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Kevin Colbert outlines the Steelers’ thoughts on trading down in the NFL draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 6:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers GM outlined the scenario in which the Steelers would trade down in the 2021 NFL Draft.

In the Steelers press conference Monday General Manager Kevin Colbert was asked about trading back, and if it is important to stay in the first round in such a scenario.

Hear what he had to say about this very subject in the video below:

GM Kevin Colbert on trading picks: pic.twitter.com/lxd6KE4PRK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 26, 2021

The key part is at the end of that clip.

I never like to walk away from a pick without having — say if we’re trading back five spots, I want five players that we would be comfortable in taking so we can’t lose. That’s the way we’ve always approached that.

So, for the Steelers to be willing to trade back any number of spots, they need to have as many players on their list that they would be willing to take as spots they trade back.

That’s bad news for anyone thinking the Steelers could trade back into the middle, or late second round. In this scenario, the Steelers would need to be looking at their board and see close to 20 or more players left they would take with the 24th pick to be willing to trade back that far.

Even a trade back to the early second round would be tough to pull off. Say the Jacksonville Jaguars really want to make three picks on Thursday and offer to trade the Steelers the 33rd pick for the 24th. For Kevin Colbert’s requirement to be met, the Steelers would need to have 10 players left on their board that they would be willing to take with that 24th pick.

You can see why trading back in the NFL draft isn’t something the Steelers have done many times under Colbert. They are much more likely to trade up to grab a player they want compared to trading back hoping to still get a guy they want. With good draft depth at so many positions of need for the Steelers, trading back has been a popular idea among the fan base, especially in mock drafts. And while it may seem like a tall order to fill for a trade back in the first round, it isn’t out of the question. As Colbert said:

We’re always going to value quality over quantity, but if we’re not comfortable with what we’re looking at at the 24th pick, we’ll trade back. . . But trading back, I want to make sure that we can’t lose if we do it.

Now Steelers fans know the formula Colbert and the Steelers use to make that choice. Maybe we should require any mock draft with a trade back to provide their list of players that they would be willing to take to support their trade back.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: One last look at the Steelers’ big board

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 4:30am

In the latest podcast on the BTSC family of podcasts, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers and their draft plan for 2021.

The Steelers are only days away from bring on the clock. How does the big board in the Burgh look right now and will it change? Join BTSC Deputy Editor Michael Beck on the latest edition of The Live Mike as he helps Steeler Nation navigate through the 2021 offseason.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The Steelers big board days before the draft
  • and MUCH MORE!

Michael Beck of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Men of Steel.

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

BTSC’s Steelers Live 2021 Chat Room Mock Draft Order

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 4:30pm
Photo by Aubrey Lao/Getty Images

The draft order for BTSC’s live chat room mock draft on The Steelers Hangover has been selected. Check it out.

Finally, the 2021 NFL Draft is only days away. As always, there is plenty of excitement in Steeler Nation for the first round.

Three days before the actual general managers choose, the knowledgeable BTSC chat room family willl get a chance to pick their players on an episode of The Steelers Hangover with Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo on Monday at 8 PM.

Here is a rundown if which BTSC live chatters will be imagination employed for one hour by NFL teams.

Check out the live draft order below.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars - BTSC Staff Pick
  2. New York Jets - Snowman
  3. San Francisco 49ers (From Miami via Houston) - Chad Dobbs
  4. Atlanta Falcons - Terry Bittinger
  5. Cincinnati Bengals - Mike Smith
  6. Miami Dolphins (From Philadelphia) - Stacy Lynn
  7. Detroit Lions - Guyro
  8. Carolina Panthers - Bat Itch
  9. Denver Broncos - Jeff Lauderdale
  10. Dallas Cowboys - JustLivingLife97
  11. New York Giants - Janer Antonio Cabeza Manrique
  12. Philadelphia Eagles - (From Miami via San Francisco) - Cree Ickes
  13. Los Angeles Chargers - Russ Obenstine
  14. Minnesota Vikings - Sean Manahan
  15. New England Patriots - Solarverse 6
  16. Arizona Cardinals - Davis Briggs
  17. Las Vegas Raiders - TateBoyz
  18. Miami Dolphins - Matt Smith
  19. Washington Football Team - Ken McNair
  20. Chicago Bears - Jerry Cherry
  21. Indianapolis Colts - Percy Foreman
  22. Tennessee Titans - Tyler W.
  23. New York Jets - (From Seattle) - Matt Stofko
  24. Pittsburgh Steelers - Jonas Wedlich
  25. Jacksonville Jaguars - (From Los Angeles Rams)
  26. Cleveland Browns - Todd Feighery
  27. Baltimore Ravens - Asiatic Noble
  28. New Orleans Saints - Tyler Jacobs
  29. Green Bay Packers - Kobie Picaux
  30. Buffalo Bills - Zach Farnsworth
  31. Kansas City Chiefs - Drew Wood
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Donald Nolan

Wait List

  1. R Jeffords

Check out the Steelers live chat room mock draft from BTSC on The Steelers Hangover. See you then!

What are the Steelers’ options to replace Mike Hilton at Nickel?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 2:30pm
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The answer at nickel corner probably isn't already on the Steelers roster

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team with a decent amount of work to be done before the players are back on the field. In all likelihood this extends past the 2021 NFL Draft and into the second wave of free agency. One of the position the Steelers need to fill is their nickel corner position. Players like Cameron Sutton and James Pierre are already on the roster, but both play better as an outside corner. I suspect the Steelers will be looking outside of the roster to fill this position and that player could come from either the draft, or from the league’s free agent pool.

But what are the names to look out for and who will be Mike Hilton’s successor in the slot? Below are some names of the top candidates for the job.

Brian Poole Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Poole is a player that has seen a number of ups and downs in his NFL career. Most recently he's been a solid member of the New York Jets secondary. Poole’s 2020 season was shut down in Week 9 following shoulder and knee injuries. In those games Poole picked up a pair of picks and a sack.

Nickell Robey-Coleman Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Robey-Coleman is a very similar player to Mike Hilton, he’s a willing tackler can come down on the blitz and can snag the occasional interception. After bouncing around Los Angeles and Philadelphia Robey-Coleman could use a long term spot. Pittsburgh can offer him that and a role he would be successful in.

Casey Hayward Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Hayward is more of long shot amongst the free agents. He can play every corner position on the field and can help compliment the Steelers current group. Hayward isn't the kind of player to fill Mike Hilton’s role, he isn't the most physical but in a traditional coverage type slot role, Hayward would find success.

Elijah Molden

Molden is the best pure nickel corner in the draft. A big time tackler while also stacking up interceptions during his time in Washington. Molden has NFL bloodlines, his father Alex Molden was a New Orleans Saints first round pick in 1996 and played eight years in the league. Being a slot corner means Molden won't be an early draft pick and the Steelers could find value in the Huskies prospect in the middle rounds.

Shaun Wade Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Wade’s value has fallen over the past two seasons at Ohio State. Two years ago as a slot corner Wade was thought to be a first round prospect but opted to return to school and play on the outside. While Wade wasn't as successful in the outside role, he has the opportunity to move back inside at the next level.

But what do you think? Who will be the Steelers slot corner for the 2021 season? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Former Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert retires from the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 1:20pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The former Pittsburgh Steelers draft pick/offensive tackle has decided to call it a career after 10 seasons in the NFL.

Monday was a big day for the Pittsburgh Steelers with Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert meeting face-to-face with media to talk about the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. But there was other news, maybe not a significant, which took place later in the afternoon. Around 2 p.m. ET former Steelers tackle, and second round draft pick, Marcus Gilbert took to Twitter to announce his retirement from the National Football League.

See his post below:

Thank you for all of the support over the years. I can’t wait to share my next chapter of life with you all. pic.twitter.com/JjCQ4xGwgE

— Marcus Gilbert (@MarcusGilbert88) April 26, 2021

In Gilbert’s message he was sure to thank the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, the Rooney family, Kevin Colbert, former offensive line coach Sean Kugler and, of course, Mike Tomlin.

Drafted in the second round for the Steelers in the 2011 NFL Draft out of the University of Florida, Gilbert played every game of his NFL career in Pittsburgh. Between 88 regular season games and eight postseason games, the only game in which Gilbert played but did not start was in Week 16 of his rookie season.

Gilbert won the Steelers Rookie of the Year award in 2011 after starting 13 games. Winning the starting right tackle job in 2012, Gilbert only appeared in five games before suffering an injury and was lost for the season.

Ultimately, it was Gilbert’s injuries which defined the later portion of his career, as he only appeared in seven games in 2017 and five in 2018. Replaced by Matt Feiler, Gilbert became expendable in the offseason and was traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a 2019 sixth-round pick.

Although with the Cardinals since 2019, Gilbert did not appear in a regular-season game for Arizona. Gilbert missed all of the 2019 season with a knee injury and opted out of the 2020 NFL season.

Gilbert was a tremendous draft pick and player for the Steelers, when he was healthy, and it is wroth looking back on a stellar career. We here at BTSC wish Gilbert nothing but the best in his future endeavors. As Chuck Noll once told his players, “It’s time to move on to your life’s work.”

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and note surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

Mike Tomlin sheds some light on the Steelers’ tackle position for 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Although the statement came with more disclaimers than the original words, there was still something to be taken from what was said.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert held their annual pre-draft press conference on Monday. Being the first time they have spoken since January, the biggest topics revolved around the upcoming 2021 NFL draft. But not everything had to do with draft questions.

One interesting question was asking Coach Tomlin specifically who his starters are at this time at both the left tackle position and the right cornerback position. Since many following the Steelers closely had a good indication that Cam Sutton was going to be the first person called upon when the Steelers get on the field together later this year, the question about left tackle was most intriguing.

