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Steelers fan confidence hits season low after playoff dud vs. the Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 12:45pm
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

You thought the Steelers fan base was down on the team earlier this season? Think again...

The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base can be a fickle bunch. Even when their favorite team was 6-0, there was skepticism among the black and gold following. Even after their win over the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans, many fans called the Steelers “lucky” to escape with a 27-24 win.

To those fans, the end result doesn’t matter.

However, after two straight games where they were forced to come from behind, Week 8 vs. the Baltimore Ravens and Week 9 vs. the Dallas Cowboys, fans are anything but certain about their favorite NFL franchise.

What would it take to raise the fan confidence? A dominant performance, and that is exactly what the Steelers delivered in Week 10 with a 36-10 win over the division rival Cincinnati Bengals. Combine that with another dominant defensive performance vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11, and the fans are feeling right.

But it was at this juncture in the season when things started to go off the rails. COVID-19 changed up the plans with the Steelers and Ravens in Week 12, and the Washington Football Team dealt the team their first loss of the season in Week 13. How did the Steelers finish off their third game in twelve days? A Sunday night loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 14. Week 15 had the Steelers staring at a “get right” game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football, but what they got was a third straight loss as they were embarrassed on national television for the second straight week.

Week 16 saw the Steelers host the red-hot Indianapolis Colts, and when all seemed lost, the Steelers had a tremendous come from behind win to pull off the upset, snap their losing streak and clinch the AFC North division title since 2017. The next week, with the division locked up, the Steelers backups played valiantly, but lost to the Browns heading into the playoffs.

In the playoffs, the first such game for the Steelers since that 2017 season, the Steelers had another forgettable game. The 28-0 first quarter deficit was too much to overcome, and the season ended in embarrassing fashion.

How were the fans feeling about the team moving forward? Well, you can guess how they probably felt.

Here at SB Nation we poll fans every week in our SB Nation “Reacts” polls, and one of the questions asked is whether you have confidence in your team moving forward. As you can see, the confidence took another hard nose dive heading into the offseason.

If you want to know just how the fan confidence has changed since the end of the 2019 season, you can see the percentages below:

End of 2019: 59%
Pre NFL Free Agency: 72%
Post 2020 NFL Draft: 81%
Heading into Week 1: 90%
Heading into Week 2: 94%
Heading into Week 3: 87%
Heading into Week 4: 90%
Heading into Week 5: 83%
Heading into Week 6: 82%
Heading into Week 7: 97%
Heading into Week 8: 94%
Heading into Week 9: 98%
Heading into Week 10: 88%
Heading into Week 11: 95%
Heading into Week 12: 96%
Heading into Week 13: 97%
Heading into Week 14: 52%
Heading into Week 15: 24%
Heading into Week 16: 17%
Heading into Week 17: 56%
Heading into the Wild Card Round: 76%
Heading into the offseason: 14%

With the Steelers now entering an offseason where Ben Roethlisberger is rumored to be returning, Matt Canada is reportedly taking over at offensive coordinator and the team will be the epitome of cash strapped as fans down.

And rightfully so.

Have we seen the best of the Steelers under Mike Tomlin? Are darker days ahead? Only time will tell, but fans enter this uneasy offseason without much confidence.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for NFL Free Agency and the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

The Steelers decisions regarding their offensive coordinator leave more questions than answers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

How are the Steelers recent decisions regarding their offensive philosophy affected by their aging quarterback?

In his final press conference of the 2020 NFL season, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stated there would be changes made within the organization. Using a form of the quote of “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” it appeared the Steelers would be making some hard decisions in the coming weeks. Surprisingly, it was only the next day when three coach’s contracts were not renewed for the 2021 season along with one coach retiring. Most notably was the Steelers parting ways with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner after just three seasons in that particular role.

One thing we must remember is although we can look at how things appear based on peoples words and body language, there is often an awful lot going on behind the scenes which Steelers fans are unable to judge. Sometimes it’s after the fact that we find out the team’s top player is an absolute nightmare to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Other times, one thing which appears to be the problem might not be the cause of issues after all.

One presumption Steelers fans operated under for the last three seasons was Randy Fichtner was hand-picked to be the Steelers offensive coordinator by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. His quarterback coach since 2010, when Steelers moved on from Todd Haley as the coordinator, it took no time to promote Fichtner to the job.

It appeared Ben Roethlisberger had the person he wanted to work with to lead the Steelers offense to greatness. Unfortunately, the 2019 season was thrown out after Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2. But in three seasons, the Steelers offense struggled at times, even during their 11-game win streak to begin the 2020 season. Once certain things were figured out by opposing defenses, it appeared the Steelers didn’t have much to offer in the form of adjustments other than “just let Ben be Ben.”

The Steelers moving on from Fichtner posed several questions when it came to the future of the organization. Here are just a sample:

Did the relationship between Fichtner and Roethlisberger sour?

It was during the 2019 season where comments by Coach Fichtner and quarterback Mason Rudolph began to set off a red flag among some. It seems many times when the Steelers’ offense was sputtering, which was quite often in 2019, Coach Fichtner did not hesitate to throw his young quarterback under the bus. On the flip side, some of the comments made by Rudolph about things Coach Fichtner was pounding into his brain could give some pause in thinking Rudolph was suffering from “paralysis through analysis.”

