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Would the Steelers really draft a wide receiver in the first round?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 7:52am

ESPN’s resident draft guru seems to think so—and to some extent, it makes sense.

Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat: criticizing a mock draft (or the people who construct them) is so dumb. Mocks drafts are rooted in conjecture, and since it’s the beginning of April, most of them are arbitrarily assembled and intended to entertain you, the reader. So let’s chill on the grr how is [analyst] still employed sentiments.

With that said, I noticed that ESPN NFL Draft analyst and veritable hair god Mel Kiper Jr. recently predicted that the Steelers would select Alabama WR Calvin Ridley in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. This initially struck me as a deeply insane suggestion, as the Steelers already boast what could be the league’s most potent receiving triumvirate in Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Important, too, is the fact that Pittsburgh has myriad—and debatably more urgent—needs at other positions. Making what would be the epitome of a luxury pick in lieu of these obligations would understandably infuriate a sizable contingent of the fanbase (as evinced by the comment section on Jeff’s earlier story), but it’s certainly an interesting outcome to consider. Would the Steelers actually draft a receiver in the first round? Let’s unpack this.

The history

The Steelers, whose ability to develop capable wide receivers is legitimately second-to-none, have not drafted a receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2006, when they selected future Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes. Holmes had two pretty good seasons and two really good ones as a member of the Steelers before being shipped to the Jets for draft picks, and it would not be inaccurate to say that Holmes, for all intents and purposes, was a solid pick.

The difference between 2006 and 2018, however, is that the aught-06 iteration of the Steelers desperately needed another pass catcher. Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El, Pittsburgh top two receivers during the 2005 regular season, combined to catch 104 passes for 1,426 yards and a dozen touchdowns, which was just about on par with what Antonio Brown produced all by himself in 13 games in 2017. Pittsburgh’s third-best receiver in 2005 was a beefy rookie tight end by the name of Heath Miller, and their fourth-best pass catcher was the anonymous and unassuming Cedrick Wilson (as a friendly reminder, the 2005-06 Steelers won a Super Bowl with this roster—defense really does win championships).

With a franchise quarterback in place, a world-class rushing attack, and a top-ranked defense, addressing the limitations in the receiving corps was an obvious solution for the Steelers back in 2006. The 2018 Steelers have a handful of pronounced needs, but receiver is simply not among them.

The rationale

The Steelers and Martavis Bryant are not compatible lifelong partners, and I would wager that a post-2018 split is forthcoming. If this indeed the case, drafting a receiver could be a prudent decision for safeguarding the long-term vitality of the depth chart. Selecting a receiver does makes some degree of sense in the interim, too, as the Steelers not only deploy four-receiver packages with some regularity (they did, anyway—how the offense changes in Todd Haley’s absence remains to be seen), but they don’t have a ton of depth beyond the top three. Pittsburgh is one tweaked ankle or ill-timed bout of food poisoning away from tossing Ken Griffey Jr.’s kid in the slot. This is not ideal.

The contenders

The 2018 Draft does not appear to be one that is particularly top heavy in blue-chip receiving talent. Ridley seems to be the consensus top prospect at this position, but Texas A&M Christian Kirk, SMU’s Courtland Sutton, LSU’s D.J. Chark, and Maryland’s D.J. Moore have all earned requisite praise for their notable collegiate production and solid measurables. For the sake of argument, let’s just grab three of these dudes: Ridley; Kirk, who has apparently earned the “Baby Beckham” moniker for his likeness to New York Giants superstar Odell Beckham Jr.; and Chark, whose combination of size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and speed (4.34 40-yard dash) should make him a desirable, high-upside prospect.

The competition

The Colts, Bills, Bears, Niners, Dolphins, Packers, Cardinals, Ravens, Seahawks, Cowboys, Panthers, Titans, and Saints could all use a shiny new receiver, though most of these teams have considerably more urgent hurdles to surmount before adding another receiver. If Ridley is indeed the top receiving prospect, it would be difficult to imagine him slipping past all of these receiver-needy teams...

