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My prediction for Super Bowl LIII between the Patriots and Rams

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 2:16pm

My prediction for Super Bowl LIII. Will the Patriots win their sixth Lombardi? Will the Rams win their second?

The Super Bowl is upon us. Soon, the most important football game in the history of western civilization will take place (for this year, anyway), when the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams for the right to be called kings of the National Football League (again, just for this year).

So, who do I think will win Super Bowl LIII? As a writer who comes to you from my one-bedroom apartment in Crafton, Pa., home of the legendary Bill Cowher, it’s likely you were just waiting for my opinion with the proverbial bated breath.

As a die-hard Steelers fan since the moment I watched them vanquish the Los Angeles Rams (ironically enough) in Super Bowl XIV way back on January 20, 1980, I naturally want Los Angeles to win. This would give the Rams their second Super Bowl title and fourth championship in franchise history (yes, some franchises that won championships before the advent of the Super Bowl actually count them—they may even have trophies and stuff). More importantly, it would prevent New England from tying the Steelers with six Lombardi trophies, a point of pride for black and gold faithful for a decade now, even if the Green Bay Packers (13 world championships), Chicago Bears (nine world championships) and New York Giants (eight world championships) are all, “We got your pride right here!”

However, since it’s debatable whether or not pre-Super Bowl championships actually count anymore, let’s stick to Lombardi trophies and the Patriots quest to tie Pittsburgh.

Nobody really wants it to happen. I mean, even in cities without a dog in the fight, people really want New England to lose.

Why? It’s about time the Patriots dynasty crumbles to the ground—something that will happen once Tom Brady actually retires and/or some other team in the AFC East realizes it’s allowed to try and win many games.

Will the dynasty begin to crumble in Super Bowl LIII? Probably not. The Patriots have lost Super Bowls before (take last year, for example), yet it hasn’t stopped them from appearing in more Super Bowls (take this year, for example).

Therefore, I don’t see New England losing to the Rams. Don’t get me wrong, Los Angeles will spend about 90 percent of the game giving you the impression the Patriots are toast (there will be memes posted by halftime declaring the king dead). Unfortunately, much like the Seahawks and Falcons, someone on the Rams will lend New England a helping hand (say, for example, by passing at the goal line, instead of giving the football to Todd Gurley or that C.J. Anderson fella; or taking a sack when you’re in field goal range and only need three points to seal the deal). And if that doesn’t work, the officials will overturn some call without conclusive evidence to do so or uphold some call with clear visual evidence to overturn it—you know which team will benefit in either case.

And if neither of those things happen, some team from the AFC East will show up and play in the Rams place for at least a quarter.

And even if the Bills don’t show up, well, Brady is pretty awesome, as is Belichick (although, he’s more the John Oates of the duo—the franchise quarterback is really the one that makes Super Bowl dreams come true).

I envision a game in-which Los Angeles controls the action for most of the way. Jared Goff will show us that he has what it takes to be one of the faces of the NFL for years to come. Aaron Donald will spend portions of the night being totally unblockable on his way to punishing Brady and making him do that thing where he slams the football out of frustration and then yells at his teammates (only non-receivers are allowed to “lead” in such a fashion). Marcus Peters may even get a pick-six and then proceed to challenge the entire state of Maine to a fight.

Unfortunately, there will come a time when the Rams will have a chance to put the game away—either offensively or defensively—but they won’t be able to do so (maybe because the Jets show up and play in their place midway from the fourth quarter).

And once they fail to close the door on Brady and Belichick (mostly Brady), the Patriots will do that thing where they pull a Super Bowl out either in the final moments or in overtime.

I’m predicting the final moments.

Patriots 34, Rams 31.

And for most of us not living in those New England states—especially very prideful “Got Six?” Steelers fans—I’m predicting......PAIN.

Ryan Shazier on being around the Steelers: “It’s very difficult for me just being there”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 12:50pm

The road for Ryan Shazier has been tough, including just being around the game he used to dominate in his current physical state.

For Ryan Shazier, things haven’t necessarily gone as planned since he left Ohio State University and was drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After some early career struggles, Shazier looked to be on top of his game before the Monday Night game in Cincinnati vs. the Bengals when he lay on the Paul Brown Stadium turf unable to move his lower extremities.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the dynamic play maker was facing a slew of questions. The most important being, “Will I ever be able to play this game again?” This wasn’t a knee injury, or injuring a shoulder, but a much dire situation that impacted not only his career, but his life.

Shazier has laid low since the injury in 2017, working hard and continuing to promise his return to the gridiron at some point. Fans often show signs of disgust when Shazier talks about playing the game he loves again, but it hasn’t deterred Shazier from having a goal in sight, and a proverbial light and the end of the tunnel.

During the lead up to Super Bowl 53, Shazier spoke to the media, and Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley, about his current status, his plans and what lies ahead with No. 50 in Pittsburgh. When reading through the many quotes from Shazier, the one which stood out the most was how Shazier struggles to just be around the team. Not that he doesn’t love the game, his teammates or the organization, but mainly how he has been stripped of what made his truly great as a player.

“It’s very difficult for me just being there,” said Shazier. “It motivates me and pushes me more and more every day. I am not going to lie. Before every game I hear the National Anthem, knowing when I hear the National Anthem it’s time to play. It eats me inside. Sometimes I might start crying when the National Anthem is on. It’s tough sometimes.

“I know I am still motivating those guys because they see me pushing every single day. It pushes them too. Sometimes it hurts because I might see our defense went on a slump and we didn’t have any turnovers and I knew I could have gone out there and made something happen or made a play. At the end of the day I just have to give them the knowledge I have and try to help them every single day I can.”

The struggles are multifaceted with Shazier, but what fans really want to know is if he still views playing again as the ultimate goal.

“I definitely want to play. I try to tell people at the end of the day, just because I got hurt, doesn’t mean I lost the love of the game of football,” said Shazier. “I love football so much. I just care about the game. I really feel like the game has taken me places I never expected to go. I am putting my everything into it. I feel like I was the best linebacker in the league. I don’t want to leave that as my legacy. I feel like I have so much to show.”

His progress is undeniable, and Shazier feels he still has so much to show/prove in the coming days, weeks and years.

“My doctor said I am further than they expected me to be,” said Shazier. “The rehab, the recovery and the pace I have been doing, there are no doors closed. He said you have to keep working, keep grinding. How hard you work is a possibility if you can make it back or not.”

Shazier feels confident a contract will be negotiated with the Steelers, keeping him in Pittsburgh one way or another. Either as a player, or coach, but mainly so he can continue his rehabilitation with the doctors and trainers who have helped him get to this point. In the meantime, the Steelers are still trying to fill the gigantic void left by Shazier’s absence, and there is never any doubt how the Steelers faithful are pulling for Shazier to have a full recovery from his horrible injury.

Always SHALIEVE!

Cam Heyward shares his thoughts on Antonio Brown: ‘I’m not condemning him but I’m saying that was not right’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 11:44am

While the Pro Bowl defensive end wants Antonio Brown back in Pittsburgh next season, he acknowledges that discussions have to be had before that can happen.

With the Super Bowl now just one day away, it is comforting to know that the endless string of interviews involving past and present members of the Pittsburgh Steelers emanating from radio row in Atlanta will soon be coming to an end. However, that still left time for one more current player to speak on Friday, with Cameron Heyward the latest name to add to his voice to all those we have already heard from this week.

