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2019 NFL Draft Prospects: Washington CB Byron Murphy might just be CB1

Behind the Steel Curtain - 26 min 54 sec ago

Murphy’s tools are eye popping, and the Pittsburgh Steelers should take notice.

Cornerback, the consensus top need of the Steelers this offseason. Who really wants to see Coty Sensabaugh start another game? I mean the guy played well, but he is just a good depth piece. The Steelers need a true No. 2 to be across from Joe Haden. Thus, we will examine Washington CB Byron Murphy, who has flown up boards and looks to be a slam dunk first rounder. With that in mind, it seems likely that Murphy could still be there at 20, so remember this name, Steelers fans.

Measurements

Height: 6’0”

Wt: 175 lbs

Expected 40: 4.43

Courtesy of Sportsreference.com, The Draft Network

Film Room

One of Murphy’s calling cards is that he is not afraid to get dirty in the running or screen game. He comes and screams downhill to try and get involved in all of those plays and is a willing tackler there. Due to being a staunch processor, that isn’t too big of a problem, especially since seeing guys go all out on the field has got to be one of the most desirable traits a guy could have.

Byron Murphy is CB1. Byron Murphy is stupid fluid. Byron Murphy is a fantastic processor. Byron Murphy is physical as hell. Byron Murphy is good at football. pic.twitter.com/iqT8jxY9l8

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 18, 2019

This play is an example of how eager he is to get involved in that game, but also shows his high football IQ and processing. Just from the alignment Murphy realizes this is probably a screen and lines up outside of the hip of the WR, thus if he flies right off the snap he can easily make the play and avoid the block. He comes screaming down the line and blows this play up before it ever even got started. This guy plays smart all the time.

Furthermore onto this IQ and eagerness is his absolutely amazing change of direction. He mirrors to a tee and can flip his hips better than any other CB in this draft. With ball skills, Murphy simply can become shutdown.

Hello CB1 Byron Murphy. No one is more fluid than this guy. Stupid good change of direction. #DraftTwitter pic.twitter.com/5xh5gXkyii

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 4, 2018

Perfect example of what I mean. This guy straight up just lays out this dude, showing his eagerness to lay the wood, but he fluidly and smartly comes off his guy to make this incomplete. Not all CBs will do that, but when you know what is going on and can read the QB, you will be more than able to do that.

You just gotta love this. Look at how easily he changes direction. He is absolutely explosive and flies back to the football. This is likely to be ruled as a completed catch, but this is a great job of coming off his route and hitting the receiver right at the point of catch. pic.twitter.com/KM49ICxJrZ

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 19, 2018

See those hips? They make even Shakira jealous.

So fluid and so easy to close to the ball. Murphy combines that fluidity with straight speed and ball skills and plays like this are the result of it. It is why he is going to be the favorite of many Steelers fans, we just don’t have this right now.

Impressive rep from Washington corner Byron Murphy pic.twitter.com/RlSWm3qi0y

— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) December 12, 2018

Now this is pitch perfect mirroring and hip usage. Murphy is just letting the WR dictate where he goes and he uses his fluidity to follow him. As he gets to the top of the stem, he begins to track it and with the ball skills get to knock it away easily here. You simply do not see this type of play often from CBs, but with guys who can do it, they often become future #1 CBs.

HE DOES IT AGAIN!
BYRON MURPHY!#PurpleReign

FOX pic.twitter.com/4zSVGAUg5J

— Washington Football (@UW_Football) December 1, 2018

Murphy has all the leverage here. So easy to win when you can get your hands inside and force the receiver to your will. And then the ball skills are on display again. Fantastic play on the ball to get this INT. Common theme on film for Murphy.

Weaknesses

Murphy’s light frame brings concerns to his game and press skills against big bodied receivers. At times, he could be outmatched even with his physicality, so he needs to certainly bulk up. Run support due to the strength concern, but he can tackle and comes down with a flair all the time. If he can bulk up, watch out.

Fit with the Steelers

Murphy is incredibly scheme versatile and will fit into anything the Steelers want to do. He has the processing for zone, the stickiness and physicality for press, and the fluidity for off-man. His speed also makes him a possible corner blitzer, and he fits the old run support Steelers CB model. He is a dream match.

Final Thoughts

Optimistic View: Murphy becomes a true #1 CB and a perennial pro bowler and one of the best CBs in the league. With his fluidity and ball skills, there are no guys that can really beat him at all. His frame fills out with muscle and he becomes able to handle the bigger bodied guys and use the new found strength to really pony up against them.

Pessimistic View: Murphy’s frame is too light and never truly works in the NFL, and while he has the fluidity and ball skills, Murphy is only a good 2 because bigger bodied guys can dominate him at will.

My Take: Murphy’s ball skills and change of direction skills will take him far, but what will take him even further is his mental makeup. He is already an incredibly smart player, and that will only continue to evolve as he reaches the NFL. He is flexible in any scheme, and that is so key to this all. Murphy, in my opinion, is a future #1 CB.

If the Steelers really do trade Antonio Brown, they better make it count

Behind the Steel Curtain - 1 hour 59 min ago

If the Steelers really do trade Antonio Brown, they better get great value in return.

In case you didn’t know, the Steelers and Antonio Brown are on the outs.

This has happened before between the two parties—the fights, the disagreements, the hurt feelings—but the issues were always resolved. However, unlike real-life couples who vow to never go to bed angry at one another, the Steelers and their star wide receiver have spent many nights—weeks, actually—not only angry at each other, but engaging in the old silent treatment--at least the star receiver has.

Brown is incommunicado with his employer at the moment, but, gosh darn it, he’s vowed to come out with his side of the story One. Of. These. Days.

For their part, the Steelers don’t seem to be too emotionally distraught over Brown’s latest reason for giving them the old silent treatment, and it has been reported that parting ways with him via trade is something the organization is seriously considering.

I get it, I really do. I’m getting fed up with Brown’s antics, too. Of course, I never thought these antics would tempt the Steelers to get rid of him, a legacy player, someone who is already one of the greatest in team history. But, then again, I don’t have to live with Brown. I don’t have to work with Brown. And, perhaps, most importantly, I don’t have to reason with Brown on a seemingly endless basis.

The Steelers owners, general manager, coaches and players must do all of these things, which is why they may be as willing to part ways with Brown as your average Facebook poster who says “Get rid of/fire him!” without really worrying about the consequences.

And the consequences of parting ways with Brown may be huge. Sure, you’re losing a constant distraction, but you’re also losing the greatest receiver in the game. Sure, you might bet your jollies off watching a frustrated Brown fall to pieces on a totally horrible Jets team. But would you get your jollies off watching the likes of Eli Rogers and the totally unproven James Washington try to replace him?

This is just a guess but probably not—not unless you have a different idea of what getting your jollies off means.

They say you can’t win with a player like Brown, but I don’t buy that for a second. As far as I’m concerned, there are few players in team history more clutch in big moments than No. 84, and the number of times he’s come through with either a big catch or a big touchdown are just too numerous to document in this little article.

But, again, I don’t have to live with Brown. I don’t have to deal with a potential volcano erupting in 2019 and doing more damage to the Steelers Super Bowl chances than inserting Eli Rogers into the lineup ever could.

So if you have to trade Brown, trade him, but, damn it, you better make it right.

Apparently, the 49ers—particularly Jerry Rice—would love to have Antonio Brown come to their organization and catch passes from handsome Jimmy Garoppolo. Fine, but if I’m the Steelers, I want San Francisco’s premium first-round draft pick. None of this second-round pick business. As my brother tells me in every text involving a potential trade in whatever sport, “You gotta give to get.”

Damn right, you do.

As much as you might want to see Brown go, the chances of the Steelers being better off without him are pretty slim if they don’t get fair value in return.

To sort of give what I said earlier a different twist, YOU don’t have to live with Antonio Brown. You don’t have to work with Antonio Brown. You don’t have to reason with Antonio Brown.

And since you insist on putting your entire heart and soul into cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers, you probably aren’t too eager to see a depleted edition in 2019. Therefore, shipping Brown off for anything below a first-round pick (and even that might be too low if the first-round pick belongs to a playoff team) is simply out of the question.

Fortunately, unlike the fans, the Steelers aren’t in the business of making rash decisions. They are, however, in the business of winning.

And if they don’t trade Brown away this offseason, they’ll still have the services of one of the NFL’s best play-makers next regular season.

How will that work after everything that’s gone down? It’s way too early to know at this point. It’s amazing how a heart-to-heart conversation can really clear the air and make things right.

