You are here


Conference Championship games featuring Chiefs, Bills, Packers and Buccaneers made possible by a salary cap

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 2:30pm
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL has always prided itself on parity. Without it, would the Packers, Buccaneers, Bills and Chiefs all be vying for a trip to the Super Bowl this weekend? Highly unlikely.

Man, with Kansas City, Buffalo, Green Bay and Tampa—four television markets that aren’t New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and/or Philadelphia— involved in this Sunday’s conference title games, good luck getting viewers to tune in to see which two teams the NFL will send to Super Bowl LV, right?

LOL, just kidding. It’s the NFL, and three of the biggest names in the history of the league—Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes—will headline these matchups. Therefore, those ratings will be just fine.

That’s the beauty of a league with a salary cap and a network television package that is split evenly among all 32 NFL teams.

Can you imagine Kansas City, Buffalo, Green Bay and Tampa as the four markets vying for the right to go to the World Series? The answer is, you couldn’t. For one thing, Green Bay is too small to have a franchise in Major League Baseball, same for Buffalo, a city known more for being a minor league affiliate over the years to teams like the Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays.

As for Tampa, the Rays have been to a couple of World Series in their short history—including the most recent one—but they’ve never won one. Sure, they’ve been to the playoffs numerous times, but they’ve always been more “little engine that could” than actual championship contender. It’s true that the Royals made it to back-to-back Fall Classics in the mid-2010s and defeated the Mets in 2015 to win their first championship in three decades, but they had to blow the whole thing up after that, and now they’re back in their familiar role as one of baseball’s bottom-feeders.

The Rays will likely have to divert from their plan of stockpiling and developing prospects if they’re ever going to truly get over the hump. After that, they’ll have to blow the whole thing up. That much is true for every small-market franchise in Major League Baseball in the current environment of the haves vs. the have nots; that’s a shame since so much of MLB’s history was shaped by teams like the Pirates, A’s, Royals, Orioles, Reds, Twins and Royals.

Those franchises made it to several World Series from the late-’60s through the early-’90s and won a combined 14 championships. Unfortunately, only one of those teams—the aforementioned 2015 Royals—has won a title since I graduated from high school 30 years ago.

What happened? Unrestricted free agency and the explosion of salaries. What didn’t happen? A salary cap.

All of those baseball teams, along with the expansion Rays, are considered small-market franchises, while the likes of the Yankees and Dodgers, the team that vanquished Tampa in the 2020 World Series, are considered big-market teams with access to huge local television and radio deals.

Fortunately for professional football fans, the NFL—led by transformative commissioner Pet Rozelle way back in the 1960s—envisioned a league where all teams would get an equal share of the television pie. When the league finally relented and gave its players unrestricted free agency in the early-’90s, it made sure to include a salary cap as part of the agreement. Once again, everyone remained on equal ground.

How long do you think Mahomes would have remained with the Chiefs without a salary cap and revenue sharing in the NFL? Probably until the end of his rookie deal. Without those things in place, Kansas City would have had little-to-no chance of signing the former NFL MVP to the mega-deal he inked last summer. As for Rodgers, he would have left Green Bay—likely for the Big Apple or LA—a long time ago. And you could forget about the Buccaneers winning a bidding war for the GOAT.

Do you think Super Bowl XLV between the Steelers and Packers happens in a non-salary cap environment? Maybe one of those markets sneaks into the Super Bowl every once in a while, but no way would it ever happen in the same year.

The NFL is the greatest and most popular sports league in America for a reason. One of the biggest reasons is because all teams are treated equally.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Go parity!!!!!

Steelers Championship Anniversary Flashback: Super Bowl XIV vs. Rams

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 1:00pm

Go back into time with BTSC as we relive the Steelers fourth Super Bowl win in unconventional fashion.

The black-and-gold Delorean says that it's January 20, 1980 and Escape (Piña Colada) is number one on the charts, Gary Coleman is captivating audiences on Diff'rent Strokes and Jimmy Carter just announced the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics. But first, let's go back eight days prior and put yourself in my Buster Brown's.

Imagine you are me.

You are barely eight-years old, and your parents call you into the room with smiles from ear-to-ear. "If the Steelers beat the Oilers tomorrow, we're going to the Super Bowl!" You go into a happy dance that would make Snoopy, or that chick from the Liberty Mutual commercial a couple of years back that can't keep a boyfriend to save her life to the extent that she has to name her car Brad, jealous.

Then reality calls.

And you realize that "we" is they without you, and you cry and hysterically flee the kitchen. So the only time in my forty-one years as a Pittsburgh fan, I (kind-of) rooted against the Steelers. That is until the Mike Renfro-thing happened and I found my soul saved from the dark side.

So my parents went to sunny Pasadena, the home of Van Halen. They actually didn't go to Eddie and Alex' house. They wouldn't know Van Halen from Van Husen. I, in turn, got to stay home in snow-infested Johnstown, PA with Grandma (God bless her, she was a good woman) who didn't drive, yelled a lot and didn't fall for any shenanigans. I decided to be happy for my parents, plus I knew they would come home with tons of Steeler merchandise for me out of love, and a lot of guilt. I still have my Jack Ham jersey, and the Steeler/Ram visor they brought home. Actually, I know the visor was legit, but I'm pretty sure No. 59 came from Hills Department Store (home of the greatest snack bar ever).

Anyhow, mom and dad went to the high-priced game ("I can't believe we paid $30 for a ticket.") and I watched intently on the television. Looking back, I can't believe that the Steelers were playing and I was rooting against the future star of NBC's Hunter (Fred Dwyer), soon-to-be legend of Pro wrestling Vader (Leon White), Daylon McCutcheon's dad (Lawrence) and a guy playing with a FREAKING BROKEN LEG (Jack Youngblood)!

The game didn't even start yet and I remember getting scared because I learned Jack Ham and Mike Wagner were injured. Then, I flew into mid-game rage when All in the Family's Carroll O'Connor proclaimed on his own network (CBS) that the hometown Rams, at 9-7, were going to beat the Steelers. I lost a little something for Archie Bunker that day, and started to empathize with Meathead and wish Edith to have a torrid affair with both Irene and Frank Lorenzo next door (Total exaggeration, I was eight. But in fairness, I would wish that now, and it's funny to picture). Actually, I was thinking....I wonder if mom and dad are sitting next to Archie Bunker.

The game began with Cheryl Ladd singing the national anthem and Art Rooney in a vintage car from 1933 entered the playing field for the coin toss. Then there was much rejoicing as the favored Steelers took an early 3-0 lead courtesy of a Matt Bahr field goal, and the legendary Mean Joe Greene Coke commercial debuted. But fortunes quickly took a turn when Vince Ferragamo and Wendell Tyler led the Rams on a sustained drive that culminated in a Cullen Bryant touchdown and a 7-3 L.A. lead to complete the first quarter.

But the Steelers stormed back quickly, when Larry Anderson took the ensuing kickoff 45-yards. Anderson was incredible on the day with five returns for 162-yards. Led by Rocky Bleier, Franco Harris ran wide-right into the end zone from a yard out to regain the lead for the Steelers at 10-7, with Bahr's kick-after.

The young Ferragamo, subbing for an injured Pat Haden, was accurate and consistent as the Rams controlled the ball for the remainder of the first half. Two of No. 15's potential TD passes bounced off of Ram receivers, Billy Waddy and Ron Smith. But two Frank Corrall field goals saved points on those drives. The worst team ever (at that point) to play in a Super Bowl was leading the ten-point favorite Steelers 13-10 at the half.

As the famed "Up With People" were performing their salute to big band music and my dad rolling his eyes listening to my mom complaining about no actual bathrooms at the famed Rose Bowl as they waited in line at the port-a-potties, Steeler Nation stuffed themselves with pierogies and kielbasa in absolute disbelief.

Larry Anderson ignited Steeler Nation's flame of excitement once again as he went on a 37-yard kickoff jaunt to start the second half. Terry Bradshaw went deep to a leaping Lynn Swann over two defenders for a 47-yard score to take a 17-13 lead. But Ferragamo went long himself to Waddy for 50-yards and then McCutcheon found Smith on some trickery with a 24-yard hookup and their third lead of the game. Corrall missed the extra point and the score was 19-17 Rams.

Los Angeles tightened up the running lanes giving Franco and Rocky nowhere to run, while Rod Perry knocked Swann out of the game with a jarring hit. Bradshaw threw two of his three picks in the third quarter and a fourth Super Bowl title looked bleak.

