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Steelers’ Week 1 MNF game could have unique announcers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/01/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Depending on the state of college football, the Steelers vs. Giants Week 1 game could have some different voices calling the game.

I can’t speak for everyone reading this article, but I have always cared about the announcers of Steelers games. I can still remember yelling at Phil Simms’ idiotic comments, or shaking my head at Solomon Wilcox butchering Steelers players’ names.

Some don’t care about who is calling the game, but I am certainly not among that crowd. Hence how interested I was when I saw a report of who might be calling the Steelers vs. Giants game on Monday Night Football in Week 1 at MetLife Stadium.

Reminder, the first week of the season is when ESPN hosts a Monday night double header, and the Steelers have the early game of the back-to-back Week 1 games.

ESPN announced their new Monday Night Football crew of Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Brian Griese, but also reportedly decided to have that trio call the later game between the Titans and Broncos. The team who will call the Steelers’ game will be ESPN’s top college football duo Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler.

Before fans get too excited, or angry, at the thought of Fowler and Herbstreit calling an NFL game, especially a Steelers game, there is a lot which can change. If college football is played on time, not delayed or canceled, it would not free up Fowler and Herbstreit to cover the game. However, if NCAA football is either delayed or canceled, you could expect to see Herbstreit and Fowler talking about the matchup featuring Ben Roethlisberger and Daniel Jones.

Hearing: New @NFL_MNF booth: @espnSteveLevy @briangriese @LRiddickESPN 2nd game @steelers vs. @Giants @cbfowler @KirkHerbstreit (If college football season is cancelled, this could change)

— james andrew miller (@JimMiller) July 31, 2020

If this duo ends up being the two who are calling the game, would you like it? Or would you despise it? Personally, I would love to hear “Herbie” talking about the Steelers. I have long enjoyed Fowler and Herbstreit covering college games, and think it would be pretty awesome to have them do a Steelers game.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of the 2020 regular season.

Maurkice Pouncey narrowly misses out on NFL Network’s Top 100

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/01/2020 - 8:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers nearly had a fourth player make the “Top 100”.

The Steelers had a decent showing when it came to NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2020, landing three defensive stars on the annual list. Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward was ranked 84th, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick 35th, and outside linebacker T.J. Watt 25th.

The “Top 100” carries much more weight than average power rankings, as it’s put together completely by NFL players. Having actually lined up next to those on the list, NFL players have the most credible opinions when it comes to such rankings. The list garners attention from players and fans alike as it shows who has gained the most respect among their peers.

The reveal of the list was separated into hour-long segments, with the first being shown on Sunday night and the last on Wednesday night. Along with the Top 10 being revealed on Wednesday night, the Top 10 players who missed the list were included as well.

Steelers’ veteran center Maurkice Pouncey was among those players, ranking 102nd, just behind Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman at the 101st spot.

The top 10 who missed the cut were:

110: Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars RB

109: DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys DE

108: Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos S

107: Matthew Judon, Baltimore Ravens OLB

106: Kyle Van Noy, New England Patriots LB

105: Rodney Hudson, Las Vegas Raiders C

104: Arik Armstead, San Francisco 49ers DE

103: Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans S

102: Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers C

101: Julian Edelman, New England Patriots WR

You can view the NFL’s video on the “Players who just missed the cut on the ‘Top 100 Players of 2020’” HERE.

Maurkice Pouncey made the Pro Bowl in 2019, but had a disappointing season overall. He played in and started 13 games, but had some blocking issues and botched snaps, leading to many deeming him overrated. Despite his below-average season, Pouncey has enjoyed a spectacular career in Pittsburgh, which might have been a factor in his Pro Bowl and Top 100 nominations this season.

In a league with 32 teams of talented 53-man rosters, being voted as the 102nd best player in the NFL is still quite the honor.

You can view the full Top 100 list in the following increments: 100-71, 70-41, 40-11, and 10-1.

A Letter from the Editor: Going bigger and better

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/01/2020 - 7:00am
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The goal has always been to make Behind The Steel Curtain the best place for the Steelers community.

It has been a wild and crazy ride. Two months ago when I came on as editor of Behind The Steel Curtain, it still didn’t seem real. I was just a former football coach who started writing about the Steelers so my wife didn’t have to listen to me talk about them so much. It hasn’t been two years since my first article was published on the website, and I still remember the excitement of waiting to see it on the top of the webpage with my name listed. I know I’ve talked about this before, but it still feels surreal.

I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to handle the editor job. My biggest concern was letting the community down. This is such a wonderful place for Steelers fans and I tried very hard to keep everything going how it was. I felt like I had succeeded, and many of you were encouraging and told me so.

Everything changed not long ago when my good friend (and former boss) Jeff Hartman told me he was stepping down at DK Pittsburgh Sports and was looking for somewhere else to take his talents. I became a man on a mission. There was no way I was letting Jeff go anywhere else without a fight.

Ultimately, I knew getting Jeff back at BTSC was only going to make this place better. Even continuing on as editor with the way things were would still be great, but what if great wasn’t the best it could be?

I am so happy we were able to get Jeff back on board even in the midst of difficult financial times due to so much uncertainty in the sports world. It wasn’t easy, but the bottom line is we made it.

Just so everyone is aware, our writers are still here and producing their great content at BTSC. Bryan Anthony Davis is still managing our podcast platform and Michael Beck is still the deputy editor. Speaking of Michael, his responsibilities have shifted somewhat as he will not have to focus on other editorial duties as much, but instead will be handling our social media platforms. We just recently hit 100,000 followers on Facebook and will be doing a giveaway there very soon (once the item arrives which I ordered). Look for even bigger and better things with our social media as Michael is now performing one of his greatest strengths.

While I was more than prepared to play second fiddle to Mr. Hartman upon his return, he was having none of it. Jeff and I will be commanding the site together as co-editors. With both of us having experience doing this job individually, we’re hoping we can bring you the best coverage yet of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As things move forward, before the notion of Jeff returning to the site was even a possibility known to anyone, I was informed by SB Nation about the comment section being upgraded across the entire network. The way it was explained to me was the current software used was so old there really couldn’t be any changes to the system. In order to be able to continually upgrade, they had to revamp everything.

I will be the first to admit that I have my hesitations as well. It will be interesting to see how these things will work. I’m sure there will be some features that are better than the past. I also know there will be other things which will not. Things will be different based on what is best for all of SB Nation and not what is best specifically for BTSC. Hopefully we can all navigate through this together and still have our great community of commenters as things continue to roll out. We were one of four NFL sites chosen to begin this process because of the strength of our community. It will only be a matter of days until all of the NFL SB Nation sites will be transferred to Coral.

We will do our best to update things on the website for people if there are any problems, questions, or concerns. This was not something we were doing to try to change the community, and we did not request to be one of the first teams to roll this out or to have a change at all. This is just the way SB Nation chose to go because of our great commenters.

The most important thing is we here at BTSC are dedicated to do the best that we can for you all—our readers. As the Steelers push forward in hopes of playing a full 2020 season, we will be here the entire time giving you the best coverage we can. And with Jeff back in the fold with everyone else, hopefully it’s better than you’ve seen before.

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

Podcast: How Chris Boswell and the Steelers kicking game will be even more special in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/01/2020 - 6:00am

In the latest podcast on the BTSC family of podcasts, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 2019 season was a down year for the Pittsburgh Steelers in many aspects. But the Steelers defense most certainly returned to prominence. Another player that had a complete resurgence was Chris Boswell. After a dreadful and presumed injury-plagued 2018, the quiet and reserved Boswell made beautiful noise on the field last season. In 2020, Boswell could make even more of a mark on the Super Bowl chances of the Black-and-Gold.

