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Steelers sign tackle Bryce Harris, tight end Ryan Malleck

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 4:30pm

The Steelers have added a veteran offensive tackle and tight end after losing one of each to injuries last week in spring practice.

Jim Kelly to receive Jimmy V Award for battling cancer

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 3:17pm

BATAVIA, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly will receive ESPN’s Jimmy V Award for the toughness and perseverance he’s displayed during his ongoing battle with oral cancer.

Rugby player Christian Scotland-Williamson has never played football. The Steelers don't care.

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 1:20pm

Jeopardy answer: You never played football in your life, never pulled on a helmet or pads, are not from North America but find yourself on the Steelers roster competing alongside Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, et al., at this position.

Reggie Bush goes on off-target rant regarding Mike Tomlin and the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 12:45pm

The former Heisman Trophy winner, turned NFL Network analyst, teed off of Mike Tomlin and the Steelers.

The mainstream media loves to beat up on the Pittsburgh Steelers. They mention their loaded roster and underperforming track record, as if the Steelers were cellar dwellers in the AFC North.

However, the vast majority of these media members are fairly off base when it comes to the matters of the black-and-gold.

Before going any further, it should be noted not all of what they say/think is inaccurate. In fact, some of it can be spot on. Take the clip of Reggie Bush on Good Morning Football, on the NFL Network, last Friday as a perfect example.

In the clip, Bush talks about how the Steelers haven’t learned their lesson after last season’s embarrassing playoff loss to the Jaguars at Heinz Field, and how Antonio Brown reportedly saying he doesn’t want to catch passes from backup quarterbacks in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) as a sign of more of the same in Pittsburgh.

Check it out for yourself:

"I feel like the Pittsburgh Steelers haven't learned their lesson."@ReggieBush explains why the @steelers need to look to the past to take care of their future. pic.twitter.com/ifNLxpIh1C

— GMFB (@gmfb) June 1, 2018

Any fan of the Steelers who says Bush is 100-percent off base isn’t completely honest with themselves when it comes to their favorite team. The 2017 Steelers seemed to be gluttons for public embarrassment and punishment from the start to the finish of the season.

Whether it was Martavis Bryant tweeting at Sammie Coates after the team drafted JuJu Smith-Shuster, or Mike Mitchell and Le’Veon Bell predicting a win and looking past the Jaguars to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

It was a circus...a self-imposed circus.

Period.

However, just because Brown has chosen to workout on his own for the majority of OTAs doesn’t mean the fan base can expect more of the same in the 2018 season. In fact, some might suggest the complete opposite considering how bad 2017 was in this regard.

The Steelers, like every NFL team, have their issues, but it doesn’t mean these issues can’t be rectified. The organization has taken character into account the last few draft classes, and it likely was to avoid these type of distractions in the future which have befuddled the fan base on more than one occasion.

Some will always criticize the Steelers, no matter what, and it isn’t as if they are devoid of criticism, but let’s hold off on painting a picture of the 2018 team until the 2018 season actually arrives.

Big Ben poised to pass John Elway in his quest for the NFL’s Top 5, all-time list

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 11:04am

Remember when Ben Roethlisberger was dismissed as an elite QB? Not anymore.

When I’ve visited the Steelers’ training camp during the past decade or so, my personal highlight has always been watching Ben Roethlisberger work with his offense. If you can find just the right vantage point near the area where the receivers run their routes, you’ll get a rare opportunity to witness the incredible velocity and accuracy of Big Ben’s passes. Watching the games on TV, or even at the stadium, doesn’t begin to capture what’s happening at ground level when you’re only a few yards away from where the receivers catch the ball. At 36 years of age, No. 7 still has a rocket arm that you’ve got to witness up-close to believe.

At the end of the 2017 regular season, Roethlisberger had compiled 51,065 passing yards, a mark which currently places him at No. 8 on the NFL’s all-time list for quarterbacks. Sometime during the initial part of the 2018 season, Ben will surpass John Elway, a personal hero whose number he proudly wears. Only 410 yards now stand between Roethlisberger and the No. 7 position on the all-time passing list:

  1. Peyton Manning: 71,940 yards
  2. Brett Favre: 71, 838 yards
  3. Drew Brees: 70,445 yards
  4. Tom Brady: 66,159 yards
  5. Dan Marino: 61,361 yards
  6. Eli Manning: 51,682 yards
  7. John Elway: 51,475 yards
  8. Ben Roethlisberger: 51,065 yards
  9. Philip Rivers: 50,348 yards
  10. Warren Moon: 49,325 yards

Besides the incentive Ben has had in recent seasons to best the legendary NFL quarterback he admired as a youngster, he’s also locked into ongoing competition with two active quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. To share recognition as one of the NFL’s Top-5 passers of all time, Ben would also have to surpass Dan Marino before calling it quits. But if Ben continues to play for three more seasons (and he’s able to remain reasonably healthy), that’s certainly an attainable goal. Ben passed for 4,251 yards in 2017, and — given the outstanding receiver corps he’s working with as he embarks on the 2018 regular season — it’s likely he’ll stay well ahead of Rivers and perhaps surpass Manning.

