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NFL Power Rankings: Steelers return ‘home’ to the Top 5 in the latest rankings

Behind the Steel Curtain - 3 hours 57 min ago

The Pittsburgh Steelers were a unanimous Top 5 team heading into the regular season, and after a rough start to the season they are heading back to the front of the pack.

The only consistent aspect of the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the season were their inconsistencies.

After an opening week tie with the Cleveland Browns, followed by a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Steelers had shown it all — amazing offense, head-scratching play calling and shoddy defense, among others.

Needless to say, the Steelers experienced a precipitous drop in the weekly NFL Power Rankings because of their poor play which resulted in a 0-1-1 record heading into Week 3. However, a 30-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football had the Steelers on the rise. Right on cue, the next week they suffered a 26-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football, the Pittsburgh roller coaster was again on the decline.

Have no fear Steelers fans, a dominant performance in Week 5 vs. the Atlanta Falcons in followed by a big win over the Cincinnati Bengals had the team continuing on their upward trend. Or as Mike Tomlin would say, “The arrow is pointing up.”

Inconsistent was the theme early with this team, but they seemed to have been rectified this after beating the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9 and the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, extending their winning streak to five straight games.

In reality, these power rankings mean nothing, but they’re great for conversation and debate. This week, the Steelers saw themselves not just in the Top 10, but back in the Top 5.

Check out the rankings, and let us know what you think in the comment section below!

ESPN

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Los Angeles Rams
4. Los Angeles Chargers
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
“Defining stat: 18. The Steelers have recorded 18 sacks during this five-game winning streak, including six against Atlanta and five against Carolina, both blowouts at home. Pittsburgh’s defense is predicated on front-seven pressure, and success up front is fueling a top-10 defense on third down (36.9 percent conversion rate).”
6. New England Patriots
7. Chicago Bears
8. Minnesota Vikings
9. Carolina Panthers
10. Houston Texans

SB Nation

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Los Angeles Rams
4. Los Angeles Chargers
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
6. New England Patriots
7. Chicago Bears
8. Houston Texans
9. Washington Redskins
10. Carolina Panthers

CBS Sports

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Los Angeles Rams
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Los Angeles Chargers
5. New England Patriots
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
“The explosive offense is back and the defense is getting better each week. Here come the Steelers.”
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Chicago Bears
9. Houston Texans
10. Carolina Panthers

NBC Sports

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Los Angeles Rams
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Los Angeles Chargers
5. New England Patriots
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
“It’s a bit hilarious how Le’Veon Bell’s other-worldly stats are being matched this year by James Conner.”
7. Houston Texans
8. Chicago Bears
9. Washington Redskins
10. Carolina Panthers

Snap totals vs. the Panthers make you wonder if the Steelers really need a true No. 3 WR

Behind the Steel Curtain - 5 hours 11 min ago

The Steelers might not have a dynamic trio at wide receiver, but do they really need three big-time players within this offense?

The Pittsburgh Steelers blew the doors off of the Carolina Panthers in Week 10 on Thursday Night Football by posting an astonishing 52 points against the highly touted Panthers’ defense.

After the game, you saw ridiculous numbers all around. What was especially interesting were the receiving statistics and those who contributed in one way or another. Ben Roethlisberger completed passes to nine different receivers, and seven different players registered touchdowns on Thursday Night Football.

Those who caught passes were:

JuJu Smith-Schuster
Antonio Brown
James Conner
Jaylen Samuels
Jesse James
Vance McDonald
Ryan Switzer
Roosevelt Nix
Darrius Heyward-Bey

Notice a name not only the list? Try James Washington, the man fans were hoping would win the No. 3 wide receiver job with Justin Hunter inactive yet again. If you look at the snap totals, it wasn’t as if Washington didn’t see the field enough to make a play. He played 46 offense snaps, which was more than Smith-Schuster and only less than Antonio Brown at the receiver position.

All those snaps, and not even a target, let a lone a reception.

Maybe this is more about Ben Roethlisberger not finding the young receiver, or other players showing up in big situations. I look at a player like Ryan Switzer, who registered just 8 offensive snaps, but was able to come down with two big conversions when on the field.

Either way, it made me wonder if all the fuss about a dominant third wide receiver is really a necessity, or just a luxury. With Smith-Schuster and Brown dominating their matchups, and the tight ends and a mix of others chipping in when given the chance? Sure, having a player like Washington, or Eli Rogers, step up and be “the guy” as the No. 3 receiver would be nice, but not sure it is required with this talented group.

Time for some more nuggets which caught my eye when reviewing the snap totals after Week 10:

  • Coty Sensabaugh, 53 snaps, was the only iron man who played in all 53 defensive snaps in Week 10.
  • The rotation at ILB/Sub Package ILBs stalled for a week, for whatever reason, but it is hard to argue with the success of this plan on this particular week. Vince Williams (40) and Jon Bostic (48) switched for Morgan Burnett (38), but L.J. Fort played just 9 defensive snaps vs. Carolina.
  • Terrell Edmunds (33 Snaps) saw his lowest snap total since Week 1, and it became clear the team wants to get Burnett more involved as he gets back to full health after missing a quarter of the season with a groin injury.
  • Bud Dupree (49 snaps) showed some endurance considering he was only off the field for four plays. On the other side, T.J. Watt played just 38 snaps, with Anthony Chickillo snagging 27 defensive snaps.
  • Artie Burns played just 10 snaps on a day the team blew out the opponent.

To check out the complete list of snap totals, see the grid below. If the grid doesn’t show for you, click HERE to access this information.

Watching Ben Roethlisberger scramble is always a great sight to see

Behind the Steel Curtain - 6 hours 27 min ago

It might take some effort for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to get going on runs downfield. But when he does, it’s always something special to see.

You know what my favorite thing was about the Steelers 52-21 victory over the Panthers at Heinz Field on Thursday night?

It wasn’t the 52 points. It wasn’t the blow-out. It wasn’t the perfect passer-rating posted by the future Hall of Fame passer. It wasn’t the five touchdown passes he recorded. It wasn’t the five sacks put on Cam Newton. It wasn’t Vince Williams’ pick-six. It wasn’t JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 75-yard touchdown. It wasn’t the savvy veteran tricks receiver Antonio Brown used on the young Panthers’ cornerback while getting separation on his 53-yard touchdown catch. It wasn’t even Rosie Nix’s forced fumble on a kickoff return.

No, my favorite part of Thursday’s very enjoyable victory was the 18-yard run by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger late in the third quarter. And, no, it wasn’t because Carolina safety Eric Reid got bull-rushed by the offensive line and then ejected by the referee following his hit to a sliding Roethlisberger’s head at the tail-end of the run.