Appearing on The Cook and Joe show on 93.7 The Fan, GMFB on the NFL Network and an interview with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk among others, Heyward was faced the same line of questioning about Antonio Brown that has highlighted the past few days.

Providing perhaps the most balanced response to questions about AB, Heyward did his best to explain what had gone on in Pittsburgh this season. As per his interview on The Cook and Joe show,

“I want everybody here. I always think if a guy can help this team, I can work through any problem and I’m just looking for a lot more calmess heading into 2019.”

“When you don’t win the the games that your supposed to and you don’t close out games, there becomes a level of uncertainty and a level of not appreciation because you teams not in the playoffs and your not contending for a Super Bowl. When you win, that cures everything and everything can be swept under a rug. But when you lose, there's bad connotations that come along with it and we have nowhere to look but ourselves and we’re responsible for it.”

Acknowledging that there were a lot of angry players in the locker room after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17, Heyward suggested his teammates would be able to move past that.

“You can still be angry and still want a guy. We’re adults in a kid’s game, but I think some of it, it’s about being adults and saying that you know we make mistakes and we hold people accountable but we can grow from it and everybody can mature from it and we can use this as a teaching moment.”

“I’m not condemning him but I’m saying that was not right and I’m not happy with the situation, but moving forward I still want him to be a part of this team because I think he can help us win a Super Bowl,”

Despite the way the year ended, Heyward believes Brown can still fix the damage done by addressing a few key issues.

“He’s got to talk to the right people in charge and have that communication and I think he’s got to have a dialogue with, not only them, but a lot of other guys in the leadership. And I think all that is possible. The ball’s in AB’s court and I don’t know what the front office is going to do, but I’m fighting for everybody to be here because I think this group, and him included, can do special things. I know we’ve had missteps and I know it hasn’t been perfect, but we can grow from this and we can be a better team because of it.”

While Heyward has tried to reach out to Brown, he has heard nothing in return and seemed to take exception to AB not responding to calls from Art Rooney II.

“I think he’s tried to remain silent because he doesn’t know what’s going on, but I think you should have that communication with Art. He’s paid you handsomely and he’s treated you respect throughout your years and that should be reciprocal. Everyone should be on the same page when it comes to that. You want to be a good person first and I think AB wants to be a good person and I think he’s capable of being a good person, but there’s a way to go about it the right way.”

Heyward would go on to talk about his role as a leader on the team and his expectation from Mike Tomlin next season, giving arguably the most reasoned commentary on the Steelers 2018 season we have heard all week and the full interview is well worth a listen.

During his interview with PFT, Heyward would effectively repeat many of the same remarks.

Unable to answer exactly how the situation with AB had developed the way it had over the year, Heyward admitted the everyone on the team had probably allowed AB to get away with too much when talking to Florio.

“I don’t know how it transpired, exactly, but I think most people looked at his work and most people understood that AB has worked his tail off for everything he’s got. And through everything he’s got, it just culminated into something. When AB’s on that field, you’re getting 120-percent. I’ve always said he’s one of the hardest workers on our team. AB’s grown a lot, but I think the other things have outweighed what he’s put on the field. It’s been kind of messed up because everybody’s looked at “oh, he’s gotten a pass on this, oh, he’s gotten a pass on that”, when really we let some stuff go and the accountability just needs to be different.”

“AB’s still learning, we all make mistakes. I’m not going to say I’m perfect, but I don’t just say that he was wrong or we were wrong, it’s about growing. I don’t want to think that because he made a mistake, I’m going to treat you differently. I’m going to treat you just like every other teammate, but I’m going to tell you when you’re wrong and what happened was not right.”

Noting the high expectations associated with being a part of the Steelers organization, Heyward was keen for the team to make a better effort at meeting that standard in 2019 when appearing on GMFB.

“There’s drama all over the place, but winning games does a lot for an organization.”

As the @steelers gear up for next season, @CamHeyward says the way to look past all of the noise is to just play ball. pic.twitter.com/tqrNjpNei8

— GMFB (@gmfb) February 1, 2019

It is perhaps fitting that Heyward was one of the final Pittsburgh guest along radio row this week in light of the honesty commentary he provided. His leadership will be key to the Steelers next season if they are to right the ship and it can only be hoped that Brown will have taken some of his words to heart.

Crunching the Numbers: 2018 Steelers receiving statistics

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 8:49am

A comparison of various 2018 Steelers receiving stats with the rest of the NFL.

2,723

With Antonio Brown’s 1,297 receiving yards in 2018 combined with JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 1,426 yards, the duo set a Steelers franchise record with a total of 2,723 yards. The previous record was held by Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress in the 2002 season with a total of 2,654 combined yards. The Brown-JuJu combination finished second in the league in yards behind Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill with 2,815 yards.

52.6% and 46.8%

Of 16 players who caught passes for the Steelers in 2018, 52.6% of the receiving yards were by Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Nearly half of the Steelers receptions (46.8%) were by Brown and Smith-Schuster with 215 of the 459 catches going to the two Pro Bowl receivers.

15

While JuJu Smith-Schuster led the Steelers in both receptions (111) and yards (1,426), Antonio Brown had more than twice as many touchdowns with 15. JuJu was second on the team with seven, with the next most belonging to Vance McDonald with four.

251

The Steelers were second in the NFL in the number of receptions for first downs in 2018 with 251. Only Tampa Bay had more with 265 receptions. Since the Steelers led the league with 459 completions, they finished with 54.7% of the receptions going for a first down which was just below the league average of 55.4%.

4

The Steelers had four receiving touchdowns of 75 yards or more in 2018 which led the NFL. The four touchdowns belonged to Vance McDonald (75 yards in Tampa), Antonio Brown (78 yards in Jacksonville), and two for JuJu Smith-Schuster (75 yards against Carolina and 97 yards in Denver). The next closest team was San Francisco with three touchdowns.

23.1%

Of all the receivers in the NFL who had at least 10 targets in 2018, Justin Hunter had the lowest catch percentage in the league with 23.1%. Of the 13 passes where he was targeted, Hunter had three receptions for 21 yards. Not only did he have lowest catch percentage of qualified receivers, it was more than 10% lower than any other receiver in the league.

Terrelle Pryor believes signing with Steelers could revive his career - ‘If I played with them, I’d be right back on the map’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 7:14am

Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor will be looking for his ninth team as a free agent in 2019 and the Steelers on are on his shortlist.

With seemingly endless news about players who want to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason, it is comforting to know that there are still some prospective free agents out there who are interested in joining the Black and Gold. Sadly for Steelers fans, the latest name to express a desire to play in Pittsburgh might not be one that they want.

Appearing as a guest on Sports Radio 610 while at the Super Bowl in Atlanta earlier in the week, wide receiver Terrell Pryor revealed that the Steelers are on the shortlist of teams he would like to sign with during free agency.

“I would love the opportunity. I believe if I played with them, and there’s a couple of other teams on my mind. But if I played with them, I’d be right back on the map and I think I’d have success. I would help JuJu and AB and some of their younger guys, bring my experience. Along with other teams, there’s a couple of other teams that would be great fits, but I definitely would love that opportunity, especially to play for a coach like Coach Tomlin. That’d be awesome.”

As of local product coming out of Jeannette High School in Southwestern Pennsylvania, signing with Pittsburgh would be a homecoming of sorts for the veteran. However, given that his one and only productive season of note was back in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns, it would be fair to question what the Steelers would be getting from him in 2019.