Speaking of making things right, if the Steelers really are thinking of shipping Brown off to the highest bidder, well, they damn well better make sure it’s the highest bidder.

I’m certainly not in the business of watching inferior Steelers football in 2019.

Breaking Down the Steelers Team Needs: Part 7, Tight End

Behind the Steel Curtain - 3 hours 1 min ago

Part 7 of the series on targets the Steelers might target in the 2019 NFL Draft. What about a pass catcher who does not play Wide Receiver?

Moving on with the series:

Here is the current roster:

  • TE Vance McDonald. An amazing talent who seems to spend half of every year on the injury list. Six years into his career we have to assume that pattern will continue.
  • TE Jesse James. He’s still making some incremental improvements as both a receiver and a blocker but the ceiling has become pretty clear: a solid #2. A free agent that most people expect the team to sign.
  • Xavier Grimble. A receiving weapon who’s never quite clicked. Fans may focus on an unfortunate fumble or two but it should be remembered that they were ‘unfortunate’ because they came at the end of some really big plays. Another free agent that most people expect the team to sign.

So what is my hot take as a self avowed lover of between-the-hashes weaponry and defense? I don’t see Tight End as a hole that’s begging for attention, especially if the team commits to both the Outlaw and the X-Man. But I do see the other side. Just imagine the possibilities if Pittsburgh could pair McDonald with another freaky athlete at TE! It could only help to emphasize the running game that Steeler Nation so enjoys, and it would be a neat, sideways approach to covering the weaponry gap if AB ends up departing. Especially with more picks than the team has needs, and the fact that this WR class is deep enough to offer real bargains on Day 3.

Thus we have to view the position as a real enough ‘want’ that the F.O. could, should and would pull the trigger if a BPA bargain falls far enough in the draft. Who could that be? Here is a list from the initial BTSC Big Board that Nick Farabaugh and I have been compiling: [fn]

  • 1:25 TE Noah Fant, Iowa. 6’4”, 232 lbs. The unanimous #1 TE in the draft and “one of the most freakish athletes in all of college football,” Noah Fant may be that rare offensive talent who could tempt the well armed Steelers to spend a Round 1 pick on that side of the ball - especially if McDonald’s problems are more severe than we know. It might take 19 straight picks on the defensive side by the teams who pick before us, but it’s not impossible.
  • 2:01 TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa. 6’5”. 243 lbs. A complete TE that some consider better than his teammate Noah Fant. Hockenson is the type of TE that can block Linebackers out of the house and still wreak havoc in the passing game. Here is a great breakdown by Kyle Crabbs.
  • 2:01 TE Irv Smith Jr., Alabama. 6’4”, 241 lbs. An exceptional athlete and natural receiver who significantly improved his blocking in 2018. Both his father and his uncle played TE in the NFL, albeit with limited distinction.
  • 2:24 TE Josh Oliver, San Jose St. 6’5”, 255 lbs. A brilliant athlete who wins in college by “being bigger and faster than everyone at his current competition level,” but is desperately raw and will need at least a year of coaching before those assets will show up against NFL defenders.
  • 2:24 TE Kaden Smith, Stanford. 6’5”, 250 lbs. A good all-around TE prospect who only lacks some bit of physical genius to hang his hat on. Doing almost anything great at the Combine could shoot him up a lot of boards.
  • 3:01 TE Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M. 6’4”, 250 lbs. “Physical tools are tantalizing, both as a blocker and receiver,” but he is also quite raw and will need a year or two before he makes any impact as a receiving weapon. Steeler Nation would probably appreciate him more than most because he reputedly has a proper TE’s tough-guy attitude and actually likes to block. He needs some work in that area too but it starts with the ‘wanna’.
  • 3:01 TE Caleb Wilson, UCLA. 6’4”, 235 lbs. A fine and shifty receiver who was Josh Rosen’s favorite weapon in 2017 before injuring a foot, and continued that success in 2018. But can he block?
  • 3:12 TE Keenan Brown, Texas State. 6’3”, 250 lbs. Brown is the definition of a rock solid TE who would challenge Jesse James for the #2 spot, with the potential to become even more. Here is a good article on how he was recruited to be a star “big WR” at Oklahoma State and ended up outgrowing the position and moving to a school closer to home. Brown has never lost his ability to run routes and catch the ball; he is still nimble enough to break the occasional play; and unlike JJ he would come to the NFL as a superb in-line blocker. His stock will go way up if the Steelers move on from Jesse James.
  • 3:12 TE Dawson Knox, Ole Miss. 6’4”, 250 lbs. One of the most athletic TE’s in the draft, Knox was underutilized in college but shined as a capable receiver when he got the chance. Not a great blocker though he has the size.
  • 4:01 TE Dax Raymond, Utah St. 6’5”, 250 lbs. A good receiving TE with the build but not the skill to play in-line and good but not exceptional athletic skills. Sounds a lot like Jesse James Mark II.
  • 4:16 TE Alize Mack, Notre Dame. 6’5”, 247 lbs. A catch-point monster and one of the best route running TE’s in the draft, he’s flashed quite often but has red flags for injury concerns and “team rule violations”. Here is a good highlight of him by Brad Kelly and a New Year’s follow up by the Draft Network staff.
  • 4:16 TE Ravien Pierce, Syracuse. 6’3”, 244 lbs. Good but not great in almost every way except the overall athleticism (superior) and the size (not so much).
  • 5:01 TE Kendall Blanton, Missouri {Meeting at the Shrine Game}. 6’6”, 260 lbs. A size XL, box-out receiving threat who became a good blocker in 2018. Projects as a multipurpose TE2 to compete with or replace Jesse James.
  • 5:01 TE/WR Donald Parham, Stetson. 6’8’, 240 lbs. A massively oversized receiver and mismatch weapon, this January scouting profile describes a very raw prospect from a tiny school with great hands, potentially coachable issues across the line with route running, good but not great speed, and no future at all as an in-line blocker. That said, he did dominate his competition for his entire tenure at Stetson to the point where he received a Senior Bowl invite. Looks like a boom-or-bust prospect with extreme potential on both ends.
  • 5:16 TE Isaac Nauta, Georgia. 6’4”, 245 lbs. Projects as an NFL quality TE2 if he can clean things up. Nauta has a fairly well rounded game and proved in 2018 that he can both block at a college level and also find the holes in a zone defense. But does he have anything special to add that could make you view him as a potential TE1?
  • 6:01 TE Foster Moreau, LSU. 6’5”, 255 lbs. A good blocker but not the in-space athlete who’d give the Steelers another potential weapon. Tough and gritty enough to earn the #18 uniform for “player who exemplifies LSU football,” he should be able to stick in the league if he can find the right team - but that probably won’t be Pittsburgh.
  • 6:01 TE Tommy Sweeney, Boston Coll. 6’5”, 255 lbs. A rare, well rounded TE with a complete game. Would rank much higher if he’d shown the physical genius to be more than a solid contributor.

It isn’t a particularly good class but there are a few players who’d be true BPA bargains if they fall to the right spot. Don’t write it off.

[FN] For those who don’t know, we organize the BTSC Big Board by a grade called “Highest Value”. An HV of 1:20 means the player is a reach for the Steelers at any point before Pick # 20 overall but good value at any point from the end of the 1st on. Getting that player in the early 2nd would be fine, while getting him at 2:12 would almost be a steal. Yes, this system results in a certain amount of grade inflation for positions of need because we are talking about the “highest” grade rather than where a player is expected to go; but it’s balanced by never, ever pushing a grade up because of need. Players with the same HV# are more-or-less equivalent and organized alphabetically.

Pittsburgh Steelers Fact or Fiction: 2019 Offseason Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - 4 hours 14 min ago

BTSC examines whether statements regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers are fact or fiction.

With the noise coming out of the Steel City louder than ever since season’s end, everybody has an opinion about the most talked-about NFL team not to make the playoffs. But what is to be believed? BTSC takes five bold statements regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers and shares their thoughts and opinions whether or not they’re fact or fiction.

Mike Tomlin will resist hiring a coach to preside over replays and clock management

Fiction

Art II Is offering assistance to Tomlin for what is perceived to be his biggest weakness. Most coaches would let pride get in the way and say “Thanks, but no thanks”. But when the fan base is calling for your head, you follow the owner’s suggestion. Tomlin is smart and realizes that other teams have that exact position, so delegation is not a bad thing. Coach T will take the lifeline.