More rationale

...but let’s say he does. General manager Kevin Colbert is very much in the “best player available” camp, and as a member of #teamBPA, it stands to reason that Colbert and his various compatriots—including Mike Tomlin, whose word certainly carries a great deal of weight in draft day proceedings—would pull the trigger on a max value player, regardless of whether or not said player fits a particular “need.” Of course, I do not have access to Colbert’s draft board, so I have no idea how highly Ridley (or Kirk or Chark) is regarded by the front office. But if Colbert et al. view Ridley as the next Marvin Harrison, or Kirk as an Odell Beckham Jr. clone, or Chark as a less-refined A.J. Green, then it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Steelers draft one of them instead of an inside linebacker or safety.

The conclusion

There are circumstances in which I could see the Steelers pulling the trigger on a receiver in the first round, but, from an outsider’s perspective, for this to actually transpire seems like a long shot.

Gene Collier: One year gone, Dan Rooney still widely appreciated as peacemaker - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 7:00am

This week delivers the first anniversary of the death of American icon Dan Rooney, whose passing last April 13 begat a wave of international mourning and admiration that washes our way still, essentially undiminished.

NFL teams change schematically every year, but are the Steelers due for an overhaul?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 6:48am

The Pittsburgh Steelers could be experiencing a makeover next season, and they also could make very few changes.

I remember in 2007 when Mike Tomlin was hired as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach. That year, and the years following, Tomlin was fun to watch. Jovial, contrite and downright just happy to have the job.

Fast forward to 2018, and there are far fewer joking jabs with the media, and more terse and exact comments filled with grey area.

This was certainly the case at the NFL owners meetings in Florida, the first time Tomlin met with media since after his team’s deflating loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs.

Tomlin talked about rule changes, coaching changes and additions to the team’s lineup. You guessed it, all very status quo answers. But when he was asked about whether the team could see some drastic changes on the defensive side of the ball, his answers were telling.

“I’m not opposed to dramatic changes,” Tomlin told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando.

“I think that is the appropriate mentality to have,” said Tomlin of potential changes. “We may change in dramatic ways, we may not. It depends on what the totality of the variables of totality mean for us. But I think it’s great to have an attitude that’s not resistant to it.”

When Tomlin gave the aforementioned quotes, he was mainly referencing the defense. But changes could be on their way for both sides of the football. On the offensive side of the ball new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner will be working closely with Ben Roethlisberger to put their own unique stamp and spin on the team’s offensive game plans.

However, the defense is where the main changes could come. For those thinking this will likely equate to something as crazy as a switch from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3, understand base defenses are a thing of the past. Teams, especially the Steelers, rely on sub packages far more than any other time in recent memory. So, what changes would be so drastic if they wouldn’t be switching to the 4-3?

If you follow some of the film breakdown work here at BTSC, you will notice just how unique some of the Steelers’ sub packages have become, and within those packages come new roles for unique players. This impacts how the team approaches the NFL Draft, and even free agency.

Ultimately, the talk of change is great, but the reality of change is something completely different. With a player like Ryan Shazier on the field, you have some really awesome options to be creative with scheme. Without a unique athlete like Shazier on the field, you are more restricted to what they can, and cannot, do.

The Steelers already acquired a versatile weapon when they picked up Morgan Burnett in free agency, and if they can draft a few more to their arsenal they truly will have options with their schematic changes.

If they don’t add those type of players, expect less change and more of the same.

Steelers “Sour 16” Bracket: 1993 Deon Figures vs. 2013 Jarvis Jones

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 5:17am

BTSC continues to look at the least successful first round selections since 1969 with a matchup between a lineman on offense and on defense picked two years apart.

BTSC continues to look at the Pittsburgh Steelers least successful first round selections since 1969 with a Cowher/Tomlin region matchup between a hard-luck corner from Colorado and a more recent LB pick from UGA. But first let’s conclude the first round with the final Noll region match fron the first round.

