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Podcast: Is the Steelers’ season already on life support?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 2:00pm

BTSC’s Jeff Hartman, Bryan Anthony Davis, and Dave Schofield talk news of the day and everything surrounding the Steelers. All of this while mixing in fun and frivolity like only they do.

The Steelers are off to a start so disconcerting that some feel that the postseason dreams of the black and gold have been dashed already. Is the season on life support this early? This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold and there you have the topic for the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview with Jeff Hartman, Bryan Anthony Davis, and Dave Schofield. Join the triumphant trio as they combine the down all things Steelers and with shenanigans galore.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the week
  • Is the Steelers’ season already on life support?
  • Over/Under
  • Trivia

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Week 5 games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Several of the BTSC staff pick all the NFL games both against the spread and over/under point totals

The 2021 NFL season is moving along as teams move into what would be the second quarter before the regular season expanded. Four weeks into the season, only one team remain undefeated while two enter the week looking for their first victory. With it seeming like almost any team could find victory or defeat each week, it makes picking games even more difficult.

For the 2021 NFL season, our “Excellent 8” of BTSC staff will be picking every game against the spread and the over/under point totals. We are keeping up with the changes we made last year and including the Thursday games. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers, and if you need to be reminded of this simple look at our records. We are just a group of Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

We are using the same program as last year called Tallysight It allows us to show picks in a much more “friendly to the eye” manner. To understand how it works, the default tab is for our picks against the spread. To see the over/under picks, click the “O/U” tab in the upper left. Also, make sure you scroll on the graphic to see all the picks.

Last week, there were two people who lead the way picking against the spread at 9-7. It was Bryan and Michael with the top weekly score which kept them tied for the season at 33-30 and are the only ones over .500 at this point. As for who came in at the bottom, it was Matty who finished at 5-11 for the week, but still stays ahead of me overall as I’m only 24-39.

In the over/under, Shannon crushed it at 11-5 followed closely by both Jeff and me at 10-6. This time it was Geoffrey who brought up the rear in over/under at 4-12 this week. Although I am last against the spread, I hold an overall lead of two games over Bryan and I’m the only person over .500 at 34-30.

So here are the picks for the games for Week 5 of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along!

Rooting Guide: Who to cheer for in other games in Week 5

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Steelers fans know who to root against week in and week out. They usually know to root against Baltimore, Cleveland and New England. But sometimes, you have to look at the bigger picture—the playoff picture. Here are potential teams to put on your foam finger for.

Each game that the Steelers take the field for, it’s about winning and not losing. That doesn’t always occur, but with the goal always being the playoffs... the other games become about seeding and matchups. Even though it’s not the Black-and-gold playing and the playoffs seem like a pipe dream, other contests still matter to Steelers Nation and we assume the Steelers will start winning for the sake of this exercise. Here’s a guide to other significant matchups, and whose losses the Steelers would benefit from more.

Here are the current AFC Power Rankings (ESPN)

  1. Buffalo Bills 3-1 (Last Week: 1 - No change)
  2. Cleveland Browns 3-1 (Last Week: 3 - Up 1 spot)
  3. Baltimore Ravens 3-1 (Last Week: 4 - Up 1 spot)
  4. Los Angeles Chargers 3-1 (Last Week: 9 - Up 5 spots)
  5. Las Vegas Raiders 3-1 (Last Week: 2 - Down 3 spots)
  6. Kansas City Chiefs 2-2 (Last Week: 6 - No change)
  7. Denver Broncos 3-1 (Last Week: 7 - No change)
  8. Cincinnati Bengals 3-1 (Last Week: 9 - Up 1 spot)
  9. Tennessee Titans 2-2 (Last Week: 8 - Down 1 spot)
  10. New England Patriots 1-3 (Last Week: 10 - No change)
  11. Indianapolis Colts 1-3 (Last Week: 13 - Up 2 spots)
  12. Pittsburgh Steelers 1-3 (Last Week: 12 - No change)
  13. Miami Dolphins 1-3 (Last Week: 11 - Down 2 spots)
  14. New York Jets: 1-3 (Last Week: 16 - Up 2 spots)
  15. Houston Texans 1-3 (Last Week: 14 - Down 1 spot)
  16. Jacksonville Jaguars 0-4 (Last Week: 15 - Down 1 spot)
WEEK 5

Sunday, Oct. 10

New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons (London) - Sunday 9:30 AM (NFLN)

Originally, this game would be of very little consequence to the Steelers, but the AFC New York franchise has the same amount of wins as the Steelers. You need to wake up early to watch this negative-five star matchup and if you do, go for Atlanta.

Who to root for: Atlanta Falcons

Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals - Sunday 1 PM (FOX)

The Bengals are starting to really find themselves and locate momentum. That’s a dangerous thing. The Steelers had chances to beat the Pack last week, so Cincy has an opportunity as well, especially at home in the Queen City. With a three game lead over Pittsburgh, the Bengals must be knocked down a rung for the Steelers to get out of the basement eventually.

Who to root for: Green Bay Packers

New England Patriots at Houston Texans - Sunday 1 PM (CBS)

Both teams have the same record as the Steelers, but only one is a great tormentor from the past. You know what to do here.

Who to root for: Houston Texans

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars - Sunday 1 PM (CBS)

The Titans have been losing games, but not really at the rate that the Steelers have. A loss, coupled with the hope that the Steelers could possibly win, would greatly aid the cause.

Who to root for: Jacksonville Jaguars

Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Sunday 1 PM (CBS)

Yes, I know he’s Tom Brady and it sucks to root for him. But the Dolphins, at 1-3, need to drop below Pittsburgh on the AFC ladder. Even though it feels dirty, the Rooting Guide tells us to do so. We must adhere to RG policy.

Who to root for: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers - Sunday 4:05 PM (CBS)

The Chargers are pretty good, but the Browns have good mojo right now. Of course, Steeler Nation needs the Browns to lose. But should Cleveland go to the West Coast and knock off a tough team…the Browns could start becoming unstoppable.

Who to root for: Los Angeles Chargers

Chicago Bears at Las Vegas Raiders - Sunday 4:05 PM (CBS)

The Raiders have already beaten the Steelers in 2021. At 3-1, they have a three-game lead already. The Steelers can benefit from that gap closing. Plus, Jon Gruden is an annoying man. Enough said.


Who to root for: Chicago Bears

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday 8:20 PM (NBC)

The Steelers beat Buffalo already, but they aren’t really a team to chase here. The Bills may have already wrapped up the AFC East. I’m joking, but I’m not joking. Should the Steelers somehow find themselves in the Wild Card race, KC is more likely to stand in the way of the black and gold. Therefore, they must go down.

Who to root for: Buffalo Bills

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens - Monday 8:15 PM (ESPN)

Despite all of the injuries, the Ravens are starting to roll. If the Steelers can actually get back on track, they need the black and purple to get nurpled. The Colts finally won their first game last week, but they aren’t really a threat to handle Baltimore. Despite all of the injuries, the Ravens are starting to roll. Plus, this chip on their shoulder leading to still incessant whining over a business decision from 37 years ago is wearing thin.

Who to root for: Indianapolis Colts

Who do you like in these games for yinzer’s sake? Let us know in the comment section in this article or on BTSC social media. If you want more explanation to these picks check out the new Rooting Guide podcast below:

Podcast: Absorb the negativity

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 11:00am

Join BTSC’s newest podcast, What Yinz Talkin ‘Bout for a fun look at the Steelers in the sea of social media.

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout is the Steelers conversation about the Steelers online conversation. Today our hosts Kyle Chrise (@KyleChrise) & Greg Benevent (@GregBenevent) have no choice but to follow Coach and ‘absorb the negativity.’ Do we blame the Steelers woes on Ben or someone else? It all depends on who’s tweeting. Plus, the triumphant return to twitter of Vince Williams, the pure-hearted, off-field actions of JuJu & Tomlin, and the final word on the “blocked” field goal. Take a deep dive into the world of Steelers social media from a yinzer perspective as BTSC proudly presents a very unique show that highlights “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout”. Join Kyle and Greg for their black-and-gold breakdown of everything “Stillers” on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and so much more.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • This week with the Steelers and social media
  • and MUCH MORE!

Check out 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.

Containing Von Miller is the ‘Key of the Week’ vs. the Broncos

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 10:00am

The superstar pass rusher has turned back the clock and looks like a dominant force once again

The Pittsburgh Steelers have not been getting a lot right the past few weeks. Missed blocks, errant throws, and blown coverages make it seem everything is going against the Pittsburgh Steelers these days. To get back on the winning track the Steelers will need to bring an entirely new mindset into Heinz Field when they welcome the Denver Broncos for Week 5 action. One of the things the Steelers will need to do to be successful on Sunday is slowing the rush of outside linebacker Von Miller.

