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Injury Report: 8 players miss Wednesday’s practice due to injury

Behind the Steel Curtain - 4 hours 57 min ago
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Although there were 11 players who missed practice on Wednesday, the number of players who could miss Sunday’s game is much smaller.

Coming off their sixth win of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the remaining unbeaten team and are looking to keep their win streaking rolling. With two players missing the Steelers Week 7 matchup in Tennessee and with most players who dealt with injury in-game returning, the list of players not participating in practice on Wednesday was much longer than expected. In the first injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR department, 8 players missed practice due to injury, one player returned to action, while 3 more were held out due to a coach’s decision.

Steelers PR Department

First of all, even though Maurkice Pouncey was listed as missing practice with a elbow injury, he usually has Wednesday off as a coach’s decision. In fact, the same thing happened the last two weeks in regards to Pouncey’s Wednesday status. Thursday’s injury report will give a much better indication of Pouncey’s availability for the Ravens’ game this Sunday.

Two other players dealing with elbow injuries are offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva and tight end Eric Ebron. The severity of their injuries are unknown at this time and Thursday will be a better indication as to if these injuries will inhibit their playing time on Sunday.

Just like previous weeks, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster did not practice Wednesday with a knee injury. Although there is an injury designation, it looks as if Smith-Schuster is being given the first day of practice off each week. In a similar fashion, Diontae Johnson also did not practice on Wednesday with a toe injury. Neither player is expected to miss Sunday’s game

Derek Watt and Mike Hilton both missed the Steelers 27-24 win over the Titans. Coach Tomlin stated on Tuesday both players were expected to get back to work this week. On Wednesday, the Steelers made it half way there as Watt participated fully while Hilton was still unable to practice with a shoulder injury.

Two players mentioned by head coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday who could miss time early in the week due to injuries are defensive lineman Chris Wormley with a knee injury and safety Jordan Dangerfield with a quadricep injury. As expected, neither player was able to practice on Wednesday.

Once again, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was given a veteran’s days off on Wednesday. Stephon Tuitt and David DeCastro also did not practice on Wednesday but it was not injury related.

As for the Ravens’ official injury report, you can see the names below when available.

For a recap of the injury report, check out the BTSC Steelers Injury Update podcast below:

The Steelers have to find a way to re-sign Bud Dupree and Mike Hilton

Behind the Steel Curtain - 6 hours 43 min ago
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The upcoming free agents were once thought as expendable, hold the key to future success

Heading into the 2020 season it seemed as though Bud Dupree was entering the final year of his Pittsburgh tenure, and nickel corner Mike Hilton would battle Cameron Sutton for a contract on the 2021 Steelers. However, after there dominating starts to the season both Dupree and Hilton have made themselves nearly irreplaceable.

Once thought to be a draft bust the size of Jarvis Jones, Dupree has now turned in two down right dominating seasons. When most teams would have pushed Dupree out of the door, the Steelers stayed patient and flexed their developmental might. Dupree has become one of the top run-stuffing edge rushers in football. On top of that he’s become a guy who will give you double digit sacks on a yearly basis. Two traits that usually see outside linebackers line their wallets with cash.

NFL Players w/ 5+ sacks in 2020

9.0 - Myles Garrett
7.5 - Aaron Donald
6.0 - Za'Darius Smith
Brandon Graham
5.5 - TJ Watt
Jason Pierre-Paul
5.0 - Bud Dupree
Yannick Ngakoue
Emmanuel Ogbah
Montez Sweat

— Jayson Braddock (@JaysonBraddock) October 26, 2020

Mike Hilton has only further cemented himself as football’s top nickel corner. Hilton has also been one of the best members of this defense, and I was legitimately worried that his absence in the Steelers Week 7 game against the Titans would result in a loss. I’m not sure theirs a defensive back better at stepping up into the run or rushing the passer quite like Hilton, and when he’s not on the field it completely changes how the Steelers play defense.

#Steelers CB Mike Hilton w/ his second sack of the season. He's probably the best blitzing corner in the AFC North, maybe in the entire conference. Either way: he definitely has the best smile.

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) September 20, 2020

But with uncertainty surrounding the NFL salary cap, and the Steelers already projected to be well over the upper limits of said cap, how could they possibly bring back one of these guys let alone both? Well, two factors might allow the organization to make something work.

Number one, every team in the NFL is going to be strapped for cash, and the ten-ish teams with some salary cap flexibility will likely spend their money elsewhere. Nether Dupree or Hilton are going to receive the money they would have in a normal offseason. So perhaps if they are going to be forced into taking less money, they might be more inclined to return to Pittsburgh where they know the system and will have stability around them.

Number two, the Kansas City Chiefs laid the blueprint on how to return your entire roster and avoid salary cap hell. The Steelers will need to roll the dice on long term extensions for both players and stick the majority of there cap hits on one certain year, somewhere in the future. The NFL’s salary cap isn't based on average annual salary so teams can manipulate the cap by placing the bulk of a players money in one certain year, that happens to be different then your other star players.

But what do you think? Is it important for the Steelers to keep the band together? Or if you could only keep Dupree or Hilton which one would you choose? Let us now down in the comments below.

The story of the Steelers vs. Titans Week 7 game in 10 quotes

Behind the Steel Curtain - 7 hours 43 min ago
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

What did we learn in the week 7 slug-out? Let’s let the participants tell us.

The Steelers 27-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans was billed as the heavyweight bout of the week — the contest that would tell us who would take pole position between two 5-0 squads. It was also the Steelers first away game in 41 days, and the first of three straight.

In a tale of two halves, we learned a lot. Here’s a sampling, organized by the quotes before and after the game:

“We wanted to answer all questions from you guys about how we start the game. And so, we took the ball, we went down the field and scored a touchdown so you guys can stop asking me about it.” — Mike Tomlin Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

When I saw this line, the first thing I thought of was not the seven minute march the Steelers put on, during which they covered 100 yards by overcoming penalties. It was not the 100% third down percentage the team posted (which lasted for their first eight conversions). It wasn’t even the tongue-in-cheek fiestiness of the head coach.

Instead, I thougth about how they were burned by the Philadelphia Eagles for 10 of 14 on third downs two weeks ago. That day, Philly converted over and over on this supposedly powerhouse defense. And even though the Steelers won by two possessions, Tomlin acknowledged that this problem needed to get worked out.

And then it was.

Against Cleveland (the top rushing offense in football), the Steelers allowed 1 of 12 on third downs, and then 0 of 3 on fourth downs. What’s more, this was more than a one-week fix. The Steelers held the powerful Titans offense to 5 of 13 on third downs this week too.

In other words, when there’s a problem, these guys are capable of solving it on the fly. Just like the first-drive touchdown streak. Or the consecutive games with a turnover streak. Or the interceptions these guys used to be unable to snare...

As Tomlin also put it this week: “We’re looking to learn every Sunday. Hopefully we’re learning while winning” So far, yes.

