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Podcast: Is it business as usual for Mike Tomlin, or has he changed?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 5:30am

Join Bryan, Tony and Dave for the Steelers news of the week in the latest episode of the ‘Steelers Hangover’.

With Steelers players having more than a week to train, there has been a lot of talk about the new attitude of the team. It leads one to wonder if that extends to Mike Tomlin. Join Dave Schofield, Bryan Davis, and Anthony Defeo from BTSC as they share their thoughts on the differences this camp offers already as opposed to past years. It’s the extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”.

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

  • The week that was for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Latrobe.
  • Will we see a new Mike Tomlin this year?
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

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: Offensive Lineman Fred Johnson turning heads in Steelers training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 08/06/2019 - 4:34am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

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

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how an unknown offensive lineman, Fred Johnson, is turning heads throughout Steelers Training Camp.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Everyone thinks the Steelers’ offensive line is set, but there might be a player who is bound and determined to wreck those fan predictions.

Mammoth guard Fred Johnson hard to miss at Steelers training camp, gets shot at tackle

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Fred Johnson might be the tallest guard who’s ever attended a Pittsburgh Steelers training camp. And in what might have been a sign of just how much Johnson intrigues the Steelers, they even threw him into the proverbial fire at tackle, too.

For the 2-minute drill simulation at the end of Saturday’s practice, Johnson was told to play left tackle.

“That was the first time this camp I was at tackle,” Johnson said afterward.

An undrafted rookie from Florida, Johnson has generally been the second-team right guard during camp this far. At 6-foot-7, he’s impossible to miss, particularly at an interior position (no other Steelers guard or center is listed as taller than 6-5).

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Mike Tomlin has his shortcomings, but the Patriots dominance isn’t one of them.

Tim Benz: Patriots dominance isn’t part of Mike Tomlin’s shortcomings

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

It’s been 11 days since Mike Tomlin signed a contract extension to coach the Steelers through at least the 2021 season.

Since then, several arguments have popped up supporting that decision by Steelers ownership. Others have been highly critical.

Both sides make a strong case.

I wouldn’t have done it. But it’s not my money. It’s Art Rooney II’s money. If someday between now and then he wants to fire Tomlin and doesn’t care about the payout, so be it.

However, there is one defense of Tomlin’s extension that I have heard advanced a few times recently that I can’t accept.

Some have said that Tomlin’s postseason shortcomings should come with an asterisk because he has endured the bad luck of coaching in the AFC against the Patriots at the height of their dynasty.

In other words, there’s an assumption that the Steelers’ past eight seasons would have ended later in the playoffs, perhaps with another Super Bowl win or at least another appearance or two, if the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick reign had never occurred.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Pro Football Hall of Fame is expanding their classes, and this could benefit several Pittsburgh Steelers who are Hall-worthy.

Mark Madden: These Steelers could benefit from Hall of Fame expansion

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In 2020, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will induct a one-time-only class of 20 new members to commemorate the NFL’s 100th anniversary. Ten senior-era players will be included.

Nine players from the Steelers’ dynasty in the 1970s are enshrined in Canton.

Does this decision open the door for more?

A survey of my Twitter followers (2,941 voting) suggests defensive end L.C. Greenwood deserves a spot.

A very informal poll of Pittsburgh football media also chose Greenwood.

But one of said media put it best: “None. Seriously.”

I concur. Nine is plenty. Enough already with the Steelers of the ’70s.

It would be better if safety Troy Polamalu made it in his first year of eligibility, or if Alan Faneca made it after missing out the last four years despite being the best guard of his generation.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

.@_Dbush11 takes a golf cart ride with @Missi_Matthews, where they talk about #SteelersCamp, being around teammates all the time and more. pic.twitter.com/z02tN9tzTX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2019

Take a look inside the living spaces of some of our players who have been at #SteelersCamp for a number of years. pic.twitter.com/snvwS8ToyZ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2019

It was a night full of fun at @HeinzField!

Check out some of the highlights from #FamilyFest, presented by @GiantEagle. pic.twitter.com/gZ06KRF7dU

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2019

Just running routes with my son, Boujee pic.twitter.com/HUAxek5dEq

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) August 5, 2019

Just a kid from @CityofMuncie who has been #blessed beyond belief! @JamesConner_ bout to go crazy this year! Just wait! ⏳ pic.twitter.com/5DL5j0a5si

— Eddie Faulkner (@coachfaulk) August 5, 2019

Pittsburgh Steelers fans, join Behind the Steel Curtain FanPulse

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 2:18pm
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Show off your knowledge by joining the BTSC FanPulse!!

We are considered the voice of the fan here at Behind the Steel Curtain and we talk every day about how the Pittsburgh Steelers are doing--whether they’ll win their upcoming game or how Steelers fans feel about that awful call from the referees. Now we’re starting a new polling project that will pull together the insights of the most *plugged-in* Steelers fans. If that describes you, then SIGN UP HERE to join me and other *knowledgeable* fans (including some of the BTSC contributors) on our project called SB Nation FanPulse.

If you sign up, you’ll be among a hand-selected group from Behind the Steel Curtain who answer quick polls each week developed by SB Nation. We want to build the definitive poll of *informed* Steelers fans, and that includes you. Your votes will be anonymous — though if you join, you’re welcome to tell anyone you like. The results of each poll will be published by BTSC, and may end up on SBNation.com also along with the results from other team sites.

Ready to sign up as a Behind the Steel Curtain FanPulse participant? CLICK HERE.

2019 Steelers Depth Chart Prediction: The Offensive Line

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 1:22pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Taking a look at who will make the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster along the offensive front.

Can you believe that preseason is under a week away? Hard to actually wrap our collective heads around that but it is here. With the preseason and season quickly approaching there are many battles taking place in training camp that will presumably last into the preseason. While four positions along the offensive line are set in stone, the right tackle and backup linemen positions are not so clear.

The Steelers know what they have in right guard David DeCastro, center Maurkice Pouncey, left guard Ramon Foster and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. The quadruplets have 13 Pro Bowls between them and are viewed as the anchors of one of the best pass-blocking lines in the NFL.

The Steelers organization liked what they saw out of Matt Feiler over the 2016 and 2017 seasons that the team traded away right tackle Marcus Gilbert in 2018. In 10 starts Feiler held his own and was not a liability but he did not make the Pro Bowl either. That is something that is not expected out of an undrafted rookie free agent picked off the scrap heap from the Houston Texans in 2017. Fans and coaches have high expectations that he can keep the progression going in 2019 but will he and will he win the starting gig? To answer that, we need to check out the competition at right tackle.

Former third-round draft pick, Chukwuma Okorafor was viewed by most draft “experts” to be a project coming out of Western Michigan. The 6’6 320 pounder played sporadically until late November when he was called upon to start for an injured Feiler. Okorafor did not give up a QB hit beside the lone sack he gave up but he gave up four pressures. While not a stellar outing, he was not an embarrassment either. He will need to take his game to the next level to be considered for the right tackle job or swing tackle.