Miller suffered a dislocated peroneal tendon at the beginning of the 2020 season, and missed the entire year. Many had written Miller off to never return to the heights he once reached, but lo and behold he has been an all-star in the early goings of this 2021 campaign. Already four games into the season and Miller has tallied 4.5 sacks, a total that won Miller the AFC’s defensive player of the month for September. Long story short, he looks as good as ever in this young 2021 season.

Miller will be lined up over one of the Steelers right tackles, but it really isn't obvious which one it will be. Chuks Okorafor is still in the concussion protocol and Zach Banner is still working through a knee injury, leaving Joe Haeg as the back up option if the other two tackles can't play. Just on paper the Steelers will be at a significant disadvantage regardless of who plays in this position. Meaning the Steelers will have to chip Miller with tight ends and running backs all day long to keep him at bay. Thankfully for the Steelers, Bradley Chubb is on the injured reserve and won't be able to play this week, allowing the offense to send more of its blocking support to whoever is blocking Miller.

We already know Ben Roethlisberger is banged up and Von Miller has caused chaos in the Steelers backfield in the past. So I wouldn't be surprising to see him go off against the organization again. The Steelers have already allowed far too many hits on Roethlisberger and need to do a better job of protecting him, and doing that this week starts with Von Miller. Containing Miller at least gives the offense a chance, and if you don't think one edge rusher can break open a game, just look at what T.J. Watt has been able to do over the years for the black and gold.

But what do you think? Will the Pittsburgh Steelers be able to slow down Von Miller, or will he beat up Big Ben worse than he already has been? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Expert Picks: Even with losing streak, experts like the Steelers vs. Broncos

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 9:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Time to check in and see who the experts like in Steelers vs. Broncos this Sunday in Week 5.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos are slated to face off in Week 5 of the 2021 regular season, and there are a lot of narratives between these two teams. For the Broncos, they are wondering which quarterback will be under center at Heinz Field, while the Steelers are a team who are trying to forge a new identity as they look to right the ship after losing their last three games, dropping their record to 1-3 on the season.

At this point, it is time to check in and see who the pundits who call themselves experts like in this showdown at Heinz Field this Sunday.

For those new to this article, there are two types of experts, when it comes to NFL picks. There are those who just pick the overall winner, and those who expound on their picks and give a reason for their prediction.

As for the former of the above types of experts, there is a feeling of the Steelers finding a way to win the game, but it is far from a slam dunk pick. The folks at ESPN and USA Today almost have mirror picks. A majority likes the Steelers at home, but plenty like the Broncos to get their 4th win of the season.

As for the experts who actually put some thoughts, and explanation behind their picks, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports likes the Steelers, and here’s why:

The Steelers have looked lifeless on offense, while the Broncos could be starting backup Drew Lock. That means this will be all about the defenses. That means a low-scoring game with a turnover or two deciding it. I think at home the Steelers will be the team that makes those plays. Even with a pathetic offense, they win it with their defense.

Pick: Steelers 19, Broncos 13

The find folks at the Sporting News also like the Steelers in a low scoring affair.

The Steelers desperately need a win at 1-3 and unfortunately it takes a team with a worse QB situation than theirs with Ben Roethlisberger. Enter the Broncos, who might need to start Drew Lock over a concussed Teddy Bridgewater against a tricky pass defense in a potential one-dimensional attack. Pittsburgh has to win games with D and grinding ground game with rookie Najee Harris and this battle of attrition is just what it needs at home.

Pick: Steelers win 17-14

These are just a few sites who make weekly NFL picks. When you think about all those sites not listed above, this is when we turn to our friends at NFL Pick Watch, a site dedicated to tracking NFL expert picks by the week. They take all expert picks and put them into an easy-to-read graph for fans to enjoy. When it comes to the Steelers vs. Broncos game, 53% of NFL experts like the Steelers to hold serve at home Sunday.

What do you think about the upcoming game? Will the experts have it right? Or are they way off? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Broncos in Week 5.

2021 Steelers Rookie Review: Week 4 Green Bay Packers Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 8:00am
Green Bay Press Gazette-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

A weekly review of the 2021 Steelers rookies performances each week, based on personal observations.

The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves at what would have been the quarter point of the 2021 NFL season, prior to the league adding a 17th game to the schedule. That actually looks like a positive development at the moment, because the Steelers are still searching for their identity at this early stage of the season.

The extra preseason game for the Steelers may have been beneficial for the rookies and other newcomers, but did little to hasten team chemistry with most veterans participating in only a few series, or missing precious time due to injuries. The lack of cohesion and consistency is the direct byproduct of limited experience functioning as a collective group. Nowhere is that more true than for the offensive line.

This is an especially youthful roster for the Steelers at the moment, which bodes well for the future. Accomplished veteran performers like Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Haden, and Cameron Heyward skew the average age of the roster, which would be the second youngest in the NFL without those elder statesmen.

Make no mistake about it, the Steelers have a talented young roster that suggests continued future success is probable, but the more immediate concern is the present. Let's take a look back at how each of the Steelers talented rookies performed against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.

RB Najee Harris

Harris enjoyed his most productive game running the football against the Packers. He continues to break tackles consistently, but he wasn't forced to encounter or evade first contact until near or even past the line of scrimmage on multiple occasions for the first time this season. He also didn't experience the frustration of having many of his most productive rushes negated by penalties.

He did a much better job of identifying and setting up his blocking, prior to utilizing his impressive power and explosion to maximizing each carry. He wasn't utilized in the passing game nearly as frequently as the previous week, primarily because his record breaking performance the game prior catching the ball resulted in him being the center of attention against the Packers.

Harris leads all NFL rookies in total yards thus far this season. He has done so through incredible effort and determination, in spite of a subpar offensive line and a struggling passing game. He has exceeded most realistic expectations, and has to be in any discussion for Rookie of the Year.

TE Pat Freiermuth

Freiermuth is simply too talented to not be utilized more frequently in the passing game. He received the most snaps of any Steelers TE on Sunday, but finished with a single reception on the day.

He continues to be the team's best blocking TE, but needs to be targeted far more often in the passing game, especially across the middle and up the seams. Roethlisberger compared Freiermuth to Steelers legend Heath Miller during the preseason, so it stands to reason that Ben would want to strive towards developing a similar connection with the talented young pass catcher.

Freiermuth needs to be a valued commodity utilized to exploit the middle of the field, and the red zone. He can no longer be an afterthought if the Steelers passing game is going to improve, particularly in the intermediate routes.

C Kendrick Green

Prior to the start of the game, there were numerous comments suggesting real concern for Green's ability to succeed in his matchup with Packers former Pro Bowl DT Kenny Clark. Many expected Clark to dominate the matchup, and create havoc for the Steelers offense. Green proved the concern was unwarranted.

Green played the best game of his young NFL career. In a hostile environment, against a accomplished opponent. He anchored well, and carried out his assignments cleanly, finishing his initial block before looking for his next target.

He appeared to pay greater attention to detail, as the game continues to slow down for the newbie center. He delivered his best professional performance against arguably his toughest opponent. His PFF grade, the highest of the year, definitely passed the eye test.

LT Dan Moore Jr.

Every player has areas of weakness that require experience and focused training to improve. Even more so for a fourth round rookie offensive tackle project. Moore has done an admirable job to overcome his shortcomings through gritty determination after being forced into action earlier than expected.

Moore's areas of weakness are being exposed as he builds his NFL portfolio, leaving any warts to be closely examined on film. The opposition have definitely been doing their homework.

Moore had a solid game run blocking, but struggled throughout in pass protection. He consistently gave ground as he was bull rushed repeatedly, getting basically run through for one sack.

An offseason of specified weight training will help alleviate that issue, but in the meantime, Moore has no choice but to continue to fight through the struggles. The Steelers can offer help on occasion when needed, especially if the right side of the line settles down.

ILB Buddy Johnson

For the first time this season, Johnson was a healthy scratch for the game. That should be a regular occurrence moving forward barring injuries or ineffectiveness higher up the depth chart.

DE Isaiahh Loudermilk

Loudermilk is proving to be exactly what his pre-draft evaluations suggested. Excellent size and length, but extremely raw. Struggles to gain leverage, or disengage from blockers.

Injuries to Tyson Alualu and Carlos Davis have forced the young man into action sooner than preferred, where the Steelers suddenly find themselves needing size and strength along the interior defensive line, attributes that Loudermilk can provide.

He provided the occasional respite for Cam Heyward on the day, but was unremarkable. He was credited with a pass defense. His opportunities should diminish if and when Carlos Davis returns.

DB Tre Norwood

Norwood's snap count continues to fluctuate weekly, depending on matchups and in-game situations. Arthur Maulet has seen an increase in snaps over the past couple of weeks due to his physicality and efficiency as a tackler. Basically, the Steelers like to use Maulet similar to how they utilized Mike Hilton in the past.

Norwood's intelligence and instincts in pass coverage will always be his best attribute, although his physicality has been improving. He will really shine if and when the Steelers offense improves enough for the team to play with a lead on occasion.