Teams will target both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell to join them in 2019

Fact

Teams with tons of cap room and not intimately familiar with the divisiveness and less-than-selfless demeanors that accompany the mega talent that this pairing promises to offer, it may be a tough task to actually execute. I would think that the Steelers would hesitate to deal AB to an AFC team that could afford this like the New York Jets. Plus teams that could afford it have found solutions to their RB dilemma like the Browns have with Nick Chubb and the Colts have with Marlon Mack. The pairing could happen. It is unlikely, but franchises will consider it.

The upcoming season will be Keith Butler’s last in Pittsburgh

Fact

After the terrible collapse of the defense again in 2018, many a scalp in Steeler Nation has been scratched raw on why Butler remains at the Defensive Coordinator position. The best guess is that Butler’s contract runs out after next season and that they’d rather audition a possible successor like Teryl Austin than fire Butler outright. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the logic here. But all signs point to the end of the road for Butler after 2019.

The loss of Mike Munchak to Denver will be devastating to the Offensive Line

Fiction

Steeler Nation was elated when news broke that Vic Fangio won the Bronco’s job over Steeler OL coach Mike Munchak. However, Munch left in a lateral move to Denver a few days later, causing Steeler Nation to “the Sky is falling” mode. However, enter Shaun Sarrett who has been working with Munchak since 2014 and the team since 2012. Sarrett’s resumé may be unknown to Steeler fans, but to those in the know...the feeling is that the excellence of a line featuring three Pro Bowlers will continue under Sarrett. Gravity remains.

The Steelers will welcome Ramon Foster back in 2019

Fact

Previously, I was certain that the Steelers would let “The Big Ragu” walk after his contract ran out. But after coming off of another solid season, with Marcus Gilbert’s injury woes continuing and Mike Munchak’s departure...It looks like No. 73 could return at a team friendly deal to help continue to be a vital link on a strong chain.

...

How accurate will our opinions prove to be? To copy the sentiment of Antonio Brown...We will find out soon.

Podcast: Handing out Steelers CB and Safety end of year grades

Behind the Steel Curtain - 5 hours 12 min ago

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers season is over, but the news is just starting to heat up. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers, including a fun game of “True or False!”

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Recapping the week that was
  • RB and WR season grades!
  • Championship Game LIVE reaction
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
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.

Black and Gold Links: What kind of changes, and to what extent, need to happen in Pittsburgh?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 6 hours 18 min ago

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at the changes which need to take place, but not just the changes but the extent of those changes to get the team back to Championship Sunday next season.

Let’s get to the news:

John Steigerwald: Business as usual won’t cut it for Steelers

By: John Steigerwald, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Art Rooney II is right.

Things could have been a lot different in the AFC North if not for the kicker. There was that blocked field goal in overtime in Week 1 that led to a tie, and then there was that loss by three points when the kicker missed two field goals and two extra points.

Art, of course, was talking about Chris Boswell, who, according to him, went from one of the best kickers in the league in 2017 to one of the worst this season.

I, of course, am talking about Zane Gonzalez.

He was the Cleveland Browns’ kicker until they cut him at the start of Week 3. Gonzalez had a tough two weeks to start the season. He had a 43-yard attempt blocked by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt in the opener with nine seconds left in overtime. That game, you may remember, ended in a 21-21 tie. The next week, Gonzalez missed two field goals and two extra points in a 21-18 loss to the Saints in New Orleans.

If he makes those kicks, the Browns finish 9-7. It would have meant that, instead of giving the Steelers a division championship by beating the Ravens in Baltimore in the last game of the season, they would have won the division themselves. They lost that game 26-24 after the Ravens intercepted a Baker Mayfield pass in field-goal territory in the last seconds.

So Rooney probably shouldn’t try to console himself or his fans, as he did while making the rounds in rare talks with the media last week, by playing the woulda-coulda-shoulda game. The Browns had just as many couldas.

And they shoulda started the season with Mayfield at quarterback instead of Tyrod Taylor, who left for good with a concussion in the second quarter of their third game.

That coulda meant a 2-0 start.

Rooney bristled at the idea that his franchise had turned into a circus when it was suggested at his press conference Wednesday.

“It’s nonsense,” he said. “We didn’t achieve our goal of winning the division, but we finished a half-game out and had a lot of opportunities to get there.”

Again, so did the Cleveland Stinking Browns.

They played in four overtime games and lost three of them. The tie with the Steelers looked like a fluke because, at the time, nobody believed they were close to being as good as the Steelers.

They were and they are going into next season.

And it’s about a lot more than the kicker.

No need here to drag out all the circus acts from 2018. They’ve become part of Steelers lore and will live forever, but the first act was Antonio Brown showing up in a helicopter.

After flaming out at home to Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars in their last appearance of the 2017 season, it would have been a nice touch if the coach, Mike Tomlin, had told his players it was time for a little humility.

You know, how about displaying a “We mean business” attitude and a focus on the team instead of starting the season off with the biggest and most ridiculous “Look at me” moment in Steelers history?

It’s hard to believe that nobody in the organization had been aware of Brown’ s plan for the big entrance. Would it have been too much to ask if he could just shut up and show up? Maybe change the tone a little bit?

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

Mark Madden: Rooney should make Tomlin feel like he has to earn contract extension

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

When Steelers owner/president Art Rooney II made his media rounds this week, he seemed noncommittal to the notion of extending the contract of coach Mike Tomlin.

“Those are things we’ll get to sort of later in the offseason,” Rooney said.

Translation: Tomlin will get extended, but it’s not something Rooney wants to trumpet less than a month after an epic fail of a season that saw his coach lose control.

Rooney refused to characterize the Steelers as a “circus,” and why would he? That wouldn’t do the franchise one bit of good.

But, by season’s end, the whole team could have spilled out of a solitary car at the 50-yard-line by way of pregame introductions.

Changes to the coaching staff have been minimal: Two assistants were let go. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak made a lateral move to Denver to be near his daughter and granddaughter and for no other reason — certainly not to escape the quicksand of the Steelers’ chaos, nor because Munchak was a lonely island of discipline and structure in an ocean of turmoil.

Somebody already on the staff will “assist” Tomlin with replay challenges. That’s cosmetic, not meaningful. Tomlin, who has been unsuccessful on all nine of his replay challenges over the last two seasons, still has final say. He shouldn’t.

Doing a basic read-between-the-lines translation of what Rooney said, he thinks the Steelers’ problems are neither great, nor many.

Rooney will confirm that when he extends Tomlin’s contract this offseason.

That adheres to the Steelers’ policy of extending a coach’s commitment when he has two years left on his current deal. (The Steelers are addicted to doing things exactly as they have for the past 50 years. Except Tomlin isn’t Chuck Noll.)

Tomlin largely let the reins slip during the last two seasons. It wasn’t nonstop chaos but pretty close. Review the timeline.

Tomlin acknowledged the Steelers’ framework needs modified: “I foster and develop every aspect of our culture.”

That’s a mouthful for someone who seems to rarely think he’s wrong, let alone admit it.

More tangibly, the Steelers went from 7-2-1 to out of the playoffs.

The Steelers are broken. Tomlin likely doesn’t know how to fix it. But giving him job security beyond 2020 might make him think he doesn’t really have to. The gravity of the situation would be minimized. This past season’s collapse would be normalized.

Giving Tomlin an extension now (and, very likely, a hefty raise) would be pointing him in the wrong direction.

Tomlin wouldn’t be a lame duck without an extension. He has two years left, not one.

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

FIXING THE STEELERS: 2019 OFFSEASON PLAN

By: Jon Ledyard, The Draft Network

At 7-2-1 coming off an amazing comeback win against Jacksonville, all seemed fine in Pittsburgh. Another division title was essentially guaranteed, and a run at the Super Bowl seemed legitimate given the weak AFC and parity across the entire NFL.

Instead, the Steelers lost four of their last six, fell flat on their faces blowing several fourth quarter leads and were thoroughly out-coached and out-played during a stretch of miserable football that will go down in NFL history. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Steelers are the third team to start 7-2-1 or better through 10 games and fail to reach the playoffs since the current format was adopted in 1990. Both the other teams (Dolphins, 1993, Raiders, 1995) lost their starting quarterbacks to spur on the collapse.

The Steelers, generally blessed with good health throughout the season, delivered an all-time choke job by losing to the Broncos and Raiders and tying the Browns before blowing a late lead against the Saints in Week 16.

The questions have never been louder in Pittsburgh than they are right now. Should Mike Tomlin stay as head coach? Is the team’s Super Bowl window closed? Will they finally be aggressive in acquiring top talent in the offseason?

The answer is yes, no and dear God I hope so, but probably no.