In the fourth quarter, the Steelers woke up. Bradshaw went deep again to John Stallworth for a 73-yard score when No. 82 outreached and burned Rod Perry with a gorgeous touchdown and a 24-19 lead. But the Ray Malavasi's Rams weren't done.

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Ferragamo went deep to Drew Hill and Bryant ran all over the vaunted Steel Curtain defense. But despite a J.T. Thomas sack, the Rams kept driving and looked like they were going to get the job done. But then Ferragamo made his only mistake. Like another Steeler linebacker from Kent state nearly 30 years later, Jack Lambert dropped into coverage and halted the Rams scoring drive with an interception of Ferragamo at the Pittsburgh 15 with 5:24 to go. Ferragamo didn't notice a wide-open Waddy in the post.

With the lead, Bradshaw went deep again to Stallworth for another beauty that netted 44-yards. Five plays later, Franco scored his second one-yard TD and the Steelers iced the game 31-19.

Photo by Nate Fine/Getty Images

The Steelers closed out the 70s with their fourth title in six years, No. 12 was named MVP, there was much rejoicing once again and Grandma yelled at me for being out of bed.

4 Steelers players who hurt the salary cap if they are released in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 11:30am
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Due to signing bonuses and guarantees on contracts with multiple seasons still remaining, some players would actually create more of a cap issue if they were released

With the Pittsburgh Steelers dealing with a difficult salary cap situation for the 2021 season, much discussion has been made about which players may become cap casualties this offseason. While there are several players who can save the Steelers a significant amount of space under the salary cap, there are several players on the team which would cost more against the cap than to keep them for the season.

Here is a list of the four Steelers who would be more beneficial to stay on the roster than it would be to release them for the 2021 season. Granted, most of these players the Steelers would not consider moving on from anytime soon based on their on-field production. But even though their departure would be highly unlikely even without their salary cap situation, it never hurts to know the numbers. All figures listed are courtesy of and reflect if the player was a pre-June 1 cut.

Devin Bush $6,004,654

Only a fool would suggest a team who traded up in the first round of the draft to select a player should release them after only his second season, especially when it was cut short due to injury. Devin Bush is not going anywhere with the Steelers for a long time. Not only would it cost just over $6 million in 2021 with a pre-June 1 cut, it would cost over $3 million as a post-June 1 cut and would push the cap hit into future years. There would be no cap savings for cutting Bush next season either. It’s a good thing the Steelers won’t even consider the notion of moving on from Bush.

Cam Heyward $1,650,000

The reason Heyward is on this list and has the salary cap implications he does is due to being the player who received the new deal during the 2020 offseason. Currently one of only for non-rookie contract players under contract in 2022 and the only one under contract in 2023, Heyward is the lone Steeler of any type who has a contract through the 2024 NFL season. Because he is so early in the new deal, it would not save the Steelers anything if they were to release Hayward unless they did so with a post June 1 designation. Either way, the Steelers would be on the hook for the same amount of dead money, it would just be spread out over future years.

Chase Claypool $1,186,050

Going into his second season as the Steelers top draft pick of 2020, I’ll be at in the second round, Chase Claypool would have more money going towards the salary cap based on his signing bonus than he is due to make over the next two seasons. Of course it is foolish to cut any player on their rookie deal as the cost of replacement it’s so much more, Claypool’s production alone highly outweighs his current salary.

Minkah Fitzpatrick $0

Yes, releasing Fitzpatrick wouldn’t cost more money like the others, it would not save the Steelers even one dollar as Fitzpatrick’s contract signed by the Dolphins was fully guaranteed. Given the various factors of the Steelers giving up a first-round pick for Fitzpatrick, his two-time All-Pro status, and the fact he is on his rookie deal which costs the Steelers minimally towards the salary cap, Fitzpatrick will be in Black & Gold in 2021. Also, look for the Steelers to pick up Fitzpatrick’s fifth-year option this offseason.

So these are the only four players where it would not benefit the Steelers salary cap by releasing them prior to June 1. While there are plenty of other players who would carry a large dead-money value which would detract to the team for moving on, actually costing the Steelers cap space (or not gaining a single dollar) by their departure means these four players won’t be going anywhere. Of course, this is strictly from a numbers perspective. When factoring on-the-field performance, it would be difficult for the Steelers to cut ties with any of these four players.

Stay tuned to BTSC for upcoming articles on players whose dead money outweighs their savings as well as players who give the most cap savings versus the dead money hit.

Podcast: Steelers contracts, know when to hold’ em and when to fold ‘em

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 11:00am

In the spirit of brotherly love, siblings Dave and Rich Schofield break down all things surrounding the black-and-gold.

The Steelers 2021 season has 19 unrestricted free agents already for the Steelers to have to deal with. There are big names like Bud Dupree. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Al Villanueva and James Conner to name a few who need to be addressed. The Steelers also have some difficult decisions to make with players going into the last year of their contracts. Who will the black-and-gold be able to retain and who will Steeler Nation have to say goodbye to? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment on the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-Gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • What contracts are too much for the Steelers to handle in 2021?
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

The Steelers face a daunting future in the young, loaded AFC

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers face a disconcerting future in the AFC conference filled with talented young quarterbacks.

The NFL is a quarterback driven league. The simple truth of the matter remains you either have a QB capable of winning the big game, or you don't. If you don't, you better find one by whatever means necessary. Draft one, trade for one, or sign one in free agency: the means doesn't really matter, just the final results. This doesn't bode well for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who's franchise QB appears to be on his last legs, quite literally. He appeared to struggle with backpedaling when taking snaps from center after injuring his knees against the Dallas Cowboys. This impacts the running game and the ability to utilize play action. Arthritic knees has been deemed the culprit, which can be managed but not cured. Just one of the unwanted byproducts of a long athletic career.

I have zero concerns about Ben Roethlisberger's surgically repaired throwing arm after a season where he displayed the arm talent necessary to still make all the throws. That was truly impressive coming off rather extensive elbow reconstructive surgery. Fellow greybeards Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers still posses NFL caliber arm strength, but neither have had their throwing arms rebuilt. This season we saw elder statesmen Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees have efficient seasons while dealing with some injuries and serious decline in arm strength. Rivers was unable to reach the end zone from near midfield on a last second Hail Mary against the Buffalo Bills in their playoff game that turned out to be the last pass attempt of his season.

The greatest opponent for all the aforementioned Hall of Fame caliber signal callers mentioned would undoubtedly be Father Time, although the incomparable Brady continues to defy the odds. Even if the physical ability remains strong, the mental resolve and internal desire to commit to the whole process necessary to compete at the highest level often fades over time. That's when many elite QBs realize it is time to walk away. When that moment happens is impossible to predict, evidenced when former Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck walked away unexpectedly.

Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers face plenty of huge decisions this off season that will impact their franchise for years to come, none bigger than how to handle Roethlisberger's troubling contract situation. For Ben, the decision to return or retire turns out to be multifaceted. Tough questions must be asked, and answered honestly by all parties involved.

If the Steelers doubt in anyway that they have a realistic opportunity to be a contender next season, does Ben want to put his body through the grind of another season? Especially with the very real possibility that the pandemic could negatively impact the experience yet again next season. Only he knows how much it impacted his enjoyment and experience this season, how much it affected his family and personal life. There are no guarantees if and when life will return to some sort of normalcy.

I feel certain that Ben doesn't want to return for one last long shot at a title if the salary cap ramifications damage the Steelers chances of remaining competitive for an inordinate amount of time after his retirement. He loves and respects the franchise and wants to be remembered as the Steelers legend he is. It wouldn't shock me to see him remain with the franchise in some capacity in the future after his playing days have ended. Roethlisberger and the Steelers have that type of rapport and nobody wants a repeat of the strained relationship former Steelers great Terry Bradshaw had with the franchise.

There are no easy answers to the situation at hand; particularly with the time and cap constraints. The manner in which the Steelers approach free agency will be greatly affected by Roethlisberger's decision. His decision will have ramifications on many of his teammates contract negotiations moving forward. Can any team not considered a realistic title contender justify having possibly two of the highest paid defenders at their positions tying up an inordinate amount of the salary cap without the presence of a franchise QB on the roster?

For parts of the past decade, the Steelers were offensively top heavy, talent wise and financially. Regrettably they were unable to field a superior offense and defense necessary to bring home another Lombardi Trophy at the same time. Once Ben Roethlisberger does hang up the cleats the Steelers very well could find themselves in a similar but opposite dilemma. The Steelers must avoid looking back over the next five years and lament wasting the full impact of a championship caliber defense due to a offense not quite holding up their end of the bargain.