P Pressley Harvin lll

Harvin is a rather rotund individual, leading to numerous fun nicknames. However, if he isn't careful, Big Shank maybe added to the list. That is one he definitely doesn't want on his portfolio.

With the Steelers backed up deep on their own end, they desperately needed Harvin to boom one of his rocket kicks to flip field position. The rookie promptly booted a...20 yard duck. Clear miss hit when the team needed him the most. Sound familiar?

With Jordan Berry now playing extremely well for the Minnesota Vikings, one starts to wonder if the Steelers punter situation is destined for failure. Maybe it's the Curse of the Lonesome Kicker. Google the hilarious Adam Sandler song and video if you aren't familiar.

All joking aside, I believe that Harvin will develop into one of the best punters in the league. Rookie growing pains are inevitable, regardless of position. Patience is required.

Start’ em and Sit ‘em: Who to play in Steelers vs. Broncos

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 7:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Denver Broncos in Week 5, here is who you should start, or sit, in the upcoming matchup.

Before we get into the starts and sits this week, it is only fitting that I formally congratulate Jeremy on beating my by over 25 points in the BTSC fantasy league this week. When your kicker is your highest-scoring player, you are in trouble. Jeremy also has Sam Darnold, who I had wanted badly in our draft and would have taken if Jeremy had passed on him. If you would like to see all of the overreactions from our draft, you can check out the video here. Needless to say, Darnold went off for thirty-two points this past week, which was about half of what my entire team scored.

If you would like to see how the standings are shaking up in our league, you can check it out here. With that out of the way, let’s get to this week’s starts and sits!

Each week during the NFL season, I, Andrew Wilbar, and BTSC podcast personality Jeremy Betz will co-author a Steelers ‘start and sit’ article. It will include only players from the Steelers and from the team the Steelers are facing that week. This week, I will be breaking down the starts and sits and running back, tight end, and defense, while Jeremy will cover the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and kickers. We will alternate who covers those positions every week.

If you have thoughts on which players are good starts in the Steelers vs. Broncos, let us know in the comment section below. But without further adieu, here are your Steelers and Broncos starts and sits for Week 3.

Starts RB: Najee Harris, PIT

Andrew: Despite the Steelers’ inability to run the ball, Najee Harris is still a top-ten running back in just about every format imaginable and the RB4 in PPR leagues. Denver is incredibly tough against running backs this season, surrendering only a shade over 10 PPR points per week to opposing runners. In non-PPR leagues I see him as a FLEX play who you hope can find the end zone at some point, but in half PPR and full PPR leagues, his passing down work is enough to make him a decent RB2 option despite the matchup.

WR: Diontae Johnson, PIT

Jeremy: It’s official. The former Toledo Rocket is a bonafide fantasy WR1 in PPR leagues, and it’s all about the volume. In 3 games played, DJ has piled up 35 targets and 23 catches. That puts him on pace for an insane 186 targets and 122 catches over 16 games. He’s also scored 2 TD’s this year and averaging 77 yds per game. You can do the math on full season extrapolation for those numbers, but the point is, Johnson is a start every week regardless of matchup or how bad the Steelers offense has looked because he carries such a high target volume. Roll him out again in week 5 without fear even against a stingy Broncos D.

WR: Courtland Sutton, DEN

Jeremy: Can we really say it’s a bad matchup for fantasy players facing the Steelers D right now? Opposing teams WRs are earning the 4th highest fantasy points per game vs. Blitzburgh right now, and Courtland Sutton should be a solid Flex and potential WR2 in this game. He’ll also handle a large target share, and proved to be Drew Lock’s (potentially starting this game because of Teddy Bridgewater’s concussion) top weapon last year. Although I imagine the Steelers D keeping this game low-scoring and getting back on track a little bit, Sutton is still a solid play in week 5.

D/ST: Steelers

Andrew: With Teddy Bridgewater dealing with a concussion, there is more uncertainty surrounding the Broncos’ quarterback situation. While I like Lock better than most people, he does struggle when he is under pressure, and that is going to be often when you face a Keith Butler defense.

D/ST: Broncos

Andrew: The Steelers offense is anemic right now, and Denver’s defense has been on fire to begin the season, scoring over 10 fantasy points in three of the first four weeks. They have forced five turnovers this season while holding opponents to just over twelve points per game on average. As much as I hate to say it, the Steelers are currently one of those teams that you figure out who they play and try to stream that team’s defense. Until something changes, start whichever defense plays the Steelers.

Sits QB: Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

I know you want to think Ben can bounce back, and maybe he will in the real-life game, but for fantasy he probably shouldn’t even be rostered unless you play in a 2-QB League. In any case, leave him out of your lineup this week against the Broncos. Bad Fantasy Player + Bad Matchup = HARD PASS.

QB: Teddy Bridgewater/Drew Lock, DEN

Jeremy: Teddy Bridgewater has been a fine QB so far this year, but even if he starts this game, I’d have him in the SIT column. For Lock, this is about his propensity for turnovers and bad decisions, as well as a bad matchup vs. the Steelers, who are definitely healthier up front than they’ve been since Buffalo, and we all know what happened in that game. Don’t mess with either Teddy B or Lock even if you need a streaming option this week. Trevor Lawrence (vs. TEN), Trey Lance (vs. ARI), and even Jacoby Brisset (vs. TB) have better matchups and are better streams for Week 5.

RB: Melvin Gordon, DEN

Andrew: For some odd reason I can see Gordon breaking away for a big, game-altering run in this game, but there is a lot of risk. The Steelers are only in the middle of the pack against running backs in fantasy football, but Gordon is still recovering from a leg contusion. Even if he is 100% on Sunday, Javonte Williams will likely see at least 40% of the carries. Because of those reasons, I would bench Gordon unless you are really desperate.

WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster

Jeremy: The frustrated Steelers receiver has every right to be, and I would expect bounce-back play from him as a part of the Steelers passing game, but even if that occurs, his role as chain-mover and safety-valve does not lend itself to big fantasy production. Could JuJu score a short-yardage TD any given week? Sure, but relying on that for your flex spot is risky, especially when there are other better options, including on his own team (Chase Claypool). Don’t mess with JuJu unless we start to see a more prominent role develop.

TE: Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth, PIT

Andrew: Both Jeremy and I liked the outlook for Freiermuth last week, but it is pretty evident at this stage that you cannot trust any Steelers tight end on a weekly basis. If you need more of a reason than that, the Broncos give up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Avoid both Ebron and Freiermuth if at all possible.

K: Both of Them

Jeremy: I’d write two separate paragraphs for Broncos’ K Brandon McManus and Steelers’ leg Chris Boswell, but it would just be copy and paste, so here’s why they’re both here: This should be a low-scoring affair with a lot of tough Defensive play and not a lot of stellar Offensive play. McManus is the 6th highest scoring K through 4 weeks, so I understand if he’s your K and you don’t want to drop a depth piece for a streaming kicker, but don’t expect huge output from either player in week 5.

If you haven’t listened already, make sure you check out Jeremy’s weekly podcast, The Steelers Fantasy Football Fix, which is available each and every Wednesday. You can listen to his latest episode in the player below.

Which players would you start in the Steelers vs. Broncos matchup? Can you trust any of the Steelers’ receivers this week? Will Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant be able to exploit a tough Steelers defense? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things fantasy football!

Being a rookie punting sensation is all fun and games until you boot one 20 yards

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pressley Harvin III, the Steelers rookie punting sensation, hasn’t quite lived up to his billing as a seventh-round pick. Can he recover in time before people begin to notice?

Like I said right before the start of the Steelers 2021 regular season, Pressley Harvin III, the rookie punting sensation from Georgia Tech, the seventh-round draft choice, the kid that finally allowed me to justify my “Anyone But Jordan Berry” t-shirt, would probably be better off if nobody really noticed him at all during his debut campaign.

Yes, I know that opening paragraph was filled with a bunch of commas and just ran on forever, but I did that to distract you from Harvin’s horrid game against the Packers on Sunday, a 27-17 loss at Lambeau Field.

Speaking of distractions, it’s a good thing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has spent the first four games of the 2021 season missing his receivers the way henchmen with machine guns and lots of bullets always miss the good guys in those fictional television shows. Otherwise, we may be more aware of the fact that Harvin has averaged just 41.8 yards per punt through his first four games.

Speaking of distractions, it’s a good thing the Steelers are 1-3 and have far worse concerns than their rookie punter. Otherwise, people may have already noticed that the beleaguered Berry, who came into the season averaging 44.4 yards per punt during his career—or 2.6 yards more than Harvin has averaged so far—is booming the ball to the tune of 48.5 yards per punt in 2021 as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, clearly a team that knows its punters.