“We all eat!!!... #TooDeep” Chase Claypool Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

I wrote in last week’s edition about how the Steelers players seemed to be having fun even when they weren’t lighting it up individually. Chase Claypool had entered the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation after his last three games – an 84 yard touchdown against Denver (still the longest reception in the league so far); a four-touchdown performance against Philly (which put him in the same conversation with Gayle Sayers and Jim Brown for rookie performances); and a jet-sweep rushing touchdown against Cleveland (his second on the ground in two weeks). Against Tennessee, he caught one pass for –2 yards, which he fumbled and then (in a moment of ridiculous luck) recovered on a clean bounce. Not an epic day for the rookie.

And yet, look at that excitement. That’s what the Steelers locker room looks like right now. After the Browns game, JuJu Smith-Schuster (1 pass for 6 yards that day), said, “People tell me you only got me two points this week in fantasy. I’d rather have two points and be 5-0 than be 1-5 and have 25 fantasy points. . . . I’m having fun all the time whether I get the ball or not. Whether it’s two catches for 10 yards or six catches for 60 yards, it’s more for the team...” That’s the Steelers locker room. Awesome.

On a week where the 5-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers invite the hungriest me-first diva in football into their huddle like a hand grenade with a loose pin, the Steelers continue play the long game. And they’re the last unbeaten team in football for it.

“He was a hard worker. He was a guy that was always flying around, whether he was on scout team or getting second-team reps... It’s fun to play with him.” Minkah Fitzpatrick, about Robert Spillane Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Robert Spillane is more than just the next man up. He’s no Devin Bush, and he’s not going to make anyone flash back to Ryan Shazier, but he’s a legit player. I’m reminded of Brett Keisel — a 7th round draft pick who made his bones by hustling on special teams for several years before his time came. And then played like a football player from there.

It’s easy, as fans, to root for guys who come up from the bottom, just for the story alone. But when you hear teammates talk this way, you know you’re dealing with a gamer. As Tomlin said this week, “we’ve got a great deal of confidence in Robert.” Watching him play the last two weeks, I’m not surprised.

“They got a 250-pound running back. There’s no going slow into the hole.” Robert Spillane

WHAT A HIT vs DERRICK HENRY pic.twitter.com/vcX93anCyM

— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) October 25, 2020

I include this solely as an excuse to relive this play.

“It’s not like we had a grizzly veteran in that position.” — Mike Tomlin, on replacing Devin Bush with a relative newcomer Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

A quick reminder: the Steelers are an incredibly young team, still. Back in August I wrote about how young their offense is — highlighted by a wide receiver room in which no one is 25 years old yet, and backfield where James Conner (the oldest member) is still 25 himself. (Note: Derek Watt has been aquired since then, and he’s 28, but he wasn’t brought in to tote ball, and has zero carries thus far.) Even the veteran offensive line has showed young resiliance with Chukwuma Okorafor and Kevin Dotson in relief.

But the defense is not far behind. Bush is a young player (still 22), and already a budding star. But at his position, Spillane (25), Ulysees Gilbert III (23), and Marcus Allen (24) are all still on the rise as well. These guys have room to grow, but (as Tomlin said above) they’re winning while they learn.

“In all of Derrick Henry’s highlights, when have you ever seen him stiff-arm or run over anyone that’s close to his size? Never…. He has late play bravery…. when it’s T.J. Watt, when it’s Bud Dupree, when it’s Vince Williams, he gonna have to see those boys. It’ll be different…. I’m telling you that junk is fake bravery. It’s late bravery….” Ryan Clark

I love Ryan Clark. Stephen A. Smith’s eyes barely stay in their sockets, but Clark knew what he was talking about. For the second week in a row, the Steelers faced a #1 running attack and shut them down. First, the Cleveland Browns came in at #1 as a team, getting 188.4 yards per game, and finished with 75 against the Steelers. Then Derrick Henry came in leading the league individually, getting 117.6 yards per game, and himself finished with (coincidentally) 75 yards against the Steelers.

This defense is by far the best in the league at pressuring the quarterback (and if they finish the season how it’s started, they’ll be in the discussion for the best pressure defense of all time). But clearly they aren’t a one-trick pony.

This coming week won’t just be the third consecutive game against a conference rival with one loss or fewer. The Ravens have moved into the #1 position in rushing (164.3 ypg). In Baltimore’s case, it comes from an option/RPO game, which is different than the Browns or Titans. But the Steelers lived in the Ravens backfield last year. In Lamar Jackson’s only start in the rivalry, Pittsburgh held Baltimore’s record-setting rushing attack 67.0 yards below their season average, sacked Jackson five times and snagged three interceptions. (Note: Jackson entered that game having only thrown four interceptions in his career.) It was, by a wide margin, the worst game of the reigning MVP’s career.

These Steelers may just be the team to shut the Ravens down.

(Postscript: Clark later apologized to Henry for these remarks. But the Steelers had their former safety’s back when the cameras rolled.)

“It’s not often that you lose the turnover battle 3-0, fail to get a red-zone stop, and still beat a previously undefeated opponent on the road” — Gary Gramling in Sports Illustrated “Steelers only need to get it half right… Pittsburgh doesn’t need a complete game to beat good teams…” — Jason LaConfora in CBS Sports Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

I’m including both of these as reminders that this was an impressive performance. It’s easy to obsess over the things that went wrong in the second half – and I suspect that’s what Mike Tomlin is doing this week. But let’s not forget: this was a hell of an achievement.

We often say that great teams win games even when they don’t play their best. To beat one of the best in the game when you make a bunch of mistakes — when you drop multiple interceptions while throwing three, when you give up a 70 yard touchdown on a crossing pattern, when you turn a 16 play drive into zero points — that’s some serious chops.

And let’s try to remember, when the Steelers were on top of their game in the first half, they didn’t just beat the Titans, they obliterated them. Pittsburgh had 161 yards before the Titans accumulated their second. They had 14 points and 16:23 of possession before the Titans recorded their first 1st down. This dominance didn’t come against the New York Jets or the 2008 Lions. Tennessee had one of the best offenses in football. And the Steelers only played half a game and beat them.

This team may very well be special.

“There’s been a number of deflected passes today...” Charles Davis, CBS announcer Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

I’ve thought a lot about this one. It seems to me that Big Ben is getting more passes batted at the line than any other year of memory. Here’s my theory: this is the shortest passing game the Steelers have run in Ben’s career. Moreover, he’s holding the ball the shortest period of any quarterback in football (as staggering 1.7 seconds, according to Pro Football Reference). In other words, the pocket hasn’t cleared when he’s passing, and the ball is coming out lower than if he was throwing over the heads of the defense. It doesn’t take a ferocious pass rush to put hands in the air and pray.

It’s a problem that I’d like to see the Steelers fix. But this might just be an occupational hazard of throwing quick and short. And while I’d like to see the Steelers push the ball up the field a little more often, this strategy is clearly working. Nothing comes without a cost; hopefully this one won’t be deadly.

“I think it’s just the defense making a play... I had the ball in my hand, they knocked it out... that’s just a good play on them.” JuJu Smith-Schuster Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

This is a reference to the late interception Roethlisberger threw in the end zone, after a 16 play drive that swallowed half the fourth quarter.

There was a lot of negativity floating around after the Titans’ comeback nearly hit home. That’s was understandable (I was pretty deflated immediately after the contest too). But it’s worth remembering that the other guys get paychecks too. And in this case, the other guys were an undefeated team in their own house, whose last defeat was in the AFC title game.