There was some speculation about Zach Banner making the move to the left side based on some earlier comments by Coach Tomlin. On the other hand, some believe Chuks Okorafor, who started 15 games in the regular season plus one in the playoffs after the injury to Banner, is better suited for the left side and the Steelers should keep Banner at right tackle.

Getting an idea of what the Steelers are thinking during the offseason is an interesting step in figuring out how the Steelers changing offensive line is going to fit together. But before answering the question, Tomlin gave a big disclaimer about putting too much stock in depth charts in April.

“Depth charts this time of year are funny,” Tomlin stated after he chuckled at the question. “They don’t mean anything. They’re not worth the paper, they’re written on.”

After setting up the notion that people should not be reading too much into his answer, Tomlin did name names in order to answer the question of who would start off as the starting left tackle and right corner back.

“Chuks (Okorafor) will be the guy that’s probably penciled in in late April at left tackle and Cam Sutton will get first opportunity and right corner.”

Before diving into Tomlin’s answer, he did follow up his quote to complete the ‘name sandwich’ by adding his second slice of ‘disclaimer’ bread.

“But it means absolutely nothing. And quote me on that.”

Based on Tomlin’s answer, what this doesn’t tell us is who will be the starting left tackle for the Steelers this fall. It could be Okorafor. It could also be another lineman currently on the roster. Of course, it could also be a 2021 NFL draft pick.

What Tomlin’s answer does tell us is that, at this moment, the Steeler see Okorafor more at left tackle and Banner more at right tackle than the opposite scenario.

The reason we can draw this conclusion is because those are the two players that sit on the top of the tackle depth chart at this time. If one player is it one position, it’s natural to believe the other player would be penciled in at the other position.

The Steelers did also add free agent swing tackle Joe Haeg from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. Coming in from another organization, it is doubtful the Steelers would pencil Haeg in at a starting position before things get rolling when they actually have two other players they are familiar with to step into the huddle for the first time. But this obviously does not mean that Haeg will not get his chance to earn a spot in the Steelers starting lineup as well.

The last thing Steelers fan should do is read too much into Tonlin’s answer as he spent plenty of time telling us why we shouldn’t. But knowing the options right now were pretty much Zach Banner and Chuks Okorafor, Tomlin went with Chuks at left tackle which would allow all those keeping track to pencil in Banner on the right side to start for the offseason depth chart.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, contract statuses, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for this week’s 2021 NFL draft.

Kevin Colbert outlines the Steelers’ “wide open” plans for the 2021 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 11:15am
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2021 NFL Draft Thursday, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin met with the media to talk about the team’s approach to the three-day event.

The 2021 NFL Draft is just days away, and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ global fan base is wondering what the team has up their sleeves for the first round. Picking 24th overall is always conducive to drafting a big name player, but the team is likely to have a number of options available when it is their turn to pick.

At Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin’s annual NFL Draft press conference, which was in person, the two figure heads of the Steelers organization talked about everything under the sun as it pertains to the upcoming draft.

Unprompted, Kevin Colbert talked about how thanks to the Steelers being able to retain many of their own free agents, the teams is “wide open” heading into the draft Thursday. In other words, they are not locking in at any one position, rather they can sit back and watch to see how the draft unfolds before making their pick.

This would fall right into the Best Player Available (BPA) approach to the draft which many tout while others bemoan. Nonetheless, for the fans out there who want to the team to trade up, Colbert said that is “very doubtful”, citing the team wanting to keep as many of their top draft picks as possible, seeing the value in those picks.

As Colbert continued to break down the upcoming draft, both the good and the bad, he tiered the prospects by position. He labeled the depth as good, bad and not-so-good. Here are the positional breakdowns, per Colbert himself:

Good Depth: Offensive Line, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Inside Linebacker, Outside Linebacker, Cornerback

Okay Depth: Tight End, Safety, Quarterback

Not-so-good Depth: Defensive Line

When it comes to Colbert’s comments on specific positions, he was asked about several. The two which stood out the most might be the two positions the fan base has been concerning themselves with since the Steelers’ 2020 season ended.

Colbert talked about how the organization is not against drafting a running back in the first round, well aware of the narrative of doing such a thing, and he talked about how you can never underestimate the value of a quality player, regardless of position.

The other position which was isolated was the center position. Colbert said the group as a whole is unusually deep, and there are several starter-capable players, which, again, is unusual for centers entering the professional ranks.

At the end of the day you can take all that was said by both Tomlin and Colbert with a giant grain of salt. They, like all of you reading this article, have no clue what is going to go down Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the 7 round selection process. But with the Steelers approaching being “wide open” you can expect nothing less than the unexpected.

Should make for great television.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: It’s so hard to say goodbye to Steelers yesterday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 11:06am

With the Steelers now in their off-season, it’s time to bring back an old favorite as we look back at Steeler tales from yesterday and today surrounding the black-and-gold.

Join Bryan Anthony Davis from Behind The Steel Curtain. This leads to the topic of the latest episode of the most unique member of BTSC’s family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Watching beloved players leave

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1

Part 2

The Steelers’ 2021 draft class will cost less than $2 million against the salary cap

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

As larger numbers make up the end of the top 51 salaries, the Steelers draft picks will count less against the cap when factoring roster displacement.

The 2021 NFL draft at all but upon us. Leading up to the draft, the Steelers have continued to build their offseason roster in an attempt to put them in the best position both for the draft and the upcoming season. Having to navigate a lower the salary cap has been tricky, but the Steelers have managed to have the space in order to make the moves they have deemed necessary.

The Steelers currently have 75 players under contract for the 2021 offseason. With the limit being 90 players, the Steelers have the room to add their eight scheduled draft picks as well as additional undrafted free agents. Chances are, the Steelers will be adding more than 15 players over the next week, therefore adjustments to the offseason roster will happen as players sign their contracts.

As reported on Sunday, the Steelers have just over $11 million in salary cap space with all 75 players under contract.

While the Steelers will be shelling out money with contracts to their 2021 rookies, what is more important is how much they will count towards the salary cap. And although the draft picks alone will cost more than $8 million in salary, they are only slated to cost $2.75 million towards the salary cap according to overthecap.com. The reason for this is roster displacement.

In the offseason, only the top 51 salaries count towards a team’s salary cap. This is in order to keep an even balance across the NFL as teams carry a different amount of players at any given time. Because of this, any new contract only affects the salary cap if it lands in the top 51 salaries of a team. When it does, the entire cap hit doesn’t change the number because of the player knocked out of the top 51.

Here is how I explain roster displacement in my various salary cap articles:

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

As the Steelers have continued to sign players to the roster, the salaries falling right at the top 51 cut off have been increasing as other players are moved farther down the list. When OTC estimates how much a draft class will cost against the cap, they are assuming that every salary they displace is the league minimum of $660k. But for the Steelers, they have already been displacing salaries at a higher amount out of the top 51.

To get a better picture of all this, here are the salary cap numbers of every player the Steelers are scheduled to draft in 2021 according to overthecap.com. These numbers are set by the Collective Bargaining Agreement before these players are even selected.

Pick 24 (1): $2,372,268
Pick 55 (2): $1,096,034
Pick 87 (3): $886,502
Pick 128 (4): $834,476
Pick 140 (4): $784,836
Pick 216 (6): $696,644
Pick 245 (7): $683,610
Pick 254 (7): $680,183

Total: $8,034,553

As you can see, this number could fluctuate if the Steelers do any trading during the draft. For now, everything is based on the Steelers scheduled picks.

The other item of note is determining how many of these salaries will actually fall in the top 51 since the Steelers are already displacing higher salaries than normal. Here are the current bottom five salary cap numbers (47-51) that are counting towards the Pittsburgh Steelers:

47. $850,000
48. $850,000
49. $803,376
50. $783,000
51. $780,000

Based on this information, only the top three draft picks by the Steelers in 2021 will land in the top 51 at this time. Because of this, the amount the Steelers draft class will change the Steelers current salary cap situation is as follows:

First 3 draft picks salaries: $4,354,804
Bottom 3 salaries displaced: $2,366,376

Difference (amount against the cap): $1,988,428

Additionally, the likelihood of any undrafted free agent cracking the top 51 is basically zero. While the Steelers are free to pay these players whatever they negotiate, do you see them paying a player that goes undrafted more than they did their own fourth-round draft picks? I don’t either, so I feel it’s safe to say the signings won’t affect the salary cap until the season rolls around.

With this said, the Steelers should still have around $9 million in salary cap space following the signing of the draft picks. While it’s nice to have some space to continue to do business, the Steelers will also need additional salary cap money come September. I explain the other costs in the following way in my salary cap updates:

Also, the Steelers will need as much as an additional $10 million (a very high estimate, with $7 million coming in on the low end) come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year.

With some the Steelers draft choices not falling in the top 51, and with players who were on the roster last season also not above the cutoff, if these players make the team over players who are currently in the top 51 salaries, the difference in their salaries will act as cap savings come September when the Steelers trim down their roster to 53 players. Of course, there will also be two additional salaries which will have to be taken into account.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 salary cap is an ever-changing thing. There are ways that the Steelers have worked around it, and there are still some contract moves they could make to free up some cap space if absolutely needed. But having an entire draft class add less than $2 million to the salary cap during the offseason is quite helpful in the only year the salary cap has gone down across the NFL.

Mock Draft Monday: The Steelers get a top offensive tackle with their first pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In the latest mock draft, the Steelers get one of the top 3 offensive tackles falling to them in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.

The 2021 NFL draft is now only three days away, signifying the final Mock Draft Monday of the 2021 NFL offseason. With all attention on the upcoming NFL draft, the Steelers will have a lot of different draft scenarios which could shake out before making their first draft selection. Because the NFL combine was not held, pro days were the best option to get player information. With all of these pro days concluded, it’s still difficult to gauge which players will move up draft boards while others fall.

