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Steelers NFL Draft Preview: Old rivalries, but new prospects in Week 3

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/17/2022 - 10:30am
Nathan J Fish/The Oklahoman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Keeping tabs on the college players who could be on the Steelers radar in Week 3.

The 2023 NFL Draft is still months in the distance, but with college football having arrived, the beginning stages of the 2023 draft process has begun. With that in mind, it is time to dive into this week’s biggest games in the college football world, taking a look at potential Steelers draft targets to pay attention to during their respective games.

Offensive line is definitely an area the Steelers need to address, and the most likely resource for the solution is indeed the draft. Concerns at cornerback and linebacker also loom large over the Pittsburgh’s head. Although we will certainly break down prospects at other positions this season as well, these will be the primary positions of emphasis, especially early in the season.

Nearly every week during the season, there are several highlight games that steal the headlines, but even when these games overshadow the rest of the college football landscape, we will not be negligent of the other games and prospects in action. Every week during the season, we will recap the previous week’s action and determine whose stock rose the most as it pertains to the NFL Draft.

As always, be sure to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, but without further adieu, here are the top prospects and games to keep an eye on this Saturday.

#6 Oklahoma at Nebraska | Noon ET on FOX

Oklahoma Spotlight: Anton Harrison — OT; Andrew Raym — C
Nebraska Spotlight: Ochaun Mathis — EDGE; Turner Corcoran — OT

A rivalry renewed. Amongst the many storylines hovering around this game are the draft prospects playing in it, but very few are talking about the implications this game could have on the outlook of Nebraska and Oklahoma draft prospects. For Oklahoma, I have my eye on Anton Harrison. Harrison has active hands and displays an ability to get to the second level of the defense as a run blocker.

For Nebraska, look no further than Ochaun Mathis. While EDGE rusher may not be a priority for the Steelers, one cannot ignore the great opportunity Mathis has to boost his draft stock with a strong performance against the Sooners. Mathis has both the length and the bulk necessary to play in either a 4-3 or a 3-4 system, and his quickness of the line of scrimmage is better than many pass rushers who are a good 20 pounds lighter than him.

#7 Michigan State vs. Washington | 7:30 ET on ABC

Michigan State Spotlight: Jacoby Windmon — LB/EDGE; Ameer Speed — CB
Washington Spotlight: Jordan Perryman — CB; Jaxson Kirkland — OT

No player has had a hotter start than Michigan State’s Jacoby Windmon. Holding the title of Big Ten Player of the Week for two weeks straight, the Spartan standout has already recorded 5.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles this season, albeit against poor competition. This week will be different, as he is about to face a school that is known for developing NFL offensive linemen. Windmon displays good power and athleticism, but what separates him from most other pass rushers is his ability to disengage from blockers as a run defender.

For the Huskies, the obvious answer is offensive tackle Jaxson Kirkland, but while I will most definitely keep an eye on him, his underwhelming play in 2021 still makes me hesitant when evaluating his status ahead of the 2023 draft cycle. I do not currently see him as a first-round prospect. On the flip side, I am quite intrigued by Jordan Perryman, a transfer from UC Davis who displays tremendous functional strength and solid athleticism. Washington has a knack for developing early-round talents at corner, and Perryman could very well be the next example.

North Dakota State vs. Arizona — 11:00 ET on FS1

North Dakota State Spotlight: Cody Mauch — OT, Michael Tutsie — S
Arizona Spotlight: Christian Roland-Wallace — CB, Christian Young — S

Every year, it seems as if there are one or two small-school offensive linemen who make a name for themselves and get taken in the early rounds of the draft. This year, Cody Mauch could be one of them. Mauch is a long, physical tackle with an aggressive play style. There are no blatant red flags with his game, but we also have not seen him play against much Power Five competition. Mauch is the true reason Steelers fans need to highlight this game in Week 3.

For Arizona, it is hard to ignore their secondary. Roland-Wallace is a versatile corner who does the little things well. He may not make a ton of splash plays, but he is consistent in coverage and strong in run defense. Another prospect to watch is Christian Young, a physical specimen who fits the modern NFL to a tee. At 6’3”, 220 pounds, Young has the range, versatility, and experience needed to make a leap up draft boards.

Other Games and Prospects to Watch

#1 Georgia vs. South Carolina — Noon ET on ESPN
Prospects to Watch: Cam Smith (CB — SC); Warren Ericson (G — UGA)

#12 BYU vs. #25 Oregon — 3:30 ET on FOX
Prospects to Watch: Jaren Hall (QB — BYU); Mase Funa (EDGE — OREG)

#22 Penn State vs. Auburn — 3:30 ET on CBS
Prospects to Watch: Joey Porter, Jr. (CB — PSU); Owen Pappoe (ILB — AUB)

#13 Miami vs. #24 Texas A&M — 9:00 ET on ESPN
Prospects to Watch: Tommy Van Dyke (QB — MIA); Ainias Smith (WR — TEX A&M)

Which games and prospects do you have your eye on this weekend? Which players in action today make the most sense for the Steelers? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft!

How do the Steelers try to replace the irreplaceable T.J. Watt?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/17/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It's going to take a group effort to try and minimize the loss of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

One game into the 2022 NFL season, and suddenly the Steelers are facing a season-defining situation. How do the Steelers approach the immediate future with their best player, 2021 Defensive Player of the Year winner T.J. Watt, recently landing on the injured reserve list, where he will reside for at least four weeks?

As devastating as the injury initially appeared, potentially of the season ending variety, the current 4 to 6 weeks projected absence is definitely a best case scenario. But the question remains, what is the best approach for the Steelers to take to minimize the impact of Watt's irreplaceable loss?

In my opinion, there isn't another player in the NFL who can completely fill his shoes, definitely no individual on the Steelers depth chart at the position. So, some extra effort from his standout defensive comrades, plus some added creativity from the Brian Flores pass rushing playbook, will be required.

T.J. Watt plays with a frenetic energy and relentless determination that overwhelms and wears down the opposition. Trying to replace the irreplaceable will take a well executed group effort.

Malik Reed

Reed is undoubtedly the most prepared individual walking the planet for this situation. On multiple occasions during his tenure with the Denver Broncos, he was tasked with filling in for injured superstar pass rusher Von Miller. Because of that experience, he understands more than most what it is like to face an impossibly daunting situation. There is no way possible that he can match Watt's production and unfathomable impact on the Steelers defense. All Reed can do is continue to be the steady and reliable contributor he has always been in his NFL career, faithfully fulfilling his assignments as part of the total team effort.

Alex Highsmith

Watt's presence on the other side of the field has greatly impacted Highsmith's career to this point. Not only because offenses have been forced to tilt their pass protection focus to Watt's side of the field, but through the example of his never say die, grind it out mentality. Watt made a habit out of defeating double teams on his way to a record-setting season in 2021. Highsmith had a breakout performance against the Bengals, finishing with three sacks. He was disruptive throughout the game, perfectly complimenting Watt's equally dominant performance on the other end of the line of scrimmage. Now Highsmith becomes the primary focus of the opposition's pass protection packages. Is Highsmith ready for the increased attention and responsibility? Based on his renowned work ethic, and the unmistakable physical and professional growth that have resulted from said dedication, I believe he is both willing and able.

