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Report: Bud Dupree files grievance to be classified as a defensive end

Behind the Steel Curtain - 1 hour 25 min ago
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

It appears a deal is nowhere close as Dupree wants to be listed at another position to make more money.

In the wake of Buccaneers linebacker Shaq Barrett filling a grievance with the NFL to be listed as a defensive end rather than an outside linebacker, Steelers left outside linebacker, Bud Dupree has filed a similar grievance.

Ian Rapoport tweeted the Steelers defensive standout filed the grievance in hopes of making more money. Defensive Ends make $2 million more than outside linebackers ($17,788,000 to be exact) on the franchise tender in 2020, and Dupree is hopeful to cash out.

#Steelers pass-rusher Bud Dupree has filed a grievance with hopes that he’ll be paid as a defensive end rather than a LB, I’m told. Similar to Shaq Barrett. While there is still some time to work something out, the sides are not close on a deal.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 10, 2020

The second part of the tweet might be the most noteworthy as RapSheet, notes that the Steelers and Bud aren't close on a contract extension. The two sides have until July 15 to work out a deal.

Dupree had signed his franchise tender days before the NFL draft worth a total of $15,828,000. His breakout 2020 season saw Dupree hit career highs in sacks (11.5) tackles (68) and forced fumbles (4).

The organization drafted Alex Highsmith in the 3rd round of the 2020 draft, and it seems more and more likely Highsmith could take over the job in 2021.

Over six months ago in early January, we posed this exact question here at Behind The Steel Curtain. It seems many did not feel Dupree had a case to be considered as a defense of end. On the other hand, there were plenty of those who saw this coming.

Good luck stopping @Bud_Dupree pic.twitter.com/7ORxgvTy7I

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 9, 2020

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions: Offseason, Vol. 27

Behind the Steel Curtain - 1 hour 48 min ago
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

There is always something to talk about when it comes to the black-and-gold!

Even though I’m finishing up my vacation, I still have to do my best to pull off the Friday Night Six Pack. While I have kept my responses to myself, I have read every comment the last several weeks and have really enjoyed getting to know members of our community even better. Hopefully I can keep coming up with engaging questions even as I stare at the ocean.

The rules are still the same...

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.

So here we go! With the formalities out of the way, it’s time to jump on in. Hopefully this party is exactly what you’re looking for on a Friday night. Here goes:

  1. As the Steelers continue to have players over perform over the last few decades, who is the most disappointing free agent loss the Steelers have ever had simply because they just couldn’t afford to keep them ?
  2. Including a wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs, who do you think will be the 3 players to lead the Steelers in receiving yards in 2020?
  3. Along the same lines, who are the 3 players you believe will lead the Steelers in receiving touchdowns in 2020? Are they the same answer?
  4. As I am preparing to return home from vacation, I have to wonder how others feel is the best method for traveling a significant distance: Driving, flying, or other? (Unfortunately I have not perfected my teleportation device at this time.)
  5. How big is your Steelers family? Are you a lone wolf, or do you have 75 cousins all cheering for the black and gold?
  6. Have you ever planned a vacation or significant gathering around the Steelers schedule? If not, have you ever had to miss a Steelers game due to a scheduling conflict? (I’m considering giving a prize to the best answer)

Stay safe out there, and hopefully you can use BTSC as a break from the craziness of life.

And it wouldn’t be a Friday night unless we said...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

The NFL’s Adam Schein doesn't think the Steelers are a complete team

Behind the Steel Curtain - 5 hours 3 min ago
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The NFL.com writer’s list even included multiple division rivals

NFL.com analyst Adam Schein ranked his top 9 complete teams this past week end, and he failed to include the Pittsburgh Steelers in any of those spots. The only thing holding Pittsburgh back from being a complete team is the information on the true status of Ben Roethlisberger.

If Roethlisberger can play then this is one of the most loaded rosters Kevin Colbert ever gave him. This defense could rival 2008 Steelers territory and while the offense isn't as good as the “Killer B’ era, it’s still above average among its NFL peers. But somehow this team isn't complete.

Just take a look at some of the teams Schein did include on his list:
The obvious names: Ravens, Chiefs, and 49ers
The close to Pittsburgh names: Saints
The ‘how are they above the Steelers’ names: Buccaneers, Bills, Cowboys, Browns(?),
The ‘slap in the face’ name: Colts

Now I think I'm taking the Steelers defense over probably every team listed above, and I would take the Steelers offense over the Colts, Bills, and Browns. Plus, if Ben is healthy I think that list would grow exponentially!

When it comes to the former No. 1 overall pick’s talent, the sky’s the limit. -Adam Schein on the Cleveland Browns

I think the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers are going to catch a lot of reporters and fans by surprise when they explode out of the gate. This team is primed for a run to back atop the AFC and a lot of it has to do with how complete they are as a unit. From top to bottom the Steelers are as loaded as they have been since the turn of the decade.

What do you think? Are the Steelers a complete team? Should they have been included on the list? Let us know in the comments below!

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Jarron Jones

Behind the Steel Curtain - 7 hours 3 min ago
Photo by Rob Tringali/XFL via Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

We are onto part 47 of our 90-part series — assuming the roster does not change before we are complete — which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s take a look at a defensive lineman turned offensive lineman turned XFLer:

Jarron Jones

Position: OT
Height: 6’ 4”
Weight: 316 lbs
College: Notre Dame
Draft: UDFA in 2017 (Giants)

2019 stats (XFL)

5 Games Played
5 Starts

Contract remaining

Expires in 2021
$610,000 salary cap number (0.30% of total cap)
$0 Dead money
$610,000 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

None. Jarron Jones is in a really tough spot heading into 2020. The length of his tryout with the Steelers is rapidly shrinking due to Covid-19, and the Steelers have a load of incumbent players that this coaching staff will probably defiantly favor in the current situation. The Steelers offensive line depth chart probably runs as followed:

LT Alejandro Villanueva, Chukwuma Okorafor
LG Matt Feiler, Stefen Wisniewski, Kevin Dotson
C Maurkice Pouncey, Wisniewski
RG David DeCastro, Wisniewski
RT Zach Banner, Chuks Okorafor

Which would account for 8 spots the line will have to carry for 2020. To carry another player would be because they stood out far above the rest, so making this team won't be easy.

2020 projection

Jarron Jones is out of practice squad availability and it appears his only way to stick in the NFL is to play so well in the preseason another team signs him to the main roster. Otherwise, Jones could be an easy cut.

Projected stats:

N/A —Cut

Summary

The Steelers offensive line has been one of the best units in the NFL for the better part of the last decade. They’ve been a well-oiled unit that is slowly growing. The Steelers do a great job of finding UDFA talent on the line, and while this might not be one of those times, I love that the Steelers chased after the ex-XFL guys in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh
Carlos Davis
David DeCastro
Christian DiLauro
Kevin Dotson
Bud Dupree
Eric Ebron
Terrell Edmunds
Trey Edmunds
Matt Feiler
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Zach Gentry
Ulysees Gilbert III
Derwin Gray
Joe Haden
J.C. Hassenauer
Quadree Henderson
Dewayne Hendrix
Cam Heyward
Alex Highsmith
Mike Hilton
Devlin Hodges
John Houston
Anthony Johnson
Diontae Johnson

Every team in the AFC North views the Steelers as their biggest rival

Behind the Steel Curtain - 8 hours 33 min ago
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Steelers being the gold standard in the AFC North was something we already knew, but here’s the data to support it.

Last week, BTSC dove into looking at who the Steelers biggest rival was in 2020. In doing so, I made the statement each of the other AFC North teams saw the Steelers as their chief rival within the division and across the entire league. After compiling the data through SB Nation Reacts, my suspicions were confirmed as the Steelers came in as the overwhelming rival for each of the AFC North teams.

