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I’m kind of disappointed the NFL didn’t adopt the ‘gimmicky’ alternative onside kick rule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 6:45am

The proposed onside kick alternative didn’t pass last week at the annual owners meeting. But maybe a tweak here and there will make it appealing enough for the NFL to adopt in the not so distant future.

Normally, when I hear the plethora of new rule proposals the NFL is considering each and every offseason, I roll my eyes and sometimes even say to myself or out loud, “Come on, Coach T (Mike Tomlin is a member of the NFL’s competition committee that meets each spring in conjunction with the annual owners’ meeting), give these officials a break! Don’t they already have literally too much to focus on every regular season/postseason?”

However, the AAF (the Alliance of American Football), a new football league that began play immediately after the Super Bowl, adopted an alternative to the onside kick, where, instead of using the unpredictable bounce of a kicked football, a team would have one crack to convert on “fourth and 12” in-order to retain possession.

When I heard that rule, I was not only intrigued, I was hoping the NFL would consider adopting it for the 2019 season at its aforementioned annual meeting that took place last week in Phoenix, Arizona.

The NFL's version of this rule, one that was heavily championed by the Denver Broncos and would have granted a team that was trailing late in a game a shot at converting on “fourth and 15,” was unfortunately voted down by the owners.

Why? Maybe most of them were of the same opinion as Giants co-owner John Mara, who considered it ‘Too gimmicky,’ in a quote courtesy of NFL.com.

I guess I can see that. However, weren’t they saying similar things about the AFL way back in the 1960s? And didn’t many of the “gimmicks” utilized by that league ultimately shape the future of the NFL?

I know an alternative to the onside kick could have breathed some new life into something that is now in very critical condition following the many rules changes aimed at player safety in recent years. According to NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman, from 1992-2017, onside kicks were recovered at a rate of 21.2 percent. But in 2018, the rate was a very sparse 7.7 percent.

Maybe in its proposed form, the new onside kick alternative would have put way too much pressure on defenses whose job in the modern NFL is already difficult enough. If you’re a head coach who just saw his team’s lead shrink thanks to a three-play, 80-yard drive by Aaron Rodgers, would you want to give him one more play to pick up another 15 yards? I’d much rather take my chances with my “hands team” trying to recover one of those unpredictable bounces.

In today’s NFL, your average franchise quarterback can pick up 15 yards in his sleep—or at least at a much higher rate than your average kicker can actually perform a decent enough onside kick so as to give his guys a chance to recover it. Therefore, the burden on opposing defenses would just be too great. However, if you increased the yardage to gain to 25, now you’ve got yourself a rule that would be perfect in my opinion.

Yeah, sure, 25 yards seems almost impossible to pick up in most cases, but not likely as impossible as trying to gain possession via an onside kick. The defense would still be at a huge advantage, but a team trailing late in a game would at least have a puncher’s chance of maintaining possession after a score.

According to the Jeremy Bergman article I’ve referenced a few times, the competition committee was very much in-favor of this onside kick alternative. Therefore, maybe they can work out the bugs between now and next spring.

And maybe the NFL can pass a new rule that won’t have me ruling my eyes or talking out loud to myself.

Podcast: Mike Tomlin speaks, and Ben Roethlisberger reportedly ends his radio show

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 5:34am

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 season is over, but the news is just 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, including a fun game of “True or False!”

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Comments made from Head Coach Mike Tomlin
  • Ben Roethlisberger reportedly ending his weekly radio show
  • The other trades/transactions which took place this week
  • 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: The Steelers hit-and-miss strategy with drafting linebackers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 4:27am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Pittsburgh Steelers have had some hits, and some misses, under Kevin Colbert when drafting linebackers in the NFL Draft.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Everyone in Steelers Nation wants the team to draft a linebacker in the first round, but history shows the Steelers have been very hit-or-miss when doing this in the draft process.

Analysis: Bad luck, bad drafting left Steelers short on talent at linebacker

By: Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It’s been mostly fear and loathing in Pittsburgh when it comes to the linebacker position over the past five years or so. The once proud position of the defense that produced All-Pros annually fell on hard times, and it’s been plenty of hard luck that got them there.

The Steelers do have one shining star on the rise in T.J. Watt at left outside linebacker. He made his first Pro Bowl in his second season in 2018 while leading the team with 13 sacks. Otherwise, it’s been tough luck and poor drafting for the past several years.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • While the most noise surrounding the possible changes of the NFL rules was the fact pass interference can now be a challenged play, there were other rules which were changed worth noting.

NFL owners reject onside kick alternative proposal

By: Jeremy Bergman, NFL.com

However, these playing rules were adopted:

1. By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the kickoff rule changes that were implemented during the 2018 season.

2. By Competition Committee; Expands protection to a defenseless player.

3. By Competition Committee; Changes the enforcement of double fouls when there is a change of possession.

4. By Competition Committee; Simplifies the application of scrimmage kick rules for missed field goals.

5. By Competition Committee; Allows teams to elect to enforce on the succeeding try or on the succeeding free kick an opponent’s personal or unsportsmanlike conduct foul committed during a touchdown.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • There was actually some talk the Steelers could open the season by playing the Patriots in Foxborough for the opening Thursday night game. This has happened before, and most fans despise the thought, but it seems if the Steelers were to play New England, it wouldn’t be until Sunday night. Why? The NFL is opening the season with the 100th anniversary of Bears vs. Packers.

NFL season to open with Packers-Bears

By: Associated Press

Usually, the Super Bowl champion is the home team for the prime-time opener, but the league wants to salute historic rivalries in 2019. None fits better than Chicago-Green Bay. The teams have met 198 times since 1921, when the Bears were the Chicago Staleys. Green Bay leads the series 97-95-6, including the clubs splitting two postseason games.

Staging the Thursday night game at Chicago’s Soldier Field — even if it is a modernized version of the stadium — adds to the theme. There will be a free fan festival and concert in nearby Grant Park and, for the first time, the league has approved a free viewing event of the game in the park.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Mike Tomlin has had a lot of “Tomlinisms” in his tenure with the Steelers, and sometimes it is disappointing to hear him use the same ones over and over again. This was the case when he referred to both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell regards to wanting ‘volunteers’ and not ‘hostages’. Despite my disappointment, the crux of the comments remain true.

Tomlin on Brown, Bell: ‘Can’t do this with hostages’

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

“I’ve just taken the position that we’ve taken as an organizational standpoint — that we can’t do this with hostages,” Tomlin said. “We need volunteers. We need good players and good guys who want to be there. If guys can’t check those boxes, it’s probably best for all involved that we go our separate ways. That’s the only thing that’s appropriate to say about that circumstance and Le’Veon Bell’s circumstance. It’s been highly chronicled, perhaps too chronicled. I think some things have been said that may or may not be true. All I know is that neither one of those guys are members of our team anymore. I understand that and what that means, and we focus our energies on those who are and their readiness and preparation.”

