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2019 NFL Draft: 5 intriguing prospects the Steelers should target in the NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 7:51am

The Pittsburgh Steelers should keep their eye on these prospects as the 2019 NFL Draft gets closer.

The NFL Draft is in like four weeks, so I feel like I ought to write something about it. Below, in no particular order, is a compilation of draft prospects who I would very much enjoy seeing on the Steelers. First, though, some important considerations:

  • I am not a Draft Knower or Tape Watcher so I won’t waste a second of your time pretending to be. As such, this blog will be devoid of cutesy scouting vernacular, which at times borders on pornographic (Strengths: “He is gifted with velvety, pliable hips and a thick lower half, which enables him to aggressively penetrate the offensive front, compromising their protection; Large, firm, and active hands dangle from his veiny upper musculature; Impressive burst.”)
  • I am an avid fan of college football, but my familiarity with specific players is virtually confined to those who attended Power Five schools. Thus, while I am aware that Delaware safety Nasir Adderley and Louisiana Tech edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson are highly regarded prospects, I’ve never seen either one play, so I’m not gonna assemble a piecemeal “scouting report” based on recycled intel from Mel Kiper Jr.

Having said all that, if you haven’t already fallen headlong into the violent tornado of pre-draft conjecture, I invite you throw on a light jacket, festoon your desktop in tulips, and inject these forthcoming sports takes intravenously.

Devin Bush, inside linebacker, Michigan

Context free statistic: In 25 games as a starter for the Wolverines, Bush notched 10 sacks. That’s solid production from an inside linebacker who was asked to play myriad roles within Jim Harbaugh’s vaunted defense.

Most impressive physical metric: Bush’s 4.43 40-yard dash jumps off the page, but notable, too, is his insane 40-inch vertical. At 5-foot-11, Devin Bush can almost certainly dunk a basketball with ease; I, who is likewise 5-foot-11, touched the rim one time back in college.

Fun fact: Bush’s father, Devin Sr., played eight seasons in the NFL for the Falcons, Rams, and Browns. He won a ring with the Rams.

Why the Steelers need him: Last offseason, the Steelers signed Jon Bostic not only to solid the molecule-thin linebacking corps, but to play meaningful snaps opposite the incumbent Vince Williams. This transaction was confounding at the time—Bostic, despite a productive campaign with the Colts in 2017, is essentially a Vince Williams clone, which is to say that he’s a decent enough run defender but represents a non-entity in coverage—and it looks even worse in retrospect given that Bostic spent much of the second act of the 2018 season parked on the bench, specifically because of the aforementioned coverage liabilities. Williams is a sufficient two-down thumper, and as an early-down pass rusher, but the Steelers need an speedy linebacker who can fly around solo on nickel downs, chase down runners and receivers short of the line to gain, and break up passes downfield. Bush’s physical capabilities make him an ideal candidate to be this linebacker. Ideally, Bush would split time with newly-minted Steeler Mark Barron with an eye on assuming this role full-time in the near future.

Deandre Baker, defensive back, Georgia

Fun fact that carries major significance: Baker played in 36 games for the Bulldogs during his career; from his tenth game onward, opposing receivers matched up against Baker scored precisely zero touchdowns. During the two-year stretch in which Baker held Division 1 competition scoreless, he faced off against some of the most formidable receivers in the NCAA, including potential first-rounder Marquise Brown, future first-rounder Jerry Jeudy, and current Falcons star Calvin Ridley. I’m spitballing, but Baker’s collegiate dominance should plainly demonstrate that he possesses the necessary technical proficiency to improve the prospects of whatever team is lucky enough to draft him.

Obvious “weaknesses” that will unfailingly tank Baker’s draft stock: Scouts, much like choosey suburban mean girls, will undoubtedly check Baker’s measurements and think “Ugh, I wish he was six-feet.” Baker I suppose can be considered kinda small (he’s 5-foot-11 and a double protein Chipotle bowl shy of 200 pounds), especially for a player destined to ply his trade as an outside cornerback, but that should not overshadow the fact that he held opposing receivers scoreless for two years. My take: Had Baker ran a better 40 (he 4.52 at the combine), he’d be the consensus top cornerback prospect.

Why the Steelers need him: Because Artie Burns still plays for the Steelers.

Marquise Brown, receiver, Oklahoma

Fact of which you are almost certainly apprised by now: Brown is the cousin of erstwhile Steeler (and forever my GOAT) Antonio Brown.

Weight: 166 pounds.

166 pounds?: 166 pounds.

My god. And he’s a presumed first-round prospect?: Indeed he is. Statistics for receivers playing in the Big 12 should always be taken with a grain of salt, but Brown posted back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2017 and 2018 and averaged a hilariously prolific 18.2 yards per reception in his career. He has immediate upside as a downfield vertical threat, and going to an organization with a proven infrastructure for cultivating receiving talent should enable him to develop into a more complete receiver. You can teach a receiver to run correct routes; the innate game-breaking aptitude that earns one the moniker “Hollywood” cannot be learned.

Why the Steelers need him: What’s great about JuJu Smith-Schuster is that he’s good at basically everything: he can make difficult catches along the sideline and in traffic, he’s sturdy enough to break tackles and set blocks, and he’s a crafty route runner. He feasted last season, catching 111 passes for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns, which, when considered in a vacuum, affirms his preeminence. But its worth bearing in mind that, last season, Smith-Schuster played opposite Antonio Brown, one of the four or five offensive skill position players in the NFL who are impossible to game plan against. This is all a roundabout way of saying that, yes, JuJu Smith-Schuster rules very hard, but it is downright irresponsible to overlook the manifold ways in which the mere presence of Antonio Brown worked to his benefit. None of this is to suggest that Marquise Brown will be the next Antonio Brown or that he’ll even be a fitting proxy (Marquise reminds me of Desean Jackson, who is a marvelous receiver but bears not even a passing resemblance to Antonio Brown); however, I think someone like Brown—in other words, a deep-threat and open-field virtuoso—will help alleviate any added defensive pressure Smith-Schuster stands to endure as a result of AB’s departure. Correspondingly, the presence of Smith-Schuster should divert attention from Brown, allowing Brown to fill his plate and eat, too. Because, of course, if there’s one area in which the Steelers thrive, it’s maintaining a harmonious workplace...

Clear 10 minutes from your schedule and watch this clip of Brown utterly jugulating opposing secondaries:

Mack Wilson, inside linebacker, Alabama

So, wait, one of your favorite players is an inside linebacker who is almost unanimously decried in scouting circles for missing too many tackles?: This is correct.

And you have watched the Steelers over, I don’t know, the past five seasons?: Yes, indeed I have.

Why the Steelers need him: Because Mack checks all the boxes for what teams look for in a prototypical modern linebacker: he can run sideline-to-sideline; he can cover running backs and tight ends; he’s demonstrated an innate aptitude for creating turnovers (he picked off six passes over the course of his career); he’s an eager tackler. The concerns about the missed tackles are valid, because Mack does oftentimes try to rip ballcarriers in half as opposed to simply wrapping him up, but he improve his technique and relearn tendencies with rigorous coaching and a not insignificant amount of trial and error.

Amani Oruwariye, defensive back, Penn State

I am a despicable Penn State fan, so I am actually somewhat qualified to offer a baseline analysis by dint of my familiarity with watching him play on Saturdays.

Positives: Oruwariye is big (6-foot-1, 205 pounds), agile (6.82 three-cone and 4.16 20-yard shuttle—those marks ranked highly among defensive backs tested at the scouting combine), and knows how to find the ball once it’s in the air. He was absurdly productive during his career at Penn State, intercepting nine passes and defending another 20, which also highlights his plus ball skills and and playmaking acumen. Although Oruwariye isn’t, like, an amazing tackler, he usually wraps his man up and he’s particularly effective in run support, closing off edges on the outside and blasting through open gaps to suss out ballcarriers and prevent chunk rushing plays.

Negatives: He got beat a lot on vertical and deep crossing routes, which is not the kind of report you wanna see attached to a prospective Steelers corner and is also the sort of thing that might indicate Oruwariye’s success at the next level may be somewhat dependent on the scheme in which he’s deployed.

Why the Steelers need him: The Steelers frequently utilize zone defense, and Oruwariye, in my opinion, is the best zone corner available. This, from Penn State’s game against Iowa last season. Specifically, watch how Oruwariye drops into coverage, anticipates this throw, and breaks on the ball.

