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A look at the best available free agents at positions of need for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/19/2020 - 2:27pm
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to be players in free agency, and there are still several key players available at key positions.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and their fan base, have been waiting for the team to make a move in Free Agency, and are hoping they finally become players in the frenzy of finding new talent. Right now, the fans feel like the kid at the holidays who is watching everyone else open awesome gifts, while they just got a pair of socks.

Not that Derek Watt is nothing more than a pair of socks, but the vast majority of fans were hoping for more than a fullback/special teams ace as the lone move in free agency. There are still needs on the team, and there are still players available at those key positions.

First, here are the positions of need remaining for the black-and-gold as they have restructured enough contracts to make a move, or two, before the list of available players dwindles even further.

Positions of need:

Tight End
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Offensive Guard
Inside Linebacker

Below is a list of available players remaining, courtesy of the mothership SBNation:

Tight End

Best available: Eric Ebron, Luke Stocker, Geoff Swaim

Running Back

Best available: Ameer Abdullah, Peyton Barber, Devonta Freeman, Melvin Gordon, Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde, Dion Lewis, LeSean McCoy, Lamar Miller, Ty Montgomery, C.J. Prosise, Wendell Smallwood, Chris Thompson, DeAndre Washington, Jonathan Williams

Wide Receiver

Best available: Nelson Agholor, Geronimo Allison, Robby Anderson, Travis Benjamin, Phillip Dorsett, Devin Funchess, Taylor Gabriel, Rashard Higgins, Johnny Holton, Breshad Perriman, Demarcus Robinson, Emmanuel Sanders

Offensive Line

Best available: Demar Dotson, Cordy Glenn, James Hurst, Ronald Leary, Jason Peters, Ty Sambrailo, Daryl Williams


Best available: Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, Kareem Martin, Alec Ogletree, Nick Vigil, Tahir Whitehead


Best available: Vonn Bell, Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Blake Countess, A.J. Howard, Colin Jones, Reshad Jones, Damarious Randall, Eric Reid

Obviously, positions like linebacker leave a lot to be desired, and there is a strong chance many of these positions will be filled via the 2020 NFL Draft. But considering the Steelers have created valuable cap space, it only makes sense they will make a move in free agency.

Who would you want them to sign, if you were calling the shots? Is there a position you would target other than the one listed? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!!

The Steelers have been quiet in Free Agency, but don’t think they’ll just sit on their hands

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/19/2020 - 10:11am
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t done much in free agency, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be making any moves over the next days/weeks.

Last night I did a special Free Agency podcast with my partner in crime Lance Williams, and we started the show talking about none other then the lone addition to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster thus far in free agency — Derek Watt.

I listened to Lance tell me why the addition of a fullback is ridiculous, why the Steelers needed so much more and how he lamented the team’s overall decision making.

My response to his vitriol over the move was simple...

“What were your expectations coming into Free Agency?”

I mentioned the ridiculous contracts players were receiving in around the league, and how the Steelers would not be able to pay any of those players that amount.

I added how we all knew the team’s situation heading into the Free Agency period. We knew about their salary cap situation, we knew the cuts which were going to need to be made. And we knew all about the financial status of the team if/when they decided to place the franchise tag on Bud Dupree.

In other words, since these were all known facts, what were fans expecting? Were they expecting a high caliber player to take half of what other teams were offering to come and play for Pittsburgh? If so, you must not be an ardent follower of the NFL. These players know the shelf life of their careers, and will cash in when the offer arises. I’m sure Javon Hargrave would have loved to stay in Pittsburgh, but when the Philadelphia Eagles offered him the 3-year contract worth $39 million dollars, he had no choice but to take it.

But back to the matter at hand, if you were someone who has been screaming from the mountain tops about the Steelers in free agency, what were you expecting? The signing of Derek Watt helped fill a void on special teams vacated by Tyler Matakevich leaving for the Buffalo Bills, and the possibility of utilizing a fullback more in the offense in 2020.

However, just because the Steelers have been quiet so far doesn’t mean they won’t be making any moves. Will they be moves which scorch the NFL landscape, like the Houston Texans trading Deandre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals? Nope, but they could be valuable assets to the team.

The Steelers have slowly been restructuring contracts, and not just because they think it is fun, but because they are about to make some moves. This from Mark Kaboly of The Athletic:

Remember, the Steelers restructure to what they need. They aren't going to restructure $20M worth of contracts if they only need $12M

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) March 19, 2020

The list of restructured contracts so far:

Ben Roethlisberger
Steven Nelson
Maurkice Pouncey
Chris Boswell
Joe Haden

The Steelers could still restructure players like David DeCastro and Stephon Tuitt to free up more space, and they have a reason for doing so.

I guess in hindsight the past few years Steelers fans have gotten used to a signing which raises eyebrows on Day 1. Derek Watt certainly raised eyebrows, but not necessarily in a good way. Last year it was Steven Nelson who set new marks for a free agent cornerback, but this year has seen the Steelers return more to their norm. Taking a wait-and-see approach and finding value in the players who’s value has suddenly decreased.

Yes, the Steelers will be making some moves over the coming days, but fans should have realized this was the reality when the 2020 Free Agency period began. We knew this would happen, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Strange Days: How I learned to stop worrying and love the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/19/2020 - 8:45am
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In these uncertain times, the one constant with fans has been the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I sat down to write a “normal” article this weekend, which for me usually entails a lot of film breakdown and scheme analysis, but quickly found I could not stay focused on the details of such a piece. Bigger thoughts were impeding my process. For those willing to indulge me, I’ll share some of those thoughts now.

When I was a kid, my bedroom was lined with posters. My walls were separated by themes — there was a wall devoted to basketball (I was partial to Moses Malone, Dr. J and the 76ers), a wall devoted to hockey (Flyers fan… sorry) and of course, a wall devoted to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was the biggest of the four walls. I can still see the giant poster I had of Jack Lambert snarling through his face-mask on that old Sports Illustrated cover. I’m pretty sure that poster gave my little sister nightmares:

The fourth wall in my room was devoted to cultural icons. I had posters of Hunter S. Thompson, Bill Murray in Caddyshack and Farrah Fawcett in her legendary red bathing suit. Plenty of bands, too. Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Clash. My favorite band poster was a crushed-velvet black-light one of The Doors. This one, to be exact:

I’ve been thinking about The Doors a lot lately. Not so much their music, but about the apocalyptic, end-is-near theme that permeated Jim Morrison’s lyrics. Almost any rock n’ roll fan remembers this famous refrain from “Roadhouse Blues:”

The future’s uncertain,

And the end is always near.

But it’s another lyric that has my attention these days:

Strange days have found us

Strange days have tracked us down.

