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2019 AFC/NFC Championship Games: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 59 min ago
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The Steelers are done, and it is time to watch some NFL Playoff football.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t play until the 2020 regular season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t games to be watched. The Steelers Nation fan base will be watching games throughout the day to see how things shake out on Championship Sunday of the NFL Playoffs.

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 this weekend. Which game are you most looking forward to watching? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all those games in the process.

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

GO STEELERS!

Vince Williams chimes in on the Chiefs trash-talking on Titans RB Derrick Henry

Behind the Steel Curtain - 11 hours 49 min ago
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers ILB chimes in on comments made by Chiefs LB Frank Clark on Titans RB Derrick Henry.

The AFC Championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans got some extra juice this week when Chiefs linebacker Frank Clark said the following about Titans running back Derrick Henry, “He’s not hard to hit, he’s just a big guy...I don’t see no difficulty in tackling him.”

Last week, before Henry ran through the Baltimore Ravens, Earl Thomas talked about how the Patriots didn’t want to tackle Henry, but the Ravens were ready for the big, bruising back from Alabama.

Then this happened...

I can’t stop watching this video of Derrick Henry turning Earl Thomas into his lead blocker pic.twitter.com/iyo6GWS5hn

— Athlete Swag (@AthleteSwag) January 12, 2020

Trash talking has long been a part of the game of football, but there is always a code of conduct regarding giving the opposition bulletin board material before a big game. To many, the Chiefs made a could-be costly error when Clark made those comments about the running back who has literally run through every team en route to the AFC Championship game.

When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, there is one player who has never been shy about using his words, and his platform to send messages to the opposition. And while he has toned down his social media use over the years, Vince Williams spoke up about Henry as a running back, Clark’s comments and whether or not they will somehow impact the game this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

6’4 235 4.5 40 running through your secondary will have DBs making business decisions. https://t.co/Np6T15Wm2J

— Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) January 19, 2020

When you have an elite back you block up the front seven and give the DBs to the the back. Similar mismatch as a Wr on a LB in man to man.

— Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) January 19, 2020

So now you have a 180 pound corner trying to tackle a 235 back. Yeah he may make that play a couple times but he may also leave the game with an AC sprain or a torn labrum ‍♂️

— Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) January 19, 2020

Football is the ultimate game of matchups. Good coaches find ways to use their talent to is maximum capability. Great coaches do that while simultaneously covering their weaknesses.

— Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) January 19, 2020

I don’t believe in the bulletin board narrative. It’s the AFC championship everyone is going to be ready to give their all. If your opponent talks trash or is silent you’re still going to try your hardest to beat them. The latter just helps you save face if you lose.

— Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) January 19, 2020

Some candid, and honest, words for a player who knows all too well about having to step up into a gap and face a running back head on. There are some who believe in the bulletin board material somehow impacting a game, but Williams brings up a great point when it comes to motivation. If you need motivation when you are one-step from the Super Bowl, you might be in the wrong occupation.

What about you? Do you believe in the external motivation which could come from comments made prior to a game? Or are you someone who think once the game starts all of that external noise disappears?

Let us know in the comment section, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers throughout the offseason.

Football fans are rooting for a Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl

Behind the Steel Curtain - 13 hours 18 min ago
Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

When it comes to Championship Sunday, everyone has their rooting interest. However, data shows fans are really pulling for a Chiefs vs. 49ers Super Bowl.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, like 28 other NFL franchises, are at home watching the AFC and NFC Championship games this Sunday. With the majority of fan bases moving on to the offseason, there will still be a large contingent of football fans watching the games on Championship Sunday to see who will represent the AFC and NFC in the Super Bowl.

Who will win between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans? Well, when SB Nation asked the fans who they think will blow it in the championship game, they saw the Titans’ magical run coming to an end.

What about the NFC game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers? NFL fans believe it will be Aaron Rodgers and the Packers who will be choking away their chance at reaching the Super Bowl for the first time since Super Bowl 45.

But this isn’t really who fans are rooting for. Of the four remaining teams, who are football fans pulling for to reach the Super Bowl, and win the whole thing? As it turns out it is the lovable losers, the Kansas City Chiefs, and their lovable loser coach Andy Reid.

For Steelers fans, with the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens getting eliminated in the Wild Card and Divisional Rounds respectively, they really don’t have a team who they are rooting hard for, or against. Some fans might suggest they will root against the 49ers to prevent them from joining the Steelers and Patriots with six Super Bowl title, but for the most part fans are able to watch football without much of a rooting interest.

That doesn’t mean fans aren’t going to watch, and Steelers fans won’t have reasons for rooting for, or against, any particular team. So, with that said, who are you rooting for on Championship Sunday? Let us know 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 embark on yet another long offseason.

The Highs and Lows of the Steelers’ 2019 season: Rushing

Behind the Steel Curtain - 16 hours 37 sec ago
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

It’s time to take a look at some of the Steelers’ statistics from this past season, both good and bad.

Now that the Steelers 2019 season has concluded, the long off-season has begun. As we move through the remainder of the NFL postseason and beyond, it’s time to look back at some of the numbers the Steelers put up (or failed to put up) this past season. There are some numbers that are great, while others are definitely short of the mark. Either way, let’s put some context behind a few of the statistics for 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers produced during the season.

We have already looked at some high notes such as takeaways and sacks, as well as the low of points scored. This time, it’s a category with mostly lows with a few high points from the 2019 season.

Rushing

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers had some interesting situations which caused some all-time lows when it came to rushing statics. Before diving into the specific highs and lows, let’s look at the overall rundown of the Steelers 2019 rushing stats and their NFL ranks. The Steelers rushed for 1,449 yards (29th) on 395 attempts(T-20th) this past season which came to an average of 3.66 yards per carry (30th) to go along with seven rushing touchdowns (T-29th).

Since 1947, the Steelers have only had one season in which they rushed the ball fewer times than the 2018 season. Unfortunately, it was the strike shortened season of 1982 in which teams only played nine games. Otherwise, the Steelers 345 rushes from last season was a franchise low. In 2019, the Steelers did rush the ball 50 more times, but unfortunately only gained an extra 2 yards.

The rock bottom of the statistics for the Steelers comes with their seven touchdowns which was the lowest in franchise history from a 16-game season. The Steelers also had seven rushing touchdowns in 1982 in there nine games played. To look for a season in which the Steelers reached the end zone on fewer rushes would have to go all the way back to 1957 when the Steelers only had six touchdowns in 12 games.

Another low point from the rushing statistics was the fact the Steelers did not have a 500 yard rusher on this season for the first time since 1967. James Conner led the Steelers with 464 rushing yards on 116 attempts during the 10 games in which he played. Rookie Benny Snell Jr was close behind with 426 yards on 108 carries in 13 games. It should be noted that Snell only had six total rushing attempts through the Steelers first five games. After seeing the ball for 17 carries against the Los Angeles Chargers just before the Steelers bye week, Snell only had five carries in Week 8 against the Dolphins before missing the next three games due to injury. So 80 of Snell’s 108 rushing attempts came in the final six games of the 2019 season with 71 of them being in four of the games.