Allow me to elaborate with the offseason moves Pittsburgh must make to return to the postseason.

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

NFL Conference Championship Sunday: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 1:45pm

The Steelers’ season is over, but we all will be watching other games Sunday to see how things shake out.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 season is over, but despite them being left out of the AFC Playoffs, we all know the Steelers Nation fan base will be watching all the Conference Championship action today to see how things shake out.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on throughout Championship Sunday. Which game are you most excited about watching? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all the playoff action in the process.

Here is the schedule of events for today:

Rams at Saints - 3:05 p.m. ET
Patriots at Chiefs - 6:40 p.m. ET

Who do you like to win these games today?

As always, remember we are all here for the same reason...

GO STEELERS!

This Week in Pittsburgh Steelers Stats: Various numbers and rankings from the 2018 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 1:02pm

A compilation of Steelers statistics from various Tweets over the past week.

Compiling statistics can take hours upon hours in order to find the proper numbers. To save you the trouble, here are some of the best statistics about the Steelers published during this past week.

I will begin with a few statistics of my own before going on to other various Steeler sources. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @STLRSuperFanDad in order to get some of BTSC’s geekiest stats.

Two #Steelers played 100% of the offensive snaps (1,116) in 2018: Alejandro Villanueva and @RamonFoster. With 73 ST snaps each, they led the team with 1,189 snaps, which was also tied with rookie Terrell Edmunds (966 on defense and 223 ST).

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 19, 2019

With 12 rushing TD’s in 13 games in 2018, @JamesConner_ ranks 2nd in franchise history in rushing touchdowns per game (0.932) in a single season. Only @francoharrishof in 1976 (14 rushing TD’s in 14 games for 1.00 rushing touchdowns per game) ranks higher.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 19, 2019

@JamesConner_ had 9 rushes of 20 yards or more for the @steelers in 2018, the most since Rashad Mendenhall’s 11 in 2010.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 19, 2019

The @steelers 345 rushing attempts in 2018 was the fewest in a 16-game season in franchise history. Since 1947, the only season with fewer rushing attempts was the strike-shortened season of 1982 (289). This includes 33 seasons of less than 16 games.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 18, 2019

The 2018 @steelers had their 2nd worst turnover margin (-11) since 1968. The only season which was lower since then was 2011 (-13).

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 17, 2019

The 2018 @steelers had the fewest players register either a kick or punt return (3) in team history. Two of those players (Nix and Samuels) only fielded the ball due to a short kick. @Switz was deep to field every kick in 2018 and had 857 return yards which was 5th in the NFL.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 14, 2019

Today's Stathead Question of the Day:

Ben Roethlisberger is second among active players in playoff starts with 21. Find info like this in the leaders section #StatheadQotD https://t.co/VyQeDbKiUR

— ProFootballReference (@pfref) January 19, 2019

Four catches for 161 yards, including a 64-yard TD late in the fourth quarter.

On this day in 1976, @Lynn88Swann delivered one of the most memorable Super Bowl performances of all time. @steelers pic.twitter.com/gOiRTdj7PQ

— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) January 19, 2019

JuJu Smith-Schuster's 11 100-receiving yard games are tied as the 4th-most in
NFL history in a player's first two seasons, while his 169 catches are 5th-most and his 2,343 receiving yards are 10th-most. pic.twitter.com/yubdLFP9h9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 19, 2019

A look back at the 2018 season for JuJu Smith-Schuster shows that he is ready to take over as the top option for the #Steelers if called upon.

: https://t.co/GKxdDwGT16 pic.twitter.com/rVKEDB4Sxl

— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) January 18, 2019

The NFL leader in deep receiving yards is in action on Sunday! pic.twitter.com/bfKstaZy6w

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 18, 2019

Bobby Wagner was in a class of his own when it came to tackling efficiency in 2018. pic.twitter.com/E95II9QrLi

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 15, 2019

No cornerback forced more incompletions from the slot than Mike Hilton in 2018. pic.twitter.com/LbTFmmdrCl

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 15, 2019

Memorable AFC Championship Game moments in Pittsburgh Steelers history

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 11:48am

The Steelers had great moments in AFCCG history, but these may rank as the finest.

The AFC Championship Game is being played in Kansas City this weekend minus the team that has played-in (16) and hosted (11) the game the most...The Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Steelers couldn’t muster their way in this past season, there have been some very memorable moments featuring the black-and-gold. Here are some that pop up most in the craniums of Steeler Nation.

J.T. Thomas’ Redemption - December 29, 1974

The Steelers were on the doorstep of finally getting Art Rooney Sr. to the ““Big One” courtesy of rushing greatness by Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier and great defensive performances by Joe Greene, Jack Ham (two picks) and Jack Lambert. Home Team Oakland was down by four and driving with 1:18 left. The Steelers gang rushed Ken Stabler and sacked him, but J.T. Thomas was nailed for holding in the secondary. Enraged, he picked up the flag and spiked it. Today that would have definitely drew more of a penalty. On the next play, Thomas intercepted a Stabler duck and returned it 38 yards to the Oakland 25 with one minute remaining. The game was sealed when Franco scored from 21 out, two plays later. After 41 years, Art Rooney finally found his team in the big game and we all know what followed.

The Non-Call That Helped Change The NFL - January 6, 1980

On a drive in which Mike Renfro recovered a fumble in the vicinity of five Pittsburgh defenders, drew Mel Blount into a chuck penalty and caught a key first down...the second-year man from TCU was involved in one of the most controversial calls in Title Game history. With 1:30 left in the third, Dan Pastorini threw a six-yard rainbow to Renfro for an apparent touchdown in the corner of the end zone over Ron Johnson. The replay showed that Renfro had clear control of the ball with his left foot down and his right foot hitting the pylon. NFL Films much later showed some movement in Renfro’s hands. If instant replay was in effect, the call on the field very well could have been reversed and Pittsburgh fans would have been hard pressed to argue it. (It was much more borderline than what first appeared on NBC television.) The officials conferred and referee Jim Tunney ruled it out if bounds. Houston was livid. Steeler fans accepted the gift. It was now second down and goal from the six and the Steeler defense held the Oilers to a field goal. It was 17-13 at the end of the third. The game ended 27-13 and the Steelers went on to win their fourth Super Bowl. The Renfro play became a major factor in replay being inserted into the NFL.

Ernie Mills Comes Up Big Again and The Unanswered Prayer - January 14, 1996

The Steelers were heavy favorites to advance to the first Super Bowl appearance of Bill Cowher’s career and the first for the franchise in 16 years, but somebody forgot to tell Jim Harbaugh and the Colts to lay down and let it happen. With 3:03 remaining in the game and Indy up 16-13, the Steelers got the ball back needing at least three to tie. But the way the Colts were playing, a TD seemed necessary. The game almost ended on that drive when Quentin Coryatt seemingly iced the game with an interception of Neil O’Donnell. But at the last moment, WR Ernie Mills bumped the ball out of the linebacker’s grasp. On fourth down, O’Donnell completed a crucial pass to Andre Hastings. On the very next play, No. 14 launched a 37-yard pass to Mills. No. 89 caught the ball in traffic, while managing to stay in bounds at the one. Bam Morris helped Pittsburgh take the lead on the next play. However, Captain Comeback wasn’t done. With very little time left, Harbaugh got the Colts to the Steeler 29. He then lined up with :05 seconds on the clock and launched a Hail Mary into the right corner of the end zone, where Aaron Bailey was waiting. Everybody in Three Rivers Stadium and at home watching on NBC thought Bailey caught the prayer. But Myron “Boo” Bell helped knock the ball away and the Steelers celebrated the big win. Eventually, they would fall two weeks later to Dallas in SB XXX.

Ben Roethlisberger’s XL Bootleg - January 22, 2006

The Steelers had lost three-straight AFC Championship Games at home, so playing in the rarified Denver air was fine for the 2005 sixth seed. A week after stunning the favorites, the Indianapolis Colts, on the road...the “Road Warrior” Steelers won their seventh-straight elimination game of that season behind a masterful performance by Ben Roethlisberger. The second-year QB was 21 for 29 and threw two TD passes in the game. But with 2:59 left and the team leading 27-17, Big Ben scored off a four-yard bootleg to the left to put the contest out of reach and send Jerome Bettis home to Detroit for the Steelers first Super Bowl in ten years and their first victory in 26.

