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Steelers Injury Report: Thee running backs out Sunday, JuJu Smith-Schuster questionable

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 2:21pm
Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

JuJu was limited in Friday’s practice with a foot injury

The Pittsburgh Steelers held their final practice for Week 10 on Friday as they prepare for the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. According to the Steelers PR Department, four players have been ruled out while another is questionable.

The Steelers had hoped James Conner would be available Sunday especially after he was able to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Conner was unable to participate the rest of the week and has been ruled out for Sunday. As expected, both Benny Snell Jr. and Roosevelt Nix missed practice again on Friday and are both out against the Rams. Surprisingly, Trey Edmunds was a full participant on Friday with his injured ribs and does not have an injury designation for Sunday.

The new addition to the injury report on Friday was wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster who was limited with a foot injury. He is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game

Ramon Foster suffered a setback with the NFL concussion protocol as he was unable to practice Thursday or Friday after being limited on Wednesday and has been ruled out against the Rams. It was reported Matt Feiler moved to left guard for practice on Thursday and Chukwuma Okorafor came in to play the right tackle position. What is unclear about the situation is if this was strictly to get both players some practice time as they will be the main backups at those positions on Sunday, or if the Steelers decided to go with Feiler at guard over B.J. Finney who started last week against the Indianapolis Colts. According to DKPittsburghSports Dejan Kovacevic, Feiler will get the start at left guard with Chuks getting his first snaps of 2019 as he will be the starter at right tackle.

Matt Feiler's been moved from right tackle to left guard. Chuks Okorafor's starting at right tackle. A gimmick for Aaron Donald? My coverage from Rooney Complex is right here and open to all: https://t.co/BiW4ORtvmn#HereWeGo #Steelers #LARvsPIT pic.twitter.com/hsxrR7y7ag

— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) November 8, 2019

An addition to the injury list on Thursday was defensive lineman Tyson Alualu who missed practice with a knee injury. Alualu returned as a full participant Friday and carries no injury status. Wide receiver Ryan Switzer has missed Wednesday’s practice with a back injury but was also able to return as a full participant the rest of the week.

As for the Rams injury report, it can be seen below when available. Due to the Rams being a West Coast team, injury reports will come later in the day.

Cam Heyward named NFLPA Community MVP of the Week

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 1:59pm
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cameron Heyward receives a great off field honor heading into Week 10.

There have been plenty members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who have received honors for their performance on the field this season.

In Week 6, rookie Devin Bush was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance vs. the Los Angeles Chargers. In Week 8, James Conner was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Last week, Week 9, Bud Dupree was given AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his great game vs. the Colts.

There are also some weekly awards which don’t revolve around on-field performance, but are equally as impressive. Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward was given one of those rewards recently when he was named the NFLPA Community MVP of the Week last week.

This from ProFootballTalk:

Heyward raised $200,000 for his Heyward House Foundation at a homecoming-themed event in Pittsburgh this week. The money will be used to fund several programs, including giveaways of backpacks filled with healthy food, donations to a closet of suits, ties and other clothing for young men and an annual party celebrating the birthdays of kids without the means for their own parties.

“It’s a true honor to receive NFLPA Community MVP,” Heyward said in a statement. “My motivation is to give back and help the community succeed. Everyone has a part in helping our youth and I look forward to doing my part.”

As a part of Heyward winning this award, the NFLPA will donate $10,000 to the Heyward House to help his foundation. Also, after winning this award, Heyward will now be nominated for the Alan Page Community Award at the end of the season.

What the Steelers, and other members of the NFL, do off the field doesn’t get a ton of publicity, but certainly should. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Los Angeles Rams to come to Heinz Field in Week 10 of regular season action.

2019 Steelers Power Rankings: Mid-Season Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 12:30pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

BTSC ranks the best of the Steelers 2019 season at the midway point of the season.

With the Steelers preparing themselves for the final eight contests of the season, there have been players that have been playing as expected and those that have stepped up out of nowhere. This has inspired me to rank the Steelers that have had the finest eight games of the first half of the 2019 season.

Steelers Power Rankings 1) T.J. Watt

Previous Rank: 1

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Watt hasn’t become just the heart and soul of the defense, he’s possibly the MVP of the team. PFF ranks him as the best edge rusher and second-best pass rusher in the league. Watt is playing at an elite level. On the season, T.J. has 7 1/2 sacks and 20 qb hits in just eight games.

2) Minkah Fitzpatrick

Previous Rank: Not Ranked

Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The trade of a No. 1 pick for Fitzpatrick was looked at some in Steeler Nation as a mistake, but the second-year safety has four interceptions in six games as a Steeler, including a pick-six of 96 yards against Indy. Minkah is only ranked 20th by PFF, but No. 39 has been a stabilizing entity for the Steelers defense and is a leader already for Keith Butler’s charges.

3) Cam Heyward

Previous Rank: Not Ranked

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Stephon Tuitt started the season on fire and there was a growing sentiment that No. 91 was seizing the mantle of the stalwart of the defensive line. Whispers were abound that Heyward was slowing down a bit as well. However, when PFF’s seventh-ranked defensive lineman went down for the season against the Chargers...the current third-ranked Heyward stepped up in a huge way. No. 97 has 4.5 sacks, once again resembles his dominant self of the past few seasons and has proved most valuable for the Steelers.

4) Bud Dupree

Previous Rank: Not Ranked

Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Dupree took awhile to become “Bud the stud”, but he is fully healthy and has fully arrived in his contract year. It seems like Keith Butler’s presence working with the OLBs has fully benefited Bud. Dropping into coverage way less and no longer overrunning sacks, No. 48 is having a career year as the Steelers are letting him play the way he was meant to. Bud has six sacks so far and is ranked as PFF’s 19th best rusher coming off the edge.

5) James Conner

Previous Rank: 4

Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Up until the Miami game, Conner had struggled as a rusher, but that had a lot to do with his line not opening up lanes and missing an injured lead blocker in Roosevelt Nix. PFF ranks him fifth as a receiver out of the backfield and if the Steelers were going to move the chains, it had to be done consistently with Conner’s combat runs after the catch. James has 29 receptions for 236 yards and two scores receiving and 380 yards and four scores on the ground. Conner’s absence due to injury could be a great concern for the fact that the offense relies on No. 30.

6) Chris Boswell

Previous Rank: Honorable Mention

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Last year is starting to seem more like an aberration when it comes to the field goal accuracy of Chris Boswell. No. 9 is back to his Pro Bowl form of 2015-2017 and is kicking with clutch accuracy again. Boz is 17/18 and perfect on point-afters. His only miss was from 54-yards out against Miami. An invigorated Boswell is helping to carry the Steelers offense for stretches and seems to be the only constant scoring option for Pittsburgh.