If listening to Fichtner’s comments and press conferences in 2020, it appeared there were times when the Steelers offense did work, it was not Ben Roethlisberger drawing plays in the dirt according to Fichtner. But when the Steelers offense had an issue, it seemed as if Fichtner was going out of his way to point out it was Rothlisberger who was calling the plays. Perhaps the Steelers coordinator taking credit when there was credit to be given but passing blame when it came time for responsibility did not sit well with the Steelers’ future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Does moving on from Fichtner show the Steelers are willing to move on from Roethlisberger?

Another question would be if the Steelers are willing to make wholesale changes to the offense, especially when it comes to philosophy and scheme, is this something Ben Roethlisberger is interested in doing this late in his career? If Roethlisberger really intends to play one or more additional seasons with the Steelers, is a change in offensive system something he wants to do at this point in his career?

Perhaps this is something the Steelers discussed with Roethlisberger before making the decision. Perhaps it is not. If the Steelers are willing to make this change regardless of Roethlisberger‘s opinion, knowing he could choose to hang it up had to be something they were willing to live with.

Was there more to the Randy Fichtner situation than meets the eye?

As was mentioned in the first question of the section, Randy Fichtner seemed to often want to say face when it came to the success and failures of the Steelers offense. The fact the Steelers brought in a quarterbacks coach for the 2020 season, a position which had been held by 10 years by Fichtner even when he was the offensive coordinator, was the writing on the wall that the Steelers were going to make a change of coordinator really brought forward last offseason? Were the Steelers merely waiting until Fichtner’s contract expired to move on? Was Coach Fichtner really in charge of the offense this season, or was he gradually having his responsibilities removed? Was there a turning point in the season where the Steelers knew Fichtneer wasn’t able to handle the responsibility?

Knowing how the Pittsburgh Steelers operate, unless Randy Fichtner goes out of his way to make his side of the case known, don’t look for the Steelers to throw him under the bus and expose his shortcomings (much like he liked to do). That’s just not the way they do business.

Only 48 hours later, reports surfaced that the Steelers are planning to promote quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to the offensive coordinator role. Nothing has been officially offered, and any interviews the Steelers may have conducted yet have not been reported. The Steelers cannot simply promote Canada without conducting interviews as coordinator positions now also fall under the Rooney Rule. But with Coach Canada interviewing for the coordinators job in Miami, the report of the Steelers intentions appears to be a deliberate move in order to not lose their front runner.

The hiring of Canada raises additional questions as well. Once again, here is just a sample:

How much say did Canada have in the Steelers 2020 offense?

Some do not like an inside hire for the Steelers coordinator job. But how much of an insider was Canada in 2020? Did he have much say in the Steelers offense, or was he merely just there to throw out ideas and help to develop Mason Rudolph? While these are interesting questions, there is a chance some of this may be answered leading up to the 2021 season.

Was 2020 merely the Steelers getting to know Canada better for a position they knew they wanted to offer him?

Upon his arrival, much of Steelers’ Nation was saying Canada was coming in now to be in line for the Steelers offensive coordinator position once the opportunity presented itself. Did the Steelers know they were moving on from Fichtner after 2020 barring a major change? Was Canada there to “light the fire” or to but Fichtner on notice? Were the Steelers bringing in Canada simply to audition for the job and show what he could do in the NFL level before actually taking over?

Is Ben Roethlisberger willing to run Matt Canada‘s offense, or will Canada have to adapt to Roethlisberger should he stay?

As outlined here at BTSC on several occasions, there often appeared to be a disconnect between some of the philosophies the Steelers were implementing from a Matt Canada system and the ability of Ben Roethlisberger to run these concepts. A good outline of the situation can be seen here thanks to our own Geoffrey Benedict:

If Canada is the Steelers offensive coordinator next season as has been reported, does this mean the Steelers are moving on from Ben Roethlisberger? If Roethlisberger returns as was reported, will Roethlisberger adapt to Canada system, or will it be the other way around? Will Canada be handcuffed with what he really wants to do based on the Steelers aging quarterback?

It’s hard to say if and when these questions will be given definitive answers, but during the offseason these are the type of things Steelers’ fans often discuss. It’s hard to say how long it will be until there is an official announcement in regard to Ben Roethlisberger for the 2021 season, but reports are the Steelers want to move into next season with their Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

So what are your thoughts on the Fichtner-Roethlisberger-Canada triangle? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Podcast: Why 2020 was the Steelers’ stolen season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 11:00am

Check out our latest weekly venture with an international flavor. Put another shrimp on the barbie and check out Steelers Touchdown Under with two blokes from Australia, Matty Peverell and Mark Davison.

The Steelers didn’t turn up to play last week, so instead of previewing a game against the Bills this week, we’re staring straight into countless questions of being knocked out in Week 1 of the playoffs. Was 2020 a ‘stolen’ season for the Steelers, their players and of course - fans? Join the two Aussie blokes, two mates, Matty Peverell & Mark Davison from Steelers Nation Australia - and the future - as they bring an international perspective to the Steelers 2020 season and what needs to be done to steady the ship, to set the team up for a successful 2021 chase for that seventh Lombardi. This is just some what will be discussed on the latest episode of Touchdown Under, the Australian sensation from the BTSC family of podcasts that’s now moved over to its live YouTube home.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Overall reactions, grievances and upset to last week’s loss and the Steelers 2020 season
  • Reactions to the first week of the Steelers’ offseason.
  • ‘Slingin’ the Slang’
  • Punts of the Week

and MUCH MUCH MORE!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

The odds of J.J. Watt reuniting with his brothers in Pittsburgh is growing

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Sounds like J.J. is on the block will the Steelers pull the trigger and unite the Watt brothers?