No. 43 Zig Zags the Steelers into Super Bowl No. 43 - January 19, 2009

In the fourth quarter and nursing a slim 16-14 lead at home against their bitter division rivals, the Steelers’ saw a drive (attempting to ice the game) fail after Terrell Suggs sacked Ben Roethlisberger after the Steelers started at their own 40. The Baltimore Ravens took to the turf with a chance to take the lead with 6:50 remaining on the clock. What seemed to be a starting point at the 40, Darren Stone whipped Anthony Madison down miles out of bounds by the B-More bench. Instead of starting off only 60-yards away, Flacco and the offense started way back at their own 14. The Ravens were trying to move the ball, but the Steeler defense came up big on back-to-back plays. On second down, James Farrior forced Joe Flacco into LaMarr Woddley and No. 56 got his second sack. But fortunes really changed when Flacco threw a pass to Derrick Mason on third and 13 with hopes to move the chains. Troy Polamalu, who had been dominant all game, undercut the route and thieved the ball. No. 43 zigged and zagged and ran from sideline to sideline before he made a beeline to the end zone. In what was one of the most majestic plays in Steeler lore from a player with a wrapped calf, the pick-six basically iced the game for Pittsburgh. They would go on to win SB XLIII in even more memorable fashion two weeks later.

NFL Picks and Predictions: Picking Sunday’s Championship Playoff games against the spread and the totals

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 10:35am

We take a look at all the action available on Sunday’s playoff games.

If the Super Bowl is to be a watchable event for Pittsburgh Steelers fans in 2019, the Kansas City Chiefs must beat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. Regardless of Tom Brady’s absurd suggestion that no one believes New England can win in Kansas City, the reality is that most NFL fans just don't want them to.

As per the analyzed geotagged Twitter data from across the country nation, people in each of the 50 states published by betting site sportsbetting.ag.

First up on the day’s schedule are two teams that few Steelers fans will hold any deep seated resentment towards, with the New Orleans Saints set to host the Los Angeles Rams. New Orleans opened as 3-point favorites at the start of the week and that is the same line showing as kick-off approaches. The totals position has also seen very little change from an opening line of 57-points, with 56.5-points now the most common offering.

SC Prediction - It is hard to look past the Saints playing at home in the playoff given they have never lost in front of their own fans during the postseason since Sean Payton took control of the team. With weapons all over the field on offense and an improving defense, it is hard to see a different outcome to the Week 9 meeting between these two teams won by New Orleans by a score of 45-35. Home teams have won the last 10 straight championship games and the Saints should have pushed that number to 11 when the final whistle sounds.

Pick: Saints straight up a with a spread of -3-points. Take under 56.5 points.

JH Prediction - The one thing which stands out to me in this game is how these two teams just don’t seem to be playing their best football right now. With that being my line of thinking, I can see this game being lower scoring than most believe, and I think the Saints continue to roll at home en route to the Super Bowl.

Pick: I like the Saints to win and cover, but I’ll take the UNDER in this contest.

...

Much like the NFC Championship Game, there has been very little movement to the open spread or total for the game between the Patriots and the Chiefs, with Kansas City holding firm as 3-point favorites for the contest and the over/under currently set at 56.5-points.

SC Prediction - Even while acknowledging an epic bias against New England, I still struggle to see the Chiefs failing to capitalize on an opportunity to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1970. In front of a deafening home crowd, the Patriots will find it hard to communicate and that should impact the way their offense performs. New England has not been impressive on the road in 2018 and the Chiefs finally have a good enough quarterback under center to make use of several talented playmakers on offense.

Pick: Chiefs straight up a with a spread of -3-points. Take over 56.5 points.

JH Prediction - This is a head and heart pick for me. While I can see the Patriots’ experience helping them, I don’t think this team can be as prepared for the Chiefs’ offense like they were against the Chargers last week with a bye week to prepare. Patrick Mahomes and company should be able to move the ball against the New England defense, but can they stop Tom Brady and company enough to win?

Pick: I like the Chiefs here straight up, and to cover. Just like the NFC game, I’ll take the UNDER thinking the weather will impact the effectiveness of both offenses.

Please add your selections in the comments section below and we will tally an overall winner at the end of postseason.

Fantasy Football: Who to start/sit in your daily fantasy league for the AFC/NFC Championship games

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 9:35am

How to possibly win some cash while enjoying the AFC/NFC Championship games.

For some, the Fantasy Football season is over. For some, like Pittsburgh Steelers fans, watching other teams play football just isn’t as fun.

But for those who play daily Fantasy Football, it can not only allow you to continue your Fantasy Football obsession a few more weeks, but can also make watching the games even more enjoyable as you root for your team to perform well, and possibly win you some money if you get into those type of leagues.

For those who have never used FanDuel before, you are given a salary, and each player has a cost attached to him. This prevents you from loading your roster, but having to find some gems that don’t cost as much money.

With some sites like FanDuel, you find a truncated roster with a ‘multiplier’ (a player who gives your team 1.5x the points), but for this article we are talking about your standard roster consisting of a QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, FLEX, DEF.

Let’s get down to it, considering there are only two games, and not as many players to choose from compared to a regular season week of action:

QB

Start: Drew Brees

The weather in Arrowhead isn’t going to be pretty, and there is a chance it could hinder the performance of both Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. While Mahomes is tempting, his inexperience also has me shying away from him in this position. I’ll go with Brees in the dome against a Rams defense which has given up a lot through the air.

FanDuel Cost: $8,800

RB1

Start: Damien Williams

Speaking of the weather in Kansas City, this should be prime territory for the Chiefs to run the football. Williams has been extremely solid since Kareem Hunt was dismissed from the team, and is a cheaper option than Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara. Williams is coming off a 23-point performance in the Divisional round of the AFC Playoffs.

FanDuel Cost: $7,200

RB2

Start: James White

James White or Sony Michel is a tough debate when talking about Fantasy Football. Michel is coming off a huge game in the divisional round where he scored three touchdowns, but I like White’s versatility in this AFC Championship game.

FanDuel Cost: $7,700

WR1

Start: Michael Thomas

I want to handcuff Brees and his favorite target in this game because the Saints are now developing plays specifically for Thomas. I once shied away from Thomas in this situations, but he has made enough plays on a consistent basis for me to trust him in this big situation. He costs a lot, but is worth it.

FanDuel Cost: $8,800

WR2

Start: Brandin Cooks

Cooks is one of Jared Goff’s favorite targets, and also one of his most reliable. Cooks averages 13.5 fantasy points per game (FPPG), and is a cheaper option compared to some other aerial threats.

FanDuel Cost: $6,900

WR3

Start: Sammy Watkins

Continuing to manage my cap, I am going to go with Watkins in the WR3 slot in hope the Patriots sell out to stop Tyreek Hill and leave Watkins with plenty of one-on-one matchups. If he gets me double-digit points I will be ecstatic.

FanDuel Cost: $5,600

TE

Start: Rob Gronkowski

Again, you have to manage your money, and while ‘Gronk’ hasn’t done much this postseason, I’ll take him for a much cheaper than usual cost, in hopes the Patriots are just biding their time until they unleash ‘The Gronk’.

FanDuel Cost: $5,600

FLEX

Start: Ted Ginn Jr.

At this point, you make do with what you have, and with only a few bucks remaining I chose to go with one of Brees’ targets in hopes of doubling my point totals with any completion heading Ginn’s way. If he hits pay dirt, awesome. If not, anything Ginn can give me, and my team, is a bonus.

FanDuel Cost: $5,300

DEF

Start: Patriots

At this point I have spent the majority of my money on skill players, and will take the experience of a Bill Belichick defense, mainly because they are the cheapest option.

FanDuel Cost: $4,000

Antonio Brown tries to make amends with Steelers fans with uncertainty in his future

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 8:20am

The Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver tries to build a bridge between himself and the black-and-gold faithful.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and All-World wide receiver Antonio Brown are at an impasse.

This has been well-documented since the 2018 regular season concluded.

But as the Steelers and Brown try to figure out their next step, a massive gap has developed between the once beloved Brown and the black-and-gold fan base around the world.

Fans are more than upset with how Brown has conducted himself at the end of the season, and after, as he remains in the dark — outside of social media. With that known, it should come as little surprise to the fan base when Brown uses social media to try and get back in the good graces of those who donned his jersey every game day.

Brown took to his verified Twitter and Instagram accounts to provide the following video:

(In the case you cannot see the video below, click HERE.)