1986 John Rienstra 85% (365 votes

1988 Aaron Jones 15% (67 votes)

432 votes total

As always, the criteria for selection is performance in a player’s Steeler career. There may be done players that you find not worthy of conclusion on this list. That is a good thing. That proves that the Steelers remain a very good drafting team, especially in the first round.

1993 Round 1 Pick 23 CB Deon Figures-Colorado

Figures spent four seasons with the Steelers and started 23 of 61 games. Figures recorded four fumble recoveries, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one sack in his Steel City career. He was thought to be emerging as a dominant corner in 1994, but the Compton native was the victim of a drive-by shooting that went through his car door in South Central L.A. The bullet penetrated the Steeler player’s left knee and hampered him enough to cost Figures his starting job. He left for Jacksonville in 1996 and doubled his interception totals in two seasons to finish with nine in his career. The 6’ All-American from Colorado recovered the memorable surprise-onside in Super Bowl XXX.

2013 Round 1 Pick 17 OLB Jarvis Jones

The 2013 Draft produced plenty of players that failed to produce all around the NFL. Jarvis Jones is one of those players and he heard the boos from a disappointed Steeler Nation. Jones always seemed to be in the area, but always a step too slow. Jarvis lost a lot of games to injury early on and only had six sacks and two picks in four seasons. His fate seemed sealed when he was a healthy scratch for a pivotal contest on Christmas Day 2016 against Baltimore. Jones departed for Arizona, but was cut there.

The leading vote-getter moves on to the second round. Be sure to vote below and continue logging in to BTSC for plenty of offseason news, mocks, commentary and fun.

Face Time: Bradley makes the leap to the NFL Videos - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 5:00am
Defensive backs coach Tom Bradley brings a wealth of experience with him to the Steelers.

Face Time: Bradley makes the leap to the NFL Videos - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 5:00am
Defensive backs coach Tom Bradley brings a wealth of experience with him to the Steelers.

NFLN: Casserly's 2018 NFL mock draft 2.0 Videos - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 3:30pm
NFL Network's Charley Casserly discusses his 2018 Mock Draft .

NFLN: Casserly's 2018 NFL mock draft 4.0 Videos - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 3:00pm
NFL Network's Bucky Brooks discusses his 2018 Mock Draft.

HIGHLIGHTS: Heyward Sacks in 2017 Videos - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 1:00pm
Cameron Heyward led the Steelers with 12 sacks in the 2017 NFL season.

NFL Insiders weigh in on the Steelers’ acquisition of Morgan Burnett via free agency

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 12:51pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers got their next veteran safety when they signed Morgan Burnett. Now NFL Insiders weigh-in on the acquistion.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers released both Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden, their need at safety was real. So much so, many experts were expecting them to both pick up a safety via free agency, as well as in the 2018 NFL Draft.

This still may be the case, but if the team doesn’t have a prospect who they feel is worth a first, or second, round pick, the acquisition of Morgan Burnett certainly helps ease the blow for the black-and-gold.

By now fans have all heard and read about how Burnett is the type of player who is experienced, has tremendous leadership, great versatility and a sure tackler. But how does he exactly improve the Steelers’ roster? NFL Insiders recently gave their opinion — see what they had to say:

The Steelers’ search for an upgrade at safety led them to Morgan Burnett, whose ability to play a dime linebacker role could help Pittsburgh at two positions of need.

”Burnett is high-character, very much the Steeler kind of brand, but he is older and doesn’t produce like he used to,” an exec said. “You get a more stable [version of] Mike Mitchell but a less explosive [version of] Mike Mitchell.”

Another insider said this offseason has fallen right for Pittsburgh. The safety market was soft, allowing Burnett’s deal to come in under $5 million per year. The draft appears heavy on talent at linebacker, which is another position Pittsburgh needs to target after losing Ryan Shazier.