In that respect, Tomlin feels comfortable with his team moving forward. While Brown and Bell have been two of the best players in the league at their respective positions, both caused more than their share of headaches, as well.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Madness

Franco's got jokes.

: @francoharrishof pic.twitter.com/CdG40kIfME

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 30, 2019

Former Steelers WR Limas Sweed is suing NCAA for concussions suffered in college

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 1:15pm

The former wide receiver is seeking $5 million in damages from a lawsuit filed against the NCAA

After a productive career at the University of Texas, while much was expected of Limas Sweed when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second-round of the 2008 NFL Draft, the wide receiver would find himself out of the league after just three years.

A disappointing debut as a rookie was followed by an equally underwhelming second season, one that would end with Sweed being placed on the reserve/non-football injury/illness list for “personal reasons”. An achilles injury would see him miss all of 2010 after he was placed on injured reserve and he would finally be released the following year.

However, since his unsuccessful attempts to latch on with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2012, and more recently with the Ottawa Redblacks in 2014, very little had been heard of from the former Steelers receiver until this week.

As per a report from TMZ Sports, Sweed has now filed a lawsuit against the NCAA seeking $5 million in damages for their failure to sufficiently protect their players from the effects of concussions, citing fraud, negligence and a breach of contract.

“While playing at Texas, [Sweed] suffered from numerous concussions, as well as countless sub-concussive hits as part of routine practice and gameplay.”

“Sweed says when he took a large blow to the head, he would be sent back into the game (or practice) after an “inadequate amount of time.”

“As a result of repeated damage he took, Sweed now claims he suffers from depression, headaches, memory loss, mood swings, emotional instability, motor impairment and more.”

“Sweed claims his pain is a “direct and proximate result of [the NCAA’s] negligence.””

This lawsuit is just one of more than 300 such claims that the NCAA is currently facing, according to a report from Ralph Russo of the Associated Press, with multiple players alleging their concussions were mistreated or misdiagnosed, a mistake that has lead to headaches, depression and even the early onset of Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease.

Report: Michigan LB Devin Bush will be Steelers selection in Round 1 if available

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 11:25am

Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst reports that the Steelers are zeroing in on Devin Bush in the first-round, with Texas A&M linebacker Tyrel Dodson their backup option

While the NFL Draft is still four weeks away, it would appear that the Pittsburgh Steelers might have already tipped their hand about the player that interests them the most.

As per Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst when speaking on the site’s podcast earlier in the week, Pittsburgh sent a significant number of staff members to watch Michigan linebacker Devin Bush workout at his pro day, apparently making no effort to hide their obvious interest in him.

“This should come as a surprise to no one, but a Michigan coach, right after pro day, told me it looked like the Pittsburgh Steelers had ten coaches and scouts on hand for the Michigan pro day and they were all crowding around Bush the entire workout. Now, while the number of Steelers personnel people on hand at the pro day was probably an exaggeration, his point was not lost on me, and that is all signs point to the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting Devin Bush in the first round, if he’s available to them.”

“Kevin Colbert, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was on hand for the Texas A&M pro day, and I’m told the team likes both Aggie linebackers Tyrel Dodson and Otaro Alaka. So I can see, if the Steelers lose out on Devin Bush in Round 1, maybe targeting Tyrel Dodson during the second day of the draft.”

“Dodson is a fast pursuit linebacker who’s not just a straight line guy. In fact I think he’s probably better latterly sideline to sideline than Devin Bush, I know a lot of people are going to disagree, but I think he’s got better range. He’s not as explosive, he’s not as hard hitting, he’s not as stout against the run, but I think he’s a better pursuit linebacker. So again, if they can’t get Bush in Round 1, they look at Dodson in Round 2 and they may have somebody in either of those guys to replace Ryan Shazier down the road.”

The Steelers potential interest in Bush will hardly be news to anyone, but the extent of their infatuation was less obvious before his pro day. And while Colbert’s trip to College Station for the Texas A&M pro day was no secret, his attendance does support Pauline’s suggestion that Pittsburgh has significant interest in Tyrel Dodson as well.

KAGS Sports has arrived at Texas A&M Pro Day. A representative from all 32 NFL teams is here. Pittsburgh GM Kevin Colbert and San Antonio Commanders GM Daryl Johnston are also in attendance to see nearly 20 Aggies workout. #GigEm pic.twitter.com/ndOp096F2U

— Justin Woodard (@KAGS_Justin) March 26, 2019

Given the current hype surrounding Bush, it seems increasingly unlikely that he will still be available to them with the 20th selection, and if Pittsburgh really wants him, it might require trading away some draft capital from the later rounds to guarantee his selection.

A Letter From the Editor: Avoid the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Draft let down

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 9:41am

Save yourself the frustration and anger by preparing yourself for a very normal Steelers NFL Draft.

Every NFL franchise is almost identical when it comes to the NFL Draft. Every fan believes deep down they could do better...no matter what.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, who enter the 2019 Draft with 10 picks, black-and-gold faithful have their hopes on a draft day trade to move up and get themselves a Devin. You know, Devin Bush or Devin White.

Most believe White, the LSU standout linebacker, would require a king’s ransom to move up and obtain, while Bush, the athletic Michigan linebacker, wouldn’t require as much compensation to climb up the board to have him try to fill the void still left by Ryan Shazier.

I have to admit, it is all so tantalizing. The thought of making a big trade on draft day to get a player who could change the complexity of the team overnight. To be quite frank, the last time the Steelers made a big trade like that was in 2003 when Bill Cowher decide to trade up and draft some safety from USC named Troy Polamalu.

Polamalu was a transcendent player, and there are some who believe the Devins, especially White, would fall into that same category.

But what Steelers fans should prepare themselves for is a lot of the usual.

You know...doing nothing.

On our Steelers Preview podcast Thursday night, you can listen to the show in the player below, Dave Schofield brought up this topic. Fans should prepare for the Steelers to not make a big marquee trade in the opening round, and also shouldn’t hope for them to trade back if the prospects aren’t there.

I’m not saying there is no chance this happens, but this is more about your expectations. Don’t expect the Steelers to make a trade, because if it doesn’t happen you won’t find yourself throwing your cell phone into your television.

On top of tempering your expectations regarding a draft day trade, you should always keep a small amount of trust with whatever the Steelers do on draft day.

Have they had their swing-and-misses? All you have to say is Jarvis Jones and fans will shudder at the thought. Then again, there have been those picks which have fans scratching their heads at the time, but paying huge dividends. Remember what everyone thought when JuJu Smith-Schuster was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft? Who the heck is this kid?!

Turned out okay, didn’t it?

To come full circle here, we all think we could do better, but there are some times when you need to just sit back and watch. Don’t fall for the knee jerk reactions, but let things play out. Sometimes the gamble doesn’t pay off, ahem Artie Burns, but other times it does, look at Vince Williams.

Avoid the let down by tempering your expectations for what will happen on draft day/night...after all, no on really knows how the chips will fall when the picks start flying off the board.

Report: Ben Roethlisberger to stop doing his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan in 2019

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 7:57am

The Pittsburgh Steelers QB is reportedly giving up his weekly radio show in 2019.

This offseason, almost all of the news Pittsburgh Steelers fans have heard about Ben Roethlisberger is almost always negative. Players, both current and former, bashing the quarterback as a teammate and leader left and right.

Roethlisberger has wisely stayed silent throughout the madness, but the best news surrounding No. 7, at least for the vast fan base, is the report Roethlisberger and his weekly radio show with 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh will be ending their relationship this season.

According to multiple sources, #Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is expected to relinquish his regular radio show in Pittsburgh prior to next season.

Roethlisberger is hoping that it helps his standing with teammates.

— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) March 30, 2019

Per Matt Verderame, Roethlisberger is hopeful him cutting the proverbial chord on his show will help improve his standing with teammates. I would think so considering Roethlisberger has used the platform to publicly criticize teammates, and coaches, in the past.

However, if this report is true it at last shows a willingness of Roethlisberger to change his past behaviors for the betterment of the team. It might be a small change, but a big change when it comes to the amount of drama and turmoil which was caused by the show.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they continue through the offseason and prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft.

Everything I’ve learned about the 2019 NFL Draft, so far

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 6:20am

With a month to go before the 2019 NFL Draft, I’ve finally started studying the prospects and mocks. Here’s what I’ve learned (so far).

The 2019 NFL Draft is about a month away, and I’ve finally started to pay attention to it.

“Why?” you may ask. Why am I, a responsible Steelers writer, only just now starting to pay attention to all things draft-related—including prospects and mocks? I’ll ask you a question: do you pay attention to a weather forecast three weeks out, or do you wait until a day or two before it’s scheduled to hit your area? You know as well as I do that no matter how many simulated models those meteorologists study, they ain’t gonna know the real force and potential destruction of Hurricane Kyler until about two days before he hits land.

Anyway, this draft coverage strategy of mine is nothing new. You can accuse me of being lazy if you want. And I get that, especially if you’re one of those draftniks (or is it nuts?) who starts studying it right after the season.....well, you never stop, really—you may even be working on your very first 2020 mock draft as we speak.

However, I’m different than you. When the Steelers season is over, I like to keep watching the NFL. Believe it or not, I’m into the other teams still fighting for the Lombardi trophy (assuming Pittsburgh’s last game wasn’t the Super Bowl). And, all the while, I’m writing about the fall-out of the just concluded Steelers season; what went wrong? Who will they sign in free agency? What free agents of theirs will they not bring back? Also, in case you haven’t noticed, drama has been a very big part of this offseason and many previous offseasons—and that, my friend, is ripe with countless angles (mainly involving Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell) to write about.

But enough about all that. Let’s talk about the 2019 NFL Draft. What things have I learned (so far) after finally starting my research?

—I can’t believe how many defensive linemen/outside linebackers/edge pass-rushers are likely to be drafted with the top 15 or 20 picks—especially the top 10. This is actually nothing new, but it really seems to be a thing this year. Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Ed Oliver, Rashan Gary, etc., etc. Yes, perhaps this year more than most, there’s definitely a premium on finding the guys who can wreak havoc on the guys who pass the ball.

—Again, defense usually dominates the draft, with most of the can’t-miss prospects getting snatched up well-before the middle of the first round. Gee, why haven’t the Steelers—with an average draft position of 23 under Mike Tomlin—been able to rebuild their defense into the dominant unit it was in the 2000s?

—While there is a premium on pass-rushers once again this year, there doesn’t seem to be a surplus of inside linebackers, with the Devin twins (White and Bush) both likely to be off the board well before Pittsburgh is scheduled to pick at 20. With Devin White and Devin Bush as the only sure-fire first-round picks at inside linebacker, it may behoove the Steelers to try and move up to draft their man. And if they’re not willing to move up in the first round, maybe the Steelers can find a way to move up into the early portion of the second round (they do have 10 draft picks at their disposal) to select Alabama’s Mack Wilson. Either way, much like a season ago, it is highly unlikely Pittsburgh will be able to address the inside linebacker position by sitting idly by.

—Unlike recent draft classes, there isn’t a ton of hype for this year’s crop of quarterbacks. However, that’s not likely to prevent prospects such as Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock from being drafted higher than they perhaps deserve.

—Speaking of which, just one year after drafting Josh Rosen with the 10th pick (a pretty big investment in the quarterback position), the Arizona Cardinals are expected to take Murray—all 5’10” of him—first, over all. What does that mean? It means that once you find a quarterback who can play, you keep signing him to lucrative contract extensions until the wheels (his arm) fall off.

—This should actually be a good year for the Steelers to address a need in the first round with a great value selection at a position other than inside linebacker. From what I’ve seen, Pittsburgh should have its choice of receiver and/or cornerback at 20—and it likely won’t be a reach.

There you have it, what I’ve learned about the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft (so far).

Black and Gold Links: Steven Nelson’s versatility was the most attractive characteristic for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 5:16am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how it was Steven Nelson’s versatility which caught the eye of Mike Tomlin before the team pulled the trigger on the free agent cornerback.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Steven Nelson wasn’t a household name when the Steelers made him their highest paid free agent in franchise history, and Mike Tomlin spoke about what drew Nelson to the black-and-gold.

Mike Tomlin excited to add Steven Nelson’s versatility to Steelers secondary

By: Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“I’ve always been high on Steve Nelson,” Tomlin said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa. “We liked his versatility, which was first displayed to us at the Senior Bowl. That’s the first time we saw him play inside. He only played outside at Oregon State. That was intriguing to us.”

Nelson began his career as a slot corner but was moved to the outside in Kansas City, where he started 38 of 40 games the past three seasons. He finished tied for third in 2018 in passes defensed (17), behind only New England’s Stephon Gilmore (25) and Chicago’s Kyle Fuller (22), both Pro Bowl selections.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • What exactly should the Steelers faithful think of Mark Barron? Is he the answer at inside linebacker? Or is he just another guy who is an insurance policy while the team still searches for Ryan Shazier’s replacement?

Carter’s Classroom: Barron the Band-Aid in coverage

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

Mark Barron made his NFL reputation by converting from safety to linebacker after being traded from the Buccaneers to the Rams in 2014. When the Steelers signed him at two years for $12 million, they made an important upgrade at inside linebacker.

But a closer look at his better highlights and recent play helps us understand where Barron’s a good fit in Keith Butler‘s defense and where he is a liability:

Dale Lolley was right when he called Barron a ‘hybrid‘ last week, because that’s exactly how Barron plays. But don’t mistake Barron for a player like Morgan Burnett that was supposed to play like an in-the-box safety — Barron can play as a legitimate linebacker that helps against the run and the pass.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Was the NFL’s decision to have pass interference a play which can be subject to reply nothing more than a knee jerk reaction?

Mark Madden: NFL’s knee-jerk decision is misguided overreaction

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The NFL has added pass interference calls (and non-calls) to the list of officiating decisions that are subject to a coach’s challenge. The Steelers’ Mike Tomlin is 0-for-2-years on such requests, so this provides additional ways for him to screw up.

Each coach is still allowed just two challenges per game, and a third if he gets one correct. (Not that Tomlin has to worry about the latter.) The booth can opt to review any play in the final two minutes.

This is grotesque overreaction to a bad non-call that put the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII instead of New Orleans. It’s hard to forget the Saints were hard done by, especially with their entire fan base whining non-stop since. Making interference subject to review is predicated on that event, and nothing else.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Madness

T.J. Watt will have _____ sacks in 2019. pic.twitter.com/0vWaWIimbB

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 29, 2019

Troy. #fbf pic.twitter.com/obzfLie6bX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 30, 2019

#HappyBirthday | @Dat_Dude_Nix pic.twitter.com/0uX4yDrXML

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 31, 2019

Steelers staff members on hand for pro days at Arizona State, Maryland, UCF, Memphis and more

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/30/2019 - 1:15pm

We take a look at where the Steelers scouts have been for the last full week of pro day events in 2019

The college pro day schedule is almost at an end for 2019, with only a handful of teams still left to hold their events this year. Thanks to the annual owners meeting, both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert were unavailable for some of the pro days held last week, but that did not limited the number of events that members of the Pittsburgh Steelers attended.

Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake was the man of the ground for the Steelers at the Arizona State pro day on Wednesday, seen talking on the sidelines with N’Keal Harry.

pic.twitter.com/0SLZ8btwr8

— Brad Denny (@BDenny29) March 27, 2019

According to Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst, offensive coordinator Randy Fitchner was among the names in attendance for the Memphis pro day.

“Running backs coaches from the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens were on hand for Memphis’ pro day, and so too was Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fitchner.”

The Steelers also had a scout on hand to watch the workouts at Maryland, with Pauline suggesting Pittsburgh continues to show interest in Darnell Savage.

“The New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers are showing a lot of interest in Savage, who will be a top-75 choice.”

“While I understand the Panthers’ interest, as I previously posted the team will load up on safeties in the draft, the interest from the Jets and Steelers surprised me. The Steelers took a safety in the first round last year, while the Jets took two safeties in the top 40 picks in 2017. I was later told the belief is that Savage could transition to cornerback, so the interest from the Steelers and Jets made more sense in that light.”

So far I’ve seen members of the #Steelers, #Dolphins, #Eagles, #Bills, #Saints, #Chargers, #Panthers, #Falcons, #Lions, #Cardinals, #HTTR, #Bears, #Jaguars, #Bengals and #Raiders are here at #Terps pro day

— Rhiannon Walker (@InstantRHIplay) March 27, 2019

And another in attendance for the UCF pro day on Tuesday.

#NFL scouts filing in at #UCF Pro Day. Here’s who here thus far:
Philadelphia Eagles
Tennessee Titans
Atlanta Falcons
Indianapolis Colts
New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins
Kansas City Chiefs
Pittsburgh Steelers
Houston Texans
And more to come

— Anthony Abruzzo (@abruzzo_ant) March 26, 2019

Safety Terrell Edmunds was among the former alumni taking in the sights of the Virginia Tech pro day on Friday.

Terrell Edmunds at the Virginia Tech pro day today. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/yOoPOcgNQC

— Blitzburgh (@Steel_Curtain4) March 29, 2019

With Washington cornerback Byron Murphy set to have his pro day on Monday, it should be expected that the Steelers will have a significant presence on hand to watch his workout if he really is in play for them in the first-round. The final pro day events of the offseason will be held on Thursday at Eastern Washington and Stanford.

The NFL’s new challenge system for pass interference is good but not perfect

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/30/2019 - 12:04pm

I like the NFL’s decision to allow coaches to challenge plays involving pass interference. What I don’t like is the automatic reviews of such plays inside of two minutes.

Rejoice! For the second year in a row, a Steelers season that was totally compromised thanks to an official’s blunder was retroactively corrected by a rule change.

Actually, they don’t do that in the NFL—in any sports league, really. But one year after making a reception more about common sense and less about “surviving the ground,” the NFL announced last week that pass interference penalties, along with the ones that perhaps should have been called but weren’t, will be subject to replay review. This change, one that is on a one-year probationary period for the 2019 season, was made official at the annual owner’s meeting where the league’s competition committee also gathers each and every spring to bring us new rules that always seem to come a few months too late.

In case you haven’t studied the new rule, it will allow coaches to challenge plays where pass interference may or may not have been called. The good part of this rule—in my humble opinion, at least—is there won’t be an extra “Pass Interference Flag” provided for coaches to use in such situations. No. Instead, Mike Tomlin and his colleagues will be forced to burn one of the two challenge flags they get each game for things like catches.

Say, it’s early in the first quarter, and the Saints just had an initial drive kept alive by an egregious pass interference call on Joe Haden. Would Tomlin want to use one of his challenge flags right then and there, or would he want to save his challenges for a more critical time later on?

It adds an additional element to an already intriguing part of game-day strategy—to challenge, or not to challenge: that is the question.

I like it. Hey, you want to challenge pass interference—a rule that is a total judgement call? Fine. To be clear, I think it should be subject to review. Too many games have been altered one way or another because of these total judgement calls. However, the last thing the NFL needs is for EVERY questionable pass interference call—or non-call—to be subject to review. It’s one thing for every defensive back to have to hold his breath after each and every incomplete pass. It’s quite another for the officials to have to do the same...not to mention the fans.

And this is where I have a problem with part of the new replay rule for pass interference.

Picture this: New Orleans is facing a fourth and two. There are less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. If the Steelers hold here, it’s game over.

Drew Brees drops back, but his quick pass over the middle is broken up by Joe Haden. You hold your breath. I hold my breath. Is there any yellow coming into view? No. Whew! Sean Payton is out of challenges.

Unfortunately, since it’s inside of two minutes, the quick pass over the middle that admitedly was close, is now subject to automatic review by the officials. If the no call is turned into pass interference, well, Pittsburgh’s season is essentially screwed.

I know what you’re going to say. Yes, the Steelers may have actually benefited from this exact scenario last December, when Haden was called for pass interference (his second very questionable flag of the day) with precious little time left in the fourth quarter and the Steelers clinging to a four-point lead. Had the automatic booth review already been in place, Pittsburgh may have won this critical Week 16 contest and, ultimately, the AFC North.

You may be right, and I get that. Heck, the entire reason this new rule was put into place has very little to do with the Steelers, and everything to do with the Saints who were royally screwed out of an almost certain Super Bowl berth when the officials kept their flags in their pockets during an egregious pass interference play against the Rams in the waning seconds of the NFL title game.

Don’t I want those kinds of calls reversed? Sure I do. However, I don’t want every single incomplete pass subject to review inside of two minutes. Unless I’m missing something here, that is exactly what you could have with this new rule. Again, pass interference is a judgement call. And while some calls—or non-calls—may be egregious, do we really want to sit around and wait for officials to use their best judgement after every pass that may or may not have drawn a flag inside of two minutes?

I don’t.

NFL, save your automatic reviews for things like catches. As for those pass interference flags that should or shouldn’t have been called, force those coaches to challenge them—even inside of two minutes.

Report: Steelers set to host TCU edge rusher Ben Banogu on pre-draft visit

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/30/2019 - 10:45am

The Steelers will reportedly welcome the pass rushing prospect to Pittsburgh as one of their 30 pre-draft visitors

The list of names set to have pre-draft visits with the Pittsburgh Steelers continues to grow as we get closer to the end of the college pro day schedule, with edge rushing prospect Ben Banogu the latest player linked to the Steelers this offseason.

As per Benton McDonald of TCU360.com, Banogu will be making a trip to Pittsburgh to meet with the Steelers as one of their 30 pre-draft visits in 2019.

Banogu said he has visits scheduled with the #Broncos and #Steelers so far

— Benton McDonald (@BentonMcD) March 29, 2019

Projected to be a Day 2 selection with most experts, Banogu appears to have the size and athleticism teams look for, but has drawn criticism from some scouts for his hand usage and hip flexibility that could limit him against NFL caliber offensive tackles as a pass rusher.

This scouting report from Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network suggests the young prospect may yet have some untapped potential in him as well.

“Ben Banogu is one of the most high-upside defenders of this year’s NFL Draft. Banogu has dynamic explosion and he’s got effective change of direction skills as well. Played in a very gap-disciplined defense at TCU, Banogu wasn’t necessarily allowed to roam free as an aggressive pass rusher, which has stunted some of his growth. In a new, more aggressive environment, Banogu could develop in time to be a high impact pass rusher.”

#NFLCombine key measurements thread…

206. #TexasChristian DE Ben Banogu
Height: 6-3 4/8
Weight: 250
Hand (right): 8 4/8
Hand (left): 9
Arm: 33 5/8
Wingspan: 80 4/8

— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 1, 2019

After a transfer from Louisiana-Monroe to TCU in 2016, Banogu was forced to sit out the year, but earned first-team All-Big 12 honors and was named conference Defensive Newcomer of the Year after recording 49 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks in 2017. As a senior, he finished the year with 57 tackes, 18 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.

Mock Draft: Predicting the 5 players going to the Steelers in Rounds 1-4

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/30/2019 - 9:35am

First round mock drafts are great, but predicting the top 5 picks for the black-and-gold is even better!

The 2019 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and as the calendar turns from March to April, the focus slowly leaves free agency and becomes hyper-focused on the upcoming selection process.

For a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have a whopping 10 total draft picks across all seven rounds, the scenarios are nearly endless.

What if Devin Bush is available?

Should the team trade up for Devin White?

What if both Devins are off the board by the time the Steelers pick at No. 20?

Should an offensive player, like wide receiver, take priority?

For most fans, this is when they turn to mock drafts to give them some insight on who experts are predicting to go to your favorite team in specific spots. Hopefully, we all know these mock drafts are nothing but predictions, but they do create some good discussion about prospects who will be available.

In the latest 4 Round NFL Mock Draft by Chad Reuter of NFL.com Reuter takes a stab at not just predicting the first round, but the first four rounds. The Steelers will have 5 picks throughout this stretch, so take a look at what Reuter predicts, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section below!!

Round 1 — No. 20

Devin Bush - LB

School: Michigan | Year: Junior

Sometimes inside linebackers become available later in the first round than their talent would warrant, providing great value. The Steelers pinch themselves seeing a player like Bush still on the board.

Round 2 — No. 52

Trayvon Mullen - CB

School: Clemson | Year: Junior

Mullen is a slight but tough outside defender who should thrive in the Steelers’ defense.

Round 3 — No. 66 (From OAK)

Riley Ridley - WR

School: Georgia | Year: Junior

Ridley’s 40 time at the combine was 4.58 seconds, which might cause him to drop a bit despite his professional route-running ability. However, 5-10, 186-pound Antonio Brown’s 40 time at the 2010 combine was 4.57 -- so those times are not always a great indicator of future success.

Round 3 — No. 83

Yodny Cajuste - OT

School: West Virginia | Year: Senior (RS)

The trade of longtime starter Marcus Gilbert gives Cajuste a chance to start as a rookie if he’s able to prove himself on the right side of the line.

Round 4 — No. 122

Justice Hill - RB

School: Oklahoma State | Year: Junior

James Conner and Jaylen Samuels did a nice job in 2018, but a speed back with some pop in his pads like Hill would be a strong addition.

Report: Matt Feiler signs free agent tender, ready to compete for Steelers RT spot

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/30/2019 - 8:05am

The Pittsburgh Steelers reportedly locked up the man who essentially started at right tackle for them in 2018.

The Pittsburgh Steelers traded Marcus Gilbert to the Arizona Cardinals for a 6th round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and by doing so left a void at the right tackle position.

Gilbert missed almost the entire 2018 regular season injured, and in his stead was Matt Feiler for all but one game. Feiler is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA) entering the offseason, and the Steelers already placed a tender on Feiler in case another team wants to poach him off their roster.

While some players, like Alejandro Villanueva a few years ago and Mike Hilton this year, will avoid signing their tender in hopes of getting a long-term contract instead. But not Feiler. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Feiler has signed his tender and is ready to start at right tackle in 2019.

Steelers right tackle Matt Feiler signed his exclusive rights free agent tender today, per sources. Feiler plans to work out at the team facility and is focused on winning the starting RT job. He’ll compete with Chuks Okorafor and Jerald Hawkins.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 29, 2019

Feiler wants to focus on winning the starting job, but it won’t be a slam dunk — even for the man who essentially started last year. His competition, Chukwuma Okorafor and Jerald Hawkins will want to snag that rare open starting spot on the Steelers’ offensive line.

Of these three, the Steelers hope they can find the answer to their vacancy at the tackle position, but each player comes with their own respective concerns.

Okorafor is entering his second year in the league, and while he showed tremendous promise as a rookie in heavy packages as an extra tight end, there is still plenty of work to be done. Okorafor did represent himself nicely in his first, and only, start against the Broncos last season, but with such a small sample size he will really have to turn heads in training camp to win the job.

Feiler is likely the leader in the clubhouse for the position. Feiler started for the injured Gilbert last season, and did a tremendous job in relief duty. The man they call ‘the anchor’ is a run blocker who still has some work to do in regards of pass blocking, but represented himself in a way the Steelers would be comfortable going into the season with Feiler as the starter at right tackle.

The wild card in this whole equation is Hawkins. His rookie season was ended early with a shoulder injury, his sophomore season was disappointing and last year he tore his quadriceps muscle in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) putting him on Injured Reserve (IR) the rest of the season. Will Hawkins impress in 2019? Or find himself on the outside looking in? No one really knows.

On top of the three tackles vying for the starting position, there is also the change over at Offensive Line coach. Mike Munchak to a lateral position with the Broncos, leaving Shaun Sarrett as the new man in charge of the offensive line. Although Sarrett has been with the Steelers since before Munchak was hired, you have to wonder if he can keep the magic going Munchak had with taking lesser known players and turning them into greater talents.

Either way, this will be one of the big camp battles to keep an eye on as the 2019 regular season approaches.

Steelers burning topics to discuss that don’t involve Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/30/2019 - 6:34am

You want Steelers topics that don’t involve former receiver Antonio Brown and former running back Le’Veon Bell? I aim to please.

It’s been a contentious and combative time for the Steelers, and the drama just never seems to end.

Most of the drama has revolved around two former Steelers--receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell.

After nine years performing at a higher level than any receiver in team history—not to mention six years performing at a higher level than any receiver in NFL history—Brown is no longer a Steeler after being shipped off to the Raiders in exchange for a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick. As for Bell, who amassed 5,336 rushing yards and 2,660 receiving yards between 2013-2017, he has left for a new contract with the Jets.

Both Brown and Bell were all-time Steelers greats, two of the most prolific offensive weapons in all of football. And the way they left the organization, well, it wouldn’t have been any uglier had they pulled a T.J. Houshmandzadeh and wiped their cleats with the Terrible Towel on the way out the door.

Their absence could severely cripple the Steelers Super Bowl, nay, playoff chances in 2019. The odds of Pittsburgh being better after these losses are slim, really, really slim.

So, why are we talking about it on Behind the Steel Curtain? Why are they talking about it on all the other Steelers media outlets?

I can’t speak for the other writers at BTSC, and I certainly can’t speak for those other Steelers media outlets. But when it comes to yours truly, I hear you loud and clear! No more AB! No more Bell! They’re yesterday’s news (quite literally, I mean).

Let’s focus on the Pittsburgh Steelers and topics related to them.

Gotcha!

With that in mind, I’d like to preview a bunch of Steeler-related topics I will explore between now and the start of training camp, subjects that are bound to have your mouth watering for the 2019 campaign to get here and get here fast!

Below, I will introduce some topics via article titles I’ve conjured up (though, keep in mind, these are just working titles at the moment) followed by a quick synopsis of what I hope to cover in these articles.

Won’t you join me?

This week in the Steelers’ depth chart: Trey Edmunds: Who the hell is he?

Perhaps more than perennial All-Pros, people like to read about the unknowns, players who probably won’t make the team. If he’s still around by the time I get to it, I will find out who Trey Edmunds is.

Who are B.J. Finney’s favorite Game of Thrones characters?

B.J. Finney probably likes the show Game of Thrones, and I’ll bet he has some favorite characters. If he does, I will find out who they are.

Norm Johnson, Kris Brown or Todd Peterson: Who was the best Steelers’ kicker between 1995-2002?

Kicks get chicks.

A day in the life of Mike Tomczak

The interest in this is self-explanatory.

Joey Porter’s secret to sexy pre-game trash-talking abs

Peezy not only liked to talk trash before games, he exposed his abs to his opponents for greater effect. We all want sexy abs. I can see my article going viral and being discussed on some daytime talk show just in time for bikini season. I’m really excited to explore this.

The time I went to that Steelers game in 1984, and something happened that my dad and I still cherish to this day

Readers love this kind of stuff, and any article written along these lines always tops that day’s Steelers’ news cycle.

Former Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox or Mike Connors from the old detective show, Mannix: Who wore it better?

Gold.

In the kitchen with Ramon Foster

Foster, nicknamed The Big Ragu, loves to bake lasagna. People love lasagna. They also love articles about offensive linemen. What would be better than to combine the two topics in one piece?

Who’s more passive-aggressive: Ben Roethlisberger during one of his interviews or your girlfriend/wife when texting you during an argument?

Ryan Seacrest, get ready to discuss this article on your daily radio show.

Did the show Breaking Bad ever jump the shark? Omar Khan caps off each of the show's five seasons

My first serial feature.

There you have it. You wanted articles not related to Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. I’m here to please you, the reader.

Stay tuned for a fun and informative offseason full of relevant Steelers news.

Black and Gold Links: NFL executives are concerned about how Antonio Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 03/30/2019 - 4:53am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how NFL executives are now suddenly showing some serious concern over how Antonio Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh. Ya think?

Let’s get to the news:

  • Antonio Brown was not a free agent, but he certainly acted like one. Ultimately, he got what he wanted, and the NFL isn’t really sure how to respond to Brown’s actions.

NFL execs worry Antonio Brown trade sets dangerous precedent

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

Brown wanted a new contract the Steelers were never going to give him. And keeping an All-Pro malcontent on the roster risked stunting the growth of young players such as wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

But some NFL decision-makers are concerned about the potential ramifications of the puzzling end to the Brown saga.

Multiple high-ranking sources at the NFL owners meetings told ESPN that Brown forcing his way out of a contract with three years left might set a precedent that players can do what they want. One source went as far as to say that Brown essentially treating himself like a free agent, then getting a new deal with Oakland via trade, is “dangerous” for teams expecting players to honor contracts.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Sometimes, the enemy is staring right back at you in the mirror. In essence, this is what Mike Tomlin said at the NFL Owners Meeting when he said when it comes to the turmoil the team has been through the past several seasons, they are are guilty in some way or another.

Tomlin on drama: ‘All need to look in the mirror’

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

Coach Mike Tomlin isn’t absolving anyone from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 9-6-1 season and the drama surrounding it.

”We all need to look in the mirror in terms of what we do and how we do it, starting with me,” Tomlin told reporters from the NFL owners meetings Tuesday.

Tomlin is one of the league’s most successful coaches with a .654 winning percentage over 12 seasons, but the Steelers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013 after losing three late-season games by three points apiece.

He acknowledged he can do better because “reflection is a part of this, particularly when you have failure.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • For those who still think Mike Tomlin is to blame for all the teams melodrama, Joe Haden strongly disagrees with you.

Haden: Tomlin can’t be blamed for Steelers’ drama

By: Jeremy Bergman, NFL.com

He has complete control of the team,” Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said of Tomlin to NFL Network’s Stacey Dales on NFL Total Access on Thursday. “You have two totally different situations with Le’Veon and with Antonio. It is what is. It’s a business. You can’t blame coach T for that.

“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for. You can only ask for honesty. He keeps it real with you. He lets you know exactly where you stand. He lets you know exactly how he feels about you, if you’re productive, if you’re not. He treats everyone fairly, but I’m gonna say not everybody gets treated the same.”

To read the full article, and watch the video, click HERE

  • Watch Joe Haden’s full interview on NFL Network:

.@steelers DB @joehaden23 gives his thoughts on the departure of former teammates @LeVeonBell and @AB84 ⬆️ pic.twitter.com/EDqfWHC3FH

— NFL Total Access (@NFLTotalAccess) March 28, 2019
  • More Social Media Madness

Everything you need to know from this year's NFL Owners Meeting. pic.twitter.com/JgBaKycyXS

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 29, 2019

You know ima fire up this photoshop machine on you now huh Cam ‍♂️ https://t.co/eHb1HsEXnD

— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) March 29, 2019

Speaking of #OpeningDay... #tbt pic.twitter.com/q2RCs0kdC0

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 28, 2019

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 13

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 03/29/2019 - 5:40pm

There is plenty to talk about regarding all things black-and-gold!

Several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night Open Thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring it back to Friday night — with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six-Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six-Pack of Steelers Questions and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. What do you think took so long for both former and current players to step up and show some support for Ben Roethlisberger?

2. I spoke about this on my Steelers Burning Question podcast (you can listen to it below), so I thought I would ask here: Who will have the better season in 2019? Antonio Brown or JuJu Smith-Schuster? Explain your answer.

3. What are your thoughts on the NFL deciding to have pass interference be reviewable?

4. Who do you feel is the most important player on the Steelers defense in 2019?

5. If you had to pick one, who would you pick? Dermontti Dawson or Maurkice Pouncey?

6. I always see people with their NFL Draft predictions in their signatures on their profile. What is your prediction for the Steelers picks in Round 1 (1), Round 2 (1) and Round 3 (2)?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Steelers March Madness: The Best of the Rest featuring 2011 vs. 1995

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 03/29/2019 - 2:15pm

Bracketing the best teams in the past 50 years of Pittsburgh Steelers history never to win a title. Who do you consider the “Best of the Rest” between the 2011 Steelers and the 1995 version?

BTSC continues to search for the best and most-memorable Steeler team to not win a title. Last time around, you voted the team that fell three yards short of a Super Bowl over a team that couldn’t beat New England in the AFCCG again. Here are the results...

No. 6 - 1994 Not Quite 60-Minute Men - 74% No. 11 - 2016 Steel Holidays - 26%

This time around we pit a repeat 12-4 team that tried to rebound from a Super Bowl loss against the Super Bowl underdog that were defeated in the Desert. Be sure to vote for the team that remains the most memorable to you or the one you feel is simply the “best of the rest”. Your choice. Be sure to wax poetically in the comment section below.

No. 7 Seed: 2011 (12-4)

Coming off of a tough loss in the Super Bowl against Green Bay, the Steelers knew what they needed to do to get back there. In the draft, the Steelers picked DL Cam Heyward and OT Marcus Gilbert in the first two rounds. Heyward would pay dividends much later and Gilbert would start most of the season. The Steelers also added WR Jericho Cotchery in free agency. Leading the way in ‘11 were Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall (9TDs), Mike Wallace (1,193 yards/8 TDs), Antonio Brown (1,108 yards) and the duo of LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison (both with 11 sacks). The Steelers were armed with the best defensive unit in the entire NFL (fewest points allowed, fewest passing yards allowed and fewest total yards given up), but you would have never known it on opening day after the 35-7 drubbing in Baltimore that they absorbed. But the Steelers would rebound and win six of their next seven, followed by six of their next eight. The signature win that season came against the Patriots in Week 8 of that year. The Steeler D harassed Tom Brady all afternoon and prevailed 25-18. Looking like a possible championship team, the Steelers headed to Denver for the playoffs and found themselves down 20-6 at the half. But late in the game, Ben found Cotchery to tie it at 23. In the overtime, Tim Tebow threw a pass to Demaryius Thomas, whose burned Ike Taylor for 80 yards and the win. Their dreams dashed, the Steelers would spend the next two years out of the playoffs.

Pro Bowlers: Antonio Brown, Ryan Clark, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Maurkice Pouncey, Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace

First-Team All Pros: Maurkice Pouncey and Troy Polamalu

Team MVP: Antonio Brown

No. 1 Draft Pick: Cameron Heyward

Rookie of the Year: Marcus Gilbert

No. 10 Seed: 1995 (11-5)

After falling three-yards short in the AFC Championship at home against San Diego after the 2004 season, the Steelers were itching to get back and avenge that loss. The franchise lost some key personnel in the offseason as well, with RB Barry Foster’s departure, Gary Anderson to the Eagles and TE Eric Green joining the Dolphins for a huge deal. However, the addition of RB Erric Pegram from the Falcons and Andre Hastings from Tampa in free agency and a draft class that included TE Mark Breuer, Kordell Stewart and G Brendan Stai helped ease those losses and make the Steelers the NFL’s top scoring offense that year. On opening day a devestating blow was felt as CB Rod Woodson was lost for the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury. Starting QB Neil O’Donnell went down too and would miss four games. Mike Tomczak and Jim Miller would both fill in at QB and Willie Williams (a 6th rounder from ‘93) stepped-in and later Carnell Lake switched to corner to fill the huge void left by Woodson. Despite winning the first two games and going 3-2 in O’Donnell’s absence, the ‘95ers found themselves at a dismal 3-4 (that included a loss to expansion Jacksonville) and were eerily close to watching their division hopes crash and burn early on. The team met in the locker room and vowed to pull together in what would essentially be a nine-game season. They went on a tear, winning the next eight games, before losing in Green Bay in Week 17. That streak included two notable victories in which the Steelers had to come from behind in Chicago and Cincinnati. The Cincy win came after they were down 18. This season also saw the emergence of Stewart. Nicknamed “Slash” for his jack-of-all-trades contributions, No. 10 helped revitalize the team. Other leaders included 0’Donnell, Pegram (813 yards/5 TDs), Morris (9 TDs), Ernie Mills (8 TDs), Yancey Thigpen (1,307 yards/5 TDs), Williams (7 INTs), Greg Lloyd (6.5 sacks/6 forced fumbles), Kevin Greene (9 sacks), Ray Seals (8.5 sacks) and Norm Johnson (141 points as the NFL leader). After clinching, Bill Cowher rallied the team by telling them they had (as the two seed) at least one game at home. It would be more like two. After demolishing Buffalo 40-21, the Steelers welcomed Jim “Captain Comeback” Harbaugh and the underdog Indianapolis Colts to Three Rivers. A defensive stand, a conversion on 4th and three late from O’Donnell to Hastings, a Bam Morris TD after a 37-yard catch by Mills and a dropped Hail Mary by Aaron Bailey in the end zone highlighted a very exciting AFCCG. The Steelers would gain entry to their first SB in 16 years and Steeler Nation was at a fevered pitch. The Steelers fell behind in Arizona in SB XXX to Dallas 13-0, but a Thigpen TD catch cut the lead right before halftime. In the second half, momentum was clearly on Pittsburgh’s side. A surprise onsides recovered by Deon Figures, a Levon Kirkland sack and a Morris TD put the Steelers in position to take the lead. However, No. 14 threw to ugly interceptions to Larry Brown and the underdog Steelers couldn’t pull off the win. On the way to the locker room, Bill Cowher hugged and kissed his family and said to his daughter, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose”. This would be the last game for O’Donnell and Morris in a Pittsburgh Uniform. Neil would join the Jets after signing a big deal and Morris would get busted with a huge bag of weed and get cut in the offseason. Despite the loss in the big one, 1995 goes down as an almost magical season in Steeler lore.