The team’s fan base who believed the Steelers were the biggest rival in the AFC North who had the lowest percentage was actually the Cleveland Browns. Just under 85% of Browns fans considered the Steelers is their biggest rival as around 13% viewed the Baltimore Ravens as their chief competition. It is interesting since the city of Cleveland has always had a disliking for the Ravens as they are actually their former franchise. Even after Baltimore has won two straight division titles, Browns fans look more to the Steelers rather than the Ravens.

As for the Cincinnati Bengals, they came in with about 88% of their fans viewing the Steelers as their biggest rival in the NFL.

One of the more surprising developments wasn’t the fact the Baltimore Ravens viewed the Pittsburgh Steelers as their chief rival, but the overwhelming response to the votes. According to SB Nation Reacts, all 100% of the Ravens fan base who voted in the poll chose the Steelers as their biggest rival.

As for the Steelers results, 95% of the fan base views the Ravens as the Steelers chief rival which falls very close to our own poll from last week. The remaining votes were an even split between the Browns and the Bengals.

Some other interesting data showed both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Las Vegas Raiders voted the Steelers their biggest rival outside of their own division.

When it came to overall rivalries across the NFL, the Steelers-Ravens rivalry came in a very close second just behind the Bears and Packers.

Honestly, the numbers came back much how I expected. As most Steeler fans know, the black and gold is the standard of the AFC North and still the team to beat by every team involved. As for the Steelers and the Ravens rivalry as a whole, the only thing keeping them back from being the top rivalry in the NFL is the 100-year historic nature of the Packers and Bears.

The Steelers offensive plan for the 2020 season is coming together nicely

Behind the Steel Curtain - 10 hours 3 min ago
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers adhered to a well constructed plan this offseason to improve the offense which almost mirrored my own.

The last couple of post seasons have been pretty rough on Steelers Nation. Not only have our beloved Steelers missed the playoffs for two years in a row, but the Steelers have been faced with the unknown concerning some of their best offensive weapons due to injuries and mental instability. All the while, the Steelers window of opportunity has grown increasingly smaller due to Ben Roethlisberger's advancing age.

The Steelers hierarchy needed a plan, and needed to implement it immediately. This off season they went about doing just that.

After the Steelers torturous season finale against the Ravens and the underwhelming NFL postseason, at least in my book, I sat down and outlined a two-fold plan. A plan that would dictate my articles throughout the off season, based theoretically on what steps the Steelers front office needed to take to improve the offense and help the franchise return triumphantly to the playoffs.

First off, the Steelers needed NFL caliber performance from the QB position obviously. They also desperately needed an injection of speed into the backfield. Next item on the wishlist was the addition of a receiver or two with length to the receiver's meeting room. Finally, an injection of youth and power along an experienced offensive line.

At the conclusion of the free agency period and the NFL Draft, it became all too clear the Steelers recognized the same deficiencies. At first glance, the Steelers appear to have expertly filled each area of concern.

The first area of need was the easiest to alleviate. All it required was a little time and patience. Time was needed for Ben Roethlisberger’s surgically repaired elbow to mend. Patience was necessary to trust the rehab process, plus Ben's unquestioned desire to return to form. So far, so good. Ben looks fit and trim, and sounds extremely motivated to lead the Steelers to another title.

The second issue was the focal point of a few of my articles this offseason. I surmised and suggested the Steelers brass look into the availability via trade of speed merchant backs Phillip Lindsay and Matt Breida, players who were rumored to be disenchanted with their current situations. Each possessed the big play, game changing abilities which were sorely lacking in the Steelers backfield last season.

The Steelers love to build through the draft, and they value their draft capital, so they addressed the need as they are prone to do—through the draft. Anthony McFarland Jr. definitely fills the Steelers need for speed out of the backfield. As a rookie, he will be tasked with learning a specific group of plays where he will be able to contribute immediately without the pressure of overwhelming responsibility. He can also contribute right out of the gate on special teams.

They even added fullback Derek Watt to the equation via free agency. He can immediately impact the running and passing games with his blocking and receiving out of the backfield, along with being a special teams standout.

Then the Steelers added wide receiver Chase Claypool in the draft and tight end Eric Ebron as a free agent. Both gentlemen are blessed with length which equates to a superior catch radius. They create mismatches whenever they step on the field, especially in the redzone.

While Ebron is an established veteran who should need little time to gel with his Hall of Fame caliber quarterback, Claypool is a rookie. As mentioned earlier concerning McFarland, Claypool will only be responsible for learning a limited package of plays specifically designed for his skill set, this way he will be able to play meaningful minutes right out of the gate. This will be especially important considering the greatly reduced or maybe even nonexistent preseason due to COVID concerns.

For example, I can see Claypool getting his feet wet so to speak at first by utilizing his superior blocking ability in the running game. He will probably be targeted early on some of those back shoulder throws Ben loves to throw where his size and reach will make him nearly impossible to defend. Once the offense reaches the redzone, with Ebron and Claypool on the field together, good luck to opposing defenses trying to match up.

Finally, the injection of youth along the offensive line settled itself with the somewhat unexpected retirement of longtime line stalwart Ramon Foster. Mike Tomlin's corresponding move to address the opening at left guard reportedly is to move Matt Feiler to guard, and let the combination of Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor battle it out for the right tackle spot. While it remains to be seen if this will be the line configuration that starts the season, or if the addition of youth improves the lines mobility and quickness, the line undoubtedly got younger. Hopefully it will lead to marked improvement and consistency.

The Steelers appear to have addressed their concerns on offense across the board. The conditions are optimal for a triumphant return to prominence for Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020.

In the words of the immortal George Peppard character Hannibal Smith in the 80's television series The A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together."

I don't know about you, but I am beyond ready to get this party started.

4 Steelers on their rookie contracts who could be on track for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Behind the Steel Curtain - 11 hours 48 min ago
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Examining the Hall of Fame credentials for some of the Steelers’ younger players

One of the most exciting aspects of the current Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster is the young corps of starters the team has built.

Not only can this group of newcomers greatly improve the Steelers’ chances at a Super Bowl title in the near future, but they are also providing hope for the team post-Ben Roethlisberger. Even though some of the Steelers’ best players are veterans, there is enough talent among the team’s youth to warrant looking forward to the future.

While team achievements, mainly Super Bowl rings, are the final goal for both players and fans, individual accolades are quite the honor as well. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the greatest of such for an NFL player. Could a Steelers youngster, still on their rookie deal, be on track for Canton?

The four young stars mentioned in this article aren’t the only Steelers who could be on track for the Hall of Fame. There are five veterans on the team who could be fitted for a gold jacket sometime in the near future. You can read the article analyzing these modern Steelers greats HERE.

As for the the young players who could find themselves in the discussion several years from now, let’s take a very early look.

OLB T.J. Watt

Career Stats: 47 games played, 177 total tackles, 125 solo tackles, 34.5 sacks, 36 tackles for loss

Career Accolades: 2x Pro Bowler, 1x All Pro

The Steelers have plenty of stars on their defense, but T.J. Watt shines the brightest. The young outside linebacker has become perhaps the best pass-rusher in the league over his first three years in the NFL and he still hasn’t reached his ceiling.

Watt hit career highs in sacks (14.5) and tackles for loss (14) last year in an excellent season in which he came very close to winning Defense Player of the Year. There’s little doubt he’ll be in the conversation for years to come. Watt impressed when it came to takeaways as well, showing a knack for forced fumbles (15 in his career), and even in coverage, with 3 career interceptions.