Many Steelers fans have lost faith in Roethlisberger's ability to lead the Steelers to a championship. The suggested solutions and possible replacements have been both numerous and creative, if often ill conceived. Steelers fans are nothing if not passionate, and many are frustrated. Frustration is justified, after another late season collapse and unfathomable losses to both the Bengals and Browns.

The path to any Super Bowl aspirations used to pass through New England for any AFC hopeful, but that is no longer the case. Both the defending champions Kansas City Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes; and their challenger in this week's conference championship game, the Buffalo Bills with Josh Allen, appear primed to battle for the conference supremacy for years to come. If the Steelers are to remain competitive in their own division, much less the conference, the Steelers brass will have to be both fearless and efficient in their transactions, with more than a little good fortune thrown in for good measure.

We all have our own ideas about what needs to transpire moving forward, but the only opinions that truly matter belong to the Steelers hierarchy and Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers desperately need to rebuild the offensive line to provide Ben Roethlisberger with some semblance of a rushing attack to take the pressure off their veteran leader. A more balanced offense is an absolute must, regardless of who ends up playing QB next season.

Maybe it's because of my Black and Gold glasses, or what I hope to be the wisdom acquired from being a faithful Steelers fanatic for over four decades, but I have faith that Ben Roethlisberger and Steelers management know far more than I and will decide on what's best for the franchise. Keep the faith, Steelers Nation!

Contrary to popular belief, being an offensive coordinator is the hardest job in sports

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Fans love to think they could call plays, but it isn’t as easy as you may think.

The recent dismissal of offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has been met with joy throughout Steelers Nation. Fichtner was widely regarded as an ineffective play-caller who served more as Ben Roethlisberger’s caddy than as a legitimate coordinator. His firing triggered a slew of remarks in the comments sections of numerous articles here at Behind The Steel Curtain and elsewhere that suggested, given the talent the Steelers possess, anyone with a remedial understanding of offense could have done a better job calling plays.

Granted, Fichtner struggled mightily in Pittsburgh. The rushing attack disappeared, finishing last in the league in 2020, and the scheme devolved into a simple menu of quick passes from static 11-personnel formations. As opposing defenses caught on, Fichtner had no Plan B, and a once-promising season that began with an 11-0 start flamed out spectacularly.

Fans were right to be angry. They deserve more from their coordinator than Pittsburgh got from Fichtner. His dismissal was justified.

The perception many have of what it takes to be an offensive coordinator, however, is misguided. Again, there is legitimate reason for frustration with the offense in Pittsburgh. But to suggest nearly anyone could have done better is naïve. I don’t write that to be demeaning or condescending. It’s simply true.

The coordinator position is, in a word, grueling. It requires a tireless work ethic and a mastery of organization, anticipation, attention to detail, strategy and, on game day, high-level thinking not found in many individuals. It requires abnormally thick skin, too. Few jobs in America are second-guessed as frequently as NFL play-caller. Randy Fichtner failed in Pittsburgh, but the thing at which he failed is something few are qualified to do. It is the most challenging coaching job in sports.

To understand why that is, and why being a coordinator is so much more than simply calling plays, it’s worth taking a closer look at exactly what the job entails. I reached out to Paul Callahan, who is the offensive coordinator at the high school where I coach, and asked him to summarize his task-list as he prepares for an opponent. Paul has over 30 years of coaching experience and is one of the brightest football minds, at any level, I have ever been around. He is a former high school head coach, has coached for several successful college programs and, at our school, has been the offensive coordinator for the past six seasons. Under Paul’s guidance, we have produced four consecutive All-Conference quarterbacks and a host of school records. We refer to him as “The Quarterback Whisperer” for his ability to develop players at the game’s most important position.

“The key to being a good coordinator,” Paul said, “other than putting in the work, is to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses. You have to work towards both of those - playing to the strengths and working around the weaknesses.

“For instance, I might like throwing to the backs but if the backs aren’t great at that, we don’t do it. Or we may like throwing intermediate routes but bad things happen when we do — sacks, incompletions, interceptions — so we stop throwing them. It’s not about what you want to do, it’s about what you can do. The goal is to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.”

Paul’s comments about strengths and weaknesses resonate as they pertain to the 2020 Steelers. Early on, as they bolted out to their 10-0 start, the Steelers were mitigating their weaknesses (a middling run game, an immobile quarterback with diminishing deep-ball skills) by getting the ball out of Roethlisberger’s hand quickly, targeting rookie Chase Claypool on deep throws and mixing the pass with the run. As the season progressed, defenses caught on and adjusted. Fichtner eliminated the corresponding weaknesses but never identified or developed a strength to replace them. This crippled the offense by making the Steelers simple to defend.

As for Paul’s comment about “putting in the work,” it is mind-boggling how much study and preparation running an offense requires. Paul assembled a list of his weekly duties in order to have us prepared for our games on Friday nights, which I have posted below. This is a list for a high school coordinator, mind you, where time is limited. For professional coaches, the prep work runs much deeper.

Offensive Coordinator - Weekly Duties


  • Watch game from previous night; break down details to discuss with team and individual players
  • Speak to individual players about the game - mostly QB-related or things needing to be addressed immediately
  • Watch film of upcoming opposition - just to get a feel for their defense
  • Start preliminary list of new formations, motions, shifts, pass/run schemes for this week


  • Break down opposition’s defense - focusing on the front vs formations and coverages - how will they defend us? Who have they played that is most like us? What is their philosophy on defense?
  • Study opposition’s defensive personnel - Who are their best players?
  • Study opposition’s scheme and players for weaknesses
  • Continue preliminary list of new formations, motions, shifts, pass/run schemes for this week
  • Break down Friday’s game film for Efficiency study - Situations, run/pass, field position
  • Compare efficiency of game to previous games - Identify areas in need of improvement
  • Grade position groups and make notes on Hudl for the different position groups from Friday night’s game - send notes to players
  • Make notes on opposition’s film for our players - send notes to players


  • Study opponent’s defense based on situations and field positions
  • Put yourself in opposing Defensive Coordinator’s shoes - Big question: How would I defend us, if I were their DC based on their philosophy?
  • Start preliminary game-plan based on situation and field position
  • Narrow down list of new formations, motions, shifts, pass/run schemes for this week
  • Prepare practice outline for the week - which plays will be emphasized on what days - what individual position work needs to be addressed based on new things and past week’s game?
  • Check protection scheme for potential problems with opponent’s blitz/stunt
  • Prepare practice schedule and script for Monday’s practice
  • Finalize new install for week
  • Speak with QBs about install
  • Install new offense with team
  • Drill new install with team
  • Drill with position groups things that need to be addressed
  • Watch film to finalize game plan for the week
  • Compile a list of run and pass plays for the week and from what formations/shifts/motions they will be run - Continue to game-plan plays based on situations/field position
  • Compile preliminary list of plays to run in Tuesday’s practice scripts (Group Run, Pass Skelly, & Team)


  • Finalize Tuesday practice schedule: times and individual periods/areas of emphasis
  • Plan Routes on Air (QB/Receivers) and Run Frame (QB/RB)
  • Finalize Tuesday scripts for Group Run, Skelly and Team
  • Script Group Run, Skelly and Team based on formation, field position and hash
  • Finalize Pass Protection and script Defensive Stunts/Blitzes for OL/RB Pass Protection Period
  • Script scout defense coverages/blitzes for Pass Skelly
  • Script scout defense front, blitzes/stunts and coverages for Team offense
  • Practice with QB/RB in option run game
  • Practice with QB/WR/TE in Pass Routes on Air
  • Practice with QB/RB/OL in Group Run
  • Practice with QB/RB/Receivers in Pass Skelly
  • Practice with Team
  • Meet with individual players and coaches after practice if necessary
  • Watch Practice Film of Group Run, Skelly and Team
  • Put comments on Skelly and Team for QB, RB and WRs on Hudl
  • Compile Preliminary list of plays to run in Wednesday’s practice scripts (Group Run, Pass Skelly, & Team)