This is where the latest BTSC podcast comes in. Check out BTSC in analyzing the Steelers the kicking game of Chris Boswell, with Podcast Producer Bryan Anthony Davis. 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!

Check out the video 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: No contract talk yet for Cam Heyward

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/01/2020 - 5:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

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

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. With the scheduled start of training camp now behind us, it looks like we’ll have to wait until opening weekend to see the Steelers take the field. Just because the NFL has cancelled the preseason doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at the lack of progress on a new contract for Cameron Heyward beyond the 2020 season.

Let’s get to the news:

  • With the salary cap a huge question mark for 2021, Heyward still hopes for a new deal in Pittsburgh

Cam Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had serious talks on new deal, agent says

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

All-Pro defensive lineman Cam Heyward would like to retire as a Pittsburgh Steeler, but he is concerned that might not happen due to a lack of movement on a contract extension.

Heyward enters the final year of his deal, and there have been no substantive contract discussions between the Steelers’ front office and Heyward’s agent, Michael Perrett of Element Sports Group.

The sides have had broad discussions about Heyward’s future but in no particular terms.

“I thought we’d be further along in the process. In a normal year, we might be,” Perrett told ESPN. “The current situation [with the pandemic] has led to a lot of uncertainty, but NFL business is still moving forward. Cam would love to retire a Steeler, but at this point, he just doesn’t know how all of this is going to play out.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

It’ll be Vince and Devin at ILB

By: Bob Labriola, Steelers.com

Given the current configuration of the defense, specifically the inside linebacker position, it was an easy decision for them. And the reason why the Steelers saw it as an easy decision is simple to understand.

As defensive coordinator Keith Butler said early during a Friday afternoon Zoom call with the Pittsburgh media, “(Devin) and Vince will be playing inside linebacker for us this year.”

Following the 2018 season, the Steelers knew they had to make significant upgrades to their defense, specifically for those times when the football was in the air. It began with the signing of unrestricted free agent cornerback Steven Nelson, but then a bigger move came in the first round of the NFL Draft.

The Steelers traded up 10 spots in the first round and picked Devin Bush, a player they believed could be the three-down linebacker they lost when Ryan Shazier sustained a spinal injury during a game in Cincinnati in December 2017. Once they got Bush, they threw him into the deep end of the pool, and it was sink or swim.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

For JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, it can’t just be ‘Ben is back!’

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The impact of Ben Roethlisberger’s absence on the 2019 Steelers offense extended well beyond who was throwing the football.

Sure, the Steelers’ starting quarterback does that better than his backups, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. That’s why the Steelers were only an eight-win team last season instead of one that would’ve likely gone to the playoffs with double-digit victories.

Aside from the few seconds that exist between the quarterback accepting the snap from the center and delivering it through the air, there are so many other things impacted by who is playing that position:

• How the opposing defense lines up in terms of respecting the pass or assuming run and attacking the line.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Number 26 comes in as the most prolific Steelers jersey number

Breaking down the film of new Steelers DB Curtis Riley

Coach Tomlin answers questions about 3 of his players on Wednesday

Matt Canada is ultimately in Pittsburgh to help their young quarterbacks

Jeff Hartman return to Behind The Steel Curtain!

  • Social Media Madness

.@ChaseClaypool is ready to roll pic.twitter.com/uAKcG19Vsz

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 31, 2020

See how @heinzfield was transformed to be the home of this year's #SteelersCamp in the 1️⃣st episode of our new behind-the-scenes series 'The Standard'.

Watch the full video on YouTube ⤵️

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 31, 2020

Good to see some familiar faces!@TeamJuJu | @VMcDonald89 | @JamesWashington | @Bud_Dupree pic.twitter.com/AhPyaPnZyI

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 31, 2020

DBs checking in ⬇️@joehaden23 | @MikeHilton_28 | @minkfitz_21 | @Nelson_Island pic.twitter.com/KYAHpvUGtf

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 31, 2020

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions: Offseason, Vol. 30

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 5:45pm
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

There is always something to talk about when it comes to the black-and-gold!

It’s Friday again, so it’s time for the six pack of questions. Wow, what a week. If you haven’t read the other articles on the site today, you missed a lot of things going on at BTSC! The biggest is the return of Jeff Hartman as co-editor. Make sure you check his news as I am really excited about his return. We might even rotate who does the six pack. The news which most of you don’t want to hear is a change to our commenting system on Monday. It is a major upgrade in software, but it will also mean change. So next Friday will be our first chance to try it out for the six pack.

Also, I’m trying to get some feedback from this great group in order to help make BTSC the best it can be. You’ll see in my “non-Steelers” questions below.

The rules are still the same...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

So here we go! With the formalities out of the way, it’s time to jump on in. Hopefully this party is exactly what you’re looking for on a Friday night. Here goes:

  1. Players are back! Rookies are on the field doing drills. Are you excited for the season yet?
  2. Of the teams the Steelers play outside of their division, which team is the one you would hate to lose to the most? (NFC East, AFC South, Denver, and Buffalo are the opponents)
  3. With the new commenting system by SB Nation, if you are unhappy with it to start will it affect your regularity in which you come to BTSC?
  4. On your next birthday, your friends/family throw you a surprise party with a special appearance from a Steelers player/coach. When you open your eyes, who’s there to celebrate? (If your friends/family don’t like you, this could get really interesting!)
  5. Do you listen to our BTSC family of podcasts either as audio or on YouTube?
  6. Our Numero Uni article series just finished with number 26 deemed to have the most number of quality Steelers players who have worn it. Whether you read the series or not (the rundown of Bryan Anthony Davis’ choices are at the bottom of the link), what do you think is the jersey number which has the most of your favorite Steelers players associated with it?

Stay safe out there, and hopefully we will be discussing players reporting to the facility when we reconvene next week.

And it wouldn’t be a Friday night unless we said...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Keith Butler gives Vince Williams a big vote of confidence

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 3:59pm
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Steelers defensive coordinator believes Williams can do well in pass coverage.

The Steelers addressed their inside linebacker position in a big way in the 2019 NFL draft, trading up to the tenth pick in the draft to select Devin Bush out of the University of Michigan. Bush played from Week 1, solidifying the position and improving over the course of the season, leading the Steelers in tackles and contributing 6 turnovers to the defense.

The inside line backer with the second most snaps in 2019 was Mark Barron, the converted safety who was used as a coverage linebacker by the Steelers. With Barron no longer on the team, there has been a good deal of speculation about how the Steelers would replace the role Barron played in the defense. Would they turn to second year line backer Ulysees Gilbert III who showed promise in his first preseason? Would the Steelers lean on safety Terrell Edmunds and use him as a coverage linebacker?

Keith Butler seems to have already decided the answer to that question.

Keith Butler said Vince Williams is a go-to guy because he is a great communicator, we think he can cover. He will play inside with Devin Bush.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) July 31, 2020

It is no secret the Steelers like Vince Williams, he is a fierce competitor, very solid tackler and he has been calling the defense from inside linebacker since injuries thrust him into the starting lineup as a rookie. Williams played the least amount of snaps on defense in 2019 in any of the last three seasons. After two straight season of more than 70% of the defensive snaps, Williams was only on the field for 396 in 2019 which equated to 37%.

Butler gave him an additional vote of confidence in coverage assignments, and made it clear that he will be the main partner for Devin Bush at linebacker.

It is possible the Steelers could use just Bush and Williams at the position, instead of a three linebacker rotation like they had last year as they limited Devin Bush’s snaps. If that is the case Vince Williams will be playing in 3-4 sets as well as nickle. He played in nickle a good bit in 2019, and while he boosted the run defense when out there, he also could be a liability when facing teams with backs and tight ends that were athletic route runners.

