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James Washington looked like a man among boys against the Buccaneers on Friday night

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 9:39am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After a frustrating rookie season in 2018, Steelers receiver James Washington looked like a man among boys in the first preseason game of 2019 on Friday. That is a good sign, and it could mean he’s ready to make that all important first to second year leap.

Forgive me for going after some low hanging fruit following the Steelers first preseason game on Friday—a 30-28 victory over the Buccaneers at Heinz Field.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who will write a glowing article about James Washington’s four-catch, 84-yard performance that also included an eight-yard touchdown from his old college quarterback, Mason Rudolph, but that doesn’t mean another one isn’t warranted.

After all, the extent of Washington’s progress was one of the many questions that needed to be answered as the Steelers reported to training camp on July 26; would he make that all-important first to second year leap, or was his abysmal rookie campaign, one that came close to rivaling the freshman season Limas Sweed turned in a decade earlier (it even included a drop of what should have been an easy touchdown), a sign of things to come?

Without getting ahead of myself, I think the Steelers liked the first answer Washington turned in on Friday. He certainly looked like a man among boys as he jumped up and snatched a 43-yard laser from Joshua Dobbs early in the first quarter. In fact, Washington looked like the receiver his draft profiles described him as being in the months before the Steelers selected him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Washington not only showed off his speed by getting behind the defensive back downfield (he was a deep-threat at Oklahoma State), he high-pointed the football and came down with it even though said defensive back had made up enough ground to contest the play as Washington fell to the ground (his ability to come up with contested catches on deep throws was considered a strength entering the pros).

And Washington made a great adjustment when reeling in Rudolph’s back-shoulder throw on the touchdown pass late in the second quarter.

Maybe I really am getting ahead of myself with my praise of Washington. I have said more than once now—in the title and in the article—that Washington looked like a man among boys. Maybe that’s because Friday’s match-up was filled with a bunch of young NFL hopefuls who may not even be around in a few weeks. Even still, I think that’s a good sign. The learning curve for rookie NFL receivers is normally pretty high. For every JuJu Smith-Schuster or Louis Lipps (just to go a little old school), there are dozens of receivers who have rookie campaigns on par with Washington and his 2018 stat-line that included just 16 catches for 217 yards.

Does this mean Washington is destined to take the number two receiver role from Donte Moncrief? It’s way too early to tell. Besides, Moncrief, who signed with the Steelers in the spring, didn’t even play on Friday, which tells me the coaching staff is comfortable with where the six-year veteran is after just two weeks of training camp.

But Washington’s performance on Friday could mean that he’s for real, which I think is much more important than his pecking order on the depth chart.

Speaking of way too early, it’s obviously too soon to make any predictions on the rookie season of one Diontae Johnson, a third-round pick out of Toledo. But you haven’t heard a whole lot about Johnson so far in camp, and that’s because he’s been battling injuries. Considering the aforementioned big learning curve for rookie receivers, Johnson might be in for a long and frustrating first year in the pros.

But, fear not, young Diontae. With hard work and determination, next year at this time, you might just be where Washington is right now.

After Friday night, it appears James Washington is in a very good place.

PFF hands out the top grades for the Steelers first preseason game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 8:35am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PFF gives out the top grades for the black-and-gold after their 30-28 win over the Buccaneers on Friday night.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in Week 1 of the NFL Preseason when they beat the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-28 at Heinz Field Friday night. There were players who showed out during the contest, and Pro Football Focus (PFF), as always, takes a look at the film and gave out their unique numerical grades for what went right, and what went wrong, during any specific contest.

For preseason, PFF diagnosed the top performers at each main position. Check out the grades in the tweet below (LB = Linebacker, DI = Defensive Interior, ED = EDGE Rusher):

Top Defensive Grades From Preseason Game #1

LB Tyler Matakevich (93.3)
LB Ulysees Gilbert III (92.2)
DI Henry Mondeaux (90.4)
ED Tuzar Skipper (89.7)
S Marcelis Branch (76.4)
LB Devin Bush (70.6) pic.twitter.com/9I9EHb1mAJ

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) August 10, 2019

Some fans might be disappointed to see Devin Bush so low in regards to grades, especially when compared to Tyler Matakevich, but they should also realize how the less a player plays, the more stringent the grade can be. For instance, if Matakevich only played 10 snaps and had a strip sack during those plays, his grade would be significantly higher than a player who played the majority of snaps and made more mistakes.

Check out the offensive grades below:

Top Offensive Grades From Preseason Game #1

QB Mason Rudolph (89.2)
WR James Washington (90.8)
WR Jonny Holton (90.6)
TE Zach Gentry (90.8)
RB Jaylen Samuels (71.6)
T Jerald Hawkins (77.2)
G Matt Feiler (68.7)
C Patrick Morris (62.2) pic.twitter.com/kgKxJBoIqD

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) August 10, 2019

What was truly surprising when looking at the offensive grades was how highly graded rookie tight end Zach Gentry was on the list. Everyone knew Mason Rudolph and James Washington would be up there among the highest graded players, but Gentry must have shown up in multiple areas throughout the first game.

There are some who can’t stand PFF. Since the company doesn’t truly divulge their grading procedures, fans are left scratching their heads wondering if these grades are legitimate, or just a computer generated system to spit out numbers based on specific outcomes of plays.

Either way, let us know what you think about the grades in the comment section below!

Steelers Film Room: Breaking down how dynamic Devin Bush’s first preseason game was

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 7:30am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers were hoping for big things from Devin Bush, and if the first preseason game is any indicator they got exactly what they hoped for.

Today in the film room we are going to look at Devin Bush’s kind-of-but-not-really first game as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s preseason, so it barely even counts, but the real stuff is weeks away, so this is what we have at the moment.

A lot of people are salivating after his performance against Tampa, so let’s take a look at five plays where he flashed and showed the potential to be a great player for this team moving forward.

Before we start, I want to mention the first drive of the game the Buccaneers had their starting OL in against a Steelers defense which had Mark Barron, Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds as the only projected starters on the field.

Let’s break it down...

Play 1: Reads the run and engages an Offensive Lineman
Devin is lined up right on the 40 yard line, middle of the field.

Pretty solid early play for Devin, he reads the run, identifies his spot, gets to that spot and engages the tackle within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage. He shows right off the bat his ability to turn his speed into power and knocks down a 4 year starter. He seemed caught off guard by the pancake and didn’t bounce up enough to stop the RB from hurdling over him, but the impressive thing here is the ability to hit that tackle that fast, and that hard. It isn’t likely that he’ll be knocking down lineman very often when the games count for real, but he showed the quickness and power to take on a lineman and keep the run contained. With his size that was a legit question, and this play was a pretty good sign he’ll be able to answer that question.

Play 2: Reaction and speed to the play
Devin is the ILB closer to the bottom of the screen.

In this play Devin Bush is responsible for No. 80, OJ Howard. The QB does a good job of looking to OJ to hold Bush there before turning and hitting the screen. To understand how Bush impacts this play, we have to look at the intent. It’s easy to see Barron and Anthony Chickillo running in after Bush, with Chickillo unblocked to make the tackle. You can also see No. 66, 2 year starter Ryan Jensen, react to Bush and change his angle to cut him off. Jensen successfully alters Bush’s angle, and Bush is only able to swipe at Ronald Jones II’s feet. But what’s big about Bush here is that he forced Jensen to turn and engage him, leaving No. 65 alone to deal with 2 defenders. If Bush is replaced with a slower LB on this play he doesn’t get there quick enough, and it’s 2 OL vs. Barron and Chickillo and we are likely looking to a safety to stop a TD, instead of 2nd and 5. He covered OJ Howard, and then took the Center out of the screen.