They’re going to destroy

Our casual joys

We shall go on playing

Or find a new town…

These are indeed strange days. The COVID-19 pandemic has touched us all in some way, turning the simple act of going to the grocery store into a commando mission against an invisible enemy. The shelves of our local supermarket are bare, especially the aisles containing hand sanitizer and toilet paper. A buddy of mine bought fifty surgical masks on Amazon and is (half)-jokingly talking about selling them for $50 a pop. Handshakes have disappeared, as evidenced by this awkward exchange Sunday night:

“Social distancing” is a term that is new to our lexicon but one we’re unlikely to ever forget. As I write this, the high school at which I teach is entering an indefinite hiatus. No one can say with certainty when we will resume. My son, who is a student at George Washington University in Washington D.C., has just been recalled from his study-abroad program in Botswana. We have to figure out how to get him home this week, no easy task given the travel restrictions in place and the simple logistics of extracting someone from southern Africa under these conditions. Strange days have found us, for sure.

What about those middle lyrics in Morrison’s stanza, however? They’re going to destroy, Our casual joys? In some ways, they already have. “They,” meaning the virus, of course. Like going out to eat at a favorite restaurant. Lingering in a coffee shop. Attending a sporting event. Restaurants and coffee shops, in my area, are still available for those who wish to attend. Sporting events are not. Anthony Defeo mourned their loss, properly, in this recent piece. In some instances, this is simply disappointing. Like losing March Madness, or seeing basketball and hockey disappear. In others, it’s more than that. The girls basketball team at our school reached the state championship game last week. They’ll never get to play it, as the remainder of the tournament has been canceled. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those girls and their coaches is gone, just like that.

The most constant of the casual joys in my life has been my attachment to the Steelers. Each and every year since I’ve been seven years old, the Steelers have been a huge part of my existence. I have devoted thousands of hours talking about them, watching them, travelling to see them. And now, writing about them. The only relationship that has lasted longer than my fandom has been the one I have with my family. No other friend or entity has been there as consistently. They’ve brought me great joy, irrational sadness and more memories than can be chronicled. A few, however, are worth sharing.

In 1982, I got into a fistfight with a fellow sixth-grader who had the nerve to suggest the Steelers were washed up. Turns out the little punk was right. Still, I had no choice but to fight him. You can’t let another kid trash-talk your team when you’re 12. Those are the rules.

In 1990, while in college, a friend and I drove to the Meadowlands to watch the Bubby Brister-led Steelers defeat the Jets 24-7. It was the first Steelers game I’d attended, and I marveled at the swarm of Terrible Towels that took flight in the 4th quarter, turning the stadium black and gold. “Steeler Country” wasn’t just a banner at Three Rivers Stadium. It was a living, breathing, Terrible Towel-swirling organism.

In 1996, three friends and I took a January road trip from South Jersey to Pittsburgh to see the Steelers defeat Buffalo in a Saturday afternoon Divisional playoff game. We celebrated in the city that night before crashing at the Hilton just across the water from the stadium. By the time we woke up, there were six inches of snow on the ground. The snow fell relentlessly all day as we moved east along the Turnpike at a snail’s pace. We were just past Hershey when a national guard blockade forced us off of the highway. We spent the night in a run-down motel eating from the vending machine and watching the Colts gloriously upset Kansas City to give the Steelers home-field advantage in the following week’s AFC Championship game. The “Blizzard of ‘96” dumped over thirty inches on the region and the Steelers went to the Super Bowl for the first time since I was a kid.

Ten years later, I smashed my TV remote to smithereens by spiking it into the ground when officials in the Pittsburgh-Indianapolis playoff game overturned a sure Troy Polamalu interception that would have sealed their upset victory over the Colts. Instead, Steeler Nation was forced to endure an excruciating final five minutes that did not end until Indy kicker Mike Vanderjagt shanked a game-tying field goal on the game’s final play. The Steelers won the Super Bowl a few weeks later, ending a twenty-six year drought. My television remote did not survive to witness the celebration.

I bring these memories up because, like all of us, I’m at a strange moment in my life. This pandemic, and the national reaction to it, has altered, temporarily I hope, so much of what we know. What will life be like these next two weeks? The next two months? When will things return to “normal?” I don’t have those answers.

Those who remember Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant satire Dr. Strangelove will recall how a rogue Air Force general sent his bombers to destroy the Soviet Union because he believed they were conspiring to pollute our precious bodily fluids. COVID-19 presents a similar threat. Not to our bodily fluids, per se, but as a menace to our physical well-being. Hopefully, we will emerge with our health in tact. But the virus is guaranteed to make things strange for a while.

I’m not given to philosophical moments of reflection much these days, but when I am it often stems from uncertainty. When I’m unsettled, or when I worry, it often helps to reflect and take stock of things. Reassess my priorities, so to speak. When I got married, my sister gave the toast. “My brother cares deeply about three things,” she told the room. “His family, his career and the Pittsburgh Steelers.” That still seems about right. They are not my only interests but they are the things to which I am most devoted. As I head home to start my work hiatus, it’s comforting to know there are constants in life. My family will always be there for me. I will throw myself back into my career as soon as I can. And the Pittsburgh Steelers...

...just tagged Bud Dupree! And cut Barron and Chickillo! The Big Ragu retired! Hargrave and Finney are gone! A new fullback is headed to town! Then there’s the draft. Where do we go with so much depth to fill? And what about Big Ben? How will he look? How might Randy Fichtner tweak his schemes? What role will Matt Canada play? How will the defense evolve with a full off-season to integrate Minkah? So many questions, so much to talk about.

COVID-19 may bring some strangeness to our lives. It may put on hold the casual joys we’ve come to know. But it will not destroy them, and when they return perhaps we will cherish them for the manner in which absence makes the heart grow fonder. Perhaps we will be kinder to one another once we begin to socialize again. Perhaps we will appreciate the things we had come to take for granted. Like handshakes. A glass of wine in a nice restaurant. A family gathering. Maybe even toilet paper.

The health and well-being of my loved ones is foremost in my thoughts. Beyond that, the thing that brings me the most comfort amidst the uncertainty is that when all of this is over, and we’ve emerged from self-quarantine and it’s ok to gather again without fear of an unseen enemy, football season will be right around the bend. A season I look forward to like few that have preceded it. For the intrigue of what it holds for the Steelers. For the absence of worry. For the normalcy.

I wish everyone great health in the coming days. Lean in to your loved ones and to the things you cherish. And when these strange days have passed, let’s ride that A-bomb together, kicking and screaming and waving our Terrible Towels like Major Kong, shouting with great abandon as we root for our beloved Black and Gold.

After the first wave of free agent signings, where do the Steelers stand in the compensatory formula?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/19/2020 - 7:30am
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There is still a long way to go, but it doesn’t hurt to check in as to where the Steelers stand with gaining additional draft picks for 2021

Going into the 2020 NFL free agent period, Steelers’ fans were well aware there were going to be some tough losses. If players were going to move on to another team, the best thing for the Steelers would be for those players to sign huge contracts in order to help the Steelers out in the NFL’s compensatory formula.

As it stands right now, the Steelers would be eligible for multiple draft picks in 2021. Of course, the Steelers could still sign some free agents which would change everything. Before diving into where the Steeler stand and what would need to happen in order to keep any compensatory draft picks, let’s review a couple misconceptions about the NFL’s compensatory formula.