With Butler committing to Vince Williams already, it will be interesting to see how the Steelers deal with more difficult coverage assignments as the season progresses.

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 2:35pm
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

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

Continuing our list with part 68 of our 90-part series — assuming the roster does not change before we are complete — which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s take a look at Pittsburgh Steelers legend, and future hall of famer:

Ben Roethlisberger

Position: QB
Height: 6’ 5”
Weight: 240 lbs
College: Miami (OH)
Draft: 1st round, 11th Overall in 2004

2019 stats

2 Games played
35 Completions
62 Attempts
351 Yards
0 Touchdowns
1 Interception
66.0 QBR

Contract remaining

Expires in 2022
$23,750,000 salary cap number (11.83% of total cap)
$22,550,000 Dead money
$1,500,000 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

I debated even including this category for the Roethlisberger A-Z, but for the sake of continuity... Lock, absolute lock, throw away the key locked on the roster. Ben Roethlisberger isn't going anywhere, not now, and definitely not in 2021. If you take away the fact he’s one of the greatest football players of all-time, he’s still not going anywhere because he is on an uncuttable contract. If current 2021 cap projection stands, Roethlisberger would account for nearly 25% of the total salary cap, which makes Big Ben a big candidate for an extension past 2022.

2020 projection

With all the noise coming out of Pittsburgh about Ben Roethlisberger’s health, I fully expect another quality year out of the veteran signal caller. Roethlisberger is coming back to an offense that really didn't lose any significant pieces, while gaining the likes of Eric Ebron, Derek Watt, and second-round pick Chase Claypool. The talent around Roethlisberger is better in 2020 then it was in 2019 and I fully expect him to put up stats that are at least around his career averages.

Projected stats:

16 Games played
390 Completions
590 Attempts
4,400 Yards
31 Touchdowns
8 Interception

Summary

When you think of the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers, think of them as a car. The defense is the frame as they hold everything together. The offensive line is the steering and suspension as they steer the offense and take you wherever you want to go. The receivers are the tailored interior, designed for style and comfort, as the wide outs are a luxury. The running backs and tight ends are the transmission, shifting the team into higher gears. And finally, Ben Roethlisberger is the engine, if it isn't for him nothing else works. The tires don’t spin, the transmission won't shift, and the nice leather seats just become an inconvenient place to sit.

If Ben Roethlisberger plays like how he did In 2018, there is no doubt in my mind the Pittsburgh Steelers are a Super Bowl contender. We should find out what we still have in Ben come Week 1, and with any luck the pistons are firing on all cylinders.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh
Carlos Davis
David DeCastro
Christian DiLauro
Kevin Dotson
Bud Dupree
Eric Ebron
Terrell Edmunds
Trey Edmunds
Matt Feiler
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Zach Gentry
Ulysees Gilbert III
Derwin Gray
Joe Haden
J.C. Hassenauer
Quadree Henderson
Dewayne Hendrix
Cam Heyward
Alex Highsmith
Mike Hilton
Devlin Hodges
John Houston
Anthony Johnson
Diontae Johnson
Jarron Jones
John Keenoy
Tyree Kinnel
Christian Kuntz
Justin Layne
Leo Lewis
James Lockhart
Paxton Lynch
Dan McCullers
Vance McDonald
Anthony McFarland Jr.
Henry Mondeaux
Christian Montano
Alexander Myres
Steven Nelson
Spencer Nigh
Chuks Okorafor
James Pierre
Maurkice Pouncey
Kevin Rader
Dax Raymond

Report: NFL suspends Antonio Brown 8 games upon his return

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 1:40pm
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The troubled wide receiver will have to wait a bit before he gets back on the field anytime soon.

Former Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been very undecided as to whether he wants to play the game of football anymore. On the wrong side of 30, Brown has said he is done, and that he wants to return, all in the course of a week.

His overall frustration was with how the NFL is seemingly dragging its feet over disciplinary actions he is facing if, or when, he decides to get back into the league.

Per Robert Klemko of the Washington post, if a team wants to take a flier on Brown, he will have to sit out a half of the season, eight games.

Antonio Brown (free agent) is being suspended for 8 games for violation fo the NFL personal conduct policy, beginning whenever he signs, per league source.

— robertklemko (@RobertKlemko) July 31, 2020

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting if Brown were to sign with a team during the preseason he would still be eligible to participate in training camp before sitting out the first eight games.

If Antonio Brown is signed before the start of the 2020 season, he would be eligible to participate in his club's preseason activities. Brown's suspension would take effect as of final roster reduction on September 5. He would be eligible to return after the team's eighth game. https://t.co/6oB5M5stmc

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 31, 2020

While Brown recently settled his off field accusations, there is still the sexual assault allegations which have yet to be decided. This could dictate if a team is even willing to give Brown a shot, even if he still has all the talent in the world.

There have been several reports of teams showing interest in Brown, the Seahawks and Ravens being the most consistent within the rumor mill.

There is little doubt of the ability Brown brings to the table to any NFL team. Brown has led the NFL in receiving yards twice in his career with 1698 yards in 2014 and 1533 in 2017. In his last full season, Brown had a league-leading 15 touchdown receptions in 2018 despite the fact he sat out of the Steelers Week 17 games against the Cincinnati Bengals. The bigger question would be if Brown is worth the risk of bringing him into the locker room part way through what would already be an extremely strange season.

Now that teams know what they are dealing with when it comes to Brown’s availability, the next step would be to see if someone takes flier on him and what the contract would be.

Get your popcorn ready.

Announcement: we have a new commenting system coming

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 1:05pm

By Andrew Losowsky, Head of Coral at Vox Media

Monday’s going to be a big day for Behind the Steel Curtain commenters: we’re going to be moving our comments to a brand new platform. This site is one of the first five sites in the rollout.

Yeah, we hate change too, but this one is not only necessary but also brings with it some real improvements that’ll make the whole commenting experience better.

We’ve been using the same commenting platform for over a decade and it’s time for an upgrade. The tools from our earliest days aren’t built for the modern web and making improvements to the original system gets tougher every year.

We’ve been working hard to create a new tool with features that have been on many of our wish lists for years. And it works great on phones.

The new system is called Coral, and it’s been built by a team that was acquired last year from Mozilla by Vox Media. Coral is being used by more than 150 sites around the world, and this version contains dozens of features and customizations that the team has created especially for SB Nation fan communities.

We know it’ll take a bit of getting used to – we ask only that you give it a chance, try it on a few articles, and then tell us honestly what you think. This is a work in progress - we will continue to evolve the tools over the coming months and years to support you, the best fan communities on the internet.

Some important information about the launch: Your old comment history won’t be migrated on day one, but we’ve kept it safe and will be bringing it back. We’ll be temporarily removing comments from FanPosts and FanShots, as well. We appreciate your patience through these changes.

The new platform will be on all our articles on this site from Monday, using the same login as always.

If you want to try the new commenting platform for yourself today, you can go to this page. You’ll have to create a temporary account on that site, it’s just a sandbox (with the usual rules around abuse and language).

Thanks as always for being here.

Numero Uni: Revealing the most prolific Steelers jersey number of all time

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 12:05pm

In a countdown of the most prolific Steelers jerseys of all time, No. 26 comes in first place.

BTSC continues to rank the best numbers in team history on a standpoint of thriving over time throughout multiple players. It seems there are a few numbers which are always represented with quality play in Steelers lore. One BTSC author has wondered aloud “what is the most accomplished number in Steelers history?” Through player and jersey value rankings found in Pro Football Reference, we have ranked the most successful numbers in Steelers history worn by multiple players. You won’t see numbers like 12, 58, 75, 31, 32, 52, 59, 36 and 47 as it would be basically ranking an individual player over the other and not the cumulative effort. In today’s submission, we take a look at those ranked first. Enjoy.