Jerald Hawkins had Steelers Nation salivating when Pittsburgh drafted him out of LSU in the fourth round in 2016. The 6’6 305 pounder was showing well in the preseason but a shoulder injury ended his season during the preseason. In 2017, Hawkins was merely depth while playing in five games with 48 snaps. Expectations were running high for Hawkins heading into 2018 only to be dashed again when he suffered a torn quad in OTAs. In early June, he was placed on injured reserve, again ending his season before it started. The upcoming season is a make or break season for Hawkins. Do fans put a lot of emphasis on reports he is struggling in training camp or do you want to see him in the preseason to make up your own minds? Either way, he has an uphill battle for playing time let alone making the roster.

Former USC Trojans Zach Banner was a surprise addition to the 53-man roster in 2018. The massive tackle at 6’8 and 360 pounds might have made the team but did not play an offensive or special team snap. Did he make enough progress to earn another spot in 2019?

The last offensive tackle who is seeing consistent time is Damian Prince. He is a player to monitor in the next week to see if he can bypass Hawkins for second string snaps. (If you are not familiar with him, here is a writeup I did on him.)

The backup interior linemen’s spot is B. J. Finney’s to lose. At $3.095 million, he already is an expensive backup. If you view him as a left guard, his cap hit is the 14th highest in the league, eclipsing starting Steelers left guard by $400,000. That is the price the Steelers put on Finney when they assigned him the second-round tender for 2019. Finney has proven his versatility with nine starts while playing in 43 games the past three seasons. Finney is an expensive insurance policy but the team may also see him as the future at left guard. Past effectiveness should mean he would be the first interior linemen off the bench in 2019.

After Finney, the waters get very muddied. Patrick Morris spent the 2018 season on the team’s practice squad and fans would think that he would be the top reserve in an injury occurred. Or is he with 2019 seventh-rounder Derwin Gray that player? Darkhorse J C Hassenauer spent seven weeks in 2018 on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad, did that time give him a leg up on the others? Fred Johnson and Garrett Brumbsfeld anything more than camp bodies?

Will there even be much attention paid to the right tackle battle or is there even a true battle that will go on? Is that battle between Feiler and Okorafor or could another stick their nose into the battle? How many offensive linemen will the Steelers keep?

Depth chart

LT — Alejandro Villanueva

LG — Ramon Foster

C — Maurkice Pouncey

RG — David DeCastro

RT — Matt Feiler

B.J. Finney — Backup C/G

Chukwuma Okorafor — Swing Tackle / Extra TE in jumbo packages

Zach Banner — Backup Tackle

Damian Prince — A way too early prediction, but Jerald Hawkins has been that bad in camp.

Offensive prediction

(23, I did not list Roosevelt Nix on offense as he will be listed elsewhere.)

Quarterbacks

Ben Roethlisberger

Mason Rudolph

Joshua Dobbs

Running backs

James Conners

Benny Snell Jr.

Jaylen Samuels

Wide receivers

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Donte Moncrief

Eli Rogers

James Washington

Dionate Johnson

Diontae Spencer

Tight ends

Vance McDonald

Xavier Grimble

Player to be determined...

To qualify for the postseason in 2019, the Steelers must outscore their opponent in the 4th quarter

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 11:35am
Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers 2018 point margin in the 4th quarter was their lowest since 2009

There is one way and one way alone to win a football game on the field: score more points than your opponent. It doesn’t matter if the team has more time of possession, turnovers, sacks, or any other statistical category. If the score isn’t in your favor when the clock reaches zero, your team isn’t victorious.

The combination of scoring points and getting defensive stops is of the upmost importance, especially at key points in the game. In 2018, the Steelers were tied or had the lead in the fourth quarter in 14 of their 16 games. The fact the Steelers lost four of those games while tying another raises questions about the Steelers quality of play closing out each contest. And since points and point differential are some of the greatest statistics for measuring success, the Steelers giving up more points than what they scored in the fourth quarter for the 2018 season has to be an important issue.

The bottom line is this, the Steelers gave up 32 more points than what they scored in the fourth of their 2018 games. It is only the third time since Mike Tomlin became coach in 2007 the Steelers were a negative point differential in the final quarter of games. The other two seasons, -13 in 2013 and -38 in 2009, are also years the Steelers did not qualify for the post season.

So every time the Steelers are outscored in the fourth quarter for the entire season since 2007 they have missed the playoffs. Inversely, there was one season the Steelers missed the playoffs but had a positive fourth quarter point differential. In 2012 the Steelers scored 91 points in the fourth quarter, which just so happens to be the exact same total as 2018. The difference is the 2012 Steelers only gave up 70 fourth quarter points. In fact, the Steelers held their opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter seven times and to only three points in three additional games while going 7-3. If it wasn’t for two big fourth quarter comebacks in 2012, the Steelers point differential would have been negative. Outscoring the Giants 14-0 in Week 9 to win 24-20 and the Bengals 10-0 in Week 13 in a 23-20 victory helped to overcome other shortcomings in the forth quarter which led to an 8-8 record.

Getting back to 2019, the Steelers need to get into the positive differential in forth quarter scoring if they wish to get back to the playoffs. While being in the positive doesn’t guarantee a post season birth, remaining in the negative appears to be too much to overcome. With totals of +41 and +40 the two seasons prior to 2018, it is not an unfamiliar situation for the team. But in order to get there, both sides of the ball need to do their part.

Entering the 2018 season, the Steelers had averaged 114 points scored per season in the fourth quarter since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach. In 2018 they only scored 91, which was 23 less than their average. As for the defense, they surrendered 91 points per season on average, but gave up 123 which was 32 more than usual. So the entire team needs to do their part in order to improve this statistic.

I realize fourth quarter point differential is not a perfect statistical measure. Sometimes an opponent begins the quarter already in scoring position which can skew the results slightly. Even though it might have it’s flaws, there is no doubt teams emphasize finishing games strong and gutting out victories. If the Steelers focus on dominating the end of the game on both sides of the ball, both the victories and point differentials will fall in line.

Win two tickets to the Steelers vs. Buccaneers Week 1 preseason game on BTSC!

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 10:28am
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We are giving away two tickets to the Week 1 preseason game at Heinz Field!

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to square off this Friday at Heinz Field, and we here at Behind the Steel Curtain want to send two fans to the game for FREE!!

Of course, we need a way to figure out the winner, but first let’s get to the logistics.

This giveaway is to anyone who can, or is willing, to go to the game on Friday night. Below are the details on the game:

Date: August 9, 2019
Place: Heinz Field
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As Deputy Editor Dave Schofield and I thought about how to deliver this news, and how to deal with the contest, the one thing I thought of was how of the thousands of people who read BTSC, but never become part of our community. They never create an account and become a part of the discussion.

You see tons of commenters every year say, “I’ve followed the site for years, but finally started to comment.” I want to draw more people out of the wood work with this contest, so here are the details.

  • Must have an active account with BTSC
  • Must be able to attend the game
  • Tickets are not to be sold or redistributed
  • Must have someone 18 or older to accept the tickets

Let me just reiterate how you HAVE TO BE ABLE TO ATTEND THE GAME before even considering entering the contest. There is nothing worse than someone claim tickets, and not be able to attend. Especially when there are others who would like to, and would, go to the game.