His Hall of Fame chances are looking good despite a relatively small sample size of work. Watt has shined when it comes to stats and Pro Bowl/All Pro nods, and should have quite the résumé by the time his career in Pittsburgh winds down. If he can continue on the pace he’s on, and add a few DPOY awards and/or a Super Bowl rings, he could be a lock for the Hall of Fame. Watt has a lot of years left in his career to determine his legacy, but the odds are in his favor when it comes to Canton.

S Minkah Fitzpatrick

Career Stats: 32 games played, 149 total tackles, 95 solo tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 7 interceptions

Career Accolades: 1x Pro Bowler, 1x All Pro

Minkah Fitzpatrick’s Hall of Fame case is very simple. Either he can replicate his excellent 2019 season in Pittsburgh for the rest of his career, or he’ll drop back down to earth and finish his career as an above-average, but not Hall of Fame worthy, safety.

Fitzpatrick was traded from Miami to Pittsburgh early on last season and never looked back, totaling 5 interceptions and becoming a key cog in the Steelers’ return to defensive dominance. He was recognized as the game-changing player he is, being voted to the Pro Bowl and All Pro team in 2019. It’s far too early to make any Hall of Fame predictions for Fitzpatrick, as his two wildly different NFL seasons haven't provided enough evidence to point his career in any specific direction. Regardless of whether or not he finds his way to the Hall of Fame, the Steelers’ trade for Fitzpatrick looks better and better each day.

LB Devin Bush

Career Stats: 16 games played, 109 total tackles, 72 solo tackles, 2 interceptions

Career Accolades: 0x Pro Bowler, 0x All Pro

A small sample size of games is a very common theme for the players mentioned in this article, and Bush has the smallest. His one and only year in the NFL was impressive, however, leading to him gaining a spot on this list.

Bush’s only NFL season — his rookie year — was full of ups and downs, but it’s the potential he showed for his future which could point to a legendary career. The top-10 pick had impressive production last season, and even though he didn't make it to the Pro Bowl, he proved he is on the right track to make it there and beyond throughout his career. As an extremely athletic linebacker, Bush’s ceiling is sky-high, and he's a fast learner who should excel for years to come in Pittsburgh. A Hall of Famer? Not yet by any means, but Devin Bush’s career should be a fun one to watch for fans of the black and gold.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Career Stats: 42 games played, 211 receptions, 2895 receiving yards, 17 receiving touchdowns

Career Accolades: 1x Pro Bowler, 0x All Pro

JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a down year in 2019, erasing many of the high hopes Steelers fans had for him after his impressive first two years in the NFL. Even though Smith-Schuster looks more like a “hall of very good” player at best, he still has a surprisingly good chance at making it to the Hall of Fame.

It’s often forgotten just how young Smith-Schuster is, as he’s a three-year NFL veteran who’s only 23 years old. He still hasn't reached his prime yet and has shown the ability to compete at an elite level, meaning that we could see a much-improved Juju in the future. Smith-Schuster broke Randy Moss’ record in 2019 to be the youngest receiver to amass 2,500 receiving yards in NFL history, putting him on the right track for some insane career statistics.

Most Steelers fans would agree that Smith-Schuster doesn't seem to be a Hall of Fame-level player. This could very well be the case, but his excellent career numbers so far and an improved 2020 season could definitely put him back into the Canton conversation.

This list was made for young Steelers players with a shot at greatness, but the man that brought them all to the team should get some attention as well. Kevin Colbert, the Steelers’ longtime general manager, has long been a brilliant guiding force in the team's many successful personnel decisions. Colbert has won two Super Bowls, and drafted some legendary players such as Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu. He’s pulled off some impressive trades as well, such as acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick from Miami, or managing to trade Antonio Brown to Oakland. Like every other GM, Colbert’s record isn't flawless, but throughout his 20-year career as a member of the Steelers’ front office he’s shown enough to deserve some consideration for the Hall of Fame.

Any Steelers player still on the rookie contract has plenty of time to turn their career into one worthy of the Hall of Fame. Diontae Johnson had a promising rookie year last season, but unlike the other’s mentioned on the list, he didn't separate himself from the pack enough to be included. That being said, Johnson looks to be the next great Steelers receiver, and the expectations should be sky-high for his sophomore act and beyond.

Yes, it’s still very early for all of these players on their rookie contracts. Who do you think is most worthy to be on track for the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

5 reasons why the Steelers could miss the postseason again in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - 13 hours 3 min ago
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not that any of these things are likely, but if the Steelers falter in 2020 it could possibly be due to one or more of these reasons.

Pittsburgh fans are expecting good things once their beloved Steelers take the field for the 2020 season. I even wrote a piece earlier this week about how the Steelers should be contenders this season. But what if the team comes up short again? What if fans are asking “why?” once more at season’s end? If—and this is definitely an “if” statement—this unfortunately ends up being the case, it will probably be due to one or more of the following reasons.

No. 5: The real contenders in the AFC are just that, while the Steelers are pretenders

Did the Steelers do enough during the offseason to get better? Did they acquire the right talent to be able to compete with AFC powerhouses like the Super Bowl-champion Chiefs and two-time AFC North-champion Ravens? I know most fans would like to think so, that Pittsburgh simply needed its franchise quarterback to return in-order to ascend back up to the ranks of AFC contender. However, what if the Steelers offseason additions that included tight end Eric Ebron weren’t enough to close the gap between them and the team with the reigning Super Bowl MVP in Patrick Mahomes or the team with the reigning NFL MVP in Lamar Jackson?

For that matter, what if they’re not even on par with teams like the Browns, who will probably be good one of these days?

No. 4: Too many pandemic distractions

Coaches hate distractions. Players hate distractions. Unfortunately for all NFL coaches and players, 2020 figures to be nothing but one huge distraction, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic that is already threatening to shutdown the entire preseason. Players must deal with socially distancing themselves in locker rooms, team meetings, and will probably be discouraged from hanging out together after work hours. Furthermore, there will likely be very few if any fans in NFL stadiums in 2020, which may go a long way in subduing the intensity most football players must summon in order to play a violent sport. Also, players—maybe even really important players—may be lost for a period of time due to testing positive for the virus.

Which teams will have the mettle to deal with this “new normal”? Will the Steelers be one of them? I recently wrote that, thanks to their never-flinching head coach Mike Tomlin, they will likely be one of the teams that doesn’t blink during what figures to be the most unusual season in league history.

But that doesn’t necessarily make it so.

No. 3: The Steelers defense regresses in 2020

On paper, the Steelers defense appears to have all the talent necessary to repeat its epic showing from 2019 when it finished fifth in total yards, first in takeaways with 38, and first in sacks (again) with 54. But the NFL has a habit of figuring teams out, specifically certain units. What if this happens in 2020? What if some key players simply have down years? That’s been known to happen, right? What if the sacks stay the same, but the thing which truly took the defense to a new level a year ago—takeaways—drops off? There are many who are of the opinion that takeaways are largely a matter of luck. I don’t tend to agree. No, I think excelling at takeaways is largely the result of having many play-makers who specialize in wreaking havoc and having a nose for the football. The Steelers appear to have a bunch of players like this. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t regress in taking the football away in 2020. If they do, will it help to neutralize what seems to be an elite defense?

No. 2: A key injury to a defensive player

It was no secret that the Steelers were thin at various positions heading into the 2020 offseason, including many on the defensive side of the ball. Until further notice, the Steelers have unproven backups at outside linebacker, inside linebacker, cornerback and safety. While they have stars at all of those positions, if a serious injury would befall one of them, well, that could spell trouble.

I don’t think the Steelers defense is as ill-equipped to handle a major loss as it was in 2017 when Ryan Shazier was lost in December with a serious spinal injury, but you remove T.J. Watt, Joe Haden, Minkah Fitzpatrick or even Vince Williams from that unit, and it could once again be a defense ripe for the picking.