So why did I love Roethlisberger’s run so much? Why did I get up and scream “Go Ben!” the second he eclipsed the 20-yard line and it looked like he was in the clear and on his way to a touchdown? Why would that touchdown have caused me to get evicted from my apartment for excessive noise at 11 p.m. (or, at the very least, earned me a visit from one of my neighbors, a la Mr. Heckles on Friends)?

Because there’s just something about Roethlisberger, the man they call Big Ben thanks to his 6’5”, 240lb frame, running.

And, no, I don’t mean his signature scrambling around in the pocket and making big men miss before making smaller men cry after losing track of their assignments downfield (that’s Hall of Fame-level special).

I just get a kick out of it on a level once reserved for the 2004-2005 Jerome Bettis years, when the rounder than ever running back would bust out a rare run longer than 10 or 15 yards.

There’s no question Roethlisberger has always been a great athlete, and when he does get to full speed, you can certainly see that. However, like your average commercial airplane, he needs a little bit of runway to get going. And while there is something magical and fluid about the way he avoids defenders in and around the pocket, there’s a bit of a lumber to the moves he puts on defenders in the open field. He seems to have to stop and gather himself for a second before switching directions.

And I just love the way he pumps his arms, as if he knows he needs every piston working hard in-order to keep his big frame moving as fast as it can. Again, the athleticism is apparent in his runs, but so is the “big” in Big Ben.

Speaking of size, Roethlisberger came into this season looking lighter and fitter than ever. Many joked and even seriously speculated that the 15-year veteran was motivated by the Steelers’ decision to select Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Maybe. Maybe not. But he is off to one of his best starts in years, statistically. This includes rushing yards; with 75 yards on the ground through nine games, Roethlisberger is well-on his way to having his best season running the ball since he put up 99 in 2013.

Roethlisberger is enjoying great pass protection in 2018, which has undoubtedly led to greater health (knock on wood). He also appears to be the beneficiary of greater freedom thanks to new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, a man who doesn’t seem to mind his big quarterback doing things with his legs.

Yes, that includes the return of the quarterback sneak. But “Running Ben” has also made a comeback in 2018, and it’s been a great sight to see.

At this stage, Artie Burns is his own worst enemy

Behind the Steel Curtain - 7 hours 30 min ago

Artie Burns’ struggles are largely due to mental warfare.

Artie Burns. A tested young man who has dealt with just about every type of adversity you would think is possible.

His father hasn’t been around him since the age of 11 since being imprisoned due to cocaine trafficking. Although he gets support from his father, he has never had the time to visit him, and moreover, his dad still has nine more years left in the South Carolina prison where he cheers his son on from.

When he was a junior at Miami, his mother passed away from a heart attack unexpectedly and he immediately had to take in his brothers, while also having a four-month-old son to take care of.

Artie Burns is a man of character. He may have had some questionable moments on the field, such as his scuffle with Jarvis Landry, but you can never question the fortitude and character of the man. He has taken care of his younger brothers and his now 3-year-old son.

Burns’ work ethic should not be questioned either. When he was at Miami, he was repeatedly described as the last one off the field, and that they would literally have to pull him off the field. Burns has never had a work ethic issue.

With such a clearly high character and talented kid, who was a former all-state hurdler, it was clear that Burns had so much potential to give to the Steelers organization.

Now, Burns has been through it all, and it his first two years in the steel city were marked with inconsistency. At times, he would make a pro bowl level play, and at other times, he would look like a backup CB.

However, there was a clear swagger to his game. He got into opponent’s heads and talked a game that he backed up with a certain aggressiveness. You saw that every single time he got an opportunity to be in press. His hands were violent and he would blanket receivers. He trusted his skill set and went with it, no matter if he messed up.

So, that is why I question how we got here. Artie Burns just isn’t...Artie Burns anymore. I have seen the devolution of CBs before, but I am not sure I have seen one similar to Burns’ decline.

Yes, there was Ike Taylor, but he was never the overly aggressive press corner Burns is. You can say the same for Cortez Allen, who stopped trusting his eyes, but never did have this swagger about him.

Artie Burns is never playing a game of mental warfare and is losing out, clearly. This guy has no confidence. He has no press-man confidence, he never processes his eyes in zone, and man, he just has no edge to his game anymore. A perfect example of this is that Defensive Pass Interference call against the Panthers.

Ugh, Artie Burns, what's going on here... #Steelers pic.twitter.com/MBIgn3uf1H

— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) November 10, 2018

I...can’t say what he was thinking here. So, here is what would happen if confident Artie, or a good press-man corner were here. I can say with confidence this was not off-man, otherwise Artie would have never made a hard move to try and come down at all.

So, what should have happened here was Artie should have come down to get the jam inside the WR and pushed him off the sideline. That would have meant Artie would keep outside and most importantly, position of the ball.

Luckily for Artie, his smooth hips and speed allow him to get right back into position. He actually does a good job to switch from a press set to an off-man set with how he turns his eyes and hips inside to towards Cam Newton.

Once Moore gets to the top of his stem, he naturally gets extremely vertical that any good WR should do. Burns is fine mirroring him, despite maybe a slight hold before the goal line.

Burns is in great position, and actually is tracking this ball just fine, and if he plays this right, it is an interception for him. Whew, now wouldn’t that be swell?

Unfortunately, Artie’s confidence is so shot he goes for a panic move, thinking he is somehow beaten deep and drops Moore, which causes the DPI easily.

What am I trying to say? This play just reinforces the statement how his confidence is gone. He has great positioning here and recovers from deficient technique at the start and actually has good technique to recover. But, in the end, he panics and doesn’t trust his technique.

This is what we have gotten from Artie Burns all season, and man it is just so sad to watch. Maybe when it was first starting out, you felt anger because you knew this was another one of Artie’s lapses. Now, all I feel is pity for the only 23-year-old kid.

Yes, Artie has time to turn it around. I really hope it does. I think everyone in Steelers Nation is rooting for him to become what we know he can be, and get rid of this mess. His fifth year option is going to be declined, but maybe we can see the progression to something bigger.

Burns has that technique with him somewhere in his head. When you doubt yourself it does indeed go away. However, if he gets the confidence back, he can stop panicking every single target thrown at him.

That confidence is not easy to get back, especially when you are playing a game of mental warfare and doubt everything you knew previously.

Artie Burns, no matter how high character we know him to be, or how he was previously, has lost the edge that made him Artie Burns. There is no other way to say it, but he is his own worst enemy.

Steelers open as 3.5 point favorites over Jaguars in Week 11

Behind the Steel Curtain - 8 hours 36 min ago

Set for a rematch with the team that put them out of the playoffs in 2017, the two sides appear to have gone in different direction since that day.