  • Finalize Wednesday practice schedule - times and individual periods areas of emphasis
  • Plan out Routes on Air (QB/Receivers) and Run Frame (QB/RB)
  • Finalize Wednesday scripts for Group Run, Skelly and Team
  • Script Group Run, Skelly and Team based on formation, field position and hash
  • Make any changes to Pass Protection and Script Defensive Stunts/Blitzes for OL/RB Pass Protection Period
  • Script scout defense coverages/blitzes for Pass Skelly
  • Script scout defense front, blitzes/stunts and coverages for Team offense
  • Practice with QB/RB in option run game
  • Practice with QB/WR/TE in Pass Routes on Air
  • Practice with QB/RB/OL in Group Run
  • Practice with QB/RB/Receivers in Pass Skelly
  • Practice with Team
  • Talk with QB about call sheet - likes and dislikes
  • Meet with individual players and coaches after practice if necessary
  • Watch Practice Film of Group Run, Skelly and Team
  • Put comments on Skelly and Team for QB, RB and WRs on Hudl
  • Compile Preliminary list of plays to run in Thursday’s practice scripts (Group Run, Pass Skelly, & Team)


  • Finalize & Script Red Zone/Goal Line Offense based on hash mark
  • Narrow down offense to 48 plays (including Red Zone/Goal Line) for Thursday’s walk-through practice
  • Script Team offense practice schedule based on field position/hash/formation and situation
  • Eliminate plays/formations from game-plan based on practice this week
  • Finalize gadget plays for game-plan
  • Script scout defense front, blitzes/stunts and coverages for Team offense and Red Zone/Goal Line
  • Practice with Team
  • Meet with individual players and coaches after practice as needed
  • Watch Practice film and contact individual players or coaches via Hudl for anything that needs to be addressed
  • Eliminate plays from game-plan based on Thursday’s practice
  • Begin to finalize game-plan based on situations


  • Finalize run game/RPO plan based on formations/motions/shifts
  • Finalize pass game-plan based on formations/motions/shifts
  • Finalize shot-plays in game-plan based on formations/motions/shifts
  • Finalize situations in game-plan based on formations/motions/shifts
  • Finalize field position game-plan based on formations/motions/shifts
  • Finalize openers in game-plan based on formations/motions/shifts
  • Finalize game-plan against other potential defenses/coverages
  • Finalize ways to get ball to best players in game-plan based on formations/motions/shifts
  • Finalize Script - 1st play must be good vs any potential look
  • Fill out call sheet
  • Identify opposition’s defense ASAP on game day and make adjustments to game-plan as called for
  • Call the game

If you made it through all of that, you’ve probably realized it’s an incredible amount of work. Why is it so much work? Because defensive coaches are similarly detailed. If you aren’t pathologically thorough in your preparation, your weaknesses and tendencies will be exposed.

You may have noticed that the final item on Paul’s list — the very last thing — is the thing so many fans focus upon: calling the game. Clearly, this is not a spontaneous process. There are moments of spontaneity in real time, when decisions are made based upon instinct or sudden revelation. But calling a football game is the result of meticulous preparation. It is the culmination of a process, not its inception.

Still, an OC must be a great in-game play-caller. He can do all the prep in the world but if he can’t apply it to a live situation it’s worthless. To get an idea for how difficult play-calling in real time can be, try this exercise. The next time you’re watching a game (casually), try calling plays between snaps. Figure you have about eight seconds from the time a play is blown dead to the time you have to get a call to your quarterback. You have to include personnel group and formation in addition to the actual play-call and must consider down-and-distance and the likely defense you’re going to face. You also must think about the calls you’ve made previously so your opponent won’t anticipate them, as well as the calls you’ve made that have worked or not worked. Do all of that in eight seconds. Again and again and again.

I make no excuses for Randy Fichtner here. Even the most casual fan could see his offense was dysfunctional. Those who ascend to the coordinator level in the NFL are among the best in the world at what they do. We should expect from them a performance befitting those qualifications. Let’s not demean the job by suggesting it is simple, however. A resume built on playground football and Madden doesn’t disqualify anyone from criticizing poor play-calling. It doesn’t make them capable of running an NFL offense, either. Sometimes we forget that.

Can we please stop saying the Steelers have wasted talent over the last 10 years?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire

Have the Steelers been wasting talented rosters year after year, or have they made those players better while wearing the Black & Gold?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 season is over. And before it even takes place, the Steelers did not win the Super Bowl this season. In fact, it’s been 10 season since they have even been to the big game.

As is usually the case when a team, like 30 others in the league each year, comes up short on the season, the fan base comes out in droves saying exactly what is wrong with this team.

Well, there’s a lot wrong with this team.

The Steelers are getting older in places where they need to get younger, numerous players are no longer under contract going into next season, players that are still under contract have inflated salary cap hits due to constant restructuring, and the team just can’t find a way to run the football.

Did I hit the major points?

Oh yeah, and then there’s the coaches.

Trust me, the coaches should not get a pass for places they have come up short and doing their jobs in making the Pittsburgh Steelers the best team it can be every season. Just like a quarterback should be blamed for overthrowing a receiver and giving an easy interception, coaches should be blamed when making poor decisions or failing to develop a reasonable scheme.

But as we often do as fans, we sometimes take our narratives to the next level. Sometimes, this level is quite unreasonable. One statement I’ve seen floating around on various places discussing the Steelers on the inter-web is how the Steelers have wasted their talent during the Mike Tomlin era.

Not only is a statement almost impossible to prove, it makes a whole lot of assumptions which should not be made.

First, define talent. Is it making Pro Bowls? Is it being selected in the first round of the NFL draft? Is it just who you think is good and like to cheer for? The problem is, talent is relative. What someone may deem as being very talented, others may not. As Steelers fans, we are very biased and unreliable evaluators of talent. We have players that we love that we claim are better than they really are. More often than the previous example, there are plenty of players on the Steelers where the fan base are sure they are terrible and yet the team keeps around.

As fans, I would say our track record is pretty bad. We’re terrible evaluators of talent as a whole. Obviously, some people are better than others. But remember, it wasn’t long ago Bud Dupree was a big mistake for the Steelers in drafting him in the first round. And now, there are many who can’t stand the thought of losing him to free agency.

For those who are among the crowd that says the Steelers have wasted their talent for the last 10 years, I want to give a counter argument: The Steelers have over-performed with their talent they have and, therefore, cannot draft high enough to constantly get game-changing players every season.

I’m not saying I believe this argument, but it is just as valid as saying that the talent was wasted. In this case, we can actually look at players who have gone on from the Pittsburgh Steelers to help shape the argument. If the Steelers are so terrible at wasting their talent, then I’m sure players are just tearing up the league the moment they get out of Pittsburgh. We all know how true this statement is, right?

Let’s look at the extensive list of former Steelers who have gone on to make the Pro Bowl since they have left Pittsburgh. Since it’s been 10 Years since the Steelers made their last Super Bowl, let’s start that far back. Here we go…

Emmanuel Sanders.

And we’re done. The only player to go on from Pittsburgh in the last 10 years and have more success than what they did with the Steelers was wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Earning two Pro Bowls when he played in Denver in both the 2014 and 2016 season, Sanders only had 2,000 yards in four seasons and 11 touchdowns in Pittsburgh. But when another wide receiver drafted in the same year constantly outperformed Sanders, he became expendable.

Speaking of that other receiver drafted the same year as Sanders, the Steelers have recently had two All-Pro players leave the Steelers and found very limited success. Granted both of these players are still alive in the 2020 postseason, their contributions to their current teams are nowhere close to what they were doing in Pittsburgh. So in looking at these types of players, it appears they over-performed in Pittsburgh and their talent is being wasted on their current teams.

Let’s just look at the players who moved on from the Pittsburgh Steelers last season and how they performed in 2020. If their talent was wasted in Pittsburgh, I’m sure they were all named to the Pro Bowl this season.

The biggest name who left the Steelers in free agency after the 2019 season was defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. Moving to the Philadelphia Eagles, Hargrave didn’t jump onto the scene anymore in Philadelphia they what he already had in Pittsburgh. With fewer tackles than he had the previous two years, Hargrave did have 4.5 sacks in 2020 where he only had 4.0 in 2019. But Hargrave’s 2018 season had 6.5 sacks while he was in Pittsburgh. In looking at PFF grades, Hargrave went from a top 10 interior defender to ranked number 76 in the league in 2020. His replacement on the Steelers, Tyson Alualu, slid into that top 10 position according to PFF as he finished ranked 8th.

Another player who left the Steelers this past season was Tyler Matakevich who had a very equal season in Buffalo to what he did in Pittsburgh. B.J. Finney left the Steelers for Seattle but didn’t earn a starting spot or even last the season. Finney ended up being traded to the Cincinnati Bengals and did not have a single offensive snap in the 2020 season for either team.