When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. There are some who would like to see the Steelers go with either offensive line or running back with their first-round pick. Others feel other positions such as linebacker could be on top of the list. With the Steelers having shaped their roster to prepare for the draft, their goal is usually to get in a position to draft the best player available rather than target a specific position. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.

Being the final of 15 Mock Draft Mondays, it was nice to find a mock where the Steelers were able to get a quality player we had yet to cover. In the latest mock draft by CBSSports.com, they have the Steelers having the opporunity to land one of the top offensive tackles in this year’s draf. It should also be noted this particular mock also had the Steelers selecting center Creed Humphrey in the second round. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first selection, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets.

It should be noted that even though this particular mock was published on Friday afternoon, it did not yet reflect the trade between the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens.

Check out the Steelers 24th pick:

24. Pittsburgh Steelers | Christian Darrisaw| OT | Virginia Tech | SR |

Even though the draft process has been going on for a while, there may be players some fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Darrisaw according to thedraftnetwork.com:

Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw earned the opportunity to start for the Hokies as a true freshman and did nothing but improve for three seasons, developing into a dominant blocker in 2020. From a size, length, and mobility standpoint, Darrisaw firmly checks the boxes and should immediately become an asset to an NFL franchise in pass protection, outside zone runs, and utilizing his exceptional ability to pull and connect with moving targets in space. Like most young offensive linemen, Darrisaw has room to add functional strength to improve his overall power at the point of attack, but it’s far from a deficiency that is of major concern. The amount of technical growth Darrisaw has demonstrated throughout the course of his career is exciting when considering his starting point for the next level and how he peaked at the perfect time. It shouldn’t take long for Darrisaw to earn a starting role in the NFL and he has the upside to become a standout, franchise left tackle.

Ideal Role: Starting left tackle

Scheme Fit: Zone run scheme

For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Darrisaw with their first pick? Or do you feel the Steelers should look at a different offensive tackle, either in Round 1 or later on in the draft? Personally, this would be a perfect scenario of the Steelers taking the best player available at a position of need. While needs at running back or center may be more pressing, passing up the chance to draft Darrisaw at 24 would be highly questionable. I doubt the Steelers are planning on Darrisaw being available, but would welcome the chance to put him in Black & Gold. I think it would be a lot like a David Decastro situation in 2012 where he wasn’t projected to the Steelers because it was assumed he would be gone. But someone is going to have to still be there at 24, and if it’s Darrisaw then the Steelers would be getting a steal.

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

Steelers Draft Fits: The great RB debate of 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Looking at the top three running backs in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

This is the fourth installment in a series where Geoff and Kevin examine the 2021 NFL draft fits for the Steelers on offense. Previously, they’ve covered tight ends, quarterbacks and centers. Here, they look at what may be most intriguing position group of the draft for Pittsburgh: running backs.

Most fans are aware the Steelers lack a true number one back. They cannot head to September with a running back room comprised of Benny Snell Jr, Jaylen Samuels, Kalen Ballage and Anthony McFarland. Surely they will select one in next week’s draft.

The candidates seem to be divided into two tiers. The top tier consists of Najee Harris, Travis Etienne and Javonte Williams. That is the focus here. The second tier, while headlined by players like Trey Sermon and Kenneth Gainwell, essentially contains everyone else. That group will be the focus of a subsequent article.

Kevin: To get Harris, Etienne or Williams, the Steelers will likely need to spend their top pick at 1:24, something they have not done since 2008 when they took Rashard Mendenhall. So, Geoffrey, to begin — will the Steelers use their top pick on a running back, and if so, who do you prefer?

Geoffrey: I think it will be a running back or center, there’s just too much need at both positions to use the first round pick elsewhere. I would prefer a center, but if Najee Harris is there, I bet that is the pick. You brought up Mendenhall, what people forget is the offensive line fell apart after that draft pick, and Mendenhall was running behind one of the worst lines the Steelers have had. We have to hope a first round back in 2021 won’t face a similar situation.

Kevin: The Steelers didn’t really scout Mendenhall either. He fell and they took him because he fell. They didn’t think they’d have a shot at him. It’s hard to know how that affected their remaining draft philosophy that year.

As far as this year’s backs, I’ve been banging the drum for Etienne this off-season for two reasons. First, his home-run hitting ability would be a huge boon to the offense. The Steelers need a player who can score from anywhere on the field. Etienne is that guy. Second, I think Etienne is the back who would benefit Matt Canada the most. Canada could use him in myriad ways — as a runner, a receiver, a gadget guy. He could line Etienne up all over the formation, shift and motion the daylights out of teams, run his outside zone concepts and pair them with play-action, screens, counters and reverses. Anything to get Etienne the ball in space.

That said, I’m not opposed to the Steelers taking Williams, adding some butt-kickers up front and trying to run the ball down people’s throats. He was the hardest back to tackle in college football last season according to PFF. He’s a powerful runner with great balance who can excel in both gap and zone schemes. He reminds me a lot of Nick Chubb. Having a guy like Chubb in Pittsburgh would be a beautiful thing.

Harris is the hardest to evaluate for me. The Steelers seem high on him, if recent reports are to be believed. His combination of patience and power reminds me of Le’Veon Bell. But how much did Harris benefit from the rest of that offense at Alabama? He never saw a stacked box because of their perimeter talent and his offensive line was one of the best in the country. Harris was a stellar college running back and could be a great pro. He’s just harder to judge for me, given the circumstances under which he played.

Geoff: Etienne reminds me a good bit of Reggie Bush, in both good and bad ways. I don’t see Etienne as a runner who creates opportunity, but he gets a lot out of the opportunities he is given. Etienne is a guy that can take a well designed and executed play to the house, but he needs that support to succeed. If you just plug Etienne in where James Conner was in 2020, the results aren’t going to be great, and you wasted that pick. I can fully get behind Etienne in Matt Canada’s offense, because Canada could line him up at wing, run routes with him, make him an X factor that teams will struggle to account for. I just don’t see him succeeding as a full-time traditional tailback unless you give him a line like Willie Parker had.

I agree with you on Javonte Williams. I think there is very little question what you are getting out of him. I don’t have him in the same tier as Chubb, but I like him a lot.

Najee Harris doesn’t have that 2nd gear to run away from NFL linebackers like he did with so many college linebackers. He isn’t going to be the home run threat he was at Alabama if he’s in Pittsburgh. What Najee Harris brings is vision and tough, vertical running. Harris is one of the best at knowing when to turn upfield and take the yards you can get. There’s a lot of times James Conner missed those yards trying to go outside. Harris isn’t Le’Veon Bell, but he’s going to get similar results. Consistent but not explosive yards on the ground paired with good receiving ability.

I think it is also important with running backs to look at age and number of carries.

Najee Harris is 23, and had 718 touches in college.
Javonte Williams will be 21 for the draft and had 416 touches in college.
Travis Etienne is 22, and had 788 touches in college.

A boost to Javonte Williams here, with an NFL season’s worth of less wear on his body.

Ranking those three backs, my order would be:

  1. Javonte Williams
  2. Najee Harris
  3. Travis Etienne

How would you rank them Kevin?

Kevin: If this is really going to be Canada’s offense, and not some compromise where Ben Roethlisberger is still in charge but lets Canada add a few wrinkles, I’d prefer Etienne. While he’s not the three-down back Harris and Williams are, he’s the back who lets Canada get the most creative. I want a back who can stretch a defense horizontally and vertically and put them in a bind. We can find a good zone and gap runner easier than a home run threat.

If Harris and Williams were truly special backs, I’d be more excited about them. While I think they’re both very good, I don’t know if either is special. Etienne won’t provide the utilitarian value they do. But he’s the one who just might be special. He’s a bit of a gamble but I don’t think the Steelers are getting back on top by playing it safe. I’ll take Etienne and challenge Canada to maximize his abilities.

Geoff: Our biggest disagreement yet, will be interesting to see if the Steelers get the chance to pick one of these running backs over the others.

Your turn readers, if all three were available at pick #24, who would you want the Steelers to take?

Also look for part 2, coming soon, covering some of the mid-round backs the Steelers could draft if they don’t get one of these three.

2021 NFL Draft: BTSC Big Board, the Safeties

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 6:00am
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking and analyzing the top 23 safeties in the 2021 NFL Draft

We’ve finally reached the last positional installment of the BTSC Big Board, going over the top safeties in this year’s draft class. This won’t be the final edition of the board, as we still plan on releasing a top 100 as well as some content during the draft itself — but before we go on I’d like to thank Andrew Wilbar (steelerfan11), SNW, Itz JustNoah, and Necksnation for their work on the board. We wouldn’t have been able to profile the 288 players that we did without everyone’s incredible work.

You can check out the first eleven installments of the board here: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers (Part 1), Wide Receivers (Part 2), Tight Ends, Interior Offensive Line, Offensive Tackles, Interior Defensive Line, Outside Linebackers/EDGE, Inside Linebackers, and Cornerbacks.

And for the twelfth installment, let’s focus on the safety class of 2021.

It’s not particularly strong, lacking a true first round talent or much depth, but this shouldn’t affect the Steelers that much as they don’t need to draft a safety until the later rounds this year, if at all.

But despite not being that strong, there is more variety than usual in this year’s safety class. While prior drafts have been full of safeties with nearly identical skillsets, there’s an even mix of coverage safeties, box safeties, and everything in between this year, including some who are just solid all-around. There’s plenty with late-round grades who could be major steals, as well.

As always, the main rankings are steelerfan11’s, while the analysis is a collaborative effort. SNW’s consensus rankings are an average of where the prospects appeared on big boards (ranking all positions) from other draft websites to see where the prospects stack up elsewhere. The websites, in order, are CBS Sports, Drafttek, ESPN, Mock Draft Database, and Tankathon.