The Pittsburgh Steelers Week 11 encounter with the Jacksonville Jaguars was meant to a rematch of two Super Bowl contenders in primetime, and while the Steelers have done their part this season, their opponent looks nothing like the team who beat them twice in 2017. Losers of their last five in a row, Jacksonville has been so disappointing the game has been flexed out of primetime and at 3-6, the Jaguars are almost certain to miss the playoffs this year.

However, if the bookmakers have lost faith in the Jaguars, it is not showing in the betting after Pittsburgh opened as just 3.5 point favorites. If you think that line seems rather low, you are not the only one, and the early action has already moved the spread to 5.5 points. It would not be a surprise if this line was closer to 7 points by Sunday.

An early totals position of 47.5 points looks much more realistic, and there has been no change to this line as of Tuesday. From an initial price of -213, the moneyline has shorten to a best price of -235 and it should be expected that this number will continued to fall as the week progresses.

Jacksonville leads the all-time series with a 14-11 record dating back to 1995 and Mike Tomlin is 3-4 against them, a record that includes two playoff defeats. Prior to 2017, Pittsburgh had won their last three in a row versus the Jaguars and they are 4-1 in their last five trips to Jacksonville.

Podcast: Does the win over Carolina prove the Steelers don’t need Le’Veon Bell?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 24 min ago

Time to check in on all things black-and-gold after the Steelers big win over the Panthers on the podcast ‘Steelers Hangover’.

Once again, the Steelers won and looked dominant doing it. Does the 52-21 win over Carolina prove that Pittsburgh can win without their missing RB or does James Conner’s concussion exit prove him to valuable to lose? BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and Anthony Defeo took a day to recover and asked your opinion of the terrain ahead in the latest edition of Steelers Hangover.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the call-in extravaganza. On this show, the fellas discussed the good, the bad and the ugly, plus the path ahead.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Reactions
  • Grades/Valedictorian/Honor Roll
  • Calls
  • The possible non-return of No. 26
  • Closing Time/Looking forward to J-Ville
  • and MUCH MORE!

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: How the Steelers can win a Super Bowl without the help of Le’Veon Bell

Behind the Steel Curtain - 10 hours 24 min ago

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers have now won five straight games and continue to “stack wins.” After their 52-21 thrashing of the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, the team now has a chance to rest and relax and prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11.

Today in the black-and-gold links article, we talk about how the Pittsburgh Steelers can not just win regular season games without the help of Le’Veon Bell, but can actually go on to win a Super Bowl without the dual threat capabilities of the All-Pro running back. Need evidence? Just look at what the team has done throughout the first 10 games of the 2018 regular season, and compare Conner’s stat line to that of Bell from previous years.

Let’s get to the news:

Why the Steelers have Super Bowl shot without Le’Veon Bell

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

All season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have answered questions about Le’Veon Bell’s absence and potential impact on the offense upon his return.

Those questions could end this week, as Bell is unlikely to report by Tuesday’s deadline to sign his $14.5 million franchise tag tender, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Forfeiting the season might just end his prolific career in Pittsburgh, and a clean break might be necessary for both sides. The team is upset that Bell teased rejoining the Steelers by coming to Pittsburgh last week, only to balk on those plans.

The Steelers are a better team with Bell, an All-Pro.

That reality hasn’t stopped the team from moving on long ago, and getting really good in the process.

”I’m not going to comment on someone who’s not in this locker room right now,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said assuredly after his brilliant 328-yard, five-touchdown performance in Thursday’s 52-21 win over Carolina.

One of the hottest teams in the league should have every reason to believe it can contend for a Super Bowl with that locker room makeup.

A surging Roethlisberger with weapons everywhere

Not just playmaking weapons, but all 11 along the formation. The offensive line has been among the league’s best. Roethlisberger hasn’t taken more than one sack in a game since Week 3. James Conner is averaging 5.33 yards per carry over the past five weeks...

The league’s best red zone offense

For years, middling red zone production kept a prolific offense from averaging 30 points per game. The Steelers are averaging 31.0 points per game through 10 weeks because of their top-ranked red zone offense, scoring more than three out of every four times inside the 20, compared to about half last season...

Defense playing to its identity

The Steelers were humbled after Patrick Mahomes came into Heinz Field and threw for six touchdowns on their defense in Week 2. Afterward, coach Mike Tomlin told his group they played the world’s best offense, so act accordingly.

The improvement was slow, but the performance at the midseason point is what the Steelers envisioned to start the year. Steelers players love to say that “rush and coverage work together,” and that plan is translating to the field...

Loaded but manageable playoff picture

The Steelers hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs thanks to the New England Patriots’ Week 10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Securing a playoff bye for the second consecutive year is very much in play despite the 1-2-1 start. Three of the Steelers’ next four opponents have losing records before a daunting three-game stretch of New England, New Orleans and Cincinnati awaits.

Tim Benz: Why I’m still hoping Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell reports

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The latest in a never-ending stream of reports about Le’Veon Bell’s future has come from Adam Schefter at ESPN. He claims the running back is unlikely to report to the Steelers before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

If that’s true, it’s too bad.

I’ve seen way too many high-quality Steelers teams derailed by late-season injuries to star running backs. What if something like that should happen to James Conner?

The Steelers might not have beaten the Patriots in New England even if Bell stayed in the 2016 AFC championship game beyond the first quarter. But they were not competitive without him.

When Bell got hurt at the end of the 2014 regular season, the Steelers lost their playoff game at home to the Baltimore Ravens with a motley collection of reserve running backs totaling just 41 yards on the ground.

Willie Parker went down in Game 15 of the 2007 campaign, and Najeh Davenport took over. He had 25 yards on the ground in the playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A badly injured Jerome Bettis tried to play against New England in the 2001 AFC title game. He had 8 yards on nine carries, and the Steelers lost.

Barry Foster was en route to a 1,200-yard season in 1993 until he got hurt in Week 9. Even though LeRoy Thompson proved a capable backup, the Steelers were defeated in the first round of the playoffs by the Kansas City Chiefs.

The best thing for the Steelers is to see Bell report on Tuesday. Then, they should give him exactly what he has wanted all along: zero injury risk. Don’t play him until absolutely necessary, if that eventuality ever occurs.

Skipped season would cost Le’Veon Bell additional $200,000 in benefits

By: Adam Schefter, ESPN

If Le’Veon Bell doesn’t report to the Pittsburgh Steelers by Tuesday’s deadline -- and the belief among multiple sources is that he will not -- he will forgo roughly $200,000 in additional benefits that come with a credited NFL season, sources told ESPN.

Each credited NFL season for players adds to their benefits in the form of a pension, an annuity, 401K contributions and a health reimbursement account -- which one official estimated to be roughly $200,000 per year, plus however that money would compound over time.