Other players who left the Steelers were tight end Nick Vannett who did have one more catch for 33 yes the large in Denver this season but did actually have a touchdown. The other player lost was Sean Davis to the Washington Football Team who ended up releasing him and he signed back with the Steelers. Artie Burns did go to the Chicago Bears, but suffered a season-ending injury in training camp.

I’m still trying to figure out if the Steelers are wasting so much talent why players aren’t exploding onto the scene the minute they get out of their dreaded black and gold uniform.

Maybe it’s the players the Steelers aren’t letting go which people deem to be the superior talent. After all, the defense is loaded with a lot a first round draft picks. Looking at the players who started in Week 1 for the Steelers, there were eight former first-round picks with the only exceptions being Stephan Tuitt, Steven Nelson, Vince Williams, and Mike Hilton. Of those eight players, three of them were not drafted by the Steelers. While the Steelers did use the first round draft pick to acquire Mikah Fitzpatrick, both Joe Haden and Tyson Alualu were cast offs from their previous teams. And what have they done since joining the Steelers? Alualu had arguably the best season of his career this past year in Pittsburgh while Hayden earned Pro Bowl honors last season which was something he hadn’t done since 2014. It’s just extremely difficult to prove that these players would be so talented other places that are being wasted in Pittsburgh.

Am I saying that Steelers Nation should be complacent with not winning a playoff game since 2016? Not at all. But winning in the NFL is tough, and winning in the playoffs is even tougher. It’s not something every franchise can do.

I’m sure there is a large number of NFL fans from various fan bases who won’t win Super Bowl LV who feel their talent was wasted by not bringing home a championship. It’s just how it works.

Saying the coaches are wasting the talent is actually a pretty big cop out, but it’s not one without reason. Right now, at this point of the season, the only thing teams out of the running can do is change their coaching staff. They can’t sign new players until March. They can’t draft the next big thing as that won’t happen until the end of April. The only thing teams can do right now is make changes to their coaching staff. Therefore, that’s got to be what needs changed.

Any time a team comes up short of winning the Super Bowl, it’s easy to say they wasted talent. But asking yourself if the team was really as talented as you thought they were might also be something to ask yourself before calling for the head of every coach at every position. It might just be those coaches getting the most out of their players after all.

Steelers have three players listed on ESPN’s Top 50 Free Agents list

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

There are some big names on the list, and the Steelers have all there in the Top 25.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a long list of Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) who are about to hit the open market, and some on that list are some pretty big names. When you have players like Bud Dupree, James Conner, Matt Feiler, Alejandro Villanueva, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton, among others, who are not guaranteed to be back in 2021, fans take notice.

Of all the players, who are the biggest names on the Steelers’ list?

ESPN put out their Top 50 Free Agent list for 2021 NFL Free Agency, and the Steelers had three of their own make the list. In fact, those three players made ESPN’s Top 25.

Take a look at who made the list, and where they rank below:

7. Bud Dupree, Edge

2020 team: Pittsburgh Steelers | Age entering 2021 season: 27

Since the start of the 2019 season, Dupree has more sacks (19.5) than all but seven players in the NFL — and that’s despite missing the final five games of this season because of a torn ACL. A significant injury in a contract year isn’t ideal, but it’s also not the market buster that it once was. Assuming there are no reported complications, a pass-rusher like Dupree is going to find significant interest on the open market.

21. Alejandro Villanueva, OT

2020 team: Pittsburgh Steelers | Age entering 2021 season: 32

Even if his best days are behind him, Villanueva plays a position that is very difficult to replace in free agency. Teams consider it a win to find a serviceable left tackle in free agency, and he certainly qualifies in that regard.

25. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR

2020 team: Pittsburgh Steelers | Age entering 2021 season: 24

There’s no other way to put it: Smith-Schuster had a confounding contract year. Playing in the Steelers’ short passing game, he caught 97 passes — ninth most in the NFL — but averaged only 8.6 yards per catch. That was the third lowest among the wide receivers who caught at least 50 passes in 2020. The performance isn’t likely to change teams’ perceptions of his potential as a downfield receiver, but it could prompt at least a closer look.

Of the aforementioned free agents, which would you like to see the Steelers keep? Of course, the salary cap plays a huge role in the decision, but which player would you love for the team to bring back?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for NFL Free Agency and the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

Listen to the Hall of Fame Selection Committee vouch for Alan Faneca and Bill Nunn

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 5:00am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers could have two more members enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and

The Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of members of their organization enshrined forever in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. There are so many Steelers busts in those hallowed halls many who vote on who gets in, and is left out, think there are too many Steelers in the Hall of Fame.

That is what we like to call the Steelers bias.

Nonetheless, there are two prominent figures vying for induction in 2021, and with the vote/announcement just around the corner, members of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee spoke on behalf of those who are hoping to get the good news phone call in just a few weeks.

For the Steelers, the two who are finalists to be inducted in the Class of 2021 are Alan Faneca and Bill Nunn. Faneca has been a finalist the past several years, with this being Nunn’s first time being considered for induction.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame shared the video of the Committee members speaking for those involved, and you can see the two speeches below:

Ed Bouchette of The Athletic speaking on behalf of Alan Faneca

The HOF Selection Committee is meeting virtually today to discuss the candidates for the #PFHOF21 Class.

Next up: Selector @EdBouchette presented on behalf of Modern-Era Player Finalist @afan66.@steelers

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) January 19, 2021

Former NFL executive Bill Polian speaking on behalf of Bill Nunn

The HOF Selection Committee is meeting virtually today to discuss the candidates for the #PFHOF21 Class.

Next up: Selector and HOFer Bill Polian presented on behalf of Contributor Finalist Bill Nunn. @steelers

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) January 19, 2021

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as Faneca and Nunn hope to join Troy Polamalu, Bill Cowher and Donnie Shell getting inducted in the summer of 2021.

Podcast: Why the Steelers should target a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 4:30am

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

The Steelers have many needs on their draft board for 2021, with offensive line, running back and linebacker hovering at the top of the list. But it is paramount that the Steelers target a quarterback in the draft as well. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Why the Steelers should target a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Predicting the rest of the Steelers’ offensive coaching staff

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 2:00pm
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

From guys that have directly worked under Matt Canada to guys with NFL experience, here’s how I predict the offensive coaching staff to round out.

With rumors heavy leaning toward Matt Canada getting promoted as the Steelers next offensive coordinator, I decided to take a hard look at the rest of the Steelers offensive coaching staff and try to figure out who they will hire to fill their coaching vacancies. At the end of the day these positions will be filled by the discretion of head coach Mike Tomlin, but I would anticipate that Canada will have some say in the matter.

Kicking things off, let’s quickly look at the offensive coaches the Steelers have retained. Only two positional coaches remain from the 2020 season, those being Eddie Faulkner who will reprise his role working with the running backs, and Ike Hilliard will once again lead the receiving group. Outside of that the Steelers have two offensive assistant coaches on the roster in Adrian Klemm, who was the understudy of former offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett, and Blaine Stewart who helps out coach Hilliard.

This leaves job openings at offensive line, tight ends, and quarterbacks which I think should be a separate person than Matt Canada. Assistant positional coaches are impossible to predict as they really could be anybody with college/pro experience. But I will put on my guessing cap to deduce who will lead the remaining positional groups.

Tight Ends Coach: Dave Bucar Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Coach Bucar worked under Matt Canada during Canada’s time as the university of Marylands head coach. Bucar worked as the Terrapins tight end coach but has since moved on to become the assistant head coach, offensive line coach, and run game coordinator for FCS’ Valparaiso Crusaders. Matt Canada himself was quoted as saying Coach Bucar is “one of the great young minds in the game of football today. He is a tremendous teacher and has a work ethic that is unmatched.”

Offensive Line Coach: Doug Marrone Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The former head man in Jacksonville has found himself out of work. While he failed as a head coach, Marrone did lead the Jaguars to their best season since 2007 when he led the Jags to a 10-6 and an appearance in the AFC title game. Marrone got his start in coaching as an offensive line coach before working his way up the ranks until he earned the top position in the game.

Marrone does have a link, albeit small, with the Steelers having spent the 1991 training camp as a guest coach under Chuck Noll. The Steelers coaching staff should see its average age dropping this offseason I think the Steelers need someone like Marrone who Canada could lean on for guidance while he rebuilds the struggling offensive line. This hire would be a no brainer to me.