2) No. 26

Current Wearer: Anthony McFarland Jr.

Most Notable: Le’Veon Bell 2013-2018, Will Allen 2010-2012, Deshea Townsend 1998-2009, Rod Woodson 1987-1996, Preston Pearson 1970-1974, Rocky Bleier 1968

Le’Veon Bell

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In five seasons, Le’Veon Bell was one of the finest, all-around running backs in the game of football. Drafted in the second round in 2013 out of Michigan State, Bell burst on to the scene with 860 yards and 8 touchdowns during his Joe Greene Great Performance Award rookie season. The next season, Bell reached superstardom as a Pro Bowler and All-Pro with a combined 2,215 (1,361 yards rushing/854 yards receiving). Despite the gaudy numbers, trouble began early for the second-year man when he and his backup LeGarrette Blount were arrested for 420 on McKnight Road before leaving for the team’s first preseason game in Philadelphia.

The season didn’t end well either as Bell missed the playoffs after hyperextending his knee against Cincinnati in the regular season finale. Without Blount who went AWOL for lack of playing time and Bell, the Steelers had no running game to speak of and were bounced quickly in the Wild Card against Baltimore. Healthy but suspended for the marijuana on McKnight incident, Le’Veon missed the first two games of 2015 and was lost for the year after a knee injury against Cincinnati in Week 8. At the time of injury, “Juice” was averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

Again in 2016, Bell was suspended for three games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. When Bell made is season debut, he returned with a 144 yard vengeance. In Buffalo of December of that year, Bell broke Willie Parker’s Steelers franchise record for rushing yards in a game with 236 rushing yards and three touchdowns. In 2017 contract discord set in with Bell reportedly having turned down a 2 -year deal worth $30 Million. Despite speaking out and rapping periodically about the money, Bell still gained 1,906 yards from scrimmage with 11 total touchdowns.

The loss against Jacksonville in the Wildcard was his last with the Steelers as the running back held out the entire 2018 season. The Jets gave him a big money deal in 2019, but his numbers nowhere resembled his five-year total of 7,996 yards both running (5,336) and receiving (2,660), as well as his 42 total touchdowns as a Steeler. Love him or not, he was one of the franchise’s best over to wear the No. 26.

Will Allen

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Will Allen is not the man some people thinks he is. The man was an All-American safety and National Champion from the Ohio State University that played twelve seasons in the NFL, including six years in two stints with the Steelers. The man is more than just football a the driving force behind a foundation created in May 2008 to inspire youth to attain their personal best and to provide students a program with “real” life experiences that expose them to new and rewarding opportunities in Dayton, Tampa and Pittsburgh.

More specifically, he’s Willie James Allen. He’s many more things besides a name. But one thing that the 2004 fourth-round pick of the Buccaneers is NOT is a criminal. The closest thing he’s ever done resembling a crime was his seven career interceptions, with two for the Steelers. Will D. Allen is a completely different man altogether. The Giants, Dolphins and Patriots cornerback from Syracuse was convicted and imprisoned for running a Ponzi scheme in 2015. This has caused a headache of mistaken identity and harsh words of ignorance from the public towards the former Steeler. What’s not mistaken is the solid contributions of the man who wore No. 26 in his first stint with the Steelers after signing a free agent contract in 2010.

Allen signed as a free agent with the Cowboys in 2013, but was released and returned for three more seasons. This time around, Le’Veon Bell started wearing No. 26 and Allen assumed the No. 20. After starting 13 games in 2015, Allen did not catch on with another team and retired. But the Will Allen Foundation lives on and proves that there is more to a man then football and a name.

Deshea Townsend

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Deshea Townsend is one of those blue-collar Steelers that will never be recognized as a team legend, but he was a prominent piece of the puzzle for two Pittsburgh Super Bowl winners. Drafted in the fourth round of the 1998 NFL Draft, the Alabama Crimson Tide corner began to make a name for himself as a special teams standout as a rookie. The first player to be issued No. 26 since Rod Woodson’s departure, Townsend was a valuable reserve for the Steelers secondary corps before finally becoming a starter in Year 7 opposite Ike Taylor.

Townsend held down his post as the team’s primary right corner for four straight seasons before accepting the responsibilities as the teams slot corner for his final two seasons. Deshea always had a knack for coming up big when the team needed a big stop on defense. His sack of Matt Hasselbeck (pictured above) helped seal the victory for the Steelers in Super Bowl XL, while his 25-yard pick-six of Tony Romo was the winning score in a key December 2008 game during the Super Bowl XLIII season. After a 12-year career in Pittsburgh, Deshea left the Steelers in 2010 for half of a season with the Colts. His final tallies as a Steeler were 183 games, 15.5 sacks and 21 interceptions. Since retiring, Deshea has been a defensive backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals, Mississippi State, Tennesse Titans, New York Giants and currently with the Chicago Bears.

Rod Woodson

Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Rod Woodson spent ten years of his Hall of Fame resume’ in black-and-gold, but most Steelers fans still view him as the one that got away. A world-class hurdler and All-American defensive back at Purdue. legend has it that Head Coach Chuck Noll mandated defensive backs coach Tony Dungy spend very little time scouting the blue-chipper due to hopes of his availability at No. 10 in 1987 being very slim. However, head scratching picks by Cleveland and the Cardinals led to Penn State’s Shane Conlan and Woodson dropping. After Buffalo selected Conlan, a future Hall of Famer landed in the lap of the Steelers. Woodson’s Steelers career took a while to get started as he staged a contract holdout that lasted 95 days.

The fourth fastest 110-meter hurdler in the world spent his time out of pads back in the track-and-field world. He won the bronze medal at the 1987 USA Olympic festival, as well as several medals competing in Europe. Finally Woodson signed a deal to join the team in late-October. Ironically his holdout was the longest in team history until another 26er, the aforementioned Bell, sat the entire 2018 season.

During his Steel Town tenure, Woodson hauled-in 38 interceptions and is tied with William Gay for the most pick-sixes in team history with five. Hot Rod also fielded punts and kickoffs for 2,362 yards/two touchdowns 4,894 yards/two touchdowns respectively. In his ten seasons in black-and-gold, Woodson was named to the All-Pro team eight-times (six first-team), was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1993 and was included on the 75th and Anniversary All-Time team. After a gruesome knee tear during the 1995 opener, the three-time Steelers MVP missed the entire regular season and playoffs. He returned to play in the Super Bowl XXX loss to Dallas. After his return in 1996, the free agent defensive back was low-balled by the Steelers by offering only a three-year contract not fitting his value. Woodson then took his services to San Francisco ending his decade-long tenure with the Steelers.

Woodson thrived for seven more seasons in the NFL after departing Pittsburgh. He won a Super Bowl with another AFC Central franchise in 2000 and played in another with Oakland in 2002. Woodson is third in NFL history with 71 picks, set the record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns at 12, made the NFL’s 75th and 100th All-Time teams, is an 11-time Pro Bowler and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Rod Woodson had a great NFL career for four teams, but he will be linked most with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But again, he’s the one that got away. It’s hard not to wonder if his exceptional play and leadership on defense would have brought another title to the City of Champions, especially in 1997 had he stayed.

Preston Pearson

Drafted in the 12th round of the 1967 Draft by the Colts, Preston Pearson never played a down of football at the University of Illinois. His athleticism as an Illini basketball player led Pearson to a career in the NFL. After spending three years in Baltimore as a running back, special teams captain a Super Bowl III participant, Pearson was traded along with Ocie Austin to Pittsburgh for Ray May and a twelfth round draft choice before the 1970 season.