Although mainly due to injury, it was the first time the Steelers did not have a 500-yard rusher in a 16-game season. Even though both Conner and Snell missed time, it was the overall production in the rushing attack which kept them below the 500-yard mark. To put things in perspective, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry has rushed for 588 yards over a three game stretch from Week 17 through the divisional round of the playoffs. Over the same stretch, Henry has had 96 rushing attempts, just 20 shy of how many James Conner had for the entire season.

During the 2019 season, the Steelers went 8–1 when reaching 25 rushing attempts in a game. Their only loss was in Week 16 to the New York Jets when the Steelers rushed 25 times for 75 yards. Conversely, the Steelers were 0–7 when they failed to reach 25 attempts in a game. Although it seems to be a telling statistic, reaching the number of rushes for the Steelers generally was because they were winning the game as to why they ran the ball so much, not necessarily the other way around.

When it comes to rushing yards per game, the Steelers ability to rack up rushing yards paints a much better picture. The Steelers were one of two teams in 2019 that were undefeated when they rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. The Steelers were 5-0 when reaching the century mark with the only other undefeated team being the Kansas City Chiefs who were 7-0. Unfortunately, the Steelers were tied for 28th in the NFL with only five 100-yards rushing games. And as for individual performance, only James Conner‘s 145 rushing yards against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8 of the 2019 season marked the only time the Steelers had a single player rush for more than 100 yards in a game.

While the Steelers did not appear to have a consistent featured back for the 2019 season, the overall rushing statistics were not terrible when looking at all running backs combined. Even Kerrith Whyte Jr had 122 rushing yards on 24 attempts for a 5.1 average per game with the limited time he saw with the Steelers. With several options to give them more running back by committee attack in the 2020 season if the Steelers choose to do so, the return of Ben Roethlisberger could be the most important thing for the Steelers rushing attack next season. If the Steelers aren’t constantly seeing a stacked box to keep them from running the ball and forcing them to throw, hopefully whoever is taking handoffs in 2020 can find more success than this past season.

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking the Conference Championship games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - 17 hours 21 min ago
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

BTSC’s Jeff Hartman and Dave Schofield pick this weekend’s NFL playoff games both against the spread and over/under point totals

It’s a sad Sunday in the NFL. It will be the last time in the 2019 season in which multiple NFL games will be played on the same day. Rather than mourn the near end of another season, it will be one last Sunday of six hours of football which hopefully brings some quality television. It will also be a nice change to not have to passionately root against that team from up north.

For the 2019 NFL regular season and postseason, both Jeff Hartman and myself will be picking every game against the spread and the over/under point totals. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers. We are just a couple of Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

Jeff and I entered the week fairly close in both categories with each of us holding a lead in one. I had a two-game lead picking against the spread going into the divisional games, and with us having identical selections nothing changed as we both went 2-2.. Jeff held a large five-game advantage in the over/under after last weekend but I cut into the lead by going 3-1 while Jeff went 1-3. On the season, I am still up by two games against the spread while Jeff is up three games in the over/under category. Most importantly, we will both finish at least .500 in both categories even if we miss all the remaining picks.

So here are the picks for the Sunday games for Conference Championship Weekend of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along!

All selections are based off of the consensus data from oddsshark.com as of Saturday night.

Podcast: Should the Steelers let Bud Dupree walk?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 18 hours 35 min ago

The Steelers season is over, and it has many asking the question: Should the team let Bud Dupree walk in free agency?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in full offseason mode, and it is at this time when you have to wonder if they will sign some, or all, of their free agents. More importantly, should the team let Bud Dupree walk and save the money?

This is a tough question, and one where they can be multiple responses/answers to. This is going to be the talking point in the latest podcast.

Plenty has to be deciphered here, and Lance Williams puts it all out there for the listeners in the latest show...

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: When did Mason Rudolph’s 2019 season fall apart?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 19 hours 2 min ago
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take at when it was that Mason Rudolph’s first season as a starter completely fell apart.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Mason Rudolph had a golden opportunity in 2019 when Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the season with an elbow injury, but things went south for the former Oklahoma State quarterback.

Was it really just 6 quarters that did in Steelers QB Mason Rudolph’s season?

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The cliche goes that “votes of confidence” in sports are dreaded, the implication being a public show of support for an athlete or coach often can portend his firing, demotion or release.

But over the 2½ weeks since the season ended, Mason Rudolph has gotten some pretty influential votes of confidence in his status as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 2 quarterback.

First, it was Mike Tomlin. “I’m comfortable with Mason Rudolph,” Tomlin said during his season wrap-up news conference. Later, Tomlin added, succinctly: “Mason is the backup” to starter Ben Roethlisberger.

And if the endorsement from the coach wasn’t powerful enough, how about even higher up the organizational hierarchy — as in, to the very top?

“As we sit here today,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a meeting with local reporters Wednesday, “we are all comfortable with Mason being our backup.”

While some are clamoring for the Steelers to add a veteran as insurance for again losing Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ top brass — publicly, at least — seems intent on sticking with Rudolph.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Some say L.C. Greenwood should be the next Steelers player enshrined, but a contributor could be the next.

Mark Madden: Bill Nunn’s bust should join Steelers greats in Pro Football Hall of Fame

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

I grew up loving the Pittsburgh Steelers of the ’70s: four Super Bowl wins and right in my wheelhouse chronologically.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame made me hate those Steelers.

Ten players, the coach, the owner and the owner’s son/primary designer of those teams are recognized by Canton. Thirteen men. But Yinzer Nation always wants more.

Defensive back Donnie Shell no sooner got announced as a member of the Hall of Fame’s Centennial Class this past Wednesday than the campaign started for defensive end L.C. Greenwood: “WHAT ABOUT L.C.?”

What about the ballboy? What about the crew that worked the chains? What about “Dirt” Dinardo, the groundskeeper? Where does it stop?

But another man contributed to those Steelers teams who belongs in the Hall of Fame, because his contributions went far beyond winning games.

Bill Nunn was a scout for the Steelers from 1967-69, then the assistant personnel director for the team from 1970-87. After that, Nunn scouted part-time for the Steelers until 2014, passing away that year at 84. He was a great man.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Steelers are going to do whatever it takes to keep Bud Dupree.

Steelers will “do our best to figure out how” to keep Bud Dupree

By: Josh Alper, ProFootballTalk

Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree picked a good time to set career highs in sacks and quarterback hits.

Dupree is set for unrestricted free agency in March and his 11.5 sacks will likely look appealing to teams looking to improve their pass rush off the edge in 2020. That will require Dupree hitting the market and Steelers owner Art Rooney II intimated that’s not a sure thing when discussing the impending free agent this week.