Quaterbacks Coach: Tim Kelly Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This was by far the hardest coach to predict. The Steelers love going with guys with some sort of ties to the organization like Pittsburgh area native, Ben McAdoo. Or maybe someone with more experience like Jay Gruden. But I really think the Steelers need to follow the trend of employing a younger coaching staff.

Kelly is just 34 years old and by all accounts is a bright young mind of the NFL. Thankfully for the Steelers, Kelly was apart of a dumpster fire Texans organization that will likely keep him from getting an offensive coordinator job for at least another year. Kelly has done a fabulous job of developing Deshaun Watson into one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and his tutelage could really help guys like Mason Rudolph and whoever the Steelers choose to one day replace Ben Roethlisberger. This would be a major win if the Steelers could land this guy.

What do you think? Do you agree with my choices for the Steelers next offensive positional coaches? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Chase Claypool named to PFWA All-Rookie Team

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 12:51pm
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Steelers 2020 second-round pick was one of two rookie wide receivers selected to the team.

The Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) All-Rookie Team was announced on Tuesday and the Steelers’ top draft pick for the 2020 NFL draft was selected to the team. Wide receiver Chase Claypool was the only member of the Steelers to earn All-Rookie honors.

Congratulations to @ChaseClaypool for being named to the @PFWAwriters All-Rookie Team!


— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 19, 2021

The PFWA is made up of accredited writers who cover the 32 NFL teams on a daily basis. They are made up of sports writers from various sources such as The Athletic,,, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and Newsday.

Chase Claypool tied the Steelers rookie record in receiving touchdowns (9) and total touchdowns (11) in 2020. Both marks were tied with Louis Lipps in 1984 and the total touchdowns also is tied with Franco Harris in 1972. Claypool also led the NFL in receiving touchdowns among rookies.

Claypool finished the regular season appearing in all 16 games where he had 873 receiving yards along with his nine receiving touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. In the Steelers Wild Card Game, Claypool added another five receptions for 59 yards and two more touchdowns.

Claypool was joined on the All-Rookie team by fellow wide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings.

Interesting enough, Claypool did not end up on Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie Team as he was edged out by Jefferson, Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Brandon Aiyuk of the San Francisco 49ers. Instead, two other Steelers rookies made the PFF All-Rookie Team in guard Kevin Dotson and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, neither of which were selected to the PFWA All-Rookie Team. Dotson was not selected in place of Damian Lewis of the Seattle Seahawks and Mike Onwenu of the New England Patriots. As for Highsmith, PFWA selects their team where edge rushers are included on the defensive line. For 2020, three defensive tackles were chosen and only one edge rusher in Chase Young, who was also PFWA’s 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The entire PFWA All-Rookie Team can be seen here:

Chargers' Herbert PFWA Rookie and Offensive Rookie of the Year, Washington's Young Defensive Rookie of the Year; 2020 All-Rookie Team named #PFWAAwards

— Pro Football Writers (@PFWAwriters) January 19, 2021

Congratulations to Chase Claypool on his selection and an outstanding rookie season in 2020.

Reports of Matt Canada being the next Steelers offensive coordinator might have been premature

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 11:15am
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers still haven’t picked an offensive coordinator, despite rumors over the weekend.

As Pittsburgh Steelers fans checked several social media platforms over the weekend, there was a significant amount of news surrounding their favorite football team. Coaches who weren’t coming back, reports of Ben Roethlisberger’s return and also reports of Matt Canada being promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.

Immediately fans reacted to Canada’s promotion, but maybe the reports were false. Maybe someone jumped the gun on this news?

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that very well might have happened.

Here is what he had to say about the situation:

“A team source would only confirm to the Post-Gazette that Canada is “a candidate” for the position vacated when Fichtner was not rehired last week. Coaches and several offensive players have not been told if Canada, who turns 49 on Tuesday, will get the job, though the move would appear to be a logical one if the Steelers plan on Ben Roethlisberger returning for the 2021 season.

“Canada would keep the offensive terminology the same, which would be important for Roethlisberger, who, at 39, would not have to learn an entirely new system.”

The fact the Steelers didn’t interview any other candidates, at least they didn’t make those lists public, should have been a red flag the news might have been a bit early. The Steelers would have to follow the Rooney rule, which would require the interviewing of minority candidates.

That doesn’t mean Canada won’t become the team’s next play caller, but it just means these early reports might have put the cart before the horse.

In the meantime, make sure you stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes not just on this story, but all things Pittsburgh Steelers, as the 2021 offseason gets underway and the organization prepares for free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: Could the Steelers be repeating recent history?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 11:00am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Hangover” show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo look at the last regular season game of the 2020 season.

The Steelers did not renew the contract of Randy Fichtner and stayed in-house with Matt Canada. Is their overhaul of the coaching staff getting off to a good start? This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed on the latest episode of the BTSC podcast, The Steelers Hangover. On this show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo break down all things Steelers! Join the veteran duo as they analyze all things black-and-gold.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1

Part 2

Building the Steelers’ 2021 backfield

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

The Steelers need to add some juice to the running back position

The Pittsburgh Steelers need to fix some serious issues in their backfield this offseason. This isn't an issue they can really brush off for another season. The Steelers can, and will, help these guys by injecting some new blood into their offensive line, but they still need something different in the backfield. But at the end, of the day, the Steelers still had the lowest total rushing yardage in the league and the lowest yards per carry. A team cannot justify not improving the position with stats like those.

.@JamesConner_ scores from a yard out


— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 11, 2021

Let’s start off with the backs currently on the roster. I anticipate NFL rosters going back to normal next year and shrinking its practice squad size. That means the Steelers wouldn’t have any use in keeping Wendall Smallwood on the roster. Next, Jaylen Samuels rarely played as the team’s fourth runner will have a hard time holding onto a roster spot. Anthony McFarland Jr. showed great explosive ability, but lacked the vision of an NFL runner. McFarland will be on the team, but more likely in a scat-back type role. Benny Snell Jr. fell out of favor with the Steelers coaches after his 100 yard performance way back in Week 1. To be honest, I can't see the Steelers carrying four running backs again, and with a poor training camp Snell could be cut or traded. Lastly, that leaves free agent James Conner. Conner has never made it through a season 100% healthy, nor has he ever cracked 1,000 yards on a season. However, with the value of a running back at an all-time low, and Conner being a Pittsburgh guy, I can see him playing on a home town discount contract.

Here’s the thing with Conner, if he comes back he will be the teams 1B to whomever they select in the 2021 NFL Draft. As far as returning players go, I predict it will be Anthony McFarland and James Conner as the back ups to somebody completely new to the roster. That new guy, in my opinion will come to the Steelers by virtue of the second round. Before I get to who that player could be, I should reiterate the importance of improving the offensive line and doing so in the first round.

There is one running back that checks every box the Steelers like when they draft players. Javonte Williams, from the North Carolina University, is an underclassmen that's just 20 years old. On top of that, he only has 416 NCAA touches in his career. He has a ton of tread left on him and if you're going to invest any high draft capital into a running back you better be able to get at least his rookie deal out of him. Williams has breakaway speed unseen in the Steelers backfield since Willie Parker. Standing at 5’10” and weighing in at 220 pounds, Williams also brings the power running game. He’s the combination of size, speed and power that teams drool over, and he has patience compared to that of Kansas City Chiefs running back Le’Veon Bell...

Steelers twitter drafts: Najee Harris
-23 years old
-718 NCAA touches
-Projected 4.5-4.6 40 time
-Feature back
-First round pick

Steelers draft: Javonte Williams
-20 years old
-416 NCAA touches
-Projected 4.35-4.4 40 time
-Runs well in comity
-Day 2 pick

— Michael Beck (@MichaelBeck56) January 18, 2021

If it was up to me, James Conner and Javonte Williams would be a one-two punch in the backfield until Williams becomes the feature runner. McFarland, can play as the Jet motion, occasional third down type back, and if his vision develops can be the change of pace runner to pair with Williams in the future.

What do you think? What will the Steelers backfield depth chart look like come Week 1? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Team Needs 1.0

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It is the offseason, which means it is time to identify the Steelers’ team needs heading into the new league year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is officially over, and that means the offseason has officially begun. When the offseason begins, fans start to look ahead, and rightfully so. They look at NFL Free Agency, both players who could be coming and going, as well as the NFL Draft.

Regardless of free agency or the draft, the discussion always stems from team needs for the black and gold. Everyone has their own thoughts on what is best for the team moving forward, and everyone is entitled to their opinion.