Let’s get to rankings:

1. Trevon Moehrig — #7, Jr, 6’2”, 202 lbs, — TCU
Mid 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 23 (25, 17, 15, 30, 28)
2020 season stats: Tackles 47, Sacks 0, Int 2, PD 11, FF 0, FR 0, (10 games)

steelerfan11: Moehrig is the best safety in this class, but not by much. He has some versatility, but he will most likely settle in as a free safety in the NFL. His physicality is what I like most about him. He does not shy away from contact and isn’t afraid to hit hard. He has solid ball skills and good instincts, but his tackling is inconsistent. It seems as if sometimes he will go for the big blow rather than simply wrapping up the ball carrier. Moehrig will likely be a starting free safety in the NFL, but I would not take him until day two.

Ryland B.: I actually like Moehrig more as a strong safety than a free safety — at least from what I’ve seen from him. His tackling isn’t the most consistent, but the energy and physical style of play he has are fantastic. Pair that with his good size and athleticism, you have a very good strong safety if you coach up his flaws. In coverage, Moehrig’s athleticism really shined, but he didn’t seem to have the greatest range or ball skills. Despite some issues, Moehrig has a ton of upside as an NFL safety, and I think he could definitely be a starter in the near future.

2. Richie Grant — #27, Sr, 6’0”, 199 lbs, — UCF
Mid 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 84 (NA, 28, 186, 56, 66)
2020 season stats: Tackles 72, Sacks 1, Int 3, PD 0, FF 2, FR 2, (9 games)

steelerfan11: Grant was only a two-star recruit coming out of high school, but he improved each season at UCF. His athleticism is solid but not elite; however, he is a smart player that has good ball awareness, decent instincts, and excellent versatility. He has a nose for the football and does a great job at creating turnovers. He is generally a solid tackler, but becoming more consistent in that area should be one of his goals in his development as a prospect. I expect him to be taken at some point in round 2.

Ryland B.: Grant is a top-tier coverage safety who really stood out in the Senior Bowl. He’s quick and instinctive in coverage with excellent ball skills. As a free safety his play recognition and range isn’t the greatest, but far from a concern. He isn’t the biggest, but still plays very physically and is a surprisingly good tackler. Grant projects best as a safety in the NFL, but he was fairly versatile in college, and I think that in the right scheme he could be a solid slot cornerback.

3. Jevon Holland — #8, Jr, 6’1”, 201 lbs, — Oregon
Late 2nd round grade
Consensus ranking: 57 (52, 59, 59, 54, 61)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 66, Sacks 0, Int 4, PD 4, FF 0, FR 0, (14 games)

Itz JustNoah: Holland is the perfect free safety prospect. He’s athletic, he plays fast, he’s a good open field tackler and his ball skills are phenomenal. His zone coverage is good and he seems to naturally gravitate towards the ball. His man coverage is average at best and his long speed is questionable, but those are the only major flaws in his skill set. I’ve seen some talk about him being a nickelback but I think it’s best for him to stay at safety. I think it goes without saying that Pittsburgh shouldn’t take him in the first round, but I think he could be a decent option at 55. Personally I’d rather wait until the 4th, at the earliest, considering any safety we select would be a backup.

steelerfan11: Holland has the best versatility of any safety in this class. He can play both safety spots as well as nickel cornerback, and I expect the team that drafts him to use him sporadically at each of those positions. Holland opted out of the 2020 season, but he was the leader of the Oregon defense in 2019, accounting for four interceptions and over sixty tackles. Holland has ideal speed and length to excel in man coverage, and he did exactly that in college. He has loose hips and moves fluidly when dropping into zone, but there are a few instances where he would drop too deep or not deep enough. He became much more consistent in 2019 in that department while still displaying his athletic traits and versatility. He was projected to be a top 15 pick before opting out, but his stock has fallen to a probable day two pick. He could be one of the true steals of the draft if he is still on the board after the top 50 picks.

4. Andre Cisco — #7, Jr, 6’0”, 209 lbs, — Syracuse
Late 3rd round grade
Consensus ranking: 59 (63, 44, 69, 59, 58)
2020 season stats: Tackles 11, Sacks 0, Int 1, PD 1, FF 0, FR 0, (2 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 65, Sacks 0, Int 5, PD 10, FF 1, FR 1, (9 games)

steelerfan11: If you want a guy who is going to create a lot of turnovers, Cisco is your guy. Cisco may be the best safety in the class when it comes to creating turnovers, as he recorded 13 interceptions in his collegiate career. Cisco also has good speed, which helps him cover a lot of ground in the secondary. Injuries are a concern, however, as he suffered a lower body injury during pregame warmups toward the beginning of the year. If he checks out medically, he may go higher than what we think he will. He has a chance to become a solid starting free safety very quickly.

Ryland B.: Cisco has some flaws in his game, but overall he’s a very good free safety prospect. He’s big and athletic, with some of the best ball skills and burst you’ll see out of any safety in this class — as evidenced by his insane interception numbers at Syracuse. But while Cisco is a defensive force in zone, in man coverage he’s more suspect. He’s fast but not particularly quick and got outmaneuvered on routes more often than I like to see. His boom or bust style of coverage led to some big plays being allowed as well. In run support, Cisco isn’t the greatest or most aggressive tackler. There’s some injury issues that will need to be addressed as well. I actually really like Cisco as a prospect, but there’s some big issues in his game that will need to be fixed for him to succeed in the NFL.

5. Talanoa Hufanga — #15, Jr, 6’1”, 215 lbs, — USC
Early 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 102 (NA, 74, NA, 130, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 62, Sacks 3, Int 4, PD 1, FF 2, FR 0, (6 games)

steelerfan11: A couple members of BTSC actually brought this guy to my attention, and his tape did not disappoint. When you throw out his testing numbers and look solely at the tape, you see a guy who looks like a young Troy Polomalu. His physical, downhill style of play is fun to watch, as he strikes fear into opposing ball carriers. He can also blitz, cover, and create turnovers all at high levels. This guy is a true playmaking strong safety, but he is not extremely fluid in coverage at this point. He is also not as fast as he looks. He ran a 4.61 at his pro day, but the rest of his testing was not terrible, recording a 36 inch vertical and 6.87 3-cone drill. If he falls to day three, some team may be getting a steal.

Ryland B.: When watching film on Marlon Tuipulotu for the defensive tackles board, I kept noticing a safety flying across the field play after play, involved in just about every tackle, prompting me to look up, “Who is #15 on USC?” Well, it turns out that #15 was Talanoa Hufanga — an athletic strong safety whose physical style of play and effort simply pops off the tape. He’s one of the best run-stoppers in this safety class and a willing and effective tackler, although he can take some bad angles and be overaggressive at times. In the passing game, he’s still rather raw, but has the athleticism to succeed while still having some success in college. If the Steelers had a mid-round pick to spend on a backup safety (they don’t), I’d want it to be for Talanoa Hufanga.

6. Hamsah Nasirildeen — #23, Sr, 6’4”, 220 lbs, — Florida State
Mid 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 71 (53, 64, NA, 81, 85)
2020 season stats: Tackles 13, Sacks 0, Int 1, PD 1, FF 0, FR 0, (2 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 101, Sacks 1, Int 2, PD 3, FF 3, FR 1, (12 games)

steelerfan11: Much like Diablo, Nasirildeen projects as a guy who can play both as a safety and as a subpackage linebacker. As pointed out by The Draft Network, Nasirildeen takes great tackling angles, which results in very few missed tackles. His length helps him close on defenders quickly and occasionally make plays on the ball. While Nasirildeen has solid speed and has good fluidity in coverage, he is still raw, and his instincts are still developing. He tore his ACL in 2019, and we have not seen very much of him since, but if he continues to develop in coverage and as a blitzer, he could be a potential pro-bowler down the line.

Ryland B.: Nasirildeen is certainly a “tweener” on defense, but it’s likely he’ll still find success in today’s NFL. He’s a big, athletic player who played everywhere from free safety to inside linebacker while at Florida State. What pops up first on tape is Nasirideen’s run-stopping ability. He’s good at diagnosing run plays and getting himself in position to make the hit, and when he does make contact he’s a very physical player. He doesn’t wrap up too well but it’s a fixable issue. And despite being a defensive back, he rarely looked outmatched when playing up near the line of scrimmage. In coverage, Nasirildeen is very athletic but not the most fluid mover, although it is impressive for someone of his size. He’s very effective against tight ends though, who I think he’ll be matched up against a lot in the NFL. Nasirildeen has a very interesting skillset, and if used correctly he could be a very successful defensive weapon in the NFL.

7. Divine Deablo — #17, Sr, 6’3”, 226 lbs, — Virginia Tech
Mid 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 146 (NA, 121, 160, 158, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 55, TFL 2, Int 4, PD , FF 1, (9 games)

steelerfan11: Deablo is a former wide receiver who has made a nice transition to defense. He proved his solid athleticism at his pro day, running a 4.42 in the 40 and doing 19 reps on the bench. He will make his mark on special teams early in his career, but he is not ready for a starting role on defense yet. He has the versatility to play as either a strong safety or a subpackage linebacker, but he is still fairly new to the defensive side of the ball and struggles to process information quickly. He has upside, but he is extremely raw and will need to be given time to develop.

Ryland B.: Deablo is another jumbo-sized safety prospect with the size and athletic ability to play all over the field. He’s a smart player and a good tackler, who hits hard and plays with good effort. In coverage he has good ball skills and overall athleticism, but isn’t the most fluid mover. He’ll be a good developmental mid-round pick.

8. Tariq Thompson — #14, Sr, 6’0”, 200 lbs, — San Diego State
Mid 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 177 (NA, 138, NA, 216, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 41, Sacks 0, Int 1, PD 4, FF 1, FR 1, (8 games)

steelerfan11: If you like versatility and physicality, this is your guy. When I watched San Diego State during the season, it seemed like Thompson was always making plays. He has the speed and fluidity to cover a lot of ground in the secondary, and he is not afraid to hit people. He has the ability to play nickel cornerback and either safety position, which would be a huge plus for the Steelers. Considering that depth is needed at safety and nickel corner, Thompson should definitely be on the Steelers’ radar. I think he will go in the fifth round range, but if he were to fall to round six, the Steelers should be elated. He would actually have a chance to capture Mike Hilton’s former role as the nickel cornerback in Keith Butler’s defense.