In my opinion, this is the most exciting play he made all day, because the QB looked him off to keep him out of the play, and Bush’s speed negated that advantage.

Play 3: Man coverage on a TE
Devin is the middle of the three LBs.

This is pure athletic ability. Bush is coming to the TE, and the TE turns right as Bush gets there, putting his body between Bush and the passing window. Devin sees the pass and step in front of the TE to break it up.

In the future he needs to turn that into a Steeler TD, but last year the team didn’t have a LB that could have stepped around and in front of that pass. Plays like this aren’t easy yards for the offense anymore.

Play 4: Covering a TE
Devin Bush is in the middle of the field on the 20 yard line.

In this play the TE is able to head right at Devin, gives him a stutter step and a nice sharp cut outside, a nicely timed and placed pass put the ball in the TE’s hands in front of Devin Bush right near the first down marker. Bush recovers from getting beat in the route to make a great tackle, bringing up 4th and short.

While we’d love to see him do a better job at the stem of the route, it is fantastic to see him recover and show the leg drive to deny the TE the conversion.

Play 5: Finishing what he started
Devin is the middle of the three LBs.

Bush shooting through the gap into the backfield isn’t impressive, we’ve seen a lot of young LBs do that. What stands out here is how he is able to turn on a dime and whip the RB to the ground. This is where Rookie Devin Bush is different from rookie Ryan Shazier. Shazier blew people up, but he didn’t make cuts like that very often as a rookie. Bush doesn’t have Shazier’s straight line explosion, but he has the agility to make plays like this from his first preseason game.

In conclusion, Devin Bush has a long way to go and a lot to learn, but in this one preseason game he reminded me of a young Ray Lewis. Lewis showed up his first season in the NFL and was everywhere on the field, tackling everyone and impacting almost every play. Bush, for one preseason game where he had a backup DL playing a starting OL, was that type of player. He kept a lot of plays from being big plays, took away easy yards plays that this defense gave up last year, and even flashed a bit of play-making while he was at it.

If he continues to play this well through the preseason and into the season, this defense will be significantly better than it was last year.

It is also worth noting that during the first half the ILB’s recorded 13 total tackles, and the Free Safety recorded 2. A greater than 6-1 ratio, which is an incredible improvement on last season’s less than 2/1 ratio for Vince Williams and Jon Bostic vs. Sean Davis.

BTSC Contest Winner: A first time trip to Heinz Field, Part 2

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 6:38am
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The winner of two game tickets form the BTSC giveaway used the opportunity to make the long journey to Pittsburgh

(Editor’s Note: This is the second part in a two-part series chronically the winner of the BTSC contest to give away two free tickets to the Steelers Preseason Week 1 game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you missed Part 1, click HERE.)

As I was waiting for the Gateway Clipper to embark past the confluence to deliver us to Heinz Field, I received a message from Derek Chadwick, the Behind The Steel Curtain contest winner of two seats to the Steelers’ preseason game against the Buccaneers on Friday night.

“Are you at your seat?”

Being his first trip to Heinz Field, Derek made sure he arrived at the stadium well before kickoff. With plenty of activities both outside the stadium, as well as in, I recommended getting to the game early to take advantage of all the Steelers have to offer for their fans. I was hoping Derek would get to check out the FedEx Great Hall in order to see the Lombardi trophies as well as the Hall of Honor. Derek did check those out, but he also managed to do even more.

One of the features the Steelers usually have available for each home game is a chance to meet a former Steeler. For this game, Derek and his wife, Melanie, were able to meet Hall of Fame Steeler Kevin Greene.

Not only did Greene take his typical picture with fans, he took out his own phone to grab a pic to send to Greg Lloyd. Whether or not he truly sent the message to Lloyd, it was nice for Greene to acknowledge the jersey of his former bookend.

Before getting to their seats, Derek and Melanie already had a full day of taking in as much of the Pittsburgh experience as they could. Leaving Canada in the very early morning, the couple took in the riverfront, Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36, Tequilla Cowboy, and a meal at Primanti Brothers.

As for the game itself, the introductions told the crowd how few of the regular players would be taking the field. Announcing the defense, Terrell Edmunds was the only starter from 2018 who would start the game. But the crowd was energized with the announcement of Devin Bush. After the first half, the Steelers led 13-10.

More importantly, I was able to have Derek come down to my lower-deck seats and watch the second half of the game with my daughter and me. We talked throughout halftime about what we saw in the first half as two youth-league teams were squaring off in the end zone right in front of us. We both concurred that Devin Bush and James Washington really stood out in stadium. We also noted how much the offense seemed to click with Mason Rudolph under center. Derek also confessed to me how he didn’t expect to win the contest because he was sure someone had already figured out the answer.

As we watched the second half, I hoped Derek and Melanie enjoyed the game as much as I did. Between watching the Steelers put up another 17 points, as well as me constantly putting on my Kylo Ren Steelers helmet in order to be noticed by the cameras to get my daughter on the jumbotron (which we were finally able to do), there was plenty to keep our attention throughout the final 30 minutes.

Until I checked my clock due to my daughter getting sleepy, I didn’t realize how long the final quarter was taking because I was enjoying our conversation and insight so much. Derek kept noting the desire to get to 30 points scored, a number I mentioned on my Steelers Stat Geek podcast. We agreed the Buccaneers should have kicked the extra point on their next to last touchdown, giving Tampa Bay an opportunity for the conversion for the win and not the tie.

As the stadium continued to empty out throughout the second half, both Derek and I noted our philosophy of staying to the very end of the game. With over eight hours of driving time between the two of us in order to attend the game, neither one of us was cutting our time short. When the clock finally expired and the game thankfully did not go to overtime, I took the chance to snap a picture of Derek and Melanie to help chronicle their journey.

As we walked up the steps and into the concourse, I shook hands with my new friend and we departed in different directions toward our various exits. As much as I enjoyed being able to give away two tickets to the game, it was even more special to meet up and watch the game with the winner.

With me returning to Maryland that night, and knowing Derek and Melanie would be returning to Windsor, Ontario the next day, it was a small reminder as to how large Steeler Nation reaches across the world. If it were not for the Steelers, there would have been no reason for Derek and I to ever meet. More importantly, Derek and Melanie played in important part of the memories my 11-year-old daughter and I were shaping.

“They were really nice,” my daughter told me as we headed toward the Steelers’ Sideline Store.

Yes they were.

Podcast: Taking a look back at what can be gleaned from the Steelers’ preseason win

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 5:22am

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

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

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Condolesences to Darryl Drake
  • A look back at Week 1 of the preseason
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Did Zach Gentry show enough to ease the concern with the Steelers TE depth?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 4:27am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether or not rookie tight end from Michigan, Zach Gentry, showed enough on tape vs. the Buccaneers to ease the concern about the team’s depth at the position.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers ignored the tight end position until the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft before they took Zach Gentry from Michigan. Gentry had his first taste of NFL action last Friday, and fans are wondering if he did enough to silence the critics of the TE depth.

Towering Zach Gentry gives Steelers clarity in tight end pecking order

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A familiar scene unfolded in the third quarter Saturday night at Heinz Field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback scrambled around in the pocket, searching for a target in the back of the end zone. He let loose a high throw, and the tall, lanky tight end wearing a No. 81 jersey leaped high in the air before coming down with the ball for a 3-yard touchdown.

The big difference in the preseason opener wasn’t Mason Rudolph throwing the pass as much as it was Zach Gentry — and not Jesse James — catching it in the Steelers’ 30-28 victory against Tampa Bay.

With James being lured to the Detroit Lions by a four-year, $22.6 million contract in free agency, the Steelers face a literal tall order in replacing the 6-foot-7 tight end. For the first time in five seasons, another player besides James is wearing No. 81.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Despite some ups and downs, it looks as if Joshua Dobbs did improve, even if just as a double threat, in his first preseason action of 2019.