This is a great play! The Steelers need to enlist cornerbacks who can make plays like this.

What do you think of this prospect list? Who did I leave off? Who shouldn’t be on the list? Feel free to comment in the comment section below!

Steelers announce 2019 offseason schedule for OTAs and minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 6:45am

The Steelers are just weeks away from the start of their offseason training program with OTAs scheduled to begin on April 15

While the Pittsburgh Steelers are currently focused on the NFL Draft, they are only a few weeks away from the start of their offseason training program, announcing the dates for organized team activities and their mandatory minicamp in 2019 on Monday.

As per the rules of the CBA, the offseason is effectively broken down into three stages, with phase one running for two weeks from April 15 this year. Activities during this period are limited to strength and conditioning training only or rehabilitation for players with injuries and are also limited to just four hours a day. The NFLPA breaks down phase one as follows:

Two weeks | Limited to strength and conditioning activities (“dead ball”); only strength and conditioning coaches allowed on field*

90 minute max on the field

Clubs can only specify 2 hours for players to be at the facility

Players choose the other 2 hours for weights, etc.

Phase two for Pittsburgh will begin on April 29 and will run for three weeks. During this time, the Steelers can conduct on-field workouts and drills, but no live contact is allowed. This is also the first time players selected in the 2019 draft will meet many of their new teammates, with Pittsburgh allowed to hold a three-day rookie minicamp during this phase. One that must be held within two weeks of the draft ending. Limited to four hours a day, these are the rules of phase two as per the NFLPA:

Three weeks | same rules as phase one apply except:

All coaches allowed on the field

Individual and “perfect play” drills allowed

No offense vs. defense, no one - on - one, no helmets

Phase three will run from May 21 until June 6, with Pittsburgh set to hold 10 voluntary training sessions that can include team offense versus team defense activities as part of 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills. Live contract is still not permitted during this stage and each day can last no more than six hours. Phase three OTA rules as per the NFLPA:

4 weeks total

3 weeks for 10 total OTA’s

A maximum of 3 OTA’s each week for the first 2 weeks

During Weeks 1 & 2 a 4th non OTA workout is allowed but phase two rules apply

A maximum of 4 OTA’s for the 3rd or 4th week

One week for mini camp

No pads except protective knee and elbow pads, helmets are permitted

No live contact

7 on 7, 9 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills will be permitted provided no live contact takes place

Dates of Steelers OTAs in 2019
  • OTA #1 - Tuesday, May 21
  • OTA #2 - Wednesday, May 22
  • OTA #3 - Thursday, May 23
  • OTA #4 - Tuesday, May 28
  • OTA #5 - Wednesday, May 29
  • OTA #6 - Thursday, May 30
  • OTA #7 - Monday, June 3
  • OTA #8 - Tuesday, June 4
  • OTA #9 - Wednesday, June 5
  • OTA #10 - Thursday, June 6

Phase three also includes a mandatory three day minicamp that will run from June 11 until June 13 and can last upto 10 hours a day. Phase three minicamp rules as per the NFLPA:

Physicals on Monday but no practice

Practices Tuesday-Thursday, with a day off on friday

Allowed two practices totaling 3 ½ Hours on the field per day

Second practice limited to walk through activities only

With the exception of the Steelers minicamp in June, the rest of their offseason training program is voluntary. However, all players are generally expected to attend, and with few exceptions over the years, most normally do take part, even if some are less active than others.

Podcast: Mike Tomlin needs to do less talking

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 5:34am

In a brand new show titled ‘Yeah, I said it’, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been inundated with talking the last few months.

Antonio Brown wants traded, slanders the entire organization on his way out.

Le’Veon Bell continues to believe he is a rapper, and raps about the Steelers on his way out.

Kevin Colbert releases statements and speaks to the media about Ben Roethlisberger’s leadership abilities.

Mike Tomlin speaks to the media on all that went on through free agency, and drama which constantly surrounds the team.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

So much talking it can be exhausting.

The Steelers would benefit from less talking, and more doing, and this could, and should, start at the very top. Yes, Mike Tomlin...the man who should just stop talking.

This is where the newest BTSC podcast “Yeah, I Said It” comes in. My co-host on ‘The Standard is the Standard’, Lance Williams, talks about why Tomlin needs to lead by example and just keep quiet.

Lance is the perfect man for the job, and delivers the goods in the latest show.

Check out the audio below:

Feel free to give us your thoughts on the topic in the comment section below, and don’t forget to follow us on all our audio platforms by following the links below:

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

Black and Gold Links: Will the Steelers have to regain their winning culture after tough offseason?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 4:36am

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

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

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether the Steelers will be successful in regaining their winning culture after a tumultuous offseason.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Antonio Brown is gone. Le’Veon Bell is gone. But is the winning culture in Pittsburgh gone?

Steelers look to regenerate winning culture after lost season

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

...No culture has been more dissected than that of the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is curious against the backdrop of the franchise’s historic success and stability: six Super Bowls, three head coaches since 1969, no losing seasons since 2003. Mike Tomlin’s .654 win percentage is second to that of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick since 2007.

Fair or not, the issues over the last six months have influenced perception about what’s going on in Pittsburgh’s locker room. Le’Veon Bell’s yearlong holdout raised questions about the team’s approach to negotiations with star players. Analysts and fans are accusing Tomlin of leniency with stars in light of Antonio Brown skipping work in Week 17 and requesting a trade. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is taking heat from former teammates for his leadership tactics...

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Antonio Brown isn’t just inspiring young athletes, he wants to inspire millionaires too.

Antonio Brown: I want to inspire people to do better business

By: Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk

Brown says he hopes to use his social media presence to help people understand their own worth and how to maximize their earnings.

“I want to encourage and inspire people on how to do better business,” Brown told Complex.com. “Talk about 1099s and the NFL and Nike and some of these companies only paying me five percent of my royalties. With my jersey sales, [which are] No. 5 in the NFL, the NFL pays me a million dollars at five percent. How much more are the NFL and Nike making off of me? That’s an extra 9 or 10 million [dollars]. So we’re just going to be educating people on things because I think the public is so outdated with information.”

Brown does not think, however, that many other players are going to be able to take control of their situations the way he did.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Le’Veon Bell’s rap career isn’t for me. Personally, I think it is awful, but some might enjoy it. Nonetheless, his newest release rips the Steelers...so there is that.

Le’Veon Bell’s rap rips Steelers. Then, an NFL star ripped him.

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The new Jets running back released a clip of his new single named “Free At Last.” That’s in reference to Bell’s thinking that he’s been held prisoner by the Steelers, and his apparent belief — based on his social media activity — that he is the Martin Luther King, Jr. of running backs.

As you may expect, it’s saturated with self-aggrandizement and bragging about his exit from the Steelers. Some lyrics I’ve been able to decipher from what Twitter describes as “mumble rap” go like this:

• “They ain’t signing me back, but they gotta pay for it, too.”

• “I gotta stick it and move.”

• “They got control over you … They gonna put you through some bull (radio edit) if they able. They gonna work you and work you and underpay you. I told ‘em (radio edit) it, I’m outie just like a navel.”

I’m totally guessing on that last line. But I think I got it right. I really do. “I’m outtie just like a navel.”

To read the full article, click HERE

Around the AFC North Social Media Stuff

One of our personal favorites.#AprilFoolsDay | #SBXL pic.twitter.com/lQ6vBmymhI

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 2, 2019

JUST RELEASED: 2019 Steelers Draft Hats!

Show the world you are a Steelers fan inside and out! Pittsburgh flag-inspired design on the front and a patch of the city flag inside!

Shop today for free shipping on all hats https://t.co/85rU4xgm4H pic.twitter.com/w5t4SKlkGS

— Steelers Pro Shop (@SteelersShop) April 2, 2019

SB Nation Live Mock Draft: The Steelers round out their roster in Rounds 4-7

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 2:33pm

The Live Community mock draft ended, and it is time to see who the Steelers were able to draft in the latest mock draft.

Over the past weekend the 2019 SB Nation Live Mock Draft finished the remainder of the draft, completing rounds 4-7. It is time to take a look at the previous picks before we jump into the final 4 rounds.