“We’d like to have Bud back, no question about it,” Rooney said, via PennLive.com. “And we’ll do our best to figure out how to make it happen. But we’d like to have him back and I’ll stay optimistic that we’ll be able to figure out how to make it happen.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

#OTD in #SteelersHistory, #PFHOF20 Finalist @tpolamalu sealed the deal against the Ravens in the 2008 AFC Championship. pic.twitter.com/241tvO2Xpn

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 18, 2020

Ball hawk @minkfitz_21 pic.twitter.com/dTgM02OYOX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 19, 2020

#OTD in 1988, Hall of Famers John Stallworth and Donnie Shell retired. pic.twitter.com/AbEJYPLaSA

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 18, 2020

Podcast: Why the Chiefs vs. Niners will be the best matchup for Super Bowl LIV

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/18/2020 - 2:33pm

Join BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and newcomer Nick Bellino for a preview of this weekend’s games.

The Steelers 2019 season is over, but the NFL season isn’t. With four teams remaining in the NFL’s Super Bowl tournament...the weekend slate of games seems to be an extravaganza of fantastic football.

In case you are new to the show, you can check out a complete rundown of the show below:

  • What is the best matchup for the Super Bowl.
  • Previewing each game
  • Live chat 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
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.

Report: David DeCastro undergoes ankle surgery, won’t impact his offseason workout plans

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/18/2020 - 1:23pm
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Pro Bowl guard went under the knife to have surgery on his ankle.

At Mike Tomlin’s end of the year press conference, he said his football team was relatively healthy heading into the offseason. He even stated there weren’t any known surgeries on the schedule for players.

Whether he didn’t know about David DeCastro’s injured ankle, or he chose not to mention it, it is now being reported DeCastro has undergone ankle surgery to repair an injury to the joint.

This per Charles Robinson of Yahoo!:

#Steelers All Pro guard David DeCastro had an ankle surgery procedure this week. I’m told that’s why he pulled out of the Pro Bowl. From what I understand, the surgery went as well as could be expected and he won’t miss extended time in the offseason program.

— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) January 18, 2020

The ankle injury is reportedly what forced DeCastro pull out of the Pro Bowl next week, along with Maurkice Pouncey who is dealing with a knee injury sustained in Week 16. From what Robinson found out, the surgery went well and shouldn’t impede DeCastro’s offseason workouts.

  1. It is at this point where you have to wonder how many of the Steelers, offensively and defensively, were playing with injuries during the 2019 season. Sure, every team, and every player, is banged up in one way or another, but an injury which requires surgery is different. DeCastro didn’t appear on any injury report during the regular season due to the injury, so when it occurred is unknown at this time. However, it could have been an injury which was ongoing and he chose to get it fixed in the offseason.

The Steelers now embark on another lengthy offseason, and any other players who require surgery this offseason will be reported here at BTSC. So, stay tuned for all the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the 2020 season.

Which of the four remaining NFL teams are Steelers’ fans pulling for the rest of the way?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/18/2020 - 12:01pm
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the Steelers’ two biggest rivals out of the postseason, fans have the option to cheer for a given team rather than against one

There are four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs from the 2019 season, and the field will be narrowed to the two teams representing their conference in the Super Bowl after the two games on Sunday. It’s sad to think we only have one day remaining from the 2019 season in which multiple NFL games will be played. And since it’s going to be a long time until the Steelers (supposedly) take the field for the Hall of Fame game in August, we better enjoy any NFL football we can get. So which of the four teams remaining do you find yourself pulling for the most? Before making a decision, let’s take a look at the four teams participating in the Conference Championship games.

Tennessee Titans AFC #6 seed

Like most of these teams, we can look at several positives and negatives from Steelers’ fans perspective. Part of this perspective is determined if each fan still sees this franchise as the old Houston Oilers who were the Steelers biggest rival decades ago. Yes, the Titans knocked the Steelers out of the 2002 playoffs with a total con job by kicker Joe Nedney. On the flipside, the Titans have not defeated the Steelers since Week 1 of the 2013 season. Add in the fact the Titans just knocked out two of the Steelers biggest rivals in the Ravens and the Patriots, Steelers fans have already been pulling for this team for two straight weeks. Should we hold it against them they got the last seed in the playoffs in 2019? That was not as much of the Titans taking it from us as much as it was the Steelers losing it.

Kansas City Chiefs AFC #1 seed

The Chiefs and Steelers last played in Week 2 of the 2018 season when the Chiefs jumped out to a 21-point lead only to find the Steelers tie it up before halftime. Although the Steelers went on to lose that game, they have a general pattern of three wins to one loss against the Chiefs over the last decade. The only playoff matchup in that time was in 2016 when the Steelers had the 18-16 victory in Kansas City. So while the Chiefs have become a force to be dealt with in the AFC, there isn’t a major rivalry with the Steelers at this point.

Green Bay Packers NFC #2 seed

When it comes to the NFC teams, the Steelers don’t have quite the history as they only play every four years if they don’t meet in the Super Bowl. Since the Steelers Super Bowl appearance in the 1995 season, they have only one loss to the Green Bay Packers in six games played. Unfortunately, that loss was in Super Bowl XLV. For this reason alone, many Steelers’ fans can’t find it in their heart to root for the Packers.

San Francisco 49ers NFC #1 seed

Although they played in 2019, the Steelers don’t have a large history with the San Francisco 49ers. Since 2000, the Steelers matchups with the 49ers have fallen in line to where the home team wins. The biggest factor when it comes to the 49ers would be them achieving a sixth Super Bowl win to tie the Steelers. But with the Patriots already in a tie with the Steelers, does it really matter if there is another team in the mix?

So there are the four NFL remaining for the 2019 season. Is there any one of these teams you are pulling for to go all the way and win the Super Bowl? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

Bud Dupree’s offseason was short-lived as he starts preparing to make serious money in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/18/2020 - 10:15am
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher is set to make some serious cash, one way or another, in 2020.

There was a time when we here at BTSC called Bud Dupree, Bud ‘The Dud’. Dud referred to the fact Dupree, as a first round pick out of Kentucky, never lived up to the hype. In fact, some were referring to him being a draft day bust as he never even came close to sniffing double digit sacks.

Then in 2019, after the Steelers picked up his 5th year option on his rookie contract, Dupree exploded in a contract season. He finished the year with 11.5 sacks, 68 combined tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, 17 QB Hits, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.

He had one heck of a season, but just look at the numbers from 2019 compared to his first four seasons in the league. I feel it is here where I point out Dupree did battle injuries throughout the majority of his first four years in the NFL.

The Steelers are now faced with a tough decision. Both Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II have labeled Dupree as a priority for the team this offseason, but they also don’t have a ton of salary cap space to commit to Dupree compared to what he would draw on the open market.

The Exclusive Rights Franchise Tag is always an option, but the Steelers must possess the salary cap space, roughly $16 million dollars, before placing the tag on Dupree. Right now the team has under $4 million dollars in cap space.

If they wanted, they could work out a long term deal with Dupree, but it will be costly and the team has to think about T.J. Watt needing to be signed to a monster deal when his rookie contract ends in two seasons.

Meanwhile, Dupree’s offseason has been short. He hasn’t been sitting on a beach somewhere sipping on a pina colada. No, Dupree is working with Coach Dez Walker, pass rushing specialist, in hopes of continuing to hone his craft.