7) Devin Bush

Previous Rank: 3

Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While the rookie from a Michigan still is experiencing growing pains, No. 55 has proven already that the draft day trade to acquire him was a brilliant move. Bush with his great sideline-to-sideline speed does not have to carry the defense right now and merely needs to continue to grow into the role. The rookie is leading the team with 66 tackles and has four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and a score.

8) Vince Williams

Previous Rank: Honorable Mention

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

It is no coincidence that the Steelers defense started to emerge when Vince Williams returned from injury. Before the season, the media and fans were hinting that No. 98’s lack of speed was a liability and were calling for his demotion with speedier linebackers on the roster. PFF’s 20th-ranked ILB is a staunch and suffocating run defender and is finally getting recognized as a valuable team presence.

9) Steven Nelson

Previous Rank: Honorable Mention

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Nelson’s signing in free agency last March was not met with a whole lot of fanfare, but the former KC Chief has significantly upgraded the Steelers secondary. Although No. 22 is only credited with two passes defensed and no interceptions, Nelson is being avoided by QBs, not letting receivers get separation and is one of the reasons the Steeler secondary is becoming a team strength.

10) Mason Rudolph

Previous Rank: 5

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Mason Rudolph has not set the world on fire since he replaced an injured Ben Roethlisberger in the second half of Week 2 in the Seattle loss. However, he has been taking steps to get the offense going with a rating of 94.7, a 66.1% completion rate, ten touchdown passes and four interceptions in parts of six games. Mason’s stats are actually superior to Ben’s rookie numbers of 2004 so far. There is still a lot to be desired about Rudolph’s game, but he’s been thrust into the starting lineup and responded quite well.

If the Steelers are to continue to rebound from 1-4 and make the playoffs, the power players need to keep their momentum going strong. At .500, the 4-4 Pittsburgh franchise will need to continue to forge ahead with these ten leading the way. Post your agreements and the opposite in the comments section below.

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers, the kings of ‘YAC’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 10:45am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Whether by design, or just happenstance, the Steelers are tops when it comes to Yards After the Catch.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is a oddity in 2019. Since Ben Roethlisberger was injured in the team’s Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, fans have watched Mason Rudolph dink-and-dunk the offense to a 4-4 record.

Rudolph’s primary targets have been running backs, and nothing highlighted this more than the 13 receptions by Jaylen Samuels in Week 9 as the team was able to beat the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field.

Checking the ball down is one thing, and designing short passes are another. Either way, when the ball is thrown short you have to rely on Yards After the Catch (YAC) to move the football down the field.

When it comes to Yards After the Catch percentage, the percentage of the team’s offensive receiving yards gained after the catch), the Steelers are top in the NFL. Check out the graphic below courtesy of NFL Matchup on ESPN’s verified Twitter account:

These teams have the highest percentage of their receiving yards gained after the catch so far this season. #HereWeGo #TakeFlight #Colts #GoNiners #RaiderNation #BroncosCountry #GoPackGo #Browns #Saints #Skol @gregcosell | @MattBowen41 pic.twitter.com/WvvmdZeXx9

— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) November 6, 2019

62.41% is far and away the most in the NFL, and at first when you look at stats like this you see it as awesome your favorite team is leading in any positive offensive category. However, when you look at it from a schematic standpoint this lofty number wreaks of the Steelers settling for check downs and short passes rather than the high-flying offense once deployed weekly by the black-and-gold.

Mason Rudolph is a young quarterback with just a handful of starts under his belt, but if the Steelers are going to be considered legitimate contenders in the AFC North, the AFC or the NFL, the offense is going to have to start pushing the ball downfield at one point or another.

Will it be this week when the Los Angeles Rams come to Heinz Field in a Week 10 showdown? Very little has been seen which would give the vast Steelers fan base much confidence, but if there is one takeaway here it is the Steelers have found ways to win without throwing it deep.

But it is only a matter of time until the league adjusts and forces the Steelers’ hands when it comes to how they handle the passing game.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the NFC West Rams on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.

Expert Picks: Despite resurgence, experts like the Rams over the Steelers in Week 10

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 8:54am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in Week 10 NFL action, and the experts like the visiting team in a big way.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have resurrected their 2019 season, at least for the time being, after rebounding from both 0-3 and 1-4 starts to make it all the way back to .500. Sitting at 4-4 heading into Week 10, many fans are seeing the playoffs as a legitimate scenario for the black-and-gold once again, but difficult games await.

To finish out the third straight home game in a three game home stand, the Steelers will host the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET. Of the three games the Steelers have won in a row, this upcoming game might be the most challenging for Pittsburgh. Unfamiliarity with the Rams’ style of play will be a huge factor, and the team is riddled with injuries heading into this inter-conference matchup.

But enough of what I think about the game, what do the experts think about the game? Can the Steelers pull off another upset in back-to-back weeks? Or will the Rams be able to get a win coming off their bye week.

Let’s take a look...

If you are someone who wants to start your day down in the dumps, just go check out ESPN’s expert picks. The largest expert panel on the internet is all-in on the Rams. Not one experts sees the Steelers winning this Sunday.

A similar, and no surprising, story can be said about the haters here at SB Nation. Of all the experts, only one thinks the Steelers have a legitimate shot of holding serve at Heinz Field this week.

If you are looking for a pro-Steelers site, then look at the CBS Sports panel, where the panel is split 50-50 on the upcoming game between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. In fact, CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco gave his own description of the game about to go down in the Steel City.

Check out Prisco’s prediction:

The Steelers have made big strides the past few games, but the Rams offense will be a big challenge for their defense. Jared Goff seemed to get it going before the bye. But this will be a tough game for him and that offense. The Steelers will find a way behind their defense.

Pick: Steelers 23, Rams 20

These are just a few websites who produce weekly picks while there are a myriad of others who submit expert picks. What about all those other websites? This is where NFL Pick Watch comes in. NFL Pick Watch takes all expert picks and compiles them into an easy-to-ready chart.

According to them, 80% of NFL experts are taking the Rams in this matchup, but Steelers fans should realize a similar percentage took the Indianapolis Colts last week, and we all know how that game ended.

Will the experts be right and the Rams get the win? Or will the Steelers prove worthy of a fourth straight win, and fifth out of their last six games? Only time will tell, but the experts like Los Angeles in a big way this Sunday.

Film Room: Analyzing Mason Rudolph’s inconsistent play against the Colts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 7:41am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The second part of my in-depth film review on the Steelers offense in Week 9 vs. the Colts.

In my previous film room we looked at JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Week 9 game, and now we are following that with a review of Mason Rudolph’s day. Rudolph did not have a good day statistically and the offense struggled mightily because of it.

A good start

First play of the game, JuJu Smith-Schuster is lined up outside at the top of the screen.

It’s a nice short post by Smith-Schuster right into a small gap in the Colts cover-3-esque defense. I wanted to start with this play because Rudolph hits his WR in rhythm and it isn’t a big window. Rudolph can make these throws. That is an NFL window that isn’t too small for Rudolph, and he is capable of making the read and getting the ball out in rhythm.