”They have the most star players in the league and they are also really good at being able to find glue guys to fill specific roles like [Alejandro] Villanueva at left tackle or Mike Hilton, who is suddenly their nickel corner out of nowhere,” an insider said. “Burnett is not the same player he was, health-wise and movement-wise, but he does bring some versatility.”

Those who pegged the Steelers to both draft a safety, and bring in one via free agency, it seems as if the experts who talked about the team’s overall pick up of Burnett agree with you.

Burnett isn’t the long-term answer, but most realistic fans knew this when the team signed him. What he can be is a bridge player until a young rookie is ready, and if the team drafts an NFL ready safety from Day 1, Burnett is versatile enough to be a nickel and dime specialist for Keith Butler’s defense.

Don’t let these insiders’ opinions sway you away from how good this acquisition was for Pittsburgh. When it comes to an insurance policy, Burnett is about as good as you can get, from the safeties who were available on the free agent market. However, fans should expect the team to still target a safety on Day 1 or 2 of the upcoming NFL Draft to help solidify the position for years to come.

David DeCastro speaks out about new NFL rules, suggesting linemen will resemble ‘sumo wrestlers’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 9:39am

The Pro Bowl offensive guard is wondering just how the new targeting rule will impact the battle along the line of scrimmage.

The genesis of the NFL’s attempt to prevent head injuries is genuine. Don’t allow players to lead with the head and deliver a crushing blow will lead to less concussions, and potentially slow down the rapid wave of CTE cases being announced by past football players.

While this sounds like an uphill battle, the NFL has to do something, right?

Well, they did just that with their new ‘targeting’ rule, which is similar to the rule put in place last season by the NCAA to avoid head injuries at the college level. The only issue with this rule is the players are wondering just how it will impact the game they grew up playing, love and an utilize as an occupation.

In case you aren’t sure what the new rule consists of, it essentially means a player cannot hit with the crown of his helmet, in any circumstance, or they could be subject to a 15-yard penalty and possible ejection.

For Pittsburgh Steelers offensive guard David DeCastro, he is wondering just what the rule will do to the battle in the trenches.

“I just can’t wait until the referees come into training camp like they do every year, and they show us the videos of what to do and not do in the rule changes,” DeCastro told Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I just can’t wait to see it because I have no idea what they’re talking about. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“You’re taught from a young age, the low man wins,” DeCastro added. “Get your head lower than theirs. It’s like the nature of the game. You might as well take the ball away while you’re at it.”

“We’re going to look like sumo wrestlers,” DeCastro said. “Put our bellies against each other.”

Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva added a positive wrinkle to the new rule, which is having to worry about one pass rush, if the league deems it illegal.

“I’m really happy if that means they cannot bull rush, leading with the head,” he said. “That takes away one pass rush move. But I’m with Dave. What I don’t want is an ambiguous rule. They’re not going to call it on a bull rush but they are on a [guard] pull, if Dave hits a linebacker with the head because he’s trying to get lower? I don’t know how you can call it without making the game like flag football.”

As I stated earlier, the origin of this rule is genuine, but now the NFL enters the extremely difficult area of trying to make it work within the framework of the game which fans have loved, partly due to the brutality of it all.

Some rule changes take time to become part of the every day game, and this will certainly be one of those rules. Hopefully it doesn’t make the game almost unwatchable in the process.

Despite inaccuracies, the Steelers can still sling the rock deep

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 6:55am

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have had their struggles last year with deep passes, but the team still had a good statistical season doing so.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and more importantly Ben Roethlisberger, have been known as a big play team. A team who is capable of burning you deep at a moment’s notice.

While receivers like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown have been getting past defenders for the black-and-gold in the past decade, in 2017 the team lacked in this department — especially early in the season.

Fans were wondering if it was a timing issue, the receivers not doing what they were supposed to, or Roethlisberger just ‘losing it’ a bit as an aging quarterback. Whatever the true issues were for the team at the beginning of last season were, it seems, statistically speaking, they were rectified by year’s end.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) compiled deep receiving yards by a team, and the Steelers ranked second in this category. What are deep receiving yards? Receiving yards from throws which traveled 20-or-more yards past the line of scrimmage. And in this case, they were passes solely to wide receivers.