“He missed it? Whaaa?” Ben Roethlisberger, watching Stephen Gostkowski miss the game winning field goal

Same, Ben. Same. pic.twitter.com/7lIVgd2PUG

— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) October 25, 2020

I love this clip. Let’s remember: sometimes it takes luck too. We like to think that every play and every game is a measure of who’s “better,” but it takes luck too.

Then again, sometimes it’s also about being really really good.

Big Ben & @Ebron85 finding a way

: #PITvsTEN on CBS
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/MIIkbfUwYk pic.twitter.com/e51pRrq1AV

— NFL (@NFL) October 25, 2020

Right now the Steelers are juggling both luck and talent. Cross your fingers that they both carry through to this week in Baltimore.

Go Steelers.

Ben Roethlisberger knows Steelers vs. Ravens is what the NFL “wants”

Behind the Steel Curtain - 8 hours 43 min ago
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Steelers and Ravens renew their rivalry this Sunday in Week 8, and it is exactly what the NFL wants.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are about to renew their rivalry in Week 8 at M&T Bank Stadium in the heart of Baltimore, MD, and the game couldn’t be bigger.

The 6-0 Steelers put their first place in the AFC, and the AFC North, on the line against the 5-1 Ravens team coming off their Week 7 bye week. If the Steelers win, it will give them a two game advantage in the division, while a loss would move them to second place and have them looking up at Lamar Jackson and company.

In other words, it is still early, but there is no doubt this is a huge game.

Ben Roethlisberger met with the media during his typical Wednesday availability, and he spoke at length about the Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore rivalry, and labeled it as “what the NFL wants”.

“I think it’s what football fans want, what the NFL wants,” said Roethlisberger.

What the NFL wants? There is no doubt rivalries like this are not just what they want, it is what the game needs.

When it comes to rivalries, the one factor almost everyone adds to the discussion is whether or not the recent history is competitive. This was brought up before the Week 6 game with the Cleveland Browns. While the media touted it as a fierce rivalry, the Steelers have dominated the Browns since they returned to the league.

That can’t be said about the Steelers and Ravens. Just check out the numbers...

The best rivalries are those where the two sides are actually competitive with each other and it doesn't get much better than Steelers vs. Ravens. pic.twitter.com/uxnpRCw52v

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 28, 2020

As for Roethlisberger, he wasn’t able to participate in the rivalry last week, after his season ended in Week 2 at Heinz Field vs. the Seattle Seahawks. Believe it or not, Roethlisberger missed these rivalry games.

“I didn’t get to play in it last year. I missed this.” Roethlisberger admitted. “As much as this game hurts physically at the end of the day, you miss this rivalry because this is fun. It’s football in its purest form. It should be a good matchup. We will have our hands full.”

When asked to describe the rivalry, Roethlisberger painted a pretty accurate picture of what it has been like to play against the Ravens since 2004.

“It’s tough. It’s a physical one,” said Roethlisberger of the rivalry. “It can be nasty at times. I have always felt, as many times as my nose has been broken, I have had injuries, it’s been a close game. It’s always been football in its truest form. It’s never been dirty. It’s never been nasty. It’s just been hard-nosed football. This is one you always want your bye week to be after.”

There might be some, including the fans, who will debate whether the game has ever been dirty or nasty, but that might be Roethlisberger just toeing the company line.

The Steelers’ offense will have their hands full with the Baltimore defense this Sunday. The likes of Marlon Humphries, Patrick Queen, Calais Campbell and Justin Peters are a group who is fast, physical and dominant.

“This is a defense that brings guys from everywhere,” said Roethlisberger. “It’s going to be one of those games where we’re going to have to be able to keep everybody in at times. Just because you are keeping everybody in, it still doesn’t mean you have all day to throw it. The ball has to get out of your hand in a timely manner. It’s not an easy thing to do. Sometimes you have to get lucky. You have to have the right protection called, even after a blitz. Sometimes you can pick it up and get the ball out of your hands and it’s one-on-one on the outside with no help. We like those matchups too because we’ve got some slippery guys at receiver that can make guys miss. Every once in a while, you take that shot over the top knowing that they’re might not be a safety back there. There are some things you can exploit. The key is always to protect long enough to do that.

“They just (have) really good football players. Ball hawks. Guys who know how to play, can stop it. There are just a lot of challenges facing us this week in the pass game. Our guys are going to have to all be involved. We are going to have to try the best matchup and see how it goes from there. I am going to have to be smart, make good decisions, and our guys are going to have to run good routes in order to have a chance.”

Throughout it all, Roethlisberger shows a general understanding of how the Steelers’ offense can aide the defense as they have to handle the enigma which is Lamar Jackson. Like they used to plan for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, those dynamic playmakers can’t impact the game if they are on the sidelines.

Last week in Tennessee the Steelers’ offense dominated time of possession, and limited the Titans’ ability to make big plays, it ultimately resulted in the 27-24 victory for the Steelers. A similar challenge awaits the offense in Week 8.

“When you have an offense as good as Baltimore, a player as dynamic as him [Lamar Jackson], a lot of guys on offense, you have to try and keep them on the sideline,” said Roethlisberger. “We were able to do that early in the game last week so we’ll have to do everything we can. This is a good football team. One of the best in the league.”

The rivalry between the Steelers and Ravens has been renewed, and it is a good thing not just for the NFL, but for both franchises. Football is better when these two teams are a the top of their respective games. You can hear more about this on the latest “Let’s Ride” podcast in the player below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on this huge AFC North game this Sunday in Week 8.

Podcast: “If they can’t score, you can’t lose”

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 13 min ago

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

The Steelers are 6-0 and there are plenty of reasons why. The offense has as wide array of weapons for Ben Roethlisberger to throw to and the defense is at the top of the league. It’s pretty simple really. like Mike Tomlin has said, “If they can’t score, you can’t lose”. 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
  • If they can’t score, you can’t lose.
  • 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

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.

Part 1:

Part 2:

The Titans near-comeback was a reminder to the Steelers there are no easy games in the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 43 min ago
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Steelers nearly blew a 20-point lead to the Titans on Sunday. Why? Maybe because the NFL stands for Not For Long for many things—including total dominance of an opponent.

So, what happened to the Steelers in the second half of their 27-24 victory over the Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on Sunday?

I mean, it was 27-7 at one point. Did they play that dreaded prevent defense? Did they take their foot off the gas on offense? Was Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff outcoached by Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel and his staff?

Did Pittsburgh suddenly begin to grow complacent, forget that its opponent was good and start to take it lightly? After all, the Steelers always play down to their competition, and what lower competition is there than an opponent that’s trailing by nearly three touchdowns?

Call me a realist, but I don’t think any of the above happened. What did happen? I believe the Steelers suddenly got slapped in the face by a big old batch of NFL parity starting with the 73-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Tennessee receiver A.J. Brown early in the third quarter, which came just two plays after Chris Boswell gave the Steelers a 20-point lead on a 30-yard field goal. In fact, as I watched Brown outrun Pittsburgh’s entire secondary, I kind of smirked as if to say, “Of course.”

Speaking of complacent, that’s what I had become after the Steelers quickly extended their lead just minutes into the second half. “Man, this team is hella good,” I may have said to myself if people still said “hella.” I probably had every right to feel that way, too.