Once bitten twice shy

After the interception to end the first drive Mason Rudolph didn’t just stop throwing the ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster, he became hesitant and slow to get rid of the ball at all.

Diontae Johnson starts just off the screen to the left, the outside WR in the bunch.

No one is really wide open here, but Diontae Johnson has gotten outside his defender and there’s no one beyond that point. That’s the throw. Mason Rudolph needs to put it out in front of Johnson and let him try to get to it. But Mason hesitates and ends up with a much worse result. Look at the slow motion here.

He pulls the ball back in instead of throwing it out to Johnson and takes a sack fumble that luckily only ended with a safety. If he is going to tuck the ball there (like if he tucked the ball because he thought the DE had a really good chance of deflecting it) he needs to at least go forward and try to get out of the endzone. Fortunately the ST unit bailed the offense out and gave them the ball back with great field position.

Squandering great opportunities

First and 10 at the Colts 17 yard line. A chance for redemption for an offense that nearly gave the game away. On second down the Steelers reach into the bag and go back to a play from the first drive, let’s look at the first time they ran it.

It is important to note that this play is against man defense with a single high safety. James Washington runs up the sideline then blocks his defender. Diontae Johnson runs a drag away from the screen as McDonald takes his defender into the deep middle. This leaves Samuels with both guards creating a nice barrier to the defense as he races for 17 yards.

Now let’s see the second time they ran it.

This is a Cover-2 zone, and the screen is not going to work. Johnson’s drag and McDonald’s post aren’t pulling any defenders away from the screen, just blockers. It ends up with 3 defenders in the area and David DeCastro as the only blocker. A 4-yard loss pulled the Steelers out of the redzone and they ended up settling for a FG.

Watch it again, and look at Vance McDonald. He’s wide open in the soft deep middle hole of the cover-2 zone. You can see him clap his hands in frustration. It looks like Johnson is open too, but that’s at the end of the play as the shallow zone LBs see the screen, and that throw isn’t really there. But Vance is open as soon as he passes the LB, who crashes the screen before Rudolph even moves out of pocket. Lastly, look at Rudolph’s helmet, he starts the play looking right up the middle, he can see the defensive alignment, he can see it is cover-2, but he doesn’t even give McDonald a chance, he throws to the screen that the zone defense has already nullified. This is where reading the defense is so important, the screen is a man beater, McDonald is running a zone counter. As soon as Rudolph realized it was cover-2 McDonald was the throw. Mason Rudolph either didn’t realize it, or went to the check-down anyway. I can’t believe he didn’t recognize cover-2, which would mean he just threw the check-down anyway. A lot of plays were like this, Rudolph just looked scared to throw the ball downfield.

When life gives you lemons. . .

With Rudolph playing poorly and hesitantly, what kind of plays can you even run in the passing game?

McDonald is in line to the bottom of the screen, James Washington is the receiver farthest to the bottom, JuJu Smith-Schuster is in the slot.

This is a great play design, and it picks up a first down. The Steelers attack the Colts zone with a 3-level concept sending JuJu Smith-Schuster deep, James Washington between the zones and Vance McDonald short. Mason Rudolph just needs to read the 2 shallow zone defenders, if they cheat towards McDonald he has Washington behind them, if they are back far enough to stop the pass to Washington McDonald will be open. This play works because the Colts constantly ran a really deep zone on third and long. this third and 13 they run it again and McDonald is wide open underneath. But look at Rudolph on this play.

He sees that McDonald is the right throw, but it still takes him a bit to actually throw the ball. Fortunately while he’s staring down McDonald the LB actually cheats to the middle away from Rudolph’s eyes. You can see Mason Rudolph’s hands starting the motion twice before he actually throws it.

Bouncing back

With the Steelers trailing the Colts by 1 point in the 4th quarter, Mason Rudolph would throw his most productive pass of the game, and his best.

James Washington is the WR to the top of the screen.

Rudolph hesitates even here, you can see he starts to throw as soon as Washington is even with his defender, but clutches the ball once before throwing it. As a result Washington has to come back to the ball, but he is able to make the contested catch for a 40 yard gain. A pass interference call on the next play would give the Steelers a first down at the Colts 7 yard line that they would, of course, turn into a FG. If that throw is made a bit earlier and a bit deeper it is a TD. But it is important that he made this play, and hopefully it helps him strengthen his resilience.

Mason Rudolph has the potential to be a good starter, but he has to stay out of his own head and just play. He was decisive and in rhythm until he threw a bad pass that ended up being intercepted, after that Rudolph was hesitant and reluctant to take any chances. This may be fixable with experience, but it may not. QBs like Ben Roethlisberger and Devlin Hodges have a personality that allows them to throw interceptions and come right back and throw more, and then go back out again and play the exact same way the next drive. Mason Rudolph doesn’t have that kind of personality, he needs to work on putting plays behind him and trusting himself, if he can do that he can succeed, he’s shown the ability. If he can’t get out of his own head, he won’t be an NFL QB for long.

The Steelers offense will likely continue to struggle for the remainder of the 2019 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 6:34am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

You can only endure so many personnel losses on one side of the football before that unit really starts to struggle. The Steelers—minus so many key offensive pieces from the recent past—are finding that out in 2019.

It didn’t take long—a little over a year or so—for Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner to join that exclusive club just about every offensive coordinator who’s ever come through these parts has been a card-carrying member of.

People don't think much of his abilities.

That’s right, Fichtner is now a buffoon, an idiot, clueless. I’ve even seen him referred to as “Sphincter” by a BTSC regular. As far as creativity goes with regards to name-calling, I must say, not bad.

However, blaming the designer for what ails the Steelers offense in 2019 is far from original, and, I’ve got to say, it’s likely way off-base.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Fichtner is an innovative offensive mind along the lines of a Sid Gillman or Don Coryell, but he’s clearly not the bulk of the reason for the lack of production from his unit this season.

Earlier in the year, I was on board with blaming Fichtner. In-fact, I remember calling him unimaginative or at least agreeing with those who felt that way. After all, I wanted to believe the team could get by without the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. I wanted to believe you could actually add success by subtracting distractions (at least in the cases of Brown and Bell). As for Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury? I wanted to believe in Mason Rudolph. I wanted to believe he could step right in and be the next Tom Brady—or, if not that, the next Jimmy Garoppolo.

But after watching the Steelers’ offense perform over the five-plus games without Roethlisberger (and the collective of Ben, Brown and Bell for the entire season), I’ve changed my tune.

Why? To quote Eddie Murphy in the movie, Life, when he’s talking to a frustrated Martin Lawrence, who can’t seem to figure out why he can’t find enough decent players to field a prison baseball team, “What you’re dealing with is a total lack of talent. Ain’t nobody got no talent.”

