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Recounting some of the greatest “draft crushes” in BTSC history

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/02/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Manny Flores/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Taking a look back at some of the greatest Steelers “draft crushes” in BTSC history.

For those who have frequented BTSC for a few years, you may remember the hype surrounding a certain nose tackle out of Baylor University back in 2016. Andrew Billings was the draft crush of many Steelers’ fans that year, myself included. Those who had fallen for him argued passionately for his selection in the comments section of BTSC articles for months on end.

Why Billings? Well, the Steelers were a 3-4 defense without a nose tackle. Casey Hampton had retired in 2012 and the Steelers had not adequately replaced him. The defense was in decline and, according to the narrative, unless we had a player with Andre the Giant-like size clogging both A-gaps, there was no way to revive it.

Billings fit the profile. He was huge, he moved well and, best of all, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert attended his Pro Day workout at Baylor. The Steelers had a need and obviously there was interest. That combination created a Billings fan club that initiated a campaign for the ages at BTSC, arguing fervently for his selection in the first round. BTSC in those days was a rowdier, more hostile place than today’s kinder, gentler version. The arguments about Billings made a “Trump vs. Hillary” debate tame by comparison.

(For pure entertainment, I wanted to link to one of these articles. However, while the articles still exist, the new Coral system has wiped out all of the comments).

Billings did not go to the Steelers in the first round of the 2016 draft. Nor to any team. He did not go in the second round. Or the third. Finally, in an epic draft slide, the Cincinnati Bengals selected him in round four. Billings, it turns out, was the victim of a burgeoning trend that is now the norm in the NFL: the sub-package defense. With so many teams transitioning out of their three and four DL looks on passing downs, and with the passing game becoming increasingly prevalent in the league, one-trick ponies like Billings who could do little more than occupy gaps were becoming obsolete. Those who had argued this on BTSC were vindicated. Those who had not licked their wounds and moved on.

Billings, for his sake, promptly ripped up his knee in training camp. He played three more fairly obscure years in Cincinnati and departed for Cleveland, where he opted out of the 2020 season due to Covid concerns. There is no telling how his career may have unfolded had the Steelers chosen him. It’s safe to say, however, he would not have fulfilled the prophecy of the second coming of Casey Hampton so many of us had predicted.

The Andrew Billings story is one of many over the years where posters or writers have advocated passionately for a particular player. I joined the site in 2009 (Cliff Harris is Still A Punk!) and began contributing regularly around 2012. That year, the big debate centered on two defenders — Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Memphis nose tackle Dontari Poe (Dont’a vs. Dontari!). Which should the Steelers take with their pick at #24 in the first round? The site divided up into their respective camps. Note that I said “respective” and not “respectful,” as, again, passions ran in an inverse relationship to civility in those days. To paraphrase Poe supporters, those who preferred Hightower were “poopy-heads.” To the pro-Hightower crowd, Poe supporters ate their own boogers. Alas, the Steelers landed neither player. Hightower was snatched up by the hated New England Patriots while Poe went to the Carolina Panthers.

The following year, with fans remaining convinced the Steelers needed a thumper at linebacker, Kansas State’s Arthur Brown became the apple of many eyes. The Steelers passed on Brown in the first round, selecting Jarvis Jones, then passed again in the second for Le’Veon Bell. When Brown was finally snapped up by the Baltimore Ravens at pick #56, posters lambasted the front office for their stupidity and speculated on how Brown would wreak havoc on our offense for years to come.

Brown did not. He played parts of four seasons in the league, amassed 20 career tackles and half a sack. He was not Ray Lewis 2.0, to say the least.

In subsequent years, Maxx Williams, William Jackson III, Leighton Vander Esch and Sony Michel became the subjects of pre-draft crushes. In Jackson’s case, fans were furious when the Bengals took him one selection in front of Pittsburgh in the first round in 2016, leaving the Steelers to scramble to fill their need at corner. Pittsburgh hastily selected Artie Burns, to disastrous results. BTSC conspiracy theorists surmised the Bengals only took Jackson because they knew the Steelers wanted him. Similar theories emerged when the Ravens chose Williams one pick before the Steelers selected Senquez Golson in 2015. While there may be truth to the notion of a team killing two birds with one stone by drafting a player at a position of need while simultaneously keeping him from a division rival, to hear BTSC tell it, the Williams and Jackson selections bore the makings of an Oliver Stone film.

In addition to my Billings crush, I lobbied hard in 2019 for Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson, who was taken eighth overall by the Detroit Lions. I believed (and still do) the Steelers needed a versatile tight end who could both block and catch to unlock the potential of their offense. I advocated for selecting Hockenson over Devin Bush in that draft, and possibly trading up to do so. Two years into his career, Hockenson is proving to be a nice player. But he’s not transformational. All things considered, Bush is probably the better addition.

Of course, the most notorious draft crush of all-time does not belong to anyone here at BTSC. It is the property of Mike Ditka, who as head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 1999 was so gaga about running back Ricky Williams that he traded his entire draft to acquire him. The Washington Redskins, to whom Ditka traded eight picks, converted them into future Hall-of-Famer Champ Bailey and Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington, among others. Williams lasted just three seasons in New Orleans before being shipped to Miami. Ditka, for his part, went 3-13 in Williams’s rookie year and was promptly fired.

The funny thing about the BTSC draft-crushes mentioned above is that the Steelers wound up with none of them. And, while some are authoring solid careers (Hightower, Jackson and Hockenson), none have been spectacular. In fact, several (Billings, Brown, Williams, Michel) have fallen far short of their pre-draft hype. If any of their output had matched our pre-draft proclamations of greatness, Canton would be chipping away at their busts.

The fact we are often wrong about these players we lobby so passionately for does not stop us from lobbying. This year, I find myself rooting hard for the Steelers to select Alabama center Landon Dickerson. Dickerson is a mauler whose physical style of play would be perfect for the rebuild the Steelers’ are proposing along their offensive line. He was a team captain for the national champions and his film is replete with plays like this one, where he flattens a twisting edge player then administers a finishing shot for good measure:

What’s not to love? Well, for starters, Dickerson has had multiple knee surgeries which kept him from completing a single season in college. That’s a pretty significant red flag. Yet I am so enamored by Dickerson’s play that I’m willing to overlook the huge medical risk his selection would entail because, when he’s healthy, I believe he’s the best center in this draft. Intellectually, I know when he’s healthy is like saying about a thief, “When he’s not stealing, he’s a really good person.” Emotionally, though, I will be thrilled if we select Dickerson.

Plato characterized emotion and reason as two horses pulling in opposite directions. Such is the draft crush. Be careful to whom you grow attached, for the odds of them landing in Pittsburgh are slim. And often, despite the blow to our ego, that’s for the best.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after Eric Ebron’s reworked deal

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/02/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Steelers have several new contracts now on the books along with Ebron’s contract adding on void years.

With some numbers coming in from Steelers’ contracts, it’s time to once again check out their salary cap situation. The new contracts include Jordan Berry, Kalen Ballage, and the change to Eric Ebron’s contract.

As expected, Eric Ebron had four void years added to his contract according to overthecap.com. Surprisingly, Ebron’s base salary did not drop to the league minimum and is at $1.12 million for 2021. Ebron was given $4.88 million in a signing bonus which was spread out over five seasons at $976k per season. This reduced Ebron’s $8.5 million cap hit for 2021 down to $4.596 million, ultimately saving $3.904 million against the salary cap before displacement.

The contract for Kalen Ballage was pretty straightforward according to OTC and is $920k for one season. After displacement, Ballage will only count an additional $140k against the 2021 salary cap.

With Jordan Berry’s deal, he actually does not count as much on the 2021 salary cap as what he is being paid. Berry is set to collect $1.09 million but only count $950k against the cap. This is because his salaries qualifies for the veteran salary benefit.

What exactly is the veteran salary benefit? Here is an explanation given by frontofficenfl.com:

Veteran salary benefit: Formerly known as the minimum salary benefit, the veteran salary benefit allow teams to offer a “Qualifying Contract” to any player with at least four credited seasons at a reduced salary cap hit. Under this provision, a qualifying contract is a one-year deal worth the minimum base salary applicable to a player with his number of credited seasons, plus $137,500 in additional compensation (i.e., signing bonus, roster bonus, incentive, etc. — amount begins to increase in 2022). These contracts are charged against the salary cap at the rate of a player with two credited seasons that league year.

Berry is now the fourth player to receive the veteran salary benefit for the 2021 Steelers according to overthecap.com.

Now where do the Steelers currently stand with the 2021 salary cap? Before free agency kicked off, the Steelers were little more than $6 million under the salary cap. Since then, the number has fluctuated due to various moves.

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number. With the last update, the Steelers displaced the last $660k salary and have now moved into the $780k group, meaning displacement amounts will be slightly lower.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2021.

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $6 million

Ray-Ray McCloud: Reported $1 million salary; After displacement: -$0.34 million
B.J. Finney: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Cam Sutton: New report of $1.7 million; After displacement: -$1.04 million
Zach Banner: Reported $2.875 million; After displacement: -$2.215 million
Vince Williams: Saved $4 million salary; After displacement: +$3.34 million
Chris Wormley: Reported $1.6 million; After displacement: -$0.94 million
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Reported $2.4 million; After displacement: -$1.74 million
Tyler Simmons: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Joe Haeg: Reported $1.5 million; After displacement: -$0.84 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Steven Nelson: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.59 million
Cassius Marsh: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Eric Ebron: Reportedly saved $3.904; No roster displacement: +$3.904
Tyson Alualu: No exact report
Jordan Berry: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Kalen Ballage: Reported $920,000; After displacement: -$0.14 million
Rashaard Coward: No report
Matthew Sexton: Not expected to be in the top 51

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $12.5 million

Note: Miles Killebrew was the final contract displace a $660k salary. From Cassius Marsh on the displacement is a $780k salary.

So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $11,789,086 under the salary cap. OTC has all of the above contracts on the books, but for some reason they have the number lower than it should be. Even when adding up the Steelers’ top 51 salaries and dead money owed this year, their own numbers don’t make sense to come in where they are.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $9,174,203 under the cap. Spotrac does not have contract numbers for McCloud, Finney, Billage, and Ebron. With Ebron’s savings being much more than the reduction of the other three players, their number comes in lower than what is expected.

The return of Tyson Alualu has not had any official numbers currently reported. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported some details to the deal, but the exact breakdown for salary cap purposes is still unknown.

Update to the wild story from Saturday night: Tyson Alualu’s deal with the #Steelers is two years, $5.5 million with $1.925M guaranteed, per source. Pretty close to the deal he ended up turning down in Jacksonville. https://t.co/9EplSwSCvm

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 30, 2021

Most likely, this means Alualu has a $1.075 million base salary for 2021 and a $1.925 million signing bonus. This leaves $2.5 million as a base salary for 2022. If this is indeed the case, Alualu’s cap hit for 2021 would be $2.0375 million and would cost $1.2575 against the cap after displacement. This would have the Steelers salary cap room at approximately $11.3 million.

While the Steelers are going to need cap space for a number of things this offseason, it doesn’t have to be at this time. Following the NFL draft, the Steelers will begin signing their draft picks and are estimated to need no more than $2.75 million in cap space once figuring roster displacement. But remember, the Steelers won’t need this amount until at least May. Also, the Steelers will need as much as an additional $10 million (a very high estimate, with $7 million coming in on the low end) come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year.

So the Steelers now have a lot more breathing room under the salary cap, at least for now. Other moves could still be on the horizon as the Steelers have plenty more to do to shape their 2021 roster. It might not be long before you hear from me again as things continue to change.

Mock Draft 3.0: Steelers deliver a surprise in Round 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/02/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In the latest three-round mock draft, the Steelers go in an unexpected direction with their top pick.

We are less than four weeks away from the NFL Draft, and the rumor mill is heating up. After last week's blockbuster trades among San Francisco, Miami, and Philadelphia, the mock drafts have been shaken up.

Rumors are indicating that the 49ers may be leaning toward Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at pick three. Although there seems to be substance to the rumor, I am not buying it just yet. Yes, he seems to fit the mold of quarterbacks that Kyle Shanahan has worked with in the past, but why would they need to trade up to three to take him? It could be that the league is higher on him than the media is. Maybe they are so sold on him that they are willing to do whatever is necessary to secure him. Both of those scenarios could be true, but I am holding off on it at least for this mock.

As always, trades are projected. I generally lean more toward team needs when mocking players to a certain team, but I mixed it up a little this time and added a few picks that were simply the best player available. One of those picks is the Steelers. We will discuss it more when we get to the pick.

This is a Steelers focused mock draft, but it is good to see projections for other teams that could impact who the Steelers take. Whoever the Steelers select will be predicated on who is available, and that will depend on the teams picking ahead of the Steelers. In this scenario, the top two running backs and top three tackles are gone, forcing the Steelers to take a closer look at the defensive side of the ball.

This mock goes three rounds. This will hopefully expand to four rounds for mock 4.0 before the final seven round 5.0 mock draft.

As for mock 3.0, here we go. Three new Steelers, lots of trades, and a lot to unfold. Let's get started!

1. Jaguars- Trevor Lawrence — QB — Clemson
I am not as high on Lawrence as the rest of the world seems to be, but I feel pretty confident in this one. I am not going to waste your time here.

2. Jets- Zach Wilson — QB — BYU
At this point, it is almost certain that the Jets will trade Sam Darnold and restart with a new coaching staff. Wilson's against-the-grain throw at his pro day will wow you, but his competitiveness, accuracy, and decision making are his biggest strengths. He has a chance to be special if he can avoid the injury bug.

3. 49ers- Trey Lance — QB — North Dakota State
By the time we get to mock 5.0, I may buy into the Mac Jones rumors, but Lance makes more sense in my mind. He is comfortable running play action, and his athleticism will allow Kyle Shanahan to open up his playbook and get even more creative.

4. Falcons- Kyle Pitts — TE — Florida
I thought about Justin Fields here, but Matt Ryan still has several good years of football in him. If they are comfortable with Ryan and unable to trade out of this pick, I think they will take what many consider the best player available at this point. I am not as high on Pitts as some, but his size and speed will give the Falcons an explosive weapon even after Julio Jones is gone.

5. Bengals- Ja'Marr Chase — WR — LSU
If I was the GM, there is no way I would pass on Penei Sewell, but knowing the Bengals organization, they may see Riley Reiff as a good enough option at tackle and opt for Burrow's former college teammate. Chase blew up his pro day, running a sub 4.4 40 and recording a 41 inch vertical.

6. Dolphins- Penei Sewell — OT — Oregon
Despite the hype surrounding the top receivers and quarterbacks, I still have Penei Sewell as the top overall player on my board. He is a premier talent at left tackle, but he would likely play on the right side in Miami to protect Tua's blindside.

**PROJECTED TRADE** (Lions receive Patriots 2021 1st and 2022 1st round picks)
7. Patriots- Justin Fields — QB — Ohio State
Although Fields does not seem to be what we have become accustomed to with New England's draft picks, there have been rumors that they are high on the Ohio State quarterback. Maybe Bill Belichick sees the success of Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes and wants to get a high-upside playmaker of his own. Fields displayed great accuracy at his pro day and ran a 4.44 in the 40. Plus, his arm is as good as any quarterback's in this class.

**PROJECTED TRADE** (Panthers receive Deshaun Watson; Texans receive 2021 1st and 2nd, 2022 1st and 2nd, and 2023 1st round picks)
8. Texans- Patrick Surtain — CB — Alabama
This move drains Carolina of draft capital the next few years, but all they need to have a chance at the NFC South is a playmaking quarterback. With the 49ers moving up to three, the Panthers can either keep the eighth pick and take whoever is remaining of the quarterbacks, or they can trade for someone such as Watson. As for Houston, after Bill O'Brien gave away all their draft capital, Nick Caserio would be wise to reload and move Watson if he is going to hold out anyway. Surtain's tape is good, especially in zone coverage, but he was not expected to test well. Come to find out, he had a 4.41 40 time, 39 inch vertical, and 131 inch broad jump at his pro day.

9. Broncos- Micah Parsons — ILB — Penn State
Parsons is the best defensive prospect in this draft, and his athleticism was on full display at his pro day. He ran a 4.39 in the 40, recorded a 6.89 in the 3-cone drill, and had a 126 inch broad jump. Denver could take a quarterback, but I believe that Drew Lock can still become a good quarterback. Vic Fangio has lacked a playmaking middle linebacker ever since he took the Broncos head coaching job, and after adding some pieces at cornerback in free agency, linebacker may be their biggest need.

10. Cowboys- Rashawn Slater — OL — Northwestern
Dallas has needs all over the defense, but with Dak Prescott coming off an injury, I could see Jerry Jones protecting his franchise quarterback first. Slater does not have great length, but I do not see it as an issue that will prevent him from playing left tackle. If you are not sold on Slater as a tackle, watch his 2019 tape against Chase Young.

11. Giants- Kwity Paye — EDGE — Michigan
Linebacker and corner could be in play here as well, but we all know how much Dave Gettleman loves the big guys. Paye is an athletic specimen who ran a 4.52 at 261 pounds at the Michigan pro day. He is an excellent run defender who can make an impact day one. If he can expand his repertoire of pass rushing moves, he has a chance to be special.

12. Eagles- DeVonta Smith — WR — Alabama
Many believe that the Eagles took themselves out of position to get one of the top wide receivers, but that is not certain. Not every quarterback and receiver will be able to fit inside the top 10 if there are any defensive picks. Thus, the Eagles could still have a shot at one of the big three. Smith gets knocked for his size, but durability has not been a huge issue for him in college. He has the frame to add some weight, and we all saw what he was capable of as a player in 2020. This would be a great addition for the Eagles who need another offensive playmaker to help support Jalen Hurts.

13. Chargers- Jaylen Waddle — WR — Alabama
I do have concerns with Waddle’s durability, but whenever he was healthy at Alabama, he was the most explosive player on the field. The Chargers need a tackle badly, and they have not shown interest in Alejandro Villanueva. However, they may not be able to pass on Waddle, who would be an excellent compliment to Keenan Allen.

14. Vikings- Alijah Vera-Tucker — OL — USC
Kwity Paye and Jaelan Phillips could be in play here, but Vera-Tucker’s versatility will give Minnesota exactly what they need on the offensive line. Christian Darrisaw could be an option as well, but Minnesota has a need at guard as well as tackle. Vera-Tucker could play either spot and give the Vikings more flexibility with their remaining draft picks.

**PROJECTED TRADE** (Lions receive Washington’s 1st, 3rd and 7th round picks)
15. Washington- Mac Jones — QB — Alabama
It seems more likely than not that Jones will go in the top 10 with San Francisco moving up, but in this scenario, the Broncos and Texans focus on the defensive side of the ball, knocking Jones outside the top ten. Ron Rivera knows that they need to find a quarterback, but it will not be easy to get one where they are picking at 19. It will likely require a trade-up scenario for them to snag one of the top five quarterbacks, but it may be worth it if they believe in the highly intelligent and accurate Mac Jones.

16. Cardinals- Jaycee Horn — CB — South Carolina
Arizona is in desperate need of a corner after losing Patrick Peterson. Fortunately for them, they are in a good position to land one of the top three corners. While Horn may not have the best ball skills, he may be the best pure cover corner in the draft. Adding him to a secondary with Budda Baker and Byron Murphy would add stability to a position that lacks depth.

17. Raiders- Teven Jenkins — OT — Oklahoma State
Wouldn’t it be just like Jon Gruden to pass on Christian Darrisaw for an inferior player at that position? We saw it in 2019 with Clelin Ferrell and in 2020 with Damon Arnette, so don’t be surprised to see it again. Jenkins ran a good 40 time at his pro day, but he was slow off the snap and did not have the best footwork on tape. Nonetheless, he is a hard-nosed lineman who plays through the whistle. I could see Gruden falling in love with this guy.

18. Dolphins- Najee Harris — RB — Alabama
This may be a little high for Harris, but the Dolphins have a serious need at the position, and Harris is used to catching passes out of the backfield from Tua Tagovailoa. A pass rusher could be in play here as well, but I expect Miami to go all in on supporting Tua. Harris is not a burner, and he runs a bit high at times, but his patient running style and power remind me of a young Le’Veon Bell.

19. Lions - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — ILB — Notre Dame
After moving back twice, the Lions are still in excellent position to fill one of their biggest needs. Detroit is in full rebuild mode, and moving back will get them the draft capital they need to speed up the rebuild. Although Owusu-Koramoah is not the biggest linebacker, he flies from sideline to sideline and has the ability to blitz on occasion as well.

20. Bears- Christian Darrisaw — OT — Virginia Tech
Chicago is also in desperate need of a quarterback, but the chances of them finding one in the first round are unlikely. If they cannot get their quarterback, I expect them to put some pieces around Andy Dalton and make his life easier. In any other year, I think Darrisaw would be a top 10 pick, but the depth of the class could slide him down the board. He can start day one while potentially becoming an All-Pro caliber tackle down the road.

21. Colts- Jaelan Phillips — EDGE — Miami
We all expected Phillips to shine at his pro day, and he did not disappoint. The former five-star recruit ran a 4.56 40, had a 36 inch vertical leap, and had a 125 inch broad jump. His concussion issues are a red flag, but the upside is undeniable. Indianapolis traded last year’s first round pick for Deforest Buckner, but they still need an edge rusher. Grabbing a guy like Phillips could complete the Colts’ front seven.

22. Titans- Caleb Farley — CB — Virginia Tech
Farley’s 2019 tape warrants a top ten pick, but his injury concerns could cause him to fall further than expected on draft night. Tennessee has a lot of needs on defense, but corner is near the top of the list after losing Adoree Jackson and Desmond King. Farley would arguably be the best player available and would give the Titans a good building block on defense.

23. Jets- Travis Etienne — RB — Clemson
The offensive line could still use some work, but a right tackle can be found on day two. After failing on Le’Veon Bell, the Jets will need to find someone better than La’Mical Perine to run the rock this fall. Etienne was not quite as explosive as a rusher in 2020, but he improved as a pass-catcher and run-blocker, making him a more balanced running back.

24. Steelers- Azeez Ojulari — OLB — Georgia
Before we go any farther, let me make one thing very clear: this pick is not meant as a replacement for Alex Highsmith. I am super excited about Highsmith after his excellent rookie season and expect him to be a reliable starter for a long time. However, Bud Dupree was not the only starting linebacker to leave this offseason. Robert Spillane may be able to hold the fort down next to Devin Bush, but Ojulari’s versatility allows him to play inside linebacker on occasion as well. He is very fluid and instinctful in coverage, and he is quick to fill gaps as a run defender. That would not be his full-time role, but using that part of his skill set will make him even more valuable to the Steelers. And if you are going by pure pass-rushing ability, Ojulari is the best edge rusher in the class. He may not get 12-15 sacks per year if the Steelers were to draft him and use him in multiple roles, but his ability to spell Highsmith, Watt, and Spillane would help fill two holes on defense. What makes him a logical pick for the Steelers is that we generally like to draft young players in the first round, and Ojulari is only 20. This is not what I would do as the GM, but I could see it happening.

25. Jaguars- Trevon Moehrig — S — TCU
Jacksonville could take an offensive tackle or corner here, but Moehrig is the best safety in the class. He only ran a 4.5 40 at his pro day, but he has solid athleticism and brings some versatility. The Jaguars gave up a lot of chunk plays last season, but adding Moehrig would go a long way toward fixing that.

26. Browns- Gregory Rousseau — EDGE — Miami
Rousseau did not have the best of pro days, and he only had one year of production, but the only thing the Browns have to offer across from Myles Garrett is Takkarist McKinley, who is only on a one-year deal. Linebacker could also be in play here, but the edge rushers may dry up quicker, causing Andrew Berry to think twice about passing on a top talent at defensive end.

**PROJECTED TRADE** (Ravens receive Buccaneers 1st and 3rd round pick; Buccaneers receive Ravens 1st and 7th round picks)
27. Buccaneers- Christian Barmore — DL — Alabama
Tampa Bay has very few needs on paper, but Ndomokung Suh is only on a one-year deal. Getting Barmore to pair with Vita Vea would keep their defensive line strong for years to come. Barmore did not have a huge role at Alabama until later in the season, but he has won the praise of BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict, as he has mentioned Stefon Tuitt as an ideal comparison. If given time to develop, he could become an elite defensive lineman.

28. Saints- Kadarius Toney — WR — Florida
There is a definite drop-off at receiver after the top three, but getting Toney at 28 would be good value for New Orleans, who needs to find a receiver to replace Emmanuel Sanders and pair with Michael Thomas. Toney is does not have world-class speed, but he is a 4.4 guy who is quick in and out of cuts and not afraid of the middle of the field.

29. Packers- Jamin Davis — ILB — Kentucky
Davis was somewhat of an unknown about a month ago, but after becoming a starter in 2020 and having a breakout season, he has put himself on the radar. His impressive pro day which included a 4.41 40 and 132 inch broad jump will not hurt either. Green Bay still needs a receiver and potentially an offensive lineman, but the value of Davis may be difficult to pass up for a team who has nothing at linebacker.

30. Bills- Kelvin Joseph — CB — Kentucky
I really liked what I saw from Joseph on tape, and he turned in some pretty impressive numbers at his pro day. He ran a 4.34 in the 40 while recording a 35 inch vertical and 127 inch broad jump. He is more experienced in zone because of Kentucky’s defensive scheme, but he has the size and speed to also become solid in man coverage as he develops.

31. Chiefs- Liam Eichenberg — OT — Notre Dame
Offensive line was already a need for Kansas City, but after releasing both Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, the need only got larger. I am not terribly high on Eichenberg, but Kansas City needs somebody who can step in and start day one. Eichenberg is not an exceptional athlete, but he will be sufficient in the short term for the Chiefs.

32. Ravens- Joseph Ossai — EDGE — Texas
The Ravens could be in position to take Terrace Marshall or Rashod Bateman here, but after signing Sammy Watkins, the focus may turn to the defense. Ossai has started to fall on draft boards, but his tape warrants a first round pick. His motor, hand usage, and natural feel for getting after the quarterback will make him an excellent fit in Baltimore, who just lost Matt Judon to New England.

Round 2

33. Jaguars- Rondale Moore — WR — Purdue
34. Jets- Greg Newsome — CB — Northwestern
35. Falcons- Carlos Basham — DE — Wake Forest
36. Dolphins- Zaven Collins — ILB — Tulsa
37. Eagles- Eric Stokes — CB — Georgia
38. Bengals- Dillon Radunz — OT — North Dakota
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Texans receive Dolphins 2nd, 5th, and 2022 5th round picks)
39. Rashod Bateman — WR — Minnesota
40. Broncos- Davis Mills — QB — Stanford
41. Lions- TuTu Atwell — WR — Louisville
42. Giants- Wyatt Davis — G — Ohio State
**PROJECTED TRADE** (49ers receive Browns 2nd, 4th, and 6th round picks)
43. Browns- Nick Bolton — ILB — Missouri
44. Cowboys- Aaron Robinson — CB — UCF
45. Jaguars- Pat Freiermuth — TE — Penn State
46. Patriots- Creed Humphrey — C — Oklahoma
47. Chargers- Alex Leatherwood — OT — Alabama
48. Raiders- Daviyon Nixon — DT — Iowa
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Cardinals receive Packers 2nd and 3rd round picks; Packers receive Cardinals 2nd and 7th round picks)
49. Packers- Elijah Moore — WR — Ole Miss
50. Texans- Landon Dickerson — C — Alabama
51. Washington- Jalen Mayfield — OT — Michigan
52. Jets- Ronnie Perkins — EDGE — Oklahoma
53. Titans- Terrace Marshall — WR — LSU
54. Colts- Samuel Cosmi — OT — Texas
55. Steelers- Javonte Williams — RB — North Carolina
Javonte Williams’ 40 time was not spectacular, but one thing needs to be pointed out. It seems as if some fields are just slower than others. At LSU’s pro day, everyone seemed to run faster than expected, while everyone at North Carolina’s pro day ran slower than expected. If you watch the tape, Williams plays faster than his mid 4.5 40 time may suggest. I blame the different fields for uneven pro day numbers, but nonetheless, his blend of size, speed, and power will be a welcome sight to a Steelers team that finished dead last in rushing in 2020.
56. Seahawks- Brady Christensen — OT — BYU
57. Rams- Jackson Carman — OT — Clemson
58. Ravens- Nico Collins — WR — Michigan
59. 49ers- Paulson Adebo — CB — Stanford
60. Saints- Kellen Mond — QB — Texas A&M
61. Bills- Trey Smith — G — Tennessee
62. Cardinals- Alim McNeill — DT — North Carolina State
63. Chiefs- Jason Myers — C — Ohio State
64. Buccaneers- Dylan Moses — LB — Alabama

Round 3

65. Jaguars- Shaun Wade — CB — Ohio State
66. Jets- Tyson Campbell — CB — Georgia
67. Texans- Kyle Trask — QB — Florida
68. Falcons- Jevon Holland — S — Oregon
69. Bengals- Joe Tryon — EDGE — Washington
70. Eagles- Jabril Cox — ILB — LSU
71. Broncos- Walker Little — OT — Stanford
72. Lions- Asante Samuel, Jr. — CB — Florida State
73. Panthers- Amon-Ra St. Brown — WR — USC
74. Washington- Baron Browning — LB — Ohio State
75. Cowboys- Jayson Oweh — EDGE — Penn State
76. Giants- Ifeatu Melifonwu — CB — Syracuse
77. Chargers- Elijah Molden — CB — Washington
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Dolphins receive Titans 3rd and 6th round picks)
78. Titans- Patrick Jones II — EDGE — Pittsburgh
79. Raiders- Tylan Wallace — WR — Oklahoma State
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Raiders receive Browns 3rd and 6th round picks)
80. Browns- D’Wayne Eskridge — WR — Western Michigan
81. Dolphins- Chris Rumph — EDGE — Duke
82. Lions - Levi Onwuzurike — DL — Washington
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Bears receive QB Sam Darnold)
83. Jets- James Hudson — OT — Cincinnati
84. Colts- Dyami Brown — WR — North Carolina
85. Dolphins- Jay Tufele — DL — USC
86. Jets- Hunter Long — TE — Boston College
87. Steelers- Robert Rochell — CB — Central Arkansas
After the Steven Nelson fallout, corner has become a big need for the Steelers. I am a fan of Justin Layne, and James Pierre showed promise last year, but I am not sure if the Steelers will use them properly. Rochell was excellent against lesser competition and put up impressive numbers at his pro day, running a 4.38 in the 40 and 42 inch vertical. I would love to see a Trey Hill here, but I could see the Steelers keeping the cabinet full on defense. This is the point where the corners may begin to dry up.
88. Lions- Daelan Hayes — EDGE — Notre Dame
89. Raiders- Pete Werner — ILB — Ohio State
90. Vikings- Richie Grant — S — UCF
91. Browns- Jaylen Twyman — DL — Pittsburgh
92. Cardinals- Kenneth Gainwell — RB — Memphis
93. Bills- Rhomandre Stevenson — RB — Oklahoma
94. Chiefs- Ambry Thomas — CB — Michigan
95. Ravens- Divine Diablo — S — Virginia Tech
96. Patriots- Tyler Shelvin — DT — LSU
97. Chargers- Brevin Jordan — TE — Miami
98. Saints- Quincy Roche — EDGE — Miami
99. Cowboys- Tyrie Gilespie — S — Missouri
100. Titans- Tommy Togai — DT — Ohio State
101. Lions- Seth Williams — WR — Auburn
102. 49ers- Andre Cisco — S — Syracuse
103. Rams- Chazz Surratt — ILB — North Carolina
104. Ravens- Spencer Brown — OT — Northern Iowa
105. Saints- Tommy Tremble — TE — Notre Dame

Which picks caught your eye? Was there something that another team was given in this mock that surprised you? What do you think of the selections for the Steelers? Be sure to share your thoughts on this mock and everything NFL Draft in the comment section below, and stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for the latest news surrounding the Steelers as the NFL Draft approaches.

Is Jesse James in the Steelers’ offseason plans?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/02/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Wouldn't the Steelers have signed the big tight end by now?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made a plethora of signings over the past few days. One of the moves that was often predicted still has yet to come to fruition. That move being the Steelers brining back former tight end Jesse James. As the days go by, it really feels like the move becomes less and less likely.

Lions released TE Jesse James, per source.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2021

We all know how much the team loves to reunite with former players, especially when they come with a smaller price tag, and, after all, the Steelers have a need at the tight end position. The fit appears perfect from the outside, but yet the move hasn't been made. Perhaps the Steelers have a different vision of how they want to use their tight ends going forward, or perhaps the two sides didn't get over James’ “Kardashians” comment?

When the Detroit Lions released James in early March many Steelers insiders expected the signing would quickly come down the pipeline. As of right now, James is still a street free agent, meaning his signing wouldn't effect the compensatory formula whatsoever. So that begs the question, why hasn't the move already happened?

And honestly, the only way I see James signing with a team at this point is if they don’t land someone in the draft. With a plethora of other needs, it may have made more sense to lockdown their tight end position early in this process, but perhaps there could be a player they want to target in the draft and give a decent amount of playing time in 2021.

Former Steelers TE Jesse James agrees to a four-year/$25M deal with the Lions, per @RapSheet pic.twitter.com/jcgWX4tS9b

— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) March 12, 2019

James’ unique blend of size, blocking ability, and receiving abilities could provide the Steelers offense some stability and give Ben Roethlisberger a target he has chemistry with. While in Detroit, the Lions inexplicably paid James a ton of cash to just sit him on the bench. His stats suffered, and his value has tanked because of it. A year on a team with some familiar faces, and an obvious hole at the position, could provide James with a role big enough to re-establish himself as a player worth a long term deal. If nothing else, James would provide some much needed depth to this offense.

But what do you think? Will Jesse James once again play for the black and gold or has that ship sailed? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

It’s the Steelers’ job to excite fans in the fall, not during the draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/02/2021 - 5:30am
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The draft isn’t about winning in the spring. It’s about winning in the fall.

I feel like I have to write this article every spring leading up to the annual NFL Draft. However, since it never seems to sink in, I will do it once again in the spring of 2021 (btw, thank you for providing me with endless material).

My brother called me last Saturday night to inform me of Tyson Alualu’s change of heart (he has a source). After discussing that, we soon started talking about the 2021 NFL Draft and what the Pittsburgh Steelers should do with the 24th selection. I, coming off the high of writing my Creed Humphrey article, was adamant that Pittsburgh should draft the top center. Upon hearing this opinion, along with what I thought was a logical explanation—"B.J. Finney and/or C.J. Hassenauer, duh!!!!"—my brother said, “I know, but that would be BORING!”

I wasn’t as quick-witted as I wanted to be at that point, but if I was, I may have said, “You know what’s exciting? A veteran center, who is just 59 minutes and 46 seconds away from retirement, air-mailing the first snap of a wildcard playoff game over the quarterback’s head and into the end zone for a quick touchdown by the Cleveland freaking Browns. Do you know what’s even more exciting, bro? You calling me before the end of the first quarter is even over and, with a tone normally reserved for a Russian invasion, saying, “Can you believe we’re down 28-0? I’m sick!”

But, as I said, I wasn’t as quick-witted as I wanted to be at that moment.

Anyway, my brother, like a lot of Steelers fans, wants the team to draft a running back; I’m sure you’ve probably never heard of these guys, but Najee Harris, Travis Etienne and Javonte Williams were three running backs that my brother cited as desirable prospects he’d like to see Pittsburgh select at 24.

Hey, I’m not opposed to the Steelers selecting a running back with their first-round selection. If you get a good one—even a good one who may depreciate to the point that it would be foolish to pick up his fifth-year option—it might be worth it if it leads to Super Bowl memories. But does my brother want the Steelers to select a running back because it would be a sound move, or does he simply want to feel excited on draft night? Does he want to be entertained by YouTube highlights? Does he want to bathe in all of those A+ grades from the experts?

I’m thinking it’s all the stuff about being excited. I can probably say the same for many other Steelers fans. What about the idea of drafting an offensive tackle? I’ve seen someone say that it would be a “slap in the face” for the Steelers to do that.

A slap in the face? Why, because it wouldn't be exciting enough?

The point of my article—in case the headline didn’t give it away—is that it’s not the Steelers’ job to wow fans on draft night in the spring; it’s their job to wow them on Sunday Night Football in the fall.

Do you remember where you were when the Steelers traded up in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft to select Devin Bush? I do; I was at a bar in the South Side of Pittsburgh with a bunch of friends. I’ll never forget the moment when everyone started to applaud and cheer when this exciting news began to filter throughout the place even before Mean Joe stepped up to the podium to make it official. It’s something that I’ll always remember if Bush goes on to have a great career with the Steelers.

If he doesn’t—if he’s average or worse—well, I’ll still remember it but only as a cautionary tale about not getting too high or too low regarding a Steelers draft pick.

Do you remember where you were when Alan Faneca was selected in 1998? I think I was at work. I don’t recall being all that excited about the pick. However, I do remember how jacked I was nearly a decade later when he helped spring Willie Parker on that 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL.

It was a night I’ll never forget.

I realize this all sounds preachy, and people will likely fill the comments section with statements such as, “I’ll react to the Steelers’ selection any way I damn-well please, sir!” OK, I’ll give you that, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when some fierce pass rusher blows right past B.J. Finney and Najee Harris in an upcoming playoff game and slaps quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the face.

As for my brother, I’ll make sure my phone is turned off at that moment.

Podcast: Why the Steelers are still Super Bowl contenders in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/02/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman brings an AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

The Steelers are considered by many to be regressing in 2021. But some that know the organization aren’t ready to close that championship window. Some believe that the Men of Steel are still championship caliber. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers are still contenders for a 2021 Lombardi Trophy
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

What happened to the Steelers’ 2014 draft class?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft at the end of the month, let’s look at how some of the Steelers’ drafts played out.

The 2021 NFL draft is now only four weeks away. Each week leading up to the draft, we are going to dive into an NFL draft class starting with the Steelers 2004 NFL draft. In doing so, each player selected by the Steelers will be highlighted as to how their NFL career, or lack thereof, took shape. As we get to more recent years, some will be combined as many of those draft choices are still with the Steelers.

Part 11 of 15 will highlight the Steelers 2014 NFL draft where I still get choked up thinking about what could have been.

So let’s take a look at the nine players drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2014 NFL draft:

Ryan Shazier Linebacker, Ohio St.

Round 1
Pick 15

Monday, December 4, 2017, will be a day many Steelers fans would like to forget. With 11:26 remaining in the first quarter, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed a short pass for 3 yards to rookie wide receiver Josh Malone. It would be the last play of Ryan Shazier‘s NFL career as he would endure a horrific spinal injury on the tackle and days later would undergo spinal stabilization surgery. Shazier played 46 regular season games along with six playoff games in his NFL career. Selected to the Pro Bowl in 2016, Shazier was also selected in 2017 despite his injury. With seven career interceptions and 25 passes defensed along with seven forced fumbles, three fumble recovery and 7.0 sacks, Shazier had 299 regular season tackles in his career. Continuing to rehab back to a normal life, Shazier officially retired from the NFL prior to the 2020 season.

Stephon Tuitt Defensive end, Notre Dame

Round 2
Pick 46

The only member of the 2014 draft still with the Steelers, Stephon Tuitt has arguably the best season of his career in 2020. Struggling with injuries at times, Tuitt appeared in all 16 games as a rookie but has missed at least two games per season every year up until 2020. Appearing in 15 games last season after missing one contest due to being on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, Tuitt finished 2020 with 11.0 sacks, the most he’s had since achieving 6.5 sacks in his second season. In his seven-year career, Tuitt has started 79 games and has an interception, 13 passes defensed, six forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 34.5 sacks, and 246 tackles. Tuitt also has 48 tackles for loss and 94 quarterback hits, achieving career highs in both categories last season with 10 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hits.

Dri Archer Running back, Kent St.

Round 3
Pick 97

The first of three compensatory draft picks in 2014, the Steelers traded their 3rd round pick the previous year in order to draft Shamarko Thomas. Drafted for his blazing speed, Archer never really found where he fit with an NFL team. Appearing in 12 games as a rookie where he had 10 rushes for 40 yards and seven receptions for 23 yards, Archer also saw time as a kick returner. During his second season, Archer only saw three snaps on offense while acting primarily as a return man on kickoffs where he had 354 yards on 14 returns with a long of 38 yards. Archer was waived in November 2015 as the Steelers decided on using Jacoby Jones as their a kick returner. Archer reportedly turned down other practice squad opportunities and sat out the remainder of the season. After being signed to a Reserve/Futures contract by the New York Jets in the offseason, Archer was released following the NFL draft. Claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Bills, Archer never reported to the team, subsequently ending his NFL career.

Martavis Bryant Wide Receiver, Clemson

Round 4
Pick 118

Held out his first six games rookie season due to not being ready for the NFL, Bryant had eight touchdowns in 10 games in 2014. Bryant missed the first four games of the 2015 season due to suspension for violating the league substance-abuse policy. Upon his return, Bryant appeared in 11 games and had six touchdowns and 765 receiving yards on 50 catches and added a rushing touchdown. After being suspended for the entire 2016 season for once again violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, Bryant appeared in 15 games in 2017 with 603 yards on 50 catches and three touchdowns. In the offseason, Bryant was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a third-round draft pick. Released before the start of the regular season, the Raiders re-signed Bryant 10 days later despite the fact he was facing another suspension. Bryant appeared in eight games with 19 catches for 266 yards for the Raiders before being placed on injured reserve. A week after landing on IR, Bryant was suspended indefinitely by the NFL and has yet to be reinstated. This past January, Bryant signed a contract with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

Shaquille Richardson Defensive back, Arizona

Round 5
Pick 157

Richardson failed to make the Steelers 53-man roster his rookie year but landed on the practice squad. Unfortunately, Richardson only lasted several weeks as he was released in October. Richardson spent time in the offseason or on the practice squad’s of a number of NFL teams including the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans, and Carolina Panthers. Richardson then spent two years with the Calgary Stampeder‘s of the CFL before returning to the Oakland Raiders in the 2018 offseason. Unfortunately, Richardson was placed on IR during training camp and later cut before the start of the season. Richardson currently plays for the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.

Wesley Johnson Offensive line, Vanderbilt

Round 5
Pick 173

Able to play any position across the offensive line, Johnson made the team for the Steelers his rookie season and appeared in two games and played 25 offensive snaps. Released in mid October, Johnson was claimed off waivers by the New York Jets but did not appear in any games in 2014. Johnson played an additional three seasons in New York where he started eight games in 2016 and 15 games in 2017 as the Jets center. Johnson signed with the Detroit Lions in the 2018 offseason but failed to make the team. Signing with the Miami Dolphins several weeks into the season, Johnson appeared in 10 games mainly on special teams. In 2019, Johnson signed with the San Francisco 49ers but ultimately did not make the team and has not played in the NFL since.

Jordan Zumwalt Linebacker, UCLA

Round 6
Pick 192

When it comes to a late round draft pick, injuries can completely derail a career. For linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, landing on injured reserve during training camp each of his first two seasons all but destroyed his chances of making it in the NFL. Although Zumwalt returned to the Steelers for a third year in 2016, he failed to make the team or the practice squad after finally completing a preseason. Zumwalt was not signed to any other NFL teams following his release from the Steelers.

Daniel McCullers Defensive tackle, Tennessee

Round 6
Pick 215

McCullers was a player who found a way to stick around with a Pittsburgh Steelers for six seasons. Appearing in 73 regular season games, McCullers had 2.5 sacks and two passes defensed with 41 tackles and nine quarterback hits over his six-year career with the Steelers. Failing to make the team in 2020, McCullers was signed to the Steelers practice squad with the expanded rules due to the COVID-19. Poached by the Chicago bears a few weeks into the season, McCullers was on the active roster until the middle of October before being released and signed to the Bears’ practice squad. Elevated to the active roster once, McCullers ended up back on the 53-man roster in mid November. McCullers only appeared in three games for the Bears where he played 86 defensive snaps and had eight tackles. McCullers is currently a free agent.

Rob Blanchflower Tight end, UMass

Round 7
Pick 230

Failing to make the Steelers 53-man roster his rookie season, Blanchflower spent all of 2014 on the Steelers’ practice squad. Signed to Reserve/Future contract in the offseason, Blanchflower was waived/injured during training camp. After clearing waivers, Blanchflower landed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. He was released in the 2016 offseason and never signed with another NFL team.

The Steelers have talked with Jamie Newman, is he just the next mid-round QB draft pick?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 12:30pm
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

For teams who are looking for a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jamie Newman might be a mid-round prospect to keep an eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a quarterback in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current quarterback depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect at the most important position in the game.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a quarterback, but don’t go for the top tier players at the position. Not a fan favorite, but the Steelers have always shown they are willing to take a mid-round quarterback in hopes of them developing into at worst a backup.

One prospect which has come to my attention in the last few days is Wake Forest Jamie Newman. Newman wasn’t really on my radar when doing these breakdowns, until it became public the Wake Forest quarterback has spoke to the Steelers “quite a bit” leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft.

QB Jamie Newman says he’s talked with the Steelers quite a bit. He had interviews with Mike Tomlin, Matt Canada and Kevin Colbert.

As a wildcard QB, Newman had a ton of upside as a mid-round QB.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) March 31, 2021

I did some digging on Newman, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Newman. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Newman 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 new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Draft Profiles Pro Football Network
  • Position: Quarterback
  • School: Wake Forest
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height: 6’2 7/8″
  • Weight: 235 pounds
  • Wingspan: 76″
  • Arm: 30 1/2″
  • Hand: 10″

Positives: Nice-sized pocket passer with an undeveloped game. Patient, buys as much time as necessary for receivers and stands strong against the rush. Possesses a compact throwing motion, a live arm, and throws tight spirals with speed. Displays a sense of timing on throws and does not have receivers waiting for the ball to arrive.

Natural-looking off the safety, spreads the ball around and uses all his targets. Remains poised as the pocket collapses around him, shows no sense of worry, and is quick bouncing it to the outside. Loses nothing throwing on the run and easily gets the ball downfield. Puts touch on throws and delivers a catchable ball. Effectively led the Wake Forest offense in 2019.

Negatives: Tends to stare down the primary target and is late moving his eyes from receivers. Holds the ball a little too long and must hasten his decision-making. Struggles with his accuracy as well as pass placement and can be all over the place with throws.

Analysis: Newman possesses the physical skills to play in the NFL but needs a lot of work on the intangibles and details of the quarterback position. He started off hot during the first day of Senior Bowl practices, then he quickly fizzled out and looked like a quarterback who had not played football in more than a year. Newman is a high-upside prospect but needs time and proper coaching to meet his incredible upside.

The Draft Network

Fan Nation

An athletic quarterback who moves around the pocket well, Newman can move the chains with his legs when the play breaks down. Newman is tough and can take hits. He has enough arm strength to toss it anywhere on the field, but he won’t overwhelm anyone with his arm. His best accuracy tends to come in the short-to-intermediate range of the field. However, Newman does demonstrate excellent patience in the pocket and he is rarely flustered. He must do a better job of reading the field and not stare down his main option, which often results in turnovers and missed opportunities. Experience is not on his side, as he only has one full season under his belt as a college starter. He is sure to be a project and his upside is as great as any quarterback in the draft, but there is some unknown to him. After transferring from Wake Forest to Georgia, Newman decided to opt out of the 2020 season, without ever taking a snap for the Bulldogs, leading some in the scouting community to question whether he struggled to pick up the playbook during his transition. With an impressive combination of arm strength, size and athleticism, Newman projects as a mid-round gamble who could pay huge dividends down the road.

The Draft Network

Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman is a toolsy prospect with good size, arm strength, mobility, and poise. The Demon Deacons took full advantage of his dual-threat skill set, implementing spread concepts that afforded him simplified reads where if his first option wasn’t available, he would have the spacing available to use his legs. Wake Forest also featured plenty of quarterback power and designed runs that allowed him to keep the offense moving with his legs. Newman is a terrific athlete and a physical runner. As a passer, Newman has plenty of room for growth when it comes to accuracy, decision making, field vision, progressions, hitting throws with anticipation, and navigating the pocket. Newman should be viewed as a developmental quarterback but one that brings an exciting package of physical traits to the table. There shouldn’t be expectations that he will take the reins of an NFL offense early in his career, but packages could be created for him to take advantage of his skill set. If everything comes together, Newman has the makeup of an NFL starter, but he has a ways to go.

Ideal Role: Developmental quarterback.

Scheme Fit: Spread.

Breakdowns Game Film Other Breakdowns

Sean Davis signing one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 11:37am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The former second round draft pick for the Steelers is finding a new NFL home, again.

There are some NFL players who struggle to find a home. Even those who were high draft picks can bounce around the league once their rookie contracts expire, and that is exactly what has happened with former 2016 NFL Draft second round pick safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers Sean Davis.

When Davis’ last season in Pittsburgh ended with a torn labrum in his shoulder, he hit free agency after the 2019 season. The Washington Football Team gave him a contract, but Davis failed to make the team. Where he ended up was just where he started, with the Steelers.

In 2020 Davis was nothing more than a glorified special teams player, only seeing snaps at safety when Terrell Edmunds sat out the regular season finale vs. the Cleveland Browns.

A free agent again, Davis recently visited with the Indianapolis Colts, and has decided to sign a one-year contract with Indianapolis. This per Adam Schefter of ESPN:

And now former Steelers’ safety Sean Davis is signing a one-year deal with the Colts, per his agent @DrewJRosenhaus. https://t.co/vjHhxlDY4p

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 1, 2021

The loss of Davis won’t bother the Steelers fan base too much, considering Davis was never the dynamic player fans expected when he returned last season, but one thing which does concern the fan base is the compensatory pick formula.

Co-Editor of BTSC Dave Schofield outlined this formula in an article today, and here is what fans should know about the process:

While net gains or losses in the number of players are what determines if a team gets compensatory draft picks, it’s only among qualifying players. So the question is if the Steelers have a net loss of Compensatory Free Agents (CFAs) towards the 2022 compensatory formula. As a reminder, Street Free Agents, who are players who were released by their previous team and did not have their contract expire, do not qualify as CFAs. In other words, the signing of B.J. Finney does not negatively affect the Steelers compensatory formula.

While there are other factors that will ultimately determine any compensatory draft picks the Steelers could receive in 2022, it begins with the contract the departing player signed. Looking at the yearly average, players are designated into rounds for compensation.

In order for a player to be deemed a CFA, they must fall in the top 35% of the NFL. At this time, overthecap.com has any salaries less than $2 million a season not landing in the top 35% and therefore not qualifying as a CFA. Additionally, any contract signed that qualifies for the veteran salary benefit does not qualify as a CFA.

So, while some fans might view Davis’ departure as a positive for the Steelers, in regards of players gained vs. players lost, they should remember it all depends on how much the Colts are paying Davis.

Nonetheless, another Steelers free agent has found a home, but big name players like Alejandro Villanueva and James Conner are still searching for their next NFL home. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they press on through Free Agency and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: From black shoes to black and gold

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 11:00am

BTSC breaks down what the Steelers’ draft needs from specific universities before the NFL Draft

With NFL Draft talk rising towards the forefront, the Steelers have a lot of needs. It’s very possible that Kevin Colbert and company go to the collegiate well that they’ve had success with over the years with Hall of Famers like Jack Ham and Franco Harris. The team that gave you “Know Your Enemy” welcomes in experts from the college ranks to discuss their school’s draft prospects and how they would fit with the black-and-gold. This and much more will be pondered on the latest episode from the BTSC family of podcasts, “The Curtain Call” when Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict welcome Lando Landers-Nolan, the senior writer at Black Shoe Diaries, to talk the fit of prospects from Penn State to the Steelers.

  • News and Notes
  • Special Guest Lando Landers-Nolan, the site manager of SB Nation’s Black Shoe Diaries (Penn State)
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael and Geoffrey walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

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

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Updating where the Steelers stand in the 2022 compensatory formula

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Even after signing a few players themselves, the Steelers are still in line for compensatory picks in 2022.

Recently, an incorrect report was floating around social media about the Steelers no longer being in line for compensatory draft picks. The fact the Steelers had lost four unrestricted free agents while also gaining four is why it was concluded the Steelers would not eligible for a pick. Fortunately, things are slightly more complex when it comes to if players actually count towards the compensatory formula.

While net gains or losses in the number of players are what determines if a team gets compensatory draft picks, it’s only among qualifying players. So the question is if the Steelers have a net loss of Compensatory Free Agents (CFAs) towards the 2022 compensatory formula. As a reminder, Street Free Agents, who are players who were released by their previous team and did not have their contract expire, do not qualify as CFAs. In other words, the signing of B.J. Finney does not negatively affect the Steelers compensatory formula.

While there are other factors that will ultimately determine any compensatory draft picks the Steelers could receive in 2022, it begins with the contract the departing player signed. Looking at the yearly average, players are designated into rounds for compensation.

In order for a player to be deemed a CFA, they must fall in the top 35% of the NFL. At this time, overthecap.com has any salaries less than $2 million a season not landing in the top 35% and therefore not qualifying as a CFA. Additionally, any contract signed that qualifies for the veteran salary benefit does not qualify as a CFA.

Remember, other factors such as snaps played, All-Pro, and All-Conference selections factor into the equation once the 2021 season is complete. But for now, all estimates for compensatory draft picks are based solely on the contracts signed.

As it stands now, the Steelers would be eligible for two compensatory draft picks. Exactly where they fall is estimated as follows by overthecap.com. The projected non-qualifying TBA contracts are based on my own estimates.

Losses
Bud Dupree ($16.5 million/year): Third round
Matt Feiler ($7 million/year): Fifth round
Mike Hilton ($6 million/year): Sixth round
Ola Adeniyi (TBA): Non-qualifying (projected)

Gains
Joe Haeg ($2.3 million/year): Seventh round
Miles Killebrew (Veteran salary benefit): Non-qualifying
Kalen Ballage (TBA): Non-qualifying (projected)
Rashaard Coward (TBA): Non-qualifying (projected)

It is believed that the salaries of Ola Adeniyi in Tennessee as well as the contracts of Kalen Ballage and Rashaard Coward in Pittsburgh would not eclipse the $2 million threshold to land them in the top 35% of the NFL.

As things stand right now, Joe Haeg would cancel Mike Hilton, leaving the Steelers with a third-round and a fifth-round pick.

As the projections stand right now, Dupree is one of two estimated third-round compensatory draft pick in the NFL according to OTC with Kenny Golladay. With Dupree having the higher contract, this would land the Steelers the 97th pick in the draft if it were to continue to hold up. Matt Feiler comes in as the third of five eligible fifth-round picks at this time.

Where the Steelers’ picks fall in these rounds right now does not mean much as there is still the possibility of more free agent signings as well as players being canceled out across the NFL. The most important thing is the rounds the Steelers’ lost CFAs are estimated.

So this is where the Steelers currently stand when it comes to compensatory draft picks in 2022. Yes, it is more than a year away before these losses could come back to the Steelers. But if the Steelers continue to lose unrestricted free agents, perhaps they could still gain another pick before everything is complete.

McShay Mock 3.0: With Etienne gone, the Steelers go with another top RB in Round 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 8:54am
The Montgomery Advertiser-USA TODAY Sports

In Todd McShay’s latest mock draft he has the Steelers taken a high profile running back, just maybe not the one you expected.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several team needs heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, and when it pertains to improving the team’s running game most will suggest they are in one of two camps.

Camp 1: The offensive line must be improved before a running back should be brought in.

Camp 2: A great running back can improve the running game by himself.

Regardless of which camp you might reside, everyone wants the same result — for the Steelers to improve their running game. After a dreadful 2020 saw the Steelers finish last in the league in both yards per game and yards per attempt, the Steelers plan to utilize the draft to improve their running game.

When it comes to mock drafts, it should be noted these are just predictions. Guesses of what someone thinks will happen. With that said, there are some experts who carry more weight than your run of the mill draftnik.

Todd McShay of ESPN is one of those “experts” and he just released his third mock draft of the mock draft season. In this edition of McShay’s picks, he has the Steelers taking a running back, but maybe not the one they wanted. The New York Jets, who pick 23rd after their trade with the Seattle Seahawks, take Clemson back Travis Etienne, leaving the Steelers in a predicament.

Take another running back like Najee Harris of Alabama, Javonte Williams of North Carolina or address the offensive line. Even with several talented linemen still on the board, McShay has the Steelers taking Najee Harris.

Take a look at what he has to say about the Steelers’ first round pick at No. 24:

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Teven Jenkins is tempting here. He’s a mauler on the offensive line, and the Steelers must rebuild that unit from the ground up. Ultimately, I went in a different direction because the lineman class is deep — I have more than a dozen in this mock — and running back is just as much of a concern. Harris is a powerful back who is nearly impossible to stop between the tackles. The Steelers’ 3.6 yards per carry ranked dead last in the NFL last season, and it doesn’t appear that James Conner is returning, currently leaving the rushing to an unproven group of Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Kalen Ballage and Jaylen Samuels. Let’s get an impact running back.

Having Harris mocked to the Steelers is nothing new, and Harris, despite not having as much tread left on his tires as other backs in this draft class, would be a tremendous back for the black and gold. He is a dual threat back who can both run inside and outside, catch out of the backfield and is adapt at blitz pickup.

But would the Steelers be better suited taking a lineman, like tackle Teven Jenkins who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars with pick No. 25, instead of a dynamic running back?

In this mock draft, McShay even mocked the second round as well. Take a look at who he has projected to the Steelers in Round 2, with pick No. 55.

55. Pittsburgh Steelers

Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama

Dickerson would be the Steelers’ post-Maurkice Pouncey plan, after the longtime Pittsburgh center retired this offseason. Dickerson has some durability issues — for one, he tore his ACL in December — but he has strong awareness in pass protection and can drive back defenders on run plays, opening lanes for the Steelers’ projected first-round pick, Najee Harris.

Is Dickerson the long term answer at center? His injury history might say otherwise, but if the Steelers are high on the former Florida State and Alabama center, he could be their pick at No. 55, and will likely be available.

What do you think of these picks? Would you be happy with Harris in Round 1 and Dickerson in Round 2? Let us know your thoughts 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 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: The Steelers are filling the gaps without a whole lot of cap

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 8:25am

Matt Peverell breaks down the Steelers salary cap and player personnel situation every week in The War Room

The Steelers have made moves in the 2021 offseason, but gaps still exist. What can the front office do to fill the holes whether in the waning days of free agency or in the draft? Plus, two more players get added to the big board.

Join BTSC’s Matt Peverell for his solo show as he examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers dollars and “sense” situation when it comes to personnel.