Now for the contest itself. As you most likely know, Mr. Schofield is a numbers guy. He looked back and found ONE number from last season, and you have to try and guess what statistic this number is pointing to. We wanted to make sure this was difficult enough, but not so difficult we didn’t get any responses.

If you are completely stumped, and there isn’t a correct response, we will release a hint the following day to help you along. When the first correct response is received, they will be the winner of the contest!

Want to take a stab at winning the tickets? Email Dave Schofield at stlrsuperfandad@gmail.com to submit your answer and your BTSC account. If you don’t have an active BTSC account, you will not be considered for the contest.

Here is the number, and the first hint:

88

Hint: This is a 2018 offensive statistic

4 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin after the Steelers’ Family Fest Sunday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 9:22am
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Tomlin answered questions from the media following the Steelers’ ninth practice.

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Family Fest practice at Heinz Field on Sunday, head coach Mike Tomlin briefly took questions from the media. While still on the field as players signed autographs, Coach Tomlin was asked questions about specific players in regards to their recent play. This list isn’t to suggest these players were the only ones who stood out, but more so about how Tomlin answered the questions.

T.J. Watt

Only 1️⃣ hand needed for @_TJWatt pic.twitter.com/RFNDobYlim

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 4, 2019

It was the most anticipated return of the 2019 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After being placed on the preseason PUP list after tightness in his hamstring following the teams run test the day players reported to camp, T.J. Watt made his preseason debut at the Steelers Family Fest. With high expectations for 2019, Watt’s return is a welcomed site for Steelers players, coaches, and fans.

Before taking questions, Coach Tomlin offered up a little information on Watt.

“T.J. Watt was ready to go so we worked him a little bit tonight and will continue there and get him on this moving train.”

Coach Tomlin was then asked how good it was to see Watt on the field after being out all of training camp.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t see him. He did some individuals. He did the prescribed work. I was really focused on some of the competition things. He’s ready to go, and its good to have him back.”

James Conner

James Conner goes in for the score on the first goal-line play. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/2jLpZjVRMx

— Blitzburgh (@Steel_Curtain4) August 5, 2019

Although only entering his third season, James Conner has been getting the veteran treatment in some situations in training camp. While still continuing to get some work, Conner has been held back to a limited role in a lot of team activities. Earning his first Pro Bowl in 2018, Conner is the most experienced running back on the Steelers outside of fullback Roosevelt Nix.

Coach Tomlin was asked if he knows what Conner can do and if it’s the reason he is giving so many reps to the young guys.

“He falls in ‘give the reps to the young guys,’ not necessarily the first part of that. Everybody is going to get the opportunity to sharpen their sword and show what they’re capable of doing. We’re more interested in getting to know some of these other young guys right now. There’s going to be plenty of opportunities for James to sharpen his sword. We broke him out in short yardage and goal line. They’ll be other opportunities as we more forward. But we thought it was more important with the bulk of the work coming with some of the young guys later on this week when we step into this stadium, we thought it was important to give those guys the situational work here tonight.

Sean Davis

Sean Davis is out of uniform and not practicing after taking part in warmups earlier.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 4, 2019

It has been a week since Steelers’ safety Sean Davis left practice with a dislocated finger. Although his absence has allowed the Steelers to get some young players additional work, Davis is a key player in the Steelers secondary alongside Terrell Edmunds. Entering the final year of this contract, Davis will be eager to get back on the field to make sure he is prepared to start the regular season in five weeks.

Coach Tomlin was asked if Davis was getting close to returning to practice.

“I don’t know. I’ll have an update for you, I’m sure, soon.

Chris Boswell

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin fist pumps kicker Chris Boswell after making a 54 yard field goal during evening practice at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh. @PittsburghPG @PGVisuals @PGSportsNow #SteelersNation pic.twitter.com/7yYKMN34Ec

— Peter Diana (@peterdianapghpg) August 5, 2019

Of the players remaining form the 2018 Steelers, Chris Boswell is coming off of the most disappointing year. A Pro Bowler in 2017, Boswell only connected on 65% of his field goal attempts in 2018. Add in five missed extra points, Boswell entered training camp fighting for his job after the team differed his $2 million roster bonus. To his credit, Boswell has yet to miss a kick in a full team setting so far in 2019.

Coach Tomlin was asked about putting Boswell in pressure situations to kick during practice.

“We’re just getting started with exposing him to some pressure. I think one of you guys asked how we can create it in a training camp or team development-like setting. You saw examples of it tonight.”

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

Coach Tomlin addresses the media following #FamilyFest. pic.twitter.com/l8HR3tb17G

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2019

Steelers 2019 Training Camp Recap: Nagging injuries piling up, but not time to panic

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 8:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had over a week of training camp practices under their belt now, and while there are times it is still considered “football in shorts”, the team has had plenty of news coming from these workouts.

Sunday evening marked the Steelers’ annual Family Fest practice, where patrons could pay a small fee to enter Heinz Field and watch their favorite football team in their home environment up-close-and-personal.

What fans got to see Sunday was some short yardage work, and plenty of injuries. The Steelers injuries are mounting, but this is no time to be concerned. With Week 1 of the preseason on the horizon, the only injuries which are worth noting are for those players whose football lives are on the line. Other than that, fans shouldn’t be worried about anything long term, yet.

Take a look at the injury list after the Family Fest workout Sunday:

Injury updates per Coach Tomlin after #FamilyFest: Diontae Johnson (groin), Maurkice Pouncey (“minor injury”), J.C. Hassenauer (knee),
Artie Burns (groin).

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 5, 2019

These injuries go along with T.J. Watt (hamstring), Sean Davis (finger) among others who have missed some practice time with nagging ailments.

There was other news coming from Family Fest, so let’s get to it...

  • Boswell’s first Heinz Field reps since 2018

Chris Boswell was back at Heinz Field for the first time since 2018, and you have to remember he didn’t even finish the year at Heinz, that was Matt McCrane. So, everyone in attendance was anxious to see what Boswell did when put to the test.

DKPittsburghSports’ Dale Lolley had his rep-by-rep workout going in both directions at the ‘Big Ketchup Bottle’.

Facing the closed end of the field:

Boswell from 37, good #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 5, 2019

Boswell from 39, good #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 5, 2019

Boswell misses from 51 #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 5, 2019

Towards the open end of the stadium:

Now, into the open end, Boswell from 33 is good #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 5, 2019

Boswell from 42 is good #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 5, 2019

Boswell from 54 finishes strong, good #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 5, 2019

Not bad at all, but again, these results should be taken with a grain of salt considering there was no pressure involved, other than the fans watching with baited breath to see if the team’s wealthy kicker has regained his form.

Seven Shots

Don’t look now, but the defense finally won a Seven Shots period!

Defense wins seven shots at @heinzfield 4-3.

Dobbs goes 1-4 with a TD to Grimble, but good PDs from Edmunds, Kelly and Allen.

Rudolph 2-3 with TD to Washington and Switzer. Layne had good coverage on a stop on Washington. #Steelers #dkps

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) August 4, 2019

The biggest news was the return, albeit partial, of T.J. Watt off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, which was covered in a stand alone article on the site. You can read about it in depth HERE.