Boswell’s field goal punctuated a minor stretch of total dominance by Pittsburgh over six-plus quarters. Dating back to the opening kickoff of the previous week’s 38-7 victory over the Browns at Heinz Field, the Steelers had outgained their opponents, 539-297, possessed the football for just under 57 minutes, executed 169 plays to 100 and scored 65 points to 14.

That stuff just doesn’t happen very often in the NFL, especially against two competitive football team.

At least not for more than a game or so.

The Steelers had their game or so of fun, and Tennessee’s near-comeback in the second half was a reminder that the NFL stands for Not For Long for many things—including an inflated sense of self.

This isn’t to say the Steelers’ players were feeling that way, but I’m sure they may have started to think this whole NFL thing was pretty darn easy.

Unfortunately, the league isn’t designed that way. It’s designed to trip up the good teams if they’re too dominant for too long. It’s also designed to help those downtrodden franchises get well if they’ve been sick for a spell.

The NFL is a league where someone is always nipping at your heels.

The Steelers are 6-0 and will march into M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday to take on a 5-1 Ravens team that will be eager to remind them who’s been running the AFC North the past two years. What will happen in this clash of behemoths? Maybe Pittsburgh will continue its rope-a-dope act from the second half of the Titans’ game and come out totally flat. Perhaps that slumber will last for the entire day. Can you imagine that? Pittsburgh’s first loss of 2020 coming in blowout form at the hands of those Ravens, a defeat that would not only serve up some long-overdue humble pie; it would place Baltimore in the driver’s seat for the division title.

On the other hand, maybe the Steelers will punch Baltimore in the mouth. After all, Baltimore’s only loss was to the Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champs. Other than that, the Ravens have smacked their opponents around pretty good. What if the Steelers and a returning Ben Roethlisberger show the Ravens that Kansas City isn’t the only Super Bowl contender they’ll have to deal with if they want to hoist the Lombardi trophy in February?

Yeah, it could be a blowout, but given the nature of this rivalry, as well as the nature of the NFL, it could also be a nail-biter. You just never know in the world of big-stakes professional football.

To quote Myron Cope: The NFL is a tough football league.

The Steelers found that out last Sunday—even as they were reminding the previously undefeated Titans of that very thing—and they’ll probably be reminded of it again this Sunday.

The question is, will they also remind the Ravens how difficult life can be in the NFL?

No matter what happens on Sunday, someone will be eating some humble pie when all is said and done.

The Steelers defensive line is far above the rest of the NFL according to PFF

Behind the Steel Curtain - 10 hours 43 min ago
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

When looking at individual Pro Football Focus scores, the Steelers interior defensive line is the class of the league.

It seems like every time I mention NFL rankings done by Pro Football Focus I give a little bit of a disclaimer. Yes, their scores are not perfect. Yes, some of their gradings are debatable. But when it comes to looking at both the offensive and defensive line, many times it’s one of the best evaluating tools available. I have often said the closer players are to the line of scrimmage, particularly where the football is before it is snapped, the easier it is to grade said players. But much like PFF, this is just the way I view things.

There is little doubt the Steelers defensive front is one of the premier groups in the NFL. After holding two of the NFL’s top rushing attacks in the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans each to under 100 yards the last two weeks, the rest of the NFL knows what this group can do against the run. Add in the fact the Steelers 26 sacks on the season is leading the league even though they have played less games than many teams, the Steelers’ defensive front is a force to be reckoned with.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Steelers’ individual players are among the top in the league when it comes to the interior defensive line. Tyson Alualu held the top spot in the NFL for several weeks only to get bumped off just recently. Alualu still has a 91.4 overall score, but Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has moved ahead with a score of 91.9 after Week 7. It’s not that Alualu did anything to lower his grade, it is more about Donald and his dominance in the NFL.

After Alualu’s score which has him ranked second in the NFL is defensive lineman Vita Vea of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Vea has a score of 90.3 which will continue to hold steady as he suffered a season-ending injury at the end of the Bucs Week 6 matchup with the Chicago Bears. Vea’s score will be one others will look to surpass, but as the season progresses and his defensive snaps remain the same he may no longer be eligible due to PFF‘s growing snap minimum.

Where a move has been made among the top players on the interior defensive line has been Stephon Tuitt at 87.9 and Cameron Heyward at 87.3 in 2020. The Steelers two defensive tackles now rank 4th and 5th respectively in the NFL according to PFF.

For those of you have been keeping track, this means the Steelers have three defensive lineman ranked in the top five in the NFL.

As impressive as it is for the Steelers to have even one or two players ranked so high, having all three starters on the defensive line in the top five of the league is quite impressive. The only other team to have three players ranked in the top 20 are the New York Giants who have Dalvin Tomlinson ranked 12th, Leonard Williams ranked 16th, and Dexter Lawrence ranked 17th. As impressive as this is for the Giants, they don’t have any players in the top 10, let alone the top 5 like where all three starters for the Steelers currently reside.

The only other team to have even two players ranked in the top 20 are the Green Bay Packers with Kingsley Keke at 18th and Tyler Lancaster at 20th.

While these individual ranks are impressive for the Steelers interior defensive line, the most impressive number of all is 6-0. Yes, individual accolades are great, but this entire Steelers team, defensive line included, is more concerned with victories then with positional rankings.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continuing coverage of the Steelers Week 8 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

Pre-deadline trade rumors surrounding the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - 11 hours 43 min ago

A collection of rumors involving the Steelers before the 2020 NFL trade deadline.

The NFL trade deadline is rapidly approaching (November 3rd), and with contending teams scrambling to add one last piece to its roster some moves will be made. Historically the Steelers aren't a team that partakes in season player movement. However, with some injuries and subpar performances the Steelers might be in-play on a couple moves. Today I've compiled a list of rumored players the Steelers may be interested from NFL ‘insiders’. We’ll give the rumor a validity grade, and what it might take to make the move work. Let’s get into it!

Punters

Pat McAfee retired from football back in 2016. Despite a relatively short tenure in the NFL McAfee was need the NFL’s All-Decade Punter for the 10’s. Still just 33 years, the Pittsburgh area native has heard his name swirl around comeback rumors on a number of occasions. Most notably to be the Bears kicker in 2018, and to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this offseason. While a comeback has never materialized into a contract, perhaps the lore of playing for your hometown team, with a chance to win a Super Bowl might just be enticing enough.

It wouldn't surprise me if Jordan Berry is just a stop-gap for the Steelers until @PatMcAfeeShow gets the, uh...vitamins out of his system. #BringPatHome

— Mark Madden (@MarkMaddenX) October 25, 2020

Rumor validity: 2/10
Mark Madden isn't the most reliable source, however the Steelers have been rumored to be on the look out for another punter. Using the returning Jordan Berry as a stop gap player. Also worth noting that about two minutes after the Steelers announced the release of Dustin Colquitt, McAfee posted a video of himself booming punts in his back yard.

On the flip side, McAfee is enjoying his life as a highly successful podcaster, WWE wrestler, college gameday analyst, and much more. The Steelers might have to let Pat do some of these things if they were to coax him out of retirement.