Jamir Jones

Highsmith and Reed are definitely going to have their hands full, trying to help carry the extra weight. As we already know, the standard is the standard. Both men are facing a substantial increase in snaps, particularly Reed. It is imperative the Steelers depth chart steps up and provides them some effective relief and recovery. That's where Jamir Jones comes into the equation. Last year, Jones was inexperienced and unprepared when he was forced into the starting lineup when both Watt and Highsmith were unavailable due to groin injuries. Jones displayed intriguing potential and intangibles in his first stint with the Steelers, but lacked the polish that comes with experience. Jones has always displayed the functional strength necessary to set an effective edge against the running game, but he will need to show he possesses the pass rush repertoire needed to be the well-rounded contributor the defense needs for the near future.

David Anenih

The Steelers signed undrafted rookie David Anenih from the Tennessee Titans practice squad on Thursday. Anenih failed to make the Titans 53-man roster, even though he was a preseason standout after accumulating three sacks, but was quickly added to the practice squad. Anenih is another young and talented pass rusher with potential on the Steelers ever evolving roster, with the key word being potential. Nobody knows if Anenih is capable of contributing during Watt's absence, but the Steelers obviously have respect for his abilities, considering the circumstances.

DeMarvin Leal

Anyone who followed my offseason articles and podcasts already knew I would be mentioning Leal at some point in this article. I readily admit that I have found Leal's potential to be incredibly interesting since his third round selection, and not only because of his obvious talent and versatility. My question from the start has been this, "What position do the Steelers foresee him playing?" Based on his collegiate tape, he looked like a possible tweener to me. Was he better suited to be a 4-3 end, or a 3-4 edge? He reminded me of former Steelers standout edge pass rusher LaMarr Woodley, both in body type and skill set. I fully expected the Steelers to instruct him to arrive at camp at about 280, so they could start giving him reps on the edge. Didn't happen, as the Steelers have been working him solely on the defensive line. That doesn't change the fact that Leal has both the talent and athleticism to slide out on the edge, if needed.

As the old saying goes, Desperate times call for desperate measures. A little insightful creativity and ingenuity can work wonders as well.

Despite the win, fan confidence in the Steelers stagnates

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/17/2022 - 7:30am
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

A recent poll shows the Steelers global fan base remains confident in the direction of the team, but the Week 1 win didn’t move the needle.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off an offseason to remember, as well as a great start to the preseason. The key word to the previous statement was ‘start’. Following their Week 1 NFL Preseason win over the Seattle Seahawks 32-25 at Acrisure Stadium, the team was able to escape with a win vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars in Duval county. The following week, the Steelers beat the Detroit Lions at home, to finish the preseason 3-0.

Undefeated preseason. Fans were happy, right?

Well, not so much.

Throughout the final two week several warts on the team’s roster were exposed. The offensive line struggled, the running game stalled and questions remained about the defensive’s ability to stop the run.

As you can imagine, Steelers fans weren’t brimming with confidence heading into their Week 1 game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals in Ohio. Nonetheless, the team found a way to upset the Bengals 23-20 in overtime and move their record to 1-0.

Such a crazy game, and victory, you’d think this would create a big bump in fan confidence, right?

Not so much.

As a part of SB Nation’s Reacts poll, sponsored by DraftKings Sportsbook, every fan who takes the poll, which equates to a lot of fans, were asked a simple question:

Are you confident in the direction of the team?

When you go back and look at all that has transpired this offseason, it could go either way. Now throw in a rocky-at-times preseason, and you get a dip in the confidence.

80% seems like a solid number, especially when considering the fickle nature of the Steelers fan base, but when you compare it to the confidence level heading into the preseason it was quite the dip.

Preseason Confidence: 91%
Pre-Regular Season Confidence: 81%
Week 1 Confidence: 80%

With confidence slightly waning, it felt obvious to ask a follow-up question. This follow-up question pertained to Steelers quarterback position. After Mitch Trubisky played an average game vs. Cincinnati, many were starting to campaign for Kenny Pickett to take over as the quarterback sooner, rather than later.

So, I decided to ask the fan base if they felt Pickett would start six or more games this season, or if they would think he would start five or less in 2022. Shockingly, 69% of the fan poll suggests they think the Steelers will stick with Trubisky, keeping Pickett on the bench and watching.

Obviously, this is barring an injury which would force Pickett into the game, but it is clear the fans see Mike Tomlin sticking with Trubisky through thick and thin this regular season.

A lot can change throughout the course of a regular season, and we’ll be sure to keep you up-to-speed on the fan base’s feelings of the team. But what say you? Do you have confidence in the direction of the team? Is it too early to tell?

Let us know what you think in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the New England Patriots in Week 2 of the regular season.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.

The Steelers defense should have its way with the Patriots’ “hodgepodge of nothingness” offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/17/2022 - 6:30am
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

You talk about a hodgepodge of nothingness? That’s the kind of offense the Patriots will be trotting out in the Steelers 2022 regular season opener. I think Pittsburgh’s defense can shut down that offense, even without T.J. Watt.

To say the Steelers' defense won’t be compromised and severely impacted by the loss of T.J. Watt, who suffered a pectoral injury in Pittsburgh’s Week 1 win against the Bengals last week and will be out at least a month after being placed on Injured Reserve, is the very height of ignorance, delusion and/or just plain naivete.

No, losing Watt, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and arguably the best pass-rusher in the NFL, will reduce the effectiveness of Pittsburgh’s defense. The experts know it. The fans know it (deep down, even if they don’t want to admit it). The media knows it.

The Rooneys know it, otherwise, they wouldn’t have gone against their long-held belief and paid Watt $80 million in guaranteed money prior to the 2021 campaign. “Oh, we can just use the Next Man Up instead of setting a precedent in guaranteed money? I think we’ll try that.”

Having said that, the Steelers defense can still be good without Watt and should be able to hold down the fort until he makes his return. There are enough effective parts left in the mix to keep this unit running at a very good level, if not the suffocatingly dominant one we witnessed at Paycor Stadium in Week 1.

That brings me to this Sunday afternoon and the matchup between the Steelers and Patriots at Acrisure Stadium.

If there was ever an offense for a Watt-less defense to work its kinks out against and perhaps discover what works and what doesn't, it’s the unit that New England will be running out there in Pittsburgh’s 2022 home opener.

Former MLB pitching great and current Red Sox color analyst, Dennis Eckersley, described the Pirates roster and attempt at a rebuild as a “hodgepodge of nothingness” during a recent series between Boston and Pittsburgh at PNC Park. Hard to argue with the Eck, but can’t you say the same thing about the Patriots' offense and the talent head coach Bill Belichick has tried to fortify it with in recent years?

New England used a first-round pick on a quarterback—Mac Jones—in the 2021 NFL Draft. That was smart. That was necessary after the departure of the legendary Tom Brady.

But what have the Patriots given Jones to work with in terms of skill-position players?

DeVante Parker? Nelson Agholor? Jakobi Meyers? Those are the Patriots' top three receivers.

Hunter Henry? That’s New England’s starting tight end.

In fairness, Damien Harris, New England’s starting running back, isn’t bad, but that’s kind of damning him with faint praise when compared to his teammates, right?

Talk about pathetic.

It is worth pointing out that the Patriots did select Baylor receiver Tyquan Thornton in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but he got injured over the summer and will be out for some time after having surgery.

Anyway, even without Watt, the Steelers' defense should have its way against a Patriots offense that only scored seven points in a 20-7 Week 1 loss to a Dolphins team that was also without T.J. Watt.

Obviously, a Steelers writer talking about another team’s pathetic offense looks like the height of hypocrisy, but I’m not expecting much from Pittsburgh’s offense on Sunday, either.

However, I am predicting that the Steelers defense, even without T.J. Watt, will be the difference in Sunday’s game, even better than a Belichick defense that was put together through his genius.

I guess the genius of Bill Belichick, who has a hand in the Patriots' offensive game plan, doesn’t extend beyond the defensive side of the ball.