In Pittsburgh, Pearson was given the No. 26 that was last worn by Rocky Bleier before he departed for military service in Vietnam. Preston immediately became the starter in the Steel City and was the ranked 15th among rushers his second season with the team in 1971. In 1972, the wearer of the two-six was ranked eighth in the National Football League in rushing when he tore a hamstring in Week 5.

The injury paved the way for the team’s top choice in 1972, Franco Harris, to assume the starting role and embark on a Hall of Fame path. In 1973, Pearson spent time at wide receiver in training camp, but switched back to being a running back to start the season. After earning a ring with the Steelers for their victory in Super Bowl IX, the outspoken player representative began to fall out of favor with Head Coach Chuck Noll. Despite being the seventh leading rusher in franchise history (2,243 yards and eight touchdowns) at the time, the Steelers waived Preston Pearson early in the 1975 season and he found a home with the Dallas Cowboys a few days later. The player would meet the Steelers again in Super Bowl X, having played with both championship participants in the same season.

When it was all said and done, Pearson played for three legendary coaches (Don Shula, Noll and Tom Landry) and earned two rings in five Super Bowls. In 1981, Pearson concluded his 14-year career. While being associated more as a Cowboy, however, Preston Pearson had his greatest statistical success with the Steelers.

Rocky Bleier

Photo by Vic Stein/Getty Images

Robert Patrick Bleier, a four-time Super Bowl champion and member of the 1966 National Champs while at Notre Dame. More impressive, he is also a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. After his rookie season, No. 26 was drafted into the U.S. Army and was sent to Vietnam where a grenade blew off part of his foot. While recovering, Rocky received a note of encouragement from the Chief Art Rooney Sr. that read “Rock-the team’s not doing well, We need you.” A year later, the Rock returned, this time wearing No. 20 (due to Preston Pearson wearing the two-six) and became an important cog in the Steeler’s offensive machine.

Although Bleier never was elected, but he rushed for 1,036 yards in 1976 and was a key member of all four Super Bowl winning teams. His touchdown in Super Bowl XIII proved to be huge. Bleier retired after the 1980 season with 3,865 rushing yards, 136 receptions for 1,294 yards and 25 total touchdowns. The Rock’s 1975 autobiography, Fighting Back, became a made for TV movie in 1980. A 2018 inductee in the Steelers Hall of Honor, Bleier remains a Steelers ambassador and is a sought after motivational speaker.

There you have it, the absolute best number to adorn a jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the most prolific jersey number stables in Steelers history. One last time, a recap of the countdown.

Honorable Mention: No. 51, No. 93, No. 27 and No. 33
25) No. 24
24) No. 43
23) No. 83
22) No. 67
21) No. 53
20) No. 10
19) No. 20
18) No. 63
17) No. 50
16) No. 34
15) No. 78
14) No. 98
13) No. 68
12) No. 77
11) No. 56
10) No. 86
9) No. 73
8) No. 99
7) No. 55
6) No. 39
5) No. 91
4) No. 82

3) No, 92
2) No. 66

Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the hypocycloids.

Film Room: Will newly signed Curtis Riley be the Steelers No. 3 safety?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 10:30am
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

How the Steelers newest addition would fit with the team.

The Pittsburgh Steelers added former Titan, Giant and Raider defensive back Curtis Riley to the roster. While most additions at this point of the season are camp fodder, Curtis Riley is a 28 year old with 19 starts at safety, and almost 1500 defensive snaps. He also has a connection to the Steelers.

Riley went undrafted in 2015, and ended up on injured reserve that season. In 2016 he made the Titans’ roster as the backup free safety for defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend. In 2018 Townsend went to the New York Giants as their defensive backs coach and brought Curtis Riley along, where he would end up winning the starting job.

Riley was benched in the last game of the 2018 season and the Giants did not re-sign him. Riley signed with the Raiders where he was the main backup safety and a special teams stalwart.

The Steelers’ safety depth is a weak area on the roster, and Riley joins the team as the most experienced depth safety in terms of on field experience. I wanted to take a look at his film and see what he could bring to the defense, and see what his odds of making the team are.

Middle Safety

Riley played primarily deep safety for the Giants, and while he wasn’t a great safety, he was pretty solid.

2018 week 16, 3rd quarter, 10:30. Curtis Riley is the deep safety.

Curtis Riley gives a lot of ground here, but keeps T.Y. Hilton from getting past him and breaking this play for a TD. It isn’t the play you’d like from a free safety, but it is one you can live with.

2018 week 16, 4th quarter, 3:06. Curtis Riley is the deep safety.

On this play Curtis Riley adjusts to the route he is defending well, and comes up to force Andrew Luck out of bounds.

Curtis Riley doesn’t have the range you want from a single high safety, but he does flash some play-making ability from the middle deep zone.

2018 week 2, 3rd quarter, 3:34. Curtis Riley is the deep safety.

Curtis Riley is offset to the far hash on this play, but he adjusts to the route and is able to make the play on the ball for an interception.

2-Deep safety

Curtis Riley is even better in coverage when he isn’t the only deep zone defender.

2018 week 16, 1st quarter, 1:03. Curtis Riley is the deep safety to the top of the screen.

This route attacks the weakness in cover-2, and exploits the shallow coverage the middle linebacker is playing. Riley’s reaction and speed to the ball is good, and he’s there to limit any yards after the catch.

2018 week 11, 3rd quarter, 9:42. Curtis Riley is the deep safety to the top of the screen.

This is a good job playing as the deepest defender. He keeps Desean Jackson from getting behind him with a good backpedal, then fluidly turns, tracks the ball, and secures position to play the ball. Riley is very good at reading the ball in the air and making a play on it.

2018 week 16, 2nd quarter, 14:30. Curtis Riley is the deep safety to the top of the screen.

The slot defender blitzes, and Riley covers his man, charging in to make the tackle on the hot route. It isn’t a great tackle, but he brings down the receiver. This is something safeties in Pittsburgh are asked to do a lot.

Slot defender

The Steelers love safeties that can also cover slot receivers, and while Curtis Riley hasn’t done it a lot in the NFL, he has done it.

2019 week 11, 4th quarter, 5:11. Curtis Riley is the slot defender toward the bottom of the screen.

This isn’t the best coverage, but Riley stays close enough to the receiver to make it a difficult catch, and it ends up incomplete. Riley isn’t better than any of the top 4 cornerbacks or either starting safety in slot coverage, but he isn’t bad at all for a depth safety.

2019 week 17, 1st quarter, 5:17. Curtis Riley is to the right side of the screen, approaching the line of scrimmage.

Riley times up his blitz really well, and takes a good angle to the running back. Again the tackle isn’t a good one, he tends to grab at legs instead of wrapping them up, but it works here.

Tackling and special teams

We’ve covered a few examples of Curtis Riley using less than stellar tackling form, but it gets worse. Much worse.

2018 week 16, 2nd quarter, 5:40. Curtis Riley is the deep safety at the start of the play.

Riley runs up to help make the tackle, but flies past without making contact at all.

2018 week 17, 3rd quarter, 5:10. Curtis Riley is the deep safety to the bottom of the screen.

This play got Curtis Riley benched for the rest of the game, and Riley wouldn’t play for the Giants again, as they didn’t re-sign him. Several angles on these plays (there were more than just these two) look like Riley intentionally avoided contact. They show up a good bit at the end of 2018, I don’t know if there was a reason he was avoiding contact, but he recorded a lot of tackles, and while his form isn’t good and he misses a ton of tackles this extreme lack of effort doesn’t show up like this in other seasons, although he still misses on hits like this.

2019 week 11, 1st quarter, 9:30. Curtis Riley is the deep safety to the top of the screen.