Despite the fact that chasing Drew Brees and Tom Brady — each of whom enjoys a huge advantage in yardage — isn’t in the cards for Ben, finishing his career among the Top-5 all-time NFL passers would cement his legacy as one of the very best ever to play the game. While that’s a fact already known quite well by the faithful of Steelers Nation, we can still root for Ben in his quest to finally drive a stake through the heart of the silly-but-persistent idea that somehow he doesn’t belong among the best of the best.

So when the wide-eyed rookies and free agents show up at St. Vincent College for the opening of the Steelers’ training camp this summer, it’s likely their undivided attention will first be focused on the leader of the pack — a player surely destined to become one of pro football’s immortals. And in the context of this franchise’s storied history, Steelers fans can take pride, not only in supporting one of the greatest football teams of all time, but also in having witnessed the remarkable career of one of the league’s truly elite — yes, elite — quarterbacks.

Steelers may use more 4-3 looks to improve run defense in 2018

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 9:01am

The Steelers are not happy with the way their defense played down the stretch in 2017. Here’s one way they may look to address it in 2018.

The mandate this offseason has been made clear. Sean Davis said the defense can’t be “out-physicaled.” T.J. Watt called the run defense “unacceptable.” Art Rooney II said they were “soft.”

Although they finished the 2017 season ranked 10th in rushing yards allowed, the Steelers were 28th in yards per carry. What truly is concerning is how the run defense performed over the last six games (including the playoff loss to Jacksonville), after losing Ryan Shazier to injury. The 133.5 yards per game allowed during that stretch would have the Steelers ranked 31st in the NFL, while their 5.1 yards per carry would rank dead last.

Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler reiterated what others have stated, in this article from 247 Sports:

“My thoughts in terms of our defense and how much we can get better is that we have to stop the run... If you look at our stats over the years over last year, the running game hurt us a little bit. We gave up a little bit more of an average than we’re used to giving up around here.”

Point blank: the Steelers must stop the run if their defense is to improve.

But how?

Not likely with new personnel. The Steelers figure to return six of the same starting front-7 from last year. The only new starter of that group would be FA addition Jon Bostic, in place of Ryan Shazier. With no slight intended to Bostic, it’s not as though they’re bringing in an All-Pro to fix their run defense.

Bud Dupree, speaking during the first week of OTA’s, offered some insight as to one approach the Steelers may take.

The Steelers might have a new twist to early-down run defense. “Basically just a 4-3,” OLB Bud Dupree said. “We gotta stop the run.”

— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) May 22, 2018

Mike Prisuta expanded on the subject in this article for Steelers.com: https://www.steelers.com/news/defense-exploring-options :

The 4-3 look in the base alignment Dupree detailed following OTA No. 1 is an apparent response to the run-defense issues the Steelers experienced after losing inside linebacker Ryan Shazier last December in Cincinnati. “This is going to be my first year of rotating back and forth,” Dupree continued. “We know it’s going to be a run sometimes. And on short-yardage situations, on check-down plays, we’ll be able to rally around the ball real fast. We don’t usually try to do it in a lot of pass-rush situations. We just try to do it to be able to stop the run.”

A 4-3 look from 3-4 personnel is not totally new to this current defense under Keith Butler. The Steelers have been selective, however, in using the “quasi 4-3.” In 2017, the total number of snaps from it was probably less than 40 (I didn’t chart all of them. This is an estimate based on the games listed below). The bulk of those snaps came in five games: Chicago in Week 3, Baltimore in Weeks 4 and 14, Jacksonville in Week 5 and the Divisional Playoff game. Dupree’s comments imply the Steelers intend to expand the use of the “quasi 4-3.” With that as our premise, we will:

  1. Look at the difference in alignment of the Steelers 3-4 vs their “quasi 4-3”
  2. Discuss the pros/cons of each, taking into account the strengths/weaknesses of current personnel
  3. Discuss how Dupree’s “rotating back and forth” plays into the “quasi 4-3”

We’ll start with a look at the Steelers defense in their traditional 3-4 front:

Easily recognizable to any Steelers fan: a NT (Hargrave), DE’s (Tuitt and Heyward) lined up over the offensive tackles, OLB’s (Dupree and Watt) at the LOS, ILB’s (Williams and Shazier) aligned about five yards off the ball.

Now let’s look at the same personnel aligned in a 4-3 front:

First notice how Tuitt and Heyward are on the same side of the center. We also see Dupree aligned off the ball. The remaining players (Williams, Shazier, Hargave, and Watt) are not aligned all that differently than they would be in a 3-4.

The big difference is at the second level. In the 4-3, there are three linebackers in the five gaps between the tight end and the opposite offensive tackle. This alleviates some of the pressure on the Mack and the Buck by adding an additional backer. In the 3-4, with just two backers in those gaps, the Mack and the Buck are expected to cover a lot of ground. We’re not as strong there without Shazier, and we didn’t land a top-notch player there in the draft. So, using a third inside backer to assist at the second level makes sense. Now, the inside backers can play more of a downhill style (filling gaps) since they have less ground to cover. This is a better fit for our current backers than the 3-4, which requires them to have more range and be better getting over the top of blocks and playing in space.

The trade-off is that the first-level defenders (the three DL and Watt) have to do more, since there are now four first-level players instead of five. To compensate for the loss of a first-level player, it would be reasonable to expect more pinching, slanting and stemming from the 4-3. Line stunts allow the front to collapse gaps with penetration, which screws up blocking schemes. The quickness of Hargrave, Tuitt and Heyward could be well-suited for this type of an aggressive front.

Let’s look at a few plays out of the “quasi 4-3.” In the first GIF, an aggressive stunt from the 4-3 creates confusion in the Baltimore run scheme and is a win for the defense. Heyward pinches across the offensive tackle’s face, creating penetration, while Hargrave loops outside, drawing the guard with him. Meanwhile, the inside backers execute the Steelers famous “Cross-X Fire” stunt. Shazier goes first, drawing the center to him, and because the guard has blocked out on Hargrave, Williams comes free through the A-gap. The ball-carrier is forced to cut back, where he is swallowed up by Heyward’s penetration. This type of aggressiveness is a hallmark of the 4-3. By getting everyone moving at the snap, the defense can compensate for a lack of natural play-making ability at the second level.

Bud Dupree was the third inside backer on the majority of snaps when the “quasi 4-3” was used in 2017. He played the “Sam” position, where he was aligned primarily to the TE or “strong” side of a formation. There was one problem with this: like any inside backer, the Sam must be instinctive and must recognize things quickly. But these didn’t seem to be areas where Dupree excelled — which brings his use at the Sam in 2018 into question.

In the previous GIF, Dupree steps the wrong way before recovering. Why does he step outside when Tuitt is clearly working outside as well? Dupree should be pressing the B/C-gaps. It doesn’t hurt us on that play, but it shows he isn’t comfortable with his reads. In the next GIF, he’s even worse. Dupree buries himself inside when Tuitt is clearly working down to the B-gap. He should be over top of Tuitt here, which would allow him to make the play when the ball bounces outside. He doesn’t seem to understand his relationship to Tuitt and where he fits in the run scheme. Having a player who looks uncomfortable with his inside reads at the Sam is scary. This may not be the ideal position for Dupree.

Now, let’s look at a couple of plays with T.J. Watt as the Sam LB. On this first GIF, we see Watt diagnose the inside zone double-team in front of him and quickly fill the A-gap. The guard comes off of his double and picks up Watt, but T.J. has done his job. Inside zone is most effective when the runner cuts the play back, usually to the backside A-gap. By taking that gap away, Watt has forced the back to stay on the front side, where the edge defenders make the play. If inside zone is forced to bounce outside, it’s likely a win for the defense (the play is called “inside zone” for a reason). Watt doesn’t get a tackle or an assist in the box score here, but his quick read allows other defenders to succeed.

We see something similar in the next GIF. Here, Leonard Fournette tries to take inside zone right up the gut. Vince Williams does his part by taking on the fullback, shedding the block and getting a piece of Fournette (Sean Spence, for what it’s worth, gets wiped out by the offensive guard). Watt recognizes the inside run quickly, rips through the block of the offensive tackle and assists on Fournette. Go back to that false step Dupree took a few GIFs ago. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but a false step outside here would have allowed the OT to wall Watt off and would have kept him from getting in on the tackle, likely resulting in another couple of yards for Fournette. There are no false reads with Watt. He seems to read and react much quicker than Dupree, which makes him a better candidate to play the Sam.

Now we can see the Steelers’ reasoning in “flipping” Dupree and Watt:

  • The Steelers want to use the “quasi 4-3” more in 2018. With Bud as the LOLB, it put him to the TE/strong side (offense’s right side) more often. This makes Bud the Sam LB. As discussed, we don’t feel playing off-the-ball is something Bud does well. With T.J. as the LOLB, he would now be the Sam LB in the “quasi 4-3.”
  • If the offense aligns with their TE/strength to the left side, this would again put Bud as the Sam LB (in his “new” ROLB spot). This is where Bud “rotating back and forth” comes into play. The Steelers, in this case, would simply switch Bud back to LOLB (away from the TE) and T.J. to ROLB (towards the TE). This would realign Watt as the Sam LB.

How do we know this is what the Steelers would do? From Prisuta’s article, “The nuance (4-3 look) includes Dupree switching from the left side to the right side more often than in previous seasons.” Recall also Bud’s quote, “This is going to be my first year of rotating back and forth,” in regards to stopping the run.

Based on Dupree’s comments during OTA’s, the Steelers intend to use their “quasi 4-3” more in 2018. We’ve discussed why that might be a prudent move, given the Steelers personnel at ILB. Reviewing plays from 2017 showed that T.J. Watt seems to be much better suited to play Sam LB than Bud Dupree. We concluded that the proposed “rotating back and forth” of Bud and T.J. is directly tied to each player’s effectiveness as Sam LB.

Many questions remain, however. The Steelers use their 3-4 personnel against 21 (2 RB), 12 (2 TE), and 13 (3 TE) personnel almost exclusively. This is why they use their “base” defense 30% or less of the time. They have remained in their 3-4 group against 11 (3 WR) personnel on only a small number of occasions.

With their intent to use the “quasi 4-3” more often, would the Steelers keep their 3-4 personnel on the field vs 3 WR sets; at least on early downs? This could obviously leave them with an unfavorable matchup vs the pass: a LB on a WR. Normally, they would replace the NT (Hargrave) with a slot CB (Hilton).

Would the Steelers use 3-3-5 personnel to “lessen” the aforementioned mismatch? Potentially, they could replace, say, Jon Bostic with Terrell Edmunds. In this scenario, the LB’s in their “quasi 4-3” would again be Watt as Sam, Williams as Mike, with Edmunds now serving as the Will.

As for Dupree and Watt flipping sides: Do they do so every time the TE aligns to the opposite side? If not, do the Steelers not employ the “quasi 4-3” in the instances where Bud would be the Sam LB?

There is no way to answer those questions right now, but it’s fun to speculate on the possibilities of a “new” defense. We will follow any developments on the “quasi 4-3” as the Steelers work through minicamp and training camp. We certainly are anxious to see its use during the 2018 season.

Are the Steelers missing the boat with Mychal Kendricks?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 6:55am

At first glance, free-agent linebacker Mychal Kendricks appears to be just the type of player the Pittsburgh Steelers have been looking for. So why don’t the Steelers seem interested?

I must be missing something. There has to be more to the story than meets the eye. There must be a four-game suspension on the horizon that only a select few NFL insiders know about. Maybe there’s a failed drug test, or as-yet-undisclosed legal concerns behind it all. Whatever the reason, I sure would love to know why — inexplicably — the Pittsburgh Steelers have showed zero interest in the recently released, former Philadelphia Eagles ILB Mychal Kendricks.

We all bore witness to the rapid decline of the Steelers’ defense last season following the season-ending injury to budding superstar ILB Ryan Shazier. All of the defense’s shortcomings were revealed in the absence of Shazier’s superior speed and athleticism to cover them up. Without going into great detail, it was more than apparent Shazier was the glue which held the unit together.

What could the Steelers possibly do to try and replace the irreplaceable?

All we heard from the team leading up to free agency and the NFL Draft was how there was nobody available who could match his special skill set, much less fill his unique role on the defense.

We kept hearing two or three names at inside linebacker mentioned as possible draft targets in a relatively weak draft at the position. But these players were all gone by the time the Steelers’ pick came around. The team reportedly tried to trade up in the first round so they could draft one of these coveted players.

That’s where this whole situation gets more than a little confusing for me. Why attempt to trade up if you’re content with the linebacker corps you already have?

The Steelers were able to acquire Jon Bostic in free agency to help strengthen what, on paper at least, appears to be the weakest unit on the team. Bostic may prove to be a real asset for the defense, but the team is gambling that he can do something this season which has eluded him so far in his career — stay healthy. Behind Bostic on the depth chart are journeymen and special-teamers at best.

I read an article this week where the author went so far as to say this current group of linebackers as presently populated are the weakest group of Steelers linebackers he could ever recall — and if we’re being honest, he’s probably correct.

Outside of T.J. Watt, what current Steelers linebacker would you say has the opportunity to be special? Shazier was headed in that direction before his devastating injury, but hadn’t quite reached that level in my opinion.

In fact, for an organization renowned for outstanding linebacker play, who might be considered the last great linebacker drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers? It can’t be Harrison because he wasn’t drafted. Timmons was a very good player, but nobody would confuse him for great. Woodley had a couple of strong seasons but that was about it. You would honestly have to go all the way back to Joey Porter to find the last All-Pro linebacker that the Steelers actually drafted, and that was in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft.

Not an impressive draft resume to say the least, and something the Steelers need to really focus on moving forward.

That brings me back to my initial question:

Why aren’t the Pittsburgh Steelers bringing Mychal Kendricks in for a visit? At least kick the tires on the kid and see what’s up.

What better way is there to replace a young, super-fast, sideline-to-sideline ILB than with another young, also fast, sideline-to-sideline ILB? These players are super difficult to find according to none other than Kevin Colbert, and then, unexpectedly, one suddenly becomes available out of the blue. So how are the Steelers reacting to this good fortune? By doing nothing, it appears!

I almost always have complete faith the Steelers’ front office will make the best decision for the organization in the end, but I’m finding this decision hard to rationalize.

For a team that has had such difficulty drafting and developing talent at the linebacker position, this seems like such a no-brainer. Kendricks may just be the missing piece — coupled with the infusion of talent at the safety positions — that could make the Steelers’ defense truly special again this season and help bring home a seventh Lombardi Trophy.

But so far, Mychal Kendricks has visits scheduled with the Vikings, Raiders, and Browns. Nothing with the Steelers even mentioned.

Not even a tour through the facilities, past the six Lombardi Trophies, and then a trip to Primanti Brothers in the Strip District. Maybe take Ryan Shazier along and let him recruit Kendricks to Pittsburgh with an inspirational speech about how he needs to pick up the shield of our fallen warrior and lead the team to the promised land.

It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it — but I digress. Back to reality I guess.

I sure hope the Steelers know what they’re doing concerning Mychal Kendricks and don’t end up regretting doing nothing.

UPDATE: At the point this article was published, Kendricks was rumored to have signed a one year contract with the Cleveland Browns, but only for he, and his agent, to contradict the report stating they are still negotiating with him to four potential teams. Stay tuned as more on this story is certain to come out in the coming hours/days.

Podcast: Breaking down the QB depth chart heading into offseason workouts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 5:44am

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

The 2018 NFL Draft is over and, believe it or not, there’s lots to talk about heading into a big week of offseason news for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the new show “Steelers News”:

  • Talking about the QB battle about to ensue
  • Who is Joshua Dobbs really competing with?
  • If Ben Roethlisberger were to be injured early, who would the team turn to?
  • Does coaching still matter at the NFL level?
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, goes over everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on our BlogTalkRadio page. If you’re old school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below. Be sure to follow us on iTunes by searching “The Standard is the Standard”.

...

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

Keion Adams looks to recapture his form after shoulder injury ended his rookie season

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Sun, 06/03/2018 - 4:25pm

The Steelers’ biggest draft surprise undoubtedly was the decision not to select an inside linebacker with any of their seven picks. Coming in a close second, given the position’s lack of depth, was the decision not to draft an outside linebacker, either.

Joe Haden and Marcus Allen reflect on Steelers OTAs, helping young players and Tom Bradley

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/03/2018 - 11:44am

The Steelers’ defensive secondary has undergone some turnover, and two members of this unit talk about the changes, as well as expectations.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary will certainly have a new look to is in 2018. Gone are Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden and William Gay, and in their place are a slew of young athletes brimming with potential.

While fans don’t know the Steelers’ exact plans for players like Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Marcus Allen and Cameron Sutton, there is a good chance they will have a ton of options in the back half of the defense when it comes to the utilization of defensive packages and alignment.

The one player in the defensive secondary who is labeled as a true veteran would be Joe Haden. Haden, who was a first round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2010 NFL Draft, recently spoke with media regarding his thoughts on the young players on the team, the new secondary coach Tom Bradley and expectations for the defense as a whole.

Check out Haden’s interview below:

Joe Haden talks about filling the leadership role in defensive backfield, his support for the @cavs in the #NBAFinals, building chemistry during OTAs and more. pic.twitter.com/W4iOaY6jdp

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 1, 2018

Speaking of those young, athletic and talented safeties on the team’s roster, Marcus Allen would certainly make the list. While fans have a decent idea what will be happening with Terrell Edmunds, Allen’s skill set is different. He is a downhill player who loves to play in the box and attack ball carriers. Outside of special teams, what will the Steelers do with him?

Only Keith Butler and Tom Bradley know for sure, but Allen is excited to contribute anyway possible — including on special teams. He was the recipient of the Player Spotlight for the Steelers official website, and you can hear him talk about being around the veterans, his new secondary coach and of course his expectations heading into the season.

Marcus Allen talks about hitting the field with the veterans, the advice they have provided, learning from DB Coach Bradley, rooming with Terrell Edmunds and more. pic.twitter.com/bFDDKZgFIu

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 30, 2018

Remember to keep it glued to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they wrap up OTAs and minicamp before going head-first into training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

Former Steelers’ offensive tackle Mike Adams attempting a comeback at Tight End

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/03/2018 - 9:27am

The former Pittsburgh Steelers second round pick was out of football in 2017, but is attempting a comeback — at tight end.

I chuckled when I first read a blurb about Mike Adams, the former Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-round bust, transforming from offensive tackle to tight end. Like many Steelers fans, the memories I have of the former Ohio State Buckeye were not fond ones. Mainly, Adams being a swinging gate at right tackle is what I picture in my mind's eye.

Clicking on this link took me to the story on an Ohio State fan website. I have to admit I was blown away by the new and improved Adams. Eating a healthier diet, lifting weights and throwing in yoga led Adams to lose 68-pounds, and now weighing 255-pounds.

My chuckling stopped once I clicked on the article and saw his picture without a shirt on. Wow, that’s not the Mike Adams I remember. Is this the same guy Pittsburgh drafted in 2012 who was listed at 6-feet 7-inches and more than 330 pounds?

Adams is currently training with Tim Cortazo, who owns FSQ Sports in Pittsburgh. This is the same man who transformed Terrelle Pryor from quarterback to wide receiver. “I want to give it another shot and get after it,” Adams said. “I love the game. It’s what I want to do.”

Here is a picture of Adams with the Steelers and a picture of him now:

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This is former Steeler OL Mike Adams right now. pic.twitter.com/SxyrDsJkFI

— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) May 31, 2018

After being out of the league last year, this will be an interesting story to follow, and I do hope that Adams is able to transition to tight end and get his NFL dreams back on track.

In the meantime, stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Pittsburgh Steelers as they complete Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and press on towards training camp.

Report: Jerald Hawkins undergoes surgery, set to head to Injured Reserve

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/03/2018 - 7:25am

The Steelers begin their search to find their backup swing tackle.

Organized Team Activities (OTAs) have been rough on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only have participating players had to answer questions about the absence of absent players like Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, but there have been injuries.

Last week, the team saw two players leave practice for different reasons. Jale McGee left with a torn Achilles tendon and Jerald Hawkins left with a torn quadriceps.

According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the team is planning to place Hawkins on injured reserve.

Steelers OT Jerald Hawkins underwent surgery for his torn quad, is set to go on IR, per source. Tough deal for former fourth-round pick who showed up to offseason work in good shape and ready to carve out role.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 1, 2018

The team was hoping Hawkins would fill the role previously occupied by Chris Hubbard, but instead Hawkins finds his way onto IR for the second time in three seasons.

The question now becomes whether Hawkins might be able to return at some point during the season, but it’s highly unlikely.

The job of swing-tackle now falls to either Matt Feuler or rookie Chukwuma Okorafor. It’ll certainly be an interesting training camp battle to watch, as the already-thin depth at offensive tackle has now become razor thin.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Black-and-gold as they complete OTAs and gear up for training camp.

Be a part of the global Steelers fan base with the latest BTSC T-shirt

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/03/2018 - 6:41am

The Steelers and BTSC have become global brands. Be a proud member of the community with our latest BTSC T-Shirt!

When I took over the editor position at BTSC, I have to admit I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Sure, I knew about the Pittsburgh Steelers rabid and international fan base, but I had no idea just how widespread BTSC followers were.

Recently, I decided to take a BTSC/Steelers fan census. I simply asked readers to chime in about where they lived. To say I was shocked is an understatement. We have fans from California to Moscow, and almost everywhere in between.

I then began to think how our community might bond together and thought a t-shirt would be awesome!

This is where the latest BTSC T-Shirt was born!

The shirt comes in short sleeves, long sleeves, sweatshirts and more!! You can order yours today by clicking THIS LINK!

If you aren’t a fan of this shirt, there are plenty of others which might suit your needs. Check out all of them at the BTSC Apparel Store. The latest T-shirt designs are for players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and some of the awesome Steelers’ celebrations.

Check them out!

HERE WE GO!

Tyler Matakevich, now healthy, can bring added depth to the Steelers’ ILB rotation

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/02/2018 - 12:36pm

Playing with just one arm in 2017 didn’t help the Steelers after Ryan Shazier was lost for the season.

“Next Man Up”

“The Standard is the Standard”

We’ve all heard Mike Tomlin utter these iconic phrases on more than one occasion throughout his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers. More often than not, Tomlin's roster holds true to these mottos.

Time and time again, a player is lost to injury, and the next player fills in more than adequately in their stead.

Some perfect examples of this last year were when B.J. Finney filled in well for Ramon Foster, as well as Chris Hubbard for Marcus Gilbert. The Steelers pride themselves on quality depth and having players at the ready when something happens on the field.

But when Ryan Shazier was lost for the season in Cincinnati, the next man up, Tyler Matakevich, didn’t look like he truly fulfilled his coach’s prophetic sayings, and there might have been a reason for that.

Just a few series after Shazier was carted off the field, Matakevich further injured his shoulder which had been popping in and out of place since the team’s win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in October. Matakevich was essentially playing with one arm, relegated mainly to special teams duties, and he underwent surgery to repair his shoulder three days after the playoff loss to the Jaguars.

During surgery, the doctors repaired his labrum, rotator cuff and biceps tendon.

“I’ve got a new wing, so I feel good,” Matakevich told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I played the whole year with pretty much a bum arm,” he added.

Could the situation have been different at inside linebacker, with the Steelers not needing to sign Sean Spence literally off of his couch to help fill the role at inside linebacker? Matakevich thinks so.

“If I’m healthy, I think it’s a different story. I only had one good arm, so it’s a little tough to do.”

Nonetheless, putting 2017 in the past is something the Steelers are more than willing to do as they continue to prepare for the 2018 season through the team’s Organized Team Activities (OTAs). It's there that Matakevich has been getting reps alongside Vince Williams as the starter, rather than recently acquired free agent Jon Bostic.

“Everyone knows you don’t earn a spot in OTAs,” Matakevich said after practice. “You know it happens in Latrobe. It’s nice now, but when everyone gets the pads on, that’s when the real camp starts.”

“I’m just out there trying to get better,” Matakevich said. “Whether if it’s with the ones, twos or threes, I’m just trying to get better, perfect my craft and help this defense. As of right now, it’s with (the first team), so I’m trying to do whatever I can to help out.”

Kevin Colbert spoke about Matakevich, and how he, combined with Bostic, very well could be what the Steelers are looking for at the inside linebacker position. But the question remains whether it'll be good enough to fill in for the injured Shazier. One thing is for sure, the Steelers need to find an answer for the middle of their defense and, with an entire offseason to prepare, it should be a smoother transition than the midseason transition last season.

If nothing more, Matakevich, now healthy, provides some quality depth in the team’s inside linebacker rotation — something they seriously lacked in 2017.

Joshua Dobbs “embracing the competition” with fellow Steelers quarterbacks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/02/2018 - 10:22am

The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to have one heck of a quarterback battle on their hands this training camp.

Based on the responses of Pittsburgh Steelers fans, there are many who feel for Joshua Dobbs. The young quarterback has a ton of physical tools to help the black-and-gold, but is considered rough around the edges by many who follow the game closely.

In the preseason last year, Dobbs’ only time on the field, he showed glimmers of brilliance, followed by plays which made you scratch your head. I think its safe to say when the Steelers drafted Dobbs in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, no one viewed him as the future of the quarterback position. Rather, most viewed him like a Dennis Dixon, a quarterback with a good skill set, but destined to be more of a career backup rather than a starter.

With Ben Roethlisberger ready to return in 2018, and Landry Jones entering the final year of his contract, it seemed as if the Steelers’ quarterback depth chart was set.

Then they drafted Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

A nice three-man depth chart now turned into a four-quarterback log jam, and many believe the writing is on the wall for Dobbs as the odd man out in this position battle. Either way, Dobbs isn’t going to let the pressure bother him, but is embracing the competition which awaits this offseason.

“I just embracing the competition,” Dobbs told ABC 6 in Knoxville while promoting his youth football camp in Tennessee. “My goal is to help the team achieve our goals and our goal is to win a Super Bowl so however I can help, that’s my goal. It is constant competition in the NFL, it was constant competition here in Knoxville so no stranger to that. I’m excited to get to camp, continue to grow, compete and get ready for the upcoming season.”

Dobbs is ready to embrace the competition, but is there any chance he holds onto a job with Pittsburgh? It seems unlikely. While a plethora of fans would love to see Landry Jones’ time with the Steelers go by the wayside, it is almost equally unlikely the team decides to keep four quarterbacks on the roster. Dobbs could end up on the practice squad, but would have to be released and clear waivers before such a move could happen.

When you stop and think about it, you have to wonder just who Dobbs’ competition really is heading into training camp. The team isn’t likely to part ways with a third round pick they traded up to acquire, nor are they likely to sever ties with Jones as the primary backup to Ben Roethlisberger.

Makes you wonder, barring the team keeping all four quarterbacks, if Dobbs isn’t a proverbial dead man walking as the team wraps up their Organized Team Activities (OTAs), mandatory minicamp and eventually heads into training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

Home of the Steelers, Heinz Field, ranks 5th among all NFL stadiums

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/02/2018 - 8:44am

The ‘Big Ketchup Bottle’ ranked high among NFL stadiums across the league, but should it be higher?

The NFL is having a major problem in their sport, and it doesn’t surround anthem protests, or head trauma. No, it surrounds the stadium experience for fans. To be honest, many are choosing to just stay home rather than fight traffic, fans, prices and other hassles which accompany the NFL game day experience.

In a recent article by the Sporting News, they ranked all 31 NFL stadiums from best-to-worst. This assignment was certainly more difficult than many might believe. Everyone always looks for different things which make them enjoy a specific stadium/experience.

For instance, some might light the comfort which comes from a dome, or covered, stadium, while others want to feel the elements. Some might want to have a view of the city, while the overall experience and feel of the venue trumps the visuals. Comfort can also play a role, and the type of seats and view of the playing field might be more important.

In other words, these rankings are extremely subjective.

Personally, I have only been to a handful of stadiums, and each has their positives and negatives. As an example, I have been on the field at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, and have enjoyed the in-game experience. The fans around us, as fans of the visiting team, were not nasty, the people working the game were more than generous and you can’t beat the up-close-and-personal view of the black-and-gold. However, getting in and out of FedEx Field is an absolute nightmare.

Having only one way in and out is a cluster, to say the least.

Compare that to Heinz Field, and you have a different experience altogether. A field with corners open, much smaller than FedEx or Jerry’s World in Dallas, but a unique feeling about it. When rocking, there aren’t many stadiums which can top the rocking you feel at Heinz Field.

Nonetheless, check out the Top 10 stadiums, what they said about Heinz Field, and be sure to let us know what you think about the rankings in the comment section below!

1. ​Lambeau Field (Packers)
2. ​CenturyLink Field (Seahawks)
3. ​AT&T Stadium (Cowboys)
4. ​Arrowhead Stadium (Chiefs)

5. Heinz Field (Steelers)

Open since: 2001

Capacity: 68,400

This venue gets bonus points for serving as a great supporting actor in The Dark Night Rises, even if its playing surface was CGI-harmed in the process. It’s a beautiful open setting worthy of all the traditions of Black and Gold, down to the last Terrible Towel.

6. ​Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Saints)
7. ​Levi’s Stadium (49ers)
8. ​University of Phoenix Stadium (Cardinals)
9. ​U.S. Bank Stadium (Vikings)
10. ​Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Falcons)

The Steelers have a history of developing linebackers, and that continues to this day

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/02/2018 - 6:37am

Pittsburgh often finds top-flight LB talent in players that don’t fit the prototypical mold.

Steelers fans all know the names — Lambert, Ham, Greene, Lloyd, Porter, the list goes on. More so than any other franchise, the Steelers seem to always be ahead of the curve when it comes to the position of Linebacker. In the 70’s they had a non-prototypical middle linebacker. He was a lanky, almost too light for the position, angry, fang-toothed maniac who patrolled sideline to sideline like no other, but with a twist. This maniac could not only stuff a hole on fourth-and-one, but he had a knack rarely seen at the time for dropping into pass coverage. His name was Jack Lambert and when he retired he had amassed 28 interceptions, an impressive number even by today’s NFL standards — not to mention a yellow blazer to boot.

In 1982, they drafted Mike Merriweather a “new age” linebacker for his time, his specialty being sacking the quarterback. Coincidentally, this was also the first year the NFL started to keep statistics on sacks, and Merriweather accumulated 31 in six seasons, with 15 coming in 1984 alone. Ironically, another linebacker by the name of Lawrence Taylor (also known for his sacks) was drafted in 1981 by the NY Giants and didn’t achieve double-digit sacks until he posted 11.5 in 1984. By the time the 90’s rolled around, Pittsburgh became a linebacker laboratory headed by Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene. Inserted into the 3-4 defensive scheme, they soon set the tempo for what other teams around the league wanted to emulate. There also was Levon Kirkland, drafted in 1992 — a 6-foot-1 LB who played at weights ranging between 275 and 300 Lbs (that’s not a misprint). Kirkland possessed great speed and agility for his size, and soon became recognized as one of the top inside linebackers in the league. In 1994, the Steelers drafted Jason Gildon, a defensive lineman from Oklahoma State who they converted to Linebacker, and he too would become a premiere player in the NFL. He actually worked out so well that, in 1999, the Steelers went back to the well and drafted another defensive lineman from Colorado State University by the name of Joey Porter. He followed suit by becoming an outstanding linebacker and team leader for the Pittsburgh Steelers, taking them into the 2000s where the Steelers once again developed a linebacking terror named James Harrison, who went undrafted but would eventually attain legendary status throughout the sports world. They coupled Harrison with yet another defensive lineman from the University of Michigan in 2007 when they converted LaMarr Woodley to an outside linebacker and went on to claim a championship.

Beyond 2010, the NFL continued to develop into more of a pass-oriented league, utilizing multiple “spread-offenses” and attacking the middle of the field through the air. This turned the once-vertical game into more of a horizontal contest, and the once-coveted immoveable middle or interior linebacker position had begun to morph into different variations from team to team. Some were known as “athletic linebackers” while others were deemed “tweeners” a hybrid of linebacker with the fluid hips of a safety (not unlike a Troy Polamalu — but that’s an article for another day). In 2014, with Steelers Nation expecting the draft pick to be a much-needed and discussed cornerback, the Steelers selected Ryan Shazier, for some, a head-scratching pick at the time. What the Steelers apparently saw in Shazier was a ridiculously athletic smaller interior linebacker with wide-receiver speed and the ability to jump out of a gymnasium.

Once again, the Steelers had eschewed conventional wisdom on the linebacker position and rewrote the handbook for the type of athlete that would become the next wave of sought-after players in the NFL. Obviously, we all know the unfortunate accident that befell Shazier last season, and every fan of the game is wishing him a full recovery and all the best. Keep in mind that, at the time of Shazier’s injury, he was making a legitimate case for Defensive Player of the Year consideration with 68 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, 3.5 sacks and 11 passes defended. Last season, the Steelers connected once again, finding linebacker success with the selection of T.J. Watt and proving again that they can still score quality while slotted in the latter portion of the first round (the Steelers have not had a top-10 pick in a draft since 2000).

This brings us to this year’s draft, with the Steelers eyeing linebacker as a position of need, but opting for a safety. In fact, they didn’t use any of their picks to select a linebacker but, in true Steelers’ fashion, they signed two UDFA. Matthew Thomas, a former No. 1 linebacker recruit in 2013 from Florida State University, has shown flashes of playmaking ability in college — especially during his junior and senior seasons. He also had a very strong showing at this year’s combine and led FSU in tackles the last two years. He has a tall lanky build (6-foot-3, 232 pounds) that could stand to add muscle, but there’s no doubting his athleticism. Thomas is a productive force on the field. The other UDFA comes by way of a more familiar scenario. He is an undrafted defensive end/outside linebacker from the Mid-American Conference who, coincidentally, was wearing No. 92 at the rookies’ minicamp just last weekend. His name is Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, another “linebacker project” for the Steelers — a natural pass rusher with an energetic, aggressive style. He too proved to be productive for his team in college. He weighs in at 6-foot-1, 250 pounds and has been described as a “very young, fleet, pass-rushing terror with a game to suit the times.” It will be interesting to see if the Steelers can continue their time-honored tradition at the linebacker position by uncovering hidden gems. Only time can tell.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 19

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 5:43pm

Ugh...the offseason continues. Here We Go.

There has been several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night open thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring back the Friday night open thread...with a slight twist.

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

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

1. You couldn’t watch sports TV, or listen to sports radio, without hearing about the Cleveland Cavs’ blunder at the end of Game 1 in the NBA Finals. It made me wonder, what was the biggest Steelers on-field blunder you can remember?

2. Heinz Field was recently listed No. 5 among all NFL stadiums. If you have been to other venues, are there any which are better than the big ketchup bottle? The reason can be anything: traffic getting into and out of the stadium, atmosphere, view, etc.

3. If you could draw up the best secondary for the Steelers, with players on their current roster, who makes the team and who plays what position?

4. Who has more sacks in 2018? T.J. Watt or Cameron Heyward? Explain.

5. Simple question: Are you going to buy a new throwback uniform? If so, who are you going to buy?

6. Today is June 1st, and the Steelers’ season opener is just 100 days away. What are your summer plans before the boys of fall return to the gridiron?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

How the Steelers will take a rare approach on defense in 2018

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 2:45pm

Keith Butler keeps experimenting with his Steelers defense, not surprising after they lost their most recent game, 45-42.

Let the countdown begin...100 days until the Steelers regular season opener

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 2:22pm

There is a light at the end of the tunnel...

It may be hard to believe, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2018 regular season opener vs. the Browns, in Cleveland, is just 100 days away.

In case you needed a little reminder, the Steelers released this video to let fans get pumped for the upcoming season.

days to September 9th.#HereWeGo #SteelersKickoff pic.twitter.com/yHZ8JCxsw6

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 1, 2018

I sit here and can’t wrap my head around the season starting in 100 days. It just goes to show how fast time goes because it just seems like yesterday I was putting the finishing touches on the deflating loss to the Jaguars at Heinz Field in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs.

With it being June 1st, the summer months are officially upon us, and before you know it the end of July will mark the start of the training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. And before you know it, the preseason will have come and gone and the proverbial bullets of the regular season will start flying.

100 days...let the countdown begin!

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