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Week 2 games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/16/2022 - 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 2022 NFL season is now underway! Fans may think they have an idea of how their favorite teams will play based on one week, but a second matchup will help put things more into perspective. For this reason, Week 2 of the NFL season can also be make or break those placing wagers on the games. Lines will be move some due to Week 1 results, but oddsmakers don’t usually have a knee-jerk shift based on only one game.

For the 2022 NFL season, nine members of the BTSC will be picking every game against the spread and the over/under point totals. This feature will show all the games for the week including games on Thursday and Monday. Those specific game picks will be featured in the open thread articles for each game. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers. We are just a group of Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

We are using the same program as the last two years 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. If there are quotation marks next to a pick, it means the person making the selection made a comment about the game.

Last week, there wasn’t any earth-shattering performances. Jeremy Betz led the way as he went 10-6 against the spread just ahead of me at 9-7 as the only two people over .500 so far. Bringing up the rear was Geoffrey Benedict, Kyle Chrise, and Matty Peverell at 6-10. It was Jeff Hartman and Shannon White who went 10-6 in the over/under followed closely by me at 9-7. Combining both against the spread and the over/under, I hold a slight lead at 18-14 just ahead of Jeff, Jeremy, and Shannon at 17-15.

So here are the picks for the games for Week 2 of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along! Odd are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.

Behind Enemy Lines: BTSC’s Q&A with Pats Pulpit

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/16/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Preparing for the Steelers and Patriots Week 2 showdown, I asked Pats Pulpit some burning questions leading up to the AFC showdown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their 2022 regular season home opener with the New England Patriots coming to Pittsburgh in Week 2. Even without Tom Brady, playing the Patriots and Bill Belichick is never an easy task.

With this being such a big game, not like every game isn’t a big game, I was able to ask Taylor Kyles of Pats Pulpit, SB Nation’s Patriots website, five questions leading up to the game.

Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.

The Patriots with Brady and Belichick were legendary, but with Brady gone there hasn’t been nearly as much success. What are the fans’ feelings towards Belichick in the post-Brady era?

There have of course been “Belichick can’t do it without Brady” narratives floating around, but I think rational sections of Patriots Nation are giving him the benefit of the doubt. The team’s defense has ranked Top 10 in points allowed since Brady left, though they have had some late-season sputters.

The most glaring area of speculation has been the coaching staff overhaul, specifically on offense. The team lost its offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, assistant quarterbacks coach, wide receivers coach, and offensive line coach to the Raiders, while revered running backs coach Ivan Fears retired. Their replacements have unanimously been coaches with minimal or no prior experience in their current roles. Belichick clearly knows there will be a learning curve and has shifted his focus to the offense.

While the changes are without precedent and understandably alarming, I don’t think they held the offense back in Week 1. Still, Mac Jones and company will need to put some strong performances together before fans feel comfortable with the shift.

Mac Jones seems to be the next “guy” at quarterback. How has he done so far throughout his career? Are there doubts surrounding his overall abilities?

The organization has praised Mac Jones’ leadership, dedication, and potential since he snatched the starting job from Cam Newton last season. That positivity has only grown in his second season and you can tell Jones’ role is important to him.

On the field, he looks the role of a field general who calls protections, gets everyone set, and ensures the offense is in the right play. When he trusts his protection, he can rip up a defense and doesn’t mind taking a big hit to finish a throw. His mobility is also underrated, as he’ll extend plays or scramble for 1st downs when necessary.

I wanted to see Jones be more aggressive as a passer this season, and there have been flashes, but his accuracy could be more consistent.

What would be the strengths and weaknesses of the Patriots on both offense and defense?

Offensive strength: Ground game

The Patriots’ offensive line is full of massive people-movers who can drive defenders off the ball and scoop out running lanes. Behind them, the Patriots’ one-two punch of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson at running back is one of the league’s best. They’re powerful finishers with the vision to find creases anywhere on the line, the quickness to exploit them, and the speed to hit long gains. Ty Montgomery was more of a factor in blitz pickup and short yardage (unsuccessfully), so his landing on injured reserve shouldn’t have a significant impact on the ground game.

Offensive weakness: Pass protection

Trent Brown had two errors on late shifts/rotations from the Dolphins that led to sacks, one resulting in a touchdown off a fumble recovery. Though linemen won their individual matchups for most last week’s game, communication and awareness must improve against a stunt-heavy team like the Steelers.

Defensive strength: Defensive front

Matthew Judon may be the best player on the team. He’s known as a pass rushing force, but he’s also a sturdy run defender. Second-year DT Christian Barmore had a quiet game last week, but he’s an explosive player who can do a lot of damage when he’s on his game. First-year captain DE Deatrich Wise had one of his best career games last week, harassing Tua Tagovailoa and the Fins’ line with his power and length. Davon Godchaux is a disruptive NT who works best when working 1v1, and Lawrence Guy is as sturdy as they come inside.

Defensive weakness: Inside linebackers not named Ja’Whaun Bentley

Bentley has looked good as the team’s stout middle linebacker who knows his weaknesses and commands the front. The spot next to him hasn’t been as consistent, with the rotation of Raekwon McMillan and Jahlani Tavai looking lost at times despite solid effort. McMillan is an excellent athlete who should come along over time. The team seems to love Tavai, but I question his processing.

New England is a +1.5-point favorite (via the DraftKings Sportsbook) in Pittsburgh Sunday. Obviously the loss of T.J. Watt and injury to Najee Harris can impact this, but what about the Patriots makes them road favorites against this Steelers defense? How do you see the game playing out Sunday at 1pm? Do the Patriots get their first win, or do the Steelers stay perfect at home?

Mitchell Trubisky holding the offense back is a big reason the Patriots are favored. Trubisky had maybe his best career game against New England in 2018, but that was largely due to poor gap integrity leading to big scrambles in critical moments. He didn’t throw to wide open receivers and struggled to process coverages, which doesn’t appear to have changed. If the Patriots can keep him in the pocket, we could see a shutout. I do think the Steelers’ excellent receivers will make their plays, though.

The Patriots’ offense should bounce back in a game that will likely be pass-heavy against Pittsburgh’s loaded front. New England had open receivers last week, but Jones couldn’t always get to them because of pressure. If the offensive line communicates well and the offense avoids costly mistakes, Jones should be able to move the ball downfield.

Who is a player who doesn’t get that much recognition who should be on Steelers’ fans radars?

Safety Kyle Dugger doesn’t get much national attention, but he’s one of the league’s most explosive athletes and a terrorizing presence defensively. I’ve watched him casually bury some of the league’s biggest linemen and his tackles are usually violent affairs. He took a bad angle that led to a long Jaylen Waddle touchdown last week, but he’s excellent against tight ends in man coverage and is dangerous reading the QB as a zone defender.

Expect to jump out of your chair a couple of times on Sunday.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Patriots in Week 2 of the 2022 regular season.

EXPERT PICKS: The experts are split on Steelers vs. Patriots

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/16/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Time to check in and see who the experts like in Steelers vs. Patriots Sunday in Week 2.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots are slated to face off in Week 2 of the 2022 regular season, and there are a lot of narratives between these two teams. For the Patriots, they are trying to show the success they saw in the Tom Brady era wasn’t just a Brady thing. In other words, that they are starting a new chapter to a new legacy. As for the Steelers, they are coming off that crazy overtime win in Week 1 over the Cincinnati Bengals to move their record to 1-0. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Steelers, still, and there remain huge question marks surrounding the team as they continue into the regular season.