The Steelers are off from practice Monday, and will return to Saint Vincent College for open practices Tuesday and Wednesday, but Thursday’s practice is closed to the public as the team will be preparing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday at Heinz Field.

VIDEOS

Coach Tomlin addresses the media following #FamilyFest. pic.twitter.com/l8HR3tb17G

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2019

Only 1️⃣ hand needed for @_TJWatt pic.twitter.com/RFNDobYlim

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 4, 2019

@drm_12 pic.twitter.com/RJttlbeDse

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 4, 2019

Moments like these.@JamesConner_ pic.twitter.com/nN956BzlBk

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2019 PHOTOS

Always making the fans happy. pic.twitter.com/ScFvUkjhbj

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 5, 2019

You never know who will show up @heinzfield. Fun to see @chadwickboseman here talking with @RyanShazier and @JamesConner_ at Family Fest. pic.twitter.com/WjAU9Cncki

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 4, 2019

Ken Griffey Jr is in the house. And 12-year-old me is mad at Current Me for not talking to him. pic.twitter.com/TpFPRCz3nn

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 5, 2019

Report: Joe Haden and Steelers “making progress” on two-year contract extension

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 7:03am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The proposed contact is believed to keep Haden in the Steel City through the 2021 season

On Sunday night, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Joe Haden and the Pittsburgh Steelers were making progress on a two-year contract extension.

Steelers and corner Joe Haden are making progress on a two-year contract extension, per source. Both sides have exchanged proposals. The two-time Pro Bowler is due $10 million in the last year of his deal, and the team could rework that year and extend him through 2021.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 5, 2019

While the length of the contract would be what many have expected, the larger question was if Hayden would be receiving an extension or an all-new three-year deal. If the report holds true and Haden is given a two-year extension, a likely scenario would be for almost $9 million of the $10 million Haden was due in 2019 being converted to a signing bonus and spread out over the length of the contract. If this is the case, Haden’s cap hit for 2019 would fall from almost $12 million currently to about $6 million.

The other looming question with Haden’s extension would be his yearly salary over the final two years. Carrying about $3 million of dead money into 2020 and 2021, some would expect Haden’s yearly income to be slightly lower than the $9 million he averaged over three years when he initially signed with the Steelers in 2017. Although it would be nice to see the Steelers get a bit of a discount for the 30 year-old veteran, Hayden would probably still want at least $7 a season for the two years of his extension.

While age will definitely become a factor over the life of is contract, Haden was the only Steelers player in 2018 to have multiple interceptions. Haden will turn 31 before entering the extension phase of his new contract if the two sides are able to make the deal. In 2018, there were only 11 NFL cornerbacks age 31 or older, three of which who had multiple interceptions: Josh Norman (3), Brandon Carr (2), and Johnathan Joseph (2). Although it used to be common for cornerbacks to occasionally put up big numbers in interceptions past the age on 31 (Ty Law had 10 in 2005), the numbers have dipped more in recent years.

It is entirely possible Hayden could take a lesser salary over his final two years with the Steelers, Of the cornerbacks listed earlier who were over 31 in 2018, Josh Norman is due over $11 million dollars next season according to overthecap.com. As for Brandon Carr and Johnathan Joseph, they are due to be paid $6 million and $4.5 million respectively in 2019. If Haden realizes the market for cornerbacks over 30 may not be fantastic, perhaps he settles for a slightly lower contract than the one he signed in 2017.

All the factors involved with a Joe Haden extension are merely speculation at this point. As Steelers fans know over the past several years, “making progress” can still be a long way from a player signing on the dotted line. Hopefully both sides can come to an agreement on deal that keeps Haden happy in the Steel City without putting the Steelers in too much financial hardship for years to come.

Chris Boswell’s camp performance is encouraging, but he still has to prove he can do it when it counts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 6:30am
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Kicking well at training camp is one thing. But until Chris Boswell proves he can kick to his past standards during the regular season, he won’t truly be over the hump.

The early word out of Steelers training camp is that kicker Chris Boswell, the man who struggled mightily a season ago, is back to his old Pro Bowl self.

He has yet to miss a field goal or extra point try (as of this writing, anyway), and he’s even nailing kicks from 50-yards plus—and with room to spare.

After missing on only 10 of his 105 field goal attempts, and on only three of his 102 extra point tries between 2015-2017, Boswell went 13 for 20 and 43 for 48 in each category last year.

Therefore, the fact that he’s coming through in clutch situations—including some “time running down” drills— out at Latrobe is rather encouraging.

It also says something that Boswell looks to be back to his old self despite being pushed by Matthew Wright, an undrafted rookie from UCF.

Unlike recent years when Pittsburgh signed kickers in the offseason, Wright didn’t come to training camp to act as an extra leg or to get some exposure for possible employment elsewhere. He came to town with a decent to better chance of taking Boswell’s job.

That, alone, is a fair amount of pressure, especially for the profession of NFL kicker, where the supply of legs normally far surpasses the number of job openings.

Training camp or not, all eyes have been on Boswell so far in camp. Any miss would be scrutinized and dissected, not only by the fans and the media, but by his coaches.

Speaking of pressure (perhaps the ultimate pressure), Boswell even agreed to defer his $2 million roster bonus until the end of the preseason (he likely didn’t have a real say in this matter—he either had to “agree” to this or get cut before camp even started).

The scrutiny of his coaches, legit competition from another leg and the prospect of losing out on $2 million. That is quite a bundle of pressure Boswell has stared down thus far.

Of course, training camp is one thing, but an NFL stadium is quite another story.

Boswell will get to see how he performs inside one of those stadiums this Friday night, when the Steelers take on the Buccaneers at Heinz Field in the first preseason game of 2019.

If Boswell performs up to his past standards, not just this Friday but throughout the duration of the preseason, the smart money is on him keeping his job and his roster bonus—no matter what Matthew Wright does.

Having said that, until Boswell proves he can ace his regular season kicking tests (the only tests that matter), it will be hard to believe he’s truly back to his old self.

Yes, what Boswell is doing at camp right now is awesome. It shows that his mechanics are on point, and that he hasn’t lost any leg strength. You don’t have to be an expert to know that so much of what goes into kicking a football accurately is mechanical—approach, kick and follow through. As an avid bowler, I can tell you that one little glitch in my approach, release and/or follow through can be the difference between a 100 or 200.

So, if Boswell’s season-long struggles in 2018 stemmed from mechanics that may have been compromised following a critical overtime miss at rainy Cleveland in Week 1, he’s probably clear of his problems.

But what if Boswell’s season-long struggles were mental and stemmed from that aforementioned critical miss in Week 1?

That’s a whole different animal and a dragon that Boswell may not truly slay until his first critical field goal try of the 2019 regular season.

We’ll have to wait and see on that, but at least Chris Boswell’s right leg is alive and well.

As for his career with the Steelers? He still has a few more tests to ace—including a big final exam in September.

Podcast: Gauging the progress of the Steelers after one week of training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 5:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is just starting, and the news is really starting to heat up. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Updates on Training Camp
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Daniel McCullers making his annual push to make the 53-man roster

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/05/2019 - 4:30am
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how despite fan outrage, Daniel McCullers is making yet another push to make the team’s 53-man roster in 2019.