Check out the newest addition to the BTSC family of podcasts and stay a while with Matty in The War Room.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

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You can listen to the show in the player below.

Notre Dame the latest school to host their Pro Day workout, and the Steelers’ brass

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 7:15am
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Pro Day circuit continues, and the latest stop is South Bend, Indiana.

After the NFL decided to cancel the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine, the onus then was placed on individual school’s Pro Days. The workouts have been ongoing for months, or since the NCAA season ended, and they continued with some big time schools putting their talent through workouts.

Here is the list of workouts which took place on Tuesday:

With big name schools like Notre Dame and LSU having workouts, you can imagine the Pittsburgh Steelers’ front office was well represented. Notre Dame was the workout which brought out Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert.

Jeff Ireland of New Orleans, Pittsburgh's Kevin Colbert and Denver's George Paton here at Notre Dame. https://t.co/b60d20p3Qh

— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) March 31, 2021

Mike Tomlin enjoyed his time at Notre Dame so much, he even gave the school’s official a nice quote about the school and the players they produce.

This is a quality program. These kids are exceptional, not only as athletes, but as young men. ☘️ - @CoachTomlin #GoIrish x #ProDay pic.twitter.com/KI2PM14gE5

— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) March 31, 2021

There were a ton of prospects to keep an eye on in South Bend, but here are some times to note from the Fighting Irish Pro Day:

The numbers from 2021 Pro Day ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/VBzMQIqzgz

— Notre Dame Football PR Team (@NDFootballPR) March 31, 2021

While there were plenty of eyes on the prospects at Notre Dame, the Steelers were being talked about in other schools. At Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman said he has spoken to the Steelers a lot this offseason. Newman isn’t considered a top tier option at quarterback, but could be a mid-round pick if the Steelers want to add to the QB room.

QB Jamie Newman says he’s talked with the Steelers quite a bit. He had interviews with Mike Tomlin, Matt Canada and Kevin Colbert.

As a wildcard QB, Newman had a ton of upside as a mid-round QB.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) March 31, 2021

For those who don’t watch a lot of ACC football, or Wake Forest football, here is a breakdown of Newman, via The Pro Football Network:

Positives: Nice-sized pocket passer with an undeveloped game. Patient, buys as much time as necessary for receivers and stands strong against the rush. Possesses a compact throwing motion, a live arm, and throws tight spirals with speed. Displays a sense of timing on throws and does not have receivers waiting for the ball to arrive.

Natural-looking off the safety, spreads the ball around and uses all his targets. Remains poised as the pocket collapses around him, shows no sense of worry, and is quick bouncing it to the outside. Loses nothing throwing on the run and easily gets the ball downfield. Puts touch on throws and delivers a catchable ball. Effectively led the Wake Forest offense in 2019.

Negatives: Tends to stare down the primary target and is late moving his eyes from receivers. Holds the ball a little too long and must hasten his decision-making. Struggles with his accuracy as well as pass placement and can be all over the place with throws.

Analysis: Newman possesses the physical skills to play in the NFL but needs a lot of work on the intangibles and details of the quarterback position. He started off hot during the first day of Senior Bowl practices, then he quickly fizzled out and looked like a quarterback who had not played football in more than a year. Newman is a high-upside prospect but needs time and proper coaching to meet his incredible upside.

There might be news which slipped through the cracks from Wednesday’s workouts, so if you have any news put them in the comment section below. On top of that, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Steelers potentially interested in trading for Sam Darnold

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images

Recent reports state the Pittsburgh Steelers could be one of a few teams interested in the former USC quarterback.

The quarterback carousel is far from over. While Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson steal the headlines, there is one quarterback who has begun to fly under the radar.

That could end soon, however. New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is likely to be traded sooner rather than later, as they seem prepared to take Zach Wilson with the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. But who would pursue Darnold in a trade?

In Albert Breer’s Monday Morning QB, he reported the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers were the most likely landing spots for the young quarterback. This is what he had to say on the potential suitors for the Jets quarterback.

“I’d keep an eye on Carolina and Pittsburgh. Darnold would represent a worthy, and affordable, dart to throw at the quarterback board if the Panthers are convinced the quarterbacks they’d want will be gone by the time they pick at eighth (and Atlanta having the fourth pick doesn’t help them). As for the Steelers, if the price is right they could see some similarities in how Darnold plays to how their own quarterback did in his early 20s, and throw Darnold in there to compete with Dwayne Haskins to be Ben Roethlisberger’s heir. Washington and Denver have also come up as possible landing spots, though I know each had some misgivings on his tape.”

Whenever there is a rumor about a trade, the first question that comes to a fan's mind is, "what will we have to give up?" When this conversation about Darnold arose two months ago, many people, including myself, thought that it would take a late first or early second round pick. Based off recent reports, however, that may not be the case.

According to Kimberly Martin of ESPN, the Jets will likely get only a third round pick, at best. Here was what she had to say about it in her tweet.

"Talked to three NFL GMs about the market for Sam Darnold. I asked what’s the most they’d be willing to give up: Two said a 3rd Rd pick — with one saying even a late 3rd would be 'a little rich.' The other GM said 'maybe' a 3rd or conditional 4th."

This follows previous reports that the Jets would be willing to trade Darnold, even if they do not receive a first round pick in return.

Source: Jets are open to trading Sam Darnold without getting back a first-round pick.

— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaSports) March 26, 2021

Darnold is currently in the final year of his contract, but the team that trades for him will have the opportunity to exercise his fifth year option if a trade occurs before the league deadline to pick up the option. The fifth year option is $18,858,000 fully guaranteed, which will make it difficult for the Jets to trade him at all unless they are able to find a way to take on some of his contract, at least some of the money for this season.

Darnold has struggled badly in New York, but let's not lose sight of the fact that he has been in an offense whose best receivers were Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios. Denzel Mims was expected to be a go-to target for Darnold, but Mims battled injuries last season and was not much of a factor. His offensive line has been painful to watch as well. He has been sacked 98 times in his three seasons in New York. The Steelers have work to do of their own on the offensive line, but after sitting behind Ben Roethlisberger for a year, being in a Matt Canada offense, having a deep group of wide receivers, and having an offensive line with potentially two second-year studs, Pittsburgh could be the perfect place for Darnold to revive his career.

It is also worth mentioning that he is the same age as Kyle Trask. Because he was drafted so young, we are still looking at a 23 year old prospect. So there is still plenty of time for Darnold to turn it around.

But what do you think? Would you give up a 3rd or 4th round pick for Darnold in either this year's or next year's draft? Be sure to light up the comment section with your thoughts on whether or not the Steelers should pursue the Jets quarterback.

Ranking my 5 favorite Steelers April Fool’s articles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 5:30am
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

My five favorite April Fool’s articles.

Way back on April 1, 2013, I did something that would ultimately become an annual tradition: I wrote an April Fool’s article that made many people angry.

Despite how notorious that special day on the calendar had always been for pulling crap on folks, the folks in Steeler Nation never seemed to catch on—even when the articles were littered with disclaimers.

I was going to do one this year, but I noticed that the punch these articles used to have started to fade some time ago. I don’t know if it was because people began to catch on or because just about every article published by anyone about anything (even ones written by well-intentioned non-antagonists) soon started to elicit the same angry outrage as your garden variety April Fool’s piece.

No matter the reason, there was no doubt that the magic was gone.

Besides, I could publish 50 fake mock drafts between now and the real one, and they still wouldn’t make as many people as angry as my piece about Mason Rudolph’s new love did back in February. If you remember that article, you may recall saying it was “cringeworthy” or “embarrassing.” As satisfying as it is to offend people by accident, it’s nothing compared to when I do it on purpose. Unfortunately, I just don’t think I have it in me to put in the work to outrage as many people as that piece did—true art often happens on its own.

Oh well.

With that in mind, here are my five favorite April Fool’s articles of all time:

5. Steelers should seriously consider retiring a third player’s number

That April Fool’s article was written in 2017, and the third player in question was former Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell. If you know anything about Steelers’ history, you know why I thought an article about retiring O’Donnell’s No. 14 would make people so darn angry. Due to coral’s new system that has eliminated old comments, I can’t see how many readers were upset. I also don’t remember anyone being outraged (I collect moments of outrage like one collects stamps). But maybe if I bring it up again, I’ll peeve off at least one person.

4. Confessions of a die-hard Steelers fan: I’m not one

No, instead, I “confessed” that my late grandaddy, Eugene Mankowski, an oil baron from Dallas, was secretly a fan of the Cowboys and maintained his allegiance after moving his family to Pittsburgh. He had also instilled that same love for America’s Team in me. This one was from 2014, and it was enjoyable for so many reasons. For example, I got to make fun of both the Terrible Towel and Jack Lambert. I also recall some folks getting seriously agitated by it. However, the most priceless “gotcha” moment came courtesy of my cousin Russ, a man who knew OUR late grandfather, and that he lived in Pittsburgh his whole life and retired after many years as a custodian in the Pittsburgh Public School system. A day or so after the article was published, my cousin Erin, Russ’s sister, texted me and said that her brother was freaking out after reading the article. Gotta love it.

3. The Steelers need to clean house and rebuild......totally

Ah, yes, the April Fool’s article that started it all. This one had the Steelers, among other things, trading Ben Roethlisberger for Joe Flacco and firing Mike Tomlin in favor of Rex Ryan. I also suggested that the Steelers trade several first-round picks to acquire a few veteran players—including Santonio Holmes. I was proud of the responses of many folks, folks that were both embarrassed and outraged.

2. My latest 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers ‘mock’ mock draft

I didn’t include the ‘mock’ portion of that title—that came courtesy of editor Jeff Hartman—but that didn’t stop dozens upon dozens of people from ripping me for, among other things, suggesting that the Steelers, a team that seemed to be mostly set at wide-receiver, trade back in the first round and select Pitt’s Tyler Boyd. In addition to making many people angry—including a man on Facebook who cryptically threatened to beat me up—I was proud of coming up with “Defeo’s Draft Diary,” the official name of my ranking system for players that I may one day copyright and use if I ever actually get serious about rating draft prospects. (Btw, that fake Tyler Boyd suggestion doesn’t seem so bad after the whole Artie Burns fiasco, does it?)