What started as a pipe dream when the Steelers added Derek Watt to the roster, has started to build some momentum into the world of possibility. J.J. Watt is expected to have a new home for the 2021 season. And with the J.J.’s little brothers Derek and T.J. Watt already on the roster, the Steelers have to be considered one of the favorites to land the three time NFL defensive player of the year.

Been out of pocket all day doing family stuff, but catching up on texts from sources:
Texans are leaning toward accommodating J.J. and he'll likely be moved. And Deshaun is, in fact, legit alienated.
"Pretty much irreparable," I'm told.
Also: "You'll hear from J.J. next."

— John P. Lopez (@LopezOnSports) January 16, 2021

What seemed pretty much impossible a year ago has taken a turn in the Steelers’ favor. This after former Texans head coach Bill O’Brien drove the Texans right off a cliff and hit every rock on the way down. The Texans have no draft picks and are staring a rebuild right in the face, which is a terrible combo. On top of that, they have driven a wedge so far in between themselves and franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson that many believe the relationship is unrepairable. J.J. himself has stated this year he is not interested in sitting through another rebuild, and at 31 years of age you would assume he wants another shot at the playoffs.

Of course the Steelers have their gremlins, but playing on one of the best defenses in football, with his brothers, is something we would be safe to assume is interesting to him.

The 2018 Texans had Tyrann Mathieu, Jadeveon Clowney, DeAndre Hopkins, JJ Watt and Deshaun Watson.

For various reasons, there's a possibility all are gone by the start of next season.

— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) January 16, 2021

Now I know half of you reading this are excited about the possibility of adding the third Watt brother. The other half is screaming “cap space!!” at your screen as you read this. But I should remind you of two things. First, J.J. Watt is in the final year of his contract and carries $0 in dead/non-guaranteed money. He was never going to play this year on that deal, and the Texans salary cap problems makes J.J. the most likely cut candidates in the NFL. Secondly, J.J. Watt has been rumored to not be chasing money in his next pro deal. His career NFL earnings total $100,706,498, when you factor in his endorsements you know this guys is racking in a fortune on a yearly basis.

Just check this out from Forbes:

“Watt is one of the NFL’s most marketable players. His earnings off the field are on par with the elite quarterbacks. Sponsorship partners include: American Family Insurance, NRG, Reebok, Gatorade, H-E-B, Ford and Verizon.”

On top of all this, J.J. Watt was an investor in Cholula hot sauce that sold for $800 Million dollars back in November, a 300% increase of his initial investment. Their is no telling how much Watt made on the deal, but you can be assured it was a lot...

If I had to put a deal together for J.J. I would guess it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 Million. Just a little bit more money than Derek, as to hold bragging rights, but less than T.J. so he would have to pick up the bill when they go for dinner. You may laugh at that but I'm 100% serious...

Here We Go

— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) January 11, 2021

On top of everything I’ve already said, you know the Steelers would make the move just for the sake of the sentimental rubbish that comes with it. They activated Trey Smith, the Steelers fifth running back, for a game against the Bills in 2019 just to have three brothers on the same field. You just know the Steelers would make this move to have three brothers on the same team. Furthermore, the marketability factor of the Watts is through the roof. Merchandise and ticket sales alone would pay J.J.’s salary 10 times over.

What do you think? Will the Watt brothers be reunited in Pittsburgh this year? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Steelers Fact or Fiction: John Lennon edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 9:00am
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

BTSC takes five burning questions regarding the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers and labels them as fact or fiction.

There’s always so much to talk about when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the inquiries surrounding the black-and-gold are definitely ever-evolving, especially this week with the Steelers ousted from the playoffs after enduring a 48-37 pounding at the hands of the Cleveland Browns at home. With four coaches departing the team on Thursday, there will be plenty of changes in Pittsburgh. To quote John Lennon’s No. 1 song from 40 years ago today, It’s (Just like) Starting Over. There is surely a lot to wonder about. BTSC tries to answer some of the poignant wonderings ahead of time. Take a gander at some bold statements on this and more as we label them as fact or fiction.

Are we on point? Only time will tell.

The Steelers offensive line is not about to get the overhaul everybody expects Fiction

The line is going to get a new coach after the incumbent, Shaun Sarrett, did not have his contract renewed after two seasons at the helm. There are going to be changes, but will they be as major as a lot of us think? The right side consisting of Chuks Okorafor and David DeCastro are under contract and will be back barring something unexpected. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva has an expired deal and his retirement has been largely expected for a while now. Should the 32-year old veteran (who has been holding down the position since 2015) retire, the spot could go to Okorafor or Zach Banner, should he return from injury and sign a new deal with the team. Kevin Dotson’s outstanding rookie campaign should land him at left tackle, but free agent Matt Feiler held down the spot last year. The thought is that Feiler may not be resigned, but would be moved back to right tackle should he return. Maurkice Pouncey has been rumored to be retiring as well, but he still has a year left on his deal. The nine-time Pro Bowler is expected to be 50/50 regarding his decision and his leaving would leave a huge hole. The Steelers are going to have to bring in more lineman and should be drafting one high. But the bottom line is that this unit will look very different.