This is just my opinion.

So, below are my Top 5 team positional needs for the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, free agency and the NFL Draft. This is just the first of many updated team needs, as things can certainly change between now and the new league year. For instance, if the team ends up bringing back a player like JuJu Smith-Schuster, it would certainly knock the wide receiver position down, or out of, the Top 5 team needs.

Okay, let’s get down to business...

1. Quarterback

Before everyone immediately rushes to the comment section and calls me a buffoon for putting quarterback atop my list, hear me out. With Ben Roethlisberger reportedly returning for the 2021 season, this is the perfect time to find the quarterback you feel could be “the guy” moving forward. I realize the Steelers draft 24th overall, but this quarterback class has several players who could be available later in the draft where the Steelers could make a move to get their guy. If you draft that quarterback, you let him sit for a year, barring injury, and develop. When Roethlisberger retires it will be his job moving forward. Let’s also not kid ourselves into thinking you can win without a is the most important position in football, and why I have the position atop my list.

2. Offensive Tackle

The Steelers are likely to lose Alejandro Villanueva either to free agency, or to retirement, and that will leave a gaping hole along their offensive line. If the team is able to re-sign Zach Banner cheap, he and Chuks Okorafor could be your starting tackles in 2021, but investing in the position is certainly something worth doing early in the draft. Finding a left tackle for the future should be a high priority for the Steelers.

3. Center

Maurkice Pouncey is reportedly hinting at retirement, and although I think he will return for one more season with Roethlisberger, it has become clear the Steelers need to look at the future at the position. Sure, J.C. Hassenauer is a decent backup, but I don’t think anyone is considering him as the next full-time starter. Pouncey has been tremendous for the Steelers since he was drafted in 2010, and it is time they prepare for life without Pouncey in some way this offseason.

4. EDGE Rusher

The Steelers’ defense is riddled with first and second round draft picks, and I think the team would be wise to consider looking at an EDGE pass rusher in the middle rounds of the upcoming draft. That is, unless they want to bring in a veteran pass rusher to help T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith with their current duties. The Steelers simply won’t be able to sign Bud Dupree, and the depth behind Highsmith and Watt is not very solid. Bringing in a pass rusher who can spell Highsmith and Watt, like Highsmith did early in his rookie season, will be a good move for the defense hoping to not miss a beat without Dupree in 2021.

5. Running Back

Many fans put the running back position near the top of their team needs list, but for me I believe it is more about the players blocking than the person toting the rock. It has been proven you can find quality running backs in the mid-to-late rounds of the NFL Draft, and if the Steelers are without James Conner in 2021 they still have a pretty packed running back room. Adding talent is never a bad thing, and it is why I have running back on my Top 5 list, but not near the top.

Other Positions of Need:
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Inside Linebacker

So, what are your Top 5 team needs? Let us know what you think in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 offseason.

Steelers Vertex: Examining the value of Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 7:15am
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

With difficult personnel decisions coming for the Steelers, it’s time to break down if a player’s contributions match the financial implications.

Since one of the most pressing issues facing the Steelers this offseason is how to handle the contracts of a number of players with large salary cap hits, we’re going to take this opportunity to break down the player statistics, salary cap implications, and play on the field to help determine what would be in the Steelers’ best interest. This will be the focus on our Steelers Vertex series over the next several weeks.

Starting off with the obvious choice of Ben Roethlisberger to kick things off, we will leave it up to YOU, the readers, to help determine which player we will look at next. For now, it will be players under contract for the 2021 season but the Steelers will need to consider if they are going to retain, extend, or release.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

As stated above, the topic at hand this week is looking at Ben Roethlisberger and making a case for if the Steelers should have him play out the rest of his contract, work a contract extension, or release him.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

When it comes to the 2020 season, Ben Roethlisberger came off of elbow surgery and led the Steelers to a franchise-best 11-game winning streak to start the season. While things were riding high for the Steelers, they were plenty of concerns even as the Steelers were winning games. Unfortunately, those concerns caught up with them as the season finished up.

Roethlisberger threw for 33 regular-season touchdowns in 2020 which was only one behind his career best of 34 in 2018. Appearing in one less game, Roethlisberger would have possibly hit a career high in this department had he played the final game of the regular season. Roethlisberger also had 10 interceptions on the season which was the fewest he had thrown since 2014 with the exception of his game and a half played in 2019. Roethlisberger did had six interceptions in a five-game stretch going from Week 11 to Week 15. The only game Roethlisberger did not have an interception since Week 10 was the Steelers victory in Week 16 over the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger added four interceptions in the Steelers Wild Card loss.

Ben Roethlisberger also finished with a 65.6 completion percentage during the regular season, which was more than 1% higher than his career average. The most concerning statistic from Roethlisberger this season was he eclipsed the 600 passing attempt mark for the third time in his career. With 608 attempts both in 2020 and in 2014, the only season in which Roethlisberger had more was in 2018 when he threw 675 passes. To put this number in perspective, Roethlisberger’s first NFL season in which he started all 16 games was in 2008 which was the last time the Steelers won the Super Bowl. In that season, Roethlisberger had 469 pass attempts, only 77% of what he had in 2020.

When it comes to Ben Roethlisberger’s salary, he is due to earn $19 million in 2021. The way it is broken down, Roethlisberger has a $4 million base salary and a $15 million roster bonus due on the third day of the 2021 league year. The biggest knock on Roethlisberger’s salary is the $22.25 million in dead money which will count towards the 2021 salary cap regardless. Combined with his salary, Roethlisberger is due to count $41.25 million against the Steelers 2021 salary cap.

The options when it comes to Roethlisberger is for him to either retire or be released which would save the the Steelers the $19 million in salary he is due. Should Roethlisberger retire, the Steelers could attempt to regain a portion of his signing bonus since he did not finish out his contract, but this would be something uncharacteristic of the Steelers organization.

One other option would be to give Roethlisberger an extension where the $19 million number could be cut down dramatically, or even renegotiated, and spread out over several years. Whether or not Roethlisberger would play however many years he would be extended would be beside the point.

So are Roethlisberger’s statistics and salary worth keeping him around for 2021? Let’s check out the film to break down what Roethlisberger brings to the table…

The Film Line:

Ben Roethlisberger isn’t the same quarterback the Steelers had under center, 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago. He is approaching 40, and is clearly on the downturn of a Hall of Fame career. To evaluate him coming back we are going to look at three things: What he brings to the table, what he struggles with, and what he needs to succeed.

The Good

Before the 2020 season Ike Taylor told us the most valuable thing Ben Roethlisberger brings to the team is from the neck up. That held true throughout the 2020 season, and should Roethlisberger return for an 18th season in the black and gold, it’s what he will bring in 2021.

Week 5, 4th quarter, 3:04. Chase Claypool is the third receiver from the bottom of the screen.

This play sealed the Steelers 5th win of the season, and became even more famous after the game when it was revealed that Ben Roethlisberger gave Claypool an audible that he then had to explain, because it wasn’t something the rookie had learned. At that point in the season Roethlisberger had logged more playoff games than Claypool had NFL targets. Leading a young team with the ability to lean on his experience was an enormous positive.

Week 9, 4th quarter, 15:00. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the third receiver from the top.

This is a classic Ben Roethlisberger moment, he pump fakes to Eric Ebron (second from top) and it pulls defenders to Ebron, giving Smith-Schuster plenty of room in front of the safeties for the pass. Smith-Schuster does the rest, getting the ball into the end zone. At his age, Ben Roethlisberger still has a good arm and the tools to use it intelligently. Roethlisberger had some bad games later in the season, but even with those games he posted one of the lowest interception rates of his career, and he posted his best TD/INT ratio since 2012.

The Bad

Father time is undefeated, and the first thing to go with age is a players athleticism. That shows up clearly in Ben Roethlisberger’s 2020 film. A player once most known for his ability to evade pressure and break tackles is now one of the least elusive quarterbacks in the NFL.

Week 14, 3rd quarter, 10:01.

The Bills win the battle to the right side of the line, and you can see that Roethlisberger’s movement is largely just little steps and hops at this point. He backs away and braces for the hit. It isn’t just his inability to evade sacks either. Roethlisberger saw a good number of tipped passes as he doesn’t have the fluid movement inside of the pocket that he used to, and it allows defenders to interfere with his throwing motion and lanes more often.

Week 14, 3rd quarter, 5:40.