Let’s get to the news:

  • There are few players who can get fans as bent out of shape as Daniel McCullers. The ‘Shade Tree’ has taken up a roster spot every year since he was drafted, and it looks like 2019 will be no different.

Dan McCullers used more, shows versatility in 6th Steelers camp

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Big Dan is no longer just the big man taking up space in the middle of the defense.

In his sixth Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, Dan McCullers is being used more often and getting more reps than he typically did in his previous five. While his time at nose tackle gradually has decreased since he was drafted in the sixth round in 2013, McCullers seemingly is getting more reps than ever in the nickel defense at Saint Vincent.

“I am out in the nickel more, playing more, working on getting the plays down flat,” McCullers said last week from training camp.

“(Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar) says, ‘You’re doing well,’ and he’s putting me in there more and letting me get more reps. So my thing is just keep doing good and getting as many reps as I can.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The AFC North seems to be much more than a two horse race in 2019, or maybe it won’t be...

John Steigerwald: Measuring Steelers, Browns, Ravens delusions

By: John Steigerwald, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

ackson was the starter and never threw more than 25 passes in that stretch, with no interceptions in his last five games. He ran the ball 129 times in those seven starts. After a terrible first half in the wild-card loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, he finished strong with a chance to win at the end.

Ben Roethlisberger averaged 47 passes in his last seven games, including two losses when he threw more than 50.

Steelers fans and many in the media seem to be convinced the Steelers will be better without one of the best wide receivers in the league and his 104 catches, 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns. They’re even more convinced that they’ll be better without Le’Veon Bell again.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Some players aren’t just trying to make the 53-man roster, they are realizing this might be the end of the road for their professional careers.

In 2nd camp with Steelers, WR Tevin Jones getting look

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Though Tevin Jones began Pittsburgh Steelers training camp toward the bottom of the wide receivers depth chart and getting scant reps, in recent days the big and athletic receiver has been opening eyes.

At 26 and his fourth NFL training camp, Jones has been with the Steelers for 19 months. It shows.

“I’m a lot more comfortable, and everything’s pretty much slowing down a little bit,” Jones said Saturday from Saint Vincent. “I am glad just to be in the same offense a second year because I’d been on different teams (in 2016 and ’17 after going undrafted). Now I feel a little more comfortable at different positions.

“I’m trying to go out there and give it all I got.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers are a brotherhood, and this isn’t news, but Steven Nelson is experiencing this for the first time.

Nelson explains ‘brotherhood’ early in camp

By: Hunter Homistek, DKPittsburghSports

“It’s a beautiful day, man,” Nelson said. “A great day for Steelers football.”

The new guy already embracing ‘Steelers football’? Yeah, that’ll work. Nelson brought up the topic unprovoked, so I rolled with it, asking him exactly what he’s feeling as a Steeler thus far. After all, he’s had only OTAs, minicamp and a short stint here at training camp to adjust.

But he’s feeling the love and the chemistry.

”Man, it’s taking its course,” Nelson said. “It’s been fun, man, just being around the guys, being around the atmosphere. It’s a good thing, to have on this black and gold.”

Nelson was telling me about that chemistry with the team back in May at the Rooney Complex, too, so that came as no surprise. But it’s not just about “fitting in” for a new player. It’s about evolving and growing and learning every day. To that end, Nelson feels comfortable with his current position.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

Ken Griffey Jr is in the house. And 12-year-old me is mad at Current Me for not talking to him. pic.twitter.com/TpFPRCz3nn

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 5, 2019

Always making the fans happy. pic.twitter.com/ScFvUkjhbj

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 5, 2019

You never know who will show up @heinzfield. Fun to see @chadwickboseman here talking with @RyanShazier and @JamesConner_ at Family Fest. pic.twitter.com/WjAU9Cncki

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 4, 2019

Out here enjoying #FamilyFest‼️@RodWoodson26 pic.twitter.com/iG9eIuNL2j

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 5, 2019

T.J. Watt officially removed from PUP list and will practice tonight at Steelers Family Fest

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/04/2019 - 5:32pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

When the Steelers enter Heinz Field tonight, Watt will be in pads for the first time in 2019.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have announced T.J. Watt has officially been cleared to return to return to practice. Watt was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list after experiencing tightness in his hamstring following the team’s run test the day players reported to Latrobe. During the preseason, a player can be placed on the PUP list as long have they have not participated in any practices and can return at any time. If Watt would have remained on the PUP list into the regular season, he would not have been eligible to return until after Week 6.

Good news for fans attending #FamilyFest at @heinzfield tonight: T.J. Watt passed his physical and will return to practice tonight.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 4, 2019

Entering his third year for the Steelers, Watt led the team in sacks with 13.0 in 2018, earning his first Pro Bowl selection. Adding 68 tackles, 12 of which were for loss, and 21 quarterback hits, Watt has emerged as one of the Steelers premier young defenders. For 2019, Watt was listed at #93 in the NFL’s Top 100 Players list.

Watt also faced a similar injury which cost him a lot of practice time early in training camp last season. Being very cautious with the injury, Watt returned during the preseason and was able to play in all 16 games in 2018. With Watt looking to be the Steelers most dynamic playmaker in 2019, Coach Mike Tomlin has not been in a rush to get him back onto the practice field before he was ready.

It is unclear if Watt will be available for Friday night’s preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field. With a scheduled off day on Monday, Watt is should be thoroughly evaluated as to how his hamstring responds to tonight’s workout. Even if healthy, there are certain to be a large number of first-string players not participating Friday night.

In his absence, players such as Anthony Chickillo and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi have both worked with the first-team defense. While Chickillo has also missed some time due to minor injuries, Adeniyi has turned some heads with his camp performance to date. As Watt works his way back into his starting role, both players are certain to still receive first-team reps.

Steelers Family Fest is in it’s third year as a part of the preseason activities. It is an annual practice held at Heinz Field.

T.J. Watt has been removed from the Active/PUP List.

MORE: https://t.co/56Ji14uleV pic.twitter.com/cRQlpBXOof

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 4, 2019

Steelers Training Camp 2019: Live news and updates 8/4

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/04/2019 - 5:07pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and training-camp practices are underway! Follow along with BTSC as the players start to hone their skills and prepare for the 2019 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and the rabid fans awaiting their chance to watch the Black-and-gold, are prepared for training camp, and that comes with the first day of actual practice. The Steelers are finally back to practicing, and Practice 9 of camp is here!

If you’re stuck at work, or at home, follow along with those on the scene at Saint Vincent College for the best pictures, video and news coming straight from the practice field in Latrobe, PA. Don't miss a minute of the action!

Today's practice is at 6:30 p.m. EST, and is open to the public. Take a look at the training camp schedule below and, as always, follow along with live updates in the Twitter feed below.

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Mike Hilton practicing at free safety could be a sign of things to come, for Cameron Sutton

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/04/2019 - 2:01pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers want to put as many playmakers on the field as possible, and this could be why Mike Hilton practicing at safety makes sense.

