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Sleeper free agent fits for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/15/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Minor moves the Steelers could make to round its top ranked defense

Every year the Pittsburgh Steelers will make a handful of moves to add veteran players at positions of need. These moves allow the team to draft the best player available and not have to rely on someone dropping to them, or just simply having the flexibility to not force rookies in situations they are not ready for. In an offseason where the salary cap has been long rumored to drop these moves are more important than ever. One slight benefit to a dropping cap however, will be that a portion of mid level free agents will see their price tag drop. Picking up a handful of those guys on one year deals could be the key at having a successful 2021 season.

As for the players on this list, I will present a free agent at every defensive position. More specifically guys that fit the Steelers schemes. Don’t forget to check out part 1 first.

Let’s do this:

Defensive tackle: Abry Jones Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Standing 6’4” weighing in at 320 pounds Abry Jones is a very large man. If the Steelers wanted to return to the Jaguars well of acquiring defensive lineman this might be a really good bet. With Alualu’s future uncertain, and nothing but inexperienced late round picks as back ups the Steelers may invest in some depth pieces.

Outside Linebacker: Barkevious Mingo Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Steelers could choose a reunion with Anthony Chickillo in this spot, however I think that experiment is long gone as the Steelers found themselves thin at outside linebacker at a number of occasions in 2020 and didn't poach Chickillo off either the Saints or Broncos practice squads.

Instead they go with someone familiar in the AFC North, former Brown Barkevious Mingo. Having played on six different teams in each of the past six seasons, Mingo never proved to be an every down pass rusher. However, he could be serviceable as a special teamer and provide a better pass rush than Ola Adeniyi.

Inside Linebacker: Jarrad Davis Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Davis could be a legitimate starter beside Devin Bush. He would be the ‘thunder’ to Bush’s Lighting. A heavy hitter, blitzer, and run-stuffer Davis was missed in Detroit, who tried to make him a coverage linebacker. Because of the Lions gaff, Davis’ value will be at an all-time low. The problem remains whether other teams realize what he’s better suited for in the NFL.

One under-the-radar name to watch in NFL free agency?

Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis.

I'm told Davis has a solid market with some NFL teams believing he was misused at times by Matt Patricia's staff in Detroit. Could be a nice option for clubs seeking a young, talented player.

— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) February 10, 2021 Safety: Brandon Wilson Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

This is a tricky spot as the Steelers have both top reserve safeties Sean Davis and Jordan Dangerfield on expiring deals. They need someone who can play special teams while being able to play a snap or two on the defensive side of the ball. Bengals safety Brandon Wilson was just that. On top of those skills Wilson is also an accomplished kick returner and could take over duties if the Steelers choose to move on from Ray Ray McCloud.

Corner: William Jackson Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The corner that always should have been a Pittsburgh Steeler could finally get his shot in 2021. This move would likely come off the back of either a Joe Haden or Steven Nelson release but to know a serviceable, cheaper replacement is available could take some of the sting of those moves away.

Nickel: Nickell Robey-Coleman Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Finding someone to replace Mike Hilton will not be easy. There just isn't many defensive backs with his ability to rush a passer or step up into the run game. The Steelers could lean toward Robey-Coleman as a replacement and use him in more of a coverage role than Hilton.

What do you think? Which of these free agents are the most likely to end up in Pittsburgh? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Mock Draft Monday: The Steelers look to add a running back with their top pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/15/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

In the latest mock draft, the Steelers make the pick many fans feel strongly about one way or the other.

The 2021 NFL draft is two and a half months away. With free agency looming followed by the NFL draft in April, the Steelers will have a plethora of decisions and moves to make before making their first draft selection. Because the NFL combine will not be held, pro days are the best option to get player information. It will be interesting to see what limited information ends up being available in regards to draft prospects this year.

When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. Before any gains or losses in free agency, there are some who would like to see the Steelers go with either offensive line or running back with their first-round pick. Others feel tight end or linebacker could be on top of the list. With plenty of chances for the Steelers to shape their roster prior to April, their goal is usually to get into position to draft the best player available rather than target a specific position. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.

In the latest two-round mock draft by Elite Sports NY, they have the Steelers going running back with their first pick and upgrade the position with the expected departure of James Conner. With only players on rookie contracts being the norm in Pittsburgh, the Steelers will likely address the position at some point in the 2021 draft. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first selection, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets.

Check out the Steelers 24th pick:

24. Pittsburgh Steelers | Najee Harris | RB | Alabama | SR |

Being early in the draft process, there may be players some fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Harris according to thedraftnetwork.com:

Harris is a versatile threat that was a rare case of a backfield rusher who played all four seasons in Tuscaloosa. A tall and upright runner, Harris is a blend of power, determination, and versatility as both a between-the-tackles runner and perimeter rushing threat. A comfortable pass-catcher out of the backfield, he’s made strides in his pass-catching ability every season. A running back that can have passing concepts designed around his abilities, he can routinely put second-level defenders in a bind with schemed patterns to attack coverage. A runner that always seems to fall forward when taking on contact, he’s a highly determined and physical rusher who forces defenders to tackle him to the ground through the echo of the whistle. Harris isn’t a running back who contains multiple gears, as he’s a flat-footed runner that paces his way through defenses. Another key attribute on his resume is his ability to finish drives with touchdowns. Few match Harris’ will and “want to” with getting into the endzone, as he led the country in scores in that area last season.

Ideal Role: Featured top option running back.

Scheme Fit: Multiple scheme fit in both man/gap/power and zone-based blocking scheme.

For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Harris with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position or a different one who may still be available? Personally, I believe the offensive line is more the key to an improved running game. It’s not that the Steelers taking a quality running back would be a bad thing, it’s that investing a first-round pick at the position is typically reserved for a player the Steelers would ultimately want to keep for longer than their rookie deal. The last running back drafted by the Steelers who signed a deal past their rookie contract was Verron Haynes who was drafted 19 years ago. Although it would not be the typical Steelers first-round pick, maybe it’s time to do something different.

As always, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and remember these mock drafts are merely speculation and caused to create discussion among the fan base.

J.J. Watt would be a perfect fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/15/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

With his release, J.J. Watt could realistically join his brothers in Pittsburgh.

The J.J. Watt to the Steelers hype started when the Steelers drafted T.J. Watt, it took off when the Steelers signed Derek Watt, and with the Texans releasing J.J. Watt, the hype ;has never been higher.

There are a few hurdles to re-uniting the Watt brothers, the first is the salary cap, and it is a legit concern. I’m not going to cover all that, because I don’t want to. Other people can cover that, I want to talk about how J.J. Watt would fit in the Steelers defensive scheme.

I’ve heard a lot of people asking if the Steelers would cut/trade Tuitt or Heyward if J.J. Watt signed with the Steelers, and I am going to answer that, the answer is no. J.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt are both listed as defensive ends, and they are pretty similar in build too. But on the field, Stephon Tuitt is a defensive tackle and a 3-4 defensive end. J.J. Watt is a defensive end in any defensive front.

The key difference is Stephon Tuitt doesn’t play as an edge defender. If you think of the defensive front, the 5-7 defensive lineman and linebackers that a team uses on any given play, the one that is the farthest outside to either side is the edge defender. T.J. Watt on the line in a 4-man front, or off the ball in a 3-4 alignment is the guy farthest to the left, he’s the edge defender in both alignments.