The Steelers need to bring in a media/social media consultant for their players Fact

I realize that JuJu Smith-Schuster is a free agent and that his inquiry on Twitch on which uniform he should wear on Friday may foreshadow his 2021 departure, but that it is further proof that No. 19’s mature play on the field does not translate to anything he does through cyberspace. Cleveland continues to use his words as a rallying cry. Billboards with “The Browns is the Browns” words that JuJu doesn’t regret saying was extra fuel that the team didn’t need. Chase Claypool going on TikTok live and saying “Bad loss. But the Browns are going to get clapped next week, so it’s all good” is not good. These comments, on top of everything else, shows that some players, no matter how talented, just don’t understand the damage it does to their team and their own images. They need consulted or a Yoda, but this needs cleaned up going forward.

There’s only one way that Randy Fichtner’s successor will be named quickly Fact

Note: It has been reported that Matt Canada has been named the next offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The following was written before the announcement, but it was proven true by the reported hiring.

I expect the Steelers will take their time to name their next offensive coordinator. They don’t want to rush into a decision in the same manner in which they did when hiring Fichtner in 2018. They will though if they decide that their quarterbacks coach, Matt Canada, is the guy that they covet for the position. Canada was interviewing in Miami for the Dolphins post Thursday. If that’s the guy they want, I’d reckon that they would pull the trigger quick or risk losing him elsewhere. They could do that if they decide on another prospect that is high on another team’s list. But most likely they will take their time to find the perfect fit.

The Steelers need to give Ben Roethlisberger a say in the hiring process Fiction

Note: It is not known whether or not Ben Roethlisberger was a part of the decision process in the reported promotion of Matt Canada.

Not at all. Ben has gotten a say before, but appeasing the veteran quarterback should not be a top priority at this stage. Why? His playing days are coming to a conclusion soon. The quarterback still needs to be treated with respect, but Ben can’t have it his way this time around. Fichtner was hired with the job never being posted. That’s what Ben wanted and Randy was merely a puppet for Ben. When No. 7 was injured, Randy’s play calling was inept and the team suffered. Translation, Big Ben was the team’s OC a good bit of the time early on in 2018. The Steelers can ill-afford allowing the decision to be made by a player that may not be here next year.

Omar Khan is definitely going to be the next General Manager for the Steelers Fiction

He very well could be next season, but if the cap-ologist of the Steelers gets an offer...he may not wait around for Kevin Colbert to retire. It appears that the long-time GM of the Steelers is staying in Pittsburgh after teams that he has or had ties to have filled their vacancies for the job with Brad Holmes and Scott Fitterer signing on to run the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers respectively. Khan is well-respected for what he does, but eventually his patience will run out. In fact, it could have already run out with reports surfacing that Khan had interviewed with Carolina and was about to sign on as the Houston Texans GM before owner Cal McNair swooped in and instead hired Nick Caserio. Khan will be an NFL GM very soon, but won’t be in Pittsburgh if Kevin Colbert decides to stay longer at the helm.

Check out the Fact or Fiction podcast to learn even more about these topics, and their status, heading into this week’s game and listen for more on the player below.

Over/Under of Steelers postseason vs. regular season stats: Defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 7:30am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In what areas did the Steelers under-perform or exceed the regular-season standard in their lone playoff game of the 2020 season?

The 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers came up short of their goals for the season. After starting off 11-0, it seemed like the sky was the limit for this team. But managing only one victory in their last seven games including the postseason, things went south in a hurry.

Falling to the Cleveland Browns 48–37 in the Wild Card Round, the Steelers did not match their performance from the regular season. Places where the team had excelled they struggled, and places where the team may have had a deficit they over-performed.

So where did the numbers match up? In what areas did the Steelers exceed their regular-season averages, and where did they come up short?

While “over” and “under” seem to be a good way to describe these things, not all statistics are judged in a positive manner. For example, teams wanted to have a large amount of sacks but a small amount yards surrendered. With this in mind, we will use the term “over-achieve,” “under-achieve,” and “push” in order to describe the statistical categories for how the Steelers performed in their postseason game versus their regular season average.

Since we’ve already taken a look at the offense, it’s time to check out the defense.

Over-achieve

Rushing yards/attempt: 4.31 Y/A regular season, 4.10 Y/A postseason

That’s it. When it came to the Steelers defense, there was only one statistical category where they performed better than the regular season average. It wasn’t much, but they did hold the Browns to slightly less yards per carry than what they did their opponents during the regular season.

Under-achieve

Points Surrendered: 19.5 regular season, 48 postseason
Yards/play: 4.91 yards regular season, 6 yards postseason
Takeaways: 1.69 regular season, 0 postseason
Fumbles recovered: 0.56 regular season, 0 postseason
Interceptions: 1.125 regular season, 0 postseason
Passing yards: 194.4 yards regular season, 263 yards postseason
Passing Touchdowns: 1.38 regular season, 3 postseason
Sacks: 3.5 regular season, 0 postseason
Rushing Touchdowns: 0.81 regular season, 2 postseason

This is where all the difference in the Steelers postseason performance lies. The biggest difference from the regular season was points surrendered as a team, which includes points scored by the opposing defense. The Steelers averaged less than 20 points surrendered on the season and hadn’t given up more than 29 points, but yet they surrendered 48 to the Browns. Add in having no sacks and no takeaways, the Steelers couldn’t hold Cleveland despite being put in a bad situation by their offense.

Push

First Downs: 17.6 regular season, 20 postseason
Completions/Attempts: 18.6 of 32.9 regular season, 21 of 34 postseason
Rushing attempts: 25.9 regular season, 31 postseason
Rushing yards: 111.4 yards regular season, 127 yards postseason

Technically every one of these categories were also under-achieving, but it wasn’t as much as others. The Steelers did not give up an unusual amount of rushing attempts or rushing yards. Also throwing in completions and attempts, the downfall of the Steelers in the postseason were the yards they gave up in the passing game coupled with the aforementioned lack of sacks and takeaways.

So there is the comparison of how the Steelers performed statistically in the postseason versus the regular season for a number of defensive categories. When it came to the offense, the game situation shaped a lot of their statistics. While the defense was put in a bad spot with the offensive turnovers, they still surrendered the points which put them so far behind.

Be glad for the decision, not the fate of a good person

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The business decision makes sense, but a fans should also show some empathy for Randy Fichtner.

The NFL is a cold-hearted, cutthroat business more than it is the “family” that it is so often portrayed to be. I get it, as a multi-billion dollar business, the family analogy is often pretty hollow. Yet, sometimes it’s impossible to not get sucked into amazing stories of perseverance, Ron Rivera, Alex Smith and the upstart Washington Football Team, and dedication, the Buffalo Bills and the Bills Mafia’s long, long road to prominence.

The men and women on these teams do become family, for better or worse, and the fans of such teams often feel that level of camaraderie, dedication and perseverance on personal levels. The highs are exhilarating, like a night ride on the Steel Curtain at Kennywood, but the lows, well, even real families have moments that aren’t remembered well.

On the back of a Super Bowl title, the worries of next season just that: next season. It’s a time of celebration, players and fans alike letting the warm glow of success sustain them through the rest of winter. The heroic veterans can ride off into the sunset, or, if they’re particularly well-liked, they can allow the pleas of “One more season!” to lure them back for one more run. Regardless, it’s a peaceful time of contentment.

On the back of another first-round exit, with that last warm glow of success extinguished, heads will roll.

The Steelers haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 2008-09 season and haven't made it back to that the grandest stage of them all since 2010-11. The Penguins have won THREE Stanley Cups since the last Super Bowl title, and while Pittsburgh will always adore its Penguins, the Steel City is a football city through and through.

The first-round embarrassment against the Cleveland Browns will sting for a long time, but it’s just the latest in a string of playoff letdowns. The Steelers haven’t won a playoff game now since 2016. Heads will roll, and the first was Steelers’ offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.

Much like former Steelers’ OC Todd Haley before him, Fichtner became a lightning rod during his two seasons in charge of the Steelers’ offense. However, Fichtner’s system stalled out this season, his play-calling becoming stale and unimaginative, his failed leadership requiring Ben Roethlisberger and company to operate a two-minute offense for entire halves to even show up on scoresheets. It was clearly time for a change, and Steelers’ fans should be happy about the decision, but don't run Fichtner out of town.

By all accounts, Fichtner is a good man, who spent a decade and a half giving his all to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since 2007, Fichtner has served the Steelers in some capacity. For a few seasons, including that last Super Bowl victory, he was the wide receivers coach. In 2010, he was promoted to quarterbacks coach — a role he served until being promoted to OC in 2018.

Former Steelers’ lineman Trai Essex, a member of both Super Bowl teams from the 2000s, took to Twitter to defend his former coach from the masses who celebrated his non-renewal.

Randy had a rough go of it as OC but I have never met a more genuine, pure hearted dude in the NFL. Keep the criticism to football. If y’all knew someone like Randy, you would hope and pray that he lands on his feet somewhere great for him and his family! #SteelersNation

— Trai Essex (@TraiDay79) January 14, 2021

For Fichtner, football has been his life. A coach since the late ’80s after his playing career was over at Purdue, his tenure with the Steelers was the longest of his career. His offense was not good this season, for a lot of reasons, but Fichtner’s system shoulder a lot of blame. He’s had success in his career, but this season was just not one of them.

In that time, Big Ben and Fichtner developed a close bond - evidenced by Fichtner’s appointment to OC following Haley’s dismissal. But it goes deeper than just Big Ben, as former Steelers’ wide receiver Mike Wallace agreed with Essex.

All facts bro one of the coolest guys ever

— Mike Wallace (@Wallace17_daKid) January 14, 2021

Fichtner made his mark in Pittsburgh, but at the end of the day, his impact just wasn't what he probably would have wanted — surely not what fans would have wanted — and he was let go.

It was the right decision, the only decision if the Steelers want to attempt to start to fix the issues on the offense, and while it might be the best decision for the team, it’s the end of an era for a good man.

We should be thankful the Steelers are making moves to improve the team, but we shouldn't just dismiss Fichtner. He’ll always be a part of Steeler Nation and this family — for better or for worse.

Retro Podcast: Steelers buffer, batter and baste the Bills in the playoffs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 5:00am

Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo go back in time 25 years and reminisce about a classic AFC Divisional Game between the Bills and Steelers. Welcome to the “Steelers Retro Show“.

The Steelers might not be playing the Bills in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, but they did 25 years ago. The Steelers entered 1995 looking to right the wrong of their devastating loss in the AFC Championship to San Diego, but it started poorly going 3-4 before winning the AFC Central at 11-5. Join BTSC’s veteran duo of Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis as they set adrift on memory bliss the day that brought a treacherous blizzard to the East Coast, One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey and BoyzIIMen to the top of the charts, 12 Monkeys to No. 1 at the box office and Steelers on a championship quest.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • What was happenin’ in 1996
  • A look back at the Steelers vs. Bills, 1/6/1996
  • and MUCH MORE!