Come @chucksmithnfl you Know @Bud_Dupree coming with that !#VideoPassRushWar #SamuraiSack pic.twitter.com/E0qXTe4dsY

— Coach Dez Walker (@CoachDez) January 17, 2020

It is a safe bet Dupree has heard the people saying how he played well just because it was a contract year, and how he isn’t fully prepared to duplicate the success he had in 2019 in 2020.

I will say this, if Dupree is smart, he realizes the success he had in 2019 with the Steelers might very well be tough to duplicate elsewhere. Not every team has a T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward to take pressure off him. In other words, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but for some players the money is always green no matter where they go.

If the Steelers want Dupree back, they will likely find a way to do so one way or another. I predict the franchise tag will be used on Dupree in hopes of getting him to sign a new deal. However, if the team doesn’t want to commit this type of money towards Dupree, they could let him walk in free agency and receive a compensatory draft pick in his place.

Tough decisions await, but Dupree is hard at work preparing for 2020. Will he be doing so in the black-and-gold? Only time will tell, but be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for another offseason.

L.C. Greenwood should be the next Steelers’ great in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/18/2020 - 8:46am
Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images

With Donnie Shell being selected as part of the 2020 centennial class, the veterans committee should nominate L.C. Greenwood

It was an exciting week when it came to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the announcements of players and coaches as part of the Centennial Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With Bill Cowher being selected as a coach and being informed on live TV as part of the CBS pregame show, it was a great moment for many Steelers’ fans. Then with the announcement of Donnie Shell finally being selected to take his rightful place in Canton as the 10th Pittsburgh Steelers’ player from the four 1970s Super Bowl winning teams, many black and gold fans are already making plans to travel to Ohio in early August.

With two more Steelers’ players still eligible for enshrinement in 2020 in Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca, the Steelers organization is already preparing to have the extra preseason game that comes along with playing in the Hall of Fame game. Unless both of the modern players get snubbed, it seems like the Hall of Fame festivities are more than a Steelers’ fan could ask for in 2020.

As great as it is for Donnie Shell to finally be selected to the Hall of Fame, there is still another Steeler who has been kept out of Canton for far too long. With an equally impressive resume, if not more so, then Shell is Steelers’ great L.C. Greenwood. The fact Greenwood is not yet in Canton can be best explained in the same category as Shell in that the Steelers players from their great 70s teams have already taken up so many spots. Now that Shell has broken this ridiculous mindset, hopefully Greenwood will follow suit by being a veterans committee member in the not-too-distant future.

For those who may not know, L.C. Greenwood was drafted by the Steelers in 1969 in the 10th round out of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Coming from a historically black college, Greenwood was one of the first players associated with the Steelers legendary scout Bill Nunn (who also should be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame) who helped to build the Steelers’ dynasty wich gave them four Super Bowl wins in a six-season stretch. Greenwood became a full-time starter in 1971 and earned six Pro Bowl selections as well as two first team All-Pro awards. Greenwood also holds the record for the number of sacks in a Super Bowl with the four.

Another accomplishment which adds to L.C. Greenwood‘s resume was his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame‘s All-Decade Team for the 1970s. Technically a second-team selection at defensive and, there are only a handful of players on the 70s All-Decade Team who are not members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of the 23 players selected on offense, wide receiver Drew Pearson is the only player not enshrined in Canton. Of the 22 defensive players, Greenwood and fellow defensive end Harvey Martin along with safety Dick Anderson are the only players not already in the Hall of Fame. Of the 10 Steelers who played in the 1970s who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, seven of them made the All-Decade team. Wide receiver John Stallworth along with cornerback Mel Blunt and safety Donnie Shell were not selected for this honor. As for being on the second team, so were other Steelers such as Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, and Jack Lambert. The only Steelers who made the first team All-Decade Team were Lynn Swann, Jack Ham, and Joe Greene.

A finalist in both 2005 and 2006, Greenwood was overlooked both years as they were his final two chances to be selected as a modern-era player. Unfortunately, Greenwood passed away in 2014 due to kidney failure. Although he will never have the chance to make his induction speech, L.C. Greenwood should still have his name immortalized in Canton.

The Hall of Fame committee got it right in their selection of Donnie Shell for the 2020 Centennial Class. Hopefully, the veterans committee will soon nominate L.C. Greenwood for enshrinement and right the wrong of keeping some of the best players in the history of the NFL out of the Hall of Fame simply for playing alongside so many other greats.

Based on the way the Titans have played, the Steelers really didn’t deserve to make the playoffs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/18/2020 - 7:06am
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Did the Steelers deserve to make the playoffs? Based on how the Titans have looked as the sixth seed, no way.

The question “Do the Steelers deserve to make the playoffs?” was asked time and time again over the final weeks of the 2019 regular season, as Pittsburgh looked more and more like the football version of Weekend At Bernie’s,” with the defense playing the roles of Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman.

In other words, the offense—led by Mason Rudolph and/or Devlin Hodges at quarterback—was dead, especially over the final few weekends, when 10 points was its not so lucky number.

I suppose the “deserve” question is always a silly one to ask when it comes to professional sports teams making the postseason. Unlike the college ranks, there are no committees deciding on these things—the only way “strength of schedule” comes into play is when breaking a tie between two or more teams who finish with the same record.

It’s just based on the cold, hard numbers.

“I’d much rather see the Steelers not make the playoffs than make them and get embarrassed,” was the general refrain by many as the 2019 campaign headed toward Week 17. “Who wouldn’t want to see their favorite football team make the playoffs?” was my usual question to such a statement.

Don’t get me wrong, no answer was going to convince me that the Steelers—even in the face of a lifeless offense—not making the playoffs was the best conclusion to the regular season.

But while I still would have enjoyed having a Steelers wildcard playoff game to write about, analyze and get really, really, really excited over, when I see what the Titans, who edged out Pittsburgh for the sixth and final seed in the AFC, are doing with their postseason chance, it makes me realize they really were the more deserving team.

Furthermore, Tennessee is the more complete football team, one that doesn’t have to rely on its very good—if not totally dominant—defense to carry around its totally lifeless offense.

That’s right, the Titans have an identity on offense, and unlike Pittsburgh, it’s not “John Doe.” No, Tennessee’s offense is obviously identified by the Herculean efforts of running back Derrick Henry, who hasn’t met a defender he hasn’t wanted to punish, rushing for a combined 277 yards, while leading the Titans to postseason victories over the Patriots and Ravens, respectively.

As for quarterback Ryan Tannehill? He has yet to crack 100 passing yards in either game this postseason, but he looks like a professional passer, and he’s led the Titans to nine wins in 12 games since being named the starter in place of Marcus Mariota.

And while its defense may not make anyone forget about the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers’ edition, I can’t imagine any unit frustrating the offenses of the Patriots and Ravens the way Tennessee’s has this postseason.

The Titans, despite their playoff pedigree, have advanced to the AFC Championship Game to take on the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

What chance would you have given the Steelers in such a game? Maybe they would have stopped Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s many offensive threats, but would their offense have even sniffed 20 points against an admittedly suspect Chiefs’ defense?

I doubt it. In fact, I doubt Pittsburgh would have even made it past the wildcard round.