Round 1 pick 20- Greedy Williams CB LSU

Round 2 pick 52- Deebo Samuel WR South Carolina

Round 3 pick 66- Taylor Rapp SS Washington

Round 3 pick 83 - Blake Cashman ILB Minnesota

Now let’s dive head-first into the final three rounds of the draft, and who the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to obtain with who was available...

Round 4 pick 122 - Daylon Mack NT Texas A&M

There were a few surprises in Round 4, but I was happy to see Daylon Mack make it to the Steelres’ at 122. The Texas A&M Nose Tackle is coming off a break out year for the Aggies. There was a coaching change in 2018 and some citing that Jimbo Fisher got the best out of the big man. He may never become Casey Hampton, because that guy was special, but he possesses the same run stuffing traits. Nothing personal against Big Dan McCullers, but this guy could provide what he didn’t.

There was a trade! I took the fifth round pick 141 that the Steelers received in the Antonio Brown trade and turned it into two picks in the fifth. I also gave up 192 and 207 to make the deal, that was the pick received in the Marcus Gilbert to Arizona deal.

Round 5 pick 147 - Dax Raymond TE Utah

With Jesse James off to Detroit, Pittsburgh needed to at least address the tight end position in the draft. Raymond is a work in progress in terms of blocking but is a better RAC guy compared to James. Very soft hands with a large catch radius, ability to get low and pull the ball off the ground. He needs better footwork in getting in and out of some routes. The one red flag is his age, 24.

Round 5 pick 158 - Justice Hill RB Oklahoma State

Justice Hill will be looked at as a third down change of pace back. Will be great in space and not a liability in pass protection. He will need to improve, but so did James Conner. Has some wiggle and the term slippery has been attached. Not the greatest of hands, but that can be worked on but does have the intelligence and intelligence to slide into open spaces as a safety valve.

Round 6 pick 175 - David Sills WR West Virginia

Many may complain here with this pick but with the loss of AB we have to account for double digit touchdowns. I’m on record as saying that we may need more help than what we currently have on the roster. On paper it may look fine but there are questions. Sills lacks elite athleticism and speed but has an uncanny ability to make catches and make catches for scores. Has some drop issues but considering he is still new to the position, was a former QB, I give some lee way there. The production is undeniable in his last two years at WVU, 1800+ yards and 33 touchdowns. I figured worth a shot in round six.

Round 7 pick 233 Jimmy Moreland CB JMU Round 7 pick 244 Josiah Tauaefa LB UTSA

Another trade back from 219 to pick up a couple of extra picks

What do you think of the Steelers’ predicted haul from the 2019 NFL Draft? Would you be happy with the picks, or would you have gone in a different direction? Let us know in the comment section below!

Steelers met with Washington safety Taylor Rapp at his pro day on Monday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 1:30pm

The Steelers continue to evaluate the safety class in 2019, with Taylor Rapp the latest player at the position to meet with the team.

With only a handful of school left to host their pro day events this offseason this week, it had been expected that the Pittsburgh Steelers might have a significant presence at the University of Washington Pro Day to see notable prospects like Byron Murphy. But while there was no sign of names like Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert on campus on Monday, it would appear that the Steelers had at least a couple of representatives on hand to watch the workouts.

Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout reported a full house in Washington, with Murphy likely the star attraction of the day, but it was safety Taylor Rapp that the Steelers were noted to be meeting with at the event. As per report a from Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst.

“Over the course of the past two days Rapp met one on one with the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Bucs, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.”

And another from Omar Ruiz of the NFL Network.

UW safety Taylor Rapp running his 40 here. Didn’t run at the combine while recovering from an in-season hip injury. He has upcoming visits w/the #Lions & #Cowboys, has met w/ the #Cardinals #Saints #Buccaneers #Raiders, & has meetings scheduled today w/ #Patriots & #Steelers pic.twitter.com/ss5yYgeH30

— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) April 1, 2019

Just a little bit of interest in Taylor Rapp’s 40-yard dash. #UWProDay pic.twitter.com/cOSlS4b5BB

— Rob Rang (@RobRang) April 1, 2019

High ranking NFL scout among those recording 40-yard dash times today had Taylor Rapp at 4.77, Myles Gaskin at 4.56.

— Rob Rang (@RobRang) April 1, 2019

By all accounts, Rapp disappointed those in attendance when he recorded a 4.77 40-time. This coming from Rang.

“Unfortunately for Rapp, a three-time all-Pac-12 pick, the answer he provided was more of a thud than an exclamation point, clocking a pair of mid 4.7 second 40-yard dash times that could leave his stock tumbling in a tightly packed safety class.”

How this impacts the Steelers evaluation is anyone's guess, but it should mean the safety stands a better chance of being available when Pittsburgh picks in Round 2 if they want him.

Although this scouting report from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network appears to indicate a player who may lack the coverage skills the Steelers need in the secondary.

“Taylor Rapp is a bit of a throwback, he has terrific skills in run support and it’s easy to fall in love with his motor and splash plays in pursuit. But in coverage, Rapp presents several concerns, primarily surrounding his ability to cover the necessary ground to be an effective defender in either man or zone coverage. Rapp lacks mobility and short area change of direction skills, he’s going to be a more effective presence in the box as compared to playing 12-15 yards off the ball.”

Steelers host Notre Dame WR Miles Boykin among group of five pre-draft visitors on Tuesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 11:55am

West Virginia LB David Long, Miami RB Travis Homer, Florida RB Jordan Scarlett and Ohio State RB Mike Weber rounded out the list of visitors to the Steelers facilities on Tuesday

The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted their second group on pre-draft visitors on Tuesday, welcoming another five prospects to team facilities to meet with the coaching staff. And following on from the theme of Monday, the players invited featured a number of offensive options once again.

Notre Dame wide receiver Miles Boykin might be the most notable name among the group this time around, joined on his visit by West Virginia linebacker David Long, Miami running back Travis Homer, Florida running back Jordan Scarlett and Ohio State RB Mike Weber. As per Bob Labriola of Steelers.com.

Tuesday's pre-draft visitors: LB David Long from WVU; WR Miles Boykin from Notre Dame; RB Travis Homer from Miami; RB Jordan Scarlett from Florida; RB MIke Weber from Ohio State

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) April 2, 2019

The Steelers have now met with six running backs in the last two days, a strong indicator that the position is under consideration for selection this year. But given the list of names they have met with in Pittsburgh, it appears that this need will be address at the end of the second-round, or more likely, early on Day 3 of the draft.

Scouting reports for all five players can be found below, along with a highlight video for each prospect.

WR, Miles Boykin, Notre Dame

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

“Lingering on his tape can cause excessive focus on his inconsistencies and areas of improvement, but projecting his traits with additional coaching makes more sense. Boykin’s size, length and athleticism offers exciting potential as an outside receiver with mismatch potential, but he will have to learn how to counter press, improve his routes and become more competitive when the ball is in the air. His size won’t matter if he doesn’t learn to impose it on others. If that happens, he’ll become an eventual starter with a high ceiling.”

LB, David Long, West Virginia

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

“Ultra-productive but undersized, teams will have to decipher how much of his production is translatable and how much came from his brazen, downhill approach. Long plays with a “scared money don’t make money” approach that hit jackpots but pulled him out of position more than NFL coaches will be comfortable, with, but teams would rather dial back aggression than try and coach it up. He plays with some twitch, but his lack of size and strength could push him into a role as a backup 4-3 WILL with eventual starter potential in the right scheme.”

RB, Jordan Scarlett, Florida

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

“Physical specimen with size, strength and foot quickness that lands in the NFL sweet spot for running backs. Scarlett can be frustrating to watch as he can be hesitant in the early stages of the run, but very fluid and elusive once he makes it to the second level. He can create for himself with wiggle and power, but his vision is subpar and he offers no third down value due to his dreadful hands. He has early Day 3 traits with the potential to find NFL carries, but potential character concerns could hurt his chances.”

RB, Mike Weber, Ohio State

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

“Adequately skilled runner with decent size who can get what is blocked but is unlikely to find his own yards often enough at the NFL level. Weber does a nice job of spying second-level linebackers and making lane choices relative to where the defensive flow is headed. However, even when he sees it, he struggles to access enough acceleration to rip past the first two levels of tacklers. He can make the initial tackler miss but doesn’t string moves together effectively. He could have a career cap as a RB3.”

RB, Travis Homer, Miami (FL)

Scouting report from Lance Zierline of NFL.com.

““Run to daylight” back who excels as an outside runner with clear paths to follow. While he can make tacklers miss, his lack of vision sometimes takes him to trafficked areas when optimal routes are available. He’s a little undersized, but runs big and he already possesses NFL-level toughness in pass protection. Homer has his flaws, but he’s a smooth athlete with a chance to outplay his draft slotting. His value as a punt gunner and third-down option gives him a chance for early reps right out of the gate.”

If Steelers are looking to replace Antonio Brown, Georgia WR Mecole Hardman believes he ‘could be that guy’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 10:45am

As a life-long Pittsburgh fan, the Georgia wide receiver has a suggestion on who the Steelers should take in the draft

With the loss of Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders this offseason, it seems reasonable to believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers might be in the market for another option at wide receiver via the draft this year. And if the Steelers are looking for suggestions, Georgia wideout Mecole Hardman has someone he could recommend.

When speaking with TMZ Sports, Hardman made it clear who his favorite NFL team was growing up, offering himself as the potential solution to Pittsburgh’s needs at receiver.

“My daddy was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so he had put me on them when Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu and all them were there. Big Ben was just getting there, so like, I’ve been rocking with the Steelers for a minute. I like to watch them play. So my daddy put me on and everyday I’ve been like a Steelers fan.”

When asked about the Steelers needs at his position since AB forced his way off the team, Hardman left no doubt that he could be the man to replace him.

“For sure they can, I could be that guy.”

One of the fastest receivers available in the draft, Hardman recorded a 4.33 40-time at the combine. Measuring in at 5-foot-10 and 183-pounds, scouts commend his athleticism and explosiveness, painting a picture of a player who has not come close to realizing his full potential having played in a limited system in college.

Hardman finished his career at Georgia with 60 receptions for 961 yards and 11 touchdowns. In his final year with the team, he recorded 35 receptions for 543 yards and scored seven touchdowns as a junior.

A scouting report from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network.

“Mecole Hardman is a dynamic receiving threat who brings great speed to the pro game, his short area quickness and burst are a deadly combination that make him a prominent threat in the right role. Hardman is going to need to live in the slot, where he can have the needed free releases and full 360 degrees of breaks at his disposal. Hardman is a natural ball carrier who can supplement his receiving game with special teams as a primary return player. Will be better pro vs. CFB player.”

It’s unfortunate Ben Roethlisberger might be giving up his weekly radio show

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 9:10am

Access to what a player—especially a franchise quarterback—is thinking is very rare. And this is why it is unfortunate that the mostly inaccessible Ben Roethlisberger will not be doing his weekly radio show in 2019.

In news that probably wasn’t a huge surprise considering how zany the Steelers offseason has been, it was reported over the weekend that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not be doing his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan during the 2019 season.

This was met with great joy by many Steelers fans who, no doubt, think Roethlisberger’s occasional national news-making comments uttered on his show were a huge distraction.

Actually, they were—in a good way (at least for the fans). That’s right, I like it. I like the access. I like the insights. I like a juicy tidbit or two. And it’s not because I’m a writer who benefits from these stories (I can show you how much my baiting for clicks helps my bank account). It’s because I love it when my favorite sports stars let me in—I crave it, actually. And, to tell you the truth, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t yearn for such things, yourself.

This isn’t life or death. This isn’t going to make or break our lives. At the end of the day, sports are there to entertain us. They exist to, as you’re often wont to say when the dreaded p-word collides with said entertainment, help us forget the mundane and stress of our daily existence.

Yet, fans often bristle at the juicy headlines, at those “distractions.” I’m honestly so sick of hearing about distractions as they pertain to sports franchises. In my not so humble (but very irritated) opinion, distractions are overrated. Do you genuinely think any sports team’s fate is decided by what a person posts on social media or says on his or her radio show? Do you seriously believe Maurkice Pouncey’s performance on Sunday is ever affected by some questions he had to answer about a teammate the Tuesday before?

Of course you do, and this is why fans are also often dead-set against their favorite football teams appearing on reality shows like HBO’s Hard Knocks, an annual series that captures the often very entertaining training camp exploits of players and coaches as they prepare for the upcoming regular season.

Obviously, the players and coaches—mainly, the coaches—never want to be a part of things like Hard Knocks, but we, the fans, should love it.

I want to see the human side of my favorite players and coaches. I want to hear them say some very real things and not just spout off adrenaline-induced cliches such as “This is why we play the game!!!!!!!!”

This is why I watch shows like America’s Game and A Football Life. This is why I go to the library and search for books pertaining to professional sports. This is why I often search Youtube looking for clips of “Mike Tomlin Mic’d Up.” I want a look inside. I want to see the drama. I want to see the personal relationships.

If I may use the p-word, the move was political by Roethlisberger, who no doubt felt an obligation to his teammates, many of whom were often brought up on his weekly show. Of course, nobody ever cared when Roethlisberger talked about his teammates in a positive light—something that was the reality 99 percent of the time. But the second he added a juicy tidbit involving Antonio Brown running a better route or Martavis Bryant stepping up his game for the playoffs, suddenly No. 7 was a bad teammate.

In-fact, Brown appeared to be so bothered by Roethlisberger’s “flatter route” comment following the Broncos game on November 25, it apparently was a huge factor in him catching the quickest flight to Oakland (and flipping Pittsburgh the double bird in the process).

Maybe Brown was bothered by his quarterback’s comments, but anyone who watched the receiver’s behavior evolve (or devolve) in recent years knows something was eventually going to cause him to act in such a loathsome way. To quote my old boss whenever someone said, you’re driving me crazy, “Short trip.”

What may be lost on everyone who is glad Roethlisberger’s show will be no more is how inaccessible he is the majority of the time. He’s never on social media, and if I’m not mistaken, he only speaks to reporters on Wednesdays during the regular season.

And this is why, when it was announced years ago that Roethlisberger would have his own radio show, I was pleasantly surprised. Let’s face it, your average player’s radio/TV show is the bastion of the backups and the regular Joe-type players. It’s like when you go to a Burn Notice Comic Con hoping to see star Jeffrey Donovan, while knowing deep down you'll get a couple of writers and the guy who played his money-laundering buddy, Barry. No offense to the guy who played Barry, but....we’d much rather have the star.

Tidbits from stars are just so much better.

For example, had it not been for Roethlisberger’s weekly radio show, we may never have known he was contemplating retirement following the 2016 season—it may have been something we only would have learned about in a book written two decades later.

Finally, Ben Roethlisberger’s radio show—along with those “distractions”—may now be a thing of the past, but I don’t think that’s a positive at all.

I think that’s a shame.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan confidence increasing throughout busy offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 7:53am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have uncharacteristically made a lot of moves this offseason, and the fan base feels they are moving in the right direction.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been unusually busy this offseason, both in getting rid of players as well as acquiring talent.

Gone are former staples Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Marcus Gilbert.

In are newcomers Steven Nelson, Donte Moncrief and Mark Barron.

Throughout the offseason, fans are keeping close tabs, as they always do, on the team and whether they see the arrow as rising, or falling. If you go back to the end of last season, it wasn’t pretty. In fact, according to our BTSC Steelers FanPulse results the fan base didn’t have much confidence on where the team was heading.

But as the offseason progresses, and even as those aforementioned players leave for new pastures, the fan base’s confidence is starting to rise slowly...check out the latest FanPulse data:

Confidence in the team at the end of 2018: 15% Confidence in the team: 56% Did the Steelers get better in Free Agency: 71% YES

At this point, this is where I want to hear from you. Not all of you are members of the BTSC Steelers Fan Pulse (you can be by clicking on the link below), so I want to ask you a couple questions regarding the Steelers, where they are headed and your overall satisfaction with how the offseason has panned out.

Be sure to vote in the polls below, explain yourself in the comment section and sign up for the FanPulse below!

Want to be a part of the SB Nation Fan Pulse for the Steelers? It is simple and takes just minutes a week! Click HERE to become a part of the BTSC Steelers Fan Pulse!

Report: Steelers set to host DB Ugo Amadi and LB Gary Johnson on pre-draft visits

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 6:45am

The Steelers will host two defensive prospects in the coming weeks according to reports released on Monday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted their first five prospects of the offseason at team facilities on Monday, with many more expected over the coming weeks. And if reports from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle are to be believed, the list of visitors could soon include Oregon defensive back Ugo Amadi and Texas linebacker Gary Johnson.

#Oregon’s versatile DB Ugo Amadi, the 2018 Lombardi Award winner, is visiting the #Bears today on a pre-draft visit, source said. He’s got the #Jets and #Steelers this week, as well.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 1, 2019

Texas linebacker Gary Johnson (4.43 at the NFL scouting combine)
Gary is visiting the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers this week, according to a league source

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) April 1, 2019

Amadi played a variety of positions for Oregon during his four years with the team, moving to safety in his senior season, but at only 5-foot-9, he may find it hard to carve out an obvious role in the NFL. While scouts commend his leadership qualities and his versatility, certain physical limitations make it harder to project his future at the professional level.

#NFLCombine key measurements thread…

313. #Oregon S Ugo Amadi
Height: 5-9 3/8
Weight: 199
Hand: 9 4/8
Arm: 31 6/8
Wingspan: 77 1/8

— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 2, 2019

With his testing at the NFL Scouting Combine slightly underwhelming, the young prospect did little to distinguish himself from the competition, although his production at Oregon is perhaps enough to explain why the Steelers want to take a closer look at him. Amadi returned two of his three interception for touchdowns in 2018, as well as scoring on a punt return. He also record 55 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and 8 passes defended.

For his career, Amadi recorded 165 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 9 interceptions. 3 forced fumbles, 3 sacks and 25 passed defended. He also never missed a game, playing in 51 consecutive contests for Oregon.

While GM Kevin Colbert had the opportunity to get a good look at Johnson when he attended the Texas pro day last week, it would appear that he wants the rest of his colleagues to give him a once over by inviting him to Pittsburgh.

#NFLCombine key measurements thread…

258. #Texas LB Gary Johnson
Height: 5-11 7/8
Weight: 226
Hand: 10 2/8
Arm: 31 2/8
Wingspan: 76

— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 1, 2019

A scouting report from Brad Kelly of The Draft Network.

“PROS: Extremely high effort player, hard pursuit who works as hard as anyone on the field. Good blitzer in space, closes pocket well. Pretty good lateral movement necessary for the linebacker position. Can side step potential blockers to avoid and continue attacking ball carrier. Aware player who can finish blitzes and play in space. Can block destruct and shed.”

“CONS: Needs to shed blocks in a more immediate way, and can be slower to react. Has a tough time sifting through the trash in pursuit. Doesn’t attack the line of scrimmage and plus gaps very well. Can take questionable paths to the ball. Will get stoned in pass rush and doesn’t have any counters. Can be too patient before reacting.”

As per Damon Talbot of Draft Diamonds, the Steelers will also be hosting Akron linebacker Ulysees Gilbert in the coming weeks as well. Another player Pittsburgh has already met with at his pro day.

Report: Steelers set to host DB Ugo Amadi and LB Gus Johnson on pre-draft visits

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 6:45am

The Steelers will host two defensive prospects in the coming weeks according to reports released on Monday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted their first five prospects of the offseason at team facilities on Monday, with many more expected over the coming weeks. And if reports from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle are to be believed, the list of visitors could soon include Oregon defensive back Ugo Amadi and Texas linebacker Gus Johnson.

#Oregon’s versatile DB Ugo Amadi, the 2018 Lombardi Award winner, is visiting the #Bears today on a pre-draft visit, source said. He’s got the #Jets and #Steelers this week, as well.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 1, 2019

Texas linebacker Gary Johnson (4.43 at the NFL scouting combine)
Gary is visiting the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers this week, according to a league source

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) April 1, 2019

Amadi played a variety of positions for Oregon during his four years with the team, moving to safety in his senior season, but at only 5-foot-9, he may find it hard to carve out an obvious role in the NFL. While scouts commend his leadership qualities and his versatility, certain physical limitations make it harder to project his future at the professional level.

#NFLCombine key measurements thread…

313. #Oregon S Ugo Amadi
Height: 5-9 3/8
Weight: 199
Hand: 9 4/8
Arm: 31 6/8
Wingspan: 77 1/8

— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 2, 2019

With his testing at the NFL Scouting Combine slightly underwhelming, the young prospect did little to distinguish himself from the competition, although his production at Oregon is perhaps enough to explain why the Steelers want to take a closer look at him. Amadi returned two of his three interception for touchdowns in 2018, as well as scoring on a punt return. He also record 55 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and 8 passes defended.

For his career, Amadi recorded 165 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 9 interceptions. 3 forced fumbles, 3 sacks and 25 passed defended. He also never missed a game, playing in 51 consecutive contests for Oregon.

While GM Kevin Colbert had the opportunity to get a good look at Johnson when he attended the Texas pro day last week, it would appear that he wants the rest of his colleagues to give him a once over by inviting him to Pittsburgh.

#NFLCombine key measurements thread…

258. #Texas LB Gary Johnson
Height: 5-11 7/8
Weight: 226
Hand: 10 2/8
Arm: 31 2/8
Wingspan: 76

— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 1, 2019

A scouting report from Brad Kelly of The Draft Network.

“PROS: Extremely high effort player, hard pursuit who works as hard as anyone on the field. Good blitzer in space, closes pocket well. Pretty good lateral movement necessary for the linebacker position. Can side step potential blockers to avoid and continue attacking ball carrier. Aware player who can finish blitzes and play in space. Can block destruct and shed.”

“CONS: Needs to shed blocks in a more immediate way, and can be slower to react. Has a tough time sifting through the trash in pursuit. Doesn’t attack the line of scrimmage and plus gaps very well. Can take questionable paths to the ball. Will get stoned in pass rush and doesn’t have any counters. Can be too patient before reacting.”

As per Damon Talbot of Draft Diamonds, the Steelers will also be hosting Akron linebacker Ulysees Gilbert in the coming weeks as well. Another player Pittsburgh has already met with at his pro day.

Podcast: Steelers Nation’s confidence in Kevin Colbert is at an all-time low, but should it be?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 5:29am

Discuss all things Steelers and beyond as BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo comment on the latest news of the Steeler Nation,

With the defection of a star running back and and the forced trade of a future HOF wide receiver and some draft picks not hitting over the years, confidence has been low with Steeler Nation when it comes to team management, namely GM Kevin Colbert. Are fans neglecting his numerous successes over the years. Join Bryan Davis and Anthony Defeo from BTSC for the extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”. They will discuss this burning question and much more. As always, Tony and Bryan have plenty to discuss with help from Steeler Nation.

Check out a rundown of the show:

  • Fact or Fiction
  • Is Steeler Nation confidence in Kevin Colbert at an all-time low and does it deserve to be?
  • Looking ahead
  • and MUCH MORE!

You can get all episodes on the following platforms:

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

Black and Gold Links: The Steelers don’t need a QB, but it could impact the team during the draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 4:31am

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

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

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how although the Steelers aren’t interested, nor should they be, in a quarterback during the 2019 NFL Draft, the position could play a role in who is available when they pick at No. 20.

Let’s get to the news:

  • When Steelers fans hear NFL Draftniks talk about quarterbacks in the draft, they roll their eyes and want to move on. Why? Because the team has Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs as their quarterback trio. However, other quarterbacks might change a lot in the upcoming NFL Draft.

NFL Draft: QB not on radar, but worth watching

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

With free agency largely complete and annual league meetings wrapped up, the NFL is turning the page to the next chapter of the offseason -- the draft.

For the Steelers and the rest of the league, that means digging in elbows-deep in 40-times, film work and pro days.

It also means assessing your own roster and figuring out your own needs. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look in this series not only at the Steelers’ roster at each position, but at the position group in the draft as a whole.

For the Steelers, we’ll start with the quarterback position, one manned by Ben Roethlisberger the past 15 seasons.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • The news of Ben Roethlisberger possibly ending his weekly radio show, many are thinking this is a good decision.

Tim Benz: Right call if Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger ditches radio show

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

...Giving up the radio show would be a wise decision for the quarterback.

I’m sure many will jump on that comment and say I have an agenda because I do on-air work for iHeart Radio (ESPN Pittsburgh, WDVE, WXDX), a competitor of 93.7’s parent company (Entercom) in the Pittsburgh market.