In 2018, if an NFL player earns a credited season, he will receive $760 per month -- or $9,120 per year -- in pension beginning at age 55. The league contributes a maximum of $26,000 into each player’s 401K plans, assuming the player contributes to the max. There is also severance and a health reimbursement fund.

While there’s no exact figure, estimates for a loss of a player sitting out a full season, as Bell is considering, escalate to close to or at $200,000 per year.

”I don’t think it even enters his mind,” one source familiar with the NFL’s benefits package told ESPN. “When you lose a credited [season] and retire, you wish you had it then. But you’re not thinking about that now.”

What Bell is thinking about now is getting to this winter and to free agency as healthy as possible, which means skipping this season to date. He must report by Tuesday’s deadline, or he will be ineligible to play this season. Each week that Bell misses costs him $855,000 in base salary.

Bell’s camp continues to maintain its cone of silence and repeatedly has declined to address with reporters the star running back’s plans for the coming week.

Ten months ago, Bell said he “definitely would consider” sitting out the 2018 season or retiring if the Steelers used the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive season. The Steelers did use the $14.1 million tag, and there are no indications that Bell will report by the deadline.

Podcast: ‘Steelers Hangover’ returns tonight at 9:30 p.m. EST

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 8:04pm

BTSC recaps the Steelers the most complete win in decades and opens the phones to you, the listener, to join in.

Join Bryan Davis and Anthony Defeo from BTSC for the day after extravaganza known as “Steelers Hangover”. The Steelers improved their record to 6-2-1 in a dominant victory and a point total not seen since 1984 with their 52-21 victory over Carolina. Tony and Bryan will discuss the game and look to hear from you.

Check out a rundown of the show:

- Reactions

- Grades/Valedictorian and Honor Roll

- Calls

-Le’Veon Bell deadline

- Looking ahead to Jacksonville

- and MUCH MORE!

You can listen to the show live by logging onto our BlogTalkRadio page at 9:30 p.m. EST but WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! What did you think about the game, the upcoming regular season or whatever you want to talk about Steelers related. Simply dial (347) 850-8581 anytime during the show to make your voice heard!

Jaguars lose crucial member of their offensive line leading up to Steelers game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 3:02pm

Just as the Jags get Leonard Fournette back in the lineup, their offensive line takes a huge hit.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are reeling, that might be putting it mildly. After their Week 10 loss to division rival Colts, plummeting their record to 3-6 on the season, the Jaguars lost more than just the game.

As reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Jaguars will be without center Brandon Linder for at least the Week 11 game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers after suffering a knee injury.

Just as RB Leonard Fournette returned, the #Jaguars are losing a big part of their run game: C Brandon Linder suffered a knee injury that will knock him out this week and possibly beyond, sources say. He’s still undergoing testing and time table is TBD.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 12, 2018

The loss of Linder couldn’t come at a worse time for Jacksonville, especially as the team finally got their prized running back Leonard Fournette back in the lineup after missing the first half of the season with a hamstring injury.

Linder, who was given a monster five-year, $51.7 million extension in 2017, is considered one of the game’s premiere centers, and the likes of Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward and Javon Hargrave will now have to deal with a backup rather than Linder.

The Steelers won’t be looking for any favors, nor will they need any extra motivation when facing the Jaguars this Sunday. The film from 2017 as the Jaguars went into Heinz Field and didn’t just beat the Steelers twice, but embarrassed them in the process, won’t be quickly forgotten for the boys in black-and-gold.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the injuries, and more, leading up to the big Week 11 showdown between these two AFC foes.

Will Le’Veon Bell’s gamble pay off like Sean Gilbert’s did?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 1:58pm

Taking a look back at the only other player in NFL history to sit out an entire season due to issues with the NFL’s franchise tag rules.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell sits on the precipice that only one other NFL player has done: sit out an entire NFL season over being franchise tagged. While not unheard of for players to sit out parts of the season over a contract dispute, only former Carolina Panthers defensive end Sean Gilbert sat out an entire season.

Bell has played the past five seasons with the Steelers and amassed three Pro Bowl invites during that span. During his stint, he has also sustained a myriad of injuries to go along with two suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. In March 2017, the Steelers could not work out a contract with Bell and placed the franchise tag on their star running back. After a successful 2017 campaign, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert was unphased by Bell’s past and reportedly offered Bell a long-term contract for five years and $70 million dollars . Bell again balked at a long-term deal reportedly due to the inadequate amount of guaranteed money compared to other high paid running backs in the league.

The 26-year-old running back only had three choices: sit out the entire 2018 season, sign his franchise tender or report to Pittsburgh and sign his franchise tag after the season had started. Bell has elected to bypass $855,000 per week and skipped all the season and reports have him sitting out the rest of the season.

Rewind to 1996 when Gilbert was traded to the Washington Redskins from the St. Louis Rams before the final year of his rookie deal. After a solid season that saw Gilbert being an alternate to the Pro Bowl, contract negotiations with the Redskins broke down and the franchise tag was placed on Gilbert. Instead of playing on the one year $3.4 million offer, Gilbert sat out the entire 1997 season. Like Bell, Gilbert was seen as a pariah in Washington.

After the 1997 season, the defensive tackle franchise tag was again placed on Gilbert. The franchise tag rules were different when compared to the current franchise tag that is outlined in the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement. The tag was worth $2.97 million which was the average of the five highest paid defensive tackles.

Gilbert’s decision ultimately paid off as the Carolina Panthers traded two first round picks for him. The seven-year contract worth $45.6 million contract was the richest to ever be signed by a defensive player and dwarfed the five years $22.5 million deal he was seeking from the Redskins.

Gilbert said, “Not doing the work of two and a half men. I said, ‘I’m a man, and the decision I’m making, I can live with.’ And I took the chance to never play again. I was ostracized from that point. But guess what? I was still running down running backs, making plays.” His quote is similar to ones Bell has talked about while doing the work of a wide receiver and running back.

Time is winding down for Bell to sign the franchise tag or sit out the rest of the 2018 season. If media reports turn out to be accurate, Bell would follow in Gilbert’s footsteps becoming the second player in NFL history to sit out an entire NFL season due to the frustration of the franchise tag. If Bell sits, he would bank on finding a lucrative market as Gilbert did two decades ago. In 2019, will the Steelers let Bell test the free agent market for the first time in his career? Or will Colbert place a (debatable) third franchise tag ($23-25 million) or the transition tag ($14.5 million) on Bell or even a long-term deal?

AFC North Roundup: There is more distance between the Steelers and the field after Week 10

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 12:39pm

Taking a look around the AFC North heading into Week 11.

With Week 9 of the NFL schedule is officially in the books and it’s time to take a look back at those teams who call the AFC North home to see how they fared and what the standings look like after this week’s action.

