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Antonio Brown sent back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation of reported quad strain

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 6:14pm

While this isn’t considered serious, you better believe this isn’t just a “bump” or “bruise” situation.

Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver has missed the past two practices with an undisclosed injury. This is rare for Brown, but the usual camp injury was expected, nothing serious.

Then reports circulated after Thursday’s workout stating Brown wasn’t in Latrobe anymore, but was sent back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation.

The Steelers sent Antonio Brown to Pittsburgh for evaluation but injury considered day-to-day, according to coach Mike Tomlin, who would not specify the injured body part. pic.twitter.com/ZAR5JD4HhG

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 2, 2018

Head coach Mike Tomlin, who doesn’t have to disclose the nature of the injury, didn’t specify where the injury is, but did say he is still considered day-to-day.

While this may be true, the fact Brown was sent back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation is certainly cause for concern. If the injury was something which would naturally heal on its own, there would be no need to go back to Pittsburgh to have it evaluated.

Nonetheless, ESPN Insider Adam Schefter added he was told the injury would have Brown out of camp for “just a few days”.

Antonio Brown is expected “to be fine in a few days,” per source. https://t.co/PtnlarKzTF

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 2, 2018

Per ProFootballTalk, their source states the injury is a quadriceps strain, and isn’t expected to be serious:

The injury suffered by Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is not believed to be serious.

A league source tells PFT that Brown strained a quadriceps muscle and is getting it checked out, but is expected to return to practice within a few days.

Barring the evaluation coming back with a serious injury, don’t expect to hear much more on this from the Steelers organization. Then again, if Brown would have to miss the entire preseason wouldn’t be any concern to the team. As long as he is available when the games really matter.

I guess this is when fans fire up the “Madden Curse” narrative...

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on this story, as well as others, as the team prepares for the 2018 regular season.

Steelers make two roster moves after rash of injuries during training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 4:21pm

The Steelers have signed a tight end and an offensive lineman due to injuries at the positions.

The injury bug has been running rampant through the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster, and while these injuries are not the the season-ending variety, a team still needs to have enough players to practice.

With Alejandro Villanueva dealing with an undisclosed injury, and Vance McDonald dealing with a foot injury, the depth at offensive tackle and tight end has been depleted.

Clearly, the Steelers needed to make some moves, and they did just that by signing free agents Bucky Hodges (TE) and Kyle Meadows (OT).

We have signed TE Bucky Hodges & OT Kyle Meadows.

We have also waived LB Darnell Leslie & waived/injured TE Ryan Malleck.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 2, 2018

Hodges, a Virginia Tech product, was a 6th round draft choice by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2017 NFL Draft. He spent some time with the Carolina Panthers last year, and will wear No. 82 with the Steelers.

Meadows is a Kentucky product who was an Undrafted Rookie Free Agent (UDFA) signed by the Green Bay Packers, but was released on July 13th. He will wear No. 69 for the black-and-gold.

Whether either of these players sticks around with the team will depend on the health of others, and whether they flash in training camp and the preseason.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for their first preseason game next Thursday vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.

Art Rooney II speaks for the fans when talking about NFL scheduling of Prime Time games

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 2:25pm

The Steelers are a hot commodity when it comes to prime time games, but to what extent

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a hot commodity. To be honest, when it comes to the NFL hierarchy of team brands, the Steelers would be at the top, or near it.

There is no better way to gauge this other than the NFL’s consistent scheduling of the black-and-gold on their prime time slots. The NFL allows a maximum of 5 prime time games per year, this before the potential of flex scheduling moving games to prime time, and the Steelers are almost always at the maximum of this limit.

This year is no exception, with two of the five prime time games coming at Heinz Field.

@ Tampa Bay on Monday Sept. 24
vs. Baltimore on Sunday Sept. 30
vs. Carolina Thursday Nov. 8 followed by one
@ Jacksonville on Sunday Nov. 18
@ Oakland on Sunday night Dec. 9

Most fans love to see the Steelers on national television; after all, not everyone lives in the viewing area and/or purchases the DirecTV Sunday Ticket.

However, team President Art Rooney II has his own thoughts on prime time games, how it might be impacting the team’s decrease in attendance and putting a voice the fan base.

“The thing that concerns me about our attendance is more related to our schedule — I would rather not have as many night games,” Rooney said during an interview with Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette. “Last year we had three home night games almost in a row. I just don’t think our fans want to do that anymore.”

“Our demand is still strong, but night games, if you have too many of them, it does get to be a problem,” Rooney said.

“Obviously we want to be in prime time, we want to be the kind of team they put in prime time. I just think it’s a question of them spreading them out, which this year is a little better from that standpoint. When you have those sort of bunched at the end of the season when it gets cold, I think that can be a problem.”

“I think from a league standpoint, I know it’s hard, but it needs to look at those kinds of situations,” Rooney said of bunching home night games together. “That’s probably the best thing we can address in terms of our attendance.”

With the Steelers’ vast fan base, Rooney knows they have people coming from all areas of the world coming in to watch their favorite football team play.

“No question we have people coming from all over,” Rooney said. “Night games makes the travel more difficult.”

Don’t get Rooney’s words twisted. He isn’t suggesting he doesn’t want the Steelers to be in prime time. He likely realizes this is the only way some fans get to even watch the team, let alone travel to see them live. But what he doesn’t want are the four straight prime time games like they had in 2017.

What are your thoughts on prime time games? Do you love them, or hate them? Would that impact whether you attend a game at Heinz Field? Let us know in the comment section below!

Steelers Training Camp 2018: Live updates 8/2

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 1:05pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and training-camp practices are underway! Follow along with BTSC as the players start to hone their skills and prepare for the 2018 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the rabid fans awaiting their first glimpse of the Black-and-gold are prepared for another official day of training camp! The Steelers are finally back to practice, so it is time to prepare yourself!

If you’re stuck at work or at home, follow along with those on the scene at St. Vincent College for the best pictures, video and news coming straight from the practice field in Latrobe, PA. Don't miss a minute of the action!

Today's practice is at 2:55 p.m. EST, and is open to the public. Take a look at the training camp schedule below and, as always, follow along with live updates in the Twitter feed below.

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Random Thoughts From a Black-and-Gold Mind: Training Camp Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 11:39am

BTSC’s resident madman is glad that camp is back in session and has plenty to say about it.

Yay, Latrobe Days are here! Now that 90-some Steelers are battling it out at Saint Vincent, life is good. Of course, my black-and-gold brain is swirling with two-a-days. So with that, I pass the ravings on to you. But before that happens, I feel I should apologize in pads. So a sideline of sorries goes out to the following for these transgressions.

  • The woman that I two-timed at a Meatloaf concert at the Civic Arena in 1994.
  • Posting a picture of Meatloaf that looked like Chris Farley without realizing that I referenced Farley twice in the same piece.
  • Comparing Chris Hemsworth to Chris Farley.
  • The phrase “Ben acting ten”.
  • Referencing the show “Roseanne”.
  • Not including enough Tom Petty lyrics

And now, here's the most recent edition of Random Thoughts From a Black-and-Gold Mind.