Misconception #1: Gaining or losing a player changes the round of the selection

This particular misconception was floating around last fall when the Eagles released linebacker L.J. Fort and changed the Steelers compensatory formula. Some people felt the third-round pick the Steelers were lined up to receive for Le’Veon Bell would drop to a fifth or sixth rounder. This is not how the formula works. The Steelers would have received no compensatory draft pick had they not released Donte Moncrief.

Signing or losing a player in this process does not change the round of selections a teams would get, it changes the number of selections they are eligible for. The formula works on determining how many players were lost versus how many players were gained. For every player lost, players gained canceled them out. A team must have a net loss in order to receive a compensatory pick. If they have a net loss of three players, they are eligible for three picks. The round designation does not come into play until the net loss is determined.

Misconception #2: Players released by the Steelers can help the formula if they sign elsewhere

This is just a quick reminder that any of the players the Steelers released this week would not count towards the compensatory formula. The Steelers would not benefit at all if Mark Barron signed with another team. It is much like last season with the Steelers were not penalized by signing Mark Baron because he was released by the Rams. The compensatory formula only works with players who left as an unrestricted free agent.

Misconception #3: Picking up a free agent this summer or during the season would hurt the Steelers

Although releasing a player in the summer or during the season affects the compensatory formula, there is a deadline where signing a player hurts a team in regards to getting comp picks. The date is generally the second Tuesday after the NFL draft. The same principle applies if a player who was a part of the compensatory formula was cut during the season and signed with another team. For example, when the Philadelphia Eagles released L.J. Fort he no longer counted as a loss for the Steelers even though he then signed with the Ravens.

Now that we understand some of the things that could shape this process over the next couple of months, let’s see where the Steelers stand. Currently, the Steelers have a net loss of four and only one gain. The Steelers losses are:

Javon Hargrave ($13 M per year, 4th round)
Sean Davis ($5 M per year, 6th round)
Tyler Matakevich ($4.5 M per year, 6th round)
B.J. Finney ($4 M per year, 6th round)

The Steelers net gain is:

Derek Watt ($3.25 M per year, 6th or 7th round)

The rounds associated with each player is simply an estimation at this time. In Hargrave’s case, he is right at the cusp between a third-round or fourth-round selection. The experts at (OTC) have Hargrave with a fourth-round designation so this is where we will go. Similarly, OTC has Watt at a seventh-round designation but he’s right on the edge of beign a sixth.

With the Steelers having a net loss, the round their player gained is designated will cancel another player from the same round. If there is no player in that round, they cancel a player from the next lowest round until a player is canceled. If there are no players at an equal or lesser round of the player gained, then the bottom player on the list is canceled.

With all that said, the Steelers are currently in line for a fourth-round pick along with two sixth-round picks.

With having a net loss of three players, the Steelers can sign two free agents and still be eligible for a selection in 2021. Additionally, players such as Artie Burns, Nick Vannett, or Jordan Dangerfield could count as a net loss if they sign with other teams for a yearly amount enough to qualify for the formula.

This is only the beginning when it comes to the compensatory process. Remember, other factors throughout the 2020 season, such as playing time or postseason awards, will enter into the formula as well. But it is fun to see where the Steelers are for the time being.

How much will the loss of Javon Hargrave hurt the Steelers defense?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/19/2020 - 6:21am
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at Hargrave and the rest of the Steelers DL.

Javon Hargrave signed a 3 year, $39 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, making him the highest paid NT in the NFL, and a higher per year average than either Stephon Tuitt or Cameron Heyward.

Not that those figures are actually surprising, Heyward signed his contract in 2015, and Tuitt signed his in 2017, and while Javon Hargrave may be listed as a Nose Tackle, Stephon Tuitt is listed as a Defensive End and guess who filled most of Tuitt’s snaps after he got hurt. No one on the Steelers defensive line plays on the edge, and Hargrave only plays NT in the base defense which isn’t used much at all anymore. The Steelers defense was on the field for 1084 snaps in 2019, and all their DL players combined for 2469 snaps, an average of 2.28 lineman per snap. That’s a vast majority of plays with fewer than 3 lineman on the field.

As far as the Steelers are concerned though, they need to replace Hargrave’s presence on the field, both as a NT and as a key backup/rotational DT in their usual 2 tackle front. So the question is, how hard will that be, what did the Steelers lose when Hargrave left? There was a good amount of debate as to whether the Steelers should keep Javon Hargrave and let Bud Dupree go, and while that debate has ended with the Steelers choosing Dupree, there are quite a few who believe that was the wrong choice, and more who believe that it was the right choice simply because Dupree plays many more snaps than Hargrave, at a position without any real depth behind him, while Hargrave isn’t even a real starter on the defense.

So let’s take a look

Pass Rush

Hargrave has a reputation as a very good pass rusher, let’s look at the stats to see if he backs that up with production.

We’re going to look beyond just sacks, because while sacks matter, there’s a lot of pass rushing beyond just getting sacks. So we’re going to look at pressures, QB hits, and batted passes.

I’m going to use stats from Sports Info Solutions free NFL data hub, along with play by play data from Pro-Football reference for a few things.

Here’s the 2019 numbers for the main 4 defensive lineman, with Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt thrown in as well for reference.

Quick glossary:

Hits is when a defender makes more than glancing contact with the QB before or during the throw.
Sack plays is the number of plays that player was in on a sack (T.J. Watt recorded 3 half sacks in 2019)
pres. + sacks adds pressures to sacks to show the number of times a players pass rush messes with the QB.
P+S% is the percentage of pass rushes that a player got in on a sack or pressured the QB.
Impact is the number of times a pass rusher physically interfered with the QB attempting to pass, it adds sacks, hits, and passes batted down. I like this stat because it removes the very subjective assigning of pressures that didn’t involve touching the QB. It’s easier to judge if someone hit the QB than if that player was the reason the QB left the pocket or threw the ball faster, and batted down passes should count.
Impact % is the percentage of pass rushes that resulted in a sack, QB hit or batted pass.

Only Tyson Alualu had a lower impact % than Javon Hargrave, while only Cameron Heyward had more non-contact pressures than Hargrave. If you look at percentage of pressures+sacks that came from making physical contact with the QB, Hargrave is last among the Steelers main pass rushers at 51.4%. Tuitt led the team with 70.6% in his shortened season, with Bud Dupree in second at 68.3%.**

To help account for Tuitt’s incredible but short run in 2019 and to give a little more depth here are the numbers from the last 2 seasons combined.

One thing that stands out to me is every single rusher improved their impact % in 2019, no doubt helped by the incredible improvements in coverage from the rest of the defense. It stands out that only Cameron Heyward improved less than Javon Hargrave, and Heyward was the best on the team in 2018. Stephon Tuitt and T.J. Watt were absolutely dominating in pass rush while they were both playing. When Hargrave took over for Tuitt T.J. Watt continued to dominate, while Hargrave only did slightly more than he did in 2018.