Stephon Tuitt is a defensive tackle in a 4 man front, and a defensive end in a 3 man front, in both formations, T.J. Watt is outside of him, he’s an interior lineman.

J.J. Watt plays defensive end in both formations, which means in a 4-man front he is the edge defender, he plays the same spot his brother plays.

J.J. Watt is the defensive lineman to the right of the screen

That’s J.J. Watt playing the exact same position T.J. Watt plays the most. Houston still has 2 defensive lineman inside, J.J. Watt is the edge.

J.J. Watt (#99) is the defensive end to the left side of the screen, lined up over the tackle.

Here J.J. Watt is a 3-4 defensive end, lining up exactly where Stephon Tuitt would line up for the Steelers on this play.

According to Pro Football Focus, J.J. Watt played 702 snaps as the left edge defender, 134 as the right edge defender, 90 snaps at left end (not edge), 32 snaps at right end (not edge), and 28 snaps combined as a defensive tackle/nose tackle.

He played 84.5% of his snaps on the edge, 15.5% inside. He isn’t going to compete with Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt most of the time.

Instead he’d be replacing Bud Dupree on those snaps. He played mostly on the left, but when J.J. Watt moved to the right side (where Dupree played), he was really good.

J.J. Watt is the defensive lineman farthest to the left on the screen.

J.J. Watt can still get to the quarterback in a hurry, no matter what side he lines up on.

J.J. Watt is the defensive lineman farthest to the right on the screen.

Here he shows the power, athleticism and skill that made him a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He’s not the elite player he was in his prime, but he’s still really good.

J.J. Watt is the defensive lineman farthest to the left side of the screen.

He can do it against the run as well.

If the Steelers signed J.J. Watt, he would be the defensive end in the Steelers 4 man fronts. Not replacing either Cameron Heyward or Stephon Tuitt, but replacing Bud Dupree and taking snaps from Alex Highsmith.

Look at the above plays and I think you will see the appeal of that arrangement. J.J. Watt isn’t a DPOY candidate, but he brings everything the Steelers got from Bud Dupree to these 4 man fronts. That’s enormous when you look at the drop off in the Steelers defense when Bud Dupree was hurt.

The Steelers used nickel and dime sets 60% of the time in 2020. J.J. Watt would be the right edge defender on those plays. The Steelers went with a 7 man front 40% of the time. In those 7 man front formations the Steelers primarily used a 3-4 look.

J.J. Watt is the defensive end to the left side of the screen, outside of the tackle.

This is a passing down with the Ravens doing what they do, playing extra tight ends and then spreading the field. I like this play because J.J. Watt’s stunt inside creates a sack for his team mate. When Watt gets inside he has leverage and is going to beat the blocker reaching out to grab him. Lamar Jackson sees that and takes off to his right, where he is sacked. J.J. Watt, for his part, spins back outside to cover Jackson’s potential escape lane. The Steelers use a ton of stunts on passing downs, and J.J. Watt is really good at them. He would work incredibly well in Keith Butler’s defense, especially working next to Cameron Heyward on the right side.

J.J. Watt is the defensive end to the left side of the screen, lined up over the tackle.

I always try to include a play where the player loses their matchup but still makes an impact. Here the guard gets the better of J.J. Watt, but Watt recovers and batts the pass down.

At this point I want to talk about snaps. In this hypothetical situation the Steelers have Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, T.J. Watt, J.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith vying for snaps in the defensive front. The Steelers averaged 4.4 DL/OLBs per play. (60% of the time 4 men, 40% of the time 5 men) If we convert that to percentages, the front 4/5 have 440% of snaps to divvy up between them. Depth players take up about 40% of snaps, guys like Isaiah Buggs, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Henry Mondeaux, etc. That leaves 400% of snaps for the main 5 guys. That means Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, J.J. Watt, T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith could divide up those snaps and all play 80% of snaps. In reality Alex Highsmith would probably be in the 60-70% range as the primary outside linebacker across from T.J. Watt in 3-4 sets, and the #3 defensive end in their 4 man fronts, leaving some more snaps for the other guys. Both Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt play right around 80% of snaps when healthy, and T.J. Watt plays around 85%. J.J. Watt was playing over 90% of snaps for the Texans, and he may

benefit from taking a few more breaks at his age.

The last thing I want to cover is one of the more unique formations the Steelers used in 2020. The Steelers would come out in 3-4 personnel, and then line up in a 4-3 look, with one of the outside linebackers moving behind the defensive line like an inside linebacker.

Week 9, 1st quarter, 10:42. Look at the formation, and how Bud Dupree enters the play from screen right.

This formation changes due to the Cowboys sending an extra player outside, pulling outside linebacker Bud Dupree out with him. You can see Cameron Heyward reset himself and #96 Isaiah Buggs and the Steelers are in a 4 man front with two linebackers behind them. It’s the Steelers normal nickel look only Cameron Heyward is now the edge and Bud Dupree is lined up as the nickelback.

Week 9, 1st quarter, 7:19. Look at the players on the defensive line.

This is not an adjustment, this is design. Cameron Heyward is the left end, Stephon Tuitt is inside him as the defensive tackle, and behind them is Bud Dupree lined up as in inside linebacker. The Cowboys run the quarterback out to Heyward’s side, and while the pass is incomplete, imagine that Heyward is lined up where Isaiah Buggs (#96) is lined up and that left edge is manned by J.J. Watt, who has more agility and speed than Heyward.

J.J. Watt as a Pittsburgh Steeler would allow the team to give Alex Highsmith reduced pressure, give T.J. Watt a running mate that can equal what Bud Dupree did, and give them a defensive end that would allow them to use their 4-3 looks more effectively.

If they can work out the money side, it would be a great signing.

If Steelers fans can survive Antonio Brown winning a Super Bowl, they can survive anything

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/15/2021 - 5:00am
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Brown is a champion as a member of the Buccaneers. Furthermore, his quarterback is Tom Brady. Furthermore, their head coach is Bruce Arians. It can’t get any worse than that for a Steeler fan, right? But you survived.

I was three hours into an overtime shift at my new job last Tuesday, when I got word from the big bosses in the sky (I don’t know any of their names or even what they look like) that I would have to work an additional five hours of OT. In case you’re bad at math, that’s the good old double-shift.

My stomach dropped immediately upon hearing this announcement. How would I last that long at such a physical job? Furthermore, how would I muster up the energy to go back in the next morning at 7 a.m. and turn in another eight-hour shift?

Turns out, I got through it. Just fine? My left hand was swollen for two days, so no, but I got through it, nonetheless.

Point is, for a job that requires a lot of forced overtime, I can’t imagine having to endure a longer shift than that one. In other words, that was about as bad as things could possibly get, right?

Anyway, if you’re a Steelers fan, one who spent the better part of two years mocking Antonio Brown and praising the football gods in the sky because he was no longer catching passes as a receiver for the black and gold, your worst nightmare may have been realized about a week or so ago when Brown not only caught a touchdown in Super Bowl LV as a member of the Buccaneers, he became a champion, thanks to Tampa’s resounding 31-9 victory over the Chiefs.

Adding insult to injury, Brown caught that touchdown from Tom Brady, the long-time Steelers tormentor who left the Patriots to sign with the team whose head coach was the Steelers former offensive coordinator, a man supposedly so inept at offense, fans danced in the streets after it was announced that he was let go by Mike Tomlin following the 2011 campaign.