  • The Steelers have a dented can of Ragu (they come in cans and not just jars...I checked). Thankfully Ramon Foster’s knee injury should not interfere with the start of the season for the big lineman. That’s a good thing. Kevin Colbert doesn’t want to go shopping for another brand. Nobody wants a “Big Prego” or “Big Bertoli”.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
  • Foster’s injury means more of B.J. Finney, which works. But it still overemphasizes the gravity of the offseason departure of Chris Hubbard and the lack of depth for Mike Munchak’s group.
  • Steelers Nation is split over Antonio Brown's talk about courting Dez Bryant, but I think it'll be a non-issue. If you can get him on the cheap, though, I’d give it a shot. But I just don’t think it’s possible. If he does come in, please let him wear No. 10. It could help dumb shoppers like me who own a Martavis jersey.
  • A Big Ben with a chip on his shoulder is a good thing. Unless it's a corn chip -- then nothing productive would really come of that. We’ve seen this before when he came back from suspension in 2010 -- last year after the first Jacksonville loss -- and in several other instances. When Roethlisberger wants to silence doubters, he'll do it emphatically. With the Steelers drafting Mason Rudolph and David Carr snubbing Ben from his personal Top-10 QB list, No. 7 has plenty of fire (and fine cuisine) in his belly. Look for Ben to issue rebuttals on gamedays this Autumn. I’m especially anxious for that visit to Oakland in November.
  • I don’t believe in curses (with the exception of my first marriage), so I don’t sweat the Madden Cover Jinx. But the media does. One bad game early on for AB and morons with microphones will be inundating No. 84 with questions regarding it.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY
  • With Terrell Edmunds signing his rookie deal at the last minute, it makes me wonder about the process. I thought the rookie salary cap and wage structure was supposed to get new NFLers to camp on time. Just another thing like AfterM*A*S*H*and the McDLT that looks like a great idea but can’t cut the mustard. But I don’t think the McDLT contained any of the yellow goodness.
  • Edmunds' first foray with the starting-11 in camp showed equal parts promise and a case of "the rookies." But playing with the first-string early on can only help his progress.
  • I was surprised to see that Mike Tomlin only threw the red challenge flag four times last season. He won zero of them. Ironically, I challenged my wife’s rulings ten-times more and, like Coach T, won zero of them.
  • If Le’Veon Bell was a tree in 1955 Hill Valley, would he “make like a tree and get out of here” after next season?
  • The Steelers have a recent history of signing a player a day before the regular season starts. That could be Chris Boswell this season. I wonder if Kevin Colbert got yelled at by his parents as a kid for waiting until the last minute to do his homework.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
  • Kennywood Park is doing a Steeler Experience featuring the Steel Curtain Roller Coaster. In that spirit, I was thinking of some other Steelers-themed features that the park could feature, like Artie Burns’ Bumper Cars, a Le’Veon Bell Escape Room, Guess Big Ben’s Real Weight, Myron’s Duckie Water Floom, Mr. JuJu’s Wild Bike Ride, 98’s Big Snack Shack and the Jamain Stephens Sideline Pizzatorium.
  • The Chargers just lost a rookie TE named Austin Roberts to a torn ACL. Hunter Henry tore his a few months back. With Virgil Green and not much else, here’s an idea -- how about sending them Jesse James or the X-Man (Xavier Grimble) for a pick?
  • Ryan Shazier on the field watching over drills is special to see. I’m cool with “Coach Shalieve”.

And finally,

  • I wonder what Mitch Lyons is doing these days.

Until next time, since the Steelers are sweating in the hot Pennsylvania sun, remember the lyrics of The Lovin’ Spoonfull’s “Summer in the City”.

Hot town, summer in the city

Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty

Been down, isn’t it a pity

Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city

All around, people looking half dead

Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

Take that for what it’s worth, Go Steelers and Don’t Stop Shalievin’.

True or False? Deciphering Fact from Fiction regarding the Steelers as they continue training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 10:10am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are more than a week into training camp, and it’s time to answer some serious questions about the team.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA preparing for the upcoming season, so myself and Lance Williams, my co-host on the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard, decided to get a little interactive.

We both thought of a few true or false statements surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers and, while we plan on answering these ourselves, we also wanted to gauge the BTSC faithful on these points.

So, the statements are listed below. Vote in the poll below the statement and feel free to explain yourself in the comment section below!

1. This is Ramon Foster’s last season with the Steelers.

The injured offensive guard has been Mr. Reliable for the Steelers during his time with the team, but with him entering the final year of his current contract will he stay with the team after this year, or hit the free agent market?

2. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster are the best WR combo in the NFL.

When Martavis Bryant was in town, this was often a very easy answer, but with Bryant gone is Smith-Schuster good enough heading into Year 2 to make this duo the most dynamic in the NFL?

3. The starting ILBs for 2018 are currently on the team’s roster.

The Steelers’ need for an inside linebacker is undeniable, but do they have their inside linebackers on the current roster? Vince Williams is a lock, but the player opposite him is anything but certain. Jon Bostic? Tyler Matakevich? Or someone else?

4. Cameron Heyward will lead the Steelers in sacks in 2018.

Cam Heyward was the first player since James Harrison to notch double-digit sacks in a season last year. He didn’t just have double-digit sacks, but he also led the team in this category as well. Will he be able to do it again?

5. All of the Steelers’ 2018 rookie class will make the 53-man roster.

The Steelers had 7 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, but will they all make the team? Let’s run down the picks before you vote True or False.

Terrell Edmunds
James Washington
Mason Rudolph
Chukwuma Okorafor
Jaylen Samuels
Marcus Allen
Joshua Frazier

There you have it! Let us know what you think, and be sure to check out the podcast to hear if you agree, or disagree, with our sentiments regarding these topics as the team prepares for their first preseason game!

JuJu Smith-Schuster believes his age caused him to drop in the 2017 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 9:08am

Some teams might have questioned JuJu Smith-Schuster’s maturity heading into the 2017 NFL draft, but those doubts only managed to help the Steelers.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected JuJu Smith-Schuster with their second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, it might have come as a surprise to some fans, but for the wide receiver from USC, it was perhaps later than he expected to go.

Speaking to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports for an interview published on Tuesday, Smith-Schuster talked about the perceptions surrounding his maturity and how he believes it impacted his draft status.

“When I got drafted, one of the main reasons why I dropped was because of my age. ‘Oh, he’s not mature. He’s not ready.’ But to his day I always stay true to myself and be myself with the guys here, and I’m always having fun with everything I do, especially because I love playing football.”

Unfazed by what others think of him, he has no intention of changing, regardless of the advice some have given him .

“There have been a few people who have said do this or do that, and I’ve turned the other cheek, and I don’t really pay attention to them, just because I got here because of myself and what I’ve done, and I’m gonna ride with that.”

Given his meteoric rise to fame, it’s clear Smith-Schuster was right to ignore those voices telling him to change his ways. Fans should expect to see even more of the young wide receiver on social media and platforms like YouTube and Twitch in the future.

Having recently signed an endorsement deal worth a reported six-figures with Esports company HyperX, Smith-Schuster is already earning more away from football than many of his teammates, and the young wideout appears to be far more accomplished than some of the bigger names on the roster at developing and monetizing his brand. That’s an indication several teams misunderstood how mature the former USC product really is in some aspects of his life.