For those who follow the current betting lines, the Steelers opened as 1.5-point road underdogs, and, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, that line has now moved to 2-points.

(Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)

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

Last week, the vast majority of experts believed the Bengals would beat the Steelers. The vast majority were wrong. This week the expert panels are much more split. At ESPN, only three of the panel like the Patriots to go into Pittsburgh and find a way tow in. As for the haters here at SB Nation, only two of their panel like New England in Week 2. At Sports Illustrated it is flipped. There only two experts like the Steelers to hold serve at home this Sunday.

Those are sites where people just check a box on a website and move on with their lives. However, there are some who spend more time pouring over these picks, and provide some analysis than just a winner and loser.

Take a look at what CBS Sports NFL writer Pete Prisco thinks of this Week 2 showdown:

The Patriots are playing consecutive road games after a terrible showing in Miami. The Steelers are playing their home opener after upsetting the Bengals. But the Steelers will be without T.J. Watt, which matters in a big way. The defensive dynamic changes. The Patriots will hang around in this one as the offense finally shows some life. They will then win it late.

Pick: Patriots 21, Steelers 20

The Sporting News Vinnie Iyer also chimed in on the Steelers’ Week 2 game. See how he sees this game playing out:

Neither New England nor Pittsburgh’s offense inspired in Week 1. The Patriots couldn’t run the ball to support Mac Jones and Jones, now dealing with a back injury, had mixed results throwing downfield. Mitchell Trubisky flashed a little but the Steelers couldn’t run well and may not have Najee Harris for this game. The Patriots’ pass defense has sudden issues while the Steelers are down T.J. Watt. This feels like a battle of attrition where situational scheming pays off. That lines up with Bill Belichick besting Mike Tomlin again.

Pick: Patriots win 20-17

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com also provided some detailed insight on how he thinks this game will play out:

The Dolphins’ defense, led by former Patriots assistant Josh Boyer, was a terrible Week 1 opponent for New England’s offense to unveil a new scheme against. Miami blitzed a confused New England offensive line into submission — and now another former Patriots assistant, Brian Flores, gets to take his turn. It’s a confusing time when the Pats have a bad offensive line, bad secondary and can expect to get out-coached when they have the ball. Points figure to be at a premium, but the Steelers’ defense has enough juice to win, even without T.J. Watt.

Pick: Steelers 20, Patriots 17

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. Patriots game, 68% of NFL experts like the Steelers to hold serve and keep their record perfect on 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 Patriots in Week 2.

FILM ROOM: After Week 1, the Steelers offense lacks chemistry

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/16/2022 - 8:30am
Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive struggles in Week 1.

Whenever things go poorly in football, you will hear plenty of people give very different reasons why. And since week one the blame has been thrown around to plenty of different targets. The offensive line, Mitchell Trubisky, Matt Canada are the most popular targets, but which one is to blame, or are none of them to blame?

While it is easier for fans to pick a single target for blame, since one person being at fault is easy to solve (Fire Bruce Arians already!). The truth is football is a team sport, and no player acts in a vacuum. Success in football requires eleven players to act together, and the better they do that, the better everything works.

When that teamwork is slightly off, results aren’t as good.

Steelers at Bengals, 1st quarter, 15:00

Pat Freiermuth is the tight end, to the right side of the line.

The problems for the Steelers started early in Week 1. This shovel pass to Pat Freiermuth is late. And it isn’t just quarterback Mitchell Trubisky whose timing is off. Right guard James Daniels is a little slow on this play as well, and those two players both being a little slow means Freiermuth is tackled as soon as he gets the ball.

If the shovel pass gets to Freiermuth a split-second earlier, and James Daniels is a split second earlier getting to the linebacker, this is a really nice gain. If just one of them is on time, it’s a decent gain.

Steelers at Bengals, 1st quarter, 14:21

Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the top of the screen.

Diontae Johnson has to come back for this ball and it costs the Steelers a first down. Johnson is looking for the ball as soon as he turns. If the ball was thrown a half-second earlier the Steelers likely convert here. These are the kinds of throws Ben Roethlisberger lived off of in 2021, even with the limitations of his health and the situation around him, he and Johnson were on the same page and made the most of limited opportunities.

Mitchell Trubisky is new to the offense, new to his receivers, and right now he isn’t making these throws the way they need to be made to have success.

Obviously there are plenty of problems with the offense, but on the opening drive there were two plays where the timing was a bit off, and it led to no first downs and a punt.

It wasn’t just the quarterback though.

Steelers at Bengals, 3rd quarter, 10:43

George Pickens is the receiver to the top of the screen.

The throw is out of bounds and not at all close to Pickens. But look at where Pickens starts to make his out cut, and where the ball is thrown. Mitchell Trubisky is throwing a ten-yard out route here, and Pickens is not running that route.

This looks like Trubisky is expecting a hard cut on this route and Pickens rounds it off. If he cuts it right, he has a good shot at getting the ball and being in-bounds. Instead, it’s 3rd and 14.

Steelers at Bengals, 3rd quarter, 10:38

Kevin Dotson (#69) is the left guard.

The next play the offensive line has this breakdown. This is on Kevin Dotson, but to understand why this mistake happens, you need to look at the pre-snap alignment.

The yellow lines show what likely Kevin Dotson was seeing here. Dotson is uncovered, and therefore thinks he is the help blocker here. This is how the Steelers would have blocked this play in 2021, and Derek Watt (#44) would have come across to block the edge rusher to the left that Zach Gentry chips. That’s not how Pat Meyer has his players block though. Dotson has to slide left and take the defensive end, and the linebacker that is blitzing, Dotson would need to slide over once he came, and pass the lineman off to Derek Watt. You can see in the play that Watt is looking to pick up the middle-most rusher.

Dotson reacts to this play like he did in college and his first two seasons in the NFL, but it is wrong in the Steelers current scheme. These kinds of mistakes happen when you change scheme. It takes time to rewrite a player's instinctive reactions, and Kevin Dotson was splitting time with the starters throughout the summer.

Steelers at Bengals, 4th quarter, 11:34

Pat Freiermuth (#88) is the tight end to the bottom of the screen.

This ball is another late throw, and not by much. A bit earlier and the linebacker doesn’t have a chance to make a play on the ball. But this play doesn’t just show Trubisky being slow, it also shows some real potential for the problem to be solved.

There are three key things to see here. First #24 (Von Bell) on the defense is blitzing. Look at the first angle of this play and the position Bell is vacating. With that blitz coming the in-cutting route to Diontae Johnson looks promising, but the Bengals fill that spot with the dropping defensive end, #94.

Now watch Trubisky’s eyes. Before the snap he sees Bell cheating up, so after the snap his first look is to that side to see if that gap is being filled. Notice how quickly Trubisky reads the defense and moves on from Johnson’s route. Once he looks off it though, he sees Freiermuth, then takes a couple little hop steps towards his target. Those little movements are the difference between a reception and a broken-up pass. Often movements like that arise out of uncertainty.

Steelers at Bengals, 4th quarter, 11:24

Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the top of the screen.

You can see that Diontae Johnson is open here, again the ball is just thrown too late to make the play. Mitchell Trubisky is able to bring in the high snap and avoid the pressure, but he can’t get the ball off in time to complete this play.

Steelers at Bengals, 4th quarter, 12:14

Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the top of the screen.

Here’s a good one. This is an in-rhythm throw that is perfectly placed so the defender has no chance to get to the ball, and it’s a fresh set of downs for the Steelers. This drive ended with a field goal.

It may not seem like a big deal when a short route fails due to the timing being a little off, but it is the difference between extended drives and three and outs, the difference between punts and points.