Ryland B.: Thompson is a versatile defensive back who spent time at safety and in the slot during his time at San Diego State. He isn’t the most athletic, but more than makes up for it with a physical style of play and excellent ball skills. He’s a willing run defender who is a solid tackler, and against the pass he’s aggressive and instinctive. His lower level of competition at SDSU could be a concern, but overall Thompson has starting upside as a situational defender, and the floor of a good special-teamer.

9. James Wiggins — #1, Sr, 6’0”, 205 lbs, — Cincinnati
Mid 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 225 (NA, 265, NA, 185, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 32, Sacks 1, Int 1, PD 7, FF 1, FR 0, (9 games)

steelerfan11: Wiggins is a gifted athlete who came up clutch for the Bearcats throughout his career. He lacks ideal awareness and anticipation at this point, but he can cover a lot of ground in coverage. When he recognizes the run, he does a good job of coming downhill and making a play. He just needs to react quicker. Wiggins has decent size and good speed, but he has had some knee injuries in the past that may cause concern for teams. Overall, I like Wiggins’ upside, and I think his instincts can improve in time, but the injury concerns are why I think he will slide to day three.

Ryland B.: If it wasn’t for the injury concerns, Wiggins would likely be ranked much higher in this class. He tore his ACL in 2019, and despite making a full recovery he suffered some more knee issues later on in the season. When healthy, Wiggins is an excellent athlete at the safety position who is quite the run defender. He tackles well and plays physically. Against the pass, Wiggins has great ball skills and hands, but isn’t the greatest as a free safety despite his athleticism. If injuries don’t derail Wiggins’ career, he has the makings of a quality safety in the NFL.

10. Tyrie Gillespie — #9, Sr, 6’0”, 210 lbs, — Missouri
Late 4th round grade
Consensus ranking: 182 (133, 204, 239, 152, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 46, TFL 1, Int 0, PD 4, FF 1, (9 games)

Ryland B.: Tyrie Gillespie is a smart, solid all-around safety who may not have much starter upside in the NFL, but will likely be competent depth. He doesn’t have any incredible athletic traits, but he’s more than adequate in that area. However, he’s a physical, strong tackler who is very reliable in run support. He also was tasked with single high safety duties at Missouri, which he was surprisingly solid at due to his high football IQ and instincts. Gillespie isn’t the flashiest safety in this class, but he has one of the highest floors.

steelerfan11: Gillespie is a solid athlete, but the tape is all over the place. He provides solid versatility, but I am not sure if he is good enough at any one position to be a full-time starter in the NFL. He played mostly as a high safety in college, but the results were up and down, and he would have occasional lapses in coverage. He also does not have the greatest ball skills. Gillespie is a good athlete, but I think he is most likely a #3 safety in the NFL.

11. Caden Sterns — #7, Jr, 6’1”, 207 lbs, — Texas
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 129 (147, 93, NA, 147, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 52, TFL 1.5, Int 1, PD 4, (7 games)

steelerfan11: Sterns has the speed, instincts, and fluidity to be a successful safety, but there are some noticeable flaws in his game. He plays the game with aggression, but that can be a double-edged sword. He is not afraid to make big hits, but he acts smaller than his size and occasionally struggles to make simple tackles. When he comes downhill to play the run, he struggles to get off blocks and make plays. He is also not a huge threat as a blitzer. I believe that Sterns has starter upside at either safety position, but I think his best shot is at free safety in a system that will gradually ease him into action.

12. Paris Ford — #12, Jr, 6’0”, 190 lbs, — Pittsburgh
Mid 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 92 (98, 82, 109, 83, 86)
2020 season stats: Tackles 45, Sacks 0, Int 3, PD 6, FF 0, FR 0, (7 games)

Itz JustNoah: Ford opted out after playing in only 7 games, and his stock fell heavily (his pro day did not help either). Despite testing poorly, his athleticism is apparent on tape. He plays fast, he hits hard and he can create turnovers. His coverage ability is alright but he is phenomenal inside the box and stuffing runs. Due to his poor pro day numbers and his average coverage ability, he is going to fit solely as a strong safety. Although I do think the he would do well on a team that knows how to use him as a hybrid linebacker/safety, similar to Jeremy Chinn. I like the idea of picking up Ford because depth at safety is definitely needed, but I doubt we can get him in the sixth, and the fourth might be a bit early depending on how the first 3 rounds go.

13. Richard LeCounte III — #2, Sr, 5’11”, 190 lbs, — Georgia
Late 5th round grade
Consensus ranking: 145 (177, 169, 83, 150, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 26, TFL 1, Int 3, PD 7, FR 1, (6 games)

steelerfan11: LeCounte’s pro day numbers will make you shy away from him, but he was the leader of a Georgia defense that will likely have six or seven players drafted this year. He is an excellent leader on the field and was nearly flawless in terms of communication. He ran a horrible 40 time at his pro day, but much like Paris Ford, some numbers are almost so bad to believe that you really can’t believe it. If you watch the tape, you would guess that he would run three-tenths of a second faster than he actually did. If he can prove that his athleticism is better than what he showed at his pro day, he could become a starting free safety down the line.

14. Ar’Darius Washington — #24, So, 5’8”, 178 lbs, — TCU
6th round grade
Consensus ranking: 104 (100, 118, NA, 100, 99)
2020 season stats: Tackles 37, Sacks 0, Int 0, PD 5, FF 0, FR 0, (10 games)

Ryland B.: I really liked this guy’s tape. He isn’t the greatest athlete but has very good game speed, and while he isn’t the biggest he has a physical style of play. As a tackler he’s very aggressive and comes downfield well, although his technique can be a little inconsistent. When playing deep, Washington is very disciplined, almost to a fault as I’d like to see him freelance a bit more, but overall he has solid range and is very fluid in coverage. He has great ball skills as well. Size and speed could be concerns, but otherwise I was very impressed with what I saw from Washington.

15. Quentin Lake — #37, Jr, 6’1”, 195 lbs, — UCLA
6th round grade
Consensus ranking: NA (NA, NA, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 33, Sacks 0, Int 1, PD 0, (5 games)

steelerfan11: The son of former Steelers defensive back Carnell Lake, Quentin is a good athlete who began to break out in the abbreviated 2020 PAC-12 season. He has good instincts and has good closing speed coming from the high safety position. His athleticism allows him to play nickel cornerback as well, and he has shown the ability to cover slot receivers one-on-one. He isn’t this big-hitting safety that is going to lower the boom on opposing receivers and running backs, but he is a consistent tackler who understands that it is wiser to make the sure tackle than to go for the highlight reel hit. Don’t let his late round grade fool you. He is going under the radar and will be an absolute steal if he makes it to round seven or undrafted free agency.

16. Damar Hamlin — #3, Sr, 6’1”, 195 lbs, — Pittsburgh
6th round grade
Consensus ranking: 165 (NA, 186, 110, 199, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 67, TFL 3.5, Int 2, PD 9, (10 games)

Itz JustNoah: Hamlin is one of the more underrated safeties in this draft. He’s very versatile, and has the skill set to be a strong safety or free safety. He’s got adequate size and length, he’s fast, plays with great instincts and he’s a very solid tackler. But he also provides good ball skills, racking up 5 interceptions and 26 pass breakups in the last 3 years. Personally, I think he would be great value, for any team, in the 5th or maybe late 4th but I doubt he goes earlier than the sixth round. I like the idea of taking him because we need the depth and he can give us that at both safety spots, but it’s just a question of if he’ll be there when we want to take a safety.

17. Jamar Johnson — #22, Jr, 6’1”, 197 lbs, — Indiana
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 178 (NA, 241, 192, 100, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 43, TFL 3.5, Sacks 1, Int 4, PD 8, FF 1, (8 games)

steelerfan11: Johnson is a physical safety who has tremendous ball skills and the knack for creating a turnover in the biggest moments. While he was able to hold his own in man coverage in college, I do not think that he has the speed to play in a man heavy scheme in the NFL. His best fit is in zone heavy schemes, but he still lacks fluidity. His hips are tight, and he does not move well laterally. Maybe I am underestimating Johnson’s potential, but I think that he is one of the more overrated safeties in this class.

18. Christian Uphoff — #24, Jr, 6’3”, 195 lbs, — Illinois State
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 277 (NA, 389, 229, 213, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 70, TFL 5.5, Int 2, PD 7, (15 games)

Ryland B.: Uphoff is a big, athletic safety who has had some success as a return man on special teams as well. He has a lot of upside, but is also technically sound for the most part, possessing good ball skills and range, while also being a sufficient run defender. Uphoff looked really good in college, but the big question is whether or not he can translate that success from the FCS to the NFL.

19. Joshua Bledsoe — #1, Sr, 6’0”, 200 lbs, — Missouri
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 238 (179, 331, 280, 163, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 41, Sacks 1, Int 1, PD 7, FF 1, FR 1, (10 games)

steelerfan11: Bledsoe is versatile and can play in almost any type of coverage, but he does not really excel in any single one. I like his ball skills, but he does not seem like a natural fit at safety. Although he made some big plays for Missouri, he just does not seem to be a perfect fit in any one spot. He is a solid run defender and is quick to recognize the run, but until he can improve in coverage, he is simply a project that will not likely be anything more than a backup at the NFL level.