Signed to play quarterback by the Oakland Raiders after he was selected in the third round of the 2011 supplemental draft, Pryor would last just three years in Oakland before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Released before the season began, he would sit out of all of 2014 before having brief stays with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals ahead of the 2015 regular season.

Announcing a decision to switch to wide receiver later that year, Pryor would sign with the Browns during training camp. While he would see limited action in his first season at receiver, he would begin the 2016 campaign as the starter, recording 77 receptions for 1007 yards.

As a free agent in 2017, he would sign a one-year deal with the Washington Redskins worth $8 million, but would end the year with just 240 yards from 20 receptions in nine games after being placed on injured reserve mid-season.

Despite signing at $4.5 million contract with the New York Jets as a free agent in 2018, Pyor would be looking for a new team once again when he was released in October, later spending two weeks on the Buffalo Bills roster.

Injuries have derailed each of his last three seasons and Pryor has only played a full 16-game schedule once in his NFL career. Set to turn 30-years-old before the 2019 season begins, it is unlikely that the veteran wide receiver will have too many suitors on the open market this time around.

Beyond being a camp body that could challenge for a role as the fifth wide receiver for the veteran minimum, Pittsburgh should have little interest in him when free agency begins. And given the potential at the position they already have on the roster, it is hard to see much value in signing him.

10 Things I Think I Thought worrying about the Patriots in the Super Bowl

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 6:10am

Some serious thoughts about the upcoming Super Bowl.

There is still one game left, and I’m not brain dead yet. Here are ten more thoughts I’ve had while awaiting the Steeler-less Super Bowl.

  1. The Patriots are the 70’s Cowboys of dynasties. Sure, they have won a lot, but there is no personality. It’s just a well oiled machine. Too much personality can kill a dynasty before it is born- see the Bears of the 80’s. Too little and no matter how great the achievement, all it musters is a “meh.” Things are pretty bad when the most interesting guy on the team is the evil genius coach that looks like the guy whose yard you left your baseball in rather than risk getting yelled at for retrieving it.
  2. How different this time of year is when we are not in the thick of it. Those many years we made it to the conference championship and lost, I’d still be sore and sad about now. Those eight years we were going to be playing, I’d be as geeked up as a hummingbird leaving Starbucks. And seeing Steeler news in the headlines isn’t helping, as it will just be yet another guy chiming in on AB.
  3. Christmas decorations are still up in our house. My beautiful wife is a reasonable woman, and I an unreasonable man. I want them up year round, she is good so far. I expect they’ll be down soon, and the countdown for putting them back up will start, right next to the countdown for our opening game of the season.
  4. I’m willing to believe that next year could be our year. It was an encouragement to read about the drama of the 77 season, and we know what came after that. I’m genuinely intrigued by the possibility that our young studs will help us avoid a precipitous drop when Ben hangs them up.
  5. Sam Darnold, like his buddy James Conner, seems like a genuine good guy. Hoping he enjoys a heaping helpful of New England clam chowder come Sunday.
  6. When I was a kid I cheered for Pitt (saw Dorsett live run for over 200 yards against Temple his sophomore year) and Penn State both. When they would meet at the end of the year, I’d root for whoever was ranked higher. Anybody else do that?
  7. I want accurate information from a local sports reporter. I also want hometown loyalty. KDKA producer Michael Telek had both. Come on KDKA, don’t be a bunch of suits. Bill Currie must be rolling over in his grave... in a loud sport coat.
  8. Last guy to wear a duck bill face mask for the Steelers? I’m thinking Frenchy Fuqua, but am not quite sure.
  9. The two classiest guys from the glory years? I’m gonna say John Stallworth and Mel Blount.
  10. Speaking of which, whatever happens Sunday, let’s try to show some class.

Black and Gold Links: What would be the Steelers’ all-time Super Bowl roster?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/02/2019 - 5:06am

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

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

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how difficult it would be to make an all-time Super Bowl roster for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Some players and position are slam dunks. No one is going to do it better than ‘Mean’ Joe Greene, but what about quarterback? Terry Bradshaw or Ben Roethlisberger?

Let us know who would make your all-time Super Bowl roster in the comments below!

Let’s get to the news:

Tim Benz: The definitive all-Steelers Super Bowl roster

By: Time Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Super Sunday is this weekend. Without the Pittsburgh Steelers. Again.

But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our fair share.

Eight of ‘em, in fact.

So, it’s time for us to do what we do best in Pittsburgh when the Super Bowl doesn’t involve the Steelers. We just flash back to the ones that did.

In an effort to bask in the past, I tried to come up with a Steelers all-time, all-Super Bowl team.

These selections were made based on how the players played in the actual Super Bowl games themselves. Not their careers or their play in the season leading up to the big games.

And it was way harder to do than I thought.

Quarterback

Neil O’Donnell.

Just kidding.

Obviously, it’s Terry Bradshaw or Ben Roethlisberger. And almost as obviously, it’s Bradshaw.

This is one of the few achievements Bradshaw still holds over Roethlisberger. Bradshaw won four of those games. He was the MVP twice. Only Joe Montana, Jim Plunkett and Russell Wilson have better career passer ratings in Super Bowls.

Only Tom Brady (18) and Montana (11) have more career passing touchdowns than Bradshaw (9). And Bradshaw’s 11.1 yards per pass in Super Bowls are still tops in the history of the game.

Despite Roethlisberger’s game-saving heroics at the end of Super Bowl XLIII, he was only so-so in Super Bowl XLV (25 for 40, 263 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions).

And Ben was just flat-out bad in Super Bowl XL (9 for 21, 123 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions). Actually, Antwaan Randle El threw the best pass that day.

At least the Steelers still won.

Running back

Rashard Mendenhall.

Got you again.

Of course, it’s Franco Harris. Over four games, his 101 carries and 354 yards and Super Bowl IX MVP are the stuff of legend. He’s the Super Bowl career leader in both categories.

Sorry Willie Parker.

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

A special honor for Cowher

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Former Steelers Coach Bill Cowher received the Pat Summerall Award at the Legends of Charity Dinner held in Atlanta, an event that benefitted the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“It is a true honor to receive the Pat Summerall Award. Pat was an icon. He was a special broadcaster and even better person,” said Cowher. “I grew up watching him and it is humbling to be in the elite company of the previous recipients.”

Cowher spent 15 seasons at the helm for the Steelers, including leading the team to a victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Cowher retired from coaching in 2007, and went on to become a studio analyst for the NFL Today on CBS. It’s that work in the studio that Cowher was honored for.

“I watch him quite a bit on there,” said Jerome Bettis, the Hall of Fame running back who flourished under Cowher. “Just like he did with our team, he adds that calmness, that stablility they need on the show. A couple of guys go here, go there, off the rails.

“He is stable. He breaks it down, explains to you what is going in terms you understand. That is who coach has been his whole career, he always explained it to us in a way we can understand. That is what coach is doing now, he is just appealing to the masses and not just us.”

Calmness. Yes Bettis used that to describe Cowher. Not something many would expect, but something that is fitting.

“When you are trying to get across to guys you have to talk a certain way,” said Bettis. “He is one way behind the scenes when it was time for him to be a teacher. There was another side when he had to be a fiery coach on the sideline because that’s when his energy came out, his passion showed. On television he is doing more teaching and explaining than coaching, so every now and then you see him get fired up.”