Steelers at Bengals, Overtime, 2:36

Diontae Johnson is the receiver to the top of the screen.

Again the throw is a little late, and it pulls Diontae Johnson away from the first down line. A first down here sets the Steelers up for at least a field goal attempt, instead the defense would have to hold one more time.

Week one was frustrating to watch, and even more frustrating to dig through for this film room, but a big part of that frustration is how close the Steelers were to being a much better offense than what we saw.

But it wasn’t just Mitchell Trubisky, Trubisky was actually a rarity for week one, a quarterback on a new team that won his first game. Most of the quarterbacks on a new team lost their games, and most didn’t play up to expectations. It takes time for an offense to come together and excel. The Steelers have a new quarterback, new offensive lineman, and a new offensive line coach with a different scheme.

It is going to take time for this offense to live up to its potential no matter who the players are. At some point it has to work out though, or the Steelers will have to look at changing the players and if that doesn’t work, the coaches.

But for now? What these players need is time to grow into a team.

Najee Harris reiterates his desire to play Sunday vs. the Patriots

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/16/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back isn’t thinking about anything other than playing this Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is a unit which needs all its top players at the ready for it to be successful. Some would look at the 23-point output in Week 1 vs. the Cincinnati Bengals as a reason to celebrate.

Anyone who watched the game would disagree.

The 23 points scored were buoyed by a Minkah Fitzpatrick pick-six, leaving the offense with just 16 points scored in the game. But it was Week 1, and the rust was evident not just with the Steelers, but around the league. The one thing you don’t want to have happen this early in the season are key injuries.

And the Steelers suffered two of those, one being T.J. Watt (pec) and Najee Harris (foot/ankle) being the other. As for the latter, Harris continues to speak into existence not just his desire to play this Sunday vs. the New England Patriots at Acrisure Stadium, but him being healthy and ready-to-go.

“It’s good,” said Harris.

“Football happened. Stuff happens,” said Harris. “I’m good.

“It’s part of the sport. It’s a little injury. I got hurt plenty of times. It’s good.”

For those who watched the win over the Bengals, you might have noticed Harris didn’t look 100% at times. He only rushed 10 times for 23 yards on the ground, and looked hesitant. But that isn’t to say there were gaping holes for Harris to navigate through either. Needless to say, even with the lack of production, Harris sees the offense, and the running game, improving.

“We’re improving every game,” said Harris. “We still have to work on some stuff, just even as a whole, besides the running game, we have to work on some stuff as an offense. We had a lot of opportunities because of the defense giving us the ball. We didn’t capitalize on some of them, most of them.

“We just have to make sure every time we get the ball from the defense, we have to at least put some points on the board. We have to get better at that. It’s the first game, we have a long road ahead of us.”

If Harris plays, but isn’t going to be available for his usual workload, the ball would most likely be given to Jaylen Warren, who surpassed Benn Snell Jr. on the team’s running back depth chart. Harris acknowledged Warren for his contributions Sunday in Cincinnati, even when he didn’t have the ball in his hands.

“He is a good player,” said Harris. “He is still learning. He made a lot of good blocks too. We just all have to get better.

“He is going to have to (step up). He has no choice. I am okay. He is going to be good. He helped me out a lot too to keep me off the field so I wouldn’t get extra hits. I think last year I played the most snaps in the NFL. Going into the second year, we can’t do that, especially for a running back. It’s too violent. You have to have somebody spell you, that’s good.”

The Steelers will hopefully not just have Harris at the ready Sunday at 1pm ET, but also have an improved running game. It won’t be easy, considering New England sports a very good defensive front who allowed just 2.8 yards per carry against the Miami Dolphins in their Week 1 loss. You may burn the Patriots’ defense, but it isn’t going to be easy doing it in the running game.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding Najee Harris’ injury status, and more, as the Steelers prepare for the Patriots this Sunday in Week 2.

Brian Baldinger breaks down the Steelers Week 1 win over the Bengals

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/16/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in Week 1, and Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network tells you how they did it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime in Week 1, but it wasn’t always pretty. In fact, sometimes it was downright ugly. One thing which rings true with Pittsburgh is their stout defense. Throughout the 4+ quarters played, the Steelers defense did more than just their job.

When talking about breaking down the game, not many do it better than NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger. “Baldy’s Breakdowns” aren’t just on the NFL Network, but mostly straight from his Twitter feed. It isn’t a complex system, just Baldinger with a clicker in one hand, and his cell phone recording video in the other.

He took to the film to break down the Steelers win over AFC North rival Cincinnati, and he spent plenty of time showing love to the black-and-gold. Check out what he said, and what he broke down, in the videos below:

Minkah Fitzpatrick Pick-6

.@steelers @minkfitz_21 changed the game on the game’s 2 play of the Steelers defensive domination. They crushed the Bengals protection schemes all day. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/50iWOzZmBN

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 12, 2022

Minkah Fitzpatrick blocked XP

.@Steelers @minkfitz_21 with a “pick 6” and the blocked xtra point to send this game into OT. I am sure Mike T has said a million times; play every play like it’s your last. Well Done. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/uNlRdaTJlo

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 12, 2022

Arthur Maulet Strip Sack

.@Steelers @ArthurMaulet2 changes the game in the 68th minute in OT! Never know which play will change the game #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/5cu2BhMLln

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 12, 2022

Steelers Defense

.@Steelers this smells like great defense. Joe Burrow doesn’t wanna see this defense for awhile. Defensive front crushed the rebuilt Bengal O-line. Benefit of long hard days in Latrobe this summer #BaldysBrealdowns pic.twitter.com/mOZ4sDA5SQ

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 12, 2022

Jaylen Warren

.@Steelers @Nunless2 when he HITS people he MOVES people. The ROOK has POP! We you Jaylen @CowboyFB #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/Z1B33bPSMk

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 12, 2022

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the New England Patriots to invade Acrisure Stadium this Sunday at 1pm ET.

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/16/2022 - 5:30am
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

All the information needed to watch, listen, stream, or follow the Steelers game on Sunday against the Patriots in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming home for their first game at Acrisure Stadium for the 2022 regular season. After a nerve-racking victory in Week 1, at least for Steelers fans, the Steelers look to stack wins to start the year. But the New England Patriots will have something to say about it as they don’t want to fall to 0-2 to start their season.

How will Mitch Trubisky fare in his first home start for the Steelers? Will the Steelers offensive line continue to improve? Will the defense be just as dominant without T.J. Watt?

This Sunday will answer these questions as the Steelers look to continue their 2022 season on a positive note. Make sure you get all the information you need below so you can enjoy the Steelers Week 2 showdown. The latest odds are per DraftKings Sportsbook.

Week 2:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots

Date: Sunday, September 18th

Kickoff: 1:00 P.M. ET

Venue: Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA

Odds: Pittsburgh (+2); O/U (40.5)

Weather: Live weather update

TV Channel: Broadcast locally on KDKA-CBS with Ian Eagle and Charles Davis as commentators and Evan Washburn as the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

Online: NFL Game Pass offers live games for international viewers (excluding USA, Canada, and China) 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.

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 or SiriusXM Radio on channel 231 or channel 106.

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, Bryan Anthony Davis, and Dave Schofield.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/16/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

Steelers 2022 is ongoing and we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the BTSC website, but we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said or typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout: Never Not Giving Up

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout is the conversation about the Steelers social media conversation. Hosts Kyle Chrise (@KyleChrise) & Greg Benevent (@GregBenevent) expose the hottest and most toxic takes on the internet. This week should’ve been a historic celebration for Steelers fans. Instead, we’ve reverted back to old habits, with Matt Canada and Mitch Trubisky squarely in the crossfires. Plus. why Tomlin’s AF1 energy puts him in the same league as Bankys and Warhol.

Rundown of the show:

  • Toxic Takes
  • QB Controversy
  • OC Conundrum
  • Much, Much More

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”.

The Steelers Preview: The Patriots pose a great test for the Steelers in Week 2

The Steelers barely escaped Cincinnati with an upset win last Sunday, but don’t think for a second that visiting New England will offer any bit of a reprieve. The Patriots will actually be a great test for the Steelers in Week 2. 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.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the Week
  • The test that is the New England Patriots
  • Over/Under
  • Trivia
  • Final Thoughts

Let’s Ride Friday: What the Steelers need to do to stay perfect in 2022

Although there are some exceptions, the Steelers tend to get off to a slow start. However, with a win against Nee England at home, the Men of Steel could remain perfect, but how is that achieved. BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman outlines it all on the latest episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Staying undefeated in Week 2
  • A visit from Jeremy Betz
  • 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

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Chiefs vs. Chargers: Thursday Night Football picks, odds and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/15/2022 - 7:00pm
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Thursday Night Football is here! Check out the latest odds, picks and more.

The 2022 NFL regular season is here, and it’s the first “official” Thursday Night Football game of the season. The first Thursday night game of the year which is streamed solely on Amazon Prime. It’s the start of something new when it comes to watching football. But when it comes to storylines, there are plenty surrounding this game.

As for the game itself, below you’ll see some vital information for you to enjoy the contest. You’ll get odds for the game, check out our staff picks for the game and to use this comment section as an open thread for the game.

Let’s take a closer look...

How to Watch:

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Date: Monday, Sept. 15
Venue: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: Amazon Prime
Streaming: Amazon Prime

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

KC: -4.0
O/U: 54
Moneyline:
KC: -195
LAC: +165

Staff Picks:

The AFC West with the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders and Broncos are considered to be the toughest division in the NFL, and these two high-flying offenses in prime time should put this on display. Will Patrick Mahomes and company stay red-hot in Week 2? Or will Khalil Mack and the stout Chargers defense, on top of Justin Herbert and the offense, be able to dethrone the AFC West champions? Follow along with other Pittsburgh Steelers fans in the comment section below as the open thread.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold. And continue counting down the days until the Steelers host the New England Patriots in Week 2 of the regular season at Acrisure Stadium.

Steelers Injury Report: Najee Harris returns fully for practice on Thursday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/15/2022 - 2:49pm
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Steelers didn’t have any players on the report who didn’t participate in some level.

The Pittsburgh Steelers exited their Week 1 victory in Cincinnati with several significant injuries. As the Steelers take the practice field for their second official day of preparation for the New England Patriots, there was one new players added to the injury report. In the second injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR department, there were only two players who were limited.

Steelers PR Department

It should be noted outside linebacker T.J. Watt will no longer be on the injury report as he was placed on the Reserve/Injured List on Thursday.

Running back Najee Harris left Sunday’s game at the end of the fourth quarter and did not return due to a foot injury. On Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin said in his press conference that it was not a re-aggravation of the Lisfranc injury Harris suffered in training camp. Despite Harris saying he is good to go for Sunday, in Wednesday’s practice he was listed as a limited participant. On Thursday, Harris returned as a full participant.

Another player mention in Coach Tomlin‘s press conference on Tuesday was center Mason Cole with an ankle injury. In Wednesday’s practice Cole was limited and was limited again on Thursday.

One player who did not return to the game Sunday and there was not an update in the press conference on Tuesday is cornerback Levi Wallace. Dealing with an ankle injury, Wallace was another limited participant on Wednesday but was a full go on Thursday.

The final player on the injury report from Wednesday was linebacker Robert Spillane who left Sunday’s game with an eye injury. Both days of practice this week, Spillane was able to participate fully.

The new name on the list was defensive captain Cam Heyward. Sitting out of practice last Thursday, Heyward was a limited participant this week on Thursday with no injury designation as it was a coach’s decision.

As for the Patriots’ injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of Steelers.com. Quarterback Mac Jones did not practice but it was reportedly due to illness and not his back as listed.

New England Patriots Participation/Injury Report, Week 2

Thursday, September 15

QB Mac Jones (Back) - DNP

LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (Toe) - LP

S Joshuah Bledsoe (Groin) - LP

T Trent Brown (Ankle) - LP

S Adrian Phillips (Ribs) - LP

RB Pierre Strong Jr. (Shoulder) - LP

CB Shaun Wade (Ankle) - LP

Will this be the first postseason since 2000 without the Steelers and Patriots?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/15/2022 - 12:45pm
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Could both New England and Pittsburgh be on the outside looking in when it comes to the AFC Playoffs?

The dominance which has been on display between the two franchises which will meet at Acrisure Stadium this Sunday at 1pm ET is almost unparalleled. Since 2000, either the New England Patriots or the Pittsburgh Steelers, or both, have been represented in the AFC Playoffs.

Last season, both teams made the preseason, while neither was able to make it out of the AFC Wild Card game.

In Week 1 the Steelers were able to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in overtime, while the Patriots mustered just one touchdown in their loss to the Miami Dolphins in the blazing Florida heat.

Two different results, but the national media is wondering if the dominance once on display between these two organizations is coming to an end. It’s a simple question really...will this be the first time since 2000 both teams won’t be in the playoffs?

ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler gave their thoughts on this question. Let’s take a look at what they had to say.

Graziano: Buy. The T.J. Watt injury (Watt is expected to miss about six weeks, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday) is going to be challenging to overcome for a Steelers team that absolutely needs its defense to carry it. QB Mitch Trubisky looked shaky against Cincinnati, RB Najee Harris got hurt, the line still looks terrible ... Pittsburgh already was a fringe playoff team at best and it just lost the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year for a chunk of the season.

The Patriots, meanwhile, looked as lost on offense against Miami as all of the training camp chatter led us to believe they might be. I’m not sure where the improvement comes from here. They don’t have dynamic receivers or running backs, or a quarterback who can help overcome a shaky offensive line with his mobility. I think this is a reset year in New England, and while he’d never say it out loud, I think Bill Belichick thinks it is, too.

Like Graziano, Fowler just doesn’t see a way either team makes the playoffs, even this early in the 2022 regular season.

Fowler: Yeah, I’m going to have to buy, too, though the Steelers still have the makings of a playoff contender — deep defense, plenty of playmakers on offense and a coach who always finds a way. Trubisky rallied late in Sunday’s game. But the AFC is going to keep a lot of good teams out this year.

Small sample, but the Patriots’ Week 1 offense reinforced the concerns many of us had with the lack of a true offensive coordinator supporting Mac Jones in a crucial Year 2. I keep waiting for Belichick to reveal his master plan, but that plan might actually be the reset you mentioned.

Keeping New England’s concerns in New England, the next logical question is surrounding the Steelers. Can the Steelers find a way to scratch and claw their way to not just a winning record, but a playoff berth?

Mike Tomlin nearly did it without Ben Roethlisberger in 2019, but the task ahead is anything but known. Not having T.J. Watt for the next 6, or more, weeks will be difficult, but the lack of offensive production is another concern altogether. Mitch Trubisky is supposed to be the experienced leader on the team, but if things don’t start playing out differently than they did in Week 1, don’t be shocked if Kenny Pickett is the man under center before the end of the regular season.

What say you? Do you see this being the year the streak ends of either the Patriots and/or Steelers in the playoffs? 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 team as they prepare for the Patriots this Sunday.