Others also will suggest that I’m writing this opinion because the two hosts of the weekly program — Ron Cook and Joe Starkey — are sports columnists for another publication in Pittsburgh, the Post-Gazette.

That’s all true. And it needs to be pointed out. But those facts aren’t impacting my opinion.

I have no personal ax to grind with Starkey or Cook. And I have no investment in seeing ratings dip from 11:00-11:20 on KDKA-FM every Tuesday just because Big Ben is on the air.

After all, I’m right there listening with thousands of others, and the quarterback’s responses have been great fodder for this column on a weekly basis.

My opinion is formed based on Roethlisberger’s personal business, not mine.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Remember when Antonio Brown and the 49ers seemed like they were destined for one another. Even how rumors swirled of San Francisco showing interest in the wide receiver? GM John Lynch said the team was interested in a wide receiver, just not Brown.

John Lynch confirms 49ers interest in OBJ, lack of interest in Antonio Brown

By: Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

As the 2018 season ended, some believed that the 49ers would make a run at Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. And indeed they did.

Appearing on KNBR (via Matt Barrows of TheAthletic.com), 49ers G.M. John Lynch confirmed that the Giants wanted the second overall pick in the draft, and that the 49ers refused to part with it.

“I think, ironically, the fact that we had the No. 2 pick made it more difficult because they wanted that badly,” Lynch said. “They wanted two No. 1s. And we weren’t willing to part with that. It was too valuable of a pick.”

Lynch’s comments are interesting, and they may not be fully appreciated by the Browns. Given that Beckham didn’t launch a power play to get to Cleveland, he could eventually decide to dictate terms like former Steelers receiver Antonio Brown did, and Beckham now knows that the powers-that-be in San Francisco are interested.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Nonsense

Big Al. Big play. #TopShots | #AprilFoolsDay pic.twitter.com/JpQJErUj8h

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 1, 2019

Another Sunday closer. pic.twitter.com/kKiOp7P26k

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 31, 2019

Wishing my brother @ChrisArcher22 and the @Pirates good luck today. Time to work #burghproud pic.twitter.com/gz8O2BQoi5

— Jerome Bettis (@JeromeBettis36) April 1, 2019

Steelers March Madness: The Best of the Rest featuring 1976 vs. 1973

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 3:20pm

Bracketing the best teams in the past 50 years of Pittsburgh Steelers history never to win a title. Who do you consider the “Best of the Rest” between the 1973 Steelers and the 1976 version?

BTSC continues to search for the best and most-memorable Steeler team to not win a title. Last time around, you voted the oh-so close 1995 team over the 2011 team that got Tebowed in OT in Denver. ‘95 advances on to the second round. Here are the final tallies...

No. 7 - 2011 Getting Tebowed in the end - 16% No. 10 - 1995 More than one Big Nasty D - 84%

This time around we match a Pre-Super Bowl team that inspired a best-seller against a potential three-peater that lost their running game before the Conference Finals. Be sure to vote for the team that remains the most memorable to you or the one you feel is simply the “best of the rest”. Your choice. Be sure to wax poetically in the comment section below.

No. 8 Seed: 1976 (10-4)

After winning their first two titles the previous two seasons, it seemed likely that the Steelers could three-peat as an even stronger unit. However, Chuck Noll’s team shockingly started off as a disappointing 1-4. To make matters worse, QB Terry Bradshaw was injured in a Week 5 loss in Cleveland. Bradshaw sustained the injury after the infamous Joe “Turkey” Jones slamdown. Fortunes would turn with Mike Kruczek behind center, as the rookie set a NFL record (later broken by Ben Roethlisberger in 2004) for wins to start a career. Bradshaw would return intermittently throughout the remainder of the season, but most of the Steelers success was due to a suffocating defense (five shutouts and a mere 28 points surrendered in those final nine games) and the rushing tandem of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Harris (1,128 yards/14 TDs and Bleier (1,026 yards/5 TDs) were basically the entire offense, as the leading receiver (Lynn Swann) had a mere 516 yards and three scores. On a defense that included five All Pros, Mel Blount and Glen Edwards led with six interceptions a piece and Jack Lambert had two picks and six fumble recoveries. In the playoffs, the Steelers pounded Baltimore 40-14. Bradshaw threw three TD passes, two of them to Swann and Reggie Harrison had two rushing scores. Harrison was in due to injuries in the game to Harris and Bleier. Unfortunately, No. 46 and the Steelers weren’t as productive without the pair of 1K rushers the next week in the AFC Championship against Oakland. The Raiders went on to play Minnesota in SB XI, while Steeler Nation saw one of their best teams in franchise history wonder what might have been.

Pro Bowlers: Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Glen Edwards, Joe Greene, L. C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, Lynn Swann and Mike Wagner

First-Team All Pros: Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Glen Edwards

Second-Team All Pros: Joe Greene and Mike Wagner

Team MVP: Jack Lambert

No. 1 Draft Pick: Bennie Cunningham

No. 9 Seed: 1973 (10-4)

The season after the Immaculate Reception inspired a best selling book by Roy Blount Jr. (No relation to Mel and Akil). About Three Bricks Shy of a Load chronicled the Steelers for an entire year. The ‘73 team failed to live up to the new-found glory of the division champions of a year earlier, but they still made the playoffs as a Wild Card. Terry Bradshaw (9 of 10), Terry Hanratty (4 of 9) and Joe Gilliam (1 of 5) all started contests that season. Leading the way was Franco Harris, whose stats fell off from his rookie year with 698 yards and three TDs, and WR Ron Shanklin who had 711 yards receiving and 10 TDs. The Steelers pass defense may have been their all-time best with 37 interceptions and 11 TDs allowed in 14 games. Mike Wagner (NFL co-leader with interceptions that year) had eight picks, while John Rowser and Glen Edwards each had six. The Steelers won their first four games that season and eight of their first nine, but faltered down the stretch by losing three of their final five. In the playoffs, they were eliminated right away by the Raiders. However, this season helped set up the glory that began the following year in Super Bowl IX.

Pro Bowlers: Joe Greene, L. C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Andy Russell, Ronnie Shanklin, Bruce Van Dyke and Dwight White

First-Team All Pros: Joe Greene

Second-Team All Pros: Roy Gerela and Jack Ham

Team MVP: Ronnie Shanklin

No. 1 Draft Pick: J.T. Thomas

Check back Wednesday for the results and the beginning of Round 2.

AAF Week 8 Review: Birmingham Iron clinch playoff berth with win over Atlanta Legends

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 2:25pm

We take a look back at the eighth week of action from the Alliance of American Football and check in with some former members of the Black and Gold.

With much of the talk surrounding the Alliance of American Football heading into Week 8 focused on how much longer the league would remain in operation, the action on the field provided something of a temporary break from all the negativity currently associated with the league.

Negotiations between the AAF and the NFL/NFLPA over an arrangement to effectively loan players on the fringe of their rosters back to the AAF appear to be making little progress, and the suggestion that the league’s major investor Tom Dundon will pull his funding from the AAF without this agreement in place still threatens to end the league prematurely.

But while there is still some football left to talk about, that is what we will focus on here as we take a look back at the week in which the Birmingham Iron clinched a playoff berth with a road win over the Atlanta Legends..

Week 8 results:

Orlando Apollos 34 @ Memphis Express 31

Arizona Hotshots 23 @ San Antonio Commanders 6

Salt Lake Stallions 8 @ San Diego Fleet 3

Birmingham Iron 17 @ Atlanta Legends 9

Running back Trent Richardson once again led the way for the Iron, but it was a quiet day for a few of his notable teammates in former Pittsburgh Steelers players L’Damian Washington and Casey Sayles. Washington was held without a catch and only saw two target all day, while Sayles would fail to record a tackle. Jamar Summers would miss the game altogether due to injury.

Former Steelers cornerback Shaquille Richardson was among the leaders in tackles for the second week in a row for the Arizona Hotshots, part of an impressive defensive effort that held the San Antonio Commanders to just six points on Saturday. Two former Pittsburgh running backs in David Cobb and Trey Williams did their best to keep San Antonio in the contest, but the Hotshots were in control of the matchup throughout.

Cobb would have a productive game with nine carries for 59 yards before an apparent hamstring injury ended his day prematurely, while Williams recorded 37 carries from seven carries against Arizona.