This isn’t to say Rudolph isn’t talented. It’s that he’s likely not as talented as Roethlisberger—or at least he hasn’t shown himself to be at that level yet. This isn’t to say James Conner isn’t talented. He’s just likely never going to reach the level of success Bell had during his heyday—at least not on a consistent enough basis. This isn’t to say JuJu Smith-Schuster isn’t talented. In fact, of the three current Killer B replacements, he may have the best chance of reaching Brown’s level as an elite receiver. However, can he duplicate Brown’s production? Not likely. And even if that’s not a requirement (and I don’t believe Smith-Schuster has to set an NFL record for a six-year run of production by a wide receiver in order for the Steelers to succeed), the players who make up the remainder of the Steelers receiving corps haven’t shown themselves to be nearly as talented as Smith-Schuster was when he was teaming up with Brown the past two seasons--and as you’ve seen through eight games, that has made for a more difficult road for the third-year man out of USC.

You want to know why preseason games are usually so boring? The backups play the majority of the time. As it pertains to Pittsburgh’s main contributors on offense, you have a whole stable full of skill-position players who may have actually had a hard time cracking the line-up (or even making the roster) if the Killer B’s were all still in the hive in 2019.

You can’t take away two All-Pros and a Hall of Fame quarterback and expect the offense to continue to flourish. Remember two years ago when the defense struggled after its most important cog, Ryan Shazier, was lost to injury? When it comes to the current offense, three players of that caliber have been taken away.

As fans, I think we tend to get caught up in the moment and forget to look at the big picture when there is roster upheaval. We talk about game plans and schemes, but you can only scheme so much to make up for a lack of elite-level personnel. You don’t think the Steelers’ coaches are racking their brains trying to come up with a solution? To quote the late John McKay, “It’s not like we draw a play on the board and then say, ‘Now this will not work.’”

What this all means is that the Steelers will likely continue to struggle on offense for the remainder of 2019. Remember those times as fans that we were confident Pittsburgh had a really decent chance of success based on the fact that the other team was missing so much? That is how every opposing fan base has felt about facing the Steelers this season.

As hard as we may try to wish it away, the Steelers aren’t immune to the war of attrition that is often life in the NFL.

This isn’t to say the Steelers can’t succeed in 2019. It’s just that they’ll have to continue to get by with a little smoke, some mirrors and a lot of field goals by Chris Boswell.

Finally, did you listen to Mike Tomlin’s press conference on Tuesday and his chuckle when a reporter asked him why the Steelers offense has gone from the best in the red zone in 2018 to one of the worst this year?

The coach gets it. I think the fans need to join him in accepting the limitations of the Steelers offense in 2019.

Podcast: Why the Steelers are playing with “house money” vs. the Rams

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 5:31am

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

The 2019 season is upon us!! With the Pittsburgh Steelers now in the regular season, it is 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 Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading into the offseason.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Around the Horn Segment
  • Steelers Stat Geek
  • Preview of Steelers vs. Rams
  • Keys to victory
  • Fantasy Focus
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, Bryan Anthony Davis and Dave Schofield walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Will it be JuJu vs. Jalen in Steelers vs. Rams, Week 10?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 4:29am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving into Week 10 of the NFL regular season, and as the team prepares for the Los Angeles Rams this week we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the next game starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether this Sunday’s Steelers vs. Rams games will pit JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Jalen Ramsey, or if the home team will try to avoid that matchup at all costs.

Let’s get to the news:

  • JuJu Smith-Schuster is realizing now what it means to be a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, and he might get a heavy dose of reality going against Jalen Ramsey this Sunday.

Kevin Gorman: JuJu vs. Jalen a marquee matchup that must live up to billing

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

JuJu Smith-Schuster has dealt with the difficulty of trying to catch passes while drawing double teams, so the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver welcomes his next challenge.

When the Los Angeles Rams visit the Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field, Smith-Schuster expects two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey to be covering him.

Which does JuJu prefer? That’s a no-brainer.

“Double-teamed is difficult, obviously, because you’ve got a guy inside and out,” Smith-Schuster said, “but also going one-on-one, when you’re going against an elite corner, you want to respect it. You want to respect his game and his craft.”

Smith-Schuster will be shooting for single coverage and a chance to earn the respect of Ramsey. Theirs promises to be a marquee matchup — even if neither one has quite lived up to the hype this season — and Smith-Schuster knows a strong performance against a shutdown corner would give credence to his status as a No. 1 receiver.

And that’s why he’s looking forward to it.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers’ offensive line will be under a microscope when it comes to the matchup with Aaron Donald this Sunday.

Tim Benz: Steelers offensive line must hit right notes against Rams’ Aaron Donald

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Same song. Different musicians.

The Steelers hope the music is just as sweet.

In advance of their looming contest against the Indianapolis Colts last week, we heard both Bud Dupree and Cameron Heyward sing it on the Steelers defensive side of the ball.

“Ones versus ones. Strength on strength. Good on good.”

That was their take on the matchup between their front-seven against the Colts offensive line.

The sack-happy turnover-machine defense against an Indy offense that protects the ball and never allows sacks.

How’d that turn out?

The Steelers defense had five sacks and numerous other pressures, and Indianapolis gave the ball back three times en route to a Steelers victory.

This week against the Los Angeles Rams, the “good on good” is on the other side of the ball. It’s the pass protection of the Steelers — which has allowed a league-low eight sacks — against the pass rush of the Rams.

Namely that of reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Rams are dealing with their own injuries heading into Week 10, and Clay Matthews’ availability will be something to keep an eye on.

Clay Matthews limited in his return to practice

By: Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk

Rams linebacker Clay Matthews returned to practice Wednesday, though he was limited.

Matthews has not played since Week Five when he fractured his jaw in a loss to the Seahawks. Week 10 was his target return date after having his jaw wired shut.

Running back Malcolm Brown also was limited in his return from an ankle injury. He has not played since Week Six.

“Clay, he’s looking good,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He’s got a nice beard right now, too. I was just complimenting him on that. He’s feeling good.

“I think the anticipation for both those guys is if they continue to progress the right way throughout the week, you should expect to see them ready to roll.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • JuJu Smith-Schuster Media Availability

@TeamJuJu: "We got a huge win. Just got to keep stacking them." pic.twitter.com/t9TFUD5Ous

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 6, 2019
  • Social Media Madness

"They're a great team and a great defense."

David DeCastro, Mark Barron, & Jaylen Samuels talk about our upcoming matchup with the Rams, the impact of Aaron Donald and more. pic.twitter.com/P5Sz4BHtoT

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 6, 2019

The tape is his storyteller.#UltimateHighlight | @minkfitz_21 pic.twitter.com/GALSdziG7X

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 7, 2019

Opposing teams - Bud is not your buddy.@Bud_Dupree pic.twitter.com/4Dqz9ocAzs

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 7, 2019

How to watch Steelers vs. Rams: Time, TV Schedule, game information and tickets

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/08/2019 - 4:01am
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

All the information needed to watch, listen, or attend the Steelers game at Heinz Field on Sunday against Los Angeles.