Classroom: Dobbs grows as double threat

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

Josh Dobbs came into the season as the Steelers’ No. 2 quarterback and got the start in the Steelers’ 30-28 win over the Buccaneers. He finished with five completions on eight attempts for 84 yards, as well as leading the Steelers in rushing with two carries for 44 yards.

He didn’t finish a drive with a touchdown, but he did move the ball for the Steelers and combine his athleticism with multiple good throws down the field. Let’s take a closer look at his night:

Since Dobbs’ first training camp with the Steelers in 2017, Mike Tomlin has made a point during situational scrimmage drills to force Dobbs to win with his arm on plays instead of his legs. At first it was a frustrating challenge for Dobbs, but in his third year he’s shown he’s comfortable with the playbook and his presence as a quarterback to not rely on his legs as much.

That doesn’t mean Tomlin doesn’t want to see him running to get first downs. He just wants there to be a balance, and Dobbs showed that balance against the Buccaneers.

To read the full article, click HERE ($$)

  • The death of Steelers WR coach Darryl Drake has left the team and organization stunned.

Kevin Gorman: Darryl Drake’s death leaves stunned Steelers at a loss for words

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A man we were just getting to know, one now gone far too soon. Survived by his wife, Sheila, daughters Shanice, Felisha and Marian and two grandchildren, Drake was remembered by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin as “an amazing husband, father and grandfather” and a close friend who had “a tremendous impact” on his coaching career and who “loved the game of football and every player he coached.”

No wonder Tomlin’s statement that “it is difficult to put into words the grief our entire team is going through right now” was echoed by Steelers president Art Rooney II saying what everyone was thinking: “We are at a loss for words.”

Drake never seemed to be at a loss for words when talking football. His candor was captivating, especially when he spoke about coaching football. Never was that more evident than during the NFL Draft this past April, when he turned questions about third-round pick Diontae Johnson of Toledo into a dissertation on discovering and developing talent.

“To me, it doesn’t matter where you play,” said Drake, who played and coached at Western Kentucky before it became an FBS program. “I played the game at a small school because back when I came out, there weren’t very many minorities who were going to major college schools. But I could play. It didn’t matter where I came from or that this guy is at Toledo.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Putting a bow on the Steelers’ 30-28 win over the Buccaneers in Preseason Week 1.

Labriola on the win over Tampa Bay

By: Bob Labriola, Steelers.com

It would be foolish to suggest all of the concerns they carried with them to Saint Vincent College when training camp opened on July 25 have been solved following a single preseason game against an opponent that finished 5-11 last year, because preseason games can do to coaches what a mirage does to someone wandering in the desert.

Still, there were a number of things to like based on what was displayed last night at Heinz Field, not the least of which was that the game didn’t end in a tie, which when it relates to an NFL preseason game deserves to be considered a crime against humanity.

No, the Steelers came within a missed two-point conversion of that dreaded tie, but when Ryan Griffin’s pass for Dare Ogunbowale fell incomplete, Pittsburgh escaped with a 30-28 victory over Tampa Bay. While it’s always better to win than lose, this game certainly will provide Coach Mike Tomlin and his staff with enough teaching points to carry the team through the final four practices in pads before the Steelers break camp and return to Pittsburgh.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

.@_Dbush11 led the team with 1️⃣0️⃣ tackles in our win against the Buccaneers last night.

: @NFL pic.twitter.com/pHSE3owA5J

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 11, 2019

Take a look at how Andy Lipinski, his staff and his dog Tyson prepare the fields at Saint Vincent College for #SteelersCamp. pic.twitter.com/jEJmsxqb2h

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 11, 2019

Steelers alter practice schedule leading up to Week 2 Chiefs game after passing of Darryl Drake

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/11/2019 - 5:34pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For fans wanting to get a glimpse of the Steelers at Training Camp, make note of the following practice changes.

The Pittsburgh Steelers organization is reeling after the stunning news of wide receivers coach Darryl Drake’s passing Sunday morning. In what should have been a practice day for the black-and-gold, the team cancelled practice and Saint Vincent College campus to allow for players and coaches to deal with the loss of a beloved coach.

In the hours after, the team decided to make another change to the weekly practice schedule, which could impact anyone who was thinking of heading to Latrobe, PA to catch a glimpse of the Steelers up-close-and-personal.

Heading into this week the Steelers were schedule to practice Sunday and Monday, with an off day Tuesday. After the news of Drake’s passing the team has decided to take Monday off, and practice on Tuesday.

The Steelers canceled practice on Monday and moved it to Tuesday

— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) August 11, 2019

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday’s practices will all be open to the public before the team wraps up camp on Friday, August 16th, with a closed practice the day before hosting the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field on Saturday, August 17th.

Check out the complete 2019 Training Camp Schedule below:

Steelers and other players take to social media to offer condolences for Coach Darryl Drake

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/11/2019 - 11:28am
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The loss of Darryl Drake was felt far beyond the walls of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.

The loss of a loved one is never easy, and this goes into the sports world as well. When a coach or players suddenly passes away, it is as if a family member has left us. Think about how much time these players and coaches spend together. Those meetings where a specific coach once led the film study now seems empty and different.

This is the situation wide receivers for the Pittsburgh Steelers are going through after the sudden passing of coach Darry Drake. But the loss of coach Drake goes far beyond the Steelers organization. Players who played or coached with him in Arizona and Chicago also have the feeling of loss on Sunday after the news broke.

Many players and coaches are taking to social media to offer their condolences to Drake and his family, and we here at BTSC felt it appropriate to share some of those comments which speak not just of the coach, but the man Darryl Drake.

Take a look at some of what was said on social media in remembrance of Darryl Drake.

(Editor’s Note: This article will be udpated as the news continues to make its way through league circles.)

Hate to hear the news about Coach Drake. He was a great man and true leader. He will truly be missed. R.I.P.

— Arthur Moats (@dabody52) August 11, 2019

Darryl Drake was in our coaches bible study. He was a tremendous coach and an even better man. This is hard to believe and we’re all going to miss him. But it’s proof of what the Bible says—tomorrow is not promised to us. for his family and his players. https://t.co/KAcu1t4ULr

— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) August 11, 2019

Rip Coach Drake. So many good times & memories with you in AZ. We will miss your energy forever!

— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) August 11, 2019

Rest easy Coach Drake. So sad to hear of his passing. Prayers with his family, friends & Steeler Nation. All love!

— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) August 11, 2019

RIP Coach Drake good man

— Mike Wallace (@Wallace17_daKid) August 11, 2019

My heart is heavy. Today Steeler Nation and the football world lost not only a good coach but a great man. RIP coach Drake. Thanks for always standing on the table for me. pic.twitter.com/kyux9O51Gh

— Darrius Heyward-Bey (@theDHB85) August 11, 2019

At a loss for words! One of my all time favorite coaches to be around. Rest easy Coach Drake

— Marcus Gilbert (@MarcusGilbert88) August 11, 2019

Coach Drake, I love you brother. RIP

— Larry Foote (@LarryFoote313) August 11, 2019

Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Darryl Drake. It is impossible to overstate his impact on the game in nearly four decades as a coach in college and the NFL.

Today, the entire football community mourns his loss.

— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) August 11, 2019

Hate to hear the news about Coach Drake. He was a great man and true leader. He will truly be missed. R.I.P.

— Arthur Moats (@dabody52) August 11, 2019

We lost a great man, husband father, coach and a dear friend Darryl Drake. Our prayers go out to his family. RIP brother pic.twitter.com/V0U3fvLleP

— Bruce Arians (@BruceArians) August 11, 2019

Today we mourn the untimely passing of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake. Darryl was the former Bears wide receivers coach under Lovie Smith from 2004-12, including the 2006 Super Bowl appearance.

— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) August 11, 2019

Coach Drake made a huge impact on me as a young player. His players loved him. I’ll miss catching up with him throughout each season. Love to his family https://t.co/luPqVfjVlD

— Greg Olsen (@gregolsen88) August 11, 2019

Thinking about you Coach Drake. Your passion, love,and laughs always meant a lot. I hope you are at peace. We miss you so much. RIP

— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) August 11, 2019

A statement from our president, Fr. Paul Taylor, on the untimely passing of Steelers assistant coach Darryl Drake. pic.twitter.com/KGYWBbzazY

— St. Vincent College (@MySaintVincent) August 11, 2019

Our condolences and heartfelt prayers go out to the Drake family and @steelers organization. pic.twitter.com/1nFr6iWvCK

— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 11, 2019

Terribly sad news, can’t imagine it. Thoughts with the Drake family and everyone in the Steelers organization. https://t.co/hcQAe3nN2a

— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) August 11, 2019

Rest easy coach Drake. We love and miss you

— Brian Allen (@B_ALLO_14) August 11, 2019

Pittsburgh Steelers WR coach Darryl Drake passes away Sunday morning

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/11/2019 - 10:19am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers mourn the loss of their wide receivers coach.

The Pittsburgh Steelers organization and their fan base found out Sunday the team’s current wide receivers coach Darryl Drake passed away suddenly.

We have announced that Sunday’s practice at Saint Vincent College has been cancelled and the campus will be closed to all fans.

MORE: https://t.co/WpUvHAs4RM pic.twitter.com/sSun7hyVyC

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 11, 2019

The team has cancelled training camp practices and has closed campus to the public as the entire organization mourns the loss of one of their own.

Statement from #Steelers President Art Rooney II on the passing of Darryl Drake.

MORE: https://t.co/wynTCksT79 pic.twitter.com/Brt8c6G8sC

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 11, 2019

Drake was hired by the Steelers in 2018, and his loss will be felt across the NFL as Drake previously spent time with the Arizona Cardinals. He was 62 years old.

The Steelers have stated the cause of death is unknown at this time, and respect to the Drake family will be paramount at this time.

Steelers receivers coach Darryl Drake died early this morning. The cause of death was unknown. The Steelers have cancelled their practice sessions for Sunday and Saint Vincent College is closed.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) August 11, 2019

All of us at BTSC, and Steelers fans around the globe, send their thoughts and prayers not only to the Drake family, but to all those who have worked with Drake and are mourning and saddened by his death.

Below is the statement released by head coach Mike Tomlin:

Statement from Coach Tomlin on the passing of Darryl Drake.

MORE: https://t.co/Td5iCTqSTl pic.twitter.com/pDIB4HBAFT

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 11, 2019

Valuing experience vs. pedigree in the Steelers battle to backup Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/11/2019 - 9:45am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Between Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph, and Devlin Hodges, their on-field play will determine who wins the reserve role in 2019

In the Steelers first preseaon game, all three quarterbacks vying for the backup position were given an opportunity to showcase their skills at various points in the game. Joshua Dobbs got the first opportunity against the Buccaneers on two drives resulting in three points. Mason Rudolph was given twice as many drive chances resulting in 17 points. To finish up, Devlin Hodges had four drives yielding 10 points. While all three faced various levels of competition, their overall play would be safe to qualify as “satisfactory.”

With three more games to earn the position, the main question moving forward will be how the playing time will be distributed. Josh Dobbs started game one based on his experience and the fact he held the job last season. There is a good chance Mason Rudolph will start Week 2 if Ben Roethlisberger sits out like he is expected to do. Whether or not Hodges gets a chance to start the game in Week 4 is anybody’s guess.

So what determines who gets the most snaps at quarterback in both preseason games and in practice? In a close battle, whoever gets the most in-game chances may be who very well wins the job. With opportunity being such a big factor, what determines the breakdown in playing time? In my opinion, the two driving forces are a combination of experience and pedigree.

Experience is pretty much self explanatory. Josh Dobbs already has two seasons under his belt with the Steelers, so he holds the advantage in this category. Rookie Devlin Hodges is obviously at the bottom of the list. With all other things being equal, experience will be the determining factor.

Another factor which sometimes take precedence over experience is the notion of “pedigree.” As described by BTSC podcaster Lance Williams, pedigree is determined by how the player became a Pittsburgh Steeler. If signing as a free agent, the pedigree factor is pretty much determined by salary. When the Steelers signed two free agent wide receivers in 2019, Donte Moncrief has a much higher pedigree than Johnny Holton merely based on the contract each was offered by the Steelers. Moncrief’s higher pedigree instantly gives him an easier track to the 53-man roster. As for draft picks, where they were selected determines their pedigree.

While experience appeared to be the driving force behind the order the quarterbacks appeared on Friday night, pedigree may be more of a factor when it comes to the final depth chart when the Steelers make their roster cuts on August 31. Not only was Devlin Hodges not drafted in 2019, he wasn’t even an initial undrafted rookie free agent in Pittsburgh. It took an invitation to Steelers’ rookie minicamp for Hodges to get a contact with the Steelers.

As for Joshua Dobbs, he was drafted 135th overall in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft. When it comes to fourth-round picks, they can be hit or miss. Since 2010, the Steelers have drafted nine players (not including 2019) in the forth round with four players not playing more than 8 games in Pittsburgh. So while fourth-round picks generally make the team initially, there isn’t necessary a need to keep players drafted in the fourth round or later if they are not proving they deserve a spot on the roster.

When it comes to pedigree, Mason Rudolph leads the way among the current players battling for the backup quarterback position. Drafted 76th overall in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft, Rudolph has just as much in common with the Steelers’ second-round picks than he does his fellow third rounders. With the 79th overall draft pick from the Martavis Bryant trade with the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers traded up three more spots to secure Rudolph. With the Steelers usually drafting toward the bottom of each round of the draft, when the Steelers acquire a higher pick it almost acts like a pick from the previous round much like Diontae Johnson‘s selection at 66th by the Steelers in this years’ draft. Even in his own draft class, Rudolph was taken exactly the same distance behind second-round pick James Washington as he was ahead of third-round pick Chukwuma Okorafor.

A case could be made that Mason Rudolph’s pedigree is even higher than his draft position. Many Steeler fans have written off the possibility of Rudolph taking over the starting job after Ben Roethlisberger simply because he wasn’t drafted high enough. What some fail to realize is Rudolph was projected by some as a first-round pick. The fact the Steelers got a steal with Rudolph when they drafted him 59 spots ahead of Josh Dobbs the year before should be taken into consideration.

So how much does pedigree matter compared to experience? I believe it is a lot. If the Steelers were to cut Devlin Hodges, nobody would think much of it. If Josh Dobbs were to be released, fans would complain more about “wasting the pick” rather than letting go of the player. But as for Mason Rudolph, his pedigree all but guarantees him a spot on the roster. So even though Josh Dobbs currently has the experience advantage, Mason Rudolph’s pedigree may soon bump him ahead when it comes to the allotment of playing time.

It’s time for Steelers fans to forgive Xavier Grimble for his fumble against the Broncos

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/11/2019 - 8:40am
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Regardless of the grudge you may still hold against Xaxier Grimble for his fumble vs. the Broncos last year, the Steelers need him to step up and be an effective number two tight end in 2019.

The day was November 25, 2018. I remember it well. I was at a Friendsgiving get-together full of people who didn’t care much for fancy football watchin’.

Instead of gathering around the television set after dinner to watch the Steelers/Broncos clash at Mile High, the group engaged in some sort of high brow board game that I only pretended to understand. But I was having a good time and enjoying the company of some cool folks.