No. 1: Big Ben is a Big Bum, despite being 100 percent healthy

Many folks—including yours truly—are under the assumption that a Ben Roethlisberger who is 100 percent recovered from major elbow surgery will be a Ben Roethlisberger who is back to his old self or at least close enough to it to be really effective once again.

But what if that’s not the case? He is 38 years old, and he wouldn’t be the first quarterback to fall off a cliff around this age. Peyton Manning was 39 in 2015, his last in the NFL, and the drop off in arm strength and effectiveness even from his previous year was pretty noticeable.

No athlete has ever defeated Father Time, and Big Ben won’t be the first. One of these days, his unique physical gifts and talents will fail him for good. What if it’s this year?

Of course, it will be some time before we know if any of these reasons end up costing the Steelers a chance at the postseason. Hopefully it ends up being a question which never gets to be asked.

Podcast: What trades or cheap additions could the Steelers explore before camp?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 14 hours 3 min ago

In the latest episode of “The Steelers Preview” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold from the week that was in Steeler Nation.

The 2020 Steelers have a seemingly complete starting 22 going into training camp. However, depth in this generation of the NFL seems to be always an issue. With several reserve positions needing strengthening, the Steelers could entertain a free agent pickup or trade before the season starts. Who could be options for Kevin Colbert to add? Join BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and Michael Beck minus the vacationing Dave Schofield as they discuss this burning topic and more.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Michael and BAD break down all things Steelers.

  • News and Notes
  • What trades or cheap additions could work for the Steelers before the opener?
  • Steelers Q&A
  • Steelets Trivia
  • 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.

Black and Gold Links: Eric Ebron is ready to show his ankle issue is not a factor for 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - 15 hours 3 min ago
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the NFL has cancelled the 2020 Hall of Fame Game and cut the preseason to an undetermined amount of games 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 a look at the progress Eric Ebron has shown this offseason as he returns from his season-ending ankle injury in 2019.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Steelers new tight end Eric Ebron is ready to go for the 2020 season

Ebron proving ankle injury is in the past

By: Jeff Hartman, DK Pittsburgh Sports

Eric Ebron knows what fans and experts say about him. How he is an immense talent, but struggles staying healthy. After the Steelers acquired him via free agency this offseason, even the fan base had concerns.

Concerns over his health, and pairing him with another tight end, Vance McDonald, who also has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career.

Some even compared Ebron to Ladarius Green.

While Ebron certainly is aware of what is being said, he solely has focused on getting himself right for the 2020 season. It all starts with an ankle injury that plagued his 2019 season and limited his effectiveness for the Colts.

Last season, Ebron played in 11 games, starting two of those, catching just 31 passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns. It was a precipitous drop off from his 2018 Pro Bowl season when he played in all 16 games, caught 66 passes for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Steelers fans, rightfully so, want to know if Ebron’s ankle injury is in the past, or if it will sideline him early in training camp when players report at the end of the month. If Ebron’s social media has proven anything this offseason, it is that his ankle is doing just fine.

Take a look at some of the videos posted both by Ebron, and the Footwork King, a renowned trainer who works with all levels of athletes to improve footwork, speed and agility.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Previewing both matchups this season against Baltimore

Countdown to 2020: The Ravens

By: Mike Prisuta, Steelers.com

Date: Oct. 25

Time: 1 p.m.

Venue: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

Date: Nov. 26

Time: 8:20 p.m.

Venue: Heinz Field

All-Time Regular-Season Series: Steelers lead, 25-23. The Steelers also lead the all-time postseason series, 3-1.

Last Meeting: Both quarterbacks threw for fewer than 100 yards (Baltimore’s Robert Griffin III had 96 and Devlin Hodges had 95) and both teams turned the ball over twice in the regular-season final on Dec. 29 in Baltimore, a contest in which the playoff-bound Ravens rested a significant number of starters. The difference was the Ravens gained 223 of their 304 total net yards on the ground in a resounding, rain-soaked 28-10 victory in Baltimore. RB Gus Edwards piled up 130 yards rushing on 21 carries and Griffin II had 50 on eight carries. The Ravens also defeated the Steelers, 26-23, in overtime, on Oct. 6 at Heinz Field. The Steelers have outscored the Ravens by seven points, 964-957, in the teams’ 48 all-time regular-season meetings.

Last Season: The Ravens went 14-2 and finished first in the AFC North. Baltimore ranked second in total offense (first rushing, 27th passing) and fourth in total defense (fifth rushing, sixth passing). The Ravens were upset at home in their playoff opener, an AFC Divisional Round meeting with Tennessee, 28-12.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Zach Banner tells it how it is, even if it means calling out the work habits of others

Banner questions some players’ motives

By: Jeff Hartman, DK Pittsburgh Sports

The NFL has been sitting pretty during the offseason, waiting and watching to see what Major League Baseball, the NHL and NBA do as it comes to returning to play amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Time is running out, and as the rubber meets the road, there are some new wrinkles in discussions that need ironed out.

The most recent issue that has players scratching their heads is the league reportedly asking them to move some of their 2020 salary to escrow to offset the losses the league will endure if no fans are in the seats this season.

To suggest this went over like a lead balloon might be an understatement.

The players union essentially told the league to go kick rocks. But with this being just one of the issues facing the league and the players association, some are wondering what is holding players back from doing whatever it takes to get back on the field. The health of players, testing and protocol side of the debate is obvious, but Zach Banner is wondering if there isn’t something else which is keeping players from being all-in for the upcoming season.

He took to his verified Twitter page to sound off about it.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

The best Steelers to wear the number 99

If the Steelers need depth at safety, the Jets may have yet another option

There is no reason the Steelers can’t contend in 2020

Devin Bush has learned quickly from his mistakes in the NFL

The Steelers answer a few items about tickets for the 2020 season, but many questions remain

  • Social Media Madness

Who wants this mini helmet signed by @JamesConner_? ✍️

RT this for a chance to win it! pic.twitter.com/7DWO0dGx8k

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 9, 2020

Bad idea: Throw the ball in Mel Blount's direction #tbt pic.twitter.com/CKnHaoTy2z

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 9, 2020

Conner juking on the beach! #Steelers pic.twitter.com/NFw0m0Z3x9

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) July 9, 2020

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Diontae Johnson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

Coming back down the other side of the mountain with part 46 of our 90-part series — assuming the roster does not change before we are complete — which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s dive into the second team All-Pro sensation:

Diontae Johnson

Position: WR
Height: 5’ 10”
Weight: 183 lbs
College: Toledo
Draft: 3rd round, 66th Overall in 2019

2019 stats

59 Receptions
680 Receiving Yards
5 Touchdowns
4 Rush Attempts
41 yards
20 Punt Returns
248 Return Yards
1 Return touchdown

Contract remaining

Expires in 2022
$972,946 salary cap number (0.48% of total cap)
$283,357 Dead money
$689,589 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Lock. Diontae Johnson has potential to become the centrepiece of this offense. The other members of the core four receivers of JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Chase Claypool should help Diontae find better matchups and allow him to get open. There is a good chance Johnson leads all Steelers receivers in receptions, yards, and scores, not to mention he’s a second team All-Pro kick returner. So yeah, he’s not going anywhere.