When Pittsburgh Steelers fans saw news of Mike Hilton practicing at safety, most who pay close attention to training camp news likely shrugged their shoulders and said, “What else is new.”

The reason for this thinking is that last year the Steelers deployed Hilton at safety more than once during training camp, but that was the extent of their experimentation. For most, Hilton was always viewed as a safety valve at the position in case something happened to either Sean Davis or Terrell Edmunds.

With such a lack of depth at safety heading into 2019, it makes sense for Hilton to bounce around in the defensive secondary. After all, the more you can do the better you make the team.

But this year is different. Since taking over the slot cornerback role in 2017, Hilton has never really had anyone truly challenge his position. That is, until now. Cameron Sutton has been with the team for two seasons now, but is having his best training camp to date, and if he can duplicate the coverage and ball skills he is showing in practice onto the preseason playing field, it will be difficult for the Steelers to keep him off the field.

But this also speaks about Hilton’s versatility. Hilton isn’t just flexing back to safety just for kicks, but according to teammates he can play the position well.

“Oh, he can play it,” strong safety Terrell Edmunds told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He’s a hard worker who puts everything on the line for his team. A guy who’s willing and able to do anything. He can play multiple positions.”

But maybe this isn’t about one or the other, but rather both. There is a very good chance the Steelers can use both Hilton and Sutton in their dime sub package, as well as any other defensive formation which would require another defensive back to enter the field, last year the Steelers referred to this as their “dollar” defense.

Hilton ended the season on a low note last year. Dealing with an injury, he seemed to be targeted more and more as the season progressed. It could have been viewed the opposition was looking for his matchup and exploiting it on a regular basis. But the team still has faith in their slot cornerback, even though Hilton didn’t get the long-term contract he desired prior to this season.

“He’s one of the best slot corners in the game,” wide receiver Donte Moncrief, and former Ole Miss teammate of Hilton, said.

Regardless, Hilton shows up to work every day with a chip on his shoulder, looking to get better in some way.

“I just go in every day with a chip on my shoulder,” Hilton said. “It’s a job. You don’t produce and they will find somebody else. So I have to focus on what I can do to get better and help this defense win games.

“It’s Year 3 for me. I had better have a better feel for the defense and feel more comfortable and have more confidence. That’s what will guide me.”

Fans will debate who could/should play at certain positions, but it is safe to say all fans can agree on the fact if both Hilton and Sutton can play at a high level, you can never have too many good defensive backs. That is a problem the Steelers haven’t had in the Mike Tomlin era.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for their first preseason game this Friday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to Heinz Field in Preseason Week 1.

Rookie TE Zach Gentry feeling the effects of the NFL learning curve

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/04/2019 - 11:17am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie tight end is learning how different the NFL game is compared to college.

The Pittsburgh Steelers needed help at the tight end position heading into the 2019 season, and they failed to make any significant moves in that department. They let Jesse James depart via free agency to the Detroit Lions, didn’t sign a free agent at the position and ignored tight end until they drafted Zach Gentry out of Michigan in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Realistic fans understood the gravity of going into a season with Vance McDonald as your TE1 on the depth chart, Xavier Grimble as TE2 and an untested rookie as a possible TE3. But as Gentry is learning, his spot on the 53-man roster is anything but certain at this point. The learning curve from college football to the NFL is often steep.

“There’s obviously a learning curve when you’re first coming in, especially with a guy as tall as me,” Gentry told Hunter Homistek of DKPittsburghSports after Day 6 of training camp. “So I’ve really had to focus on getting my pad level down and firing out ... I know everybody always says the same thing, but it’s the speed and physicality. It’s just the next step up in every single way. People are not lying when they say that, for sure.”

However, despite the learning curve, Gentry feels as if he is getting better every day with the help of teammates and coaches. After all, for someone who is 6-feet 9-inches tall, getting your pad level low isn’t always the easiest task. Sure, this is something coaches and fans will say with confidence regarding how a player should play, but sometimes it is easier said than done.

“First couple practices, like I said, I needed to get my pads lower,” Gentry said. “I needed to kind of get used to getting down low and firing off a little harder. [But I’m] definitely getting better at that every day.”

For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume Gentry’s struggles result in him not making the team. Who would be the third tight end on the roster? Would they possibly go into the season with just two tight ends? Highly doubtful.

Kevin Rader
Christian Scotland-Williamson
Trevor Wood

Those are the other names of players who could fill the TE3 spot on the depth chart if Gentry fails to get the job done and make the team. Either way, Gentry’s struggles, or successes, don’t mitigate the team’s overall lack of depth at the position, and blatant unwillingness to address it this offseason.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the black-and-gold as they prepare for their first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field next Friday.

Is ‘Seven Shots’ the only drill the Steelers practice at training camp?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/04/2019 - 9:46am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Seven Shots drill. What is it, and why do the Steelers practice it so much at training camp?

When I was a wee little lad—we’re talking toddler age—and football was on the old television screen, I seriously thought those behemoths (well, for the mid-1970’s, anyway) played on a field that was infinite in length.

You couldn’t blame my little mind for that. After all, the only thing I could see on my screen (well, my mom’s screen, I didn’t have a job) was about 30 yards of field that just kept going and going like a conveyor belt. I didn’t know touchdowns. I didn’t know stadiums.

Thankfully, I soon grew up and realized that touchdowns existed, and they were the most glorious part of football.

As I heard stories of Steelers training camps from the 1980s, and the things that went on all the way out at mythical (at least to me at the time) Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., I actually believed all Chuck Noll did was make his players do the Oklahoma Drill over and over again. At least that’s what the highlights on the nightly sports report convinced me of. Two guys would knock heads on a simulated play until one of them was driven to the ground or the running back was knocked into next week. This often resulted in fights, with the players on the sidelines hooting and hollering because it wasn’t them. (Remember when players would fight at camp, and they didn’t have to convince everyone they were still cool with each other as if they were members of a boy band that was on the brink of breaking up?)

Fast-forward to today, 2019, and the now very popular training camp drill, Seven Shots. Is this the only drill the Steelers practice at camp? I ask this because that’s what Twitter tells me on a daily basis (multiple times each day, in fact).

True to its name, the drill consists of seven plays from the two-yard line. Whichever side—offense or defense—winds up with the most “wins” is declared the victor. I get to camp every other year or so, so I can’t remember if this is an actual goal line drill, where the defense has to worry about stopping the run, or if this is a different kind of deal, where the defenders must focus solely on the pass.

Since there is no touching of the quarterback at training camp, defenders can’t really stop him via the sack, so how does the defense ever win this drill?

I guess it can happen when the likes of Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph, Diontae Johnson and Trey Griffey are involved (no offense to them), but how can anyone ever stop Ben Roethlisberger from completing a pass in Seven Shots? I’m sure it happens, but it’s got to be quite rare. Defenders have a tough enough time stopping him when they can actually wreak havoc on his person. But a Big Ben who can scramble without the worry of being hit? Yikes.

Obviously, I understand this isn’t the only drill the Steelers practice at Latrobe, but why has it become so popular? Is it the state of modern football, where stopping offenses from actually driving down the field is now so rare that teams must prepare for the inevitable: First and goal?

