheartening is the Steelers had 11 opening drives in 2019 where they did not have a first down. One of those drives was when they scored a field goal against San Francisco when their defense set them up in field-goal range. Of those 11 drives, seven of them gained only 1 yard or less with for drives ending in negative yardage.

I’m sorry to dig up such deep wounds for the 2019 season, but the Steelers need to learn from their slow starts from 2019 if they plan on making a splash in 2020. With one of the most elite defenses in the league, if the Steelers can get a quality start to the game and possibly even play with the lead, the defense will have even more opportunity to make splash plays in the upcoming season. With talk of Ben Roethlisberger‘s return, the back-up quarterback position, lack of depth at several key positions, and an aging offensive line, getting off to a good start in each game may be the most important point of emphasis for the Steelers going into the 2020 season.

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Amara Darboh

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/15/2020 - 11:00am
Photo: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

We are officially on part 22 of our 90-part series— assuming the roster does not change before we are complete— which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s dive into 2017 third round pick:

Amara Darboh

Position: WR
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 215 lbs
College: Michigan
Draft: 3rd round, 106th overall in 2017 (Seahawks)

2019 stats (Buccaneers/Steelers)

N/A —Practice squad and healthy scratch only

Contract remaining

Expires in 2020

$750,000 salary cap number (0.37% of total cap)

$0 dead money

$750,000 cap savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Basically 0%. We know all about the top 4 names atop the Steelers WR depth chart, but with the team likely dressing 5-6 receivers there's still jobs available. With that being said, Darboh will be competing with the following:

Deon Cain
Ryan Switzer
Saeed Blacknall
Quadree Henderson
Anthony Johnson

It feels like on the trio of Cain, Switzer, and Blacknall have a shot at making a team. Darboh could surprise at camp but I'm not holding my breath.

2020 projection

It’s possibly the end of the line for the 2017 third round pick. If he fails to make the team there's no more practice squad safety net.

Projected stats:

N/A

Summary

Darboh would have been a prime candidate to get some reps in the AAF or XFL had either league been still in operation. Perhaps a trip to Canada and the CFL is in the cards to help jump start the former Michigan stud.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield

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