Buy tickets to Steelers vs. Rams from StubHub HERE

It finally happened. Although this statement can apply to several different things pertaining to the Pittsburgh Steelers, first and foremost it will go to say the Steelers finally defeated an opponent with a winning record in 2019. The other thing which finally happened was the Steelers won an ugly game in a somewhat uncharacteristic manner, often the way they have lost games in the recent past. Regardless of how it was done, the Steelers were able to walk off Heinz Field this past Sunday with a 26–24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Now the focus turns into whether or not the Steelers can continue their three-game win streak which is the second longest in the AFC at the moment. Underdogs against the 2018 NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams, the Steelers have a formidable opponent as they conclude their three-game homestretch. Can the Steelers continue to stack wins? Will the coaches and players take some chances in order to pull off the upset?

This Sunday will answer these questions as the Steelers look to give the home fans three wins in a row. Make sure you get all the information you need below so you can enjoy the Week 10 showdown:

Week 10:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Los Angeles Rams

Date: Sunday, November 10th

Kickoff: 4:25 P.M. ET

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

Weather: Live weather update

TV Channel: Broadcast locally on WPGH-FOX 53 with Chris Myers and Daryl Johnston as commentators and Laura Okmin as the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area. A subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket gives access to all NFL games not otherwise shown in your area.

Online: NFL.com Game Pass offers live games for international viewers and replays of every game during upon conclusion with a paid subscription. A subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket gives access to stream games as well. fuboTV also allows you to stream NFL games online with a subscription. NFL Game Center will update the action on a play-by-play basis. The game is also available on the Yahoo! Sports App in some areas.

Radio: Steeler Nation Radio with Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin, and Craig Wolfley. The broadcast will be live on WDVE 102.5 FM and WBGG 970 AM in the Pittsburgh area or check the list of Steelers Radio Affiliates. Viewers can listen anywhere in the world online via Steelers.com, but the Steelers Official Mobile App does have geographical restrictions.

You can also follow Behind the Steel Curtain on Twitter or in the game thread article to catch all of the highlights. Be sure to check back with BTSC after the game for our post-match roundup, and subscribe to BTSC Steelers Radio on YouTube to catch The Steelers Post Game Show with Jeff Hartman and Lance Williams.

Steelers Injury Report: James Conner misses practice Thursday, reportedly out Sunday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 4:31pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Both Conner and Ramon Foster moved in the wrong direction on Thursday from a participation standpoint

The Pittsburgh Steelers continued with practice for Week 10 on Thursday as they prepare for the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. According to the Steelers PR Department, two players were downgraded from limited Wednesday to not participating Thursday while another new player was added to the list.

The Steelers has hoped James Conner would be available this week especially after he was able to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Conner was unable to participate Thursday and it was reported the Steelers are not expecting Conner to play on Sunday.

BREAKING: RB James Conner (shoulder) not expected to play Sunday against the LA Rams

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) November 7, 2019

As expected, Benny Snell Jr. did not practice on Thursday as he was ruled out by head coach Mike Tomlin in Tuesday’s press conference. Trey Edmunds was also still unable to go on Thursday as he is dealing with injured ribs. Additionally, Roosevelt Nix is still hampered with his knee injury which kept him out of five games this season as he did not take the field yet again on Thursday. With so many running backs out due to injury, the Steelers re-signed Darrin Hall to the practice squad Thursday morning.

Ramon Foster suffered a setback with the NFL concussion protocol as he was unable to practice Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. Such a setback at this point in the week makes it highly unlikely for Foster to be available on Sunday. It was reported Matt Feiler moved to left guard for practice on Thursday and Chukwuma Okorafor came in to play the right tackle position. What is unclear about the situation is if this was strictly to get both players some practice time as they will be the main backups at the position on Sunday, or if the Steelers decided to go with Feiler at guard over B.J. Finney who started last week against the Indianapolis Colts.

A surprise addition to the injury list on Thursday was defensive lineman Tyson Alualu who missed practice with a knee injury.

The three players who were given the day off of practice on Wednesday all returned as full participants on Thursday. Center Maurkice Pouncey, linebacker Mark Barron, and tight end Vance McDonald all appear to be ready to play on Sunday. Wide receiver Ryan Switzer missed Wednesday’s practice with a back injury but was also able to return as a full participant on Thursday.

As for the Rams injury report, it can be seen below when available. Due to the Rams being a West Coast team, injury reports will come later in the day.

A breakdown of how Minkah Fitzpatrick has been a lightning rod for the Steelers defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 1:29pm
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers gave away a lot to get Minkah Fitzpatrick, but it has been worth it.

To say there has been a lot of coverage surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is a giant understatement, but there is no one who will say the praise he has received hasn’t been deserved.

Since coming to Pittsburgh via trade with the Miami Dolphins after Week 2, many were concerned with what was surrendered to Miami for Fitzpatrick. At the time, the 2020 first round looked like it could be a Top 10 pick.

But after 0-3, and 1-4, starts to the 2019 regular season, the Steelers have righted the ship and sit at 4-4 heading into a big-time matchup with the Los Angeles Rams at Heinz Field in Week 10. A large reason for this turnaround has been the play of Fitzpatrick.

We all know about the turnovers, but what else does Fitzpatrick do which makes him such a special talent at the free safety position? NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger dove into Fitzpatrick’s 2019 tape, and explains why he has become a lightning rod for an up-and-coming defense in the NFL.

Take a look at his Baldy’s Breakdown on No. 39 for the black-and-gold:

Another @Steelers star safety?#HereWeGo again.

Minkah Fitzpatrick has 4 INT in SIX GAMES in Pittsburgh. (via @BaldyNFL) @minkfitz_21 pic.twitter.com/KDGmOTRd2t

— NFL (@NFL) November 5, 2019

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Rams in Week 10 at 4:25 p.m. ET at Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh Steelers fan confidence soars after Week 9 win over the Colts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 11:55am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base was more than happy with the win over the Colts in Week 9.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team which has had their share of ups and downs throughout the first half of the 2019 regular season. Getting demolished by New England in Week 1, losing Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2 and then trying to navigate their way through uncharted waters in the weeks following.

Offensively, the Steelers haven’t been nearly consistent enough under Mason Rudolph to increase confidence within the fan base, but defensively this unit is starting to round into form nicely. Anchored by T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Bud Dupree, the defense is creating turnovers in a way fans haven’t seen in the Mike Tomlin era, and on pace to break the 50 sack total for a third straight season.