Riley gives a lot of ground on this play to get away from the blocker and make the tackle on Joe Mixon. Again, Riley isn’t the guy you want making plays in the run game. He’s not a hitter, and he isn’t a good tackler, but he isn’t incapable of making tackles.

2019 week 14, 4th quarter, 7:53. Curtis Riley (#35) is to the right of the formation.

Curtis Riley was a staple on special teams in 2017 with the Titans and again in 2019 with the Raiders. He didn’t make many tackles, and he isn’t a very physical player on these plays, but you can see that he gets into his target and disrupts their route on the return even if he isn’t a violent player.

Conclusion

Curtis Riley brings a skill-set to the defense that the Steelers are lacking at the safety position. Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t at his best in deep zone, but he’s by far the best safety in that role. Curtis Riley is also a really good deep safety, and I’d love to see him in the Steelers Cover-2, Cover-3 and quarters looks. He would give the Steelers a good option for those deep zones that isn’t Minkah Fitzpatrick or a cornerback.

The biggest problem with Curtis Riley is his tackling, and while his missed tackle rate is awful, he also has 121 tackles in 1,484 defensive snaps, averaging a tackle every 12.3 snaps. Fitzpatrick is a much better tackler and averages a tackle every 13.4 snaps, Cam Sutton every 14.4 snaps, and Terrell Edmunds every 10.9 snaps. If you factor in their missed tackles, Curtis Riley is much closer to Edmunds in attempted tackles than he is to Fitzpatrick or Sutton.

If Curtis Riley can be used more like Fitzpatrick and Sutton, and doesn’t show the contact aversion he did at the end of the 2018 season, he could carve out a niche on the Steelers’ roster as a deep zone specialist.

Matt Canada's influence will shape the Steelers quarterback depth chart

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 9:00am
Art Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

New Steelers QB Coach Matt Canada was hired to positively impact the team's young quarterbacks first and foremost.

Yesterday I was reminded about what a uniquely strange training camp we are about to experience. Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner partook in a virtual press conference and shared some of his insights concerning this year's offense.

At one point in the presser, he spoke enthusiastically about backup quarterback Paxton Lynch and the intriguing battle for the 3rd position on the depth chart, presumably with last season's feel good story Devlin “Duck” Hodges.

While that all sounds well and good, there is a proverbial fly in the ointment. Any decisions concerning roster spots and positional battles will be decisively more difficult without even a single preseason game on which to help base your final decisions.

That's where newly acquired quarterbacks Coach Matt Canada comes into play, especially on the offensive side of the ball. His presence and influence will shape the Steelers QB depth chart.

My distinguished colleagues K.T. Smith (CHISIP) and Geoffrey Benedict have been writing articles praising his football knowledge and potential impact on the Steelers offense before the ink even had a chance to dry on his contract, and I have been impressed by what I have been able to learn about the man from their writing.

Canada's greatest opportunity for impact, at least initially, will be in the quarterback room. He wasn't hired with Ben Roethlisberger in mind. At this point in his Hall of Fame caliber career, Roethlisberger doesn't require the services of a position coach as much as his young understudies. Not to say I don't believe Canada will be able to assist Ben in his return to prominence; because I believe he will make a positive impact on Roethlisberger, only that he wasn't the emphasis of Canada's hiring.

Canada has some raw talent to work with in Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, and Paxton Lynch. All extremely unique in their own right, but desperately needing Canada's guidance and expertise if they are to develop into NFL caliber quarterbacks.

What difference can a quarterback coach actually make? Look no further than Canada's own past achievements for an example. While employed as a offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Panthers in 2016, Canada worked closely with quarterback Nathan Peterman and helped him perform like a bonafide NFL caliber QB prospect. Sadly, Peterman has never been able to duplicate that ability thus far in his actual professional career. I feel certain that Canada's influence played a large role in Peterman's collegiate success.

The Steelers can only hope that Canada will be able to help the quarterbacks currently on the depth chart tap into their yet unrealized potential like he did Peterman.

Under Canada's tutelage, Rudolph may learn to read the field more rapidly, trust what he sees, and pull the trigger with conviction and confidence. Oftentimes, a quarterback's self confidence is influenced by the aggressiveness being displayed within the offensive game plan and grounded in their relationship with the coaches. This relationship can make a huge difference for a talented young signal caller, similar to the relationship between 1980's Oakland Raiders standout Jim Plunkett and Head Coach Tom Flores. Plunkett went from being one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history to being a two-time Super Bowl champion. Coaching, and a change of scenery, played a large role in his success.

Canada's instruction could help Hodges learn to overcome his physical limitations by enhancing his mental capabilities to their full capacity, enabling him to further his career as a professional, even if his ceiling turns out to be a quality backup. Guys like Frank Reich and Don Strock enjoyed successful careers, and impressive career earnings, as a trusted backup. Not too shabby if you ask me, but first he has to hold off the challenge of Paxton Lynch.

This is where I feel Canada's influence will have it's greatest impact. Lynch is a former first-round pick who, thus far in his NFL career, has draft bust written all over him. Lynch has the prototypical size and arm talent necessary to be a starter in the NFL. Questions remain about his mental acumen and work ethic. This is where Canada enters the equation.

Can he do for Lynch what he once did for Nathan Peterman? Can he unlock the mental aspect of Lynch's game, combining it with his obvious physicality, turning him into a successful reclamation project? If he can, it would prove beneficial for the Steelers moving forward into the post Ben Roethlisberger future, and just might earn Canada the title of QB Whisperer. You may laugh, but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid currently holds that distinction in my opinion.

Although the end result remains to be seen, you can feel certain that the Steelers quarterback depth chart will have Matt Canada's fingerprints and influence written all over it.

NFL players should learn from the MLB how to act outside a bubble

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 7:45am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Since the NFL won’t be conducting its 2020 regular season in a bubble city, it’s critical that the players exercise caution in between practices and games. If not, the NFL could face a COVID crisis it may not be able to fix.

The NBA and NHL have both decided to conduct their postseason tournaments in bubble cities. Major League Baseball and the NFL aren’t going this route with regards to beginning and completing their 2020 regular seasons and postseasons.

Who’s going to come out looking healthier and safer as major professional sports leagues try and play amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic?

It’s still early for the NBA and NHL. In fact, the NBA playoffs tipped off Thursday night, while the NHL drops the puck on Saturday. However, if recent test results are any indication, bubble cities may be the way to go. Why do I say that? The NBA just reported no positive tests for a second-straight week. As for the NHL, it tested over 800 of its players between July 18 and July 25 and didn’t report a single positive result.

If only Major League Baseball was so fortunate after one weekend of real action.

Following an opening weekend series in Philadelphia, both the Phillies and Marlins had their seasons suspended when it was revealed that 14 Marlins players had tested positive for the Coronavirus (the number has since increased to 17 members of the Marlins' traveling party). This meant the Miami’s series against the Orioles had to be postponed, while the Phillies series against the Yankees was also suspended.

Why did this all happen? Nobody will ever know for sure, but we do know that some Marlins players went out on the town while in Atlanta to play an exhibition game against the Braves on July 22.

“Well, I think a couple guys went out in Atlanta,” said baseball writer Bob Nightengale while appearing on 93.7 The Fan . “That’s what happened. I don’t think it was any kind of fluke, from the bus driver or a pilot, any of that. I believe some guys got careless, at least one guy did for sure, he went out, and came back positive and spread it around.”

Unlike the NHL, who will be hosting its Stanley Cup playoffs in Edmonton and Toronto, and the NBA, whose playoff series’ will all be in Orlando, NFL and MLB teams will be flying from city to city just like any other year—sans fans in stadiums, of course.