I’m not so sure Harvin can hide any longer, especially after Sunday’s performance in which he averaged just 34 yards on three punts. Harvin’s most egregious boot came midway through the third quarter when the Steelers only trailed by 10 points and may have thought they were still in it. Punting from his own 20, Harvin “launched” a kick that traveled just 20 yards.

I had just gotten into my car to go bowling when I heard Craig Wolfley, the Steelers color analyst on their radio network, say something like, “Gadzooks, Billy, he really shanked it.”

Wolf’s word usage is always noticeable when listening to him on the radio, and this particular verbiage helped to paint a bleak picture at that point in the game: “Aaron Rodgers, who hadn’t sweated the Steelers up to that point, was about to get the ball at the visitors’ 40 and possibly put the final nail in the Steelers’ coffin.”

He did.

Gadzooks, indeed.

It’s a good thing Harvin’s new boss, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is busy worrying about superstar groins, superstar egos (mainly, Roethlisberger’s) and all of those social media #FireTomlins that are starting to spring up again like weeds in an abandoned junkyard. Otherwise, he may want to reevaluate his punting situation.

That’s the thing about punters. It doesn’t matter when they were drafted or even that they were drafted. Oh, sure, being a punter who was drafted in the seventh round may be helpful in making your first NFL roster, but after that, your name is likely always etched in pencil.

I’m still rooting for the young punter, even if his nickname—Thicc Kick—is the nickname version of the word moist—it just sounds icky and naughty when you say it out loud.

Hopefully, Harvin can learn from the not-so-promising start to his rookie season and improve at his craft.

If not, there won’t be many more things that can prevent people from noticing that he’s not Jordan Berry—but in a bad way this time.

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 5:30am
Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

All the information needed to watch, listen, or follow the Steelers game on Sunday against the Broncos.

The 2021 regular season is chugging on. The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves coming off three-straight losses as many Steelers fans are looking for answers. But the show must go on and the Steelers are returning to Heinz Field for the third time this season.

Will the Steelers defense be able to put pressure on the quarterback, whoever it may be? Can the offense put enough points on the board to win? Will the Steelers keep from going 0-3 at Heinz Field for the first time in its history?

This Sunday will hopefully answer all these questions as the Steelers look to get their 2021 season back on track. Make sure you get all the information you need below so you can enjoy the Week 5 showdown:

Week 5:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

Date: Sunday, October 10th

Kickoff: 1:00 P.M. ET

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA

Weather: Live weather update

TV Channel: Broadcast locally on WPGH-FOX with Brandon Gaudin and Mark Schlereth as commentators and Sarah Kustok as the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

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

Radio: Steeler Nation Radio with Bill Hillgrove, Craig Wolfley, and Max Starks. The broadcast will be live on WDVE 102.5 FM and WBGG 970 AM in the Pittsburgh area or check the list of Steelers Radio Affiliates. Viewers can listen anywhere in the world online via Steelers.com, but the Steelers Official Mobile App does have geographical restrictions. The Steelers broadcast is also available on Westwood One radio, XM Radio in channel 232, and Sirius Radio on channel 103.

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

Podcast: What the Steelers need to do to defeat the Broncos on Sunday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 10/08/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman leads the way with his AM studio show on the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

As always, the Steelers know what they need to do to win each and every week. In 2021, it hasn’t been helping much though. Against Denver, there are certain things that the boys from Steeltown need to do to be victorious. 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 senior editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • What the Steelers need to do to defeat the Broncos on Sunday
  • Hart to Heart
  • 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

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You can listen to the show in the player below.

Rams vs. Seahawks: Thursday Night Football Open Thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/07/2021 - 7:10pm
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Fortunately for us Steelers fans we again have a team we can cheer for without feeling bad, so go Rams.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks, Week 5

Rams: 3-1

Seahawks: 2-2

The Rams won their first three games, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being their last victory, then losing badly to the Arizona Cardinals may not tell us much about the Rams. It might tell us something about the Cardinals, but what that is will have to wait until 10/28, when the Green Bay Packers go to Arizona to face the Cardinals.

The Seahawks schedule looks like what you might expect from a 2-2 team. Lose bad to the Minnesota Vikings, and win at the San Francisco 49ers in back-to-back weeks.

Both teams beat the Indianapolis Colts. Seattle beat them worse, and are at home tonight. I would think that gives them the edge, but the Rams are 1.5 point favorites. I do know that if the Seahawks go 2-3 to start the season, it’ll be a while until their fans drag themselves out of the hibernation they always seem to fall into during down times. Which for me in the NW is always a bright time.

Enjoy the game with fellow Pittsburgh Steelers fans in the comment section below!

Steelers Injury Report: Kevin Dotson returns, Cam Sutton misses practice Thursday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/07/2021 - 3:09pm
Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

There was good and bad news when it comes to the Steelers injury report on Thursday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are continuing their preparation for Week 5 of the 2021 NFL season. As the Steelers take the practice field for their second day of preparation for the Denver Broncos, one new name was added to the injury list. In the second injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR department, five players progressed in more manner from yesterday’s practice.

Steelers PR Department

As expected, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not practice on Wednesday as it is his scheduled day off. Just like last week, rather than have him listed as a coaches decision, Roethlisberger is listed as having a pectoral/hip injury. As expected, Roethlisberger returned to practice on Thursday as a full participant.

After missing Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, Chase Claypool returned in a limited role on Wednesday and is hopeful to get back on the field this week. On Thursday, Claypool practiced but was still limited for the second-straight day.

Another starter who missed this past Sunday’s game was Chuks Okorafor who is still in the concussion protocol. On Thursday, Okorafor was a full participant for the second-straight day and is on his way to be cleared.

Two other players who were out on Sunday due to injury were defensive tackle Carlos Davis and guard Rashaad Coward. After missing three-straight games, Davis still did not practice Wednesday or Thursday with his knee injury. As for Coward, he returned Wednesday in a limited fashion with his ankle injury, but took a step back as he did not practice on Thursday.

Two players who left Sunday’s game due to injury were Cam Sutton with a groin and Kevin Dotson with a hip flexor. Unfortunately, both players did not practice on Wednesday. The good news is Kevin Dotson was back as a full participant on Thursday, but the bad news is Cam Sutton missed his second-straight day and is unlikely to be ready for Sunday’s game.

Even though he was able to play this past week, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was limited on Wednesday with a rib injury. On Thursday, Smith-Schuster was back to a full participant.

The new player to the injury report on Thursday was wide receiver James Washington who was limited. Unfortunately, it is yet another groin injury for the Steelers which is slowing down another player.

The final two players on the injury report were guard Trai Turner with an illness and defensive tackle Cam Heyward with a neck injury. Both players participated in a limited fashion on Wednesday, but both also were back to full participants on Thursday.

As for the Broncos’ injury report, you can see the names below when available.

Podcast: Getting acquainted with the Steelers’ Week 5 enemy, the Broncos

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/07/2021 - 2:00pm

Learn about the Steelers upcoming opponent with the return of BTSC’s Know Your Enemy. Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict break down all the news you need to know surrounding the

It’s time once again to become a scout for the Steelers before their latest game. Welcome to Know Your Enemy. It’s the show where Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict break down the upcoming opponent for the Black-and-Gold. This week, Mike and Geoff welcome Joe Rowless of SB Nation’s Mile High Report. Can Ben Roethlisberger turn it around against a tough Denver defense? Will it be Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock behind center for the visitors? These questions and more will be pondered on the latest episode of the BTSC family of podcasts. As always, it is a good time to talk everything Steelers.

  • News and Notes
  • A look at the Denver Broncos
  • Guest Joe Rowles, of SB Nation’s Mile High Report

Michael and Geoffrey 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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Despite the record, Ben Roethlisberger sees improvement within the offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/07/2021 - 12:30pm
Sam Greene/The Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback likes what he’s seeing from the offense, even if it hasn’t equated in many wins in 2021.

When it comes to rankings, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense is a bottom feeder. Outside of passing yards per game, they are near the bottom of the barrel in almost every offensive statistic.

Compound this with a 1-3 start and you might think the Steelers’ offense is a sinking ship. Many fans would agree with this analogy, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still sees plenty of promise within the Steelers offense. It all started with an improved performance vs the Green Bay Packers, albeit in a 27-17 loss at Lambeau Field.

“Well, we started running the ball a little bit better last week.” Roethlisberger told media Wednesday. “I think that was encouraging. I think the passing game showed some—I mean, we went down the field and scored on the opening drive, hit a deep ball. Just still missing a couple of things here and there, but in terms of running the ball and the “splash plays” in the run game, I think that’s starting to show, hopefully, a little more.”

The progress for the offense started up front with the offensive line, and, according to Roethlisberger, the contributions of reserves like Joe Haeg and B.J. Finney were a welcome addition to the unit.

“Yeah, I appreciate what Joe [Haeg] did, coming in and playing at right tackle. [B.J.] Finney stepped in there at the end of the game and did some great things.” Roethlisberger added. “We’re all getting a little more comfortable with each other. I know that we’re losing in the midst of it, which isn’t fun, but as you grow and learn about each other, you hope that wins start formulating out of it. I think they will.”