20. Darrick Forrest — #5, Sr, 6’0”, 198 lbs, — Cincinnati
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 244 (NA, 277, NA, 216, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 40, TFL 1, Int 2, PD 3, (10 games)

Ryland B.: Forrest is a feisty defensive back who had a great year on a rising Cincinnati team last season. He’s fairly athletic, a fluid mover, and willing tackler. He played all over the field during his career, but I liked him most in a strong safety/box safety role, where his energy and physicality really stood out. He’s fine in coverage, but lacks the speed and quickness to be a true backstop against NFL receivers. Overall he’s a solid tackler, but he often looked like he was trying to make the big hit instead of wrapping up, which could be an issue in the NFL. Forrest has starting upside in the right scheme, but should offer the floor of a solid special teamer.

21. Lamont Wade — #38, Sr, 5’9”, 199 lbs, — Penn State
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 358 (NA, 362, NA, 353, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 37, Int 1, PD 3, FR 2, (9 games)

steelerfan11: Wade’s versatility makes him a worthwhile investment as a late-round pick, but it is unlikely he ever becomes a starter. His size could force him into a nickel role considering that he is only 5’9”. He is a quick, loose-hipped defender who can match up against agile slot receivers, but he will struggle to tackle bigger receivers and running backs in the open field. He is a threat as a blitzer from the slot, but his best value to a team will be his special teams abilities. That is where he will likely be used the most on the team that drafts him or signs him as an undrafted free agent.

22. Jamien Sherwood — #20, Jr, 6’2”, 220 lbs, — Auburn
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: NA (NA, NA, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 75, Sacks 1, Int 0, PD 3, FF 0, FR 2, (11 games)

Ryland B.: I see Sherwood as a sort of “Hamsah Nasirildeen lite” in the upcoming draft. The two are built very similarly and have a similar play style, but Nasirildeen is just more athletic. That isn’t to say Sherwood is a bad athlete, but he lacks the idea measurables of an NFL defensive back. However, his football IQ, tackling ability, and experience as a box safety at Auburn should help him make the transition into a subpackage linebacker at the NFL level.

23. Reed Blankenship — #12, Sr, 6’1”, 200 lbs, — Middle Tennessee State
7th round/UDFA grade
Consensus ranking: 106 (106, NA, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 76, TFL 1, PD 1, (9 games)

steelerfan11: Blankenship is a sound tackler and strong run defender, but he is not very good in man coverage. He is not extremely fast or agile, he lacks recovery speed. He did a solid job in zone coverage at Middle Tennessee, but he does not bring much in terms of creating turnovers. Blankenship is another guy who could become a nice depth piece but is probably best suited for special teams only.

Notable prospects who decided to return to school for 2021:

Clemson S Nolan Turner

Oklahoma State S Kolby Harvell-Peel

Miami S Bubba Bolden

Should the Steelers select a safety in the 2021 NFL Draft?

steelerfan11: Minkah Fitzpatrick is obviously one of the top young safeties in the game, and Terrell Edmunds continues to improve each year. The starters are set, but after losing Sean Davis in free agency, the Steelers lack depth at the position. I expect the Steelers to consider a safety on day three, but there are too many needs for the Steelers to address it any sooner. If Talanoa Hufanga falls to the fourth round, he would be difficult to pass on. He would provide solid depth behind Terrell Edmunds. If the Steelers go the route of a more versatile safety that can play nickel cornerback, I would love the thought of adding Tariq Thompson if he were to fall to the sixth round. Two names that may not excite you but could be day three steals are Richard LeCounte III and Paris Ford. Both of them had terrible pro days, but if you look simply at the tape, they are worthy of day two picks. Both of them are good leaders in the secondary and know how to create turnovers. The one that I find most intriguing, however, is Quentin Lake. The Steelers like players with NFL bloodlines, and with his father’s ties to the Steelers, he would make sense in the seventh round. I truly believe that if the PAC-12 had a full season, he would have crept into the middle rounds of the draft. He began to play really well this season, but because the season was shorter, it was a small sample size. If I am the GM, I am waiting until day three to take a safety and hoping that Tariq Thompson and Quentin Lake fall to the sixth or seventh round.

Ryland B.: With Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terell Edmunds entrenched as the Steelers starters in 2021, there’s no reason for the team to take a safety earlier than day 3. However, if you ask yourself the question of who would step in at free safety if Fitzpatrick went down, you can see why safety could still be considered a need for Pittsburgh. The starters are fine but the depth is incredibly lacking. While it isn’t a strong class by any means at the position, there are some intriguing late round options who the Steelers would be wise to consider in the final rounds.

This is a collaborative effort, and once again I’d like to thank the entire team that worked on the BTSC Big Board. Also, we’d like to thank the incredible community here at BTSC for the positive reception this board has received.

Stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for more content, including the rest of this big board, as we inch closer to the 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: Will the Steelers’ 2021 draft class be the difference between success and failure?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 04/26/2021 - 4:30am

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

It’s Draft Week. There are many a fan that feels that the 2021 player selection process is crucial, now more than ever. Will the Steelers’ 2021 draft class be the difference between success and failure? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Will the Steelers’ 2021 draft class be the difference between success and failure?
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Have a BAD week? A look back at the Steelers week from a black-and-gold mind

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/25/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

BTSC’s random thought renegade is back with his bizarre look at the Steelers week that was.

With Draft Week here, BTSC continues their recap of the past week’s events for our readers. But where they went wrong, was asking the one narcissistic writer that would put a bizarre spin on it to do it. So let’s all take a look at a BAD week in the Burgh together.

Monday

  • Ian Rappaport reported (or maybe rappaported) that Big Al Villanueva was visiting the Baltimore Ravens. Steelers Nation was incensed. Apparently, Alejandro should be okay with the fact that he’s unwanted by the Steelers and unemployed. I hope that the big LT signs to play in purple. No. 78 gave a lot to the Steelers fans over the years. He doesn’t have a job. If he has to play for a rival, that’s okay. But the best news is that Ian Rappaport claims this, therefore, it is unlikely to happen.
  • The Third Annual BTSC Contributor Draft on The Steelers Hangover took place. With Najee Harris and Travis Etienne off the board, I went with Javonte Williams. I was overruled and Tony Defeo, Geoffrey Benedict, Michael Beck, Mark Davison and I finally agreed to collectively select OT Teven Jenkins from Oklahoma State.

Tuesday

  • I stayed up all night worrying that the aforementioned Rappaport was going to block me from Twitter like he already has done to BTSC co-editor, the legendary Jeff Hartman.
  • Mike Tomlin was extended by the Steelers for three years. I’m definitely on board with this decision by the Steelers brass. but it means three more years that I can’t paint with a broad brush. Obviously.
  • Vince Williams contract terms were revealed. He is only counting $70K against the cap in 2021. For that kind of cash, the Steelers could go to Sam’s Club and get a 12-pack of VinnyVidiVicis.
  • The Penguins almost blew a six-point lead on Tuesday, but ended up with the victory. Has Mike Sullivan been taking lessons from the Steelers?
  • Famed songwriter Jim Steinman (Every Meatloaf song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, “Making Love out of Nothing At All”, ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”) passed away at the age of 73. Steinman is an all-time favorite of mine. Ironically, Tony Defeo and I recorded The Retro Show on Tuesday and mentioned the brilliance of Steinman, not knowing of his passing.

Wednesday

  • The NFL announced that it wouldn’t be sharing the 2021 schedule until May 12th. Because of Covid, they waited till later last year. But c’mon! This year they could have gotten back on schedule. In protest, I’m not sharing my mowing, bathroom and meal schedule with Roger Goodell till at least August.
  • The NFL is allowing certain position players to switch to single digit numbers, but linemen are excluded. I kind of wanted to see Chuks Okorafor wearing No. 2.
  • Antonio Brown is reportedly staying in Tampa Bay for another season. It has not been revealed whether or not AB will still be rooming with TB12 and Giselle.
  • Hines Ward took a post with Florida Atlantic University as an offensive assistant. First the Jets and now the Owls. Hold out hope Steelers fans. Maybe someday.

Thursday

  • The NFL informed teams that they can only bring in five-or-less players from minicamp tryouts. That means less chances for the next Tuzar Skipper and Duck Hodges.
  • A guy at Sheetz in my hometown won $440,000 in the lottery. It wasn’t me. I’m trying so hard right now not to channel my inner-Jeff Reed. Put let it be known paper towel dispensers, you are on notice.

Friday

  • Franco Harris is slated to announce a Steelers draft choice. It is going to be on the second night, so don’t get all excited that Harris will be announcing Harris. But I do hope that Franco roasts the Cleveland fans since the draft will be held in the mistake by the lake. He owned the Browns on the playing field for years, why stop now?
  • Justin Layne got pulled over for a number of infractions like driving 89 in a 60, marijuana and possession of a 9mm Glock and some other stuff like an outstanding warrant for traffic violations. Maybe Justin needs to slow down and stay in his own “layne”.
  • The Ravens traded Orlando Brown for a slew of picks. How do the Ravens continue to fleece teams. It’s like the sale of Manhattan for $24 all over again. Rumors are now swirling even more that Big Al Villanueva is joining the rat birds.

This was the significant week that was for the Steelers, mixed-in with my binge watching and black-and-gold loving life. I’m sure next week will be full of Steelers happenings as well, so we’ll have to do this again. Have a great week, but better yet have a BAD one.

Is Kwity Paye the EDGE pass rusher to alter the Steelers’ draft plans?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/25/2021 - 12:30pm
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For teams who are looking for an EDGE pass rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft, Kwity Paye might be a prospect to keep an eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a pass rusher in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current EDGE depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, but are there some prospects who are too good to pass up? There are a lot of talented players who could be available to the Steelers at in the mid-to-later rounds, and Kwity Paye certainly is a tough player to peg in regards to where he is expected to be taken in the upcoming draft.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a pass rusher to bolster their depth in 2021, and if Michigan’s Paye is available when the Steelers pick, is he an option?