Ultimately, Steelers fans should be grateful that so many teams in the league underestimated how well JuJu would adjust to life in the NFL at such a young age and enjoy the fact that Smith-Schuster might be a Pittsburgh Steeler for a very long time considering he’s still only 21 years old.

Training Camp Recap: Backups getting plenty of reps with injuries continuing to rise

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 7:45am

The Steelers were back on the gridiron at training camp, and we’ve got the recap for you!

With the Pittsburgh Steelers starting the second week of training camp, many fans want to know who is injured, and who has returned to practice. At this point, it might be easier to tell you who is healthy, compared to who is injured.

Just take a look at what went down at the start of practice as beat reporters kept fans up to date:

Antonio Brown not practicing today for the Steelers. That rarely happens. But he is here in a ball cap. #dkps #Steelers

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 1, 2018

TJ Watt still not practicing. Sean Davis also out. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 1, 2018

Al Villanueva has his jersey off and right shoulder wrapped.

Rookie Chuks Okorafor with the first team offense at left tackle.

Signals he’s definitively the leader for “swing tackle” job

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 1, 2018

Tight end Ryan Malleck leaving early leaving the Steelers thin at that position with McDonald also out. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 1, 2018

Now James Washington leaves practice, getting his left foot looked at.

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 1, 2018

So, there is that.

Mike Tomlin spoke to the media after practice (video below) and said Antonio Brown and Alejandro Villanueva weren’t practicing with undisclosed injuries, but the list of the walking wounded for the Steelers continues to grow.

For some fans, missing so many big-name players is a huge problem, but there is a flip side to that coin. Those players missing has given backup players a legitimate shot to show what they can do against top competition.

Villanueva being out meant Chukwuma Okorafor was the starting left tackle. Brown being out put JuJu Smith-Schuster, Justin Hunter and Darrius Heyward-Bey on display in different positions for the coaching staff to see.

At this point in time, the Steelers are given the benefit of time. They can let players rest minor injuries because there is no rush, but the time when these nagging injuries need rectified or they will miss meaningful games is around the corner.

Time to check on some non-injury nuggets from Wednesday’s training camp practice:

Terrell Edmunds drawing rave reviews

The Steelers’ top pick has been turning heads, and not just with his interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger. He has been doing well in 1 v. 1s, in run support and in pass defense.

Edmunds comes up to drive Conner out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage in live run. Gets kudos from everyone. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 1, 2018

It's only 6 practices but you can tell Terrell Edmunds is the real deal.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 1, 2018 Kickoff Returns are a focus

The NFL has changed the rules on kickoffs, and the Steelers spent time focusing on special teams. See what went down:

Steelers now practicing actual kickoff returns.
Showing having me deep man in end zone (a change from past) with Nix and James Conner 10 yards in front (Ridley/Fitz also rotate in those spots)

Returner order:
JuJu
Quadree
Sutton
Justin Thomas

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 1, 2018

Also Cam Sutton and Quadree Henderson.

Sutton the only defensive player https://t.co/PnxNHbRwMS

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 1, 2018 VIDEOS

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media following practice at #SteelersCamp. https://t.co/5TPdk9KjjK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 1, 2018

Communication and tackling have been the early areas of focus for our secondary at #SteelersCamp. pic.twitter.com/CnZiIIxVwp

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 1, 2018

Chickillo and Jesse James in one on one run drills. #Steelers #dkps pic.twitter.com/r8pcgC8PuO

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 1, 2018 PHOTOS

Antonio Brown getting a day off as the Steelers begin Wednesday’s practice. pic.twitter.com/8R2qHASXeB

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 1, 2018

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/Z7pesvyIaD

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 1, 2018

Steelers Throwback Thursday: A black-and-gold star is born in San Diego

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 6:17am

BTSC flashes back to a Monday Night Football thriller that helped shape a Super Bowl team.

It’s BTSC Delorean time again. This week we go back to an era when Pakistan tragically lost 86,000 in a 7.6 earthquake, Kanye West was atop the music charts with Gold Digger, Wallace and Gromit was biggest among movie goers and the trial of Sadaam Hussein was a mere nine days away.

Welcome to October 10, 2005.

Going into the contest, the 2-1 Steelers were coming off of a bye-week after losing to the Patriots in Week 3, while the 2-2 Chargers had bludgeoned those same Pats in Week 4. The Steelers had the highest-rated quarterback in the NFL in Ben Roethlisberger, while a hot Drew Brees was playing in his final season as the Chargers’ signal-caller. Both quarterbacks were facing dangerous defenses. Jerome Bettis was making his season debut for the Steelers and was set to split time with Willie Parker, while Bill Cowher’s defense was minus Clark Haggans. This gave a young No. 92 a shot at playing.

A funny thing happened before the game. San Diego was pumped for their first chance to host a Monday Night Football telecast in nine years. Governor Schwarzenegger was in the house to see his team. That was also a time when celebrities would open MNF with a vignette that would ask “Are you ready for some football?” — before Hank Williams Jr. crooned the opening theme.

On this night, they were fittingly doing a military theme with a fly-over and a USMC drill sargeant barking the catch-phrase in military style. It was pretty cool. However, they brought out a PR person who was there to explain the process. Upon entering Qualcomm Stadium, fans received tiny white washcloths sponsored by Diet Pepsi that read 100% chance of lightning. She asked the crowd (about one third of which was wearing black-and-gold) to wave the white towels and cheer the Chargers. Wait...doesn’t waving a white flag or towel signify surrender? But I digress. When she said that, the Steelers fans took it as their opening to wave their much bigger Terrible Towels and chant “Here we go Steelers!” with authority. The poor woman was flabbergasted. She started to stutter and then managed to get out a “Come on guys, we’re in San Diego.” That made the representatives of Steelers Nation chant louder. She left in defeat and the show began, followed by the game.

The offenses of the Steelers and Chargers did very little early in this game. Ladamian Tomlinson started to reel off huge chunks of yardage, but a Joey Porter sack of Brees and Ike Taylor’s almost interception forced a punt. With Jerome Bettis finally in a game and running well, the Steelers moved into San Diego territory. However, Chargers rookie Sean Merriman burst through the line, sacked Roethlisberger and recovered the subsequent fumble. The first quarter ended a few plays later in a scoreless tie. Pittsburgh’s record of scoring in the opening quarter in 17 straight games ended there.

In the second quarter, disaster almost struck for the Steelers when No. 7’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and Donnie Edwards almost came down with it. However, Hines Ward had been called for a false start and the whistle blew, but the players didn’t know the play had been whistled dead. The Chargers would have been making a case for a replay review of the interception, but the play didn’t count, so they couldn’t. A few plays later, Ben completed a pass over the middle at the 33 to Hines Ward over DB Quentin Jammer. Ward, who didn’t appear to be contacted, got up and ran all the way into the end zone for a signaled touchdown. But San Diego challenged the ruling on the play. Broadcasters Al Michaels and John Madden thought the touchdown would stand, but referee Jeff Triplett ruled that Jammer touched Ward’s foot and the TD ruling was overturned. It wouldn’t matter though, as a pass to Antwaan Randle-El got the ball down to the 12. A few plays later, Drayton Florence came in on a blitz and Ben immediately took off for a 7-yard jaunt into the end zone. With 9:14 left in the half, the Steelers led the home team 7-0.

Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Towards the end of the second quarter, Brees was moving the ball courtesy of passes to his big TE Antonio Gates. But from the Steelers’ 35-yard line, No. 9’s ball went through the hands of the Kent State hoopster and into those of another Kent Stater wearing No. 92 by the name of James Harrison. Deebo, subbing for an injured Haggans, returned the ball to midfield while hurdling a Chargers player along the way. The Steelers worked their way all the way down to the one-yard line, aided by two 15-yard penalties committed by San Diego’s defense. It took some doing and another penalty, but Jerome Bettis finally forged in from one-yard out. With 1:35 left in the half, the Steelers were up 14-0. However, Darren Sproles gave the home team great field position by returning the ball to the Steelers’ 47. Eric Parker, Gates and Tomlinson then caught Brees passes, including the touchdown toss to Gates from the 10-yard line in less than a minute. At halftime, the score was 14-7.

Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

In the third quarter, Sproles’ fair catch attempt hit him in the face mask and bounced right in the hands of Chidi Iwuoma after a punt from Chris Gardocki. However, the referee explained that it was fair catch interference because Iwuoma never gave him an opportunity to re-catch the ball he muffed. Cowher was irate and even Madden called the decision “baloney.” But the rule, even though a suspect one, was called correctly. Instead of the Steelers starting from the San Diego 37, the Chargers did. They converted that opportunity into three points when Nate Kaeding kicked one through from 34 yards out. After the Steelers failed on their next two drives, Kaeding would nail two more kicks from 32 and 41 respectively. All of a sudden, San Diego led 16-14 with 11:45 left in the game.

The Steelers would roar back though. In a mere 71 seconds on the clock, the Steelers answered. Quincy Morgan returned the kickoff 37 yards. Then, Big Ben found Hines twice for 46 yards. On the third play of the drive, rookie Heath Miller caught a ball from Ben for a 16-yard TD to make the score 21-16 Steelers.

But Brees wasn’t done, despite pass breakups by Ike Taylor and the omnipresent Troy Polamalu. The Chargers reached pay-dirt again when Tomlinson (who dominated on the drive) scored from the two. With the score now 22-21, The Chargers went for two. But the conversion failed when Larry Foote stopped Tomlinson short. With 4:42 remaining in the game, the Chargers led 22-21.

With the clock rapidly draining, Pittsburgh was compelled to answer. Despite receptions by Ward and Randle-El, the Steelers mainly rode “the Bus.” Including two 3rd-and-1 conversions, Bettis carried seven times for a clock-draining 21 yards. But with 1:18 left, bad stuff happened. Luis Castillo nailed Ben who went down in a crumpled heap with an apparent knee injury. Charlie Batch entered to try to get the Steelers into Jeff Reed’s range and drain time. Batch never attempted a pass — instead it was all Jerome. With ten ticks left on the clock, Reed entered on a 3rd-and-5. No. 3 nailed the kick right down the middle. Ben celebrated from the fans, while an estimated 15-20,000 fans in the stands danced with glee.

The Chargers got the ball to the 50 on the kickoff before Sproles fumbled and the Steelers recovered. The final score was 24-22 and Bettis, playing his first game of the season, wound up on ABC’s horse trailer as player of the game. It was an important game that helped shape this eventual Super Bowl Champion.

Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

As for me, I was 13 rows up on the 50-yard line behind the Steelers’ bench for this game. My best friend (since 1982) lives in LA and we decided to splurge and attend this game together. There were so many Steelers fans in the stands, it felt like a home game. The Chargers fans were nicer before the game started, but still pretty cordial all the same. Every time the Chargers scored, we would laugh and enjoy the goofy San Diego Super Chargers song that they played from the 70s. It was a pretty amazing fan experience all around.

Right before kickoff, I felt so inspired that I ripped my Antwaan Randle-El visitors jersey off of my poorly-sculpted body. I was quickly told by a security guard that I couldn’t disrobe at a Chargers game. Is there an ordinance on that in San Diego? So I put my shirt back on. I was also wearing a goofy winter hat that looked like a Steelers helmet and some eye-black. One fan offered me $100 dollars for it on the spot, but I declined. In the first quarter, I noticed a female camera person from ABC point to me, so I cheered and mugged for the camera. Nobody saw me on TV, nor could I find me anywhere on playback. What I didn’t know was that my image would later be used for an ABC Good Morning America promo for a contest looking for the NFL’s greatest fans in January. I was shocked when I saw it on television. I guess that security guard didn’t know talent when he saw it. Luckily, the camera operator did.

Answering the burning questions surrounding the Steelers during the second week of training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 5:42am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have entered their second week of training camp, and it’s time to answer some burning questions surrounding the Black-and-gold.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sportswriter Ed Bouchette holds a weekly chat in which he takes questions from the general public. If you’re unfamiliar with Bouchette, he’s definitely an interesting character. He’s known for breaking important Steelers news and also for his snarky and colorful comments. This week’s full chat-session can be read here.

Most of Bouchette’s answers to fans are one-liners. It’s hard to glean useful information from that, so I expanded on the questions he takes with answers of my own. The chat lasts around a half-hour, so I cherry-picked some of the questions. For a bit of fun with this, if you put BTSC at the end of your nickname there — and your questions get answered — I’ll include your questions in next week’s article. Better make it good — don’t want to be chided by the BTSC faithful.

Question: Ed, curing the past two years, there have been high hopes for Justin Hunter. Even today, you wrote another article on him singing praises. But we haven’t seen anything during the season from him. What gives you hope/confidence that he will have any type of role this year?

Bouchette: My eyes and some words from coaches/scouts. His only season with the Steelers was 2017, not two years. Martavis Bryant was ahead of him so he didn’t get much opportunity. He also wasn’t in sync with Ben. That is changing dramatically.

Flip: The last thing I will do is buy into coachspeak in training camp when players aren’t tackling during team sessions. Justin Hunter has been known as an offseason phenom who can’t translate success to the regular season. Will this be the year that the lights turn on and shed the Lee Mays comparisons?

Martavis Bryant and chemistry were the reasons Hunter didn’t have a good season in 2017 — what were his reasons in the four previous years? Hunter has been given every opportunity to succeed since being the 34th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He’s either been hurt or else never lived up to the hype. Will Hunter make the 2018 squad? My thoughts on this will be revealed later in this article.

Question: Edmunds seems to be making a huge splash. What are the chances of him starting if his camp and preseason appearances continue to go well?

Bouchette: Good, depending also on how Burnett comes along. But Edmunds has been practicing and getting it done — Burnett has not. Long way to go still. Many times, rookies look great in the first week and then fade. We’ll see.

Flip: Morgan Burnett did not sign with the Black-and-gold to play second fiddle and ride the pine. Steelers coaches held Burnett out of practice for precautionary reasons. Terrell Edmunds snared significant starter reps in Burnett’s absence. Edmunds has taken full advantage and has had some strong practices. By accounts at camp, he has two interceptions (one was on a miscue on a route run by Antonio Brown) and several pass breakups.

I have been excited to read the daily reports and listen to the commentary on Steelers Nation Radio regarding Edmunds’ progress. Keep in mind, though, that this is only training camp. Seeing him in preseason games is what I’m waiting for. That’s where it’ll be seen whether Edmunds is the true first-rounder Steeler fans hope he’ll be and not the “reach” that draft experts labeled him.