It’s only temporary https://t.co/uGAX9VLUDB

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) October 25, 2020

pic.twitter.com/dJGlIbvHgx

— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) October 23, 2020 Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

The other Punter with his name tied to the Steelers, is one Marquette King. This has been a fan led rumor, as King has been an extremely popular name amongst Steelers twitter/reddit followers.

Damn! them colors look AF @JuJusBike_ https://t.co/MZH1YY954j

— Marquette King (@MarquetteKing) October 25, 2020

Validity of rumor: 5/10
It takes two to tango in the NFL, and Marquette King has more than responded from the love sent his way by Steelers nation. As opposed to Pat McAfee, King desperately wants back into the NFL, and is interested in joining the black and gold.

Linebackers Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Robert Spillane has dazzled his short time as the starting linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has put forward an effort worthy of being this teams starter for the rest of the year. That being said when Spillane was injured against the Tennessee Titans, I held my breath. This team cannot afford another injury to this position. They don't need to trade for anyone to be an every down starter either. Enter Avery Williamson, who fits perfectly in just about every way.

Steelers could evaluate trade market after Devin Bush injury. Jets might look to unload contracts and Avery Williamson ($4.75M cap hit) goes off books in 2021. Same with Chargers' Denzel Perryman, who isn't getting significant snaps and would likely welcome a fresh start.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 20, 2020

Validity of rumor: 7/0
This move almost makes too much sense. To the point where it’s almost hard to understand why it hasn't been made yet. If the Steelers are to make any sort of splash this is the transaction they have to complete. If the Steelers were to acquire Williamson this week he would only have a $1,718,750 cap hit, plus his deal will expire at the end of the season (perfect for a returning Devin Bush), and he's been one of the only bright spots of the Jets defense. Basically everyone will be on the block for the Jets, and the Steelers might be able to scoop Williamson for the tune of a seventh round draft pick.

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Denzel Perryman is a very similar option to Avery Williamson. The two main differences are that Perryman will have an even smaller remaining cap hit, but is on a team less likely to give away its players in a fire sale.

Validity to the rumor: 3/10
While everything else lines up, I just can't see the Chargers move Perryman within the AFC for nothing. Los Anglos has a good young team and will still have some value in a player like Perryman. That being said if they can't make something work for Williamson, this should be the next phone call they make.

Other rumors

The following players have no credible ties but have had their names thrown out their with the Steelers as something ‘football people’ want to see have happen. But basically certainly won't happen.

J.J. Watt - The narrative of having all three Watt brothers in Pittsburgh is a fun one to discuss. However the feasibility of such a move doesn't make any sense. The Steelers already have one of the best front fours in football, and the unit already commands a pretty penny. If the Texans are to move on from the former three time defensive player of the year, I look more at a team like Seattle, however they have to draft capital. The eldest Watt brother appears destined to suffer through another dreadful season in Houston.

Dwayne Haskins - This just won't die. First ESPN’s Bill Barwell crafted up this idea in an article, then Andrew Fillipponi shares the idea on his platforms, and finally outlets like total pr sports claim this trade is one of the no brainers of the trade deadline. Sure Haskins might be on the block, but the Steelers will not add anyone to their quarterback room. Nor will they overpay on a player like Haskins.

These are all the names that are currently being thrown in the Steelers direction. Whether any of them stick, nobody knows... Yet! For more rumors, updates, and coverage stay tuned to BTSC. Your one stop shop for all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

5 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin in Tuesday’s press conference

Behind the Steel Curtain - 12 hours 58 min ago
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Steelers head coach was asked lots of questions about their upcoming opponent, but he was more than willing to speak about his own players.

The Steelers are back into the swing of things after their big win in Tennessee on Sunday, and that means hearing from Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday. While not always asked about specific players, this week had several questions about players and Tomlin taking liberties to bring up. Since Coach Tomlin gave us the material, we’ll take a look at the players mentioned in Tomlin’s press conference. Remember these players are ones brought up during the question and answer period.

James Conner

The Steelers have continued to ride the James Conner train as he’s been healthy for all but the opening game of 2020. Coach Tomlin was asked if he was concerned about maintaining the health of Conner throughout the season.

“We are worried about beating the Baltimore Ravens this week. We don’t live in our fears. That’s just how we go about business. It’s one challenge at a time. We’re singularly, professionally focused on this challenge and in his inclusion in it. That’s the only way we know to go about this journey.”

Vince Williams

One player who has been all over the place for the Steelers’ defense is veteran linebacker Vince Williams. Coach Tomlin was asked about what Willaims has done to make himself a better all-around linebacker.

“Vince is really consistent. I don’t know if he is all-around better. I think he is getting more opportunities this year. He was part of a three-man rotation a year ago, if you remember, with he and Devin [Bush] and Mark Barron, and he’s not really a part of a rotation this year. In the spaces that he plays, he has been an all-down in every situation player, and he is playing at a high level for us. He is playing like a veteran who has experience and know-how should play.”

Robert Spillane

Next to Vince Williams who made his 61st regular-season start on Sunday is linebacker Robert Spillane who made his first career start. Coach Tomlin was asked about the status of Spillane’s shoulder and his overall thoughts on his first start.

“I thought he played well. His shoulder is fine. I’m sure there’s some residue, if you will, but I don’t think it will limit his participation or preparation in any way as we prepare for Baltimore. I think it’s reasonable to expect him to get better with each outing because he is a hardworking young man and with physical reps and muscle memory should come more consistent performance. Those are all encouraging and exciting things to discuss.”

Ben Roethlisberger

After throwing only one interception in his first 5 games on the 2020 season, Ben Roethlisberger was picked off three times in Week 7. Coach Tomlin was asked about if there was any concerning trends with Roethlisberger in regards to his three interceptions on Sunday.

“Nothing to be concerned about to be quite honest with you. One was at the end of the half, and we were trying to make a play. The other was a tipped pass. Sometimes that misfortune happens, and the other way trying to make an aggressive play at the end of a game to a guy who he had built a great rapport with over the course of the game and who had made several top-notch combat catches. We live and we learn, but we don’t cry over spilled milk. We move over to this week’s challenges understanding that preservation of the ball is important in this matchup.”

Chris Boswell

So far in 2020, the Steelers special teams units have had a lot of big plays. Coach Tomlin was asked about the improvement in the Steelers kick coverage and he took the time to note Boswell’s job of kicking the ball where intended.

“Guys are just working hard. First, it starts with the kickers themselves. Can’t say enough about the placement of the ball of Boz in the kickoff game that are allowing us to get in close quarters and allowing guys to get down the field and cover, but there’s no secret. We are getting good placement from the kickers themselves in terms of where the ball is located and the hang time, and the guys are getting down the field and working down the field collectively together.”

For a full recap of Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out our podcast recap below:

Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here:

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media ahead of our Week 8 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. https://t.co/PhctzpkVky

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 27, 2020

Are the Steelers the most complete team in the NFL?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 14 hours 13 min ago
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Week 8 with a 6-0 record, are the Steelers the best team in the NFL?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 6-0 to start the 2020 regular season, and this feat hasn’t been done since 1978. In that 1978 season the team started 7-0 before suffering their first loss of the season, and the Steelers have a tough task ahead of them in Week 8 with a trip to Baltimore to play the Baltimore Ravens.

But that isn’t the talking point of this article.