What does this say about Hargrave’s pass rush? By these stats he looks like the anti-Dupree, a player who has a lot of great moves, but struggles to turn those moves into physically getting to the QB.

Another thing that shows up in Hargrave’s career is that he doesn’t put up more sacks, hits or pressures when his snaps increase. In both 2018 and 2019 his snaps increased substantially near the midpoint of the season, but his pass rush production when his snaps increased didn’t increase much at all.

The first 8 games of 2018 and the first 7 of 2019 Hargrave played consistently fewer snaps than he would the rest of the season. Here’s a simple comparison of percentage of snaps and percentage of production.

I included tackles and tackles for loss because as he played more he faced more run plays, but overall his stat production was better when he was playing less, and dropped off in every category as he played more.

While this may just be a product of a player training for their role before that role gets changed, or it could be a sign that Javon Hargrave getting a boost to his playing time will not result in a similar boost in production.

In the end, the Steelers lost their #3 DL, and they need a player to be the primary guy at NT when they go to their 3-4 alignment, but Javon Hargrave should not be as hard to replace as we might think, as his biggest statistical contribution was in pressures where he didn’t physically touch the QB or the ball.

Run Defense

Javon Hargrave was a NT, but he was never known as a great run defender. It should not surprise people that he quite likely was the worst run defender of the 4 main Steelers defensive lineman.

Here’s some stats for 2019, again from Sports info Solutions’ fantastic database.

Quick Glossary:

Missed is the number of times a player had a chance to tackle the runner and failed.
Depth is the average yards gained when a tackle is made.
TFL% is the percentage of tackles that were for a loss.

Javon Hargrave ranks last in every single per run category, and comes in last in depth of tackles made. Depth of tackles made and percentage of tackles for a loss show us a lot about the role a player has in run defense. Stephon Tuitt’s job is most often just getting into the opponent’s backfield and messing up the play. He doesn’t make a lot of tackles past the line of scrimmage, and rarely makes a tackle very far downfield at all. Cameron Heyward, on the other hand is the most likely lineman to record a tackle, but has a higher depth of tackle than Tuitt does, and is less likely to record a tackle for a loss. Cameron Heyward is often holding his ground and reading a play, moving to the ball rather than just trying to get penetration and be in the way.

Hargrave was the least likely to record a tackle, the least likely to record a tackle for a loss, and had the highest depth of tackle of any Steeler defensive lineman. That’s a pretty good sign that he isn’t strong against the run. Tyson Alualu isn’t a very good pass rusher at all, but his run defense can’t be ignored, being the second most likely to record a tackle, second most likely to record a tackle for a loss, and has the second lowest depth of tackle. He is at least the equal of Heyward and Tuitt in defending the run, even if he lags far behind in pass rushing.

For a 2-year reference, here’s the same chart but with 2018 and 2019 combined.

Hargrave made a lot more tackles in 2018, but his other stats were all still the worst of the four.


While we don’t really have another pass rushing defensive lineman on the roster, Javon Hargrave isn’t such a standout DT that the Steelers can’t replace his impact with a cheaper option, and while they do need a NT, Hargrave wasn’t a good run-stuffing lineman no matter where he lined up, so that shouldn’t be hard to replace either.

Hargrave had a flashy 2018, but he has always been a player that was great at beating lesser offensive lineman 1v1, and while that has value, with his run defense lacking and his pass rush in 2019 not living up to the 2018 hype, I really don’t think he is a player the Steelers will struggle to replace, he was at best the 6th best pass rusher on the team (Watt, Heyward, Dupree, Tuitt and Vince Williams are all more effective) and a pretty poor run defender, I don’t think that is worth $13 million a season.

Podcast: The Steelers upped their “Wattage” in free agency, but why?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/19/2020 - 5:29am

In the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold from the week that was.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is over, and although there are no more games, the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Special salary cap/CBA show
  • Why did the Steelers sign Derek Watt?!
  • Diagnosing the issues with the Steelers using statistics
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

The Homer and Hater portion of the show will publish in audio at 1:00 p.m. ET. Audio below:

Black and Gold Links: Brett Keisel tries his best to lure J.J. Watt to the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 03/19/2020 - 4:33am
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how a former Steelers defensive lineman did his part to try and get all three Watt brothers on the Steelers roster.

Let’s get to the news:

Brett Keisel, fans coax J.J. Watt to Steelers so he can join his brothers

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

On Tuesday, word leaked that the Steelers are set to sign former Los Angeles Chargers fullback Derek Watt.

He is the older brother of Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker T.J. Watt and the younger brother of Houston Texans star defensive lineman J.J. Watt.

Most fullbacks don’t exactly get a ton of snaps outside of pure running situations and on special teams. Meanwhile T.J. and J.J. are renowned as two of the best defensive players in the league.

But T.J. is still on his rookie contract. So, despite his All-Pro status, he’ll only make $1.72 million in 2020. Derek is going to make an average of $3.25 million over his three-year deal.

This fact was not ignored by his younger brother.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Mark Madden: Steelers were smart to tag Bud Dupree, wait on long-term deal

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

If you had any doubt the NFL is God’s chosen league, consider it’s the only one of America’s big-time sports loops to not have its timeline significantly impacted by covid-19. (Yet.)

But, as Liverpool FC supporters know, this is not a just and fair God.

So, let me present refreshing football notes. Get ‘em while they’re hot (they’re always hot)…and while you can.

Franchising Bud Dupree was the obvious move for the Steelers. Top-level pass rushers rarely get on the market, and Dupree is one of those…well, was, for one season out of five anyway, which is why not signing him long-term is wise. Will Dupree play hard to earn big money beyond 2020, or will he have the boo-boo face because he was tagged?

• Losing nose tackle Javon Hargrave will hurt, but how much is the base defense on the field? If Stephon Tuitt stays healthy, he fills the gap beyond using the base.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Not all of the Steelers free agent acquisitions have been flops.

Free agents who made a difference

By: Teresa Varley,

Free agency began in 1993, and while the Steelers have never been a team to rush to sign players right out of the gate, they definitely have found their share who have contributed to the success of the organization, including several who helped bring a few more Lombardi Trophies to Pittsburgh.

So, with free agency officially beginning today at 4 p.m., it’s time to take a look at some of the key free agent signings in Steelers history.

(Listed in alphabetical order)

Ryan Clark – Free Safety

The departure of one often opens the door for another and that is what happened with the signing of Ryan Clark. Chris Hope departed after the 2005 season with a Super Bowl ring, and Clark was signed to take his spot at free safety in 2006.

Clark, who was an undrafted rookie in 2002 when he signed with the New York Giants, went on to start for the Washington Redskins in 2004-05, before signing with the Steelers. Once in Pittsburgh and teamed with strong safety Troy Polamalu his career flourished, finishing his career in Pittsburgh with 12 interceptions, six fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, and two sacks.