There are certainly no guarantees when it comes to a virus that can be transmitted so easily, but traveling certainly doesn’t help to lessen the risks. And when you combine traveling with carelessness, well, that’s why the Marlins and Phillies’ seasons were quickly put on hold (at least two members of the Phillies’ staff have now tested positive for the virus since last weekend).

This should be one huge wake-up call for the NFL and its players. When you’re dealing with something like this, it’s not going to take much to screw things up to the extent that the entire league could get shut down.

Fortunately, baseball was able to work through its first COVID crisis by quickly scheduling the Yankees to play the Orioles. As for the Phillies and Marlins, the nature of baseball being what it is, they’ll have open dates to make up their games. And, of course, baseball has been known to schedule a double-header or two in its day.

Should it face a Marlins-level Corona outbreak, the NFL may not be so fortunate.

Could bye weeks be utilized if teams had to postpone games? Logistically, I don’t know how they would do it, and I certainly don’t want to try and figure it out, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be an easy problem to have to navigate through.

I believe it would be much easier for football players to just stay home or in their hotel rooms as much as possible. Not only stay home, but wear masks when out in public, wash their hands a lot and just do what most of society has been doing since about mid-March or so.

I’m certainly no medical expert (as you may have guessed), but if hundreds of people get tested on a regular basis, and all of those people come back with negative results, banging into one another for 60 minutes on a football field shouldn’t matter as it pertains to that pesky virus.

But if even one of those players decides to hang out with some friends or strangers the night before a game, it could be an encounter which ultimately leads to a lost season for that player and thousands of other folks who make their living through the National Football League.

Would a night on the town be worth all of that? How about a fling with a gorgeous woman from a club?

I’d like to think not.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who spoke virtually with reporters on Thursday about all-things training camp, including how his players should conduct themselves during this pandemic:

“You guys know I like catchphrases. You’re talking about conduct that is detrimental. If you’re not exercising caution... that conduct is detrimental.” ... “Its one fail, all fail in this environment.”

3 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin during his press conference on Thursday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

In his first time speaking with the media since training camp began, Mike Tomlin fielded a few questions about players on the 2020 roster.

It’s back by popular demand! Yes, it’s a return to looking at the players mentioned in Mike Tomlin’s press conferences, but more important is the return of Coach Tomlin speaking to the media. With the oddity which is Steelers training camp in 2020, it’s hard to say how often we will hear from Coach Tomlin. But when we do, you can bet we are going to cover it here at Behind the Steel Curtain.

During the virtual interview on Thursday, Coach Tomlin was asked questions about specific players in regards to the upcoming season. These players are not ones Tomlin brought up himself, but are specifically players about whom Tomlin was asked questions. As you can see, some responses are thorough while others drew more of a ‘non-answer.’

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger throwing! #Steelers pic.twitter.com/kzNvXGsROr

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) July 30, 2020

Coming of of season-ending eblow surgery in 2019, everybody wants to see Ben Roethlisberger’s progression. Coach Tomlin was asked about if he had an opportunity to watch Roethlisberger throw the day before at Heinz Field as offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner had suggested.

“We didn’t have him throw here yesterday. We’ve really been focusing on getting to know these young guys, but obviously he has been throwing. That throwing has been going well. We like where he is. We don’t have any reservations about him being a fluid participant in this training camp process.”

Eric Ebron

Eric Ebron in Pittsburgh! #Steelers pic.twitter.com/ztuXWMHIlt

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) July 29, 2020

The Steelers added a former first-round pick in tight end Eric Ebron during the offseason. Coach Tomlin was asked if had yet to meet with Ebron and if his addition would allow the Steelers to run multiple tight end sets.

“We’re familiar with Ebron’s talent. We’ve played him quite a bit since he’s been in the league. We are excited about acquiring him and adding him to our offensive mix. He’s a talented guy with a unique skillset for his position. We’re excited about carving out a role and highlighting those talents. Some of it may include multiple tight end personnel groups. Some of it may not. That’s a thing that’s going to be ironed out through this process. He’s a viable receiving option and one we are going to be excited about getting familiar with utilizing.”

JuJu Smith-Schuster

SOON!! pic.twitter.com/D6arMtRZ7l

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) July 26, 2020

Another player looking to bounce back from their 2019 season is wide reveiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Coach Tomlin was asked staff spoke to JuJu Smith-Schuster about where his game can improve regardless of which quarterback is throwing him the football.

“JuJu and the rest of the veterans are still in the testing stage. We haven’t begun the formal process with those guys, so those types of conversations that you suggest have not transpired to this point in any formal way.”

A portion of Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here with the entire session available on the Steelers YouTube channel:

Coach Tomlin spoke to the media about the preparation & development of the rookies, Ben Roethlisberger’s progress, the addition of Eric Ebron and more.@OurFordStore

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 30, 2020

The walk of shame

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 6:00am
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With my tail between my legs, I return...

Well, this is embarrassing.

I sit here writing this article not quite sure where to start, how to continue or even how to finish this article.

Or maybe I should consider this a tall tale about a Steelers fan who took a leap of faith, and fell flat on his face?

Either way, I am here to make amends. Amends to you, the readers who wished me well as I left at the end of May, and especially to the staff here to welcoming me back with open arms.

My journey with DKPittsburghSports was brief, and I was the one who chose to have it result in such a fashion. The details of this situation will remain private, and all I can say is I have never been so happy to return to the friendly confines of BTSC.

The time away wasn’t wasted. I learned a lot while at an accredited website, and am excited to bring some of what I learned back here to BTSC to make this site the best it can be.

For those wondering, Dave Schofield and I will be working together as co-editors of the site. The ability for me to come back and work with Dave, and not be his superior, was one I was excited to accept. What does this mean for you, the reader? It means more quality content, different content, more podcasts and truly making BTSC your one-stop-shop for all things Steelers.

Our goal is to make this site the one, and only, place you go to get all your Steelers news. With that said, I return feeling rather foolish, but I can’t be more happy than I am right now.

Here we go...

Podcast: Which Steelers running back is the most irreplaceable?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 5:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had great running backs in their storied history like John Henry Johnson, Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis and even Le’Veon Bell. These greats have helped them reach championship glory and others were around with no title to be realized. The current stable of the Steelers rushers include one with Pro Bowl pedigree and plenty of youth with talent to be realized further. But is there an irreplaceable player rushing the football and moving the chains for the Steelers? Thus the topic for our latest podcast.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Dave Schofield, Michael Beck and Bryan Anthony Davis break down this topic and all things Steelers.

  • News and Notes
  • Is there an irreplaceable player in the Steelers stable of runners?
  • Steelers Q&A
  • Steelets Trivia
  • 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: No Steelers have opted out yet, but Tomlin understands if they do

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 07/31/2020 - 4:30am
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. With the scheduled start of training camp now behind us, it looks like we’ll have to wait until opening weekend to see the Steelers take the field. Just because the NFL has cancelled the preseason doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how no Steelers have opted out of the 2020 regular season, yet, but even if someone does, Mike Tomlin understands.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Going to work during a pandemic isn’t an easy decision, and Mike Tomlin understands this.

Mike Tomlin ‘respectful’ of any Steelers player who decides to opt out of 2020 season

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

As NFL training camps entered the third day of covid-19 testing Thursday, 30 players across the league already have decided to opt out of the 2020 season because of medical concerns.

That includes six members of the New England Patriots, two starters from the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and two players from AFC North counterparts Cleveland and Baltimore.

Although two of Mike Tomlin’s young players are on the reserve/covid-19 list, he isn’t aware of any Pittsburgh Steelers players preparing to sit out the season.

Saying he hadn’t “spent a lot of time trying to anticipate” whether any of his players might opt out, Tomlin told reporters Thursday he’ll be prepared in case it happens.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • For Mike Tomlin, this isn’t just about strange and unusual circumstances, it is still about football.