2020 projection

Johnson is going to reap the benefits of a returning Ben Roethlisberger. He already led all rookies in receiving yards in 2019 and he did that with out the future hall of famer at quarterback. Johnson’s clean route running and ability to get open have led to some Antonio Brown or Golden Tate like comparisons. Johnson should put up some serious stats in 2020

Projected stats:

87 Receptions
1,163 Receiving Yards
6 Touchdowns
3 Rush Attempts
38 yards

Summary

Diontae Johnson will hopefully continue his upward ascent into the upper echelon of NFL receivers. He was already arguably the best at his position among rookies a year ago but almost got no credit. Fans from around the league don't realize the impact left by Johnson in year one and it could lead to an explosion out of the gate. Expect Dionte to crack the 1000 yard threshold in 2020.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh
Carlos Davis
David DeCastro
Christian DiLauro
Kevin Dotson
Bud Dupree
Eric Ebron
Terrell Edmunds
Trey Edmunds
Matt Feiler
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Zach Gentry
Ulysees Gilbert III
Derwin Gray
Joe Haden
J.C. Hassenauer
Quadree Henderson
Dewayne Hendrix
Cam Heyward
Alex Highsmith
Mike Hilton
Devlin Hodges
John Houston
Anthony Johnson

The Steelers need depth at safety and Marcus Maye is reportedly available

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Safety depth has been a concern all offseason this fixes that.

New York Jets head coach, Adam Game reportedly pushed hard for the organization to trade away safety Marcus Maye in 2019. A deal was never completed, but after the addition of Ashtyn Davis the Jets might again be taking phone calls on the Florida alum.

Entering the final year of his entry deal, Maye would only cost the Steelers a very manageable $1,358,730. He would also immediately bolster the Steelers safety depth chart and allow the team to play with 3 safeties on the field at a time.

Currently the Steelers safety depth chart is quite sparse. After Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds it looks like this: Special teamer’s Jordan Dangerfield and Marcus Allen and 2020 6th round pick Antoine Brooks Jr. Not exactly sterling, especially if an injury occurred.

Marcus Maye even put up some really good numbers a year ago including:
65 tackles
1 interception (against the Steelers)
14 passes defensed

Adding that much more production to an already stacked unit seems unfair, but this trade is well within grasp. Another reason why this is a trade that could actually happen is because the Steelers built a reputation with Maye back at his pro-day in 2017 he would then go on to have one of the best games of his career vs Pittsburgh in 2019 and effectively ended their season.

While Jamal Adams is the big fish in the trade pool right now, Marcus Maye is an affordable and believable option for the club if they decided to get serious about safety depth. If so, this is the option the team needs to explore.

What do you think? Should the Steelers go after Marcus Maye? What would you offer to acquire him? Let us know down in the comments below!

Numero Uni: Who were the most notable Steelers to wear number 99?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 11:00am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

In a countdown of the most prolific Steelers jerseys of all time, No. 99 comes in 8th place.

BTSC continues to rank the best numbers in team history on a standpoint of thriving over time throughout multiple players. It seems there are a few numbers which are always represented with quality play in Steelers lore. One BTSC author has wondered aloud “what is the most accomplished number in Steelers history?” Through player and jersey value rankings found in Pro Football Reference, we have ranked the most successful numbers in Steelers history worn by multiple players. You won’t see numbers like 12, 58, 75, 31, 32, 52, 59, 36 and 47 as it would be basically ranking an individual player over the other and not the cumulative effort. In today’s submission, we take a look at those ranked 8th. Enjoy.

8) No. 99

Most Notable: Brett Keisel 2002-2014 (pictured below), Levon Kirkland (1992-2000), Darryl Sims 1985-1986

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Current Wearer: Henry Mondeaux 2019-Present

Darryl Sims is only listed here for being a No. 1 selection out of Wisconsin in 1985. He goes down as one of the biggest misses in the first stanza ever. Maybe a consolation prize, but the Steelers were reported to be heavily interested in Jerry Rice. The 49ers didn’t want to miss out on the Mississippi Valley State star and traded their first two picks to New England at No. 16. The Steelers with the 20th pick went with the defensive lineman from Wisconsin. Sims is Top Ten all-time for tackles for a loss and sacks for the Badgers, but his two seasons in Pittsburgh were only memorable for being subpar. Post football success was enjoyed by Sims as an NFL assistant for the Raiders and as a chancellor/AD at Wisconson Oshkosh.

A team-MVP in 1998 and 1999, Lorenzo Levon Kirkland was a long-time stalwart and leader on the defense and a member of the great Blitzburgh corps that featured Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene and Chad Brown. A second-round selection out of Clemson in 1992, the Consensus All-American was an amazing physical specimen that manned one half of the middle for nine seasons in Pittsburgh, six of those seasons with over 100 combined tackles. The two-time All-Pro cranked out 808 tackles, 19.5 sacks and 11 picks in his Steelers playing days. After leaving the Steelers after the 2000 season, Levon spent a season each with Seattle and Philadelphia before retiring. These Days, No. 99 is an outside linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals. Kirkland was named to the All-Decade team for the 90s and is considered an all time great in the Steel City.

Most seventh-round selections aren’t expected to spend 13 seasons in the NFL, but a player known for his tackling prowess and a long, bushy beard did just that and became one of the most popular Steelers in recent history as well. Brett Keisel didn’t play right away in the Steel City, in fact he missed his entire second season due to a shoulder injury. “Da Beard” became a starter when Kimo von Oelhoffen left after the Super Bowl XL campaign and became a mainstay on the defensive line. Keisel was a team leader that brought grit and stability to the defense, tackling opposing players 409 times and recording 30 sacks in his career. Brett won rings in Super Bowl XL and XLIII and was finally selected to the Pro Bowl after the Super Bowl XLV season of 2010. Despite being released in 2013, Brett Keisel stayed in Pittsburgh and became a pillar of the community.

Check back soon for the 7th best jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the most prolific jersey number stables in Steelers history. But first, a recap of the countdown so far.

Honorable Mention: No. 51, No. 93, No. 27 and No. 33
25) No. 24
24) No. 43
23) No. 83
22) No. 67
21) No. 53
20) No. 10
19) No. 20
18) No. 63
17) No. 50
16) No. 34
15) No. 78
14) No. 98
13) No. 68
12) No. 77
11) No. 56
10) No. 86
9) No. 73

I see no reason why the Steelers can’t be serious contenders in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Call me crazy, but I think the Steelers will be better in 2020 than many people realize.

You hear something long enough, and from enough people, you start to accept it as gospel.

As it pertains to the prospects of the Steelers being actual contenders in 2020, the opinion held my many this offseason is that they won’t be, at least not on the same level as the Chiefs, Ravens and even the Tom Brady-less Patriots.

Can they win the AFC North? That seems doubtful to many. How about clinching one of the now three wildcard spots that will be available since the NFL decided to add a seventh playoff seed to each conference? If they’re lucky, the Steelers may be able to nab the old last seed, but more than likely, they’ll have to settle for the new last seed.

I just don’t get it.

I don’t understand why so many people are down on this franchise in 2020. Is it me? Am I living in a bubble (I think that’s now the law)? Do I just not see how bad Pittsburgh truly is, even with a healthy and in-shape Ben Roethlisberger poised to return as the starting quarterback?

I realize Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are long-gone, but we knew that heading into last season, and last season, there was talk of the Steelers being at least as good as ever thanks to team harmony and a lack of locker room distractions.

Obviously, that didn’t happen, but only because of the loss of Roethlisberger in Week 2. Without him, and with receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner struggling to perform and also stay healthy a year ago, Pittsburgh’s offense hit many potholes.

But the defense sure didn’t.

In fact, what a fun group to watch, right? Out of nowhere, the Steelers defense went from mediocre—and that was after many years of being even less than that—to a bona fide force.

This was in the works for years, but the offseason additions of cornerback Steven Nelson and inside linebacker Devin Bush, as well as the in-season acquisition of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (especially him) were the finishing touches which put the defense over the top.