I was having such a good time that, believe it or not, I almost forgot about my favorite football team that was in the early stages of a semi-important 4 p.m. match-up against an inferior Broncos squad.

Yes, I thought this game was only semi-important because Pittsburgh entered the day with a 2.5 game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North with just six weeks to play. The Steelers had a 7-2-1 record and were on a six-game roll after starting the season 1-2-1.

What better time to disengage from the tense emotions that the game of football often generates in the truly die-hard fans?

And then I received this text from a relative: “What a shame. It was such a great call, too.”

That relative was referring to the great first quarter call that led to Steelers third-string tight end Xavier Grimble being left all alone in the middle of the field. Grimble gathered in a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and had a mostly clear path to the end zone. The only thing that stood in Grimble’s way was a Broncos defensive back that the undrafted free agent out of USC could simply avoid with a little cutback to the inside. Instead of that, Grimble tried to knock the defensive back into the following week. I don’t know how successful Grimble was in that regard, but the football he was carrying—in his inside arm, which is always a no-no—was knocked out of the end zone before it crossed the plane of the goal line.

Touchback, Denver, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Steelers lost the game, 24-17, and a few more down the stretch and finished with a 9-6-1 record and out of the postseason for the first time since 2013.

There were many mistakes that you can point to for the Steelers failure of a 2018 season, but Grimble’s is often cited more than most.

I know I spent the rest of last season and most of this offseason holding a Steve Bartman-level grudge against Grimble for his silly, silly gaffe (although, I would never throw a cup of beer on him, since he’s much bigger than me, and stadium beer is expensive).

Just two weeks ago, on The Steelers Hangover, I was asked if Grimble would catch as many passes this year as Jesse James did a season ago (30), and I said, “NO!”

But almost immediately after giving that rather rude and crude answer, I felt bad. I mean, it wasn’t as if Grimble WANTED to fumble the ball on that play. He was just trying to do something positive. He may have gone about it the wrong way, but I’m guessing his heart was in the right place.

I’m also guessing Grimble immediately regretted his choice to send a physical message to that Denver defensive back. And if he didn’t have immediate regrets, I’m assuming they began to creep in the second Pittsburgh was officially eliminated from the playoffs some five weeks later.

But whatever regret Grimble may still have for being a doofus that day in Denver, he needs to forget about it and move forward. Same for die-hard Steelers fans such as yours truly.

Why? Because the Steelers need Grimble, who is entering his fourth year with the team, to step up and be the number two tight end in 2019.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Steelers depth chart behind Vance McDonald at tight end is pretty sparse in terms of proven talent. Someone needs to rise to the occasion and do so in a hurry.

Grimble, with 22 career receptions for 236 yards and three touchdowns, is the only tight end on the roster besides McDonald that has a stat-line.

The Steelers have always had a fondness for the two tight end set, which means they’ll want to keep using it in 2019.

Is Grimble up for the task, especially since it also requires the ability to block well in the running game?

That remains to be seen, of course, but the Steelers will certainly give him a chance to win the job this preseason.

It’s not an impossible road back, from bonehead play to redemption—Barry Foster once treated a kickoff like a punt—and if Xavier Grimble can be an effective number two tight end in 2019, the memory of his gaffe in Denver will vanish faster than the stuffing at my next Friendsgiving feast.

Win a signed David DeCastro football through BTSC!

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/11/2019 - 7:27am
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Test you skills in picking NFL games and a signed DeCasto football could be yours

For the 2019 season, Behind The Steel Curtain is giving away a signed David DeCastro panel football! A great addition to your Steelers’ collection, it is a standard-sized football and comes with a certificate of authenticity. In order to win this fabulous prize, you’ll need a very small commitment for what could be the length of the entire NFL season.

As I bounced ideas through my head as to what could be fun and engaging for BTSC users, I thought about what could be the most encompassing to a wide variety of users who follow both the website and the BTSC family of podcasts, I considered something as complex as fantasy football, but the spots would be limited to only a few players. Then it hit me... Survivor Football!

If you are unaware how survivor football works, it is quite simple. For Week 1 of the NFL season you pick one team to win their game. That’s it. If your team wins, you move on to Week 2. There is no spread which needs covered, just a win. If your team loses, you’re out. If your team ties, you’re out because they did not win. The only catch is after you pick a team once, you can no longer use that team again. So if you pick the Steelers to beat the Patriots the first week, you cannot pick the Steelers any other week of the season.

The nice thing about a survivor league is there is no limit to the number of players who can be involved. All you have to do is make your pick each week until only one person remains. The last person standing will win the prize.

Here are the rules of play, which are outlined in the Commissioner’s note on the league's main page:

Now that the rules have been established, all you need is the instructions to join the league. First, since the league is being run through Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, you need to have a Yahoo! ID, If you need to create one, you can do so for free by clicking HERE and selecting “Create Account.” Once your account is set up and you are signed in, you simply need to go to Yahoo! Fantasy Sports -> Football -> Survivor, on simple click HERE to go directly to the sign-up page. If clicking the link given, the league ID and password should be automatically filled in. All you will have to do is enter “Your Pick Set Name” and you are all set up. I highly suggest using your BTSC account name so others can better identify you. If you don’t have a BTSC account and screen name, what are you waiting for?

If for some reason the league ID number and password are not automatically filled in, Here they are just in case:

If you choose, you can get e-mail reminders to make your picks. Additionally, picks can be made for the entire season and changed each week before the deadline. Just so you know, even though the deadline is 1;00 P.M. EST on Sundays, the Thursday night game can be used as a pick as long as it is selected before kickoff. If using a Thursday night team, once the game has started the pick cannot be changed.

So there you have it! Get signed up and get ready to start making your NFL picks! I know BTSC staff members will be joining the the group, so even if you don’t win the entire league you could earn bragging rights over your favorite (or least favorite) authors. Also, feel free to invite your Steeler fields to join as there is no limit to the entries.

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below and I will be sure to address them.

Best of luck!

Podcast: Why chemistry will never trump talent for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/11/2019 - 5:56am

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

With Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell gone from the Pittsburgh Steelers, most fans have enjoyed a Training Camp/Preseason with their favorite team not being called “Team Turmoil”. What people are hearing is how team chemistry has never been higher.

Players are loving the game of football again, but what if the success of the 2019 Steelers won’t be based around chemistry. No, it will come down to what it always comes down to — talent.

This is where the newest BTSC podcast “Yeah, I Said It” comes in. My co-host on ‘The Standard is the Standard’, Lance Williams tries to decipher why chemistry is overrated.

Time to deliver the goods on the latest show.

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

Check out the audio below:

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

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

Black and Gold Links: How James Washington’s work is far from finished this preseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 08/11/2019 - 4:57am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

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

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how despite a great showing in Week 1 vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, James Washington must continue this style of play leading up to the regular season.

Let’s get to the news:

  • James Washington was one of the stars of the Steelers preseason win over Tampa Bay in Week 1, but his true role during the regular season won’t be based off of one exhibition performance.

Kevin Gorman: Steelers need James Washington to build on preseason performance

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

James Washington knows what you’re thinking, even shooting a side-eye to the suggestion that his performance in the preseason opener was exactly what he needed.

That the second-year receiver had four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown in a 30-28 victory over Tampa Bay on Friday night at Heinz Field was just what the Pittsburgh Steelers needed.

Not only did Washington catch the Steelers’ first pass of the game — for a 43-yard gain — but he also pulled in a pivotal 22-yarder on a third-and-long from Josh Dobbs and scored their first touchdown on a back-shoulder throw from Mason Rudolph.