One thing I understand about this fan base and that I'll never forget and always appreciate is your passion. Know that it's all love this way and I am forever thankful for #steelernation ! (this is not a goodbye, just a thank u) pic.twitter.com/5mCg5pRjXL

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) January 20, 2019

While this looks like a farewell video, Brown made it a point to let his fans know this isn’t the case. His caption to the video said the following:

One thing I understand about this fan base and that I’ll never forget and always appreciate your passion. Know that it’s all love this way and I am forever thankful for #steelernation ! (this is not a goodbye, just a thank u)

Take that for what it’s worth, but it certainly seems like a video bidding the fans adieu.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as the offseason continues to drag on.

The Chiefs’ Super Bowl drought should give Steelers fans some perspective, right?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 7:17am

The Steelers haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since January of 2011. The Chiefs haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since January of 1970. Which fan base has suffered more? The Chiefs, right? Right?

You’re a frustrated Steelers fan, and I feel you. After all, it’s been nearly a decade since Pittsburgh has appeared in a Super Bowl—just under eight years, in fact. Barack Obama was still in his first term as President of the United Stated (“OMG! You’re bringing up a president who was the president at the time he was president! You’re going to divide your readers!!!!!”).

The end of the 2018 regular season didn’t do much to end that long, long drought—not unless we all took some sort of hallucinogenic drug mere seconds before we thought we saw Xavier Grimble turn a sure touchdown into touchback in Denver way back on November 25 (“OMG! You’re talking about drugs! How am I going to explain this article to my kids?”).

Anyway, once the Steelers were eliminated from playoff contention on December 30 (oh, who am I kidding? Way before that), you may have changed your online persona to “FireTomlin!” or something like that. I do know that every Steelers-related post on either their official Facebook page or BTSC’s official Facebook page has been met with “Yeah, but did they fire the coach?” type comments.

Headline example: “The Steelers know who they will be playing in 2019”

Comment example: “This team is going nowhere with Mike Tomlin!”

Headline example: “Steelers donate to charitable cause”

Comment example: “This team is going nowhere with Mike Tomlin!”

I feel you, I really do. After all, the Steelers have wasted the latter years of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. Yeah, sure, they’ve made three Super Bowls and won two of them since rolling the dice and drafting a franchise quarterback, but that was way back when, in the before time.

What about now?

Need some help in dealing with this Super Bowl drought? Perhaps you need some perspective.

How about the Chiefs Super Bowl drought, one that could end on Sunday, if they take care of New England in the AFC Championship game?

You know who was president the last time Kansas City appeared in a Super Bowl? Richard Nixon (“OMG! Another president who was president when he was president!”). The actual date was January 11, 1970—Super Bowl IV against the Vikings, a game that took place years before Watergate became a reality (“OMG! I read sports to escape!”). In case you need some more perspective, this was mere months after the United States landed men on the moon for the very first time (“OMG! Walt Disney orchestrated that entire hoax!!!!!!!!!”).

To give you even more perspective, January 11, 1970 was two-and-a-half years before I was even born, and I’m getting up there in age (“OMG! I’m over 50! I don’t need to hear about some punk who is only 46 years and eight months old! This site has totally gone downhill!”).

You just know there were fans back then who, shortly after the Chiefs knocked off the Vikings, 23-7, to win their first championship, probably said, “Yeah, I truly think the Chiefs have more talent than any team in football, and I look for them to win several more Super Bowls over the next decade or so.”

If those people only knew.........

But the Chiefs have a chance to end that drought. They have a chance to end the suffering of thousands of their faithful, many of whom were probably cheering them on that day back on January 11, 1970 and have been cheering ever since, just waiting for the day when they’ll get to see their favorite football team play on the game’s grandest stage once again.

OK, so now that you have gained some healthy perspective, you will appreciate what the Steelers were able to do in the fairly-recent past, right?

LMAO! Just kidding.

Report: Morgan Burnett wants Steelers to release him this offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 6:14am

Having only played one season of a three-year contract he signed in 2018, the former Green Bay Packer safety already wants out of Pittsburgh.

If a report released on Saturday by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is to believed, it would appear that Antonio Brown might not be the only player under contract hoping to be playing elsewhere in 2019. Just one year into the three-year deal he signed as a free agent in March, safety Morgan Burnett is also looking to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.

Spoke with #Steelers S Morgan Burnett, who tells me he wants to be released from his deal before free agency. During his time in Pittsburgh, he felt he played out of position as a dime LB. Burnett, with 2 yrs left on his contract, wants a new start & a chance to play safety again

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 19, 2019

Reportedly unhappy with being asked to play at linebacker when the Steelers run their dime defense, Burnett apparently wants to be released in time to hit free agency when the new year league begins, according to Rapoport.

Signed to a three-year contract worth $14.35 million during free agency, a deal that included a signing bonus worth $4.35 million, Burnett’s release would save Pittsburgh $3,633,332 against the cap in 2019, while leaving them with $2,833,334 in dead money. If he was designated as a post June 1 release, the Steelers would save $5.05 million in salary cap space this year and leave themselves $1,416,666 to account for in dead money in each of next two seasons.

Set earn a base salary of $5 million in his second season with the team and an additional $50,000 as part of a workout bonus clause, there are significant cash savings to be made by granting his release. However, having missed a large part of training camp and five game during his debut season with a variety of injuries, there was no guarantee Pittsburgh was going to bring back a player for that much money who ultimately only started twice in 2018.

Even when healthy in the second half of the season, the coaching staff still appeared to favor Terrell Edmunds at strong safety in their base defense, a fact that is unlikely to change given the rookie’s draft position and Burnett’s historic inability to stay healthy.

But while it is understandable that the former Green Packers safety would rather be on a team where he feels he would have a better opportunity to start, his complaint about playing the dime linebacker position make less sense. Given it was his experience in that role that encouraged the Steelers to sign him in the first place, something the coaching staff had spoken openly about using him for in Pittsburgh, it feels as if his real complaint might actually be about his overall lack of playing and being stuck behind a rookie on the depth chart.

Before they consider releasing him, it should be expected that the Steelers would attempt to move him via trade, even if it was in return for just a late round selection.

A Letter from the Editor: Pining for the days of the no-nonsense Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 5:36am

As many do, pining for the Steelers days of my youth are strong as of late.

As the NFL offseason inches closer and closer to the dog days with very little news, I decided Sundays would be a great time for me to take a section of the page, and write about anything which is on my mind.

While this certainly leaves almost any topic on the table for me to discuss, know it will never veer to politics, religion or any other controversial topics of the kind. No, it will most likely revolve around the Steelers, Pittsburgh sports, or, like today’s article, a combination of several.

As a 35 year old father of 5, I often find myself thinking about my time as a kid. No, not when I was 10, the age of my oldest child, but when I was old enough to really remember things.

I have been blessed with an incredible memory, and the majority of my memories as a young man were based around Pittsburgh sports. Over the holidays on a trip back to my hometown of Wheeling, WV, I dug a toy chest out of my childhood room’s closet. What I found was an untouched glimpse into Jeff Hartman ages 8-13.

Those years were great. No stress, school wasn’t difficult yet, work was just mowing grass and shoveling snow, and girls weren’t really a part of the equation yet. You had great friends, the video games were basic, and you spent the vast majority of your time playing outside until the street lights came on. But who am I kidding, we pushed those limits every night until the booming voice of my father made all the neighborhood kids scatter.

While digging through this pre-adolescent treasure chest, I found box upon box of my childhood trading cards. There were NFL, MLB, NHL and even a couple packs of ‘Garbage Pale Kids’ and ‘Beavis and Butthead’ trading cards — I never said I was the perfect child growing up.

I looked through the cards and stared at awe of my vast collection of Andy Van Slyke, Mario Lemieux and Barry Foster cards. As a kid I loved these players, and I treasured these cards. In the summer when my friends and I sat around a picnic table bartering which cards we would potentially trade, there was no card outside of Honus Wagner that I would give up for any of those aforementioned players.

No chance. No way.

As I looked through the cards, I couldn’t help but realize my current job of running this wonderful, and large, website. At the time of me finding this chest my days were spent writing articles which seemingly were geared more towards TMZ than an NFL website. But there I was, writing about Antonio Brown skipping practices, and the fall out which ensued.

I found myself longing for the days of Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Jerome Bettis, Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown and Rod Woodson.

Those teams never won a title, but boy were they fun to watch.

For some reason my mind always flashes back to the 1994 AFC Championship game when Neil O’Donnell threw the fourth down pass intended for Barry Foster low, ending the Steelers’ season and sending the Chargers to the Super Bowl where they would get throttled by Steve Young and the 49ers.