Cowher is the 14th recipient of the award and while Bettis loves to see what he is doing on camera, it was his time coaching the Steelers that will always special.

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

VIDEO: JuJu Smith-Schuster opens up about team’s drama

Click HERE to watch the video.

Cowher on Faneca: ‘He led the way’

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Former Steelers guard Alan Faneca is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019. The class will be revealed on Saturday during the NFL Honors show.

Throughout the week Steelers.com will be highlighting Faneca as his quest for a Gold Jacket closes in.

Today Bill Cowher shares why the six-time first-team All-Pro should be in the Hall of Fame.

It’s hard to measure statistics for an offensive lineman, but there is one for former Steelers guard Alan Faneca that clearly stands out.

Six time first-team All-Pro selection. Not once, not twice, but six times.

It’s a number you can’t ignore. It’s a number Hall of Fame voters can’t ignore.

Faneca is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019, and the do-it-all guard has every right to be alongside the greatest ever to play the game.

“As a left guard one of the staple running plays we had with him was pulling right and he paved the way for a lot of the runs Jerome Bettis had, especially late in games,” said Bill Cowher, one of his former coaches. “We knew if we ran left we ran behind him, if we ran right we pulled him. We always found a way to make sure he was at the point of attack when we ran a running play.”

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 5

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 5:45pm

There is plenty to talk about regarding all things black-and-gold!

Several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night Open Thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring it back to Friday night — with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six-Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six-Pack of Steelers Questions and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. Super Bowl 53 prediction, and final score prediction.

2. I spoke about this on my Steelers Burning Question podcast (you can listen to it below), so I thought I would ask here: Who is most to blame for the Steelers’ issues on the defensive side of the ball?

3. If the Rams are to beat the Patriots, what would have to happen for this to take place?

4. What is your go-to dish for a Super Bowl party? Follow up question, do you expect a type of desert to be served at this party?

5. How much money would you put down that the Steelers find themselves in this game, the Super Bowl, next year?

6. Wings or pizza during the big game?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Steelers Preview: Breaking down the WR Depth chart for 2019 and MORE!

Yeah, I said it: Why AB = Absolutely Bonkers

Steelers Burning Question: Who is more to blame for the Steelers’ defensive issues? Mike Tomlin or Keith Butler?

Aaron Donald is the hometown kid with a chance to save Pittsburgh

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 1:00pm

This Super Bowl Sunday Aaron Donald has the opportunity to solidify his place among the all time greats at his position and validate that monster contract.

Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald is a Pittsburgh legend. Donald was born and raised in Pittsburgh and even became a All American player for his hometown Pittsburgh Panthers. After being drafted with the 13th overall selection in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft by the then St. Louis Rams, Donald enjoyed immediate success. He was named the 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and also made the Pro Bowl that initial season, a feat he has managed to repeat after each of his five seasons. He is a first team All Pro the last four years running and was named the 2017 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in the game today, without a doubt and by a large margin. He is a dominating presence on the field, evidenced by his league leading 20.5 sacks this season from his defensive tackle position. That single season total is the all time record for a defensive tackle, another reason he is the highest paid defensive lineman in NFL history. Donald has to be considered the favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award for a second consecutive season.

What makes Donald a nearly unstoppable force on the field is his unique physical and athletic attributes. Donald is undersized for a interior lineman, both in height and weight. Much like James Harrison, he uses his low center of gravity to it's full advantage. Also like Harrison, Donald possesses superior strength and explosion. His short area quickness is unmatched and, as if that wasn't impressive enough, he has the 40 yard dash record at the combine for a defensive tackle. He blazed a 4.68 time in setting the record.

Donald's five professional seasons of sustained excellence has resulted in his name being mentioned in conversations along side some of the all time greats. Players such as Bob Lilly, Merlin Olsen, Alan Page, and my personal pick for the greatest DT of all time, Mean Joe Greene. This Sunday Donald has a coveted opportunity to make sure his name stays right there in that rarified air.

Fans old enough to remember Olsen and Page know they were great players who enjoyed long and successful careers, but neither player was able to win a Super Bowl. There is a certain level of immortality that comes with being a Super Bowl champion. The knowledge that your name will forever be associated with being a champion, especially for those individuals who proved integral to their team's success. Aaron Donald definitely fits that description for the Rams.

At first glance, Sunday's match up with the Patriots appears to be a good news, bad news situation for the Rams.

The good news is the Rams may be better equipped to neutralize the Patriots offense than any team in the league. It is common knowledge the key to beating Tom Brady is making him move his feet. He likes a clean pocket, and is at his best when he can step up without congestion. Last Super Bowl the Philadelphia Eagles were unable to pressure Brady consistently throughout the game and he put up huge numbers in the loss, even without a couple of his biggest weapons. The Rams definitely want to avoid a repeat of that performance if possible.

The Rams have a superior DC in Wade Phillips and a defense that matches up well with the Patriots. Along side superstar Aaron Donald is fellow defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, a duo who should be able to collapse the pocket and make Brady uncomfortable throughout the game.

Brady also destroys zone defenses, but the Rams have a strong set of defensive backs lead by Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, so they should be able to effectively match up in man coverage. Throw in some athletic linebackers, including breakout ILB Cory Littleton, to hopefully limit the impact of TE Rob Gronkowski and RB James White out of the backfield, and the Rams appear to match up well across the board. That is the good news.

The bad news is the Rams will be facing the best coach in the business, Bill Belichick. He has had two weeks to develop a gameplan, and I expect he is extra motivated this year, coming off last season's loss and looking across the field at a young challenger in Rams HC Sean McVay, a offensive mastermind and a man who would be king.

Belichick always takes one of the things you do best away, and makes you adjust accordingly. Can Belichick devise a strategy to neutralize Aaron Donald and prevent him from wrecking havoc in the Patriots backfield? Can Donald rise to the occasion and use his immense talents to help the Rams win the title? The answers to these questions may be the most intriguing development in the game and go a long way in deciding the victors.

It sure would be a great side story if the hometown kid helped the Steelers remain the only franchise with 6 Super Bowl titles by defeating the Evil Empire. I for one will be rooting big time for the young man to do just that.

Hines Ward adds his name to the list of former players embarrassed by Steelers current drama

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 11:45am

Critical of both Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger, the former wide receiver appears to believe that Antonio Brown is only partially culpable for all of the drama in Pittsburgh

If you are a former Pittsburgh Steelers player who is looking for some air time this week, there are few places better to be than radio row at the Super Bowl in Atlanta. If you have comments you would like to share about the state of your former team, it would appear there are hundreds of radio outlets all under one roof who would love to hear from you.

Hines Ward was the latest guest of the day along radio row on Thursday, popping up on several sports talk shows to discuss his thoughts about the current drama in Pittsburgh. Echoing many of the sentiments that all the other voices associated with the team have shared in the past few days, perhaps the only way in which Ward distinguished himself from the others was how little how blamed Antonio Brown for the situation by comparison to Mike Tomlin or Ben Roethlisberger.

Speaking on The Cook and Joe Show on 93.7 The Fan, Tomlin’s name was the first one out of his mouth when asked about the issues plaguing the Steelers.