Be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Divisional Round Saturday Open Thread: Keep tabs on all the playoff action

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/16/2021 - 7:00pm
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are done, but that doesn’t mean fans won’t be watching football. Why not spend it with fellow Steelers fans?

It is hard to believe, and some might still struggle with it, but NFL football is in the postseason!

It wasn’t always certain there would be a return of America’s favorite game, but here we are, preparing for an awesome slate of games in the NFL’s Divisional Round weekend. Yes, it’s the playoffs so the NFL season is now in the home stretch.

Here is the schedule for the day:

Ravens at Bills — 8:15 p.m. ET

This obviously isn’t the first NFL Sunday of the 2020 season, but our new commenting system remains an issue for some. While improvements have been made, and they aren’t done with those improvements, just wanted to put a message here from NFL Manager Jeanna Thomas about the system:

Here are a few features that you might want to include in game day thread articles, to help your community enjoy the game day threads more:

If you change the ‘Sort By’ option to “Oldest,” you can read all the comments in chronological order, and the comment box moves to the bottom. If you leave it as “Newest”, the latest comments will appear at the top.

If you’re using a computer, you can move down the comments using C, and move back up using shift-C by clicking once inside the comments area. This can also be used to ‘load more’ comments.

Under the ‘My Profile’ tab, you can keep track of replies to your comments, and also sign up for email notifications of replies

If you want to auto-show all images/GIFs/Tweets, you can opt into this under My Profile - Preferences

As always, we’re continuing to improve the system, and will be watching how everyone is using it on game days – and if you or your community have suggestions on how we can further improve the game day thread experience, we’d love for you/them to join our commenting feedback group: https://forms.gle/2FTSCHRgnggxH6SR6 or you can email support@coralproject.net.

For those wondering, you can enjoy some lively commentary with the best Steelers fans across the globe in the open thread for all BTSC members in the comment section below. Let’s remember to keep it clean, respect everyone’s thoughts and ideas, and ultimately remember we’re all here for the same reason—to root for the Steelers!

If you don’t want to listen to the talking heads during games, you can always watch the games on mute and listen to some of our great Steelers podcasts. Check out the playlist below:

So enjoy the games and be sure to follow BTSC for all the latest news surrounding the team throughout the game and afterwards!

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

Saturday Night Steelers Open Thread: Glass more than half full edition!

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/16/2021 - 6:38pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The still is a lot in the cupboard, seriously!

Losing sucks.

Losing to the Browns really SUCKS!

Losing to the Browns in the playoffs... REALLY SUCKS!!!!!

Now with that out of the way, I will quickly answer why the glass is still half full. Look at all the young talent we have. Not just the rookies that stepped up in 2020 but those from 2019 and 2018. We also have a young safety that made his second Probowl in just his second year here. Lastly, we also have probowl vet’s that still make this team dangerous.

I will not bemoan the fact that our O Line is as old as dirt or that we are going to have to work in significant pieces to a changed coaching staff. I will remind you all that this is part of the regular business of sports. Change is inevitable and a yearly reality for literally every team. Guys get older, coaches leave and schemes change. If this organization has shown you anything during your lifetime, it is that it will find a way to win.

On to my questions.

  1. Which young player are you most excited to see play next year? Is he even on the roster right now???
  2. You are KC for a day and you get to make one move this off season that in on the offensive side of the ball. This move is not limited to player personnel but anything that he could influence. However, it must be doable (far fetched is allowed) and not for example impossible due to salary cap or being an unrealistic contract.
  3. Not many of us are ‘draft junkies’ and ‘know’ how much better that day 2 tackle from Wisconsin is vs the other tackle all the nation media keeps mocking to us. However, we have an idea of the way our perfect draft would play out. Give us your ideal draft by round / position, names are NOT .
  4. With the turmoil in Texan’s camp, do you have any appetite for JJ to join the Steelers. Either way back up your answer as to how it works (not only on the field but what do we have to give up to get him) or why it doesn’t.
  5. Please rate your level of disgust with the remaining teams on the AFC side making it to the ‘big game’. Use the scale of 1 to 10 (10 being throw up in your mouth disgusting or having to use the toilet brush to brush your teeth!).

Divisional Round Saturday Open Thread: Keep tabs on all the playoff action

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/16/2021 - 3:25pm
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers are done, but that doesn’t mean fans won’t be watching football. Why not spend it with fellow Steelers fans?

It is hard to believe, and some might still struggle with it, but NFL football is in the postseason!

It wasn’t always certain there would be a return of America’s favorite game, but here we are, preparing for an awesome slate of games in the NFL’s Divisional Round weekend. Yes, it’s the playoffs so the NFL season is now in the home stretch.

Here is the schedule for the day:

Rams at Packers — 4:35 p.m. ET
Ravens at Bills — 8:15 p.m. ET

This obviously isn’t the first NFL Sunday of the 2020 season, but our new commenting system remains an issue for some. While improvements have been made, and they aren’t done with those improvements, just wanted to put a message here from NFL Manager Jeanna Thomas about the system:

Here are a few features that you might want to include in game day thread articles, to help your community enjoy the game day threads more:

If you change the ‘Sort By’ option to “Oldest,” you can read all the comments in chronological order, and the comment box moves to the bottom. If you leave it as “Newest”, the latest comments will appear at the top.

If you’re using a computer, you can move down the comments using C, and move back up using shift-C by clicking once inside the comments area. This can also be used to ‘load more’ comments.

Under the ‘My Profile’ tab, you can keep track of replies to your comments, and also sign up for email notifications of replies

If you want to auto-show all images/GIFs/Tweets, you can opt into this under My Profile - Preferences

As always, we’re continuing to improve the system, and will be watching how everyone is using it on game days – and if you or your community have suggestions on how we can further improve the game day thread experience, we’d love for you/them to join our commenting feedback group: https://forms.gle/2FTSCHRgnggxH6SR6 or you can email support@coralproject.net.

For those wondering, you can enjoy some lively commentary with the best Steelers fans across the globe in the open thread for all BTSC members in the comment section below. Let’s remember to keep it clean, respect everyone’s thoughts and ideas, and ultimately remember we’re all here for the same reason—to root for the Steelers!

If you don’t want to listen to the talking heads during games, you can always watch the games on mute and listen to some of our great Steelers podcasts. Check out the playlist below:

So enjoy the games and be sure to follow BTSC for all the latest news surrounding the team throughout the game and afterwards!

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

Steelers reportedly planning on promoting Matt Canada to offensive coordinator 

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/16/2021 - 2:29pm
Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Rather than look outside the organization, it appears the Steelers are doing another internal promotion when it comes to their offensive coordinator.

The Pittsburgh Steelers moved on from offensive coordinate her Randy Fichtner the team announced on Thursday. While a flurry of news around the NFL when it comes to interviews and hiring of head coaches and coordinators have been announced, nothing in regards to the Steelers open position had been reported.

Until now.

According to both Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Steelers are expected to promote quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to their offensive coordinator position.

The #Steelers are expected to promote QB coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, sources tell me and @TomPelissero. A creative mind originally from the college game, Canada also interviewed with the #Dolphins but now stays in Pittsburgh.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 16, 2021

Canada came to the Steelers for the 2020 season after spending his entire coaching career in the college ranks. The first quarterbacks coach since Randy Fichtner, Canada was brought in to help the Steelers young quarterbacks as well as give some injection into the offense.

It was reported erlier this week Canada was a possible candidate for the open coordinator job of the Miami Dolphins.

The hiring of Canada last offseason was more of a buzz than normal when it comes to a position coach. Many believed it was merely a steppingstone to the coordinator position at some point down the road. Apparently, that point is the 2021 season.

Although the Steelers may plan on promoting Canada to the position, the process may not be concluded just yet. With an open coordinators position, the Steelers may have to do at least one outside interview before anything official can be made in order to be in compliance with additions to the Rooney Rule in 2020.

The NFL is immediately instituting changes to the Rooney Rule, requiring clubs interview at least 2 external minority candidates for head coach openings and 1 minority candidate for any coordinator job, I’m told. That's on top of two resolutions up for vote @JimTrotter_NFL noted.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 18, 2020

As is often the case in the NFL, nothing is a done deal until both parties sign on the dotted line and an official announcement comes from the Pittsburgh Steelers. But for now, it looks like the Steelers are content and having Canada run their offiense for 2021.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player and coaching updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

Minkah Fitzpatrick points to execution, not scheme, for the Steelers’ defensive collapse

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/16/2021 - 1:30pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Steelers fans are wondering if the defensive collapse in the Wild Card loss to the Browns was due to scheme or execution. Minkah Fitzpatrick said it was the latter.

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ disappointing loss to the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs, fans around the globe were asking the same question.

“What happened?!”

This question could be posed to several aspects of the team.

What happened to Ben Roethlisberger, who threw four interceptions in the game.

What happened to Mike Tomlin, for not taking the risk of going for it on that 4th and 1 in the early moments of the fourth quarter.

But the biggest question everyone has asked was what happened to the defense.

How did the defense, which was Top 5 in almost every statistical category throughout the regular season, give up 40+ points to their AFC North rivals at home?

Many people were wondering if this was Keith Butler’s scheme getting predictable and tired, or was it simple player execution? These are two camps which many fans will never see the other side’s point of view. Some suggest it is the coaches who have to get their players prepared to make plays, while others expect the players to make the plays, regardless of coaching.

During an end of season interview, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick suggested it wasn’t scheme at all, but merely execution.

“It’s almost 100 percent mental,” said Fitzpatrick. “I don’t think there were too many times where we just lost one on one coverage. I think it was more leaving somebody wide open, which we don’t normally do or the times we do we lose games for a reason. Or whether it be not getting in your gap, or not fitting the run the right way. I don’t think any of it was being out physicaled. I think maybe we could have done a better job tackling, but when the running back is 10 yards down the field, it’s kind of hard to tackle him. Besides that, I think it was overall execution.

“It was a combination of different things, even in the games before we lost. We had people down, people that were hurt, people that really didn’t have a lot of experience that were out there which, attributes to the overall effect. I can’t explain why it all happened, or what we can stop from making it happen. We just have to go out there next year and make sure the execution not just on the front end, but the back end of the season is going to be an emphasis for sure.”

Some will read this quote and suggest this is just an intelligent player not throwing his coordinator under the bus, but it is hard to completely dismiss his comments either. The Steelers didn’t execute, and missed tackles were a theme throughout the team’s late season collapse, losing five of their final six games.