That’s a lot to unpack.

But you survived it. Brady is a champion for the seventh time (and, apparently, he can win a Lombardi with any team he chooses). Brown now has the hardware that should help land him in Canton one day. Bruce Arians now has as many rings as both Tomlin and Bill Cowher. Heck, even Rob Gronkowski managed to score two more Super Bowl touchdowns.

Again, though, here you are reading this article. You’re alive and well. You’re concentrating on free agency and the draft. You’re not worried about Brown being right, are you? I’m not.

I once thought the idea of Brown, a man who couldn’t have been more of a petulant child on his way out the door two offseasons ago, finding the ultimate redemption with another team would be too hard for me to handle.

I was wrong.

I really don’t care. And for that, I’m proud of myself. I’ve grown. I’ve matured. I’m not concerned with what the haters think or do (oh, sure, I care enough to write an article about it, but quotas).

In conclusion, I can’t think of anything worse than Brown catching a touchdown in a Super Bowl and becoming a champion, except for maybe Ben Roethlisberger signing with the Cowboys and...

Podcast: How does Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement change the Steelers’ team needs?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/15/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman brings an AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

With the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey from the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, the Steelers have a giant void after 11 years at the center position. How does this change their offensive personnel decisions? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • How does Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement change the Steelers’ team needs?
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

As the Steelers roster turns over, it’s a reminder to appreciate the present

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/14/2021 - 2:30pm
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Plays which Steelers fans may have taken for granted are now just memories.

They say you never really know what you have until it’s gone. I don’t know who said it or where it originated, but it really does make a lot of sense with things in life.

But we’re not here to talk about life. We’re here to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers have had two players retire in the offseason so far for 2020. Add in the number of unrestricted free agents who are ready to hit the open market come March, the Steelers roster is going to look much different than it has in the past.

Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Since the Steelers haven’t been to the Super Bowl in 10 years, change is necessary. We, as fans, just hope it’s the right changes in order to get to the Steelers to the promised land. But as changes come, there will be things with the Steelers we will never see again.

I was at Troy Polamalu’s final game of his NFL career when the Steelers lost to the Ravens at Heinz Field in the 2014 postseason. After missing the previous two games due to injury, seeing Polamalu on the field and unable to do some things he had done throughout his career made me understand I may have just witnessed his last game in the NFL. Not only was it awful because the Steelers lost, it was disheartening that the legend’s time might have been coming to an end. But in that moment, I realized what it was I was witnessing.

During the 2015 postseason when the Steelers came up short in Denver, I’m sure there were not many Steelers’ fans who realized it would be their last chance to see Heath Miller wearing the Black & Gold. When Miller opened the scoring in Week 17 at Cleveland with a 2-yard touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers fans had no idea they were witnessing Miller‘s last touchdown of his career.

I have an even more tragic story outside of the Steelers organization when on October 21, 2007, I took my father to an NFL game in Washington where the Redskins faced the Arizona Cardinals. As we watched Neil Rackers’ 55 yard field goal to win the game for the Cardinals go wide right, we did not realize the significance of a play we witnessed not even half way through the first quarter when Sean Taylor intercepted Kurt Warner in what would be Taylor‘s last of his 12 NFL interceptions. A little over a month later, the two-time Pro Bowl safety would be shot and killed in his own house during a home invasion.

Two players from the Steelers 2020 team we know for sure we won’t get to witness them again are tight and Vance McDonald and center Maurkice Pouncey. Even though McDonald did not have a touchdown in the 2020 season, knowing there was the potential for his 75-yard touchdown known more for the stiff arm than for the actual points scored.

As for Pouncey, although some will know him for his errant snap to start his final game, there is a lot that can be appreciated during his time with the Steelers. Seeing him and Ben Roethlisberger enjoy a final moment together before heading off the field made some Steelers fans realize they just witnessed the end of a ten-year run between the center and the quarterback.

With more decisions coming soon for other players on the Steelers, I am causing myself to remember the moments that they gave to me as a fan, and hopefully appreciate any more they could possibly give. Talking specifically about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, little did I realize when I was unable to sell my tickets to the Week 15 matchup in 2018 at Heinz Field against the New England Patriots that it very well could be the last time I saw Rothlisberger quarterback and Steelers in person. Between his season-ending elbow surgery after Week 2 of 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic keeping fans out of stadiums in 2020, I never imagined it was possibly the last time seeing Roethlisberger play in person. Of course, I also didn’t realize it was the last time I would see Antonio Brown in a Steelers uniform.

Have I seen Ben Roethlisberger play his last snaps for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Right now we do not know if this is the case or not. Roethlisberger has multiple reasons to either call it a career or come back for one more season. If it is the last time Ben Roethlisberger commands the huddle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I will appreciate all the memories he has given me since the Steelers selected him 11th overall in 2004. Should Rothlisberger come back next season, I will remind myself during every game that I should appreciate each moment as it could be the last.

How would I love to see Troy Polamalu dive over the line one more time as he perfectly timed the snap and took down the unsuspecting quarterback. I’d love to see one more completion to Heath Miller where the fans at Heinz Field could scream “HEEEAAATH!” with it actually being Miller making the catch. There are too many NFL fans that think about what Sean Taylor’s NFL career could have been had his life not been tragically cut short.

If Ben Roethlisberger does return for the 2021 season, I hope it’s in a manner to where we can appreciate all that he is doing before calling it a career. I hope 2021 adds more to the great memories he has given Steelers’ fans, and when we look back years down the road we can talk about the 2021 season with fond memories. More importantly, I hope we can appreciate the Steelers’ memories we get each and every game as they occur.

Who will be the next Steelers offensive leader?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/14/2021 - 1:00pm
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

With the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, and Ben Roethlisberger at the end of his career, who will be the next face of the offense?

The retirement of Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey is still reverberating throughout the fan base, and likely through the organization. Pouncey has been the rock on the Steelers’ offensive line for over a decade, and not only will they have a void to fill from a performance standpoint, but also from a leadership perspective.

Pouncey wasn’t always the man in front of the cameras, but it is clear he was one of the leaders on the offensive side of the ball when cameras weren’t present. When no one was looking, it was Pouncey who was the man to fire up the troops. When it was time to have someone’s back, Pouncey was as loyal as they come.

With Pouncey now on to his life’s work, you have to wonder who will be the player on offense who will be the leader moving forward.

Before some of you head down to the comments and talk about how leadership doesn’t matter in the NFL, how these players make millions of dollars to play a game and how that should be motivation enough, remember the comments players made about legends like Hines Ward and Jerome Bettis.

They spoke of leadership, holding each other accountable to being sure the standard remained the standard, not just a slogan on a wall.

Even in today’s modern NFL, leadership still matters.

Ben Roethlisberger’s leadership has been questioned since he entered the league, and with him in the waning years of his career, you have to wonder who will be the next offensive player to carry the torch of leadership?

The quarterback position always lends itself to being “the guy”, but with the Steelers looking at slim pickings after Roethlisberger steps away from the game, the leadership will likely come from other sources.

Let’s take a look at who could be the next leader(s) of this Steelers offense with Pouncey retired, and Roethlisberger at the end of his career.

Could it be along the offensive line? Could it be someone like David DeCastro? A young player like Kevin Dotson? Some, if not all, of those suggestions seem like long shots.