Find you a QB who lead blocks like @1MjWilliams2. @aafcommanders | #AZvsSA pic.twitter.com/l0enFfxz11

— The Alliance (@TheAAF) April 1, 2019

Another former Pittsburgh running back barely saw a touch in his game against the Salt Lake Stallions, with Terrell Watson limited to just one reception for two yards and no carries. Teammate Travis Feeney, the Steelers sixth round draft choice in 2016, had a much more successful day, leading the San Diego Fleet with seven tackles and also recording a hit on the quarterback and a pass defended.

Linebacker Terrence Gavin was also among his team’s leaders in tackles in Week 8, with the 2013 undrafted free agent signing finishing the game with four tackles and a pass defended in the Orlando Apollos 34-31 won over the Memphis Express. The latest installment in the dismal tale that is Johnny Manziel’s football career saw him complete two of three passes for 13 yards before being knocked out when he attempted to make a tackle after throwing an interception.

Johnny Manziel gets hit in the head.

He stayed down on the field and appeared to be wobbly while exiting. He's likely done for the day. #ORLvsMEM pic.twitter.com/nZ4zFJevQH

— AAF Reddit (@AAF_Reddit) March 30, 2019 Week 8 Highlights:

Orlando Apollos 34 @ Memphis Express 31

Arizona Hotshots 23 @ San Antonio Commanders 6

Salt Lake Stallions 8 @ San Diego Fleet 3

Birmingham Iron 17 @ Atlanta Legends 9

The Steelers have officially released safety Morgan Burnett

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 1:11pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers were unable to trade the veteran safety, so they gave him his outright release.

At the end of the 2018 season, Morgan Burnett made it clear he was unhappy in Pittsburgh. The role of hybrid linebacker/safety was something he wasn’t interested in doing for the next few seasons, so he wanted out.

The Steelers made it very clear they weren’t about to just let him walk, but wanted to see if they could make a trade for his services. If they were unable to do that, they would grant him his flat out release by April 1st.

Here it is, April 1st, and Burnett has officially been released.

We have released S Morgan Burnett.@BordasLaw TRANSACTION: https://t.co/nM99XiozS0 pic.twitter.com/TIsYb3blCq

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 1, 2019

For those who are realistic about the team’s sub packages and current roster, when the team signed Mark Barron it meant the end of the road for Burnett. Barron plays the hybrid role the team wanted Burnett to play when they acquired him in free agency prior to the 2018 season.

Despite Burnett’s frustrations with the Steelers, the one thing which can’t be ignored was just how Burnett was unable to stay on the field. Last season it was thought Burnett would be the starting safety alongside Sean Davis, but his injuries in training camp and the preseason opened the door for Terrell Edmunds — and Edmunds never relinquished that role.

With Burnett gone, the Steelers now move into the offseason, and the NFL Draft, with the safety position on their priority list, maybe not high on their list, to try and stock the cupboard with quality depth.

Steelers host RB Damien Harris and WR Andy Isabella along with three other prospects on pre-draft visits Monday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 12:09pm

Penn State RB Miles Sanders, Notre Dame TE Alize Mack and Oregon WR Dillon Mitchel rounded out the first wave of visitors to the Steelers facilities on Monday.

With the college pro day schedule almost at an end for 2019, the Pittsburgh Steelers appear to be moving their attention to the pre-draft hosting stage of the process with the visit of five prospects to team facilities on Monday.

As per Bob Labriola of Steelers.com, Pittsburgh is welcoming UMass wide receiver Andy Isabella, Penn State running back Miles Sanders, Alabama running back Damien Harris, Notre Dame tight end Alize Mack and Oregon wide receiver Dillon Mitchell to the city to start the week off.

Pre-Draft visits today for the #Steelers: RB Miles Sanders, Penn State; RB Damien Harris, Alabama; TE Alize Mack, Notre Dame; WR Andy Isabella UMass; WR Dillon Mitchell Oregon

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) April 1, 2019

As a graduate of Woodland Hills High School just outside of Pittsburgh, Sanders will not count against the Steelers list of 30 visitors, but the rest of the players will, with Isabella a name who had been rumored to be coming to Pittsburgh since last week.

Scouting reports for all five players can be found below, along with a highlight video for each prospect.

WR, Andy Isabella, UMass

Scouting report from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network.

“Andy Isabella is a player who has a much more prominent pathway to NFL success after the rule changes in recent seasons. A diminutive, non-physical player, Isabella wins with quickness and thrives in space. His best role would be as a slot/depth option on a team that looks to space the field and isolate their athletes one on one. Passing systems like the ones in KC and SF come to mind as specific favorable fits.”

RB, Damien Harris, Alabama

Scouting report from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network.

“Damien Harris has modest potential as a lead back for gap/power rushing offenses. Harris has smooth feet for his size and is precise with his steps to get vertical through a crease and generate power behind his pads. His lack of long speed may limit his explosive plays but Harris can grind out tough yards and wear down tacklers late into football games. Harris’ ceiling isn’t necessarily high but he can be a volume rusher in stretches and be a starting back”

RB, Miles Sanders, Penn State

Scouting report from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network.

“Miles Sanders is definitely a pro prospect who can handle the responsibility of being a featured back at the NFL level. Sanders has springy cuts, an explosive second gear and soft hands to help him perform as a check down receiver. Sanders’ best fit is in an inside zone rushing system, where his confident feet can allow him to explode through gaps as they develop and continue to stress the second level. Needs to get better at pass protection to make an impact early.”

WR, Dillon Mitchell, Oregon

Scouting report from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network.

“Dillon Mitchell projects favorably as a complimentary receiver in the NFL. Mitchell has slippery short area skills and does well to slip contact both in space as a route runner and as a ball carrier after the catch. His open field vision allows him to break nice chunk gains and provided there’s an alpha receiver on the roster, lesser attention to Mitchell would allow him to thrive and eat against single coverage. He’ll need to continue to flesh out his route and ball tracking to play consistently.”

TE, Alize Mack, Notre Dame

Scouting report from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network.

“Alize Mack, if he’s able to keep himself on the football field, has quite an impressive ceiling. With strong hands, good work at the catch point and enough athleticism to really be able to separate vs. LBs, Mack has the upside of a starting TE at the pro level. Whether or not he’s able to do so will come down to continued maturity off the field and working to be a bit more balanced and composed as a blocker: he isn’t an ideal flex option but can be quite good from in-line.”

Two Steelers wide receivers are about to battle it out for one position

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 10:41am

What happens when two teammates are fighting for one roster spot? The Pittsburgh Steelers may just be getting ready to find out.

Going to battle with teammates on an athletic field of competition creates a bond that is hard to quantify. The unifying element of the "us against the world" mentality often cultivates lifelong friendships. This brotherhood is nearly impossible to duplicate and the camaraderie shared between teammates can be the one thing that retired players miss the most from their playing days.

The NFL experience is the same, but different. While it is still the same game many of us grew up playing, both competitively and for fun, the stakes are certainly higher when the game is also your profession. There is a totally different level of pressure when your ability to play a game directly affects your bank account and your livelihood. Better not drop that pass or fumble that pigskin, your family is counting on you. Professionals are paid to handle all that pressure and still perform. Teammates understand that reality and are there to offer support, until they aren't. After all, there is only one ball, and sometimes there is only one job opening.

What happens when there are multiple talented receivers wanting the ball, but there is only one ball to go around? Even if they both run pristine routes and get wide open, one of them will inevitably be disappointed every passing play. Undoubtedly there will be hotly contested competition between the receivers, and multiple headaches for the quarterback. The Steelers have endured this scenario on two well documented occasions, with drastically different results.

The legendary rivalry between Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth during the 70's actually brought out the best in both players. Each man's burning desire to prove their superiority over the other drove their games to an elite status and helped the Steelers win four Super Bowls in a six year period. Now their busts reside together in Canton.

Last season the Steelers had two of the best receivers in the league pushing each other to new heights, all the while coveting additional opportunities to catch that single football. However this rivalry didn't lead to a Super Bowl championship or even a playoff appearance. Instead it led to one of the receivers becoming green with envy and forcing his way out of town rather than compete with the younger challenger - actions that proved to be both greedy and cowardly. Not exactly Hall of Fame behavior, but it is what it is.