I remembered the 1995 AFC Championship game when Harbaugh threw the hail mary pass into the endzone, and everyone’s heart stopped beating until they saw the official, and the replay, show the ball touch the turf. It sent Pittsburgh to Super Bowl XXX, only to have Mr. O’Donnell produce one of the most forgettable performances from a very memorable football game.

Longing for those days is fun, because for me it was pure. Were those players perfect? Absolutely not. Who can forget Greg Lloyed using some not-safe-for-work (NSFW) language in the post-game interview after winning the AFC Championship game? In case you don’t remember:

Could you imagine if the internet, and sites like BTSC, were around during those times?

As I always say, can you imagine Joey Porter in his playing days with a Twitter account? He would make the most wild player accounts seem tame.

With the Steelers spending the majority of the past 3-4 years dealing with suspensions, drama and intrigue, I know I am not alone when I speak about thinking back to the glory days of black-and-gold football when all that seemingly mattered was tuning in on Sunday, and watching your beloved team. For some, this is thinking back to those 1970s team, but for me those 1990s team were the ones which infected me with the black-and-gold illness which still runs rampant through my veins each day.

You didn’t care about who said what on social media. You didn’t argue with other commenters on a website. You didn’t go on Twitter and say inappropriate things to a player who might have made a mistake. You just enjoyed the game — win, lose or draw.

While I love this site and the community it has become, I still miss those simpler days in both my life, and with my favorite football team.

Black and Gold Links: Should the Steelers be confident in their running backs heading into 2019?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 4:45am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether or not the Steelers should trust in their current running back situation, or if the organization should be looking to free agency, the 2019 NFL Draft, or even both to help aid James Conner and Jaylen Samuels.

Let’s get to the news:

Art Rooney ‘feels good’ about Steelers running backs heading into 2019

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

For the second year in a row, the Pittsburgh Steelers are facing the prospect of playing a season without one of their star playmakers.

While it’s too early to know what life will be like without wide receiver Antonio Brown in 2019, team president Art Rooney II liked the way the Steelers overcame the absence of running back Le’Veon Bell last season.

With Bell sitting out the season while refusing to sign his franchise-tag tender, the Steelers turned to second-year running back James Conner and, later in the year, rookie fifth-round draft pick Jaylen Samuels.

Conner rushed for 973 yards despite missing three games to injury. Samuels added 256 yards rushing and, like Conner and Bell before him, showed he is capable catching a pass out of the backfield.

The young duo didn’t help the Steelers return to the playoffs, but they did enough to catch the attention of the highest-ranking member of the organization.

“The running back position I feel good about,” Rooney II said earlier this week. “It looks like we have two good, young players at that position at this point, so I feel like we’re in pretty good shape there.”

Conner was rewarded with a Pro Bowl selection after his first NFL season as a starter, a year in which he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October while setting several franchise records.

Conner became the first player in franchise history with 1,000 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns in the first eight games of a season. He also had three consecutive games of at least 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns, becoming the first player in Steelers annals (and first in the NFL since 2009) to accomplish that feat.

Despite missing three games, Conner finished third in the league with 12 rushing touchdowns, fifth with five 100-yard rushing games, 10th in scrimmage yards and 11th in rushing yards.

Looking ahead to 2019, the Steelers figure to add depth at the position once free agency starts March 13. Or they could use a later-round draft pick to find another runner, much like they did last year when they drafted Samuels.

Veteran Stevan Ridley is a free agent and had a costly fumble that contributed to the loss in New Orleans on the penultimate week of the season. He is not expected to be brought back.

Rooney also didn’t rule out trying to bring back Bell, who will become a free agent again in March. After two years of using the franchise tag, the Steelers may elect to use the less-costly transition tag on Bell, who would be free to negotiate a contract with any team. The Steelers could match the offer — or threaten to match it in an attempt to get compensation in a trade.

“We’re not closing any doors at this point,” Rooney said. “We don’t have to close any doors right now, and so there’s no reason to say something is completely off the table.”

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

Art Rooney II backs up belief that Steelers don’t have a ‘culture problem’

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

After telling reporters it was “nonsense” that the Pittsburgh Steelers are an organization in disarray, team president Art Rooney II doubled down on his beliefs Friday.

Rooney made the morning talk-show rounds, appearing on 102.5 FM and 93.7 FM to discuss the state of the Steelers three weeks after they concluded a 9-6-1 and missed the playoffs for the first time in five season.

On the airwaves, Rooney reiterated what he earlier had told select media outlets, including the Tribune-Review, when he disagreed with assertions that the organization resembled a “circus” with its list of off-the-field issues, the latest one involving star wide receiver Antonio Brown.

“I certainly don’t think we have a culture problem,” Rooney told 93.7 FM. “We won 13 games (in 2017), so if you have a culture problem, if you have a discipline problem on your team, those kind of teams don’t win 13 games in the National Football League. Those are the facts we have to deal with.”

Rooney later added: “The bottom line is when you point to last year and everybody talks about the drama, that was a team that won 13 games. The first test for me is the performance on the field. Are we winning games? Do we have a winning culture? I think the record speaks for itself.”

Coach Mike Tomlin never has presided over a team with a losing season in his 12 years with the Steelers. In 2018, however, the Steelers won four fewer games than the previous year, and took a loss at Oakland, which had two wins at the time. They lost four of their final six after a 7-2-1 start.

“Our fans judge us primarily on wins and losses,” Rooney said. “This team has won pretty consistently under Mike’s tenure here. When you look at the season, we’re disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs, obviously, but we finished a half-game out of winning our division and were in it down to the last plays of the season.”

Critics point to Tomlin’s 3-5 postseason record since the Steelers appeared in the Super Bowl following the 2010 season.

“We want to do better than that,” Rooney told 93.7 FM. “To be successful in the postseason, you’ve got to start with winning in the regular season. That certainly counts. Bottom line is we want to be playff team that is successful at the end of the season.”

Speaking with 102.5 FM, Rooney said he believes in Tomlin’s leadership abilities.

“The biggest thing he has to be able to do is command the locker room and keep the attention of the players. That is the key to evaluating a coach, and I think Mike has done that,” Rooney said. “Look, we didn’t make the playoffs this year, and that is our first goal. We have to deal with that and have to figure out how to get better.”

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

Paul Zeise: Trading Antonio Brown will not fix the Steelers

By: Paul Zeise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Antonio Brown has done a masterful job of making himself public enemy No. 1 around these parts, and it almost seems like he is relishing it. There is no question he has been a selfish player and at times has been a distraction.

He is the one of the best receivers in the NFL and yet there is now a growing school of thought that trading him away will solve many of the Steelers’ problems — that once he and his sideshow are gone, everything will go back to normal.

That is 100 percent nonsense. Brown’s side show is an issue, but he isn’t the reason the Steelers lost games or missed the playoffs. He isn’t even in the top 10 of reasons this season was a bust, as there are a lot of other places — including those in power who have enabled him — to point the finger.

It is a shame that it has come to this because Brown has been a great player for a lot of years. He had an excellent season but somehow he has become the root cause of all of the team’s problems. I have even heard him blamed for Ben Roethlisberger’s interceptions, as they were allegedly a direct result of him forcing the ball to Brown.

I don’t care how many yards he threw for, Roethlisberger had a good season, not a great season. He needed to play better than he did in a number of games to give the team a chance to win. The idea that Brown is to blame for Ben’s interceptions is ridiculous, as is the fact that Brown doesn’t get the same pass on being a selfish player that Roethlisberger does. This is a subject that hasn’t been broached nearly enough, but we’ve started to hear from some of his current and former teammates that Ben is mostly concerned about Ben’s statistics.

It is also telling that he has been around for as long as he has and has only been named MVP by his teammates one time. This isn’t just a few disgruntled teammates with this perception, either, as this is seemingly well known around the league. The Athletic did a survey of 85 NFL players and one of the questions was “Which quarterback would you least want as a teammate?” Ben came in tied for second with Jameis Winston and behind only Cam Newton.

My point isn’t to take a hatchet to Roesthlisberger, it is to say people need to start being more honest with themselves about the Steelers and their problems. Brown isn’t the only me-first player in that locker room. And getting rid of him won’t change the fact that there is a well documented history of Roethlisberger throwing teammates under the bus and being disruptive behind the scenes, either.

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

94th East/West Shrine Game: News, updates and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 2:16pm

Join the conversation during the East/West game!

The college football all star season is upon us with the playing of the 94th Annual East/West Shrine game. The game will be played on Saturday the 19th in St. Petersburg Florida at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The game can be seen on NFL Network.