No, the talking point was something which caught my eye, or ears, when I was watching NFL Primetime early Monday morning. As I was watching Chris Berman and Booger McFarland talk about the games of the week, they said something very interesting about the Steelers following their 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 7.

McFarland and Berman both agreed they felt the Steelers, not the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Baltimore Ravens, were the most complete team in the NFL. McFarland cited the Steelers’ excellence in all three phases as the crux of his argument. The great return capabilities of Ray-Ray McCloud, the depth on the offense, especially at wide receiver, and a defense who can be absolutely suffocating for an opposing offense.

It made me wonder if the fan base agrees with McFarland. Sure, the vast majority of Steelers fans would agree, but those here at BTSC are different. The die hard fans want perfection, and expect perfection every week.

Nonetheless, I went to my Twitter account and put the question out there...are the Steelers the most complete team in the NFL?

Check out the results:

Are the #Steelers the most complete team in the NFL?

— Jeff Hartman (@JHartman_PIT) October 26, 2020

With just under 900 votes, I decided to take the question to a larger platform, that being those of you reading this article on BTSC. What do you think? Are you someone who thinks the Steelers are the most complete team in the NFL? Or do you think there are others who are more complete?

Let us know your thoughts by voting in the poll below, and be sure to explain yourself in the comment section below! Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers heading into the huge Week 8 game vs. the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday!

4 Steelers Practice Squad players who are protected in Week 8

Behind the Steel Curtain - 14 hours 38 min ago
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have protected their four weekly practice squad players heading into Week 8.

The 2020 NFL season is now seven weeks down and the Steelers are on to game two of a tough three-game road stretch. One of the things that is different in the 2020 NFL than in years past is the expanded 16-man practice squad roster which can include up to six veteran players. Another feature of the practice squad is two players can be elevated each week to the game-day roster without having to replace someone else who is already on the 53. Because of this, teams are able to protect four players every week who cannot be signed by other teams until after their upcoming matchup.

This week, the Steelers chose four players who have all been chosen before who are protected for their Week 8 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at 1 PM at M&T Bank Stadium.

Defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux had been on the list all seven weeks prior to Week 8. Mondeaux does not appear on the list this week as he was promoted to the Steelers 53-man roster and played six defensive snaps and one offensive snap along with 17 special teams snaps against the Tennessee Titans.

Running back Wendell Smallwood is now on his seventh week of being protected by the Steelers. Even though the Steelers did not play in Week 4, they had already declared their four players in anticipation of the matchup. Although Smallwood has not been called into action, the Steelers have declared him to be vital in their weekly preparation.

Wide receiver Deon Cain is on the list yet again this week which makes his fifth straight appearance. Cain was elevated from the practice squad in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns in order to fill out the wide receiver depth chart with five players as Diontae Johnson missed the game with a back injury. As long as the Steelers wide receivers are healthy, Cain will most likely remain on the practice squad.

The last player protected yet again is running back Trey Edmunds who was also protected in Week 4 when the Steelers ultimately ended up with a bye. Edmunds was elevated to the active roster in Week 5 although he wasn’t protected and was elevated again in Week 7. Edmunds helped to fill the void left by Derek Watt who missed the Steelers matchup with the Eagles. Even though Watt is expected to return to action this week, Edmunds was protected again since the Steelers had another spot available now that Mondeaux is on the active roster.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for their Week 8 game against Baltimore.

Podcast: The Steelers vs. Ravens rivalry is renewed, and glorious

Behind the Steel Curtain - 15 hours 13 min ago

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

The Steelers and Ravens is in it’s 25th season and has had plenty of memorable infamous moments. Whether it’s been bloody noses, a bounty, a coach almost tripping a player, holiday showdowns and immaculate extensions it has been phenomenal. For some it seems to have dissipated a bit. But now with both teams a combined 11-1 and vying for conference supremacy, it is back...and it’s glorious. 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
  • The Steelers vs. Ravens rivalry is renewed, and glorious
  • 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

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Show love to the Roethlisberger and Claypool connection with the “Always Open” shirt

Behind the Steel Curtain - 15 hours 43 min ago
BreakingT

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 6-0! Time to get some new gear to show off your pride for the black and gold!

It is hard to believe, and I struggle to believe it sometimes myself, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are 6-0 to start the 2020 regular season. I, and many fans like me, have never experienced this before in our lives.

The last time the Steelers started the season 6-0 was in 1978, when they started 7-0 before suffering their first loss, and in 1978 I wasn’t even a thought in my parents’ minds.

Fans are excited, and rightfully so, so why not get some new gear to show off your Steelers pride. With the holidays coming up, these shirts would also make some fantastic gifts for the Steelers fan in your life.

There are two new designs, the ‘Big Ben Comeback Tour’ design, and a more classic, and straight-forward, design in the ‘Here We Go’ shirt. Check out the shirts below, and you can buy those by clicking on the links!!

Did you know we have a BTSC Apparel store? You can get this design, and many others including the classing BTSC design shirt, in the link below!

BTSC Apparel Store

BTSC Survivor Pool Update: Week 7 results

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/27/2020 - 4:45pm
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Two firsts were accomplished 6 weeks into the contest

The Behind The Steel Curtain survivor pool continued on in Week 7 as the choices get a little tougher as teams begin to get used up. With less than 100 contestants remaining, this week saw no eliminations! Every contestant made a selection, and every selection was correct. While technically there were 355 total entries, I had one entry in each league as the commissioner so there were 352 different contestants. Hundreds have entered, but only one can go home with the autographed Maurkice Pouncey football.

The most common selection for Week 7 was the Buffalo Bills traveling to the New York Jets which was just over a quarter of the selections. This game was much closer than many believed it would be as the Bills did not grab the lead until the final two minutes of the third quarter. For the second straight week an NFL team won a game without scoring a touchdown, but this time it helped entrants survive rather than eliminate them.

The second most popular pick was the Kansas City Chiefs visiting the Denver Broncos. The first NFL game on 2020 played in the snow, the Chiefs performed the quad-fecta I predicted for the Steelers where they scored touchdowns on a run, pass, defensive takeaway, and on special teams on their way to a 27-point victory.

The only other game which had double-digit selections was the Los Angeles Chargers hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game was back and forth through the third quarter, but the Chargers were able to pull away late for their second victory of the season.

On an extremely positive note, no contestants failed to make a pick throughout all the leagues.

So after six weeks, the 19% of entries which still remain held steady. If you are still alive, make sure you enter your pick early so you don’t get knocked out due to a lack of selection. This is your reminder, so go make your pick now!

Weekly Update: Upcoming Week 8 Games of Note:
  • Most heavily favored: Kansas City (-19.5) over the New York Jets
  • Closest match up: Four games at (-2.5)
  • The Steelers match up: Pittsburgh (+3.5) at Baltimore
  • Byes: Arizona, Houston, Jacksonville, Washington

(all lines are courtesy of oddshark.com as on 10/26)

So there you have it! Make sure you check back at Behind The Steel Curtain to stay updated on the contest. Even if you did not enter or have already been eliminated, feel free to check in and see how you would have fared each week.

Podcast: Down, but never out in Baltimore

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/27/2020 - 4:30pm

Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo take a look back into Steelers lore in the BTSC family of podcasts. Check out the latest episode of our newest offering. the “Steelers Retro Show“.