The first goal for each team in the NFL is to win its division. Doing so guarantees both a playoff spot and a home playoff game, so even these early-season games are important when it comes to divisional rankings.

Let’s take a spin around the AFC North to check on the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Week 10 Results

New Orleans Saints - 51
Cincinnati Bengals - 14

The Bengals were without some big name players. Vontaze Burfict and AJ Green were among those not in the lineup, but when you are coming off a bye week and get your doors blown off at home — things aren’t good. The Bengals have fired their defensive coordinator after the loss to New Orleans, but the bigger issue resides with the head coach.

Cleveland Browns - 28
Atlanta Falcons - 16

The upset of the week wasn’t the Titans over the Patriots, in my opinion, it was the Browns upsetting a hot Falcons team in Cleveland. Don’t look now, but if the Browns continue to be competitive for the remainder of the regular season, I could see the Browns taking the interim tag off of Greg Williams and giving him the job moving forward.

Pittsburgh Steelers - 52
Carolina Panthers - 21

Plain old but whoopin’. That’s all that needs said about this Thursday Night Football fiasco for Cam Newton and the boys.

Week 11 Schedule

Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars — 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens — 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Cleveland Browns — BYE WEEK

AFC North Standings

Pittsburgh Steelers - 6-2-1
Cincinnati Bengals - 5-4
Baltimore Ravens - 4-5
Cleveland Browns - 3-6-1

...

Let us know what you think about the division after Week 10 in the comment section below. Do you see this being a powerhouse division? Which teams are contenders and which ones are nothing more than pretenders?

AFC Playoff Picture: Steelers find themselves with the No. 2 seed heading into Week 11

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 10:50am

It is time to start tracking where the Steelers stand in the AFC Playoff Picture, and it is so-far-so-good for the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a dominating win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, and with the rest of the AFC wrapping up their games this week, it is time to put things in perspective as it relates to the AFC Playoff Picture.

Sure, there is still a lot of football left to be played, but at the same time it doesn’t hurt to look ahead and see just where every resides, and who they have coming up, to get a grip on the Conference Playoff scenarios.

After Pittsburgh’s horrid start to the season, they have rebounded to the tune of 5 straight wins and, thanks to some losses to other AFC competitors, and have catapulted themselves up into the No. 2 spot in the AFC Playoff Picture.

So, before we go any further, time to update the Playoff Picture heading into Week 11.

AFC Playoff Picture Week 11

1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Rams (9-1), at Raiders (1-8), vs. Ravens (4-5), vs. Chargers (7-2), at Seahawks (4-5), vs. Raiders (1-8)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Jaguars (3-6), at Broncos (3-6), vs. Chargers (7-2), at Raiders (1-8), vs. Patriots (7-3), at Saints (8-1), vs. Bengals (5-4)
3. New England Patriots (7-3) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Jets (3-7), vs. Vikings (5-3-1), at Dolphins (5-5), at Steelers (6-2-1), vs. Bills (3-7), vs. Jets (3-7)
4. Houston Texans (6-3) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Redskins (6-3), vs. Titans (5-4), vs. Browns (3-6-1), vs. Colts (4-5), at Jets (3-7), at Eagles (4-5), vs. Jaguars (3-6)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (7-2) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Broncos (3-6), vs. Cardinals (2-7), at Steelers (6-2-1), vs. Bengals (5-4), at Chiefs (9-1), vs. Ravens (4-5), at Broncos (3-6)
6. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Ravens (4-5), vs. Browns (3-6-1), vs. Broncos (3-6), at Chargers (7-2), vs. Raiders (1-8), at Browns (3-6-1), at Steelers (6-2-1)
_________

In the hunt:
7. Tennessee Titans (5-4) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Colts (4-5), at Texans (6-3), vs. Jets (3-7), vs. Jaguars (3-6), at Giants (1-7), vs. Redskins (6-3), vs. Colts (4-5)
8. Miami Dolphins (5-5) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Colts (4-5), vs. Bills (3-7), vs. Patriots (7-3), at Vikings (5-3-1), vs. Jaguars (3-6), at Bills (3-7)
9. Baltimore Ravens (4-5) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Bengals (5-4), vs. Raiders (1-8), at Falcons (4-5), at Chiefs (9-1), vs. Buccaneers (3-6), at Chargers (7-2), vs. Browns (3-6-1)
10. Indianapolis Colts (4-5) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Titans (5-4), vs. Dolphins (5-5), at Jaguars (3-6), at Texans (6-3), vs. Cowboys (4-5), vs. Giants (1-7), at Titans (5-4)
11. Cleveland Browns (3-6-1) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Bengals (5-4), at Texans (6-3), vs. Panthers (6-3), at Broncos (3-6), vs. Bengals (5-4), at Ravens (4-5)
12. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: vs. Steelers (6-2-1), at Bills (3-7), vs. Colts (4-5), at Titans (5-4), vs. Redskins (6-3), at Dolphins (5-5), at Texans (6-3)
13. Denver Broncos (3-6) — REMAINING OPPONENTS: at Chargers (7-2), vs. Steelers (6-2-1), at Bengals (5-4), at 49ers (2-7), vs. Browns (3-6-1), at Raiders (1-8), vs. Chargers (7-2)

For those who don’t know, the reason the Chargers, who have a better record are above the Steelers, are behind in the standings is due to Pittsburgh leading their division and the Chargers behind the Chiefs in the AFC West.

As for Pittsburgh, their remaining schedule is riddled with teams who are at, or near, the top of the playoff race. The Chargers, Bengals and Patriots will all come to Heinz Field in the coming weeks as the regular season winds down.

The fun is just beginning...

Take a look at the above standings, who do you see failing down the stretch? And which team will be a surprise to climb the rankings? Let us know in the comment section below!

Analyzing the Steelers’ Week 10 win over the Panthers, by the numbers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 9:44am

Scoring 52 points gave too many great stats to highlight then all.

There were so many numbers from the 52-21 victory over the Panthers on Thursday they could not all be contained with in one post. In case you missed it, I already posted one article dealing just with point totals at the end of each quarter. Here are some other numbers from the Steelers’ Week-10 victory:

3rd & 17

With 9:56 remaining in the second quarter, the Steeler’s faced a 3rd & 17 from the Carolina 32 yard line. The Steelers ended up behind the sticks following a 6 yard sack of Ben Roethlisberger and a completion to Antonio Brown which lost a yard. On 3rd down, a pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster was knocked away by Julius Peppers. This play is of note because (1) it was Roethlisberger’s first of only three incompletions in the game, and (2) it was the only time Ben failed to convert a third down. Ben was an impressive 8/9 on third down conversions on the night.

50 yards

The following play after the Steelers had their only failed attempt on third down with Roethlisberger at quarterback, Chris Boswell came on for a field goal attempt. The 50-yard kick is Boswell’s season long. In the post game press conference, Mike Tomlin confirmed hitting this field goal was very important in his eyes.

1/1, 6 yards, 1 TD

Ben Roethlisberger played only one snap in the fourth quarter, but he made the most of it. On the play, Ben threw a 6-yard touchdown to Jaylen Samuels. After the ensuing extra point which gave the Steelers a lead of 52–14, Ben was given the rest of the night off as Joshua Dobbs got some regular-season snaps.

46 yards

The Steelers tallied five sacks of Cam Newton for a loss of 46 yards. The yards lost on sacks by the Panthers were more than the receiving yards of any wide receiver or tight end for Carolina. In contrast, the Steelers had two wide receivers with TD receptions longer than 46 yards in Antonio Brown (53 yards) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (75 yards).

158.3

For the fourth time in his career, Ben Roethlisberger finished the game on Thursday with a perfect 158.3 passer ratings. With four perfect QBR games as a starter, Ben is second all time only to Peyton Manning with five, one of which was because he was pulled after one drive in a Week-17 game in 2008. Of the four games where Ben had a perfect rating, the game Thursday against Carolina consisted of his most completions (22), touchdowns (5), yards (328), and his highest completion percentage (88%).

2

After the Patriots fell to the Titans on Sunday, the Steelers are currently the number two seed in the AFC with a record of 6-2-1. After 10 weeks of the season, the Steelers currently hold their own destiny for a first round bye in the playoffs.

Since there are more numbers than what could be included here, feel free to share your favorite stats in the comments below.

Steelers Film Room: The efficiency of Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 8:41am

Randy Fichtner has more than settled into his role as offensive coordinator

When Todd Haley was fired, Steelers Nation celebrated, but it was met with cautious optimism. Yes, Haley had been terrible in the red zone and a putrid situational caller, but he was a fantastic play designer and a mastermind behind some the Steelers’ most successful offenses.

With the Steelers deciding for Randy Fichtner to take over, they got a modernized mind that was far ahead of his time when he was at Memphis, and now, he is right in his comfort zone. Fichtner’s mind of efficiency-based play calling is all made for this day and age of high-powered offenses and combined innovation.

Fichtner has shown to not just be efficient, but also incredibly innovative. He has led the Steelers to be top 3 in all efficiency category, including second in red zone efficiency, which is a huge reason why the Steelers are averaging as many points as they are.

For the first time in his career, Ben Roethlisberger is being asked to get the ball out quickly and efficiently, and it is no secret why his efficiency numbers are so much higher compared to other years. Randy Fichtner has transformed this team into a efficient one that can set up the big play at any time.

For example, on a 3rd and 3 after a short completion to Antonio Brown and a short run by James Conner, he makes an incredible call, that not only highlights the situational aspect of his play calling, but the high-percentage nature of it too.

This play is a fantastic call by Fichtner. Don't need to go for low percentage shots, AB is the first read and then JuJu is an easy safety valve. Love Fichtner's play calling. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/HqatzT3675

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) November 9, 2018

The Panthers have a nice nine (!) man box here. They will not go and blitz all nine obviously, but six is entirely possible, so Fichtner’s play call against a conservative or aggressive look is one that has to be flexible. Given it is 3rd and 3, the aggressive nature of the defensive alignment is likely to come out, and it does.

So, they run almost a rub / pick play with Washington here. He is going to run that seam up the sideline to take Bradberry out of it, as all he has in safety help over the top. The rest of this underneath stuff is underneath zone and aggressive man on the line with the CBs. This is what we call fireman safe in football terms. Which essentially refers to the blitzers, and the aggressive man and the zone help over top. It is incredibly common to get this type of look on short third downs on the opponent’s side of the field.

Fichtner likely knows that a variation of that overarching umbrella is going to be coming. So, a high-percentage play with two easy reads for the blitz that can exploit the zone and over-aggressiveness is key.

If the man is super aggressive, AB’s out is going to be taken away and JuJu is going to be wide open. If it is more laid back, they will get JuJu locked up, but AB is going to be open with the more relaxed coverage.

Having two flankers, even though AB was a split-end to start off, is key, because it gets JuJu and AB both in space, which immediately makes this a high-percentage play.

Ben’s first read is to hit AB right there on that short flat that becomes a modified 7 route and he turns it into a quick-out. As for the rest, JuJu just has to get Foster and in front of him to lead the way and it is an easy imitation of AB’s route, almost like a type of out screen if that would make sense. It is not a shuffle pass, but it is a modified type of screen. The last read is Conner, but he is the safety valve.

What is the point to explain all of this?

All of it adds up to an efficient play call by Fichtner. The situational play calling is absolutely marvelous to watch and see unfold, because it is not easy to make the correct call here all the time, but Fichtner knew what was coming from the jump.

The look he gives, out of 11 personnel is a modified bunch set. JuJu is playing so far back as flanker, and AB too is a flanker by the end of the play. That is a rare, innovative set. Rarely do we ever see two flankers on the same play, but with them both being there, it not only leaves the pick play open with JuJu slanting in, but they also having to keep an eye on McDonald over the middle.

One thing you will notice about all of Fichtner’s looks is that they are so versatile, but every option they have is suited for a specific situation. Luckily, he gives multiple looks for each situation.

The set he came up with for this is not only original and seldom used around the league, but it shows his emphasis on high-percentage plays.

This is why Randy Fichtner is so darn good.

In his own words: A trip down memory lane with Le’Veon Bell on social media

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 7:35am

Le’Veon Bell might be all about the money now, but there was once a time when the running back was all about football, integrity and the sanctity of the game. Hard to believe right?

If the latest rumors surrounding Le’Veon Bell are to be believed, he will not be returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers this season and will be playing elsewhere in 2019. While little has been heard from Bell since he told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN that “sitting out the entire season was never an option” back in October, he has continued to use social media to tell his side of the story.

With his upside tweets and cryptic posts, Bell’s message has not always been clear as of late, but that was not always the case. Before he joined the professional ranks, and even for some years after that, Bell had a rather different attitude about life in the NFL. There was a time when No.26 was all about football and had no interest in money and fame. A purist who cared about nothing but his legacy and the sanctity of the game. Someone who valued integrity and honesty above all else. These are not hyperboles on my part, rather words from Bell’s own mouth.

When Bell was still in college, he had a completely different opinion about money and hated dishonesty in all of its forms.

I'm not in it for fame or money...I just wanna be legendary

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) November 14, 2011

Did I ever mention how muchh I hate liars?