All signs point to another heated receivers competition this season, but instead of competing for one ball this time they will be competing for one position. The Steelers will more than likely select another receiver in the 2019 NFL Draft, and they undoubtedly would love to obtain an receiver with length who excels outside the numbers. They already possess three strong options to work the slot in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, and Ryan Switzer. Problem is they really only need two slot guys, and JuJu is the sure thing. So who is the odd man out?

JuJu is the star and has the aforementioned versatility. Second year receiver James Washington and free agent acquisition Donte Moncrief are outside receivers, with the team looking to add that talented receiver with length early in the draft. That leaves Rogers and Switzer likely fighting for the same roster spot. This seems fitting, since their games have far more similarities than differences. Those subtle differences may just decide who stays and who goes.

Both men are rather diminutive, especially for a professional football player. Each player is more quick than fast, relying on his short area quickness and change of direction abilities rather than superior long speed. We really didn't get an accurate assessment of their abilities last season with both men competing at less than 100%. I am sure they are chomping at the bit to get back on the field and show what they can do.

Rogers would have to be considered the superior receiver, while Switzer has proven to be the superior special teams performer. Rogers has experience and chemistry with Big Ben, but Switzer is the cheaper and younger option. One unforeseen variable in this competition will be this year's draft class. If the Steelers acquire a strong return man or two then Switzer may become expendable.

Rogers and Switzer can't afford to waste time worrying about the unknown; they must focus on controlling what they can control. That would be their effort and their attitudes. I would expect no less from two warriors who have overcome their shortcomings and each obstacle placed in their way to reach the NFL. Somebody will win the position, but there will be no losers in this competition.

What would it take for the Steelers to trade up into the top 10 of the 2019 NFL draft?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 7:59am

The Stat Geek crunches the numbers to see if the Steelers could pull off the trades a BTSC user suggests.

Do you have a statistics question (either large or small) about the Steelers or NFL football? Send them in to BTSC’s stat geek at STLRSuperFanDad@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can find.

In this installment, the cost of trading up in the 2019 NFL draft is discussed.

Bryan Haines from Baltimore, MD

“Do you think it’s possible the Steelers get into the top 10 with their second 3rd round pick, and first 6th round pick? Then could they trade back into the first round with their 2nd ,3rd and second 6th round picks? Do you think that’s even possible?”

I’m grateful for the word “possible” used in the question. We will look at this issue from the standpoint of what it would possibly take to make a move, and not as to whether or not the Steelers would consider doing it. The lone exception would be including picks from the 2020 draft. The Steelers are notorious for wanting to hold on to their future picks, especially when it comes to the first round. So looking at anything above a third round pick in 2020 just doesn’t make any sense, and chances are teams wouldn’t want a pick next season outside of the first two rounds.

When looking at what it would take to trade up at any point in the NFL draft, it really is a two pronged approach. First, it is important to look at what teams have received in the past to see what they may be willing to do. Additionally, there are draft a value predicting tools used to see if there is value in a trade. So we will look at using both of these resources.

I will give a disclaimer that it appears the values in the predictor do not necessarily match those which have actually happened in the past. The predictor appears to be a little more conservative in what a team trading back would be willing to accept. Additionally, once a team is inside the top 10, the values per pick get higher and higher much more than anywhere else in the draft.

Just to recap, here are the 10 draft picks the Steelers currently own for the 2019 draft:

Trading into the Top 10

There has been a trade where a team moved into a better draft position in the first round involving a top 10 pick multiple times over the last 10 years. Although it’s difficult to find a one-to-one comparison of what the Steelers would need to do, there are several instances which can give an indication as to what it might take to move up to a certain spot. Here are some of the most notable trades that could help determine what value would be needed.

2018: The Buffalo Bills moved up from the 12th pick to the seventh pick which also cost them their two second round picks (53rd and 56th). Also, the Arizona Cardinals moved into the 10th drafting position while giving up their 15th pick, along with a third round (79th) and fifth round (152nd) pick.

2017: Kansas City moved up into the 10th position from the 27th pick. They also had to give up their third round pick (91st) and their first round pick in the 2018 draft (which ended up being the 22nd pick).

2016: The Tennessee Titans moved from the 15th overall selection up to the eighth which also cost them their third round pick (76th) and their second round pick for 2017 (which ended up being the 52nd pick). Subsequently, Cleveland also gave up their sixth round pick (176th) along with the eighth selection overall.

2011: The Jacksonville Jaguars traded up from the 16th position to the 10th position while also surrendering their second round pick (49th).

Predictor: Using the pick value calculator on footballguys.com, if the Steelers offered their first round pick (20th), their second pick in the third round (83rd), and the first of their sixth round picks (175th) as asked in the original question, the highest position they could get would be the 11th pick. If instead of offering the Steelers second third round pick (83rd), and instead they offered their first (66th), they have the possibility of moving higher. Here are some picks in the best possible spot the Steelers could get (the round is in parentheses):

20th (1), 83rd (3b), & 175th (6a) -> 11th

20th (1), 66th (3a) -> 8th

20th (1), 66th (3a), & 141st (5) -> 7th

20th (1), 66th (3a), & 83rd (3b) -> 3rd

20th (1) & 52nd (2) -> 6th

20th (1), 52nd (2), & 141st (5) -> 5th

Conclusion: With the Steelers having to move up more than 10 spots to get into the top 10, they will have to include either their first pick in the third round or their second round pick. Based on what all they would package would determine what it would take for each spot inside the top 10. Personally, I think to get above the eighth pick, it would take both of the third round picks and possibly even their second round selection.

Trading into the End of the First Round

There is also a lot of precedence of teams trading into the end of the first round using their second round pick. While many of these trades involve teams drafting in the first eight picks in the second round, there are a few examples of a team drafting further back like the Steelers in order to compare what it would take.

2018: The Baltimore Ravens traded up into the last pick of the first round using their second round pick (52nd), fourth round pick (125th), and their 2019 second round pick. The Ravens also received Philadelphia’s fourth round pick (132nd) as well as the 32nd pick.

2013: The Miami Dolphins traded their second round pick (52nd), third round pick (83rd), fourth round pick (102nd), and seventh round pick (229th) in order to move up to the 29th pick in the draft.

2010: The Denver Broncos traded up to the 25th pick in the draft by using their second round pick (43rd), third round pick (70th), and fourth round pick (114th).

Predictor: Still using footballguys.com, moving into the end of the first round is not nearly as expensive as moving up to the top of the draft. Although the original question dealt with using the first third round selection by the Steelers, I will focus more on using the second selection in the third round due to the fact the first one would probably be used up if the Steelers make the previous move into the top 10. For the record, the original question of using the Steelers second (52nd), first in the third round (66), and first in the sixth round (175), the predictor would allow them to move up to the 21st position. Here are some of the best possibilities:

52nd (2), 66th (3a), & 175th (6a) -> 21st

52nd (2), 83rd (3b), & 175th (6a) -> 28th

52nd (2), 83rd (3b), & 192nd (6b) -> 29th

52nd (2), 83rd (3b), & 141st (5) -> 26th

52nd (2), 83rd (3b), & 122nd (4) -> 25th

Conclusion: I still believe the predictor is a little generous, but it’s not too far off here. Denver traded their second, third, and fourth for the 25th pick in 2010 (for Tim Tebow), but their selections were all at least eight picks higher than what the Steelers own. I think it’s more likely for the final pick in the first round or the top of the second round if the Steelers want to use their fifth or sixth round picks instead of their fourth.

Making Both Trades?

I think it would be tough for the Steelers to make both of these trades. In order to get up to around the 9th pick and the 30th pick, it could take every pick they have in 2019. While the Steelers probably don’t need 10 players in the draft, I think they would want at least five.

My belief is if the Steelers have someone they really like in the draft and they are still available at the 7th pick, I start making calls to every team from that point on until they get the deal or the player is gone. If they do make the move, any other trade would probably involve moving back instead of up.

I have intentionally left names of specific players out of the discussion because this exercise was about the numbers of swapping picks. But if the right player was available, I’d be willing to give up our first, both third round picks, and any two picks from the fifth round on to make it happen.

What does BTSC think? Would you rather move up in the first round, into the end of first, or do you think both are possible? What would you be willing to give up, and how high do you think the Steelers could get? I look forward to what you all suggest.

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