Sure, that wildcard round would have been more fun to look forward to with the Steelers in it, but in retrospect, I think the more deserving team got in ahead of them.

Podcast: The Steelers can fix their salary cap issues

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/18/2020 - 6:07am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is constantly wondering why the team is always without any salary cap space. The reasoning behind this isn’t simple, but the answer can be found.

This is where the newest BTSC podcast “Yeah, I Said It” comes in. My co-host on ‘The Standard is the Standard’, Lance Williams brings in special guest Ian Whetstone to tell fans why the Steelers can actually fix their salary cap problems.

Time to deliver the goods on the latest show.

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!

Check out the audio below:

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Bill Cowher calls Mike Tomlin’s 2019 his best year yet

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/18/2020 - 4:54am
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take at how now Hall of Fame coach Bill Cowher called Mike Tomlin’s 2019 season his best yet.

Let’s get to the news:

  • 2019 was a tough year for Mike Tomlin, but Bill Cowher called it his best year yet with the Steelers.

Kevin Gorman: Why Bill Cowher calls this Mike Tomlin’s best coaching job for the Steelers

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

As Bill Cowher reminisced about winning Super Bowl XL, he recalled how he was corrected after calling his Pittsburgh Steelers underdogs before playing the Seattle Seahawks.

“Someone said, ‘I think you guys are favored,’ ” Cowher said of the four-point odds. “I said, ‘Nope, we’re underdogs. I’m not going to let the facts stand in the way of this narrative.’ ”

Now that Cowher has been chosen for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Centennial Slate, he doesn’t want this narrative to stand in the way of the facts: Mike Tomlin won a Super Bowl only because of Cowher’s players.

That’s a slight Tomlin has endured since winning Super Bowl XLIII in his second season after succeeding Cowher, one that Tomlin’s detractors are quick to point out when comparing the Steelers coaches. I asked Cowher if he took such talk as a compliment or viewed it as an insult to Tomlin.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Does the Pro Football Hall of Fame need to change its criteria?

Tim Benz: Steelers inductions part of needed debate for Hall of Fame changes

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Many debates have popped up this week over who should — and shouldn’t — get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a result of the 2020 “Centennial Slate.”

I default to one self-reflective question: “What makes me more angry? Borderline guy who gets in? Or those who are kept out?”

It’s the second thing. By far.

In other words, there isn’t one part of me that thinks the Hall of Fame is a worse place because the likes of Jimbo Covert, Donnie Shell, Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson are in it.

Can you really talk about the ‘85 Bears without Covert? Or the “Steel Curtain” without Shell? Or the 15-year swath of time between 1990 and 2005 without teams coached by Johnson and Cowher?

No. You can’t. So I’m not put off by their inclusion.

However, it bothers me that guys such as Alan Faneca and Roger Craig may not get gold jackets. At least not any time soon.

That’s the issue moving forward.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Bill Cowher can’t wait for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Kevin Gorman: After Hall call, Bill Cowher can’t wait for a lights-out Steelers conversation

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

We watched Bill Cowher’s famous jaw drop Saturday night upon learning of his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and saw his chin quivering Sunday when his daughter’s social media post was read aloud.

Now that the live reactions to his induction in August in the 20-member Centennial Slate to the Hall of Fame in celebration of the NFL’s 100th anniversary can be followed by reflection, Cowher is looking forward to a conversation in Canton between the bronzed busts of one Super Bowl-winning coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and another.

“John Madden made a statement that he’s convinced when the lights go out, those busts in that one room all talk to each other,” Cowher told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday. “If that’s the case, you know who I’d want to talk to? Chuck Noll.

“I don’t think I ever really had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him to reflect on him and what he did. I’d love to sit down in that Hall with him when the lights go out, just talk about football, talk about football in Pittsburgh, to talk about some of the great players that have gone through there and the traditions and standards, the milestones that have been reached by so many people.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

Incoming‼️

MORE : https://t.co/LQ3QWPsrmJ@Bud_Dupree pic.twitter.com/rW7MjvKwt0

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 17, 2020

#PennState Fans: ✅ for @francoharrishof's Immaculate Reception as the Greatest Moment in @NFL History!

Vote: https://t.co/1hHVaB7YQd#NFL100 | #WeAre pic.twitter.com/lPMwDa1SYj

— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) January 16, 2020

.@CowherCBS speaks about being elected to the @ProFootballHOF, the moment he found out he was part of this year's class, his career in Pittsburgh and more on @gmfb. #PFHOF20 pic.twitter.com/xMkv9EuGZP

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 16, 2020

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions: Offseason, Vol. 3

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/17/2020 - 5:43pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty to talk about regarding all things black-and-gold!

Several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night Open Thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring it back to Friday night — with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six-Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six-Pack of Steelers Questions and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. Starting this on a serious note, and something we discussed on the Steelers Preview podcast, what changes, if any, do you see Matt Canada bringing to the Steelers’ offense?

2. With this Sunday being Championship Sunday, what Steelers AFC Championship game stands out the most to you, either good or bad?

3. Who was the most unheralded player on the Steelers’ roster in 2019?

4. Who do you like to win the Championship Games this weekend?

Chiefs vs. Titans
49ers vs. Packers

5. I was thinking about Bud Dupree the other day, and how he had underwhelmed leading up to 2019. Do you believe in the “contract year” player, who plays harder when money is on the line, or do you think Dupree finally got it and turned his athleticism into on-field success?

6. Simple question: What makes you happier, a Patriots loss or a Ravens loss?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

After one season, should the NFL continue the pass interference instant replay rule?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/17/2020 - 1:54pm
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers remain against the NFL pass interference review system according to team president Art Rooney II

In an interview with Pittsburgh media on Wednesday, Steelers team president Art Rooney II said he believes the pass interference replay rule which was implemented for the 2019 season will be a highly debated topic this off-season.

Art Rooney II expects the instant replay review that pertains to pass interference to be hotly debated in the offseason. "We weren't that excited about it from the beginning," said Rooney, a clear opponent of the rule.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) January 15, 2020

The NFL implemented a new rule for the 2019 season in which pass interference penalties, both called and not called on the field, could be challenged by coaches and reviewed under normal rules of the replay system. The rule was basically a knee-jerk reaction from the NFC championship game in which the Los Angeles Rams were not called for an obvious pass interference which potentially affected the outcome at the end of the game. While the New Orleans Saints were the victims of the non-call, they were also the beneficiaries in Week 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in which a pass interference call was made which never should have drawn a flag. In all, every NFL team has been on both sides of the issue in which they benefited or were a victim of an improper pass interference call.

When it comes to moving forward with the replay system being used for pass interference, the biggest question is if the rule helped fix problems or if it created even more. With so many who watch and critique the NFL unsure of what constitutes the standard for a reversal of the call on the field, the biggest problem with the rule may be its implementation.

After Week 2 of the 2019 season, Hall of Fame coach and NFL analyst Tony Dungy was unsure as to what the standard was for the rule.

Now in the Seattle game a non call Defensive Pass Interference does get overturned against Pittsburgh. I have no idea what is “clear and obvious” pass interference and what isn’t.

— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) September 15, 2019

As many of us remember, the play Dungy was referring to was when pass interference was not called against Terrell Edmunds on Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett on a 2nd & 20 play in Week 2 against Seattle but was overturned when head coach Pete Carroll challenged the play. Those watching the game, including the TV commentators, were surprised Carroll was wasting a challenge on the play only to see something, which appeared to be the right call in the first place, overturned. Many believe it was this play which changed the NFL’s mentality of the rule moving forward through a large portion of the season as it was very rare any call was overturned.

The other issue as it comes to the rule for reviewing pass interference penalties is how narrow the rule is with it being the only penalty which can be reviewed. On the play in question against Seattle, they were two obvious penalties, one against each team, which occurred before the ball made it to the receiver. An obvious hold on Seattle and a late hit by the Steelers were both not called and were more egregious than the pass interference. But yet those calls went unchecked.

Another issue with the pass interference penalties is the timing of the pass and whether or not to play can be overturned. If a receiver is grabbed by the defender when the ball has not yet been thrown, the penalty would be defensive holding and not pass interference. Therefore, one play in which the defender grabs the receiver cannot be overturned because the ball was not yet in the air while the other one in which the pass occurs a second later is subject for review.

There will be a lot to discuss about the current rule for reviewing pass interference this off-season, and it’s hard to say in which direction the NFL will go. I, for one, think the rule either needs a major change or to go away all together. But what do you think? Please vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Steelers Playoff Flashback: Steelers vs. Colts AFC Divisional Round

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/17/2020 - 12:25pm
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

14 years ago was a day no black-and-gold blooded fan will ever forget. 2005 AFC Divisional Round...enough said.

As we check the plutonium on our BTSC Delorean and make certain that our flux capacitor is indeed fluxing, we head back to a time when NASA’s Stardust mission as the first to return dust from a comet ended, movie viewers were enjoying Glory Road in theaters and radios were playing “Laffy Taffy” by D4L like crazy. Meanwhile Steeler Nation was buzzing as the black-and-gold were gearing up for a Divisional Playoff against the top-seeded and 14-2 Indianapolis Colts.

Welcome to January 15, 2006

The Steelers entered the postseason as the sixth seed and were traveling to Indiana after their upset win over rival Cincinnati the previous week. Joey Porter, whose mouth wrote many a check regardless of his account balance, turned heads when he guaranteed a win over the two TD favorite Colts, a team that destroyed the Steelers in that very building seven weeks prior. It was a game in which Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James embarrassed Pittsburgh 26-7.

The Colts coach and former Steeler Tony Dungy, a few weeks removed from a devestating personal tragedy that saw him lose his son a few weeks before, was coaching with a heavy heart. His Super Bowl favorites were undefeated until a mid-December upset against San Diego and their high-powered offense/solid defense made them favorites against the low seed that was Pittsburgh.

The day of the game, the Colts learned that DB Nick Harper had been stabbed with a steak knife by his wife in a domestic dispute the night before. The wound required three stitches, but it was wondered aloud if the incident would have any bearing on the game’s outcome.

The Colts kicked off to start the game as the raucous home crowd did their best to have an effect on the Steelers. The noise was responsible for five offsides in the regular season contest. Starting from the 16, Ben Roethlisberger went long for a 38 yard connection with the rookie from Virginia, Heath Miller. Miller hauled in one for 18 more yards on the next play. Later on in the drive on 3rd and 3 from the Indianapolis six, Rothlisberger threw a ball behind Antwaan Randle-El who made a good adjustment and captured the bullet for the touchdown. The play capped off a 10 play/84 yard drive. With 9:25 remaining in the first, Bill Cowher’s squad led 7-0.

After a rare occasion when Indy went three-and-out, Roethlisberger went back to the TE. This time it was Jerame Tuman for 19 yards to put Pittsburgh into Colt territory. But on the very next play, Ben stayed in the pocket way too long and paid for it when Dwight Freeney cracked him. The ball squirted ahead and was intercepted by Cato June at the Colt 35. But the Colts could only muster three yards and had to punt again.

Roethlisberger rebounded well from his passing gaffe and led his Steelers down the RCA Dome track again. With a mix of runs by Willie Parker, Jerome Bettis and Dan Kreider and a long third-and-ten conversion by Hines Ward, the second-year QB engineered a seven-play drive for 72 yards. The capper was a pass for seven yards to Heath Miller with 3:12 left in the first quarter of play.

On the Colts third drive, the Steelers continued to harass Manning. Kimo von Oelhoffen had a huge sack to start the series. Manning finally completed a pass on his fifth attempt of the game for a first down to Marvin Harrison, but James Farrior sacked Manning for another huge loss, forcing 3rd and 24. Indy punted again.

There was very little scoring in the second quarter as the Colts defense came alive. But the Steelers D stayed impressive, forcing a third three-and-out on the fourth Indy offensive series. Then the Colts got a gift when Marlin Jackson was not called for interference on a blatant grab of Randle-El on what would have been a long gain, if not a score. The Steelers couldn’t convert.

Then Peyton Manning came alive. On nearly a ten minute drive that started on their own two, OC Tom Moore called a fine mix of Edgerrin James runs and Manning passes. The Colts thought James Mungro would score on a five-yard run, but a second offsides by Tarik Glenn nullified the Mungro TD. The Colts went from their own two to the Pittsburgh two, but settled for a 19-yard Mike Vanderjagt field goal. At the half, it was 14-3 in favor of the visiting underdogs.

The third quarter started with a punt by the blue-clad homers, followed by one by the visitors in white. The third possession of the new half could have been devastating for the boys repping Circle City. What appeared to be a Farrior safety of Manning on third down was just shy of the end zone. The Colts got a punt off instead, but Pittsburgh got excellent field position, and started at the Indianapolis 30. After Bettis drained the third quarter clock, No. 36 finished off the Steelers drive with a 1 yard plunge to paydirt. After Jeff Reed’s conversion, it was 21-3 with 1:26 remaining in the third.

Seconds before the quarter ended, Manning waved off Dungy’s punt decision and went for it from his own 36 and made it. The decision paid off a few moments later when No. 18 connected with Dallas Clark for a 50-yard score with 14:09 remaining. It was now 21-10 Steelers with a quarter to play.

In the fourth, the Steelers had a stretch of 11-straight running plays that included a Ben Roethlisberger sneak on 4th and 1 at midfield. Cowher’s gamble worked as the Steelers got a good spot and extended the drive. Bettis converted another 4th and 1, but the drive ended in a Chris Gardocki punt with 6:07 remaining in the contest.

This is where it gets a little crazy. With With 5:26 remaining, Peyton Manning threw what appeared to be a sure interception gabbed by Troy Polamalu. No. 43 caught the ball, rolled over on the ground while making a football move, dropped the ball and recovered it at midfield. That should have been the nail in Indianapolis’ coffin. Dungy challenged the call and the crowd erupted when the ref, Pete Morelli, announced the overturning of the call on the field as an incomplete pass. Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorf, calling the game for CBS, expressed shock. Steeler Nation was stunned and enraged.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

With a second chance, Manning took advantage of the gift. Four plays later, James plunged in from the three and when Reggie Wayne (backed up by a false start penalty) made a seven yard catch for the 2PC, the score was only 21-18 with 4:24 left.