What does this all lead to? A fan base which has had their confidence waver a time or two throughout the first eight weeks of the season. How are they feeling coming off the team’s Week 9 win over the Indianapolis Colts?

The latest FanPulse results certainly paint a pretty accurate photo of how fans truly feel:

When it comes to the data, after the Week 9 win the confidence jumped from a 49% approval rating to 70%. This marked the biggest spike in confidence this season, and you can only imagine what would happen if the Steelers are able to upset the Los Angeles Rams at Heinz Field this Sunday.

With the upcoming schedule easing up for the Steelers, after the Los Angeles game, a win Sunday would not just boost fan confidence, but put the Steelers in the driver seat when it comes to their postseason hopes and dreams. To think this would be a reality when the team faced 0-3 and 1-4 starts to the season is far fetched, yet here we are.

Let’s hope the Steelers find a way to advance to 5-4 after the completion of the third of three straight games at Heinz Field by beating the Rams at 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday.

Do you want to be a part of the BTSC Steelers FanPulse? It is easy to sign up for, and takes mere minutes a week. Simply click HERE and fill out the appropriate information!

Mike Tomlin says stats don’t tell the whole story with JuJu Smith-Schuster’s slow start

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 10:40am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were expecting a big year out of JuJu Smith-Schuster, and although there are other variables in the equation, Mike Tomlin suggests stats shouldn’t tell the whole story of Smith-Schuster’s early season production.

This offseason when the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to trade Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a 3rd and 5th round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, they were putting all their chips on No. 19. Yes, JuJu Smith-Schuster.

In the days and months that followed this move, many speculated whether Smith-Schuster would be capable of being a pure No. 1 receiver in the NFL. Would he be able to beat the coverages deployed without Brown to draw attention away from him? In other words, were his stellar numbers in his first two seasons more of a product of his situation, than him doing enough to win those weekly matchups without an All-Pro opposite him?

The Steelers have played 8 games so far in the 2019 regular season, and the verdict is still out on Smith-Schuster being “the guy”, but it isn’t necessarily all on him. During those offseason discussions of what Smith-Schuster might be as a No. 1, no one expected Mason Rudolph, and not Ben Roethlisberger, to be throwing passes the Steelers’ receivers as early as Week 3. On top of that, the Steelers tried, but failed, in bringing in a legitimate threat opposite him with the addition of Donte Moncrief via free agency this offseason. He is now a member of the Carolina Panthers.

Smith-Schuster’s stats leave a lot to be desired. Just look at Smith-Schuster’s numbers, and where he ranks among his NFL colleagues:

Receptions: 33 (51st)
Yards: 459 yards (38th)
TDs: 3 (T-32nd)
Targets: 51 (51st)
Catch %: 64.7% (124th)
Yards/Reception: 13.9 (39th)

Not really top tier receiving numbers so far this season, but head coach Mike Tomlin spoke at his weekly press conference about how statistics don’t show the whole story when talking about Smith-Schuster’s slow start.

“You know, how he’s done relative and statistics are probably two different things because it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I’ve got no issues with how he’s handled himself relative to some of those matchups, but statistics might not tell the story because a lot of things going on around him.” Tomlin said. “I like his work. I like his professionalism. I like how he wins his one on ones. Hopefully it’s a catalyst for us, in terms of getting more traction and consistently moving the ball offensively.”

When talking about moving the ball through the air, Tomlin was asked about whether how the Steelers deploy their receivers is more of a week-to-week situation, or if it just has its own peaks and valleys.

“Really it just depends on, in the short term, who’s available to us. We’ve dealt with some unique circumstances, in terms of player availability, and it dictates that personality is adjusted accordingly. When we gain some traction, in terms of player availability, maybe we can start talking about some of the things that you mentioned. In the meanwhile, we better do what it is that we can do with what we have available to us in an effort to win the game.”

For whatever reason, the quarterback, the defense or the teammates, the Steelers need JuJu Smith-Schuster to find his footing. He can’t do it alone, but if this team wants to be considered a contender at 4-4, and not just a middle-of-the-road pretender, they will need their superstars to shine bright when it matters most.

With the Los Angeles Rams coming to Heinz Field to cap off a three game home stand, the team will have to do their best to match the high powered Rams offense point for point. Having Smith-Schuster be a focal point of that equation will be vital to their success.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Rams in Week 10.

Steelers re-sign RB Darrin Hall to the practice squad, release Sutton Smith

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 9:15am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Smith’s latest stint with the Steelers lasted all of one practice

The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed running back Darrin Hall back to the practice squad and have released linebacker Sutton Smith only one practice after making the opposite move.

We have released LB Sutton Smith and re-signed RB Darrin Hall to the practice squad. pic.twitter.com/qCxF2Hrlnt

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 7, 2019

Signed the last week to the practice squad, Hall was released on Tuesday as a part of the Steelers transactions which included moving Ulysees Gilbert III to IR, promoting Robert Spillane to the 53-man roster, and signing tight end Kevin Rader and wide receiver Terry Wright to the practice squad.

On Wednesday, the Steelers announced they had signed Sutton Smith to the practice squad. Smith was a sixth-round selection by the Steelers in the 2019 draft but failed to make the roster or the practice squad out of an injury-plagued training camp. Smith was at practice on Wednesday for the Steelers as he was recorded in several pictures posted to Steelers.com.

As for Hall, he re-joined the Steelers after his college career at Pitt where he amassed over 2,000 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns in four seasons. During his senior season, Hall rushed for 1,144 yards on 153 carries and 10 touchdowns.

Exactly why the Steelers felt the need to re-sign Hall days after releasing him could be tied to their health at the running back position. While James Conner did return to practice Wednesday on a limited basis, Benny Snell Jr. has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Additionally, Trey Edmunds and fullback Roosevelt Nix both missed practice Wednesday due to injury. The only running backs available fully to the Steelers a practice on Wednesday with Jaylen Samuels and Tony Brooks-James.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, injury reports, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

Film Room: A review of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s terrible day vs. the Colts in Week 9

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 8:45am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

A special look at 2 players and what they did against the Colts.

Your regular “5 plays” film room has been interrupted this week to bring you a more in-depth analysis of the two players whose day at Heinz Field really summed up the offensive struggles of the Pittsburgh Steelers, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mason Rudolph. In this part we’ll look at Smith-Schuster and why he ended up having so little impact in this game. In part 2 we’ll look at Mason Rudolph’s day.

A near miss

The first play of the game was a 12 yard pass from Rudolph to Smith-Schuster. After 2 more plays and another first down Rudolph went back to Smith-Schuster, this time with a deep ball down the sideline.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is split out wide to the top of the screen.

A week after the youngest Steelers WR proclaimed that if it’s 1v1 he’s open Rudolph trusts him and throws a beautiful deep ball. For his part JuJu Smith-Schuster runs a good route and nearly makes the catch. The defender plays it perfectly with hand-fighting that stays in the acceptable range and defends the ball with perfect timing hitting Smith-Schuster’s arm as the ball arrives. Here’s a closer look at the defense and near catch.