“I just think the culture that was set by Mike Tomlin. You walk around that building and the standard is the standard, that’s kind of the motto. Well, the shenanigans, the circus is not conducive to winning football and that’s not the standard of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

“Antonio Brown, I’m not going to put all the blame on him, but he needs to be held accountable for his actions. When they pay you that type of money, it’s not just what you do on the field, it’s what you do off the field, it’s what you do in the community. And I think for the Rooney family to invest so much in the player, I think it’s kind of disrespectful that if Mr. Rooney calls and you don’t answer the phone, it’s disrespectful in itself. I’ve got Mr. Rooney on speed-dial so if he ever calls me, I know that’s the one phone call that you might want to pick up.”

“I just think for Coach Tomlin. The way he handles certain players and try to treat players differently and stuff, I think you’re opening up a can of worms in that sense. Look at Coach Belichick, what he did to Malcolm Butler, a guy who helped win the Super Bowl. Late for one meeting and he sat him out in the biggest game in the world. And I think you look at AB, what he did with the Facebook Live and there was really no hard punishment for that. You have to set the tone early because players are only going to get away with what you get away with, but once you start creeping into them and letting it get by, sweeping it under the rug and things don’t go well. The Steelers have too much talent not to make the playoffs and that’s a reflection of the head coach.”

While Ward still believes the Steelers can reconcile with Brown, it would seem he feels something needs to be done with the quarterback as well.

“I get it, Ben you're the captain, your’e wearing the C on your chest, but when you do a radio show every week and you criticize players publicly. We always had a motto when I was playing with Casey Hampton, Jerome, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, Brett Keisel - ‘Keep my name out of your mouth in the media. Do not go out there and talk and criticize or anything in the media because your’e just creating more distractions.”

Ward must be forgetting that time he called out Big Ben in the media for not playing in a game against the Baltimore Ravens because he was suffering from a concussion. He is also appears to be forgetting his 15-day holdout in 2005 during which he did not communicate with anyone on the team either.

Although the rest of his interviews throughout the day were essentially more of the same with Stephen A. Smith of ESPN and SiriusXM Radio, it was disappointing to see him appear in an interview with Patriots Fan TV, otherwise known as Barstool Sports.

Feeding them the sort of soundbites their fanbase would love to hear, Ward confessed his embarrassment over the state of the Steelers and his admiration for the Patriots. He would even back down from his previous public statements suggesting New England had cheated in the past in their games against Pittsburgh.

Hines Ward calls the current Steelers culture “embarrassing”, praises the Patriots Way @BarstoolRadio pic.twitter.com/4gngzInxuN

— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) January 30, 2019

“It is embarrassing to be honest with you, that’s just not the culture, the Steelers’ culture. I look at what happened with Malcolm Butler, being late for a meeting and then missing the Super Bowl. That’s the culture and that’s the Patriots way, there’s no one guy that’s bigger than the team. You do what coach Belichick says and everyone else is held accountable.”

“I just think the culture in Pittsburgh has changed a little bit. It’s more about the production on the field outweighs what the overall team aspect is. And when you start to get a bunch of individuals worrying about how many catches they get or how many this or who’s making this type of money, it just sets up for a disaster for the team.”

Changing his tune from the man who often criticized New England for the the lack of integrity they have shown over the years, Ward was quick to acknowledge he did not feel that way anymore.

“I jumped off that bandwagon, I’ve got nothing but respect for what the Patriots have done and Tom Brady.”

Considered Ward was hoping to have been named the Steelers new wide receiver coach back in 2018 after Richard Mann retired, it is hard to imagine how he would have handled working under a head coach whose methods he questions so openly. And while Tomlin is never likely to address Ward’s remarks publicly, it is hard to believe they will have endeared him towards the former Steelers receiver for the future should a job opening arise again.

Basic, Bold and Bizarre Steelers Predictions surrounding Super Bowl LIII

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 10:32am

BTSC’s resident soothsayer puts a unique twist on his Super Bowl preductions.

As the Steeler-less Super Bowl will be played this weekend, fans of the Black-and-Gold will be watching and thinking “if only”. Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers will not be between the white lines at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday, there are definite Steeler things to look out for. I’ve compiled a list of predictions (some basic, and some utterly idiotic) to look for in this weekend’s epic event.

  • Alan Faneca is denied “The Gold Jacket” again when Tony Boselli gets the only O-line call to the Hall.
  • However, “the Artists formerly known as the Munch Bunch” take home the “Built Ford Tough” Offensive Line of the Year at NFL Honors.
  • During an interview between a former young coach and a current one to make the Super Bowl early in their careers, Bill Cowher shares his memories of his SB debut in Arizona 23-years ago and gives sage advice to Sean McVay.
  • The Steelers are mentioned as the last team to defeat the Patriots in the 2018 season.
  • Todd Gurley’s merely-adequate performance is noticed by Le’Veon Bell and addressed with a series of iuinterpretable emojis.
  • Wide Receivers AB and JuJu Smith-Schuster appear in SB commercials, but for reasons unknown to many... Eli Rogers does not get his shot at a Clio award.
  • Because the “Big Game” is on CBS and not Fox, Terry Bradshaw having been rendered unable to join Maroon 5 and promote “The Masked Singer”... a show in which he was ousted from a few weeks back while wearing a deer mask and antlers. However, ‘‘The Blonde Bomber” finds a way to delight a dozen Steeler fans in attendance by performing his version of Florida Georgia Line’s “Get Your Shine On” in the end zone after the Third Quarter.
  • Meanwhile back home, avid hunter Brett Keisel grabs his deer rifle and blasts the screen of his 75” Samsung 3D television.
  • Antonio Brown catches wind of Bradshaw’s performance and is livid. Being the first person ousted from the same show dressed as a hip-hop rhino while singing Bobby Brown’s “My Perrogative”, AB demands a trade from Fox because the network allegedly favors the Super Bowl QB over him.
  • Steeler fans rejoice as their Penn Hills and Pitt alum, Aaron Donald, registers a MVP-caliber performance with 1.5 sacks and three hurries of Brady.
  • The record of most Super Bowl wins becomes a tie to the chagrin of Steeler Nation as the Patriots prevail 44-42 to expand their total of wins to six.
  • Jim Nantz uses the phrase “Move Over Pittsburgh” when proclaiming the Pats champs.
  • Steeler Nation laments the fact on social media that their team could’ve beaten the Rams, had their team only gotten in.

...

How many of these will be right? Hopefully only one or two.

“Remember basic merely happens, the bold rises to the top...but the bizarre is remembered forever.”-Bryan Anthony Davis, 2019

Bonus Prediction

  • Nobody will ever reference my original quote above.

Antonio Brown just wants to win, and doesn’t care where that happens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 9:05am

Antonio Brown speaks...sort of.

While it wasn’t the interview Antonio Brown had/has been promising fans, Brown did speak publicly for the first time since being told he wouldn’t play in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 17 game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.

While attending some of the Super Bowl festivities, Brown was asked a few questions during the EA Sports Bowl lead up, and his answers...well...vague.

Check out the interview below, courtesy of USA Today Sports:

Antonio Brown shows off a new look and gives his take on where he'd prefer to play in 2019. #EASportsBowl pic.twitter.com/V4AENBfllv

— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) February 1, 2019

After the reporter complemented Brown’s new look/style, she then told the wide receiver how James Harrison said he wants nothing more than for Brown to be happy, while Jerry Rice wants Brown to be a part of the San Francisco 49ers.

When asked what he wanted, Brown said he just wants to win. “I just want to win. you know? I just want to win. Play with a team that is gonna win.”