Could it be at the skill positions? The running back room is extremely green, and assuming James Conner jettisons in free agency, it doesn’t seem likely a vocal leader comes out of that position group. Wide receivers? With JuJu Smith-Schuster also looking to go elsewhere, you can’t see Diontae Johnson, James Washington or Chase Claypool stepping into a leadership role.

The Steelers’ offense has a tremendous infusion of talent, even without Pouncey and Roethlisberger, but has lacked the leadership of a Ward or Bettis since the Killer B’s became a thing. When players like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell were essentially allowed to run loose, doing as they please, it silenced a lot of those type of leaders.

The offensive side of the ball is about to face a transition, and not just when it comes to on field performance. New faces will have to emerge, and step up as leaders. This could be a time when the offense, and organization, gets a fresh start. Change is inevitable, and it isn’t always a bad thing. With that said, it makes you wonder who will be the next offensive leader for the Steelers? Someone has to step up, right?

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Steelers round out their coaching staff by hiring Grady Brown as DB coach

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/14/2021 - 12:28pm
Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers only have one known vacancy on their coaching staff, and it looks like they might be filling that opening.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers promoted/hired names like Matt Canada, Adrian Klemm and others, it left just one known coaching vacancy on their coaching staff. That was the role formerly held by Tom Bradley as the team’s secondary coach.

At one point fans wondered if the team would just have Teryl Austin handle the duties of secondary coach, but it looks as if they will indeed be hiring a new secondary coach. It is being reported the Steelers are expected to hire former Houston cornerbacks coach Grady Brown.

Source: The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to hire Houston cornerbacks coach Grady Brown to work with their defensive back group.

Coaching veteran who has also been a defensive backs coach at schools such as South Carolina and Louisville.

— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) February 13, 2021

Brown most recently spent the 2021 season at the University of Houston as the cornerbacks coach with head coach Dana Holgorson. Prior to his stint with Houston, he was the defensive coordinator at McNeese State. Before arriving at McNeese, he spent 2019 at Old Dominion as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs. Prior to joining Old Dominion, he spent the 2018 season at Louisville as the Cardinals’ recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach. In his one season at Louisville, the Cardinals ranked No. 40 in the country in pass defense. In 2017, Brown spent one season as the safeties coach at Alabama State.

He was also the defensive coordinator at Birmingham Southern in 2016 and prior to that was at South Carolina for four years coaching the defensive backs. Under Brown’s tutelage, USC ranked No. 12 in FBS in pass defense in 2013 and No. 13 in interceptions (18). At South Carolina he recruited Skai Moore, who finished his career tied for first in South Carolina history in interceptions.

These are just the recent stops for Brown, as he has a lengthy history as coaching in the collegiate ranks. However, this will be Brown’s first stop in the NFL.

Will this be the end of the Steelers’ coaching hires? Unless they create a position, or hire an outside linebackers coach, a position currently held by defensive coordinator Keith Butler, it seems Mike Tomlin’s 2021 staff is in place.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC to see if/when this hire becomes official, as well as all the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

UPDATE:

The move has been made, and the Steelers welcome Grady Brown to the team as the official defensive backs coach. At this point, the only new hires the Steelers make will be at a position which would be created.

Steelers have hired Grady Brown as secondary coach, replacing Tom Bradley, per source.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) February 14, 2021

Watch Alan Faneca get “the knock” for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/14/2021 - 11:30am

The Pittsburgh Steelers have another of their own in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and you can watch his reaction when he got “the knock”.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have another member of their franchise inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer when Alan Faneca will finally get his bust in Canton, OH. Faneca, who was also inducted with former scout Bill Nunn, will be a part of a Steelers-centric celebration this summer when Troy Polamalu, Bill Cowher, Donnie Shell, Faneca and Nunn will all be inducted at the same time.

Faneca has had to wait several years before his induction, but when it finally happened it was a surprise from Hall of Fame President David Baker at his home which surprised the former LSU guard.

Instead of the nominees being in the same hotel and getting “the knock” from Baker, this year, due to COVID-19, Baker went around the country and delivered the news to every player, coach or scout individually.

You can watch Faneca’s visit from Baker below, and the reaction of his family as they surprised Faneca at the same time.

An extended version of 'The Knock' that @afan66 received to learn of his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021.#PFHOF21 | @steelers pic.twitter.com/9dIxTTsoHH

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 12, 2021

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Touchdown Under Podcast: Steelers’ Question Marks, Challenges & Considerations

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/14/2021 - 11:00am

Check out our latest weekly venture with an international flavor. Put another shrimp on the barbie and check out Steelers Touchdown Under with two blokes from Australia, Matty Peverell and Mark Davison.

With so many questions, roster challenges and considerations, what are fans left to think about when it comes to the Steelers’ 2021 prospects?

Join the two Aussie blokes, two mates, Matty Peverell & Mark Davison from Steelers Nation Australia - and the future - as they bring an international perspective to last week’s Super Bowl, the Steelers 2021 offseason and what needs to be done to set the team up for a successful 2021 chase for that seventh Lombardi.

This is what will be discussed on the latest episode of Touchdown Under, the Australian sensation from the BTSC family of podcasts that’s now moved over to its live YouTube home.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Thoughts on Maurkice Pouncey’s Retirement
  • Thoughts on the prospects of signing J.J. Watt
  • Reaction to Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl win
  • Question Mark: A new segment where Mark throws random questions Matty’s way
  • ‘Slingin’ the Slang’
  • and MUCH MUCH MORE!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Sleeper free agent fits for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/14/2021 - 9:30am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Steelers will need to plug its holes on the cheep this offseason

Every year the Pittsburgh Steelers will make a handful of moves to add veteran players at positions of need. These moves allow the team to draft the best player available and not have to rely on someone dropping to them, or just simply hang the flexibility in not having to put rookies in situations they are not ready for. In an offseason where the salary cap has been long rumored to drop, these moves are more important than ever. One slight benefit to a dropping cap however, will be that a portion of mid level free agents will see their price tag drop. Picking up a handful of those guys on one year deals could be the key at having a successful 2021 season.

As for the players on this list, I will present a free agent at every offensive position. More specifically guys that fit the Steelers offensive mold. Let’s do this...

Quarterback: Brett Hundley Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Steelers President Art Rooney II stated the team isn't done adding players to its quarterback room. Most likely they would want to take someone in the draft. But for the purpose of this exercise the Steelers bring in Brett Hundley to fill the hole left behind by Josh Dobbs. Hundley has appeared in 18 games in his career starting nine of them. His experience and skillset would give him a shot at the Steelers third quarterback spot. If not the organization will need another arm for training camp.

Running back: Marlon Mack Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Marlon Mack was developing into a fine back in the NFL. Breaking the 1,000 yard mark in 2019 the Colts had big things in mind for Mack and his future with the team. Then, just part way through the first game of the 2020 season Mack tore his Achilles tendon and would miss the remainder of the year. The emergence of Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines has made a Mack’s return to the Colts unlikely. A short term deal with Mack might just be the perfect remedy to the Steelers ailing rushing attack.

Wide Receiver: Tyrell Williams Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders will reportedly cut Williams at the beginning of the 2021 league year (March 17). While battling injuries for most of the past few seasons including a torn labrum which ended his 2020 season. Williams is still a speed burner at the receiver spot. An addition like this one would alleviate some of the pressure on young Chase Claypool from being the primary deep threat. A marriage between the player and organization is a possible one as the Steelers showed interest in Williams back in 2019 free agency. For the right price they should be interested again.