The ball hits the tips of his fingers as the defender hits his arm. Perfect defense there and still a near big play. That’s the kind of play that tells you to try it again, because the CB was close to pass interference there and the play almost worked anyway. So after a loss on a run play Mason Rudolph goes back to JuJu Smith-Schuster, his third target on the first drive of the game.

A costly miss

Smith-Schuster is lined up outside to the top of the screen.

This is just a nice simple hook route attacking a small gap in the Colts modified zone look that shows up a good amount in this game where JuJu Smith-Schuster has a shadow. Rudolph does a good job of looking right to start and then coming back to Smith-Schuster. The problem is the throw is into a tight window and Rudolph misses it. Here’s a better look.

You can see that this is hook route here, not an in-cut. That ball should be in his chest or lower. There are numerous defenders around him, there’s no chance for YAC and he’s past the first down marker, the pass should lead him to the ground. You can see Smith-Schuster drop his body and arm as he’s looking to find the ball. He sees it is high, jumps and extends but his hands aren’t there in time and only contact the back half of the ball.

I know the rule is that if you tough the ball you have to catch it, but Smith-Schuster can’t really do better than this here. He has great reflexes and hand speed, but that ball was on time and too far away from where it should have been for a catch. This is why you don’t throw this route high. If Rudolph leads his receiver to the ground there’s almost no chance for an interception, but any ball tipped up here is a likely pick.

After this play JuJu Smith-Schuster would only be targeted twice for the rest of the game. Mason Rudolph didn’t throw to his #1 WR again for 22 minutes of game time. Three targets in the first three minutes and two more over the next 57 minutes.

Another turnover

The next time Smith-Schuster was targeted was on 4th and 2 with the Steelers trailing 10-3.

This time he is behind the line right next to Alejandro Villanueva.

The television crew said Mason Rudolph was late getting rid of the ball, but that’s not why this didn’t work. Look at B.J. Finney pulling from LG, Darrius Leonard is his responsibility but for some reason he changes targets and runs out of the play enough that Smith-Schuster’s best shot is to just crash into the line and hope for the best. Even if Finney seals Leonard inside this play isn’t getting the first down here, because Ryan Switzer acts like a teenager forced to give their younger sibling a hug as he deftly evades blocking his man, then turns around to look and see if it worked. Even with those fails, if Matt Feiler had successfully driven his man instead of slipping off of him the play might have done something in-spite of the other blocks that didn’t happen. Three blocks that didn’t happen end with the Colts getting the ball back.

Fortunately for the Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick decided that if the offense couldn’t finish a drive he would do it for them as he scored on the Colts ensuing possession with the longest Interception return for a TD since the Steelers first year as a franchise.

Can’t buy a target

For the last play of part 1 here’s a play from the first quarter, on this drive Trey Edmunds breaks a 45 yard run, James Washington makes a sick catch and the Steelers end up with 3rd down on the Colts 3 yard line.

JuJu Smith-Schuter is in the slot to the top of the screen, he goes into motion right before the snap.

This play is designed to get Smith-Schuster an easy reception after running through the line with a chance to fight for the TD. It doesn’t go well. The timing of the motion and the snap is clearly off, Smith-Schuster has to run around Villanueva and the whole play falls apart. Rudolph is dealing with a DE when his target finally makes it through the line and the defense has time to close on the play before Rudolph has a clean look at Smith-Schuster. From there Rudolph just scrambles and throws the ball away.

This play is a good summation of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s day. He had one good target that he turned into a 12 yard catch on the first play of the game, and from then on his day just got worse and worse. To get a complete view of the offense’s nightmare of a game we’ll need to look at Mason Rudolph’s day, so stay tuned for part 2.

3 games to watch in Week 10 which give perspective on the Steelers future opponents

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 7:30am
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There are several NFL games this week which will help shape the perception of teams the Steelers take on later in 2019

It took until the eighth game of the season, but the Steelers eventually won a game against the team with a winning record when they defeated the Indianapolis Colts 26-24 last Sunday. Yes, they were a lot of other circumstances in the game which could cause some fans to not enjoy the victory for what it was. But when the number in the win column increases, it is always a good thing.

With only half the season remaining, the match ups between teams who the Steelers still need to face will become fewer and fewer. There are several interesting matchups in Week 10 which have teams facing off who the Steelers have already played both teams, but unless it’s against an AFC North opponent it doesn’t really mean much to the Steelers moving forward. So the requirement of both teams being on the Steeler schedule has now been suspended as we’ll look at three different games which combined involve all but one of the Steelers remaining opponents.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at 1:00 PM on CBS

If going by what the Vegas sports books tell us, this game should send fans down the “esca-loser” before halftime. But anytime it’s an AFC North matchup, you never know quite what to expect from teams who are large underdogs. With the Bengals benching Andy Dalton and currently in line for the number one draft pick in 2020, it’s tough to see a scenario where they are motivated enough to upset the Ravens. With the Steelers playing the Bengals in week 12, it will give the first glimpse at how they fare with their new quarterback.

Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns Sunday 1:00 PM on CBS

Is anybody else surprised that the Browns are favored by three points in this game? I know I am. Cleveland looks to be a hot mess right now after falling to the Broncos who were starting a new quarterback for the injured Joe Flacco. If the Browns fall to the Bills on Sunday, they have basically completely taken themselves out of any possible playoff contention. Even if they could win their last seven games, 9-7 is not a guarantee for a wildcard. Since the Steelers play the Browns on a short week next Thursday, this matchup is more focused on Cleveland than Buffalo since the Steelers will face the Browns twice before meeting the Bills in Week 15.

Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at 1:00 PM on FOX

With no other matchups between two teams remaining on the Steeler schedule, the next most important game would be with the closest opponent not already covered. The Steelers face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14 in Phoenix, hence why this game was chosen over the Jets versus the Giants. I feel the Cardinals are still one of those teams that are very hard to figure out exactly what you’re going to get. So taking note of how they play in the weeks leading up to their matchup could help determine what the Steelers will be facing in the desert in December.

So there are the three other NFL matchups which can give Steelers’ fans an indication as to the quality of upcoming opponents in 2019. While each week is a different game and upsets due to certain matchups are bound to happen, the greater the body of work each team puts on the field can help to draw better conclusions.

So which of these games on Sunday will be the most telling as it pertains to the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers schedule moving forward? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

Posing some Steelers Burning Questions surrounding Bud Dupree, and his future

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 6:39am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a good problem on their hands, and we have some questions which need answered.

Don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have themselves a pair of legit outside linebackers! T.J. Watt is having himself another fine season, but what is happening on the other end of the defense?

I’ll tell you what!!!!!