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) June 10, 2012

If youu play this game for money and/or fame then your playin for the wrong reason...I love this game first, then everything else! #Football

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 31, 2012

No matter what I do, I always do it outta love! Football is NOT a job to me...I just love to do it! Its just that simple! #Blessed

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) May 10, 2012

Money comin, money goin, ain't like youu can take it witchu...

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) October 19, 2012

I only chase dreams, never would I chase women or money...

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) November 29, 2012

That attitude didn't change right away either, even when Bell started to gain some early success in the league.

If youu could sit out a year of a sport youu play and your not injured or somethin else is preventing youu to play, then youu don't love it!

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) February 13, 2013

Nobody want this as bad as I do, everybody just wanna be seen, ppl just want fame...I actually LOVE this game #Football

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) April 8, 2014

I can care less about the fame or the money, I just wanna be remembered as the best! Forget everything else...ppl disrespectful to this game

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) April 8, 2014

The thought of bringing your PHONE to a workout is CRAZY to me! like why did you bring your PHONE? oh to be seen huh? yall can have the fame

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) April 8, 2014

and when youu LOVE something, youu will always honor & respect it...& I love football, regardless of what ppl say

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) September 30, 2014

one lie has the power to tarnish a thousand truths...crazy huh?

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) June 8, 2015

money and fame means nothing to me............I just wanna be legendary! #Juice pic.twitter.com/VgBGEWvQfN

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) October 22, 2015

Staying in Pittsburgh was always his priority.

I'm not goin anywhere unless they get rid of me ✊ https://t.co/pisuaDzHSa

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) August 21, 2017

Pittsburgh: the city that took in a 21-year old kid from small-town Ohio, the city I battled thru adversity in, the city that I became a man in. I love everything about being a Pittsburgh Steeler, and I want nothing more than to finish the rest of my career in Pitt! #26Forever pic.twitter.com/mhs2ikpK71

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) March 6, 2018

to all my Steeler fans, my desire always has been to retire a Steeler...both sides worked extremely hard today to make that happen, but the NFL is a hard business at times...to the fans that had hope, I’m sorry we let youu down but trust me, 2018 will be my best season to date...

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 16, 2018

The fans were his friends.

best fans in the land...took over the stadium in San Diego Monday Night...I love youu #SteelerNation #Juice pic.twitter.com/jxoGvk72x2

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) October 16, 2015

Pittsburgh fans the best fans! ✊ Y’all shown so much love to meee pic.twitter.com/aseO6gzyZ9

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) February 28, 2018

And he loved his coach.

"juice is in the building" love coach T to death, wouldn't wanna play for no other coach or play in any other city.. pic.twitter.com/VU3eO7qXFY

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) February 17, 2016

But ultimately that all changed

it’s so hard to be a hero in a city that paints youu out to be the villain.. pic.twitter.com/TBFAHTQJcm

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) March 29, 2018

And Bell’s most notable highlights from 2018 were not on the football field.

While the Steelers have stated their desire to have him rejoin them before the deadline, it appears that is not going to happen. Bell purged his social media profile of references to Pittsburgh over the weekend and he has made no contact with the team. A change of heart is always possible, but it is more likely we will see an official “fairwell” tweet come Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

Steelers Stock Report: See whose stock is rising, and falling, after the win over Carolina

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 6:33am

The Steelers won big, but is the stock report all positive too? Time to check it out!

I’d like to begin with two pieces of advice for anyone considering attending a game at Heinz Field.

First, if you plan on purchasing tickets from an online resale marketplace such as Ticketmaster, buy them a few hours before kickoff. Not only will tickets almost certainly be available, they will be considerably cheaper than if you purchased them a week before the game. (As an important side-note, every May or June the team releases a limited number of single-game tickets, which their box office sells directly—do NOT fall for the hype. If you can even get these tickets—and that’s a big if, because you need to be on Ticketmaster’s site at 10 a.m. on the nose to beat the scalpers—you’ll end up paying a zillion dollars and sitting in the endzone bleachers). Last season, my wife and I attended the playoff game against Jacksonville—we sat in the lower bowl and our tickets were, like, $60 each.

I decided Thursday afternoon that I wanted to go to the Panthers game. Sitting at my desk, I bought a pair of tickets online around 6:30, about two hours before kickoff, and did so from my phone; which is very convenient given the team’s switch to a shrewd and pragmatic but arcane and hastily-implemented mobile ticketing policy. I left work shortly thereafter, thinking that I had plenty of time to get dressed, grab a quick meal at home (cheaper and healthier than stadium food!), and make it to game to witness the pregame festivities.

This brings me to my second piece of advice: arrive early. Pittsburgh is a small, navigable city, but its infrastructure is not designed to effectively handle the constraints placed on it by 60,000-70,000 sojourners. My apartment building is maybe two-and-a-half or three miles from Heinz Field; within reasonable walking distance, but not in November and certainly not with a pregnant wife in tow. Thus, we drove, having come to terms with the grim reality that we would have to pay $40 to park in a garage that’s literally within eyeshot of our home (bonus advice: maybe see about getting a parking pass with your tickets). Because we waited so long, pedestrian traffic in the North Shore was a nightmare and it took 40 minutes to get from our apartment building to our parking spot.

In short: by your tickets late but show up to the game early. Actually, what you should do is drive to the stadium three or four hours before the game, find a suitable lot or garage, and either tailgate or find a restaurant. Then, two hours before the game, buy your tickets.

My apologies for the loquacious personal vignette; let’s discuss the thorough butt-kicking that took place that night.

Stock up: Nice statistics

I would go to war for Antonio Brown, but he’s gotta slow his car down. McKnight Road, where he was cited for reportedly operating his Porsche at speeds exceeding 100 mph Thursday (as a fun side note, McKnight Road is where Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were pulled over and busted for smoking weed back in 2014), is definitely not designed for interstate drivin’, and if Brown really did blow through the intersection of McKnight and Babcock Boulevard at 100 mph, holy cow, he’s lucky that he and others were not killed.

Fortunately for Brown, scoring touchdowns is useful strategy for distracting onlookers from egregious traffic violations. Brown scored his league-leading 10th receiving touchdown of the season Thursday, which, notably, also marked the seventh game in a row in which he’s found the end-zone. His touchdown against Carolina—a 53-yard bomb in the second quarter that truly did feel like a dagger—was the 69th of his career and his 96 receiving yards Thursday bring his season total to 690. It was a very nice game.

Stock up: Big Ben

I generally prefer to avoid calling attention to the obvious nominees, but, my God, Ben played out of his mind. Throwing only three incompletions, Roethlisberger amassed more than 320 yards, tossed five touchdowns (not all were gimmes, either; the aforementioned 53-yarder to Brown could not have been thrown more on-the-money and his pass to Vance McDonald to kick off the third-quarter proceedings was an absolute missile), and had a perfect quarterback rating. It would be so dope if they could flex every Steelers game to Thursday night.