James Farrior – Inside Linebacker

Farrior played 10 seasons for the Steelers after signing as a free agent in 2001 from the New York Jets. The Jets former No. 1 draft pick played in 154 games in Pittsburgh, with 30 sacks and 1,078 tackles.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

Two Steelers Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) got 2nd round tenders

Bye bye to B.J. Finney

Zach Banner will be back on a one-year “show me” deal

Steelers welcome another Watt to the team, this time Derek Watt

  • Social Media Madness

Chatting with #Steelers DE @CamHeyward on Pittsburgh uniting the brothers @_TJWatt and @DerekWatt34 and if @JJWatt is next? #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE

— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 18, 2020

Chatting with #Steelers DE @CamHeyward on Pittsburgh uniting the brothers @_TJWatt and @DerekWatt34 and if @JJWatt is next? #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE

— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 18, 2020

July 27, 1997
Croke Park
Dublin, Ireland
Steelers 30, Bears 17#StPatricksDay

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 18, 2020

Report: Steelers restructure center Maurkice Pouncey‘s contract

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 9:15pm

It is the sixth restructure the Steelers have done over the last several days in order to save money under the salary cap

The Pittsburgh Steelers are continuing to maneuver around the NFL salary cap as they have restructured yet another contract to start the 2020 league year. This time, according to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, the Steelers have restructured Maurkice Pouncey’s contract.

Steelers keep it rolling with the restructures. This time, it’s C Maurkice Pouncey, per source.

Pouncey was due a $5M base salary, $3M roster bonus and $3M pro-rated bonus this year.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) March 19, 2020

Pouncey is the second-longest tenured Pittsburgh Steelers player now that Ramon Foster has retired. Of course, only Ben Roethlisberger has been on the Steelers longer than Pouncey.

With a previous salary cap number of $11 million, Pouncey is able to save the Steelers a little under $3.5 million towards 2020 if his both his base salary and roster bonus is converted into a signing bonus.

While the Steelers current salary cap number is not exactly known since many of the restructures have not been released, the Steelers are estimated to be somewhere between $7 million and $10 million under the salary cap.

Finding more money for the Steelers by restructuring Pouncey‘s deal, the Steelers appear to not be finished when it comes to signing players. Whether it be someone who was on the Steelers roster for 2019 or an outside unrestricted free agent is yet to be seen. For the Steelers to restructure Pouncey with no real pressing need, the only other speculation could be the Steelers did not restructure the maximum amount on Ben Roethlisberger’s contract.

Until the numbers of all these various free structures are released, it is unclear exactly how much room the Steelers have under the salary cap. For the most part, Steelers fans need to trust in the front office that they are moving money around in order to make the 2020 Steelers as competitive as possible.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

Steelers lose another free agent with Sean Davis signing a one-year deal with the Redskins

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 4:10pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost another free agent with Sean Davis leaving for his hometown team, the Washington Redskins.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team who doesn’t have the capital, or salary cap space, to be big players in free agency. While this is disappointing for the 2020 season, it also can be seen as a positive for the 2021 NFL Draft.

The more free agents who depart the team, and the Steelers not bringing in many players, will equate to the team getting more compensatory draft picks than they might usually see on any given year.

With the start of the new league year, the Steelers lose another Unrestricted Free Agent with safety Sean Davis leaving to sign a one-year contract with the Washington Redskins.

Sean Davis goes to his hometown Redskins on a one-year, $5 million deal. Good for him. #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) March 18, 2020

Davis’ deal is worth $5 million dollars, and is just the latest player to get a pay day the Steelers can’t, or wouldn’t, match for how they would deploy them if they stayed. In other words, the Steelers had no interest in paying Davis that much money to play behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds.

If you add up who has come and gone, it would look like this:

Javon Hargrave
Tyler Matakevich
Sean Davis
B.J. Finney

Derek Watt

While the Steelers still could sign players, they are sitting pretty to recoup some draft capital for the loss of so many players. Jordan Dangerfield, veteran safety, was not given a tender as a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) which makes him an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) at this point. If he departs it would only add to the Steelers’ overall compensatory situation.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they press on throughout NFL Free Agency and prepare for the 2020 NFL Draft in just over a month from now.

The Pittsburgh Steelers make the release fullback Roosevelt Nix official

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 4:02pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With no need for two fullbacks on the roster, Nix’s time with the Steelers has come to a close

In a move which was only a matter of time until it was announced, the Steelers are reportedly releasing fullback Roosevelt Nix according to ESPN’s Jordan Schultz.

#Steelers are releasing FB Roosevelt Nix, per source. Comes on the heels of the team signing Derek Watt to a two-year deal.

— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) March 18, 2020

It was an injury-plagued season for Nix in 2019 as he only appeared in three games. Elected the Steelers’ special teams captain, Nix just couldn’t stay healthy in order to contribute this past season. In his three games, Nix only played 34 offensive snaps and 42 special team snaps. He had two reception for four yards.

Joining the Steelers in 2015, Nix carved out a role for himself as both a fullback and special teams ace. In 2017 he earned Pro Bowl honors as a fullback.

As for the salary ramifications, the Steelers will save just over $1 million towards the 2020 salary cap as Nix contract carries $875,000 in dead money. Although the Steelers could differ half of the dead money until 2021 by designating Nix as a post-June 1 release, the Steelers are probably just as well off absorbing the hit all in 2020.

It is uncertain if Nix’s injury from 2019 is going to affect his future in the NFL. With the Steelers signing Derek Watt to a three-year deal this week, the writing was on the wall for Nix and his future in the Steel City.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.


The Steelers made the release of Roosevelt Nix official, even it was just a blurb in a tweet...

We have signed LS Kameron Canaday to a two-year contract and terminated the contract of FB Roosevelt Nix.@BordasLaw TRANSACTION:

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 18, 2020

Financial terms of the free agent signings the Steelers made on Tuesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 2:01pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With numbers being estimates as to how much they will affect the 2020 salary cap, now the numbers can be calculated precisely.

The Steelers signed three new contracts on Tuesday where overall financial numbers were initially reported. But now, as the totals for signing bonuses and yearly base salary come out, the calculation for how they will affect the salary cap for 2020 can be done precisely.

First is the contract the Steelers signed for fullback Derek Watt. Initially reported at $9.75 million for three years, the exact breakdown comes courtesy of Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Derek Watt (Steelers) three years, $9.75M, $3.25M signing bonus, salaries $1M, $1.75M, $2.75M; due a $1M 2021 roster bonus third year

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 18, 2020

With these numbers, Watt’s $3.25 million signing bonus will be split up over the three years of his contract. With $1.083 million going to each year, along with his $1 million base salary, Watt comes in on the 2020 salary cap at $2.083 million.

As for beyond 2020, Watt’s salary would count $2.833 million in 2021 and $4.83 million in 2022.

Other financials released by Wilson are that of a long snapper Kameron Canaday.