The Steelers couldn’t answer back, so Indy took over at their own 18 with 2:32 remaining and a chance to win or tie. But the Steeler defense, who had been flummoxing Manning and his o-line all game, answered the bell and looked to put the game away. On 2nd and 8, Joey Porter sacked No. 18 for a six yard loss. Then on 4th and 16, Porter and Farrior sacked Manning to stop the Colts seemingly for good. Tunch Ilkin on the radio broadcast urged fans to get their reservations for Denver.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Steelers took over on downs and looked to ice the game when their version of a football closer came in with the ball at the two. That was No. 36. Everybody knows about the wall that was Gary Brackett that Bettis hit and the uncharacteristic and crazy fumble that occurred. When Nick Harper scooped up the ball and raced down the field, the collective jaws of Steeler Nation dropped. One man had a heart attack while watching at a bar. I don’t know whether it was the stabbing from the night before or the knee injury from early on or divine intervention...but something slowed down Harper enough for Big Ben to make the most important of tackles in Steeler history. With the jumbo package in the game to block, fast guys weren’t on the field to catch Harper. But Ben made the twisting ankle-tackle to save the TD. Meanwhile. Tunch recanted his reservation proclamation.

After that, the Colts still had a chance at their own 43 with 1:09 left. Manning immediately found Reggie Wayne for 21 yards to the Steeler 36 and the sure-footed All Pro, Mike Vanderjagt, warmed up to kick. Harrison got eight more to the 28, while Bettis nervously knelt on the sideline and Tommy Maddox consoled the legend. On the next play, Manning went for the win on a long pass to Wayne, but rookie CB Bryant McFadden had amazing coverage and broke it up.

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

At 3rd and 2, Manning went back to Wayne and McFadden almost intercepted. This was a huge mistake. The Colts could have gotten closer for their kicker, but it would be a try from 46 to tie. Bill Cowher iced Vanderjagt (the game’s most-accurate all-time kicker at that time) and the WVU product pointed with a mocking gesture to the Steeler coach, as to imply, “How dare you ice me!”

With :21 remaining, Bettis paced and Steeler fans painfully waited for the inevitable trip to OT, where the Steelers would surely lose. However, the cocky kicker had an ugly kick that was never close and sailed wide right. Vanderjagt slammed his helmet to the turf, as Bettis raised his in relief and delight.

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Steelers celebrated, Tunch invited fans to Denver and Manning threw his line under the bus in the presser. It was a monumental and improbable victory for this particular team of destiny.

It was believed that the only way the Steelers could win would be via a punishing ground game, but the Steelers stormed in throwing and set the tone early. On the defensive side, Pittsburgh set out to harrass Manning and never let up. it was a game plan well-executed and well-planned. In the end, lady luck contributed as well.

To me, this was one of the greatest games in Steelers history. It was the victory that transformed pretenders into contenders and eventually...Champions.

I have great memories of this game for a completely different reason. I had just started dating the woman I would marry, but she lived over an hour away from my apartment in Frostburg, Maryland. Because of my absurd superstition (at the time) to eat the same food, sit in the same spot and wear the same clothes during the playoffs...I did not watch the game with her. Nor did I accept an invitation to watch it with my friend across the hall.

Her name was Joanne and she was a sweet 75-year-old lady that shared my love for football and treated me like a grandson. Even though I was 33 at the time, I hung out with Joanne. I even took her to a WVU game a few months earlier. She was my buddy and I adored her like family.

Because of my policy to never celebrate “until there’s three zeroes on the clock”, I reluctantly accepted Joanne’s congratulations when she knocked on my door after the Joey Porter sack gave the Steelers the ball on the doorstep of the Colt end zone. I invited her in, but as soon as her butt hit my recliner... “The Bus” famously fumbled. When the dust settled and I halted my stream of cuss-words that would make Samuel L. Jackson proud, I turned to my friend who was sitting in absolute shock and horror. She looked at me and said, “I think that was my fault”. As polite as I possibly could, I said, “Joanne, I love you dearly...but you really need to go back to your apartment now”. She replied, “I know” and left.

When Vanderjagt missed that kick, I was elated and I could hear Joanne cheering alone across the hall. As happy as I was, I felt awful about the way I treated my dear friend. I sheepishly went across the hall to apologize, but Joanne didnt want any part of that. She told me, “We know better than to celebrate early. We’re just lucky Ben made that tackle.” We would always laugh about that moment.

I moved away six months later and Joanne would always remind me how much she missed me. She came to Hagerstown to attend my wedding the next year and got to see my baby boy after he was born. We kept in touch, but work and family required more attention...and our calls and visits got less frequent. In 2010, my sweet friend passed away and I didn’t learn about it until a few months later. But I had strong memories of our friendship and cherish the football that we did view together. I still miss my sweet friend.

When I think about how special that game was to everybody that loves the Steelers, I smile and think about how memorable that Super Bowl ride was that year. But even more, I think about the power of friendship and how football can bring people the unlikeliest of friends together. I think about Joanne.

Steelers Salary Cap, Part 4: Getting cap compliant for 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/17/2020 - 11:05am
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our dive into the Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 Salary Cap situation.

$23,195,291. Let that number sink in. That is the number that I bloated the Pittsburgh Steelers cap up to for the 2020 season. Because of quirks in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, the Steelers cannot do business as usual with massive contract restructuring that has led to a precarious situation. How does this get solved?

Now there will be big choices which have to be made. Players will have to be jettisoned, business as usual will not be the norm, and contracts will have to be re-worked.

Players who have to go:

Mark Barron: $5,250,000 cap savings with $2,875,000 in dead cap space. Barron was an upgrade on Jon Bostic but was still a liability in 2019. There was never a chance he would count $8 million against the cap in 2020 and why I was so adamant against his signing.

Vance McDonald: $5,672,500 cap savings with $1,455,000 in dead cap space. McDonald missed another two games due to injury while being a mediocre blocker. The biggest issue is, if the Steelers offense refuses to utilize him (38 receptions in 2019), he is just not worth the money.

Anthony Chickillo: $5,000,000 cap savings with $1,097,500 in dead cap space. A headscratchign contract that paid Chickillo $1.9 million in 2019. Core special teamers are valued, just not worth $6.1 million while playing 143 defensive snaps in 2020.

Ramon Foster: $4,000,000 cap savings with $1,575,000 in dead cap space. Foster and Maurkice Pouncey were neck and neck for the worst offensive linemen in 2019 but Pouncey keeps his roster spot while Foster does not at age 34.

Jordan Berry: $1,800,000 cap savings with $375,000 in dead cap space. Berry is best remembered for struggling late in the season while fans forget his strong punting for much of the season. The 2020 12th highest cap hit punter in the league, is too high even for his overall 2019 punting.

Roosevelt Nix: $1,012,500 cap savings with $875,000 in dead cap space. Nix played in three games in 2019 because of injury. Another poor contract overpaying a special team player in 2020. Nix does not offer much on offense as a blocker or as a weapon to justify his salary.