Question: Why sign Eli Rodgers? He was never a standout and had huge fumbles in the playoffs. Why not give a young guy a shot to, at worst, be just another WR?

Bouchette: He doesn’t even count on the roster yet and he’s had a productive season under his belt. If a young guy shows he can do it better, they would consider that. Rosters are cut for another month.

Flip: Bouchette correctly points out that Pittsburgh placed Eli Rogers on the active players unable-to-perform list (active PUP). This means that, while he’s on the list, he doesn’t count against the team’s 90-man roster (he counts against the salary cap). There’s nothing in Rogers’ contract that’s guaranteed. So where is the downside? There isn’t any.

What is the upside to signing Rogers? Rogers has shown chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger during the postseason. In the four games Rogers has played, he has 18 receptions. The 154 total yards isn’t impressive but he’s definitely been a reliable outlet. Punt-return versatility also comes into play.

His salary is $150,000 more than an undrafted rookie but $50,000 cheaper than Hunter (accounting for Hunter’s dead money).

What I expect is for Rogers to stay on the PUP list and to also be placed on the regular-season PUP list. That would mean he’d miss the first six weeks of the regular season. After the first five weeks of the season, the Steelers would get an additional 21 days to determine if Rogers is healthy enough to be activated or remain on the PUP list for the entire season.

This is the route I expect the team to take. At this point, I expect Rogers to bump Hunter off the 53-man roster.

Question: With Foster hurting, does Matt Feiler get an extended look to start?

Bouchette: B.J. Finney takes over there

Flip: B.J. Finney is the direct backup to Ramon Foster and he may be called on if Foster’s hyperextended knee leads him to miss regular-season games. Finney is a quality backup at left guard who may be penciled-in as the left guard of the future with Foster heading to free agency in 2019.

What I’ve found interesting (and speculated on) is Matt Feiler being seen as a guard by Pittsburgh and not as on offensive tackle. Feiler has been running as the second-team left guard at training camp while seeing limited reps at either of the tackle positions. Instead, 2018 rookie tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, has been running as the backup left tackle. Nothing highlighted this more than Okorafor — not Feiler — subbing in for Alejandro Villanueva when AV left practice on Wednesday. Undrafted journeyman, Jake Rogers, having bounced around the league since 2015, has seen most of the snaps with the second team at right tackle. For me, this is a scary situation unfolding which I covered in a previous article.

Question: Should we be concerned about tight-end depth? McDonald staying healthy is a tough ask it seems and there’s not much behind him.

Bouchette: Jesse James caught 40-some passes last season. He’s a legit backup and, in fact, has been the starter the past two seasons .

Flip: The BTSC boards have been roasting Vance McDonald due to missing camp time with a minor foot injury. Like Burnett, they’ve held him out of practice to err on the side of caution. With McDonald’s lengthy injury history — fans are being pessimistic here. They have held numerous players out of training camp practices. This is nothing new and happens every year during camp and even into preseason games.

Jessie James will never be mistaken for Travis Kelce, but he’s a sure-handed 6-7 target and not a disaster blocking. James has 82 receptions over the past two regular seasons to go along with six touchdowns. James isn’t flashy but most NFL teams don’t have that luxury at tight end. Most second-string tight ends in the NFL are blocking specialists and pose zero threat on offense. Depth at tight end might be the area fans should be least worried about.

After a hiatus from making snarky comments during last week’s chat, Bouchette filled this chat session with one snarky comment after another. Choosing one with so many options was not an easy feat — but here goes:

Question: Matthew Thomas excites me. He’s the right size and speed. Rare combination. Is anything missing from this guy?

Bouchette: Well, he wasn’t drafted for reasons you’ll have to google

Flip: I shake my head on this one that Bouchette doesn’t share his vast knowledge and connections with the team but, instead, directs the commenter to Google. This is the reason the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette should replace him with someone considerate enough to answer fans’ questions.

By all reports, Mathew Thomas has been having a solid training camp. BTSC fans have even flirted with the possibility of him making the 53-man roster. Only L.J. Fort stands between Thomas making the roster — but it’s not a sure thing. Thomas has to make Fort expendable with superior special-teams play. The coaches also will evaluate his ability in coverage and run-stopping.

Thomas was labeled an underachiever at FSU with a lengthy injury history to go along with a suspension (failed drug test). The likely reasons he was left off of teams’ draft boards? Poor technique, suspect commitment to football and questionable instincts. Tackling high can be addressed by the coaching staff — but only Thomas can answer the other two. Thomas has huge upside as a former 5-star recruit who committed to Florida State. The athletic part has never been in question apart from injuries, as he measured in the 95th-percentile SPARQ at the Combine.

Do you think Thomas takes the roster spot from Fort or forces the Steelers to carry five inside linebackers? Or does he land on the practice squad and get a year of seasoning?

While Bouchette has covered the Steelers going on 45 years, fans would appreciate more valued information during these sessions. At the same time, fans need to remember that these answers are all off-the-cuff, which is a tougher style to undertake since the pundit has no time to prepare or gather information. So that 45 years of experience should prepare him for this simple task, right? Do you read or participate in the chat sessions? What is your opinion of the sessions?

B.J. Finney ‘confident’ he can play at this level, prove he isn’t just a fill-in

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 2:36pm

B.J. Finney’s experience should put the Steelers’ staff at ease until Ramon Foster is healthy and ready to go.

It is funny how things work sometimes in the NFL.

For instance, take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have an undrafted guard named B.J. Finney who has filled in during any absences on the interior offensive line, and who many view as the next starting guard for the black-and-gold.

Then you have Ramon Foster, another undrafted guard who has been one of the most reliable starters along the line in his time with the team. It just so happens Foster is in the final year of his current contract, and many consider Finney to be the next man up to take over after the 2018 season.

Foster dodged a major bullet when he went down with a hyper-extended knee on the first padded practice of camp. There was no ligament damage, and Foster is expected to be out just 4 weeks, compared to a season-ending knee injury, but during this time Finney will get an extended showing with the starting offensive line.

This isn’t to suggest Finney hasn’t had any experience as a starter, but his sample size is very small. Regardless of overall experience, Finney isn’t one to lack confidence in his abilities.

“I know that I can play at this level, and I can do a good job filling in when I have to fill in,” Finney told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “So I’m not worried about my mentality in the slightest.”

When it comes to confidence, Finney has plenty in himself, but his teammates also echo this sentiment.

“B.J.’s got experience, which is key in this league, to say you’ve done it,” starting right guard David DeCastro said. “He’s played some big snaps for us, so that’s key. So he will be a placeholder for Ramon while he’s gone.”

What motivates Finney? He doesn’t want the offensive line to suffer, or struggle, with him filling in.

“For me, it’s my mentality that I don’t want the other guys to suffer from me coming in,” Finney said. “So my mentality is to always make sure I’m not going to … bring everybody down or hold anybody up.”

While Finney might not be the athlete DeCastro or Maurkice Pouncey are, he understands what is expected of him. To play hard, and be consistent.

“Tough and smart would describe me, yes, I would hope so,” Finney added. “I’m not the best athlete, and I know that.”