It would be similarly dope if the Steelers could count on this kind of unstoppable quarterbacking on a week-by-week basis. They can’t, of course, but Ben’s very legitimately been playing some of the best football of his career this season; regular Ben will leave the Steelers will positioned to contend for a Super Bowl; RoboBen will enable the Steelers to steamroll elite competition with impunity.

Stock up: The linebackers

On the ninth play of their first offensive series of Thursday’s game, Newton dumped the ball to amorphous offensive wunderkind Christian McCaffrey, who scampered, untouched, for a 20-yard touchdown. The “untouched” aspect of the proceedings was the more concerning, as McCaffrey is but one of many utility-knife hybrids on Carolina’s roster, so it stood to reason that the Steelers defense could be in for a long evening.

On Carolina’s next offensive series, however, T.J. Watt, as he’s prone to do, shot through the line and pushed Newton back into his own end-zone; to avoid the safety, Newton lobbed the ball meekly in the direction of absolutely no one, which enabled Vince Williams to track it, catch it, and run it back into the very same end-zone Newton was nearly downed within. Watt later picked up an actual sack—he forced a fumble on the play, too—as did Williams and Bud Dupree, whose shift to the opposite side of the formation has empowered him to what’s perhaps the best season of his professional career thus far.

Dupree’s gotten a lot of crap about being a draft bust or whatever, but in truth he’s been a pretty consistently reliable member of what’s been an inconsistent Steelers defense, and I’d argue that his sack totals are nowhere near reflective of his actual impact—Dupree seems to spend an awful lot of time in the general vicinity of opposing quarterbacks, so even if the quantifiable metrics don’t delineate him as a top-tier linebacker, at worst he’s an above-replacement level pass rushing specialist who can push the quarterback beyond his comfort zone. The Steelers will take that.

Stock up: The secondary

Cam Newton is a supremely capable professional quarterback, one who possesses the singular ability to singlehandedly drag his teammates’ corpses kicking and screaming to the realm of excellence. The Panthers are a really good team, but that they entered Thursday’s game with a 6-2 record is directly attributable to Cam Newton. And the Steelers made him look like Eli Manning.

Newton was sacked five times, had just two rushing attempts, and failed to break the 200-yard passing threshold despite throwing nearly 30 passes. He uncorked a handful of gorgeous mid-range passes to Greg Olson and Devin Funchess, but mostly Newton was resigned to tossing dump-offs to McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, and D.J. Moore, which was largely the result of the secondary handling its business. Indeed, the fact that Pittsburgh’s winning streak now stands at five games is certainly thanks in no small part to the secondary’s immense contributions. “Confidence” is a very opaque and intangible thing, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest that, by making easy work of its opposition in recent weeks, the Steelers secondary believes that it is a strong and good and functional unit, and just maybe that particular distinction is enough to give them a fighting chance against the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Phillip Rivers.

Also, in the midst of the above-mentioned win streak, Artie Burns has officially reached his professional nadir; at this point resigned to garbage-time duties and, damningly, he STILL cannot get things right. Not that it ultimately mattered, but in the fourth quarter, Burns committed a pretty blatant pass interference in the end-zone matched up against Moore, a rookie receiver who is better at playing receiver than Burns is at playing cornerback. If you aren’t already doing so, please say a prayer for Joe Haden’s vitality each night.

Steelers great Alan Fancea stands behind David DeCastro’s actions after Eric Reid’s high hit

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 5:27am

Ben Roethlisberger is lucky he wasn’t knocked out after Eric Reid’s hard hit on Thursday Night Football, and another Steelers great to wear No. 66 for the Steelers supports David DeCastro’s response.

There are unwritten rules in football similar to those in other sports.

In baseball, if your star player gets hit by a pitch, which was believed to be intentional, the opponent’s star player should expect to get a pitch thrown at him his next time up.

In hockey, if you take a run at a player, you should expect several other players to return the favor at their soonest opportunity.

In football, if you take a cheap shot at a quarterback, there will be players to come and stick up for their teammate.

This is exactly what happened in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 52-21 win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 10 on Thursday Night Football. When safety Eric Reid hit Ben Roethlisberger high, while sliding, teammates, mainly David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey, took to Roethlisberger’s aide.

One former Steelers’ great, guard Alan Faneca, took to Twitter to say how he not only agreed with DeCastro’s decision, but supported it.

Good job Dave, don’t take that ****

— Alan Faneca (@afan66) November 9, 2018

Faneca would go a step further and talk about how what the Steelers’ linemen did was something which was more than appropriate, given the situation.

Where I come from, this is the proper way you give “a talkn’ to” #leavenothingunsaid #yougotme https://t.co/rSH3LgpsYS

— Alan Faneca (@afan66) November 9, 2018

Reid was ejected from the game after his hit, but did you like the line’s reaction to the hit? Or was it over the line? On top of that, was Reid’s hit worthy of an ejection? Either way, Faneca sure enjoyed it!

Podcast: Steelers moving up the AFC Standings, without Le’Veon Bell

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 4:22am

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 are heading into Week 10, and they’ve finally surpassed the halfway point of the 2018 regular season. 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 Christopher Carter of DKPittsburghSports.com 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
  • True or False!
  • Week 10 AFC North game recaps
  • 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.

Week 10 Late Games: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/11/2018 - 2:57pm

The Steelers have already played in Week 10, but we all will be watching on Sunday to see how things shake out around the league.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have already played in Week 10, but Sundays without the Steelers certainly feel like there is something missing. With the Steelers not slated to play until they travel to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11, the Steelers Nation fan base will be watching games today to see how things shake out.

Some take this day to just relax and get caught up on things outside of football, but if you are like me, you are still watching the full slate of action on Sunday.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on Sunday. Which game are you watching? Are you someone with NFL Sunday Ticket who has access to all games, or are you stuck watching just one or two games? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all those AFC North games in the process.

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

GO STEELERS!

Week 10 Early Games: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 11/11/2018 - 11:46am

The Steelers have already played in Week 10, but we all will be watching on Sunday to see how things shake out around the league.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have already played in Week 10, but Sundays without the Steelers certainly feel like there is something missing. With the Steelers not slated to play until they travel to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11, the Steelers Nation fan base will be watching games today to see how things shake out.

Some take this day to just relax and get caught up on things outside of football, but if you are like me, you are still watching the full slate of action on Sunday.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on Sunday. Which game are you watching? Are you someone with NFL Sunday Ticket who has access to all games, or are you stuck watching just one or two games? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all those AFC North games in the process.

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

GO STEELERS!

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