In my opinion, it wasn’t all or nothing with this debate. Butler’s scheme was predictable at times, and there were times when the Steelers’ defenders simply didn’t execute. Yes, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing. It can be both.

Fans will continue to debate this throughout the offseason, especially with Keith Butler’s contract being renewed for the 2021 season, but one thing everyone can agree upon is the Steelers have to be better next season for the team to finally get over the proverbial hump and make a legitimate postseason run.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for a tumultuous, and uncertain, offseason.

Report: Growing optimism within the Steelers organization of a Ben Roethlisberger return

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/16/2021 - 12:28pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a big decision coming up with Ben Roethlisberger, and a recent report states the team is expecting Roethlisberger to return.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a big time decision awaiting them in the way they handle the future of Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger said after the team’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns he would talk with his family about his future, but if the team would be willing to have him back he would play out the extent of his contract.

Simple enough, however the decision would be huge for the Steelers’ salary cap. If Roethlisberger plays he would count $41 million towards the 2021 salary cap. If the team, or Roethlisberger, decide not to play next season he would save the team around $19 million on the cap.

While most would say this is a no-brainer, it is anything but a simple decision. Sure, if Roethlisberger decides to hang it up it simplifies the situation, but if he wants to play the Steelers have to have him back or force him out.

It isn’t as if the Steelers haven’t done this with superstars before, just ask Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu.

Saturday, Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network is reporting there is growing optimism within the Steelers organization that Roethlisberger will be back in black and gold for one more season in 2021.

See what Garafolo said below:

“There is optimism within the organization that Big Ben will be back in 2021, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Saturday. Coach Mike Tomlin said earlier in the week that a Roethlisberger return is welcome. It would involve a new offensive coordinator, as the team already parted ways with longtime assistant Randy Fichtner.

Part of the discussion moving forward will likely involve Roethlisberger’s contract. He’s in the books for one more year at $19 million, which is hardly burdensome. But his cap hit is a whopping $41 million. Seventeen years into their marriage, Big Ben and the Steelers shouldn’t have issues alleviating that figure, Garafolo noted.”

Garafolo further explained himself on the show Good Morning Football, and you can watch that clip below:

From @gmfb Weekend on optimism Ben Roethlisberger will be back with the #Steelers in 2021. pic.twitter.com/oJY9XaA8Th

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 16, 2021

Steelers fans around the globe would love to know the future of the quarterback situation sooner, rather than later, but it doesn’t look as if that will be the case. Expect many more of these reports to circulate between now and a final decision being made by the Steelers, or Roethlisberger.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for a critical offseason in the team’s illustrious history.

Tomlin states no timeline for retirement decisions, but for the Steelers it is sooner the better

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/16/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Some members of the Steelers are contemplating retirement, and the organization should want to know their plans as soon as possible.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing to plunge into a season of uncertainty, and one of those difficult decisions will be a decision which is out of the organization’s hands.

Clearly, I’m referring to the decision making process of players who are contemplating retirement.

There are several players who have been thought to be considering retirement this offseason, and those players would be:

QB Ben Roethlisberger
C Maurkice Pouncey
OT Alejandro Villanueva

There have even been talks about David DeCastro considering stepping away from the game, considering his attachment to the core of the offensive line which is essentially gone from the team. Nonetheless, this is all speculation at this point, even considering there were rumors of Pouncey already making his decision on retirement just last week.

During Mike Tomlin’s end of season press conference Wednesday, he was asked if there was a timeline for players to give him notice of their pending retirement, or return. Tomlin said there is no such timeline.

“I don’t know what the timeline is for those types of decisions, to be honest.” Tomlin said. “Like I mentioned, I’m still very much assessing what transpired and just beginning the process of evaluating what transpired and information gathering in an effort to plot a course in terms of moving forward. Those roads usually converge in the upcoming weeks or so, and I imagine that they will. I don’t know that I have any level of anticipation specifically as I sit here of when that might be.”

Tomlin said there isn’t a timeline, but the Steelers don’t have the financial flexibility for players to mull over the decision all offseason. When you think about players like Roethlisberger and Pouncey, who both carry significant salaries in 2021, the Steelers will have some tough decisions to make if they have to replace those players.

If these players were to wait till well after NFL Free Agency, or even the NFL Scouting Combine, the Steelers would be behind the proverbial 8-ball when it comes to preparing to replace these players if they do call it quits.

Mike Tomlin said there is no timeline, and I certainly don’t always buy what he is selling from a press conference, but the Steelers would have to have some type of deadline for players to let them know their plans. If not, it would screw the organization over even more than their heavy salary cap hits for the 2021 season.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 season preparing for free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft.

Podcast: A once-promising Steelers season’s grinding halt

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/16/2021 - 11:00am

There is plenty to discuss on the latest episode of the popular podcast Steelers Brunch w/ Tony.

The Steelers 11-0 start had many fans thinking Super Bowl. But after going 1-5 at the end, that promise turned to pessimism for the future and the black-and-gold have been eliminated from the NFL playoffs. Join Tony Defeo as he moves his Saturday show to the lights of Friday night and discusses the Steelers with plenty of answers to questions from the fan base. Welcome to Steelers Friday Six Pack with Tony! Join the veteran BTSC contributor as he discusses the Steelers so far and beyond.

Check out the rundown of the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section below!

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • The loss against Cleveland
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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