Slot Receiver: Danny Amendola Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

I will die on this hill, 35 year old Danny Amendola is a solid plug and play receiver that is as steady as they come in the NFL. If the Steelers want to improve their catch rate and a veteran voice in the locker room, then they should put a call into Amendola’s camp.

Tight End: MyCole Pruitt Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Steelers need to add a tight end with solid blocking traits. I’m not sure there is anyone better available with that skillset than Mycole Pruitt. His low receiving totals will keep his contract number fairly small. Besides the Steelers rarely target their number two tight ends so keeping spending at a minimum at the position is critical.

Tackle: Kelvin Beachum

The Steelers love themselves a reunion, and Kelvin Beachum could add his name to a long list of players that twice have played in the Steel City. Upgrading and adding players to its offensive tackle position will be a high priority this offseason and it could all start with bringing Beachum back into the fold.

Interior line: Brett Jones Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers need someone on a cheap deal that can play all three interior positions. And unless BJ Finney becomes a salary cap casualty in Cincinnati and reunites with the Pittsburgh Steelers then the Steelers need to look at Brett Jones. Jones’ will command a lot less than many of the players on the market and can fill the primary interior-three backup position.

What do you think? Which of these free agents are the most likely to end up in Pittsburgh? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Steelers Fact or Fiction: Sister Sledge edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/14/2021 - 8:00am

BTSC takes five burning questions regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers and labels them as fact or fiction.

There’s always so much to talk about when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the inquiries surrounding the black-and-gold are definitely ever-evolving, especially this week with the Steelers watching a future Hall of Famer retire, the courting of another and the 20th anniversary of the demolition of a legendary home. Those three happenings make me think of the Pirates’ anthem from 1979 in so many more ways than one.

Here’s a sample...

We are family. Get up everybody and sing. Everyone can see we’re together as we walk on by. And we fly just like birds of a feather, I won’t tell no lie. (All) all of the people around us they say, can they be that close? Just let me state for the record, we’re giving love in a family dose.

Ponder whether they are related here or if I just wanted an excuse to listen to some disco. But anyhow, there is surely a lot to wonder about. BTSC tries to answer some of the poignant wonderings ahead of time. Take a gander at some bold statements on this and more as we label them as fact or fiction.

Are we on point? Only time will tell.

Three Rivers Stadium is the greatest stadium in Pittsburgh sports history Fact

Heinz Field and PNC Park are gorgeous stadiums that are loaded with features and amenities that highlight a picturesque city skyline as a backdrop. Forbes Field was a quaint and simple ballpark that was classic and modern at the same time. The “Oakland Orchard” inspired the construction of more luxurious stadiums later on. People reminiscing of the park dubbed “The House of Thrills” in 1959, talked about it being a perfect venue. Then there was Three Rivers Stadium. It definitely wasn’t the nicest of the three, in fact it was kind of a dump with little personality in comparison. The ash tray design, the water-stained turf and the dreary concourse are definitely not missed these days. But the fact of the matter remains that what occurred there from 1970 to 2000 was absolute magic. The stadium hosted seven AFC Championship games, two World Series, eight NLCS, a Penguins Stanley Cup celebration and so many great events that led to those championship events. With the 20th anniversary this week of the implosion of the stadium at the confluence of the Ohio, Monongahela and the Allegheny, the memories of that park remind us that you don’t have to be pretty to be extraordinarily beautiful.

It will be a long time until the Steelers play in February again Fiction

A lot of Steelers fans are under the impression that when Ben Roethlisberger leaves, and actually probably at this very juncture, that the Steelers are in for our long and arduous rebuild. But last year‘s draft featured three players that the Steelers could build around in the persons of Chase Claypool, Alex Highsmith and Kevin Dotson. The season before the Steelers acquired three players (Devin Bush, Diontae Johnson and Minkah Fitzpatrick) that arrived as a part of a trade in some way, shape or form. Sure the salary cap situation is grave for the time being, but the Steelers haven’t had a losing season season since 2003 and have only seen their record fall below .500 a mere eight times in 50 seasons. The franchise knows how to compete. If the issues of 2020 find a way to get remedied, a few roster tweaks are made and the Steelers improve upon their 12-4 mark, a Super Bowl berth really isn’t that far out of the realm of possibility. As for life after Ben, if the Steelers make the right investment at the quarterback position... there might not be a drought whatsoever the likes of 1980-2004.

Teams don’t need a running quarterback to win in the NFL Fact

We just saw a 43-year old by the name of Tom Brady win the Super Bowl for a seventh time. Mr. Brady has never been accused of being fleet of foot. In fact, Robert Reed who played the famed patriarch on The Brady Bunch, Mr. Brady, might actually be faster than the 5-time Super Bowl MVP and he passed away in 1992. Sure, it’s great to have a mobile quarterback. But Patrick Mahomes mobility just kept him from being murdered against the staunch defense of Tampa Bay. The only quarterbacks that came closest to being considered runners to win the big one in the last ten years would be Russell Wilson and Mahomes. Probably the best running QB in the NFL is Lamar Jackson and he is only 1-3 in the playoffs. The running quarterback is the wave of the future, but it hasn’t equated to many championships so far.

Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement leaves a bigger void than most fans think Fact

Pouncey was a great player for the Steelers since being drafted in the first round by the Steelers in 2010. It could be argued that had the rookie center not been injured in the AFC Championship Game against the Jets. The 9x Pro Bowl selection and twice All-Pro was not at his peak performance in 2020, but a better option was not and is not on the roster. But where the Steelers will definitely feel even more of a loss is as a vocal team leader in the locker room, on the sidelines and on the practice field. Pouncey’s retirement may even signal the close of Ben Roethlisberger’s career before 2021.

The Steelers signing J.J. Watt is a foregone conclusion

Fiction

This is something that Steeler Nation has been talking about for a long time now and it actually could happen. The eldest Watt brother has asked for and received his release from the franchise that makes your Uncle Louie’s pyramid scheme seem like a sound business model, the Houston Texans. Now No. 99 is free to go wherever he pleases. Everybody is assuming that J.J. will automatically join his brothers in the Steel City. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly work that way. Sure the Watt Brothers are very tight, but economics come into play here and Justin James could be offered the kind of coin that the Steelers can’t come up with under the cap. Teams like Cleveland and many others could pony up quite a bit. Now J.J. has had a few pay days in the league and seems to be financially well off because of endorsements and his television career. However, it comes down to what the three-time NFL DPOY values most. This could go in a direction that nobody ever expected.

Check out the Fact or Fiction podcast to learn even more about these topics, and their status, heading into this week’s game and listen for more on the player below.

Mock Draft: Steelers take best player available, select RB in first round

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/14/2021 - 7:00am
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers make waves with their first round selection in the latest mock draft.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several team needs entering the 2021 offseason, and after Maurkice Pouncey announced his retirement this week, center has just sky-rocketed up the team needs list.

Nonetheless, the Steelers have never promoted the draft by position approach, rather they tend to lean on the best player available approach to the selection process. Sure, the picks of Artie Burns and Terrell Edmunds might challenge the best player available theory, but with the Steelers selecting No. 24th overall, they will have plenty of time to see how things shake out.

Recently, I connected with the fine folks at Walk the Mock to take a stab at being the general manager of the Steelers. I did a standard draft, no trades, and saw who was available at pick No. 24.