I did some digging on Paye, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Paye. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Paye 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 league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Draft Profiles The Draft Network

Kwity Paye is an exciting prospect whose potential and physical ability is only now beginning to be realized on the gridiron. There’s an extremely high ceiling in Paye’s game thanks to his athletic abilities; if his NFL team is able to continue to draw fundamental improvements out of him to allow him to continue to simply react to discard or defeat blocks, he’ll be in line for plenty of explosive plays in opposing backfields. The steps Paye made in 2020 during the abbreviated season should only further fuel optimism that his development is still on an upward trajectory. Paye has won in the past most sufficiently from tight alignments and utilized his powerful hands and functional strength to diminish angles and find creases to press through and rally to the football. I do feel he’s a bit more of a linear athlete and his ability to collapse tackle sets with speed to power is going to shine more frequently than his reps when looking to crash off the edge and win with finesse. Paye has been forged by fire through a challenging upbringing as an immigrant and finds his “why” in taking care of his family — he’s internally driven and appears to be the kind of individual you want in your building to buy into the process. He’s a home run from an intangibles, effort and tools perspective but his scheme fit is an important accommodation to make for optimal success.

Ideal Role: Starting defensive end (hand in dirt)

Scheme Fit: Even front, single gap defense

Pro Football Network
  • Position: EDGE
  • School: Michigan
  • Year: Senior
  • Height: 6’2 2/4″
  • Weight: 261 pounds
  • Position: EDGE

Positives: Hard-working, relatively athletic defensive end who leads by example. Displays great explosion in his game, fires off the snap, and plays with excellent pad level, getting leverage on opponents. Effectively uses his hands to protect himself, bends off the edge, and displays good change-of-direction skills.

Splits double-team blocks and is rarely off his feet. Immediately alters his angle of attack, plays with excellent balance, and has a closing burst. Fluid if asked to twist or stunt. Strong for his size and knocks back bigger offensive tackles with a violent hand punch.

Negatives: Lacks great bulk and struggles facing off against big, athletic tackles. He may be a liability against the run at the next level.

Analysis: Paye was a terrific football player for Michigan and is an outstanding story off the field. He’s athletic with speed as well as solid playing strength, and Paye comes with a large upside. I envision him being used at defensive end in a four-man line as well as occasionally standing up over tackle to rush the passer. Paye will only improve as he physically matures and adds bulk to his frame.

Walter Football

Strengths:

  • Fast pass rusher
  • Burst off ball
  • Dangerous speed to run the arc and get around the corner
  • Speed-to-power rush ability
  • Can fire to the inside
  • Dangerous speed rusher at tackle in the sub package
  • Can dip underneath tackles
  • Loose hips
  • Nice ability to redirect
  • Will make a second effort
  • Agile; not stiff
  • Serious closing speed; rare for an end of his size
  • Has a burst to close on the quarterback
  • Functional strength, length
  • Ability to use hands and feet at same time
  • Good hand chop
  • Quality motor
  • Can fit a 4-3 or a 3-4
  • Athletic upside

Weaknesses:

  • Somewhat raw
  • Not as productive as his skill set suggests he should be
  • Could use refinement of pass rushing moves
  • Not a lot of experience, only 19 starts in college
  • Bites on misdirection too often
  • Gets covered up some in the ground game

Player Comparison: Justin Tuck. Paye’s size, speed, and ability to rush from the inside in the sub package remind me of Tuck when he was in his prime years with the Giants.

Breakdowns Game Film Other Breakdowns

QB

RB

ILB

TE

OT

Interior OLine

CB

Steelers Fact or Fiction: Daryl Hall and John Oates edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/25/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

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

There’s always so much to talk about when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the inquiries surrounding the black-and-gold are definitely ever-evolving, especially this week with Mike Tomlin’s extension, the jersey number rule changing, Justin Layne’s arrest and the threat of Alejandro Villanueva moving to the Ravens. It seems like the musical selection that best fits this week’s Fact or Fiction could be the Hall and Oates 80s top-ten hit from 1983, “Say It Isn’t So”.

Here’s a sample of that great single...

Say it

Tell me what you want yeah I’ll do it baby I promise right now

Say it

Who propped you up when you were stopped low motivation

Had you on the ground

I know your first reaction you slide away hide away goodbye

But if there’s a doubt maybe I can give out a thousand reasons why

You have to say it isn’t so

You can ponder the significance or wonder whether they are really related here. Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to listen to the legendary duo of Daryl and John, But anyhow, there is surely a lot to wonder about. BTSC tries to answer some of the poignant wonderings ahead of time. Take a gander at some bold statements on this and more as we label them as fact or fiction.

Are we on point? Only time will tell.

Alejandro Villanueva is a traitor if he joins the Baltimore Ravens Fiction

Hell to the no! Alejandro Villanueva is a free agent and that period officially began on March 17. The Steelers have signed three offensive linemen in the persons of Joe Haeg, Rashaad Coward and Zach Banner who was resigned to the team. They have an immediate need for Alejandro. I would think the Ravens would be attractive to the veteran of the US Armed Forces, which Baltimore celebrates very often in pregame. Villanueva has to feed his family. If he wants to stay in the game, he’s going to have to go where he’s wanted. Just because it’s a former rival doesn’t mean that he’s going to turn down the opportunity. I realize in the past that Hines Ward said that he would retire rather than join a team like the Baltimore and that’s his prerogative, but Ward had 15 years in the league and that was a personal choice. Villanueva has to make a choice on whether he wants to remain working or not. You can’t fault him for the next jersey he wears, when his former team did nothing to keep him.

The draft plan will surely go out the window if certain players fall Fact

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, players will rise. With that occurring, which it always does, others will fall and the teams that stops the slide benefit from it. Back in 2018, Mitch Trubisky made a late run up the draft boards, while Lamar Jackson almost fell out of the first round. We all know how that turned out. We’ve seen the likes of Dan Marino and Aaron Rodgers drop. We could go all day citing players that endured a free fall and the teams that benefitted from their descent down the draft board. The Steelers famously saw Rod Woodson drop to them at No. 10 in 1987, Ben Roethlisberger’s epic green room waiting game in 2004, as well as David DeCastro and Bud Dupree plummeting in 2012 and 2015 respectively. There’s other instances too. If a guy like Christian Darrisaw, Rashawn Slater, Micah Parsons or any other player expected to go very early is available, the Steelers could abandon their expected plan. Of course, you have to assume that the Steelers have a high number of scenarios already planned out and will be ready for anything.

This could be the ideal draft for a Steelers’ trade down Fact

2021 is absolutely the perfect draft for the Steelers to trade down if they are so inclined. Sure, the team has a lot of needs, but because of COVID-19, this is a much more loaded draft even in the middle rounds. There’s a reason for that too. Some players took the entire 2020 collegiate season off and others had to step up in their absence. Basically, there’s so much to choose from. With the Steelers having a lot of Draft needs an extra pick in those middle rounds or an extra second rounder might be valuable. I realize that you want to have a first rounder because of that all important fifth-year option, therefore it would be ideal for the Steelers to trade down, but remain in the first round. Kevin Colbert is always going to answer the phone and the Steelers have traded down in the past, but never out of the first round. Technically they traded out of the first round when they picked up Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019 for their 2020 No. 1 pick. However when trading out of the first round in the same draft, they haven’t done it. This would definitely be the year to do it, if they so choose.

Justin Layne’s arrest alters the Steelers’ draft plan at corner Fiction

So Justin Layne gets arrested this week for speeding, marijuana and having a gun in his car. This event actually has some fans in media wondering if the Steelers are going to elevate cornerback even more up their draft board. Layne was not penciled in to be a starter and he is a depth piece. The Steelers were targeting a corner regardless of Layne’s extracurricular activities. They can draft one high, which many people assumed that they would. But that is more due to the fact that Joe Haden’s contract is running out soon and Steven Nelson is no longer on the team. But it has nothing to do with the arrest of the third-year man from Michigan State. Justin Layne doesn’t really factor in this decision.

Extending Mike Tomlin’s contract three years is actually good strategy Fact

I get that there is quite a bit of Steelers fans then don’t feel that Mike Tomlin has achieved enough with the roster he has had since 2007. Just like in the late 90s when everybody thought it was time for hometown boy Bill Cowher to go, some people were dismayed when the Steelers offered and Tomlin accepted a three-year extension this week. That’s really good strategy. The reason why starts with Ben Roethlisberger. If he retires and you’re starting over, having a coach with the reputation among players that Tomlin has is imperative. We saw in the 2021 off-season where three Steelers players stayed where they could have gotten more money elsewhere. Now there are a lot of reasons for that, but a lot of it has to do with the culture that Mike Tomlin has put in place. Having Tomlin around after Ben’s departure could prevent a total rebuild. However, if the next two years actually see the team take a step back with his first losing season or two, the team may decide to part ways. But for now, it’s a shrewd move to hand Coach T three more years.

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

Podcast: The Draft view from ‘down undah’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/25/2021 - 11:00am

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

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The boys give their thoughts on Mike Tomlin’s re-signing and change of player numbers
  • Mark & Matty make 1st Round selections for the Steelers at pick 24
  • ‘Slingin’ the Slang’
  • Mark & Matty discuss which positions the Steelers should be open to drafting on Day 2 and Day 3, respectively
  • Audience Q&A on draft needs and Aussie life
  • Plus MUCH MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

6 types of 2021 NFL Mock Drafts Steelers fans should not trust

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/25/2021 - 10:30am
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

As the draft approaches, “Don’t trust a mock draft that...”

During this past weeks episode of The Scho Bro Show podcast, we were discussing the topic of mock drafts and the red flags which one should note in order to determine the trustworthiness of the source. While some of these items dealt specifically with the Steelers, others did not.

While there is not problem with reading and enjoying mock drafts, putting too much faith in them can create a problem. Here is a list of six types of mock drafts you may want to steer clear of...