1. Time diminishes legitimacy of Steelers Super Bowl victories

2015 was a crazy year for me in terms of reactions to articles. First, former Steelers center Justin Hartwig emailed me one day and called me an idiot several times for mentioning his name as part of the team’s offensive-line woes in the late-’00s. Also, there was my Michael Vick article that I wrote shortly after Pittsburgh signed the controversial quarterback to be the backup in August of that year; this article was viewed over 80,000 times (I was so in awe, I did nothing but continuously check BTSC’s traffic numbers for days), shared on Facebook 50,000 times and retweeted 163 times. Given Vick’s history, you can imagine the vitriol that was included in the many emails, random Facebook messages and DMs I received for about a week or so.

But nothing in 2015 made me prouder than the April Fool’s article that suggested that the Steelers Super Bowl victories from the 1970s—victories that included many close and controversial calls—were made illegitimate over time due to the advent of instant replay and the implementation of countless rule changes. I actually conceived the idea on New Year’s Day of that year, and I simply couldn’t wait to spring this on people three months later. As you might imagine, folks were beside themselves—as if someone was going to show up on the South Side of Pittsburgh and take at least four of those Lombardi trophies away. My brother-in-law’s brother, who caught onto the joke pretty quickly, posted the article on his Facebook page and feigned outrage. One of his friends was so angry, he said he had trouble sleeping later that night.

Also, if I remember correctly, the piece was one of the top trending Steelers stories on Yahoo for at least a couple of days AFTER the prank-pulling holiday.

This prank had such a reach, I was still receiving emails from outraged fans nearly a year later.

There you have it. While I didn’t write a Pittsburgh Steelers April Fool’s article for 2021, I truly hope that at least one person was offended by something I included in this article about past April Fool’s articles.

Podcast: Is the offensive line the key to a Super Bowl victory?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/01/2021 - 4:30am

The Oracle Dave Schofield shares his thoughts in the AM platform with the classic stats show with the Co-Editor of BTSC.

The Steelers have had great offensive lines in the past and they’ve had a subpar line that won a ring. In 2021, Is the offensive line the key to a Super Bowl victory? Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed on the Thursday episode of the AM slate of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Dave Schofield as he breaks out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The 2021 Steelers Offensive Line
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Steelers sign WR Mathew Sexton after Pro Day workout and LB Jarvis Miller

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/31/2021 - 2:56pm
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers add another player who stood out as they were preparing for the 2021 NFL draft.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly adding another wide receiver to their offseason roster who stood out at a college pro day. After signing Tyler Simmons at the Georgia pro day earlier this spring, the Steelers are reportedly adding former Eastern Michigan WR Matthew Sexton according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Former Eastern Michigan WR Mathew Sexton is signing with the #Steelers, source said, after blazing a low-4.3s 40 at Michigan State pro day last week. Undrafted in 2020, Sexton flashed return skills in The Spring League. #Bills, #Patriots worked him out too, but he’s headed to PIT pic.twitter.com/t3o0sRn6Hd

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 31, 2021

Sexton went undrafted in 2020 after having 508 receiving yards on 34 receptions and four touchdowns in 2019 at Eastern Michigan. In four-year College career, Sexton had 100 receptions for 1,135 yards at nine touchdowns. Sexton was a special teams player early in his college career as a kick returner and on coverage teams. He had 14 special teams tackles during his sophomore year and returned a punt for a touchdown his senior year in 2019. Sexton participated the Michigan State’s pro day according to Pelissero.

With the cancellation of the majority of pro days in 2020, players who are not currently under contract by an NFL team and would have participated last year have been allowed to return in order to showcase their skills. This is now the second wide receiver the Steelers have picked up as they picked up Tyler Simmons earlier in March.

Once again, this is Steelers adding a player who shows some potential to their offseason roster. The signing should be looked at much like a Reserve/Futures contract when signed in January. It would be a bit of a longshot for Sexton to make the Steelers roster for 2021, but could earn his way on the Steelers or another team’s practice squad with a strong preseason showing this fall.

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

UPDATE

The Steelers make the signing of Sexton official, and also announce they have signed linebacker Jarvis Miller.

We have signed LB Jarvis Miller and WR Mathew Sexton. @BordasLaw https://t.co/uGvk5XpCgm

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 31, 2021

This from the Steelers official website:

Miller spent four years (2015-18) at Penn State before playing at the University of Massachusetts as a graduate student in 2019. He played in 12 games in 2019 at UMass, starting 11, and was fourth on the team with 60 tackles. He also had 4.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and a quarterback hurry.

While at Penn State he played in 33 games from 2016-18, after redshirting his freshman year. He finished with 23 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, one pass defense and a fumble recovery. Miller, who wasn’t drafted in 2020, finished his college career with 83 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold.

One free agent signing could change the Steelers 2021 draft strategy

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/31/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

A position of need in the 2021 NFL draft could fall completely off the board by the end of April.

The 2021 NFL draft is less than one month away. While it seems like it’s right around the corner before we hear the names called who will be blessed to become a part of the greatest franchise in professional sports, who the Steelers plan to take in the upcoming draft could still change in the next few weeks.

As fans scramble to form their lists of the highest positions of need in Pittsburgh, it ultimately comes down to the Steelers organization and where they feel they need the most help. In the past, when the Steelers feel that they are too thin in a position in which they could use the draft in order to increase their numbers, they try to make a free agent acquisition just in case.

A prime example of this came in the 2020 offseason when the Steelers appeared to be in the market to take a tight end high in the draft. The Steelers did not have a first round draft pick, so they were relegated to seeing what type of tight end would be there in round two. I found myself checking in on the Senior Bowl to see what the tight ends looked like to see who could be a good fit with the Steelers. All the tight end talk went away when the Steelers signed Eric Ebron in free agency. A position of high need went to one the Steelers did not even address in the 2020 draft.

Could the Steelers still do this again in 2021, but much later in free agency? Could they add a position in the weeks leading up to the draft which takes the need much further down the list?

On Tuesday, the Steelers added yet another running back to their roster in Kalen Ballage. With Ballage being a player who has already been with three NFL franchises in three seasons, it’s not the type of signing which indicates the Steelers are set at running back. But had the Steelers picked up a more experienced running back, such as a Duke Johnson or Todd Gurley, it might have given fans pause to wonder how the Steelers’ need for a running back could change in the upcoming draft.

Chances are running back is not going to be a position the Steelers skip over in the 2021 NFL draft. Although I threw the idea out there to BTSC recently, it was only something to think about as the chances of the Steelers not addressing the running game in a significant manner is highly unlikely.

But are there other positions where many think the Steelers could draft a player high in the draft only to have the Steelers make a move in free agency before hand?

One position which jumps out at me is the same one from last season. If the Steelers were to sign another tight end who could be the compliment to Eric Ebron, it would take that position to no longer being one of need to something the Steelers would draft as a luxury.

Another position which jumps out at me would be inside linebacker. With the Steelers moving on from Vince Williams, it seems there is a need for someone else to help fill out the depth chart. Should Steelers bring in a player between now and the draft who could fill that role, they could completely skip over inside linebacker for 2021.

Other positions, such as wide receiver or cornerback, are other possibilities. Where the roster sits right now, the Steelers will likely add a player at these positions in the upcoming draft, but exactly how high they would be selected is up for debate. Should the Steelers pick up a player at either of these positions, they could skip drafting the position altogether this year.

The most likely outcome when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers would see them adding some players at these positions in order to not have to take any one position too high in the draft. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Steelers add players at linebacker, tight end, or edge rusher. With only three outside linebackers currently on the roster, the Steelers will need to add more bodies in a variety of ways before training camp.

There is a decent chance the Steelers could sign a significant player at one of these positions which would move the need at that position down the draft board. If the Steelers can set themselves up to truly draft the best player available with their selections, it gives them the chance to build the best roster possible for both 2021 and the next several years.

What do you think? Will the Steelers add a free agent between now and the draft which would significantly change their team needs? Which position is most likely? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Steelers reportedly sign wide receiver Mathew Sexton after Pro Day workout

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/31/2021 - 11:27am
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers add another player who stood out as they were preparing for the 2021 NFL draft.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly adding another wide receiver to their offseason roster who stood out at a college pro day. After signing Tyler Simmons at the Georgia pro day earlier this spring, the Steelers are reportedly adding former Eastern Michigan WR Matthew Sexton according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Former Eastern Michigan WR Mathew Sexton is signing with the #Steelers, source said, after blazing a low-4.3s 40 at Michigan State pro day last week. Undrafted in 2020, Sexton flashed return skills in The Spring League. #Bills, #Patriots worked him out too, but he’s headed to PIT pic.twitter.com/t3o0sRn6Hd

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 31, 2021

Sexton went undrafted in 2020 after having 508 receiving yards on 34 receptions and four touchdowns in 2019 at Eastern Michigan. In four-year College career, Sexton had 100 receptions for 1,135 yards at nine touchdowns. Simmons was a special teams player early in his college career as a kick returner and on coverage teams. He had 14 special teams tackles during his sophomore year and returned a punt for a touchdown his senior year in 2019. Sexton participated the Michigan State’s pro day according to Pelissero.

With the cancellation of the majority of pro days in 2020, players who are not currently under contract by an NFL team and would have participated last year have been allowed to return in order to showcase their skills. This is now the second wide receiver the Steelers have picked up as they picked up Tyler Simmons earlier in March.

Once again, this is Steelers adding a player who shows some potential to their offseason roster. The signing should be looked at much like a Reserve/Futures contract when signed in January. It would be a bit of a longshot for Sexton to make the Steelers roster for 2021, but could earn his way on the Steelers or another team’s practice squad with a strong preseason showing this fall.

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

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