Based on their rankings, there were a few offensive linemen on the board, but not anyone at center who I felt the team couldn’t target later in the draft process. With that said, the one name which stared me straight in the face was Clemson running back Travis Etienne.

This is when you will hear people talk about taking a running back in the first round. How it isn’t necessary. How there will still be talent there in the mid rounds. But Etienne could be a game changer immediately. Getting the running back will allow the Steelers to target the offensive line in Rounds 2 and 3, where there is still plenty of talent.

For those who don’t know much about the Clemson running back who was selected in my mock draft, check out Etienne’s draft profile, from the Draft Network:

Clemson running back Travis Etienne enters the NFL after a productive college career that resulted in him being the ACC’s all-time leading rusher. His burst and contact balance make him a big-play back that is capable of taking it the distance from any part of the field. While he’s an explosive back, Etienne is disciplined and doesn’t try to do too much and put his team in bad positions. He’s grown wonderfully as a receiver and is a nightmare matchup for linebackers in coverage. The primary area of concern for Etienne is inconsistent results in pass protection. His tape reveals too many instances where he is tardy to diagnose pressure schemes and lacks the technique needed to consistently execute blocks in pass protection. While his vision is sufficient, there are times when he can become too eager pressing the line of scrimmage where more patience and anticipation are needed to maximize his touches. Overall, the grips with Etienne’s game are minor and he has the upside to become one of the NFL’s most dangerous offensive weapons.

Ideal Role: Featured running back that gets plenty of chances to attack the edges and contribute as a receiver out of the backfield.

Scheme Fit: Etienne is a scheme-transcendent back.

For more information on Walk the Mock, check out the description below, and be sure to give their awesome, and versatile tools a shot as you prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft:

Walk the Mock is an NFL mock draft simulator that has been in the mocking arena since 2016. We have had some major updates in the last few years and I am proud to announce a brand new feature to our existing draft modes, Real Time Drafting. Finally, you can grab a team and mock draft against 31 real life team owners. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, but your services are no longer required. Will you be a GM that wheels and deals, one that crumbles under the pressure, or takes the forever popular Best Pick Available? This all new mode has some great features of its own including:

  • Schedule draft date/time
  • Live pick announcement animations
  • User/fan pick reactions
  • Player queue
  • Text notifications
  • Invite owners
  • Public/private draft rooms
  • Invite spectators (no account needed)
  • And more!!!

The best part is you don’t have to mock in message boards and comments sections any longer. Come enjoy the live draft experience and feel some of the real time pressures of drafting against flesh and bone. There is not another simulator out there that has this feature! We are offering a FREE month if you join by February 21st. Use promo code BTSC during checkout.

Why the Steelers will not be using the franchise tag in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 02/14/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Although the answer is simple, there are figures which back up the reason.

Money.

Although a one-word article would be nice to write. I feel a bit of an explanation is warranted. Not only is the answer money, but it might not be ‘money’ in the way Steelers fans think about it.

So what do I mean by money?

As most people know, the Pittsburgh Steelers salary cap situation is not in the best shape at the moment going into the 2021 offseason. The Steelers are still well over the projected salary cap even after the retirements a Vance McDonald and Maurkice Pouncey.

But even if the Steelers were more in the realm of a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars who are currently sitting with over $75 million in cap space, it still wouldn’t be likely that they use the franchise tag in 2021. It’s not about spending money that the Steelers don’t have, it’s more about the players not being worth the contract that comes with the franchise tag.

To better explain, let’s look at the top Steelers players set to earn the most on the open market that will become free agents when the league year begins on March 17. Before diving in, I do want to mention another option, which is slightly less expensive, being the transition tag. There is no compensation tied to losing a player if they sign a deal elsewhere as it would only be a right of first refusal in order to match the contract. Even though the transition tag is generally a couple million dollars less than the franchise tag, we’ll stick with the franchise numbers for now.

Bud Dupree

First off is the player who the Steelers used the franchise tag on in 2020. Dupree was paid $15.828 million in 2020 which was the franchise tag number for a linebacker. Although Dupree did make a case for being paid more saying he should be classified as a defensive end, nothing seemed to ever come about from his objection.

With Dupree already being franchise tagged once, to have the tag placed on him again would mean he would be paid 120% of his previous year’s salary. Because of this, it would cost to Steelers $18.99 million for Dupree for 2021. I don’t think it would be difficult to agree this is too much to pay for an outside linebacker on the Steelers not named T.J. Watt, let alone one coming off of an ACL injury. In all honesty, Dupree would probably not even be worth the $15.657 million which is the projected franchise tag amount for 2021 according to overthecap.com.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

One player who made draw a yearly salary equal to what he would receive with the franchise tag is wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. With a projected franchise tag tender $16.43 million for wide receivers according to OTC, there is the possibility Smith-Schuster gets a yearly contract of that magnitude. Unfortunately, it won’t be in Pittsburgh.

With three other young wide receivers on rookie deals, along with their salary cap situation, it would not make sense to use the tag on Smith-Schuster and spend that much money for the one season to gain his services. But out of all the possible unrestricted free agents for the Steelers in 2021, Smith-Schuster probably would have the best chance of receiving the franchise tag if they were going to use it on anyone. Because the numbers just don’t add up, this is the biggest reason why the Steelers shouldn’t use the tag in 2021.

Alejandro Villanueva

Another player who some feel could command a decent salary on the free-agent market is starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Even if the Steelers felt like Big Al needed to help them bridge the gap in their offensive line for another season, the projected $14.507 million needed is more than twice what they would probably be willing to pay.

Mike Hilton & Cam Sutton

The next two highest priority free agents for the Steelers are most likely cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton. Neither player is a starter in Pittsburgh, especially if they keep both Steven Nelson and Joe Haden who are both entering the final year of their contracts. With a projected franchise tag number of $15.266 million for a cornerback, the Steelers probably couldn’t afford both players for this combined amount. Even if they could, are either Hilton or Sutton a $15 million per year cornerback?

Even if the Steelers are not over the salary cap at the moment, there really isn’t a player set to be a free agent in 2021 who would command of the salary the Steelers would have to pay with the franchise tag. The only player I saw last year as a possibility for 2021 would have been defensive tackle Cameron Heyward if he and the Steelers had not reached a long-term deal just prior to the 2020 season. If both sides wouldn’t have come to the agreement, the Steelers could have retained Heyward for a projected $14.178 million this season which is slightly less than his 2021 salary cap number of $14.55 million.

On February 23 rolls around, don’t look for the Steelers to use the franchise tag then or the following two weeks leading up to the 4 PM deadline on March 9. Even with the large number of unrestricted free agents said to hit the market from the Steelers when the newly year begins, none of the players appear to be worth the large price tag it would take to keep them for the 2021 season by using the franchise or transition tag. It’s not to say the Steelers should not look to keep any of these players, it’s just the franchise tag does not seem to be the best avenue as the price is simply too high.

Saturday Night Open Thread - Saying Goodbye Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/13/2021 - 6:43pm
A Warrior for any era... | Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Come and join this merry band of Steeler faithful for some lively debate about our Steelers, good food and the merits of the odd cold beverage.

There is a saying that ‘context is everything’. There is also a saying that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. With the retirement of Pouncey, the former saying trumps the later. Right now, here today, we find this franchise at a crossroads. The biggest problem last year, only got bigger with time. The Steelers O-line will be significantly different next year and it is possible, even likely, that right now we still have not seen all the change that will occur just with the personnel that played last year.