The lip service provided by the key members of the Steelers’ organization, from Mike Tomlin down to the players, can be arduous for fans. However, progress and potential are only as good as the team who can put it all together and start winning football games. Roethlisberger understands this as well as anyone.

“We’ve played some good football teams and we feel like we’re making some progress. We just have to find a way to, at the end of the game, have a W on the board. You can play well and all those things and get better, but at the end of the day, you wanna win the football game.” Roethlisberger added. “That’s what we have to do, and it starts this week at home against a good team.”

The Steelers desperately need a win this Sunday for many reasons. Falling to 1-4 would be a death knell within the highly competitive AFC North, losing three straight at home would be a stat which hasn’t happened since 1986 and when you look at the back half of the schedule the 1-4 hole would be almost insurmountable.

However, if the offense can take the progress and potential they have and put together a winning performance, a 2-3 record with the Seattle Seahawks coming to town before the Week 7 bye week gives the team a chance at .500 heading into the by week. A tall task, but not impossible. It all starts with the Denver Broncos this Sunday.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming game vs. the Broncos in Week 5 of the 2021 regular season.

8 Takeaways from the Steelers loss to the Packers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/07/2021 - 11:30am
Green Bay Press Gazette-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Observations, reactions, and analysis from the Steelers’ loss to the Packers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost their third straight game on Sunday to the Green Bay Packers. It was a game that showcased some of the potential that the Steelers have, but Green Bay proved themselves to be a far more complete team, ultimately walking away with the victory.

As always, there are plenty of takeaways to be had.

1. So close, and yet so far

I refuse to believe that I was the only one who came away with a glimmer of hope following the Steelers’ loss to the Packers. Pittsburgh looked pretty awful at times, sure; but there were many moments when they looked like a team more than capable of winning the game.

The offensive line again wasn’t great but they had made noticeable improvement, especially when it came to opening up some running lanes for Najee Harris. The wide receiver core was consistently getting open, while the tight ends room had a few catches between them. And while the defense wasn’t great, they did their part in keeping the Steelers in the game, all while having some key starters injured. The offense even broke their double-digit streak of failing to score points on their game-opening drive.

So what went wrong? As you’re probably guessing, it was Ben Roethlisberger.

Ben’s poor decision-making and inaccuracy absolutely killed the Steelers’ offense on Sunday. He missed several crucial throws that could’ve helped the Steelers take control of the game, including two sure touchdowns to JuJu Smith-Schuster. His inability to make plays beyond the sticks, or even in the middle of the field, crippled the Steelers passing game, which in turn couldn’t set up the run game.

Roethlisberger’s performance especially hurt as Ben was clearly holding back an offense that was finally close to major improvement. And no, this isn’t a call to bench the future Hall-of-Famer — especially only four weeks into the season — but rather an acknowledgement that it’s Roethlisberger, not the pieces around him, who will need to step up if this offense has any shot at improvement.

2. Room for improvement

While most agree that Roethlisberger is the Steelers’ biggest issue on offense, not many agree that he can still improve this season. Some may think that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, as Ben Roethlisberger is clearly well past his prime. But his two biggest issues, accuracy and decision making, are all quite fixable despite Roethlisberger’s physical limitations.

When Roethlisberger missed passes on Sunday, he often overthrew his receivers, which proved that he still had plenty of arm strength left. I figured that he likely just wasn’t stepping into his throws enough, and that seems to be correct given what Roethlisberger has said himself this week.

Per Steelers.com, Roethlisberger was quoted as saying, “I’ve got to find ways to be better with my lower body, going back and watching the game. A lot of the throws that I missed were missed because my lower body wasn’t in sync. Over striding, not stepping towards my target. Things that mechanically I know I can fix and need to fix. Obviously when you’re dealing with pain it’s harder to get through those things, but nothing I can’t get through and I’ll work to get through.”

As Roethlisberger continues to heal and gain confidence as his offensive line further gels, his accuracy should begin to look more like the Big Ben of old. And as for the quarterback’s decision-making, there’s less of a clear answer, but Roethlisberger is a veteran quarterback who should find ways to get around whatever mental blocks he’s dealing with in the Steelers’ new offense.

It’s hard to write this without it sounding like an excuse for Roethlisberger’s poor play against the Packers. It’s not. Rather, it’s to point out that a few poor games from Roethlisberger don’t necessarily spell disaster for the rest of his season.

3. Is the coaching staff to blame?

Ben Roethlisberger has received most of the blame for the Steelers’ recent woes, and rightfully so. But others have pointed out that the coaching staff, more specifically Matt Canada and Mike Tomlin, deserve similar levels of criticism.

The main reasoning for a critique would be the play-calling. There’s not much of a defense for Mike Tomlin’s bizarre aversion for going for it on fourth down in tight games — but it’s a different story regarding when the Steelers do keep the offense out on the field on fourth down.

More specifically, the plays have resulted in Roethlisberger throwing a short pass in which the receiver gets tackles well before the line of gain. And it’s happened a lot.

But when asked about the play calls, both Tomlin and Canada have seemingly put the blame on Roethlisberger, with Tomlin noting that there were “eligibles beyond the line of gain,” on the fourth down play against the Packers, and Canada adding that “there were guys in the end zone” regarding the fourth down play against the Bengals.

However, in his press conference Tomlin didn’t exactly confirm that Roethlisberger had the ability to change the play pre-snap in those scenarios. With Tomlin noting that the veteran quarterback “has a lot of freedom... but maybe not in those moments.”

All in all, the coaching staff of a losing team will always be at least partially responsible for their poor record, and despite Roethlisberger’s unquestionably poor play, there should be questions regarding whether or not the coaching staff is putting him in a position to succeed.

4. A ten point swing

At the end of first half, Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby lined up for a field goal that would put his team up seven points on the Steelers. However, a brilliant special teams play by Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden resulted in Fitzpatrick blocking the kick and returning it for a touchdown. But it was all called back on an offsides penalty that was later confirmed by Gene Steratore and many others to have been wrongly thrown.

Crosby got to re-kick the field goal and was successful, resulting in a ten point swing in favor of the Packers. Want to know by how much the Packers won?

This isn’t to blame the outcome of the game on the officials, as there’s still a very high chance the Steelers could’ve found a way to lose the game even with the right call. But it does show that the Steelers played a closer game than it seemed to one of the NFL’s best teams, and also that bogus offsides penalties are becoming a problem.

The mishap on Sunday isn’t even the first this season, which shows that NFL defenders have perfected jumping simultaneous to the snap, and the league’s referees simply can’t keep up. The fairly objective nature of the penalty, especially on replay, would seem to make it a worthy candidate for the “reviewable” list. But then again, never underestimate the power of NFL referees to mess things up even more.

5. An injured impact

T.J. Watt didn’t play a great game against the Packers, but it certainly looked like he was still recovering from his groin injury. He looked a step slow and a little less efficient in terms of his pass-rush, but it’s more of a testament to him fighting through injury than disappointing post-contract as some have framed it.

Somehow, Watt still managed to record two sacks, but in the least impressive way possible. The first was on a trip that should have been penalized (but clearly wasn’t intentional — look at Watt on the play, he’s being held and is simply bull rushing the passer blind), and the other being when he touched an already-down Aaron Rodgers behind the line of scrimmage near the end of the game.

Hopefully this is far from the last of Watt’s multi-sack games. And hopefully they come in better circumstances.

6. Addition by subtraction?

Two Steelers’ offensive starters were out against the Packers in right tackle Chuks Okorafor and wide receiver Chase Claypool.

Okorafor, who had been playing abysmally throughout the first three weeks of the season, had set the bar of play fairly low heading into the game into the Packers, but it was still a pleasant surprise to see his replacement Joel Haeg hold his own against the Green Bay front. Haeg’s play seemed to be an improvement over Okorafor’s, which contributed to a much improved outing from the offensive line. When Chuks returns from injury, it will be interesting to see if Haeg remains in the starting lineup.

Meanwhile, James Washington stepped into a starting role to replace the injured Claypool. He turned in a solid performance, recording four catches for nearly 70 yards. While it’s fair to say Washington doesn’t possess Claypool’s special athleticism, he was able to play in a similar role, stretching the field to an impressive 17.2 yards per catch. He’s a far more reliable target than Claypool, and he did manage to create ample separation in what was one of the wide receiver room’s best games of the season.

It’s going too far to say that the Steelers should bench Claypool for Washington, but perhaps the two should split playing time a bit more evenly in the future. Claypool is still the most dangerous threat due to his superior speed and size, but Washington’s strong hands and reliability may make him a better option at times for the struggling Ben Roethlisberger.