It’s time again to climb into the BTSC Delorean to revisit a Steelers’ game from yesteryear. With the Steelers playing in Baltimore to face their division foes on Sunday, let’s venture back to a time when the world was still mourning the loss of Princess Diana and Elton John’s update of his “Candle in the Wind” was all over the radio, movie-goers were checking out George Clooney in The Peacemaker and Glenn Jacobs finally found a place in professional wrestling, debuting that night as Kane. Meanwhile, the Steelers/Ravens rivalry was very young in 1997, but their third game together was a wild one that helped make it what it is today.

Welcome to October 5, 1997. Join BTSC’s Tony Defeo and Bryan Anthony Davis as they go back in time and relive this memorable matchup.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • What was happenin’ in 1997
  • A look back at the Steelers at Titans, 10/5/1997
  • and MUCH MORE!

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Chase Claypool shows he isn’t just amazing on the field, but off it too

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/27/2020 - 3:00pm
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ prized rookie is more than just a great player, he is a great person.

The Chase Claypool hype train pulled into the Pittsburgh Steelers’ station months ago, and while the former Notre Dame wide receiver has been dominating defensive backs this season, the one thing most fans don’t see is how he is a great person off the field.

Sure, we know his social media tweets and videos can be hilarious, but it isn’t often fans get to see behind the curtain of an NFL player and what kind of person they really are.

Recently, Claypool saw a video posted by a Steelers fan who had a father who was just diagnosed with dementia. He requested players to send him some memorabilia to help him remember the names of players on his favorite team.

One of the players mentioned in the video? You guessed it.

Chase Claypool.

On Claypool’s social media platform he posted a video of him watching the video, taking a jersey, signing it and taking to to the post office to send it to the fan mentioned in the video.

Check it out for yourself:

God bless ❤️ pic.twitter.com/9LCRNp4Y0X

— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) October 27, 2020

I’m sure players see these types of videos often, and how they handle these situation is certainly unique. Some might blow them off, while others have assistants do the work for them. Either way, kudos to Claypool for doing this for a Steelers fan.

You now see a different side to Claypool, and one which makes him even more impressive.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Power Rankings: The undefeated Steelers are at the top, but for how long?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/27/2020 - 2:00pm
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

After the Steelers’ red hot 6-0 start, they are at, or near, the top of the Power Rankings heading into Week 8.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, along with the rest of the NFL, are coming off the seventh week of a journey which has never been done in the history of the game. Playing games amidst a global pandemic.

The league has done tremendous work with protocols and adjustments to make sure this season goes off without a hitch, but even the best laid plans can have their bumps in the road. The Steelers experienced that first hand with an unexpected bye week after the Titans’ outbreak forced their Week 4 game to be moved.

Who do the experts think will be the team to beat this season? Power Rankings are one way to decipher who they like, or don’t like, at any particular juncture of the season. Heading into Week 8, there is a lot which can be expected. The Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens find themselves near the top of most rankings, while the Seattle Seahawks or up start Arizona Cardinals are everyone’s favorite now in the NFC.

Where do the Steelers fall? Well that depends. After a perfect start, almost everyone sees the black-and-gold as a Top 3 team. Take a look at some of the Power Rankings below, and be sure to let us know what you think of the rankings in the comment section below!

NFL.com

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. The Steelers fell into a funk in the second half against the Titans, but Stephen Gostkowski pushed a game-tying 45-yard field-goal attempt wide right to ensure a 27-24 Steelers win in Nashville. Ben Roethlisberger had an up-and-down day that included three interceptions, but the Pittsburgh offense continues to showcase its depth, with new playmakers stepping up each week. On Sunday, it was Diontae Johnson, who had two first-half touchdown receptions in his return from a back injury. JuJu Smith-Schuster also regained his place in the game plan, finishing with nine catches for 85 yards on a whopping 14 targets. Chase Claypool, the breakout star of recent weeks, was targeted just once and finished with one catch for minus-2 yards. The Steelers are 6-0 for the first time since 1978.”

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Baltimore Ravens
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Seattle Seahawks
7. Tennessee Titans
8. Buffalo Bills
9. Los Angeles Rams
10. New Orleans Saints

CBS Sports

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

“They made it interesting against the Titans, but they found a way late to get it done. Ben Roethlisberger can’t afford the mistakes he made in that game against Baltimore this week.”

2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Baltimore Ravens
4. Seattle Seahawks
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6. Green Bay Packers
7. Tennessee Titans
8. Buffalo Bills
9. Cleveland Browns
10. Los Angeles Rams

ESPN

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Who needs to step up: S Minkah Fitzpatrick

Yes, Fitzpatrick had a pick-six against the Browns. But he needs to make splash plays more consistently. The Steelers traded a first-round pick last season for Fitzpatrick, who delivered almost immediately. He has been much quieter this season. His biggest play against the Titans was a holding call that gave Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry a fresh set of downs on the goal line after a would-be stop. Henry scored on the next play. Fitzpatrick also missed a tackle of AJ Brown that led to Brown’s 73-yard touchdown. For the defense to play at the level it reached last season, Fitzpatrick needs to have a bigger positive impact on the game.”

2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Baltimore Ravens
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Tennessee Titans
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. Buffalo Bills
9. New Orleans Saints
10. Los Angeles Rams

The Sporting News

1 Kansas City Chiefs
2. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The Steelers have racked up a few style points along with their many regular points in their best start since 1978, or when they were in the middle of their first Super Bowl dynasty. The defense has been the backbone for Pittsburgh, but it’s been really about playing the right complementary football to win games, close and not.”

3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Baltimore Ravens
7. Tennessee Titans
8. New Orleans Saints
9. Buffalo Bills
10. Arizona Cardinals

Steelers vs. Bengals Week 10 game flexed to 4:25 PM

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/27/2020 - 1:20pm
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Steelers fans get the flexed game they were looking for, but not for another two weeks.

Some Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been anxiously awaiting a change in kickoff time for the Steelers’ upcoming schedule. Unfortunately, they forget that, unless there’s a COVID-19 issue, kickoff times are generally changed weeks ahead of time, not days.

The Steelers are still set to take on the Ravens this Sunday in Baltimore at 1 p.m. ET on CBS, but for those looking for more national games, they will be getting their wish as in Week 10.

It was announced Tuesday the Pittsburgh Steelers will be hosting the Cincinnati Bengals at 4:25 p.m. in a game televised on FOX. This per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor:

Week 10 change: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers game will move from 1:00 PM ET to 4:25 PM ET on FOX.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) October 27, 2020

The biggest concern with Steelers fans, when it comes to game times, is the ability to watch their beloved Steelers outside of the immediate Pittsburgh viewing area. In Week 7, almost the entire nation was able to view the Steelers defeat the Titans 24-27 in a 1 p.m. ET on CBS. This week, the Steelers will face the Ravens in a game most of the nation will see except for those living in other local markets with a team playing at the same time.

In peeking ahead at the schedule, the Steelers are currently set to be the national game on CBS in Week 9 as they travel to face the Dallas Cowboys. Adding a 4:25 p.m. ET game on the following week, most Steelers fans will be able to catch the majority of these games regardless of where they are located within the United States.