“One thing I was told from guys from my school is just always be consistent,” Finney said. “Be Mr. Consistency, and that will keep you around a long time. (Coaches) don’t want guys that go up and down, up and down like on a roller coaster ride. They want the same guy every day, every block, every play. That’s what I take pride in trying to do.”

Whether Finney is the next starting guard after this season is irrelevant, but what fans, and the team, should realize is how confident the team should be with Finney as the top backup for Foster, or any other interior lineman, in the short-term.

Steelers Training Camp 2018: Live updates 8/1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 1:04pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back, and training-camp practices are underway! Follow along with BTSC as the players start to hone their skills and prepare for the 2018 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the rabid fans awaiting their first glimpse of the Black-and-gold are prepared for another official day of training camp, and that comes after the players were given a much needed day off. The Steelers are finally back to practice, so it is time to prepare yourself!

If you’re stuck at work or at home, follow along with those on the scene at St. Vincent College for the best pictures, video and news coming straight from the practice field in Latrobe, PA. Don't miss a minute of the action!

Today's practice is at 2:55 p.m. EST, and is open to the public. Take a look at the training camp schedule below and, as always, follow along with live updates in the Twitter feed below.

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Mike Tomlin “hopeful” Le’Veon Bell shows up sooner than he did in 2017

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 12:15pm

The Steelers’ head coach wants to see Bell show up earlier than he did in 2017, but that doesn’t mean it will actually happen.

A week ago the Pittsburgh Steelers reported to training camp, and unlike in 2017, there was no one who expected Le’Veon Bell to arrive on that date.

Bell continues his holdout (meaning holding out on signing his franchise tag tender and therefore not being forced into showing up at training camp) and while most players have avoided the question of when Bell will arrive, head coach Mike Tomlin took it head on.

When talking with CBS Sports’ Evan Washburn, Tomlin bluntly stated he wants Bell to not just show up earlier than he did in 2017, but also to show up in better shape.

Check out the clip:

Mike Tomlin on Le'Veon Bell: "I'm hopeful that he'll get to us sooner. I'm hopeful that he'll be in better condition even than he was a year ago." @EvanWashburn checks in on #T2S to bring us the latest from Steelers camp pic.twitter.com/Z2SwVZstqd

— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) July 30, 2018

Tomlin did add at the end of his comments how he will be taking a wait-and-see type of approach when it comes to Bell’s pending arrival, and, according to Washburn, Tomlin knows Bell will show up in game shape and be the difference maker the team and fans have enjoyed watching during his time in the Steel City.

For fans who are optimists, the thought of Bell showing up early, maybe when the team breaks camp and heads back to Pittsburgh prior to Week 4 of the preseason, is enticing. This would give him time to get back in sync with the offensive line and not be forced to hit the ground running before the games really count.

For the realists out there, this is a proposition which likely won’t happen. Bell understands his showing up early can only pay dividends if he doesn’t get hurt and produces better than he did in 2017 for the first three games. Nonetheless, Bell is betting on himself, and he likely feels he can show up, as he did a year go, and produce without the risk of injury in meaningless preseason games.

To me, the kicker is how Tomlin likely would be more than understanding of Bell’s position if he were to show up early. In other words, if Bell showed up and said, “Coach, I will run drills, be in all the meetings, get in top shape, but would like to avoid the risk that comes with certain situations.” I’m sure Tomlin would oblige. However, it seems we will never know if this situation would play out or not — even if Tomlin is “hopeful”.

Where were you when Jerome Bettis fumbled vs. the Colts in the 2005 AFC Playoffs?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 9:31am

A play every Pittsburgh Steelers fan living at the time will never forget — the exact moment when Bettis almost fumbled away the team’s season.

The fine folks at SB Nation asked each website to think about a moment in their favorite team’s history where everyone would remember if they asked, “Where were you then?”

For the Pittsburgh Steelers’ faithful, a lot of crucial moments on the gridiron might be given as answers — the classic games of the 1970s — the Super Bowl wins. But I wanted to find a moment which was relatively recent, not only to include our younger readers, but also a moment when fans experienced both extremes of the emotional spectrum.

The first play that came to mind was the Jerome Bettis fumble in the 2005-2006 AFC Divisional playoff game vs. the Colts.

Let’s set the stage:

Joey Porter had just sacked Peyton Manning to seemingly seal the victory for the Black-and-gold. Out onto the field trots the closer, Bettis, and the goal-line offense. With Dan Kreider in the backfield, Jerame Tuman goes in motion and it’s a classic lead play for Bettis. Then, this happened...

We all know how the play and the game ended, but to bring things back full-circle, the question is “Where were you?”

For me, due to satellite issues, myself, my brother, his wife, my parents, and my wife (girlfriend at the time) were forced to cram into a small two-bedroom apartment in Shepherdstown, WV, with a fraternity brother and a slew of other Steelers fans to watch the game.

There were so many people in this small space it was very hot — not enough seats for everyone and tension was high. The exultation that erupted when Porter sacked Manning is something hard to describe. Grown men tackling each other, hugging and even shedding a tear over the upset no one thought was possible.

But when Bettis coughed up the football, the swing from ecstasy to nearly vomiting is something I’ll never forget. The small apartment was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. We were all in disbelief at what happened. Other than a few expletives and continued anger regarding the overturned Troy Polamalu interception earlier in the game, everyone expected the worst as Peyton Manning took over around midfield.

When Mike Vanderjagt missed the kick, the celebration was awesome, but not as unbridled as after the sack when everyone assumed the game was in hand.

It was one of the best — and worst — Steelers moments of my life and one which I’ll never forget.

So, where were you when ‘The Bus’ fumbled? And what was the scene like where you were? Let us know in the comment section below!

Watch Antonio Brown turn Artie Burns inside out at Steelers’ Training Camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 8:10am

Iron sharpens iron, and having Artie Burns lining up across from Antonio Brown regularly in training camp ought to make him plenty sharp heading into the regular season.

There’s no debating how good Antonio Brown is. Quite simply, he’s the best — period. But what would it be like to go against him every day — on every snap?

Just ask Artie Burns.

While Burns clings to the “iron sharpens iron” theory, you have to wonder if it doesn’t just get downright demoralizing watching No. 84 make you look foolish on a regular basis.

Take this play at this year’s training camp for example:

My lord ! @AB84 pic.twitter.com/KN3PKjQ5kk

— theOvision. . AuRA ™ (@Truth_305) July 30, 2018

I don’t blame Burns. How are you supposed to defend that move with such tremendous short-area quickness?

The answer is you don’t. You just try not to look foolish.

Ultimately, I feel Burns will only get better for having battled Brown on a daily basis. After all, once you’ve gone against Brown — even if he makes you look silly — going against a lesser receiver ought to feel like a walk in the park.

What do you think about this theory? Isn’t going against a super-human like Brown bound to do nothing but make Burns better? Or is there something about confidence which possibly could hurt Burns’ development? Let us know in the comment section below!

Steelers fans will miss Le'Veon Bell more than they realize

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 6:35am

Think the Steelers can easily pick up the pieces after the likely departure of Le'Veon Bell next offseason? Not so fast.

Yes, I know — another Le’Veon Bell article (sigh). But what can I say? It’s hard to not talk about a running back who’s averaged 129 all-purpose yards from scrimmage per game during his career.