Savings: $22,735,000

Displacement costs: $3,060,000

Total: $19,675,000

Over the cap: $3,520,291

Other cuts could be made but they would save just a could hundred thousand dollars each. Instead of doing some nitpicking (or make a controversial cut of Ryan Shazier), time to restructure big dollars instead. Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, and Joe Haden could be restructured to save cap space, but could push big dead money into 2021.

David DeCastro is a prime candidate for a restructure because of his 2021 cap hit is lower than his 2020 cap hit. DeCastro can convert $6M of his base salary to a signing bonus. This move would reduce his cap hit next year to $10,647,500 and would bump his 2021 cap hit to $13,447,500 which would be within the 30% rule.

Other restructures could give the Steelers a few million more in cap space but the team still needs substantial cap relief to go out and snare a few free agents to fix the holes above. The only place this could occur is to sign Dupree to a long-term deal. This is easier said than done.

I have been a vocal critic of the “Steelers way” with not guaranteeing more then one year contracts for years now. If T.J. Watt remains on his torrid pace, he will become the league’s highest paid defensive player in a year or two and will demand his contract be structured like other top players in the NFL. Time to emerge out of the stone age and do what 30 other NFL teams do and guarantee more years and give Dupree guaranteed money and years on a new deal. (The Green Bay Packers are the only other team that conducts business in this fashion.)

Why would Dupree take a contract with $20-30 million guaranteed when other outside linebackers taking home over $30 million in guaranteed money? Time for the Steelers to join the new decade and keep the team’s duo of OLBs who have amassed 43.5 sacks and 19 forced fumbles in the past two seasons.

Will Dupree take an average of $16 million season? Will he take two seasons fully guarantee and not want more? Just spit balling here, but I will say the answer to both of them is yes.

2020 cap hit: $10 million

2021 cap hit: $13 million

2022 cap hit: $16 million

2023 cap hit: $19 million

2024 cap hit: $22 million

BTSC fans can debate how the structure of the contract would be, but to ensure Dupree would sign it and the Steelers keep compliant, the first two seasons would need to be fully guaranteed and not just for injury.

Such a bold move would allow the Steelers to keep an integral part of their defense with them for years to come, but also give the team over $6 million in cap space to sign valued free agents to fill the holes created by the cuts proposed above.

No matter what moves Steelers GM Kevin Colbert and contract guru Omar Khan implement, the team will have to make some painful moves. Dead cap space is a fact of the NFL, but when contracts are structured so they build the dead money in — fans should be frustrated. The Steelers have struggled with playoff success since the NFL implemented the CBA in 2011 and finally it has come to a head in 2020 with the current salary cap crisis.

Figures from Overtthecap.com were used along with their Salary Cap Calculator.

Part 1: 2 Quirks Which Impact the Salary Cap

Part 2: Salary Cap Space Remaining

Part 3: Destroying the salary cap and getting compliant

More than just Steelers’ fans are trying to break ties with Antonio Brown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/17/2020 - 9:32am
David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

It’s been difficult for some fans to let go of the fallen superstar, but Brown continues to burn bridges everywhere he goes

Before anything else, I have something to admit: I am so ready to move on from Antonio Brown. I have done all that I could to avoid any discussion or articles pertaining to the former Steelers’ superstar. But after only playing in one game in 2019, Brown continues to be at the center of attention for all the wrong reasons.

Earlier this week after an altercation with the mother of his three children, Brown posted a video of himself shouting expletives at both his ex-girlfriend and police right in front of his children. Brown also threw some “adult” candy at his ex which has turned into the subject of many jokes over the last several days. In response to his inappropriate tirade, the Hollywood Police Department reportedly returned Brown’s donation to the Police Athletic League as they felt he was an inadequate role model for the youth they are trying to support.

But it gets worse.

Now one of the few people left who has publicly supported Brown has severed ties with him for the time being until he agrees to get some much-needed help. Agent Drew Rosenhaus announced he has terminated his relationship with Brown until he gets the proper support.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus conditionally terminated his relationship with Antonio Brown today until the free-agent WR seeks counsel, per an NFLPA source. Rosenhaus wrote in the letter that the NFLPA received today that he would like to work with Brown, but not until he first gets help.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 16, 2020

Interestingly enough, Rosenhaus phrased their separation in a way to show he was not walking away from their professional relationship completely. With Rosenhaus having to take such a firm stand in order to try to get help for Brown, one could easily read between the lines and see that perhaps his agent has been pushing Brown to get some much-needed professional help when it comes to his mental stability. I’m sure it was not the first time the topic arose between the two as common sense would say Rosenhaus probably pleaded with Brown to get some help on several occasions before having to take such a drastic measure.

It seems like cutting ties with Brown has been the overwhelming theme over the last year. From the Patriots letting him go after one game and the Raiders terminating his contract before he could even take the field after they had given up a third and a fifth round pick in the 2019 draft, it appears more people are doing their best to stay away from Brown rather than to bring him into their locker room.

When the Steelers were forced to cut ties with Brown 10 months ago, they originally had a deal in place to send Brown to Buffalo. In hindsight, it might have been a better scenario for all parties (except for maybe the Bills) if Brown had not nixed the deal. With the Bills making the playoffs in 2019 and with a very good head coach in place, perhaps Brown could have remained focused on football rather than completely falling apart with his behavior on and off the field. Or perhaps things may have gotten even worse in Buffalo.

I wish I could say I’m done having to report on Antonio Brown, but as things get stranger and stranger with his personal life it seems he will continue to make news for all the wrong reasons. As a Steelers’ fan, I just wish he would fade into oblivion. As a father of young children who thought Antonio Brown was the best, any time his name comes up I do my best to have them not even hear it spoken. Trying to explain his behavior to kids who once thought he was the greatest is not an easy task.

It’s more than just kids. It still hurts me as a fan. Some of the greatest memories I have of the Steelers involved Brown. I’ll never forget Christmas in 2016 when Brown extended the ball across the goal line with just seconds left in order to defeat the Baltimore Ravens and clinch the AFC North. I’ll never forget the first game I ever saw at Heinz Field with my father against the Detroit Lions in 2013 when Brown scored two touchdowns, one of which occurred right in front of us as he pointed to me in the stands as I was sporting the same bumblebee jersey he was wearing. It’s difficult to let the memories of Brown’s time in Pittsburgh go, but with his continued downward spiral of bizarre antics and poor decisions, it has become almost as sad as it is disappointing.

The list of those who are dropping Antonio Brown continues to grow. The Steelers. The Raiders. The Patriots. Various endorsements such as Nike and football helmet manufacturer Xenith. Now the local police and his agent have also dropped Brown. And if the rumors are true, perhaps we will soon get to see Logan Paul drop him in a boxing ring.

Antonio Brown’s story still has more to be written. While it seems like things couldn’t get any crazier for the former All-Pro receiver, the same could have been said a few months ago. But the way Brown’s self-destructive behavior is progressing, his story is not looking to have any kind of happy ending.

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