Does anyone really expect a huge drop-off from this defense in 2020? Maybe the loss of Javon Hargrave to free agency will hurt, but will it hurt all that much if Stephon Tuitt stays healthy all year?

Not only do I think Hargrave’s loss won’t hurt all that much with a healthy Tuitt around, I expect Keith Butler’s unit to reach another level. T.J. Watt has yet to win Defensive Player of the Year. Bud Dupree still wants his money. Fitzpatrick still has yet to freelance.

As for the offense, do you really expect it to average 18 points again? I sure don’t. It seemed to me a huge dose of No. 7 could have gone a long way toward winning the Steelers two or three more games last year, even without Smith-Schuster at his best, even without Conner healthy for much of the season.

The offensive line is getting older, and there will be at least one question mark at right tackle which needs to be answered by a youngin’—Chukwuma Okorafor or Zach Banner. But it’s still a formidable unit. There’s still talent at the top of the depth chart and, in addition to Okorafor and Banner, even some waiting in the wings.

To reiterate, maybe I’m drinking the black and gold Kool-Aid (The thought of what flavor it would actually be makes me cringe), but the 2020 edition could actually be one of the more complete teams in recent Steelers history.

That’s right, even more complete than the mid-2010s versions that boasted the Killer B’s. You remember those teams, don’t you? They’re the ones people used to refer to as “The most talented in all the land and/or the history of the NFL.” In actuality, those teams had two All-Pro skill-position players, a decorated offensive line at the height of its powers, a future Hall of Fame passer, and Ryan Shazier.

That’s about it.

It was actually quite apparent at the time, but nobody really wanted to admit it because we all had Lombardi trophies and parades dancing around in our heads.

This team could actually be better than those teams.

What I see with the Steelers in 2020 is a team that may simply need its future Hall of Fame passer back. You add him to the mix, Smith-Schuster and Conner return to their 2018 forms—or as close to them as possible—throw in a really good, young receiving corps, a decent running back stable, two pretty good tight ends and a line that won’t be tortured all season by eight and nine-man fronts, well, how can that offense not be productive?

Add in a now very elite defensive unit, and I see big things from the Steelers this fall and winter.

Am I crazy? Do I have too much faith in Big Ben and the boys?

What’s the over/under for wins for the Steelers? Nine, right?

I’ll take the over.

Film Room: Devin Bush’s best attribute is his learning curve

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Devin Bush has elite athleticism but his football intelligence is even more impressive.

When the Steelers traded up to the 10th spot in the 2019 NFL draft to select Devin Bush, I was ecstatic. I was born in Michigan, to a Michigan family, and I’ve followed Wolverines football longer than I have followed any NFL football. I loved being able to continue cheering for Devin Bush, but more than that, I was excited that the Steelers solved their inside linebacker hole with the best fit for their system that I had seen in years.

Devin Bush faced immediate comparisons to Steelers inside linebackers James Farrior and Ryan Shazier, but he didn’t remind me of either of those players. He reminded me of another inside linebacker that Steelers fans know very, very well. Devin Bush reminded me then, and now, of a young Ray Lewis.

I need to put in the caveat that I’m not saying Devin Bush will be Ray Lewis, just that his style of play is very similar. The era is different, his role won’t be the same, but they bring similar skills on the field.

But the best attribute Devin Bush put on film in 2019 was how fast he eliminated flaws and mistakes from his game. Let’s start with his strength at the start of the 2019 season.

Defending inside runs

Devin Bush has great vision, he finds the right hole and fills it. He also handles taking on blockers well.

Week 3, 1st quarter, 15:00. Devin Bush(#55) is the inside linebacker to the left side of the screen.

Devin Bush sets up in the run lane, takes on Kyle Juszczyk, and makes the tackle. It’s a five yard gain, but Bush making this play keeps the defensive backs from having to stop a running back, and the fewer times a defense asks safeties and corners to bring down a running back the better.

Week 12, 1st quarter 13:11. Devin Bush is lined up on the line of scrimmage, between Cameron Heyward and Bud Dupree to the right side of the screen.

Bush is blitzing here, he gets to the pulling 6th lineman and gets thrown to the ground. He ends up hanging onto Joe Mixon’s leg. On the surface he lost the block, but he ended up exactly where he needed to be, and drew a holding penalty getting there.

Week 15, 2nd quarter, 5:47. Devin Bush is the inside linebacker to the right of the screen.

Bush reads the run play, and beats the running back to his mark. Javon Hargrave did a good job controlling the center to give Bush the opportunity, and Bush’s vision and quickness seal the play for a 2-yard loss.

From the moment Devin Bush stepped on the field for the Steelers he improved their defense against runs up the middle. In 2018 the Steelers started 2 bigger inside linebackers in Vince Williams and Jon Bostic, and ranked 16th in Football Outsiders DVOA on runs up the middle, in 2019 that improved to 10th with Devin Bush.

Defending outside runs

Week 3, 4th quarter, 10:22. Devin Bush is the inside linebacker to the left side of the screen.

Devin Bush has incredible lateral speed, but on this play you see him make a basic mistake by attacking the runner at an angle and trying to catch the runner instead of getting in front of the runner. It’s easier to show it than to explain it.

Week 15, 1st quarter, 7:03. Devin Bush is the inside linebacker on the right hash mark.

Here Bush gets directly into the path of the runner, forcing a cutback, and is able to make the tackle. Devin Bush is a great lateral mover and shows it by not taking an angle to the runner on this play. Moving sideways, Bush forces the runner to make a choice and then reacts.

Week 15, 3rd quarter 0:44. Bush is the linebacker to the right of the screen, in front of the “r”.

This is a phenomenal play by the young linebacker. He reads the inside run and sits behind Cameron Heyward, ready to make a tackle in either direction. This is a good example of how the Steelers defend the run without having the defensive lineman cover 2-gaps. Cameron Heyward drives the TE the Bills assign to block him back and inside, while Devin Bush reads the gaps on each side of him.

Frank Gore sees Bush sitting on the inside lane and follows the pulling guard outside. Bush stays lateral, mirroring Gore, while keeping free of the linemen. Again he gets right into Gore’s path, Gore cuts inside and Bush finishes the play easily.

Devin Bush makes this look easy, but this is dominant run defense from an inside linebacker. Devin Bush can take on blockers in the run game and hold his own most of the time, but he really shines when he gets to play more of a traditional middle linebacker role where he reads the play and beats the running back to his spot.

The Steelers ranked 16th in the NFL on off-tackle and outside runs through the first 8 games, giving up 5 yards a carry. In the second half of the season they gave up 2.9 yards per carry on those runs, the lowest in the NFL. Devin Bush was a big part of that improvement and it led to the Steelers facing the most inside runs of any team in the NFL in 2019 even though they were a top 10 defense against those runs. Devin Bush was a good run defender at the start of his rookie season. By the end of that season he was great.

In coverage

While Devin Bush helped improve the Steelers run defense, the biggest problem on the 2018 defense was the cover ability of the linebackers. Vince Williams is a good linebacker, but when he is your best linebacker in coverage your team is in trouble. Mark Barron was brought in to be the top cover linebacker on the Steelers defense, but Devin Bush was a big part of it as well.

Week 1, 3rd quarter, 4:39. Devin Bush is lined up on the hash mark to the top of the screen

First game in the NFL and the Patriots get Devin Bush isolated in man on Julian Edelman. This isn’t great coverage, but Bush stays with Edelman and if Brady had targeted Edelman, Bush is in position to keep him from getting any yards after the catch.

Week 1, 2nd quarter, 8:45. Devin Bush is the inside linebacker to the bottom of the screen.