It’s especially hard not to write about Bell, given his current contract situation and the fact that he likely won’t be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers beyond this season. I get that $15 million a year might be a little too much to pay a running back, but I don’t get why people are so confident that Bell will be easily replaced next season and beyond.

Sure, $15 million is a lot, but many people will surely agree Bell is worth at least $10 or $11 million per year — which means he’s a running back of great value, especially to a Steelers’ offense that’s made him its centerpiece ever since Mike Tomlin practically hand-picked him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Believe it or not, I’ve been occasionally annoyed by Bell during the course of his career. For example, when he was originally drafted. Given my propensity for making fun of my fellow Pittsburghers and their love of the ground game, I mocked the selection of Bell and felt a second-round pick could have been used to strengthen another position. During the course of Bell’s rookie season, I criticized Tomlin for coddling him and praising him when I didn’t think either response was warranted for a young back who, at that point, had proven nothing.

I was very much upset with Bell two years ago when he essentially lied about a rumored second suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. I even wrote a spoof article in the summer of 2016, shortly after Bell accidentally incriminated himself by going on social media and saying he hadn’t partaken in the smoking of pot since December of 2014 — a time-frame that theoretically should have subjected him to an even bigger suspension than the two games he received at the start of the following season.

I still don’t like the fact that Bell has missed a total of five games for issues involving marijuana — even if the 3-game suspension he received at the start of the 2016 campaign was due to missed tests.

But other than an NFL-banned recreational drug he supposedly hasn’t dabbled in for the past four years, plus a few minor annoyances, what really is there to dislike about Bell? His teammates certainly seem to love him, and I already alluded to the fondness his head coach has for him.

Regardless of the fondness you or I might or might not have for Bell, we share a mutual love for the Steelers. And Bell has certainly shown how valuable he’s been during the course of his career. Take 2014, for example, when he was such a huge part of the offense during the regular season, the Black-and-gold simply looked naked in the playoffs when they had to face the Ravens minus an injured Bell.

I realize the offense was super productive the following year, while Bell missed a total of 10 games due to his first suspension plus a season-ending MCL tear. But that’s likely because backup running backs of DeAngelo Williams’ caliber don’t exactly grow on trees (Williams arrived in Pittsburgh as a free agent that offseason, bringing along a resume including more than 6,800 career rushing yards).

And running backs the caliber of Le’Veon Bell certainly don’t grow on trees either.

BTSC reader and frequent poster DMAppDev wrote a piece recently which details why Bell is not a transcendent player. It’s a really great read and brings up a lot of interesting points. The article lists a plethora of running backs who were more productive than Bell was over the first five years of his career. But if you look at that list, it’s basically a Who’s Who of NFL running backs — and Bell is right there among them.

The point isn’t about Bell’s all-time status as compared to some of the all-time greats (obviously, an agent is going to build up their client higher than he probably deserves to be). The point is Bell’s status as it relates to the Steelers and the current NFL.

And whether we want to admit it or not, some team in the future NFL (e.g. 2019) is likely going to land a running back who one day will be on a list that’s similarly used to slight another young, hot-shot free agent trying to get paid.

If you notice that list, Frank Pollard isn’t on it; Walter Abercrombie isn’t on it; Earnest Jackson isn’t on it; Merril Hoge isn’t on it; Willie Parker isn’t on it; and Rashard Mendenhall isn’t on it.

And all of those players were starters at some point.

When you start discussing the running back-by-committee approach, then you get into Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman territory.

This is why I don’t understand the huge leap of faith required for someone to say: “$10 million a year for Bell? I can see that, but $15 million? Forget it — let’s just add a few unknowns to the running back depth chart and see what happens.”

Sure, the running back-by-committee approach can and has worked, and those instances have been cited many times (I’m sure they’ll be cited a time or 10 in the comments section below). But why is a platoon approach utilized in any sport? Because the position doesn’t have an A-list star to do all or most of the heavy lifting.

The Steelers currently have a running back who can do all of the heavy lifting, so much lifting he has driven other running backs out of town due to their lack of playing time.

I realize people are angry at Bell for missing training camp for a second-straight summer. I realize some might not appreciate his off-the-field shenanigans these days, mostly involving social media or making really horrible-sounding rap music.

I realize you might want to see Bell punished with a heavy dose of extra duty in 2018, which, when you really think about the kind of back he is, is like someone in the 1980s saying they wanted to see Michael Jackson perform for three-straight hours as a punishment for him rather than as entertainment for them.

Bell’s huge workload is essentially the very identity of Pittsburgh’s attack, and his absence will likely force a philosophical shift on the offense next season.

Are the Steelers making the right decision by not giving Bell the moon? That remains to be seen. Will the Steelers offense be better off without him? That’s highly unlikely.

As it pertains to this second part, and the inevitability of Bell's departure in 2019, to quote Jerry in the episode of Seinfeld where his friend Kramer is mocking him over a failing stock:

”There’s one thing I don’t understand — why does it please you?”

Podcast: Key storylines heading into 2018 Training Camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 5:46am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers currently are busily preparing for the start of their 2018 season on the practice fields at St. Vincent College. With a surge of Steelers news coming down the pike, 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 podcast The Steelers News. On this show Jeff Hartman breaks down all things Steelers.

Check out some of the topics for the show:

  • Injuries during training camp
  • Impressions of the Steelers’ 2018 Rookies
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, walks 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 our BlogTalkRadio page. If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below. Be sure to follow us on iTunes by searching The Standard is the Standard.

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also check out his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 2018 Steelers highlight film will get you jacked up

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 7:06pm

The Steelers didn’t have practice today, so if you were looking for your dose of football...look no further.

Let’s be totally honest here...2017 left a really bad taste in Pittsburgh Steelers fans’ mouths. So much so, it is difficult to watch some highlights of a tremendous 13-3 regular season.

How do we turn the page? How do we start looking forward to the upcoming campaign and forget about the playoff loss to the Jaguars?

Leave that up to JuJu Smith-Schuster!

On the Steelers’ first day off from training camp practice, Smith-Schuster put this highlight film on his Instagram page, and it will do plenty to get you ready for the upcoming season. Enough of the way last season ended...time to look forward!

Check out the video!

Coming to a stadium near you... ⚡️⚡️ pic.twitter.com/NYTXZwDCta

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) July 31, 2018

Leave it to Smith-Schuster to be the one to do something like this. There is a reason he is a fan favorite, and it has nothing to do with him laying out Vontaze Burfict last year in December. Well, that certainly helped, but you know what I’m saying!

Steeling History: Analyzing which current Steelers are set to surpass franchise records in 2018

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 3:22pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a storied past, but a current crop of players could move up to challenge and possibly surpass all-time greats in 2018. See who is preparing to make history.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers at training camp to prepare for their 86th season of play, several players on the current roster can propel their names onto or farther up the list of all-time statistical greats.

Does Hines Ward hear footsteps? How close can Le’Veon Bell get to Franco or Jerome before his likely exit after the season? Is it Ben or Bradshaw that statistically reigns supreme? Where is Cam Heyward on the all-time tackle list? Will season No. 86 be another dream campaign for No. 84? How about “the Boz”? Those questions won't be answered until January, but in our annual series, Steeling History, BTSC highlights the players that could move up the all-time charts and what they need to do so.