7. Stepping up

Middle linebackers Devin Bush and Joe Schobert have received criticism for not being particularly noticeable in games. Bush, a former top 10 pick, had been especially absent in the “splash plays” category. However, against the Packers, he managed to record a sack and tackle for loss, while Schobert, despite his struggles, had some fantastic reps in coverage.

Beyond the middle linebackers, cornerback Arthur Maulet had an impressive game. He displayed the aggressive mentality the Steelers like to see in their slot corners, recording two tackles for loss. And on offense, both the aforementioned James Washington and Zach Gentry made the best of the passes thrown their way, while both Kalen Ballage and Derek Watt recorded some snaps in the backfield.

In a season where so many starters have been struggling with injuries, it’s been nice to see some of the less-noticeable and reserve players stepping up in their playing time.

8. An early bye

The Steelers have a fairly early bye week this season, as their break comes in Week 7 of the 17-week season. At the beginning of the season it seemed like a bad thing, as the team would want to be rested headed into the final stretch of the season rather than before even the halfway point. However, it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as the Steelers’ recent three-game skid paints them as a team in desperate need of a reset. An early bye week may be the perfect time for the Steelers to step back and make the improvements necessary to save their season, before it’s too late.

The Steelers have had a dismal first quarter of their season. But as BTSC’s own cassidy977 has pointed out in a recent article series, the Steelers have a knack for turning their season around from. Maybe they can do that again this year.

Don’t forget to stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for all things Pittsburgh Steelers throughout the 2021 regular season.

Podcast: Can the Steelers create stallions out of their rookie stable?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/07/2021 - 11:00am

Matt Peverell breaks down the Steelers salary cap and player personnel situation every week in The War Room.

The Steelers have had a high number of rookies already significantly in play in 2021, but to mixed reviews. An adjustment period is expected, but can the Steelers get these players to the next level? As always, BTSC’s Matt Peverell will attempt to discuss what hasn’t been discussed yet on BTSC. Join Matty P. for his solo show as he looks at possible future Steelers and examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers dollars and “sense” situation when it comes to personnel.

Check out the BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matty in The War Room.

Rundown of the show:

  • 4th edition of the ‘Rookie Report’ for Steelers War Room, covering the performance of the Steelers rookies
  • Preview of what to look out for from the Broncos’ rookies and their output versus the Steelers’ rookies.
  • Preview of 40-10 of Pro Football Network’s top 130 quarterbacks

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

A brief history of the Steelers turning their season around, Part 3

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/07/2021 - 10:00am
Shouldn’t there be other guys in black/gold nearby trying to block those guys? | Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

This isn’t the first Steelers squad that started one way and may finish another.

This week, with the whole world seemingly convinced that the Steelers are a sinking ship, I’ve been thinking about seasons in which the team started in one direction (bad or good), and wound up somewhere very different.

In so many of those years, the only thing we remember is the end result, as though the results were inevitable and obvious all year long. The 1972 Immaculate Reception Steelers feel like the beginning of a dynasty, but four games into the season, they were 2-2 and looked a lot like the previous season’s 6-8 squad. The 1995 Super Bowl team feels like a disappointment because they came so close to winning a Lombardi, but they were 3-4 heading into week 8, and were not even leading their division.

The point of this exercise has been not simply to tamp down on some of the fires we’re all lighting to torch the 2021 season (though that’s probably not a bad thing). Instead, I’m also looking for possible keys that history says would help this team right the ship.

Part 1, on the Chuck Noll years, is posted HERE
Part 2, on the Bill Cowher tenure, is posted HERE

Now for part 3: the Steelers from 2007 to the present, under Coach T, Mike Tomlin.

Mike Tomlin Mike Tomlin, Dan Rooney, and some other guy 2013

Remembered for: Not really remembered, except maybe for being the last gasps of Steelers defensive dominance.

Opening Record: 2-6, with an 0-4 start.

Low point: Blowout loss to New England, 55-31 in week 8

Turnaround Streak: 6-2 (with both losses coming by literal inches)

High Point: Probably 38-31 win over Green Bay in first Packers game since Super Bowl loss; that or the season finale 20-7 win over Cleveland that guaranteed Steelers would finish .500

How did it turn around: Rushing.

Rookie Le’Veon Bell, who missed the first three weeks with an injury, made the running game a legitimate threat, which gave the defense a rest. (That’s my theory anyway.) Team rushing yards improved by 23 yards per game in second half of season, while defense improved against the rush by 32 yards per game.

Turnover margin also changed dramatically: minus-11 in first half of the season; plus-7 in second half. I credit the running game for this too, at least to a point. Bell wasn’t a fumbler, and he was both a good pass blocker and a valuable check-down guy in the passing game, so he certainly helped the offense settle down. But perhaps more importantly, when the Steelers controlled the ball with a legit rushing attack, their aging defense had time to rest, so they could come out sprinting more often, leading to better play on that side as well.

(It’s probably also worth noting that the locker room never fell apart, even at 0-4. Leadership is hard to quantify, but easy to recognize. This was a team with good leadership.)

2014

Remembered for: High flying offense, birth of Killer B’s

Opening Record: 3-3

Low point: Losing to terrible Buccaneers team in week 4, or losing 31-10 to Browns in week 6

Turnaround Record: 8-2

High Point: Two week stretch that launched the turnaround, in which Big Ben threw six touchdowns in shootout win over Andrew Luck’s Colts and then six more in blowout of Ravens.

How did it turn around: Manpower leveled up on both sides.

Rookie Martavis Bryant earned his way onto the field, and the passing game immediately clicked up a huge notch. Bryant was a legit big-play threat, and he freed up rising star Antonio Brown on the other side, also allowing the Steelers to get the most out of the AFC’s rushing leader (and Steelers yards from scrimmage record setter) Le’Veon Bell.

Meanwhile, James Harrison came out of retirement midseason, which made the defense a lot more dangerous and unpredictable, particularly in pass rush (as opponents struggled to keep up with the powerhouse offense).

2015

Remembered for: Vontaze Burfict’s dirty play sandbagging the team in the playoffs

Opening Record: 4-4

Low point: Opening season loss to New England, where the Steelers outplayed the Pats by almost any measure (despite the suspensions of LeVeon Bell and Martavis Bryant). Josh Scobee’s missed kicks probably cost the team in this one, as well as the other possible low point, the 23-20 loss to Baltimore in week 4 (Michael Vick’s first start).

Turnaround Streak: 7-2 (counting playoff win)

High Point: Beating eventual champion Broncos in brilliant 17 point comeback — a perfect microcosm of the season.

How did it turn around: Leadership.

Mike Tomlin famously demanded that no one blink, and then showed what he meant. He took serious risks even when the team was shaky (remember Le’Veon Bell’s direct snap walk-off touchdown against the Chargers?), and frequently went for 2-pt PATs or 4th and short, even early in games. Eventually the guys started believing, and the result was probably the best team of this mini-era.

The offense hit another gear when Ben Roethlisberger came back from midseason injury and led the league in passing yards per game. Chris Boswell shored up the terrible early-season kicking game. DeAngelo Williams nearly hit 1,000 yards in relief of injured/suspended Bell. Bryant and Brown looked like the best young receiving duo in football — with Brown threatening multiple single-season NFL receiving records, and generating buzz about whether a WR could win league MVP. The defense meanwhile got stronger and stronger as season wore on, with Ryan Shazier and Cam Heyward emerging as legit stars.

These guys were a terrific team, and would’ve been a legit title contender if it hadn’t had to go through dirty play in Cincinnati three times...

2016

Remembered for: Getting blasted by Patriots in AFC Title Game

Opening Record: 4-5

Low point: 4-game losing streak mid-season, culminating in loss to Cowboys where they had no answer for Zeke Elliott, who scored two touchdowns in final 1:55.

Turnaround Streak: 9-0 (before loss in AFCC)

High Point: Playoff wins against Miami and K.C.

How did it turn around: D refocused and hit a new gear; offense recommitted to the run.

After the Cowboys loss, the D held a player-only meeting and resolved to turn the season around — then delivered. They were the best D in football for last two months. During their first nine games, they gave up 381 yards per game; in the second nine contests, they only yielded 287. That’s a drop of nearly 95 yards (48 passing, 47 rushing). Good god.

Meanwhile, the offense centered around Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers rushed for rushed for 90 yards per game in the opening stretch; then 144 in the back nine. That’s a 60% rise (highlighted by Bell setting the Steelers single game rushing record in wk. 14 against Buffalo, then setting the team playoff rushing record in the Wild Card round, then breaking it the very next week in the Divisional game).

In the end, the offense scored 7.1 points more per game; defense allowed 11.7 points less. They simply became a different team mid-year.

2018

Remembered for: Big Ben’s 5000 yard passing season and Le’Veon Bell’s full-season holdout.

Opening Record: 7-2-1

High point: Blowout over Carolina on national TV, followed by revenge win over Jags (after previous year’s playoff loss)

Closing Streak: 1-4 (before winning season finale)

Low Point: Heartbreaking loss to Saints in the season’s final loss (complete with two suspect DPI penalties on Joe Haden and an ill-timed JuJu Smith-Schuster fumble) which probably cost the team the playoffs.