Which teams picked up the most yards on deep passes to wide receivers in 2017?

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 4, 2018

With 945-yards of deep receiving yards, the Steelers trailed only the Detroit Lions, and Matthew Stafford, in this category. Not too bad after a slow start, right?

So, what changed? First, Le’Veon Bell returned to form for the team, and the offense started to click around the second quarter mark of the regular season. Second, Roethlisberger started to settle in and get comfortable again. Lastly, for players like Martavis Bryant, who missed a season, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, it took time to get on track.

All of this resulted in the Steelers slowly finding their way as a big-play team once again. Will this success carry into 2018? With Roethlisberger back, along with his top trio of wide receivers, there is no reason to expect anything less.

When it comes to NFL rules changes, buckle up Steelers fans and brace for impact

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 5:44am

What impact will the NFL’s new rule changes; specifically the new targeting rule, have on the Pittsburgh Steelers and the league itself?

The National Football League recently held their annual owner’s meeting in Orlando, Florida and as always the rules committee convened to discuss possible rule changes. Each year these proposed rule changes are usually in direct response to events that happened the previous season, and this year’s suggestions were no different.

This year’s most anticipated point of review was an attempt to clarify what actually constitutes as a reception in the NFL. The ‘Catch Rule’ received some revised verbiage in hopes of providing teams, referees, and fans with a cleaner definition of a catch to help prevent mass confusion and instant replay debacles, like last season. Under the new parameters many of the plays previously ruled as a non-catch due to an individual’s rule interpretation will now be ruled a catch.

Some will say this all comes a little too late, but I say better late than never.

The committee discussed possibly changing the pass interference penalty from a spot foul to a 15-yard infraction, like it is presently enforced in the college games, but ended up voting against such an action. The committee definitely made the right decision in this instance as some rules are just fine the way they are, and I feel this rule change would have had a disastrous impact on the professional game.

The playing field is too evenly matched at the NFL level to lessen the impact of a pass interference call. Why would a defensive back ever risk giving up a long pass play or touchdown, even if he had decent coverage, when he could simply interfere with the receiver, take the 15-yard penalty, and regroup for the next play.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were the beneficiary of many pass interference spot fouls last season, especially Antonio Brown. He dominated a multitude of defensive backs so badly they were left no choice but to grab him trying to prevent another big play or score. This would happen even more frequently if it only resulted in a 15-yard mark off.

Taking a closer look at some of the higher rated cornerbacks from last season reveals some players are already implementing this strategy. While their stats suggested they had only given up a single touchdown pass or two during the season, their play on the field shows perpetual defensive holding and illegal contact down the field. They resort to these tactics so often throughout the game it is nearly impossible for the referee to penalize every infraction. Richard Sherman and the Jaguars corners are a few who immediately come to mind.

The rule change voted into existence that will undoubtedly have the biggest impact on the game next season is the new targeting rule. The new rule will penalize a player for lowering his helmet prior to making a tackle. This rule change is the natural progression of the Heads Up program and is imperative in the continued evolution of the game of football.

I applaud the NFL for their commitment to providing a safer work environment for not only their players, but all participants at every level of football.

My only concern with this rule change lies in the league officials ability to interpret and enforce said rule.

There are sure to be hiccups along the way, but all progress has to deal with some resistance.

I am an old school football fan of my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and am usually resistant to change. I admit to being more than a little concerned about what affect this inevitable rule alteration will have on the game so many of us grew up watching and playing. I achieved a new perspective; an epiphany if you will, after a recent discussion with a family member about this very subject.