The Patriots use play action here, and Bush falls for it. He doesn’t just come up to the line, he stays there way too long leaving Julian Edelman wide open just a few yards behind him. Other teams saw this and used play action to attack the Steelers linebackers, especially in Week 3.

Week 3, 1st quarter 14:29. Devin Bush is the inside linebacker to the bottom of the screen.

George Kittle runs right past Devin Bush while Bush stares at the three potential runners that cross the quarterback’s path. Meanwhile Kittle is traipsing through an open field of daisies waiting for the ball to find him.

Week 3, 2nd quarter, 12:29. Devin Bush is the inside linebacker to the right side of the screen.

Play action again, but Devin Bush is already adjusting and ends up inches away from making a play on this ball. If he is one-step farther back he likely gets a hand on the ball here.

Week 9, 4th quarter, 5:40. Devin Bush is the inside linebacker to the top of the screen.

Almost two months later this is Devin Bush biting on play action. This is a different player than the one that was an easy target early in the season. He doesn’t factor into the play here, but the change in how fast he reads play action and how quickly he gets back is impressive.

Week 2, 2nd quarter, 8:45. Devin Bush is the inside linebacker to the top of the screen, he stays on the 10 yard line until after the snap.

After a 2018 season where these tight end seam passes were easy yards against the Steelers, Devin Bush and his 5’11” height became the target of offensive coordinators. They were going to keep throwing jump balls over his head to their tall tight ends until he made them stop.

Week 5, 3rd quarter, 8:28.

They stopped after this play in Week 5.

Week 4, 3rd quarter, 10:33. Devin Bush is the inside linebacker on the hash marks to the top of the screen.

This is a pattern match zone where Devin Bush is responsible for the first player that runs a route to the middle. This lets Bush stay closer to the middle of the field and not have to worry about deep coverage on most plays. The Bengals try to get Bush defending a deep route, but they get him defending the quick in route instead.

Playing through the whistle

To end this film room we’ll contrast 2 plays from back to back games.

Week 5, 4th quarter, 7:05. Bush is the linebacker in the middle of the field, between the hashes.

This play could have been a safety. Steelers defenders were celebrating while the Ravens pulled Gus Edwards out of the endzone. Devin Bush was among the players celebrating, while veteran Joe Haden is running up to the pile because the whistle hadn’t blown.

Here’s a slow motion clip from the point Bush started celebrating until the ball left the end zone.

Devin Bush had a shot at this play. If he gets into the pile, he would have been in the perfect spot to stop the Ravens from pulling Edwards across the line.

It’s the kind of mistake you expect a rookie to make. You know that it hurt to watch that in the film room. The truly great players don’t make those kind of mistakes twice.

Week 6, 1st quarter, 11:01. Devin Bush is the inside linebacker to the bottom of the screen.

This time, while veterans Tyson Alualu, T.J. Watt and Vince Williams mull about the ball, Devin Bush is playing full speed through the whistle. He isn’t going to let a chance to make a big play slip away again, Bush scores a touchdown and the Steelers end up winning the game by 7 points.

Conclusion

Devin Bush started the season an athletic and talented inside linebacker with a lot to learn and flaws opponents could exploit. He ended the season, in my opinion, as one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL.

Devin Bush made a huge impact on the Steelers defense. One stat that shows his impact is run tackles made by the Steelers free safety. In 2018 Sean Davis was tied with inside linebacker Jon Bostic for third on the team in solo run tackles, recording 8.5% of the tackles on run plays. In 2019 Minkah Fitzpatrick ranked 11th on the team in solo run tackles, recording 4.5% of tackles on run plays, Devin Bush had twice as many as Fitzpatrick.

Heading into his second season, when he’ll be 22 and still one of the youngest players in the league, there are no big flaws on his film that he needs to fix. Of course he can get better, and I expect he will, but the flaws that showed up on film in his rookie season were methodically eliminated from his game. His ability to learn from his mistakes and apply that learning to the very next game has made him a top player on this defense already. How far can he go from there? I wouldn’t even attempt to put a ceiling on him at this point.

The Steelers give some answers to season ticket holder’s regarding the 2020 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Hopeful to still have fans in the stands, the Steelers announced several items to their season ticket holders on Wednesday.

For those few fans who are privileged enough to call themselves Steelers season ticket holders, uncertainty of the 2020 season has brought many questions with very few answers. Being one of those people, I was sent a very interesting email Wednesday evening about the status of the 2020 season when it comes to those who have already paid for their full slate of tickets.

The first item addressed was in regards to preseason tickets.

The NFL is contemplating changes to the preseason schedule, which may include cancelled games. Once those plans become final, we will communicate them to you, and you will receive a refund for any preseason games that are cancelled.

With the preseason slate of games already assumed to be cut in half if not eliminated altogether, the real concern for season ticket holders is the regular season. Although some outlets have reported it as a definite for the season, the exact wording sent in the email said the Steelers “anticipate” a reduced capacity and that fans will be required to wear masks.

As for the regular season, we are working with public health officials and the NFL on plans for fans to safely attend the games. Our goal is to have fans at Heinz Field this season. We anticipate that we will be working with a reduced capacity scenario and that fans will be required to wear masks. We will provide more information on the regular season plans once they are finalized.

Although some team such as the Baltimore Ravens have already announced their anticipated attendance totals for 2020, the Steelers are yet to commit to a specific number of atendees at this time. One thing the Steelers have done is allow season ticket holders to have an “opt out” option for the 2020 season while maintaining their seat license in the future.

At this point, we would like to make you aware that you have the option to apply for a full refund for the 2020 season while still retaining the ability to renew your season ticket location in 2021, and if applicable, any associated seat licenses.

The Steelers then provided a link for season ticket holders to go to a different site to fill out an application for their tickets to be refunded for 2020. There was not much clarity with this website as to if this definitely meant season ticket holders would be approved or if it was merely something to get the ball rolling.

Surprisingly, there was nothing included about tickets which have already been announced will have tarps placed over them in all NFL stadiums where teams will be able to sell advertisements. Exactly how the Steelers are going to deal with those who hold those tickets has yet to be announced.

One last bit of information was the Steelers will not be sending out paper tickets for the 2020 season as they need to maintain flexibility for the cancellation of tickets.

In a typical season, you would be anticipating the arrival of your season ticket package later this month. We know you look forward to this as it marks the start of another exciting season. Ticket delivery will operate differently this season as we need to employ a digital ticketing solution to allow for flexibility. We will share additional details soon.

One thing the Steelers definitely do well is make sure ticket purchases for season ticket holders and transfers/resale of those tickets are done very safely and securely. With those same things in mind, moving all tickets to digital form will help in reducing fraudulent tickets.

Personally, I’m still not sure how I’m going to handle my tickets for the 2020 season. While I am uncertain I would attend any games even if given the possibility, it still doesn’t seem like the Steelers have released enough information for me to make an informed decision. Unfortunately, time is now running out as training camps are quickly approaching. Hopefully both the NFL and the Steelers will be able to come up with more definitive answers sooner rather than later.

Podcast: Why Steelers fans should be even more optimistic about Devin Bush in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 5:30am

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

The Steelers trade with the Denver Broncos on Draft Day in 2019 allowed the Steelers to select an impact inside linebacker in the form of Devin Bush Jr. at No. 10. The Michigan standout had a promising rookie year with some growing pains mixed in. Now the second-year pro has a year under his belt and has the tools to be a leader on defense for years to come. Steelers fans should be even more optimistic about Bush for this season. And it is always a good time to talk everything Steelers, so this and more will be pondered on the latest episode in the BTSC family of podcasts.

Take a look or listen to the latest episode of the podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this week’s show, Lance Williams welcomes BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict into the mix this week to break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show below.