Pro Bowlers: Dermontti Dawson, Kevin Greene, Carnell Lake, Greg Lloyd, and Yancey Thigpen

First-Team All Pros: Dermontti Dawson and Greg Lloyd

Second-Team All Pros: Carnell Lake

Team MVP: Neil O’Donnell

No. 1 Draft Pick: Mark Breuner

Rookie of the Year: Kordell Stewart

Check back Monday for the results and the final matchup of Round One.

Steelers CB Joe Haden is ‘1000-percent’ in favor of the new replay rules

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 03/29/2019 - 10:45am

While some may not like the expansion of the replay rules to include pass interference penalties in 2019, cornerback Joe Haden is not one of them.

While a decision by the NFL to expand replay rules to allow challenges to pass interference calls has not been met with universal approval, it appears that it has the support of a player involved in one of the plays used by the league to highlight the need for the change.

An egregious pass interference penalty called against Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden was just one of the examples the NFL looked at when deciding to amend the replay rules at the owners annual meeting on Tuesday. On Thursday Haden voice his wholehearted support for the move during an appearance on the NFL Network when asked if he liked the opportunity to have a pass interference call replayed.

“1000-percent. Just because it’s not a five or 10-yard penalty, this is a spot of the foul. That was a 40-yard gain on that fourth-and-one. With those big time plays, you’ve got to get those ones right.”

#Steelers Joe Haden is "1000%" in favor of the new replay rules that will allow the review of pass interference calls in 2019. pic.twitter.com/8wrFTIEvNS

— Black&Gold (@RealSteelers) March 29, 2019

As per the data released by the NFL, the incorrectly called pass interference penalty in the first quarter of the Steelers game against the New Orleans in Week 16 unfairly increased the Saints chance of winning by an extra 14-percent, while another questionable pass interference call on Haden in the fourth quarter increased it by a further 22-percent.

To assess impact, the committee used win probability, also known as game winning chance. Below is one example. The black line (@Saints) and gold line (@Steelers) show the game winning chance for both teams at each point in the game during their 2018 Week 16 matchup. pic.twitter.com/pR0nUOnKz4

— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) March 27, 2019

In reviewing game winning chance data, the committee found that offensive & defensive pass interference have disproportionately large impacts on changes to each team’s game winning chance. For example, this foul in the 2018 Saints-Steelers game increased NO's win chances by 14%. pic.twitter.com/F3vT1lPFcV

— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) March 27, 2019

Had these new rules been in place last season, Pittsburgh would most certainly have seen the first called overturned, saving them a touchdown, and possibly may even have seen the second call changed as well. Correcting the first call alone may have been enough for the Steelers to win a game they ultimately lost by three points, and a win that would have undeniably sent them to the playoffs in 2018.

But while crying over missed opportunities will do nothing to change how last year ended, fans should take comfort in knowing it should not be able to happen again. Well, until the replay official makes a mistake that is.

When it comes to the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers, actions speak louder than words

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 03/29/2019 - 9:25am

Mike Tomlin utilized a whole lot of words to say a whole lot of nothing at the owners meeting this week in Phoenix, Arizona. There really wasn't much else that needed to be said.

There is an old saying that goes something like this, "Each of us preach our own funeral with evidence garnered from the life we lived." It can be worded a little differently, but the meaning stays the same. We can proclaim to be anything we want to be, but our actions perfectly describe who we really are. Therefore actions speak louder than words.

Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin spoke to the media basically for the first time since the end of the season this week at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix, Arizona. The national media, still infatuated with a couple of high profile departures from the roster and the corresponding feeding frenzy created by their own fraternity, peppered Tomlin with questions relating to the tandem lost. Tomlin is the master of coach speak, which is the ability to say a whole lot without ever really saying anything. The Pittsburgh media are all too aware of this ability, and have grown accustomed to his Tomlinisms. The national media still hang on every word, waiting for a great enlightenment. In the end, they are left with a notepad or recording device full of something but still with nothing worth actually reporting.

There really wasn't much for Tomlin to say at this time. It really is a no win situation to waste time talking about individuals who are no longer part of the organization, whether it be players or coaches. Why waste time defending yourself or your remaining players when the national media has already talked at great length giving their unsubstantiated opinions about your situation, and fans of the Steelers and the NFL in general have already generated their conclusions?

I am aware that some Steelers fans wished Tomlin would have spoken up and told it like it is, and pointed out the hypocrisy of the agenda biased attacks on himself, the organization, and Ben Roethlisberger by some self-serving individuals. But to what end? Many of the same individuals who presently want Tomlin to be more transparent were also the ones calling for his head a couple of seasons back for apparently looking ahead to a potential showdown with the Patriots and then having the audacity to say as much during an interview with an old friend. Tomlin has learned his lesson; he won't be making that mistake again anytime soon. So get ready for plenty of coach speak, because Mike being Mike isn't doing anybody any good.

The damage has been done, so to speak - if there really was any - and it is only superficial. So what if some people want to believe the Steelers, Mike Tomlin, and Ben Roethlisberger are not perfect? Guess what, they aren't. Nobody is. Not even Tom Terrific and the New England Patriots. Not everyone's new favorite team, the Cleveland Browns. Certainly not media darling and perpetual victim Antonio Brown, even if he will forever blame his shortcomings on someone else. The Steelers are fallible, and we all should be able to relate.

It really doesn't matter what Tomlin does or doesn't say right now. The only thing that really matters is what he does as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers moving forward. Mike has proven to be a master juggler lately, at least when it comes to difficult personalities. He has been forced to wear many hats over the past few seasons, unbeknownst to the majority of Steelers Nation. He has been a psychiatrist, counselor, and a go between. The problem is, these roles resulted in him becoming an enabler. That was never his intention.

Mike Tomlin is no dummy. Every coach wants talented players and the Steelers have had one of the most talented teams in the league over the past few seasons, especially on offense. One potential problem that accompanies talented individuals is their personal agendas. That is human nature and it really isn't anyone's fault. Players can prioritize their personal goals or put them on the back burner to focus on the greater good, team success. Some players are simply incapable of personal sacrifice.

That was Tomlin's dilemma. He tried his best to hold the pieces together for as long as he could, hoping for a chance to play for a Super Bowl championship with that talented group of players. His collective efforts, though admirable, were all for naught and actually opened him up to ridicule. Many of the disappointing results achieved by Mike's teams in recent seasons suddenly make more sense knowing what we know now.

All of Steeler Nation are praying for the upcoming season to be a case of addition by subtraction. We can only hope for a more balanced offense, starting with a rejuvenated QB spreading the wealth around to a group of offensive personnel playing with huge chips on their shoulders. Hopefully the free agent and defensive draft additions will result in a new and improved turnover-causing machine. As long as I am dreaming, maybe the Steelers could find a reliable kicker this season. A punter obviously is out of the question.

Finally, Mike Tomlin can trade in his multitude of hats for the one he is paid to wear, Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mike Tomlin is a players coach, and that is okay. It is fine to treat players like men, you just have to be sure you have players who want to act like one.

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