The reporter followed that statement up with this simple question, “Does it matter where?” And Brown’s responded with, “Don’t matter where.”

This might not be the answers, or details, fans wanted, but Brown sure seemed open to playing anywhere; however, the caveat to this is if he wants to win then playing anywhere certainly isn’t an option. For instance, if he wants to win, he wouldn’t want to play for a team who doesn’t have a franchise quarterback, and doesn’t have a bright future.

While Pittsburgh would certainly be a team who can win now, the clock is ticking on whether the Steelers plan on moving Brown, or keeping him in hopes of reconciliation.

Brown went on to talk with Complex Sports in a more in-depth interview situation, citing how his side of the story may never be told, but not all facts have been released in the situation with the Steelers.

Antonio Brown shares his side of the story involving his Week 17 absence and the numerous trade rumors. #EASportsBowl pic.twitter.com/gaSFIJSquG

— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) February 1, 2019

When asked where he wants to be next year, Brown’s answer was simple:

“All options are on the table.”

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as the march throughout the offseason continues.

NFLPA confirms Steelers will carry over $18.2 million of unused salary cap space into 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 7:59am

Only five teams in the league will rollover more salary cap space than the Steelers this offseason.

With the majority of the league’s business done for 2018, the NFLPA officially confirmed the amount of unused salary cap space each team has elected to carry over into next season on Thursday, with the Pittsburgh Steelers set to rollover more cap space than ever before in 2019.

The CBA allows teams to carry over unused salary cap space from the previous year. Below are the amounts that each team chose to carry into the 2019 season. pic.twitter.com/Uvf4rA2TMS

— NFLPA (@NFLPA) January 31, 2019

As is virtually always the case each year, every team has opted to carry over 100 percent of the cap space available to them and the full amount the Steelers will actually rollover is $18,248,921, as per the NFLPA public salary cap report.

The bulk of this money comes courtesy of Le’Veon Bell after he opted to sit out the entire season, a decision that put $14.544 million back into the account that Pittsburgh will now be able to use next year. However, without this money from Bell, the Steelers would have been facing a difficult offseason in 2019. Now projected to be around $20.5 million under the cap when this carry over is included, Pittsburgh would have had less than $3 million in salary cap space to work if Bell had not held out all year.

Only five teams will rollover more money than the Steelers, with the Cleveland Browns set to carry over a ridiculous $56.5 million. But looking at projected salary cap figures for 2019, only 10 teams will have less cap space at their disposal than Pittsburgh when the new league year begins.

The Baltimore Ravens are projected to have around $28 million to work with, while the Cincinnati Bengals should have just under 51.8 million. The Brown are projected to be third in the league with over $82.4 million. The Indianapolis Colts lead the NFL with an absurd $110.8 million and the New York Jets are second with $93.8 million.

Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason Wish List: No more drama

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 6:46am

After three years of Steelers human-interest stories dominating the off-field news cycle, it’s time for some anonymity.

My worst sports take of 2018—and believe me, my catalog of harebrained sports narratives is considerable and vast—was that the NFL should be more like the NBA. There are a number of reasons for this—the NBA celebrates individuality, whereas the NFL ecosystem oftentimes seems to work its damnedest to actively suppress its players’ voices; basketball contracts are fully guaranteed, whereas football ones are not; the NBA has a more engaging, watchable product (although this part turned out to be false, because the 2018 NFL regular season, thanks to a league-wide scoring boom, was among the most exciting of my lifetime)—but my foremost line of thinking at the time was that, in the NBA, the interesting and compelling things that happen away from the playing surface are infinitely less depressing than the ones that emerge from the NFL. Right now, off the top of your head, name, like, the three most prominent off-field NFL storylines from the past season. I can only list two: Colin Kaepernick and the “anthem controversy”, and the ongoing and never-ending scourge of violence against women (including an investigation into alleged sexual harassment and workplace misconduct by former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson that didn’t command nearly enough national attention).

Of course, reducing the number of abusers and harassers in NFL locker rooms and front offices is a paramount concern, as is pioneering a failsafe method for enabling players to use their platforms to participate—or not participate—in political discourse, but these are both heavy, formidable directives and keeping a keen eye on them is exhausting; also, they’re beyond your control. (If you’re anything like me, though, you’ve already accepted the innate hypocrisy of fanhood, resigning yourself to separating the individual whose worldview may not mirror your own and whose shady past you do not agree with from the team you wholeheartedly support—like, I think Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the greatest album of all time, but I think Kanye West is a contemptible human being, for I contain multitudes, I guess.) Thus, I am envious of the NBA’s many fluffier, less distressing storylines. [So and so] has demanded a trade! How will [player’s] looming free agent decision impact the balance of power in the NBA? [Some guy] plans to opt out and team up with [some other guy] next season! [Player] told the media that [player] is a b-word!

Thankfully, my favorite NFL team had developed a penchant for delivering buzzworthy human-interest stories, ultimately to the point that the Steelers are now an overflowing font of chaos and absurdity. Antonio Brown live-streaming Mike Tomlin’s fiery locker room speech in the run-up to the 2017 AFC Championship, Martavis Bryant dragging teammates and getting traded, and Le’Veon Bell ghosting the Steelers in favor of post rap videos were all hilarious at the time and in retrospect, but Bell’s inevitable forthcoming departure and Brown’s potential exodus—and I realize I’m probably very late to the party on this—has me longing for the Steelers to remain absent from the national news cycle. Like, it’s hilarious when Jimmy Butler verbally demands a trade, bides his time, and shows up unannounced to practice to drag his nuts all over the very same teammates he’s hoping to escape before going on national television to reiterate his desire for a fresh start, but that’s because A) I don’t particularly care about the long-term vitality of Jimmy Butler or the Minnesota Timberwolves and B) drama amuses me. But when it’s my favorite player allegedly blowing up at practice, possibly asking for a trade, and flirting with other teams on Instagram, well, it’s a lot less funny (see above: the hypocrisy of fanhood).

The wildest part about the whole Antonio Brown situation is that it’s really effectively clouded the fact that the Steelers abruptly plunged headfirst into the murky depths of mediocrity at season’s end. I don’t wanna imply that counting Pro Bowlers is a useful quantitative measure for determining a team’s preeminence, but the Steelers are loaded, not only with star veterans, but also blue-chippers. They should be miles better than their pedestrian-looking 9-6-1 record in 2018 reflected, and there is little doubt that this team, in its current state, could realistically compete for a Super Bowl in 2019. (Alternatively, it’s possible that we’ve already seen the very best of that this current iteration of the Steelers has to offer, and thus 2018 was not an outlier, but a harbinger of things to come. Perhaps the nadir is on the horizon.)

I’ve said before that, despite all that’s happened between Brown and the Steelers since the regular season ended, I hope he’s on the team in 2019 and beyond. He’s still an incredibly gifted and productive receiver, which means he makes the Steelers a better, more exciting team. I’d love for Brown and whatever members of the organization currently represent his belligerents to squash their beef sometime before the March 7th trade window, and I’d be even happier if both sides could maintain a relatively drama-free relationship for the remainder of Brown’s Steelers tenure. If parting ways with Brown enables the team to live in relative anonymity but still compete, I guess that’s fine, too.

Regardless, I am hereby declaring the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers a drama-free zone. Please listen, Steelers.