How did it turn around: Execution and bad luck.

An absurd sequence of bad breaks and dumb mistakes sunk this team. There were inexplicable fumbles at terrible times (re: Denver game, where Ben threw for 462 yards, but the Steelers only scored 17). There were badly timed penalties that may or may not be legit (remember the Chargers’ huge comeback? Plus there’s that Saints game). Chris Boswell fell into his only career slump. And while Ben Roethlisberger seemed to throw bangers at will, the team couldn’t figure out how to run with any consistency (finishing 31st on the ground despite James Conner’s Pro Bowl nod).

Defensively, this team was allergic to takeaways too, snagging only eight interceptions all season long and finishing 29th overall in takeaways. That certainly didn’t help.

That said, this team was never bad. Their one win in the last five weeks came against eventual champion New England, and they followed it up by outplaying the Saints (#1 seed in NFC) the next week. They just couldn’t close the deal.

2019

Remembered for: Mason Rudolph & Duck Hodges; Steelers suddenly becoming a great defense again; Mike Tomlin’s heroic coaching performance.

Opening Record: 1-4

Low point: Losing to powerful Ravens team in overtime where they absolutely flummoxed eventual MVP Lamar Jackson. It’s a low point because the Steelers deserved to win this one, but fell to 1-4 instead.

Closing Streak: 7-1 (before fading down the stretch)

High point: Almost any win counts here — they all felt like miracles. I’ll say the revenge win over Cleveland, two weeks after the Browns had gone headhunting on national TV, concussing Diontae Johnson so hard blood ran from his ear, before Myles Garrett tried to brain Mason Rudolph with his own helmet. The rematch win in week 13 was fun to watch.

How did it turn around: Steadiness from the top; massive turnaround on D.

I have no idea how Mike Tomlin didn’t lose the locker room in this season, but he did something brilliant behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, a surprise trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick, after the awful opening two weeks, allowed the defense to take gigantic leap forward. Eventually they led the league in sacks and takeaways, and sported three All-Pros and four Pro Bowlers (and probably two snubbed in Dupree and Nelson).

Less reported: the ground game on both sides picked up dramatically. The Steelers averaged 43 more rushing yards per game on offense during the 7-1 streak, while the defense gave up 40 yards less. That’s an 83 yard flip when the team was winning.

2020

Remembered for: Wretched playoff loss to Browns in wild card game.

Opening Record: 11-0

High point: Sweep of Ravens after multiple postponements to reach 11-0; beating succession of playoff teams in Tennessee, Cleveland, and Baltimore over consecutive weeks mid-season (again, featuring postponements that weren’t their fault).

Closing Streak: 1-5 (counting playoff loss)

Low point: Wretched playoff loss to Browns in wild card game

How did it turn around: Injuries, poor offensive scheming, exhaustion.

Injuries—especially Bud Dupree’s—did serious damage to the defense, which had started on a blistering pace, then slumped down the stretch. In particular, they bottomed out on takeaways, with 23 during the 11-0 opening; and only four(!) during the 1-5 finish.

Meanwhile, the offense devolved from a fairly balanced squad to a one-dimensional, uncreative short passing game who simply couldn’t run. The Steelers rushed for 99 yards per game in opening streak; 52 yards in the closing. (Ben Roethlisberger leading the league in passing attempts just months after major elbow surgery really should never have happened.)

Exhaustion of playing without a legit bye week played a big role in both of these elements, I suspect—certainly in the defensive slip.

Set Number: X163789 TK1 Hey remember when the Steelers beat the Bills? That sure was fun. What did we learn:

No matter what era we’re talking about, the biggest factors that contributed to the turnarounds (for good or bad) are turnovers and running. Stability and patience (i.e. coaching) also seems to matter a lot too — especially knowing how and when to stay the course, and the ability to not lose the locker room. Amazing how that stuff stays so consistent.

How are those areas playing out in 2021?

Well coaching leadership is in good hands. (And anyone who is already chomping at the bit to argue this one, I’d refer you to 2013 and 2019 above. Few coaches in history have been so successful at turning broken teams into playoff contenders. This may just be Tomlin’s first losing season, ever, but it won’t be because the wrong guy is in charge.)

Turnovers and rushing, on the other hand, are not looking quite as hot.

The Steelers offense has committed five turnovers in four games, which is not terrible, but puts them in the lower half the league. Defensively, though, this team has only managed to take the ball away three times all year, with just one interception, putting them on pace for a whopping four for the season. (Current NFL leader, Trevon Diggs already has five.) The Steelers were first or second in the NFL in both INTs and overall takeaways the last two years. So if we’re looking for a culprit for why they can’t seem to get a foothold in games this season, this is a good place to start.

As for rushing, the Steelers are currently dead last in attempts; dead last in yards; and 31st (i.e. second-last) in yards per carry. That’s horrendous. They also happen to sit at #2 in passing attempts, so it’s not like they aren’t running enough plays.

If I’m being honest, Najee Harris has looked a little better each week, and maybe some of that is that they’re learning how to block for him. That could lead to a later-season surge. But for right now, the team appears to have no faith in the rushing game, and little reason to believe.

What will this all translate to through the rest of the season?

Hard to know right now. But it’s useful to notice that a single change could reset the whole gauge.

If Harris and his line suddenly catch fire, like in Franco did in 1972 (where the rookie began the year averaging less than 20 yards per game, then suddenly broke through, with nearly 1,000 yards in just the last ten weeks), that would certainly make a difference.

Similarly, if the defense settled down and started playing like they have the past couple of seasons (something we know they’re capable of), and were suddenly good for three or four takeaways in most games, that would certainly change the makeup of these contests too.

Keep your eye on those elements. I’m not in the predictions game, but I’m all for keeping fingers crossed. Go Steelers.

3 games to watch in Week 5 which give perspective on the Steelers’ future opponents

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/07/2021 - 9:00am
Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

There are several NFL games this week which will help get a better understanding of teams the Steelers face later in 2021

With the Pittsburgh Steelers continuing their season on Sunday, there will still be a multitude of games going on at the same time. When the smoke clears and Steelers Nation looks to see what else has gone on around the NFL in Week 5, there are a few matchups between two teams the Steelers will face later in the season or their next opponent. First off, lets check out how the three games from last week ended up. This week, two of the three games were won by multiple scores.

Detroit Lions (14) at Chicago Bears (24)

After their disappointing last-second loss the previous week, the Detroit Lions did not put up much of a fight against the Chicago Bears. With the score being 21–0 in the third quarter before the Lions even got on the scoreboard, this game wasn’t much of anything to watch.

Cleveland Browns (14) at Minnesota Vikings (7)

Despite being only a one-score game, it didn’t appear to be the most exciting contest to watch. Either both offenses are struggling, or both defenses are doing quite well. Most likely, it’s a combination of both.

Baltimore Ravens (23) at Denver Broncos (7)

I thought the Broncos might put up more of a fight at home against the Ravens, but losing their quarterback for the second half did not help things. The Ravens already had enough points by halftime to win the game but still made sure they ran one last play at the end to keep their rushing streak alive.

For Week 5, here are the three games which could give the most perspective on what the Steelers can expect with some of their future opponents:

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Thursday at 8:20 PM on FOX, NFLN

Even though the Steelers don’t play the Rams in 2021, the fact that their next opponent on the schedule is the Seattle Seahawks put this game into contention. With Seattle sitting at .500, it will be interesting to see how they match up against the Rams before traveling to Pittsburgh.

Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers Sunday at 4:05 PM on CBS

With the Steelers bye week just around the corner, they will come off of their hiatus playing the Browns followed by the Chargers three weeks later. With both teams coming in at 3–1, one of them will be sitting pretty high in the AFC standings after Sunday. If anything, it might show which team will be the toughest matchup.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at 8:20 PM on NBC

Even though there were other options of two teams the Steelers have yet to face, this is just too big of a matchup on the NFL schedule. The Bills only have one loss on the season and it was to the Steelers in Week 1. With Kansas City assumed to be the best team the Steelers face this season based off their 2020 record, seeing how this game plays out may tell the Steelers a lot even if they’re matchup with the Chiefs isn’t until December.

So there are the three main matchups which can give Steelers fans an indication as to the quality of upcoming opponents in 2021. As team get more games under their belt, it’s a little easier to establish expectations.

Obviously the Steelers game itself will tell fans the most about the season. But which of these other games will be the most telling as it pertains to the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

Scouting Report: A favorable matchup awaits the Steelers at Heinz Field

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 10/07/2021 - 8:00am
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost three in a row, but some favorable matchups are coming in Week 5.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3) host the Denver Broncos (3-1) at Heinz Field on Sunday. Here’s a preview of the matchup.