Washington caught everything thrown his way, even when he officially didn’t. He almost scored another touchdown on a Santonio Holmes-inspired tiptoes catch at the same spot of the end zone as the Super Bowl XLIII winner, if not for Washington’s front foot skimming the white line.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • How Devin Bush stole the show of the two ‘Devins’.

Tim Benz: Unbalanced ‘Duel of the Devins’ goes to Steelers’ Devin Bush

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

From a comparison standpoint with Tampa’s Devin White, Bush’s fellow top-10 inside linebacker draft choice, it wasn’t a fair analysis.

White barely got a chance to play. He only stayed on the field halfway through a second defensive series for the Buccaneers. Meanwhile, Bush played the entire first half for the Steelers.

White registered just one tackle. He wasn’t asked to do much, and the action of the play didn’t come his way very often.

Things were different for Bush. He registered 10 tackles. Four came on the first drive where Bush showed an ability to flow across the field, close ground and help out on tackles when plays went away from him.

“That’s something I do,” Bush said after the game. “I’m good at flowing and getting out of the way of the trash. Not getting stuck on blocks.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • An outsider’s look at the Steelers’ Week 1 preseason win over the Buccaneers.

What we learned in Friday’s preseason double dip

By: Grant Gordon, NFL.com

Though the Bucs offense looked efficient in the early going, Steelers linebacker Devin Bush Jr. was stellar in his preseason debut, showcasing a nose for the ball, range and textbook tackling. Tampa Bay was moving the ball well at the onset, but a Bush fourth-down stop on the Bucs’ second drive proved to be a highlight and perhaps a foreshadowing of highlights to come for the linebacker. Bush was everywhere, no matter if it was in coverage or against the run, as he ended the first quarter with six tackles. For the game, Bush’s tackles matched his No. 10 selection in the 2019 NFL Draft as he concluded his first action with a game-high 10. As first impressions go, Pittsburgh has itself an impressive young linebacker.

”I was less concerned with his productivity and more concerned about his demeanor, and I really liked his demeanor,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said in the postgame press conference. “He was present, it wasn’t too big for him. He handled the communication responsibilities associated with his job. He was alert and those were good signs.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

.@rell_island6 talks to @missi_matthews about earning the Joe Greene Great Performance Award, building on the last season, Devin Bush and more. pic.twitter.com/Hm0ImSxXJn

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019

At the end of the last season @rell_island6 was voted the winner of the Joe Greene Great Performance Award.

On Friday night, Edmunds was honored at halftime & received the award from Jim Balouris, executive vice president of retail banking at @PNCBank. pic.twitter.com/zOBEqWMrYV

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019

.@josh_dobbs1 & @Rudolph2Mason talk about being back out on the field, James Washington and more. pic.twitter.com/kkO4uM3ddK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019

Post-Game Sound: Hear from Steelers coaches and players after their 30-28 preseason win

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/10/2019 - 2:15pm
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in Week 1 of the NFL Preseason. Take a look and listen to what was said after the game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in Week 1 of NFL Preseason action with their 30-28 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night. Several players had big days for the black-and-gold, including Chris Boswell, Devin Bush and James Washington...among others.

After the game, there was plenty of video/audio to take in from inside the locker room and down at field level. Here at BTSC we try to gather as much information as possible for those fans who might not be on social media and see this on a weekly basis.

Therefore, in the post-game sound article you will hear from head coach Mike Tomlin, rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush and a myriad of other players as the Steelers official Twitter account goes around the room to hear from all who participated on Friday night.

Enjoy the content and be sure to stay with BTSC for all things black-and-gold as they prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 preseason action on Saturday night.

Around the Locker Room

Go around the locker room following our 30-28 victory over the Buccaneers on Friday. pic.twitter.com/eox0r2Oiy8

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019

Devin Bush

.@_Dbush11 talks about his NFL debut with @missi_matthews following our 30-28 victory over the Buccaneers. pic.twitter.com/He4ldf34Cf

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019

Devin Bush was feeling that love from #SteelerNation.

I have much more with him and his teammates over on @DKPghSports.

Give it a read right here — FREE and OPEN to all, no subscription required. #Steelers

https://t.co/Vj4xm5fSCR pic.twitter.com/QuNK0s4fsi

— Hunter Alek Homistek (@HunterAHomistek) August 10, 2019

Mike Tomlin Press Conference

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following our win vs. Tampa Bay. https://t.co/d1YPxMbDJS

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019

3 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin during his post-game press conference Friday night

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/10/2019 - 12:05pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Tomlin answered questions after the Steelers’ Week 1 preseason win over Tampa Bay

After his press conference after the STeelers 30-28 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the preseason, head coach Mike Tomlin answered questions from the media. Coach Tomlin was asked questions about specific players in regards to their first in-game production of the season. This list isn’t to suggest these players were the only ones who stood out, but highlights players about whom Tomlin was asked questions.

Devin Bush

Devin Bush showed why the Steelers made the draft-day move to get him when he had 10 tackles (7 solo) in the 1st half alone, including a big stop for a 2-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 play at the Steelers 17. Coach Mike Tomlin was obviously satisfied: Bush did not play 2nd half.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) August 10, 2019

It was his first NFL game, even if it was the preseason. And if it was any indication of things to come, Steelers’ fans should be ecstatic the team moved up in the draft to secure Devin Bush. Playing only in the first half, Bush put up stats indicative of a full game of action. With several key plays of tackling a tight end short of the sticks on 3rd down subsequently making a tackle for loss on the following fourth down play, Bush showed he was a player which defenses will have to take notice. If only he would have come up with the near interception he defended, Bush might have even had six points scored to add to his one-game resume.

Coach Tomlin was asked about his concerns with Bush coming into the game, and his production.

“I was less concerned with his productivity and more concerned about his demeanor, and I really liked his demeanor. He was present. It wasn’t too big for him. He handled the communication responsibilities associated with his job. He was alert and those were good signs.”

Mason Rudolph

Mason Rudolph is done for the night, and he finished 5-of-8 for 91 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a rating of 141.1.

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) August 10, 2019

With the battle for the number two quarterback job heating up, Mason Rudolph showed he is adapting to the NFL in his second season. Being the second man up, Rudolph took advantage and led scoring drives on three of his four chances. Averaging 11.4 yards per pass attempt, Rudolph showed poise in the pocket and did not take a sack. Rudolph also completed every passing attempt on both of his touchdown drives.

Coach Tomlin was asked if he saw a positive year-two performance from Rudolph.

“Not an extended look, but I like what I saw. He’ll continue to write that script. Not only him but all of them. I liked what I saw from all three guys who played under center tonight.”

Joshua Dobbs

Dobbs with a nice pump fake to freeze the defense, hits Washington to convert a 3rd and 21. Gain of 22 yards. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 10, 2019

While Joshua Dobbs also finished with five completions on eight attempts, he failed to get the Steelers into the end zone on either of his two drives. It didn’t help the Steelers starting position was their own 7 and 17-yard lines for each of Dobbs’ possessions, he did manage to “flip the field” on the first drive with a 43-yard completion to James Washington. Dobbs also kept the Steelers second drive alive with his legs, converting a long 3rd down in his own territory which ultimately led to a 33-yard field goal by Chris Boswell.

Coach Tomlin was asked about Dobbs scrambling for yardage on the ground when he was unable to find an open receiver.

“I’ve always liked his prude use of agility and escapability. I thought it’s been an asset to him in the past. It was an asset to him tonight. The key is the prude use of it, and he did a nice job.”

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

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following our win vs. Tampa Bay. https://t.co/d1YPxMbDJS

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019

For Devin Bush, this is just the beginning

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/10/2019 - 10:46am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The dynamic Devin Bush was on full display Friday night, but this is just the beginning.

Let me preface this with some simple facts.