Podcast: Previewing the 2019 Steelers Depth chart — Wide Receivers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 5:33am

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

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

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Black-and-Gold News
  • Position Breakdown: Wide Receivers
  • Super Bowl predictions
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Why the Steelers should rely on James Conner in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 4:49am

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

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

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at the opinion where the Steelers should rely heavily on James Conner in 2019. This isn’t to suggest they don’t add a running back somehow in the offseason, but how Conner can be the workhorse the Steelers want, and need, at the position.

Let’s get to the news:

Carter’s Classroom: Should Steelers rely on Conner?

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

When Le’Veon Bell never showed up in 2018, the Steelers had to lean on their second-year, third-round pick out of Pitt in James Conner.

His 1,470 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns were a major boost to the offense. While Pittsburgh enjoyed seeing a local hero like Conner explode onto the scene, there still is a question as to whether Conner is the indefinite future of the position moving forward for the Steelers.

There were legitimate questions coming into 2018 if Conner could make it in the NFL. He had several injuries in college, didn’t show much in his rookie season while behind Bell and suffered another injury that year.

All those questions went away this season as he showed his ability to run hard through tackles and create extra yardage when he was given the space. Conner succeeded much more when the Steelers let him run behind power running schemes that allowed him to follow a lead blocker. That fit more to the style he was accustomed to in college as using lead blockers gave him targets to bracket.

Conner was good enough at this part of his game that he had 973 rushing yards on the season, most of it coming from play designs like that where he could follow a lead blocker and explode behind him to the designed gap.

But when Conner had to find his own gap behind the Steelers’ zone-blocking schemes, he was a little more hesitant. That hesitancy led to slowed-down drives and missed opportunities for Conner, and opened the door to the question as to whether he can be the full-time starting back in the coming years.

(To read more, click the link in the headline above...)

JuJu Smith-Schuster to ESPN on the Steelers: ‘I think everyone just needs to stop being divas’

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Exactly a month after Jesse James used a celebrity family known for its reality show to describe the Pittsburgh Steelers, JuJu Smith-Schuster went on ESPN to do the same.

Making the rounds during Super Bowl week in Atlanta, Smith-Schuster was on “First Take” Thursday morning when he insisted the Steelers could go from out of the playoffs this season to the Super Bowl next season.

“I think everyone just needs to stop being divas,” the young wide receiver said, drawing Bronx cheers from the gathered crowd, “I think we need to stop being the Kardashians and just play ball.”

“Keeping Up with the Kardashians” has run 15 seasons on cable television.

Smith-Schuster was asked by the panel if he was himself was a diva. The 22-year-old Long Beach, Calif., native was a Pro Bowl receiver in his second NFL season.

“Yes that’s what we doing.”

“I’m from So Cal, I went to USC, but being in that (Steelers) locker room, I have learned a lot,” Smith-Schuster said. “I’ve learned a lot in that locker room and I know I would never want to be the problem to any franchise.”

The Steelers, of course, are faced with a dilemma surrounding star receiver Antonio Brown that has been well-documented. They also played 2018 without star running back Le’Veon Bell because Bell refused to sign the franchise-tag tender.

Former Steelers kicker Jeff Reed stars in ‘Funny or Die’ video poking fun at kickers

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

After a season in which the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans learned just how important placekicking is, one of the franchise’s most remembered kickers poked some fun at the skill.

Two-time Super Bowl-winning Steelers kicker Jeff Reed starred in a 3-minute comedy video released on YouTube and picked up by the popular comedy site “Funny or Die.”

The video, titled “A Day in the Life of an NFL Kicker” was filmed in the Pittsburgh area, with Woodland Hills High School’s famed stadium, The Wolvarena, playing a co-starring role.

The video opens with some highlights of Reed’s made kicks. But it overall allows Reed, now 39, to poke fun at himself, beginning with him lying in bed and telling a camera crew, “Well, I hope you boys are ready – because a kicker’s day begins at the crack of dawn.”

The camera pans to an alarm clock that reads 10:46 a.m.

Reed begins his day by eating cold pizza topped with scoops of ice cream. Then he does some faux film and playbook studying before taking to the Wolvarena in Turtle Creek (some footage appears to be shot via drone).

Reed boots one field goal, before he lies down in apparent pain and requests medical attention. More gags ensue.

Reed made 82 percent of the 259 field goals he attempted over his NFL career that included 127 games with the Steelers and five with the San Francisco 49ers. He was part of Super Bowl-winning teams after the 2005 and 2008 seasons.

How to watch Super Bowl LIII: Time, TV schedule, streaming, odds, entertainment and game information

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 4:21am

All the information you need to know to keep up with the action from the Super Bowl on Sunday,

No team in NFL history has won more Super Bowl titles than the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that is a feat the New England Patriots could match on Sunday with a win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. Despite being favorites for the game with the bookmakers, it would appear that only those with money on New England are hoping the Rams lose in Atlanta, with most football fans in America rooting for Los Angeles.

While the game is being played at a neutral site, the Rams are technically the home team for this matchup and have chosen to wear their colored jerseys for this contest. They have also opted to wear the throwback version of their uniform, as worn between 1973 and 2000. For what it is worth, the designated home team has only won 21 of the 52 Super Bowl played to date, a bad omen for Los Angeles backers.

Oh by the way...

WE WEARING THROWBACKS AT THE SUPER BOWL! pic.twitter.com/MfHN6W0k4T

— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 21, 2019

Although currently listed as 2.5-point underdogs at the time of writing, the Rams should take comfort in knowing that the favorite has lost six of the last seven Super Bowls outright and the undergod is 13-4 against the spread dating back to 2001. The Patriots are 3-3 outright and 1-5 against the spread as a Super Bowl favorite, according to oddsshark,com.

Game Information:

Game: New England Patriots (11-5) @ Los Angeles Rams (13-3)

Date: Sunday, February 3.

Kickoff: 6.30 p.m. ET.

Venue: Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta.

Weather: Live weather update. (Domed stadium, roof is expected to be closed)

National Anthem: Gladys Knight

Halftime show: Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi

Current spread: New England -2.5

Points total: 56.5-points

Watch:

TV Channel: CBS, broadcast locally on KDKA-TV-2 in Pittsburgh, with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo as commentators and Tracy Wolfson and van Washburn the sideline reporters. As a national broadcast game, it will be available in all regions. Viewers in the U.K can watch live on BBC One and Sky Sports Main Event. The game is also available in Spanish on ESPN Deportes.

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

Listen:

Radio: Listen on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Westwood One stations, TuneIn Radio. U.K audiences can listen live via TalkSport Radio.

Getting the low down on Bill Cowher’s secret Super Bowl recipe

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 2:50pm

Nobody can cook up Super Bowl success quite like Bill Cowher, and now he’s taking his secret recipe nationwide!

Are you starving, starving for the Super Bowl? Do you miss the days of old and hearty, homemade success?

Chef Bill Cowher does, and he’s back and ready to satisfy your appetite—and this time, he’s expanding his horizons.

That’s right, Chef Cowher is ready to share his secret Super Bowl recipe with the entire world.

Chef Cowher spent many years back at his childhood home in Crafton, Pa., perfecting the recipe for Super Bowl success. From those humble beginnings, and through blood, sweat and many tireless nights in his kitchen, Chef Cowher was able to discover all the right ingredients—just a pinch of his, a touch of that, a dash of this and a spoonful of this and that—for the tastiest Super Bowl recipes this side of Green Bay. And in 2005, and again, in 2008, Cowher was voted Chef of the Year by Pittsburghers who could appreciate fine football cuisine.