Kameron Canady (Steelers) two years, $2.425M, $450K signing bonus, salaries $910K, $1.065M

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 18, 2020

Canaday’s numbers come in a little bit higher then some, like myself, may have projected. His $450K signing bonus will be split up into $225K each season. Adding it to his base salary, Canaday’s cap hit for 2020 is $1.135 million and $1.29 million for 2021.

As for Zack Banner, his one-year deal was reported at $1.75 million. With his deal being only for this season, calculating the value against the salary cap is nonexistent as all the money goes towards 2020.

In all, the three free agent signings by the Steelers on Tuesday will count just under $5 million on the 2020 salary cap. For those who would like a more precise number, it is $4.968 million for 2020, plus a little bit of extra as Watt’s salary had a repeating three as a decimal. With the exact financials of Steven Nelson and Ben Roethlisberger’s restructures coming soon, the exact amount the Steelers are within the salary cap will be able to be calculated at that time.

Cam Heyward opens up about Antonio Brown, and if he would want J.J. Watt on the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 12:41pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ All-Pro defensive line talks about the Antonio Brown situation, as well as the unlikely scenario where J.J. Watt joins his brothers in Pittsburgh.

While the rest of the sports world goes into hibernation, the NFL continues to chug along with their offseason schedule. The dominating sports news has been about NFL free agency, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, although not major players in free agency, have been making their own news.

The biggest news was none other than another Watt brother coming to the team to join his brother T.J. No, not J.J. Watt, of the Houston Texans, but Derek Watt, the fullback, who was recently signed to Pittsburgh for three years.

It has made many wonder if this means J.J. would be joining his brothers in the Steel City, and Pat McAfee asked defensive captain Cameron Heyward what he thought about that while Heyward joined the Pat McAfee show recently.

See Heyward’s response:

Chatting with #Steelers DE @CamHeyward on Pittsburgh uniting the brothers @_TJWatt and @DerekWatt34 and if @JJWatt is next? #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE

— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 18, 2020

Joking aside, McAfee asked the question many Steelers fans still want to know. What in the world went on in the locker room during the Antonio Brown saga just over a year ago. What did the players know, compared to what was being reported?

Heyward opened up and spoke about how he questioned himself, the leadership in the locker room and even the organization during such a crazy time.

#Steelers DE @CamHeyward reflects on @AB84 and his departure #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE

— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) March 18, 2020

It is good to see Heyward getting some screen time, not just for public recognition but because he has been an unbelievable player for the Steelers throughout his career.

Heyward will soon have something else to discuss, and that is likely him signing a new contract. Entering the final year of his current deal, Heyward looks to get a new deal done prior to the start of the season, and this might happen sooner than later to help alleviate some salary cap space the team desperately could use.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they progress through NFL Free Agency, and continue preparations for the 2020 NFL Draft. You won’t want to miss a thing...

Art Rooney II on the Steelers training camp starting on time: “It is too early to say”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 11:35am
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers Team President gives his thoughts on the odds COVID-19 pushes training camp back in 2020.

The NFL, and the world, has been in a holding position the past few weeks wondering how the coronavirus, COVID-19, will impact everyday life. For most, it is the question of whether they will be able to return to school/work. But for professional sports teams, the question is when will they be back on the field/court/ice playing the game they love?

The NFL, unlike the NBA, NHL and MLB, have the good fortune of not needing to change much other than some operational things in the offseason. But some experts are suggesting this is just the very beginning of the coronavirus impact, and it is has football fans wondering if this long-term impact could start to push important dates back, or have them cancelled altogether.

Dates like offseason workouts, Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Mandatory Minicamp and even training camp.

Pittsburgh Steelers Team President Art Rooney II spoke about the current state in the United States, and across the globe.

“It’s a difficult time in our country, a difficult time in the world,” Rooney told Bob Labriola of “One of the things that was a factor in (the decision to move forward with the start of the league year) is that there really is no time frame for when we’re going to get through this. So even if we postpone things for a week or two, there really is no guarantee we would be in a better situation than we’re in now. That was the basic thinking on it.”

But what about training camp? Camp doesn’t open until the end of July, but could it be possibly those dates are impacted? According to Rooney, they have no idea.

“It’s too early to say that,” said Rooney. “Hopefully, God willing, we’ll be able to open training camps on time, but we just don’t know that at this point. We’ve been told the draft is going to go on as scheduled on the dates it has been scheduled. We’ll have to be prepared for that, and we’re preparing for it. Who knows if that will change, but for now we have to prepare for it to take place on the scheduled dates.”

These are trying times in our world, and with so much uncertainty surrounding our everyday health, it makes something like football seem insignificant. However, football has always been a great way for people to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and for that reason it carries some value. With the sports world on hold, all we can do is hope the next few months are nothing but a rebound back to normal everyday life.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for NFL Free Agency and the 2020 NFL Draft in just over a month.

After a flurry of Steelers news, what can we expect at the start of the new league year?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 10:23am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Between cuts, restructures, retirements, tenders, and player signings, there has been plenty of action in regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers

The start of the NFL’s league year used to be full of drama and anticipation as teams prepared to sign the top free agents as soon as the clock struck the starting time. I still remember in 2009 when the league year began at midnight and Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan was waiting outside of the house of Bart Scott in order to talk to him about coming to New York. Since that time, the NFL has not only moved the start of the league year to daylight hours, they have given a two-day “tampering period” where teams can negotiate deals with players before making the contracts official when the new league year starts.

With this tampering period now in place, the NFL has created a bit of a news frenzy in the two days leading up to the start of the league year. As teams are releasing players, resigning their own players, and making various moves around the salary cap, free agency has also been lumped into the mix. Having all of these in a two-day period has made for some entertaining sports news cycles as all other professional sports have been shut down for public health reasons.

So is there anything left to look forward to when they league year starts at 4 PM on Wednesday? Honestly, not very much. The biggest news stories of already broken and teams will probably be slowing down with their business decisions as the pool of high-end free agents gets depleted. What can we expect specifically from the Pittsburgh Steelers in the coming days? There are several possibilities which could end up becoming news, so let’s look at each one:

More Restructures

While it appears the Steelers are under the salary cap for the 4 PM deadline, if they wanted a little bit more wiggle room there is still a player or two who could restructure their contract to help out the team. The biggest question with this procedure is if the Steelers really want to add more money to their salary cap in the next year or two. If so, either Stephon Tuitt or David DeCastro could be candidates for restructures.

Player Cuts

While it appears the Steelers have released any of the players they needed to get out from underneath their salary for the 2020 season, there still could be a player or two who gets released. Unfortunately, one of my favorite Steelers is a prime candidate: Roosevelt Nix. With the free-agent signing of Derek Watt at fullback, it seems silly for a team to carry two players at a seldom-used position. There is the possibility the Steelers needed to find another full back because perhaps the injury to Nix’s knee is something which was going to affect the rest of his career. But don’t be surprised to see a player like Nix released in the near future.

Re-signing Players from 2019

There are still a few players the Steelers could retain for 2020 who were a part of the 2019 roster. A player like Jordan Dangerfield who is a reserve safety but used primarily as a special teams player could be brought back on a very low contract. The Steelers could also attempt to sign tight end Nick Vannett if the price is right. These would be low-profile moves on the part of the Steelers but would greatly shape their roster for 2020.