  • News and Notes
  • Why Steelers fans should be even more optimistic about Devin Bush in 2020?
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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Black and Gold Links: Celebrating the Steelers 87th birthday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 4:30am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the NFL has cancelled the 2020 Hall of Fame Game and cut the preseason to an undetermined amount of games 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 a look at the 87 years since the establishment of professional football in Pittsburgh.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Only four NFL teams can predate the Pittsburgh Steelers

When it all began for the Steelers

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

July 8, 1933

Pittsburgh Steelers Founding Date

A legacy has to start somewhere, and for the Pittsburgh Steelers that legacy began on July 8, 1933, when the fifth-oldest franchise in the National Football League was founded.

Art Rooney Sr., known as ‘The Chief,’ to his players, coaches, staff and fans, was one of the great pioneers of the sports world and brought the NFL to his beloved Pittsburgh.

At the time the Steelers joined the Eastern Division and were one of only 10 teams in the NFL. Only five teams from that current group still remain, the Steelers, Chicago (Arizona) Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and New York Giants.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Big Ben just makes everything better for the Steelers

Steelers defense will benefit from Ben Roethlisberger’s return

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Here’s a fun prop bet for Steelers fans: What number will be higher in 2020, Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown passes or how many takeaways the defense gets?

I’d bet Roethlisberger. Anybody want to book that action?

At 38 and after major surgery on his elbow, Roethlisberger is hardly a guaranteed All-Pro. But Roethlisberger does offer leadership. He will imbue his platoon with confidence. His weapons aren’t nuclear, but they are diverse and plentiful.

Roethlisberger has to excel, because that’s how the NFL is. (He will.)

That defense, meanwhile, is a house of cards.

At a glance, that statement might sound silly.

In 2019, the Steelers defense led the NFL with 54 sacks and 38 takeaways. It allowed 4.7 yards per offensive play, tied for the NFL’s best. It allowed 303 points, fifth-fewest in the league. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive end Cameron Heyward and outside linebacker T.J. Watt made first-team All-Pro. It was a dominant unit.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Steelers OT Zach Banner supports Jewish community in wake of DeSean Jackson controversy

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Saying he had a sleepless “couple of hours” Wednesday morning, Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Zach Banner used his official Twitter account to post his reaction to the DeSean Jackson controversy.

In his post, Banner wrote that his intentions were not to “harp on” Jackson, who has come under fire for anti-Semitic comments he posted on social media, but to educate his followers on the mistake that the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver made.

“We can’t move forward while allowing ourselves to leave another minority race in the dark,” Banner wrote.

Banner tried to hold back his emotions in the 2-minute, 18-second video in which he talked about a “common misbelief among Black and brown people … that Jewish people are just like any other white race.

“You mix them up with the rest of the majority and you don’t understand they are a minority as well.”

Banner, who is of Chamorro and African-American descent, said several of his family members are Jewish.

Banner spoke about the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October 2018 that resulted in 11 deaths as an example of the hatred the Jewish community endures. The shooting occurred in Banner’s first season with the Steelers.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Steelers who it might make sense to even consider a 10-year contract

With the unusual offseason, does Anthony Johnson have a chance to make the team?

Four Steelers who will outperform their 2020 contracts

Devin Bush could be the Steelers next dominant man in the middle

Should the NFL play any games in 2020?

  • Social Media Madness

From big plays to big games, what's your favorite #Steelers memory? https://t.co/KFOj8Rnfs5 pic.twitter.com/qoqBee57Xe

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 8, 2020

Wishing a #HappyBirthday to Jack Lambert! pic.twitter.com/pvT2qqIpK6

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 8, 2020

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Anthony Johnson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/08/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

We are at the midway point of our 90-part series — assuming the roster does not change before we are complete — which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s take a look at former Charger and Buccaneer

Anthony Johnson

Position: WR
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 220 lbs
College: Buffalo
Draft: UDFA in 2019 (Buccaneers)

2019 stats

N/A —Practice squad

Contract remaining

Expires in 2022
$610,000 salary cap number (0.3% of total cap)
$0 Dead money
$610,000 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Almost none. I feel for players like Anthony Johnson, with the NFL’s COVID-19 plan it appears likely that teams will only bring 75 players (or less) instead of the usual 90 to training camp. The hit comes hardest to spots that already have a ton of depth, and receiver is one of those positions.

The core four of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and Chase Claypool sit atop the depth chart. Deon Cain and Ryan Switzer will battle it out for spots 5 & 6 and XFL standout Saeed Blacknall probably holds onto that seventh spot, if there's a need for it. Johnson might not even get the invite to regular camp, but if he does he’ll be fighting tooth and limb to earn a spot on the practice roster.

2020 projection

Johnson either starts camp on the roster or isn't but gets signed back on if another player faulters. The entire bottom 20 players on the roster will be brought in and sent out quicker than ever before. As team will still want to find their perfect roster despite not bringing everyone to camp.

Johnson probably doesn't make this team.

Projected stats:

N/A —Practice squad or cut

Summary

Anthony Johnson is a big bodied receiver that joined the team in January. Outside factors may prevent Johnson from even getting an opportunity to try out. This is going to be the reality for dozens of NFL players, lets just hope they get another shot in 2021.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh
Carlos Davis
David DeCastro
Christian DiLauro
Kevin Dotson
Bud Dupree
Eric Ebron
Terrell Edmunds
Trey Edmunds
Matt Feiler
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Zach Gentry
Ulysees Gilbert III
Derwin Gray
Joe Haden
J.C. Hassenauer
Quadree Henderson
Dewayne Hendrix
Cam Heyward
Alex Highsmith
Mike Hilton
Devlin Hodges
John Houston

Steelers had one of the best, and one of the worst tight ends of the last decade

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 07/08/2020 - 12:30pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Football Outsiders DYAR rankings for the decade contain two Steeler TEs.

Heath Miller had been a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 5 years when the 2010 season kicked off. Miller would play 6 seasons in the decade, and yet end up 11th in Football Outsiders DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) for the decade. All ten tight ends above him on the list played more games in the decade than Heath Miller.

Football Outsiders recently compiled the numbers for the entire decade and made lists of the 20 best and worst tight ends to qualify in DYAR. No small samples on the list, players had to be consistent players and targets.

I was a bit surprised by his place on the list, but I shouldn’t have been. Heath Miller was always a great blocking tight end, and was under-utilized in the offense too often, but he was always a reliable target for Ben Roethlisberger. Even as he slowed down in his 30s, Miller was still making plays for the black and gold.

Heath Miller wasn’t the only Steeler TE to show up in the article. Current Steeler Vance McDonald ended up the 18th worst TE of the decade. Fans shouldn’t feel too bad about the ranking though, the gap in DYAR per game between Heath Miller (+5.4) and Vance McDonald (-1.0) isn’t that big. In reality, 6.4 yards per game isn’t insignificant but it isn’t horrible either. It is also important to note that McDonald’s -83 DYAR is entirely fueled by his 2019 season when he posted a -83 DYAR. Quick math will tell you he measured out as a replacement level receiver before last season.

If you are curious about Steelers 2020 free agent addition, Eric Ebron, he missed the top 20 list by 17 total DYAR. If you look past his rookie year, Eric Ebron would be worth +5.01 DYAR per game, still below Heath Miller levels, but a good step up from Vance McDonald.

Football Outsiders also made lists of the best and worst TE games of the decade, Vance McDonald made the list for his game against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10 of 2019. The Steelers defense shows up 4 times on those lists, three times for giving up big games to Rob Gronkowski (who showed up a total of 7 times on the list), and once for David Njoku’s awful game to start the 2018 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers should be a better offense overall in 2020. An important factor in that improvement will be using the tight ends more effectively than they have in recent years.

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