I will point out that one thing that we won’t ‘see’ but it will be very real, is the loss of his leadership in the locker room. Take for example, what Pouncey’s retirement means to the development of Kevin Dotson, Chase Claypool, or even a ‘fringe’ player like Dwayne Haskins. The loss of Pouncey will not be limited to what he brought on the field.

What does this mean for our future?

  1. With the changes that have already been announced and those yet to come, what do you think happens to Ben? Will he play again? If so, for just next year? Tell us what your crystal ball says and make your case for why.
  2. How do you think we approach FA this year? We have a number of players likely to sign with other teams which should net us some significant comp picks in ‘22. Do you think we make real splashes this year and comp formula be damned or do we wait and sign players after the eligible period passes and or those that have been cut by their former team?
  3. When you think about Pouncey’s career, it is not filled with ‘highlights’ except when he took EXTREME umbrage with someone else’s actions towards a teammate. How does that sit with you that the guys that ‘everything starts with’, get left out of the limelight?
  4. So, since we have all agreed that Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie ever, let’s solve another first world crisis. Is the hamburger or the hot dog rightly considered a sandwich?
  5. In case you haven’t heard yet, Jay-Z, Carole King, Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige, Kate Bush, Devo, Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, Chaka Khan, Fela Kuti, LL Cool J, New York Dolls, Rage Against the Machine, Todd Rundgren and Dionne Warwick are all eligible to be voted into the Rock n Roll HOF. Who you betting your ‘10 internet units’ on?

A history of the 24th overall NFL Draft pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/13/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

For the fifth time in team history the Steelers will make its selection with the 24th pick

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be making a first round draft pick for the first time since 2019., and for the fifth time in team history that selection will be the 24th overall pick. The last time the Steelers drafted in this slot was back in 2012 when they took All-Pro guard, David DeCastro. While DeCastro was clearly a home run choice for the Steelers, the selection has quite a bumpy history with the club.

#NFLDraft With the No.24 pick the @steelers select David DeCastro, G, Stanford pic.twitter.com/9VS4PQ5f

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 27, 2012

The Steelers drafted cornerback, Chad Scott 24th in 1997. While Scott was a fine player, the team passed on others that would have far more illustrious careers. Players like Tiki and Ronde Barber, Darren Sharper, or even just two cornerback selections later, All-Pro Sam Madison.

However, the worst Steelers pick at this spot would be when they selected one of the biggest busts in team history back in 1989 with their second of two first round draft choices selecting offensive tackle, Tom Ricketts. Ricketts would only last three seasons in Pittsburgh before he split from the organization. In those three seasons, Ricketts would start just 13 games. The Steelers have not made multiple first round picks in a draft since 1989.

In 1989 The Steelers had 2 picks in the first round, and they picked Tim Worley and Tom Ricketts. https://t.co/l1VRQGxggF

— Free Parking (@cigarznscotch) January 10, 2020

The first 24th overall selection in team history was a pretty good one however. In 1973 the Steelers added Pro Bowl Cornerback J.T. Thomas. Thomas was the Yin to Mel Blount’s Yang for the ‘Steel Curtain’ defense. A four time Super Bowl champion and a steady force in the Steelers defensive backfield.

Looking at the 24th overall selection as a whole, you will see a number of All-Pro and Hall of Fame players that immediately jump off the page. Those include: Aaron Rodgers, Ed Reed, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Dallas Clark and Craig ‘Iron-head’ Heyward. This goes to show that even MVP caliber talent can be found at 24, you just have to make the right pick.

Gruden finds his Marshawn replacement

Raiders select Josh Jacobs No. 24 overall pic.twitter.com/wI1xrTk60J

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 26, 2019

Taking things one step further below is a list of the past ten 24th overall selections:

‘20 Cesar Ruiz, C, Saints
‘19 Josh Jacobs, RB Raiders
‘18 D.J. Moore, WR Panthers
‘17 Gareon Conley, CB Raiders
‘16 William Jackson III, CB Bengals
‘15 D. J. Humphries, OT Cardinals
‘14 Darqueze Dennard, CB Bengals
‘13 Björn Werner, DE Colts
‘12 David DeCastro, RG Steelers
‘11 Cameron Jordan, DE Saints

Since the Steelers drafted DeCastro in 2012 the 24th overall selection has been a bit of a mess, outside of Josh Jacobs. My biggest takeaway from looking up these names up were teams clearly drafted out of need and didn't go with the best player available. Which, considering some of the big time flops of the above names may prove the best player available approach is the best choice the Steelers could make.

But what do you think? Who should the Steelers drafted 24th overall? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

The Steelers 2020 draft class has already made history

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/13/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Even without a first-round pick in 2020, the Steelers draft has already done something never achieved in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 draft will go down in Steelers history as one of the greatest ever.

Wow. That was a pretty bold statement. So what makes this draft class so wonderful? Is it already better than the 1974 draft class where four Hall of Famer‘s were drafted along with another who was an undrafted free agent? Of course not. But this draft class did do something that has never been done in Steelers history.

For the first time ever, the Pittsburgh Steelers had every draft pick appear in a regular-season game during the rookie season.

Specifically, every player drafted by Pittsburgh in 2020 was credited with playing a game for the Steelers. Both wide receiver Chase Claypool and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith appeared in all 16 games this season with Kevin Dotson being credited with 13 games. Rounding out the 2020 draft class was Anthony McFarland Jr. with 11 games, Carlos Davis with 7 games, and Antoine Brooks Jr. with 4 games.

Before we go farther, it should be noted that not only is the Steelers 2020 NFL draft class the first to have every member appear in a game for the Steelers during their rookie year, they are also the first class to have all their players play for the Steelers at some point in their career. Granted Sutton Smith could make a big comeback in Pittsburgh to play eventually and give the honor to the 2019 class, but they still wouldn’t be the group to accomplish it first.

So the Steelers 2020 draft class established franchise records by both all playing in their rookie season and all played for the Steelers during their career. Believe it or not, being a draft class that actually had every player logging a game for any team at some point in their career is a rarity as this is only the 10th occasion in franchise history. The last time it happened for the Steelers was their 2012 draft class where every player eventually logged a game with one NFL franchise.

The first time Steelers had every player drafted appear in an NFL game throughout their career was in 1987. This was quite the accomplishment as the Steelers had 13 players selected in the 12 rounds of the draft. Prior to this, there was always so many rounds that there were bound to be players who did not ever make it in the NFL. When the draft was cut down to eight rounds in 1993, the Steelers had every player selected appear in an NFL game. The other seasons in which this has occurred with 1997, 1999, 2002, and then a four year stretch from 2009 through 2012. Even the draft class of 2003 where the Steelers only selected five players did not see all of them make it in the NFL.

In looking at these numbers, it goes to show the NFL draft is anything but an exact science. Just because a player is drafted does not mean that they will appear in a regular season NFL game for the team drafted them, or even at all. The fact the Steelers, for the first time in franchise history, had every player drafted appear in a game in their rookie season just goes to show how difficult it is to draft, and how well the Steelers performed in the 2020 NFL draft with all things considered.

This draft class had a lot working against them due to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet every single one of them saw the field for the Steelers this season. Hopefully 2021 brings bigger and better things for the Steelers class of 2020 as well as a the incoming class of 2021.