I guess it makes sense when you think of it in that regard.

An offense can drive up and down the field all afternoon, but if it has to settle for too many field goals, this could lead to questions about goal line efficiency (see Todd Haley’s many years as offensive coordinator).

As for the defense, Joe Haden can stop Drew Brees all afternoon long, but this doesn’t mean he and his mates won’t have to stop him again at the goal line (see those two darn pass interference penalties from Week 16 of last year).

I’m not gonna lie, I spent many years (even this one) thinking Seven Shots was what they were calling those seven on seven drills the Steelers also seem to practice ad nauseam.

At any rate, now that I’m aware of the popularity of Seven Shots, it will give me something to look for when the Steelers take on the Buccaneers in the first preseason game next Friday night at Heinz Field.

But Roethlisberger (okay, Dobbs and Rudolph—who are we kidding?) better beware.

The defenders will get to hit back in any goal line situation that arises, and the offense will only get four shots to “win.”

5 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin after the Steelers’ limited contact practice Saturday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/04/2019 - 8:30am
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Tomlin answered questions from the media following the Steelers’ eighth practice.

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ eighth training camp practice on Saturday, head coach Mike Tomlin briefly took questions from the media. While not dressing in full pads following the physical practice of Friday night lights, Coach Tomlin was still asked questions about specific players as well as some open ended questions based on position groups. This list isn’t to suggest these players were the only ones who stood out, but more so about how Tomlin answered the questions.

Ben Roethlisberger

#Steelers Ben Roethlisberger didn’t practice again today. Coach Tomlin said it was done to give the other QBs more work, specifically the two-minute drill.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 3, 2019

After sitting out of practice Friday night, it was a surprise to see Ben Roethlisberger not participating for the second straight day. With 15 years in the NFL on his resume, it isn’t necessary for Roethlisberger to constantly practice this early in the preseason. In fact, it would be quite the surprise if Big Ben was in pads for either on the Steelers first two preseason games.

Coach Tomlin was asked about Roethlisberger missing two straight practices and if he was dealing with any sort of injury.

“Nah, we’re just creating more opportunities for guys like Mason and Josh, particularly with that 2-minute drill we did today. We’ve seen Ben in enough 2 minutes and he’s going to have an opportunity. But particularly when we push into preseason football, the guys that could be in position to execute Week 1 of the preseason or Week 2 of the preseason are the guys that need the reps.”

Anthony Chickillo

Vince Williams, Anthony Chickillo and Diontae Johnson (all banged up last night) here but not practicing today for Steelers.

— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 3, 2019

It’s odd for the Pittsburgh media to ask abut a player who did not practice due to injury and not mention his current status. Regardless, Anthony Chickillo was brought up to Mike Tomlin after practice. Chickillo has been one of the biggest beneficiaries from T.J. Watt’s injury with him being with the first-team defense most of the time he takes the practice field.

Coach Tomlin was asked about if he has seen an improvement in Chickillo after he underwent a medical procedure on this foot earlier this offseason.

“I don’t want to make too much out of it. He’s highly conditioned, he’s worked really hard, he’s in great shape, and I attribute any rise in production or activity to that.”

Tomlin was asked a follow up question about the benefit of Chickillo getting a lot of reps with the first team defense.

“Big time. I think all these guys are searching for that and all will have the opportunity to get it at some point I’m sure.”

Derrek Thomas

New CB Thomas with a nifty 1-handed INT. #dkps #Steelers

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) August 3, 2019

There is not a lot of information out of camp about the newest Pittburgh Steeler signed Thursday after practice. Derrek Thomas apparently had an impressive interception Friday night in his first action in black and gold. The undrafted rookie cornerback out of Baylor is 6’ 3” 200lbs. so his size alone will have him stand out among the cornerbacks.

Coach Tomlin was asked if he had looked at anything specific about Thomas going into the draft and if he’s impressed with his size.

“I did not. Man, he’s an impressive looking dude, isn’t he? He looks the part. He made a play or two. We’ll just keep infusing him into the process. You've got to tip your cap to guys who get on the moving train and play catch-up. We work hard to create an environment that gives them an opportunity to do so, but it’s a daunting task nonetheless.”

Vance McDonald

Dobbs had consecutive completions of 14 yards to JuJu, 18 yards to McDonald and a 20-yard touchdown pass to JuJu when working the two-minute drill today. Took only three plays to drive 52 yards down the field. #Steelers

— Blitzburgh (@Steel_Curtain4) August 4, 2019

To say the depth of the tight end position for the Steelers is a concern is a bit of an understatement. With Xavier Grimble sidelined Saturday with an undisclosed injury, the depth chart gets even shakier. While Vance McDonald continues to shine, he has not been a stellar example of health for the Steelers throughout his first two seasons with the team.

Coach Tomlin was asked about his thoughts on the tight end group and if anyone has stuck out to this point.

“Again, (it’s) early in the process. I like Vance McDonald, but you guys know that.”

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Dobbs leads a drill with 1:39 & 1 TO with passes to Juju then McDonald then a pretty deep TD to Juju over Nelson.

“That was a combat catch Johnny,” Tomlin said after. “Nice combat from both sides.”#Steelers #dkps

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) August 3, 2019

It’s no surprise to Steelers fans that JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the most beloved players in training camp. Between pulling in passes, signing autographs which turn into tattoos, and helping with gender reveal‘s, JuJu’s attitude and youthful enthusiasm is contagious. On Saturday, he even had a special guest join him for training camp: his dog Boujee.

Just running routes with Boujee.@TeamJuJu | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/pzAWLZxvnt

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 3, 2019

After Coach Tomlin surprisingly answered an open ended question about a particular position group, he was asked about his young receiving corp and if anyone is standing out.

“Again, I like JuJu Smith-Schuster. It was a pretty good catch down in the corner, wasn’t it? We like the pool of guys we’re working with. Some of their resume’s may be short, but we like the pool of guys. We like the trajectory of the group, and we look forward to those guys being big-time contributors to our efforts.”

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

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following today's practice. https://t.co/cPhGInjMcF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 3, 2019

Steelers 2019 Training Camp Recap: ‘Boring’ practice capped with two-minute drills

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/04/2019 - 7:16am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had over a week of training camp practices under their belt now, and while there are times it is still considered “football in shorts”, the team has had plenty of news coming from these workouts.

After a very physical Friday night lights practice, Mike Tomlin and company decided to have the players not wear pads on Saturday. This caused the practice to seem slower, less intense and as Mike Tomlin called it ‘boring’ at times.

However, it wasn’t like there wasn’t news coming from Saint Vincent College as the players continue to work, and prepare, for their first preseason game next Friday at Heinz Field when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town.

The highlight of Saturday’s practice wasn’t the physicality of backs-on-backers, but the two minute drill. Ben Roethlisberger was given a second day off, and it wasn’t due to a nagging injury, but to give Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges more repetitions during practice.

The results of the two minute drill work varied depending on the quarterback.

This per Chris Carter of DKPittsburghSports:

Dobbs leads a drill with 1:39 & 1 TO with passes to Juju then McDonald then a pretty deep TD to Juju over Nelson.