This was just a preseason game.

Devin Bush didn’t even play the entire game.

He went up against some starters, but majority backups.

But there is one more fact I want to get across before I go any further...

This was also Bush’s very first time stepping onto an NFL field for a game of any kind.

Think about that.

When all was said and done, Bush tallied 10 total tackles, 7 solo, and would have had a pass break up had a Tyson Alualu roughing the passer call nullify the play. In fact, the pass break up should have been an interception; nonetheless, Bush was dynamic. As dynamic a player Steelers fans have seen since Ryan Shazier flew all over the field as a rookie in 2014.

It would be easy to think the Steelers’ top rookie in their 2019 draft class could start to believe the hype being talked about him. To start and believe what all the fans are raving about the day after a tremendous first performance with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But if you think that, you haven’t heard any of the interviews Bush has given since being drafted 10th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. The young man is extremely humble. He isn’t going to start patting himself on the back and touting himself as the next big thing in the Steel City.

No, he’ll let his play do the talking for him.

Just listen to this brief interview he gave with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews after the game, which was broadcast over the stadium sound system.

.@_Dbush11 talks about his NFL debut with @missi_matthews following our 30-28 victory over the Buccaneers. pic.twitter.com/He4ldf34Cf

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 10, 2019

Bush seemed more excited his Michigan teammate Zach Gentry catching a touchdown pass more than him performing in a dominant fashion in his NFL debut.

Mike Tomlin talked about Bush after the game, and had a glowing report for the former Wolverine. “I was less concerned with his productivity and more concerned about his demeanor, and I really liked his demeanor,” said Coach Mike Tomlin in his post-game press conference. “He was present, it wasn’t too big for him. He handled the communication responsibilities associated with his job. He was alert and those were good signs.”

That is about as glowing of a report Tomlin will ever give in a post-game press conference after a preseason game for a rookie.

But back to Bush. He was just out there playing football and having fun.

“I was just feeling it,” Bush told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. “I was just having fun. I think that’s the biggest thing, I was having fun and playing football.”

When I look back at the film of Bush from Week 1 of the preseason, the one thing which can’t escape my brain is how this is his first professional game. Was Bush perfect? No, but the way he played just screamed of a maturation uncommon for NFL rookies. If this is his floor, just imagine what his ceiling would be?

Maybe it is being the product of a father who was an NFL player, and being a part of big-time football his entire life. But whatever it is, Steelers fans shouldn’t just be excited about Bush’s play in Week 1, but in the prospects of his undeniable potential.

For once, when someone says “the sky is the limit”, they might not be exaggerating. Bush could be that good, but it won’t be easy. The Kansas City Chiefs coming to town next Saturday will be a great test for the rookie linebacker.

Analyzing the Steelers Preseason Week 1 win over the Buccaneers, by the numbers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/10/2019 - 9:31am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Steelers managed to pull off a victory, but was their statistical performance worthy enough to deem the game a success?

One down, three to go.

Preseason Week 1 is in the books. The Steelers have played their first game in over eight months, so the whole issue of the long offseason is now behind all of us. Most importantly, there were basically no Steelers who left with injury other than Christian Scotland-Williamson who exited with a hamstring issue. Granted very few projected starters were in uniform Friday night, but it’s still nice to know players made it though the game and the Steelers pulled out a victory.

But did they Steelers perform in a manner where coaches and fans should be satisfied with the product at Heinz Field from the black and gold?

In my earlier Crunching the Numbers article, I compiled some statistics from the 2018 preseason in order to have a baseline of comparison. Using those stats, let’s look actual statistics from Week 1 to help determine if our expectations were met in Friday’s game.

30

This was the exact average of points scored per game from the 2018 preseason, and the exact number I predicted. Using six scoring drives (three touchdowns and three field goals), a thirty-point output checks off one box for sure. The Steelers also had three points off of turnovers, although seven should have been the goal when the Steelers recovered a fumble at the 27-yard line in Buccaneers’ territory towards the end of the first half. On the positive side, it was nice to see the Steelers be successful on all their field goal and extra point attempts.

10

The Steelers were slightly over their average of nine accepted penalties per game in the 2018 preseason. While some penalties in the preseason are to be expected, it did appear the officials were quite over-zealous to throw the flag in several circumstances. At least the Steelers had four less penalties than their opponent.

19

Once again, the Steelers matched their 2018 preseason average, this time in first downs. If only the Steelers could have managed only one or two more at the end of the game, the contest wouldn’t have been in doubt and the game would have ended much sooner. It is also a concern that the Steelers’ defense gave up 31 first downs.

1/+0

The Steelers managed to keep their turnover count down, but two particular plays need to be noted from a negative standpoint. The lone Steelers’ turnover came late in the fourth quarter when the Steelers could have clinched the game, so the timing of their only official turnover was highly undesirable. Additionally, the Steelers had another turnover in the first half which was negated by offsetting penalties. As for the positive note, the turnover margin of zero is down from the 2018 average, but this number is misleading. The Steelers actually had two takeaways in the game, but only one counted statistically because the interception occurred on a two-point conversion attempt. During the untimed down, the only statistic the NFL uses is “points scored” if the attempt is successful. Even if Ulysses Gilbert had returned the conversion for two pints in the Steelers favor, he would have been rewarded the score but not the interception.

108

Once again, this statistic is misleading, even though it out performed the last year’s average. While the Steelers 108 rushing yards beat the 97.75 average from the 2018 preseason, almost 40% were by quarterbacks. I had made the statement that, due to limited carries, an average of 5.0 yards per carry or greater would be the standard for a running back’s success. The only running back on the Steelers who averaged over five yards a carry was Jaylen Samuels who averaged 10.5 yards on two rushes for 21 yards. Ironically, Samuels’ two carries were for -1 yard and 22 yards.

So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers first game of the 2019 preseason. Which number were you pleased with the most? What was the most disappointing statistic? Is there another one not listed which really stands out to you? Please leave your answers in the comments below!

Winners and Losers after the Steelers’ win over the Buccaneers in Preseason Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/10/2019 - 8:10am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Time to take a look at who would be considered a ‘Winner’ and a ‘Loser’ after the Steelers latest action on the gridiron.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Friday night when they hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of NFL preseason action. The Steelers were 30-28 winners in the contest, but that doesn’t mean every player had a good performance.

With it being the preseason, many of the player who are being criticized are not even going to be employed by the Steelers organization come September, but the judgement process must go on. Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left a lot to be desired can be called ‘Losers’. It may sound harsh, but it is the crux of this exercise.

Let’s check in to see who fell on which side of the ledger after Week 1 of the preseason...

Winners

Devin Bush
Stat Line: 10 Total Tackles, 7 Solo

If you have working eyes in your head, and watched the game, there was no way you missed Devin Bush on the playing field. He was all over the place, and an absolute tackling machine. It is just one preseason game, but if this is just the start for the young linebacker, the sky is literally the limit for him as he will only get better from here.

Joshua Dobbs
Stat Line: 5/8, 85 yards / 2 carries, 44 yards

A lot of fans are down on Dobbs after his performance, but I look at it differently than most. Dobbs wasn’t helped at all by a patchwork backup offensive line, and showed playmaking skills nonetheless. Want to be picky about his big pass play where he slightly under threw James Washington? Sure, but his two big runs sparked the offense and showed off his playmaking ability. Not the best performance, but not the worst either. Playing with backups I thought Dobbs represented himself well.