Following the Steelers Week 10 matchup with the Bengals, they are slated to have three prime time games in their final seven as they host the Ravens on Thanksgiving night, travel to Buffalo for Sunday Night Football in mid December, and will play in Cincinnati on Monday Night Football just before Christmas. Of course, due to flex scheduling, the Steelers could gain another prime time game as well as being flexed out of their current spot in regards to their game in Buffalo.

More importantly than the time of kickoff for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the quality of play is first and foremost in the minds of Steelers fans. Being able to view their team as they continue to stack victories is something fans hope to do each week.

Stay tuned to BTSC for continued coverage as the Steelers prepare to take on the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday.

There are several surprises in the Steelers Week 7 snap counts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/27/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The depth chart was a little surprising against the Titans.

The NFL season is a grind, and injuries occur both large and small, some don’t even make the injury reports. At the same time, coaches are scheming to find matchups that exploit the defense or better fit the game plan for that week. There are lots of things that can explain a small shift in the snap count pecking order.

But whatever the reasons, we saw some interesting changes to what we had been seeing so far this season.

Offense

Well, hello there Jaylen Samuels. A few weeks after I had written Samuels off because of his drop to 5th in running back snaps and his low number of special teams snaps, the running back out of N.C. State jumped all the way back up to second in snap counts. But it isn’t because he beat out Benny Snell as the No. 2 back.

Derek Watt was out again this week, and while defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux filled in for his fullback duties, Jaylen Samuels was on the field with James Conner in some of the Steelers wingback formations in Derek Watt’s spot. He ran a jet sweep for 5 yards and was open for a shovel pass on James Conner’s touchdown reception in the first quarter.

Jaylen Samuels thrived in Matt Canada’s system as a wingback in college, and he finally got his shot to play that role for the Steelers this week. Outside of Samuels, the running back snaps stand out because the balance the Steelers had been maintaining between the backs was scrapped in favor of playing James Conner the vast majority of the snaps. Conner played 66 snaps, the highest total and percentage of snaps Conner has played since November 25th of 2018. It also coincided with a pass heavy game plan and the second fewest runs by the Steelers in a game this season.

Also reaching a high snap count was Eric Ebron, who played the highest number of snaps that he has played for the Steelers, the fifth highest count of his career, and the highest since September 30th, 2018. Vance McDonald played only 35 snaps, his lowest total of the season.

Diontae Johnson returned to the Steelers line-up, and JuJu Smith-Schuster returned to the top of the receiver snap counts, hopefully that number, and his production in the game, are signs that the nagging knee injury that has had him on the injury report each week isn’t affecting him anymore.

Interestingly, the wide receiver room is down to Chase Claypool and Ray-Ray McCloud playing special teams, and Claypool only played 8 snaps, as his special teams work continues to be limited as he still leads the team in receiving yards.

Eighteen special teams snaps from the receiver room is a really low number for the Steelers.

Defense

The Steelers are the only undefeated team team in the NFL, and Minkah Fitzpatrick is the only Steeler to have played every snap on defense this season. Joe Haden lost his membership in that group by missing one snap in Week 7. The offense also has one player, Alejandro Villanueva, that has played all the offensive snaps.

If you look to the very bottom of the list of defensive snaps you will find something far more interesting. Jordan Dangerfield played one snap on defense. Right below him, Sean Davis played zero. This is a startling development. After all, when Sean Davis, the starting free safety was injured at the start of 2019, the Steelers started Kam Kelly at free safety, and even as Kam Kelly showed he was an enormous liability on the field, Jordan Dangerfield played only special teams.

When Sean Davis was brought back head coach Mike Tomlin lauded both Davis’s special teams ability and his ability to be a starter-quality backup at both free and strong safety. There should not be a role on defense that Jordan Dangerfield plays better than Sean Davis. Whatever is going on with the Steelers and Sean Davis is something to see how far Davis has fallen from a competent, but not flashy free safety to ranking below Jordan Dangerfield in a little over one year.

Another interesting move is the rise of Ulysees Gilbert III from the practice squad to playing linebacker ahead of Marcus Allen, who has held one of the 4 linebacker spots on the roster every game this season. The strange thing is Gilbert III played more special teams snaps than Allen as well. Meaning the Steelers had a player on the practice squad they like better on defense and on special teams than the guy that beat him out for a roster spot. I’ve been saying that Ulysees Gilbert III is in the dog house, and Week 7 seems to back that up. Because the snap counts from Week 7 tell us it wasn’t the level of play on the field that had Ulysees Gilbert III sitting behind Marcus Allen.

For a side note, it lines up nicely that the second game Mike Hilton (the last Isaac Redman award winner active for the Steelers this season) has missed since he first made the roster in 2017 was the game Ulysees Gilbert III made his return to the field, and his first game playing for the Steelers on defense. That keeps the streak of games with an Isaac Redman Award winner contributing to the Steelers defense since Week 7 of the 2015 season intact.

Lastly, Robert Spillane was on a limited snap count, and yet he only played 2 fewer snaps than Vince Williams did. Williams took on the harder assignments in the game, but it was good to see Robert Spillane play above the line in his first start. I praised Spillane in the offseason as being a more athletic version of Tyler Matakevitch, but now it looks like the Steelers may have found another Vince Williams. Hopefully Spillane can continue to develop and be a solid player for the Steelers as a reserve or starter in the future.

Steelers’ injury outlook not as bleak as many thought heading into Ravens week

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 10/27/2020 - 11:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers escaped the game vs. the Tennessee Titans rather healthy as they now prepare for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a hard fought victory over the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans in Week 7. The road doesn’t get any easier for the Steelers as they now focus their attention on the 5-1 Baltimore Ravens, coming off a bye week and at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD.

There are a lot of story lines to follow this week, but the biggest of them all might be the Steelers’ injury status of key players. During Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference Tuesday he talked about those players who left the game Sunday with injuries, as well as players who could be returning to the field in the Steelers’ second AFC North divisional game this Sunday.

Shockingly, the three players who left the game in Nashville last week were not specifically mentioned by Tomlin to kick off the press conference. Diontae Johnson (ankle), Chukwuma Okorafor (known) and Robert Spillane (shoulder) all returned to the game. Later in the press conference Tomlin was asked about Spillane’s shoulder, and Tomlin said it is fine and he shouldn’t miss any practice time because of it.

Some new injuries of note were to defensive lineman Chris Wormley and safety Jordan Dangerfield. Wormley suffered a knee injury which is being evaluated, and Dangerfield has a quadriceps injury which could hinder his practice time early in the week.

Other than the injuries suffered in Week 7, two player who missed the Titans game are slated to test their respective injuries this week to see if they can return. Those players would be cornerback Mike Hilton (shoulder) and Derek Watt (hamstring). Getting Hilton and Watt back would be a huge boost at their respective positions, and could help shape the Steelers’ active roster in this huge divisional game.

Outside of those injuries, the Steelers remain a relatively healthy football team who is now preparing for yet another huge test in the 2020 regular season. So far, the team has answered every challenge with the same result, a win, but the Baltimore Ravens on the road will be a huge test for the black and gold.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the huge AFC North showdown in Baltimore at 1 p.m. ET.

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