The Line

Pittsburgh opened the week as just a one-point home favorite, which speaks volumes about how they’re currently perceived. While there’s no doubt the Steelers have struggled, they’ve also faced stiff competition in the season’s first quarter. All of Pittsburgh’s opponents thus far currently boast 3-1 records.

The Broncos, meanwhile, have feasted on some of the league’s bottom-feeders. Denver has beaten Jacksonville and both New York teams (combined record: 2-10) while losing 23-7 to the only competent team they’ve faced (Baltimore). So, while a lack of faith in the Steelers is understandable, the Broncos haven’t exactly slayed Goliath.

Lessons from Green Bay

The Steelers lost 27-17 to the Packers at Lambeau Field last week in a game in which they had their chances. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger overthrew Juju Smith-Schuster on two would-be touchdown passes where Smith-Schuster was behind the defense. And a blocked field goal by Minkah Fitzpatrick that was returned for a touchdown was nullified by a questionable offsides penalty on Joe Haden. While it’s impossible to know the outcome of the game had those plays turned out otherwise, they certainly would have changed things. Still, missed opportunities are just that. They are the calling card of struggling football teams.

The big takeaway from Green Bay was the growing concern around Roethlisberger. He began the contest with one of his best throws of the season, a dart to Diontae Johnson for a 45 yard touchdown that gave the Steelers their first points on an opening drive in their last 12 games:

It went downhill from there. He finished with a horrendous throw to Johnson, staring down the receiver before forcing a ball into a crowded Cover-2 zone that had no prayer of being completed:

The interception punctuated another poor performance from the veteran quarterback. While the offense has been limited so far by a young line that’s still learning to play together, Roethlisberger has been problematic. The touchdown to Johnson is a throw he used to make regularly. Now, it’s an outlier. More common are throws like this one, a bad miss on a simple in-cut:

In his post-game comments, Roethlisberger attributed his inaccuracy to poor mechanics, claiming he was dropping his elbow and causing the football to sail. There is nothing wrong with his mechanics here, however. Roethlisberger has a clean pocket, keeps his elbow up and steps into his throw. He just misses. There’s nothing left to attribute this to but deteriorating skills, an unfortunate but inevitable reality for a player in Roethlisberger’s situation.

The admission that Roethlisberger’s time as a starting NFL quarterback may be up is a bridge the Steelers must soon cross. The argument from the coaching staff is that he still gives them the best chance to win football games. That’s a debate that is increasingly worth having. While the offense may not get better with Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins at the helm, it’s unlikely to get worse. The Denver game will be a huge one for Roethlisberger, then. While he has accomplished so much in his distinguished career, past performance cannot be used to justify the present. Time is running out for him to prove he can still play the position at an acceptable level.

It wasn’t all bad for the offense in Green Bay, though. The run game improved, even if the statistics failed to overwhelm. Najee Harris carried the ball 15 times for 62 yards, the first time this season he’s cleared 4+ yards per attempt. Harris’s numbers would have been better had the Steelers not abandoned the run in the second half after falling behind 27-10. Prior to the contest, Harris had been contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage on an astounding 70% of his carries, a statistic that reflected how ineffective the line had been at preventing penetration or creating a push. In Green Bay, however, there were actually holes through which Harris could run:

The Steelers did a better job blocking Green Bay’s three-man odd front than they had in previous weeks handling four-man even fronts. The odd front gave them an extra seam to attack and the line did a decent job covering up defenders and letting Harris find a hole. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada went with some 12 personnel early on, getting an extra blocker on the field in the form of a second tight end. This paid off and will hopefully become more prevalent. The bigger groupings create extra run gaps. Harris has demonstrated he doesn’t need much of an opening to make positive yardage. If Canada can scheme better run looks, it could unleash Harris’s potential, in turn making things easier for Roethlisberger.

Defensively, it’s hard to know where the Steelers stand. They defended Aaron Rodgers fairly well, limiting him to moderate numbers (20-36, 248 yards) while sacking him three times. The consequence was that their focus on pass defense lightened the box and allowed the Packers to rush for a season-high 131 yards.

The defensive line has been hurt badly by the absences of Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu. Green Bay took advantage of their replacements, often getting movement on Henry Mondeaux and Isaiah Buggs to open seams for their backs:

Pittsburgh’s strategy to have their linebackers crowd the ball in an effort to confuse Rodgers as to who was blitzing and who was dropping into coverage was often effective against the pass. It hurt them against the run, however, as the defense struggled at times to fit their proper gaps. We see that in the play above. Watch how safety Terrell Edmunds and linebacker Devin Bush both fit the B-gap while no one plugged the A-gap through which Jones ran. The Steelers had to take some chances to stop Rodgers. Green Bay, to their credit, found ways to make them pay.

So, while the defense did not look great in Green Bay, and while neither Tuitt nor Alualu are set to return, the Steelers will employ a strategy against Denver that will make them more sound against the run. A healthier T.J. Watt should help as well. I’d look for a bounce-back performance from this unit against Denver.

What about the Broncos?

On offense, the Broncos are middle-of-the-road this season in just about every meaningful metric. They are 11th in rushing yards, 17th in total offense, 21st in passing yards and 21st in points. Defensively, they fare much better. They are 2nd in points, 4th in total yards, 5th against the run and 6th against the pass. Denver has only faced one high-powered offense, however, and the Ravens tuned them up for 406 total yards. So, while Denver’s defensive numbers are strong, they are in part a reflection of their level of competition.

Head coach Vic Fangio’s defense, which bases out of a 3-4 and plays heavy doses of zone coverage, was exploited by the Ravens last week in unanticipated fashion. Baltimore, the league’s best run team, shredded the Broncos through the air by throwing from run-heavy looks.

Here, versus 21 personnel, you can see Denver’s safeties creep down to get aggressive against the run. This provided Baltimore a great opportunity to split them to the post off of play-action:

The Ravens also used play-action to manipulate Denver’s linebackers. While quarterback Lamar Jackson threw the deeper dig route on the following play, look at how the backers were scrambled by the outside zone run-fake. This created plenty of space in the middle of the field for Baltimore’s receivers:

Even when Denver backed off in coverage, Baltimore found room to operate. Again, look at how the play-action cleared out the middle of the field. Jackson threw his out-cut here but the Ravens continually got looks like these between the hashes and down the seam:

Baltimore’s offense is a different animal than Pittsburgh’s so the Steelers shouldn’t expect the same scheme from the Broncos. Still, what Baltimore did with their passing game practically begs the Steelers to run more 12 personnel and get aggressive in the middle of the field. Playing two tight ends helped the Steelers create an extra run gap against Green Bay’s odd front last week. This week, against another odd look, it could pay dividends in the passing game as well.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers must prepare for an uncertain quarterback situation. Starter Teddy Bridgewater was knocked out of the Baltimore game with a head injury and entered the concussion protocol. As of Wednesday, the Broncos were yet to make a definitive statement on his status, saying only that he could be cleared by Friday. This means the Steelers must prepare for both Bridgewater and his backup, Drew Lock.

Lock finished the Ravens game in unspectacular fashion, going 12-21 for 113 yards and an interception. With a full week of practice to run the starting offense, however, it’s likely he’ll be better prepared should he get the nod this Sunday. The Steelers saw Lock briefly last season in their 26-21 Week 2 victory. Lock went 1-5 for 20 yards before being knocked out late in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Backup Jeff Driskel came on and nearly rallied the Broncos to victory.

The 2020 game underscores how hard it can be to adjust to a different quarterback when a defense has planned for someone else all week. While Driskel is no world-beater, he dinked-and-dunked the Broncos down the field against a Steelers’ defense that had prepared for the big arm and deep-ball capability of Lock. Bridgewater and Lock present different styles as well, with Bridgewater more of a small-ball quarterback and Lock the home-run hitter. The Steelers will have to account for both.

Receiver Courtland Sutton has stepped in for the injured Jerry Jeudy to emerge as Denver’s biggest threat on the outside. Jeudy is on injured reserve and will not play against the Steelers. Nor will speedster K.J. Hamler, who is done for the season with an ACL tear. This likely means the Broncos will lean heavily on Sutton and on tight end Noah Fant, who was targeted 10 times last week against the Ravens. Denver should also rely on their run game given their injury situation and Pittsburgh’s patchwork defensive line. Veteran Melvin Gordon and recent BTSC draft-crush Javonte Williams give the Broncos a solid 1-2 punch at running back. The duo has accounted for 434 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season.

Prediction

I like this matchup for Pittsburgh. Denver’s odd front presents opportunities to run the football, which could, if Roethlisberger can pull it together, open up the passing game. And Denver’s injuries on offense, coupled with the fact they are tied for 5th in the league in sacks allowed, bodes well for the defense. If Pittsburgh can stop the run they should keep Denver in check. The Steelers haven’t started 0-3 at home in a season since 1986. I don’t think they will this year, either.

Steelers 24, Broncos 20

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