Bud Dupree has finally arrived.

At the halfway point of the season Dupree has 6 Sacks, 8 TFL, 9 QB hits, 2 PD, 2 FF and 1 FR. In comparison to T.J. Watt’s season who has 7.5 Sacks, 7 TFL, 20 QB hits, 3 PD, 3 FF, 3 FR and 1 INT. Like I said, Watt is having himself another solid year, but now he has help opposite him.

Let’s answer some burning questions surrounding one specific player: Mr. Alvin “Bud” Dupree...

Question 1 - There was a change in coaching with Joey Porter moving on to his life’s work and Keith Butler taking over that position group. Is it just coincidence or was Porter the one that was holding Bud from reaching this current level of play? How much credit does Keith Butler get in this situation?

Question 2 - This question has to be asked, simply because. How much of this early success is attributed to it being the contract year?

Question 3 - Quite simply, what is Bud doing different? Is there improved technique? Is he finally healthy? Tell me what you are seeing.

Question 4 - The season has provided us, the fans, with some unusual activity. The team traded up in the draft for Devin Bush. An in season trade that involved using a future first round pick. So I ask this question with that in mind, would the Steelers try and sign Dupree to an extension during this season? As a fan would you be on board if the Steelers break yet another norm and extend Bud in season?

Question 5 - If your answer is no to question #4. Do the Steelers sign Bud during the Free Agency period and would you be on board for that if they can work a deal?

Question 6 - At the half way point Bud has 6 sacks. How many does he end up with at the end of the year.

My Thoughts

I have been a critic of the former first rounder, waiting on this breakout, so to speak, and I am a tad bit skeptical of “the contract year” production. I was a fan of Porter the player, but not Porter the coach and I believe Butler has changed up the approach or at least improved it. I see better hand usage and his path to the ball has crispness, no rounding off, if that makes sense. He’s playing in control of his body.

The defense is much improved, not quite there yet, but it is fun to see that side of the ball getting after it. With that said I wouldn’t have an issue if Bud and “The Brass” could work something out during the season. Yeah I know, the Steelers never do that. Until it happens - hello Devin and Minkah. Realistically, chances are Bud is playing his last season in Pittsburgh.

Bud finishes the year with 11 sacks and for the first time in a long time the Steelers have a pair of double-digit EDGE Rushers.

As always, GO STEELERS!!

Podcast: Are the Pittsburgh Steelers officially “back”?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 5:30am

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

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

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • A look ahead to the Los Angeles Rams
  • Diagnosing the issues with the Steelers using statistics
  • Predictions
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Mike Tomlin and the Steelers will try to minimize Aaron Donald’s impact Sunday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 4:31am
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are moving into Week 10 of the NFL regular season, and as the team prepares for the Los Angeles Rams this week we continue to provide you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over until the next game starts!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the team will have to try their best to minimize the impact Aaron Donald will have on the upcoming game in Week 10.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Aaron Donald is a bad man, and the Steelers, like all opponents the Rams face, will have to come up with a solid plan to limit the destruction Donald delivers week in and week out.

Tomlin, Steelers bracing for Rams superstar D-lineman Aaron Donald

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Rams are making their first visit to Pittsburgh in eight seasons, and after all of the accolades Donald has earned — five Pro Bowl selections in as many seasons and back-to-back NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards — he will make his debut Sunday at Heinz Field as a visiting player.

Tomlin spent a significant portion of his weekly news conference Tuesday talking about Donald and the impact he has made for the Rams, who have won two in a row and, at 5-3, occupy third place in the NFC West a year after they advanced to the Super Bowl.

“Any discussions start with minimizing Aaron Donald and the ways he can control and dominate a game,” Tomlin said.

And then Tomlin listed the attributes that helped Donald lead the NFL with 201⁄2 sacks in 2018, when he was named the NFL’s top defensive player for the second year in a row.

“They move him around a lot,” Tomlin said. “All you have to do is look at his sack reel, and it illustrates that. He’s got sacks against right guards, against left guards, against left tackles. This guy moves up and down the line of scrimmage.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers realize a second half surge will come down to Mike Tomlin leading his team to the best of his ability.

Kevin Gorman: Steelers counting on Mike Tomlin to be catalyst for second-half surge

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Moments before Mike Tomlin’s weekly news conference Tuesday, ESPN’s First Take debated whether the Pittsburgh Steelers coach should be the NFL Coach of the Year.

Only a month ago, the same show wondered whether the Washington Redskins should give Tomlin complete control. And some suggested the Steelers should let him walk, given they started 1-4 and this looked like a lost season.

So take that for what it’s worth.

I can imagine some football fans would have the same reaction to that midseason hot take as Tomlin did to a question about the Steelers’ freefall from having the NFL’s best red-zone offense at 73.5% last season to ranking 28th (38.1%) this year.

“What do you think?” Tomlin said, doubling over with laughter at the podium in one of the season’s lighter moments at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “We’re still writing our story, but you can come to whatever conclusion you want about our lack of productivity in that area. I’m not going to take a whole lot of time outlining that.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Think there is something wrong with JuJu Smith-Schuster? Mike Tomlin suggests stats don’t tell the whole story.

Mike Tomlin: Stats don’t tell whole story for JuJu Smith-Schuster

By: Josh Alper, ProFootballTalk

One of the questions the Steelers faced this offseason was how wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster would fare as the No. 1 receiver in the wake of Antonio Brown’s departure.

If one were to go strictly by the numbers, it hasn’t gone well. Smith-Schuster had 111 catches for 1,426 yards last season, but is on pace for 66 catches and 918 yards this season. He’s been held under 20 receiving yards three times this season.

Any discussion of Smith-Schuster’s production has to take into account the loss of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to an elbow injury in the second game of the regular season. Accordingly, head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that his assessment of the wideout’s play isn’t rooted solely in the statistical realm.

“I have no issues with how he has handled himself in some of those matchups,” Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Statistics might not tell the story because of a lot of things going on around him. I like his work. I like his professionalism. I like how he wins his one-on-ones. Hopefully, it’s a catalyst for us getting more traction and consistently moving the ball offensively.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

Make plays all day long.#SightsNSounds pic.twitter.com/pb6KauGY34

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 6, 2019

Good things happen when the #Vanimal gets loose pic.twitter.com/yUfuyfAsql

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 6, 2019

In the third video of a series, author Jim Rooney discusses the impact that Chuck Noll, Joe Gordon, & Bill Nunn made on the #Steelers organization in his book ‘A Different Way To Win.’

FULL : https://t.co/4XofsmmYO0@ADiffWay2Win pic.twitter.com/FgoiifNXVL

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 6, 2019

@JamesConner_ on winning the Ed Block Courage Award: "This award, it means a lot because my teammates are the ones who voted me for this." pic.twitter.com/wJNCjziXxs

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 5, 2019

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