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben is, far and away, the greatest statistical quarterback in the history of Pittsburgh football. There will always be a debate on whether Roethlisberger or Terry Bradshaw is the greatest Steelers' slinger of all-time. No. 7 owns pretty much every Steelers' quarterbacking record, but what he lacks is the greatest record of them all -- the four Super Bowl titles owned by the incomparable and aforementioned Bradshaw.

Here's where Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger ranks first in Steelers QB passing lore:

Most Passing Yards (Career): 51,065

Most Passing Yards (Single Season): 4,952 (2014)

Most Passing Yards (Single Game): 522

Most 300 Yard Passing Games (Career): 52

Most 300 Yard Passing Games (Single Season): 9

Most Completions (Career): 4,164

Most Completions (Single Season): 408 (2014)

Most Completions (Single Game): 40 (twice)

Most Consecutive Completions: 15 (tied with Bubby Brister)

Highest Competion Percentage (Career): 64.1%

Highest Competion Percentage (Single Game): 85.7%

Highest Competion Percentage (Single Season): 68.0% (2015)

Most Touchdown Passes (Career): 329

Most Touchdown Passes (Single Season): 32 (2007, 2014)

Most Touchdown Passes (Single Game): 6 (twice)

Highest Passer Rating (Career): 94.0

Highest Passer Rating (Single Season): 104.1 (2007)

Most 4th Quarter Comebacks (Career): 29

Most Game Winning Drives (Career): 39

Wins (Career): 135

One of the few records that Ben doesn't have is a positive one. Big Ben (172) is second all-time in interceptions thrown to Terry Bradshaw (210).

Roethlisberger is getting ready to start his 15th season and he's set to tie Mike Webster atop that legendary mountain. But he trails the iron man Webster in games played. A healthy 16-game season will jump the current Steeler QB up to 216, good enough to tie for third. The two up top are Hines Ward (217) and Webster (220).

Once again, the landmark that Steelers fans care about most for Ben Roethlisberger to achieve is Super Bowl victories. The hope is that Ben ends the 2018 campaign only one ring shy of tying the record of four.

Antonio Brown

Brown might own every team record for receivers when his career is all said and done.

Brown currently ranks second on the all-time team with 632 receptions. Hines Ward's mark of an even 1,000 receptions is not in jeopardy this season or the next, but a healthy couple-of-seasons should alow AB to come close.

Antonio is second all-time with 9,910 receiving yards. His 2015 record-breaking tally of 1,834 might be bested by him in 2018, but that won’t be enough to sit atop the mountain. Hines Ward, with 12,083 is still way too far ahead, but 2019 is likely.

Also, Brown is the franchise leader for yards-per-game, both single-season and career, with 114.6 (2015) and 82.9 respectively.

Marks that the Pro-Bowler won't come close to reaching this season are career touchdowns and receiving touchdowns. Currently tied for fourth (with Stallworth) at 64 total TDs and fourth with 59 receiving trips to the end zone, Antonio would need four receiving touchdowns to tie John Stallworth for second at 63. That should happen. Franco Harris (100 total) and Hines Ward (85 receiving) are safe for now. But with Antonio, you never know.

The seventh-year standout from Central Michigan already owns the team's single-season mark for receptions (136) and receiving yards (1834). He broke his own marks in 2015. If AB can eclipse 143 grabs and 1,965 yards in 2018, he'd be the NFL's single-season champ in both categories.

AB is in the hunt for a couple of punt-return records, but the hope of many in Steelers Nation is that a suitable replacement is found for Brown in that position and that he won't get the opportunity to break any records. This is due to the fact that focusing strictly on his receiving duties would better shield him from possible injury. He's currently tied with Antwaan Randle-El for the top of the charts with four punt returns for touchdowns. Brown ranks second, behind Rod Woodson (257) in career punt returns (186) and in punt-return yardage (2,362) with 1,759.

Le'Veon Bell

Bell has ranked fairly high for a player completing only five seasons as a pro. In what might be his last season in Pittsburgh, Bell could move up substantially among the best RBs in Steelers' history.

No. 26 currently ranks fourth in career team rushing yardage with 5,336. Last year, Bell easily eclipsed John Henry Johnson's 4,381 yards. Bell fell just shy of Willie Parker's third place mark of 5,378 by 42 yards. Barring disaster or extreme stupidity, Bell could surpass “Fast Willie” in the first half Week One at Cleveland.

Juice's nine rushing touchdowns helped him surpass Barry Foster, John Henry Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall and Terry Bradshaw in fourth. Tied for third with Kordell Stewart, Bell could break that very early on. Second place's Jerome Bettis is safe for now with 78, not to mention Franco’s mark.

The ex-Michigan Stater ranks first all-time in single-season yards from scrimmage with 2,215 in 2014. Bell needs to increase his career mark of 7,996 by another 838 to eclipse John Stallworth’s 8,834 and enter the career top-5.

Chris Boswell

Currently, Boswell is the most accurate field-goal kicker in the history of the Steelers, converting 89.5% of his 95 career attempts. His 85 "makes" are good for sixth place. If he could duplicate the 35 he hit last season, the Boz would move past Norm Johnson (104) and into fifth place. Shaun Suisham at number four (124) is possible as well.

Cam Heyward

A year ago, Cam was tied with Keith Gary for 25th on the Steelers' career sack list. After recording 12 last season, Heyward now ranks eighth. With 7.5 more in 2018, No. 97 would surpass Aaron Smith for seventh place. Greg Lloyd’s sixth place is safe for the time being. Heyward would need 17 to pass up Lloyd.

Sons of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown show off their skills at training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 1:32pm

Judging by the respective talents of Ben Roethlisberger Jr. and Autonomy Brown, fans might have seen the birth of a new partnership at Steelers training camp that should be ready for the NFL around 2035

Proving the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, the Pittsburgh Steelers might have unearthed some talented players for the future last weekend when the sons of two of their star players took to the field on Sunday.

Although Ben Roethlisberger Jr. is only 5-years-old and Autonomy Brown is just 4-years-old, they are already showing they could be a couple of names to watch for the future should they ever decide to follow in their father’s footsteps. In a short video posted to Instagram by proud dad Antonio Brown, both young boys displayed impressive skills for children their age.

Little Ben To little AB @auto #2035 #Boomin #onelove @jonallon80

A post shared by Antonio Brown (@ab) on Jul 29, 2018 at 7:18pm PDT

The tight eight-yard spiral from Roethlisberger Jr., from a flat footed position no less, it an obvious sign some athletic talents are genetic and the over-the-shoulder catch from Brown’s son is equally spectacular.

Both could be eligible for the NFL around 2035 if everything works out. However, when speaking to the Steelers star receiver this offseason, he told me he was less than keen to see his sons follow him into the NFL.

“Nah, don’t follow me playing football — that’s not what they need to do. I wouldn’t discourage them from playing, but I would tell them the facts. There’s a lot of things in the game that is not healthy. Obviously, I know how to work around those things, but the game is crazy right now. I wouldn’t advise my kids to play. Hopefully, I’ll work hard enough and make a lot of money so they don’t have to play and I could see them be successful in other things and support them through.”

That being said, given the skills young Auto is already showing, it might be harder to keep him off the field than his father imagines.

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