3 games to watch in Week 2 which give perspective on the Steelers future opponents

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/15/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

There are several NFL games this week which will help get a better understanding of teams the Steelers face later in 2022

With the Pittsburgh Steelers having their home opener on Sunday, there will 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, there are a few matchups between two teams the Steelers will face later in the season.

First off, lets check out how the three games from last week ended up. Only one of the three games came down to the wire with a walk-off field goal while the other two were multi-score games. When it comes to the betting lines for the game, the following information is the current consensus spread this week as reported by DraftKings Sportsbook.

Baltimore Ravens (24) at New York Jets (9)

This game wasn’t out of reach until the Ravens put up two touchdowns in the second part of the third quarter. Neither team looked overly impressive running the ball based on the numbers as I had no desire to watch this game while the Steelers were playing. For both these teams, seeing how they fare in their next matchup will give more of an indication as to the quality of the opponent.

Cleveland Browns (26) at Carolina Panthers (24)

While Cleveland has had some question marks at kicker over the years, it seems as if their highly drafted player maybe what they’re looking for as he connected on all four field goals including the game winner from 58 yards. Cleveland took care of the ball which ultimately helped aid them in the victory after the Panthers made an impressive fourth-quarter comeback.

New England Patriots (7) at Miami Dolphins (20)

This game meant a lot for the Pittsburgh Steelers as it featured their next opponent in the New England Patriots. Miami’s defense did the job on the day holding New England to only seven points and under 300 yards of offense and forcing three turnovers. The Steelers will get a more first-hand look this week as to whether or not that was the quality of the Dolphins or if New England is not the team that some believe they could be this season.

For Week 2, here are the three games which could give the most perspective on what the Steelers can expect with some of their future opponents:

New York Jets at Cleveland Browns Sunday at 1:00 PM on CBS
Spread: CLE (-6.5)

I love getting the additional perspective Week 2 brings. Are the Ravens that much better than the Jets because of the quality of Baltimore or the ineptitude of New York? Did the Browns win a hard-fought game against the Panthers because Carolina is the real deal, or are neither team prepared to make a run at this time? If nothing else, this game gives a look into the Steelers next two opponents.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Sunday 1:00 PM on FOX
Spread: TAM (-2.5)

The Steelers will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6 of the 2022 season while their matchup against the Saints comes almost a month later following the Steelers bye week. Both of these games will be in Pittsburgh and, with them being NFC matchups, will not bring as much familiarity. Therefore seeing how these teams face off against each other this Sunday will just add more information into the data bank.

Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens Sunday at 1:00 PM on CBS
Spread: BAL (-3.5)

This is an interesting matchup on Sunday as both teams enter Week 2 at 1–0 and are looking to really get their season rolling. With the Ravens easily disposing of the Jets on the road while the Dolphins kept New England at bay in Miami, each team flips the script as being home or away when they face off Sunday. The Steelers don’t see the Dolphins until Week 7 and their matchups against the Ravens don’t start until December, but seeing how these two teams compare to each other will put these future games in more perspective.

So there are the three main matchups which can give Steelers fans an indication as to the quality of upcoming opponents in 2022. After not knowing what to expect for Week 1, it will be Week 2 which helps but the previous weekend in perspective.

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 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

2023 NFL Draft Stock Report, Week 2: Stephon Gilmore’s brother on the rise

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/15/2022 - 10:30am
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Steelers could use another cornerback, and there are several 2023 draft prospects who could fit the bill.

The 2023 NFL Draft is still months in the distance, but with college football having arrived, the beginning stages of the 2023 draft process has begun. With that in mind, it is time to dive into this past week’s biggest games in the college football world, taking a look at draft prospects who improved their stock based on their performance.

Offensive line is definitely an area the Steelers need to address, and the most likely resource for the solution is indeed the draft. Concerns at cornerback and linebacker also loom large over the Pittsburgh’s head. Although we will certainly break down prospects at other positions this season as well, these will be the primary positions of emphasis, especially early in the season.

Nearly every week during the season, there are several highlight games that steal the headlines, but even when these games overshadow the rest of the college football landscape, we will not be negligent of the other games and prospects in action. Every week during the season, we will recap the previous week’s action and determine whose stock rose the most as it pertains to the NFL Draft.

As always, be sure to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, but without further adieu, here are the highest of highs from Week 2 of college football!

Steven Gilmore | CB | Marshall

The brother of star cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Steven is fifth-year senior at Marshall who, despite being an undersized corner, has a knack for making big plays. This weekend, the story was no different, as Gilmore came away with a huge interception that he returned 37 yards for the touchdown.

The media is still buzzing about the Thundering Herd’s earth-shattering upset against Notre Dame, but it is important to note the strong performance by their top cornerback. While it appears as if there are no clear measurables for Gilmore, Marshall’s official website lists him at 6’0”, 170 pounds. He has a bit of feistiness in him, but if he really wants to become an imposing force on the boundary, he will have no choice but to add a chunk of weight. Nonetheless, Gilmore’s bloodlines, speed, and coverage skills make him an intriguing prospect to follow ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Tuli Tuipolutu | DL | USC

An early-season PAC-12 rivalry went down as expected Saturday night, with Lincoln Riley’s USC Trojans defeating David Shaw’s Stanford Cardinal 41-28. One of the biggest issues for Stanford was their interior offensive line, which failed to come up with an answer for Tuli Tuipolutu.

Tuli, the brother of Eagles defensive tackle Marlon Tuipolutu, was on a different level Saturday night, racking up 6 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. He also deflected a pass. Tuipolutu is only a junior, but after making an impressive fumble recovery in Week 1 and following it up with a great game against a conference rival in Week 2, he has become one of the more unheralded underclassmen in a position to declare for the draft early. His hand usage and quickness off the snap make him effective getting upfield.

Keidron Smith | CB | Kentucky

Smith is an Ole Miss transfer who has made his presence felt on Kentucky’s defense early in the season, and his high-quality play against Florida put NFL scouts on high alert. Smith’s superb performance was highlighted by a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown, but his sound coverage on the outside throughout the contest was perhaps more impressive than anything.

Ole Miss tried converting him to safety in 2021, but with Kentucky putting him back at his natural position, he seems to have found new life as a draft prospect. He has even become better at defending the run and helping in run support. Measuring in at nearly 6’1”, 205 pounds, Smith has both the size and speed to hold his own on the boundary at the next level. The only question is whether or not his success can be maintained for a longer period of time.

Others Who Improved Their Stock

Gervon Dexter, Sr. | DT | Kentucky (7 TCKL, 0.5 SCK, 1 PD, 1 INT)
Bryce Ford-Wheaton | WR | West Virginia (11 REC, 152 YDS, 2 TD)
Jordan Wright — EDGE — Kentucky (6 TACK, 2 TFL, 1 SCK, 1 INT)
Tory Horton — WR — Colorado State (9 REC, 186 YDS, 3 TD)
Antwane Wells, Jr. — WR — South Carolina (8 REC, 189 YDS, 1 TD)
Cedric Tillman — WR — Tennessee (9 REC, 162 YDS, 1 TD)
Byron Young — EDGE — Tennessee (4 TCKL, 2 TFL, 1 SCK, 3 QB HUR)
A.J. Woods — CB — Pittsburgh (2 PD)
Kendrick Sartor — OT — Marshall

What are your thoughts on the aforementioned prospects? Do you think any of them could make sense for the Steelers? Which draft prospects caught your eye this weekend? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!

Steelers officially place T.J. Watt on IR, announce David Anenih signing

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/15/2022 - 9:51am
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt on IR, as expected.