“That was a combat catch Johnny,” Tomlin said after. “Nice combat from both sides.”#Steelers #dkps

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) August 3, 2019

Rudolph’s 2 minute drill comes up short. Struggled early but caught on after a few completions. Had a turnover on downs 4 yards short of the goal line. #Steelers #dkps

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) August 3, 2019

Let’s get to some other news which took place during Saturday’s practice:

No pads Saturday

Friday Night Lights at Latrobe High School stadium is a special occasion for everyone involved. The fans get the experience of watching their favorite NFL team under the lights, and the players get a flashback to their High School days. Add all of it together and it makes sense why the practice is usually one of the more physical practices of training camp.

Because of this, Saturday’s practice was non-padded, and slow, compared to previous workouts.

Steelers players beginning to make their way down to the field for practice. Today will be a non-padded practice after Friday night lights. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 3, 2019

Mike Tomlin after a Steelers practice that was BORING (slow, no pads, many stars sitting out, lotsa special teams) -- UNTIL the 2-min drills at the end.https://t.co/m8FEHNUQst

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 3, 2019

Walking wounded update

The list of those dealing with nagging injuries isn’t necessarily growing, but is certainly fluctuating. Some are returning to practice, while others remain sidelined with their respective injuries.

Check the latest updates:

Still no TJ Watt or Chickillo practicing. Dupree is back. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 3, 2019

Diontae Johnson not doing individual passing drills after injuring his hip Friday night. pic.twitter.com/8tXZddG59Y

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 3, 2019

Roethlisberger not practicing today. Moncrief is back out there. Two days off in a row for Roethlisberger #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 3, 2019

Vince Williams and Artie Burns not practicing today #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 3, 2019

7 Shots

For those who are keeping tabs, the offense won again, and has yet to lose this drill to the defense. Great news for the prospects of another year with a good red-zone offense, or concerning about the state of the defense?

Shots for #Steelers camp goes to offense 4-3 today.

Rudolph goes 3-4 with TDs to Grimble, Snell and Juju and a coverage sack.

Hodges goes 1-3 with drops from Scotland-Williamson and Spencer. But a TD to Washington besting Allen won the day. #Dkps

— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) August 3, 2019

Sunday’s practice will be the Family Fest practice and will be held at Heinz Field at 6:30 p.m. ET. There is a small fee to attend the practice.

VIDEOS

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following today's practice. https://t.co/cPhGInjMcF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 3, 2019

Jason Gildon talks about being back in Latrobe, his memories at #SteelersCamp, what to expect in our first preseason game and more. pic.twitter.com/a3cRd6kdxm

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 4, 2019

4️⃣8️⃣@Bud_Dupree pic.twitter.com/STzFu28ir7

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 3, 2019

Go get it. pic.twitter.com/Rm5Wl8IYoh

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 3, 2019

It's a perfect day for some @_Dbush11 | @__bELIeve17 pic.twitter.com/KFz8eRF3kg

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 3, 2019

Heading to practice like @TeamJuJu pic.twitter.com/M8UhjZYFuQ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 3, 2019

Just running routes with Boujee.@TeamJuJu | #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/pzAWLZxvnt

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 3, 2019 PHOTOS

Making every rep count. #SteelersCamp pic.twitter.com/QjqQYxgyEQ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 4, 2019

They didn’t let Vince Williams participate in the first “Backs-on-‘Backers.” He dominated in the second. pic.twitter.com/5cHx3G9Y7i

— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) August 3, 2019

Ken Griffey Sr. was in town to check up on Trey Griffey, to chat with wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, and to play the role of proud grandfather. pic.twitter.com/0wVXpwK2Df

— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) August 3, 2019

A Letter from the BTSC Deputy Editor: Changing personnel, but running the same play

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/04/2019 - 6:07am
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A change in BTSC staff should still bring the same great Steelers content

In the offseason, seven months can seem like an eternity. While we are on the cusp of watching our beloved Steelers take the field against an opponent wearing a completely different colored jersey, it has been a long journey through a meaningless playoffs of winter, the “new life” to the team through the spring, and the hot grind of summer practices. The wait is almost over.

It was almost exactly seven months ago when I addressed the readers of Behind The Steel Curtain as the new community manager. Since then I have become a regular on The Steelers Preview podcast, filled in as needed on the other BTSC family of podcasts when needed, and last week had the debut of my own show: Steelers Stat Geek. Even though my first article was only published on September 1, 2018, I really felt that I had been quickly adopted into the BTSC family with all the benefits of being a part of such a passionate and well-informed community.

When I received a call from BTSC editor Jeff Hartman last week to inform me Simon Chester had accepted a position with Pro Football Focus, my first thought was about getting inside information to help with my statistics-driven articles. Little did I realize Jeff wanted to discuss with me the possibility of taking over the deputy editor duties. While it was a great honor to be offered the position, I knew how much work Simon put into Behind The Steel Curtain and the commitment it would take. After discussing the idea with my family, and making sure I could still attend several games each season, my wife helped to seal the deal when she told me, “You’re going to be doing Steelers’ stuff every free moment you have anyway, so you might as well have it be more of your job.”

In regards to the content on Behind The Steel Curtain, I want readers to first understand that I am not Simon Chester, nor will I ever be Simon Chester. If my goal is to simply become the next Simon, I will fail miserably. All I can do is be Dave Schofield and to, as Mike Tomlin would say, “jump on the moving train” and “get better along the journey.”

Our goal at BTSC is still give you the same great content. One thing you will see is an increase in the number of articles with my name on it, if you pay attention to those sorts of things. I am hoping to continue to do some statics articles each week. With at least 90% of the time associated with some of my former articles being devoted to research, I will have to be very selective with the topics I will have time to dive into on a regular basis.

One new feature I hope to bring each week during the regular season is a “BTSC Betting” article where I select several NFL games and have readers pick the game which they would like to place a hypothetical wager against the spread. Based of voting, imaginary bets will be placed of various amounts and results will be tracked for the season to see how the BTSC community would fare in the sports betting world.

I will also be bringing another giveaway during the season for a signed David DeCastro football. The details of the contest were supposed to be announced this past week on The Steelers Preview, but a delay due to technical difficulties has pushed the announcement back. Stay tuned to both the BTSC family of podcasts and an article to outline the details of the contest.

With the added responsibilities of the deputy editor position, I have decided to step down as community manager of BTSC. With the time it takes to produce the necessary content for the site, I was concerned with giving the proper attention to the responsibility of upholding the standards of the Behind The Steel Curtain community. Effective August 1, another BTSC moderator took over the community manager duties. Username “SNW” has been a very active moderator since I took over the job and will slide into the position with most users having no idea a change occurred.

The new community manager wants to remind all BTSC users they are the best moderators we have and to use the flag option to better serve us. Flagging a comment is a much better way to deal with issues than engaging in an argument as every flagged comment will be checked by a moderator. SNW has been reading nearly every comment for as long as he’s been a member, so the community manager position will just be a continuation of his already established membership.

On a final note, I am exited about my new role in helping deliver some of the best Steelers content available to fans. As Jeff Hartman says, “Behind The Steel Curtain is truly your one stop shop for all Pittsburgh Steelers news.”

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