Contract Extensions

While the Steelers usually wait until the summer to work out contract extensions, there still a possibility it could be done sooner than later. The prime candidate for a new contract is defensive tackle Cameron Heyward. Not only do the Steelers need to lock up Heyward beyond the 2020 season, they could even lower his salary cap hit during the first year. The other obvious choice, as Kevin Colbert stated during his interview at the NFL combine, is the Steelers do not use the franchise tag without the intentions of signing a player long term. Look for the Steelers to attempt to work out a deal with Bud Dupree sometime between now and the July 15 deadline.

Another Free Agent Signing

For what I can safely say is the first time ever, the Steelers signed an outside free-agent player during the legal tampering period. Usually not big players the first day of free agency, the Steelers are more known for their second wave signings such as Steve Nelson and Ladarius Green. With the frenzy around the highest profile free agents really dying down, I would not be surprised to see the Steelers sign another player to a reasonable contract sometime over the next week. Positions in which the Steelers could add a player include offensive line, tight end, linebacker, or safety. Of course there are other positions which could be used as well such as running back, wide receiver, defensive line, or outside linebacker, but these are also positions many believe the Steelers will address in the draft. While there isn’t exactly one pressing position the Steelers have to upgrade in free agency, anything they would add now would reduce the draft need in April.

So these are some moves the Steelers could make once the league year begins at 4 PM on Wednesday. It appears the largest headlines are most likely behind us, but we just don’t know for sure. Either way, make sure you’re checking back to Behind The Steel Curtain for your latest news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

Looks like the Steelers won’t have Tom Brady to kick them around anymore

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 8:09am
Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

Tom Brady all but owned the Steelers during his 20-year career with the Patriots. Now that he’s moving on, this Steelers fan is truly relieved.

In a move that I’m sure most Steelers fans wish would have happened a decade sooner, six-time Super Bowl-winning Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took to social media on Tuesday to announce he won’t be a Patriot in 2020 and beyond.

That’s right, Brady, whose contract granted him the power to test the free agent market after the 2019 season, closed the doors on returning to New England much faster than I really anticipated.

When I saw Brady’s post, I gotta tell ya’, I was overjoyed—like I had just witnessed a Steelers victory over him or something.

Maybe the reason I was so happy was because Pittsburgh didn’t actually score many victories over Brady during his 20-year career with the Patriots.

How many victories did the Steelers earn while facing Brady? Three. That’s right, three. And I can tell you where I was during every single one of them.

I was over my mom’s house to witness the first win, which occurred at Heinz Field on Halloween Day during the 2004 season. I was handing out candy, while Pittsburgh was handing the Patriots their first loss in 21 games.

I was at a bowling alley for the Steelers second win over Brady, which was a 25-17 victory on October 30, 2011 (maybe Halloween was a good time to face Brady).

I was at my apartment in Crafton for the third and final time Pittsburgh defeated the Patriots with Brady as their starting quarterback, a 17-10 victory in December of 2018.

That game, like the first two, was at Heinz Field. When it came to the Steelers taking on Brady at Gillette Stadium, let’s just say the game was always a laugher and almost always over before it even began.

Not only did the Steelers go winless against Brady at Foxborough, their defense failed to intercept him in six total games.

Imagine that.

Actually, you don’t have to. If your memory is as good as mine, you’d probably like to wipe out all 360 minutes of that total ineptitude.

The most depressing part of Brady’s dominance over the Steelers was that they never defeated him when it truly mattered. The Steelers were 0 for 3 against Brady in the postseason, with all three losses occurring in the AFC title game. And even when Pittsburgh managed to defeat Brady in the regular season, he rebounded to guide the Patriots to either a conference championship or a Super Bowl title.

As of this writing, Brady is expected to sign with the Buccaneers, a team the soon-to-be 43-year old will surely finish out his career with. Now Brady gets to join Johnny Unitas (Chargers), Joe Namath (Rams), Joe Montana (Chiefs), Brett Favre (Jets and Vikings) and Peyton Manning (Broncos) in ending his career in a weird jersey.

And with that signing, Brady will officially move out of the Steelers heads, a place he’s been staying rent-free for the past two decades.

The legendary Magic Johnson once said he feared no man, except for the equally legendary Larry Bird.

As a Steelers fan, I can tell you there haven’t been many opposing players that I’ve truly feared, but Brady is definitely at the top of the list.

This might be a backhanded compliment, but I will leave you with the following:

Back in September of 2008, I was at a bar with some friends watching the Steelers dismantle the Texans in a Week 1 match-up at Heinz Field. Some time during that game, it was discovered that Brady had suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Chiefs.

Everyone in the bar began to cheer wildly. Yes, some of those cheers came from pure hatred of the man. But I truly believe most of them came from a place of relief.

The fans knew what that meant. The Steelers not only defeated the Patriots at Gillette Stadium later that year, they went on to win the Super Bowl.


I doubt it.

Podcast: The Steelers are under the cap, but can they make any moves?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 7:51am

In the latest BTSC podcast, our Steelers ‘Stat Geek’ breaks down the numbers surrounding the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over, and the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Stat Geek. On this show deputy editor Dave Schofield and his brother Rich break down all things Steelers stats, and also answers questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers are under the cap, but can they make any moves?
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • Close look at the Steelers’ goals for 2020
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

The Stat Geek Q&A which will publish at 1:00 p.m. ET audio below:

Steelers 2020 Free Agent Tracker: Who is coming and going

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 6:02am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Stay up to date with all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 free agents. Who is staying, and who is going...

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and the rest of the NFL, are awaiting the new league year to begin and the start of free agency. The Steelers have a slew of free agents set to hit the open market, and plenty of others who remain in the Steelers’ control as either Restricted Free Agents or Exclusive Rights Free Agents.

Check the full lists below, and be sure to check back with the tracker as the Steelers might sign their own players before free agency officially begins, rumors swirl of potential targets and of course any outside players who join the team.

Steelers Free Agents Unrestricted Free Agents

G B.J. Finney - Signed 2-year deal with the Seahawks
CB Artie Burns
ILB Ryan Shazier - Placed on the Reserve/Retired List
OLB Bud Dupree - Designated with the franchise tag
FS Sean Davis
DT Javon Hargrave - Signed with the Philadelphia Eagles
TE Nick Vannett
DT L.T. Walton
ILB Tyler Matakevich - Signed with the Buffalo Bills

Restricted Free Agents

RT Matt Feiler - 2nd Round tender placed on him
CB Mike Hilton - 2nd Round tender placed on him
LS Kameron Canaday - Signed to 2-year contract
FS Jordan Dangerfield
T Zach Banner - Signed 1-year contract

Exclusive Rights Free Agents

S Marcus Allen - Reportedly signed one-year tender
DE Lavon Hooks
OLB Tuzar Skipper - Signed to 2-year contract
C J.C. Hassenauer

Steelers Free Agent Rumors

Steelers reportedly set to sign FB Derek Watt to 3-year deal

Steelers Outside Free Agent Signings

** New league year begins on the 18th, when moves will be made official

Black and Gold Links: The Steelers ILB position is extremely thin heading into the new league year

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 03/18/2020 - 4:30am
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker position is extremely thin heading into the new league year.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers released Mark Barron, and now they lost Tyler Matakevich to free agency. Needless to say, the ILB position is thin heading into free agency.