While the Pittsburgh Steelers got good news on the injury front surrounding T.J. Watt not being done for the entire 2022 regular season, everyone still knew he would be out of the lineup for several weeks.

Knowing he could miss around six weeks of game play, the roster move to place Watt on Injured Reserve (IR) was a no-brainer. So, when the Steelers announced they have moved Watt to IR, it shouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone.

We have signed LB David Anenih to the 53-man roster from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad and placed LB T.J. Watt on the Injured/Reserve List. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 15, 2022

Putting Watt on the proverbial shelf for the foreseeable future also gives the team an open roster spot on the 53-man roster. The team also announced David Anenih will be filling that vacancy.

Anenih is a 6’2” 245lb pass rusher who attended the University of Houston before being picked up as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Titans. He played 116 defensive snaps during the preseason where he had 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, and four tackles according to Pro Football Focus. Although Anenih didn’t make the 53-man roster, he did earn himself a spot on the team’s 16-man practice squad. Obviously, he now finds himself in a unique position to join a depth chart with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Replacing a player like Watt isn’t a one man job. It will take all 11 players on the defensive side of the football to step up their game in hopes of filling the huge void left by the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the New England Patriots this Sunday in Week 2 at Acrisure Stadium.

How Week 1 reflected the Steelers’ updated usage of Chase Claypool

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/15/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The third-year wideout received ample opportunity as a playmaker in a new yet familiar offensive spot.

In Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium, the Steelers generated five turnovers from the Bengals, sacked Joe Burrow seven times, stifled several goal-line attempts and even blocked an extra point. Based on just those tidbits, you would imagine Mike Tomlin’s team cruised to victory to begin the 2022 season, but that was not the case.

Pittsburgh rallied to a 23-20 victory in overtime, staving off countless Cincy comeback attempts. A team that produces such historic organizational efforts should never be in this close of a game.

That is, any team with a semblance of an offense.

The Steelers posted 267 total yards, including 75 rushing, on Sunday; that includes 104 yards amassed between the start of the third quarter and before the game-winning drive, or 104 yards in 39 minutes of football. Per RBSDM.com, the Steelers ranked 24th in overall EPA/play (-.117) and were 31st in offensive success rate (34.4%).

Matt Canada’s unit was not efficient nor effective, granting Burrow & Co. additional opportunities to inevitably roar back rather than seal a hard-earned victory.

In spite of such woes, however, one element of Pittsburgh’s offense stood out in a positive way. On Sunday, Canada made third-year receiver Chase Claypool a considerable focal point of his game plan.

Claypool received a career-high six carries, accumulating 36 rushing yards and a long run of 15 yards. In fact, according to Next Gen Stats, Claypool was the fastest ball-carrier in Week 1, reaching 21.46 MPH on an overtime run that went for 12 yards.

Since he entered the NFL, Claypool’s ability as a runner has been evident. With a special combination of size (6-foot-4) and speed (4.42 40), it’s imperative that the Steelers get the ball in Claypool’s hands with room to roam. The Notre Dame product has proven such carries are largely productive, totaling 4.9 yards per attempt thus far in his career. In fact, when Claypool receives two or more carries in a game, the Steelers are 7-1 — Pittsburgh should undoubtedly proliferate the trend for the rest of the year.

It’s not just allowing Claypool to navigate downhill and elude defenders, however. Once establishing the receiver as a running threat, Pittsburgh forces opposing defenses to clue in on sweeps/pitches. As such, that enables Canada to utilize Claypool in motion, on either play action or run fakes, to create greater traffic and confusion for defenders. That was the case in Week 1, as Claypool consistently ran behind Mitch Trubisky under center before inside zones or passing plays.

The Steelers re-established a role for Claypool we’ve seen and appreciated since his rookie campaign. Yet Sunday simultaneously introduced us to a newfound approach for implementing the big-body receiver.

According to PFF, Claypool was on the field for 41 pass plays — 39 of which came from the slot. The 95.1% of routes transpiring from the slot easily eclipsed Claypool’s previous high slot rate of 42.9% in 2020.

Claypool hauled in only four catches for 18 yards to open 2022, numbers which may be perceived as disappointing, yet which reflect a Pittsburgh offense that was lackluster and did little over the middle of the field. Regardless of actual production, Canada placing Claypool in the slot permits the WR to work against smaller cornerbacks and utilize his frame and hands to secure first downs within the MOF. On top of that, when the Steelers turn to three or four receivers, it enables Diontae Johnson and George Pickens, two tremendous route-runners and separators, to line up outside against boundary corners.

As mentioned earlier, it was far from a banner day from Canada’s unit on Sunday, leaving little about which to be excited aside from some encouraging play designs and an occasional deep pass. In spite of the team’s offensive output, Canada’s decision to use Claypool as both a runner/motion man and slot receiver elicit positive thoughts moving forward about the structure of the Steelers’ offense and playmaking chances for an uber-talented weapon.

Previewing the Steelers vs. Patriots Week 2 showdown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/15/2022 - 7:45am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hosting the New England Patriots in Week 2 of the 2022 regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots are two teams who know each other well, even though they aren’t division rivals. For these two traditional AFC powerhouses, the game in Week 2 is as big as a Week 2 game can get. The Steelers are trying to remain perfect, advancing to 2-0, while the Patriots are just trying to win their first game after losing to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1.

Here is the game preview for the Steelers and Patriots for their Week 2 matchup in Pittsburgh.

Teams (Records)

Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-0
New England Patriots: 0-1

Odds (Courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

Steelers (+1.5)
OVER/UNDER: 40
Moneyline: Steelers +105; Patriots -125

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.

Last 5 Games in series

Steelers: 1-4

Matchup History

New England Patriots lead series 17-16-0

Injury Report (Note: This will be updated throughout the week as more injury reports are released) Steelers

Wednesday, September 14

RB Najee Harris (Foot) - LP
CB Levi Wallace (Ankle) - LP
LB Rob Spillane (Eye) - FP
OL Mason Cole (Ankle) - LP
LB T.J. Watt (Pectoral) - DNP

Patriots

Wednesday, September 14

LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (Toe) - DNP
S Joshuah Bledsoe (Groin) - LP
S Adrian Phillips (Ribs) - LP
S Cole Strange (Shoulder) - LP
CB Shaun Wade (Ankle) - LP
QB Mac Jones (Back) - FP

News and Notes

Has there been a more lop-sided rivalry than the Patriots and Steelers? Well, I should first ask the question if the Patriots even feel as if the Steelers are rivals, because they likely don’t. When you look at the recent history between the two teams, it is dominated by New England. Steelers fans cling to the games where the team was able to beat Tom Brady.

2018, 2011 and 2004 are certainly games which will always be remembered, purposefully leaving out the 2008 game with Matt Cassel at the helm.

These two teams haven’t played since the season opening game in 2019, the last game before Ben Roethlisberger blew out his elbow in Week 2 of that season, and so much has changed since that last meeting.

No more Tom Brady.

No more Ben Roethlisberger.

The two remaining faces in this once iconic matchup would be the stoic Bill Belichick, and the exuberant Mike Tomlin. Those legendary names, outside of Brady and Roethlisberger, have gone and new names emerge.

Mac Jones and Mitch Trubisky are the new quarterbacks, but there is plenty of angst remaining between these two fan bases who enter the Week 2 game on different ends of the spectrum. The Steelers are trying to stay a perfect 2-0 after a crazy Week 1 overtime win, while the Patriots are trying to get into the win column after a loss to AFC East rivals Miami Dolphins last Sunday in South Beach.

The names may have changed, but the rivalry remains...

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