Mason Rudolph
Stat Line: 5/8, 91 yards, 2 TDs

When Rudolph entered the game, the offensive dynamic changed. I don’t know why, but the play calling and style of play was altered dramatically. With just over 5 minutes left in the half, Rudolph wasted no time taking the Steelers down the field and putting up the team’s first touchdown, a nice back shoulder throw to Washington. But what really impressed me about Rudolph was his poise, and escapability, in the pocket. Rudolph was labeled as slow coming out of Oklahoma State, but he has shown improvement in this area. His patience on the touchdown pass to Zach Gentry was great sign of maturation for the second year quarterback. The hope is Rudolph is the first quarterback up in Week 2 if Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t play, to see what he can do with the ‘ones’.

James Washington
Stat Line: 4 receptions, 84 yards, 1 TD

On our podcasts the past two years I have been touting how I feel James Washington is due for a breakout. That breakout didn’t happen in 2018, but if the performance on Friday night was any indication, it certainly could come in 2019. Washington looked strong in and out of his breaks, and had tremendous poise with the ball in the air. He was plucking the ball out of the air, and looked like a more confident player in his second season. While everyone said Donte Moncrief is guaranteed the WR2 spot, maybe Washington will have something to say about that.

Jaylen Samuels
Stat Line: 2 rushes, 21 yards / 1 reception, 9 yards

Samuels didn’t light up the stat sheet, but what he did do was show some improvement front Year 1 to Year 2. He looked faster, more elusive and improved lateral quickness. Samuels, with a year under his belt, understands what the Steelers are requiring from him, and his conditioning shows he has come into 2019 prepared to be the backup the Steelers need behind James Conner.

Ulysees Gilbert III
Stat Line: 3 tackles, 2 solo, 1.5 sacks, 4 QB hits

Yes, it was against 3rd and 4th string players, but the former Akron product showed what he is capable of against the Buccaneers on Friday night. Registering 1.5 sacks, 4 QB hits and an interception on a two-point conversion, Gilbert put his name in the hat for a spot on the 53-man roster. If he can continue to flash that type of play on special teams, he has a legitimate shot of making the roster.

Losers

Backup Offensive Line
Stat Line: 2 sacks allowed, 108 rushing yards

Don’t let the stats fool you, the backup offensive line was not very good on Friday night. Sure, they settled in as Tampa Bay started to empty their bench, but they did Dobbs absolutely no favors when he started the game. The 108 rushing yards were padded by Dobbs being the team’s leading rusher with 44 yards scrambling. Don’t get too upset about this unit’s performance, as a collective they weren’t very good, but their backup depth is still strong behind the starters.

Benny Snell Jr.
Stat Line: 13 carries, 26 yards, 2.0 yards per carry

I don’t want to be too harsh on this young man, and maybe this is all our faults anyways. Maybe we all bought into “Benny Snell Football” way too much. Maybe we all watched those Kentucky highlights too often and got excited about the prospects of Snell doing that in Pittsburgh. I’m not about to say his career is over and he is a bust, but this was a dud of a performance from Snell. For as dynamic as Devin Bush was, Snell left a lot of be desired. He looked slow, indecisive and ineffective. I hope this is just a blip on the radar, and not a sign of things to come for the young running back.

Justin Layne
Stat Line: 8 tackles, 5 solo

Just like Snell, Layne didn’t put his best foot forward in the game Friday night. He played almost the entire game, and was ineffective for most of it. Going against Jameis Winston and some of the Buccaneers starters, Layne played soft coverage and was beaten underneath multiple times. Like Snell, the sky isn’t falling with Layne, but the team has to be hoping to see more from their third round draft pick when the Chiefs come to town on Saturday.

So many flags
Stat Line: 25 accepted penalties

Goodness gracious this game was long. It was painfully long, and largely because the officials were unbelievably flag happy. I know there is holding on every play, but that doesn’t mean you have to call it...especially in the preseason. Oh, and the roughing the passer call on Tyson Alualu to negate Devin Bush’s pass break up was soft, just like the hitting a defenseless player call with 45 seconds left in the game. But then again, this is just my opinion.

Report Card: Grading the Steelers’ 30-28 win over Tampa Bay in Preseason Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 08/10/2019 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

BTSC breaks out the red pen and assigns grades to the Steelers after defeating the Bucs to open the 2019 exhibition season.

The Steelers took to Heinz Field on Friday Night with a lot of energy and a ravenous desire to prove. After a 30-28 victory over the Buccaneers, the arrow is pointing skyward. For some reason, I’ve been given the responsibility to rate the performance of the squad. It’s not easy, but I’ll give it a whirl.

Despite my less than prestigious BTSC teaching certificate, I have to issue the necessary disclaimer. You know the story; of course, I’m not a football coach, or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. All week, I found myself noticing just how equal in talent the two teams actually are and that will show. Then the game happened and judgments abound.

Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what counts the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well. The preseason is even tougher. All letter grades are simply based on the eye test of somebody watching at home. In this case, it’s my doofus opinion.

So let’s take a look at BTSC’s early perceptions:

Offense: B

All three quarterbacks threw fairly well and were mostly playing behind a suspect second-string line. Joshua Dobbs’ escapism helped him out a bit, but he was throwing crisply. Mason Rudolph threw two TD passes and looked sharp, but his score to the 6’8” Zach Gentry would have been uncatchable to any other receiver. Devlin Hodges wasn’t perfect, but his receivers didn’t help him out early on. Jaylen Samuels won the first round over Bennie Snell Jr., aided by a 22-yard scamper. But BSJ was getting virtually no holes to run through and showed promise despite the stat line. He needs to improve and it does seem likely. The line was not great at all in the second half especially. But early on, Chuks Okorafor struggled mightily. There seems to be talent in Zach Banner and Fred Johnson and I wouldn’t worry too much about the depth behind the fab five. The receivers that played were pretty good. James Washington stole the show and announced his presence with authority. Other notables include Johnny Holton, Tevin Jones and Diontae Spencer. There is some notable speed and talent for limited slots.

Defense: C

Defense is hard to grade in the preseason. I was not overly impressed with the performance of Keith Butler’s squad on the first drive. That’s typically the drive that means the most and is the closest thing to reality in Preseason Week One. Justin Layne was playing off of the receiver and looked like a rookie, however Devin Bush and his 10 tackles and near pick-six were mouth wateringly awesome. For the first preseason game, the alam isn’t really sounding. But the scheme could be again suspect. The linebackers were the most promising group with Bush, Ulysses Gilbert III, Tuzar Skipper, Tyler Matakevich and Ola Adeniyi shining brightest.

Special Teams: A-

I’m usually quite critical of Danny Smith’s unit, but they were quite solid for the most part on Friday. Chris Boswell wants to keep his job and (though it was only one game) last season looked like an aberration after his two field goals and an XP. Matthew Wright was just as capable and could be auditioning for another gig. The punting tandem of Berry (Jordan) and Berryman (Ian) impressed. The incumbent averaged 44.5 on two punts and dropped one inside the 20, while the new guy boomed his only punt for 66 yards. Nobody broke a return, but Johnny Holton (22.5 on kick returns) and Diontae Spencer (four punt returns for an average of 13.5 and a kick return of 35) seem likely to do so. The coverage unit didn’t give up anything big.

Overall: B+

Despite giving up 28 points, this team stopped Tampa on three 2PCs and won. The QBs are all in-it-to-win-it. James Washington looks JuJu-ish, the rookie first rounder looks like a gift from above and there’s suddenly depth at linebacker. There’s much more to be excited about than to be concerned with. Overall, it was a pleasure to watch.

Valedictorian: James Washington

Honor Roll: Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph, Johnny Holton, Devin Bush Jr., Ulysses Gilbert, Tuzar Skipper, Chris Boswell, Devlin Hodges, Ola Adeniyi.

Needs Improvement: Chuks Okorafor, Justin Layne, Bennie Snell Jr., JC Hassenauer, P.J. Locke

Now it is your turn to play teacher. Use the polls and the comments section below. We can compare notes in the teachers lounge.

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