Players of Interest East Offense

85 WR DaMarkus Lodge - Mississippi 6’2” 204

78 OT Tyree St Louis - Miami 6’5’ 315

East Defense

6 Derek Baity Jr. - CB Kentucky 6’3” 188

2 Delvon Randall - S Temple 6’1” 215

40 Khalil Hodge - LB Buffalo 6’1” 235

28 Michael Jackson Sr. - CB Miami 6’1” 205

91 Jordan Brailford - EDGE OK State 6’3” 250

West Offense

4 Brett Rypien - QB Boise St 6’2” 202

2 KeeSean Johnson - WR Fresno St 6’2” 199

West Defense

31 Montre Hartage - CB Northwestern 6’ 195

45 Landis Durham - EDGE Texas A&M 6’3” 255

49 Derick Roberson - EDGE Sam Houston St 6’4” 250

27 Andrew Wingard - Safety Wyoming 6’ 214

T.J. Watt talks improvement, and the disappointing Steelers 2018 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 1:58pm

For T.J. Watt, the 2018 season was a wake-up call.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had high hopes for the 2018 season. After a 13-3 2017 season in his rookie season, T.J. Watt was ready for bigger and better things in 2018 — especially a deep playoff push.

None of that happened as the Steelers plunged to mediocrity after a six game winning streak dropped their record to 7-2-1, only to finish the season with a 9-6-1 record. Throughout the 2018 season one thing became evident — Watt has the look of a cornerstone player on the defense.

When he was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, some experts viewed the pick as a reach. However, when Watt produced 13 sacks in 2018, the first outside linebacker to reach double digit sacks since James Harrison did it almost a decade ago, the future looks extremely bright for the former Wisconsin product.

As the Steelers moved away from marquee names from those legendary 2000s defenses, they struggled to find players who could fill those monstrous shoes. When James Harrison, James Farrior, Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu and even Brett Keisel all left, what ensued were several failed attempts to fill those spots.

Until Watt happened.

Watt has the look, and is now showing the improvement and production, of the next great Steelers defender to wear the black-and-gold.

After the season, Steelers.com spoke with Watt about the 2018 season, how disappointing it was, and where Watt goes from here. They do these type of interviews every season, but Watt gives thoughtful, and candid, answers to shine some light on where the defense goes from here.

Check out the interview below:

T.J. Watt recaps a humbling season, the art of the strip-sack, growing and learning as a defense and being more motivated than ever. #FaceTime pic.twitter.com/XFC230VxF9

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 14, 2019

The 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers WRs: Brimming with unfulfilled potential

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 12:32pm

The wide receiver group for the 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl team was the deepest and most underrated in team history.

I don't know if you have heard, but this off season for the Pittsburgh Steelers has gotten off to a rather tumultuous start. No need to revisit all the hoopla of the last few weeks as it has no bearing on this article. I will say that there has been alot of speculation concerning what the Steelers roster will look like going into next season, especially at the wide receiver positions. That got me reminiscing about all the great receivers who have donned a Steelers uniform.

This years tandem of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith Schuster was the best in the league, but not the best tandem in team history. That distinction still belongs to Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.

When I started to identify the most underrated receivers in team history my mind immediately recalled the 1995 Super Bowl team and their impressive receiver group. They were a diverse collection of talent and they went five deep. That is what made them so special, their depth. There hasn't been a team since that could match it.

The group was lead by Pro Bowl stud Yancey Thigpen. Thigpen was the complete package, everything you could want in a receiver. He possessed size, speed, strength, and a excellent set of hands. He could over power a defender who attempted to jam him on his release, and he had enough speed to make them pay on the deep ball. Thigpen had a lot in common with Louis Lipps, another talented Steelers receiver who played about a decade earlier. The only thing that hindered them from ranking even higher on the list of Steelers greats was the shoddy play of their quarterbacks. I would have loved to have seen them play with a QB the caliber of Bradshaw or Ben.

The other starting receiver was a more fluid situation. It could change from week to week, often based on the opponent and the corresponding game plan. If the team was going to utilize a run heavy scheme, per usual, they would start youngster Charles Johnson due to his superior blocking skills. If the game plan called for a more aerial attack, they would start KR specialist Ernie Mills for his ability to stretch the field.

Charles Johnson was the Steelers first round pick in 1994 from Colorado and obviously was expected to be the next Steelers great. While that plan never came to fruition, he was a solid professional who developed into a well rounded receiver. He was the poster child for a player who could do a lot of things well, but no one thing great. Although he was never quite able to justify that first round selection, he was a tough and durable competitor. High character teammate as well. Made more than his share of clutch catches during his Steelers career.

Ernie Mills was a former third round selection in 1991 out of Florida who had been a classic underachiever up till the 1995 season. He had always flashed more potential than production, but that season he found his groove. He displayed a nose for the football, a knack for getting over the top of the defense, and a tendency to find himself open in the endzone. Ernie caught 8 touchdowns on only 39 receptions. That was by far the best season of his career and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Steelers. He never approached those numbers again in his career, but he was a difference maker that season.

The fourth receiver on the Steelers depth chart was a third round selection in 1993 out of Georgia named Andre Hastings. He was a possession receiver who did his best work out of the slot. He was an accomplished route runner who excelled on third downs. Not blessed with great speed, he was a shifty runner who racked up yards after the catch. This ability also allowed him to be a effective punt returner. He could have been a WR2 on alot of teams at that time, especially those who relied on a more aerial attack, and he would go on to prove just that later in his career. That season he was the consummate professional and always produced when called upon. His contributions that season should not be overlooked.

That is an impressive group of receivers right there, but what makes this group really stand out as the greatest group in Steelers history, maybe league history, is the player who didn't even want to be a receiver. A player so physically talented he could excel at multiple positions on the football field, even if he had never played the positions before in his collegiate career. His name was Kordell Stewart, but everybody called him Slash. He had been drafted in the second round of the 1995 draft out of Colorado as a QB. He had made it known he only wanted to play QB, but consented to being utilized as a multi purpose weapon to attack opposing defense due to his intense desire to see the field. Slash took the NFL by storm. Slash wasn't just a great athlete playing QB. He had a great throwing arm, the size and running ability of a RB, and the speed and agility of a WR. The threat of his mere presence on the field scared defensive coordinators to death and opened up the complete playbook for the Steelers. Slash would eventually give way to Kordell as the Steelers honored their promise to play him at QB, but I have often wondered what would have happened if he would have stayed at WR, or as the one and only Slash.

As we are all too aware, that 1995 season ended in utter disappointment for our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and all of Steelers Nation. I will forever hold a certain level of disdain for one Mr. Neil O'Donnell and picture him in my mind sitting in a secluded cabin somewhere deep in the woods, laughing fiendishly, all the while tossing obscene amounts of money into the air he received from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. I apologize for getting off point, forgive me. The pain is real, brothers and sisters.

I believe the 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers assembly of wide receivers is the best in team history and is underrated and underappreciated. They may just be the best group ever. What do you think? If not, who do you think was better?

Chukwuma Okorafor preparing for rehab after successful offseason surgery

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 11:30am

The Steelers rookie posted pictures confirming surgery on Friday, the second player to announce they had undergone a medical procedure this offseason.

While most players will be able to enjoy the rest and relaxation that comes with the opening few weeks of the offseason, for some it can be the start of a painful part of the year. For those who were dealing with injuries significant enough to require postseason surgery, it is often the time they will be scheduled to go under the surgeons knife.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, it would appear that one of those players is rookie offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor in 2019 after he posted a picture of himself in a hospital bed following surgery on Friday.

Surgery was a success now time to recover pic.twitter.com/PDHRGx9fpD

— Chukwuma Okorafor (@Chuks__76) January 18, 2019

Although there has been no official word on the procedure he had done, it seems reasonable to assume from the photograph that is was related to his right shoulder. It is also worth noting that the rookie tackle missed some time during training camp with a shoulder problem and was mentioned in an injury roundup by Mike Tomlin after a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers as needing evaluation for a shoulder issue.

View this post on Instagram

All Gods Plan #roadtorecovery

A post shared by Chukwuma Okorafor (@chukss) on Jan 18, 2019 at 11:50am PST

With Okorafor reporting the surgery was successful, hopefully he can be fully healed by the time training camp opens in July, even if he is still limited during OTA’s that can begin as early as April 15.

The rookie lineman is not the only name to have undergone surgery this offseason after wide receiver Ryan Switzer confirmed he had received ankle surgery earlier in the month.

Much better today. Glad I had it man. I was battling through that ankle all year. https://t.co/XMmsYXI8xO

— Ryan Switzer (@Switz) January 6, 2019

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