Looking back through the years, the NFL has implemented many rule changes regarding player safety which have positively impacted the game. Some of these changes should have been no-brainers. Thankfully, a player can no longer clothesline an opponent, spear a fallen player, pile-drive an adversary on his head, plaster cast their forearms and bash an opponent over the head, just to name a few examples. I know this all sounds like an episode of the Three Stooges but they all used to occur regularly in the NFL.

A more recent example of a positive rule change is the horse collar tackle penalty. This was a necessary rule change that has helped prevent many season or career ending injuries.

During our discussion I was asked who was the best tackler I ever watched. My mind immediately went to Jack Lambert. I remembered how he almost never missed a tackle. Always had his head up to see the ball carrier, wrapped his arms, and drove through the tackle. It was always a violent collision but I don’t ever recall him making initial contact with the crown of his helmet. He played under the adage that you never lose sight of what you are about to hit. Players of all ages need to watch his game film to learn proper tackling technique.

Football can continue this positive evolution if the league can make these necessary changes under the realization that it will always be a physical sport, yet they must protect the integrity of the game.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated the helmet is to be used for protection, not as a weapon. That sounds like a reasonable request to me and a mission statement we all should be able to get behind.

I believe this new targeting rule can be a step in the right direction, but we must be prepared for some growing pains. In the end it will all be worth it.

The health and well being of our youth participants and future gridiron greats depends on it!

OTA dates, FA signings, No. 7 & more News - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 5:00am
If you missed anything this week, we have you covered with our weekly recap.

Joshua Dobbs continues to work, despite talk of Steelers drafting a quarterback

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/07/2018 - 1:35pm

Joshua Dobbs is headed into his second season, and is focused on improvement.

You can only imagine what it might feel like to be a player like Joshua Dobbs. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft to the Pittsburgh Steelers, excitement had to be boiling over for the former Volunteer quarterback.

A chance to learn from Ben Roethlisberger, with the future being bright in hopes of taking over as the primary backup after Landry Jones’ time is up with the organization. After all, as a competitor, Dobbs quite possibly is looking at a future which has his name on the depth chart as the team’s starting quarterback.

You may disagree, but Dobbs does not have a backup mentality, nor does any NFL player who competes on a regular basis. You can only imagine the thoughts going through his head when he hears the talk of the team drafting potentially the next franchise quarterback for when Roethlisberger hangs it up.

However, when you hear him talk, or read his quotes, he is focused solely on improving as a quarterback.

Not about what the team may, or may not, do in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.

When talking about what he wants to improve upon this offseason, as told to Teresa Varley of the Steelers official website:

“Continuing to grow my knowledge of the game. A big part of our offense is the no-huddle, and it’s on the quarterback to diagnose the defense and give the team the best look. A big part for me would be to continue to grow my understanding of our playbook so when we get to OTAs, when we get to camp and get in those situations, I’m not just calling a play. I’m calling a play for a purpose, to diagnose and take advantage of something the defense is showing in a pre-snap look. That’s the biggest thing I want to work on.

“You’re always looking to hone your footwork, shorten your release, make sure your mechanics and fundamentals are intact so you can hit to ground running. But from a football intelligence standpoint, just continue to grow.”

Many reading this see Dobbs as nothing more than a career backup, but maybe fans should give him a chance to show what he is truly made of — outside of his rookie preseason. I’m not suggesting he is the answer at the position post-Roethlisberger, but his raw skills are evident when you watch him play. With some fine tuning, Dobbs might just surprise some people in 2018.

Big Ben strikes again and again Videos - Sat, 04/07/2018 - 1:00pm
Check out some of the best moments from Ben Roethlisberger's 2017 season.

Big Ben strikes again and again Videos - Sat, 04/07/2018 - 1:00pm
Check out some of the best moments from Ben Roethlisberger's 2017 season.

NFL Draft Scenarios 1.0: Run on safeties gives Steelers options at ILB

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/07/2018 - 11:50am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have options at ILB Round 1, which makes for some tough decisions.

The future is now for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and with the 2018 NFL Draft just weeks away it is time we go through specific scenarios and discuss just what could go right, and wrong, with the Steelers in the first round of the draft.