Updating the Steelers salary cap situation after the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/13/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

After the two retirements in the offseason, the Steelers are creeping closer to the projected 2021 salary cap.

Obviously there is no intent of disrespect to the players announcing their retirement following the 2020 NFL season, but one of the results of both Vance McDonald and Maurkice Pouncey deciding to call it a career in Pittsburgh is some relief in regards to the Steelers 2021 salary cap situation. In case you haven’t heard, the Pittsburgh Steelers are needing to make some tough decisions as they are well over the projected salary cap for this coming season. Exactly what the cap will be is only a projection at this time as the NFL has not announced the number needed for teams to be under with their top 51 salaries on March 17.

Before getting into exactly where the Steelers stand, to quickly answer the question as to why the NFL has not announced the 2021 salary cap is because there are many things going on with the 2021 season which have not been agreed upon between both the league and the NFLPA. Is the NFL going to a 17 game season this fall? Will there be a new TV contract? Will both sides agree to not lower the salary cap as much for 2021 due to a projected cap jump for the 2022 season?

There is no guarantee anything is being worked out between the NFL and the Players Association which will help the salary cap, but if there is even a possibility of the two sides agreeing on something different for 2021 it would most likely benefit for Steelers in someway.

So where do the Steelers stand at this moment? According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are a little over $30 million above the projected 2021 salary cap. The number they are going with is just around $180 million which is $5 million higher than the floor set forth last season of $175 million.

If you haven’t noticed already, I’m using an awful lot of approximate values. It’s very difficult to get down to the exact dollar amounts when things are not known. Therefore, these approximate values are going to give an estimation of the Steelers salary cap situation.

Another factor included in the number by overthecap.com is the amount of carryover the Steelers have from the 2020 season where they did not spend up to the salary cap. As has been previously reported, the Steelers have just over $5 million they are expected to carryover. By looking at the numbers used, the $30 million over over the cap has taken this amount into account.

Next, the retirements a Vance McDonald and Maurkice Pouncey will have the money due to them off the books for 2021. Of course, the dead money will carry through, but the base salary which would have been earned by each player will come off the salary cap.

These numbers are known for sure as Vance McDonald will save the Steelers $5.2 million towards the salary cap and Maurkice Pouncey will have $8 million coming off the books. A mistake some may make is the fact that $13.2 million doesn’t come off the salary cap as there will be displacement of the Steelers top 51 salaries. With players making $660,000 each moving up into the top 51, the Steelers will net just under $12 million of relief towards the salary cap.

So of the $30 million the Steelers will need to cut, almost $12 million has been done without them having to make any decisions on their own. Granted the Steelers have more than $18 to still cut if the salary cap ends up around the $180 million mark.

So what else can the Steelers do to better their situation? First of all, any amount the salary cap ends up over $180 million is that much less that the Steelers have to worry about. Additionally, the Steelers are set to trim part of their salary cap based on anything done with the contract of Ben Roethlisberger. If Roethlisberger calls it a career and does not play in 2021, then over $18 million would move in the Steelers favor because of the $19 million in salary minus the displacement of moving another player into the top 51. If Ben Roethlisberger stays with the Steelers and there is no displacement but they rework his contract and give him a small extension, I could see the Steelers saving at least $10 million if they can work things out.

Additionally, there is money to be saved with the restructures of players with multiple years left on their deal such as Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward. If the Steelers are looking to restructure as much as possible for both players, they could save another $10 million.

Of course, there could still be roster cuts and other contract extensions in order to get players salary cap numbers down for the 2021 season.

All of these numbers are merely talking about where the Steelers need to be come the start of the 2021 league year on March 17. The Steelers will also need additional salary cap space in order to sign their draft picks, take into account players 52 and 53 on the roster, sign their practice squad, and take some money into the season in order to do business and have carryover if not used. But for now, the most important issue is what the Steelers can do at the start of the league year. As we have seen in years past where the Steelers can find money in other ways in order to prepare for these things.

Are the Steelers still over the 2021 projected salary cap? Yes they are. Did the retirement of McDonald and Pouncey help with this? Yes it did. Are there other ways to get salary cap compliant without completely gutting the roster? Yes there is, but signing free agent players is still going to be difficult. But as we’ve seen in the past, difficult does not mean impossible for the Steelers as there is still a lot of work to be done with the 2021 salary cap.

Podcast: Maurkice Pouncey and the tradition of Steelers centers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/13/2021 - 11:00am

There is plenty to discuss on the latest episode of the popular podcast Steelers Brunch w/ Tony.

The Steelers have had an amazing legacy of head coaches, with only three since 1969. The tradition of excellence at the center position is nearly as tremendous when you think about Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, Jeff Hartings and Maurkice Pouncey headlining the greats for the black-and-gold. With Pouncey announcing his retirement after eleven tremendous seasons as a Steeler, the hope is that the tradition will continue with his yet-to-be known successor. Nonetheless, BTSC’s Tony Defeo will celebrate No. 53’s brilliant career. Join Tony under the lights of Friday night as he discusses more than just the Steelers with plenty of answers to questions from the fan base. Welcome to Steelers Friday Six Pack with Tony as the veteran BTSC contributor discusses the Steelers so far and beyond.

Check out the rundown of the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section.

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • The legend of Maurkice Pouncey
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Steelers reportedly close to rounding out their coaching staff with Grady Brown as DB coach

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/13/2021 - 10:31am
Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers only have one known vacancy on their coaching staff, and it looks like they might be filling that opening.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers promoted/hired names like Matt Canada, Adrian Klemm and others, it left just one known coaching vacancy on their coaching staff. That was the role formerly held by Tom Bradley as the team’s secondary coach.

At one point fans wondered if the team would just have Teryl Austin handle the duties of secondary coach, but it looks as if they will indeed be hiring a new secondary coach. It is being reported the Steelers are expected to hire former Houston cornerbacks coach Grady Brown.

Source: The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to hire Houston cornerbacks coach Grady Brown to work with their defensive back group.

Coaching veteran who has also been a defensive backs coach at schools such as South Carolina and Louisville.

— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) February 13, 2021

Brown most recently spent the 2021 season at the University of Houston as the cornerbacks coach with head coach Dana Holgorson. Prior to his stint with Houston, he was the defensive coordinator at McNeese State. Before arriving at McNeese, he spent 2019 at Old Dominion as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs. Prior to joining Old Dominion, he spent the 2018 season at Louisville as the Cardinals’ recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach. In his one season at Louisville, the Cardinals ranked No. 40 in the country in pass defense. In 2017, Brown spent one season as the safeties coach at Alabama State.

He was also the defensive coordinator at Birmingham Southern in 2016 and prior to that was at South Carolina for four years coaching the defensive backs. Under Brown’s tutelage, USC ranked No. 12 in FBS in pass defense in 2013 and No. 13 in interceptions (18). At South Carolina he recruited Skai Moore, who finished his career tied for first in South Carolina history in interceptions.

These are just the recent stops for Brown, as he has a lengthy history as coaching in the collegiate ranks. However, this will be Brown’s first stop in the NFL.

Will this be the end of the Steelers’ coaching hires? Unless they create a position, or hire an outside linebackers coach, a position currently held by defensive coordinator Keith Butler, it seems Mike Tomlin’s 2021 staff is in place.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC to see if/when this hire becomes official, as well as all the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

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