After many years enjoying success at the local level—and after many more years keeping his Super Bowl recipe a secret (not even Mama Cowher knows all the right ingredients)—Chef Cowher is ready to take his legendary and tasty dishes nationwide—including championship success so mouth-watering, you’ll keep coming back for more!

We’re talking fine-line linebackers. Delicious defense. Spittle-worthy safeties. Relentless Greg pass-rushers. Deep-fried franchise quarterbacks. Tasty tackles. So many incredible dishes, you’ll never go home without feeling like you just won a Super Bowl (or two).

Nope, nobody can cook up Super Bowl success quite like Chef Cowher. Creamy cornerbacks. Delectable dime linebackers. Rich receivers. Gooey guards.

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The Patriots are so incredibly focused on winning they can actually be quite boring

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 12:02pm

The New England Patriots incredible run of sustained excellent is unmatched in the Super Bowl era, but I can't help but wonder. Are they really enjoying all their success?

There seems to be an inordinate amount of celebratory displays by athletes in modern day sports competitions. It may have started with participation trophies and no score youth leagues, but it appears we celebrate everything now days, even failure.

I am old enough to remember when the high five was considered new and exciting. Everybody was doing it, all the time, and often for no good reason. Your doctor, your pastor, maybe even the bagger at your grocery store would throw a hand up and proclaim "High five!" You would play along undoubtedly because you didn't want to appear rude, but often wonder what was the reasoning behind the action.

Then the innocent greetings started to get much more elaborate. The fist bump, the hand shake turned slap that evolved into the two individuals involved resembling a couple of girls playing hop scotch on the playground, the forearm bash, and now the flying shoulder bump that ends up a comical rump bump if you over rotate. Quite the celebratory evolution indeed from the now rather mundane high five.

This is not a bad development. We need more unadulterated joy in life, and sports has the ability to offer just that. An temporary escape from real life concerns while we immerse ourselves in the outcome of a athletic competition. But have we went too far with these celebrations when we celebrate a routine play, or even worse, failure?

Let me offer a couple of examples for clarification. I was watching my favorite college basketball team play the other day when one of the players was fouled in the act of shooting and stepped up to the free throw line. He completely air balled the first free throw. Didn't even touch the net. I was embarrassed for the young man. So what did he do? He had to touch hands with the other four teammates on the floor, before going back to the line to miss the second free throw also.

My problem is not with the display of solidarity, which I presume is the reason for the hand slaps, but when did we start celebrating failure and mediocrity? It was always my impression that all the hand gestures were meant to acknowledge a successful endeavor.

The NFL is knee deep in all the celebratory fun, and I have no problem with it unless it affects the rhythm of the game, or facilitates a selfish me-first agenda. Seemingly every play in a NFL game today requires some sort of celebratory reaction, whether by the offense or the defense. Just doing your job in front of millions of spectators is no longer good enough. Now every first down achieved requires the player to leap to their feet and extend their arm before dropping the ball to the ground to signify the achieved goal. Every solid tackle or pass defense results in a scream toward the heavens, a Hulk Hogan like flex, or some other look at me reaction. Sometimes it all seems actually childish when they turn around and pout after a negative play or throw a temper tantrum on the sidelines. You never want to be called a good loser, but instead be a individual renown for class and character. Google players like Heath Miller, Barry Sanders, and Larry Fitzgerald for examples.

All these celebrations got me thinking about the New England Patriots. They actually appeared rather awkward the other night after their AFC Championship victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. They definitely didn't seem to be in their comfort zone to say the least. You would think by now after all the winning and trips to the Super Bowl they would have this celebration thing down pat, but they were meandering around like they didn't know what to do. Kinda like Jim Valvano after NC State won the title. Somebody hug somebody for Pete's sake. Brady was so discombobulated he accidentally dropped the F-bomb on live television.

I believe the reason the Patriots celebrations feel so disjointed is because they seldom do them on the field. The Patriots are not a team of superstars who crave personal accolades. They are excellence in execution, focused on a singular purpose, and any job security is based on personal sacrifice and performance. You fumble too much, Belichick will cut you. Get out of line with the shared agenda, he will trade you. Each player is expected to do their job, failure is not an option.

Admittedly, the Patriots seem like a joyless, robotic group at times, but you can't argue with the results. They are all business, and in no way am I referring to a family business. I was actually struggling awhile back trying to decide which former players Patriots fans would consider beloved. That is not the Patriots Way.

So in the end, although the Patriots suck at on the field celebrations, they don't really seem to care. Winning is all they care about. All I want is for the Patriots to lose the Super Bowl this Sunday. Maybe if they do Steelers Nation can pretend to do a group air high five to celebrate. Wouldn't that be cool?

JuJu Smith-Schuster is still haunted by his fumble against Saints - ‘I think about it night and day’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 10:40am

The young receiver also confirmed that his knee was feeling good after being forced from the Pro Bowl early on Sunday with an injury.

The Pittsburgh Steelers might not have made it to the Super Bowl this year, but that has not stopped JuJu Smith-Schuster from enjoying some of the festivities in Atlanta this week. In town to promote EA Sports Madden 19 among other brands, the young receiver was a popular guest along radio row on Wednesday, appearing on a number of national radio talk show to discuss the Steelers 2018 season.

With Antonio Brown the main topic of conversation wherever he went, most of the radio show hosts essentially asked the same questions, with Smith-Schuster giving pretty much the same answers each time he spoke.

While some website have written as many a five separate articles about the repetitive remarks from his interviews, the responses Smith-Schuster gave barely merit one. Doing his best to avoid any controversy, the second year receiver reiterated his desire to see both Brown and Le’Veon Bell back with Pittsburgh in 2019 and denied there was an animosity between him and AB over the MVP award.

Believing the situation between Brown and the team can be fixed, Smith-Schuster clearly feels the Steelers are better with AB on the roster.

Will Antonio Brown be back with the Steelers next season?

“For sure,” says @TeamJuJu pic.twitter.com/GbgOEbg5TP

— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 30, 2019

Admitting that he thought about his fumble against the New Orleans Saints constantly, the Steelers leading receiver in 2018 believes his mistake cost Pittsburgh a playoff berth.

“I think about it night and day. So tough. I mean obviously you live and learn from it, but it’s also that possibility of what if.”

Asked if the Steelers would have made the postseason if the fumble had not happened, Smith-Schuster was is no doubt about the significance of his mistake.

“Oh for sure, probably already got a playoff seed and definitely got a spot.”

And when asked about the images of Brown in a San Francisco 49ers uniform that AB had posted on Instagram, Smith-Schuster would dismiss that as just “AB being AB.”

Live from Radio Row: One-on-one with Pittsburgh Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster https://t.co/q3d7yoRfob

— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) January 30, 2019

Among the more notable comments from his all of his multiple interviews was the revelation that his knee was feeling good despite leaving the game early during the Pro Bowl on Sunday. As he told Shannon Sharpe on the Fox Sports show Undisputed.

“The knee is great, definitely. Staying positive, staying healthy. Obviously, coming back next season even stronger, even better.”

However. perhaps his most telling quote of the day might have been one of his final remarks from his interview on Undisputed.

“I’ve been asked about AB, L Bell all day this morning, it’s getting tiring man.”

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