We will be doing almost one scenario a week, and more leading up to the draft, which will always provide a different result, as well as the explanation behind the selection.

Time for the Steelers 2018 NFL Draft scenario 1.0.

Scenario: The usual suspects are off the board when most would expect. However, there was a surprising run on safeties and cornerbacks midway through this draft. Jaire Alexander from Louisville went to the Bengals, Justin Reid to the Titans and Ronnie Harrison to the Atlanta Falcons.

There were other interesting prospects who were gone at the time the Steelers selected too. At this point, with the addition of Morgan Burnett and Jon Bostic, the Steelers have options with their first round pick. With that said, it is worth noting the following players are off the board. RB Derrius Guice was selected by the Lions, Da’Ron Payne went to the Cowboys and linebacker Josh Sweat went to the Saints one pick before the Steelers select at No. 28.

With some key prospects, like Reid and Harrison, off the board, it is worth noting there are two very big names left in regards to inside linebacker. Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State and Rashaan Evans of Alabama both remain on the board, but so does Mason Rudolph, quarterback from Oklahoma State.

Options remain, but what do the Steelers do?

Steelers Pick: The Pittsburgh Steelers need an inside linebacker, and while Rashaan Evans might be the more dynamic player, his injury history certainly is a concern. Safety Jessie Bates of Wake Forest is still on the board, but the team is taking the risk and thinking he will still be on the board when the team picks in Round 2.

As for the quarterback situation, the Steelers simply don’t feel the need to take a gamble pick in the first round. However, if Rudolph is still on the board in the second, or third, round this would be an enticing prospect.

With that said, the Steelers choose Leighton Vander Esch from Boise State with their first round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Analysis: The Steelers are entertaining several positions with their first round pick, and it all depends how things shake out. There is a strong chance Vander Esch will be off the board, which will move another player to ‘available’ status. In this specific scenario, addressing the need at inside linebacker trumped the need at other positions. Best Player Available (BPA) lives on...

Nat Berhe, the missile, brings his talents to the Steel City

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/07/2018 - 10:16am

The Pittsburgh Steelers got a special teams ace, and depth at safety, when they acquired Nat Berhe in free agency.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were searching for a replacement for Robert Golden after releasing him at the beginning of free agency. The team brought in Patriots’ special teams ace Matthew Slater, even entertained Michael Thomas of the Dolphins, but none of these free agents were able to come to terms with the team.

When rumors of Nat Berhe, formerly of the New York Giants, visited the team, it was natural to assume Berhe would leave Pittsburgh without a contract. However, when the team was able to come to terms with Berhe, many were wondering what to expect from the man who calls himself “the missile”.

To get the lowdown of Berhe as a player I reached out to Ed Valentine, editor of Big Blue View, to see what he thought of Berhe’s time with the G-Men.

Berhe is a good guy who has never complained about his role with the Giants, and he’s also a good special teams player.

As a safety, he’s a bit of a ‘tweener. He’s not really big enough to be a full-time box safety, and he’s not really rangy enough to be a full-time center fielder. That said, he’s a pretty decent player. He is a bone-crunching hitter who calls himself “The Missile.”

He had a chance to be a starter in 2015, but missed the whole year due to calf surgery. He moved into the lineup in 2016 when Darian Thompson got hurt, but lasted only two games before he was felled by a concussion. He ended up with multiple concussions that season, and the way he plays concussions are always a concern. I’m not sure how many he has had overall.

He’s nice depth, and probably capable of a bigger role than he had with the Giants. I’m sure Giants fans would like to see him do well.

This bodes well for the Steelers, who aren’t looking for a player who is ready to step up as a starter, but rather to fill a role which was vacated by Golden. Golden, a former special teams player, was the player on the field who made calls and coverages, and the hope is Berhe will be able to fit the bill for the black-and-gold.

Let us all welcome Berhe to the Steelers, and hope he is a part of something truly special in 2018!


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