Tomlin is excited to have football back

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

You would have a tough time finding anyone happier to have Steelers training camp underway at Heinz Field than Coach Mike Tomlin.

He is a self-described football junkie and that is as accurate a description you can find for him.

On Thursday, you could tell how genuinely excited he is to be back in his environment when he spoke to the media via a Zoom call for the first time since camp got underway, while at the same time approaching it in a safe and cautious manner.

“We are all excited. We miss football,” said Tomlin. “We are glad to get moving. We have a lot of respect for this environment we are in. We are working our tails off to familiarize ourselves and adhere to the COVID protocol and keep the individuals, and thus the collective group, as safe as we can be in the midst of this.”

That protocol, which was set through an agreement with the NFL and the NFLPA, makes the start of the 2020 Steelers training camp much different than anything we have seen before.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers’ safeties are not very deep, but will someone step up and earn the label of quality depth?

Steelers’ 90-man roster: Ss

By: Jim Wexell, Steelers Digest

ON THE ROSTER NOW: Marcus Allen, John Battle, Antoine Brooks, Jordan Dangerfield, Terrell Edmunds, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tyree Kinnel.

ON THE ROSTER IN SEPTEMBER: Mike Tomlin had four safeties on last year’s initial 53-man roster and six on the initial 53-man roster in 2018. It always depends on special-teamers. As mentioned in the preview for the cornerback position, six of them could make it, so that means the prediction here is four safeties make it.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT: Since obtaining Fitzpatrick after Game 2 last season, the Steelers’ defensive passer rating was 68.1, which, had it been the full season, would’ve been the best since the 63.4 defensive passer rating in 2008. In the 16 games of the 2018 season, plus the first two games of 2019, the defensive passer rating was 97.0. The highest defensive passer rating in team history was 98.3 in 2014.

KEY DEPARTURES: Sean Davis was a three-year starter but was injured in last year’s training camp and the team traded for Fitzpatrick. Davis ventured into the free agent market and signed a one-year contract with hometown Washington. Davis’ initial replacement, Kameron Kelly, lost his job to Fitzpatrick, played mainly special teams through Game 14, and was released after a legal incident.

KEY ADDITIONS: Brooks was drafted in the sixth round out of Maryland. He was primarily a box safety with the Terps and weighed 215 pounds at the NFL Combine. Kinnel, out of the XFL, is a free safety who was highly recruited by Michigan, became a special teams ace there, and then a captain before spending training camp with the Bengals last August. Battle played both safety spots at LSU but is more of a strong safety. He also went undrafted last season and spent the year on the Tampa Bay practice squad.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

The Steelers signed a cornerback to fill Justin Layne’s vacant spot

Is new TE Dax Raymond capable of making an impact in 2020?

Game-by-game predictions: The NFC North

The Steelers’ off-field discipline will be huge in 2020

Big Ben throwing...as in...actually throwing

  • Social Media Madness

The work continues

More ⤵️

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 29, 2020

Coach Tomlin spoke to the media about the preparation & development of the rookies, Ben Roethlisberger’s progress, the addition of Eric Ebron and more.@OurFordStore

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 30, 2020

This year, #SteelersCamp looks much different than it has in years past.

The first episode of our new behind-the-scenes series 'The Standard' focuses on how @heinzfield was transformed to be the home of this year's #SteelersCamp.

Watch the full video on YouTube ⤵️

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 30, 2020

Report: Steelers sign former Raiders cornerback Curtis Riley

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/30/2020 - 4:13pm
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Steelers have made a roster move, bringing in former Raiders cornerback Curtis Riley.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a vacant roster spot on their 90-man offseason roster with Justin Layne being placed on the NFL’s Reserve/COVID-19 List. In response to that transaction the Steelers have signed journeyman cornerback Curtis Riley.

This per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:

Free agent safety Curtis Riley, who started three games for the #Raiders last year, is signing with the #Steelers, source said. He took a physical there today. In 2018, he was an every down starter for the #Giants.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 30, 2020

Riley spent the 2019 with the Oakland Raiders where he started three games. He had 34 tackles and one pass defensed while appearing in all 16 games. Undrafted out of Fresno State in 2015, Riley was signed by the Tennessee Titans only to be placed on injured reserve during training camp. Riley spent two additional seasons in Tennessee where he appeared in 11 games and had an interception in 2017.

The 2018 season was where Riley had his best year in the NFL to date. Starting all 16 games with the New York Giants as a safety according to Pro Football Reference, Riley had four interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He also added 75 tackles.

During the 2019 season, Riley played 262 snaps on special teams which placed him third on the team in Oakland. To put this number in perspective, the total would have placed fourth on the 2019 Steelers behind Tyler Matakevick (340), Jordan Dangerfield (308), and Johnny Holton (283).

The Steelers will have a decision to make when Layne is placed back on the team’s roster, but Riley will have every opportunity to impress his new team in the meantime. For the latest news on the Steelers as they head into the heart of their training camp, be sure to stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain.

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Dax Raymond

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/30/2020 - 2:30pm

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

Moving along with part 67 of our 90-part series — assuming the roster does not change before we are complete — which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s take a look at freshly acquired tight end:

Dax Raymond

Position: TE
Height: 6’ 5”
Weight: 255 lbs
College: Utah Stats
Draft: UDFA in 2019 (Bears)

2019 stats

N/A — Injury

Contract remaining

Expires in 2021
$610,000 salary cap number (.3% of total cap)
$0 Dead money
$610,000 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

50/50. I believe the Pittsburgh Steelers probably wouldn’t have made room for Raymond if they hadn't seen something in him. I think that immediately slots him above Kevin Rader in the tight end hierarchy, and places him in a position to battle with Zach Gentry for the final spot. It may sound ludicrous to pick someone who's only been on this roster for a week to make this team, but in this case I'm picking Raymond to beat out the incumbent.

2020 projection

I don’t expect much production from a third tight end but Raymond may prove to be a valuable contributor on special teams. He could be a front line guy on kick return, an interior guy on punt, and can set the edge on the field goal unit. I think he may even catch a pass or two throughout the year.

Projected stats:

16 Games played
2 Receptions
11 Receiving yards
3 Special teams tackles

Summary

I like the Steelers tight end corps a lot heading into 2020. You have the big bodied basketball type, receiver in Eric Ebron, the all-around physical guy in Vance McDonald, and you can have a Mr. everything in a Dax Raymond. Perhaps Ben Roethlisberger might target his tight ends more than ever before in 2020.

Perhaps Raymond could be the only tight end brought back in 2021 if things go sideways as Ebron has a very cuttable contract and Vance is on a team option. Suffice to say the Steelers tight ends will be a position to watch and debate on for well over the next year.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh
Carlos Davis
David DeCastro
Christian DiLauro
Kevin Dotson
Bud Dupree
Eric Ebron
Terrell Edmunds
Trey Edmunds
Matt Feiler
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Zach Gentry
Ulysees Gilbert III
Derwin Gray
Joe Haden
J.C. Hassenauer
Quadree Henderson
Dewayne Hendrix
Cam Heyward
Alex Highsmith
Mike Hilton
Devlin Hodges
John Houston
Anthony Johnson
Diontae Johnson
Jarron Jones
John Keenoy
Tyree Kinnel
Christian Kuntz
Justin Layne
Leo Lewis
James Lockhart
Paxton Lynch
Dan McCullers
Vance McDonald
Anthony McFarland Jr.
Henry Mondeaux
Christian Montano
Alexander Myres
Steven Nelson
Spencer Nigh
Chuks Okorafor
James Pierre
Maurkice Pouncey
Kevin Rader

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