Steelers LB Tyler Matakevich signs 2-year deal with Bills

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to replace one of their top special teams players for the 2020 season.

Linebacker Tyler Matakevich signed a two-year contract with the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday. The deal reportedly is worth up to $9 million.

The contract was too good to pass up for Matakevich, who made a combined $2.4 million over his four years with the Steelers.

In that span, Matakevich emerged as one of the top special teams players in the NFL.

Matakevich led the Steelers with 14 special teams tackles in 2019. In four seasons, he played in 63 games and had 61 tackles.

The loss of Matakevich is the third at the linebacker position in two days. The Steelers released inside linebacker Mark Barron and outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo on Monday.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Are the Steelers looking up at the Browns and Ravens after the first wave of free agency?

Tim Benz: Browns, Ravens improve as Steelers crawl to cap compliance

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

We’re used to seeing it.

On Day 1 of the NFL’s 2020 free agency period, the rest of the league took a headfirst dive into the deep end of the pool.

Meanwhile, the Steelers are simply in a doggy paddle toward cap compliance.

That’s the case every year, right?

But for some reason, the gap feels wider this season. Maybe it’s because the Steelers have missed the playoffs two years in a row and there are so many needs to fill.

Maybe it’s because the league is just coming out of a collective bargaining agreement with a salary cap of nearly $200 million.

Maybe it’s because we are all in coronavirus jail and we don’t have “March Madness” or a Penguins playoff push to distract us.

This year, though — more than most — it feels like the Steelers are playing catch up against their own budget while other clubs are improving.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Important offseason changes for the NFL.

NFL & NFLPA announce offseason changes

By: NFL News,

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today announced that, following discussions with NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and consultations between the medical teams for the NFL and NFLPA, and based on coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance from public health officials, NFL clubs will delay indefinitely the start of their off-season programs. In addition, special procedures will be in place for the start of the new League Year until further notice.

Off-Season Programs

The parties will continue to follow the guidance of medical and public health professionals, including their respective medical advisors. As a result, Off-Season Team Activities will not commence on April 6 for teams with new head coaches and April 20 for all other clubs. The parties will periodically meet and reassess the public health situation to determine an appropriate start date for any offseason team activities and other related considerations as this situation develops....

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Well, now Derek’s headed to the Steelers to join TJ.

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Report: Steelers expected to place a 2nd round tender on CB Mike Hilton and Matt Feiler

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 03/17/2020 - 8:47pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have two restricted free agents to worry about, and they are planning on placing the highest tender on at least one of them.

The new league year for the NFL begins on March 18th, and teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plenty of work to do to be in compliance with the salary cap before the new league year begins.

One of the items on the Steelers’ long to-do list is to figure out how to handle the team’s Restricted Free Agents (RFA). What makes an RFA different from an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA)?

Let us explain...

Restricted free agent (RFA): A player with three accrued seasons and an expired contract. RFAs are free to negotiate and sign with any team, but their original team can offer them one of various qualifying offers (“tenders”) that come with the Right of First Refusal and/or draft-pick compensation. These amounts change by a minimum of 5 percent and a maximum of 10 percent (based on the salary cap) each League Year. Tenders are classified as follows:

First-round tender: If the player’s original team decides not to match an offer sheet signed with another team, it is entitled to a first-round draft pick from his new team.

Second-round tender: If the player’s original team decides not to match an offer sheet signed with another team, it is entitled to a second-round pick from his new team.

Original-round tender: If the player’s original team decides not to match an offer sheet signed with another team, it is entitled to a pick in the round the player was originally drafted in.

Right-of-first-refusal tender: Team has the right to match any offer sheet signed with another team, but there is no draft compensation tied to this tender.

The Steelers have decisions to make on two players who are RFAs, Mike Hilton and Matt Feiler. Both are considered starters, and valuable members of the team, so a tender is expected for both players.

As for Hilton, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the team plans on placing a second round tender on Hilton.

Steelers’ CB Mike Hilton will receive a 2nd-round tender, per @RosenhausSports.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 18, 2020

If this does come to fruition for the former Ole Miss defensive back, it would mean a hefty pay raise for Hilton. With a second round tender, players are expected to make roughly $3.27 million for the year of service. Quite the pay day for Hilton.

This is a great situation for both player and organization. If another team wants to give Hilton a big money deal, the Steelers will be awarded a second round pick. And when you have a team with such little draft capital, it would be a welcome addition to their overall draft haul. Of course, the Steelers could match the contract offer and avoid the pick altogether.

If not team comes calling, the Steelers keep Hilton in the fold for what they hope for is a memorable 2020 run at a title.

Hilton seems to be locked up for now, but that still leaves Feiler. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for Free Agency, and the 2020 NFL Draft in just over a month.


The Steelers are now planning on placing a 2nd round tender on Matt Feiler as well. Seems they have their RFAs locked up just in time.

#Steelers giving starting T Matt Feiler a second-round tender as a restricted free agent

— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 18, 2020

B.J. Finney signs with the Seattle Seahawks, as the Steelers’ line depth dwindles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 03/17/2020 - 8:23pm
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost another lineman on Tuesday, one with tremendous versatility.

The Pittsburgh Steelers might have wanted to keep B.J. Finney around, but if they did they certainly didn’t offer him a fair deal. How do I know this? Because Finney signed a two-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks for just $8 million dollars.

This per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network:

The #Seahawks are signing former #Steelers OL B.J. Finney to a two-year, $8 million deal, source said. Versatile interior player who has 13 career starts.

— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 18, 2020

The Steelers decided to bring in a fullback, a position which isn’t utilized much in the Steelers’ offense, rather than keep a lineman who doesn’t just know the offense but possesses a ridiculous amount of versatility. Finney’s ability to play guard and center make him extremely valuable to an offensive line, especially after the Steelers saw Ramon Foster retire just a day ago.

While Derek Watt will be a special teams demon for the black-and-gold, you have to wonder what the team’s plan is along the offensive line. Zach Banner signed a one-year contract to remain with the Steelers next year, but is it safe to assume the team is preparing to move Matt Feiler, who was their highest graded lineman last year and has yet to receive a tender, to guard and let Chukwuma Okorafor and Banner battle it out at right tackle?

Steelers fans were okay with losing Finney, but when they see the Seahawks grabbed him for just $4 million a year it makes it a tough pill to swallow. On the bright side, the Steelers lose another free agent, which could help them when compensatory draft picks are handed out after the 2020 season.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year and the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.


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