A step up and that throw is clean, but that isn’t Ben Roethlisberger at this stage of his career. We also saw that while many quarterbacks respond to getting pressure by leaving the pocket earlier, with Roethlisberger we see him start throwing quicker, throwing to his first target no matter if they are open or not, and lobbing prayers deep instead of waiting for someone to come open.

How to get the most out of Ben Roethlisberger in 2021

There’s no miracle serum that can bring back the 2010-2017 version of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers can either cut ties with the best quarterback to ever play for the franchise, or they can do their best to set him up for success. Three key things need to happen to set Roethlisberger up for success in 2021.

1. Invest in the offensive line. A new line coach is already on the menu, but the Steelers will need to invest draft picks and money into the line to buy their quarterback more time to operate.

2. Better scheme and execution. We’ve talked a good bit about motion and play action this year, things Matt Canada was hired to bring to the offense, and I’ve talked about Ben Roethlisberger’s struggles using them.

Wild Card Game, 1st quarter, 10:53.

This play has motion and play-action. And then one deep route and the jet sweep motion man in the flat. Late in the play Benny Snell leaks awkwardly out of the pocket and Roethlisberger tries to get the ball to him as he is getting hit, and it’s the first of his four interceptions.

Look at this play, what is the right option here? Play design has to be better than this. Randy Fichtner is gone now and Matt Canada is expected to be the new offensive coordinator. This won’t be Matt Canada working with the run game, and then throwing motion into a few of Randy Fichtner’s plays. Here’s hoping he’s up to the challenge.

That brings us to the third thing that needs to happen.

3. A serious buy-in from Ben Roethlisberger. I’m not going to impugn Roethlisberger’s work ethic, he wasn’t able to throw for a good portion of the offseason, was on a limited throw count when he returned, and the 2020 offseason probably had the least practice time in NFL history. But for 2021? Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Canada need to be attached at the hip this offseason. The Steelers need Ben Roethlisberger to learn to read plays he hasn’t in the past.

Week 16, 2nd quarter, 6:35.

Motion again, and a near interception. Ben Roethlisberger sees the linebacker is going to get beat by Eric Ebron and throws the ball, completely missing the cornerback that is dropping and who ends up with a good shot at the ball.

Look late in the play at the jet motion man in the flat, and Benny Snell joining him. With the cornerback back that far, a pass to Ray-Ray McCloud has a great chance to gain good yards here with no one close to him and a lead blocker in Snell. This was on first and ten, in the first half and the Steelers are down 7. The quarterback has to understand the options and make the smart read. For Matt Canada’s offense to work, Ben Roethlisberger will need to get better at reading the field specifically for that offense. That will take time, and hopefully this offseason the Covid-19 situation will allow for that to happen.

The Point:

Ben Roethlisberger is not the quarterback he once was, but it does not mean that he can’t be the best option for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2021 season. The $41.25 million salary cap hit would be extremely difficult to overcome, but if the Steelers want Roethlisberger for only one season they might just have to go with it. The best bet for the Steelers would be to get their quarterback on board with their offensive scheme for next season, give him an improved offensive line, and reduce his 2021 salary cap as much as possible. If the organization can pull this off, Roethlisberger could still lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a successful season in 2021.


Which player would you like to see broken down for next weeks Steelers Vertex? Make sure you vote in the pole below.

Steelers let 5 practice squad players contracts expire, including Devlin Hodges

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 6:01am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are giving “Duck” Hodges, and others, a chance to catch on somewhere else.

The 2020 season was unique in a lot of ways. Whether it be the empty stadiums, games moves or delayed and players going on the Reserve/COVID-19 List almost weekly. It was different, but an aspect of the 2020 season which might get overlooked were the inflated practice squads for all 32 NFL teams.

When the NFL and NFLPA came to terms on a one year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for 2020, they agreed to increase the practice squad size, as well as alter the rules for promoting these players to the active roster, to help accommodate players who will miss time due to the ongoing pandemic.

With the season over for all but four franchises, teams will begin to sign players to Reserve/Future contracts, and sometimes they allow players to go test the waters elsewhere. In many cases this is done in good faith, allowing players to get a better shot with another team.

With that said, the Steelers made some minor roster moves late Monday, but these moves were still significant in many ways. The first move they made was officially taking cornerback Joe Haden off the Reserve/COVID-19 List. On top of that move was letting the practice squad of five players expire.

This per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic:

The Steelers activated Joe Haden from the Covid-19 list and let the contracts of practice squad players Duck Hodges, Deon Cain, Wendell Smallwood, Matthew Wright and Charles Jones expire.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) January 19, 2021

The five players who will be looking for a fresh start elsewhere are:

QB Devlin Hodges
WR Deon Cain
RB Wendell Smallwood
K Matthew Wright
TE Charles Jones

Some notable names on that list. Obviously, Devlin “Duck” Hodges was the big name everyone will remember when he filled in at quarterback as a rookie for injured Mason Rudolph, but fans shouldn’t forget the Steelers acquiring Cain from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad midseason in 2019 to help their ailing wide receiver corps. Kicker Matthew Wright filled in admirably for Chris Boswell on three occasions during 2020, and will almost certainly earn himself a shot at legitimately starting for an NFL team in 2021.

Could these players still return to Pittsburgh? Absolutely. If they look around, and don’t find anything, the Steelers could always bring them back on a Reserve/Future contract and keep them in house for the 2021 offseason.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

2021 Behind The Steel Curtain NFL Draft: Tidbits, Talking Points and Draft Etiquette

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 5:00am
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately as some fanbases continue to root their team on, we are heading into the 2021 draft

The 2020 Pittsburgh Steeler season ended in less than stellar fashion. We as fans went from talking about an undefeated season to one that many wondered if we would win another game. I’m not one to mourn about a past season for very long and this may not be to everyone’s liking but, we must move on. Unlike the real front office, we don’t get to make picks or sign and cut players, but we do get to talk about what we think is the best direction and a lot of that hinges on the draft each year.

Etiquette and Talking Points

I mentioned draft etiquette in the title and it is a simple courtesy. There will be a million mock drafts, either from the simulators or just personnel preference. I enjoy reading and debating them all, but I’m sure many here at BTSC don’t want the articles littered with them, especially when the article itself doesn’t pertain to the draft. There is a Fan Post section that everyone has access too, put them there. I follow that section closely, as do many of the fellow draft heads. One other thing is the manner in which we debate back and forth, and I will always refer back to Scott Pavelle, better known as Drop The Hammer, who was a master at getting a discussion started. I will do my best to bring that to BTSC during this time although I will fail in comparison. His Big Board will be sadly missed, but there are a few that are trying to do something a little different, but the plan as always is to provide information. Looking forward to that as well as trying my best to assist.

All-Star Games

Reese’s Senior Bowl

With the college football season coming to an end, we turn our attention to the all star circuit for our next dive into this years crop of prospects. This year’s game is set to be held on January 30th in Mobile Alabama. This link will take you to the home page for further details. Senior Bowl

I’ll also give times and dates of the practices that are scheduled, some of the drills during practices have been shown on NFL Network in the past. So bookmark this in order to check back in for information.

East West Shrine Game

Unfortunately this years game has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus

2021 NFL Scouting Combine

As of now the word is it will be different, unlike anything in the past due to the COVID-19 virus. Once a final plan is released I will pass it on.

List of Notable Prospects Returning to School

Trust me when I say the list is shorter for those returning. I will try and update this as more prospects announce their intentions.

Tyler Linderbaum C Iowa

Zion Johnson IOL Boston College

Draft Tidbits

Looking at the past few drafts a couple of things became noticeable. In 4 straight drafts the Steelers have chosen two prospects from the same school

2017 - Cameron Sutton and Joshua Dobbs - Tennessee

2018 - James Washington and Mason Rudolph - Oklahoma State

2019 - Devin Bush and Zach Gentry - Michigan

2020 - Anthony McFarland Jr and Antoine Brooks Jr - Maryland

What school will it be this year?

MAC Attack - Five of the past seven years the Steelers have drafted someone from that conference. Who is going to be this years pick?

As always Go Steelers and get your draft on!!

Podcast: Where do the Steelers go from here?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 4:30am

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

The Steelers ended the 2020 season in a rough way. But with salary cap peril, a major change with the assistant coaching staff and Ben Roethlisberger’s up in the air what the Steelers do next. So, just where do they go from here? Join BTSC Deputy Editor Michael Beck on the latest edition of The Live Mike as he helps Steeler Nation navigate through 2021.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • What’s the 2021 plan for the Steelers?
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.


Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator