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Black and Gold Links: Buried on a loaded roster, Isaiah Buggs looks to show his potential

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 4:30am

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

With the 2019 NFLDraft in the rear view mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season is fast approaching, and the news surrounding the black-and-gold is far from over. As the team now turns their attention to more offseason workouts, OTAs and minicamp, there is no shortage of news.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how although Isaiah Buggs was buried on a loaded defense while at Alabama, he is out to prove he is worthy of the Steelers’ pick, and to make a difference for the black-and-gold.

Let’s get to the news:

  • When you are talking about college teams like Alabama, you have to take starting with a grain of salt. Why? Because they have one of the most talented rosters in the entire country. Backups for Alabama get drafted ahead of starters for other teams. This is where Isaiah Buggs comes into play...

Surrounded by talent, Steelers’ Isaiah Buggs stood out at Alabama

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Only four FBS teams in the country last season had more sacks than Alabama. And who led the national runner-up Crimson Tide in sacks?

That would be the second of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ three sixth-round draft picks last weekend, Isaiah Buggs.

“He can get to the passer,” said the man who probably knows best, Karl Dunbar.

“Very explosive guy.”

Dunbar is both Buggs’ old and new position coach. He recruited Buggs to Alabama and will work with him again as the Steelers’ defensive line coach.

Buggs had 9½ sacks last season, fourth-most in the SEC and ahead of the four Crimson Tide defenders taken ahead of him (most notably, No. 3 overall pick Quinnen Williams).

To read the full article, click HERE

  • While things seemed to be falling apart around Ben Roethlisberger this offseason, and no one was speaking up for him...there was one guy who stood up and said his piece. Ryan Switzer.

Switzer: ’It’s a joy to be here’

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Switzer was acquired by the Steelers via a trade with the Oakland Raiders at the end of the preseason last year, and went from the lowest point of his career to the most fun he has ever had playing the game.

“I know it’s weird saying it was that much fun because we went 9-6-1 and we missed the playoffs. But honestly it was one of the most enjoyable times I had,” said Switzer. “It was because of our receivers room, guys like Coach (Darryl) Drake, Coach Randy (Fichtner), Danny Smith. It was a joy to come to work. It was a joy to be here. It wasn’t one of those things where you wake up in the morning and are dragging out of bed. It is a joy to be here. It makes me happy and excited for next year.”

Switzer, who when he arrived the initial thought from many was he was being brought in a return specialist, quickly proved that theory wrong as he got more and more involved with the offense.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Fans might be giddy with excitement for third round pick Justin Layne, but the Steelers’ coaching staff are warning he is still a work-in-progress.

‘He’s still learning, but we’re excited about that’

By: Mike Prisuta, Steelers.com

Why you should be excited about third-round pick Justin Layne:

He looks the part: At 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, Layne has the size the Steelers covet in a cornerback.

“I think that one of the things you look for when you’re evaluating cornerbacks, obviously you’re looking for some size,” senior defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin assessed. “You’re looking for length because when you start talking about a lot of these receivers that are being drafted, they are big men. And you have to be able to compete and win some 50/50 balls.

“So I think size, length, speed, and then ball skills are important because you have to be able to turn the ball over in this league.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • With the addition of Diontae Johnson, many are wondering how many wide receivers the Steelers will keep on their active roster.

Asked and Answered: May 2

By: Bob Labriola, Steelers.com

CRAIG BRYAN FROM BURNHAM, PA: Have the Steelers ever kept six receivers on the 53-man roster? My other question: can JuJu Smith-Schuster handle outside responsibilities full-time?ANSWER: Throughout last season, the Steelers had six wide receivers on the 53-man roster. When the season began, the six were Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer, Justin Hunter, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Ryan Switzer. When Hunter was injured and went on injured reserve, Eli Rogers took his spot on the roster. As for your other question, don’t spend too much time worrying about whether Smith-Schuster can “handle outside responsibilities,” because he will be lined up at different spots within the formation based on the play that is called. The Steelers are not like the Peyton Manning Indianapolis Colts, who always broke the huddle with Marvin Harrison split to one side of the formation and Reggie Wayne split to the other side of the formation. It’s more multiple in Pittsburgh, and players are asked to learn multiple positions because on offense responsibilities can change based on things such as a man in motion, as just one example.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • AFC North Links

The Nittany Lion QB might be more of a “slash “ for the Ravens
Speed around Lamar Jackson was paramount in the draft for the Ravens

The huge question marks surrounding the Bengals? The offsenive line
A.J. Green enjoying life with a coach who knows offense

Myles Garrett wasn’t too happy with Gregg Williams as a DC
Kareem Hunt is doing all he can to help improve his image

  • Social Media Madness

Third-round pick Diontae Johnson discusses his #NFLDraft experience, overcoming adversity, his connection with Coach Drake, and more.#FaceTime | @Juiceup__3 pic.twitter.com/N3LOR4zt6v

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 2, 2019

The #tbt pic.twitter.com/E0mA07Z3lh

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 2, 2019

Duquesne Incline ✅
Mount Washington ✅
Point State Park ✅
Strip District ✅
Primanti Bros. ✅
Milkshake Factory ✅
Clemente Bridge ✅
Heinz Field ✅

Devin Bush is officially a Pittsburgher.
#SteelersDraft | @OGIO | @_Dbush11 pic.twitter.com/augJeaPYyB

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 1, 2019

And They Still Doubting Me. Let’s Work✊ https://t.co/NUedu4zDOK

— Isaiah D. Buggs (@BigPooh_91) May 1, 2019

Fine tuning ⛏ pic.twitter.com/PhwSusc319

— Steve Nelson (@Nelson_Island) May 1, 2019

Thank you @_TJWatt and Alejandro Villanueva from the @steelers for visiting our patients and families today! pic.twitter.com/Z0VHuUgTzy

— UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh (@ChildrensPgh) May 1, 2019

Diontae Johnson excited to show the fans his potential in the Pittsburgh Steelers offense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 2:20pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers 3rd round pick is anxious to get to work.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers traded away their second round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to move up and draft Devin Bush, many fans wondered when they would be taking a wide receiver. With two third round picks, one being from the Antonio Brown trade, the team spent their first on a little-known player from Toledo named Diontae Johnson.

While fans puzzled over the selection, wide receiver coach Darryl Drake gushed over the player the Steelers selected with their second pick in the draft process.

This is what Drake had to say at the introductory press conference after the selection was made:

We’re very excited about Diontae Johnson, not only is he a tremendous football player, but also a tremendous young man. I fell in love with him after spending time with him, dining with him, and talking to him – seeing his passion for the game, his passion for wanting to be great, and his passion for his teammates. He did an outstanding job at Toledo, not only as a wide receiver but on special teams, as a returner, and that’s something you can talk to Danny Smith about. A tremendously gifted young man and the most natural catcher I’ve seen in a while. He did have some concentration drops like they all do, but he’s very gifted at catching the football. He doesn’t have great timed speed, but he plays the game fast. He’s really good vs. press, and as you know this is a press league. Those defensive backs walk up in your face and they try to fingerprint you, and he’s very allusive at the line scrimmage. You need a guy who can get off bump. The thing that he does is get off bump, and he gets in and out of his breaks as well as anybody that I’ve seen in a long time. He was a guy that I wanted and I appreciate Kevin [Colbert] and Mike [Tomlin] seeing the same things that I saw in this young man. As you get to be around him, you’re going to love his smile and his personality and his style of play. Again, very excited about the pick, and I think he’s a guy Steelers Nation is going to be really excited about.

Talk about some high praise from a very accomplished coach who has been around the likes of Antonio Brown. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Larry Fitzgerald. But for Johnson, his overall excitement started the day he met Drake, and when he visited the Steelers on an official pre-draft visit.

“I love the place. I like the energy from Coach Tomlin and the general manager around the building. I just felt like I was already on the team once I stepped foot in the building.” Johnson said in a conference call the day he was drafted.

Johnson feels he can be a great weapon for the Steelers, considering he doesn’t just play special teams as a return man, but can play inside and outside within the offense.

“Playing both really because I can play both in and out. Me being able to do that gives me another weapon on offense.” Johnson added.

To say Johnson is excited to not just be drafted, but to be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, might be one gigantic understatement. He realizes what he is now a part of, and seems eager to get his start at the NFL level.

Check out the video below where Johnson sits down with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews to talk about his NFL Draft experience, and getting to work with the Steelers.

Third-round pick Diontae Johnson discusses his #NFLDraft experience, overcoming adversity, his connection with Coach Drake, and more.#FaceTime | @Juiceup__3 pic.twitter.com/N3LOR4zt6v

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 2, 2019

PFF ranks Steelers as most improved team in AFC North after 2019 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 12:45pm

And looking at the draft classes of their rivals, it is not hard to see why.

While acknowledging that post-draft grades may be one of the most pointless exercises undertaken each year, we cannot deny taking some enjoyment from reading reports that paint the Pittsburgh Steelers in a positive light. But as much as some might take comfort in knowing that their team possibly fared better than some other random franchise in the opposing conference they do not really care about, perhaps the only comparison that matters is how well a team did when compared to their divisional rivals.

Last year, it was Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns being heralded for their 2018 draft class, with both teams receiving plaudits for the two first-round selections they each had. The Steelers left languishing last in the rankings, perceived to have taken safety Terrell Edmunds too early.

Deciding the real winner in 2019 is obviously far too premature, as it is at this stage in any year, but if Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus is any judge of talent, Pittsburgh may yet get a step on their rivals with their draft class after he ranked them as the most improved team in the AFC North for their picks.

“Pittsburgh made one of the biggest moves of the first round when they moved up for Devin Bush. After Bush and Devin White, there wasn’t a single linebacker in the class that could replicate their ability in coverage. From there, they got two other PFF favorites in Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson and Michigan State cornerback Justin Layne. Johnson drew comps to Antonio Brown from a stylistic perspective inside the PFF offices while Layne is much more suited to zone coverage than former first-rounder Artie Burns.”

The most improved team in the AFC North according to @PFF_Mike is the #Steelers after the draft.

This guy is a big reason why.

: https://t.co/bDTuvoF2DJ pic.twitter.com/2btQ4IzzxN

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) May 2, 2019

Choosing two players who had long been PFF favorites in Diontae Johnson and Justin Layne was always going to meet with the approval of Renner, as was the selection of Sutton Smith in round six, one of the highest graded players in company history.

New San Francisco 49ers edge defender Nick Bosa put forth the PFF College era's highest ever single-season grade for his effort in 2017 pic.twitter.com/kFslctNUOm

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 1, 2019

Looking at the draft classes assembled by the rest of the AFC North, there certainly seems to be a number of questionable selections mixed in with solid picks for each team. Cornerback Greedy Williams may ultimately prove to something of a steal for the Cleveland Browns, but many believe linebacker Sione Takitaki went too soon and a kicker in round five was always bound to raise eyebrows.

Edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson is another player that many experts thought the Baltimore Ravens had taken too early in round three, ranked as PFF’s No.143 overall player. And while offensive tackle Jonah Williams should be a solid pick in round one, tight end Drew Sample and linebacker Germaine Pratt were two names many expected to still be available at the start of day three. Sample coming off the board in the second-round might have been one of the bigger reaches of day two on paper, a player ranked at No. 192 overall on PFF’s board.

As always, time will tell how good each respective draft class actually was, but with no real football until September, fictional bragging rights will have to do for now.

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers be over, or under, 9 wins in 2019?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 11:21am

Las Vegas has put the Steelers’ Over/Under win total at 9 games. Where will the finish?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are primed and ready to begin their offseason workouts here in the month of May, and with the 2019 NFL Draft officially behind them, the next stop is the 2019 regular season.

So many questions surround the black-and-gold heading into the new season.

Who will replace Antonio Brown’s production?

Will Devin Bush be the answer at ILB?

Did the Steelers make the right selections in the draft?

I could go on, but there is very little certainty, which fans are accustomed to, heading into this season. The ‘Killer B’s’ are gone, but then again so is the drama and turmoil which surrounding this team like a cloud the past two seasons.

When you get down to it, the question is will the Steelers rebound from their 9-6-1 2018 season and win more games? Currently Las Vegas has set the Steelers’ win over/under at 9 games even. A tough bet indeed with the amount of turnover the organization has experience in just he past six months.

According to ESPN, here are the Steelers full breakdown of odds heading into next season. Everything from Super Bowl odds, next to the team name, and everything else under the sun.

Pittsburgh Steelers (20-1)

Odds to win AFC: 10-1
Division: +150
Over/under: 9
Odds to make playoffs: Yes +110, No -130

What about you? Do you like any of these bets? More importantly, do you think the Steelers will go over 9 wins, or under? Let us know by voting in the poll below:

The more you look at the ESPN article linked above, you see how they have these odds broken down by division. So, for those who are interested, here is the rest of the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens (40-1)

Odds to win AFC: 20-1
Division: 3-1
Over/under: 8.5
Odds to make playoffs: Yes +180, No -220

Cleveland Browns (16-1)

Odds to win AFC: 8-1
Division: +140
Over/under: 9
Odds to make playoffs: Yes EVEN, No -120

Cincinnati Bengals

Odds to win AFC: 50-1
Division: 20-1
Over/under: 6
Odds to make playoffs: Yes +700, No -1,100

Pittsburgh Steelers Fact or Fiction: Post-NFL Draft edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 10:08am

BTSC takes five bold statements surrounding the completed Steelers and the 2019 Draft and labels them as Fact or Fiction.

There are many narratives surrounding the Steelers after the completion of the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville. With so many questions to be answered on the need to trade up or reaches or how a player will actually play...BTSC takes bold statements and labels them as Fact or Fiction. Lets take a gander.

  • Devin Bush needs to be a Week One starter to justify trading up.

Fiction

Bush is a strong candidate to start the Steelers’ opener in New England, but it is not absolutely necessary. The thought process is that Bush will probably seize the spot, but it all depends on how exactly they view Mark Barron. My guess is that the newly-minted No. 55 is starting in prime time, but he’ll see a lot of time even if he doesn’t.

  • Comparisons of Diontae Johnson to Antonio Brown are fair to put on the third rounder.

Fiction

If Johnson is statistically half as good as AB, you have a great selection. Yes, he is of comparable body dimensions and comes from the MAC. He also possesses good hands and decent route running ability, plus a lot of fans never heard of him. However, let this kid be his own player. He doesn’t need the comparisons or pressure to justify his selection. Let this all play out.

  • Justin Layne should be the one to break the streak of underwhelming picks at the cornerback position.

Fact

The Michigan State CB had First Round grades from many teams, but the whole position group dropped with only Deandre Baker going at the end of the First. Layne is 6’2” with good coverage skills as a bump-and-run corner. He could be next man up and will likely start at times late in the season. There is a strong opinion among fans and “experts” that Layne could be a draft steal.

  • Lack of size will sink Sutton Smith

Fiction

Ryan Shazier, at 6’1” and 229 lbs., is merely an inch taller and four pounds lighter than Smith at 6’ and 233. Smith plays with a ton of heart and sacked QBs 15 times with 26.5 tackles-for-loss in 2018. He had 14 and 30 respectively in 2017. The Norther Illinois product will have to earn his way on via special teams, but I’d bet on him to do something special when he does.

  • Seven of the nine selections make the 53-man roster

Fact

Kevin Colbert got this one right. The top four selections of the Steelers (Bush, Johnson, Layne and Snell Jr.) should very well make the roster with ease. With the lack of depth at TE and Bucky Hodges having been released, Zach Gentry should be the TE3 on the 53. The next four guys have battles in camp, but I can see Buggs push past McCullers and Sutton Smith get the nod over “Dirty Red” Matakevich because of ST play, regardless of his being an ILB or OLB. Ulysses Gilbert and Derwin Gray may need to start out on the Practice Squad.

Agree? Awesome. Disagree? Fine, Agree to disagree? Cool with that too. Lets discuss in the comment section and lets welcome our new Pittsburgh Steelers.

Steelers failure to draft a safety in 2019 leaves them with limited free agent options

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 8:33am

Having failed to address their needs at safety via the draft, free agency currently offers the Steelers very few options.

While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have addressed most of their keys needs during the 2019 NFL Draft, it would be fair to say that they still appear to be relatively light at safety. With just four players on the roster who have ever seen a snap at the professional level and two undrafted free agent currently representing the entire position group ahead of OTA’s, adding another veteran name to the mix might be a good idea.

At this stage of the year in 2018, the Steelers were preparing to start the offseason with free agent signings Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe among the names competing for a roster spot with Sean Davis, Jordan Dangerfield, Malik Golden and rookies Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen. A year on and Pittsburgh has let both free agent signings leave, Golden was not re-signed and the only additions have been undrafted rookies Dravon Askew-Henry and P.J. Locke.

A stagnant safety market left a number of viable options on the open market until well after the draft last year, but the same cannot be said of the current list of names still looking for a home in 2019. And if the Steelers have any hopes of upgrading their depth at the position ahead of training camp, barring a release elsewhere, there appears to be only two credible free agent safety candidates still available.

Tre Boston

Should Pittsburgh be willing to revisit a free agent they met with last year, they could yet add someone who has the skills to fill in at both safety positions if needed and the durability to suggest he will last a full season, unlike some of the options they tried in 2018.

At only 26-years old, it is something of a surprise to see former Arizona Cardinals safety Tre Boston still without a team. The North Carolina product has started 38 games over the past three seasons for the Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers, recording a total of 211 tackles, 10 interceptions, 24 passes defended, two sacks and a forced fumble.

Tre Boston finished the 2018 season by allowing the lowest passer rating when targeted among all NFC West defensive players. pic.twitter.com/meyzGKjADt

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 3, 2019

Selected by the Panthers in the fourth-round of the 2014 NFL Draft , Boston was the 24th highest-graded safety in the league by Pro Football Focus last year, his overall grade of 74.1 the second highest score of his career to date. As per PFF, he allowed just 18 receptions on 30 targets for 189 yards and two touchdowns in 2018.

Pro Football Focus

Signed to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million by Arizona just before training camp last year, it is doubtful that Boston will command much more in 2019 having sat on the open market for so long once again. Open about his desire for a multi-year deal, the Steelers should be able to offer him a deal that matches his needs and still fits within their tight cap situation.

Doesn’t mean much but Stats are beyond there! OBVIOUSLY!! The Players see it, the Fans see it, and are starting to question what’s going on. I like it, keep asking question. You’ll see what’s really up. 2 Prove It Deals.... What’s left to prove? Lol Bout to jump on Offense. Lol https://t.co/CLhw3epzlZ

— Tre Boston (@TreBos10) April 5, 2019 Eric Berry

It is perhaps a sign of how weak the existing free agent market is at safety that a player who has managed just three games in the last two years is one of the only other credible option left at the position this offseason besides Boston, but the former Kansas City Chiefs standout was arguably one of the league’s best safeties when healthy.

Aside from his currently level of fitness, perhaps the biggest obstacle to signing Eric Berry would be how much money he could reasonable expect to command. Anything too far above the league minimum would be difficult to accommodate, but it is hard to imagine the player who signed the largest contract ever given to a safety in 2017 will be prepared to discount himself that much. Having received just under $30 million from the Chiefs in the past two seasons alone, Berry could well consider sitting out the year if he cannot find the sort of money he is looking for.

As a mentor to Davis and Edmunds, Berry could be invaluable, and if he was looking for a reserve role to ease himself back into football after missing most of 2017 and 2018, the Steelers could offer him the perfect situation. With Davis set to be a free agent in 2020, Berry could easily play himself into that job long-term as well.

Berry last played a full season in 2016, recording 77 tackles, nine passes defensed, four interceptions and scoring twice. A season that received an overall grade of 89.9 from PFF. If the Steelers can get a fraction of the snaps he played at that level in 2019, the signing could be well worth it.

Eric Berry locks down a long-term deal with the Chiefs. Was PFF's Comeback Player of 2015, 8th-ranked safety (by grade) in 2016 season. pic.twitter.com/YLJBRA6rLl

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 28, 2017

Report: Steelers expected to decline fifth-year option on Artie Burns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 7:02am

The Steelers decision not to exercise their fifth-year option on Artie Burns might be their least shocking move of the offseason.

With the deadline for the Pittsburgh Steelers to exercise the fifth-year option on 2016 first-round draft pick Artie Burns set to pass on Friday, it should already be obvious that the team will not be exercising their right to retain the cornerback in 2020. But for those still hoping that the Steelers might have a change of heart in the final 24 hours, a report from Jeremy Fowler of ESPN on Wednesday should have ended that fantasy.

Steelers expected to decline CB Artie Burns’ fifth-year option, per sources. Burns was replaced in the starting lineup last year and is set to become a free agent in 2020 barring change before the May 3 deadline. Steelers are encouraged Burns can re-enter rotation this year.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 1, 2019

Once a promising rookie coming off an encouraging debut season, Burns has not come close to matching the expectations that came with his draft status, relegated to a reserve role in 2018 after struggling throughout most of the 2017 season.

Appearing as a guest of 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday, while general manager Kevin Colbert sounded hopeful that the former first-round draft pick could regain the form he had hinted at as a rookie, it is hard to be confident that Burns will even make the 2019 opening day roster. And when asked how the young cornerback figured in the Steelers plans going forward, Colbert put the onus on Burns to step up this season if he wants to stick around long-term.

“That’s up to Artie. Artie came in as a rookie and played pretty good for us that first year, and over the last two years he hasn’t. It’s really a confidence issue with Artie. Artie lost his confidence and wasn’t where we needed him to be and was replaced in the starting lineup.

“He’s had a good offseason. He’s only been with us for the last week and a half in the phase of the workouts we’re in, but we had good meetings with him. He wants to be back where he was. He certainly has the talent to be and he works at it. He’s just got to find that confidence again, and if he does, he can be a successful NFL starter. But he knows it, we know it and it’s been talked about and we’re encouraged by his wanting to be back where he needs to be. And if he gets there, great, that’ll be good for him, it will be good for us and we’re going to support that and see where it goes.”

In light of those words, it is hardly surprising to note that the Steelers appear more than willing to turn down the opportunity to commit almost $10 million to Burns in 2020, the projected cost of his fifth-year option. And if Pittsburgh is looking to create some salary cap space later in the year, it would not be a shock if the Steelers let him leave in 2019. A move that would save them just over $1.75 million against the cap before displacement and leave them with around $1.3 million in dead money to account for.

Currently one of 12 cornerback on the roster fighting for a place among the final 53 come September, it is difficult to see how Pittsburgh will be able to justify keeping Burns. Benched in favor of Coty Sensabaugh who the Steelers have already allowed to leave this offseason, the task of beating out veteran free agent Steven Nelson for playing time should be even more of a challenge this year.

With Justin Layne, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton and Nelson all locks to be on the opening day roster for a team that began the year with five cornerbacks in 2018, Burns may struggle to beat out 2017 third-round draft pick Cam Sutton who may be prefered as a reserve in the slot, 2017 fifth-round pick Brian Allen or an outsider like former AAF players Kameron Kelly or Jack Tocho.

Since the fifth-year option was introduced as part on the new CBA in 2011, Pittsburgh has exercised it for Cam Heyward, David DeCastro, Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree, with Burns set to join Jarvis Jones as the only player to have his option declined.

Podcast: Will Devin Bush be able to live up to the hype in 2019?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 5:35am

With the 2019 NFL Draft over, time to ask a very important burning question regarding the team’s top pick.

The Pittsburgh Steelers moved up to the No. 10 spot in the 2019 NFL Draft to take Michigan ILB Devin Bush with their top pick. The last time the team picked in the top 10 of the draft was in 2001 when they selected a Michigan State wide receiver named Plaxico Burress.

The expectations which come along with not just a Top 10 pick, but also a player an organization gave up a tremendous amount for, are steep.

The question then becomes will Devin Bush live up to the hype? Or will fans have to be patient with his development?

Plenty has to be deciphered here, and I lay it all out there for the listeners in the latest show...

Check out the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section below!

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

Black and Gold Links: Sutton Smith trying to be a huge problem for opposing offenses in the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 4:35am

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

With the 2019 NFLDraft in the rear view mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season is fast approaching, and the news surrounding the black-and-gold is far from over. As the team now turns their attention to more offseason workouts, OTAs and minicamp, there is no shortage of news.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how rookie OLB/ILB Sutton Smith is ready to try and transfer his dominating college skill set into the pro game.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The MAC conference is a far cry from the NFL, from a talent perspective, and Sutton Smith will try to defy the odds and become a big-time playmaker at the NFL level. You might see him as just a special teams player, but don’t tell him that.

Steelers 6th-rounder Sutton Smith: ‘My path is to fight’

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The question is whether Smith, who dominated in a non-Power 5 conference, can transfer his skills to the highest level of football.

Smith was one of three players from the Mid-American Conference drafted by the Steelers of their nine picks, so they apparently believe he can.

“I don’t care if they are MAC. I don’t care if they come from Egypt,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said moments after Smith was selected 175th overall. “If they are good football players, we will use them. So MAC, SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, it doesn’t bother me. What sells me is what’s on film.”

What the Steelers saw was a pass rusher who had just one major-college scholarship offer when he left high school in Missouri yet developed into a two-time MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Smith totaled 14 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore, then showed the same passion for ending up in the opposing backfield when he produced 15 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss as a junior.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • The Steelers added a wide receiver in the draft in Diontae Johnson, and some may say the receiving corps certainly has received a makeover.

Johnson completes wide receiver makeover

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

While Switzer and Rogers are both slot receivers with punt and kick return capabilities, the Steelers view Johnson as a player who can play both in the slot and on the outside.

“Diontae Johnson is a nice inside/outside capable receiver that does both punt and kick returns,” Kevin Colbert said. “When we talked about Diontae in our meetings, Phil Kreidler, our scouting coordinator, when he read his report on Diontae, was just kind of funny. I know Coach Drake used the same terms, but he must’ve said ‘natural’ five times. It’s just what we believe, that this kid is just a natural football talent.”

And he was a talent the Steelers had a much higher grade on than where he wound up going in the draft. The team said similar things in the previous two years when both Smith-Schuster and Washington were mentioned.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers were recently recipients of an award from the local branch of the Army in Western Pennsylvania.

Steelers receive honor from Army

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

The team was recently honored by the local branch of the United States Army for that commitment during a ceremony in the Steelers locker room at Heinz Field, with Jim Rooney joining the group to accept the honor.

The units on hand to honor the team were the Second Battalion ARCD and US Army Reserve Soldiers in Pittsburgh, as well as the Harrisburg Battalion and the Pittsburgh Company Recruiting, Cold Steel Battalion.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • The Steelers had nine total draft picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, and they certainly got their fill on both sides of the football on Day 3 of the selection process.

Offense and defense get their fill on Day 3

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Fitting right in: The Steelers selected Benny Snell from Kentucky in the fourth round, and the young running back said he feels his physical style of running is a perfect fit for his new team.

“I am excited. I am very excited,” said Snell. “You just got one of the hardest working young players. I am going to give my heart and my all. I am ready to play.

“It’s hard-nosed football. I am grinding for every yard. I am a physical player. My style of running is Steelers football. Pittsburgh football. That is what I am going to bring.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Two Pittsburgh Steelers rookies are doing good in their own way...

One after a devastating storm pummeled his hometown...

Spent the afternoon with @AlabamaFTBL @BigPooh_91 @steelers as he checked out the devastation in Ruston. He is committed to his hometown. pic.twitter.com/FCRuJryQe2

— Aaron Dietrich (@AaronsAces) April 30, 2019

...and another by helping the youth in his community.

Today @Ulysees_G5, the newest member of the @steelers came by TC to encourage these guys. pic.twitter.com/TClYEjehJm

— Beef Branard (@PastorBeef) April 30, 2019

Appreciate TC Alum and Pittsburgh Steeers draft pick @Ulysees_G5 for stopping by and delivering a message to our team! A young man with a lot of character! @TCHSCeltics @TCFootballOcala pic.twitter.com/qmGXYR3FrJ

— Andrew Thomas (@coachthomas9577) April 30, 2019
  • Social Media Madness

Duquesne Incline ✅
Mount Washington ✅
Point State Park ✅
Strip District ✅
Primanti Bros. ✅
Milkshake Factory ✅
Clemente Bridge ✅
Heinz Field ✅

Devin Bush is officially a Pittsburgher.
#SteelersDraft | @OGIO | @_Dbush11 pic.twitter.com/augJeaPYyB

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 1, 2019

Good things happen when the #Vanimal gets loose #TouchdownTuesday | @VMcDonald89 pic.twitter.com/q4TXcVSdxA

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 30, 2019

MASTERS 2020 ⛳️ pic.twitter.com/r8hmSifqfg

— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) May 1, 2019

Hello May pic.twitter.com/Kg1wTqZTFq

— Brett Keisel (@bkeisel99) May 1, 2019

All levels required pic.twitter.com/mrSwdxobXV

— Steve Nelson (@Nelson_Island) April 30, 2019

Slight work today pic.twitter.com/s25tmVUMfD

— Steve Nelson (@Nelson_Island) April 30, 2019

Pittsburgh Steelers single game tickets to go on sale May 3rd

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 4:00am

Never been to Heinz Field to take in a Steelers game? Now may be your chance...

All that is left are the games...

When you think about all the stepping stones which lead up to the NFL regular season, NFL fans are beyond all of them. Free Agency is over. The 2019 NFL Draft has wrapped up. At this point all that is left are offseason workouts, training camp and then the boys of fall return to the gridiron for another season.

If you have never been to Heinz Field to see the Pittsburgh Steelers in person, it is a trip you have to make. Don’t have season tickets? Don’t know someone who can get tickets for you? There are still a limited number of single game regular season tickets available, but not for long.

Get all the information to obtain tickets below from the Steelers official website:

Fans may buy up to eight tickets total per household, in any combination, for any of the eight regular-season games. There is no ticket limit for either of the team’s preseason home contests.

The Steelers are continuing their variable pricing plan for the 2019 season, which consists of four tiers:

- Premier: Seattle (Week 2) and Baltimore (Week 5)

- Black: Indianapolis (Week 9), LA Rams (Week 10) and Cleveland (Week 13)

- Gold: Cincinnati (Week 4), Miami (Week 8) and Buffalo (Week 15)

- Preseason: Tampa Bay (Week 1) and Kansas City (Week 2)

Tickets will be made available exclusively through Ticketmaster on www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets will not be sold at the Heinz Field Box Office.

Since there are a number of limited tickets available, tickets are expected to sell out very quickly.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 2019 regular season inches closer.

Kevin Colbert suggests a shake up with how the Steelers handle their running backs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 2:44pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been known to run the wheels off their running backs, but this may be changing.

Run them until the wheels fall off...

If you recall, this statement, or something similar, was uttered by Mike Tomlin when referring to the usage of their running backs, in particular Willie Parker. While Tomlin said this, his team has certainly followed this trend when it comes to handling their running backs the past few years.

Whether it was Willie Parker being run until his wheel broke, literally, or Le’Veon Bell’s ridiculous amount of touches, James Conner seemed to be on a similar path in 2018. However, when he left the game vs. the Los Angeles Chargers with a high ankle sprain it opened the door to the potential of Jaylen Samuels. Fast forward to the 2019 NFL Draft, and the Steelers acquisition of Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr., and the Steelers suddenly have multiple weapons in the backfield.

Could this change the team’s philosophy on using running backs? Will keeping a player like Conner healthy be of the utmost importance? Kevin Colbert suggested a change when he visited with ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio:

Kevin Colbert was asked if the team is moving in more of a committee direction with Conner, Jaylen Samuels and fourth-round pick Benny Snell. Colbert said that “each one of them will make the other ones better” and that the team wants to get the most out of all the backs unless someone makes it clear they should be the clear No. 1.

“I really think that depends on who that player is,” Colbert said. “When we drafted Le’Veon, we certainly didn’t have that idea that he would be the featured guy. He forced that with his great play and he was that good, he was durable and he wanted to be on the field. James does too, but you also have to understand if you have two or three guys that can maybe get the same production then let’s make sure we’re covered and have the proper depth.”

Colbert said he thinks Conner and Snell have similar styles while Samuels may offer the team more in the passing game. How they’ll deploy the three will be something to watch once Snell starts working with the team this month.

The Steelers’ stable of running backs heading into 2019 certainly would lend itself to using more than just one featured back. But before going any further, if you think Conner won’t be the RB1 on the depth chart — think again. Conner proved he is more than willing, and able, to do what is necessary to be a featured back, but he also has yet to play a full 16-game season in his young NFL career. Keeping him healthy for the long haul is paramount for the team moving forward.

If you were the coach, how would you divide the work load, and how would you ultimately utilize Conner, Samuels and Snell? Let us know in the comment section below!

Steelers continue to show love for MAC players in the NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 12:15pm

For a team that supposedly favors players from the Power Five conferences, a third of the Steelers’ 2019 draft class is made up of prospects hailing from the Mid-American Conference this year

Among the Pittsburgh Steelers many historic draft trends, their love of players who hail from the traditional Power Five conferences has been well documented over the years. And while that trend held true once again in 2019 for first-round pick and Big 10 product Devin Bush, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Steelers hold prospects from the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in a higher regard than options from the other smaller conferences.

Pittsburgh added three more former MAC player to their roster via the draft this year in Toledo wide receiver Diontae Johnson, Northern Illinois edge rusher Sutton Smith and Akron Linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III, cementing its place as the Steelers sixth most drafted conference under Kevin Colbert since 2000 with 12 selections.

Asked about the team’s affinity for the MAC during his post-draft interviews, the general manager left no doubt about his regard for the conference.

“The MAC has been a very productive conference for us. I believe we had seven players on the roster last year and we added three. The MAC has been good to us. Those players stand out at that level. They play some bigger schools, some bigger conferences, and they usually hold their own. Those players show up in those games. And a guy like Sutton Smith, as Coach mentioned, was at the Senior Bowl, and actually worked some inside linebacker in the Senior Bowl. So you got to see him at a higher level at another position. So that was encouraging. I don’t consider the MAC to be a small conference, it’s not a power five conference, but again, we’ve been pretty fortunate with players, starting with our quarterback.”

Ben Roethlisberger remains the only player not from a Power Five school ever drafted in the first-round by Colbert and it would be fair to argue that the MAC has provided Pittsburgh with some of their best players of the last few decades in Antonio Brown (Central Michigan), James Harrison (Kent State) and Roethlisberger (Miami, Ohio). The conference has also been very good to the team in terms of backup quarterbacks, giving them Bruce Gradkowski (Toledo), Byron Leftwich (Marshall) and Charlie Batch (Eastern Michigan). Current fourth-string option Brogan Roback is also a former Eastern Michigan product.

The beneficiary of two new players from MAC to work with this offseason, linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky is another member of the organization who is also clearly a fan of the conference.

“Being from Ohio, I’m proud of the MAC. I’ve seen a lot of players from there. I grew up there. Its just good football. It’s just like in Florida. Florida’s good football. Texas is good football. Ohio is good football, and that’s really where a lot of MAC schools get their guys from, Cleveland and Cincinnati. There are a lot of good players there. When you mix that up with a guy like Ulysees who came from Florida, gets good coaching in Ohio, it’s a good storm. The wide receivers from Toledo and they’ve got some really good coaches. I’m overly proud because I’m from Ohio, so that’s what I’d say.”

While wide receivers coach Darryl Drake scoffed at the notions that coming from a smaller conference would have any impact on Johnson’s ability to translate his talents to the NFL level.

“I’ve been in this thing a long time, and it doesn’t matter where you go to school or the level of competition you play against. If you can play, you can play. It’s up to the guys who evaluate, the scouts to see those things. When one of them can play, you know.

“To me it doesn’t matter where you play. I played the game at a small school because back when I came out, there weren’t very many minorities who were going to major college schools, but I could play. It didn’t matter where I came from or that this guy is at Toledo.”

“I really don’t ever look where a guy has played or his level of competition. When I take him and look at his workout, can he do the things that I ask him to do? Football is different and there are talented guys everywhere now. It’s like basketball. Anybody can beat anybody. You have two elite teams but there are players everywhere and there’s competition everywhere. Our quarterback is from the MAC and he’s a Hall of Famer. Don’t even think that because (Diontae) is from a small school in the MAC that this cat can’t play because he can play.”

Pittsburgh currently has 12 former MAC players on their roster, with a significant number of them excepted to be a part of the 53-man roster come opening day:

When his career is finally over, Roethlisberger will be able to lay claim to being one the greatest players to ever come out of the MAC, part of a group that includes Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss (Marshall), Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor (Akron) and San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (Kent State). However, he will always struggle to win top spot in the eyes of any right minded fans, a title that is rightfully owned by iconic Pittsburgh linebacker Jack Lambert (Kent State).

The Trade Chain: from Mathias Kiwanuka to John Skelton to Diontae Johnson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 11:05am

Two selections from the Steelers 2019 draft are a result of four different trades going back to 2008.

Earlier this offseason, I outlined in an article how the Steelers turned a 2004 third-round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs into the selection of James Conner in 2017 and his subsequent Pro Bowl appearance. Now that the 2019 NFL draft has concluded, the names Diontae Johnson and Zach Gentry will be linked to several Steelers trades, beginning with the 2006 draft. In a weird twist of fate, the story begins with the last time the Steelers traded up in the first round of the draft before 2019, and ends (for now) with the same player announcing one of the picks which he indirectly created.

2006 NFL Draft (Trade #1)

The Steelers entered the 2006 draft on the heels of their fifth Lombardi Trophy. With the 32nd pick in the first round, the Steelers traded up to the 25th selection with the New York Giants, costing them their third and fourth round picks as well. After the Steelers selected wide receiver Santonio Holmes out of Ohio State, the Giants selected Mathias Kiwanuka (32nd), Gerris Wilkinson (96th), and Guy Whimper (129th). If Whimper sounds familiar, it’s because he spent the 2013 season with the Steelers.

2010 Offseason (Trade #2)

After his Super Bowl winning catch in the 2008 season and a 2009 with 1,248 yards (his only season over 1,000 yards), the Steelers decided to trade Holmes as he was facing a four-game drug suspension. Taking what they could get, the Steelers shipped Holmes to the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick just ten days before the 2010 draft.

2010 NFL Draft (Trade #3)

When it came time for the third day of the 2010 NFL draft, the Steelers subsequently traded the pick they received from the Jets (155th) to the Arizona Cardinals for Bryant McFadden and Arizona’s sixth-round selection (195th). The Cardinals’ used the selection to draft quarterback John Skelton out of Fordham.

McFadden spent his first four seasons in Pittsburgh before signing with Arizona as an unrestricted free agent. After only one season with the Cardinals, the Steelers acquired McFadden back for two more seasons before cutting him in the offseason of 2012.

As for the sixth round selection the Steelers received in return from the Cardinals, they selected wide receiver Antonio Brown out of Central Michigan.

2019 Offseason (Trade #4)

After seven Pro Bowls and four All Pro seasons in Pittsburgh, things fell apart with Antonio Brown and the Steelers leading into Week 17 of the 2018 season. With no sign of reconciliation, the Steelers tried to get as much as they could for Brown as he was continually tanking his trade value. Ultimately, the Steelers only received a third-round and fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft from the Oakland Raiders.

2019 NFL Draft

With the trade of Antonio Brown, the Steelers received a third-round pick (66th), and a fifth-round pick (141st) from the Oakland Raiders. The selection of wide receiver Diontae Johnson out of the University of Toledo, a player many think has comparable skill sets to Brown, was ironically announced by Santonio Holmes. The Steelers added tight end Zach Gentry out of Michigan as their fifth-round selection.

Time will tell whether or not either selection the Steelers made as a result of the Antonio Brown trade will end up making a splash. It’s fairly certain both Johnson and Gentry will be forever tied to the Brown in the minds of Steeler fans. But the path which led to both players ending up in black and gold actually began 13 years prior when Kevin Colbert moved up in the first round of the NFL draft, much like the Steelers did in 2019.

The selection of CB Justin Layne was the very definition of a value pick by the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 9:35am

With the selection of Justin Layne with their second pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft (83rd, overall), the Steelers walked away with great value. Now it’s up to them—and him—to turn that value into a rare asset in the secondary.

If I had to choose your average NFL drafnik’s favorite term, it would be “Great value pick.”

A great value pick is obviously a player that is selected a little—or even much—later than he was projected to go before the draft. An opposite example of a great value pick would be Duke’s Daniel Jones, who was selected sixth overall by the Giants—about 11 spots sooner than he probably needed to be drafted (the Giants also had the 17th pick in the first round on Thursday).

Perhaps a good example of a great value pick is Justin Layne, cornerback, Michigan State, who the Steelers selected with their second pick of the third round (83rd, overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. According to most pre-draft projections, Layne was taken anywhere from 20-30 spots later than he perhaps should have been. Why? It’s hard to say. Why did Byron Murphy and Greedy Williams, two corners expected to go in the first round, last until the second?

All I know is Layne could be spotted near the middle of most top-10 cornerback ratings leading into the draft, which explains his pre-draft projections.

In addition to his pre-draft projections, another thing that stands out about Layne is his height: 6’2”. For a Steelers secondary that has a history of employing cornerbacks in the sub-6’ range, that is rather refreshing and unique. Height doesn’t mean a hill of beans if a corner has poor technique and easily loses track of his receivers in the open field, but that extra inch or two sure can come in handy when knocking down passes that normally would be just out of the reach of your average 5’10” cornerback. That may explain Layne’s 15 passes defensed last year, alone.

Speaking of receivers, Layne used to be one as recently as the beginning of his college football journey at Michigan State before he converted to the role that earned him a shot at a career in the National Football League.

It’s not easy to make the transition from one position to another at the highest level of college football, but it helps to have a plus football IQ, as stated by Layne’s NFL.com Draft profile.

A plus football IQ also comes in handy when trying to learn various responsibilities in the secondary, which Layne will no doubt have to during a rookie season that could perhaps be an audition for greater things down the road—namely as a replacement for Joe Haden in 2020.

Too soon to speak of such things, right now, of course. With the Steelers very poor recent history of drafting and/or developing cornerbacks, it is quite foolish to talk in absolutes about one they picked in the third round.

But, again, the Steelers got great value in Justin Layne. Now it’s up to them—and him—to turn that value into an asset for the secondary.

What the Ben Roethlisberger contract extension means for Mason Rudolph

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 8:15am

What does Big Ben’s extension mean for Mason Rudolph’s plans to be the next QB for the black-and-gold?

Throughout the craziness that is NFL Draft weekend, the news of Ben Roethlisberger’s new contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers last Wednesday, 15 years to the day when the Steelers made him their 1st round, 11th overall, draft pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, has become somewhat lost in the shuffle.

While fans should be excited to watch Roethlisberger play for a few more years in the Steel City, if you are like me you sometimes wonder what life without Roethlisberger will resemble.

Rewind to the 2018 NFL Draft, and let me explain my excitement when the team selected Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round. For the first time, life without Big Ben seemed as if it was going to be okay.

No one in their right mind thought Rudolph would unseat Roethlisberger, but the hope was he would be able to learn under No. 7 before taking the reigns. While the first step is for him to actually beat out Joshua Dobbs for the team’s primary backup role, Roethlisberger’s new extension makes things very interesting for the former Oklahoma State product.

When Roethlisberger’s contract expires, so will Rudolph’s rookie deal. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Steelers. Throughout their internal evaluations, preseason games and any time spent in the lineup, if the Steelers organization likes what they have in Rudolph, and view him as the heir to the QB throne, they could give Rudolph an extension prior to 2021. Doing so would make him the man for the black-and-gold in the post-Roethlisberger era.

But there is more.

If Rudolph remains a relatively unknown commodity, the Steelers could keep him in the fold for relatively cheap. Roethlisberger’s cap hit will be just over $30 million his final two years with the team, and you can imagine the salary cap space which will be created when Roethlisberger’s contract leaves the books and Rudolph’s potential contract takes over.

Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) where NFL rookies have slotted salaries, there is a long-standing belief the best time to win a Super Bowl is to get a quarterback under a cheap rookie deal before having to pay them their first big contract. Look at what the Los Angeles Rams are doing with Jared Goff. Goff is still under his first NFL contract, and the Rams are spending elsewhere trying to win before having to cap strap their roster with Goff’s first mega deal.

So, in the Steelers’ case, they could give Rudolph a very team-friendly deal, more than a rookie quarterback but certainly smaller than most quarterbacks moving into their second NFL contract, and be able to spend a lot of money to surround Rudolph with the best players to give them a chance at continued success.

These decisions are still a few years off, but don’t think the Steelers organization isn’t looking into the future and are concerned with the most important position in professional sports. When the team gave Antonio Brown his first big contract, the foresight got them one of the best receivers on the market for relatively cheap. The same foresight could help the team build a smooth bridge between Roethlisbeger and Rudolph.

But first Rudolph needs to win the backup position heading into the 2019 season...

Predicting the Steelers’ ‘digit identity’ for the 2019 Draft class

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 6:44am

BTSC guesses which numbers will be assigned to each new drafted Steeler.

A number is an athlete’s identity. Some free agent arrivals try to pay big bucks to get the same number they’ve worn elsewhere. But for rookies, a lot of times they are at the mercy of the equipment managers. Join us as BTSC continues our fun tradition of predicting what digits the new Pittsburgh Steelers draft class will proudly represent.

ILB Devin Bush - Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 10

Projected Number: 55

Level of Certainty: The Highest

Like Ryan Shazier, Bush wore No. 10 at the conclusion of his college career. There’s no way they would give Bush No. 50, it’s technically still occupied. Plus it would be wrong for so many reasons. Before he announced it, I deduced that Bush would wear either No. 55 or No. 40 in Steel City, with my leaning toward Jerry O and Peezy’s old digits. Seems like that’s what it’s going to be. Bush will wear it well.

WR Diontae Johnson - Toledo Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

College Number: 3

Projected Number: 82

Level of Certainty: Medium

Johnson wore both No. 3 and No. 19 in college. Slapping a one in front would work, but James Washington dons that digit and No. 19 is becoming a staple of the team with JuJu Smith-Schuster becoming a face of the Steelers. With all of the comparisons to the departed Antonio Brown, they could give him No. 84. But why put that kind of pressure on the kid? No. 82 is still a good receiver’s set of numbers.

CB Justin Layne - Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 2

Projected Number: 24

Level of Certainty: Fairly High

No. 22 would be logical for Layne, having worn “the deuce” as a Spartan, but Steven Nelson is “double deuces” since his No. 20 at KC is occupied by Cam Sutton. No. 24 has been worn by great Steeler corners like Ike Taylor and J.T. Thomas. Lets hope Layne finds good company with those players.

RB Bennie Snell Jr. - Kentucky Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 26

Projected Number: 26

Level of Certainty: High

Since Snell has already been seen posing with a two-six and homemade BSJ Steeler jerseys have appeared on social media, this seems like a no-brainer.

TE Zach Gentry - Michigan Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 83

Projected Number: 81

Level of Certainty: Fairly Certain

The No. 83 that Gentry sported in the maize and blue is being occupied by WR Diontae Spencer. Spencer has a long road to make the team, so Gentry could walk into his old digits later should he make it. But for now, he takes over the No. 81 from another really tall Big Ten TE drafted to the Steelers in Round 5. Ironically, Jesse James is playing football in the state of Michigan.

EDGE Sutton Smith - Northern Illinois Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 15

Projected Number: 54

Level of Certainty: None at all

Would have gone double-fives here, but another LB snagged it here. The Steelers lately have had a tendency to give rookie LBs a number in the forties. However, 54 is a good fit for a linebacker.

DL Isaiah Buggs - Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 49

Projected Number: 96

Level of Certainty: Medium

No. 49 is occupied by two dudes right now and not a defensive lineman’s digits, so give Buggs the last number left in the 90s.

LB Ulysses Gilbert III - Akron David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 5

Projected Number: 51

Level of Certainty: Medium

Ulysses is a linebacker that will need to make the team via special teams. For some reason I’m getting visions of Sean Spence here. With him wearing No. 5 in college, Spence’s No. 51 seems like a good fit. Here’s hoping he plays more like the James Farrior version of No. 51 more than the aforementioned linebacker.

OL Derwin Gray - Maryland Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

College Number: 55

Projected Number: 79

Level of Certainty: Low

In my opinion, the two best OL numbers that are unoccupied are Nos. 79 and 77. Since Gray had 55 in college and it’s been spoken for by the top selection, the seventh-rounder gets back to double digits with 77.

Last year, we predicted 2 of 7. Can we top it? Check back to see how we did and weigh in below in the comments section.

Podcast: Only the foolish thought Ben Roethlisberger would give the Steelers a hometown discount

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 5:35am

In a brand new show titled ‘Yeah, I said it’, we talk about some burning topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 2019 NFL Draft is in the rear view mirror, and one news story which was theoretically swept under the rug during the process was Ben Roethlisberger’s brand new contract. The deal was done on the day before the draft, and once the selection process started everyone seemingly forgot about Roethlisberger’s shiny new contract.

With the details of his contract finally released, many fans are stunned to see how much he will be counting towards the salary cap starting next year. Oh, you haven’t heard how much? Try over $30 million a year!

What? Did you think Roethlisberger would give the Steelers a hometown discount?

This is where the newest BTSC podcast “Yeah, I Said It” comes in. My co-host on ‘The Standard is the Standard’, Lance Williams, talks about why only the foolish fans thought Roethlisberger would take less on his final NFL contract to appease the organization/fan base.

Lance is the perfect man for the job, and delivers the goods in the latest show.

Check out the audio below:

Feel free to give us your thoughts on the topic in the comment section below, and don’t forget to follow us on all our audio platforms by following the links below:

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

Black and Gold Links: How Devin Bush was well worth the trade for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 4:30am

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

With the 2019 NFLDraft in the rear view mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2019 season is fast approaching, and the news surrounding the black-and-gold is far from over. As the team now turns their attention to more offseason workouts, OTAs and minicamp, there is no shortage of news.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how despite some fans being critical of what the Steelers gave up to get Devin Bush, he is well worth the cost.

Let’s get to the news:

  • For the first time since I took over this website, the vast majority of the fan base was happy with the team’s first round draft pick. But there is still a small contingent who think the team gave up too much to get Devin Bush.

Carter’s Classroom: Why Bush was worth it

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

Kevin Colbert broke the mold by trading up for Devin Bush. The Steelers are the team that always patiently waits for their turn in the draft and builds the roster without sacrificing other draft picks. Only twice have they traded up in the first round — Troy Polamalu (16th) in 2003, and Santonio Holmes (25th) in 2006 — and never into the top 10.

Here’s why Bush merits the move:

When I wrote in early April that this was the year for Colbert to trade up in the first round, it was because I knew the caliber of talent available with the top two inside linebacker prospects was too good to pass up in 2019, and Colbert had the ammunition — ten draft picks — to move up.

Bush was widely considered the second best linebacker of this draft behind LSU’s Devin White, but more accurately White was 1-A and Bush was 1-B. Bush had the second-best 40-yard dash time behind White’s 4.42 seconds and tested high across the board:

But combine those measurements with Bush’s game tape at Michigan and the Steelers have an impeccable athlete in the middle of their defense. Bush combines playmaking ability with sideline-to-sideline speed, leadership skills and awareness of how his roles in a defense. That’s worth more than what Colbert gave up — the 20th pick, 52nd pick and a 2020 third-round pick — to draft Bush.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • This might be the best headline ever...

Shazier: ‘I consider myself a Yinzer’

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Shazier is a prime example of that, someone Art Rooney II refers to as a ‘remarkable person.’

“To me it’s truly an honor to have Mr. Rooney think of me for this award” said Shazier, who was placed on the PUP list on Monday. “I am thankful. I have been working my tail off through the good and the bad. They have been there for me. I thank them for all of the support they have given me. I am thankful they even thought about me for this.

“I consider myself a Yinzer. It means a lot because I know the whole city has my back in every form, when it comes to sports, life, on a daily basis. I am thankful he thinks I represent the city, and the sports here.”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • In case you are someone who is still skeptical about Devin Bush, this article helps make you a believer.

‘He runs all the way through the sideline’

By: Steelers.com

Why you should be excited about first-round pick Devin Bush:

He’s highly regarded: Bush, a 5-foot-11, 234-pound linebacker from Michigan, was widely considered by draft analysts as one of the top two players available at inside linebacker, a perceived position of need for the Steelers. Dane Brugler of The Athletic ranked Bush No. 1 and Devin White of LSU No. 2 at the position.

The Steelers uncharacteristically traded up to get Bush: “We thought that highly of him,” General Manager Kevin Colbert said. “I don’t want to say it was an easy trade to make, but it was easy in our minds to pick him with the 10th pick. So, we did what we had to do.”

Bush was exhaustively scouted: ”This is a unique football player and it was across the board in our evaluations,” Colbert said. “We had four personnel people, myself included. We had three coaches, Coach (Mike) Tomlin included and everybody said, ‘Wow, that’s a first-round pick.’”

To read the full article, click HERE

  • All you need to do to see what the Steelers truly value is to look at the 2019 NFL Draft class. It will tell you all you need to know...

Steelers show what they value in 2019 class

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

Character. Position flexibility. Special teams ability.

Those were all catch phrases thrown about by no matter who the Steelers brought to the podium this weekend to talk about their 2019 NFL Draft class.

After a few years of tumultuous things happening both on and off the field, the Steelers made an obvious attempt to change things. It’s not exactly “changing the culture,” because the Steelers feel they have a good one.

The Steelers have made a habit in recent years of not only drafting young players early — if they can — but also guys who have a background in football.

This year’s first-round pick, Devin Bush Jr., has a father who played in the NFL. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same as last year’s first-round pick, Terrell Edmunds.

To read the full article, click HERE

  • Social Media Madness

At the Art Rooney Award Dinner last night, Ryan Shazier received the Bob Prince Award, which honors someone who embodies his enthusiasm for Pittsburgh sports. pic.twitter.com/dNNMPzctvp

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 30, 2019

He's got the moves.#InternationalDanceDay | @teamjuju pic.twitter.com/j6xatfc6nf

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 30, 2019

Ramon Foster goes behind the scenes and on the red carpet at this year's #NFLDraft.#SteelersDraft | @RamonFoster pic.twitter.com/JXpFy9Vawa

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 30, 2019

Phase ✌️ pic.twitter.com/o0UoFbcbrF

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 29, 2019

Justin Layne selected as the Steelers’ ‘A+ pick’ of the 2019 NFL Draft class

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/30/2019 - 2:18pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a very stellar 2019 draft class on paper, but one pick topped the others in terms of importance.

The 2019 NFL Draft is over, and now begins the evaluation process. Not just for the players selected, but also the positions which were targeted, etc. There are a myriad of angles you can approach evaluating a draft class, and recently the fine folks here at SB Nation went through all 32 NFL teams and selected which pick they thought to be their ‘A+’ draft pick.

Many would expect the writers to select the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first round draft pick Devin Bush as their A+ pick, think again. No, it was third round selection Justin Layne who was considered the team’s best pick.

See what SB Nation had to say:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Getting Joe Haden’s apprentice. The veteran cornerback only has a year left on his contract, but he has an understudy in third-round pick Justin Layne. The Cleveland native watched Haden playing for the Browns and will soak up advice from Haden like a sponge.

If the purpose of this exercise is to pick which of the nine Steelers’ picks would be playing, and making an immediate impact, right away, Bush would certainly be the front-runner for this award. However, when it comes to a complete evaluation, position, value, etc., it is hard to disagree with Layne as the pick.

After the NFL Scouting Combine Layne’s stock rose notably to the point where some experts saw him as a potential late first round draft pick. He fell to the third, despite a great combine and measurables, and the Steelers were able to reap the benefits.

Layne is expected to be the heir apparent for Joe Haden on the outside, and the former Cleveland city product has the look, on paper, as the first player since Ike Taylor who could solidify the secondary for not just a few seasons, but for years on end.

When you look at the team’s top draft picks, who would you give the A+ grade to? Remember, it isn’t all about the prospect, but what was done to obtain him, what kind of positional need the team has etc. Let us know your thoughts in the live chat, and if you agree or disagree with those experts at SB Nation.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 offseason workouts/OTAs set

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/30/2019 - 12:40pm

It may be the offseason, but there are some important dates fans should know as the team prepares for the 2019 season.

The NFL calendar ebbs and flows throughout the passing months. After the season concludes in early February, there is about a month where no news takes place. Then comes free agency and the start of the new league year. With the ramp up in news, the league eliminates any slow periods by making the regular season schedule release an event, and this all leads up to the NFL Draft.

What is next?

After the draft each individual team starts their three phases of Organized Team Activities (OTAs). Phase one consists of mainly strength and conditioning. No coaches, other than the strength and conditioning coach, and no real drills being run. This phase takes two weeks total.

Phase two coaches are allowed to coach and work individually with players, but still not contact or pads of any kind. No offense vs. defense, and no helmets or one-on-one drills allowed. This phase takes three weeks total.

Phase three is the one which garners the most attention. Here are the details for Phase three of the offseason workouts:​

  • 4 weeks total
  • 3 weeks for 10 total OTA’s
  • A maximum of 3 OTA’s each week for the first 2 weeks
  • During Weeks 1 & 2 a 4th non OTA workout is allowed but phase two rules apply
  • A maximum of 4 OTA’s for the 3rd or 4th week
  • One week for mini camp
  • No pads except protective knee and elbow pads, helmets are permitted
  • No live contact
  • 7 on 7, 9 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills will be permitted provided no live contact takes place

With all this said, the Pittsburgh Steelers have set their dates for their OTAs, rookie and veteran minicamps. Check out the dates, per the team’s official website:

Steelers Rookie Minicamp Schedule:

Friday, May 10 - Day 1

Saturday, May 11 - Day 2

Sunday, May 12 - Day 3

Steelers OTAs Schedule:

Tuesday, May 21 – OTA #1

Wednesday, May 22 – OTA #2

Thursday, May 23 – OTA #3

Tuesday, May 28 – OTA #4

Wednesday, May 29 – OTA #5

Thursday, May 30 – OTA #6

Monday, June 3 – OTA #7

Tuesday, June 4 – OTA #8

Wednesday, June 5 – OTA #9

Thursday, June 6 – OTA #10

Steelers Minicamp Schedule:

Tuesday, June 11 – Day 1

Wednesday, June 12 – Day 2

Thursday, June 13 – Day 3

The projected date for the Steelers to report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA is July 25th, but this has not been confirmed by the organization at this time. With the calendar ready to move to May, the boys of fall will be back on the gridiron before you know it.

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