1. Don’t trust a mock draft that… doesn’t have the 49ers picking third

This is just one example, but would be the first one you could come across when looking at a mock draft. If they don’t have the right teams picking at the right spots, nothing else they say matters. Whether they’ve missed a trade, missed the team having to forfeit a pick (such as the New England Patriots), or don’t have the Steelers making the correct number choices (assuming there are no trades), nothing that is projected can truly be trusted.

2. Don’t trust a mock draft that… doesn’t have Trevor Lawrence going first overall

For this one, it speaks more to the creator than anything else. Whether they’re trying to get too cute with their draft, completely overthinking it, or merely searching for clicks, it’s likely not that the author has some great inside information but instead is completely misguided.

3. Don’t trust a mock draft that… has 12 trades in the first round

Yes, there are going to be trades in the NFL draft. In fact, there have already been several including the Dolphins, Eagles, 49ers, and Ravens. And there will likely be plenty more on draft night. But if you’re pushing it to where half the picks are dealing with trades, it’s simply not going to happen. I would personally trust the mock draft that has few or no trades as being able to project them is extremely difficult to get them all right.

4. Don’t trust a mock draft that… has the Steelers taking an edge rusher with both of their first two picks

Yeah. I saw it. And it was ridiculous. Not only that, not a single running back or center had been drafted when the Steelers were picking in the second round at number 55, yet they still thought the best bet was another edge rusher. Perhaps they thought he would knock off T.J. Watt on the depth chart.

5. Don’t trust a mock draft that… has the Steelers taking a defensive tackle early

Not only is this one of the weakest defensive tackle draft classes in many years, the Steelers are returning all seven players from the interior defensive line from the 2020 season. Just returning players isn’t always a big deal, but when they are one of the best, if not the very top, in the NFL, thinking this is how the Steelers should use their draft capital shows that they really don’t have a clue what’s going on in Pittsburgh.

6. Don’t trust a mock draft that

Seriously, don’t trust any of them. Yes, it’s a fun exercise to see who could possibly be available for the Steelers with each of their picks. Read them, learn from them, and enjoy. But don’t trust them. Like an NCAA bracket, no one‘s ever going to get it completely right. Players are going to go higher than expected while other players fall. For example, last year many mock drafts had the Steelers drafting safety Tanner Muse out of Clemson in the sixth round. Did the Steelers get Muse in that position? No, he was pick 100 and was taken three spots before Alex Highsmith in the third round. Had the Steelers truly wanted Muse, they would have had to drafted him with their second-round pick, which happened to be their first selection, in place of Chase Claypool. As you can see, too many unexpected things occur to take any mock draft too seriously.

So there are some things to help out when viewing a mock draft to see how truly reliable it is. As stated with the last item, we must remember that none of them are truly reliable. But I will admit, any mock draft that fits into the category of the top five items does take it to a whole new level.

So how do I do? Did I hit the major points of mock drafts not to trust? Are there any others I missed? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Be prepared for the Steelers to draft a player that you never heard of on Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/25/2021 - 9:30am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

There’s a good chance the Steelers will select a player that you never heard of in the second and/or third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Don’t freak out if that’s the case, however. He could be the next Dermontti Dawson.

Jason Worilds, Marcus Gilbert, Le’Veon Bell, Sean Spence, Senquez Golson, Sean Davis, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Alex Highsmith...and Dermontti Dawson; what do all of these former Steelers draft picks have in common?

I had no idea who any of them were when the Steelers selected them in the second or third round. Judging by the Internet comments and phone calls I read/received after Pittsburgh made some of these picks, I doubt you were familiar with some of them, either.

What, you say you had Johnson, a third-round pick out of Toledo in the 2019 NFL Draft, fourth among receivers on your own personal big board? I’m not talking about you, someone who obviously bathes in draft knowledge.

I’m talking about the rest of us; the casual draft fans who read all the big boards, all the mock drafts and have a general idea of what the top 50 or 60 prospects are by the time the real thing rolls around. Some of us do this because we find it interesting but in a casual way—not in an “I can tell you the designer of the suit Man No. 4 was wearing in that one scene from Gone With the Wind” kind of way. Others do it because we have to prepare for a live BTSC contributors mock draft on the Steelers Hangover podcast and don’t want to look foolish in front of the other BTSC contributors (I will protect the identity of that person, but I can assure you he isn’t left-handed and/or kind of bald).

Anyway, once you get past those first 50 or 60 names, things get kind of fuzzy for the casual fan. Maybe that’s why Day 2 of Steelers draft weekend—the day teams make selections in the second and third rounds—is always so damn frustrating.

I have a theory as to why, and it has to do with so many prospects who spent months being mocked in the first round still sitting there by the time Pittsburgh makes its first and/or second selection on Friday night. Maybe the Steelers head into the second round in need of a receiver, but they take Worilds, an outside linebacker/EDGE from Virginia Tech, instead. I didn’t know who Worilds was when his name was announced as the Steelers’ second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. I knew who Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate was, however. My brother also knew about the Golden one and couldn’t have dialed the phone faster the moment he heard Pittsburgh skipped over him to take Worilds.

I remember the “huh?” sentiment that flooded all of social media the moment the Steelers selected Golson, a 5’9” corner from Mississippi, in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. True, Pittsburgh needed cornerback help—when didn’t it in those days?—but who the heck was Golson? Sadly, people are still asking that question about Golson to this very day.

Fortunately, they’re not asking that about Smith-Schuster, the gem of a receiver the Steelers selected out of USC in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In retrospect, Smith-Schuster was a first-round talent, but in a draft where so many teams needed defensive backs—a record 19 were taken by the end of the second round—he represented great value when the Steelers called his name at the end of Round 2.

Maybe the Steelers would have taken Smith-Schuster even if the draft board wasn’t picked clean of cornerbacks by that point—this was still an era when the team needed cornerback help. That’s the thing about these big boards. Ours most likely differ from theirs, and I’m sure that contributes greatly to so many social media “WTF!” moments on the second day of the draft.

Do you know who was the all-time poster child for Day 2 excitement for yours truly? Limas Sweed, a receiver the Steelers picked in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Sweed, the Texas product, spent months as a first-round prospect, and for him to fall to the Steelers in the second round, well, that offered great value. I was at a friend’s party when another friend heard the news that Sweed was coming to Pittsburgh; to this day, I can still see the huge grin on my friend’s face the moment he found out.

And, to this day, I can still feel myself smacking my head in disbelief when Sweed dropped that sure touchdown in the 2008/2009 AFC title game.

The best example of the “Who the bleep is that guy!” second/third-round moment that actually turned out great was the selection of center Dawson, a second-round pick out of Kentucky in the 1988 NFL Draft. I don’t have to explain Dawson’s Hall of Fame legacy—it’s well known and well documented—but hopefully it will be a great reminder to not get so upset next Friday night if you don’t know one or both of Pittsburgh’s draft choices.

But probably not.

The Steelers may already be set at offensive tackle

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/25/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Some see tackle as the biggest draft need however the Steelers might already have their tackles on roster

We are less than a week away from the 2021 NFL Draft. One of the more speculated positions for the Pittsburgh Steelers is addressed either of their offensive tackle spots. We’ve seen the team connected to no less than a dozen different tackles within the first two rounds of the draft. It’s safe to say most people have the tackle spot fairly high on the Steelers’ draft to-do list.

But is this necessary?

The Steelers are returning two players which they let compete for the starting right tackle spot a year ago, and they could both hold down either tackle spot this year.

Both Zach Banner and Chuks Okorafor spent time as the Steelers starting right tackle in 2020. With Okorafor making starts in 2018 and 2019 in injury relief, and Banner spending the 2019 season as the Steelers’ jumbo tight end. Flash back to training camp 2020 where one of the biggest storylines —not involving Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow— was the open competition at right tackle. Matt Feiler had kicked back inside to guard, meaning Banner and Okorafor would duke it out for the starting role at tackle. Banner would end up winning the job, but would quickly tear his ACL in the ‘sticky’ turf of MetLife Stadium in Week 1. Okorafor would start the rest of the way.

Okorafor had a solid season for himself in 2020, nothing flashy for an offensive lineman, but he was definitely solid in relief. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Okorafor played 1,033 snaps and allowed just three sacks. Banner, in very limited playing time, looked solid, not allowing a single sack in 59 snaps. Both Banner and Okorafor are known as road grading tackles that excel in the run game. For a team like the Steelers looking to improve its rushing attack, they could use these talents.

Both tackles had a mid-round resume when they entered the NFL. Banner was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 draft by the Indianapolis Colts, while Okorafor was a third round pick of the Steelers in 2018. Not to mention, both men are behemoths. Banner standing 6’8” and Okorafor 6’6” respectfully. They have always had the talent, and the size, to be starting tackles in this game, and in 2021 both should be developed into the best version’s of what they can be as NFL players.

When it comes to positioning the tackles and determining who will play on the right and who will play on the left, it comes down to history. Banner has basically been exclusively a right tackle dating back to his University of Southern California days. While Chuks was the left tackle for the Western Michigan Broncos. The Steelers always want their reserve tackles to be able to play either spot, so there should be confidence they could swap to either side. Personally, I would want them to play the position they are most comfortable with.

It is also important to note the Steelers did bring in Joe Haeg from the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be the team’s new reserve tackle/jumbo tight end. They also have an additional five other names on the offensive tackle depth chart. So. it is fair to say the position is pretty full.

While the Steelers could be forced into taking a tackle if someone unexpected falls into their laps, I don’t think they have to take a tackle with their first round pick. They could still draft one to try to improve the spot and cover for Okorafor who will become a free agent in 2022, but I would still caution that tackle isn't an explicit need. The Steelers should take advantage of a strong tackle class, but there's no need to rush the pick.

But what do you think? Do the Steelers already have their tackle spots figured out? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

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